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Trust To Hope

Chapter 9: Chapter Eight

by Novedhelion

Trust to Hope - Chapter Eight
Author: Novedhelion
Type: FP Het
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Pairing: Éomer/Lothíriel
Rating: Must up to PG-13 according to the rating chart….
Warnings: Mild violence and bloodshed, sappy romance, country song lyrics…
Beta: Riyallyn, the ALPHA beta…and a little help from Becky. Thanks, Ladies!!
Disclaimer: Éomer is not mine. Lothíriel is not mine. Orcs are not mine. None of these are mine, darn it! Just having fun…no monetary profit made.
Feedback: Oh, sure. ‘Tis the holiday season…

Elvish Translations at the bottom…again, NOT fluent, don’t claim to be…please don’t email me ranting about my Elvish.

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Chapter Eight
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It was no accident
Me finding you
Someone had a hand in it
Long before we ever knew…

Keeper of the Stars
Kenny Chesney
*****************

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

Anhuil strolled out to saddle her mount, swinging her bow as she walked. She came around the corner of a tent, stopping abruptly, face to face with Éomer. She drew in a sharp breath at the suddenness of their meeting.

The marshal smiled politely. The intensity of their shared gaze was almost tangible in the early mist. "Good morning, Lady Anhuil. I trust you rested well?"

"Yes, thank you," Anhuil answered, equally courteous. Tearing her gaze from his, she turned and strode over to where her horse waited. He was already saddled.

Glancing back over her shoulder at Éomer as she mounted, she gave him a shy smile that melted his heart. Turning quickly away, he leapt astride his own horse, and called the riders forward.

Éothain could not help but notice the change in Anhuil's demeanor as she rode beside him. She chatted politely but appeared distracted. She fell silent for a while, seemingly lost in thought.

"Éothain, tell me about the marshal," she finally said.

He had figured this conversation would happen eventually. He shrugged. "He is as good a man as you'd ever want to meet. Brave and honest. I have known him my whole life."

She nodded. "He seems very devoted to his king."

"He is, Miss," his friend replied. "And to anything else he sets his mind to." Éothain paused, carefully selecting his words. "I've seen how he looks at you."

"Excuse me?" She felt the hot blush color her cheeks, grateful she had her hood pulled up. "Oh, Éothain, he probably has women in every village in Rohan." She laughed, trying a little too desperately to sound causal.

"Well, actually, Miss, no. He has never really had much time for women. Do not misunderstand, I’m sure he’s known some, it’s certain it’s not for lack of interest.” He shook his head. “I have known him all my life, and I have never seen him like this." Éothain paused, letting this information sink in. "To be honest, Miss, it concerns me."

Anhuil looked at him askance.

"He is a soldier," the man explained. "These men depend on him. They follow him because they trust him. If the marshal gets distracted, he could be a danger to himself and to his men. I hope you understand what I mean."

The princess silently mused over this thought for a few moments. “My being here is a distraction to him?”

Éothain nodded. “It could be. I am sorry, Miss,” he apologized. “I do not mean to say things that are none of my affair, but…well…you understand what I mean.”

"Thank you for your honesty, Éothain." It had not occurred to her that her mere presence could put in danger the men who relied on Éomer to make decisions for them. But what could she do? He was practically forcing her to accept their escort. To where, she had yet to tell him. And he had not asked.

She thought over the previous night’s conversation with the marshal. He found her “intriguing” he had said. She made him smile. He admitted he was attracted to her.

Well, it wasn’t exactly a confession of devotion. Get hold of yourself, girl. You have known the man less than a week. Best not to go losing your head over this when you have no idea of his intentions. So why did the thought of leaving him now fill her with a sense of dread?

The marshal glanced over at her. She gazed absently at the landscape, lost in thought. What he would have given to get inside that pretty head and find out what she was thinking. Closing his eyes briefly, he remembered the scent of lavender when she was sitting in front of him; the warmth of her body pressed against his…her hair tickling his chin…

He shook his head. We know nothing about her. Éothain’s words came back to haunt him. He had tried to confront her about it last night, and somehow she had totally turned the tables. She had a way of completely disrupting his thoughts; that was evident. Maybe Éothain’s little joke about her spell was truer than he cared to admit.

No matter. He would find out who she was. It wasn’t simply a matter of idle curiosity anymore.

Anhuil breathed deeply, taking in the aroma of fresh grass and leather. The air was chilly but not uncomfortably so. Rocky outcroppings dotted the landscape, randomly scattered like a child's blocks. She sighed in awe of the beauty of the region. Drawing her cloak around her shoulders, she closed her eyes, committing the pictures to memory.

"Handarion!"

Shouting voices jerked her to attention. The youth had been part of a scouting party sent ahead, but was returning alone. He was astride his horse, leaning at an odd angle as the animal galloped into the group of men. The princess saw Dormand dismount quickly and pull him from the horse. Jerking the reins in his direction, she bolted to where the men laid the boy on the grass and leapt from her saddle.

Anhuil turned the boy over on to his back, calling his name. "Handarion!" She looked down at her hands, covered in the young man's blood. He was still breathing shallowly, his hand still clutching his sword. The color drained from her face as she inspected his wounds. She closed her eyes momentarily, then looked up at the men. “This is not good…” she whispered.

Handarion opened his eyes and looked up at her, smiling. "I got one…"

She swallowed hard and returned a shaky smile. "Shh. Hodo, mellon nín." Handarion looked at her, not understanding the words but comforted by them nonetheless. She pressed her hands over the wound, but there was no stopping the flow. Éomer's horse thundered to a stop and he alit quickly, approaching Anhuil and Handarion.

Anhuil looked up at him as he drew near. The expression on her face told him more than he wanted to know.

She sat back on her heels as the marshal leaned over the young man, placing his hand over the boy's clutched fist. Handarion looked up at Éomer. "There is a whole regiment, sir, a hundred or so…mostly Warg riders…" he sputtered, gasping for breath. "Over the next ridge…ambushed us… I got one, sir…"

Éomer smiled at him, swallowing hard. "Your father would have been proud."

Handarion turned his head, his eyes meeting Anhuil’s. She took his hand. “Ada lye dartha. Bado na ron.” The youth smiled, and did not move again.

Standing and backing slightly away from the crowd that had gathered, Anhuil looked up toward the ridge in the distance. Something moving caught her attention, and without thinking, she drew her bow and fired twice, in rapid succession. She muttered a curse under her breath as one of the Orcs fell from the ridge to the ground below as the men scrambled. Several of the men ran up the ridge, searching for others.

She stood staring at the ridge, not moving, bow held at ready with another arrow nocked and the bowstring drawn.

"Must have followed him back. Looks like there were only two," one of the men called down to Éomer. “She got the other as well," he said with a nod toward the princess.

Striding quickly to where the princess held her stance, Éomer put his hand on her shoulder, following her gaze into the distance, but he saw nothing. Her bloodied hands trembled slightly as she lowered her bow. Shrugging him off, she dropped it and the arrow to the grass, running back to the fallen youth. She fell to her knees on the ground beside him.

Her heart broke for the young girl named after an Ainur, and for a mother she had never met.

Oblivious to the men around her, she laid her hand on his chest and closed her eyes. Her voice trembled as she spoke the words. "Ilu Ilúvatar en káre Eldain a fírimoin ar antaróta mannar Valion…Man táre antáva nin Ilúvatar, Ilúvatar, enyáre tar i tyel, íre Anarinya qeluva?” She paused, looking down into the youthful face of the boy. “Hiro hon hîdh ab ‘wanath.”

Éomer watched as she withdrew the embroidered handkerchief and wiped the dirt from the boy's face. Her gentleness touched him. “Hodo vae, thalionen," she whispered.

The marshal retrieved her discarded bow and stepped forward, offering Anhuil a hand, and pulled her to her feet. Holding both of her hands in one of his, he looked at the blood staining her fingers. She studied her hands for a moment, then raised her gaze to meet his. The look of determination and fury in her eyes, behind the glimmer of unshed tears, caught him off guard. "I want you to stay back, with Éothain. Stay with the rear guard."

"No!" Green eyes flashed at him. "I can fight! Did you not see what just happened? I can fight just as well as-"

"You will stay with Éothain." Éomer’s tone brooked no argument. He handed her the bow. "Go." The resolve in his voice was clear, but his eyes softened. The plea was unspoken. "Now!" he said firmly. Anhuil stared at him defiantly for a moment longer, then turned on her heel and stomped back to her mount.

Sighing resignedly, she plopped herself unceremoniously in the saddle. Éothain’s warning rang in her ears. 'If the marshal gets distracted, he could be a danger to himself or his men…' “Berio ven Eru,” she murmured softly.

Éomer's eyes met Éothain’s, the silent command understood. Keep her safe. Éothain acknowledged with a slight nod.

Éomer mounted his horse, and with a quick backward glance at her, called forth the Riders of Rohan.

“Forth, Eorlingas!”

The horns of the Riders sounded loud and clear through the vale.

"WARGS!" The cry rang out across the valley. Men were scattering everywhere, arrows and spears flying. Éothain and a dozen or so others stayed to the rear, the other men charging forward over the ridge. The thundering of hooves was deafening.

Anhuil had heard of the vile creatures ridden by Orcs but had never seen them before. They were more horrible than she could have imagined. Huge hunchbacked beasts with razor sharp fangs, ripping apart whatever they could tear into. Shooting at them from a distance was one thing, but seeing them this close up terrified her. She held her reins tightly, trying to keep to the back of the column as ordered, staying as close to Éothain as possible.

Several riders charged past them, singing. Singing! Anhuil had never heard anything like it. The men sang in the haunting language of the Rohirrim as they attacked and slew their foes, the eerie effect causing her pulse to quicken.

The scream of a man echoed through the vale, making her blood run cold. She turned away, reaching for her bow. She might be forced to stay at the rear but she was not going to do it unarmed. As she gripped her reins to control the horse, her bow slipped to the ground. She cursed under her breath.

Éothain saw her sliding off the saddle. "What are you doin', Missy?" he shouted above the din.

"I need my bow!" she yelled back, gesturing to where it had fallen.

"Oh, no, Miss! Stay on that horse. He will bolt!” he commanded her.

"Éothain, I will not sit here unarmed to be used for target practice!" She rolled off the horse and on to the soft grass, springing to her feet. Snatching up the bow, she took off across the field. As predicted, the palfrey darted away through the chaos.

"You will get yourself killed!" Éothain shouted after her. Cursing under her breath, the princess ran between the horses, dodging hooves. "You will get me killed," Éothain muttered to himself.

She knew the marshal would be furious, but she had not intended to drop her weapon. What choice did she have now but to fight? Scrambling up onto a rock, she positioned herself and drew her bow. The princess tried to focus on the targets the way her brothers had taught her. “Hîr e-Hûl, togo bilinn nín,” she whispered, closing her eyes momentarily. Arrow after arrow was nocked and flew, her trembling hands moving without much conscious thought. She was only vaguely aware of her arrows hitting targets and of some that went wild, trying desperately to block out the screams, growls, and sounds of terrified horses.

Éomer spun his horse around and headed toward the back of the regiment. He spotted Éothain, riding alone, and the grey palfrey, darting across the plain, his saddle empty. His eyes darted across the field, but could not see her in the chaos that was the battle. Several dead Orcs lay about, small blue and white feathered arrows sticking from throats or backs. "Where is Anhuil?" he demanded of Éothain. "Where is she?"

"I tried to stop her-" Éomer didn't wait for him to finish. Reins in one hand and drawn sword in the other, he bolted across the field. Dark brown eyes flicked over men, Orcs, horses, Wargs, arrows and flying spears…

He spotted her small form, standing on a low rock. She had her bow drawn and was firing off arrows, cursing at the Orcs between shots. “Firo, ulunn!” The last arrow fell slightly short of its target. She stomped like a spoiled child, quickly reaching for another.

Had it not been for the terrified expression on her face, Éomer would almost have been amused at the sight of this small woman, standing on a rock, hurling insults and arrows at an army of Orcs. She was so intent on her quarry that she failed to notice the one creeping up behind her.

Bits of stone rained down on her as it leaned over the rock above, and she spun around to see the hideous creature leering down at her, curved blade glinting in its hand. Glaring at him menacingly, she reached behind her for another arrow, and grasped nothing but air. Her arrows were spent. The foul creature laughed at her.

"Out of arrows, are we, little one?" the Orc sneered, raising his curved blade.

Anhuil's eyes narrowed. Heart pounding, she reached for her dagger, flipping it so that the blade was in her palm, ready to fling.

Éomer's heart leapt into his throat. He spurred his horse in desperation as the Orc stood and raised its sword, preparing to leap down. Grabbing an upended pike from the ground, he hurled it over her head. The Orc squealed and fell to the rock at her feet with a thud. The princess whirled around, her glare falling on the marshal.

"We are even now!" Éomer called out.

"I had that one!" she shot back, holding up her dagger.

“What are you doing here? I told you to stay back!” he shouted at her.

She flung her dagger past him, the Warg rider coming up behind him falling with a thunk to the ground as the weapon buried itself to the hilt in his throat. She winced. “May we discuss this later?” she yelled back.

Leaping down from his horse he grabbed her dagger from the dead Orc, and yanked a hand full of arrows from its quiver. Jumping back in his saddle, he passed her the weapons as he guided his mount past the rock on which she stood. "Hannon le!" She grinned and shoved the arrows into her own quiver, wiping the blood from dagger on the clothing of the dead Orc her feet before sheathing it.

"Come on!" He reached for her. Shaking her head, she raised her bow, nocking one of the commandeered arrows. Her attention was focused behind him.

Éothain looked up to see her aiming her bow in his direction. "Éothain, DOWN!" she shouted above the din. He turned his horse aside and bowed low in the saddle as an arrow whizzed over his head. The Warg rider behind him flopped to the ground, a grey-feathered arrow protruding from his chest. Elenion, not to be outdone, tore at the throat of the beast the Orc had ridden.

Grasping Éomer's hand, the princess dropped on to the back of his saddle. She could not fire from behind him, but continued her tirade of Elvish insults. Éomer would have laughed out loud had it not been for the seriousness of the situation. "Why do you do that?" he shouted back to her.

"What?" she called back.

"Curse like that."

"Why do you sing?" she hollered back.

"Good point…" Anhuil ducked as Éomer pulled another pike from the ground and hurled it overhead, neatly knocking an Orc off a Wargs back and pinning him to the ground. She shook her head, amazed. He made it look as easy as shooting apples off a fence post. Firefoot’s hooves drummed across the field, her arms tight around the marshal.

Firefoot unexpectedly reared as a Warg lunged. Éomer felt her slip from the saddle and reined in, momentarily panicked. A grey-feathered arrow pierced the neck of the beast, sending it reeling to the ground with a thump as she rolled clear of the pounding hooves. Éomer smiled. Whatever else you could say about this little she-devil, her aim was true.

Quickly regaining her footing, Anhuil stood and spun around, her sense of direction somewhat askew in the chaos. She scaled a flat rock nearby, ducking behind a jutting boulder, and drew her bow. Leaning around the edge, she released another barrage of projectiles, both wooden and verbal, toward a group that had encircled Dormand. She managed two with her arrows, turning her head away quickly as Elfhelm rode in, decapitating another in one swift blow, leaving the last one to Dormand.

She ducked back behind the boulder as a pike bounced off of it, missing her narrowly. The sound of a human scream made her spin around, just in time to see a warg leaping, knocking a rider she knew as Eadric from horse. Arrows flew from her bow, seemingly having no effect on the beast as it tore at the rider under its huge paws, the screams stopping abruptly. Flinging herself back behind the rock, Anhuil closed her eyes, falling to her hands and knees, fighting to keep her heaving stomach from expelling its contents.

Guttural growls jerked her back to reality. Wiping impatiently at the tears that stung her eyes, she leapt to her feet and peered around the rock.

The marshal whirled around to locate her. A small group of the foul beings had surrounded the rock she was standing upon. The princess held her stance on the plateau, firing off arrows, her small hands moving so quickly he could barely follow them, but not fast enough. Elenion tore over the tall grass, leaping on one of the creatures that had surrounded her, pulling it to the ground with his teeth locked on its throat. Reaching for another arrow, Anhuil cursed as she discovered she had again emptied the quiver.

One of the filthy creatures tried to climb up to where she stood. With a grunt of effort, she grabbed fallen pike with both hands and struck the beast across its ugly head, knocking it backward. She swung around, drawing her dagger, tossing the wieldy pike aside. Her heart pounded in her throat as an Orc that had reached the top of the rock lunged at her with its curved blade, ripping through her tunic. The others below jeered. A burning pain seared through her side, making her cry out. She held her ground, never taking her eyes off the enemy before her, the warmth of her own blood seeping through her tunic.

The sound of her cry made Éomer whirl around. He saw her standing on the rock, slowly circling the Orc, dagger drawn. His heart in his throat, he whistled loudly for Éothain.

Anhuil dodged the Orc’s second swing and rolled behind him. Before she could get to her feet a pike flew across the rock, impaling the Orc. He dropped to the flat stone surface. Anhuil kicked at the dead Orc with an angry grunt, still holding her side.

The two horses and their riders pounded through the group around the rock, knocking them aside. Holding the reins in one hand, Éomer reached up and grabbed her around the waist, pulling her in front of him on the saddle, his right arm tight around her. A wave of relief washed over him to have her back in his arms. He released her and drew his sword. The hilt felt strangely slick in his gloved hand.

The marshal glanced down at his hand that held his sword. Dark stains spread across the fingers of his glove, shining red on the hilt of his sword. Blood. Her blood. His stomach flipped. The princess leaned forward, holding her bloody dagger in one hand and her side with the other.

Yanking back her cloak, Éomer cursed. "Anhuil, you are hurt!" a sharp edge of concern in his voice.

She looked down first with disdain, quickly becoming irate. "That hideous beast cut me! Degina hon!" Squirming in his grip, the woman tried to get down, the effort proving far more painful than she anticipated.

Re-sheathing his sword, Éomer took the bloody dagger from her hand, sliding it into his own belt. Placing his hand over hers, he held it over the wound tightly, trying to keep pressure on her side. He could feel the warmth of her blood seeping through her tunic and her fingers, through his gloves. His stomach tightened. "Be still," he told her. His demeanor was calm, but Anhuil could hear the tension in his voice.

The pain in her side was intensifying. "My bow…" She felt dizzy. "I dropped my bow…"

“Shh." She slumped heavily against him. Glancing down, he guided his horse quickly away from the fray. Éothain followed. Jerking back on the reins, he halted the horse.

"I have to get her out of here," Éomer told him, "but I cannot leave the men."

Éothain stopped alongside him, reaching for the injured princess. "I will take her."

"She is wounded," Éomer told him quickly, reluctantly releasing her and helping his friend settle her in front of him. "Her left side, I do not know how bad." He was grateful his friend required no explanations.

Éothain pressed one hand over her side, grabbing his reins with the other. "I'll see to her. Go!"

With a brief nod, Éomer bolted back into the battle. He glanced down again at the blood on his glove. Unsheathing his sword, he held it high. “Guthwinë, for the Mark!” he called out.

Blind with fury, the marshal charged into the throng. Spurring his mount forward, he laid waste to everything in his path, leaving a trail of hideous heads in his wake.

Not one was left alive. Reining the horse to a halt, Éomer called out to his men. "Send out riders to check for others! Arador! Get these wounded out of here! Elfhelm, take your men and scout ahead for a campsite. Somewhere near the river, if possible. We will need water. Move!" He barked orders, trying to maintain some semblance of composure. Elenion trotted around Firefoot's hooves, whimpering. "The rest of you, get a fire going. We need to dispose of these carcasses."

He rode swiftly back to Éothain, who sat with Anhuil on the soft grass. She was lying back, Éothian pressing bandages against her wound. Éomer slid from his saddle and knelt beside her. Lifting her cloak and blood-soaked tunic carefully, he inspected the gash in her left side, sucking in his breath. It was still bleeding steadily, but fortunately it appeared to have missed anything vital.

Éomer grabbed the cloths from Éothian, pressing down on the wound. "Anhuil," he called her name softly.

Her eyes opened widely, frightened. "I am fine." She tried to sit up. Relief flooded him at the sound of her voice.

The marshal restrained her gently. "Please, let me bandage this." He yanked off his gloves, dropping them on the grass beside her. Turning her head, she glanced at them, feeling her stomach lurch at the sight of her own blood soaking them. She struggled for consciousness against the oblivion that threatened to overtake her.

The adrenaline was wearing off, the pain so intense her head reeled. He wrapped the bandages around her, keeping pressure on the bleeding cut. "It is not as bad as it looks," he said, as much for his own reassurance as hers. "This should at least help slow the bleeding until we can get to camp.” His fingers were warm on her exposed skin. She was taken aback by the involuntary wave of desire his touch unleashed, particularly considering her condition.

"Really, Éomer, I am fine." She tried to sit up again, drawing her breath in sharply at the pain.

"Yes, I see,” he answered sarcastically. The marshal raised her gently up to a sitting position, resting her back against his arm. Taking the flask offered by Éothain, he uncorked it and held it to her lips. “Drink some of this, it will help,” he said softly. She swallowed, coughing only slightly at the burn. Éothain picked her up as Éomer climbed back into his saddle. The lieutenant gently lifted Anhuil onto the horse, settling her carefully in front of the marshal.

"This is really not necessary…" she mumbled softly, trying to sit up, wincing in pain.

"Lean back, please, Ani," Éomer urged. She collapsed back, exhausted. Her head lay against his chest, dark curls falling across her face. Kicking the horse into a canter, he followed the rest of the riders.

The marshal’s mind reeled. Concerned as he was about her condition, he was livid. He had specifically told her to stay back. Granted, she could fight well, he would give her that. He had to admire her courage. He would deal with her defiance later.

The scouting party had already started making camp near the Entwash. Tents were set up, fires made, and the wounded were being tended. Éomer reined in and dismounted, taking Anhuil into his arms. Elenion trotted at his heels.

"I can walk…put me down…" she murmured against his shoulder.

"Do you not remember the last time you told me that?" he chuckled.

"You would dare not drop me again," she whispered, almost a threat, her breath warm against his neck. He laughed softly, grateful she had not lost her sense of humor.

"Lord Éomer, over there," a rider pointed in the direction of his quarters. Nodding his thanks, the marshal ducked inside the tent.

He was aware of the looks he was receiving from his men, but he didn't care. She was in his arms, and there she would stay. He laid her gently on the cot. Kneeling beside her, he checked the dressing on her wound. At least the bleeding seemed to have slowed.

The soldier who had pointed him to the tent appeared in the doorway with a basin of water and rags. "You need these, sir? I heard she was hurt. She's a hell of a fighter, for a woman."

"She will be alright. Just a flesh wound. Thank you, Ceorl."

"Yes, sir." He backed out of the tent.

"For a woman?" she whispered haughtily, before closing her eyes, lapsing once again out of consciousness.

Éomer looked down at his own hands, covered in her blood, then at her. Dark eyelashes resting on her cheeks, her breathing slow and even. He brushed the curls from her face. Even muddy and covered with blood, she was beautiful.

Picking up the rag, he washed the blood from his own hands hurriedly. It is not as if you have never seen blood, he told himself. He had, many times. Blood of men he knew and cared about. He was, after all, a warrior, and had bandaged more than his fair share of wounded men. He scrubbed hastily at his fingers with the cloth. This was different. It was her blood. Somehow that made it both precious and abhorrent at the same time. He blew out his breath, forcing the thought away.

Using a clean rag, he gingerly washed her face, then her hands, stained with her own blood, mixed with Handarion's.

Despite her murmured protests, he also removed her bloody tunic, washed the wound and redressed it. The shift she wore underneath was also stained and torn. Keeping his eyes averted as much as possible, as much for his own sake as for propriety’s, quickly removed it and pulled one of his own clean tunics over her, covering her with a small blanket.

Watching her sleep, Éomer tried to ride herd on the intense emotions washing over him. Anger at her disobedience was tempered by his respect for her skill with a bow, not to mention her courage. As upset as he was with her for endangering her own life, she had saved at least two of his men. The marshal ran a finger across her cheek, tracing the outline of her jaw, and kissed her lightly on the lips.

She stirred slightly. "Éomer," she whispered. The soft sound tore at his heart.

He placed his strong hand against her cheek. How could this little witch have taken hold of his soul in such a short amount of time? Less than one week ago he couldn't wait to be rid of her. Now he could not remember life without her, and did not want to even contemplate the possibility.

"I am sorry," her voice was quiet. She reached out to touch his face. Éomer took her hand in his. “I lost your horse….” Tears slipped from her eyes, whether from exhaustion, relief, pain, or all three, she wasn’t sure.

“You fought bravely. Your brothers would be proud,” he told her softly.

The princess closed her eyes tightly, the images filling her mind. She shook her head. “No...Eadric...” She covered her face with her hands.

“There was nothing you could have done for him, Ani,” he said soothingly, taking her hands in one of his and brushing her hair back from her face.

She shook her head again, a sob choking in her throat. “I was not brave, Éomer, I was scared out of my wits.”

Chuckling, he wiped the tears from her cheek with his fingertips. “As was I,” he told her, gently squeezing her hand. “Any man who tell you he has no fear in battle is either a fool or a liar, Anhuil. Courage is not about fearlessness. It is knowing fear and facing it. You fought better than many men I have known. Peace, now. You need to rest.”

The princess shivered slightly, curling into herself. "I am so cold."

He stood and removed his armor, unbuckling the leather plates and pulling the mail shirt and padding off over his head. Dropping them to the ground, Éomer carefully laid down on his side next to her, pulling her against him, his arms around her protectively. He pulled his cloak over her as she leaned her head against his shoulder. A large wolf curled in the corner of the tent, one ear twitching.

******
You see, in all my life
I've never found
What I couldn't resist
What I couldn't turn down
I could walk away from anyone I ever knew
But I can't walk away from you

I have never let anything have this much control over me
I worked too hard to call my life my own
I made myself a world and it's worked so perfectly
But it sure won't now; I can't refuse
I've never had so much to lose…

I never lost anything I ever missed
But I've never been in love like this
It's outta my hands
I'm shameless

Shameless - Garth Brooks
***********

Éomer looked down at the woman in his arms. Anhuil lay asleep, her cheek against his chest. He still could not believe how she had completely taken over his heart in such a short amount of time. With one finger he brushed the curls from her face, tracing the outline of her cheek, her skin soft under his calloused fingertip. Had someone told him a fortnight ago that he would fall in love with a sassy little wench who dressed in men’s clothing, he would have thought them mad. Yet here she lay, in his arms, and for all the world Éomer could not remember his life without her.

Worse, he didn’t want to.

He knew he could easily lay there with her all night, watching her sleep, but he needed to check on his men and the gossip would be bad enough as it was. Slipping from the cot, he covered her gently with his cloak, and stepped out of the tent, strolling across the camp. Elfhelm sat near a fire, puffing on a pipe. He looked up as Éomer passed. “How is she, Marshal?”

Éomer walked over to where his friend sat. “She is resting. The bleeding has stopped, at least. I think she will be fine.”

The other man nodded, gesturing for the marshal to sit. He did so, leaning his elbows on his knees, staring at the fire.

“Éomer...” Elfhelm began.

“I know what you are going to say.” He paused, glancing back at the lieutenant.

“Do you?”

Éomer sighed heavily. “I know she is a distraction. This battle proved beyond a doubt that she cannot continue to travel with us. Even if she can fight, this is no place for a woman.” He stared down at the dirt under his feet, hearing the words he was saying, but not liking them at all. “I will have to either find a safe place to leave her, or provide her with an escort home.”

“What are you thinking?”

“We are not far from Aldburg. Perhaps we should take her to the fortress and arrange an escort for her to Lothlórien. That is where she was headed, apparently.”

Elfhelm pulled the pipe from his mouth and stared at Éomer, his brow furrowing. “Lothlórien? Why in Arda would she be going there? The stories we have heard about that elf-witch...”

“You heard what the dwarf said. Perhaps there is far more to the Lady of Light than we thought. In any case, that is where she was heading. Apparently she is researching her country's history.”

"In Lothloríen?"

"Dol Amroth was named after a former king of Loríen."

An eyebrow raised as the lieutenant regarded the marshal. “I was not aware you were such a history scholar, Éomer.”

“Not a willing one, I assure you.” Éomer laughed. “But I did manage to retain some of what was drilled into my head by the court tutors.”

“So, we head for Aldburg?”

He shook his head. “There is no reason for the entire company to go. I can escort her there with only a few men. Éothain can take over command until I return.” Éomer’s gaze drifted to the dancing flames. “She will need a little time to heal, but I do not want her traveling alone if I can help it. It is not safe.”

“You will escort her personally?” Elfhelm’s tone was slightly teasing.

The marshal turned to face him. “Of course. I am the commanding officer of this unit, and it is my responsibility to see her to safety. It is bad enough I allowed her to get wounded. I will not risk further harm to her.”

“And that is your sole reason?” Elfhelm puffed his pipe, casting an innocent look at the marshal.

“What other reason would I have?” He met his friend’s gaze steadily.

The lieutenant shrugged. “As you wish, Marshal,” he responded.

Éomer stood. “I am going to check on the wounded.” He strode quickly across the camp.

Elfhelm nodded and turned back to the fire, chewing on the pipe.


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

Anhuil's head ached, her side hurt, and she was very hungry. Her dream had been much more pleasant than this morning's reality. She forced her eyes open, carefully rolling on to her back.

"Good morning." The deep voice startled her. Éomer was sitting beside her, on the edge of the cot, smiling. That smile…she was amazed that even in her condition it still had that effect on her. "How are you feeling?"

"My head hurts, my side hurts, I am starving, and I have no idea where my weapons are," she said, her voice raspy. He helped her sit up and handed her a cup.

"That good, eh? Drink this. It will help." She took a small sip, grimaced, and looked up at him.

"What is it?" Anhuil eyed the cup suspiciously.

"Tea." He smiled.

She took another sip and looked up at him. "Tea? And what else?" She coughed, holding her side. "It is a bit early for that, is it not?" Anhuil tried to give him back the cup.

"You did not mind it the other night. It will help," he said, pushing it toward her. "Drink it." Downing the rest, she frowned at the empty cup. Éomer took it from her hands, and gently tried to ease her back on the cot. Anhuil resisted. "Lie down," he commanded softly.

"I am fine." She hugged her knees, closing her eyes tightly. Why the thought of him touching her was suddenly disconcerting, she did not know.

"I only want to check the bandage. Please."

The princess hesitated. “Who do you think changed it last night, Ani? Who do you think changed your tunic?” She looked down, surprised that she was, indeed, wearing a clean shirt.

“You changed my clothing? You undressed me?”

He chuckled at her shock. “You would rather I left you in a bloody shirt? I promise, I was a perfect gentleman.”

The stare between them dissolved into soft laughter. Resignedly, she lay down. He lifted the side of her tunic carefully, pulling back the bandage gently. Anhuil laid her forearm across her eyes, trying not to think about his warm hands on her bare skin.

"It is not as bad as it looked," he observed, carefully replacing the bandages. "But you will have to be careful not to move around too much or the bleeding will start again." His dark eyes met hers, and his expression softened.

Touching her cheek with the back of his fingers, he smiled at her. "Gods, you frightened me." She grasped the hand resting on her cheek. "Please do not ever do that again."

"Frighten you?"

"Disobey me,” he corrected her. “If you had stayed with Éothain -"

Anhuil sat straight up, despite the pain in her side. "DISOBEY YOU?" she raised her voice.

"I specifically told you to stay with Éothain." The marshal tried to keep his voice checked, his tone that of one who was used to having his dictates complied with. "I told you to stay with the rear guard. If you-"

The princess stared at him in disbelief. "You do not issue orders to me, Lord Éomer! I am -"

"You very nearly got yourself killed! Do you have any idea-" The volume of their voices increased.

“I dropped my bow! I was not going to--“

“You were supposed to stay back, not go charging to the front line!”

“And what was I to do when they got to me? Hope they would realize I was not shooting at them and leave me be?”

“I told you to stay back!”

"I am not a child! I had no choice!"

"You endangered yourself AND my men! IF you had OBEYED ME-"

"OBEYED YOU????"

"I should not have to worry about where you are when I give you a direct order-!" He was yelling now, too.

"I am NOT one of your men to be ORDERED AROUND, Lord Éomer. I thought you had noticed that by now!" Anhuil was furious. "IF I HAD OBEYED YOU, YOU WOULD HAVE LOST TWO MORE GOOD MEN!" She punctuated the last three words with her finger in his chest, the tears stinging her eyes again at the thought of Eadric.

She held her clenched her fists to the sides of her head in frustration . "Uchenion edain! U’istannen le--" Her rant was cut short by his mouth covering hers. Strong hands cupped her face and gently held her, but it might as well have been a vise. His possession of her was so complete, she could no more pull herself away than she could fly. Her feeble attempts at pushing him back only made him deepen his kiss, one hand tangling in the dark waves at the back of her neck.

Éomer drew back as suddenly as he had kissed her. His dark eyes searched her fiery ones. "Do you not understand, Anhuil? I would die before I would let anything happen to you."

******
I'm shameless
Shameless as a man can be
You can make a total fool of me
I just wanted you to know....

Shameless
Garth Brooks
********

The princess stared at the marshal, trying to get her mind around what he had just said. Her side was screaming in pain but she didn't care. Sable eyes bored into hers, hands still cupping her face, seeking comprehension. He brushed her hair back from her face and dropped his hands.

Standing to leave, he motioned toward the basin of water. "There is some water here for you to clean up a little. Do you need help?"

Still unable to speak, she managed to shake her head. Éomer nodded. "I need to check on my men. I shall be back shortly." He disappeared through the opening of the tent.

Anhuil stared after him. He would die for her. She rubbed her aching head, trying to rein in her thoughts. She might as well have tried to rope the wind.

*********

Hodo, mellon nín - rest, my friend

Ilu Ilúvatar en káre Eldain a fírimoin ar antaróta mannar Valion…Man táre antáva nin Ilúvatar, Ilúvatar, enyáre tar i tyel, íre Anarinya qeluva? - The Father made the world for Elves and Mortals, and he gave it into the hands of the Lords… What will the Father, Oh, Father give me in that day beyond the end when my sun faileth? From Firiel's Song

Hiro hon hîdh ab ‘wanath - May he find peace after death.

Hîr e-Hûl, togo bilinn nín - Lord of the wind, guide my arrow

Firo, ulunn - die, foul creature!

Degina hon - I will kill him!

Uchenion edain. U’istannen lle-- I do not understand men! I do not understand you--

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Chapter Eight
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21 Jan 2004
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