Just how did Éomer and Lothíriel get together? This is my sixth go at it and every time I think it's the last but as I get to the end of one story, another idea pops up. Éomer is Éomer as always, but not knowing anything about Lothíriel allows us authors to unleash the imagination. My thanks to my beta, Eirwen, as always and to Tolkien for the inspiration. LBJ

Bound by Duty

I slept and dreamt that life was beauty:

I woke and found that life was duty:

Was then the dream a shadowy lie?

Toil on, sad heart, courageously,

And thou shalt find thy dream to be

A noonday light and truth to thee.

Ellen S. Cooper

Chapter 1 - An unwarranted proposal.

Edoras August 3021

I sniffed and swallowed but it was no good: the tears would not stop. It must be the highly emotional state I was in. It was no excuse, I told myself angrily as I at last located the linen handkerchief I had stuffed under the pillow sometime in the night. I blew my nose thoroughly, determined to cease this nonsense. The first rays of dawn were slanting through the window and most likely my husband, always an early riser, would soon be hasteninginto our bedchamber to greet me. A little thing like too much ale and wine the night before would not prevent him waking at this early hour, especially as he had presumably spent the night uncomfortably on the cot in his study. I wiped my eyes again. I did not want to cry in front of him. It would be the third time since I had come here, the third time I had lost control.

Sniffing once more, I turned round and grabbed the pillow. I was hot, and the pillow uncomfortably warm, so I reached over and pulled one of my husbands's towards me and quickly swapped them over. His was blessedly cool and I sank back onto it gratefully, dabbing at my eyes. At least the tears had stopped and I tried to relax, to take advantage of this short time of peace before demands would be made upon me again. It was getting much lighter and still he had not come, so I closed my eyes for a moment, allowing myself to fall into that state between sleep and wakefulness when thought, dreams and reality are intermingled. I let my mind wander back to the time before I came here, to that day when I discovered that all the plans I had made for myself were of no account and that all that mattered was service and duty. Even now I wondered how I could have been so naïve. My only excuse was that I was so full of my own ideas that I never wasted a thought on the possibility that others might be designing a different future for me….

Minas Tirith - March 3020

I had needed a handkerchief that morning too. Not because I was crying, that happened only occasionally when something reminded me of my mother, but because I had a slight fever. It was the sort of ill that produces a tickly throat and a mild headache, not to mention the annoying necessity of having to blow one's nose far too frequently. It had caused me to leave the feast hall rather early the night before and the difficulty in breathing easily through my stuffy nose had encouraged me to seek fresh air just after dawn instead of lying in bed, either asleep or with a book. I wanted to get out before my maid arrived with my early morning tea: she was of the school who thought fresh air was dangerous most of the time and downright deadly if one was suffering from the slightest malady. Deciding on a quick walk around the wall, before perhaps, seeking out a tisane of willow bark, honey and lemon, I washed my face and hands, secured my hair in a simple crespinette and dressed hurriedly in a gown of blue grosgrain, putting a shawl of silver grey wool around my shoulders as a precaution against the dawn chill.

It was one of those mornings when the air was completely still. I remember that particularly. I exited the royal palace by way of a side door, the guard coming quickly to attention and saluting. The noise of his boots on the stone rang out sharply, upsetting the silence. I headed straight to the wall, wanting to watch the sun come up over the mountains of Ephel Dúath: it would never fail to be a welcome sight to those of us who had lived through such dark times. But I remember feeling that morning how good it was that those days were behind us, with the festivities we had enjoyed over the previous forty eight hours finally convincing our people that they were truly over. The celebration of my cousin Faramir's marriage to Éowyn of Rohan had been a magnificent affair. I had not been in attendance at King Elessar's wedding, but however lovely it was, now, almost a year latter, it must be easier for the citizens to join in totally, as time had partly healed the grief that still abounded in the city back then. Also Faramir had always been loved by the common people and everyone shared his radiant happiness. I was looking forward to getting to know Éowyn and hoped to stay in Emyn Arnen once they emerged from their few weeks of blissful seclusion and were pleased to receive visitors.

The sky in the east was slowly turning to pale gold and the first rays hit against the walls of the White City. Down on the Pelennor, however, all was still in shadow. I could just make out the dark outlines of the Rohirric encampment way below me. The city was full with visitors from the outlying parts of Gondor so room could not be found for all the Rohirrim who had chosen to attend the wedding. I secretly wondered if all had come to pay their respects to the Lady Éowyn – the arrival of the tall blond riders had caused a tangible rustle of excitement amongst many of the women of the city – ladies and commoners alike. I paused for a moment before carrying on around the pathway that hugged the wall. The night before, when I had taken the air rather that retiring to my bed straight away, the Pelennor had been lit by many fires and the sounds of festivities and merrymaking had wafted their way up from the lower levels, but this morning all was quiet.

I continued my walk, deciding to complete the circuit back to my chamber. There was no one around except the guards as I crossed the open area past the entrance to the tunnel. But then I came close to the wall again and almost immediately I was aware of voices. Brazenly they penetrated the tranquillity. I was above the stables and the words easily carried up to me in the still air, not well enough to distinguish all that was being said but perfectly clear enough to recognise my father's cultured tones. Intrigued, as to what the Lord of Dol Amroth was doing in the stables at such an early hour, I moved to one of the embrasures to get a better view. Ah… the royal guard of Rohan was lined up, waiting, I presumed, for their king. I could not see King Éomer, but that would explain my father's presence: he would not let his friend and valued comrade leave without a farewell. Why though, the Rohan king wanted to undertake a nigh on four hundred mile journey after being here only three days was a mystery to me, although I remember my father remarking that his was to be a very brief visit and that he would be leaving well in advance of the rest of the Rohirrim. There was a slight stiffening in the posture of the guards and their sovereign came into view, he was leading a large gray horse and, not only my father accompanied him to the front of the line, but my own liege as well. That was not really surprising as the three men had spent, except for the actual wedding, most of the past few days together. I studied King Éomer, or perhaps it should be Éomer King, but that title did not trip easily off the tongue of a Gondorian. He was certainly a striking man: tall, well formed and with the most piercing blue eyes I had ever encountered. He would not need to wear a crown: the mass of gold hair and dignified manner with which he comported himself, compensated more than adequately. I had only had the slightest of conversations with him and the obligatory dance the last two evenings, but I thought him rather terse and grim. True, his eyes had softened and a smile had lit his stern face when he had stood up to offer his sister to my cousin and I had heard him chuckle a few times when we were at dinner, but that was a result of his conversation with King Elessar and I was not party to it. I had been uncomfortably aware of those piercing eyes and that shrewd gaze when I had made my excuses to retire early from the feast the previous evening. It had been obvious that I had interrupted some intimate conversation between the two kings and my father but as the three of them had been closeted together in a corner for most of the evening, I had no choice. I am not fanciful, but I was sure that those eyes had followed me as I left the hall after making my curtseys.

I put the thought away and watched as first my father, and then King Elessar, embraced their Rohirric friend. There were a few final words before he leapt on his horse with a lightness that belied his size. The riders moved off as one with the raise of his hand. I stayed where I was, intending to watch them pass beneath me. They were a handsome sight: the wonderful horses, the blond braids of the men contrasting well with their dark green richly embroidered cloaks and the metal adornments picking up the pale light of the morning sun. I know I did not move but suddenly and somewhat vexingly, as if some hint of unseen danger had entered his consciousness, the king of Rohan looked up just as he came level with my position. His penetrating stare brought a slight heat to my cheeks even though he was at a distance. It was possible he did not recognise me, of course, but, whether he did or not, he bowed his head slightly in acknowledgement. I did the same: a curtsey would have been wasted with the wall in the way. My father did not seem to notice but my own king glanced in my direction just before I stepped back out of sight of those below. Not particularly wanting to meet my liege and my father this early I headed back to the palace by the quickest route and entering, as I had left, by the side door which brought me almost directly outside my own chamber.

My maid was there of course, fussing because I had gone out without a cloak. But at least she had brought a tisane and it was being kept hot on the small oil burner that was used to make tea and warm food.

"I thought you had more sense, my lady, than to go out in that cold air when you're going down with something nasty. You'll end up with a proper fever, mark my words."

"I am sure I won't, Moreth. I will drink the remedy and I am certain that by tomorrow I will be up to fettle. I am never ill for long."

She shook her head; I was not going to be let off so easily, "It's the city air. I knew it when you wanted to come here for the winter. Say what you like, my lady, but the salt does keep the ills at bay."

"I have been here almost four months, Moreth and this is the first sniffle I have had."

"Well, it must be all that junketing around with Lord Faramir that has worn you out. He has been working you too hard."

I sighed audibly. Sometimes it was difficult to keep my composure but since she had looked after me since I was a small girl, I suppose it was understandable.

"That junketing has taken me out of the city to Emyn Arnen; the air is pure and fresh there. People are not ill because they do not live by the sea," I reminded her.

My health was certainly a lot better away from it and if she gave the matter some serious thought she would probably realise that. There was a tutting noise, but Moreth refrained from saying anything else and passed me the mug of hot drink. I tucked myself into a chair and sipped at my tisane. The honey and lemon was soothing and hopefully the willow bark would take away the slight headache. I would miss my time spent with Faramir, I mused, as I had enormously enjoyed helping him with his new house. His duties to the new king had meant that he could not always be there to supervise the carpenters and masons and he had been glad of my organising skills, and of my ideas on suitable decorations. I just hoped Éowyn liked them. I had been careful to put in only the necessities, leaving her to add the final flourishes.

"Do you feel like something to eat, then, my lady? You need to keep your strength up."

I didn't much, but I knew it would start her off again. "Some stewed fruit would be nice if there is any," I answered.

"They've always got some of one kind or another," she said as she bustled out. "Now don't go opening the window when I'm gone," she threw back to me.

I finished the tisane and went about seeing to my toilet. I would never be allowed a bath when I had the slightest malady, but there was always hot water in the copper that took up a corner of the dressing room. I imagined it would be hot in the summer but in early spring the warmth was welcome. I stripped off my old plain dress; it would not do for today with all the guests in the palace, and quickly gave myself a thorough wash before Moreth returned. It took far less time if I was able to see to myself. I chose a dress of fine blue lawn; it had an intricately-worked lace edging the neckline and cuffs. Worn over a silk shift I judged it to be warm enough for the day if I took a shawl. The plain crespinette was changed for one sewn with seed pearls and I clasped a simple string of much larger creamy sea-jewels around my neck.

I had finished my meal and was lingering over some floral tea when there was a knock on the door. Sighing, I rose to see who might be there. Moreth had finally been persuaded to leave, taking a basket of washing with her; the incessant chatter that had always been part of her nature was particularly annoying when one had the headache. I had not admitted it to her but I would have preferred to spend the day mooching around on my own, not feeling up to the social requirements of my position or of the occasion. The door opened to a neatly dressed middle aged man. He was wearing a chain with a key around his neck: it hung heavily against his black velvet tunic. I thought he looked vaguely familiar. Of course, he was King Elessar's private secretary – Allenthor.

Allenthor bowed, "Princess, King Elessar asks that you would meet with him in his study as soon as you have finished your morning repast and prepared for the day."

To well trained to show the surprise I felt at the unusual summons and the messenger, I merely assented with a quick nod. "I will be there immediately, Allenthor. I assume you mean his private study?" The king mainly used a room in the palace, keeping the round chamber in the tower for formal occasions.

"That's correct, Princess. Your father is with my lord Elessar and by now they should have finished their meal." He smiled, answering one of my questions, "I was coming this way and offered to convey the message to you."

"Thank you," I smiled back. "I will be there shortly." Allenthor bowed and departed and I returned back into my chamber to check the neatness of my hair, smooth my dress and make sure I had a clean handkerchief. The thought of sneezing over somebody was worrying me a little. Satisfied, I left the chamber and headed down the long marble corridor.

I had no real idea what the king wanted of me but I imagined he had some kind of task. Organising entertainment for some guests was the most likely. I had made myself useful since my arrival in the city, the Queen's advanced pregnancy had precluded her from some of the more arduous duties concerned with such a huge wedding. I did not mind using my time that way and was just thankful that an elf felt no need to surround herself with a court of simpering women. A few carefully chosen ladies-in-waiting were all she required. I fell outside that sphere, my position as a princess of the most powerful fiefdom in Gondor, rather unique. The king spoke to me quite a lot, and asked my opinion on various issues occasionally, but it was generally over the evening meal. To be summoned had to be counted unusual.

There was a guard at the entrance to the corridor that led to the king's apartments and another outside the door to his study. However, it seemed that I was expected because the first let me through with just a salute and the second knocked on the ornate wooden door as I approached, and before I had the chance to blow my nose, I was being ushered in.

The king and my father both rose from their seats at the small dining table in the bay window. How alike they were these two lords of Gondor: the same aquiline features and the typical black hair and grey eyes of our race. They were both elegantly dressed, although I had to say that the rich garments probably sat easier on my father than on the ranger turned king. But it was the unconscious air of command that set them apart from many others. I had also come to realise, though it was not always so apparent, that my cousin shared it in his quiet way. I sank in a deep curtsey noticing when I rose that they had only just finished their meal. The remains of a smoked ham joint, an almost empty dish of baked eggs and the end of a crusty loaf still adorned the table. It always surprised me how much men could eat in the mornings.

"Good morning, my liege, Father." I smiled at both of them but walked over to my father.

"Good morning, my lady," the king answered me as my father dropped a kiss on my forehead, "you were up early this morning."

So, he did see. But my father raised his eyebrows in surprise. "Yes, Sire. I have a slight malady which you may remember caused me to leave the feast hall rather early last night. The same ill brought me out of bed to seek fresh air."

"Oh, dear. Nothing serious, I hope?"

"Nothing more than the mildest of fevers and a sore throat," I assured him. "I will soon be over it."

Good. He indicated a basket of small cakes, "Have you eaten?"

"Yes, thank you, my Lord."

"A cup of tea, Lothíriel?" This from my father.

I nodded assent, "Yes, please." It was drink that I needed, for some reason my mouth felt a little dry. My father poured out the tea and the king drew up a padded leather chair in front of his desk for me. He walked around to his own seat pulling on the gold tasselled bell rope on the way. I took the tea from my father, put it down on the edge of the king's desk and blew my nose. My father looked a bit surprised.

"I apologize for this," I addressed my liege.

He waved his hand in dismissal just as there was a brief knock at the door. Two servants appeared and quickly cleared the remains of the meal. My father took the opportunity to pull his own chair to the end of the large desk while I used the time to glance around the room. I had been in it once before – when I had first arrived in the city and the king had welcomed me. Not that I had taken much notice then, more interested in studying our new sovereign, but now I let my eyes wander over the wall of books and the maps of Middle-earth that embellished another. It was an interesting room and I would have liked to be let loose to explore it fully. The servants left, I retrieved my tea from the desk and sipped it thoughtfully, rather warily in fact, waiting for the king to speak.

"Faramir tells me you have been extremely helpful to him, and my wife also sings your praises, my lady. She says you have a natural diplomacy which enables you to get things done with the least possible upset."

His smile looked to be…reassuring. So he did want me to take on some task. "I am used to running a large household, my lord. I have been trained for it since birth."

He nodded and sat back with his elbows on the arms of his chair placing the tips of his fingers together. His gaze was fixed on me. He wanted to assess my reaction to something, that much was plain. "You have been here four months, are you happy away from Dol Amroth?

My fingers momentary tightened on the handle of the cup and I carefully put it back on the desk and reached in my pocket for my handkerchief. The king was looking at me with open speculation now. "I was hoping to stay here for the foreseeable future, my lord. I am happy here and trust that I can make myself useful. My cousin has indicated that there is plenty for me to do." I replied with a slight smile. I hadn't actually told my father that I did not want to return home for a very long time. But perhaps he guessed.

I put my handkerchief to my nose and blew just as the king said, "If you are happy away from your home, my lady do you think that you would be content to live in Rohan." At least that is what I thought he said, but something strange happens to the ears when one blows one's nose.

"I beg your pardon, my lord." I stuffed the handkerchief back in my pocket. "I thought you said something about me living in Rohan. I must have misheard you."

His lips only twitched slightly but I caught an amused gleam in his eye before his next words knocked me a little off balance. "You did not mishear me, Lothíriel. May I call you that? I am so used to hearing your father and my wife refer to you by your name."

"Of course, my lord," I said automatically wondering whatever duty he could possibly want me to perform in Rohan.

"Éomer of Rohan has asked for your hand in marriage."

"Marriage?" Having no teacup to hand my fingers gripped the arms of the chair and my mouth no longer felt merely dry: it felt as though I was sucking lemons. I turned to my father, not saying anything but enquiring with my eyes. He had the sort of expression I had seen on his face a hundred times - the one he used when trying to make his children believe they would enjoy something they knew they would not.

"It is a very good offer, Lothíriel."

I turned back to the king, too stunned to utter anything sensible. My usually easy way with discourse had evidently been deposited into the handkerchief. He showed no sign of expecting an immediate response, which was fortunate. Gradually my scrambled thoughts rearranged themselves into some semblance of order. "I have not spoken more than a few words to King Éomer, my liege." I was surprised at my voice: it sounded normal, to me, anyway.

"It was a shame you had to leave early last night, Lothíriel. I did send a man to your chamber but you had evidently retired."

I ignored that. It was of no consequence, anyway. "I imagine, my lord, that this was discussed between the three of you. King Éomer may see it as desirable to marry the Princess of Dol Amroth but he cannot possibly have developed any fondness for me."

"Lothíriel!" my father's voice rang out sharply.

King Elessar raised his hand to calm him, "No, Imrahil, your daughter is entitled to question this. We want her to take a different direction in life and she must have all the facts before she makes a decision." He turned back to me, "You seem inordinately surprised, my dear, but I know you to be a very intelligent woman so you must be aware of how beneficial a match this would be, to both Gondor and Rohan."

Was I aware? I was not. Mainly, I admit, because I had not given it the slightest thought. My head had been too full of carving a future for myself in Minas Tirith. I had not given any consideration to furthering relations with Rohan, except in wondering how I would get on with Éowyn. The king was probably right and there were many good reasons, but at that moment my brain felt unusually fogged and they would not show themselves. Luckily they didn't need to emerge from their hiding place because my Liegelord went on to explain.

"Éomer has renewed the Oath of Eorl but the closer our ties are, the safer it is for all of us. If our two countries had not been so estranged then maybe things would not have got into such dire straights. Random occurrences would have been noticed and discussed. "We shall be working closely with Rohan in the future, Lothíriel. Regrettably, I am also sure we will be needing Éomer's help again before too long. To the East and the South of us old hatreds will no doubt fester again. Besides being a formidable warrior in his own right, Éomer is a great leader. The éoreds will follow their king as no other. Your father and I think that he will turn out to be an excellent ruler but even with the aid we sent his people barely made it through the winter. On top of that he has had to clear his borders of roving bands of orcs. We hope the danger is past and that this year will produce a bountiful harvest and when they have horses to trade again things will improve. He has already performed magnificently in his new role but the task before him is immense. Éomer has had a hard time, and it showed during his visit."

"I did think he looked rather grim." I interrupted, voicing my thought.

King Elessar stood up and walked around to sit on the edge of the desk, a small grin playing on his lips. "He did look a bit severe most of the time, I agree but believe me, Lothíriel, he can joke and laugh with the rest of us."

"And I fit in to all this, do I my liege?" I don't know why I said it, he was right: I was starting to understand.

"He needs a woman and a queen who will help him, Lothíriel. He cannot come to our aid leaving behind some goose of a wife he will have to worry about. The right woman will be able to act as regent in his absence. You my dear proved when you were left in charge of Belfalas during a time of war that you are perfectly capable of fulfilling that position."

I could not disagree with him, but it was the thought of fulfilling the role of a wife to the stern man I had danced with only twice that was causing my stomach to clench and my heart to beat wildly. "Is there no one in his own land who would make a good queen and surely he has a loyal Marshal who can be left as a regent?" I asked, knowing full well I was grasping desperately at extremely slippery straws. I was a true daughter of Gondor: a princess of the realm, to refuse such a request, from my liege, my king, would be almost unthinkable. My father knew that, no wonder he had not put this to me himself.

"He is attached to no lady and therefore a choice would have to be made. I need not tell you that whoever he chose, that choice would upset some noble or other. The Rohirrim are absurdly loyal to their king but he is young and untested. There has always been a slight rivalry between the East and the West Mark. In the difficult times ahead he needs complete unity more than anything. With that in mind the Marshal of the East and West have been made equals, neither has precedence over the other. It would be easier to make the queen regent."

"And if the queen is a Gondorian then both sides can unite against her," I stated wryly.

"Or unite behind her," he answered firmly, before standing up and taking a step towards me to put a hand on my shoulder. "Lothíriel, talk it over with your father, you will feel less inhibited with him than with me. I cannot hide the fact that it would please me if you felt you could do this, but if you really cannot then I will not mention it again." I felt a slight squeeze from strong fingers. "I will leave you alone; I have not yet said good morning to Arwen, she was fast asleep when I left."

Both my father and I stood up and as he left the room, I took the opportunity to blow my nose.

"Lothíriel, you are not going to cry."

I felt surprise at such a question coming from the Lord of Dol Amroth, but then he hated tears, "No, of course I am not. I am sure crying will not help me decide anything."

My father moved closer to me putting his hand on my other shoulder and easing me back into my chair before taking up the seat on the desk so recently vacated by his king. He nonchalantly swung one shiny-booted leg. "It is the best thing for you to do, you know, my love?"

"Do I know that, Father? I do not think I do. Do you really think I will be happy marrying a man I know nothing of? One who asks for my hand after his two friends have no doubt convinced him it is a good idea and then cannot even wait one day to speak to me personally about it. No, it may be the best thing for Gondor but I certainly do not think it is the best thing for me."

"He had no choice but to go, Lothíriel. As much as he needs to feed his people, he needs peace on his borders. Rohan has suffered from raids from the Dunlendings ever since Calenardhon was ceded to them. They joined with Saruman's forces at the battle of Helm's Deep."

I nodded, I knew my history and I knew the tales of the Ring-war.

"Erkenbrand has been negotiating with them. They trust him because it was the Marshall of the Westmark that let them go free after the battle. Their main grievance has always been lack of land. Aragorn is allowing them free lease of a large area of fertile land in Enedwaith. If they keep the peace for five years it will be theirs. Negotiations are at a critical stage but they will now only commit to Éomer himself. Also the Chief of the tribe is extremely ill and his wish is that he sees his people settled in their new land before he dies. That is why Éomer has to return immediately. He has to take this chance to ensure permanent peace for his people and also the safety of his herds and that of those who farm the isolated parts of the Mark."

"And the wooing of a wife takes second place to the needs of his people," I added the obvious. Not that, from what I had seen of him, I could imagine the king of Rohan doing much wooing anyway.

"You know jolly well that it does, my girl and that is why he needs someone like you."

When I didn't answer he carried on, "You did not see him to advantage, Lothíriel. He is a good man. The difficulties he has encountered have taken their toll on his sense of humour, but that will change. Ask your brothers, when we were in Edoras last summer he was much lighter-hearted. He will make you a fine husband."

"If you had given me some clue, Father, then I would have made sure that I engaged in some meaningful conversation with him. I do not even know if I like him and yet you are expecting me to agree to spend the rest of my life by his side." I sniffed, and took out my handkerchief again, trying to find a dry patch. A pristine piece of white linen appeared in front of my face.

"Thank you," I said gratefully.

"I don't want it back."

I smiled, in spite of the cold feeling in my stomach. If the Lord of Dol Amroth had his way ladies would never need to blow their noses.

"How do you want to spend the rest of your life, Lothíriel? I know you do not wish to return to Dol Amroth for a good while. I think you are wise in that. With Elphir taking over from me now that I am committed to our king, Melina will want to run things her way. It is better that you let her get on with it."

"It's not the only reason."

"I know, and I am sorry that it had to be you to …," he shook his head sadly, his eyes far away for a moment. "Time will make it better for all of us."

I wondered if it would, if I would ever hear the roar of the surf on the beach again without remembering that morning. I would certainly never be able to gallop along the sand again. I had borne it for the past three years because I had to, but now I had got away – I didn't think I would ever want to go home permanently. "I thought I could stay here," I eventually answered. "You know Faramir has found me useful. I get on well with Queen Arwen. There is plenty for me to do. I have my translating, my books and Ithilien is open for riding, now."

"And where do marriage and children fit into this grand plan, Lothíriel?"

"I don't know," I said honestly. "I supposed I imagined that I will eventually meet someone suitable I like well enough to marry."

"Only like?" My father asked softly.

"I am realistic enough to have put thoughts of love away when I was sixteen and fell heavily for one of your soldiers!" I retorted irritably, but any emotion made my noise run again so I carried on rather more quietly. "It was painful then, and I have no wish at twenty to fall in love with someone whom I will not be allowed to bond with."

"Very sensible, my dear. In fact you have always been a very sensible girl."

"Sensible enough to fall in with your plans, you mean?"

"If you decide not to 'fall in with my plans', so to speak, who do you think you may marry?"

I shrugged my shoulders. "Nobody springs to mind." That was true, I had had no lack of company or attention since I had arrived in the White City, but none had even caused my heart to flutter.

"You know, I cannot believe you are naïve enough to think that you, one of the highest born in the land, can make your home in the City of Kings without attracting an extraordinary amount of attention. I have refused two offers for your hand in the last month.

"Have you! Why did you not tell me?" I demanded, ignoring his statement of how naïve I was. It was something I could not deny.

"Because, for one, I did not think you would be interested in marrying the Lord of Lossarnach."

"Forlong's brother! You are right! How dare he?" I responded furiously. "He is old. Old and fat. Fatter even than …," I put my wrath aside for a moment and demanded crossly, "Who is the other?"

"Lord Turgon."

"He is even older," I exclaimed, standing up and striding over to the window. It was too much.

"But he is not fat."

"No, he is not," I rounded on him. "He is as skinny as …" My father's lips were twitching and suddenly I saw the funny side and burst out laughing. "All right then, how old is Éomer of Rohan?"

"Twenty seven or twenty eight, I believe."

"He looks much older," I said surprised.

"So do you, my love with those net things you insist on wearing. You look like a matron."

Maybe I did. I swallowed and turned to look out the window, the tears stinging my eyes for a moment, but it was better than my hair floating around loose and reminding me of…

"It didn't put King Éomer off." I retorted petulantly, pushing awful memories aside "Although, I imagine he didn't really bother to look, just agreed to what was suggested."

"He did look, Lothíriel, and I might have said you look like a matron, but it is a very lovely matron."

"So, he is ready to do his duty and it only remains for me to agree to it."

"He was born to duty, Lothíriel. Just like you, I and your brothers were. I know Erchirion couldn't wait to go to war but do you think Elphir really wanted to ride away leaving a wife and a young son he thought he would never see again. And Amrothos, as good a combatant as he is, he is even less inclined to war than your cousin, Faramir."

I stared out of the window, looking towards the sea and my once-loved home. There was no choice, I knew it and my father knew it. "I know that Father, and I am grateful. We all are. But those that survived came home. If I go to Rohan, survive or not, I can never return."