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Trust To Hope

Chapter 26: Chapter Twenty-Five

by Novedhelion

Trust To Hope - Chapter Twenty-Five
Author: Novedhelion
Type: FP Het
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Pairing: Éomer/Lothíriel aka Anhuil
Rating: PG13
Warnings: Steam and sap. Cold water and Kleenex recommended.
Beta: Riyallyn
Disclaimer: I will not be held responsible if you smack your monitor with your keyboard because of Fenwick.



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Chapter Twenty-Five
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How do I get through one night without you?
If I have to live without you, what kind of life would that be?
Oh, I need you in my arms, need you to hold
You’re my world, my heart, my soul...

How Do I Live?
LeAnn Rimes
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Rohan
Golden Hall of Meduseld
25 Urui, 3019 T.A.
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Éomer stood beside the table in the Golden Hall, awaiting his dinner guests on their last night in Edoras. Hands folded behind his back, he looked out the window toward the mountain where they had stood that morning. He could not contain the smile that spread across his face at the memory of her expression, her awe, at the beauty of the sunrise. But that smile paled in comparison to the grin that replaced it as he thought of her answer to his proposal. Not to mention their interlude by the river that afternoon.

He sighed again, wishing his sister would be here this evening. She had begged for some time alone with her beloved, and they had chosen to dine together away from the other guests.

Prince Imrahil entered with his two eldest sons. Elphir and Erchirion were arguing amiably, their father shaking his head.

“No, that was the Lord of Lossarnach’s daughter. The redhead was the daughter of the fief of Ethring.”

“Are you certain? I thought the redhead was the daughter of the nobleman from Linhir.”

“No, I am certain she said--“ Erchirion looked up at Éomer. “I apologize my friend. My brother has a tendency to get all the lovely ladies confused. Someday that will get him into trouble.”

Éomer chuckled, grateful he only had one to worry about as the men moved toward the table to sit.

Anhuil entered with Cam and Amrothos, followed closely by Fenwick and Neville. Mardil made a big show of pulling out her chair to seat her, which the king promptly ignored, smiling politely at the ladies as they were seated.

Elphir and Erchirion prattled all through dinner about the different girls they had met. Amrothos seemed content to be next to Cam, their quiet conversations unheard by the others. Éomer tried to pay attention to what Imrahil was telling him but could not recall a single word, his attention focused solely on Anhuil and her somewhat subdued behavior. She barely ate, pushing the food around on her plate, and occasionally sipping her wine or smiling at something one of her brothers said, but did not join in the banter.

Fenwick glanced around the table, a self-satisfied smirk crossing his lips, feeling his threat might have had the desired affect after all. His eyes fell on Cam and Amrothos, smiling at each other and talking quietly. Eyes narrowed, he decided that was definitely not a good thing. That little blonde had far too much influence over the princess. He needed to be rid of her as well, and if she managed to get her hooks into that young prince, he’d never see the end of her. That he would deal with soon enough.

Looking up, he caught the eye of the king. Dark brown eyes glared into steel gray. The smug look on Fenwick’s face made Éomer’s fist itch to hit him again, and he clenched it tightly under the table.

Imrahil had been speaking to the young king but stopped when he realized Éomer’s attention was focused elsewhere. Following his gaze, his eyes fell on Fenwick; the cold stare between the two telling him things had not gone favorably with their discussion.

He turned to his daughter, who was staring down into her goblet as she swirled the contents. Her altercation with Mardil was still on her mind. What could he possibly do to harm Éomer? She wondered if it was simply a threat, and most likely it was. But that combined with knowing this was her last night in Edoras did nothing to stimulate her appetite. She sighed audibly.

“Lothíriel?” Her father ventured. “Are you feeling well?”

“I am just tired, Ada,” she responded without looking up. Anhuil was aware that Éomer’s gaze had not strayed far from her this evening, but she knew if she looked up into those deep brown eyes… Her stomach tightened into a knot.

“You have hardly eaten a thing, dear girl,” the prince observed.

“I am not terribly hungry,” she told him truthfully.

“I can have the cook bring something else if you would prefer,” Éomer offered.

“It is not necessary. I am fine,” the princess said. Dropping her fork on to her plate, she stood from the table. “Please excuse me.” She strode so quickly for the door that none of the men had time to stand in response. Éomer started to go after her, but restrained himself.

With a quick glance at Amrothos, Cam jumped from her chair and followed on the princess’s heels.

Imrahil slid his chair back, but his youngest son put a restraining hand on his father’s arm. “Cam will talk to her.” The prince nodded, still eyeing the door questioningly.

Only Fenwick seemed unfazed by her behavior, continuing his meal. He looked up into the stares of Anhuil’s brothers and father, not to mention the king. Taking a sip of his wine, he shrugged. “Women,” he remarked, “I shall never understand them.”

Éomer squared his shoulders, smiling, and leveled his gaze at Fenwick. “Understanding them is not paramount. Women are a beautiful enigma. It is the way it is intended to be.”

Imrahil glanced up, curiously watching the exchange between his daughter’s fiancé and the King of Rohan. Elphir and Erchirion looked up at the statement.

“Here, here!” Erchirion called out, raising his goblet. “A wise man, this King of Rohan. Here’s to beautiful enigmas, may we never figure them out.”

The men chuckled and drank from their cups, all but Fenwick, who still eyed the king scathingly. “I suppose one does not have to understand them in order to control them,” Fenwick chuckled, more than slightly amused by Éomer’s bristling reaction.

“I fail to see the need to control them,” Éomer attempted to sound pleasant, although speaking through gritted teeth. “I rather think it is they who control us.” Elphir and Erchirion snickered at the comment, nodding in agreement.

“Spoken by a man who could not even keep his own sister from riding into battle,” Fenwick snorted.

“My sister accomplished with only the help of a halfling what all the armies of Gondor and Rohan could not. I will not defend her actions to one who did not fight himself.” Éomer glared at Fenwick, who returned the stare with equal intensity, all traces of humor gone from his face.

Imrahil stared Fenwick down. “Mardil, it is clear that you and the king have differing philosophies concerning this issue. However, he is our host.” He looked back and forth between the two men. “Might I suggest that in the interest of civility we change the subject of discussion, gentlemen?”

“My apologies, Prince Imrahil,” Éomer made certain his apology was directed at the prince. “It is not a habit I have to argue with dinner guests. Forgive me, but I must excuse myself. I have something I need to attend to. Please, finish your meals, and enjoy the wine.” He stood from the table, bowing to his guests, and slipped from the room.

Fenwick knew where he was going. He itched to follow, but knew it would be too obvious if he did. He smirked into his wine goblet as he took another sip. The poor King of Rohan had no idea how easy it really was to control women. All you had to do was find out what mattered to them. Women were such emotional creatures. Easy, easy prey, he thought smugly.

~~~~~~~~~

“Ani! Ani…wait!” Cam caught up with her close to their chambers. The princess kept walking, not looking at her friend. Bolting through the doors to the courtyard, she ran down the path toward the stables. She burst inside the dimly lit barn and leaned on one of the stall doors, taking a deep breath.

“What is wrong?” Cam came to lean on the door beside her.

“Nothing. Everything. I do not know. I just…I needed to get away from there.” Her voice cracked slightly as she spoke. “I do not want to go home, Cam. I do not want to leave here.”

“I am so sorry, Ani. I wish there was something I could do,” her friend said sympathetically.

“I do not want to leave him, Cam.” She looked up at her friend, tears spilling down her cheeks. “I could not even look at him at dinner, because I know if I do my tears will betray me. Ada does not need this. He does not need me acting like a foolish schoolgirl.”

“Would you like for me to get Éomer, so you can talk?”

“No, Cam. I need to be alone. I need to think. I should-“

Before she could finish her answer, the stable door creaked open. Light flickered at the doorway as Éomer entered. He turned up the flame of the lantern hanging by the door, lifting it from its hook, and peered inside. “Ani? Cam?” He stepped further into the stable.

“Ilú Ilúvatar….” the princess muttered under her breath.

“I heard that,” the king quipped.

Holding the lantern high, he spotted the women standing next to Olórin’s stall. The horse was nuzzling the princess as she stroked his neck. Cam looked up at him, her expression not answering his questions. The blonde shrugged and cast Éomer a half-hearted smile. She patted him on the shoulder as she passed by, wordlessly leaving the two of them alone in the stable.

Éomer hung the lantern on a hook near the stall where she stood. “Ani?” He stepped toward her. Turning to face him, she fell into his arms. Without a word, he embraced her, holding her tightly.

“I am sorry, Éomer.” Anhuil’s arms were around his waist, her head on his chest.

“Sorry for what?”

Anhuil fought to steady her voice. “For dragging you into this disaster the Valar call my life. For causing you so much grief. For not being honest with you about--“

“Enough.” Éomer tried to look down at her but she resisted, holding him tightly. Pushing her back gently but firmly, he caught her chin in his hand. “Look at me, Ani.” She did so, reluctantly. “I am not sorry, and I do not wish you to be. Gods, woman, do you still not see? Whatever the cost, I love you.”

“Do not say that, Éomer,” she said, only half-joking.

“It is the truth.”

The princess swallowed hard, averting her gaze. “I will be leaving tomorrow,” she finally said, shakily. “I do not want to go.”

“I know.” She allowed herself to relax his embrace, enjoying the feeling of his strong arms around her, the scent of leather and of him surrounding her, his fingers spreading on her back, pressing her against his chest, and straying up to bury into the dark curls. “I do not want you to go.”

“You spoke to my father?”

“Your father had no objections, save the fact that you are already betrothed,” he answered wryly. “One way or another, I will stop this wedding.”

“But my father explained to you...”

“He did. It will be difficult but not impossible.”

“And Fenwick?”

Éomer cupped her chin with his hand. “Does not deserve a treasure like you.”

Before she could answer, their lips sought each other’s and met softly, melting together in a sweet kiss. Gently nudging her lips apart with his tongue, he deepened the kiss, still slow and tender. The princess closed her eyes, memorizing every touch, every taste, every tingle of his body pressed against hers. She gave in completely to the kiss, her fingers curled tightly in his blonde locks, pulling him tighter against her, the desire tightening inside her surprising even her. Éomer answered her kiss ardently, his tongue entwining with hers, his hands sliding over the soft silk of her dress, tracing her shape of her waist down to her hips, sliding around to splay across her curved behind and pull her hips against his.

“I love the feel of you in my arms, under my hands,” he murmured, his lips trailing down her neck to the tender junction of her shoulder. “As if you were made to fit into my arms...”

The hand on her back slid back to her waist, slowly trailing up, coming to rest very lightly on the curve of her breast. The warmth of his hand seared through the soft fabric, and at her gasp his mouth claimed hers again. He could feel her ragged breathing, the rapid rise and fall of her chest under his fingertips. His tentative touch became a gentle exploration, his thumb sliding over the swell cupped in his hand.

Her mind reeled with the sensations he awakened in her. She loved him, and if this was to be the last time she would be in his arms, then by the Valar she was going to take everything she could with her. “Éomer,” she moaned softly, arching herself against his hand.

His name from her lips nearly undid him, as she pressed herself closer against him. Her own hands slipped down to his hips, her small fingers digging in to the fabric of his breeches.

“Ani…gods, woman…” his tongue invaded her mouth again, the hand on her breast squeezing delightfully.

Before they knew it she was on her back in the soft hay, the king lying on top of her, kissing his way down to the rather frustrating laces that closed her dress. “Meleth nín…” she whispered.

Éomer raised his head and their eyes met, a mixture of desire, shock, and confusion. His frustrated growl as he rolled away from her startled her, and she sat up quickly, her expression puzzled.

“Bloody hell, Ani…I am sorry,” he shoved his hand through his hair.

“Sorry for what, meleth nín?” she asked, her breathing still labored, kneeling beside him in the hay.

Pinching the bridge of his nose with his fingers, Éomer sighed. “I did not mean for this to go so far.”

“I did not discourage you,” she whispered in his ear teasingly, her lips brushing against it lightly.

Closing his eyes, the king drew in his breath. “Do not do that, Anhuil,” he warned. “I will not be responsible for what happens if you continue.”

She turned his face to hers with her fingers. “Perhaps that is what I want,” she ventured tentatively. “I tire of always being responsible and circumspect. Éomer, this could be our last night together.”

“You cannot believe that,” he said softly. “We will see each other again soon. And--“

Blowing out a ragged breath slowly, she interrupted him. “I do not want to wait.” Her small hand slid into his hair, pulling his face toward her, his lips meeting hers again, then moving to her neck. “Let me be yours, once. Please,” she pled.

He pulled back, looking into her eyes. “Do you realize what you are asking?”

She nodded. “Please, Éomer. I cannot bear the thought of Fenwick having me.”

“But if he is your husband, Ani, he will-“

“If by some chance I must marry that...bastard...I do not want him to be the first,” she admitted. “I want...” She swallowed, “I want you, Éomer. Please at least give me the memory of making love with you, one time. Please. Do not let him take that from me.”

His eyes widened in surprise. “Are you propositioning me, Princess?”

“Yes,” she answered shyly. “Yes, I am.”

“Perhaps you should go to your chamber right now before I take you up on your…offer.” He chuckled as he stood and held out his hand to help her up. “You deserve better than this,” he gestured around the stable, then leaned down to pick a bit of straw from her hair.

“Do you want me, Éomer?”

She stood before him, her dark green eyes meeting his. Her dark curls fell tousled just to her shoulders, the laces on the front of her gown untied. Taking in her flushed cheeks and lips swollen from his kisses, it was all he could do not to drop her where she stood and take her then and there. Closing his eyes, he let out his breath. “Ani, there is nothing in Middle Earth that I want more than I want you, but I will not take you this way, bereft of any dignity. I told you when that happened, it would be in my bed.”

She turned and glanced at the hidden door she remembered from their escape early that morning. “Then take me to your bed, Éomer,” she said softly, moving to him and claiming his lips again, their kiss quickly becoming ardent. Moving to the hidden door, his fingers found the latch and he led her inside, toward his chamber.

They stumbled into his room, their lips still locked. His mouth over hers, he backed her up against the side of the bed. Drawing back, his questioning gaze asked again the question to which he already knew the answer. “Are you certain?” he asked quietly.

“I want you to claim me, Éomer,” she whispered against his lips. “Make me yours.”

His hand went to the laces at the front of the gown, deftly untying them. She drew in a sharp breath as his hand slid between the silk of her gown and the linen of her shift, the warmth nearly searing her skin. His mouth over hers, she responded eagerly, falling backward on to the bed and pulling him down with her. Arching underneath him, she made a frustrated sound as her fingers fumbled with the small fastenings of the richly embroidered tunic, sliding it from his shoulders, her hands raking over the muscles of his chest.

His lips traveled over hers, her neck, down to the edge of the shift she wore beneath the dress, his tongue delving between the curved mounds still obscured by the pale linen. She jumped in response, and he raised his head suddenly, realizing he had a hand all the way under her skirt, traveling up her coppery thigh.

What the blue hell do you think you are doing, man?

He pulled away suddenly, withdrawing his hand, and lay down beside her. Wrapping his arms around her, he pulled her against his chest, his breathing still labored.

“What is wrong?” she asked against his chest, as he held her tightly to him.

“I cannot do this. When I said I wanted you in my bed, I meant that I wanted you to be my wife, Ani. I cannot take what is not rightfully mine.”

“But I am yours, Éomer. Regardless of what happens, whether I marry Mardil or not, I will always be yours.” She wriggled free enough to bring her lips to his. “Éomer,” she whispered against them. “I know I am not the first woman to grace the furs of your bed, and I may well not be the last. But tonight, I want to be yours.” Her lips brushed his again. “Please,” she pled softly.

Éomer closed his eyes tightly, fighting his overwhelming desire to acquiesce to her pleas as she trailed kisses down his neck. After all, who would ever hold such a thing against him? She was in his bed, asking him to take her. He would be blameless, would he not?

Somehow, he didn’t think her father would agree, nor would her brothers.

But mostly, he could not justify it to himself.

“Ani,” he said, gently restraining her with his hands on her shoulders, his expression serious. “We cannot do this. I will not deny that I have known other women, a few I even foolishly thought I could have loved. That does not make what I did right. You are the first woman to lie in this bed. If I have my say, you will be the last.”

She sat up quickly, pulling the laces of her gown together. Leaning forward, he placed a kiss on her shoulder. “Ani...”

“I am sorry, Éomer.” She pulled away, swinging her feet to the floor. Straightening her skirts, she moved toward the door.

“Wait.” He stood, hastily pulling his tunic back on, following her to the door. “You cannot go that way, someone may see you.”

“We wouldn’t want that, would we?” she quipped, her voice flat, avoiding his gaze to hide the flush in her cheeks. “One of us being completely humiliated is quite enough, do you not think?” She turned away. “I should not have asked this of you.”

“Ani...” he said softly, putting his arms around her despite her protests. He backed her up against the wall. He lifted her face to his with the fingers of one hand, searching her eyes. “You have nothing to be ashamed of,” he said. “I am as much to blame as you. Bless Béma, woman, do you have any idea what you do to me?” She didn’t answer, looking away.

“Look at me, Ani,” he said, still holding her face in his hand. She raised her eyes to his. “You make me so insane with desire it is all I can do to breathe, much less maintain any semblance of propriety. And here you are, in my bedchamber, offering me everything I could ever want and more.”

“It is a bit confusing for a girl,” she admitted shakily. “You bring me to your chambers, practically undress me, then the next moment you are throwing me out of your bed, and then again the next you are telling me again how much you want me.” She smiled weakly. “One would think you were suddenly becoming a gentleman,” she teased.

“Listen to me,” he said calmly, taking her hands in his. “I was wrong before, when I said there was nothing I wanted more. There is only one thing that I want more than I want to throw you on that bed right now and ravish you,” she giggled softly, and he smiled in response, continuing. “I want you to be my wife. I love you, and I will not risk there being any regrets between us.”

“I do not think I could ever regret loving you, Éomer,” she answered quietly.

He sighed, unable to argue with that. “Ani, please understand. I want you...by the gods, I want you...but I have many regrets in my life because I acted on impulse.” Deep brown eyes captured hers. “When I take you into my bed, I want it to be as my wife.”

His voice softened. “Do you have any idea how sweet it will be,” he whispered softly, brushing a strand of hair behind her ear, “on our wedding night? I will lay you down in that bed,” he indicated the bed behind him with a nod in that direction, “I will claim every bit of you, one kiss at a time,” he continued, trailing kisses down her shoulder as she closed her eyes and leaned against the wall, her breathing ragged. “With each kiss I will become yours,” he said softly, his lips brushing her cheek. “And neither of us will ever belong to another.”

She opened her eyes, meeting his gaze. “What if-“

He silenced her with his lips on hers. Drawing back, he smiled down at her. “No what ifs, Ani.” She nodded as he again captured her mouth, his searing kiss leaving her breathless.

“I am leaving tomorrow at first light,” she whispered, a tear spilling down her cheek.

Pulling her close, he wrapped his arms around her. “I wish it was not so.”

“As do I,” she answered. “I am sorry, Éomer. I was...taken in by the moment, I suppose.” She looked up at him, wiping her cheek with the back of her hand and blew out a deep breath.

“Do not apologize, Anhuil. There is nothing to apologize for.”

She nodded. “I suppose we should say our goodbyes here.”

“You say that as if you will never see me again,” he said, surprised at her tone. “I will be in Minas Tirith for my sister’s wedding in less than two months time. Surely we will see each other there.”

“A few months may as well be a hundred years, as much as I will miss you,” she said softly.

“You must not give up hope, love. We will find a way”

She chuckled. “Éowyn says you mean what you say about riding into Dol Amroth and carrying me away.”

“Éowyn knows me too well,” he answered, his tone so serious it almost frightened her. His hand cupped her cheek, raising her lips to his, the soft kiss making her knees buckle. “I love you, Anhuil.”

“And I you, meleth nín.” Her lips brushed his lightly.

Smiling broadly in an effort to hide the ache he felt, he clasped her hand and raised it to his lips, lightly kissing the backs of her fingers. “You should get some rest. You have a long journey.” He picked up a small lantern and led her back through the passages to her chambers.

Pushing open the doorway to her room, he caught her hands in his, giving her one last kiss before pulling the tapestry closed behind him.

Cam was still not in bed when the princess entered their room. Kicking off her slippers, she fell on to the bed, closing her eyes. Memories of his hands, his lips, his soft words came in a rush. She lay back, letting the mental images fill her mind, wondering if that was the last time he would hold her in his arms. Tears slid down her cheeks, sobs racking her small frame.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Well, is this not sweet? Hidden passages. How romantic.”

Fenwick sat in a chair in the corner, obscured by the shadows near the unlit fireplace. He stood and moved to the light of the window, his pale eyes regarded her silently for a moment from behind thick, dark lashes.

“Mardil, you should not be here.“

He threw back his head, laughing out loud. “You come traipsing in here in the middle of the night, after spending the last few hours alone with that heathen king, and you have the nerve to call me improper?” He snorted. “Besides, it is perfectly proper as long as Neville remains as a chaperone,” he cast a glance at the valet, who was still sitting in his chair. Neville nodded. Fenwick returned his gaze to the princess. “I trust you have thus far enjoyed your stay in this…heathen country?”

Drawing herself up, she took a deep breath. “Mardil, I refuse to argue with you. It is late, and I will not defend my friendship with the King of the Mark to you. If this is what you are here for…”

“Friendship?” He sneered. “Is that what you call it?”

“What should I call it?”

“I was going to ask, but I can see by your expression that will not be necessary.” Fenwick turned back toward the window. “I am rather disappointed, Lothíriel. I would have hoped to have been married at least a while before my wife decided to engage in this type of behavior.”

Swallowing hard, the princess steeled herself. “What behavior are you talking about, Fenwick?”

He spun around quickly, grabbing her shoulders. “You know exactly what I am talking about, Lothíriel. We discussed this earlier. Do not deny it.” She stared at him defiantly, his fingers tightening painfully. “You are MY fiancé, Lothíriel, or have you so easily forgotten?”

“How could I forget, when you insist on constantly reminding me?“

“I insist, my dear, because I have great plans for our future.”

“Our future? I do not wish a future with you, Mardil!” Anhuil struggled to free herself from his grip. “I do not wish anything with you! I will scream if you do not unhand me now.”

“Scream, then,” he taunted her. She took a breath to do so and was promptly cut off by his mouth over hers. Hard and demanding, it was more possession than a kiss. Neville laughed behind his hand at her attempts to free herself from Fenwick. When he finally released her, she stumbled backwards, glaring at him.

Mardil regarded her amusingly. Her lips were swollen, her chest heaving in her efforts to catch her breath, her eyes blazing with fury. He found it strangely arousing. “By the gods, Lothíriel, I wish you would not look at me in that way,” Fenwick goaded. “I find it far too enticing. No wonder that horsemaster cannot keep his hands off you.”

“You touch me again, you son of an Orc, and I will--“

“What, Princess? Tell your father? Call your brothers? What would your precious Ada think of his little girl alone with the king, unchaperoned, so late at night? Hmmm? How do you think your brothers would feel if he knew that their friend, their trusted comrade in arms, the King of Rohan, was seducing their sister?”

“It is not like that Mardil and you know it!”

“Ah, you see, that is just the problem, my dear betrothed,” he crooned. “I do not know. All I know is what I see, and what I hear. Understand, Princess, that I have had my suspicions for quite some time, ever since that unfortunate little episode at the wedding in Minas Tirith.” He circled her as he spoke. “You see, when you returned home from the city after the battle, I knew something was amiss. I could see it in your eyes. I always knew you did not love me, Lothíriel, but I had at least hoped we would be able to tolerate one another.”

Fenwick sighed resignedly. “But when you returned from your little…journey…you had changed. When I kissed you after your return, I knew. Your kiss was not that of a proper princess who kept her suitors at bay. Your kiss was that of a woman who knew what to expect of a kiss. I wondered at that...at least…” he paused, “until that night in Minas Tirith.” He waited, allowing her to assimilate the information, giving her a scathing once over.

“I knew the moment I saw you dancing with him that he was the one. You see, Lothíriel, I have had enough lovers in my time that I know how a woman in love looks at a man. That, my dear princess, is where you underestimated me. You may be able to fool your father into thinking that it was all innocent, but I know the look of a lover when I see it.”

“Mardil, you are--“

“Do not try to deny it, woman! Your father may still believe you to be a chaste little virgin--“

“Fenwick, my virtue is none of your concern!”

“Ah, my dear, but it is.” Sighing dramatically, he cocked his head to one side, regarding her with an expression of mock sadness. “There is this matter of a contract we both signed, that states that you will marry me. You are promised to ME. So you see, Princess, you and your virtue belong to me. If someone has taken that from me, then…” he held up his hands in a questioning gesture.

“What is it you want from me, Fenwick? Get to the point.” Anhuil shook with anger.

“I wish to leave this forsaken country, return to civilization and be married. You will be MY wife. You will bear MY heirs.” Her stomach lurched at the thought. “Do you hear me? You will forget about him. I want you to go to your horse lord and tell him it is over, Lothíriel.”

Green eyes burned back at him. “And if I do not?”

Fenwick turned to the large banner of the Mark over the fireplace. “These peasants certainly have a fondness for their new king, do they not? It would be a shame for them to lose yet another king, wouldn’t it Neville?”

Anhuil glared at him. “What could you possibly do? You would not have the guts to kill a man yourself, Mardil.”

Fenwick’s smug smile made her blood boil. “My darling Princess, I have contacts you could not begin to imagine. Trust me that you truly do not wish to know what I could do. Suffice it to say that if you care for this...heathen...you will do as I say.”

“You are lying,” she spat.

“Is that a chance you wish to take, my dear?”

The princess’s heart pounded in her chest. “You are the most despicable man I have ever known,” she seethed.

“Tell him, Lothíriel.”

The princess looked away, tears stinging her eyes. Fenwick caught her again by the shoulders, forcing her to look at him. “We leave here at first light in the morning. Before we go, you will tell him it is over.” He waited for a response. Silent tears rolled down her cheeks, but she held her back straight and her shoulders squared, not answering. Cold gray eyes bored into hers. “You signed a contract, my dear. I expect you to live up to it.” He leaned down and tenderly kissed her tear-dampened cheek. “It will all work out for the best, Lothíriel. Trust me. I will make you forget him completely.”

She pulled away from him. “Never,” she said quietly. “You may have my hand in marriage, but you will never have my heart, Fenwick. That will be forever his, regardless of whatever else happens.”

Yanking open the door, she stood expectantly, waiting for them to leave.

With a curt nod, Fenwick strolled past her into the hallway, with Neville trailing close behind. She slammed the door shut and clicked the lock.

Fenwick took a deep breath, grinning at Neville as they strolled down the hall.

“You never cease to amaze me, Mardil,” the older man grinned as they entered Fenwick’s chambers.

“Sometimes I surprise myself,” Fenwick snickered, flopping down in an armchair by the fireplace. “Pour me a drink, will you?”

~~~~~~~~~

Éomer sat at his desk, leaning back in the chair. He was pouring from a flask into the cup of tea Éowyn had brought him when Amrothos creaked the door open. The young prince flopped down into another comfortable chair, propping a boot on the opposite knee. The king waved toward the decanter on the desk. “Brandy?”

“I think I would rather have what you are having,” Amrothos responded with a sigh. Éomer dutifully poured from the flask into a cup and handed it to him. Raising the cup to his lips, the prince studied the other man. “I talked to Ada,” he finally said.

“As did I,” Éomer sighed, picking up the teacup and draining it. Amrothos nodded silently.

“We will think of something, Éomer. We still have several months.”

“One way or another, ” he said, picking up the flask, “I will stop this marriage.” He looked into the flask, frowning, and tipped it up.

“Éomer, you have become like a brother to me. In all honesty, I do not like the thought of my little sister with any man, but if I had to choose, there is no one I would rather see her married to than you. You know I will do whatever I can to help.”

“Good. Go tell your father that she is staying here.” He took another sip from the flask.

Laughing, Amrothos sipped from his own cup. “Exactly how much of that have you had, Éomer?”

“Not near enough,” he answered, taking another swig. “Although enough that I am considering running off with her tonight.”

“Do you have a death wish, my friend? Because that would most certainly put a price on your head.”

The king considered the statement for a few moments. “How much?” Éomer asked, leaning forward on the desk.

“Huh?” Amrothos looked up at him.

“How much, for my head?” The prince raised one eyebrow. Éomer laughed. “Just curious how much the head of a drunk, heartbroken king is worth these days.”

“Do not even jest about it, Éomer,” Amrothos laughed.

“I am not joking, Amrothos. I will not lose her.” He emptied the flask and set it down on the carved desktop. He regarded the young prince, his expression intense. Pulling the small handkerchief out of his pocket, he ran his thumb across the embroidered flowers. “I will not lose her,” he repeated.

Amrothos started to say something, and then decided this might be a time when his presence was more important than his words. Holding out his cup, he allowed his host to refill it and sat back, sipping casually. If Éomer wanted to drink himself into oblivion, the least he could do as his friend would be to keep him company.

~~~~~~~~~~~
Rohan
The Golden Hall of Meduseld
26 Urui, 3019 T.A.
~~~~~~~~~~~~

“It would appear you could use this far more than I.”

Éomer looked up from his desk, trying to focus on the blonde in the doorway. He had slept little, not remembering how long he and Amrothos had sat and talked. The bath he thought might help had done little to ease his pounding head.

Rubbing his throbbing temples, he smiled at Cam. He could smell the strong herbal tea she offered. She stepped inside his office, holding the cup out to him.

“Thank you, Camwethrin.” He took the cup, taking a tentative sip, hoping to quell the pounding in his head.

Cam leaned on the doorframe. “Éomer, I want you to know that I will not allow Ani to give up. She loves you.”

“I can no longer imagine my life without her.” He shook his head slowly, taking another sip of the tea, grimacing at the bitter taste.

“You will not have to. Fenwick is far too shady not to have some secrets. I will find out what they are, one way or another.”

“How do you plan to do that? I will not have you doing anything dangerous. I would never forgive myself is something happened to either of you. And Amrothos would kill me.”

The blonde smiled sweetly. She moved to a chair near the door, leaning back and drawing one of her daggers. “Éomer, did Ani ever tell you what Camwethrin means?” He shook his head slightly, wincing at the pain of doing so. “It is a Sindarin name that Elphir gave me when we were younger. It means ‘hollow ring of shadow’.” At his puzzled look, she smiled. “This is what I do best.” She turned the blade around in her hands, flipping the handle in her grip. “And I do not get caught.”

"Thus far," he commented teasingly. She smiled in response. "Please, Cam. Be careful. There is little I would put past Mardil Fenwick."

"We will. I dare not underestimate him, either." Re-sheathing the weapon, she moved back toward the door. “We will send a message to you as soon as we know something.”

“Cam,” the king looked up from his intense scrutiny of the cup. “I appreciate your friendship. To me and to Ani.”

“Ani is like a sister to me, Éomer. And she loves you. Do not forget that.”

“Thank you.” He smiled back at her.

She nodded, pulling the door shut behind her. Éomer returned his gaze to the dark liquid in the cup, trying to herd his roaming thoughts into some comprehensible order.

~~~~~~~~~~

Anhuil had dressed, packing the last of her things into her trunk, which was now being carried out by her father’s men. Cam had already finished packing and was sitting idly on the side of the bed.

“Are you all right, Ani?”

“Of course, Cam,” the princess answered, trying her best to sound calm. Strapping on her dagger belt, she sat to pull on her boots.

The blonde stood. “Very well. We should be going.”

The princess started to follow her, stopping in the doorway. She turned and looked one last time around the room, biting her lower lip. Cam stepped back into the doorway, taking her hand. The two women walked down the hallway toward the main hall, through the golden doors and down the path to the stables. Anhuil stepped up to her black stallion, throwing her riding cloak over the front of the saddle.

“You are keeping Olórin,” Cam commented.

The princess patted the neck of the horse gently. “Éomer insists. Mardil will just have live with that.”

Blue eyes sparkled at her, glad to see she had not lost all her fight. Before she could comment, the men began arriving. Imrahil and Anhuil’s brothers began preparing their own mounts, giving orders to the Swan Knights that were to ride with them.

Fenwick swaggered down the path, Neville huffing along behind, carrying several bags. As the party prepared for their departure, Éomer and Éowyn circulated among them, saying their goodbyes to their guests.

The princess released the reins of her mount and stepped into the barn to retrieve the bags she had laid aside. Slinging one on to her shoulder, she bent to pick up the other. A strong hand reached from behind her and lifted it. “Thank y--“ She turned to see Éomer leaning on the wall, her bag in his hand. Her heart skipped a beat. He was dressed in casual brown leggings and a plain white tunic, his hair unbraided, falling loosely across his broad shoulders.

Anhuil stood frozen, her viridian gaze locked with his deep copper, the wordless exchange tearing at both of their hearts.

Finally, he spoke. “Ani--“

“I must go.” She pushed past him, moving to gather up her bags. He caught her arm.

“Ani...”

Turning to him, she steeled herself, placing her fingers over his lips. “Do not do this. Please do not make it harder than it already is.” Anhuil fought to keep her voice even, blinking back the tears that stung her eyes.

“I am glad you are taking Olórin. It will help to know at least he is with you.”

“Are you sure you want me to take him? I appreciate you loaning him to me, but he truly belongs here.”

“He is not the only one who belongs here,” the king stated softly, his dark eyes never leaving hers.

The princess was certain her heart had not only broken but had disintegrated completely. “Éomer…please…”

His grip on her arm loosened, but he did not let go. Loose curls that had fallen from her braid tumbled across her face. With his free hand, he gently brushed them back. The intensity of his stare tore through her soul. “This is not over.”

The princess struggled for the right thing to say, finally deciding there was nothing more to be said. She acknowledged his statement with a barely perceptible nod, and pulled away from him reluctantly. He caught her hand in his.

“I love you, Ani,” he said quietly.

Managing a weak smile, she slung the bag back on to her shoulder. “I know,” she responded, echoing his own words. Lifting his fingers to her lips, kissing the tips of them lightly. The corners of his mouth turned up only slightly as she turned and walked toward the rest of her party.

~~~~~~~~~
If you ever leave,
Baby, you would take away everything
Good in my life...
And tell me now
How do I live without you?
I want to know
How do I breathe without you?
If you ever go
How do I ever, ever survive?

How Do I Live?
LeAnn Rimes
**************************************

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Chapter name
Chapter Twenty-Five
Created
25 Apr 2004
Last Edited
25 Apr 2004
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