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Trust To Hope

Chapter 22: Chapter Twenty-one

by Novedhelion

Trust to Hope - Chapter Twenty-One
Author: Novedhelion
Type: FP Het
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Pairing: Éomer/Lothíriel aka Anhuil
Rating: PG13
Warnings: Confusing canon.
Beta: Riyallyn
Disclaimer: Characters are not mine, blah blah blah....Ok...once and for all...do the Rohirrim have a written language or not? Hmmm...

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Chapter Twenty-One
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“Do not tell me how rocky the sea is. Just bring the ship.”
Vince Lombardi
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Minas Tirith
18 Cerveth, 3019 T.A.
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“There is always hope, Ani.”

Anhuil raised her eyes to her friend’s, the words echoing in her head. Flinging the covers back, she leapt from the bed. She flipped open her trunk, digging for her leggings and a tunic.

“What are you doing?” Cam asked her.

“You say there is hope. I am going to find it.” She pulled the clothing from the trunk, hastily dressing and yanking on her boots.

“Do you want me to come with you?” Cam offered.

The princess pondered the offer for a moment before shaking her head. “No. This is something I need to do alone. I might need you to cover for me should Ada come looking.”

”Where are you going? How do you know where he will be?”

“I am not sure. I have an idea where I might find him,” Anhuil answered.

Heading away from the guest quarters of the Citadel, she paused. From the bridge, she could look down over the city, lit by many lanterns throughout the streets. The city was built in seven tiers, the Citadel being at the top. She could see the wall surrounding the base of the city, a wide stone rampart overlooking the Fields of Pelennor, the wall of Rammas Echor surrounding them. Scattered across the fields were small town lands, beginning to rebuild after the devastation of the battle.

Small figures moved about on the wall far below. On a hunch, she headed for the stables. Anhuil had thought she might find him there. Sighing resignedly, she started to head back, until she realized Firefoot was gone as well.

“Have you seen Lord Éomer this evening?” she asked the stable hand casually, removing her tack from the rack near the wall.

“Yes, Your Highness,” the young man answered her. “He came out a while back, said he was going for a ride. Kinda late, but he is a king, you know. I’ll not be questioning his actions. And I’ll do that for you, Miss, if you don’t mind,” he said, taking the saddle from her.

“Thank you.” She smiled at the tall, blue-eyed young man, who blushed visibly and turned to cinch the straps of the saddle tighter. “Your Highness, I know you are familiar with the city but are you certain you do not need one of us to escort you?” the man asked her.

“No. I know my way quite well. It is late. Do not wait up for me. And thank you for the offer.” She smiled sweetly at him, and spurring her mount into a trot, guided him through the city streets. Where exactly she was headed, she was uncertain.

The gate itself had been splintered by the huge battering ram Grond, but the dwarves brought by Gimli had been busily repairing it, recreating the intricate metalwork that had been destroyed. Although the project was nowhere near completion, it pleased her immensely to see it being rebuilt.

Éomer stood upon the rampart. An involuntary smile crossed her lips as she dismounted, tying off the reins nearby, and climbed the stairs to the top of the wall.

The princess flipped her cloak back over her shoulders; the evening breeze was cool but not chilly. She strolled along the top of the wall, drawing a few curious glances from the guards posted there. Éomer stood near the city Gate, staring out across the Fields of Pelennor toward the city of Osgiliath.

Anhuil watched him for a while silently. He stood as a statue, lost in thought, his dark green cloak and blonde hair blowing in the soft breeze.

Éomer surveyed the field below him. Four months later, there was still evidence of the carnage that had taken place; the Mounds of Mundberg rose in the distance and some still scorched areas of the field. But now, it looked…peaceful. The River Anduín glittered in the distance, continuing its never-ending journey south. The city of Osgiliath shone in the moonlight, the crumbled towers slowly being rebuilt.

His nightmares about that day had become less frequent, but he doubted they would ever disappear entirely. The holocaust that had been the Battle at Pelennor would most likely haunt him forever. He closed his eyes, drawing in a deep breath. The faint scent of lavender on the breeze had to be his imagination but he took comfort in it anyway, his hand instinctively going to his pocket to touch the embroidered handkerchief that had been his lifeline that day.

Anhuil stepped closer to him, almost beside him. “I thought I might find you here.”

Her soft voice startled him from his pensiveness. The king turned to see her standing beside him, a bit surprised to see her dressed more like the Ani he knew instead of Princess Lothíriel of Dol Amroth.

“What are you doing here?” he asked her.

“Looking for hope.”

Éomer regarded her curiously. Anhuil laughed softly, shaking her head. She turned to face him, their gaze meeting. “I owe you an apology, Éomer.”

“No, Ani...”

“Éomer, please. Listen to me.“ Anhuil took a deep breath, the words coming in a flood that even his pleading look would not stem. “I have been terribly unfair to you. I lied to you from the beginning. And it seems I just keep making things worse. I cannot tell you how shocked I was to see you again...and to find out YOU were the king’s heir that my father spoke so highly of...I know what I said about Fenwick and the betrothal and Dol Amroth...I have a duty to my people to do what is best for them and Fenwick has been able to stop these raids on his shores, but how could that mean that I must marry him? There has to be another way, Éomer, there has to be. It is so unfair to both of us. I --“

“Stop, please.” His fingers on her lips finally shut her up. “You being here is enough.” He dropped his hands and turned back to the field. She stood beside him, unsure of what he meant, folding her arms underneath her cloak.

“How did you know where to find me?” he asked without looking at her.

She glanced up at him, then out across the field. “I am not sure.” How to explain that she was inexplicably drawn here? “I suppose it is where I would go, were I you,” she answered with a shrug, shuffling her boot on the stone underneath her feet.

The odd comment puzzled him. “Why?” he asked, turning to look down at her.

Anhuil sighed, looking out across the field. “So much death,” she answered quietly. “It is difficult for anyone to come to terms with.”

The king turned his gaze back over the field, staring straight ahead. “I would not wish it on anyone,” he answered. He stood silent, his jaw set. Anhuil looked up at him, his dark eyes fixed on the horizon. “So many died that day. Men I led here. Men I knew, whose families I knew. Men with wives and children. And yet by some fortune I was spared.” He paused, looking down at her. “How do I reckon that?” His eyes returned to the expanse of the field before them.

“I wish I had an answer,” she responded. “I watched more men die than survive that day. I held their hands and listened to them speak of their loved ones. Some even thought I was their wife, or daughter, or mother. I was whomever they needed me to be.” She swallowed hard. “I wish I had some way to tell their families of their last words and thoughts, but there were so many, I cannot remember them all.”

Éomer turned to regard her. He had almost forgotten she had been here as well. He felt a tightening in his chest at the realization that she had experienced the same horror that he had, the guilt made worse by the fact that he had sent her to the city to begin with.

The princess stepped toward him, sliding her hand into his, their fingers entwining, her gaze following his across the field to the Anduín. “We do not have any say in such matters. Nor do we have any explanation for it. All I can offer is that the Valar saw fit to spare you for a reason. Clearly your task in this life is not yet complete.” She turned toward him. “There is no shame in grieving so great a loss.”

The king silently continued his contemplation of the river in the distance. “I lost all hope that day,” he said finally. “Théodred was dead. Théoden fell. When I found Éowyn…” his voice trailed off as he looked away. He inhaled deeply. “I thought I had lost everything.”

He hesitated again, as if not sure he wanted to continue. She squeezed his hand slightly. He looked down at the stone under his feet. “I am still unsure how I feel about who I became that day. It was as if something inside me snapped, some gate that had held back, at least to a degree, the anger and hatred I had toward them. It flooded over me and through me, until I wanted to kill every last one of them. I felt...nothing. Even among the screams of the dying...I felt nothing.” He shook his head. “It is not an experience I ever wish to repeat, Ani.”

“It was war, Éomer,” she responded quietly. “You did what you had to do.”

“I thought I would die that day. I wanted to die.” His words shocked her. “I held no regard for my own life at that point. On some strange level I had accepted the eventuality of my death, and I wanted only to kill as many of them as I could before they killed me.”

Anhuil’s heart pounded in her chest, so hard her pulse rang in her ears. She knew what she had experienced in the Houses of Healing had been horrible, but she could not imagine what he had seen. Her own experience with battle, as small as that skirmish had been, had left her with nightmares that still plagued her months later. But it was the thought of him wanting to die that ripped her soul nearly in two. She gripped his hand tighter, tears stinging her eyes.

He turned to look at her. “Do you know what gave me a reason to live?”

Éomer pulled his hand from hers, removing the handkerchief from his pocket. He glanced down at it, then raised his eyes to hers. “It was this, Ani... He paused again. The memories of that day rushing back, he looked away momentarily. When he looked back at her, there was an intensity in his gaze Anhuil had never before seen. “I realized that I had not yet lost everything. I remembered I had made you a promise.”

“And you keep your promises.”

“Yes. I remembered what we were fighting this battle for. What we were fighting against. I remembered my father, my cousin, mortally wounded…Théoden lying dead on the battlefield, finding Éowyn and believing her to be dead as well…and I remembered your blood on my hands...” He shook his head.

Éomer smiled down at her, brushing her curls from her face, curling the ends around his fingertips. “I remembered the way your curls fall across your face, the way you elbowed me when I behaved like a boor, and your Sindarin ranting when you get angry.” She laughed softly. “I knew what we were fighting for, all of us…but then I realized what I was fighting for.” Dark eyes focused on hers, his hand under her chin. “I was fighting for you. For us. For our future.”

She opened her mouth to speak, but the words would not come.

“So you see why I cannot just walk away from you, Ani.” His dark gaze penetrated hers, both of his hands now on her face. Anhuil was suddenly very grateful for the strong hands on her. She felt as if she would melt into the solid stone beneath her, her knees beginning to give way. “You are my reason for being alive, do you understand that?”

“Yes, I do,” she answered softly.

“I will not give up. I refuse let go of that. I will do whatever I have to do. If that means riding to Dol Amroth and stealing you away then that is what I will do. I will not lose you, Ani.”

She chuckled. “I do not think that would be a good idea, Éomer, considering the friendship you and Ada have forged. You would not risk open war with Dol Amroth for kidnapping the princess, now, would you?” she asked teasingly.

Éomer stared at her, only the barest hint of a smile on his lips. “If that is what it takes, then that is what I will do.”

Anhuil met his gaze. The look in his eyes told her he meant every word of it. She swallowed hard and smiled, trying to lighten the mood a little. “Let us hope it does not come to that.”

“I love you, Ani,” he said softly.

He ran his thumb lightly across her bottom lip, then lowered his mouth to hers. Months of separation, of loneliness, of longing culminated in that one kiss. Anhuil had no concept of the passing of time, of anyone or anything else. His words, his pain, his love…she felt it all in the touch of his lips on hers. His hand slid behind her head, pulling her closer, his gentle possession only clarifying the fact that she could never belong to another.

Éomer did not know how she knew where to find him in this huge city nor did he care. He needed her. And she was here. It was as if there was a gaping hole in his life that only she could fill, and for right now, he felt complete. His kiss was not so much one of passion, but a connection, a bond, a promise.

When finally they drew back, breathless, their gazes locked, Éomer smiled. His heart felt as if a huge weight had been lifted from it. Wiping her cheeks with his thumbs, he kissed the tears from her face. “What is it, Ani? Why tears?”

She shook her head. “I do not know. I…” How could she explain that she had felt the pain of all he had experienced, his hopelessness, through that one kiss? That her heart had been broken? Anhuil felt his determination, his will to survive, and his desire for her; his love for her filling her heart so that she thought it would burst from her chest. She leaned against him, emotionally spent, but without any doubt at all that this man loved her. That was one thing she would never again question.

“I love you, Éomer,” she whispered.

Closing his eyes, he wrapped his arms tightly around her, his lips pressed to her hair. “I know,” he answered with a grin.

Éomer looked down at her. “Ride with me.”

Anhuil looked at him quizzically. “Where?”

“I care not. I just want to ride. With you.”

The princess smiled. “Of course. But...I brought Olórin. I cannot leave him here. I suppose we could take both horses.”

“We shall see,” he answered. Making their way down the steps, Éomer approached a guard nearby who bowed quickly in recognition of the king. They spoke for a few moments, and Éomer handed off the reins of her horse to him, returning to where she waited.

Éomer flashed her a devilish grin. “Now you have no choice but to ride with me, Your Highness.” Taking her hand, he led her to where he had left Firefoot and lifted her into the saddle, climbing up behind her. "He will return Olórin to the stables."

“Where are we going?” she asked

“It matters not,” he repeated, turning his mount toward the gate. Once out on the field, he let Firefoot break into a full gallop, one arm tight around her, the other skillfully controlling the reins. The wind whipped her curls back against his chin as she leaned back against him, closing her eyes, relishing the feeling of complete freedom. If only she did not have to ever go back.

Éomer allowed Firefoot to run for a while, then slowed him to a trot, his gaze moving across the field toward the White City.

“I do not want to go back,” Anhuil stated. Éomer hugged her tighter in response, but said nothing. His expression darkened as he realized where he had unintentionally ended up. Reining in his mount, he stared down at the spot where he had come to a halt.

Dismounting, he turned to assist her down as well. He stood pensively, reaching silently for her hand.

The grass was still somewhat beaten down, although new growth of the summer was desperately trying to force its way through. One large section was charred, and on that spot no vegetation grew. But nearby, a patch of grass grew thick and lush, upon it a stone engraved with a short epitaph. Anhuil stepped forward, kneeling in front of the small stone, tracing the writing with her fingers. “Faithful servant, yet master’s bane, Lightfoot’s foal, swift Snowmane,” she read quietly, then looked curiously at the other markings. "This is cirth,” she said of the first set of words, tracing her fingers over the others. “But I do not know these letters.”

“It is the tongue of the Mark,” he answered absently.

She turned to him with a puzzled expression. “I thought your people had no written language.”

Éomer shrugged. “It is not commonly used,” he informed her almost emotionlessly.

“What does it say?”

“Léof Þegn giét fréas bana, Lihtfótas fola, swift Snámana,” he replied.

“The same thing, in your tongue,” she said. The king nodded silently.

She turned back to the stone. “Your king’s mount is buried here,” she said, more an observation than a question. Rising slowly to her feet, she turned to study the charred ground behind her. “I had heard that no living thing would grow where the beast had been burned.” Anhuil raised her gaze to look at him. He stared intently at the blackened dirt, unmoving. Moving beside him, she slipped her hand into his. The king closed his hand over hers tightly.

“This is where he fell,” she said softly, “your king.” She turned to look at him expectantly, his expression answering her silently.

“He was far more than king to me,” Éomer answered quietly. “Our father was killed by a band of Orcs, and when our mother died he took my sister and me into his home, and raised us as his own.”

“You never told me that.”

“I did not think it would ever make a difference in my destiny. Théodred, my cousin, should have inherited the throne. I would have served him as faithfully as I had his father. At least, I was loyal to him until he fell under the spell of that worm. I was forced to betray the king’s will for the good of the Riddermark.”

“Your concern was for your people, Éomer. You did what had to be done to protect them. It was not King Théoden’s will you betrayed.”

He nodded, staring down at the ground. “This is where he passed to me the banner of the Mark, commanding that I be king after him,” he said, shaking his head. “Théoden should still be king.” He stated it as fact. Anhuil held tightly to his hand. “And yet tomorrow I must lead a procession to bear his body home for burial.”

Inhaling slowly, he turned to face her. The princess allowed herself to be pulled into his embrace. “I do not look forward to this duty. I am grateful you are coming with us. It will make the trip easier knowing you are there.”

“I am glad as well, for any time I have with you. But we will have to be careful, Éomer.”

“It will be torture, having you so close and not being able to touch you,” he whispered. The king leaned back and smiled down at her. “But it will be far better than not knowing where you are at all.” Bending down, he pressed his lips lightly to hers. “I had better get you back.”

“I do not wish to go back. Can we not just ride away now?”

The king chuckled. “Do not tempt me, wench.”

The princess stepped back, one hand on her hip, her tone mockingly indignant. “First he calls me a hoyden and now a temptress AND a wench. Perhaps there is some other handsome king who would offer me a ride back to the city without such insults.” She whirled around, pretending to stalk off.

Éomer caught her around her waist, pulling her to him. “Woman, I have chased you enough.”

“If I am such a pain to you why do you bother?”

He bent and swung her up into his arms, carrying her back to his mount. “Because I happen to like sassy, tempting little wenches.” He deposited her on to the saddle and settled in behind her.

“And just how many of them have you known?” she asked, turning to look at him over her shoulder.

Éomer appeared to be thinking, counting on his fingers. She elbowed him in the ribs. “Ow! Remind me to wear my armor when I ride with you,” he said.

The princess leaned back against him, laughing. “You feel you need protection from me?”

Closing his eyes, Éomer shifted back slightly in the saddle. “More than you know,” he muttered under his breath, spurring his mount back toward the city.

****

The shutters of the two lanterns left burning in the stable had been half closed, casting only a dim light. Éomer dismounted at the door, leading the stallion into the stable and to his stall before reaching up to lift Anhuil from the saddle as well. He smiled as he lowered her to the ground, holding her against him with his hands on her waist. Before she could speak his mouth covered hers, backing her up against the gate of the stall. Her hands that had been resting on his arms slid up and around his shoulders, drawing him closer.

Firefoot stamped impatiently, causing the princess to giggle. Éomer leaned back, glancing over his shoulder at the horse and rolling his eyes. Kissing her soundly one more time, he reluctantly released her and turned to the horse.

Leading him into the stall, he leaned close to the stallion’s head. “You and I need to have a little talk, my friend,” he said quietly. “It is not polite to interrupt.” He reached underneath the horse, unbuckling the saddle. “Just wait. Next time I see you making advances at some cute filly--“

“Excuse me?” The princess leaned on the stall gate, one eyebrow raised. “Who is making advances at a cute filly?”

“I was talking to the horse,” he said flatly.

“Mmm-hmm. And what exactly are you two talking about?”

Éomer focused his attention on the saddle, drawing in a deep breath. “If you only knew what all this horse and I have talked about,” he muttered softly.

“Oh? And what exactly have the two of you been discussing?”

“Nevermind,” he responded, removing the saddle and hanging it over the rail. “It is between us.”

“Between the two of you?” she queried, backing up from the stall gate as he opened it to come out. She peered over the gate at Firefoot, who was busily munching hay from the floor of his stall. “Pedo amin, mellon?” The horse glanced up at her, then refocused his attention on the hay.

The king grabbed her around the waist and swept her against the wall. “He will not tell. He is sworn to secrecy. It is one of those strange customs in the Mark. We tell all of our secrets to our horses. That way they do not get repeated.” He bent down, burying his face in her neck. She giggled.

“What could you possibly discuss about me with a horse?” she asked, as he reached up and brushed her hair back, his lips pressed to her neck.

Biting back the entirely inappropriate comment threatening to surface, he kissed her instead, pinning her back against the wall. Anhuil playfully shoved him backward, pulling from his embrace and walking past him to the stall. “You did not answer my question,” she tossed over her shoulder as she walked. “At the very least I am entitled to-“ she cut herself off with a surprised shriek, leaping back from the empty stall.

Éomer ran to her, stepping in front of her to see what had startled her. Seeing nothing, he turned to her. She stood against the gate across the walkway of the stable, hands over her mouth in an unsuccessful effort to stifle her hysterical laughter.

Puzzled, he held out his hands. “What? What was it?”

Anhuil placed a hand on her chest, trying to breathe enough to answer.

He turned and peered into the stall, seeing only a small crate in the hay. Shaking his head, he turned back to her questioningly.

Regaining her voice, she choked, “It was only a rat.”

“A rat?”

She laughed again, nodding. Walking toward her, he chuckled. “Woman, I have seen you take out Orcs three times your size! You scream at a rat?”

Backing up, she feigned indignance. “It startled me. It was sitting on that crate.”

Éomer stalked slowly toward her as she backed up. “It must have been a very big rat,” he teased.

The princess tossed her head. “If you were not expecting it, it would have startled you as well.” She continued pacing slowly backward, trying desperately to maintain her pretense of offense as her back hit the far wall of the stable.

“I am not afraid of rats, Princess,” he informed her, closing the distance between them.

“Oh? What are you afraid of, sire?” she queried, her arms crossed.

Leaning on the wall, his hands on either side of her, his dark eyes met hers. “I am afraid of saucy mouthed little princesses,” he answered.

“And why, pray tell, is that?” Anhuil met his gaze with a haughty look.

Éomer moved one hand from the wall, brushing the curls from her eyes. “Because one stole my heart several months ago and now I shall never get it back.”

Anhuil raised one eyebrow. “Would you like her to give it back?”

The king smiled down at her, his dark eyes shining in the pale lamplight. “If she ever gave it back I am afraid it would be broken in two, and therefore completely useless. I would rather she give me hers in its stead.” He leaned closer to her, curling the soft waves at her shoulders around his fingertips.

“That sounds only fair,” she agreed quietly. “For a princess to trade her heart for a king’s. But to do so she would have to have it to give, and I am afraid she does not.”

“Oh?” He smiled. “Why is that?”

“Her own heart was taken as well, months ago, by a handsome rogue of a soldier from Rohan.”

“Is that so? Well, perhaps I should have a talk with the knave...”

The princess opened her mouth to respond, but was silenced by his lips covering hers. The hand that had brushed the curls from her face slid down to her waist, pulling her against him. His tongue found hers, his kiss deepening. Uncrossing her arms, she slid them underneath his cloak, around his broad shoulders.

“Éomer,” she whispered as his lips found the side of her neck, “it is getting late. Ada will be very worried...”

With a heavy sigh, he leaned back. “I suppose you are right. Best not to start that war with Dol Amroth just yet.”

The princess cast him a sardonic smile. “Please do not jest about such things.”

He pushed himself off from the wall, pulling her into his arms with his other hand. “I am sorry, did that sound like a jest? It was not meant to be...”

Anhuil pushed him away and cuffed him on the shoulder. “You are such a scoundrel,” she teased. Éomer offered her his arm.

“You say that like it is a bad thing,” he said with a smile.

That grin. The princess shook her head. She was going to have to learn to be much more resistant to that charming grin. With a toss of her head, she regarded him silently for a moment. Sliding her hand over his arm, Anhuil smiled seductively at him. “I never said it was a bad thing. Genteel men are so boring. Cam has always told me propriety is highly overrated. I do believe she was correct.”

“Cam is a very smart young woman,” the king agreed. “You should listen to her more often.” They walked out of the stable and into the dark street, heading up the street to the Citadel.

Strolling along beside him, the princess shoved the hood of her cape back, and smiled up at him. Éomer sighed. Nothing in Middle Earth affected him like a simple smile from her.

He laughed softly.

“What is so amusing?” she inquired, halting her steps and looking up at him. They stood on the bridge before the Citadel.

Éomer shook his head. “The thought of you screaming at a rat.”

“I told you, it only startled me. I have no love for the nasty little things but I am not usually frightened by them, for Valar’s sake. I just did not expect-“ she stopped suddenly, staring at him. The king was laughing harder now.

“I am sorry, Ani,” he told her. “It was just very funny. You leap from behind trees to fight Orcs and save my life, and then scream at a rat. It is rather amusing, do you not think?”

She glared at him defiantly, a hint of a smile on her lips. “I was angry at those Orcs. They took my horse.”

Éomer stopped laughing, his expression becoming serious. “Ani, I do not think I ever thanked you properly for saving my life.”

She waved dismissively. “It was not like it was some big heroic deed. I told you, I had a score to settle with those Orcs.”

“Yes, but you did not have to do what you did.”

“I was supposed to stand there behind the trees and watch the three of you be slaughtered? You were outnumbered.”

The king smiled at her. “Ani, what you did was very brave. You could have stayed hidden, or ran, and those Orcs would never have known you were there. But you did not. You stepped in, risking your own life, and saved not only me, but probably my men and our horses as well.”

The princess snickered. “Brave? You think that was brave?” She laughed out loud. “I was terrified, Éomer. I was certain my heart pounding would be heard all over Rohan. I was more frightened than I have ever been in my life. But I was also angry. I was angry with myself for allowing them to frighten me away the first time. I was not about to let them win again.” She crossed her arms, pulling her cloak around her again. “Rash, I will grant you. Brave? Compared to what you and the others did out there, and at the Black Gate? Compared to your sister, taking down the Witch King of Angmar? I do not think so.” She kicked at a stone under her feet, then started to walk ahead, toward the Citadel.


Catching her by the arm, Éomer turned her back toward him. “Princess,” he said, addressing her by the title he rarely used, “there are many kinds of courage. Do you not remember what I told you the evening you were wounded?”

“In all honesty, Éomer, I remember very little of that evening,” she confessed, not quite truthfully, because some images from that night were burned into her mind like a brand. Some she would rather forget.

“I told you that fearlessness is reckless. Fearlessness will likely get you killed. Courage is facing adversity head on. It is calculating the risk and deciding what is worth the cost. THAT is what you did. It is what you are doing now.” The king smiled at her. “And the fact remains that had you not done what you did...” he trailed off momentarily. “Thank you, Ani.”

“If I am not mistaken, we are even on that one. I seem to remember a scrape you pulled me out of,” she answered.

His hand slid down to her side, the warmth of his fingers through the fabric of her thin tunic made her breath catch.

“I guess we are square, then,” he said softly, his thumb tracing the line across her side where her wound had been. Éomer leaned down, his forehead against hers, pulling her to him with the hand on her waist.

She grinned up at him. “I suppose we are, at least until I have to save your sorry hide again.”

“I am counting on it,” he told her, his lips meeting hers. Anhuil stood on her tiptoes, her hands on his shoulders, leaning against him. His free hand slid around her waist and splayed across her back, under the cloak. She shivered at the warmth of his touch. His fingers spread, sliding over the soft fabric of her tunic.

Reluctantly, he pulled back, sighing deeply. “We should get you inside. It is late and your father is going to kill me if he finds out I had you out riding in the Pelennor in the middle of the night.”

“Well, we cannot have that or I will be stuck with that arrogant prat Fenwick,” she answered as they ascended the steps to the Citadel.

“We certainly cannot have that,” he remarked teasingly. He stopped and looked at her. “Ani, this will not be easy.”

“Do you think I am the kind of woman who has an issue with adversity, Éomer?” She raised an eyebrow at him.

His hand went to her cheek. “You certainly do not choose the simplest paths in life, Princess.”

“The safe and simple paths are the boring ones, Your Majesty,” she quipped.

The heavy doors creaked open loudly. Stepping inside, she turned to face him. “Best not to arouse any more suspicion than we probably already have, arriving together this late at night. Those guards will be gossiping all night. Between them and the ones at the gate, by tomorrow most of Minas Tirith will be whispering about us.”

Laughing softly, the king rolled his eyes. “Good thing we are leaving tomorrow, then. I will never get used to having every detail of my life analyzed this way,” he sighed.

“I have news for you, Éomer. If you grew up in the courts at Edoras, it has been going on your whole life, whether you were aware of it or not.” She lowered her voice almost to a whisper. “I should go in alone. You know your way to your quarters?”

“I think I can find it,” he assured her. They stood silently for a moment, neither wishing to be the first to turn away.

“Well, goodnight then, Your Majesty,” she said quietly with a slight nod of her head, more for the benefit of the guards within hearing distance than for him.

“Goodnight, Princess,” he responded with a very appropriate bow. She giggled. “Thank you for the honor of allowing me to escort you safely.”

Anhuil chuckled softly. With a glance at the guards, who were trying desperately not to watch, she nodded. “Tomorrow, then,” she said quietly, turning down the marble tiled corridor.

Éomer watched her stride down the hall, her cloak billowing behind her. When he could no longer hear the clicking of her heels on the stone floor, he turned and walked slowly back to his own chambers.

~~~~~~~~~~

**Note from the Author***
There are conflicting passages in Tolkien's work about whether or not the Rohirrim had a written language. He says clearly in the Two Towers that they did not, but Return of the King mentions that the monument to Snowmane was written in "the tongues of Gondor and of the Mark", which would indicate that there WAS a written language for the Rohirrim. Another thing our dear Professor chose not to make clear...for whatever reason. I have chosen to give them a written language, assuming that the majority of their populace would be illiterate and therefore the use of it would not be widespread. I am also making an assumption that nobles would have been more educated, considering how long Thengel lived in Gondor, and that his heirs probably WOULD have been literate, at least in the languages of Gondor and the Mark. Allow me this little bit of artistic license if you will.

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Chapter name
Chapter Twenty-one
Created
03 Apr 2004
Last Edited
03 Apr 2004
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