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Horsemaster
Chapter 5

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Several days passed while Eomer waited for word on the
victims of the attack.  Being King had altered his
usual course of action.  Instead of riding off to
investigate the children's family, hed allowed
members of his eored do it.  In the off-chance that
the attackers should approach Edoras, Eomer felt it
was his duty to guard the city. 

Eomer had quickly discovered he hated waiting.  He
paced the steps of Meduseld for the zillionth time
that morning. 

You look like my sister,  Lothiriel said, as she
joined him on the steps.

I pity a girl who looks like me,  Eomer said, wryly.

Lothiriel smiled.  I meant your pacing.  Its a
wonder you havent worn a hole in the steps as much as
Ive seen you walk back and forth here.

Im not used to waiting,  Eomer said.  Is this how
wives feel awaiting the return of their husbands from
battle?

That is much worse,  Lothiriel said, certainly.
Especially when they do not return. Remembering how
Erchirion had taken word of the missing men to the
wives.

You are right, it is,  Eomer said.  I have had to
deliver too many of those messages, myself."

The sound of a horn pierced the crisp morning air.
Lothiriel looked at Eomer.

Elfhelm has returned,  he said.

Lothiriel watched the flurry of activity as the riders
approached.  Elfhelm rode directly to Meduseld.
Draped over the back of his saddle was a man. From the
squirming and protests coming from his bound mouth,
the man was obviously alive.

Elfhelm dragged the man roughly out of the saddle.
This was the only person we found.  He had this on
him.

Elfhelm handed Eomer a small dagger.  Upon it was the
symbol of Dol Amroth.  Take him to the dungeons.
Well deal with him later,  Eomer said.

Elfhelm handed the prisoner to a member of the eored
and he lead the prisoner away.

Lothiriel walked down the steps. What is it?

Eomer handed Lothiriel the dagger.  She looked at the
designs.  "It's from one of my guards."

"It was on the prisoner,"  Elfhelm explained.

"Did you find anything else?"  Lothiriel asked.

There were signs of a struggle, my lady, and evidence
that bodies had been burned, but not enough to
distinguish who was the victor.  Elfhelm hesitated a
moment.  What is Dol Amroths tradition of dealing
with the dead on the battlefield?

I dont know,  Lothiriel said.  She had never been
in a position to know traditions such as those and it
was not something openly spoken of within the castle.
And certainly not around her. 

I want to speak to the prisoner,  Lothiriel said.

No,  Eomer said, instantly.

Yes.

Eomer shook his head.  Its far too dangerous.

I am the only person who was at the attack.  Im the
only one who will know if hes telling the truth,
Lothiriel said.  It is my duty.

Your duty is to stay safely out of harms way and
enjoy yourself until your father arrives,  Eomer
said.

At his words, Lothiriel cringed.  My homeland is
falling apart and you expect me to enjoy myself?
Lothiriel sighed.  I spent 6 long months of waiting
idly at home and I refuse to do so any longer.  As
long as there is action to take, I will take it.

Out of the question,  Eomer said.  You are under my
protection and I will not have you interrogating
prisoners. His eyes held amusement and he spoke to
her as if dealing with a child. 

Dont patronize me,  Lothiriel said, angrily.  My
father may think I am a child, but I am far from it.
I am a grown woman."

Eomer looked her over.  With a temper like yours you
will never be considered a woman.

Who are you to talk about women?  You don't know a
woman when you see one,"  Lothiriel said. You cant
tell women from men until they are laying beneath
you.

And with those words she turned and marched into
Meduseld.

Elfhelm grinned as he watched her go.  With her
tongue perhaps you should let her interrogate the
prisoner.

Eomer said, Dont even suggest it.


* * * * * * * * * * *


Lothiriel paced the short distance back and forth
across her bedroom.  Her face burned with anger and
embarrassment.  Being treated like a child was bad
enough without having letting her tongue get the
better of her and prove her immaturity. 

Lothiriel sighed and sat down abruptly on the edge of
the bed.  Her father had warned her that her quick
temper would cause her trouble.  She hated the fact
that her father was right.  Or was he right?  Her
father had always taught her to stand up for what she
believed in.  And as much as Eomer was against it,
Lothiriel knew she had every right to interrogate the
prisoner.  It was her responsibility to see what
happened to her men.  There was no one else to do it.
And who was Eomer to speak to her as if she were a
weak child incapable of doing anything but enjoying
herself?  Lothiriel's embarrassment, gave way to
anger.  If Eomer was not prepared to find out what
happened to her guards.  Then she would do it herself.
It is what her father would do in her situation.   

Before Lothiriel realized what she was doing, she
found herself approaching the entrance to the dungeon.
She stopped just out of sight of the two men standing
guard at the doors.  What could she possibly tell them
to get inside?  They certainly wouldn't let her just
waltz into the dungeon without so much as raising an
eyebrow.  After concocting a half-hearted plan, she
stood up straight, pushed her hair back, and did her
best impression of Erchirion's royalty pose as she
walked around the corner.

The guards eyed her warily.  She struggled to sound as
confident and dignified as she could.  "Has King Eomer
arrived?  He and I are going to speak to the
prisoner."

"No, my lady, we have not seen him,"  one of the
guards said.

"Well, I'm certain he'll be along shortly,"  Lothiriel
said.  The wind blew and she crossed her arms against
the cold.  "You wouldn't mind if I waited just inside,
to get out of the cold?  We don't have this sort of
weather at Dol Amroth.  I'm unaccustomed to the chill
in the air."  To emphasis her point, Lothiriel coughed
a few times.  She smiled up at them sweetly.

"Of course, my lady."  The guard bowed and opened the
door for her.  "But wait at the top of the stairs."

"Thank you,"  Lothiriel said. 

Once the doors closed behind her, Lothiriel wasted no
time in dashing down the steps into the dungeon.  A
long corridor stretched along the length of the
dungeon.  On one side of the corridor was a long row
of barred cells, along the other side was a wall lined
with torches.  Lothiriel peered into the first cell.
The flames from the torches cast flickering shadows
into the cell, making it hard to see. 

As her eyes adjusted to the dim light she could just
make out the sillouhette of a man sitting crouched in
the corner.  His head was resting on his knees and it
was obvious that he wasn't aware of her presence.  For
a long moment, Lothiriel stared at him.  He had dark
hair, almost but not quite black, pulled back off his
face.  Lothiriel took a step towards the cell and the
prisoner shot to his feet. 

Lothiriel gasped, when she saw him.  He was young,
probably only in his late teens, Lothiriel guessed.
And he was afraid, but the fear quickly turned to
smugness as he saw her. 

"Do the men of Rohan send women to do their dirty
work?"  the prisoner asked.  "Or perhaps you are an
enticement of my reward should I tell them what they
wish to know?"

"Neither,"  Lothiriel said.  "I'm not Rohirrim.  And
I'm certainly no prize for any man to claim."

"Then why are you here??"  He stepped towards the bars
of the cell to get a closer look at her. 

"I'm from Dol Amroth.  You and your people attacked my
men south of Erech,"  Lothiriel said.

The prisoner smiled.  "We did?  And how would you know
that?  As I recall there were no survivors of that
attack."

"I was there,"  Lothiriel said, struggling to keep her
voice steady.

"You were not there at the end,"  the prisoner said.
"I would have remembered you.  As would the rest of
the men."

"I left before the battle ended,"  Lothiriel said.

"That is a pity, you missed all the fun,"  the
prisoner said.

Lothiriel glared at him.  "I don't think so.  Seeing
you behind bars is the most fun I've had in weeks.
Now, will you tell me what I wish to know?  Or do I
have to get the King to entice you?  Either way, I
shall get the information."

"Why should I bother.  I'm dead already,"  the
prisoner said.

Lothiriel took a step towards the cell, careful not to
be within arms reach.  "Yes, you are dead already.
But you can still choose to die as painless as
possible with your honor, or to die a slow and painful
death."

"That is how your men died," the prisoner said, at
almost a whisper.

"How?"  Lothiriel leaned forward to hear him speak.

"Slow and painfully, without honor,"  he said, coldly.
"Screaming.  I have never heard such honorless
screaming - - "

Lothiriel felt a chill run down her back at the
prisoner's words. 

"ENOUGH!" Eomer yelled, from behind Lothiriel. 







Lothiriel was so startled by his voice that she took
an involuntary step towards the cell.  That was all
the mistake the prisoner needed.  He reached out,
clamped a hand roughly around Lothiriel and dragged
her towards the cell.  His other hand snaked around
her neck, squeezing tightly enough to cause Lothiriel
to loose her breath.

"One move and I break the pretty little Princess's
neck,"  the prisoner said, to Eomer, who stood frozen
with inaction, hands poised ready for attack.

"I'd like to see you try!"  Lothiriel managed to
squeak out.  Her temporary shock at being grabbed, was
replaced by fury and she fought back.  She reached
behind her, clawing at his face.  The distraction was
enough, to give Eomer time to draw his dagger.  In the
next instant, the prisoner was slumping to the ground.
 

Lothiriel staggered out of his grasp, coughing and
gasping for breath.  The prisoner lay dead in his
cell, a dagger protruding from his chest.  The noise
of the commotion had attracted the guards and Eomer
was speaking to them in harsh tones of Rohirric.  No
doubt getting onto them for letting her down there. 

"It is no fault of theirs,"  Lothiriel said.  "I
deceived them."

Eomer turned his attentions from his men and stormed
over to Lothiriel.  I told you not to come down here.
Look what happened!

You think I did this on purpose?  Lothiriel said,
hoarsely.

You almost got killed!  Eomer yelled.

I was doing fine until you came in the room, you
lackwit!

You should not have been down here in the first
place!  Eomer yelled.

You would have done the same,  Lothiriel yelled.
You barely had the patience to wait for news of your
own people and you expect me to wait while the man who
knows what happened to my guards is only a few rooms
away?

Eomer said nothing because he knew she was right.  He
clenched his fists at his side.  Taking a deep breath,
he ran an impatient hand through his hair.  After
regaining control of his temper he pointed at the
steps.  Get out of here, Princess.  Now.

Lothiriel opened her mouth to say something, then
thought better of it and turned and marched up the
steps and out the door.

* * * * * * *

Lothiriel marched through the city streets.  She
wanted to hit something.  How dare he!  Lothiriel
thought to herself as she marched down the steep hill
of Edoras.  How dare he blame the whole thing on her.

Lothiriel walked with no clear direction in mind
except that she wanted to escape.  And having no
libraries to hide in, anywhere beyond the city gates
would suffice.

The guard standing at the gate seemed in no hurry to
open the gates. 

"I will go no further than just beyond the gates,"
Lothiriel explained.  "I just want some fresh air."

No further than the gates,  the guard said firmly.

Lothiriel nodded.  The guard pushed opened the doors
and let her out.  She walked beneath the guard tower
and waved up at him.  He smiled and waved. 

Lothiriel turned away from him and rolled her eyes.
She was tired of people protecting her.  She was tired
of people looking out for her best interests.  Why
couldn't people mind their own business and let her
live her life?  Why couldnt she ever decide for
herself what was best for her?  Why did it always have
to be a long debate?  Every freedom shed ever had,
shed had to fight for.  Even walking outside the
gates of Edoras.  Did it ever stop?

Lothiriel sunk down to the ground and leaned heavily
against the high wooden walls that surrounded the
city.  She had been so angry at Eomer, shed had
little time to be afraid.  Now that the ordeal was
over, fear washed over her at once.  Her hands shook.
She closed her eyes and took deep breaths.  The wind
rippled through the grass and sounded like waves on
the sea.  Slowly, her fear subsided and she enjoyed
the feel of the grass beneath her, the wind caressing
her face.  It was crisp and cool with the hint of
coming winter. 

Lothiriel gingerly moved her neck and winced.  During
her struggle to get away she had pulled every muscle
in her neck.  She had been so intend on escape that
she had given little thought to her neck as she was
trying to get away.  But it hurt terribly now. Her
muscles protested as she tried to get the kinks out of
her neck. 

A while later, the gates opened, Lothiriel didnt
bother to turn around.  She could already guess who it
would be.

I meant leave the dungeon, not leave Edoras.  Eomer
sat down next to her, stretching his long legs out in
front of him.

I knew exactly what you meant,  Lothiriel said,
rubbing her neck.

How is your neck?

Lothiriel snatched her hands down from her neck and
shrugged, somewhat painfully.  It is no concern of
yours.  You are a King,  Lothiriel said, formally.
You have far more important things to do than play
nursemaid to me.

Eomer sighed.  Anything that happens within the gates
of Edoras is my concern.  Now, come here,  he said
softly.

Somewhat reluctantly, Lothiriel turned towards him.
Angry bruises shaped like fingers had already begun to
form. Lothiriel forced herself to remain still and
aloof but at the first touch of his hand on her neck,
she stiffened.  His hands were gentle as they ran
across the sensitive skin of her neck. 

Did he tell you anything?  Eomer bent closer as he
turned her head slightly to look at the other side.

Only that my men were dead, Lothiriel said, quietly.
His fingers were warm and soothing as he methodically
worked the stiffness from her tense muscles.  He
seemed to know what he was doing because the pain
gradually eased from her neck under his touch. 

Hows that?  Eomer asked.

She tentatively turned her head from side to side.
Better.  Thank you.   Lothiriel caught his gaze, his
face was inches from hers, his hands still resting
gently upon her neck.  Suddenly, she was all too aware
of his close proximity to her.  A blush rose in her
cheeks.

Eomer sat back abruptly.  Youll live.

I think I couldve figured out that for myself,
Lothiriel said.

Eomer leaned back against the gates and they stared
out at the rolling plains.  For some time they sat in
companionable silence simply enjoying the view. 

How do you do it?  Lothiriel asked, breaking the
silence.

Do what?

Give orders to your men, send them into danger,
knowing they are your responsibility?  Lothiriel
asked.

They are grown men.  They know what the risks are and
they are willing to take them,  Eomer said.  It was
what he told himself night after night, when the faces
of the men hed lost came back to haunt him.
Unfortunately, it did little to ease his conscious.

You did not answer my question, and you know it,
Lothiriel said.

Eomer sighed.  When he had some looking for her, he
had expected to be drying tears.  Wasnt that usually
the way of it with young women?  Tears though
unsettling, he could handle.  Instead he found himself
in an ethical debate.  One that hed had with himself
more times than he could count.  He glanced at
Lothiriel, in her eyes he could see the same questions
tugging at her own conscious.

I do it because it must be done, and it is my
responsibility to do it, Eomer said.  And I mourn
for every man I have lost.

If - - if I had stayed in Dol Amroth, they would
still be alive,  Lothiriel said, so quietly Eomer
barely heard her.

You dont know that,  Eomer said.  If you had
stayed behind, many more could have been lost in other
attacks.  You may have saved more people than you can
imagine.

If only I could convince myself to believe that,
Lothiriel said.

Believe it,  Eomer said, softly. 

Lothiriel closed her eyes and leaned her head against
the gate.  The wind blew across the plains and the
tall grasses of Rohan rustled.  The sound rolled with
each gust of the wind.

Rohan is not so different from Dol Amroth,
Lothiriel said.

How so?

When the wind blows through the grass it reminds me
of the waves on the sea.  It sounds like Im hearing
the sea from a distance,  Lothiriel said.

Your father spoke often of the sea but he never
mentioned that,  Eomer said.  He only spoke of its
beauty and that it could not be surpassed by mere
grasslands.

My father would be lying if he said he was not
reminded of home when he looks out upon the plains of
Rohan,  Lothiriel said.

Eomer remembered the conversation he and Imrahil had
upon the steps of Meduseld.  It was when Imrahil had
been gazing out at the plains that the had been
thinking of home.  Perhaps he had seen the ocean in
the rippling of the grasses.  I think his pride would
not let him admit it,  Eomer said.

Edoras is much like Dol Amroth,  she said.  They
both have a high commanding view of wide open spaces.
Except. . .

Except?

You have no library,  Lothiriel said, as if it were
a horror that she could not conceive of.

My uncle kept some books within his study, if you are
that desperate to read.  Eomer watched as Lothiriels
eyes lit up at the mere mention of books.  But I warn
you, you may not be interested in anything he has.
Most of them are historical texts from Gondor.

I dont care.  I read anything.  Lothiriel rose to
her feet.

Eomer laughed.  You want to go now?

If that is all right?  Lothiriel asked.

I should like nothing better,  Eomer said. 

"I - - I am sorry about today,"  Lothiriel said, very
softly.

Eomer sighed.  "You were right.  I would have done the
same had I been you.  It's as much my fault as it is
yours."

As they turned to the gates they heard a cry from the
guards.  Someones approaching!

Eomer turned back towards the plains.  In the distant
he could just make out the figures of riders on
horseback.  Flying from a tall staff was the flag of
Dol Amroth.

 
Disclaimer: Recognizable characters, etc, belong to JRR Tolkien. This is a non profit story, no copyright infringement intended.
 
Extra note: The author (Jen) was playing around with the genders of Erchirion here.