A/N: kateydidnt suggested this idea and, though Lady Bluejay uses the kernel of it in her story "Tide of Destiny", it isn't the main focus of the story. After consideration, I thought perhaps it could be fleshed out to make a full-fledged story…and yet another E/L scenario!

Destiny

Prologue (3002 III)

In the year 2999 of the Third Age, Imrahil of Dol Amroth and his wife Sirrin had a little girl born into their family. Both rejoiced at this special gift since all their previous children had been male, and the entire family doted on the infant. When the child was a precocious three years of age, the family went to visit their kin in Minas Tirith. Imrahil's sister, Finduilas, had been married to the Steward Denethor, but died many years past. While Imrahil did not share a close relationship with his brother-in-law, he was quite fond of his two nephews.

Both young men had turned out well, despite the death of their mother when they were but children, and Imrahil was eager to see them before duty made it more difficult. Boromir was already deeply engaged in military matters, having a natural bent for it, even at but twenty-four seasons. Faramir, too, was learning the ways of war, though he was a more reluctant pupil. His was a gentler, more temperate nature, and though he knew the evil of Mordor made his participation essential, he did not revel in death or destruction, even of an enemy.

The family arrived on an overcast autumn day, but as the boat pulled into the Harlond, the sun finally came out. The warmth and brightness of it lifted their spirits, despite the gloom of being so near Mordor. Carriages were quickly secured to transfer the family to the city, and Lothiriel was all eyes, staring from the window at the great city looming up the side of the mountain. Her brothers had been here before, and were far more interested in the horses, the soldiers much in evidence and planning their activities in the White City.

The family had a townhouse situated on the Sixth Level, on the North side. Word had been sent on ahead to ready the house for their arrival, and so they were met with bustling servants who quickly saw to their needs and soon had them settled in their rooms.

Less than an hour later, a knock sounded at the door, and Faramir stood eagerly on the doorstep. Sirrin, who had been talking with servants to arrange the household, looked up and smiled warmly. "Faramir!" she called to him, as the doorman stepped aside to admit him. "How good to see you again!

He hurried forward, reaching for her hand to kiss it, but she drew him into an embrace. "None of that formality, Nephew! Oh, how you have grown! It seems ages since I have seen you and Boromir. He is well, as are you?"

Faramir grinned boyishly at her and nodded. "We both are. He is with the garrison at Osgiliath at present, but will return day after tomorrow. I sent word of your visit and he is eager to meet his newest cousin!"

A thunder of feet just then drew their attention, and said new cousin raced down the stairs as fast as she could safely manage. At the sight of the tall man with her mother, however, she skidded to a halt and stood silently staring. Sirrin held out a hand to her, signaling her forward. "Come and meet your cousin Faramir, dearest."

Shyly, Lothiriel drew nearer, edging close to her mother and seizing her hand for reassurance, somewhat hiding behind her skirts.

"Say hello, Lothiriel," her mother instructed, but the child turned and buried her face in her mother's skirt without speaking.

Faramir smiled as he knelt down to put himself more on Lothiriel's level. "It is a very great pleasure to meet you, Lothiriel. I have been eager to do so ever since hearing of your birth. And such a pretty name, too. Do you know what it means?"

Unable to resist her curiosity, the little girl peeked out at him and shook her head. Sitting down on the floor, Faramir unwrapped a parcel he had been carrying and drew forth a circle made of flowers braided together. "It means 'flower-garlanded maiden', and on my way here I stopped and bought some flowers for your hair. Shall I put them on you?"

With a toothy grin, she finally drew near him and lisped excitedly, "Yes, please!"

He smiled at the politeness, even from one so young. Manners were greatly stressed in Imrahil's house, though as Sirrin had demonstrated, once they were completely ingrained there were times when they might be set aside for familiarity.

The little girl quickly warmed to her cousin after that, and he very nearly regretted his success in winning her over for she attached herself to his side almost as a leech. Her constant press for his attention made it difficult to greet his other relatives, but it was accomplished around the little girl's prancing and twirling to show off the adornment of flowers he had given her.

The three boys adored and admired their older cousins, greatly impressed by their military activities and wanting to hear all about them. Boromir was more apt to speak at length on such matters, but Faramir tended to give only cursory responses before shifting the conversation to more genteel subjects. Even so, he told the lads enough to almost satisify them.

Faramir joined the family for a late dinner, before all made their way to the Citadel and an afternoon audience with Steward Denethor. Health and circumstances had prevented Sirrin and Lothiriel coming to the White City since the little girl's birth, so this would be Denethor's first time meeting his niece. Privately, Faramir thought his father little interested in the child other than random thoughts of how she might be useful to him when she was older and could form an advantageous marriage, but the Steward well knew how to preserve important connections. Not only was Imrahil of Dol Amroth related to him through marriage, but he was also prince over the largest fief in Gondor. It would not do to slight such a man and his family, however tedious it might be dealing with them.

Once the meal was ended, the family walked up through the streets to the highest level. Lothiriel was trying to skip on ahead, gazing raptly around her at all the new and wondrous sights, but Faramir had a firm grasp on her hand and kept her from straying far.

Just as they neared the tunnel that would take them to the gate, a familiar figure was seen talking to one of the guards.

"Mithrandir! Come meet my new niece, Lothiriel!" Faramir eagerly called to the wizard.

Slowly the old man turned to eye them, before coming to join them and gaze upon the child looking up at him with wide-eyed wonder. "Lothiriel, is it?" He fell silent for several long moments and no one spoke. Finally he murmured, "An appropriate name as it happens, for one day she will be garlanded with a crown rather than flowers. One day she will wed a king."

Utter silence met this pronouncement and, presently, Mithrandir looked around the group and smiled, his eyes twinkling with merriment. "If you will excuse me, now, I have business in the archives. A pleasure meeting you, Lady Lothiriel. I have no doubt our paths will again cross."

All eyes followed the Istar as he moved away from them, more than a little stunned by his remark. "Well, that was…unexpected," Faramir commented, and the others smiled at the understatement. "Come. Father is waiting."

They moved on toward the Seventh Level, but Imrahil could not turn his mind from Mithrandir's prophetic statement. Lothiriel would wed a king? That was quite a future, if it was true. What could it mean?

Once in Denethor's presence, Lothiriel was set before him, and he smiled down at the child. His position and the threat of Mordor weighed heavily on him, but he tried to be agreeable with the relatives of his wife. Without thinking, Faramir mentioned their encounter with Mithrandir on the way to this audience, and told of the strange prediction he had made. None really noticed how Denethor's smile froze and his eyes hardened. They might not know what to make of such a statement, but he had more insight.

Could it mean anything other than that the king would return to claim the throne of Gondor, displacing the Steward? What other king could Lothiriel marry but the King of Gondor when he came?

All present knew that Denethor had grown aloof in the years since his wife's death, so his sudden coldness was not entirely unusual. He forced slight smiles and spoke the appropriate words, but clearly his heart was not in it. While Faramir delighted in the child, and later Boromir treated her with great kindness also, Denethor was distanced by his thoughts and worries as to the meaning of Mithrandir's prophesy.

Thus, in the years ahead, Denethor could never warm to his niece, for she represented all that he feared and resented – the possible return of the usurper. The Steward never spoke of the reason for his frostiness toward Lothiriel, but there were some who could guess the source of his enmity. For her part, Lothiriel had grown up thinking Denethor a proud, disagreeable man, and had long since ceased caring if she had his approbation.

Chapter 1 (2 March, 3019 III)

Lothiriel gazed out at the sea from her bedchamber balcony, lost in thought. When she was a child, she frequently heard someone comment on the prophesy of an Istar named Mithrandir regarding her. She had met the old gentleman a number of times in her life, always being rather in awe of him, if for no other reason than his odd appearance, with pointed hat and staff in hand. Each time they met, it seemed he gazed at her with knowing in his eyes, though he himself never reiterated the comments he had made upon first seeing her at three years of age.

For a child, being told one would someday marry a king sounded like a fairy story, and she had happily played at games pretending to be a queen. Her father was, after all, the Prince of Dol Amroth. It seemed perfectly natural that she would one day be a queen. Only as she grew older did she begin to understand the implications of the prophesy.

In her sphere of reference, there were only two kingdoms – Gondor and Rohan. While others might exist, it was unlikely she would be allied to a king of such as those, and even the prospect of marriage to Rohan seemed a remote possibility. The two countries had once had strong ties of friendship, but more recently Steward Denethor had become suspicious, even distrustful, of their neighbors and relations were strained. Dale might be a consideration, though they were far distant and tended to keep to themselves, and the realms of Harad had largely chosen to support the Dark Lord, so she could not think there was apt to be an alliance there any time soon.

It was said that Rohan had a single heir to the throne, a man by the name of Theodred. Unable to suppress her curiosity, Lothiriel had managed to learn that he was as old as her cousin Boromir, making him more than twenty years her senior. Regardless of his status, or even if he was both agreeable and desirable, she could not quite envision romance and marriage with a man old enough to be her father.

That left the possibility that Gondor's heir, if one yet existed, would return to claim the throne. While all of Gondor seemed to hope for such a thing, she did not think there were many who truly believed it would ever happen. If he existed, why had he not revealed himself by now? No, it was more likely the line was ended and there was no king to come forth.

So, could that mean that Mithrandir had been mistaken? Or had it been a possibility when she was three but circumstances had altered since then? She sighed with frustration. She had been groomed as if it were to be so. Though she knew the majority of the instruction she received in being a proper lady of a royal court was necessary, even if she was never more than the daughter of Prince Imrahil, she had always been aware of the deeper, unspoken reason behind it.

Over the years, as her understanding of the situation increased, she found it did not seem so exciting a prospect as she had envisioned as a child. She had tried warming to the idea of marriage to Rohan, learning all she could of that land, but try as she might, it was too far away and too strange for her to be comfortable with the notion. And, yet, did she have a choice? Was the prophesy inevitable or could she refuse it? And how would those who knew of it, which seemed to be virtually everyone, react if she were to balk?

The wind had picked up as the sun set, and the air turned chill, so she withdrew inside and closed the doors behind her. She supposed it did not need to be decided at this moment. From what she had been overhearing, and surmising from snatches of conversations between her father and brothers, Mordor might well destroy them all before she ever had to confront such a destiny.

And then, of course, this Theodred would need to learn of her existence, meet her and then seek a courtship. She supposed until that happened, there was nothing to worry about. Possibly once she knew him she would come to love him, but no amount of practicality would quite let her be reconciled to all of this.

She had just lit a candle when a knock came at her door. Upon answering it, her maidservant informed her that supper would be served in a quarter of an hour, so she tidied her hair and clothes before making her way to the dining chamber. Generally, her father made it a point not to discuss military matters in front of her, not wanting to frighten or alarm her, but occasionally she wandered in on such. She was used to them curtailing their conversation when she appeared, but now Imrahil and his sons turned to look at her. She could not quite read the expression in their eyes or on their faces, but it made her uneasy. She had caught the word 'departure' as she was entering and she feared bad news was coming.

Even so, not until supper was ended and the servants had cleared away all but their tea did Imrahil venture to enlighten her. She was rather surprised when he bid her remain, and something in her mother's countenance set her stomach churning with agitation.

All eyes were on Imrahil. Though her brothers likely knew what he would say, and possibly even her mother did also, it was expected he would be the one to voice it for Lothiriel's benefit.

With a sigh, he began. "I have tried not to worry you, dearest, with the difficulties we face, but now it cannot be avoided. The threat of Mordor grows daily and Denethor has requested we come. Your brothers and I will depart two days hence, to take the Swan Knights and an army of seven hundred to aid Minas Tirith's defense. Elphir will remain here with you and your mother, to assist in the rule of the City and to oversee the protection of Dol Amroth. I do not expect our city to come under attack, for I think the Dark Lord will focus all his efforts on destroying Minas Tirith first, but if the White City falls, then it is only a matter of time before the rest of Gondor crumbles as well."

Lothiriel wondered how she could still be conscious when it seemed as though she had stopped breathing. Regardless of what she had imagined, this was far worse than expected.

Her father continued, "I confess, I had hoped Mithrandir's prediction regarding you all those years ago might have signaled a brighter future than this for all of us, but it seems it is not to be. Be strong, my beloved child, and do all you can to help your mother and brother protect our people. And whatever else, know how very much I love you."

All eyes were on her, and she wondered what they expected her to do or say. Swallowing hard, she spoke the first words that came to mind. "Safe journey, Father. May the Valar watch over you and see you safely home to us."

None were fooled by her benign response, but there was nothing that could be said to reassure her that all would be well. They could not be certain if things would be well, and there was a very strong possibility that they would not all sit at the same table again once this was ended.

"Is…is there anything you wish me to do to help you prepare?" Lothiriel managed to croak out, in a voice that sounded nothing like her own.

Realizing it might help her to be useful, Imrahil suggested, "Your mother will assist me, but perhaps you will help Erchirion and Amrothos ready themselves. We must travel quick and light, so there will be no room for finery. Time is of the essence."

After that, no one seemed to know what more to say, but none was willing to be the first to break their circle and leave the table. They lingered for nearly half an hour, sipping at their tea and talking quietly. At length, Imrahil decisively rose to set things in motion, and the family followed his lead.

Lothiriel watched silently as her parents left the dining chamber arm in arm. Although she was used to seeing them walking thus, now her mother seemed almost to cling to her father's arm, as though wanting to hold him close to her. Amrothos' teasing voice broke her reverie, and she jumped slightly as he caught her by the waist. "Come. You can help me decide what to pack. Let Erchirion fend for himself!"

Erchirion made a face at the two of them, but allowed them to exit the room without commenting. The pair had always been close, since Amrothos was nearest to Lothiriel in age, and likely it would help her most to spend some time with him.

xx

Two days later, at dawn, the family gathered in the yard below the palace steps. Lothiriel's face was drawn and tired, not having slept well. Her tears were long since shed. She had clung to Amrothos and sobbed that night Imrahil made the announcement, and it was very late before progress was made toward packing any of his belongings. She had wept into her pillow as well, though she had tried to make sure she was not heard. Now, as she watched the final preparations, she felt totally depleted, as though there was no moisture left in her body to come forth. Even her mouth felt dry as dust, and she swallowed several times in an attempt to relieve it.

At last the moment came for the final hugs, and kisses pressed to forehead or cheek. Imrahil and Sirrin tightly held each other for several long minutes before stepping resolutely away from one another. Without speaking, Imrahil turned and stepped up into the saddle, and his sons followed suit. Elphir and Lothiriel moved in closer beside their mother, each linking an arm with her. With a final nod to his family, Imrahil signaled the troop forward and they slowly filed out of the yard. The three stood in silence and watched until they exited the gate at the bottom of the long sweeping drive out of the palace grounds.

TBC

3002: Elphir – 15, Erchirion – 12, Amrothos – 8, Lothiriel – 3 ; Boromir – 24, Faramir – 19

Sirrin – ("river queen")