13. Chapter 13
The colour had taken her ages to get right: painstakingly blending the powders with the egg mix. Devoran sat back and stared critically at the hibiscus bloom on the table, and then to her painting. The deep pink was as near as she could get. Difficult to precisely replicate the form, too, as the blooms wilted almost as soon as they were picked, and she had to rely on her sketches drawn in the palace gardens. But overall, she thought the flowers painted on the small wooden panel to be a fair representation, looking vibrant and alive. Having followed the craftsman’s instructions faithfully, she could only trust the colours would not fade, so that Lothíriel could enjoy them for many years. Devoran had Calaerdis to thank for the idea, offered when she had mentioned she would like to somehow say thank you to Lothíriel for all the clothes. Hopefully, her painting of the showy passion vine twined with hibiscus blooms, Lothiriel’s favourite flowers, would hang in Meduseld and bring back memories of her home. But with the King and Queen of Rohan arriving in a few days, she didn’t have long to finish it.
Devoran picked up her brush and loaded it with colour, but before she could start on the next hibiscus she heard the door open. No need to turn around: the tingle of awareness that pulsed through her was a sure indication of who had come into the library.
“Did you win?”
Amroth chuckled. The door clicked shut. “Elphir spends too long behind his desk, and do not tell my father, but his age is beginning to show. At least when it comes to fast swordplay.”
“Erchi?” she asked, still not looking at him, aware of his long running struggle to best his brother.
Another chuckle. Footsteps crossed the tiled floor. “One day I will beat him.”
Devoran felt her hair being gently moved aside, and shivered as his lips brushed across the hidden skin beneath.
“I love that soft, creamy bit.”
His hand trailed across her shoulder and down her arm as he moved to her side. It earned him a severe look, which he answered with a cheeky grin before sitting himself on a clear bit of table. Too close for comfort.
Determined not to react to his nearness, Devoran glanced over her shoulder. “Where’s Drummer?”
“With Alphros. Chasing rabbits around the training field when I last saw them.”
That pleased her. Drummer was having a wonderful time here, and he doted on Alphros as well as Amroth. She wiped her brush on a rag, put it down, and sat back in the chair again.
“No, just carry on. I will sit here and watch.”
His hair was damp, probably from a dousing under the spout, and he was wearing only breeches and boots with a loose white linen shirt. The open neck showed his tanned chest and just a little black hair. Devoran felt something inside her more than flutter. She swallowed; there was no way she could concentrate on painting with his leg right next to her arm. Reeling under the onslaught of his scrutiny, she realised he was totally aware of the effect his nearness had on her senses. The warmth that generally ended up on her face had melted her insides.
“I cannot possibly paint with you sitting so close. And you know it.”
“I would be disappointed if you could.”
Meeting his gaze – hunger and longing, an ardency kept in check over the past weeks – a great rush of desire rocked her. “And stop looking at me like that!”
Amroth raised a black brow, feigning innocence. “How am I looking at you?”
“As though you wish to eat me.”
He leaned closer, lips twitching, and ran the back of one finger up the length of her arm. “That is because I do. I am just deciding which bit to nibble first.”
Heart thumping, Devoran managed to school her voice. “Well, you still have plenty of time to decide. Until the fifteenth to be precise.”
Amroth sat straight back up, dissolving into laughter. “Devoran, promise me you won’t ever change.”
Getting her wayward emotions under control, she flashed him a sideways look and picked up her brush. No more painting today, she might as well wash it. “I must finish tomorrow.”
“It looks good, the colours are right.”
“It took forever. Evidently the red hue comes from Harad, made from the bodies of insects, I’m told. I had to mix it to get the hibiscus pink, but sometimes the colours change in a way one would not expect them to do.”
Amroth put a finger into her dish of colour, examined it and wiped it off on a cloth. “Will the colour stay true?”
“For quite a time, if I have prepared it correctly. The board had to be primed with a mixture of chalk and rabbit-skin glue.” Devoran shuddered at the thought of the terrible smell boiling rabbit skins made. “Luckily a craftsman does all that.” They had all been so kind, and she knew why. Prince Imrahil had spoken to Master Nemir about her – in between the bouts of riding and sailing, a peaceful activity would keep her occupied and be beneficial to her recovery.
“You are enjoying yourself, I see.”
Devoran nodded. Smiling at him, she put a cover on the dish. “I never thought I would have time in my life to do things like this, but here so much is done for me.”
“You must make the most of your leisure; it may not always be so. Meren is kept very busy, even though she has a lot of help. Babies seem to cause a lot of work.”
His eyes filled with mischief. “You know, Devoran, it does tend to happen when a man makes love to his wife.” Amroth started chuckling even before he could get the next words out. She had an inkling what was coming and willed herself not to blush; she could manage it if prepared. “And I think that I had better warn you, that making love to my wife is something that I intend to do extremely frequently.”
Devoran glared at him, but she couldn’t keep it up and laughter bubbled out. “A warning, Amroth?”
A slow smile curved on his lips. “Hmm… more a promise.”
Caught by those black eyes, Devoran’s heart jumped to her throat; she had to remember to breathe. No rejoinder would come, but suddenly he took pity on her confusion and dropped his gaze.
“Devoran, we need to talk about our wedding trip.”
“We are having a wedding trip?” She had thought she would just move into his rooms.
“Yes, if you are agreeable. I have had a letter from Faramir inviting us to spend some time in Ithilien. I didn’t mention it before, whilst you were so upset.”
“I’m better now.”
Amroth took hold of her hand, slowly rubbing his fingers across her knuckles. “I know you are. It was to be expected that there would be a reaction.”
And what a reaction: a chance remark by someone about families and she had cried all over Amroth in the middle of dinner. Strangely, mostly about her mother. Perhaps because it had taken a long time to forgive her for destroying the remnants of their family. But now she accepted that it was not her mother’s fault that she fell in love with a handsome young man from the mountains, not her fault that those mountains frightened her, overpowered her and closed her in. Devoran sighed; the anguish was still there, but she had it under control. And would she be marrying a prince, if it were not for her mother’s fine manners, her music and dance and her gentle ways?
“I would like to see Ithilien,” she agreed. Her plan had been to go there with Drummer, but now she would be going with Amroth. How wonderful.
“Good, they have a charming guesthouse amongst the trees. Lothíriel and Éomer stayed there.”
She smiled, sharing his enthusiasm. “That sounds lovely. We would go by ship?”
“Yes, you will find that fun. I also wondered if you would like to spend some time in Minas Tirith afterwards. I think you would really enjoy it. Being at Court is entertaining for a short while. You would appreciate the music and the dancing, and the libraries. Also the markets and shops, I should think. The family house is just outside the citadel and has beautiful views. No one else is planning a visit, so we would have it to ourselves. It is a good time to see the City as it will not be stifling hot like it sometimes is in the summer. We can be back for yuletide and Orion’s wedding.”
“Oh, I have never been to Minas Tirith,” she exclaimed. “And you are right; I would really enjoy the music and dancing.” He’d obviously been thinking about this, though he hadn’t mentioned it before.
“I thought you would. We will be able to dance all night and no one will mind.”
“Do wives dance all night with their husbands?” she asked as artlessly as she could.
A mock frown appeared. “Well, you are certainly not going to dance with anyone else. So you will just have to put up with me.”
Devoran laughed. “What a chore that will be.”
Grinning, Amroth carried on. “We will take the horses, as it will be good to be able to escape for some fresh air, and in any case we will need them in Ithilien.” Then he paused, looking a little uncertain. “Devoran, there is something else I wish to tell you, but I am not sure how you will react.”
Protecting her again! “If you do not tell me, Amroth, you will never know.”
“True. Well.., when we travel up the Anduin by ship, we will pass all the burial mounds. I thought you ought to be prepared.” He paused again, watching her face that had stiffened as the realisation of what she would see hit her. “Devoran, I know where your brothers are buried.”
The gaping pit of emptiness she had closed over the past weeks yawned open again. He still had hold of her hand; strong fingers squeezed encouragingly. She stared at him. “How, Amroth?”
“I have told you that I could not ride to the Black Gates because I had been wounded. I stayed in the City representing my father. Sometimes I think it may have been the worse option.” A look of remembered horror passed over his face. “There were so many dead that at first we did not know what to do. All the foul beings and the orcs we burnt. As best as we could, we buried Easterlings and Haradrim separately, and according to their custom. When it came to our own we took as much care as possible in the circumstances.” He took a heavy breath. “Anyway, what I am trying to say is that I definitely know where the men from the Vale are buried, and I thought you may wish to plant flowers. Or a tree, perhaps.”
Stomach churning, she did not say anything for a moment, letting out a deep sigh. “That is really nice, thank you. It will make a big difference to have a grave to visit.”
“I hoped it might.”
A great surge of love overwhelmed her. He was kind and honourable and brave. She was very, very lucky. Devoran stood up in a rush and pushed back the chair, it toppled over and landed on the floor with a bang. Ignoring it, she walked straight into his open arms, wrapping hers around his neck. “Amroth, I love you.”
No more words! Their lips met in an explosion of passion, too long repressed. Squashed between his thighs, Devoran realised the intimate position she had put herself in. She should pull away, but rational thought seemed to have left her. Not long, not long until they were married…
“Yuck! You are kissing!” Alphros’ disgusted voice broke them apart. Devoran gasped, burying her head in Amroth’s shirt as her heart battered her breast.
“You should not allow her to do it, Amroth. My mother tries to kiss me all the time, but I do not let her.”
Amroth could hardly respond for laughing. “Very wise, Alphros. I keep telling Devoran not to kiss me, but she insists.”
“I don’t think you were trying hard enough to get away,” Alphros accused. “It’s disgusting.”
Devoran jabbed a finger in Amroth’s side. “Don’t you dare say any more,” she muttered.
Amroth chuckled, giving her a squeeze. “Come and talk to me about it in ten years’ time, Alphros. You might feel differently then.”
“I don’t think so!”
Devoran at last felt able to lift her head. The little boy was scowling. He looked daggers at her. She had obviously dropped in his estimation.
“Alphros,” she said, trying for normality, “where is Drummer?”
“He was following me until we went past the kitchens, then he disappeared.”
Devoran groaned: Drummer and the cook were at open war. Amroth chuckled as she sank her head gratefully back on his shoulder. Let him sort it out.
“Go back and get him, there’s a good lad. He will get his tail chopped off if he pinches any more meat.”
“I will, but I was on my way with a message. One of King Éomer’s Riders arrived after you left. Father said to tell you they are due here a couple of days early.”
“Éomer and Lothíriel, you mean?”
“Yes. And I bet Aunt Lothíriel will want to kiss me as well.” Alphros bristled with annoyance, small fists clenching. “But even if she is a queen, I’m not having it!” He turned and stalked out of the door, leaving Devoran to try and regain her composure.
A few days later Devoran found herself waiting a little nervously for Amroth’s sister to arrive. Alphros however, in spite of his worries about being kissed, jumped up and down excitedly as the message came that the column was in sight. “The trumpeters will be lining up. I love the sound they make; it’s all silvery and important. When I’m big, they will blow them for me.”
“They won’t if you carry on misbehaving,” Elphir snapped.
Devoran guessed Elphir still hadn’t forgiven his son for encouraging Drummer to swim in the carp pond. Of course, that wouldn’t have been so bad, had Alphros not filched his father’s cloak to dry him off. And although she had been nowhere near, she felt responsible. But risking a glance towards Elphir, she saw that his lips were compressed hard together, which assured her he wasn’t really mad. He confirmed this by giving her a broad wink.
No time for more, because the family started to move towards the door. They all seemed to be as excited as Alphros, although no one quite jumped up and down. Devoran could not miss Prince Imrahil’s eagerness to greet his daughter after months of not seeing her, contrary to his usual air of equanimity. She knew Amroth was equally impatient to see his sister. They were close, which accounted for her slight worry as to whether she would get on with Lothíriel. But she would soon know.
The welcome party crowded the steps, Sergion and other close friends joining the group. Very soon the clear notes of trumpets echoed around the stone walls. First through the gates came the standard bearer, followed by the King and Queen of Rohan. King Éomer’s guard piled in behind, but Devoran also saw some ladies amongst them, and at the back girls who must be maids. The standard bearer went to the side, but king and queen headed straight for the steps as the courtyard filled with green and gold. Amroth started to move forward still holding on to her, but Devoran put her hand on his back. “Say hello yourself first, I know you want to. You can introduce me after.”
Amroth let go and flashed her a grateful smile, before bounding down the steps. Devoran followed slowly, waiting on the bottom one. Prince Imrahil, remembering his manners, greeted King Éomer first, but Amroth went straight up to Lothíriel with his brothers behind him. King Éomer jumped down from his horse, but before he could help his wife, Amroth reached up for her. “I got there first for once,” he smirked at the Rohan king.
King Éomer laughed, and shrugged, as Lothíriel was surrounded by a press of family, Alphros pushing under his father’s arm to get to the front. The throng grew around Lothíriel and the rest of courtyard was now a sea of activity with stable boys rushing for the horses, and the palace servants keen to take the baggage.
A little way apart, Devoran stood with Meren, who had Elphin clasped in her arms. King Éomer, perhaps feeling a little neglected, strolled up to them. He was even more striking close to: large and muscular, confidence oozed from him. With no formality at all, he dropped a friendly hand on Meren’s shoulder and tickled Elphin under the chin.
Meren heaved Elphin up a bit. “I am sure he is growing at twice the rate Alphros did. It looks like he will be the brawn of the family.”
Devoran knew he was a weight, and at just over a year old, could as yet only walk with help. She was about to offer to hold him for a while, when the King of Rohan held out his arms. Gratefully, Meren passed him over. “He’s very placid and biddable though. Which is just as well, because Elphir says he couldn’t cope with another like Alphros.”
King Éomer laughed, and moved the baby’s exploring hand from his beard to the embroidery on the collar of his tunic. Immediately Devoran warmed to him; he obviously had a gentle side. With Elphin occupied in trying to unravel a thread, King Éomer fixed his intense gaze on her.
“Lady Devoran,” Meren introduced her.
Lifting her head from her bow, Devoran found deep blue eyes raking up and down her in a blatant male assessment. But strangely she felt none of the confusion that one glance from Amroth caused her. She met his scrutiny boldly, which provoked an engaging royal grin.
“Don’t let him unnerve you, Devoran.” Amroth sounded greatly amused.
King Éomer swung around, still with Elphin pulling at his collar. “She’s too good for you, Amroth. I’d better take her back to The Mark and find her someone worth marrying.”
Laughing, Amroth slapped King Éomer on the arm, and held out his hand to her. “Come and meet Lothíriel, the crowd is dispersing.”
Calaerdis had not lied when she had said that Amroth’s sister was as exotic looking as her favourite flowers. She had looked beautiful at her wedding, but now after the long fine summer, her skin glowed with vitality and colour. A perfect foil for her unusual eyes. But nothing in her demeanour made one think she was hoity, or full of consequence. As Amroth started the formal introduction, Devoran found herself pulled into an enthusiastic hug.
“Oh, I am so glad you found each other. Amroth wrote to me. He’s so happy.”
But that was all the chance they got to assess one another with so many keen to greet Lothíriel. Not until the courtyard started to clear as the horses, with their baggage removed, were led away, was there more time for conversation. Amroth’s gaze followed the disappearing horses. “Where’s Bracken, Lothy? I thought you wanted to keep him for a while. Why are you riding that unremarkable gray?”
Lothiriel’s face took on a mulish look. “We left Bracken at home. Éomer will explain why. He condoned the decision.”
The King of Rohan sighed. “I didn’t condone it, Lothíriel. I merely accepted the council’s recommendation. But it turned out to be ignored, anyway. Your sister, Amroth, can be extremely strong willed.”
Devoran caught sight of Prince Imrahil’s face. Did she detect a satisfied smirk?
“Have you two had an argument?” Amroth asked, spluttering with laughter.
The silence said it all. Which made Amroth laugh more. “Now what would that be about?” He looked from one to the other. Lothiriel’s eyes flitted to her husband, but he said nothing.
She shrugged. “The council decreed that I should make the journey in a wagon. But honestly, bumping around in that thing would most likely make the next Lord of the Mark permanently seasick. I told them a horse is much smoother, but would they listen? You would think Horse-lords would be well aware of that fact, wouldn’t you?”
“So one day out, she tried to commandeer my remount,” King Éomer interrupted. “I did manage to persuade her to take a quieter mare. But we abandoned the wagon, which is why we are earlier than expected.”
By then everyone had grasped the significance of the exchange. More excitement broke out. A possible heir for Rohan was not to be taken lightly. Imrahil’s smile curved from ear to ear.
“But you haven’t been galloping, have you, Lothíriel?” Meren asked, shocked.
Lothiriel’s demeanour softened. She put her hand reassuringly on Meren’s arm. “No, of course not. I would not risk our child. But I promise you, a gentle canter on the verge is far less jolting than a wagon on rutted roads.” She lifted her chin, looking directly at her husband. “I really think that it is one area where a woman can decide for herself what is right. And the women of the Rohirrim generally ride until late pregnancy. Don’t they Éomer?”
The King of Rohan twisted his lips, reluctantly nodding agreement, which caused his wife to flash him a triumphant smile.
Devoran, following the conversation with increasing amazement, could only think they were well suited to each other, even if Meduseld occasionally rang with their arguments. But in the following days, in spite of their quite different temperaments, she found she had one big thing in common with Lothíriel – they both loved Amroth. That got their friendship off to a good start. And by Lothíriel arriving more than a week before the wedding, they had time to get to know one another, especially as Éomer and his guards couldn’t resist the opportunity for a bit of sparring with their Dol Amroth friends.
With all the men occupied one afternoon, Devoran thought it a good time to try on her finished wedding dress. Calaerdis had been only too happy to help her with the design and instruct the seamstress as to what was wanted, and they were both very happy with the result.
“I don’t think we could have found a better colour combination, Devoran. It looks stunning with your hair.” Calaerdis stood back, a pleased smile on her face.
Devoran smoothed her hand over the rich material, a lavishly patterned gold silk. They had found it right at the back of one of the store cupboards, wrapped carefully in linen. But Lothíriel said she had never seen it before.
“I don’t think my mother wore anything made of that material. Perhaps it was bought for my Aunt Findulais, she would have needed plenty of fine clothes.”
Devoran had never thought she would wear anything so beautiful. Thank goodness Col had proved to be worth so much, or she would have felt guilty using it. “You don’t think it’s too opulent?”
“Not over the plain undergown, my lady.” Hisael tweaked the skirt where it split to show the bronze silk underneath. “Lady Calaerdis certainly has an eye for knowing what will look right.”
Calaerdis laughed. “Well, we loved the fabric, but there wasn’t enough of it to make a complete gown, so I had to come up with this. But I think it works well.”
Devoran agreed. She liked the way the bodice fitted tightly, but the dress had been cut more like a skimpy surcoate, revealing a wide expanse of the delicate pleated silk of the undergown. A gown made entirely of the gold fabric would have been overpowering anyway.
“And the sleeves are magnificent,” Lothíriel added. “What a clever idea.”
“A good way of using small pieces of material,” Calaerdis agreed.
Devoran loved the sleeves. Full length, they had deep slashes across them, allowing the bronze silk to be pulled through.
“What about jewellery, Devoran. Have you got a circlet to wear?” Lothíriel asked.
“Yes, I have a plain gold one that was my mother’s. I thought about a cap of some kind, but decided that with my hair worn loose, the circlet would look better.” Devoran turned, intending to fetch it from the carved wooden box that stood on top of the oak coffer, but Hisael was already looking.
“Here it is, my lady.” She passed the circlet to Calaerdis, who spun it around in her fingers, examining the small lattice-patterned cut-out at the front.
“This will do very nicely. Simple and tasteful. With the sumptuous fabric and the intricate sleeves, you don’t need any other jewellery. Put it on and let us see.”
That was a good job, because she didn’t have anything else she could possibly wear with this dress. Devoran took the circlet and walked to the big mirror. She still couldn’t believe that the reflection was actually her. She fixed the gold band around her head and turned back to the others for the verdict.
“Oh, that really suits you,” Lothíriel exclaimed. “I think you are right about not wearing a headdress. The gown is enough, and the circlet finishes it off. Don’t you agree, Calaerdis?”
“Yes, I do. I loved that headdress you wore, but your dress was plainer.”
“Plain things suit me better. Devoran is much more ladylike than me. And I look better in cream or something vibrant, but gold and bronze look fabulous on her.”
Calaerdis cast her eyes to the bed, where Lothíriel lay sprawled on her stomach, her hands propping up her chin. “I hope you have brought a dress to wear at the wedding, Lothíriel. We have barely seen you out of those riding skirts.”
Lothíriel chuckled and turned over, patting her belly. “I am making the most of it. I won’t be able to get into them soon and will have to wear dresses all the time. But I will miss the freedom of movement.”
Whatever Devoran had expected of Amroth’s sister – the Queen of Rohan – she had not expected that she would be so… natural. But she supposed Lothíriel could behave queenlike when the occasion demanded it. However, her preference for wearing riding outfits had meant the palace dressmakers had patterns to hand and had produced a few for her within days of her arriving in her borrowed rags. Devoran took another look in the mirror. Riding outfits were necessary, but she preferred the femininity of dresses.
“Shall we take it off, my lady? Now we know it fits perfectly.” Hisael undid the belt that clasped the two front pieces together and slipped the overgown back from Devoran’s shoulders. Calaerdis took the garment from the maid and hung it on a hanger on the wardrobe door. Relieved of the dress, Hisael pushed Devoran’s hair aside and started to undo the bow at the top of the undergown.
She ought to try herself. Devoran put her hand around the back, but found she couldn’t reach the lacings, dropping her hand as a laugh came from the bed.
“Amroth will have to do it. No maids allowed.”
Devoran flashed her a grin, resolving to make sure she could loosen her undershift herself. “I am more worried about slipping off his horse, wearing all this silk.”
Lothíriel chuckled more. “Oh, don’t worry, he’ll hold you tight. He won’t want you getting away.”
“I am sure it will all go perfectly, Devoran. But you must tell him to be careful what he says during the ceremony. We don’t want you blushing; pink will not look good with gold.”
Calaerdis had such a wry way with her, you couldn’t help but laugh. “It’s not what he says,” Devoran replied, grinning. “It’s the way he looks at me. It started right from the moment I first met him. There is a certain twinkle in his eyes that makes me go all funny.”
“Yes,” Calaerdis raised her brows, “I know that look. It must run in the family.”
Devoran and Lothíriel burst out laughing. “Stand still, my lady,” Hisael said, her lips twitching, “I am going to drop the undergown to the floor and I don’t want you stepping on it.”
Before Devoran could put her day dress back on, Lothíriel leaped up from the bed. “Wait a moment, there something you might like to try on. Hisael, where’s that lovely riding outfit I wore in Minas Tirith? The blue one made from dyed doeskin.”
“At the far end of the rail, my lady.” Hisael didn’t stop what she was doing – carefully pulling the linen covers over the wedding dress.
Lothíriel started searching through, sliding the clothes along the rail impatiently. “There is still so much here, I got fed up with sorting it before I left. Some of this stuff goes back years. Ah…here it is.” She extracted a garment in Dol Amroth blue. It looked much like a man’s tunic, but was cut with a fuller skirt, the hem of which was decorated with silver swan-ships. “It was my best riding outfit, but I only wore it twice.” Lothíriel, chuckling about something, held it out to Devoran. “I remember telling Amroth to find a wife it would fit; he obviously took me at my word.”
“I am sure that weighed heavily with him,” Calaerdis remarked with the ghost of a smile. “But it will be very suitable for you to wear when you arrive in the City, Devoran. As you will be riding from Emyn Arnen.”
“I’d love to be there.” Lothíriel grinned wickedly. “A few elegant noses will be put out of joint when Amroth shows off his new wife.”
“Hmm…” Calaerdis mused. “I remember something similar when a certain princess arrived on the King of Rohan’s horse.”
“I spent the next hour pulling knives out of my back,” Lothíriel agreed, looking pleased with herself.
The stern look Hisael gave her erstwhile mistress started Lothíriel laughing. She grinned at the maid and went back to her spot on the bed. But Hisael ignored her and spoke to Devoran. “Do you want to put it on, my lady? If so, I will need to find a blouse.”
The outfit fitted perfectly and Devoran was persuaded to try on a succession of other garments with Dol Amroth insignia that could be made less formal with a little alteration. Eventually, with the choices made, Hisael left with an armful of clothing, and instructions from Calaerdis to be passed on to the seamstress.
Devoran sank into a chair as the door closed behind the maid. “I won’t have time to wear them all.”
“But you will have the rest of your life to wear the blue and silver.” Lothíriel stared at the riding outfit that had been left hung outside the wardrobe rather wistfully. “For years I had no interest in clothes, then within months of enjoying getting dressed up, I met Éomer. Which meant I never got the chance to wear some of the ceremonial stuff more than a couple of times.”
“A small price to pay for gaining such a splendid husband, I imagine.” Calaerdis stood up, glancing out of the window. “I have some correspondence to attend to. Shall I send a steward here with tea, or will you go to the garden?”
Lothíriel stretched. “I am comfortable here. We can sit on the window seat and look at the sea. It is too late to walk down to the beach. That’s if you are happy, Devoran.”
“That’s fine by me,” Devoran said from her chair. “Trying on all those clothes has exhausted me.”
The door shut behind Calaerdis and Lothíriel rolled off the bed and wandered to the window, bare feet pattering on the floor. She sat down with her back against the worn panelling, drawing up her knees and clasping them with long, brown arms. Her eyes swept across the expanse of the bay. “The sea is achingly blue today. It has so many moods, but I especially love it on sunny, cloudless days.”
Devoran heaved herself up from the chair and went over to stand next to Lothíriel. The sea sparkled sapphire blue in the unseasonably hot weather. The chain of islands that ringed the bay stood out in sharp relief, their crescent beaches pale and inviting. “Do you miss it, Lothíriel?”
“Yes, terribly. But not enough to make me wish that I had done other than marry Éomer.” She sighed, her eyes taking on a dreamy look. “Nothing can compare to the joy I have found with him.” Suddenly Lothíriel looked up, grabbing Devoran’s hand. “I hope you will be as happy. You deserve to be.”
Did she? Did anyone merit happiness because they’d had a tough time? Many never had it other than tough. Unable to answer, Devoran smiled and sat down, looking out at the view. If she craned her head, she could just see the tower where she would spend her wedding night.
Lothíriel twisted around to see where she was looking, smiling sympathetically when she realised. “Are you nervous?”
Devoran shook her head. “I don’t think so. I was more nervous of meeting all your family and of remembering the customs. But I needn’t have worried, I found that in spite of the formality in public, behind closed doors everyone behaves perfectly normally.”
“We have always had a close family life,” Lothíriel agreed. “But it is true there are many traditions. Growing up with it all, I did not really notice. Although there are customs everywhere. And, of course, they have different ways of doing things in Rohan.” She shrugged. “I made a few mistakes, but Éomer helped me a lot.”
Devoran could understand that with her own experience of arriving in a strange place. “Amroth has been very supportive also. He has seldom been far from my side.”
Lothíriel raised her black brows, her eyes alight with mischief. Immediately Devoran was struck by her resemblance to Amroth.
“So, you are happy about your wedding night?”
And both of them could make her blush! “Don’t worry, Meren talked to me,” she said, hoping to forestall any further dialogue on that particular subject.
“Did she!” Lothíriel was obviously intrigued. “I would love to know what she told you.”
“Well,” Devoran swallowed, trying to get rid of her embarrassment, “apart from making sure I knew the basics, she mostly said to leave it to Amroth.”
Lothíriel erupted with laughter. “Very good advice. I cannot better it.” Then Lothiriel’s mouth opened as though she had just remembered something. “Did she tell you about the modesty gown?”
“Yes, another tradition, isn’t it? But a relatively new one.” Devoran was not exactly sure she had followed Meren’s explanation of the origins, too discomfited to listen properly.
Lothíriel laughed. “It was started by Aunt Ivriniel. A fusty relative gave her a book, obviously written by a complete prig. Belecthor, I think his name was. Anyway, he wrote a book on how young ladies should behave…”
“The Gondorian maiden’s guide to proper deportment,” Devoran interrupted.
“That’s it. Well, he, the idiot, declared that brides should cover themselves on their wedding night and designed this abomination of a garment that one could get undressed under, and do everything else required, without actually showing any flesh.” She giggled. “One was ordered for Aunt Ivriniel by her relative, but Aunt is no prude and started the custom by holding it up, pretending to don it, just to see what her new husband would do. I think he tore it into shreds.”
Devoran laughed. “Meren said Elphir threw hers into the air and caught it on his sword. It fell into two pieces on the floor. But I couldn’t understand why he would need his sword honed to such an edge on his wedding night.”
“Habit,” Lothíriel answered immediately. “All warriors are the same. Éomer still sleeps with a knife under his pillow, whatever I say.”
Goodness, she hoped Amroth would not do that. “What did Éomer do with yours? Meren didn’t know…”
“No.” A soft smile crossed her face. “I never got the chance to tell her. It was manic here with all the guests, so Éomer and I tried to keep out of the way.”
Hardly surprising when their betrothal had been so long. A good job she and Amroth did not have to wait a year, especially living as closely as they were now. Devoran’s face warmed at her thoughts. Lothíriel was looking dreamily out of the window so she poked her. “Well, are you going to tell me?”
The dreamy look changed to a grin. “It took him a minute to work out what he was looking at. But then, well, I can only describe his expression as outraged. He didn’t even say anything, just grabbed it off of me and threw it on the fire,” Lothíriel said with some pride.
Devoran shook her head, laughing. She could just see Éomer doing that.
Lothíriel put a hand on her arm. “Has one been made for you?”
“Yes, it’s been organised. And I am told it must be kept a secret, one only passed down to Dol Amroth brides. ”
“Correct.” Lothíriel sat back satisfied. “Now, you must promise you will follow the tradition and hold it up against you, pretending you are going to put it on. I can’t wait to know what Amroth does with it.”
“Oh, I promise.” She would definitely do that. “I can’t wait either.”
To be concluded.
A/N Some of you will be familiar with Belecthor’s book. A big thank you to Lia for loaning it again.
And thanks are due to Virtuella for pointing me in the direction of information on early paints and painting.
Original Characters in this chapter.
Devoran - daughter of Duinhir, Lord of Morthond.
Calaerdis - Imrahil’s mistress
Princess Meren - Elphir’s wife
Hisael- Senior maid in the Palace. Once maid to Lothíriel
Sergion - Previously the Captain of Lothiriel’s Dol Amroth Guard. Friend to Imrahil.
Oríon - Long time friend of Amroth – Son to Sergion
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.