AN: This is very much an experimentation for me. I have never written something which is purely romance before and so any criticism and feedback will be very much appreciated. I have held a fascination for a while now for the relationship between Lothiriel and Edoras, so this is my attempt at writing the beginning of their marriage. Please enjoy!
Disclaimer: I don't own The Lord of the Rings. To suggest so is terrible considering the sheer genius of Tolkien. He created an entire language from scratch!
It takes two to speak the truth - One to speak, and another to hear. (Henry David Thoreau (1817-62), US writer)
I stand on top of the steps leading up to the hall. I am alone for the first time since crossing through what was once only passable to the dead. Well, almost alone. There are guards behind me, but they do not pay me mind. I need the time to think. I need to get away from the crowds of people wishing me well. I do not think they can understand what I am going through. It is all I can do not to cry as I look across the plains. I know I cannot though. Here, I am in full view of a watching people. But this is the only place where I can have a semblance of happiness. There are memories of standing in this place which I hope never to lose. It should be easy to loves this place. Sometimes, when the weather is clear it seems like the most beautiful place on earth with its endless sea of grass. Most of the time though it is cold, with winds that pick up speed as it travels across the land until it meets Edoras, the place where I am soon to make my home.
It is ironic, isn't it? A princess of the land by the sea to become the Queen of the sea of grass and its warrior people. I am not prepared. I have never been prepared even though I was raised from birth to become Queen of this land. It's just, I always expected a different husband.
Not that my husband, or future husband, I remind myself, is not a man to be respected. It's just, I don't know him. I've met him once and then only briefly. Then he was a mere soldier, a royal one to be sure, but only the nephew of the King. He was escorting his cousin to meet his fiancé...me.
How can I marry him when I still mourn his cousin? My Theo. We couldn't meet often. The distance you see, but he had such a way to make me perfectly at ease. He had a jester's heart. It seems like an insult to call a prince a jester but he was. He'd laugh at himself just as easily as he laughed at others. I remember once, three years ago, on his last visit, we'd been walking by the sea – not alone, we could never have had that privacy. We were on this small outcropping of rocks, looking for crabs. It was something I used to do with my brothers and he thought it would be fun. The rocks were wet and he slipped. His hands flew around him and he landed face first in the water. I was worried for just a second, but then he emerged, none worse for wear, all his finery soaked to the skin, and with a crab on his head. I laughed. He was laughing as well. I will never forget his laughter.
I loved him. I never told him, but I did and I think he knew it. Now I am to marry his cousin. It seems like a betrayal. I know that he wouldn't mind. Love never factors into political alliances and I would have to marry someone. I just wish it wasn't to a member of his family. His cousin should have been my cousin, not my husband. Never my husband. Theo would understand though. He loved his country and this marriage is necessary, more so than ever and even a jester never forgets his duty.
I wonder when the marriage is...consummated whether I will be thinking of Theo or not? I don't imagine so. Theo had this sort of lightness to him, even when things in the Mark began to worsen. He had this way of smiling at me. His half-crooked, easy grin. He was always such a gentlemen, so gallant! Especially around others. I remember this grand ball we once had. All the ladies were fawning over him and I was getting so angry and jealous. He bowed over each hand, engaged in polite conversation and danced with nearly all of them. But then his eyes caught mine from across the room and his smile changed to that half-crooked grin. He shrugged his shoulders, and I knew he was saying, 'Yes, I know, but what can you do.'
I just waited. I waited until he could disengage himself and then he led me in a dance, and another and another. Even when the dance required we switch partners his eyes never left my own. I could feel the heat of it burning into my back as I twirled. It was that time I knew he loved me as well.
Now, he is dead and I am to marry his cousin. The one I do not know. At least, at least he is unlike his cousin in looks. I couldn't bear it for any amount of money if they were alike. It would kill me I think. But they are not. Where Theo was lightness, he is stern and where Theo was a jester, his temper is well known. At least he is honourable. At least I can respect him, if never love. I do not think I can ever love another.
It is done. I am married. I did my duty to the people, by seeming to be happy. I did not dishonour them by crying at my wedding. My coronation will be tomorrow after the consummation.
That is what I am waiting for. My husband who should have been my cousin. The ladies have retired back to the celebration and I am lying in the King's bed in but a nightgown. I feel like I am naked. He is not the man I should be doing this with. I can hear raucous laughter coming from the King's receiving room. That is where the King is being prepared. Do they not realise that I can hear every jest? Doesn't it bother them?
Then I can hear the King's voice, my husband's voice dismissing them and I know any moment the chamber door is going to open and he will be there and he will see the tears that I shed when all others had left me alone. I cannot be embarrassed for it. I did not let anyone see. I did not disgrace him or myself. He cannot be angry at me for that and I will not hide what I feel from him. I cannot love him and I will not dishonour us both by pretending to.
The door creaks open and there he is, dressed for sleep. He smiles for a moment and then he notices my tears and his shoulders seem to sag. He looks disappointed, though he shouldn't be.
He steps into the room and shuts the door behind him. The room seems to shrink and become oppressive. He seems uncertain for a second before he steps determinedly into the room and sits on the edge of the bed. I do not shy away, though I am tempted to.
There is an awkward silence and then he breaks it.
"I am sorry," he breathes in his deep voice and there is another difference for Theo's voice was light and soft.
I shrug my shoulder and say, "It is not your fault." And it isn't. Not really. Even though I want to blame him for it. I want to blame someone for it, but both of us know our duty. For the first time I wonder whether he also had a lover. Then I think that unless she is dead, he may still have a lover. There was nothing to stop a man from taking one.
Unthinkingly I ask him and for the first time he looks shocked, then he angers and I see a glimpse of that famed temper. He gets up and stalks furiously, clenching and unclenching his fist.
"What? No! What sort of man do you... I mean to say. I am married!"
I duck my head in embarrassment and twiddle the sheets between my fingers. Of course he wouldn't. Didn't I know how honourable he was? A man like him would not contemplate having a mistress. A man like him would stay faithful to a wife, even one he didn't love.
He notices my embarrassment and his anger, quick to come but just as quick to fall, fades. He sits on the bed again and lifts my chin to look into his eyes.
"My Lady. I understand that this is not easy for you and that you do not love me, but I gave my word to be faithful to you."
I nod slowly and he releases me, once he's sure that I understand.
Then I say, "Shall we..." and gesture to the bed.
I cannot bring myself to say what it is. Sex sounds so coarse and make love would just be a lie. It is awkward to say anything at all, but I do not wish to prolong this night. I want it to be over so I can sleep and dream of the man that I do love and dream of times by the sea.
He replies carefully, "I do not wish to force you."
But I can see the plea in his eyes and again I understand. Our marriage needs to be consummated so I can be Queen and Rohan needs a Queen. There are ways to get around that, but there is a more pressing issue. He needs an heir. It seems so coarse to think like that, but it is true. He is the last of his line, bar a sister whose heart now belongs to another land. It would be unthinkably cruel to wrench it from her.
"I know my duty," I simply say and really, without Theo, it is all I have left. My family will be leaving soon and I will be stuck in a strange land with a man I do not love.
He takes my hand in his own and says, "When we have an heir..." he trails off and I am reminded of how new and how awkward this marriage is. We are strangers, but will that change or will we remain strangers? I cannot love him, but perhaps in time we could become friends? It would be nice to have a friend.
"Wake up," a voice hisses in my ear and I moan and roll over, hugging the blanket close to me in an effort to conserve heat. It is so cold. The fire has long since burnt out and I am not used to the climate.
Someone touches my arm and shakes me gently. I open a bleary eye and groan, "What is it?"
It is my husband. He is fully dressed and wide awake. He smiles at me and though I do not love him, in the two months of our marriage we have come to a sort of understanding about that. We give a charade of love during the day, one which doesn't fool those closest to him but does its job in fooling the populace who rejoice in their pretty, young Queen. In the evening, behind closed doors, we do not pretend, we can just be ourselves which is nice. We continue to lie with each other and I must admit to not being adverse to it. He is always so gentle with me, and always so apologetic, because he knows I do not love him. It is a matter of duty you see.
"I have something I would like to show you," he says to me.
I look out the window. The sun is not even up yet. I frown, and sit up.
"Yes, now," he says somewhat impatiently, shifting from foot to foot. Theo was never impatient.
Still, since it is not often that he asks something of me, I rise with a yawn. Eomer leaves just as my ladies enter to help me dress. The clothes they bring are fit for a ride, and I am confused by that but allow them to dress me without a complaint. My hair I swiftly braid. Rohan is a windy place and if I do not tie it tightly then it tends to get in the way. Hats and headpieces are all but useless when outdoors. I never much liked them anyway, although I miss being able to wear my hair loose like I was able to before the days of my marriage. Theo used to love my hair, although he never did more than look. It is wavy. Wavy like the sea.
After eating a small something to keep me going for as long as I might need, Eomer returns and leads me outside to the stables where the Royal Guard are waiting. Already saddled is Firefoot, a groom holding him by the reigns and looking terribly frightened by his proximity to the beast. Eomer wastes no time in relieving him of the burden, by mounting the stallion. It dances slightly but Eomer gets him under control with a sharply worded command. Also there, is my white mare, with her two black stockings. Snowfleet is her name, and she is indeed worthy of a queen. She was a gift at my marriage.
Elfhelm helps me mount and I smile kindly at him in thanks, whilst adjusting my skirts. I look up and see Eomer staring in my direction. I raise my eyebrow in question. He blinks and shakes his head as if coming out of a daze. What could have been on his mind? He asks if I am ready and then with a shout, the order is given for us to move out.
We ride swiftly and I have no idea where he is leading me, but soon we come to the base of a hill. Eomer dismounts and helps me to as well, lifting me by the waist. I suppose it is part of the charade, although why he keeps it up when it is only his guard here to see, I have no idea. Habit, I suppose, and think nothing more of it.
He orders the guard to stay at the base and then he takes me by the hand and leads me up the hill. It is steep and I think I would fall often if not for Eomer. He is sure footed and clearly knows an easy path.
As we near the top I say with a pant, "Eomer, why are we coming here."
He smiles at me. His smile is full, wide and with a hint of a dimple. Nothing like Theo's.
"You'll see in a moment," he says.
Then we reach the top. We reach the top, just as dawn breaks and the sun casts a pink and orange glow over a never ending field of grass. In the distance is the Golden Hall, its roof truly golden and further away there is a cloud of dust, and small tendrils of smoke; the Herds. I did not realise how high we had climbed but we could see for miles. My breath catches.
I don't notice as Eomer comes to stand next to me, until he places a hand on my shoulder and gestures outwards.
"I wanted you to see the land you are Queen of. I saw this for the first time as a child and have never been able to get this image out of my mind. I wanted you to understand."
My heart skips a beat and for the first time I feel a sort of tenderness for him. He has given up so much for this place and has never once regretted it. Now, he is stuck married to a woman who doesn't love him. If I can't love him though, I can at least love his Kingdom.
"It is beautiful," I whisper and then we stand there, watching, in comfortable silence.
Another few months pass and before I know it, it is summer and I have fallen into a routine. I rise in the morning, long after Eomer has risen and after breaking my fast I spend time in talks with the Housekeeper, and see to the running of the Royal Household. I eat lunch in the Hall, so I might be approachable to anyone who has an issue needing dealt with. Sometimes I might deal with it myself, or if I feel it is beyond my authority, I pass it on to my Husband. In the afternoon I sit with the Lady's of the Court. They are kinder and more open than many Lady's of Gondor, but I cannot bring myself to be friends with any of them. I cannot open up and reveal that I am living a lie, and so I cannot call them my friends. In the evening Eomer and I retire early so the people think we are an amorous couple, very much in love. We are not, but it does not take me long to realise that we are friends. We can talk for hours about any subject, although it is often about Rohan. Eomer is completely honest with me about the state of the country, and often allows me to share his burden. Sometimes I wonder why, when he does not love me. But then I think that his burden is heavy and I am possibly the only person he can share it with.
It is during one of our evenings that he tells me, "There have been Orc sightings near the Herds. I will have to ride out to meet them."
I feel a pang in my chest, and I realise that my only friend is going to leave me, but I quickly bury it behind my duty. "When?" I ask.
"In two days. You will be my Regent whilst I am gone. Elfhelm will remain to help you."
I nod. It is only natural that the Queen rules in the King's place. It was what I was raised to do. I have no fear on that task.
Eomer is looking at me and finally he opens his mouth and says, "Lothiriel, I..." then he shakes his head and says, "I am trusting you."
The days of his absence pass in a lonely haze. I had not realised how much of my time was spent in his company, or how much I had come to enjoy it. But with him gone, there is an ache in my chest and a constant worry. Is he hurt? Where is he? Is he dead?
The last thought causes nightmares of the most horrible sort, which I have not had since the war, when all my brothers and my father went off to fight, leaving me alone with my fears. They are so bad that I dare not sleep for fear and I become pale and wan and sickly.
Elfhelm notices and forces me to the physician who gives me an infusion which does help, but still my days pass with a constant fear and sense of helplessness.
It is almost a month later and I am sitting in council when I hear the horn signifying that a host has been sighted. With little dignity I run out of the room and outside to see in the distance, my husband's men with his great standard in front, tall and proud.
It does not take long, but it seems like an age before he is standing in front of me. I greet him properly and then I observe him. He is tired, I can see it by his eyes and the almost unnoticeable sag in his shoulders and his arm is in a sling, but otherwise he is unhurt and I am filled with relief. He is smiling kindly at me and I am smiling back at him.
It is only later that I realise that during the month, I had not thought once about Theo.
It is autumn and harvest is upon us and Eomer and I are down in the streets with the people. We are servers at the people's banquet whilst the poorest of them are pretending to be us, in the hall. It is a tradition of our people, and it is great fun, though something I was not told about during my training. I am rushed here and there, pouring ale and I can see Eomer turning a spit. It is hard work but he is smiling and laughing with other men who consider it great fun to mingle with their King. No tradition of this sort could ever have taken place in cold and formal Gondor. I can imagine Father's face if he saw me. He would probably be quite offended to see me perform so menial a task. I prefer the open and kind ways of my people.
After we have cleared the feast, we join in the festivities. There is a great fire, and fireworks, and circles of men performing riddles. There is music; wild music of drums which fill the air with their beat, and the more gentle tune of flutes. There is dancing; such lively dancing. Groups of men and women, circling round and round, clapping their hands, stamping their feet, jumping, twirling and before long I am amongst them, being lifted into the air in time, spinning round and round and round.
There is Eomer, he is also going round and round and round and his laughter rises clear above the din.
I wake up in the night a week later. At first I do not realise why, until I hear a sound in the room. Footsteps and breathing. It is dark, the candle having burnt out but I can feel Eomer's presence by my side and so I know it is not him.
I see a glint of silver by Eomer's side of the bed and I scream.
In an instant, Eomer is awake and he is wrestling with a man who is trying to stab a knife into his chest. Even with his strength though, I can see the knife edging closer and closer. I look around franticly for something to do. By my bed is a book that I have been reading. I throw it as hard as I can. My aim is true and the book strikes the man on his head. He staggers back, and that gives Eomer the opening he needs. Within seconds the man is unconscious on the floor, and Eomer is standing over him, breathing heavily.
There is the sound of footsteps outside and then the door burst open to reveal several guards, staring in confusion at the scene. It is too much for me and I begin to weep.
Eomer immediately turns his attention to me. He bounds onto the bed and gathers me into his arms and I cling to him as tightly as I can, sobbing out my fears. I do not see Eomer instructing his guards silently to take away the man, all I know is that I had almost lost him.
It is in that moment that I realise that I have fallen in love with him.
It is a horrible reality to love someone when you know that the person does not love you back. My realisation has made our marriage awkward where it never was before. I do not know what to say to him anymore. I talk about meaningless things and I know he is getting more and more confused.
He confronts me about it one evening, several weeks after the assassination attempt.
"Have I done something to offend you?" he asks, and I shake my head.
He takes a deep breath, "Then why are you suddenly so cold with me."
I cannot face his refusal so I mumble something about fear of assassins. His distant look softens and he takes my hand in his own, and I feel a leap in my heart at the contact. "The assassin has been dealt with and his punishment was such that I doubt any will try in the near future. I have also increased our guard. You are safe."
I pretend to be pleased about this and he pulls me into an embrace. It is one which a friend would give to another friend and I cannot help but wish it was something more.
Winter is upon us and I am pregnant. I only suspected at first but today it is confirmed and I am filled with fear and confusion and I know I should be happy, but all I can think of is that if I have a son, my time spent in Eomer's bed will be over. Yet for Rohan's sake it has to be a son.
I can hear sounds in the next room and I know that any minute now, Eomer is going to come in and I will have to tell him. I cannot hide it from him.
The door creaks open and there he is. I will not stall.
"Eomer, I have something to tell you."
He smiles gently and sits down next to me, "What is it?"
I take a deep breath and then say it. "I am pregnant."
For a moment, he has a look of great surprise on his face, and I get the impression that he did not expect that. Then he smiles wildly and jumps off the bed whooping for joy.
"You're pregnant! That's incredible. How... when... I..." but then he looks at me and though I am smiling he sees right through it. "But what is wrong?"
I cannot help it. I tried so hard not to but I burst into tears. His jubilation ceases and he gathers me into his arms. "Lothiriel, what is it? Are you hurt?"
I shake my head and sob all the harder. He rubs my back soothingly as I say with great heaves, "But if I have a son, you won't lie with me anymore!"
His hands stops and then he is tilting my face to look at his and he says, "But isn't that what you want?"
"No, that isn't what I want at all."
Eomer looks at me with the most intense expression on his face, "Then why would you think that I would stop."
"Because you don't love me!" I cry out and then freeze, realising what I had admitted to.
Eomer leans in close to me and says in his low, deep voice, "Why would you think that?"
Then he kisses me in a way that he has never kissed me before and when he pulls away I am left giddy and panting. Eomer is smiling and I realise it is one I have only seen when he is looking at me. "Silly girl, I have loved you from the moment I first laid eyes on you." And then he kisses me again and I lose myself in it.
Later that night, after we had made love, I ask him why he had never told me so before. He looks at me so sadly and says, "Because I knew that you didn't love me."
"But I did!" I exclaim. "Not always, but I have for some time now. I've known since you were almost killed."
He laughs, "That is why you acted so distantly from me."
I nod, ashamed of myself, because we would have been happy for so much longer if we had just been honest. He snuggles into me and I revel in this new affectionate side.
"I thought that I'd done something to offend you. Elfhelm must have been driven mad with all my love sick complaints."
"You talk about our marriage, to him," I gasp, offended.
He shifts nervously and says, "I talk about everything to him. I wanted to know how to woo you."
I laugh, as I see how embarrassed he is and anyway, I am too happy at the moment to taint it with anger.
It is a wonderful thing to love someone and know they love you back.
I scream and then my own scream becomes mingled with another more blessed sound and I fall back panting in the bed, watching as my baby is washed and swathed in cloth.
"It is a boy, my lady Queen. A prince for the Mark," says a woman as she places the bundle in my arms. I smile down at the baby and am so pleased because I see myself in it and I see Eomer in it and I even see Theo in it and the thought doesn't sadden me as it once did.
The door burst open and Eomer stands there, gazing at me and the babe in my arm with a look of such wonder in his face that I cannot help but laugh.
"Come see your son, My Lord," I say to him and he approaches, skittish and afraid and stares down at our son.
"He's so beautiful," he says, whilst running a finger down his cheek.
Yes, he is, I think whilst looking from my husband who I love to our son who is the image of all my loves.
I could stay like this forever, but slowly exhaustion takes me and I can feel my eyes begin to droop. Before I am asleep though, I can hear my husband whisper the name of our son.