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Ch. 8 – A Revealing Morning’s Ride
Lothíriel awoke that morning feeling restless. She got up and after mulling over her morning tea brought by her attendant she had decided to skip breakfast. What she really needed was to get out into the sunlight and ride. She had been in the City for three weeks and she really needed to feel soil between her feet. At Dol Amroth she practically lived outside by the seaside or out with her brothers, much to her mother’s chagrin. It was Neneth’s mission to train her to be a proper lady of the court but Lothíriel had grown up around her brothers and had been indulged by her father. At twenty-one she was used to a freer life than had been her mother because the Ring War had disrupted the social fabric of Gondorian society. For centuries life had been proscribed but war disrupts the order of things. She had never come out in society. And she did not want to. To be suffocated by society was a fate she dreaded. To marry and gad about in the upper echelons of Minas Tirith was death itself. She looked at her ruined dress laying over a chair near her dressing table. And she thought of intense blue eyes and a low rumbling voice. Her only thought had been to ease the pain of his embarrassment. After the “wine incident” they had eased into a kind of teasing like she shared with her brothers, but it was somehow different. She shook her head. She simply had to get out into the open air where she could think clearly again. She rang for Eliariel. When her attendant had arrived she declared, “I am going riding!”
“But my lady your father said you were not to ride without one of your brothers as escort!” Eliariel protested.
“Pish! I am going! I must feel the wind in my hair! I have been too long with the City! Help me to dress!”
Eliariel sighed deeply. When in this mood there was no guiding her lady. She helped her to dress. Lothíriel looked at her attendant. “Away with the long face! You will come to no trouble! I will not let that happen!” Eliariel knew that Lothíriel would be true to her word. She would defend her ladies-maid to all comers. She was loyal and soft-hearted, a very good mistress. But A Elbereth she could be headstrong.
Soon Lothíriel was in the saddle and guiding Windemere down the tiers out onto the Fields of Pelennor. Once out onto the fields amid the winter wheat she gave Windermere her head and the gallop was glorious, but she did pull in the reins after a few minutes. But it did feel so good to be out in the autumn sun. She held Windermere to a trot as she looked past Minas Tirith to the mountains beyond. It was truly a beautiful sight. After about half an hour, Lothíriel conceded it was probably time to go back and reluctantly made for the Great Gate.
Riding up the tiers Lothíriel felt freer than she had since coming to Minas Tirith. She rode into the stables and dismounted Windermere. One of the grooms offered to tend to her horse but Lothíriel declined. She wanted to spend more time with Windermere. She took her horse to her stall and began to uncinch the saddle. When she stood back up and began to heft the saddle and walk it quickly to where it was to be stored she bumped into something and then heard an “ooff” and heard someone fall. She placed the saddle on a near bench. She turned around and saw Éomer sprawled on the ground. It was her turn to be embarrassed. She felt her face flush to what she could only assume was the color of the wine from last night. “Oh my Lord, are you all right.” She rushed to pick him up and started to absentmindedly brush him off.
“I think we should at least know each other a little better before you start to brush me off there,” came the amused low and manly voice. Lothíriel looked where her hand was. It was placed on his rear and brushing it off with energy. Lothíriel turned even more red. Éomer’s smile changed from one of mocking amusement to one of chagrin and empathy. “Oh my Lady, I am heartily sorry for teasing you especially when you were so kind to me last night.” The timber of his voice both soothed her and made her very aware of him all at the same time. “Am I forgiven?”
If he would just continue talking to her in that low rumble of a voice she would forgive him just about anything. Lothíriel looked into those blue eyes and had trouble even holding onto a clear thought. She blinked and managed an answer, “Well I suppose we are now even. You spilled wine on me and I knocked you over with my saddle.”
Again that hearty laugh sounded and Lothíriel began to relax and even laugh herself. “Well we have made quite the impression upon one another,” Éomer stated, merriment dancing in his eyes. Lothíriel tried to stop laughing, “We have at that!”
Éomer picked up the offending saddle and began to move to where the saddles were stored. “Let me do that.” Lothíriel moved to take the saddle from his hands.
“Nay, consider it recompense for one ruined dress!” Éomer countered. He placed the saddle on the pegs set into the wall for it and returned. He looked at Lothíriel. He seemed hesitant, biting his lower lip before he spoke. His eyes sheepishly cast down before he looked back up at her. He began tenuously, “For it was ruined, was it not?”
Lothíriel’s heart was in her mouth as he looked at her through brown and blond eyelashes. “How—"
“How did I know? You left the cloth behind sitting on your chair. It was still slightly damp and stained red.” Lothíriel simply stared, mesmerized by intense yet gentle blue eyes asking ‘Why’?”
“You sat through dinner in a wet dress. Can I ask why?” Éomer inquired gently yet intensely. He was standing three feet away, a respectful distance, but his gaze made her feel as if he was standing very close. Part of her wanted to flee this scrutiny for she truly did not have an answer for him.
But Lothíriel never ran from a fight or a challenge. With three affectionate but older brothers she learned to stand her ground. This challenge was no different. She sought the refuge of honesty, “I don’t know. That look in your eyes. I couldn’t stand to see you embarrassed.” She looked straight into his eyes, almost daring him to mock her reason, to tease her as her brothers would.
Éomer held her gaze and saw such fight, such courage to meet a moment that clearly unsettled her. He could see that her spirit was gentle-hearted and yet indomitable. He had truly never met a woman who met life head-on as this woman did. He found her amazing. She had endured so he would not be further embarrassed.
Faramir entered the stables. He and Éomer were going to go for a tour around the city and the outer walls. Éomer had earlier expressed an interest in how the rebuilding and repairs were coming along and they had decided to make a quick turn before lunch. “Éomer, there you are—” he stopped short as he realised not only what Éomer in the stables but also his younger cousin, Lothíriel. They were not speaking. They were simply staring at each other. Lothíriel was the first to notice another’s presence.
“Cousin! How lovely to see you!” as she stepped forward to greet Faramir, giving him a kiss on the cheek.
“And I you, cousin!” Faramir smiled at Lothíriel. He looked at Éomer, who still looked a little stunned. Faramir eyed his soon-to-be brother-in-law curiously, comprehension planting a slow-growing seed in his mind. “Brother? Are you ready for our ride?”
Éomer looked at Faramir with a far-away look, “Aye, we are.” Faramir left off remarking upon the use of the word “we” because clearly Éomer’s mind was completely distracted.
Lothíriel stated, “Well then, I shall take my leave of you two.” She bowed her head and left them to it. She still needed to groom Windermere but she would wait until they left for their ride. She needed to place a little space between her and those intense blue eyes that she was unaware were following her.
Faramir stated, “Shall we ride, Brother?” He received no response and looked to what had captured Éomer’s rapt attention. Lothíriel walking from them. He looked back at Éomer and raise both brows. “We ride?”
Éomer snapped his attention back, “Aye!”
Faramir hid a smile.
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