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Trust To Hope

Chapter 34: Chapter Thirty-three

by Novedhelion

Trust to Hope - Chapter Thirty-Three
Author: Novedhelion
Type: FP Het
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Pairing: Éomer/Lothíriel aka Anhuil (Cam and Amrothos, if you want to count that...)
Rating: PG 13
Warnings: Lots of loose ends to tie up...did I miss any?
Beta: Riyallyn
Disclaimer: Tolkien’s marbles. Thank goodness he didn’t get mad and take them home!
NO release to the public domain given or implied!

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"There are some people who live in a dream world, and there are some who face reality; and then there are those who turn one into the other."
--Douglaus Everett

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Chapter Thirty-three
***********************
Dol Amroth
The Palace of the Prince
30 Girithron, 3019 T.A.
***********************

“Be at ease, my lady,” King Elessar said softly, rising from the prince’s bedside. He laid a strong hand on Cam’s shoulder. “The prince will recover from his wounds.”

She stood at the foot of the bed, her eyes fixed on the sleeping prince. “When will he wake?”

“When he is ready. He needs to rest.” He turned and moved toward the door, looking back at her over his shoulder. “As do you.”

Cam raised her gaze to his momentarily and managed a small curtsey. “Thank you, Your Majesty. I will try.” With a warm smile and a nod, he stepped through the door.

She was still standing there when the door creaked open a few moments later. Anhuil entered the room, walking quietly to stand beside her. She had cleaned up and changed her clothing, settling for a practical dark colored linen smock while the men had held a brief council.

“I thought I would find you here,” she said softly, taking in her friend’s bedraggled appearance. “How does he fare?”

“King Elessar says he will recover, but he needs to rest.” Cam moved to the side of the bed and sat next to Amrothos, gently brushing his ebony hair out of his face. “I heard Fenwick was dead,” she said, almost absently.

Anhuil nodded slowly. “He fell from the sea wall,” she answered solemnly. “I suppose it was rather fitting, considering he had ordered the attack.”

“He ordered it?” The blonde looked up, confusion clouding her blue eyes.

“Yes.” The princess pulled a chair next to Cam and sat down. “We were wrong, Cam. He was not working for the Corsairs. They were working for him.”

“This is my fault.” Cam looked to Anhuil, her eyes brimming with tears. “I missed something, somewhere...”

“Cam, you cannot blame yourself…”

“Ani, look at him!” She gestured to Amrothos, lying still, his face ashen. “Even if there was nothing in the journal about the attack, I still could have stopped this.” She let her fingertips trace over a scrape on his cheek. “I was too slow. He is lying here because…”

“Cam!” the princess interjected. “This is exhaustion talking. You are not to blame, for the attack OR for Amrothos running off to the harbor without armor.”

“If he had not been so worried about me staying out of trouble he would have had time to retrieve his armor and--“

“And nothing you could have done would have prevented Amrothos from either worrying about you or from jumping into a fray unprotected. If you had not been there, he might be lying in state instead of here in this bed, recovering. The Corsairs were given specific orders to assassinate my father and brothers. They would have gone after him regardless. Erchirion says you saved his life!”

“I just cannot stand this,” Cam’s voice broke and the tears fell, “He is never this quiet.”

Anhuil wrapped her arms around her friend and held her while she cried herself out. Pulling back, the princess looked at her closely, taking her hands in her own. “You should enjoy the quiet while you can, because he most certainly will have plenty to say to you when he does wake.” Cam chuckled softly, wiping tears from her eyes. Anhuil pulled a handkerchief from her sleeve and handed it to her. “You look a mess. You should get cleaned up and get some rest. I am sure you will feel better for it in the morning.”

Cam shook her head. “I am not leaving him,” she stated matter-of-factly.

“Very well, then I shall send someone with clean clothes and some food.” The princess’ tone brooked no argument. “You will at least change out of that bloody tunic and eat something.”

A slow breath escaped Cam’s lips as she nodded in concession. “Ani?”

“Yes?”

“Why are you here?” Cam asked, eyeing her askance. “You should be with Éomer, not here playing nursemaid to me.”

“Nursemaid? I am no such thing,” Anhuil responded with a touch of indignation. “You make me sound like a dowdy old woman.” She smiled warmly, squeezing Cam’s hand. “Regardless, the men are in council, and I wanted to see Amrothos. And I needed to know if you were all right.”

“Go on, I will be fine.” Releasing her hand, the blonde motioned toward the door.

“Are you certain?” the princess asked, not convinced. “I will stay if you need me.”

Cam shooed her toward the door. “It has been a very long evening for you as well. Do not worry about me.”

“If you need me…”

“I will send for you immediately. Now go on.” Cam stood and opened the door for Anhuil. “Go find Éomer. After all of this, the two of you need to be together. Goodnight, Ani.”

“Goodnight, mellonmin,” the princess answered, closing the door softly behind her.

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

At Imrahil’s request, a guest chamber had been prepared for Éomer, and Anhuil insisted on showing him there herself. Shoving open the door, she leaned against it as he walked into the sitting room adjoining the bedchamber. A fire had been lit, clean clothing laid out on the bed. Water was already steaming in a bowl near the fireplace, with a pile of clean flannel cloths next to it.

The maid was still buzzing around the room. Only a few years older than the princess, her long dark hair was tied in a braid that fell over her shoulder as she worked. She looked up in surprise as the princess entered with the king, and curtseyed.

“I am sorry for the delay, Your Highness. I will go now.” She moved toward the door, stopping briefly to cast the princess a questioning look. Her eyes went from the king back to Anhuil, who met her gaze solidly.

“That will be all, Lilia,” Anhuil stated firmly.

“Shall I send a man to help him with the armor? I could send for your squire, Your Majesty--“

“That will not be necessary, Lilia. If he requires aid, I will help him. If you would see to preparing the bath for His Majesty, that would be of great assistance. Hannon le,” the princess said dismissively, stepping aside so that the maid could exit the room.

“The bath is done, Your Highness. It awaits His Majesty in the bedchamber.” The woman stood just outside the door, looking back at the princess. “But...the armor...if I may...you are a princess...let me send one of the boys--“

Ignoring her protests, Anhuil smiled once more and shut the door, turning to Éomer. “Lilia has made it her life’s goal to be sure I follow protocol. I fear I have been the cause of many a sleepless night for her.” She sighed, leaning on the closed door. “I suppose it may be inappropriate for me to be here, but after tonight...” she let the rest of the sentence fade with a small shake of her head, and moved toward him.

Éomer pulled her into his arms, holding her tightly. After a moment she drew back, smiling shakily up at him. “I want your arms around me without all of this between us,” she said softly, playfully smacking the breastplate of his armor, then stifled a yawn with the back of her hand.

“Ani...you are exhausted. You should sleep. I can send for one of my own men to--“

“You will do no such thing,” she snapped. “Tradition of the Mark does not forbid a woman to do such a thing, does it?”

“It does not forbid it, no...” he answered, laying the worn gloves on the table. “But it is usually done by a man’s squire--“

“Have you a squire?”

Éomer hesitated. “Well...no...not yet...” he admitted.

“And do you for some reason object to a woman removing your armor?”

“I do not object to you removing any article of my clothing,” he grinned.

Purposefully ignoring the remark, she smiled sweetly. “Then I shall do it,” she stated calmly.

“Princess, it is just not...” he stopped mid-sentence, silenced by the glare she shot him.

“If you say proper, Éomer son of Éomund...” she warned.

“I was merely going to point out that it was not exactly among the typical duties of a princess.”

“I am not a typical princess.” She reached for his sword belt.

Shaking his head, he chuckled and removed it, handing it to her. Drawing his sword from its sheath, she frowned at its condition, and laid both scabbard and blade on the table. Pulling a chair back, she motioned for him to sit as she poured a cup of wine from the bottle on the table and handed it to him.

Éomer watched as she quickly unbuckled the vambrace on his left arm, pausing to run her finger along the deep cut the dagger had made in the leather covered metal. As she pulled it off, a small piece of cloth tumbled to the table. He reached for it, but she was quicker, picking up the small scrap and unfolding it. The familiar delicate blue flowers were somewhat dingy, but she recognized it immediately and looked up, a faint smile crossing her lips.

Their eyes met, and he returned her smile. Laying the handkerchief carefully aside, she continued the task of removing the vambraces and laid them aside on the floor. Éomer set the cup down and unbuckled the greaves that covered his boots, adding them to the pile. Anhuil busily worked the straps that held the heavy pauldrons in place, slipping them from his shoulders.

“Have you done this before?” he teased as she laid them aside.

The princess didn’t look up as her fingers maneuvered fastenings of the cuirass. “I have three brothers and a father who are warriors, Éomer. I am not altogether unfamiliar with armor.”

“It would not surprise me if you had your own,” he remarked dryly.

“Ada allowed my brothers to teach me how to fight, but he would never have allowed me to wear armor. Valar forbid, I might actually get some crazy notion and go into battle!”

“As if the absence of armor would stop you from doing so.” He chuckled as he helped her lift the heavy breast and back plates off to one side, leaning it against the wall with the other pieces.

He stood and reluctantly pulled off the mail shirt and fauld, and lastly the padded vest he wore underneath.

Anhuil gasped at the blood on the sleeve of his tunic, catching his arm to inspect it closer. “You are hurt.”

“It is nothing,” he assured her, hiding his grimace as she straightened his arm.

“Indeed.” She pushed up his sleeve, her brow furrowing. “Take off the tunic,” she ordered, moving to the bowl of steaming water.

“Ani, this is not necessary. It is only a scratch.“

Green eyes fixed on his. “Take off the tunic, Éomer.” She dropped the cloth into the water and turned to face him, small hands working the fastenings of the leather tunic.

“You are going to be one troublesome woman,” he teased.

“You are just now considering this?”

Éomer laughed as Anhuil pushed the sleeves down his shoulders. The cut was on his upper arm, where the dagger tip had penetrated the mail. Blood still seeped from it, staining the ripped sleeve, but the cut was not deep. Peeling away the rest of the tunic, she dropped it on to the pile of clothing and reached for the dampened cloth. Éomer frowned slightly as she pressed the cloth to the wound, using another to wipe the dried blood from his arm.

Her gaze traveled over his muscular frame as she tied off the bandage. “I wish I had some of Cam’s herbs to help this heal faster.” Tracing her finger over a deep bruise the size of her fist on his shoulder, she winced, looking up at him. “Are you sure you are all right?”

Drawing her to him, Éomer smiled down at her. “I do not think I have ever been more right.” His fingertips brushed her hair from her eyes, tucking it behind her ear. “But I am in dire need of that bath,” he said, indicating the door to the bedchamber.

The princess wrinkled her nose. “I will not argue that,” she laughed.

He brushed a kiss across her lips. “I will be back.”

“There should be soap and a sponge in the bucket.”

Éomer looked at her questioningly. “Sponge? What is a sponge?”

Anhuil stared blankly. Of course he had never seen a sponge. How to explain this one? “It is a sea creature. You use it to bathe.”

“Bathe with a--what?”

She shook her head, walking past him into the room. Dipping her hand in the bucket, she pulled out a brownish lump about the size of a potato and squeezed the water out of it. It popped back to its original shape, and she held it out to him. “A sponge.” Éomer cast it a dubious glance. “It is dead, Éomer.”

“I am to bathe with a dead sea creature?”

Anhuil laughed. “It is no different than using a fur or hide for clothing or bedding, Éomer.”

He eyed the thing warily, taking it from her hand, squeezing it experimentally in his fist and releasing it. “If you insist.”

She let her eyes wander over him. Clad in his leggings and boots only, his muscular arms, broad chest and handsome face streaked with dirt, sweat, and dried blood. “I love you, Éomer,” she told him gently, leaning up to kiss him. “But I do insist.”

The king laughed out loud. “Then be gone, wench, so I can get this over with.”

Anhuil cast him a mischievous look, raising one eyebrow. “Are you certain you do not require assistance with your bath?”

Éomer grinned. “Do not tempt me, woman.” He kissed her lightly as she swept toward the door.

The princess sighed. “If you insist,” she answered regretfully, earning her another devilish grin from the king. “I will wait for you in the sitting room. There are clean clothes on the bed. I borrowed them from Elphir, but he will not mind.”

She yawned again as she let the door fall shut behind her and strode back into the sitting room. Picking up the goblet he had set down, she finished it off. Selecting a book from a nearby shelf, she seated herself on a comfortable chair near the fire, curling her feet under her and opening the worn pages.

~~~~~~~~~~

“An odd thing, that sponge,” Éomer commented as he stepped into the sitting room, rubbing his still damp hair with a cloth. “It holds far more water than one would--“ he stopped abruptly, smiling to himself as he caught sight of her sleeping form curled in the chair. Kneeling beside it, he shook her gently. She did not respond, even after he called her name softly.

Removing the book from her lap, he smiled again at the title, shaking his head. A detailed account of the varying methods of shipbuilding and their merits. Only Ani could read that stuff. He set it aside, lifting her into his arms, and carried her to the big bed in the next chamber.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Sitting by the fire, Éomer leaned forward, elbows on his knees. The knock startled him, shaking him from his contemplation. He opened the door to two young boys, no more than twelve. “Begging your pardon, Your Majesty, but Lord Éothain sent us to collect your armor. I’ll be cleaning it and all, so if you will show me where it is...”

The king showed them in, helping them collect the various pieces of leather covered steel and chain mail. One of them reached for the sword on the table, and Éomer gently stopped him with a hand on his wrist. “I will take care of my own weapon, lad.”

The boy bowed. “As you wish, sire.” He picked up the helm instead and headed for the door, which the king held open for them, remembering with a slight twinge of sadness his own days of lugging armor around for Théodred. His elder cousin had insisted that Éomer learn firsthand how to care for armor and weapons, as Théoden had taught him when he was a boy. Sighing, he moved to close the door, coming face to face with Prince Imrahil, smiling warmly.

“I hope you do not mind, my friend. I saw the light under your door and assumed you were still awake.”

Éomer bowed slightly, motioning the prince inside. “Far too much to contemplate for sleep,” he answered. “Although it does not seem to hinder your daughter.”

Imrahil’s eyebrows lifted. “Lothíriel has gone to bed?”

“After a fashion,” Éomer answered. “She fell asleep here in front of the fire. I believe her complete exhaustion and a bit of wine did her in.” He indicated the closed door to the bedchamber.

“I am certain this night has been traumatic for her,” Imrahil murmured. “It pains me to think I nearly had my daughter wed to such a man.” He looked up at the king. “Éomer,” he began, raising his eyes to meet the dark ones of the king. “How did you know?”

Shaking his head, Éomer furrowed his brow. “It was mostly something Fenwick said to me in Edoras about Ani inheriting the throne. Coupled with the attempt on my life...and the report from your messenger that Fenwick had recommended moving troops south...it sounded suspicious.“

“My messenger?” the prince queried.

“The messenger you sent with the invitation to the wedding.”

“Éomer...the messenger I sent returned from Edoras with news that you were afield with your men and he had been unable to find you.”

The king stared at the prince. “But that is impossible. He arrived in my camp shortly after the attempt on my life, poor lad. We nearly took him for another assassin, until he gave me the missive. He said he was under instruction to deliver it to me personally. A rolled parchment, sealed with blue wax imprinted with the swan ship.”

“Where is this parchment?”

“I burned it,” the king answered sheepishly, much to the amusement of the prince.

“That is my seal but I did not send it,” Imrahil informed him. The men exchanged puzzled glances.

Éomer shrugged. “In any case, it was purely speculation for my part. But I felt it necessary to warn you that Fenwick had allegedly hired an assassin to kill me. And by the time we arrived in Dol Amroth, the battle had begun.”

Imrahil grinned. “The impeccable timing of the Rohirrim Cavalry.”

“Ah, impeccable we would have been had we prevented the attack.”

The prince chuckled again. “Nonetheless, I am most grateful for your aid, Éomer. I fear we may not have held them long had it not been for the arrival of you and your men.”

“I owe you, Imrahil, for your valor at Pelennor. You saved not only my life but the life of my sister. For that I am forever in your debt.” He leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. “And you might not have been so grateful if I had thrown your daughter over my horse and carried her off to Rohan.”

Rising from his chair, the prince pondered this as he moved to the table and poured two cups of wine, handing one to the king and reseating himself. “You would have kidnapped my daughter to prevent her from marrying Mardil Fenwick?” he asked, one eyebrow raised.

Éomer sipped the wine before answering. “I would have done whatever was necessary to keep her from pledging her life to a man who not only did not love her but held no regard for her whatsoever.”

Imrahil studied the young king across from him. “You truly love her,” he said, more a statement than a question.

“I told her I would die for her and I meant exactly that. She is my heart, Imrahil. I would not willingly spend another day without her. I wish to marry her as soon as possible.”

“The courts expect a certain amount of protocol, my friend...”

“Would the courts prefer I simply carry her back to Rohan and marry her there? If necessary, I will do exactly that, though I would truly prefer to marry her with your blessing, Imrahil,” the king told him, only half-joking.

Grey eyes sparkled in the firelight. “Then you shall have it. My courts will simply have to adjust.” Imrahil tipped up his cup, then stared down into the contents. “I am certain Ani will want to wait until Amrothos is on his feet again, and there is the matter of repairing damage...”

“My men and I are at your disposal as long as necessary. I will send word for Gamling to handle matters in the Mark for the time being.” Dark brown eyes met the prince’s soft grey ones steadily. “I will not leave here without her, Imrahil.”

“I do not think she would let you, friend,” the prince chuckled. “We will see to arranging the marriage as soon as we recover from this battle. No more than a fortnight’s time, I would wager.”

Éomer smiled broadly. Imrahil set the empty cup aside, slanting a glance at the king. “Are you certain you know what you are in for, marrying her?”

“Does any man ever truly know what he is getting into when he speaks his vows?” Éomer responded with a grin.

Imrahil rose to his feet with a laugh. Clasping the younger man’s wrist, he grinned. “I will be proud to have you as a son, Éomer.”

“Not nearly as proud as I will be to have your daughter for my wife,” Éomer answered, standing and casting a glance toward the door. “Speaking of your daughter, I should sleep elsewhere. I do not wish to disturb her and I know tongues will wag if I share this chamber with her.”

“It is not necessary, Éomer. Personally, I will sleep better myself knowing she is here with you than to think of her alone in her own chambers.”

The king’s eyes widened in surprise. “I assure you I will remain out here, and --“

Imrahil waved dismissively, interrupting. “The court has far too much to be concerned with tonight to fret over where the princess sleeps. I shall leave instruction that no one is to disturb you.”

“And I thought the whole lot of you were obsessed with propriety,” Éomer joked. “I see now where Erchirion gets his roguishness.”

Imrahil’s eyes narrowed playfully, his finger pointed at the king. “You behave like my second son and I will have you strung up at sunrise, king or no.”

Éomer laughed. “You have my word, Prince Imrahil,” he promised, raising both hands innocently.

With a satisfied nod, the prince opened the door. “Tomorrow morning we will hold council again after breakfast. I will see that your men are taken care of as well.”

“Thank you, Imrahil. Your hospitality is much appreciated.”

“As was your aid, friend. I bid you good night.” He let the door fall shut as the king moved back toward the table to refill his cup. Walking softly to the door of the bedchamber, he listened for a moment before pushing it open slowly.

He could see her in the dim light from the fire, lying on her back, her head turned to one side on the pillow. Dark curls spread across the linen, one hand resting on top of the coverlet. Smiling to himself, he sat back in the chair near the fire and watched her sleep, sipping his wine.

~~~~~~~~

“No!”

Her sharp cry woke him with a start, the remainder of his cup of wine spilling from his lap to the rug as he leapt from the chair. “Éomer!”

He reached the bedside at the same time she sat bolt upright, her hands covering her face. “No!” she called again, her shoulders shaking as he sat beside her and pulled her into his arms.

“Ani...it is ok...”

Her eyes flew open in shock, and she pushed back to look up at him. “Éomer...”

“I am here,” he said softly, laying one hand on her bruised cheek and kissing her lightly.

“Oh, gods, Éomer. I thought...” She slid her arms around his neck, pulling him against her.

His arms went around her, holding her tightly. “It was a dream, Ani. I am here.”

“Fenwick...” she murmured into his shoulder.

“Is gone,” he assured her, holding her until he felt her grip relax. “Lie down. Go back to sleep.” He leaned her back to her pillow and tried to lay her down, but she would not relinquish her hold on him.

“Please do not go,” she pled softly.

Her soft, cajoling voice melted whatever resolve he had. Lying down beside her atop the covers, he wrapped his arms around her as she snuggled against his chest, her head tucked under his chin.

“I love you, Éomer,” she whispered.

He ran his fingers through the dark curls that fell over his arm. “I love you, Ani,” he answered, closing his eyes.

~~~~~~~~~~
The Palace of the Prince
1 Narwain, 3020, T.A.
~~~~~~~~~~

Anhuil slipped quietly into her brother’s room. He still slept, but his pallor had improved. Cam glanced up from the book she was reading and motioned for the princess to enter.

“I do not understand, Ani!” the blonde began before the door closed. “What did I miss?” She clutched Fenwick’s journal tightly in her hand. “He wrote down everything. I keep looking and I cannot find anything about the attack. It does not make sense!”

Anhuil took the journal from her friend and knelt before her. “He probably did not want to take the chance,” she reasoned.

“He documented everything else. Why would he not put it here?” Cam pulled the book back and began flipping through the pages.

“Cam, stop.” The princess looked at her closely, seeing the tightness around her lips, as well as the dark circles that shadowed her blue eyes. Retrieving the book yet again, Anhuil placed it on the floor and grasped her shoulders. “You have to stop this. I know you worry for Amrothos, but he will be all right. Elessar himself said so. I will not allow you to torment yourself over this.”

“I should have…”

“You should have what? Read Fenwick’s mind? Seen signs in the stars? Cast tea leaves and predicted that we would be attacked?” She sighed, trying a different tact. “Cam, please. You have not slept and you have barely eaten anything. You will make yourself ill if you keep this up.”

“I know,” Cam replied softly. “I just wish I could have done something.”

Anhuil smiled. “You did. You saved his life. And you saved mine, Cam.”

The blonde raised her eyes to meet Anhuil’s. “I do not understand.”

“Were it not for you, and the mad chances you took to garner this information,” the princess said as she picked up the book from the floor,” we would never have known what Fenwick was up to. You risked your life to help me be with the man I love. That is no small sacrifice.”

“You would have done the same for me, Ani, and you know it.”

“Without doubt. But that does not in any way diminish what you did for me.” The princess rose, clutching the leather bound journal and turned toward the door. “I know I am wasting my breath, but, get some sleep. It will not do for him to awake only to find you on the sickbed next to him.”

“Do you think he would truly be opposed to that?” Cam asked with a quirk of her eyebrow.

Anhuil laughed and opened the door. “You may have a point.” She swept from the room, taking the journal with her.

~~~~~~~~~
1 Narwain, 3020 T.A.
~~~~~~~~~

Imrahil sat behind the desk, his forehead resting on his fingertips, listening to the reports from his eldest son. “No sign of Fenwick’s body, or that no-good Neville?”

Elphir shook his head. “No. Erchirion is out again with his men, scouring for stragglers.”

The prince leaned back in his chair. “That valet is probably leagues from here by now, especially if he managed to get out on one of the ships.”

“That could be,” Elphir agreed. “I do not think he would dare show his face here now.”

“Most likely not.” The prince sat quietly for a moment, pondering the situation. He looked up at his eldest son, smiling. “We need to assess the damage at the harbor. I think it bore the brunt of the attack.”

The younger prince stood, bowing politely to his father. “I will see to it, Ada.” He headed for the door.

“Elphir,” Imrahil called after him. His son turned back with a questioning look. “I understand that Lord Celoril and his daughter Celeria are among our guests. See to it that they are comfortable, if you will.”

Elphir’s mouth dropped open as he remembered the pretty young woman Éomer had introduced him to in Minas Tirith, and he snapped it shut quickly. Smiling broadly at his father he nodded. “I will see to it personally, before I head to the harbor.” He stepped quickly out of the room.

“Good boy,” Imrahil said softly as the door shut. “Now if I could just find a woman to tame Erchirion....”

~~~~~~~~~~
2 Narwain, 3020 T.A.
~~~~~~~~~~

Cam shifted uncomfortably in the wooden chair next to Amrothos' bed. She had lost track of how many hours spent watching him. With a heavy sigh, she stood, the chair creaking softly. The prince still lay sleeping, his breathing deep and even. Moving aimlessly about the room, she mentally went over the attack, still not convinced that she hadn't missed something.

"I hope that pensive look upon your face is not an indication of my condition."

The blonde spun around at the sound of his voice. Sleepy emerald eyes gazed up at her. Relief flooding her, she rushed to his side, restraining herself at the last possible moment from throwing herself into his arms. Sitting on the edge of the bed next to him, she reached out to gently caress his face, her blue eyes sparkling. "It is about time you awoke," she chided him.

"Had I realized the reaction I would receive, I would have awoken sooner." He captured her hand with his, and gently pressed his lips to her palm. "Is this how you will greet me every time I open my eyes once we are married?”

Her eyes widened in surprise and she quickly schooled her expression to neutral. "And who decided we were to be married? I do not recall you asking,” she teased.

“Cam, I lo-“

“Ah!” She raised a hand to stop him. “I told you, you may tell me that when you can stand on your own feet. And not until.”

“Duly noted, my lady,” he answered with a chuckle, wincing slightly at the pain in his side.

Cam frowned at his obvious discomfort, changing the subject quickly. “Éomer is here,” she informed him.

“Éomer?” Cam nodded. “I thought I remembered hearing the horns, but it was all such a blur...what happened?”

The blonde patiently recounted the previous night’s events, what she could remember and what she had pieced together from her conversation with Ani. Amrothos was as shocked as she to discover the depth of Fenwick’s treachery, and to hear of his death.

“So I suppose there will be a wedding after all,” the prince surmised.

“Your sister is determined that you be up and about before she will even consider it,” Cam informed him. “And Éomer insists on you standing with him. He will have it no other way.”

“Then I should have a word with the management around here regarding their care of patients.” Amrothos flashed Cam a teasing grin. “Because this one is starving.”

“Duly noted, my lord,” she retorted, throwing his own words back at him.

Amrothos laughed, pressing a hand over his wound. His expression softened as he reached up and caressed her cheek. “Thank you, Camwethrin. If it were not for you...”

“Do not even say it, Amrothos.” She laid her hand over his, holding it to her face.

“I should have your hide for following me,” he told her. “You always were about as compliant as the surf.”

“Do not trouble yourself. I have been summoned to your father’s office. I am sure the tongue lashing is coming, for Ani and me both.” She pulled his hand to her lips and kissed his fingers.

Amrothos blew out his breath slowly. “I do not envy either of you,” he muttered. “Not one bit.”

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

Imrahil took in the sight of the two young women in his office, glancing from one to the other. Cam stood beside the princess, reaching over to hold her hand.

“Ladies?” The prince shook his head. “Merric wanted to be here to speak with the two of you as well, but he is down at the harbor assessing the damage.” His gaze traveled between the two women as he paused. Anhuil always hated it when he did that.

He cleared his throat. “I always knew the two of you had a penchant for finding mischief, but I never would have suspected you to be so foolish as to toy with the Corsairs of Umbar. Do you realize how dangerous these men are?”

“Ada, all we did was--“ Anhuil began.

“All you did was falsify information in official documents and keep secret a known traitor!” His sharp voice made them both jump. Anhuil squeezed Cam’s hand tightly as Imrahil lowered his voice. “Why did you not tell me? If you suspected he was engaging in treason, why did you not simply tell me?”

Anhuil met her father’s gaze steadily. “Would you have believed me, Ada? Or would you simply have thought I was trying to get out of marrying him?” the princess countered softly. “I wanted to make sure I had something solid before I came to you. I was trying to think of what was best for Dol Amroth. That is what you have always taught me.”

Imrahil nodded, then turned his attention to Cam. “And you,” he started, “are as bold and brazen as your father. Sneaking off to follow him alone. What if he had caught you? What if the Corsairs had caught you? Do you have any idea what these men do to women they capture?”

Cam met his gaze. “I know exactly what they do,” she answered quietly.

“Yet you were willing to risk it,” the prince noted. The blonde nodded. Imrahil shook his head again, leaning back against his desk. “I have never in my life seen anything that rivals the two of you,” he lamented.

“I am sorry, Ada,” the princess offered, her voice soft with repentance. “We had no idea it would come to this.”

The prince looked up at the two young women, one tall and blonde, the other petite and dark, both standing with shoulders squared and chins held high. He smiled.

“I never in my life seen anything that rivals the two of you,” he repeated, “considering the courage you have shown. You have proven yourselves far better judges of character than I seem to be.” His gaze met his daughter’s. “I have spoken with Éomer and given him my blessing to marry you.”

Anhuil’s grin widened. “Thank you, Ada.” Cam clenched her hand so tightly her fingers were numb.

“And you,” he said, his soft grey eyes falling on the blonde, “go easy on my youngest son.”

Cam’s cheeks colored. “Yes, my lord,” she answered sheepishly, as the prince hugged them both to him.

~~~~~~~~~
6 Narwain, 3020 T.A.
~~~~~~~~~

The young man lay back on the small cot in the infirmary, eyes closed in repose. Elessar himself had attended him at the request of the princess, and several days rest had done wonders for the soldier who at first was believed a lost cause. A young maid leaned over him, gently touching his shoulder. “My lord,” she said softly, as he opened his eyes, “you have a visitor.” She helped him adjust his pillow into a semi-sitting position, then ducked aside.

“A visitor?” he whispered curiously. “Who would be--“ he stopped mid-sentence at the sight of the princess, standing at the foot of his bed, smiling down at him.

“Your Highness,” he said, the shock evident in his voice as he tried to raise himself up to bow.

“Stop it, Caerwyn, before you undo everything these ladies have done to save you,” she chided. “Lie back. You need not feign courtesy now. You certainly never did when sparring, giving no quarter whatsoever with no regard for my poor swordsmanship.”

“Aye,” he agreed, “but you showed no mercy in archery, either, if I recall.” He chuckled. “To what do I owe this honor, Princess Lothíriel?” he asked, lying back down. “Or did you come here simply to taunt me?”

“As much fun as taunting you is, Caerwyn, I do have a purpose for this visit. I wish personally to thank you.” She moved to the side of the bed, pulling a sheathed sword from behind her. “This belongs to you.”

Caerwyn eyed the weapon, recognizing the hilt immediately as his own, but the weapon was now sheathed in the dark blue leather and mithril scabbard carried only by the prince’s personal guard. “The sword is mine, but...”

“The scabbard is yours too,” she informed him. “A gift from my father, should you choose to accept. He said he can think of none he would trust more than a man willing to give up his only means of defense for another.”

“The Legion of the Silver Swan?” The princess nodded, smiling as the young soldier’s eyes widened at the thought of the honor being bestowed upon him. Cautiously he reached for the sword that lay across her outstretched palms, taking it from her and running his finger over the intricate silver design embossed in the dark blue leather, the mithril scrolling worked at the top and point of the sheath. A slow smile spread across his face as he looked back up at her, the pale grey eyes of a Dol Amrothian soldier meeting hers solidly. “Tell your father I am honored to accept this distinction.”

“Tell him yourself.” Anhuil stood from the bedside and stepped back as her father approached. Caerwyn again tried to bow, wincing at the pain of his wound as he did.

“No need,” Imrahil said quietly, placing a hand on his shoulder.

Without raising his eyes, the young soldier offered the sword to the Prince. “Your Highness, I am honored. I offer this sword in service to you.”

Imrahil accepted the blade and turned it in his hand so that the hilt faced the young man. Caerwyn’s hand closed over the black polished pommel as he raised his gaze to the prince. “I accept your service, Sir Caerwyn,” Imrahil answered. “I will be honored to have you by my side. Rest, now. There is much to be done when you are fully recovered.” The prince rose to his feet, and with a slight nod, excused himself.

Caerwyn looked up at the princess. “I do not know what to say,” he finally stammered.

“Then say nothing. Rest. I want you on your feet for my wedding,” she answered with a grin.

“As you wish, Your Highness,” he responded, leaning the sword against the side of the bed and laying back.

“I will see you soon, my friend.” With a last glance at the young soldier, Anhuil followed her father from the room.

~~~~~~~~~~~
9 Narwain, 3020 T.A.
~~~~~~~~~~~

Éomer stood on the balcony of the chambers assigned to him, watching the moonlight play on the water. A hand on his shoulder startled him from his thoughts. He jumped and turned around, rolling his eyes at the tall, slim blonde standing behind him.

“Bless Béma, Éomer. You certainly are jumpy. Do your pending vows have you so nervous?”

The king smiled at his sister. “Not my vows, no. The pending part I could do without. I would happily marry Ani tonight. What are you doing up so late?”

She indicated the small tray she had brought with her, now resting on a table near the fireplace. A steaming pot and two cups sat upon it, along with a flask. “I thought you might like some tea.”

Éomer’s grin widened. “That I would,” he agreed, moving to sit in one of the chairs near the hearth as she poured the tea and added a generous dose from the flask.

Handing him a cup, she sat down across from him, smiling expectantly.

“What?” he asked, sipping from the cup.

Éowyn sighed. “I hate to say I told you so...”

“Then do not,” he answered.

“And resist the opportunity to prove to my oh, so cynical elder brother that love can and does win out in the end? I am sorry, but I will have my moment of revelry, thank you.” She grinned at him over the rim of her cup.

“In this instance, I have no qualms when it comes to admitting you were right.”

“I knew you would come.”

“Did you?”

She nodded. “I told Faramir that you would not sit idly by and watch the only woman you have ever loved marry another man. I was waiting for you to come marching into that hall and throw her over your shoulder, but the cavalry was a nice touch.”

The king raised his eyebrows. “You think?”

Éowyn nodded again. “Most certainly. Riding through the gates with the horns sounding...it was quite a showing.”

The king laughed. “Exactly as I planned it, you know,” he teased.

“Of course. I would expect no less.” The White Lady laughed, leaning forward in her seat.

His expression darkened slightly. “Éowyn...do you think she will be happy? So far from her family? She loves her brothers so dearly. I feel as if I am tearing her away from all that she loves.”

“She loves you. Why would you doubt?”

“Are you happy in Ithilien?”

“Deliriously.” He cast her a questioning look. “I do miss you, and the Mark...but Faramir is my heart, Éomer. He is part of me. I could only truly be happy wherever he is. You understand that, do you not?”

“Perfectly. I only hope Ani feels the same.”

Éowyn nodded. “She loves you, brother. She will be a good queen. Our people will love her because you love her.”

“You will come, then, for the ceremony? To the Mark?”

Smiling broadly, Éowyn reached for his hand. “I dare not miss it.”

~~~~~~~~
The Beach of Dol Amroth
10 Narwain, 3020 T.A.
~~~~~~~~

Anhuíl rode Olórin out onto the beach in the fading daylight. Spurring her horse as fast as she could, the wind whipping her hair behind her, she grinned down at the wolf running beside her. Sand kicked up behind the stallion’s hooves, water splashing on her bare legs as he tramped through the surf, but she took no notice.

She had never intended things to become the chaos they had. Her betrothal had been a disaster, her efforts to do what was best for her people almost becoming a catastrophe. And in the process she had almost lost the man she truly loved.

The sudden feeling of freedom was almost overwhelming, and she wanted to relish every moment of it.

She reined in suddenly, her gaze stretching out over the waves. Leaping from the horse, the princess walked him down the beach, contemplating this huge cosmic joke that the Valar seemed to enjoy calling her life.

The dress she wore fluttered in the breeze, one shoulder sliding down. Impatiently she yanked it up, her thoughts immediately going to that night he had done the same thing, warm fingers grazing over her skin…the night he first kissed her.

The King of Rohan. Lord of the Mark…Éomer. He had said he would die for her.

Releasing the reins to let the stallion wander free on the beach, she plopped down in the damp sand, digging with her fingers. She dug a small hole, watching the water fill it up. Like my life, she thought. Dig and dig and dig, and the faster you dig, the faster the water fills up the holes and the sides cave in.

Sighing, she began picking up small handfuls of dripping sand, piling them to make cone-shaped towers. Mindless activity, dripping bits of wet sand, forming little peaks, adding more and more until they collapse.

She had no idea how long she had been there, relishing a simple childhood activity. The tide had moved in, waves moving ever closer to the small fortress she had built of sand. The sun began to sink beyond the cliffs, and Elenion settled near the dunes to keep watch.

Éomer observed her from a distance as she sat on the beach, digging in the sand with her fingers. The white dress she wore was a stark contrast to her dark skin, and the evening breeze lifted the tousled dark curls.

Slowly he walked up behind her. She was completely entranced by her activity, absent-mindedly adding sand to the little cone structures. He smiled, remembering what she had told him of spending hours on the beach when she was a child, making what she had called "drip castles”.

"So this is a castle made of sand?” he asked, stepping up behind her. “I would never have believed it, had I not seen it with my own eyes. Although,” he eyed the creation skeptically, squatting next to her in the sand, ”it does not appear to be very sound. It would not take much of an army to topple those towers. Where are the ramparts?”

At the sound of his voice she turned, smiling back at him. “Typical,” she answered curtly. “Men...always thinking with their swords...”

Éomer grinned at her. He was dressed in a pair of dark trousers and a tunic, his blonde hair was unbraided, blowing loosely in the light offshore wind, and barefoot. She laughed, rising from the sand as he stood.

"Your brothers advised removing my boots before walking on the beach,” he told her, looking down at his feet in the sand. “Something about sand between your toes, but I am wondering why this is a good thing."

Anhuil propped a sandy fist on the curve of one hip, gesturing toward the palace on the hilltop with her other hand. "You came all the way down here just to see what sand between your toes feels like?"

His roguish grin returned. "I am much more interested in what you feel like between the furs of my bed."

"Such inappropriate talk for a king," she chided, brushing the sand from her dress and hands.

“Ah, there you go, worrying about propriety again.” Éomer stepped toward her, pulling her into his arms.

"I have sand all over me," she warned him, holding up her hands to show him.

"You will have me all over you if you do not kiss me now."

"Looks like that shall happen regardless," she quipped.

"Ani," he said, smiling down at her, "you were right about the castles and the sand in my toes, and I believe you mentioned something about the taste of the sea on your lips. Since I came all this way, I would like to experience that, too.” He lowered his lips to hers in a gentle kiss, his tongue gently outlining her bottom lip. Sandy fingers gripped the sleeves of his tunic as he slanted his mouth against hers, his hands splayed across her back.

“Hmm, you are right about that as well,” Éomer said at last, drawing back from her slightly, licking his lips. “The taste is most pleasant, although I think kissing you is pleasant under any circumstance. I think I would like to try that again, for good measure.” Once again, his lips claimed hers. Anhuil dug her fingers into his hair. She pulled back suddenly.

“Oh, I am sorry …” she started to brush her hands off again.

He took her hands in his, heedless of the sand on them. “If you think for one moment I would allow something like a little sand to hinder me then clearly you have not paid much attention these last months.”

Anhuil laughed. “At least you decided to gain my father’s approval instead of carting me off.”

Éomer shrugged. “I told him either he allowed me to marry you here, or I would throw you over my horse and ride off into the sunset.”

“You did not,” she scoffed, cuffing him lightly on the arm.

“I most certainly did,” he answered, indignant. “And I will. So unless you wish to leave your fair city in a most undignified manner, I suggest you agree.”

“How could I say no to such a romantic proposal?” she queried.

Éomer lifted her to him, sand and all, his lips capturing hers in a sweet kiss before smiling down at her. “You cannot,” he teased. “I have come too far and you will marry me, one way or another.” The princess chuckled, standing on her toes to kiss him lightly again.

The king grabbed the reins of the stallion as he wandered past, leading him behind them as they turned to walk. Anhuil snuggled close to Éomer as they walked along the beach, talking softly. The fading sun gave way to a shimmering full moon, rising slowly over the water. Halting her steps, she stared out over the water. He followed her gaze, dropping the reins to slide his arms around her from behind, his chin resting on her head. Anhuil leaned back into his embrace.

“You are also right about the way the moonlight hits the water. Almost as if you could walk on it, a path of broken stones made of light.”

She laughed softly. “I have often thought that very thing myself.” Pausing momentarily, she turned in the circle of his arms to face him. “Éomer...may I ask you something?”

“Of course,” he answered.

“Why did you try to save him?”

The king hesitated, weighing his answer carefully. “I wanted him to pay for his wrongs. I wanted him to answer for his betrayal. To hasten his death would have been to show far more mercy than he deserved.” He smiled mischievously. “And partially, it was vainglory.”

“How so?” she queried.

“I will not deny there is a small part of me that wanted him to live long enough to see the princess he so insistently claimed as his own married to me.”

Anhuil smacked his arm playfully. “You are as prideful as one of your stallions. You think I am a prize to be paraded about?”

“Absolutely,” he told her, pulling her against him again.

The princess laughed softly, leaning into Éomer’s embrace. She sighed audibly, toying with the laces of his tunic. “But in the end, it was Fenwick’s own treachery that cost him his life.”

“Can you think of a more fitting end for one who cost the lives of so many innocent people?” The princess was slightly startled as he drew Fenwick’s blade from his belt and stuck the sword upright in the deep, soft sand. Anhuil stared at the slender sword that had been held to her throat, swallowing involuntarily at the memory.

“Mardil’s sword?” He nodded. She shook her head slowly in disbelief. “It is almost too much to comprehend, Éomer.”

He took a step toward her, reaching to pull her into his embrace. “Then understand this, Princess Lothíriel of Dol Amroth. I love you. I will marry you. As soon as possible I will once again seat you in front of me on my horse, and we will go home, to our home. And I will keep every single promise I ever made to you.”

She raised an eyebrow, remembering some of the rather cheeky promises he had made. “Every promise?”

“Every.” He kissed her forehead. “Single.” He kissed the tip of her nose. One,” he finished, his lips meeting hers.

Éomer pulled back, his eyes falling on Fenwick’s sword still upright in the sand. Grasping the hilt, he pulled it free, flinging it as far has he could, a small splash erupting as it sank into the dark water. Turning back to the princess, he smiled, and claimed her lips again.

“As much as I hate to interrupt,” she interjected between kisses, “I do have a wedding to plan. Perhaps we should get some rest.”

“Perhaps so, because I would not plan on sleeping much once we are married, Princess,” he teased. She cuffed him lightly on the shoulder and turned toward the palace, grasping Olórin’s reins.

With a grin and a huge sigh, the king followed after her.

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

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Chapter Thirty-three
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20 Jun 2004
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20 Jun 2004
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