Summary: Alone I watch, never seen, a stranger in a strange land, observing those who are now my people.


Of Fillies and Kings



Year 3010, Third Age


Alone, I watch never seen, a stranger in a strange land, observing those who are now my people. So different they are from the people in the land of my birth. And yet, they are no less valiant or brave. Strong arms and backs carry them through their days, and none is stronger than my husband - the king. Peering through a curtain I watch him as he takes hold of a rope attached to a young horse's leather halter. The filly is fiery and stubborn, refusing to learn her lessons from the head trainer. But the young horse takes heed of the king. She cannot pull the rope from his callused hands. In moments, the spirited chestnut has settled, walking quietly beside him into the stable. I step back from the window, unobserved by any, smiling at how easily Éomer has wooed the filly.


I have heard it said – I hear a lot they think goes unheeded - that I do not love my new home, or my new husband. And, in fact, it is true. For how can one love what one has not yet come to know? I have only been in Edoras for a week and a wife for a mere two days, as we took our vows only yesterday. But I am drawn to the wind on the plains, which ripples the grasses so like unto how it tosses the ocean near my home on the Bay of Belfalas, and I am moved by the hard-working people, who seem tireless in all their deeds.  And I am stirred by my husband, the king - by his strength and his compassion. He is of noble birth, but his heart beats with the same rhythm as the common people of this wild land.


A loud guffaw draws my attention, and I smile and move back towards the main hall in Meduseld. It is not only the Rohirrim that are as wild as the land, for there are other races just as strange and untamed. As I enter the large hall my eyes immediately fall on the dwarf seated at a long wooden table - Gimli son of Glóin, Lord of the Glittering Caves. He is chuckling, his expression merry. He lifts a cup and holds it aloft, his gaze drawn to the other end of the room where a tall elf is frowning, arms folded across his chest. I smile. It seems Gimli has pulled something over on Legolas once more; but never one to let another have the last word - I came to know Legolas well in Gondor - he strides across the room and bends to whisper something in the dwarf's ear. Straightening, he smirks. Gimli slams his mug down on the table, ale sloshing over the rim, and frowns up at the arrogant look on the elf's face.


"I did not!" he says with a look of such exasperation, I cannot help but giggle.


Whatever the accusation, I will never know, for a soft call of "Lothiriel" draws me towards another table. Seated there are the King and Queen of Gondor and my dear cousin, the Steward, and his lady, my new sister by marriage. They are all dear to me, for I came to know them not just on the journey to Rohan for my wedding, but in the visits my father insisted upon to Minas Tirith over the last year. With Éowyn I did not have as much time to become acquainted, since she dwelt with her brother in Rohan until three months past, but it has not stopped me from feeling she is the sister I always longed for. As a single female living among a widowed father and unwed brothers, I had always longed for a close friend near my age.


Éowyn smiles as I join them. I take my seat and thank a servant for the mug of cool white wine she places before me. Rohan is beautiful, but I have already found that during late summer, it is blistering hot. And it is yet morning! I must remember to thank Legolas for his gift of the wine; without it, the heat of the room would be unbearable. I return my husband-sister’s smile and ask if there is anything else they require. But it is not Éowyn who answers.


“Our needs have more than been met, lady, but you have yet to break your fast.”


I cannot help but grin as King Elessar – or ‘Aragorn’ as he keeps reminding me to address him – passes a basket of fresh rolls, followed by a crock of butter and a jar of honey.  “Thank you, my lord,” I say, but he laughs and insists that as the new Queen of Rohan, I must lose such formality in informal settings.


“He does not bite. I can give surety of that,” Faramir assures me with a wink.


I relax and begin to sooth my grumbling stomach, but as I eat and join in the discourse among our company, I wonder if my husband has yet had sustenance this morn. I was, after all, yet asleep when he left our rooms before dawn. Thoughts of the previous night cause my face to flush slightly, and I pray no one notices my state. As much as I enjoy the talk around me, I suddenly need to be alone. I need to rethink just what it is that I have gotten myself into.


“My lady?” a fair and melodic voice breaks into my thoughts, and I look up into eyes grey as the sea, bright with a light I have never understood and full of concern as they measure me.


I force a smile. “Legolas! How fare you this fine morning?”


The right corner of his mouth pulls up into a crooked smile, and I cannot help how my heart flutters. It matters not how many times I see him, he will always affect my woman’s heart so. Not that he notices any of my gender, or at least the romantic regard we give him. I have even noticed how Arwen is taken in by his charm and beguiling ways. Not that either of us would trade what we have for such an exquisite, but elusive and fey creature. She has confided in me that his folk are much different from her own more civilized people in Rivendell, and I have seen such myself. The elves from Rivendell who attended the wedding of the King and Queen of Gondor were dignified, well spoken and aloof, so different from the tow-headed imp from the Woodland Realm with his heart-melting crooked smile.


“I am well, lady. How fare you?”


“Much better now that you have graced me with your presence,” I tell him, my smile become more genuine. For all his appealing ways, he will never be more to me than one who brightens my day with his smiles and teasing, and I would not wish it otherwise.


“Ah,” he chuckles, “I take it the other present company is not up to your status, lady, but no fear! I shall rescue you from these coarse and unmannerly Men!”


“I beg your pardon?” Arwen asks with indignation, but Éowyn simply grins and laughs at the looks on Faramir and Aragorn’s faces.


Legolas ignores them all and comes around the table, offering me his arm. “If you can find it in you to excuse yourself, I have something to show you, Queen Lothiriel.”


Once more, I force a smile, the mirth leaving me when he calls me by my new title. I allow him to whisk me away from my companions and outside into the bright, hot day. We stand on the steps of Meduseld overlooking Edoras and the surrounding lands. The mountains take my breath away and for a moment, I forget my fears and concerns.


“Now you truly look better,” Legolas comments, “for a moment in there, you looked as if you needed to climb a tree.”


I blink and turn to look up into his face, completely baffled by his unusual statement. “I have never climbed a tree in my life!” I inform him.


He laughs softly, the sound musical and light. “It is an expression of my people. When a wood-elf finds himself in distress, he usually seeks out a tree. You looked like you needed to get away. It has been a busy couple of days.”


‘Elbereth bless him!’ I find myself praying, but seeking solitude is not an option for me. “It has been a trying time, but my position requires that I be seen mingling with my new people.”


“Your people understand you are also a new wife and need your rest. Go, lady. I will explain your absence.”


The charming woodland prince is acting the part of one of my brothers – my brothers who are missing, I am reminded. Only my father was able to travel with me for my wedding, and I have missed the teasing banter of my kin. Impulsively, I place a kiss on his cheek. “Thank you,” I say and depart, cherishing the picture of the elf standing with a shocked expression, his cheeks turning pink.


It is easy for me to make my way back to my rooms – no, *our* rooms – and I make myself comfortable in a rocking chair by a window. My heart is unsettled still, and my thoughts return to the strong man I had last seen gentling a fiery filly. His smile does not evoke the same response in me as one of Legolas’ crooked grins. Instead, a warm feeling settles over my stomach, calming me. Éomer is not mysterious or fey like an elf. He is warm and solid, confident and quick to laugh, quick to set one at ease in an awkward situation….


Last night our marriage was not consummated. Last night I did not fall asleep naked in his arms. Last night, I cried and shook, afraid that in marrying one I did not love for the political betterment of our countries, I had doomed myself to a loveless marriage to a stranger.


“Do not cry,” he had said as he ran a finger across one of my cheeks, wiping away the tears that streamed down. “We will wait until you are ready. There is no need to fear. Hush.” And with gentleness I had not expected from that strong and burly man, he had tucked me into the large bed and ran his hand over my hair until I fell into an exhausted sleep. This morning when I woke he was gone, and deep inside of me there was an ache.


A creak outside the door causes me to jump and look up. The handle turns and the heavy wood is pushed aside. Standing there with a warm smile is my new husband, his eyes twinkling with mirth.


“Hiding?” He asks as he enters and closes the door.


What can I say to that? For it is the truth. “I suppose you could call it hiding. I prefer the term resting.”


He laughs, a great booming sound full of joy, and I cannot help but to join him. As our laughter dies, he sits in a chair across from me, watching me, and I can see the questions in his eyes. Instead of embarking on a difficult and uncomfortable conversation, I seek another route. “How is the filly?”


He is startled by my question, yet pleased at my interest. He smiles, his teeth a flash of white against his golden beard. “She settled right in and ate her breakfast like a lady. She will make you a fine mount once she is completely trained.”


Make me a fine mount? I do not understand. Is he saying that lovely horse will one day be mine? He seems to see my confusion, for he comes to kneel at my feet. “She is my gift to you, the best from our herds. I picked her out myself. What a pair you will make with your dark hair mingling with the red of her mane!”


I stare at this man, this king of horsemen who is more than he seems. He has a great heart. “A gift for me?” I ask stupidly.


His fingers lift to my cheek, and he leans towards me, hesitating as his lips draw near to my own. “For you,” he repeats, “the loveliest woman in the Mark.” His eyes soften just before they drift closed, and his lips brush against mine.


And that is when it dawns on me that Éomer King did not marry the Princess of Dol Amroth simply for political gain. He deepens the kiss, and I lean into him, sighing with contentment as I realize the filly was not the only one wooed. There is a bright future before me in this strange land that is now home, and I look forward to greeting it with the man who is capturing my heart.


* end *



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