A/N: Not long ago, I ran across an ad for an updated version of the Beauty and the Beast tale, setting it in modern times. The ad went like this: "A man with a hidden past. A woman whose love could unlock his heart. Will she find the man within the Beast? A story of change, forgiveness and love." That got me to thinking about a possible Middle-earth version of the tale, and I began to consider the possibilities with, who else, my favorite couple, Eomer and Lothiriel. Naturally, the plot had to alter quite a bit to fit them and their circumstances, but hopefully I came up with something plausible. Assuming I didn't miscount, I've already done 7 or 8 versions (some were oneshots, most were longer – I didn't count sequels separately) and even one with Eomer and an OC, but hey, we can never have too many love stories, right? I considered using "Beauty and the Beast" in the title, but I think it is just enough different to not necessarily tie it to that, so I've gone with a normal title. At the end of certain chapters, there will be some explanatory information for those of you not up on your Tolkien lore. All of it is taken from Thain's Book, a terrific online resource. I put the web address with the notes, but you'll need to add the periods back in the appropriate places for it to work.
(Edoras, August, 3019 III)
"Enjoy your stay, dearest," Imrahil enjoined, beaming at his daughter. "I do hope this will work out in a happy manner."
She smiled at the look in his eyes. Her father had become very fond of the young king of Rohan during their time spent fighting together in the War. Now, he hoped his daughter would also find the man pleasing, and be willing to accept a suit of marriage. To that end, she was remaining in Rohan as the others returned home after Theoden's funeral. King Elessar and his party had left the previous day, en route to Isengard and the parting of ways for the Fellowship. Now her family was gathered to begin their own journey south, along with another large group that had come from Minas Tirith for the funeral, and for the trothplighting of Gondor's Steward to the king's sister.
"I am sure I will be fine, and Eomer seems a good man. Once we have had time to come to know one another, I do not doubt we can reach an agreement."
Lothiriel had been aware even before the cortege left Minas Tirith that her father had matrimony in mind for her, though he had not spoken of it directly. All her life, she had expected to some day make a marriage of alliance on behalf of her people. As the daughter of Dol Amroth's prince, she was one of the highest ranking women in the entire land of Gondor, and eminently suitable for such a match. Love would not necessarily be a factor in the decision process, though certainly in her heart of hearts, Lothiriel hoped that would eventually come with whomever she married.
Without question, the king was a handsome man, and the same could not be said for some of the noblemen of Gondor who she knew sought her hand. While she did not let such considerations sway her opinion, it was definitely a plus to the possible arrangement. The man, himself, she did not know well. They'd had little interaction during the course of the funeral march and her time at Edoras, as he was too caught up in dealing with the memorial service, and the crowd of guests that had joined Rohan in their mourning. Now that things would return to normal at Meduseld, she was to remain and spend time with the king, determining if she wished to accept his suit. If she did, they would be trothplighted at Minas Tirith when all returned there in the spring for Eowyn's wedding to Lothiriel's cousin, the Steward.
Despite her assurances to her father, however, Lothiriel was more than a little apprehensive about this. Though King Eomer seemed willing to accept her as a marriage partner, the formal suit had been expressed to her not by him but by her father. She actually had never had a private conversation with the man, and though he did glance at her once or twice at meals, she could not discern any particular feeling or regard in his gaze. Did he wish this union, or was he merely responding to his duty to acquire a wife and provide an heir? That uncertainty left her a little unnerved at the prospect of suddenly finding herself alone with him. While Eowyn would be here as companion so there would be no impropriety in her visit, it was still a daunting prospect.
Lothiriel waved as her father and brothers nudged their horses down the hill, watching their slow progress through the crowd that had turned out to farewell them. A few of the townspeople nearest Meduseld let their gaze linger on her, noting that she remained while her family departed. It was unlikely they could not guess the significance of that.
To her left, Eowyn caught her elbow and she turned to eye her questioningly. The woman's eyes were bright with unshed tears; she had not liked bidding farewell to her betrothed so soon, but it could not be avoided. "Come," Eowyn murmured. "It will only torment us if we watch until they are lost to sight."
Recognizing the truth of the observation, Lothiriel nodded and the two climbed the steps back to Meduseld. King Eomer had returned to the Golden Hall almost as soon as the guests departed, and was nowhere to be seen once they were inside. Feeling a bit adrift, Lothiriel was grateful when Eowyn took her in hand and bustled her off to discuss life in Gondor, and find out what more Lothiriel might be able to reveal about Faramir. She could not help smiling at that realization; how different it would be to engage in a betrothal where there was love. Lothiriel did not think she could hope for that.
xxxxx (end of Aug)
Eomer joined them late for supper, and was barely seated before announcing, "Orcs continue to grieve the Eastfold. I will be taking an eored tomorrow to deal with them." He did not look at either Lothiriel or his sister, focusing his attention on the meal he was dishing onto his plate.
Lothiriel glanced curiously at Eowyn, who merely shrugged and then asked, "How long will you be gone, brother?"
"How ever long it takes," was his laconic response, that effectively ended discussion of the matter.
When the meal finished, Meduseld was a flurry of activity preparing for the morrow. Though realizing she would likely only be in the way, Lothiriel offered to help if she could, but Eowyn assured her this was commonplace and that she was not needed, so she retired to her bedchamber for the evening.
While it had not been requested of her, she had overheard that the eored would leave just after dawn and she determined to arise and farewell them with Eowyn. This far north, the latter part of August was the beginning of fall, and mornings were cool. She arrived on the terrace wrapped in a warm cloak, and slipped in next to the king's sister, who gave her a grin. The two of them watched the riders and horses milling about, and then just as the sun's first rays cleared the mountains, Eowyn took a cup from the tray a servant stood holding next to her. She was quickly down the steps and approached her brother, bidding him farewell and safe return, followed by the cup of wine.
Eomer did not speak as he drank from the cup and handed it back, though he gave his sister a brief nod of the head. His eyes flicked up to where Lothiriel stood, and for a moment he just stared, then abruptly turned and mounted his horse. "Forth Eorlingas!" he called loudly, gathering his reins and moving out even as he spoke. The others let him through to the lead and then dropped into place behind him, filing down the hill toward the gates where the main body of riders awaited them.
The low light of dawn soon swallowed sight of them, and Lothiriel followed Eowyn back inside, uncertain how she felt about this marching to battle. She had allowed herself to believe that war was ended now that the Black Tower had fallen, but this drove home to her that it was not so. Evil still lurked in their lands, and would yet take some time to be swept away and all be made safe. Rohan, even more than Gondor, faced this danger, just as it had during the Ring War and the time before it. This was a wilder land where evil could more easily conceal itself, and she was considering making it her home. The thought gave reason for pause.
xxxxx (return in mid-Sept)
As it turned out, the eored was gone for more than three weeks and they were well into September before the horns sounded announcing their return. Lothiriel had been embroidering on wedding garments for Eowyn, and at first she did not immediately realize what she was hearing. A moment later, however, a servant scurried into the room to inform her of the situation, and that Eowyn requested she join her in the Golden Hall to welcome them home.
The two moved out to the terrace to wait, and Lothiriel had to shade her eyes against the bright autumn sunlight to see the riders streaming slowly toward the city gates.
"There are few riderless horses," Eowyn observed quietly. "That is a good sign."
They watched parts of the group split off at various points along the way, until only about a dozen riders continued all the way to the top of the hill. With an effort, Eowyn restrained herself from racing down the stairs to meet her brother, and at length he climbed to join them. Casting aside decorum, Eowyn flung herself in his arms. After several moments of the embrace, she asked, "It went well?"
He nodded, drawing back from her. "Yes, we wiped out the entire group. Only three men were injured and not seriously."
There was a gleam of rage in his eyes that hadn't quite been stilled on the trek home, and it made Lothiriel uneasy to see it when he glanced at her. Swallowing hard, she said, "Welcome home, my lord. I am pleased you have returned safely."
He nodded in acknowledgement, but looked away from her toward Meduseld. "Thank you," he answered curtly, moving inside and leaving them to follow.
Eowyn's eyes narrowed at his behavior, but she held her tongue for the moment. Ever since the battle on the Pelennor she had sensed something slightly different about Eomer. Her preoccupation with Faramir at the time had caused her to put it out of her mind, assuming it would pass away eventually. If anything, it seemed to be increasing though, and Eomer appeared far more distant and unapproachable than usual. She had never known him to be like this during their entire lives. Something was wrong and she intended to find out the cause.
Eomer headed straight to his bedchamber, brushing off the advisers who sought council with him, and instructing servants to prepare a bath for him. He remained sequestered there until it was time to eat.
Lothiriel had trailed in behind the siblings, watching as Eowyn moved to order the household in preparing a feast for the returned riders. Feeling superfluous, Lothiriel returned to her room to resume the embroidery work she had been doing, but her mind was as busy as her fingers. She had thought Eomer wanted this to work, and yet nothing in his demeanor gave her any encouragement. He was making no effort to spend time with her; he even seemed to be avoiding her. Other than a few glances in her direction, she saw little indication he was even aware of her presence in his home. And if he was aware, then he seemed thoroughly disinterested. Certainly she had not expected this.
By the time the feast was to begin, she already had a headache from her turmoiled musings. Changing her clothes, she gazed at herself in the looking glass and then took a deep steadying breath. She had been in difficult social situations more than once during her life, she would get through this one.
Unlike most feasts in Gondor, the seating arrangements were generally less formal in Rohan. Other than the high table for the king and his guests, the remainder could sit wherever they wished. Despite her pre-eminence as a guest in the household, Lothiriel still took a seat some distance from the king, preferring to buffer herself against him for the time being. Perhaps tomorrow would be better for further attempts at establishing a personal relationship with the man.
The noisy hall and smoke from the fires was doing nothing to improve her head or her mood. Eowyn had been wrapped up in conversation with numerous of her kinsmen, so Lothiriel felt isolated, even more so as the singing and dancing began. Few dared approach the woman from Dol Amroth, so she sat alone, a complaisant smile plastered on her countenance.
After some time, however, she was on the verge of begging forgiveness and excusing herself from what appeared would soon be a raucous and rowdy festivity. Already there had been much drinking and quite a few were feeling the effects of it. Just as she prepared to stand, a shadow fell upon her, and she glanced up to find Eomer teetering unsteadily in front of her, a tankard of ale in his hand.
For a moment he just stared blearily at her, and she wondered if he even realized who he was approaching. Then finally he slurred, "Dance with me?" He gestured toward the floor with his mug, and a bit of the ale sloshed over the rim and down the side.
Repressing a grimace, she smiled and answered, "Forgive me, my lord, but I am weary this evening and would wish to withdraw. Another time perhaps."
Her words did not immediately register with him, so he stood there a little longer before giving a small grunt and shuffling away. He was soon ensconced at a table with several other men, and loudly singing offkey a song about the battle for the Pelennor. Part of her was angry and offended that he would dare approach her in such a state, but another part was profoundly saddened by it. Surely he knew better than this. What would drive such a fine man to behave in such a low manner? There was clearly something greatly amiss with him. Giving a soft sigh, she rose and inobtrusively departed. She did not belong at this gathering, though she was pleased for their victory and that so few had been injured in the effort, but she could find no joy in what her eyes saw here tonight.
Even so, sleep did not come readily, and she lay awake a long time, listening to the revelry from the Hall and pondering her situation.
For the next several days, Lothiriel saw little of Eomer. No effort at an apology was made, and she was not even certain that he remembered inviting her to dance in his drunken state. She had seen Eowyn watching her brother with concerned eyes, but he appeared to keep her at a distance as well.
If they had thought the situation would improve over time, they were mistaken. A mere month later, Eomer announced another sortie, this time to the Westfold. He still made no effort to spend time with Lothiriel, though she had attempted to approach him several times. At each turn, he had spoken only briefly with her, saying as little as possible and then excusing himself for 'pressing business'.
Lothiriel knew she was not unattractive, and she had every reason to think her manners and personality were pleasing to most men. Why Eomer seemed so standoffish to her, she could not even begin to fathom. Were the ways of Gondor too strange to him? Was he incredibly shy? She had never gotten that impression of him, either by her own observation or anything any said of him. And he did not seem to have difficulty with other Gondorians, getting along with her own family as well as with Faramir and King Elessar. Yet she stood alone as rejected of him – why?
For the second time, Eowyn and Lothiriel watched the eored ride away with Eomer at its head. Lothiriel suspected Eowyn was embarrassed by her brother's behavior, and thus had never spoken of it to Lothiriel. Even so, she glimpsed a determined look in the Rohirric woman's eye. She very much suspected Eowyn would tackle this problem directly in the very near future.
When the riders returned a fortnight later, Lothiriel, along with the servants, could not help but overhear the loud row between siblings as they argued in his study. But if Eowyn had wanted answers, she did not get them from her brother, and he had stormed angrily from the room after telling her to mind her own business. She had to send for someone to repair the door that he nearly tore from the hinges during his passage.
Next Eowyn spoke with Eothain, to ask what he knew of Eomer's behavior. Though reluctant to speak ill of his captain and king, he recognized that Eowyn likely should hear of what he had observed and told her, "He is…grown reckless, my lady. I do not know why. Ever since the Pelennor, he takes risks that he should not, especially now that he is king, and has no heir. I know he hates this evil that still has presence in our land, but he is not always in control of himself as he fights. His assaults on the enemy are almost fevered. I…I fear for his mental state."
He swallowed nervously, and gazed hopefully at the White Lady, but she sighed defeatedly. "He will not even speak to me of what troubles him. He denies anything is the matter, and just becomes angry at my interference, but like you I am concerned for him." She gripped the man's arm reassuringly. "We will keep trying to reach him. Let me know if there is anything you see that I should be aware of in the matter."
The entire situation frustrated Eowyn on several fronts. Yes, she was concerned about Eomer himself, but there was also another person involved. She liked Lothiriel a great deal, more than she had expected. Most noblewomen of her acquaintance, particularly those she had encountered in Gondor, were thoroughly silly, by her estimation. She found them intolerable and spent as little time in their company as she had to. Consequently, she had never had a close female friend, but she thought she could be friends with this young woman from Dol Amroth. She was sensible and determined, and though they had differing views on a great many things, Lothiriel gave no indication of disdain for what Eowyn was. True, Eowyn had forsaken her shieldmaiden ways, by her own choice, when she agreed to marry Faramir, but still many looked at her with snubbing eyes. Lothiriel was not one of them. She seemed to have a much greater tolerance for individual differences and, while willing to help all she could to acclimate Eowyn to Gondorian society, she had never attempted to change the person within.
Moreover, Eowyn could certainly not fault her patience and perseverance. Eomer had been…insufferable. And she had borne it with good grace at every turn. Clearly she was trying to make this work, and yet Eomer seemed determined to sabotage the betrothal with his behavior. Despite Eowyn's attempts at talking to him, making him see the self-destructive path he was on and how it was affecting all around him, it almost seemed his behavior worsened after these talks, perhaps in defiance. She could not blame Lothiriel if she walked away from this, and she felt certain the woman was very close to doing so. Though Lothiriel made every effort to conceal them, Eowyn had not missed the look in her eyes and the expressions that flitted over her face as she gazed at the king. She had wanted this to succeed, but she could not do it alone. She would not try forever to make it so. Sooner or later, she would decide against Eomer and leave. And there apparently was nothing at all Eowyn could do about it.
xxxxx (late Nov)
If nothing else, Lothiriel could not deny she had found plenty of ways to be useful while at Meduseld. The house was gearing up for winter, and there was much to do in that regard. Lothiriel sewed and knitted whatever was needed, pleased that her skills in that area were being put to good use.
Occasionally some of the other ladies or servants would sit and work with her, and thus she was kept up on all the gossip of Edoras and Meduseld. Likely the speakers did not think about what impact their words might have on this visitor whom they had so readily accepted into their midst, and so they spoke freely of all that they had overheard. It was because of this that Lothiriel learned of the dire straits in which Rohan struggled going into the winter.
As Imrahil's daughter, she had been somewhat sheltered most of the years before the War. Only while her father was away leading the Swan Knights, and she was left to assist Elphir as he watched over Dol Amroth, did she begin to see more of what went on in the leading of a country. Even so, she felt sure she had little grasp of how devastated Rohan must be. More and more she heard of destroyed homes, despoiled lands left barren, and animals stolen or killed. The enemy had left little for any survivors who remained, and now they struggled to find food and shelter for the cold months ahead. Lothiriel had seen the problems of Dol Amroth weigh heavily upon her father, and subsequently on her brother, and they were not near so dire as what she was hearing of Rohan. Surely this must be a crushing burden for the young king to be bearing. Her compassion for him was moved even more deeply than before.
And, yet, she did not think she could attribute all of his ill-temper and unsociable behavior to worry over his people. She still believed there was something more at play. Her room at Meduseld was situated near to his, and more than once in the night she had awakened to the sounds of his distress. She had known her brothers to suffer nightmares at times, the result of things they witnessed in battle, but they had never been so severe as what seemed to be tormenting the king.
Moreover, she was concerned at the rage that burned so much in his eyes. More than once she had felt a shiver of fear run down her back when he looked at her, anger smoldering deep inside him and reflected in his gaze. She did not think he was even aware that it could be seen by others, or perhaps he did not care.
In an attempt to better understand Eomer, she asked discreet questions of the servants, and learned much of his history. The death of his parents was well-known, as was the cause of their deaths, and she could not help being struck by the seeming resemblance between his father's reckless behavior and his own.
As the month of November progressed, frequent heavy rains kept most indoors, and Lothiriel regretted not being able to get out and exercise with a walk about town. The physical activity had always helped clear her mind, but she did not like to pace about the Golden Hall for fear of giving the impression of boredom. So, when she was alone in her bedchamber, she walked its small confines to get what exercise she could.
The confinement indoors seemed another opportunity to attempt bridging the gap between her and Eomer, and on a day when it did not appear he was too busy with other matters, she approached him. Reluctantly he agreed to meeting with her in his study, though it seemed the last thing he wished to do and she almost regretted suggesting it. But, this needed to be resolved or she might as well go home. If he was not going to pursue a relationship with her, then there was no reason to consider accepting his suit.
It was evident he was not going to make this easy for her, as he took up position by the window with his back to her. Steeling herself for what might come, she ventured, "My lord, I have been here some little while, but we have not managed to spend time getting to know one another. I would very much like to become better acquainted with you."
If anything, he stiffened more and did not turn, saying only, "I have been extremely busy dealing with the problems the Riddermark faces. I do not have a lot of time for social amenities."
Before she could respond, he added, "It is likely I will need to ride forth again to quell further orc attacks on my people. They are becoming desperate for food as the colder weather sets in."
Lothiriel sighed, then asked quietly, "Is it safe for you to engage in such things, my lord? I know you are a great and capable warrior, but it is always possible an enemy could strike an unexpected blow and fell you. Much as your people need your skill in battle, they more need their king to rule over them, and to provide them with an heir to the throne. Rohan's line of rule is in danger."
He wheeled around, glaring at her. "What do you know of anything? Rohan needs me to do what I do best – kill orcs! They are murdering our people still, and stealing what little food is left to them. I will not rest until I see every last one of them wiped from our land!" He moved over and thumped down in the chair at his desk, staring sullenly away from her.
"My lord, please! Look at yourself! If you are not careful, you will meet the same unfortunate end as your father, and then where will your people be? Without a king and without hope!" Lothiriel entreated desperately.
"You know nothing of my father!" Eomer roared, lurching to his feet. "Nothing at all! And you do not know Rohan either! We have survived for many generations, without counsel from some blushing maiden of Gondor! We are strong and proud, and we will prevail without you!" By now he was practically bellowing at her, and Lothiriel took a step back from the verbal assault, astonished by its intensity. For several long moments, they stood silently staring at one another, and then Eomer spoke, clearly intending to end the discussion.
"I am the king of Rohan!" he snarled. "I may do whatever I choose!"
Lothiriel felt as though she had been slapped, but straightened to her full height. "Yes, that is true, for Rohan and for yourself. But it does not apply to me. I am sorry, my lord. I stayed here to determine if a marriage alliance might be formed between our lands. I see now that is impossible. I wish to marry a man, not a ruthless warrior. I desire a husband rather than a cold-hearted killer in my bed. I will return to Dol Amroth as soon as possible."
She turned on her heel and walked from the room with as much dignity as she could muster under the circumstances, though her emotions roiled within her. Why had she ever thought this could work? Her father's admiration for the man in battle certainly could not translate to similar feelings were he to see the king as she had here. No, she would return home and be wed to a nobleman there. She might not have love in her union, but at least she would not have fear, and perhaps some semblance of love would come in time.
Lothiriel swiped in annoyance at the tears that had trickled from her eyes. Why did it matter so much that this had failed? Nothing was firmly set; no one would think ill of her for choosing not to stay. And, yet, her decision was still painful. She was not without compassion for Eomer. For all the gruff exterior he presented to those around him, she knew there was a great deal of pain underneath, eating away at him. Still, she had tried to get through to him, to help him find healing and he had pushed her away at every turn. What more could she be expected to do? Marry the man and live in this misery with him? No, that would be intolerable. If he was going to destroy himself, she would not stay and watch.
Supper that evening was silent and tense. Eowyn could hardly miss the strained manner between Eomer and Lothiriel, but more than that, she glimpsed regret, surprisingly enough in both their eyes. As soon as the meal ended, Eowyn drew Lothiriel to her sitting room to find out what had happened, and the young woman explained about her encounter with the king earlier in the day.
Eowyn sighed, rubbing at her temples. "Is there nothing I might say to persuade you to stay longer, to give him more time?" she asked.
Lothiriel fought back tears and sat down heavily on a chair. "What good would more time do, Eowyn? He does not want me here, he does not want to get to know me. If I saw any hope that the situation would improve over time, I would gladly give it, but in all these months, nothing has gotten better. If anything, he feels even more distant from me than the day we first met."
Eowyn dropped her head into her hands. "I know. I am sorry to have even asked. None of this is your fault; I know that. You have done more than your part to make it succeed. I just…I fear for him. Something is dreadfully wrong and I know not how to make it right. He even pushes me away, and never in our entire lives has he done that before. We always had one another when all else failed."
Lothiriel moved over to place a consoling hand on her friend's shoulder. "I am sorry. I wish there was something I could do to help him, but I do not know what else to try."
After several moments, Eowyn straightened, regaining her composure. "When will you leave?"
Lothiriel dropped her eyes and fingered the back of the chair. "It will take a few days to gather my things and get them packed. I hope your brother will not object to sending an escort with me. If he does, then I must send word to my father and wait for him to have someone come to fetch me."
Eowyn rose. "I will see to it that Eomer cooperates and sends a guard with you. He owes you that much at least. You…you do realize that it will be an unpleasant journey. This time of year is not good for traveling, and there are no inns where you may shelter."
Lothiriel nodded. "It cannot be helped. I fear if I stay it will only agitate him further. If I cannot ease any of his burdens, I at least do not want to add to them."
from Thain's Book online (www tuckborough net):
Father of Eomer and Eowyn. Eomund was descended through many generations from Eofor, the third son of King Brego of Rohan. In 2989, Eomund married Theodwyn, the daughter of King Thengel and sister of King Theoden. Their son Eomer was born in 2991 and their daughter Eowyn was born in 2995.
Eomund and his family lived at Aldburg in the Eastfold. Eomund was the chief Marshal of the Mark and was responsible for guarding the eastern marches of Rohan. One of his main concerns was protecting the horses of the Rohirrim against Orc raiders. Eomund was brave and fearless but he was also impulsive, and he often pursued Orcs with insufficient caution and few Riders. In 3002, Eomund followed a band of Orcs into the Emyn Muil, where he was ambushed and killed.
Theodwyn became ill and died shortly afterwards, and Eomer and Eowyn were taken in by their uncle, King Theoden. Eomer later became the King of Rohan.