19. Chapter 19
Hard fighting and long labour they had still; for the Southrons were bold men and grim, and fierce in despair; and the Easterlings were strong and war-hardened and asked for no quarter. And so in this place and that, by burned homestead or barn, upon hillock or mound, under wall or on field, still they gathered and rallied and fought until the day wore away.
Then the Sun went at last behind Mindolluin and filled all the sky with a great burning, so that the hills and the mountains were dyed as with blood; fire glowed in the River, and the grass of the Pelennor lay red in the nightfall. And in that hour the great Battle of the field of Gondor was over; and not one living foe was left within the circuit of the Rammas. All were slain save those who fled to die, or to drown in the red foam of the River. Few ever came eastward to Morgul or Mordor; and to the land of the Haradrim came only a tale from far off: a rumour of the wrath and terror of Gondor.
The Return of the King. J. R. R. Tolkien
15th March 3019
Amroth didn’t want to fall: afraid that he would be lost amongst the piles of bodies that covered what must have once been a field of early wheat. He just wanted to get away from this vile place – too many he knew had ended up trampled into the ground. All around him men were searching for their friends, and not far way he saw Duinhir, desperation on the man’s face as he turned over body after body looking for his sons. Amroth would have liked to help, but making sure all his own wounded had got on the carts had finished him off. The world spun, and aware he should have begged a lift himself, he made a last effort to stay upright.
Digging his sword into the ground, Amroth put one hand each side of the hilt and leant on the guard. His weight pushed the point into the soft earth. He almost doubled over, the pain in his side making him gag, and if anything had been left in his stomach he would have vomited again – but he managed to stay on his feet. And closing his eyes shut out the sight if not the smell of the carnage. Maybe if he rested for a moment he might be able to put one foot in front of the other… but the city gate looked so far away…
“Can you get on a horse?”
What…! His heavy eyelids struggled open – great white teeth were inches from his face, foam and blood slathered around black leathery lips. Amroth screwed his eyes back shut. When he opened them again the teeth were still there. Cautiously he lifted his head a bit, and blinked, his eyes fixing on a dented helm. A white horsetail hung from it, tangled and grimed. He’d seen that helm earlier today, but it had been on someone’s head. Now it hung from a saddle.
“It doesn’t look as though you can, just hold on a moment.”
With a supreme effort Amroth straightened his back. The Rider looked down with a flash of white teeth – smaller ones this time – the skin around his deep blue eyes creasing in response to Amroth’s effort, just before he slid off his horse to land with a thump on the ground. Stumbling, he grabbed the saddle to steady himself, looking very surprised. “Damn! I’m wearier than I thought. But I can just about heave you up.”
Up? His head hanging with exhaustion, the owner of the teeth – the big ones – didn’t look as though he’d take two. But then Amroth realised another horse stood patiently to one side. No rope or lead, it just stood there. Probably too worn out to do anything else.
“Léofwende has still got a bit in her. If we can get you up she’ll make the city.”
“But it means I have to move,” Amroth found his voice at last.
Another grin from the big man. Now that he was on the ground beside him, Amroth realized just how tall he was. “So you can speak,” the Rider quipped. “That’s good, because I want to know your name.”
He had to answer – only fair if the man was going to put him on a horse. You never put someone you didn’t know on your horse. His tongue twisted around the familiar words. “It’s Amrothos… of Dol Amroth.”
“Ahh….” That seemed to confirm something to his rescuer. “You related to the Prince?”
“Son…youngest.” Answering the questions gave him a headache, but the fog started to lift from his brain. Amroth stared at the white horsetail and then at the tall man. Young, now he could see him close and bare-headed. A long mass of fair hair: lank, and darkened by sweat.
“I’m Éomer son of Éomund. Third…”He stopped. The slight readjustment to his facial features hinted at the change to his life. “I’m the Lord of the Mark.”
“Yes.” Clarity returning, Amroth had worked that out. He’d seen the standard raised and heard the Rohírrim cheering their new king.
“I’m grateful for you coming our way. We got into a difficult position. Too much anger and not enough thought.”
“It happens,” Amroth agreed. “I came out behind my father and my brother, so I had more time to see what was happening. I spotted a weak point in the enemy lines and headed for it, hoping to take the pressure off your flank.”
“Glad you did. Thought you were done for when your horse went down. But I was relieved to see you on your feet and breaking through those red-coated bastards.”
Horse went down – Amroth closed his eyes again. The agony of Gilroch’s death throes would be with him always.
“You must have known you’d lose him, but expecting something doesn’t make it any easier.”
“No.” He was right there – one mounted warrior leading a company of footmen – the horse had little chance. But the men needed to be able to see him. They had always gone into battle that way, but now he doubted. He wondered what the Rohirrim thought about the almost deliberate sacrifice, but the eyes watching him showed only sympathy. Amroth swallowed the cloying chunk of regret in his throat, too many men had died to mourn an animal. But he would miss him. “He was a good horse.”
The Horselord waited for the moment of grief to pass before he clicked his fingers in the direction of Léofwende. The mare plodded over, nuzzling against his hand. “Her master fell, and she is bewildered by her loss. Giving her something to do will help.”
Amroth nodded; incapable of saying any more. His benefactor must have realized because he left the subject alone. Amroth thought he had better move, the Rohan King couldn’t be expected to haul him onto a horse without him making some effort, but as he reached an arm to Léofwende’s neck pain lanced through him.
Éomer gripped his arm, just stopping him from toppling over. “You’re injured! Why didn’t you say?”
“Flesh wound,” Amroth gasped. “Slammed a field dressing on earlier, but it’s starting to trouble me now.”
“Get your breath back and I will try and lift you.” But before they combined their efforts, Éomer suddenly bellowed right next to his ear.
Amroth winced: that had done nothing for his headache! And whatever had been said he only caught what he thought was a name, which sounded like Éothain. A quick glance behind him showed various groups of Rohirrim making their way towards their king. One man not far away must be Éothain, because at Éomer beckoning to him, he encouraged his poor mount to move a bit faster.
Another thump to the ground, but this man looked as if he could lift a horse, not just a Dol Amroth Prince. Looked as though he might eat a prince too, Amroth decided – Éothain’s face was completely covered with blood. Only his eyes were a different colour, glowing blue through the dark red, and his teeth gleamed white in contrast when he grinned. “You’re tougher than you look.” he said in Westron, with a surprisingly cultured accent, remarkably like his new king. “Didn’t expect you to get up again.”
“Neither did I,” Amroth conceded. “And I hope that’s not your blood.”
“Nope, I’ve hardly wasted a drop of mine.” Éothain said, getting the other side of him, “But I stuck one of those fellows with the fancy earrings, and he burst all over me.”
Amroth had to smile: the words didn’t fit the accent. “You two must have learnt Westron together.”
“We did,” Éomer confirmed, as between them they hoisted him into the saddle. Amroth couldn’t speak for a moment, concentrating on holding on as the pain made him sway. The two Rohírrim waited with eyes adverted until he had recovered and then Éomer carried on. “My mother taught three of us together. But she didn’t manage to teach Éothain any more refinements. She had better luck with Déor.” A pause before he spoke again and Amroth sensed a stiffening of Éomer’s large frame. “Did you find him, Éothain?”
“Yes. He’s bruised and battered, but all in one piece. Which is more than I can say for his riders.”
Éomer’s broad shoulders relaxed and his fingers, which had been clutching tightly to Léofwende’s mane, released their grip. “They gave Déor a bunch of volunteers from the Emnet to lead,” he told Amroth in explanation. “More enthusiasm and bravery than skill. And Elfhelm, where’s he gone?”
“Into the City with some of the Gondorian commanders to sort out accommodation for everyone. He said he’d see you later.” Éothain then dropped his voice, speaking in his own language. Whatever he was saying the Rohan King didn’t like it. His eyes narrowed and his lips compressed with anger, but a shout from a short distance away banished any ill humour from his expression.
Amroth saw a few grey-clad men leading their horses, and amongst them his father. They were winding their way towards them. The tall man in the front had his hand raised in greeting.
“Aragorn, are you ready to go in?” Éomer shouted back.
The man that had arrived in the nick of time and turned the tide of the battle shook his head. Amroth stared at him, wanting to take a good look at a legend. But his eyes wouldn’t focus properly and once again the world around him started spinning. From a long way off he heard his father’s voice barking out orders. Nothing new there, he remembered thinking, before a dark mist descended.
Minas Tirith – City of Kings
They had done all they could for now, and Éomer knew that the full cost would only be counted later. As for Éowyn – he closed his eyes for a second as the bile rose to his throat – nothing in his life had prepared him for that. Not even finding Bergit butchered had horrified him more. His lip curled – and to think she had ridden with Elfhelm. He found it hard to believe, but Éothain was sure the rumours were true. Well, friend or not, he would have it out with him.
They reached the shattered gates, and Imrahil led him through into the square, heading towards the street that wound up into the heart of the City. But progress was slow. Hampered not only by blocks of fallen masonry but by citizens – all men Éomer noted – who broke off from their labours of clearing away the detritus of the recent bombardment to salute the warriors of Dol Amroth and the Riddermark. Some even attempted to grab the hands of their saviours, eager to convey thanks for deliverance. And having negotiated the square to start the climb up the steep street, the horsemen had to keep moving aside to allow passage for the constant stream of carts. Still they were finding wounded on the battlefield. But for now the dead would have to be left, sorting bodies would have to wait until first light. All they could do was guard them from the tearing beaks of the carrion birds, already clustering around the battlefield in anticipation.
Éomer couldn’t quite understand why Aragorn refused to enter the City and insisted on putting up his tents on the Pelennor amongst the stinking debris of battle. Although Imrahil seemed to agree with him. But to Éomer, a man who had proved his claim to kingship by his command over an army of ghosts and had brought relief to the over pressed armies of Gondor, had no need to skulk outside the walls.
But diplomacy had never been at the top of the list of his good qualities. In fact not often on the list at all, so perhaps he had better start learning. And if he needed a teacher, then he already realized that he could find no better than the man riding next to him. As he had felt an instant rapport with Aragorn, so he did with the Lord of Dol Amroth. Even though the prince must be more than twice his age he felt drawn to him. Also to his sons, especially the younger one who had so quickly assessed his predicament and done all he could to come to his aid.
“I should have realized Amrothos was more badly hurt than he let on,” Éomer said. “But he hid it well.”
Imrahil shrugged. “The wound does not seem that serious. I think exhaustion played a big part, and lack of food. I doubt he felt like eating this morning, or last night. But you are right: he does not like to admit to any weakness. In fact all three are the same.”
“Three? You’ve got another?” Éomer asked. “Is he here?”
“No,” the Prince replied. “Elphir, my heir, is back in Dol Amroth. He was at the fords with Angbor, but took a dart in the side. Nothing too serious, so when Lord Aragorn got there with the Dead Army he was able to return home to relieve the siege.”
“Siege?” Éomer queried. Not quite sure what the prince meant.
“Yes. I didn’t know until Lord Aragorn passed on the news, but some of the Harad forces were diverted to Dol Amroth. The city had been under siege since a few days after I left. Elphir had intelligence from some men who escaped the city. He took a good force back with him so I am confident he has routed them.”
“But why would the Haradrim split their forces to go to Dol Amroth before Minas Tirith was won? It doesn’t make sense.”
Imrahil’s lips thinned, and Éomer sensed deep down anger. “One can’t expect sense from desert riff-raff.”
Éomer waited for the rest of the explanation – he had a distinct impression there was something else —but whatever it was, the prince kept it to himself, relapsing into silence. Accepting his companion’s reticence, Éomer concentrated on his surroundings – it kept his mind from reliving the horror. He had not seen much on the lower levels as the squares and alleyways had thronged with horses, carts and soldiers. But up here he got a chance to look around, wanting to see all he could of this ancient City of Men which he and his Riders had come so far to defend. A past glory tarnished by the ravishes of time and neglect, he decided. Through niches in old stone walls he glimpsed abandoned gardens overrun by rank weeks and along side alleys saw statues of long-ago heroes, their fierce faces softened by powdery lichens as they guarded the junctions of the cobbled ways.
Éomer pulled Firefoot to the side, avoiding a rut worn in the stone by the incessant bite of iron shod wheels. The horse stumbled, and quickly he slipped from his back. “He’s had enough. I’ll lead him the rest of the way.”
“Yes, me too.” Imrahil dismounted from his own horse, a massive, grey gelding named Sea Lord. The warriors behind them did the same. Both men stretched the stiffness out of their legs. But neither had the energy to talk much as they trudged wearily towards the higher levels of the City. But here they made better progress, the press of people lessening as they neared the Citadel.
“Not enough people to fill the houses,” Imrahil said as he caught him looking at a carved oak door, barred and nailed shut. “But at least there will be space for your warriors to bed down, and the City is well stocked. They will not go short of rations. You can stay with me,” Imrahil carried on. “We have a family house on the sixth level. It is always kept ready for occupation.”
Éomer blanched inwardly at the mention of family – something he had been avoiding thinking about. But the higher they went up this carved stone mountain, the nearer he got to having to face the truth, and it terrified him. He had no family left! Somehow he had to accept life without Éowyn. First he had to look upon her broken body, and then he had to rule their people without her support. But, he admitted grimly, that problem might never arise for although they had won the battle there was still a war to be fought…
“We are nearly at the Citadel,” Imrahil broke in on his anguished thoughts. “Do you wish to go to the Healing Houses first?”
Éomer shook his head. “I will pay my respects to Théoden before I visit the wounded.” It was really that he wished to see his sister’s lifeless body sooner rather than later. No point putting off the dreadful moment, even though the prospect turned his guts inside out.
Imrahil looked surprised, but signalled his agreement by pointing to the tunnel that cut through solid rock to emerge on the Place of the Fountain. “We will have to see to the horses first. They are not allowed up there. The stables are just along the street, under the wall.”
“And Firefoot will be glad to get there.” Éomer agreed.
The Healing Houses
Éowyn’s hand was a lot warmer now, but after their brief conversation she had fallen back asleep. However, this time her breathing was near normal. Éomer did nothing to stop the tears that had been falling from his eyes from trickling down into his beard.
“Thank you,” he mouthed to the grey-clad figure that still lingered in the doorway. Aragorn hesitated to leave, his eyes still full of worry and compassion. But Éomer waved him away: the Hobbit, Merry, needed him, and Éomer would do nothing to jeopardize that brave little warrior’s chance of full recovery. Aragorn smiled, touching his forehead with his hand in farewell before he followed Gandalf out of the door.
Still clutching Éowyn’s hand, Éomer looked up into Imrahil’s dark eyes. The Prince stood just to his side, weary he must be but still his back was unbent. “And thank you.” Éomer said in an undertone. “I thought her dead. If you had not noticed she still clung to life she might well be lying with Théoden, and not here.”
Imrahil drew his brows together in a frown. “I am sorry, Éomer. I would have told you before and saved you much anguish. I thought you knew she had been brought to the Healing Houses.”
“No matter,” Éomer replied dismissing his apology. “She is here now and here she will stay. If I have to chain her to the bed. Whatever she says, there will be no more war for my sister.”
“I do not know how her reasons for riding, and how she managed to do so without you knowing, Éomer. Although from what I have heard here she was in great distress. But it is not my business, so I will only say that with Mithrandir caught up with Denethor’s troubles, we would have been hard put to win the day without her contribution.”
“Maybe, but she should not have been allowed to ride,” Éomer said, the anger rising in him. “Many must have known of her intentions, but none told me. I find that difficult to comprehend, and will be seeking explanations from those I consider responsible.” True he had upset Éowyn by telling her of Elrond’s daughter, but that did not excuse Elfhelm. It was him he blamed, and their friendship would suffer for it. But it was something between the two of them and he did not offer any details to the Prince.
But Imrahil picked straight up on his wish for discretion. “I am sure you will do what’s right. But these are strange times, and sometimes we cannot see all the reasons behind the actions of others. Take a deep breath before you jump to conclusions, Éomer.”
“A homily from the Lord of Dol Amroth?” Éomer said cocking one eyebrow.
“One thing I have learnt, Éomer, is that words are powerful weapons, and the hasty thrust cannot be withdrawn. It is always best to take some time for thought before one flays another with them.”
Éomer didn’t answer that, and the Prince picked up his gauntlets from a chair. “I must go to see Húrin and others. With Denethor gone, and Faramir likely to remain on his sick-bed for some time, we have to look to the ordering of the City. Also, as long as the weather holds tomorrow we will be sending a great number of the wounded from the Southern Fiefs back to Dol Amroth on the first tide. We are going to assume the siege has been broken. They just cannot deal with all the injured here. They are full to bursting so many have been billeted in the empty houses. There is a large Healing House and much skill in Dol Amroth.”
“Send the wounded by ship!” Éomer declared astounded.
The Prince grinned. “Much quicker than wains, or even horses, when one has favourable winds. And a trained healer can travel on every ship. Hopefully most will survive the journey. But enough of that, we are all tired and need rest and food. I will return shortly to collect you. Éowyn will receive the best care here, and you can come back in the morning.”
Éomer knew Imrahil spoke sense: body and mind were both weary, and his stomach cramped from lack of food. But Éowyn was all he had left, and as he had lost others – his mind went immediately to Bergit and Théodred – he had so very nearly lost her. “Leave me for an hour, and then I will come. I wish to sit with her for a little time.”
Imrahil dropped a hand on his shoulder. “Very well, but it is sleep she needs now. Do not fret; I will make sure there is someone to attend to her through the night whilst you rest.”
Éomer pulled the chair closer after Imrahil had gone, propping his elbows on the bed and pulling Éowyn’s hand to his lips. She murmured and moved slightly, but her eyes did not open. And then as he studied her face he caught the glisten of a tear that had been trapped between her long lashes. She was crying in her sleep. “Éowyn,” he whispered. “Éowyn don’t cry, you are safe now and I am here.” Still she did not wake, only turning her head to nuzzle into his hand. He stroked back a few tendrils of hair from her forehead, exposing a thin scar on her hairline. A surge of guilt took him as he recalled how she had come by it: he’d been chasing her down the steps in front of Meduseld after she had annoyed him, as she often did. But in her haste to get away she’d tumbled down the bottom few, landing on the stone path. Fourteen he had been, and had thought her dead then. He still remembered the relief of seeing her opening her eyes.
The old healer – long dead now – had patched her up. His stitches neat even in his dotage. But thank Eru Aragorn had been here this time, his skill evident when he had healed Welwyn. Éomer knew no one else could have drawn Éowyn back from the horrific place she had been taken. Or Faramir! Éomer shuddered with revulsion at the thought of what had nearly happened to him. But how could he blame Denethor when Théoden had all but succumbed to the will-numbing darkness. None should have to face such evil, and whatever Imrahil said, it appalled him that Éowyn had been pitted against a foe so far beyond her strength.
With that Éowyn moved, and he put her hand gently down on the bed. She wriggled, trying to get comfortable, and Éomer tucked up the pillow to give more support to the other arm, the one broken when she had warded off the blow from the huge mace. Satisfied he had eased her, he stood up to stretch, afraid he would fall asleep if he remained sitting, and at that moment a soft knock came at the door. It swung open quietly, and Éomer looked up to see a familiar craggy face. But instead of the jolt of pleasure he normally felt at the sight of Elfhelm, this time his muscles tensed with anger. That emotion shot him the short distance to the door, and his hand connected with Elfhelm’s chest, pushing the Marshal back into the passage.
“Outside,” he spat, only just stopping himself from punching his long time friend in the face.
“Whoa, Éomer. Peace!” Elfhelm held up his hand palm outward.
“Peace!” Éomer hissed. “When you led my sister almost to her death!”
Elfhelm’s eyes clouded and he slowly shook his head. “No. Calm down, and we can talk.”
Releasing his hold on Elfhelm’s tunic, Éomer gestured with his chin toward the side door that led into the garden. He followed Elfhelm through, and once outside took a deliberate deep breath, willing himself to deal rationally with his old mentor. However much he felt betrayed.
The breath calmed him, and out here silence reigned. A blessed relief after the horrendous noises he had been subjected to all day — on the battlefield the terrible squeals of the horses as the pikes got them, and the screams of men, stuck by swords or trampled by mûmakil, had filled his head until he thought it would burst. Then since he had been in this place of healing, the groans and whimpers of the wounded had not given him any peace, invading even Éowyn’s quiet chamber. But out here only the chirp of crickets disturbed the night air. He looked up to the heavens, a star sprinkled canopy that seemed to be hanging just above him. Another breath and his nostrils started tingling, picking up the pungent smell of some unfamiliar herb wafting on the breeze. He sighed; feeling Elfhelm’s eyes on him.
“All right,” he said, surprising himself with his restraint, “tell me why. Why didn’t you send her back? You must have known. A commander knows all who ride with him.”
Another deep sigh, but this time from Elfhelm. “Normally yes, Éomer, I would not deny it. But I swear I did not know she was riding until we entered the woods. No listen,” he said at Éomer’s snort of derision. “I had extra men with me. Some rode in from the Wold without a captain at the last moment, and as my numbers were short after the Fords, they joined with me. And don’t forget, I didn’t have Déor. He had been given his own command. Had he been with me Éowyn would never had got away with it. She must have made it undetected for the first few hours and then,” he shrugged, “you know what she’s like: the young ones are in love with her and the old ones in awe. She bullied them all into silence.”
Éomer said nothing, searching Elfhelm’s face. He knew such a man would never lie to him, but his faith had been shaken.
“By the time I found out it was too late.” Elfhelm continued. “What would you have had me do? Send her back to Edoras on her own – or lessen our forces by providing her with an escort?”
“You should have told me.” Éomer said through gritted teeth.
“I know. But she begged me not to. I have never seen her so desperate. And to be honest I thought we were all done for anyway. I had no expectation we would come through even the first battle.”
Éomer ran his hands through his hair, his thoughts in confusion: he knew full well how persuasive his sister could be, but she shouldn’t have been there. And even though she was recovering, the sight of her prostrate on the Pelennor still haunted him. He didn’t want to let it go, but neither did he want to lose a friend. Especially a friend he needed in his new role as king. Great Béma save him! He was starting to think like a king already – valuing people by their usefulness. But no, it was not really that, more like deep down he knew he shared some of the blame. If he had not told her so brutally that Aragorn loved another – she might never have been so reckless. “She should not have ridden and you should not have let her,” he declared, but his anger had waned.
“Éomer, I am not making excuses after the event, but think what might have happened had she not. Fate took a hand. Éowyn slew the Witch King! Something no man could have done. Who is to say she should not have ridden.”
“You didn’t know that,” Éomer said, unwilling to admit Elfhelm might be right.
“No. But more than once I made up my mind to tell you or Théoden King, yet something stopped me. It is unlike me, and I feel there may be more to this than we will ever know. Let us be thankful she is recovering, forces are at work here that we cannot understand.”
That was true enough, and Imrahil seemed to think more or less the same. But some kind of miracle would be needed to let them triumph in the next battles.
Prince Imrahil’s House. Minas Tirith.
The first clear sky he had seen for days, and as always the view from the balcony was tremendous. But tonight Amroth deliberately kept his eyes high, shunning the Pelennor way beneath him. Even though much was obscured by the outthrust of the lower levels of the City, he wanted to imagine the fields as they had been before the battle. Afraid that if he looked down now he would see the dark shapes of the mûmakil, their gruesome remains rising like small mountains from a stinking mire. Dead or alive, he never wanted to look upon one again – their crushing feet responsible for the death of so many. So with a grimace of pain he turned and moved stiffly to the southern end of the balcony where he could avoid looking across to the menacing crags of the Ephel Dúath that hid the might of Mordor, and instead gaze out on the Anduin. He let his eyes follow the silver ribbon as it wound its way to the sea. Already news of their victory would be travelling to Dol Amroth down the watery highway.
But ignoring the horror of the day didn’t work, and even shutting his eyes, he couldn’t banish the sights and the memories – men he had known since childhood with their limbs torn off by trolls, or hacked into so many pieces they were barely recognizable. And those he had only just met like Duilin and Derufin, two brave men who had led their bowmen right up to the mûmakil to shoot out their eyes. In another life he would have valued them as friends, but now they were dead. Crushed and flattened into the earth by the stamping feet. Their father would have to return to the Blackroot without his sons, and he would never forget the agony on Duinhir’s face as he searched the battlefield trying to find them…
“I am surprised to see you on your feet.”
Amroth didn’t need to turn around to discover who had joined him: no Gondorian spoke Westron with that particular drawl. “The wound wasn’t bad and they have filled me with some powerful herb, but instead of knocking me out it just makes me feel lightheaded.” He grinned at Éomer, glad of the interruption to his macabre thoughts. “Food helped.”
“I am sure it did.” Éomer grinned back. Coming alongside him and placing two large hands on the stone balustrade, the Rohan King swept his gaze in an arc, taking in the complete vista. “I feel a lot better for partaking of your father’s hospitality.”
Amroth studied him: wearing a tunic of Erchi’s, and having washed the grime from hair and body, he had to be considered a handsome man. But his face was drawn, and his eyes were weary. “I would have thought you’d be getting some sleep. You rode for days and then fought a hard battle.”
“Tried it,” said Éomer, shrugging. “But I’ve got too much on my mind. Your father is the same, he’s gone off somewhere. But your brother Ercri.. ?”
“Erchirion,” Amroth supplied. “We call him Erchi.”
“Yes, well he’s snoring loudly.”
Amroth laughed. “That doesn’t surprise me. Life is very simple for Erchi – fight hard, eat heartily, down a mug of ale, find a wench and sleep.”
That got Éomer laughing. “Don’t know where he found the wench. Apart from the healers, the only woman I’ve seen is the one in your kitchen.”
“Old Niram? Even Denethor’s orders couldn’t make her leave. She hid in the pantry. And I am glad she did. No one makes better tarts. But you are right: Erchi will have to forgo the wenching for a time.”
“He reminds me of Boromir,” Éomer mused. “A warrior through and through.”
Amroth thought for a moment. “Yes, there is a similarity. But brothers do not always share the same traits. You have not had chance to get to know Faramir yet, but Boromir is, or was,” he corrected himself with a pang of regret, “very different. Faramir is no less a skilled warrior, but he is also a thinker and a scholar.”
“A bit like you,” Éomer said, eyebrows raised
“Not much of the scholar,” Amroth answered with a grin. “But I suppose I’m not the out and out warrior either. I fight as needed, but it is not the sole reason for my existence, as it was with Boromir and is with Erchi.”
“What do you like doing when you are not warring?” Éomer asked.
“Well, there has been a lot of warring lately. Our coasts have not been free of threat for sometime. But when I can, apart from riding and hunting, I like to sail.”
“Sail? Those huge boats they have berthed at the Harlond?”
Glad to talk about something removed from war Amroth started to explain. “No, small ones, for one or two people. Powered by a sail, which you move around to catch the wind. They skim across the waves very fast. It can be extremely thrilling.”
Éomer looked doubtful. “I know nothing about the sea. I was very surprised when your father told me they were sending some of the wounded to Dol Amroth. I thought wains would have been better.”
“No, not unless the weather is against them. But it will be a few days before Elphir and my sister know the outcome of the battle. A fast boat has left already with news, no horses were fit enough to make the journey.”
“You have a sister? Your father didn’t say.”
No surprise there, it had been a habit not to mention her lest Umar got wind of her whereabouts. But although they did not know it at home yet, Umar was dead, so no harm to tell Éomer. “Yes, Lothíriel. She will be kept busy. She is a very skilled healer and works tirelessly. We have had many battles these last years, so our people have a lot of experience in dealing with wounds.”
“Having seen the healers here, I can’t imagine a high-born lady doing the same job.”
“Lothíriel is different from others.” Amroth replied, unwilling to say too much. He stretched, feeling a great yawn coming on. Suddenly he felt very tired and his side started to ache badly. “She has had many trials to bear and finds solace working with the sick.”
She tossed and turned, not able to fall asleep in spite of bones aching with weariness. Finding no rest, Lothíriel pushed back the covers and wriggled her feet around on the floor until they connected with her slippers. She would just sit on the window seat for a while and look at the sea – that usually relaxed her.
Pulling her knees up to her chest, Lothíriel wrapped her arms around her legs and leant back against the worn panelling. Many princesses must have sat in this spot, in both their happy and sad moments. The timeless song of the ocean calmed her as it always did. And what a wonderful clear night, the first for ages. One could almost forget about war and suffering. But the tranquillity lasted only a short time, as with nowhere else to vent its energy, her mind whirled buried misgivings into a maelstrom of confusion. Dealing with the wounded, both from the fords and the fight against the besiegers, had stopped her thinking about the ridiculous thing she had done, but now the magnitude of her stupidity was laid bare before her. Elphir was right: she would have made the situation far worse by offering herself as a hostage. When had she stopped thinking straight? It seemed that she lost control of her actions anytime that vile pig Umar impinged on her life.
Lothíriel shuddered; her moment of peace shattered. The worst was the killing. She knew she would never forgive herself for that. How could someone with such a gift to heal deliberately take a life?
No one really understood how she felt about it. And Elphir applauded her actions. If it was safe to travel she’d go and talk to Aunt Ivriniel, the old lady understood most things and they’d always got on. But there was no way Elphir or Sergion would let her go anywhere until the outcome of the war was known. She’d just have to put it from her mind, hide her doubts in an enveloping blanket of work, until there was no room in her life for anything else.
At peace again, Lothíriel stared up at the stars – so many of them, glittering in an inky sky. When she was a child she used to try and count them, but had usually fallen asleep after the first few dozen. She’d wake up in her bed, her father or one of her brothers having been summoned to lift her.
Lothíriel gasped as a shooting star burst into glory, its fiery trail blazing a pathway across the heavens. What were they doing now: her father, Erchi and Amroth? Were they safe? Had the battle been won or lost? The unclouded sky must have some meaning, but for once she could see nothing; no clue came to her as to Gondor’s fate.
To be continued.
List of Original Characters mentioned or appearing in this chapter:
Umar - Prince of Harad. Device – the Black Serpent on Scarlet. Obsessed with Lothíriel. Killed on the Pelennor by King Théoden of Rohan.
Sergion - Friend of Prince Imrahil’s. Was a Commander of Swan Knights but now the Captain of Lothíriel’s Guard. Injured when an attempt was made to kidnap Lothíriel. Charged with the defence of Dol Amroth during the Ring-war.
Niram- Old cook in Prince Imrahil’s house in Minas Tirith.
Déor- Friend of Éomer, brought up in Aldburg. A Rider in Elfhelm’s éored, given his own command for the Battle of the Pelennor.
Bergit - Daughter of the horse-breeder, Egbert. Raped by orcs when her family’s camp was attacked. Later married Edwick and bore him two children – Éomund and Félewyn. Started a relationship with Éomer after her husband was crippled. Killed by orcs in a raid on the village of Eastfeld.
Welwyn- Daughter to Erkenbrand and Winfrith. Wounded in the Battle of Helm’s Deep and healed by Aragorn.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.