'You would like me to come to Rohan with you?' Visit Rohan – Lothíriel had never given it a thought, quite liking the prospect of enjoying Dol Amroth in the new peace with no war to worry about and with all her family around her. 'Why, Éowyn? I don't understand.'
But Éowyn just shook her head and took hold of her arm. 'I need your help, Lothíriel.' The grip on her arm tightened as Éowyn encouraged her to follow. 'Look, let's sit down by the wall and I'll try and explain.'
They had just walked up from the City, having ordered some soaps and oils that Éowyn had become fond of and couldn't easily get in Rohan. Lothíriel really wanted a drink, but sensing Éowyn's unease agreed to do as she wished.
They made their way to one of the stone seats that overlooked the Pelennor. Far below Lothíriel could see a horse and plough, a farmer tilling a field where not long ago great war-machines had laid waste to the planted crops. Soon the scars of battle would be gone and only memories remain; some good, but most bad. She sighed: too many fine people lost, too many lives destroyed to celebrate without thought.
Éowyn's hand landed on her arm again, making her jump: deep in her reverie she hadn't realized Éowyn had started speaking. 'It's supposed to be kept quiet, but Aragorn had to tell Éomer as Elladan and Elrohir are coming to stay with us for a while. So of course, I had to know.'
'Know what?' Éowyn was not making any sense, or she hadn't been listening.
'It's Arwen, daughter of Elrond of Rivendell, their sister. She's the one Aragorn is in love with.'
'An elf?' Lothíriel exclaimed, fully attentive now.
Éowyn nodded, her face expressionless, but then she'd had time to get used to the startling revelation. 'I don't know the full story, but from what I understand Arwen's father would only let Aragorn marry her if he won Gondor's crown. Something to do with Arwen losing her immortality. Anyway, it seems her brothers will be going to meet her when Master Elrond's party travel through Rohan, but will be lodging with us until then. Arwen and her father, and goodness knows how many other elves, will be staying in Meduseld on their way here for the wedding.'
'I see.' So their new queen would be an elf. That would raise a few eyebrows. But Lothíriel still didn't get why Éowyn wanted her to go home with her. Or how a message had got through so quickly, but then she remembered the eagles. Still, how would they know the exact time to meet up? 'How...'
But Éowyn didn't give her chance to ask, carrying on listing the things bothering her. 'And Éomer is planning to come back in the summer to collect Théoden's body. Evidently Aragorn is offering for Théoden to be interred here, but of course he belongs in Rohan. From what I can gather if Éomer decides to take him back to Edoras –which he will – half the court, including Aragorn, is likely to accompany the cortege. Faramir will certainly come and your father has indicated he will as well.' Éowyn smiled, her voice brightening. 'You will be able to go back to Dol Amroth with him after it's all over.'
'But you haven't explained why you want me to come in the first place,' Lothíriel pointed out. Why was Éowyn so upset? Surely she really had put her infatuation with Aragon behind her, or did she just think she would be lonely back in Rohan without her uncle and cousin?
Éowyn sat still for a moment staring out towards the mountains, and then let out a long sigh. 'I have told you a little of what it was like before Gandalf healed Théoden. Well, during that time I can only say that Meduseld mouldered from lack of care and love. Our old housekeeper fell ill and even if I had wished, I had no time to do anything other than tend Théoden, who withered before my eyes. The only way any of us could rebel against Gríma was to be uncooperative, and our cook went home to her widowed daughter after he kept telling her what to feed everyone. The servants did as little as possible just to annoy him, meals were reduced to whatever was easy to produce and hospitality was non-existent. It would be easier for me if Osythe were still there; I might have persuaded her to act as my housekeeper.
'Osythe?' Lothíriel asked trying to keep up with Éowyn's tirade.
'Hama's wife. He sent her and their youngest daughter back to his family in Upbourn, afraid Gríma would find a way to get to him through them. Hama lost his life at Helm's Deep but for many years was my uncle's Doorward,' Éowyn explained when she saw Lothíriel's blank look. 'He was so loyal to Théoden King that he and Gríma clashed many times. However with Osythe gone there was no one to help me, but Gríma discouraged visitors and wouldn't normally let them past the door so that didn't matter much.' She gave a small expressive shrug. 'Now that has to change and I am afraid homemaking does not come easy to me, Lothíriel, but I need to learn – fast. I must make Meduseld a fit place for all the guests we are going to have, make it beautiful again. A hall to be proud of, for Éomer's sake. But I need help… and I have no idea what to feed everyone.'
Although relieved it was nothing more than a housekeeping problem, Lothíriel hesitated, not feeling inclined to do anything for King Éomer's sake. She would have instantly refused had Éowyn not already told her that he and Faramir had reached an understanding on her marriage and were on their way to becoming good friends. But she still hadn't answered before Éowyn spoke again.
'I know you have been trained to run a household from birth and the wonderful meals we've enjoyed are mostly down to you and your mother's organization. I am not expecting you to cook or clean yourself, of course, we have plenty of servants. But they are not trained as well as those here. You have an easy but commanding way, Lothíriel. Please come, it would relieve my worries to have you with me.'
The idea held no appeal, until she considered that with luck she would have more freedom than was generally allowed her. Conversations with Éowyn had led her to believe that women in Rohan were not as strictly protected and controlled as they were in Gondor. And it would be an adventure; never had she thought she might journey that far from home, travel to the far side of the Ered Nimrais and perhaps catch sight of the legendary Misty Mountains that dipped into Rohan's northern border. But there were bound to be problems.
'Do you not think it will cause trouble if a stranger starts ordering servants around and saying how things should be done?'
'No,' Éowyn said straight away. 'If you were a stuck-up Gondorian noblewomen, it might. But you're quite normal, within the bounds of your upbringing. People will soon realize that; the Rohirrim take people as they find them.'
A compliment of sorts. 'What about your brother?' Their dealings so far hadn't been very amiable. So much for never setting eyes on him again!
'Éomer?' Éowyn frowned. 'He won't care. He'll be so busy putting the whole of the Westfold to rights, he'll just be grateful if someone sorts out Meduseld. I doubt you will see much of him.'
That suited her. 'I'll have to ask my parents and I have no idea what they will say.' Would they want to send one of her brothers with her? Lothíriel hoped not, already the idea of a little independence had started to sound appealing.
Lothíriel found her mother and father sitting companionably under the tree in the courtyard. After her mother had poured out some juice, Lothíriel relayed her conversation with Éowyn. They both considered the matter carefully for a moment, as was their way, her mother offering her opinion first.
'The Rohirrim will travel at a fair speed, Lothíriel. That would mean you would have to go without a maid as none would take on a journey of such a length. That raises the possibility of all sorts of difficulties; you are not used to managing without one.' Trust her mother to think of the conventions first, but then Lothíriel realized she was looking thoughtful with a soft smile lurking on her lips. Her father had not said anything and she waited for his reaction. He was still a handsome man with the dark looks and fine-boned features of their race, a consummate warrior, but also a deep thinker and the person whose opinion she valued above all others.
'I have heard from Éomer about the unpleasant time Éowyn had during Théoden's... sickness,' her father said slowly, still obviously considering. 'He and Théodred could do little to help her, taken up as they were by defending their borders. I feel, Lothíriel, that if you are able to do anything to assist our new friends put their country back in order, you must do so. So I give you permission to go. I have no fears about your safety whilst you are under Éomer's protection, the matter of maids I will leave to your mother, it seems of little importance to me.' He shrugged. 'Éowyn rode the distance here without any attendant; what's more she was disguised as a man. I hope you won't do that, but am sure you are not so helpless that you can't dress yourself adequately.'
'I think the war has changed you, Imrahil,' her mother said with the smile still on her face. 'At one time you would have been horrified that Lothíriel might appear in public other than perfectly groomed.'
He nodded, slipping his arm around her. 'You are right, my love. Things like that do not seem so important now.'
'Well, Lothíriel.' Her mother's smile had definitely widened. 'Your father has no objections and I am sure you will benefit from the experience. It will also pass the time of your mourning. You are restricted with what you can do here; going to Rohan will keep you occupied until you can take your proper place at court again.' She turned to her husband thoughtfully. 'You know, Imrahil, if you do go to Rohan I think I shall come with you, I would enjoy seeing a different land. Elphir and Mildis intend to go home, which releases me.'
Visibly pleased, her husband gave her a squeeze. 'That will be delightful, my love, as long as the journey will not be too much for you.'
She smiled up at him with an indulgent twinkle in her eye. 'I am sure I can keep up with a cortege. And I won't have to ride all the time, as we will be bound to take some carriages for the servants and luggage.'
They wouldn't be traveling light then!
Lothíriel left her parents still making plans, and started the walk back up to the Citadel to give Éowyn the news that she had permission to accompany her. She used the time to mentally go through the things she needed to take, as they would be leaving in a few days. Luckily she had brought a couple of riding dresses with her, and of course some of the gowns she had worn for the celebrations would be suitable. But she would be there for the whole summer and most of her lighter weight stuff was at home in Dol Amroth. The few simple linen dresses she kept in the house here would have to do. Besides, there had to be dressmakers in Edoras and she couldn't take much on horseback anyway. That was when Lothíriel remembered she had forgotten to ask her father for the loan of a horse. She would have to speak to him again later.
Thoughts about how she would cope on the journey kept her occupied as she made her way through the marble passages. Lothíriel passed a laundry maid with a full basket which reminded her that she could hardly wash undergarments, so needed to pack enough for the week or more she estimated the journey would take them. So absorbed was she in the trivial problems of travelling with an army of men, that she hardly paused at Éowyn's door, walking in after a quick knock. Bad thing to have done – she came face to face with King Éomer and from his thunderous look it seemed someone had upset him badly.
'Oh, I am sorry, lord, I didn't realize Éowyn wasn't alone.' Lothíriel started to back out the door.
'No, Lothíriel, don't go.' Éowyn shot a resentful look at her brother. 'We were just talking about you. Éomer is under a misapprehension, but I am sure you can put him right.'
'Really?' she looked between them; the air hung heavy with suppressed anger.
King Éomer let out a sharp exhale of breath. 'Éowyn...'
Too late! Éowyn grinned wickedly. 'Éomer thinks that you are only coming home with us because you wish to be Queen of Rohan.'
'What!' Lothíriel glared at him. 'I think you are under an illusion, my lord...I'
'Lady Lothíriel.' He put up his hand to stay her outburst, and flashed Éowyn a long suffering look. 'My sister has embellished my words. I merely pointed out to her that I have no intention of ever marrying a gently bred Gondorian Lady. I assure you that I did not mention you in particular.'
No, but he must have been thinking about her, the arrogant pig! But his interruption had given her the chance to calm down. Lothíriel gave him her sweetest smile, one reserved to deal with the bumptious. 'I totally agree with you, my lord. I imagine a gently bred Gondorian would not wish to live in Rohan, far too harsh a climate, I understand.' Her hand went to her cheek protectively. 'The wind would play havoc with one's complexion when exposed to it for year upon year. Much better to take a little sea air occasionally, or perhaps sit in the shade whilst dabbling one's fingers under a trickling fountain.' Out of his sight Éowyn had her mouth open; she stuffed her hand in it to stifle her giggle. Long training ensured that Lothíriel kept a straight face. 'But Éowyn has asked for my help, so I'm sure I can survive for one summer without too much harm being done.' She turned to Éowyn, feigning doubt. 'I won't have to go outside too much, will I? '
He looked as if he had swallowed a toad, but Éowyn squeaked. 'Oh, does that mean you have permission to come, Lothíriel? I'm so pleased, we can start planning...'
'Éowyn!' King Éomer stopped her curtly. 'My concern, if you remember, was how Lady Lothíriel would handle the journey. I am worried it will be too...' he looked at her as if she had just crawled from under a stone, '...exhausting for her, and I am not sure we have a suitable mount. We have no palfreys, and warhorses do not make easy riding horses for ladies. We will not be galloping with all the wounded we are taking, but still...'
'Oh, don't worry about me, my lord,' Lothíriel interrupted quickly before Éowyn could say anything. 'I shall make sure I am well protected from the weather and my father will find me a fitting mount.' She tapped her lips in thought and then broke into a smile. 'We have a placid old mare in the stables that has a bit of life left in her. I promise you will not be slowed down too much, as long as I get my rest, of course.'
His brows drew together as he scrutinized her. Kick him on the shins! She would have enjoyed doing more than that. Never before had she wanted to do harm to anyone, but he riled her beyond measure. 'Very well,' he said at last. 'Éowyn says she has need of you, so we will have to make sure you are comfortable. I give my permission for you to come.'
Lothíriel inclined her head, and simpered. 'You are so gracious, my lord.'
Deep brown eyes fixed on her for a moment, and she thought he was going to make some comment back, but he merely nodded. 'I have a meeting to attend; I will see you later, Éowyn.' The door opened and closed with a rush of air and she and Éowyn were alone.
'I am so sorry, Lothíriel.' The words belied her – Éowyn clutched at her stomach, hurting from trying to stop her laughter.
'You don't look it,' Lothíriel grumbled. 'I don't know how you put up with him.'
'Poor Éomer, it's not his fault. He's being unusually mulish. But we met a kinswoman today, one of Queen Morwen's granddaughters, and she seemed to be no more than a frivolous pleasure seeker. And besides that he has been harried by beautiful ladies every time he steps foot outside his quarters. Unlike those at home they do not say what they mean and he doesn't know how to deal with them. So when I told him I had invited you...'
'Well, if he wants to get rid of them he only has to continue the way he is, I can't imagine many will put up with such rudeness.'
'Oh he's...' Éowyn stopped as a thought struck her. 'Well, that's the funny part; he's quite charming to them for the time it takes him to get out of their way. Its only you he's rude to. You seem to spark each other off.'
Probably because no one else had pulled him up on his manners. But Lothíriel shrugged. 'We must do our planning later, first I need to go and see about a horse.'
'Ah,' Éowyn giggled, 'then I guess you're not going to ride a placid old mare.'
No, she wasn't. Lothíriel knew the horse she wanted; she just had to persuade her brother.
Luckily Erchirion was at home. Lothíriel found him sharing a jug of ale with Amrothos on the stone balcony that looked out over the Pelennor towards the Harlond. All her brothers were very much alike in looks, if not in temperament, and much like her father: high cheekbones, dark complexions, long hair – her brothers' black, her father's touched with silver. These two of her siblings were lazing in chairs with their feet up on the balustrade, and looking as if they had been there a while. But they deserved some leisure after all the horrors of the war; both had fought valiantly to defend their land and people. It might have been better if Amrothos hadn't been there, but if she tried to get rid of him he would see through her immediately.
'We haven't seen much of you lately, little sister.' Lothíriel took the mug that Erchirion offered her. All this rushing around in the unusually hot weather had made her thirsty. The ale was strong, and she sipped it cautiously. 'I have been with Éowyn; she wants me to go Rohan with her.'
Two pairs of black eyebrows lifted and enquiring eyes fixed on her. Lothíriel explained quickly why Éowyn thought she needed her company.
'So our little bird will get to stretch her wings,' Amrothos mused. 'A whole summer away from parental control. Perhaps I will come with you.' That was the last thing she wanted, and her face must have shown it, because he grinned mischievously.
'Don't be so provoking,' Erchirion chided him. 'I am sure we can rely on our sister to conduct herself appropriately. But travelling with an army, the Rohirrim to boot, will be something entirely outside your experience, Lothíriel.'
'That's what I wanted to talk to you about. I left Starburst at home and I need to borrow a horse.'
'Starburst wouldn't have coped anyway,' Amrothos said immediately. 'You can have one of my remounts if you wish.'
'Thank you, Amrothos.' A rush of affection shot warmth through her; he could be a total pain sometimes but she knew he loved her. Lothíriel reached across and squeezed his arm. 'It's kind of you, but I am hoping Erchirion will lend me Storm.'
'Lothíriel...!' Erchirion choked on a mouthful of ale. 'Why would I do that?'
'Well,' she said, chin raised in challenge, 'I did help you choose him and break him in.'
'Very true,' Amrothos added his pennyworth, 'You could say he's half our sister's.'
'I could not,' Erchirion retorted, glaring at his younger brother. 'If you think that then she owns half of Swordsman, why don't you offer him.'
Lothíriel broke in before the indignant look on Amrothos' face translated into words. 'Erchirion, please, it's not as if I am asking to borrow Warrior.'
'Now look here, Lothíriel,' Erchirion took on a hunted look. 'There's no way I would lend you Warrior: a battle-hardened stallion is not suitable for a lady, even you.'
'I agree, but Storm isn't a stallion and he only went to the Black Gates as your remount, you have not ridden him into battle.'
Erchirion sighed loudly, obviously fearful of losing the argument. 'If you want a horse with fire in its belly why can't you ask Éomer? He's got plenty, and you are doing him a favour.'
Her nostrils flared as Lothíriel breathed out her anger. 'King Éomer cannot help, he hasn't a palfrey quiet enough for me to ride.'
'What!' It was Amrothos' turn to choke on his ale. Her brothers looked askance at each other and then they both broke into laughter.
'Now I know why you want Storm,' Erchirion said through his chuckles. 'Poor Éomer, he doesn't know what he's taken on.'
Lothíriel didn't feel a bit sorry for the bumptious pig; he was well capable of looking after himself. 'Your 'poor Éomer' is an arrogant...' she stopped, catching the amused looks. 'Anyway, he has a very poor opinion of Gondorian womanhood. And he needs to learn we are not all useless ornaments.'
'Oh, you have to give him to her, Erchirion, it will be so amusing.' Amrothos winked at her. 'I can't wait to see Éomer's face... a palfrey...why, it's an insult to Dol Amroth.' Erchirion wavered, but Amrothos jumped in again. 'Come on, Erchirion, family honour is at stake here. We don't want those Horse-lords thinking we can't teach a girl to ride properly.'
'If you remember it was me who taught her,' Erchirion groused. 'You sat on the paddock rails and jeered most of the time.'
Amrothos grinned at her. 'I was a mere boy then.'
'Surely you wouldn't want to admit to teaching me to ride, Erchirion, but be afraid to let me borrow your horse.'
'My best riding horse!' But his lips quirked, knowing he had been beaten. 'Oh, very well, how can I resist? But if any harm comes to him...'
Lothíriel got up and flung her arms around him. 'Thank you, brother dear. You know he will be safe with me, and will be well looked after.'
'I just hope you are safe with him! Goodness knows what our father will say.'
Lothíriel shrugged, her father had never doubted her riding abilities, and Storm might be feisty and fast, but they had always got on well.
Over the next few days the city hummed with activity as the Rohirrim prepared to leave. Wagons packed with goods lined the streets, much of the food in the sacks would be loaded onto packhorses for the journey, the rest –donated by Gondor, and collected mostly from the Southern Fiefs – would follow behind, emergency provisions for a country and people devastated by war. After speaking to her father Lothíriel managed to pinch some space on one of theirs, loading it with not only spare clothes so she could travel relatively lightly, but a few luxuries she thought they could enjoy once they got to Edoras. The carter found room for a crate of lemons and some oranges, picked fresh just before fully ripened they would last many weeks. She also put in a large bag of dried fruit and persuaded the obliging carter to stuff some stone jars containing bottled peaches amongst the grain he carried. The vinegar casks he tied behind him, but the sacks of bran for cleaning the tapestries were tucked under thick canvas with the grain to keep it dry. If Éowyn wanted Meduseld to gleam, they would need both.
The Eighth day of May, and Lothíriel was up before dawn for the biggest adventure of her relatively short life. She'd gone for a ride on Storm the day before, just to make sure she knew all his little idiosyncrasies. But these were mostly concerned with going as fast as he could when his rider would allow him, and if well controlled he had no real vices. She did have a moment's doubt when she realized the opportunity for a good gallop might not come often enough, but surely the long journey would shake the fidgets out of him.
Lothíriel rode down to the Pelennor with Erchirion one side and Amrothos the other. Erchirion kept up a stream of advice about how to make sure Storm behaved himself, and gave careful instructions on how his piece of equine magnificence liked to be rubbed down at the end of each day.
'Éomer will provide you with a groom, so all should be well,' Erchirion said, 'But make certain you check Storm's eating well.'
Lothíriel nodded, but vowed to deal with the horse's needs herself, no way would she ask King Éomer for anything. She pulled on Storm's long black mane affectionately as they neared the gate, such a beautiful animal, his grey shaded coat glistened in the early sun, and muscles rippled under his taught skin. Storm tossed his proud head and let out a loud whinny as they came out onto the plain and he saw the warhorses lined up in ranks. An incredible sight, and suddenly she wished she'd been here to witness the Rohirrim storming onto the Pelennor. Excitement coursed through horse and rider; Storm didn't seem daunted by the proximity of the finest of his kin, but Lothíriel realized belatedly that her enthusiasm was tinged with a little apprehension of how she would get on amongst all these expert horsemen.
Welcomes rang out from those near them and her brothers stopped to talk to some of the Rohirrim they had become friendly with. But she wanted the company of another woman so headed towards the front of the column where she could see Éowyn, Faramir, her father and King Elessar, fully aware of the hundreds of eyes on her, or maybe her horse. Hopefully she soon wouldn't feel quite so out of place. However her attention was taken by seeing the hordes of people lining the road, as far as she could see. It looked as if the crowd went all the way to the North Gate, so many must be eager to wish the Rohirrim well and thank them for the huge contribution they had made, giving victory when hope had been lost. So engrossed was she in watching all that was going on that she didn't realize a rider had come close to her.
'Lady Lothíriel! What do you think you are doing?'
Lothíriel jumped, Storm skittered sideways at the sudden appearance of King Éomer's stallion by his side, but thankfully she settled him easily: he was used to capricious warhorses and probably their loud-mouthed riders. 'I am going to join Éowyn, lord.'
His gaze darkened; a thunder cloud ready to burst. 'That's Erchirion's horse!'
Lothíriel kept her tone light. 'Yes, its Storm, my brother was kind enough to lend him to me for the summer.'
King Éomer stared hard at her for a moment and then barked out. 'Is he mad?'
'Erchirion? No, I don't think so. Now if you had asked that about Amrothos...'
'Problem, Éomer?' Her father smiled at her. 'Lothíriel's not late, is she?' Her father could calm a tempest, she wondered if he could work his magic on this angry Horse-lord.
With a glare at her, the King of Rohan switched his attention to her father. 'Imrahil, I do not think it sensible for your daughter to ride that horse all the way to Edoras!'
King Éomer looked as if he were about to explode, but her father smiled benignly and cast his eyes thoughtfully over both her and Storm. 'I don't think you need to worry, Éomer. I am sure Storm is well up for the journey, he's been rested since the march to the Black Gate, and will be perfectly able to keep up with you.'
Oh dear, her father had not even tried. In fact he had deliberately stepped on the lion's tail, and King Éomer's eyes hardened dangerously. Lothíriel suspected a few of the enemy would have run without raising their weapons had they encountered that look on the battlefield. She squared her shoulders and sat straight in the saddle. After a moment he controlled his temper and nodded to her father.
'Very well, I hope she knows how to look after him.' He yanked his stallion round and headed off down the line.
Lothíriel looked at her father questioningly, but at that moment her brothers rode up with big grins on their faces. They must have passed King Éomer and witnessed his fury. Saying nothing, her father winked at her. Now what game was he playing?
To be continued
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.