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Trust To Hope

Chapter 8: Chapter Seven

by Novedhelion

Trust to Hope - Chapter Seven
Author: Novedhelion
Type: FP Het
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Pairing: Éomer/Lothíriel
Rating: PG 13 for now…

Warnings: Drinking songs, songs about virgins...

Beta: Riyallyn...I swear this is the last version…

Disclaimer: You know the score. Details available upon request.

If PJ can send Celeborn to Valinor, I can get the Rohirrim drunk.

*************
Chapter Seven
*************

You don't know how you met me
You don't know why
You can't turn around and say goodbye
All you know is when I'm with you
I make you free
And swim through your veins like a fish in the sea

Follow Me
Uncle Kracker
***********************

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


Anhuil rolled over on her cot. The previous night’s events immediately began replaying in her mind. She sat up and rubbed her aching head. What had come over her? The first time, she admitted, she had baited him and he called her bluff. That she could accept. This time, however… She found herself becoming breathless from the memory of it. His soft, gentle kiss had completely melted whatever resolve she had. And she had kissed him back. That was what frightened her the most. HOW was she going to sit so close to him again today?

Glancing around, Anhuil noticed the pitcher of water still sitting beside the empty basin from the night before. She poured some of the now cold water into it and splashed it on her face in a useless attempt to clear her brain. Stifling a yawn with the back of her hand, she pulled on her boots and began gathering her things, rolling up the now dry clothing, and headed out.

The men were already saddling up their mounts. She did not see Éomer, but Éothain spotted her across the throng of riders. He was leading two horses, his own and a grey spotted palfrey. “Pardon, Miss, but the marshal says you may ride him today.”

Anhuil cast him a sardonic smile. “I thought there were no horses to spare,” she commented sarcastically, taking the reins. So, this was his way of dealing with things? Make her ride alone? She wasn’t sure whether to be relieved or insulted.

“Why did the marshal suddenly allow me to ride alone?” she asked.

Éothain shrugged. “I really do not know for sure, Miss. I just follow orders.”

“Well, does this fine animal have a name?” the princess asked expectantly.

“Cyric,” Éothain answered abruptly. “He’s very gentle. You will be fine with him.”

Anhuil patted the grey’s neck, laughing at the assumption that she needed a calm mount. “Gentle, is he?”

“Yes, Miss.”

“You assume I need a gentle mount, Éothain, or is that the marshal’s assumption?” She eyed him expectantly.

“The marshal requested that I saddle Cyric for you, Miss. That’s all I know. What he assumes or does not assume is not my place to guess.” Éothain turned back to adjusting the girth of his own saddle.

“So based solely on my gender he assumes I require a gentle mount,” she said, out loud but almost to herself. Éothain shrugged without turning around. Anhuil shook her head. “Next thing you know he will be requiring me to ride side saddle,” she quipped as she climbed on to her mount. “I suppose I should count myself fortunate that you do not have one available.”

“I suppose so,” the soldier muttered, truly wishing Éomer had given this task to another man. This woman wore him out.

“Well, then, Cyric, let us not delay these gentlemen any further, shall we?” She guided him next to Éothain with a grin. Éothain mounted his horse sullenly, hoping she would find someone else to chatter at as they rode.

No such luck. Anhuil stayed beside him, asking questions, most of the morning. She seemed to have an unquenchable thirst for stories, and an equally amazing gift for getting him to tell them. He was more than once surprised to hear himself telling yet another tale she had goaded out of him, and she appeared to drink in every word.

The princess was fascinated. At least riding alongside Éothain provided interesting conversation. He told her about the battles they had fought and about the King, Gríma Wormtongue and Éomer’s subsequent banishment from Rohan.

“Your king is under a spell?”

“Something like that, Miss.”

“No wonder your men are wary of sorcery.”

The company was pleasant and comfortable. They talked of Claennis, the girl Éothain had recently married, and about Anhuil’s brothers. Every now and then she would glance up, and find Éomer looking in her direction. Their eyes would lock briefly until one of them would turn away. This did not escape Éothain’s notice.

Éomer rode ahead of her, trying not to think about the previous night. He had no business getting involved with any woman, particularly one that seemed to have an innate ability to make him forget who and where he was. Unfortunately, he was finding it extremely difficult to think of much other than her deep green eyes, her dark, lavender scented curls between his fingers, and her soft lips under his.

That evening in the camp, several of the men were sitting around the fire laughing as the princess approached with Handarion. As soon as they spotted her, they all became quiet.

“Oh, please, gentlemen,” she chided. “Do not stop your fun because of me.”

“We would not wish to offend you, Miss,” one of them grinned, pouring something from a flask into his cup.

Anhuil laughed. “I have a father and three brothers. There is very little I have not seen nor heard. But if it will make you more comfortable, I will go inside my tent.”

“Not necessary, Miss. We were just drinkin’ a little and tellin’ tall tales,” one of the other riders informed her, a big grin behind his bushy beard.

“I love a good tale,” she remarked.

“You may not love ours,” another soldier quipped, laughing out loud.

She rolled her eyes. “Did you say drinking? I was not aware there were spirits to be had out here. The strongest I have been offered is hot tea.”

“Only the finest whiskey in Rohan, Miss,” the bushy bearded one said proudly. “I’d happily offer you some, but I reckon ‘tis not a proper drink for a lady.” He poured some from his flask into a cup, swigging it down.

Anhuil sensed the challenge. “Oh? Perhaps you reckon incorrectly.”

“Well, now, Miss, ‘tis mighty strong and you are mighty little, and --“

“What are you insinuating, soldier? That I cannot handle your drink?”

Handarion cleared his throat. “Umm…Miss…maybe this isn’t the best--“

“Oh, hush, Handarion,” the princess scolded.

“Miss, I do not think Lord Éomer--“ Handarion began.

“Lord Éomer has yet to show his face this evening. If he has a problem with me drinking a cup of whiskey let him come tell me himself,” Anhuil snapped, turning to the man with the flask. “May I?”

“Miss, maybe the boy is right…the marshal may not approve…” He hesitated.

“Oh, bother the marshal! So now he has the right not only to tell me when and where I can travel but what I can drink as well? We shall see about that.” She handed the soldier her cup. He stared at it blankly. “Did you or did you not offer me a drink, soldier?”

Reluctantly, he poured from the flask into her cup, handing it back to her. “I’ll happily share, Miss,” he grinned, “but if the marshal comes down on me I’m tellin’ him you insisted.”

“You do that, soldier,” the princess quipped, taking a drink from the cup. He was not joking about it being strong, she had to fight the tears back as she swallowed it. She sat down across from them on a log with Handarion. Soon they were all telling jokes and tales, and drinking more of Rohan’s finest. The men broke into song.

“Drink today, and drown all sorrow,
You shall perhaps not do it tomorrow:
Best, while you still have it, use your breath;
There is no drinking after death.

Then let us swill, boys, for our health;
Who drinks well, loves the commonwealth;
And he that will go to bed sober,
Falls with the leaf still in October.”

The princess laughed at their song. Even Handarion had lightened up and sang along with them. “My father used to sing that song, when I was a lad.” He grinned. “Do you know any songs?”

Anhuil laughed. “Do I know any songs? Oh, I believe I know a few... Let me think…what kind of song would you like? A story, perhaps?” She took another sip from her cup. “Oh, I know one!”

The princess stood, and in a clear voice, began to sing.

“A dragon has come to our village today
Now, we have asked him to leave, he will not go away
Now he has met with our king and they worked out a deal
No homes will he burn and no crops will he steal

Now there is but one catch, we dislike it a bunch
Twice a year he invites him a virgin to lunch
We have no other choice so the deal we respect
But we cannot help but wonder and pause to reflect

Do virgins taste better than those who are not
Are they salty or sweeter, more juicy or what?
Do you savor them slowly, gulp them down on the spot?
Do virgins taste better than those who are not?”

The men laughed loudly when she began the chorus. Trying to keep a straight face, she pressed on.

“Now we would like to be shed you and many have tried
But no one can get through your thick scaly hide
We hope that someday some brave knight will come by
‘Cause we cannot wait around till you are too fat to fly”

She continued singing, unaware that Éomer had joined the group, standing behind her with some of the other men.

“You have such good taste in your women for sure
They are always pretty and they are always pure
But your notion of dining, it makes us all flinch
For your favorite entrée is barbecued wench

We have found a solution, it works out so neat
If you insist on nothing but virgins to eat
No more will our number ever grow small…”

She paused dramatically, drawing out the last line.

“We shall simply make sure there are no virgins at all!”

The men broke into hysterical laughter as she started another round of the chorus, several of the men joining in.

“Do virgins taste better than those who are not?
Are they saltier, sweeter, more juicy or what?
Do you--“

Éomer shook his head. Walking to the center of the circle where she stood singing, her cup held high. He took it from her hand.

“Hey!” she turned around, glaring at him.

“I think you have had enough, Anhuil,” he informed her.

“Since when, Marshal,” she stuck her finger in his face, “do YOU tell me what to do? I am singing here.”

“I noticed,” he said, suppressing a grin.

She reached for her cup. “I am not done.”

“Yes, you are,” he said, trying to guide her from the center of the circle.

Anhuil caught his sleeve and pulled him down to whisper in his ear. "Are you offended by a song about virgins, Marshal?" She held on to his sleeve for balance. “Or is it the dragons?” She giggled and turned to the men. “I have not even told you what the dragon said…there is more, you know…”

“C’mon, Marshal. What’s she hurting? Let her finish.” The bushy bearded soldier offered him a cup. Éomer took it, shaking his head, and downed the entire contents in one gulp. He held up his hands in mock surrender.

“Thank you, sir,” she bowed at him. “Now where was I? Oh, yes, the dragon….”

The princess cleared her throat and began to sing in her best “dragon” voice, much to their amusement.

“Now, I am a dragon, please listen to me
I am misunderstood to a dreadful degree
This village needs me and I know my place
But I am fighting extinction with all of my race

I came to this village to better my health
Which is ever so poor, despite all my wealth
But I get no assistance and no sympathy
Just impertinent questioning shouted at me!

Yes, virgins taste better than those who are not
But my favorite snack mixed with peril is fraught
For my teeth will decay and my trim go to pot
Yes, virgins taste better than those who are not

Well, I am really quite kind through most of the year
Vegetarian ways are mine now out of fear
But a birthday needs sweets as I am sure you agree
And barbecued wench tastes like candy to me

As it happens our interests are almost the same
You see, I am skillful at managing game
If I ate only your men, would your excess decline?
Of course not, the rest would just make better time…”

Again the men cheered. Éomer had to laugh as well. Éothain stepped up beside him. “Not exactly shy, is she?”

“Her?” The marshal laughed. “She could make an Orc blush. How she can remember the words right now is beyond me.”

“She is good for morale if nothing else,” his lieutenant remarked.

Éomer smiled wryly. And not unpleasant to look at, he thought to himself. He glanced around the circle of men, who were clearly enjoying the little show she was putting on, but none appeared to be watching her with anything other than amusement.

“Yes, Virgins taste better than those who are not--“

“All right, Anhuil, that is enough.” Éomer stepped forward at the raucous laughter of the men after her last verse.

“Marshal,” she giggled softly. “Are you blushing?”

“Woman, I think that is enough.”

She smiled coyly. “If you mean enough of you pushing me around, yes, I have had quite enough, thank you,” she chided quietly. “I am a civilian, you have no authority over me. Please give me my cup.” She took the cup from his hand and tipped it back.

“I appreciate you entertaining the men with this…song…” He attempted to suppress a smile, but he corners of his mouth turned up anyway.

“You liked it and you know it,” she responded softly. In a louder voice, she continued, “Besides, it is their turn now, if they know any more.” She turned her back to him, grinning at the men, who broke into applause. She bowed politely, and when she stood, lost her balance and stumbled backwards into the marshal. He caught her around her waist, pulling her back against him to steady her. The sudden surge of desire he felt caught him off guard, and he realized his hands were rather tightly gripping her waist. He stood her back on her feet quickly, and released her, hoping she had not noticed.

She appeared not to. “It is still their turn to sing if they can come up with one… So, gentlemen, do you have any more?” she called out to the soldiers.

Snickering, they all shook their heads.

“Oh, come now, an entire realm whose history is told through songs and you cannot think of another one to sing for me?”

The men looked at each other. Suddenly, one held up his cup, and began another song, soon joined by the others.

“Ho! Ho! Ho! to the bottle I go
To heal my heart and drown my woe.
Rain may fall and wind may blow,
And many miles be still to go,
But under a tall tree I will lie,
And let the clouds go sailing by.”

The princess laughed out loud. “Are all of your songs about drinking?”

“It happens to be one of our favorite topics,” Elfhelm answered, with mock-indignation.

“Your turn! Sing us another one!” Déor called out.

Anhuil looked up at the marshal, who shrugged helplessly.

Striding back to the center of the circle, she stood by the fire. With a grin, she began again.

“So here’s to the ladies who drink with the men
Take heed of the mug that is lifted by a wench”

At this, one of the men came forward with the flask, refilling her cup with a grin. She nodded her appreciation and continued singing.

“Old Tom had an elbow that could hoist a keg of beer
And never you saw him lest a pub was near
But Molly she bested him in a drinking bout
And now he is hoisting a babe so dear

Now Fergus was a man who preferred his whiskey neat”

“Here, here!” shouted several of the men, hoisting their cups.

She continued, “A gallon or more to him was no feat!
Then he chanced to be challenged by Nadalia the maid
NOW he sits in the family seat!

Siridien was a man who brewed the best of all
And sampling his wares he never took a fall
Til the night a young maid put him under the board
Now she keeps him busy at her hall

There was a barbarian whose name was Bear
He thought he was the best of the drinkers there
Til a winsome young maid at his table sat
Now he is tangled in her long black hair.

Now the men of our kingdoms who are drinkers all
When it comes to chuggin’ they are champions tall
But the wenches have them beat hands down, you see
For the cup makes for an easy fall…”

The men broke into laughter once again. Éomer shook his head, laughing with them. Yes, she could be annoying, and feisty, and hard headed, but he had to admit he found her adorably amusing. She turned and looked at him, grinning, and he felt his pulse quicken. Suddenly no longer aware of the men around him cheering her bawdy songs, his eyes locked on to hers.

Anhuil saw his expression change from one of amusement to…Oh, sweet Elbereth, that was the look he had given her last night, right before… Her smile faded slowly, deep brown eyes so intent on her that she had to remind herself to breathe. Her heart racing, the princess quickly turned back to the men, who were calling for more.

“No more,” she said, laughing nervously. “I can think of no more.” She bowed politely, careful not to spill her drink. As she stepped cautiously out of the center of the circle, her toes caught the edge of a Rohirrim boot. Stumbling forward, she fell into its owner’s arms, sloshing the contents of her cup over the front of his armor.

With an embarrassed grin, she looked up at the handsome young soldier. He had a very nice smile.

“I am sorry,” she apologized.

“I am not,” he responded honestly. “I am Déor.” His clear blue eyes looked into hers. He helped her balance on her feet, his hands lingering a little longer on her waist. “It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance.”

“And yours as well,” the princess replied politely.

“I enjoyed your songs,” the young soldier offered.

Éomer watched the exchange, shifting his weight from one foot to the other, arms folded.

“Thank you, Déor,” she said quietly, casting a downward glance at his hands, still on her waist.

Glancing over her shoulder at the Marshal’s stern look, he withdrew his hands quickly, stepping back. “I am sorry. I did not mean to…”

“It is all right. I should be more careful where I step.” She smiled sweetly at him.

Éomer continued to observe, surprising even himself at the feeling of possessiveness that he suddenly felt toward her. Was he really...jealous?

“I should be more careful about where I put my big boots.” He flashed her a charming grin, bowing slightly.

“I think I have had enough of this,” she answered, setting the cup down on a nearby log.

“Anhuil, may I speak to you a moment?” Éomer’s deep voice startled her. Turning to face him, she could not help but notice the looks exchanged between the marshal and the young soldier.

Éomer took her by the elbow, gently steering her away. She grinned over her shoulder at Déor. The rest of the men were talking and laughing among themselves.

“What is the problem now, Marshal? I do not understand why you have to be so serious all the time.” Anhuil muttered as they walked between the tents.

“I simply think you have had enough to drink,” he reasoned. “They are men, after all. I would not want your honor sullied.”

She stopped dead, jerking her arm from his grasp and facing him head on. “You are jealous.” She giggled softly.

Éomer stared at her, trying his best to look offended. “I am only trying to protect…”

“Do you honestly think any of your men would do anything to harm me, Lord Éomer?” She raised an eyebrow at him questioningly. “I grew up in a home with three older brothers who saw to it that if nothing else, there is one thing in this world I know how to handle; unwanted advances from men. Do not worry yourself about me, my lord. None of your men would dare.”

He had to admit that he had not noticed any of them even leering at her, and none of them had dared touch her except Déor, into whose arms she had fallen accidentally. They all seemed to have a certain amount of respect for her, as if they somehow sensed what he also felt; something about her presence commanded respect. It was not a trait typical of farm girls raised in the fields of Belfalas.

“It is late, and I felt it would be better if I saw you to your tent before you…” the marshal countered.

“Before I what? What is wrong with having a bit of fun? These men deserve to smile from time to time, Éomer. I was only trying to entertain them.” Big green eyes regarded him innocently.

Entertain them? This woman seemed completely oblivious to the affect she had on him, and very possibly on them as well. How could anyone be so naive, he wondered.

She poked him in the chest with her finger. “You are no fun.” She whirled around to walk away.

Catching her by the arm, he backed her up against the corner post of a nearby tent. “You
did not think so last night.”

Anhuil’s pulse raced. “How do you know what I thought? You certainly did not ask,” she retorted, tossing her head.

Éomer leaned in closer to her. “You did not appear to object.”

The princess stiffened, her gaze meeting his. “You surprised me last night. I was not expecting…”

“Then this time I will warn you. I have heard all of that saucy little mouth I intend to hear for a while. I am going to kiss you now, Anhuil.” And with that, his mouth covered hers. Leaning on the pole for support, she struggled for the strength to push him away, her hands going to his chest, but instead of pushing him away to run, they ended up around his neck, entwined in his hair.

His hands were lightly on her cheeks, then gently sliding down her shoulders, her waist…to her hips, pulling her against him. She jumped when his tongue softly touched her bottom lip, and she found herself parting her lips instinctively, shuddering at the pleasure of his delicate exploration of her mouth.

Every bit of Éomer’s conscience was screaming at him that this was not right. He should not be kissing her. He should not be taking advantage of her inebriated state. He certainly had no business getting involved with a woman in the middle of a war, but by the gods, she felt good in his arms. The sweet tang of the whiskey was still on her lips, and it took all of the restraint he could muster to keep his hands in seemly places. Although his head protested vehemently, it was soundly overruled by his desire. And his heart. It was that last part that he found disconcerting.

Pulling back reluctantly, he took a deep breath. “I am sorry, Anhuil,” he apologized, though not quite sincerely. “That was most inappropriate.”

The princess cocked her head to one side. “I did not think you were concerned with propriety, Lord Éomer. I thought you said you were not a gentleman.”

“I should not take advantage of a lady who is no state of mind to make a rational decision.”

Anhuil laughed out loud. “Rational decision? You say that as if you gave me a choice. You did not. You simply announced you were going to kiss me and you did.”

The marshal raised one eyebrow. “Perhaps I should give you the choice, then.”

“That would be the genteel thing to do, since you have kissed me on several occasions and have yet to ask my permission.” She leaned on the post, both hands on it behind her back for support.

Éomer leaned close, pressing her further back against the tent pole. “May I kiss you, Lady Anhuil?”

Regarding him silently for a moment, her gaze shifted to his full lips, his perfect teeth, back up to his deep brown eyes. “No,” she whispered quietly.

The marshal backed up slightly. “No? Are you certain?”

“Yes,” she licked her bottom lip involuntarily. Éomer swallowed hard, fighting to rein in his desire to take her right there. “I am sure.” She pushed off from the pole, leaning toward him. “Because I do not feel so well right now, and I am going to bed. Good night, Marshal.” With a slight wave over her shoulder, she casually turned away, sashaying toward her tent without a backward glance.

Watching the sway of her hips as she walked away, Éomer shoved a hand through his hair. She was full of surprises.

*************
How you’ve got me blind is still a mystery
I can’t get you out of my head
I don’t care what is written in your history
As long as you’re here with me

As Long As You Love Me
Backstreet Boys
**************




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

In the chill of the next evening, Anhuil sat by the fire, knees drawn up, entranced by the fluttering flames. Her journal lay beside her, the quill and ink neatly on top.

Sitting some distance away, Éomer had watched her put aside her nearly full bowl and lean forward on to her folded arms. She had ridden alone again that day, chatting and joking with the men as they traveled, telling them tales. The men spoke to her as they drifted by, exchanging nods and waves.

He had thought having her ride alone would relieve him somewhat, but he had been wrong. Watching her astride the beautiful animal, her back straight, her hair blowing back, controlling the horse confidently, moving as one with him, had only made things worse. If she was beside him, he found it difficult to keep his focus on anything other than her slight bouncing in the saddle and the logical ramifications thereof. He found it impossible to ride behind her at all. The little vixen had no idea the discomfort she caused him. He had finally requested politely that she ride behind him with Éothain, although that still left him to wrestle with the images in his mind.

Random thoughts tumbled through his consciousness like leaves on the wind. He could not justify the fierce emotions he experienced at the sight of her. How did she get so deep under his skin so quickly? It was as if she had just been dropped into his lap, literally. Like it was meant to be.

He really knew so little about her. With the recent events, getting involved with her was the last thing he needed to do. Reason dictated that he should call this to a halt immediately. Trouble was, Éomer had never been one to be ruled by reason.

Éothain sat beside him, leaning against a tree, sipping from a cup. He offered the flask to Éomer, who graciously accepted and poured some into his own cup. The lieutenant followed his friend’s gaze to where the woman sat.

Elfhelm plopped down beside the two under the tree. “May I join you, gents?” he inquired. The marshal and the other soldier nodded.

“It troubles you, not knowing who she is,” Éothain commented, looking from Anhuil back to the marshal.

Éomer shrugged. “Should it not? I wish only that she trusted me enough to tell me more. Perhaps in time.”

“We know nothing about her, Éomer.”

Éomer turned to face him. “What are you saying, Éothain?

“Now wait just a minute…” Elfhelm started.

Éothain blushed. “I am only saying, sir, that she seems to be awfully comfortable around the men, and …”

“And if a single one of them lays an inappropriate hand on her, he shall answer to me,” the marshal retorted quickly. Éothain chuckled.

“Here, here,” agreed Elfhelm, rubbing his bush beard. “She’s clearly a lady, if you take my meaning. There’s something about her that makes you want to...well, sit up a little straighter, and mind your language. You understand my meaning, of course,” he put in.

The marshal nodded in agreement. “I do not believe there is anything…untoward about her, Éothain. In fact, I believe quite the opposite. You have spoken to her. You have heard her speak. No, my friend. She is not some peasant from Belfalas, as she would have us believe.”

“What makes you say that, Marshal?”

Éomer’s eyes wandered back to where she sat. “I grew up in the courts of Edoras, Éothain. I have seen and met many kinds of people.” He shook his head. “She is well spoken. Educated. Her mannerisms are not those of some farm lass, although I believe that is what she wants us to think. She certainly can hold her own in a fight, if not necessarily in a cup.” This elicited a slight chuckle from the men. “But she rides as if she was born between pommel and cantle.” The marshal took another sip of his drink. “I only wish I knew what it was she writes in that journal of hers.”

“Do you think she’s a sort of scop?” Éothain asked bluntly.

“I do not know, my friend,” he answered. “I would not believe her to be a traveling storyteller. A Court Bard, perhaps. Or even a historian. She seems to have a great deal of knowledge of different cultures.” He shrugged and rose to his feet. “But I intend to find out.”

The lady glanced over at him as he stood. “Either way, she will do us no harm, I am certain. I am going to retire, gentlemen,” he said, loud enough for her to hear. “Goodnight.” Éothain inclined his head in agreement, and Éomer turned to Anhuil. “You should get some rest as well, Lady Anhuil,” he suggested.

“Yes, thank you. I shall.” She responded with a quick glance.

He held her gaze, his dark eyes enticing her. A cheeky smile crossed his lips as he turned away, walking toward his quarters.

Puzzled, Anhuil rose from her spot by the fire, gathering her journal, ink and quill into her bag. With a nod to Éothain and Elfhelm, she turned and walked through the quiet camp toward her own tent. As she passed between the rows of tents, a hand clasped over her mouth, a strong arm around her. She was dragged backwards, into a darkened tent. Managing to free one hand, she drew her dagger, kicking at her attacker.

“Ow! I told you to be careful walking around in the dark,” he whispered in her ear.

She turned and punched him hard in the chest. “You almost got your throat slit, you beast! You nearly scared me to death!” she chided as she replaced the dagger in its sheath. “That was not amusing.” She folded her arms, glaring at him, as he bent to pick up her dropped bag.

Éomer chuckled, taking her into his arms, laying her bag aside on a small table. “I wanted some time with you. Alone.” He bent to her and kissed her softly. His hands were against her back, pressing her into him.

She pulled back, her hands on his chest. “We should not be doing this…it is not proper.”

His lips were busy blazing a trail from her shoulder to her ear. “Why not?” Éomer’s words were warm against her skin. “You are all I have thought about. You are all I can think about, Anhuil.”

“And what were you thinking about me, Lord Éomer?” she inquired teasingly.

“Suffice it to say my thoughts were most…unchaste.”

She giggled, pushing him back. “What if someone comes looking for us?”

“Let them look,” he smiled mischievously, cupping her face in his hands, and taking her lips once again. He kissed her softly, lightly…Ilúvatar help her. She toyed briefly with the idea of resisting, but the thought was completely quelled by his tongue slowly tracing the outline of her bottom lip. She nipped it gently between her teeth, causing him to jump slightly at her boldness.

“Woman, you will be my undoing,” the marshal spoke softly. Anhuil laughed quietly. “Sshh.” He put his finger to her lips, and she kissed it lightly. Voices outside the tent were entirely too close.

“You are a shameless little chit,” he whispered.

“Shameless, am I?” she teased, nipping the finger against her lips lightly. “I am not the one who started this, Marshal.”

“Completely shameless,” he growled. His mouth came down to hers again, unsure whether he meant her or himself.

Éomer lifted his head and looked down at her, questions flipping over and over in his head. As much as he hated to interrupt this moment, he needed to ask. Her eyes met his, the curiosity in his expression easily read. “What is it?” she queried.

The marshal studied her in the dim light, shaking his head slowly. He pushed the curls from her face with the back of his fingers, tucking them behind her ear. “I know so little about you, Anhuil,” he responded.

“That is not true. You know my name, you know where I am from…” She stiffened in his arms, her tone indignant.

“You misunderstand me, my lady.”

She pulled back from his embrace. “Then pray tell, what do you mean?”

“I know nothing of your family, or your home. I still do not know where you were going or how you came to be in my land alone.”

She backed away from him, her heart racing. “Stories about oneself are never as interesting as stories about others,” she commented, crossing her arms and regarding him coolly. “What is it you want to know?”

“I cannot put my finger on it,” he answered, a bit taken aback by her defensive attitude. “But my heart tells me there is more to your tale than you offer.”

The princess stared at him, every effort being made to calm her breathing and her rapid pulse. She straightened her posture, leveling her gaze at the marshal. The change in demeanor did not escape Éomer’s notice. .

“I do not know what it is you are asking, Lord Marshal.” She fought to hide the slight tremor in her voice.

Éomer stepped closer to her. “I want to know the truth, Anhuil.”

“The truth?” Her hands clenched at her sides. “Nothing I have told you has been a lie. Nothing.”

He took in her defensive posture. “What is it you are not telling me?” His dark eyes seemed to look right through her.

“What makes you think there is anything of importance that I am not telling you?” The princess met his gaze steadily, trying to maintain a calm expression.

“Who are you, Anhuil? What are you running from?”

She crossed her arms again. “If this line of questioning continues it will be you I am running from, Lord Éomer. I have not lied to you. Why is it so hard to accept that I am just a girl from Belfalas who--“

“Who happens to know both indelicate ballads about dragons and is fluent in at no less than two languages?”

“I have brothers who love to drink and sing. And many of the people of Gondor speak--“

“Who happens to be familiar with histories and customs of other regions?”

“Anyone who bothers to read--“

“Who just happens to know both how to ride and to fight? It is not every day one comes across women bearing weapons who use them with deadly accuracy.”

“I told you, my brothers…”

“Not to mention that for all your seeming innocence, you kisses like a little hoyden."

The princess’ eyes widened as she felt the color flood her cheeks. “How dare you? That is completely inappropriate, Lord Éomer,” she began. “I cannot believe you would insinuate…”

Éomer laughed. Her haughty expression almost amused him. “That is yet another thing, this obsession you seem to have with courtly propriety.” The marshal could not decide if he had seen a flicker of acknowledgement at his last observation or not. It was gone in a flash.

“U’chenion edain!” She whirled around, throwing her hands up in the air in frustration. Stomping to the other side of the tent, she turned to face him. “What is it you want from me? One moment you are kissing me and the next you are interrogating me. Unless I am now a captive, I am not bound by any obligation to tell you more than I choose. If you plan to continue questioning me, I suggest you take me into your custody, Marshal.” She held out her wrists together, as if they were bound.

Éomer looked down at her outstretched hands, then back up at her, ignoring the dig. “And this journal you keep. Are you some kind of historian?”

“Glirdan,” she corrected him, using the Sindarin word. “Or bard, in the westron tongue. And no, I am not. Not really, anyway. I just happen to enjoy collecting songs and tales, and learning about people,” without missing a beat, she continued. “And while we are discussing truth, my Lord, why do you not explain to me why you lied to me?”

Éomer was a bit taken aback by her sudden change of direction. At his confused expression, the princess stepped toward him. “Not that I mind, at least Cyric is a gentleman.” She stressed the last word. “I just wondered if there was a valid reason as to why you deceived me about having a horse for me to ride.”

“That is not what we were discussing, Anhuil,” he stated calmly.

“I would like to discuss it. I would like to know, Lord Éomer. You told me there were no spare horses.”

“I did not previously consider him spare. He was being used as a packhorse.”

She glared at him. “Liar.”

He stared at her, uncertain whether he was offended at her insult or angry that she figured him out so easily.

She continued her tirade. “Afraid your men might mistake your protectiveness of me for something else? The Valar forbid your men see their marshal show a bit of humanity. Perhaps the men would lose respect for him if they thought him capable of something other than hewing orcs!”

“I was trying to be respectful of your reputation,” he explained through gritted teeth, arms folded across his chest.

“I have told you I do not need you to protect either my person or my reputation! I am quite capable of defending both myself!” She threw her hands up, walking around to the other side of the table.

Lowering her voice, she continued calmly. “I left my home to find out if there was more to this life than what I had always known. I wanted to learn more about my family, our history, our ancestors....” She stopped quickly before revealing too much and took a deep breath. “I have discovered more about myself in my time alone than in all my previous years. I found out I am capable of things I never would have thought possible. But there are some things that one cannot read in libraries, and cannot learn from tales told around the hearth at an inn.” Gods, she thought, you are starting to sound like a real bard! “I want to know about this world in which I live, Lord Éomer. Is that such a bad thing?”

Anhuil raised her eyes to his, pointing a finger at him. “You, on the other hand wish to keep everyone at bay. Sometimes I doubt you know yourself well enough to be on a first name basis! How many times have your men even seen you smile, Marshal?” He turned to face her across the table, his brow furrowed.

“The truth, please, Éomer. Why did you lie to me about the horses?” She leaned on the edge of the table, glowering at him.

The marshal slammed his hands down on the wooden surface, leaning toward her. “Do you want to know why?”

The princess leaned forward on the table as well, leveling her gaze at him. “Yes, for the love of the Valar, tell me why!”

Éomer gripped her shoulders across the narrow table, his sable eyes searing into emerald. “I wanted you to ride with me because I wanted your hair blowing in my face. I wanted my arms around you. Gods help me, I wanted your body pressed against mine… the scent of lavender surrounding me,” he paused, looking down into her face. Her lips were slightly parted in shock, eyes wide, her breathing shallow. “I wanted you close to me. You drive me insane, but I wanted you near me. That, Lady Anhuil, is the truth.”

She stared at him, wide eyed, her pulse racing in response to his words. “If you wanted me with you, then why did you suddenly decide I should ride alone?” she asked, her voice unsteady.

His grip on her shoulders softened, but he did not release her. “Because after two days I thought I would go mad with desire. Riding with you in front of me was the sweetest form of torture. I felt I could no longer trust myself to behave-“ his mouth curved into a smile, “like a gentleman. That is why I made you ride alone.” He released her shoulders and stepped back.

“And has my riding alone solved your problem, Marshal?”

Éomer stared down into the eyes of this saucy little woman in front of him. “No, it certainly has not,” he agreed. Coming around the table, he cupped her face in his hands, and captured her mouth with his own in a demanding kiss that left her breathless when he pulled away. “I have never met a woman who intrigues me the way you do, Anhuil of Belfalas.”

Melkor’s chains, the voice in her head chided. You did ask for the truth.

Warm, soft lips covered hers again, this time slowly and gently, but no less thoroughly. His hands on her face slid down around her waist, lifting her to him and pulling her against the length of his body. Anhuil’s knees felt as if they would give way underneath her, making her thankful for the strong arms supporting her.

Wait a minute, that annoying voice started again. She suppressed an urge to shoo it away with her hands. Intrigue? You intrigue him?

Mustering every ounce of will she had, she shoved him backwards with both of her hands on his chest. The marshal stared at her, confusion clouding his handsome features.

Her voice was quiet. “So that is it. I am nothing more than an interesting vexation? Another pair of warm lips to temporarily entertain you? And if the little wench happens to be a willing tumble, that much the better?” She chuckled at the thought, shaking her head. “I do not think so, Lord Éomer.” She looked down for a moment before bringing her gaze to meet his. “I fear in my innocence, I have given you the wrong impression. I apologize. I have let this go too far.”

She turned on her heel and headed for the tent opening.

“Anhuil, wait,” he called after her. She stopped and turned back, their eyes meeting. For a long moment he held her gaze, neither speaking. He wanted to say something, anything, to make her understand that had never been his intention. Part of him wanted to simply blurt out how he felt, but the words would not come. Shoving a hand through his tousled hair, he said the only thing he could think of.

“I am sorry.”

She inclined her head to one side, her dark green eyes searching his deep brown ones. She had not had a great deal of experience with men, but living with three brothers had been enough that she did recognize a rather empty apology when she heard one.

“Not bloody likely,” she responded softly. Why was it men always apologized when they couldn’t think of anything else to say? “Goodnight, Marshal,” she said, turning quickly on her heel. The princess ducked out of the tent before he could speak again.

Éomer stared at the opening through which she had passed, the internal tug of war continuing. One part of him screamed at him to go after her, while the more reasonable side insisted he hold his ground. “Oh, for the love of Béma,” he muttered. Reason be damned. He strode off after her, catching her just outside her tent.

“What do you want, Marshal? I am very tired.” Casting him a highly exasperated look, she folded her arms defensively.

Struggling for the right words was not something Éomer was accustomed to doing. He suddenly realized she had a point. Rarely did he do anything other than bark orders, especially lately. He drew in a deep breath. “You were correct, Lady Anhuil. It is a necessity in battle to be able to put aside one’s personal feelings. And I suppose if one is not careful that tendency can carry over in to other aspects of one’s life. Perhaps I do not smile often enough.” She tilted her head to one side, listening intently. “But I must say that in the last week, I have smiled more than I have in months.”

“And why is that, Lord Éomer?”

“Because of you.”

Not quite sure how to take that, she narrowed her eyes at him. “Me?”

“You and your Elvish curses and your pet wolf and your defiant attitude,” he continued. “Your songs and your saucy mouth. You make me laugh.” The corners of his mouth turned up into a smile. He shook his head. “Do you wish to know what else?”

“I fear to ask,” she answered apprehensively.

“I find myself smiling at the mere thought of you. An alluring vexation, perhaps, but a willing tumble?” He shook his head. “No. You are far too much a lady, for that, Anhuil. Besides, I truly believe you could kill me if you wanted to,” he added, half teasing. “And who knows what you would write of me?”

“Why would you think I would write anything of you?” she queried defensively. “And I did not say alluring,” she corrected him.

“I did.” Éomer’s eyes darkened as he stepped toward her. “Perhaps I should give you something to write about,” he commented, his mouth moving over hers in a sweet kiss. His lips were so soft and warm and she could not have pulled away from him if it had meant saving her life. Judging from her inability to breathe it just might. His hand slid around to the back of her neck, his kiss deepened, still slow and gentle.

The princess leaned into him, more for support than anything else, but the gentle contact made the marshal’s heart race. Unfolding her arms, her small hands flat on his chest, sliding up and around his neck. Her velvet lips succumbing to his so completely nearly undid him. Small fingers tangled in the blonde locks at the back of his neck, her soft form pressed against him, both his emotions and desire running as rampant as a wild stallion across the plains of Rohan. Her tent was right here, her cot only a few steps away…by the gods, what was he thinking?

Pulling away from her at last, lay his hand against the side of her neck, his thumb gently stroking her cheek. “I think you should go to bed, Lady Anhuil,” he said softly, fighting the temptation to slide that hand down, over the swell of…

He withdrew his hand, squeezing it into a tight fist at his side. “Now.”

She raised an eyebrow in question.

His eyes strayed down from her softly parted lips to the lacings at the front of her tunic. “Please.” He averted his gaze, looking up instead.

The princess smiled. “Goodnight again, Marshal,” she whispered.

Closing his eyes, he stood perfectly still until he was sure she was gone. With a deep breath, he turned and headed for his own tent, trying to decide whether he should thank the gods or curse them for dropping her into his path.


********
That's what you get for falling in love
And now this boy's addicted cause your kiss is the drug
Your love is like bad medicine
Bad medicine is what I need
Shake it up, just like bad medicine…
Your love's the potion that
Can cure my disease

When you find your medicine you take what you can get
Cause if there's something better, well I haven't found it yet

Bad Medicine
Jon Bon Jovi
********
Rohirrim drinking songs -
Fletcher’s Bloody Brothers, late 13th Century.
A Drinking Song, J.R.R.Tolkien

U’cherion edain! - I do not understand men!

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Chapter name
Chapter Seven
Created
21 Jan 2004
Last Edited
21 Jan 2004
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