Story Downloaded from Open Scrolls Archive (http://www.openscrolls.net)

Title: Trust To Hope (#558)
Author: Novedhelion
Chapters: 36

Archive: Tolkien
Category: Lord of the Rings
Description: “One often meets his destiny in the road he takes to avoid it.” French Proverb Éomer and Lothíriel, my spin. ***WINNER FIRST PLACE, MY PRECIOUS FANFICTION AWARDS 2004*** ***WINNER OF SECOND PLACE - 2005 MIDDLE EARTH FANFICTION AWARDS! THANK YOU!****
Published: 20 Jan 2004
Updated: 17 Sep 2004
Warnings: Not much to speak of, except your usual sappy roma
Type: Romance
Characters: Éomer;Lothíriel


Chapter 1 - Prologue

THE CHARACTERS OF ÉOMER AND LOTHÍRIEL ARE TOLKIEN'S. THE NAMES OF THE PLACES ARE TOLKIEN'S. ANY SIMILARITY BETWEEN THIS STORY AND ANY OTHER IS PURELY COINCIDENTAL. THE DIALOGUE AND SCENES CONTAINED HEREIN ARE THE INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY OF THE AUTHOR AND ARE NOT RELEASED TO THE PUBLIC DOMAIN.



Title: Trust to Hope - Prologue
Author: Novedhelion
Type: FP Het
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Pairing: Éomer/Lothíriel
Rating: PG for now…

Warnings: Girlish angst…Overbearing parent…Annoying brothers...

Thanks to Gliowienrayna for the title!!

With a gracious bow to Riyallyn, my beta. I could not do this without you. Well, OK, maybe I could, but it wouldn't be nearly as fun!

Avatar by Kwannom! Awesome job! Obrigado!
(original image by Theban Band, used with permission)

Special thanks to Taramiluiel for her lovely translation of Into the West and permission to use it.

And to Shawn R. McKee as well, for the translation of "The Song of the Mounds of Mundberg" into Anglo Saxon (Rohirric) and permission to use it as well.

Disclaimer: Although I truly wish I could lay claim to these lovely characters…I am not J.R.R. Tolkien. I do not claim any of these as my own except Camwethrin…the others are all characters Tolkien created and I used and abused them. Elenion is also mine. I don’t intend to make any profit here. It will be a waste of time to sue me, I have no money. I tried to follow canon where possible but did take some artistic license. If PJ can put Elves at Helms Deep…

Feedback: This is my first attempt at Fanfic. But yes, I would like feedback. Just remember if you can’t say something nice….

Any Sindarin will be translated at the end of the chapter. I promise no perfection.

******************
Trust to Hope
Prologue
******************


“Women wish to be loved not because they are pretty, or good, or well-bred, or graceful or intelligent, but because they are themselves.”
Henri Frederic Amiel, Swiss Philospher



*****************
Dol Amroth
20 Narwain, 3019 T.A. (JANUARY 20)
**********************

The princess stood on her balcony, looking out across the water; the conversation with her father still ringing in her ears.

“I would not wish to marry simply for political gain, Ada.” She crossed her arms, looking at him defiantly. “We have had this discussion.”

“Lothíriel, you have a duty to your people. Suitors have been coming for years and—“

“And when I fall in love with one, I will marry him.” Leaning on the inside of the stone archway, she watched the ships moving in and out across the harbor. “I understand that when I do marry, consideration will have to be taken as to how my union will affect the realm. But I still do not think it is too much to ask that I at least LIKE the man I marry.”

Lowering his voice, the prince tried reason again. “This is not a game, Lothíriel. This one could be beneficial to us. We need his help. He is a nice young man. He comes from a very well respected family with a long history of working the harbors successfully. We could use his experience, with the Corsairs terrorizing our villages as they are.” He paused, softening his tone. “Another large group of refugees came to the city today. Their village had been completely destroyed, and most of their men killed.”

The princess cringed, shaking her head. The stories from the coastal towns had been much the same for months, raids on defenseless villages and innocent people being killed or worse, taken captive. It angered her that it seemed so little could be done.

Her father continued. “Apparently Mardil and his uncle have had some success in reducing these attacks on their own harbors. Perhaps his cunning will be useful to us as well. And from what I can tell, he is quite popular with the ladies.”

She whirled to face him. “Oh, Ada. That is just what I need. An arrogant, pompous ass for a husband!”

Imrahil was taken aback at the language his daughter used. Perhaps she spent a little TOO much time in the stables and on the training field. “LOTHIRIEL! You will watch your language, young lady—“

“I am not a little girl! I am twenty years old! Stop speaking to me as if I were still a child!” She stormed out on to the balcony, leaning her elbows on the rail.

The prince sighed deeply. His wife had always been so much better at reasoning with their youngest child. It was times like this that he really missed her.

He followed his daughter outside. “Please, Lothíriel. All I am asking is that you meet the young man. He is coming to dinner tonight—“

“What?” The princess spun around and stared at him.

“He will be here tonight. For dinner.” He eyed her clothing, frowning at her choice of attire. She was wearing a tunic and trousers, tucked into her black boots. “And please, for the love of the Valar, put on a dress.”

Lothíriel regarded her father, taking in his exasperated expression. “Alright, Ada. I will meet him. I will be polite and charming and well mannered and all of the things the courts expect of a princess.” She stepped forward and hugged him. Leaning back, she shook a finger at him. “But do not make me promise you more than that!”

The prince nodded his assent, and turned to leave. Looking back at his only daughter, he smiled, his tone softening. “I am only trying to do what is best for you. I want to make sure you are taken care of. I will not be here forever. I want to be sure you have a good husband.”

“I know,” she answered, her defiance mellowing. “Please do not talk like that. I will be fine. Even if I never marry, Elphir and Erchirion and Amrothos are here, and…”

“And your brothers will probably marry soon themselves.” He paused, smiling mischievously at her. “You would give me no grandchildren?”

“If my brothers marry, let them give you grandchildren,” she snapped with a grin.

It was a waste of time to continue the argument. “I will see you at dinner. Please, wear a dress.”

She sighed. “I promise.”

“Thank you, Lothíriel.” He left the room, closing the door behind him.

And now she stood, on her balcony, in the promised dress. The least revealing one she could find. Dark blue velvet with a high neckline, it still fit nicely through the waist and hips, accentuating her figure. At least it played down her other attributes. She put her long curls up, pinning them securely with a jeweled clip. Even with an effort to look matronly, she did not.

“What do you think?” she asked the pretty blonde seated on her bed.

Cam eyed her up and down, pursing her lips. “It does not matter how hard you try, you are not going to be unattractive.”

“Thanks, Cam,” Lothíriel answered sarcastically.

The knock on her door interrupted their conversation. “Ladies, time for dinner. May I have the honor of escorting you down?”

Amrothos. The youngest of her three older brothers, he had always been the one closest to her. There were only two years between them in age. She opened the door. Amrothos eyed her outfit appraisingly. “Umm…if the look you are going for is ‘hands off’ I should say you achieved it with stunning success.”

“Dín, Amrothos. You know I hate being ushered out and displayed for these so-called suitors like some horse up for auction. I feel like Ada would sell me to the highest bidder just to be done with me.”

“That is not fair. Come on, give this man a chance at least. He seems very polite. Elphir and I have been downstairs talking to him.” Her brother offered his arms to the ladies, casting a quick glance at Cam. She looked lovely in the rose colored gown she wore, her blonde hair pulled back in a braid that fell down her back. The prince sighed. “Could not ask for more, escorting the two most beautiful women in Middle Earth to dinner,” he joked, leading them to the stairs. At the bottom of the steps, he reached behind his sister and yanked the pin from her hair, letting the loose curls cascade down her back.

“Amrothos! Give me that!” She reached for the clip, but he held it high above her head.

“No! You have such beautiful hair. Why do you hide it? You look much younger with it down.” He tucked the clip into his pocket. She shot him a searing look.

“I was not trying to be attractive, Amrothos!”

“I know,” he answered, pulling her into the dining room. “Ah, here we are.”

The gentlemen rose from the table. Lothíriel looked up at the visitor. She almost gasped out loud. Raven black hair fell loosely about his shoulders. Tall and broad shouldered, he stood straight, smiling politely as she entered. Well, at least he was handsome. That was more than she could say for some of the others.

Her father approached, looking pleased at her appearance. “Princess Lothíriel of Dol Amroth, I would like you to meet Lord Mardil Fenwick of Lebennin. His family runs the harbors at Ethir Anduin.” The smile broadened, revealing perfect teeth. Bowing slightly, he took her hand and kissed her fingers. “I am honored to make your acquaintance, Your Highness.”

His eyes. Steel grey with long, dark lashes as black as his hair. He was smiling at her, but his eyes…there was something there she could not place.

The princess shook her head slightly, pulling her hand back quickly. “Thank you,” she responded, taking a seat between her brothers, Amrothos and Erchirion, across from the suitor. Lothíriel looked over at Cam, who was also eyeing the visitor warily. Fenwick smiled graciously at her.

“I apologize, but I did not catch your name,” he said to Cam.

Amrothos leaned toward Cam. “This is Lady Valesa, daughter of Admiral Merric of the Swan fleet.”

“I am pleased to meet you as well, my lady.” Mardil smiled, standing and bowing slightly.

Cam acknowledged the greeting with a slight smile and a nod, but did not offer her hand.

“So you are from Lebennin, Lord Fenwick?” the princess piped up as a servant filled her chalice with wine.

“Yes,” he responded, sipping his wine. “My uncle runs the harbors along the Mouth of the Anduin. It is a huge region.”

Lothíriel nodded. “I would think so. We only have one river of traders through Dol Amroth and it seems at times there could not possibly be more traffic along the waterways. It is mostly our villagers we are concerned about. They are being attacked and looted all along the coastline. I hear you have had some success at reducing such incidences in your region. May I ask what measures you have taken?”

"Lothíriel, must we discuss the Corsairs over dinner?” her father put in.

“I am much more interested in learning more about you, Your Highness,” Fenwick replied. “Your brothers have told me you are very interested in politics. That is refreshing. Most women care little for the affairs of state, preferring needlework and gossip.”

“I never held much talent for either, Lord Fenwick, much to the chagrin of the women of this court.” She lifted her goblet to her lips, regarding him over the silver bowl. “My father has indulged my curiosity, agreeing that I should be aware of what is happening in our land. I have sat in on almost all councils since I was old enough to do so.”

And probably caused more than one man not to pay as careful attention as he would have otherwise, Fenwick thought to himself, acknowledging her statement with a surprised nod.

Lothíriel smiled sweetly, masking her frustration. The constant parade of suitors at her dinner table was beginning to task her sorely. She knew, at her age, that most women were already married, but thus far none of the suitors whom she had entertained had been able to hold her interest even an evening, much less a lifetime.

The princess was also aware that she had been fortunate not to have been married off as a young girl, betrothed against her will and wishes to Valar knows who. But there was a matter of duty, to her father and to her people. Her choice of a mate would have to be political in nature. She only hoped she could fall in love with him as well.

She continued to question Mardil, who proudly talked about himself and his family. Fenwick was impressed by her ability to get him to talk, often finding himself answering questions he would otherwise have dodged, had they come from anyone else. She was definitely graced with the art of extracting information in such a charming fashion that one would divulge their innermost secrets before even realizing they had. Her persistent grilling both annoyed and intrigued him.

Her brothers, too, asked leading questions, followed up with statements like, “Is that not interesting, Lothíriel?” She fought the urge to roll her eyes on several occasions.

Finally excusing herself from the table, she headed out to the terrace, Cam in tow.

“Can you believe this?” she whispered harshly to her best friend. “Ada is so determined that I marry. Why is he not finding Elphir a wife? He is the eldest, and next in line for the throne. Sometimes I think he just wants to get rid of me. And this one…” She gestured back toward the dining hall. “I have never seen one so self absorbed! What was he thinking?”

“I cannot answer that,” Cam answered quietly, shaking her head.

“But he is better looking than most,” Lothíriel sighed. “At least there is that...”

“Ah, ladies, here you are.” Her elder brothers walked out on to the balcony with Fenwick. Amrothos motioned to Cam, taking her arm and leading her toward the door. “I need to speak with you a minute, please, Cam.”

“Amrothos, Ani and I were--“

“Now, please, Cam.” He took her by the hand and pulled her inside. Her other two brothers quickly disappeared as well, leaving the princess alone with her would-be suitor. So much for subtlety, she thought to herself.

“I am sorry, Your Highness. I realize this is…uncomfortable.” Fenwick smiled.

She drew herself up, at least impressed that he addressed her correctly. So many of the suitors had not had the slightest knowledge of protocol. “Yes, it is indeed. I am sorry my family chooses to make these things much more difficult than necessary. I appreciate you taking the time to come here, but you need not have. I told my father quite plainly…”

“Yes, he told me. You do not wish to marry to further a political agenda. You wish to marry when you fall in love. I can understand that completely.”

“Then you also understand that your coming here was a waste of your time, Lord Fenwick. Please excuse me.” She headed for the door.

“Princess Lothíriel,” Fenwick called after her. “May I just say one thing?”

She turned to face him, looking at him expectantly.

“When your father told me his daughter was still unmarried, I expected…well…I just did not think…you would be so…” he sighed, trying to find the right words.

She tossed her hair back over her shoulder. “You expected a dowdy old maid, is that it?”

He smiled. “Well, I suppose perhaps I did.”

“I am sorry if I disappointed you, Lord Fenwick,” she quipped, a very slight smile on her lips.

“I would not say that. Surprised is more like it. And the fact that such beauty also comes with a sharp wit makes it that much more pleasant a surprise.”

“I see, Lord Fenwick. Surprise or no, this was still a waste of your time. I apologize for my father’s impetuousness. He does not always consult me before he makes decisions concerning my life.”

Fenwick shook his head, realizing her father had not yet discussed with her their agreement. How little she knew the truth of that statement. He stepped closer to her, flashing his most charming smile. “Well, Princess, it does not have to be a waste of either of our time.”

He took her hand and kissed it, locking his eyes on hers. She drew in her breath sharply in surprise. Gods, he loved it when women did that.

The princess backed up, shocked. She had never had a suitor behave so inappropriately. Not only to address her with such familiarity but to actually touch her! She quickly regained her composure. “A little forward, are you not?”

“You will find I am not one to waste anyone’s time, Princess,” Fenwick responded smoothly, looking down into her eyes.

His inappropriate familiarity was beginning to annoy her. “And what exactly is meant by that, Lord Fenwick?” she inquired, her head cocked to one side, jerking her hand from his grasp.

“Only that if I held no interest in courting you I would have left just after dinner.”

The princess laughed. The man had nerve. “You? Courting me?”

“Your opposition to political marriage is a lovely, romantic concept, but it is not practical. One must consider the potential ramifications of any union.” He backed up and leaned on a pillar, folding his arms across his chest. “But that does not mean I would not be willing to expend a certain amount of time and effort to win you over.” He smiled confidently. “I am certain, given the opportunity, I could change your mind.”

“Change my mind about what?” She refused to let this insufferable prat rile her. Tearing her gaze from his, she stepped over to the balcony rail, eyes drifting to the ships bobbing gently in the harbor below.

“Your father believes you need a husband, and Dol Amroth is in dire need of assistance with the Corsairs. Both are issues I can address easily.” He pushed himself off from the column and walked slowly to where she stood. “I need a wife with social grace and political savvy. And you have both, my dear, in spades. Not to mention how lovely you would look on my arm.” Fenwick stepped close behind her, leaning over her shoulder, his hands folded behind his back. He grinned as she shivered involuntarily. “I could show you how this union would be beneficial to us all,” he whispered.

Laughing out loud, the princess turned to face him. “I will not be a mere ornament for any man, to be paraded like a prize stallion! I beg your pardon, Lord Fenwick. I may not be a young girl but I am NOT so old that I am that desperate for a man’s attentions.”

“Indeed,” he replied, leaning back slightly but maintaining his position behind her. “I am certain you would have no difficulty at all attracting the attention of any man, should you wish to do so.”

She whirled around and glared at him, shocked at his impertinence. “And by that you would mean exactly what?”

He flashed another dazzling smile in her direction. “I am only saying that you are lovely and quite charming, and could have any man you wanted in the palm of your hand before he ever knew what hit him.”

Lothíriel raised one eyebrow skeptically. “And your purpose for saying this would be...?”

“Only that I understand you, and dare not underestimate you. Your brothers may be ahead of you in line for the throne of Dol Amroth, but surely they see the political advantages of having skills such as yours.” He walked around her in a circle as he spoke, hands behind his back, reminding the princess of the stories the Admiral had told her of how sharks circle their prey before closing in.

“Skills, Lord Fenwick?”

“I have watched you this evening. You have an ability to speak to anyone, be they the lowest scullery maid or a member of the royal family. You treat them all as if they are the most important person in the world at that moment. You are able to use your place of power and authority to get things accomplished and find out answers to your questions without resorting to ordering others around. It is a gift, Your Highness.”

“Merely diplomacy,” Lothíriel scoffed. “I try only to be fair and treat others with respect. It is the way I was raised.”

Fenwick nodded. “A noble goal, that, however misguided it may be.” He sauntered around to the other side of her, turning his gaze out over the harbor. “I hear you are quite the story teller as well.”

The princess chuckled. “My, but my brothers have been gossiping, have they not?” She shook her head. “Tales and songs learned from a court glirdan to charm an audience are one thing, Lord Fenwick. Dealing successfully with Dol Amrothian courtiers is quite another story. I fear I have placed my royal slipper in my big mouth far more often than I care to admit.”

Fenwick's lips curled in response. “But the fact remains that you are unopposed to speaking your mind when it comes to what you believe. That in itself is a trait to be admired.” He stopped his circling and regarded her in the moonlight. The slight breeze rifled through her long dark curls, large green eyes silently met and held his gaze. “I have met far too few women like you.”

“You admire me for my outspokenness, Lord Fenwick? That surprises me. I did not take you for the type who appreciates a vocal woman.”

Mardil smiled wickedly, his grey eyes locked on hers. “Ah, but I do. In some cases far more than others.”

The princess stared at him a moment, unsure if she had heard him correctly. He continued to smile broadly, raising a dark eyebrow, assuring her he had meant exactly what he had said.

“I see, Lord Fenwick,” she responded, stressing his title a bit sarcastically. “But what you fail to understand is that how vocal a woman is has much to do with the circumstances in which she finds herself. Perhaps that has been the issue with other women you have met.” Squaring her shoulders, she turned on her heel and casually walked back into the palace.

~~~~~~

Her father had come up to see her as she was preparing for bed. “He is a pleasant young man, is he not?”

“No, Ada,” she admitted. “I did not find him charming at all.” The princess sat at her dressing table, roughly brushing out her unruly curls. “I found him insufferably arrogant and annoying. And he does not have slightest concept of propriety!” She yanked the hairbrush through the stubborn waves. “He addressed me simply as ‘Princess’, and more than once!”

The prince sighed heavily. “Lothíriel, at this rate you will never marry. I have given you the last several years to make a decision on your own, and you have rejected every eligible man in Belfalas! I think it is time we made an arrangement.”

“What?” She whirled around to face him. “Ada...no...”

“I have spoken with Mardil and he has put together a proposal to help me deal with the problems the Corsairs are causing. He is willing to help run the harbors here in Dol Amroth as he has in Lebennin. He comes from an excellent family, and as Harbormaster will be a very suitable husband for a princess. He is a very wealthy man, Lothíriel. He has a lot to offer. Mardil will be a good, stable mate for you.”

Anhuil’s heart pounded. “Oh, no, Ada…tell me you have not already—“

“Yes, Lothíriel, it is done. I have spoken with Mardil and with his family, and they are more than happy to have this arrangement. He was quite taken with you at dinner.”

Lothíriel leapt to her feet, fists clenched. “Father! How dare you! The least you could have done would have been to consult me!”

“This has been decided. Please, do not challenge me on this. You have a duty to do what is best for Dol Amroth. You have seen the havoc these pirates are wreaking on our shores. Mardil can work closely with Admiral Merric to help protect our people. You would deny them that?”

“Why, Ada? Why must he marry me to do this duty?”

“A union between his region and our own will make his authority more palatable to our people, Lothíriel. You know how the sea folk are. They do not like change, nor do they appreciate strangers. As your husband, he would be far more readily accepted. Your betrothal to Mardil Fenwick will be announced next week, after the agreements are signed.” He paused, letting it sink in.

“You feel this is my duty, Ada?” she queried, her expression incredulous.

The prince regarded his youngest child quietly. “We will discuss it further when you have had time to think it over. In the meantime, I suggest you get to know Mardil. He will be staying with us for a while.” He spoke with such finality that Lothíriel was in shock.

She could not believe what she was hearing. He had arranged her marriage.

He left the room quietly. The princess stood in silent shock, staring out at the harbor, the moonlight flickering on the water. She collapsed on to her bed. And cried.


*****************
It’s my life
It’s now or never
I ain’t gonna live forever
I just wanna live while I’m alive
It’s my life
(It’s My Life - Jon Bon Jovi)
*******************
Dol Amroth
8 Nínui, 3019 T.A.
*********************

The princess held her breath, her best friend holding the dagger at the back of her neck. “Are you sure about this, Ani?”

“Yes, Cam. I will not be able to deal with it. Please, just do it.” She closed her eyes.

Sighing, the blonde looked down at the beautiful thick braid in her hand. Using the sharp dagger, she sliced through it, chopping the princess’s long locks off in one swift motion. Lothíriel opened her eyes, looking in the mirror. Short curls fell just below her chin, barely brushing her shoulders. She ran her fingers through them. It wasn’t so bad. And it would be easier, on the road.

“It has only been a few weeks. Maybe you just need to get to know him better.” She paused, knowing that was not true. Getting to know Mardil Fenwick better was not going to change things. And Cam knew it. “Are you sure you do not want me to come along?”

Shaking her head, Lothíriel smiled. “No, Cam. I need to go alone. I need to get away from here. I cannot marry him.”

“Where will you go? What shall I tell them?”

The princess sighed. “Perhaps I will finally travel to Lothlórien to finish my research. But I do not know for sure.” She shrugged. “So tell them honestly, you do not know where I went.”

Camwethrin watched her friend scurry around her chamber. The princess had dressed in her leggings and a tunic, boots, and a hooded cloak. Picking up a vial of lavender oil, she opened the top and sniffed it. She corked it and stuffed it into the bag. Cam cocked her head to one side, questioningly.

“I know…it is not exactly essential…I just love it so.” She picked up the small embroidered handkerchief that lay on the dressing table, running her thumb across the delicate blue flowers.

“That was your mother’s,” Cam observed.

“Yes,” The princess bit her lip. “She made it herself. Mother would never have made me marry him, you know,” she hastily tucked the cloth into her pocket and strapped the belt that held her dagger around her waist. Almost as an afterthought, she picked up a small, leather bound journal and flipped through it, then stuffed it in her bag with a couple of quills and a small, corked bottle of ink.

“What are you doing?” Cam asked her.

“I want to keep up my journal,” she explained, then looked up at Cam. “Who knows? Perhaps something will happen that is worth writing about.”

The blonde touched her shoulder. “I will miss you, Ani. Be careful.”

“I will miss you, Cam,” she hugged her again. “Elenion will be with me. He will protect me.” Blinking back the tears, she threw her bag, her quiver and her bow over her shoulder, and began her descent from the balcony.

“Anhuil,” Cam called from above. The princess looked up. “I hope you find whatever you are looking for.”

“So do I, Cam.” She whistled softly, and a large wolf bounded out of the darkness. She scratched his ears affectionately. With a last wave, she disappeared into the dark, the canine at her heels like a shadow in the night.

*******************************

11 Nínui, 3019 T.A.
Dol Amroth
******************

“Gone? GONE?”

“Yes, your highness. I am sorry,” the blonde responded. “I should have told you earlier, but I truly thought she would return inside a day.” Cam wondered how sincere she sounded.

“Where in the name of the Valar did she go?” Imrahil stared at her in utter disbelief from behind his desk.

Cam sighed deeply. “In all honesty sir, I do not know. I do not think she was sure herself. I tried to talk her of it, or at the very least to allow me to come with her. She would not hear of it.”

“Lothíriel is alone, then?”

“Elenion is with her,” Cam offered.

“She was far more angry with me than I thought,” the prince acceded, rubbing his temples with his fingers. “I never thought she would resort to this.”

“Yes,” Camwethrin agreed. “I do not believe she thought you would ever resort to arranging her marriage.”

Imrahil looked up at the blonde. “She does not approve of my choice?”

Cam hesitated, measuring her words very carefully. “I think she was far more upset by the fact that you made this decision without consulting her.”

“She had to know it would be done eventually,” he answered. “A princess cannot stay unmarried forever. And she has always said she understood her duty to her people. I had no idea she would react this way.” Dropping his head into his hand, the prince rubbed his forehead with his fingertips.

He raised his gaze back to the blonde. “Find her brothers. They must mount a patrol and go after her.”

“Yes, my lord,” Cam responded obediently, ducking out of the office as quickly as possible.

*******
15 Nínui, 3019 T.A.
Dol Amroth
***********

“Lord Imrahil...”

The voice shook him from his reverie. He stood, raising his gaze to the young soldier at his door. “What is it, man?”

“My Lord...I am not certain how to relay this....”

“Just spit it out, man. What is it?”

The young soldier drew a long breath and swallowed hard. “My lord, we have found some traces of the princess.”

“What?” The prince raked his gaze over the young man expectantly. “What have you found?”

With another long breath, the young man produced a small saddlebag, placing it on the prince’s desk. “We found this, my lord. Along with the carcass of her horse and two dead Orcs. One dead by her arrow, the other appeared to have been attacked. His throat was ripped out.”

Imrahil sank into his chair, taking quite some time to find his voice. “And this is all you found?”

The soldier nodded. “Yes, my lord. There were tracks...some from that...hound of hers, and some appeared to be her own, and at least seven or eight Orcs.”

“But no trace of her, no....”

“No sir. We found nothing but her horse and this bag, which appears to have had only some extra food and a map, but no indication of which direction she was heading.”

Closing his eyes, Imrahil reached up to rub his forehead with his fingers. “Then she could yet be alive.”

“We cannot say for certain, sir, but it appears she was pursued on foot.” He shook his head. “With the ground still frozen in areas it is difficult to track, especially over rock. I cannot say for sure one way or another, sir. It is possible she got away from them, but we followed the trail as far as we could, and...”

“Where was this found?” He asked, indicating the leather saddlebag.

“We found the horse near the Ford of the Ringlo, at the base of the Mountains, sir. Near the pass.”

Imrahil nodded thoughtfully. “Did you check with any of the inns along the way? Any of the villagers? Was she seen by anyone?”

“We are checking into that now, my lord. My men are scouring the villages to see if anyone remembers her.”

Imrahil leaned his elbows on his desk, his face in his hands. “It is my fault. I should never have done this without even discussing it with her. To think of her alone, with those vile creatures... If anything has happened to her...”

Cam stepped over to his desk, laying a hand on his shoulder. “Do not fear the worst yet. Ani is clever. She may yet have escaped them. And Elenion is with her. You know he would die defending her if need be.” She spoke confidently, trying to convince herself as much as the prince.

He smiled weakly up at her and put his large hand over hers. “He would indeed. But still I fear for her.” He turned back to the soldiers. “Keep searching. And please let me know the minute you find anything.”

“Yes, sir,” the young man bowed politely and exited the study.

Camwethrin watched the door fall closed, then turned to the prince. “I will go after her.”

The prince leaned back in his chair, turning to look at the blonde. “Absolutely not. I forbid it.”

“But your highness,” the blonde reasoned, “if she finds your men following her she will run that much further and faster. Ani will not run from me. She will listen to me.”

“A valid argument, my dear, but no. It is too dangerous. Your father would never forgive me.” The blonde stared at him. “Valesa, you are like a daughter to me. I could not bear the thought of something happening to you as well. My men will find Lothíriel and bring her home.”

“And what if she does not wish to come home? If she refuses, will they tie her up and bring her as a prisoner? They will never convince her to return!” Her blue eyes pled with the prince. “Trust me, my lord. If she does not wish them to find her they will not. Ani and I have spent our entire childhood avoiding detection by your men, and --“ she stopped suddenly, aware she had said a bit too much. She swallowed hard as the prince stared at her, gaping. “Please, let me go with them.”

Imrahil shook his head. “No. There is rumor of war in the north, and should I have to ride out I will need you here to look after things with Lothíriel gone. Your father will be in port day after tomorrow and we must meet to discuss our plan should a red arrow be sent.” He took a deep breath; steeling himself against those big, blue eyes. “No, Valesa. I need you here. Your father needs you here. Dol Amroth needs you here. You are not to go after her. Is that understood?”

Cam fought a flare of rage when the prince brought up duty. It was his sense of duty that had his daughter on the run in the first place. She bit back her sarcastic comment, deciding reasoning with his son might be better. “I understand, Your Highness.”

Eyeing her doubtfully, the prince nodded. “Good.” She started toward the door. “Valesa,” he called after her, “is she truly as good with a bow as her brothers claim?”

“Better,” Cam answered with a smile, then stepped out of the study.

“I hope you are right,” Imrahil muttered under his breath. He rubbed his forehead with his fingers, his worry for his only daughter nearly overcoming him. “Melkor’s chains, I hope you are right,” he repeated.

~~~~~~~~~

Ada - Father - Dad

Dín - shut up (be silent)

glirdan - a bard or historian

Anhuil (Ani) - A nickname for Lothíriel


Chapter 2 - Chapter One

Title: Trust to Hope - Chapter One
Author: Novedhelion
Type: FP Het
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Pairing: Éomer/Lothíriel
Rating: PG for now…

Warnings: None, really. Mild violence, if you consider killing Orcs
violent...Elvish translations at the bottom...I do not claim to be
fluent. This is FICTION.

Beta: Riyallyn and Zee

Disclaimer: I am not J.R.R. Tolkien. I used and abused his
characters. Eleníon is mine. I don't intend to make any profit
here. It will be a waste of time to sue me, I have no money. I
tried to follow canon where possible but did take some artistic
license. If PJ can banish Éomer so can I.

Feedback: This is my first attempt at Fanfic. Fire away. (That is not a request for flames, however…maybe I should rephrase…)

*************
Part One
*************

“One meets his destiny often in the road he takes to avoid it.”
French Proverb


Firien Wood
Rohan
16 Nínui, 3019 T.A.
***********************

The marshal looked around at the men surrounding him. His men. His company. His éored. Still loyal to him, even after he had been banished from the Kingdom of Rohan. Éomer had threatened the king's councilor, Gríma Wormtongue, certain he was consorting with the enemy. He had paid for his boldness with his citizenship.

Somehow, he had to find a way to rid the king of that foul influence and rescue his sister. He laughed out loud at that last thought. More than likely it would be Gríma who needed rescuing from her! No, Éowyn could take care of herself, of that he was certain. Still, that did not do much to relieve his concern for his only sibling. If Théodred died, which had seemed likely considering the wounds he received, and Théoden King’s health failing rapidly, Éowyn would be left to inherit the throne. The thought of her left alone with that snake made his fists tighten involuntarily around the reins he held.

He turned to Éothain, his second in command. "I want to check out those woods. The villagers in that last settlement believe there may be Orcs hiding out there. They have lost several horses lately. You and Dormand come with me. Tell the others to set up camp here."

The other tall rider nodded in affirmation. Galloping off, he spoke briefly with another man and they joined the marshal, heading into the woods.

Anhuil knelt by the side of the stream, rinsing her hair in the cold water. She splashed some on her face and looked around. “Where in Middle Earth have we ended up, Elenion?” she inquired of her canine companion. “I cannot say I recall these woods on the map, but considering the map is in the saddle bag on the horse we left behind, I suppose I cannot check, now can I?” The animal regarded her silently. “I suppose I owe you, my friend. If you had not been with me, I am certain they would have found me. Good thing there were not more of them.”

She sighed, sitting back on her heels. “Unfortunately they also took our food, which means one of us is going to have to find something to eat unless you want to live on waybread.” She chuckled and scratched him behind the ears.

The wolf at her side suddenly jumped to his feet, staring with wide brown eyes down the river.

"Man cenich?" she asked him, peering down the bank. It was almost dark, and difficult to see. The wolf growled a warning low in his throat. “Orcs?” His gaze stayed focused down the river.

"All right…come on." The princess stood, grabbing her small bag, and jogged toward the trees lining the bank, Elenion right behind her. She could hear the sounds now, the horse's hooves making soft sounds on the mud, the soft clinking of armor, the voices. Not Orc voices.

She sighed. “Bloody men...” she muttered under her breath. The last thing she wanted to find out here. More men. She would almost rather take on the Orcs again.

Quickly scrambling behind a nearby tree, she positioned herself where she could watch them without being seen, thankful for the evergreens in the underbrush. She pulled the hood of her cloak up over the still damp curls. From her position, she observed the men on horses making their way down the overgrown trail along the stream.

The men were moving cautiously, warily. The marshal sat tall in his saddle, lance in hand, eyes darting around the surrounding brush. Their breath formed a cloudy mist in the chilly air. It was a quiet, still evening, the only sounds being the cold water of the stream babbling past them and the occasional whickering of their own mounts. They urged their horses forward, toward a clearing near the stream and dismounted their steeds. Shoving their long spears into the ground, they led their horses to the crystal water, hands ready on the hilts of their swords.

Anhuil studied them in the rapidly fading light. They were definitely men, armed with swords and pikes, their mail armor making soft clinking sounds as they moved about. Burnished green shields hung on their saddles, emblazoned with a golden sunburst. They spoke softly to their mounts, in a language she did not understand. Rohirrim. The Horse Lords. She had read a little about the kingdom of Rohan in the library at Minas Tirith. Had she really come that far?


Éomer looked around as his horse bent his head to drink. His skin prickled. Something did not feel right, as if they were being watched. But by whom? He drew in a deep breath of chilly air, exhaling slowly. Sometimes he wondered if he overreacted, his hatred of the foul creatures that had killed his father blurring his judgment. He glanced around at the other men.

Dormand stood still, listening. Éothian was looking around suspiciously, hand on his sword. Éomer drew his own, the sound of the metal clearing the sheath very soft in the still of the evening air.

Loud cries suddenly pierced the quiet of the night. The sounds of steel clashing against steel made her jump. Still behind the tree, she saw the Orcs bearing down on the men. Crouching low to the ground, the princess ran along the bank behind the brush, trying to observe the skirmish without being seen. Peering through the trees, she counted seven. Seven against three. The same Orcs that had taken her mount, she noted angrily. Fear mounting, she ducked behind the trunk of a nearby tree, her heart pounding so loud in her ears she could barely hear the clanging of swords.

Daring to peek around the tree, she saw the tallest man locked in a duel, backing his enemy up the riverbank. His sword skill was impressive, and he would have soundly defeated his foe if two others were not coming from behind. Skilled or not, it was clear he was outnumbered. She looked around for his companions, who were locked duels of their own. Her heart raced. She hated Orcs, even more so after her own confrontation with them, but she did not relish the thought of being drawn into another battle with them.

It was dark. If she could do it without being seen... Hands shaking, she drew her bow. As he turned his attention to the enemy nearest to him, she stepped from her hiding place along the bank. Drawing a deep breath as well as the bowstring, she steadied her hands as much as possible and released one arrow. The Orc behind the marshal slumped to the mud, her small arrow protruding from the back of the leather jerkin it wore. She whispered a curse as the bowstring snapped against her hand. Shoving the useless weapon back into her quiver, she yanked her dagger from the sheath.

The marshal turned from the Orc he had just slain, the whizzing of an arrow catching him off guard. He watched as the Orc behind him dropped to the ground. His look of confusion was quickly replaced by fury as a third Orc saw him from downstream and turned toward him, weapon raised, growling. As he raised his own sword, something glimmered in the moonlight. The last Orc stopped in his tracks, falling face down in the shallow water, several paces away. Éomer saw a shadow scurry to the last fallen Orc, retrieve a dagger from its back and disappear into the darkness along the bank.

"Wait!" he shouted in the common tongue. He saw the shadow leap up the bank and into the underbrush. Followed by his companions, he ran toward the shadows. He stopped at the edge of the brush, peering into the darkness where she had disappeared.

"What happened?" Dormand asked, squinting as he looked into the undergrowth, shrouded now by the darkness as the sun disappeared. Moonlight filtered through the leafless trees, but the dense evergreen shrubbery kept its secrets.

The marshal shook his head, as if unsure. "I think…." His voice trailed off as he looked down the riverbank. He turned to look at his companions. “Someone…or something…just saved my life." Éomer looked down at the dead Orcs she had slain, laying on the riverbank. He walked over to the one with the arrow sticking out of its back, knelt beside it. Pulling on the arrow, he broke it off and studied the fletching in the dim light. He kicked at the dead Orc.

The princess leaped up into the brush and ducked behind a tree, breathing so hard the chilly air making her lungs ache. Forcing herself to take slow, deep breaths, she sat perfectly still, praying he did not come after her.

Éothain and Dormand rode over to where he stood, leading Éomer’s dappled grey mount, Firefoot. “What is that?" Dormand inquired, seeing the arrow in his hand. "An arrow? Where did that come from?"

The marshal shook his head. "I am not sure. Someone else around here has no love for Orcs." He started to toss it aside, but placed it in his belt instead. He kicked at the dead one again, flipping it over. Walking to the other one, he could see the black blood trickling from the knife wound in its back.

“Everyone else around here hates Orcs,” Dormand muttered. "Who was it?”

Éomer peered into the dark woods again. "I do not know. Whoever it was went up there." He gestured up into the dark underbrush. He strode up the sandy bank to the edge of the wood.

“Come out!” he called, “We will not harm you.”

There was no response. Anhuil squatted behind the shrubbery, her back against a tall pine. She covered her mouth with both hands and tried to breathe in the warmer air. Her lungs felt as if they would burst, her pulse pounding in her ears.

Éomer stood, staring into the darkness among the trees. Part of him wanted to find his anonymous benefactor, but the logical side won out. He had already escaped one scrape today. Best not to go dashing through dark woods at night. Whoever it was, they appeared to be on his side.

“Come,” he called to the men. “We ride north at daybreak.”

Leaping astride his horse, turning back downstream. He looked back over his shoulder. Nothing but the clear stream, rippling in the moonlight.

Anhuil closed her eyes, silently thanking the Valar that they did not pursue her. The last thing she needed was to get caught and sent back home. Not on the last link of Melkor's chain was she going back home. She'd take her chances with the Orcs.

Once they had disappeared into the distance, she carefully made her way out into the darkness and bent over the side of the stream. Anhuil rinsed the foul blood from her dagger, her hands still trembling. Pulling a small piece of embroidered cloth from under her cloak, she dried the blade and looked down at it, gleaming in the moonlight. She didn't like killing, and in fact, she never had killed anything more than a few small animals, and then only when hunting had become necessary. But Orcs… she shivered involuntarily. Shaking off the thought, she peered downstream after the riders.

Pulling her bow from her quiver, she frowned. Her brothers had always chided her about proper weapon care, and here she was with a broken bowstring. At least she had managed one of the Orcs with an arrow before resorting to her dagger. Digging a spare string from the bottom of the quiver, she quickly restrung her bow and replaced it in the quiver.

She turned at the sound of soft padded feet on the sand. Eleníon sauntered out of the underbrush and lazily drank from the stream, brown eyes regarding her in the moonlight.

“Mae athollen,” she snapped sarcastically at him. “Mas ledhiach? It would have been far better if you had killed those Orcs. They would not have thought twice about a wolf.” The wolf moved closer to her, and she buried her fingers in his scruffy neck. “Naethen. I do not mean to scold you so.” Anhuil let her gaze fall down the river again. “Perhaps he will just accept his good fortune and be done with it, huh?" She patted his head and stood, still looking downstream.

"I wonder if there are more of them," the princess pondered out loud as she glanced down at the wolf. Large brown eyes looked up at her questioningly. "I guess there is only one way to find out. Come on."

Careful to avoid detection, she followed the tracks of the horses downstream. From time to time, the terrain became rocky and the horses were forced to go further up on to the grassy parts of the bank, but it was easy enough to find the tracks again when they returned to the soft dirt alongside the stream.

Their prints led out of the wood and to a large campsite in the distance. Anhuil watched from behind a tree as they approached their camp and dismounted their horses, disappearing into the throng of men at the campsite.

The man had said they would ride north. That was her general direction before she was lost. Perhaps following them would put her back on her path. She considered trying to pass the camp and get ahead of them, but without her mount, they would soon overtake her. It was better to stay behind them if she didn't want to be discovered. Sinking down on the cushiony moss at the base of a tree, she mulled over the past weeks.

Leaving home had been an impulsive decision for sure, but what choice had they left her? She did feel a twinge of guilt for leaving Cam behind to deal with the aftermath. Her father would be furious, but then again, so was she. How dare he decide for her whom she would spend the rest of her life with? And that insufferable, egotistical son of a snake he had chosen?

No, she could not go back. Not yet. Undoubtedly her father sent riders out in search of her, but hopefully they would give up and turn back. She had ridden almost non-stop the first three days, putting as much distance as possible between herself and her home.

There had been inns along the way, and never a shortage of folks in the common rooms with whom to exchange stories. A few had even given her a room and a meal in exchange for a few stories and songs from her, never knowing whom it was they were sheltering, and fortunately they were not prone to asking too many questions. It wasn’t that she couldn’t pay for accommodations; she had brought enough coins along, but she dared not refuse their hospitality and risk insulting them. More than once she wished she had her harp, as playing it was the one courtly pursuits she had enjoyed.

She chuckled at the thought. Her brothers had always teased her about her fascination with the court glirdans, or bards, learning their stories and songs, but the history and legends they told had intrigued her, and she had committed most to memory. New tales and songs she recorded in her journal, along with drawings of places and people she met in her travels.

Yes, the inns had been nice, but seemed far scarcer in this forsaken country in which she was now lost. What she wouldn’t give for a hot bath, a warm bed, and a good meal beside a cozy common room fire this evening. She had not even seen so much as a lone farm in two days. But the men had mentioned a village nearby. Perhaps she would check there tomorrow.

Fortune would have it that it had been a mild winter so far, and until tonight her only run in with Orcs had been the ones who had stolen her horse. Anhuil smiled smugly to herself at having vindicated that attack. She may have lost her mount, but what she had gained in confidence made the loss pale in comparison.

Opening her journal on her lap, she dug out the quill and ink, recording the evening’s events in a smooth, flowing script. As an afterthought, she added a sketch of the sunburst symbol that had appeared on the shields of the Rohirrim.

In the camp, Éomer glanced back toward the woods as he dismounted his horse. Something, or someone out there had saved his life. He pulled out the arrow and studied it carefully. It was a small wooden arrow, fletched at the end with blue and white feathers, skillfully made. Whoever it was, he was grateful.



Man cenich? - What do you see?
Mammen le? - Where were you?
Mani na umien? - What have you been doing?


Chapter 3 - Chapter Two

Trust to Hope - Chapter Two

Author: Novedhelion
Type: FP Het
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Pairing: Éomer/Lothíriel (eventually)
Rating: PG for now…

Warnings: Mild violence

Beta: Riyallyn…thanks for all the LATE nights…

Disclaimer: I do not claim any of these as my own except Camwethrin…the others are all characters Tolkien created and I used and abused them. No profit made from this story. I tried to follow canon where possible, but if PJ can banish Éomer, I can furnish him with tents.

Feedback: This is my first attempt at Fanfic, so of course! Bring it on!

***Elvish translations at the bottom…I try to stick as close to Tolkien’s Elvish as possible. I know it is not perfect. I am not a linguist nor do I claim to be. ****

************
Chapter Two
************
“The bow is bent, the arrow flies, the winged shaft of fate.”
Ira Frederick Aldridge

Firien Wood
Rohan
17 Nínui, 3019 T.A.
**********************

The princess was awakened before dawn by the wolf nuzzling her face. "Elenion, daro!" she said irritably, pushing him away. Impatiently pushing her short curls from her face, she yawned. She stood, and looked toward the camp. The men were packing up in preparation to leave. Might as well relax. She sat back down on the soft moss under the tree and leaned back.

Pulling a bit of cram out of her bag, she took a bite. “Anirach i mado go nín?" She broke off a piece and tossed a bite to the wolf. He looked down at it with disdain. "That is all I have," she said apologetically, brushing the crumbs off her hands. “Unless you plan to hunt later.”

Elenion looked back at the piece of waybread on the ground, and deciding it was better than nothing, gulped it down.

Remaining hidden in the edge of the wood, she waited until the men had packed and gone before setting off in the same direction. She would follow them until she could regain her bearings. With luck, they would never know she was there.

For three days and nights, she followed the tracks of the horses, crossing their previous campsites. At night, if they had been lucky, she roasted whatever small game they had managed to catch over a tiny cook fire. Elenion could catch even the fastest rabbit, and the princess had on occasion been successful at flushing out small game birds and nailing them on wing with her bow, though there were not many to be found this time of year. Sitting by the small fire at night, she would write in her journal, and sleep curled beside the wolf under her cloak. Sometimes she passed small farms in the distance, but there were no real villages to speak of, nevermind any inns.

Anhuil figured she was at least two days behind them on the trail, following the river upstream. On horseback, they would soon leave her far enough behind that she need not worry about running into them. At least, she hoped that would be the case.

The setting sun was just leaving the horizon on the evening of the fourth day after her encounter with the men as she scrambled over a rocky embankment. Smoke rose just over the ridge. Quickly ducking back down, she crawled forward and peeked over the top of the embankment. Apparently the men had halted their ride for several days here, camping along the riverbank.

A soft curse escaped her lips under her breath. “Man hí?” she asked the wolf lying flattened on the ground beside her, impatiently tapping her fingers on the rock. Realizing her quiver behind her might give her away, she removed it and lay it down beside her against the rock. From where she was the camp was at least a furlong away, but if she moved along this ridge she risked being seen in the full moonlight. Taller rock formations jutted out further ahead. She edged along the top of the ridge slowly for what cover she could find.

In his tent, Éomer leaned back in a chair, absentmindedly turning the broken arrow in his fingers. A young soldier shoved the tent flap out of the way, stepping inside, startling the marshal out of his reverie.

"Sir," he addressed Éomer, "we are being followed."

"Followed? By whom?" The marshal leaned forward in his chair.

"We are unsure, sir. Some of the men doubled back this morning, looking for a few of the horses that had wandered during the night, and they found tracks."

"How many?" he queried, running his hand through his tousled blonde locks.

"Appears to be only one, sir. The footprints are small.”

Éomer’s brow furrowed. "Only one? Cannot be much of a threat, now, can it?" He regarded the arrow in his hand. "Send out a scouting party and see what you can find."

"Yes, sir." The man nodded, backing out of the tent.

The princess climbed up the steep rocks, and found a small cliff overlooking the encampment. She peered down through in the semi-darkness. Men were moving about the fires, some cooking, cleaning weapons, tending to horses. There were several large tents set up; most were dark, but some were lit inside with lanterns.

Suddenly she heard a voice directly below her. Ducking down, she scooted backward along the cliff, concealing herself in the shadows behind the sparse shrubbery. "Delio!" she whispered to Elenion, who disappeared into the darkness.

Watching the man below, she dug her teeth into her bottom lip. Three others now joined him, heading in her direction. She pulled her hood up over her head and tried to breathe quietly, a difficult feat considering her heart was pounding so hard she thought all of Rohan would certainly hear it. Stopping just below her hiding place, he leaned over and picked up the quiver full of arrows. "What's this?" He held it up.

She cursed herself silently. How could she have been so careless?

"Better take that down to the marshal. Someone's been up here, that's for sure." Two of the men started down toward the camp, the other two continuing to search among the rocks. She remained frozen, waiting until she was sure they had gone.

In his tent, Éomer sat poring over maps spread on the table. One of the men burst in. The marshal looked up expectantly.

"Someone is out there, sir. We found this." He tossed the quiver on to the table. Éomer looked down at it. He slowly pulled an arrow out, held it up in the light and looked at it carefully. It was a small wooden arrow, metal tipped, fletched in blue and white. He turned to the soldier.

"Find him."

The soldier nodded and exited the tent. Éomer picked up the broken arrow from the table and held it up next to the one from the quiver. A perfect match.

***********

"One doesn't leave a whole quiver of arrows just lying around. He can't have gone far." The two Rohirrim soldiers held their weapons ready, peering around the rocks.

The only weapon she had was her dagger; her bow was useless since she had foolishly left her quiver. The princess looked around. Across the field behind her was a large rocky outcropping in front of a copse of trees. Surely if she could make it up there, she could lose them. There were only two options. Use the dagger, or run. Orcs were one thing, but Anhuil had no intention of killing another human if she could help it. She chose the latter option.

Her foot slipped just slightly on the loose rocks at her feet, sending a few small pebbles scattering down to the plateau below. *So much for stealth*, she thought to herself. The men looked up and around at the noise, seeing the shadowy figure taking off at full speed. If she could just outdistance them long enough to make it to the ragged cliffs ahead, she could lose them in the trees beyond.

"Up here! He's making a run for it!" one of the Rohirrim shouted. "He's heading for those rocks!"

Anhuil vaguely heard shouts ring out through the camp. Running for all she was worth, she made for the cliffs. "Halt!" the soldier shouted, as the both took off after her. Weighed down by their armor, they were much slower than she. The princess thought she stood a fairly good chance of escape, until she heard the pounding of hooves over the soft ground.

The two soldiers on horseback rapidly overtook her, blocking her way. Quickly dismounting, one of them tried to tackle her to the ground. Anhuil slipped from his grasp, rolling away, her bow and leather bag falling to the grass. She drew her dagger.

"He's just a lad!" one of them yelled.

"Look out! He's armed!" The other warned.

The hood of her cloak was still covering her head. She almost laughed at the comment. *Lad indeed!* The humor quickly faded when one of them lunged at her with a broadsword, nearly knocking her down. Dodging the blade, she turned and kicked the hand that held it, sending the blade flying. Another sharp kick to the owner's chest sent him backwards, landing with a thud.

Turning to run again, she found herself face to face with the two who had been chasing her. Deftly blocking the swinging blade with her dagger, she rolled away from them. From the ground, she swept her leg out, taking one to his knees with a swift kick to the back of his legs. Her elbow to the back of his neck sent him to the ground. Sheathing her own dagger, she grabbed his sword from the ground and leapt to her feet.

The second man came at her, a well placed spin kick to his head sending him reeling back into the grass. “Naethen!” she called out, wincing.

Whirling around, she met a broad blade. The other rider had dismounted, and was now holding his sword to her chest. "Don't move," he warned her, watching her carefully. "Put the weapon down."

Immediately dropping the sword in her hand, she backed up slightly, hands raised in surrender. The soldier laughed at her. "That was easy enough." He relaxed slightly, taking his eyes off her to grin over his shoulder at his companions.

Quickly turning her upper body to one side, she used the hand closest to him to shove the blade away from her body, punching the young man in the chin with the heel of her other hand. Grabbing the hilt of his sword right above his hand, she punched it forward, tearing it from his grasp. Before he could react, her knee came up sharply, doubling him over, his helmet falling to the grass as he gasped for air.

As she backed up, watching the ones on the ground warily, she heard the crunch of a footstep behind her less than a second before there was a blinding flash, and everything went black.

The soldier on the ground near her jumped up, breathing heavily, and walked over to where the cloaked figure lay face down and motionless. He snatched up the sword that had fallen out of her hand. "I shall take that, thank you," he said, re-sheathing it. Bending down, he picked up her dagger, examined it for a minute, and handed it to one of the others with a shrug. The small leather bag and bow were collected, having fallen from her shoulder during the scuffle.

Another soldier rolled her over with his foot. Bending over her to check for other weapons, he suddenly noticed the rounded curves underneath the tight fitting tunic she wore. This was no boy. He flipped the hood of the cloak back, sucked in his breath when saw her face in the moonlight. Blood trickled from a cut on her lip, and her face was badly scratched, but she was clearly a woman.

Cursing under his breath, Éothain looked up at the others, who were staring in shock. "The marshal isn't going to like this a bit," he muttered. "See to them." He gestured to his fallen comrades. Kneeling, he lifted her up into his arms, walking back toward the camp.

~~~~~~~

Carrying her to a tent, he laid her on her back on a small cot. The soldier unbuckled the belt that held the dagger sheath, sliding it out from under her. She didn't move.

Éomer ducked inside. "You wanted to see me, Éothaín?" He stopped suddenly at the sight of the small person on the cot.

"We got him, I mean, er...her, sir."

He bent over her, almost laughing. "This is your spy?" The other man nodded, smiling. Furrowing his brow, Éomer gently touched her scraped cheek and saw the blood on her lip. "What happened?"

"She fell, I mean, when she got knocked out, she fell, sir."

Éomer glared at him. "You hit a woman?"

"No sir, I didn't. We didn't mean to. We didn't…know she was a woman, Lord Éomer. She was hooded, you know, and it was dark, and no woman I've ever seen fights like she did. I think Dormand is still unconscious from the kick she gave him. We thought she was a boy." Éothaín smiled slightly at the thought, looking at her now.

The marshal regarded her size. "She fought you?"

"Yes, sir, wounded four of us, for a fact. Knocked two out cold. Woulda slit my throat, if Hamrad hadn't cold-cocked her when he did." Éomer glared at him. "Sorry, sir, but really, we didn't know she was a lady." He handed Éomer her belt with the leather sheath. “The men put the rest of her things in your tent,” he informed him. The marshal nodded.

She was dressed in a grey tunic and black trousers, boots, and dark grey cloak. She wore no jewelry save a small silver ring on her left thumb, and a narrow silver chain around the ankle of her right boot.

Éomer stared at her face. Her skin was not fair, as women of his country, but darker, a smooth, coppery color, as if she had spent a lot of time in the sun. Her curls had been cut short, and fell across her face. Calloused fingers brushed them back carefully. Dark eyelashes rested against her lightly freckled cheeks. She was not a young girl, but it was difficult to guess her age. He found himself wondering what color her eyes were…

"See to her injuries, and let me know when she comes to." Éomer spoke sharply. He turned to leave, then looked back. "And bind her hands, if you believe her to be that dangerous." He smirked as he stepped out of the tent.



Elenion, daro! - Elenion, stop it!
Anirach i mado go nín? - Do you want something to eat?
Man si’ - what now?
Delio! - Hide!
Naethen - I am sorry


Chapter 4 - Chapter Three

Trust to Hope - Chapter Three

Author: Novedhelion
Type: FP Het
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Pairing: Éomer/Lothíriel
Rating: PG for now…

Warnings: Mouthy Princess…Sharp tongued Marshal

Beta: Riyallyn…the Queen of quotation marks…

Disclaimer: I am not J.R.R. Tolkien. I do not claim any of these as my own except Camwethrin…the others are all characters Tolkien created. Elenion is also mine. Still no money to be made, still none to bother suing for. Elvish translations at the bottom.

Feedback: Yes, please.


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Part Three
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“If it is your time, love will track you down like a cruise missile.” Lynda Barry


Rohan
21 Nínui, 3019 T.A.
***********************

“Look behind you, sister… always look behind you…” her brother’s voice echoed in her head.

Whatever that noise was, Anhuil wished it would stop. She forced her eyes open, and in the dim light she could see the silhouette of a man, sharpening a knife across a piece of stone. The scraping sound made her head pound. She turned toward him, intending to ask him to stop, the movement causing her so much pain that she could only moan softly. Her eyes closed again as the tent spun.

He heard the sound, and looked up. Seeing her with her hands over her face, he stood. “Oh, good, Miss, nice to see you are awake. Don’t go runnin’ off, now. The marshal wants to have a word.” He exited the tent, leaving her alone.

Anhuil opened her eyes, slowly forcing herself to sit up. Turning sideways on the cot, she placed her feet on the ground in an attempt to steady herself, and raised her eyes to look around. The tent was sparsely furnished, a low table with a lantern sat near her. The brief thought of running crossed her mind, but with the pain in her head she figured that she would be lucky to continue sitting upright.

And who in Middle Earth was the marshal? She did not particularly feel like having a word with anyone at this moment in time, except maybe whoever put this dent in her skull. Him, she’d like to find.

**********

Éomer sat in his tent, studying the items the men had left on the wooden table. A short bow, beautifully carved, with two extra bowstrings. Several finely fletched arrows, all matching the one he had taken from the dead orc. An ornate, jeweled dagger, inscribed in a language he could not read, but recognizes as an Elvish script. A neatly rolled clean tunic and a pair of leggings. A small comb. A pouch containing Gondorian coins.

A quill, a bottle of ink...a small vial of some kind of oil. He popped the cork, inhaling the lavender scent, closing his eyes. He wondered if those soft, dark curls that framed her face smelled this good, and immediately chastised himself for having such thoughts. She is a captive and a potential spy, he reminded himself. What business have you wondering what her hair smells like? Gods man, has it been that long?

His eyes fell on a small book. The cover was plain leather, bound with a leather thong. He untied the cord and flipped it open. In the same small, neat script that her dagger was inscribed with, she had written page after page. Drawings were scattered throughout, landscapes, flowers, even some of a wolf. With a sigh, he wished he had paid more attention to his tutors who tried to tell him learning the other languages of Middle Earth was a worthwhile endeavor. As he was about to snap the leather cover shut, a drawing caught his attention. It was the sunburst design of a Rohirrim shield.

“My lord?” Éothain’s voice interrupted his thoughts. He looked up at his friend. “She is awake, now, sir.” He ducked back out of the tent.

With a nod, Éomer gathered her things back into her bag, and followed.

*********

Back in the tent, she raised a hand to touch the sore spot on the back of her head. Both hands came up together and she frowned, realizing her hands were bound. The princess was still staring at the bindings in a fog when the guard who had been watching her returned with another man.

Anhuil blinked hard in an effort to keep her eyes focused, which would have been easier if the world would have stopped spinning.

The newcomer knelt on one knee in front of her, looking her over. The marshal was tall, even kneeling. Blonde hair spilled across broad shoulders. His handsome face was smudged with dust, a scruffy beard covering his chin. Deep brown eyes surveyed her closely. The corners of his full lips turned up slightly, as if trying to hide his amusement at this turn of events. The tent was not large to begin with, and it seemed to shrink with his presence. He wore an air of authority like an invisible cloak.

“Leave us for a while,” he quietly commanded the other man, without taking his eyes off the princess.

“Yes, sir.” The younger man backed out of the tent.

Éomer regarded her silently for a moment. His intense scrutiny made her uncomfortable. She straightened her back and returned his gaze, determined not to allow him to intimidate her.

“I apologize for my men. They did not know you were a woman.”

Reaching out, he gently touched the scrape on her cheek with his fingertips. Anhuil jumped slightly at the unexpected contact. One hand on her chin, turning her face to the light.

“I told him to tend to this, ” he commented, almost to himself. On the nearby table was a bowl of water and a cloth. He dipped the cloth into the dish and gently touched it to her cheek. She winced slightly.

“I am Éomer, son of Éomund. Third Marshal of the Riddermark.” He paused, waiting for a response that did not come. She tried to move her face away from his hands. “I am not going to hurt you,” he reassured her quietly.

Anhuil’s head spun again. So this was the marshal. The princess closed her eyes, trying to sort her thoughts into some sort of logical order. She was not going to answer his questions. Not yet, anyway.

“Surely you are not traveling alone. Where are your companions?”

Opening her eyes again, her gaze locked on to those deep, dark eyes.

“Who are you?” he asked quietly. When she still did not answer, he continued. “My men said you cursed them in the Elvish tongue. They said they had never seen a woman fight like you did.” Anhuil stared at him, but did not respond. “You are not Elfkind,” he commented.

Clearly, she thought to herself. How very observant of him. But...Melkor’s chains, this man’s voice...just his voice sent shivers down her spine.

Éomer held her face, the fingertips of one hand lightly resting on the curve of her jaw as he cleaned her cuts with the other hand. Her coppery skin was lightly freckled across her cheeks and nose, and very soft under his calloused fingers. Trying his best to be gentle, he wiped the blood from the cut on her swollen lip. Her mouth slightly parted, her straight teeth flashed white in the dim light. Deliberately tearing his gaze away from those lips, he concentrated on her injuries.

Anhuil tried to keep her breathing even. His familiarity was somewhat disconcerting, however innocent the touch. She tried to convince herself it was the injuries and not his warm fingers that made her pulse race. Dark eyes bored into hers, searching for answers. She tried to summon the power of speech and found that for the present, it had left her entirely.

The marshal found himself staring into her eyes. It was hard to tell the color in the dim light, although the fire in them belied her seemingly calm demeanor. Her delicate lips clamped shut, as though she were forcing herself to keep quiet. He wondered, momentarily, if she perhaps did not understand his questions. After all, she had spoken and written in another language. But she was not an Elf, that he could tell. And the spark he saw in those dark eyes told him she not only understood him, she was deliberately defying him.

Éomer smiled inwardly at her obvious spirit. It was hard to imagine one so small taking on the men of his éored. Éomer was used to women who could fight, his own sister was quite proficient with a sword. But this small thing? Threatening was hardly the word he would use to describe her.

Rein it in, man, he chided himself.

Trying to convince himself it was purely gratitude he felt toward her for saving his life, he continued. Tenderly wiping the blood from the cut on her lip, he continued, “If you continue to choose not to speak, this conversation is going to become indescribably dull.”

Her head pounded. She remained stonily silent.

Éomer lay down the cloth and sat down on a small stool, leaning back. His fingers gently grazing the line of her jaw as he removed his hand. Her involuntary shudder amused him, though he wasn’t sure why. She was, after all, technically a captive. He should not be having lascivious thoughts about a potential spy. Squashing his libido purposefully and with no small effort, he smiled at her.

“My men thought you were a spy, but I do not believe you are.” He reached behind him and held up her small quiver. “A spy would not be so careless as to leave weapons behind.”

He pulled out one of the arrows. “These are very skillfully made. I have only seen arrows like this once before.” She watched as he pulled out the broken one he had taken from the dead Orc, holding the two together. He looked at her again, as if waiting for some reaction. The flicker of recognition at the arrow did not escape his notice.

Anhuil swallowed hard, listening as he continued. She was beginning to feel dizzy, whether from the injury to her head or from looking into these dark eyes, she didn’t know.

“Why are you following us?”

Suddenly, she recognized the voice. The man by the stream. He had called out to her as she dashed into the bushes… Where is your tongue, woman? she berated herself silently.

Éomer saw the flash of realization cross her face and bit back a smile. “It was you, was it not? By the Firien stream…you killed those Orcs.” He paused. “Why?”

When he still received no response, he relented. “Maybe you will feel more like talking in the morning. I will see that you get something to eat. You must be hungry, if all you had with you was that waybread in your bag.” He stood, looking down at her. She glanced down at the bindings on her wrists, then up at him.

“My apologies, my lady,” he said calmly. “That was a necessary precaution. Apparently you have already injured at least four of my men.”

He was leaving? Say something...anything....

“Only four?” Anhuil quipped, raising her bound hands to rub the back of her head.

“What?” Éomer looked at her, puzzled.

“Only four of your men?” She touched her cut lip. “I thought surely there were more.”

“Ah, so you do speak.” He smiled at her arrogance.

“No harm would have come to them if they had not attacked me. Are there no gentlemen in your land? Have they no courtesy toward women?” She sat up straighter, squaring her shoulders.

She had a lovely, lilting voice, her diction precise, her accent certainly not that of a peasant's daughter. He was not sure what he had expected, but he was surprised nonetheless, mostly at finding himself appraising the qualities of her speech. Bless Béma, man, what has gotten into you?

“I told you, they did not know you were a woman. Women in my country dress like women, not after the manner of rangers,” Éomer said matter-of-factly. “And it was dark.”

The princess narrowed her eyes, glaring at him. “If the men of your country cannot tell a woman from a man in the dark, it is a bleeding wonder there are so many of you!”

He knelt again on one knee, his face level with hers and smiled at her. He leaned close, two fingers under her chin. “Men in my country do not often come across little hoydens dressed as boys attacking them in the night,” he responded calmly. “If you wish to be treated as a woman then may I suggest a change of attire and perhaps of attitude?”

The princess was suddenly finding it quite stuffy in this tent, despite the chill in the air. She jerked her face away from his hand defiantly, the sudden movement making her head pound again. She closed her eyes tightly, short curls falling across her face. Éomer withdrew his hand and curled his fingers, resisting a strong urge to push them back from her face. Opening her eyes, Anhuil was relieved to see he had leaned back slightly on his heels. “Please, I do not wish to be adversarial. Who are you?”

She was not about to tell the whole truth and risk being taken straight back to Dol Amroth. She didn’t want to lie, but… Taking a deep breath, she answered him. “I am called Anhuil.”

“Where are you headed, Anhuil?” Éomer continued his interrogation. Her head hurt and he was getting on her nerves.

“My business, were I to have any, is not yours.” She reached up with her bound hands and brushed the curls from her eyes.

“You travel alone?” Her icy stare was the only answer he received. “No offense, my lady. But it is not often one comes across a woman brazen enough to travel these lands alone. It is dangerous territory.”

”You doubt my ability to protect myself?” she asked indignantly.

“My men captured you, did they not?” he smirked. “Others may not treat you so kindly. Of course, that depends upon whether they figure out you are a woman before they kill you.” He had to fight back a grin.

“Are you suggesting I do not look like a woman, Marshal?”

Éomer drew a deep breath. He realized he was more aware of her as a woman than any other female he had ever met. Careful, man, he thought to himself. “If it is any comfort, one good look at you should confirm to any red blooded man that you are no boy.”

The princess glared at him, somewhat taken aback by his cheek. “I am uncertain whether or not to take that as an affront or a compliment,” she remarked dryly. “Are you often so backhanded with your flattery?”

With a smirk, he pressed on, ignoring her question. He opened the journal and flipped through the pages, examining the drawings and writing within, then looked up at her expectantly. “These drawings are quite good.” He regarded the journal again. “Is this your work?” She nodded slightly. “You write in the Elvish script as well,” he observed.

“Sometimes I do,” she admitted. “It is an expressive language well suited to such writing,” she pointed out. “You read Tengwar?”

He shook his head. “Unfortunately, no,” he answered. Éomer leaned forward, elbows on his knees, regarding her quietly. “So tell me, what are you doing out here?” he finally asked.

Cocking her head to one side, the princess raised an eyebrow mockingly. “I will tell you something, Éomer, son of Éomund, Third Marshal of the Riddermark. I am traveling alone, and minding my own affairs. My horse was stolen, and most likely eaten by the Orcs that attacked you. I managed to escape, but somehow became lost in this forsaken country, and there does not seem to be an inn anywhere for leagues. And yes, I killed those Orcs by the stream. I could not just sit by and watch you be slaughtered. I meant no harm to you or your men. I only sought to defend myself. And now here I sit, my hands bound, my face bleeding, my skull cracked, and you are interrogating me as if I were the Enemy himself. If this is the way the kingdom of Rohan shows hospitality then I daresay it is sorely lacking. If you would kindly remove these bindings and let me go, I will be most pleased to relieve you of my company.” Holding out her wrists, she stood and glowered down at him.

Éomer chuckled softly at the admonishment. Somewhere a palace is missing one mouthy little princess, he thought to himself, not knowing how close he was to the truth. “If insulting those who try to assist you is how you thank them, I can understand why you are traveling alone.”

“Assist me?” Anhuil seethed. “You have a lot of nerve, Marshal. Is it that common an occurrence for men in your country to beat and tie up women? You call this assistance?” She jumped to her feet, holding out her bound hands. “This is how you reward those who aid you?” In her haste she had forgotten her head injury, and she stumbled forward as the tent spun again.

Éomer leapt to his feet and caught her as she fell forward, his broad hands nearly spanning her narrow waist as he held her up. Regaining her balance, she glared up into his dark eyes. Her expression softened at the concern in them. “Are you all right?” he asked her.

The princess opened her mouth to speak but had to fight for sound. “I...I am fine. Just a little dizzy, I suppose.” She tore her gaze from his and rubbed her forehead with the fingers of her bound hands. He nodded, standing her on her feet and making certain she had her balance again before releasing her.

She drew in a sharp breath as he pulled out a small knife. Éomer looked up at her. “Wisdom would say that a man should not trust easily in these evil days.” Taking both of her hands in one of his, he cut the bonds with a swift motion, and put the knife away. “But I am going to trust you, Anhuil. Please do not do anything foolish and make me regret that decision.”

Anhuil had thought he had been tall kneeling, but now he towered over her, still holding her hands. “Why would you trust me?” Her voice quivered slightly when she spoke. His warm hands gently rubbed her wrists where the bonds had been.

“Because you saved my life. Surely you did not do that just to take it now yourself.” Éomer found himself staring at her, still trying to figure out what color her eyes were in the dim light. His intense gaze was unsettling. “And because I now have your weapons.” He flashed her a devilish grin as she looked down, realizing the belt with her dagger was gone as well.

Jerking her hands away from his, she rubbed her own wrists and backed up slightly.

“I will have one of the men bring you something to eat. You will be our guest, and will travel with us, at least to the border.” Éomer spoke with finality. “I will leave you bag, your clothing, and your journal, should you wish to record for posterity the abhorrent manner of the Rohirrim.” With a smug smile, he turned, taking her quiver with him, and left her alone.

Outside the tent, Éomer spoke to one of his men. “See that she gets a hot meal. And bring her some warm water.”

“Warm water, sir?” inquired the soldier.

“I am sure our guest would like to clean up.”

Nodding, the soldier hurried off. Éothain was looking from the tent to Éomer and back again. “Guest, sir? Then should I dismiss the guard?”

“No. Not yet,” Éomer answered, looking back at the tent, where he could see her silhouette against the canvas. She was seated on the side of the cot, head in her hands. “Not yet.” He said again softly, to himself, as he made his way back to his tent.

Sitting on the small cot, she placed her pounding head on her hands. The audacity of that man! You will travel with us, indeed! Only as far as necessary, she thought to herself. Trust, hah! There were two armed guards outside her tent!

Anhuil leaned back on the cot, trying desperately to squash the thought of his dark eyes and the touch of his warm hands…

She was awakened during the night by a scratching sound. She sat up, careful not to move too quickly, creeping quietly to the back of the tent. She whispered his name. “Elenion! Tolo!” She heard a soft whimper. “Le delio. Aphado ammen.” The sound of his footfalls disappearing gave her comfort. At least he was free. She curled up on the cot and fell into an exhausted sleep.

Plunking himself down onto the bench in his tent, he frowned. It had seemed very warm in her tent, and Éomer was grateful his own did not seem so stuffy. Deliberately flexing his hands, he tried to forget the feel of her slim waist between them. He lay back on the cot. Green, he decided. Her eyes were green. As he lay back on his cot and closed his eyes, he wondered why that mattered.

***********
Tolo! Henio aníron - Come!
Le delio. Rado aphada le ammen - Hide! You must find a way to follow us.


Chapter 5 - Chapter Four

Trust To Hope - Chapter Four

Disclaimer: The usual disclaimers apply. Tolkien created these characters, I just used them for my own selfish purposes. The wolf is mine. The Elvish is not perfect. Translations at the bottom. No profit to be made here. See Prologue for complete disclaimer.
Warnings: None to speak of, I suppose…
Beta: Thank you, Riya! She puts up with all my typos and my complaining…and Zee…so honored you approve!
Rating: still PG

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Part Four
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“Happiness is the china shop. Love is the bull.”

H.L. Mencken
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Rohan
22 Nínui, 3019 T.A.
**********************

She awoke the next morning to the sounds of the men moving about the camp, preparing to ride out. She sat up on the cot, swinging her feet to the floor, massaging her sore head. A young soldier peeked in. “Oh, you are up,” he said, haltingly. “I, uh...brought you some breakfast. There’s some water here, too, if you’d like to wash up. Glad you’re all right; the men say there was a big wolf around last night. Found his tracks.” Setting down the plate, he backed out of the tent, and scurried off like a scared rabbit.

Anhuíl sighed resignedly. She washed her face and hands, pulling off her muddy leggings and slipping into the clean pair from her bag. She removed the small piece of fabric from the pocket of her old trousers, fingering the embroidery on the edge. Impatiently, she tucked it into the pocket of the clean trousers and pulled on her boots. The tunic, however, was not hers. Shrugging into it, she sighed. It was a bit too big and had an annoying habit of falling off one shoulder, but until she could wash her own it would have to do. Grateful she had worn an undershirt, she rolled up the dirtly clothing and stuffed it into the bag. The breakfast consisted of some bread, cheese, and an apple.

Sighing heavily, she picked up the tea and sipped it, closing her eyes. Hot tea was one thing she had dearly missed. She sat back down on the cot carefully. The dizziness had subsided substantially, but her head still pounded if she moved too quickly. She sipped the tea slowly, intermingling a few bites of bread and cheese. Polishing off the tea, Anhuil picked up the apple and carefully took a bite, mindful of her sore lip.

“Are you dressed?” The deep voice outside the tent startled her.

“After a fashion,” she responded, scrutinizing her attire.

Éomer appeared in the doorway of the tent. “Come with me.” He motioned outside.

“Charming first thing in the morning, are we not?” she muttered to herself, tossing on her cloak and stepping out, squinting against the bright sun.

Éomer led her to where his horse stood waiting, already saddled. She spoke softly to the animal, petting him gently. “Vendui, mellonmin. Le na vanima.” She cooed, stroking his glossy coat, giggling as he nuzzled her neck. The princess offered him the rest of her apple, which he took greedily.

The horseman watched curiously. His people were masters in the breeding of steeds, and often spoke to them. It was not a trait he commonly saw in strangers. He leapt skillfully into the saddle and reached for her hand. “You will ride with me.”

Anhuíl was taken aback. “I assure you I can ride alone,” she responded, stepping back from the horse.

“I do not doubt you can.” Éomer continued to extend his hand toward her.

She looked at him defiantly. “I thought you were going to trust me.” The princess folded her arms.

Éomer took a deep breath. This woman certainly tried his patience. “Trusting you to stay in your tent without tying you up is one thing; however, giving you a horse is something I am not yet willing to do.” He reached for her again.

She looked at his outstretched hand. Somehow the thought of riding that close to him both excited and frightened her. He looked strikingly handsome in his full armor, astride this beautiful animal. Where did that thought come from? Backing up slightly, she asked, “Why can I not ride with one of them?” The other men were mounting their horses, eyeing her warily.

Growing weary of her arguing, he dismounted, picked her up with his hands on her waist, and swept her up into the saddle. She weighed nearly nothing, at least to him, and he was surprised at how she could be so light yet feel so solid under his hands. Shaking off the thought, he swiftly settled in behind her. “You cannot ride with one of them,” Éomer leaned close, his breath warm on her cheek, “because they are all afraid of you,” he whispered into her ear, and spurred his horse on.

Anhuíl sat rigid in the saddle, intent on ignoring the Horsemaster behind her. Éomer’s arms were around her, slightly resting against hers as he held the reins. The chill in the air matched her mood, and the coolness of the breeze only served to intensify the warmth of his arms as they pressed against her when the trail became rough. She yanked the tunic back up on to her shoulder, impatiently brushing her hair from her face.

Éomer glanced down at the woman in front of him. Her unruly curls were dark, almost black, and glinted with auburn highlights in the sun’s rays. The tunic he had given her kept slipping off, baring her shoulder. The smell of her lavender scented hair permeated the air. He was beginning to regret his decision to seat her in front of him as he shifted slightly in the saddle, grateful for the armor between them.

“Are you comfortable?” he tried to sound as genuine as possible.

Anhuil stiffened. Inhaling deeply, she took in the smell of warm leather surrounding her. Long blonde hair tickled her bare shoulder as he leaned forward to speak, and she quickly pulled the sleeve back up. “I am traveling against my will with a forced escort and a cracked skull and a split lip, wearing someone else’s clothing, sitting in the lap of a man I do not know. No, I am not comfortable. Thank you.”

A soft chuckle escaped his lips, earning him a sharp elbow in the ribs. He soon discovered that any inappropriate move on his part would result in the same. Another reason to be grateful for the armor, he decided.

Anhuíl was relieved when they stopped for the night. Éomer slid from the saddle, and reached up to help her down. Brushing him off, she attempted to climb down unaided.

Éomer pulled lightly on the reins, causing the animal to side step. Her foot missed the stirrup and she fell backward, into his waiting arms, a self-satisfied smirk crossing his face. His arms supporting her slight weight tightened around her. Their gaze locked. The princess suddenly found it difficult to find the words, much less the necessary air to speak. "Put…me…down," she finally stammered.

“My lady,” Éomer soothed, “I have held you in my arms all day. If I had any intention…”

Anhuíl found her voice. “PUT ME DOWN!”

“As you wish.” Éomer released her. Anhuíl suddenly found herself on the ground, on her backside, glaring at his retreating back.

A nearby soldier offered a hand, but the menacing look on Anhuíl’s face made him back away. Rising to her feet, she stomped off toward the river.

******
The marshal bent down beside Firefoot, busily unfastening the leather buckles on the saddle. Nice going, he told himself. She lectures you on courtesy last night, and today, you drop her. Without doubt those journals will be filled with lovely stories of the Rohirrim.

He paused what he was doing, staring down into the dirt beneath his horse. He had been surprised by the feel of her in his arms when he held her. Feminine curves, yes, but solid, as one accustomed to using her muscles. His fist clenched involuntarily as he thought of the feel of her against him, in the saddle, and in his arms. Taking a deep breath and deliberately flexing his fingers, he pushed the thought from his mind. She was a pain in the backside and he needed to be rid of her as soon as possible.

He did, however, owe her an apology.

“Where is the lady?” Éomer inquired of the two Rohirrim near the fire. One of them shrugged and pointed toward the river.

“That way.”

Éomer cursed under his breath.

Anhuíl knelt beside the river, splashing the chilly water on her face. She watched the glittering water move south, toward the sea. Closing her eyes, her head filled with images of her home… a real bath…her warm bed…water that seemed to go on forever… She sighed and shook away the thought. She couldn’t go back. Not yet.

The marshal strode down to the dark riverbank. This woman had become more of an annoyance than he anticipated. They would escort her as far as they could, and then she would no longer be his problem. She was a distraction from his duty.

Still, he reckoned, she was not an unattractive distraction.

Anhuíl was crouching on the ground near the river, affectionately petting a large wolf. Her fingers were buried in the thick fur of his neck, the words she spoke soft and lilting. “Mani na essa ‘en le?” She teased the wolf. He whimpered and lay down. She took his jaw into her hand and looked into his eyes. “Orni delio nín,” she admonished him. Éomer could hear her voice, but he could not make out the words.

The wolf jumped up, front paws on her chest, knocking her backward. She laughed and ruffled his fur, pulling on his ears, wrestling with him playfully.

Éomer’s heart skipped at beat as he saw her lying on her back. Huge paws pinned her to the soft ground. Her hands were on the beast’s neck. Breaking into a run, he drew his sword.

The distinctive sound of a sword clearing its sheath coupled with his sharp voice made Anhuíl jump to her feet. “Anhuíl!” He called to her. Eleníon stepped in front of her, growling.

Anhuíl knelt and put her arms protectively around the wolf. “Put your weapon away,” she said calmly.

Éomer eyed the creature warily. “I thought you were being attacked.”

Without taking her eyes off Éomer, she spoke to the animal softly, “Eleníon, le henio. Le ilharnannen.”

Looking at Éomer, she said, “He will not harm you. I promise. Put your weapon away.” She directed her voice to the animal beside her who was eyeing the marshal warily. “Eleníon, havo.” The huge wolf sat beside her like an obedient dog. Éomer remembered the way she had spoken to the horses. “Eleníon is an old friend.” She smiled at the beast beside her.

Still holding his sword at his side, Éomer shook his head. What next? Oliphants? He was not sure he wanted the answer. “You should not be out here alone. And now…a wolf?”

“I traveled for quite a long way alone before meeting you, Lord Marshal,” she quipped, burying her face in the soft fur, and hugging Eleníon tightly. “And he is harmless, I promise you.”

“I do not know if I can convince my men of that.”

“Your men may believe whatever they will.” Anhuíl stood and headed up the bank toward the camp. Eleníon, clearly not interested in the exchange, crept off into the underbrush.

“They will believe what I tell them, Anhuíl, of which I prefer the truth.” Éomer followed her up the path from the bank. “I am beginning to feel I should reconsider my decision to trust you.” He grabbed her arm to stop her. “Why did you save my life?”

She stopped, silently regarding the sword in his other hand, her gaze trailing to his hand locked onto her arm. Raising one arched eyebrow, she glared at him. “Had I known you better then, I might have reconsidered my decision.”

Éomer stared at her, taken aback. Anhuíl jerked her arm from his grasp and continued down the bank. He sheathed the sword, and jogged after her. “I beg your pardon?”

She stopped in her tracks, turning to face him, fists on her hips. “Consider the change in my luck, my lord. Since I saved your life, I have been hit over the head, tied up, held against my will, ordered around, forced to ride all day long with you, and then dropped on my rear. I am beginning to regret that choice.”

Éomer looked amused. “You told me to put you down.”

“I did not wish to ride with you in the first place!” she retorted. “I do not need an escort, nor do I want one. I am perfectly capable of defending myself. I have traveled alone a great distance already and would prefer to continue in that fashion.”

“It is our law that strangers do not wander the Mark without the king’s leave. The Eastfold is my responsibility, therefore as long as you travel in my land, your safety is also my responsibility,” Éomer told her.

Éomer saw the fire rising in her eyes as her temper flared, fists clenched at her sides. “I am no man’s responsibility!” she snapped. Turning on her heel, she stormed off toward the camp. “Edaín! Nowahain hanya il inis! Nowahain n’inimiete ava brono er!

Éomer could hear her cursing all the way up the hill but could not understand the words. Probably a blessing, he told himself as he made his way back. As soon as they hit the border of his land, she was free to go. He needed to focus his attention on to the dangers facing his own people.

So much for an apology, he chastised himself.

He found her later, sitting by the fire. Her cloak on her shoulders, she sipped from a cup. “If you are going to wander around in the dark alone, you might need these,” he said, dropping her sheathed dagger, quiver and bow beside her on the ground.

Biting back a string of sarcastic comments desperately trying to surface, she looked up at him. “Thank you,” she said softly, turning her attention back to the fluttering flames, ignoring him. The marshal watched her silently for a moment before striding off to his tent.



Mani na essa en le? - Where have you been?
Orni delio nín - I told you to stay out of sight
Eleníon, le henio. Le ilharnannen - Eleníon, listen to me. He will not harm you.
Edaín! Nowahain hanya il inis! Nowahain n’inimiete ava brono er! - Men…they think they know everything! They think no woman could survive alone!


Chapter 6 - Chapter Five

Trust to Hope - Chapter Five

Beta…Riya - You so rock.
Thanks to Zee…as always…
All previous disclaimers still apply. See prologue for details.
Rating: PG13
Warnings: Arrogant masculinity abounding…Sarcasm and threats of bondage…
No horses were actually kicked in the writing of this chapter…

************
Part Five
*************

If you wanna touch her…
Really wanna touch her…
If you wanna touch her....ask!

If You Wanna Touch Her - Shania Twain
********************************

Rohan
23 Nínui, 3019 T.A.
***********************

Anhuil sat up on the small cot, deciding morning came much too early in this Valar forsaken country. Digging through her bag, she pulled out a small comb and attempted to disentangle her short curls. It was a rather hopeless effort. She splashed some cold water from the basin onto her face, hoping the cold would clear the fog from her brain. Another day of riding with the marshal did not particularly appeal to her. Briefly, she wished she had a mirror, then wondered why it mattered to her what she looked like.

With the morning mist still swirling about the camp, Anhuil donned her cloak and gathered her weapons. Making her way between the tents, she steeled herself for the day’s ride. The thought of spending another day, another hour, another minute in his arms was unnerving. Her elbow was sore from the previous day’s workout. What was it about him she found so disquieting?

Éomer saddled the horse, mentally preparing himself. How could one small woman disrupt his existence so much in so little time? Was it really only two nights ago she had dropped, unconscious, into his life? And why the heck did it matter to him what color her eyes were?

He turned to see her behind him. She stood, one hand on the curve of her hip and the other holding her bow, watching him idly. Anhuil had strapped the dagger back to her belt and her quiver was slung on her back. Elenion trailed behind her, wagging his tail. The men had taken the news of the wolf better than he had expected. She reached down and casually ruffled the scruffy fur as the wolf strode past.

“I wish to ride alone today,” she announced, with the tone of one who expected to be obeyed. It was not a request, although she knew what the response would be. The marshal regarded her for a moment, considering her decree.

“We do not have horses to spare,” came the answer. Éomer continued cinching the saddle. “Not to mention this habit you have of wandering off.” Anhuil glowered at him. “You will have to ride with me.” He suppressed a smile at her annoyed expression. He finished with the saddle and stroked the sleek animal’s neck.

He made a sweeping gesture, offering to let her mount first. She did so resignedly, hooking the bow and quiver to the saddle pommel in front of her. Éomer leapt astride behind her.

“Do not ask me if I am comfortable,” she quipped icily.

He laughed out loud, scoring yet another sharp jab.

Deciding polite conversation might be the better route to take, the marshal spoke much more openly today. He talked of the history of his people, how Éorl the Young had brought them from the North to establish the kingdom of Rohan after the Battle at Celebrant. The Éothed had ridden to the aid of Gondor, in effect saving the Kingdom from defeat. In reward for their deed, the Steward Círion had gifted Éorl with the land called Calenardhon, now called by the Sindarin name, Rohan.

Anhuil was familiar with the history of the Rohirrim but said nothing. She actually enjoyed listening to him tell it, finding it far more interesting than the books in the library of Minas Tirith. The pride in his voice was evident as he spoke of their mastery of horses, and of their people, tall, proud men and beautiful, flaxen haired women.

And just how many of those ‘flaxen haired beauties’ have you bedded, she wondered silently. And again, she wondered why she cared.

Anhuil listened with much more interest than she showed as Éomer continued on, explaining that the Eastfold of the Mark was his charge. He had been forced to move the herds and villagers beyond the Entwash for protection when the Orcs began invading their lands. They had ambushed the king’s son, in a battle at the Fords of Isen, wounding him seriously. Éomer did not know if he still lived. His voice became bitter as he talked of Saruman the White and his suspicions about the king’s advisor, Gríma Wormtongue.

Their conversation remained light, mostly consisting of Éomer talking and the princess listening. Anhuil was polite but careful not to divulge much about her own life. The marshal was vexed by her reticence. She was clearly educated and well spoken, in at least two languages, and had serious issues with lack of propriety. There was something he could not put his finger on that bothered him.

“You still have not told me why you are traveling in my country alone,” he remarked casually.

“The fact that you are forcing me to travel with you does not entitle you to know everything about me, Marshal,” she answered dryly.

“Everything?” Éomer laughed. “I know nothing about you, my lady, except your name, and that you spend hours at night writing in that journal of yours.”

“What else is necessary?” she inquired, her stomach knotting slightly.

“What have you to hide?” he inquired sarcastically.

“What makes you think I hide anything? Just because I do not wish to share every detail of my life with someone who is a complete stranger…” she reasoned, shifting her weight slightly in the saddle.

Éomer wished she wouldn’t do that. He leaned forward when he spoke, his lips close to her ear. “Surely you do not still perceive me a stranger?” He felt her shudder, clenching his teeth as she shifted her weight again. He cringed at his most inappropriate, if involuntary, response.

He lowered the hands that held the reins, casually resting his forearms lightly against her thighs. She stiffened immediately, sitting up straight and squaring her shoulders.

Anhuil was becoming annoyed. One moment they were engaged in polite conversation, the next he was purposefully trying to rile her. He was certainly NOT behaving like a gentleman, and she had tried reminding him of that often with her elbow. Whispering in her ear was bad enough, but now the rogue was actually touching her. Even were she not a princess, his behavior toward her was deplorable. She was no tavern wench to be manhandled at his will. And the warm pressure on her thighs sent a tingling sensation through her that she was not entirely comfortable with.

Flipping her hair back, she stiffened. “Please do not do that,” she requested, impatiently polite.

“Do not do what?” Éomer feigned innocence, leaning down once more. His words were warm against her skin, chilled from the cool breeze; his beard tickled her cheek. What was it about this man that made it so incredibly difficult for her to breathe?

When courtesy failed to get the desired result, she resorted to kicking him in the shin with her heel. She immediately realized the fallacy of that act as Firefoot snorted and reared up, charging through the ranks and bolting ahead. Éomer fought to control the animal, pulling back on the reins. The horse sped down an embankment toward the river. Clutching the saddle with both hands, she held on as the animal clambered down the riverbank. Clouds of dust swirled as the hooves pounded the soft ground. The marshal skillfully regained control over his mount, slowing him to a walk, speaking to him soothingly in a soft voice.

Anhuil felt as if her chest was being crushed. Why couldn’t she breathe? She realized with shock he had one arm around her, gripping her tightly against him. “Let me go!” She slapped at his hand, writhing, trying to free herself. “Let go!!”

Éomer unconsciously maintained his hold on her, willing his heartbeat to slow to a more normal pace. He had just saved the silly chit from being thrown and possibly killed, and now she was slapping at him. He loosened his grip. She wriggled from his grasp and slid to the ground, backing away. She squatted down to the ground, face buried in her hands.

“Anhuil, are you all right?” he asked, dismounting and walking toward her. “Are you hurt?”

Anhuil did not look up. “Yes. No. Just go away. Leave me alone.” She pressed the heels of her hands against her head, her pulse pounding in her ears.

“Leave you alone?!” He was incredulous. For the love of Béma, he would never understand women. She had just kicked his horse, almost killed both of them, and she and the nerve to be angry with him? “Believe me, woman, if I could leave you right here, I would. You nearly killed both of us. If you had not kicked my horse--“

She leapt to her feet. “I did not kick your horse. I kicked YOU!” she shouted. “Your horse has been a perfect gentleman. You, however, have been behaving like a churlish cad!” Anhuil’s eyes flashed with anger.

Incensed, Éomer lowered his voice, speaking through clenched teeth. “You spooked my horse and we are both lucky to be alive!”

Anhuil drew herself up to her full height, all five feet of it, and strode directly at him, hands on her hips. “Your behavior has been entirely inappropriate! You have been deliberately annoying me-“

The marshal glared at her. “Annoying you? Woman, you have been a thorn in my side since—“

“YOU are the one insisting I travel with you! If I am such unpleasant company, why do you not just LEAVE ME ALONE?!” Anhuil had stepped directly in front of him, and punctuated the last three words by shoving him back, both hands on the breastplate of his armor.

Éomer stared at her, this small person pushing him in the chest. The look she gave him could have melted solid rock. He had known many women, but none who had ever exasperated him as could this short, dark haired she-devil standing in front of him. She was absolutely maddening, infuriating…and strangely fascinating.

He suddenly felt as if something had sucked all of the air out of his universe. She stood there, eyes flaming, inches from him. His anger had vanished as if into thin air, abruptly replaced by an almost overwhelming desire to kiss her, right here, right now.

Anhuil glowered at the man in front of her. How dare he blame her? She leveled her emerald gaze at him. The angry fire in his eyes softened, a different kind of fire now blazing in them. The intensity with which he regarded her took her breath away. She took a step back, her eyes locked on his.

The sound of thundering hooves broke the silence that hung like a cloud in the air. Éothain approached with three other horsemen, the others remained on the embankment above. “What happened?”

Éomer’s held her gaze for a moment longer. He had let her see too much, and he knew it. He reached for the reins of his horse. “Something spooked my mount. We are fine,” he answered. His eyes caught hers again, for a brief second. She looked down, brushing imaginary dust from her trousers, muttering elvish curses under her breath.

“It is late. This is as good a place as any to make camp. We shall stop here for the night.” He removed her bow, quiver and bag from the horse’s saddle and presented them to her. He bowed his head slightly in her direction before leading his horse away.

Anhuil had never been so thankful for an interruption. She had seen far more in his eyes than he had intended, of that she was certain.

******

In the chill of the evening, she sat near a small fire under a tree, her cloak pulled tightly around her shoulders. A young soldier approached, handing her a bowl of stew. “Here you go, Miss.”

Taking the bowl, she smiled at him. “Thank you.”

He smiled. “My pleasure, my lady.”

Anhuil studied the young man. He appeared very young, less than twenty, she guessed. Like most of the Rohirrim, he was tall. Wiry, with blonde hair and strong features. His long hair was braided back, and his armor was slightly big. “You are young for a soldier.”

“I am old enough.” He seemed almost insulted, standing tall.

“What is your name?”

“Handarion, son of Handron, Miss,” the boy answered, bowing cordially.

Anhuil extended her hand. “A pleasure to meet you, Handarion, son of Handron.”

“Likewise,” he grinned, taking her hand and kissing her fingers lightly.

The lady was aware that her actions were being watched carefully. Éomer sat outside the light of the fire, speaking with a group of men. She had seen him periodically glancing in her direction.

“Join me, please.” Taking a bite of the stew, she motioned for him to sit. He plopped down on the grass, dropping his helmet beside him. “So, Handarion, son of Handron. Tell me about yourself.”

“Not much to tell, Miss,” Handarion answered shyly.

“Come now, a handsome young man like you must have young ladies pining away at home,” Anhuil was charmed by the young man’s bashfulness.

He smiled sheepishly. “Well, maybe one.” Anhuil looked at him expectantly. “Her name is Melian.”

“Meaning “dear gift,” the princess said softly. “I am sure she is very pretty.”

“Yes ma’am, she is,” he answered, smiling wistfully. “How did you know? The meaning, I mean.”

“I love names and their meanings,” she answered with a shrug. “Melian was one of the Ainur, married to the Elven King Thingol.”

The boy grinned. “You know alot about that sort of thing, don’t you?”

“I am a student of history and cultures, Handarion. I love learning. Everything about this world fascinates me.” She smiled, quickly changing the subject. “What of your family?”

The young man’s hesitation gave her the idea that she should not have asked. “My mother is at home with my younger sister. Father served with the king’s son. He was killed at the Fords of Isen.”

“I am sorry. I did not mean—“

“No matter. Really. That is why I am here.” He looked down. “Although my mother did not want me to go.”

“No mother ever wants her children in harm’s way.” Anhuil placed her hand on his shoulder. “I am sure she will be proud of you.”

Handarion beamed at her. “Thank you, Miss.” He paused, noticing her weapons lying nearby. “That’s a beautiful dagger,” he offered.

“Thank you.” She pulled it from its sheath, admiring the jeweled handle and Elvish script on the blade, and passed it to Handarion. “It was a gift from my eldest brother. He thought I needed a decent weapon.” She smiled at the memory. “It is a long story.”

“What does this say?” He indicated the Tengwar lettering.

The princess laughed. “Tithen maethor,” she answered with a giggle.

“What does that mean?” He turned the dagger over in his hand, testing the weight of it.

“Little Warrior. I told you, it is a long story.”

“You will have to tell me someday.” He eyed the blade for a moment. “Why a dagger instead of a sword?” Handarion wondered aloud.

“Look at me, Handarion. How many swords are made that would not drag the ground if I carried them?”

He regarded her diminutive stature, chuckling softly. “I suppose I see your point. But is it not harder to get close enough to use it?”

“Not if you throw it.” She grinned. “Ever thrown a dagger?”

“No, ma’am. My training has all been with pike, bow and sword.”

“Come on,” Anhuil stood up, grabbing the dagger. She stepped back from the tree about twenty feet, and flipped the dagger in her hand so the blade was in her palm. She weighed it in her hand, eye on the target. Raising her hand to shoulder level, she let the dagger fly. Flipping end over end, the blade buried neatly in the trunk of the tree.

Handarion walked to the tree and removed the dagger, inspecting it carefully. “Impressive. You do not cut yourself with the blade in your hand in such a way?"

"No," she answered. "The edges are not terribly sharp. A dagger is not a cutting weapon, Handarion, it is a piercing weapon. Only the tip need be sharp."

She showed him how to hold the blade, balance it and flip it from his hand. After a few tries, he hit the tree dead center. “Very well done!” Anhuil clapped him on the back.

“But what do you do at close range?” Handarion asked her.

“Draw your sword.”

“Pardon?” The young man was not sure he had heard her correctly.

“I said draw your sword,” she teased, taunting him with the dagger

The boy was hesitant. “I don’t want to hurt you,” he said as he drew the blade slowly.

“You will not.” The small woman danced around him. “Come on, attack! What are you waiting for?” She held out her left hand, palm up, curling her fingertips, beckoning him.

He swung at her halfheartedly, and she easily blocked. “Do not patronize me, young man. I know you can do better than that! Believe me, I have three older brothers. You are not going to hurt me!”

The sounds of laughter and clashing metal turned Éomer’s attention to the impromptu sparring match.

With that, Handarion lunged at her. She parried the blow. He swung again, and she spun with her dagger…

In her amusement with Handarion, she had forgotten she was being watched. Éomer had come from behind her, and as she spun, he had stepped in and blocked her dagger with his own sword. Steel clashed, weapons and eyes locked. Anhuil could see the reflection of the campfire behind her in his eyes, flames flickering in dark pools.

“Giving the lad a few pointers?” That deep, soft voice. The princess took a deep breath, clenching her dagger with both hands. Éomer was surprised at her strength.

“Why? Did you come to try your luck, Lord Éomer?” Anhuil asked sweetly, her voice dripping with sarcasm.

“I do not believe in luck, Lady Anhuil.” He answered quietly, in the same tone. “A man chooses his own destiny.”

“I see.” She stepped sideways, still holding her weapon steady. “And what destiny would you choose, Lord Éomer?”

“That remains to be seen, my lady.” He flashed her a roguish grin. She spun around and swung low with the dagger, only to be blocked again.

“What is the matter, my dear? You cannot even lift the blade to my heart,” the marshal mocked her.

“Perhaps it is not for your heart that I am aiming.” Her narrowed eyes never left his.

He raised his eyebrows in mock concern. “Perhaps I should to tie you up again?”

That annoying tunic slipped again, her curls obscuring one eye. She flipped them back with a toss of her head.

“You would enjoy that, would you not?” She flashed him a charming smile.

The marshal could not believe the little minx was teasing him! She lunged again. This time he allowed her to get closer. As she brought the dagger up toward his throat, he grasped her wrist, turning her around. His hand gripped her wrist, holding her dagger to her own throat. In one quick motion, he effectively pinned her back against his chest and sheathed his sword with his free hand. Éomer pressed his lips lightly to her ear. “As would you,” he whispered, sending chills down her spine. “I assure you.”

Fighting to maintain some semblance of composure, Anhuil swallowed hard and smiled sweetly. “Surely a gentleman such as yourself would not have to resort to such tactics.” She stressed the word ‘gentleman’ sarcastically, the slight tremor in her voice belying her confidence.

She felt his grip relax slightly, and he whirled her around to face him. Still holding her wrist, her fist clenched around the dagger, he pressed her arm behind her back, pulling her hard against him. Anhuil’s free hand pushed against his chest, and she could feel his heart pounding beneath the rough fabric of his tunic.

“Not yet,” the marshal replied softly. “But there is always a first time.”

Enough teasing. Before she could issue the remark burning on her tongue, Éomer bent down, his mouth covered hers in a demanding kiss. With her hand on his chest she tried to push away from him, but her lips refused to cooperate. His other hand went to the back of her neck, pressing her closer, deepening his possession. Her tight grasp on the dagger behind her loosened and it fell, landing blade down in the ground with a soft thud.

He released her so suddenly she almost fell backwards as she struggled to regain her footing. He flashed her a smug grin, and bent down, plucking the dagger from the soft ground. Flipping it in his palm, he flung it at the tree, the blade neatly burying itself with a muted “thunk”.

Éomer nodded to Handarion. “I believe you have duties to attend to.”

“Yes sir!” The youth bolted across the encampment.

With an exaggerated bow, he regarded Anhuil with a sardonic smile. “Goodnight, Lady Anhuil. Sleep well.” The marshal strolled casually back to his own tent.

Anhuil stood silently for a moment, touching her cut lip with the tip of her tongue. Regaining her composure, the princess tossed her hair back and straightened her tunic. Stalking to the tree, she yanked the dagger from the wood, and stomped off to her own quarters, re-sheathing it as she walked.

Sitting on the edge of her cot, she mulled over the situation. Her body was exhausted, but her mind was determined to allow her no sleep. Admittedly, she had egged him on. Why had she allowed him to kiss her? She had stopped plenty of others who attempted to breach her personal boundaries. No suitor at home would have dared be so forward. But then again, at home, she was Princess Lothíriel of Dol Amroth, daughter of Lord Imrahil. The title alone was enough to keep most men in their places.

Here, she was simply Anhuil. She giggled at the thought. No fancy title, no social constraints. She wondered what the marshal would think if he knew he had just kissed a Gondorian Princess, a thought which brought an involuntary and certainly most un-royal snicker.

The truth was, she wanted to know more about what she had seen in his eyes. She had encouraged him, even teased him, and he had called her bluff. No man had ever dared to do that to her before.

That kiss… Anhuil had been kissed before, but this had not been a trite peck such as she had received from her suitors back home. Their kisses were always polite, genteel. Boring. Passionless.

She closed her eyes and lay back, contemplating the feeling of his lips covering hers. Passion. That was what she had seen in his eyes. By the Valar, he definitely knew how to express it. He probably had women scattered all over his country, one in every small village! Flaxen haired beauties, indeed. Well, she was not about to become another notch in his sword hilt. The princess rolled over, determined to forget the feeling of his lips on hers. Pulling out her journal, she spread it out on the pillow, and began to write.

Back in his own tent, Éomer collapsed onto his cot. Reaching over to the small table, he picked up the broken arrow, fingering the feathered fletching distractedly. He ran the tip of his tongue lightly across his lower lip. He could still taste her kiss.

He usually had much better control of himself. It was slightly vexing that he had allowed her to push him so far. The little hoyden had asked for it, teasing him as she was. She didn’t exactly fight him, either. The thought of her momentary surrender made the Éomer smile. Underneath that tough, bratty, frustrating exterior, she was a woman after all.

Unfortunately, a woman he still knew very little about. As intriguing as she was he could ill afford to become distracted, of this he was aware. He licked his lip again. This could be interesting, indeed, he thought as he closed his eyes.



*********
Deep in Denialville
Trying to fight the way I feel…
If you stand too close to me
I might melt down from the heat
If you look my way one more time
I’m gonna go out of my mind…

(Shania Twain, Whatever You Do, Don’t!)
*********


Chapter 7 - Chapter Six

Trust to Hope - Chapter Six
Author: Novedhelion
Type: FP Het
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Pairing: Éomer/Lothíriel
Rating: PG for now…

Warnings: Just a really hot Horsemaster...

Beta: Riyallyn...come on, Riya, just one more rewrite??

Disclaimer: I am not J.R.R. Tolkien. I do not claim any of these as my own except Camwethrin and Elenion. I don’t intend to make any profit here. It will be a waste of time to sue me, I have no money. I tried to follow canon where possible but did take some artistic license. If PJ can give Asfaloth to Arwen...

Thanks a million, Zee!

***************
Chapter Six
***************

My poor heart needs
Someone who can
Take it like a man
Steady and strong
Not a lot of fuss or carrying on
True to a promise you can write in stone…

Take it Like A Man
Michelle Wright
***********************

**************
Rohan
24 Nínui, 3019 T.A.
****************

Opening the flap of her tent, Anhuil found the morning weather matched her mood. Fog hung about the camp, and a cold drizzle had set in. Leaning on the post framing the opening, she absentmindedly touched her cut lip with her index finger, still pondering the previous night’s kiss. With a shake of her head, she brought herself back to the present. For the sake of the Valar, girl, it is not like you have never been kissed, she thought to herself, throwing on her cloak. Pulling up the hood against the rain, she grabbed her weapons and headed for the horses.

Treading through the mud, she slid the bow and quiver onto her shoulder with her bag. As she walked, she strapped her belt around her hips. She pulled out the dagger, examined it briefly, noting that she really needed to sharpen it, and replaced it in the sheath.

Éomer was already by his horse when she arrived. Striding up to the animal, she removed her bow and quiver, hooking them to the saddle in front of her. Anhuil leapt into the saddle without a word, refusing to look at him. Entertained by her attitude, he mounted up, sliding into the saddle behind her. “Good morning to you, too, Lady Anhuil.”

She pulled her cloak tighter around her, ignoring him. The marshal chuckled and called his men to ride, the horns ringing out in the mist.

The day wore on in like misery. The weather showed no improvement, if anything, it became worse. Dense fog surrounded them, making travel difficult and slow. The misty rain soaked through Anhuil’s cloak and clothing, clinging to her skin, chilling her. She was quiet and sullen.

Éomer looked down at the small figure in front of him. Perhaps he had crossed the line last night. He had never forced himself on a woman, but this one…she had teased him, goaded him. He berated himself silently for not having more control, even if she had been asking for it. It concerned him that she could so easily cause him to lose his grip.

She only had a thin tunic and cloak, and was completely drenched. The light drizzle had not stopped all day, and both men and horses were weary of it. The marshal found her lack of spirit somewhat disconcerting. Mostly she just ignored him, responding to very little he said. Loathe to admit it as he was, he almost missed her banter. Apparently exhaustion had overtaken her as well, as he had not been elbowed nearly as often today. By early evening he decided to call a halt.

The company dismounted and began to set up camp. Éomer leapt from the horse and was careful this time to stay out of her way when she did likewise, her boots landing with a soft splat in the mud. Anhuil regarded her clothing with disdain. Mud from the horse’s hooves had spattered her trousers and boots, and she was drenched. Her curls were wet and stuck to her forehead under the hood of her cloak, her long eyelashes damp on her cheeks. The wet clothing was pasted to her skin. “I need a bath,” she fussed, attempting to brush some of the mud from her clothes. “I am a mess.”

Éomer surveyed her, choosing his words carefully. “I would say that is not your most becoming look,” he agreed, “but I would not say it is altogether unattractive.” A slight smile crossed his lips at her shocked look as he turned and led the horse away.

Anhuil spotted Handarion pitching a tent nearby on the grass. She sloshed through the mud and offered her assistance, which he gratefully accepted. Being around the young man with his easy smile and friendly manner seemed to lighten her mood. They soon were joking and laughing as they worked, and quickly had the job finished.

The rain had finally offered a reprieve. Some of the men had built fires with what little dry wood they could find. Anhuil and Handarion sat nearby, eating from small wooden bowls, smiling and talking. Elenion lay under a tree, gnawing on a bone tossed to him by one of the men. Éomer found it amusing that the men seemed to accept the wolf traveling with them better than a woman.

He is less trouble for certain, the marshal silently mused.

Handarion was laughing at another of Anhuil’s stories of her brothers’ antics when Éomer approached. He stood outside the light of the fire watching her for a moment. She was so at ease with the young man. Why did she insist upon defying him at every turn?

However, Éomer was glad to see Handarion smiling again.

“Pardon me.” Éomer’s voice startled them.

Handarion jumped to his feet. “Sir.”

“I need a moment of the lady’s attention, if I may.” She regarded him coolly. “Lady Anhuil, will you come with me please?” Éomer extended a hand to help her up.

She hesitated, wondering what could be so urgent. Curiosity won out. With a sigh, grasped his hand and allowed him to pull her to her feet. Turning to the young man, she grinned. “We will talk again soon, Handarion. Thank you for your company.”

The youth bowed low. “My pleasure…I want to hear the rest of that story!” He beamed at her.

Éomer placed her hand on his arm as he escorted her to a tent at the edge of the camp. “Thank you for being so kind to him, Anhuil.”

She shrugged. “He is a charming young man.”

“That is the first time I have seen him laugh since he lost his father. It has been very hard on him. He was with us the day his father was killed.”

Anhuil absorbed the information silently. They continued walking to a tent at the far end of the row. Éomer stopped at the opening. “Ah, here we are.”

“My tent?” she inquired. “I was not aware I had a curfew.” The icy tone was returning.

Éomer drew in a deep breath. He was not going to get into another fight with her now. “Just go inside, please.” His voice was cajoling. “I hope you will find it to your satisfaction.” Smiling like a mischievous child, he glanced down at her soaked attire. “You should get out of those wet clothes before you take ill.” She gave him a puzzled look. “Goodnight, Anhuil.” He bowed slightly and turned on his heel.

Anhuil ducked inside, looking around. Someone had gone to a lot of trouble to set up her tent. In the dim lamplight, she could see her small cot, made up with a soft blanket. A makeshift curtain had been hung in the corner. She pulled the curtain back and smiled. A small barrel filled with steaming water, a small bit of soap, and some cloths to dry with.

Grinning, she dug into the leather bag attached to her quiver and pulled out a small bottle. It was one of the few luxuries she allowed herself to bring on this journey. Pouring a few drops of the lavender scented oil into the water, she tossed the wet cloak across the rope holding the curtain. She ducked behind it and quickly peeled the damp clothes. Picking up the nearby pitcher, she poured the scented contents over her head, relishing the feel of the clean, warm water on her skin.

Patting herself dry with the clean cloths, she dressed in spare clothing from her bag. Muddy clothes were washed next, along with the small handkerchief, and hung neatly to dry. Blowing out the small lamp, she lay down on the cot and curled up, pulling the soft blanket over her.

She tossed and turned on the small cot, random thoughts of the last days rifling through her head. Why had he gone to that much trouble? After all, just the other day he dropped her on her backside, told her she was his “responsibility” and seemed none too pleased about it. He had been churlish, a knave, most definitely NOT a gentleman. She rolled on to her back, staring up at the ceiling of the tent. She did not ask for this “escort”. He was arrogant, domineering, overbearing, completely annoying…and his roguish smile made her heart do flips.

That last thought came unbidden, and startled her. The more she tried to subdue it, the more the images came. His dark eyes, looking straight through hers that first night. His gentle touch as he cleaned her cuts. The warmth of him behind her on the saddle. His arms around her when she fell from the horse. The impish look he gave her tonight. That kiss…oh, Ilúvatar, she didn’t even want to go there. Damn that man, creeping into her innermost thoughts like he…well…belonged there!

Anhuil sat up, sighing heavily, and retrieved the journal from her bag. Perhaps putting her quill to paper would get it out of her system.

Staring at the blank page, it puzzled her that for once, words would not come. She began absently sketching on the page, not really aware of what she was drawing, letting her hands and her mind work together without much conscious thought. Often images came to her this way, and she was not infrequently surprised at what her hands created from her subconscious. She stopped suddenly, staring down at the sketch, and dropped the quill.

There were times she wished her skills of reproduction were not quite so well developed.

Slamming the journal shut, she stood. Maybe a walk would help. The last thing she needed was this man under her skin. The blanket was kicked off, and the boots pulled on. Anhuil ran her fingers through the still-damp curls, shaking them loose. Her cloak still wet, she threw the blanket around her shoulders and grabbed the belt that held her dagger. She stepped out into the chilly air. Elenion lay outside the tent, and he fell in step behind her as she strode through the camp slowly.


********
Take it like a Man
Who knows about love
And every little thing that a girl dreams of
Someone wise enough to understand
If you want this woman’s heart
Take it like a MAN

Take it Like A Man
Michelle Wright
********

While making rounds, Éomer approached her tent, listening for any sound. The lamp had been extinguished. Standing at the opening, he called her name softly. “Anhuil?” When there was no response, he peered inside the dark tent. Her wet clothing was drying, draped over the makeshift curtain. The inside of the tent smelled of fresh lavender. He stepped inside. “Anhuil, are you here?”

The marshal lit the lantern, and picked up the journal from the small table, noting she had written several more pages. He stopped suddenly on a drawing, the ink slightly smeared as if the book were shut before it was completely dry.

It was an ink drawing of himself, with only the slightest hint of a smile, his dark eyes intense. He searched the script on the previous pages, but it was all written in the neat, flowing Elvish lettering and illegible to him. He turned back to the drawing, wondering what she had said about the Rohirrim.

About him.

Wondering if she had written about him at all, and wondering why he cared. He closed the book and replaced it on the small table.

A small white piece of fabric caught his attention, hanging with her other things. It was damp in his hand as he studied it, fingering the delicate embroidered edge. A lady’s handkerchief. He smiled. She had a feminine side after all.

The small cot was empty.

Sighing in frustration, he stepped back outside the tent, and began his search.

Most of the tents were dark, a few of the men still milling around. Walking quietly around the edge of the camp, she made her way off into the dark. Elenion trotted beside her, following her to a rocky hill nearby. Anhuil climbed to the top and sat back, looking up. The skies had cleared, and the spread out above her like an expanse of black velvet, beaded with tiny diamonds. Inhaling the chilly air deeply did little to clear her mind. She pulled the blanket tighter around her shoulders.

She had left home to get away from him, at least temporarily. A good match. That’s what her father had said. A good family. Stable. Melkor’s chains, she hated that word. Might as well say BORING.

A gentleman.

Puh-leez!

Mardil Fenwick was anything but.

Anhuil needed some time. She wanted to please her father, and fulfill her duty to her people, but an arranged marriage to an insufferable, egotistical prat was not what she had in mind.

There had to be more. She had sought after it. And now she was deathly afraid she had found it. Her original plan of doing more research on her family history had completely fallen by the wayside in a matter of days. Somehow it seemed far less important now.

Éomer spotted her sitting on the rocks, silhouetted in the pale light, Elenion beside her. She was absentmindedly stroking the wolf’s thick fur.

“You know, this vanishing habit you have is somewhat disconcerting.” The marshal spoke quietly as he scaled the rocks.

The woman and the wolf both jumped at his voice. “So is your sneaking up on me.”

“You should not-“ he began.

“Be out here alone. I know. I am not. Elenion is here.” Anhuil faced straight ahead. Without turning her head, she drew the dagger and held it up, showing it to him over her shoulder. “And I took your advice.” She re-sheathed it. “I appreciate your concern.”

Éomer ascended the hill and sat beside her. She didn’t look at him. He had expected sarcasm, perhaps even outright defiance, but he got neither.

The marshal had never had much time in his life for contemplating women. In the past, those he had dealt with had simply been a passing pleasant, if temporary, distraction. He was a soldier, loyal to his king, sworn to his duty.

Leaning forward, elbows on his bent knees, he studied her in the pale light. What was it about her? Éowyn was every bit as strong willed, he told himself. Yet his sister was like steel; cool, strong, almost imperturbable. A capable warrior. A Shieldmaiden of Rohan.

Anhuil was different. The dark complexion, raven curls, and her small stature, obviously, but what else? Where Éowyn often seemed aloof, Anhuil was passionate. About everything. Fiery. Full of herself, most of the time. Except tonight. Her subdued spirit troubled him.

“Thank you,” she said softly, “for the bath.”

“You are welcome. See? I am not a complete cad.” He smiled, inwardly relieved she had finally spoken.

Anhuil laughed softly at his use of her words. “I suppose not. But you were behaving like one yesterday.” She leaned forward, resting her chin on her folded arms.

“May I ask you something?” he inquired.

“You may ask.” She still did not look at him, “and I will choose whether or not to answer.”

“You have never told me where you are from.”

“That was not a question.”

“Will you tell me?”

Anhuil continued to stare straight ahead. “Dor-en Ernil,” she answered. “Belfalas.”

“The land of the prince.” Éomer commented. At the mention of her father’s title, she bit her tongue, trying desperately to show no reaction. “It is a large region. Where in Belfalas?”

The princess turned and looked at him. “You only had leave to ask one question.” She noticed he had once again shed the armor and now wore only a dark grey tunic and breeches under his cloak. She could smell the faintest scent of soap, and figured he had bathed as well.

He chuckled. “You remind me of the Lady Éowyn. She too, has a strong will and a sharp wit to match.”

Lady Éowyn. Lovely, she thought. Probably one of those tall flaxen haired beauties he mentioned. That would be about the kind of luck she’d had with men. She debated for a moment whether or not to ask.

Curiousity won out.

“Lady Éowyn?”

“Yes,” he responded softly. “I love her dearly.” He watched her reaction carefully, but found it difficult to read.

Oh, thanks for nothing, she silently told the Valar. She stared straight ahead, deliberately schooling her features to a neutral expression, then turned to him with a questioning look.

“She is my sister.” Éomer gave her a charming smile. He paused long enough to let that information sink in. “What of you? Have you any brothers or sisters?”

“I have three older brothers,” she answered quietly. She hadn’t realized how much she missed them. Ai, Valar, what they would have to say…

“I do not know if that is good news or not,” Éomer joked. “No wonder you fight so well.”

“I had to,” she sighed. “They were merciless. It mattered not to them that I was a girl.” She mocked her brother’s tone of voice. “‘Ani, you must learn to defend yourself. We will not always be there to look out for you.’” The princess chuckled softly at the memory. “They did not trust me with weapons, so they taught me to use them.”

Éomer laughed. “I am sure my own sister would tell much the same tale. She was wielding a sword from the time she could walk.”

“If you are anything like my brothers were, I am sure she had no choice!” Anhuil laughed.

Éomer paused, realizing rather suddenly that he greatly enjoyed the sound of her laughter. “It is fortunate for me that you learned your lessons well, or we would not be having this conversation. I would like to thank them personally. Assuming of course, it is safe to do so.” He looked at her questioningly, a teasing gleam in his eye. A familiar scent wafted through the night air, and he realized as he breathed it in it was the lavender scent of the oil she carried in her bag.

The princess shrugged. “They are harmless, as long as you behave like a –“

“Gentleman?” Éomer smiled. She laughed quietly again.

“Yes,” she answered, smiling shyly, facing the darkness again. Elenion leapt from the rock beside her and trotted off into the darkness. Anhuil picked up a small stone from the top of the rock, turning it in her fingers.

“So what are you running from?” He cut to the chase.

“What makes you think I am running from anything?” Anhuil turned her head to face him.

“You are obviously far from home. You are traveling alone. You are most ambiguous about where you are going. You have brothers that you obviously love and they love you. So it is not your family that you are running from. But you are running from something,” he replied, matter-of-factly. “Or someone.” Again, he gauged her reaction carefully.

“Perhaps both,” she commented. “Or neither.” The princess glanced at him, and he saw the briefest flicker of acknowledgement before the door slammed shut again. She tossed the rock down, watching it bounce once before going over the edge. Leaning back on her hands, she looked up at the glittering sky above. The ensuing silence enveloped them.

Anhuil could stand it no longer. “I must get some rest. Thank you again for the bath.” She stood and climbed down to the ground. “But it does not assuage you dropping me,” she teased, trying to lighten the mood.

“You told me to put you down.” He leapt down beside her.

He was doing it again. She silently cursed whichever of the Valar had given him that devilish grin.

“I suppose I did say that.” Anhuil draped the blanket over her folded arms, raising one eyebrow. A teasing smile crossed her lips. “But a true gentleman would not have dropped me.”

Ah! A genuine smile. Éomer felt his pulse quicken. Dark brown eyes roamed from her green ones to her lips, parted slightly. The tunic had once again strayed, her tanned shoulder revealed in the moonlight.

“You wound me,” he teased softly, stepping closer to her. “Casting such aspersions on my character.” Gently pulling the sleeve of her tunic back on to her shoulder, his fingers lightly grazed the soft, exposed skin.

The shock of his warm hand sent chills down her spine, and she shivered. His fingers trailed softly from her shoulder to her cheek, brushing the curls from her eyes and tucking the errant tendrils behind her ear. Anhuil felt as if she would melt under the heat of his gaze. He took the blanket from her, gently draping it around her shoulders, keeping the ends of it in his hands. She backed up, thankful for the solid rock behind her.

“You have yet to prove otherwise, Lord Éomer,” she dared him. The light breeze was tainted with the scent of lavender. Éomer closed the distance between them.

“Believe what you will…” he smiled, leaning toward her, echoing her own words.

“You are not behaving like a gentleman,” she said softly. Anhuil’s back was pressed hard against the unyielding rock. Her eyes fell on his full lips, remembering what they felt like against hers. She bit her own bottom lip, wincing slightly at the pain of her unhealed cut.

“You do not want me to be a gentleman.” Éomer leaned with one hand on the rock beside her head, his body pressing lightly against hers, pinning her neatly to the stone behind her. The fingers of his other hand strayed from her curls to her lips. She swallowed hard, trying hopelessly to steel herself.

He tenderly outlined her bottom lip with his index finger, lightly skimming over the cut. It still had not healed from her fight several nights ago. He felt a slight pang of guilt for the bruising kiss last night. His fingertips traced along her jaw line, tilting her face to his. The fragrance of the lavender was almost intoxicating.

Anhuil opened her mouth slightly in an attempt to speak, but there was suddenly not enough air in all of Rohan. His breath was warm on her lips, his mouth brushing hers ever so lightly.

Mindful of the cut on her lip, Éomer deliberately checked himself, keeping his kiss light, teasing. He pulled back, locking his eyes to her deep green ones. Their breath was a discernable mist between them in the chilly air.

“A gentleman would have asked before he kissed me,” she breathed.

“I suppose that proves I am not a gentleman.” Lowering his lips to hers, Éomer kissed her softly, holding himself in check, resisting as long as he could.

“Éomer." The sound of his name from her lips crumbled what resolve he had as he crushed her against the rock, one hand cupping the back of her head, his mouth possessing hers. The blanket fell to the ground at her feet.

Anhuil had been kissed before, but she had never in her life experienced anything like what this man's mouth did to her. The heat of it, of him, melted her insides, the molten liquid searing through her system. The odd sensation of fingers curling deep in her belly was completely foreign to her. The chaste kisses of past suitors had never made her knees go weak. She had never felt herself respond so eagerly, arching her body to fit against his, inviting his touch, her own fingers digging into his shoulders to keep herself from slipping helplessly to the ground.

She suddenly knew what it meant to want a man.

“Lord Éomer!” A voice echoed down the riverbank.

“Go away…” he murmured against her lips, sliding one arm around her waist.

“Sir!” The voices were getting closer.

Éomer sighed and pushed back from the rock, soft brown eyes meeting dark green. It had not been his intent to kiss her again. He had only come to find her, to assure himself she was safe. Looking down into her eyes, clouded with the same desire that screamed through his own body, all he wanted was to take that mouth again. And he didn't want to stop there.

The shock in her eyes puzzled him. He raised his hand to her cheek, and ran his thumb softly across her bottom lip. "Anhuil..."

“Éomer, sir!” The voices were close, so close he could hear the boots on the gravelly ground.

“Bloody hell…” Reluctantly, he turned around in search of the source of this interruption, putting a slight distance between them.

Anhuil stood for a moment, regaining a bit of equilibrium. When she finally gathered herself, she grabbed her discarded blanket, ducked past him and quickly bolted up the path toward the camp.

Éomer closed his eyes momentarily, taking a deep breath as the cause of his abeyance approached. Two young Rohirrim soldiers appeared, finding him standing alone.

“Yes?” Éomer was more than slightly annoyed.

“Lord Éothain concerned when you did not return, sir. He sent us to search for you and the lady,” one of them offered, looking around. “Do you know where she is?”

I know where she was, damn it, Éomer thought. “Back at the camp by now, no thanks to you," he answered through gritted teeth.

Turning away from them, he stomped back up the hill to the camp, two confused soldiers tromping behind.

*****

Anhuil walked briskly back to her tent, throwing the blanket over her shoulders.

*What are you thinking? the voice in her head chided. You said you were not going to give in to this…you know this means nothing to him.*

I know what I said, she answered silently.

*So what exactly are you doing?* the voice persisted.

I have no idea, she thought.

*If there ever was someone who knew how to make things complicated for herself, it is you,* the voice in her head admonished her.

“Shut up!” she said out loud, shutting out the voice.

Anhuil hoped the Valar were enjoying this little game. She ducked into her tent, dropping onto the cot, curling into a ball, questions reeling in her mind. How did he do that? How could he render her so completely and utterly unable to resist him?

No man had ever made her feel like that. No man had ever broken down every barrier, every wall, every defense, and made her feel so wanton. No man had ever made her heart race and her skin heat. Why, she'd practically plastered herself against him like some over-amorous tavern wench!

Appalled, she sat up, and hit the pillow with her balled fist. No man had ever controlled Princess Lothíriel, and she was not about to let one now. Resolutely, she blew out the lantern and tossed the blanket over herself as she curled on her side. She could handle this Marshal. She was, after all, a Princess of Gondor. With that thought, she closed her eyes.

But...bless the Valar, that man could kiss.

******

The men hiked back up the hill through the tall grass. As they reached the camp, Éomer offered to check her tent. “Report to Éothain that the lady is fine.”

Nodding, the soldiers disappeared. The marshal made his way toward her tent. The light had been extinguished, and he heard no sound. He found himself thinking about riding with her…the way her tunic kept sliding off one shoulder… the curve of the back of her neck…her body pressed back against his in the saddle…leaning back against the rock…the feel of her skin under his fingertips…

A voice calling his name shook him out of his reverie, unaware of how much time had passed. He turned to see Éothain coming toward him.

“I will be glad when we get her safely to the border,” Éomer commented casually. “This habit she has of wandering off tasks me.”

Éothain looked at his friend knowingly. “Indeed,” he remarked dryly, one eyebrow raised. He glanced toward her tent. “She is pretty,” he offered.

“Is she?” Éomer feigned innocence, yawning widely. “I had not really noticed.”

Éothain shook his head, wondering if he was really expected to believe that. “You know, some of the men still think…”

“What?”

“Well, sir, I know this sounds ridiculous but some of the men think she has put some kind of spell on you.” He laughed at the thought.

Éomer chuckled. “And what do you think, my friend?” he asked, clapping him on the back.

Éothain thought carefully before answering. “I would have to say, in a way, it is possible.”

The marshal didn’t reply, digesting what his friend had said. Éothain smiled. “Goodnight, Éomer,” he said as he turned to go.

“Éothain,” he called out, “Let her ride Cyric tomorrow.”

“Cyric, Marshal?”

“Yes, the grey palfrey. Let her ride him.”

His lieutenant nodded. “I’ll see to it at first light,” he answered.

Éomer watched Éothain until he was out of sight. He quickly ducked into Anhuil’s tent. Something whizzed past his head, missing by mere inches, the THUNK behind him making him jump. He was turning to look when she lit the lamp.

“You startled me,” she whispered, annoyed. The slight tremor in her voice amused him. The marshal turned and saw the small, jeweled handled dagger embedded in the tent pole just beyond his head. Pulling it from the post, he raised one eyebrow at her, and slowly walked toward her.

“You missed.”

“I did not miss. I only wanted to scare whoever was coming in.” She crossed her arms defiantly. “I never miss.”

“Never?” Slowly, he slid the dagger back into the sheath at her waist, his hand still on the handle. With a gentle pressure on the hilt of the dagger, he pulled her to him, bending down, his lips almost on hers. “You are a dangerous little minx, Anhuil,” he said softly. He reached over with his other hand, turning the lamp back down. “But you don't frighten me." He smiled, hs lips curving against hers. "I believe we had unfinished business.”

Anhuil closed her eyes, responding to his kiss without thought. She briefly wondered what he meant by unfinished business, seriously doubting she would have any willpower at all to deny him if he were to…

*By the Valar* Her fingers curled into his hair, gripped the back of his collar. Her thoughts were no longer even remotely coherent. And she didn’t care.

Éomer struggled to keep his feet, when what he really wanted was to topple her on to the cot beside them and lose himself in her. She responded to him eagerly, passionately, and at the same time, with such a trusting innocence. Her kiss was so sweet, so yielding, he knew if he did not stop now he never would. Reluctantly, he pulled away.

He watched the haze clear from her eyes, saw the questions in them. "I will not apologize for kissing you, my Lady."

"I did not ask you to," she responded, her voice not quite as steady as she wished it to be.

It would have been amusing to him, the way she lifted her chin defiantly, if it weren't so damned arousing. Éomer backed up a step. “Goodnight, Lady Anhuil,” he whispered softly, bowing low and ducking back out into the night.

Anhuil stared at the opening to the tent, trying to breathe. She felt her way to her cot, collapsing onto it, and found herself completely unable to form a conscious thought. Burying her face in her hands wasn’t much help; she took a deep breath, only to find the scent of leather, of him, still lingering on her fingertips.

*I told you this would only make things more complicated* said the voice in her head.

“And I told you to SHUT UP!” She said out loud, flipping over on the small cot and grabbing the leather diary and quill off the table. Sleep would be a long time coming.

****

Keep walking. Just keep walking. Éomer strode in the direction of his tent, determined not to turn around, knowing where he would end up if he did. He had not the first clue what it was about this little dark headed hellion that turned him inside out, but he knew he better get a grip on himself. Quickly.


*****
So, by keeping her heart protected
She’d never ever feel rejected
What is this feeling taking over
Thinking no one could open the door…

What happened to Miss Independent?

Miss Independent
Kelly Clarkson


Chapter 8 - Chapter Seven

Trust to Hope - Chapter Seven
Author: Novedhelion
Type: FP Het
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Pairing: Éomer/Lothíriel
Rating: PG 13 for now…

Warnings: Drinking songs, songs about virgins...

Beta: Riyallyn...I swear this is the last version…

Disclaimer: You know the score. Details available upon request.

If PJ can send Celeborn to Valinor, I can get the Rohirrim drunk.

*************
Chapter Seven
*************

You don't know how you met me
You don't know why
You can't turn around and say goodbye
All you know is when I'm with you
I make you free
And swim through your veins like a fish in the sea

Follow Me
Uncle Kracker
***********************

Rohan
25 Nínui, 3019 T.A.
***********************


Anhuil rolled over on her cot. The previous night’s events immediately began replaying in her mind. She sat up and rubbed her aching head. What had come over her? The first time, she admitted, she had baited him and he called her bluff. That she could accept. This time, however… She found herself becoming breathless from the memory of it. His soft, gentle kiss had completely melted whatever resolve she had. And she had kissed him back. That was what frightened her the most. HOW was she going to sit so close to him again today?

Glancing around, Anhuil noticed the pitcher of water still sitting beside the empty basin from the night before. She poured some of the now cold water into it and splashed it on her face in a useless attempt to clear her brain. Stifling a yawn with the back of her hand, she pulled on her boots and began gathering her things, rolling up the now dry clothing, and headed out.

The men were already saddling up their mounts. She did not see Éomer, but Éothain spotted her across the throng of riders. He was leading two horses, his own and a grey spotted palfrey. “Pardon, Miss, but the marshal says you may ride him today.”

Anhuil cast him a sardonic smile. “I thought there were no horses to spare,” she commented sarcastically, taking the reins. So, this was his way of dealing with things? Make her ride alone? She wasn’t sure whether to be relieved or insulted.

“Why did the marshal suddenly allow me to ride alone?” she asked.

Éothain shrugged. “I really do not know for sure, Miss. I just follow orders.”

“Well, does this fine animal have a name?” the princess asked expectantly.

“Cyric,” Éothain answered abruptly. “He’s very gentle. You will be fine with him.”

Anhuil patted the grey’s neck, laughing at the assumption that she needed a calm mount. “Gentle, is he?”

“Yes, Miss.”

“You assume I need a gentle mount, Éothain, or is that the marshal’s assumption?” She eyed him expectantly.

“The marshal requested that I saddle Cyric for you, Miss. That’s all I know. What he assumes or does not assume is not my place to guess.” Éothain turned back to adjusting the girth of his own saddle.

“So based solely on my gender he assumes I require a gentle mount,” she said, out loud but almost to herself. Éothain shrugged without turning around. Anhuil shook her head. “Next thing you know he will be requiring me to ride side saddle,” she quipped as she climbed on to her mount. “I suppose I should count myself fortunate that you do not have one available.”

“I suppose so,” the soldier muttered, truly wishing Éomer had given this task to another man. This woman wore him out.

“Well, then, Cyric, let us not delay these gentlemen any further, shall we?” She guided him next to Éothain with a grin. Éothain mounted his horse sullenly, hoping she would find someone else to chatter at as they rode.

No such luck. Anhuil stayed beside him, asking questions, most of the morning. She seemed to have an unquenchable thirst for stories, and an equally amazing gift for getting him to tell them. He was more than once surprised to hear himself telling yet another tale she had goaded out of him, and she appeared to drink in every word.

The princess was fascinated. At least riding alongside Éothain provided interesting conversation. He told her about the battles they had fought and about the King, Gríma Wormtongue and Éomer’s subsequent banishment from Rohan.

“Your king is under a spell?”

“Something like that, Miss.”

“No wonder your men are wary of sorcery.”

The company was pleasant and comfortable. They talked of Claennis, the girl Éothain had recently married, and about Anhuil’s brothers. Every now and then she would glance up, and find Éomer looking in her direction. Their eyes would lock briefly until one of them would turn away. This did not escape Éothain’s notice.

Éomer rode ahead of her, trying not to think about the previous night. He had no business getting involved with any woman, particularly one that seemed to have an innate ability to make him forget who and where he was. Unfortunately, he was finding it extremely difficult to think of much other than her deep green eyes, her dark, lavender scented curls between his fingers, and her soft lips under his.

That evening in the camp, several of the men were sitting around the fire laughing as the princess approached with Handarion. As soon as they spotted her, they all became quiet.

“Oh, please, gentlemen,” she chided. “Do not stop your fun because of me.”

“We would not wish to offend you, Miss,” one of them grinned, pouring something from a flask into his cup.

Anhuil laughed. “I have a father and three brothers. There is very little I have not seen nor heard. But if it will make you more comfortable, I will go inside my tent.”

“Not necessary, Miss. We were just drinkin’ a little and tellin’ tall tales,” one of the other riders informed her, a big grin behind his bushy beard.

“I love a good tale,” she remarked.

“You may not love ours,” another soldier quipped, laughing out loud.

She rolled her eyes. “Did you say drinking? I was not aware there were spirits to be had out here. The strongest I have been offered is hot tea.”

“Only the finest whiskey in Rohan, Miss,” the bushy bearded one said proudly. “I’d happily offer you some, but I reckon ‘tis not a proper drink for a lady.” He poured some from his flask into a cup, swigging it down.

Anhuil sensed the challenge. “Oh? Perhaps you reckon incorrectly.”

“Well, now, Miss, ‘tis mighty strong and you are mighty little, and --“

“What are you insinuating, soldier? That I cannot handle your drink?”

Handarion cleared his throat. “Umm…Miss…maybe this isn’t the best--“

“Oh, hush, Handarion,” the princess scolded.

“Miss, I do not think Lord Éomer--“ Handarion began.

“Lord Éomer has yet to show his face this evening. If he has a problem with me drinking a cup of whiskey let him come tell me himself,” Anhuil snapped, turning to the man with the flask. “May I?”

“Miss, maybe the boy is right…the marshal may not approve…” He hesitated.

“Oh, bother the marshal! So now he has the right not only to tell me when and where I can travel but what I can drink as well? We shall see about that.” She handed the soldier her cup. He stared at it blankly. “Did you or did you not offer me a drink, soldier?”

Reluctantly, he poured from the flask into her cup, handing it back to her. “I’ll happily share, Miss,” he grinned, “but if the marshal comes down on me I’m tellin’ him you insisted.”

“You do that, soldier,” the princess quipped, taking a drink from the cup. He was not joking about it being strong, she had to fight the tears back as she swallowed it. She sat down across from them on a log with Handarion. Soon they were all telling jokes and tales, and drinking more of Rohan’s finest. The men broke into song.

“Drink today, and drown all sorrow,
You shall perhaps not do it tomorrow:
Best, while you still have it, use your breath;
There is no drinking after death.

Then let us swill, boys, for our health;
Who drinks well, loves the commonwealth;
And he that will go to bed sober,
Falls with the leaf still in October.”

The princess laughed at their song. Even Handarion had lightened up and sang along with them. “My father used to sing that song, when I was a lad.” He grinned. “Do you know any songs?”

Anhuil laughed. “Do I know any songs? Oh, I believe I know a few... Let me think…what kind of song would you like? A story, perhaps?” She took another sip from her cup. “Oh, I know one!”

The princess stood, and in a clear voice, began to sing.

“A dragon has come to our village today
Now, we have asked him to leave, he will not go away
Now he has met with our king and they worked out a deal
No homes will he burn and no crops will he steal

Now there is but one catch, we dislike it a bunch
Twice a year he invites him a virgin to lunch
We have no other choice so the deal we respect
But we cannot help but wonder and pause to reflect

Do virgins taste better than those who are not
Are they salty or sweeter, more juicy or what?
Do you savor them slowly, gulp them down on the spot?
Do virgins taste better than those who are not?”

The men laughed loudly when she began the chorus. Trying to keep a straight face, she pressed on.

“Now we would like to be shed you and many have tried
But no one can get through your thick scaly hide
We hope that someday some brave knight will come by
‘Cause we cannot wait around till you are too fat to fly”

She continued singing, unaware that Éomer had joined the group, standing behind her with some of the other men.

“You have such good taste in your women for sure
They are always pretty and they are always pure
But your notion of dining, it makes us all flinch
For your favorite entrée is barbecued wench

We have found a solution, it works out so neat
If you insist on nothing but virgins to eat
No more will our number ever grow small…”

She paused dramatically, drawing out the last line.

“We shall simply make sure there are no virgins at all!”

The men broke into hysterical laughter as she started another round of the chorus, several of the men joining in.

“Do virgins taste better than those who are not?
Are they saltier, sweeter, more juicy or what?
Do you--“

Éomer shook his head. Walking to the center of the circle where she stood singing, her cup held high. He took it from her hand.

“Hey!” she turned around, glaring at him.

“I think you have had enough, Anhuil,” he informed her.

“Since when, Marshal,” she stuck her finger in his face, “do YOU tell me what to do? I am singing here.”

“I noticed,” he said, suppressing a grin.

She reached for her cup. “I am not done.”

“Yes, you are,” he said, trying to guide her from the center of the circle.

Anhuil caught his sleeve and pulled him down to whisper in his ear. "Are you offended by a song about virgins, Marshal?" She held on to his sleeve for balance. “Or is it the dragons?” She giggled and turned to the men. “I have not even told you what the dragon said…there is more, you know…”

“C’mon, Marshal. What’s she hurting? Let her finish.” The bushy bearded soldier offered him a cup. Éomer took it, shaking his head, and downed the entire contents in one gulp. He held up his hands in mock surrender.

“Thank you, sir,” she bowed at him. “Now where was I? Oh, yes, the dragon….”

The princess cleared her throat and began to sing in her best “dragon” voice, much to their amusement.

“Now, I am a dragon, please listen to me
I am misunderstood to a dreadful degree
This village needs me and I know my place
But I am fighting extinction with all of my race

I came to this village to better my health
Which is ever so poor, despite all my wealth
But I get no assistance and no sympathy
Just impertinent questioning shouted at me!

Yes, virgins taste better than those who are not
But my favorite snack mixed with peril is fraught
For my teeth will decay and my trim go to pot
Yes, virgins taste better than those who are not

Well, I am really quite kind through most of the year
Vegetarian ways are mine now out of fear
But a birthday needs sweets as I am sure you agree
And barbecued wench tastes like candy to me

As it happens our interests are almost the same
You see, I am skillful at managing game
If I ate only your men, would your excess decline?
Of course not, the rest would just make better time…”

Again the men cheered. Éomer had to laugh as well. Éothain stepped up beside him. “Not exactly shy, is she?”

“Her?” The marshal laughed. “She could make an Orc blush. How she can remember the words right now is beyond me.”

“She is good for morale if nothing else,” his lieutenant remarked.

Éomer smiled wryly. And not unpleasant to look at, he thought to himself. He glanced around the circle of men, who were clearly enjoying the little show she was putting on, but none appeared to be watching her with anything other than amusement.

“Yes, Virgins taste better than those who are not--“

“All right, Anhuil, that is enough.” Éomer stepped forward at the raucous laughter of the men after her last verse.

“Marshal,” she giggled softly. “Are you blushing?”

“Woman, I think that is enough.”

She smiled coyly. “If you mean enough of you pushing me around, yes, I have had quite enough, thank you,” she chided quietly. “I am a civilian, you have no authority over me. Please give me my cup.” She took the cup from his hand and tipped it back.

“I appreciate you entertaining the men with this…song…” He attempted to suppress a smile, but he corners of his mouth turned up anyway.

“You liked it and you know it,” she responded softly. In a louder voice, she continued, “Besides, it is their turn now, if they know any more.” She turned her back to him, grinning at the men, who broke into applause. She bowed politely, and when she stood, lost her balance and stumbled backwards into the marshal. He caught her around her waist, pulling her back against him to steady her. The sudden surge of desire he felt caught him off guard, and he realized his hands were rather tightly gripping her waist. He stood her back on her feet quickly, and released her, hoping she had not noticed.

She appeared not to. “It is still their turn to sing if they can come up with one… So, gentlemen, do you have any more?” she called out to the soldiers.

Snickering, they all shook their heads.

“Oh, come now, an entire realm whose history is told through songs and you cannot think of another one to sing for me?”

The men looked at each other. Suddenly, one held up his cup, and began another song, soon joined by the others.

“Ho! Ho! Ho! to the bottle I go
To heal my heart and drown my woe.
Rain may fall and wind may blow,
And many miles be still to go,
But under a tall tree I will lie,
And let the clouds go sailing by.”

The princess laughed out loud. “Are all of your songs about drinking?”

“It happens to be one of our favorite topics,” Elfhelm answered, with mock-indignation.

“Your turn! Sing us another one!” Déor called out.

Anhuil looked up at the marshal, who shrugged helplessly.

Striding back to the center of the circle, she stood by the fire. With a grin, she began again.

“So here’s to the ladies who drink with the men
Take heed of the mug that is lifted by a wench”

At this, one of the men came forward with the flask, refilling her cup with a grin. She nodded her appreciation and continued singing.

“Old Tom had an elbow that could hoist a keg of beer
And never you saw him lest a pub was near
But Molly she bested him in a drinking bout
And now he is hoisting a babe so dear

Now Fergus was a man who preferred his whiskey neat”

“Here, here!” shouted several of the men, hoisting their cups.

She continued, “A gallon or more to him was no feat!
Then he chanced to be challenged by Nadalia the maid
NOW he sits in the family seat!

Siridien was a man who brewed the best of all
And sampling his wares he never took a fall
Til the night a young maid put him under the board
Now she keeps him busy at her hall

There was a barbarian whose name was Bear
He thought he was the best of the drinkers there
Til a winsome young maid at his table sat
Now he is tangled in her long black hair.

Now the men of our kingdoms who are drinkers all
When it comes to chuggin’ they are champions tall
But the wenches have them beat hands down, you see
For the cup makes for an easy fall…”

The men broke into laughter once again. Éomer shook his head, laughing with them. Yes, she could be annoying, and feisty, and hard headed, but he had to admit he found her adorably amusing. She turned and looked at him, grinning, and he felt his pulse quicken. Suddenly no longer aware of the men around him cheering her bawdy songs, his eyes locked on to hers.

Anhuil saw his expression change from one of amusement to…Oh, sweet Elbereth, that was the look he had given her last night, right before… Her smile faded slowly, deep brown eyes so intent on her that she had to remind herself to breathe. Her heart racing, the princess quickly turned back to the men, who were calling for more.

“No more,” she said, laughing nervously. “I can think of no more.” She bowed politely, careful not to spill her drink. As she stepped cautiously out of the center of the circle, her toes caught the edge of a Rohirrim boot. Stumbling forward, she fell into its owner’s arms, sloshing the contents of her cup over the front of his armor.

With an embarrassed grin, she looked up at the handsome young soldier. He had a very nice smile.

“I am sorry,” she apologized.

“I am not,” he responded honestly. “I am Déor.” His clear blue eyes looked into hers. He helped her balance on her feet, his hands lingering a little longer on her waist. “It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance.”

“And yours as well,” the princess replied politely.

“I enjoyed your songs,” the young soldier offered.

Éomer watched the exchange, shifting his weight from one foot to the other, arms folded.

“Thank you, Déor,” she said quietly, casting a downward glance at his hands, still on her waist.

Glancing over her shoulder at the Marshal’s stern look, he withdrew his hands quickly, stepping back. “I am sorry. I did not mean to…”

“It is all right. I should be more careful where I step.” She smiled sweetly at him.

Éomer continued to observe, surprising even himself at the feeling of possessiveness that he suddenly felt toward her. Was he really...jealous?

“I should be more careful about where I put my big boots.” He flashed her a charming grin, bowing slightly.

“I think I have had enough of this,” she answered, setting the cup down on a nearby log.

“Anhuil, may I speak to you a moment?” Éomer’s deep voice startled her. Turning to face him, she could not help but notice the looks exchanged between the marshal and the young soldier.

Éomer took her by the elbow, gently steering her away. She grinned over her shoulder at Déor. The rest of the men were talking and laughing among themselves.

“What is the problem now, Marshal? I do not understand why you have to be so serious all the time.” Anhuil muttered as they walked between the tents.

“I simply think you have had enough to drink,” he reasoned. “They are men, after all. I would not want your honor sullied.”

She stopped dead, jerking her arm from his grasp and facing him head on. “You are jealous.” She giggled softly.

Éomer stared at her, trying his best to look offended. “I am only trying to protect…”

“Do you honestly think any of your men would do anything to harm me, Lord Éomer?” She raised an eyebrow at him questioningly. “I grew up in a home with three older brothers who saw to it that if nothing else, there is one thing in this world I know how to handle; unwanted advances from men. Do not worry yourself about me, my lord. None of your men would dare.”

He had to admit that he had not noticed any of them even leering at her, and none of them had dared touch her except Déor, into whose arms she had fallen accidentally. They all seemed to have a certain amount of respect for her, as if they somehow sensed what he also felt; something about her presence commanded respect. It was not a trait typical of farm girls raised in the fields of Belfalas.

“It is late, and I felt it would be better if I saw you to your tent before you…” the marshal countered.

“Before I what? What is wrong with having a bit of fun? These men deserve to smile from time to time, Éomer. I was only trying to entertain them.” Big green eyes regarded him innocently.

Entertain them? This woman seemed completely oblivious to the affect she had on him, and very possibly on them as well. How could anyone be so naive, he wondered.

She poked him in the chest with her finger. “You are no fun.” She whirled around to walk away.

Catching her by the arm, he backed her up against the corner post of a nearby tent. “You
did not think so last night.”

Anhuil’s pulse raced. “How do you know what I thought? You certainly did not ask,” she retorted, tossing her head.

Éomer leaned in closer to her. “You did not appear to object.”

The princess stiffened, her gaze meeting his. “You surprised me last night. I was not expecting…”

“Then this time I will warn you. I have heard all of that saucy little mouth I intend to hear for a while. I am going to kiss you now, Anhuil.” And with that, his mouth covered hers. Leaning on the pole for support, she struggled for the strength to push him away, her hands going to his chest, but instead of pushing him away to run, they ended up around his neck, entwined in his hair.

His hands were lightly on her cheeks, then gently sliding down her shoulders, her waist…to her hips, pulling her against him. She jumped when his tongue softly touched her bottom lip, and she found herself parting her lips instinctively, shuddering at the pleasure of his delicate exploration of her mouth.

Every bit of Éomer’s conscience was screaming at him that this was not right. He should not be kissing her. He should not be taking advantage of her inebriated state. He certainly had no business getting involved with a woman in the middle of a war, but by the gods, she felt good in his arms. The sweet tang of the whiskey was still on her lips, and it took all of the restraint he could muster to keep his hands in seemly places. Although his head protested vehemently, it was soundly overruled by his desire. And his heart. It was that last part that he found disconcerting.

Pulling back reluctantly, he took a deep breath. “I am sorry, Anhuil,” he apologized, though not quite sincerely. “That was most inappropriate.”

The princess cocked her head to one side. “I did not think you were concerned with propriety, Lord Éomer. I thought you said you were not a gentleman.”

“I should not take advantage of a lady who is no state of mind to make a rational decision.”

Anhuil laughed out loud. “Rational decision? You say that as if you gave me a choice. You did not. You simply announced you were going to kiss me and you did.”

The marshal raised one eyebrow. “Perhaps I should give you the choice, then.”

“That would be the genteel thing to do, since you have kissed me on several occasions and have yet to ask my permission.” She leaned on the post, both hands on it behind her back for support.

Éomer leaned close, pressing her further back against the tent pole. “May I kiss you, Lady Anhuil?”

Regarding him silently for a moment, her gaze shifted to his full lips, his perfect teeth, back up to his deep brown eyes. “No,” she whispered quietly.

The marshal backed up slightly. “No? Are you certain?”

“Yes,” she licked her bottom lip involuntarily. Éomer swallowed hard, fighting to rein in his desire to take her right there. “I am sure.” She pushed off from the pole, leaning toward him. “Because I do not feel so well right now, and I am going to bed. Good night, Marshal.” With a slight wave over her shoulder, she casually turned away, sashaying toward her tent without a backward glance.

Watching the sway of her hips as she walked away, Éomer shoved a hand through his hair. She was full of surprises.

*************
How you’ve got me blind is still a mystery
I can’t get you out of my head
I don’t care what is written in your history
As long as you’re here with me

As Long As You Love Me
Backstreet Boys
**************




Rohan
26 Nínui, 3019 T.A.
****************

In the chill of the next evening, Anhuil sat by the fire, knees drawn up, entranced by the fluttering flames. Her journal lay beside her, the quill and ink neatly on top.

Sitting some distance away, Éomer had watched her put aside her nearly full bowl and lean forward on to her folded arms. She had ridden alone again that day, chatting and joking with the men as they traveled, telling them tales. The men spoke to her as they drifted by, exchanging nods and waves.

He had thought having her ride alone would relieve him somewhat, but he had been wrong. Watching her astride the beautiful animal, her back straight, her hair blowing back, controlling the horse confidently, moving as one with him, had only made things worse. If she was beside him, he found it difficult to keep his focus on anything other than her slight bouncing in the saddle and the logical ramifications thereof. He found it impossible to ride behind her at all. The little vixen had no idea the discomfort she caused him. He had finally requested politely that she ride behind him with Éothain, although that still left him to wrestle with the images in his mind.

Random thoughts tumbled through his consciousness like leaves on the wind. He could not justify the fierce emotions he experienced at the sight of her. How did she get so deep under his skin so quickly? It was as if she had just been dropped into his lap, literally. Like it was meant to be.

He really knew so little about her. With the recent events, getting involved with her was the last thing he needed to do. Reason dictated that he should call this to a halt immediately. Trouble was, Éomer had never been one to be ruled by reason.

Éothain sat beside him, leaning against a tree, sipping from a cup. He offered the flask to Éomer, who graciously accepted and poured some into his own cup. The lieutenant followed his friend’s gaze to where the woman sat.

Elfhelm plopped down beside the two under the tree. “May I join you, gents?” he inquired. The marshal and the other soldier nodded.

“It troubles you, not knowing who she is,” Éothain commented, looking from Anhuil back to the marshal.

Éomer shrugged. “Should it not? I wish only that she trusted me enough to tell me more. Perhaps in time.”

“We know nothing about her, Éomer.”

Éomer turned to face him. “What are you saying, Éothain?

“Now wait just a minute…” Elfhelm started.

Éothain blushed. “I am only saying, sir, that she seems to be awfully comfortable around the men, and …”

“And if a single one of them lays an inappropriate hand on her, he shall answer to me,” the marshal retorted quickly. Éothain chuckled.

“Here, here,” agreed Elfhelm, rubbing his bush beard. “She’s clearly a lady, if you take my meaning. There’s something about her that makes you want to...well, sit up a little straighter, and mind your language. You understand my meaning, of course,” he put in.

The marshal nodded in agreement. “I do not believe there is anything…untoward about her, Éothain. In fact, I believe quite the opposite. You have spoken to her. You have heard her speak. No, my friend. She is not some peasant from Belfalas, as she would have us believe.”

“What makes you say that, Marshal?”

Éomer’s eyes wandered back to where she sat. “I grew up in the courts of Edoras, Éothain. I have seen and met many kinds of people.” He shook his head. “She is well spoken. Educated. Her mannerisms are not those of some farm lass, although I believe that is what she wants us to think. She certainly can hold her own in a fight, if not necessarily in a cup.” This elicited a slight chuckle from the men. “But she rides as if she was born between pommel and cantle.” The marshal took another sip of his drink. “I only wish I knew what it was she writes in that journal of hers.”

“Do you think she’s a sort of scop?” Éothain asked bluntly.

“I do not know, my friend,” he answered. “I would not believe her to be a traveling storyteller. A Court Bard, perhaps. Or even a historian. She seems to have a great deal of knowledge of different cultures.” He shrugged and rose to his feet. “But I intend to find out.”

The lady glanced over at him as he stood. “Either way, she will do us no harm, I am certain. I am going to retire, gentlemen,” he said, loud enough for her to hear. “Goodnight.” Éothain inclined his head in agreement, and Éomer turned to Anhuil. “You should get some rest as well, Lady Anhuil,” he suggested.

“Yes, thank you. I shall.” She responded with a quick glance.

He held her gaze, his dark eyes enticing her. A cheeky smile crossed his lips as he turned away, walking toward his quarters.

Puzzled, Anhuil rose from her spot by the fire, gathering her journal, ink and quill into her bag. With a nod to Éothain and Elfhelm, she turned and walked through the quiet camp toward her own tent. As she passed between the rows of tents, a hand clasped over her mouth, a strong arm around her. She was dragged backwards, into a darkened tent. Managing to free one hand, she drew her dagger, kicking at her attacker.

“Ow! I told you to be careful walking around in the dark,” he whispered in her ear.

She turned and punched him hard in the chest. “You almost got your throat slit, you beast! You nearly scared me to death!” she chided as she replaced the dagger in its sheath. “That was not amusing.” She folded her arms, glaring at him, as he bent to pick up her dropped bag.

Éomer chuckled, taking her into his arms, laying her bag aside on a small table. “I wanted some time with you. Alone.” He bent to her and kissed her softly. His hands were against her back, pressing her into him.

She pulled back, her hands on his chest. “We should not be doing this…it is not proper.”

His lips were busy blazing a trail from her shoulder to her ear. “Why not?” Éomer’s words were warm against her skin. “You are all I have thought about. You are all I can think about, Anhuil.”

“And what were you thinking about me, Lord Éomer?” she inquired teasingly.

“Suffice it to say my thoughts were most…unchaste.”

She giggled, pushing him back. “What if someone comes looking for us?”

“Let them look,” he smiled mischievously, cupping her face in his hands, and taking her lips once again. He kissed her softly, lightly…Ilúvatar help her. She toyed briefly with the idea of resisting, but the thought was completely quelled by his tongue slowly tracing the outline of her bottom lip. She nipped it gently between her teeth, causing him to jump slightly at her boldness.

“Woman, you will be my undoing,” the marshal spoke softly. Anhuil laughed quietly. “Sshh.” He put his finger to her lips, and she kissed it lightly. Voices outside the tent were entirely too close.

“You are a shameless little chit,” he whispered.

“Shameless, am I?” she teased, nipping the finger against her lips lightly. “I am not the one who started this, Marshal.”

“Completely shameless,” he growled. His mouth came down to hers again, unsure whether he meant her or himself.

Éomer lifted his head and looked down at her, questions flipping over and over in his head. As much as he hated to interrupt this moment, he needed to ask. Her eyes met his, the curiosity in his expression easily read. “What is it?” she queried.

The marshal studied her in the dim light, shaking his head slowly. He pushed the curls from her face with the back of his fingers, tucking them behind her ear. “I know so little about you, Anhuil,” he responded.

“That is not true. You know my name, you know where I am from…” She stiffened in his arms, her tone indignant.

“You misunderstand me, my lady.”

She pulled back from his embrace. “Then pray tell, what do you mean?”

“I know nothing of your family, or your home. I still do not know where you were going or how you came to be in my land alone.”

She backed away from him, her heart racing. “Stories about oneself are never as interesting as stories about others,” she commented, crossing her arms and regarding him coolly. “What is it you want to know?”

“I cannot put my finger on it,” he answered, a bit taken aback by her defensive attitude. “But my heart tells me there is more to your tale than you offer.”

The princess stared at him, every effort being made to calm her breathing and her rapid pulse. She straightened her posture, leveling her gaze at the marshal. The change in demeanor did not escape Éomer’s notice. .

“I do not know what it is you are asking, Lord Marshal.” She fought to hide the slight tremor in her voice.

Éomer stepped closer to her. “I want to know the truth, Anhuil.”

“The truth?” Her hands clenched at her sides. “Nothing I have told you has been a lie. Nothing.”

He took in her defensive posture. “What is it you are not telling me?” His dark eyes seemed to look right through her.

“What makes you think there is anything of importance that I am not telling you?” The princess met his gaze steadily, trying to maintain a calm expression.

“Who are you, Anhuil? What are you running from?”

She crossed her arms again. “If this line of questioning continues it will be you I am running from, Lord Éomer. I have not lied to you. Why is it so hard to accept that I am just a girl from Belfalas who--“

“Who happens to know both indelicate ballads about dragons and is fluent in at no less than two languages?”

“I have brothers who love to drink and sing. And many of the people of Gondor speak--“

“Who happens to be familiar with histories and customs of other regions?”

“Anyone who bothers to read--“

“Who just happens to know both how to ride and to fight? It is not every day one comes across women bearing weapons who use them with deadly accuracy.”

“I told you, my brothers…”

“Not to mention that for all your seeming innocence, you kisses like a little hoyden."

The princess’ eyes widened as she felt the color flood her cheeks. “How dare you? That is completely inappropriate, Lord Éomer,” she began. “I cannot believe you would insinuate…”

Éomer laughed. Her haughty expression almost amused him. “That is yet another thing, this obsession you seem to have with courtly propriety.” The marshal could not decide if he had seen a flicker of acknowledgement at his last observation or not. It was gone in a flash.

“U’chenion edain!” She whirled around, throwing her hands up in the air in frustration. Stomping to the other side of the tent, she turned to face him. “What is it you want from me? One moment you are kissing me and the next you are interrogating me. Unless I am now a captive, I am not bound by any obligation to tell you more than I choose. If you plan to continue questioning me, I suggest you take me into your custody, Marshal.” She held out her wrists together, as if they were bound.

Éomer looked down at her outstretched hands, then back up at her, ignoring the dig. “And this journal you keep. Are you some kind of historian?”

“Glirdan,” she corrected him, using the Sindarin word. “Or bard, in the westron tongue. And no, I am not. Not really, anyway. I just happen to enjoy collecting songs and tales, and learning about people,” without missing a beat, she continued. “And while we are discussing truth, my Lord, why do you not explain to me why you lied to me?”

Éomer was a bit taken aback by her sudden change of direction. At his confused expression, the princess stepped toward him. “Not that I mind, at least Cyric is a gentleman.” She stressed the last word. “I just wondered if there was a valid reason as to why you deceived me about having a horse for me to ride.”

“That is not what we were discussing, Anhuil,” he stated calmly.

“I would like to discuss it. I would like to know, Lord Éomer. You told me there were no spare horses.”

“I did not previously consider him spare. He was being used as a packhorse.”

She glared at him. “Liar.”

He stared at her, uncertain whether he was offended at her insult or angry that she figured him out so easily.

She continued her tirade. “Afraid your men might mistake your protectiveness of me for something else? The Valar forbid your men see their marshal show a bit of humanity. Perhaps the men would lose respect for him if they thought him capable of something other than hewing orcs!”

“I was trying to be respectful of your reputation,” he explained through gritted teeth, arms folded across his chest.

“I have told you I do not need you to protect either my person or my reputation! I am quite capable of defending both myself!” She threw her hands up, walking around to the other side of the table.

Lowering her voice, she continued calmly. “I left my home to find out if there was more to this life than what I had always known. I wanted to learn more about my family, our history, our ancestors....” She stopped quickly before revealing too much and took a deep breath. “I have discovered more about myself in my time alone than in all my previous years. I found out I am capable of things I never would have thought possible. But there are some things that one cannot read in libraries, and cannot learn from tales told around the hearth at an inn.” Gods, she thought, you are starting to sound like a real bard! “I want to know about this world in which I live, Lord Éomer. Is that such a bad thing?”

Anhuil raised her eyes to his, pointing a finger at him. “You, on the other hand wish to keep everyone at bay. Sometimes I doubt you know yourself well enough to be on a first name basis! How many times have your men even seen you smile, Marshal?” He turned to face her across the table, his brow furrowed.

“The truth, please, Éomer. Why did you lie to me about the horses?” She leaned on the edge of the table, glowering at him.

The marshal slammed his hands down on the wooden surface, leaning toward her. “Do you want to know why?”

The princess leaned forward on the table as well, leveling her gaze at him. “Yes, for the love of the Valar, tell me why!”

Éomer gripped her shoulders across the narrow table, his sable eyes searing into emerald. “I wanted you to ride with me because I wanted your hair blowing in my face. I wanted my arms around you. Gods help me, I wanted your body pressed against mine… the scent of lavender surrounding me,” he paused, looking down into her face. Her lips were slightly parted in shock, eyes wide, her breathing shallow. “I wanted you close to me. You drive me insane, but I wanted you near me. That, Lady Anhuil, is the truth.”

She stared at him, wide eyed, her pulse racing in response to his words. “If you wanted me with you, then why did you suddenly decide I should ride alone?” she asked, her voice unsteady.

His grip on her shoulders softened, but he did not release her. “Because after two days I thought I would go mad with desire. Riding with you in front of me was the sweetest form of torture. I felt I could no longer trust myself to behave-“ his mouth curved into a smile, “like a gentleman. That is why I made you ride alone.” He released her shoulders and stepped back.

“And has my riding alone solved your problem, Marshal?”

Éomer stared down into the eyes of this saucy little woman in front of him. “No, it certainly has not,” he agreed. Coming around the table, he cupped her face in his hands, and captured her mouth with his own in a demanding kiss that left her breathless when he pulled away. “I have never met a woman who intrigues me the way you do, Anhuil of Belfalas.”

Melkor’s chains, the voice in her head chided. You did ask for the truth.

Warm, soft lips covered hers again, this time slowly and gently, but no less thoroughly. His hands on her face slid down around her waist, lifting her to him and pulling her against the length of his body. Anhuil’s knees felt as if they would give way underneath her, making her thankful for the strong arms supporting her.

Wait a minute, that annoying voice started again. She suppressed an urge to shoo it away with her hands. Intrigue? You intrigue him?

Mustering every ounce of will she had, she shoved him backwards with both of her hands on his chest. The marshal stared at her, confusion clouding his handsome features.

Her voice was quiet. “So that is it. I am nothing more than an interesting vexation? Another pair of warm lips to temporarily entertain you? And if the little wench happens to be a willing tumble, that much the better?” She chuckled at the thought, shaking her head. “I do not think so, Lord Éomer.” She looked down for a moment before bringing her gaze to meet his. “I fear in my innocence, I have given you the wrong impression. I apologize. I have let this go too far.”

She turned on her heel and headed for the tent opening.

“Anhuil, wait,” he called after her. She stopped and turned back, their eyes meeting. For a long moment he held her gaze, neither speaking. He wanted to say something, anything, to make her understand that had never been his intention. Part of him wanted to simply blurt out how he felt, but the words would not come. Shoving a hand through his tousled hair, he said the only thing he could think of.

“I am sorry.”

She inclined her head to one side, her dark green eyes searching his deep brown ones. She had not had a great deal of experience with men, but living with three brothers had been enough that she did recognize a rather empty apology when she heard one.

“Not bloody likely,” she responded softly. Why was it men always apologized when they couldn’t think of anything else to say? “Goodnight, Marshal,” she said, turning quickly on her heel. The princess ducked out of the tent before he could speak again.

Éomer stared at the opening through which she had passed, the internal tug of war continuing. One part of him screamed at him to go after her, while the more reasonable side insisted he hold his ground. “Oh, for the love of Béma,” he muttered. Reason be damned. He strode off after her, catching her just outside her tent.

“What do you want, Marshal? I am very tired.” Casting him a highly exasperated look, she folded her arms defensively.

Struggling for the right words was not something Éomer was accustomed to doing. He suddenly realized she had a point. Rarely did he do anything other than bark orders, especially lately. He drew in a deep breath. “You were correct, Lady Anhuil. It is a necessity in battle to be able to put aside one’s personal feelings. And I suppose if one is not careful that tendency can carry over in to other aspects of one’s life. Perhaps I do not smile often enough.” She tilted her head to one side, listening intently. “But I must say that in the last week, I have smiled more than I have in months.”

“And why is that, Lord Éomer?”

“Because of you.”

Not quite sure how to take that, she narrowed her eyes at him. “Me?”

“You and your Elvish curses and your pet wolf and your defiant attitude,” he continued. “Your songs and your saucy mouth. You make me laugh.” The corners of his mouth turned up into a smile. He shook his head. “Do you wish to know what else?”

“I fear to ask,” she answered apprehensively.

“I find myself smiling at the mere thought of you. An alluring vexation, perhaps, but a willing tumble?” He shook his head. “No. You are far too much a lady, for that, Anhuil. Besides, I truly believe you could kill me if you wanted to,” he added, half teasing. “And who knows what you would write of me?”

“Why would you think I would write anything of you?” she queried defensively. “And I did not say alluring,” she corrected him.

“I did.” Éomer’s eyes darkened as he stepped toward her. “Perhaps I should give you something to write about,” he commented, his mouth moving over hers in a sweet kiss. His lips were so soft and warm and she could not have pulled away from him if it had meant saving her life. Judging from her inability to breathe it just might. His hand slid around to the back of her neck, his kiss deepened, still slow and gentle.

The princess leaned into him, more for support than anything else, but the gentle contact made the marshal’s heart race. Unfolding her arms, her small hands flat on his chest, sliding up and around his neck. Her velvet lips succumbing to his so completely nearly undid him. Small fingers tangled in the blonde locks at the back of his neck, her soft form pressed against him, both his emotions and desire running as rampant as a wild stallion across the plains of Rohan. Her tent was right here, her cot only a few steps away…by the gods, what was he thinking?

Pulling away from her at last, lay his hand against the side of her neck, his thumb gently stroking her cheek. “I think you should go to bed, Lady Anhuil,” he said softly, fighting the temptation to slide that hand down, over the swell of…

He withdrew his hand, squeezing it into a tight fist at his side. “Now.”

She raised an eyebrow in question.

His eyes strayed down from her softly parted lips to the lacings at the front of her tunic. “Please.” He averted his gaze, looking up instead.

The princess smiled. “Goodnight again, Marshal,” she whispered.

Closing his eyes, he stood perfectly still until he was sure she was gone. With a deep breath, he turned and headed for his own tent, trying to decide whether he should thank the gods or curse them for dropping her into his path.


********
That's what you get for falling in love
And now this boy's addicted cause your kiss is the drug
Your love is like bad medicine
Bad medicine is what I need
Shake it up, just like bad medicine…
Your love's the potion that
Can cure my disease

When you find your medicine you take what you can get
Cause if there's something better, well I haven't found it yet

Bad Medicine
Jon Bon Jovi
********
Rohirrim drinking songs -
Fletcher’s Bloody Brothers, late 13th Century.
A Drinking Song, J.R.R.Tolkien

U’cherion edain! - I do not understand men!


Chapter 9 - Chapter Eight

Trust to Hope - Chapter Eight
Author: Novedhelion
Type: FP Het
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Pairing: Éomer/Lothíriel
Rating: Must up to PG-13 according to the rating chart….
Warnings: Mild violence and bloodshed, sappy romance, country song lyrics…
Beta: Riyallyn, the ALPHA beta…and a little help from Becky. Thanks, Ladies!!
Disclaimer: Éomer is not mine. Lothíriel is not mine. Orcs are not mine. None of these are mine, darn it! Just having fun…no monetary profit made.
Feedback: Oh, sure. ‘Tis the holiday season…

Elvish Translations at the bottom…again, NOT fluent, don’t claim to be…please don’t email me ranting about my Elvish.

****************
Chapter Eight
****************

It was no accident
Me finding you
Someone had a hand in it
Long before we ever knew…

Keeper of the Stars
Kenny Chesney
*****************

***********
Rohan
27 Nínui, 3019 T.A.
***********************

Anhuil strolled out to saddle her mount, swinging her bow as she walked. She came around the corner of a tent, stopping abruptly, face to face with Éomer. She drew in a sharp breath at the suddenness of their meeting.

The marshal smiled politely. The intensity of their shared gaze was almost tangible in the early mist. "Good morning, Lady Anhuil. I trust you rested well?"

"Yes, thank you," Anhuil answered, equally courteous. Tearing her gaze from his, she turned and strode over to where her horse waited. He was already saddled.

Glancing back over her shoulder at Éomer as she mounted, she gave him a shy smile that melted his heart. Turning quickly away, he leapt astride his own horse, and called the riders forward.

Éothain could not help but notice the change in Anhuil's demeanor as she rode beside him. She chatted politely but appeared distracted. She fell silent for a while, seemingly lost in thought.

"Éothain, tell me about the marshal," she finally said.

He had figured this conversation would happen eventually. He shrugged. "He is as good a man as you'd ever want to meet. Brave and honest. I have known him my whole life."

She nodded. "He seems very devoted to his king."

"He is, Miss," his friend replied. "And to anything else he sets his mind to." Éothain paused, carefully selecting his words. "I've seen how he looks at you."

"Excuse me?" She felt the hot blush color her cheeks, grateful she had her hood pulled up. "Oh, Éothain, he probably has women in every village in Rohan." She laughed, trying a little too desperately to sound causal.

"Well, actually, Miss, no. He has never really had much time for women. Do not misunderstand, I’m sure he’s known some, it’s certain it’s not for lack of interest.” He shook his head. “I have known him all my life, and I have never seen him like this." Éothain paused, letting this information sink in. "To be honest, Miss, it concerns me."

Anhuil looked at him askance.

"He is a soldier," the man explained. "These men depend on him. They follow him because they trust him. If the marshal gets distracted, he could be a danger to himself and to his men. I hope you understand what I mean."

The princess silently mused over this thought for a few moments. “My being here is a distraction to him?”

Éothain nodded. “It could be. I am sorry, Miss,” he apologized. “I do not mean to say things that are none of my affair, but…well…you understand what I mean.”

"Thank you for your honesty, Éothain." It had not occurred to her that her mere presence could put in danger the men who relied on Éomer to make decisions for them. But what could she do? He was practically forcing her to accept their escort. To where, she had yet to tell him. And he had not asked.

She thought over the previous night’s conversation with the marshal. He found her “intriguing” he had said. She made him smile. He admitted he was attracted to her.

Well, it wasn’t exactly a confession of devotion. Get hold of yourself, girl. You have known the man less than a week. Best not to go losing your head over this when you have no idea of his intentions. So why did the thought of leaving him now fill her with a sense of dread?

The marshal glanced over at her. She gazed absently at the landscape, lost in thought. What he would have given to get inside that pretty head and find out what she was thinking. Closing his eyes briefly, he remembered the scent of lavender when she was sitting in front of him; the warmth of her body pressed against his…her hair tickling his chin…

He shook his head. We know nothing about her. Éothain’s words came back to haunt him. He had tried to confront her about it last night, and somehow she had totally turned the tables. She had a way of completely disrupting his thoughts; that was evident. Maybe Éothain’s little joke about her spell was truer than he cared to admit.

No matter. He would find out who she was. It wasn’t simply a matter of idle curiosity anymore.

Anhuil breathed deeply, taking in the aroma of fresh grass and leather. The air was chilly but not uncomfortably so. Rocky outcroppings dotted the landscape, randomly scattered like a child's blocks. She sighed in awe of the beauty of the region. Drawing her cloak around her shoulders, she closed her eyes, committing the pictures to memory.

"Handarion!"

Shouting voices jerked her to attention. The youth had been part of a scouting party sent ahead, but was returning alone. He was astride his horse, leaning at an odd angle as the animal galloped into the group of men. The princess saw Dormand dismount quickly and pull him from the horse. Jerking the reins in his direction, she bolted to where the men laid the boy on the grass and leapt from her saddle.

Anhuil turned the boy over on to his back, calling his name. "Handarion!" She looked down at her hands, covered in the young man's blood. He was still breathing shallowly, his hand still clutching his sword. The color drained from her face as she inspected his wounds. She closed her eyes momentarily, then looked up at the men. “This is not good…” she whispered.

Handarion opened his eyes and looked up at her, smiling. "I got one…"

She swallowed hard and returned a shaky smile. "Shh. Hodo, mellon nín." Handarion looked at her, not understanding the words but comforted by them nonetheless. She pressed her hands over the wound, but there was no stopping the flow. Éomer's horse thundered to a stop and he alit quickly, approaching Anhuil and Handarion.

Anhuil looked up at him as he drew near. The expression on her face told him more than he wanted to know.

She sat back on her heels as the marshal leaned over the young man, placing his hand over the boy's clutched fist. Handarion looked up at Éomer. "There is a whole regiment, sir, a hundred or so…mostly Warg riders…" he sputtered, gasping for breath. "Over the next ridge…ambushed us… I got one, sir…"

Éomer smiled at him, swallowing hard. "Your father would have been proud."

Handarion turned his head, his eyes meeting Anhuil’s. She took his hand. “Ada lye dartha. Bado na ron.” The youth smiled, and did not move again.

Standing and backing slightly away from the crowd that had gathered, Anhuil looked up toward the ridge in the distance. Something moving caught her attention, and without thinking, she drew her bow and fired twice, in rapid succession. She muttered a curse under her breath as one of the Orcs fell from the ridge to the ground below as the men scrambled. Several of the men ran up the ridge, searching for others.

She stood staring at the ridge, not moving, bow held at ready with another arrow nocked and the bowstring drawn.

"Must have followed him back. Looks like there were only two," one of the men called down to Éomer. “She got the other as well," he said with a nod toward the princess.

Striding quickly to where the princess held her stance, Éomer put his hand on her shoulder, following her gaze into the distance, but he saw nothing. Her bloodied hands trembled slightly as she lowered her bow. Shrugging him off, she dropped it and the arrow to the grass, running back to the fallen youth. She fell to her knees on the ground beside him.

Her heart broke for the young girl named after an Ainur, and for a mother she had never met.

Oblivious to the men around her, she laid her hand on his chest and closed her eyes. Her voice trembled as she spoke the words. "Ilu Ilúvatar en káre Eldain a fírimoin ar antaróta mannar Valion…Man táre antáva nin Ilúvatar, Ilúvatar, enyáre tar i tyel, íre Anarinya qeluva?” She paused, looking down into the youthful face of the boy. “Hiro hon hîdh ab ‘wanath.”

Éomer watched as she withdrew the embroidered handkerchief and wiped the dirt from the boy's face. Her gentleness touched him. “Hodo vae, thalionen," she whispered.

The marshal retrieved her discarded bow and stepped forward, offering Anhuil a hand, and pulled her to her feet. Holding both of her hands in one of his, he looked at the blood staining her fingers. She studied her hands for a moment, then raised her gaze to meet his. The look of determination and fury in her eyes, behind the glimmer of unshed tears, caught him off guard. "I want you to stay back, with Éothain. Stay with the rear guard."

"No!" Green eyes flashed at him. "I can fight! Did you not see what just happened? I can fight just as well as-"

"You will stay with Éothain." Éomer’s tone brooked no argument. He handed her the bow. "Go." The resolve in his voice was clear, but his eyes softened. The plea was unspoken. "Now!" he said firmly. Anhuil stared at him defiantly for a moment longer, then turned on her heel and stomped back to her mount.

Sighing resignedly, she plopped herself unceremoniously in the saddle. Éothain’s warning rang in her ears. 'If the marshal gets distracted, he could be a danger to himself or his men…' “Berio ven Eru,” she murmured softly.

Éomer's eyes met Éothain’s, the silent command understood. Keep her safe. Éothain acknowledged with a slight nod.

Éomer mounted his horse, and with a quick backward glance at her, called forth the Riders of Rohan.

“Forth, Eorlingas!”

The horns of the Riders sounded loud and clear through the vale.

"WARGS!" The cry rang out across the valley. Men were scattering everywhere, arrows and spears flying. Éothain and a dozen or so others stayed to the rear, the other men charging forward over the ridge. The thundering of hooves was deafening.

Anhuil had heard of the vile creatures ridden by Orcs but had never seen them before. They were more horrible than she could have imagined. Huge hunchbacked beasts with razor sharp fangs, ripping apart whatever they could tear into. Shooting at them from a distance was one thing, but seeing them this close up terrified her. She held her reins tightly, trying to keep to the back of the column as ordered, staying as close to Éothain as possible.

Several riders charged past them, singing. Singing! Anhuil had never heard anything like it. The men sang in the haunting language of the Rohirrim as they attacked and slew their foes, the eerie effect causing her pulse to quicken.

The scream of a man echoed through the vale, making her blood run cold. She turned away, reaching for her bow. She might be forced to stay at the rear but she was not going to do it unarmed. As she gripped her reins to control the horse, her bow slipped to the ground. She cursed under her breath.

Éothain saw her sliding off the saddle. "What are you doin', Missy?" he shouted above the din.

"I need my bow!" she yelled back, gesturing to where it had fallen.

"Oh, no, Miss! Stay on that horse. He will bolt!” he commanded her.

"Éothain, I will not sit here unarmed to be used for target practice!" She rolled off the horse and on to the soft grass, springing to her feet. Snatching up the bow, she took off across the field. As predicted, the palfrey darted away through the chaos.

"You will get yourself killed!" Éothain shouted after her. Cursing under her breath, the princess ran between the horses, dodging hooves. "You will get me killed," Éothain muttered to himself.

She knew the marshal would be furious, but she had not intended to drop her weapon. What choice did she have now but to fight? Scrambling up onto a rock, she positioned herself and drew her bow. The princess tried to focus on the targets the way her brothers had taught her. “Hîr e-Hûl, togo bilinn nín,” she whispered, closing her eyes momentarily. Arrow after arrow was nocked and flew, her trembling hands moving without much conscious thought. She was only vaguely aware of her arrows hitting targets and of some that went wild, trying desperately to block out the screams, growls, and sounds of terrified horses.

Éomer spun his horse around and headed toward the back of the regiment. He spotted Éothain, riding alone, and the grey palfrey, darting across the plain, his saddle empty. His eyes darted across the field, but could not see her in the chaos that was the battle. Several dead Orcs lay about, small blue and white feathered arrows sticking from throats or backs. "Where is Anhuil?" he demanded of Éothain. "Where is she?"

"I tried to stop her-" Éomer didn't wait for him to finish. Reins in one hand and drawn sword in the other, he bolted across the field. Dark brown eyes flicked over men, Orcs, horses, Wargs, arrows and flying spears…

He spotted her small form, standing on a low rock. She had her bow drawn and was firing off arrows, cursing at the Orcs between shots. “Firo, ulunn!” The last arrow fell slightly short of its target. She stomped like a spoiled child, quickly reaching for another.

Had it not been for the terrified expression on her face, Éomer would almost have been amused at the sight of this small woman, standing on a rock, hurling insults and arrows at an army of Orcs. She was so intent on her quarry that she failed to notice the one creeping up behind her.

Bits of stone rained down on her as it leaned over the rock above, and she spun around to see the hideous creature leering down at her, curved blade glinting in its hand. Glaring at him menacingly, she reached behind her for another arrow, and grasped nothing but air. Her arrows were spent. The foul creature laughed at her.

"Out of arrows, are we, little one?" the Orc sneered, raising his curved blade.

Anhuil's eyes narrowed. Heart pounding, she reached for her dagger, flipping it so that the blade was in her palm, ready to fling.

Éomer's heart leapt into his throat. He spurred his horse in desperation as the Orc stood and raised its sword, preparing to leap down. Grabbing an upended pike from the ground, he hurled it over her head. The Orc squealed and fell to the rock at her feet with a thud. The princess whirled around, her glare falling on the marshal.

"We are even now!" Éomer called out.

"I had that one!" she shot back, holding up her dagger.

“What are you doing here? I told you to stay back!” he shouted at her.

She flung her dagger past him, the Warg rider coming up behind him falling with a thunk to the ground as the weapon buried itself to the hilt in his throat. She winced. “May we discuss this later?” she yelled back.

Leaping down from his horse he grabbed her dagger from the dead Orc, and yanked a hand full of arrows from its quiver. Jumping back in his saddle, he passed her the weapons as he guided his mount past the rock on which she stood. "Hannon le!" She grinned and shoved the arrows into her own quiver, wiping the blood from dagger on the clothing of the dead Orc her feet before sheathing it.

"Come on!" He reached for her. Shaking her head, she raised her bow, nocking one of the commandeered arrows. Her attention was focused behind him.

Éothain looked up to see her aiming her bow in his direction. "Éothain, DOWN!" she shouted above the din. He turned his horse aside and bowed low in the saddle as an arrow whizzed over his head. The Warg rider behind him flopped to the ground, a grey-feathered arrow protruding from his chest. Elenion, not to be outdone, tore at the throat of the beast the Orc had ridden.

Grasping Éomer's hand, the princess dropped on to the back of his saddle. She could not fire from behind him, but continued her tirade of Elvish insults. Éomer would have laughed out loud had it not been for the seriousness of the situation. "Why do you do that?" he shouted back to her.

"What?" she called back.

"Curse like that."

"Why do you sing?" she hollered back.

"Good point…" Anhuil ducked as Éomer pulled another pike from the ground and hurled it overhead, neatly knocking an Orc off a Wargs back and pinning him to the ground. She shook her head, amazed. He made it look as easy as shooting apples off a fence post. Firefoot’s hooves drummed across the field, her arms tight around the marshal.

Firefoot unexpectedly reared as a Warg lunged. Éomer felt her slip from the saddle and reined in, momentarily panicked. A grey-feathered arrow pierced the neck of the beast, sending it reeling to the ground with a thump as she rolled clear of the pounding hooves. Éomer smiled. Whatever else you could say about this little she-devil, her aim was true.

Quickly regaining her footing, Anhuil stood and spun around, her sense of direction somewhat askew in the chaos. She scaled a flat rock nearby, ducking behind a jutting boulder, and drew her bow. Leaning around the edge, she released another barrage of projectiles, both wooden and verbal, toward a group that had encircled Dormand. She managed two with her arrows, turning her head away quickly as Elfhelm rode in, decapitating another in one swift blow, leaving the last one to Dormand.

She ducked back behind the boulder as a pike bounced off of it, missing her narrowly. The sound of a human scream made her spin around, just in time to see a warg leaping, knocking a rider she knew as Eadric from horse. Arrows flew from her bow, seemingly having no effect on the beast as it tore at the rider under its huge paws, the screams stopping abruptly. Flinging herself back behind the rock, Anhuil closed her eyes, falling to her hands and knees, fighting to keep her heaving stomach from expelling its contents.

Guttural growls jerked her back to reality. Wiping impatiently at the tears that stung her eyes, she leapt to her feet and peered around the rock.

The marshal whirled around to locate her. A small group of the foul beings had surrounded the rock she was standing upon. The princess held her stance on the plateau, firing off arrows, her small hands moving so quickly he could barely follow them, but not fast enough. Elenion tore over the tall grass, leaping on one of the creatures that had surrounded her, pulling it to the ground with his teeth locked on its throat. Reaching for another arrow, Anhuil cursed as she discovered she had again emptied the quiver.

One of the filthy creatures tried to climb up to where she stood. With a grunt of effort, she grabbed fallen pike with both hands and struck the beast across its ugly head, knocking it backward. She swung around, drawing her dagger, tossing the wieldy pike aside. Her heart pounded in her throat as an Orc that had reached the top of the rock lunged at her with its curved blade, ripping through her tunic. The others below jeered. A burning pain seared through her side, making her cry out. She held her ground, never taking her eyes off the enemy before her, the warmth of her own blood seeping through her tunic.

The sound of her cry made Éomer whirl around. He saw her standing on the rock, slowly circling the Orc, dagger drawn. His heart in his throat, he whistled loudly for Éothain.

Anhuil dodged the Orc’s second swing and rolled behind him. Before she could get to her feet a pike flew across the rock, impaling the Orc. He dropped to the flat stone surface. Anhuil kicked at the dead Orc with an angry grunt, still holding her side.

The two horses and their riders pounded through the group around the rock, knocking them aside. Holding the reins in one hand, Éomer reached up and grabbed her around the waist, pulling her in front of him on the saddle, his right arm tight around her. A wave of relief washed over him to have her back in his arms. He released her and drew his sword. The hilt felt strangely slick in his gloved hand.

The marshal glanced down at his hand that held his sword. Dark stains spread across the fingers of his glove, shining red on the hilt of his sword. Blood. Her blood. His stomach flipped. The princess leaned forward, holding her bloody dagger in one hand and her side with the other.

Yanking back her cloak, Éomer cursed. "Anhuil, you are hurt!" a sharp edge of concern in his voice.

She looked down first with disdain, quickly becoming irate. "That hideous beast cut me! Degina hon!" Squirming in his grip, the woman tried to get down, the effort proving far more painful than she anticipated.

Re-sheathing his sword, Éomer took the bloody dagger from her hand, sliding it into his own belt. Placing his hand over hers, he held it over the wound tightly, trying to keep pressure on her side. He could feel the warmth of her blood seeping through her tunic and her fingers, through his gloves. His stomach tightened. "Be still," he told her. His demeanor was calm, but Anhuil could hear the tension in his voice.

The pain in her side was intensifying. "My bow…" She felt dizzy. "I dropped my bow…"

“Shh." She slumped heavily against him. Glancing down, he guided his horse quickly away from the fray. Éothain followed. Jerking back on the reins, he halted the horse.

"I have to get her out of here," Éomer told him, "but I cannot leave the men."

Éothain stopped alongside him, reaching for the injured princess. "I will take her."

"She is wounded," Éomer told him quickly, reluctantly releasing her and helping his friend settle her in front of him. "Her left side, I do not know how bad." He was grateful his friend required no explanations.

Éothain pressed one hand over her side, grabbing his reins with the other. "I'll see to her. Go!"

With a brief nod, Éomer bolted back into the battle. He glanced down again at the blood on his glove. Unsheathing his sword, he held it high. “Guthwinë, for the Mark!” he called out.

Blind with fury, the marshal charged into the throng. Spurring his mount forward, he laid waste to everything in his path, leaving a trail of hideous heads in his wake.

Not one was left alive. Reining the horse to a halt, Éomer called out to his men. "Send out riders to check for others! Arador! Get these wounded out of here! Elfhelm, take your men and scout ahead for a campsite. Somewhere near the river, if possible. We will need water. Move!" He barked orders, trying to maintain some semblance of composure. Elenion trotted around Firefoot's hooves, whimpering. "The rest of you, get a fire going. We need to dispose of these carcasses."

He rode swiftly back to Éothain, who sat with Anhuil on the soft grass. She was lying back, Éothian pressing bandages against her wound. Éomer slid from his saddle and knelt beside her. Lifting her cloak and blood-soaked tunic carefully, he inspected the gash in her left side, sucking in his breath. It was still bleeding steadily, but fortunately it appeared to have missed anything vital.

Éomer grabbed the cloths from Éothian, pressing down on the wound. "Anhuil," he called her name softly.

Her eyes opened widely, frightened. "I am fine." She tried to sit up. Relief flooded him at the sound of her voice.

The marshal restrained her gently. "Please, let me bandage this." He yanked off his gloves, dropping them on the grass beside her. Turning her head, she glanced at them, feeling her stomach lurch at the sight of her own blood soaking them. She struggled for consciousness against the oblivion that threatened to overtake her.

The adrenaline was wearing off, the pain so intense her head reeled. He wrapped the bandages around her, keeping pressure on the bleeding cut. "It is not as bad as it looks," he said, as much for his own reassurance as hers. "This should at least help slow the bleeding until we can get to camp.” His fingers were warm on her exposed skin. She was taken aback by the involuntary wave of desire his touch unleashed, particularly considering her condition.

"Really, Éomer, I am fine." She tried to sit up again, drawing her breath in sharply at the pain.

"Yes, I see,” he answered sarcastically. The marshal raised her gently up to a sitting position, resting her back against his arm. Taking the flask offered by Éothain, he uncorked it and held it to her lips. “Drink some of this, it will help,” he said softly. She swallowed, coughing only slightly at the burn. Éothain picked her up as Éomer climbed back into his saddle. The lieutenant gently lifted Anhuil onto the horse, settling her carefully in front of the marshal.

"This is really not necessary…" she mumbled softly, trying to sit up, wincing in pain.

"Lean back, please, Ani," Éomer urged. She collapsed back, exhausted. Her head lay against his chest, dark curls falling across her face. Kicking the horse into a canter, he followed the rest of the riders.

The marshal’s mind reeled. Concerned as he was about her condition, he was livid. He had specifically told her to stay back. Granted, she could fight well, he would give her that. He had to admire her courage. He would deal with her defiance later.

The scouting party had already started making camp near the Entwash. Tents were set up, fires made, and the wounded were being tended. Éomer reined in and dismounted, taking Anhuil into his arms. Elenion trotted at his heels.

"I can walk…put me down…" she murmured against his shoulder.

"Do you not remember the last time you told me that?" he chuckled.

"You would dare not drop me again," she whispered, almost a threat, her breath warm against his neck. He laughed softly, grateful she had not lost her sense of humor.

"Lord Éomer, over there," a rider pointed in the direction of his quarters. Nodding his thanks, the marshal ducked inside the tent.

He was aware of the looks he was receiving from his men, but he didn't care. She was in his arms, and there she would stay. He laid her gently on the cot. Kneeling beside her, he checked the dressing on her wound. At least the bleeding seemed to have slowed.

The soldier who had pointed him to the tent appeared in the doorway with a basin of water and rags. "You need these, sir? I heard she was hurt. She's a hell of a fighter, for a woman."

"She will be alright. Just a flesh wound. Thank you, Ceorl."

"Yes, sir." He backed out of the tent.

"For a woman?" she whispered haughtily, before closing her eyes, lapsing once again out of consciousness.

Éomer looked down at his own hands, covered in her blood, then at her. Dark eyelashes resting on her cheeks, her breathing slow and even. He brushed the curls from her face. Even muddy and covered with blood, she was beautiful.

Picking up the rag, he washed the blood from his own hands hurriedly. It is not as if you have never seen blood, he told himself. He had, many times. Blood of men he knew and cared about. He was, after all, a warrior, and had bandaged more than his fair share of wounded men. He scrubbed hastily at his fingers with the cloth. This was different. It was her blood. Somehow that made it both precious and abhorrent at the same time. He blew out his breath, forcing the thought away.

Using a clean rag, he gingerly washed her face, then her hands, stained with her own blood, mixed with Handarion's.

Despite her murmured protests, he also removed her bloody tunic, washed the wound and redressed it. The shift she wore underneath was also stained and torn. Keeping his eyes averted as much as possible, as much for his own sake as for propriety’s, quickly removed it and pulled one of his own clean tunics over her, covering her with a small blanket.

Watching her sleep, Éomer tried to ride herd on the intense emotions washing over him. Anger at her disobedience was tempered by his respect for her skill with a bow, not to mention her courage. As upset as he was with her for endangering her own life, she had saved at least two of his men. The marshal ran a finger across her cheek, tracing the outline of her jaw, and kissed her lightly on the lips.

She stirred slightly. "Éomer," she whispered. The soft sound tore at his heart.

He placed his strong hand against her cheek. How could this little witch have taken hold of his soul in such a short amount of time? Less than one week ago he couldn't wait to be rid of her. Now he could not remember life without her, and did not want to even contemplate the possibility.

"I am sorry," her voice was quiet. She reached out to touch his face. Éomer took her hand in his. “I lost your horse….” Tears slipped from her eyes, whether from exhaustion, relief, pain, or all three, she wasn’t sure.

“You fought bravely. Your brothers would be proud,” he told her softly.

The princess closed her eyes tightly, the images filling her mind. She shook her head. “No...Eadric...” She covered her face with her hands.

“There was nothing you could have done for him, Ani,” he said soothingly, taking her hands in one of his and brushing her hair back from her face.

She shook her head again, a sob choking in her throat. “I was not brave, Éomer, I was scared out of my wits.”

Chuckling, he wiped the tears from her cheek with his fingertips. “As was I,” he told her, gently squeezing her hand. “Any man who tell you he has no fear in battle is either a fool or a liar, Anhuil. Courage is not about fearlessness. It is knowing fear and facing it. You fought better than many men I have known. Peace, now. You need to rest.”

The princess shivered slightly, curling into herself. "I am so cold."

He stood and removed his armor, unbuckling the leather plates and pulling the mail shirt and padding off over his head. Dropping them to the ground, Éomer carefully laid down on his side next to her, pulling her against him, his arms around her protectively. He pulled his cloak over her as she leaned her head against his shoulder. A large wolf curled in the corner of the tent, one ear twitching.

******
You see, in all my life
I've never found
What I couldn't resist
What I couldn't turn down
I could walk away from anyone I ever knew
But I can't walk away from you

I have never let anything have this much control over me
I worked too hard to call my life my own
I made myself a world and it's worked so perfectly
But it sure won't now; I can't refuse
I've never had so much to lose…

I never lost anything I ever missed
But I've never been in love like this
It's outta my hands
I'm shameless

Shameless - Garth Brooks
***********

Éomer looked down at the woman in his arms. Anhuil lay asleep, her cheek against his chest. He still could not believe how she had completely taken over his heart in such a short amount of time. With one finger he brushed the curls from her face, tracing the outline of her cheek, her skin soft under his calloused fingertip. Had someone told him a fortnight ago that he would fall in love with a sassy little wench who dressed in men’s clothing, he would have thought them mad. Yet here she lay, in his arms, and for all the world Éomer could not remember his life without her.

Worse, he didn’t want to.

He knew he could easily lay there with her all night, watching her sleep, but he needed to check on his men and the gossip would be bad enough as it was. Slipping from the cot, he covered her gently with his cloak, and stepped out of the tent, strolling across the camp. Elfhelm sat near a fire, puffing on a pipe. He looked up as Éomer passed. “How is she, Marshal?”

Éomer walked over to where his friend sat. “She is resting. The bleeding has stopped, at least. I think she will be fine.”

The other man nodded, gesturing for the marshal to sit. He did so, leaning his elbows on his knees, staring at the fire.

“Éomer...” Elfhelm began.

“I know what you are going to say.” He paused, glancing back at the lieutenant.

“Do you?”

Éomer sighed heavily. “I know she is a distraction. This battle proved beyond a doubt that she cannot continue to travel with us. Even if she can fight, this is no place for a woman.” He stared down at the dirt under his feet, hearing the words he was saying, but not liking them at all. “I will have to either find a safe place to leave her, or provide her with an escort home.”

“What are you thinking?”

“We are not far from Aldburg. Perhaps we should take her to the fortress and arrange an escort for her to Lothlórien. That is where she was headed, apparently.”

Elfhelm pulled the pipe from his mouth and stared at Éomer, his brow furrowing. “Lothlórien? Why in Arda would she be going there? The stories we have heard about that elf-witch...”

“You heard what the dwarf said. Perhaps there is far more to the Lady of Light than we thought. In any case, that is where she was heading. Apparently she is researching her country's history.”

"In Lothloríen?"

"Dol Amroth was named after a former king of Loríen."

An eyebrow raised as the lieutenant regarded the marshal. “I was not aware you were such a history scholar, Éomer.”

“Not a willing one, I assure you.” Éomer laughed. “But I did manage to retain some of what was drilled into my head by the court tutors.”

“So, we head for Aldburg?”

He shook his head. “There is no reason for the entire company to go. I can escort her there with only a few men. Éothain can take over command until I return.” Éomer’s gaze drifted to the dancing flames. “She will need a little time to heal, but I do not want her traveling alone if I can help it. It is not safe.”

“You will escort her personally?” Elfhelm’s tone was slightly teasing.

The marshal turned to face him. “Of course. I am the commanding officer of this unit, and it is my responsibility to see her to safety. It is bad enough I allowed her to get wounded. I will not risk further harm to her.”

“And that is your sole reason?” Elfhelm puffed his pipe, casting an innocent look at the marshal.

“What other reason would I have?” He met his friend’s gaze steadily.

The lieutenant shrugged. “As you wish, Marshal,” he responded.

Éomer stood. “I am going to check on the wounded.” He strode quickly across the camp.

Elfhelm nodded and turned back to the fire, chewing on the pipe.


Rohan
28 Nínui, 3019 T.A.
***********************

Anhuil's head ached, her side hurt, and she was very hungry. Her dream had been much more pleasant than this morning's reality. She forced her eyes open, carefully rolling on to her back.

"Good morning." The deep voice startled her. Éomer was sitting beside her, on the edge of the cot, smiling. That smile…she was amazed that even in her condition it still had that effect on her. "How are you feeling?"

"My head hurts, my side hurts, I am starving, and I have no idea where my weapons are," she said, her voice raspy. He helped her sit up and handed her a cup.

"That good, eh? Drink this. It will help." She took a small sip, grimaced, and looked up at him.

"What is it?" Anhuil eyed the cup suspiciously.

"Tea." He smiled.

She took another sip and looked up at him. "Tea? And what else?" She coughed, holding her side. "It is a bit early for that, is it not?" Anhuil tried to give him back the cup.

"You did not mind it the other night. It will help," he said, pushing it toward her. "Drink it." Downing the rest, she frowned at the empty cup. Éomer took it from her hands, and gently tried to ease her back on the cot. Anhuil resisted. "Lie down," he commanded softly.

"I am fine." She hugged her knees, closing her eyes tightly. Why the thought of him touching her was suddenly disconcerting, she did not know.

"I only want to check the bandage. Please."

The princess hesitated. “Who do you think changed it last night, Ani? Who do you think changed your tunic?” She looked down, surprised that she was, indeed, wearing a clean shirt.

“You changed my clothing? You undressed me?”

He chuckled at her shock. “You would rather I left you in a bloody shirt? I promise, I was a perfect gentleman.”

The stare between them dissolved into soft laughter. Resignedly, she lay down. He lifted the side of her tunic carefully, pulling back the bandage gently. Anhuil laid her forearm across her eyes, trying not to think about his warm hands on her bare skin.

"It is not as bad as it looked," he observed, carefully replacing the bandages. "But you will have to be careful not to move around too much or the bleeding will start again." His dark eyes met hers, and his expression softened.

Touching her cheek with the back of his fingers, he smiled at her. "Gods, you frightened me." She grasped the hand resting on her cheek. "Please do not ever do that again."

"Frighten you?"

"Disobey me,” he corrected her. “If you had stayed with Éothain -"

Anhuil sat straight up, despite the pain in her side. "DISOBEY YOU?" she raised her voice.

"I specifically told you to stay with Éothain." The marshal tried to keep his voice checked, his tone that of one who was used to having his dictates complied with. "I told you to stay with the rear guard. If you-"

The princess stared at him in disbelief. "You do not issue orders to me, Lord Éomer! I am -"

"You very nearly got yourself killed! Do you have any idea-" The volume of their voices increased.

“I dropped my bow! I was not going to--“

“You were supposed to stay back, not go charging to the front line!”

“And what was I to do when they got to me? Hope they would realize I was not shooting at them and leave me be?”

“I told you to stay back!”

"I am not a child! I had no choice!"

"You endangered yourself AND my men! IF you had OBEYED ME-"

"OBEYED YOU????"

"I should not have to worry about where you are when I give you a direct order-!" He was yelling now, too.

"I am NOT one of your men to be ORDERED AROUND, Lord Éomer. I thought you had noticed that by now!" Anhuil was furious. "IF I HAD OBEYED YOU, YOU WOULD HAVE LOST TWO MORE GOOD MEN!" She punctuated the last three words with her finger in his chest, the tears stinging her eyes again at the thought of Eadric.

She held her clenched her fists to the sides of her head in frustration . "Uchenion edain! U’istannen le--" Her rant was cut short by his mouth covering hers. Strong hands cupped her face and gently held her, but it might as well have been a vise. His possession of her was so complete, she could no more pull herself away than she could fly. Her feeble attempts at pushing him back only made him deepen his kiss, one hand tangling in the dark waves at the back of her neck.

Éomer drew back as suddenly as he had kissed her. His dark eyes searched her fiery ones. "Do you not understand, Anhuil? I would die before I would let anything happen to you."

******
I'm shameless
Shameless as a man can be
You can make a total fool of me
I just wanted you to know....

Shameless
Garth Brooks
********

The princess stared at the marshal, trying to get her mind around what he had just said. Her side was screaming in pain but she didn't care. Sable eyes bored into hers, hands still cupping her face, seeking comprehension. He brushed her hair back from her face and dropped his hands.

Standing to leave, he motioned toward the basin of water. "There is some water here for you to clean up a little. Do you need help?"

Still unable to speak, she managed to shake her head. Éomer nodded. "I need to check on my men. I shall be back shortly." He disappeared through the opening of the tent.

Anhuil stared after him. He would die for her. She rubbed her aching head, trying to rein in her thoughts. She might as well have tried to rope the wind.

*********

Hodo, mellon nín - rest, my friend

Ilu Ilúvatar en káre Eldain a fírimoin ar antaróta mannar Valion…Man táre antáva nin Ilúvatar, Ilúvatar, enyáre tar i tyel, íre Anarinya qeluva? - The Father made the world for Elves and Mortals, and he gave it into the hands of the Lords… What will the Father, Oh, Father give me in that day beyond the end when my sun faileth? From Firiel's Song

Hiro hon hîdh ab ‘wanath - May he find peace after death.

Hîr e-Hûl, togo bilinn nín - Lord of the wind, guide my arrow

Firo, ulunn - die, foul creature!

Degina hon - I will kill him!

Uchenion edain. U’istannen lle-- I do not understand men! I do not understand you--


Chapter 10 - Chapter Nine

Trust to Hope - Chapter Nine
Author: Novedhelion
Type: FP Het
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Pairing: Éomer/Lothíriel aka Anhuil
Rating: PG13
Warnings: Depressing, sappy separation. This is, after all, romance...
Beta: Riyallyn…and some help from ZeDrippyVessel
Disclaimer: Characters are not mine, no money to be made...you’ve heard it all before. It’s a mixture of movieverse and book canon...bear with me. If PJ can leave Saruman at Isengard...

****************
Chapter Nine
****************

“Ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.”
Khalil Gibran
*********************

**************
Rohan
1 Gwaeron, 3019 T.A.
*************************

Anhuil sat in the tent, that annoying voice in her head assailing her with her situation as she attempted to write.

You are leagues from home in the middle of nowhere with no horse. You are wounded. A man you do not love awaits your return home so you can be married. And now, you’ve got yourself a handsome rogue who said he would die for you. He doesn’t even know who you are!

“Shut up!” she said out loud, pressing the heels of her hands against her eyes.

Anhuil felt odd in his tent, his belongings strewn about. Maps, gear, armor…all trappings of a soldier. He had wanted her to stay here, citing her injury as his reason for concern. The impropriety of it did not seem to perturb him in the least. It was all relatively innocent, true. But the appearance…he had even slept with her on the cot!

What would the gossips in the court say about that one if they knew? She giggled out loud at the hint of scandal. Prince Imrahil’s only daughter, sharing a tent with a rakish soldier of Rohan!

Anhuil stared at the blank page. The words were not coming. With a sigh, she flipped it shut and laid the quill on top. At least it would get her out of this stuffy tent.

She gingerly pulled on the boots, draping her cloak around her shoulders. Stepping outside into the cool early evening air, she patted her leg for Elenion to follow. He regarded her for a moment, reluctant to move from his resting spot. “Oh, do not be so lazy. Aphado nín.” The wolf raised himself to his feet and dragged along after her.

Éomer sat near the fire, her dagger in his hand. He had cleaned the blood from the weapon and sharpened it, and was now inspecting the curving Tengwar lettering engraved upon the silver blade.

Éothain stepped up behind him, looking over his shoulder at the Elvish weapon. “That hers?” he asked, offering the marshal a cup. Éomer took the cup and nodded. “What does it say?”

The marshal shrugged. “I do not know. I was just wondering that myself.”

“An Elvish weapon?”

“It would appear to be,” he answered. He lay down her dagger and picked up the bow, wiping the dried blood from the handgrip on the curved arc, carefully cleaning the intricate carvings on the wood. He plucked at the bowstring, shaking his head. “She vexes me, Éothain.”

The other soldier laughed. “Women vex us all.”

“I suppose you are right,” the marshal admitted.

“Be careful, Éomer,” Éothain warned jokingly. At his friend’s perplexed expression, he continued. “These are difficult times. Do not go looking for trouble. It will find you easily enough.”

The marshal regarded him with a wry smile. “I am fairly certain she could not be more trouble than she already has been.”

Éothain put his broad hand on the marshal’s shoulder. “That is because you have never yet truly been in love. Trust the voice of experience. They are all trouble. And you have only seen the beginning of it. Do not lose your head or your heart too quickly over this woman.”

“But you are in love, and in the end, is it not worth the trouble?”

“Some say so, my idealistic friend. However, I know exactly who and what Claennis is. We cannot say as much for your little warrior. A hellcat with a bow, for sure, though.” He paused.

He patted Éomer’s shoulder and stalked slowly away. The marshal stared down at the Elvish weapon at his feet, his mind drifting to the woman resting in his tent. Whenever his men returned from patrol, their wives were there at Aldburg to welcome them. He always felt a slight twinge of something…he didn’t know what…longing? Envy? Loneliness? Whatever it was, he was usually able to quell it sufficiently, if temporarily, with a trip to a local mead hall.

The truth was, he did not dislike the idea of having someone to come home to when he returned from patrol. A brief mental picture of Anhuil greeting him as he arrived home from battle entered his mind...her arms around him, him lifting her small form into his embrace, their lips meeting…taking her home, to their home at the fortress of Aldburg. His father’s old home. The hearth ablaze instead of empty and cold. He shook off the thought before it could go further. Was he truly, seriously considering this? The more important question was, would she?

Lose his head? That was debatable. Lose his heart? It might be a little too late for that one.

The camp was set near the banks of the Entwash. She slowly walked to the top of a small rise, looking out over the rolling landscape. The river flowed infinitely south. The chilly water would make it to Dol Amroth long before she did. A tinge of homesickness pricked her at the thought. She missed her brothers. She missed Cam. She missed her father. Eventually she would have to go back and face Fenwick. The thought made her stomach tighten.

Elenion dropped a stick at her feet. With a sigh, she picked it up and carefully tossed it a short distance for the wolf, who ran to retrieve it.

The movement hurt her side. She bent over slightly, her hand covering the bandages under her tunic. Bandages he had put there. She shivered slightly at the thought of him seeing her unclothed. Perching cautiously on a nearby rock, Anhuil looked out across the plains, taking in the view, drawing her cloak a little tighter against the chill. Elenion dropped the stick again, climbing up on the rock, and sat beside her, looking at her apologetically. “It is not your fault,” she told him, scratching behind his ears.

The princess hugged the wolf beside her, with one arm. “I do not know what to do, Elenion,” she whispered. “I miss my home, and Ada, and Cam…but I do not want to go back. I cannot marry him. Not now. I want to stay here, forever, but I know I cannot.” Her fingers dug into the soft fur. “Sometimes I wish I could just get on a ship and sail away, like the Elves.” Elenion turned his lupine gaze on her, the unspoken question in his eyes. “Please, Elenion,” she chided him, “I know he is being nice to us, but…” her voice trailed off. She sighed, leaning her head on him. He nuzzled her hair.

The marshal spotted them in the distance, and strode purposefully up the hill. She had no business being up out of bed, much less traipsing all over camp. As he approached them from behind, he slowed his steps. Her could hear her singing softly, the haunting tune was in the tongue of the Elves. Leaning on a tree, he stopped to listen.

...“Estel pêl, non ardhon dû
Trî núath dannol ed rîn a lû
Avo bedo ve tellin sí nan methen
Felias ‘lain, nallar agevedetham
Hodathach sí min rainc nín, losto

Man pellich cened, buin rain amar?
Amman en gwael ‘lain nallar?
Ithil ‘ael eria athan Aear
I chîr tellin a choled le na mar
Sui cheled geleb nadath thiathar
Calad buin nen, cîr thind gwannar
Nan annûn.”

Éomer stepped up behind her, watching the sun set across Rohan. “It is beautiful up here, is it not?”

She jumped at his voice. “Would you PLEASE stop doing that?”

“Then please stop wandering off. I went looking for you, and you were not in the tent.” He sat beside her on the rock. Elenion dutifully deposited the stick at his feet. Éomer tossed it again for him. “You should be resting. How are you feeling?”

“It hurts,” she said honestly. “Nothing I cannot live with.” Anhuil tried to sound nonchalant, although having him sit so close made her heart race. His words echoed in her head. I would die before I would let anything happen to you. The voice in her own head resounded... He does not even know who you are….

“That was a beautiful song,” he commented. “What was it?”

She stared ahead, shifting her position slightly, drawing her knees up. “It is a song about the Elves, leaving Middle Earth.”

“You have a lovely voice.”

“I shall consider that an honest compliment,” the princess responded politely.

“It was meant to be. It is nice to know you have something in your repertoire that is not about drinking or virgins,” the marshal commented teasingly.

She turned to face him, one eyebrow raised. “This from one of the Rohirrim? Your men are not exactly short on drinking songs either, Marshal.”

Éomer smiled. “We do have other songs, but most are in our own language.”

“I would love to hear one.”

“Is that a request?”

Anhuil studied him for a moment in the fading light. “If you would do me the honor, Marshal, I would love to hear a song in your own language,” she requested politely.

“All right. I suppose it is only fair.” He appeared to ponder the possibilities for a moment, smiled as he thought of one.

In his deep voice, he sang softly.

“Héo naefre wacode daegréd
Tó bisig mid daegeweorcum
Ac oft héo wacode sunnanwanting
Thonne nihtciele créap geond móras
And on haere hwile Héo dréag thá losinga
Ealra thinga the heo forleas
Héo swá oft dréag hire sáwle sincende
Héo ne cúthe hire heortan lust.

Éomer finished the song, then turned to the Princess.

Anhuil smiled at him. “What does it mean?”

“It is a song about a maid who yearns for something, although she does not really know what it is that her heart desires.”

“How sad,” the princess remarked quietly, turning her gaze back to the stars.

“Indeed,” Éomer responded, watching her carefully. Why he had chosen that particular song he was not sure, but the irony was not lost on him.

Taking a deep breath, she turned to face him. “Éomer, about yesterday…”

“I am sorry, Ani. I was wrong to raise my voice to you. That was—“

“Deserved. I should have listened to you. You were right. What I did could have been disastrous. I am sorry.”

“You did save two of my men. For that I am grateful. At least you aim true,” he said, his voice light, “for one so disobedient.” Éomer cut his eyes over at her, grinning.

Casting him a sardonic smile, the princess took the high road, ignoring his obvious attempt to bait her. “Another result of having three older brothers. I was determined to get better than them at something. Archery proved easier for me than swordplay.”

The marshal chuckled. “Speaking of weapons, I have cleaned yours. They are in the tent. I take it you found your bag,” he said, indicating her clean clothing. “The men found Cyric this morning, a little shaken but safe.”

She nodded. “Thank you for taking care of my weapons.”

“I would not want such a beautiful blade rusted.” The princess smiled. “What does it say, the inscription on your dagger?”

“It is Sindarin for Little Warrior. My eldest brother had it made for me, much to the chagrin of my father, who thought--“ she stopped short, not completing her sentence.

Éomer smiled at her. She had almost given more information that she had intended.

“What about your bow?”

The princess brushed imaginary dust from her knee, regarding the toes of her boots in the fading daylight. “It belonged to my mother. Her father made it for her. She gave it to me before she passed.”

“It is an elegant weapon,” the marshal commented. “And most deadly with you behind it.” She smiled shyly at the compliment. He flashed her another devilish grin.

Damn, that smile of his. She almost wished he wouldn’t smile at her like that. Almost.

“Ani,” he began. When did he start to use such a form to address her? The princess was taken aback by his boldness, addressing a member of the royal family with such familiarity… She almost laughed out loud, realizing once again he did not know she was a princess.

“…difficult.”

Anhuil startled, realizing her mind had wandered. “I apologize, I did not hear what you said,” she told him sheepishly.

He grinned again. “I said, I would like to see you safely to your destination, but not knowing where you are from, it is difficult.”

Anhuil figured he would ask eventually. At the very least, he deserved an honest answer. “My home is in Dol Amroth.”

“What?”

“Dol Amroth, the chief city of Belfalas. By the sea.”

Éomer looked at her, incredulous. “That is over 100 leagues from where we found you.” Had she traveled that distance alone?

“Yes,” she agreed.

“Going…?” He waited for the answer.

Anhuil shrugged. “I had thought to travel north, to Lothlórien.” She sighed deeply. “But that party of orcs I met along the riverbank changed my plans. I managed to evade them, but it was night… I lost my sense of direction, and the next thing I know I am lost in a forest.”

The princess shrugged again. “I was not sure where I was until I heard you and your men speaking, talking go your horses. I had read about the Rohirrim.”

The marshal studied her profile, the dim light. She stared straight ahead, her gaze traveling across the fields.

“Lothlórien? What induced you to go so far from home alone, if I may ask?”

Anhuil shook her head. “I had been doing research on Dol Amroth’s history, and had questions I felt Lord Celeborn could answer.” She shrugged. “My homeland is lovely, but sometimes when it is all you have seen your entire life, your heart yearns for something...different. I needed to see more than just sand and water. I wanted to write. I wanted to travel, to get away from all that was familiar.” And stuffy suitors who negotiated her hand in marriage with her father as if she would be sold to the highest bidder. She didn’t mention that part, casually crossing her legs at the ankles and leaning slightly forward. The truth was, she was perfectly content right where she was.

Elenion nudged the stick at her feet again. She handed it to Éomer, who threw it as far as he could. The wolf bounded off like a puppy.

“So you are running away,” he stated, confirming what he already knew.

The princess looked straight ahead, swallowing hard. He was right. “Not necessarily running away from something as much as running to something else,” she sighed, then changed the subject. “It is amazing how this reminds me of the sea,” she said, watching the grass ripple in waves under the evening breeze. “The way the grass moves with the wind. It looks like the waves at sea.” She turned to face him. “Have you ever seen the sea?” He shook his head. “One after another, the waves roll over, their white crests and crashing to the sand…the sound is amazing.” The look on her face said far more than she would have wished.

Éomer looked out across the field. “You miss it.”

“Yes, I do,” she admitted. “I love the ocean. I love the smell of the air, the salty taste of it on my lips. I love the sand between my toes.” She glanced down at her boots, trying to remember the last time she went barefoot.

“Sand? Between your toes? Does not sound very pleasant to me,” he laughed.

“It is wonderful,” she said wistfully. The princess stared off into the distance, the river’s glittering surface reflecting the newly rising half moon. “I used to sit for hours on the beach as a child, making drip castles.”

The marshal looked at her questioningly. “Drip castles?”

“When you dig a hole in the sand on the shore, it fills with water,” she explained. “You pick up wet sand in your fingers, slowly dripping it to form a tower.” She demonstrated the motion delicately, thumb and index finger in the air. “They are quite lovely. We used to build entire fortresses. We would be covered in sand by the time we were done.”

“Castles made of sand?” He shook his head at the absurdity of it.

She laughed. “I suppose we all have our customs that others find strange.”

“Oh? And what customs do the Éothéod have that others would find odd?”

Anhuil cast him a coy smile. “You sing in battle, for one.”

“You find that odd? You, who screams Elvish insults at the enemy?” They both laughed softy, Anhuil holding her side. She winced.

“You should not be up,” he admonished her softly again.

“I am fine, Éomer. It is naught but a scratch, you said so yourself.”

“I said nothing of the sort. I only said it was not as bad as I thought.” The vision of her blood on his hand, the feeling of its warmth as it seeped through his gloves on to his fingers came flooding back to him. The hilt of his sword slick in his hand… He clenched his fist, tying to banish the thought.

Noting his expression, she spoke quickly. “Rohan is very different from Gondor, in many ways,” she observed, lightly steering the conversation away from her injury.

“Ah, yes.” He smiled. “We are not scholars. Most of our people are unlearned. We have no written language; our history is passed down through song and verse. We are a country of heathen peasants,” he quipped teasingly, grinning sideways at her.

Anhuil laughed. “I am sorry, I did not mean it like that!” She fiddled with the ring on her thumb, thinking. “Just that there are many differences in our cultures. Your country does not observe betrothals, for one.”

“You know about our customs?”

“I told you, I used to have a lot of time for reading. I love to study the customs and languages of other peoples. There is a large library in Dol Amroth. You do not believe in formal betrothals, or extravagant rituals.”

“You think that is strange? I think it is peculiar to wait an entire year to marry. We are relatively simple when it comes to such things, preferring not to stand on ceremony. We make a promise and keep it.”

“Do you choose whom you marry freely?” she asked. Éomer nodded. The princess looked down, toying with her ring again. “Many marriages in Gondor are arranged. Some as soon as a daughter is born.”

“I am glad most of the Éothéod do not hold to that practice. How can one keep vows to another that they have not freely chosen? Would you not wish to love the one you marry?”

Anhuil shook her head. “I do not know. It is so common in Gondor that there are those who believe that true love is a detriment to a strong marriage, as emotion tends to cloud one’s judgment.”

“If marriages are arranged so early in life, why the year of betrothal?” he asked curiously.

“Agreements may be made early in a girl’s life, but actual betrothal contracts are not signed until she is old enough to be married. That leads to the one year betrothal period, which is supposedly designed to give a couple that has never met a chance to get to know one another before their marriage. Then the poor girl is sent off to live with her new husband, like him or not, and produce heirs.”

“You make it seem as if women are naught but a means to an end,” he commented.

“Sometimes that is how it appears,” she admitted bitterly. “And even those who do marry for love must still observe the betrothal period.” Anhuil shrugged. “It is simply our custom.”

“A year still seems like a fair long time to wait, if you ask me.” Éomer smiled mischievously. “I am certain there are far fewer agitated men in Rohan than in Dol Amroth.”

“I would not be so certain it is only the men!”

They both laughed out loud, Anhuil clutching her side again.

She realized he was no longer laughing, but watching her intently. Was that was she was running from? Dare he ask?

“What?”

His gaze met hers, her green eyes questioning. He decided against it. She was finally opening up to him
and he was not about to have her slam that door shut again. He would bring it up another time.

“You have the most beautiful smile," he told her.

Anhuil felt the hot blush color her cheeks. She was grateful it was dark, maybe he wouldn’t notice.

Éomer slid from his place at her side, turned and knelt on the grass in front of her. Taking her face in his hands, he paused. Anhuil smiled again. “That is what I was waiting for.” His mouth claimed hers, so softly she was grateful she was sitting. He nudged her lips apart with his tongue, slowly exploring the sweetness of her. She traced his lower lip with her own tongue, the resulting sensation nearly undoing him. Éomer deepened his kiss, and she moaned softly, almost inaudibly. It was all he could take. The kiss that had started so softly and sweetly rapidly became ardent, each claiming the other with such intense passion it surprised them both.

Anhuil leaned into him, her fingernails digging into his shoulders. The pain in her side…what pain? She tangled her small hands into his hair. Lifting her off the rock, he laid her down on the soft grass, his mouth never leaving hers. Careful not to put weight on her injured side, he lay beside her, propped on one elbow. She protested slightly when he moved his mouth from hers, but forgot what about as he trailed kisses up her neck. “Ani…” he whispered, his breath warm against her ear.

Éomer tried to be mindful of her injury, but her responsiveness was making it very difficult. Strong fingers traced the neckline of her tunic, gently fingering the strings tying the front. Anhuil shivered slightly at his warm touch.

“Éomer,” she whispered quietly. He pulled back, suddenly aware that he might be hurting her. “It is alright,” she responded to his questioning look. Small hands cupped his face, turning it back to hers, as his mouth once again captured hers.

Éomer drew back and looked at her, dark green eyes looking almost black in the pale light. She searched his face, trying to read the expression. He stroked her soft cheek with the back of his fingers.

“Ani, in my entire life I have never wanted anything as I want you.”

The confession jolted her, her eyes widening. She swallowed hard, unsure how to answer. She could not deny that she reciprocated that feeling, but she had always wanted to wait…

“But not like this,” the marshal’s expression softened. Relief flooded her. “Not here.” He kissed her cheek, moving to brush his lips against hers. Éomer spoke softly, his lips against hers. “No, Ani…when I make you mine…” His lips moved to her ear, warm breath sending a tingling sensation through her. “I want you in my bed. You deserve far more than a cursory coupling in a field. I promise it will be worth the wait.” His kiss was so soft, the heat of it made the princess feel as if she would melt into the grass beneath him.

The pounding of her heart drowned out all else.

The thundering sound she heard became louder, and she realized it was not her heart but the sound of hooves, pounding the soft ground.

She pushed him away, looking at him, listening. “Horses…” she said breathlessly.

The sound of the horse’s hooves could be heard clearly now. Through the dark, there appeared a white rider on a white horse, thundering into the campsite.

Éomer stood, carefully helping Anhuil to her feet. Looking toward the camp, they saw the White Rider dismount and approach a group of soldiers. Careful of her injured side, they made their way back to the camp.

“Where is your marshal?” Gandalf inquired of a soldier near him. Éomer strode quickly to where Gandalf had dismounted Shadowfax, leading Anhuil by the hand.

“Ah, Éomer, I must speak with you at once.” Gandalf dispensed with usual greetings. “I apologize for my abruptness, but this is a matter of utmost importance.” The Wizard glanced with a raised eyebrow at Anhuil, who surreptitiously shook her head. With a slight nod of understanding, the old man winked. Éomer led her into the tent, following Gandalf.

“I apologize for my oversight. Gandalf, this is Anhuil of Dol Amroth.”

Anhuil’s eyes bored into the Wizard’s, and he smiled. “A pleasure, my dear. I wish it were under better circumstances.” The marshal motioned for the old man to sit. He did so, with the weariness of one who carries many burdens.

“Thank you, sir,” the princess responded politely. She stood quietly near the opening to the tent. Gandalf gave her another long look, then turned his attention to the marshal.

“Éomer, Théoden King has moved the people to Helm’s Deep.”

”Helm’s Deep?”

“Yes.” The old man looked at him intently. “Gríma Wormtongue has fled, most assuredly to Isengard. The king felt it would be safer for the people to move to the fortress. Sauruman’s hold over Rohan is broken, and he is wasting no time. He has created an army, marching on the keep as we speak. Éowyn is with them.” He paused for a moment, leaning on his staff. “I am sorry to tell you your cousin passed shortly after you left.”

Éomer rubbed his forehead with his fingers, grieved at the news of Théodred’s death. He was relieved to hear that Wormtongue was no longer a threat to his beloved sister. The news of Saruman’s army, however, was disconcerting. “An army? No army can storm the keep.”

“Éomer, Saruman has created his own army of Uruk-hai, over ten thousand strong. Theoden is hopelessly outnumbered. But he is stubborn. He has faith in the Keep, in his ability to defend it. You must ride to his aid, Marshal. They will be trapped. There is no escape from that fortress. I have rounded up Erkenbrand and his men and sent them ahead. If we make haste, we can catch them and ride together. They are naught but a day ahead.” Gandalf looked at him expectantly.

“Ten thousand?” The aged Wizard nodded. Éomer considered this fact for only a moment. “Of course we will go. We will waste no time. I will call the men to ride immediately.” He stood and headed outside, stopping to look at Anhuil, who was still standing near the opening to the tent, leaning on the table. Her eyes searched his, her fear showing despite her attempt to mask it. Éomer squeezed her hand. “Wait here with Gandalf,” he told her, and stepped out of the tent.

The Wizard turned to her with an expectant look. “And what secrets am I expected to keep this time, Princess Lothíriel?” He grinned at her. “You and your brothers were always into some kind of mischief,” he joked.

“And you always knew when we were into something.”

He stood from the stool, walking slowly toward her. “I seem to remember a time or two…something about your father’s wine once…and I vaguely recall a little dark haired imp that liked to steal my staff…”

“Oh, Mithrandir, it is so good to see you again.” Anhuil threw her arms around him, gently hugging the old man. She winced in pain and pulled back, her green eyes meeting the gaze of pale grey ones.

“You look…different,” she observed, noting that he had traded the grey garb he used to wear for a robe of purest white.

“I am different, my dear,” he explained, “but the telling of that tale is for another day. And as for you? Will you tell me why I must pretend not to know who you are? And why the Third Marshal of the Riddermark is addressing you, Princess of Dol Amroth, by a childhood nickname?”

“I am sorry, I never meant to deceive him. It is a long story. He does not know who I am—“

“He does not know?”

“No, Mithrandir. I did not tell him. When I met him I did not want him to know I was a princess…I was afraid he would take me back…I never expected…” She dropped her face into her hands. “I never meant to deceive him.”

Gandalf put a large, gnarled hand on her small shoulder. “Even the smallest deception has the potential to create overwhelming perplexity, my dear.”

“It does not seem to matter now. If he is riding out to meet an army of ten thousand…” He could see the tears welling up in her dark green eyes. She blinked them back.

“Many a man has been sustained in battle by the thought of his homecoming, my dear.” He paused, letting his words sink in. “Fear not. Your secret is safe with me.” The old Wizard patted her on the shoulder. “Do not underestimate your young knight of Rohan, Lothíriel. He is destined for things he has not even begun to imagine.”

Anhuil looked at him, puzzled. Hers? Had he called him HER knight? The old man simply smiled back at her, indicating he would say no more. She had always hated it when he did that.

Éomer ducked back into the tent, again dressed in full armor except the helm in his hand, which he laid on the table in the tent. She had seen him in armor many times, but the sight of him dressed for pending battle still sent a chill down her spine. She drew in a sharp breath.

He carried her cloak over his arm, her dagger in his other hand. “We are breaking camp immediately,” he told Gandalf. “I will be back shortly to go over plans with you.” The old Wizard nodded.

“Ani, can I speak to you for a moment outside?”

With a quick glance at Gandalf, she followed the marshal out into the darkness. He led her a short distance away from where several men were preparing the horses to ride. Handing her the weapon, he tossed her cloak over her shoulders as she buckled the belt around her waist. Taking both of her hands in his, he looked into her eyes.

“I want to go with you.” She knew what the answer would be before she spoke.

He shook his head, placing his hand on her cheek. “I want nothing less than to be separated from you now.” He kissed her, as if to emphasize his point, then placed a hand over her wound. “This is no ordinary army of guileless Orcs. These are Saruman’s Uruk-hai-“

“I am not afraid of death, Éomer,” she stated flatly, “At least, not my death.”

The marshal met her gaze. “Courage, I grant you, my lady. But I would never forgive myself if something happened to you.” His hand was warm through the fabric of her shirt and the bandage underneath. “The risk is too great.”

The princess lowered her gaze, staring down at her feet. Éomer reached for the clasp to her cloak, fastening it, and raised her chin with his hand. He brushed the wayward curls from her eyes, tracing the outline of her face from her temple to her jaw, then softly traced the outline of her lips with his index finger.

Anhuil held his gaze, trying to read his eyes. She swallowed hard. “Éomer…”

He laid his finger on her lips. “Smile for me.” His request was almost a whisper.

“I do not know if I can,” she replied, tears welling up in her eyes.

He laid his hand on her cheek again, wiping her tears with his thumb. “I do not want to remember this parting with tears. I want to remember the little hellion that took on my éored and called me out for my indecorous behavior. I want to remember the woman bold enough to drink whiskey and sing licentious songs to entertain my men. The woman who hurls insults as fast as she does arrows.”

Lowering his lips to hers, he kissed her softly. “I want to remember your kiss.” The marshal paused, his dark eyes locked on to hers. “I want the image of your smile burned in my mind. I fear I will have need to call upon it in the coming days.”

His grin prompted one in return from her. “That is better,” he told her, gently wiping her tears again. “No tears. I need you to do something for me.”

“What can I do?”

“Ride to Gondor. As fast as you can. I need you to go to Mundberg, the city of Minas Tirith. I am sending Haleth to alert the Steward. I want you to go with him. You should be safe there. I will find you.” He whistled to a nearby soldier, who led over a beautiful black horse with a braided jet-black mane. The horse had been saddled, the Rohirrim armor removed. Her bag, bow, and quiver were already fastened to the saddle. Éomer took the reins and dismissed the soldier. “This was Handarion’s mount, Orlórin. I want you to take him. He is fast and steady.”

His eyes searched hers. This was all happening so fast that Anhuil’s head was reeling. “You are trusting me with another of your precious horses?” she finally managed, her attempt at humor not lost on him.

“I will come for him later, so take good care of him,” he teased, smiling weakly at her. He held out the reins of the horse toward her. She stared at him, unable to move, knowing that once she took them in her hands, he would be leaving. Finally he took her hand and placed the reins in her palm, closing his hand over hers.

Anhuil knew she had to tell him.

“Éomer,” she began, “I need to—“

The marshal placed his fingers on her lips. “Anhuil, I will find you when this is over. I promise. Believe that.” He bent and kissed her again, not caring anymore who saw.

“But…Éomer…I need to tell you…” She raised a hand to stop him.

“Marshal!” The sharp voice called him away.

“Go with Haleth. Ride to Minas Tirith. I will find you, Anhuil of Dol Amroth. I must see a castle made of sand for myself!” Capturing her hand with his, Éomer brought it to his lips, lightly kissing the pads of her fingers. He gave her one long, last look, then jogged off in the direction of the voice.

The princess placed the fingers he had kissed to her own lips. She stood there, holding the reins of the horse, watching him disappear, not even trying to blink back the tears anymore.

“Miss?” Haleth appeared behind her, already astride his own horse. “Are you ready? The marshal says we need to get moving.”

She stared after Éomer for a moment longer, the old Wizard’s words ringing in her head. ‘Many a man has been sustained in battle by the thought of his homecoming, my dear.’

Taking a deep breath, she exhaled slowly. “Just a moment, Haleth. I must do one thing first.”

****

Éomer watched as Haleth and Anhuil disappeared into the dark, the wolf racing alongside the pair. At least she was headed in a safer direction. As he leapt astride Firefoot, something caught his attention. A small white piece of fabric, tucked into the harness. Pulling it out, he unfolded it, gently running his thumb across the embroidered edge. He lifted it to his lips; deeply inhaling its lavender scent.

Smiling, he tucked the small scrap inside one of his gauntlets. With a loud whistle, he called forth the riders as the horns rang out. “Forth Eorlingas!”

**********


Aphapdo - follow me


Anhuil’s song
(“Into the West”, translated into Sindarin by Tara)

Hope fades into the world of night
Shadows falling out of memory and time
Don’t say we have come now to the end
White shores are calling
You and I will meet again
And you’ll be here, in my arms, just sleeping

What can you see on the horizon
Why do the white gulls call
Across the sea, a pale moon rises
The ships have come to carry you home
And all will turn to silver glass
A light on the water, grey ships pass
Into the West

Éomer’s song
(“The Missing” from the Two Towers Soundtrack)

She never watched the morning rising,
Too busy with the days first chores
But oft she would watch the sun's fading
As the cold of night crept across the moors

And in that moment she felt the loss
Of everything that had been missed
So used to feeling the spirit sink
She had not felt her own heart's wish


Chapter 11 - Chapter Ten

Trust to Hope - Chapter Ten
Author: Novedhelion
Type: FP Het
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Pairing: Éomer/Lothíriel aka Anhuil
Rating: PG13
Warnings:
Beta: Riyallyn
Disclaimer: Characters are not mine, no money to be made...you’ve heard it all before. It’s a mixture of movieverse and book canon...bear with me. If PJ can lose the entire Dunedain army, not to mention the Swan Knights of Dol Amroth...



********
Chapter Ten
********

“Whatever you are, be a good one.” Abraham Lincoln


Rohan
2 Gwaeron, 3019 T.A.
*************************

Haleth reined in his mount and turned to look at the woman beside him. They had been riding several hours through the night. She halted her horse beside him, taking as deep a breath as her injury would allow.

“Are you all right, Miss?”

The princess fingered her side, feeling the thick bandages through her tunic. The constant motion of the ride had caused it to begin aching again, but she was not about to tell him that.

“I am fine, thank you. Haleth, is it?”

He nodded. “I think it would be safe to rest a while here, if you like.”

“No, Haleth, if we need to get to Minas Tirith, we should continue.”

The soldier studied her. Whether she admitted to it or not, he could tell she was in pain and exhausted. “No offense, Miss, but the marshal will have my hide if I let anything happen to you. You’re hurt and you’re tired, and we’re going to stop for a bit.” He dismounted, and walked to the side of her steed. “Let me help you down.” Reaching up, he carefully assisted her down to the ground. She winced as he set her down.

“See? I told you. Here.” He handed her a bedroll from his saddle. “By these rocks I should be able to keep watch. You get some rest.” Anhuil opened her mouth to protest but was silenced by his stare. “I’ll not have Lord Éomer coming down on me. Get some rest. I will wake you in a few hours.”

“Thank you, Haleth. To be honest, I believe I am more tired than I thought.” Truly, she was exhausted. Looking around, she whistled shrilly.

“What the--?” Haleth began.

The large wolf came bounding out of the shadows to where they stood. The princess bent down, ruffling his fur and whispering softly to him. She stood and smiled at Haleth.

“He will aid you in the watch,” Anhuil informed him. “He can see and hear them coming long before you will.”

The soldier grinned. “Sorry. He startled me. I forgot he was following us.”

“He will keep you company, and alert you if anything is nearby. And if you happen to have any dried meat on you, he loves it.” She spread the blanket out on the grass nearby, carefully lowering herself on to it and pulling her cloak about her. Sleep overtook her almost immediately.

Eleníon turned his gaze to the young soldier, head cocked expectantly.

Haleth pulled some dried meat from his pack and tossed it to him, shaking his head. “Never thought I’d be sharing a meal with a wolf,” he muttered, staring off into the dark.

********
Rohan
6 Gwaeron, 3019 T.A.
*************************

“Miss?”

The princess woke with a start. Her dreams had not been at all pleasant since the battle.

“My apologies, but I think we should be heading on. It’s getting light, and we need to move out.”

Anhuil sat up slowly. She was still exhausted and saddle-sore, and her side ached. But Haleth was right. The sun was beginning to come up, and they needed to get to Minas Tirith.

“All right, give me just a second to--“ She realized he had at some point made a small fire and was cooking something on a small spit over the fire. Whatever it was, it smelled wonderful.

He grinned, going to the fire and removing the meat. Gingerly touching it, he jerked his hand back. “I think it’s done now, I’m not much of a cook.”

“When did you have time--“

The soldier shrugged. “Wasn’t me. Your friend brought this last night.” He set the meat down on a small wooden plate and started carving it up with a short knife. Handing her a portion of it, he smiled sheepishly. “It’s not much, but at least it’s hot.”

“Haleth, at this point, I would eat it if it were tree bark,” Anhuil commented dryly, taking the meat from him.

After finishing breakfast and extinguishing their fire, they once again headed east. Crossing the Mering Stream, Haleth cut out across the plain instead of heading southeast to the road. “I think it best we avoid the road, my lady,” he informed her. “Less likely to run into trouble here. We are now in Gondor, by the way.”

Anhuil nodded her agreement, spurring the black steed beneath her on.



Edoras
Great Hall of Meduseld
6 Gwaeron 3019 T.A.
**************************

Éomer stood straight and tall behind the throne of King Théoden, his eyes flicking over the guests filling the hall. The king lifted his tankard and proposed a toast to those lost in battle, echoed by all in the hall.

Four days. Had it truly been only four days? Four days since she had ridden away into the night with Haleth at her side, the wolf on her heels. Haleth had not yet returned. For all he knew they had not reached Minas Tirith yet.

Helm’s Deep had been a sound victory for the Rohirrim. His men, along with those of Erkenbrand, had arrived in time, turning the tide of the battle in their favor. The mysterious trees had done the rest. A strange occurrence indeed. One that, had he not seen it with his own eyes, he would have been tempted to call it fairy tale.

Trees had obliterated the armies of Saruman. Trees. The forest sprang up overnight in an open field, where before had been nothing. The bands of Uruk-hai had run blindly into that forest, seeking cover, only to meet their doom.

It seemed fitting, somehow, Éomer thought, that the destroyers of so much of creation’s beauty should be themselves destroyed by it.

Only four days. So much had happened. Battle, vengeful forests, evil wizards locked in towers, and now Meduseld packed to the banners with victorious soldiers, friends, and two halflings dancing on tables, singing. The marshal moved to a corner of the room, observing the revelry. Pleased as he was at their success, he did not feel much like joining in the celebration. He had a niggling feeling that the other shoe had not yet dropped.

“What’s the matter, laddie? You should be celebrating, like the rest!” Gimli nudged him. “That Elf princeling thinks he is gonna outdrink a dwarf.” He indicated Legolas, standing near the cask of ale beside the wall. “Ha! We dwarves are weaned from our mother’s milk on ale!”

Éomer smiled down at him. He had been surprised to find a dwarf at Helm’s Deep, but had developed a deep camaraderie with the dwarf and his Elven companion. Gimli had saved his life at the Keep, and they had become fast friends. “Why does this not surprise me, dwarf?” Gimli chuckled in response.

Legolas approached, shaking his head at the dwarf. “Giving up already?”

“I was just taking a breather to speak to the marshal, Elf.”

The tall Elf nodded to Eomer. “I am humbled by the hospitality of your people, Lord Éomer.”

“We are honored by your presence, Legolas. And I have told you it is unnecessary to call me Lord, unless you wish to be addressed as His Royal Highness, Prince Legolas of the Woodland Realm of Greenwood,” Éomer reminded him.

“Nay,” Gimli argued. “Don’t start callin’ him that or he won’t be fit to be around, pointy-eared little...” he teased, holding up his tankard and turning quickly around as Merry and Pippin began yet another song, dancing on the table. They all listened to the song, laughing at the antics of the little imps on the table. Applause broke out at the end of their song, both Hobbits bowing low.

Excusing himself, Éomer made his way to the side door of the hall and slipped outside, breathing in the chilly evening air. Staring out over the darkened plain, he wondered where she could be, and if she was safe. His hand went instinctively to the small handkerchief in his pocket. Somehow it was reassuring just knowing it was there.

“This celebration is as much for you as the rest.”

Éomer turned quickly, surprised to see the king standing behind him. He bowed politely. “My lord,” he acknowledged him.

“Éomer, you are as a son to me, this you know. Such formality is not necessary when we are alone.” The marshal nodded. “What are you doing out here? You should be in there rejoicing with your men. It was a hard fought, well earned victory.”

“Indeed,” Éomer agreed. “But I fear I am not of a mood to celebrate.”

Théoden inclined his head in agreement. “Éomer, your sister tells me that while I was under the spell of Saruman you were banished, by my signature.” He hesitated a moment before continuing. “You know, do you not, that I would never have done that by my own will. I would ask that you forgive me.”

“There is no need,” the marshal replied. “I knew then it was not by your will. Please do not feel it necessary to speak of it. I prefer not to mention that worm. The ruination he left behind will take long to repair.”

“It will, but we will recover. The Éotheod are proud and strong, and we will do what is necessary to rebuild. I want you by my side, Éomer. You have more than proven not only your loyalty to the Mark but your valor as well. I will need your counsel in the coming days.”

“I pledged my life to your service long ago, and I mean to honor that pledge, as long as I may live to do so.”

“I am the honored one. You make me as proud as any father could be. You are my heir, now, Éomer. Should something happen to me, my seat in the Golden Hall will become yours.” Théoden smiled. “And perhaps one day, sister-son, you will give me grandchildren.”

Éomer turned to him, one eyebrow raised. His hand in his pocket closed over the handkerchief. “Perhaps one day,” he agreed with a slight smile.

Théoden smiled broadly, turning away to return to his guests in the hall.

King of the Golden Hall. Éomer did not even want to begin to contemplate it. He was content being a soldier of the Mark, serving the king he loved as a father. The throne was to have been Théodred’s destiny, not his own. No matter. Théoden had many good years left to rule the Riddermark.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Great East-West Road
Gondor
9 Gwaeron 3019 T.A
**************************.

They had ridden as long and hard as possible, Haleth insisting on frequent stops for her to rest. As they passed around the edge of the Dunedan wood and turned south, Minas Tirith could be seen in the distance. A gleam of white, the tower of Ecthelion stood out against the dull grey clouds. It was a familiar site to the princess, and she smiled in spite of herself. She was almost as at home in the Citadel of Minas Tirith as in her own palace. The memory of summers spent playing in the courtyard with her brothers and cousins came flooding back to her. Hide and seek, wooden swords, annoying the guards around the fountain of the White Tree.

She sighed, leaning her head back, taking in the scenery, and suddenly drew in a sharp breath. She jerked her mount to a halt. “Haleth!”

He wheeled his horse around and came alongside her, following her gaze. Upon the mountaintop of Amon Dîn, a huge pyre blazed.

“The beacons,” he said quietly. “It has been many years since they were lit.”

The princess stared, her heart racing. Gondor must be in dire straits for her uncle to have called for aid.

“I must get to Dol Amroth,” she told him. “I must warn my fa-“ she stopped herself, then continued. “My family.”

“Come,” the soldier called to her. “We still must go first to Minas Tirith, then I can escort you south through Lossanarch,” the young man told her.

They both kicked their horses into a gallop, heading toward the White City.

They rounded a bend in the road. Without warning their horses suddenly reared and stopped. Men clad in green hooded cloaks surrounded them almost immediately, their longbows drawn.

Haleth calmed his horse and raised his hands. Anhuil sat straight in her saddle, clenching the reins, her heart racing.

One of the men stepped forward. “State your business in the realm of the Steward,” he said brusquely.

“I am Haleth, son of Folcréd,” he told them. “A soldier of the Riddermark, on errand for the Third Marshal.”

The man eyed the princess suspiciously. “And your companion?”

“I am escorting the lady to the city of Minas Tirith upon the marshal’s request. We have word for the Steward. The lady wishes to continue downriver to her home in the city of Dol Amroth. We have word for the Steward from Mithrandir, concerning the White Wizard,” Haleth continued.

The man made a motion to the archers, who withdrew their weapons, but stood ready. She held her breath, praying it was not one of her cousins. He pushed back his hood. A sigh of relief escaped her lips. She did not know him.

“Mithrandir?” the ranger asked.

“He is riding with Lord Éomer to the aid of Théoden King at Helm’s Deep. We have been sent to alert the Steward to the White Wizard’s recreancy.”

“I am Mallor of Gondor.” He extended a hand up to the young soldier, a slight bow to the lady. “The Steward has long suspected treachery from Saruman the White, although that is not his main concern. The Enemy in Mordor has assailed our borders. Lord Denethor has called upon Rohan for aid. The beacons are lit, and he has also sent forth riders bearing the Red Arrow.”

“King Théoden was at the keep of Helm’s Deep when we left Rohan,” Haleth informed him. “Our own borders have been invaded from the West. The forces of Isengard are attacking our villages; they were marching on the Keep even as we left. Word may take longer to reach him, until he returns to Edoras. But he will come, if Gondor calls.”

“You understand our caution, then.”

Haleth inclined his head in acknowledgement.

“Riders of Rohan and those in their company are most welcome. Proceed, but be wary. Not all along this road are my men.” He stepped back. “I will warn you, however, you cannot get to Dol Amroth down the river. The bridge and the river are taken at Osgiliath. There is no safe passage south from here. If you wish to go south you must double back and go through the mountains.”

“But that will take days! My family...I must get through somehow!” the princess protested. “They must be warned of-“

“Word has been sent to the prince, my lady,” Mallor assured her. “Lord Faramir has sent riders to Dor-en Ernil. Prince Imrahil will see that his people are protected.”

Anhuil clenched her teeth and inhaled deeply. There was no heading home. She would have to face her uncle, the Steward.

“Thank you for the warning.” She raised her gaze to the Gondorian Ranger. “I will be certain to inform the Steward of the capability of his men.”

Mallor smiled at her. “An honor, coming from you, my Lady.” His eyes met hers. Anhuil could not be sure if he recognized her or if it was just innocent flirting. She returned the smile with a slight nod and said nothing.

Haleth watched the exchange silently. “Miss, we must be going,” he broke in.

“Yes, of course, Haleth.” She turned her mount to follow him.

As they galloped away, one of the rangers approached Mallor. “Did you know that young woman?”

Mallor watched them disappear down the road, kicking up dust behind them. “No,” he told the archer, “I do not think so. But from my recollection, she bore a strong resemblance to Lord Denethor’s niece, the Princess Lothíriel.”

“The princess would not be out here in the middle of nowhere,” the soldier mused.

“Of course not,” Mallor replied. “What would a Gondorian princess be doing out here with a Rohirrim soldier?” He chuckled, slapping his friend on the shoulder.

~~~~~~~~
Rohan
Meduseld
9 Gwaeron 3019 T.A.
*************************

The Golden Hall was quiet, the stillness amplified in contrast to the raucous noise that had filled it only a few short days ago. Éomer sat alone, staring into the fire pit in the center of the hall.

The beacons had been lit. Denethor of Gondor had called for aid. At first light, the Rohirrim would gather at the encampment at Dunharrow, and ride for Minas Tirith.

His hand closed over the small piece of cloth. He still had no word from Haleth. Eight days since they had ridden for the White City. They must have arrived there by now, he thought. The Steward calls for aid. The city known as Mundberg to the Eorlingas was under attack. And he had sent her directly into the middle of it. He rubbed his throbbing forehead with his fingertips.

“What keeps you up at this hour, brother? You should be resting.”

Éomer turned to see his sister, pale arms folded across her chest, watching him from the doorway. “As should you,” he responded.

She walked closer to where he sat, her slippers making soft sounds on the intricate stone floor. “I cannot sleep.”

“Neither can I,” he answered.

“I will make us some tea,” she offered.

“No,” Éomer shook his head. “Just...just sit and talk to me, if you will,” he requested, gesturing to the bench beside him. Éowyn smiled as he moved over to make room for her. He sat leaning forward, his forearms resting on his thighs. Realizing he still held the handkerchief, clenched his fist, hiding it. He was not yet ready to discuss Ani with Éowyn. Or anyone else for that matter.

“You ride with us tomorrow?” he asked her.

“Of course. At least, to Dunharrow. I would not let you the two of you ride off without a proper farewell.”

The marshal nodded. “Éowyn, Théoden has named me his heir. He has asked that if anything happen to him I assume the throne. When he made this request I thought little of it, as our victory at Helm’s Deep was fresh and the threat seemed so far away. Now we ride once again into even greater danger.”

Éowyn studied her brother in the flickering light of the fire. He stared straight ahead, into the flames, his dark eyes thoughtful. “Éomer, Théoden asked this of you because he knows you love the Mark above all else. You even dared defy his orders for the good of the country when he was bewitched. And you are a prince of the Riddermark. Our mother was sister to the king. Royal blood flows through your veins, brother. What more could our people ask for in a king?”

He turned to face her. “I have no desire to be king, Éowyn.”

Her blue-grey eyes met his. “It is not about what you desire, Éomer. You know that.”

He sighed heavily. “I do.”

“Béma forbid it, Éomer, but should the worst happen, I cannot think of anyone I would rather see on the throne of the Golden Hall than you.”

“I can think of one other,” he said, meeting her gaze steadily. “The House of Eorl has yet another heir.”

She shook her head. “No, brother. Only in the direst of circumstances would I accept that.”

He sat up straight, his eyes locked on hers, her meaning understood. “That may yet happen, Éowyn.”

The White Lady smiled at her brother. “Then we will pray it does not come to that,” she said, linking her arm through his and leaning her head on his shoulder.

~~~~~~~~~~
Gondor
10 Gwaeron 3019 T.A.
**************************

Anhuil and Haleth made for the gates of the White City. Upon being granted entrance, they stopped inside the courtyard.

“I wonder which way we go?” Haleth mused.

The princess sighed. He was going to find out sooner or later. She was fortunate not to have been recognized thus far, but she assumed her manner of dress had much to do with that. She pulled the hood up a little closer around her face, chuckling at what she must look like.

“Come with me,” she called, turning her mount down the main street of the city. Haleth followed, wondering how she knew the way. Threading her way up through the levels of the city, the hooves of their horses clopped on the cobblestone. She at last led him to the gates of the Citadel and reined in her horse. A guard appeared at the gate, glaring at them as they dismounted.

Haleth was taken aback by the sudden change in her demeanor. She stood straight, shoulders back and faced down the guard. “I wish to speak with the Steward,” she informed him regally.

“The Steward is unavailable,” she was informed.

“I have news which will concern him,” she continued, “please tell him I am here.”

The guard eyed the Rohirrim soldier suspiciously. “And who, exactly, shall I tell him requests an audience?” The sarcasm in his voice was apparent.

To Haleth’s shock, she squared her shoulders, glaring at the upstart, flipping back her hood. “Please tell him Princess Lothíriel of Dol Amroth has arrived, with an escort, and see to these horses. I wish to clean up and dress appropriately. Please have someone escort us to the Citadel.”

The guard bowed quickly. “My apologies, Your Highness, I did not recognize you. Please, step inside. I will alert the Steward to your presence. He has had many strange visitors of late. I am sure he will be pleased to see family.” Rising from his bow, he humbly opened the gate and allowed them inside. He whispered quietly to the guard inside, whose eyes went wide with surprise as he nodded. “I will see to your horses. They will show you to your chambers.”

“Thank you,” she responded airily, turning on her heel dismissively. The gate clanged shut behind him.

Haleth stared at her, open mouthed. “Princess? You are a princess?”

She met his gaze with a smile. “Yes, Haleth. I am.”

“Does the marshal-“

“No, he does not. Not yet, anyway,” she answered. “And you will not tell him, do you hear me, Haleth?”

“But Miss, I mean, Your Royal... I mean…”

She shook her head. “That is exactly why he does not know, Haleth. My name is Anhuil. You may call me that.”

“But you are -“

She laid a hand on his arm. “I am Anhuil, and you are my friend and escort. Stop with the formalities, please.”

Still reeling from shock, he jumped as the interior doors opened. The princess and Haleth followed a servant down the corridor.

“Pardon,” she said to the servant in front of her, “but are Lord Denethor’s sons away?”

“Lord Boromir is dead, Your Highness,” he informed her. “We do not know how or why.”

The princess halted her steps. A look of shock crossed her face, her hand covering her mouth. “Boromir…dead...Uncle must be devastated,” she said softly. “What of his brother?”

“Captain Faramir prepares to ride out as we speak. Osgiliath has been invaded, and he goes to retake the bridge.”

“No! That is insane. The ranger we met said the river was taken...there were thousands of --“

“Captain Faramir is following orders.”

She looked at Haleth. “My uncle has lost his mind.” She turned back to the servant. “Where is Lord Faramir now?”

“In the stables, Your Highness, preparing to ride.”

“Thank you,” she said, darting down another hallway.

“Princess Lothíriel, your chambers are-“

“I will find them later,” she called back.

The soldier trotted after her. “Where are you going?”

“To the stables. I must speak with my cousin!” She was almost running now, the heels of her boots clicking on the polished marble floors of the corridors as she weaved her way through the maze of halls. Haleth was glad she seemed to know where she was going, and kept pace.

Bursting through a smaller door to the outside, she threaded her way through the street and down to the stables on the sixth level. Outside, the Captain’s guard was mounting up. She grabbed a nearby soldier. “Captain Faramir, where is he?”

The soldier inclined his head to one side. “Over there.”

Anhuil spotted her cousin standing beside his chestnut mount, his armor shining in the sun.

“Faramir!” she called out.

At the sound of a woman’s voice calling his name, he turned. His puzzled look was replaced by shock as he recognized her.

“Ani, for the love of the Valar, what are you doing he--“ He stopped, staring at her blankly. “You cut your hair…”

“Never mind my hair, Faramir! You cannot do this. It is insane.”

“How did you get here, Anhuil? Where are your brothers?”

She ignored the question. “Your rangers told us Osgiliath is under siege. You will never hold them at the river with such a small force.”

“Perhaps not, but it is our order, and we will fulfill it.”

“Cousin, have you taken leave of your senses?” She held his arm. Faramir’s grey eyes met his cousins pleading green.

“It is my father’s wish,” he answered quietly.

She held his gaze. “This is lunacy, Faramir, and you know it.”

He pulled away from her and mounted up, pulling on his helm. “If I am to die, at least I will die doing my father’s will.” He motioned to the men behind him as he dug his heels into the flanks of his horse. The men began to move out. With a quick backward glance at her, he turned and moved to the head of the column.

Anhuil stood, staring after him. Haleth moved beside her, not saying a word. “Perhaps they will succeed,” he offered.

“My uncle has completely lost his mind,” she muttered under her breath. She turned to the young soldier beside her. “We must go and see him.”

****

The young soldier followed the princess down the cavernous hallway. She had cleaned up and changed, and Haleth had almost failed to recognize her when she knocked at the door of his room. Now dressed appropriately in a pale blue gown and matching slippers, she looked much more like a princess.

She smiled at the young man. He had also cleaned up some, still wearing his armor, but with a clean tunic. His reddish blonde hair had been brushed and was pulled back, his short beard trimmed.

“Forgive me, My Lady, but I have never…well, I’m not used to such fancy halls.” He looked around the marble corridor.

“You look fine, Haleth. A perfect gentleman.”

He smiled, following her out into the hall. She chattered as she led the way through the Citadel. “My uncle is a bit…quirky. Please do not take anything he says to heart.”

Haleth nodded, taking a deep breath as they came to the doors of the huge hall. The doors opened, but Haleth saw no one there to open them. He pondered this only briefly, turning his attention to the huge room before him.

They stepped inside. The Steward was sitting in his seat at the base of the throne. Walking tall, the princess entered the hall and approached him.

He looked up. Haleth took a small step back as Denethor regarded him.

“Princess Lothíriel. I am surprised your father allowed you to travel in these times.”

She ignored the remark, noticing the small figure standing at his side, his head hung, facing the floor. Why was a child here? Perhaps a son of one of the guards, she thought.

“Uncle, I spoke to Faramir. Why are you sending them back to Osgiliath? They say the bridge is taken.”

“These are troubled times, my dear,” he responded. “In such times one must be willing hazard certain contingencies. We must retake the bridge at Osgiliath and prevent the enemy from reaching the eastern shores. Boromir long held the enemy at bay there, and it will not be yielded with no effort made to defend it.”

“But Faramir - “

“Is doing as his lord commands. I do not wish to discuss this further with you, girl,” he said dismissively, as if weary of explaining something to an inquisitive child. He regarded the man with her. “And who is this?”

“This is Haleth, son of Folcréd, of the Rohirrim, Uncle. He has been my escort.”
Haleth bowed politely.

The Steward cracked a sardonic smile. “Rohirrim? And do your people ride close behind, Horseman?”

“I do not know, my Lord,” Haleth answered softly. “News of your need had not yet reached us when we departed Rohan. If you sent word to Théoden King, he will come.”

Denethor nodded. “I should so hope.”

“He will honor the oath taken by his forefathers, I assure you, My Lord. Our borders are currently under attack as we speak. Our king was leading our people to Helm’s Deep as we left. I was sent to warn you of the impending attack from Isengard, but we were unaware the armies of Mordor had begun moving as well. I am certain that as soon as they attain victory at Helm’s Deep, the Rohirrim will receive your call for aid.”

“Let us hope, then, that they will not tarry their arrival. Théoden has an oath to fulfill.” He held the man’s gaze a moment longer, then turned back to his niece. “The enemy is moving west. Faramir is planning to retake Osgiliath but I hold little hope of his success.”

The small person beside Denethor raised his head at the mention of Faramir’s name. Anhuil saw that it was not a child, but a man.

“I heard of Boromir’s death, Uncle. I am deeply sorry,” she said haltingly.

His gaze turned dark. “Do not speak of Boromir. My grief is still too fresh.” Denethor dropped his head for a moment, then looked up at her again. “I wish to be alone, with my despair. We will speak another time.”

Anhuil nodded, not wishing to argue. In truth, she was grateful to be dismissed.

“Peregrin Took,” he called. The small man beside him stepped forward, bowing.

“Yes, my Lord?”

“Escort our guests back to their chambers. I wish to be alone and await word from Osgiliath.”

“Yes, my Lord,” the man answered, turning to the Princess. “If you will follow me, my Lady,” he said politely, heading for the door.

As they exited the hall, Pippin stopped short, turning to look at her. “I apologize, my Lady, but I am not sure which way your chambers lie.”

Anhuil laughed. “I know the way, Master Took,” she informed him. “Do not worry. It takes a long time to become familiar with this place.”

Pippin smiled shyly.

“You are a halfling,” she said quietly, hoping the observation would not offend him.

“Yes,” he answered. “You call us Halflings. We call ourselves hobbits.”

“Periannath,” Anhuil said, remembering the Elvish word from her reading. “Forgive my curiosity, I did not know your people truly existed.”

“Treebeard said the same,” he laughed. “I think no one knew of us, until we left the Shire!”

“Treebeard?” she looked at Haleth, who was still wide eyed, as if he had suddenly been dropped into an alternate universe. He shrugged.

“Oh, yes,” the hobbit smiled. “Treebeard is an Ent, a shepherd of the trees. He helped us, that is my cousin Merry and me, in the forest of Fangorn. A nice old chap, for a tree, but he’s a bit on the long-winded side. That was before we went to Isengard, where the Wizard was. And then…” Pippin chattered on, following her as they would through the corridors. “Oh, pardon my lack of manners. I didn’t introduce myself. Peregrin Took is my name, but my friends call me Pippin.”

He bowed low, politely taking her hand and kissing her fingers lightly.

“I am Princess Lothíriel of Dol Amroth, but my friends call me Anhuil.” Gesturing toward the young soldier, she introduced him as well. “This is Haleth, son of Folcréd, of Rohan.”

“Rohan?” Haleth nodded at the Hobbit, who continued. “I have been there. We enjoyed the hospitality of your Golden Hall. Lovely ale, they have. Anyway, we were at Isengard, with Treebeard, like I was saying, and then the king-“

“You have seen Théoden King?” Haleth asked quickly.

“Oh, yes. He rode with Strider and Gimli and Legolas and Lord Éomer to Isengard. That is where we met up with them again.”

At the mention of Éomer’s name, Anhuil turned abruptly, halting her steps. “Lord Éomer rode with him to Isengard? Then the battle at Helm’s Deep is over?”

“Yes, my lady. A sound victory for Rohan, too, from what I understand.”

“And Lord Éomer, he was with them? He was all right?”

Haleth’s mouth turned up slightly at her concern for the marshal.

“Yes, my Lady,” the hobbit said again, sounding a little annoyed that she kept interrupting his story. “Anyway, Gandalf, the wizard-“

“Wizard? You mean Mithrandir?”

“I suppose,” Pippin responded, wanting to get on with his story. “I never knew he had so many names. Anyway, Gandalf brought me here for safety after I looked in the seeing stone and then I offered my service to Denethor, in payment of my debt to his house, since his son died defending me.”

“Boromir?” she asked quietly.

“Yes,” he answered, lowering his gaze.

“You will tell me another time,” the princess stated softly. “You may tell me the whole story, another time.”

The hobbit nodded. “Another time,” he agreed.

She turned down yet another hallway in the seemingly endless maze. “Here is my chamber, gentlemen.”

“My-“ at her narrowed eyes, Haleth smiled and corrected himself. “Anhuil.” She smiled at his use of her name. “I have done my duty here. I have escorted you safely and delivered the message to the Steward. I beg you leave of your service, I would like to return to the Mark as soon as possible.”

Reluctant as she was to be left alone, she understood his eagerness to return to his own people. With a nod, she gave her permission.

Relieved, the young man smiled. “I will let the marshal know you are safe here,” he told her.

“Haleth.” She locked eyes with him. “Please do not tell him.”

“What? That you are safe?”

“You know what I mean, Haleth,” she said pointedly.

The young man nodded.

“Promise me,” she implored. “Promise me you will not tell him.”

The Halfling watched the exchange with curiosity. “Tell him what?”

Ignoring the question, Haleth paused, then nodded. “I promise. It is your tale to tell.”

The princess grinned. “Thank you. For everything.”

“It was an honor, Your Highness,” he said teasingly.

“The marshal is quite fortunate to have young men such as you in his service.”

“The marshal is quite fortunate in many things,” the soldier replied with a smile. He took her hand and kissed it lightly, bowing politely. “Until next we meet, Princess Lothíriel.”

“Until then,” she responded. He turned to leave. “Haleth,” she called after him. He turned back. “May the Valar protect you.”

The young soldier smiled. Turning to Pippin, who still stared at the two of them, confused, Haleth placed a hand on his shoulder. “Master Took, would you be so kind as to direct me to the stables so that I may be on my way?”

Pippin looked up at the tall soldier. “Oh, yes. Certainly. Follow me.” He took a few steps in one direction, then, with a thoughtful look, turned on his heel and started in the other. “No, wait,” he muttered, turning with a desperate look back to the princess.

Anhuil chuckled. “That way,” she said, pointing down the hall to the left. “Take a right at the end.”

“Thank you,” the hobbit replied, striding off down the hall, the Rohirrim soldier behind.

~~~~~~~
Rohan
Meduseld
10 Gwaenar, 30198 T.A.
*****************************

Théoden climbed astride his mount, the white stallion known as Snowmane. He glanced around at the men gathering in the courtyard. Several hundred, at least, he thought to himself, wondering how many would come from the other regions. He had sent others throughout the land to muster as many as could come. His eyes flicked over his army. Most were already mounted, a few still gathering the necessary provisions.

Banners flapped in the wind. Women stood aside, some with their arms protectively around their children, watching as their men rode off once again into battle. His eye caught that of a woman standing proudly alongside the other women, many of whom were weeping openly. Yet she stood, her back straight, reddish blonde hair tinged only slightly with silver blowing in the breeze, a slight smile on her lips. He acknowledged her with a nod, and she him, before he turned and rode toward the gate.

With one last look back at the Golden Hall upon the hill, Théoden gave the signal to Éomer.

“Riders of Rohan!” Éomer’s deep voice echoed in the courtyard. “Oaths you have taken! Ride now and fulfill them all! To Lord! To Land!” He turned and spurred Firefoot toward the gate beside his king, followed by the thundering hooves of hundreds of horsemen.

~~~~~~~~
Minas Tirith
Gondor
10 Gwaenar, 3019 T A
***************************

The princess shut the door to her room and looked around. She had visited the Citadel many times in her childhood. Fond memories flooded her mind, games with her brothers and her cousins. Even though she was a girl, she had been as much a part of their mischief as any boy, much to the chagrin of the adults, who often said they “expected better of her”. Climbing the walls in the garden, sneaking through secret passages to steal apple tarts from the kitchen, picking apples from the orchard for the horses.

And now, her cousin Boromir was dead. She sat on the edge of the bed, shaking her head in disbelief. Boromir had always been the strong one, the fighter. He was never a bully, and had always been the first to draw his sword in justice. Faramir was an accomplished fighter in his own right, but a different spirit drove him. He would fight out of duty or necessity. His sense of justice was no less strong, he simply saw battle for what it was, and the havoc it wreaked.

Death.

And now he was riding to his.

She lay back on the bed, staring up at the intricate design in the marble ceiling, wondering how in the world her uncle could have so completely and utterly lost his sanity. He had always been strange, a gruff man, but underneath that exterior used to lie a man with at least some compassion.

He had always favored Boromir, all who knew them were aware of that. His firstborn, Boromir had a warrior nature. Even Boromir’s tall, broad stature had always been a source of great pride to Denethor.

It did not, however, in any way dim the love between the brothers. Regardless of their differences, the two had always been close. Denethor’s efforts to drive a wedge between them only served to strengthen their bond, particularly after the death of their beloved mother.

Anhuil thought of her own brothers, of their deep love and camaraderie. Boromir’s loss must have been devastating to Faramir. And now his father had ordered him on a suicide mission.

She sat up abruptly, trying to remember what the halfling had said. Gandalf brought him here.

Mithrandir. He must be here, in the city.

She looked down at her clothing. A dress would not do. Quickly shedding it, she dug through her bag, yanking on the black leggings and boots, and shrugging into the wrinkled tunic. As she tucked it into the waistband of her trousers, she caught her reflection in the mirror.

She almost didn’t recognize herself. Her shorn hair fell just to her shoulders in loose waves. Although she had been able to wash and brush it, there had been no taming it into any sort of braid. The weeks of riding and walking had thinned her some, her normally rounded curves more solid and muscular. The sun had darkened her skin more than she preferred, and unfortunately, that also brought the freckles that dotted her nose and cheeks.

Running her fingers through the tousled curls, she frowned. She was a sight.

And still, somehow, Éomer found her attractive?

A passing fancy, that was all. It wasn’t like out there in the middle of nowhere he had a lot of women to choose from. Looking like she did now, she decided it was no wonder they thought her a boy. She sighed.

The marshal had said he would find her. If he survived. And what exactly would she do if he did? She was betrothed to another.

Well, no time to contemplate that now. She needed to find the wizard.

Anhuil picked up her bow, then tossed it and the quiver on the bed. She wouldn’t need those, not just to walk through the city. Donning her cloak, she grabbed the dagger almost as an afterthought and buckled it around her waist, then took off out down the hall.

The princess slowed her steps as she approached the great hall where Denethor had sat. Voices from within drifted into the corridor, familiar voices. Her father. Her brothers.

“Your son has returned, Lord, after great deeds,” she heard her father say to Denethor. “He stayed behind with his rear guard, lest the retreat become a rout. He held as long as he could. We found him stricken on the field.”

“He is not dead, my Lord,” Pippin’s voice. “He is sick with a fever.” Anhuil breathed a sigh of relief. “Should we find Gandalf?”

Denethor’s voice came back, almost snarling at the hobbit. “I sent forth my son, unthanked, unblessed, into needless peril, and here he lies with poison in his veins. Comfort me not with wizards! I must stay beside my son. Follow the Grey Fool if you wish. Here I stay.”

She ducked back, not wishing to incur her father’s wrath just yet. Denethor said nothing of her, so absorbed in his grief was he. She wondered if he even remembered she had been there.

Creeping past the doors, she bolted outside and into the darkened streets.

~~~~~~~~~


Chapter 12 - Chapter Eleven

Trust to Hope - Chapter Eleven
Author: Novedhelion
Type: FP Het
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Pairing: Éomer/Lothíriel aka Anhuil
Rating: PG13
Warnings: Epic battle scenes, not nearly described as well as I wish I could.
Beta: Riyallyn
Disclaimer: Characters are not mine, no money to be made...you’ve heard it all before. It’s a mixture of movieverse and book canon...bear with me. If PJ can lose the Houses of Healing...

********
Part Eleven
********
Promises are the uniquely human way of ordering the future, making it predictable and reliable to the extent that this is humanly possible.
- Hannah Arendt
******************

Minas Tirith
15 Gwaeron, 3019 T.A.
*******************

“Mithrandir!”

She found the old Wizard on one of the lower levels, leaning on his staff. He looked up at the sound of his name.

“Mithrandir!” she called again, running in his direction, breathless. “I have searched the city for you!” She bent over, hand on one knee, the other holding her not quite healed side.

“What are you doing here, girl?”

“Éomer sent me here, to bring word to my uncle and to…Oh, never mind! My father and the Knights have arrived, bearing my cousin Faramir to the Citadel.”

“Where are they now?”

“Denethor has had him taken to the Citadel, and there he lies. He is wounded, but alive.”

“He is there now?”

Anhuil nodded, still trying to catch her breath. “My uncle will not leave him,” she informed him. ‘My father is trying to talk to him, but he is insane with grief. He is talking of death.”

“I will see about it as quickly as I can, dear girl. Now, get yourself back to the Citadel, at least to the upper levels.” He moved toward the street, then turned back to her. “And I will not tell him you are here. Get up to the House of Healing. Tell the Warden that Mithrandir sent you, and help out there. It is the safest place to be for now. Ioreth could use the extra hands.”

With a quick nod, she took off again, running back to the main street of the fourth level.

As she rounded a corner, she was almost overrun by the soldiers galloping through the streets. Ducking into a doorway, she watched as the mounted men in armor trotted past. As she recovered her senses and stood to watch, she saw high above them, at the head of the column, the blue banner bearing the white swan ship. The Swan Knights of Dol Amroth, returning to the battle after escorting the wounded Captain to the Citadel. Her father. Her brothers.

No small sense of pride rushed through her as she watched them pass, although none recognized this rag tag street urchin standing alongside the crowded street. They didn’t even glance in her direction. Still she smiled to see them. And prayed for their safety.

Huge crashes resounded, the last one sending pieces of rubble flying down the cobblestone street. Flying over to the wall, she jumped, trying to see over the edge.

“Bloody hell,” she muttered, a bit amused at her unintentional use of the marshal’s curse of choice, directed at the genealogy that gave her brothers such stature and somehow left her rather diminutive. She grabbed a nearby crate, and clambered atop it to see over the wall, looking out across the Pelennor.

And nearly fainted.

Gripping the edge of the wall, her knuckles white, Anhuil stared down at the field outside the city walls. Thousands upon thousands of Orcs, formed in ranks, surrounding the city. Huge catapults launching boulders, apparently being lifted by trolls. TROLLS! She had heard of such things, but never in her life imagined seeing them, much less being attacked by them.

Another resounding thunderclap of stone meeting stone, this one far closer. Leaping from the crate, her eyes darted around the panicked crowd. A small figure, clad in black and silver, blasted past her. The halfling! Perhaps he could give her some news…. She bolted after him, down toward the lower levels.

“Pippin!” she called out, but he did not hear her above the din. As he rounded another corner, she had to stop and lean against the side of a building. Her side ached, each breath feeling like a knife in her side. All around, chaos ensued. It had become dark, and great flashes of fire lit the skies as the catapults of the enemy launched stones of fire over the outer walls.

Smoke permeated the air. She held her side, gasping for breath, choking on the thick smoke. How in Middle Earth had she ended up in the midst of yet another battle?

Taking off again, she bolted down the street the hobbit had rounded. Spending so much of her childhood there had its advantages, one of which being she knew many shortcuts. She dashed down an alley, through a building, down the stairs, and came out on a level below. The small figure was coming toward her. She grabbed the halfling as he dashed past her.

“Pippin! What is going on?”

Breathless, the hobbit clutched at her cloak. “Your uncle is insane. He is going to burn himself alive, and Faramir too! We must find Gandalf!”

Anhuil grabbed his shoulders. “No! Faramir is not dead! I heard my father say-“

“Denethor will not listen to reason! I must find Gandalf!”

“I just left him, Pippin...he was--“

The loud clopping of hooves on stone interrupted her mid-sentence. Gandalf rounded the corner, astride Shadowfax. Tearing free from the grasp of the princess, Pippin ran to him.

“Gandalf!”

“What are you doing here? Is it not law that those who wear silver and black must stay in the Citadel unless their lord gives them leave?”

“He has,” Pippin answered. “But Gandalf, Denethor is out of his mind. He is going to kill himself, and Faramir too!”

“What is this tale? Be quick!”

“He has taken Faramir to the tombs. He says if we are all to burn, he is going to make a pyre and burn himself and Faramir! Can’t you save him?”

The wizard grabbed Pippin up on to Shadowfax, turning the steed and bolting for the Citadel. Anhuil ran behind, headed for the Houses of Healing.

A soldier in silver armor grabbed her arm. “You should get to the upper levels, lad,” he said to her, shoving her toward the street as the rest of his regiment came around the same corner.

She jerked her arm away from him, bolting back up the street, shoving her hood back. “I am not a lad. I am on my way to assist in the Houses of Healing.”

He stepped back, surprised at the feminine voice. “My apologies, Miss. It is on the --“

“I know where it is!” she shouted, taking off up the street. Reaching the sixth level, she turned south, past the stables and to the last doorway. The explosions of crashing stone were so loud she didn’t bother to knock. Pausing outside the door, she held her breath. It had been several years since she had last been in this house, but many a summer afternoon they had ended up here. Scrapes, bruises, and even Erchirion’s broken arm had all needed the care of Ioreth at one point or another during their childhood. Undoubtedly the old woman would recognize her, if the Warden did not.

Well, they would recognize Lothíriel, anyway, the princess thought as she remembered how different her reflection had looked in the mirror. Releasing her breath, she prayed it had been long enough. She creaked open the door.

“Hello?”

Several women were bustling from room to room, bed to bed, tending the wounded that had been brought there. She stopped one of them. “What do you want?” the lady queried.

“I want to help,” she told her. The older woman eyed her warily, and pointed her in the direction of an elderly lady down the hallway. She approached the woman.

“Who are you?” Ioreth asked her, point blank.

“My name is Anhuil. Mithrandir sent me.”

Ioreth took in her manner of dress, then decided extra hands were more important. “Do you know anything about healing?”

Anhuil shook her head. “A little. But I will do as I am told.”

“Good enough,” the older woman smiled. “Wash in there, and come back to this front room. Hang your cloak over there.” She gestured toward the hooks on the wall. “And your weapon.”

The princess sighed, flinging the cloak and the belt with her dagger on to the hook and rolling up her sleeves. If she was going to be in a battle and could not fight, she would offer such help as she could.

Over the next hours, she tended patients as the women instructed, all the while listening to the explosions and wails rising from the city. Wounded poured in. Anhuil carried fresh supplies back and forth for the healers, heating water, and cutting bandages. When the linen for bandages ran out, Ioreth set her to shredding the linen sheets. She tried to focus solely on her tasks and ignore the shrieks such as she had never heard echoing through the night.

“What is that?” she whispered to one of the women.

“Tis the fell beasts of the Nazgûl, dear,” the woman told her, speaking as if she were an inquisitive child.

“Nazgûl?” The princess’ eyes widened in horror. “Here?”

The other woman simply nodded and returned to her work, as if having giant flying reptilian creatures ridden by specters was an everyday occurrence in Minas Tirith. Trying to put the thought of the horrible creatures out of her mind, Anhuil returned to her patients.

Near dawn, she peered out the small window from the second floor, wiping her forehead with the back of a hand wearily. The sun had not yet risen. Below, she could see smoke rising from the burning lower levels of the city.

“The city is breached. It is only a matter of time until they reach us,” a voice behind her said quietly. She turned to see Ioreth standing behind her, gazing out the window.

“The tide may yet turn,” the princess told her, as much for her own comfort as for the old woman’s.

Ioreth smiled. “The optimism of youth is a good thing,” she said, patting the princess’ arm. “But I do not think-“

Before she could finish, the shrill sound of a cock’s crow echoed off the mountain. A strange sound to hear in the midst of a battle, Anhuil thought. Before she could give it another second of contemplation, another sound rang out.

Horns.

She had heard that sound before.

The sound of many, many horns, blowing loudly, resounding through the walls of the city. She dashed back to the window, but could see nothing. Down the stairs and out the door, she tore across the stable yard and to the opposite wall on the north side of the city.

What she saw sent chills down her spine.

Horses. Thousands and thousands of horses, atop a nearby ridge. The sun barely breaching the horizon beyond them lit them from behind, shining gold on their helms. Tall pikes stood upright throughout the cavalry, raised swords gleaming.

Rohan.

The Riders of Rohan spread like a sea of gold and green, the breath of their horses visible in the chilly air. She could see, from the near the top of the city, the lone white horse in front of the cavalry. The King of the Mark.

Beside him was a rider on a dark horse, the white horsetail of his helm blowing in the breeze.

“Éomer,” she whispered.

The lines of the enemy that had been attacking the city now turned, reforming their ranks and facing the Rohirrim.

The riders brandished their swords and pikes, flashing in the early sun. Shields bearing the emblem of the golden sun shone. The chanting of the soldiers could be heard echoing off the mountain behind the White City.

“DEATH! DEATH! DEATH!”

Anhuil held her breath.

The thundering began.

Six thousand horsemen, swords and pikes raised. The cavalry charged forward, plowing over the ranks of the enemy, crushing them under the hooves of horses. Line after line mowed them down with sword, pike and bow. Washing over them like waves crashing over her drip castles.

Something was missing, she noted. Their singing. They did not sing this time, as they rode roughshod over the ranks of their enemy.

Anhuil tore herself from the wall and ran back to the House of Healing. Bursting through the door, she gasped for breath.

“What is it, girl?” the Warden asked her, coming to her side.

“King Theoden’s Riders have come!”

Ioreth breathed a long sigh of relief. “I knew they would come. I told them the Rohirrim would come!” She smiled at the grinning princess. “Well, don’t just stand there grinning, girl, go help Annith with that patient in there. We have work to do.”

“Yes, ma’am,” the princess responded with a nod, darting into the room Ioreth had indicated.

******
She was busily working, cutting and rolling bandages for the women when a commotion at the entrance caught her attention. Peeking into the corridor from the back room, she saw a patient being brought in on a bier. She could hear the voices but dared not step in. Anhuil heard the man’s name. Faramir.

Breathing a silent prayer of thanks to the Valar for his survival, she ducked back. Pippin was with him, and Mithrandir, and the last thing she needed was for these women to find out she was the Princess and shoo her away.

A wave of relief washed over her. She leaned back against the wall. Faramir, at least, lived. As soon as they were gone, Anhuil walked quietly to the room where Faramir had been laid. Ioreth sat beside him.

“How is he, Ioreth?” she inquired haltingly.

“The Black Shadow is upon him. We will do what we can, but like I told that Wizard, I wish there were a king in Gondor, for the hands of a king are the hands of a healer, that’s what I told him, and he said…”

Anhuil tuned her out, instead bending over the inert form of her cousin. His brow was damp with fever, and he mumbled incoherently in his sleep. The princess took a damp rag and wiped his face, speaking softly to him.

Looking up, she noticed another new patient, at first thinking it to be a child. “Another halfling? These are strange days indeed.” Ioreth only nodded, intent on the herbs she was mixing.

“What of this lady?” the princess asked, her eyes falling on a blonde woman who had been brought in. “A woman, in armor? She was injured in battle?”

“That is the Lady Éowyn of Rohan. A shieldmaiden of the North. Mithrandir says she slew the king of the Nazgûl, and the Shadow has fallen on her as well. And her shield arm is broken. It must be set and wrapped. Assist Ladwyn with that, if you will.”

Éowyn. The princess drew in her breath at the name. The lady was stricken with the same fever that had taken Anhuil’s cousin. Looking down at her fair skin, flaxen hair, Anhuil wondered if the Lady had the same deep brown eyes as her brother. A slight smile crossed her face as she thought of Éomer’s description of his sister, and his love for her.

“Shall we use a compress?” Ladwyn queried, looking toward Ioreth.

“Comfrey reduces the bruising and swelling,” Anhuil answered without thinking.

Ioreth turned to stare at her, eyes narrowed suspiciously.

“At least, that is what the healer used when my brother broke his arm,” she hastily added. “It was a long time ago. If it is incorrect...”

“No. That is correct,” the older woman said slowly, eyeing the princess. Anhuil quickly turned, leaving the room to retrieve the needed supplies. She helped the healer tend the wounded arm and laid a cloth on Éowyn’s brow.

Her tasks momentarily finished, the princess wandered to the window, suddenly noticing the thundering and crashing had ceased. The sun was beginning to set as Ioreth lit a lantern on the table. “It is so quiet,” Anhuil observed.

“The battle is over, for now,” another woman responded. “The enemy has been driven back, overrun. Did you not hear? Mithrandir told us…”

Shaking her head, she plopped down on to a stool, so tired she could barely sit upright.

The woman continued talking to Anhuil, who could not focus on what she said about Black Ships and a dead army. The princess sat back on her stool, covering a yawn with the back of her hand.

“My dear,” the older woman said to her, “we rest in shifts. It is your turn. You should sleep.”

“No,” Anhuil protested, “I am fine.”

“You must rest. You are no good to us if you cannot stand on your own feet. There is a spare cot in the furthest room. Lie down there, we will wake you ere long I am certain, as there will be many wounded to care for now that the battle is over. Come.” Taking Anhuil by the arm, she led her down the hall to a room containing two small cots.

“I am sorry we have no blankets. They are all being used for the sick and wounded.”

The princess nodded her thanks, rolling on to her back as the door closed. The battle was over, for now, the woman had said. As sleep overtook her, she prayed silently that Éomer was still alive.

*******
Early the next morning, before dawn, Éomer quietly closed the door to the room where his sister lay, turning to the healer in the hallway.

“She will be all right?” he asked, an edge of concern in his voice.

“Her body will heal quickly, yes,” Annith told him, “but we have instructions to keep her here for several days.”

“As for her other hurts, they may take longer to heal lest some other remedy come to her,” Ioreth chimed in.

Éomer looked at the old woman quizzically. “Don’t mind me, young man. I’m just an old woman who sees far more than I should. Your sister will be fine.” She patted his shoulder and turned to the hooks in the hallway. “Oh, here is your cloak,” she said to him, pulling the dark green riding cloak down from a hook. As she did so, Anhuil’s sheathed dagger thudded to the floor. Ioreth mumbled under her breath and bent to pick it up, but was beaten to it.

He held the sheath, staring at the jeweled handle, and slowly drew it out. His heart skipped a beat at the familiar inscription on the blade. Shoving it back into the sheath, he looked up at the old woman. “To whom does this belong? A patient here?”

“Oh, that. No, it belongs to that girl that showed up here last night. She said Mithrandir sent her to help. I told her there was no need for weapons in this house, but she insisted on having it with her, so I just told her to hang it up there.” She indicated the hook where a familiar riding cloak also hung. “She calls herself Anhuil.”

Éomer drew in his breath, almost afraid to ask. “Where is she now? Is she here?”

“She’s in that back room,” her head inclined toward the closed door, “but don’t you go waking her!”

Éomer was no longer listening. He strode down the hall, stopping outside the door Ioreth had pointed to.

“Don’t you wake her, young man,” Ioreth warned again, shaking her finger in his direction, “or I’ll set the Warden on you.”

“I would not dare.” He grinned at the older woman, turning back toward the door. Taking a deep breath, he slowly creaked the door open. It was a sparsely furnished room, two narrow wooden beds with a small table between, holding a pitcher and a basin.

The princess lay on one of the cots, curled on her side, one hand tucked under the small pillow, the other atop it. She had not even removed her boots. Her curls fell across her face, partially obscuring her eyes. Éomer moved into the room quietly, laying her dagger on the table. Kneeling beside the cot, he winced slightly at the scraping sound the scales of his mail made against the stone floor. Anhuil didn’t stir.

He stayed still, watching her sleep, hoping the pounding of his heart did not wake her. Removing his gloves, he reached for her hand, resting on the pillow, closing his fingers over hers. Her hands were cold, and she seemed to snuggle deeper into the pillow as he warmed her hand.

Scanning the room, Éomer looked for something with which he could cover her. Seeing nothing about the sparse chamber, he stood and removed his riding cloak, carefully laying it over her. She seemed to relax into its warmth, moving slightly in her sleep.

Kneeling again, he gently brushed the dark curls from her eyes. The ends of the soft strands curled around his calloused fingertips. He looked down at her, dark lashes resting on her lightly freckled cheeks, her lips parted slightly in sleep.

Memories of the last weeks flooded him. Helm’s Deep. Ten thousand Uruk-hai. Trees that moved. And killed. White Wizards trapped in towers. Halflings, Elves, Wild Men in forests… The battle at Pelennor. Huge beasts, legions of orcs, Haradrim, Easterlings, Southrons… Theoden falling. Finding Éowyn. Black Ships sailing up the Anduín, the banner of the King of Gondor fluttering in the wind… An army of long dead warriors swarming over Minas Tirith. And she had been here the whole time, in the city he was fighting to defend.

He wondered if she had heard the horns, if she had known the Rohirrim had come. Did she recognize his sister?

Éomer smiled. He had made her a promise. He told her he would find her, and he had.

There was a light rap on the door, and Ioreth stuck her head in. “Excuse me, sir, but the Prince Imrahil’s son is out here calling for you,” she informed him quietly. She regarded him kneeling beside the low bed for a moment, then let the door fall shut again as she shuffled off.

He stood slowly, his gaze lingering on the sleeping princess. Leaning down one more time, he brushed her hair back and pressed his lips lightly to her temple. “Ani, I will be back,” he whispered. Gathering his gloves from the table, he moved to the door. With one more glance at the woman sleeping under his cloak, he slipped out the door and into the dimly lit hallway.

“You know her?” Ioreth inquired, her grey eyes raking over the young soldier in front of her.

“Yes,” Éomer answered quietly, moving toward the door. “I do.”

“You want me to tell her you were here?”

Éomer paused, turning back to the healer. “Yes. Tell her the marshal still does not believe one can make castles out of sand.” At her puzzled expression, he flashed her a charming grin, bowing slightly, as he stepped out the door.

Ioreth stared at the door for a moment, then turned to the door behind which the princess lay sleeping. “Oh, to be that young again,” she lamented.

Sunlight was just beginning to stream between the shutters of the small window. Anhuil woke with a start, sitting straight up on the cot. “Éomer?”

Wide eyes darted around the small chamber. Seeing no one, she closed them again with a resigned sigh, pressing the heels of her hands against her eyelids. She had been so sure she heard his voice. It must have been a dream, however vivid. Drawing her hands down over her face until her fingertips covered her lips, she inhaled deeply. She could still smell the musky scent of leather and of him she had grown accustomed to. Anhuil pressed her hands flat together, as if in prayer, resting her forehead on her fingertips.

“I am losing my mind,” she muttered, drawing her knees up and opening her eyes. Reaching to toss the covers off, she suddenly wondered where they had come from. The other healer had told her there were no spare blankets. She stared in shock at the material across her knees, running a hand lightly across the dark green wool, fingering the gold embroidered edge. His cloak. She lifted it to her face, inhaling the scent. She had not been dreaming.

“Éomer,” she whispered. Leaping from the bed, dragging the cloak with her, she bolted into the hallway.

“Ioreth!” she called, dashing through the hall, peering into different rooms. The old woman hobbled into the hallway.

“What is it, girl? Folks are sleeping here,” she admonished her.

“I am sorry, Ioreth, really…but I need to ask you something. Was there a Rohirrim soldier, tall, blonde--“

“Honey, they are all tall and blonde.”

“Yes, Ioreth, I know,” Anhuil continued, exasperated. “His name is Éomer. He is the brother of the Lady Éowyn.”

“Oh, him. The marshal. Yes, he was here.”

Anhuil’s mouth dropped open. “Hannon i Valar... I thought I had dreamed…when?”

“He left a while back, honey.” She pointed at the door.

The princess yanked the door open, eyes darting around the still empty street. The sound of hooves on the flagstone paving could be heard in the distance. Swallowing the lump in her throat, she looked down at the cloak in her hands, clutching the material against her, then out across the nearly deserted city.

“Where are they going?” she asked the old woman.

“The Captain of the Dunedain, he was here, healing the sick. The king, that’s who I say he is, but does anyone pay me heed? Anyway, he has a camp with his men, in the field. They went there for a council, I believe is what they said.”

“Then he is gone again,” Anhuil said, almost to herself.

“He left you a message,” the old woman said, stepping out on to the stone steps behind her. Anhuil turned to her, blinking back the tears. Ioreth smiled at her. “Odd message, thought. He said to tell you he still does not believe one can make castles out of sand.”

Chuckling, the princess placed a hand over her mouth, then wiped at her tears with the back of her fingers. Ioreth put a wrinkled hand on her shoulder. “That young man was certainly pleased to find you here, if that eases your mind at all. He sat in there for quite a spell while you slept. I made him promise not to wake you.”

Anhuil sighed. “I am grateful just to know he is alive.” She wrapped his cloak around her shoulders, hugging herself tightly in the soft wool.

The old lady grinned. “Mmm-hmm. He will be back, trust me. You show me a man content to sit that long and watch a woman sleeping, and I shall show you a man hopelessly in love and don’t you doubt it.”

The princess laughed softly. “Thank you, Ioreth.”

“Come on, girl,” the old healer said, smiling. “We can’t stand here all day. These people need us.” She turned and walked through the door, leaving the princess alone on the steps. Anhuil watched the silent street for a moment. Not only was he alive, he had kept his promise. He had found her. She looked down, fingering the gold embroidery on the cloak, smiling. Ioreth was right. Éomer would be back.

With a last glance down the cobblestone avenue, she turned and slipped inside the door.


Chapter 13 - Chapter Twelve

Trust To Hope - Chapter Twelve
Author: Novedhelion
Type: FP Het
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Pairing: Éomer/Lothíriel aka Anhuil
Rating: PG13
Warnings: Advice on matters of the heart...
Beta: Riyallyn
Disclaimer: Characters are not mine, no money to be made...yada,yada, yada.... It’s a mixture of movieverse and book canon...If PJ can make the Mouth of Sauron disappear, I can put a princess in the Houses of Healing....

Anglo Saxon (Rohirric) and Sindarin translations at the bottom - I know it’s not perfect. I am still learning. Hats off to Shawn R. McKee for the translation of the Song of the Mounds of Mundberg and permission to use it! Ic þe þancas do! Other translations are my attempt own attempt...

The character of Eolindë is borrowed from my friend Saelind, with her permission. You can read her story, The Dare, on this site, at this link.

http://www.openscrolls.net/fanfic/authors.php?what=1&no=636&sid=dd4ead3f69dbfe876e3b6ad22020f543


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Chapter Twelve
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“Love is everything you never knew you always wanted.”
Unknown

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Minas Tirith
16 Gwaeron, 3019 T.A.
***************************

Closing the door behind her, Anhuil leaned on it momentarily. Pulling Éomer’s cloak from her shoulders, she hugged it against her, then hung it carefully over hers on the hook. With a deep breath, she went back to work.

Entering a room with a stack of bandages, the princess approached the healer kneeling by one bed. The man in the other bed moaned softly, calling out what seemed to be a name. “Here are the bandages you requested,” Anhuil said softly, laying them on the small table between the beds.

Ladwyn nodded her thanks, working intently to clean a wound on the unconscious patient in front of her. The man behind moaned again, louder this time.

“Is he hurt badly?” the princess inquired, gesturing toward the other patient.

Ladwyn looked up sadly. “Aye,” she answered. “The wound is too grievous. He is calling for his wife, who I’m certain is with the other women and children in Lossanarch.” Both women watched him silently, turning his head from side to side, moaning occasionally.

“There is nothing to be done?” the princess asked her again.

“Nay, I should say he has not much time left,” Ladwyn replied.

“May I speak to him?”

The healer turned again to look up at the princess. “Aye. If there is naught else we can do, then at least he shall not die alone, if you are up to it.”

Anhuil nodded. Were it her father or brother, or Valar forbid, Éomer, she would hope someone would do the same.

Steeling herself, she went to the bedside and knelt beside him. “Maya,” he called out again softly. Taking his bloodied hand in hers, the princess squeezed his gently.

“Maya, is that you? I cannot see you...”

“No, my lord, I am sorry,” the princess told him. “I am not - “

“Maya,” he said softly, a weak smile crossing his face. “I knew you would come.”

The princess glanced helplessly at the healer. “He thinks I am his wife,” she said quietly.

The healer shrugged and went back to her patient. “Do what you can,” she advised softly.

“Maya, I am not long in this world. Already I cannot see you, my beloved, but I feel your hand in mine,” he spoke haltingly.

“Do not speak of it, my lord,” Anhuil answered him.

“No, Maya,” he choked out the words. “I must. Tell...tell Bram how proud I am of him.”

“I will, my lord,” she said softly.

“Tell him...his papa loved him...” Anhuil squeezed his hand. “Maya...”

“I am here,” she whispered, blinking back her own tears.

“My sword...where is my sword?”

“He is asking for his sword,” the princess whispered to Ladwyn.

“At the foot of the bed, dear,” the healer answered quietly.

“Here it is,” Anhuil told him. Drawing it from the sheath, she placed the hilt in his hand.

Gripping it with one hand, he held hers tightly with the other. “I love you, my darling Maya. Know that my last thoughts as I go to my kindred are of you, my love,” he said softly, the last words fading into a whisper. The tight grip on the princess’s hand loosed abruptly, his breathing stilled.

Anhuil sat for a few moments, trying to gather splintered emotions. He was dead. How many more had died with the same thoughts, of their loved ones? How many more would still die from the wounds received? Gently releasing his hand and placing it on his breast, she pulled the coverlet up over his face and turned to Ladwyn.

“He is gone, Ladwyn,” she managed, her voice cracking slightly.

The healer stood and faced her. “What you did was honorable, Anhuil,” she told her.

“I did nothing honorable,” the princess said, disgusted. “The man thought I was his wife. I lied to him.”

Ladwyn placed her hands on her shoulders. “What you did was allow the man to die in peace. He has been calling for his wife all night. He was in tremendous pain, girl, and yet he refused to give in until he could have his say with his loved ones. You allowed him to let go. You can pass his message on to his wife, and know that you helped at least one soldier die with some dignity and grace. You have a gift, if not for healing bodies at least for healing spirits. Do not discount that as dishonorable.”

Anhuil nodded, brushing back her tears.

“Now, why do you not put that gift of yours to use? There are others here who would benefit from your compassion.”

With a last glance back at the man on the cot, the princess stepped into the hall and down to the next room.

She continued visiting patients most of the day, holding hands, listening to tales. Some of the patients would not recover, despite the best efforts of the healers. “It is all part of the pattern the Valar weave,” Ioreth had told her. “You must not take to heart the ones you cannot save. It is their time.”

The princess had peeked on Éowyn, amazed at the White Lady’s resilience. She had spoken to her, briefly, when bringing her a bowl of broth to sip, but had not stayed long. She did discover that unlike her brother, his fair sister had beautiful sparkling pale blue-grey eyes. They did, however, share the same mischievous smile.

Late in the afternoon she ducked into the room where her cousin sat in bed, lamenting his situation.

“I should not be here,” he complained. “I have duties to be attending to. My men need me, and here I sit with naught but a scratch on the shoulder. I should be -“

“Faramir, you were near death when they brought you here,” his cousin chided gently. “You will be released soon enough to attend your duties. The Warden sees no reason you cannot be up and about in a few days.”

“A few days?” the ranger exclaimed.

“Gently, cousin, or he may see fit to keep you longer, just to soften your attitude,” the princess reprimanded with a smile.

Faramir laughed softly. “What are you doing here, Ani?”

“That, dear cousin, is a tale that would be entirely too long in telling for today. Suffice it to say that most likely when I do see Ada I will be deserving of the most austere tongue lashing I have received since we got into his wine cellar that last summer you and Boromir visited us,” she responded with a light laugh.

Faramir laughed as well, taking her hand in his. “I am glad you are here, Ani. Familiar faces are always heartening, but seeing my kin truly lightens my spirit.”

The princess smiled, squeezing his hand in return. “I must be about my duties here, Faramir. Please do not mention to Ioreth who I am. I am afraid if she knew, she would not allow me to stay.”

The ranger cocked his head to one side. “Do you believe she has not recognized you? I fear you give her too little credit. But as you wish, I will remain silent on the matter.”

“I will come and see you tomorrow, cousin. Hodo vae, cousin.” Releasing his hand, she stood and walked to the door, stepping quietly into the corridor.

Other healers moved in and out of rooms, up and down the hallway. Anhuil noticed one who seemed much younger than the rest, younger than even she was. Her long blonde hair pulled back from her face, moved about purposefully, as one who knew what needed to be done and did it. As she passed the princess in the hall, she glanced up, seemingly as surprised as the princess to find another young woman among the healers. She smiled briefly; her grey eyes tired, and nodded a quick greeting as she hurried off into another patient’s room.

Anhuil watched her disappear into a room. Leaning on a wall, she impatiently blew her hair from her eyes. Ioreth stepped into the hallway and ambled to where the princess stood. “May I have a word, girl?” she asked, motioning to the door that led outside.

The princess followed her, stepping out into the cool midday air, breathing deeply. The smell of smoke was still heavy in the breeze, but the city was unusually quiet. The women and children that had been evacuated had yet to return, and most of the soldiers were at their posts.

“The Warden has asked me to thank you for your assistance these last days,” Ioreth told her.

“I fear I was not much help to you, knowing as little as I do about healing,” the princess admitted.

“Healing is as much about the heart as it is knowledge of tending wounds, my dear. Most of us do not have time to hold the hands of the sick and dying and listen as they speak last words. That this duty fell to you is not surprising to me, as you have ever had a way with folk.”

The old woman studied her, waiting for a reaction to what she had said. The princess simply stared at her, open mouthed.

“Did you not think I knew who you were, Princess? Did you think me such a blind old woman I would not remember all the times you dragged your bleeding brothers and cousins to my doorstep after some childhood mishap?”

“I am sorry, Ioreth, I never meant to try to deceive you. I just thought that-“

“You thought that if I knew you were Imrahil’s daughter that I would not allow you to help. Well, girl, if Mithrandir thought it important to send you to me rather than tell you to hide your head under a bed in the Citadel, then who am I to argue?”

The princess sighed her relief. “Thank you, Ioreth, for allowing me to help. I would have felt so useless confined to the Citadel.” She looked up toward the White Tower, gasping in surprise.

The silver swan ship on a field of blue sea blew in the breeze above the Tower. “That is the banner of Dol Amroth,” she stammered.

“Yes, girl. Your father has been appointed temporary regent over this city until your cousin is well enough to take his position as Steward.”

“My father is at the Citadel?”

“Yes, Lothíriel. Did you not know?”

“Ioreth, I...I have not seen Ada in several weeks. I...left home, just before all of this began. Over a month ago.” She stared up at the flag, flapping in the breeze.

“Whatever for, girl?”

Turning back to the older woman, she leveled her gaze at her. “He arranged my marriage.”

“This is not uncommon, Lothíriel. You know that.”

“I do, Ioreth, but this man...he is not who Ada thinks he is. He is...he is...”

“He is not your soldier of Rohan, is he?” Ioreth leaned on the stone pillar at the corner of the door.

Anhuil shook her head slowly.

Ioreth nodded, almost imperceptibly. “Go and talk to your father, girl. From what I remember of the prince, he is a reasonable man.”

“He is going to be so angry with me,” she muttered, half to herself.

“Considering the circumstances, my dear, I think he will be more pleased that you are alive. Go, now. Gather your things and go.”

They stepped back inside, Anhuil collecting her weapon and cloak, folding the cloak Éomer had left her over her arm.

“Tell Faramir I will check on him tomorrow,” she called out as she moved toward the door.

“I shall,” Ioreth answered.

“And if Éomer should return, Ioreth, please do not tell him where I am. This is complicated enough. I promise I will explain it all to him when I next see him.”

“Fair enough, girl. Now go.”

“Hannon le, Ioreth.”

“Glassen, Your Highness.”

Bounding up the hill toward the gate, Anhuil slipped into a side entrance of the Citadel, and made her way to her chambers. If she had to face her father, she’d best do it cleaned up and properly dressed. The Valar help her if she showed up in a ratty, bloodied tunic and trousers.

After a quick bath, she slipped into a gown. Her curls had not yet grown out, and could only be braided back from the sides. A cursory glance in the mirror confirmed what she already knew. The Prince of Dol Amroth would not be at all pleased with his daughter’s appearance.

That would be the least of her worries.

********

Imrahil sat in a small antechamber, reading a missive from one of the couriers. A servant approached, bowing humbly.

“Your Highness,” he said quietly, “there is someone here to see you.”

“Oh?” Imrahil looked up, rolling the scroll and laying it on his lap. “And who might that be?”

“Ada?” Her soft voice echoed in the quiet room.

Imrahil stared, the small figure near the door standing perfectly still. The servant slipped out as she entered.

“Ada? It is me,” she called out, walking slowly toward him.

The prince stood, staring in disbelief. The scroll fell from his lap. “Lothíriel? Is it truly you?”

Quickening her pace, she nearly ran to him, throwing herself into his arms. Imrahil embraced her tightly. “Hannon i Valar, girl. I thought...”

“Naethen, Ada,” she choked.

“Gods, Lothíriel. I have been beside myself!”

She looked up at her father. “I thought you would be angry with me.”

“I was,” he said, nodding. “I was irate when I discovered you had left.” The princess lowered her gaze. “I had no idea you would react in such a manner to my arranging your marriage.”

“I am sorry, Ada. I might have taken it better had I known to expect such a thing, but you had always told me I could marry when I was ready. And then...”

“I realize, Lothíriel, that I was quick to make a decision I should have at least warned you about. Fenwick came out of nowhere with this proposal, and I agreed without your consent.”

“Which you had every right to do, Ada, but...”

“Mardil Fenwick has been most upset at your disappearance, Princess.”

“He cares not for me. He only wants the status of being married to a princess.”

“That is not fair, Lothíriel. The man has been quite distressed since you left. He has not yet left Dol Amroth. He would not even leave to come here when we left for battle, saying he should be there in case his betrothed returned home.”

Anhuil’s brow furrowed. “He stayed in Dol Amroth? He did not come to fight?”

“No,” Imrahil repeated. “He felt at least one should stay behind to await your return.”

The princess was shocked. “He still intends to go through with our marriage?”

Imrahil chuckled. “Did you think to rid yourself of him so easily?”

“I suppose not,” she admitted. “One can always hope,” she said with a smirk.

“I think it best if you were to return to Dol Amroth tomorrow and spend time getting to know your betrothed. Your brother will be going to act as regent while I am here. There are still matters to attend to here in the White City and I must remain.”

“Can I not remain here as well?”

“No, Lothíriel. It is not safe here. Besides, your brother will need your assistance.”

“It is not safe anywhere, Father! Do not forget I have taken care of myself quite well for the last several weeks. I am no child to be sent home when the game gets too rough. Elphir can handle matters - “

“I am not sending Elphir,” Imrahil stated firmly. “I am sending Amrothos.”

Anhuil stepped back, surprised by her father’s declaration. “Amrothos? Why?”

Imrahil drew his lips into a tight line. He was not about to tell his only daughter about their plan to march on the Black Gates of Mordor, and that he truly did not expect to return. “Decisions have been made, Lothíriel. You will not question them.”

Her head snapped around, her eyes narrowed. “Just as in the case of my betrothal?”

Imrahil’s soft grey eyes hardened. “Girl, do not get cheeky with me. This is something I need you to do. Amrothos will need you as well. And Valesa will certainly appreciate your company. She has been much help in running the household but I fear she does not care at all for most matters of the court. Please do as I ask. Prepare whatever things you have with you for departure two days hence. You will ride with your brother to Osgiliath, where the Admiral will meet you. From there you will sail with Merric. I am certain Mardil will be most pleased to see you. Do you understand?”

Anhuil bit her lip, trying desperately to hold her tongue. Leaving Minas Tirith meant leaving any chance of seeing Éomer again. Blinking back the tears that stung her eyes, she held her head high. “I apologize for my impertinence. Yes, Ada. I understand. But what of the battle? Certainly it is not over. The enemy was driven back, yes, but for how long?”

Rolling his eyes, Imrahil silently wished he had a daughter less interested in matters of state. “The leaders of men have held counsel on that matter. “Leave that to us to decide, Lothíriel. Such things are not for a princess to concern herself with.”

“And what should I concern myself with, Ada? I am to sit back and plan my wedding as if nothing is wrong? How will that aid our people should things go ill?”

Imrahil’s grey eyes met his daughter’s deep green, so much like his beloved wife’s had been. So much like her mother, he thought. Not easily distracted once her mind was set. And not one to have her concerns lightly brushed aside. “Your marriage will be postponed until this threat is over,” he told her. “If things indeed go afoul, then the decisions will rest with your brother, Amrothos. I think no more need be said on this subject.” He stepped toward her, his hands on her shoulders as she stood with her arms crossed. “Lothíriel,” he said softly, “I am so grateful you are safe. I want to know all about where you have been and how you came to be here. But this is not the time. There are urgent matters that must be attended to here.”

Anhuil held her father’s gaze. Uncrossing her arms, she fell into his embrace. “I will do as you ask, Ada,” she said resignedly. “I should be happy to see Cam, at least. I am sorry for the grief I have caused you. Goheno nín, saes.”

Imrahil held her tighter. “Ú-moe edaved.” He released her, trying his best to smile. “Now go. The King of the Mark has fallen in battle and I must see to it that he is laid in state with proper honor.” He turned toward the door.

Staring after him, the princess covered her mouth with her hand. Éomer’s king, dead. Her father looked back at her quizzically. “What is it, Lothíriel?”

Quickly regaining her composure, she squared her shoulders. “It is just that I did not know the King of the Mark had fallen. I am grieved to hear that any of our allies fell, but it must be disheartening to their soldiers to lose their king.”

Imrahil’s mouth drew into a tight line. “Indeed it is,” he told her. “But the king’s heir will lead them well, I am sure. Come now. You look as though you have not rested in days and there are things I must see to. We will dine together this evening, your brothers will join us. Take some rest now.” He led her gently from the study and into the hall, kissing her on the cheek, and moving off toward the great hall.

********

Minas Tirith
17 Gwaeron, 3019 T.A.
****************************

Anhuil awoke to a grey dawn. The city was still unusually quiet. Rising from the bed she stretched, walking toward the window of her chamber. Shoving open the wooden shutters, she stared out at the darkened sky. A scowl crossed her face. She was beginning to wonder if the sun would ever shine again.

In her chambers, the princess quickly dressed, selecting a clean cotton frock and her boots. She would have preferred the leggings but at least this mode of dress was more akin to what the women in the House of Healing wore. Slipping out of her chamber, she walked quietly down the hall.

As she passed the entrance to the main hall, she peered around the corner. There before the dais had been laid King Théoden, covered with a cloth of gold. His sword lay unsheathed upon the covering and his shield at his feet.

Anhuil watched from a side entrance as a young woman entered from the main door, walking slowly to the front of the bier. Bowing before the king, she began to sing quietly.

We hierdon þara horna on þæm hrindge
beogrum þæm sweorda scinde on þæm suð-cynerice.
Stedas gongdon eodon to þæm morgena.
Wig wæs onælde.
þær Þéoden feoll, Þéngling mihtig,
to his goldselum, and grenum læsum
on þæm Noreð feldum næfre gecierran,
þara hlaford heapa....

Her soft voice trailed off. The princess stood silently, listening to the words she did not understand, but recognized as the language of the Rohirrim. Kneeling before the bier, the young woman bowed again and stood, her shoulders straight. “Hlaford ac Cyningmín, restest nú arlice freod binnan se hus fæders eower.” The girl stood a moment longer, then turned, surprised to see the princess at the door.

Anhuil smiled, recognizing her as the younger woman she had seen in the Houses of Healing. “Who are you?” the girl asked her. “I saw you in the Houses earlier.”

“I am Anhuil,” the princess answered.

The blonde girl looked the princess over appraisingly but with a slight smile, taking in the dark hair and coloring. “You are not of the Éothéod,” she observed.

The princess smiled. “No, I am not. Dol Amroth is my home.”

“A woman of the sea,” she observed, a slight smile lifting the corners of her mouth. “Éolindë, I am called, daughter of Telmenir of the Southfold. Do you come to pay respects to our king?”

Nodding, the princess walked slowly to the dais, kneeling before the king, bowing her head in silent prayer. “Tego le i Melian le na mar,” she said softly, before rising to her feet. She turned to Eolindë. “I am not familiar with the customs of Rohan in such matters. I apologize for my ignorance.”

“Do not apologize, my friend,” the young woman responded. “I am equally ignorant of the customs of Gondor. And of the language.”

The two exchanged smiles, walking slowly toward the arched doorway. “It seems we could learn much from each other, Eolindë,” the princess stated as the guards creaked open the heavy doors to allow the women passage. “You are a healer? You are very young.”

“Yes,” Eolindë answered. “My family would have much preferred I choose another path, but this is the one my feet are upon and I will not falter. What about you?”

“I am no healer,” the princess admitted. “I was trying to help where I could. I fear I did little but fold bandages and hold hands.”

“Healers cannot do their duty if they are not supplied with what they need. And touching the dying is often as important as saving lives,” Eolindë said flatly. “It is not always something we healers can do, as our focus is upon the living. Do not discount the gift that the small comfort of a hand to hold is to a dying man.”

“You are wise beyond your years, Eolindë,” Anhuil commented.

Eolindë laughed softly. “Only of some things.”

The women walked in silence for a moment. “Eolindë, did you ever meet your king, or any of his kin?”

Halting her steps, the healer looked curiously at the princess. “I have visited Edoras a few times. I was there when my brother swore his oath as a knight of the Mark, and my uncle supplies monscinan to Edoras.”

“Monscinan?”

“I believe your word for it is silith.”

Anhuil giggled slightly. “Silith? The appeal is universal, I see.” Both women laughed softly.

Eolindë continued. “I never met king’s kin, although the Lady Éowyn did inspire me to learn to fight.” Anhuil noticed the sword that hung at her side. “But I am a healer at heart, and I will only fight if necessary.” She strode slowly to the edge of the bridge before the Citadel, leaning her elbows on the stone rail. She paused, taking a deep breath. “Anhuil,” she asked finally, “this may sound a trifle silly, but I have no sister and no other women close to my age with which to speak. May I ask you a question?”

“Certainly you may ask,” the princess answered, “and I will try to answer.”

“What do you know of love?” Anhuil was a bit taken aback at the question. While trying to formulate her response, Eolindë continued. “I thought I was in love with someone, but he did not return my affections.” Nodding sympathetically, she encouraged the girl to continue. “But there is another. Someone close to me. A friend. I think he may have feelings for me.” Her grey eyes stared off into the distance, across the Pelennor.

“You think? Has he kissed you?” Anhuil grinned mischievously.

Eolindë smiled shyly. “Yes.”

“And?”

“It made me feel...tingly and safe, at the same time. But I am afraid.” She turned to face the princess.

“Afraid of what?”

“I do not know,” Eolindë answered. “My father fell fighting with the Rohirrim. My twin brother rode with Faramir to Osgiliath, and was grievously wounded. I have lost so many friends, both Rohirrim and Gondorian. Men I cared for, men I sparred with. I was in the House of Healing, treating the wounded. I have closed the eyes of many to this life. I have seen more death in the past few days than in all my life before. I am afraid to feel, lest I lose another I care for.”

Weighing her answer carefully, Anhuil smiled at the younger woman. “Eolindë, I am no expert on matters of the heart. But I fail to see how being in love with one’s best friend could ever be a mistake. Who better to spend your life with than someone with whom you already have common ground? You cannot let the death of others rob you of your own life, healer or no. I, too, was in the Houses, and held the hands of many of the dying. You cannot allow your fear of the future to rule your present, Eolindë. Do not shun possible happiness in favor of complacency. If love be not reason enough to take a risk, than what is? Do you love him?”

“I do not know,” she answered honestly. “I fear I might. How do I know?”

Anhuil’s lips curved into a knowing smile. “You will know, Eolindë. When he is the first thing you think of when your eyes open at daybreak and the last thing you think of before they close at night, when you find yourself thinking of him at odd times during the day, or when you have a bit of good news and the first person you want to tell is him...you will know.”

“It all seems like such nonsense, when I think about it. I mean, how can I be in love with a man I have known my whole life?”

“Think not with this,” she said, tapping the girl’s forehead. “Think with this.” She lightly tapped the healer’s chest. “Do not try to reason with love, Eolindë. It will defy you at every turn.”

Eolindë chuckled. Anhuil had the feeling it was not something she did often of late. “You sound as if you speak from experience, Anhuil.”

Forcing a smile and swallowing the lump in her throat, the princess raised her gaze to the grey eyes of the healer. “Let us just say that you should count yourself fortunate to be able to make this decision for yourself.”

Eolindë gave her a puzzled look, to which the princess only responded with a silent smile.

“Eolindë! I have searched everwhere for you!” The handsome young man called out, loping up to where the women stood.

“Díor!” Eolindë appeared surprised, but Anhuil could not help but notice the sudden unintentional brightening of her soft grey eyes.

The young man bowed politely to the princess. “Begging your pardon, miss, but Eolindë is needed in the Houses.” He turned back to the healer. “Your brother is awake, and he is asking for you.”

‘Awake? Eored is awake? Herigean Béma!” She turned to Anhuil. “I must go.”

“Of course,” the princess agreed. “I was headed there myself to check on a few patients. We can go together.”

“Come on, Eolindë! He is most anxious to see you.” Díor took her hand, pulling her down the street. Anhuil wondered if the smile on the girl’s face was from the good news about her brother, or from the young man holding her hand. With a sigh, she followed them down to the Houses of Healing.

Eolindë and Díor ran ahead to the House. The princess walked along at a leisurely pace, her boot heels clicking on the flagstone paving. Arriving at her destination, she swung open the heavy door and headed for the room where her cousin had lain. She pushed the door open gently, only to discover he was not in the bed. Her heart skipping a beat, she searched the rooms until she located Ioreth.

“Where is my cousin, Ioreth? Where is Faramir?”

A knarled hand was placed on her shoulder. “Rest easy, dear girl. He is well. The Warden allowed him some time up from his bed, and he had chosen to walk in the gardens. You may find him there.”

“Thank you,” she grinned, bolting back out the doors and toward the garden. Rounding a corner in the path, she halted abruptly. Standing in the sun was Faramir, speaking softly with a woman. Anhuil grinned. She could not see the face of the maiden but her hair fell like a cascade of flaxen silk, in loose waves. She did not need to see her to know that it was the Lady Éowyn. Not wishing to interrupt, she slipped back out of the garden and toward the Citadel.

“Anhuil!”

Turning sharply at the sound of her name, the princess came face to face with Eolindë.

“I wanted to thank you, Anhuil. You have given me much to think about.”

“You are welcome, Eolindë. I do hope soon our paths will cross again.”

“You will be at the Houses, will you not?” the young woman asked.

Anhuil shook her head. “I am sorry, Eolindë, but I have been called home to Dol Amroth. I will be leaving on the morrow, at first light.”

“That is sad news,” Eolindë said forlornly. “I had so hoped we could become friends.”

“I believe we have,” the princess answered. The women exchanged smiles.

“I wish I could repay you for the kind words,” Eolindë said.

Anhuil thought for a moment. “Tell me something, Eolindë. How do you say ‘I love you’ in Rohirric?”

“Ic freonde ge,” Eolindë answered. “Why?”

“I was curious. I love languages,” she answered innocently.

“Would that you were going to be here longer, I could teach you much,” the girl told her.

“I will have to take you up on that on my next visit, Healer,” the princess teased. “Take care of your twin. And your soldier.”

“Wes ðu hâl, Anhuil,” the healer said, holding out her hands. “Be thou well.”

“Namarië, mellonmin,” the princess answered in her own language, grasping the girls hands in her own. “Farewell, my friend.”


“Two may talk together under the same roof for many years, yet never really meet; and two others at first speech are old friends."
- Mary Catherwood


Translations (Those not given in the story)

Hannon le - Thank you
Seasamin - my pleasure
Hannon i Valar - Thank the Valar
Naethen - I am sorry
Tinumin - my daughter
Goheno nín, saes - forgive me, please
Ú-moe edaved, Tinumin - There is nothing to forgive, my daughter

(The Song of the Mounds of Mundberg translated in to OE by Shawn R. McKee, used with permission)

We hierdon þara horna on þæm hrindge
beogrum þæm sweorda scinde on þæm suð-cynerice.
Stedas gongdon eodon to þæm morgena.
Wig wæs onælde.
þær Þéoden feoll, Þéngling mihtig,
to his goldselum, and grenum læsum
on þæm Noreð feldum næfre gecierran,
þara hlaford heapa.

We heard of the horns in the hills ringing
the swords shining in the South-kingdom
Steeds went striding to the Stoningland
as wind in the morning. War was kindled.
There Théoden fell, Thengling mighty
to his golden halls and green pastures
in the Northern fields never returning,
high lord of the host.


“Hlaford ac Cyningmín, restest nú arlice freod binnan se hus fæders eower.
My lord and king, rest now honorably in peace in the house of your fathers.

Tego le i Melian le na mar - May the Valar carry you home

monscinan/sillith - contrived words - meaning moonshine

Herigean Bema - Praise Bema!


Chapter 14 - Chapter Thirteen

Trust to Hope - Chapter Thirteen
Author: Novedhelion
Type: FP Het
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Pairing: Éomer/Lothíriel aka Anhuil
Rating: PG13
Warnings:
Beta: Riyallyn
Disclaimer: Characters are not mine, no money to be made...interweaving book and movie...At least PJ kept the Eagles...

Translations at the bottom.

**********************
Chapter Thirteen
**********************

“When one is at home, he dreams of adventure. When one is on an adventure, he dreams of home.”
Anonymous
*******************

The River Anduín
18 Gwaeron, 3019 T.A.
***************************

The skies were still dark, even well after midday. Anhuil stood on the deck of the Thalion, watching the White Tower disappear in the distance as they slowly made their way down the Anduín, fighting the tears that threatened to spill whether she wanted them to or not.

“I thought I would find you here,” a chipper voice called out. Amrothos paced across the deck to her, heedless of the pitching of the ship. Of all of them, he had always been the most at home upon the water, whether the river or the open sea. Even as a small boy the prince had been fascinated with toy boats, and as an adult his chamber was filled with shelves of models he had made over the years.

“Why do you not come down and rest? It is a long journey yet, since the winds are not favorable. But at least we travel downstream.”

“I am not tired,” she answered, turning away to look over the railing.

“You look exhausted,” Amrothos chided. “You barely spoke at all during our ride to Osgiliath. That is not like you.”

She smiled weakly, leaning the heels of her hands on the rails, her gaze traveling back toward Minas Tirith. “Amrothos, may I ask you a question?”

He cocked his head to one side. “Since when do you request permission for your inquiries, sister?”

Anhuil chuckled. “Why did Ada send you home? Why not Elphir, if he was in need of a regent?”

The young prince sighed. He had known this question would come eventually. “Ada had duties to attend to, and Elphir insisted on being at his side. Erchirion as well. Being the youngest, I was not given the choice.”

“What choice? Amrothos, he is only acting as Steward of the city, is he not?”
Amrothos turned his back to her. She grabbed his shoulder and spun him around to face her. “Is he not, Amrothos?”

Her brother’s gaze fell to the deck. “Ani...”

Her eyes narrowed at his hesitation. “I am a member of this family, and anything that concerns the royal family and the people of Dol Amroth is my concern as well!”

Drawing a deep breath, he put his hands on her shoulders. “Anhuil, you know about the Dark Lord, and the legend we heard about the ring. Do you remember?”

With a puzzled look, the princess thought, searching her memory for the verses she had read in the library of Minas Tirith. “One ring to rule them all, one ring to bind them...”

“Yes, yes. That is the one.”

“But Amrothos, is that not myth? A legend...”

Her brother shook his head slowly. “No, Ani, it is true. The legend is true. Isildur’s bane is real. The One Ring has been found.”

“But Sauron was defeated! The enemy has been driven back!”

Again, he shook his head. “Only a setback, Ani. It will not be long. Behind the Black Gates the Enemy bides his time.”

“Where is the ring?”

“This is going to sound insane, but,” he paused, weighing his words, “it is in the possession of a halfling.”

“Perianath? I met a halfling, in Uncle Denethor’s court. Peregrin Took, I believe was his name.”

“Yes, I met him as well. But it is not he who carries the ring. Another, a kinsman of his travels with a companion to the Mountain of Fire as we speak. That is the only place the ring can be destroyed, according to Mithrandir.”

“Mithrandir? I should have known. How do you know this, Amrothos?”

“A council was held.”

The princess sank on to a nearby crate. “So the ring will be destroyed?”

Amrothos shrugged, sitting beside her. “That is our hope. But they must first cross the plains of Gorgoroth to get to the mountain. Ten thousand orcs camp there, by Mithrandir’s judgment. Unless they are drawn out of Mordor, the halflings will not stand a chance.”

“And how exactly do they plan to do that, Amrothos? An army of ten thousand? What in Middle Earth are they going to do? March straight up to the Black Gates and -“ she stopped suddenly at the expression on her brother’s face. “Surely not,” she almost whispered. “Nan Belian, Amrothos...” She gripped his arm, her fingernails digging in through his tunic sleeve.

“It is the only way, Ani. They must. If the halflings do not destroy the ring, all is lost.”

She relaxed her grip on his arm, pressing the heels of her hands to her eyes, then looked up at the prince. “They are marching to their doom.”

Her brother nodded slowly.

“None expect to return.”

He nodded again. Her gaze fell to the deck.

A sudden thought occurred to her. “Amrothos...you say the leaders of men held council. I assume Gondor is not alone in this,” she stated, not raising her head.

“No, they are gathering most of the remaining armies. They will march as one, under the banner of Gondor. The Dunedain, the armies of Gondor, and the Rohirrim - “

At the mention of the Rohirrim, her head jerked up. Her father. Her brothers. And Éomer.

Amrothos stopped abruptly, the pained look in his sister’s eyes tearing at his heart. Her green eyes glistened with unshed tears. “There is always a chance they could make it, Ani,” he told her, taking her hands in his. “They truly had no choice. I wanted to go too, but Ada...Ada insisted I stay behind, for you.”

The princess threw her arms around her brother, the tears that had been threatening to spill all morning finally finding release. Amrothos held her and let her cry. Fighting his own emotions, he hugged her tightly. His sister had never been one to cry easily. Amrothos would rather have torn out his own heart than watch her weep.

“Ani, listen to me,” he told her, pulling her back and lifting her chin to look in her eyes. ”There is still a chance. If the halfling destroys the ring, then there is still a chance. We have to believe that.”

Nodding, the princess stood and pulled away from him, straightening her skirts. “I am going to go below now,” she informed him. “I think I will lie down for a while.”

“Would you like me to walk you down?”

“No, thank you, Amrothos. I just need to be alone for a while.”

With an understanding nod, her brother released her and watched her make her way to the steps. Turning his gaze eastward, he said a silent prayer to the Valar.

********

In her cabin below, the princess pulled out her small bundle of possessions. Withdrawing the tunic Éomer had loaned her, she smiled, folding it back up and stuffing it back into her pack. She carefully took out the dark green cloak, fingering the gold embroidered trim along the edge. Tucking it under her arm, she left her cabin and headed for the hold.

Stepping below, Anhuil lifted one of the lanterns from its hook on the wall and turned up the flame slightly. The hold was dim, even with the small windows on the sides of the ship open. The horses stamped nervously as the ship pitched and creaked.

Approaching Olórin’s stall, she spoke softly. “Suil, mellon.” The lantern was hung near the stall, the cloak laid over the wooden gate. She rubbed his nose, and he nuzzled her shoulder in return. “I know,” she replied. “So you have heard?” She paused as if waiting for him to answer. Deep brown eyes stared back at her. “He is with them.” She patted his neck thoughtfully, then leaned against him, the tears flowing again. “Amrothos says there is hope, but I do not see how.” She picked up the cloak and draped it about her shoulders. Olórin sniffed at it. “I know. I did not get the chance to return it. I do not know what he will do for a cloak. I suppose it matters not now...” she trailed off, unable to continue. Dropping to sit on a crate near his stall, she lowered her head into her hands and cried.

********

“Ani? Ani, are you down here?”

The prince stepped carefully down the stairs into the hold, reaching for the lantern that should have hung at the base of them. Finding it missing, he peered into the semi-darkness, spotting the small illumination at the far end of the hold. Making his way to the back, he patted his own horse as he strode by. “Ani?” he called out again.

The lantern still hung on the post outside Olórin’s stall. The black stallion whinnied softly and rubbed his nose against the prince’s sleeve. “Suildad,” Amrothos responded, patting him gently. “Have you seen-“

He stopped mid-sentence, his shoulders dropping in relief. Anhuil lay against the wall near the door to the stall, asleep on the hay, curled beneath a cloak. Her brother knelt beside her.

“Princess,” he said softly, shaking her. “This is no place for royalty to sleep. What would the women of Dol Amroth would think of you holding court with the horses?”

She opened her eyes briefly, only to close them again. “I care not what they think. You of all people should know that.” She snuggled down under the cloak again.

“Come on, Ani,” he said, shaking her again. “You cannot stay here. Merric was concerned when we could not find you.”

Her eyes opened again, reddened and swollen from crying. “How far could I go, Amrothos? We are on a ship in the middle of a river.”

He ignored her churlish answer. “Why are you sleeping here?”

“I was tired,” she answered sarcastically.

“You should be resting in the nice warm bed provided for you, not down here among the animals.”

“I rather like the company,” she answered curtly, finally raising to a sitting position. She rubbed her eyes, blinking hard.

“Let me help you up,” he offered, standing and reaching to help her to her feet. As she stood, the cloak fell in a heap on the hay. Amrothos bent to pick it up, noting the design. “This is not your cloak,” he observed.

The princess stared for a moment at the dark green fabric. “I know,” she answered, hoping he would not ask further.

She hoped in vain. “This is the cloak of the Rohirrim,” he said, as if this were news to her.

Casting a casual glance at the cloak, trying to be nonchalant, she brushed the hay from her skirt. “So it is.”

Her brother watched her pluck hay from her hair, one corner of his mouth turned up thoughtfully. “What troubles you?”

Standing straight and squaring her shoulders, she glared at him. “Our countries are being ripped apart by war. Our father and brothers are marching into certain death. You dare ask what troubles me?” She snatched the cloak from his hands and hurriedly folded it.

“Where did you get a Rohirrim cloak, Ani?” he asked her.

“Does that really matter at this point, Amrothos?” she asked defensively.

“For that matter, from where did you get this horse?” he gestured to Olórin.

“I am tired, and you woke me, and now I am going to my cabin to resume my sleep.” She grabbed the lantern and headed for the stairs.

“Oh, no, you are not.” Her brother caught her arm. “I want to know what is troubling you, Ani. And you are not answering my questions.”

“I was not aware that I obligated to divulge every detail of my life to you.” She jerked her arm away.

“This is not like you,” he said, his tone softening. “You told us much of your story at dinner with Ada, but I feel there is much more you are not telling. It is very likely, that we are going to be all that is left of our family.” Her mouth opened, her eyes wide. “Do not look at me like that, you know it is true. I would not wish to have secrets and animosity between us.”

The princess lowered her eyes to the hay scattered on the wooden planks. The soft groaning of the ship and occasional stamp of a hoof were the only sounds for a few long moments. Drawing in her breath, she raised her eyes to her brother’s.

“It is a long story, but I shall try to make it brief. When I was traveling, I came across a regiment of knights from Rohan. They provided an escort for me to Minas Tirith, and the horse as well, as mine had been stolen.”

“Yes, we found her a few days after you left.”

“Then she is-“

He shook his head. “No. I am sorry. The orcs had found her first.”

Anhuil sighed. “I hate to think what fate was hers, but there was nothing I could do. Suffice it to say that the marshal of the Riddermark saw fit to provide me with a spare horse from his company and to ensure that I arrived in Minas Tirith safely. He insisted I keep the animal.”

“That is quite a gift, such a magnificent horse. And a black one, as well. I hear they are rare indeed these days, after the raids of the Enemy on their herds. Why would he choose to give you such an animal? Because you are royalty?”

“He does not know that I am a princess. I did not tell them.”

Her brother stared at her in disbelief. “You did not tell them?”

“I did not,” she answered haughtily. “I saw no reason to parade my title.”

Amrothos shook his head. “So this marshal, he gifted you with this stallion and escorted you to Minas Tirith?”

The brief downcast look that crossed her face disappeared so suddenly her brother couldn’t be sure if he had seen it or not. “No. He sent another to escort me.”

“And the cloak? That is a gift from the marshal as well?”

“It is his, yes. I meant to return it but did not get the chance.” She ran her hand across the soft fabric, draped over her arm.

“Who is he?”

“It is no longer important,” she murmured, staring down at the cloak.

The prince regarded his sister in the dim lamplight. “Yes, it is,” Amrothos countered.

“Why?” she asked him, looking up defiantly.

“Because you are in love with him.”

Staring at her brother, her mouth opened to retort, then snapped shut as she turned and fled up the steps.

Her brother close on her heels, she ran to her cabin. He swung the door open, following her inside. “That is it, is it not? You are in love with this man. Who is he?”

“Amrothos, I told you. It does not matter. He will be marching on the Black Gates with the rest of the Rohirrim and I will never see him again so please stop asking me about it!”

“Ani, I cannot ignore this. As your elder brother I have a right to know.”

The princess had to bite her tongue to keep from laughing. “He was a perfect gentleman, Amrothos. You need not worry. It is more likely he would complain of my behavior.”

Shaking his head slowly, her brother sank down on to the edge of the bunk. “For the love of the Valar, Ani, what did you do?”

“Nothing terrible,” she said with a smirk. “With their love of songs, however, we did regale each other with tunes we knew."

Amrothos had heard some of the songs of the Rohirrim around the campfires at Pelennor. Not exactly songs he relished his sister hearing. He shook his head. “What did you sing?”

Giggling in a most un-royal fashion, she faced him down. “I sang them your dragon song.”

His eyes went wide, his mouth dropping open. “No, you did not!” His shock turned to a grin he tried to hide.

“I did indeed. And it was quite well received, thank you,” she stated with no small satisfaction.

“Who is he?” her brother asked again.

“I will not say,” she said defiantly.

“Ani, if he loves you, he may come to ask Ada for permission to court you. What are you going to do then?”

“He will do no such thing, Amrothos. He has no idea who I am. I did not even give him my proper name.” At her brother’s puzzled look, she smiled sadly. “He knows me only as Anhuil.”

She dropped beside him on the bunk, staring down at the cloak in her hands, her fingers moving idly over the fabric.

“You love him,” her brother said again.

Anhuil sat silently. “Yes, I do,” she admitted. “But if what we fear is true, I will never see him again. May we please not discuss it further?” The tears she thought she had spent completely began again, falling softly on to the fabric in her lap, darker green spots appearing on the soft wool. The prince put his arm around her, drawing her to him.

“Should you wish to discuss it later, you know where to find me." He hugged her and stood to go. "Now, please, get some rest.”

“Amrothos,” she called after him. “May we keep this between us?”

The prince nodded. “Please rest now. We will have much to do when we arrive home.”

Her brother closed the door behind him. Lying back on the bunk, she pulled the cloak over her again, tucking one corner under her cheek as she lay on her side. The fading scent of leather lingering on the fabric comforted her only slightly as she fell into a fitful sleep.

********
25 Gwaeron, 3019 T.A.
*****************************

Days passed quickly as they traveled down the river. One brief stop in South Ithilien to restock supplies and they had continued downriver and into the Bay of Belfalas, turning west to follow the coastline around the cape to Dol Amroth.

Anhuil tried to keep busy, reading some of the many volumes loaned to her by the Admiral. He had given her free reign to select from his rather large and varied private collection, and she had gladly taken up his offer. Anything to keep her mind occupied.

Her thoughts were almost always of her family and Éomer, as no news had yet been forthcoming. Her brother’s attempts to get her to tell more were in vain. The books, at least, offered some distraction.

Sitting curled on a bench in the galley one afternoon, she sipped her tea and read over again a volume she had found concerning the customs of the people of the desert of Harad. As she read about the practice of keeping harems, she did not hear the Admiral enter.

“Ah, there you are, Princess,” he said with a grin. “I found this-“ he stopped short, his expression freezing.

“What is it, Lord Merric?” she asked, rising to her feet, the book still in her hand.

His mouth moved as if he was trying to speak but it took a few moments for the sound to come. “Are you reading that volume?” he asked her, indicating the one in her hand.

“Why, yes. It is very interesting, you know. About the customs of the Haradrim, and of the Umbarians as well. It is-“

“Entirely inappropriate for a lady of your standing to be reading such things,” he said quickly, deftly plucking the book from her hand. “I had forgotten that book was in there. Here,” he said, offering her the book he had carried in. “I was bringing you this.” He placed the book of poetry he had brought in her hands. “It is far more suitable reading material for a princess.”

“I found that book interesting, Admiral. Did you know the Haradrim can have more than one wife?”

“Your father would have me keel-hauled if he knew I had allowed you to see such a thing!” he answered in a hushed tone, blushing.

“As you wish, Admiral. I would not want any enmity betwixt you and Ada over such an issue. I am certain this poetry will be lovely.”

With a curt nod, the sailor turned away, tucking the book into his coat pocket, muttering under his breath. Chuckling softly to herself, the princess sat back down and opened the poetry book with a sigh.

******

“Ani!”

The princess looked up from her tea as her brother burst into the galley. “Come topside, Ani. I want to show you something.” He reached for her hand.

With a resigned sigh, she stood and laid the book aside, following her brother to the deck above. In the grey skies clouds hung menacingly low, but in the distance she could see the shores of Dol Amroth and the palace of the Prince.

“Home,” she said quietly, wondering if it ever truly would feel like that again.

Amrothos came beside her, putting his arm around her shoulders. Leaning on the rail, she watched the sea spray flying up alongside the ship as the wind drove them toward the shores of Belfalas. As they stood on the deck, watching the coastline draw nearer, the sun peeked through the deep clouds, shining first afar on the white stone walls of the palace of Dol Amroth, then slowly creeping across the sea. Looking up, brother and sister watched in awe as the darkness rolled back, the sky clearing. The ship’s crew all but stopped their work, staring up at the sunlit sky, a wonder after so many days of darkness.

Merric stood in the center of the deck, his eyes searching the horizon. “Look!” he shouted, pointing to the eastern sky. A dark shape flew in the distance, the calls becoming clearer as it drew nearer.

And Landroval, the brother of the Great Eagle Gwahir, flew over the coastline of Dol Amroth, calling out the same tidings from the Lords of the West that his brother had delivered to Minas Tirith.

The realm of Sauron is ended for ever
and the Dark Tower is thrown down...

The prince hugged his sister to him. “Did you hear, Ani? I told you there was hope!”

“So it would appear.” Her smile thin, she turned to Merric. “How long until we put in to port?”

“Less than an hour, my lady,” came the response.

The princess turned to stare out across the sea again, her hands together in front of her face, the sides of her index fingers against her lips. “Perhaps we shall have more news once we reach land,” Anhuil said hopefully, staring into the distance where the Eagle glided. “Now we have only to hope that Ada and the others are safe.”

“It will be fine, Ani,” Amrothos promised. “Go and gather your things, and prepare to take leave.”

“I will,” she told him. “I love the water, you know that, Amrothos, but I fear it will be a week ere I can walk without waiting for the ground to pitch under me.” She turned and descended the steps to her cabin.

********

The Thalion pulled into the harbor of Dol Amroth at sunset. Disembarking, the prince and princess were greeted by servants of the palace. Amrothos found himself searching the faces, and wondered why. Of course she would not be among them. She had duties to attend to. She would be too busy to--

“Ani!” a voice called out.

“Cam!” Forgetting completely about proper protocol, the two women hugged each other tightly and stepped back, grinning.

Amrothos watched as the blonde greeted his sister, the slightest pang of jealousy stirring in him that the greeting was not for him. He stepped back, surprised at his own reaction.

“I have so much to tell you, Cam!”

“I suppose it is time for another walk on the beach? Come. I am sure you would love to get cleaned up. The cook is preparing a special meal for you and Amrothos, to welcome you home.”

Anhuil sighed. “What is it, Ani?” Cam asked her, a concerned look crossing her face.

Anhuil shook her head, dismissing Cam’s worry.

“Do not worry about her, Cam,” he chided lightly. “She has taken to these fits of melancholy lately. I keep telling her it does not suit her at all.”

The princess cuffed him on the shoulder with a chuckle.

Offering his arms to the ladies, he smiled. “If I may escort you lovely ladies, I would be most honored.”

“I am honored by your offer, my Prince,” the blonde answered mockingly, “but I already have an escort.”

“Valesa!” the deep voice behind Amrothos called out. “There is my girl!” The Admiral stepped down the gangplank and wrapped his daughter in his strong arms, swinging her off her feet.

“Ada,” Cam said with mock consternation, “this is not very proper behavior from the Admiral of the fleet.”

“The Admiral sets the standards for behavior around here, girl, and do not forget it,” he scolded playfully, kissing her cheek. He turned to the prince. “Trying to usurp me, youngling?”

“I would not dare,” the prince answered with a grin at Cam, backing up graciously and taking his sister’s arm.

Cam laughed. “The horses are waiting, your highness,” she teased Amrothos.

“Then let us not keep them, Lady Valesa. Never let it be said that Prince Amrothos keeps any waiting, even his steed.”

Cam rolled her eyes and glanced over at the princess, who still only bore the slightest hint of a smile. Yes, tonight was definitely another night for a walk on the beach.

********

tithen siler - little sister
Nan Belian - Valar forbid
Suil mellon - Hi, friend
Suildad - hello


Chapter 15 - Chapter Fourteen

Trust to Hope - Chapter Fourteen
Author: Novedhelion
Type: FP Het
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Pairing: Éomer/Lothíriel aka Anhuil
Rating: PG13
Warnings:
Beta: Riyallyn
Disclaimer: Characters are not mine, no money to be made...interweaving book and movie...you’ve read it all before...

Translations at the bottom.

**********************
Chapter Fourteen
**********************



Those who lack the courage will always find a philosophy to justify it.
Albert Camus, French Existential Writer

*************************************


The Palace of the Prince
Dol Amroth
25 Gwaeron 3019 T.A.
***************************

As the party approached the palace, Anhuil drew a deep breath. Some things did not change, and of that she was glad. Dismounting, she handed off her horse to a stable hand and looked around the courtyard.

Huge paws pounded her nearly to the ground. Bending down, she threw her arms around the neck of the wolf. “Elenion!” Hugging him tightly, she took his large head between her hands. “I was worried about you. You disappeared on me. I know you do not like the city but the least you could have done was let me know you were leaving,” she scolded him, ruffling his fur.

“He showed up several days ago,” Cam told her. “At first it frightened me, but then I realized he would not have left you if something was wrong.” The blonde patted the wolf’s head. “He has been good company.”

“That he is,” the princess agreed.

Heading up the steps and into the doors, the princess could not help but smile a little. Home was still home, after all.

*************

Their dinner was a pleasant affair, the food wonderfully prepared and the conversation light. Although the Eagle’s news of victory over the Enemy brought them peace, they were still awaiting word from her father and brothers. As they finished their meal, Anhuil sipped her wine, and asked the question no one had dared bring up.

“Where is Fenwick?”

Cam stiffened. “I asked him not to come this evening. I told him you would be tired from your journey and that you would wish to be well rested when you see him.”

“And he agreed to this?”

The blonde licked her lips, raising her gaze to meet her friends. “It was not for him to agree or disagree with,” she informed her.

Anhuil stifled a giggle. “I see.”

Amrothos chuckled. “Well, I am certain he will be here first thing tomorrow to see you, so you should probably rest tonight.”

“I believe you are right, Amrothos.” She rose from the table. “Goodnight, everyone.”

The men rose from their seats, and Cam stood also. “I am going to retire as well. It has been a long day. Tomorrow, Amrothos, I will go over the shipping schedules with you and show you the logs.”

The prince nodded, not disappointed at the prospect of spending more time in the company of his sister’s best friend. “I will look forward to it, Lady Valesa,” he responded with a polite bow.

Stepping over to her father’s chair, Cam kissed him on the cheek. “Goodnight, Ada. I am glad you are back.”

“I am glad to be back, Valesa. Sleep well. I might like a sparring match tomorrow, if you are up to it.”

The blonde grinned. She could never turn down her father for a good round on the training field. “I accept your challenge,” she teased, “but you will have to go easy on me. I have not had much time for practice of late.”

“We shall see about that,” he joked. “Goodnight, girl.”

Anhuil and Cam headed for their chambers, leaving the men to talk of the war.

Outside the dining room, Cam caught the princess’ hand. “Go change and meet me on the beach.”

With a brief nod of acknowledgement, Anhuil dashed off to her room.

*******************

Sitting on the dry sand, Anhuil picked up a handful, letting it sift through her fingers and blow in the breeze. The moonlight shimmered on the dark waves. The wolf lay beside her, huge head resting on his paws. Her journal rested on her lap. The sound of footsteps behind her caught her attention.

She turned to see Cam, striding over, in tunic and trousers, barefoot. She was carrying a bag in one hand and her boots in the other. Plopping down on the sand unceremoniously, the bag thudding to the soft sand beside her.

“Cam—“ Anhuil began.

“Wait.” Cam said quickly, holding up one finger. She opened the bag, pulling out a tall corked bottle. Deftly removing the cork, she took a long swig and handed the bottle to Anhuil. “So, tell me. Who is he?”

The princess turned to her friend with a shocked expression. “How did you know?”

“I did not, until now,” she grinned. “Who is he?”

“Where did you get this?” Anhuil held up the bottle of wine.

“Wine cellar, where else? Drink! And talk.”

“What do you want to know?” The princess tipped up the bottle, then looked out across the ocean.

“Everything! Who is he, where is he, everything.” Cam took the bottle from her hands.

Anhuil handed Cam her journal. The blonde flipped through the pages, skimming the words she could barely read in the pale moonlight. She stopped suddenly on the page with the ink drawing. “Is this him? Oh, my, Ani...he is...he is very handsome.”

“I know. And I do not think I did him justice.” She glanced over Cam’s shoulder at the drawing and winced slightly.

“So where is he?” the blonde asked.

“I do not know where he is. Amrothos told me about their plan to march on the Black Gates. I assume he went with his men.”

“He is a soldier, then,” Cam observed, still studying the picture. “What is his name?”

Anhuil smiled shyly. “His name is Éomer,” she said finally. “He is one of the Rohirrim.”

“Let me guess. He is tall and blonde,” she said sarcastically.

Anhuil cuffed her on the shoulder. “You just described every soldier in the realm of Rohan.” Sighing heavily, she lowered her gaze, stroking the wolf’s head slowly. “I never meant for this to happen. The last thing I was looking for when I left here was another man.”

Cam snickered. “I can certainly understand why, considering you had the illustrious Mardil Fenwick eagerly awaiting your return,” she remarked. “So, how did you meet this handsome soldier of Rohan?”

Grinning mischievously, the princess took another sip of the wine. “I saved his life,” she announced with mock pride.

“Saved his life?”

With a mischievous grin the princess relayed the entire tale as they passed the bottle of wine back and forth. Cam shook her head in disbelief.

“He kissed you?”

“I had gone out by myself for a walk...anyway, he came looking for me, and we talked...and he just...Cam, I have never been kissed like that. I thought...well, nevermind what I thought. It certainly was not proper!”

“Propriety is highly overrated, Ani. I have long told you that.” Cam grinned widely. “You are in love with him.”

“Is it that obvious?” she queried. Her friend nodded.

“You never saw him after that?”

Anhuil smiled wistfully. “He did come to see me after the battle outside the city, but I did not see him.”

The puzzled expression on her friend’s face made her laugh. “I was asleep. I had been working in the Houses of Healing in Minas Tirith, helping with the wounded, and he came in to see his sister. He found out I was there. Ioreth would not allow him to wake me, but he left me his cloak. He covered me with it as I slept. I never saw him.” Her voice faltered slightly, the tears falling silently down her cheeks.

“It sounds as if he loves you as well.”

Anhuil shook her head slowly. “I do not know. He said he would die before he let anything happen to me.”

“Perhaps he will come looking for you,” Cam offered.

“No,” the princess argued, shaking her head ruefully. “He does not even know my real name. How will he find me? Besides, it does not matter. I am still betrothed to Mardil, and father would never let me marry some soldier from Rohan, officer or no.” She wiped her tears with the back of her hand.

They sat in silence, watching the endless waves crash against the sand. The moonlight made a path of sparkling light on the water, stretching out as far as they could see. Anhuil dug her fingers into Elenion’s soft fur, and wondered what it would be like to follow that path, never turning back.

******************
The Palace of the Prince
Dol Amroth
30 Gwaeron 3019 T.A.
****************************

The princess stood on the balcony overlooking the ocean. Ships crossed the harbor in the early morning mist. The charcoal gray dress she wore matched her mood. Her hair was loose, falling across her shoulders and blowing in the offshore breeze. Shoulders squared, she silently surveyed the ships coming and going through the harbor.

Mardil Fenwick stood inside, watching her. One could not deny that she was attractive. The dark hair and skin were a nice contrast to most of the fairer maidens he had known. She was a little short, but that was all right, her figure more than made up for that. The dull, drab colors she chose to wear would have to go, as would the boyish trousers and tunics she seemed to favor. Do something with that hair… Yes, looks she had. The attitude could be adjusted. Best of all, Daddy was the prince.

He smiled at his own cunning. Her father was going to entrust him, Mardil Fenwick, to operate as harbormaster in Dol Amroth. He would aid the Admiral and the prince by controlling the land based operations of the harbor, freeing the Admiral to run the fleet without distraction. Total control of the seaports in two regions. A smug grin crossed his lips. Money in his pocket. And a pretty princess bride to boot.

Straightening his navy blue tunic, he tossed his dark hair and strode out to where she stood. She did not acknowledge his presence.

“Good morning, Lothíriel,” he used his most charming voice, drippingly sweet. “I trust you have recovered sufficiently from your...travels.”

“You are not concerned with my well-being, Mardil, so dispense with the pleasantries. What do you want?”

“You know what I want, Lothíriel. I want to get married. As soon as possible. You agreed to—“

“I agreed to nothing, Mardil. This marriage was arranged without my consent.”

“Your father had every right to make this decision and you know it. I do not know what you were thinking when you left, but I promise you, if you even try to—“

She turned, glaring at him. “Do not threaten me, Mardil. I told you, I know to what my father agreed. I will fulfill the contract. I am doing this for Father, not for you.”

“Many women in this fair city would change places with you gladly, Princess.”

“I would happily exchange my lot with any of them,” she retorted, fiery green eyes staring him down, “if it meant I did not have to spend even one night as your wife.”

Fenwick’s jaw clenched. He pulled her to him, crushing her against his chest with his arms. “You will learn to like being my wife, Lothíriel. You will see.” He brought his lips down hard on hers. She struggled, trying to free her arms from his grip, her lips from his. He held her fast. Unable to free her arms, she stomped down hard on his instep with her heel. As soon as he released her, she brought her hand up to slap him. He grabbed her wrists, wincing in pain, leaning on the balcony rail for support.

“You will not strike me.”

“You will not kiss me,” she hissed at him.

“Oh, yes. I will, Lothíriel. You will be my wife. In every sense of the word.” His steel gray eyes bored into her.

“Not willingly I will not!

Fenwick chuckled. “You silly little chit. When are you going to figure out that I hold all the cards here? You do not tell me what you will and will not do. Besides, your father thinks the world of me.”

“Father is misguided in his desire to do what is best for his people.” He still gripped her wrist tightly, and as he released her he twisted it painfully. “I should tell him—“

“But you will not, Lothíriel. You will be a good daughter and honor your father’s agreement. We will be married as soon as possible. And if you think you are going to behave this way after we are married, just know that I can make your life a living hell.”

“Mardil Fenwick, being married to you will be a living hell.”

“If you cross me, Lothíriel, I assure you it will.” He straightened his tunic again, striding away with a slight limp.

Anhuil rubbed her wrist, glaring after him as he stalked away.

************
Dol Amroth
1 Gwirith, 3019 T.A.
*****************************

Amrothos walked down the wooden walkway toward the shore. Stopping at the end, he kicked off his boots before striding out on to the beach. Anhuil was sitting on the sand, leaning forward on her bent knees.

"Mind if I join you?" He plopped down beside her. She did not look up. "You know, Ada was pretty upset when you left."

"He was only concerned about the betrothal to Fenwick, Amrothos. He was not worried about me."

"That is not fair, tithen siler. Le ista Ada mela le. He just wants what is best."

She glared at him. "Do you honestly think that is what he is thinking about with this marriage, Amrothos? Because if you do then I would like someone to explain to me why I have to be the one to marry a miserable little twit like Fenwick just because pirates are raiding our harbors? Explain that to me, please. Somehow I cannot help thinking this is more about what is best for Dol Amroth than what is best for Lothíriel! No one is making any of you marry an insufferable prat."

"You are right. It is not fair," He put his arm around her. "But I do not think Fenwick would have me."

Anhuil slapped his leg. "Dîn, Amrothos.” She leaned on his shoulder, sighing.

“Naethen, Ani,” he hugged her closer, feeling her hot tears against his shoulder. “If there is any way I can get you out of this, I will.”

***************

Mardil Fenwick stood on the balcony overlooking the harbor. His harbor, or at least it would be soon. Yes, this was definitely a good arrangement.

“Enjoying the view?” Amrothos strode out on to the balcony. He leaned against the rail, crossing his muscled forearms and regarding Fenwick.

“It is lovely, yes,” he answered sharply. “Was there something you wanted?”

“Just trying to make conversation. After all, we will be family soon.” Amrothos waited for a response. Fenwick wished he would go away.

“So,” Amrothos continued. “Have you talked to Ani since she got back?”

“I spoke with Lothíriel,” he emphasized her given name, Fenwick hated nicknames, “this morning as a matter of fact. Out here, on the balcony. We agreed to be married as soon as possible when her father returns from the battle.”

“She said that, did she?” Amrothos’ skepticism was annoying Fenwick.

“I told her I forgave her for running away and that I would still have her as my wife, and she agreed.”

“I see. Did she ask for your forgiveness?” the young prince asked.

“She need not ask. I know she is young and impulsive. She does not think about the consequences of her actions sometimes. She will learn. This time there is no harm done.”

“I spoke with her a while ago on the beach. She seems a little…disheartened,” Amrothos noted.

“All girls are nervous about their weddings. I am not surprised.”

“She is not a young girl, Mardil. She is a grown woman, or had you not noticed?” He hesitated. “Do you love my sister, Fenwick?” Amrothos asked him point blank.

“I cannot imagine what my life would be like without her,” Fenwick answered truthfully, inwardly pleased at his own cleverness.

Amrothos nodded, mentally noting he had not really answered the question. “Let me just say one thing, Mardil,” he stepped forward, very close to Fenwick. “Ani has dealt with enough pain in her life. If you ever lay a hand on her or harm her in any way, I will kill you myself. Is that understood?”

“My young Prince, I do not think that—“

Amrothos stepped up to him, his hand on Fenwick’s shoulder. “Just remember that.”

He turned and stalked off, leaving Fenwick fuming on the balcony.

***********
The Palace of the Prince
Dol Amroth
5 Gwirith, 3019 T.A.
***********************

Sighing heavily, the princess headed for her father’s study. Word had come swiftly that her father and brothers were well, and that they would be staying in Minas Tirith for the coronation of King Elessar, to return home the following month.

In the meantime, there was much work to be done. She had a meeting that afternoon that she needed to prepare for, and she needed to go over the books brought to her by the Magistrate. Deciding she was truly grateful to be last in line for the throne, she slid the key into to lock, surprised at the easy turn. The door was unlocked.

A figure was bent over her father’s desk. In the pale light, she realized immediately who it was.

“Mardil!”

He jumped at her voice. “What are you doing in Ada’s study?” She strode over to the desk, quickly slamming shut the volumes she had left open on the desk the previous night.

“Just assuring myself your tasks were completed, my dear,” he replied.

“You have no business here, Mardil.”

“Come, now, Princess, I was only trying to see if there was anything else you needed my assistance with. After all, I did promise your father I’d look after you,” he chided soothingly.

“I do not need or want your help, Mardil Fenwick. I am perfectly capable of handling this on my own,” she slammed the ledger book shut. “It is not your concern.”

“Ah, but should I be concerned about this?” He lifted another scroll from underneath the ledger. It was a historical account of the House of Éorl. Anhuil had found it in the library the evening before and brought it back to read. “Why this sudden interest in the history of those heathens?”

She snatched the scroll from his fingers. “My choice of reading material is also not your concern, Mardil. I happen to be interested in the histories of other nations, and in many things other than myself, unlike you.”

“History is a boring subject, Lothíriel. Your time is better spent considering your future.”

That’s exactly what I was doing, she thought to herself. “If my future is to be with you, Fenwick, then I choose to spend as little time dwelling on it as I can, for as long as I can.” She slammed the scroll down on the desk. “Get out.”

Mardil Fenwick raised one eyebrow. “Ordering me around now, Lothíriel?”

“I am still the princess. Do not make me call the guards, Fenwick. It would be terribly embarrassing.” Anhuil crossed her arms, her direct gaze daring him.

Jaw tightening, he decided not to call her on this one. Turning on his heel, he stomped out of the office.

***********
Dol Amroth
15 Gwirith, 3019 T.A.
***************************

Anhuil kept busy, assisting her brother with the daily duties of running the palace. While Amrothos excelled at dealing with the people, paperwork was a bane to him, so she took over the more menial tasks. She had not realized how tedious the duties could be. It did help to keep her mind off Éomer and Fenwick, at least part of the time, but she tired of being cooped up in her father’s office. Deciding it was time for a little break, she went to find Cam.

Agreeing that a bit of weapons practice might do them both some good, they set up a target on the beach. Cam excelled in sword skill, where Anhuil was sorely lacking. They joked that Cam couldn’t hit the side of the palace with an arrow, whereas Anhuil’s ability with a bow was her strongest point.

They worked on bow skill for a while, and when Cam got tired of being bested, they shifted to hand combat. Cam with her sword and Ani with her dagger, their fencing often turned into laughter, blades clashing, girls ducking and lunging at one another. More than once Cam flipped Anhuil’s blade from her hand, sending it to the sand with a soft thud.

Unbeknownst to them, Mardil had watched them practice on several occasions. Although he would never admit it, he truly enjoyed the sight of the two sweat soaked young women, one fair, the other dark. He liked the way their tunics stuck to their skin after their workouts, accentuating their curves, and the casual way both girls tucked up their hair. And loath to confess as he was, he was terribly impressed with their skill in weaponry. He decided to take a walk on the beach.

Their makeshift target was high on the sand, near the dunes. An old log sat nearby, next to which they had strewn their boots. The young women practiced defensive moves in the deep sand, both barefoot. Fenwick strolled over to where they were sparring, watching silently for a moment, seating himself on the log. He removed the hat he had been wearing and placed it beside him on the log.

Without taking her eyes off Cam, something she had learned the hard way not to do, Ani addressed Fenwick. “What do you want, Mardil?”

“I am only observing, Lothíriel,” he answered blandly.

“Go observe something else, Fenwick,” Cam snapped. “We are trying to practice.” She lunged at Anhuil, who for once deftly blocked her. She stepped back, grinning. “You are getting it!”

“Women have no business fooling with weaponry,” Fenwick chided. “Silly girls playing with boy’s toys.”

“You are only envious because you have no weapons skills, Fenwick,” Cam spat at him, pointing her sword toward him. “That is why the men left you here to begin with. That, and you are too much of a coward to go into battle.”

“I have explained to you that I stayed in case Lothíriel came home. I promised her father I would wait for her and be here to look after her when she arrived home,” he responded haughtily.

Anhuil lowered her weapon, facing Fenwick. “What makes you think I need someone to look after me, Mardil?”

“Your father was worried about leaving while you were still missing. I assured him I would be here should you return.”

“A convenient excuse for your lack of courage, if you ask me,” Cam quipped.

He ignored her obvious attempt to provoke him. “Enjoy this while you can, Valesa,” he sneered, using her given name, “Because once Lothíriel is married to me, she will not be participating in these…games of yours.”

Anhuil whirled around and released her dagger. It spun through the air, efficiently nailing the log where he sat, right between Fenwick’s legs. He looked up in shock. She casually strode over and leaned over him, grabbing the dagger with her fist. “I have told you before, you will not tell me what I can and cannot do. If you think your threats and brute force are going to be methods of controlling me, know this. I far surpass you in skill with any weapon, including intellect. So do not try me, Mardil. Next time I may aim higher.” She jerked the dagger from the log and turned her back to him, stomping through the deep sand back to Cam, who was red faced with laughter.

Fenwick took a moment to regain his composure, then slowly stood. His face contorted with anger, he regarded Anhuil. “Your father has allowed you entirely too much free reign, Lothíriel. We will discuss this again another time.” He turned to leave, reaching for his hat, which sat on the log. Anhuil grabbed her bow and fired off one small, blue and white fletched arrow, piercing the hat and pinning it to the log. Without a word, she stood, staring him down, daring him to say something.

Mardil studied the arrow that now protruded from his hat, and then glanced at Anhuil. “You missed me.”

“I was not aiming for you,” she raised the bow, knocking another arrow. “Want me to try again?”

Fenwick narrowed his eyes at her, then turned and stalked off, halfway expecting to get the next arrow in the back.

*********************
Dol Amroth
15 Nórui 3019 T.A.
**************************

Anhuil sat at her father’s desk staring at the page of the book in front of her, re-reading the same sentence for the third time. With a sigh, she slammed the book shut and stared out the window at the harbor below.

The sound of resounding horns jerked her attention. Leaping to her feet, she ran to the window on the opposite side of the study, looking out over the courtyard. The tall banners, a silver swan on a field of blue, flapped in the breeze. Behind them rode Prince Imrahil, his sons, and the knights of Dol Amroth.

Bolting out the door of the study, she almost ran into Cam in the hallway. “They are home!” she exclaimed, grabbing the blonde by the shoulders. “Ada is home!” Releasing her friend, she took off down the stairs to the courtyard to greet her family.

Cam shook her head, grinning, and followed after her.

Amrothos stood on the steps, awaiting his father’s arrival. Anhuil stepped up beside her brother, taking his arm, as they watched the knights entering the courtyard. Imrahil dismounted and handed his reins off to a squire, who led the horse toward the stable. Turning toward the palace, he grinned widely at the sight of his children, and walked briskly toward them.

Standing straight and proud, Amrothos bowed politely to his father, who shook his head and grabbed his son in a bear hug. “I am so grateful to you, son, for the duty you have done in my absence,” he said to him.

“I could not have done it without Ani, Ada...and Cam...you would be amazed at what all she has accomplished these past months.”

Turning to his daughter, his smile only brightened. He embraced her and kissed her head.
Over Anhuil’s head, he saw Cam, standing back slightly. Releasing his daughter with a squeeze, he stepped over to her.

“Valesa, it is good to see you. You do not know how it eased my mind to know you were here to look after things.” He hugged her warmly and took her hands in his. “Is your father well?”

“It was an honor to serve you. And not only is the Admiral well, my lord,” she answered politely, “but he will be joining us for dinner. He is looking forward to seeing you.”

“And I him. Good old Merric. We have much to catch up on.”

Elphir and Erchirion leapt up the steps, clasping hands with their brother and hugging their sister and Cam. Imrahil shuttled the merry bunch inside, eager for a bath and a good hot meal. ‘It is good to be home,” he said softly, his daughter on one arm and Cam on the other, “even if only for a short while.”

“A short while? Ada, you have only just arrived! What could be so important that you would leave again soon?” Anhuil asked him.

“Not I, my dear, but all of us,” her father answered.

“For what reason?” she pressed.

“For the wedding of the king, of course,” he told her, with a grin.

*********

“Home, the spot of earth supremely blest,
A dearer, sweeter spot than all the rest.“
Robert Montgomery


Translations:

Le ista Ada mela le. - You know Ada loves you.
Dîn - shut up/silence
Naethen- I am sorry


Chapter 16 - Chapter Fifteen

Trust to Hope - Chapter Fifteen
Author: Novedhelion
Type: FP Het
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Pairing: Éomer/Lothíriel aka Anhuil
Rating: PG13
Warnings:
Beta: Riyallyn
Disclaimer: Characters are not mine, no money to be made...interweaving book and movie...Where did that moth come from anyway?

Translations, if any, at the bottom.

**********************
Chapter Fifteen
**********************

Oh, she left her kiss upon my lips
But left that break within my heart
Have you seen her?
Tell me, have you seen her?

Have You Seen Her
Chi-Lites
*************************************


*****************
Morannon
The Black Gates of Mordor
Cirith Gorgor
25 Gwaeron, 3019 T.A.
****************************

The king of Rohan sat silently and tall in his saddle before the black gates, watching as Aragorn rode forward. He could hear the banners flapping in the breeze behind him, such was the quiet. Without looking, he knew it was the White Horse and the Silver Swan. Beside him, astride a pale grey, was Imrahil, Prince of Dol Amroth.

Éomer surveyed the companies from the hilltop. If Gandalf was correct, they were hopelessly outnumbered. But so had it been at Pelennor, and they had achieved victory there. This time, however, there would be no long dead army to come to their aid.

Reaching into his gauntlet with a gloved finger, he withdrew the small, white handkerchief, lifting it to his face. The lavender scent was faint, but still made him smile. Seeing her in the Houses of Healing had lifted his spirit, although he wished he had been afforded the opportunity to say goodbye to her before this riding out. At least, for now, she was safe.

The sound of the gates groaning open shook him from his reverie. Quickly tucking the piece of fabric back into his vambrace, he gripped the reins tightly, one hand on his sword.

******

The earth trembled beneath his feet. Éomer looked up from the fray, toward the open gate, squinting at the dark shapes of the Nazgûl as they disappeared into the distance. Great Eagles soared overhead, their loud cries resounding through the vale. The hosts of the enemy stopped in their tracks, lowering their weapons. Turning quickly back to the orc whose sword had been raised against him, Éomer saw the sudden fear in the creature’s widened eyes. Dropping its weapon, it turned and ran.

The Towers of Teeth lurched as the ground shook again, a thunderous explosion echoed as the towers collapsed and fell. The Captains of the West stood, swords paused in mid air, watching in awe as the gates before them crumbled to the ground and were swallowed up by the great pits that opened in the earth.

Around him all of the armies of the Enemy fled. Scattering like leaves to the wind they hurled down their weapons and tore away in terror. The darkness that had covered the land fell away, the sudden silence nearly as loud as the battle before had been.

“The realm of Sauron has ended!” Gandalf cried out. “The Ringbearer has fulfilled his quest!”

*********

The Road to Cormallen
Ithilien
30 Gwaeron, 3019 T.A.
************************

Sitting by the small cookfire, Éomer sat on a small stool, listening to the men singing. Their revelry had gone on for many hours, loud and boisterous. Amused as he was by their antics, he could not muster the spirit to join in.

Taking a swig of whiskey from his cup, he listened as the men began a new song. The familiar strains caught his attention.

“A dragon has come to our village today
We asked him to leave but he will not go away...”

Sighing deeply, he once again removed the small handkerchief and stared down at it, running his thumb across the delicate flowers.

“Do virgins taste better than those who are not?
Are they salty or sweeter, more juicy or what?
Do you savor them slowly, gulp them down on the spot?
Do virgins taste better than those who are not?”

He chuckled softly at the words she had taught them, tipping up what was left in his cup.

“Does the mantle of your reign weigh so heavily on your shoulders that you cannot get up and go celebrate with your men?”

Éomer looked up to a grinning Aragorn.

“Our men rejoice in our victory, and with good cause. The Ring is destroyed, the Ringbearer lives, and the threat of the shadow has been removed.” He sat down next to Éomer on the ground, drawing his knees up and resting his elbows on them.

“Forgive me, my lord,” Éomer joked back at Elessar. “I am new to the burden of lordship and painfully unaware of the protocol. As king, am I required to join in their revelry?”

“Required? No,” the older king answered. “I would think you would welcome the distraction, unless there is something else distracting you?” Aragron asked, indicating the handkerchief in Éomer’s hand.

“Not only should I call you Wingfoot but now Eagle Eye as well,” Éomer teased, referring to the name he had given him when they first met on the plains of Rohan.

“A token from a lady to bear into battle?”

Nodding, Éomer folded up the scrap of cloth and tucked it back into his pocket.

“Where is she?”

“I saw her last in the Houses of Healing,” he told him. “I do not know if she remains there.”

“She was wounded?”

“She was assisting the healers.” Éomer picked up the flask, holding it up questioningly. Aragorn picked up a cup and held it out, allowing Éomer to fill it for him. They sat in silence, the two kings of the men of the west, listening to the raucous singing of their armies.

“No more will our numbers ever grow small...
We will simply make sure there’s no virgins at all!”

The men broke into laughter and applause. Aragorn raised an eyebrow at Éomer. “WHAT are they singing?” he asked, his expression confounded.

Éomer laughed out loud, choking on his drink.

********************

The Field of Cormallen
Ithilien
2 Gwirith, 3019 T.A
***********************
Éomer and several of his men readied to ride, double checking the straps of his saddle and patting his horse’s neck.

“Where are you headed, my friend?” Imrahil asked him, striding over to where they stood waiting.

“We ride for Minas Tirith. I wish to see my sister.”

The prince nodded. “Understandable,” he said. “I pray she is well.”

“She was recovering when I left her. I hope to find her on her feet.” He mounted his horse, turning to look at the prince. “We will return within a few days. Farewell,” he said, bowing his head to Imrahil.

“Namarië, my friend,” Imrahil responded, as Éomer signaled his riders, turning south toward the White City.

*****************

Minas Tirith
4 Gwirith, 3019 T.A.
************************

The heavy wooden door swung open, sunlight streaming in behind the silhouette in the frame. Éomer glanced at the rack of hooks where the cloaks were hung. None looked familiar. Moving down the hall, he peered into rooms, searching for a familiar face.

“She is not here,” Ioreth called out from the end of the hallway. “You will find her in the garden.”

Éomer grinned. “Thank you,” he said, turning quickly back to the door.

The king grinned as he rounded the corner to the garden entrance. Stopping at the gate, he drew a deep breath, hoping she would be as pleased to see him. Striding down the path, he glanced around. The sound of a female voice caught his attention, although he could not hear the words. He rounded the next corner, and came face to face with his own sister.

“Éowyn!” He took a step back, shocked. As happy as he was to see her up and about, it was not for her he had been looking. He glanced over her head, seeing no other woman, then looked down at her and smiled widely.

Her blue-grey eyes met his, a wide grin crossing her face. “So my big brother has returned for me, has he?” She stepped forward into his embrace. He hugged her tightly, careful of her injured arm, then leaned back to look at her.

“You look wonderful,” he told her. “They have taken good care of you.”

“You look terrible,” she responded jokingly, fingering the scratches on his cheek, then hugged him again. “It is good to see you, Éomer.”

The man standing behind her watched the exchange silently. Stepping forward, he offered his hand. “I am Faramir, Steward of Gondor.”

“Faramir, this is my brother, Éomer,” she told him, looking from one to the other. With a sideways glance at her brother, she grinned. “The King of the Mark.”

“An honor indeed,” Faramir said with a polite bow.

“Thank you, Lord Faramir, for the care given to my sister. She looks more lovely than ever, if that is possible.”

Faramir smiled widely. “Your sister’s beauty is a gift from the Valar, not the doing of the healers of Gondor.” He winked at her. “I will take my leave now, and allow you some time together. I have duties to attend.” He lifted Éowyn’s hand and kissed it, and with a bow to the king, strode away down the garden path. Éomer watched her as her eyes followed him, grinning.

She turned to face him, her brows lifted. “What?”

“Nothing,” he answered, chuckling to himself. “So, tell me everything. How have you been?”

“I am fine. Sit down, brother. I want to hear about the battles.”

Taking a seat on a nearby bench, he took her hand. “I am in the city for a few days. I will come back and see you soon, but I have some urgent business that I must see to. Then I would like for you to come back with me to Cormallen, to our encampment there.”

She lowered her eyes briefly, then met his gaze. “I do not know if I am ready for such a journey, Éomer,” she informed him.

“We will see,” he responded, patting her hand. “Think about it. I will return soon.” He kissed her forehead and stood, smiling back at her as he left the garden.

Entering the Houses of Healing once again, he found Ioreth. “Did you see her?” she asked him.

“My sister? Yes, I found her. She looks well.”

The old lady nodded. “She is ready to leave here, I believe. She spends more and more time in the garden.”

Éomer’s mouth curved into a smile. If the Steward also spent time there, he could understand her interest. Glancing around, he checked again to see if the familiar cloak hung among the ones in the hall. “Where is she?” he finally asked.

“I thought you saw her in the garden,” the old woman answered, her brow furrowing.

“Not my sister,” he said, shaking his head.

“Oh,” Ioreth said as realization hit. “You mean the girl from Dol Amroth.”

“Yes,” he said. “Where is she?”

The healer regarded him quietly for a moment. Her expression told him it was not going to be what he wanted to hear.

“As a servant of the White City, I am bound to keep secret things told to me in confidence.” At his puzzled expression, she continued. “But your people came into a battle that was not your own, knowing it was hopeless, and died for us anyway. If not for the likes of you this city would not still stand.”

“We simply fulfilled an oath taken by our forefathers,” Éomer told her.

“Simply?” the old healer laughed. “I know about that oath, but you hear me, boy. Théoden didn’t have to come. He could have waited until this fight came to his own doorstep. But he didn’t. None of you did. And for that I, at least, am grateful.”

The king smiled gently. “Thank you for saying so, my lady.”

Ioreth nodded, then continued. “Now, as I was saying, I shouldn’t be telling you this, because it’s none of my concern. But I saw your face when you found her here, and I saw her eyes when she woke up and found you had gone, and by the Valar I just can’t stand by and let this go.” She sighed heavily.

“What is it?” Éomer asked, his heart leaping slightly. “Was she hurt?”

She shook her head. “The girl went home,” she said finally.

He was almost relieved. “Home? To Dol Amroth?”

“Yes. Her family called her home.”

“When?” he asked. “When did she leave?”

“It has been...oh, let’s see...over a fortnight at least.” Éomer’s shoulders dropped slightly. Over two weeks?

“She was not happy that I didn’t let you wake her, son. And she took that cloak of yours with her.”

A slow smile crossed his face. “Did you give her my message?”

“I did,” she answered. “Made her laugh.”

“Did she leave any word?”

“I do not think she expected to be called away so suddenly.”

“Thank you,” he said with a slight bow, and moved toward the door.

“King of Rohan,” the old woman called as he opened the door. Eomer stopped, the title still unfamiliar to his ears, and turned around as she approached him. “If that girl isn’t in love with you, may the Valar strike me dead. You find her.”

He grinned back at her. “I will. Of that you may be sure.” Pulling open the heavy door, he stepped out into the bright spring sun.

******************

The Field of Cormallen
Ithilien
1 Lothron, 3019 T.A.
************************

Éomer walked alongside Aragorn with Prince Imrahil, at last reaching the steps of the Citadel. Taking their places beside the stone walkway, Aragorn ascended the steps alone. Faramir stepped forward, spoke briefly and quietly with Aragorn, then addressed the crowd.

“Men of Gondor, hear now the Steward of this Realm! Behold! One has come to claim kingship again at last. Here is Aragorn, Son of Arathorn, chieftan of the Dunedain of Arnor, Captain of the Host of the West, bearer of the Star of the North, wielder of the Sword Reforged, victorious in battle, whose hands bring healing, the Elfstone, Elessar of the line of Valandil, Isildur’s son, Elendil’s son of Númenor. Shall he be king and enter into this City and dwell here?”

The cheering of the crowd resounded their cries of ‘yea’ throughout the city. Faramir bore the crown of Eärnur brought from Rath Dínen. Aragorn held it aloft and spoke softly, repeating the words of Elendil.

“Et Eärello Endorenna utúlien. Sinome maruvan ar Hildinyar tenn’ Ambar-metta!”

Aragorn handed the crown back to Faramir. Frodo came forward at Aragorn’s beckoning, bearing the crown to Gandalf. As Aragorn knelt, Gandalf placed it upon his head, and smiled, facing the gathered crowd.

“Now come the days of the King, and may they be blessed while the thrones of the Valar endure!”

Éomer’s gaze traveled across the people. Most of the city was assembled on the lawn of the Citadel, and his eyes darted over the masses, searching for her face. Perhaps she had not made the return journey to attend the coronation, and had stayed in Dol Amroth instead.

Dol Amroth.

Home of Prince Imrahil.

The sudden thought that he should ask the prince if he knew of her hit him like a brick. As he turned to Imrahil at his side, the trumpets sounded, the banner of the Tree and Stars was unfurled. Crowds singing drowned out all other sound. He would have to remember to ask later.

Aragorn descended the steps. The King of Rohan bowed politely as the new King of Gondor passed, the gesture returned with a smile. Glancing up at his sister, who stood proudly beside Faramir, he could not help but smile. She had refused to leave the city when he returned to the encampment at Cormallen. He now understood why. She deserved her happiness. Perhaps there was still hope.

***************
Meduseld
Rohan
15 Lothron, 3019 T.A.
**************************

Éomer stood outside the doors to the Golden Hall, staring at the intricately carved woodwork. A light touch upon his shoulder startled him. Looking down into his sister’s blue eyes, he sighed. Sliding her hand around his arm, she smiled up at him.

“Come on. We will do this together,” she said determinedly. With a deep breath, she faced forward as he opened the doors and led her through. The hall was quiet, the servants on errand moving about. The banners of the kings past moved slightly in the breeze created by the open door. Sunlight streamed in from the windows above, making bright patterns on the intricate tile floor. The heavy wooden doors fell shut behind them.

Éowyn’s hand on his arm clenched tighter. Her jaw set, she stared straight ahead at the dais. Éomer’s eyes followed her gaze.

Théoden’s empty throne.

Now his throne.

The realization hit so hard he almost fell backward with the weight of it.

He was King of Rohan. Théoden had passed the banner to him on the fields of Pelennor. Suddenly finding it difficult to breathe, he simply stood, his feet cemented to the spot.

“My lord,” a voice interrupted his thoughts. He looked down to see a rather short man smiling up at him, bowing perfunctorily. “I have taken the liberty of preparing your chambers. I hope you will find it satisfactory. The women have seen to her lady’s as well. Please follow me.” He turned on his heel and led them through the hall, exiting a door to one side of the dais.

As they passed through, Éomer could not help but glance back again at the throne at the top of the shallow steps. Wondering if he could ever bring himself to actually sit there, he turned and followed the servant through the doorway.

***************
Meduseld
Rohan
5 Nórui, 3019 T.A.
***********************

Éomer reached out to the other side of his bed, grasping nothing but empty sheets. He sat bolt upright, looking around the room. Sighing heavily, he drew his knees up, leaning his elbows on them and pinching the bridge of his nose.

His days were hectic, for there was much to do to set things in order. But his nights...how long would these dreams plague him?

Even after the carnage of Pelennor and the horrors he had seen there, the thought of the orc blade tearing through her tunic and into her flesh still filled him with a sense of terror. The way his sword hilt had felt slick in his hand before he realized it was wet with blood…her blood…on his hands… Those images always seemed to wake him in a cold sweat.

There were sweet dreams, too…like the one he had tonight. Dreams of holding her, her lips on his…he could smell the lavender scent of her hair…only to wake up and find his arms empty.

Running his hand through his hair, he swung his feet over the side of the bed, yanking on a pair of trousers and a tunic, and headed for the kitchen for a drink. A soft breeze blew through the window at the end of the hallway, and he paused to gaze out across the moonlit fields below.

“Trouble sleeping?” A woman’s voice startled him. Éowyn stood in the darkened hallway, arms folded across her chest. He nodded.

His sister regarded him in the dim light. “Come on, I will make us some tea,” she offered, heading for the kitchen. With a last glance out the window, he followed her silently.

Plopping down on the bench beside the wooden table, he stretched his long legs out toward the fire. Éowyn placed two cups on the table, and went to check the kettle hanging on a hook near the fire.

“Do you want to talk about it?” she inquired, knowing what his answer would be.

The king sighed, rubbing his forehead with his fingertips. “No,” he answered.

Éowyn laughed. “Alright. Be stubborn. I think I know,” she smiled.

“And how would you know, dear sister?” he looked at her askance.

She paused, a smug smile crossing her lips. “Who is Ani?” she asked pointedly.

Éomer stared at her, his expression of shock quickly changing to one of feigned confusion. “I do not know what—“

“Please, brother,” she chided. “My room is not so far from yours. I have heard you call out her name many times in your sleep since our return.” Éowyn retrieved the kettle, using a towel over the handle, and carefully pouring the steaming contents into the two cups. She slid one cup across to her brother, waiting for his answer.

Éomer studied the cup, frowning. He stood and removed a flask from a nearby shelf. Éowyn watched as he uncorked it and sniffed it, then poured a generous amount into his tea. He took a swig from the flask.

“That will not help, you know,” she commented, sipping her tea delicately.

“It will not hurt,” he answered dryly, pouring a bit more into his tea before corking the bottle.

Éowyn studied her brother in the firelight. “You still did not answer my question. Is she the one who gave you that handkerchief?”

The king stopped mid-sip, staring at her over the top of his cup.

“I have seen you take it out when you think no one is looking.”

He set the cup down. “I suppose repeating to you that I do not wish to talk about this will be an exercise in futility.” Éomer turned and leaned forward on the table with his elbows. His sister sipped her tea, patiently waiting for him to continue.

Sighing heavily, he leaned back. “Her name is Anhuil.”

Éowyn grinned at him. “I knew it had to be a woman. So tell me about her. Who is she?”

“She appeared one night out of nowhere, coming to our aid when we were under attack.”

“I like her already,” Éowyn smiled.

He chuckled. “Yes, you are alike in many ways. Headstrong, willful…you would admire her skill with a bow. She traveled with us for several days, until I was called to Helm’s Deep. I sent her to Minas Tirith then.” Éomer sipped the tea, staring down at the table.

“So where is she?”

“She was aiding Ioreth in the Houses of Healing the last time I saw her, but she was not there when I returned.” He looked up at his sister. “Perhaps you saw her there.”

Éowyn smiled. “Perhaps. There were so many women. But she must be quite beautiful to win my brother’s affection.” Her brow furrowed. “There was a young woman I saw, a healer, from Rohan...”

Éomer’s lips curved. “No. That would not have been her. She is from Dol Amroth, which is where the old healer said she had gone.” He sipped his tea thoughtfully. “And yes, she is beautiful.” The king reached for the flask again, his sister’s gentle hand stopping him. She poured more tea into his cup, and added a generous dash from the flask herself.

“Have you asked Prince Imrahil? Perhaps he knows of her family.”

Éomer shoved his hand through his tousled locks. He had thought the same thing at the coronation, then the idea had promptly left him as he busied himself with the tasks at hand. Another opportunity to speak to the prince simply had not presented itself. “I meant to ask him. He left for home ere I had the chance.”

Éowyn stared at her brother, watching his expression as he gazed at the flames in the hearth. “You are in love with her,” she observed bluntly.

Éomer did not answer, but gulped the tea down. “Why is it that women think they know everything about affairs of the heart?”

“Because we do.” His sister smiled at him. “And you are.”

“I was under the impression that the elder sibling was supposed to be the wiser,” he remarked, tapping the cup on the table. Éowyn beamed at him, clearly pleased at his admission. “Such strange days,” Éomer muttered. “Elves, wizards, halflings...”

“And beautiful women who appear out of nowhere to save your sorry hide,” his sister giggled.

The king peered into his empty cup. Éowyn reached to refill it, but he shook his head and picked up the flask instead, again drinking directly from the bottle.

“We return to Minas Tirith in a few weeks. Someone has to know where to find her.” She took the flask from him, re-corking it and placing it aside. Perhaps she will attend the wedding.” Her blue eyes locked on his. “Find her, Éomer. If you love her, find her.”

He contemplated her suggestion. There was still much to do. Theoden must be laid to rest, Éowyn was to be married. He sighed. He had promised Ani he would find her. He looked up at Éowyn.

“I will make inquiries when we return to the city.”

“Good. Now, get some sleep.” She rose from the table. Éomer followed her back through the hallway, stopping at the door to her chamber. She turned and embraced him, giving him a sisterly kiss on the cheek.

“Goodnight, my king. Go and have sweet dreams of your Lady Anhuil.”

Éomer hugged her, resting his chin on her head. “Yes,” he agreed. “I will.”

***************

“Et Eärello Endorenna utúlien. Sinome maruvan ar Hildinyar tenn’ Ambar-metta!” - Out of the Great Sea to Middle Earth I am come. In this place will I abide, and my heirs, unto the ending of the world.
***********************
"I cannot exist without you. I am forgetful of everything but seeing you again. My life seems to stop there, I see no further. You have absorbed me. I have a sensation at the present moment as though I were dissolving. I have been astonished that men could die martyrs for religion... I have shuddered at it... I shudder no more. I could be martyred for my religion: Love is my religion. I could die for that. I could die for you. My creed is love, and you are its only tenet. You have ravished me away by a power I cannot resist."
John Keats
*********************


Chapter 17 - Chapter Sixteen

Trust To Hope - Chapter Sixteen
Author: Novedhelion
Type: FP Het
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Pairing: Éomer/Lothíriel aka Anhuíl
Rating: PG13
Warnings: Fenwick just gets more annoying...
Beta: Riyallyn
Disclaimer: Characters are not mine, no money to be made. Just doing this for the fun of it.


********************
Chapter Sixteen
********************

I can’t hide it
I can’t fight it
It’s so hard to live without the love
She gave to me...
Just to see her smiling face
Feel her warm embrace
Can’t find anyone to take her place
I’ve got to see her again...

Just To See Her - Smokey Robinson
**********************


************************
The Palace of the Prince
Dol Amroth
30 Nórui, 3019 T.A.
***********************

The princess sat on her bed, staring at the trunk on the floor. Her maids had been busily packing all day, making sure she had everything she would need for her travels. She chuckled. She had traveled for weeks with nothing but one clean change of clothing, her weapons, a journal, and a vial of lavender oil. Now for some reason, her maids thought it necessary to pack half of what she owned, and had the other half spread across the chairs and the bed.

Rolling her eyes, Anhuil stood and picked up her bow and dagger, slipping them inside the trunk with her journal. She also placed her tunic, leggings and boots underneath the piles of dresses before snapping the lid shut. Perhaps she and Cam would find time to do some sparring or spend a few hours on the archery field one afternoon.

As if on cue, the blonde peeked in the doorway. “You about ready?” She glanced around the room at the piles of clothing, shaking her head. “What in Middle Earth happened in here? It looks as if you are trying to clothe all of Minas Tirith!”

“These women are convinced I must have no less than three dresses per day,” Anhuil answered, rolling her eyes. “Must we do this?”

Cam grinned went to her, putting her arm around the princess’ shoulders. “It is the king’s wedding. I do not think it would be proper for you, daughter of the Prince of Dol Amroth, to dishonor him by declining his invitation.”

The princess raised one eyebrow. “My dear Lady Valesa is suddenly concerned with propriety?”

“Banish the thought,” Cam joked. “Besides, what if your soldier is there?”

Anhuil leaned her head to one side. “What would a soldier of Rohan be doing at the King of Gondor’s wedding?” she asked sardonically.

“Did you not say he was an officer? Perhaps he will be there with his king,” Cam offered.

Smiling, the princess considered this. “It is possible, I suppose, but I hold little hope. I do not know if he even survived, Cam.” Her thoughts drifted as her voice trailed off. “Still...” she said pensively. She shook away the thought. She was already betrothed to another. No sense in entertaining the idea.

“Come on,” the blonde urged her. “The men are waiting.” She ducked back out the door.

“Valar forbid we keep them,” Anhuil said sarcastically, throwing her cloak over her arm. Almost as an afterthought, she went to her bed and pulled the deep green cloak from under her quilt, tucking it into the bottom of the trunk. Satisfied, she followed her friend out the door.

****************
Meduseld
Rohan
30 Nórui, 3019 T.A.
*************************

Éomer sat at his desk, staring down at the missive in his hand, rubbing his beard thoughtfully. A slight knock at the door caught his attention. “Enter,” he called out.

The door creaked open softly, admitting the slim figure of his sister. “You called for me, Éomer?”

He sighed deeply, handing her the missive. “I am afraid I may be unable to attend the wedding,” he informed her. “An issue has arisen at Aldburg that I must see to ere I leave Rohan.” He looked up at her, watching her face as she read over the letter sent by Elfhelm, his marshal stationed there. “I am sorry, Éowyn. You could continue with guard and be there in time, but I fear I will not arrive for some days hence.”

“You are a king now, Éomer, and some issues will take priority over others.” She smiled at him, but he could see the slight disappointment in her eyes. “I will travel with you as far as the Eastfold, and then go on to Mundberg from there. You may join me as soon as you are able.”

She handed him back the parchment, which he laid aside. Leaning on the frame of the door, she folded her arms, watching him pull out a clean sheet of parchment and lift his quill. He raised his eyes to hers in question.

“What about Ani?” she asked him.

“I will send a message to Imrahil, making inquiry,” Éomer said, turning quickly back to his writing. “We should be prepared to leave at first light,” he continued. “You should get some rest.”

“Such a king you have become, big brother, ordering me around,” she teased him.

“Goodnight, Éowyn,” he said through gritted teeth, without looking up.

She grinned and turned to leave. “Goodnight, my lord and king,” she said, her mocking tone causing him to roll his eyes toward the stone ceiling. He certainly hoped Faramir knew what he was getting in to.

********
Lossarnach
Along the River Anduín
Gondor
2 Cerveth, 3019 T.A.
*************************

The journey to Minas Tirith was not an unpleasant one. The weather was warm and agreeable. They traveled through Belfalas, north up the River Gilrain. Staying south of the White Mountains, they crossed the Sirith and the Erui, and followed the Anduín north to the White City.

The party from Dol Amroth camped for the night just after crossing the ford of the River Erui. Anhuil and Cam dismounted their horses and headed up the river, the large wolf following closely.

“Lothíriel, allow the boys to take care of those horses. Come and sit. You and Cam must be tired,” her father called to them. “I promised Merric I would watch after Cam on this trip, and he will have me for a figurehead if anything happens to her, especially after he took such care of you.”

“He obviously does not know what kinds of reading material your father keeps in that library of his,” Anhuil muttered quietly to Cam, who stifled a chuckle. “We will walk them ourselves,” she answered her father. “Do not worry, Elenion is with us.”

Fenwick rode over to where the women stood on the riverbank and dismounted. “I will walk with you,” he offered.

“It is not necessary, Mardil. Cam and I will be fine,” the princess told him abruptly, turning her back on him. Elenion took one step toward the man, his gaze steady, making no sound.

“You should not wander alone at night,” Fenwick insisted, eyeing the wolf warily.

Cam stared at him, then burst into laughter. “Ooh, and what are you going to do, Fenwick? Protect us from the evil fireflies?” She gestured toward the tiny insects flashing in the underbrush.

Glaring at the two giggling women, Mardil turned his back and walked his horse in the other direction without a word.

***************************
Rohan
7 Cerveth, 3019 T.A.
************************

In the late afternoon sun, the party from Edoras halted under a copse of trees near the road. Some walked their mounts to the small nearby stream, while others dismounted to walk about a bit and stretch. With a nod to Gamling, Éomer rode slightly ahead and away from the others. Reining in his mount, he dismounted, leading Firefoot to the edge of the small stream and released the lead to let him drink. Reaching down, he plucked a small yellow blossom from the grass near the stream.

Standing in the shade, he stared down at the crystal water cascading over the small stones, absentmindedly twisting the small flower in his hand. He tossed the blossom into the stream, watching as it tumbled over rocks, wondering if it would go all the way to the sea. He sighed. The sea. Dol Amroth. He would much prefer to be headed there instead of back to Minas Tirith.

“Perhaps you will find her when you arrive,” his sister’s soft voice startled him. He jumped slightly, turning to look at her.

“Who?”

Éowyn rolled her eyes. “Who? Whom do you think I mean?” She nodded toward his hand, which had gone to his pocket and withdrawn the small handkerchief without conscious thought.

He looked down at it and back up at her. “I do not know, Éowyn,” he said with a sigh.

“Did you not say that you suspected she was of an educated family, someone of nobility?”

‘Well, yes, I did, but-“

“There will be nobles and royals from all over Gondor at this wedding. And if by some chance she is not there, I would be willing to bet someone there will know who and where she is.” She came close beside him, slipping her small hand around his arm.

“Even if she is there, I will not be,” he commented. “She may leave the city ere I ever arrive, if she comes at all.” Éomer thumbed the flowers on the edge of the cloth again before hastily folding it up and slipping it back into his pocket.

He turned back to his sister. “When we return, we will bear Théoden home for burial,” he told her. “It is not a duty I look forward to.”

“You are the king, Éomer. There are going to be many things you do not wish to do that you will be required to do nonetheless.”

“I appreciate the reminder,” he responded sarcastically.

“Come on, big brother.” She released his arm and reached for the reins of his horse, handing them to him. “You will not find her by standing here staring into a stream.”

He smiled, taking the reins from her. “I would not be so sure,” he quipped. “It was beside a stream she found me the first time.”

Éowyn grinned as she mounted her horse. “Perhaps if I draw my sword on you she may come to your rescue.”

“I shall keep your offer in mind should I become desperate,” he droned, leaping astride his own horse and trotting in the other direction. With a chuckle, his sister followed as they joined the others.

**********************
Lossarnach
Along the River Anduín
Gondor
7 Cerveth, 3019 T.A.
*************************

Anhuíl opened her eyes. Breathing heavily, she realized she was clenching the blanket at her sides. A voice had awakened her.

Her own voice.

Calling his name.

She had never had a dream so vivid.

Sitting up, she drew the quilt up, wiping her face with the edge of it. Nightmares she had dealt with before…but this dream…she wasn’t sure what to think. All she knew was that it ended too soon, long before she wanted it to.

Cam sat up as well, staring at her in the dim light of the tent. “Are you all right?”

“I...I do not know...” the princess stammered, rubbing her eyes. “Did I wake you?” She pressed her fingertips to her temples.

“Ani,” the blonde whispered, “you were calling his name, and not quietly! What were you dreaming?” she asked, her eyes wide.

“Ani?” Her brother’s voice came from outside her tent. “Are you all right? We heard you call out.”

“I am fine, Amrothos. It was just a dream. Go back to bed.”

Her brother paused outside the tent for a moment. “All right. Call me if you need to.”

“I will. Goodnight.” She breathed a sigh of relief as he walked back to the men’s tents, and looked at the blonde. Anhuil shook her head slowly. “Cam...I...”

“Did you…I mean…when you were with him, did you and he…”

“Oh, no, Cam. No. He kissed me, but…no…” She smiled shyly. “He said he wanted to wait.”

Cam looked at her, grinning. “He wanted to wait?”

The princess nodded.

“For what?”

Anhuil stared at her, shocked. “Camwethrin, for the love of the Valar! He was being a gentleman.”

Raising her hands in surrender, the blonde laughed. “All right, all right. I understand!” She looked knowingly at her friend. “You were dreaming of…him?”

“To be honest, I do not remember exactly what I was dreaming, but it was...well, I am certainly no expert in the matter, Camwethrin.” Anhuíl answered dryly, flopping down on her cot.

Cam laid back and rolled over. “From the sound of your dream, he certainly is,” she shot back over her shoulder as the princess stared at her, wide-eyed.

********

Mardil Fenwick lay on his back, in his own tent, staring up at the ceiling of his tent. A bad dream, her brother had said. Nightmares would be understandable considering what they all had been through over the last months, but the sounds he had heard did not sound like a nightmare to him.

She had called out a name.

Narrowing his eyes, he glared at nothing in particular. The princess had been less than open with him about her travels and now he wanted to know whose name it was she called out in her sleep. Who was it that could make her cry out like that, even in a dream?

He rolled over on to his side, punching the bedroll that he used as a pillow with a fist. No man would take what was rightfully his. He would find out who, and he would deal with it.

****************
The Fortress of Aldburg
The East Fold
Rohan
8 Cerveth, 3019 T.A.
*************************

Éomer stood on the steps of the main hall of the fortress, a cup of hot tea in hand, looking out across the courtyard. Cottages surrounded the main yard, where women and children bustled about. A few dogs trotted here and there at the heels of their masters, chasing the occasional chicken across the greensward. On one stone porch, a grey and white cat slept, stretched in the morning sun. Men of the Eastfold éored moved about the stable, some preparing to go on patrol, others returning, exchanging news from the outlying lands.

Aldburg, the first fortress of Rohan, where kings had dwelt ere King Brego had built the Golden Hall of Meduseld. Thus had been the home of his father, Éomund, former Marshal of the Eastfold. His childhood home. His adult home, from the time he had taken the office of Third Marshal until assuming the throne of Rohan. He shook his head. This should still be his home, he thought.

He watched as a small boy ran across the courtyard, wooden sword in hand, blonde curls bouncing on his shoulders. His father, who was busily buckling the billet straps of his saddle, turned, and with a wide grin, lifted the lad on to the back of his steed. The boy beamed as his father then placed his helm upon his head, and led the animal back to the cottage the child had run from. A tall, willowy blonde woman appeared in the doorway, carrying an infant on her hip. The soldier plopped the boy on the ground, and leaned in to kiss his wife.

Éomer sighed deeply as he turned to go inside. The hall was now the residence of Elfhelm, who had taken up the office of Third Marshal. Éowyn sat at the wooden table near the fire, sipping a cup of tea. She was chatting with Elfhelm’s wife, who was bouncing a fussing toddler on her knee while she ate her breakfast with her other hand. The bushy bearded marshal plucked the child from his wife’s lap and swung him around, eliciting giggles. His wife smiled her appreciation and turned to finish her meal.

The king observed the little family, his gaze traveling from Elfhelm and his child, to his wife chatting animatedly with Éowyn, finally coming to rest on the warm fire crackling in the hearth. How many times had he laid on the floor in front of this same fire, playing Stratagem with his own father, or shooting marbles with Éothain, playing with carved wooden horses with his sister?

As an adult, when he had returned from campaigns, the hearth had always been cold. He had thought, for a while, what it would have been like to come home for once to a warm welcome, to his own wife. To Ani. Before the war changed everything. Now he didn’t know if he would even be able to find her again. He sighed again, staring down into his cup.

Éowyn watched her brother over the top of her cup. His wistful admiration of the marshal’s family did not go unnoticed by her. Her heart tightened at the thought of leaving him alone when she married. Éomer had much to offer the right woman, she thought, if he could only find her.

A knock on the door interrupted the quiet. Stepping inside, a young soldier bowed to Éomer, then addressed Éowyn politely. “My Lady, your mount is prepared. We are ready to ride at your leisure.”

“Thank you,” she responded, as he bowed and exited. She turned to her brother, who still stood near the fire. “I suppose we should be on our way,” she said, smiling weakly.

Placing his cup on the mantle, Éomer reached for her cloak and set it about her shoulders, and gestured toward the door. He turned to Elfhelm. “I will see them off. We will plan on meeting with the village elders midmorning if that suits.”

Elfhelm nodded. “I will send word.”

The king turned and escorted his sister out to her waiting mount.

***********
Field of Pelennor
Gondor
8 Cerveth, 3019 T.A.
*************************

As the White Tower of Ecthelion came into view, Anhuil reined in her horse, staring ahead at the huge city in the distance. Elenion, who was trotting alongside Olórin, also halted, panting in the summer heat. Cam rode alongside, her golden Palomino keeping pace easily with the Rohirrim steed. “Come on,” she urged, “It will be fine.”

The princess shook her head. “I do not know, Cam…”

“Stop worrying about what if. We will deal with whatever comes. Perhaps he will be there.”

“Who will be there?” Amrothos chimed in, riding up behind them.

Instead of answering, Anhuil glanced at Cam, eyebrow raised. Cam grinned, and at the same time they spurred their mounts into a full run toward the city, leaving him in the dust. Amrothos shook his head as he watched the girls in the distance. “You could have just said it was none of my business,” he commented to himself.

Anhuil had always loved Minas Tirith with its bustling streets. There was always so much to see. Her cousins Faramir and Boromir had grown up here, and they had played many games of hide and seek among the garden paths of the Citadel. She looked forward to seeing it again.

************
Fortress of Aldburg
Rohan
8 Cerveth, 3019 T.A.
*************************

Walking alongside Éowyn, he led her to her already saddled horse, standing among several of his men and a few ladies of the court who were traveling with them. “I will be along as quickly as I can,” he told her as she mounted Windfóla, the same horse that had carried her into battle at Pelennor.

Éowyn smiled. “I will pass along your regrets to the king. And I will be on the lookout for women from Dol Amroth,” she responded with a mischievous chuckle.

Éomer grinned at his sister. “Determined to see me married off, are you not?”

“Of course. Rohan needs an heir to the throne. I plan to do my part to ensure they have one,” she quipped, jerking the reins in the direction of the gate.

The king watched her go with a shake of his head, then headed back up the steps for yet another meeting with an aggrieved village council.

**********
Minas Tirith
12 Cerveth 3019 T.A.
************************

Anhuil had always loved visiting the magnificent library of Minas Tirith. She spent hours poring over various texts, maps, any information she could gather. Studying the history of the elves, the Kings of Gondor, the ancient stories of the creation of Middle Earth…even the legend of the One Ring.

One particularly beautiful day, Anhuil decided to read in the gardens instead. Selecting a few texts, she strolled down the stone paved path. A large tree off the path provided the perfect place to lean back and read. Elenion lay beside her, his huge head resting on his forepaws. It had taken some amount of coaxing to get him inside the walls of the city, but he had relented and followed her dutifully. Her fingers absently stroked his ear as she read.

She had not been there long when she heard voices coming down the walkway. Raising her eyes from the book, she saw her cousin Faramir walking on the path, the beautiful White Lady of Rohan on his arm, chuckling at something amusing her fiancé had said. The princess smiled and buried her nose back into the book.

“Lothíriel!” Her cousin called out to her. “Can you not find anything better to do in this fair city than read?”

“There is a lot to be said for educating oneself, cousin,” she retorted teasingly. Éowyn laughed. The couple approached where she sat.

“Your brothers say you have done nothing but hide in that library since you arrived.”

“There is a lot to read there, Faramir.” The princess closed the book she was reading and looked up at him. “You used to enjoy spending time there as well, if I recall. And that is not entirely true. Cam and I have spent several mornings on the training field.”

Faramir glanced down at the wolf, who had raised his head and was staring at him, tongue lolling out. “Did you have to bring that beast with you? Wolves do not belong in the city.”

“Hush before you insult him. He is not a beast, Faramir. Many royals keep hounds, did you not know that?” she mocked him.

“Hound? You call that fire-breathing behemoth a hound?” The Prince of Ithilien laughed out loud, rolling his eyes skyward. “Look at him, Lothíriel. He could eat small children in a single bite.”

“He has far better manners than you, dear cousin, and is far more obedient, yet they allow you in the courts,” she quipped, much to Éowyn’s amusement. “I suggest you greet him properly before you offend him. He is a member of the prince’s household, after all.”

Resigned to defeat in this exchange, Faramir patted the wolf on the head in greeting. He held out a hand to help her up, shaking his head slowly. “It is always an uphill battle with you, is it not?”

She took his extended hand, and he pulled her to her feet. “Éowyn, this sharp tongued creature is my cousin, Lothíriel of Dol Amroth. Lothíriel, this is my betrothed, Éowyn of Rohan.”

Anhuil recognized Éomer’s sister immediately from the Houses of Healing. She desperately wanted to ask about her brother, to find out if he had even survived, but held her tongue. She smiled warmly, taking her hand.

Éowyn returned the smile, a small flash of recognition crossing her face, then disappearing just as quickly. Of course it could not be the same girl. What would a princess be doing in the Houses of Healing? “Lovely to meet you, Lothíriel. Faramir has told me many amusing stories of your antics as children.”

“Oh, yes? Did he tell you about the time he and my brothers had a berry war near the east wall of the garden? They stood on either side of the wall, hurling berries at each other…the white stone was covered in purple and red spots. Finduilas and Denethor were livid!”

Éowyn laughed out loud, “No, he had not told me that one!”

Faramir held up his hands. “I was only trying to defend the fortress. Berries and slingshots were the only weapons we had then, save a few wooden swords.”

“It took years for those spots to fade,” Anhuil laughed.

“It sounds as if you had a wonderful time together,” Éowyn smiled up at Faramir. The princess grinned at him, taking his fiancé by the hand, pulling her close, looking back over her shoulder at him.

“How about the time he and Erchirion stole wine from the cellar and—“

Faramir clamped his hand over her mouth from behind. “That is quite enough,” Faramir joked, “I think my future wife has heard enough of my escapades as a child.” He kissed her on the cheek and released her. “You always were a tattle tale.”

“And you always were a prat.” She plopped back down on the grass, picking up her book. “Lovely to meet you, Éowyn. I am looking forward to your wedding, even if I do not understand what it is you see in this boor.” She grinned widely. “Although I suppose the one who felled the Witch King of Angmar can more than handle a mere Prince of Ithilien.”

“A pleasure to meet you as well,” Éowyn smiled down at her. “I will see to it that he behaves, I assure you. I will forbid him all use of slings.”

The princess giggled. “See that you do.” Faramir narrowed his eyes playfully at her, and she stuck her tongue out in return before turning back to her books.

Éowyn chuckled at the exchange. “She is delightful,” she told her fiancé as they strolled down the path.

Faramir raised an eyebrow. “Delightful? Ha! She wields that tongue of hers with the same skill with which most men wield a sword, with much the same result. Lothíriel eats suitors for lunch. Why do you think she is still unmarried?”

“She does not seem threatening to me,” Éowyn commented, looking back over her shoulder.

“She likes you,” Faramir responded. “You should see what she can do to those she does not favor. I hear she is betrothed now, though.” He shook his head slowly. “I pity the man if he is not long on patience.”

“You make it sound as if her high-spiritedness is an ill trait.” The White Lady stopped and looked at Faramir.

The Prince of Ithilien halted his steps and looked down at his betrothed. “I did not intend to sound negative. For all the trouble it may bring, I much prefer a lady with a little fire in her heart.” He leaned down and kissed her forehead. “I daresay you and my cousin have much in common.”

“Yes,” Éowyn said, turning to continue down the path. “It seems we do.”

***************************
Minas Tirith
Citadel Training Field
12 Cerveth 3019 T.A.
*****************

Cam sighed as she stared at the empty training field. She had hoped someone would be here to work out with, but everyone appeared to be busy with preparations for the king’s wedding.

"I thought I might find you here."

She startled at the familiar voice behind her. "Amrothos! Sneaking up on me like that could get you hurt," she chided, lowering the dagger she had drawn reflexively.

He laughed, "I did not think you would last long at the library with Ani." At her look of mock indignation he added, " I have no idea how you can sneak around as well as you do, for one who cannot sit still."

"There is a marked difference between patience and boredom," she clarified, trying her best to appear offended, as she replaced the dagger in its small sheath at her waist.

"I may be able to remedy your boredom.” He tossed her sword to her with a flourish.

Deftly catching the scabbard, she drew her sword, smiling at the ringing sound of steel clearing the sheath. "Think you can take me?" she challenged.

”Of that I have every intention." Amrothos grinned as he drew his own blade. Tossing the scabbard aside, Cam’s smile was more challenge than pleasure.

They circled each other slowly. Cam looked Amrothos up and down, gauging strengths and weaknesses. Long muscled legs, narrow hips, broad shoulders, powerful hands, incredibly built… Sidestepping quickly, she tapped his incoming thrust away with the tip of her blade. "Not much behind that, Amrothos."

"I am merely warming up, Camwethrin." If you only knew how warmed up I am getting, he thought to himself. The circling continued. Delicately built, her strength well hidden. His gaze traveled from her long, lean legs to her narrow waist, up to her the curve of her… Shaking his head, he mirrored her sidestep, he knocked the incoming blade aside. "I know it has been some time, Cam, but have you completely stopped practicing?"

She smiled at his dig. "Of course not. I want to enjoy this… make it last awhile."

Their eyes locked. At the unspoken signal, swords clashed in a flurry of blows. Sunlight glinted off steel, powerful thrusts met by graceful counters. Sweeping strokes turned aside. Stepping in and away with precision. The dance of combat, neither giving quarter. They simultaneously backed off.

Cam stepped back, pushing loose strands of moon silk hair off of her face. "Nice warm-up." She watched him wipe the sweat off of his brow. "That was a warm-up, right?"

"I am feeling fairly warm now, thank you."

"Think you can handle another go?" she taunted.

Amrothos raised his blade, "I am up if you are."

"I would not want to wear you out." Cam smiled sweetly.

"I would truly like to see you try." Amrothos countered.

She arched her eyebrow regally, "Is that a challenge, my lord?"

"I believe it is, my lady." With a roguish grin he took her hand, and gently kissed her fingertips.

Cam laughed and stepped back. "Very well, then. Commence at your leisure."

"As you wish." He lunged toward her, forcing her to take several steps backward.

"That is much better," she said as she blocked his blade. "I was beginning to wonder if you had lost your edge."

"Never," he scoffed. "Actually, I have learned a thing or two I would love to show you."

Still moving backwards, she had to admit his technique had improved. But something felt off. A certain intensity was missing. At his failed attempt to disarm her, she figured it out. "I believe you are toying with me, Amrothos."

He appeared hurt by her declaration and pressed his attack. "I would never toy with you, Camwethrin."

She rolled her eyes. "Assuredly not." Deftly turning his blade, she took the advantage and put him on the defense. "I thought you said you had something to show me."

"All in good time, love."

Cam quickly regained the ground she had lost. Pressing harder, her attacks grew faster and more intense. Amrothos matched her pace, but started to become slightly concerned. At his look of discomfort she stepped in, hooking his blade with hers and sent it flying across the field.

With a beautiful smile, she held her sword to his chest. "It appears you are at my mercy."

He gracefully nodded his concession. "What do you intend to do with me now?"

"That is a good quest-" Before she knew what was happening, he kicked the sword out of her hand and closed in, her arm suddenly twisting behind her. "That was new," she admitted, her breath coming in short gasps.

"I told you I had learned a few things." The smugness in his voice was apparent. "Now the question becomes, what do I do with you?"

She froze, startled by the heat in his voice. He slipped his other hand around her waist and pulled her tight, her back pressed against his chest.

Amrothos closed his eyes, enjoying the feel of her in his arms, and the sweet scent of jasmine scented soap as bent to nuzzle her hair. "What to do indeed..." His voice washed over her, her heart pounding wildly. He turned her to face him, his strong hands holding her hips, drawing her in. The young prince held her gaze captive to his own. The thought crossed his mind that if he had to die right now, drowning in those liquid pools of deep blue would not be an unpleasant way to go.

Camwethrin’s heart leapt to her throat. His malachite stare felt as if it bored straight past her own and into her soul. Surely he would not...

"Amrothos! Cam!"

Cam turned quickly to see Erchirion running toward them. She didn't see Amrothos' furious glare at his older brother.

"What is it, Erchirion?" she asked, unsure whether to be relieved or disappointed at his arrival.

"Your father's ship has docked in Osgiliath. He will be arriving soon. I thought you would want to meet him." He glanced to Amrothos, who looked away in frustration.

"I do. Thank you." She turned back to Amrothos, a challenging gleam in her eyes. “Next time, you will not be so lucky.”

With a short laugh, the prince retorted, “It was not luck that just defeated you. It was pure skill.”

“I will keep that in mind.” She gave him a beautiful smile and turned away, jogging down the path to the Citadel.

Erchirion waited until Cam was out of earshot. "What just happened?" He looked at Amrothos expectantly.

"Nothing," Amrothos muttered, as he turned to pick up his sword and shoved it in the scabbard at his waist.

"Come on, little brother, I may have been born at night but it was not last night." Erchirion pressed, never one to give up easily.

“Perhaps something might have happened, had your timing been better.” Retrieving Cam’s blade and sheath, he threw his elder brother a wry smile.

*************
Merethrond
The Great Hall of the Citadel
Minas Tirith
15 Cerveth, 3019 T.A.
*****************************

“Good evening, gentlemen.”

Heads turned. Cam stood behind them, casually looking them over. They were accustomed to seeing their sister’s best friend in the same tunics and trousers their sister favored, and occasionally even in a modest dress. Tonight, she had chosen a velvet gown of deep red. The scooping neckline was trimmed in fine gold embroidery. Her blonde locks were swept up, a few curled tendrils delicately touching her shoulders. The brothers stared at her, speechless. “I said good evening, gentlemen.”

“I…uh…” Erchirion stammered.

“Good evening, Lady Valesa,” Elphir found his voice first. “You look lovely.”

“Thank you, Elphir,” she smiled sweetly.

Amrothos just stared at her.

Elphir noticed his youngest brother’s intense gaze. “Valesa, would you like to join me on the dance floor?”

Smiling sweetly, she held up her hand. “I would be delighted, Elphir, provided you remember my intense dislike of my given name.”

“Of course, Cam,” Elphir corrected himself. Placing his hand upon the small of her back, he led her to the dance floor.

“Can you believe that?” Amrothos was indignant.

“Oh, I believe it my friend. I am seeing it with—” Erchirion was staring at the back of Cam’s dress.

“Not the dress, neithadol!” Amrothos smacked him in the back of the head. “Him, asking her to dance!”

“And he is doing this just to annoy you, little brother.” Erchirion laughed. “Go cut in, if you dare!”

Anhuil sipped her wine, amused by her brothers’ banter. Glancing nervously around the hall, she looked for familiar faces. Her father was seated at a table, joking raucously with a group of men, including Mardil Fenwick. Turning quickly away before he caught her eye, she saw the Lady Éowyn and her cousin Faramir, speaking quietly to one another. Mithrandir stood in one corner, the halflings with him, engaged in a discussion.

Elves also graced the halls of Merethrond. The Silver Lord of Lothloríen, Celeborn, and his wife, the Lady Galadriel, stood among several of their kin, including the father of the new queen, Lord Elrond and his sons. Rangers from the North gathered near the kegs of ale, toasting their kinsman and the new King of Gondor.

Across the floor, the Princess saw the King and Queen of Gondor, their gazes locked on each other. Anhuil smiled at how happy they appeared.

She didn’t see him anywhere. Perhaps he had not come after all. She sighed, and glanced back at Amrothos. He was still staring at Cam.

“Amrothos, if you want to dance with her, ASK!”

“But she is dancing with Elphir, and—“

Anhuil cocked her head to one side. “Dear brother, you can stand here and make excuses all evening, and allow every other man here to dance with her, or you can go cut in yourself. It is your choice.”

Amrothos considered this for a moment, then strode purposefully across the floor, tapping his eldest brother on the shoulder. “Good man…” Anhuil muttered, sipping her wine again. Erchirion laughed as Elphir approached.

“You two put him up to that,” scolded Elphir. Erchirion and Anhuil beamed.

Her smile suddenly vanished. Fenwick strutted over to the group, leering at Anhuil as he drew near. She suddenly wished she had chosen a less flattering gown. He leaned to kiss her on the cheek. She turned her head.

“Hello, Lothíriel,” he crooned. “You look lovely this evening.”

The only response she gave was a slight nod, then turned back to her brothers.

Elphir patted Erchirion on the shoulder. “I see someone I wish to speak to,” he said, excusing himself. Erchirion turned to his sister and Fenwick. “Are the two of you not going to dance this evening?” he asked.

“Your sister claims she is not feeling well enough to dance,” Mardil answered abruptly.

Erchirion glanced at his sister who peered at him with narrowed eyes from above her cup as she sipped her wine. “I see,” he responded. “If you will excuse me, I see Lord Henvain’s daughter is free, and I should like to say hello.” With a curt bow, he disappeared.

Anhuil shook her head. “He is incorrigible,” she muttered to no one in particular. Ignoring Fenwick, she walked over to the table where her father sat.

Imrahil stood to kiss her cheek. “Lothíriel, where were you? I wanted to introduce you to someone. Ah, well, we have all night, do we not?” He turned to Fenwick. “Mardil! Why are you not dancing with your lovely bride to be?”

“She does not wish to dance, my lord,” Fenwick answered politely, with a sideways glance at the princess.

Her father raised an eyebrow. “I am sorry to hear that. Not feeling well, dear?” the prince asked her with a look of concern.

“I am fine Ada. You have a good time with the men. Do not worry about me.” She kissed his cheek and patted his shoulder. “I am going to find Cam.”

With Fenwick following her like a shadow, she left the table in search of her friend. “Lothíriel, why are you ignoring me?” he asked her.

“I am not ignoring you, Mardil,” she said, smiling sweetly at him.

“You have hardly said two words to me all evening. You are my fiancé, and it does not do for appearances to have you striding about leaving me in your shadow and refusing to dance with me.” He took the goblet from her hands and placed it on a nearby table. “Come with me,” he ordered, taking her hand.

“I told you, I do not wish to dance,” she muttered through clenched teeth.

“I did not ask you if you wished to, Lothíriel. I will not be made a fool of.” He led her to the dance floor and pulled her to him, smiling gallantly. “See?” he asked, twirling her around. “It is not so bad, is it?”

Ignoring him, she took the opportunity to scan the crowds. Éowyn was there, but Éomer was nowhere in sight. His sister stood nearby, talking with her betrothed and another guest.

“...but my brother regrets he was unable to attend. There were urgent issues requiring his attention in the Eastfold,” she overheard Éowyn telling a nobleman. “I expect him within a few days.”

Anhuil’s heart flipped in her chest. Torn between tears and shouting out, she schooled her expression to calm. He is alive. The words echoed in her mind. She swallowed the lump in her throat as Fenwick leaned closer to her.

“I will not have the gossip mongers starting rumors that my fiancé is anything less than adoring my presence. Smile, Lothíriel.”

With that, she tripped over the hemline of her gown, bringing her heel down on Mardil’s foot. He yelped in pain as the couples around them turned to stare. “I am sorry, Mardil,” she apologized, sounding as sincere as possible. “I am so clumsy sometimes...it is this dress, it is far too wieldy to dance in. I do apologize.” She bit her tongue as she held his arm, leading him from the dance floor.

“You did that on purpose, Lothíriel,” he muttered under his breath, limping along beside her.

“I did no such thing,” she quipped as he slipped into a chair, rubbing the aching appendage. He looked up at her, the raised eyebrow and slightest hint of a smirk telling him otherwise.

“If you think this kind of behavior is amusing, woman, let me just assure you-“

“Is everything all right, Ani?” Amrothos broke in, suddenly appearing behind Fenwick with Cam at his side.

“Everything is fine, Amrothos. I carelessly stepped on the foot of my betrothed when we were dancing, and I fear I have injured him.” Cam’s snicker was almost loud enough for Mardil to hear. She buried her face in Amrothos’ arm.

“I am sorry,” the princess continued, turning to Fenwick. “I am just far too exhausted to stay. Please enjoy the rest of your evening.” She turned to go.

“Lothíriel,” Fenwick started in a sharp tone, but graded it down as he caught the stare of her older brother. “Princess,” he tried again, this time in a softer tone, “Please do not go.”

“I am sorry, Mardil,” she responded. “I am suddenly not feeling well at all. Please, stay and enjoy. I must retire to my room.” She turned and walked briskly away, disappearing through the stone arched doorway.

Mardil stared after her, looking as if he could spit nails.

*********

The princess walked to the window of her chamber, looking out over the gardens. She could hear the laughter and music from downstairs ringing through the night, a few party guests strolling among the paths below.

She heard the blonde enter quietly. Cam crossed the chamber quietly and sat beside her on the window’s edge. Anhuil stood, her head bowed, her hands flat together, index fingers resting against her lips. Her eyes were closed. “I overheard his sister say he had issues to attend to, and had sent his regrets. She said she expected him within a few days.”

Sighing, Camwethrin looked up at her. “I am sorry, Ani.”

Raising her gaze to her friend’s she smiled down at her. “Sorry? Cam...he is alive! All this time my greatest fear has been that he did not survive.” Her smile widened, the tears in her eyes trailing down her cheeks. Facing the window, she looked out, over the gardens below toward the northern sky, the stars clear and bright on the midsummer’s eve. “He is alive,” she repeated softly.


Chapter 18 - Chapter Seventeen

Trust To Hope - Chapter Seventeen
Author: Novedhelion
Type: FP Het
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Pairing: Éomer/Lothíriel aka Anhuíl
Rating: PG13
Warnings: Slippery goblets.
Beta: Riyallyn
Disclaimer: Characters are not mine, no money to be made...interweaving book and movie...OK, ok. I know...on with it....



***********************
Chapter Seventeen

***********************
"Love won't be tampered with, love won't go away. Push it to one side and it creeps to the other."
Isak Dinesen
*****************


**************************
Minas Tirith
18 Cerveth, 3019 T.A.
**************************

The White Lady of Rohan entered the dining hall, glancing around the large room. Several guests were already there, eating breakfast. She approached the table where Éothain sat with several other men of the Rohirrim.

“Good morning, my lady,” Éothain said, rising from the table.

“Oh, please, Éothian.” Éowyn shoved him back down. “Sit. I am just looking for my brother.”

“He has gone to the stables already, my lady,” Haleth informed her.

“Thank you, gentlemen.” She strode out of the hall and headed for the stables.

The grass around the stone path was still damp from dew as she walked, holding up her skirts to keep them dry. The stable was huge. Opening the large wooden door, she stepped inside. Horses of all breeds, colors and sizes were lined up in the stalls. She walked quietly speaking softly to some of the animals as she passed.

One stall door was slightly ajar. Peering over the top, she saw her brother beside a beautiful black stallion, checking the horse over. His hand on the bridle, he stroked the horse’s sleek hide, then knelt to check its hooves. Éowyn knew the horse to be a Rohirrim mount, but did not know to whom it belonged.

“Does he belong to one of your men?” she asked, startling him.

Eomer rose suddenly, striking his head on the open gate of the stall. He let out his breath, rubbing his fingers against his scalp. “You continue to do that, dear sister, and my reign as king will be shortened severely.”

His sister laughed. “I am sorry. I did not mean to startle you.”

“In answer to your question, he belonged to Handarion,” Éomer told her, patting the horse’s neck. “This is Olórin.”

“How did he get here?” The king knelt beside the horse, running his hands down the animal’s foreleg.

“I gave him to Anhuíl when I sent her to Minas Tirith.” He turned to face his sister, a small smile crossing his lips. “I guess I have found her.”

“You have found her horse, anyway,” his sister quipped.

“If he is here, she must be. I asked the groom but all he knows is this horse came in with a party from Dol Amroth.” With an exasperated sigh, he stood and walked over to a wooden crate to sit, rubbing his beard thoughtfully.

“Wait until the feast. Surprise her,” she sat beside him on the crate, elbowing him gently. “Women like that.”

He raised his head. “What?”

“Surprises, brother. Have you learned nothing at all about us? Sweep her off her feet. Let her drink too much wine and dance with her all night.” She stood, pulling him to his feet. “You do remember how to dance?”

“Of course, how could I forget?” He proved his point by twirling her elegantly and catching her in his arms. “Hours of insipid lessons forced upon us by Théoden’s court…I would much rather have been out riding.”

“Yes, but tonight you will be glad you know how.” She grinned up at him.

“Once again, the younger sibling giving advice.” Her brother swept her around the barn floor with a few slow steps, the soles of their boots crunching the crisp hay that scattered about the stone floor.

Éowyn chuckled. “You will find your lovely lady tonight. I am sure of it.”

“There is none lovelier than my beautiful betrothed…and I will personally take on the cad who says so.” Lord Faramir’s voice echoed through the stable.

Éomer let his sister’s hand go, and she fell into Faramir’s waiting arms dramatically, chuckling as he dipped her. “Oh, but my big brother would beg to differ.”

Faramir flashed her a charming smile. “Is that so?” He stood her on her feet. “And who is the lucky maiden that has so captured the attention of the King of Rohan, my dear?”

“Éowyn…” Éomer began.

The White Lady grinned at her beloved. “I am sorry, love, but I am sworn to secrecy for now. But should she be there tomorrow night I am certain it will be clear to all in Minas Tirith to whom my brother’s heart belongs.”

Faramir laughed. “Very well, I suppose I shall wait and see.”

“Shall we go and eat? I passed on breakfast to come down here and tease my brother.” Éomer chuckled at her. “Now I am famished. You may have to carry me.” She pretended to faint, falling into his arms again. Faramir and the Lady of Rohan left the stable, arm in arm. Éomer smiled and shook his head. They did indeed make a lovely pair.

He turned his attention back to the horse, running his hands over its sleek hide. He had knelt beside the animal when he heard the sound of someone clearing their throat. Looking up, he saw a tall, dark haired man watching him intently. He stared questioningly at the man, who said nothing. Ignoring him, Éomer lifted the horse’s hoof, scrutinizing the shoe.

“May I inquire as to what you are doing?”

“Are you asking what I am doing or asking permission to ask what I am doing?” Éomer responded facetiously, not looking up, scrutinizing the shoe on the horse's right front hoof.

“I am asking, sir, what you are doing with that horse.”

“So now you no longer want my permission to ask, you are inquiring.”

“Are you going to answer?” Mardil huffed.

The king looked up again. The young man was looking at him expectantly, or rather, looking down on him. “I am checking—“

“It is not your horse,” he stated rudely.

Éomer held the gaze of the man leaning on the gate to the stall. “I am trying to help this animal. He is walking with a limp.” Frowning down at the horse’s hoof, he pulled out a small knife, and began scraping at the horse’s shoe.

“I will tell you again, sir, this is not your horse.”

“I am aware of that.” He continued probing the shoe, frowning.

“Sir, if there is some problem with the horse, the grooms should be able to handle it.”

“I do not think the owner of this animal would begrudge me removing a rock from his shoe.” With that, he popped the rock out of the shoe with the small knife and dropped the horse’s hoof back to the ground. Standing, he patted the horse’s neck and reached for the reins.

“What do you think you are doing?”

“I am going to have one of these boys take him to the farrier. Now, if you will please excuse me,” Éomer answered, trying to pass Fenwick.

“You cannot just come in here and take this horse,” Mardil stammered, moving in front of them. “It is not yours.”

Éomer cringed. “IT is a HE. And HE needs a new shoe.” He led the horse out of the stall, toward the barn door. “Now, unless you wish to take him and have him shod yourself, I would ask you to step aside.”

With a haughty look, Mardil relented, stepping back. Éomer led the horse to the doorway of the stable. He turned and looked back at Fenwick to say something, then thought better of it, deciding it was not worth the trouble. Shaking his head, he handed off the reins with instructions to a stable hand, and headed across the field.

Mardil approached the young man holding the reins. “Who was that, anyway?” he asked, his disdain apparent.

“Him?” the lad answered, pointing toward Éomer’s disappearing back. Mardil nodded. “Um...he is Éomer King, of Rohan, sir,” the boy responded haltingly. “He knows more about horses than anyone I have ever met. Just last night I was having a problem with that grey-“

“Thank you.” Cutting the boy off with a dismissive wave, Fenwick stared after Éomer. King, indeed. He flipped his dark hair back, stomping off to the Citadel.

**************
Training Field
Minas Tirith
18 Cerveth, 3019 T.A.
*************************

“You call it,” the princess stated calmly, bow dangling at her side.

“Twenty arrows at ten paces,” Cam answered decidedly. “You first.”

“Very well,” Anhuil acceded, stepping forward to the line drawn in the sand. Taking a deep breath, she nocked the first arrow and let it fly, the others following in rapid succession.

The sound of arrows whizzing through the early morning stillness ended with the last soft thwap! Cam shaded her cerulean gaze with a hand, peering at the target. Most of the arrows clustered near the center, only a few were outside the bullseye range. “Nice shooting,” she offered casually, casting a wry look sideways at her friend, “for a princess.”

Anhuil backed up, gesturing with a flourish for Cam to step forward. “After you lose this match,” the princess said with a chuckle, “I would like to get some breakfast and change, and maybe go into the city.”

“Who says I am going to lose?” An eyebrow arched above sparkling blue eyes.

“Ha! When have you ever beaten me? You win, and you decide how we spend this afternoon. I win, I decide.”

“Fair enough,” Camwethrin agreed.

“Get on with it, then.” The princess grinned, backing up to sit on the railing behind them.

The blonde did so. The target was replaced by one of the liveried servants. Standing tall, she drew the string of her longbow back and one after the other, fired all twenty of her arrows.

Both women walked to the other end of the training field, examining the targets. One of the field captains of the armory stood beside them, inspecting the results. “It is very close to call, my ladies,” he said nervously. “Perhaps a tie breaking match is in order?”

Exchanging glances, the girls shrugged, and moved back to their line. “You call it this time, princess,” the blonde said.

“Hmm...only ten arrows, make it twenty five paces, closest to a hundred points wins. You first, this time.”

The target was replaced quickly. Blowing out a deep breath, Cam let her arrows fly.

********
Strolling through the Citadel grounds, Éomer walked alongside Éothain and Gamling, headed for yet another meeting with King Elessar’s councils. Passing the training field, the laughter of the two women in the distance caught their attention.

“It seems women of the Mark are not the only ones interested in learning to wield a weapon,” Gamling observed.

“I am certain that much of what has transpired in the last months has caused many to pick up sword and bow that had not before,” Éothain agreed.

Pausing at the wall alongside the field, they watched the match that ensued. The women were at the far end of the field, one blonde and tall, the other short with braided dark hair. Their target was close to the end where the men stood, although still some distance away. Éomer watched with surprise as the field captain picked up the target and moved it further back, at least a hundred and fifty spans from the women.

“No woman can hit a target from that far,” Gamling muttered.

“I know one who probably could,” Éomer disagreed, watching with interest.

The blonde finished her round and stepped back. More than half the arrows she had fired were within the bulls eye range of the target, only one had gone wild and missed entirely.

The dark haired woman stepped up and drew her bow, and in rapid succession fired ten arrows, all neatly centered in the inner circles of the target.

“Bloody nice shooting,” Éothain muttered.

“Both of them,” Gamling agreed.

Éomer nodded, squinting in the sunlight, trying to get a better look at the women, but they were too far away for him to make out their faces. Both were wearing riding habits, leggings with long tunics over them, and boots. There was something familiar about the way the dark-haired one had stood to fire her bow.

Waving to the field captain, he called him over.

“Is there some way I may be of assistance, my lord?” he asked, bowing politely. The king glanced back to where the two women were gathering up their equipment.

“Those two women...”

“Ah, yes. Odd for women to be dallying at such things, but they are both actually quite good. You should see them at swordplay.” He chuckled, shaking his head.

“Who are they?” he asked idly, trying to sound somewhat disinterested.

Another glance showed the women had left the field. The captain inclined his head in the direction they had gone. “The blonde is the daughter of Admiral Merric of the Swan Fleet, and the dark-haired one is Princess Lothíriel, the daughter of Prince Imrahil.”

Imrahil has a daughter? Éomer’s heart sank slightly. Lothíriel, not Anhuil. “Thank you,” he said politely, stepping back from the wall to rejoin his men.

*******

Swinging their bows as they walked, the two women made their way back to the Citadel to change.

“I must say, Ani, that was very nicely done,” the blonde commented as they walked.

“It was a close match,” the princess agreed. “You nearly beat me that time.”

“Please, I was nowhere close. Your skill has improved.”

Anhuil chortled softly. “Those targets are easy to hit. Try hitting an Orc on the back of a Warg. You cannot say to them, ‘Please sit still, Master Orc, so I may nail you in the throat with my little arrows.’”

Camwethrin grinned. “I still cannot believe you actually took part in a battle.”

“Neither can I. If Ada knew, he would have my hide.”

“Your brothers would be proud,” Cam said.

“Oh, I am certain they would, considering my lack of judgment nearly got me killed!” she answered sarcastically. “No, thank you, I do to not wish to entertain the ribbing I would receive for that!”

They walked in silence a few moments before Cam spoke again. “Ani...you know the King of Rohan’s party arrived last evening.”

“I had heard,” she answered, her eyes straight ahead on the path.

“Are you not curious to know if he is among them?”

Anhuil stopped, turning to look at her friend. “Whether he is here or not is irrelevant.”

“How can you say that? You were so happy to find out he was alive!”

“Pleased to know he is alive, yes. But I doubt Ada would even consider the idea of me marrying a soldier, officer or no. I am already betrothed to Mardil. It is a binding contract, Cam. You do not break betrothals on a whim.”

“Perhaps if you spoke to your father, explained to him-“

“What? That his daughter, the Princess of Dol Amroth, wants to marry a soldier of the Rohirrim? Become nothing more than the wife of a soldier, one who tends home and hearth and prays for the safe return of her husband? Leave the courts of Gondor behind, and all that has prepared me for a life of political onus? I am to fulfill my duty to the courts of Dol Amroth, to my father, and to our people. For what other design have the Valar put me here?” She chuckled bitterly. “It is my responsibility. Marry for love? Banish the thought. That never was my destiny, Camwethrin. I will marry, bear children, and most likely die all for the good of Dol Amroth.”

The Admiral’s daughter sighed heavily. “I cannot believe I am hearing you speak this, Ani. What about Éomer? What if he does come looking for you? What if he does find you?”

The princess turned away, looking down at the stone walkway. “It does not matter if he does. I cannot even entertain the idea.”

“That is easy to say now, when he is not here,” her friend pointed out. “I doubt those words will come so easily to your lips when you are looking into those dark eyes you spoke of.”

“That is why I cannot risk him finding me, Cam. He will forget me, if he has not already. For all I know it was naught but coquetry to him. Believe me, he will have no trouble finding another to swoon over him.” She kicked a stone on the path with the toe of her boot. “Come on. I need to change. You owe me an afternoon of shopping,” she said, the unsteadiness in her voice belying the lightness of her words.

Camwethrin cast her a sideways glance, her heart aching for her friend’s predicament. “All right. Shopping it is. After we eat, of course. I am starving.”

“Of course,” the princess responded. “I would not want you taking a swoon in the streets of Minas Tirith.” She smiled a feeble smile as they continued toward their quarters at the Citadel.

*****************
Minas Tirith
18 Cerveth, 3019 T.A.
*******************

Éomer sat in the chair in the corner, pinching the bridge of his nose with his fingers. Éowyn flitted around the room, pulling out different articles of clothing, holding them up, discarding them. The bed was littered with choices she had already rejected. He had refused to try anything else on.

She was giving him such a headache he didn’t think he’d make it to dinner.

“Hmm…” she moved some things around on the bed, trying different combinations. “Something regal, something that befitting a king, but so much of this is just too frilly for you, Éomer. Who picked this wardrobe?”

Éomer shrugged. “I do not know.” He watched her hold up yet another tunic, shaking her head. “Éowyn, tell me again why I cannot just wear this?” He gestured to the plain white tunic he was wearing and the brown leggings. “It is clean, and I did take a bath.”

She frowned. “One thing you are going to have to understand is that kings do not dress like stable boys.” She dug into the trunk again, pulling out an elegant dark green tunic. “Ooh, now this has potential.” She held it up to him. It was a simple design, deep green with gold and burgundy embroidery, the ornate threads forming shapes of horses. “This is perfect. Regal, and masculine enough for you, dear brother.” She tossed it to him. “Now somewhere I saw a pair of black trousers…” Digging through the pile of discarded clothing, she pulled them out.

“Perfect.” She announced. “Put this on.” His sister handed him the clothing. Then she saw his boots.

“When is the last time you polished these?” she asked, eyeing the dusty leather with disdain.

He began counting on his fingers.

“Very funny. These are atrocious!”

“I have been at war, sister.”

“And you have had three months since to polish your boots! I can guarantee your sword was not so neglected.” She pulled it out, sharp and shining. “See?” She swung it around a time or two, then placed it back in the sheath.

“Swords rust if not cleaned. Boots do not. This is just…ridiculous.”

“No, it is not. You are the King of Rohan. You need to look like a king. Please humor me.” She put her hands on her hips, cocking her blonde head to one side. He sighed resignedly. “Good. You get dressed, and I will polish these boots.” She slipped into the adjoining sitting room. “Call me when you are done. I will braid your hair. And trim your beard.”

“Éowyn…” he began.

She turned and shot him a look that brooked no argument. “I will not sit at dinner tonight with my brother looking like one of the hill men of Dunland,” she quipped.

He raised his hands in surrender. “Alright. I will call you.” He closed the door that separated the two rooms. She sat down and began working on the boots.

A few minutes later, he opened the door, stepping out. Éowyn drew in her breath. The dark green tunic fit him perfectly, draping over his broad shoulders, tapering in at the waist. The black pants were a perfect compliment to the dark green. “That is perfect, Éomer. Oh, that is perfect. You make my knees weak, and I am your sister! Wait till she sees you. Come here, and sit. Your boots are as clean as they are going to be. Remind me to have some new ones made for you. Come here, let me braid your hair.”

“Is all of this really necessary?” he complained, but sat down anyway.

Éowyn took a comb and began combing through his still damp locks. “Yes, it is. You might as well get used to it, dear brother. You are king now. You will always have someone dressing you and braiding your hair and picking out your clothes…”

“I understand, but I just imagined it to be something my wife would do,” he responded.

“That would require you finding one, Lord Éomer,” his sister pointed out, “which means you will have to put up with me for tonight anyway. Now, hold still.” She braided the sides of his hair, pulling them back into one braid. Reaching for the razor, she used the sharp edge to trim his beard. She stepped back, admiring her handiwork.

He ran his hand across his chin. “Are you quite finished?” The king was becoming impatient. “Do you not need to get ready yourself? Is Faramir not looking for you? Should you not see if he needs your assistance?”

“If I did not know better I would swear you were trying to get rid of me.” Éowyn placed her hand over her heart, a pathetic look on her face. He laughed. She tossed him the boots, and he pulled them on.

“Let me see.” The king stood, turning to face her. “Éomer, she will faint when she sees you. So will every other woman there. Oh, wait.” She lifted his cloak from back of the chair, tossing it to him. He draped it casually around his shoulders.

Éowyn sighed. “She does not stand a chance.”

*******************
Merethond, the Great Hall of the Citadel
Minas Tirith
18Cerveth, 3019 T.A.
*******************

“...and in the end, somehow it was still my fault!” Gimli growled, picking up his mug and taking a long draught.

In the great hall of Merethond, Éomer sat at a large round table, chuckling into his wine at the dwarf’s tale. Éowyn and Faramir also joined them, her blue eyes merry with laughter at the amusing tales of the lively group. Watching the two together sent a wave of mixed emotions crashing over the king, his joy at his sister’s happiness only emphasizing his own loneliness. Leaning back in his chair, he caught a whiff of a familiar scent.

Whipping his head around, he scanned the crowd, his momentary hope dashed almost immediately when he did not spot her. She cannot be the only woman in Minas Tirith who wears that scent, you dolt, he thought to himself. He had not seen any sign of her since his arrival in Minas Tirith and had not yet had time to speak to Prince Imrahil. The aroma of lavender still clinging to the air around him, he inhaled deeply as he searched the room for the prince.

Imrahil stood across the hall with his sons and a few other guests, one of whom was a young woman, her back to him. Dark curls falling just to her shoulders, her petite stature, even the curve of her waist accentuated by the green brocade satin dress she wore somehow seemed familiar to him, but he could not see her face. Beside her stood a tall, dark haired man, his hand protectively at the small of her back.

Gods, man! You are going to get yourself in serious trouble leering at the wives of other men, king or no.

“If you do not believe me, ask my brother,” he heard his sister say, turning toward him. Faramir chuckled and cast the king a questioning gaze.

Éomer’s head spun round. “Do not drag me into it, dear sister. If I wanted to be involved in marital spats I would find a wife,” he quipped.

“I thought that was your intent,” she responded tartly. “And I am not married yet.” She shot Faramir a teasing look. “I may never be if my betrothed insists upon tormenting me this way.”

“I do nothing of the sort,” Faramir replied indignantly, leaning closer to Éowyn. “The mere thought of causing you grief pains me.”

Rolling her eyes, Éowyn laughed softly. Éomer shook his head.

“Good to see you, my friend,” Imrahil said with a smile, coming up behind the king.

Rising to his feet, Éomer grasped his hand. “And you, Lord Imrahil. All is well in the south?”

Imrahil shook his head. “If only I could say yes. We are still battling the remnants of the Umbarians. But we are not here to discuss our troubles, are we? If I may borrow your for a moment, there is someone I would like you to meet.”

The king glanced at his sister, who waved dismissively. “Go on,” she said, smiling. “I am in very good hands here.”

Playfully narrowing his eyes at Faramir, her brother pointed a finger at him. “Just you be certain those hands remain on the table,” he cautioned jokingly, “and we will have no cause for discord, Prince.”

Laughing, the Prince of Ithilien bowed his head. “As you wish, Your Majesty. I dare not behave unseemly toward the sister of a man who could off my head in a single stroke of his blade.”

“Best you remember that,” Eomer laughed, turning to Imrahil.

“Shall we?” Prince Imrahil asked.

Nodding his assent, Éomer followed the prince across the crowded hall, still carrying his goblet of wine. Imrahil’s grey eyes darted over the guests. The hall was huge, but filled almost to capacity with nobles and royalty from all over Gondor and Rohan. Spying one of his sons, the prince caught him by the arm. “Erchirion, where is your sister?”

The young man appeared to Éomer to be at least three sheets to the wind, if not closer to four. Grinning down at the pretty red head on his arm, he snickered. “I do not know, Ada. Last I saw she was talking to Cam and trying to ignore Fenwick.”

Imrahil rolled his eyes. “Where, Erchirion?”

“That way,” he said, gesturing with his cup in hand, before strolling off, the red head giggling at something he whispered.

“That boy is incorrigible,” Imrahil muttered, shaking his head. Making their way through the thick forest of guests, the prince continued talking. “Where is that girl?”

“I was not aware you had a daughter, Imrahil,” Éomer commented as they made their way through the masses. “I saw her this morning on the training field, although she left before I was fortunate enough to make her acquaintance.”

“Yes,” the prince answered with a sigh, scanning heads again. “Lothíriel...the light of my life most days,” he turned to smile broadly at Éomer, “and the bane of my existence on not a few. Where is that girl? Ah, there she is.”

How the prince spotted anyone in this throng, Éomer could not say, but he let Imrahil lead him across the room, still somewhat surprised at the way the guests stepped aside to let him through. He caught his reflection in a pane of window glass as they passed it. The image startled him. His hair neatly braided back, the deep green tunic embroidered with gold and burgundy, his velvet cloak thrown across his shoulders, he looked every inch a king.

Turning away from the window with a frown, he caught up with the prince just as he reached a small coterie of guests who where speaking among themselves. The petite woman he had noticed earlier was among them, her back still to him as he approached. The tall, dark haired man stood possessively by her side. Éomer’s brow furrowed as he recognized him as the man from the stables the previous morning.

Bloody hell, he scolded himself silently. You certainly know how to dig a deep hole. Insulting a member of Prince Imrahil’s party...

“Lothíriel, there you are! I have searched the room over for you,” Imrahil chided good-naturedly, his grey eyes sparkling. “There is someone I would like to introduce to you.” He took his daughter’s arm and turned her to face the king, her gaze level with his broad chest. It briefly crossed her mind as her eyes traveled up over the tunic elegantly embroidered with a gold and burgundy horse motif that he must be the King of Rohan.

Imrahil beamed. “My friend, Lord of the Mark, may I present my daughter, Princess Lothíriel of Dol Amroth.”

Anhuil ducked her head in a polite curtsy. “An honor to meet you, Your Maj--“ her breath caught mid-sentence as she lifted her eyes to his. Dark brown eyes met deep green, both wide with recognition. Two silver chalices hit the intricately tiled floor in clattering unison.

************
"Three things can't be hidden: coughing, poverty, and love."
Yiddish proverb
***********


Chapter 19 - Chapter Eighteen

Trust To Hope - Chapter Eighteen
Author: Novedhelion
Type: FP Het
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Pairing: Éomer/Lothíriel aka Anhuil
Rating: PG13
Warnings: Much sap. Don’t say you weren’t warned.
Beta Extraordinaire: Riyallyn
Disclaimer: None of them are mine, but I’m having fun with them anyway. And I must say....GO PJ!


**********************
Chapter Eighteen
**********************
“It is remarkable how similar the pattern of love is to the pattern of insanity.”
Merovingian, Matrix Revolutions
**********************



******************
Merethond
The Great Hall of the Citadel
Minas Tirith
18 Cerveth, 3019 T.A.
**************************

The two goblets hit the floor with a metallic clang, their contents splattering all over the trousers of Mardil Fenwick.

“Lothíriel! Wha-?” Fenwick stared down at his leggings in disdain. He leaned down, brushing at the dark red stains spreading across the pale grey fabric. With a snort of disgust, he glowered at her. “Now I must go change, Lothíriel.” She did not respond, still staring in shock at the man beside her father. “Princess, did you hear me?” She waved a hand dismissively over her shoulder without moving her gaze. Mardil rolled his eyes. “Women...” he muttered as he stalked off.

Éomer’s lips curved into a slight smile. Good riddance.

Imrahil shook his head. “Lothíriel, you are not usually so careless. Are you all right?”

“I am fine, Ada,” she answered, casting a quick glance down at her dress, which was remarkably unsoiled. “You startled me. Do not fuss so.” She cast him a quick, nervous smile.

“Of course. I will get you another. One for you, friend?” he asked Éomer.

The king’s eyes still had not left the princess. “No, thank you...”

Imrahil took in their shared gaze, looking from one to the other curiously. Had they met before? “Yes, well…good. I will find a wine steward and return momentarily.” Neither responded. “I trust I can leave my daughter safely in your hands,” he said with a chuckle, trying to break the tension that seemed to have frozen them in place.

I cannot guarantee her safety of her virtue should you leave her in my hands, Eomer thought, but he grappled for an appropriate answer. “Of course,” he finally managed, smiling at the prince.

Imrahil stood a moment longer in uncomfortable silence, then excused himself and disappeared into the throng, leaving Anhuil alone with the king.

A servant quickly appeared, mopping the mess with rags from her apron pocket. Anhuil bent down, apologizing profusely to the girl, who would have none of it. “Please, Your Highness. Do not trouble yourself.”

The princess looked up to see with surprise that Éomer had knelt also, but was just as hurriedly shooed away by the maid, who had the mess cleaned up in seconds. Offering Anhuil his hand, Éomer stood, helping her to her feet.

He drew in his breath slowly. The gown she wore was deep green satin brocade, the same deep green as her eyes, trimmed in silver around the wide scooped neckline, the sleeves flaring elegantly at her delicate wrists. Silver braiding girded her hips, and from the braid the dress fell in a loose, full skirt. Her dark curls were longer than he remembered, pulled up on the sides with emerald combs, the rest falling just to her bare shoulders. A simple mithril chain bearing a green stone adorned her neck, the same silver band still on her thumb.

Anhuil stared, knowing she was staring, but unable to take her eyes off the man in front of her. Her gaze traveled from the polished black boots, the black leggings, and up to the dark green tunic. Upon close inspection she could see it was elegantly embroidered with a small, intricate design of horses’ heads with long, flowing manes in gold and dark burgundy. The tunic was long, almost to his knees, tapering at the waist and belted, emphasizing his broad shoulders. Long blonde waves fell loosely past his shoulders, his beard neatly trimmed. She almost would not have recognized him but for the deep, dark eyes that held hers with such force she found it difficult to breathe.

His eyes never leaving hers, he brought her fingers to his mouth and kissed them gently, his lips lingering only slightly longer than proper. She shivered at the touch of his lips on her skin.

Take a deep breath. Be charming, he thought to himself. Trouble was, he suddenly felt about as suave as a twelve year old.

“So it is Princess Lothíriel, is it?” he said smoothly, still holding her hand, emphasizing her title. “My little warrior, a beautiful princess in disguise,” he teased.

Squaring her shoulders, her chin raised, she leveled her gaze at him with a slight nod. “You clean up rather nicely yourself, Your Majesty,” she retorted softly, her tone mocking.

“Odd that I do not recollect you mentioning that your home in Belfalas was a palace,” he commented idly.

Anhuil withdrew her hand from his. One elegantly arched eyebrow rose slightly, the corners of her mouth turning up just a touch. “Nor do I recall heir to the throne of Rohan as one of the titles you shared with me, Éomer, son of Éomund, Third Marshal of the Riddermark.” Anhuil cocked her head, regarding him expectantly.

Éomer simply stared at her. “A princess…” Shaking his head slowly, he smiled, reaching out a hand to touch her cheek. He paused, his hand not quite touching her face. “I cannot believe it. I am afraid to touch you for fear this will not be real.”

“I am not so certain myself,” she answered quietly. "The Third Marshal, a prince..."

“I would not have thought it possible for you to be more beautiful than I remembered,” he said softly, “but here you are.” His fingers lightly stroked her cheek.

She jumped at his touch. Backing up, she looked around nervously, her heart racing. “This is hardly the place for…the other guests…“

“Ah, yes. Your obsession with propriety rears its ugly head. I do not suppose there is anywhere we could speak in private, is there?”

“You think less suspicion would be raised were we to suddenly disappear together?” she asked incredulously.

The music in the background changed to a slower tune. The king glanced about, then turned his gaze back to hers. “Dance with me, Princess,” he said, more of a command than a request.

“That is hardly the way to ask a lady to dance, Your Majesty,” she retorted teasingly, her eyes raking over him. “I am not one of your-“

“Men to be ordered about,” he finished the sentence for her. “Yes, I believe I remember that conversation as well. Forgive me.” He bowed deeply. “Princess Lothíriel, would you do me the honor of a dance?” Softly, so only she could hear, he added, “I want you in my arms and if that is the only way, then so be it.”

Anhuil struggled for breath, his words rekindling in her a spark she had desperately fought to put out, one she foolishly thought she had extinguished. Cam had been right. The words she had spoken before about duty were nowhere to be found, now that she was in his presence again. Resolve melting, she allowed him to lead her to the dance floor and take her in his arms.

Éomer closed his eyes, relishing the feeling of her small hand in his, her other hand resting lightly on his shoulder. Her gentle touch burned his shoulder through his tunic. The silk of her dress was smooth and warm beneath his hand at her waist. The familiar smell of lavender permeated the air around him. Leaning in closer to her, he inhaled deeply. “I cannot begin to tell you how I have missed that scent,” he whispered.

“Ssh!” she chided.

He leaned back, smiling down at her, secretly amused at the blush coloring her cheeks. “Princess Lothíriel...” he mused out loud. “What a lovely name.”

“It is a frilly, girlish name,” she responded with apparent disdain.

“It is a beautiful name. Does it have meaning?”

She glanced down, shaking her head. “It is silly, really...”

The king insisted. “Tell me.”

With a heavy sigh, she relented. “It means “flower-garlanded maiden,” she admitted, the blush in her cheeks deepening.

“I think it is lovely. And most befitting a princess.”

“My parents were a little giddy, finally having a girl after three sons. I believe they went a bit overboard.” She smiled shyly, looking away. “Éomer, I am sorry...”

“Shh. Not now. I just want to hold you. We will talk later,” he winked at her, “among other things.”

“But Éomer, I-“

“Peace, Princess. If I need find other ways to busy that mouth, I can.” Anhuil’s eyes widened, her mouth closing but curved slightly. She had no doubt he would make good on his threat. He grinned at her.

*Valar, please not that grin.* Anhuil swallowed the lump that threatened to choke her and nodded. Éomer pulled her slightly closer, still maintaining a proper distance between them. “You dance well, for a mere soldier,” she teased, trying to lighten the mood.

“This surprises you?” he asked.

The princess smiled coyly. Having seen him ride, particularly in battle, she could honestly say it did not. He moved with an air of masculine grace, a seemingly unconscious awareness of space around him and what moved in it. Even in his walk there was an inherent ease, as if he knew where every step would fall before lifting his foot from the ground. Her pulse quickened slightly as he spread the fingers of his hand on her waist, the sensation sending shivers down her spine.

“There is not much about you that could surprise me anymore, Your Majesty,” she added teasingly, returning the mocking emphasis on his title. "I suppose you learned to dance growing up in the courts?"

"I should be grateful that it was forced upon me,” he said. "But it was torture for a boy who would rather have been with his horse." He chuckled. “Of course, the benefit being I can hold you in my arms, even if I would rather sweep you off your feet entirely...”

“Cease, Éomer, I beg you,” she pled, stifling a smile and glancing around the crowded dance floor. The color in her cheeks was not from the warmth of the air. “Someone will hear you.”

“I have waited long months to hold you and if everyone in this room knows it I will care not.”

“Éomer, we need to -“

“I can think of many pleasant ways to end that sentence,” he cut her off, smiling wickedly, leaning closer to so that his breath tickled her cheek. The hand on her waist slid around to her back, the warmth of it searing through the slick silk of her gown. "We are going to have to find a way to escape,' he whispered. "I am going to die if I do not kiss you soon."

“Your Majesty, this is not proper,” she reprimanded him, pushing back slightly with her hand on her chest. She tried to ignore the feel of the unyielding muscle under her fingers. “We are supposed to be strangers. Your hands-”

Éomer drew her closer, his hand tightening around hers, lowering his deep voice. “Strangers? Where was your sense of propriety when we were sharing a tent on the plains of the Eastfold?” he asked softly. “Are you forgetting that I changed your clothing? My hands have touched your bare skin, Princess. I think that makes me no longer a stranger. What are your thoughts?” he remarked.

“I...I do not...” she stammered, her widened eyes falling from his to his full lips, remembering the feeling of them against hers, his hands tangled in her hair... The thought of him changing her tunic...of him seeing her unclothed, if only for a moment in treating her wound...his warm hands on her skin as he checked the bandage the next morning... She shivered slightly, pulling away from him.

*Stop it! The man says a few sweet words and you melt like syrup in hot water. Get a hold of yourself, Princess.* “Excuse me, my lord,” she finally spit out, turning on her heel and vanishing into the crowd.

Momentarily shocked, Éomer gathered himself to go after her but was stopped by a hand on his arm. “Disappeared again, did she? She is as restless as the sea. Well, no sense in this wine going to waste. Here, my friend. Drink up!” Imrahil thrust the chalice he had brought for his daughter into the hand of the king.

Taking the goblet, Éomer offered a dull smile to the prince, nodding in thanks. “She is...a delightful young woman.” He stared in the direction she had gone.

“She is,” Imrahil agreed. “So like her mother it pains me sometimes.” Appearing lost in thought for a moment, he shook away the memory. “So, tomorrow we ride for Edoras? My company and I will be riding with you, of course.”

The king was still staring after the princess, nodding absently. “Yes, tomorrow,” he answered the prince. “This will not be a pleasant task.”

“Burying a man never is,” Imrahil agreed, “especially one whom you deemed a father.” He shook his head, taking a sip of his own wine. “Théoden was a good king, Éomer, but you will be also. Of that I have no doubt.”

The king tipped up his cup in an effort to wash down the lump in is throat. You might not think so had you any idea the thoughts I am having about your lovely daughter. “Thank you, Imrahil. From a man such as you that is a compliment indeed.”

The Prince of Dol Amroth studied the young king, who was still staring toward the doorway. Staring in the direction his daughter had gone. He had been a young man once, not so long ago that he did not know that look when he saw it. Lothiriel had always drawn her fair share of longing looks from young men, a fact the prince had long grown accustomed to. Watching Éomer, he began to think that perhaps he had been too hasty in arranging her marriage to Mardil Fenwick. He sighed. “Well, my young friend, go and have a good time. After all, this is an evening of rejoicing.” He raised his chalice. “Enjoy,” he added, striding off merrily.

Depositing the wine on a nearby table, Éomer dodged through the crowd. His eyes raked over the masses. A blur of green dashed out the arched stone doorway across the hall. In an attempt to follow, he maneuvered across the room toward the doorway.

Her heart pounding in her ears, the princess darted for the door. *Lord of the Mark.* The words replayed over and over in her head. *King of Rohan.* His own words echoed, making her shudder again at the thought of them. *I want you in my arms again. My hands have touched your bare skin.* The man’s voice alone could send her over the edge. She had to get away, and quickly. In the corridor, she turned a corner, and walked briskly to the balcony at the end of the hall.

Ducking outside, she leaned against the marble wall, sucking in deep breaths of the fresh night air. The stone was cool behind her back, and she was grateful for something solid to hold her up. Breathing heavily, she pressed her hand over her mouth, forcing herself to take deep breaths through her nose. Seeing him was enough; she did not want to think of what would happen if she allowed him to--

“There you are,” the deep voice rumbled softly. She jumped in surprise. “How clever of you. Now we can speak alone.” Standing straight, she dropped her hand and squared her shoulders. Éomer looked around the small balcony, seeing no one but her. “However, I am not sure how I should feel,” he said softly, taking a step closer to her. “You take on an entire regiment of Orcs without batting those pretty eyelashes of yours, but you run from me at the first opportunity.”

*Orcs are not nearly so dangerous.* She opened her mouth to speak, but no words would come.

“What is this? My little warrior at a loss for words? And I have no witnesses.” He shook his head in mock disappointment.

“I...I was not running from you. I only wanted a little air. It is a bit stuffy in there,” she answered stiffly, backing away from him slightly.

“It is,” he agreed, “a warm evening indeed.” The king stepped toward her as she backed further away.

“I should return to the feast. My father will be-“ Her back hit the corner of the stone wall. *You cannot do this. You cannot! You have a duty, a responsibility--*

“Your father is busy charming all of Gondor,” he told her softly, “and with a crowd that large it will take some time for him to notice you are missing. What are you afraid of?” He closed the distance between them, his hands finding her narrow waist.

Anhuil leaned against the cool stone for support, her eyes locked on to his. “I am afraid of nothing, Éomer, least of all you. I told you, I only wanted to get some air.” Her attempt to steady her voice was unsuccessful. His warm hands burned her flesh through the thin silk of her gown, sliding around to the small of her back and pulling her to him. *By the music of the Ainur, not that smile. Please, not that smile.*

“Air...” he repeated mockingly, nodding slowly, his mouth widening into a grin.

*Sweet Elbereth...*

“We truly must work on your priorities, Princess.” One hand lifted to trace the outline of her jaw. Her soft skin under his calloused fingertips sent a jolt through him that he felt to his toes. His other hand splayed across her back, pressing her against his body. Lifting her chin, he lowered his mouth to hers, capturing her lips softly.

Gods, he had relived the memory of her kiss a thousand times since they parted but the sweet reality of it nearly overwhelmed him. His hand slid into the dark curls behind her head as he changed the angle of the kiss, deepening his possession. All thought of the celebration nearby, of the existence of anyone or anything else ceased to matter as he lost himself completely in the feeling of her mouth under his, the taste of wine on her lips...the intoxicating scent of lavender...her soft form curved against him.

Her resolve crumbled and blew away like so much ash. She melted into him, allowing him to pin her between the cool stone and the solidity of him. She could no more have moved away than stop the rolling tide of the sea. Her mind reeled. *What are you doing? You must stop this!* But her rebellious fingers entangled in the golden waves at his neck, pulling him to her.

His hands moved across the smooth silk of the back of her dress, and she gasped slightly at the touch. Finally releasing her lips, she struggled to breathe as his mouth trailed down her throat, finding that sensitve spot where her neck curved into her shoulder.

“Sweet Elbereth, Éomer, we must stop,” she murmured breathlessly.

“I do not know if I can,” he answered against her lavender scented skin, his arms tightening around her. “Gods, woman...you are all I have thought about...I have dreamed of holding you, of having you in my arms again, of your lips under mine...”

Gasping for breath, she put her hands against his chest. “Éomer, please...stop...I am sorry...you must...stop...”

He pulled back, his dark eyes almost black in the moonlight. One hand lightly caressed her cheek with the back of strong fingers. “I have missed you so.”

She turned away, pulling from his embrace. Walking to the edge of the small balcony, she folded her hands, pressing her thumbs against her lips. “We cannot do this, Éomer.”

Confusion etched his features. “Cannot do what? What are you saying? I have thought of nothing but finding you for months.” Suddenly remembering the dark-haired man, he stepped back, the conversation they had regarding arranged marriage ringing in his ears. “You belong to another?” he asked quietly. “That man...he is your husband?”

“No! I am not married,” she quickly told him. “Not yet.”

*Not yet.*

The words hung in the air as the king struggled to comprehend them.

“Not yet? What are you saying, Ani?”

“He is...I am...betrothed.”

“You are betrothed?”

She nodded silently, turning away.

“For the love of Béma, woman! That is not a detail one should forget to mention!”

Spinning around to face him, she clenched her fists at her sides. “Éomer, I tried to tell you. I have been trying to tell you. I tried to tell you before you ever left me in the Eastfold! You would not listen!"

“Betrothed?” It was all he could manage. He stared at her, unblinking. The suspicion had crossed his mind after their conversation about marriage customs at the camp by the Entwash, but had put the thought aside quickly and purposefully. Now the full impact of her words came back to haunt him.

“I do not wish to marry him. I never did! This marriage was arranged by my father. I only agreed because it was what was asked of me, a duty to my people. Mardil Fenwick is an insufferable, arrogant prat!”

“So you were running away,” he commented. The princess nodded again.

The king drew in a long, deep breath, letting it out slowly. Leaning forward, he pinched the bridge of his nose. “You are not yet married. We can talk to your father. We can-“

“No! You do not understand! Our customs are different than in Rohan. Betrothals are binding. Agreements have been made. Contracts signed. It is no simple matter, Eomer.”

“What exactly did you intend-“

“I intended NOTHING! I asked you repeatedly to allow me to go on my way, and you insisted I remain with you. I did not start this. You kissed ME!”

“Why did you not just tell me the truth about who you were?”

“Would it have made a difference, knowing I was a princess?”

“You know it would have!”

“That is exactly why I did not tell you!” she shouted back. “If you had known who I was you would have packed me straight back home, if you had to tie me up to do it. And you would never, ever have kissed me.” He stared at her. “Admit it!”

Lowering his voice, he shook his head slowly. “No. I would not have.”

“That,” she pointed her finger in his chest, “is precisely why I did not tell you.”

“And of your betrothed? You failed to mention him because...?”

“Because I had no intention of going home to marry him. I had no intention of ever going home at all! Even before I met you. But you...” She fought back her tears. She turned away again, staring down across the city. “I wish I had never come back here.”

A surge of guilt washed over him. “You would have stayed in Rohan, with me, had I not made you go?”

Anhuil nodded slowly. “Were it my choice, I would have, if you would have had me.” She turned to face him.

“If I would have…how could you even question that? You would have given up your birthright? Do you hear what you are saying?”

The princess whirled around to face him. “And what benefit has that cursed title brought me? I am to marry an insufferable man who does not love me and cares only for power! I am fourth in line for the throne of Dol Amroth, and that is only if my brothers have no heirs! Yes, to relinquish my crown would have been a great loss, would it not? I would toss it into the sea if it meant being free of Mardil Fenwick!” Tears threatened to spill from the corners of her eyes. She quickly looked away.

“But your father, and your brothers…your duty...”

The princess sighed. “In the end, that is the reason I went home, to my family, my people…even to Fenwick, as much as I despise him.”

“Do you hate him that much?”

“I curse the day he set foot in Dol Amroth,” she answered bitterly.

“I truly wish you would learn to share your feelings with me,” he said sarcastically. The feeble attempt at humor tickled her, and she chuckled in spite of herself, wiping her tears with the back of her hand. His voice softened. “Have you told your father this?”

The princess shook her head. “It matters not. This is not a marriage for love, Éomer. It is a matter of duty. It was madness to think I could run away from it.”

“And what of how you feel regarding me?”

The blunt question took her off guard. Anhuil held her breath, then released it slowly. “My feelings are of no consequence. Whatever was cannot now be.” Her gaze fell to the stone floor as she turned away.

“How can you say that?”

“It was wrong, Éomer. I was wrong. I was wrong to lie to you and I was wrong to ever let this go so far.”

He walked to where she stood and leaned on the rail beside her. “Why, then?”

The princess held her hands flat together, index fingers against her lips. “All my life, I have been the Princess of Dol Amroth., not Lothíriel. The title has defined me. People bow to me, courtiers obey my every whim, men court me because of my position, my title, not for the woman I am.” She laid her hand upon her breast. turning to look at him. "Lothíriel has always come after the title 'Princess.'" She sighed, leaning the heels of her hands on the stone railing. “The night you cleaned the cuts on my face, I looked into your eyes, and I realized...you did not see a Princess of Gondor. You saw only a woman.”

“A woman who had taken complete possession of my heart before she ever spoke a word,” he said softly.

“No man has ever looked at me the way you did that night,” she answered, her voice a whisper.

Eomer stepped closer to her, watching her profile in the moonlight. “Do you realize that I was completely ruined the moment I laid eyes on you? You were lying in that tent, unconscious and bleeding…the moment I saw you I was captivated. I admit I was impressed that you took on not only those Orcs, but my own men so fearlessly. You intrigued me. I saw a woman who was as brave and strong as she was beautiful,” he told her.

Her voice was barely audible. “I wanted to be that woman.”

“Ani, you are that woman,” he insisted.

“No,” she said quietly. “I am not. What I would not give to be simply Anhuil of Belfalas, free to make her own choices and decide her own destiny, and not Lothíriel, Princess of Dol Amroth, whose every step in life must be a part of a calculated plan for the better of her people.”

“The name you gave me...”

“That I did not lie about. I told you I am called Anhuil. And I am. My mother called me that, and my brothers shortened it to Ani, and use it to this day.”

Drawing another deep breath, the king folded his arms, looking up at the stars.

“I am sorry, Éomer.” Her voice was so soft he barely heard her. “I never meant to mislead you. I never meant for this to happen. I never meant...” her voice trailed off as she looked away. “Please do not hate me for lying to you.”

“Hate you?” Éomer stared at her, shocked. “Is that what you think?” She stared out into the darkness. Reaching out, he turned her face back to his, his fingers lightly on her chin. “After the battle, when I found you here...” he paused, taking a deep breath. “When I found you in the Houses of Healing...I felt as if my heart had been unburdened of a weight I did not even realize it carried. I was beyond relieved to find my sister had lived...but to find you also were safe...” He looked away momentarily, then back at her. “After all that I had lost, it was more than I could have hoped for. I wanted to take you in my arms and never let go. Hate you? I could never hate you, Ani. I-”

“Please...” Anhuil interrupted, placing her delicate fingers on his lips, blinking back tears. “Please do not say it. I do not think I could bear it.” She turned, moving quickly across the balcony for the doorway.

“Ani, wait!” he called after her.

Whirling around to face him, she took a deep breath and leveled him a surprisingly serene look, although the unshed tears still glittered in her eyes. “Éomer, please. There need be no lengthy discussion concerning what happened upon the plains of Rohan. We were two souls, both searching for something, and happened to find one another for a time. You owe me nothing. Neither of us had any inkling of how this war would change our lives.”

“No, we did not, but that changes nothing about my feelings for you, princess or no. I made you a promise. If you know nothing else of me, know this, Princess; I keep my promises.” His dark eyes held hers, her body tensing as she remembered his promise to her their last night in Rohan.

Garnering what strength she could muster, she squared her shoulders. “Spare me, I beg you,” she pled. “This will benefit neither of us. You were the heir to the throne of Rohan, dallying with a girl from Belfalas, and I, the Princess of Dol Amroth, betrothed unwillingly to another, falling like a silly girl for the handsome marshal of the Rohirrim. No matter what my foolish woman’s heart may have wanted, it could not be, Éomer. It was folly to think it could ever have been.” She turned again to walk away.

Catching her arm, the king spun her to face him. “But you are no farmer’s daughter, and I am not simply a soldier.” Her breath caught at the intensity in his gaze. “And this is not pretense, Ani.” He pulled her to him, capturing her mouth with his in a kiss that left her breathless when he finally released her. She leaned against his chest, tears soaking through the fabric of his tunic.

“Why did you not come back?” The pain in her voice knotted his stomach. “Why did you not come back to Minas Tirith, to the Houses of Healing, before you rode out again?”

He pulled her tighter against him, as if afraid that if he let go she would disappear again. “I knew what I was going to face at the Black Gates would be far worse than anything Isengard could conjure. I could not bear to say goodbye to you again, knowing for certain it would be for the last time.” Drawing in a deep breath, he plunged forward, his voice soft, his chin resting on top of her head. “Gods, woman, do you not realize I fell so hard and so deeply in love with you that I am still reeling from it? I would have told you I loved you and taken you to wife then and there in the fields of the East Emnet, but to what end? To leave you a grieving widow ere a year was out? That was my fate, I was certain. To this day I know not how or why I cheated death.”

She leaned back and stared at him, green eyes wide. “Is that why you did not come? You wished to spare me the pain of your death? You think somehow my pain would have been lessened simply because you did not have to bear witness to my tears at your departure? Do you think for one moment I would have rather held nothing but a woolen cloak and the memory of a few stolen kisses, ever wondering if you had loved me as I loved you?” The tears she had held back spilled and fell, trailing down her cheeks. “I would rather have known the certainty of your love, even if only for a day, than to live the rest of my life in doubt.”

The weight of what had just been said hung in the air between them, suspended between them by their shared gaze. Hesitantly, the king lifted a hand and wiped a tear from her cheek, his sable eyes never leaving her deep green ones. Her hand captured his, clasping it to her face.

“There is nothing more certain in all of Middle Earth,” he whispered.

“But it cannot be, Éomer.” Anhuil’s voice was barely audible.

“I swear to you, Princess,” he said softly but with an edge of steeled determination that sent a chill down her spine, “I will find a way.” His gaze softened. “Smile for me.” She could not help but obey. Leaning down, he took her face in his hands and kissed her lightly, his thumbs gently wiping the tears from her cheeks. “Tonight,” he told her softly, dark eyes sparkling mischievously, “we are going to go dance, drink wine, and not worry about what tomorrow will bring. I promise, it will be all right. One way or another, it will be all right.” Taking her hand, he placed it decorously on his arm. With squared shoulders, he escorted her back to the hall.


Chapter 20 - Chapter Nineteen

Trust To Hope - Chapter Nineteen

Author: Novedhelion
Type: FP Het
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Pairing: Éomer/Lothíriel aka Anhuil
Rating: PG13
Warnings: Justice served...
Beta Extraordinaire: Riyallyn
Disclaimer: Not mine...and did anyone else notice that Dol Amroth flag in the coronation scene?

*********************
Chapter Nineteen
*********************

“You know, nasty little fellows such as yourself always get their comeuppance.”
Evie to Beni
The Mummy
*************************


Fenwick glanced around the room, his eyes narrowed. Where could she have gone in such a short period of time? So like her, he thought, to avoid him, leaving him to answer questions as to where his betrothed was hiding. His anger reaching a boiling point, he stalked across the floor and caught Cam by the arm.

“Where is Lothíriel?” he demanded.

Jerking her arm free of his grasp, she glowered at him. “Do not touch me again, Fenwick, if you wish to keep your fingers intact.”

“I want to know where she has gone, Valesa.”

“If you do not speak to me in a civil tone of voice, Mardil Fenwick, you will be wearing yet another goblet of wine!” she answered, teeth clenched. “I suggest if you would like to ask me a question you do so in a polite and proper manner.”

Fenwick glared at the blonde, backing up a step. “My apologies, Valesa,” he offered, not quite sincerely. “I am concerned about Lothíriel. Have you seen her?”

“That is almost polite, Fenwick. Do not hurt yourself, biting your tongue so hard.” His icy stare almost made her giggle. “In answer to your question, the last time I saw her, she was dancing.”

“Dancing with whom?” he demanded rudely.

Cam glared at him, considering his tone. “Find her yourself, Fenwick.” She turned her back to him.

“Valesa, you do not-“

“Is there a problem, Mardil?” Amrothos was suddenly beside the blonde, holding two chalices of wine, his eyebrows raised in question.

Fenwick’s eyes narrowed, but he said nothing. Amrothos stood behind the blonde, his green eyes daring his sister’s betrothed to speak further. Turning on his heel, Mardil disappeared into the crowd.

“What was that about?” Amrothos asked.

“You did not hear?” Cam laughed.

“No, but whatever the topic of discussion, if you were arguing with Fenwick, your end of it had to be right, so...” he shrugged, taking a sip of his wine and grinning at her over the top of the chalice.

“He was looking for Ani. I was not about to tell him she was dancing with the King of Rohan.” She peered over the heads toward the dance floor. “There they are,” she commented, inclining her head in their direction.

Éomer stood tall and straight, gliding over the floor with the princess. The contrast between the two was striking. The king’s hair falling in golden waves, her dark curls brushing her bare shoulders. They moved together gracefully, their eyes locked on each other.

********

Éowyn nudged Faramir beside her. “My brother is dancing with your cousin,” she remarked.

“I thought he was looking for a woman he knew,” Faramir said, watching the dancing couple with interest.

Éowyn smiled, observing her brother’s wide grin. “Yes, a woman named Anhuil, from Belfalas. I guess he decided to make some new acquaintances.”

Faramir’s mouth dropped open, his blue-grey eyes staring at his beloved in shock. “Anhuil? From Belfalas?”

“Yes,” she answered. “Why? You know her?”

“Know her?” Faramir laughed. “He is dancing with her now.”

“I thought you said your cousin's name was Lothíriel.” Éowyn cast him a befuddled look.

The Prince of Ithilien turned to look at her. “Her name is Lothíriel, yes. We call her Ani, or Anhuil. It is a nickname her mother gave her, years ago.” He shook his head, watching his cousin and the king. “Your brother is in serious trouble if he has let that little hoyden steal his heart,” he commented quietly.

*******

Amrothos smiled at Cam. “Now, they make a lovely pair,” he observed casually. “Odd, but they seem quite at ease with one another.”

The blonde at his side returned his smile. “Funny you mention that, Amrothos.”

The young prince looked puzzled for a moment, his brow furrowing in question. Cam continued sipping her wine, smiling contentedly as she let him work through the possibilities and come to the conclusion on his own.

“Him? He is the one?”

Cam nodded. “I suppose he is.”

He slapped his forehead with his palm. “I should have known. She never told me his name, but she did tell me he was a marshal.” He turned his gaze back to the dance floor, taking in the pair. “This could become very interesting,” he muttered, watching as Fenwick approached the couple.

**********
“Pardon me.”

Éomer felt Anhuil stiffen in his arms the instant she heard the voice. He squeezed her hand reassuringly, and turned toward the interloper with a questioning look. “Yes?”

Using the look he commonly threw at subordinates to intimidate them into doing his bidding, Mardil pulled his tunic straight and locked eyes with the king. “Might I be so bold as to ask if I may cut in?”

Éomer nearly bit his tongue in half, but remained placid, his expression neutral. “Are you requesting my permission to ask if you may cut in, or are you asking if you may cut in?” he answered with a polite smile.

Ire rose visibly in Fenwick, the memory of their earlier confrontation in the stable still fresh. His eyes narrowed, one eyebrow slightly raised. “I will rephrase my request,” he stated icily. “May I cut in?” He glanced down at the princess, who held her chin high, unsmiling, at his intrusion.

“No, you may not,” Éomer stated, just as calmly, returning his gaze to the woman in his arms, whose fingernails were digging into the back of his hand.

“Very well,” Fenwick snapped. “I will have plenty of time to dance with her,” he cut his eyes to hers, glaring, “AFTER we are married.” He spun on his heel and left the dance floor.

The princess watched him walk away, her stony glare following his tall form. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly.

“I detest that man,” she said softly.

“I am not overly fond of him myself,” the king agreed. “If he had not left when he did I doubt there would be aught but shreds of flesh remaining on my left hand.” He smiled teasingly at her, turning his hand over to look at the back of it.

Gasping, she tried to pull her hand from his. “I am so sorry, Éomer. I did not mean to-“

“I was teasing, Princess,” he informed her with a chuckle. “I have suffered far worse. I can take your abuse.” She laughed shyly.

The song ended, a livelier one beginning. A polite tap on Éomer’s shoulder caught his attention.

“Begging your pardon, Your Majesty,” the tall, handsome Elf beside him spoke eloquently, bowing graciously to the princess, but with an impish smile. “Your Highness,” he addressed her politely.

“What do you want, Elf? Can you not see I am occupied?” Éomer snapped at him teasingly. The Elf grinned widely.

“Your sister has requested your presence at her table.”

“Tell my sister I am busy,” he remarked, smiling at the princess.

“She insists it is of utmost importance that she speak with you,” the Elf continued. He turned his attention to Anhuil. “Forgive me, Princess. I do not wish to intrude. I am Legolas, of the Woodland Realm of Mirkwood.”

“He is a prince, too,” Éomer commented dryly. “Another one who did not bother to tell me that until after I accused him of being a spy of Saruman.”

“A bit suspicious, were you not?” the princess queried. She turned to regard the Elven prince. Blonde hair braided back, he stood tall and straight. The pale blue raw silk tunic he wore over soft grey leggings made his blue eyes look even more so. She smiled conspiratorially at him. “Did he tie you up to question you, too?”

Legolas looked taken aback. “He tied you up?”

“Where did you say my sister was?” the king interrupted.

The Elf indicated the table where Éowyn sat, smiling broadly, with Faramir, and Gimli, but his gaze remained on the princess. He winked at her surreptitiously, and she returned his charming smile. This Elf was up to something.

Éomer looked from Anhuil back to Legolas, who was still standing straight, hands behind his back innocently. “We will be back momentarily, Princess,” he said resignedly.

“Oh, my presence is not required,” Legolas said. “Perhaps the lady would allow me to have one dance, while you are otherwise engaged?” He held out a hand in her direction.

Anhuil chuckled softly. Éomer’s eyes narrowed playfully at the Elf, who was clearly trying to get a rise out of him. “Maer, hiril Eldar,” she said, taking his outstretched hand. “I would like that very much.” She turned to Éomer. “I will be fine. Go and speak to your sister, if it is a matter of such urgency.”

Eyeing Legolas suspiciously, Éomer stepped back. “Watch yourself,” he warned the Elf.

“Aye,” Legolas answered. “I need not worry. I am certain you will be watching myself for me.” With that, he took her other hand and joined the couples on the dance floor.

Shaking his head, Éomer strode over to the table the Elf had indicated. Éowyn was beside herself with laughter, Faramir snickered, his hand over his face, and Gimli roared.

“I canna believe ya fell for that one, laddie,” the dwarf howled, slamming his tankard down on the table.

Plunking down into the seat vacated by the Elf who was now dancing merrily with the princess, Éomer stared at him. “What?” He turned to his sister, who was wiping tears of mirth from her eyes.

“Éomer, Legolas bet Gimli that he could get a dance with your princess,” she giggled.

He leaned back in the chair resignedly, a good-natured grin on his face. “I suppose I should have expected this from the likes of you,” he growled at the dwarf.

“Aye, ya should have,” Gimli grinned. “Tis a good thing, being underestimated by one’s opponent. Makes for good sport.” The dwarf held his mug high in salute, then downed the contents.

Shaking his head, Éomer watched as the princess twirled with the tall Elf, laughing. “Don’t you worry yerself,” Gimli said quietly. “He’s only doing it to harass ya. He’s got no designs on your pretty princess.”

“Good thing,” the king remarked dryly. “I would hate to have to take him to task. It might muss his hair.” The two stared at each other a moment, then burst into laughter.

Faramir grinned at him. “So, it is my lovely cousin that has so captured your heart, Éomer King?”

“Captured?” He nodded. “That is a fair assessment of the situation, I should say. Though it would have been much simpler had I known all along who she was.”

“You did not know?” Faramir asked.

“It is a long story, Faramir. Another time I will tell you the whole tale. Suffice it to say she was not exactly forthcoming with that information.” He smiled, watching her dance with the Elf.

“Are you certain you know what you are getting into with her? She is stubborn enough to back down a cave troll, friend.”

“Dare you speak to me of stubborn women? Look beside you, Prince of Ithilien,” he said, gesturing toward his sister. “This woman took down the Witch King of Angmar.”

Smiling adoringly at his beloved, Faramir chuckled. “Yes, but I feel it only fair to warn you. Ani would have backed down Sauron himself but for the bad luck of having three overprotective older brothers in lieu of one.”

“I have seen what she is capable of, Faramir, and I do not fear her.”

“Then you have not seen all she is capable of,” the Prince of Ithilien muttered softly.

*****************

Legolas smiled at the princess. “Lothíriel. Na eneth vain,” he said.

“Hannon le,” she responded, smiling broadly.

“Ceni henia thyrin Eldarin,” he commented, seemingly not surprised.

The princess shrugged. “I had very thorough tutors,” she commented.

“Did he really tie you up?” The Elf asked, his expression incredulous.

Anhuil laughed out loud as the song ended.

“Hannon le, brenníl nín,” he said with a deep bow.

“Glassen, hiril Eldar,” she responded with a polite curtsey, heading off to find Cam.

Fenwick watched from a corner table as she danced first with the King of Rohan and then with the Elvish Prince. The girl at his side prattled on, seemingly unaware that he paid her no heed whatsoever. His eyes followed the princess as she moved across the room and spoke animatedly with her blonde friend and her brother, sipping from a goblet Cam handed her. Her father leaned over her shoulder, whispering to her, and with a nod, she handed the cup back to Cam and followed him to the floor.

“Lothíriel, do you not think you should be spending some time with Mardil?” her father asked as he took her into his arms.

“Ada, I have the rest of my life to spend with Mardil. I am sure he will not begrudge me a little time with friends I rarely see, and perhaps may not see again for some time.”

“I suppose,” Imrahil agreed. They moved in silence for a moment, before the Prince spoke.

“Lothíriel...I wanted to ask you about what happened earlier.” He paused, looking for the right words. “It is not like you to drop an entire chalice of wine, daughter.”

“I know. It just...startled me, that is all.”

“Startled you? Why?”

May as well tell him the truth, she thought. “I have met Éomer before, Ada. He was the marshal of the soldiers of Rohan who aided me and provided me with a horse and escort to Minas Tirith. I had no idea he had become king. It surprised me, that is all.”

“Are you sure that is all there is to it, Lothíriel?” her father asked, looking down at her with one eyebrow raised.

Anhuil paused. She did not like lying to her father, but she dared not tell him the whole truth, either. “I was simply surprised, Ada. Éomer never mentioned being an heir to the throne.”

Imrahil studied his daughter as they danced. As far as he knew, Lothíriel did not make a habit of lying to him, but something in her tone made him wonder if he was getting the full tale. “Éomer?” The prince asked. “You called him by his first name.”

The princess felt her cheeks warm with color and prayed her father didn’t notice. “I meant Lord Éomer, of course,” she responded shakily.

Imrahil nodded silently. His daughter was not one to carelessly forego propriety and he knew it. “Lothíriel, about this marriage to Fenwick...”

“Ada, no,” she said, shaking her head. “I know. All my life, I have known. That is the way of it for us, is it not? Funny how those not in our positions envy us, yet they are the ones with true freedom. What is best for Dol Amroth prevails. I know that Fenwick’s services are needed by our people, and if that is what must be done then so be it. You said yourself that a marriage between our regions would strengthen the ties and help our people better accept his authority in the harbors. You know I will do my duty, whatever that may be.”

“I do not doubt you will, my daughter,” he answered quietly.

“So let us not speak of it further, agreed?” She smiled up at her father. “At least, not this night.”

“At least not this night,” he acceded with a nod, a bit puzzled at her seeming acceptance of the matter.

Mardil approached the pair, knowing her father would not begrudge him cutting in. Speaking politely to Imrahil and flashing the princess his most charming smile, the prince relinquished his hold on her to her fiancé. Her agitation at the intrusion did not go unnoticed by her father.

Éomer watched from the table. Fenwick spoke softly to her, his smirk visible from across the room. Anhuil maintained her posture, shoulders squared, as much distance between them as her short arms would allow. Leaning forward, the dark haired man whispered something to her that made her turn her head quickly. She attempted to pull away from him, but he held her tightly. Éomer tensed, wondering if he should intervene, as she yanked herself free of his embrace and stalked off. Mardil caught her arm and said something that made her glare at him.

He became aware of Éowyn, still ribbing him gently. Legolas approached the table and sat, beaming at him.

“What?” The king asked self-consciously.

“She is lovely, Éomer. Graceful and beautiful, well-spoken and witty. I can see the blood of the Eldar still flows in her family.” He picked up his ale and smiled. "You have chosen well."

The king threw him a wry smile. “Thank you for your approval, Master Elf.”

Legolas laughed out loud, tipping up his own tankard. Setting it down, he looked at the king askance, the roguish smile returning. “You accused her of being a spy as well?”

“He did what?” Éowyn chimed in, her blue eyes wide, and faced her brother. “You did not tell me about that, Éomer.”

“He tied her up,” Legolas stated matter-of-factly, grinning over his cup.

“Tell me you did no such thing!” his sister exclaimed, half horrified and half laughing.

“Surely that is not necessary for a lad like you to keep a lass,” Gimli joked, slapping him on the shoulder.

“I did not tie her up!” Éomer finally blurted out. “In fact, I cut her bonds.”

“Was this before you accused her of being a spy or after?” Faramir piped up.

“I did not...my men...” the king stammered.

“So you had someone else tie her up?” Legolas conjectured.

Gimli grunted into his mug. “Laddie, ya know there are places you can go for that sort of thing,” he offered with a chuckle. He caught Éowyn’s questioning stare. “Or so I hear,” he added quickly, ducking back into his tankard.

Éomer dropped his head into his hand, shaking his head, then rose from the table with soft laugh. “I yield. I am going to find her. With your leave, my friends.” A slight nod of his head and he strode off across the room.

Standing beside the dance floor, he scanned the room for her. “So you are the one,” a voice behind him startled him. “You are the rogue from Rohan who stole my sister’s heart.”

Éomer turned to see Amrothos, the son of his friend Prince Imrahil, staring at him, eyes narrowed. At his side, the tall, lithe blonde smiled knowingly. He knew the young prince as a comrade in arms, and for his part, a friend. The king shook his head. “I concede my guilt,” he admitted, raising both hands in surrender. “But she stole mine first, I assure you.”

“And I am supposed to forgive your inappropriate dalliance with her, un-chaperoned, without leave of her father or brothers, simply because you are my friend and King of Rohan?”

The king shifted nervously under the gaze of the prince. Why did he suddenly feel like a stable boy caught filching sweets from the kitchen? “I promise you, Amrothos, your sister’s honor has not been sullied on my account.”

“What of her reputation, Lord Éomer? A princess of Gondor, marching around the countryside of Rohan, the only woman in an entire company of men? What will the courtiers of Dol Amroth have to say about that, I wonder?”

“Begging your pardon, Amrothos, but if your sister handles courtiers the way she handled an entire contingent of Orcs I daresay they will not cause her much travail.”

“You allowed my sister to fight Orcs?”

“Allowed? Amrothos, how well do you know your sister? Do you think even I could keep her from doing something she is determined to do?”

The two men held each other’s gazes until Cam smacked Amrothos in the chest with the back of her hand. “Stop it!” she fussed. Amrothos broke into a grin, much to Éomer’s relief. “You are terrible, Amrothos. And you are a lousy liar.”

“I take it your sister told you, then?” the king asked him, chuckling with relief.

The young prince shook his head. “Only that there had been someone, but never a name. Ani is very secretive about some things, and entirely too open in others.” Gesturing to the blonde at his side, he grinned. “Forgive my lack of decorum. This is Lady Valesa, daughter of Admiral Merric. She prefers to be called Camwethrin. And Ani tells her everything.”

Éomer turned his gaze to the blonde and bowed politely, taking her hand in his and kissing it lightly. “A pleasure, Lady Camwethrin,” he said. “A valuable ally you may turn out to be.”

“Ani said you were a charmer,” she quipped. Éomer chortled softly, releasing her hand.

“Cam is a bit...candid,” Amrothos told him.

“You say that as if this is a bad thing,” the king stated. “There are far too many who wield a tongue of mithril and never speak their true intent. I am a firm believer in directness. It is a quality I appreciate, my lady. Never apologize for it.”

“I was not the one apologizing,” Cam said with a sideways glance at Amrothos, whose cheeks colored adorably.

The king grinned in appreciation of her wit, and then scanned the room again. “I was searching for your sister, to claim another dance, but I cannot find her.”

Their eyes darted around the room, seeing neither the princess nor Fenwick. Cam’s worried look did not go unnoticed by Éomer. “What?”

“I do not see Fenwick either,” she mentioned quietly. “But I did see her speaking to Gandalf a few moments ago...”

***************

Anhuil was standing near the stone archway that led to the terrace, laughing merrily at something the hobbits had said. Gandalf shook his head slowly. “Hobbits,” he muttered.

A hand on her elbow pulled her slightly back from the group. “Lothíriel, a word, please?” Fenwick cast a glance at the old wizard, who only raised his bushy eyebrows in question.

“Pippin is in the midst of a tale, Fenwick, I do not think-“

He cut her off, speaking to the group. “I will only be a moment...gentlemen...” he said, rather sarcastically.

“Well, see to it you are, and no longer, because the princess promised the next dance to me,” Samwise informed him.

Anhuil grinned at him. “I will be right back, Master Periannath. For both dances promised,” she added with a wink at Pippin.

The young hobbit beamed broadly. “I like her,” he stated, taking a swig of his ale. “She is not too much taller than me!”

Merry smacked him on the back of the head. “Have a care, you dolt! She’s a princess! A little courtesy, if you please!”

Gandalf sighed and rolled his eyes skyward.

***************

Striding off quickly, Éomer found the wizard. “Ah, King of the Mark. If you are seeking a princess, she just stepped outside with one Mardil Fenwick.” He indicated the doorway with a nod of his head.

“How did you...” Gandalf raised is thick eyebrows. Shaking his head, Éomer headed for the door with a nod of thanks.

**************

“What do you want, Mardil?” Anhuil asked irritably, as he led her by the arm out on to the terrace. “That was very rude, taking me from my friends that way. What is so important?”

He led her around a corner to an alcove, still gripping her arm. “Lothíriel, you are to be my wife, and I will not have you behaving the way you have tonight.”

“What in the name of Manwë are you babbling about? I have done nothing!” She jerked her arm free of his grasp and turned to leave.

“Lothíriel, you are my betrothed. Your behavior reflects on me, and tonight it has been abhorrent. I will not have you ignoring me this way, all the while drinking far too much wine and cavorting with every other man here, from that heathen Rohirrim King to Elves, and now those...those...halfwits!”

“You will NOT speak of the periannath that way, Mardil Fenwick! If not for them this land would this day be under shadow, if any of us were still breathing to see it!”

He ignored her. “Even that old wizard!” He gripped both her wrists in one hand, turning her to face him. “You will come with me, sit at my table, and dance with ONLY me. Do you understand, Lothíriel? I will not be made to look the fool!” Fenwick’s steel grey eyes bored into hers.

“You will NOT tell me what to do, Fenwick! You will not tell me what I can drink and with whom I may dance, you pompous little prat!” She struggled to free herself from his grip, but he held her fast.

“You will behave like a proper lady, Lothíriel. No wife of mine will act like a common tavern wench!”

“No, that would be your mistresses! And I am NOT your wife, Mardil Fenwick. Take your hands off me this instant!”

“You will be my wife, Princess, and you will act like it!” He started to raise his other hand as if to strike her.

“Or else what? Are you going to hit me now, Mardil? Go on, then,” she goaded him. His hand lowered, although his iron grip did not relent. “You are a coward! Release me, you son of a-“

“I believe the lady has asked that you remove your hands from her person.” The deep, calm voice came over her shoulder. “I would suggest you do so. If I had to wager on which of you would best the other I would waste no coin on you, Mardil Fenwick.”

“This is no business of yours, Horsemaster,” Fenwick spat back.

“When a lady is being manhandled against her will it becomes my business. Release the lady and apologize.”

“I am telling you to back off, heathen king.” He glowered back at Éomer but held his grip on the princess’ wrists.

“How dare you, Mardil! You will not address him in such a manner!” Anhuil shouted at him, aghast at his impertinence. Éomer gave her a calming look, but it did nothing to abate her anger.

Ignoring her still, his steel gray eyes focused on Éomer. “What goes on between my wife and myself is none of your concern.”

“She is not your wife,” the king stated calmly, stepping toward him.

Fenwick’s grip tightened, causing the princess to wince. “She will be. It is time someone taught her to behave in public. As for how she behaves in private,” he gave Éomer a scathing once over, “I suppose you know far more about that than do I.” He paused, letting the accusation sink in. Éomer did not respond, but clenched his fist at his side. Mardil smirked at him.“Rest assured, Horselord, she will be my wife. And I will make her forget whatever...indiscretions she shared with you!"

"Mardil! How dare you!" Anhuil tried to jerk her arm free of Fenwick's hand.

"Whatever passed between the princess and myself is a matter solely between us, Lord Fenwick. And I will not have you insulting her in such a manner!"

"Insulting her? You dare accuse ME of impugning her reputation after what you did?"

"He did nothing, Fenwick! Let me go!"

"And YOU," he said, directing his attention to the princess, "you are fortunate that I am still willing to marry you, after this little stunt. Do you know what this has done to MY reputation, to have my betrothed run off like that? Do you know the kind of gossip I have had to face? And here you are, openly flirting and dancing with this...with him...in front of all of Gondor! I will not have it, Lothíriel."

"So call it off, Fenwick! Call off the marriage. I care not."

Fenwick laughed, throwing his dark head back. "Oh, you would love that, would you not? NO, Lothíriel. My marriage to you is part of my plan, and you will not get out of it so easily. But you will pay for your betrayal, mark my words."

"That is enough," Éomer snapped, stepping forward. "Release her now. The lady has done nothing to betray you. If you have issue with this then you take it up with me."

Mardil eyed the king for a moment, regarding his powerful build, but he was not one to back down from a challenge. One corner of his mouth turned up slightly. Pulling the princess to him, he kissed her full on the mouth, ignoring her struggles. He grinned down at her wickedly. "Excuse me, darling," he said, shoving her roughly aside as he turned to the king.

Anhuil stumbled back, nearly falling, catching herself against a railing.

Éomer’s dark eyes blazed in the pale light. Before he could even think, the fist clenched at his side met the Fenwick’s jaw, sending him reeling backwards to the stone floor.

*****************

"What is meant to be will always find a way."
- Trisha Yearwood


Chapter 21 - Chapter Twenty

Trust to Hope - Chapter Twenty
Author: Novedhelion
Type: FP Het
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Pairing: Éomer/Lothíriel aka Anhuil
Rating: PG13
Warnings: N/A this time....
Beta: Riyallyn
Disclaimer: It’s fiction.



********************
Chapter Twenty
********************

If I had known the way that this would end
If I’d have read the last page first
If I‘d have had the strength to walk away
If I had known how this would hurt
I would have loved you anyway
I’d do it all the same
Not a second I would change
Not a touch that I would trade
Had I known my heart would break
I’d have loved you anyway

I’d Have Loved You Anyway
Trisha Yearwood
**************************************

********
Minas Tirith
18 Cerveth, 3019 T.A.
******************


Shaking his hand, he looked at Ani. She was staring, wide-eyed, her hands over her mouth. Stepping over Fenwick’s prone form, he took her wrists in his hands, inspecting them gently. “Did he hurt you?”

Anhuil shook her head. “I am fine,” she answered shakily.

He pulled her to him, his hands cupping her cheeks gently. “I am sorry, Ani,” he told her.

“It is hardly your fault, Éomer,” she said softly. “I cannot believe you hit him!”

“I cannot believe you did not,” he retorted. “Please tell me you do not intend to go through with this marriage.”

She fell silent, her gaze dropping to the ground. “I told you, Éomer. This is not my choice.”

“Your father does not know what kind of man he is asking you to marry,” he stated calmly. “Perhaps if you just explained to him...”

Drawing away from his embrace, she turned away. “You have not seen the lines of refugees that come into the city of Dol Amroth!” she interrupted him. “Villagers, wroth because their homes have been burned and their crops soiled! Men are being killed, their women ravaged or worse, taken away to be sold into slavery! Parents with starving children because the shipments of goods that were headed for their ports were intercepted and stolen! No one along that coastline is safe until the Corsairs are stopped.” Her emerald eyes glistened with tears. “These are my people, Éomer. Surely as a king you can understand that!”

He placed a hand on her shoulder. “I do understand. But adding your suffering to theirs will not make their pain lessen, Princess. Can he not accept the duty without marrying you?”

“He could,” she glanced down with unveiled disgust at the unconscious man on the stone floor. “But he will not. It was part of the agreement. And my father thinks that as an outsider, Mardil's authority will be more readily accepted if he is married to me.”

“I cannot believe Imrahil would bargain away his only daughter!”

“That was never his intent, Éomer. Mardil came highly recommended. He charmed everyone in the palace, including Ada and my brothers. My father was concerned for my future. He has wanted me to marry for years, and when this opportunity arose...it seemed like a solution to all of his problems in one fell swoop. Please do not fault him. He was only doing what he thought best.”

“Perhaps.”

“And Fenwick...for all his blustering, he is good at what he does. Dol Amroth needs him. The Admiral needs him. Father needs him.” She turned back to face the king. “For that reason alone, I must do what is required of me.”

“And what about what you need, Princess?” Éomer asked her. “What about what your heart desires?”

The princess stared out into the night. “This is not for my heart to decide, Éomer.” Closing her eyes, she drew in her breath and turned to face him. “We should go inside.” She turned toward the stone archway that led back into the hall.

“Ani, wait.” Éomer caught her arm gently, turning her back to face him. “If this is to be the last night we have together, then please, do me the honor of at least walking with me in the garden.”

Her breath caught in her throat as she turned to look at him. Deep brown eyes, so dark in the dim light they appeared black as the night, silently pled with her. The last night we have together. Gods, she had only just found him again! How was she to bear parting with him a second time? With a glance down at the inert form on the stone floor, she nodded her assent, and allowed him to take her hand and lead her down the path.

~~~~~~~

Imrahil sat at his table, sipping wine from his chalice, his grey eyes scanning the room. His earlier conversation with his daughter troubled him. He knew that for all of her independent spirit, Lothíriel had a profound sense of duty and loved the people of Dol Amroth, if not always the courtiers. Her marriage to Mardil Fenwick had seemed like a good idea at the time, providing both an answer to their issues in the harbors and a stable mate for her who could assure she would be taken care of for life.

Now he was beginning to wonder if he had not been a tad too hasty in that decision. He was not a young man, but it had not been so many years that he did not recognize the look on Éomer’s face when he introduced his daughter, not to mention that the young king was practically chomping at the bit to get away from him and follow after her.

And the tone of his daughter’s voice when she called Éomer by his first name instead of by title did not go unnoticed by the prince, either. He sighed. The young king would have been a good choice for her indeed. A bit of patience on his part might have been a good thing, but who would ever have thought...

“Enjoying your evening, Ada?” Amrothos plunked down at the table beside him, green eyes flicking over the crowd and returning to his father. Imrahil smiled. Of his four children, Lothíriel and Amrothos had inherited their mother’s beautiful green eyes and long lashes, so unlike most of the people of Dol Amroth.

“Yes, actually, I am,” the prince responded. “Have you seen your sister about?”

Amrothos tipped up his tankard of ale, then surveyed the room again. “Not in a while. Come to think of it, I have not seen Fenwick, either.” An uncomfortable feeling crept over him. “Perhaps I should go look for them,” he offered, starting to rise.

“No.” Imrahil put a hand on his son’s arm. “Sit a while, Amrothos. Indulge your father in a bit of conversation.”

“On what topic, Ada?” the young prince asked, leaning back in his chair.

“Life. Love.” The elder prince smiled knowingly at his son. “Your sister and the King of Rohan?”

Amrothos choked on his ale, coughing and sputtering. “How did you know, Ada?”

“I am not so old that I do not remember what it is to desire a woman, Amrothos,” Imrahil answered. “And if what I saw in Éomer’s eyes when he looked at your sister was not desire, then I am an old fool indeed.” The younger prince stared at his father, green eyes wide. “Oh, come now, Amrothos,” he chided gently.

“My apologies, Ada...I just have never heard you speak so...blatantly about such things.” Amrothos took another gulp from his tankard.

“You are a grown man. I no longer feel the need to tiptoe around such topics with delicate words.” He sipped his wine again.

“And you are not upset by this?” Amrothos asked.

Imrahil chuckled. “Amrothos, I have long ago gotten used to the looks your sister inspires among men. It would concern me more if he did not find her desirable.”

Amrothos nodded in agreement, wondering if his father realized there was more to it, but he said no more. They sat silently for a moment, Imrahil seemingly lost in thought.

“Amrothos,” his father began, a puzzled look crossing his strong features, “what do you think of Mardil Fenwick?”

The young prince drew in a deep breath, thinking carefully about his answer. He knew how desperately Fenwick’s assistance was needed; yet the more he came to know the man from Lebennin the more he disliked and distrusted him. He had no proof, however, of any of his suspicions, and could not offer any true reason for feeling the way he did. He simply did not like the man.

“Why does what I think matter, Ada? I am not the one marrying him,” the young prince artfully dodged the question.

Or so he thought.

“It matters because I know your sister confides in you, and if there is something I should know about my potential harbor master I would have you tell me.” Imrahil eyed his son warily.

“What Ani thinks or does not think is not for me to say, Ada. As for my humble opinion,” the prince sat up straight in his seat, grinning at his father, “I would much rather have Éomer for a brother.” With that, he stood and hurriedly departed, leaving his father to contemplate what had been said.

~~~~~~~

“Mardil? Are you out here?” Neville’s voice broke the silence on the terrace. Fenwick stirred slightly on the floor, moaning.

“Mardil!” he exclaimed as he rounded the corner, seeing the dark haired man on the floor of the terrace. “Are you all right?”

“I am fine,” Fenwick’s hissed, sitting up slowly, grunting with effort as he did.

“What happened? Your face! Mardil, were you robbed?” He jerked a handkerchief from his pocket and began wiping at Fenwick’s cut lip.

“In a sense,” came the terse reply, as Mardil grabbed the hankie from him. He fingered his cheek and nose tentatively, grimacing at the blood on his fingertips. “You did not happen to see that heathen king, did you?”

“I saw no one, Mardil. Come, tell me what happened, and you need something on that bruise. You are bleeding! I will get a healer...”

“No!” Mardil snorted. “I do not wish anyone to see me this way.” He struggled to his feet, steadying himself by leaning on Neville’s plump shoulders. “I will be retiring to my chambers.”

“But Mardil, if there is someone dangerous lurking about should the king not know?”

“Neville, mind your business and find the princess. Tell her I wish to speak with her. Now! I will be in my chambers.”

“Shall I escort you? You can barely walk. Here,” the shorter man offered him an arm, allowing him to lean on him, pulling him to his feet. Fenwick growled low as he stood, muttering curses under his breath. “Who did this, Mardil? Who would dare?”

“Never you mind, Neville. I shall deal with it accordingly,” Mardil sneered. “In my own time.”

~~~~~~~~

Éomer tucked her hand into his arm and pulled her close beside him. They walked in silence away from the main path and down to the gazebo set in the center of the garden. He suddenly stopped, turning to face her at the bottom of the steps that led up to the stone structure. Taking her face in his hands gently, he raised her eyes to his. Deep green eyes locked on to his, so intense his breath strangled in his throat. A puzzled look etched her features.

“What is it?”

“Gods, but you are beautiful,” he said softly. “I still cannot believe I have found you. I cannot believe you are standing here, in my arms. I am afraid I will wake and it will be yet another dream.”

She raised her hand to cover his at her cheek. Her touch was soft and cool, a small shiver running down his spine. “This is no dream, Éomer.”

“No, but it is a cruel joke fate plays,” he answered as he pulled her to him, her cheek against the silk of his tunic. Anhuil inhaled deeply, sighing slowly at the comforting scent of him. Her arms went around his waist as his slid from her face, down her back, holding her tightly against him.

“I have wanted nothing but you back in my arms for months, and now you are telling me this cannot be.” He shook his head. “How am I supposed to accept that, Ani?”

The king felt the dampness of her tears through the soft fabric of his tunic even before he felt her shoulders begin to shake. Burying his face in her dark curls, he breathed in the lavender scent of her hair.

“Please do not do this,” she responded hoarsely, pulling away from him and wiping her tears with the back of her hand. “Do not make this harder than it already is. I am sorry. I should never have let this happen in the first place. It was foolish of me to think it could ever be any other way.” She glanced up at him, but could not hold his gaze. “This is only prolonging the inevitable. I must go.” Turning away from him, she started up the path, arms folded across her chest, walking quickly.

Stunned, Éomer caught up to her in three long strides and caught her by the arm. “If you think for one moment that I am going to stand here calmly and let you walk back out of my life you are sorely mistaken, Princess.”

Squaring her shoulders, she drew a deep breath. “It is not for you to decide any more than it is for me.” Stepping away from him, she headed quickly up the path, brushing past her brother, Elphir, coming down the walk.

“Ani?” her brother called after her, catching her by the arm. “Where are you going?”

“Inside,” she quipped, trying to pull away from him. “Please, Elphir. Just let me go.”

“What is going on, Ani? Ada sent me to find you. He was wor-“

“Ani, wait!” Éomer was striding up the stone walkway, trying to catch up to her. Seeing Elphir, he stopped.

“What is going on?” Elphir asked, looking from one to the other suspiciously.

Anhuil’s eyes met Éomer’s. “Nothing,” she answered flatly. “Let me go, Elphir.” She jerked her arm from his grasp, and with a last heart-wrenching look at Éomer, she turned and practically ran back toward the Citadel.

Elphir turned to the king, an expectant look in his grey eyes. “I assume there is an explanation as to why my sister is running from you. And why you are out here alone with her in the first place.”

“There is,” Éomer told him, his gaze moving from the path where she had disappeared to meet that of the prince. “I love your sister, Elphir.”

Grey eyes widened, regarding him curiously. “Love her? Éomer, you just met. How can you-“

The king shook his head. “No, Elphir. I have known her for months.” At her brother’s quizzical expression, he continued. “I met her when she left home.” He pulled the handkerchief from his pocket. “She was with us only for a short while before we were called to Helm’s Deep, but it was long enough for me to know that I do not want to live my life without her.”

“She traveled with you? With your men?”

“It is a long story. She said she was traveling north, but I was not going to leave her alone in the wild. I made her stay with my company, originally with the intent of delivering her to the northern border safely, but that was before...”

“Why did you not send her home, Éomer? Father was beside himself with worry over her.”

“If she had told me who she was I would have done exactly that. I would have escorted her there myself. But she did not. She gave me only the name Anhuil, and said she was from Belfalas, but that is all she would offer. She said nothing of being betrothed to another, and I had no idea she was Imrahil’s daughter.”

“Éomer...”

“Your sister’s virtue is intact, if that is your question,” the king stated, almost defensively.

“That is not-“

“Elphir, I love your sister. I cannot say that I was not sorely tempted, but I assure you, I have done nothing to sully your sister’s reputation.”

The prince nodded, a wry smile on his face. “Thank you for clearing that up. However, the question I planned to ask was does my sister return your feelings?”

With a sheepish expression, the king looked away momentarily. Somewhat embarrassed at his presumption that Elphir would assume such a thing. Regaining composure, he faced the prince. “I believe she does.”

“So, what exactly is your intention, if I may ask?”

Éomer did not hesitate. “I would marry your sister today if I could, but she says she is betrothed to another. She says it cannot be.” He shook his head. “Is there no way?”

Elphir silently absorbed the information. “I do not know, Éomer. It is a most unusual situation. Betrothals are not lightly broken. The scandal it could create, the potential political disaster this could mean for Ada...” He shook his head. “I simply do not know.” He looked up at the king. “You truly love her?”

“I would give my life for her, Elphir, without hesitation.”

The young prince nodded, grinning. “That is a good thing. Because when Ada finds out, it might cost you just that.”

The two men made their way back to the Citadel, strolling along the path.

“I will speak to him when I get a chance. I understand your father is accompanying us to Edoras tomorrow for the funeral.”

“Not just father. All of us.”

Éomer stopped. “All of you? I understood only your father and a small contingent were to ride with us.”

Elphir shook his head. “No, Father decided all should go.” The king stared at him. “Yes, Ani too. You did not know?”

How am I supposed to handle her traveling with us all the way to Edoras? he thought to himself. “You are all more than welcome, of course,” he said quickly. “I just did not realize...”

“Ada only decided today. And yes, Mardil Fenwick will also ride with us.”

Éomer sighed heavily. He was now dreading this journey even more than before.

~~~~~~~~~

The hallways of the Citadel were quiet compared to the noise in the great hall below. Anhuil’s slippers made little sound as she walked quickly to her chambers. She did not think she could face the crowd again, much less Fenwick. Hopefully her father would understand.

“Your Highness,” Neville called out. Anhuil turned, rolling her eyes.

“What do you want, Neville?”

“Begging your pardon, Your Highness, but Lord Fenwick wishes to speak to you,” he said nervously.

“No. I am going to bed, Neville.” The princess started toward her chambers.

“But Your Highness, he said you were to come --“

Anhuil whirled around, glowering at the pudgy man. “You tell Lord Fenwick that I do not answer to him. I will not be ordered around like a scullery maid. If he wishes to speak to me, he may come to me himself. Tomorrow. I am going to bed. I bid you good night, Neville.” She shoved open her door and disappeared inside, leaving the manservant standing flustered in the hallway.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Éomer shook hands with Elphir, promising to talk more tomorrow, and made his way back to the table where his sister sat. Eyeing her brother teasingly, she poked at him as he sat down. “Where is your little princess? You did not run her off--“ she stopped suddenly at the expression on his face.

“What is wrong?”

He reached for a tankard on the table, tipping it up, then stared down into the dark ale. He smiled at her, attempting unsuccessfully to mask his frustration. “Why are you not dancing? The two of you should be out there, not sitting here worried about me. Go, dance.” He turned back to his drink.

Éowyn and Faramir exchanged glances, the White Lady turning back to her brother. “Éomer...”

“Later, Éowyn. I think I will retire. We have a long trip to begin on the morrow.” He drained the cup and set it down, standing. “Have a good evening,” he said, turning and striding out of the hall.

Éowyn watched him go, and turned to a puzzled Faramir. “What happened?” he asked her. “They seemed to be getting on famously.”

“I do not know,” Éowyn said quietly, still staring after him. “But I will find out.” She rose from the table, Faramir behind. He clasped her hand and brought it to his lips. “I will remain here. This should be between you two only.”

She smiled, thankful once more for Faramir’s gentle temperament. “Thank you, love. I will be back as soon as I can.” He nodded, bowing slightly as she took her leave.

~~~~~~~~~~

“Éomer, wait,” his sister called after him.

He spun on his heel to regard her. “I told you to stay and have a good evening, sister. I am tired.”

“Tired? Not on the last link of Melkor’s chain, Éomer. Do not think to lie to me. I know you better than you know yourself.” She crossed her arms, looking at him defiantly. “What happened?”

A long sigh escaped his lips. “Not here,” was all he said, as he turned to head back down the hallway. He caught her hand and pulled her into a small parlor, closing the door quietly.

“Éomer, for the love of Béma, what is going on?”

He dropped on to a chair near the empty fireplace in the room. “Ani is betrothed.”

His sister stared at him, her mouth agape. “Betrothed? To whom? When?”

“Apparently that is why she left home to begin with, to run away from a marriage she did not want. And fool that I am, I sent her straight back to him.”

Éowyn took a seat across from him. “You had no way of knowing, Éomer. She never said-“

“She knew I would have sent her packing the minute she told me.” He leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. “And she was right. I would have done exactly that.” He shook his head, blonde locks falling forward over his shoulders.

“Does she not love you?”

He closed his eyes, but the memory of that last look she gave him flooded back, her usually sparkling eyes rimmed with tears. He blinked, and looked up at Éowyn. “She says she does, but it does not matter. She is locked into this marriage against her will, and there is apparently no way around it.”

Cocking her blonde head to one side, his sister regarded him doubtfully. “That does not sound like the brother I know,” she said.

“Oh? And what do you think this brother you know should do?”

“I do not know about ‘should’, “ she answered, “but the brother I know would not give up so easily. The brother I know would move the Mountain of Fire if need be, to be with the woman he loves.”

Éomer smiled at her despite himself. “You give me far too much credit.

“And you do not give yourself enough,” she chided softly.

“She is traveling with us to Edoras, Éowyn. How am I supposed to reconcile that?”

“I would see that as an opportunity,” his sister replied.

“Well and fine except her betrothed will be there as well,” he snapped back. “How do I deal with him?”

Éowyn thought to herself for a moment. “Does he love her?”

“Absolutely not.”

“How do you know?” she asked. Éomer glared at her. “Do not get angry with me, I am only asking.”

His expression softening, he nodded. “No man speaks to or about a woman in he loves in such a manner."

“And what she desires does not matter?”

The king leaned his head on his hand. “Apparently not. She feels she has no choice.”

The White Lady stood abruptly.

“Where are you going?” he asked her.

“To speak to Faramir. Surely something can be done.” She spun on her heels and left the parlor, muttering colorful Rohirrc phrases about Gondorians and their traditions and customs that he hoped no one overheard.

Éomer stared into the cold, empty fireplace. He prayed she was right.

~~~~~~~~~

Anhuil sat up in bed as she heard the door open. “Ani?”

Trying to sleep had been a useless endeavor anyway. “I am here, Cam,” she answered, leaning over to light a small lamp on her bedside table.

The blonde slipped in, closing the door behind her. She came to sit on the bed beside the princess. “I got worried when you did not come back. What happened?”

Drawing her knees up underneath the sheets, the princess leaned forward on them. “I am still in shock, I think. So much has changed in only a few hours. I never expected to see him here. To find out he is now a king too...”

“I imagine he was a bit surprised to find out you are a princess as well,” Cam remarked.

“To say the least,” Anhuil said.

“So what did he say? I take it he was pleased to see you, or at least it appeared that way, watching the two of you dance.”

The princess drew in a deep breath, releasing it slowly. “It is like some kind of torturous game, Camwethrin. Like some tragic tale the glirdanen tell. I find a man I can truly love, yet I can never marry him because of who he is, and then I lose him. He finds me again, suddenly all I could ever want or need in a husband, and I cannot marry him because I am betrothed to another.” She sighed again. “King of Rohan. I am still reeling over that alone.”

“If you married him, you would be...”

“Do not even mention it, Cam. It is not going to happen. Mardil wants to marry me and he is not about to let me out of this betrothal.” She paused, looking down for a moment, then raising her gaze to her friend’s. “Éomer hit him.”

“What? Hit whom?”

“Fenwick. On the terrace. We got into an argument, and Éomer hit him.”

Cam gaped at her. “I cannot believe it.”

“He asked for it, Camwethrin. He was rude, and disrespectful...and when he shoved me that was all Éomer would take. He hit him.”

“What did Mardil do?”

“He fell. Apparently Éomer hits very hard.” She chuckled.

“All of this is going to make for a miserable trip to Edoras,” Cam lamented.

“What do you mean? Tomorrow we go home.”

The blonde stared at her friend in the pale light. “Ani, tomorrow we ride for Rohan. Did your father not tell you?”

“Rohan? I knew Ada was going but...”

Cam shook her head. “Amrothos said your father has decided we all should go, considering what their king sacrificed for us.”

“Well, I understand his thinking, but...oh, Cam...how will I do that? How will I survive traveling with him and being in his home...Oh, gods...” she flung herself back on the pillow, her forearm across her eyes. “I just told him I cannot see him again.” She put both hands over her face.

“I thought you loved him, Ani.”

“I do.”

“Then why on earth would you not want to see him? You are not married yet.”

She sat up again, leaning on her knees. “Because it is too hard. I have to marry Fenwick, Cam. You know I have no choice. Being with Éomer only makes it harder, knowing what we had cannot be. I cannot do that to him. I will not give him hope where there is none.”

The blonde caught her gaze and held it. “There is always hope, Ani.”

~~~~~~~~~~~

***AUTHOR’S NOTE**** I had to use that phrase. I had to. I was compelled by a force beyond my control. My humblest apologies to Fran and Phillippa.


Chapter 22 - Chapter Twenty-one

Trust to Hope - Chapter Twenty-One
Author: Novedhelion
Type: FP Het
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Pairing: Éomer/Lothíriel aka Anhuil
Rating: PG13
Warnings: Confusing canon.
Beta: Riyallyn
Disclaimer: Characters are not mine, blah blah blah....Ok...once and for all...do the Rohirrim have a written language or not? Hmmm...

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Chapter Twenty-One
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“Do not tell me how rocky the sea is. Just bring the ship.”
Vince Lombardi
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Minas Tirith
18 Cerveth, 3019 T.A.
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“There is always hope, Ani.”

Anhuil raised her eyes to her friend’s, the words echoing in her head. Flinging the covers back, she leapt from the bed. She flipped open her trunk, digging for her leggings and a tunic.

“What are you doing?” Cam asked her.

“You say there is hope. I am going to find it.” She pulled the clothing from the trunk, hastily dressing and yanking on her boots.

“Do you want me to come with you?” Cam offered.

The princess pondered the offer for a moment before shaking her head. “No. This is something I need to do alone. I might need you to cover for me should Ada come looking.”

”Where are you going? How do you know where he will be?”

“I am not sure. I have an idea where I might find him,” Anhuil answered.

Heading away from the guest quarters of the Citadel, she paused. From the bridge, she could look down over the city, lit by many lanterns throughout the streets. The city was built in seven tiers, the Citadel being at the top. She could see the wall surrounding the base of the city, a wide stone rampart overlooking the Fields of Pelennor, the wall of Rammas Echor surrounding them. Scattered across the fields were small town lands, beginning to rebuild after the devastation of the battle.

Small figures moved about on the wall far below. On a hunch, she headed for the stables. Anhuil had thought she might find him there. Sighing resignedly, she started to head back, until she realized Firefoot was gone as well.

“Have you seen Lord Éomer this evening?” she asked the stable hand casually, removing her tack from the rack near the wall.

“Yes, Your Highness,” the young man answered her. “He came out a while back, said he was going for a ride. Kinda late, but he is a king, you know. I’ll not be questioning his actions. And I’ll do that for you, Miss, if you don’t mind,” he said, taking the saddle from her.

“Thank you.” She smiled at the tall, blue-eyed young man, who blushed visibly and turned to cinch the straps of the saddle tighter. “Your Highness, I know you are familiar with the city but are you certain you do not need one of us to escort you?” the man asked her.

“No. I know my way quite well. It is late. Do not wait up for me. And thank you for the offer.” She smiled sweetly at him, and spurring her mount into a trot, guided him through the city streets. Where exactly she was headed, she was uncertain.

The gate itself had been splintered by the huge battering ram Grond, but the dwarves brought by Gimli had been busily repairing it, recreating the intricate metalwork that had been destroyed. Although the project was nowhere near completion, it pleased her immensely to see it being rebuilt.

Éomer stood upon the rampart. An involuntary smile crossed her lips as she dismounted, tying off the reins nearby, and climbed the stairs to the top of the wall.

The princess flipped her cloak back over her shoulders; the evening breeze was cool but not chilly. She strolled along the top of the wall, drawing a few curious glances from the guards posted there. Éomer stood near the city Gate, staring out across the Fields of Pelennor toward the city of Osgiliath.

Anhuil watched him for a while silently. He stood as a statue, lost in thought, his dark green cloak and blonde hair blowing in the soft breeze.

Éomer surveyed the field below him. Four months later, there was still evidence of the carnage that had taken place; the Mounds of Mundberg rose in the distance and some still scorched areas of the field. But now, it looked…peaceful. The River Anduín glittered in the distance, continuing its never-ending journey south. The city of Osgiliath shone in the moonlight, the crumbled towers slowly being rebuilt.

His nightmares about that day had become less frequent, but he doubted they would ever disappear entirely. The holocaust that had been the Battle at Pelennor would most likely haunt him forever. He closed his eyes, drawing in a deep breath. The faint scent of lavender on the breeze had to be his imagination but he took comfort in it anyway, his hand instinctively going to his pocket to touch the embroidered handkerchief that had been his lifeline that day.

Anhuil stepped closer to him, almost beside him. “I thought I might find you here.”

Her soft voice startled him from his pensiveness. The king turned to see her standing beside him, a bit surprised to see her dressed more like the Ani he knew instead of Princess Lothíriel of Dol Amroth.

“What are you doing here?” he asked her.

“Looking for hope.”

Éomer regarded her curiously. Anhuil laughed softly, shaking her head. She turned to face him, their gaze meeting. “I owe you an apology, Éomer.”

“No, Ani...”

“Éomer, please. Listen to me.“ Anhuil took a deep breath, the words coming in a flood that even his pleading look would not stem. “I have been terribly unfair to you. I lied to you from the beginning. And it seems I just keep making things worse. I cannot tell you how shocked I was to see you again...and to find out YOU were the king’s heir that my father spoke so highly of...I know what I said about Fenwick and the betrothal and Dol Amroth...I have a duty to my people to do what is best for them and Fenwick has been able to stop these raids on his shores, but how could that mean that I must marry him? There has to be another way, Éomer, there has to be. It is so unfair to both of us. I --“

“Stop, please.” His fingers on her lips finally shut her up. “You being here is enough.” He dropped his hands and turned back to the field. She stood beside him, unsure of what he meant, folding her arms underneath her cloak.

“How did you know where to find me?” he asked without looking at her.

She glanced up at him, then out across the field. “I am not sure.” How to explain that she was inexplicably drawn here? “I suppose it is where I would go, were I you,” she answered with a shrug, shuffling her boot on the stone underneath her feet.

The odd comment puzzled him. “Why?” he asked, turning to look down at her.

Anhuil sighed, looking out across the field. “So much death,” she answered quietly. “It is difficult for anyone to come to terms with.”

The king turned his gaze back over the field, staring straight ahead. “I would not wish it on anyone,” he answered. He stood silent, his jaw set. Anhuil looked up at him, his dark eyes fixed on the horizon. “So many died that day. Men I led here. Men I knew, whose families I knew. Men with wives and children. And yet by some fortune I was spared.” He paused, looking down at her. “How do I reckon that?” His eyes returned to the expanse of the field before them.

“I wish I had an answer,” she responded. “I watched more men die than survive that day. I held their hands and listened to them speak of their loved ones. Some even thought I was their wife, or daughter, or mother. I was whomever they needed me to be.” She swallowed hard. “I wish I had some way to tell their families of their last words and thoughts, but there were so many, I cannot remember them all.”

Éomer turned to regard her. He had almost forgotten she had been here as well. He felt a tightening in his chest at the realization that she had experienced the same horror that he had, the guilt made worse by the fact that he had sent her to the city to begin with.

The princess stepped toward him, sliding her hand into his, their fingers entwining, her gaze following his across the field to the Anduín. “We do not have any say in such matters. Nor do we have any explanation for it. All I can offer is that the Valar saw fit to spare you for a reason. Clearly your task in this life is not yet complete.” She turned toward him. “There is no shame in grieving so great a loss.”

The king silently continued his contemplation of the river in the distance. “I lost all hope that day,” he said finally. “Théodred was dead. Théoden fell. When I found Éowyn…” his voice trailed off as he looked away. He inhaled deeply. “I thought I had lost everything.”

He hesitated again, as if not sure he wanted to continue. She squeezed his hand slightly. He looked down at the stone under his feet. “I am still unsure how I feel about who I became that day. It was as if something inside me snapped, some gate that had held back, at least to a degree, the anger and hatred I had toward them. It flooded over me and through me, until I wanted to kill every last one of them. I felt...nothing. Even among the screams of the dying...I felt nothing.” He shook his head. “It is not an experience I ever wish to repeat, Ani.”

“It was war, Éomer,” she responded quietly. “You did what you had to do.”

“I thought I would die that day. I wanted to die.” His words shocked her. “I held no regard for my own life at that point. On some strange level I had accepted the eventuality of my death, and I wanted only to kill as many of them as I could before they killed me.”

Anhuil’s heart pounded in her chest, so hard her pulse rang in her ears. She knew what she had experienced in the Houses of Healing had been horrible, but she could not imagine what he had seen. Her own experience with battle, as small as that skirmish had been, had left her with nightmares that still plagued her months later. But it was the thought of him wanting to die that ripped her soul nearly in two. She gripped his hand tighter, tears stinging her eyes.

He turned to look at her. “Do you know what gave me a reason to live?”

Éomer pulled his hand from hers, removing the handkerchief from his pocket. He glanced down at it, then raised his eyes to hers. “It was this, Ani... He paused again. The memories of that day rushing back, he looked away momentarily. When he looked back at her, there was an intensity in his gaze Anhuil had never before seen. “I realized that I had not yet lost everything. I remembered I had made you a promise.”

“And you keep your promises.”

“Yes. I remembered what we were fighting this battle for. What we were fighting against. I remembered my father, my cousin, mortally wounded…Théoden lying dead on the battlefield, finding Éowyn and believing her to be dead as well…and I remembered your blood on my hands...” He shook his head.

Éomer smiled down at her, brushing her curls from her face, curling the ends around his fingertips. “I remembered the way your curls fall across your face, the way you elbowed me when I behaved like a boor, and your Sindarin ranting when you get angry.” She laughed softly. “I knew what we were fighting for, all of us…but then I realized what I was fighting for.” Dark eyes focused on hers, his hand under her chin. “I was fighting for you. For us. For our future.”

She opened her mouth to speak, but the words would not come.

“So you see why I cannot just walk away from you, Ani.” His dark gaze penetrated hers, both of his hands now on her face. Anhuil was suddenly very grateful for the strong hands on her. She felt as if she would melt into the solid stone beneath her, her knees beginning to give way. “You are my reason for being alive, do you understand that?”

“Yes, I do,” she answered softly.

“I will not give up. I refuse let go of that. I will do whatever I have to do. If that means riding to Dol Amroth and stealing you away then that is what I will do. I will not lose you, Ani.”

She chuckled. “I do not think that would be a good idea, Éomer, considering the friendship you and Ada have forged. You would not risk open war with Dol Amroth for kidnapping the princess, now, would you?” she asked teasingly.

Éomer stared at her, only the barest hint of a smile on his lips. “If that is what it takes, then that is what I will do.”

Anhuil met his gaze. The look in his eyes told her he meant every word of it. She swallowed hard and smiled, trying to lighten the mood a little. “Let us hope it does not come to that.”

“I love you, Ani,” he said softly.

He ran his thumb lightly across her bottom lip, then lowered his mouth to hers. Months of separation, of loneliness, of longing culminated in that one kiss. Anhuil had no concept of the passing of time, of anyone or anything else. His words, his pain, his love…she felt it all in the touch of his lips on hers. His hand slid behind her head, pulling her closer, his gentle possession only clarifying the fact that she could never belong to another.

Éomer did not know how she knew where to find him in this huge city nor did he care. He needed her. And she was here. It was as if there was a gaping hole in his life that only she could fill, and for right now, he felt complete. His kiss was not so much one of passion, but a connection, a bond, a promise.

When finally they drew back, breathless, their gazes locked, Éomer smiled. His heart felt as if a huge weight had been lifted from it. Wiping her cheeks with his thumbs, he kissed the tears from her face. “What is it, Ani? Why tears?”

She shook her head. “I do not know. I…” How could she explain that she had felt the pain of all he had experienced, his hopelessness, through that one kiss? That her heart had been broken? Anhuil felt his determination, his will to survive, and his desire for her; his love for her filling her heart so that she thought it would burst from her chest. She leaned against him, emotionally spent, but without any doubt at all that this man loved her. That was one thing she would never again question.

“I love you, Éomer,” she whispered.

Closing his eyes, he wrapped his arms tightly around her, his lips pressed to her hair. “I know,” he answered with a grin.

Éomer looked down at her. “Ride with me.”

Anhuil looked at him quizzically. “Where?”

“I care not. I just want to ride. With you.”

The princess smiled. “Of course. But...I brought Olórin. I cannot leave him here. I suppose we could take both horses.”

“We shall see,” he answered. Making their way down the steps, Éomer approached a guard nearby who bowed quickly in recognition of the king. They spoke for a few moments, and Éomer handed off the reins of her horse to him, returning to where she waited.

Éomer flashed her a devilish grin. “Now you have no choice but to ride with me, Your Highness.” Taking her hand, he led her to where he had left Firefoot and lifted her into the saddle, climbing up behind her. "He will return Olórin to the stables."

“Where are we going?” she asked

“It matters not,” he repeated, turning his mount toward the gate. Once out on the field, he let Firefoot break into a full gallop, one arm tight around her, the other skillfully controlling the reins. The wind whipped her curls back against his chin as she leaned back against him, closing her eyes, relishing the feeling of complete freedom. If only she did not have to ever go back.

Éomer allowed Firefoot to run for a while, then slowed him to a trot, his gaze moving across the field toward the White City.

“I do not want to go back,” Anhuil stated. Éomer hugged her tighter in response, but said nothing. His expression darkened as he realized where he had unintentionally ended up. Reining in his mount, he stared down at the spot where he had come to a halt.

Dismounting, he turned to assist her down as well. He stood pensively, reaching silently for her hand.

The grass was still somewhat beaten down, although new growth of the summer was desperately trying to force its way through. One large section was charred, and on that spot no vegetation grew. But nearby, a patch of grass grew thick and lush, upon it a stone engraved with a short epitaph. Anhuil stepped forward, kneeling in front of the small stone, tracing the writing with her fingers. “Faithful servant, yet master’s bane, Lightfoot’s foal, swift Snowmane,” she read quietly, then looked curiously at the other markings. "This is cirth,” she said of the first set of words, tracing her fingers over the others. “But I do not know these letters.”

“It is the tongue of the Mark,” he answered absently.

She turned to him with a puzzled expression. “I thought your people had no written language.”

Éomer shrugged. “It is not commonly used,” he informed her almost emotionlessly.

“What does it say?”

“Léof Þegn giét fréas bana, Lihtfótas fola, swift Snámana,” he replied.

“The same thing, in your tongue,” she said. The king nodded silently.

She turned back to the stone. “Your king’s mount is buried here,” she said, more an observation than a question. Rising slowly to her feet, she turned to study the charred ground behind her. “I had heard that no living thing would grow where the beast had been burned.” Anhuil raised her gaze to look at him. He stared intently at the blackened dirt, unmoving. Moving beside him, she slipped her hand into his. The king closed his hand over hers tightly.

“This is where he fell,” she said softly, “your king.” She turned to look at him expectantly, his expression answering her silently.

“He was far more than king to me,” Éomer answered quietly. “Our father was killed by a band of Orcs, and when our mother died he took my sister and me into his home, and raised us as his own.”

“You never told me that.”

“I did not think it would ever make a difference in my destiny. Théodred, my cousin, should have inherited the throne. I would have served him as faithfully as I had his father. At least, I was loyal to him until he fell under the spell of that worm. I was forced to betray the king’s will for the good of the Riddermark.”

“Your concern was for your people, Éomer. You did what had to be done to protect them. It was not King Théoden’s will you betrayed.”

He nodded, staring down at the ground. “This is where he passed to me the banner of the Mark, commanding that I be king after him,” he said, shaking his head. “Théoden should still be king.” He stated it as fact. Anhuil held tightly to his hand. “And yet tomorrow I must lead a procession to bear his body home for burial.”

Inhaling slowly, he turned to face her. The princess allowed herself to be pulled into his embrace. “I do not look forward to this duty. I am grateful you are coming with us. It will make the trip easier knowing you are there.”

“I am glad as well, for any time I have with you. But we will have to be careful, Éomer.”

“It will be torture, having you so close and not being able to touch you,” he whispered. The king leaned back and smiled down at her. “But it will be far better than not knowing where you are at all.” Bending down, he pressed his lips lightly to hers. “I had better get you back.”

“I do not wish to go back. Can we not just ride away now?”

The king chuckled. “Do not tempt me, wench.”

The princess stepped back, one hand on her hip, her tone mockingly indignant. “First he calls me a hoyden and now a temptress AND a wench. Perhaps there is some other handsome king who would offer me a ride back to the city without such insults.” She whirled around, pretending to stalk off.

Éomer caught her around her waist, pulling her to him. “Woman, I have chased you enough.”

“If I am such a pain to you why do you bother?”

He bent and swung her up into his arms, carrying her back to his mount. “Because I happen to like sassy, tempting little wenches.” He deposited her on to the saddle and settled in behind her.

“And just how many of them have you known?” she asked, turning to look at him over her shoulder.

Éomer appeared to be thinking, counting on his fingers. She elbowed him in the ribs. “Ow! Remind me to wear my armor when I ride with you,” he said.

The princess leaned back against him, laughing. “You feel you need protection from me?”

Closing his eyes, Éomer shifted back slightly in the saddle. “More than you know,” he muttered under his breath, spurring his mount back toward the city.

****

The shutters of the two lanterns left burning in the stable had been half closed, casting only a dim light. Éomer dismounted at the door, leading the stallion into the stable and to his stall before reaching up to lift Anhuil from the saddle as well. He smiled as he lowered her to the ground, holding her against him with his hands on her waist. Before she could speak his mouth covered hers, backing her up against the gate of the stall. Her hands that had been resting on his arms slid up and around his shoulders, drawing him closer.

Firefoot stamped impatiently, causing the princess to giggle. Éomer leaned back, glancing over his shoulder at the horse and rolling his eyes. Kissing her soundly one more time, he reluctantly released her and turned to the horse.

Leading him into the stall, he leaned close to the stallion’s head. “You and I need to have a little talk, my friend,” he said quietly. “It is not polite to interrupt.” He reached underneath the horse, unbuckling the saddle. “Just wait. Next time I see you making advances at some cute filly--“

“Excuse me?” The princess leaned on the stall gate, one eyebrow raised. “Who is making advances at a cute filly?”

“I was talking to the horse,” he said flatly.

“Mmm-hmm. And what exactly are you two talking about?”

Éomer focused his attention on the saddle, drawing in a deep breath. “If you only knew what all this horse and I have talked about,” he muttered softly.

“Oh? And what exactly have the two of you been discussing?”

“Nevermind,” he responded, removing the saddle and hanging it over the rail. “It is between us.”

“Between the two of you?” she queried, backing up from the stall gate as he opened it to come out. She peered over the gate at Firefoot, who was busily munching hay from the floor of his stall. “Pedo amin, mellon?” The horse glanced up at her, then refocused his attention on the hay.

The king grabbed her around the waist and swept her against the wall. “He will not tell. He is sworn to secrecy. It is one of those strange customs in the Mark. We tell all of our secrets to our horses. That way they do not get repeated.” He bent down, burying his face in her neck. She giggled.

“What could you possibly discuss about me with a horse?” she asked, as he reached up and brushed her hair back, his lips pressed to her neck.

Biting back the entirely inappropriate comment threatening to surface, he kissed her instead, pinning her back against the wall. Anhuil playfully shoved him backward, pulling from his embrace and walking past him to the stall. “You did not answer my question,” she tossed over her shoulder as she walked. “At the very least I am entitled to-“ she cut herself off with a surprised shriek, leaping back from the empty stall.

Éomer ran to her, stepping in front of her to see what had startled her. Seeing nothing, he turned to her. She stood against the gate across the walkway of the stable, hands over her mouth in an unsuccessful effort to stifle her hysterical laughter.

Puzzled, he held out his hands. “What? What was it?”

Anhuil placed a hand on her chest, trying to breathe enough to answer.

He turned and peered into the stall, seeing only a small crate in the hay. Shaking his head, he turned back to her questioningly.

Regaining her voice, she choked, “It was only a rat.”

“A rat?”

She laughed again, nodding. Walking toward her, he chuckled. “Woman, I have seen you take out Orcs three times your size! You scream at a rat?”

Backing up, she feigned indignance. “It startled me. It was sitting on that crate.”

Éomer stalked slowly toward her as she backed up. “It must have been a very big rat,” he teased.

The princess tossed her head. “If you were not expecting it, it would have startled you as well.” She continued pacing slowly backward, trying desperately to maintain her pretense of offense as her back hit the far wall of the stable.

“I am not afraid of rats, Princess,” he informed her, closing the distance between them.

“Oh? What are you afraid of, sire?” she queried, her arms crossed.

Leaning on the wall, his hands on either side of her, his dark eyes met hers. “I am afraid of saucy mouthed little princesses,” he answered.

“And why, pray tell, is that?” Anhuil met his gaze with a haughty look.

Éomer moved one hand from the wall, brushing the curls from her eyes. “Because one stole my heart several months ago and now I shall never get it back.”

Anhuil raised one eyebrow. “Would you like her to give it back?”

The king smiled down at her, his dark eyes shining in the pale lamplight. “If she ever gave it back I am afraid it would be broken in two, and therefore completely useless. I would rather she give me hers in its stead.” He leaned closer to her, curling the soft waves at her shoulders around his fingertips.

“That sounds only fair,” she agreed quietly. “For a princess to trade her heart for a king’s. But to do so she would have to have it to give, and I am afraid she does not.”

“Oh?” He smiled. “Why is that?”

“Her own heart was taken as well, months ago, by a handsome rogue of a soldier from Rohan.”

“Is that so? Well, perhaps I should have a talk with the knave...”

The princess opened her mouth to respond, but was silenced by his lips covering hers. The hand that had brushed the curls from her face slid down to her waist, pulling her against him. His tongue found hers, his kiss deepening. Uncrossing her arms, she slid them underneath his cloak, around his broad shoulders.

“Éomer,” she whispered as his lips found the side of her neck, “it is getting late. Ada will be very worried...”

With a heavy sigh, he leaned back. “I suppose you are right. Best not to start that war with Dol Amroth just yet.”

The princess cast him a sardonic smile. “Please do not jest about such things.”

He pushed himself off from the wall, pulling her into his arms with his other hand. “I am sorry, did that sound like a jest? It was not meant to be...”

Anhuil pushed him away and cuffed him on the shoulder. “You are such a scoundrel,” she teased. Éomer offered her his arm.

“You say that like it is a bad thing,” he said with a smile.

That grin. The princess shook her head. She was going to have to learn to be much more resistant to that charming grin. With a toss of her head, she regarded him silently for a moment. Sliding her hand over his arm, Anhuil smiled seductively at him. “I never said it was a bad thing. Genteel men are so boring. Cam has always told me propriety is highly overrated. I do believe she was correct.”

“Cam is a very smart young woman,” the king agreed. “You should listen to her more often.” They walked out of the stable and into the dark street, heading up the street to the Citadel.

Strolling along beside him, the princess shoved the hood of her cape back, and smiled up at him. Éomer sighed. Nothing in Middle Earth affected him like a simple smile from her.

He laughed softly.

“What is so amusing?” she inquired, halting her steps and looking up at him. They stood on the bridge before the Citadel.

Éomer shook his head. “The thought of you screaming at a rat.”

“I told you, it only startled me. I have no love for the nasty little things but I am not usually frightened by them, for Valar’s sake. I just did not expect-“ she stopped suddenly, staring at him. The king was laughing harder now.

“I am sorry, Ani,” he told her. “It was just very funny. You leap from behind trees to fight Orcs and save my life, and then scream at a rat. It is rather amusing, do you not think?”

She glared at him defiantly, a hint of a smile on her lips. “I was angry at those Orcs. They took my horse.”

Éomer stopped laughing, his expression becoming serious. “Ani, I do not think I ever thanked you properly for saving my life.”

She waved dismissively. “It was not like it was some big heroic deed. I told you, I had a score to settle with those Orcs.”

“Yes, but you did not have to do what you did.”

“I was supposed to stand there behind the trees and watch the three of you be slaughtered? You were outnumbered.”

The king smiled at her. “Ani, what you did was very brave. You could have stayed hidden, or ran, and those Orcs would never have known you were there. But you did not. You stepped in, risking your own life, and saved not only me, but probably my men and our horses as well.”

The princess snickered. “Brave? You think that was brave?” She laughed out loud. “I was terrified, Éomer. I was certain my heart pounding would be heard all over Rohan. I was more frightened than I have ever been in my life. But I was also angry. I was angry with myself for allowing them to frighten me away the first time. I was not about to let them win again.” She crossed her arms, pulling her cloak around her again. “Rash, I will grant you. Brave? Compared to what you and the others did out there, and at the Black Gate? Compared to your sister, taking down the Witch King of Angmar? I do not think so.” She kicked at a stone under her feet, then started to walk ahead, toward the Citadel.


Catching her by the arm, Éomer turned her back toward him. “Princess,” he said, addressing her by the title he rarely used, “there are many kinds of courage. Do you not remember what I told you the evening you were wounded?”

“In all honesty, Éomer, I remember very little of that evening,” she confessed, not quite truthfully, because some images from that night were burned into her mind like a brand. Some she would rather forget.

“I told you that fearlessness is reckless. Fearlessness will likely get you killed. Courage is facing adversity head on. It is calculating the risk and deciding what is worth the cost. THAT is what you did. It is what you are doing now.” The king smiled at her. “And the fact remains that had you not done what you did...” he trailed off momentarily. “Thank you, Ani.”

“If I am not mistaken, we are even on that one. I seem to remember a scrape you pulled me out of,” she answered.

His hand slid down to her side, the warmth of his fingers through the fabric of her thin tunic made her breath catch.

“I guess we are square, then,” he said softly, his thumb tracing the line across her side where her wound had been. Éomer leaned down, his forehead against hers, pulling her to him with the hand on her waist.

She grinned up at him. “I suppose we are, at least until I have to save your sorry hide again.”

“I am counting on it,” he told her, his lips meeting hers. Anhuil stood on her tiptoes, her hands on his shoulders, leaning against him. His free hand slid around her waist and splayed across her back, under the cloak. She shivered at the warmth of his touch. His fingers spread, sliding over the soft fabric of her tunic.

Reluctantly, he pulled back, sighing deeply. “We should get you inside. It is late and your father is going to kill me if he finds out I had you out riding in the Pelennor in the middle of the night.”

“Well, we cannot have that or I will be stuck with that arrogant prat Fenwick,” she answered as they ascended the steps to the Citadel.

“We certainly cannot have that,” he remarked teasingly. He stopped and looked at her. “Ani, this will not be easy.”

“Do you think I am the kind of woman who has an issue with adversity, Éomer?” She raised an eyebrow at him.

His hand went to her cheek. “You certainly do not choose the simplest paths in life, Princess.”

“The safe and simple paths are the boring ones, Your Majesty,” she quipped.

The heavy doors creaked open loudly. Stepping inside, she turned to face him. “Best not to arouse any more suspicion than we probably already have, arriving together this late at night. Those guards will be gossiping all night. Between them and the ones at the gate, by tomorrow most of Minas Tirith will be whispering about us.”

Laughing softly, the king rolled his eyes. “Good thing we are leaving tomorrow, then. I will never get used to having every detail of my life analyzed this way,” he sighed.

“I have news for you, Éomer. If you grew up in the courts at Edoras, it has been going on your whole life, whether you were aware of it or not.” She lowered her voice almost to a whisper. “I should go in alone. You know your way to your quarters?”

“I think I can find it,” he assured her. They stood silently for a moment, neither wishing to be the first to turn away.

“Well, goodnight then, Your Majesty,” she said quietly with a slight nod of her head, more for the benefit of the guards within hearing distance than for him.

“Goodnight, Princess,” he responded with a very appropriate bow. She giggled. “Thank you for the honor of allowing me to escort you safely.”

Anhuil chuckled softly. With a glance at the guards, who were trying desperately not to watch, she nodded. “Tomorrow, then,” she said quietly, turning down the marble tiled corridor.

Éomer watched her stride down the hall, her cloak billowing behind her. When he could no longer hear the clicking of her heels on the stone floor, he turned and walked slowly back to his own chambers.

~~~~~~~~~~

**Note from the Author***
There are conflicting passages in Tolkien's work about whether or not the Rohirrim had a written language. He says clearly in the Two Towers that they did not, but Return of the King mentions that the monument to Snowmane was written in "the tongues of Gondor and of the Mark", which would indicate that there WAS a written language for the Rohirrim. Another thing our dear Professor chose not to make clear...for whatever reason. I have chosen to give them a written language, assuming that the majority of their populace would be illiterate and therefore the use of it would not be widespread. I am also making an assumption that nobles would have been more educated, considering how long Thengel lived in Gondor, and that his heirs probably WOULD have been literate, at least in the languages of Gondor and the Mark. Allow me this little bit of artistic license if you will.


Chapter 23 - Chapter Twenty-Two

Trust To Hope - Chapter Twenty-two
Author: Novedhelion
Type: FP Het
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Pairing: Éomer/Lothíriel aka Anhuil
Rating: PG13
Warnings: Semi-nude Princess, hot king...(no, really...I mean hot...it is July, you know...)
World’s most patient Beta: Riyallyn
Disclaimer: Forgive my glossing over this but to mention EVERY character that was on this trip would have taken three chapters. Apparently Théoden had quite the funeral procession, as is only fitting. Funny how it took the Rohirrim only a few days to get to Minas Tirith before Pelennor but TWO WEEKS to get Théoden home. Sheesh!

***********************************
“What they don’t see
Is what is killing me
It’s a blessing and a curse
That love is blind...

In Another’s Eyes
Garth Brooks/Trisha Yearwood
***********************************
Minas Tirith
19 Cerveth, 3019 T.A.
***************************

The sun shone brightly on the day of departure. The various banners of Rohan flew in the breeze as the host gathered to carry Théoden to his final resting place in the Barrowfield of Edoras. The Riders of Rohan, with Éomer, Gamling and Éothain leading the procession, surrounded the wain bearing the body of King Théoden. The herald beside them unfurled the banner of Théoden, the white horse upon field of deep green with a sunburst in one corner, and the king’s Esquire, the halfling Meriadoc Brandybuck, bore the arms of the deceased king. They rode for the gates of the city, solemn and silent.

Frodo and Samwise rode alongside King Elessar and Queen Arwen on their ponies. Prince Legolas of Mirkwood rode with Gimli the dwarf upon the Rohirrim steed Éomer had given them, Arod. The other halfling, Peregrin, in full armor, rode with the knights of Gondor. Many of the fair folk of Lothloríen and Rivendell went among them as well. Lord Elrond and his sons, the Lady Galadriel and the Silver Lord Celeborn. Prince Faramir never strayed far from the side of his beloved Éowyn, upon her grey steed, Windfóla, who had borne her as Dernhelm to the Battle at Pelennor.

The Prince of Dol Amroth and his family were also part of this great host. Imrahil rode with his sons on one side, the women on the other. Mardil Fenwick and his valet Neville also came, although none to happy about it. He could not see the point of traveling a fortnight for a king’s funeral when there were important duties to be attended to in Dol Amroth. Imrahil had insisted, however, and he did not want to upset the prince. Begrudgingly, he had relented.

Anhuil rode upon Olórin, the black stallion Éomer had given her. She had been surprised when the groom in the stable informed her that the king of Rohan had ordered the horse re-shod. She smiled at Éomer’s protectiveness. Whether of the horse or of her, she wasn’t sure, but it amused her anyway.

Gondor
The East/West Road
24 Cerveth, 3019 T.A.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

With so great a number present, Éomer had been circumspect in approaching the princess, lest he give anyone cause to suspect. He had managed to catch her attention at least a few times daily since their departure, smiling surreptitiously at her. Wiping his brow with the back of his hand, he tried not to think about the days she rode in front of him in the saddle, her dark curls tickling his chin, the warmth of her pressed back against him, and the smell of lavender permeating the air. He sighed and shifted his weight in the saddle. It was going to be a long journey.

~~~~~~~~~~
Gondor
The East/West Road
28 Cerveth, 3019 T.A.
~~~~~~~~~~

They sat around the campfires at night, listening to more tales from the Elves. Anhuil was glad she had brought her journal, and recorded as much as she could remember. This evening she had finally managed to corner the Silver Lord Celeborn and ask him the questions she had about the history of Dol Amroth. Off to the side of the fire, the princess sat with journal in hand, taking notes as he patiently answered her questions.

“So Amroth was son of Amdír, who died in the Battle of the Last Alliance?”

“Yes. Amdír was Lord of Lórien, and was killed at Dagorlad. His son became ruler after him.”

“There are stories that Amroth was the son of you and Galadriel,” she commented.

Celeborn laughed, a deep rumble. “No, my dear. I had heard such. Nonsense, of course. He was Lord of Lothlórien before my wife and I arrived there. Does a Lord inherit his domain from a son?” He chuckled.

“Who is Malgalad? Some of our history mentions him as the father of Amroth, but there is no detail as to who he was.”

The Elf smiled broadly in appreciation. “You have done your research well, Princess. Indeed there was a Malgalad. I believe the name is a reference to the golden-leafed mallorn trees of Lothlórien. ‘Mal’ means yellow or golden, and ‘galad’ means ‘tree’. Malgalad and Amdír were one and the same.”

“I knew it!” she exclaimed triumphantly. “I knew it. I told my history tutor that Malgalad and Amdír had to be the same person and she told me I was being presumptuous.” She grinned at her vindication. ‘It is such a source of controversy among Dol Amrothian scholars. Almost as much as whether or not a Balrog has wings.”

“Do they?”

Anhuil shrugged helplessly.

Celeborn chuckled. “You impress me with your diligence. Most humans do not care that much for the matters of the Elves.”

“It is also my history, Lord Celeborn. Why would I not wish to know it? I only want the truth. There is so much that is not known.”

Celeborn’s grey eyes sparkled. “The quest for knowledge should be never-ending, Princess. Once you think you know everything there is to know life becomes very dull.” He smiled down at her. “You have more questions?”

“I have hundreds, my Lord. What of Mithrellas? Was Galador’s mother really a Silvan Elf?”

“Indeed she was,” he responded. “Mithrellas was the handmaid and companion of Nimrodel, Amroth’s true love. Nimrodel was lost in the White Mountains as she fled Lothlórien with many others when the Balrog was awakened in Khazad-dûm. Mithrellas was found wandering alone in the woods of Belfalas by Imrazôr, the Númenôrean, Galador’s father, who later married her.”

The princess was rapt. She did not even look up when Éomer walked past the fire and watched her for a moment, her attention undividedly on the Silvan Elf. He was pleased she had found the opportunity to speak to the Elf Lord, as that had been the reason she gave him for traveling alone before the war. Smiling to himself, he moved on about his business, not wanting to interrupt.

“But what became of Nimrodel? And of Amroth? The stories say he leapt from his ship when it was blown to sea without his beloved, because he could not bear to go without her.”

“That is what the legends say,” Celeborn answered with a nod. “The final fate of Nimrodel is not known. Amroth had founded a port on the coast of Belfalas, in what is now your fair city of Dol Amroth. He waited at Edhellond for his love, for he had promised her that if she came to him he would take her by sea to the land of Aman, the Blessed Realm.”

“The Undying Lands...” the princess murmured quietly.

Celeborn nodded. “It is from what is now Dol Amroth that the white ships used to sail, until the reshaping of the world. Now the ships pass from the Grey Havens.”

The princess blew out her breath slowly, and was silent. Malgalad and Amír were the same person. Amroth was not the son of the Silver Lord and the Lady of Light. And Mithrellas truly was a Silvan Elf. Studying the stories in the libraries of Minas Tirith and Dol Amroth were one thing, having someone who had actually seen these things was another entirely.

Celeborn looked at her, one eyebrow raised. “Surely that is not all you question, dithenil?”

“I am sure I will think of more,” she answered. “I thank you for taking the time to answer.”

“Consider it my part in dispelling myth,” the Silver Lord laughed. “I would not want your history books to be inaccurate.”

“Then it appears I shall have to do a considerable amount of re-writing them,” she quipped, flipping her journal shut and smiling at the Elf.

“It is late, Princess. We will have more opportunity to talk. You should rest.” He stood and reached for her hand, helping her to her feet.

“Hannon le, Lord Celeborn. I am most grateful for your time.” She bowed politely.

“I will be pleased to answer any other questions you can conjure, if they are within the boundaries of my knowledge. Perhaps you should speak to my wife as well.” The princess nodded. “But do not listen to those two rogues,” he said, indicating Orohpin and Rumil near the fire. “Those two would have you believe they invented the bow and arrow.” He chuckled as he walked away, grinning over his shoulder at her as she rejoined the others near the fire.

Amrothos offered to escort the ladies back to their tent. The princess had a suspicion that it had more to do with Camwethrin than herself, but she said nothing. This night they strolled through the camp, arm in arm, the young prince between the two women, talking softly. Reaching the small quarters she and Cam shared, Anhuil stood on her toes and kissed her brother on the cheek, pulling the tent flap open.

Cam started to follow, but Amrothos pulled her back. Anhuil gave them a questioning look over her shoulder. Her brother winked at her surreptitiously. Assuming he wanted some time alone with Cam, the princess feigned a yawn. “Goodnight, you two,” she chimed, stepping into her tent.

Camwethrin turned to the prince, one eyebrow raised. “Walk with me,” he whispered.
“But...”

"Shh," he snickered, casting a knowing glance toward the tent, coupled with a mischievous grin. "Saes?" Understanding his meaning, the blonde allowed him to lead her away from the tent.

They strolled among the tents, talking softly. “So, what did you do? Tie Fenwick up and lock him in a trunk?”

Amrothos laughed. “No, but that is not a bad idea. Shall we seek him out?”

“I suppose not,” her voice laden with regret. “Someone would eventually find him.”

“You are probably right,” he agreed.

Amrothos watched her as they walked. He had known her practically all of his life. The tiny four-year old cherub had come to live with them when the Admiral’s wife, her mother, died. Prince Imrahil and his wife agreed that a ship was no place to raise a daughter, and brought her into their home. At the time, eight-year old Amrothos could think of nothing worse than another female in the house, especially one that tagged along wherever he and his brothers went. One that turned into the seven-year old imp that used to steal his bowstrings, a ten year old who insisted on being taught how to use a sword that was almost as tall as she was, and a tall, slim sixteen year old who could on occasion, best him in a duel. And six years later, a young woman whom he would let best him anytime.

He had always taken her presence for granted. After all, she had always been as annoying as his own sister. Lately, though, he noticed other things about her he had not in the past. The way the moonlight glinted in her hair. Her breathtaking smile. The gentle sway of her hips as she walked. Glancing over at her, he steeled himself as he took a step closer to her, reaching for her hand. Anhuil’s happiness was not his only plan for the evening.

“Amrothos!” a voice called out. The pair looked over as Erchirion strolled toward them. Elphir sat near a fire with several soldiers. “Where are you two headed,” the elder brother asked, a wry grin on his face.

“We were going for a walk,” Cam answered, oblivious to Amrothos’ rising ire.

With a wink at his younger brother, Erchirion caught Cam’s hand, pulling her toward the fire. “We were just telling stories. Please join us.” Amrothos followed, silently vowing to wreak a certain amount of violence upon his elder sibling.

~~~~~~~~~~~

The princess groped around in the semi dark, trying to find the small lamp. Stepping toward her cot, she jumped at the sudden touch on her back. Before she could react warm lips covered hers, lips she knew well. Yielding to his sweet kiss, she wrapped her arms around his neck.
“Hello to you too,” Anhuil whispered softly. “You scared me.”

“Well, I could not exactly have a herald announce my presence here, now could I?” He bent and kissed her again, his arms around her tightly. “I miss you, Ani. It is very difficult to have you this close, and…”

“I know,” she sighed. He stood, holding her, for a long time, just enjoying the feel of her in his arms.
“Éomer,” she broke the silence. “Thank you for taking care of Olórin. The groom told me--“

“I thought I told him to keep quiet,” Éomer said, with an exaggerated sigh. “It is so hard to find good help these days…”

Anhuil punched his chest. “You are turning into such a king.”

He looked down at her, one eyebrow raised. “Is this a bad thing?”

“Not at all,” she leaned against him again.

“I cannot stay long,” his fingers played across the curls at the back of her neck. “It would not be a good thing for me to be found here. I would not want to do anything to impugn your reputation.”

“Oh, you mean like sneaking off with me in Minas Tirith, or hitting my fiancé? Not to mention undressing me to tend to my wound, and sleeping on the same cot...” The princess feigned indignation. “Shall I name a few more?”

“You were wounded. There was nothing untoward about that. I stayed in case you needed me.” Éomer tried to sound offended. “And you were cold.”

“And that was the only reason?” Anhuil asked sarcastically.

Silence followed. Anhuil looked up at him in the shadowy light of the tent. “What is it?”

He sighed heavily. “I did not realize how burdensome this journey would be. I cannot tell you how grateful I am to have you here. Your presence alone makes it bearable.”

She looked up into his eyes. “I am so sorry, Éomer, for your loss.”

Éomer reached for her, gathering her into his arms beside him. “Théoden was a great king. He lived a long and full life, and died with honor. I hope to do the same,” Éomer answered softly.

Her gaze remained locked with his. “You will be a good king, Éomer.”

“I wish I had your certainty,” he chuckled.

“Do not underestimate yourself, Hír nin.” She smiled.

“What does that mean? Hír nin?”

“Hír nin. I am sorry. It means My Lord,” she answered with a giggle.

He leaned back, a look of surprise on his handsome face. “My Lord? You are calling me My Lord?”

“Well, you are a king now…” she teased.

“I see. No longer a lowly marshal am I. The princess addresses me with respect, now that I am king…” his voice trailed off, the joke forgotten.

“And yet you still claim not to believe in fate.” She answered quietly, laying her head against his chest again.
“I am beginning to change my mind.”

It was her turn to sigh. “So much is uncertain.”

“But there are things that are certain, Anhuil.” He lifted her chin up, and smiled down at her. “I love you. I cannot imagine my life without you now. That is certain.” Éomer pulled her to him, gently lowering his lips to hers.

“Lothíriel!” A harsh whisper came from outside her tent.

Éomer pulled back and shook his head. “Bloody hell,” he growled.

“LOTHIRIEL!”

“Fenwick!” she whispered back. “Let me go see what he wants.”

He moved to the back of the tent, lifting the heavy canvas. “I shall show myself out,” he whispered teasingly. She stifled a giggle, stepping outside the tent into the moonlight.

“Mardil Fenwick, some people around here may be sleeping! What do you want?”

Looking down at her boots still on her feet, he surmised she was not one of them. “I was only concerned about you--“ Mardil began, his patronizing tone infuriating her.

“You do not care one whit about me, Fenwick, so what is it you really want?”

“I thought I heard voices, Lothíriel. Is Valesa here?” He tried to peer into her tent. She yanked the flap shut.

“No. She has gone for a walk with Amrothos. And I will thank you for respecting my privacy.” The princess positioned herself in front of the tent opening.

He narrowed his eyes at her. “Who were you talking to, Lothíriel?”

“I was talking to no one, Mardil. This camp is full of people, perhaps it was one of them you overheard.” Anhuil crossed her arms and stood her ground.

“Do not take me for a fool. I know I heard voices. I was right outside and--“

“You were spying on me?”

“You are lying to me!” Fenwick pushed her aside and yanked open the tent flap, stepping inside. Two cots, a small table, a lantern, some trunks in the corner. He looked around sheepishly.

Sighing heavily, she followed him inside the tent. Fenwick was looking underneath the cot. She almost laughed out loud. “Are you satisfied, Mardil?”

“Where is he?”

“Who? What are you talking about, Mardil?”

“That Rohirrim king. I know he was here.” He watched her for some reaction, but got none. “I know, Lothíriel, and if I catch you with him again, you will rue the day you ever met the King of the Mark. He will pay for striking me as he did.”

“Do not threaten me, Mardil Fenwick,” she answered angrily. “Or him! You are lucky he only hit you once, the way you insulted him. For the love of the Valar, he is a king!”

“It seems fitting that those peasants would have a swain for a king.”

The princess stiffened, glowering at him. “’Those peasants’ saved our lives! ‘Those peasants’ DIED so that cowards like you could continue breathing!” She growled in frustration. “You do not get it, do you Fenwick? If not for ‘those peasants’, Minas Tirith may have fallen, and had that happened, I would be dead. Do you understand THAT?”

“He struck me, Lothíriel! No gentleman would have behaved that way.”

“You insulted me, and shoved me. Any gentleman would have hit you, including my father or my brothers! You are fortunate it was not one of them, and even more so that Éomer did not feel it necessary to tell them of the incident!”

Fenwick glared at her. “Lothíriel, I am not playing games with you. I mean every word. You are mine and I will not have another man --”

Anhuil rolled her eyes. “I am not playing games with you either, Fenwick!” She gestured around the tent. “There is no one here. You can see that. Look around if you wish, but I am quite alone. I do not know what you think you heard, but I would like to get some rest, now. Please take your delusions and return to your own quarters.” She flung open the tent, motioning him outside.

Fenwick looked at her suspiciously, glancing around her tent one last time. “Goodnight, Lothíriel,” he snapped. Stepping out into the dark, he was gone.

Anhuil flopped down on the cot, breathing a sigh of relief. Kicking off her boots, she closed her eyes. Éomer was right. It was getting very difficult. She was not pleased about lying, even to Fenwick.

She heard soft voices outside, a soft laugh. Cam and Amrothos. The princess rolled over on to her side, smiling despite herself. Cam ducked inside, grinning. “Ani? Are you still awake?”

“Yes,” she whispered.

“So did you get to talk at all? Or did you talk?” Cam kicked off her own boots and laid back on her cot.
“Yes, we did, actually,” she answered quietly.

“What is it, Ani?”

Anhuil thought over her conversation with Éomer. She sighed. “Nothing. We need to get some rest. Tomorrow will be another long day. Losto vae, Camwethrin.”

“Elei velui, Ani.” The princess lay on her side, staring at the canvas wall of the tent. Cam lay back, silently staring up at the ceiling.

~~~~~~~~
Gondor
The East/West Road
30 Cerveth, 3019 T.A.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Days passed, and the Valar had still not seen fit to offer any reprieve from the hot sun, either by cloud or by breeze. Anhuil’s head began to ache, her neck and shoulders stiff. The Elves did not seem bothered by this at all, Orophin and Rumil regaling them all with yet another wild tale of their youth in Lothloríen. Occasionally a soft laugh from Galadriel was heard, or the smooth voice of Lord Celeborn, adding some detail that the brothers had conveniently left out of a story. Anhuil was beginning to think immortality might not be such a good thing…it gave one entirely too much time to get into trouble.

Her thoughts wandering, she let her gaze meander as well across the procession, falling on Éomer. Sitting ramrod straight in his saddle, he had removed his cloak and wore only his shirtsleeves. His blonde tresses fell across his back. The princess knew how hard this journey was for the new king, and this sun beating down on everyone did little to ease the stress. These were long days for them all. Her heart ached for him. She longed to offer him some kind of comfort, some small semblance of solace. A fleeting thought of her hands kneading the muscles of his broad shoulders…

“Ani, can you believe these two?” Cam’s laughter shook her from her daydream. “Ani, are you listening?”
“I am sorry, Camwethrin. I…just need some air. I think I will stretch Olórin’s legs a bit. I will be back.” With that, she kicked him into a canter and rode forward and to the right, away from the throng of dignitaries.
Hearing a horse’s quickened pace, Éomer half turned in his saddle to scan the accompaniment. He saw Anhuil guide her horse from the crowd, allowing Olórin to run a bit. An involuntary smile crossed his face.
“Lord Éomer,” Gamling’s voice startled him. “There is a stream up ahead. Do you wish to take a brief rest there, water the horses?” The king nodded his affirmation and turned back to Anhuil, but she had moved out of his line of sight.

The Lady Galadriel had been observing the pair throughout the journey. She had noticed them first in Minas Tirith, and had been intrigued by the interaction between them. As the riders began to dismount at the clear stream, she quickened her pace and followed the young princess.

“Princess Lothíriel, may I join you?” Anhuil looked over to see the graceful Elf Queen, clad entirely in white, upon a pale grey mare. How was it she never looked the least bit dusty or disheveled?

“I would be honored,” Anhuil answered. “It appears we are dismounting for a brief respite.” The princess popped lightly to the ground, leading Olórin to the stream to drink. She held the halter of the Lady’s horse as she dismounted with more grace that Anhuil could ever imagine mustering.

The two women exchanged pleasantries, joking about the Lothlórien brothers’ antics. Yet underneath the serene exterior, Galadriel felt the princess’ turmoil over her father, her love for Éomer, and her despair at her betrothal to Mardil Fenwick. Her hopelessness and frustration moved the Lady of the Wood deeply.

They allowed their horses to drink, then gathered the reins, walking slowly to join the others. Lord Celeborn stood beside his mount with a wide smile, waiting for his wife. Anhuil looked for Éomer and for Cam, but instead her gaze fell on Mardil, cold gray eyes regarding her silently. He was glaring at her as she spoke to the Lord and Lady of the Wood in Sindarin, trying to hear what she said. Galadriel turned and glanced at Fenwick, then back to Anhuil.

As the princess prepared to mount, the Lady of the Wood caught her by the arm. Softly cupping her chin, she brought the dark green eyes up to meet her own deep blue ones. She spoke no words, yet Anhuil heard her as clearly as if she did.

Lasto nin, hên. Cenni man gwaith u’cennich. Cenni meleth thilia min hin lín mar cennich aran lín. Avaro naeth. Lasto guren lín. Estelio, Erniliel. Estelio a harthac. Leaning down, Galadriel placed a soft kiss on her cheek, now damp with tears.

Anhuil looked at her, puzzled. “U’chenion.”

“Gerithac. Ab anand.” The Lady said aloud. The princess nodded. With a beautiful smile, Galadriel mounted her horse, guiding the mare over to where her husband waited. With a deep sigh, Anhuil decided they had to be one of the most beautiful pairs she had ever seen. They rode off to join the rest of the party from Lothlórien.

Anhuil mounted her own horse, riding back toward Cam.

“What was that all about?”

The princess turned to see Fenwick riding alongside her. Straightening her back, she tossed her head. “Nothing.”

“Lothíriel, I heard what that Elf-witch said to you. What is it you will understand in time?” he persisted.
“Mardil, to be honest, I wish I knew.” She urged her horse forward. “I suppose it is not time.”

~~~~~~~~~
Rohan
The East/West Road
5 Urui, 3019 T.A.
~~~~~~~~~~~

Anhuil rolled over on her cot. Cam lay asleep, her blanket kicked off. How anyone could sleep in this heat eluded her. She sat up, trying to take a breath in the stifling air. The tent only made matters worse, blocking what little breeze might have been blowing. Even her clothing felt sticky and hot. What she wouldn’t give to be able to wash it out, and clean up a little herself. She sighed, blowing the curls from her eyes.

Then she remembered the stream. She had taken Olórin there for a drink when they had stopped for the evening, and she had noticed the pool off to one side. If she couldn’t sleep, at least she could get her clothing clean.

Quietly pulling on her boots and slipping a tunic over her head, she grabbed her dagger and a blanket to dry off with. Digging through the trunk, she realized the only cool item of clothing she had clean was a cotton frock. She picked it up with a sigh, and headed for the small pond she had seen earlier.

The water was still in the dark, only a sliver moonlight breaking through the trees along the bank. A small stream flowed into it, but the water pooled behind some larger boulders and trees, offering some cover and a bit of deeper water. Anhuil made her way to the water’s edge, kneeling beside it. She looked around furtively, and seeing no sign of any of the other travelers, peeled the leggings off, washing them quickly. The tunic she was wearing followed suit, leaving her clad only in a thin shift she been wearing to sleep in. Her dry clothing lay piled on a rock nearby.

Kneeling once again to splash some of the water on her face, she sighed at the cool sensation on her skin, washing away the stickiness and dust from their travels. Gods, what she wouldn’t give for a bath.

Her gaze fell on the pool. Without another thought, she waded into the pool. At its deepest it came not quite to her waist, but she knelt and ducked under the still surface. What had felt cool to her hands was rather chilly on the rest of her, but it felt so good to be removing the layers of dust on her skin and in her hair that she ignored the cold.

Éomer stormed through the camp. A soldier keeping watch had awakened him, telling him he had seen the princess headed for the stream alone. Having an idea what she would be up to, he hurriedly dressed and stomped off after her.

He could hear the splashing of the water faintly as he neared the pool. Rounding the small copse near the shore, he noticed the clothing spread on the rock. Quietly making his way around a tall tree he saw her, standing in water.

Blatantly staring, he froze, unable to tear his eyes from her. Anhuil wore a thin cotton shift, sleeveless, but it was soaking wet and pasted to her skin, outlining every curve clearly. Her back was to him. She pulled her hair back with both hands, wringing the water from the dark curls. Moonlight rippled on the water, glinting softly off her bare shoulders. His eyes followed the concave path down her back to the curve of her hips, accentuated by the drenched fabric. *Turn around, man, just turn around,* he chastised himself. His breathing had all but stopped, and he was fairly certain his heart had as well, although other parts of him seemed to be working just fine.

She turned her head quickly as if listening. Éomer could see she held her dagger in her teeth. Good, he thought. At least she did not come out unarmed.

He ducked quickly behind a tree, leaning his back on the rough bark. As if having her this close to him wasn’t enough, now he had the images of her soaking wet and nearly nude to contend with. He drew in a long, deep breath, letting it out slowly.

Her eyes darted around the shadows as she took the dagger in her hand. “Hello?” she called out.

Apparently satisfied that no one was coming, she placed the dagger on top of her blanket on a nearby stone and lowered herself into the chilly water once again. Ducking herself under the water, she scrubbed at her face and ran her fingers through her hair, rinsing out as much of the dust as possible. Blowing out her breath as she broke the surface, she stood, wringing out her hair with both hands, shivering slightly despite the warmth of the night air.

Her eyes still closed, she reached for the blanket she had laid on the rock, surprised when her fingers met only stone. Wiping the water out of her eyes with her hands, she opened them and looked around for the blanket and her dagger. Neither were in sight. She felt around under the shallow water to no avail. “Where the bloody hell did it go?” she wondered out loud, muttering a few Rohirric curses she had heard the men use.

“Lose something?”

The deep voice startled her, but she recognized it immediately. She peered into the shadows but could not see him. “Where are you? Where is my blanket?”

Éomer chuckled, leaning on the other side of the tree near the bank, his back to her. “You know, Princess, a dagger will not do you much good if an attacker gets to it before you even know he’s there. You really should be more careful.”

“And a gentleman would not be out here spying on a girl while she bathes.”

“I thought we had already established that I am not a gentleman,” he answered pointedly.

She splashed the water hard toward the sound of his voice. “Éomer, this is not funny. I am freezing.”

He held the dagger in one hand, touching the point of it to a fingertip on his other hand. “You know,” he called to her from behind the tree, “I am getting sorely tired of reminding you that sneaking off alone is not a good idea. I should make you walk back through camp soaking wet.”

“You would not dare,” she warned him.

“Would I not?”

Seething, Anhuil contemplated the situation. No matter how she looked at it, the fact remained that he was holding the cards, not to mention her blanket.

Well, maybe he did not hold ALL the cards...

“Why would you want to do such a thing?” she queried, moving as quietly as she could through the water toward the shore, sliding out of the water and on to the bank.

“Why would I not? You fail to understand the danger of this situation, Princess, and nothing I have said seems to make any difference. What if it were not me? What if someone else had come upon you, alone and defenseless?” As he spoke, she crept out of the water and out of site behind another tree, trying to keep her chattering teeth quiet. “Do you think anyone else would only have taken your blanket?”

The king listened, hearing no sound from the water. “Ani?” he called tentatively. When he received no response he turned and peered toward the small pond. “Ani? Where are you?”

Stepping from behind the tree, he strode down to the bank, his eyes darting furtively around the shadows cast by the pale moonlight. “Princess?” He stood at the edge of the water, searching the shallow pool for a trace of her. A slight panic welled up in him. He dropped her dagger and blanket on the rocks nearby, and bent to remove his boots. “Bloody hell, Ani...”

Before he could finish the princess darted from behind the tree and shoved him with all of her might. Standing on one foot with one boot halfway off, the king lost his balance on the loose sand and toppled into the shallow, cold pool.

Sputtering, he surfaced, turning to glare at the scantily clad imp standing on the bank. Both hands were over her mouth in a useless effort to stifle her laughter at the soaked king in the pond. Heaving himself from the water, Éomer stood and stomped through the shallows toward her as she slowly backed away, still laughing.

“Admit it,” she chastised. “You deserved it. Following me out here only to harass me.“

“Well, then both of us should get what we deserve,” he teased menacingly. “And what you deserve is to be turned over my knee.”

“You would not dare,” she warned, her smile fading slightly.

Éomer stopped. She was standing in front of him, her hands up as if to ward him off. Dark waves spilled down her shoulders, almost covering the front of the shift but not quite. What little had been left to the imagination from behind was not well hidden at all from the front. He was grateful the tunic he was wearing was long enough, because his body wasted no time in responding to what he saw, cold water or no.

The thought of spanking her actually crossed his mind, if only as a means of getting his hands on that rounded backside he had seen earlier. Clenching his fists at his sides at the thought, he stood still, regarding her silently.

“I am sorry, Éomer,” she offered rather insincerely, seemingly unaware of what she was doing to him.

Closing his eyes, he desperately sought to listen to the voice in his head.

He knew the proper thing to do would be to turn around, avert his eyes. He knew the proper thing to do was to retrieve the blanket, wrap her up and march her back to her tent. He knew it certainly was NOT the proper thing to stand here staring at her.

Fortunately, he also believed propriety was highly overrated.

The princess met his stare, immediately recognizing the look in his eyes. The look she had seen the night before he first kissed her. He stood in front of her, blonde waves dripping on his tunic, his wet leggings clinging to muscular thighs. Suddenly the princess did not feel the chill from the water at all. Suddenly, once again, she was quite warm.

“Ani,” he began, “this is not-“

“I swear if you say 'proper' I will-“

Before she could finish her statement, she was in his arms, his mouth covering hers with such fierce possession she had to grasp the collar of his tunic to remain standing. His hands splayed across her back, searing through the thin, wet material, pressing her against him.

Standing on her tiptoes, Anhuil wrapped her arms around him, her fingers delving into his damp hair and pulling him to her. If his hands were warm on her skin his lips were like fire, blazing a trail across her bare shoulder and back up her neck, finding hers once again. It took no encouragement from him for her to part her lips, the invitation gratefully accepted, his tongue teasing hers, heat from him pouring into her and pooling rather pleasantly in places she did not know existed.

Éomer’s hands slid down the curve of her waist to her hips. His fingers glided over the damp fabric covering her backside, pulling her against him, deepening his kiss. It took a moment for Anhuil’s brain to connect the slight sting she felt with the resounding smack she heard. She pulled away from him, wriggling to free herself from his grasp, glowering at him indignantly. “I cannot believe you, Éomer, son of Éomund! I cannot believe you actually struck me!”

Bending, he picked up the blanket he had discarded and walked toward her, that damned devilish grin firmly in place. “Admit it,” he said mockingly, repeating her words back to her. “You deserved it.”

Anhuil’s eyes narrowed as he approached her, holding up the blanket to cover her. She yanked it from his hands and turned her back, wrapping it around herself. It wasn’t so much her backside that was hurt as her pride.

“I had no choice," he said with a shrug. "You dared me.”

She whirled to face him, desperately fighting a grin. “My father would nail your hide to a wall, do you know that, King of Rohan?”

“Are you going to tell him? Or shall I? He would probably do it himself if he knew you had sneaked off alone again.”

Dropping her hands to her sides, the princess blew out her breath. “When are you men going to realize that I am not a child?”

Éomer’s gaze raked over her. The blanket hung loosely from her shoulders, her smock clenched in one fist at her side. Her damp shift still clung to her, outlining her rounded breasts, the hardened peaks clearly visible through the thin fabric now that she had flipped her hair back over her shoulders. Whether this was the result of the chill or her arousal at their kiss briefly crossed Éomer’s mind. He dropped his gaze and closed his eyes tightly, pinching the bridge of his nose with his fingers.

“I think it is quite clear you are no child,” he stated.

A quick glance down alerted the princess to her exposure. She looked back up at the king, who was now rubbing his forehead with his fingers, his eyes still closed. Her mouth twitched as she fought a smile. She tugged the blanket tight around her, holding it closed with one hand, and stared at him.

Raising his eyes, he was almost relieved to see she had covered herself. He watched her face, searching for some sign that he was forgiven.

“I suppose I will have to work much harder than a hot bath to be forgiven this time,” he said resignedly.

“IF you are ever forgiven,” she answered haughtily, with a teasing smile.

“I have doomed myself to a life of servitude,” he sighed.

He closed the distance between them, pulling her into his arms, keeping the blanket wrapped around her. Water still trickled from his hair. Reaching up with one hand, she brushed back a stray strand with her fingers, trailing them down the side of his jaw, his beard tickling her fingertip.

“If you are fortunate,” she answered as he lowered his lips to hers again.

“ANI!” The harsh whisper startled them both. A look of panic crossed her face. Thinking quickly, he grabbed her and pushed her behind him, standing with his back to the shadows.

Cam came around the copse of trees, blue eyes widening in surprise at the sight of Éomer standing there. “Your Majesty,” she addressed him politely. “I am sorry...you surprised me. I was looking for Ani.”

“Ani?”

The blonde cocked her head to one side. “Yes, Ani. Short, dark curly hair, has a tendency these days to curse in Rohirric?”

“Oh...yes...well...”

“Have you seen her?”

Éomer stared at her blankly. “Seen her?”

Rolling her eyes, the blonde enunciated her words clearly. “Have. You. Seen. Ani?”

Shaking his head, he gave her his most innocent look. She wasn’t buying it.

“Then pray tell, why are her clothes lying on that rock?” she asked him, one hand on her hip.

His gaze traveled to the stone near the pond where she had laid out her wet clothing. “Perhaps she forgot them?”

Cam sighed. “You are a terrible liar, Éomer King.”

Anhuil could not contain her laughter another moment. She stepped from behind him, giggling. Camwethrin took in the sight of them, both wet, Anhuil wrapped in a blanket and obviously not much else, and looked at them pointedly.

“I will not ask what was going on here, as it is none of my affair. I will, however, inform you that your brothers are looking for you, and unless Éomer wants to contend with the wrath of four princes of Dol Amroth, you had better dress. And hurriedly. I will keep an eye out.” She turned on her heel to go, then looked back over her shoulder. “Rest assured, Princess. This one will cost you.” She stepped back around the trees.

The king and the princess exchanged glances, both erupting into laughter. “It seems this evening will cost us both for quite some time,” he observed.

“No doubt,” the princess agreed, grinning. She turned her back and wriggled out of the wet shift, keeping the blanket around her, making a production out of holding it up and wringing it out. Éomer watched her, trying to think of anything except the fact that she was nude under the blanket. It was not working. He turned away.

She giggled again. “Éomer, certainly you have seen a lady’s undergarments before. For pity’s sake, you have a sister.”

Éomer drew himself up, staring straight in the other direction. “Contrary to what many believe, not all brothers and sisters engage in games of ‘you show me yours...’” he quipped. “I adore Éowyn, but I assure you I have never seen her underpinnings, at least not since she was over the age of five and old enough to know to keep her skirts down.”

Laughing out loud, Anhuil shrugged into the dry dress and straightened her skirts. She pulled on her boots and bundled her wet things up into the blanket, turning to him with a smile. “You can turn around now,” she informed him.

Gathering her into his arms once more, he leaned down and kissed her lightly. “I love you, Ani.”

“I know.”

“Ani!” Cam called from the darkness.

“Goodnight, Princess,” he whispered, pressing his lips to her forehead.

“Elei velui, meleth nín,” she answered softly as he gently pushed her in the direction Cam had gone. He turned back to the pond.

“Where are you going?” she asked.

The king sighed. “I think I am in need of a cool bath now myself,” he said. With a smile, she made her way up the bank to where her friend waited, giggling to herself as she heard the splash behind her.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Lasto nin, hên. Cenni man gwaith u’cennich. Cenni meleth thilia min hin lín mar cennich aran lín. Avaro naeth. Lasto guren lín. Estelio, Erniliel. Estelio a harthac.
Listen to me, Child. I see what others do not see. I see the love in your eyes when you look at your king. Do not worry. Listen to your heart. Trust, Princess. Trust to hope.
U’chenion - I do not understand.
Gerithac. - You will understand.
Ab anand. In time. (lit. after time)
Elie velui, meleth nin - sweet dreams, my love

****Author's Note - I realize there will be some of you who might be offended by his smacking her in this chapter. Please note, he did not beat her. Please don't email me all upset and angry because Éomer is now committing domestic violence. It was a playful smack on the butt. My husband does it all the time. It's not violence against women and it's not S&M. It's fiction, and it's fun. Chill. *******

****Author's Note, Again...**** The history of Lothlórien is one of the things that is not too clear...there are conflicting answers in different sources. It appears Tolkien changed his mind about who Amroth was later in the story line, so I read extensively on the subject and formed my own opinion...and I'm not even TOUCHING the part about Balrogs and wings.

****Another Author's Note****PLEASE review and rate if you can...Your reviews motivate me to write faster! (Ok...it's a shameless ploy...but I really do LOVE reading what you think! Hannon le!*******


Chapter 24 - Chapter Twenty-Three

Trust To Hope - Chapter Twenty-three
Author: Novedhelion
Type: FP Het
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Pairing: Éomer/Lothíriel aka Anhuil
Rating: PG13
Warnings: Not much here but a bunch of gap fillers...sorry...
World’s most patient Beta: Riyallyn
Disclaimer: They all belong to Tolkien. At least most of them do. And I’m not making any money. Wish I was. I will probably be accused of dragging this out again, but these are necessary plot devices. Bear with me, here, please. And the small part with Cam and Déor was mostly written by my beta, Riyallyn. Call it...foreshadowing.

*******************
This one's for the girls,
Who love without holdin' back;
Who dream with everything they have.
All around the world:
This one's for the girls.

This One’s for the Girls
Martina McBride
*********************

Edoras
The Golden Hall of Meduseld
8 Urui, 3019 T.A.
***************

The hour was late when they arrived at the courts of Edoras. Weary from the long fortnight’s journey, Anhuil and Cam had stumbled into the chambers prepared for them and collapsed on the beds, barely noticing the beautiful Golden Hall of Meduseld in the dark.

Anhuil awoke the next morning laying atop the covers of the bed, having been too exhausted last night to even undress. Ani lay on the soft bed, surveying the room. Thick wooden beams ran along the stone walls, others framing the beautifully wrought detailed tapestries which adorned the walls. Soft furs covered the stone floor. A fireplace in one corner remained unlit, unneeded in the warmth of summer, but there were tallow candles on the engraved mantlepiece and a tinder box with which to light them. Every piece of wood was intricately carved, from the solid beams to the heavy wooden furniture.

Sitting up, the princess traced the pattern on the soft coverlet with a finger, admiring the detailed embroidery. Horses. This was Éomer's home. The thought crossed her mind that somewhere under this same roof, he, too, was lying in bed. Not wanting to contemplate that further just yet, she stood and walked to the window, looking out across the city of Edoras, to the breathtaking view of the mountains beyond.

A knock on the door startled her. Glancing at Cam, who still slept soundly, the princess cracked open the door. A maid who appeared to be not much older Anhuil stood in the hallway holding a stack of cloths and a small basket. “Begging your pardon, Your Highness. Éomer King asked that I bring these to you. He thought you ladies might be likin’ a hot bath. I have prepared one for you, if you wish to go now.”

“That would be delightful...” The princess looked at her questioningly.

“It’s Fréa, Miss,” she answered with a polite curtsey.

Anhuil smiled. “That would be delightful, Fréa. Let me get a clean gown.”

Fréa nodded, waiting patiently as the princess ducked back into her room. She reappeared with her clothing, closing the door quietly behind her. The maid took the dress and undergarments from her, insisting that she carry them to the bath chamber.

Anhuil stole a glance at the woman as they walked. Tall and broad shouldered, she almost towered over the petite princess. Her blonde hair was braided down her back, but the loose tendrils framing her face suggested it would be wavy if let down. Her eyes were brown, but not as dark as Éomer’s, with a sparkle of gold in the center. She did not appear but a few years older than the princess, but her matter-of-fact manner made her seem much older. The maid glanced at her as she pushed open a door down the hall, smiling shyly. “I hope you don’t mind me saying so, Miss, but our king was right. You are a lovely girl.”

The princess blushed. “Thank you, Fréa,” she responded, not knowing what else to say as the maid left and closed the door behind her.

A long, hot soak removed what she felt like were layers of dust from the road. She toweled off and pulled on her shift, eyeing the rest of the undergarments uneasily. The weather had been so incredibly hot that she almost could not bear the thought of putting on several more layers of underpinnings. The shift would have to do. Who would know the difference anyway?

Sitting down at the small dressing table, she ran the comb through the tangles of dark curls. Her hands were poised to braid her hair up, but as a last minute decision, she dropped the waves to her shoulders, letting them fall loosely. Her reflection in the mirror regarded her silently. The last several months of her life had been a complete whirlwind, much of it out of her control. Somehow, Meduseld felt...peaceful. Like coming home. Perhaps it was simply because she was so tired of traveling, or just exhausted in general. But mostly she felt it was because this was his home, and she belonged with him.

Feeling she had tarried long enough, Anhuil stood and shrugged into the dress, lacing the front neatly. She had always preferred boots and leggings to the traditional wieldy gowns that most women wore, with layer upon layer of hot, itchy undergarments, but she had to admit a small part of her liked the idea of looking feminine and pretty, especially when Éomer had seen her so much in men's attire. As an afterthought she dabbed a bit of the lavender oil on to her handkerchief and tucked it into her bodice. She smiled at her reflection, hoping he would approve, and gathered up her road-dusty clothes.

Dropping the bundle where the maid had indicated, she headed back down the hall to the room she shared with Cam. Her friend had awakened and was sitting on the side of the bed. She looked up expectantly at the princess as she entered. “You have already had a bath?”

“And I feel nearly human again. Except that I am starving for some real food. I do not want bread or cheese for a very long time.”

“Well, I intend to take my time bathing, so go on to breakfast without me. I will be there shortly,” Cam said, gathering up her things. Fréa reappeared in the doorway, beckoning the blonde to follow. Anhuil stood by the window, looking out at the beautiful landscape, lost in thought.

A sharp knock on the door interrupted the quiet moment. “Lothíriel? I have come to escort you to breakfast.” It was Fenwick.

“Just a moment, Mardil,” Anhuil called out, not opening the door.

“May I come in, please?”

With a yank she pulled open the wooden door. “No, you may not. It is not appropriate for you to be in my chambers unchaperoned.” Over his shoulder she saw Neville, and suppressed an urge to roll her eyes.

“Then come to breakfast with me.” He held out his arm to her.

The last thing she needed this morning was a scene with Mardil. For now, she would go along. With a resigned sigh, she stepped into the hallway and accepted his proffered arm reluctantly. He smiled smugly, then looked at her askance. “Why is your hair not braided?”

“Because I choose to wear it down,” she answered curtly as they walked toward the main hall, Neville heeling like an obedient puppy.

Mardil blew out an exasperated breath. “In Gondor married women braid their hair, Lothíriel.”

“I am not married, Mardil. I will wear my hair as I wish.” She flipped her curls over her shoulder to emphasize her point. “And we are not in Gondor.”

“I thought you were the one concerned with propriety, not even allowing your betrothed into your chambers,” he chided. “Though I hardly think propriety is a worry among those of the Mark.”

Anhuil narrowed her eyes. “Whether it is or is not is not relevant. I am fully aware of what is appropriate and what is not.”

“I would not be too concerned, Lothíriel.”

The princess turned to face him. “Mardil Fenwick, I will not tolerate you disparaging the Rohirrim in the castle of their king!”

Fenwick threw back his head, laughing. “You call this a castle?”

“I think it is lovely,” she snapped, running a delicate finger along the intricate woodwork as they made their way down the corridor.

“You would. However, I believe your fondness for this rather...” he looked around derisively, “quaint architecture has much more to do with its primary inhabitant.”

Anhuil halted outside the main hall and glared at him. “What is that supposed to mean?”

“Only that your apparent affection for the King of Rohan is entirely unbefitting a woman of your position, Lothíriel. You act more like a giggling court maid than an heir to the throne of Dol Amroth when you are in his presence. While I realize that your betrothal to me is but a political opportunity, I do expect a certain amount of decorum on your part.” His eyes raked over her suspiciously. “I believe there is far more to this tale of your travels with these horse lords than you have been willing to impart. ”

The princess turned to Fenwick. “What I choose to impart to you or anyone else is my prerogative. I happen to respect him as a friend of my father’s. He is a brave man, and he is king of this realm. I daresay you should not risk insulting him in the presence of his own people!”

“He is a peasant, Lothíriel. They all are. Look at what they call a ‘city’. It is pathetic.”

“And you will be fortunate if he does not throw you out and make you sleep in the stable, Mardil Fenwick!”

“Why would he care?”

“Because unlike you, Fenwick, HE is a gentleman!” she whispered harshly.

“Who is a gentleman?”

The question cut off whatever retort was on Mardil’s lips. Imrahil and his eldest son had come up the corridor behind them, unseen.

“Good morning, Ada,” the princess chimed sweetly, standing on her tiptoes to kiss his cheek, but the attempt at distraction failed. He had not missed the tone of her voice when she had been speaking to her betrothed. Imrahil cast her a quick smile and repeated his question. “Who is a gentleman?”

“Your daughter was sharing with me part of the story of her travels, My Lord,” Fenwick said, bowing to Imrahil but keeping his eyes on the princess.

Imrahil studied his daughter. A fleeting glare at Mardil and her smile returned placidly. “Shall we, Ada?” she asked politely, motioning toward the hall.

Following her in, they found Éomer awaiting his guests. Amrothos and Erchirion were already seated at the table, but rose when their father and sister entered. The king stood beside the table, dressed in dark colored leggings and a longer deep green tunic, intricately embroidered around the collar, his long hair spilling over his shoulders. Someone had trimmed his beard; she suspected it was his sister.

Anhuil saw Éomer stiffen slightly when she entered with Fenwick. She had dropped his arm when they were arguing outside, and seeing the look on Éomer’s face, she was glad that she had.

His breath caught in his throat at the sight of her. The rose colored gown was a light linen fabric, gently hugging her figure and falling gracefully to the floor. She had left her hair down, the ebony waves cascading over the coppery skin of her shoulders. Their eyes met brief moment, the corners of her mouth turning up slightly at his obvious approval of her appearance. Reaching up, she brushed a strand from her eyes and averted her gaze.

After greeting Imrahil and his son, the king approached the princess. Taking her hand, he bowed politely. “Good morning, Your Highness,” he said, pressing his lips lightly to her fingers. “You rested well?”

“I did, Your Majesty, thank you,” she replied sweetly.

“And your accommodations are to your liking?” Éomer’s eyes still had not left hers.

The princess smiled, her head held high. “Very much so. We were quite comfortable. Fréa saw to that.”

“I will have to thank her then,” he answered, trying to keep his feet as the scent of lavender from her bath surrounded him. He stepped back slightly. The memory of Anhuil bathing was not one he needed to dredge up at this particular moment, fond of it as he was. Now it was Fenwick’s turn to bristle at her side, and she couldn’t help the small look of satisfaction she gave the king as he rose and lifted his eyes to Mardil’s.

“Lord Fenwick, I trust you are well also this morning?”

“What else could a man ask for but to have the privilege waking to breakfast with his lovely fiancé?” he responded smugly.

Éomer suppressed a smirk. “Indeed,” he agreed, with a sideways smile at the princess.

Imrahil watched the exchange with interest. The king turned his charming smile to his guests, motioning toward the table. “Please, sit. I have much to do this morning but I would like a good meal first.” He started toward Anhuil’s seat to pull out the chair, but Fenwick beat him to it with a victorious smile. Éomer only nodded graciously and seated himself next to the Imrahil.

Amrothos turned to his sister. “Where is Camwethrin this morning?”

“She will be arriving shortly. I am afraid I enjoyed a hot bath so much this morning I took far too long, and delayed her in the process.” The glance Anhuil stole at the king did not go unnoticed by her father, although she quickly turned her attention back to her plate.

Éomer smiled briefly in response and turned to the prince. “Lord Imrahil, I have several things that must be attended to this morning, but there are some issues I would like your advice on, if you do not mind,” he said.

“I am certain my offspring can entertain themselves for a while,” the prince answered.

“I, for one, would like to see some of the horses,” Erchirion piped up.

The king beamed proudly. “I will be happy to arrange that, Erchirion. I will provide an escort if you like, to take you out to some of the herdlands.”

“That would be marvelous,” Elphir put in.

“What are your plans for the day, Lothíriel?” her father asked.

“I wanted to spend some time with Lady Éowyn. She says there are some things she would like to show me,” she answered.

Éomer glanced at her, one eyebrow raised. She smiled innocently and continued. “I do not know what she has in store, but Cam and I are supposed to meet her after breakfast.”

“Mardil,” the prince asked, “would you care to join them for a foray out to the herds?”

Fenwick considered it momentarily. “Thank you for the most gracious invitation, but I believe I have had enough of a saddle for a few days.”

“Very well.” Imrahil drained the last of his tea and stood. “I want to speak to one of my men, but I will return shortly, my friend.”

Éomer stood, acknowledging Imrahil’s departure. “One hour, in council chambers?”

With a nod, the prince left the hall, passing Cam on her way in. Amrothos saw her first, leaping to his feet. The other men followed suit. Fenwick rolled his eyes. Why women could not all come to the table at once was beyond him. He glared at her as she took her seat next to the princess. The youngest prince was still smiling as he sat back down, highly pleased with the view across the table.

Exchanging pleasantries, Cam apologized for her tardiness. “It is all right, Camwethrin,” Amrothos replied. “Ani explained that she got to the bath first. We all know how that is.”

“Seriously,” Erchirion added. “She takes the longest bath of any one I have ever known. She does not get out until the water is cold.”

The princess shot him a look across the table as her cheeks reddened. If she could have kicked him she would have, discussing her bathing habits at the breakfast table!

Éomer only smiled pleasantly. “There is nothing wrong with a lady enjoying a small bit of luxury,” he said in her defense.

“A small bit?” Elphir asked, incredulous. “She is spoiled rotten, my friend.”

Fenwick snickered. Anhuil elbowed him so hard he dribbled hot tea in his lap. She never looked his way.

Éomer took a sip from his cup and looked over the top of it at her brothers. “Your sister is far from spoiled rotten. She can very much pull her weight when it is required of her, and even when it is not.” The smile she gave him was all the thanks he needed.

“Look at her, Éomer. Of course she can pull her weight...there isn’t much to pull!”

Éomer nearly choked on the words. Look at her. As if he could do anything else.
Anhuil wadded up her napkin and threw it at Amrothos. Cam gave Éomer a helpless look. “Do you see what I have to live with?” she asked him.

The king laughed. “I admire your courage, my Lady.”

Anhuil turned to Cam. “My only ally in a sea of male pride,” she said teasingly. “I do not know what I would have done growing up without Cam. Simply because I sometimes dress as a man does not mean I do not think like a woman. Heaven knows I get enough grief from Ada about my hoydenish ways, as he calls them. He always says if it was not for the dresses I do occasionally wear, people would probably assume Imrahil had four sons!”

“Or five, if you count Cam. She is as bad as you are for dressing like a boy,” Erchirion added. Amrothos shot him a severe look.

“I seriously doubt there has ever been any danger of anyone mistaking either of you for a boy,” the king said, smiling over his cup at them.

“Lothíriel, I am going to return to my chambers. I have some reading to catch up on. May I escort you back?” Fenwick rose from the table and made to pull out her chair.

“I am not quite finished. Go on without me. I will be fine,” she answered curtly.

The dark haired man took a long breath, his gaze falling on the king. “Very well. I will look for you later.”

The princess nodded but did not turn around as he left the room. Éomer saw her relax visibly when the doors to the hall swung shut behind him. “So, you two have plans with my sister, do you? That should prove interesting.”

“She has not said where she is taking us,” Cam answered, “but she did tell us to meet her at the stables. I suppose we should change and meet her there soon.”

“We should not keep her waiting,” the princess agreed, rising from the table. Cam followed.

Éomer nearly leapt to pull out the princess’ chair, with Amrothos practically tripping over himself to get to Cam’s. Anhuil’s other brothers exchanged looks, rolling their eyes. The princess leaned over the table, plucking an apple out of a bowl. “I seem to remember Firefoot fancies apples,” she commented, almost to herself, looking at the fruit thoughtfully.

The king grinned. “He will not tell, Princess. I promise you. He is sworn to secrecy.”

Anhuil winked at him as she tossed the apple to Cam, who caught it with one hand. “We shall see,” she remarked as she pushed open the door. Cam turned back and smiled over her shoulder at Amrothos before following the princess out the door.

Elphir stared at his youngest brother, then at the king, shaking his head. “You two are completely hopeless, you know that?”

~~~~~~~~~~

Cam and Anhuil had changed from their morning dresses into more appropriate tunics and leggings for riding, and met Éomer's sister in the stables. She had taken the liberty of having their mounts saddled, and before long they were racing across the plains of Rohan. It had been a long time since the princess had enjoyed that kind of freedom. She could almost forget about Fenwick. But not quite.

Éowyn halted under the shade of a tree near the riverbank, dismounting. The others followed suit, leading the horses by the reins to the water to let them drink. As they walked them to cool them down, the princess and Cam regaled her with stories of their antics growing up in Dol Amroth.

Éowyn chuckled. “You two sound much like Éomer and I. Théodred was older when we came to live here. Éomer was only a lad of eleven and I was barely nine years. Our cousin took it upon himself to show us all the secret passageways underneath the Hall, and inform us as to the best rooms for eavesdropping and the quickest way to the kitchen to steal tarts.” She laughed softly.

“Secret passages?” the princess asked.

“Yes, there are many. Originally designed by King Brégo as an escape route for the royal family, should Meduseld ever be attacked. One leads to the stables, another outside the city gates. But they also open up into nearly every room in the Golden Hall.” She cast them a mischievous glance. “Including the room in which the two of you are sleeping.”

“We have some such passages at the palace in Dol Amroth as well,” Cam told her. “Ani and I used them all the time as children to escape the guards and hide from our tutors.”

With a laugh, the three strolled down the bank, talking for quite some time before deciding to mount up and ride back.

In the stables, they handed over their mounts to the grooms. The men’s horses were still out, and Éowyn had told them it may be a while before they returned, depending on how far they went. Cam suggested some sparring, an idea wholeheartedly agreed to by the princess. Excusing herself, she went to retrieve their weapons.

Anhuil started up the hill toward Meduseld, but was stayed by a hand on her arm. “Your Highness,” Éowyn began, then hesitated.

“Ani, please,” the princess interrupted.

Éowyn smiled. “Ani, then.” She paused a moment before continuing. “I wanted to talk to you alone, about my brother.”

Anhuil swallowed. “What do you want to know?”

“My brother loves you,” she said bluntly. “I do not mean to intrude where it is not my business, but I fear for him.”

Anhuil stopped. “I love your brother, Éowyn. You have no need to fear for him where I am concerned.”

“I do not doubt that, Princess, but you are betrothed to another. To hear Faramir tell it, dissolving such a contract is next to impossible.”

“Next to, perhaps, but not impossible,” Anhuil answered. “I will find a way, Éowyn. You must believe me. I love your brother, and I will not marry Mardil Fenwick. Even if it means defying my father.”

“You would risk that, for Éomer?”

“I would risk everything for him.” She grinned. “Besides, he has threatened to throw me over his horse and ride away with me if I even think of marrying that prat.”

Éowyn’s hand closed over hers. “And let me assure you, Princess, he means every word of it. He would do so without a second thought. Éomer is very passionate, and he sometimes allows that passion to stand in place of prudence."

Deep green eyes met blue grey. “I understand,” Anhuil responded.

“I do not wish to see him hurt again, Ani. Life has been very cruel to my brother. He is a strong man but I do not know how much more loss his heart can take.”

The sincerity in her eyes bit down to Anhuil’s soul. She nodded solemnly, squeezing the White Lady’s hand. “I would never hurt him intentionally, Éowyn. You have my promise.”

The response seemed to satisfy her, her grey-blue eyes sparkling.

Cam reappeared, her own blade buckled about her waist and Ani’s in her hand. “Will you be joining us, Éowyn? I would so love to learn some techniques from a true Shieldmaiden of Rohan.”

“Would that I could, Camwethrin. I have some matters that need attending before my uncle’s burial. If you ladies will pardon me, I will rejoin you at dinner.” With a wide parting grin, she headed up the path toward the Hall.

The two women strolled down through the bustling town of Edoras, making their way to the training field behind the stable.

~~~~~~~~

The sound of clashing steel caught the attention of two soldiers as they approached the stables. Walking around to the back, they were surprised to see two young women practicing at arms.

The older soldier laughed, “Ah, the women of Gondor now wish to be Shieldmaidens as well.”

Haleth gave his friend an odd look. “Do you not recognize Anhuil, Déor?”

Stopping in his tracks, Déor took a closer look. “You are right.” A slow grin appeared, “And look, she brought a friend.” His smile widened.

As Éomer led Amrothos to the stables, planning on showing off some of the mearas that were quartered there, he noticed several people gathering toward the rear of the structure. Nudging the young prince, he headed that direction to see what was causing the commotion.

Anhuil blocked a wicked thrust and turned Cam’s blade away. Stepping back, the blonde nodded, catching her breath. “Very well done, but you are…” Cam's voice trailed off at the sudden cheering that arose behind her. A small crowd had gathered around the fence, Rohirrim soldiers, Swan Knights and soldiers from Gondor. Casting a nervous glance toward Anhuil, she whispered, “I believe we have attracted an audience.”

“So it appears,” the princess muttered and took in the faces surrounding them. Anhuil's eyes lit up as she recognized Haleth and Déor. Grabbing Cam’s hand, she pulled her friend to the fence. “Camwethrin, I would like you to meet my friends. Haleth,” the young man grinned and nodded. “And Déor.”

Déor took Cam’s hand and brought it to his lips. Blue eyes sparkling, he kissed her fingers lightly. “A pleasure, my lady.”

Éomer and Amrothos rounded the corner just as Déor lowered Cam’s hand. The prince visibly bristled at the display, quickly becoming more agitated at the sight of her shy smile. He hastened his pace to the training field, not noticing the smirk on the king’s face as he hurried to catch up.

The king and the prince approached the field, exchanging pleasantries with those near the fence. The tall soldier had not yet taken his eyes off of Cam. “Your skill with a sword is impressive,” he said with a mischievous grin. “However, I believe you could benefit by training with a stronger opponent.”

“Oh?” Cam asked with a quirk of her eyebrow, not about to tell him she had trained with three of the strongest opponents one could find; the sons of Prince Imrahil.

“Let me show you.” He leapt over the fence and guided Cam back onto the training field. She looked to Anhuil, who simply shrugged her shoulders, and leaned back on the fence.

Déor indicated to Cam to draw her sword, and then proceeded with his lesson. “You are holding your blade at too steep an angle. A larger opponent can take advantage of that.” He stepped in quickly, pushing her arm and blade against her body. His free hand stopped at her abdomen, fingers clenched. “A solid punch here,” he pushed his hand in slightly, “or a grab here,” his fingers slid around her waist, drawing her in tighter. “You would be in a lot of trouble.”

Haleth couldn’t help but roll his eyes at Déor’s antics. He leaned over toward the king. “I understand women find him fair but his ability to charm surpasses all I have ever seen. Where did he learn that?”

The princess giggled, sneaking a quick glance at the king. “I was under the impression that it was a skill men of the Rohirrim learn from the cradle,” she quipped. “At least, those of you I have met.” Éomer cleared his throat and turned his attention back to the activity on the field.

Amrothos braced his hands on the fence and cleared it, not even pausing to acknowledge his sister. Anhuil grabbed his arm to hold him back, as Éomer reached over to catch his shoulder. The blazing look in his eyes confirmed her suspicions of the prince’s feelings for the admiral’s daughter.

“Amrothos, what do you think you are doing?” she queried, a slight smirk crossing her features.

“Who does he think he is, questioning her training?” he replied, making to break from their grip.

She glanced over his shoulder to see Éomer grinning broadly at her. With a shy grin of her own, she turned back to her brother. “I believe you are jealous, Amrothos.”

“I am not. It is just…” he stopped as Déor’s hand slipped around Cam’s waist.

Éomer leaned over to the irate prince. “If Cam has half the training your sister has, she will be fine. Déor means no harm, he is just having a bit of fun. He is truly far more of a gentleman than I.”

As if to confirm the king’s observation, Cam slipped her free hand behind her and drew a knife, quickly placing the tip at Déor’s throat. “I believe the larger, stronger opponent would also be in trouble,” she quipped.

Déor stepped back, hands raised in supplication. “As it would appear, my lady. Still, a small exercise does not demonstrate your skill against said larger opponent.”

Cam took the bait. “Very well, soldier. Draw your sword.”

Princess, prince and king watch as the pair squared off. Éomer stood on the other side of the fence, moving behind Anhuil to watch the action, surreptitiously stroking his fingers lightly along her back. It took all of her concentration to focus on the match before them, and periodically make comments to her brother.

“What is the problem, dear brother? Are you concerned she will be injured? Or are you more concerned your training will not prove adequate?” She stifled her laugh as his gaze darkened, and couldn’t resist one last dig. “Or is the problem the fact that her attention is focused on another man?”

The two were well matched, Cam’s speed and agility making up for his aggression and power. “I have to admit, this is lasting longer than I expected,” Déor commented, more than a little out of breath.

She smirked, “I expected a warrior such as you to have a bit more stamina.” She ducked under his blow, and glanced toward Anhuil. She did not expect to see Amrothos there, nor the look in his eyes. Was that jealousy?

The momentary distraction was all Déor needed. Stepping in, he hooked her blade with his own and sent it flying. Amrothos practically leapt from the fence, determined to end the contest before the other man could. He froze in his tracks as Cam brought her foot up, knocking the blade from the surprised opponent's hand. While he was off balance, she caught his arm and twisted it behind his back, forcing him to the ground with a kick behind his knee.

She leaned in close, “Is this more to your liking?”

With a laugh, Déor conceded. “Perhaps not to my liking, but I believe the lesson is learned.”

Cam released her grip and he stood, as gracefully as he could manage. Turning to face her, he noticed Amrothos’ stormy gaze. He took her hand and pressed his lips to her fingers lightly, lingering slightly longer than necessary. “I have enjoyed our match,” he said with a sly grin.

“Have you? Most men do not wish to be bested by a woman, especially in the presence of other men. I apologize for your humiliation.”

Déor grinned. “Considering the amount of ridicule I am to suffer for this, would you consider a token of compensation?”

Cam cocked her head to one side. “Which would be?”

He stepped forward, still holding her hand. “I am certain a kiss would be worth months of derision.”

The blonde chuckled, blushing slightly. “You Rohirrim certainly are a proper lot,” she chided sarcastically. “I barely know your name. And now you beg a kiss?”

“Forgive my audacity. I forget the customs of Gondor are more genteel.” The look he gave her was only slightly contrite. “Another time, my lady?”

“Perhaps,” she replied, with a teasing smile.

“I bid you good day, then.” With a smirk toward the prince, Déor strode to his companions, bracing for the jabs he was sure would be a long time coming.

Cam retrieved her sword, and walked toward her friends, a triumphant grin on her face. “Did you see that Ani? I thought for sure he had me.”

“By all rights he did,” Amrothos’ voice came over her shoulder, cutting off any response from his sister. Her smile faltered as she turned to look at him. “How could you allow him take your weapon?”

“I did not allow him anything,” she shot back. “Besides, I recall learning the perfect counter from you.”

“You never should have had to counter. You lost your focus and in the process, lost your weapon.” The prince let his frustration get the better of him. “Had that been a real fight, you would have been dead.”

Cam looked away, shocked at his verbal barrage. She noticed the crowd that had been starting to disperse, stopping to witness his rather loud criticism of her skills. Her cheeks colored at the embarrassment of it.

“Amrothos,” Anhuil’s voice cut in. “I do not think this is the time, nor the place. Besides, Cam handled herself well.”

“Handled herself well? She gave up her weapon!”

“And defeated him anyway, in case you did not notice!” the princess snapped back.

“She did defeat one of our more skilled swordsmen,” Éomer offered.

Amrothos glared at him. He turned back to the blonde, surprised to see her retreating back. “Cam, wait!” he called out to her.

She stopped and turned toward him. “I apologize for disappointing you. I will endeavor in the future to refrain from such actions, my lord.” With an exaggerated bow, she spun away again and stalked toward Meduseld.

“You certainly could have handled that better,” his sister snapped.

With a sigh, he looked at Anhuil. She stood facing him, arms folded across her chest, tapping her foot. He glanced toward Éomer for support, but the king stepped back, wisely keeping out of it.

“What was I supposed to do, Ani? She made several mistakes.”

“Did you have to call her on them in front of an audience?” Shaking her head, she graced him with a sympathetic smile. “You do not handle your jealousy well.”

“Not all of us are blessed with your tact, sister,” he quipped sarcastically. “And I am not-”

“Yes, you are. Now, if you wish to hold any hope of getting yourself out of this hole you have dug, you had better go after her and apologize.”

He glanced to Eomer again, who held up his hands in surrender, not saying a word. With a sigh, he looked to see Cam rounding the corner near the stable. The prince jogged after her.

“There is a shovel on the back wall of the stable, should you need it,” Éomer called after him. Anhuil giggled.

Amrothos ignored him.

~~~~~~~~
Meduseld
10 Urui, 3019 T.A.
~~~~~~~~~~~~

The days passed quickly. The princess spent a great deal of her time avoiding Fenwick, sparring with Cam, or talking with Éowyn. She did not see much of the king except at mealtimes. When the opportunity arose, she spent time with Celeborn and Galadriel, taking more notes in her journal.

On the third day after their arrival, Théoden King was laid to rest under a mound in the east side of the Barrowfield. Gléowine, the court minstrel had composed a haunting song, and sang in the tongue of the Rohirrim which moved even those who could not understand the words.

As the crowds of his people gathered at the mound, Anhuil noticed a solemn red headed woman standing back slightly. She did not weep and wail openly as many of the women present did, but stood tall, shoulders squared, her red curls lifted slightly by the small summer breeze. Something about the way she stood so proudly touched Anhuil, especially when she saw a single tear slide down the woman’s fair cheek. When the princess turned to find her again, she was gone.

Never had there been such a host in Meduseld. As the guests from every corner of Middle Earth gathered in the Golden Hall for the feast, Éowyn brought to her brother a cup. Bidding the guests to stand as Gléowine honored each of the former kings of the Rohan, ending with Théoden. Éomer made a toast to Théoden, draining his cup, and when the cups were refilled, all hailed Éomer as their new King. When he raised his cup, his eyes met Anhuil’s, her smile more precious to him than all the treasures of the Mark.

Éomer stood, calling Éowyn and Faramir to stand before him, announcing their betrothal before their guests. As he lifted his cup to them, he looked back at Anhuil, their gaze meeting. She belonged here. It should be his own betrothal he was announcing. And one way or another, he would make that happen.

Revelry continued far late into the night. With so many crowded around the new king, Anhuil thought it best to keep her distance. She was amused by the two young hobbits singing and dancing on tables. And from the way Amrothos was monopolizing Cam’s attention, she figured he would be fit to be tied if she interrupted. The crowds and noise becoming a bit too much, she headed for a door to get some air.

“Where are you going, Lothíriel?”

“Only to get some air, Mardil,” she said flatly.

“Would you care for some company?”

“No thank you. I just wish to be alone.” She shoved open the heavy door. Fenwick glanced around, noting that the king was deep in conversation with the prince and King Elessar. Shrugging, he rejoined the raucous group at the table.

~~~~~

Returning from outside, Anhuil found Cam sitting at a table with her brothers and the Elves, all laughing at something Elladan had said. She slid on to the bench beside Cam. “I see you two came to an accord,” she said to her friend, indicating Amrothos. Cam only smiled shyly, but it was all the answer the princess needed. She beamed at her friend. “I think I am turning in.”

The blonde turned to her, blue eyes wide. “Already? It is early yet, Ani. Come on, have another ale and stay with us.” She turned to one of the tall, dark haired Elves at the end of the table. “Hey, Elrohir...pass another mug down here if you please.” He grinned and nodded. Facing Ani, her brows furrowed. “Where have you been, anyway?”

“I went for a walk, ran into an old friend.” The princess smiled.

“An old friend? In Edoras?”

“When I was working in the Houses of Healing, I met a young woman named Eolindë. I saw her outside, and we talked a while.” She rubbed her forhead with her fingertips. “I am very tired, Camwethrin.”

“Come on, Ani...one ale,” Cam beseeched her.

Elrohir set the tankard in front of her, flashing a wide grin of perfect teeth. The princess shook her head. Elves. No one should be that beautiful, she thought. She returned the smile. “Hannon le.”

“Nad dithen, híril nín,” he answered.

Anhuil sighed, leaning over to Cam. “How do you tell them apart?”

The blonde shrugged. “I have no idea. I just call a name and see which answers.” The two women exchanged glances and giggled. The princess visited with them for a while, finishing the one drink as promised, then headed off to bed. The noise of the Golden Hall still buzzing in her head, she was fast asleep almost as soon as her head hit the pillow.

~~~~~~~~~
Meduseld
14 Urui, 3019 T.A.
~~~~~~~~~~~


At sunrise a few days later, the Elves of Rivendell and Lothloríen prepared to leave, saying their goodbyes. The king bowed to The Lady of the Wood and kissed her hand.

Galadriel looked into his eyes. “Do not be troubled, young King of the Mark. Your reign shall be long and blessed.” She glanced at the princess, who was saying her goodbyes to the Elf brothers. “The House of Eorl the Young will endure.” Her gaze returned to the king. She drew her hand from his, placing it gently on his cheek. “It is determination, not fate, that makes ones dreams a reality.” At his confused expression, the Lady laughed. “You will understand, my young friend.” Her enigmatic smile did little to quell his vexation.

Lord Celeborn stepped forward. “We are most grateful for the hospitality that the house of Eorl has extended,” he said, grasping the king’s hand. “If ever the favor need be returned, you are most welcome in Lothloríen as well.”

Éomer nodded, continuing his farewells among the other guests.

The brothers Rumil and Orophin kissed the hands of Cam and Anhuil. “We have enjoyed your company,” Orophin said, as they mounted up. “If you are ever so inclined we would love to show you our home in the trees.”

“Perhaps someday we will journey there,” Cam smiled. “Ani and I have long been seekers of adventure.”

“You are always welcome in Dol Amroth as well, mellinamin, should you ever decide to venture to the sea.” Amrothos chuckled as he shook their hands.

The brothers laughed. “Nîn velui a lalaith veren nalú en-agovaded vín,” Rumil called to them.

Fenwick stood with Neville, glaring at his fiancé as she spoke to the Elves. Neville glanced at him, noting his dour expression. He looked up as the white steed of the Lady of the Wood suddenly appeared in front of him. Without a word, she looked at him. He felt as if she were looking straight through him. She spoke not a word, but her voice was clear in his head.

“Mardil Fenwick, I see what is in your heart. I know what it is you seek. Those who use others for their own purposes will find they are often used themselves. Take care in your alliances, Mardil Fenwick. Those with whom you associate often reveal your true character.”

She turned her mount away from him, and galloped off to catch up with her husband, not looking back.

“Elf witch,” he muttered under his breath.

“What was that about?” Neville stared after the beautiful Elf queen.

“Nothing,” Mardil answered, his hand at his own throat. “Nothing at all.”

~~~~~~~~~~

Hannon le - thank you

Nad dithen, híril nín - it is a small thing, my lady (kinda like "no big," in Sindarin)

Nîn velui a lalaith veren nalú en-agovaded vín - Sweet water and light laughter until next we meet


Chapter 25 - Chapter Twenty-Four

Trust to Hope - Chapter Twenty-four
Author: Novedhelion
Type: FP Het
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Pairing: Éomer/Lothíriel aka Anhuil
Rating: PG13
Warnings: As if you need more reason to hate Fenwick...
Beta: Riyallyn
Disclaimer: In my world, two people WILL fit in one Rohirrim saddle. I’m tired of the argument. Can you say FICTION? I knew ya could!

****************************
Chapter Twenty-Four
****************************
I can show you the world
Shining, shimmering, splendid
Tell me, princess, now when did
You last let your heart decide?

A Whole New World, Aladdin
***********************************
Rohan
The Golden Hall of Meduseld
24 Urui, 3019 T.A.
***********************************

Prince Imrahil and his family stayed at Edoras after the others had departed, as did Faramir. The princess missed the company of the Elves and Hobbits, especially now that Éomer was often busy in meetings and councils. She wondered at her father’s decision to tarry here, and spent much of her free time with Cam, Éowyn and Arwen, who had also stayed when Elessar left with Celeborn and Galadriel. The princess was at first intimidated by the Elven beauty, but Arwen’s soft manner and sense of humor quickly put her at ease.

Feasts were held nearly every evening, lively parties nothing like the highly dignified dinners in the Citadel. Anhuil loved the feeling of freedom the courts of the Golden Hall had. The soldiers of the Mark were as welcome there as the Captain of the Royal Guard, and the women sang and danced and drank with the men.

She was surprised that her normally very reserved father seemed to be enjoying the revelry as much as her brothers, laughing at the rather colorful songs some of the Rohirrim sang. When they started one such chorus, a strangely familiar tune about dragons and virgins, he had looked her way with a raised eyebrow. She had only shrugged innocently, taking off quickly with some excuse about needing to find Cam and Arwen.

Anhuil was awakened late one night by a gentle hand brushing back her hair. “Ani…” his soft voice drew her from her sleep. Opening her eyes, she was startled to see Éomer kneeling beside her bed.

“What are you doing here?” she whispered, propping herself up on one elbow. She peered over at Cam, who appeared to be sleeping soundly.

“Waking you,” he answered plainly.

“How did you-“ He gave her a half-smile and indicated the wall behind her, beside the fireplace. The large framed tapestry of the riders on horseback was flung open, revealing an opening about two-thirds the size of a normal doorway. Of course, she thought. The passageways Éowyn had told her about.

“Will you come with me, please?”

She sat up in bed, drawing the covers up to her chest. “Éomer, it is the middle of the night!”

“No, it is nearly morning,” he whispered matter-of-factly.

“Where?” she demanded.

“It is a surprise.” He grinned mischievously.

“But it is still dark--” her voice trailing off, she sighed.

“Please? I fear this is not a chance we will have again.” His pleading look got the better of her. Kicking the covers down with an exasperated sigh, Anhuil stood and walked to the window, peering out into the darkness before reaching for her clothes. She glanced at Éomer, now standing beside the bed, catching his appraising stare, and suddenly realized she was wearing a rather revealing nightdress, particularly with the moonlight shining through the window behind her. His momentary shock reined in, Éomer raised his eyes to meet hers.

“You should probably dress a little warmer,” he deadpanned. The princess looked down at the thin, filmy fabric of her gown, then back up at him, wondering if he could see the color in her cheeks in the dim light. He averted his gaze to the ceiling. “Anhuil, unless you wish me to do something highly untoward I suggest you dress quickly. I will wait over here.” He stepped over to the opening behind the wall hanging.

Éomer,” she whispered teasingly, cocking her head to one side, “what if I do wish you to do something untoward?”

The king looked back at her, every curve visible through the thin cotton of her gown, her hand on her shapely hip, tousled hair falling about her shoulders. Swallowing hard, he fought the overwhelming urge to throw her back down on the bed, clearing his throat.

“If you are going to do something untoward, please do it in your own chambers. I am sleeping here,” Cam’s voice piped up from the other bed.

“Woman, get dressed,” he whispered with a snicker, and moved back to the passageway.

With a giggle and an apology to Cam, she turned and grabbed a pair of leggings and a tunic from her bag, and slipped them on. Perching on the edge of the bed, she yanked on her boots and grabbed her cloak, in the process knocking a few books off the bed and into the floor. Biting her bottom lip, she peered through the dark at Cam, who had rolled over to face the wall. The blonde pulled her pillow over her head.

Anhuil chuckled and slipped into the passageway, pulling the tapestry back into place behind her. Éomer waited with a dimmed lantern. “You know, we could just use the door. Everyone else is asleep, and no one would--“ As she closed the doorway, he set the lantern down and went to her, his hands on her waist pinning her to the wall.

“But this is so much more fun.” He kissed her lightly.

The princess grinned up at him. “So where are we going?”

“You will see.” Taking her hand and grabbing the lamp, he led her through the maze of tunnels. At one fork, he stopped and stared at the two openings. “Hmm…” he voiced his thoughts out loud. “Which way?”

“I thought you grew up using these passages,” Anhuil smirked.

He turned to look at her. “It has been along time,” he admitted.

“By sea and stars,” she muttered, rolling her eyes. “I am lost in the bowels of Meduseld in the middle of the night.”

“It is not the middle of the night, and you are not lost,” he reasoned, peering around the next corner. “Temporarily dislocated, perhaps. Ah, here we go.” Éomer chose a path, leading her by the hand down the dark passageway. A few twists and turns later and he stopped, listening intently, his finger to his lips. He blew out the lantern. In the pitch dark, she heard him flip the lock, and pale light streamed in as he opened another doorway.

The passage led to an entrance in the stables, behind the furthest stall. Leading her out, he pushed the hidden door back into place. Anhuil shook her head. This one was a part of the actual wall, and when it was closed there was absolutely no indication it was there.

“Amazing,” she quipped as they darted toward the stable. You cannot even tell there is a door there!”

“That is the idea,” he responded matter-of-factly. Firefoot waited, already saddled. He snorted impatiently.

“He is already saddled? You were that certain I would go with you? Confident in your ability to persuade me, are you not?” Anhuil teased him as she climbed into the saddle.

The king settled in behind her, his arms around her, holding the reins. “Not over confident, my dear,” he responded softly, his beard tickling her ear. “I just believe in being prepared.”

The darkness was just beginning to give way to the pale light before dawn as the rode out. She yawned, leaning back against his chest, his arms resting on her thighs. “Where are we going, Éomer?”

She felt the grin she could not see. “It is a surprise. I want to show you something,” was all he would say.

Anhuil looked up at the wide expanse of sky above her. A few clouds scattered here and about, lazily drifting past the moon that dimly lit the plains, touching the tall waving grasses with edgings of silver. In the distance the faint light was just beginning to crest the mountains, the predawn breeze already warm. He guided the horse to a path at the base of a rocky trail up the mountains behind Edoras, reining in and dismounting. Helping her down, he led her by the hand to a path up through the rocks.

“For the love of the Valar, Éomer. If I had known you were waking me up just to go mountain climbing I would have stayed in my warm little bed,” she fussed, trying to watch where her feet were in the pale light.

He reached the top of a rise, and turned to help her up. “You would have? And miss this?”

Lifting her up to where he stood, he turned her around, smiling to himself at the small gasp that escaped her lips. From their perch on the rock, the valley of Starkhorn opened up, the Snowbourne River in the distance pouring in a huge waterfall from the side of the mountain hundreds of feet up into the vale below. Moonlight shimmered on the cold water, reflecting back on the snow-covered peaks behind. The river flowed from the vale out past Edoras and into the plains, where it became the Entwash, flowing southeast to the Anduin before heading to sea. The effect took her breath away. Turning toward Éomer, she glanced out over the fields below.

“You can see all of Rohan from here,” she sighed.

“Not quite.” Smiling at her obvious delight, he stepped behind her, his arms going around her waist.

“It is incredible, Éomer. I do not think I have ever been this high up before,” she said, her fingers tightening involuntarily on his arm around her.

“We are not that high up, Ani,” he said, laughing.

“Éomer, I grew up by the sea.” she remarked wryly.

“Then I suppose to you, this is high, although we are truly less than halfway to the top. Éowyn and I used to come up here as kids sometimes, to escape, to talk.”

“Is that why we came up here?” She turned in the circle of his embrace. “To talk?”

“Among other things,” he answered, their lips meeting in a soft kiss. The king smiled at her. “I wanted you to see this.” He turned her to face the mountain, keeping his arms around her waist. The sun was just beginning to peek over the crest, the first rays casting a pink and orange glow across the jagged ridges of the Starkhorn. Anhuil watched as the sun slowly rose. The sheer beauty of the white and black streaked mountain peaks tinged with the rose of dawn awed her. Éomer smiled at her obvious pleasure in the sunrise.

“But this, ” he added, turning her back to face the other direction, “ is what I wanted to talk to you about.”

He turned her around, their backs to the peak of the Starkhorn, now facing down across the vale in which Meduseld lay. The green hill upon which the city of Edoras lay was clearly visible now in the pale morning light. As the sun climbed higher over the peaks, the sky erupting in an explosion of pinks, oranges and reds, the golden thatched rooftop of Meduseld glinted in the sunlight. Reflecting back the colors of the sky, the golden hall glowed first pink, then orange, then sparkled gold as the sun fell full on it, shining brightly as if on fire from the inside.

“What do you think?” he asked her, his arms still around her waist, his chin resting on her head.

Anhuil shook her head slowly. “Words fail me, Éomer. It is…” she sighed. “Beautiful does not do it justice.”

The king grinned. “I rather hoped you would like it,” he chuckled.

“Like it?” she turned to face him. “It is exquisite.”

He raised his hand to her cheek, tracing the outline of her jaw with his fingers. “You are exquisite.” His mouth covered hers, the soft kiss leaving her as breathless as the sunrise.

“You said there was something about which you wished to speak to me?”

“So I did,” he responded. Éomer turned her around again, to face the courts of Edoras below. Wrapping his arms around her waist, he pulled her close, her head leaning back on his chest. “That is my home, now, Anhuil. Théoden and Théodred are gone. Éowyn will be leaving here soon. It will be a very large, empty hall.” He paused, carefully selecting the words. “I do not want to live here alone.”

“From what I have seen it is rarely empty,” she chuckled. “I would think you would be looking forward to some peace.”

“Well, the people of the Mark do not have to look hard to find reasons to celebrate, that is true,” he agreed, laughing. “And I would not mind giving them yet another reason.”

“Such as?”

“I believe they would celebrate for weeks over a new Queen of the Mark,” he answered softly.

Anhuil’s heart skipped a beat. “What are you saying, Éomer?” She turned in his arms, green eyes searching dark brown.

“I am saying, princess, that I want to fall asleep with you in my arms every night and wake up to you every morning. I want you to be here to see me off when I ride into battle and to be here when I return. I want our children’s laughter to ring through those halls.” He paused, smiling down at her. “I want you to stay.”

Confusion clouded her features. “Éomer…”

He continued, undaunted. “I want you to be Queen of that Golden Hall. I want you to marry me, Princess Lothíriel of Dol Amroth.”

Anhuil was fairly certain her heart had not skipped a beat but had stopped beating entirely. She stared at him, unable to form even a word, much less a comprehensive sentence.

Éomer looked at her questioningly. “Did you hear me, Ani?”

She opened her mouth to speak, but no sound came out. She managed a slight nod.

“Good. I would not want my intentions to be unclear.” He grinned at her.

“But my father…Fenwick...”

“I will speak to both of them as soon as possible.”

Anhuil averted her gaze. “Éomer, you know I cannot promise you…”

His fingers gently lifted her face to his. “Do not tell me what you cannot do, Ani. Tell me what you want to do.”

Her eyes locked on to his. “I want to marry you, Éomer.”

“Then we will find a way to make that happen, Princess.” He leaned down, capturing her lips with his own. Pulling back, he smiled down at her. “We should get you back before there is trouble,” he said softly, brushing her curls from her eyes. With one last look around at the incredible view, she followed him back down the narrow path.

******

Anhuil was back in bed before Cam awoke. Lying in the soft bed, staring at the patterns of the stone on the ceiling, her mind reeled. She closed her eyes, the images of Meduseld in the early morning light filling her mind. Images of his arms around her, him telling her he wanted her to be his wife. She drew in a deep breath, letting it out slowly.

“Ani? Are you awake?” Cam’s soft voice shook her from her reverie.

“Yes,” the princess answered.

“Did you have a nice time?” the blonde asked teasingly.

“What do you mean?” Anhuil played innocent.

“Ani, please... I may be younger than you but I am no fool,” her friend joked. “Tell me!”

The princess sat up in bed, grinning at her friend. “He took me to see the sunrise over Edoras. We had a very pleasant talk.” She smiled sweetly.”

Cam raised one eyebrow. “Talk? About what?”

“Oh, nothing, really,” she casually commented, standing and pulling on a robe. “He only asked me to marry him,” she said quietly, flipping her hair back over her shoulders.

Cam leapt from the bed. “He did what? Ani, what did you tell him?”

“What could I say, Camwethrin?” she turned to look out the window. “I told him I wanted to marry him. But he knows I cannot promise that. He understands that my betrothal to Fenwick is still an obstacle. Whether we can overcome that, I do not know.” She leaned on the stone sill, gazing absently across the plain.

“There has to be a way,” Cam said quietly. “You belong here, Ani. As much as I would miss you…you belong with Éomer.”

The princess smiled, pulling her robe tightly around her, Éomer’s sweet words still echoing in her head. His wife. His queen. Their children.

How could she leave now?

********

Imrahil stood as the other men left the council chamber, waiting until the door closed behind them, then turned to Éomer.

“What are your thoughts?” the king asked the prince.

Imrahil nodded approvingly. “I believe you have put much consideration into this decision, and I believe your reasoning is sound.”

“Thank you, Imrahil. It means much coming from you.”

The prince smiled, acknowledging the compliment with a nod, then held the king’s gaze. “Was there something else?” Éomer asked him, leaning forward in his chair.

Taking a seat across from Éomer, Imrahil leaned back and regarded the younger man intently. “I believe there is something you wish to discuss with me, am I correct?” The prince’s piercing grey eyes raked over him, making him feel much more like a wayward stripling than a king. The chair in which he sat creaked as he shifted his weight, leaning back slightly.

“Of what matter are you speaking?” Éomer finally asked, unsure how much Imrahil knew.

“I speak of my daughter,” the prince said.

A nod from the king affirmed his suspicion, but Éomer’s gaze never wavered. “I will tell you the honest truth, Imrahil. You are my friend, and I would not have any enmity between us.” He paused, taking a deep breath. “I am in love with your daughter.”

The prince did not seem the least bit surprised. “Does my daughter return your love?”

“I believe she does, my lord,” Éomer answered quietly. “So she has told me.”

He nodded thoughtfully. “It is my understanding that she met up with you when she ran away, is that correct?” Imrahil asked.

“Yes,” Éomer told him, “although she did not tell me who she was. Had she done so I assure you I would have seen her back to Dol Amroth as quickly as possible.”

“But since you did not know she was a princess, you felt it was not inappropriate to begin a dalliance with her?” Imrahil asked him.

The king’s eyes narrowed. “A dalliance? Is that what you think of this?” He shook his head. “Believe me, friend, it was the last thing I was looking for. Had another company come along I most likely would have sent her away as quickly as possible, as onerous as she was in the beginning. Fighting my men, arguing with me constantly, deliberately defying every order I gave...”

“Sounds all too familiar,” the prince chuckled.

“Trust me, Imrahil,” He said, laughing softly. “I would have gladly escorted her to the nearest border and sent her on her way, just to be rid of her sass! The last thing I was thinking of was falling in love with her.”

“And yet, you did.”

“I could not stop myself any more than I could learn to fly,” Éomer said resignedly, shaking his head. “I do not think she meant for it to happen, either. She was not overly fond of me in the beginning.”

The prince stared at him a moment longer. “You truly love her?”

“With all of my heart,” Éomer answered truthfully.

With a heavy sigh, Imrahil leaned forward on the table. “She is betrothed to another. I take it you know this,” he said.

“I do. But I did not when I met her, I assure you.” He stood from his seat and walked to the window, looking out across the field below. “Is there nothing that can be done? No way to dissolve such a contract?”

The expression on the face of the prince told Éomer more than he wanted to know. “It is just not done. Betrothals are a vow, almost as sacred as marriage itself.” The prince sighed heavily. “I cannot change the laws of the land based upon what I want or do not want for my daughter. I wish I could. It is simply not possible.”

Éomer stood, staring absently out the window, his hands folded behind his back. “You are saying there is nothing that can be done?”

Imrahil sighed. “Unless the dissolution is agreed upon by both parties involved, it would be most difficult indeed.”

The king spun on his heel to face the prince. “If Mardil Fenwick would release her from the obligation of the contract then she would be free to marry me?”

“I do not know if he would agree to it Éomer. But barring adultery or some form of fraud on his part, that is the only way.”

“Then I shall have a chat with Lord Fenwick,” the king said, smiling. “He is a man, after all. Perhaps he will see reason.” Éomer had a sudden thought. “But what of your issues with the Corsairs if Lord Fenwick does not take the position to aid you with your harbors?”

“We will cross that bridge when we come to it, Éomer.”

“You know that I would do whatever was necessary to aid you, Imrahil. Not only did you save my life on the battlefield, but my sister’s as well. For that, I will forever be in your debt.”

“I did nothing of great valor, friend, but I will keep the offer in mind should the situation become worse. And in speaking of such, I should mention that we will soon be returning to Dol Amroth. I must see to these matters as soon as possible.”

“Then I should speak with Fenwick right away,” Éomer said determinedly. “I shall make it a point to do so this evening.”

Rising from his seat, the prince pushed in the chair, leaning on the back of it with the heels of his hands. “There is a possibility he will refuse,” Imrahil warned him.

“I understand. And in that case, I will find another way.”

“I admire your determination,” the prince said. “All men should be so sure of what they want in life.”

Éomer smiled widely. “All men should be so fortunate as to win the love of a woman like your daughter, Imrahil.”

With a nod, the prince excused himself from the chamber, leaving Éomer to stare out the window, contemplating the best time to confront Mardil Fenwick.

~~~~~~~~~~

Yet another evening of revelry was in full swing, the fair citizens of Edoras doing their part to honor their new king. Éomer pushed open the doors and stepped out on to the terrace of the Golden Hall, taking a deep breath. The air was not much cooler outside but at least it was not laden with pipe smoke. Some guests milled around the courtyard, the sounds of muffled music and laughter drifting on the night breeze.

“She is not out here. She has gone to bed, according to Lady Valesa.”

The king turned abruptly to see Mardil Fenwick strolling out of the shadows. “I beg your pardon?”

“If you are looking for the princess, I was told she went to bed.” He came to stand beside Éomer, his gaze following the king’s out across the plains.

“Duly noted,” Éomer answered. He folded his hands in front of him, keeping his gaze directed at the moonlit mountaintops in the distance. “However, it was not for her I was searching. I was hoping to have a word with you about a matter that concerns us both.”

“What in Middle Earth do we possibly have to say to one another?” Mardil asked him.

Éomer turned slowly, his eyes meeting Fenwick’s. “I believe you know about what I speak.”

“Ah, yes. Our mutual interest in the fair Princess of Dol Amroth. I do not see where there is anything to discuss. She is my betrothed, and she will marry me.” Fenwick met the king’s gaze steadily, his shoulders squared.

“It is the betrothal I wish to speak to you about. I understand wedding contracts are binding in Gondor.”

“Yes,” Mardil answered confidently. “So long as neither party was coerced. And she will tell you she signed them voluntarily.”

Éomer nodded. “I understand. I also understand she was feeling pressured due to the political situation in Dol Amroth, with the attacks on the harbors.”

The dark-haired man shook his head woefully. “Yes. A nasty business, that. Had much the same issues in Lebennin but we were able to institute measures that protected our people. Attacks rarely occur in our harbors now. Of course, that requires freeing up the Admiral to focus on the situation, and someone running operations onshore.”

“Thus your proposal to Prince Imrahil,” Éomer noted with a raised eyebrow. “How very convenient.”

Mardil shrugged innocently, holding his hands up, palms out. “The prince needed someone who could aid his people. I am in need of a wife. We are all adults, Éomer. No one forced her to sign anything.” He regarded the king silently for a moment. “What is it you want from me?”

Éomer faced him squarely, his dark eyes boring into Mardil’s pale grey. “I want you to release her from the contract.”

Mardil snickered, the sound turning into a full-blown laugh, before he choked and coughed. “I beg YOUR pardon, Your Majesty. Did you just ask me to call off my engagement to the princess?”

“I did,” the king answered quietly.

“Surely you jest,” Fenwick said, still stifling laughter. “You want me to release her from the betrothal? I believe you have taken one too many falls from your mount, Horsemaster.”

Clenching his clasped hands tighter to keep from punching Fenwick again, Éomer took a deep breath, keeping his calm gaze on the man from Lebennin. “I am quite serious, Lord Fenwick.”

Shaking his head, Fenwick laughed again. “As am I. You are insane if you believe for one minute I will release her from her obligation to marry me. She signed that contract willingly, knowing full well what she was agreeing to. I will not give up my aspirations simply because she has changed her mind.”

“You do not love her,” Éomer commented.

“Love her?” Mardil laughed out loud again. “Of course I do not love her.” He shook his head again. “You truly do not understand, do you? This marriage is not about love, my Lord. It is about political opportunity.”

“Imrahil would grant you the position without the benefit of marriage,” the king observed.

Fenwick looked thoughtful, tugging at the edge of his sleeve. “Perhaps. But how does that serve me? To move from my home to a new harbor simply to continue doing the same job?” He pulled the sleeve of his tunic straight and raised his eyes to the king’s. “That does nothing to advance my career or my social standing. See, unlike you, I was not fortunate enough to have the way paved for my social ascension by the death of others." His lips curled almost imperceptibly when he noticed the king stiffen slightly at his words. "By marrying the princess, not only do I gain more respect among the nobility, I am, by rights, the husband of a princess and therefore royal by title.”

“The princess is fourth in line for the throne. There is little chance of her ever sitting in her father’s place,” Éomer reminded him, his voice tight.

“One never knows what will happen. Did you ever think you would be sitting on the throne of Rohan?”

Éomer’s hackles rose at the insinuation, but he refused to let this man rile him, and even further refused to acknowledge the remark with any kind of argument. “How can you force a woman to marry you knowing she loves another?”

Mardil sighed as if dealing with an overly curious child. “I care not who she loves, as long as she does not shame me. Her part is to marry me and bear my heirs. To whom her heart belongs means little to me.”

“Would you not wish to marry someone you love? Someone who would love you in return?”

“Only fools marry for love, Your Majesty,” he responded flatly.

“And for what do the wise marry, Master Fenwick?” Éomer asked pointedly.

Mardil smiled a little at the comment. “I can only give you my reasons. I am marrying her because her father is the Prince of Dol Amroth. I am marrying her so that the sons I sire will be heirs to the throne of Dol Amroth.” He almost snickered again at the way the king narrowed his eyes at that comment. “Her gift for political savvy is rare in women. The fact that she is beautiful is a boon, and her intelligence will have its merits, once her attitude is under control.” The self-satisfied smirk crossed his face again. He looked Éomer directly in the eye. “I care not if she ever loves me, so long as she does her duty as my wife. Love is the bane of all good marriages. Emotions do nothing but cloud one’s judgment. The princess is naught but a means to an end. I have made no pretense otherwise, although I am certain it will not be an altogether unpleasant arrangement.”

The king was silent; fearing that if he spoke or even moved his ire would be unleashed on Fenwick without thought of recompense. It was not a chance he wished to take, for Ani’s sake. He cleared his throat, fighting to keep his voice as calm as possible.

Éomer stepped closer to Fenwick, one hand on the hilt of his sword. “We disagree on many things, Mardil Fenwick. You may think marrying the princess will bring you esteem, but let me share one thing with you that first my father and then my king drove into me from the time I was a lad. Respect is not bestowed upon you with a title. It must be earned. And if you do not deserve it, you will not receive it. As far as I am concerned, you will not receive it from me. And I will not tolerate you speaking inappropriately about the princess, betrothed or not.”

“You dare call me on impropriety, Horsemaster?”

It took every ounce of self-restraint Éomer had to keep his sword in the scabbard. “Were you not the guest of Prince Imrahil, I would not tolerate your presence here another moment. Out of my great respect for the prince and his daughter, I will not throw you out of my home. But if I ever hear you speak of the princess or any other woman in that manner again, for that matter if you so much as look at one of them in a way I feel is inappropriate, I will not only throw you out personally, I will run you through first.” He stepped back, forcibly relaxing his grip on his sword hilt.

“You are out of line, Horselord,” Fenwick snapped.

The king’s dark eyes flashed with anger, but he remained remarkably calm. So calm it almost scared Fenwick. “You are in my realm,” he said quietly, his jaw set firmly. “I draw the lines.”

Flipping his dark hair back over his shoulders, Mardil turned and stalked away.

~~~~~~~~
Meduseld
25 Urui, 3019 T.A.
~~~~~~~~~~~


The sharp knock on the door startled her from sleep.

“Lothíriel! Are you in there?”

Finding it difficult to open her eyes, she rubbed them with her fingers.

“Lothíriel!”

“Yes, yes, I am here, Fenwick. Melkor’s chains! Let me get a robe on at least.”

Stumbling from the bed, she quickly shed her dress from the previous night and donned her robe. Cracking the door open slightly, she peered out into the hallway.

Fenwick stood in the hallway, Neville lurking close behind. “What do you want, Fenwick? I was sleeping.”

“We have things to talk about, Lothíriel,” he remarked.

“No, we do not. I am going back to bed.” She started to shut the door.

“Lothíriel, it is nearly noon. May I have a word with you?”

His words hit her like a bucket of ice water. Her last day in Edoras and she was sleeping it away.

“This will only take a moment,” he said.

She folded her arms and leaned on the doorframe, throwing a look over his shoulder to Neville. “Can you not ever go anywhere without him? He is like some Valar-forsaken shadow, always tagging along behind,” she snapped.

“Neville is here for a reason, Princess. He tells me he saw a rather interesting sight. Is that so, Neville?” The chubby man nodded. Fenwick smiled at him and turned back to his betrothed. “Neville here tells me he saw you early yesterday morning.”

Anhuil’s blood turned to ice, and she suddenly felt as if she had swallowed a large rock. Struggling to maintain a passive expression, she let her gaze fall in Neville. “What does he claim to have seen?”

“Why, you, my dear, riding with the King of Rohan. But that cannot be, because my devoted little wife would not do something like that, now would she? Riding out alone, un-chaperoned, with another man?”

“Stop calling me your wife. I am not your wife, Mardil Fenwick. And until I am I will do as I please,” she quipped angrily, reaching to shut the door.

“Lothíriel, please do not cause me to make a scene.”

She paused, her hand on the brass pull. “What is it you want, Mardil?”

“I want you to stop this behavior. It is one thing if you make some effort to be discreet, but riding across Rohan in plain view of anyone watching is just deplorable. You are making a mockery of our betrothal, and I will not have it. The very least you can do is show a little discretion.”

The loud laugh escaped before she could even make an effort to contain it. “A mockery? Fenwick, this whole marriage is a mockery!”

“You knew from the beginning I was not promising you a fairy tale, Princess. Why do you act now as if this is a new revelation?”

Glowering at the tall, dark-haired man, she drew herself up. “Perhaps I have decided I would rather have the fairy tale.”

Eyes narrowing, Fenwick’s ire rose visibly, his lips drawn into a tight line. “Speaking of your fairy tale, your king came to speak with me. He asked me to release you from our betrothal contract.”

Anhuil’s stomach knotted, and she fought for stability in her voice. “And?”

“I told him he was insane if he thought for one moment I’d do so.”

She regarded him as coolly as she could. “Perhaps I have changed my mind about marrying you.”

“That is no longer your decision to make, Lothíriel.” He chortled haughtily.

His expression paled as one corner of her mouth turned up slightly. “Is it not? Perhaps we shall see.”

Neville turned to Fenwick, a panicked look on is pale face. “Does she mean that? Can she truly call off your engagement?“

Mardil’s jaw worked furiously, his lips clenched shut, but he did not answer. He stepped forward, his face inches from hers, a smug smile creeping across his face. “Let me assure you of one thing, Princess. If you think for one moment I am going to let you destroy all that I have worked for on some girlish whim of yours, you are sorely mistaken. I can make life most unpleasant for you and for many you care about, including that Rohirrim king.”

She glowered at him. “Are you threatening me, Mardil?”

He smiled at her, straightening his tunic. “It is not a threat, Lothíriel. It is a fact.” He spun on his booted heel and strolled down the hall, leaving the irate princess staring knives into his back.

She slammed the heavy door, clicking the lock.

Leaning back on the door, she glanced the room, noticing Cam’s bed was made. Briefly wondering where the blonde was, she pulled on a pair of trousers and a tunic, buckling her dagger belt around her waist. She hastily braided her hair back. Studying her reflection in the mirror, she frowned. Could there be something she did not know? Could he do something to hurt her father, or Éomer?

The knot in her stomach had returned. What she needed was a good long ride with Olórin to clear her head. Pulling on her boots, she grabbed her cloak and headed for the stable.

~~~~~~~~~~

Éomer rapped lightly on the door. “Ani?”

Cam pulled open the door. “She is not here, Éomer.”

“Not here?” he repeated. Cam shook her head. “Where is she?”

The blonde shrugged her shoulders. “I have not seen her since this morning. She was asleep when I left and when I came back she was gone. Her boots and cloak are gone as well, if that helps. I think she must have gone riding with Éowyn.”

The king cursed under his breath. “I just saw Éowyn in the hall, and she was going to meet Arwen for a ride. Any idea how long ago she left?”

“She was gone when I came back a few moments ago, that is all I know.”

Éomer turned, almost running down the hall. He burst into the stable, looking quickly around. Olórin was gone, but the other horses were still there. Muttering a few colorful Rohirric phrases, he quickly saddled Firefoot. Leading the horse out of the stable, he nearly ran into Éowyn in his haste.

“And where are you going in such a hurry, brother?”

“That imprudent woman has taken off alone. I am going after her.”

“Imprudent?” His sister chuckled. “Hmm…sounds like someone else I know…”

Cutting her a sharp look, he mounted his horse and bolted for the gate, pausing to speak to the guard.

“Which way did the princess go?”

“We tried to stop her, Your Majesty--“

“Which way?” he demanded, cutting the soldier off.

He kicked the horse into a full gallop and headed in the direction the soldier pointed.
The woman was insane. Brave, perhaps, but completely reckless.

~~~~~~~~~~

Allowing Olórin free rein to run as fast as he wished, Ani held on tightly, enjoying the rush of the warm air on her face. The sweet fragrance of the wildflowers in the field rushed up as the horse’s hooves trampled the plants underneath, assailing her with the scents of lavender and jasmine, and some she could not identify. It did not matter. The freedom of running wild through the field was what she needed. She smiled to see Elenion running at Olórin’s heels. He had disappeared when they had entered Edoras, preferring the wild plains to the bustle of the city.

She slowed her mount to a trot, then reined him in, dismounting to take in the beauty of the landscape. This was what she wanted. This was why she had run away in the first place. She knelt and scratched the wolf's ears as she took in her surroundings.

Freedom.

Dol Amroth, for all its royal glory, could not compare to the awesome sites before her.

Snow capped mountains, even in midsummer, loomed in the distance. Fields of tall grass and wildflowers, small streams gleaming in the sunlight as they wound their way through the vale toward the Entwash. Villages dotting areas of the horizon, smoke rising from small chimneys. A simpler life. That is what it represented to her. Peace.

The drumming of hoof beats in the distance caught her attention. Quickly turning, she saw a lone rider headed in her direction. The dappled grey stallion and blonde hair flowing in the wind told her exactly who it was. Frustration swelled inside her. She didn’t want company. She had only wanted to be alone, to have some time to think things through. Why did he have to come after her as if she were a lost child?

Resigning herself to the tongue-lashing she was about to receive, she decided she would at least get a good run out of it. Leaping astride her mount, she heeled him into a gallop and bolted across the field toward the river she had ridden to so many times with Éowyn.

Éomer had seen her halt her mount, and look in his direction. Now she was galloping across the field as if Wargs were at her heels. Or at least a large wolf. He shook his head. He had wondered where that animal disappeared to when they arrived at Edoras. He just hoped he had not made meals of the local sheep. Digging his boots into Firefoot’s flanks, he took off after her.

He caught up with her at the riverbank, where she had slowed Olórin to a walk and was making her way toward a copse of trees. She looked over her shoulder at him as he approached, riding alongside her. Elenion took off after a rabbit into the shrubbery.

"Anhuíl, have you taken leave of your senses?" She whirled around, surprised by the sharpness of his tone. The king’s heart was still pounding. "This is not Minas Tirith or Dol Amroth, Ani. There are still quite a few dangers out there! The Dunlendings continue to attack villages near these mountains. You have no business riding out alone in a country that is strange to you!"

"I beg your pardon! I did not go out unarmed. I can protect myself. Did I not save your hide once?"

"Yes, and I have also seen you almost get yourself killed! I do not wish your blood on my hands ever again!"

Anhuil halted her mount, staring at him, shocked by his outburst. “Am I not allowed even a short time alone? By the VALAR I am weary of everyone fussing over me." She kicked Olórin slightly, into a walk, moving away from Éomer.

His expression softened as he stopped beside her. “I am sorry, Ani. I did not mean to raise my voice. You frightened me. No one knew where you were.” Ignoring him, she kept her horse at a walk. He skillfully moved his mount beside her and grabbed her reins as she tried to pass him, halting her horse.

Anger flared in her, frustration at her seeming lack of ability to do anything at all about her circumstances. She jerked her reins free from his grip. "I am sorely tired of being told what to do and what not to do by men deciding what is best for me without heed to what I might desire. Men have run my entire life, and you are all driving me spare! You worry over me as if I were a child!”

Éomer moved his horse in front of her, blocking her path. "Do you not understand that I worry about you because I love you?"

She sighed deeply. ”Why?” she asked, trying to guide her horse past him. “Why do you put yourself through this? Why do you not just find some pretty, flaxen-haired Rohirrim girl and forget you ever knew me?"

Éomer grabbed her reins, holding tightly, jerking her horse to a stop. "I do not want someone else, Princess Lothíriel of Dol Amroth! I want you!" He shouted at her. "Bloody hell, woman! I love you! I want you by my side for the rest of my life!"

She looked up at him, deep green eyes welling with tears. “How can this be worth it to you?” she asked, her voice nearly a whisper. “How can it be worth what I have put you through?”

Pulling her horse alongside his, he reached for her, lifting her from her saddle and into his, turning her to face him. She laughed softly through her tears as he settled her in his lap, facing him. Her arms went around his neck, and he leaned his forehead against hers. “What must I do to make you understand,” he asked her, “that there is nothing, absolutely nothing, more important to me than you?”

“You are a king, Éomer,” she said quietly, brushing his hair from his face with her fingertips. “Surely there are things that must take priority.”

“I would abdicate my throne without a second thought if I had to choose between you and the crown,” he told her, his lips nearly against hers.

“I would never allow you to do that. Your people need you. And if you tried, I would be most disappointed in you.” she quipped.

“Would you?” he asked, one arm going around her waist, the other holding the reins of his mount. She nodded. “Then I hope I shall never have to make that choice. Perhaps we should stay with the original plan and find a way to get rid of Fenwick.”

Anhuil threw her head back and growled in frustration. “I hate that man,” she shouted skyward. Éomer took advantage of her position and pressed his lips against her neck. She closed her eyes, leaning closer to him in the saddle, her legs over his. “You realize this is most inappropriate, Your Majesty,” she said, raising her head and bringing her lips to his.

“Propriety is highly overrated, Your Highness,” he said softly.

“That may be the case,” she answered, “but do you not think it best for me to ride my own mount back to Edoras?”

“Hmm, I am not sure...” he said thoughtfully. “I rather like this arrangement,” he said. “It definitely has potential.”

“You are incorrigible, Your Majesty,” she chastised.

“And you like it,” he snapped back.

“Regardless, I do not think it in either of our best interest for us to arrive in Edoras in this fashion. Enough tongues will be wagging as it is.”

“The things you say, woman...” he muttered, capturing her lips again. The hand around her waist slid behind her hip, pulling her further into his lap. There was no denying the effect she had on him as he deepened his kiss, his tongue gently finding hers.

She pushed him back with a chuckle. “Get my horse back over here before we both get into trouble,” she demanded gently.

“If you insist, Your Highness,” he answered with a resigned sigh, whistling for Olórin.

~~~~~~~~~


Chapter 26 - Chapter Twenty-Five

Trust To Hope - Chapter Twenty-Five
Author: Novedhelion
Type: FP Het
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Pairing: Éomer/Lothíriel aka Anhuil
Rating: PG13
Warnings: Steam and sap. Cold water and Kleenex recommended.
Beta: Riyallyn
Disclaimer: I will not be held responsible if you smack your monitor with your keyboard because of Fenwick.



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Chapter Twenty-Five
*************************
How do I get through one night without you?
If I have to live without you, what kind of life would that be?
Oh, I need you in my arms, need you to hold
You’re my world, my heart, my soul...

How Do I Live?
LeAnn Rimes
******************************
Rohan
Golden Hall of Meduseld
25 Urui, 3019 T.A.
******************************

Éomer stood beside the table in the Golden Hall, awaiting his dinner guests on their last night in Edoras. Hands folded behind his back, he looked out the window toward the mountain where they had stood that morning. He could not contain the smile that spread across his face at the memory of her expression, her awe, at the beauty of the sunrise. But that smile paled in comparison to the grin that replaced it as he thought of her answer to his proposal. Not to mention their interlude by the river that afternoon.

He sighed again, wishing his sister would be here this evening. She had begged for some time alone with her beloved, and they had chosen to dine together away from the other guests.

Prince Imrahil entered with his two eldest sons. Elphir and Erchirion were arguing amiably, their father shaking his head.

“No, that was the Lord of Lossarnach’s daughter. The redhead was the daughter of the fief of Ethring.”

“Are you certain? I thought the redhead was the daughter of the nobleman from Linhir.”

“No, I am certain she said--“ Erchirion looked up at Éomer. “I apologize my friend. My brother has a tendency to get all the lovely ladies confused. Someday that will get him into trouble.”

Éomer chuckled, grateful he only had one to worry about as the men moved toward the table to sit.

Anhuil entered with Cam and Amrothos, followed closely by Fenwick and Neville. Mardil made a big show of pulling out her chair to seat her, which the king promptly ignored, smiling politely at the ladies as they were seated.

Elphir and Erchirion prattled all through dinner about the different girls they had met. Amrothos seemed content to be next to Cam, their quiet conversations unheard by the others. Éomer tried to pay attention to what Imrahil was telling him but could not recall a single word, his attention focused solely on Anhuil and her somewhat subdued behavior. She barely ate, pushing the food around on her plate, and occasionally sipping her wine or smiling at something one of her brothers said, but did not join in the banter.

Fenwick glanced around the table, a self-satisfied smirk crossing his lips, feeling his threat might have had the desired affect after all. His eyes fell on Cam and Amrothos, smiling at each other and talking quietly. Eyes narrowed, he decided that was definitely not a good thing. That little blonde had far too much influence over the princess. He needed to be rid of her as well, and if she managed to get her hooks into that young prince, he’d never see the end of her. That he would deal with soon enough.

Looking up, he caught the eye of the king. Dark brown eyes glared into steel gray. The smug look on Fenwick’s face made Éomer’s fist itch to hit him again, and he clenched it tightly under the table.

Imrahil had been speaking to the young king but stopped when he realized Éomer’s attention was focused elsewhere. Following his gaze, his eyes fell on Fenwick; the cold stare between the two telling him things had not gone favorably with their discussion.

He turned to his daughter, who was staring down into her goblet as she swirled the contents. Her altercation with Mardil was still on her mind. What could he possibly do to harm Éomer? She wondered if it was simply a threat, and most likely it was. But that combined with knowing this was her last night in Edoras did nothing to stimulate her appetite. She sighed audibly.

“Lothíriel?” Her father ventured. “Are you feeling well?”

“I am just tired, Ada,” she responded without looking up. Anhuil was aware that Éomer’s gaze had not strayed far from her this evening, but she knew if she looked up into those deep brown eyes… Her stomach tightened into a knot.

“You have hardly eaten a thing, dear girl,” the prince observed.

“I am not terribly hungry,” she told him truthfully.

“I can have the cook bring something else if you would prefer,” Éomer offered.

“It is not necessary. I am fine,” the princess said. Dropping her fork on to her plate, she stood from the table. “Please excuse me.” She strode so quickly for the door that none of the men had time to stand in response. Éomer started to go after her, but restrained himself.

With a quick glance at Amrothos, Cam jumped from her chair and followed on the princess’s heels.

Imrahil slid his chair back, but his youngest son put a restraining hand on his father’s arm. “Cam will talk to her.” The prince nodded, still eyeing the door questioningly.

Only Fenwick seemed unfazed by her behavior, continuing his meal. He looked up into the stares of Anhuil’s brothers and father, not to mention the king. Taking a sip of his wine, he shrugged. “Women,” he remarked, “I shall never understand them.”

Éomer squared his shoulders, smiling, and leveled his gaze at Fenwick. “Understanding them is not paramount. Women are a beautiful enigma. It is the way it is intended to be.”

Imrahil glanced up, curiously watching the exchange between his daughter’s fiancé and the King of Rohan. Elphir and Erchirion looked up at the statement.

“Here, here!” Erchirion called out, raising his goblet. “A wise man, this King of Rohan. Here’s to beautiful enigmas, may we never figure them out.”

The men chuckled and drank from their cups, all but Fenwick, who still eyed the king scathingly. “I suppose one does not have to understand them in order to control them,” Fenwick chuckled, more than slightly amused by Éomer’s bristling reaction.

“I fail to see the need to control them,” Éomer attempted to sound pleasant, although speaking through gritted teeth. “I rather think it is they who control us.” Elphir and Erchirion snickered at the comment, nodding in agreement.

“Spoken by a man who could not even keep his own sister from riding into battle,” Fenwick snorted.

“My sister accomplished with only the help of a halfling what all the armies of Gondor and Rohan could not. I will not defend her actions to one who did not fight himself.” Éomer glared at Fenwick, who returned the stare with equal intensity, all traces of humor gone from his face.

Imrahil stared Fenwick down. “Mardil, it is clear that you and the king have differing philosophies concerning this issue. However, he is our host.” He looked back and forth between the two men. “Might I suggest that in the interest of civility we change the subject of discussion, gentlemen?”

“My apologies, Prince Imrahil,” Éomer made certain his apology was directed at the prince. “It is not a habit I have to argue with dinner guests. Forgive me, but I must excuse myself. I have something I need to attend to. Please, finish your meals, and enjoy the wine.” He stood from the table, bowing to his guests, and slipped from the room.

Fenwick knew where he was going. He itched to follow, but knew it would be too obvious if he did. He smirked into his wine goblet as he took another sip. The poor King of Rohan had no idea how easy it really was to control women. All you had to do was find out what mattered to them. Women were such emotional creatures. Easy, easy prey, he thought smugly.

~~~~~~~~~

“Ani! Ani…wait!” Cam caught up with her close to their chambers. The princess kept walking, not looking at her friend. Bolting through the doors to the courtyard, she ran down the path toward the stables. She burst inside the dimly lit barn and leaned on one of the stall doors, taking a deep breath.

“What is wrong?” Cam came to lean on the door beside her.

“Nothing. Everything. I do not know. I just…I needed to get away from there.” Her voice cracked slightly as she spoke. “I do not want to go home, Cam. I do not want to leave here.”

“I am so sorry, Ani. I wish there was something I could do,” her friend said sympathetically.

“I do not want to leave him, Cam.” She looked up at her friend, tears spilling down her cheeks. “I could not even look at him at dinner, because I know if I do my tears will betray me. Ada does not need this. He does not need me acting like a foolish schoolgirl.”

“Would you like for me to get Éomer, so you can talk?”

“No, Cam. I need to be alone. I need to think. I should-“

Before she could finish her answer, the stable door creaked open. Light flickered at the doorway as Éomer entered. He turned up the flame of the lantern hanging by the door, lifting it from its hook, and peered inside. “Ani? Cam?” He stepped further into the stable.

“Ilú Ilúvatar….” the princess muttered under her breath.

“I heard that,” the king quipped.

Holding the lantern high, he spotted the women standing next to Olórin’s stall. The horse was nuzzling the princess as she stroked his neck. Cam looked up at him, her expression not answering his questions. The blonde shrugged and cast Éomer a half-hearted smile. She patted him on the shoulder as she passed by, wordlessly leaving the two of them alone in the stable.

Éomer hung the lantern on a hook near the stall where she stood. “Ani?” He stepped toward her. Turning to face him, she fell into his arms. Without a word, he embraced her, holding her tightly.

“I am sorry, Éomer.” Anhuil’s arms were around his waist, her head on his chest.

“Sorry for what?”

Anhuil fought to steady her voice. “For dragging you into this disaster the Valar call my life. For causing you so much grief. For not being honest with you about--“

“Enough.” Éomer tried to look down at her but she resisted, holding him tightly. Pushing her back gently but firmly, he caught her chin in his hand. “Look at me, Ani.” She did so, reluctantly. “I am not sorry, and I do not wish you to be. Gods, woman, do you still not see? Whatever the cost, I love you.”

“Do not say that, Éomer,” she said, only half-joking.

“It is the truth.”

The princess swallowed hard, averting her gaze. “I will be leaving tomorrow,” she finally said, shakily. “I do not want to go.”

“I know.” She allowed herself to relax his embrace, enjoying the feeling of his strong arms around her, the scent of leather and of him surrounding her, his fingers spreading on her back, pressing her against his chest, and straying up to bury into the dark curls. “I do not want you to go.”

“You spoke to my father?”

“Your father had no objections, save the fact that you are already betrothed,” he answered wryly. “One way or another, I will stop this wedding.”

“But my father explained to you...”

“He did. It will be difficult but not impossible.”

“And Fenwick?”

Éomer cupped her chin with his hand. “Does not deserve a treasure like you.”

Before she could answer, their lips sought each other’s and met softly, melting together in a sweet kiss. Gently nudging her lips apart with his tongue, he deepened the kiss, still slow and tender. The princess closed her eyes, memorizing every touch, every taste, every tingle of his body pressed against hers. She gave in completely to the kiss, her fingers curled tightly in his blonde locks, pulling him tighter against her, the desire tightening inside her surprising even her. Éomer answered her kiss ardently, his tongue entwining with hers, his hands sliding over the soft silk of her dress, tracing her shape of her waist down to her hips, sliding around to splay across her curved behind and pull her hips against his.

“I love the feel of you in my arms, under my hands,” he murmured, his lips trailing down her neck to the tender junction of her shoulder. “As if you were made to fit into my arms...”

The hand on her back slid back to her waist, slowly trailing up, coming to rest very lightly on the curve of her breast. The warmth of his hand seared through the soft fabric, and at her gasp his mouth claimed hers again. He could feel her ragged breathing, the rapid rise and fall of her chest under his fingertips. His tentative touch became a gentle exploration, his thumb sliding over the swell cupped in his hand.

Her mind reeled with the sensations he awakened in her. She loved him, and if this was to be the last time she would be in his arms, then by the Valar she was going to take everything she could with her. “Éomer,” she moaned softly, arching herself against his hand.

His name from her lips nearly undid him, as she pressed herself closer against him. Her own hands slipped down to his hips, her small fingers digging in to the fabric of his breeches.

“Ani…gods, woman…” his tongue invaded her mouth again, the hand on her breast squeezing delightfully.

Before they knew it she was on her back in the soft hay, the king lying on top of her, kissing his way down to the rather frustrating laces that closed her dress. “Meleth nín…” she whispered.

Éomer raised his head and their eyes met, a mixture of desire, shock, and confusion. His frustrated growl as he rolled away from her startled her, and she sat up quickly, her expression puzzled.

“Bloody hell, Ani…I am sorry,” he shoved his hand through his hair.

“Sorry for what, meleth nín?” she asked, her breathing still labored, kneeling beside him in the hay.

Pinching the bridge of his nose with his fingers, Éomer sighed. “I did not mean for this to go so far.”

“I did not discourage you,” she whispered in his ear teasingly, her lips brushing against it lightly.

Closing his eyes, the king drew in his breath. “Do not do that, Anhuil,” he warned. “I will not be responsible for what happens if you continue.”

She turned his face to hers with her fingers. “Perhaps that is what I want,” she ventured tentatively. “I tire of always being responsible and circumspect. Éomer, this could be our last night together.”

“You cannot believe that,” he said softly. “We will see each other again soon. And--“

Blowing out a ragged breath slowly, she interrupted him. “I do not want to wait.” Her small hand slid into his hair, pulling his face toward her, his lips meeting hers again, then moving to her neck. “Let me be yours, once. Please,” she pled.

He pulled back, looking into her eyes. “Do you realize what you are asking?”

She nodded. “Please, Éomer. I cannot bear the thought of Fenwick having me.”

“But if he is your husband, Ani, he will-“

“If by some chance I must marry that...bastard...I do not want him to be the first,” she admitted. “I want...” She swallowed, “I want you, Éomer. Please at least give me the memory of making love with you, one time. Please. Do not let him take that from me.”

His eyes widened in surprise. “Are you propositioning me, Princess?”

“Yes,” she answered shyly. “Yes, I am.”

“Perhaps you should go to your chamber right now before I take you up on your…offer.” He chuckled as he stood and held out his hand to help her up. “You deserve better than this,” he gestured around the stable, then leaned down to pick a bit of straw from her hair.

“Do you want me, Éomer?”

She stood before him, her dark green eyes meeting his. Her dark curls fell tousled just to her shoulders, the laces on the front of her gown untied. Taking in her flushed cheeks and lips swollen from his kisses, it was all he could do not to drop her where she stood and take her then and there. Closing his eyes, he let out his breath. “Ani, there is nothing in Middle Earth that I want more than I want you, but I will not take you this way, bereft of any dignity. I told you when that happened, it would be in my bed.”

She turned and glanced at the hidden door she remembered from their escape early that morning. “Then take me to your bed, Éomer,” she said softly, moving to him and claiming his lips again, their kiss quickly becoming ardent. Moving to the hidden door, his fingers found the latch and he led her inside, toward his chamber.

They stumbled into his room, their lips still locked. His mouth over hers, he backed her up against the side of the bed. Drawing back, his questioning gaze asked again the question to which he already knew the answer. “Are you certain?” he asked quietly.

“I want you to claim me, Éomer,” she whispered against his lips. “Make me yours.”

His hand went to the laces at the front of the gown, deftly untying them. She drew in a sharp breath as his hand slid between the silk of her gown and the linen of her shift, the warmth nearly searing her skin. His mouth over hers, she responded eagerly, falling backward on to the bed and pulling him down with her. Arching underneath him, she made a frustrated sound as her fingers fumbled with the small fastenings of the richly embroidered tunic, sliding it from his shoulders, her hands raking over the muscles of his chest.

His lips traveled over hers, her neck, down to the edge of the shift she wore beneath the dress, his tongue delving between the curved mounds still obscured by the pale linen. She jumped in response, and he raised his head suddenly, realizing he had a hand all the way under her skirt, traveling up her coppery thigh.

What the blue hell do you think you are doing, man?

He pulled away suddenly, withdrawing his hand, and lay down beside her. Wrapping his arms around her, he pulled her against his chest, his breathing still labored.

“What is wrong?” she asked against his chest, as he held her tightly to him.

“I cannot do this. When I said I wanted you in my bed, I meant that I wanted you to be my wife, Ani. I cannot take what is not rightfully mine.”

“But I am yours, Éomer. Regardless of what happens, whether I marry Mardil or not, I will always be yours.” She wriggled free enough to bring her lips to his. “Éomer,” she whispered against them. “I know I am not the first woman to grace the furs of your bed, and I may well not be the last. But tonight, I want to be yours.” Her lips brushed his again. “Please,” she pled softly.

Éomer closed his eyes tightly, fighting his overwhelming desire to acquiesce to her pleas as she trailed kisses down his neck. After all, who would ever hold such a thing against him? She was in his bed, asking him to take her. He would be blameless, would he not?

Somehow, he didn’t think her father would agree, nor would her brothers.

But mostly, he could not justify it to himself.

“Ani,” he said, gently restraining her with his hands on her shoulders, his expression serious. “We cannot do this. I will not deny that I have known other women, a few I even foolishly thought I could have loved. That does not make what I did right. You are the first woman to lie in this bed. If I have my say, you will be the last.”

She sat up quickly, pulling the laces of her gown together. Leaning forward, he placed a kiss on her shoulder. “Ani...”

“I am sorry, Éomer.” She pulled away, swinging her feet to the floor. Straightening her skirts, she moved toward the door.

“Wait.” He stood, hastily pulling his tunic back on, following her to the door. “You cannot go that way, someone may see you.”

“We wouldn’t want that, would we?” she quipped, her voice flat, avoiding his gaze to hide the flush in her cheeks. “One of us being completely humiliated is quite enough, do you not think?” She turned away. “I should not have asked this of you.”

“Ani...” he said softly, putting his arms around her despite her protests. He backed her up against the wall. He lifted her face to his with the fingers of one hand, searching her eyes. “You have nothing to be ashamed of,” he said. “I am as much to blame as you. Bless Béma, woman, do you have any idea what you do to me?” She didn’t answer, looking away.

“Look at me, Ani,” he said, still holding her face in his hand. She raised her eyes to his. “You make me so insane with desire it is all I can do to breathe, much less maintain any semblance of propriety. And here you are, in my bedchamber, offering me everything I could ever want and more.”

“It is a bit confusing for a girl,” she admitted shakily. “You bring me to your chambers, practically undress me, then the next moment you are throwing me out of your bed, and then again the next you are telling me again how much you want me.” She smiled weakly. “One would think you were suddenly becoming a gentleman,” she teased.

“Listen to me,” he said calmly, taking her hands in his. “I was wrong before, when I said there was nothing I wanted more. There is only one thing that I want more than I want to throw you on that bed right now and ravish you,” she giggled softly, and he smiled in response, continuing. “I want you to be my wife. I love you, and I will not risk there being any regrets between us.”

“I do not think I could ever regret loving you, Éomer,” she answered quietly.

He sighed, unable to argue with that. “Ani, please understand. I want you...by the gods, I want you...but I have many regrets in my life because I acted on impulse.” Deep brown eyes captured hers. “When I take you into my bed, I want it to be as my wife.”

His voice softened. “Do you have any idea how sweet it will be,” he whispered softly, brushing a strand of hair behind her ear, “on our wedding night? I will lay you down in that bed,” he indicated the bed behind him with a nod in that direction, “I will claim every bit of you, one kiss at a time,” he continued, trailing kisses down her shoulder as she closed her eyes and leaned against the wall, her breathing ragged. “With each kiss I will become yours,” he said softly, his lips brushing her cheek. “And neither of us will ever belong to another.”

She opened her eyes, meeting his gaze. “What if-“

He silenced her with his lips on hers. Drawing back, he smiled down at her. “No what ifs, Ani.” She nodded as he again captured her mouth, his searing kiss leaving her breathless.

“I am leaving tomorrow at first light,” she whispered, a tear spilling down her cheek.

Pulling her close, he wrapped his arms around her. “I wish it was not so.”

“As do I,” she answered. “I am sorry, Éomer. I was...taken in by the moment, I suppose.” She looked up at him, wiping her cheek with the back of her hand and blew out a deep breath.

“Do not apologize, Anhuil. There is nothing to apologize for.”

She nodded. “I suppose we should say our goodbyes here.”

“You say that as if you will never see me again,” he said, surprised at her tone. “I will be in Minas Tirith for my sister’s wedding in less than two months time. Surely we will see each other there.”

“A few months may as well be a hundred years, as much as I will miss you,” she said softly.

“You must not give up hope, love. We will find a way”

She chuckled. “Éowyn says you mean what you say about riding into Dol Amroth and carrying me away.”

“Éowyn knows me too well,” he answered, his tone so serious it almost frightened her. His hand cupped her cheek, raising her lips to his, the soft kiss making her knees buckle. “I love you, Anhuil.”

“And I you, meleth nín.” Her lips brushed his lightly.

Smiling broadly in an effort to hide the ache he felt, he clasped her hand and raised it to his lips, lightly kissing the backs of her fingers. “You should get some rest. You have a long journey.” He picked up a small lantern and led her back through the passages to her chambers.

Pushing open the doorway to her room, he caught her hands in his, giving her one last kiss before pulling the tapestry closed behind him.

Cam was still not in bed when the princess entered their room. Kicking off her slippers, she fell on to the bed, closing her eyes. Memories of his hands, his lips, his soft words came in a rush. She lay back, letting the mental images fill her mind, wondering if that was the last time he would hold her in his arms. Tears slid down her cheeks, sobs racking her small frame.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Well, is this not sweet? Hidden passages. How romantic.”

Fenwick sat in a chair in the corner, obscured by the shadows near the unlit fireplace. He stood and moved to the light of the window, his pale eyes regarded her silently for a moment from behind thick, dark lashes.

“Mardil, you should not be here.“

He threw back his head, laughing out loud. “You come traipsing in here in the middle of the night, after spending the last few hours alone with that heathen king, and you have the nerve to call me improper?” He snorted. “Besides, it is perfectly proper as long as Neville remains as a chaperone,” he cast a glance at the valet, who was still sitting in his chair. Neville nodded. Fenwick returned his gaze to the princess. “I trust you have thus far enjoyed your stay in this…heathen country?”

Drawing herself up, she took a deep breath. “Mardil, I refuse to argue with you. It is late, and I will not defend my friendship with the King of the Mark to you. If this is what you are here for…”

“Friendship?” He sneered. “Is that what you call it?”

“What should I call it?”

“I was going to ask, but I can see by your expression that will not be necessary.” Fenwick turned back toward the window. “I am rather disappointed, Lothíriel. I would have hoped to have been married at least a while before my wife decided to engage in this type of behavior.”

Swallowing hard, the princess steeled herself. “What behavior are you talking about, Fenwick?”

He spun around quickly, grabbing her shoulders. “You know exactly what I am talking about, Lothíriel. We discussed this earlier. Do not deny it.” She stared at him defiantly, his fingers tightening painfully. “You are MY fiancé, Lothíriel, or have you so easily forgotten?”

“How could I forget, when you insist on constantly reminding me?“

“I insist, my dear, because I have great plans for our future.”

“Our future? I do not wish a future with you, Mardil!” Anhuil struggled to free herself from his grip. “I do not wish anything with you! I will scream if you do not unhand me now.”

“Scream, then,” he taunted her. She took a breath to do so and was promptly cut off by his mouth over hers. Hard and demanding, it was more possession than a kiss. Neville laughed behind his hand at her attempts to free herself from Fenwick. When he finally released her, she stumbled backwards, glaring at him.

Mardil regarded her amusingly. Her lips were swollen, her chest heaving in her efforts to catch her breath, her eyes blazing with fury. He found it strangely arousing. “By the gods, Lothíriel, I wish you would not look at me in that way,” Fenwick goaded. “I find it far too enticing. No wonder that horsemaster cannot keep his hands off you.”

“You touch me again, you son of an Orc, and I will--“

“What, Princess? Tell your father? Call your brothers? What would your precious Ada think of his little girl alone with the king, unchaperoned, so late at night? Hmmm? How do you think your brothers would feel if he knew that their friend, their trusted comrade in arms, the King of Rohan, was seducing their sister?”

“It is not like that Mardil and you know it!”

“Ah, you see, that is just the problem, my dear betrothed,” he crooned. “I do not know. All I know is what I see, and what I hear. Understand, Princess, that I have had my suspicions for quite some time, ever since that unfortunate little episode at the wedding in Minas Tirith.” He circled her as he spoke. “You see, when you returned home from the city after the battle, I knew something was amiss. I could see it in your eyes. I always knew you did not love me, Lothíriel, but I had at least hoped we would be able to tolerate one another.”

Fenwick sighed resignedly. “But when you returned from your little…journey…you had changed. When I kissed you after your return, I knew. Your kiss was not that of a proper princess who kept her suitors at bay. Your kiss was that of a woman who knew what to expect of a kiss. I wondered at that...at least…” he paused, “until that night in Minas Tirith.” He waited, allowing her to assimilate the information, giving her a scathing once over.

“I knew the moment I saw you dancing with him that he was the one. You see, Lothíriel, I have had enough lovers in my time that I know how a woman in love looks at a man. That, my dear princess, is where you underestimated me. You may be able to fool your father into thinking that it was all innocent, but I know the look of a lover when I see it.”

“Mardil, you are--“

“Do not try to deny it, woman! Your father may still believe you to be a chaste little virgin--“

“Fenwick, my virtue is none of your concern!”

“Ah, my dear, but it is.” Sighing dramatically, he cocked his head to one side, regarding her with an expression of mock sadness. “There is this matter of a contract we both signed, that states that you will marry me. You are promised to ME. So you see, Princess, you and your virtue belong to me. If someone has taken that from me, then…” he held up his hands in a questioning gesture.

“What is it you want from me, Fenwick? Get to the point.” Anhuil shook with anger.

“I wish to leave this forsaken country, return to civilization and be married. You will be MY wife. You will bear MY heirs.” Her stomach lurched at the thought. “Do you hear me? You will forget about him. I want you to go to your horse lord and tell him it is over, Lothíriel.”

Green eyes burned back at him. “And if I do not?”

Fenwick turned to the large banner of the Mark over the fireplace. “These peasants certainly have a fondness for their new king, do they not? It would be a shame for them to lose yet another king, wouldn’t it Neville?”

Anhuil glared at him. “What could you possibly do? You would not have the guts to kill a man yourself, Mardil.”

Fenwick’s smug smile made her blood boil. “My darling Princess, I have contacts you could not begin to imagine. Trust me that you truly do not wish to know what I could do. Suffice it to say that if you care for this...heathen...you will do as I say.”

“You are lying,” she spat.

“Is that a chance you wish to take, my dear?”

The princess’s heart pounded in her chest. “You are the most despicable man I have ever known,” she seethed.

“Tell him, Lothíriel.”

The princess looked away, tears stinging her eyes. Fenwick caught her again by the shoulders, forcing her to look at him. “We leave here at first light in the morning. Before we go, you will tell him it is over.” He waited for a response. Silent tears rolled down her cheeks, but she held her back straight and her shoulders squared, not answering. Cold gray eyes bored into hers. “You signed a contract, my dear. I expect you to live up to it.” He leaned down and tenderly kissed her tear-dampened cheek. “It will all work out for the best, Lothíriel. Trust me. I will make you forget him completely.”

She pulled away from him. “Never,” she said quietly. “You may have my hand in marriage, but you will never have my heart, Fenwick. That will be forever his, regardless of whatever else happens.”

Yanking open the door, she stood expectantly, waiting for them to leave.

With a curt nod, Fenwick strolled past her into the hallway, with Neville trailing close behind. She slammed the door shut and clicked the lock.

Fenwick took a deep breath, grinning at Neville as they strolled down the hall.

“You never cease to amaze me, Mardil,” the older man grinned as they entered Fenwick’s chambers.

“Sometimes I surprise myself,” Fenwick snickered, flopping down in an armchair by the fireplace. “Pour me a drink, will you?”

~~~~~~~~~

Éomer sat at his desk, leaning back in the chair. He was pouring from a flask into the cup of tea Éowyn had brought him when Amrothos creaked the door open. The young prince flopped down into another comfortable chair, propping a boot on the opposite knee. The king waved toward the decanter on the desk. “Brandy?”

“I think I would rather have what you are having,” Amrothos responded with a sigh. Éomer dutifully poured from the flask into a cup and handed it to him. Raising the cup to his lips, the prince studied the other man. “I talked to Ada,” he finally said.

“As did I,” Éomer sighed, picking up the teacup and draining it. Amrothos nodded silently.

“We will think of something, Éomer. We still have several months.”

“One way or another, ” he said, picking up the flask, “I will stop this marriage.” He looked into the flask, frowning, and tipped it up.

“Éomer, you have become like a brother to me. In all honesty, I do not like the thought of my little sister with any man, but if I had to choose, there is no one I would rather see her married to than you. You know I will do whatever I can to help.”

“Good. Go tell your father that she is staying here.” He took another sip from the flask.

Laughing, Amrothos sipped from his own cup. “Exactly how much of that have you had, Éomer?”

“Not near enough,” he answered, taking another swig. “Although enough that I am considering running off with her tonight.”

“Do you have a death wish, my friend? Because that would most certainly put a price on your head.”

The king considered the statement for a few moments. “How much?” Éomer asked, leaning forward on the desk.

“Huh?” Amrothos looked up at him.

“How much, for my head?” The prince raised one eyebrow. Éomer laughed. “Just curious how much the head of a drunk, heartbroken king is worth these days.”

“Do not even jest about it, Éomer,” Amrothos laughed.

“I am not joking, Amrothos. I will not lose her.” He emptied the flask and set it down on the carved desktop. He regarded the young prince, his expression intense. Pulling the small handkerchief out of his pocket, he ran his thumb across the embroidered flowers. “I will not lose her,” he repeated.

Amrothos started to say something, and then decided this might be a time when his presence was more important than his words. Holding out his cup, he allowed his host to refill it and sat back, sipping casually. If Éomer wanted to drink himself into oblivion, the least he could do as his friend would be to keep him company.

~~~~~~~~~~~
Rohan
The Golden Hall of Meduseld
26 Urui, 3019 T.A.
~~~~~~~~~~~~

“It would appear you could use this far more than I.”

Éomer looked up from his desk, trying to focus on the blonde in the doorway. He had slept little, not remembering how long he and Amrothos had sat and talked. The bath he thought might help had done little to ease his pounding head.

Rubbing his throbbing temples, he smiled at Cam. He could smell the strong herbal tea she offered. She stepped inside his office, holding the cup out to him.

“Thank you, Camwethrin.” He took the cup, taking a tentative sip, hoping to quell the pounding in his head.

Cam leaned on the doorframe. “Éomer, I want you to know that I will not allow Ani to give up. She loves you.”

“I can no longer imagine my life without her.” He shook his head slowly, taking another sip of the tea, grimacing at the bitter taste.

“You will not have to. Fenwick is far too shady not to have some secrets. I will find out what they are, one way or another.”

“How do you plan to do that? I will not have you doing anything dangerous. I would never forgive myself is something happened to either of you. And Amrothos would kill me.”

The blonde smiled sweetly. She moved to a chair near the door, leaning back and drawing one of her daggers. “Éomer, did Ani ever tell you what Camwethrin means?” He shook his head slightly, wincing at the pain of doing so. “It is a Sindarin name that Elphir gave me when we were younger. It means ‘hollow ring of shadow’.” At his puzzled look, she smiled. “This is what I do best.” She turned the blade around in her hands, flipping the handle in her grip. “And I do not get caught.”

"Thus far," he commented teasingly. She smiled in response. "Please, Cam. Be careful. There is little I would put past Mardil Fenwick."

"We will. I dare not underestimate him, either." Re-sheathing the weapon, she moved back toward the door. “We will send a message to you as soon as we know something.”

“Cam,” the king looked up from his intense scrutiny of the cup. “I appreciate your friendship. To me and to Ani.”

“Ani is like a sister to me, Éomer. And she loves you. Do not forget that.”

“Thank you.” He smiled back at her.

She nodded, pulling the door shut behind her. Éomer returned his gaze to the dark liquid in the cup, trying to herd his roaming thoughts into some comprehensible order.

~~~~~~~~~~

Anhuil had dressed, packing the last of her things into her trunk, which was now being carried out by her father’s men. Cam had already finished packing and was sitting idly on the side of the bed.

“Are you all right, Ani?”

“Of course, Cam,” the princess answered, trying her best to sound calm. Strapping on her dagger belt, she sat to pull on her boots.

The blonde stood. “Very well. We should be going.”

The princess started to follow her, stopping in the doorway. She turned and looked one last time around the room, biting her lower lip. Cam stepped back into the doorway, taking her hand. The two women walked down the hallway toward the main hall, through the golden doors and down the path to the stables. Anhuil stepped up to her black stallion, throwing her riding cloak over the front of the saddle.

“You are keeping Olórin,” Cam commented.

The princess patted the neck of the horse gently. “Éomer insists. Mardil will just have live with that.”

Blue eyes sparkled at her, glad to see she had not lost all her fight. Before she could comment, the men began arriving. Imrahil and Anhuil’s brothers began preparing their own mounts, giving orders to the Swan Knights that were to ride with them.

Fenwick swaggered down the path, Neville huffing along behind, carrying several bags. As the party prepared for their departure, Éomer and Éowyn circulated among them, saying their goodbyes to their guests.

The princess released the reins of her mount and stepped into the barn to retrieve the bags she had laid aside. Slinging one on to her shoulder, she bent to pick up the other. A strong hand reached from behind her and lifted it. “Thank y--“ She turned to see Éomer leaning on the wall, her bag in his hand. Her heart skipped a beat. He was dressed in casual brown leggings and a plain white tunic, his hair unbraided, falling loosely across his broad shoulders.

Anhuil stood frozen, her viridian gaze locked with his deep copper, the wordless exchange tearing at both of their hearts.

Finally, he spoke. “Ani--“

“I must go.” She pushed past him, moving to gather up her bags. He caught her arm.

“Ani...”

Turning to him, she steeled herself, placing her fingers over his lips. “Do not do this. Please do not make it harder than it already is.” Anhuil fought to keep her voice even, blinking back the tears that stung her eyes.

“I am glad you are taking Olórin. It will help to know at least he is with you.”

“Are you sure you want me to take him? I appreciate you loaning him to me, but he truly belongs here.”

“He is not the only one who belongs here,” the king stated softly, his dark eyes never leaving hers.

The princess was certain her heart had not only broken but had disintegrated completely. “Éomer…please…”

His grip on her arm loosened, but he did not let go. Loose curls that had fallen from her braid tumbled across her face. With his free hand, he gently brushed them back. The intensity of his stare tore through her soul. “This is not over.”

The princess struggled for the right thing to say, finally deciding there was nothing more to be said. She acknowledged his statement with a barely perceptible nod, and pulled away from him reluctantly. He caught her hand in his.

“I love you, Ani,” he said quietly.

Managing a weak smile, she slung the bag back on to her shoulder. “I know,” she responded, echoing his own words. Lifting his fingers to her lips, kissing the tips of them lightly. The corners of his mouth turned up only slightly as she turned and walked toward the rest of her party.

~~~~~~~~~
If you ever leave,
Baby, you would take away everything
Good in my life...
And tell me now
How do I live without you?
I want to know
How do I breathe without you?
If you ever go
How do I ever, ever survive?

How Do I Live?
LeAnn Rimes
**************************************


Chapter 27 - Chapter Twenty-Six

Trust to Hope - Chapter Twenty-Six
Author: Novedhelion
Type: FP Het
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Pairing: Éomer/Lothíriel aka Anhuil
Rating: PG13
Warnings: Adult situations...but then again, this is an ADULT site...
Beta: Riyallyn
Disclaimer: The characters belong to Tolkien. The names of the places belong to Tolkien. Any similarities to other stories are purely incidental. But the DIALOGUE and the SCENES are MINE and I do not release them to the Public Domain.

*******************************
So I would choose to be with you
That's if the choice were mine to make
But you can make decisions too
And you can have this heart to break

And So It Goes
Billy Joel
*******************************
Meduseld
30 Urui, 3019 T.A.
**********************

Standing on the steps of the Golden Hall, Éomer watched them disappear in the distance. Éowyn slipped her arm around his waist, and was pulled into his embrace.

“Are you all right?” she asked.

“I will be fine,” he lied. “Stop your worrying.”

“I am a woman, Éomer. That is my job.”

“Then go worry over Faramir. I have things to attend to.” He kissed her forehead and released her, long legs striding down the path toward the stable.

The White Lady watched her brother disappear into the stables. Since he was a child, that had always been where he had gone when he needed to be alone. He somehow found solace in the company of his horses. She would allow him that for now. Later, however, she would make him some tea.

*********
Meduseld
30 Urui, 3019 T.A.
*********************

Éowyn watched her brother through the window. He had removed his tunic and slung it over the fence, tied his hair back with a leather thong, and was now busily splitting wood with a wedge and a heavy hammer. The midday sun beat down hard, the sweat trickling down his bare chest. He seemed to take no notice of anyone passing by, wondering why the king was chopping wood.

She would swear he had split ten cords of wood at least over the past days.

“What is it, love?” Faramir stepped behind her, his arms sliding around her slender waist, resting his chin on her shoulder.

“I worry about him, Faramir. He has hardly eaten anything in days. He does not sleep. I hear him roaming the halls at night.”

“I would be in much the same shape if you were to leave me, dearest.”

“Still…” she watched as he split yet another log, stepping back to wipe his brow with the back of his forearm. “He is splitting wood in midsummer, love. This is not a job for a king.”

“If he had to stay indoors at that desk all day he would go insane, and you know it.” Turning her in his arms, Faramir cocked his head to one side. “So you will have more than enough wood to keep warm when winter comes, is this a problem?”

“When winter comes, love, I will be your wife. I will have you to keep me warm.”

“That you will, my beauty, and do not forget it. You shall never be cold another night as long as my heart beats in my chest.” He leaned his forehead against hers.

“Ah, such lovely words from such beautiful lips. Might I suggest another use for them?” Éowyn tilted her face up to meet his soft lips with hers.

Pulling back, Faramir grinned at her. “Feeling better?”

“If I say no will you kiss me again?”

“Need you ask?” He lowered his lips to hers again.

She stepped back and looked up at him. “Faramir…”

“Yes, love?” he leaned in, his lips finding their way to her neck.

“Will your cousin be attending our wedding?”

The Prince of Ithilien raised his head and looked at her, a slow smile crossing his face. “I would certainly hope so.” He wrinkled his brow at the pensive look on her face. “What are you thinking, Lady of Rohan?” he inquired teasingly, not sure he wanted an answer.

“I just cannot imagine being doomed to spend the rest of my life with a man I did not love.” She leaned against his chest.

“Many marriages are arranged, love. My parents’ marriage was arranged, as was Imrahil’s. It is not uncommon. Very often those involved come to love each other.”

“I understand,” Éowyn hugged him tightly. “But it seems so unfair. They love each other so much, Faramir. They should be together.”

“I do not disagree.”

“Is it truly so hard to dissolve such a contract?”

Faramir shrugged. “If both parties agree, no. Otherwise, yes, it can be a most difficult situation.”

She turned back toward the window. Éomer had put aside the hammer and was leaning on the fence, wiping the sweat from his face with his tunic.

“My heart breaks for him, beloved. Most times I can get him to open his heart, to talk to me. This time, however, he refuses. He will not discuss it with me at all.” She watched her brother take up the hammer again and renew his efforts to split every tree in Rohan into firewood.

“When he is ready, he will. Your brother is strong and stubborn, Éowyn.”

“As if I did not know that,” she commented dryly.

“Just be there when he is ready to discuss it.”

“I plan to,” the White Lady said quietly.

***********
Meduseld
2 Ivanneth, 3019 T.A.
*************************

Éomer entered the darkened hall, his bare feet shuffling across the floor toward the fireplace. The fire had died down, the only light coming from the smoldering embers. Leaning on the mantle above, he stared down into the red, glowing ashes.

“As much firewood as you have split, I cannot imagine fires ever going out again around here.”

Her voice startled him. Turning quickly, the king noticed his sister leaning on a carved wooden post behind him, arms folded.

“What are you doing up?” He turned back toward the fire.

“I could ask you the same, but I know the answer.” She walked to where he stood, pulling her robe tighter around her slender frame. “It is chilly in here…put another log on the fire and I will make us some tea.”

“I do not want tea.”

Éowyn’s eyes narrowed. “Yes, you do.”

Éomer’s lips curved slightly. There was no debating the issue when she gave him that look. “Upon second thought, I believe I would like some tea.” He reached for a log from the nearby basket of wood, tossing it onto the grate. His sister reappeared moments later with two cups, handing him one.

“The fire in the kitchen was still hot,” she said before he asked. He took a sip of the tea, made a face, and looked at his sister.

“Éowyn,” he began.

“Sit,” she commanded, pointing to a chair near the fire. Pulling up another, she sat close to him, sipping the warm tea. The log began to catch, the small flames flickering in the dark. Éomer sat for some time, watching the flames come to life.

“So tell me, do you plan to cut down every forest in Rohan?” She glanced at him over the top of her cup. “I would suggest leaving the Fangorn alone,” she chided.

He glanced at her, clearly not amused. “It helps to distract me.”

“Éomer, I know how frustrated you become when something is troubling you and there is nothing you can do. You were much the same way when Théoden was bewitched. It hurts me to see you going through that again.”

“Yes, but at least then there were things I could do,” he sighed. “But this? I can do nothing but wait.” He sighed at the thought, looking up at her. “I am so glad you and Faramir found each other, Éowyn.”

“As am I.” She grinned. “A valiant effort to steer me away from the subject at hand, dear brother, but we are discussing you and the princess.”

He chuckled at her quick repartee. No easy mark, his sister. “There is nothing to discuss. She has gone home. She will marry Fenwick, unless somehow I can find a way to stop her.”

He rubbed his beard with his hand, staring pensively into the flames. The knot in his stomach had returned. “My thoughts keep returning to something the Lady Galadriel said,” he told her.

“What did she say?”

“I adore both the Lady and her husband, but I much prefer Celeborn’s direct manner of speech. The Lady speaks in riddles.” He sipped his tea, trying to remember her words to him. “Before she left, she told me not to be troubled. She told me the house of Eorl would endure, and that my reign as king would be long and joyous.”

“I would take that as encouragement, brother. She has the gift of foresight, you know.”

“I have heard,” he agreed.

Éowyn smiled broadly. “Éomer, that should give you hope.”

“Éowyn, you should know that I trust only in what I can see and touch. I do not know about trusting in Elvish prophecies.”

“That is not true, brother. You can neither see nor touch your love for the princess, yet you know it exists.”

He pondered this for a moment. “I suppose you are right again.” Setting down his cup, he stood and walked over to her, pulling her to her feet and into his arms. “Why is it that you are always the one giving me advice?”

“Being older does not necessarily make you wiser, dear brother,” she teased.

He pulled her tighter into his embrace. “I keep reminding myself how much I will miss your sharp tongue when you leave.”

“Oh, I am certain it will be replaced by one belonging to a rather mouthy little princess.”

“I hope you are right, Éowyn.”

“Get some rest, Éomer.” She kissed his cheek and turned to leave.

“I certainly hope Faramir realizes what a fortunate man he is.”

“He does. I remind him constantly.” The White Lady flipped her hair over her shoulder and grinned back at her brother. “Goodnight, Éomer.”

“Sleep well, Éowyn,” he called softly after her as she left.

With a heavy sigh, he downed the rest of his tea and headed for his chamber. With any luck, he might actually sleep tonight.

***************
Meduseld
10 Narbeleth, 3019 T.A.
****************************

Weeks went by, life at Meduseld falling into a pattern of normalcy. The new king adjusted, as much as one can, to the duty of rebuilding a shattered realm. Staying occupied helped, and there was much to be done.

As the weather grew colder, he knew Meduseld would have plenty of firewood, if nothing else.

If the mundane daily operations of rule were boring to a man who would rather have been out on patrol, the dinners he was required to attend were complete torture.

Éomer stood outside the Great Hall in the corridor, leaning on the wall.

“What are you doing out here?” His sister’s voice startled him. “You have guests. They are asking where you are.”

“I am hiding.”

“Hiding from what?” She rolled her eyes. “Éomer, you are the king. You cannot hide.”

“It is dangerous in there.” The king stated flatly, refusing to budge.

Éowyn raised one elegantly arched eyebrow, her gaze raking over her brother. He certainly was handsome, she had to give them that. “That does not sound very brave coming from a warrior such as you, my dear brother. They are not orcs. They are only women.”

“Yes,” he responded. “I know. Were they orcs I would have no fear of them.”

His sister chuckled and caught him by the arm. “Come on. I will protect you. I fear to leave my beloved too long alone in there. The sea of silk and velvet might overtake him.”

“You as much as call me a coward and then admit you fear to leave Faramir alone with them?”

With a resigned sigh, the king allowed her to drag him back into the hall. Glancing around with a polite smile, he met the eyes of several women. Some shyly turned away, some boldly met his gaze, and some very obviously had plans of their own. One even winked at him as he past.

“Éowyn,” her brother said, clinging to her hand on his arm.

“Yes, dear brother?”

“Do not leave me alone with them,” he pled.

She cuffed him lightly on the shoulder. “They are only women, Éomer.”

“Only women, she says,” he rolled his eyes. “If a woman can take down the Witch King, then I hold no hope for myself.”

Éowyn chuckled.

“I miss her, Éowyn.”

“I know,” she responded quietly. “Faramir assures me she will be at the wedding. That is less than a month away, brother. You can handle this one night. Just dance with them, Éomer. Be polite.” She pulled away from him.

“Where are you going?” His voice was almost panicked.

Éowyn grinned. “I am going to rescue Faramir, and we are going to dance. I suggest you find one of them and do the same.” She glided away from him across the floor to where Faramir stood, looking helpless as two women chatted away incessantly at him.

“Your Majesty,” a voice behind him called his attention. Éomer turned around to see an older woman dressed in her finery, dragging behind her an obviously shy younger woman. “May I present my daughter, Treasa.” She shoved the girl in front of her. “She is very shy.”

The king smiled pleasantly at the overbearing mother. “Clearly not a problem shared with her mother.” The woman backed off slightly as he took the young girl’s hand, kissing it lightly. “A pleasure to meet you, Treasa,” he said politely.

The poor thing was so embarrassed by her mother’s brashness she would not even look at him. Her mother quickly disappeared into the crowd. Once away from her mother, the young lady looked up at him when he spoke to her.

Seeing her face clearly, Éomer was taken aback. She was a lovely girl, but…

“Treasa, how old are you, if you do not mind my asking?”

“I am old enough, my Lord, or so my mother says.”

“You seem awfully young to me.”

She drew herself up. “I am seventeen years, Your Majesty.”

The king took a proprietary step back from her, shaking his head. Seventeen! She was a child! He sighed heavily, not for the last time.

“Excuse me, please, my lady,” he said, bowing, looking furtively around for Éowyn.

The entire evening was filled with similar conversations. Parents; fathers and mothers, introducing their daughters to the king. Some women were bold enough to introduce themselves.

“You are a beautiful dancer, Your Majesty,” the blonde in his arms purred. “Where did a warrior such as yourself learn such grace?”

Éomer almost laughed at the outright flattery. “It was forced upon me, growing up in the courts. The ladies of the court were relentless when the king’s son and I were young.”

“Oh?” She raised her eyebrows, leaning closer to him. “What else did they teach you?” she queried teasingly.

The king swallowed hard and threw his sister a pleading look over the woman’s shoulder. Éowyn laughed and turned back to Faramir.

After dinner, Éomer was sitting on a bench along the side of the hall, the blonde beside him still chattering away; about what, he had no idea. He could not seem to shake her no matter what he did. An attractive woman in a deep blue velvet gown strode up to where he was sitting. She looked vaguely familiar but he could not quite place her.

“Your Majesty,” she smiled charmingly, “I am Isolde,” she said, as if he should know who she was. She curtseyed low, offering the king a view of her generous décolletage, keeping her eyes on his. She licked her lips before continuing. The blonde beside him glared at her. “It is an honor to make your acquaintance.”

He smiled, rising to his feet. Tired of sitting and listening to the prattling of the blonde, he offered his hand. “Care to dance, Isolde?”

“I would be honored,” she answered regally, casting a victorious look at the disgruntled blonde.

Isolde was tall, almost as tall as he, with dark hair pinned up in braids. She not a young girl, but was decidedly pretty, that he would not deny. Her dark blue gown could not have fit more snugly, leaving little doubt as to her attributes. Éomer wondered how she ate wearing a gown that tight, not to mention how she breathed. He found it a little hard to do that himself with her considerable cleavage almost in his face.

“Isolde is a lovely name,” he remarked, looking for a topic of discussion.

“It means beautiful,” she answered confidently, fishing for the obvious response.

“It is a lovely name,” Éomer repeated, not wishing to be rude, but not wishing to encourage her falsely. What he really wished was that this night was over.

Every social event he attended or hosted was the same. Women came from all over Gondor and Rohan, all vying for the attention of the handsome young king. Éowyn and Faramir seemed to delight in his frustration. Most nights he tolerated it, was as polite as possible, and was greatly relieved when the last guest departed.

“My Lord,” Isolde’s husky voice drew him back to the present. “Did you hear what I said?”

Looking down into the dark eyes of the woman in his arms, he shook his head slightly. “I apologize, my Lady. I did not.”

Glancing down at the front of her dress, one corner of her mouth turned up into a knowing smile. “Distracted, are we, my lord?”

Realizing what she meant, Éomer averted his gaze quickly. “I did not mean…I am sorry, I …Please, excuse me. My apologies.” He released her and turned quickly away, leaving her alone on the dance floor.

With a smirk, she folded her arms and walked slowly to the side of the room, watching him as he spoke to his sister. That poor man had been alone entirely too long, she thought to herself.

“Faramir,” the king whispered, sidling up to his sister’s fiancé, “if this is the life of a king then I would much prefer to go back to being Third Marshal. Why do you not stay here and be king? You and Éowyn can rule Rohan and I will move back to Aldburg.”

“You would fare no better there, my friend. It is even closer to Minas Tirith. And the women there are notorious for chasing nobility. There is only one way to stem the tide.” The king looked at him questioningly. “Get married. And even then it does not always stop entirely.”

Éomer laughed. “You sound as if you speak from experience.”

Faramir cast him a sardonic smile. “I daresay my brother and I did our fair share of maiden dodging,” he grinned. “Although sometimes we were the ones chasing…”

The king chuckled. “I would not say that too loudly in the presence of my sister.”

“Your sister has nothing to concern herself with. There is not a maiden in this room…or anywhere in Middle Earth, for that matter, who can compare with her in my eyes.”

“I am pleased that you realize this, Faramir. She is truly a prize.”

Faramir nodded, sipping from his goblet as Éowyn approached. Éomer smiled at the two of them. He loved seeing his sister so happy, but their bliss only served to make the ache in his own heart more pronounced.

As the guests dispersed, he politely said his farewells, retiring to his chambers.

Éomer slowly walked the length of the hall to the large bedchamber at the end. This was the part of the day he hated most. Pushing the heavy door open, he stepped inside without lighting a lantern. Pale moonlight streamed in through the window, a fire crackling in the hearth. He sat down and pulled off his boots and the quilted vest he wore, dropping them into the chair. Unlacing the front of his tunic, he stripped to just his trousers, and poured a goblet of wine. He carried his cup to the window and stood, staring out across the darkened mountains toward the south, the loneliness overtaking him once again.

He sighed heavily, dreading getting into his empty bed. Sleeping in the large bed alone was bad enough, but the dreams that had plagued him were little incentive to close his eyes. Reluctantly, he drained the last of the wine and crawled into the bed, lying on his back and staring at the stone ceiling.

He did not know how long he had been asleep, but this dream was nice…a soft hand moving across his chest, warm lips on his ear, the side of his neck. Much better than the dreams of the battle that had begun to plague him again. In his dream, he turned toward the warm body beside him, eyes closed. His hands roamed over soft flesh, pulling the warmth against him. Velvety lips met his. If this was a dream, he wanted nothing to stop it.

“Ani,” he murmured softly.

“Who is Ani?” She breathed into his ear, her lips finding the sensitive skin behind it. The husky voice startled him from sleep.

The king sat bolt upright, turning around to look at the woman in his bed. In the dim light from the window, he could see Isolde lying propped on one elbow, grinning wickedly at him. She was lying atop the covers, clad only in a thin shift.

“Well, my Lord, are you going to come back down here or are you going to sit there all day staring like a scared rabbit?”

Éomer realized he was staring and quickly averted his eyes. Jerking the coverlet up over her, he backed out of the bed. “What are you doing here?”

“I thought it was clear what I was doing, Your Majesty,” she answered, with a chuckle. Taking in his muscular chest and shoulders, more pronounced recently with all the axe swinging he had done, she took a deep breath. “You just seemed horribly lonely tonight. I thought I might keep you company a while.” She sat up, allowing the covers to drop.

Regaining his composure, Éomer reached over and grabbed her dress off the chair, throwing it at her. “Get dressed, please. You should not be here. It is not proper.”

“Since when are you concerned with propriety?” Isolde responded haughtily, standing from the bed. She smiled seductively. “Your cousin never was. In fact, he suggested long ago that I pay you a visit.” Éomer’s shocked expression tickled her, and she laughed out loud, a soft, husky laugh.

“Oh, do not look so shocked! You know he was no innocent. Théodred is the one who showed me the secret passages. How do you think I got here?” she asked. Her gaze traveled down across his hard chest, down his flat stomach to the lacings of the leggings he wore. “Are you sure you do not wish me to stay?” She raised an eyebrow.

Éomer sighed. At one point in his life he would never have turned down willing women in his bedchamber, but he seemed to be doing it a lot more frequently these days. “I did not mean to… My apologies. Please, dress yourself.” He turned away from her, striding across the room to pour another cup of wine, keeping his back to her.

Sadly sighing at the sight of his muscled back, she relented. Tossing her dark hair over her shoulder, she reluctantly reached for her dress. “If you insist,” she said, pulling it over her head and yanking the laces to tighten her corset, cinching up her generous cleavage.

“I assure you, I would not be pleasant company tonight.” Glancing around to see if she was dressed, he turned to face her upon seeing she was. “I do not know what you have heard about me, Isolde,” he said sharply, “but these days I am not in the habit of retaining women for the sole purpose of entertaining me in my bedchamber.”

Isolde drew herself up to her full height. “And I assure you, Your Majesty, my services are not available for ‘retention’. Théodred was dear to me. He was a good man, and I was honored to have known him.” She quickly averted her gaze on the pretense of picking up a discarded slipper. “I offer what comfort I do of my own free will and take nothing in return but my own pleasure,” she snapped.

Éomer blew out his breath. His cousin had been several years older than he. It only stood to reason that there would have been at least one woman in his life, although Théodred did little to quell the rumors that there were more. “I am sorry, Isolde. I did not mean to insinuate--“

She waved him off. “It is of no consequence. Very few people would understand if I did try to explain,” she said as she slid the slippers on her feet.

Curious, Éomer sat down, motioning her to sit as well. He poured her a cup of wine and slid it across the small table. “Try me,” he said.

“Why should you want to hear of your cousin’s tainted relationship with a tart like me?” She picked up the cup and sipped it, looking at him questioningly.

“Why should I not?” Éomer reached over and lit the lantern on the table, keeping the flame low. The soft glow from the fireplace shadowed her face. She was not young; Théodred had been more than thirteen years older than him and he guessed her to be close to the same age. Éomer could see why Théodred would have been taken with her. She was still quite beautiful, with fair skin and clear, blue eyes that seemed take in far more than she revealed. It was quite a contrast to the ebony of her hair, and by that alone she was a rarity among Éorlingas. She pursed her rose colored lips, running a finger around the rim of the cup in her hand. He could see that the memory pained her still. “If you do not wish to talk about him, I understand.”

She shrugged. “Théodred always spoke highly of you. And as you grew older, he used to tease that he would not introduce us for fear that I would pick you over him.” Her gaze raked over him, still shirtless, leaning back in the chair. Her smile was only a little wicked.

Not sure how to respond, he only smiled.

“You truly wish to know about this?” He nodded, indicating the chair across from him near the fire. She moved to the other chair and sat silently for a while, her gaze falling on the fire.

“Théodred and I grew up together. I was taken with him from the moment I laid eyes on him. We were about eight years old. He was so handsome.” She sighed. “When I was but ten and seven years, he told me he loved me and kissed me.” Isolde shook her head. “From then on, your cousin owned me as surely as if he had purchased me with gold.”

Her gaze met his, a twinkle in her eye. “I remember when you came to live here. You were but a child, then, a tall, lanky boy of barely more than ten years, with the darkest eyes I had ever seen. Théodred told me we would have to be careful not to be caught by you or Éowyn. That is when he showed me the secret passages.” Éomer looked at her askance. A chuckle escaped her lips. “I could find my way to Théodred’s chamber blindfolded.”

“If the two of you were lovers, why were you never-“

“Betrothed?” she finished the sentence for him. “Your cousin tried to convince me to marry him, but I was never meant to be the wife of a king.”

“I do not understand, Isolde.”

Rosy lips curved into a smile. “I am the daughter of a soldier, not a Lord. I was not raised to be a queen. Théodred said he did not care, that he loved me and would marry whom he wished. I knew in my heart he spoke the truth, but it was not a mistake I could let him make.” She shrugged.

“Very noble of you,” Éomer remarked teasingly.

Isolde sighed, then looked up at him. “I did love him. Béma knows I loved that man.”

“No doubt he felt the same way,” Éomer answered. “Perhaps that was why he turned down every offer for marriage that Théoden suggested to him.”

She raised an eyebrow as if this were news to her. It was the king’s turn to smile. “You did not know that?” She shook her head, her expression of surprise now amusing him. “Every nobleman within a hundred leagues who had a daughter of age contacted Théoden. Théodred always refused, saying his duty was to Rohan, and until the country was at peace again he would not marry.”

Pondering his last statement, she stared down into her empty cup. “May I be completely candid with you, Your Majesty?” She leaned forward.

“If you will stop calling me Your Majesty and call me simply Éomer, you may be as candid as you wish,” he answered.

“Why are you here?”

“This is where I sleep. Why are you here, Isolde?"

“A just question,” she stated. “It deserves an honest answer.” Taking a deep breath, she continued. “I am here simply because I loved Théodred. I made a mistake, not marrying him. I should have followed my heart. I will regret to my dying day that I was not his wife, even if my fate was to have been a young widow.”

"Had you married him, you would have had several good years together. Perhaps things would have been different," Éomer offered.

"Any children born to us would be heirs to the throne. If I had married him, perhaps you would not be sittin where you are today."

The king nodded in agreement. "To be honest, Isolde, I do not think I would have minded."

Isolde chuckled softly as an uneasy silence fell. She turned to the fire again, watching the flickering flames. “I am lonely, Éomer, as are you. I assure you my intent was nothing more than comfort for both of us.” Blue eyes sparkled at him mischievously. “Better me, who you know has no desire for the throne of Rohan, than for you to bed one of those little chits who are determined to get their claws into a king simply because of who he is.” Her appraising gaze raked over him again. “Although, I have to admit. You are enough to tempt any woman, even were you not king.”

Éomer laughed, a little embarrassed at her bold statement, but then again, she was in his bedchamber. "Trust me, Isolde. Under any other circumstances we would not be sitting here talking," he said.

She continued with a smile. “May I ask you a question?” He nodded his assent. “Who is Ani?”

Éomer downed the remainder of the wine in his cup and cleared his throat. “Her given name is Lothíriel,” he answered, surprised by the slight tremor in his voice.

“The daughter of the prince?" he nodded again. "She must be a very special woman,” she said.

“That she is,” he answered hoarsely.

Isolde’s dark hair fell forward across her shoulders as she leaned forward again, facing him. “If you are in love with the Princess of Dol Amroth, why are you here? Why are you going to dinners and putting up with every eligible maiden in the realm falling at your feet hoping they will be the next Queen of the Mark? Why do you not go after her?”

“I have duties here. There is much to be done. We are still re-“ His voice stopped dead at the look she cast him. “Isolde, I simply cannot run off and-“

“Do you love her?”

“Yes, but...” he answered without hesitation. She raised her eyebrows, her blue eyes regarding him expectantly. Éomer realized his rationalization would get him nowhere with her. "It is far more complicated. She is betrothed to another man, and -"

The azure gaze held his. "Éomer...do you love her?"

Drawing in a deep breath, the king met her stare. "More than my own life," he answered.

Isolde nodded knowingly, and stood, picking up her cloak. Éomer arose and took it from her, placing it on her shoulders. She smiled up at him. "Do not make the same mistake I did, Éomer."

He looked at her questioningly. She laid a hand on his cheek. "Regret is a very lonely bedpartner, my King. Remember that." She turned, striding across the room to the passage. Pausing at the opening, she turned back to face him. “One more thing I must say, Éomer,” Isolde ventured, flicking her tongue across her bottom lip.

He smiled at her informal address of him. “Yes?”

“If that kiss was any indication of your feelings for her, she was a fool to ever leave your side.” Her fingertips hooked the hidden latch and swung open the doorway.

“She did not do so willingly,” he informed her.

“Then my suggestion to you, Your Majesty, would be to go and find her, marry her, and bring her back here and make mad, passionate love to her every night, and never let her leave your side again.” With that, Isolde stepped into the passageway, pulling the door shut behind her.

Éomer watched her go, then blew out the lamp on the table. He walked slowly to the bed, sitting down on the edge and running a hand through the blonde waves. Laying back, he rolled on to his side, and reached for the other pillow, hugging it tightly to his chest. At least then, his arms didn’t feel quite so empty.

************
Meduseld
2 Hithui, 3019 T.A.
***************

"Éowyn?"

The king rapped lightly on the door of her chamber. She creaked it open slightly, smiling at the sight of her brother.

"It is late, Éomer."

"I know." He smiled sheepishly. "I thought you might wish to join me for a cup of tea, one last time."

Her smile broadened. "Let me get my robe and I will be right there."

Éomer waited in the hallway until she slipped out, closing the door softly behind her. Crossing her arms against the chill as they walked to the kitchen, Éowyn glanced at her brother. He had never been one to wear his heart on his sleeve, but she could always tell when something pained him. They had been through so much together as siblings, but had always been there for each other, always able to rely on one another. All that would change after tomorrow.

He caught her stare. "What?"

She shook her head. "Nothing."

They entered the kitchen. Éowyn started across the room to get the teapot, and was stopped by her brother's hand on her arm. "I did not really want the tea," he confessed.

She chuckled softly, turning to face him. "I did not think you did," she replied. "How about wine?" Nodding his agreement, he reached above her and removed a jug from the shelf. She retrieved two cups, and they took their customary positions at the small wooden table by the fireplace.

Eomer filled the cups, sliding hers across the table. "To your happiness, dear sister." He raised his cup, sipping from it.

"And to yours," she responded, doing likewise.

He raised an eyebrow at her, quietly considering her comment. He wished he could be as certain of his own happiness as he was of hers.

"It will certainly be quiet around here without you."

"Yes, for once you will have peace. No one forcing tea on you at all hours of the night," she teased, tipping up her cup.

The king was silent for a moment, watching the flickering flames dancing among the logs.

"And you should have plenty of firewood," she quipped.

Eomer laughed out loud. "Perhaps peace will not be such a bad thing," he joked, "I have not yet decided if I will miss your wit."

"You will," Eowyn grinned.

He fell silent again. His sister reached to refill his cup. Smiling his thanks, he raised the cup to his lips.

"My departure is not what is troubling you, brother."

Eomer looked up at her. "Is it so obvious?"

"You know she will most likely be in attendance," Eowyn offered.

Sighing heavily, he stared down into the cup. "It had not escaped me."

”Surely the thought of seeing her again should please you, Éomer. I know how you have missed her.”

“It is more than that. I want nothing more than to be with her, unless it would be never to be parted from her again. But I do not see how that will happen.”

“Éomer…”

“Perhaps I am holding on to a false dream, something that can never be. Is it so wrong to hope against hope when all else deems otherwise?”

Éowyn raised an eyebrow at him. “You dare ask me this question? You stood on the field at Pelennor and saw what we faced. You looked upon the Black Gates of Mordor, facing an army of ten thousand, and saw with your own eyes the Eye of the Enemy. You witnessed the black tower crumble to the ground, the Black Gates torn asunder and thrown down. You dare now to ask me if you should give up hope?”

“I would sooner face Sauron again than to know that the woman I love is married to...” his voice trailed off momentarily. “It would be different, Éowyn, if she loved him, or he her.”

She smiled feebly, reaching across the table to cover his hand with hers. “I know, brother. I know the pain of loving one you cannot have.”

Éomer’s brown eyes met her pale grey. She did know. He had forgotten, wrapped up in his own trauma, that she knew all too well the pain of unrequited love.

Yet she had found another, and found happiness. Perhaps…

He didn’t wish to think about that yet.

“I know. I am sorry. You, more than any other, understand.” He clasped her hand in his. “I will miss you terribly, Éowyn. I do not know what I will do without you to ground me. To whom will I turn for advice on matters of the heart?” he teased.

His sister squeezed the strong hands holding hers. “You must learn to trust your own heart, my dear brother. It will not lead you astray.”

Éomer’s mouth curved slightly. He would sorely miss their late night talks. His heart ached at the thought, a new twinge of loneliness tightening in his chest. She yawned, pulling a hand away to cover her mouth.

“I am sorry, I believe this wine is taking affect.”

“Get some rest, sister. We have a long ride ahead.”

“You should rest as well,” she told him, standing from the table and gathering the cups.

“I will rest when I have my bride here in my bed.”

Éowyn laughed. “I sincerely doubt that, brother dear. If I know you, you will not be resting much then.”

His eyes widened in shock at her brashness. “Such indelicate language from a lady,” he admonished her.

“Lady?” she queried sarcastically. “Please, Éomer. I have lived with you men long enough to know what is first and foremost in your thoughts.”

“And pray tell, what would that be?” he asked her, replacing the wine jug on the shelf.

Éowyn moved to the doorway, heading for the hall. “If I have to explain that one, dearest brother, then Rohan is in dire trouble. Their king shall never have an heir.” She ducked past him through the door, moving quickly out of his reach.

Éomer chuckled and followed her down the hall. Yes, Meduseld was certainly going to be much quieter without her. And far too boring.

~~~~~~~~~~
The Home of Lord Abrecan
Near the Fortress of Aldburg
Rohan
8 Hithui, 3019 T.A.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The first thing he was aware of was the bright light of the sun shining in through the window. Éomer rolled over, pulling the pillow over his pounding head, and tried to go back to sleep. Suddenly realizing he was not quite sure where he was, he lifted his head, squinting against the blinding sun, and looked around the room.

It was a simple but elegant room, the large bed in which he lay made of a light colored carved wood. His clothing lay across a chair near the fireplace, which someone had thoughtfully stoked recently, making the chamber comfortably warm. He blinked and looked again at his clothing. He could not for the life of him remember taking it off last night. Sitting up, he came to yet another startling conclusion.

He was not wearing his normal nighttime attire. In fact, he was wearing nothing at all. Yanking the covers back over his lower body, he rubbed his throbbing temples. He remembered Lord Abrecan’s dinner, the few tankards of ale he had, and dancing with Éowyn. When Faramir had insisted, he had turned her back over to her betrothed and turned his attention to his host, having some long discussions concerning the genealogy of certain steeds in Abrecan’s herds. How did he get from there to his own bed?

Pressing his fingers to his closed eyes, he struggled to remember. Dinner, dancing, conversation with Abrecan...he knew no more than two or three tankards of ale, so why couldn't he remember?

He remembered the blonde. The silly, giggling blonde to whom he had tried to be polite. She had been tall and slender like Éowyn, with broad shoulders and nice curves, and she had been far too friendly for his liking. She had smelled of roses, and wore little yellow flowers in her hair. He had tried to dismiss her with as much courtesy as possible. What was her name?

He looked around the room again, blinking against the harsh light. His clothing was piled in the chair by the fireplace, flung rather halphazardly as if it had been done in a hurry. He supposed he could have undressed and could simply not remember. He lay slowly back down, the ache in his head intensifying.

His hand slipped under the pillow he was laying on, fingers coming into contact with something soft and cool. Grasping the item, he pulled it from under the pillow and inspected it.

A small, crumpled yellow flower. He frowned, clutching it in his fist. No way had he been that drunk.

Swearing that he would not be drinking again for quite some time, he dragged himself out of the bed and dressed, hoping his head would stop pounding, or he would be in for a rough day of riding.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

PLEASE REVIEW if you can...it really does inspire me when I see how many people are enjoying this story! The reviews are to me what chapter updates are to you guys! Keep 'em coming!


Chapter 28 - Chapter Twenty-Seven

Trust To Hope - Chapter 27
Author: Novedhelion
Type: FP Het
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Pairing: Éomer/Lothíriel aka Anhuil
Rating: PG13
Warnings: Fenwick alert!
Beta: Riyallyn
Disclaimer: The characters belong to Tolkien. The names of the places belong to Tolkien. Any similarities to other stories are purely coincidental. But the DIALOGUE and the SCENES are MINE and I do not release them to the Public Domain.

Be wary of alcohol that smells like licorice.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
“He’s a cold hearted snake
Look into his eyes
Uh-oh, he’s been telling lies...”

Cold Hearted Snake
Paula Abdul

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Chapter Twenty-Seven
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Dol Amroth
28 Ivanneth, 3019 T.A.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Fenwick walked slowly down the stone walkway leading to the beach. He could see her standing at the edge of the water, silhouetted in the moonlight, her gown billowing slightly in the soft offshore breeze. She stood in the sand, barefoot, her slippers in hand. Waves lapped at the hem of her dress, but she didn’t seem to notice. Her gaze was set out across the waves. The wolf sat patiently just out of reach of the waves, a silent sentinel.

Crossing the sand, he approached her from behind. Elenion turned his eyes to the interloper, watching him with an expression of lupine curiosity tinged with warning. Giving the beast a wide berth, Fenwick drew near to the Princess.

“You should not be out here alone at night, Lothíriel,” he admonished her quietly.

Anhuil ignored him, his voice only making the wrenching feeling in her chest tighter. She had known she would miss Éomer, but gods, she had no idea it would hurt this much. It will get better, her father had promised her. In time. Well, Melkor’s chains, she’d been nearly a month and it certainly had not lessened one iota. If anything, she missed him more.

“Lothíriel,” Mardil spoke again, his voice grating her already raw nerves.

The princess looked up at the moon, blinking back tears. “What do you want, Mardil?” she asked, not turning to look at him.

Fenwick stopped walking. He could hear it in her voice. She had been crying. Again. Over that damned Rohirrim king. Sighing inwardly, he closed the distance between them, placing his hands on her shoulders from behind. She stiffened at his touch but said nothing.

“Lothíriel,” he said gently, “I am sorry. I am sorry this is causing you so much pain. I do not like to see you like this.”

“So go away,” she responded curtly.

Fenwick sighed again, out loud this time. “Princess, you are going to be my wife. I would appreciate it if we could at least be civil to one another.”

The princess did not respond, but stood silently, staring out across the glittering diamond pathway the moon illuminated on the sea. Moving around in front of her, Mardil tried a different tactic. Softening his voice and his expression as much as possible, he smiled down at her.

“Lothíriel,” he did his best to appear contrite, “I truly am sorry for what you have been through. I know we have had our differences in the past. I honestly wish to put all that aside and try to make a life together.” He watched her face in the pale moonlight.

Anhuil stared at him, almost expressionless, desperately trying to summon the anger she usually felt in his presence. Nothing would come.

Fenwick took the lack of haughty response as an invitation. He raised his hand to her cheek. “Gods, Lothíriel, but you are beautiful,” he said softly. “I truly am a lucky man.” He expected her to retort, to flinch; to do something…anything. Her eyes met his, still gazing blankly at him. She did not move.

Perhaps she was softening a little. After all, she would have to accept her fate sooner or later. She was no dolt. It made far more sense just to give in and go along than it did to continue rock the boat. His little princess was learning. Slowly, but she was learning.

He smiled down at her, still looking for some reaction in those green eyes. He received none.

Raising his other hand to cup her face, Fenwick leaned down and touched his lips to hers. Still, the expected reaction did not come. He waited for her to slap him, to scream at him, but again, she did nothing. She neither accepted nor refused his kiss.

He pulled back, searching her eyes. Her gaze fixed on his, the confusion on his face clear. “Lothíriel, do you harbor such hate for me that there is no chance of us ever being happy together?”

“I do not hate you, Fenwick,” came the quiet reply.

Ice water over his head would not have shocked him more than to hear those words come from her lips. His mouth curved into a slight smile.

“You do not?”

“No,” she responded, completely toneless. “I do not.” Staring into his cold grey eyes, she continued, her next words a sharp barb bursting the bubble of hope he had allowed to balloon at her previous answer.

“Right now, I feel absolutely nothing for you, Mardil Fenwick.”

She turned on her heel and strode slowly up the beach toward the palace, still carrying her slippers. The wolf glared at Fenwick, his eyes glinting in the moonlight. Mardil would have sworn the animal flashed him a smug grin as he turned and trotted after his mistress up the dune.

~~~~~~~~
Training Yard
Dol Amroth
30 Ivanneth, 3019 T.A.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Steel clashed as Cam barely blocked the down stroke of the heavy broadsword aiming for her head. Feinting left, she thrust right with her own blade, only to be blocked and thrown off balance. Refusing to yield, she rolled away from another blow, and met the tip of the broadsword at her throat. Sighing in defeat, she dropped her blade and raised her hands in surrender.

A strong hand grasped hers and pulled her to her feet. “You have been lax in your practice, girl.”

“I am sorry, Ada. Things have been a bit busy lately, with the wedding preparations.” Cam looked to her father and smiled, “But I am not that out of practice. You are sweating.”

“You wish to try again? Very well.” The Admiral poised for attack as Cam retrieved her sword. “This time, pay attention.”

Amrothos watched from the far side of the courtyard as father and daughter crossed swords. He couldn’t help but smile at the display. The Admiral was never one for letting an opponent win, even in practice. She would have to earn it. And he would enjoy watching it.

Cam grinned as she blocked her father’s opening move. She loved having him home, and the fact that he was an incredible sparring partner made it even better. Unfortunately, the opportunity to spend time with him was growing less and less frequent.

Thrust, block. “Ada, why have you been gone so long?”

Feint, slash. “The Corsairs are becoming more bold, blatantly attacking coastal villages and merchant ships. We also believe they are smuggling cargo in and out of our ports, somehow. I am sure Elessar has plans for stopping them but he cannot do everything at once.” Lunge. “Your left side is open. You know better.”

She recovered and pressed the attack. “How do you stop them?”

Turning her blows he feinted to put her on the defense. “We maintain a strong presence on the water,” he pressed harder, backing her toward the wall. “And we get a Harbormaster to keep a tight control on the ports.” Crack! His sword slammed near the hilt of hers, knocking it from her hand. Again, the tip of his sword pressed against her throat. He raised his eyebrow and gave her an expectant look.

“Alright, I yield,” she laughed and bent to retrieve her sword yet again, this time sheathing it.

He followed suit. Putting his arm around her shoulder, he led her to a bench. “What is troubling you, Valesa?”

“Will having a Harbormaster stop the attacks?” she asked.

The Admiral gave his daughter a considering look before he answered. “It will make it more difficult for them to get their cargo onshore, and it will free up the fleet to better protect the villages.”

“But they could still get through?”

“Yes, I suppose they could. But with the combined efforts of my fleet as well as that of Lebennin’s, we can cover more ground. And Mardil Fenwick seems to have learned his lessons well in Lebennin.” He ignored Cam rolling her eyes. “I believe he may be of great assistance to me.”

“But Lebennin still has a lot of problems with the Corsairs, even with a Harbormaster,” she reasoned, trying to coax more out of him.

“There is a possibility of corruption,” he conceded thoughtfully. “That is the other matter that must be addressed.”

”Corruption?” she asked, her suspicion aroused.

“Why are you asking so many questions, girl? I did not think you would want to spend all our time discussing business,” he chastised.

“I am just curious, Ada. I want to know what you are doing.” Cam crossed her legs and looked at him pointedly. “Corruption?”

Her father acquiesced to the question. “We believe it is possible that some dockmasters may be taking bribes from the Corsairs. In return, they turn their backs as illegal goods are offloaded, or they provide dates when a particular port will be unguarded by the fleet. I believe this agreement with Fenwick will greatly reduce the chances of that happening as well.” At her barely concealed snort of disgust, he asked, “You do not care for the man much, do you?”

“No,” she answered bluntly, “I do not care for him at all.”

The Admiral laughed. “You remind me so much of your mother. She was always fiercely loyal to her friends.” A sad smile crossed his lips. “Fenwick has a reputation for having a good head on his shoulders. I wish you two would give him a chance.”

“I shall try, Ada,” she said, her mind already spinning with possibilities. “But I cannot speak for Ani.”

“Care to try again?” he asked, patting the hilt of his sword.

“Of course!” she agreed. “You will let me win this time, right?”

The Admiral laughed at his only child. “Of course not, girl. Practice is just like life. When you win, you will know you deserved it.”

~~~~~~~~~

Amrothos trotted after Cam as she strode across the courtyard, sword in hand. “Cam!” She paused and turned as he called her name, allowing him to catch up.

“Impressive.” He glanced down at her sword.

“Huh? Oh.” Slipping it back into the sheath, she crossed her arms.

“No, I meant it. I was watching. You are really good.”

“Amrothos, he beat me every time,” she pointed out. “How can you call that good?”

“Cam, do not sell yourself short. He is an Admiral. Most men could not hold their own as you did against him. And I note he does not hold back, even for you.”

Smiling, she cocked her head to one side. “No, he says if you win you have to earn it. And he makes me earn it.”

They walked side by side through the courtyard, toward the door. “Amrothos…”

“Yes?” He stopped, turning to look at her.

“Father said something about corruption. Do you think…?”

“What did he say, exactly?” She had piqued his interest. Of course, he was always interested when it came to her.

“He said he believed there was some form of corruption taking place, that possibly someone was taking bribes. He just did not know whom.” She looked up at him. Amrothos could see the gears turning behind those beautiful blue eyes. “You do not think…”

“I suppose it is a possibility, Cam…” He grinned. “But how would we find out?”

“One of us will have to follow him, trail him for a while…” She spoke conspiratorially.

“Oh, no, Cam. Uh-uh. No ma’am. You are not doing it. Too dangerous.”

“Amrothos, you are just as bad as your father. When are you going to realize that I am not a little girl anymore?” She plopped down on the stone stair.

*I noticed, believe me*…he thought to himself, sitting beside her. “I am sorry, Cam. But suppose that is the case. The people he is dealing with are very dangerous. These are men who would just as soon kill you as look at you, and believe me Cam, they would like the looks of you.”

“Amrothos!” She slapped his leg.

“I mean it Cam…I have told you before that you are beautiful, you just refuse to believe it. Men like that…no, Cam. Please do not risk it.” He reached for her hand. “Promise me you will not do anything foolish. I know how badly you want to help Ani, and I know there is precious little you would not do for her.”

“You are right about that,” she agreed. “But she would also do it for me.” She looked down at her hand, still held in his, then raised her blue eyes to meet his. “I will see what I can find out,” she said as he cut his eyes at her, “without risking anything,” she assured him. “I am a good thief, remember?”

“Just promise me, Cam.”

She held up her other hand, palm facing him. “I promise. Nothing foolish.”

“Why do I fear our definitions of what is foolish and what is not are going to differ?” The young prince took her other hand in his as well, lifting them to his lips and kissing her fingers. She laughed, pulling her hands away from him.

She playfully pushed him back and stood, jogging up the steps and disappearing into the doorway, leaving him in the courtyard to wonder exactly what her definition of foolish would be.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Dol Amroth
18 Narbeleth, 3019 T.A.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The man sitting at the large wooden desk shook his head. “I just do not know, Princess. It is not something that is commonly done. Usually those who enter into a betrothal contract actually do intend to marry.”

“I understand, Lord Sídheru. But is there no precedent?” Anhuil sat in a chair across from his desk, a pile of books in her lap. Sídheru was one of her father’s dearest friends, and he had been of immeasurable assistance when Amrothos had acted as regent of Dol Amroth. His knowledge of Gondorian law was impressive, and he was always fair.

The magistrate looked at her sadly. “From what I can find, the only ways to break the contract legally would be if he had defrauded you somehow. But I do not see that as a possibility here. Lord Fenwick is who he says he is.”

“Unfortunately,” she responded quietly, leaning back with a resigned sigh.

Sídheru contemplated the princess across from him. “May I ask why you wish to break this contract, my dear? Does your father know about this?”

Her gaze dropped to the stack of books in her lap. “I never wished to marry him.”

He nodded slightly. “Hence your little foray into foreign lands, yes?”

She chuckled, a bit embarrassed. “I will not claim that as one of my more brilliant strategies,” she answered. “But the one thing I did learn is that I do NOT wish to marry Mardil Fenwick.”

The chair creaked as he leaned his considerable weight back in it. Grey eyes much like her father’s sparkled at her over round cheeks, a bit wrinkled with age. “There is someone else?”

Anhuil shook her head. “You are as bad as Ada,” she told him, but decided not to offer further information.

Sídheru sighed. “The only thing I can tell you, Princess, is unless this man has been fraudulent in some way, there is no precedent for dissolving a betrothal contract. You bring me proof, and I will not only dissolve the contract, I will see to it he is punished to the fullest extent of the law.”

“Thank you, Lord Sídheru.” She rose from her chair, and he followed, leading her to the door.

“I am sorry I could not have been of greater assistance to you, Lothíriel. You know I would do whatever I could.” He placed a large, round hand on her shoulder.

“I know,” she answered, hugging the books to her chest. “You will let me know if you think of something?”

“Most certainly,” he informed her, opening the door for her.

“Lord Sídheru, may we keep this matter between us?”

“Of course, Princess. Of course,” he replied. She cast him a small smile as she passed by and out into the hall, making her way back to the library. Sídheru stood in the doorway of his study, watching her walk slowly down the hall. He had always adored the princess and her brothers, never having had any children of his own. He wondered who the lucky man was who had her so intent on breaking her betrothal to one Mardil Fenwick.

~~~~~~~~~~~~
Dol Amroth
20 Narbeleth, 3019 T.A.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sitting at her father’s desk, Anhuil pored over the shipping logs. How was it that the Corsairs always seemed to know when and where to attack? It was almost as if they knew, somehow, which villages or ports along the shoreline would be unprotected. The fleet was too small to cover the entire coastline all the time, and they just seemed to slip in and out far too easily.

She sighed, slamming shut the volume. Leaning back in the chair, her eyes fell on the small book bound with worn leather ties. Her fingers closed over it, drawing it to her. Holding it in her hands, she debated reading it again. It was an interesting history... Slowly opening the small book and spreading it out on the desk, she began poring over the history of the royal lines of Rohan.

“Ani?” Amrothos poked his head in the office.

“I am here,” she answered, quickly closing the small book and pulling the larger volume over it, opening it randomly.

He stepped inside the office, moving around to the desk. “What are you doing cooped up in here on such a lovely day anyway?”

“Studying. Just poring over these figures…” She indicated the open volume.

”Avoiding Fenwick again, I see.” Her brother glanced over her shoulder at the open book. “Mmm hmm….looking over shipping schedules from last year should be of great assistance, I am sure.” He flipped the book closed, noticing the smaller book underneath. Pulling it from beneath the shipping log, he raised an eyebrow at her.

“It is interesting,” she said defensively.

“Little sister, your choice of reading material is not my concern. Your well being, however, is. Come on. You need some air.” He shoved both books aside.

“No, I do not, Amrothos. I need to finish this…”

”It will be here when you are done. Now, come on. Go change. We are going to practice your sword skills.” Her brother pulled her chair from the desk.

“Amrothos, I really need to-“

“Please?” His pleading look won out, and the princess rolled her eyes.

“All right, stop it. I shall go change and meet you in the training yard,” she said resignedly, rising from the chair.

Muttering under her breath about nosy, know-it-all brothers, she followed him out of the office, clicking the lock behind her.

~~~~~~~~
Dol Amroth
3 Hithui, 3019 T.A.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ani?”

Cam peered into the darkened chamber. She could see the silhouette of the Princess sitting in the window seat, her knees drawn up, staring out at the harbor below. Closing the door quietly behind her, she silently crossed the room and sat beside her friend.

Anhuil looked up, smiling weakly at her.

“Are you all right?”

“As all right as I am going to be, I suppose,” she sighed. “I miss him so, Cam.”

“I know, Ani. But do not give up. I promised Éomer I would not let you give up.”

“I should have told him to forget me. There is no way Fenwick is going to let me out of this sham of a marriage.” She turned her gaze back to the harbor outside. “He is too stubborn. He will resist now simply out of hatred for Éomer.”

The blonde sighed, realizing what she said was true. “We will find a way, Ani. We just have to keep looking.”

The princess smiled at her friend.. “What would I do without you, Camwethrin?”

“Oh, you would have flung yourself into the harbor long ago. Come on. I need some air. Want to walk with me?”

Drawing a deep breath, Anhuil stood from her window perch. “It has to be better than sitting here brooding all night.” She grabbed her cloak. “You wouldn’t happen to have any of that wine left, would you?”

Cam’s mouth curved into a mischievous smile. “Come on.”

~~~~~~~~~~

Cam and Anhuil walked along the beach, their cloaks pulled tight against the chill. Cam handed Anhuil the small flask. “I believe we could both use this.”

The princess sniffed the contents, wrinkling her nose at the strong licorice scent, “What is it?”

“It is a liqueur made with wormwood. I picked it up in Minas Tirith. I was going to save it for a special occasion, but tonight seemed as good a time as any,” the blonde explained.

Taking a sip, Anhuil shuddered, and then took another. “I do not know if this is a good thing, or a bad thing.”

“It is a good thing. Warm the blood, loosen the tongue.”

“Speaking of loosening the tongue, Cam…” Anhuil began. “What is happening between you and Amrothos?”

Cam retrieved the flask and shrugged. “That is the least of your worries right now.”

”I would love to think about something else for a change.” Anhuil looked at her best friend. ”It appeared you two were getting on well in Edoras, at least, after that little display of his on the training field. How exactly did he worm his way out of that?”

Cam’s face broke into a wide grin. “Your brother can be quite charming. And it is very difficult to be angry with him for long. Especially when he all but admits how jealous he was.”

The princess chuckled. “He can be quite difficult to resist,” she admitted. Cam remained silent as they walked. Anhuil turned to face her. “Cam, is something wrong? I hope you do not think it bothers me. I cannot imagine anyone better for Amrothos than you.”

Shaking her head, her friend kept walking. “That is not it. I just...worry sometimes that Amrothos forgets I am not royalty simply because I grew up in the palace.”

“Cam, you know that does not matter to him. Whether he admits it or not, he loves you.”

Cam looked at her pointedly, “Ani, you think the courts would have been upset at the thought of you marrying a soldier? Just imagine how they would feel about one of the princes marrying the daughter of a tavern wench!”

“Your mother was the owner of a reputable inn who married a fleet Captain, not a tavern wench!”

”So she was. Tell that to my father’s family. A female inkeeper, and a Captain of the fleet.” Taking another swig from the flask, the blonde bowed low in an exaggerated curtsey to the princess. “And before you is the result of that scandalous relationship.”

Anhuil could not help but laugh at her friends’ antics. “You know Ada does not see you like that.”

With a heavy sigh she sat on the sand. The princess sat next to her. “My father threw away all claim to lordship when he married my mother. Those in the court have never let him forget it. Can you imagine the grief they would bring upon Amrothos?” She shook her head.

”Amrothos does not see it that way,” Anhuil pointed out, as Elenion lay down at her side. She scratched his hears idly. “And I truly regret having to tell you this, but he is slightly on the stubborn side. He will not let the opinions of those he does not even care about sway his heart, Cam. He loves you.”

“My, but that sounds familiar,” the blonde chided.

The princess laughed out loud, taking the bottle back from her friend. “At least no one has threatened to harm Amrothos,” she said, immediately wishing she hadn’t.

“What?” Cam was incredulous.

“What exactly is in this stuff, Cam?” the princess asked, staring down into the bottle. “Loosen the tongue, indeed.”

“Who threatened Éomer? Are you saying Fenwick....”

Anhuil shook her head vigorously. “I do not think it was more than an empty threat, Cam. He wanted me to end my relationship with Éomer, and he all but threatened his life if I did not.” She laughed. “I would almost like to see him try to take on Éomer, simply because I know that would bring a swift end to this whole ordeal.”

Cam blew a few strands of long, blonde hair from her face. “I do not think I would know what to do if my life were quiet and normal.”

Smiling, the princess stood and offered her hand to her friend, pulling her to her feet. “Neither would I,” she answered.

The women walked in silence, occasionally sipping from the small bottle. Elenion trotted beside them, large paws making no sound on the sand. Finally the princess spoke again.

“I have been thinking about this whole situation. What I do not understand is how the Corsairs always seem to know! No one has access to that information but my father, my brothers and me. I have been over those books a hundred times, and I just cannot comprehend how they know the fleet's movements ahead of time!”

“I do not know either, Ani. It seems odd.” They continued on in silence for a moment. “You know,” the blonde remarked thoughtfully, “my father said they feared there was corruption somewhere. And King Elessar mentioned that piracy had long been an issue in Lebennin and he planned to deal with it as soon as possible.”

The princess frowned. “Lebennin’s harbor master is Fenwick’s uncle.”

“Yes,” Cam acknowledged. “We knew that.”

“There has to be a connection. There must be.”

The blonde nodded. “But what?”

Anhuil’s green eyes suddenly grew large with realization as her hand gripped Cam’s arm tightly. “Sweet Elbereth, Cam! He was doing in Ada’s office?”

“What?”

The princess stopped walking and turned to face her friend. “How could I have forgotten? Do you remember when I returned from Minas Tirith, when Ada was away at war? I told you I caught Fenwick in Ada’s office late one night, and he said I had left the door unlocked. He also said he was just making sure I had take care of everything that needed to be done. I was so angry I did not think to check and see what he might have been up to in there.” Green eyes met blue. “I know I locked that door, Cam. I know I did.”

“Well, then we should set the first part of our trap,” Cam said with a smirk. “Does he have a key?”

Anhuil shook her head. “I do not think so. How would we find out? We cannot just go search him.”

“No,” Cam grinned conspiratorially. “But I have an idea.” Heading back up the dunes toward the palace, the women discussed their plan.

~~~~~~~~

Fenwick peered into the dark hallway, looking around to be sure no one was watching. Silently slipping the key into the lock, he turned it quickly and ducked inside, closing the door quietly behind him. Carefully making his way across the very dark room, he moved to Imrahil’s desk and lit the lantern very low.

Checking the shelves behind the big desk, Fenwick carefully selected the volume he wanted and carried it to the desk. Opening it in the dim light, he searched through the pages until he found what he was looking for. Drawing a small leather booklet from his pocket, he took Imrahil’s quill from the desktop and began writing in his notebook, flipping pages in the log, copying information into his own journal.

His task completed, he closed the large volume and replaced it on the shelf, and replaced the quill. Blowing out the lantern, he slinked back out into the hall, closing the door behind him. Anhuil heard the tell tale click of the lock, and finally breathed. Raising her widened eyes to Cam’s, she stared at the closed door. "That snake!" she muttered, stepping from the shadows in which they had hidden themselves. "I cannot believe he would betray Ada's trust that way. We have him now, Cam." Ani stood quietly a moment, then looked at Cam. “Where the blue hell did he get a key?” she wondered out loud.

The women exchanged curious glances as the princess pulled the door shut behind them and re-locked it, striding off down the hall to find her brother.

“Wait,” the princess grabbed Cam’s arm. “Should we mention this to Amrothos yet, or should we try to find out what it is he is doing with the information first?”

“Good point,” Cam conceded. “If we tell him now, your brother is liable to come out with swords blazing, and I have a feeling this is going to require some rather clandestine investigation that he would not approve of.”

“We will find out where it is Fenwick goes for hours at a time and what he is doing,” Anhuil stated confidently.

“Ani, you cannot. If you are seen all over the city, people are going to recognize you.”

“I got away with anonymity in Minas Tirith,” the princess argued.

“This is not Minas Tirith, Ani. Anyone here will know who you are. Besides, it would only take one person recognizing you.”

Reluctantly nodding her agreement, Anhuil took a deep breath. “You will have to do it, then. You are far better at such things than I anyway. But we cannot tell Amrothos yet. He would never agree to it.”

Deep blue eyes met dark green, the accordance unspoken. For now, they would keep their suspicions to themselves.

“We will have to start as soon as possible. We leave for Minas Tirith in only a few days,” Cam reminded her.

“I know. It is what has held me together for the last months, knowing I would see him again soon.” A smile crept across her face. “Only a few more days,” she repeated.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Outside the gates of Minas Tirith
12 Hithui, 3019 T.A.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The princess looked up at the huge tower rising above the city. The White Tower of Ecthelion.

Cam rode up beside her. “Smile, Ani. You will be seeing him before the day is out, I am sure of it.”

Anhuil complied, albeit nervously. “I have missed him so much, Cam.”

“I am certain he will be looking for you, as much as he loves you.”

"I know he does, Cam. But I am stuck in this miserable betrothal to Fenwick, and that is where I will remain until I am stuck in an even more miserable marriage. I am just grateful that serpent did not come with us this time. I can barely tolerate a meal with him, much less the thought of...” she let her voice trail off, the thought unvoiced, and continued with a shudder. “I surely hope once we are married he will take a mistress so I can have some peace."

"ANI!" Cam chastised her. "I cannot believe you just said that!"

"It is the truth." The princess' innocent, wide-eyed stare and Cam's expression of mock-horror melted into peals of laughter from both women.

Cam rode alongside her, the palomino easily keeping pace with her large stallion. Amrothos guided his chestnut mount up beside her. Glancing over at the prince, the blonde drew in her breath. She had seen Amrothos on a horse many times but the sight never failed make her pulse quicken.

Sitting straight in the saddle, his dark blue cloak falling from his broad shoulders, his almost black hair shining in the mid-day sun. He turned and caught her staring, flashing her a grin with perfect, even teeth. Green eyes sparkled mischievously.

Raising one eyebrow, he moved closer to the pretty blonde. "No race this time?"

"I am riding with Ani, thank you," she replied, motioning toward the princess.

"Come on, Cam," he chided, "you know Níniel would love a good run. Or are you afraid it has been so long since you have been on a horse that you have lost your skill as a rider?" The roan upon which he rode danced impatiently, as if ready to charge.

Amrothos always knew exactly what to say to rile Cam. Narrowing her eyes at the prince, she sat straighter in her saddle. "What did you have in mind?"

"From here to the gate, you and me."

"And what will I win?"

"Who says you are going to win?" The prince dug his heels into his mount's flanks and bolted.

"Oh, for that, you shall pay," the blonde muttered. Like lightening Cam was behind him, her golden palomino the smaller but by far the faster of the two. Amrothos glanced up as they sped past him, the moon silk mane of the horse flying in the wind much like that of the woman on her back. Cam leaned low in the saddle, speaking softly to her mount, her eyes straight ahead on her destination.

Reining in at the gate, she patted Níniel on the neck, congratulating her, grinning widely at Amrothos as he approached. “Apologies, my lord, but I do not believe I heard you correctly. Who did you say was going to win?”

“The race was unfair,” he stated with a barely concealed smirk.

“Unfair? You take a head start and still call that race unfair?”

“Of course. I was distracted.” He moved his mount closer to her and lowered his voice. “However, watching you ride is a very pleasing distraction.”

Cam couldn’t stop the blush as it crept across her face at his boldness. She looked away as the rest of the party approached, trying to form a proper retort. “Very well,” she offered magnanimously, “I will allow you a rematch someday.” Dropping her voice low, so only he could hear, she added, “Try not to let your distractions get the better of you.”

“But of course,” he agreed.

Anhuil shook her head as she watched the exchange. At least the two of them would be happy together.

~~~~~~~~


Chapter 29 - Chapter Twenty-Eight

Trust To Hope - Chapter Twenty-Eight
Author: Novedhelion
Type: FP Het
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Pairing: Éomer/Lothíriel aka Anhuil
Rating: PG13
Warnings: moral dilemma, a bit of sap, potential foreshadowing?
Beta: Riyallyn
Disclaimer: The characters belong to Tolkien. The names of the places belong to Tolkien. Any similarities to other stories are purely coincidental. But the DIALOGUE and the SCENES are the intellectual property of this author, and I do not release them to the Public Domain.

Trying to sneak past Cam is like trying to sneak the dawn past a rooster.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Defeat may test you; it need not stop you. If at first you don’t succeed, try another way. For every obstacle there is a solution. Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. The greatest mistake is giving up.

Anonymous.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Aldburg
Rohan
9 Hithui, 3019 T.A.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Éomer stood in the courtyard of Lord Abrecan’s estate, saying his goodbyes to his host. He squinted against the brightness of the sun, his head still pounding. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the blonde standing off to one side. His chest tightening, he turned to meet her gaze. “It was a pleasure to make your acquaintance, my Lady,” he said politely, bowing slightly.

A knowing smile crept across her pink lips as she offered him her hand. “Acquaintances? Is that what you call it, Your Majesty?”

“I do not even know your name, my Lady,” he explained quietly.

She raised her eyebrows at him. “That did not seem to bother you last night,” she answered softly.

“I am afraid I must admit I do not remember much of last night,” he told her, releasing her hand.

“Pity, that.” she responded flippantly. “The name is Willa. Lord Abrecan is my uncle.”

“It was a pleasure to meet you then, Lady Willa,” Éomer said, standing straight once again.

The tall blonde stepped closer to him, her mouth almost to his ear. “Far more of a pleasure than you remember, apparently,” she said softly. “I seem to have misplaced some of my flowers. Did you happen to find them?”

“Willa!” Her uncle’s sharp voice startled her so much she jumped back. “His Majesty’s company is ready to depart. Do not delay them any further with your...prattling.”

“Yes, Uncle,” she said obediently. With a wicked smile to Éomer, she turned and slipped inside.

“My apologies, Your Majesty. That girl...well, let us say that she can be very...friendly, if a man catches her eye.” He shook his head. “I have had more than enough wives at my throat for her antics toward their husbands. I have tried to no avail to rein her in. I hope she has not been a bother to you.” He bowed graciously.

Éomer frowned. It was something he was still getting used to, this bowing. “No,” he answered softly.

“No harm done, then,” Abrecan said with a smile as they walked back toward the waiting party.

~~~~~~~~~~~~
Rohan
The Great East/West Road
9 Hithui, 3019 T.A.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As they rode on toward Minas Tirith, Éowyn noticed that her brother seemed sullen, riding in silence most of the day. He spoke when necessary, giving orders to the men, but other than that seemed lost in thought. She mentioned to Faramir, who offered that he might be simply apprehensive about seeing the princess again, as he had not had word from her since she had left Edoras, but the White Lady of Rohan knew her brother too well.

And she had seen the exchange that had taken place in the courtyard of Lord Abrecan’s estate.

They camped for the evening under a copse of trees along the Entwash. Éomer had disappeared just after their meal, citing his need for some time alone. His sister excused herself from her betrothed to search him out.

She found him alone, sitting on a stone near the river, staring at the rippling water.

“Éomer?”

He didn’t look up. “I knew you would come,” he said quietly, leaning down to pick up a small stone.

“What is wrong?” she asked, approaching him slowly, her arms folded across her chest.

The king threw the rock into the river, watching the small splash rise in the moonlight. “Do you recognize this place?” he asked her.

“I know we camped somewhere near here when we were returning to Edoras to bury Théoden,” she remarked, looking around the area.

He nodded. “The last time I was here, I caught Ani bathing in that pool,” he said, indicating the shallow water nearby with a wry smile.

Éowyn raised an eyebrow. “And?”

A faint smile crossed his lips at the memory. He sighed heavily, his gaze dropping to the ground in front of him.

His sister sat down beside him. “Éomer, you are going to see her again. What is-“

“I do not deserve her,” he said quietly.

Éowyn was aghast. “What? Éomer, all you have talked about is marrying her. What do you mean you do not deserve her? You would rather see her married to Mardil Fenwick?”

Leaning forward, he propped his elbows on his knees and dropped his head into his hands, pinching the bridge of his nose. His head still pounded from the night before. “I betrayed her, Éowyn.”

“What are you talking about, Éomer? How could you-“ she cut herself off short, remembering the blonde at the dinner the previous night and how interested she had seemed in the king, and then the scene she had observed as they prepared to leave. Drawing a slow, deep breath, Éowyn leveled her gaze at him. “Éomer...the blonde woman at dinner, what was her name?”

Éomer practically spit the name out as if it were distasteful. “Willa.”

“Yes,” his sister nodded. “You did not...” His expression told her that she need not finish the question. She smacked him hard in the back of the head, making him wince.

“Please do not do that. My head is already pounding,” he said, rubbing his temples.

“What in the name of the Great Rider were you thinking? Bloody hell, brother! You should be more careful. You know Théoden always told you AND Théodred that there are women out there who would bed you for no other reason save a chance to birth an heir to the throne!” She stared at him. “How could you do this?”

“I had no intention of bedding that woman. I have no idea how it happened. Or if it happened, for that matter.”

“It probably started with you going to her chambers and undressing,” she said with a smirk.

He cast her a sardonic look. “I swear, Éowyn, I have no memory of it whatsoever. I remember being introduced to the lady, but I certainly had no untoward thoughts about her. All I could think of was that in a few days time I would see Ani again. The next thing I recall is waking up in my own bed this morning. Alone.” She looked at him quizzically. “Lacking my clothing,” he finished.

Éowyn paled. “Oh, gods, Éomer.”

“How will I face Ani?” His voice choked slightly. “How can I look her in the eye, if there is a possibility that-”

“Are you certain, Éomer? You say you have no memory...”

“Willa seems to remember it quite well. She was in the process of reminding me when her uncle sent her inside.”

“Quite the stallion, are you not?”

“This is not a time for jesting, Éowyn.”

“Sorry,” she said, stifling a giggle. “I know this is not funny. I do not know what to tell you. Are you absolutely certain it happened as she said?”

“You have another theory for how I ended up naked in my bed with a pounding headache?”

“It just is not like you, that is all. You do not normally drink that much, and you are not a man to get caught up by a pretty smile and a hitched skirt, particularly that of a woman who is barely more than an acquaintance.” She sighed. “If that were the case, you would have bedded half the women in the Mark by now!”

“According to Willa, we are far more than acquaintances.” Éowyn shot him a look. “She seemed to think-“

“I do not need details, Éomer,” his sister quipped, cutting him off.

“I have none to provide.” He dropped his head again, rubbing his throbbing forehead. “What am I going to tell Ani?”

His sister leaned her crossed arms on her knees, contemplating her answer. “You will tell Ani nothing,” she said after a few moments.

He turned to her, surprised by her response. “What do you mean, I will tell her nothing? I cannot just-“

“You can, and you will.”

“Éowyn...”

“Listen to me. You could tell her that you let yourself get completely intoxicated and you made love to another woman, but to what end, Éomer? You are not even certain anything happened with this woman.” He opened his mouth to protest and she silenced him with a hand up. “I know what she says, Éomer, stallion of the Rohirrim,” he narrowed his eyes and she stifled a giggle. “I know what the woman told you, but you say you have no memory of it. Do you remember the first time Théodred took you to--oh, do not look at me like *that*, do you think I do not know these things? Tell me, the first time he took you out and got you drunk and introduced you to a woman...do you remember it?”

He cleared his throat, a bit uncomfortable discussing what his cousin had called his induction to manhood. “Yes, I remember it,” he said resignedly. “As drunk as I was, I definitely remember it.”

“Then do you not find it odd that you cannot remember last night?”

“I have no explanation,” he answered.

“What do you think happened?” she asked.

Éomer considered the question carefully. “I would think I would remember, if I had shared my bed with a woman. I would like to think I would remember that. Éowyn...I have been drunk before, and I certainly cannot claim I have never taken a willing wench up on an offer while in such a state. And there have been times when my memory was not the clearest come the next morning. But I have never been completely unable to remember anything before.”

“Fine. So the truth is you are not certain. Why break her heart over something like this when you have no idea if it happened or not?”

He picked up another small stone and threw it. “Perhaps you are right,” he agreed.

“If you love her, forget it happened, if it happened, and do not mention it again.”

He sighed. “Why does that feel like I am lying to her?”

“You have a choice. You could tell her what you believe happened, tear her heart in two, and have her always wonder if it would happen again. Or you could forget it, put it in the past, and make sure it never happens again. Which do you think is a better option? If I thought for one moment that there was a single benefit to Ani knowing this, I would say tell her. But there is not, Éomer.”

He nodded slowly. “You are right.”

“Of course I am,” she said bluntly, leaning her head on his shoulder. “Éomer?”

“Yes?”

“May I ask a favor?”

“Anything, Éowyn.”

“Hurry up and get married. Your love life is beginning to cause me severe distress.”

He chuckled, draping his arm around her shoulders. “My head hurts.”

“It should, if you had that much to drink. You deserve it.”

“I love you too, sister of mine,” he answered, hugging her closer.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Citadel Library
Minas Tirith
14 Hithui, 3019 T.A.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Late evening was her favorite time to be in the library. Usually she was alone, the room illuminated only by the small lamp she kept near her. Sitting at a corner table, the princess looked up from the book she was reading, leaning her head to one side and then the other stretching her stiff neck. Glancing down at her journal, she read over the notes she had taken and blew her hair out of her face.

Closing the book in front of her, she picked up the heavy volume and carried to a nearby bookcase. She kicked the small wooden stool over to where she could step up on it, and replaced the book.

The strong hands on her waist startled her nearly as much as the deep voice that followed as he turned her around. “Were you this tall without the stool, I would not have to bend to kiss you.”

Anhuil grinned. The king stood beside her stool, dressed simply in a tunic and breeches, his hair loose on his shoulders, smiling up at her. Leaning into his embrace, her palms against his chest. “Are you implying that it is inconvenient for you to kiss me, Your Majesty? Perhaps I should just carry the stool with me wherever I go so that should you wish to kiss me, you would not be required to put forth more effort than necessary.”

Éomer swept her off the stool and into his arms. “I would gladly go to any lengths necessary to kiss you, even if I had to stand on my head to do so.” Before she could answer, his mouth covered hers in a kiss that left her grateful he was holding her, knowing her own knees would not. Finally releasing her lips, he smiled down at her. “Your brothers said I would find you here,” he told her as her arms went around his neck, hugging him tightly.

She leaned back and looked up at him. “Am I so predictable?”

“It is usually a safe wager that where there are books, there you will be also.” He grinned at her. “And here you are.”

“Yes, well...someone has to do this research and figure out a way to get rid of Fenwick,” she quipped, her fingers tracing the embroidery on his collar. “Are you going to hold me all night?”

“Do I have the option of holding you all night? Because if so, that is what I would choose.”

Anhuil placed her hand on his cheek. “The sooner you put me down and let me find a way out of this betrothal, the sooner I can marry you and you can hold me all night every night for the rest of your life,” she told him.

Lowering her feet slowly to the ground, he kept his arms around her waist. “How can I refuse an offer like that?” he asked.

“You could save us both the trouble and just run him through,” she suggested.

Éomer leaned down, his forehead against hers. “Do not tempt me, woman. It has been all I could do not to do so already.”

The princess laughed softly, sliding her arms around his neck and leaning into his chest. “Never has a few months seemed so long,” she whispered as his arms wrapped around her, pulling her close.

“As much as I will miss Éowyn, I have to say I have been very much looking forward to her wedding,” he admitted. “I have thought of little else but having you in my arms again.”

Anhuil smiled up at him. “From the gossip I hear it does not seem it would take you too long to fill your arms, should you decide to do so,” she teased. “You are quite the topic of conversation among the eligible women, and many of the married ones!”

Éomer rolled his eyes. “Do not remind me,” he said sarcastically.

“Well, then perhaps it is a good thing my brothers trained me so well. I will need to brush up on my skills if I am to protect you from the claws of the others.”

“You need not worry about that, Princess,” he told her. “There is no woman alive who could draw me from you.” He placed another kiss on her lips, trying to ignore the slight twinge of guilt. His sister’s words echoed in his mind. *‘You could tell her...but to what end?’* He turned to look at the piles of books on the table where she had been working. “What exactly are you doing?”

She sighed heavily, walking toward the table. “Beating my head against a stone wall, or so it would seem,” she commented, slamming shut yet another heavy volume and hefting it, moving toward the bookcase again. “I cannot find anything. And my conversation with Lord Sídheru was equally disappointing.”

Éomer went to her, taking the book from her hands. “Enough for tonight.” He dropped the book on the table.

“But Éomer, I only have a few days in Minas Tirith, and this library is the best chance that-“

He pulled her against him, capturing her mouth again with his to cut her off. “I must say I am most flattered that such a beautiful woman would go to such lengths on my account. However, I would like her to spend at least some of the few days she has here with me.” He picked up her cloak and drew it over her shoulders. “You can tell me what you have learned while we walk.”

Knowing he would brook no argument, the princess slipped her hand around his arm and allowed him to lead her from the library.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“...Cam and I were in tears laughing, and Amrothos did not find it the least bit funny!” She looked up at him as he chuckled. “I am sorry, I am just prattling on. I am not even giving you a chance to speak.”

“Ani, I am so pleased to hear your voice you could talk all night if you wish,” he responded, placing his hand over hers on his arm.

“I do ramble,” she admitted. “Tell me about Rohan. How is Éowyn? I miss her so. And Éothain. And Haleth. I would love to see them again. And Elfhelm? I am sure his wife is pleased to have him back home...”

Éomer stopped walking and looked at her. “Which question would you like answered first?” She grinned sheepishly. “All right,” he said, continuing down the path, “I shall try to answer them all. Éowyn is wonderful. She misses you, and is looking forward to her wedding. She hopes to spend some time with you while you are here. Éothain is doing quite well. He is married now. Haleth is still single, poor boy, but I think he has his heart set on a certain maiden who pays him no more mind than if he were a stump beside the road. Elfhelm is the Third Marshal now, and he is living with his wife and their new little one at Aldburg. Have I left anyone out?”

Anhuil giggled. “Déor. How is he, the little scoundrel?”

“Ah, Déor...” Éomer said with a shake of his head. “That one is going to end up in a fight over a woman yet. The consummate charmer. He is quite well. A bit distraught over the fact that your friend Lady Valesa left before he could get to know her better, but he will survive.”

“And you?” she asked pointedly.

The king contemplated her question as he led her toward the white stone gazebo in the center of the garden.

“Éomer?”

He shrugged. “Do you want me to tell you I am fine?” he asked.

“I want you to tell me the truth,” the princess said, walking slowly to the other side of the gazebo. Her arms were folded across her chest, pulling her cloak around her. She turned to face him.

“The truth,” he repeated with a resigned sigh. “The truth is that I get up every morning and I get through every day as best I can, trying to focus on anything other than the emptiness that I feel when you are not there.” He stepped toward her. “The truth is that I go to bed at night and lay there staring at the ceiling, my arms aching to hold you, and a pillow is a very poor substitute.” She almost chuckled, feeling much the same way herself. He sighed again, closing the distance between them. “The truth is that I should have never let you go. I should have done whatever I had to do to keep you by my side. The truth, Ani, is that I love you, and I cannot imagine my life without you. I will not.”

The sincerity of his words nearly brought tears to her eyes. “I suppose there is no need for me to tell you I feel the same,” she answered softly. “Like a part of me is missing.” She leaned on the rail behind her, arms crossed. “We will find a way, Éomer.”

Moving in front of her, he took her hands in his. “Do you remember the evening after the battle, when we sat by the river?”

“The night Mithrandir came?” He nodded. “How could I forget that, Éomer?”

His thumb gently stroked the back of her hand. “If I had asked you then to marry me, what would you have said?”

Deep green eyes locked on dark brown. “I would have said yes,” she stated softly.

He shook his head slowly. "I almost did. I should have. I should have married you then, before I even knew you were a princess.”

“Mmm-hmm. But you are forgetting one very important detail,” Anhuil said, drawing her hands from his and placing them on his broad shoulders. Her fingers toyed with the blonde hair that rested there.

“What is that?” he asked, placing his own hands on either side of her on the top of the rail.

“You chastised me for not telling you I was a princess, yet you somehow neglected to tell me you were a prince.” She smiled sweetly.

Éomer nodded in acquiescence. “I never thought of myself as a prince. It was thrust upon me, like those awful sessions of dance instruction or the endless hours spent with tutors. I would rather have been riding.”

The princess looked down, licking her lips contemplatively, then back up at him. “Do you remember the night you came into that tent, the night your men captured me?”

“How could I forget that night?” he asked her with a bemused look. “That was the night you completely took over my life.”

She laughed softly before her expression once again became serious. “You had such an air about you it was almost overwhelming,” she admitted, remembering how intimidating his presence had been.

The king smiled at her. “I have been accused before of arrogance,” he joked.

Anhuil shook her head. “Not arrogance.” She thought for a moment, searching for the right words. “Confidence. Authority. As if you had merely to look at one of the men and they would know exactly what you wished them to do, and they would do it without hesitation.”

“Of course they would,” he told her. “I was their commanding officer.”

“No,” she argued, “this was something more. Something...innate about you. It is in the way you walk, the way you speak...” she shook her head again. “I have seen men in positions of power and authority who could no more rule than a jellyfish lying on the sand. You command respect, Éomer. Not with words or actions, but with your presence. Whether you are wearing armor and road dust or the silks of a king,” her fingers traced up the soft fabric of the deep green tunic he wore, “it is there. You may not be aware of it, but it is there.”

“Unfortunately it commanded neither respect nor obedience from a certain feisty little princess,” he teased.

“More of my own defiance, I am afraid, than a measure of your worthiness of respect.” The princess sighed deeply.

“I never felt like a prince.” He laughed softly. “I still do not feel like a king, for that matter.”

“Your mother was a princess, Éomer,” Anhuil said, reaching up to run her fingers across the embroidery at the collar of his tunic.

“True,” he answered, “but we are not so formal with titles in Rohan.” He sighed. “I was perfectly content being Third Marshal.”

“I was content being Anhuil,” she said. “I would have been perfectly happy being the wife of the Third Marshal.”

A wry smile crossed his lips. “So much for what we should have done.” He leaned forward, pinning her to the rail behind her. “Now what are we going to do?”

“Would you like a suggestion?” she asked, the fingers on his shoulders sliding further up to entwine in his hair.

“I do like it when you are suggestive,” he answered as she pulled him down to her. Their lips met, softly at first, but it took no encouragement from him for her to part her own invitingly. His hands slid from the rail to her back, beneath her cloak, pressing her against him as his mouth trailed down the side of her neck. “I have missed you,” he whispered, pulling her to him tightly. One hand strayed up to the back of her neck, fingers digging into the mass of dark curls.

Anhuil sighed, leaning into his embrace, her own arms tight around his neck. “I do not want to go home, Éomer. I cannot bear the thought of leaving you again.” She buried her face in his neck.

“It will be a long, cold winter indeed,” he answered softly, showing no sign of releasing her.

“The one year betrothal ends in less than four months,” she said quietly. “Fenwick will want to be married as quickly as possible after that.”

Éomer looked down at her. “What did your magistrate say?”

“He said the contract is binding,” she stated flatly. “But I will not marry him. I will leap off the tallest tower of the palace and into the sea before I marry Mardil Fenwick.”

“It will not come to that.” He stated confidently.

“I hope not.” The princess leaned her cheek against his chest, closing her eyes, considering whether to tell him of the suspicions she and Cam had. The women had agreed to keep it to themselves until they had further proof. The men would only disapprove of their methods of investigation. The fewer people who knew, the less chance there was of Mardil suspecting they knew anything. Fenwick might be underhanded but he was not stupid.

“We had better get back. What if Mardil comes looking for you?”

“Mardil did not come with us,” she told him. “He said he had business to attend to in Lebennin.”

A wide smile crept across Éomer’s face. “Good. At least I can enjoy your company for a few days without worrying about that insufferable git.”

The princess grinned up at him. “Git? That was rather mild. Softening a little toward him for some reason?”

“I am in the presence of a lady,” he reminded her, sliding his arm around her and guiding her back toward the path to the Citadel.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Citadel Gardens
Minas Tirith
15 Hithui, 3019 T.A.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Under her favorite tree in the garden, the princess was so absorbed in her book that she did not hear the approaching footsteps.

“May I join you?”

The sweet voice startled her. Turning, she nodded as Éowyn sat down beside her on the grass.

“I was truly hoping to get some time to speak to you before the wedding, but my cousin seems to always be whisking you away somewhere.” Anhuil smiled, flipping the book shut.

“Ah, well, my beloved Faramir seems to be rather single minded these days…” She laughed softly. “But I did wish to have some time with you, Anhuil. Would you like to walk?”

“Yes,” the princess answered, closing the book and rising to her feet. “I could stand to move a bit.”

The ladies strolled down across the garden, chatting amiably. Beside a white stone bench, the Lady of Rohan stopped, turning to look at Anhuil.

“Anhuil,” she began, “Please forgive my brusqueness, but I feel the need to tell you something.”

The princess nodded, listening attentively. Éowyn continued. “Before this war started, my brother was a dedicated soldier. He held nothing in higher regard than his service to his king. Protecting the people of Rohan, ridding our land of our enemies was his only focus.”

“And he was so when I met him,” Anhuil remembered.

“He pursued some of the things other young men do, although not nearly with the same fervor. Women have always noticed him. How could you not?”

Anhuil grinned, nodding in agreement.

Éowyn sighed. “Do not misunderstand. It was not because of any lack of opportunity or because of his military career.” Her pale blue eyes met Anhuil’s green ones. “It was because Éomer is a different type of man, Princess. I always knew then that it would take a special woman to win his heart. Some high-mannered, courtly priss would never do, though many have tried. I began to think that there may not be a woman out there who could rein in my brother.” She laughed softly. “I was beginning to believe that he would go through life as free and unbound as one of his stallions. But when my brother returned from the Battle at Pelennor, he was a changed man.”

“War changes many men,” Anhuil mused quietly.

Éowyn raised an eyebrow. “It was not the war that changed my brother, Princess. It was the deadly aim of a certain raven-haired Gondorian princess.”

Anhuil chuckled softly. Éowyn smiled at her. “I do not think you realize to what extent you have affected him, Anhuil. He carries that handkerchief you gave him as if it were a lifeline.”

“Éowyn, you know that I would never want to hurt him. I love him more than my own life.”

The White Lady nodded. “I know.”

“And Fenwick--“

“Is a pompous, self-absorbed ass. I believe that is a milder form of my brother’s description.”

”Your brother gave him quite a mark at Aragorn’s wedding, you know,” Anhuil smiled.

“He deserved it.” Éowyn grinned back at her. “My brother is not a violent man, but he will defend what is right without a second thought. He told me what happened on that terrace.”

“Does he tell you everything?” Anhuil laughed nervously.

The Lady of Rohan smiled surreptitiously. “Only when I add enough whiskey to his tea.”

Anhuil laughed out loud. Her expression quickly darkened, her brow furrowing. “I do not know what to do, Éowyn.” She turned away, studying the grass under her feet. “I want nothing more than to be with him. I do not wish to return home and I certainly do not wish to marry Fenwick. I just do not see how it can be otherwise. Fenwick is stubborn.”

“And so is my brother. And if there is a way, he will find it. He will not give up.”

“Neither will I,” Anhuil answered quietly.

“Something else troubles you,” the Lady observed. “Tell me.”

The princess continued staring straight ahead. Taking a deep breath, she turned to Éowyn.

“I have never mentioned this to him, but...are you certain this is right for him? I…” she hesitated, almost afraid to ask the question. “I have wondered how his people would feel about him marrying a foreigner. Perhaps they would prefer a queen of their own people. I would sooner die than do anything to disparage him among his own people.”

The White Lady put a hand on her shoulder. “Our people will love you, Princess. They will love you because he loves you. They will love you because you love him.”

Anhuil’s gaze met Éowyn’s. “I do love him.”

Éowyn took Anhuil’s hand in her own. “Do not give up. If there is anything in this world worth fighting for, it is love.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The Citadel
Minas Tirith
18 Hithui, 3019 T.A.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Rolling over to her side in her bed, Anhuil opened her eyes. The princess smiled broadly at the memory of the previous evening, running her hand over the soft coverlet. The wedding had been a beautiful affair. Éowyn had been radiant, her cousin Faramir more handsome than she had ever seen him.

The evening had been simply lovely. Without Fenwick present, she had been able to truly enjoy herself, dancing with brothers, her father, her cousin, even King Elessar himself. But most of all, she had enjoyed being able to spend time with Éomer. She had spent most of her evening in his arms, much to the chagrin of the other ladies present, and could not think of a single place she would rather be.

With a deep sigh, she rolled to her back, hugging a pillow to her chest, chuckling out loud as she remembered the efforts of one nobleman from Ethring to introduce his daughter to Éomer. Rather than embarrass the young woman, whom Anhuil thought to be quite beautiful, Éomer had graciously introduced her to Elphir. Her brother and the woman, Celeria, had spent the rest of the evening dancing or in quiet whispers at a table, at least until they disappeared for a walk sometime later.

She had hardly spoken to Cam, to whom her brother Amrothos had firmly attached himself. They made a lovely pair, gliding across the dance floor. She had always thought Amrothos harbored feelings for their friend, something she could not have gotten him to admit before the war. Coming face to face with the fragility of life changed one’s view on many things, she knew.

“Ani? Are you awake?” Cam called from outside the door.

Shoving the covers back and rising to her feet, the princess crossed the floor and flipped open the lock. “I am. Come in,” she answered, reaching for a robe.

The blonde shoved the heavy door open and stepped in, fully dressed. Her gaze raking over the princess, she frowned. “Why are you not dressed? Did you forget we are going shopping today?”

“Is it that late already?” Anhuil asked, pushing open the shutters of her window. Bright sunlight streamed in, causing her to blink.

“It is nearly noon, Ani. For the love of the Valar, get dressed!” She turned to leave, then looked back. “I plan to walk, so dress accordingly,” Cam informed her with a grin, before slipping out of the room.

~~~~~~~~~~

Cam and Anhuil stepped out into the bright sun, pulling their cloaks a bit tighter against the chill of early winter. Cam had opted for leggings and a tunic, but the princess had chosen a simple wool smock, hoping to blend more into the crowd. “Where do you want to go first?” the princess asked her friend.

“I want to go by the Apothecary before we leave,” Cam answered.

Anhuil nodded. “And I want to go by Brennil’s shop before we leave. I need to...take care of something.”

Cam pulled her hood up and joined her friend, strolling through the streets. They made their way down to the levels where most of the merchants had their shops and homes. Passing the Apothecary, Ani stopped, her hand on Cam’s arm. “I thought you needed to go there,” she said, pointing across the flagstone street.

The blonde shook her head. “Not that one. There is another one on the second level.”
Anhuil’s eyes widened. “Cam, you do not mean to go...that is not a safe district, you know...”

“I know, and if you do not wish to accompany me, Princess, I will understand. But Adaneth has what I need. This one,” she indicated the shop across the street, “only has the basics.”

“You know more about that than I do,” the princess admitted. “Oh, there is Brennil’s shop!” Excitedly pulling on her friends arm, she quickly crossed the street, ducking into the small doorway.

“Well, a fine day this is, when two of my favorite customers visit my shop!” The lady behind the counter grinned at the two girls. “What are you looking for today, my Ladies? I have some fine new items, purest mithril. A lovely bracelet. And this necklace here, with the blue stone. Tobor just finished it yesterday. Now this would just match your eyes, my Lady,” she said to Cam, holding up the beautiful chain.

“Actually,” Cam said thoughtfully, “tell me about this ring.” She held up a small silver ring with a lovely silvery white stone. A slow smile spread across Brennil’s face.

“That is a very special ring,” she said conspiratorially. “Here, let me show you.” She took the ring from the blonde’s hand, slipping it on her own short finger. “See? From the outside, it just looks like a normal ring. This is a moonstone. But watch this,” she swiftly moved her thumb, and the surface of the ring popped open, revealing a hidden compartment underneath. “You can use it to hide certain things, if you get my meaning. Years ago this kind of ring was called a poison ring.”

“A poison ring?” Anhuil looked at her, astonished. “Whatever would you make something like that for, Brennil?”

The woman laughed. “Mostly just for fun, Your Highness. Time was when folks used rings like this to poison their enemies. Hide the poison in here,” she indicated the empty chamber in the ring and clicked it shut, “and when the time was right, pop! Dump the poison into a drink or food, and there you have it.” Her self-satisfied grin made the girls laugh. “This one is particularly good, too, because the hinges are hidden. See?” She showed Cam the side of the ring.

“Oh, Brennil,” the princess laughed. “You never cease to amaze me. Who in the world would need that these days?”

Cam and Anhuil exchanged looks. The princess cocked her head at the blonde. “Nevermind my asking. I do not want to know what you have planned, Camwethrin.”

“I happen to think it is a lovely piece of jewelry. Whether I ever need it or not, I like its novelty. I shall take it,” she announced, shelling out coins into the shopkeeper’s hand. She slipped the ring on her finger, admiring it.

“What about you, Princess? Anything in particular you are looking for, my dear?”

A long pause ensued, the princess weighing her answer carefully. “I need a ring,”

“Ah, yes, I heard you were betrothed. Congratulations, my dear. I suppose you’ll be wanting a nice band, then...let me see...” She pulled out a velvet-lined box, sorting through its contents.

“Actually, Brennil,” the princess said, “I want to find something different. Something...symbolic. I do not want just a plain band.”

Slowly nodding, the woman winked. “I think I have just the thing for you.” She pulled out a little wooden box, flipping open the top. Inside was a silver ring. Lifting it out, she handed it carefully to the princess.

“Take care now, Princess. It comes apart.”

“What?” Anhuil studied the ring in her palm. It did indeed appear to be four separate bands, woven together to form a braided design. Brennil reached out and plucked the ring from her hand. With a deft twist, she had the ring in four separate pieces, spreading them out on the table in front of her.

“See?” she queried with a grin.

“And it goes back together, like a puzzle,” the princess commented, watching the shopkeeper put the pieces together swiftly.

Brennil handed her the completed ring. “Tradition says that is how you can tell if your husband’s been running around on ya, sweetie,” she whispered in a secretive tone. “Men can never put it back together.”

Anhuil laughed. “I do not think that will be a problem,” she answered with a broad smile, “but I do love it.”

“And it has four bands, too,” Brennil pointed out.

“One for each ribbon of the handfasting,” Cam observed.

“Very clever you are, Miss, very clever. Yes, that is what I had in mind, knowing Gondor’s traditions. This is the first one I ever made.”

The princess exchanged glances with her friend. “I shall take it,” she announced. “Show me once again how to put it together, please.”

The grey-haired woman laughed, picking up the ring and explaining it to her once again.

Their purchases paid for, the two young women strolled out into the streets once again, heading for the lower levels of the city.

“I cannot believe you bought a ring, Ani. Why on earth-“ She stopped suddenly. “You did not buy that for Fenwick, did you?”

The princess’s mouth curved into a smile.

“I knew it!” Cam grinned. “Come on, it is not fair to withhold information!”

“Information, or gossip, Camwethrin?”

“Ani, you are not amusing me.”

“I beg your forgiveness, Camwethrin. I did not realize that you wished to know my every coming and going,” the princess answered flippantly, starting off down the street.

Cam caught up with her in two long strides. “So you bought the ring for Éomer?”

“Shh,” the princess hushed her. “There will be enough gossip about us dancing as we were last evening. Let us not make it worse, shall we?”

“Since when are you so concerned about gossip, Princess?” Cam snickered.

“You know I truly do not care what they think of me, Cam, but I do have to be concerned
for Ada’s sake.”

The blonde nodded her agreement. “What are you going to do, Ani?” Cam asked, her voice lowered

Anhuil smiled at her silently, one eyebrow raised. “I do not know yet, Cam, but one way or another, I will marry Éomer,” she stated, the determination in her voice evident. She drew in a deep breath, exhaling slowly. “I need to get back. We only have another day and I need to look through those old scrolls one more time.”

“Do you ever get tired of that library, Ani?”

“This is important, Camwethrin,” she responded. “Besides, I promised Éomer I would meet him for a walk later.” Anhuil smiled at her friend.

Cam shook her head slowly. “Go ahead, then,” she said, gesturing toward the upper levels. “I will make my run to Adaneth’s and I will catch up with you for dinner.”

Inclining her head in agreement, the princess turned to head back toward the Citadel, her cloak held tight around her. The heels of her boots clicked on the flagstone paving as she hurried toward the Citadel library.

~~~~~~~~~

Cam slipped out of the tiny shop, tucking a small package into her belt pouch. There were plenty of shops in the upper levels of Minas Tirith, but she preferred this one on the second level. Adaneth had rather creative mixtures of herbs. Today was no exception. Glancing down at the new ring on her finger, a small smile crept across her face. This shopping expedition could definitely pay off.

As she stepped onto the street, a familiar portly man huffing his way along the path drew her attention. Shaking her head, she looked again. It couldn’t be. “What is that little fusby doing here?” she muttered to herself. Pulling the hood of her cloak up, she followed him, ducking through the crowded streets, staying far enough behind that he would not notice her among the throngs in the market. She needn’t have bothered; for Neville was in such a hurry he never once looked back.

At the end of a side street near the gate of the second level, the chubby valet stopped. Looking up at the weathered sign swinging on the hooks above the door, he frowned. With a last glance around the sidewalk, he slunk into the tavern reluctantly.

The sign creaked, and Cam looked up. At one time, the sign might have said *The Belching Balrog,* but she wasn’t sure, because most of the letters were worn off, as was the painting that had once been bright and gaudy. She thought it might have been a large creature with a whip of fire, flames shooting from its wide-open mouth. Gripping the clasp of her cloak to keep her hood close over her face, she followed Neville inside.

~~~~~~~~~~~


Chapter 30 - Chapter Twenty-Nine

Trust To Hope - Chapter Twenty-Nine
Author: Novedhelion
Type: FP Het
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Pairing: Éomer/Lothíriel aka Anhuil
Rating: PG13
Warnings: Sneaking...more sneaking...MORE reason to hate Fenwick...
Beta: Riyallyn
Disclaimer: The characters belong to Tolkien. The names of the places belong to Tolkien. Any similarities to other stories are purely coincidental. But the DIALOGUE and the SCENES are the intellectual property of this author, and I do not release them to the Public Domain.

~~~~~~~~~
“Danger can never be overcome without taking risks.”
Latin Proverb

~~~~~~~~~
Citadel
Minas Tirith
18 Hithui, 3019 T.A.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Entering the chambers she shared with Cam in the Citadel, the princess pulled off her cloak and tossed it over a chair. Humming to herself, she moved toward the window.

“Where have you been?” Cam demanded, rising from the chair, throwing the cloak the princess had discarded off. “I have looked for you everywhere!”

Anhuil turned to see the blonde, still dressed from today’s shopping expedition, arms folded. “I told you I was meeting Éomer for a walk. It is not even dark out, Cam.”

“You did not mention you would be walking to Edoras and back,” her friend quipped. “I have been waiting for hours.”

The princess frowned. “My apologies, Cam. I thought you were spending the afternoon with Amrothos. What happened?”

Cam sighed forcefully, plopping down on the side of the bed. “Neville happened,” she answered.

“Neville? What are you talking about? Neville and Fenwick are in Lebennin.”

Shaking her head, Cam licked her lips thoughtfully. “No,” she said. “They are here.”

“Here? In the Citadel?” The panic in Anhuil’s voice was apparent.

“No, not in the Citadel, but in the city.”

“Are you certain? Fenwick told Ada he had business to attend to at home.”

Cam raised one eyebrow. “He may have had business to attend to, but unless he has moved his home to a rather seedy tavern called The Belching Balrog, then he lied to your father.”

Anhuil nearly laughed. “The Belching Balrog?” she asked, snickering.

“This is not a joke, Ani. It is a rather dodgy establishment down an alley on the second level. Near Adaneth’s. I was leaving her shop when I spotted Neville on the street. Thinking I had to be wrong, I followed him.” She took a deep breath before continuing. “I followed him inside.” Anhuil’s eyes widened. “Do not worry, I kept my hood up. It was dark and crowded. They never saw me.”

“They?” the princess asked hesitantly.

“Fenwick and Neville. They were both there, along with some others I had never seen before.”

“Fenwick is here? In the city?” Her heart raced, remembering his threat. “Sweet Elbereth,” she muttered. “Éomer....”

“Ani, listen to me. The men he was with...I think they were Corsairs. I am not certain, but my ada has told me tales of them since I was knee-high. Dark-skinned, dark-haired men with black eyes...I think Fenwick knew these men!”

“How is that possible, Cam? How could he-“ she stopped abruptly, staring, mouth open. “You do not think...”

Cam’s blue eyes met hers intently. “I do not know. But it does not bode well for the future husband of the Princess of Dol Amroth to be seen in a low-level tavern with men of that ilk.”

“What do we do? Are you sure he did not see you?”

“No, they did not. I am sure of it,” she answered.

“Well, that is good, at least,” the princess said. “Now what?”

“Right now there is nothing to do, Ani. We will just have to keep following him, and see what happens. I could not get close enough to hear what they were saying, but it looked like a rather heated discussion to me. Neville was pale as a sheet!”

Anhuil walked across the room, her hands pressed flat together, tapping her lips with the sides of her index fingers. The pounding of her heart had not lessened. If Fenwick WAS in Minas Tirith, it would not be long before news reached him of Éowyn’s wedding. If he was indeed involved with Corsairs, then he could very likely carry out his threat against Éomer. She would have to warn him. Grabbing her cloak, she spun for the door.

“Where are you going?” Cam asked her.

“I have to talk to Éomer.” She hurriedly fastened the cloak around her shoulders.

“Ani, we have no proof of anything. If Fenwick gets tipped off, we will never find out. And the men will have our hides if they think-“

“I intend only to tell him that Mardil is in town. He should know, after-“

“After his threat,” Cam murmured.

Anhuil nodded. “I have to tell him.”

“Go ahead then, but be careful! He could be after you as well.”

“Fenwick would never harm me, Cam. He needs me for his plan to work.” She bit her lip. “I have to go find Éomer and warn him.” Without waiting for a response, she bolted out the door.

~~~~~~~~~

Pulling the hood of her cloak up, Anhuil hurried across the grounds to the stables. Catching a stable hand by the arm, the boy startled, then bowed politely. “Good evening, Your Highness,” he greeted her. “Would you like me to-“

“Lord Éomer,” she said, interrupting him. “Where is he?”

“His Majesty is over there, Your Highness,” the young man answered, gesturing over his shoulder. “He’s preparing to-“

“Thank you,” she tossed over her shoulder as she made her way through the crowded stables. Many guests were preparing to leave, and the stable hands bustled about, gathering horses and tack. Éomer stood beside Firefoot, speaking softly to him.

“Éomer,” she said softly.

He turned quickly with grin, which rapidly faded at her expression. “What is it, Ani?”

“I must speak with you.” The urgency in her voice belied her calm demeanor.

Releasing the reins of his horse, he moved toward her. The pleading look in her eyes made him want nothing more than to draw her into his arms, but he held back, aware of the many eyes on them. “Is something wrong?”

“Meet me in the garden at dusk,” she told him quietly. He started to say something but she cut him off. “Please. Do not follow me. Just meet me there.” She glanced around, making sure no one was near. “Be careful, Éomer,” she added softly, quickly turning to walk away.

Éomer stared after her, his brows furrowed. Although her obsession with propriety would easily explain her hesitation to speak here, she was not normally so cryptic.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Standing in the gazebo with her cloak hood up against the chill, the princess did not hear the approaching footsteps. She stared out at the grey winter sky as the light began to fade.

“Hello, Lothíriel.” Spinning quickly around, Anhuil stared wide-eyed at the dark-haired man before her. Fenwick smiled graciously, holding his hands out, palms up. “Not even a greeting for the man you intend to marry?”

“What are you doing here, Mardil?”

He smiled, shaking his head slowly. “That is not very polite, Princess,” he said condescendingly, “Can a man not want to surprise his betrothed?”

“You are supposed to be in Lebennin.”

“And so I was. But I thought it would be a nice surprise to join you here, rather than in Dol Amroth.” He walked slowly toward her. Anhuil’s heart pounded in her chest, her deep green eyes locked on Mardil’s pale grey. “I would ask if you have enjoyed your stay, but I have already heard exactly how much you have enjoyed it.”

“You were spying on me?” she asked, incredulous.

“Of course not. I pay others to do things like that, Lothíriel. I am no fool.” The princess whirled around to leave, her blue velvet cloak billowing out behind her. Fenwick grabbed her arm, so tightly she winced. “You did not tell him, did you, Princess? Did you think I meant not to make good on my threat?”

“Let me show you something, my dear.” Stepping behind her, he turned her to face the line of dense evergreen trees down the path. “Do you see anything?” She shook her head. His grip on her arm tightened as he leaned close to her ear. “There are four men in those trees, expert archers, all of them.”

“What does this have to do with me, Fenwick?” she spat back at him. “Are you planning on having them kill me?”

“And your father and brothers boast about how smart you are, my dear,” he shook his head slowly. “You see, I know who is supposed to meet you here.” She turned to him, her green eyes widened in shock. “Do not look so surprised, my dear. Do you think peasant stable hands cannot be bought?” The wicked smile returned.

She glanced toward the wooded area he had indicated. The evergreens and shrubbery were more than adequate coverage for one who knew how to conceal oneself. And Mardil had said four.

Frantically grasping for composure, she squared her shoulders. “You are bluffing,” she said hesitantly.

Mardil smiled patiently. “Am I?” He produced a small dagger from beneath his cloak, offering it to her. “Take this.” At her puzzled expression, he pressed the hilt of the dagger into her hand. “Throw it.”

“What?”

“Throw the dagger, Princess. Any target you choose.”

Anhuil briefly considered using him for such a target, but if he was not bluffing... She hesitated.

“Throw the dagger, Princess. That tree there will do.” He indicated a wide oak about seven paces away. With a deep breath, Ani flipped the dagger so that the blade rested in her palm, and flung it end over end, burying it accurately in the center of the trunk.

Almost immediately, four thick-shafted arrows formed a tight circle around the shiny hilt still vibrating from her throw. They had come from nowhere.

Anhuil stared, stunned. Her mouth tried to form words that would not come.

“Impressive, are they not?” Mardil asked, as blithely as if discussing the weather.

“You would not dare,” she stammered. “Not here, in the Citadel Gardens.”

“Would I not?” he queried, then sighed exaggeratedly. “In either case, it is an awful long road from here to Edoras. These men will go wherever I tell them. And they will do whatever I tell them.” Anhuil attempted to swallow the lump in her throat, squaring her shoulders.

“What do you want from me, Fenwick?”

“I want you to tell him it is over. I want you to tell him you are marrying me, and that he is not to contact you again. And when we return to Dol Amroth I want you to marry me as soon as possible. I have had enough of the games. I will be watching and listening, Lothíriel, and if you do not obey, your peasant friends will be burying their new king. You cross me, and I may just let him die here, in front of you.” He smiled wryly as she stiffened. Fear was not something she let show often. “And if I find you have had any further contact with him before leaving tomorrow for Dol Amroth, I will order my men to follow him.”

“You cannot...he is a king, Fenwick...” Her voice shook despite her efforts to still it.

“It is not uncommon for brigands to attempt assassinations on kings, now, is it? Any one of these men will deny they had anything to do with me, and would gladly hang in my place. They are fiercely loyal, Princess. Do not risk it.”

Anhuil drew in a ragged breath, blowing it out slowly, not daring to call his bluff. “You must let me tell him my own way. Let me at least say good bye to him.” Tears stung her eyes, but she was determined that he would not see her cry.

The smirk on Fenwick’s face made her palms itch to slap him. “Very well,” he said. “But tell him, unless you would prefer to attend another funeral in that Valar-forsaken country. It is your choice.” Releasing her arm, he strode quickly down the steps. Anhuil stole another glance in the direction of the dense shrubbery. When she looked back, Mardil was nowhere to be seen, and the arrows and dagger had disappeared from the tree.

Her heart leapt into her throat as she saw Éomer crossing the greensward. She half expected to hear the soft whizzing of arrows as he approached, his long strides covering the ground quickly. Taking the steps two at a time, he was suddenly beside her in the gazebo, reaching to pull her into his arms. She pushed away, her gaze falling to the stone below her feet.

“Please, Éomer...” She stepped back.

His brows furrowed as he reached for her again. “What is it, Ani?”

Again she stepped from his reach. “Éomer, you must listen to me,” she told him. “We cannot continue doing this. It is not right. It is unfair to you.”

The king’s expression was incredulous. “What in the name of Béma are you talking about, Ani?”

She closed her eyes, drawing in a deep breath. “I am marrying Mardil, Éomer. It is what I must do. Surely you can understand it is a matter of duty.”

The king blinked, completely blindsided by the sudden change in her demeanor. “Woman, we have been over this.” He reached for her again, but this time did not allow her to pull away. His grip on her arm was gentle but firm.

“I am sorry, Éomer. I cannot-“

Before she could finish, he pulled her to him, his attempt to kiss her thwarted as she turned her head and backed away. “Listen to me, Éomer!”

“Not if you are telling me you are marrying Fenwick. I will not hear it,” he countered firmly.

“You must hear me,” she insisted.

His dark eyes took in the fear in hers, wondering what had her so frightened. “Ani...what happened?”

She made a useless effort to swallow the lump in her throat as she stepped further back from him. “I cannot see you again. You must understand. As it is Mardil will know about the time we have spent together here.”

“How will-“

“Gossip travels fast, Éomer, and I have been far too lax in decorum with you. Tongues are already wagging all over Minas Tirith about us.” She bit her bottom lip thoughtfully, turning away from him. “I know you do not think such things matter, but they do. I am betrothed to another man. We both must accept that.”

He gently turned her to face him. “What in Middle Earth has gotten into you? What could possibly-“ he stopped abruptly, his gaze locked on hers, dark green eyes silently pleading with him to acquiesce. “What has you so frightened, Ani?”

“I am not frightened,” she lied.

Éomer knew she was lying. He stared at her, shaking his head slightly, grasping for comprehension. What could make her so frightened that she would--

“Fenwick,” he muttered softly, the light suddenly dawning.

“Yes,” she answered, even more softly, hoping he understood. “I am going to marry Fenwick. Please do not make this any harder than it must be. I signed a binding contract, and I must fulfill it.”

“He does not love you.”

“This is not a matter of love, Éomer. It is a matter of doing what I promised I would do.” Tears spilled down her cheeks as she walked across the gazebo, holding her cloak tight around her.

“What about what I need? What you need?”

“Sacrifices must be made,” she told him, turning to face him. “If you are to rule successfully, you will have to understand that.”

Éomer stepped back, dark brown eyes meeting hers. He glanced over her shoulder toward the trees, but saw nothing, and turned his gaze back to hers.

“Go back to Rohan. Please do not come after me. It will only make things more difficult.”

“Ani...”

“Go, Éomer. Please.” She wiped at her tears, her dark green eyes pleading with him to understand. Fenwick had to have gotten to her. It was the only explanation. His nod was nearly imperceptible, but she saw it. He would do as she asked, but one way or another, he would get an explanation soon.

“If that is truly what you wish, Princess,” he said, almost bitterly. Knowing he did not mean it did little to ease the sharp pain in her heart upon hearing those words from his lips. Her breath caught in her throat as he reached out. With one finger he traced the line of her jaw, the look in her eyes ripping his heart in two.

If he ever got the chance to face Mardil Fenwick again, he feared he would strangle the man with his bare hands before he would again allow him to hurt her this way. “I love you. I will always love you, Ani.”

She raised her hand to cover his. “And I, you, Éomer. But it cannot be.”

He nodded. “Then kiss me, one last time,” he whispered. The princess started to respond, but was cut off by his lips on hers. Anhuil could feel the trembling of his fingers as he entwined them into her hair, deepening his kiss. “He is here?” he asked simply, his voice all but inaudible to any but her.

“Yes,” she answered against his lips.

Fenwick watched the exchange from his well-concealed spot. He had been pleased with her obedience up to this point, but at the sight of Éomer kissing her, his eyes narrowed. “Damned peasant,” he muttered under his breath.

The archer near Mardil turned his head, peering at the dark-haired man questioningly. Fenwick shook his head slightly, making a palm-down gesture. The man shrugged, lowering his bow, but maintaining his position. She had fulfilled her end of the bargain. He would not fault her that the rube was so persistent. For now.

The princess placed her hands on the king’s chest, drawing on every last ounce of reserve she had to push him away. “Please go, Éomer,” she pled, her voice barely a whisper, fighting every instinct she had to grab hold of him and never let go.

The king turned on his booted heel, and strode quickly away from the gazebo. It was the hardest thing he had ever done, walking away from her. He had never seen her so terrified, but what he had seen in her eyes gave him enough reason to go along with what she had asked of him.

Mardil Fenwick had to have gotten to her somehow, but what could he have said to frighten her so? The question turned over and over in his mind as he forced himself to walk toward the Citadel. He dared not look back, although he could feel her gaze on him as he disappeared up the path.

Anhuil stared after him, silent tears threading their way down her cheeks. The sky had darkened, the first droplets of a cold rain beginning to fall, splattering on the stone walkway. A chill wind blew her cloak behind her, but she did not move, not even when she heard the footsteps behind her on the smooth stone floor of the gazebo.

“Very good, Lothíriel. See? We both kept our ends of the bargain. You do as I ask, and your hayseed king lives. It is a very simple agreement. Even you should be able to understand it.” He moved to stand in front of her, but she did not look at him. Reaching out, he wiped a tear from her cheek with one finger. “How revoltingly romantic,” Fenwick mused. “Tears for a lost love.” He glanced toward the path down which the king had disappeared, then back at her. “I am pleased to see you can be reasoned with.”

“If any harm comes to him, Fenwick, I will slit your throat myself.” It was not a threat, but a fact.

He laughed out loud. “You must learn to rein in these emotions.”

“You need not worry about that, Mardil,” she answered, her tone completely flat, her gaze still unmoving. “My emotions will never be your concern.” She turned slowly and walked toward the path. The rain had begun falling heavily, but she seemed not to notice, not even bothering to pull up the hood of her cloak.

Mardil watched her, the corner of his mouth turning up slightly.

He loved winning.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Minas Tirith
22 HIthui, 3019 T.A.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Anhuil held to her word, steering clear of Éomer over the next several days. As much as she detested giving in to Mardil Fenwick, she would not dare risk any harm coming to Éomer. She believed the king had understood her unspoken pleas that evening in the gazebo, but she longed for a chance to explain to him, and to warn him.

Late one night, the princess lay curled on her side in her bed, staring at the moonlit window. A sudden thought occurred to her, and she sat straight up, nearly smacking herself for not having thought of it before. She leapt from the bed, walking quietly to the door that separated her room from Cam’s. Peeking in, she could see her friend sleeping soundly, blonde hair spread across the pillows.

She moved to her wardrobe, choosing a pair of leggings and a long tunic for ease of movement, and her soft-soled boots. She dressed hurriedly. Moving back to the bed, she shoved the pillows under the quilt and pulled it up to look as if she was sleeping, then peeked in on Cam once more.

Satisfied, she moved to the wooden paneled wall beside the fireplace. Running her fingers along the edge, she found the latch just as Boromir had shown her when they were kids. A small smile crossed her face at his memory. Boromir would have approved, she decided. She lit a small tallow candle with the flint box on the mantle, and slipped into the passage, pulling the door shut behind her.

Anhuil moved silently through the stone passage, counting the rooms as she passed. Quietly pushing open the last door, she silently prayed that she had found the right room. Firelight flickered in the hearth, casting a warm glow across the ornate rug on the floor. She emerged from the small opening, setting the candle down gently on a table near the fireplace. Her soft boots made no sound as she made her way across the rug to the bed.

A pace from the bed she stopped, staring at the man in front of her. Éomer lay face down in the center of the big bed, his head resting on his arms, his blonde hair spread across the pillow and his shoulders. Anhuil’s gaze swept over his muscled back, to where the coverlet lay across his narrow waist. Desperately trying not to wonder if there was anything between him and the covers, she stepped closer.

She stood beside the bed, watching him sleep, startled slightly by the feelings it stirred in her. That she loved him, even wanted him, was not a surprise to her. His kiss and his touch inflamed things in her she never knew existed. But this time, it was not his hands or lips that caused the wave of desire that washed over her, nearly buckling her knees, but the mere sight of him. She could smell the clean scent of his soap as she approached, and her hands itched to move over the taut muscles of his back, to feel his skin under her fingertips...she closed her eyes in an effort to rein in her ragged breathing, but that only resulted in vivid mental images of her brushing his hair from his shoulders and pressing her lips to the back of his neck.

Drawing in a deep breath, she slowly opened them, and crawled up on to the bed, sitting beside him. He still had not moved, his breathing slow and even. Full lips slightly parted, his hair still looked slightly damp from the bath. Tentatively, she reached out a hand, lightly touching his shoulder, brushing his hair aside. The sensation of his warm skin under her fingers sent a jolt through her that she felt to her toes. “Éomer,” she whispered softly.

Before she could think, she found herself flat on her back, pinned beneath him on the bed. A sharp dagger pressed against her throat as she looked up into his blazing eyes. The fury in them quickly dissipated with recognition, replaced swiftly by shock. He withdrew the dagger and dropped it to the floor beside the bed with a thunk.

“Ani,” he said, more of a breath than a spoken word. “Gods, I am sorry. You startled me. Béma forbeodan...I nearly killed you, woman!” He slid his arms under her, pulling her against him, then raised himself to look down at her. “What are you doing here? How did you get in here?”

Still trying to catch her breath, she half-smiled at him and swallowed, suddenly realizing how dry her mouth was. He still lay on top of her, his weight holding her in place on the bed. Anhuil’s eyes raked over his bare chest above her, and the words she had been about to say left her again. She was acutely aware of his solid, muscular form pressing into her as reminded herself to breathe. And she no longer had any questions about what lay between him and the sheets.

“I was...I came to...”

Éomer arched one eyebrow in question, apparently unconcerned by his lack of raiment. Her gaze dropped again briefly, then raised back to his. Elbereth, she thought to herself. Please not that smile. Not now.

The king’s lips curved into a devilish grin as he realized her discomfort. Anhuil closed her eyes. The erotic combination of watching him sleep, and now being pressed to the mattress by his powerful body was overwhelming.

His arms still around her, Éomer could feel the tension in her body beneath his. He vaguely remembered he was waiting for the answer to a question, but suddenly forgot the question, as his mouth claimed hers. It didn’t matter why she was here; all that mattered was she was here. In his bed, in his arms.

Threading her hands into his damp hair, she matched his passion, all thoughts of Mardil Fenwick disappearing completely as she surrendered to his kiss. Finally pulling back, Éomer rolled on to his back, pulling her on top of him and smiling breathlessly at her. “I am not sure if this is a dream or not. If it is, I pray I never wake.”

“It is no dream,” she finally managed to say.

“No, I suppose not,” he agreed, sliding a hand down her back. “If it were, you would not be so overdressed.”

She smacked his chest playfully as she sat up, throwing the covers back over him. “You are incorrigible.”

“Me?” he asked, incredulous, sitting up himself, the covers falling to his waist again. “You come barging into my chambers in the middle of the night, crawling in bed with me as I lay sleeping, kissing me like a little trollop and then have the nerve to call ME incorrigible?”

“Did you just call me a trollop?” She backed up slightly, indignant.

“No, I said you kiss like a trollop,” he stated matter-of-factly.

The princess flipped her hair, feigning haughtiness. “How would you know? Have you kissed many trollops?”

Éomer grinned again. “Many, many trollops,” he answered. “And a few strumpets while I was at it. And a couple of tarts for good measure. You kiss like a trollop. Most definitely.”

Anhuil smiled sweetly. “And do you like being kissed by a trollop?”

“Only this one,” he said, pulling her down to him again and kissing her soundly. She laughed, propping herself on her elbow and toying with the blonde waves that spilled across the pillow beneath him.

“I did have a purpose in coming here, you know,” she told him. “I wanted to explain what happened the other day, in the garden. I was so frightened...”

He gently coiled the ends of her curls around his fingertips. “What happened? What did he say to you?”

“I am sorry I could not tell you then. I was waiting for you to arrive and suddenly he was there, as if he appeared out of nowhere.” She paused, licking her bottom lip. “Éomer...he threatened to kill you.”

The king chuckled. “That spineless weasel does not have it in him to kill anyone.”

“No, he does not,” she acceded. “But Mardil is a wealthy man. He would not have to do it himself.” She drew in a deep breath, blowing it out slowly. “I meant to warn you that he was in town, but he got there before you, and....Éomer, he had archers with him.”

“Ani...he would not--“

“There were four archers in the trees, the evergreens along the path.”

“Come now, Princess. You know that--“

“Éomer, listen to me! I am trying to tell you that he demonstrated for me exactly how deadly accurate these men are. Four expert bowmen had arrows trained on your back, and if I did not say exactly what Mardil wanted...” she shivered slightly. “Please be careful, meleth nín. He is dangerous. If he were to find out about me being here now...” She let her words trail off, unable to speak it.

“I did not survive Pelennor and the Black Gates to be taken out by the likes of Mardil Fenwick.” He sighed deeply, wrapping his arms around her.

She laid her head on his sculpted chest, listening to his heart, delicate fingers tracing through the crisp hair. “I could not bear it if anything happened to you, Éomer. We are leaving tomorrow...please promise me you will be careful.”

“Nothing will happen to me, Ani,” he told her, kissing the top of her head as she snuggled under his chin. "Gamling will hardly leave my side for a moment. I have to run both he and Éothain off to get a bath in peace."

“I know, melethnín,” she told him, “but that does not make me worry less.”

Éomer closed his eyes as her fingers continued to trace absently across his chest. Grasping her hand with his, he cleared his throat and smiled down at her. “If you wish to remain properly clothed, Princess, that is probably not a good idea.”

“Speaking of which...” she said, raising herself up and looking down at him. “Here you are in naught but what the Valar gave you at birth, comparing ME to a trollop!”

“I was not exactly expecting company,” he explained.

One elegant eyebrow arched. “You often sleep in only your skin?”

“You should try it, Princess.”

“Perhaps I shall,” she agreed.

Éomer groaned, throwing his head back into the pillow and pulling the other one over his face. That was a mental picture he definitely did not need right now. “Thank you, Ani,” he said, his voice muffled by the pillow. “I am sure with that image burned in my mind I shall sleep quite well now.”

The princess giggled, pulling the pillow from his face. “You deserve it.”

He sat up and grabbed her playfully, pulling her into his embrace and kissing her deeply. “I will miss you, Ani,” he whispered. “Gods, but I am tired of being parted from you.”

“I know, meleth nín. I will find a way to be rid of Fenwick or die trying. I will send word as soon as I have something.”

He lifted her chin to look into her eyes. “Listen to me. This is the last time, Ani. If I do not hear from you before the first of the new year, I will be coming for you. Do you understand? The next time I see you, I will make you my wife.”

She raised herself up, looking down into his dark eyes. “Do not make promises you cannot keep,” she chided gently.

“I do not,” he reminded her.

~~~~~~~~~~
Dol Amroth
10 Girithron, 3019 T.A.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sitting in the window of her chamber, the princess drew her knees up and leaned forward, resting her folded arms on them. Her gaze traveled out across the sea without really seeing it. She closed her eyes, remembering the way the wind had moved across the grass in the fields of Rohan, looking so much like the waves of her beloved ocean. She half-hoped that when she opened her eyes, those fields would be outside her window instead of the wide expanse of water she was so used to.

Anhuil had never thought she would feel so at home anywhere other than near the shore, but now she felt oddly out of place.

Opening her eyes, she let her eyes wander across the harbor. Ships moved lazily across the early evening horizon. One small tear ran down her cheek, and she wiped at it impatiently with the back of her hand, remembering Éomer’s words to her before she had left Minas Tirith.

* “The next time I see you, I will make you my wife.”*

Upon returning to Dol Amroth, Fenwick also had made good on his intention to move up their wedding. After lengthy discussions with Imrahil, they had settled on a date not long after the Winter Solstice, which now was less than a fortnight away. She had put up no argument for fear of his retaliating against Éomer, relying on the king’s promise to come for her. In fact, she had been downright compliant when it came to Fenwick.

A week after their return, Cam burst into her room without knocking. Thrusting a piece of parchment and a quill at her, the blonde crossed her arms impatiently, staring.

“What?” the princess asked.

“Write him a letter,” the blonde ordered.

Looking down at the blank parchment and the quill, Anhuil raised her gaze to meet Cam’s insistent azure eyes.

Blowing out her breath impatiently, the blonde walked to her friend. Picking up the quill, she placed it in Ani’s hand. “Write,” she said, moving the parchment closer to where the princess sat in the window seat. “You do remember how, do you not?” At the princess’ blank stare, she grew exasperated. “Your father is sending a missive to Éomer by courier this morning. If you hurry, you can send him a message of your own and no one will be the wiser. I persuaded the rider to wait for a few moments. But you better make haste with it. He will not wait all day.”

“Cam...I-“

Picking up a small glass ink pot from the dresser, she plunked it down beside the princess. “Write, Ani,” the blonde chided. With a nod, Anhuil grabbed the parchment. After staring at it a few minutes, she began to write in her small, flowing script, remembering to use the common tongue instead of her usual Tengwar.

With a smile, the blonde nodded. “Keep writing. I will go and tell the rider to wait a bit longer.”

Anhuil didn’t even notice as the door clicked behind her friend as she carefully dipped the tip of the quill into the ink and continued writing.

~~~~~~~~
Dol Amroth
12 Girithron, 3019 T.A.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Fenwick leaned back in the chair, watching the barmaid saunter past, tray balanced on her fingertips at shoulder level. He paid careful attention to the sway of her hips beneath the tight fitting waistline of her corset.

“I still cannot believe you had him cornered like that and just let him go, Mardil.” Neville said, shaking his head.

“I promised the princess that if she did as I asked I would let him live,” Fenwick explained, for what seemed like the thousandth time. “Why is this so hard for you to grasp? If he is dead, then I no longer hold sway over her, you dolt. The minute he dies, she loses all motivation to obe