13. The Queen's Request
The party from Minas Tirith arrived in Ithilien the morning before the wedding. Elessar and Arwen had insisted they follow Éomer's party to Éowyn's new home. They were greeted warmly by the Steward and Prince Imrahil before being taken to their respective suites. Éomer had been disappointed that Lothiriel had not been among those to greet them but shook it off. There would be time to see her later, he was certain. With a gracious smile, he followed the servant. Gamling, considered by most a kinsman to the king, was quartered in an adjoining suite while Aglaril was down the hall with Éowyn for the night.
After getting settled in their own suite, Arwen kissed her husband and excused herself. Wedding things, she had explained. Elessar had no desire to get caught up in all that planning so he stretched out for a small nap, wondering about the mischievous sparkle in his lovely Queen's eyes. Arwen was up to something! Yes, better he stay right where he was.
Arwen approached the Prince's rooms and knocked. The servant opened the door and nearly fainted as the regal Queen of Gondor stood at the door. Arwen waited patiently for the dumbfounded youngling to recover.
"Your Majesty," he said with a low bow, stepping to the side to allow her to enter.
"I wish to speak with Prince Imrahil if he is available."
"Of course mistress, please come and be comfortable. I will fetch him immediately." The servant left the rooms quickly, in search of his master.
Arwen moved to the terrace. She was not sure how this was going to go, but she needed to appear confident and authoritative. In a matter of moments, Prince Imrahil joined her with a smile.
"Forgive the delay, my Queen," he said with a bow, taking her hand to kiss. "If I had known to expect you…"
"No need for apologies, my lord. I came quite unannounced." Arwen said smoothly.
"May I offer you something?" he asked politely.
"No, I will not take up much of your time. It is really a simple matter I wish to discuss. It involves my brother and your daughter." Arwen leaned against the rail, her melodic voice floating on the breeze.
Imrahil came to stand next to her. Lady Beriedis had told him of Lord Elrohir's interest. He had to admit, he was shocked but quite please. Either son of Elrond would be a noble match for Lothiriel; the Prince was flattered that his daughter had caught their attention. Imrahil wondered what his little flower thought of this. The Prince was under the impression that she was interested in the young king of Rohan although Beriedis claimed it was only a passing fancy.
Imrahil addressed the Queen. "I am told Lord Elrohir will escort my daughter to the wedding." He was watching her face for any adverse reaction. It could be she came here to voice her disapproval. Perhaps she does not like the idea.
Arwen smiled sweetly. "I hope you are agreeable. My brother finds Lothiriel quite charming."
"I have no objections, my Lady. I think my daughter feels the same for your brother. She has been rather preoccupied since their meeting. Lady Beriedis said the poor girl was rendered speechless. I am honored to say the least."
"Yes, well, it is about Lady Beriedis I wish to speak. I am aware of her role in your daughter's life and I respect that. However, the notion of a chaperone is foreign to my brother. As a Lord of Imladris and an elf of high moral character, he was a bit surprised to learn that Lady Beriedis would be joining them."
"Your Majesty, I assure you she meant no disrespect. It is only that our tradition…"
Arwen held up her hand to stop his reply. "I understand your traditions and have no desire to disgrace you or your daughter. Nor do I wish my brother to feel his moral integrity is in question. Therefore, I came to offer a solution."
Imrahil nodded, indicating he was open to suggestions. He certainly did not wish to offend Elrohir or the Queen and, as such, his King. It seemed her Majesty was willing to look at mutually agreeable solutions rather than simply ordering the Prince to dismiss Lady Beriedis for the evening.
"I propose this. Allow me to be Lothiriel's chaperone for the evening. She will join me at my table and I will be responsible for her." Imrahil made to interject but Arwen continued, "If they wish to leave the feast for a walk or such, I will chaperone them. I will act as Lady Beriedis would and I assure you your daughter will never be alone with my brother."
"My Lady, I cannot ask this of you. You are an honored guest at my nephew's wedding! If your brother objects to Lady Beriedis, perhaps I can find another more agreeable chaperone."
"You did not ask it of me. I am offering, for my brother will not suffer any other chaperone and I fear he might withdraw his offer. Elrohir is a fine, honorable, elf and very sensitive. By insisting on a formal chaperone he feels you doubt his integrity."
"I certainly do not wish to offend Lord Elrohir," Imrahil said, feeling a bit off balance. "Your brother would be agreeable to you chaperoning? Would he not still feel, slighted?"
"He would accept my presence as I am his sister and many were the times that my brothers accompanied me and Elessar on outings. Now, can I make the necessary adjustments to the seating or shall I tell my brother you object to his request?" Arwen knew she was laying it on thick and misleading the Prince terribly. Hopefully when it was all done the Prince would forgive her little deception.
"Of course I agree, my Queen. If it were not for my own insistence on maintaining tradition, I would forgo a chaperone completely. I do not doubt your brother's intentions are honorable. I will inform Lady Beriedis that she is free for the evening and may pursue her own pleasure.
From the balcony above, Éomer felt his heart sink. He had somehow lost his chance with Lothiriel. Damn the distance between them! There was no way he could compete with Lord Elrohir. The elf-lord was a suitable match for the Princess and from the sounds of it, the Queen agreed. The now saddened King of Rohan left the balcony and retired to his bed chamber. At the moment he had no desire to see anyone! Perhaps a little rest would help him put on the happy face needed at the dinner this evening. Tomorrow his little sister would wed the man she loved beyond measure and Éomer would again be alone. This trip might be even shorter than expected for he could not take seeing Lothiriel in the company of another. Flopping on the bed with an arm over his eyes and suddenly feeling very insignificant, Éomer fought against the tears that stung his eyes.