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Trust To Hope

Chapter 21: Chapter Twenty

by Novedhelion

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.



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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.

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Chapter Twenty
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30 Mar 2004
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30 Mar 2004
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