|About Us News Resources Login Become a member Help Search|
She didn’t really want to talk to him, scared he would see past the woolen dress and the braided hair – to what lay hidden beneath. A girl not of his world, a girl lost in a swirl of mixed up time and fantasy. A girl strangely attracted to this warrior prince. And he a man…no… a character born of someone’s imagination. Old enough to be her father; grandfather?
His elegant bearing, smooth, tanned skin, and black hair, only touched by silver, gave Sara no real clue as to his actual age. She glanced across the hall to where his sons stood talking – grown up men. Seeing them she could not deny their father’s advancing years.
She stared at his hands: bronzed like the rest of him. Long slim fingers curled around the stem of his goblet - clean, manicured. A musician’s fingers she would have called them, if she did not know the calluses came from grasping a sword. And any bow he held would dispense death, not sweet melody. Prince Imrahil was an enigma, she decided, a graceful, intelligent man, honed and hardened like tempered steel. The knowing, assessing look in his grey eyes as he watched her both frightened and fascinated her.
She took a sip of wine, unable to meet his gaze.
‘Well, my dear. You have had a chance to rest and take sustenance. The healer can find no evidence of any injury, so have you remembered anything?’
She’d remembered everything, but could hardly say so. How did you tell these people they were not real and only part of a book, or, even worse, part of a fanfic story? Would they think her a witch and hang her from the nearest tree? She shuddered; all she wanted to do was go home before this nightmare got any worse– wake up back in her parents’ garden. She would never eat three Yorkshire puds or touch her mother’s sherry again!
‘No, nothing, I am sorry.’
‘But you remember your name?’
She shrugged, but said nothing more. Not showing any irritation at her unhelpful response he continued to question her, gently and thoroughly.
No, she could not explain why her clothes were so strange and made of such unusual materials.
And she had no idea if the Dúnedain had access to different fibers in the North. And who were these Dúnedain they kept mentioning? Why did they think she was one of them?
Could she ride? The question, on top of queries into her ancestry, took her by surprise. Yes, she could. Well.
Prince Imrahil nodded at her answer. ‘Then you could have arrived from somewhere by horse, and perhaps have been thrown.’
She could, she supposed, but she hadn’t. And how long before they found out she knew next to nothing about their world and gave herself away?
Perhaps realising he was unlikely to obtain any more information Prince Imrahil stood up. ‘Come, the meal is nearly ready. I will introduce you properly to my daughter. I am surprised she did not rest, but I imagine she was too excited.’
Or nervous, Sara thought. Poor girl. She took a deep breath, wondering if she should just confess and be done with it – surely Prince Imrahil was enlightened enough not to burn her at the stake, or something equally awful. She opened her mouth to say she wanted to talk more when she caught sight of a group of Rohirric women in their homespun and shawls, and stopped herself. Wasn’t it the women who used to wield the ducking stool?
The Prince was looking at her strangely. ‘Were you going to say something, my dear? You look as though you might have remembered –’
‘No,’ she said quickly. ‘It’s just that I was trying hard to do so.’
He nodded. ‘It will come, don’t worry. And Aragon may be able to help you, or even Gandalf. It’s suspected he will turn up for the wedding, being very fond of Éomer.’
Gandalf! Heavens! Wasn’t he that wizard played by Ian McKellen in the films her sister watched just about every week? If anyone could see through her it would be him. Sara gave herself a mental shake what was she thinking? None of this was real! Prince Imrahil was looking at her, obviously expecting some response. She managed to push down her anxiety. ‘ I hope it’s all sorted soon,’ she said. ‘It’s disconcerting not to be in control of one’s life.’
A look of sympathy crossed the prince’s face; he took her arm and patted her hand, causing a frisson of awareness to travel all the way down to her toes. ‘You must not worry: all will work out. And in the meantime you are safe in Éomer’s court.’ He smiled. He really did have a lovely smile. ‘Now meet my daughter, I am sure you will get on and she is very empathetic to those in trouble.’
The princess did look genuinely pleased to meet her, her lovely face and cool grey eyes lighting up when her father called to her. Sara wondered whether to curtsey, though none of the Rohirric women had when the princess arrived. Just bowed. Sara did the same, feeling very awkward – she had never bowed to anyone. She’d curtsied once – but that had been in a play at school. Anyway, the bow seemed to go down well as Lothíriel showed pleasure at the introduction. But she soon frowned when her father quickly explained the circumstances of Sara being there.
‘How awful for you. You must feel very strange and even a bit frightened, I imagine.’
That was putting it mildly. But the princess displayed nothing but genuine concern and Sara instantly warmed to her. But how in heaven’s name could she have feelings for a character in a book! First the father now the daughter. She realised that Lothíriel was still speaking and swung her attention back.
‘I understand we are sharing a chamber. That pleases me as we are both strangers here and can learn the customs together. I have read a lot about Rohan of course, but it is different actually being here.’
She looked excited when she said that. Sara found her attitude difficult to comprehend – how could she be so pleased to be marrying a man she had met only once before? But at that moment King Éomer strode up, taking his betrothed’s arm very gently but with a decidedly possessive air. The caring look he gave the princess softened his features, making him look almost benign. So he had a gentler side, did he? And Sara admitted he had been very kind to her once he realised she was in trouble. Good looking, brave and kind. So she supposed the princess could have done worse if arranged marriages were the norm around here.
‘Hergyth will show you to your place, Lady Sara. Lothíriel, you are of course sitting next to me.’ The King led off his future wife and the housekeeper bowed to Prince Imrahil. ‘You are next to Éomer King, my lord. Lady Sara, come with me.’
Ah, that told her something: if Prince Imrahil was addressed as my lord, then it was okay to address his daughter as my lady. She’d been wondering about that. Oh no! All other thoughts left her mind – she was being led to a place next to one of Prince Imrahil’s sons. The one who looked like that musketeer. The one with mischief in his eyes. And it was hard enough to keep herself from making a dreadful mistake and giving herself away without having to bandy words with a handsome young prince. She would have to be very careful.
He stood when she reached the chair next to him, bowing and pulling out her seat. At least he had manners. Not that she was used to being treated like that, only by her father anyway. Most modern men would not dare to treat a woman any differently than they would their male friends – women’s lib, gender perception, or whatever it was called now. Shame really, wearing a dress and have a male looking after you could be quite nice. Although strangely she would rather have attention from the father than the son. How odd was that?
‘Well, my lady, was my father of any help to you? Have you remembered where you have come from?’
She shook her head, looking down at the table rather than meet his rather perceptive eyes. But then she realised that she didn’t have to sound unbothered by her predicament. Anybody who had lost their memory would be distressed and flustered, so if she were agitated it would be a natural consequence of her difficulties. That thought gave her confidence. ‘Your father was very kind and tried his best to help, but I still have no idea how I got here.’ Well that was true, anyway.
‘But you remember your name. Strange.’ He glanced at her hand. ‘You wear no ring, so maybe you have no husband, but you are old to be unwed.’
Old! She was twenty-four!
But,’ he carried on, ‘if you are one of the Dúnedain from the North, then it would not be so unusual to be an innocent.’
Did he look disappointed? Perhaps married women were fair game and innocents not to be touched. Of course no twenty-four year old girl in her century was likely to be an innocent, but he wasn’t to know that. Sara looked across to where Prince Imrahil was sitting next to the king. If she was going to risk finding out if these people really were solid flesh and blood then…
A plate of some kind of shellfish was put down in front of her at that moment, interrupting her thoughts. They looked like big oysters – she didn’t like oysters.
‘Freshwater mussels.’ She felt Prince Amrothos’ gaze on her; how long had she been staring at the plate?
Mussels! So they were cooked, thank goodness. ‘Yes, of course, I was trying to remember if I liked them.’
‘Only one way to find out’, he said, sounding rather amused.
She nodded, looking around for some cutlery. There was none. Immediately Prince Amrothos clicked his fingers towards one of the servers. ‘The lady needs a knife.’
A dagger was put in front of her. How did one eat with just a knife? And such a sharp one? Sara surreptitiously looked at the others around her; they sliced the mussel things from their shells and held them with their thumb before putting them in their mouth, drinking the juice from the shells afterward. Thankfully she managed to copy the manoeuvre without slicing through her lips. ‘Oh,’ she said as the first one slipped down. ‘It’s delicious.’ She tasted cider and onions; it must have been cooked a little like moules- marinière. Some things were familiar anyway.
The rest of the meal passed perfectly pleasantly, the food recognisable and tasty, if a little heavy on the meat for her taste. A lump of venison certainly explained the need for a dagger. However spoons carved from horns were passed around when she was served a fruity syllabub. She couldn’t imagine eating that with a knife.
Mercifully the young prince stopped his questioning, his attention taken by a conversation going on about horses. She risked a glance towards Prince Imrahil and found him watching her with a shrewd, thoughtful look. He smiled and raised his cup in a silent toast. What did that mean? Sara acknowledged the gesture with a quirk of her lips and then turned away quickly, his gaze far too knowing for her shattered nerves. She took a gulp from her own cup, a rich red wine, hoping it would relax her. The warmth stole through her body, but she didn’t dare drink much as she needed to keep her wits about her. And anyway she should have finished it before the syllabub: it didn’t go down at all well.
Prince Amrothos suddenly turned to her again, interrupting her musings. ‘Do you like to ride?
She nodded. ‘Yes, I do. Very much.’
‘Well, no doubt you would like to join us in the morning. Éomer is taking us a few miles out onto the plains; he wants to show my sister some of the Mearas.’
‘The noble horses of Rohan, allegedly brought from the west by Oromë,’ Prince Amrothos explained. ‘Béma to the Rohirrim,’ he added when she looked blank. He shot her a sympathetic look. ‘Never mind, if you are used to riding, it may jog your memory.’
In spite of her misgivings, he was kind, she realised. But then his father was kind. His sister shared the same traits it seemed. Sara only hoped she was not as perceptive as her father and brother appeared to be. Sharing room with a girl as far removed from herself in time and upbringing would already be fraught with difficulty.
Sara felt exhausted, the day’s events catching up with her. How long would this go on? Not that the singing and playing was not excellent, the Rohirrim must take after the Welsh with their vocal achievements. Or was it that the Welsh took after the Rohirrim? Too confusing to think about. And anyway, not all spoke so she could understand them, there were many in the hall that obviously only spoke their own guttural language. It made listening difficult. Now she just wanted to sleep. Luckily at that moment Hergyth approached her.
‘You look tired, my lady, Princess Lothíriel intends to retire; you might like to do the same.’
Yes, she would. Within a few minutes she found herself being led towards the bedchamber she had been allocated earlier, where the princess was already being attended to by her maid. Sara saw that a nightgown had been laid across the couch, along with a coloured quilt and a pillow. A bowl of water and a couple of cloths stood on a nearby table.
‘Shall I send you a maid, my lady?’ Hergyth asked.
‘No, no, I can manage, thank you. But I need something to clean my teeth.’ And she needed to wash her panties.
Hergyth looked a bit surprised and pointed to a small bowl Sara had taken no notice of. ‘Everything is there, my lady.’
‘Ah…thank you. I didn’t see.’ Powder and small wads of what looked like wool, obviously one scoured ones teeth here.
Hergyth nodded. ‘Is there anything else, my lady?’
Well, she had to ask. ‘I am possibly going riding in the morning, but I have nothing to wear.’
‘Don’t worry. Lady Éowyn left plenty of clothes. I will find you something.’
Hergyth left with a bow to her and the princess. Lothíriel had already climbed into bed and her maid was still folding up her clothes. Sara quickly stripped off and pulled the nightgown over her head when their attention was taken. She whipped off her panties from underneath the voluminous garment, and dumped them in the bowl.
‘What are you doing?’ The princess sounded interested, not condemning. Sara sighed.
‘I am washing my undergarment; I only have one with me.’
‘Undergarment? Let me see.’ The princess hopped out of bed, ignoring her maid’s tut-tutting.
Reluctantly Sara pulled the panties from the water, wringing them out as best she could. She laid them out on one of the cloths, sure they would dry by the morning – after all there wasn’t much to them.
‘How strange,’ Lothíriel remarked, fingering the delicate lace. ‘Come and look at this, Bregwen, I have not seen anything like it before.’
The maid put down the pile of clothes and joined her mistress in the perusal of Sara’s panties. Bregwen gave a derisive sniff. ‘Never seen the like either,’ she huffed. ‘And I can’t imagine they’d be much use to a body anyway. Wouldn’t keep out a bit of cold.’
‘No,’ Lothíriel agreed. ‘And I thought you came from the North.’
Sara knew she had to put a stop to this. ‘I just feel more comfortable wearing them, habit I suppose. It’s tradition in my family.’
‘Oh, you remembered something.’ The princess looked genuinely pleased. ‘You have a family, I am so glad for you. But I expect they will be worried. Is there anything else you can recall?’
At least that drew the princess’s attention from her panties. ‘I am afraid not, but hopefully the memories will gradually come back.’ Sara yawned. ‘I must go to sleep now, my lady. It’s been a long day.’
‘Yes, for both of us,’ the princess agreed. ‘Worrying for you, but exciting for me.’
‘You are happy at the prospect of your marriage?’ Sara could not resist asking.
Lothíriel let out a very un-princess like giggle. ‘If you had seen some of the other suitors for my hand you would not need to ask that. My father gave me free choice, but I knew he wanted me to marry Éomer. And when I met him…’ a dreamy look came over her lovely face.
‘You knew straight away?’
‘Well, to be honest I was very attracted when I first met him, what woman wouldn’t be?’ The princess giggled again, invoking another sniffy response from her maid, which she ignored. Only raising her eyebrows to Sara before she carried on. ‘And over the last few months we have kept up regular correspondence. I feel I know him very well by now. We have made plans to restore prosperity to Rohan after the ruinous war. I shall enjoy helping him with that endeavour.’
Sara smiled. ‘Then I wish you well, my lady. And hope you will be very happy.’
‘Thank you, Sara. May I call you Sara?’
‘Of course, my lady.’
‘Lothíriel will be fine,’ the princess responded. ‘I am sure we will be good friends. In fact why don’t you sleep in the bed with me? Bregwen can take the couch.’
‘The way you fidget I shall be glad to, my lady,’ the long-suffering maid huffed. ‘And anyway I won’t disturb you in the morning.’
‘Oh, we will be up early; we are going riding with King Éomer and my father and brothers. They like to go in the cool of the morning.’
So Prince Imrahil would accompany them. Sara felt that same quiver of excitement she had felt earlier.
‘Then in that case I suggest you both get some much-needed sleep,’ Bregwen retorted.
Sara snuggled down into the soft mattress thinking however much Lothíriel fidgeted it was unlikely to stop her sleeping.
The curtains being pulled back woke her. Sara blinked for a moment not realizing where she was. The truth came back in a flood of anxiety. Another day to get through! Surely something would happen to get her out of this mess. But what?
Sara was just swilling her face with water when Hergyth appeared, a pile of clothes over her arm. ‘A riding outfit and a couple more dresses for you, my lady.’ She put the dresses over the back of a chair and laid the ‘riding outfit’ on the bed.
Sara tried not to react negatively to the unusual clothes. There seemed to be a very full skirt made from lightweight wool, some soft suede leggings, a linen shirt and a woollen tunic. She would just have to watch Lothíriel to see how you rode a horse in that get-up.
‘Thank you, Hergyth. They look as though they fit.’
‘Should do, my lady. But I can’t find any boots.’
‘Oh, I’ve got a couple of spare pairs,’ Lothíriel interjected. ‘We look about the same size.’
Hergyth nodded briefly. ‘Good, that settles that. And now I must leave you to finish dressing. Food is laid out in the hall for a quick meal. But I know Éomer King wants to be off before the day heats up.’
Hergyth bustled out, leaving Bregwen fussing over her mistress and Sara wondering what she had got herself into as she pulled on the clothing. The moss green skirt tied around her waist and was almost a complete circle, no doubt to enable it to drape over the horse. The leggings were a bit tight on her and rather uncomfortable. Thank goodness she had managed to retain her panties. The shirt felt scratchy, but she liked the tunic very much — a lovely dark green with a sun motif on the chest. She looked across to the princess; Lothíriel was wearing a similar outfit to herself, albeit in richer colours – a dark blue skirt and a waistcoat in a mixture of various bright blues and turquoise. As long as she copied her new friend she would probably get through this.
The boots did fit, although Sara would not like to walk far in them, she realized, as they made their way to the hall to break their fast.
It seemed everyone rose early, whether they were going riding with the king or not. Food had been laid out on a long table and the procedure was obviously to grab a plate, help oneself and sit down. Sara put an apple, a hunk of bread and a slice of white cheese on hers, feeling a bit self conscious when without any ceremony Lothíriel led her to where the king and Prince Imrahil were sitting. The princess sat next to her future husband, so Sara had to sit next to the prince. Not an imposition in itself, but she could do without meeting his far-seeing grey eyes this early in the morning.
‘You slept well, Lady Sara?’
‘Yes, thank you, my lord.’
‘And you had no revelations during the night,’ the prince probed.
She shook her head. ‘Unfortunately not, my lord.’ None she could tell him about anyway.
‘Well never mind, we will get you on a horse and see if that helps.’
It might have been better for Prince Imrahil not to escort her to the stables; being so close to him was not good for her equilibrium. The touch of his hand on her elbow as he guided her down the steps started woke feelings she had never really had before. Not even in those heady moments of her first love affair. A sort of sense of belonging as though this was meant to happen. What rubbish, she told herself sternly, this was no more real than ghost ships and aliens, a figment of someone’s imagination. Possibly hers. Perhaps she was ill with fever and in a delirium, or….
‘Stop thinking too hard, I can tell you are,’ the prince said softly in her ear. ‘Allow things to happen in their own time, I am sure all will work out.’
‘Perhaps,’ she replied, ‘but at the moment I feel like a fish out of water.’ Or a child out of their depth!
‘Yes, being out of time and place is disconcerting,’ he said as they reached the gates to the stables.
Oh, heck. Her heart thumped. Did he know? But his enigmatic gaze showed no concern. She swallowed. Maybe she should keep her distance, but even if she wished to, and she admitted she didn’t, there was no possibility as Prince Imrahil took her arm, drawing her closer. ‘For the moment enjoy the day and the ride. Not many get a chance to meet the Mearas. They only come close to Edoras on significant occasions like the King of Rohan’s wedding.’
Sara cast an astonished look up at the prince. ‘How ever do they know he’s getting married?’
‘They are the spirit at the heart of Rohan, of course they would know.’ Her astounded expression caused him to laugh. ‘Not all things are explainable in this world of ours. You coming here, for instance.’
She froze. He must know! What should she say? But before she could formulate an answer a large grey horse was led up to the prince. His attention was immediately taken. Thank goodness! She would just have to carry on and hope she found a way out of this nightmare. Sara concentrated on the horse.
‘Meet Thangail.’ The prince indicated the big grey. ‘He’s young, but learning daily.’
The horse turned intelligent eyes on her for a moment, dismissing her overture of friendliness when he realised she did not have any titbits secreted on her person. The prince laughed and fed him a bit of apple, passing a couple of pieces to Sara. ‘Save one for your own mount, here she comes now.’
A stable lad was leading up a leggy bay mare; he gave her a respectful nod. ‘She’s lively, my lady,’ he said very slowly, struggling with the words, ‘but we were told you could ride.’
Yes, but could she ride with that weird saddle? She could understand the warriors using ones with a high pommel and cantle, but ladies didn’t need one like that surely. But then she supposed she should be thankful she didn’t have to ride side-saddle.
‘I am afraid the Rohirrim make no allowances for ladies, nor would they want them, I imagine. Lady Éowyn certainly wouldn’t, but then neither does my daughter.’
The man could read her mind! ‘No, it’s fine. I will be fine.’ Luckily Lothíriel was just mounting, with Éomer’s help, and Sara watched how she draped her full skirt over her horse’s rump making sure it hung down to cover her legs.
‘What’s her name?’ Sara asked the stable lad just before the prince moved to help her into the saddle. The lad looked helplessly towards the prince and mumbled something totally incomprehensible to Sara.
‘Autumn Glory,’ Prince Imrahil translated. He gave her a wink. ‘Or as near as makes no odds.’
The horse, whether she had the right name or not, had obviously been beautifully trained. Sara could tell the mare wanted to get going, but found no difficulty in keeping her mount under control, even with the unusual saddle and different riding position. And the horse’s light, easy gait was going to mean a comfortable and pleasurable ride. Sara decided to try and forget about her problems and enjoy the experience. She would go back to worrying later on.
Once out the gates she looked around eagerly, having been so full of anguish and fear she had not taken much notice of the scenery until they had arrived in Edoras. But the whole low-lying land around was swathed in murk, only some grassy mounds poking out above the mist. Burial barrows of the past kings of Rohan, the prince told her. Once past the mounds they forded a wide stream, tendrils of smoky vapour curling up around their horses’ hooves. The Snowbourne. Evidently, it joined with the Entwash, which tumbled down to join the Great River that ran through Gondor. Not that the information meant much to her –having no idea where Gondor actually was. But she realised the Prince was trying to jog her memory. He’d have had more chance if she’d actually read any Tolkien! But the conversation ended as the group left the trees that clustered around the stream and reached the open plain. The early morning mist still lingered over the grass, but King Éomer, riding in front, picked up the pace and soon the whole group were covering the ground at a fast canter along what was obviously a beaten track, marked occasionally by tall stones. She just had to follow behind and trust the king knew the way was safe.
‘Too many of us to gallop without it becoming a rout,’ the prince said. Sara didn’t mind, these wonderful horses cantered nearly as fast as some sluggards she’d ridden had galloped. A mile or so on Prince Amrothos dropped back to ride with them for a while. Sara had the distinct impression he was expecting his father to give way and leave his son to talk to her, but Prince Imrahil chose to remain close to her side. Eventually the young prince gave up, riding off with a rise of his brows and an amused smirk on his handsome face.
‘That young man gets too much his own way,’ the prince remarked. ‘I like to exert my authority occasionally’.
Sara laughed; she imagined the prince had no trouble doing that whenever he wished. She looked around, seeing the grasslands and the lower slopes of the mountains still obscured by a misty haze. The peaks however gleamed in the morning sun. They had travelled quite a way already. ‘Do you know how far we are going?’ Sara asked. She hadn’t actually ridden for a few months.
The prince indicated a knoll someway ahead where the mountain above them spread itself like a long finger onto the plain. The knoll was topped by a ring of trees that stood out above the haze. As they got nearer Sara could make out a herd of horses gathered around its base, their shapes just discernible. Even as she looked the scattered herd came together, all looking towards the approaching riders.
‘They are waiting for us,’ she exclaimed.
The prince laughed. ‘I think it is fair to say they are waiting for Éomer. And possibly for my daughter. I certainly hope so, for if they are, then the right decisions have been made.’
Sara dragged her gaze from the horses and stared at the prince. ‘What do you mean?’
‘Éomer is in need of a new horse; Firefoot is past his prime now. Traditionally the King of Rohan rides a Meara stallion. But only if they approve of him. I am sure that will come about, but I also know that Éomer is trusting they will approve of his choice of bride and one will agree to carry Lothíriel. It is a long time since Rohan had a queen, so he is not quite sure what will happen.’
Sara couldn’t quite take that in. ‘Do I understand that the horse makes the decision?’
The prince nodded. ‘Watch, and let us hope the meeting is successful.’ At that moment two horses appeared from the trees at the top of the knoll, they cantered down to the waiting herd, which parted to let them through.
The group of riders had come to a halt now, and started to fan out in a semi-circle with the king and the princess in the centre. The whole herd moved towards them with two horses a few steps in front. Sara had never seen such proud looking horses, all of them various shades of grey or white; some had black manes and tails, others silver. The two coming towards them were white, with silver manes and tails. They stopped some yards away, seeming to bow their heads in greeting.
‘The lead mare and her stallion,’ Prince Imrahil murmured. As though the bow was a signal, King Éomer led Lothíriel forward to meet them.
They were too far away for Sara to hear the words, but it was obvious that King Éomer was speaking to the pair of horses. After a moment the mare bowed her head again and the king did the same. The mare let out a whinny and immediately another horse came forward. It was the grey of a dove’s wing with a long silver mane. It went right up to King Éomer, huffing into his hand when the king held it out to him.
‘A young stallion,’ the prince whispered to her. ‘Just what Éomer needs.’
‘He will train it?’ Sara asked.
Prince Imrahil shook his head. ‘I doubt there will be much training needed.’ He sighed. ‘Now comes the challenging part. Will they accept Lothíriel?’
‘If they don’t, will that be a hindrance to her being queen?’ Good heavens, she was hanging on the will of a horse now.
‘No, they will still marry, but the portents will not be as good.’
King Éomer said something to his betrothed and at his words she walked her horse forward a few paces, sitting still when the lead mare approached her. The mare bowed her head and Lothíriel did the same, then the horse went right up to her, nosing into her side near her heart. Lothíriel smiled, but sat motionless as the mare examined her. The horse turned its head and Sara could swear it said something to the stallion, because the huge horse spun around and let out a loud whinny, which was answered by the whole herd. After a few minutes the group of horses quietened to silence and from its midst a beautiful mare stepped forward.
Sara felt the air tighten, the humans appearing to hold their breath as the mare walked proudly up to the princess. It was certainly a lovely animal – her coat a myriad of shades of misty grey, mane, tail and shiny hooves the deepest black. The mare nuzzled into the princess’s hand.
Beside her, Prince Imrahil let out a relieved breath. ‘It looks as if your daughter has been accepted,’ Sara said.
‘Yes, and what a horse,’ the prince murmured.
With the formalities completed, the semi-circle of riders broke up with Lothíriel’s brothers talking animatedly, obviously discussing each and every horse displayed in front of them. Then suddenly, with the toss of her head and a shriek, the lead-mare called her herd together. Within moments a long tail of horses were heading out to the plain, vanishing into the mist almost in the blink of an eye. A slightly stunned group of riders looked to where they had disappeared. If it weren’t for the fact that two horses still stood next to the king and the princess Sara would have thought she had dreamt the whole episode. A dream on top of a dream!
King Éomer raised his hand and he and Lothíriel wheeled their mounts around, heading back to Edoras. The two mearas cantered one each side of them, no rein or order needed.
Amazing, absolutely amazing. Whatever came out of this conundrum, she would always remember the incredible happenings she was experiencing. At least she hoped she would remember, it would be a shame if all were obliterated when she woke up, returned to reality, or whatever.
The ride back gave her time to think, as the prince seemed to be mulling over the happenings of the morning. She couldn’t blame him, for if, as she suspected, he had orchestrated the betrothal, it must be a relief to have his meddling vindicated. Her thoughts turned back to the decision she had to make – should she tell the prince where she had come from? Maybe she should have trusted him and been honest the night before. But if she had, what would the consequences have been? The thought of what might happen frightened her, but if she didn’t tell the truth, how on earth was she to get back to her own time?
Suddenly she was aware of a surge of excitement travelling through the group of riders around her. One of the guards in front pointed out across the plain. The sun was well up now, the mist burnt off, and Sara shaded her eyes with her hand to try and make out the cause of such interest. Ah…heading through the grass towards them was a group of four horsemen, the one in front trailing bright white robes. Wow! What a horse! It moved with fluid grace, seeming to float over the grass like a beautiful yacht skimming the waves.
‘Mithrandir,’ Prince Imrahil told her. ‘And he has persuaded Glorfindel to come as well as the twins. That’s Elladan and Elrohir, Master Elrond’s sons,’ he explained. ‘From the direction they are coming I imagine they have travelled through Lórien. I can understand them wanting to look.’
She had no idea what he was talking about and her blank look must have alerted him. ‘Mithrandir is called Gandalf here,’ he clarified. ‘I mentioned he might come?’
Now she was in trouble. Not for a moment could she imagine that a wizard, real or fantasy, would not notice that there was something odd about her. But in spite of her worry it was not the wizard that noticed first.
Sara kept her horse back, away from the jumble of riders greeting each other. The prince had left her side to welcome the wizard, whom he obviously held in deep respect. She had just started to bring her racing heartbeat under control when she felt eyes upon her. Sara looked up to meet the piercing gaze of a golden-haired being. What exactly he was she didn’t know – he had pointed ears, a bit like Spock with blonde hair. Pointed ears! She dredged her memory – he was an elf! And so were the dark-haired, aristocratic looking twins he was talking to. Three pairs of questioning eyes fixed on her; Sara felt heat rising to her face and her pulse rate went into overdrive. Alerted, perhaps by his companions’ interest and the tension between her and them, Gandalf broke off his conversation with King Éomer and the prince and fixed her with a penetrating stare. He frowned, a look of perplexity crossing his face as he urged the great horse he was riding closer, holding Sara rigid with just a commanding gaze.
Another moment’s intensive scrutiny of her and he turned to King Éomer. ‘This is an unexpected happening; I deem a mistake has been made. How did this woman get here?’
The Ducking Stool was specifically used as a torture method for women. It was situated by the side of a river. The device comprised of a chair, which hung from the end of a free-moving arm. The victim was strapped in and then the chair would be swung over the river by the use of the free-moving arm. The woman would be ducked into the freezing cold water. The length of immersion into the water was decided by the operator and the crime of which the woman was accused. It could last for just a few seconds but in some circumstances this punishment process could be continuously repeated over the course of a day.
|<< Back||Next >>|
|Home Search Chapter List|