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Trust To Hope

Chapter 6: Chapter Five

by Novedhelion

Trust to Hope - Chapter Five

Beta…Riya - You so rock.
Thanks to Zee…as always…
All previous disclaimers still apply. See prologue for details.
Rating: PG13
Warnings: Arrogant masculinity abounding…Sarcasm and threats of bondage…
No horses were actually kicked in the writing of this chapter…

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Part Five
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If you wanna touch her…
Really wanna touch her…
If you wanna touch her....ask!

If You Wanna Touch Her - Shania Twain
********************************

Rohan
23 Nínui, 3019 T.A.
***********************

Anhuil sat up on the small cot, deciding morning came much too early in this Valar forsaken country. Digging through her bag, she pulled out a small comb and attempted to disentangle her short curls. It was a rather hopeless effort. She splashed some cold water from the basin onto her face, hoping the cold would clear the fog from her brain. Another day of riding with the marshal did not particularly appeal to her. Briefly, she wished she had a mirror, then wondered why it mattered to her what she looked like.

With the morning mist still swirling about the camp, Anhuil donned her cloak and gathered her weapons. Making her way between the tents, she steeled herself for the day’s ride. The thought of spending another day, another hour, another minute in his arms was unnerving. Her elbow was sore from the previous day’s workout. What was it about him she found so disquieting?

Éomer saddled the horse, mentally preparing himself. How could one small woman disrupt his existence so much in so little time? Was it really only two nights ago she had dropped, unconscious, into his life? And why the heck did it matter to him what color her eyes were?

He turned to see her behind him. She stood, one hand on the curve of her hip and the other holding her bow, watching him idly. Anhuil had strapped the dagger back to her belt and her quiver was slung on her back. Elenion trailed behind her, wagging his tail. The men had taken the news of the wolf better than he had expected. She reached down and casually ruffled the scruffy fur as the wolf strode past.

“I wish to ride alone today,” she announced, with the tone of one who expected to be obeyed. It was not a request, although she knew what the response would be. The marshal regarded her for a moment, considering her decree.

“We do not have horses to spare,” came the answer. Éomer continued cinching the saddle. “Not to mention this habit you have of wandering off.” Anhuil glowered at him. “You will have to ride with me.” He suppressed a smile at her annoyed expression. He finished with the saddle and stroked the sleek animal’s neck.

He made a sweeping gesture, offering to let her mount first. She did so resignedly, hooking the bow and quiver to the saddle pommel in front of her. Éomer leapt astride behind her.

“Do not ask me if I am comfortable,” she quipped icily.

He laughed out loud, scoring yet another sharp jab.

Deciding polite conversation might be the better route to take, the marshal spoke much more openly today. He talked of the history of his people, how Éorl the Young had brought them from the North to establish the kingdom of Rohan after the Battle at Celebrant. The Éothed had ridden to the aid of Gondor, in effect saving the Kingdom from defeat. In reward for their deed, the Steward Círion had gifted Éorl with the land called Calenardhon, now called by the Sindarin name, Rohan.

Anhuil was familiar with the history of the Rohirrim but said nothing. She actually enjoyed listening to him tell it, finding it far more interesting than the books in the library of Minas Tirith. The pride in his voice was evident as he spoke of their mastery of horses, and of their people, tall, proud men and beautiful, flaxen haired women.

And just how many of those ‘flaxen haired beauties’ have you bedded, she wondered silently. And again, she wondered why she cared.

Anhuil listened with much more interest than she showed as Éomer continued on, explaining that the Eastfold of the Mark was his charge. He had been forced to move the herds and villagers beyond the Entwash for protection when the Orcs began invading their lands. They had ambushed the king’s son, in a battle at the Fords of Isen, wounding him seriously. Éomer did not know if he still lived. His voice became bitter as he talked of Saruman the White and his suspicions about the king’s advisor, Gríma Wormtongue.

Their conversation remained light, mostly consisting of Éomer talking and the princess listening. Anhuil was polite but careful not to divulge much about her own life. The marshal was vexed by her reticence. She was clearly educated and well spoken, in at least two languages, and had serious issues with lack of propriety. There was something he could not put his finger on that bothered him.

“You still have not told me why you are traveling in my country alone,” he remarked casually.

“The fact that you are forcing me to travel with you does not entitle you to know everything about me, Marshal,” she answered dryly.

“Everything?” Éomer laughed. “I know nothing about you, my lady, except your name, and that you spend hours at night writing in that journal of yours.”

“What else is necessary?” she inquired, her stomach knotting slightly.

“What have you to hide?” he inquired sarcastically.

“What makes you think I hide anything? Just because I do not wish to share every detail of my life with someone who is a complete stranger…” she reasoned, shifting her weight slightly in the saddle.

Éomer wished she wouldn’t do that. He leaned forward when he spoke, his lips close to her ear. “Surely you do not still perceive me a stranger?” He felt her shudder, clenching his teeth as she shifted her weight again. He cringed at his most inappropriate, if involuntary, response.

He lowered the hands that held the reins, casually resting his forearms lightly against her thighs. She stiffened immediately, sitting up straight and squaring her shoulders.

Anhuil was becoming annoyed. One moment they were engaged in polite conversation, the next he was purposefully trying to rile her. He was certainly NOT behaving like a gentleman, and she had tried reminding him of that often with her elbow. Whispering in her ear was bad enough, but now the rogue was actually touching her. Even were she not a princess, his behavior toward her was deplorable. She was no tavern wench to be manhandled at his will. And the warm pressure on her thighs sent a tingling sensation through her that she was not entirely comfortable with.

Flipping her hair back, she stiffened. “Please do not do that,” she requested, impatiently polite.

“Do not do what?” Éomer feigned innocence, leaning down once more. His words were warm against her skin, chilled from the cool breeze; his beard tickled her cheek. What was it about this man that made it so incredibly difficult for her to breathe?

When courtesy failed to get the desired result, she resorted to kicking him in the shin with her heel. She immediately realized the fallacy of that act as Firefoot snorted and reared up, charging through the ranks and bolting ahead. Éomer fought to control the animal, pulling back on the reins. The horse sped down an embankment toward the river. Clutching the saddle with both hands, she held on as the animal clambered down the riverbank. Clouds of dust swirled as the hooves pounded the soft ground. The marshal skillfully regained control over his mount, slowing him to a walk, speaking to him soothingly in a soft voice.

Anhuil felt as if her chest was being crushed. Why couldn’t she breathe? She realized with shock he had one arm around her, gripping her tightly against him. “Let me go!” She slapped at his hand, writhing, trying to free herself. “Let go!!”

Éomer unconsciously maintained his hold on her, willing his heartbeat to slow to a more normal pace. He had just saved the silly chit from being thrown and possibly killed, and now she was slapping at him. He loosened his grip. She wriggled from his grasp and slid to the ground, backing away. She squatted down to the ground, face buried in her hands.

“Anhuil, are you all right?” he asked, dismounting and walking toward her. “Are you hurt?”

Anhuil did not look up. “Yes. No. Just go away. Leave me alone.” She pressed the heels of her hands against her head, her pulse pounding in her ears.

“Leave you alone?!” He was incredulous. For the love of Béma, he would never understand women. She had just kicked his horse, almost killed both of them, and she and the nerve to be angry with him? “Believe me, woman, if I could leave you right here, I would. You nearly killed both of us. If you had not kicked my horse--“

She leapt to her feet. “I did not kick your horse. I kicked YOU!” she shouted. “Your horse has been a perfect gentleman. You, however, have been behaving like a churlish cad!” Anhuil’s eyes flashed with anger.

Incensed, Éomer lowered his voice, speaking through clenched teeth. “You spooked my horse and we are both lucky to be alive!”

Anhuil drew herself up to her full height, all five feet of it, and strode directly at him, hands on her hips. “Your behavior has been entirely inappropriate! You have been deliberately annoying me-“

The marshal glared at her. “Annoying you? Woman, you have been a thorn in my side since—“

“YOU are the one insisting I travel with you! If I am such unpleasant company, why do you not just LEAVE ME ALONE?!” Anhuil had stepped directly in front of him, and punctuated the last three words by shoving him back, both hands on the breastplate of his armor.

Éomer stared at her, this small person pushing him in the chest. The look she gave him could have melted solid rock. He had known many women, but none who had ever exasperated him as could this short, dark haired she-devil standing in front of him. She was absolutely maddening, infuriating…and strangely fascinating.

He suddenly felt as if something had sucked all of the air out of his universe. She stood there, eyes flaming, inches from him. His anger had vanished as if into thin air, abruptly replaced by an almost overwhelming desire to kiss her, right here, right now.

Anhuil glowered at the man in front of her. How dare he blame her? She leveled her emerald gaze at him. The angry fire in his eyes softened, a different kind of fire now blazing in them. The intensity with which he regarded her took her breath away. She took a step back, her eyes locked on his.

The sound of thundering hooves broke the silence that hung like a cloud in the air. Éothain approached with three other horsemen, the others remained on the embankment above. “What happened?”

Éomer’s held her gaze for a moment longer. He had let her see too much, and he knew it. He reached for the reins of his horse. “Something spooked my mount. We are fine,” he answered. His eyes caught hers again, for a brief second. She looked down, brushing imaginary dust from her trousers, muttering elvish curses under her breath.

“It is late. This is as good a place as any to make camp. We shall stop here for the night.” He removed her bow, quiver and bag from the horse’s saddle and presented them to her. He bowed his head slightly in her direction before leading his horse away.

Anhuil had never been so thankful for an interruption. She had seen far more in his eyes than he had intended, of that she was certain.

******

In the chill of the evening, she sat near a small fire under a tree, her cloak pulled tightly around her shoulders. A young soldier approached, handing her a bowl of stew. “Here you go, Miss.”

Taking the bowl, she smiled at him. “Thank you.”

He smiled. “My pleasure, my lady.”

Anhuil studied the young man. He appeared very young, less than twenty, she guessed. Like most of the Rohirrim, he was tall. Wiry, with blonde hair and strong features. His long hair was braided back, and his armor was slightly big. “You are young for a soldier.”

“I am old enough.” He seemed almost insulted, standing tall.

“What is your name?”

“Handarion, son of Handron, Miss,” the boy answered, bowing cordially.

Anhuil extended her hand. “A pleasure to meet you, Handarion, son of Handron.”

“Likewise,” he grinned, taking her hand and kissing her fingers lightly.

The lady was aware that her actions were being watched carefully. Éomer sat outside the light of the fire, speaking with a group of men. She had seen him periodically glancing in her direction.

“Join me, please.” Taking a bite of the stew, she motioned for him to sit. He plopped down on the grass, dropping his helmet beside him. “So, Handarion, son of Handron. Tell me about yourself.”

“Not much to tell, Miss,” Handarion answered shyly.

“Come now, a handsome young man like you must have young ladies pining away at home,” Anhuil was charmed by the young man’s bashfulness.

He smiled sheepishly. “Well, maybe one.” Anhuil looked at him expectantly. “Her name is Melian.”

“Meaning “dear gift,” the princess said softly. “I am sure she is very pretty.”

“Yes ma’am, she is,” he answered, smiling wistfully. “How did you know? The meaning, I mean.”

“I love names and their meanings,” she answered with a shrug. “Melian was one of the Ainur, married to the Elven King Thingol.”

The boy grinned. “You know alot about that sort of thing, don’t you?”

“I am a student of history and cultures, Handarion. I love learning. Everything about this world fascinates me.” She smiled, quickly changing the subject. “What of your family?”

The young man’s hesitation gave her the idea that she should not have asked. “My mother is at home with my younger sister. Father served with the king’s son. He was killed at the Fords of Isen.”

“I am sorry. I did not mean—“

“No matter. Really. That is why I am here.” He looked down. “Although my mother did not want me to go.”

“No mother ever wants her children in harm’s way.” Anhuil placed her hand on his shoulder. “I am sure she will be proud of you.”

Handarion beamed at her. “Thank you, Miss.” He paused, noticing her weapons lying nearby. “That’s a beautiful dagger,” he offered.

“Thank you.” She pulled it from its sheath, admiring the jeweled handle and Elvish script on the blade, and passed it to Handarion. “It was a gift from my eldest brother. He thought I needed a decent weapon.” She smiled at the memory. “It is a long story.”

“What does this say?” He indicated the Tengwar lettering.

The princess laughed. “Tithen maethor,” she answered with a giggle.

“What does that mean?” He turned the dagger over in his hand, testing the weight of it.

“Little Warrior. I told you, it is a long story.”

“You will have to tell me someday.” He eyed the blade for a moment. “Why a dagger instead of a sword?” Handarion wondered aloud.

“Look at me, Handarion. How many swords are made that would not drag the ground if I carried them?”

He regarded her diminutive stature, chuckling softly. “I suppose I see your point. But is it not harder to get close enough to use it?”

“Not if you throw it.” She grinned. “Ever thrown a dagger?”

“No, ma’am. My training has all been with pike, bow and sword.”

“Come on,” Anhuil stood up, grabbing the dagger. She stepped back from the tree about twenty feet, and flipped the dagger in her hand so the blade was in her palm. She weighed it in her hand, eye on the target. Raising her hand to shoulder level, she let the dagger fly. Flipping end over end, the blade buried neatly in the trunk of the tree.

Handarion walked to the tree and removed the dagger, inspecting it carefully. “Impressive. You do not cut yourself with the blade in your hand in such a way?"

"No," she answered. "The edges are not terribly sharp. A dagger is not a cutting weapon, Handarion, it is a piercing weapon. Only the tip need be sharp."

She showed him how to hold the blade, balance it and flip it from his hand. After a few tries, he hit the tree dead center. “Very well done!” Anhuil clapped him on the back.

“But what do you do at close range?” Handarion asked her.

“Draw your sword.”

“Pardon?” The young man was not sure he had heard her correctly.

“I said draw your sword,” she teased, taunting him with the dagger

The boy was hesitant. “I don’t want to hurt you,” he said as he drew the blade slowly.

“You will not.” The small woman danced around him. “Come on, attack! What are you waiting for?” She held out her left hand, palm up, curling her fingertips, beckoning him.

He swung at her halfheartedly, and she easily blocked. “Do not patronize me, young man. I know you can do better than that! Believe me, I have three older brothers. You are not going to hurt me!”

The sounds of laughter and clashing metal turned Éomer’s attention to the impromptu sparring match.

With that, Handarion lunged at her. She parried the blow. He swung again, and she spun with her dagger…

In her amusement with Handarion, she had forgotten she was being watched. Éomer had come from behind her, and as she spun, he had stepped in and blocked her dagger with his own sword. Steel clashed, weapons and eyes locked. Anhuil could see the reflection of the campfire behind her in his eyes, flames flickering in dark pools.

“Giving the lad a few pointers?” That deep, soft voice. The princess took a deep breath, clenching her dagger with both hands. Éomer was surprised at her strength.

“Why? Did you come to try your luck, Lord Éomer?” Anhuil asked sweetly, her voice dripping with sarcasm.

“I do not believe in luck, Lady Anhuil.” He answered quietly, in the same tone. “A man chooses his own destiny.”

“I see.” She stepped sideways, still holding her weapon steady. “And what destiny would you choose, Lord Éomer?”

“That remains to be seen, my lady.” He flashed her a roguish grin. She spun around and swung low with the dagger, only to be blocked again.

“What is the matter, my dear? You cannot even lift the blade to my heart,” the marshal mocked her.

“Perhaps it is not for your heart that I am aiming.” Her narrowed eyes never left his.

He raised his eyebrows in mock concern. “Perhaps I should to tie you up again?”

That annoying tunic slipped again, her curls obscuring one eye. She flipped them back with a toss of her head.

“You would enjoy that, would you not?” She flashed him a charming smile.

The marshal could not believe the little minx was teasing him! She lunged again. This time he allowed her to get closer. As she brought the dagger up toward his throat, he grasped her wrist, turning her around. His hand gripped her wrist, holding her dagger to her own throat. In one quick motion, he effectively pinned her back against his chest and sheathed his sword with his free hand. Éomer pressed his lips lightly to her ear. “As would you,” he whispered, sending chills down her spine. “I assure you.”

Fighting to maintain some semblance of composure, Anhuil swallowed hard and smiled sweetly. “Surely a gentleman such as yourself would not have to resort to such tactics.” She stressed the word ‘gentleman’ sarcastically, the slight tremor in her voice belying her confidence.

She felt his grip relax slightly, and he whirled her around to face him. Still holding her wrist, her fist clenched around the dagger, he pressed her arm behind her back, pulling her hard against him. Anhuil’s free hand pushed against his chest, and she could feel his heart pounding beneath the rough fabric of his tunic.

“Not yet,” the marshal replied softly. “But there is always a first time.”

Enough teasing. Before she could issue the remark burning on her tongue, Éomer bent down, his mouth covered hers in a demanding kiss. With her hand on his chest she tried to push away from him, but her lips refused to cooperate. His other hand went to the back of her neck, pressing her closer, deepening his possession. Her tight grasp on the dagger behind her loosened and it fell, landing blade down in the ground with a soft thud.

He released her so suddenly she almost fell backwards as she struggled to regain her footing. He flashed her a smug grin, and bent down, plucking the dagger from the soft ground. Flipping it in his palm, he flung it at the tree, the blade neatly burying itself with a muted “thunk”.

Éomer nodded to Handarion. “I believe you have duties to attend to.”

“Yes sir!” The youth bolted across the encampment.

With an exaggerated bow, he regarded Anhuil with a sardonic smile. “Goodnight, Lady Anhuil. Sleep well.” The marshal strolled casually back to his own tent.

Anhuil stood silently for a moment, touching her cut lip with the tip of her tongue. Regaining her composure, the princess tossed her hair back and straightened her tunic. Stalking to the tree, she yanked the dagger from the wood, and stomped off to her own quarters, re-sheathing it as she walked.

Sitting on the edge of her cot, she mulled over the situation. Her body was exhausted, but her mind was determined to allow her no sleep. Admittedly, she had egged him on. Why had she allowed him to kiss her? She had stopped plenty of others who attempted to breach her personal boundaries. No suitor at home would have dared be so forward. But then again, at home, she was Princess Lothíriel of Dol Amroth, daughter of Lord Imrahil. The title alone was enough to keep most men in their places.

Here, she was simply Anhuil. She giggled at the thought. No fancy title, no social constraints. She wondered what the marshal would think if he knew he had just kissed a Gondorian Princess, a thought which brought an involuntary and certainly most un-royal snicker.

The truth was, she wanted to know more about what she had seen in his eyes. She had encouraged him, even teased him, and he had called her bluff. No man had ever dared to do that to her before.

That kiss… Anhuil had been kissed before, but this had not been a trite peck such as she had received from her suitors back home. Their kisses were always polite, genteel. Boring. Passionless.

She closed her eyes and lay back, contemplating the feeling of his lips covering hers. Passion. That was what she had seen in his eyes. By the Valar, he definitely knew how to express it. He probably had women scattered all over his country, one in every small village! Flaxen haired beauties, indeed. Well, she was not about to become another notch in his sword hilt. The princess rolled over, determined to forget the feeling of his lips on hers. Pulling out her journal, she spread it out on the pillow, and began to write.

Back in his own tent, Éomer collapsed onto his cot. Reaching over to the small table, he picked up the broken arrow, fingering the feathered fletching distractedly. He ran the tip of his tongue lightly across his lower lip. He could still taste her kiss.

He usually had much better control of himself. It was slightly vexing that he had allowed her to push him so far. The little hoyden had asked for it, teasing him as she was. She didn’t exactly fight him, either. The thought of her momentary surrender made the Éomer smile. Underneath that tough, bratty, frustrating exterior, she was a woman after all.

Unfortunately, a woman he still knew very little about. As intriguing as she was he could ill afford to become distracted, of this he was aware. He licked his lip again. This could be interesting, indeed, he thought as he closed his eyes.



*********
Deep in Denialville
Trying to fight the way I feel…
If you stand too close to me
I might melt down from the heat
If you look my way one more time
I’m gonna go out of my mind…

(Shania Twain, Whatever You Do, Don’t!)
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Chapter Five
Created
21 Jan 2004
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21 Jan 2004
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