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Trust To Hope

Chapter 32: Chapter Thirty-One

by Novedhelion

Trust to Hope - Chapter Thirty-One
Author: Novedhelion
Type: FP Het
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Pairing: Éomer/Lothíriel aka Anhuil
Rating: PG13
Warnings: No warning. Blame the beta. Sorry.
World’s most patient Beta: Riyallyn
Disclaimer: So not mine...these belong to the master. ‘Cept Cam and Elenion. I’m still floored by over 8500 hits...I cannot thank you guys enough. *Bows humbly*


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
“Need brooks no delay, yet late is better than never.”

Éomer
The Ride of the Rohirrim
Return of the King, by J.R.R. Tolkien
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Rohan
Near the border of Gondor
21 Girithron, 3019 T.A.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“He could be lying,” Éothain suggested. “The word of a hired killer is not much to go on.”

“Why would Lord Fenwick want you dead?” Gamling asked.

“You mean other than the fact we have had words on several occasions, I hit him once, and the woman he is marrying is in love with me?” The king cast him a wry smile. “I have no idea, Gamling.”

The older man chuckled. “It just seems like a lot to go through for someone who is merely a thorn in your side.”

“No,” Éomer said, shaking his head. “There has to be something else. Fenwick is far too calculating. He would not go to the trouble and expense of ridding the world of me if it did not benefit him somehow.”

The tent flap opened, a soldier peering cautiously inside. “Your Majesty?”

The king looked up. “What is it, Haleth?”

“The messenger, sir. The one from Dol Amroth. He mentioned something I thought might be of importance.” Éomer motioned for him to enter, and he did so with a slight bow.

“What did he say?” Gamling asked.

“He mentioned that Prince Imrahil had sent a large number of his forces down the coast, toward Nargond. He says they have been battling Corsairs off the coast, and that the prince had sent more men to protect the coastal villages. I do not know if that is of any significance, but it seemed rather odd to me that he would send the majority of his men down the coast when he has a city full of guests for the wedding.”

“Did he say who ordered the troop movements, Haleth?”

“He said the orders came from Elphir, on the recommendation of Lord Fenwick, Sire.”

The king nodded. “Thank you, Haleth. Let me know if there is anything else.” With a bow, the young man ducked out.

Éomer frowned, turning to Éothain and the other members of his council. “Fenwick,” he said with disgust. “The man is obsessed with power. He seems to think that--“ He stopped dead, the words Fenwick had spoken to him coming back in a flood.

**“That does nothing to advance my career or my social standing. See, unlike you, I was not fortunate enough to have the way paved for my social ascension by the death of others. By marrying the princess, not only do I gain more respect among the nobility, I am, by rights, the husband of a princess and therefore royal by title.”**

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

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

The king stood abruptly, his eyes darting from one to the other. “Gamling, tell me, what benefit is it to Mardil Fenwick to marry the princess?”

The older man shrugged. “I suppose it would make him a part of the royal family, if only by marriage,” he answered. “But the princess is fourth in line for the throne. It is not likely that she will ever rule in Dol Amroth.”

“What is your point, Éomer?” Elfhelm asked.

The king drew in a deep breath. “What would have to happen for the princess to rule Dol Amroth?”

“All the heirs before her would have to be removed in some way,” Éothian said, his grim expression meeting the king’s. “Her father, her brothers...”

Gamling looked pointedly at the king. “Éomer, surely you do not think that he would be so bold as to attempt--“

“He tried to have me killed, did he not?”

“Imrahil must be warned.” Elfhelm stated.

Gamling leaned on the table. “Send an emissary. We cannot risk another attempt on your life, Éomer.”

“No,” Éomer answered. “I must go myself.”

Gamling shook his head. “Éomer, you know that I would never defy an order issued by my king. But I request permission to speak as a friend.”

“Speak, then, Gamling. You have no need to ask permission.”

The older man took a deep breath, his pale blue eyes meeting the king’s dark ones. “Your father was a dear friend to me. You are very much like him, Éomer. And while his fighting nature served him well on a battlefield, he often made rash decisions that should have been more clearly thought out. One of those cost him his life. I understand how you feel about the princess, but do you think it wise to make this announcement to Imrahil yourself?”

“It was my life the assassin almost took, Gamling. I promise you, I will keep a rein on my emotions. I do not deny that I would like nothing more than to see Mardil Fenwick removed from her life permanently, nor do I deny that seeing it done is part of my motivation.”

Elfhelm shook his head. “I do not think it wise to start a conflict over a woman, Éomer. Our people have been through enough.”

“Wars have been fought over far less than my love for the Princess of Dol Amroth,” Éomer answered. “But I am not so selfish as to risk the lives of others for my happiness. It will not come to that, Elfhelm. I assure you. I will not allow it to. I would abdicate my throne before I would allow a single man to die for such a cause.”

The king’s eyes moved from man to man, trying to read their thoughts, coming to rest on Éothain, who gave him a slight smile. “I do not know how to explain this to you, my lords,” Éomer told them softly. “I only know it is something I must do. I only know if I do not go, I will regret it the rest of my life. I do not ask you to ride with me. I can go alone, if need be. I must speak to Imrahil myself.” He paused, his gaze moving around the room. “If any of you feel that your duty lies elsewhere, then I give you leave to return to the Mark, and whatever happens in Dol Amroth shall happen.” Éomer turned his gaze to Gamling. “Rest assured, I have no intention of storming the palace. If the princess comes to the Mark, it will be by her own free will, and without the burden of her betrothal contract.”

Éothain looked at him pointedly. “Are you certain you want to do this, Éomer?”

Éomer took a deep breath, looking over the men before him. “I have learned that when one has two choices, the most difficult alternative is almost certainly the right one.” He looked around the room at his men, his friends, and smiled. “I love her. Regardless of what happens, that has not and will not change. And I will not abandon her family to the will of one who could destroy them. Mardil Fenwick is up to something. I intend to find out what that is.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The Palace of the Prince
Dol Amroth
30 Girithron, 3019 T.A.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The wedding feast had been planned for two days before the ceremony, and was to be quite an affair. No expense had been spared. The cooks had been busy since before dawn, preparing the meal for that evening. Flowers adorned every flat surface and most vertical ones. The staff bustled about, chattering excitedly.

Guests had begun to arrive the previous day. Nobles and emissaries from surrounding lands crowded the city. The marriage of the Princess of Dol Amroth was to be a celebration indeed.

Fenwick looked out the window of his chamber, watching the coming and going of the people below. Preparations for his wedding. He grinned, turning to the short man seated in the corner. “In two days, Neville, I will wed the Princess of Dol Amroth, the Corsairs will have what they want, and I will be a wealthy man.”

“You already are a wealthy man, Mardil.”

The dark-haired man chuckled. “So I am. But is there such thing as excess, Neville, when it comes to wealth?” He smiled. “Or women?”

“Her father does not suspect that you really have no real interest in her,” Neville observed.

“Oh, do not be mistaken, my friend.” Mardil narrowed his eyes as he returned his gaze out the window. “I fully intend to make her my wife, in every sense of the word. That is but a delectable fringe benefit of my plan.” Moving away from the window, his eyes went to the dazzling sapphire blue wedding clothes laid out on the bed, then strode to the mirror near the door. He smiled wickedly at his reflection, reaching to finger the pale blue ribbon still hanging from the corner of his mirror. “And with her little blonde friend also at my beck and call, I shall truly have all I need, am I correct? Unless, of course, I decide to add a red-head, just for sport.” He chuckled at his own sick sense of humor. “No, Neville, this ceremony will be the culmination of months of preparation. I am very much looking forward to my new life in Dol Amroth.”

~~~~~~~~~

The afternoon sunlight streaked across the stone floor of her chamber. Handmaids bustled around her room, chattering excitedly, fussing over her. The one working with her unruly hair sighed, pulling out the braid and resigning herself to try again. Another was making the last minute alterations to a gorgeous gown hanging from the canopy above her bed, sewing tiny beads along the hemline.

The princess sat sullenly in the chair, not looking up. “My lady, this hair of yours! It does not wish to behave. Must we braid it, or would you prefer it down?”

“Oh, no!” Another girl piped up. “It must be up! It will be so much more elegant with the gown! And married women should wear their hair up,” she admonished.

“It does not matter, Lilia,” Anhuil answered absentmindedly.

The girl who wanted her hair up bounced over, bringing along the wooden jewel box. She pulled out several pieces, holding them up for Anhuil to admire. The princess only shrugged.

“Aren’t you happy, Princess?” The maid deftly braided her curls as she spoke. “You should be pleased to be marrying the man you love!”

If only I was, thought the princess to herself. “This is only the wedding feast, Mariel,” she commented, “not the ceremony itself.”

“And he is so handsome too…” Anhuil rolled her eyes. **Why did everyone think Mardil Fenwick was so handsome?** Those cold gray eyes gave her chills.

“She is just nervous, that is all.” The older woman spoke knowingly. “All brides are.”

Anhuil said nothing, her thoughts occupied by Cam’s discovery earlier that day. Another foray to Fenwick’s apartment had shown he had indeed written down the information they left for him, but whether or not their plan would work still remained to be seen.

Digging through the jewel box, the maid selected a clip with a pale clear stone, fastening it to her braid at the base of her neck. “There.” Mariel pronounced her hair done. The braid was simple and elegant, a few curled tendrils dangling. She helped the princess slip out of her robe, and two of the ladies pulled the elegant gown over her head. Tiny buttons fastened down the back, the low neckline showing off her tanned shoulders. The girl with the jewelry selected a silver chain with a small pendant, fastening it around her neck.

“You look absolutely stunning, Princess.”

She turned to see her father in the doorway. The handmaids scattered, picking up the clutter and disappearing like mice.

“Thank you, Ada,” she said quietly, studying her reflection in the mirror.

He walked up behind her, admiring her reflection as well. “You look like your mother.” She smiled weakly. “Ani,” her father took her hands, turning her toward him. “You are making the right decision.”

She looked down. “Then why am I so unhappy, Ada?”

“You are just nervous. Come, we cannot keep the guests waiting forever. Mardil is already downstairs, and the guests are anxious to see you together.”

She swallowed hard. “Ada,” she began.

“No, Lothíriel. I know what you are going to ask. He has not come. Did you really expect he would, considering you are marrying another?”

She looked away. “I suppose not.”

“Come Princess. You will be fine.” Taking her by the arm, he led her down the steps.

~~~~~~~~~~~~
Outside Dol Amroth
30 Girithron, 3019 T.A.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Éomer reined in as the riders crested a hill, his gaze following the horizon toward the city of Dol Amroth and the sea beyond, something he had never before beheld. He could see the lights in the distance, shining dimly on the moonless night. Somewhere in that city, his princess waited, trusting him to keep a promise.

He rode steadily toward the gates, trying to place a growing feeling of unease. It was a familiar feeling, not pleasant, but one that had served him well in the past. He thought back to the first night he had seen her on the bank of the stream in the Firien Wood. The same feeling had overcome him then, just before they were ambushed by the Orcs.

Unable to satisfactorily explain it to himself, he rode alongside Éothain. “Marshal,” he called to his friend. Éothain turned. “Send some scouts ahead, if you will.”

Éothain’s puzzled gaze met Éomer’s. “Is something wrong, Éomer?”

The king’s brow furrowed. “A feeling I cannot shake.”

The marshal nodded, ordering two men to go forward as scouts, and turned to look back at Éomer, who was peering off into the night.

~~~~~~~~~

“Lothíriel, you look lovely,” Mardil crooned to her as he took his place at her side. She smiled sweetly at him, desperately trying to focus on the plan she and Cam had concocted.

“Thank you, Mardil,” the princess answered softly, trying desperately not to clench her teeth. She scanned the room, taking in the faces of the multitudes that had swarmed into Dol Amroth for her wedding. A small twang of guilt pricked her as she thought of their disappointment that there would be no wedding. She only hoped her father would forgive her for what she and Cam had planned.

Mardil stayed as close to her as a shadow, smiling proudly, accepting the congratulations and well wishes of the guests. The princess tried to keep her smile pasted to her face, casting Cam a furtive glance. The blonde nodded slightly, acknowledging she had already taken care of her end of the plan.

The call to dinner was announced, all taking their seats. Mardil and Anhuil were seated at the head of the table next to her father. The seat on the other side of him remained unoccupied. The princess wondered for whom it had been intended.

Imrahil rose, and the chatter among the guests quieted. He smiled. “I thank you all for coming this evening to honor the betrothal of my daughter, Lothíriel, to Lord Mardil Fenwick of Lebennin. As many of you know, Lord Fenwick will be assuming duty as harbormaster here in Dol Amroth. The Corsairs of Umbar have caused much travail among our people, and we are certain his presence here will aid us in that respect. Welcome, Lord Fenwick.” He raised his glass to Mardil, who smiled politely and raised his in return, as did the guests.

“Now,” Imrahil continued, “There is an announcement to be made which should please you.” He stepped back. The empty seat was now filled with the towering figure of Admiral Merric, dressed in full battle regalia, sword at his side.

Fenwick shifted nervously in his seat.

Anhuil leaned over to Cam, who was seated beside her. “I did not know your father was in port,” she whispered.

“Nor did I,” Cam answered, peering over at him. Her father smiled in her direction. “Something must have happened...”

“Admiral Merric?” Imrahil gestured for Merric to take the floor.

“Thank you, Lord Imrahil,” Merric responded, clear blue eyes raking over the expectant crowd. “As many of you know, our people have suffered greatly at the hands of the Corsairs for some time. Despite our best efforts, we have thus far been unable to capture any of these bandits. They seem to have an innate ability to avoid detection, and have been most difficult to apprehend.” Knowing nods were exchanged among the guests. The Admiral paused, his gaze traveling across the room.

“That was the case, until two days ago,” he announced. Murmurs broke out, and he waited for them to quiet down. “Two days ago, our fleet engaged three Corsair ships off the eastern coast of the Isle of Tolfalas. One was sunk, the other two captured with their crews.” Applause broke out, and again he waited for it to die down. “Several of the crew members either were killed or jumped overboard rather than risk capture, but we were able to take into custody several members of the crew of two of the ships, who will be turned over to the magistrate that justice be served.”

Again, cheers from the crowd caused him to pause. He smiled broadly at his daughter. Anhuil and Cam exchanged astonished glances, both wondering the same thing. Turning to Mardil, the princess was shocked at how his fair skin seemed to have paled, his lips drawn tight. He looked as if he had been hit.

“Is that not wonderful, Mardil?” the princess gushed, placing her hand on his arm.

He jerked his arm from under her hand as if her touch had burned him. “Wonderful, yes,” he said flatly. His gaze locked on Neville’s, who was also ghostly white, his eyes wide.

Merric allowed the guests a moment to contain their excitement, then turned to Imrahil. “This is but the beginning, my lord. Several of our captives have already provided us with valuable information. Hopefully we will soon see the end of this piracy.”

Imrahil clasped his hand around the wrist of the Admiral. “I cannot begin to thank you, my friend, for what you are doing for my people.”

“Our people,” Merric corrected him.

“Yes, our people,” the prince agreed, reaching for his cup. “A toast! To the Fleet of the Silver Swan!”

The guests stood and raised their glasses, joining in the toast.

Dinner was served. Imrahil turned to Fenwick, slapping him on the back. “You have not even begun and already we are having success. I can only hope this trend will continue,” he said jovially.

Fenwick smiled, sipping his wine calmly. “Of course, my lord. That is why I am here, is it not?”

Anhuil leaned back in her chair, trying to not to appear too smug. “It is very good news,” she said, lifting her cup to her lips again.

Conversation among the guests resumed, mostly about the recent announcement. Anhuil only pushed the food around on her plate, too nervous to eat. She wished Éomer had come, if only to see his face when she made her announcement. Stifling a chuckle, she tried to picture the look that would be on Fenwick’s face when she told him she would not marry him, and presented the evidence to her father.

And she would be able to marry Éomer. Anhuil smiled at the thought, although a silly, girlish part of her still liked the idea of him throwing her over his horse and riding away with her. She bit her lip to keep from giggling.

Turning her attention to her betrothed, she frowned, noting his pallor had not improved. “Are you well, Mardil?”

“Perhaps I only need a bit of air,” Fenwick answered. “Would you care to join me?”

“But Mardil, this feast is in our honor,” she argued. “We cannot leave.”

“Only for the briefest moment, then we will return. I promise.” He smiled smugly. “Besides, we are to be married in two days, Princess. No one will begrudge us a few moments alone.” He extended his hand.

With a resigned sigh, Anhuil placed her hand in his and allowed him to lead her from the room and toward the garden gate.

“Mardil...my cloak...it is rather chilly,” she remarked, looking back over her shoulder.

“I promise we will be so brief you will not need it,” he assured her, leading her out into the darkened garden.

Strolling along a path, she pulled her hand from his arm and rubbed her bared shoulders. “Mardil, can we go in, please? I am quite cold.”

His eyes darting around, he answered without looking at her. “We shall, only a moment longer, I beg of you. It was stifling in there.”

“A simple thing to say considering you are wearing a coat,” she remarked.

The soft ching of a blade clearing a sheath made her jerk her head around. To her surprise, Fenwick drew his sword quickly and stepped protectively in front of her as two dark-eyed men approached them on the path. Eyeing them all warily, she stepped back. If Fenwick WAS in league with these bandits, why was he drawing blade on them?

“What do you want?” Fenwick asked them, trying to keep himself between them and the princess. Anhuil tried stepping around him, but he held her back with one arm.

“Now, there’s an interesting question,” the taller of the two said, “considering you just sunk one of our ships, and are holding our comrades prisoner.”

“Your comrades are charged with piracy and in the custody of Prince Imrahil,” Fenwick snapped back. “As will you be.”

“I have only to call and you will be dead in seconds,” the princess informed them haughtily. “This palace is crawling with guards.”

“Except for the ones we have already killed,” one of the men remarked with a snicker.

Anhuil let out a muffled scream as a hand closed over her mouth, the cold feel of a blade touching her throat. Fenwick whirled around, his eyes wide, watching as the ruffian dragged her out from behind him. Another stepped in to help him restrain her as she fought against them. Her eyes met Fenwick’s briefly, his almost apologetic look catching her off guard.

“Perhaps Imrahil would consider a trade,” the taller Corsair suggested -with a wide grin. “His lovely daughter for our comrades. I think that is fair.”

“Release her this instant or--“

“Or what, my Lord? I do not see you in any position to threaten me.”

Mardil lunged with his blade, crossing swords with the pirate. The curved cutlass ripped across the sleeve of his tunic, tearing through fabric and flesh alike. Fenwick appeared to ignore it, wincing only slightly, keeping his blade raised.

The Corsair smiled. “Do you wish to keep your little princess in one piece?” He asked, casting a glance over to the ones holding her. “I can arrange for them to start taking her apart here, if you wish.”

“If you dare harm her...”

“Back off,” the man snarled. “You tell Imrahil what I want. He releases my comrades, and I will return his little daughter...tell him the longer he takes, the less I can promise she will be in the pristine condition she is now.” He cast the princess a leering grin. Anhuil squirmed in her captor’s grip, her protests stifled by the filthy hand over her mouth. She tried to kick at her attackers, inwardly cursing the layers of skirts. He smiled wickedly. “Good evening,” he said with a bow, backing slowly down the path, his sword still at ready. The two holding her dragged her between them. As she turned her head to throw a pleading look to Fenwick, everything went black.

The princess slumped between them, the bigger one leaning over to swing her up into his arms.

Fenwick took a few steps down the path toward them. The tall one grinned, sheathing his weapon. “Very convincing,” Mardil muttered. “I told you to make sure it was only a flesh wound. You damn near took my arm off.” He winced again as he looked down at the blood spreading across the sleeve of his tunic. “And you ruined one of my best tunics.” He frowned.

“It’s barely a scratch,” the Corsairs laughed. “With the money you make, you can buy as many new ones as you wish,” the pirate quipped. ‘What do you want us to do with her?”

“Take her to the dungeon. Neville is there, waiting. Go to the side door, the one used for transferring prisoners. He will let you in. Free your companions and lock her up somewhere safe. I cannot risk harm coming to her.” He stepped toward Anhuil, lifting her chin with his fingers. Her eyes were closed, her lips slightly parted. He smiled. “Sleep well, my little princess. We will be married sooner than you think.” Pressing a kiss to her unresponsive lips, he nodded to the pirates. “Go, quickly. I must go play the rest of my part. You just be sure you take care of yours!” Turning, he strode swiftly up the pathway back to the palace.

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

Neville threw open the door, hurrying the burly man inside. “What took you so long? They are going to get suspicious if Mardil and I are gone too long.” He yanked a set of keys from the rack, opening a heavy wooden door. “In there,” he said, motioning through the door. “Just put her down on the floor.”

Depositing the princess unceremoniously on the damp stone floor, he stood beside Neville as the chubby man locked the big door. “That ought to hold her,” the valet said with a smile. He tossed the keys to the pirate. “Your comrades are down the hall.” He waddled down the hall, in search of Fenwick.

~~~~~~~~

“Mardil! Wait!” Neville plodded after him down the marble foyer just inside the garden entrance. Huffing, the chubby man caught up to him, two of his strides equaling every one of Mardil’s. “We have to get out of here. What if those bilge rats squealed?” He noticed the bleeding cut, and Mardil’s disheveled look. “What happened?”

“They would not dare squeal,” he whispered harshly. “They have too much to gain by this. And this,” he indicated the cut, “is part of the plan.”

“What about the book, Mardil? The gold?”

Fenwick whipped around. “Go to my apartment now, Neville. Gather what is there and meet me back here as soon as possible. I must go inform the prince his lovely daughter has been kidnapped. Go!”

Nodding, Neville huffed down the hallway. Fenwick took a deep breath, trying to gather his thoughts, and started toward the dining hall. **How in the name of the Valar had those idiots managed to get themselves caught?** He had given them every scheduled movement of the fleet for the next several weeks, copied directly from Imrahil’s log. **The only person other than the prince and himself who had access to that log was--**

He stopped in his tracks. **No, she could not know. There was no way. If she suspected in the least, she would have called off their betrothal by now. And she was not clever enough to set such a trap.

Was she?**

Shaking away the thought, Fenwick hurried down the hallway. He would find out later if she had anything to do with it. Right now, he needed to find the Prince.

~~~~~~~~~

Prince Imrahil sat beside the Admiral, smiling broadly. A maid stepped beside him, bowing and whispering furtively. Imrahil listened intently, then rose from the table. He turned to Elphir. “There is a matter I must attend to. Please take over as host.”

Elphir noted his father’s expression. “Do you need my assistance, Ada?”

“If it should be required I will send for you. Please, assume my duty here for the time being.”

With an obedient bow, Elphir sat again, turning back to the guests.

Tapping Merric lightly, Imrahil gestured for him to follow as he hastily exited the dining hall and made for his study.

~~~~~~~~~~

Thrusting open the door, Imrahil’s eyes widened at the site of a bleeding, bruised Mardil Fenwick sitting in the chair, sword in hand, his cut being attended by a maid. “My Lord,” she was saying, “You truly should let me send for a healer. This may require stitching and I am not able to-“

“I told you it is fine,” he growled, “just bandage it, please.” He looked up at Imrahil. “My Lord,” he said, breathless, leaping to his feet. “I tried to stop them, but there were too many of them. They surrounded us on the path and--“

“What happened, Mardil? Where is my daughter?”

“The Corsairs, sir,” Mardil stammered. “I tried to fight them off, to protect her...”

“Where is Lothíriel?” Imrahil demanded.

“The Corsairs have taken her, sir. They said to tell you they will release her when you release their comrades.”

Imrahil drew himself up. “It will be a cold day in Mordor when I give in to the likes of them,” he said menacingly. “Where did they take her?” he demanded again, his grey eyes flaring.

Before Mardil could answer, the sounds of breaking glass and screams erupted from upstairs.

~~~~~~~~

Liveried servants were busily moving about the table, laying out platters and pouring wine from ornate pitchers. Cam frowned into her chalice, then looked up at Amrothos. She glanced in the direction her father and Imrahil had disappeared. “I wonder what that is all about?”

The young prince nodded. He, too, had started to become concerned about his sister. “I will go find out.” Cam started to rise, but he stayed her with a hand on her shoulder. “Stay here, in case Ani comes back.”

The blonde smiled up at him. Green eyes sparkled mischievously back at her, and he winked as he stood from the table, turning his gaze to the wide windows along one side of the room. Amrothos had always loved the view. As a child he would stand for hours, watching the ships move in and out of the harbor, often being scolded by the maids for the small handprints that smudged the glass.

High walls surrounded the palace, blocking the view of the shoreline directly in front, but one could have seen the ships tonight, had it not been a moonless night. The young prince knew that on such dark night, no ships would be moving after sundown. Pausing for a moment, he peered out into the darkness.

His next thoughts were a blur. All he could think of in the brief moment he had to think was to protect Cam. Grabbing her by the shoulders, he pulled her from her chair and to the floor. “Get down!” he managed to shout, just as the first of a volley of flaming bolts crashed through the window, showering the room with glass. He rolled over Cam, moving away from the table, which had now erupted into flames. Wide, frightened blue eyes stared up at him.

“What was that?” she asked, barely audible over the screaming and crashing.

“Not sure,” he answered breathlessly, moving slightly away from her. “Are you all right?”

She nodded. He rose to his feet quickly, drawing his sword, and grabbed her hand. “Come on,” he shouted, pulling her to her feet as chaos erupted around them. Flaming arrows flew through shattered glass. Amrothos scooped up a crying child and passed her to Éowyn, who was helping Elphir and Faramir herd the women and children into an interior room across the hall.

Erchirion ripped burning tapestries and draperies from the walls as others helped him stamp out the flames. Volleys of heavy, flaming bolts were followed with those of smaller arrows. Palace guards took their places near the window, returning fire, the blue and white fletched arrows of Dol Amroth whizzing through the darkness toward targets they could not see.

~~~~~~~~~

Flying through the corridors, the prince and the Admiral bolted back to the main hall, followed by Fenwick.

Merric leaned against the wall next to them, sword drawn. “Corsairs!” he shouted. “At least a few hundred.” He peered around the corner toward the pandemonium that moments before had been a peaceful celebration. Women and children had been scuttled quickly across the hall, the door barred. Tables flipped over on their sides served as barriers for archers to hide behind, broken glass from windows and dishes scattered the floor as well as half-burned drapes and tapestries that had been pulled down and stamped out. Merric turned to look at his only child, blue eyes blazing. “Get out of here, girl! Now!”

“But Ada,” Cam began.

“No arguments, Valesa. If these mongrels find you...” he didn’t finish the thought. Amrothos reappeared, ducking his way through the men, stepping over the bodies on the floor. Merric thrust Cam toward him. “Get her out of her!” he ordered the young prince.

“Find your sister!” Imrahil shouted at him as he ducked across the room.

Amrothos eyed Cam with a mixture of fear and frustration. “Where is Ani?”

She shook her head. “I do not know.” Another volley of arrows hailed down, some finding their way through the windows. Amrothos caught her by the arm and dragged her out of the room. “Amrothos! Let go! I need to-“

“This time you are going to listen!” He shoved open the door to her chambers, pushing her inside. She jerked away from him and ran to her wardrobe, hastily pulling out a tunic and leggings. Without thinking, she unlaced the pale pink laces on the bodice of her gown and yanked it over her head, throwing it to the floor. Amrothos watched, wide-eyed, caught off guard by her audacity. “What are you doing, Camwethrin?” he demanded.

“I need to get out of this bloody dress,” she griped. “I cannot fight in-“ she realized she was standing in only her shift, Amrothos staring blatantly. Flaming arrows flashed past her small window, one bouncing on to the stone balcony outside. Shaking his head abruptly, Amrothos turned his back to her and moved toward the door, reaching to pull the key from the lock on the inside as she changed.

In seconds she had yanked on the leggings and tunic and was buckling her belt, sitting only long enough to pull on her boots. Grabbing her two daggers, she flipped them in her hands and slipped them into the sheaths inside. She bolted for the door, grabbing his hand as she past him. Amrothos yanked her back. “Cam, stay here. Please.”

Blue eyes flared at him angrily. “This is my home, too, Amrothos. Ani is out there somewhere and we need to find her! We are wasting time arguing!”

“Then we will not argue,” he said with a smile, leaning in to kiss her. His lips captured hers, catching her completely off guard. Backing her up slightly, he quickly pushed her down on to the bed and bolted, slamming the door behind him. A quick turn of the lock, left her on the other side, screaming phrases at him he was not aware she even knew, and some of which even he had never heard. He thought of apologizing but figured the point was moot anyway. Grabbing two guards, he pressed the key into one’s hand, and posted them outside her door with instructions to keep her in at all costs, and took off down the hall.

~~~~~~~~~

Throwing open the door to his sister’s chamber, he was somehow not surprised at finding it empty.

Damn Fenwick. Where would he have taken her? Letting the door fall shut, he broke into a run.

~~~~~~~~~~

Camwethrin growled in anger at the door, kicking it once more for good measure. He would pay for that, dearly. But right now, she had to figure out a way to get out. The balcony, she knew, would never do...she’d look like one of the pincushions those silly court women used before she ever hit the ground. Staring at the door, her mind reeled with possible ways to punish the young prince.

~~~~~~~~~~

The first thing the princess was aware of was the cold. She was freezing. The chill seemed to seep into her bones, the cold, damp stone she was sapping every bit of warmth from her body. She became vaguely aware that she was lying on a hard floor, but could not muster the strength to move, not even to open her eyes. Loud sounds pounded in her head, seeming to echo as if bouncing off the inside of her skull.

Voices. Screaming, shouting...somewhere in the distance she could hear them, but the fog simply would not lift, as if some power held her magnetized to the spot where she lay. She remembered in some far-off, veiled corner of her brain that she had been walking with Mardil, but she could not seem to fit any more pieces together than that.

~~~~~~~~~

Amrothos ran from room to room, sword in hand, shouting his sister’s name. Leaping over various shapes in the floor that he did not wish to pause to identify, he searched frantically for her.

Cursing to himself, he ran back for Cam’s room.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Outside the city of Dol Amroth
30 Girithron, 3019 T.A.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Éomer sat quietly astride his mount, watching as the scouts returned. Firefoot stamped nervously, sidestepping slightly. Éomer wondered if the beast was only reacting to his own growing sense of trepidation, or if he, too, could feel what unsettled his master. He patted the horse’s neck with a gloved hand.

A flash of fire in the distance interrupted his thoughts. The sky above the walls of the city was suddenly alight with flaming arrows. Shouts rang out, clanging steel echoing off the hills.

Éomer had only one thought.

“Ani...” he said softly, staring in disbelief as a rooftop near the palace burst into flames.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Palace of the Prince
Dol Amroth
30 Girithron, 3019 T.A.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Anhuil finally mustered enough strength to open her eyes, and immediately wished she hadn’t. She could see nothing anyway. Darkness was all there was. At first, it frightened her, until a flicker of flame passing by the tiny window at the top of the wall gave enough light for her to see only for a second.

Groaning, she raised her head, sliding her hands underneath her and raising herself slightly, the effort making her head pound. Thoughts tumbled through her brain, and she grasped frantically at them, like trying to catch leaves carried by the wind.

Fenwick. Corsairs. Cam...where was Cam? Éomer. The voices, the noise...

She struggled into a sitting position, scooting over to lean on the wall. Cold. Cold and damp. She shuddered, forcing her eyes open again. The tiny window at the top of the wall winked with flashes of flame from outside.

The thought seemed odd. As if in answer to her question, an arrow flew through the small opening and bounced off the far wall, coming to rest in the middle of the floor.

Flaming arrows. Why flaming arrows? She crawled over to the arrow and picked it up, holding it like a torch, inspecting the thick-shafted weapon intently. The image of four such arrows appearing from nowhere into an oak tree in a garden came to her suddenly.

The sounds above registered, and something clicked in her brain. An attack. “Fenwick,” she murmured, stumbling to her feet.

~~~~~~~~~~

Amrothos flung the heavy door open and darted inside, his eyes flicking across the darkened room in search of the blonde. Instinct made him whirl quickly around just in time to grab the wrists of his would-be attacker, the blade glimmering in her hand clattering to the ground.

Dark green eyes stared at her in disbelief. “Look, Cam, I realize you are upset with me for locking you in here, but...” he asked, with only a half smile.

“I thought you were one of them,” Cam snapped, “ bursting in here that way! And after what you pulled--“

“I have no doubt that you would love to see me tied to the mast of your father’s ship, Cam,” he told her, “but right now we need to find Ani. She is not in her chambers.” Maintaining his grip on her arm, he pulled her out into the hallway.

Erchirion stopped them outside Cam’s chamber. “Where are you headed, little brother?” he called out.

“I am looking for Ani!”

“The harbor is under attack! Ada is with Elessar, upstairs. I am taking my regiment to aid Merric. Meet us there if you can, but find Ani first!” the elder brother called out as he disappeared down the corridor, followed by a group of knights.

“Wait!” Cam called out, shoving a door open and ducking out of the hallway and into the princess’ chamber.

“Where are you going? I told you she is not in --“

Cam reappeared with Anhuil’s dagger. “Wherever she is, she will need this,” she answered, tucking it through her own belt.

Amrothos nodded his approval as they made their way down the corridor.

~~~~~~~~

A shadow at the window caught her attention. She looked up, holding the arrow high. “Who is there?” she called out.

A low woof answered, and she could barely make out a muzzle poking through the bars. “Elenion!” she called. “Ai, Elbereth! Elenion! Lasto! Hiro Camwethrin! Ledhio!” Large paws scratched at the bars. “Go, Elenion! Im maer! Noro!” With a last woof, he disappeared. She blew out a breath, praying silently he would find someone. The sounds of the battle outside escalated, and she watched helplessly as the flame on the end of the arrow dimmed, taking with it what little light she had.

~~~~~~~~~

Anhuil was still staring at the dying flame when she heard a sound at the door. “You’d best not go in there,” a husky voice warned. “Fenwick said he’d skin alive any bloke touches her.”

“Fenwick is likely not gonna survive this night anyhow, and it’s likely neither will I. So why don’t you go mind your business elsewhere?” She heard a key turning in the lock, and quickly snuffed out the flame on the arrow. Edging along the wall, she moved beside the door, trying to conceal herself in the shadows.

~~~~~~~~

Cam and Amrothos made their way down a path behind the palace toward the stables. Amrothos was in front, and whirled around as a shadow flew past him, nearly knocking Cam to the ground. Elenion woofed at her, running in tight circles around her.

“What is it?” she asked him, looking helplessly at the prince. “What does he want?” Elenion chuffed again, taking a step off the path and looking back at them.

“Ani is the one that talks to him, not me,” Amrothos said. “How should I know what he wants?”

Frustrated, the wolf grabbed the edge of her tunic in his teeth and pulled, then stepped off the path again. The light dawned, and Cam darted through the shrubbery, following the wolf, Amrothos close behind.

~~~~~~~~

“Wake up, Princess...you have company,” the deeper voice called out as he swung the door open. “How about you and I get to-“ he stopped suddenly, his eyes searching the dark. She was not in the floor where he’d left her. “Come out, little princess,” he called. “No reason to fear me. I just want to get to know you a little better is all.” He turned around, seeing her in the dim light, her back against the wall.

“Now, Princess,” he chided, clucking his tongue. “Is that any way to treat a guest in your home?” he moved toward her.

“You are no guest,” she remarked. “Guests are invited.”

“Ah, but you see, we were invited,” he crooned, moving closer to her, his scruffy face inches from hers. “We are guests of your groom.” He smiled at her puzzled expression. “Didn’t tell you, eh? We were a surprise for his new father in law. ” His gaze raked over her. Her braid was coming loose, her face and gown filthy from the floor of the dungeon. He smiled as he reached out a finger and traced her cheek, chuckling as she shuddered and pulled away. His finger continued down to the pendant that rested between her breasts.

“Now, that’s a pretty trinket,” he commented.

“Take it,” she told him. “Take it and leave me alone.”

“I believe I will,” he said, his fingers closing over it, and grasping the neckline of her gown at the same time. He jerked the chain from her neck. She winced as it cut into the back of her neck before breaking, his fingers tearing the front of her gown as well. He clutched the necklace in his fist and grinned back at her, eyeing the cleavage the rip had revealed. “But I don’t think I’ll be leaving you alone, Princess. Man like me doesn’t get much chance to be alone with a woman, ‘specially not a pretty one like you. You understand,” he said, reaching for her.

Anhuil’s fist tightened behind her back, her fingers tightening around... She drew in a deep breath. “I understand,” she said softly, as he closed the distance between them. With a grunt of effort she thrust the arrow upward into his belly, pushing him backward. He stumbled, eyes wide, and fell back. Darting past him, the princess slammed the door behind her, thankful he had been careless enough to leave the keys in the door. She turned the key and withdrew it, dropping it on the stone floor. Leaning against the locked door, she gasped for breath.

She had killed Orcs before, when necessary.

She had never before killed a human.

Anhuil looked down. Wet, dark red blood shone on her hands in the light of the torches hanging on sconces in the corridor, and dripped down the front of her pale gown. Taking a deep breath, she was grateful she had not eaten, because she doubted her stomach would contain its contents. Hastily wiping her hands on the front of the dress, the princess headed for the door to the stairs.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Outside the City of Dol Amroth
30 Girithron, 3019 T.A.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The scout thundered to a stop near the king, bowing quickly. “Your Majesty,” he said, breathless, “the city is under attack.”

“By whom?” Éomer demanded.

“Corsairs, Sire. Several hundred. Their ships are anchored in the bay, and they have come ashore in longboats. The palace and the harbors are under attack. Prince Imrahil’s men are holding them right now, sire, but I am not certain for how long. They are outnumbered.”

A grim expression crept across Éomer’s face as he glanced at Éothain. “Not for long,” he muttered, pulling on his helm.

~~~~~~~~~~

Cam and Amrothos trailed closely behind the wolf. Elenion stopped near a back wall of the palace, digging with his paws. Brushing back the dead grass, Cam revealed the small, barred window to the dungeon cell.

“What?” she asked, looking at the wolf. He chuffed again, pawing at the bars. Cam peered into the darkness inside.

“What is it?” Amrothos asked.

“I cannot see anything,” the blonde answered. “Ani?” she called out, hearing only a faint echo of her own voice. She looked up at Amrothos. Elenion continued to paw at the window.

“Where is she, boy?” the prince asked, scratching the huge animal’s ears. The wolf stuck his nose through the bars. “Is she in there?” He sighed in frustration. “Come on,” he said, grabbing Cam by the hand. “Hannon le,” he called back to Elenion, who refused to give up his post by the window.

~~~~~~~~

Anhuil made her way down the dark corridor toward the door that led to the stairs. Pushing as hard as she could, she grunted in frustration when it would not budge. Someone had locked it from the other side. With a last kick at the door, she moved back to the darkened hallway, looking for another exit.

The back gate was ajar, the exit normally used for moving prisoners in and out without taking them through the palace proper. She pushed the heavy door aside, stepping out into the dark. A cool rush of fresh air reminded her of the state of her dress, but she did not have time to worry about it. Flames criss-crossed the sky above her, shouts and crashes resounding off the walls. Moving alongside the wall, staying as low as possible, she made her way toward the courtyard.

~~~~~~~~

Darting through the half-open door, Amrothos grasped Cam’s hand and pulled her along the damp hallway leading to the dungeon. Torchlight flickered, but even flames did little to drive back the shadows. Noting the keys on the floor, Cam grabbed them and fitted one into the locked door.

Amrothos removed a small torch from the wall sconce and peered inside. The dead Corsair lay on his back, blood pooled beneath him, a thick-shafted arrow protruding at an odd angle right below the center of his ribcage. He spotted something shining on the floor beside the corpse and bent to pick it up, holding it up in the light, as Cam gasped in recognition.

His sister’s necklace.

~~~~~~~~

Cursing the full skirts hindering her movement, Anhuil paused beside a wall, peering around the corner toward the courtyard. Corsairs and Swan knights swarmed the cobblestone paths. She jumped at a cold touch on her hand and whirled around.

“Elenion!” she gasped his name, dropping to her knees and throwing her arms around him, grateful to see a familiar face, even a lupine one. She hugged him tightly.

“Ani!”

She looked up from the shaggy fur. Cam and Amrothos came around the corner, breaking into a run when they saw her. Amrothos dropped to his knees beside her. “What happened? Where were you?”

“Are you all right?” Cam asked, noting the blood on her dress.

Anhuil nodded. “I am fine...I was...in the dungeon. I do not know how...” she began, swallowing hard. “Amrothos...I...”

“I know,” he said. “I saw. You did what you had to do, Ani. It will be all right,” he told her, raising his eyes to Cam’s. “The two of you get back inside. Find somewhere safe until this is over. I will be back.” He rose to his feet.

“Where are you going?” his sister asked.

“I am going to the harbor,” he informed her. “Erchirion will need me!”

“But you do not have your armor!” Cam protested, leaping to her feet. “You cannot--“

The prince captured her face between his hands and cut her off with his mouth over hers. Her hands gripped his wrists tightly as she fought the tears that stung the corners of her eyes. When he finally pulled away, Amrothos smiled down at her, gently raking his thumbs across her cheeks before withdrawing his hands. He turned down the path toward the stable.

“Amrothos!” The desperation in her voice made him stop, turning halfway around to look at her over his shoulder. Cam swallowed hard, biting back the words she knew she should say. “Be careful,” she called.

He smiled back at her, then nodded before dashing off down the path.

~~~~~~~~~~

“Riders of the Mark!” Éomer’s deep voice rang out through the darkness as he turned his mount to face them, his sword drawn. “We did not come here for battle, yet battle now lies before us! We ride to the aid of the one who came to ours, on the fields of Pelennor!” He turned Firefoot around, raising his sword high. “To the Prince, and your future queen! The Mark, to Dol Amroth! Fordé, Eorlingas!”

~~~~~~~~~~~

Anhuil slipped an arm around Cam’s waist. “He will be all right, Cam.” She said it as much for her own reassurance as her friend’s.

Biting her bottom lip, Camwethrin nodded, pulling Anhuil’s dagger from her belt. “I thought you might need this,” she told her.

“Hannon le.” She grasped the hilt of the dagger resolutely, dropping the sheath to the ground. Her eyes followed Cam’s gaze down toward the stable. “If you want to follow him, go. I will be all right.”

“Ani...”

“I will be fine, Cam. I am going to find a way back in and find Ada.” Cam regarded her dubiously. “I may not have your stealth, Cam, but think I can manage getting back inside by myself.”

“If you are sure,” the blonde said.

“Go.”

With a shaky smile, Cam turned toward the path. “And next time, tell him you love him!” the princess called after her.

Cautiously peering around the corner, Anhuil frowned. Knights and pirates were everywhere. She would have to be fast and careful. She frowned down at her dress and soft slippers, wishing for all the world she had on leggings and boots. Leaning her back against the wall, Anhuil looked down at the wolf at her side. “Why is it we always seem to end up in these situations?” The dark, canine gaze met hers questioningly, and she could not help but smile. “Stay with me, please?” The wolf rose to his feet. Gripping the dagger tightly, Anhuil blew out her breath, mentally preparing herself for whatever was coming.

Before she could move, a sound echoed across the sky, resounding off the stone walls of the palace and the cliffs surrounding the harbor, rising above the din of the battle.

Anhuil froze.

~~~~~~~~

Ai, Elbereth! Elenion! Lasto! Hiro Camwethrin! Ledhio! - Oh, Elbereth...Listen! Find Camwethrin! Hurry!

Im maer! Noro! - I am fine! Go!

Fordé, Eorlingas! - Forde is Rohirric, or Anglo Saxon, for "FORTH" - it is actually the battle cry Theoden used at Helm's Deep, but you can't tell that much of a difference when you hear it spoken. Ah, well.

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Chapter name
Chapter Thirty-One
Created
26 May 2004
Last Edited
26 May 2004
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