[A/N: I haven't published a fanfiction for about four years, so I'm a little nervous. Feedback, reviews, anything is welcome.

Disclaimer: I have no claim on Lord of the Rings or anything related to J.R.R. Tolkien. This is a work of fanfiction.]

Chapter 1: An Unpleasant Shock

- September of 3029, The Third Age -

Lothiriel was not in the best of sorts this bleak and chilly morning. She hadn't been even at the start of the day, waking up feeling listless and not at all willing to leave the comfort of her bed. This sentiment was uncharacteristic, for Lothiriel typically was eager to embrace the day, and yet perhaps it was explainable. In the months since she had returned from Minas tirith with her father and brothers following the celebrations of King Elessar's coronation and marriage, days for Lothiriel had returned to feeling empty and without a purpose, for all that she was glad to be home. Lothiriel did not like idleness on end, and what was more, by her time in the white city, she felt changed. Like so many others who had witnessed such a war as had just ended, life for Lothiriel could never go back to what for her had been normal, childlike innocence, frivolity and ignorance.

It was not that she herself had been in battle, or that any loved ones had been killed – thankfully her family had escaped the blade, the only major injury to speak of being Amrothos' broken wrist. But first she had held the fief of Dol Amroth together in the absence of her father and brothers, weathering out the storm while trying to maintain the spirits of her people. It had been difficult, to say the least. Then, when the darkness began to lift, signaling the fall of the dark lord Sauron, Lothiriel had ridden to Minas tirith. There, she had spent her time in the Houses of Healing, tending the wounded. There, she had seen the face of utter pain and suffering, and while she felt she had been faring relatively well, the experience was not one she would soon forget.

Before the war, Lothiriel had been, in her own eyes, a silly girl who loved pretty clothes and horses, filling her head with romantic stories and thoughts of young men. She had laughed often, teased her brothers, and embraced the simplicity of her life, her greatest joy had been to make people smile. This is not to say that there was never any sadness in her life, but that she had found life beautiful in spite of its trials.

Now, though she had not lost her ability to laugh, or her joy in her family, or even her taste for pretty clothes, life for her had changed. It held beauty for her still, but it seemed to her far more precious, and perhaps a little harder to find. And at eighteen, she felt she was far less a child and far more an adult. She found that now she was thinking of the future. But to her, it seemed as if there was no future inside these Dol Amroth walls. It was as if her world wished her to remain the girl she had been before the war, when that girl no longer existed. Lothiriel did not know how to move forward.

Still, eventually she rose from her bed, and dressed with the unneeded but customary assistance of her handmaiden, Ninniach, and made her way to the parlor where she knew her brothers and father would be breaking their fast together. Or rather, by this hour, would have finished eating and would most likely be talking, or idling for a few precious moments before their duties snatched them away.

Lothiriel grinned wryly to herself as she walked down the corridors. None of the men in her family moved quickly in the morning. She had been a rare one, but perhaps now she was becoming like the rest.

But as she neared the doorway to the sitting room, she heard an unfamiliar voice among the voices of her family. She stopped, then realized it was only Eomer, the King of Rohan, whom her father had asked to stay a few days. Lothiriel sighed and lingered behind the doorway, not wanting to go in.

It was not that she disliked the man – he had given her no reason to do so. It was more that she found him infuriatingly grave, although that sobriety was not without reason. She knew vaguely that life had not been kind to him, yet still - she did not think she had never seen him smile, let alone laugh. He was always respectful to her, but his presence unsettled her. Something in his eyes always seemed appraising, in a way that Lothiriel felt suggested that he thought much more of things than he spoke, and she was uncomfortable in wondering what he thought when he looked at her.

Her father's voice carried through the door, which was cracked only slightly. "Relations between Rohan and Gondor are starting to heal now, but I hesitate to say that that friendship is strong." Lothiriel lifted her hand to knock. If they were discussing politics, she wanted to be involved.

"But if Eomer marries Lothiriel –," interjected Erchirion, and after scarcely a moment of letting that sink inLothiriel felt as if she had been slapped.

Marry Eomer? Marry Eomer? Scarcely able to breathe for the shock of it, Lothiriel let her hand fall, and as it fell, it whacked on the doorknob with a thunk. She gasped in pain.

"Who is it?" her father called, and she had no choice but to enter, her cheeks flushed for having been caught eavesdropping, although to her credit she had not meant to eavesdrop at all, but had lingered there in reaction to what she had just learned.

All heads turned as she stepped through the doorway, and as Lothiriel scanned their faces, all looked surprised, then guilty as they read her expression.

"Good morning, Papa, Erchirion. Amrothos. Lord Eomer," she said, curtsying (Elphir was not there, as usual he was with his own wife and children). She was unable to keep the biting tension out of her voice, or her shoulders as she rose, head held high. She met their gazes, scarcely able to speak. "How could you?"

After an awkward moment in which her father and brothers exchanged glances – Eomer was looking away uncomfortably– Amrothos cleared his throat. "Lothiriel -" he began, but Lothiriel glared at him and he got no further. This was her closest brother, her playmate, her confidante, and he too was part of the scheme to plan her life?

"No," Lothiriel said fiercely, her voice trembling. "No." With that, she turned to go, slamming the door on her way out.