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Trust To Hope

Chapter 28: Chapter Twenty-Seven

by Novedhelion

Trust To Hope - Chapter 27
Author: Novedhelion
Type: FP Het
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Pairing: Éomer/Lothíriel aka Anhuil
Rating: PG13
Warnings: Fenwick alert!
Beta: Riyallyn
Disclaimer: The characters belong to Tolkien. The names of the places belong to Tolkien. Any similarities to other stories are purely coincidental. But the DIALOGUE and the SCENES are MINE and I do not release them to the Public Domain.

Be wary of alcohol that smells like licorice.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
“He’s a cold hearted snake
Look into his eyes
Uh-oh, he’s been telling lies...”

Cold Hearted Snake
Paula Abdul

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Chapter Twenty-Seven
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Dol Amroth
28 Ivanneth, 3019 T.A.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Fenwick walked slowly down the stone walkway leading to the beach. He could see her standing at the edge of the water, silhouetted in the moonlight, her gown billowing slightly in the soft offshore breeze. She stood in the sand, barefoot, her slippers in hand. Waves lapped at the hem of her dress, but she didn’t seem to notice. Her gaze was set out across the waves. The wolf sat patiently just out of reach of the waves, a silent sentinel.

Crossing the sand, he approached her from behind. Elenion turned his eyes to the interloper, watching him with an expression of lupine curiosity tinged with warning. Giving the beast a wide berth, Fenwick drew near to the Princess.

“You should not be out here alone at night, Lothíriel,” he admonished her quietly.

Anhuil ignored him, his voice only making the wrenching feeling in her chest tighter. She had known she would miss Éomer, but gods, she had no idea it would hurt this much. It will get better, her father had promised her. In time. Well, Melkor’s chains, she’d been nearly a month and it certainly had not lessened one iota. If anything, she missed him more.

“Lothíriel,” Mardil spoke again, his voice grating her already raw nerves.

The princess looked up at the moon, blinking back tears. “What do you want, Mardil?” she asked, not turning to look at him.

Fenwick stopped walking. He could hear it in her voice. She had been crying. Again. Over that damned Rohirrim king. Sighing inwardly, he closed the distance between them, placing his hands on her shoulders from behind. She stiffened at his touch but said nothing.

“Lothíriel,” he said gently, “I am sorry. I am sorry this is causing you so much pain. I do not like to see you like this.”

“So go away,” she responded curtly.

Fenwick sighed again, out loud this time. “Princess, you are going to be my wife. I would appreciate it if we could at least be civil to one another.”

The princess did not respond, but stood silently, staring out across the glittering diamond pathway the moon illuminated on the sea. Moving around in front of her, Mardil tried a different tactic. Softening his voice and his expression as much as possible, he smiled down at her.

“Lothíriel,” he did his best to appear contrite, “I truly am sorry for what you have been through. I know we have had our differences in the past. I honestly wish to put all that aside and try to make a life together.” He watched her face in the pale moonlight.

Anhuil stared at him, almost expressionless, desperately trying to summon the anger she usually felt in his presence. Nothing would come.

Fenwick took the lack of haughty response as an invitation. He raised his hand to her cheek. “Gods, Lothíriel, but you are beautiful,” he said softly. “I truly am a lucky man.” He expected her to retort, to flinch; to do something…anything. Her eyes met his, still gazing blankly at him. She did not move.

Perhaps she was softening a little. After all, she would have to accept her fate sooner or later. She was no dolt. It made far more sense just to give in and go along than it did to continue rock the boat. His little princess was learning. Slowly, but she was learning.

He smiled down at her, still looking for some reaction in those green eyes. He received none.

Raising his other hand to cup her face, Fenwick leaned down and touched his lips to hers. Still, the expected reaction did not come. He waited for her to slap him, to scream at him, but again, she did nothing. She neither accepted nor refused his kiss.

He pulled back, searching her eyes. Her gaze fixed on his, the confusion on his face clear. “Lothíriel, do you harbor such hate for me that there is no chance of us ever being happy together?”

“I do not hate you, Fenwick,” came the quiet reply.

Ice water over his head would not have shocked him more than to hear those words come from her lips. His mouth curved into a slight smile.

“You do not?”

“No,” she responded, completely toneless. “I do not.” Staring into his cold grey eyes, she continued, her next words a sharp barb bursting the bubble of hope he had allowed to balloon at her previous answer.

“Right now, I feel absolutely nothing for you, Mardil Fenwick.”

She turned on her heel and strode slowly up the beach toward the palace, still carrying her slippers. The wolf glared at Fenwick, his eyes glinting in the moonlight. Mardil would have sworn the animal flashed him a smug grin as he turned and trotted after his mistress up the dune.

~~~~~~~~
Training Yard
Dol Amroth
30 Ivanneth, 3019 T.A.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Steel clashed as Cam barely blocked the down stroke of the heavy broadsword aiming for her head. Feinting left, she thrust right with her own blade, only to be blocked and thrown off balance. Refusing to yield, she rolled away from another blow, and met the tip of the broadsword at her throat. Sighing in defeat, she dropped her blade and raised her hands in surrender.

A strong hand grasped hers and pulled her to her feet. “You have been lax in your practice, girl.”

“I am sorry, Ada. Things have been a bit busy lately, with the wedding preparations.” Cam looked to her father and smiled, “But I am not that out of practice. You are sweating.”

“You wish to try again? Very well.” The Admiral poised for attack as Cam retrieved her sword. “This time, pay attention.”

Amrothos watched from the far side of the courtyard as father and daughter crossed swords. He couldn’t help but smile at the display. The Admiral was never one for letting an opponent win, even in practice. She would have to earn it. And he would enjoy watching it.

Cam grinned as she blocked her father’s opening move. She loved having him home, and the fact that he was an incredible sparring partner made it even better. Unfortunately, the opportunity to spend time with him was growing less and less frequent.

Thrust, block. “Ada, why have you been gone so long?”

Feint, slash. “The Corsairs are becoming more bold, blatantly attacking coastal villages and merchant ships. We also believe they are smuggling cargo in and out of our ports, somehow. I am sure Elessar has plans for stopping them but he cannot do everything at once.” Lunge. “Your left side is open. You know better.”

She recovered and pressed the attack. “How do you stop them?”

Turning her blows he feinted to put her on the defense. “We maintain a strong presence on the water,” he pressed harder, backing her toward the wall. “And we get a Harbormaster to keep a tight control on the ports.” Crack! His sword slammed near the hilt of hers, knocking it from her hand. Again, the tip of his sword pressed against her throat. He raised his eyebrow and gave her an expectant look.

“Alright, I yield,” she laughed and bent to retrieve her sword yet again, this time sheathing it.

He followed suit. Putting his arm around her shoulder, he led her to a bench. “What is troubling you, Valesa?”

“Will having a Harbormaster stop the attacks?” she asked.

The Admiral gave his daughter a considering look before he answered. “It will make it more difficult for them to get their cargo onshore, and it will free up the fleet to better protect the villages.”

“But they could still get through?”

“Yes, I suppose they could. But with the combined efforts of my fleet as well as that of Lebennin’s, we can cover more ground. And Mardil Fenwick seems to have learned his lessons well in Lebennin.” He ignored Cam rolling her eyes. “I believe he may be of great assistance to me.”

“But Lebennin still has a lot of problems with the Corsairs, even with a Harbormaster,” she reasoned, trying to coax more out of him.

“There is a possibility of corruption,” he conceded thoughtfully. “That is the other matter that must be addressed.”

”Corruption?” she asked, her suspicion aroused.

“Why are you asking so many questions, girl? I did not think you would want to spend all our time discussing business,” he chastised.

“I am just curious, Ada. I want to know what you are doing.” Cam crossed her legs and looked at him pointedly. “Corruption?”

Her father acquiesced to the question. “We believe it is possible that some dockmasters may be taking bribes from the Corsairs. In return, they turn their backs as illegal goods are offloaded, or they provide dates when a particular port will be unguarded by the fleet. I believe this agreement with Fenwick will greatly reduce the chances of that happening as well.” At her barely concealed snort of disgust, he asked, “You do not care for the man much, do you?”

“No,” she answered bluntly, “I do not care for him at all.”

The Admiral laughed. “You remind me so much of your mother. She was always fiercely loyal to her friends.” A sad smile crossed his lips. “Fenwick has a reputation for having a good head on his shoulders. I wish you two would give him a chance.”

“I shall try, Ada,” she said, her mind already spinning with possibilities. “But I cannot speak for Ani.”

“Care to try again?” he asked, patting the hilt of his sword.

“Of course!” she agreed. “You will let me win this time, right?”

The Admiral laughed at his only child. “Of course not, girl. Practice is just like life. When you win, you will know you deserved it.”

~~~~~~~~~

Amrothos trotted after Cam as she strode across the courtyard, sword in hand. “Cam!” She paused and turned as he called her name, allowing him to catch up.

“Impressive.” He glanced down at her sword.

“Huh? Oh.” Slipping it back into the sheath, she crossed her arms.

“No, I meant it. I was watching. You are really good.”

“Amrothos, he beat me every time,” she pointed out. “How can you call that good?”

“Cam, do not sell yourself short. He is an Admiral. Most men could not hold their own as you did against him. And I note he does not hold back, even for you.”

Smiling, she cocked her head to one side. “No, he says if you win you have to earn it. And he makes me earn it.”

They walked side by side through the courtyard, toward the door. “Amrothos…”

“Yes?” He stopped, turning to look at her.

“Father said something about corruption. Do you think…?”

“What did he say, exactly?” She had piqued his interest. Of course, he was always interested when it came to her.

“He said he believed there was some form of corruption taking place, that possibly someone was taking bribes. He just did not know whom.” She looked up at him. Amrothos could see the gears turning behind those beautiful blue eyes. “You do not think…”

“I suppose it is a possibility, Cam…” He grinned. “But how would we find out?”

“One of us will have to follow him, trail him for a while…” She spoke conspiratorially.

“Oh, no, Cam. Uh-uh. No ma’am. You are not doing it. Too dangerous.”

“Amrothos, you are just as bad as your father. When are you going to realize that I am not a little girl anymore?” She plopped down on the stone stair.

*I noticed, believe me*…he thought to himself, sitting beside her. “I am sorry, Cam. But suppose that is the case. The people he is dealing with are very dangerous. These are men who would just as soon kill you as look at you, and believe me Cam, they would like the looks of you.”

“Amrothos!” She slapped his leg.

“I mean it Cam…I have told you before that you are beautiful, you just refuse to believe it. Men like that…no, Cam. Please do not risk it.” He reached for her hand. “Promise me you will not do anything foolish. I know how badly you want to help Ani, and I know there is precious little you would not do for her.”

“You are right about that,” she agreed. “But she would also do it for me.” She looked down at her hand, still held in his, then raised her blue eyes to meet his. “I will see what I can find out,” she said as he cut his eyes at her, “without risking anything,” she assured him. “I am a good thief, remember?”

“Just promise me, Cam.”

She held up her other hand, palm facing him. “I promise. Nothing foolish.”

“Why do I fear our definitions of what is foolish and what is not are going to differ?” The young prince took her other hand in his as well, lifting them to his lips and kissing her fingers. She laughed, pulling her hands away from him.

She playfully pushed him back and stood, jogging up the steps and disappearing into the doorway, leaving him in the courtyard to wonder exactly what her definition of foolish would be.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Dol Amroth
18 Narbeleth, 3019 T.A.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The man sitting at the large wooden desk shook his head. “I just do not know, Princess. It is not something that is commonly done. Usually those who enter into a betrothal contract actually do intend to marry.”

“I understand, Lord Sídheru. But is there no precedent?” Anhuil sat in a chair across from his desk, a pile of books in her lap. Sídheru was one of her father’s dearest friends, and he had been of immeasurable assistance when Amrothos had acted as regent of Dol Amroth. His knowledge of Gondorian law was impressive, and he was always fair.

The magistrate looked at her sadly. “From what I can find, the only ways to break the contract legally would be if he had defrauded you somehow. But I do not see that as a possibility here. Lord Fenwick is who he says he is.”

“Unfortunately,” she responded quietly, leaning back with a resigned sigh.

Sídheru contemplated the princess across from him. “May I ask why you wish to break this contract, my dear? Does your father know about this?”

Her gaze dropped to the stack of books in her lap. “I never wished to marry him.”

He nodded slightly. “Hence your little foray into foreign lands, yes?”

She chuckled, a bit embarrassed. “I will not claim that as one of my more brilliant strategies,” she answered. “But the one thing I did learn is that I do NOT wish to marry Mardil Fenwick.”

The chair creaked as he leaned his considerable weight back in it. Grey eyes much like her father’s sparkled at her over round cheeks, a bit wrinkled with age. “There is someone else?”

Anhuil shook her head. “You are as bad as Ada,” she told him, but decided not to offer further information.

Sídheru sighed. “The only thing I can tell you, Princess, is unless this man has been fraudulent in some way, there is no precedent for dissolving a betrothal contract. You bring me proof, and I will not only dissolve the contract, I will see to it he is punished to the fullest extent of the law.”

“Thank you, Lord Sídheru.” She rose from her chair, and he followed, leading her to the door.

“I am sorry I could not have been of greater assistance to you, Lothíriel. You know I would do whatever I could.” He placed a large, round hand on her shoulder.

“I know,” she answered, hugging the books to her chest. “You will let me know if you think of something?”

“Most certainly,” he informed her, opening the door for her.

“Lord Sídheru, may we keep this matter between us?”

“Of course, Princess. Of course,” he replied. She cast him a small smile as she passed by and out into the hall, making her way back to the library. Sídheru stood in the doorway of his study, watching her walk slowly down the hall. He had always adored the princess and her brothers, never having had any children of his own. He wondered who the lucky man was who had her so intent on breaking her betrothal to one Mardil Fenwick.

~~~~~~~~~~~~
Dol Amroth
20 Narbeleth, 3019 T.A.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sitting at her father’s desk, Anhuil pored over the shipping logs. How was it that the Corsairs always seemed to know when and where to attack? It was almost as if they knew, somehow, which villages or ports along the shoreline would be unprotected. The fleet was too small to cover the entire coastline all the time, and they just seemed to slip in and out far too easily.

She sighed, slamming shut the volume. Leaning back in the chair, her eyes fell on the small book bound with worn leather ties. Her fingers closed over it, drawing it to her. Holding it in her hands, she debated reading it again. It was an interesting history... Slowly opening the small book and spreading it out on the desk, she began poring over the history of the royal lines of Rohan.

“Ani?” Amrothos poked his head in the office.

“I am here,” she answered, quickly closing the small book and pulling the larger volume over it, opening it randomly.

He stepped inside the office, moving around to the desk. “What are you doing cooped up in here on such a lovely day anyway?”

“Studying. Just poring over these figures…” She indicated the open volume.

”Avoiding Fenwick again, I see.” Her brother glanced over her shoulder at the open book. “Mmm hmm….looking over shipping schedules from last year should be of great assistance, I am sure.” He flipped the book closed, noticing the smaller book underneath. Pulling it from beneath the shipping log, he raised an eyebrow at her.

“It is interesting,” she said defensively.

“Little sister, your choice of reading material is not my concern. Your well being, however, is. Come on. You need some air.” He shoved both books aside.

“No, I do not, Amrothos. I need to finish this…”

”It will be here when you are done. Now, come on. Go change. We are going to practice your sword skills.” Her brother pulled her chair from the desk.

“Amrothos, I really need to-“

“Please?” His pleading look won out, and the princess rolled her eyes.

“All right, stop it. I shall go change and meet you in the training yard,” she said resignedly, rising from the chair.

Muttering under her breath about nosy, know-it-all brothers, she followed him out of the office, clicking the lock behind her.

~~~~~~~~
Dol Amroth
3 Hithui, 3019 T.A.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ani?”

Cam peered into the darkened chamber. She could see the silhouette of the Princess sitting in the window seat, her knees drawn up, staring out at the harbor below. Closing the door quietly behind her, she silently crossed the room and sat beside her friend.

Anhuil looked up, smiling weakly at her.

“Are you all right?”

“As all right as I am going to be, I suppose,” she sighed. “I miss him so, Cam.”

“I know, Ani. But do not give up. I promised Éomer I would not let you give up.”

“I should have told him to forget me. There is no way Fenwick is going to let me out of this sham of a marriage.” She turned her gaze back to the harbor outside. “He is too stubborn. He will resist now simply out of hatred for Éomer.”

The blonde sighed, realizing what she said was true. “We will find a way, Ani. We just have to keep looking.”

The princess smiled at her friend.. “What would I do without you, Camwethrin?”

“Oh, you would have flung yourself into the harbor long ago. Come on. I need some air. Want to walk with me?”

Drawing a deep breath, Anhuil stood from her window perch. “It has to be better than sitting here brooding all night.” She grabbed her cloak. “You wouldn’t happen to have any of that wine left, would you?”

Cam’s mouth curved into a mischievous smile. “Come on.”

~~~~~~~~~~

Cam and Anhuil walked along the beach, their cloaks pulled tight against the chill. Cam handed Anhuil the small flask. “I believe we could both use this.”

The princess sniffed the contents, wrinkling her nose at the strong licorice scent, “What is it?”

“It is a liqueur made with wormwood. I picked it up in Minas Tirith. I was going to save it for a special occasion, but tonight seemed as good a time as any,” the blonde explained.

Taking a sip, Anhuil shuddered, and then took another. “I do not know if this is a good thing, or a bad thing.”

“It is a good thing. Warm the blood, loosen the tongue.”

“Speaking of loosening the tongue, Cam…” Anhuil began. “What is happening between you and Amrothos?”

Cam retrieved the flask and shrugged. “That is the least of your worries right now.”

”I would love to think about something else for a change.” Anhuil looked at her best friend. ”It appeared you two were getting on well in Edoras, at least, after that little display of his on the training field. How exactly did he worm his way out of that?”

Cam’s face broke into a wide grin. “Your brother can be quite charming. And it is very difficult to be angry with him for long. Especially when he all but admits how jealous he was.”

The princess chuckled. “He can be quite difficult to resist,” she admitted. Cam remained silent as they walked. Anhuil turned to face her. “Cam, is something wrong? I hope you do not think it bothers me. I cannot imagine anyone better for Amrothos than you.”

Shaking her head, her friend kept walking. “That is not it. I just...worry sometimes that Amrothos forgets I am not royalty simply because I grew up in the palace.”

“Cam, you know that does not matter to him. Whether he admits it or not, he loves you.”

Cam looked at her pointedly, “Ani, you think the courts would have been upset at the thought of you marrying a soldier? Just imagine how they would feel about one of the princes marrying the daughter of a tavern wench!”

“Your mother was the owner of a reputable inn who married a fleet Captain, not a tavern wench!”

”So she was. Tell that to my father’s family. A female inkeeper, and a Captain of the fleet.” Taking another swig from the flask, the blonde bowed low in an exaggerated curtsey to the princess. “And before you is the result of that scandalous relationship.”

Anhuil could not help but laugh at her friends’ antics. “You know Ada does not see you like that.”

With a heavy sigh she sat on the sand. The princess sat next to her. “My father threw away all claim to lordship when he married my mother. Those in the court have never let him forget it. Can you imagine the grief they would bring upon Amrothos?” She shook her head.

”Amrothos does not see it that way,” Anhuil pointed out, as Elenion lay down at her side. She scratched his hears idly. “And I truly regret having to tell you this, but he is slightly on the stubborn side. He will not let the opinions of those he does not even care about sway his heart, Cam. He loves you.”

“My, but that sounds familiar,” the blonde chided.

The princess laughed out loud, taking the bottle back from her friend. “At least no one has threatened to harm Amrothos,” she said, immediately wishing she hadn’t.

“What?” Cam was incredulous.

“What exactly is in this stuff, Cam?” the princess asked, staring down into the bottle. “Loosen the tongue, indeed.”

“Who threatened Éomer? Are you saying Fenwick....”

Anhuil shook her head vigorously. “I do not think it was more than an empty threat, Cam. He wanted me to end my relationship with Éomer, and he all but threatened his life if I did not.” She laughed. “I would almost like to see him try to take on Éomer, simply because I know that would bring a swift end to this whole ordeal.”

Cam blew a few strands of long, blonde hair from her face. “I do not think I would know what to do if my life were quiet and normal.”

Smiling, the princess stood and offered her hand to her friend, pulling her to her feet. “Neither would I,” she answered.

The women walked in silence, occasionally sipping from the small bottle. Elenion trotted beside them, large paws making no sound on the sand. Finally the princess spoke again.

“I have been thinking about this whole situation. What I do not understand is how the Corsairs always seem to know! No one has access to that information but my father, my brothers and me. I have been over those books a hundred times, and I just cannot comprehend how they know the fleet's movements ahead of time!”

“I do not know either, Ani. It seems odd.” They continued on in silence for a moment. “You know,” the blonde remarked thoughtfully, “my father said they feared there was corruption somewhere. And King Elessar mentioned that piracy had long been an issue in Lebennin and he planned to deal with it as soon as possible.”

The princess frowned. “Lebennin’s harbor master is Fenwick’s uncle.”

“Yes,” Cam acknowledged. “We knew that.”

“There has to be a connection. There must be.”

The blonde nodded. “But what?”

Anhuil’s green eyes suddenly grew large with realization as her hand gripped Cam’s arm tightly. “Sweet Elbereth, Cam! He was doing in Ada’s office?”

“What?”

The princess stopped walking and turned to face her friend. “How could I have forgotten? Do you remember when I returned from Minas Tirith, when Ada was away at war? I told you I caught Fenwick in Ada’s office late one night, and he said I had left the door unlocked. He also said he was just making sure I had take care of everything that needed to be done. I was so angry I did not think to check and see what he might have been up to in there.” Green eyes met blue. “I know I locked that door, Cam. I know I did.”

“Well, then we should set the first part of our trap,” Cam said with a smirk. “Does he have a key?”

Anhuil shook her head. “I do not think so. How would we find out? We cannot just go search him.”

“No,” Cam grinned conspiratorially. “But I have an idea.” Heading back up the dunes toward the palace, the women discussed their plan.

~~~~~~~~

Fenwick peered into the dark hallway, looking around to be sure no one was watching. Silently slipping the key into the lock, he turned it quickly and ducked inside, closing the door quietly behind him. Carefully making his way across the very dark room, he moved to Imrahil’s desk and lit the lantern very low.

Checking the shelves behind the big desk, Fenwick carefully selected the volume he wanted and carried it to the desk. Opening it in the dim light, he searched through the pages until he found what he was looking for. Drawing a small leather booklet from his pocket, he took Imrahil’s quill from the desktop and began writing in his notebook, flipping pages in the log, copying information into his own journal.

His task completed, he closed the large volume and replaced it on the shelf, and replaced the quill. Blowing out the lantern, he slinked back out into the hall, closing the door behind him. Anhuil heard the tell tale click of the lock, and finally breathed. Raising her widened eyes to Cam’s, she stared at the closed door. "That snake!" she muttered, stepping from the shadows in which they had hidden themselves. "I cannot believe he would betray Ada's trust that way. We have him now, Cam." Ani stood quietly a moment, then looked at Cam. “Where the blue hell did he get a key?” she wondered out loud.

The women exchanged curious glances as the princess pulled the door shut behind them and re-locked it, striding off down the hall to find her brother.

“Wait,” the princess grabbed Cam’s arm. “Should we mention this to Amrothos yet, or should we try to find out what it is he is doing with the information first?”

“Good point,” Cam conceded. “If we tell him now, your brother is liable to come out with swords blazing, and I have a feeling this is going to require some rather clandestine investigation that he would not approve of.”

“We will find out where it is Fenwick goes for hours at a time and what he is doing,” Anhuil stated confidently.

“Ani, you cannot. If you are seen all over the city, people are going to recognize you.”

“I got away with anonymity in Minas Tirith,” the princess argued.

“This is not Minas Tirith, Ani. Anyone here will know who you are. Besides, it would only take one person recognizing you.”

Reluctantly nodding her agreement, Anhuil took a deep breath. “You will have to do it, then. You are far better at such things than I anyway. But we cannot tell Amrothos yet. He would never agree to it.”

Deep blue eyes met dark green, the accordance unspoken. For now, they would keep their suspicions to themselves.

“We will have to start as soon as possible. We leave for Minas Tirith in only a few days,” Cam reminded her.

“I know. It is what has held me together for the last months, knowing I would see him again soon.” A smile crept across her face. “Only a few more days,” she repeated.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Outside the gates of Minas Tirith
12 Hithui, 3019 T.A.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The princess looked up at the huge tower rising above the city. The White Tower of Ecthelion.

Cam rode up beside her. “Smile, Ani. You will be seeing him before the day is out, I am sure of it.”

Anhuil complied, albeit nervously. “I have missed him so much, Cam.”

“I am certain he will be looking for you, as much as he loves you.”

"I know he does, Cam. But I am stuck in this miserable betrothal to Fenwick, and that is where I will remain until I am stuck in an even more miserable marriage. I am just grateful that serpent did not come with us this time. I can barely tolerate a meal with him, much less the thought of...” she let her voice trail off, the thought unvoiced, and continued with a shudder. “I surely hope once we are married he will take a mistress so I can have some peace."

"ANI!" Cam chastised her. "I cannot believe you just said that!"

"It is the truth." The princess' innocent, wide-eyed stare and Cam's expression of mock-horror melted into peals of laughter from both women.

Cam rode alongside her, the palomino easily keeping pace with her large stallion. Amrothos guided his chestnut mount up beside her. Glancing over at the prince, the blonde drew in her breath. She had seen Amrothos on a horse many times but the sight never failed make her pulse quicken.

Sitting straight in the saddle, his dark blue cloak falling from his broad shoulders, his almost black hair shining in the mid-day sun. He turned and caught her staring, flashing her a grin with perfect, even teeth. Green eyes sparkled mischievously.

Raising one eyebrow, he moved closer to the pretty blonde. "No race this time?"

"I am riding with Ani, thank you," she replied, motioning toward the princess.

"Come on, Cam," he chided, "you know Níniel would love a good run. Or are you afraid it has been so long since you have been on a horse that you have lost your skill as a rider?" The roan upon which he rode danced impatiently, as if ready to charge.

Amrothos always knew exactly what to say to rile Cam. Narrowing her eyes at the prince, she sat straighter in her saddle. "What did you have in mind?"

"From here to the gate, you and me."

"And what will I win?"

"Who says you are going to win?" The prince dug his heels into his mount's flanks and bolted.

"Oh, for that, you shall pay," the blonde muttered. Like lightening Cam was behind him, her golden palomino the smaller but by far the faster of the two. Amrothos glanced up as they sped past him, the moon silk mane of the horse flying in the wind much like that of the woman on her back. Cam leaned low in the saddle, speaking softly to her mount, her eyes straight ahead on her destination.

Reining in at the gate, she patted Níniel on the neck, congratulating her, grinning widely at Amrothos as he approached. “Apologies, my lord, but I do not believe I heard you correctly. Who did you say was going to win?”

“The race was unfair,” he stated with a barely concealed smirk.

“Unfair? You take a head start and still call that race unfair?”

“Of course. I was distracted.” He moved his mount closer to her and lowered his voice. “However, watching you ride is a very pleasing distraction.”

Cam couldn’t stop the blush as it crept across her face at his boldness. She looked away as the rest of the party approached, trying to form a proper retort. “Very well,” she offered magnanimously, “I will allow you a rematch someday.” Dropping her voice low, so only he could hear, she added, “Try not to let your distractions get the better of you.”

“But of course,” he agreed.

Anhuil shook her head as she watched the exchange. At least the two of them would be happy together.

~~~~~~~~

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Chapter name
Chapter Twenty-Seven
Created
03 May 2004
Last Edited
03 May 2004
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