TITLE- Love Comes Softly

AUTHOR- Sache8

RATING- PG-13 (for eventual, very mild, implied sensuality)

GENRE- Romance/ Angst

SUMMARY- Upon the death of her betrothed, a heartbroken Lothíriel agrees to marry King Éomer for the good of her country. Can true love be found again in the comfort of shared grief and friendship?

DISCLAIMER- Lord of the Rings and all its associations are the creation of the ever-wonderful J.R.R. Tolkien. We are forever grateful. I only hope this story does him justice in spirit, but I'm not earning a dime from it. Also, the title belongs to Janette Oke.


By Sache8

Chapter OneThe Darkness and the Light

In times of darkness, the strength of men is often tested in unexpected ways. The wise might succumb to fear and madness; a squire might become a hero to thousands. A child might inspire the courage of a despairing warrior. A nation might rise as one in the face of hopeless oppression. A woman might rule a great province in the stead of those who were surely marching to their deaths.

It was a testament to the evil and the desperation of the times that Imrahil, Prince of Dol Amroth, had departed his homeland for Minas Tirith, taking with him his three sons and almost all of his forces. "If the White City falls," he told his daughter, "the conquest of Dol Amroth will be inevitable. Everything must be risked to face it." Under no other circumstances would the prince have left his daughter and his people so defenseless but for the smallest of hopes that this chance might ultimately save them all.

Difficult was the parting for Imrahil and his sons from their wives, daughters, and sister. Few words were spoken. Although sincere, embraces were stiff and strained. Lothíriel understood the fear that resided within all of them. The fear was dark, and so pervading that they feared dwelling too long upon things dearly loved might cause the fear to become victor, and courage to be lost. Honor and valor were the mightiest weapons left to the men of the West.

Lothíriel too was afraid, though not of her ability to govern the city in her father's absence. She was strong and wise, and had learned well in her twenty years. Rather, she feared the cataclysm that would surely fall upon her city if the defenders of Gondor failed against the Enemy. She understood, with grim certainty, that the inevitable holocaust would fall upon the helpless people who remained behind, and though she would fight until her last breath was spent to defend them, she knew she would ultimately be powerless to stop it.

Like her father and her brothers, however, Lothíriel clung to hope by means of her resolve. She would not abandon her duty to her people. And so she kept the long and steadfast vigil from the city by the sea. Her companions were the wives of her brothers, their children, and Belfarion, an aged and seasoned warrior from a time before her birth. An accident had long ago crippled him, yet he still retained the fierceness and courage of his youth. Since that time, he had served her father as chief advisor in matters of war. With Belfarion at her side, Lothíriel needed not share her burden of leadership alone, and the presence of her sisters helped to ease her loneliness. The small band took comfort in one another during the dark, uncertain days of torturous waiting. They waited for the sound of hooves from Gondor. They waited for news, good or ill.

To ease this maddening trial of vigilance, the women of Dol Amroth, and what men remained to help, made preparations to fortify and prepare the city for siege, not only for themselves, but for refugees that would certainly be driven south by the Enemy's forces. Battlements were reinforced. The defenses of the harbor were strengthened and improved. Belfarion and his small contingent of men trained strong lads and their mothers in the use of the bow and the sword. Foodstuffs were gathered and preserved. And still they waited.

When at last the long-awaited day came upon them, however, it was not on the heels of a steed but the voice of the wind. Lothíriel had been shipboard, returning to the shore after an inspection of the city's fleet with Belfarion when the wind suddenly died and the waters calmed. A hush fell upon the sailors and the shore alike, and it seemed to Lothíriel that the sky was darker and the world held its breath.

"Our doom is upon us at last," said Belfarion said gravely and quietly at her side. Lothíriel did not reply, her gaze transfixed upon the northeastern sky. There did not seem to be words appropriate to speak beyond what Belfarion had already observed.

Then suddenly, as though a veil had been torn in two, the darkness was lifted away and the wind rushed in fast and cold, filling the sails. Lothíriel laughed when it whipped her hair and her skirts, and was surprised to find tears of joy upon her cheeks, though she was not certain from whence the joy had come. She bid the sailors take them to shore, and that evening the people of Dol Amroth slept with serenity more complete than any it had known in a generation.

It was six days afterward before the expected riders came, bearing the news that Lothíriel already knew in her heart. The guard of the watchtower spied the banner of Imrahil in the distance, and in that same moment, the bright and clear sound of trumpets arose forth from the distant company and delivered a message of victory. Joyfully, the city flung open its gates and every bell in every street corner answered the call of the trumpets in full kind. The company rode tall through the gates with speed and pride, their faces alight with unmitigated joy, led by a figure Lothíriel soon recognized as her brother, Erchirion. "Victory!" he cried again and again, thrusting his shining sword into the sky as he rode toward the citadel, and the people responded with rapturous tumult. "Our Enemy is broken! Hail Gondor and Dol Amroth! Hail Imrahil! Hail Elessar Elfstone!"

Erchirion's mount had barely slowed in the courtyard of the Citadel before he had alighted. His wife of less than a year, Falmaien, stood at the head of the women gathered to greet him. Her eyes shone like the sun on the harbor as she watched him dismount, and when he kissed her passionately, in full view of the company, she blushed but did not object.

Lothíriel was the next recipient of her brother's affection—an engulfing embrace of relief and joy. "It is well to see you, sister," he said quietly when he pulled away, his eyes alight with pride. He turned to take in all those gathered there—Lothíriel, Falmaien, Elphir's wife, Adlóriel, their two children, and Belfarion. "I bring the best of tidings," he said to them. "Sauron has been utterly defeated. The strength of Mordor is crumbled into ruin and smoke, and the heir of Elendil sets his face to assume the throne of Gondor."

There was an expression of wonderment at these words from all there gathered. "Isildur's heir?" Belfarion asked, stepping forward. "That line was said to have perished long ago."

"It has lain in secret and in wait for our time of need," Erchirion assured him. "And has proven instrumental in this victory."

"You must tell us this tale in full, Erchirion," said Adlóriel. "And give us word of those we love."

"That word I bring willingly and gladly, sister. Your husband is alive and well, as well as my Lord Imrahil and my brother Amrothos." There was a cry of delight at these words. "As for the tale," he continued, "I will tell you a little, but the full honor must be saved for ballad-makers worthier than I. But come! We must prepare, for I am sent to bring my father's house to Minas Tirith to greet the arrival of Lord Elessar. It is a time for celebration and rejoicing, for the shadow has passed!"

There was a cheer, and a those assembled hastened to heed Erchirion's word. All excepting Lothíriel. She stood behind, and pierced her brother with an unspoken question in her eyes as the others rushed past. For his part, Erchirion seemed to anticipate her action, for he caught her eye regretfully and stepped close before her. "Let us walk apart, sister."

He led her quietly to a private garden where a fountain stood idle. With the tidings Erchirion brought, it would soon be alive once more, a symbol of the newfound life and hope given to all those who lived in Middle Earth. Yet the expression Erchirion had given her made Lothíriel suspect she would wish it to be silent yet awhile longer.

"You cannot say the words I'd hoped to hear you speak," she said quietly. "Else you would have done so with the others."

Erchirion shook his head sadly. He put his hands on her shoulders and gazed sadly down upon her face. "Prince Théodred did not survive this scourge, Lothíriel. He fell in Rohan many weeks ago, trying to hold his withering country together. I am sorry."

It was well that her brother's arms were already upon her, for at these words, Lothíriel gave a cry of utter grief and fell completely within them. The embrace, so similar and yet so different from that with which he'd first greeted her, was all that held her on her feet.

A few moments later, Falmaien, venturing in search of her wayward husband, discovered them thus. "Lothíriel!" she cried in surprise and dismay, and rushed forward, drawing her into her own arms and guiding her to a seat upon the edge of the nearby fountain. "Sister, what is wrong?" She drew a kerchief from her pocket and handed it to Lothíriel. When Lothíriel failed to reply, however, Falmaien looked to Erchirion in bewilderment.

"Théodred of Rohan is fallen," he said simply.

Sudden realization overcame the younger woman's features, followed swiftly by pity. As the newest member of the family, Falmaien was least familiar with Lothíriel's longstanding betrothal to the heir of Rohan. "Lothíriel, I am sorry!" she cried, pulling Lothíriel's weeping head against her breast. She rocked her softly as a mother might a child. She looked up at Erchirion sadly. "Perhaps it would be best if you leave her to her grief," she said quietly at his helpless expression.

He lingered a moment more, looking uncertain, before he nodded and took his leave. Falmaien remained with her, silent and comforting, while the city's bells continued to ring their jubilation around them, until the evening shadows had fallen upon the garden. When at last Lothíriel seemed to succumb to her grief and exhaustion, Falmaien saw to it she was settled away comfortably for the night, and prayed the Valar would grant her the serenity of a dreamless sleep.

Thus Lothíriel of Dol Amroth felt the mingling of joy and sorrow that befell the hearts of so many, and felt within her the sharpness of the price paid for freedom. She rejoiced for a hope reborn, and wept for a love lost forever, and her heart was bittersweet.

A/N:- This little tale I've had in my head for quite some time, and finally, out of nowhere, got the inspiration to actually start it. I hope you enjoy. A quickie note— the title is snitched from a Janette Oke book of the same name, and I decided I liked it because the bare bones premise of both stories is the same.

Feedback is welcome and appreciated!