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Cushions by curiouswombat

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Story notes:

This is a Middle Earth tale which is not part of the Returnverse. It is one of those stories that began as 'So many different stories of the same thing exist. Can I do one that is different?'

It is my go at The Story of Éomer and Lothíriel.


the alternative, working, title was The Princess and The Pea...

Chapter notes:

The Princess and the Pea...

It is surprising how often major life changes can be traced back to a tiny incident; or, perhaps, it isn’t as it seems to happen so very often.

In this instance the tiny incident was the delivery boy’s dog frightening the cook’s cat so that she shot from the yard right into the kitchen with no care for where she was going.  And where she was, unwittingly, going was right under the feet of both Cook and Princess Lothíriel, who had come down to the kitchen to discuss the upcoming evacuation.

Cook, realising she was about to step on the cat, twisted to avoid this, lost her footing, staggered a few steps, and fell onto the princess trapping her against the iron door of a very hot oven.  By the time the delivery boy and the scullery maid pulled the cook off Lothíriel the damage was done, and she had suffered very embarrassing burns to the backs of her thighs and her buttocks.

The presence of the delivery boy prevented anyone doing the obvious thing, namely dousing the princess’s posterior with cold water.  By the time she reached her own rooms, and her maid pulled up her clothing, the skin was badly blistered and it was clear that, embarrassing though it would be, a healer must be called.

The princess spent the next ten days lying on her stomach, on her bed, with cool damp dressings being reapplied at regular intervals throughout both day and night.  Outside the town house of the Prince of Dol Amroth there was much activity as more and more of the women and children were evacuated from the city, and more and more of the fighting strength of Gondor was gathered within it.  Inside the house the princess lay on her bed, in pain, and frustrated by her inactivity.

Prince Imrahil worried that Lothíriel would not be able to sit on a horse to leave the city, and the healers confirmed that riding would, almost certainly, break down any new skin that formed and allow infection which could prove fatal.  She could be moved, they said, only if she could lie down on her stomach for the journey.

Now Dol Amroth is, of course, a sea-faring princedom, and there were Dol Amroth ships still at Minas Tirith’s river port of Harlond.  Prince Imrahil sent a message to the captain of the ‘Mithrellas’, which was still unloading food to be carried into the city for the defenders, and so would be the last to leave.  When the last wagon came up to the city it was to carry the princess back to the ship where she could travel back to Dol Amroth lying on her stomach.

By now the household staff, apart from Lothíriel’s maid and the cook, had been evacuated overland; the maid would travel with her mistress, and the cook had chosen to stay to keep her lord and his sons, and others of the Swan Knights, fed.  Lothíriel was visited daily, still, by one of the healers.  She felt bored, embarrassed, worried for her father and brothers, worried for her uncle and cousins, but mostly she just wanted to be on board ‘Mithrellas’ and heading for home.

More days passed and now it was two weeks since the unfortunate incident.  Although not yet allowed to sit Lothíriel was, by this time, allowed to walk and to put on a dress.  Soon the cart would come to take her and her maid to Harlond; all her belongings were packed, and the mattress was ready to put in the cart for her to lie upon for the first stage of the journey.  Then came shocking news.

‘Mithrellas’ had sailed without her.

Lothíriel could tell, by the tension around his mouth, how annoyed her father was, although he tried not to let it show.  Her brother Erchirion had pieced together what must have happened; it had been a misunderstanding caused by a problem on board another vessel.

‘Hiril Vuin’ had brought up foot soldiers from Belfalas but had developed a problem with her rudder which had taken some days to repair.  ‘Mithrellas’ had been ready to sail before then and, knowing that the princess was to leave on the last ship, her captain had, it seemed, decided that this now meant the ‘Hiril Vuin’.  Except that the captain of ‘Hiril Vuin’ had been given no orders to send for Lothíriel before he sailed…

And so the Princess of Dol Amroth found herself still in Minas Tirith as the siege of the city began.


Much has been written of the siege of the city, of the retreat from Osgiliath in which Lothíriel’s cousin Faramir was stricken by The Black Breath, of the despair of her uncle Denethor that caused him to perish in flames at his own hand – almost taking Faramir with him.  Much, too, has been written about the horrors visited on the people of the city before the siege was broken in the great battle when the Riders of Rohan, and the ships that were not full of Corsairs, arrived.  The death of Théoden King, and the slaying of the Witch King in return, by his niece and a hobbit, are written and sung about throughout much of Middle Earth.

And so there is no need to dwell upon those topics here.  Instead we will go to those few days between that great battle and the departure of the Army of the West to go into the very jaws of Evil as they rode into Mordor.

In the Houses of Healing men lay on every bed in every one of the healing rooms, and there were the sounds of sorrow and of pain, mainly muffled as men tried to hold themselves in check, and a sense of almost perpetual motion as the healers moved amongst them doing all they could.  But, in the wing where the wealthier residents of Minas Tirith were usually tended, all was quiet and calm as two rooms housed but one patient apiece. 

Lothíriel wanted to make herself useful, but had little skills in the healing arts, and could do little practical to help Cook feed the Swan Knights filling the town house.  Her maid’s sister worked in the Houses of Healing and Lothíriel had been happy to let the maid go to help with such basic tasks as washing men and carrying bedpans.  Her father, she knew, would be shocked should she volunteer her own services in the same way and, to be honest, she wasn’t sure she would be much help anyway. 

But, in one of those two private rooms that still held only one patient each, her cousin Faramir lay.  And all that was required, her father said, was someone to sit with him, speak reassuringly to him when he woke and help him take cooling drinks, for his throat was still too sore, from inhaling smoke, to eat.  This was a commission which Lothíriel could happily undertake, thus freeing up a skilled healer for other tasks.

Her own healer made a couple of stipulations but otherwise agreed it was ‘a good use of available resources’, and so Lothíriel stationed herself, for much of each day, at Faramir’s side, quietly reading some of his favourite poems to him even when he seemed to be unaware.

In the only other single room, just across the corridor from Faramir’s, resided Éowyn of Rohan, also recovering from The Black Breath (which sounded like something from a story book – but, then, so did the person who had cured the sufferers).  A low male voice could sometimes be heard from the room of the warrior princess, if both doors were open, talking in the unfamiliar language of the Horse Lords.  This man was, according to one of the healers, their King himself.

She had caught a glimpse of him once or twice; as tall as her father and brothers, at least, though broader.  He had fair hair left unfashionably long – well down his back – and wore a plain-spun tunic and well-worn boots.  Truthfully, Lothíriel was not surprised that he did not wear silken robes and fashionable shoes – a warrior king seemed best in these days.


Having dismissed her maid to tend to the wounded, or at least to their faces, hands, and bladders, Lothíriel encountered an unexpected problem.  She could not dress herself.   Every dress had many small buttons up the back, impossible to fasten for yourself.  She could not go down to the kitchen in an unfastened dress, to ask Cook for help, for fear of meeting one of the many men in the house along the way. 

Eventually she found that two of her evening gowns, cut with a lower neck to display her ‘décolleté,’ and with front laces to tighten them under her breasts, could be buttoned first and then pulled over the head before being properly laced.  They were really much too formal, her everyday dresses would have been more suitable, but she wore a shawl over the top and decided no-one much would be looking at her anyway.

But it was very hot in Faramir’s room in the Houses of Healing – a well fed fire was kept burning there because the Black Breath had chilled him to the bone and it was felt necessary to keep him warm – so the shawl was quickly discarded.  And, should Faramir notice the amount of cleavage Lothíriel displayed, she did not mind because she had wanted him to notice her as more than a child these past three years!

She did feel silly having to use the footstool but balanced as she was, at her own healer’s insistence, on a pile of three or four down cushions to protect her healing skin, she felt it likely that without the footstool she would slide onto the floor.  She had tried with only one cushion but realised her healer was right, it was not enough on these hard, wooden chairs and, as the only people who would see her were her family or the healers, she remained perched on her softly padded tower.


Éomer would remember, until the end of his days, his emotions when he had not only known his uncle dead, and what this meant to him, but thought his sister also perished.

Even when he knew that Éowyn lived it seemed as if she was half-way to being a wraith; and, when Aragorn called her back to the world, her brother felt that she yet needed his presence to keep her tethered there.  But he had other duties, and so a healer sat in Éowyn’s room, and Éomer came and went as often as he could.  Natural curiosity, and the well schooled need to be aware of his surroundings, meant he looked through every open door he passed.

Across the passageway the son of the self-immolating steward lay, recovering from the same malady of soul that Éowyn had suffered, but beside him sat the strangest sight Éomer had ever seen; even in this time of strange sights and walking legends. 

He was not sure what it told him of the people of Minas Tirith that at Faramir’s bedside sat a woman who personified the childhood tale of The Princess and The Pea. 


Chapter end notes:

I would really appreciate feedback as it is a little different to my usual style too.  My beta (Speaker to Customers) reckons it is a bit too Jane Austen - but it is what it is!

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