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Trust To Hope

Chapter 33: Chapter Thirty-Two

by Novedhelion

Trust To Hope - Chapter Thirty-Two
Author: Novedhelion
Type: FP Het
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Pairing: Éomer/Lothíriel aka Anhuil
Rating: PG 13
Warnings: Epic battle scenes and some scary images. (like...Fenwick?)
Beta: Riyallyn...to whom I will owe a bottle of Cabo. Shoot, I owe her a case. AND she wrote most of the parts of this chapter involving Cam and Amrothos, whether she wants me to tell you that or not!
Disclaimer: Still not mine. NO matter how hard I wish it, they are STILL NOT MINE! But the dialogue and stuff is - NO release to the public domain given or implied!

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"Oft evil will shall evil mar."
Rohan proverb

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Chapter Thirty-Two

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Anhuil froze.

The sound of horns resounding off the cliffs around the city was coupled with the thundering of hundreds of hooves.

“Éomer...” she murmured softly, a slow smile creeping across her face.

“Open the gates!” she heard a guard yell from the tower.

Peering around the corner of the wall, she watched from across the yard as he led his men through the gate, the white horsetail on his helm flying in the breeze. Hooves on cobblestone echoed against the walls of the courtyard, steel clashing as the Rohirrim rode in. The singing began. The haunting, lyrical singing of the soldiers as they slew their enemies. Anhuil watched from her hiding place, her fingers tight around her dagger.

~~~~~~~~~~

Cam gripped Níniel’s reins tightly as the mare's hooves clopped on the cobblestone-paved road. Up ahead, she could see the docks, some ships already ablaze as the heavy flaming bolts peppered the sails. Horns blared in the distance. The palomino balked as she neared the docks, rearing up and nearly throwing Cam as she fought to control her.
"Calm down. I will not make you go any closer," Cam said, guiding the horse behind an inn near the docks. She dismounted, tying off the reins. "Stay here, girl. I may need you in a hurry." With a pat to the mare's neck, she took off down the street toward the docks and chaos.

~~~~~~~~~~

The princess watched in horror as a Swan Knight near the wall where she stood was felled by a Corsair arrow. Her resolve strengthened, she ran from behind the wall, picking up the soldier’s dropped bow and yanking his quiver from his shoulder. Running as fast as the skirts would allow, she ducked behind a stack of barrels against a far wall.

~~~~~~~~~~

A large cutlass swung at Firefoot as Éomer pulled the reins sideways, just beyond its reach. Lashing out at him was one thing, but he would let no one harm his mount. Éomer leapt from the horse, tackling the big man to the ground, rolling away from him and drawing his sword. The Corsair lunged at him with the curved blade, grinning. Dodging the heavy blade, Éomer pressed his attack, backing the pirate up to the stone wall.

Chaos reigned in the courtyard, a jumble of pirates, Swan Knights and Rohirrim, the sounds of war cries, blades crashing and hooves on cobblestones echoing off the high walls. The air was thick with arrows and flying spears. Anhuil saw Éomer across the square, her heart in her throat as the Corsair lunged yet again with his long, heavy cutlass.

~~~~~~~~~~

Amrothos shouted orders to his men as they arrived at the docks. Small bands of Corsairs and Swan Knights fought among the docking bays and shipyards, the ships anchored in the harbor still firing flaming ballistae at the docked vessels. Cam made her way down the walk, drawing her sword as she crept along the stacks of crates and barrels piled around the docks.

She spotted the prince, still on horseback, issuing commands. Breathing a small sigh of relief that he had thus far refrained from actual combat, she winced as an arrow flew past his head.

The prince turned the direction from which the arrows came. Another longboat of Corsairs had emptied onto the pier. Dismounting, he sent the stallion away from the pending fray while calling for his men to form around him.

Cam watched in awe as he strode resolutely to meet the marauders. Graceful precision countered the sheer brutality of their attacks. She slowly worked her way closer. The pirates didn’t have near the skill of the prince, yet they still had the strength of numbers.

A loud, groaning sound and terrified screams jerked her attention toward the harbor. A flaming mast gave way and crashed into the deck of a very large ship. Her heart skipped a beat as she realized the ship was her father’s. Helplessly watching, the sailors dove overboard as the Thalion went up in flames. “Ada,” she whispered, praying he was not on board.

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

Clambering up onto the stack of barrels, Anhuil ducked behind one for cover. Upending the blade of her dagger into the wooden top until needed, she fired the bow repeatedly, the blue and white fletched arrows of Dol Amroth finding their targets efficiently. Her quiver empty, she grabbed the dagger and leapt down, seeking Éomer across the yard.

Just as her eyes fell on him, he drove his blade home, nearly pinning the huge pirate to the wall behind him with his blade. Anhuil’s heart leapt into her throat as another Corsair hurled himself at the king’s back before Éomer could withdraw his blade and turn. Without thought, she reacted, the jeweled handled dagger spinning across the square and nailing the man directly in the back before she even realized it had left her fingers.

Éomer turned, hearing the blade hit the cobblestone as the man behind him fell, the jeweled dagger he knew so well protruding from his back. He looked up to see her across the courtyard, smiling.

“ANI!” he called out as one of the pirates leapt down from the wall, swinging his cutlass in her direction. Scrambling for a weapon, she picked up a discarded spear and swung it like a quarterstaff, trying to knock him off his feet. Unsuccessful, she threw it up to block his blow, backing toward the barrels. Her training in the use of a quarterstaff was limited, and she made a mental note that if she got out of this one, it was not something she would neglect in the future.

Éomer tried to make his way to her, cutting his way through the throng of men battling in the yard. Near panic seized him as he swung his blade at everything between him and the princess.

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

Shaking her head, Cam made to move toward Amrothos. “What have we here?” the menacing voice came from behind, stopping her cold.

Every instinct screamed at her to run. Stealing a glance toward the embattled prince, Camwethrin swallowed her fear and turned to face the pirate.

He laughed at her look of determination. “Little girls shouldn’t be wandering around in the dark, all alone,” he taunted. “It isn’t safe.”

She glared at him, blue eyes ablaze, hoping her voice would not belie her fear. “Not safe for whom?” she asked sarcastically, brandishing her blade.

He was a bit taller than her, and slight of build. In his hand, he carried a small club. His lopsided grin showed several missing teeth. She flinched in disgust at his appearance, and his smell.

Dark eyes widened in recognition as he looked closer at her. “You’ve got your daddy’s eyes, girl,” he announced, unconsciously raising his weapon. “I swore to him when he locked me up that I would see him dead. But this might be even better.”

Before she could respond, he lunged at her, swinging the club toward her head. She ducked his blow and stepped away, raising her blade to him. He charged again. Sidestepping his attack, she quickly turned and thrust her blade into his side. The club fell to the ground as the pirate looked at her, wide eyed. Closing her eyes tightly, she yanked her sword back; cringing as she heard his body hit the ground.

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

Throwing the spear shaft up horizontally with both hands, the princess attempted to deflect his overhead blow. His curved blade bounced off but split the staff in her hands, rendering it useless. She gripped the broken pieces and backed up against the barrels, his blade at her throat. “I don’t be thinkin’ I’ll run you through, missy. You’re too pretty to waste.” He reached to grab her arm.

Anhuil swung the broken piece of the wooden shaft, striking him at the side of his bald head. He growled low, bringing the heavy basket-handled hilt of his cutlass up and striking her across the temple. She crumbled to the ground, falling back against the barrels.

Before the man could turn, a cold blade ran completely through him from behind. Éomer kicked him forward off his sword, knocking him out of the way. He glanced quickly around the courtyard, watching the remaining few pirates retreat as Éothain’s men rode through the gate, their bows and blades singing together.

Éomer quickly wiped the blood from his weapon and sheathed it. Dropping to his knees, he slid an arm behind Anhuil’s shoulders, helping her into a sitting position. Taking in the condition of her dress, he yanked off his cloak and wrapped it around her. “Ani...are you all right?” he asked as she raised a hand to her head, wincing.

“Éomer,” she said softly. “You are late.”

He chuckled. “You are not married yet, are you?”

Anhuil smiled. "Not yet."

“Good,” he told her, lowering his lips gently to hers in a soft kiss. “Then I am not too late to remedy that as soon as we are rid of these pirates.” He helped her to her feet, one arm banded around her waist. She took an unsteady step, grasping his arm for balance.

Éomer swept her up into his arms. “We need to get you inside,” he stated calmly, walking toward the palace entrance.

“I can walk,” she murmured softly against his shoulder.

“I am certain you can,” he answered, making no move to put her down. Up the front steps of the palace and through the doors he carried her. Seeing a uniformed servant dashing through the halls with a pan of water, he caught her attention. “Where?”

The maid thought quickly. “His Highness’ study is right through there,” she said, indicating a nearby door. “Is the princess injured?” she asked, her dark eyes widening. “Shall I send for a healer?”

“No, only some water and cloths. Be quick, please,” Éomer requested, kicking open the door to the study and carrying her inside.

“Put me down,” she told him.

He turned his head to look down at her, a mischievous glint in his eye. “Do not dare,” she warned him teasingly, as he sat her down carefully on a small divan near the fireplace in the study.

“I would not dream of it.” He brushed her hair back, inspecting the cut on her temple. “That was quite a blow.”

“I wish people would stop striking me in the head,” she muttered, fingering the cut herself.

“I wish you would learn to stay out of harm’s way,” he chided teasingly. “Do you frighten me just to see how many times I can endure it?”

“I do not take orders from you, Your Majesty,” she argued softly.

He smiled down at her, gently lowering his lips to hers. “Duly noted, Your Highness.”

“Good.”

The maid scurried into the room, an older woman with her graying hair in a braid down her back. She carried a basin and some cloths, placing them on a table near him. She wet the cloth and wrung it out, proceeding to wipe the blood from the princess’ face.

“I will do it,” he said, reaching for the cloth.

“But...My Lord...it is not proper...”

Éomer cast Anhuil a helpless look. “You Gondorians certainly are a proper lot,” he muttered, turning to the maid. “I will see to her,” he repeated. “There are many others who need your assistance. Please...go and help them.” He took the cloth from the maid’s hand.

“Yes, sir,” she answered. With a short curtsey, she ducked out of the room.

Pressing one cloth to the cut to stem the bleeding, he used another to wash the blood from her face. She glanced down at her torn dress, blushing slightly at how much of her was exposed, tugging his cloak a little tighter around her. “Thank you, once again,” she said, her fingers gripping the soft wool.

“I will soon run out of cloaks.” He grinned, running the back of his fingers across her bruised cheek. “Are you certain you are all right?”

“I am fine.”

“You are stubborn.”

“And you are not?” She smiled, holding the makeshift bandage to her head. She tried to take the cloth from his hand, but he resisted, holding her chin firmly with one hand and cleaning her cuts with the other.

His expression darkened. “Ani, I need to find your father,” he told her. “He and your brothers are in danger. Fenwick has--“

Imrahil bursting through the door interrupted his words. “Lothíriel! The maid said you--“
He stopped short at the sight of Éomer sitting beside her, gently cleansing a small cut on her cheek.

“Éomer!” The prince flew across the room, his face panic stricken at the sight of the blood on his daughter’s face, not to mention the tattered state of her clothing. “We have looked everywhere for her! Fenwick said the Corsairs had taken her. Is she all right? Where was she?”

“I am fine, Ada. A few scrapes, that is all,” she assured him.

“In the courtyard,” Éomer answered. “I found her in the courtyard.”

“What were you doing in the courtyard?” the prince asked.

“Fighting,” Éomer answered for her. “Saving my sorry hide.” He looked up at her father. “Again,” he added, looking down at her proudly.

The princess turned to her father. “Ada...Mardil has been lying to you. Cam and I have proof that he has been giving information about the fleet movements to the Corsairs. Cam found a journal...it is all in writing...I will show you--”

Imrahil stared at her, trying to grasp what she was saying. “Lothíriel, what are you--“

Éomer interrupted. “Imrahil...where are your sons?”

“Elphir is upstairs, with Elessar and Faramir. They are routing out the remainder now. I believe Erchirion and Amrothos have gone to the harbor.”

“We must go, Imrahil. I will explain on the way but there is no time now.” Éomer turned to the princess, speaking quickly. “Ani...you can show us the journal when we return. Promise me you will stay here.” He rose to his feet.

Anhuil read more in his expression than she wished to. “Éomer....”

“I will be back. I promise.” He helped her to her feet, moving toward the door. Bending down to kiss her, heedless of her father’s wide-eyed stare, he hugged her close. Imrahil stood and followed him to the door, taking a key from his pocket and pressing it into her hand.

“Lock this door, Lothíriel. Do not open it unless you know who is on the other side,” her father warned.

She nodded slowly, looking down at the key in her hand. A sudden thought occurred to her. “Ada...Cam...she followed Amrothos to the harbor...”

“We will find her, Ani,” her father assured her, kissing her cheek and stepping out into the hall.

Éomer took her hand, pressing his lips to her fingers lightly. “Be careful, Éomer,” she said softly.

“I will. I have a promise to keep.” He flashed her the devilish grin she loved so much. “I love you,” he whispered, and stepped out the door behind her father.

“And I, you,” she said softly, as he followed Imrahil out the door. She locked it behind them and leaned back on it, praying for their safety.

~~~~~~~~~~

Slowly opening her eyes, Cam’s shock was abated by the sight of Amrothos fighting off two Corsairs. Only a handful of his men remained standing, all desperately fighting for their lives. She broke into a run, praying he wouldn’t actually need her.

The prince fought valiantly, deftly maneuvering between the two pirates. But he knew he could not keep this up much longer. The man on his left lunged and missed, throwing himself off balance. Amrothos took the opportunity and quickly dispatched him. Seizing the opening, the one on his right stepped in with a vicious slash across his abdomen.

The Corsair laughed in victory, thrusting his blade in for the kill. His smile quickly turned to one of shock as his sword was slammed to the ground. Looking up into furious blue eyes, he managed a slight gasp before the unexpected blade ripped across his throat.

Amrothos staggered back, sinking to the ground in pain. Cam stepped in to take his place. Taking a deep breath, she raised her sword as another pirate lunged at her. He stopped mid-stride, and fell to the ground.

She looked up into familiar steel grey eyes. Erchirion gave her a slight nod and turned away, intent on finishing off the last of this band. Cam dropped her sword and fell to her knees, pulling Amrothos into her arms.

“No,” the blonde whispered as she cradled the prince. She cringed when her gaze fell over the ugly gash across his abdomen. Pulling off her cloak, she wadded it and pressed it with her hand to the wound to staunch the flow of blood, trying desperately to fight the wave of panic that crested as she saw just how much there was. “Amrothos,” she pled, “look at me.”

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

In the corridor, Imrahil regarded the king as they walked briskly. “I do not know how or why you are here, my friend, but I thank the Valar you are. How did you know?”

“I was not certain,” Éomer responded. “I did not want to say so in front of Ani, but an attempt was made on my life less than a fortnight ago. The assassin was Umbarian. He claimed to have been hired by Mardil Fenwick.”

Imrahil stopped in his tracks. “Mardil?”

The king nodded. “I would wager he is behind this attack as well, Imrahil.”

“Éomer...are you certain?” The prince was incredulous. “But...he was wounded tonight, trying to fend them off when they took Lothíriel...”

“A flesh wound at best. Am I correct?” Imrahil pondered this momentarily, remembering the wound to Mardil’s arm. “You know I have no love for the man, but I swear to you I speak the truth.”

The prince held the king’s gaze for a moment, then nodded. “We had best get to the harbor,” he responded, long strides carrying him swiftly toward the doorway. Throwing a backward glance over his shoulder toward the prince’s study, Éomer followed him out into the courtyard.

Swan knights and Rohirrim moved about the cobblestone paths of the courtyard, moving the wounded indoors. Imrahil and Éomer both were relieved to see few wounded knights from either realm, and even fewer dead. The courtyard was littered with dead brigands.

A Rohirrim lieutenant strode toward Éomer, leading Firefoot. ”Your mount, Sire.” He bowed dutifully.

“Thank you,” Éomer nodded, taking the reins. “How many?”

The soldier stood straight. “Eight dead, Your Majesty.” Only Imrahil noticed the slight reaction in Éomer’s eyes. To lose even one man was not acceptable. The young soldier continued. “Not sure how many wounded from our éored, but I would guess around twenty that will need care. We have taken them inside.”

The king nodded. “Gather the men that can ride. Leave twenty here, and the rest shall follow the prince to the waterfront. Quickly!”

The young man bowed, turning to bark orders at the rest of the soldiers in the courtyard. Imrahil
took the reins of the horse brought to him from the stable and leaped astride him gracefully. He glanced down at Éomer, who was looking back toward the palace. The king turned to face the prince. “Do you think she will-“

He stopped mid-sentence, their gazes meeting.

“My friend, will you--“

“I will. Go.”

The prince nodded, turning his mount toward the gate, calling the men to ride. Metal shod hooves clopped on the cobblestone as the company broke into a gallop, headed for the harbor.

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

In the office, the princess leaned on the door, listening to the sudden quiet that enveloped the palace. Only a few voices could be heard from upstairs. With a deep breath, she opened the door a crack, peering into the hallway. The sound of hurried footsteps made her push the door shut again quickly. As the sound passed, she cracked the door open cautiously.

Neville was making his way down the hallway, stepping over broken pottery, muttering to himself. Her eyes narrowed. Fenwick. What had Éomer started to tell her?

Determined, Anhuil slipped out of the office, moving quietly down the hall. She bent to retrieve a sword from a fallen soldier, surprised when his hand gripped it tightly.

“I am sorry,” she told him.

Releasing his grip on it, he looked up at her. “Princess...” he murmured.

“Caerwyn!” she gasped, recognizing the young man as one she had grown up with, and sparred with often. His father had been one of her mother’s personal guards. She helped him into a sitting position against the wall.

“Take it,” he told her. “I will not need it again.”

“Do not speak it, Caerwyn!” she hissed back. “I will send a healer and you will live.”

“Take the sword, Your Highness. I pledged it to your father. If you have need of it, I would not deny it to you.”

“But you may-“ she stopped short as she followed his gaze down to the wound in his side. She knew that no healer would be able to help this young man. He looked up at her with pale grey eyes, his skin pale. “Take the sword, Princess. Please. I would be honored.”

“The honor will be mine,” she told him, laying her hand on his cheek.

“May it protect you,” he whispered, his breathing shallow. “As my father did your mother. As I would you, were I able.”

“You have done what you can,” she told him softly.

“Where are you going?” he asked weakly.

Anhuil smiled. “Hodo, mellon. Amin pela. Hannon le.”

Whispering a few words of prayer, she rose to her feet and disappeared down the hall, following Neville. Stealing down the back stairs, she stepped out into the cool evening air.

The garden was eerily silent. Sounds of the ongoing battle at the harbor echoed off the walls, but her own slippered footsteps sounded loud on the stone path. Holding the sword ready, she moved cautiously, following the sound of Neville’s heavy breathing and low grumbling. As they approached the rear sea wall, other voices made her stop suddenly, ducking back into the shadows.

“Mardil Fenwick!” the voice hissed menacingly.

Fenwick’s voice. “What are you doing here? Have you completed the task? Where is the prince?”

“We need to talk, Fenwick. You double-crossed us, you pathetic skainswate,” the pirate sneered, his sharp rapier coming uncomfortably close to Mardil’s throat.

“Double-crossed you?”

“You never said nothin’ ‘bout Rohan bringing a damned cavalry!”

“Valar sake, man...he might have had two hundred men. That heathen should not have even been alive to show up!” he growled back. “YOUR men were supposed to see to him!”

Anhuil’s blood boiled, but she held her place in the shadows, listening.

“I sent three of my best archers after that peasant! Lost the best one, too!”

“He got what he deserved if he let himself be caught!” Fenwick snapped. “And how DARE you accuse me of double-crossing you! If your men had done their job, none of this would have happened! As it is, my plan is completely destroyed! Months of preparation and planning, and your carelessness has completely annihilated any chance of--“

“Mardil!” Neville’s breathless voice came huffing along. “Mardil, I must speak with you!”

“What now?” Fenwick demanded.

“Prince Imrahil has gone to the harbor. He took most of the Rohirrim with him and his own guard...”

“Where is the princess?”

“I went back to the dungeon, see...to check on her...”

“Where is she, Neville?”

A pause. “She is gone, Mardil. The guard is dead and she is gone.”

Fenwick let loose a string of curses, then turned to the pirate. “What about that peasant king? Did you at least dispatch him?”

“I saw him in the courtyard, with the prince,” the valet offered tentatively.

“He did not go to the harbor?”

“I do not think so,” came the reply.

“He is looking for her, then. Find them. Find them both,” Mardil demanded. “Kill that damned heathen and bring her to me.”

The sound of footsteps retreating made her duck further into the shadow along the wall. Three Corsairs ran past, swords in hand, headed for the palace.

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

In the courtyard, Éomer gave orders for the remaining men to search the grounds, routing out any stragglers. Striding quickly across the greensward, he came to the dead pirate that had almost killed him. His hand closed over the jeweled handle protruding from the back of the black leather armor, retrieving her dagger. Quickly wiping the blood and gore from it on the dead man’s clothing, he studied the engraving on the blade, once again wondering what it said. He would try to remember to ask.

Clenching it tight in his fist, he made his way back to the office of the prince.

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

Leaning against the wall, the princess watched until the pirates were out of sight. Fenwick and Neville stood atop the sea wall, watching them go.

“They had best not fail me again,” the younger man muttered.

“What about the princess?” Mardil turned a questioning glance on him. “You asked them to bring her to you. Surely you do not think she will still marry you.”

Fenwick threw his head back and laughed. “Oh, no, Neville my friend. She would never marry me now. Especially once she finds out it was me who had her heathen lover killed and would do the same to her father and brothers.”

Anhuil’s heart raced. Rage at his betrayal welled up inside her. Her fist gripped the hilt of the sword tightly.

“So what do you want with her? Should we not just get out while we can?”

“You go ahead. I am not leaving here without my prize. She was promised to me.”

“But Mardil, your plan--“

“My plan is nothing now. But I will have her. One way or another, I will have Lothíriel. And when I tire of her, I am certain the Haradrim would still pay a nice price for a slightly used daughter of a prince.” He laughed out loud. “Go on, Neville. Get to the boats. Take our belongings and get to the ship. I will be there shortly.”

“Yes, sir,” the pudgy man murmured, clambering slowly down the stone steps and lumbering up the path.

The princess seethed in her hiding place. Now it was just Mardil Fenwick, standing alone on the wide wall surrounding the garden. Staying to the shadows as much as possible, she crept up the stairs slowly, sword at ready by her side.

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

The sounds of combat ceased and Erchirion knelt by Amrothos’ side, inspecting the wound. “Little brother, Ada is going to have your hide for coming down here with no armor.”

The youngest prince gave a small smile. “I expect as much. It will not be the first time.”

Erchirion returned the smile. His gaze fell on Cam, her faced etched with worry and her eyes welling with tears. He reached over and squeezed her shoulder. “Do not worry, Cam. He is only doing this so he can lay about with you rather than doing any work.”

She answered with a mirthless laugh. “We need to get him to the palace.”

He nodded, “I sent a couple of men to retrieve a cart. But I do not believe they will return before the Corsairs regroup. We cannot carry him on horseback.”

“I know.” Her gaze returning to her prince. His breathing grew labored. “Just hurry up and finish it, Erchirion,” she whispered, gently brushing his hair from his face.

“My Lord?” A soldier stepped forward.

Erchirion looked up and then followed the man’s gaze. Turning back to Amrothos, he patted his shoulder. “Hold on, little brother, this will be over soon.” He stood and strode away.

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

Éomer’s long strides carried him swiftly to the door of the study. It was slightly ajar. Knowing what he would find, or rather, what he would not find, he shoved it open anyway. The empty office did not surprise him.

Muttering Rohirric curses under his breath, he stepped back into the hallway. A wounded soldier leaned against a wall, holding a hand over his bleeding side. “My Lord...” he whispered hoarsely.

The king jogged to him, dropping to his knees.

“The princess...”

“What about her?” Éomer asked.

The young man’s words came in ragged gasps. “I gave her my sword. She followed that valet of Fenwick’s.”

Éomer muttered another curse. “Which way?”

The young man inclined his head toward the corridor that led to the garden. “There,” he managed.

“Thank you,” the king said softly.

“Please...go after her...find her...she’s...”

“She is what?” the king asked. “What is it?”

The soldier swallowed hard and managed a slight smile. “She is good with her bow, sir...or a dagger...but she is not very good with a sword.”

Suppressing an inappropriate grin, Éomer laid a broad hand on the young man’s shoulder. Dark eyes met his pale grey ones. “I will find her. I promise.” He leapt to his feet and took off down the hall at a near run.

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

Fenwick stood on the rampart, looking out across the sea. The fires in the harbor were visible from the wall, and his gaze fell on them idly. He turned at the sound of footsteps in the dark.

“Who is there?” He drew his sword and turned in her direction.

A slow smile crossed his face as she appeared from the shadows. “Lothíriel. I wondered where you were.” She said nothing, breathing slow, ragged breaths, trying to control her anger. Fenwick strolled toward her casually, his sword still in hand, but lowered. “I have been looking for you, my dear. I was worried sick.”

She had lowered the sword, concealing the blade in the folds of her skirt. “Your concern touches me, Mardil,” she responded sarcastically.

“Of course I was concerned. I was wounded myself, trying to defend you,” he said, indicating the bandage on his arm. He took in her ripped clothing and disheveled appearance. “You appear to have had a rough evening,” he commented. “Did those animals do this to you? Did they harm you?”

“Spare me the dramatics, Fenwick. You would have given them your own mother if it served your purpose.”

"How did you escape?"

"Apparently they far underestimated my resourcefulness," she responded tartly.

He tried unsuccessfully to suppress a smirk. “Lothíriel, darling...you are distressed. Let me take you inside and get you a nice cup of mulled wine. You must be chilled.” He reached for her, and she backed away quickly.

“Do not touch me,” she warned.

“Princess,” he crooned soothingly, “I realize the events of this evening have been traumatic. And to have those barbarians from Rohan show up probably did little to ease your nerves. It must be terribly distressing for you, him showing up for your wedding.”

“Not nearly as distressing as it will be for you when he finds you,” she commented.

As he stepped closer, he noticed the Rohirrim cloak draped around her shoulders. His eyes narrowed. “You know that peasant king is as good as dead. My men are looking for him now.”

“You have already tried to have him killed, and your men failed.”

“They will not fail again.” Fenwick smiled as he approached her.

“I would not have married you even if he had not come. I know about the bribes you take from the Corsairs and the information you give them. Cam found your journal. I was prepared to tell Ada everything, before this attack.”

He shook his head, making a clicking sound with his tongue. “You think you are so clever, my little princess.”

“I am not your princess,” she stated flatly, squaring her shoulders.

“You ARE mine,” he said menacingly. “You were promised to me, by your own hand.”

Her hand clasped the hilt of the sword tighter. She was grateful for the dark of the moonless night. “I will never marry you, Mardil Fenwick.”

“I did not say anything about marriage, now, did I?” He pressed his advance, backing her up until she leaned against a stone column. “But you are mine. And I will have you.”

Anhuil swiftly brought the sword up, only to have it blocked deftly by his. Fenwick took one step back and smiled at her. “Impressive.” He blocked another blow from her blade. “But you forget. I have watched you and Valesa spar on many occasions. I know your every move.” He blocked her again as she moved forward, lunging. “You see, that is how you truly win. Find out an enemy’s weakness, and press the advantage.”

“I will kill you if any harm comes to my family or to Éomer. I will slit your throat myself. I should, for all of the innocent blood you have spilled. I hope they paid you well for it, you murdering bastard!” She swung the borrowed sword.

Fenwick leapt back, laughing. “Paid me? Ah..yes....the Umbarian gold...I suppose the little tramp found that as well. The truth is, my dear, that I do not work for them. They work for me.”

Her shocked expression elicited more sinister laughter. “You do not believe me? I am the one who ordered this attack on your beautiful palace.”

“Why, Fenwick? Why attack Dol Amroth?”

The calm smile that spread across his face frightened her. “What better way for a prince and his sons to die but in a blaze of glory protecting their home?” He snickered. “And the poor, grieving princess, left to rule in their absence. She would need a husband to help her rule.”

Her emerald gaze blazed at him. “That was your plan...to kill my father and my brothers?”

“You would want them to die valiantly, in battle, would you not? I would give them a hero’s death. No soldier could ask for more.” He smiled wickedly. “What about your king? What manner of death would you prefer for him?”

With a growl of effort, she lunged forward again, thrusting her blade. Steel clashed as she matched him blow for blow. Caerwyn’s blade was far heavier than her own, and he laughed at her as she struggled to wield it, holding it now with both hands. “You are brave, little Princess. I grant you that. But I tire of toying with you.”

The princess fought to maintain control of the large weapon as Fenwick bore down on her. Stumbling backwards over the wieldy skirts, she fell, the heavy blade clanging to the stone floor of the allure. Mardil laughed, holding his sword under her chin. “Get up, Lothíriel,” he ordered, not offering her a hand.

Slowly rising to her feet, her green eyes bore into his. The amusement in those pale grey eyes infuriated her. He backed her up against one of the raised merlons along the top of the sea wall. Glancing down at the waves she could hear crashing below, she knew it was too far to jump. Mardil closed the distance between them, the point of his narrow blade still under her chin.

“We could have done this the honorable way, Princess. I would have married you first. But no, you chose a different path.” He sighed dramatically. “Now the only question that remains is do I take you here, or wait until I have you on board my ship? You could provide quite a bit of entertainment to a man while at sea. For that matter, you and your little friend could entertain the entire crew, now, could you not?”

Grabbing his wrist, the princess pushed the blade to the side, her hand over his on the hilt. The heel of her other hand caught him under his jaw, knocking him back a step. Enraged, Fenwick backhanded her with his free hand, sending her flying back against the stone column. She struggled to stay upright, a hand going to her bleeding lip.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Amrothos looked up at his love with tired eyes. “Cam, I have to tell you something.”

“No, Amrothos. You need to save your strength.”

“Camwethrin, I lov—“ his words silenced by her finger across his lips.

“Do not tell me that,” she whispered sharply.

“But…”

”No!” The tears fell, her voice becoming desperate. “Do not think that I will allow you to say this so you can quietly slip away. If you truly love me, you will tell me when you are standing on your own two feet!”

The prince reached for her, tracing the wetness on her cheeks. Bringing his fingers to his lips, he tasted her tears. With a small smile, his eyes closed as he whispered, “Then that is what I shall do.”

~~~~~~~~~~~

“Mardil Fenwick!”

The deep voice boomed over the wall. A shadow emerged from the dark, purpose in every stride. Fenwick quickly grabbed her, pulling her in front of him with his blade at her throat. “Another step, horsemaster, and you will watch her die here.”

Éomer stopped short. “What sort of coward uses a woman as a shield?”

“The sort that puts more value on his life than on an honorable death, unlike some fools!” Fenwick laughed. The sound of footsteps on the stairs widened his grin. “It appears we have company.”

Two Corsairs appeared at the top of the steps, swords drawn. Éomer drew his own, keeping Anhuil’s dagger in his left hand. Fenwick glared at the pirates. “Why are you standing there, fools? Kill him!”

“NO!” the princess screamed, struggling against Fenwick’s grip. Éomer glanced quickly at her, offering a reassuring nod, then turned to the men approaching him with their blades bared. The first one lunged at him wildly. Éomer’s sword glinted like vengeance as he drove the first one down, running him through before their blades ever crossed. The second one came at him, their steel clashing repeatedly. This one was a better swordsman, any lack of skill made up for by the ferocity with which he wielded his curved cutlass.

Mardil laughed as the brigand continually ducked and dodged the broad blade of the king. Anhuil dug her fingernails into Fenwick’s arm, squirming. He jerked her closer to him. “Be still, Princess,” he hissed into her ear. “This will be fun to watch. Bakkir is the best swordsman the Corsairs have.”

He laughed as the curved blade whipped through the air, barely missing the king’s shoulder. “Stop playing, you fool, and kill him!” Fenwick yelled at the pirate. “Kill him and I’ll let you have her when I’m done with her!”

Bakkir turned his head to grin at the princess. “Ani!” Éomer called out. As he swept past her, he tossed her dagger to her, turning quickly to thrust his blade behind him with both hands. The leer on Bakkir’s face quickly became shock, then dissolved into nothing as he fell.

Anhuil caught the blade by the handle. Before Fenwick could react, she plunged it into his thigh. With a howl, Mardil staggered back, the blade at her throat clattering to the allure at her feet. His grip on her loosened, and she jerked away. One long-fingered hand wrapped around the jeweled handle, staring at it in disbelief as he tried to regain his footing on the wall. Stumbling backwards, his wide, grey eyes held hers as he realized what had happened. “Lothíriel!” he screamed, as his foot slipped over the edge of the wall. Fingers frantically grasped at the smooth stone.

Éomer dashed past her, diving toward the edge of the wall, his hand closing over Fenwick’s wrist. Bracing himself against the merlon with one hand, he struggled to pull the dark-haired man up. “Give me your other hand!” the king shouted to him.

“Why? So you can run me through yourself?” Mardil struggled to reach the edge of the wall with his other hand.

“I am not going to kill you, Mardil. Not that I do not have a strong desire to. Give me your hand!”

“Let me fall, heathen,” Fenwick hissed. “All your troubles will be over.”

“As will yours. I will not let you off that easily. You have much to answer for, Fenwick! Give me your hand!” the king demanded, letting go of the merlon to reach with both hands.

“Éomer!” Anhuil’s voice came from behind him. “No!”

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

“Erchirion!” The Admiral’s voice boomed as he strode purposefully toward the prince. “Gather your forces to the west end. We need archers to stop the…” his voice trailed off as the younger man shook his head. “What is the problem?”

Erchirion looked to where his brother lay. Cam bent over him, her body wracked with sobs.

“What the hell is she… Oh, no.” Merric stopped and looked around. “Very well. Place the archers here and here,” he gestured to the positions. “Form up the lines behind them. Then hold this position until I say otherwise.” Confident his orders would be followed, the Admiral spun on his heel, moving toward his daughter.

“Yes, my lord,” Erchirion answered, not even noticing the breech in protocol.

“Valesa,” her father’s deep voice and his arm around her shoulder startled Cam. She looked up to see his disapproving stare. He turned his attention to Amrothos. Checking him over, something he had done far too many times, he looked back to his daughter. “He is still alive. Put more pressure here.” He took her hand and pressed it tighter against the wound.

The docks shuddered with a sudden pounding. The Corsairs had regrouped en masse. They stomped their feet and shouted taunts, attempting to drive fear into the hearts of the remaining Swan Knights. A sound like thunder rolled in the distance.

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

Fenwick stopped struggling, allowing the king to pull him back up. As he slid his knees back up over the edge, he grinned up at Éomer, who was still holding his arm, sitting back on his heels. “Mighty noble of you, horsemaster,” he snarled. “But you should have let me fall.” With that, he lunged forward, the fingers of his free hand grasping the dagger he had pulled from his thigh. Instinct made Éomer shove Mardil backwards. The blade missed its intended target, grazing the exposed chain mail on the king’s arm and slicing a line down the leather of his vambrace as he slipped once more over the parapet.

Scrambling forward, Éomer tried once more to reach him, as the fingers disappeared from the smooth stone.

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

“Ada…”

The pain in her voice nearly broke Merric’s heart. Cupping her face in his hands, he gently dried her tears with his thumbs. “It will be all right, girl.” Kissing her forehead, he added, “Just keep your head down.”

The Admiral stood and rejoined Erchirion. “Is everyone in place?”

“Yes,” the prince replied.

The rumbling grew louder, like an avalanche slowly rolling through the city.

“Archers ready!” Merric bellowed.

The jeering stopped and the Corsairs began to look nervous.

The cacophony from the city grew louder, hollow echoes bouncing off of the buildings on the harbor.

“Aim!”

The thundering reached a crescendo, and suddenly stopped.

Looking past the Admiral and the Swan Knights, the Corsairs pointed and shook their heads. Nearly as one, they began jumping off of the pier, frantically swimming back to their ships.

Merric shrugged his shoulders and gestured to the fleeing pirates. “Fire at your leisure,” he ordered, unable to contain his smug grin.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Lying prone, the king peered over the edge of the wall into the dark water below. Waves crashed against the stones at the bottom of the wall, the darkness too deep to see clearly. Éomer heaved himself up into a sitting position, leaning on the stone behind him.

Drawing his knees up, he leaned forward, resting his elbows on them. He pinched the bridge of his nose with his fingers, muttering a curse softly. Moving to kneel beside him, the princess placed a hand on his arm.

He turned, moving to draw her into his arms. For a long moment he simply held her. Finally, she raised her eyes to his. “Are you all right?” she asked, brushing her fingers over a scrape on his forehead.

“I am fine. Did he hurt you?” He placed one hand on her cheek.

She shook her head, then glanced back at the edge of the wall. “Is he...”

Éomer nodded. “It is a drop of at least twenty fathoms.”

Closing her eyes, she drew in a deep breath and let it out, shakily but slowly. She was not unaware of the sharp rocks below the seawall.

Éomer’s hand on her cheek turned her face back to his. His mind raced for the right words, but finally decided words were not necessary. Not yet. He placed both hands on her cheeks and gently covered her mouth with his.

Suddenly, she pushed him back. “Listen.”

No longer did she hear the echoes of clanging steel, the screams of men and the thundering of horses’ hooves on stone. The flashing of flaming arrows over the harbor had ceased. “It is over, Ani,” he said softly.

“My father...”

“We will find him,” he assured her, standing and helping her to her feet. She bent to pick up Caerwyn’s sword as Éomer retrieved Fenwick’s fallen blade. Taking her hand in his, he tugged the cloak over the front of her torn dress and led her down the stairs toward the palace.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Hodo, mellon. Amin pela. Hannon le - Rest, friend. I will return. Thank you.

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Chapter name
Chapter Thirty-Two
Created
08 Jun 2004
Last Edited
08 Jun 2004
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Words
7778