1. Home Improvements
Éomer couldn't remember when he had last felt so elated, probably his wedding night. But this morning's ride had been nearly as rewarding. A chuckle escaped before he could stop it – best not to let Lothíriel know he was even thinking of any comparison.
'What's that chuckle for?' Éothain asked with a knowing grin, as they approached the steps that ran up to Meduseld. 'Are you thinking of your new wife, or your new horse?'
Éomer threw him a sideways look; Lothíriel had taken Meduseld, and even Edoras, by storm, her enthusiasm for her new people and country spilling over like a waterfall pouring into a barrel. He eyed the tubs of flowers that now lined the way up to the hall – green foliage and marigolds – at least no one could fault her taste.
'Firestorm,' he said, not wanting to discuss his wife. 'I never thought I would find a horse that could compare to Firefoot, but I would swear that the young devil has learnt his tricks from the same source.'
'Not surprising.' Éothain nodded his agreement as they crossed the platform. 'They are both progeny of Wingfoot; it must be in the blood.'
They entered through the massive doors still discussing the Mark's breeding strategy. So engrossed in their conversation were they, that they had reached the large hearth in the middle of Meduseld before Éomer realised something was happening on the dais. And then only because a loud thump, followed by an even louder Rohirric expletive grabbed both men's attention.
'What the...' Éomer saw the culprit immediately – it was difficult to miss Eldric, the gargantuan carpenter. Famous for his ripe language, he always had a choice set of swear words suitable for any occasion. Still swearing, thankfully this time under his breath, Eldric stood up straight from whatever he had been doing, rubbing at his back. Hard to miss the other man up there either, Wulfred being a large man – even by the general standard of the doorwards. Which was why Éomer did not notice his wife immediately, not until she appeared from behind them, brushing her hands together and looking extremely pleased with herself. He would have words to say to Eldric about his language, but luckily Lothíriel was not likely to have any idea what the carpenter had actually said. Hergyth would though, Éomer spotted the maid at the back of the dais clutching a broom, a mop and a bucket, and sporting a red face.
'What's going on?' Éothain echoed his thoughts.
'Oh, you're back!' Lothíriel called out. 'I thought to have all this done before you returned and surprise you. But it took more moving than I thought. We've got it in the right position now though.'
What was she on about? And then he saw – the great gilded chair that was the throne of the Riddermark's kings had been shoved right to the back of the dais. Not quite believing what he was seeing, Éomer strode up to the steps that led to the dais and took them in one jump. Speechless, he stared at the place the throne had been for hundreds of years. Only a dark square and four holes, where the massive chair had been bolted down, remained to confirm its original resting place in the middle of the dais.
'Oh,' Lothíriel followed his eyes with hers, 'you are looking at the holes. But don't worry; Master Eldric is going to fill them in with...?' She looked at the carpenter for help.
'Dowels, my lady.'
'That's right.' She beamed at her husband. 'Dowels. The holes will hardly show when Master Eldric has finished.'
Hearing a choke of laughter from Éothain, Éomer took a deep breath. 'Lothíriel, would you mind telling me why you decided to move my throne?'
'Don't you remember me saying how awkward it was with the throne stuck right in the middle of the dais, it gets...got...right in the way when we have a large number of people to seat.'
He didn't remember. And when he looked blank, she put her finger to her chin, trying to recall the occasion. She must have done so because the thoughtful expression changed to one of enlightenment. 'I am sure I mentioned it at our wedding feast; don't tell me you've forgotten?'
'He was probably rather distracted at the time, my lady.'
Éothain managed to make the remark with his face deadpan, but Éomer had enough experience of his friend to know that inside he would be laughing fit to bust. He ignored him and concentrated on his wife. 'It must have slipped my mind, dearheart.'
Lothíriel frowned. 'Well, no matter, it's going to be much more convenient like this. We will be able to put two tables together and spread them right across the dais, and as well as using them that way for feasts, you will be able to sit all the council members around for your meetings. Before, you couldn't use the side nearest the steps in case anyone tipped their chair and fell back over them.'
'Lothíriel.' Éomer tried very hard not to show any of the exasperation he was feeling. 'Nobody has ever fallen down the steps, and in fact if any of the people wish to petition me, then that is where they do it from – the top of the steps...'
'Exactly,' his wife interrupted eagerly. 'There was not a lot of room between the top of the
steps and your throne, this way a whole family will be able to speak to you. Wulfred said it is often crowded on the dais.'
He what! Éomer flashed his eyes across to Wulfred, daring him to have contributed more to this than his strength. But the doorward shrugged helplessly. Understandable: Lothíriel tended to carry along with her anyone not capable of chaining their ankles to the ground. Éomer sighed with resignation, feeling the battle already lost, but he had to try one more marshal of his meagre forces.
'Lothíriel, that throne has been in that very place for nigh on five hundred years, in fact ever since Brego built Meduseld...I don't think...'
'You don't have to tell me that!' Lothíriel cut in with an outraged expression, hands on her hips. 'I have never seen such a thick layer of dust. Hergyth had to really scrub to get it all clean, and as for what else was under there...well, you don't want to know. But be assured, I shall have it moved at least every year now; nothing will get a chance to fester under your throne, my lord.'
Move it every year! A muffled string of curses came from the carpenter's lips. Éomer couldn't have put it better himself.
With thanks to Lia for the beta and the title. LBJ
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