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Trust To Hope

Chapter 24: Chapter Twenty-Three

by Novedhelion

Trust To Hope - Chapter Twenty-three
Author: Novedhelion
Type: FP Het
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Pairing: Éomer/Lothíriel aka Anhuil
Rating: PG13
Warnings: Not much here but a bunch of gap fillers...sorry...
World’s most patient Beta: Riyallyn
Disclaimer: They all belong to Tolkien. At least most of them do. And I’m not making any money. Wish I was. I will probably be accused of dragging this out again, but these are necessary plot devices. Bear with me, here, please. And the small part with Cam and Déor was mostly written by my beta, Riyallyn. Call it...foreshadowing.

*******************
This one's for the girls,
Who love without holdin' back;
Who dream with everything they have.
All around the world:
This one's for the girls.

This One’s for the Girls
Martina McBride
*********************

Edoras
The Golden Hall of Meduseld
8 Urui, 3019 T.A.
***************

The hour was late when they arrived at the courts of Edoras. Weary from the long fortnight’s journey, Anhuil and Cam had stumbled into the chambers prepared for them and collapsed on the beds, barely noticing the beautiful Golden Hall of Meduseld in the dark.

Anhuil awoke the next morning laying atop the covers of the bed, having been too exhausted last night to even undress. Ani lay on the soft bed, surveying the room. Thick wooden beams ran along the stone walls, others framing the beautifully wrought detailed tapestries which adorned the walls. Soft furs covered the stone floor. A fireplace in one corner remained unlit, unneeded in the warmth of summer, but there were tallow candles on the engraved mantlepiece and a tinder box with which to light them. Every piece of wood was intricately carved, from the solid beams to the heavy wooden furniture.

Sitting up, the princess traced the pattern on the soft coverlet with a finger, admiring the detailed embroidery. Horses. This was Éomer's home. The thought crossed her mind that somewhere under this same roof, he, too, was lying in bed. Not wanting to contemplate that further just yet, she stood and walked to the window, looking out across the city of Edoras, to the breathtaking view of the mountains beyond.

A knock on the door startled her. Glancing at Cam, who still slept soundly, the princess cracked open the door. A maid who appeared to be not much older Anhuil stood in the hallway holding a stack of cloths and a small basket. “Begging your pardon, Your Highness. Éomer King asked that I bring these to you. He thought you ladies might be likin’ a hot bath. I have prepared one for you, if you wish to go now.”

“That would be delightful...” The princess looked at her questioningly.

“It’s Fréa, Miss,” she answered with a polite curtsey.

Anhuil smiled. “That would be delightful, Fréa. Let me get a clean gown.”

Fréa nodded, waiting patiently as the princess ducked back into her room. She reappeared with her clothing, closing the door quietly behind her. The maid took the dress and undergarments from her, insisting that she carry them to the bath chamber.

Anhuil stole a glance at the woman as they walked. Tall and broad shouldered, she almost towered over the petite princess. Her blonde hair was braided down her back, but the loose tendrils framing her face suggested it would be wavy if let down. Her eyes were brown, but not as dark as Éomer’s, with a sparkle of gold in the center. She did not appear but a few years older than the princess, but her matter-of-fact manner made her seem much older. The maid glanced at her as she pushed open a door down the hall, smiling shyly. “I hope you don’t mind me saying so, Miss, but our king was right. You are a lovely girl.”

The princess blushed. “Thank you, Fréa,” she responded, not knowing what else to say as the maid left and closed the door behind her.

A long, hot soak removed what she felt like were layers of dust from the road. She toweled off and pulled on her shift, eyeing the rest of the undergarments uneasily. The weather had been so incredibly hot that she almost could not bear the thought of putting on several more layers of underpinnings. The shift would have to do. Who would know the difference anyway?

Sitting down at the small dressing table, she ran the comb through the tangles of dark curls. Her hands were poised to braid her hair up, but as a last minute decision, she dropped the waves to her shoulders, letting them fall loosely. Her reflection in the mirror regarded her silently. The last several months of her life had been a complete whirlwind, much of it out of her control. Somehow, Meduseld felt...peaceful. Like coming home. Perhaps it was simply because she was so tired of traveling, or just exhausted in general. But mostly she felt it was because this was his home, and she belonged with him.

Feeling she had tarried long enough, Anhuil stood and shrugged into the dress, lacing the front neatly. She had always preferred boots and leggings to the traditional wieldy gowns that most women wore, with layer upon layer of hot, itchy undergarments, but she had to admit a small part of her liked the idea of looking feminine and pretty, especially when Éomer had seen her so much in men's attire. As an afterthought she dabbed a bit of the lavender oil on to her handkerchief and tucked it into her bodice. She smiled at her reflection, hoping he would approve, and gathered up her road-dusty clothes.

Dropping the bundle where the maid had indicated, she headed back down the hall to the room she shared with Cam. Her friend had awakened and was sitting on the side of the bed. She looked up expectantly at the princess as she entered. “You have already had a bath?”

“And I feel nearly human again. Except that I am starving for some real food. I do not want bread or cheese for a very long time.”

“Well, I intend to take my time bathing, so go on to breakfast without me. I will be there shortly,” Cam said, gathering up her things. Fréa reappeared in the doorway, beckoning the blonde to follow. Anhuil stood by the window, looking out at the beautiful landscape, lost in thought.

A sharp knock on the door interrupted the quiet moment. “Lothíriel? I have come to escort you to breakfast.” It was Fenwick.

“Just a moment, Mardil,” Anhuil called out, not opening the door.

“May I come in, please?”

With a yank she pulled open the wooden door. “No, you may not. It is not appropriate for you to be in my chambers unchaperoned.” Over his shoulder she saw Neville, and suppressed an urge to roll her eyes.

“Then come to breakfast with me.” He held out his arm to her.

The last thing she needed this morning was a scene with Mardil. For now, she would go along. With a resigned sigh, she stepped into the hallway and accepted his proffered arm reluctantly. He smiled smugly, then looked at her askance. “Why is your hair not braided?”

“Because I choose to wear it down,” she answered curtly as they walked toward the main hall, Neville heeling like an obedient puppy.

Mardil blew out an exasperated breath. “In Gondor married women braid their hair, Lothíriel.”

“I am not married, Mardil. I will wear my hair as I wish.” She flipped her curls over her shoulder to emphasize her point. “And we are not in Gondor.”

“I thought you were the one concerned with propriety, not even allowing your betrothed into your chambers,” he chided. “Though I hardly think propriety is a worry among those of the Mark.”

Anhuil narrowed her eyes. “Whether it is or is not is not relevant. I am fully aware of what is appropriate and what is not.”

“I would not be too concerned, Lothíriel.”

The princess turned to face him. “Mardil Fenwick, I will not tolerate you disparaging the Rohirrim in the castle of their king!”

Fenwick threw back his head, laughing. “You call this a castle?”

“I think it is lovely,” she snapped, running a delicate finger along the intricate woodwork as they made their way down the corridor.

“You would. However, I believe your fondness for this rather...” he looked around derisively, “quaint architecture has much more to do with its primary inhabitant.”

Anhuil halted outside the main hall and glared at him. “What is that supposed to mean?”

“Only that your apparent affection for the King of Rohan is entirely unbefitting a woman of your position, Lothíriel. You act more like a giggling court maid than an heir to the throne of Dol Amroth when you are in his presence. While I realize that your betrothal to me is but a political opportunity, I do expect a certain amount of decorum on your part.” His eyes raked over her suspiciously. “I believe there is far more to this tale of your travels with these horse lords than you have been willing to impart. ”

The princess turned to Fenwick. “What I choose to impart to you or anyone else is my prerogative. I happen to respect him as a friend of my father’s. He is a brave man, and he is king of this realm. I daresay you should not risk insulting him in the presence of his own people!”

“He is a peasant, Lothíriel. They all are. Look at what they call a ‘city’. It is pathetic.”

“And you will be fortunate if he does not throw you out and make you sleep in the stable, Mardil Fenwick!”

“Why would he care?”

“Because unlike you, Fenwick, HE is a gentleman!” she whispered harshly.

“Who is a gentleman?”

The question cut off whatever retort was on Mardil’s lips. Imrahil and his eldest son had come up the corridor behind them, unseen.

“Good morning, Ada,” the princess chimed sweetly, standing on her tiptoes to kiss his cheek, but the attempt at distraction failed. He had not missed the tone of her voice when she had been speaking to her betrothed. Imrahil cast her a quick smile and repeated his question. “Who is a gentleman?”

“Your daughter was sharing with me part of the story of her travels, My Lord,” Fenwick said, bowing to Imrahil but keeping his eyes on the princess.

Imrahil studied his daughter. A fleeting glare at Mardil and her smile returned placidly. “Shall we, Ada?” she asked politely, motioning toward the hall.

Following her in, they found Éomer awaiting his guests. Amrothos and Erchirion were already seated at the table, but rose when their father and sister entered. The king stood beside the table, dressed in dark colored leggings and a longer deep green tunic, intricately embroidered around the collar, his long hair spilling over his shoulders. Someone had trimmed his beard; she suspected it was his sister.

Anhuil saw Éomer stiffen slightly when she entered with Fenwick. She had dropped his arm when they were arguing outside, and seeing the look on Éomer’s face, she was glad that she had.

His breath caught in his throat at the sight of her. The rose colored gown was a light linen fabric, gently hugging her figure and falling gracefully to the floor. She had left her hair down, the ebony waves cascading over the coppery skin of her shoulders. Their eyes met brief moment, the corners of her mouth turning up slightly at his obvious approval of her appearance. Reaching up, she brushed a strand from her eyes and averted her gaze.

After greeting Imrahil and his son, the king approached the princess. Taking her hand, he bowed politely. “Good morning, Your Highness,” he said, pressing his lips lightly to her fingers. “You rested well?”

“I did, Your Majesty, thank you,” she replied sweetly.

“And your accommodations are to your liking?” Éomer’s eyes still had not left hers.

The princess smiled, her head held high. “Very much so. We were quite comfortable. Fréa saw to that.”

“I will have to thank her then,” he answered, trying to keep his feet as the scent of lavender from her bath surrounded him. He stepped back slightly. The memory of Anhuil bathing was not one he needed to dredge up at this particular moment, fond of it as he was. Now it was Fenwick’s turn to bristle at her side, and she couldn’t help the small look of satisfaction she gave the king as he rose and lifted his eyes to Mardil’s.

“Lord Fenwick, I trust you are well also this morning?”

“What else could a man ask for but to have the privilege waking to breakfast with his lovely fiancé?” he responded smugly.

Éomer suppressed a smirk. “Indeed,” he agreed, with a sideways smile at the princess.

Imrahil watched the exchange with interest. The king turned his charming smile to his guests, motioning toward the table. “Please, sit. I have much to do this morning but I would like a good meal first.” He started toward Anhuil’s seat to pull out the chair, but Fenwick beat him to it with a victorious smile. Éomer only nodded graciously and seated himself next to the Imrahil.

Amrothos turned to his sister. “Where is Camwethrin this morning?”

“She will be arriving shortly. I am afraid I enjoyed a hot bath so much this morning I took far too long, and delayed her in the process.” The glance Anhuil stole at the king did not go unnoticed by her father, although she quickly turned her attention back to her plate.

Éomer smiled briefly in response and turned to the prince. “Lord Imrahil, I have several things that must be attended to this morning, but there are some issues I would like your advice on, if you do not mind,” he said.

“I am certain my offspring can entertain themselves for a while,” the prince answered.

“I, for one, would like to see some of the horses,” Erchirion piped up.

The king beamed proudly. “I will be happy to arrange that, Erchirion. I will provide an escort if you like, to take you out to some of the herdlands.”

“That would be marvelous,” Elphir put in.

“What are your plans for the day, Lothíriel?” her father asked.

“I wanted to spend some time with Lady Éowyn. She says there are some things she would like to show me,” she answered.

Éomer glanced at her, one eyebrow raised. She smiled innocently and continued. “I do not know what she has in store, but Cam and I are supposed to meet her after breakfast.”

“Mardil,” the prince asked, “would you care to join them for a foray out to the herds?”

Fenwick considered it momentarily. “Thank you for the most gracious invitation, but I believe I have had enough of a saddle for a few days.”

“Very well.” Imrahil drained the last of his tea and stood. “I want to speak to one of my men, but I will return shortly, my friend.”

Éomer stood, acknowledging Imrahil’s departure. “One hour, in council chambers?”

With a nod, the prince left the hall, passing Cam on her way in. Amrothos saw her first, leaping to his feet. The other men followed suit. Fenwick rolled his eyes. Why women could not all come to the table at once was beyond him. He glared at her as she took her seat next to the princess. The youngest prince was still smiling as he sat back down, highly pleased with the view across the table.

Exchanging pleasantries, Cam apologized for her tardiness. “It is all right, Camwethrin,” Amrothos replied. “Ani explained that she got to the bath first. We all know how that is.”

“Seriously,” Erchirion added. “She takes the longest bath of any one I have ever known. She does not get out until the water is cold.”

The princess shot him a look across the table as her cheeks reddened. If she could have kicked him she would have, discussing her bathing habits at the breakfast table!

Éomer only smiled pleasantly. “There is nothing wrong with a lady enjoying a small bit of luxury,” he said in her defense.

“A small bit?” Elphir asked, incredulous. “She is spoiled rotten, my friend.”

Fenwick snickered. Anhuil elbowed him so hard he dribbled hot tea in his lap. She never looked his way.

Éomer took a sip from his cup and looked over the top of it at her brothers. “Your sister is far from spoiled rotten. She can very much pull her weight when it is required of her, and even when it is not.” The smile she gave him was all the thanks he needed.

“Look at her, Éomer. Of course she can pull her weight...there isn’t much to pull!”

Éomer nearly choked on the words. Look at her. As if he could do anything else.
Anhuil wadded up her napkin and threw it at Amrothos. Cam gave Éomer a helpless look. “Do you see what I have to live with?” she asked him.

The king laughed. “I admire your courage, my Lady.”

Anhuil turned to Cam. “My only ally in a sea of male pride,” she said teasingly. “I do not know what I would have done growing up without Cam. Simply because I sometimes dress as a man does not mean I do not think like a woman. Heaven knows I get enough grief from Ada about my hoydenish ways, as he calls them. He always says if it was not for the dresses I do occasionally wear, people would probably assume Imrahil had four sons!”

“Or five, if you count Cam. She is as bad as you are for dressing like a boy,” Erchirion added. Amrothos shot him a severe look.

“I seriously doubt there has ever been any danger of anyone mistaking either of you for a boy,” the king said, smiling over his cup at them.

“Lothíriel, I am going to return to my chambers. I have some reading to catch up on. May I escort you back?” Fenwick rose from the table and made to pull out her chair.

“I am not quite finished. Go on without me. I will be fine,” she answered curtly.

The dark haired man took a long breath, his gaze falling on the king. “Very well. I will look for you later.”

The princess nodded but did not turn around as he left the room. Éomer saw her relax visibly when the doors to the hall swung shut behind him. “So, you two have plans with my sister, do you? That should prove interesting.”

“She has not said where she is taking us,” Cam answered, “but she did tell us to meet her at the stables. I suppose we should change and meet her there soon.”

“We should not keep her waiting,” the princess agreed, rising from the table. Cam followed.

Éomer nearly leapt to pull out the princess’ chair, with Amrothos practically tripping over himself to get to Cam’s. Anhuil’s other brothers exchanged looks, rolling their eyes. The princess leaned over the table, plucking an apple out of a bowl. “I seem to remember Firefoot fancies apples,” she commented, almost to herself, looking at the fruit thoughtfully.

The king grinned. “He will not tell, Princess. I promise you. He is sworn to secrecy.”

Anhuil winked at him as she tossed the apple to Cam, who caught it with one hand. “We shall see,” she remarked as she pushed open the door. Cam turned back and smiled over her shoulder at Amrothos before following the princess out the door.

Elphir stared at his youngest brother, then at the king, shaking his head. “You two are completely hopeless, you know that?”

~~~~~~~~~~

Cam and Anhuil had changed from their morning dresses into more appropriate tunics and leggings for riding, and met Éomer's sister in the stables. She had taken the liberty of having their mounts saddled, and before long they were racing across the plains of Rohan. It had been a long time since the princess had enjoyed that kind of freedom. She could almost forget about Fenwick. But not quite.

Éowyn halted under the shade of a tree near the riverbank, dismounting. The others followed suit, leading the horses by the reins to the water to let them drink. As they walked them to cool them down, the princess and Cam regaled her with stories of their antics growing up in Dol Amroth.

Éowyn chuckled. “You two sound much like Éomer and I. Théodred was older when we came to live here. Éomer was only a lad of eleven and I was barely nine years. Our cousin took it upon himself to show us all the secret passageways underneath the Hall, and inform us as to the best rooms for eavesdropping and the quickest way to the kitchen to steal tarts.” She laughed softly.

“Secret passages?” the princess asked.

“Yes, there are many. Originally designed by King Brégo as an escape route for the royal family, should Meduseld ever be attacked. One leads to the stables, another outside the city gates. But they also open up into nearly every room in the Golden Hall.” She cast them a mischievous glance. “Including the room in which the two of you are sleeping.”

“We have some such passages at the palace in Dol Amroth as well,” Cam told her. “Ani and I used them all the time as children to escape the guards and hide from our tutors.”

With a laugh, the three strolled down the bank, talking for quite some time before deciding to mount up and ride back.

In the stables, they handed over their mounts to the grooms. The men’s horses were still out, and Éowyn had told them it may be a while before they returned, depending on how far they went. Cam suggested some sparring, an idea wholeheartedly agreed to by the princess. Excusing herself, she went to retrieve their weapons.

Anhuil started up the hill toward Meduseld, but was stayed by a hand on her arm. “Your Highness,” Éowyn began, then hesitated.

“Ani, please,” the princess interrupted.

Éowyn smiled. “Ani, then.” She paused a moment before continuing. “I wanted to talk to you alone, about my brother.”

Anhuil swallowed. “What do you want to know?”

“My brother loves you,” she said bluntly. “I do not mean to intrude where it is not my business, but I fear for him.”

Anhuil stopped. “I love your brother, Éowyn. You have no need to fear for him where I am concerned.”

“I do not doubt that, Princess, but you are betrothed to another. To hear Faramir tell it, dissolving such a contract is next to impossible.”

“Next to, perhaps, but not impossible,” Anhuil answered. “I will find a way, Éowyn. You must believe me. I love your brother, and I will not marry Mardil Fenwick. Even if it means defying my father.”

“You would risk that, for Éomer?”

“I would risk everything for him.” She grinned. “Besides, he has threatened to throw me over his horse and ride away with me if I even think of marrying that prat.”

Éowyn’s hand closed over hers. “And let me assure you, Princess, he means every word of it. He would do so without a second thought. Éomer is very passionate, and he sometimes allows that passion to stand in place of prudence."

Deep green eyes met blue grey. “I understand,” Anhuil responded.

“I do not wish to see him hurt again, Ani. Life has been very cruel to my brother. He is a strong man but I do not know how much more loss his heart can take.”

The sincerity in her eyes bit down to Anhuil’s soul. She nodded solemnly, squeezing the White Lady’s hand. “I would never hurt him intentionally, Éowyn. You have my promise.”

The response seemed to satisfy her, her grey-blue eyes sparkling.

Cam reappeared, her own blade buckled about her waist and Ani’s in her hand. “Will you be joining us, Éowyn? I would so love to learn some techniques from a true Shieldmaiden of Rohan.”

“Would that I could, Camwethrin. I have some matters that need attending before my uncle’s burial. If you ladies will pardon me, I will rejoin you at dinner.” With a wide parting grin, she headed up the path toward the Hall.

The two women strolled down through the bustling town of Edoras, making their way to the training field behind the stable.

~~~~~~~~

The sound of clashing steel caught the attention of two soldiers as they approached the stables. Walking around to the back, they were surprised to see two young women practicing at arms.

The older soldier laughed, “Ah, the women of Gondor now wish to be Shieldmaidens as well.”

Haleth gave his friend an odd look. “Do you not recognize Anhuil, Déor?”

Stopping in his tracks, Déor took a closer look. “You are right.” A slow grin appeared, “And look, she brought a friend.” His smile widened.

As Éomer led Amrothos to the stables, planning on showing off some of the mearas that were quartered there, he noticed several people gathering toward the rear of the structure. Nudging the young prince, he headed that direction to see what was causing the commotion.

Anhuil blocked a wicked thrust and turned Cam’s blade away. Stepping back, the blonde nodded, catching her breath. “Very well done, but you are…” Cam's voice trailed off at the sudden cheering that arose behind her. A small crowd had gathered around the fence, Rohirrim soldiers, Swan Knights and soldiers from Gondor. Casting a nervous glance toward Anhuil, she whispered, “I believe we have attracted an audience.”

“So it appears,” the princess muttered and took in the faces surrounding them. Anhuil's eyes lit up as she recognized Haleth and Déor. Grabbing Cam’s hand, she pulled her friend to the fence. “Camwethrin, I would like you to meet my friends. Haleth,” the young man grinned and nodded. “And Déor.”

Déor took Cam’s hand and brought it to his lips. Blue eyes sparkling, he kissed her fingers lightly. “A pleasure, my lady.”

Éomer and Amrothos rounded the corner just as Déor lowered Cam’s hand. The prince visibly bristled at the display, quickly becoming more agitated at the sight of her shy smile. He hastened his pace to the training field, not noticing the smirk on the king’s face as he hurried to catch up.

The king and the prince approached the field, exchanging pleasantries with those near the fence. The tall soldier had not yet taken his eyes off of Cam. “Your skill with a sword is impressive,” he said with a mischievous grin. “However, I believe you could benefit by training with a stronger opponent.”

“Oh?” Cam asked with a quirk of her eyebrow, not about to tell him she had trained with three of the strongest opponents one could find; the sons of Prince Imrahil.

“Let me show you.” He leapt over the fence and guided Cam back onto the training field. She looked to Anhuil, who simply shrugged her shoulders, and leaned back on the fence.

Déor indicated to Cam to draw her sword, and then proceeded with his lesson. “You are holding your blade at too steep an angle. A larger opponent can take advantage of that.” He stepped in quickly, pushing her arm and blade against her body. His free hand stopped at her abdomen, fingers clenched. “A solid punch here,” he pushed his hand in slightly, “or a grab here,” his fingers slid around her waist, drawing her in tighter. “You would be in a lot of trouble.”

Haleth couldn’t help but roll his eyes at Déor’s antics. He leaned over toward the king. “I understand women find him fair but his ability to charm surpasses all I have ever seen. Where did he learn that?”

The princess giggled, sneaking a quick glance at the king. “I was under the impression that it was a skill men of the Rohirrim learn from the cradle,” she quipped. “At least, those of you I have met.” Éomer cleared his throat and turned his attention back to the activity on the field.

Amrothos braced his hands on the fence and cleared it, not even pausing to acknowledge his sister. Anhuil grabbed his arm to hold him back, as Éomer reached over to catch his shoulder. The blazing look in his eyes confirmed her suspicions of the prince’s feelings for the admiral’s daughter.

“Amrothos, what do you think you are doing?” she queried, a slight smirk crossing her features.

“Who does he think he is, questioning her training?” he replied, making to break from their grip.

She glanced over his shoulder to see Éomer grinning broadly at her. With a shy grin of her own, she turned back to her brother. “I believe you are jealous, Amrothos.”

“I am not. It is just…” he stopped as Déor’s hand slipped around Cam’s waist.

Éomer leaned over to the irate prince. “If Cam has half the training your sister has, she will be fine. Déor means no harm, he is just having a bit of fun. He is truly far more of a gentleman than I.”

As if to confirm the king’s observation, Cam slipped her free hand behind her and drew a knife, quickly placing the tip at Déor’s throat. “I believe the larger, stronger opponent would also be in trouble,” she quipped.

Déor stepped back, hands raised in supplication. “As it would appear, my lady. Still, a small exercise does not demonstrate your skill against said larger opponent.”

Cam took the bait. “Very well, soldier. Draw your sword.”

Princess, prince and king watch as the pair squared off. Éomer stood on the other side of the fence, moving behind Anhuil to watch the action, surreptitiously stroking his fingers lightly along her back. It took all of her concentration to focus on the match before them, and periodically make comments to her brother.

“What is the problem, dear brother? Are you concerned she will be injured? Or are you more concerned your training will not prove adequate?” She stifled her laugh as his gaze darkened, and couldn’t resist one last dig. “Or is the problem the fact that her attention is focused on another man?”

The two were well matched, Cam’s speed and agility making up for his aggression and power. “I have to admit, this is lasting longer than I expected,” Déor commented, more than a little out of breath.

She smirked, “I expected a warrior such as you to have a bit more stamina.” She ducked under his blow, and glanced toward Anhuil. She did not expect to see Amrothos there, nor the look in his eyes. Was that jealousy?

The momentary distraction was all Déor needed. Stepping in, he hooked her blade with his own and sent it flying. Amrothos practically leapt from the fence, determined to end the contest before the other man could. He froze in his tracks as Cam brought her foot up, knocking the blade from the surprised opponent's hand. While he was off balance, she caught his arm and twisted it behind his back, forcing him to the ground with a kick behind his knee.

She leaned in close, “Is this more to your liking?”

With a laugh, Déor conceded. “Perhaps not to my liking, but I believe the lesson is learned.”

Cam released her grip and he stood, as gracefully as he could manage. Turning to face her, he noticed Amrothos’ stormy gaze. He took her hand and pressed his lips to her fingers lightly, lingering slightly longer than necessary. “I have enjoyed our match,” he said with a sly grin.

“Have you? Most men do not wish to be bested by a woman, especially in the presence of other men. I apologize for your humiliation.”

Déor grinned. “Considering the amount of ridicule I am to suffer for this, would you consider a token of compensation?”

Cam cocked her head to one side. “Which would be?”

He stepped forward, still holding her hand. “I am certain a kiss would be worth months of derision.”

The blonde chuckled, blushing slightly. “You Rohirrim certainly are a proper lot,” she chided sarcastically. “I barely know your name. And now you beg a kiss?”

“Forgive my audacity. I forget the customs of Gondor are more genteel.” The look he gave her was only slightly contrite. “Another time, my lady?”

“Perhaps,” she replied, with a teasing smile.

“I bid you good day, then.” With a smirk toward the prince, Déor strode to his companions, bracing for the jabs he was sure would be a long time coming.

Cam retrieved her sword, and walked toward her friends, a triumphant grin on her face. “Did you see that Ani? I thought for sure he had me.”

“By all rights he did,” Amrothos’ voice came over her shoulder, cutting off any response from his sister. Her smile faltered as she turned to look at him. “How could you allow him take your weapon?”

“I did not allow him anything,” she shot back. “Besides, I recall learning the perfect counter from you.”

“You never should have had to counter. You lost your focus and in the process, lost your weapon.” The prince let his frustration get the better of him. “Had that been a real fight, you would have been dead.”

Cam looked away, shocked at his verbal barrage. She noticed the crowd that had been starting to disperse, stopping to witness his rather loud criticism of her skills. Her cheeks colored at the embarrassment of it.

“Amrothos,” Anhuil’s voice cut in. “I do not think this is the time, nor the place. Besides, Cam handled herself well.”

“Handled herself well? She gave up her weapon!”

“And defeated him anyway, in case you did not notice!” the princess snapped back.

“She did defeat one of our more skilled swordsmen,” Éomer offered.

Amrothos glared at him. He turned back to the blonde, surprised to see her retreating back. “Cam, wait!” he called out to her.

She stopped and turned toward him. “I apologize for disappointing you. I will endeavor in the future to refrain from such actions, my lord.” With an exaggerated bow, she spun away again and stalked toward Meduseld.

“You certainly could have handled that better,” his sister snapped.

With a sigh, he looked at Anhuil. She stood facing him, arms folded across her chest, tapping her foot. He glanced toward Éomer for support, but the king stepped back, wisely keeping out of it.

“What was I supposed to do, Ani? She made several mistakes.”

“Did you have to call her on them in front of an audience?” Shaking her head, she graced him with a sympathetic smile. “You do not handle your jealousy well.”

“Not all of us are blessed with your tact, sister,” he quipped sarcastically. “And I am not-”

“Yes, you are. Now, if you wish to hold any hope of getting yourself out of this hole you have dug, you had better go after her and apologize.”

He glanced to Eomer again, who held up his hands in surrender, not saying a word. With a sigh, he looked to see Cam rounding the corner near the stable. The prince jogged after her.

“There is a shovel on the back wall of the stable, should you need it,” Éomer called after him. Anhuil giggled.

Amrothos ignored him.

~~~~~~~~
Meduseld
10 Urui, 3019 T.A.
~~~~~~~~~~~~

The days passed quickly. The princess spent a great deal of her time avoiding Fenwick, sparring with Cam, or talking with Éowyn. She did not see much of the king except at mealtimes. When the opportunity arose, she spent time with Celeborn and Galadriel, taking more notes in her journal.

On the third day after their arrival, Théoden King was laid to rest under a mound in the east side of the Barrowfield. Gléowine, the court minstrel had composed a haunting song, and sang in the tongue of the Rohirrim which moved even those who could not understand the words.

As the crowds of his people gathered at the mound, Anhuil noticed a solemn red headed woman standing back slightly. She did not weep and wail openly as many of the women present did, but stood tall, shoulders squared, her red curls lifted slightly by the small summer breeze. Something about the way she stood so proudly touched Anhuil, especially when she saw a single tear slide down the woman’s fair cheek. When the princess turned to find her again, she was gone.

Never had there been such a host in Meduseld. As the guests from every corner of Middle Earth gathered in the Golden Hall for the feast, Éowyn brought to her brother a cup. Bidding the guests to stand as Gléowine honored each of the former kings of the Rohan, ending with Théoden. Éomer made a toast to Théoden, draining his cup, and when the cups were refilled, all hailed Éomer as their new King. When he raised his cup, his eyes met Anhuil’s, her smile more precious to him than all the treasures of the Mark.

Éomer stood, calling Éowyn and Faramir to stand before him, announcing their betrothal before their guests. As he lifted his cup to them, he looked back at Anhuil, their gaze meeting. She belonged here. It should be his own betrothal he was announcing. And one way or another, he would make that happen.

Revelry continued far late into the night. With so many crowded around the new king, Anhuil thought it best to keep her distance. She was amused by the two young hobbits singing and dancing on tables. And from the way Amrothos was monopolizing Cam’s attention, she figured he would be fit to be tied if she interrupted. The crowds and noise becoming a bit too much, she headed for a door to get some air.

“Where are you going, Lothíriel?”

“Only to get some air, Mardil,” she said flatly.

“Would you care for some company?”

“No thank you. I just wish to be alone.” She shoved open the heavy door. Fenwick glanced around, noting that the king was deep in conversation with the prince and King Elessar. Shrugging, he rejoined the raucous group at the table.

~~~~~

Returning from outside, Anhuil found Cam sitting at a table with her brothers and the Elves, all laughing at something Elladan had said. She slid on to the bench beside Cam. “I see you two came to an accord,” she said to her friend, indicating Amrothos. Cam only smiled shyly, but it was all the answer the princess needed. She beamed at her friend. “I think I am turning in.”

The blonde turned to her, blue eyes wide. “Already? It is early yet, Ani. Come on, have another ale and stay with us.” She turned to one of the tall, dark haired Elves at the end of the table. “Hey, Elrohir...pass another mug down here if you please.” He grinned and nodded. Facing Ani, her brows furrowed. “Where have you been, anyway?”

“I went for a walk, ran into an old friend.” The princess smiled.

“An old friend? In Edoras?”

“When I was working in the Houses of Healing, I met a young woman named Eolindë. I saw her outside, and we talked a while.” She rubbed her forhead with her fingertips. “I am very tired, Camwethrin.”

“Come on, Ani...one ale,” Cam beseeched her.

Elrohir set the tankard in front of her, flashing a wide grin of perfect teeth. The princess shook her head. Elves. No one should be that beautiful, she thought. She returned the smile. “Hannon le.”

“Nad dithen, híril nín,” he answered.

Anhuil sighed, leaning over to Cam. “How do you tell them apart?”

The blonde shrugged. “I have no idea. I just call a name and see which answers.” The two women exchanged glances and giggled. The princess visited with them for a while, finishing the one drink as promised, then headed off to bed. The noise of the Golden Hall still buzzing in her head, she was fast asleep almost as soon as her head hit the pillow.

~~~~~~~~~
Meduseld
14 Urui, 3019 T.A.
~~~~~~~~~~~


At sunrise a few days later, the Elves of Rivendell and Lothloríen prepared to leave, saying their goodbyes. The king bowed to The Lady of the Wood and kissed her hand.

Galadriel looked into his eyes. “Do not be troubled, young King of the Mark. Your reign shall be long and blessed.” She glanced at the princess, who was saying her goodbyes to the Elf brothers. “The House of Eorl the Young will endure.” Her gaze returned to the king. She drew her hand from his, placing it gently on his cheek. “It is determination, not fate, that makes ones dreams a reality.” At his confused expression, the Lady laughed. “You will understand, my young friend.” Her enigmatic smile did little to quell his vexation.

Lord Celeborn stepped forward. “We are most grateful for the hospitality that the house of Eorl has extended,” he said, grasping the king’s hand. “If ever the favor need be returned, you are most welcome in Lothloríen as well.”

Éomer nodded, continuing his farewells among the other guests.

The brothers Rumil and Orophin kissed the hands of Cam and Anhuil. “We have enjoyed your company,” Orophin said, as they mounted up. “If you are ever so inclined we would love to show you our home in the trees.”

“Perhaps someday we will journey there,” Cam smiled. “Ani and I have long been seekers of adventure.”

“You are always welcome in Dol Amroth as well, mellinamin, should you ever decide to venture to the sea.” Amrothos chuckled as he shook their hands.

The brothers laughed. “Nîn velui a lalaith veren nalú en-agovaded vín,” Rumil called to them.

Fenwick stood with Neville, glaring at his fiancé as she spoke to the Elves. Neville glanced at him, noting his dour expression. He looked up as the white steed of the Lady of the Wood suddenly appeared in front of him. Without a word, she looked at him. He felt as if she were looking straight through him. She spoke not a word, but her voice was clear in his head.

“Mardil Fenwick, I see what is in your heart. I know what it is you seek. Those who use others for their own purposes will find they are often used themselves. Take care in your alliances, Mardil Fenwick. Those with whom you associate often reveal your true character.”

She turned her mount away from him, and galloped off to catch up with her husband, not looking back.

“Elf witch,” he muttered under his breath.

“What was that about?” Neville stared after the beautiful Elf queen.

“Nothing,” Mardil answered, his hand at his own throat. “Nothing at all.”

~~~~~~~~~~

Hannon le - thank you

Nad dithen, híril nín - it is a small thing, my lady (kinda like "no big," in Sindarin)

Nîn velui a lalaith veren nalú en-agovaded vín - Sweet water and light laughter until next we meet

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Chapter name
Chapter Twenty-Three
Created
14 Apr 2004
Last Edited
14 Apr 2004
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