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Trust To Hope

Chapter 27: Chapter Twenty-Six

by Novedhelion

Trust to Hope - Chapter Twenty-Six
Author: Novedhelion
Type: FP Het
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Pairing: Éomer/Lothíriel aka Anhuil
Rating: PG13
Warnings: Adult situations...but then again, this is an ADULT site...
Beta: Riyallyn
Disclaimer: The characters belong to Tolkien. The names of the places belong to Tolkien. Any similarities to other stories are purely incidental. But the DIALOGUE and the SCENES are MINE and I do not release them to the Public Domain.

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So I would choose to be with you
That's if the choice were mine to make
But you can make decisions too
And you can have this heart to break

And So It Goes
Billy Joel
*******************************
Meduseld
30 Urui, 3019 T.A.
**********************

Standing on the steps of the Golden Hall, Éomer watched them disappear in the distance. Éowyn slipped her arm around his waist, and was pulled into his embrace.

“Are you all right?” she asked.

“I will be fine,” he lied. “Stop your worrying.”

“I am a woman, Éomer. That is my job.”

“Then go worry over Faramir. I have things to attend to.” He kissed her forehead and released her, long legs striding down the path toward the stable.

The White Lady watched her brother disappear into the stables. Since he was a child, that had always been where he had gone when he needed to be alone. He somehow found solace in the company of his horses. She would allow him that for now. Later, however, she would make him some tea.

*********
Meduseld
30 Urui, 3019 T.A.
*********************

Éowyn watched her brother through the window. He had removed his tunic and slung it over the fence, tied his hair back with a leather thong, and was now busily splitting wood with a wedge and a heavy hammer. The midday sun beat down hard, the sweat trickling down his bare chest. He seemed to take no notice of anyone passing by, wondering why the king was chopping wood.

She would swear he had split ten cords of wood at least over the past days.

“What is it, love?” Faramir stepped behind her, his arms sliding around her slender waist, resting his chin on her shoulder.

“I worry about him, Faramir. He has hardly eaten anything in days. He does not sleep. I hear him roaming the halls at night.”

“I would be in much the same shape if you were to leave me, dearest.”

“Still…” she watched as he split yet another log, stepping back to wipe his brow with the back of his forearm. “He is splitting wood in midsummer, love. This is not a job for a king.”

“If he had to stay indoors at that desk all day he would go insane, and you know it.” Turning her in his arms, Faramir cocked his head to one side. “So you will have more than enough wood to keep warm when winter comes, is this a problem?”

“When winter comes, love, I will be your wife. I will have you to keep me warm.”

“That you will, my beauty, and do not forget it. You shall never be cold another night as long as my heart beats in my chest.” He leaned his forehead against hers.

“Ah, such lovely words from such beautiful lips. Might I suggest another use for them?” Éowyn tilted her face up to meet his soft lips with hers.

Pulling back, Faramir grinned at her. “Feeling better?”

“If I say no will you kiss me again?”

“Need you ask?” He lowered his lips to hers again.

She stepped back and looked up at him. “Faramir…”

“Yes, love?” he leaned in, his lips finding their way to her neck.

“Will your cousin be attending our wedding?”

The Prince of Ithilien raised his head and looked at her, a slow smile crossing his face. “I would certainly hope so.” He wrinkled his brow at the pensive look on her face. “What are you thinking, Lady of Rohan?” he inquired teasingly, not sure he wanted an answer.

“I just cannot imagine being doomed to spend the rest of my life with a man I did not love.” She leaned against his chest.

“Many marriages are arranged, love. My parents’ marriage was arranged, as was Imrahil’s. It is not uncommon. Very often those involved come to love each other.”

“I understand,” Éowyn hugged him tightly. “But it seems so unfair. They love each other so much, Faramir. They should be together.”

“I do not disagree.”

“Is it truly so hard to dissolve such a contract?”

Faramir shrugged. “If both parties agree, no. Otherwise, yes, it can be a most difficult situation.”

She turned back toward the window. Éomer had put aside the hammer and was leaning on the fence, wiping the sweat from his face with his tunic.

“My heart breaks for him, beloved. Most times I can get him to open his heart, to talk to me. This time, however, he refuses. He will not discuss it with me at all.” She watched her brother take up the hammer again and renew his efforts to split every tree in Rohan into firewood.

“When he is ready, he will. Your brother is strong and stubborn, Éowyn.”

“As if I did not know that,” she commented dryly.

“Just be there when he is ready to discuss it.”

“I plan to,” the White Lady said quietly.

***********
Meduseld
2 Ivanneth, 3019 T.A.
*************************

Éomer entered the darkened hall, his bare feet shuffling across the floor toward the fireplace. The fire had died down, the only light coming from the smoldering embers. Leaning on the mantle above, he stared down into the red, glowing ashes.

“As much firewood as you have split, I cannot imagine fires ever going out again around here.”

Her voice startled him. Turning quickly, the king noticed his sister leaning on a carved wooden post behind him, arms folded.

“What are you doing up?” He turned back toward the fire.

“I could ask you the same, but I know the answer.” She walked to where he stood, pulling her robe tighter around her slender frame. “It is chilly in here…put another log on the fire and I will make us some tea.”

“I do not want tea.”

Éowyn’s eyes narrowed. “Yes, you do.”

Éomer’s lips curved slightly. There was no debating the issue when she gave him that look. “Upon second thought, I believe I would like some tea.” He reached for a log from the nearby basket of wood, tossing it onto the grate. His sister reappeared moments later with two cups, handing him one.

“The fire in the kitchen was still hot,” she said before he asked. He took a sip of the tea, made a face, and looked at his sister.

“Éowyn,” he began.

“Sit,” she commanded, pointing to a chair near the fire. Pulling up another, she sat close to him, sipping the warm tea. The log began to catch, the small flames flickering in the dark. Éomer sat for some time, watching the flames come to life.

“So tell me, do you plan to cut down every forest in Rohan?” She glanced at him over the top of her cup. “I would suggest leaving the Fangorn alone,” she chided.

He glanced at her, clearly not amused. “It helps to distract me.”

“Éomer, I know how frustrated you become when something is troubling you and there is nothing you can do. You were much the same way when Théoden was bewitched. It hurts me to see you going through that again.”

“Yes, but at least then there were things I could do,” he sighed. “But this? I can do nothing but wait.” He sighed at the thought, looking up at her. “I am so glad you and Faramir found each other, Éowyn.”

“As am I.” She grinned. “A valiant effort to steer me away from the subject at hand, dear brother, but we are discussing you and the princess.”

He chuckled at her quick repartee. No easy mark, his sister. “There is nothing to discuss. She has gone home. She will marry Fenwick, unless somehow I can find a way to stop her.”

He rubbed his beard with his hand, staring pensively into the flames. The knot in his stomach had returned. “My thoughts keep returning to something the Lady Galadriel said,” he told her.

“What did she say?”

“I adore both the Lady and her husband, but I much prefer Celeborn’s direct manner of speech. The Lady speaks in riddles.” He sipped his tea, trying to remember her words to him. “Before she left, she told me not to be troubled. She told me the house of Eorl would endure, and that my reign as king would be long and joyous.”

“I would take that as encouragement, brother. She has the gift of foresight, you know.”

“I have heard,” he agreed.

Éowyn smiled broadly. “Éomer, that should give you hope.”

“Éowyn, you should know that I trust only in what I can see and touch. I do not know about trusting in Elvish prophecies.”

“That is not true, brother. You can neither see nor touch your love for the princess, yet you know it exists.”

He pondered this for a moment. “I suppose you are right again.” Setting down his cup, he stood and walked over to her, pulling her to her feet and into his arms. “Why is it that you are always the one giving me advice?”

“Being older does not necessarily make you wiser, dear brother,” she teased.

He pulled her tighter into his embrace. “I keep reminding myself how much I will miss your sharp tongue when you leave.”

“Oh, I am certain it will be replaced by one belonging to a rather mouthy little princess.”

“I hope you are right, Éowyn.”

“Get some rest, Éomer.” She kissed his cheek and turned to leave.

“I certainly hope Faramir realizes what a fortunate man he is.”

“He does. I remind him constantly.” The White Lady flipped her hair over her shoulder and grinned back at her brother. “Goodnight, Éomer.”

“Sleep well, Éowyn,” he called softly after her as she left.

With a heavy sigh, he downed the rest of his tea and headed for his chamber. With any luck, he might actually sleep tonight.

***************
Meduseld
10 Narbeleth, 3019 T.A.
****************************

Weeks went by, life at Meduseld falling into a pattern of normalcy. The new king adjusted, as much as one can, to the duty of rebuilding a shattered realm. Staying occupied helped, and there was much to be done.

As the weather grew colder, he knew Meduseld would have plenty of firewood, if nothing else.

If the mundane daily operations of rule were boring to a man who would rather have been out on patrol, the dinners he was required to attend were complete torture.

Éomer stood outside the Great Hall in the corridor, leaning on the wall.

“What are you doing out here?” His sister’s voice startled him. “You have guests. They are asking where you are.”

“I am hiding.”

“Hiding from what?” She rolled her eyes. “Éomer, you are the king. You cannot hide.”

“It is dangerous in there.” The king stated flatly, refusing to budge.

Éowyn raised one elegantly arched eyebrow, her gaze raking over her brother. He certainly was handsome, she had to give them that. “That does not sound very brave coming from a warrior such as you, my dear brother. They are not orcs. They are only women.”

“Yes,” he responded. “I know. Were they orcs I would have no fear of them.”

His sister chuckled and caught him by the arm. “Come on. I will protect you. I fear to leave my beloved too long alone in there. The sea of silk and velvet might overtake him.”

“You as much as call me a coward and then admit you fear to leave Faramir alone with them?”

With a resigned sigh, the king allowed her to drag him back into the hall. Glancing around with a polite smile, he met the eyes of several women. Some shyly turned away, some boldly met his gaze, and some very obviously had plans of their own. One even winked at him as he past.

“Éowyn,” her brother said, clinging to her hand on his arm.

“Yes, dear brother?”

“Do not leave me alone with them,” he pled.

She cuffed him lightly on the shoulder. “They are only women, Éomer.”

“Only women, she says,” he rolled his eyes. “If a woman can take down the Witch King, then I hold no hope for myself.”

Éowyn chuckled.

“I miss her, Éowyn.”

“I know,” she responded quietly. “Faramir assures me she will be at the wedding. That is less than a month away, brother. You can handle this one night. Just dance with them, Éomer. Be polite.” She pulled away from him.

“Where are you going?” His voice was almost panicked.

Éowyn grinned. “I am going to rescue Faramir, and we are going to dance. I suggest you find one of them and do the same.” She glided away from him across the floor to where Faramir stood, looking helpless as two women chatted away incessantly at him.

“Your Majesty,” a voice behind him called his attention. Éomer turned around to see an older woman dressed in her finery, dragging behind her an obviously shy younger woman. “May I present my daughter, Treasa.” She shoved the girl in front of her. “She is very shy.”

The king smiled pleasantly at the overbearing mother. “Clearly not a problem shared with her mother.” The woman backed off slightly as he took the young girl’s hand, kissing it lightly. “A pleasure to meet you, Treasa,” he said politely.

The poor thing was so embarrassed by her mother’s brashness she would not even look at him. Her mother quickly disappeared into the crowd. Once away from her mother, the young lady looked up at him when he spoke to her.

Seeing her face clearly, Éomer was taken aback. She was a lovely girl, but…

“Treasa, how old are you, if you do not mind my asking?”

“I am old enough, my Lord, or so my mother says.”

“You seem awfully young to me.”

She drew herself up. “I am seventeen years, Your Majesty.”

The king took a proprietary step back from her, shaking his head. Seventeen! She was a child! He sighed heavily, not for the last time.

“Excuse me, please, my lady,” he said, bowing, looking furtively around for Éowyn.

The entire evening was filled with similar conversations. Parents; fathers and mothers, introducing their daughters to the king. Some women were bold enough to introduce themselves.

“You are a beautiful dancer, Your Majesty,” the blonde in his arms purred. “Where did a warrior such as yourself learn such grace?”

Éomer almost laughed at the outright flattery. “It was forced upon me, growing up in the courts. The ladies of the court were relentless when the king’s son and I were young.”

“Oh?” She raised her eyebrows, leaning closer to him. “What else did they teach you?” she queried teasingly.

The king swallowed hard and threw his sister a pleading look over the woman’s shoulder. Éowyn laughed and turned back to Faramir.

After dinner, Éomer was sitting on a bench along the side of the hall, the blonde beside him still chattering away; about what, he had no idea. He could not seem to shake her no matter what he did. An attractive woman in a deep blue velvet gown strode up to where he was sitting. She looked vaguely familiar but he could not quite place her.

“Your Majesty,” she smiled charmingly, “I am Isolde,” she said, as if he should know who she was. She curtseyed low, offering the king a view of her generous décolletage, keeping her eyes on his. She licked her lips before continuing. The blonde beside him glared at her. “It is an honor to make your acquaintance.”

He smiled, rising to his feet. Tired of sitting and listening to the prattling of the blonde, he offered his hand. “Care to dance, Isolde?”

“I would be honored,” she answered regally, casting a victorious look at the disgruntled blonde.

Isolde was tall, almost as tall as he, with dark hair pinned up in braids. She not a young girl, but was decidedly pretty, that he would not deny. Her dark blue gown could not have fit more snugly, leaving little doubt as to her attributes. Éomer wondered how she ate wearing a gown that tight, not to mention how she breathed. He found it a little hard to do that himself with her considerable cleavage almost in his face.

“Isolde is a lovely name,” he remarked, looking for a topic of discussion.

“It means beautiful,” she answered confidently, fishing for the obvious response.

“It is a lovely name,” Éomer repeated, not wishing to be rude, but not wishing to encourage her falsely. What he really wished was that this night was over.

Every social event he attended or hosted was the same. Women came from all over Gondor and Rohan, all vying for the attention of the handsome young king. Éowyn and Faramir seemed to delight in his frustration. Most nights he tolerated it, was as polite as possible, and was greatly relieved when the last guest departed.

“My Lord,” Isolde’s husky voice drew him back to the present. “Did you hear what I said?”

Looking down into the dark eyes of the woman in his arms, he shook his head slightly. “I apologize, my Lady. I did not.”

Glancing down at the front of her dress, one corner of her mouth turned up into a knowing smile. “Distracted, are we, my lord?”

Realizing what she meant, Éomer averted his gaze quickly. “I did not mean…I am sorry, I …Please, excuse me. My apologies.” He released her and turned quickly away, leaving her alone on the dance floor.

With a smirk, she folded her arms and walked slowly to the side of the room, watching him as he spoke to his sister. That poor man had been alone entirely too long, she thought to herself.

“Faramir,” the king whispered, sidling up to his sister’s fiancé, “if this is the life of a king then I would much prefer to go back to being Third Marshal. Why do you not stay here and be king? You and Éowyn can rule Rohan and I will move back to Aldburg.”

“You would fare no better there, my friend. It is even closer to Minas Tirith. And the women there are notorious for chasing nobility. There is only one way to stem the tide.” The king looked at him questioningly. “Get married. And even then it does not always stop entirely.”

Éomer laughed. “You sound as if you speak from experience.”

Faramir cast him a sardonic smile. “I daresay my brother and I did our fair share of maiden dodging,” he grinned. “Although sometimes we were the ones chasing…”

The king chuckled. “I would not say that too loudly in the presence of my sister.”

“Your sister has nothing to concern herself with. There is not a maiden in this room…or anywhere in Middle Earth, for that matter, who can compare with her in my eyes.”

“I am pleased that you realize this, Faramir. She is truly a prize.”

Faramir nodded, sipping from his goblet as Éowyn approached. Éomer smiled at the two of them. He loved seeing his sister so happy, but their bliss only served to make the ache in his own heart more pronounced.

As the guests dispersed, he politely said his farewells, retiring to his chambers.

Éomer slowly walked the length of the hall to the large bedchamber at the end. This was the part of the day he hated most. Pushing the heavy door open, he stepped inside without lighting a lantern. Pale moonlight streamed in through the window, a fire crackling in the hearth. He sat down and pulled off his boots and the quilted vest he wore, dropping them into the chair. Unlacing the front of his tunic, he stripped to just his trousers, and poured a goblet of wine. He carried his cup to the window and stood, staring out across the darkened mountains toward the south, the loneliness overtaking him once again.

He sighed heavily, dreading getting into his empty bed. Sleeping in the large bed alone was bad enough, but the dreams that had plagued him were little incentive to close his eyes. Reluctantly, he drained the last of the wine and crawled into the bed, lying on his back and staring at the stone ceiling.

He did not know how long he had been asleep, but this dream was nice…a soft hand moving across his chest, warm lips on his ear, the side of his neck. Much better than the dreams of the battle that had begun to plague him again. In his dream, he turned toward the warm body beside him, eyes closed. His hands roamed over soft flesh, pulling the warmth against him. Velvety lips met his. If this was a dream, he wanted nothing to stop it.

“Ani,” he murmured softly.

“Who is Ani?” She breathed into his ear, her lips finding the sensitive skin behind it. The husky voice startled him from sleep.

The king sat bolt upright, turning around to look at the woman in his bed. In the dim light from the window, he could see Isolde lying propped on one elbow, grinning wickedly at him. She was lying atop the covers, clad only in a thin shift.

“Well, my Lord, are you going to come back down here or are you going to sit there all day staring like a scared rabbit?”

Éomer realized he was staring and quickly averted his eyes. Jerking the coverlet up over her, he backed out of the bed. “What are you doing here?”

“I thought it was clear what I was doing, Your Majesty,” she answered, with a chuckle. Taking in his muscular chest and shoulders, more pronounced recently with all the axe swinging he had done, she took a deep breath. “You just seemed horribly lonely tonight. I thought I might keep you company a while.” She sat up, allowing the covers to drop.

Regaining his composure, Éomer reached over and grabbed her dress off the chair, throwing it at her. “Get dressed, please. You should not be here. It is not proper.”

“Since when are you concerned with propriety?” Isolde responded haughtily, standing from the bed. She smiled seductively. “Your cousin never was. In fact, he suggested long ago that I pay you a visit.” Éomer’s shocked expression tickled her, and she laughed out loud, a soft, husky laugh.

“Oh, do not look so shocked! You know he was no innocent. Théodred is the one who showed me the secret passages. How do you think I got here?” she asked. Her gaze traveled down across his hard chest, down his flat stomach to the lacings of the leggings he wore. “Are you sure you do not wish me to stay?” She raised an eyebrow.

Éomer sighed. At one point in his life he would never have turned down willing women in his bedchamber, but he seemed to be doing it a lot more frequently these days. “I did not mean to… My apologies. Please, dress yourself.” He turned away from her, striding across the room to pour another cup of wine, keeping his back to her.

Sadly sighing at the sight of his muscled back, she relented. Tossing her dark hair over her shoulder, she reluctantly reached for her dress. “If you insist,” she said, pulling it over her head and yanking the laces to tighten her corset, cinching up her generous cleavage.

“I assure you, I would not be pleasant company tonight.” Glancing around to see if she was dressed, he turned to face her upon seeing she was. “I do not know what you have heard about me, Isolde,” he said sharply, “but these days I am not in the habit of retaining women for the sole purpose of entertaining me in my bedchamber.”

Isolde drew herself up to her full height. “And I assure you, Your Majesty, my services are not available for ‘retention’. Théodred was dear to me. He was a good man, and I was honored to have known him.” She quickly averted her gaze on the pretense of picking up a discarded slipper. “I offer what comfort I do of my own free will and take nothing in return but my own pleasure,” she snapped.

Éomer blew out his breath. His cousin had been several years older than he. It only stood to reason that there would have been at least one woman in his life, although Théodred did little to quell the rumors that there were more. “I am sorry, Isolde. I did not mean to insinuate--“

She waved him off. “It is of no consequence. Very few people would understand if I did try to explain,” she said as she slid the slippers on her feet.

Curious, Éomer sat down, motioning her to sit as well. He poured her a cup of wine and slid it across the small table. “Try me,” he said.

“Why should you want to hear of your cousin’s tainted relationship with a tart like me?” She picked up the cup and sipped it, looking at him questioningly.

“Why should I not?” Éomer reached over and lit the lantern on the table, keeping the flame low. The soft glow from the fireplace shadowed her face. She was not young; Théodred had been more than thirteen years older than him and he guessed her to be close to the same age. Éomer could see why Théodred would have been taken with her. She was still quite beautiful, with fair skin and clear, blue eyes that seemed take in far more than she revealed. It was quite a contrast to the ebony of her hair, and by that alone she was a rarity among Éorlingas. She pursed her rose colored lips, running a finger around the rim of the cup in her hand. He could see that the memory pained her still. “If you do not wish to talk about him, I understand.”

She shrugged. “Théodred always spoke highly of you. And as you grew older, he used to tease that he would not introduce us for fear that I would pick you over him.” Her gaze raked over him, still shirtless, leaning back in the chair. Her smile was only a little wicked.

Not sure how to respond, he only smiled.

“You truly wish to know about this?” He nodded, indicating the chair across from him near the fire. She moved to the other chair and sat silently for a while, her gaze falling on the fire.

“Théodred and I grew up together. I was taken with him from the moment I laid eyes on him. We were about eight years old. He was so handsome.” She sighed. “When I was but ten and seven years, he told me he loved me and kissed me.” Isolde shook her head. “From then on, your cousin owned me as surely as if he had purchased me with gold.”

Her gaze met his, a twinkle in her eye. “I remember when you came to live here. You were but a child, then, a tall, lanky boy of barely more than ten years, with the darkest eyes I had ever seen. Théodred told me we would have to be careful not to be caught by you or Éowyn. That is when he showed me the secret passages.” Éomer looked at her askance. A chuckle escaped her lips. “I could find my way to Théodred’s chamber blindfolded.”

“If the two of you were lovers, why were you never-“

“Betrothed?” she finished the sentence for him. “Your cousin tried to convince me to marry him, but I was never meant to be the wife of a king.”

“I do not understand, Isolde.”

Rosy lips curved into a smile. “I am the daughter of a soldier, not a Lord. I was not raised to be a queen. Théodred said he did not care, that he loved me and would marry whom he wished. I knew in my heart he spoke the truth, but it was not a mistake I could let him make.” She shrugged.

“Very noble of you,” Éomer remarked teasingly.

Isolde sighed, then looked up at him. “I did love him. Béma knows I loved that man.”

“No doubt he felt the same way,” Éomer answered. “Perhaps that was why he turned down every offer for marriage that Théoden suggested to him.”

She raised an eyebrow as if this were news to her. It was the king’s turn to smile. “You did not know that?” She shook her head, her expression of surprise now amusing him. “Every nobleman within a hundred leagues who had a daughter of age contacted Théoden. Théodred always refused, saying his duty was to Rohan, and until the country was at peace again he would not marry.”

Pondering his last statement, she stared down into her empty cup. “May I be completely candid with you, Your Majesty?” She leaned forward.

“If you will stop calling me Your Majesty and call me simply Éomer, you may be as candid as you wish,” he answered.

“Why are you here?”

“This is where I sleep. Why are you here, Isolde?"

“A just question,” she stated. “It deserves an honest answer.” Taking a deep breath, she continued. “I am here simply because I loved Théodred. I made a mistake, not marrying him. I should have followed my heart. I will regret to my dying day that I was not his wife, even if my fate was to have been a young widow.”

"Had you married him, you would have had several good years together. Perhaps things would have been different," Éomer offered.

"Any children born to us would be heirs to the throne. If I had married him, perhaps you would not be sittin where you are today."

The king nodded in agreement. "To be honest, Isolde, I do not think I would have minded."

Isolde chuckled softly as an uneasy silence fell. She turned to the fire again, watching the flickering flames. “I am lonely, Éomer, as are you. I assure you my intent was nothing more than comfort for both of us.” Blue eyes sparkled at him mischievously. “Better me, who you know has no desire for the throne of Rohan, than for you to bed one of those little chits who are determined to get their claws into a king simply because of who he is.” Her appraising gaze raked over him again. “Although, I have to admit. You are enough to tempt any woman, even were you not king.”

Éomer laughed, a little embarrassed at her bold statement, but then again, she was in his bedchamber. "Trust me, Isolde. Under any other circumstances we would not be sitting here talking," he said.

She continued with a smile. “May I ask you a question?” He nodded his assent. “Who is Ani?”

Éomer downed the remainder of the wine in his cup and cleared his throat. “Her given name is Lothíriel,” he answered, surprised by the slight tremor in his voice.

“The daughter of the prince?" he nodded again. "She must be a very special woman,” she said.

“That she is,” he answered hoarsely.

Isolde’s dark hair fell forward across her shoulders as she leaned forward again, facing him. “If you are in love with the Princess of Dol Amroth, why are you here? Why are you going to dinners and putting up with every eligible maiden in the realm falling at your feet hoping they will be the next Queen of the Mark? Why do you not go after her?”

“I have duties here. There is much to be done. We are still re-“ His voice stopped dead at the look she cast him. “Isolde, I simply cannot run off and-“

“Do you love her?”

“Yes, but...” he answered without hesitation. She raised her eyebrows, her blue eyes regarding him expectantly. Éomer realized his rationalization would get him nowhere with her. "It is far more complicated. She is betrothed to another man, and -"

The azure gaze held his. "Éomer...do you love her?"

Drawing in a deep breath, the king met her stare. "More than my own life," he answered.

Isolde nodded knowingly, and stood, picking up her cloak. Éomer arose and took it from her, placing it on her shoulders. She smiled up at him. "Do not make the same mistake I did, Éomer."

He looked at her questioningly. She laid a hand on his cheek. "Regret is a very lonely bedpartner, my King. Remember that." She turned, striding across the room to the passage. Pausing at the opening, she turned back to face him. “One more thing I must say, Éomer,” Isolde ventured, flicking her tongue across her bottom lip.

He smiled at her informal address of him. “Yes?”

“If that kiss was any indication of your feelings for her, she was a fool to ever leave your side.” Her fingertips hooked the hidden latch and swung open the doorway.

“She did not do so willingly,” he informed her.

“Then my suggestion to you, Your Majesty, would be to go and find her, marry her, and bring her back here and make mad, passionate love to her every night, and never let her leave your side again.” With that, Isolde stepped into the passageway, pulling the door shut behind her.

Éomer watched her go, then blew out the lamp on the table. He walked slowly to the bed, sitting down on the edge and running a hand through the blonde waves. Laying back, he rolled on to his side, and reached for the other pillow, hugging it tightly to his chest. At least then, his arms didn’t feel quite so empty.

************
Meduseld
2 Hithui, 3019 T.A.
***************

"Éowyn?"

The king rapped lightly on the door of her chamber. She creaked it open slightly, smiling at the sight of her brother.

"It is late, Éomer."

"I know." He smiled sheepishly. "I thought you might wish to join me for a cup of tea, one last time."

Her smile broadened. "Let me get my robe and I will be right there."

Éomer waited in the hallway until she slipped out, closing the door softly behind her. Crossing her arms against the chill as they walked to the kitchen, Éowyn glanced at her brother. He had never been one to wear his heart on his sleeve, but she could always tell when something pained him. They had been through so much together as siblings, but had always been there for each other, always able to rely on one another. All that would change after tomorrow.

He caught her stare. "What?"

She shook her head. "Nothing."

They entered the kitchen. Éowyn started across the room to get the teapot, and was stopped by her brother's hand on her arm. "I did not really want the tea," he confessed.

She chuckled softly, turning to face him. "I did not think you did," she replied. "How about wine?" Nodding his agreement, he reached above her and removed a jug from the shelf. She retrieved two cups, and they took their customary positions at the small wooden table by the fireplace.

Eomer filled the cups, sliding hers across the table. "To your happiness, dear sister." He raised his cup, sipping from it.

"And to yours," she responded, doing likewise.

He raised an eyebrow at her, quietly considering her comment. He wished he could be as certain of his own happiness as he was of hers.

"It will certainly be quiet around here without you."

"Yes, for once you will have peace. No one forcing tea on you at all hours of the night," she teased, tipping up her cup.

The king was silent for a moment, watching the flickering flames dancing among the logs.

"And you should have plenty of firewood," she quipped.

Eomer laughed out loud. "Perhaps peace will not be such a bad thing," he joked, "I have not yet decided if I will miss your wit."

"You will," Eowyn grinned.

He fell silent again. His sister reached to refill his cup. Smiling his thanks, he raised the cup to his lips.

"My departure is not what is troubling you, brother."

Eomer looked up at her. "Is it so obvious?"

"You know she will most likely be in attendance," Eowyn offered.

Sighing heavily, he stared down into the cup. "It had not escaped me."

”Surely the thought of seeing her again should please you, Éomer. I know how you have missed her.”

“It is more than that. I want nothing more than to be with her, unless it would be never to be parted from her again. But I do not see how that will happen.”

“Éomer…”

“Perhaps I am holding on to a false dream, something that can never be. Is it so wrong to hope against hope when all else deems otherwise?”

Éowyn raised an eyebrow at him. “You dare ask me this question? You stood on the field at Pelennor and saw what we faced. You looked upon the Black Gates of Mordor, facing an army of ten thousand, and saw with your own eyes the Eye of the Enemy. You witnessed the black tower crumble to the ground, the Black Gates torn asunder and thrown down. You dare now to ask me if you should give up hope?”

“I would sooner face Sauron again than to know that the woman I love is married to...” his voice trailed off momentarily. “It would be different, Éowyn, if she loved him, or he her.”

She smiled feebly, reaching across the table to cover his hand with hers. “I know, brother. I know the pain of loving one you cannot have.”

Éomer’s brown eyes met her pale grey. She did know. He had forgotten, wrapped up in his own trauma, that she knew all too well the pain of unrequited love.

Yet she had found another, and found happiness. Perhaps…

He didn’t wish to think about that yet.

“I know. I am sorry. You, more than any other, understand.” He clasped her hand in his. “I will miss you terribly, Éowyn. I do not know what I will do without you to ground me. To whom will I turn for advice on matters of the heart?” he teased.

His sister squeezed the strong hands holding hers. “You must learn to trust your own heart, my dear brother. It will not lead you astray.”

Éomer’s mouth curved slightly. He would sorely miss their late night talks. His heart ached at the thought, a new twinge of loneliness tightening in his chest. She yawned, pulling a hand away to cover her mouth.

“I am sorry, I believe this wine is taking affect.”

“Get some rest, sister. We have a long ride ahead.”

“You should rest as well,” she told him, standing from the table and gathering the cups.

“I will rest when I have my bride here in my bed.”

Éowyn laughed. “I sincerely doubt that, brother dear. If I know you, you will not be resting much then.”

His eyes widened in shock at her brashness. “Such indelicate language from a lady,” he admonished her.

“Lady?” she queried sarcastically. “Please, Éomer. I have lived with you men long enough to know what is first and foremost in your thoughts.”

“And pray tell, what would that be?” he asked her, replacing the wine jug on the shelf.

Éowyn moved to the doorway, heading for the hall. “If I have to explain that one, dearest brother, then Rohan is in dire trouble. Their king shall never have an heir.” She ducked past him through the door, moving quickly out of his reach.

Éomer chuckled and followed her down the hall. Yes, Meduseld was certainly going to be much quieter without her. And far too boring.

~~~~~~~~~~
The Home of Lord Abrecan
Near the Fortress of Aldburg
Rohan
8 Hithui, 3019 T.A.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The first thing he was aware of was the bright light of the sun shining in through the window. Éomer rolled over, pulling the pillow over his pounding head, and tried to go back to sleep. Suddenly realizing he was not quite sure where he was, he lifted his head, squinting against the blinding sun, and looked around the room.

It was a simple but elegant room, the large bed in which he lay made of a light colored carved wood. His clothing lay across a chair near the fireplace, which someone had thoughtfully stoked recently, making the chamber comfortably warm. He blinked and looked again at his clothing. He could not for the life of him remember taking it off last night. Sitting up, he came to yet another startling conclusion.

He was not wearing his normal nighttime attire. In fact, he was wearing nothing at all. Yanking the covers back over his lower body, he rubbed his throbbing temples. He remembered Lord Abrecan’s dinner, the few tankards of ale he had, and dancing with Éowyn. When Faramir had insisted, he had turned her back over to her betrothed and turned his attention to his host, having some long discussions concerning the genealogy of certain steeds in Abrecan’s herds. How did he get from there to his own bed?

Pressing his fingers to his closed eyes, he struggled to remember. Dinner, dancing, conversation with Abrecan...he knew no more than two or three tankards of ale, so why couldn't he remember?

He remembered the blonde. The silly, giggling blonde to whom he had tried to be polite. She had been tall and slender like Éowyn, with broad shoulders and nice curves, and she had been far too friendly for his liking. She had smelled of roses, and wore little yellow flowers in her hair. He had tried to dismiss her with as much courtesy as possible. What was her name?

He looked around the room again, blinking against the harsh light. His clothing was piled in the chair by the fireplace, flung rather halphazardly as if it had been done in a hurry. He supposed he could have undressed and could simply not remember. He lay slowly back down, the ache in his head intensifying.

His hand slipped under the pillow he was laying on, fingers coming into contact with something soft and cool. Grasping the item, he pulled it from under the pillow and inspected it.

A small, crumpled yellow flower. He frowned, clutching it in his fist. No way had he been that drunk.

Swearing that he would not be drinking again for quite some time, he dragged himself out of the bed and dressed, hoping his head would stop pounding, or he would be in for a rough day of riding.

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

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Chapter Twenty-Six
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30 Apr 2004
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30 Apr 2004
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