30. Chapter 30
March 27th 3020
From years spent patrolling the plains, Éomer was able to pick out the group of horsemen when still only a smudge in the distance. But they were coming along the road from Lossarnach at a fair speed.
Eight riders, a pennant fluttering in the afternoon breeze, the figures black against the westering sun. But he didn’t need to see the blue and silver, or to identify the emblems, for at the front he recognised Bracken’s easy stride.
The two groups gradually converged, both heading to the City, but the Royal hunting party at a slower pace. A full day, and neither men nor beasts had the energy for more than a walk. Éomer had enjoyed the hunting, admittedly for the exciting riding rather than the actual kill. He’d left that to Elphir and Amroth, who were fanatical in their pursuit of game, and the Citadel kitchens would benefit from their skill.
Lothíriel and her escort came within hailing distance – a guard of six, immaculately turned out, Princess and Captain at the head. Leaving her escort, Lothíriel headed towards them, but Bracken had other ideas. Éomer laughed to himself as the young horse tossed his head around, trying to mouth his bit and sidle away. Thinking that he had been heading straight back to his stable and his supper; Bracken resented the slight detour. But she mastered him after a moment and came over to talk. Éomer savoured the sight: regal and sure of herself, in a blue, embroidered velvet waistcoat and cloak, adorned with silver swan-ships, leather boots peeking out beneath her skirt. She looked completely at ease, with both her beauty and her rank and he gave a thought to seeing her in green and gold: the colours of the Riddermark would match her eyes.
With a dip of her head to her king, Lothíriel raked her gaze over the column. “Weary, muddy horses and tired, dusty men; you must have had a good day by the state of you.”
“We have, Lothíriel,” Aragorn replied, “and where have you been today?”
Her eyes clouded. “To Lossarnach, lord, I have been to visit Lady Tinusel. She was very kind to me whilst I lived in the City before the war.”
“Ah…” Aragorn nodded. “Is she ill? I have not seen her at Court for a while.”
“Yes.” She dropped her eyes, obviously upset. “I am afraid her body has succumbed to age. She is in great pain and will not leave her house again, but her mind is still very active. She wanted to hear all about the wedding and what everyone was wearing.”
“I am sorry she is suffering, but I am not surprised her mind is still working well. She always saw things slightly differently,” Aragorn proffered, with a twitch of his lips.
Very differently! Éomer remembered a confusing conversation he had had with her after Imrahil had insisted on introducing him. It had gone a long way to convince him of the strangeness of Imrahil’s daughter, thinking she was a friend of such an eccentric lady. Well, Lothíriel was a friend of Lady Tinusel, which just showed that one should not make assumptions.
Imrahil moved his horse next to Bracken and clasped his daughter’s arm, offering comfort. “Were you able to ease her distress, Lothíriel?”
She sniffed. “I have done my best, and left a tisane that will make her more comfortable. And will visit again before we go home.”
Her eyes glistening with tears, she put her hand over her father’s and gave it a squeeze. Quickly, she inclined her head to all. “And now, my lords, I must hurry back, for if my brothers return before me, there will be no hot water left.” She nudged Bracken into a trot and headed back to her escort.
“Lothíriel would never neglect a duty, but she is genuinely fond of the old lady,” Imrahil remarked, his eyes still on his daughter.
“No, I am sure she will always do what is right.” Éomer let his gaze follow her for a moment, knowing the time had arrived. “I think that I had better come and talk to you, my friend.”
“Yes, Éomer, from what I have been seeing and hearing, I think that you should join me for a drink before supper.”
No sign of Lothíriel, as Imrahil’s steward led him up the stairs, so Éomer supposed she was still dressing for the evening. But anyway, this was now between him and her father, and hopefully they would both be in complete agreement. He couldn’t think of any reason why Imrahil would not want him to marry his daughter.
The steward, Ephrem, opened the door and ushered him in. As Éomer stepped over the threshold, Imrahil rose from behind his desk, dragging his chair around to the front, perhaps not wanting to be so formal.
With a few quick strides Éomer reached him and they clasped hands, although they had parted less than an hour before. But it was a special meeting and both men knew it.
“Sit down, Éomer,” Imrahil indicated the other chair. The steward had gone to a side table to pour out wine.
“Good hunting today,” Éomer offered for the steward’s benefit, taking a goblet. It was up to him to speak first, but he couldn’t do that until they were alone.
Imrahil took his wine and nodded a dismissal to Ephrem. “Very good, but with my sons along it is rarely bad. They seem to have been born knowing every move a prey is likely to make.”
Éomer waited until the door clicked and then took a breath. “It’s your daughter I have come about,” he ventured.
“I rather thought you had,” Imrahil said with a raised brow. “But are you intending to ask my permission for something you have already announced?”
“Oh…” Éomer resisted the temptation to tug at his collar even though he had gone unaccountably hot. What had seemed like a good idea a few days ago, now under the stare of the Lord of Dol Amroth, made him feel like a naughty child. “I suppose I should not have done that. Who told you?”
“I guessed, and Aragorn confirmed.”
Neither Imrahil’s face nor voice gave anything away, and Éomer couldn’t tell if he was mad or not. Of course. He could have kicked himself; Aragorn would know the significance of putting Lothíriel on his horse. He’d forgotten that. And Aragorn and Imrahil were close.
“I know I should have sought your permission first.”
Suddenly Imrahil’s straight face disintegrated and he chuckled. “Don’t worry too much, Éomer, I am getting used to it. Elphir did much the same.”
“Elphir?” That surprised him.
“Well, he brought Meren back to the Palace on his horse, and announced he was marrying her to an interested audience. I could hardly refuse without a public row with my son.”
“Did he?” Éomer relaxed and grinned. Elphir had gone up another notch in his estimation. And so did Meren when Imrahil explained the circumstances.
“She seems so gentle,” Éomer mused.
“She is. But the mildest of women can become fierce when children are in danger. She was very brave.” Imrahil took a draught from his goblet, looking thoughtful.
In the pause Éomer stood up, putting down his own drink. He had better voice what he had come to say formally. “Imrahil, I would like your permission to wed Lothíriel… I seem to have fallen in love with her.”
“Ah…” Imrahil smiled, sitting back in his chair, looking up at him. “I am glad you said that, I would have been disappointed if you had said she would make you a fine queen.”
Imrahil’s pleasure confirmed he had been right to say what was in his heart. But it was no good ignoring that it would be no ordinary match. “That as well, and there is no doubt she has been born to the role, but I want a wife before a queen.”
Imrahil nodded, and twirled his goblet around for a moment, looking down into the rich, red wine. He sighed. “Éomer, you must know that there is no one I would rather have her wed than you. And I will not stop you marrying her, if that is her wish. But I would prefer you to wait a while. I imagine she has told you the problems we have had, and to be honest, I have enjoyed so little of the good times with her, I crave more.”
How long, he wondered, how long would Imrahil expect him to wait? His face must have shown his disappointment.
“Don’t worry, Éomer. I know how important this is to you, and Rohan. But Lothíriel is still young and has only just emerged after her years shunning court life. And you will be taking her far away.”
But at least once she was his wife and safe in the Riddermark she would not have to go near any Harad scum! “Perhaps it would be better if I do take her far away, if you are talking to emissaries from Harad. And the sooner the better!” It came out sharper than he intended and Imrahil visibly jolted. But he didn’t answer, and with a deep sigh pulled himself straight and rose from his chair. He went to the window and looked out to the courtyard. Éomer felt he was composing himself before he spoke. When he turned back his face had noticeably greyed.
“Believe me, Éomer, I felt like you. The first meeting I left to Elphir, I refused to see them. And he had to be persuaded. But Aragon convinced me we had to at least talk. The safety of our people is too big a thing to let personal considerations get in the way. You must know that.”
Realising how hard it would have been for Imrahil to deal with the bastards who had caused Lothíriel so much horror, Éomer’s anger abated as suddenly as it had erupted. And there must be a good reason for Imrahil to have relented. But his first concern was for the woman he loved.
“I do not want her to even come across anyone who reminds her of that devil’s spawn.”
“No, she won’t.” Imrahil assured him. “Prince Amal is coming to Dol Amroth by ship, but she can stay here and come home later. Amroth will keep her company. She need not meet him.”
“Yes. He is a cousin of Umar’s, and now rules the people of Near Harad. He wants peace.”
“And you believe him!” Béma how many times had they heard that from different Dunlending tribes? But it hadn’t stopped them joining with Saruman.
“I have not met him.” Imrahil interrupted his thought. “But I tell you this, in the times that Umar came to my home I looked into the eyes of his servants and I saw fear. I looked into the eyes of the messengers that came on Amal’s instigation, and I saw respect for their master and his ideas.”
Éomer said nothing, and Imrahil went on. “Éomer, I talked with Umar at Denethor’s insistence, against my own inclination and judgement. My instinct tells me to meet with Prince Amal, and I have to go with that.”
Éomer nodded, knowing Imrahil was right and they had to take every chance to secure permanent peace. “I understand, as long as Lothíriel is kept well away.”
Lothíriel knew Éomer had arrived to talk to her father. The whisper had gone around the house. She could hardly concentrate on what Hisael was chattering about. The maid, getting no joy with her probing into the King of Rohan’s intentions, had started gossiping about the housekeeper. Lothíriel closed her ears to Hisael, her mind on what was happening in her father’s study. What would be his reaction? He wouldn’t say no, surely? She couldn’t imagine he would. Her father would be pleased to see her married to one of his greatest friends, a man he respected. Not getting much response, Hisael gave up talking. She finished Lothiriel’s hair just as there was a light tap on the door.
“We know what that will be about,” Hisael smirked, going to the door, brush still in hand. When she pulled it open Ephrem was standing there.
“Princess, your father would like to talk to you for a few moments if your maid has finished.”
Lothiriel’s heart banged in her chest, but she managed to school her voice to make a polite response “Yes, of course. I shall come right away.”
With a nod, Ephrem waited in the passage and when she emerged led her down the flight of stairs, to the floor below. His face impassive he knocked on the heavy door, holding it open for her to walk through. “Princess Lothíriel, my lord.”
Her father was perched on the end of his desk, whilst Éomer lounged in a chair. He smiled at her, looking relaxed and handsome and … her thumping heart did a somersault, hammering against her ribs.
Both men stood up, her father took a step towards her and putting one hand on each arm, kissed her on her forehead. “Would you like some wine, my dear?”
“No, thank you.” Her throat was so tight it would never go down.
“Then I will waste no time, for I do not think that this will come as a surprise to you: Éomer has asked me for your hand in marriage.”
Lothíriel swallowed, and looked up into Eomer’s twinkling blue eyes. She bowed her head. “You do me great honour, my lord.”
Her father carried on. “I have told him that years ago I gave you free choice. I understand that he is aware of this. I have to say Lothíriel that I could not hope for a better match for you and gladly give my consent, if that is your wish. Although, I would like you to give the matter some thought. You have known each other only a matter of days, even if you have seldom been apart!”
Lothíriel looked from one to another, knowing the decision had already been made and how right it felt. “I could think for a thousand years, Father and not change my mind. I love Éomer and wish to be his wife. I would wed no other.”
Her father let out a sigh, and Éomer reached for her hand holding it firmly but gently, as he always would.
Imrahil clasped Éomer’s arm, “Then that is settled.” He patted her shoulder. “But I have explained to Éomer, Lothíriel, that I do not see any reason to shorten the normal betrothal period. There will be a lot to arrange. I will go and speak to Aragorn and arrange a meeting for tomorrow, whilst everyone is still here.” Giving them no chance to answer he strode to the door. “Do not be late for supper!” he called back as he left the room.
Alone, her father had left them alone. Suddenly she felt shy. Éomer let go her hand and ran his fingers up her arm. Her skin trembled under his touch.
“And now, my love, you still owe me for a horse.” His other hand cupped her chin and he brought his lips down and kissed her lightly.
“Your beard tickles.” What a stupid thing to say, but she felt so nervous. Although he must have realised because he stroked her cheek, smiling down into her eyes.
“Do you mind?”
“No, I like it.”
“Good. Now you own one leg.”
Lothíriel swallowed, and put up her hands to rest them on his shoulders. “I like to pay my debts, but I am very new to this.”
This time he kissed her deeper, probing, searching. Heat and desire flooded over her at the hunger she sensed in him and instinctively she buried her hands in his hair, moulding her body to his. With a growl he let his hand travel down her back, pulling her against him. Hot longing pooled low down in her stomach, but suddenly he checked himself, easing away as she still clung to his hard body.
“You need not stop.” she panted, her breath ragged. “I am extremely willing to learn.”
“You, my love,” he whispered, taking her face between his hands, and kissing her forehead, her nose and finally her lips, “are way beyond any dream I ever had.”
And he had been in her dreams since she was twelve years old. She dropped her head against his chest, feeling the strong beat of his heart. A heart that she knew would never let her down.
They started as the door opened. “I am sorry, my lord, Princess, I thought that you had left with Prince Imrahil” It was Ephrem.
Éomer took hold of her hand again. “No matter, we must be going now.”
Except for the servants – Lothíriel was sure they were peeking at them from around the numerous corners – everyone else must have already left. They walked quickly, but when they got to the entrance to the Citadel Lothíriel stopped.
“Éomer you must let go my hand now.”
“The courtyard is full of people waiting for the supper bell, they will see.”
“We are going to be married, so I do not imagine that it matters.”
“But they do not know that yet.”
A ripple of amusement ran through him. A suspicion stole over her, and she grabbed his shoulder to make him look at her – she would have had to be blind to miss the wicked gleam in his laughing eyes.
“Éomer, how do they know?”
“You rode my horse.”
“Rode your horse?” Lothíriel let out a deep breath of indignation. “I knew that you were up to something.”
He laughed, pulling her against him and dropping a kiss on her head.” In the Riddermark a battle horse is owned by a Rider until he dies. Only his wife, his children perhaps, or his betrothed, will ever ride it whilst he is alive. Even Éowyn has never ridden Firefoot.”
Lothíriel gasped, which made him chuckle more.
“I am sure my men have passed around the good news. So you see, my love, walking into supper holding your hand will not come as a shock.”
Now things dropped into place. “What about my father, did you tell him?”
“Hmm… not much gets past him. But he forgave me.”
She should have been used to strange looks and whispers behind elegantly raised hands, but with her cheeks aflame, they made their way through the crowd. Éomer looked totally unconcerned, and when she tried to twist her fingers out of his he held them tighter.
“I am a King, you are a Princess, brave it out.”
“Why do you not just let go of my hand?”
“That is the coward’s way. This is much more fun.”
Imrahil tapped lightly on the door, “Lothíriel it’s me. Are you still awake?”
She answered immediately. “Yes, Father, come in.”
Pushing the door open, he saw her sitting by the open window looking out into the night. He was not surprised after the events of the day and went over to stand beside her, resting one hand on her shoulder. She nestled against him and wiggled a hand into his; he gave her soft fingers a gentle squeeze. “Somehow I did not think that you would be asleep. I just wanted to say that I am glad you are so happy, after everything that has happened. Éomer will be a good husband to you.”
“I know he will be.” She murmured contently against him, bringing reassurance of her happiness.
Imrahil dropped a kiss on the top of her head; the scent of jasmine lingered in her hair, reminding him of his wife. Calaerdis’s perfume was hot and spicy in comparison. Letting her hand go, he moved to the open window enjoying the cool air brushing against his face. No salt smell here, only the scent of herbs that wafted in, probably from the cook’s small garden way below. It mixed with the damp smell of mossy stone. He sighed, she had smelt the sea for most of her life, but in the years ahead it would be far away from her. Éomer loved his country and he hoped she would love it too, no matter how different. But he could trust Éomer to look after her.
“What happens now?” she asked after a moment.
With a sigh he turned back from the window, not relishing all the formalities ahead. “I have spoken to Aragorn. He is really pleased, not only for Gondor, but for the two of you. There will be a meeting tomorrow to sort out the details. Luckily Éomer’s advisors are still here.”
Lothíriel sat up straight with a surprised look. “Advisors, but why does he need them?”
“To advise him on his marriage, of course.”
“Oh.” Amusement flashed across her face, quickly hidden. “Do they think that he does not know what to do?”
“Of course…Oh!” He chuckled. “You are getting far too pert, young lady.”
Imrahil paused, as a great surge of regret at all the wasted time welled up in him. “But I prefer you like this, having had to watch your spirit being smothered in those awful years.”
“They are behind me now.”
Lothíriel stared straight into his eyes. “What is it, Father? I sense you have something on your mind.”
No point in putting it off, and it was his responsibly to tell her. He couldn’t leave it to Éomer. “Something has come up. I have told Éomer, and although he was not too happy, he understands the necessity.”
Her face puckered apprehensively. “The necessity for what?”
Imrahil glanced behind him, seeking for a chair; the only one looked a bit flimsy. He pulled up a carved stool and sat down. “Lothíriel, Aragorn and I have been talking with emissaries from Near-Harad, Umar’s people. Their new Prince wishes for long lasting peace and friendship with Gondor.”
She didn’t move, but her whole demeanour stiffened.
“What do they want this time?” she asked, voice and face expressionless.
“They want land – land that includes access to the sea through South Gondor, so that they are not reliant on the Umbarians, who charge heavy tolls. Basically, much like we offered Umar. But Prince Amal appears very different; he wishes to make life easier for his people. The area he is asking for is mostly empty of habitation, we withdrew from it eons ago, but parts are very fertile.”
Her brow furrowed in thought. “Prince Amal, did you say. Who exactly is he?”
“A cousin of Umar’s, but they did not get on. I have not met him, although the emissaries speak with reverence of his unstinting work to bring back prosperity after Umar led their people to war.”
She nodded. “So they only want land.”
“Yes.” Imrahil sighed. If Umar had only wanted land, so much would have been different, but he had to put that aside. “In return they will build garrison forts along their southern borders to keep the more aggressive tribes at bay. These would be jointly manned by soldiers from Harad and Gondor. They will also have their own ships built with which they wish to trade and so they will assist us in keeping the Corsairs under control.”
“What have you and Aragorn decided?”
“Nothing yet. Aragorn wishes to meet with the Prince, to try to judge him before we make any decision. We have arranged talks in Dol Amroth. I know you won’t want to see him, if fact Éomer told me very forcefully that he won’t allow any risk of you being upset, so you can stay on here. Elphir and I will go home, Aragorn will come with us, and Amroth can keep you company. I imagine Éomer will stay a while as well.”
“I don’t think so, Father!”
Her voice was heavy with conviction and the gold glints in her eyes challenged him. That look brought back memories of a time before Umar when she stood before him after some misdemeanour – usually ducking out of Cousin Elagneth’s planned tasks to go wandering with Mista and Larca. He revelled in seeing her strong will showing up again, and had a hard job to stop his lips from twitching.
“You don’t think so, Lothíriel. Then what do you think?”
“I am not letting any Prince of Harad dictate what I do. And as much as I appreciate yours and Eomer’s concern, I will make up my own mind.”
He nearly burst out laughing, wondering how well Éomer really knew her. “So you approve of us opening negotiations?”
“Of course. It is sensible to try and make peace, and not right to judge a whole people by the actions of just one man. I can’t say I particularly want to meet the new Prince, but I will not run away.”
Imrahil shook his head. “You are full of surprises. But tell Éomer it is your choice, or he will have my guts.”
March 28th 3020
She had been sitting under the tree for most of the afternoon, pretending to read, but really thinking about what was happening in Aragorn’s big meeting room. She gazed up into the tree, watching a striped caterpillar traversing along a branch. It seemed to know where it was going, but would it make it without being eaten? Oh, it was no use! Lothíriel put down the book and stood up to stretch, but then heard footsteps coming across the outer court. She quickly brushed down her skirt of a few bits of leaf and pushed back some stray tendrils that would keep falling across her face, before sitting down again and trying to look nonchalant.
At last! Éomer and her father were walking towards her. With just a rise of his brows to signal his mood, Éomer flopped down on the seat beside her, stretching out his legs.
Her father flashed her a reassuring smile. “You pass on all the details, Éomer, I will order some tea.”
He chuckled. “Yes, perhaps you are right after that lot. I’ll send out something stronger, unless of course you wish to come indoors.”
“No, out here will be fine. I need the fresh air.”
“So, do I assume that all has been decided?” Lothíriel asked as soon as her father had gone indoors. “You look quite worn out.”
He draped his arm across her shoulder and pulled her against him, settling back against the seat. “It has.”
Lothíriel waited, but he had closed his eyes. She nudged him. “Then are you going to tell me? It cannot be that bad.”
Éomer opened one eye. “I think, my love, that there will be some things you will quite like, and some you probably will not. How shall I start?”
“By waking up!” Really! She had been waiting here most of the day and now he had decided to doze. Lothíriel deliberately moderated her voice. “Tell me some of the nice things.” He didn’t move, but at least both eyes opened.
“Our betrothal will be announced tomorrow night at the Farewell Banquet. But besides that, it will be announced that Queen Arwen is with child.”
“Ah…,” Lothíriel said without really thinking, “There would be more cause for celebration if it was generally known that it is a boy.”
“A boy?” That woke him up properly. He stared at her. “How do you know that?”
Lothíriel shrugged. “I don’t see so much now I am not working in the peace of the Healing Houses, the vibrancy of the court is not conducive to foretelling, but that has been shown to me.” Éomer looked so flabbergasted she thought it best to move on. “Never mind that, what is next?”
“Oh...” he gathered himself, “Well our wedding will take place in Dol Amroth.”
“Dol Amroth, not Edoras?” she exclaimed. That was a real surprise. “Do you mind?”
“No, it is sensible. It is easy travel from both Minas Tirith and Edoras for the number of guests expected.”
“But what about your people, won’t they wish to see their king married in Rohan?”
“To be honest, marriage cerebrations in the Riddermark are not long drawn out affairs. More important is the ceremony when you receive the crown, and also lighting the hearth as the new Lady of Meduseld. We are a scattered people, so I will have to take you on a trip to introduce you to everybody anyway.”
Hmm… perhaps it would be better to go to live in Rohan as Eomer’s wife rather than arriving as a nervous bride. Thinking that, she dropped the subject. “And when will the wedding be, for I have a feeling that this is one of the things that I will not like.”
He pursed his lips discontentedly. “February 24th next year.”
Almost a year! Usual in Gondor but…, “That is a very long time. You agreed to this?”
“My head agreed; my heart did not.” He sighed, and tucked her closer against him. “Your father has asked us to wait, but there are other reasons: Arwen’s confinement for one, she would not be fit to travel and Aragorn would not wish to leave her before the start of winter. I really want him to be at our wedding. The Elders do not advise us to get married just before the cold weather sets in, you are from a southern land, and Rohan winters can be harsh. They feel, and I have to agree, that it would be best if you acclimatised gently.”
“Do they think I am some hothouse flower?” she exclaimed.
“I think they want to make sure you are given every chance to settle happily in your new land.”
“Oh, I suppose.”
“They mean well, Lothíriel, but also before I met you, I committed myself to an errand for Aragorn. He asked us to scout the land north of ours, west of the Misty Mountains as far as the Greyflood. He says it is good land, ripe for colonising. Winter is best, tracks show up easily in the snow. I do not have to go myself, but if there are any problems I would not like to be away enjoying our mead-month and then the weather stopped us getting home. By mid February the snow is usually gone. Those of my people, who wish, will be able to come to the wedding. And afterwards we can spend some time in Gondor, perhaps Ithilien, you can choose, and by the time we get back to Edoras it will be well into spring.”
“I see the sense of it,” she admitted. “It is just very hard. Are there any more good things?”
“Yes.” he put a finger under his chin and dropped his lips on hers. “You, my love, are coming to stay in Edoras for two months in the summer, if you wish that is.”
Did she wish… how sensible, she could learn the language and not feel so out of place when arriving as Queen. “That really is a good idea, as much as I might wish I didn’t have to go home again. February does seem a very long time away.”
The wine arrived, Éomer took it gratefully, taking a large gulp before he carried on.
“You have no idea how long we argued about the date. I wanted it as early as possible, but some old man quoted the thawing dates over the last few years. We were just about to agree, when your father suddenly said something about the tides being right. We had to hang about whilst an astronomer predicted the times for next February, and after his pronouncement the date was set for the twenty-fourth.” He ran his hand through his long unruly hair, looking perplexed. “I must have missed something for I have absolutely no idea why!”
Lothíriel started to laugh. “I think that this is a bit you may like. It is about our wedding night.”
“Ah…” Éomer quirked a brow. “That does sound better. Tell me.”
“Well, a bit like Faramir taking Éowyn to Ithilien, it is tradition for the Lords of Dol Amroth to take their brides to a tower on a tiny island, just off the beach. The island can only be reached by a causeway that uncovers for a few hours at low water; wedding dates are usually timed so that the feast ends in the early evening. My father must have thought you would like to do that, it is totally private, no servants, just the bride and groom. It is very comfortable, a large bed, a fire, and not much else. Twelve or twenty-four hours, you can choose.”
“How about a week?” He chuckled, squeezing her shoulder.
“Is there anything else that I need to know?” Lothíriel asked matching his grin.
“A few things that will concern you. Much is agreements between Gondor and Rohan, but there are some things you need to agree before you sign.”
His expression alerted her. “And they are?”
“You will have to promise to learn our language and to live in the Golden Hall.”
Lothíriel drew her brows together in a frown, what a strange thing. “The language I can understand, but Meduseld is your home. Why should I wish to live anywhere else?”
“My grandmother preferred the courts of Gondor, and headed there at every opportunity. The Elders do not want that again. We live a simpler life in the Mark and they want you to understand that.”
“It will suit me well.” She took his hand, feeling a great peace come over her. “I would live in a cave with you if I had to.”
“Do not tempt me, woman!”
Their eyes remained fixed on one another for a moment, before Éomer brushed his lips against her cheek. “I understand that you don’t crave luxury and splendour, but not all my council know you. Although I have used this to our advantage, they have agreed to make alterations to the Royal Chambers which are inclined to be draughty and not very private. Also the Queen’s solar is now used for guests. It is not difficult to alter, a few extra walls and doors, also a new private bath chamber for us. The walls are intricately carved and all must match so it will take a while.”
“Then we must be patient. Is there anything else that I should know?”
His hesitation told her something else controversial was coming. “Gondor is giving up a Princess; they wish to make sure that it is your heirs that sit on the throne in Edoras. Also it is very much the wish of the Council of the Mark that their next King has the royal blood of the House of Amroth mixed with that of the House of Eorl. I have to sign to say that I will not do anything to jeopardise the legitimate succession.”
Lothíriel didn’t answer for a moment as she assimilated this information, “I imagine I have to affirm that I am unsullied.”
He nodded. “It is normal for marriages of state, which I am afraid is how some will see it.”
They both looked up as they heard footsteps approaching.
“By the look on your faces you must have been discussing your marriage contract.” Elphir had a big grin on his face. “I managed to dispense with all that by choosing Meren.”
“Very sensible,” Éomer remarked straight-faced. “I should have fallen in love with a lovely lady like Meren, and not a princess.”
“Think of the opposition you would have had,” Elphir shot back.
“You’re right. At least they could not fault my choice, and I understand most of the reason behind the blather. Although I missed the significance of the tides.” Éomer grinned. “Your sister had to enlighten me.”
“That is the best bit of all, I can thoroughly recommend it.” Elphir chuckled. “I thought you looked asleep!”
“Well, I’d had quite enough by then. And in my years on the plains I learnt to grab sleep anytime nothing was happening.”
“I don’t consider discussing our marriage contract nothing,” Lothíriel objected.
Elphir winked at Éomer and turned to go, but as he made for the door she called to him. “Brother, congratulations on Meren’s condition.”
He swung around again. “But she is not sure!”
Lothíriel shrugged her shoulders, and he rushed inside. “I like to get one over on him occasionally.”
Éomer put his arm back around her and drew her against him. “I am going to be in trouble all my life if you can read my thoughts.”
“Do not worry, I cannot always do it, but Éomer, since we met your thoughts have been remarkably easy to decipher.”
He burst out laughing. “I am glad that I am not marrying a prude.”
“I could hardly be prudish with three older brothers. And as I have said before, I do not need to be treated differently because of the problems of the past.”
“Ah… that reminds me. Your father says you are insistent that you will return home even though there is a deputation coming from Harad.”
“Yes, Éomer. I will not be dictated to by…”
“Oh, don’t worry,” he interjected quickly. “I applaud you for it. But make no mistake, I am coming with you.”
To be continued.
List of Original Character appearing or mentioned in this chapter.
Lady Tinusel - An elderly lady, friend of Lothiriel’s
Lady Calaerdis- From Sirith in Lebennin. A rich widow. Mistress to Imrahil.
Princess Meren- Elphir’s wife. Rescued by him from Corsairs to whom she refused to give away the hiding place of her brother’s children in spite of being assaulted.
Hisael - Lothíriel’s maid
Lady Elaganeth - Cousin of Imrahil’s looked after Lothíriel as a child.
Ephrem - Imrahil’s steward
Umar - Prince of Harad. Device – the Black Serpent on Scarlet. Obsessed with Lothíriel. Killed on the Pelennor by King Théoden of Rohan.
Amal - The new Prince of Harad
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.