21st February 3021
Lothíriel hurried across the square from the Healing-house, dodging a wagon loaded with vegetables, but not managing to miss the rain that had been falling for days. By the time she reached the palace her cloak oozed water. She took it off to give it a shake, spraying drops across the marble floor. But except for her shoes the rest of her remained dry, and, in spite of the weather, she was glad that she had taken time to go and speak to the two novices from Rohan again. They had settled in really well in the months they had been here, although were looking forward to some of their kinsmen arriving the next day.
Not Éomer, though, another three days until he would ride into Dol Amroth. She sighed discontentedly: the nearer to the wedding, the slower the time seemed to go. This last week was passing like a snail over sand. The rain hadn’t helped. Pity Éomer and the others coming from Edoras, as it would be bad in the mountains – which was where he would be about now. The tops had been obscured for days. Well, there was nothing to be done about it. Bundling up her cloak, Lothíriel started down the passage, a trail of damp footprints following her. Peeking into the hall she saw that the big silver Swan-ships had been brought out for cleaning. The centrepieces looked magnificent, especially when filled with flowers, but made a lot of work for the servants as all the rigging had to be painstakingly polished. Bluebells had filled them for Elphir’s wedding, but she had no idea how the hall would be decorated for hers: Meren and Calaerdis were keeping that very close. She supposed she could find out if she did a bit of investigating, after all, so many flowers would have had to be ordered ages ago, but they wanted to surprise her. And flowers weren’t the only things ordered months ago. Lothíriel admitted to herself that although the wait had angered her, the glorious spectacle her father was arranging had needed months of planning. With so many guests, including Gondor’s King and Queen, to feed and house for a week or more, the amount of food alone was incredible.
Reaching her room, Lothíriel put her wet cloak on a hook by the door. The rain still beat against the window, running in rivulets down the panes and collecting in a pool on the sill, before spilling over to the rocks below. It would be stupid to even venture outside again, so what could she do now to pass the time? With another sigh, she turned and stared at her wardrobe – still a bit to go through in there, but every time she started she ended up back at the window, dreaming.
Shaking herself, Lothíriel determinedly went over and opened the wardrobe door. She had said she would do it, but had put it off and off, spending most of the previous months with the horses. So she’d better get on now. The maids had sorted through her other clothes, but these had been her mother’s, and she wanted to decide herself what she would take with her. Her hand fell on a high-necked dress in pale grey. It fitted her well and the small, embroidered swan design could be enhanced by a sun or a horse when she got to Rohan, so she might as well take it. But the one behind it had swan-ships all down the sleeves and around the hem. She put it back.
Reaching for the next garment, she was interrupted by a tap on the door. “Who is it?”
“You can come in, Amroth.”
The door opened with a bang and Amroth, leaving it swinging open, went straight to sit on the window seat, just as he always did. He peered out through the murk. “The rain’s stopped, I think it’s clearing.”
“Is it?” She brightened: perhaps Éomer would arrive dry, but it had been pouring a few moments ago. Abandoning the wardrobe, Lothíriel went back to the window, leaning on her brother’s shoulder to look over his head. Staring west told her Amroth was right; a band of muted blue and yellow could be seen running all along the horizon, driving the grey cloud before it. “Oh, good. Those poor cattle and sheep outside the gates looked very miserable.”
Amroth turned his head sideways to grin at her. “They will look even more unhappy when they get their throats slit.”
“I’d rather you didn’t remind me.” She shuddered at the idea of the poor things waiting out their fate in the rain. But animals had been arriving at the city all week, sheep from the salt-marshes along the coast, cattle from the slopes of the Tarnost hills, and grunting pigs, fattened up for the guests in the numerous farms that surrounded the city.
The grin turned to a laugh. Which made her stand up straight and move away: he always thought her soft.
“You should see it down at the harbour.” Amroth turned his head back to the window and craned his neck, looking in the direction of the port. “They have barrels and barrels filled with crabs. And every boy around is earning a wage picking mussels.”
She didn’t want to know really. “But there aren’t any lobsters, are there?”
“No, although the fishermen can’t understand why we don’t want any.”
“Orion nearly died looking for lobsters and I am not having any at my wedding.”
“The fishermen catch them in wicker pots, Lothíriel. It’s no more dangerous than any other form of fishing. But, anyway, they say a shoal of big prawns are around, so they will be going for them.”
She shrugged, knowing he wouldn’t understand her horror of killing lobsters. “Well, I hope we don’t get prawns on the wedding day. Imagine all that mess, and me in my wedding dress.”
“They’ll be served at the feast the night before, I imagine.”
“Good. Now I must get on if you have nothing else to say.” He was probably bored with the days of rain, the same as her.
“What are you doing?”
She pointed to the open wardrobe door. “I am sorting through my clothes, deciding what to take to Rohan.”
“Why do you not let Hisael and Ana do it?”
“Because I am trying to fill in the time.” His brows rose at that admission, and she smiled sheepishly. “I should have done it ages ago, but preferred to ride; now the maids are too busy as they have to help with all the bed making. Finding room for everyone has been really difficult.” She chuckled as an amusing thought surfaced. “Especially as we don’t know how many wives Prince Amal will be bringing.”
“Or if they all sleep with him, or share with each other,” Amroth quipped back straightaway.
Lothíriel dissolved into giggles, but resolutely returned to the wardrobe, pulling out her suede-leather riding outfit. A real favourite, the one she had worn when she had ridden Firefoot, but it was Dol Amroth blue, and there was no way to cover up the prominent emblems on it. “I shall miss this the most; it is a shame for it to go to waste. You will have to find a wife, Amroth, the same size as me. Some of these dresses were our mother’s, and I have not had the chance to wear them all. It is a pity that they will not fit Meren.”
He laughed scornfully. “I think that the odds on me finding a wife are pretty low, but if I do see a likely candidate I will certainly remember to take a measure. Perhaps I could line up a few and compare.”
“You never know, strange things happen sometimes.” She grinned at him. “What did you come for anyway? I can’t imagine it was to talk about a wife for you.”
“No, certainly not! I just wanted to make sure you were happy about everything.”
“The wedding you mean?”
He nodded, twisting his lips. “Well, not the ceremony, but meeting Éomer again.”
“Amroth!” She didn’t believe this! “You are surely not going to try and give me advice about my wedding night, are you?”
“No!” he replied quickly, and then gave her a half-smile. “Not really. I imagine Meren is well up to educating you if needs be, but it struck me that you may feel sort of shy. Awkward perhaps. You have not seen him for months and you have never spent much time alone with him.”
“And whose fault is that?”
Amroth at least had the grace to look a bit remorseful. “I suppose that I could have been wrong keeping you apart, but that is not the point now. He is not arriving until the morning of the wedding, and by sundown you will be married.”
Lothíriel took a deep breath, holding on to her composure. “I realise that I run the risk of shocking you, my dear brother. I know that to you I am your little sister, but I am also a woman, marrying the man I love. I do not feel the least bit shy, and think all the time of being in his arms, in that huge bed, in that tower.” His eyes opened wide, but she didn’t care. “Does that answer your question?”
Luckily looking more relieved than shocked, Amroth got up, pulled her into his arms, and hugged her. “Yes, I suppose that it does, and I am glad for you. Now put those dresses down. The sky is clearing fast, so we can go for a gallop on the sand.”
“I ought to finish, there are only a few days to go.”
“Come on, we can go and check on the new summer quarters that are being built for the horses afterward, they are well on their way to being completed.”
She hesitated, looking at the open wardrobe door. But the ride tempted her, and she would like to see what was happening. No one had gone short of work this winter: acres of the vast pinewoods cleared to make way for grazing and haymaking, and the wood used to build stables and training rings just along the coast, where the horses could be put out onto the marsh grass.
With a little chuckle she put the tunic back. If she went with Amroth now, that would be one day nearly over. Tomorrow, Aragorn, Arwen, Faramir, Éowyn and Legolas would arrive. The next day they had the pre-wedding feast when all the guests should be here …and then the one after that … Lothíriel smiled. “All right, but take Lady. We can race one horse from Rohan against the other.”
February 24th 3021
Soon, she would see him soon! Afraid her feelings were all too apparent, Lothíriel sunk her teeth into an apple, it was about the only thing she fancied after the rich meal the night before.
Amazing how everyone had got up so early after the previous evening’s feasting and dancing. But if the hall was to be ready for the wedding that afternoon, the family needed every hour. The others were at the morning meal because they were almost as keen for the Edoras party to arrive as her. Éowyn especially. Éomer knew he would soon be an uncle, but brother and sister hadn’t met since the news had been announced. He hadn’t seen baby Eldarion either, and Aragorn was keen to show off his son. Everyone awaited his presence eagerly, but not as eagerly as her.
“A rider arrived just after dawn with a message from Éomer.” Her father looked around waiting for everyone’s attention.
Lothíriel stared at him, the apple poised near her mouth for another bite. Surely there wasn’t a problem. No, her father had a smile on his face.
“We were pretty certain Gimli would be riding with Éomer,” her father said with a glance to Legolas, “but someone else, someone very unexpected, has joined his party.”
“Really? He is coming?” Aragorn didn’t sound that surprised, but he took a deep breath of satisfaction and leant over to say something to Arwen, too low for Lothíriel to hear.
She waited, but her father held on to his information, smiling smugly.
“Who’s coming, Father?” Amroth asked winking at her. Their father enjoyed making surprising announcements.
“Mithrandir is with him.”
“Mithrandir!” The name echoed around the table, initiating a buzz of exclamations. It had been commonly thought that the Wizard would never come to Gondor again.
Lothíriel stood up, too excited to eat any more. Not only would she be reunited with Éomer in an hour or so, but meet Mithrandir! Something she had always longed to do. “Excuse me, Father. I shall ride along the road to meet Éomer. You’ll come with me, Amroth, won’t you?”
Meren looked up quickly. “You won’t go near the hall, will you Lothíriel?”
“Don’t worry, I will go in and out of the side door…”
“No, Lothíriel,” her father interrupted, as Amroth rose to his feet. “We must greet Éomer properly, all of us on the steps. There will be a guard of honour from the city gates.”
“Of course, you can do that. But that doesn’t stop me riding to meet him.”
Her father shook his head. “Lothíriel, for once we must remember Éomer is the King of Rohan, and Rohan is our most important ally. He needs to be treated with all due ceremony. You cannot go charging down the road to meet him.”
She stared at him, mortified – make her greet him on the steps formally! It was so unlike her father, she had never known him fuss so much as he had about this wedding. Lothíriel swept her eyes around the table, seeking support: surely Aragorn’s lips twitched as he exchanged a glance with Arwen. Éowyn had her mouth open, but at a look from Faramir she closed it again. Calaerdis smiled sympathetically and Lothíriel cast her a look of mute appeal, but she didn’t respond. Help came from an unexpected quarter.
“Father, they have been apart for months. It is hardly fair to make them greet each other in front of half the nobles of Gondor. I am sure Éomer would not expect that.”
“Oh, thank you, Elphir,” Lothíriel whispered under her breath. She waited, rigid with suspense, as her father’s brow furrowed in thought. Surely he would give in; he always respected what his eldest son had to say.
“Very well. But it must be done properly. Amroth can ride with you, and Sergion can lead a guard of twelve. I want you all in full regalia.”
She would have worn anything! Lothíriel’s breath huffed out in relief. “Oh, thank you, Father. I will have to go and change now if you want me dressed up.” She pushed back her chair. “I’ll meet you in the stables, Amroth, don’t take long.”
“Lothíriel,” Her father’s stern voice stopped her halfway to the door, “I forbid you to come riding back through the gates on his horse!”
With a nod, she grabbed the handle quickly, afraid he would change his mind.
Her maids had disappeared, and knowing how busy they were with the palace full to bursting, Lothíriel struggled into the heavy riding dress herself. Buttons, laces, and yards of silver braid, no one could mistake her rank rigged out in this lot. It took her so long that her escort were waiting when she got to the stables.
All the knights looked splendid, and Sergion particularly resplendent in his dress uniform. He led Bracken forward as she walked across the yard. Amroth had already mounted, looking magnificent – with his straight black hair falling over one side of his face, dark blue velvet cloak, silver swan-ship on his breastplate and his high leather boots – astride his beautifully adorned, grey horse. Lothíriel laughed to herself: more heads would be turned today, and he had caused enough furore the night before. Many of the girls attending the wedding were from the coast and the mountains. It was their first time in the palace and they did not have the sophistication of those from Minas Tirith. The effect of her brother on them had been devastating. Their fathers were torn between being fearful of his reputation, and hopeful that, just perhaps, it would be their daughter that landed this almighty catch. In the end Amroth had threatened to disappear to the taverns at the port if he had to dance with one more bashful maiden. She had taken pity and danced with him herself. But even then she had found the evening hard, knowing Éomer to be camped only a few miles down the road. A few miles! Why were they hanging around here!
“Are we all ready? We don’t want to meet him coming through the gates.”
Sergion laughed, and ordered the guard to fall in. Pennants fluttering in the stiff breeze, she and Amroth led the way out to the courtyard.
Guests were already lingering around by the steps, and some looking out from the windows of the guesthouses. Lothíriel saw excited faces goggling through an upstairs casement: more girls eager to glimpse her brother, she suspected. Out in the square a crowd had started to gather in anticipation of the spectacle of the King of Rohan arriving to claim his promised bride. And when they rode through the city gate, they found a group of families from the port already keen to stake their place.
“We will need some men-at arms-out here.” Sergion said, seeing more trudging up the hill. He gestured to one of the gate-guards.
“But they will want to see, Sergion. Don’t block their view.” The fisher-folk had contributed to the wedding by their hard work and she didn’t want them to miss out on something so unusual.
“Just enough to keep order,” he assured her.
No galloping across the paddock, they had to follow the road, which ran between the two camps that had been set up, one on either side. Rohan on the left – most of the Rohirrim had arrived the day before, fully equipped; so only the Royal Party from Edoras would be housed in the Palace. In contrast to the green tents designed to blend into the landscape, those on the other side shouted their presence. The scarlet tents of Harad clustered around Prince Amal’s pavilion. But thank goodness he’d brought them; it took the pressure off the allocation of rooms. The Prince had also arrived with three wives, and rolls and rolls of carpet. A thoughtful wedding present, as he must have remembered the comment about Meduseld being draughty. So beautiful too: intricately patterned, in green, gold and dark red, and when you looked closely there were tiny white horses and swan-ships intertwined. It would cover the whole of their quarters.
“Shame he brought the tents, we won’t ever get to find out who sleeps with whom,” Amroth threw in as they passed.
Lothíriel smothered a chuckle, sleeping very much on her mind: she would never go to bed in her old room again. Éomer had been given the East wing, it was the most private. She would share it with him after tonight, when of course they were going to the tower. A week in Dol Amroth, then they would take Wild Swan to Ithilien. Faramir had built a guesthouse amongst the trees and she and Éomer would be the first to use it. Minas Tirith for the March 25th celebrations, and then home along the Great West Road. Home! Already she thought of Meduseld as home.
“Amroth, what do you think is the matter with father, he does not usually care much about protocol.”
Amroth shrugged. “He is very pleased about the wedding. But I suspect that he is hiding his emotion under unusual formality. His face softened. “He will miss you greatly, Lothíriel.”
“I won’t be that far away.”
“But it’s not the same, is it? And aren’t weddings supposed to be special for fathers, giving their daughter to another man, and all that?”
“Yes, you may be right. And we have not had much time together lately.” She would have to make sure she showed her father what she felt for him before she left.
The road entered the woods, and with the sun still low, the tall trees threw long shadows across the road. “There is a clearing not far ahead,” Amroth said. “It might be a good place to wait.”
She didn’t want to wait. She wanted to ride on until they met up with Éomer. He couldn’t be far away, as she knew the plan was to camp in a glade a league or so along the road, which had a convenient waterfall. But before she could protest, a green-clad warrior emerged from the trees ahead. Her heart hammered madly at the sight of him, knowing Éomer was near.
The Rohan scout respectfully suggested that they wait in the clearing as Amroth had recommended, because the road narrowed after that.
They stopped just past the end of the trees, leaving a long stretch between them and woods ahead. Bracken stood nicely still, it was a good job the previous days had been fine and he had got plenty of exercise. Aero wouldn’t dare move, Amroth always had total control. Only she shuffled around, realising that only now was she becoming nervous. She had waited so long, thinking that this moment would never arrive. If it had not been for the letters, she did not think that she would have got though the winter. But they had come fast and frequently, as real progress had been made in setting up the relay stations.
“Horses!” Amroth broke into her thoughts.
Her heart jumped into her throat, her unusual nervousness transmitting to Bracken, who tossed his head and whinnied in excitement: he had heard them too. Lothíriel recovered herself and got him under control. Amroth threw her a grin.
She saw them first under the shadow of the trees – trotting horses, their riders dark and unrecognisable until they emerged into the open and the sunlight. Then myriads of green and gold, the sun glinting on a forest of spears, and just behind the front rider, the White Horse flew high.
For a moment Lothíriel remained motionless, all her senses quivering with expectation, until she saw the lead horseman break away from the rest. Heart racing, she kicked Bracken harder than she had intended, and the horse launched himself forward.
But she had the sense to pull him up just short of Éomer, who had done the same. A few yards apart they stared at one another for a tiny moment before he smiled – that lovely lazy smile of his. Very slowly he eased Firefoot forward until he was right by the side of her. Lothíriel put out her arms and he lifted her straight over onto his saddle. This was home!
“Oh, Lothíriel, I’ve missed you.”
He buried his lips in her hair, and she nuzzled hers into his neck. He smelt fresh and clean, of pinewoods and the open air.
“You’ve been under the waterfall.”
“My last cold bath,” he murmured softly in her ear.
Lothíriel gurgled, looking up into eyes gleaming with laughter, all the months of misery at being apart negated by the feel of strong arms around her. One of his hands moved up to cradle her head and their lips met in a soul-shattering kiss that left her breathless and shaking.
“Everyone must be watching us.”
Éomer laughed, breathing hard she noticed. “I imagine they are being very discreet and looking the other way. But we will not impose on their goodwill any longer, because there are people for you to greet.”
Lothíriel nodded, and looked over to where Éomer’s party waited at the edge of the clearing. She spotted her brother, even wearing a Rohan cloak, and the smaller figure seated awkwardly on a horse next to him had to be Gimli. She had missed him during her lightening visit to Minas Tirith after the war, and looked forward to meeting a dwarf. But she couldn’t see anyone that resembled a wizard.
Éomer grabbed Bracken’s reins and they trotted back to his escort. She still searched the group. “Father said Mithrandir was with you.”
“He is, he must be at the back.” A catch in his voice made her half turn to search his face, but she read nothing, and in a few more strides they were immersed in greetings.
“Well, lad, you always did have an eye for a pretty lady!”
Éomer and Erchi glared at Gimli, but Lothíriel laughed, fascinated by the incredible beard, some of which was so long it had been plaited. She turned to Erchi, blinking as she took in his odd clothing, a mixture of his own and some obviously borrowed from a Rohan warrior who had used it extensively. He looked a real contrast to the beautifully turned out members of Éomer’s guard. But before she could comment, Welwyn and Byrde pushed their horses to the front, Welwyn with a bundle strapped to her chest.
Lothíriel leaned over, Éomer holding on to her, she just had to peek at Leofcwen’s sweet little face nestled in the canvas sling. “Éomer told me about her birth in one of his letters, he said Éothain could barely get his head through the doors to Meduseld.”
Welwyn laughed. “He has been strutting around a bit.” She dropped her voice. “Look at him now.”
Lothíriel turned to see Éothain looking at them with a smile beaming across his face. “She’s beautiful, Éothain.”
“I think we can thank her mother for that,” Éomer butted in.
Everyone laughed including the proud father. As the laughter died away a slight commotion a bit further back made Lothíriel lift her head to see what was going on.
“I think Gandalf is about to join us,” Éomer remarked.
The two lines parted as a horse and rider advanced towards her. Lothíriel was first struck by the horse, she had seen pure Mearas during her visit to Rohan, but this one looked to have come from another time. But before she could take in much more than the dark eyes, noble head and shining silver coat, his rider spoke. Lothíriel’s eyes flew upward at the sound of his voice.
“Shadowfax is pleased by your regard, but what chance has an old grey wanderer of being welcomed?”
“My apologies, Mithrandir, I was so … “ the words didn’t come out, she just stared, bewildered.
“The eyes take longer to adjust when they are expecting a different sight than the one they are seeing. It would be better to expect to see nothing, and then all would be revealed more quickly.”
“Seron…?” her voice trailed off. No one else talked in such riddles. His lips quivered but he said nothing, only tipping his head on one side to study her.
“It is you,” she accused, too shocked to be polite. “You look different, but the same.”
“And so do you, child. I recall telling you to look in a mirror, but now I remember that you also look like your mother.”
“Your father must have had good taste,” Éomer whispered in her ear. Lothíriel swivelled her neck for a moment, she had almost forgotten him. “You knew?”
“If we had known that she was with you it would have saved us a lot of pain.” Erchirion looked a little put out.
Éomer must have kept his thoughts to himself. What would her father say? Then she remembered Seron assuring her he would explain to him one day. She turned back to Seron…Mithrandir. So much she wanted to say, to ask, but not here, surrounded by others. However, as she opened her mouth he put up his hand.
“Now is the time for celebration. The time for talk will come later.”
“Gandalf intends to journey back with us from Minas Tirith.” Éomer spoke again, his deep voice holding a gentle note.
Lothíriel nodded, knowing everyone would be lined up waiting for them at the Palace. “Yes, we must get going, or my father will be jumping up and down.”
“I can’t imagine that,” Éomer laughed. But he gave the order for everyone to line up again.
“I’ll have to go back on Bracken,” she said, looking around for Éomer’s squire and her horse.
“My father forbade me to ride back into the city on Firefoot.”
“I like it,” he said, a hint of amusement in his voice. “And what will he do, cancel the wedding? Anyway, after today you will be my responsibility.” Éomer spurred Firefoot to the front putting an end to her feeble protestations.
They went ahead, with Amroth leading the rest behind. The first part of the journey passed in a whirl of confused thoughts and feelings, but Éomer’s arms around her soon pushed her questions about Mithrandir’s role in her life to the back of her mind. Once they turned towards the city, the crowds, the cheering, and the good wishes enveloped her and Éomer in a maelstrom of welcome. They smiled; they waved; they laughed, answering the hundreds of greetings as best they could from Firefoot’s back. The high notes of silver trumpets rang out as they approached the gates, and slowly, so everyone could get a glimpse, they rode into the city, through the Guard of Honour.
It was only at the entrance to the Palace courtyard that Lothíriel realised they were alone: Amroth had stopped the procession just outside the city gates. She turned quickly, but couldn’t make out what was going on. Some trouble with the crowd, perhaps. Éomer shrugged, and rode, unheeding, through the ranks of nobles and up to the steps.
Her father stepped forward; thank goodness he had a smile on his face. Éomer jumped down and lifted his arms for her. “I am sorry; I would not let her go,” he said over his shoulder.
Formality ended anyway. Éomer, with a quick greeting to Aragon and Arwen, grabbed hold of his sister.
Her father looked towards the gate “Where’s Amroth?” he said, annoyed.
But at that instant the trumpets sounded again and moments later the head of the procession appeared, Amroth leading them into the courtyard. His father glared at him, but typically, Amroth shrugged nonchalantly. Then Erchi came into view, and Lothíriel had to stifle a giggle, for his mixture of clothes looked totally out of place amongst all the splendour. Her father let out a barely controlled gasp of irritation.
Lothíriel took his arm. “What’s the matter, Father? You have been on edge for days. It is so unlike you.”
She felt him stiffen, but then he relaxed and put his arm around her.
“Don’t mind me. I am probably realising how much things are changing, and how much I shall miss you.”
Lothíriel suddenly had a thought. “Father, are you remembering your own wedding?”
His face greyed, and he didn’t answer for moment before seeming to collect himself enough to say in a strained voice. “It has brought it all back to me, and you have grown to look so much like her that sometimes I catch sight of you and imagine…but it is very unfair of me to spoil your day with my memories.”
Lothíriel wiped away tear. “Now you have made me cry.”
He held her to him, kissing her on the forehead. “She wouldn’t want us to be sad, especially on your wedding day. She would love to see you marrying so fine a man.”
“Then let us hope from somewhere my mother is watching.”
“Ready?” Her father squeezed her arm, his beloved face soft and warm. All irritation gone.
Lothíriel nodded, smiling into his eyes. He looked so handsome and distinguished in his dark blue, she only hoped she would not trip and spoil the effect. The front of her dress missed her shoes, but the back trailed out behind. Hisael gave it a last tweak. Two footmen pushed open the heavy door and her father led her into the hall to be met by a salute of trumpets as all the guests stood.
“Rohan!” Lothíriel gasped. They had decorated the hall in the colours of Rohan. Hundreds of striking gold lilies – surely brought into flower early – had been added to the greenery that had filled the centrepieces the night before, and green vines trailed across the stones walls. Only when she walked towards the dais did she see the displays of Windflowers placed along each table. Dol Amroth blue and Rohan green and gold: it looked spectacular. Mumbles and whispers followed her progress down the hall, where all her family waited, and she registered the colours: Meren in blue; her brothers dressed like her father; Éowyn shimmering in pale green; Faramir tall in grey velvet. But then her eyes latched onto Éomer, and she saw and heard nothing else, only aware of the hand outstretched to take hers.
“You look wonderful.” Glittering eyes raked her, telling her that she had made a good choice. The heavy cream overdress was slashed wide across her breasts, leaving them covered by a delicate bodice encrusted with pearls. Her high headdress, with its gauze veil that covered her forehead and tumbled down her, was an invention of Calaerdis’s; she couldn’t have worn it had he not been so tall.
“You look pretty good as well,” she murmured. He certainly did, in his beloved dark green, and his mane of tawny hair flowing free. The Lion of Rohan: fierce and powerful, but loving and gentle too.
The officious blast of a trumpet brought everyone’s attention to Aragorn, who had stepped forward. Next to him, Alphros – giving a good impression of a miniature Swan-knight – held a velvet cushion, draped over which were ribbons in blue, green and gold. Her young nephew looked bored already. She just hoped he would last through the ceremony without getting up to mischief.
He did, passing the ribbons to Aragorn at the right time. Almost before she realised it, she was listening to Éomer speaking his vows in his rich voice. She got out hers with barely a tremble, and miraculously Éomer was bending to kiss her. After all those months of waiting it seemed that they were married in moments.
“Now you are mine.” His breath caressed her cheek, just before his lips met hers. No delicate embrace, but a kiss that promised more, and left her clutching at him to stay upright. The Rohirrim amongst the guests certainly enjoyed the show, their unrestrained enthusiasm transferring to the others, until the noise reached crescendo point. Somewhere above the clamour she heard the trumpets again, this time sending out the tidings all around the city. Then before she had time to think anymore, family and friends were queuing up to congratulate them. The minstrels started, filling in the time taken by the well wishing with lively music. Faces swam before her, some dear to her, some who she had never set eyes on before.
“Can we sit down now?” Lothíriel pleaded. Surely they had spoken to everybody, and she didn’t think her legs would hold her much longer.
“That’s it. Enough!” Éomer spoke sharply to her father. “We must have met the entire nation.”
Elphir laughed from their other side. “Just remember you have twenty-four hours completely alone. Hang on to that.”
With a wave of his hand her father gave the signal for everyone still standing to be ushered back to their places. The music changed to a more stately tune and she and Éomer led the way to the main table. Lothíriel took her place thankfully.
She looked out over the packed hall, not one more person could have sat down and besides this there were tables in the courtyard for the castle staff, the soldiers and their wives. Another trumpet and everyone stood again, the tradition of facing west before a meal upheld in Dol Amroth. Lothíriel’s stomach protested at the lack of food, one half-eaten apple that morning now a distant memory. A little grin twitched at her lips: a ravenous bride, not a nervous one.
The gasps of wonder alerted her to the arrival of the first course. To a loud fanfare, servants carried in huge turtle shells filled with soup, two men needed to haul each one. They put them down on the ends of every table, and at a sign from her father, the stewards started to ladle.
The meal progressed slowly. The soup followed by saddle of mutton, rich and succulent. A crab mousse, and curd pastries replaced the meat, with bowls of pickled cucumbers and artichokes. Lothíriel gave up eating; she just wanted something sweet to freshen her mouth. Éomer had given up too.
“We are married now, why can’t we go?”
Lothíriel chuckled, noting the slight frustration in his voice. “Even if we felt we could, the causeway will not be open. But, anyway, we have to listen to the speeches.”
A groan leaked out. And he slid down in his chair.
“Éomer, you are not to fall asleep!”
“I assure you, my love,” he said, deliberately letting his eyes linger on the low neckline of her dress, “that sitting next to you, I am entirely unlikely to fall asleep!”
“Oh,” she put a pretended sternness into her voice. “I see, so now we are married, you are going to behave rudely and improperly.”
His eyebrows flicked upwards. “As often as I can!”
That got her chuckling, but they were interrupted by Aragorn standing up to wish them health and happiness. He got the toast out in spite of some commotion at the end of the table where Amroth sat with Gimli and Legolas. They couldn’t see what it was, but a few moments later saw Alphros being dragged away by his father. The little boy’s good behaviour had obviously come to an end, but whatever he had done, Lothíriel noticed that Elphir could barely keep his face straight.
Aragorn continued with his speech as if nothing had happened, and then her father stood up. Lothíriel managed to listen to most of it, keeping her eyes resolutely on her father, in spite of being distracted by Éomer’s hand resting on her thigh, and playing with her fingers under the table.
Immediately the Lord of Dol Amroth sat down, the puddings were brought in on silver trays. Jellies of all kinds and colours, in the shapes of birds, animals and fish, a triumph to their expert cooks. Lothíriel expected a horse, or perhaps a swan, to be given to them to share, but she nearly choked when a golden lion was put down on the table in front of them. Knowing who would be responsible, she swung her eyes straight across to Calaerdis, who flashed her a look of amusement.
Éomer didn’t miss it. “What’s so funny?”
She debated whether to tell him, but why not. “You were first described to me as a lion.”
“A lion?” He put his hand straight to his mouth to stop the bellow of laughter coming out.
“Well, it’s the hair,” she said, teasing him. “But a lion is also a king amongst other animals, powerful and confident.” She shrugged. “So the allegory fits. And I have heard it mentioned more than once.”
Éomer shook his head in disbelief, and then his mouth curved into wry smile. “But isn’t it the lionesses who do all the hunting?”
Lothíriel laughed and picked up a spoon. “They catch the food and the males eat the best bits.” She dug it into the lion’s head, and balancing a wobbly bit of jelly held it out to him.
With his eyes locked to hers, Éomer put his mouth over the spoon and sucked the jelly into his mouth. A rush of desire washed through her, hot and urgent, bringing back a memory of the stables in Edoras. So close to those lips, she wanted a kiss. But not here! He read her thoughts, she could tell from the gleam in his eyes, the tiny smile. Still gazing at her, Éomer took the spoon and a morsel of jelly, carefully putting just the tip of the metal into her mouth. She shivered, in spite of the flush of heat over her body. They’d have to stop this, or someone would notice. But abruptly Éomer put the spoon down and took her hand, his strong fingers gentle on hers.
“How long? I don’t think I can stand this much longer.”
Breath ragged, she shook her head. “Soon, it will be soon. The whole meal is timed to the tide.” Recovering her composure, Lothíriel picked up another spoon for herself, chuckling. “Eat a bit more. The lion is very tasty.”
Mithrandir stood just as the puddings were being finished. Éomer groaned, but put his arm around her, and settled her against him in the double chair.
“I thought he wouldn’t be able to resist saying something, we will probably be here for the rest of the night.”
Lothíriel snuggled into his embrace, warm and accommodating, just the feel of his hard body sent tremors of anticipation through her. By now, even Mithrandir talking about the future of Middle-earth couldn’t take her attention away from her husband, she heard their names mentioned but not much more.
Then suddenly it was over and they could leave. The idea was for everyone to go outside to see them on their way, and the servants would have the chance to shift the tables and free the hall for the dancing. They were supposed to go out first, but inevitably many people tried to sneak out to get a good view, causing mayhem. Anticipating this, Sergion had guards ready and they were taken out though the side door to wait while space was cleared in the courtyard.
The slight delay provided a good the opportunity to accept congratulations from close family. And when they emerged to tumultuous cheers, Lothíriel could pick out no one. All was a blur to her except for Éomer’s Royal Guard, who were lined up ready to escort them as far as the causeway. But she couldn’t see their mount. Where was Firefoot? Instead Mithrandir stood at the front, waiting for them. Looking around puzzled, Éomer led her towards him.
“Ah, Lord of the Mark, I have a wedding present for you. I am leaving Middle-earth shortly, and I am unable to take him with me. You cannot have him yet, except for now. I must have him back for a while, you see.”
Éomer blew air through his teeth and squeezed her hand. Lothíriel was as confused as him, but had spent long in Mithrandir’s company so knew to wait. It was reassuring to know he still spoke in riddles!
“An unexpected gift can be the greatest, a gift returned the sweetest.”
Éomer looked even more bemused, but Mithrandir put two fingers to his lips and whistled. Lothíriel gasped as Shadowfax trotted up.
Mithrandir continued, ignoring their astonishment. “When I leave the Havens for the Undying Lands he will return to the plains of his birth to sire a new generation for the Mark, but you must let him run free. He has consented to bear you for a day, but after that,” and he looked straight at Lothíriel, “no man will ride him again, not ever.”
She shot a look to Éomer, who imperceptivity shrugged, and stared at Shadowfax for a moment, and then, as if he still didn’t believe it, turned his eyes back to Mithrandir.
Mithrandir’s lips twitched, his old eyes creasing in merriment. “Why are you hanging about here, young king, take your bride away.”
Éomer needed no second bidding; he said a few words to Shadowfax, took hold of the great horse’s mane and swung himself upon his back. Lothíriel put her arms up, he reached down and the next moment she was sitting on the Lord of the lords of horses, the chieftain of the Mearas. A complete surprise, she had never been told that in the cave all those years ago.
Lothíriel awoke suddenly as she always did. Her first awareness: the solid body pressed against her, a heavy arm draped over her shoulder, hand gently cupping her breast. For a moment she did not move, revelling in the warmth and the sense of belonging that came from being so close, sharing such intimacy with another human. She listened to his steady breathing. How did he wake, she wondered, like her, suddenly? Or lazily and slow?
Rosy light showed through the shutters, so she would soon find out. Wake him she must, for the causeway was being uncovered and there was little time, but so much pleasure to be had. Spending a moment to look around the tower room as her eyes adjusted to the light, she saw her wedding dress thrown over the chair, and between the chair and the bed, a scattering of clothes. Shy? No, not shy at all,
With a sigh of contentment, Lothíriel eased herself around. Her new husband murmured discontent at her movements, and gathered her back into his arms. With a soft giggle, she pushed aside his golden hair, which smelt of soap, and nibbled at his shoulder. Nothing but another murmur, although a pleasurable one this time. She nibbled again, and traced her fingers down his lovely muscled back.
“Do not stop,” he said in a lazy voice.
“I am waking you.”
“I am awake.”
“Good. Then do you have any energy left?” She moved away slightly, looking into his face.
Éomer raised himself on one arm. Awake now, his eyes were alight. “You mean, again?”
“No. At least not quite yet,” she said, grinning with mischief. “For the sun is just up, the causeway is open to the beach, the sand is firm and the waves lapping the shore and we, my king, have Shadowfax for just a few hours more!”
Éomer began to look interested. “A gallop along the sand will play havoc with that dress.”
“I hope Ana has left me some riding clothes.” Lothíriel turned her head, but couldn’t see anything. “I didn’t look last night.”
“No, I remember you were more interested in removing clothes, rather than looking for any.”
Flashing him a grin, she extricated herself from his arms, ignoring the faint protest. Nothing on the table except the food provided for them. Her eyes fell on the wisps of burnt cloth scattered in the fireplace, and a giggle erupted – with no respect for Gondorian dignity, Éomer had thrown her modesty gown into the fire. She hoped her hose had not suffered the same fate. But with a sudden thought Lothíriel lifted up her wedding dress. “Ah… Ana did not let me down.”
Éomer watched from his place on the bed. “Did you plan this?”
“Well, I thought it would be marvellous to go for a ride at dawn, but I didn’t think it would be on Shadowfax.”
“I understand the attraction,” he said, his voice lowering as he eyed her naked body, “but if you do not hurry and cover yourself, my love, one hundred Shadowfaxes will not tempt me from this room!”
Lothíriel sat down quickly on top of her dress and wriggled her feet into the hose, struggling to draw the garment up over her buttocks. Every movement watched shamelessly from the bed. Grabbing her shirt she pulled it over her head. Now safely covered, Lothíriel stood up and put her hands on her hips.
“Are you getting out of there?” Her turn to enjoy the view.
The great horse’s silver mane danced in the morning light, his tail floating out in the wind of his speed. Éomer held on to his wife, feeling the joy pulsing through her lithe body. He threw back his head and shouted his thanks to the heavens - all that could be given to a man had been given.
Thundering along the sand and through the surf, King and Queen and Shadowfax.
End of Part One of Tide of Destiny.
If you are still wondering about some of Mithrandir’s (Seron’s) prophesies, they will be played out in Part 3.
Part 2 - Drummer will start in a few weeks. This is a romantic adventure centred on Amroth. We also find out why Amroth stopped outside the gates of the city, and what young Alphros got up to at the wedding feast.
Drummer will be posted as a separate story, but those who are signed up for alerts will get notifications as I will post the first chapter at the same time as a Character List for Part 1
Thank you for reading.
And a special thank you to all those who took the time to review, or send me comments. All authors really appreciate feedback.
Plus a big round of applause to Lia, who had to read every word of this many times, and as usual gave me unstinting help.
List of Original Character appearing or mentioned in this chapter.
Ana - A young maid.
Lady Calaerdis- From Sirith in Lebennin. A rich widow. Mistress to Imrahil.
Princess Meren - Married to Elphir
Hisael - Lothíriel’s senior maid
Orion- Friend of Amroth’s . Son to Sergion.
Sergion- Friend of Prince Imrahil’s. Was a Commander of Swan Knights but now the Captain of Lothíriel’s Guard.
Déor- Friend of Éomer, brought up in Aldburg
Welwyn- Daughter to Erkenbrand – married to Éothain.
Byrde - Hama’s youngest daughter. Married to Déor
Leofcwen- Daughter to Éothain and Welwyn
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.