This story follows on from Tide of Destiny Part 1 - Choices. But it will stand alone if you don't mind missing a few references and can't face reading the thirty-four chapters of that story! LBJ
Drummer - Tide of Destiny Part 2
Dol Amroth, 24th February 3021
The Wedding of Éomer of Rohan to Lothíriel of Dol Amroth
He had no right to sink into gloom, not at his sister's wedding. Amroth knew he should be pleased for her. He was really, wishing her all the happiness in Middle-earth. And he could not fault her choice… but still… he let out a deep soul-searching sigh and took another gulp of wine, grimacing. The stuff never agreed with him, but he did not know if it was the wine that was making him maudlin or the fact that he was losing his closest sibling. And it was no use to say that Éomer must have felt the same when Éowyn wed, because at least he had met Lothíriel at that very time. Amroth did not have that luxury. Every eligible female in the kingdom must be here, and he had not come across a single one he would wish to wake up beside for more than three mornings in a row. Most he would not even wish to take as far as the bedroom door. Why did virgins simper and giggle, he idly wondered. Did a maidenhead have a physical connection to the throat?
Irritably, he pushed his goblet away. If he was thinking like this he really must stop drinking the stuff. Anyway, virgins were out. The thought of becoming entangled with some proud lord's maiden daughter and not being able to extricate himself was not a pleasing one. Far better to stick to widows. Yet he knew that somewhere there his problem lay, because this past year even the prettiest of those had not held the same attraction as before. Not that he had spent the previous twelve months always alone, but in his heart he recognised that there might be something missing. He thought he knew what, but was just not yet quite able to admit it. Amroth looked over to his sister – she was gazing into her Éomer's eyes. He looked as though he wanted to eat her, and she about to hand him the knife and fork.
It was the day of that ill fated picnic that had started this deep discontentment, when she had fallen asleep. He had seen her sway in her saddle, but of course Éomer got there first. Amroth knew without a doubt that as far as Lothíriel was concerned, he always would. She had put her arms right around him, laid her head against his chest and gone to sleep. What had Éomer done? He had tied up Firefoot's reins, spoken to the horse quietly to control him by voice, put one arm around the sleeping girl to hold her and with his other gauntleted hand had very gently pushed her hair away from her eyes and mouth. It was the look on his face that had started all this. Éomer had looked down at her as if she was the most precious treasure that he could ever have found, and of course she was.
His reverie ended suddenly as his attention was snatched by the sight of Alphros's cheeky face peeking out from behind a pillar. What was he up to? Fascinated, Amroth watched his nephew sneak up behind Gimli. He quickly smothered a laugh when he realised Alphros's intent and caught Legolas's eye. The elf had spotted the young miscreant too. Lifting a long-fingered hand he grinned behind it. Luckily Gimli still munched on a mutton bone, completely oblivious to his long plaits being tied to the chair he was sitting on.
Alphros had chosen his time well. He had just stepped back – a smirk from ear to ear as he inspected his handiwork – when Aragorn rose to propose the toast. Gimli tried to stand up, but the heavy chair hung on to him obstinately.
Amroth doubled up. The look of surprise and panic on Gimli's face – plus everyone around trying not to laugh and failing dismally – had him gulping air. During the uproar Elphir marched up, grabbed his son by the collar, and with a few words of apology to the dwarf, dragged him out. Poor Meren, she was the only one Amroth felt sorry for. With her pretty face bright pink, she shook her head in disbelief. What would the little terror get up to next?
Order restored, Legolas having untangled his hairy friend, Aragorn carried on with his speech. With nothing else to claim his attention, Amroth sank lower in his chair. After they had said goodbye to the happy couple, it would likely be another irksome evening. He would have to try and get away to the port with Erchi. Feeling like he did, there was no way he would be spending the whole evening dancing with an assortment of noblemen's dreary daughters.
His mind returned to Éomer, and the total fulfilment he showed at having found Lothíriel. Amroth pondered his thoughts, wondering if he was ready to admit the truth to himself. A bold step, from which there might be no going back, but his father had always told him that it was far better to face things full on. All right then, he let another breath sigh out, still not sure if he was prepared to accept the consequences of his deliberations – but he wanted to feel that way about a woman!
Well, it was said. It must be the wine. But wanting and happening were two very different things. He was twenty-six and so far had not come across any female who had held his interest for more than a few weeks. He had certainly never felt anything that he thought resembled love and now wondered if there was something wrong with him. Perhaps when women came so easily they lost their appeal? But the other strange thing was that he had always thought that he would have children; he liked children. Well, most of them anyway. He laughed to himself thinking of Alphros. But the thought of teaching them to ride, swim and sail a boat appealed to him.
He could not have children without a wife and since most of the likely candidates were in this hall, his chances of finding one were diminishing fast. Now a year ago the thought of a wife had not entered his head. Was he getting old? No, it was definitely the fault of those two over there. The tangible joy between them was causing him serious disquiet.
His musings came to a halt when he realised that Aragorn had finished. But immediately his father stood up. The Lord of Dol Amroth however seemed disinclined to prolong everyone's agony and kept his speech short and to the point – he couldn't be giving his daughter to a better man. At last, they must be nearing the end because the puddings were being brought in. Passing on the sweet stuff himself, Amroth became entranced by the love play going on between his sister and her new husband as they fed each other golden jelly. Éomer looked as if he couldn't wait another moment. If there were any more speeches he would probably just pick Lothíriel up and carry her out.
Not wanting to intrude anymore, even from a distance, on the intimacy between the bridal couple, Amroth cast his eyes around the hall. His gaze stopped as he noticed someone different. Last night he had definitely not come across any girl with bright chestnut hair.
At least he assumed that she was a girl and not a married lady. She sat next to a portly man, but somehow he felt that she was not a wife. Chestnut hair? He knew that he had heard it mentioned before, but when or where he had no idea. That was it! The damn wine! If it made him lose his memory he would not be drinking any more. No chance of ale, far too common for this gathering. Amroth beckoned to a server.
"What did you give young Alphros to drink?"
"He had lemonade, my lord."
Amroth nodded. That would do. "Please would you fetch me a jug?"
The well trained face couldn't hide astonishment. "Lemonade! My lord?"
Enjoying the reaction, Amroth kept his own expression bland. "If you would be so good."
The server bowed. "Certainly, my lord."
That organised, he looked back towards the girl and had the distinct impression that she had been looking in his direction and had just turned away. Still, that was not surprising, most here had never seen an Elf or a Dwarf before, and they had probably drawn her interest. He waited for a glimpse of her face, but no luck, she didn't turn again. Shrugging, he dismissed her. The hair looked beautiful, but she probably had buckteeth and giggled.
Damn, now Mithrandir had got up to say something. At this rate there would be no chance of slipping down to the tavern. He risked a glance towards Éomer, but he must have accepted the inevitable, having put his arm around Lothíriel and closed his eyes. The old wizard rambled on in his usual way, thinking that all were party to his own considerable knowledge and causing quite a sea of bewildered faces. The future of Middle-earth was hardly on everyone's mind at that moment. More like drinking, dancing and what generally followed.
The procession disappeared out through the gates. Amroth chuckled to himself: Éomer could probably not believe his luck – Shadowfax and Lothíriel all in one night!
But then the poor man had waited long enough, considering he had wanted her right from the beginning. No surprise there, Lothíriel was definitely a beauty. But the way Éomer had grabbed her and sat her on his horse before anyone could object, they had all found that funny.
And what about when he had come across them in the stables? He had not heard what they had been saying, but they had been looking deep into each other's eyes. The very air had seemed to be crackling; he would not have been surprised if a bolt of lightening had suddenly struck them both.
Well, they were very lucky to have found one another, but he couldn't imagine the same thing happening to him. With a last look – they were completely out of sight now – Amroth headed back into the hall. The tables had been moved aside and some couples were already dancing. The best thing to do, he reasoned, would be to make a deal with Erchi. They could dance with a few each and by then their father would hopefully be in his cups and not notice them disappear. It was no good asking Oríon to come to the tavern as he already had his arms around the same girl he had danced with the night before. By now she would probably have an extensive knowledge of the mathematical ratio between the ballast and sail area of their latest ship!
Grinning, Amroth looked around for his brother. That was when he saw her. There was no mistaking the chestnut hair. The girl had her back resting against a pillar and was watching the dancing, her foot tapping in time to the music. He stared for a moment. He might not be fey like his sister but the elven blood made him perceptive. It was not that she looked lost, or indeed lonely. She looked totally alone.
Intrigued, he made his way towards her, skirting around the back of the pillars to avoid anyone else. At least the fact that his father was the host meant that he did not have to wait to be introduced. She was not aware of him approaching and only turned when he got quite near. Surprise flashed in her eyes. What else? Deep sorrow and a faint hint of fear? Her chin went up under his scrutiny. She might not be a startling beauty like his sister, but she had great big honey coloured eyes, creamy skin and a sprinkling of freckles. Quite lovely.
Amroth introduced himself and made a bow.
With the surprise still on her face, it was a moment before she inclined her head. "My name is Devoran, my lord."
He waited, but nothing else was forthcoming. That was unusual. Keen to impress, they generally rattled off a list of their credentials.
"Well, Devoran, why are you standing here by yourself?"
Her gaze searched his face and he had the distinct feeling she was assessing him, as though wondering if she could trust him with the truth or needed to make up something polite and acceptable. He must have passed the test because she smiled slightly. "I am here with my cousin and his wife. I have spent the last five days in their company and decided I can stand no more. I prefer my own."
Amroth stifled the chuckle that rose up, wondering if she was always so direct. "In that case, unless you wish to spend the whole evening on your own, Devoran, perhaps you would do me the honour of dancing with me?"
Her shoulders dropped dispiritedly. "I would like to dance, my lord. But I have not done so for so long that I am not sure that I remember the steps."
"I on the other hand know them extremely well, so between us I am sure that we will manage." He offered his arm. She hesitated for a moment, and he thought she was going to decline, but then with a nod of her head she placed her fingers lightly on his arm. Not to be counted as a victory: one did not normally refuse a Prince of the Realm.
He was a good dancer and she full of rhythm and grace. At the end of the first dance Devoran started to excuse herself, but Amroth shook his head and held on to her. Resigned, she let him lead her into the next set. But she soon relaxed, smiling and laughing and thoroughly enjoying herself. At the end of each dance he kept hold of her arm whilst they made polite conversation about the wedding and guests, until he recognised the music for a dance that would have her winging away across the floor with different partners, ending up far away from him. Usually he welcomed it, often a pleasing break and a chance to rid oneself of a tiresome duty. But this was no duty and he did not want to let her go. Worse still, he realised that he did not want her to dance with anyone else, especially with Erchi who he saw was looking in their direction. Admittedly his brother's taste tended to be for ladies entirely more robust and easy to please, but he did not wish to take the chance.
"Devoran, will you walk outside with me? Take some air?"
She did not simper, or say I should not or I ought not to, and then do it. She looked directly at him and said: "I will walk and talk with you, Prince Amrothos, but nothing more."
Yes, she clearly was always that direct. He found it totally refreshing. "I assure you, Devoran, that I meant nothing more. If we walk around the battlements there are guards, and others will be walking also. It is a favourite place on nights like this."
She nodded, and he took her arm, signalling to his esquire for his cloak as they reached the door. Taking it from the boy he put it around her shoulders. Lifting her wonderful hair to clear the collar brought him a sharp, suspicious look. "It is a clear night, and it will be chilly on the walls."
"Thank you, my lord."
At least she hadn't rebuked him. "Devoran, if we are going to walk and talk together, then you should know that those I like call me Amroth."
That brought a twitch to her lips. "I will try and remember."
Grinning, he led her across the courtyard and up the steps beside the gate, climbing to the top level. There were a few people about, and the way was lined with torches. They walked along the top until they reached a seat in a niche lit by a lantern.
Amroth indicated the seat with his hand. "Shall we?"
She nodded, and sat down, shifting to the end away from him and keeping herself bolt upright. Much to his amusement, even by putting his arm along the back of the seat he could not reach her.
"Well, Devoran, all I know about you is your name and that you enjoy dancing. Are you going to tell me anything else?"
"I am from the mountains. My father is the Lord of the Morthond Vale."
Her expression gave nothing away, but suddenly memory flooded back. The chestnut hair! Now he knew the cause of the sadness he had detected. Damn it! "Duinhir, is he here? I have not seen him."
Her eyes clouded and she shook her head. "My father is… is not well. As I said, I am here with my cousin, his heir."
Amroth reached over and took her hand, "I am sorry about your brothers, they were very brave."
She nodded, gently withdrawing her hand. "So I understand. I am glad."
"We talked before the battle, you know."
Her face brightened and she looked expectant. "You knew them?"
"It was the first time I had met them but we were of the same age and spent some hours together on the walls of the city before Rohan came. Their accuracy with those great bows amazed me. And we had a long conversation, I am not sure what about, much too scared to remember I suppose."
"Were they scared?"
"We all were, but it did not stop them. The bowmen from the Vale made a great contribution. It must have made you and your mother proud."
"My father told me what they did." She shuddered. "Horrible. My mother wouldn't listen."
They sat silently for a moment, but he wanted to put a smile in her eyes.
"My brother, Elphir, said that your mother sang at his wedding, with a lyre. Very beautiful, he thought." Amroth laughed, and carried on, eyes fixed on her face. "Erchi remembers a daughter. A scrawny little thing, he said, sitting at her mother's feet." He couldn't help grinning. "I wonder what happened to her."
She looked up at him, eyes huge in the lamplight. "Oh, that little girl, I remember her. She grew up. She had to, you see, for her mother died of grief."
Amroth drew in his breath as his heart contracted. He wanted to hold her, comfort her. But he dared not; there were too many people about. It would do her no good at all to be seen with his arms around her, however innocently meant. Instead he asked quietly. "And what about your father, how is he?"
She sniffed, tears glistening in her eyes. "He sits and looks at her grave, or just sits and does nothing at all. He is losing his mind. The last time he was totally rational was when the invitation came for the wedding. He told my cousin that he could have it on the condition that he brought me. I did not want to come, but Father insisted. He became quite upset so I gave in. But I am worried about him and wish I were at home."
"That is certainly a lesson for me," Amroth said with a smile, hoping to distract her. "I fail to remember a time when I have been in the company of a young lady who wished to be at home with her father."
It did provoke a laugh. "I am sure, Amroth, that the experience will do you nothing but good."
"Do you know, Devoran, I am absolutely certain that you are right." He stood up and pulled her to her feet. "Come on, I have something I wish to show you."
He took her along to the corner of the battlements, where some more steps went up into darkness. They were roped off. Amroth unhooked the rope. "It is the lookout tower and on such a moonlit night there will be a beautiful view."
She froze, not moving an inch, her whole body rigid. Amroth pushed down the urge to laugh. "It is a lookout tower," he reassured her, "there is a man on watch. We will not be alone."
With only a slight smile of acquiescence she allowed him to help her up the steep steps. The guard came out to check, but moved aside when he recognised his visitor.
Once up there her face lit up, and she gasped in wonder as they gazed out. The moon shivered silver on the water and the surf glowed and sparkled. Amroth pointed out the dark shapes of the little islands silhouetted against the starry night sky.
"How long are you staying, Devoran?"
"Two more days. My cousin has some business in the port."
"Good, because I think you need a little bit of fun. It will be a fair day tomorrow. Come out in my boat with me, over to one of the islands." Her mouth opened but he didn't let her get the refusal out. "And before you say no, I was going to ask if you would mind if we took my young nephew, Alphros? He is very naughty, but good fun. He likes it in the boat."
The frown of concentration told him that at least she was considering the idea. So he followed up. "It would give his mother a break. There is a new baby brother, which has made him worse. Did you see what he did at the feast?"
"I saw the commotion, but could not see what caused it."
She burst out laughing when he told her. "I would like to come; I have never been in a boat. But my cousin will probably throw a fit."
Amroth shrugged. "Do not tell him then."
Devoran threw him a wry look, but he could tell that she was wavering. "Well, he does get up late. I could leave him a note. And his wife has made it plain she doesn't want to be bothered with me. She's too busy hobnobbing with those she thinks will help push her and Alhael up a few notches."
"I am sure your brothers mentioned him. Fat cousin Alhael comes to mind."
Her nose wrinkled in disgust. "He didn't go to war. I doubt he could have walked the distance." Devoran pushed her chin up determinedly. "I will come, Amroth, and worry about what he says later."
"Good, that is settled," Amroth said quickly before she could change her mind. In spite of her sadness she was better company than most of the prissy girls he was encouraged to spend time with. Besides, with her cousins not really looking after her, she would be prey to numerous young men in their cups. She would be better off with him.
"And now it is still quite early, so would you like to dance again?" Hopefully no one would take much notice at such a wedding and with such a crush, not like in Merethond where more than a few dances with the same girl would cause talk. It didn't seem to bother her anyway, because she nodded a little wistfully. "Yes, I would, we do not dance at home any more."
He helped her down the steps and they headed back towards the hall. "I did not see you last night. Were you here?"
"Yes, I was, but I did not go to the Hall. I sat and watched the sea. My mother loved it; she came from the coast and never really liked the mountains."
"I must admit I would not like to live anywhere else. How about you, do you love the mountains?"
A shadow passed across her face. "I used to."
She definitely needed a bit of enjoyment from life. Alphros should help him provide it tomorrow. And anyway, he owed it to her brothers to look after her.
To be continued.
A/N - I have written a short one-shot that gives a bit of background to Duinhir and Devoran. It's called – The Return – some of you might have read it already, but if you are interested it can be located by visiting my profile. Warning – it is a little angsty. LBJ
Original Characters in this chapter.
Devoran - daughter of Duinhir, Lord of Morthond.
Alhael - son of Duinhir's elder sister. Devoran's cousin.
Princess Meren - Elphir's wife
Oríon - Childhood friend of Amroth's.