Login

Lost Password?

Create New Account

Trust To Hope

Chapter 25: Chapter Twenty-Four

by Novedhelion

Trust to Hope - Chapter Twenty-four
Author: Novedhelion
Type: FP Het
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Pairing: Éomer/Lothíriel aka Anhuil
Rating: PG13
Warnings: As if you need more reason to hate Fenwick...
Beta: Riyallyn
Disclaimer: In my world, two people WILL fit in one Rohirrim saddle. I’m tired of the argument. Can you say FICTION? I knew ya could!

****************************
Chapter Twenty-Four
****************************
I can show you the world
Shining, shimmering, splendid
Tell me, princess, now when did
You last let your heart decide?

A Whole New World, Aladdin
***********************************
Rohan
The Golden Hall of Meduseld
24 Urui, 3019 T.A.
***********************************

Prince Imrahil and his family stayed at Edoras after the others had departed, as did Faramir. The princess missed the company of the Elves and Hobbits, especially now that Éomer was often busy in meetings and councils. She wondered at her father’s decision to tarry here, and spent much of her free time with Cam, Éowyn and Arwen, who had also stayed when Elessar left with Celeborn and Galadriel. The princess was at first intimidated by the Elven beauty, but Arwen’s soft manner and sense of humor quickly put her at ease.

Feasts were held nearly every evening, lively parties nothing like the highly dignified dinners in the Citadel. Anhuil loved the feeling of freedom the courts of the Golden Hall had. The soldiers of the Mark were as welcome there as the Captain of the Royal Guard, and the women sang and danced and drank with the men.

She was surprised that her normally very reserved father seemed to be enjoying the revelry as much as her brothers, laughing at the rather colorful songs some of the Rohirrim sang. When they started one such chorus, a strangely familiar tune about dragons and virgins, he had looked her way with a raised eyebrow. She had only shrugged innocently, taking off quickly with some excuse about needing to find Cam and Arwen.

Anhuil was awakened late one night by a gentle hand brushing back her hair. “Ani…” his soft voice drew her from her sleep. Opening her eyes, she was startled to see Éomer kneeling beside her bed.

“What are you doing here?” she whispered, propping herself up on one elbow. She peered over at Cam, who appeared to be sleeping soundly.

“Waking you,” he answered plainly.

“How did you-“ He gave her a half-smile and indicated the wall behind her, beside the fireplace. The large framed tapestry of the riders on horseback was flung open, revealing an opening about two-thirds the size of a normal doorway. Of course, she thought. The passageways Éowyn had told her about.

“Will you come with me, please?”

She sat up in bed, drawing the covers up to her chest. “Éomer, it is the middle of the night!”

“No, it is nearly morning,” he whispered matter-of-factly.

“Where?” she demanded.

“It is a surprise.” He grinned mischievously.

“But it is still dark--” her voice trailing off, she sighed.

“Please? I fear this is not a chance we will have again.” His pleading look got the better of her. Kicking the covers down with an exasperated sigh, Anhuil stood and walked to the window, peering out into the darkness before reaching for her clothes. She glanced at Éomer, now standing beside the bed, catching his appraising stare, and suddenly realized she was wearing a rather revealing nightdress, particularly with the moonlight shining through the window behind her. His momentary shock reined in, Éomer raised his eyes to meet hers.

“You should probably dress a little warmer,” he deadpanned. The princess looked down at the thin, filmy fabric of her gown, then back up at him, wondering if he could see the color in her cheeks in the dim light. He averted his gaze to the ceiling. “Anhuil, unless you wish me to do something highly untoward I suggest you dress quickly. I will wait over here.” He stepped over to the opening behind the wall hanging.

Éomer,” she whispered teasingly, cocking her head to one side, “what if I do wish you to do something untoward?”

The king looked back at her, every curve visible through the thin cotton of her gown, her hand on her shapely hip, tousled hair falling about her shoulders. Swallowing hard, he fought the overwhelming urge to throw her back down on the bed, clearing his throat.

“If you are going to do something untoward, please do it in your own chambers. I am sleeping here,” Cam’s voice piped up from the other bed.

“Woman, get dressed,” he whispered with a snicker, and moved back to the passageway.

With a giggle and an apology to Cam, she turned and grabbed a pair of leggings and a tunic from her bag, and slipped them on. Perching on the edge of the bed, she yanked on her boots and grabbed her cloak, in the process knocking a few books off the bed and into the floor. Biting her bottom lip, she peered through the dark at Cam, who had rolled over to face the wall. The blonde pulled her pillow over her head.

Anhuil chuckled and slipped into the passageway, pulling the tapestry back into place behind her. Éomer waited with a dimmed lantern. “You know, we could just use the door. Everyone else is asleep, and no one would--“ As she closed the doorway, he set the lantern down and went to her, his hands on her waist pinning her to the wall.

“But this is so much more fun.” He kissed her lightly.

The princess grinned up at him. “So where are we going?”

“You will see.” Taking her hand and grabbing the lamp, he led her through the maze of tunnels. At one fork, he stopped and stared at the two openings. “Hmm…” he voiced his thoughts out loud. “Which way?”

“I thought you grew up using these passages,” Anhuil smirked.

He turned to look at her. “It has been along time,” he admitted.

“By sea and stars,” she muttered, rolling her eyes. “I am lost in the bowels of Meduseld in the middle of the night.”

“It is not the middle of the night, and you are not lost,” he reasoned, peering around the next corner. “Temporarily dislocated, perhaps. Ah, here we go.” Éomer chose a path, leading her by the hand down the dark passageway. A few twists and turns later and he stopped, listening intently, his finger to his lips. He blew out the lantern. In the pitch dark, she heard him flip the lock, and pale light streamed in as he opened another doorway.

The passage led to an entrance in the stables, behind the furthest stall. Leading her out, he pushed the hidden door back into place. Anhuil shook her head. This one was a part of the actual wall, and when it was closed there was absolutely no indication it was there.

“Amazing,” she quipped as they darted toward the stable. You cannot even tell there is a door there!”

“That is the idea,” he responded matter-of-factly. Firefoot waited, already saddled. He snorted impatiently.

“He is already saddled? You were that certain I would go with you? Confident in your ability to persuade me, are you not?” Anhuil teased him as she climbed into the saddle.

The king settled in behind her, his arms around her, holding the reins. “Not over confident, my dear,” he responded softly, his beard tickling her ear. “I just believe in being prepared.”

The darkness was just beginning to give way to the pale light before dawn as the rode out. She yawned, leaning back against his chest, his arms resting on her thighs. “Where are we going, Éomer?”

She felt the grin she could not see. “It is a surprise. I want to show you something,” was all he would say.

Anhuil looked up at the wide expanse of sky above her. A few clouds scattered here and about, lazily drifting past the moon that dimly lit the plains, touching the tall waving grasses with edgings of silver. In the distance the faint light was just beginning to crest the mountains, the predawn breeze already warm. He guided the horse to a path at the base of a rocky trail up the mountains behind Edoras, reining in and dismounting. Helping her down, he led her by the hand to a path up through the rocks.

“For the love of the Valar, Éomer. If I had known you were waking me up just to go mountain climbing I would have stayed in my warm little bed,” she fussed, trying to watch where her feet were in the pale light.

He reached the top of a rise, and turned to help her up. “You would have? And miss this?”

Lifting her up to where he stood, he turned her around, smiling to himself at the small gasp that escaped her lips. From their perch on the rock, the valley of Starkhorn opened up, the Snowbourne River in the distance pouring in a huge waterfall from the side of the mountain hundreds of feet up into the vale below. Moonlight shimmered on the cold water, reflecting back on the snow-covered peaks behind. The river flowed from the vale out past Edoras and into the plains, where it became the Entwash, flowing southeast to the Anduin before heading to sea. The effect took her breath away. Turning toward Éomer, she glanced out over the fields below.

“You can see all of Rohan from here,” she sighed.

“Not quite.” Smiling at her obvious delight, he stepped behind her, his arms going around her waist.

“It is incredible, Éomer. I do not think I have ever been this high up before,” she said, her fingers tightening involuntarily on his arm around her.

“We are not that high up, Ani,” he said, laughing.

“Éomer, I grew up by the sea.” she remarked wryly.

“Then I suppose to you, this is high, although we are truly less than halfway to the top. Éowyn and I used to come up here as kids sometimes, to escape, to talk.”

“Is that why we came up here?” She turned in the circle of his embrace. “To talk?”

“Among other things,” he answered, their lips meeting in a soft kiss. The king smiled at her. “I wanted you to see this.” He turned her to face the mountain, keeping his arms around her waist. The sun was just beginning to peek over the crest, the first rays casting a pink and orange glow across the jagged ridges of the Starkhorn. Anhuil watched as the sun slowly rose. The sheer beauty of the white and black streaked mountain peaks tinged with the rose of dawn awed her. Éomer smiled at her obvious pleasure in the sunrise.

“But this, ” he added, turning her back to face the other direction, “ is what I wanted to talk to you about.”

He turned her around, their backs to the peak of the Starkhorn, now facing down across the vale in which Meduseld lay. The green hill upon which the city of Edoras lay was clearly visible now in the pale morning light. As the sun climbed higher over the peaks, the sky erupting in an explosion of pinks, oranges and reds, the golden thatched rooftop of Meduseld glinted in the sunlight. Reflecting back the colors of the sky, the golden hall glowed first pink, then orange, then sparkled gold as the sun fell full on it, shining brightly as if on fire from the inside.

“What do you think?” he asked her, his arms still around her waist, his chin resting on her head.

Anhuil shook her head slowly. “Words fail me, Éomer. It is…” she sighed. “Beautiful does not do it justice.”

The king grinned. “I rather hoped you would like it,” he chuckled.

“Like it?” she turned to face him. “It is exquisite.”

He raised his hand to her cheek, tracing the outline of her jaw with his fingers. “You are exquisite.” His mouth covered hers, the soft kiss leaving her as breathless as the sunrise.

“You said there was something about which you wished to speak to me?”

“So I did,” he responded. Éomer turned her around again, to face the courts of Edoras below. Wrapping his arms around her waist, he pulled her close, her head leaning back on his chest. “That is my home, now, Anhuil. Théoden and Théodred are gone. Éowyn will be leaving here soon. It will be a very large, empty hall.” He paused, carefully selecting the words. “I do not want to live here alone.”

“From what I have seen it is rarely empty,” she chuckled. “I would think you would be looking forward to some peace.”

“Well, the people of the Mark do not have to look hard to find reasons to celebrate, that is true,” he agreed, laughing. “And I would not mind giving them yet another reason.”

“Such as?”

“I believe they would celebrate for weeks over a new Queen of the Mark,” he answered softly.

Anhuil’s heart skipped a beat. “What are you saying, Éomer?” She turned in his arms, green eyes searching dark brown.

“I am saying, princess, that I want to fall asleep with you in my arms every night and wake up to you every morning. I want you to be here to see me off when I ride into battle and to be here when I return. I want our children’s laughter to ring through those halls.” He paused, smiling down at her. “I want you to stay.”

Confusion clouded her features. “Éomer…”

He continued, undaunted. “I want you to be Queen of that Golden Hall. I want you to marry me, Princess Lothíriel of Dol Amroth.”

Anhuil was fairly certain her heart had not skipped a beat but had stopped beating entirely. She stared at him, unable to form even a word, much less a comprehensive sentence.

Éomer looked at her questioningly. “Did you hear me, Ani?”

She opened her mouth to speak, but no sound came out. She managed a slight nod.

“Good. I would not want my intentions to be unclear.” He grinned at her.

“But my father…Fenwick...”

“I will speak to both of them as soon as possible.”

Anhuil averted her gaze. “Éomer, you know I cannot promise you…”

His fingers gently lifted her face to his. “Do not tell me what you cannot do, Ani. Tell me what you want to do.”

Her eyes locked on to his. “I want to marry you, Éomer.”

“Then we will find a way to make that happen, Princess.” He leaned down, capturing her lips with his own. Pulling back, he smiled down at her. “We should get you back before there is trouble,” he said softly, brushing her curls from her eyes. With one last look around at the incredible view, she followed him back down the narrow path.

******

Anhuil was back in bed before Cam awoke. Lying in the soft bed, staring at the patterns of the stone on the ceiling, her mind reeled. She closed her eyes, the images of Meduseld in the early morning light filling her mind. Images of his arms around her, him telling her he wanted her to be his wife. She drew in a deep breath, letting it out slowly.

“Ani? Are you awake?” Cam’s soft voice shook her from her reverie.

“Yes,” the princess answered.

“Did you have a nice time?” the blonde asked teasingly.

“What do you mean?” Anhuil played innocent.

“Ani, please... I may be younger than you but I am no fool,” her friend joked. “Tell me!”

The princess sat up in bed, grinning at her friend. “He took me to see the sunrise over Edoras. We had a very pleasant talk.” She smiled sweetly.”

Cam raised one eyebrow. “Talk? About what?”

“Oh, nothing, really,” she casually commented, standing and pulling on a robe. “He only asked me to marry him,” she said quietly, flipping her hair back over her shoulders.

Cam leapt from the bed. “He did what? Ani, what did you tell him?”

“What could I say, Camwethrin?” she turned to look out the window. “I told him I wanted to marry him. But he knows I cannot promise that. He understands that my betrothal to Fenwick is still an obstacle. Whether we can overcome that, I do not know.” She leaned on the stone sill, gazing absently across the plain.

“There has to be a way,” Cam said quietly. “You belong here, Ani. As much as I would miss you…you belong with Éomer.”

The princess smiled, pulling her robe tightly around her, Éomer’s sweet words still echoing in her head. His wife. His queen. Their children.

How could she leave now?

********

Imrahil stood as the other men left the council chamber, waiting until the door closed behind them, then turned to Éomer.

“What are your thoughts?” the king asked the prince.

Imrahil nodded approvingly. “I believe you have put much consideration into this decision, and I believe your reasoning is sound.”

“Thank you, Imrahil. It means much coming from you.”

The prince smiled, acknowledging the compliment with a nod, then held the king’s gaze. “Was there something else?” Éomer asked him, leaning forward in his chair.

Taking a seat across from Éomer, Imrahil leaned back and regarded the younger man intently. “I believe there is something you wish to discuss with me, am I correct?” The prince’s piercing grey eyes raked over him, making him feel much more like a wayward stripling than a king. The chair in which he sat creaked as he shifted his weight, leaning back slightly.

“Of what matter are you speaking?” Éomer finally asked, unsure how much Imrahil knew.

“I speak of my daughter,” the prince said.

A nod from the king affirmed his suspicion, but Éomer’s gaze never wavered. “I will tell you the honest truth, Imrahil. You are my friend, and I would not have any enmity between us.” He paused, taking a deep breath. “I am in love with your daughter.”

The prince did not seem the least bit surprised. “Does my daughter return your love?”

“I believe she does, my lord,” Éomer answered quietly. “So she has told me.”

He nodded thoughtfully. “It is my understanding that she met up with you when she ran away, is that correct?” Imrahil asked.

“Yes,” Éomer told him, “although she did not tell me who she was. Had she done so I assure you I would have seen her back to Dol Amroth as quickly as possible.”

“But since you did not know she was a princess, you felt it was not inappropriate to begin a dalliance with her?” Imrahil asked him.

The king’s eyes narrowed. “A dalliance? Is that what you think of this?” He shook his head. “Believe me, friend, it was the last thing I was looking for. Had another company come along I most likely would have sent her away as quickly as possible, as onerous as she was in the beginning. Fighting my men, arguing with me constantly, deliberately defying every order I gave...”

“Sounds all too familiar,” the prince chuckled.

“Trust me, Imrahil,” He said, laughing softly. “I would have gladly escorted her to the nearest border and sent her on her way, just to be rid of her sass! The last thing I was thinking of was falling in love with her.”

“And yet, you did.”

“I could not stop myself any more than I could learn to fly,” Éomer said resignedly, shaking his head. “I do not think she meant for it to happen, either. She was not overly fond of me in the beginning.”

The prince stared at him a moment longer. “You truly love her?”

“With all of my heart,” Éomer answered truthfully.

With a heavy sigh, Imrahil leaned forward on the table. “She is betrothed to another. I take it you know this,” he said.

“I do. But I did not when I met her, I assure you.” He stood from his seat and walked to the window, looking out across the field below. “Is there nothing that can be done? No way to dissolve such a contract?”

The expression on the face of the prince told Éomer more than he wanted to know. “It is just not done. Betrothals are a vow, almost as sacred as marriage itself.” The prince sighed heavily. “I cannot change the laws of the land based upon what I want or do not want for my daughter. I wish I could. It is simply not possible.”

Éomer stood, staring absently out the window, his hands folded behind his back. “You are saying there is nothing that can be done?”

Imrahil sighed. “Unless the dissolution is agreed upon by both parties involved, it would be most difficult indeed.”

The king spun on his heel to face the prince. “If Mardil Fenwick would release her from the obligation of the contract then she would be free to marry me?”

“I do not know if he would agree to it Éomer. But barring adultery or some form of fraud on his part, that is the only way.”

“Then I shall have a chat with Lord Fenwick,” the king said, smiling. “He is a man, after all. Perhaps he will see reason.” Éomer had a sudden thought. “But what of your issues with the Corsairs if Lord Fenwick does not take the position to aid you with your harbors?”

“We will cross that bridge when we come to it, Éomer.”

“You know that I would do whatever was necessary to aid you, Imrahil. Not only did you save my life on the battlefield, but my sister’s as well. For that, I will forever be in your debt.”

“I did nothing of great valor, friend, but I will keep the offer in mind should the situation become worse. And in speaking of such, I should mention that we will soon be returning to Dol Amroth. I must see to these matters as soon as possible.”

“Then I should speak with Fenwick right away,” Éomer said determinedly. “I shall make it a point to do so this evening.”

Rising from his seat, the prince pushed in the chair, leaning on the back of it with the heels of his hands. “There is a possibility he will refuse,” Imrahil warned him.

“I understand. And in that case, I will find another way.”

“I admire your determination,” the prince said. “All men should be so sure of what they want in life.”

Éomer smiled widely. “All men should be so fortunate as to win the love of a woman like your daughter, Imrahil.”

With a nod, the prince excused himself from the chamber, leaving Éomer to stare out the window, contemplating the best time to confront Mardil Fenwick.

~~~~~~~~~~

Yet another evening of revelry was in full swing, the fair citizens of Edoras doing their part to honor their new king. Éomer pushed open the doors and stepped out on to the terrace of the Golden Hall, taking a deep breath. The air was not much cooler outside but at least it was not laden with pipe smoke. Some guests milled around the courtyard, the sounds of muffled music and laughter drifting on the night breeze.

“She is not out here. She has gone to bed, according to Lady Valesa.”

The king turned abruptly to see Mardil Fenwick strolling out of the shadows. “I beg your pardon?”

“If you are looking for the princess, I was told she went to bed.” He came to stand beside Éomer, his gaze following the king’s out across the plains.

“Duly noted,” Éomer answered. He folded his hands in front of him, keeping his gaze directed at the moonlit mountaintops in the distance. “However, it was not for her I was searching. I was hoping to have a word with you about a matter that concerns us both.”

“What in Middle Earth do we possibly have to say to one another?” Mardil asked him.

Éomer turned slowly, his eyes meeting Fenwick’s. “I believe you know about what I speak.”

“Ah, yes. Our mutual interest in the fair Princess of Dol Amroth. I do not see where there is anything to discuss. She is my betrothed, and she will marry me.” Fenwick met the king’s gaze steadily, his shoulders squared.

“It is the betrothal I wish to speak to you about. I understand wedding contracts are binding in Gondor.”

“Yes,” Mardil answered confidently. “So long as neither party was coerced. And she will tell you she signed them voluntarily.”

Éomer nodded. “I understand. I also understand she was feeling pressured due to the political situation in Dol Amroth, with the attacks on the harbors.”

The dark-haired man shook his head woefully. “Yes. A nasty business, that. Had much the same issues in Lebennin but we were able to institute measures that protected our people. Attacks rarely occur in our harbors now. Of course, that requires freeing up the Admiral to focus on the situation, and someone running operations onshore.”

“Thus your proposal to Prince Imrahil,” Éomer noted with a raised eyebrow. “How very convenient.”

Mardil shrugged innocently, holding his hands up, palms out. “The prince needed someone who could aid his people. I am in need of a wife. We are all adults, Éomer. No one forced her to sign anything.” He regarded the king silently for a moment. “What is it you want from me?”

Éomer faced him squarely, his dark eyes boring into Mardil’s pale grey. “I want you to release her from the contract.”

Mardil snickered, the sound turning into a full-blown laugh, before he choked and coughed. “I beg YOUR pardon, Your Majesty. Did you just ask me to call off my engagement to the princess?”

“I did,” the king answered quietly.

“Surely you jest,” Fenwick said, still stifling laughter. “You want me to release her from the betrothal? I believe you have taken one too many falls from your mount, Horsemaster.”

Clenching his clasped hands tighter to keep from punching Fenwick again, Éomer took a deep breath, keeping his calm gaze on the man from Lebennin. “I am quite serious, Lord Fenwick.”

Shaking his head, Fenwick laughed again. “As am I. You are insane if you believe for one minute I will release her from her obligation to marry me. She signed that contract willingly, knowing full well what she was agreeing to. I will not give up my aspirations simply because she has changed her mind.”

“You do not love her,” Éomer commented.

“Love her?” Mardil laughed out loud again. “Of course I do not love her.” He shook his head again. “You truly do not understand, do you? This marriage is not about love, my Lord. It is about political opportunity.”

“Imrahil would grant you the position without the benefit of marriage,” the king observed.

Fenwick looked thoughtful, tugging at the edge of his sleeve. “Perhaps. But how does that serve me? To move from my home to a new harbor simply to continue doing the same job?” He pulled the sleeve of his tunic straight and raised his eyes to the king’s. “That does nothing to advance my career or my social standing. See, unlike you, I was not fortunate enough to have the way paved for my social ascension by the death of others." His lips curled almost imperceptibly when he noticed the king stiffen slightly at his words. "By marrying the princess, not only do I gain more respect among the nobility, I am, by rights, the husband of a princess and therefore royal by title.”

“The princess is fourth in line for the throne. There is little chance of her ever sitting in her father’s place,” Éomer reminded him, his voice tight.

“One never knows what will happen. Did you ever think you would be sitting on the throne of Rohan?”

Éomer’s hackles rose at the insinuation, but he refused to let this man rile him, and even further refused to acknowledge the remark with any kind of argument. “How can you force a woman to marry you knowing she loves another?”

Mardil sighed as if dealing with an overly curious child. “I care not who she loves, as long as she does not shame me. Her part is to marry me and bear my heirs. To whom her heart belongs means little to me.”

“Would you not wish to marry someone you love? Someone who would love you in return?”

“Only fools marry for love, Your Majesty,” he responded flatly.

“And for what do the wise marry, Master Fenwick?” Éomer asked pointedly.

Mardil smiled a little at the comment. “I can only give you my reasons. I am marrying her because her father is the Prince of Dol Amroth. I am marrying her so that the sons I sire will be heirs to the throne of Dol Amroth.” He almost snickered again at the way the king narrowed his eyes at that comment. “Her gift for political savvy is rare in women. The fact that she is beautiful is a boon, and her intelligence will have its merits, once her attitude is under control.” The self-satisfied smirk crossed his face again. He looked Éomer directly in the eye. “I care not if she ever loves me, so long as she does her duty as my wife. Love is the bane of all good marriages. Emotions do nothing but cloud one’s judgment. The princess is naught but a means to an end. I have made no pretense otherwise, although I am certain it will not be an altogether unpleasant arrangement.”

The king was silent; fearing that if he spoke or even moved his ire would be unleashed on Fenwick without thought of recompense. It was not a chance he wished to take, for Ani’s sake. He cleared his throat, fighting to keep his voice as calm as possible.

Éomer stepped closer to Fenwick, one hand on the hilt of his sword. “We disagree on many things, Mardil Fenwick. You may think marrying the princess will bring you esteem, but let me share one thing with you that first my father and then my king drove into me from the time I was a lad. Respect is not bestowed upon you with a title. It must be earned. And if you do not deserve it, you will not receive it. As far as I am concerned, you will not receive it from me. And I will not tolerate you speaking inappropriately about the princess, betrothed or not.”

“You dare call me on impropriety, Horsemaster?”

It took every ounce of self-restraint Éomer had to keep his sword in the scabbard. “Were you not the guest of Prince Imrahil, I would not tolerate your presence here another moment. Out of my great respect for the prince and his daughter, I will not throw you out of my home. But if I ever hear you speak of the princess or any other woman in that manner again, for that matter if you so much as look at one of them in a way I feel is inappropriate, I will not only throw you out personally, I will run you through first.” He stepped back, forcibly relaxing his grip on his sword hilt.

“You are out of line, Horselord,” Fenwick snapped.

The king’s dark eyes flashed with anger, but he remained remarkably calm. So calm it almost scared Fenwick. “You are in my realm,” he said quietly, his jaw set firmly. “I draw the lines.”

Flipping his dark hair back over his shoulders, Mardil turned and stalked away.

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


The sharp knock on the door startled her from sleep.

“Lothíriel! Are you in there?”

Finding it difficult to open her eyes, she rubbed them with her fingers.

“Lothíriel!”

“Yes, yes, I am here, Fenwick. Melkor’s chains! Let me get a robe on at least.”

Stumbling from the bed, she quickly shed her dress from the previous night and donned her robe. Cracking the door open slightly, she peered out into the hallway.

Fenwick stood in the hallway, Neville lurking close behind. “What do you want, Fenwick? I was sleeping.”

“We have things to talk about, Lothíriel,” he remarked.

“No, we do not. I am going back to bed.” She started to shut the door.

“Lothíriel, it is nearly noon. May I have a word with you?”

His words hit her like a bucket of ice water. Her last day in Edoras and she was sleeping it away.

“This will only take a moment,” he said.

She folded her arms and leaned on the doorframe, throwing a look over his shoulder to Neville. “Can you not ever go anywhere without him? He is like some Valar-forsaken shadow, always tagging along behind,” she snapped.

“Neville is here for a reason, Princess. He tells me he saw a rather interesting sight. Is that so, Neville?” The chubby man nodded. Fenwick smiled at him and turned back to his betrothed. “Neville here tells me he saw you early yesterday morning.”

Anhuil’s blood turned to ice, and she suddenly felt as if she had swallowed a large rock. Struggling to maintain a passive expression, she let her gaze fall in Neville. “What does he claim to have seen?”

“Why, you, my dear, riding with the King of Rohan. But that cannot be, because my devoted little wife would not do something like that, now would she? Riding out alone, un-chaperoned, with another man?”

“Stop calling me your wife. I am not your wife, Mardil Fenwick. And until I am I will do as I please,” she quipped angrily, reaching to shut the door.

“Lothíriel, please do not cause me to make a scene.”

She paused, her hand on the brass pull. “What is it you want, Mardil?”

“I want you to stop this behavior. It is one thing if you make some effort to be discreet, but riding across Rohan in plain view of anyone watching is just deplorable. You are making a mockery of our betrothal, and I will not have it. The very least you can do is show a little discretion.”

The loud laugh escaped before she could even make an effort to contain it. “A mockery? Fenwick, this whole marriage is a mockery!”

“You knew from the beginning I was not promising you a fairy tale, Princess. Why do you act now as if this is a new revelation?”

Glowering at the tall, dark-haired man, she drew herself up. “Perhaps I have decided I would rather have the fairy tale.”

Eyes narrowing, Fenwick’s ire rose visibly, his lips drawn into a tight line. “Speaking of your fairy tale, your king came to speak with me. He asked me to release you from our betrothal contract.”

Anhuil’s stomach knotted, and she fought for stability in her voice. “And?”

“I told him he was insane if he thought for one moment I’d do so.”

She regarded him as coolly as she could. “Perhaps I have changed my mind about marrying you.”

“That is no longer your decision to make, Lothíriel.” He chortled haughtily.

His expression paled as one corner of her mouth turned up slightly. “Is it not? Perhaps we shall see.”

Neville turned to Fenwick, a panicked look on is pale face. “Does she mean that? Can she truly call off your engagement?“

Mardil’s jaw worked furiously, his lips clenched shut, but he did not answer. He stepped forward, his face inches from hers, a smug smile creeping across his face. “Let me assure you of one thing, Princess. If you think for one moment I am going to let you destroy all that I have worked for on some girlish whim of yours, you are sorely mistaken. I can make life most unpleasant for you and for many you care about, including that Rohirrim king.”

She glowered at him. “Are you threatening me, Mardil?”

He smiled at her, straightening his tunic. “It is not a threat, Lothíriel. It is a fact.” He spun on his booted heel and strolled down the hall, leaving the irate princess staring knives into his back.

She slammed the heavy door, clicking the lock.

Leaning back on the door, she glanced the room, noticing Cam’s bed was made. Briefly wondering where the blonde was, she pulled on a pair of trousers and a tunic, buckling her dagger belt around her waist. She hastily braided her hair back. Studying her reflection in the mirror, she frowned. Could there be something she did not know? Could he do something to hurt her father, or Éomer?

The knot in her stomach had returned. What she needed was a good long ride with Olórin to clear her head. Pulling on her boots, she grabbed her cloak and headed for the stable.

~~~~~~~~~~

Éomer rapped lightly on the door. “Ani?”

Cam pulled open the door. “She is not here, Éomer.”

“Not here?” he repeated. Cam shook her head. “Where is she?”

The blonde shrugged her shoulders. “I have not seen her since this morning. She was asleep when I left and when I came back she was gone. Her boots and cloak are gone as well, if that helps. I think she must have gone riding with Éowyn.”

The king cursed under his breath. “I just saw Éowyn in the hall, and she was going to meet Arwen for a ride. Any idea how long ago she left?”

“She was gone when I came back a few moments ago, that is all I know.”

Éomer turned, almost running down the hall. He burst into the stable, looking quickly around. Olórin was gone, but the other horses were still there. Muttering a few colorful Rohirric phrases, he quickly saddled Firefoot. Leading the horse out of the stable, he nearly ran into Éowyn in his haste.

“And where are you going in such a hurry, brother?”

“That imprudent woman has taken off alone. I am going after her.”

“Imprudent?” His sister chuckled. “Hmm…sounds like someone else I know…”

Cutting her a sharp look, he mounted his horse and bolted for the gate, pausing to speak to the guard.

“Which way did the princess go?”

“We tried to stop her, Your Majesty--“

“Which way?” he demanded, cutting the soldier off.

He kicked the horse into a full gallop and headed in the direction the soldier pointed.
The woman was insane. Brave, perhaps, but completely reckless.

~~~~~~~~~~

Allowing Olórin free rein to run as fast as he wished, Ani held on tightly, enjoying the rush of the warm air on her face. The sweet fragrance of the wildflowers in the field rushed up as the horse’s hooves trampled the plants underneath, assailing her with the scents of lavender and jasmine, and some she could not identify. It did not matter. The freedom of running wild through the field was what she needed. She smiled to see Elenion running at Olórin’s heels. He had disappeared when they had entered Edoras, preferring the wild plains to the bustle of the city.

She slowed her mount to a trot, then reined him in, dismounting to take in the beauty of the landscape. This was what she wanted. This was why she had run away in the first place. She knelt and scratched the wolf's ears as she took in her surroundings.

Freedom.

Dol Amroth, for all its royal glory, could not compare to the awesome sites before her.

Snow capped mountains, even in midsummer, loomed in the distance. Fields of tall grass and wildflowers, small streams gleaming in the sunlight as they wound their way through the vale toward the Entwash. Villages dotting areas of the horizon, smoke rising from small chimneys. A simpler life. That is what it represented to her. Peace.

The drumming of hoof beats in the distance caught her attention. Quickly turning, she saw a lone rider headed in her direction. The dappled grey stallion and blonde hair flowing in the wind told her exactly who it was. Frustration swelled inside her. She didn’t want company. She had only wanted to be alone, to have some time to think things through. Why did he have to come after her as if she were a lost child?

Resigning herself to the tongue-lashing she was about to receive, she decided she would at least get a good run out of it. Leaping astride her mount, she heeled him into a gallop and bolted across the field toward the river she had ridden to so many times with Éowyn.

Éomer had seen her halt her mount, and look in his direction. Now she was galloping across the field as if Wargs were at her heels. Or at least a large wolf. He shook his head. He had wondered where that animal disappeared to when they arrived at Edoras. He just hoped he had not made meals of the local sheep. Digging his boots into Firefoot’s flanks, he took off after her.

He caught up with her at the riverbank, where she had slowed Olórin to a walk and was making her way toward a copse of trees. She looked over her shoulder at him as he approached, riding alongside her. Elenion took off after a rabbit into the shrubbery.

"Anhuíl, have you taken leave of your senses?" She whirled around, surprised by the sharpness of his tone. The king’s heart was still pounding. "This is not Minas Tirith or Dol Amroth, Ani. There are still quite a few dangers out there! The Dunlendings continue to attack villages near these mountains. You have no business riding out alone in a country that is strange to you!"

"I beg your pardon! I did not go out unarmed. I can protect myself. Did I not save your hide once?"

"Yes, and I have also seen you almost get yourself killed! I do not wish your blood on my hands ever again!"

Anhuil halted her mount, staring at him, shocked by his outburst. “Am I not allowed even a short time alone? By the VALAR I am weary of everyone fussing over me." She kicked Olórin slightly, into a walk, moving away from Éomer.

His expression softened as he stopped beside her. “I am sorry, Ani. I did not mean to raise my voice. You frightened me. No one knew where you were.” Ignoring him, she kept her horse at a walk. He skillfully moved his mount beside her and grabbed her reins as she tried to pass him, halting her horse.

Anger flared in her, frustration at her seeming lack of ability to do anything at all about her circumstances. She jerked her reins free from his grip. "I am sorely tired of being told what to do and what not to do by men deciding what is best for me without heed to what I might desire. Men have run my entire life, and you are all driving me spare! You worry over me as if I were a child!”

Éomer moved his horse in front of her, blocking her path. "Do you not understand that I worry about you because I love you?"

She sighed deeply. ”Why?” she asked, trying to guide her horse past him. “Why do you put yourself through this? Why do you not just find some pretty, flaxen-haired Rohirrim girl and forget you ever knew me?"

Éomer grabbed her reins, holding tightly, jerking her horse to a stop. "I do not want someone else, Princess Lothíriel of Dol Amroth! I want you!" He shouted at her. "Bloody hell, woman! I love you! I want you by my side for the rest of my life!"

She looked up at him, deep green eyes welling with tears. “How can this be worth it to you?” she asked, her voice nearly a whisper. “How can it be worth what I have put you through?”

Pulling her horse alongside his, he reached for her, lifting her from her saddle and into his, turning her to face him. She laughed softly through her tears as he settled her in his lap, facing him. Her arms went around his neck, and he leaned his forehead against hers. “What must I do to make you understand,” he asked her, “that there is nothing, absolutely nothing, more important to me than you?”

“You are a king, Éomer,” she said quietly, brushing his hair from his face with her fingertips. “Surely there are things that must take priority.”

“I would abdicate my throne without a second thought if I had to choose between you and the crown,” he told her, his lips nearly against hers.

“I would never allow you to do that. Your people need you. And if you tried, I would be most disappointed in you.” she quipped.

“Would you?” he asked, one arm going around her waist, the other holding the reins of his mount. She nodded. “Then I hope I shall never have to make that choice. Perhaps we should stay with the original plan and find a way to get rid of Fenwick.”

Anhuil threw her head back and growled in frustration. “I hate that man,” she shouted skyward. Éomer took advantage of her position and pressed his lips against her neck. She closed her eyes, leaning closer to him in the saddle, her legs over his. “You realize this is most inappropriate, Your Majesty,” she said, raising her head and bringing her lips to his.

“Propriety is highly overrated, Your Highness,” he said softly.

“That may be the case,” she answered, “but do you not think it best for me to ride my own mount back to Edoras?”

“Hmm, I am not sure...” he said thoughtfully. “I rather like this arrangement,” he said. “It definitely has potential.”

“You are incorrigible, Your Majesty,” she chastised.

“And you like it,” he snapped back.

“Regardless, I do not think it in either of our best interest for us to arrive in Edoras in this fashion. Enough tongues will be wagging as it is.”

“The things you say, woman...” he muttered, capturing her lips again. The hand around her waist slid behind her hip, pulling her further into his lap. There was no denying the effect she had on him as he deepened his kiss, his tongue gently finding hers.

She pushed him back with a chuckle. “Get my horse back over here before we both get into trouble,” she demanded gently.

“If you insist, Your Highness,” he answered with a resigned sigh, whistling for Olórin.

~~~~~~~~~

Chapters

Jump to chapter

Chapter name
Chapter Twenty-Four
Created
21 Apr 2004
Last Edited
21 Apr 2004
Hits
1382
Words
8377