4. Chapter 3
"You told him what!"
Lothíriel winced at her brother's exclamation. "Do keep your voice down," she entreated him.
Her head pounded and the bright morning light flooding into Ivriniel's solar hurt her eyes. Perhaps she should have waited to call this renewed council of war, but her worries had hardly let her sleep.
Her aunt poured her a cup of tea. "Here, have something to drink."
Lothíriel nodded gratefully and stirred in a spoonful of her special honey. Reserved for the family's use, it came from the beehive she kept in what had been her mother's private garden, but today not even its delicate taste could cheer her up.
Amrothos began to pace the small room. The whole solar was decorated in shades of pink and lavender, giving his face an unhealthy hue by contrast. "Have you gone out of your mind?" he demanded to know. Suddenly he cast her a sharp glance. "Or were you drunk?"
"No, I wasn't!" Lothíriel snapped back. Though she'd had more mead than was usual for her. It was all that man's fault for not even giving her a choice of drink. Let alone of what company she wanted to keep!
Her brother raked a hand through his hair. He looked rather worse for wear after the night's festivities, but probably so did she. The thoughts tumbling round and round in her mind had given her no rest and dawn had painted the sky a delicate turquoise before she'd slipped into a brief sleep of exhaustion.
"Have you any idea of his temper?" Amrothos asked. "Why, Éomer is famous for it! Believe me, you don't want that directed at you."
Ivriniel stirred in her seat where she sat contemplating Lothíriel's words. "Surely he wouldn't hurt a woman, would he?"
"No," Amrothos admitted grudgingly, "but he wouldn't hold back with his words. Lothíriel would receive a right tongue lashing."
Lothíriel shivered. Just having those steely blue eyes boring into her had been quite enough. How could he be so different from the patient man who hadn't minded her crying all over him. "I might have panicked a little," she admitted.
"A little?" Amrothos barked in disbelief.
"It's not my fault if the man can't take a hint!" she shot back, her sense of grievance returning. "I tried everything short of bashing him over the head to get rid of him. Not even talking endlessly about the weather put him off."
"Well, what do you expect," Amrothos answered. "He's not one of your soft courtiers. The man is used to battling Uruk-hai."
"And that's exactly how he holds a conversation! He just kept pounding away at me and wouldn't take no for an answer. And then he threatened to ask Father, so I had to come up with something fast. It was the best I could think of on the spur of the moment!"
One disaster after another. It seemed the man only had to get near her to make her behave in a manner completely inappropriate in a properly raised princess. She'd felt like a hapless deer being cornered by a pack of hounds and had said the first thing that had come to her mind, using an old childhood nickname Amrothos had given her. Oh, if only she had that imaginary sister to take the blame for kissing King Éomer in a cupboard! It was a mystery to her how matters had gone from bad to worse so quickly. In a single evening all her carefully planned defences had been swept away.
Amrothos seemed to read her thoughts. "So much for your wonderful plan," he said. "What are you going to do now?"
She took a deep breath. The answer had come to her just before she fell into an exhausted sleep. "There's only one thing I can do."
"You will tell him the truth?" Amrothos asked, undisguised relief in his voice.
"What and have him run to Father with his tale?" Lothíriel exclaimed.
She couldn't even imagine what her father would say, confronted with his daughter's invention of an illegitimate child for him. And the necessary confession of her earlier encounter with the King of Rohan would put the last nail in her coffin. Though usually an indulgent father, Imrahil could be strict and inflexible when provoked. Lothíriel wondered what he would do to her. Close her tower and take all her projects away? Exile in some far off place? And there was always Elphir's offer to find her a husband. She shivered. Even disgraced, she'd still have a large dowry, and for the right price there would be those willing to take on the taming of a recalcitrant princess.
She pushed her cup of tea away and rose. "No. He wants to meet Gliwen. Very well, he shall." Forward, the only way to go when you were cornered.
Amrothos choked out a sound between a croak and a splutter. "What?"
She hugged herself and turned to Ivriniel. "And that's where I need your help."
Her aunt looked troubled. "Child, you know I would do anything for you, but is this wise?"
"What other choice do I have?" She crossed to the mantelpiece. A picture of Ivriniel and her sister Finduilas as young women hung there. While the younger sister looked out at the world with a dreamy smile, Ivriniel standing behind her faced the artist almost warily, her nose prominent in her face. "Were you never in any trouble when you were younger?"
Ivriniel sighed. "I had my head in my books all day: reading brave tales of long dead heroes. At one time I could have described the Battle of the Camp blow by blow." She gave a deprecating laugh. "I must have been a sad bore! Too late did I discover that the real world had passed me by." She looked away and stirred her tea. "You are right to fight. I was always far too docile."
Lothíriel exchanged a worried glance with Amrothos. Due to some disappointment in her youth, their aunt had never married, instead taking on a mother's role to her niece and nephews. She hardly ever spoke about those times.
Impulsively Lothíriel knelt by her chair and hugged her. "I'm sorry."
Ivriniel stroked her cheek. "Never mind, Child, that was long ago. We need to address your troubles now. What do you want me to do?"
Lothíriel took a deep breath. "I'm not sure if King Éomer believes my story." She ignored a sarcastic humph from Amrothos. "But if you were to arrange the meeting, surely he would change his mind. You appear so very respectable!"
"A meeting with whom?" Amrothos interrupted. "Lothíriel, where do you think you can find a young woman looking enough like you and willing to play such a role?"
Really, her brother was a bit slow this morning. Ivriniel caught on quicker. "You will go yourself," she stated.
While Amrothos gave a good impression of a fish out of water, opening and closing his mouth soundlessly, Lothíriel nodded. "Yes."
"It will never work out," he protested. "Surely Éomer will recognize you for the same woman."
Lothíriel shook her head. "No, he won't. I've thought it all through logically: I'll wear the old clothes I use for looking after my bees and will try to appear as different from last night as possible. I've already told him we look enough alike to be taken for twins." She chewed her lower lip as a new thought struck her. "You know, it's a shame I didn't think to invite a real twin last night. Somebody nobody mentions because she's put away or something..."
"If you're not careful, Father will put you away!"
Really, Amrothos was not very helpful this morning. "No, he won't," she said in her most reasonable tone. "Once King Éomer has spoken to Gliwen – as briefly as possible – that will be the end of the matter. He'll leave here after three days none the wiser and Father need never know." A solid, simple plan. The problem with the old one had been that she hadn't included King Éomer's forceful personality into her calculations – a mistake she wouldn't repeat. She was beginning to feel more cheerful again.
"The end of the matter?" Amrothos groaned. "Really, how can you be so naive! Éomer kissed you-"
"Kissed Gliwen," Lothíriel corrected him. Somehow it was easier to think of that happening to somebody else.
"Kissed Gliwen," Amrothos complied, "and then he wants to meet her. Do you really think he has nothing but talking on his mind?"
"Oh!" Lothíriel straightened up from kneeling by her aunt. "You think that...that man wants to..."
"I don't know!" Amrothos exclaimed. "Éomer is a good fellow, as honourable as any of us. But the fact remains that he can't very well have serious intentions in seeing her – she's completely unsuitable as Queen of Rohan after all. Perhaps a gentle dalliance, if she's willing?"
"Well she's not!" Lothíriel snapped. The cheek of the man!
Amrothos rubbed his temples. "I should have kept my mouth shut," he murmured. "It's too early to think straight."
Ivriniel tapped her fingers on the table. "Perhaps it's best if we have Gliwen married?" After accepting the need for deception, her aunt seemed to enter into the spirit of it. She was not called The General for nothing. "We could even borrow a baby! The cook's niece has a sweet little baby boy who's only four months old."
"No!" Lothíriel and Amrothos both protested in horror.
Lothíriel could just picture the scene of confronting King Éomer with a baby on her hip. What would he think of her! That she'd wasted no time moving onto the next man?
Ivriniel looked a little hurt at having her suggestion refused so summarily, so Lothíriel gave her a smile. "Let's just leave it at Gliwen telling him to let things rest. We shouldn't complicate our plan."
"Our plan?" Amrothos asked. "I had nothing to do with it, Sister! You're the one with the death wish."
Lothíriel began regretting that she had included him in her council. "Is that all you can contribute?" she asked. "If so, maybe we should finish here."
"Actually I have one more fact to contribute," Amrothos answered. "I talked to Lord Ealdred last night."
"Who is he?" Ivriniel asked.
"One of Éomer's councillors. He hinted that if the King of Rohan finds the Princess of Dol Amroth attractive, he might suggest an alliance to the lady's father..."
Lothíriel sank down on a nearby chair. "An alliance!"
Amrothos put his hands on the armrests of her chair and fixed her with an imploring regard. "Think about what you do, Lothíriel. The man you deceive might one day be your husband."
Rohan! They had nothing but horses there – or at least the few Rohirrim she'd met the night before had talked of nothing else. They probably even compared the finer points of horse configuration in bed. Then it hit her. To be in bed with... no, she definitely did not want to contemplate that!
"Does Father know?" she asked and was surprised how hoarse her voice sounded.
Amrothos hesitated. "Probably."
So now her foolish action in Minas Tirith not only threatened to ruin her reputation, but an alliance between their countries as well. As for what she'd done last night... She closed her eyes. Yes, King Éomer would no doubt have something to say about being offered a bride with the manners of a harlot and the truthfulness of an orc chief.
She opened her eyes again and stared her brother straight in the face. "This changes nothing. On the contrary, don't you see?" Despite her best effort, she could not prevent a note of pleading creeping into her voice.
Amrothos let out his breath with a sigh. "I feared as much." He rubbed the stubble on his chin. "So what do you want us to do?"
She gave him a shaky smile. "Help me convince King Éomer that he wants to forget about Gliwen." After that she could always see to it that he did not find the Princess of Dol Amroth attractive enough to offer her his hand in marriage. After all, he had not seemed particularly taken with her last evening. Unless that type of bludgeoning conversation was his way of expressing an interest? Hopefully not!
Her brother nodded. "Oh very well. But I just know I will regret this."
"I've got it!" Ivriniel, who had been sunk deep in thought, suddenly exclaimed. She looked at them triumphantly. "Garlic!"
The poor donkey would be worn out by the time the Rohirrim left, Lothíriel thought to herself. Her father had decided to hold an informal court gathering in the gardens, so the fountains were running again and everywhere small groups of people strolled along the pebbled paths or sat in the screened off alcoves provided by the privet hedges.
For once fortune seemed to favour her, for her presence or absence would not be particularly noted, as long as she made sure her father thought her in the company of the other ladies. So she moved through the throng, exchanging greetings and meaningless compliments, careful to always stay within his sight.
The Rohirrim looked a bit ill-at-ease at what had to be an unfamiliar setting to them. She got the impression they would really much rather have done something – riding, hunting or whatever – rather than stand around aimlessly. Feeling sorry for them, she chatted to some riders and found that a few simple questions as to the difference between Rohirric horses to those of Dol Amroth sufficed to get a lively discussion going and make them relax. They had an endearing, childlike enthusiasm for their favourite topic, quite different from the guarded conversation of Gondorian courtiers.
Every now and again she felt the gaze of their king on her, but he made no move to approach her and she in her turn traced her path so she stayed well away from him. Now it just remained to wait for Ivriniel to make her move. They had hammered the plan out between them, but it depended on fine timing. She began to edge towards one side, where Amrothos waited by a rose arch spanning the entrance to a path between two high hedges.
That moment she had a glass of wine thrust into her hands. "A drink, Lothíriel?"
She looked up to find her father by her side. A bolt of alarm shot through her. Had he found out? But no, he was smiling benignly down at her. "Daughter?"
She accepted the glass gingerly. At least her father knew she preferred dry white wine. She couldn't have stomached more mead, not this early in the afternoon. "Thank you."
"You look very pretty," her father complimented her. "That's a new dress, isn't it?"
"Yes, it is," she replied. Since when did her father notice what she wore? She had chosen the pale green dress mainly for the ease with which she would be able to slip out of it, but she couldn't very well tell him that.
"Very fetching," he commented. "Even Elphir remarked how much like a princess you've been looking lately."
"How kind of him," she murmured.
Her father heard the edge in her voice and the corners of his mouth twitched. "And you're learning to be diplomatic as well, who would have thought that."
Guiltily Lothíriel looked away. Little did he know what diplomatic quicksand she had got herself mired in – but she would clear up the situation today, she swore to herself.
He took her arm and strolled with her between some flowerbeds. "I do appreciate the way you've started to step into your proper place." He slanted her a sideways smile. "Though I know you prefer the company of your books to that of the court."
"There's nothing wrong with books," she protested.
"Of course not. However, a Princess of Dol Amroth must be aware of the position she fills." He squeezed her hand. "As you've been doing most admirably."
She had a hollow feeling in her belly. What would he say if he ever found out the truth about her behaviour! "Father..."
"I've been absent so much during these past troubled years," he continued, "Perhaps too much. And you've really lacked the right female role model while growing up."
Lothíriel followed his glance to see it lingering on Ivriniel. "I never lacked for love!"
"For which I'm grateful," he agreed. "Yet I have often thought that your aunt would have been better off with a family of her own. Finduilas married so well that our father saw no need to make a match for Ivriniel and let her linger amongst her old tales."
Lothíriel well remembered her eccentric grandfather, who had died when she had been eleven. He had been a favourite with her and many of the books in her tower had been his.
Her father patted her hand. "But we were talking of how proud I am of my daughter who is growing up into a beautiful and accomplished princess."
A lump in her throat, she shook her head. "I don't deserve such praise." How ironic that he should choose this moment to tell her that.
Her father smiled. "I think you do." And with a last affectionate squeeze of her arm, he went on to talk to some newly arrived guests.
Lothíriel set down her glass on the rim of one of the fountains. She intercepted a questioning look from Ivriniel and gave a nod. Time to set their plan in motion. While her aunt threaded her way through the guests towards the King of Rohan, she went to join Amrothos.
"What did Father want?" he asked.
She shook her head. "It doesn't matter. Let's go."
But as they hurried along the path that would bring them back inside the palace, she couldn't help thinking that it would have been so much easier if only she had told King Éomer that Gliwen had died. It would have served the woman right for all the trouble she was causing!
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.