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Trust To Hope

Chapter 19: Chapter Eighteen

by Novedhelion

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!


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Chapter Eighteen
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“It is remarkable how similar the pattern of love is to the pattern of insanity.”
Merovingian, Matrix Revolutions
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Merethond
The Great Hall of the Citadel
Minas Tirith
18 Cerveth, 3019 T.A.
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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.

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Chapter name
Chapter Eighteen
Created
13 Mar 2004
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13 Mar 2004
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