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The Princess and the King

Chapter 6: Chapter 6

by JMac

Chapter 6

The riders of Dol Amroth rapidly approached the gates of
Edoras. When she could finally distinguish her father’s
horse from the rest of the soldiers, Lothiriel breathed a
sigh of relief. Imrahil had barely given his horse time to
stop before he dismounted and strode over to Lothiriel.

“Lotty!” Imrahil crushed her to him in a tight embrace.

“We’ve been so worried about you,” Lothiriel said, her face
buried against her father’s chest.

“I had no idea of the troubles back at home,” Imrahil said.
“If I had. . .”

“I know you would have come back.”

“I’m here now,” Imrahil said. “And I’m glad you’re all
right.”

Eomer watched the reunion between father and daughter with
amusement, until he realized he was about to have his own
family reunion. Riding in the midst of Dol Amroth’s troops
was Eowyn.

Eomer took the reins as she climbed off the horse. “Don’t
tell me the palace life at Gondor is already boring you? Or
did they kick you out for improper behavior?” Eomer asked,
with a grin.

“Neither. Well, maybe a little of both,” Eowyn admitted.

Eomer laughed.

“Faramir spends every waking hour in Ithilien. I foolishly
promised not to go within 10 leagues of danger and the
forests of Ithilien are still filled with orcs.” Eowyn
sighed heavily. “In Minas Tirith, I was forever
suppressing the urge to ride out to see him. It is easier
to miss him at a distance, than to know he is nearby but I
cannot see him. Besides, I heard about the trouble here and
wanted to make sure that after I was married I had a home to
return to.”

Eomer nodded grimly and updated her on the recent attacks.

“Will this war ever end?” Eowyn asked.

“At least we still have a homeland to defend, for a while
not even that was certain,” Eomer reminded her gently.

Eowyn glanced at Lothiriel and Imrahil who were talking in
quiet tones at the edges of the gates of Edoras. “So, is
this your Princess?”

“She is not *my* Princess,” Eomer said.

Eowyn grinned. “I heard all about your introduction to
Lotty, several times in fact. Imrahil insisted on hearing
the story every night from our escort.”

Eomer groaned. “He didn’t.”

“He did.” Eowyn grinned. “It seems he couldn’t quite
imagine his sweet and gentle daughter taking down the King
of the Mark. I had a hard time believing it myself.” Eowyn
giggled.

“It was NOT funny,” Eomer said.

Eowyn laughed harder.

The sound of their laughter caught Lothiriel’s attention and
she looked towards Eowyn. Imrahil brought her over to make
proper introductions.

Eowyn smiled warmly. “So this is the infamous Lotty, who
traipses through the Paths of the Dead and takes down Kings
without batting an eye.”

Lothiriel blushed. “It wasn’t quite like that.”

Eowyn leaned in towards Lothiriel and whispered, "Don't tell
the men that, make them think you did it on purpose.
That'll keep them guessing."

Lothiriel grinned.

* * * * * * *

They spend the afternoon sitting upon the wide porch of
Meduseld discussing the events that had taken place in Dol
Amroth. Imrahil was more than a little surprised to hear
the long and treacherous journey Lothiriel had undertaken to
get word to him. He listened intently as she recounted the
tales of the attacks.

Eomer and Imrahil compared the attacks on Rohan and Dol
Amroth, trying to discern the similarities and differences
and discover what weaknesses could be found in their enemy.
Lothiriel had never been allowed in on such discussions
before and listened with rapt attention. She was determined
to learn all she could about battle tactics.

The sun was sinking low into the sky, bathing Meduseld in a
golden glow, when a servant of the castle approached Eomer
and spoke to him softly. Eomer smiled. “Dinner awaits us.”

Lothiriel had become so accustomed to eating within the
dining hall of the eored that she headed for the steps.
Eomer cleared his throat getting her attention. With a
slight jerk of his head he motioned towards Meduseld.
Lothiriel raised her eyebrows, realizing this was a night
for formal dining.

The dining hall in Meduseld was laid out with the finest
linens and utensils. Candles lined the tables. It was much
more formal and much more elaborate than any meal she’d
eaten since she’d left home.

“Dinners at Dol Amroth are not much different than at
Edoras, Lotty. You should be feeling quite at home,”
Imrahil commented.

“I think that to myself everyday,” Lothiriel said.

Eomer hid a grin, but his eyes met Lothiriel’s from across
the table and he winked at her.

As dinner ended the discussion fell back towards matters of
war. Lothiriel was all but ignored as they discussed
possible courses of action. For not the first time,
Lothiriel wished she was more like Eowyn, who spoke easily
of war and offered suggestions that even Imrahil took
seriously.

“Lothiriel has seen more of the attackers and the Paths of
the Dead than anyone,” Eomer said. “What is your opinion
on it?”

“I saw nothing within the paths that would lead me to
believe that anyone was hiding within them,” she said.

Eowyn leaned forward in her seat, eager to hear more. “What
was it like? What was in there? Until you, only Aragorn
was able to lead anyone through the Paths unscathed.”

“It was dark,” Lothiriel said sheepishly. “There wasn’t a
whole lot to see except. Some carvings were upon the walls,
but it was written in a script I’ve never seen. If I'd
known the significance of the journey I would have paid more
attention.”

“Elfhelm has been through it, as well,” Eomer said. “He
has deemed it safe.”

Imrahil nodded. “Very well then, I will leave at first
light and ride for Dunharrow tomorrow. It will save
countless leagues off the trek.”

“Tomorrow? So soon?” Lothiriel asked.

Imrahil nodded. “This has been put off long enough. I
won’t have my people wait another day for my return.”

Imrahil looked to Eomer. “Thank you for taking care of my
daughter. I am in your debt.”

“It’s been a pleasure,” Eomer said.

“I’m glad to hear it, because I’m about to impose on your
hospitality once again,” Imrahil said.

“Name it.”

Imrahil sighed. “Can Lotty stay here for a time? She is
far safer behind the walls of Edoras than upon the open
roads. And I don’t know what we will encounter on our way
back to Dol Amroth. There’s no way I would be able to focus
upon the battle at hand, if I had to spend every hour
worrying for her safety.”

Eomer nodded. “I would be honored. She is welcome to stay
as long as she likes.”

Imrahil raised his eyebrows. “You may change your mind on
that before she leaves. My daughter can be quite. .
.stubborn.”

Lothiriel listened as they planned her future without giving
a thought to her opinion. Anger boiled just under the
surface, but it was quickly quenched by embarrassment. She
was far too old to be passed off like a child that needed
constant attention. She wondered if her life would ever be
her own or if she would forever be at the mercy of other
people's wishes.

Imrahil turned to Lothiriel. “I know you don’t want to
stay. But you’ve done more than enough to aid your country.
Words can’t express how proud I am of you.” Imrahil reached
across the table and took her hand. “But now, I need you to
stay here. Knowing you're safe is the best thing you can
do. There is no shame in it."

Lothiriel nodded. Her father said there was no shame in it,
but she felt shamed nonetheless. If she was a man, he would
not ask this of her. If she were stronger like the Lady
Eowyn, he might not leave her behind. But she knew she
would be a burden, and she felt ashamed.

“Do not tell me you already tire of Edoras?” Imrahil said.
“You had been begging me for years to take you on a journey.
You should make the most of it. Take the opportunity to
learn something new. The Rohirrim are the finest horsemen
upon Middle-Earth. None are better, not even the Elves.”

"Would you mind if I took those lessons up tomorrow?"

Imrahil frowned at her. "What plan to you have in that head
of yours, Lothiriel, I can almost see the wheels spinning."

"Could I at least accompany you to Dunharrow before you
leave?" Lothiriel hated the fact that she had to ask
permission.

Imrahil sighed. “I’m sure Eomer has better things to do,
than to take you roaming about Rohan.”

Eomer smiled. “Roaming about Rohan sounds like a grand idea
to me.”

* * * * * * * * * *

The ride to Dunharrow was pleasant. Lothiriel and Imrahil
rode close together. It was the last time she would see him
in many weeks, so she made the most of it. She gave Imrahil
a stack notes to pass on to Erchirion that she’d been
writing since she’d first arrived, detailing her adventures.
Lothiriel caught him up on the news of home. And Imrahil
told her tales of the battlefields of Gondor.

By nightfall, camp had been set upon the fields of the the
Firienfeld

After a companionable meal under the stars, everyone went to
bed early. Eowyn and Lothiriel were sharing a tent. Eowyn
brought her sword and was going through a set of training
maneuvers. Lothiriel sat upon the edge of her cot as she
watched Eowyn bring the blade around in graceful swinging
arcs.

“I have never seen a woman wield a blade,” Lothiriel said.

“Neither had any of the women of Minas Tirith, until they
met me.” Eowyn smiled broadly. It was obvious she was
quite proud of that fact.

“May I hold it?”

“Certainly,” Eowyn said. “Many women of the Mark learn how
to fight. I was fighting with Eomer when this sword was
taller than I was.”

Lothiriel held the sword in her hands. She liked the heavy
weight of it and the way the hilt felt within her palm. It
made her feel strong, dangerous.

Eowyn studied her a long moment. “You aren’t like the other
ladies in the royal court I’ve met in Minas Tirith.”

“If they are anything like the ladies in Dol Amroth, I
should hope not,” Lothiriel said. “They are the most dull
bunch of women I’ve ever met in my life. All they do is
spend their time comparing the anatomy of the royal guards.”

Eowyn laughed. “You are right about that!”

Lothiriel handed the sword back to her. “I wish I could
wield a sword. I suppose that is an art best learned as a
child.”

"Not necessarily. I could give you a few lessons, if you
aren't afraid of hard work." Eowyn offered the words as a
challenge.

"I can handle a challenge," Lothiriel said, raising her
eyes to meet Eowyn’s challenge.

Eowyn smiled. “We’ll see.”

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

Eomer retired to his tent. From the tent next to his came
the sound of girlish giggling. It had been so long since
he’d heard the sound come from Eowyn that he’d almost
forgotten how it had sounded. He was glad to hear it. No
one deserved happiness more than his sister.

Eomer pulled off his armor and boots and sat down upon his
cot. The ride to Edoras was far from a short ride, but
instead of satisfying his desire to have the open sky above
him, it only inflamed it. He lay back on his cot. The
dingy frayed roof of the tent stared back at him. As Third
Marshal, all he’d had was the stars for a ceiling. Eomer
sighed realizing he preferred it that way.

The silence of the autumn night was disrupted by a loud
shriek. A call rang out from one of his guards. The call
of attack. Eomer sprung from his cot, grabbing his sword,
before rushing out of the tent.

In the tent beside his, Eowyn opened the flap of the tent,
sword in her hand. Lothiriel peaked out of the tent behind
her. Members of the eored and Prince Imrahil’s guards
rushed past them towards the Path’s of the Dead. “Stay
there!” Eomer growled.

Eomer followed his men up the trail. There was no time to
get to the horses, so the men were on foot. Imrahil caught
up with him. They heard the clank of metal on metal.
Somewhere in the darkness in front of them, the battle had
begun.

Imrahil said, “Can you hold them long enough for my guards
to get mounted?”

Eomer nodded. He rushed around one of the standing stones
blocking the trail.

Before him, rushing from the Path’s of the Dead came a
never-ending flow of darkly clad enemies. Their armor bore
no distinguishing mark that Eomer could see in the darkness.
But in all honesty, he didn’t care who his attackers were,
he cared only about protecting his people and his country.

Compared to other battles, this one would never have songs
sung about it, nor would it be remembered in history except
by the families of the few that were lost.

To Eomer time seemed to stretch during a battle. Seconds
could last a lifetime. Minutes were an eternity.
Everything else in the world faded from his mind, except for
the blade in his hand and his opponent in front of him.

In the midst of intense fighting, Eomer heard the sound of
horses. The sound was a comfort, and he redoubled his
attack. However, as the horses passed him, he caught a
glimpse of Eowyn astride her horse, blade in her hand,
racing along behind Imrahil’s guards. She leaned down in
the saddle, deftly taking out one of the enemy, before
disappearing up the trail. Eomer cursed at her in Rohirric
but it was lost amid the sounds of hooves.

Despite the eored’s best efforts, some of the attackers made
it past their defenses and headed towards the campsite.
Eomer yelled for some of his men to guard their rear. As he
turned to give them orders, he froze. In the distance,
standing outside of her tent, was Lothiriel. A sword was
clutched in her hand. Fighting had broken out around her.

From behind him, he became aware of an attacker. He spun on
his heals, swinging his blade as he turned. One fell and
two more took their place. On even terrain in boots he
wouldn’t have had any trouble. Without boots, it was a
different story. His foot slipped out from under him as he
stepped on a rock. That small break in form was all the
mistake his attacker needed. The sword was swung low and
Eomer turned his body away from it to let his armor deflect
the brunt of the blow. A split-second later, he remembered
he wasn’t wearing armor. Instantly, Eomer pivoted to block
the attack, but came up short. A blow that should have
simply knocked him off balance, easily sliced through his
shirt, grazing his side with a long gash.

Before the attacker had a chance to get in another hit,
Elfhelm rode past, neatly sheering off the enemy’s head.
Eomer raised his sword in acknowledgement and threw himself
back into the battle.

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

As the fighting came to an end, Eomer found himself at the
entrance to the Paths of the Dead. Most of the enemy had
been driven back, chased by Imrahil’s forces. Those that
hadn’t lay strewed about the Firienfeld.

Eowyn was riding hard as she came out of the tunnel. Her
hair was flying out behind her and her sword was bloody in
her hands.

"Imrahil is trailing the attackers on towards Erech." Eowyn
leaned on her sword, catching her breath. Her eyes were
bright with excitement. "I never thought I would live to
see the Paths of the Dead."

"And I never thought I would live to see my sister taking up
a sword in battle again," Eomer growled.

Eowyn sighed as she cleaned off her sword. "What would you
prefer I do? Stand idly by in my tents while the battle
rages around me, like Lotty?"

At the mention of Lothiriel's name, Eomer's eyes widened.
"Where is she?"

"She is not with you?" Eowyn glanced around, all traces of
sibling banter left her. There was no sign of Lothiriel
anywhere.

"Did you see her ride off?" Eomer pulled on his boots.

"Well, no I did not, I was preoccupied by a few dozen
enemies at the moment," Eowyn said.

Not wasting a moment, Eomer called for his horse. He swung
into the saddle. "I'm riding back to Edoras, if. . .if I
don't find her I'll be back."

Eowyn nodded, she put a hand on his knee. "I'm sure she's
all right. She may not know how to fight, but she's no
fool."

Though the battle was over, Eomer was fighting a silent one
with himself as he rode down the mountain path. He was both
worried and angry. Worried for Lothiriel’s safety. And
furious at her for putting herself into harms way. She
should have had the sense to hide, Eomer thought. She was
smarter than that.

“Lotty!!” Eomer yelled.

* * * * * * *

Lothiriel was half way down the switchbacks of Dunharrow
when her horse threw her. The attack had made him skittish
and he'd been reluctant to go down the steep trail. A
misstep on a rock was all the enticement he needed to toss
her painfully onto her bottom.

Lothiriel hadn't even considered walking back up. The trail
was impossibly steep, so she kept going down the mountain,
certain that eventually someone would come after her. She
sighed. She was so tired of running away every time danger
presented itself. It made her feel like a coward. Although
she was terrified and felt anything but heroic, she'd rather
stand and face what was to come, than leave everyone else
behind to do the fighting.

The moon had risen and the path was well lit. The stars
twinkled overhead. She'd walked alone before. She could do
it again. If not for the fight, the night would have been
lovely. It was cool, but not uncomfortably so.

Lothiriel had made it down the mountain trail and was a half
league away when she heard the sound of hooves. Soon after
a deep voice broke the silence of the night. "Lotty!"

"Over here!" she yelled.

Eomer slowed his horse to a stop.

"It's about time you showed up," Lothiriel said.

Eomer got off the horse. "Where’s your horse?"

"He threw me, the old brute. He doesn't particularly care
for battles or steep trails," Lothiriel said. "I can't say
that I blame him."

"You probably deserved it," Eomer said.

"What on earth for?"

"What for?" Eomer stormed over to her. "You couldn't just
stay in your tent, you had to go out in the middle of a
battle with a sword? How many times have you fought with a
sword. HOW MANY?"

"None. But -"

"But you think you can just jump into battle like you're
some warrior?" His face was red with anger. "Do you have a
death wish? In the past few days you've almost been killed
twice!"

Eomer looked down at her. Lothiriel's eyes were wide, her
cheeks flushed, her hair had loosened from the braid and
fanned out upon her shoulders. She was alive. Not another
casualty on the battlefield. Alive.

Without consciously realizing what he was doing, Eomer
pulled her to him. His lips sought out hers, as if he
needed her touch to convince him she was all right. Her
soft lips were wonderfully alive with warmth.

The sound of her muffled protests brought him quickly back
to his senses. No sooner had he let her go, than she swung
her fist at him. He staggered backwards, grabbing his nose.
Blood oozed down between his fingers.

Lothiriel's mouth dropped open in a stunned silence. Eomer
glared at her, as he wiped his nose on his sleeve, wincing
as he did so.

Eomer crossed the distance between him, not at all certain
of what he was going to do or to say. Lothiriel took
several steps backwards obviously intimidated by his
approach. Eomer stopped, scaring her away was certainly not
what he had in mind. She gazed at him warily. The
confusion on her face was plain to see.

Eomer felt as confused as she looked. The situation had
gotten completely out of hand.

"Let's go, it's long way to Edoras," Eomer said.

Before she could protest, Eomer hoisted Lothiriel roughly up
into the saddle and swung up behind her. He wrapped his
arms around her waist to grasp the reins. They rode up the
trail in silence.

The thoughts that were running through Lothiriel's head were
so loud that she scarcely noticed the quiet. She couldn't
think straight. How had this happened? One moment she was
ridiculously happy to see him and the next moment she was
punching him. What was wrong with her? And that didn't even
begin to cover what happened in between. Yelling. Kissing.

Lothiriel cringed with regret as she replayed the last few
minutes over and over again in her mind. Whatever her
intention had been, she'd never meant to hurt him. It
wasn't the kiss, so much as the suddenness of his actions
that caught her off guard. For one brief moment, she
actually wondered if he was going to hit her and then - -

Lothiriel sighed. She had been kissed before. The men of
Dol Amroth, who put propriety above all else, were not
immune to a stolen kiss along a secluded stretch of beach at
night. Those kisses however, were nothing compared to the
fierce urgency of Eomer's lips against hers. It terrified
her and excited her and confused her. And because of her
stupidity she doubted it would happen again.

Lothiriel had been so lost in her thoughts that it was some
time before she realized that Eomer had spoken. "What?"

"When you fell from the horse, were you injured?" Eomer
asked.

"I thought you said I deserved it," Lothiriel said.

Eomer sighed. He had fully intended to apologize, but the
ridicule in her voice changed his mind. "You deserved more
than that, foolishly running into battle."

"I wasn't fighting but I wish I had been," Lothiriel said,
angrily.

"Then what were you doing? Going out for a leisurely
stroll?" Eomer said.

"Running away." Lothiriel sighed. "Eowyn gave me an extra
sword and told me to stay put. And that's what I was doing
until they decided to take the battle inside my tent!"
Lothiriel's voice rose as her anger grew. "I wasn't
fighting. I was running. I'm a coward." Lothiriel said
bitterly. "Is that what you wanted to hear? I'm a coward
who can do nothing more than run and hide."

She was furious at herself for her admission. And furious
at Eomer for forcing her into admitting it. How dare he get
pleasure out of her weakness. How dare he. She was tempted
to turn around and punch him again, but took a deep breath.
A sudden wave of homesickness washed over her. She wished
she was on the beach, or in her bedroom back at home.
Anywhere but here and now.

"You are no coward," Eomer said, softly. "Sometimes
surviving is more courageous an act that taking up a sword.
I should not have lost my temper. I - - I was worried for
your safety."

When Eomer saw her amid the sounds of battle, she had looked
anything but cowardly. The sword was balanced perfectly in
her grip. She was poised on her heels ready to spring into
throes of battle. Eomer had seen enough battle to last him
a lifetime. And he tired of innocent people being caught up
in it. Over the course of the war he had seen too much. Too
much battle. Too much death. Boys barely strong enough to
lift a sword. Peaceful Rohirrim caught unaware. Woman.
Children. None were spared. Eomer knew that better than
most and he wasn't willing to sacrifice another life
needlessly. It would not happen again. Not while he was
King.

"How did things go?" she asked.

"Your father and his men are trailing the attackers towards
Erech," Eomer said.

"So much for a proper goodbye. He'll be chasing them clear
to Dol Amroth," Lothiriel said. "Once my father sets his
course there is little that will turn him back."

Eomer nodded. “I am sure he will send a messenger, one that
will make it through this time. You won’t be left in the
dark like before.”

“I hope not. I’ve had enough of darkness to last me a
lifetime,” she said.

Eomer looked at the sky. “I’m afraid, you have a few hours
left til sunrise. If we’re lucky we’ll make it to Edoras
before dawn.”

They rode on in silence. The tension between them somewhat
lessened. Lothiriel's hair blew back and tickled Eomer's
nose. He wrinkled his nose against it, and winced.

Eomer sighed. He figured he was lucky to have gotten away
with only a broken nose. She probably thought him every bit
as savage as he felt. His quick temper had gotten him into
trouble on more than one occasion during his life, but never
had he frightened a woman. And a Princess at that. After
his actions, it was a wonder she agreed to ride with him at
all. Not that she wasn't doing everything in her power to
keep from touching him. Her posture was stiff and formal in
front of him.

"Relax," Eomer said. "It is a long way to Edoras. And I
promise I don't bite. . . .unless you ask me to."

"Mmmmph. I didn't ask you earlier and that certainly didn't
seem to stop you," Lothiriel retorted. "Do you learn all
your manners from your horses?"

"Only the good ones."

"Well, then, you'll have to educate me properly," Lothiriel
teased. "Valar forbid, I stay in Rohan without behaving
like a horse."

Eomer considered it a moment while they rode slowly down the
road. "My personal favorite is the traditional Rohirrim
welcome greeting." Eomer made a throaty horse sound and
blew into the back of Lothiriel's hair, nuzzling his face
against her neck.

"But that welcome is only used for people we like," Eomer
said, with a laugh.

"I should hate to see what your greeting is for someone you
don't like," Lothiriel said.

"We kiss." Eomer grinned.

Somewhat reluctantly, Lothiriel laughed. Eomer winced
audibly, as she leaned back against him. Since he’d been
injured, he had ignored the burning pain in his side. But
now as the heat of battle wore off, the pain became more
noticeable. Lothiriel’s weight against him made it worse.

“You’re hurt!”

“I’m fine, it’s just a scratch,” Eomer said.

Lothiriel turned around, trying to see over her shoulder.
She pulled his hand from his wound. It was covered in
blood.

“Stop this horse! Right now,” Lothiriel ordered.

Eomer did not plan on stopping. Lothiriel did not plan on
going any farther. She tried to take the reins from him.
Firefoot did not like the conflicting messages and whinnied
loudly in protest.

“Stop!” Lothiriel said.

“Why?”

“I’m not going to have you bleeding to death,” she said.
“Now stop the horse, or I won’t give you a moment’s peace
the rest of the ride.”

Eomer gave in. He climbed off the horse and Lothiriel
followed him.

“Let’s see it,” she ordered. Her voice reminded him of one
of the healers at Meduseld.

“What do you know about healing?” Eomer asked, somewhat
amused at her sudden concern for his health. He pulled his
shirt up.

“Nothing.”

Eomer smiled. “So what do you suggest we do about it?”

She frowned at him. “What do you usually do?”

“Leave it til I get home.”

Lothiriel bent down to look at it. A deep gash went along
the line of his ribs. “It looks awful! And you were just
going to go all the way to Edoras bleeding all over
yourself? Are all men as stubborn as you?”

Eomer looked down at it. “I was too busy worrying about you
to worry about myself.”

“Oh, put all the blame on me, excellent tactic,” She knelt
down and ripped out the hem of her skirt. “Let’s at least
bind it with something to stop the bleeding,” she said.
“If you fell out of the saddle there’s no way I could get
you back up again.”

Eomer smirked. “You probably would just leave me at the
side of the road and ride on without giving me a second
thought.”

“Yes, but I’d feel very guilty and it would ruin a perfectly
good night’s ride,” she said.

Eomer laughed. Lothiriel smiled at him. She tried to hand
the strip of cloth to him.

He shook his head. “You’re the healer, not me.”

Eomer held back a grin as Lothiriel stared at his wound in
serious contemplation. After some consideration, she placed
the middle of the strip of material around the gash and
pulled the ends tight around his waist. Her hands brushed
over the bare skin of his stomach. He jumped under her
gentle touch.

“Did I hurt you?” she asked, concerned. “Is it too tight?”

Eomer shook his head.

After securely tying her bandage, she pushed his shirt down
and smiled. “Good as new.” Lothiriel looked at the
Firefoot. “I’ll ride behind you, so I won’t lean against
the cut.”

Eomer was more than a little relieved at her suggestion.
Much to his annoyance, his body had wasted no time in
reacting to her touch, as innocent as it might have been.

He pulled Lothiriel up onto the saddle behind him and they
resumed their journey. Lothiriel sneezed. She swatted his
hair away from her face.

“If that’s your attempt at a Rohirrim greeting, it was a
very poor one,” Eomer commented.

Before Lothiriel could reply, the blare of a loud horn rang
out across the fields of Rohan. It wasn't the gallant sound
of the Gondorian horns, it was something deeper and much
more menacing. Eomer slowed to a stop. In the distance was
an echoing call. And still another, father away. They
listened until the sound of horns grew silent. Firefoot
danced nervously beneath them. Eomer strained his ears
against the silence of the night. Hearing nothing, he let
out the breath he'd been holding.

"What is it?" Lothiriel whispered.

Eomer shrugged. "I don't know. I have never heard its
equal."

* * * * * * * * * * *

By the time they reached Edoras the morning sun was hanging
low on the horizon. Lothiriel had gone off to bed. After
having his cut properly taken care of, Eomer spent the day
pacing the length of the Great Hall lost in his own
thoughts. The kiss was nothing more than relief at finding
her alive. Wasn't it? It was nothing more than that. But
then he recalled how her body felt pressed against his, and
the feel of his hands around her. Eomer sighed.

He was no longer Third Marshal, free to consort with
whatever woman caught his fancy. And this time the object
of his affections was much more dangerous than any woman of
the Mark. Lothiriel was a Princess of Dol Amroth. Her
safety was his responsibility. No doubt Imrahil would have
taken his chances on the threats of the open road had he any
inkling of the thoughts that were running through Eomer’s
mind.

His thoughts were disrupted by Eowyn and the rest of his men
arriving back from Dunharrow. “Did you find Lotty?” Eowyn
asked.

“She’s in bed.”

“Not injured I hope?” Eowyn asked.

Eomer shook his head. “No, just sleeping. We didn’t get
back til after sunrise.” Eomer yawned.

“Looks like you should be in bed as well,” Eowyn said.

He shook his head. “I couldn’t sleep. Did you hear the
horns?”

Eowyn nodded. “Sounded like some sort of signal. I was
waiting for a battle to begin.”

“As was I,” Eomer said. “I take it you haven’t heard
anything similar while you were in Gondor?”

Eowyn shook her head. “The only horns I heard were those
from the towers of Ecthilion.”

Eomer sighed. “I’m sending a messenger to Minas Tirith.
See what Lord Aragorn has to say about it. Perhaps he’ll be
able to give a name to this new evil.”

Eowyn stared at him intently. "What happened to your nose?"

Much to his chagrin, Eomer felt heat flush his cheeks. He
shrugged. "Must have happened during battle."

Eowyn's eyes narrowed. "If you say so."

"I do say so." His tone allowed no room for debate.

"Well, you and your nose go get some rest. I'll see to
sending the messenger," Eowyn said.

Reluctantly, Eomer nodded and headed off to bed.

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

Eomer dreamed of death. The fertile farmlands and fields of
the Pelennor were crawling with all manner of evil. The
stench of blood hung heavy in the air. Amid the chaotic
screams, he heard one alone above all the others. Eomer
turned. In the distance, the Witch King loomed over Eowyn,
drawing his sword back for a blow.

Eomer charged towards them, trying his best to fight his way
to her. The harder he tried, the further away she seemed.
Horrified, Eomer watched as the Witch King's sword swatted
Eowyn, lifting her into the air as if she were no more than
a rag doll. It was only after she hit the ground that
Eomer's feet could move. Except he did not want to. He
wanted to get no closer, but he couldn't keep himself from
running to her.

Eomer knelt beside her. Gently, he turned her body over.
He was so startled by the sight that greeted his eyes that
he fell backwards. Instead of Eowyn's pale face staring up
at him, it was Lothiriel.

"No!"

Eomer bolted upright in bed. His body was drenched in cold
sweat. He lay back against the pillows, catching his
breath.

Since the battle of the Pelennor, he'd had the dreams. He
watched helplessly as death once again claimed another
victim. Accuracy didn't matter. His dreaming mind was all
too eager to fill in those gaps for him. Some nights it was
Eowyn, Theoden, Theodred, his father, his mother. It didn't
matter that some of them had never set foot upon that
battlefield, much less died upon it. His nightmares were
always the same. The innocent green fields of the Pelennor
always took away everyone he'd ever cared about.

Knowing there would be little sleep this night, he climbed
out of bed. He ran his fingers vigorously through his hair
to wake himself up. Though he didn’t particularly want to,
he stuck on his breeches and a shirt. One of the hazards of
being a King was that he couldn't go walking through the
castle naked. Well, he supposed he could. . . but he didn't
think that would be very kingly. He drew the line however,
at wearing shoes. The floor was icy against his feet.

He yawned. As always, the fires within the Great Hall were
still burning. He sat down at one of the wooden benches,
leaned against the edge of the table, and propped his feet
upon the hearth.

Eowyn had always been the sleeper of the family. She could
sleep through anything, any time, anywhere. Eomer on the
other hand could easily lay awake all night long, sleep
evading him while his mind bounced from one thought to
another. Many times he’d come down to the Great Hall and
sat beside the fire, and listened to Theoden tell him great
tales about the Kings of old. It seemed like an impossibly
long time ago.

Eomer wiggled his toes as the warmth pleasantly crept up his
feet. The fire crackled.

He heard the door to the hall open. Lothiriel walked into
the room. His riding cloak was wrapped tightly around her.
He had wondered what had become of it. As he watched her
walk across the room, he decided it looked better on her
than it ever had on him. She disappeared into one of the
side rooms and came back with a cup and a picture of water.
From her deliberate movements, Eomer could tell this was a
routine she had done more than once since coming to Edoras.

She went back for a small kettle and poured the water into
it. It wasn’t until she approached the fire that she saw
him. She hesitated a moment, then walked to the hearth,
hanging the kettle over the flames.

“Would you like some tea?” she asked.

“Only if you have something stronger to put in it hidden
within the folds of your cloak,” he said.

“It’s your castle, I’m sure you could find something.”

He nodded. “True, but then I’d have to get back up and I
just got my feet warm.”

She sat down on the bench beside him, she stuck her feet out
but they were too short to reach the hearth. "Yes, well, at
least your feet can get warm."

She wrapped the cloak tight around her. "Can't sleep?"

For reasons that he didn’t quite understand, he told her the
truth. “Nightmares."

She nodded sympathetically. “Whenever I couldn’t sleep. My
sister and I’d take turns asking each other what if
questions.”

Eomer stared at the fire. "What if the war had never
happened?"

Lothiriel shrugged. “I would be in Dol Amroth, trying to
convince my father to let me go to the havens and learn the
language of the Elves. And I'd be fending off unwelcome
advances from the local nobility. And hiding amid the sand
dunes watching the tides roll in."

“I’d probably be sleeping out under the stars tonight,"
Eomer sighed. "I would have still been 3rd Marshal of the
Riddermark. Patrolling the borders."

"Well, it seems as if war has altered the paths of both of
our lives,” Lothiriel said. “And given us not a choice at
all in the matter.”

“I suppose we should be adult about it and make the most of
the situation,” Eomer said, dejectedly.

“You can't dwell too much on what ifs," Lothiriel said,
gently.

Eomer smirked. "It was your idea."

Lothiriel grinned. "Yes, but I was talking about fun what
ifs not the bad ones."

"I didn't realize there was such a thing." Eomer said.

The water in the kettle had begun to boil. Lothiriel took
it off the fire and fixed her cup of tea. Seeing the
steaming cup changed Eomer’s mind. He made his way across
the hall, cursing about the cold floor. He came back with a
cup and a bottle of whiskey.

Lothiriel fixed him a cup. He then added a generous dose of
the contents of his bottle. He took a sip and sighed
contentedly. “You know, tea isn’t so bad after all.”

Lothiriel reached for the bottle and took a sniff. She ran
her finger along the inside edge of the bottle, and licked
her fingers. “Whiskey?”

Eomer nodded. “Finest in the Mark.”

Eomer was rendered speechless as Lothiriel lifted the bottle
and took a sip. Her eyes widened. “Better than any in Dol
Amroth as well, I should say.” She poured a small amount
into her own cup.

“And exactly how long have you been a drinking woman?”
Eomer asked.

Lothiriel scrunched her eyebrows and counted on her fingers.

Eomer said, “Don’t tell me it’s been so many years you have
to do calculations? If you started drinking whiskey as a
girl, it’s a wonder you aren’t the size of a halfling.”

Lothiriel laughed. “When I was little, I mistook Elvish
Wine for the juice I usually drank. I eagerly downed glass
after glass until I staggered into the throne room and threw
up all over an Elf visiting from the havens."

Eomer leaned back and started laughing. He laughed so hard
that one of the guards peeked his head into the hall to make
sure all was well.

"It was very good wine," Lothiriel said, laughing with him.

Eomer wiped his eyes. They drank their tea and watched the
fire crackle.

Lothiriel turned around on the bench to face him. She
pulled her knees up to her chest, resting her chin upon her
knees. The cloak billowed around her, and only the very
tips of her toes poked out from beneath the velvety folds.

“What if you could have anything you wanted right at this
very moment?” Lothiriel asked.

"Is this a fun what if question?" Eomer asked.

Lothiriel nodded. "No answer is too ridiculous. In fact,
the more ridiculous the better."

“I wish I had a cool pint of ale, a crowded tavern filled
with pipe smoke, tall-tales, and beautiful women.” Eomer
glanced at her. “But. . .I suppose I’ll just have to make
due with the beautiful woman. That’s the most important one
of the list anyway.” Eomer grinned.

Lothiriel blushed.

“What about you?” Eomer asked. “What if you could have
anything you wanted?”

“I wish I could be a man,” Lothiriel said.

Eomer laughed out loud. "You would never be mistaken for a
man." The moment after he said it he realized his error.
"All right, I confess, that I did mistake you for a boy, but
I assure you, I shall not make that mistake again."

“I'm being serious." Lothiriel kicked him in the side. He
caught her bare foot and trapped it between his hands.

"I don’t want to be one forever, just long enough to kick
the trouble makers out of Dol Amroth. Or at least I wish I
was as strong as your sister. I've heard some of the
stories about her.”

“I’m glad she knows how to defend herself, every woman
should know how to do that,” Eomer said. “But. . she need
not risk her life on the battlefield.”

“But it is her life to risk. It should not be the decision
of a man to tell her what she can and cannot do. If I were
her, I would ride off and help fight the orcs beside
Faramir,” Lothiriel said.

“Then why didn’t you ride off and do the same with your
father?” Eomer asked.

“Because I have never been trained in the arts of war like
Eowyn has. And I’m not foolish enough to go riding into a
situation where I could get myself killed,” Lothiriel said.
“I would get in the way. I am. . .too short. . .too
scrawny. . .and too weak to do any good.”

“Size isn’t all that’s important when it comes to fighting,”
Eomer said only half paying attention to his words. He was
more focused on gently massaging Lothiriel's feet.

Lothiriel snorted. “That’s easy for you to say."

“Some of the fiercest fighters I’ve ever come across have
been the smallest,” Eomer said. “When Eowyn fell in battle
against the Witch King, Merry, a halfling came to her aid.”

“A halfling?”

Eomer nodded. “One who had never picked up a sword in
battle until a few months before.”

Lothiriel raised her eyebrows. "Are you suggesting I forgo
any training and throw myself into battle?"

Eomer frowned. "Not at all. I meant.. . .I. . ." He could
not remember what he meant, instead he tickled the bottom of
her feet mercilessly. She screamed and kicked him in the
side, wiggling easily out of his grasp.

Her eyes lifted to meet his. Eomer was delighted at the
amusement in her eyes. But quickly her smile faded. "I'm
sorry about your nose."

Eomer shrugged. "I had it coming."

"Does it hurt?"

"Only when I sneeze."

Lothiriel frowned. "I wasn't trying to hit you. . .I. . ."
she struggled for the words, but shrugged helplessly.

Eomer smiled. "For one who knows nothing of battle, you've
done quite a job on me."

"You startled me. I wasn't expecting it." Lothiriel stared
out at the fire, reluctant to meet his gaze.

"And what would you have done, had you been expecting it?
Broken my arm? Laid me out flat on my back?" Eomer teased.

A mischievous smile tugged up the corners of Lothiriel's
mouth. She downed the last sip of tea and rose to her feet.
"You'll just have to find out, won't you?"

"I intend to," Eomer said softly, as he watched Lothiriel
leave the room.

* * * * * * * * * * *

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Chapter 6
Created
20 May 2003
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20 May 2003
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