Story Downloaded from Open Scrolls Archive (https://www.openscrolls.net)

Title: Trust To Hope, Book Two (#1105)
Author: Novedhelion
Chapters: 8

Archive: Tolkien
Category: Lord of the Rings
Description: The continuing saga of Éomer and Lothíriel... Be sure to read Trust To Hope! http://www.openscrolls.net/fanfic/authors.php?what=1&no=317 Nominated for MPA 2006 - KNOWN AUTHOR category. http://www.elvenlords.net/MPA/MPA2006/library.htm Updates coming soon...
Published: 13 Jul 2004
Updated: 15 Apr 2005
Warnings: See beginning of each chapter.
Type: Romance
Characters: Éomer; Lothíriel


Chapter 1 - Prologue

Trust To Hope - BOOK TWO
Prologue
by : Novedhelion
Beta: Riyallyn
Rating: PG 13 (Adult situations)
Warnings: Frustratingly honorable man, Frustrated Princess...


*****IF YOU HAVEN'T READ THE FIRST PART OF THIS SAGA, PLEASE CHECK OUT THIS LINK TO BOOK I OF TRUST TO HOPE!****

http://www.openscrolls.net/fanfic/story.php?no=558&sid=e1bb3f7f78b46b4b5a27b4740bcba2f8

***************
Dol Amroth
The Wedding Night

***************

“I beg your pardon?”

Anhuil stared at him in disbelief. “What do you mean we are not married? We spoke vows. Remember this?” she asked, holding up her hand and brandishing the ring.

Éomer chuckled. “Perhaps I did not make myself clear. In accordance with the laws of the realm of Gondor, yes, my love, we are well and truly married.”

“But?” she questioned, certain there was more.

He leaned forward, taking her hand in his, running his thumb gently over the mithril band surrounding her finger. “In the tradition of the Éothéod, we are not yet husband and wife.”

Pulling her hand from his, she shook her head. “I do not understand, Éomer. You said that your people did not have elaborate ceremonies.”

“I did not say we had no ceremony at all.”

She rubbed her forehead with her fingertips. “I am so confused. Am I married to you or am I not?”

“In Gondor, yes. In Rohan, no.”

“So what does this mean?”

“It means, love, I already have sent Éothain ahead to make the preparations so that when we arrive home we may have the ceremony as soon as possible, and you will officially be my bride and queen as far as the Mark is concerned.”

“So what you are saying to me is that although we are married here, we must wait until we arrive home to...to...”

“In a word, love...yes.” His dark eyes sparkled mischievously. “I would not have it said that the King of the Mark would dishonor his queen in that way.”

“But Éomer...” she stopped herself mid-sentence, the look in his eyes answering her question before it was asked. “You truly want it this way, do you not?”

“It would mean a great deal to our people if we shared this union with them as well.”

“Our people...” she murmured. “Oh, sweet Elbereth. I am going to be a queen...” she dropped her head into her hands.

Her husband chuckled softly, pulling her into his arms, lifting her chin with a finger. “And a lovely one you will be.” He kissed the tip of her nose, and released her. “Now, why do you not go change into something more comfortable? I will pour you some wine and we can discuss what needs to be done.”

Drawing away from him and standing beside the bed, she sighed in exasperation. “This is most assuredly NOT what I had planned for my wedding night,” she muttered under her breath as she stomped off to change.

**************


Chapter 2 - Good Things Come... Chapter One

Thank you for all the kind get-well wishes...the final diagnosis was a broken left wrist and a torn rotator cuff in my right shoulder, along with myriad bruises. However, faithful fans...the story must be told. So without further delay....

Trust to Hope, Book Two
Chapter One

Author: Novedhelion
Beta: Riyallyn
Rating: PG 13 for now
Warnings: Not responsible for your frustration, only theirs.
Disclaimer: Éomer is not mine, but he is Anhuil’s, and she’s mine. No money to be made, etc. You know the drill.

**************
“I am as frustrated as a pyromaniac in a petrified forest.”
A. Whitney Brown

***************
Chapter One
A Journey...
***************

Plopping herself on a low rock by the riverbank, Anhuil pulled her cloak tighter around her, and watched the chilly water rippling toward the southeast. A week of traveling with her new husband and the entire party headed for her new home in Edoras was beginning to wear on her, the need to have a few moments alone driving her away from the crowd.

It did not help that her adoring husband was adhering religiously to the ridiculous promise he had made to her on the plains of the Eastfold.

Elenion lay beside her. Digging her fingers into the warmth of his fur, she scratched behind his ears. He grunted appreciatively.

“I am glad you are here,” she told him, ruffling his fur. In response, the big animal rolled on to his side, his tongue lolling out of his mouth. “At least YOU still respond to my touch,” she quipped sarcastically.

Her head turned abruptly at the sound of approaching footsteps, and she smiled as the two blonde women approached. “Mind if we join you?” Cam asked, seating herself next to Anhuil.

“You look as if you could use some company,” Éowyn added, leaning against the rock on the other side of the queen, who sighed heavily in response. “I would not think a woman recently married would already sound so frustrated,” her new sister-in-law teased. “Or is my brother allowing you no sleep whatsoever?”

“Ha,” the queen laughed mirthlessly. “If only that were the case.”

Éowyn’s eyebrows rose. Exchanging surprised glances with Cam, she turned back to Anhuil. “What is it, then?”

Anhuil shook her head. “It is silly, really.” At their disbelieving expressions, she smiled. “Nothing is wrong, I promise. I suppose I am just a bit...frustrated.”

Cam frowned. “You throw out a statement like that and expect us to forget it?”

Anhuil sighed again. “Before the battle, when Éomer sent me to Minas Tirith, he made me a promise. It was a silly promise made in the heat of the moment, but now he insists on sticking to it.”

“What did he promise?” Éowyn asked, her curiosity piqued.

Hesitating, the queen bit her bottom lip. “It was...well, it was one evening when we were alone...and things got a little...heated...and he admitted to me how much he wanted me...but he insisted he wanted to wait.”

“Wait?” Éowyn asked incredulously. “Éomer? Are we talking about the same man, here? Tall, blonde--“

“Devastatingly handsome?” Ani finished her sentence for her, chuckling.

“He is my brother, Ani. I do not see him that way, but if you say so...”

Anhuil giggled again. “Yes, that would be him. Anyway, he insists that we wait until we are home, in our own bed.”

The two blonde women stared at her. Finally Cam spoke. “You have been married for over a week, sleeping in the same tent every night...and...” Anhuil’s slow nod cut off the rest of her sentence.

“How do you stand it?” Éowyn asked her. “I can hardly be in the same room with Faramir and keep my hands to myself. But we Eorlingas are not known for our restraint, either,” she chuckled. “I cannot believe Éomer is serious about this.”

“He is. Trust me. We spent our wedding night in Dol Amroth discussing plans for the ceremony at Meduseld.” She blew a few stray hairs from her face.

“The cad,” his sister commented wryly, casting a teasing smile at the queen.

Anhuil shot her a look. “I am serious, Éowyn! He is driving me spare!”

“Does he not touch you at all?” his sister asked, lowering her voice.

“He kisses me, and...well...yes and no. Being so close to him, especially at night, with him snuggled behind me...it is just...” her voice trailed off, her gaze falling on the rippling water.

Cam threw up her hands. “Seeing as I have no experience in this particular field, I am going to turn this one over to Éowyn. I am going to find Amrothos.” She stood and turned to go, then grinned over her shoulder at her friend. “I will say this. As long as I have known you, Ani, you have found a way to get what you really want. You just have to decide if you really want it.” With that, she headed toward the dark haired prince who stood waiting beside her palomino.

Anhuil stared after her. “If she thinks this is so amusing perhaps I should talk with my brother about putting her through the same thing once they are married,” she suggested.

Éowyn laughed out loud. “Seriously, Ani. She is right. If there is one thing anyone can say about Éomer, it is that he is a man of his word. Do you really want him to go back on a promise he made?”

Anhuil inhaled deeply. Clasping her hands under her chin, she leaned her elbows on her knees. “I honestly do not know, Éowyn. At times like this it all seems so silly, to be so frustrated about something like this. But other times I feel so overwhelmed, as if I...” Her voice trailed off, unsure of how to voice her feelings.

“Need him?” The Lady of Rohan ventured.

“Yes,” Anhuil answered. “Exactly that.”

Éowyn nodded. “I understand that all too well,” she said, smiling.

“I suppose I only have two options. Accept it or try to seduce him.” Anhuil’s green eyes sparkled mischievously.

The White Lady giggled. “I say go for the second option, but that is solely my opinion. His resolve cannot last forever.”

One eyebrow raised, the queen shifted her gaze to her sister in law. “You truly think so?”

Éowyn shrugged. “It is worth a try. Even if you do not succeed, at best you can be assured he will be in at least as much misery as you.”

The two exchanged giggles as they rose to their feet and rejoined the rest of their party.

~~~~~~~~~~

Éomer waited patiently beside Firefoot, smiling widely as Anhuil approached with Éowyn. Glancing from one to the other, his brow furrowed at the expressions on their faces. His gaze met Éowyn’s as she strolled past them. She smiled innocently at him, then winked at Anhuil before turning to Faramir.

“What was that about?” Éomer asked Anhuil as he lifted her on to his horse.

“What?”

“That look from Éowyn,” he muttered. “I have seen that mischievous look far too often in my time. It usually means she is up to something.”

“I have no idea what you mean,” Anhuil answered, as he climbed up behind her.

Reaching around her to gather the reins, he pressed his lips to her ear. “You are not a good liar, Ani,” he whispered, kissing her lightly on the cheek as he guided Firefoot toward the road that would take them to Edoras.

~~~~~~~~~~

Éomer walked toward his tent, purpose in every stride. Anhuil had been her usual chatty self, but he had not failed to notice that she often shifted her weight in the saddle in front of him, each time making him wish he had been wearing his armor. She had more than once clasped his thigh tightly when Firefoot quickened his pace. And it did not escape his attention that the dress she had chosen this day, while practical for riding with its narrow split skirt, had a particularly appealing low cut neckline that allowed him a generous view from his position behind her.

If she was trying to get to him, she was succeeding.

Ducking into the large, two chambered tent, he headed for the small sleeping chamber off to the side where a pallet had been made on the fur-strewn floor. Thick coverlets lay in a heap, a small fire in the brazier nearby warming the air slightly. He dropped the heavy drapery that separated the smaller chamber from the larger, opening his mouth to call her name. Instead, he stopped short.

A thin blanket had been hung as a makeshift curtain, behind which his wife stood. The small lantern she had placed on the table beside her to provide light and a bit of warmth cast her shadow against the fabric, the silhouette outlining clearly every curve as she undressed. Éomer stood, his feet glued in place, watching as she removed her dress, carefully unbuttoning it down the front and laying it aside. She pulled the shift over her head, and began washing up with the basin of warm water.

The aroma of lavender permeated the air of the tent. The water in the basin was so warm he could see the shadow of the steam rising from it as she dipped the cloth and washed her face, spreading the cloth down her neck, her shoulders...his breath caught as his eyes followed the path the cloth took, his fists involuntarily clenching at his sides, his hands aching to...

“Éomer? Is that you?”

The king cleared his throat. “I certainly hope no one else would see you like that,” he said, finally finding his voice.

Anhuil smiled to herself. “I will be right out,” she called innocently, continuing to wash up.

“Take your time,” he said, sitting down to pull off his boots, but not taking his eyes from the curtain. She finished washing, toweled off and pulled the shift back over her head. Pulling her hair from the braid, she began brushing it slowly, the curls now falling past her shoulders. He smiled, remembering the way her shorn hair had fallen in her face only a year ago, and how his fingers had itched to brush it from her eyes. Just now he wanted his hands buried in the thickness of it, entwined in it, holding her captive as his mouth ravished hers...

He moved to the brazier, warming his hands near the flame. He watched as she laid the brush aside, blew out the lantern, and stepped from behind the curtain. She reached up with both hands to re-braid her hair as she stepped toward him. Reaching out, he caught her wrists with his hands. “Leave it down,” he said softly, pulling her to him. Before she could answer, his mouth claimed hers, gently but insistently. His warm hands spread across her back, searing her flesh through the thin fabric of the shift. “I have wanted to do that all day,” he whispered against her ear. “Cam is right. Propriety is highly overrated.”

Anhuil shivered, as much from the kiss as from the chill in the air. “Cold?” he asked, as he scooped her up into his arms, carrying her toward the pallet.

“I was,” she admitted, as he laid her back, reaching around her to pull back the covers. She slipped underneath the coverlet, reaching for the fastening of his tunic. “You are overdressed,” she commented quietly.

He glanced down. “So I am,” he conceded, pulling off the shirt over his head and slipping under the covers with her, his arms wrapping around her. “Better?”

“It is a step in the right direction, anyway,” she teased, snuggling against his shoulder. His hands, still warm from the fire, roamed down her back, sliding over her hip. He lowered his head, his lips finding hers, his hand on her hip gently pulling her over on top of him.

A sigh of pleasure escaped his lips as he buried both hands into the dark waves at the nape of her neck, his fingers lost in the thick curls. “I love your hair,” he murmured. She arched her neck back against his hands, and his mouth took the opportunity to explore the curve of her throat.

“I thought you did not want to do this,” she said softly, turning her head to one side to grant him better access. “I thought you wanted to wait.”

“I said I wanted to wait to make love with you,” he answered, his voice a soft rumble. “I never promised I would keep my hands entirely to myself.”

Anhuil placed her hands on his chest and pushed herself back slightly, her gaze meeting his. “This is not very fair, you know, teasing me this way.”

“Oh, and your squirming in the saddle is?” he quipped in return. “I found your choice of attire rather interesting as well. And just perfect timing for your bath, do you not think?”

Frustrated, she tried to wiggle away from him, only to find herself flipped over and pinned beneath him. “Where do you think you are going?” he asked. “You started this, with your own teasing all day. You will stay here and take your comeuppance.” Éomer buried his face in the mass of curls at the side of her neck, his teeth nipping lightly at her exposed shoulder. “I should punish you,” he chided teasingly, his mouth moving lower.

Closing her eyes, Anhuil dug her own fingers into his hair. If this was punishment, she would have to misbehave more often. His warm lips explored slowly, savoring every inch of her he could reach, his hands just as busy as his mouth. Giving herself over to the pleasure of his exploration, the queen sighed his name softly.

Éomer’s hands and lips froze in place, the soft sound of her breathing his name causing the knots of desire already in his belly to tighten almost painfully. Gods, but he wanted her, promise or no promise. His attempt to pay her back for teasing him all day was failing unequivocally.

Opening her eyes, his wife looked up at him, the desire in his dark eyes a visible flame. “Still insist on keeping your promise?” she asked, the silken tone in her voice making it all too clear she would not protest.

A growl of frustration from low in his throat rumbled against her neck as he buried his face in her hair. Anhuil almost giggled out loud, but instead raked her fingernails lightly across his back, causing him to shudder slightly. There was no mistaking the effect she was having on him, and she certainly would not deny her own desire. “Éomer, I know you are a man of your word, but...”

Éomer closed his eyes, breathing in deeply the scent of lavender. Why the bloody hell did she have to smell so good? “Ani...”

“Our situation was much different when you made that promise, love,” she said softly, turning her head to press her lips to his ear. “We are married now...” Her teeth found his earlobe.

“Oh, gods...”

The queen smiled at his muffled response, continuing her gentle assault. “You cannot deny you want this,” she whispered, instinctively pressing her hips suggestively against his, giggling when his hand clamped tighter on her hip, trying to still her.

The king’s senses reeled as his wife wriggled beneath him. She was right. He could not deny it. He would not. Every fiber of his body ached for her, and her nails skimming over the solid muscles of his back coupled with the softness of her under him did nothing to quell the fire that blazed through every inch of his skin, not to mention what she was doing with her teeth to his ear. Perhaps she was right. After all, they were married.

Reluctant to move where her teeth could no longer reach, he raised his head and looked down at her. “Are you certain? You will not be disappointed if we do not wait?”

Anhuil laughed out loud. “Disappointed?” she asked sarcastically. “Éomer, I have been trying to--“

His mouth took hers, effectively cutting off the rest of her sentence, but she didn’t care. His tongue traced her lips and she parted them readily, her own gently coaxing his into a subtle duel. Questing hands moved to the lacing of her shift, the delicate silk closures offering only a pittance resistance to his insistent fingers. Tracing one finger behind the lacings between her breasts, he tugged gently at them as his lips followed the trail his fingers had made.

Her soft moans only encouraged him further, urging him to continue. He inhaled deeply, filling his lungs with the scent of her, blocking out anything and everything else until only the warmth of her beneath him existed, the sound of her breathing his name echoing in his ears.

She suddenly went bowstring taut under his hands. A moment of perplexity passed before he raised his head and realized she was responding to sounds in the camp. Men shouting, a loud barking, horses whinnying in fear.

Voices shouting. “Wolves!”

He held her gaze a moment longer. “Go,” she said softly.

He nodded, crawling from under the furs to yank on his tunic and cloak, then turned back to her with an apologetic look. “Ani...”

The shouts were becoming louder, the horses sounding increasingly panicked.

“Go!” she repeated, sitting up and reaching for her own clothes.

He shook his head. “Stay here.” Her eyes shot up, her mouth opening to argue. Grabbing her chin with his fingers he silenced her with a kiss. “Stay here. Stay warm. I will be right back.” Éomer grabbed his sword and darted out of the tent.

~~~~~~~~~

Exhausted, the king crept quietly across the fur-strewn floor. Lifting the heavy drape that separated their sleeping quarters from the main tent, Éomer peered in before entering. Anhuil lay on the pallet, curled on her side, sleeping soundly. He noticed with some small satisfaction that she had not re-braided her hair. Doffing his clothing once again, he slipped under the coverlet and furs with her, snuggling against her back and burying his face into the mass of sweet smelling curls upon his pillow.

She stirred slightly, wriggling back against him. “Horses all right?” she asked sleepily.

“Yes,” he answered softly. “Only one was slightly injured, but she will be fine.” He nuzzled her neck. “I am sorry, Ani.”

She sighed. “I suppose someone out there wants you to keep your promises.”

“So it would seem,” he responded resignedly.

His wife was so quiet for a while Éomer wondered if she had fallen asleep again. Finally she spoke, almost startling him. “How much further to Edoras?”

Éomer laughed softly. “A week or less,” he answered, “depending on the weather.”

“Then we shall pray for good weather.” She yawned widely, and squirmed a bit closer to him as he slid an arm around her waist. “Losto vae, meleth nín,” she murmured quietly.

Pressing a kiss to the back of her neck, Éomer closed his eyes. “I love you, Ani,” he whispered, letting himself slip into oblivion.

~~~~~~~~~~

The next morning had dawned grey and dull, low clouds billowing across the horizon. Anhuil snuggled back against Éomer, shrugging deeper into her cloak against the chill.

Éothain rode up beside the king, nodding a polite greeting to Anhuil. She smiled in return from beneath her hood. “Éomer,” he said, addressing him by his first name. Éomer had insisted that at the very least he address him as the friend he grew up with. “This weather is not going to hold. We should seek adequate shelter. The wind is already picking up.”

Eyeing the storm brewing to the north, the king frowned. They could search for a semi-sheltered place to set up camp, but tents would be little protection should the storm bring driving snow, or worse, sleet and ice. And there was no way to shelter so many horses with such a large party.

“This storm will be here before the day is out,” Éothain observed. Éomer knew what his suggestion would be before he voiced it, and cringed inwardly. “We could make for Aldburg. It is only a half-day’s ride from here,” the marshal suggested.

Aldburg. It had been his childhood home, when his father was marshal of the Westfold. It had once felt like home, but now the idea of stopping there even for one night held no appeal whatsoever.

“I am certain Lord Abrecan would be honored to host you and your new wife, as well as her family,” Éothain offered. “The men and I can stay in the bunk house. There will be adequate stable space there, as well.”

Knowing all of his friend’s suggestions made perfect sense did not stop Éomer’s stomach from giving a lurch at the thought of staying at Lord Abrecan’s estate again. He cast a glace at Éowyn, who was deep in conversation with Faramir as they rode. Perhaps she was right. Perhaps nothing HAD happened. He certainly could not remember anything. Regardless, he could not let his party or their horses freeze in a storm because of his own insecurities.

He nodded at Éothain. “Make for Aldburg. Send a rider ahead to let them know we are coming. We should be able to beat the storm.”

With a nod, the marshal rode off to pass along the orders. The king blew out his breath and shifted his weight in the saddle.

“Éomer...”

He almost jumped at the sound of her voice. “Yes, love?”

“Aldburg is where you grew up?”

“Yes,” he answered softly. “When my father was Third Marshal, we lived at the fortress there.”

“Who is Lord Abrecan?” she asked.

Éomer swallowed a lump in his throat. “He is a landowner who has a large estate near the fortress. He owns much of the land in this region. He is a good man. An honorable man, and very wealthy. He takes good care of the people who work his land and raise his horses.”

Anhuil smiled at the obvious admiration her husband had for the man. “You speak as if you know him well,” she observed.

“I have known him all my life. He was a friend of my father’s. He used to bring Éowyn and I presents when he came to visit. Carved horses that he made with his own hands.” He smiled at the memory, almost forgetting his reason for avoiding a visit to Aldburg.

Almost.

His wife settled back against him contentedly. “Sounds like a lovely man. I am looking forward to meeting him.”

“He will be honored to meet you as well, I am sure,” Éomer responded, hoping the optimism in his voice would mask the fact that his insides were tied in a knot.

~~~~~~~~~~

The party rode up to the home of Lord Abrecan just as the sleet began to slam down from the darkened sky, the tiny bits of ice bouncing off the hard, frozen dirt at their feet. Anhuil watched as the miniscule droplets fell and stuck to Firefoot’s mane, the warmth radiating from the stallion quickly melting them.

From inside, a woman watched through a window as Éomer rode up to the front gate and dismounted quickly. As he turned and lifted his wife from the saddle, sliding her to the ground next to him, the woman’s full lips moved into a pout. She sized up the new Queen of the Mark. Short, dark-haired...hard to tell what her figure was like under that heavy cloak. The petite queen turned to scan her gaze over the estate house, smiling her approval from under the deep blue hood of her cloak. Although she could not hear the words, the adoration in her gaze when she spoke to her husband was clear.

So this was the woman he had spoken so much about on his last visit. Tossing her long blonde waves over her shoulder, Willa’s lips curled into a smile. She may have the title of Queen of the Mark, but I will still have my due, she thought to herself as she watched Anhuil slide her arm into Éomer’s and walk briskly toward the doorway. Who does she think she is, a woman of Gondor, taking the throne of the Mark? Willa humphed, crossing her long arms under her breasts and watching the couple approach.

“Willa!” She turned at the sound of her name. Her uncle stood at the end of the hallway, smiling broadly. “There you are! Our guests have arrived, dear. Come and help me greet them!” He gestured with his hand for her to follow and walked briskly toward the entrance. She glanced down at the dress she wore, smoothing a hand over her skirt, deciding it was appropriate enough to greet the King of the Mark and his...bride.

Éomer clasped a gloved hand on his wife’s arm as she lifted her skirts with both hands, darting through the now pouring sleet. Cam and Amrothos were right behind, followed closely by the rest of the party. They stamped the ice from their boots and pushed hoods back as Lord Abrecan greeted them all warmly, leading them into the large main hall, its huge stone fireplace framing a roaring blaze that warmed the entire room.

The king returned the greeting graciously, introducing his party as Abrecan instructed various servants to show them to rooms he had prepared for them. Orders given, he returned his attention to the king.

“I am honored that you grace my home with your presence once again, Your Majesty,” the older man said with a bow.

“Abrecan, I have told you before, any man who bounced me on his knee as a child need not bow in my presence,” the king teased. “For the love of Béma, you were friends with my father.”

Abrecan laughed. “Yes, and you are every bit Éomund’s son, Éomer.” He beamed at the king. “And how a rogue like you managed to capture the attention of such a lovely creature is beyond my comprehension,” he teased, his gaze falling on the queen. He took Anhuil’s hand in his, kissing her fingers lightly.

“You have a lovely home,” the queen observed, taking in the ornate carvings that covered every inch of the wooden pillars around the hall. “We are grateful for your hospitality, particularly under such short notice.”

“I fear the beauty of this place will dim greatly when your presence is no longer felt,” he answered charmingly, his hand still grasping the queen’s fingers.

Éomer reached out and took her hand from Abrecan, laughing. “All right, old man, that is enough,” he joked. “This is my wife you speak to, not some tavern wench.”

The old man laughed heartily. “Still fiercely protective, are you, lad?” He turned his grey eyes to the queen, the mischievous sparkle in them unmistakable. “He used to scare the daylights out of any young man who showed attention to his sister, regardless of the fact that Éowyn could have bested any one of them in a fight.” Anhuil stifled a giggle with the back of her hand. Éomer’s eyes darted around the room, adjusting to the dimmer light of the lanterns. He was about to release a sigh of relief when he heard the voice he had dreaded.

“Éomer!” Willa greeted him enthusiastically.

“Lady Willa,” he responded woodenly.

He reached for her hand to kiss it politely, but she waved him off, planting a bold kiss on his cheek instead. She slid her arm through his, snuggling up to his side and casting the queen a self-satisfied look before turning to the king. “Please, Éomer. Need we be so formal? I would have thought you and I had progressed to first names by this point,” she crooned.

Trying to contain her grin at Anhuil’s rather poorly concealed look of shock, Willa smiled innocently.

Éomer gently withdrew his arm from her grasp and pulled Anhuil to him. “Lady Willa, I would like you to meet my wife, Lothíriel, Queen of the Mark.”

Willa’s blue eyes regarded her coolly. “So you are the lucky girl,” she commented wryly, the condescending tone not lost on the queen. “You know, Éomer was quite sought after here in the Mark. Many hearts were irreparably broken when news came that he had taken a wife.”

The slight tinge of bitterness in her words did not escape Anhuil’s notice, but she smiled politely anyway. “I consider myself quite blessed,” she responded, sliding her hand into the king’s.

“It is I who am blessed,” he returned, smiling down at his queen. Willa’s cheeky smile vanished.

Abrecan watched the exchange with interest, frowning at his niece’s behavior. “Willa, see that the cook prepares some hot tea. I am sure our guests are chilled.”

“I am sure that the king knows there are other ways of warming, Uncle,” she answered coyly, her gaze falling on Éomer.

“Willa...” Abrecan growled low, his warning tone causing her to take a deep breath and step back slightly.

“I will see to it, Uncle,” she said resignedly, her eyes raking over the king once more before she turned to sashay slowly down the hallway. Éomer deliberately ignored her, squeezing his wife’s hand and smiling at the older lord.

Turning to the queen, the old man smiled humbly. “Please excuse my niece. She has always been a bit...forward. Her behavior was entirely inappropriate and I promise to speak to her about it.” Unsure what to say, Anhuil only nodded politely. “I will have you shown to your room. I am sure you would like to remove the wet clothing and clean up before dinner,” Abrecan continued. “Shall I have a bath prepared for you, Your Majesty?”

Anhuil’s thoughts had wandered as she turned to look over her shoulder at the empty hallway where Willa had disappeared. The woman certainly seemed to be familiar with the king, addressing him by his first name and touching him so inappropriately. The innuendo was clear, and the implied intimacy with which she spoke of Éomer made her uncomfortable. If nothing else, it was indisputable that they had met before.

Éomer squeezed her hand again, and she jerked her head around to face him. “Lord Abrecan asked if you would like a bath prepared,” he said quietly.

“Oh, I am sorry,” Anhuil said apologetically, her cheeks coloring. “My thoughts had wandered a bit. Please, forgive me.”

“The fatigue of the journey is catching up with you,” Abrecan scolded. “A warm bath, a good meal and a few good nights of sleep in a real bed is what you need.”

“You are right, of course,” the queen answered, trying to sound as sincere as possible. Éomer cast a curious sideways glance at his wife. It was not like her to be so easily distracted, particularly in diplomacy. She tossed what she hoped was a reassuring look in his direction before smiling at Abrecan. “And a bath would be delightful.”

With a nod, the old man grinned. “Consider it done. Now, if you will follow Derian, he will show you to your room.”

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

Anhuil sat at the dressing table, brush in hand, her back to the mirror as she faced Camwethrin. “I am being silly,” she muttered, tapping the brush against her palm.

“I do not think so. I, for one, found her behavior abhorrent. And Éomer certainly did not appear flattered,” Cam commented. “She was blatantly flirting with every man at the table, including your father!”

Heaving a sigh, Anhuil turned to the mirror and began dragging the brush through her hair. “It is not that I would ever mistrust Éomer, Cam...but she was just so...familiar with him.” She sighed again. “I am being ridiculous and petty. He is married to me. He loves me and I trust him implicitly. I am not going to let some woman I do not know get me riled.”

She caught Cam’s amused expression in the mirror, and looked back over her shoulder. “What?”

“Then why are you pulling your hair so hard you are about to yank it all out?” Cam asked, moving to take the brush from her hand. Gently she started over, working on the unruly curls. The queen frowned at her reflection. “Ani,” her friend said soothingly, “you are tired. Get some rest. The men will be some time yet. Amrothos said your father wanted to speak with Abrecan about purchasing some of his horses. You know how your father loves to negotiate.”

“Gods, they could be there all night,” Anhuil lamented.

Cam finished brushing her friend’s hair and set the brush down. “Get some rest, Ani. I am going to bed as well. Tomorrow things will be different, I promise.”

Anhuil rose and gave her a quick hug. “You are right. I am tired. Daylight is best for examining one’s troubles.”

Cam smiled in return and opened the door. “Nite, Ani.”

“Losto vae, Camwethrin,” she called after her as the door fell shut.

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

Éomer made his way down the quiet hallway to the chambers he shared with his wife. Lord Abrecan had haggled with Imrahil good-naturedly until a price was agreed upon, then it was celebrated with a tankard. And another. And a few more, until Imrahil gave up and headed for bed. Faramir had begged off as well, and Amrothos had not been far behind.

When it came down to just Éomer and Abrecan, the old man had cajoled him into “just one game” of Stratagem, for “old times sake.” The elderly lord had taught Éomer to play as a child, and had often challenged him on his visits to Aldburg and then to Meduseld as Éomer grew. In all the years he had only beaten the old man a handful of times, but tired as he was he didn’t have the heart to deny the request.

So a few tankards later and another hard-fought victory under his belt, he shook the old man’s hand and headed for his chambers.

Making his way as quietly as possible, he was so startled by the sudden hand on his shoulder that he nearly shouted.

“Willa!” he whispered loudly. “Bless Béma, woman, you scared me.”

“Shh!” Willa chided, grinning as she pulled him into a corner of the hallway, leaning against him. “I was beginning to wonder if the old codger would keep you all night,” she said softly, running a finger down the front of his tunic.

Éomer pulled back from her, only to find an unmoving stone wall at his back. “Yes, well, it has been a long time since Lord Abrecan and I had a chance to game, and --“ He stopped suddenly at the touch of her lips to the side of his neck. He attempted to push her back, trying not to be rough. “Willa, I --“

With long fingers she clasped his face and brought it to hers, her full mouth covering his protests. Neither one heard the soft creak of the door at the far end of the hall.

Eyes wide, the king wrenched himself from the wall, his hands grasping her shoulders and firmly pushing her away from him. “I am a married man, Willa.”

“That does not stop most of them,” she quipped, grinning coyly.

“Perhaps not, but then, I am not most men,” Éomer stated.

Her eyes narrowed. “It did not seem to trouble you the last time you were here.”

“The last time I was here, I was not yet married. And I do seem to recall having a conversation with you about the fact that my heart did belong to another already.” He stood straight, his gaze meeting hers squarely.

“Again, it seemed not to trouble you too deeply.” Her blue eyes glinted mischievously, almost maliciously. “Admit it, Your Majesty,” she intoned, using the honorific so sarcastically it took him aback. “You enjoyed your last visit.”

Éomer’s mind reeled, but he gave no indication. “To be perfectly honest, Willa, I do not remember much of my last visit.” He turned abruptly on his heel and headed for his own bedchamber.

Fuming, the tall blonde clenched her fists at her sides. Go on back to your little wife, then, she thought to herself. We shall see how devoted she is soon enough.

It was then that she noticed the man standing in the doorway of another bedchamber at the far end of the hall, a puzzled expression on his face. His dark hair tumbled loose over bare shoulders as he stood there, wearing only a pair of sleep pants. She wondered briefly how much he’d seen, then remembered he was unmarried and cast him what she hoped was an alluring smile. He glanced her direction once more, his dark brows furrowed, before turning and closing the door.

Tossing her hair over her shoulder, she stormed off down the hall to her own chambers.

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

Soft light from the lamp in the hallway fell across the fur-covered floor as the king gently pushed the door open. Closing the door behind him and flipping the latch, he was grateful for the firelight still flickering in the hearth. Crossing the room to it, he picked up another log from the basket and tossed it into the fire.

His gaze traveled to the big bed. Anhuil lay curled on her side, barely visible with the coverlets pulled up to her neck. Her dark hair was unbraided, he noticed with a slight smile, and spread across the pillow behind her. The blankets rose and fell with her even breathing, though he heard no sound except the crackle of the fire behind him as the new wood caught.

With a deep sigh, he turned back to the flames. Willa. What was he to do about her? What had truly happened that night? Try as he might, the huge gap in his memory could not be filled. The blonde had tried, convincingly enough, to make him believe something had happened, but had it, really? He could not believe...did not WANT to believe, that he would willingly betray Anhuil.

Had he really been that drunk?

Quietly removing his clothing, he slipped under the covers and slid over to his sleeping wife, who backed against him with a contented sigh as he snuggled behind her, his arm around her waist. The lavender scent of her hair enveloped him as he closed his eyes and breathed deeply.

Past, Éowyn had said. It was in the past. There was no need to bring it up if the only result would be hurting her. In a few days they would be gone, away from this place, away from Willa. As soon as this storm let up and travel was possible, they would leave here.

In a matter of days, they would be home.

~~~~~~~~~

Less than two days later, they had once again set out on their way. The storm had passed, the weather quickly warming enough to melt the layers of ice that covered the trees and road. Travel was slow and muddy, but at least it was travel.

Avoiding Willa had not been nearly as difficult as he had thought. Apparently she had realized he meant what he said, for he had not seen her again after that first night. He hoped he had seen the last of her.

The queen had determined her stallion was feeling decidedly rejected, and had announced that she would ride him at least part of the way this day. After all, she had reasoned, it was not fair to Firefoot to have to carry them both the entire way to Edoras.

Her husband had argued that her slight weight was no additional burden to his steed, but she persisted, and he grudgingly relented. Now as she rode alongside his sister and her best friend, giggling like schoolgirls, Éomer smiled at them.

“I am never going to get this right, Éowyn,” Anhuil lamented as they rode side by side, after once again forgetting a word in Rohirric. She was determined to learn the lines for the ceremony in his tongue, although he had assured her it was not necessary.

“You will be fine. Now, try again,” the White Lady grinned, repeating the line, as Cam bit her lip to stifle a snicker.

~~~~~~~~

“Feeling abandoned already?”

The king looked up at the grinning face of his youngest brother in law, and shook his head. “I cannot be too possessive, I suppose,” he answered. “In a few weeks I will have her all to myself. I shall not begrudge her a little female company for now. Besides, Éowyn is determined to teach her Rohirric.”

Amrothos chuckled. “Ani has always had a thing for languages. Words of any kind, in truth.” His gaze wandered to his sister, then to the blue-eyed blonde that rode beside her, chatting animatedly. Cam turned toward him suddenly, as if aware of his eyes on her, and smiled. The prince’s heart did a small flip as he returned the grin before she turned back to her friends.

“You know Ani is very happy for you both,” Éomer mentioned casually. “I do not know that she would leave Cam if it were not for you.”

“It will be a hard separation for both of them,” Amrothos agreed. “They have always had each other.”

Éomer merely nodded, not knowing how to respond. He felt much the same way when Éowyn had left.

They rode in silence for a few moments before Amrothos spoke again. “Éomer, I need to ask you something.” The king turned to him, one eyebrow raised in question. Taking a deep breath, the prince lowered his voice. “The other night, there was a woman at Aldburg...Lord Abrecan’s niece.”

“Willa,” Éomer stated calmly, although his heart skipped a beat.

“Yes. Willa. She is very...friendly.”

Éomer nodded in agreement. “A bit too friendly at times.” He tried to ignore the clenching of his stomach, keeping his eyes on the path ahead.

“I saw her with you.”

The clenching became a tightly twisted knot. Éomer swallowed, struggling for words.

“I heard what you said to her, what she said to you. I did not mean to eavesdrop, I was trying to find my way to the privy when I saw the two of you in the hall.”

A small wave of relief washed over the king, although his insides would not fully unwind. “Willa can be very persistent. She has caused more than her fair share of trouble for men, both married and not.” His dark eyes met the prince’s. “I would never betray my vows to your sister, Amrothos. I love her more than my own life. Surely you know this.”

Amrothos nodded. “I do. I did not mean to imply otherwise. But I could not help overhearing what she said about your last visit to Aldburg.”

Éomer took a few moments to steady both his thoughts and his voice before responding. He would not lie to Amrothos.

“The last time I stayed at Aldburg was before Éowyn’s wedding. They held a large feast. You know we Eorlingas do not need much encouragement for a celebration, and my sister’s impending wedding was enough reason. In any case, I had a few drinks with Abrecan. Willa was...shall we say...rather friendly, and I had a hard time explaining to her that my heart belonged to another. The next thing I remember is waking up in my bed with a splitting headache and flowers under my pillow.”

“Flowers?” the prince asked.

“The same ones that had been in Willa’s hair,” he answered. At the prince’s incredulous look, Éomer shook his head. “I do not know what happened, Amrothos, but I have no memory of that night whatsoever.” He sighed. “I had planned to tell Ani what happened, but Éowyn insisted I should not. I do not have a history of forgetting things like that, even when I am deep in my cups. My sister insisted that to tell Ani when I have no idea if anything untoward happened would only cause her unnecessary pain.”

Amrothos blew out a slow breath. “You have no memory at all of it?”

“None,” the king replied. “I have had a few too many ales many times in my life, and I have yet to forget something like that. I do distinctly remember telling her about Ani, and that I had no interest in any other woman. I will not deny that I have had probably more than my share of tumbles in the past, but I love your sister, Amrothos. I would never knowingly and willingly betray her. For the love of Béma, I have turned down every other woman in sight for over a year!”

Unsure how to respond, the prince glanced at his sister. She threw her head back in laughter at something Cam whispered.

“Éowyn is right,” he said softly. “Regardless of what happened, there is no need for Ani to know. It was before your marriage to her, and knowing it now would be of no benefit to her or anyone else.”

Éomer felt the tension slide just a little, realizing he gripped Firefoot’s reins so tightly his fingers were going numb. “I would rather slit my own throat than cause her even one second of pain or doubt.”

The young prince nodded. “Good, because I would hate to have to take you to task so early in your marriage,” he warned jokingly.

“And I have not forgotten that my wife has three older brothers,” Éomer responded, not quite as lightly.

“Best not to,” the prince said curtly, but the corner of his mouth still curled into a smile.

The laughter of the women washed over them both as they spurred their mounts on.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Ok...I have had numerous emails and messages about posting this chapter. Here it is. Since posting, I have had over two hundred hits. And ONLY TWO REVIEWS. What's up with that? I know you guys can do better...come on...motivate me! Review, please!


Chapter 3 - Good Things Come... Chapter Two

Trust To Hope - Book Two
Chapter Two

I’m going to skip most of this information, cause by now you guys know I wrote it and Riya beta’d it.

Rating - PG 13
Disclaimer - Not making any money. Wish I was. Sorry it's short. Still healing from these injuries...but I thought it was better than making you wait longer!
Warning - Willa’s a bitch.

**********
Now join your hands, and with your hands your hearts.
-- William Shakespeare, King Henry the Sixth
**********
Chapter Two
Edoras
12 Gwaeron, 3020 T.A.
**********

“Stop for a moment, please,” Anhuil asked, her voice quiet.

Éomer reined in Firefoot and followed her gaze. Before them, gleaming atop the hill less than half a day’s ride away, sat Edoras, the Golden Hall of Meduseld.

“It is so beautiful,” she finally said.

“Not as beautiful as you,” the king answered softly, pressing his lips to her temple. He transferred the reins to one hand, sliding the other around her waist. She laid her hands on his arm, pulling it tight around her in an effort to stop the leaping of her insides. Her slight tremble did not go unnoticed. “Are you nervous?” he asked.

“Scared to death,” she admitted. “What if your people--“

“Our people,” he corrected her.

Ignoring him, she continued. “Éomer...what if they do not take kindly to you bringing an outsider to be queen? What if they do not approve of me?”

He chuckled, squeezing her against him, and lowered his voice dangerously. “If anyone dares speak against the queen, I will raise their head on stake as a warning to any others who might--Ow!” He cut himself off as she elbowed him in the ribs.

“You are not helping,” she said, stifling a nervous laugh.

“Stop fretting, Ani. They will love you.” Urging Firefoot forward, they made their way across the open fields.

~~~~~~~~~
Edoras
Meduseld
14 Gwaeron, 3020 T.A.
~~~~~~~~~

“Ic þé þás mece giefe...” Anhuil repeated softly to herself, sitting in front of the mirror, running a brush through her curls, trying desperately to take her mind off the constant flipping of her insides and the pounding of her heart. Dressed only in a shift, the creak of the door startled her, and she whirled to see Cam enter. Breathing a sigh of relief, she turned back to the mirror.

“You are not dressed yet,” her friend observed, moving to the small table and picking up the bottle of wine that sat upon it.

“I am still trying to do something with this hair!” Anhuil complained. “I cannot seem to make it behave. I tried braiding it but it kept coming down, and it is still too short to--“

“Ani, relax.” Cam laughed, taking the brush from her. “I will help with your hair,” she said, placing a cup of wine she had poured in front of the queen, “and this will help with your nerves. You have plenty of time.” She stood behind her, studying the way the curls fell.

Anhuil blew out a breath and picked up the cup. “I was not the least bit nervous at our wedding in Gondor. For Valar’s sake, Cam, I have been married to the man for several weeks!”

“You were at home,” her friend reminded her calmly, working with a braid on one side of her head. “And you knew the language. That,” she paused for effect, tugging on her hair playfully, “and you were not being crowned Queen of the Mark.”

At her friend’s sharp intake of breath, she chuckled and started another braid on the other side. “You will be fine. You know what to do and what to say, and even if you trip up your vows and say something absolutely ridiculous no one will notice because they will all be so stunned by your beauty,” she said teasingly.

“Not funny, Camwethrin.”

Braiding the two sides together in the back, Cam fastened them at the back of her head with a golden band. The remainder of her hair fell loose, just brushing her shoulders. Anhuil smiled into the mirror at the result.

”There, see? Simple and elegant. Now, for that dress.” Cam moved to the gown that hung from the door of the wardrobe and removed it, helping the queen slip into it. As she laced up the back, she giggled, realizing her friend was holding her breath. “Breathe, Ani. You are going to pass out.”

“It is just...Oh, gods, Cam...” She dropped to sit on the edge of the bed, the lacings in the back of her dress still undone. Butterflies in her stomach seemed to multiply in droves.

Cam retrieved the goblet of wine and passed it to her. “Ani, the only thing you need to concern yourself with is Éomer. Focus on him, and you will get through this fine.”

Polishing off the wine, Anhuil felt much steadier. “Easy for you to say,” she commented, rising again so Cam could finish the laces. “We shall see how calm you are on your wedding day.”

Cam deliberately yanked the laces a bit too hard, biting back a grin. “I am certain you will remind me of this conversation.”

Anhuil held up the empty cup and slanted Cam an expectant look. Taking the cup, Cam filled it again. “One more,” Anhuil said, taking the filled goblet. “That is all. I cannot go stumbling drunk into the Golden Hall for my own coronation.”

“This is Rohan, Ani,” Cam reminded her. “Do you think anyone would even notice?”

~~~~~~~~~~~

“Are you going to hide in here all day or are we going to see a wedding?”

Éomer looked up as Éowyn peeked in the doorway of his study. He rose from the desk as she slipped inside. The deep green tunic he wore was long, belted at the waist, with a narrow, braided cord around the collar and sleeves in gold. His boots, to her amusement, had been polished to a shine. He had left his hair loose, the waves falling loose over his shoulders. Nearly, she thought, the color of the embroidery that adorned his tunic.

But it could use a trim.

“I would think you would be in a hurry to get this over with,” she said teasingly as he reached for his cloak.

“Why is that?” he asked, rolling his eyes as she stepped forward to fiddle with the clasp of his cloak herself. “Éowyn, if you have failed to notice thus far, I think I should inform you that I am a grown man now.” He slapped playfully at her hands.

“Mmm-hmm. And since you have failed to notice thus far, I think I should inform you that your cloak is inside out.”

Looking down, he sighed, removed the cloak and flipped it around. “Better?”

“A bit nervous, big brother?”

“I just want everything to be perfect. For Ani. This is an important evening for her.”

“Well, putting your clothing on correctly would be a start,” she mocked, giving the brooch that held his cloak a pat with her fingertips.

“And as for me, I just want to get all this ceremony out of the way. I am looking forward to spending some relaxing time with my wife and our guests,” he said, sounding so diplomatic it was almost convincing.

But not quite.

Éowyn shrugged, casually arranging his hair on his shoulders. “I assumed after that promise you made to Ani, you would want this over as soon as possible. I know she does. I do not think you will be spending much time with your guests tonight,” she said, the knowing smile creeping across her face.

At his stunned expression, his sister laughed out loud. “Do not look so shocked, brother. Do you not think women talk about these things?” She laughed as the color rose in his cheeks. “Trust me, you have all but driven her mad these last few weeks.”

“I assure you it has been mutual,” he said tersely.

His sister chuckled, laying a hand on his cheek. “It was very sweet. Very sweet and very chivalrous, and very romantic. And you proven to your wife that you are a man of your word, which in her heart, is something every woman wants to know.” She kissed his other cheek, and gave it a sisterly pat. “Now, go get married so you can properly bed your queen.”

“Éowyn!”

She grinned at him over her shoulder as she swept from his study.

~~~~~~~~~~

Filled to capacity, the Golden Hall became deadly quiet as Éomer stood on the dais in front of his throne. His eyes traveled over the crowd. Some were newer friends. Aragorn, who he had jokingly called Wingfoot since their first meeting on the plains of Rohan, and the beautiful Queen of Gondor. Meriadoc Brandybuck had traveled from the Shire, bringing with him his dearest friend, Peregrin Took. Faramir, the one man he had thought worthy of marrying his sister. Anhuil’s brothers, whom he had begun to think of as his own kin.

But most of them he knew, had known all of his life. He had seen the sidelong looks and outright stares at his queen, and had noted the approval on their faces.

Glancing down at Anhuil, who stood at his side with her father. He smiled, then turned to the waiting guests.

“Ic grete Þe,” he said softly, greeting his people in their own tongue. “Wilcum.” He paused, taking a deep breath, and changing to Westron so that all those present could understand him. “Ere we begin, I would like to extend our deepest gratitude to those of you gathered here to celebrate with us tonight.”

The expected cheers erupted, tankards raised in salute. Éomer grinned, waited until the clamor subsided, then continued. “Many of you are aware that I spent the last few months in Southern Gondor. With us this evening is a man to whom I owe my very life, as well as that of my sister.” His gaze fell on his father in law, and he smiled. “I would like to welcome to the Golden Hall Prince Imrahil of the city of Dol Amroth.”

Imrahil stepped forward with a slight gracious bow. As the applause subsided, he scanned the assemblage quietly before speaking. “Two months ago, the city of Dol Amroth was attacked by a fleet of Corsair ships from the South. Our own military had been severely weakened by the losses of the war with Sauron, and our defenses were minimal. Your king and his men rode to our aid, and it was their valor that saved our fair city. For that, Dol Amroth will be forever indebted to the people of Rohan.” Cries rang out again, the sound of pewter tankards clanking ringing through the hall.

Imrahil smiled widely, enjoying the raucous atmosphere. “On behalf of our city, of the region of Belfalas, Ic sæcge eow þancas.” He bowed politely, and stepped back.

Éomer took a deep breath, reaching for Anhuil’s small hand. “As we are indebted to one another, the alliance with Gondor is further strengthened by our new bond with the people of Dol Amroth. During my stay there, I asked the prince for the hand of his lovely daughter in marriage. He duly informed me it was her consent I must procure...”

At that comment, the room erupted in laughter. Anhuil squeezed his hand, her lips pressed tightly together as the color rose in her cheeks. His expression softened as he turned his gaze on her. “She graciously agreed,” he continued, eliciting a few more giggles, “ and we were wed by the sea. I would like to present to you my wife, and your queen, Lothíriel of Dol Amroth.”

Anhuil kept her gaze on him, afraid the jelly that her knees had become would dissolve completely if she did not. Her hand trembled in his, and he clasped it tighter, bringing it to his lips. His eyes held hers, the pride in them more than evident, before he turned back to his people.

“It is our wish this evening to share our union with all of you, pledging our lives to each other and to the Mark,” he said, turning with a nod to Imrahil, who came to stand beside his daughter. As Éothain moved behind Éomer, holding in his upturned palms a folded, oblong cloth, Cam did the same behind Anhuil.

“In Gondor we pledged our troth to one another, and that vow will hold until death parts us. Now let us pledge our lives to the rule of the Mark, to our heirs, and to our people.”

Turning to face her, he carefully unwrapped the cloth Éothain held, exposing the gleaming sword.
Taking it in his hands, he knelt before her, holding it up to her. “This is Beorgan, the sword of my father. It is a symbol strength, my own and that of our people. Ic þé þás mece giefe. Geheald hit þæt uncer sona hæbben and befæsten hit.”

Anhuil took the blade by the hilt, her other supporting the blade. “I receive this blade in honor of your father, and of your sons. I will keep it safe until the day they wield it with pride in defense of the Riddermark.” She turned and laid the blade in her father’s hands, then carefully took the one from Cam and laid it in his hands. “'Þæt þu nerien ús, þu scealt beran mece. Mid þisse mece nere úre ham.' He smiled at the perfect flow of his language from her lips, their eyes locked on one another.

“I accept this sword humbly. Your enemies are now mine, and if it cost me my life, I pledge to stand at your side.” Sheathing the sword she had given him, he rose. Éowyn now stood beside Éothain, the small tray she bore holding a thin circlet of braided gold, and two goblets. Lifting the circlet from the tray, he turned to Anhuil.

“As we have pledged our love and loyalty to one another, will you so pledge your fealty to the Mark?”

“I will,” she answered, kneeling on one knee, and bowing her head slightly. Éomer leaned forward and laid the circlet upon her dark curls. Taking a deep, steadying breath, she raised her eyes to his, more than grateful that he took her hand again, bringing her to stand beside him. It may have looked like ceremony, but to Anhuil just then, it was a lifeline that kept her from collapsing.

Éomer looked down at her, his heart dissolving into a heated pool of liquid that drained to his feet. Standing before him, the crown he had just placed on her head gleaming in the flickering light, he had never loved her more than at that moment. His wife smiled shakily as he took the goblets from the tray Éowyn held, handed her one, and and held his aloft.

“Hail, Lothíriel, Queen of the Mark,” Éomer announced, his deep voice echoing with pride. Tipping up his own cup, he drained it, and laughed out loud when Anhuil did the same.

Repeating the toast, the crowd exploded with cheers. “Break out the ale,” he called out. “Our guests have much to celebrate!”

Éomer took the goblet from her hand and set them both back on the tray his sister held. Pulling his wife closer to him, he grinned wickedly.

Anhuil’s eyes widened. “Éomer...they are watching!” she whispered furtively. “My father, and --“

“I suppose I should take your over developed sense of propriety into consideration,” he said softly, “but instead I am just going to tell you that in the Mark, propriety is not only overrated, it is practically non-existent. Especially for the king.”

With that, he yanked her into his arms and claimed her lips with his. The guests erupted again, shouts and catcalls filling the hall, but Anhuil failed to notice anything but the mouth which had taken possession of hers so fiercely she nearly stumbled backwards.

Imrahil’s eyebrow raised slightly as he cast a glance at Cam, who stifled a snicker with her fingers over her lips.

When the kiss finally ended, Anhuil nearly limp in his arms, Éomer grinned at her. “Are you going to do that often?” she asked, breathless. “Because if you are, a little warning would do to help a girl keep her feet.”

“As often as I can, I promise you,” he answered. “That,” he teased, “and far more. And you needn’t worry about keeping your feet. I intend to have you off of them as soon as possible.”

“You keep making these promises,” she said, running a finger down the front of his tunic. “I sincerely hope you intend to make good on them.”

“Get me the bloody hell out of here, and I will.” He kissed the tip of her nose and reached for the cup.

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

Revelry was in full swing in the Golden Hall. Éomer watched over the rim of his tankard as Anhuil danced with her brother.

“You love her very much.”

Nearly choking on his ale, he turned quickly at the sound of her voice. Willa stood behind him, sipping a chalice of wine, her head cocked to one side as she studied the queen. “She is pretty,” she said before he could respond. “In an odd, exotic way, but pretty.”

“Thank you for your appraisal,” he muttered, and took a step away.

“Perhaps her charm will win over those who do not approve...”

Her words stopped him, and he turned to glare at her. “Do not approve of what?”

Willa’s eyes widened innocently. “Those who do not approve of Gondorian blood on the throne of Rohan.”

“Gondorian blood was spilled for Rohan, just as ours was spilled for them,” Éomer stated calmly. “I see no reason to differentiate between the two.”

“Nevertheless, there are those who would have preferred to see you take one of our own to wife.” She leaned against a carved post and sipped her wine. “You certainly never minded the women of your own country when it came to taking their favors, but when it comes to taking a wife, you pick an outsider. Would you like to venture a guess as to how that appears, to some?”

“I am not concerned with appearances, Willa.” Éomer turned, quickly crossing the hall.

Watching him stride across the floor to sweep his wife from her brother’s arms, Willa smiled.

“Maybe you should be,” she said softly to herself, bringing her goblet to her lips.

~~~~~~~~~~

I apologize for not putting in the translation...I guess I have looked at it so many times I knew what it said, so I just forgot! OOPS!

Here you go:
Ic þé þás mece giefe - I give you this sword...
Ic grete Þe - I greet you
Wilcum - Welcome
Ic þé þás mece giefe. Geheald hit þæt uncer sona hæbben and befæsten hit - I give you this sword to keep for our sons to have and to use.
'Þæt þu nerien ús, þu scealt beran mece. Mid þisse mece nere úre ham - To keep us safe, you must bear a blade. With this sword, protect our home.

I wanted more Rophirric, but time refused to allow...translating this stuff is more difficult than Sindarin!


Chapter 4 - Good Things Come... Chapter Three

Ok...here it is...you have all asked, and I have answered. I only hope I do not leave you disappointed. Reviews would be sincerely appreciated.

Enjoy.



Trust to Hope Book 2
Chapter Three

Rating - R
Warnings - Adult situations, sensuality. (For those of you who don’t know, this means SEX)
You guys know the rest. If you don’t, it’s posted on every chapter of TTH.

****************
All my thoughts just seem to settle on the breeze
When I’m lying wrapped up in your arms
The whole world just fades away
The only thing I hear
Is the beating of your heart

I can feel you breathe
It’s washing over me
And suddenly I’m melting into you
There’s nothing left to prove
Baby, all we need is just to be
Caught up in the touch
A slow and steady rush
Baby, isn’t that the way that love’s supposed to be?

I can feel you breathe...

Breathe
Faith Hill
***************
Meduseld
***************

“I am beginning to think this is some kind of conspiracy,” Éomer commented, pulling Anhuil into a corner and into his arms “How many times have you danced with your brothers?”

“Several times. Not to mention Faramir, Master Brandybuck, Éothain, Haleth and my father!”

“I think every man here has danced with you. Twice.”

The queen grinned. “I think they are trying to get to you.”

“It is working.” The king pulled her closer, inhaling the lavender scent of her hair as she leaned against him. She tilted her face up, her eyes meeting his. He watched her face as her expression changed from amusement at the men, to slight surprise at his boldness, to something else entirely.

Éomer’s hand on her back tightened as he felt her skin heat beneath the silk fabric of her dress. Her smile faded slowly, her mouth softening. If he did not taste those lips soon he would go stark raving mad.

He looked around at the crowded, smoky room. The huge Golden Hall suddenly seemed entirely too small.

“We have waited long enough,” he said quietly.

Sweeping her along as discreetly as possible, he pulled her by the hand around a corner, exiting the main hall through a side door into a deserted hallway. Before Anhuil could protest, his body was pressing her back against the cool stone of the wall, his mouth ravishing hers. The scent of her, the taste of her, the sheer need for her overwhelmed him nearly to the point of insanity.

Not that she wanted to protest. Wrapping her arms around him, she pulled him closer, her fingers digging into his shoulders. Leaning her head back, she giggled. “This is starting to become a habit.”

He raised his eyes to hers momentarily, curious. “You backing me up against stone. Seems I recall this happening before.”

Éomer chuckled, dropping his mouth to her throat again. “I thought I would lose my mind if I did not get you alone,” he whispered against her skin, his lips pressed against her rapidly rising and falling chest.

Anhuil gasped slightly as his tongue traced the neckline of her dress. Closing her eyes tightly, she clung to him. “Do you not think they will notice we are gone?”

“Ani, there are more kegs of ale out there than there are guests.” His lips traveled back up her neck, kissing her cheeks. He cupped her face in his hands. “Trust me, no one will notice. At least, not for quite some time.”

Taking her hand, he led her toward the bedchamber that they would now share as king and queen, as husband and wife.

Outside the door, Anhuil hesitated slightly. Éomer stopped, turning to look at her.

Her deep green eyes met his, widening slightly. A slight crease appeared between his brows as she averted her gaze to the door, then raised it back to his. “Éomer...”

Silently cursing himself, he shook his head. “I am sorry, Ani,” he said, pinching the bridge of his nose with his fingers. He ran the fingers through his hair and dropped his hand. “This is not how I planned this. I did not want to drag you off like some...tavern wench. I wanted our first night in Edoras as king and queen, as husband and wife to be--“

The rest of his sentence was lost as her small form slammed against his body, backing him against the door. Her hands gripped the front of his tunic, pulling him down to her. His wife molded herself against him, her lips claiming his. Éomer stumbled back, managing to keep his feet if not a good grip on his sanity.

“Open the door.”

He grinned. “Your first royal decree. Far be it for me to deny a command from my queen.” Sweeping her up into his arms, he kicked the door open and stepped inside.

The door closed behind them with a quiet thud. Anhuil, still in his arms, took in his surprised expression as he surveyed the room. Turning her head, she followed his gaze.

A warm fire had been lit in the hearth, crackling softly, the light of the flames flickering on the furs that covered the stone floor. On a table near the hearth sat a bottle of wine, two goblets, and a cloth-covered basket. Lit candles decorated every flat surface in the room, bathing it in a warm golden glow. The huge bed had been turned down. A pale silk robe lay across the foot of the bed.

Anhuil turned back to Éomer. Laying a hand on his cheek, she kissed him lightly. “This is beautiful, Éomer.”

“I had nothing to do with it,” he admitted, gently lowering her to her feet.

“What?”

He surveyed the room, walking to the table. Picking up the wine, he studied the bottle. “I did not do this.”

“Who did?” She followed him to the table and took the bottle from him. Éomer lifted the cloth on the basket, revealing his favorite sweet bread and cheese. The familiar blue glass of the wine bottle made Anhuil laugh out loud.

“Cam.”

“Éowyn.”

They spoke at the same time, then laughed softly. “It is very sweet, nevertheless,” she said, crossing the room to the bed. Standing at the foot, she ran a hand over the silk robe.

“That,” he informed her, sliding up behind her, “I did have something to do with.”

She lifted it slowly from the bed, the fabric soft and cool in her fingers. “It is beautiful.”

Éomer slid his arms around her waist, kissing the side of her neck. “The robe is nice. You are beautiful.”

Anhuil felt the heat rise in her cheeks, and swallowed. His lips were warm against her shoulder, his hands gripping her waist. Fighting to slow the frantic flipping of her stomach, she took a deep breath. “Shall I go put it on?”

“Let me help.”

Lifting the circlet of gold from her head, he laid it on the table beside the wine, and gently pulled the clip that held her braids from her hair. Combing his fingers through the braids, he pushed her hair gently to one side, and slowly began unlacing the back of the gown. His fingers deftly pulled at the silken cord as his lips strayed across the back of her neck and down her bared shoulder, sending heated currents shooting through her that seemed to ricochet until they settled somewhere near her toes. The heat that radiated from his hands drew her insides into a knot. He stepped back, the cool rush of air against her skin startling her. “I will wait here,” he said softly, indicating the bathing chamber to one side of the room.

With a slight nod, Anhuil clutched the robe to her chest, picked up a candle and walked through the door to the adjoining dressing room. Setting the candle down on a small table, she hung the robe on a wooden peg, kicked off her slippers and began tugging impatiently at the sleeve of her gown. How could a man she had kissed more times than she could count suddenly make her so nervous she felt like...well...a maiden on her wedding night?

Because, she thought, you ARE a maiden on your wedding night.

The revelation did nothing to ease her frazzled nerves.

She yanked off the dress and hung it next to the robe. Catching sight of herself in the mirror that hung on the wall, she stopped. Wearing nothing but her shift, she frowned at her reflection. The undergarment was not particularly fetching, she decided. Practical, but not very alluring. With a deep breath, she pulled it off, tossed it on the floor, and reached for the robe.

The silk felt incredible against her bare skin. Cool and soft, it slid over her like a lover’s touch. His touch, she thought with a delicious shiver, caressing the delicate embroidery that edged the sleeve of the soft fabric. Tugging the sash around her waist, she turned back to the mirror, somewhat surprised at how sheer the robe actually was.

It crossed her mind to put the shift back on beneath it before she caught herself and giggled out loud. This was her wedding night, and here she was concerned about propriety! With a deep breath, she smiled weakly at herself in the mirror, blew out the candle and slipped back into the bedchamber.

Éomer stood by the fire, watching the flames, his back to her. Anhuil stopped in the doorway, watching him. The soft waves of his hair fell loosely over his shoulders, tinged amber in the firelight. She wanted her fingers in that hair. Now.

Her fists curled involuntarily at her sides, nails biting into her sweaty palms as she tried to slow her breathing. “Somehow this does not seem fair,” she commented with a boldness she really didn’t feel, leaning a shoulder against the doorframe. “Here I am practically naked and you are still fully dressed.”

He turned, saw, and struggled for breath. Anhuil stood, weight on one foot, one hand on the wooden frame of the door.

He wasn’t sure what he had expected. He vaguely wondered if he was dreaming again. He wasn’t sure any more what day it was, or night...or...? He wasn’t even sure if he was still breathing.

The sudden lightheadedness answered the last question. Definitely not breathing.

He sucked in deep breath, steadying himself, and drank in the sight of her. The sheer silk robe clung to her curves, the pale color accentuating the exotic shade of her copper skin. Obsidian curls fell loosely over her shoulders. Her bare toes peeked out from under the hem as she slowly walked toward him, an occasional glimpse of her bare calf showing through a slit in one side of the robe.

His hand tightened on the stem of the silver chalice in his hand. Grip something, he thought, anything...anything to anchor himself. As she walked toward him, a small frown pulled at her mouth.

“Éomer?”

He did not try to hide it. He couldn’t have if he had wanted to. He could not take his eyes off of her. His insides were coiled so tightly he was afraid to move, afraid he would explode.

The reflection of the flames flickering in the deep pools of his dark eyes brought back a sudden flash of memory, the first time he had touched his lips to hers. Anhuil’s breath caught in her throat, remembering how his lips had claimed hers that night. And with her lips, her heart. Boldly, even roughly, but with a thoroughness that could not be denied. So thoroughly, in fact, that although neither of them had admitted it, they had belonged to each other from that moment.

Words. She struggled for them in a desperate attempt to cover up the fact that she was trembling.

“Thank you for the robe,” she said, the tremor in her voice more apparent than she would have wished. “It is exquisite.” She ran a finger over the flowered embroidery on the cuff of the sleeve, needing to do something with her hands.

He shook his head slowly. “You are exquisite.”

Anhuil smiled, folding her arms across her chest self-consciously. “You flatter me.”

“Do you want me to stop?” He stood, riveted, still gripping the goblet of wine.

The deep breath she inhaled slowly did nothing to slow the hammering of her heart. She stepped closer to him, reaching to take the chalice from his hand. Taking a sip, she peered at him over the rim. “No.”

The warmth of the fire seemed to intensify her lavender scent, soft, exotic...and more intoxicating than the wine. As she lowered the goblet, her tongue slipped over her lower lip, an entirely innocent gesture that tensed every muscle in his body.

Anhuil offered the cup back to him with a slightly shaky smile. “Cam must have brought the wine from Dol Amroth. It is from my father’s wine cellar. An old joke between us. Whenever one of us had something to talk about, we’d get a bottle of Ada’s wine and go sit on the beach at night.” Gods, she was rambling. She was rambling and she knew it.

Éomer forcibly stamped down the desire to grab her by the sash of the robe and rip it from her body. Despite her brazenness at the door and her attempt to cloak her apprehension now, the trembling of her hand as he took the cup from her did not go unnoticed.

The innocence she offered him would not be a gift he took lightly.

She pulled her hand back quickly, licking her lips again. “It really is very good. Did you taste it?”

“Not yet,” he said, setting the cup aside. “I would rather taste it on you.” Taking her into his arms, he touched his lips to hers, savoring the lingering flavor of the wine. His hands slid up the back of the robe, the silk smooth beneath his hands, and caught in the mass of dark curls behind her head.

His fingers gripped her hair, tangled there, and drew her head back slightly, giving him easier access to the soft curve where her neck met her shoulder. Her skin was soft, scented, and so incredibly warm under his lips that he had to check himself to keep from devouring her then and there. He had waited so long, made her wait so long, that he was not about to rush now.

He brought his mouth back to hers, his lips teasing, tasting. He slowed his hands, gentled their touch. He had made her a promise, and he intended to keep it.

She was warm and pliant, returning his kiss as she worked the fastenings of his tunic. Éomer drew back, watching her as her fingers fumbled with the small closures, the tip of her tongue sticking out slightly between her lips in concentration.

As she undid the last one, she glanced up, offering a hesitant smile. The trepidation he saw in her eyes made his heart skip a beat. He would not rush her, he reminded himself. He would not rush either of them.

Allowing her to push the tunic from his shoulders, he could not stop his breath from catching as she skimmed her small hands over his chest and down his arms. The shirt dropped to the floor, and before he could think again, her mouth was against his. He held her there, small fingers digging into his shoulders, his hands spread across her back, kissing her as if he intended to do so all night.

Anhuil sighed against his lips, letting her hands roam freely over his skin as he kissed her. The feel of him under her hands was warm and strong. His scent, so familiar to her, enveloped her and drew her in. The gentleness of his lips on hers overwhelmed her, filling her senses until she felt herself floating, swept from the floor into strong arms.

Carrying her to the bed, Éomer sat on the edge, cradling her in his arms. He drew back, his eyes meeting hers. Emotions raged through him like a stampede of Mearas. No other woman had ever stopped his heart with simply a look, or a smile, or for that matter, even with a thought. His mind raced for the right words. Could he possibly make her understand what this meant to him, what she meant to him?

“Ani,” he whispered, “I am afraid I am not terribly poetic. I do not have a cache of sweet words from which to draw the right thing to say.” He laid two fingers against her lips when she tried to respond. “I will simply be honest.” He drew in a breath and let it out slowly, the unsteady sound of it surprising her. “I never thought much about settling down, about marriage. I dedicated my life to the service of the Mark. I never had time, never made time, for love.”

“Éomer--“

His fingers were on her lips again, gently. “Let me finish.” She nodded, leaning against his shoulder. “I never even considered it until you stormed into my life, flinging daggers and insults with about the same intensity.” She chuckled softly as he cupped one hand against her cheek and lifted her gaze to his. “I never thought I would share my life. I never thought I would give my heart. And now, I have found that you ARE my life. You ARE my heart.” He wiped a tear that slid down her cheek with his thumb. “That you love me is a miracle I am still trying to fathom.”

Éomer’s dark eyes deepened, almost black, as Anhuil stared into them. The knot that tightened in her chest made her breathing ragged as her own emotions threatened to choke her. Turning her head slightly, she pressed her lips to his palm, then leaned against it, her own hand covering his. Before she could speak, he pulled her closer, his mouth covering hers gently. “I love you,” he whispered against her lips.


“Éomer...”

“Shh. Let me show you, Ani.”

Melting against him, Anhuil sighed. His mouth on hers was warm, soft, patient, but insistent. His hands held her firmly but gently as her arms slid around his neck, fingers tangling in his hair. The hand on her cheek slid down to the sash of her robe, his eyes once again meeting hers, his gaze questioning.

This time there was no hesitation in her eyes as she turned on his lap, allowing him to slip the robe from her shoulders. It fell in a silken pool at his feet. Gathering her in his arms, he lowered her back on to the bed. Ridding himself of the last barrier between them, his leggings dropped to the fur-strewn floor beside the silken robe.

Sliding a hand across her cheek and into her hair, he lifted a silky lock of it to his lips, breathing in the scent. Her small hands clasped around his neck, pulling him to her. Mouths met, melded, teased and tasted. She offered, he took, and gave back again.

His hands explored, slowly. Torturously slow. Éomer held back, allowing her to set the pace, groaning into the side of her neck as her fingers traced over his shoulders, his back, his waist, up the flat expanse of his belly, coming to rest on his chest.

Anhuil gasped at the feel of his heart slamming against her palm. “That is what you do to me, Ani,” he murmured against her shoulder. His deep voice flowed over her like velvet, and her own pulse skittered wildly in response. The sensations of his hands, his mouth, the warmth of him, surrounded her, enveloping her until all she knew, all she felt, all that mattered was this man.

He took his time, lingering over her, reveling in her, discovering her, delighting in each soft moan and gasp, nearly chuckling out loud at her incomprehensible murmured words.

Arching beneath him, against him, into him, Anhuil forgot any semblance of propriety, allowing him to carry her wherever he would. Warm hands, soft lips, his hard, masculine form over hers blocked out awareness of anything but the two of them. The tenderness with which he touched her nearly drove them both mad. His hands were busier, his lips more insistent. The rising tide of her desire was both frightening and exhilarant.

Her soft pleas threatened to undo him as he took her up, sent her over the first edge, and swept her back again. Delicate fingers traced over muscle, nails dug into flesh, warm breath rasped against his shoulder. Her eyes met his, dark and dazed, the invitation unspoken.

He didn’t want to hurt her. He moved slowly, almost cautiously. Biting back an oath, he sucked in his breath as she arched impatiently beneath him, completing what he started with a gasp.

Éomer froze. He had thought making love to her would be sweet, but he was nowhere near prepared for the exquisiteness of her surrender. Slowly, languidly, gently as his own rasping need would allow, he brought her back again, edging both of them closer with each touch.

It was more than she’d been told. Far more than she had imagined. This union of man and woman, of husband and wife, of bodies, hearts, and souls, was more than she could even have dreamed. He was a part of her, and she of him, destined from their creation to find one another and complete the whole.

She whispered his name. Control left him, the sound of his own pulse drowning out all but the feel of her beneath him, around him. Clasping her hands beside her head, he took them both over the top.

No longer able to think coherently at all, Anhuil let go and flew, spiraling over the brink and dragging him with her. Blinding white light exploded into shards of vivid color, plunging them both into oblivion.

“Nan Belian, elei Elbereth...nai!” It startled her to realize that the stream of breathless, jumbled Sindarin she heard was her own voice.

The waves crashed over her, one after the other, until she was certain she would never breathe again. Every sensation was heightened; she could feel the soft bedding under her back, his lips against her neck, his weight over her, the warmth of his skin against hers.

He was whispering softly to her, but her mind could not comprehend the words. His arms slid beneath her, wrapping around her.

For a long time he simply laid there, holding her tightly. “If I die right now, I will die the most content man in the history of Middle Earth,” he said, his voice muffled by her hair. “I do not ever want to move.”

She wanted to say something. To express somehow the depth of what she felt. No words would come.

He could feel her gasping for breath, and lifted himself slightly to look down at her. “Breathe, Ani,” she finally heard him say softly. Anhuil obeyed, the sudden surge of oxygen doing very little to clear her pleasure-fogged brain. She opened her eyes, blinking, staring but not seeing the wooden-beamed ceiling above her.

“Hello, love,” he whispered.

Anhuil met his gaze, surprisingly unembarrassed by the knowing grin he flashed her, and blew out a slow breath.

He raised one eyebrow. “Remember me?”

She blinked again, her brows furrowing. “You look vaguely familiar,” she teased. “What was your name again?”

“Is that any way to speak to a man with whom you have just shared indescribable pleasure?”

“Rather sure of yourself, aren’t you, Your Majesty?” She reached up to trail a finger along his jawline.

“You calling out my name gave me a hint,” he said, kissing her cheek, “but it was the ranting in Sindarin and beseeching Elvish deities that gave you away.” He captured her lips with his again, rolling over to pull her on top of him. Her hair tumbled across his chest and shoulders as she laid her head against him, his heart still hammering beneath her cheek.

Toying with a strand of her hair, his other hand splayed across her back, Éomer smiled down at her. “Princess?”

“I am the queen now, thank you,” she reminded him.

“Yes, Your Majesty,” he teased, tugging her hair gently.

Raising herself up to look down at him, she crossed her forearms over his chest and rested her chin on them. “You had a question?”

“What does “nai” mean?”

Biting her bottom lip, Anhuil felt the color rushing to her cheeks. “It means 'yes'.”

“What about ‘saes’?”

“I said that?” He nodded. She giggled. “Umm...it means ‘please’.”

“Most of the rest I figured out,” he told her, “but tell me, how does one say ‘no’?”

His wife smiled widely at him. “You need not worry about that, meleth nín. You will not be hearing it from me.”

Éomer laughed out loud.

“There is one word you should know,” she finally said, raising her head to look down at him.

“What is that?” he asked.

“Ata.”

“What does that mean?”

Anhuil shifted to the side, rolling him over on top of her. “Again,” she whispered, fusing her mouth to his.

**********
Nan Belian, elei Elbereth...nai! = Valar forbid....Sweet Elbereth...Yes!


Chapter 5 - Of love and Sea Faeries...

Title: Trust To Hope, II
Author: Novedhelion
Beta: Riyallyn
Warnings: Blatant theft of Celtic Mythology
Rating: PG
I think you know the rest...





What would I give
To live where you are?
What would I pay
To stay here beside you?
What would I do to see you
Smiling at me?

Where would we walk?
Where would we run?
If we could stay all day in the sun?
Just you and me
And I could be
Part of your world

Ariel, The Little Mermaid
*****************************

Of love and Sea Faeries...
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Éomer lay on his side, propped on one elbow, watching her sleep. Lying on her stomach, Anhuil had both arms under her pillow, her head turned to one side. He traced a finger lightly down the curve of her spine, stopping where the coverlet lay across her lower back.

She stirred slightly. “Mmm...”

“Are you awake?” he asked softly.

“I am now,” she murmured, turning her head to look up at him from under the dark lashes of one eye.

His calloused fingers continued to trail slowly up her spine and back down again. “I am sorry,” he whispered apologetically. “But I seem to have a very difficult time keeping my hands off of you.”

Anhuil shivered delightfully, raising her head slightly from the pillow to smile up at him. “When it becomes a nuisance, I will let you know.”

He started to speak, then hesitated, his eyes following the path of his fingers before meeting hers again.

“Éomer? What is it?”

A smile pushed its way through. “I was just wondering...”

“Wondering about what?”

“One of the women who used to tutor me as a child had been raised in Belfalas,” he said, toying with one of the curls that tumbled wildly over her shoulders. “She used to tell Éowyn and me stories about men who would go to the sea in search of a faery wife.”

She had never been able to resist a good story. “Oh?” she asked, propping herself up on her elbows. “And why would they do that?”

“The stories said that the sea faeries wore the skins of animals when they were in the sea, but every full moon, they would shed their skins and take the form of women, coming ashore to dance in the moonlight. The women were beautiful beyond measure, completely irresistible to mortal men.”

“I see.”

“The men would fall madly in love, wanting their lovers to stay and marry them, but no matter how deeply they were loved, for the faeries, the call of the sea was stronger. They would inevitably slip into their skins and return to the ocean.”

“They must have left many broken-hearts behind,” she said, a little frown drawing her brows down slightly.

“No doubt. Until the men figured out a way to keep them.”

Her brows lifted slightly. “Oh?”

“The men discovered that the faeries could not transform without their skins, so they hid them.”

“Forcing them to remain human,” Anhuil surmised. "Very clever."

“That was the legend, yes. If a faery could not find her skin, she was destined to remain human until it was recovered. Many married and even bore children, although often the stories ended sadly, the faeries finding their skins and returning to their beloved sea,” he finished with a wistful smile.

“That is a sad tale, meleth nín,” she said, dropping her head to the pillow and purring in contentment as he pressed his lips to her bare shoulder.

“So what were you wondering?” she asked, returning to her original question.

Éomer looked up at her, his smile taking on a hint of mischief.

“I was wondering where I should hide your skin.”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Chapter 6 - Of Trials and Troths...

Title: Trust to Hope Book Two
Author: Novedhelion
Beta: Riya
Rating: PG 13
Warning: Another villian you’ll love to hate.


“Will you each share the burdens of the other?”
Marriage vows of Éomer and Anhuil

Rohan
24 Gwaeron, 3020 F.A.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Éomer was already in the council chamber when Gamling arrived, alone. “Good morning, Gamling,” he said cheerfully. “Where are the others?”

“I thought it prudent that the matter this morning be discussed in private,” Gamling informed him, standing in the doorway.

The expression that Gamling wore did not bode well for an early morning meeting. “What is it, Gamling? Is something wrong?”

“There is someone here to see you, Éomer.”

The king’s eyebrows went up. “Oh?”

The older man sighed. “I know of no way to make this any easier, except to let you talk to him yourself.”

As Éomer’s expression darkened, he opened the door all the way. Lord Abrecan entered, his mouth set in a thin line, followed by a woman. Éomer knew her immediately.

The lord from Aldburg bowed humbly. “Your Majesty. It has been some time.”

“A few months since you shared your hospitality with me and my bride, for which I am still grateful,” Éomer returned. “What matter brings you all the way from Aldburg?”

“My lord,” he began, hesitatingly. “I am not certain how to approach this, but I thought the matter best dealt with before it became a scandal. I have oft warned her from her behavior, and now it seems--”

“A scandal?”

Taking a deep breath, the older man glanced at the woman behind him, who stepped forward and pushed her hood back. “Your Majesty,” she greeted him quietly with a slight curtsey.

“Lady Willa,” Éomer said, forcibly polite, his stomach tightening slightly at the smug smile she wore.

Willa looked over her shoulder at her uncle. “Willa is with child, Your Majesty,” Abrecan said simply.

Éomer’s puzzled expression only deepened as his eyes fell on the very obvious rounded belly beneath the dress of the woman standing in front of him. He averted them quickly.

“I was not aware you had married, Lady Willa. Congratulations to you and your husband.”

“She has not married,” Abrecan answered. “Not yet. That is part of why I have brought her here to talk with you.”

“I do not understand. What has this to do with me?”

Willa’s blue eyes met his briefly, her gaze dropping to the floor. Lord Abrecan cocked his head, his eyes meeting Éomer’s. Furrowing his brow, the king looked from Abrecan to Gamling, whose expression remained unreadable, and back to Willa, the realization of their accusation becoming suddenly clear.

“You believe this to be MY child?” he asked incredulously.

Willa’s mouth dropped open. “You dare deny it?” she asked indignantly.

“My Lord,” Abrecan said, stepping in.

“No.” Éomer’s tone was adamant. “This is not my child. How dare you even--“

“Were you so sauced that you do not remember? It meant so little to you?” Willa’s blue eyes brimmed with tears. The king wondered what had become of the brazen woman who had flirted with him so shamelessly, making sure her hands brushed his when she handed him a pint of ale, and he was certain the brush of her breast against his arm as she passed was not due to the crowded condition of the feast hall.

He narrowed his eyes at her. “Do not remember what?”

The blue eyes turned to ice. “The night you spent with me, at my uncle’s estate, Your Majesty,” she spat out sarcastically.

“I did no such thing,” Éomer stated. “I awoke in my own bed, alone. I may have had a bit too much to drink but I believe I would remember such an encounter, had I been sober enough to accomplish it!”

“You awoke alone because I dressed and left before sunrise, to avoid the gossips,” she spat back. “I even left a token for you. Did you not find a yellow flower under your pillow when you woke?”

Éomer’s gut suddenly felt as if he had been ripped open. Rent in two and filled with ice. The flower. He had found it crumpled under his pillow that morning. And Willa’s behavior upon his departure...he had thought it simply odd at the time, but now...

“No,” he said softly. “No, this could not have happened.” His eyes met Gamling’s, and Éomer felt yet another twist of pain at the disappointment he saw in them. “This cannot be...I would not...”

“Your Majesty, you are not the first man to fall prey to her charms,” Abrecan admitted, eyeing his niece with a measure of disdain. “Willa is certainly no innocent. It just happens that this time, the consequences were far greater than a sore back or an angry wife.”

Wife. The word hit the king like an Uruk-hai ballista in the gut. His knees threatened to give way.

He stood staring in shock at the woman in front of him, scrambling desperately for an answer that made sense.

“What are your intentions, Your Majesty?” Abrecan asked pointedly.

“My intentions?” Éomer looked at him blankly.

“This child is an heir to the throne of the Mark. Surely you do not intend to put Willa aside.”

Éomer sank into a chair, leaning his elbow on his knee and dropping his head into his hand as Abrecan continued. “I am sorry, Your Majesty, but this matter needs to be addressed.”

The king looked up. “Lord Abrecan, I have spoken vows to another. Surely you do not expect me to put HER aside? You admit yourself she is no innocent, and from her behavior that evening, I would venture I am not the first man to--“

“What exactly are you accusing me of, Your Majesty? I am no common tavern whore!”

Shock had turned to anger now, and Éomer lowered his voice deliberately. “No, but your uncle himself has admitted to me that you have a tendency to collect lovers like some collect stones. How am I to be sure this is not the child of another man?”

Willa bristled at the insinuation. “Do you not think I know with whom I have been?”

“I am merely suggesting that if what your uncle says is true, perhaps it is a possibility that another man sired this child.”

The ice blue eyes blazed back at him. “Men and your double standards. It is perfectly acceptable for you to have more than one lover before you marry, but we women are supposed to keep our virtue intact until the day one of you graces us with a marriage proposal. Just because I chose not to deny myself what men clearly do not does not make me a harlot, Your Majesty. I pick and choose my lovers carefully, though I suppose all of us are entitled to an occasional error in judgment.” Éomer let the insult slide, clenching his jaw tightly. Willa ran a hand slowly over the swell of her belly. “This is YOUR child, Éomer. YOUR heir.”

Éomer’s mind reeled. He had been over that night in Aldburg so many times in his head he had convinced himself it had not happened as he had feared, and yet here she stood, swelling with evidence that it had. Errors in judgment indeed.

He drew in a deep breath, expelling it slowly as he turned away from Willa. “Lord Abrecan, surely you can understand my need for some time to decide the best course of action.”

The old man nodded, and Éomer turned to Willa. “Lady Willa, we will talk more at a later time about the events of that evening. The two of you will stay as my guest until this matter is sorted. Do you require a maid to assist you?”

Willa smiled the charming smile he remembered from the night at the feast hall. “No, my lord. I have brought my own loyal maid with me, if you will but provide a place for her.”

“Consider it done.” He turned to Gamling. “Gamling, will you please see these guests to comfortable quarters?”

Gamling nodded his agreement, opening the door to usher them out. Willa turned to look back at Éomer over her shoulder, casting him a smug grin which the king could not help but construe as self-satisfied. He did not return the smile.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Returning a short time later, Gamling pushed open the heavy door with Éothain close behind. Éomer sat in the chair, leaning his elbows on the rectangular wooden table, face buried in his hands. The two older men walked quietly into the room, moving toward their king.

“Éomer?” Éothain spoke first. “The queen is looking for you.”

The king did not look up, but swallowed hard. “She will be looking for a way back to Dol Amroth shortly,” he answered sarcastically.

Éothain took a seat next to Éomer at the table. “Is what Lady Willa says true?”

Leaning back in his chair, the king sighed heavily. “I do not know, Éothain. That is the problem. You were there. Tell me, was I so deep in the cup that I cannot recall bedding her?” He shook his head. “I have been drunk many times, but never so much that I have forgotten the favors of a woman.”

“I do not recall you being in such a state,” Éothain agreed.

“Nor do I,” Gamling agreed. “But you did not deny finding the token she claimed to have left.”

Closing his eyes, Éomer shook his head. “That is because I cannot. It was there, under the pillow, as she claims.” The other two men sat silently, exchanging glances. “I swear, I recall none of it. I only awoke to find myself alone, unclothed, and my head feeling as if it had been split in two.”

“That does not bode well, Éomer,” Gamling noted.

The king breathed out a sigh, pinching the bridge of his nose. His chest clenched so tightly he could barely breathe.

“What am I going to tell Ani?”

~~~~~~~~~~

Anhuil stood by the window of their shared chamber, her gaze falling across the fields beyond the walls of the city. As beautiful as the view was, the new growth of spring just barely beginning to come alive in the grasses and trees, she didn’t see it. Tears still blurred her vision. The pain in her chest had not subsided, piercing the soft flesh as surely as a dagger.

Éomer’s words still rang in her head.

“...a woman who claims to be with child...my child...”

Another woman. It was not impossible, surely not unheard of. He had been, after all, an unattached man, and she had to admit a very handsome one. She knew that women found him appealing, and that she was not the first woman he’d taken to bed.

Anhuil was also realistic enough to understand that he had been lonely. Her betrothal to Fenwick had still been between them at that time. Who could blame him for taking a little solace in the arms of a warm, willing woman, particularly one as beautiful as Willa?

The thought brought a fresh onslaught of tears. Rational or not, it ripped her to shreds. Knowing he’d had other lovers before her was pain enough, but the thought of another woman bearing Éomer’s child tore at her gut. She wanted to share the joys of bringing a child into the world, the thrill of watching a toddler take his first steps, of watching their child grow into a strong, beautiful person who would be the product of the love they shared. Watch as their son became a man, their daughter a woman.

Now she was relegated to sitting on the sidelines as another woman raised his first born, the heir to Rohan’s throne.

She had asked him to leave her alone, and he had simply nodded and acquiesced to her request. Anhuil needed time to think. To grieve. Wiping at her eyes with the back of her hand, she suddenly, desperately missed Cam. There were no women she could talk to, or lean on, here in Edoras. The courtiers were polite, but the proper distance maintained. She was, after all, queen.

And right now, she’d have given anything for a female shoulder to cry on.

Shoving herself away from the window, she sat down at her desk and picked up her quill. She’d send a missive to Dol Amroth.

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

Éomer sat in his study. A fading fire was dying in the hearth, but he hadn’t the strength or inclination to get up and tend it. He stared at the amber liquid in the cup he held, debating. Éowyn was right about one thing. It didn’t help. It may dull the pain for a while, even make him forget temporarily, but it didn’t help.

Frustrated, he flung the glass into the hearth. Even the shattering of glass and the sudden burst of flame against stone did nothing to ease the guilt or the gut-wrenching fear. Even now, he thought, she was probably packing her things.

Closing his eyes, he leaned his elbows on the desk and rubbed his fingers across his forehead, the visions of Ani’s face, her expression, playing over and over in his mind. The shock, the sheer hurt that had registered, those beautiful green eyes welling up with tears...he’d sooner have walked through the fires of Mordor barefoot than caused her that kind of pain.

If only she had screamed at him. Thrown things. He would have dealt much better if she had just shown some of that temper he knew was there. Instead, she’d simply stared blankly, then calmly asked him to leave her alone. The ache clawed at his insides like a rabid animal.

He’d betrayed her. He’d betrayed the promise he’d made to her.

He’d deserve every minute of misery if she left.

But gods, he couldn’t stand the thought of it. He would rather die than consider life without her again.

The bottle containing the rest of the whiskey caught his eye. He narrowed his eyes at it, then dropped his head to the desk without touching it. After the pain he’d caused Ani, he was not about to give himself an escape.

The knock on the door made him jump. “Yes?” he called, surprised at the huskiness of his own voice.

“Her Majesty wishes to see you,” the voice replied.

Éomer’s heart slammed to a stop.

“Tell her I am coming,” he answered when he finally found his voice.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Willing his jellied knees to stand firm, he stared out the window and braced himself for whatever decision she had made. Terror didn’t begin to describe the emotions rioting inside. “I can have a party ready to escort you back to Dol Amroth by morning, if you wish.” Éomer’s deep voice was barely audible. He could not bring himself to look into her eyes, those beautiful, swollen, red-rimmed eyes, and see the disgust he knew would be there.

Anhuil stood by the hearth, staring into the fire. Her voice was soft, quiet. “You expect me to leave you? After all we have been through? Do you think me so shallow?”

Éomer gripped the windowsill. “I am only saying I would not blame you if you did.”

Taking a steadying breath, Anhuil stepped toward him. “Éomer.” He turned to face her but did not meet her gaze. “Look at me, Éomer.” He did so, his dark eyes locking on her emerald green. His insides twisted into a painful knot, his arms aching to wrap around her and comfort her. But he didn’t dare touch her. He hadn’t the right.

“I want to ask you something, and I want you to answer me honestly.”

“I have never lied to you, Ani. I do not intend to start now.”

With a nod, she took a deep breath and released it slowly, determined to hold back the tears that stung her eyes. “When you met this woman, did you desire her?”

Taken slightly aback by the question, he shook his head. “No,” he answered honestly. “I told her quite plainly that my heart belonged to another. Since I laid eyes on you, Ani, you are the only woman I have desired.”

Anhuil lifted her chin slightly. “Yet she pursued you.”

He nodded. “She brought me a drink.”

“How much did you drink?”

“I honestly do not remember. Even Éothain said he could not recall me finishing more than a tankard or two.” He shrugged. “The next thing I knew I awoke in my bed, alone.” He held her gaze, the pain in her eyes belying her calm demeanor.

“Did you bed her, Éomer?”

The blunt question jolted him, but he answered honestly. “She was very...attentive,” he explained. “I did not want her, Ani. I told her so, as politely as a man can say these things. All I could think about was seeing you again in Minas Tirith. Having you back in my arms.” He paused, gathering his thoughts. “But the honest truth is I cannot remember what happened that night. I cannot say I did not, Ani. I wish I could, but I will not lie to you.”

“Why have you never spoken of this before?”

He’d been dreading that question. “Éowyn said--“

“Éowyn knew of this?”

“Yes,” he admitted. “I talked to her the following day. She told me if I did not know what had happened, I should not assume the worst. It was her thinking that if I had done such a thing I would remember it.”

Anhuil regarded him silently for what seemed to him like an eternity. “I believe you,” she stated simply.

Éomer slowly let out a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding, but did not move a muscle.

“But that does not change the fact that there is a woman who claims you to be the father of the child she is carrying. A child who as your first born, will be heir to the throne of the Mark. A child whose life is now intricately tied with yours, regardless of how you feel about its mother.”

Éomer looked away. Anhuil moved toward him, but stopped a pace away. “If indeed this child is yours, you cannot turn her out.”

“Ani, I married you. Even if you were to leave me, I would not marry Willa. I do not love her. If her child is mine, then I will give the child his due, but I will not marry her. I spoke vows to you, and I intend to keep them.”

“I am not leaving you. You are not the only one who spoke vows, Éomer. I did not marry you only to run at the first sign of discord. If this child is yours, then we will see to it being properly raised as heir to the throne of the Mark.”

“There will be gossip.”

One dark eyebrow quirked up a bit. “I would be surprised if there was not. You were not married to me when this happened. Our people are perceptive, and they will form their own opinions.”

He looked down at the woman beside him. Our people, she had said. Resplendent in her deep green velvet gown trimmed in gold, her dark hair falling over her squared shoulders, she stood straight, meeting his look steadily. “Our people love you,” he assured her.

“I do not care, so long as you do.” One small tear managed to escape, and he wiped it away with his thumb.

“Most women would have already packed their trunk.”

“I am not most women,” she remarked, “but that does not mean I am not upset. I am angry, I am hurt, and I am confused. I am not, however, unreasonable.”

“I do not deserve you.”

She smiled weakly. “No, you do not. But you are stuck with me nonetheless.”

“I love you, Ani.” His voice shook, but it seemed appropriate, considering his hands were shaking as well.

Anhuil slipped her small hand into his. “We have a feast to attend.”

“Are you sure? No one would blame you if you--“

“Perhaps not,” she interrupted, “but I believe it is in the best interest of our people to see us as a united front. I do not wish to give the gossip mongers any more fodder. I am not unaccustomed to handing whispers and slanted looks, Éomer. And I am far from fragile.”

“I have noticed this,” he said, squeezing her hand lightly. “But I do not want to put you through any more than I already have.”

Anhuil squared her shoulders, lifted her chin. “Our guests are waiting.”

~~~~~~~~~~

The feast was a lively event, as celebrations of the Éotheod were wont to be. Anhuil was touched by their warm welcome as well as their greetings in the tongue of Gondor, their laughing with her as she stumbled over the words of greeting in the language of the Mark. Overall she was beginning to feel very much at home in her husband’s hall, despite the tension that hung between them over the still unresolved issue with Willa.

Late into the evening, Anhuil spotted her. Her flaxen hair spilled straight over her shoulders like silk, her blue eyes watching the revelry of the crowd with a certain introspective interest, as if filing the information away for later use. Beside her was an older man whom Anhuil recognized as her uncle.

Willa looked up, her gaze meeting dark emerald eyes of the queen. A hint of a smile crossed Willa’s lips as the queen turned away, not wishing to draw attention to the situation. Casting her gaze downward momentarily to regain her composure, she jumped when Éomer laid a hand on her arm.

“Ani?” She raised her face and smiled placidly. “What is it, love? You look pale.”

“I just need a bit of air. Excuse me,” she said, rising from her seat.

He stood beside her. “Let me walk with you,” he offered.

“No...no...please...you have guests. Please, Éomer. I will only be a moment.” Their eyes met, his brow furrowing. “I promise I will be right back.”

Without waiting for an answer, she smiled weakly at him and quickly exited the hall through the door to one side of the dais.

Coming around a corner she heard voices and stopped suddenly, leaning against the wall.

“I cannot believe that,” one was saying. “I mean, I’m sure the lad has had his share of the wenches but...”

“Tis true,” the other voice said conspiratorially. “But some will say tis all the better that an heir to the throne come through a line from the Mark and not of Gondor.”

“That is absurd,” the first voice argued. “I do not care if she is the niece of a lord, she is not his wife and that bastard child should not sit on the throne!”

“That child is the firstborn, the rightful heir. Ye can’t be blaming the child for the fact that its father was a rake.”

“And none of you should be gabbing about any of it, if you ask me,” another voice piped in.

Anhuil’s breath caught in her throat as she choked back a sob. The sound made the women turn, the two gossipers blushing furiously at the sight of their queen standing in the hallway, hand over her mouth, her eyes wide.

“See now, what you’ve done?” the third woman said knowingly. “You ladies need to mind your own!”

She continued her rant, but Anhuil didn’t hear it. Turning on her heel, bolted for the nearest escape, and found herself outside Meduseld, on a side terrace. Not knowing where else to go, she plopped down on the top step and dropped her head into her lap.

Her own sobs covered the sound of the door opening behind her, of the footsteps on stone. When the soft arms wrapped around her, Anhuil allowed herself to be held, and cried against the breast of a woman whose name she didn’t know.

Warm hands soothed her, stroking her hair. When she had cried herself out, the woman offered her a handkerchief.

“I am so sorry,” Anhuil said, sniffling. “I --“

“No apologies, Your Majesty,” the woman interrupted, squeezing the hand she still held. “I should say you deserve a good cry.”

“I thought I was finished crying,” Anhuil told her, forcing a mirthless laugh.

The woman lifted her Anhuil’s chin with her fingers. “When you love a man, you are never done crying. Trust me.”

“Elbereth,” the queen muttered, blowing out a long breath. “I am sorry. I do not even know your name, and here I am drenching your gown with my tears.”

The other woman smiled. “The men of the house of Éorl sometimes have that effect on a girl,” she said knowingly, still holding the queen’s hand. “I am Isolde.”

Anhuil studied the other woman. Dark, straight hair that fell like black silk down her back, a broad, beautiful smile. Pale eyes, blue, perhaps, she thought. Honest eyes. She returned the smile as best she could. “Isolde...that is beautiful.”

The woman smiled. “It means beautiful.”

“You were aptly named.” They exchanged smiles again.

“I like you, Your Majesty. I admit there was a time I was just a bit jealous of you, but I like you.”

“Jealous of me?” Anhuil couldn’t grasp someone as beautiful as the woman beside her ever being jealous. “And please, call me Anhuil.”

“Your husband loves you,” Isolde told her. “I have never seen a man so taken with a woman before in my life. He told me--“

“Told you?”

Isolde chuckled. “It is a long story. Éomer and I are friends, nothing more,” she assured her. “For what it is worth, I do not believe for one minute that your husband fathered that child.”

Anhuil’s brows furrowed. “I do not understand. How can you be so certain?”

“I attended the dinners at Edoras. I saw women throw themselves at him, and he never wavered. He made it quite clear that his heart belonged to only one.” Isolde’s blue eyes captured Anhuil’s. “I do not believe Éomer bedded that woman. What do you feel, in your heart, Anhuil?”

The slow, deep breath helped her sort the thoughts. She had been over and over her answer to that question a hundred times, and always came up with the same one. “I do not believe it, either.”

Isolde’s wide grin spread again. “Then you hold to that, Ani. He calls you Ani?” Anhuil nodded as Isolde closed her eyes briefly, remembering the smoldering kiss Éomer had given her in his sleep, calling her Ani. “Trust me. He loves you more than life itself. He did not betray you then, and he never will. The truth will come out.”

“Thank you, Isolde. You do not know how lonely I have been, not having another woman to speak to. I hope we can be friends.”

“We are friends, Ani.”

Anhuil fell into the older woman’s arms again, hugging her tightly. Isolde drew her back and looked into her eyes. “You are exhausted, Anhuil. Go to bed.”

“But Éomer--“

“I will tell him. You need rest.” She stood and helped the queen to her feet.

Anhuil squeezed the hand holding hers tightly. “Thank you, Isolde. For your shoulder and your candor.”

“Both are at your disposal, Your Majesty,” she answered with a wide smile and an exaggerated curtsey. “I will speak with you more tomorrow. Right now, rest, and know that your husband loves you.”

Anhuil nodded. Reluctantly releasing the woman’s comforting hand, she made her way back to her own bedchamber.

Isolde watched the door fall shut behind the young queen. Slowly descending the steps to the lower level of the terrace, she turned to look out over the fields beyond the city wall. It could have been hers, she knew, the throne of the Mark. And knowing it made it that much clearer to her that she had made the right decision in her refusal to marry Théodred.

But knowing she had been right didn’t stop her from missing the man she had loved so deeply. A single tear slipped down her cheek as she wrapped her arms around herself against the chill of the early spring evening.

She was still staring into the distance when the sudden warmth of a cloak being draped over her shoulders startled her. “You should not be out here without a cloak, Isolde.”

Her head jerked up, around, to see Éomer standing beside her. “Your Majesty...”

Éomer rolled his eyes. “Éomer, Isolde. Please. What are you doing out here?”

Isolde looked up at him. He’d understand, she knew. “Missing Théodred,” she said honestly, wiping the tear from her cheek.

“I miss him too,” Éomer said softly. “I will never forget how he took me under his wing when I came here. I was only eleven, and he was a grown man, already twenty-four. No one would have blamed him if he had been too busy to spend time with a scrawny, eleven year old orphaned boy with a foul attitude, but he did. Théoden was a father to me. Patient and understanding, but Théodred was the brother I needed.”

Éomer chuckled at the memory. “There were times I was so angry with him. Théodred channeled that fury into a warrior’s skills. Now I see that his ruthless training was his way of making a miserable young boy who could have brooded his life away into a man.”

“He loved you, and Éowyn, very much. He was so proud of you.”

Éomer swallowed hard, realizing he’d never really taken the time to grieve his cousin’s death. “I wanted so much to be like him.”

“You are,” Isolde told him. “You are very much like him, and your uncle. You are all strong, honorable men. Brave men, but with tender hearts.” She smiled up at him. “Speaking of which, you should go to your wife. She was rather distraught earlier. We had a lovely talk, and she is in your chambers now, I imagine.”

Éomer’s chest clenched tightly again. ”Ani talked to you?”

Isolde chuckled. “Éomer, you can rest assured I did not tell her of the circumstances of our meeting. I simply told her I was a friend. She cried on my shoulder a while, we talked about men, and gossip. I told her I was jealous of her. I am not sure she believed me. Regardless, I find her completely adorable, endearing, and so sweetly unaware of herself it makes me want to cry.” Those pale, water-blue eyes looked up, rimmed slightly with tears. “The two of you have something very rare, Éomer. Go to her. She needs you now.”

He hesitated. “I do not know if I should. I feel...unworthy, I suppose. I feel as if I have no right to touch her now.”

Isolde rolled her eyes heavenward. “For the love of Béma, Éomer. Men are such dolts. What do you think she will feel if you refuse to touch her now? Do you think she is going to see that as you not feeling worthy? I will tell you what she will think. She will think that perhaps this other woman was, and still is, somehow more desirable than she is. Do not let her think you no longer want her. If you avoid her now you are only adding insult to injury.”

“What if she does not want me? What if she refuses to share her bed with me now?”

“Ah,” Isolde said, nodding. “That is a chance you will have to take, Éomer. Go to her. Make love to your wife. She needs you right now.”

He felt himself relax slightly for the first time in days. “Thank you, Isolde. For your friendship. To Ani and to me.”

Isolde shook back her long, silky hair in a dismissive gesture. “It is what I have to give. Now, take your cloak and go to your wife, Your Majesty. There are times when a woman needs to cry in the arms of another woman, but there are also times she needs a man’s arms around her. I’ve done my part.” She took off the cloak and handed it to him. “The rest is up to you.”

Éomer bent, kissing her lightly on the cheek. “Théodred was a fortunate man.”

“So are you,” she grinned. “Go.”

“Going.” He turned quickly and took the steps two at a time.

Isolde smiled to herself, wandering down the path toward the gates of the city. She often did, at night, to slip out in the dark and sit beside the barrows. Her beloved Théodred would have been very proud of the man that his cousin had become.


Chapter 7 - Of Trials & Troths, Part 2

Trust To Hope – Book Two
OF Trials and Troths - Part 2
Author: Novedhelion
Type: FP Het
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Pairing: Éomer/Lothíriel aka Anhuil
Rating: PG 13
Warnings: Agnst…
Beta: Riyallyn
Disclaimer: Still not mine. Still making no money. Still writing anyway.


***************
“Nothing is more noble, nothing is more venerable than fidelity. Faithfullness and truth are the most sacred excellences and endowments of the human mind.”
Marcus Tullius Cicero

***************


Éomer walked briskly toward his bedchamber, more than a little annoyed at the delays he’d suffered in getting there. He’d been stopped no less than five times to be questioned over some seemingly insignificant matter that in his opinion could have waited. Isolde had assured him Ani needed him, and that was his priority. Brushing off the inquiries as politely as possible, he sent Gamling to give his apologies and retired to his chamber.

Entering the sitting room, Eomer stopped, looking around. In just the few short weeks since their marriage, his wife had already made such a difference in this room. Feminine touches of soft pillows, bits of lace over tables, candles, and Ani’s ever-present books. How was it he’d never noticed how drab the room had been until she moved in?

Outside the door that led from the sitting room to the bedchamber, he paused. The sounds of revelry from the Golden Hall could still be heard, and would continue long into the night, he was certain. Taking a deep breath, he pushed open the door quietly.

The fire in the hearth burned low, casting a soft glow across the stone floor. He could see her form in the dim light, beneath the coverlet of the bed. She lay on her back, head turned slightly to one side, one hand curled slightly beside her cheek. Her hair spread over the pillow, a dark mass of waves against the white linen. The slow rise and fall of her chest told him she was already asleep.

Cursing himself for the hindrance, Éomer moved to stand beside the bed. She was so beautiful, and the peacefulness of her sleep made her even more so. Since Willa had come to Edoras, Ani had behaved with more grace and dignity than Éomer would ever have imagined possible. Determined that the two of them should present a united front, his wife had not once failed to make the appropriate appearances in court, or to see to her duties as Queen of the Mark.

But Éomer knew. More than once he’d met her gaze, and caught a glimpse of her pain before she masked it behind that beautiful smile. He’d seen her watch Willa from a distance, and laid a hand over her own flat belly. He’d noticed her standing at the windows of Meduseld, staring out over the green fields and mountains toward the south.

He wondered how often she wished she were home, strolling barefoot along her beloved shoreline. It would be summer now, in Dol Amroth, and the water would have turned warm, the sand hot in the sun.

Éomer looked around the chamber he shared with his wife. He shouldn’t be here. Regardless of what Isolde said, it was more than he had a right to ask of Ani. To his mind, he had no right to ask anything of her at all. Standing beside the bed, it surprised him that he could be so close to her and yet miss her so terribly. His arms literally ached from the need to hold her. He wanted to lie down beside her, bury his face in her hair and lose himself in the feel of her.

Reaching out, Éomer brushed a strand of hair from her face, running the tip of his finger across her brow and along her hairline. And nearly jerked his hand back when he realized her cheek was still damp. He touched the pillow beside her head, finding it damp as well. The guilt washed over him like a flood again, nearly choking him.

While he’d chatted, however unwillingly, with members of his councils, his wife had cried herself to sleep.

He wondered how many times she’d done exactly that in the last several weeks. Curling his fingers into a fist, he moved back, resisting the almost overwhelming urge to touch her again. No, he had no right to be here.

Backing away, he turned and left the bedchamber, closing the door quietly behind him. He’d sleep in his study again tonight.

Passing through the sitting room, he caught sight of the silk scarf he’d seen her wearing in her hair earlier in the evening lying over the back of a chair. He ran his fingers over the soft fabric, then picked it up and lifted it to his cheek. The lavender scent filled the air around him, tightening the knot in his belly.

Gods, he missed her.

Cool and smooth, the fabric slid through his fingers and back on to the chair. Taking a deep breath, Éomer slipped out of the chamber and locked the door behind him.

***********

“For the love of the Valar, Amrothos, we are nearly to Edoras! Why are you bringing this up again?”

The party from Dol Amroth had halted for the night, much to Cam’s dismay. At Amrothos’ insistence, she’d eaten and gone to her tent, but refused to settle down for the night.

“I am simply pointing out that you may be overreacting,” the young prince reasoned. “As I said before we left Dol Amroth, Ani’s letter gave no indication that something was wrong.”

“Which leaves me to wonder if you read that letter at all!” Cam tossed her hands in the air in frustration as she paced back and forth in the narrow confines of her tent. “Do you not find it the least bit odd that she would write to me as if I were a mere acquaintance? The fact that she began the missive ‘Dear Valesa’ should be your first clue!”

Amrothos’ eyes flashed. “Do not speak to me as if I were a fool, Camwethrin.”

“Then quit patronizing me,” she shot back.

Sighing he reached forward and took her by the shoulders. “Ani is a queen now. She must maintain certain decorum.”

“She is the Queen of Rohan, not Gondor. Besides, it was a private correspondence. I do not think that Ani would forego friendship in the name of propriety. The letter was intended for me alone. Decorum would not have been an issue. I believe she was trying to tell me something.”

“So you have said. I cannot argue that the wording is odd. It does seem a bit stiff and proper.”

“Stiff and proper?” Cam rolled her eyes. “Amrothos, she called me by a name I cannot stand. She writes of social engagements, court gossip and the new needlework technique she learned.” She paced across the tent, stopping to turn and look at him. “Gossip? Needlework? Does this even sound like Ani to you?”

“Cam...our mother taught her needlework when she was a girl. Perhaps she is merely developing a new interest in it. ”

Cam shot him a look. “Every letter I have received from her since her departure has been filled with litanies of how much she loves her life, how Éomer dotes on her, how welcome their people had made her feel. She wrote of how she misses our walks on the beach and how she wished I were closer so that we could discuss...other things.”

Amrothos raised one eyebrow, leaning back to look down at her. “Discuss what things?”

“Just...things.” Cam moved away from him, heaving out a breath. “That is not the point, Amrothos. She seemed so...joyful, so pleased with her life. Then this letter arrived. It is completely different from the others.” Picking up the parchment that lay on her cot, Cam frowned. “It is almost as if it were not written by Ani at all.”

The prince crossed to her, taking the letter from her hands and laying it aside. He pulled her into his arms. “I know you are distressed, love. You know Ani better than anyone. If seeing her is what you need to put your fears at rest, then see her we shall. It tears out my heart to see you so upset. That is why I agreed to come on this journey.” The prince grinned and kissed her on the nose. “That, and the fact that I could not trust you to not come alone.”

Blue eyes narrowed up at him. “You are saying you do not trust me?”

“No,” the prince said mildly. “I trust you implicitly. To do exactly what you want to do.” His mouth descended over hers, cutting off any protests she had.

****

Anhuil stirred, inhaling deeply before she opened her eyes. The scent she knew so well, the combination of leather and sandalwood soap still lingered in the air. She rolled over, instinctively reaching for his side of the bed. “Éomer?”

Her hand met only the coverlet and furs. Rubbing her eyes with her fingertips, she opened them and scanned the room. There was no sign of him, but he had been there. She was sure of it.

Perhaps he hadn’t wanted to awaken her. She sighed and shoved the covers back. If he dared not come to her, then she would just have to go find him.

*************

Willa had watched the king as he moved through the crowd, threading his way back toward the doors that led to his private chambers. She had followed, quietly making her way down the corridor that led from the Golden Hall to the chambers behind. Éomer had been so focused on his own mission that he hadn’t heard the footsteps that dogged his own, and he’d disappeared inside his chamber before Willa had gotten a chance to distract him.

She was still leaning against the wall, cursing her ill timing when he reappeared in the hallway, closing the door behind him quietly. A slow, feline smile curved her lips as she watched him sigh heavily and walk slowly toward the door that led to his study.

She could not have asked for a more perfect opportunity. Reaching up, she unfastened the clips that held her long, honey-colored locks and let them fall softly about her shoulders. She smoothed her dress, adjusted the neckline to reveal just a tad more of her cleavage, and ran a hand over the smooth satin covering her belly. “I think we should pay your father a visit,” she whispered softly.

Outside the door to his study, Willa took a deep breath, and flung the door open without knocking. Pretending not to notice Éomer seated at his desk, she closed the door behind her and leaned upon it. Closing her eyes, she gasped for breath.

“Lady Willa?”

Willa jumped, feigning a startle, her wide, blue eyes meeting his innocently. She had to fight not to smile at the sound of his concerned voice. “Oh, Your Majesty. I’m so sorry. I did not know you were here. I was just looking for a place…some quiet, for a moment.”

Being the gentleman he was, Éomer rose from the desk and crossed the room to her. “Are you ill?”

“The crowd in the hall…it’s so warm…I was feeling a little dizzy…” She rubbed the back of a hand delicately over her brow.

“Perhaps you should refrain from attending such revelry in your condition,” he offered. “Please, sit down a moment.” With a hand on her elbow, Éomer led her to a chair beside the window. Willa grasped his hand with her own, pretending unsteadiness. “Rest a moment. I shall fetch Elswyth.” He helped her sit, then started to turn away.

“No!” Willa’s voice was a bit sharp, but she couldn’t risk him dragging that insufferable midwife into this. She maintained her grip on his hand. “I just need to sit down a moment, Your Majesty. I am so sorry for my imposition. It was so hot in there, and I needed some air. I was feeling a little dizzy. I suppose I became disoriented, and wandered down the wrong corridor. I must have exited the hall through the wrong door. It is so crowded.”

Éomer only nodded, but wondered how anyone could get lost in Meduseld. After all, it wasn’t the Citadel of Minas Tirith. Still, her condition was delicate, and having never carried a child himself, he didn’t think he should fault her for momentary lapses in judgment. “Shall I get you something to drink?”

“That would be lovely.” When Éomer started to pull his hand away, she gripped it tighter and doubled over, making a small, keening sound.

“Lady Willa?” The concern in his voice was nearing panic, now. Willa bit her tongue, hard, to suppress the smile. Men were so easy.

“I am all right,” she said weakly. “Elswyth says the pains will come and go for a few months before the child comes.” She took a deep breath, inhaling his scent, and raised her head. He had knelt beside her, and was still holding her hand with one hand, the other supporting her back.

“Are you certain I should not send for her? If you are not feeling well…”

Willa leaned her head on his shoulder. “I am fine, Your Majesty. If I might just lean on you for a moment…” She gasped a little, then placed his hand upon the curve of her belly, laying her own atop it. “Oh! Do you feel that?” She looked up at him, grinning.

Éomer looked down at his hand. The baby kicked again, and squirmed beneath his palm.

Willa smiled. “Your son knows his father.”

Éomer said nothing, but his dark eyes met Willa’s. He tried to draw his hand away, but her hand tightened over his. “My Lord…you felt something for me once, when we created this child. Is it not possible that even a small part of that remains?”

Looking down into her deep blue eyes, Éomer couldn’t deny that she was, even heavy with child, a beautiful woman. The pregnancy had only served to make her more so, her skin glowing, her breasts fuller, her hair lush and thick. His gaze moved over her face as he desperately fought to remember the night in her uncle’s home in Aldburg, the night she claimed he’d bedded her.

He should feel something, he thought. Anything. After all, this woman was carrying his child.

But there was simply nothing. Not only could he not remember having bedded her before, he had absolutely no desire to do so now.

Éomer drew himself back from her. “Lady Willa, you must understand. Whatever transpired between us, and I must take you at your word on that topic as I have no memory of the event, it cannot happen again. It will not. I stood with my wife before her people and my own, and made a promise.”

Willa sat up in the chair, squaring her shoulders. “There is no need too play the martyr, Éomer. The entire Great Hall knows there is no passion between you.”

Éomer rose to his feet and crossed the room, saying nothing. He knew that she was probably correct, that everyone knew exactly where he spent his nights. Turning away from her, he lifted a decanter of brandy from a small credenza and poured a cup.

Willa stood, walking slowly toward him. “Do you think anyone would blame you? Strengthening the ties with Gondor through marriage was a wise choice. Your queen is beautiful and well-bred, but no one would blame you for taking your pleasure elsewhere.”

Éomer turned to face her. “I beg your pardon?”

With a shrug, Willa stepped closer, taking the cup from his hand. She sipped, licking her lips seductively, and leaned toward him. “Certainly a man of your…” Willa let her gaze wander down his body and back up again while she searched for the right word, “prowess…does not choose to be celibate, Sire.”

“I am afraid I do not understand your meaning, Lady Willa,” Éomer said, stepping back slightly.

Willa smiled, running her hand up the front of his tunic. “You understand me perfectly, Your Majesty. A woman of your wife’s breeding serves well in a political position, I’m certain, but one would doubt a girl so prim would be very…stimulating. After all, I seriously doubt Gondorian princesses are trained in the art of pleasing a man.”

Éomer caught her wrist in his hand, his eyes narrowed. “I do not think this discussion is appropriate, Lady Willa.”

The sound Willa made was somewhere between a snort and a chuckle. “Your Majesty, the entire Hall knows that you spend your nights alone in your study and not warming your wife’s bed.” She ran her nails up his arm, delighted when he shuddered slightly in response. “You wanted me, Éomer.” Willa leaned against him, pressing her breasts against his chest, her hand winding into his hair at the back of his collar. She smiled as his breathing hitched a little. “You still want me.”

Éomer’s gaze raked over her. The deep blue of her eyes, the pouty lips, the firm, rounded breasts pressed against his chest, her fingers entwined in his hair as she looked up at him from beneath her lashes. Carefully, he set the cup aside, and unwound her hands from his hair. Holding her hands in his, he realized it was not virtue that kept him from accepting her offer as much as pity. She had never known the kind of love he shared with Ani, and the chances were she never would. He shook his head.

“No, Willa. I do not.”

Indignant, Willa jerked her hands from his. “That proper little princess of yours cannot possibly offer you what I can, Éomer. It is I that bear your child.”

Éomer nodded, conceding. “And I have assured you, if this child is mine, it will want for nothing. I will not shirk my duty as a father, any more than I will do so as a husband. Ani is my wife, Willa. What happened before our vows were spoken cannot be undone, but I will not break the promises I made to her.”

Willa tossed her hair over her shoulder. “You would rather remain true to a woman who turns you from your marriage bed?”

“I would rather live my life faithful to the promises I have made than break those oaths for a moment’s pleasure. I will not go back on my word.” Éomer walked to the door, opened it. “I think it best you retire to your own chambers, Lady Willa.”

A temporary setback, Willa thought, as she glided gracefully toward the door. He’d soon tire of spending his nights alone. Men were predictable that way. She’d just have to make sure she was available when he did. She offered him her hand as he opened the door for her.

Éomer placed a proprietary kiss on her fingers before releasing her hand quickly. “Good night, Lady Willa. In the future, I suggest you pay heed to which doors lead to your own chambers.”

With a half smile, she slid into the hallway and saw the small, robed figure of the queen outside their bedchamber. She bit back a grin. Just because things didn’t always go according to plan didn’t mean the gods were always against her. She made a show of withdrawing her hand from his.

“Goodnight, my lord,” she said, a little louder than necessary, before turning to stare wide-eyed at Anhuil.

“Oh!” Willa laid a hand over her heart, eyelids fluttering. “I am sorry, Your Majesty. You startled me,” she said, loud enough for Éomer to hear. He stepped into the doorway of his study and stopped abruptly at the sight of his wife.

The queen lifted her chin slightly. “I did not mean to interrupt.”

“You are not, Your Majesty.” Willa sent quick glance at Éomer over her shoulder, then whipped her head around guiltily. “I was just…going to my chambers.” She nodded gracefully, executed a quick curtsey, then disappeared around the corner before Anhuil could speak again.

Anhuil looked over her shoulder in the direction Willa had gone, then back at him. Their eyes met, held.

Éomer stood frozen in the doorway of his study. She was wrapped in his robe, bare feet peeking from beneath the hem, her arms folded across her chest. Her dark hair spilled wildly over the green velvet, tumbling over her shoulders. He tried to read her expression, but couldn’t.

All he could think of was that she had been coming to him. He took a cautious step toward her, amazed that she didn’t turn on her heel and walk away. He felt his heart tighten in his chest. “Ani…she was…it was…” Closing his eyes, he pinched the bridge of his nose for a moment, then raised his gaze to hers. He wasn’t surprised that her expression had not changed one iota. She stood before him, arms folded, her chin lifted, her eyes steady on his. Blowing out a breath, he tried to explain.

“Lady Willa came here unbidden. I—“

“Your Majesty?” Gamling’s voice startled both of them as he came around the corner from the hall, a missive in his hand. Éomer kept his eyes on hers, not turning to look even as Gamling approached him.

“My apologies,” Gamling said, bowing to both the king and queen. “This just arrived by messenger. I thought you’d best take a look at it.”

Éomer frowned. “Can it not wait?”

“No, sire,” Gamling answered. “It is a missive from Éothain’s patrol on the Northern border. There have been some attacks on the herds there—“

The king whirled around. “Attacks on the herds?” He took the parchment from Gamling, unrolled it, and began reading.

The older man nodded. “If it were not of great importance, believe me, sire, I would not have disturbed you. Apparently a rogue band of orcs from the mountains to the north has crossed our borders. Several horses from one herd are reported missing, and there have been reports of skirmishes—“

Éomer scowled, still reading, and held up a hand. “Gather the council and meet me in my study right away.”

Gamling nodded, bowed, and disappeared back down the hallway.

When Éomer looked back to where his wife had been standing, she was gone. He stared down the empty hallway, absently rubbing a hand over the ache in his chest.

“Sire?”

Turning, Éomer looked blankly at Gamling, who had returned and now stood holding the door to the study open. The king shook his head slightly, then nodded as he walked toward the door. With a last look over his shoulder, he sighed and followed his men into the study.

**************************

“Then we ride out,” Gamling said quietly.

“I see no choice,” Éomer answered, leaning back in his chair. “Our forces are strained as it is. The war has taken a serious toll on our resources. We can ill afford to lose horses, and we can afford less the loss of life. We must ride to their aid.” His gaze moved around the circle of men at the table. All nodded in agreement with his statement.

Éomer rose. “Then we leave at dawn. Haleth, alert the stablehands to have our horses saddled and ready to ride.” The young man bowed before ducking out of the room. “Déor, I trust you to see to the provisions.”

“Yes, Your Majesty,” he replied, leaving immediately to attend to his assigned duties.

“The rest of you know what must be done. Attend to your duties, and go home to your wives. The weeks could be long before we return.”

With a general murmur of assent, the men made their way out of the study, leaving only Gamling. He stood at the end of the table, watching his king.

Éomer spoke without looking up as picked up the parchment. “I will need you to stay behind, Gamling.”

“Sire, I—“

“I am leaving my home in your care, under your protection.”

Gamling paused, phrasing the question carefully. “Can the queen not serve as regent until your return?”

“She can,” Éomer said, rolling up his maps, “and she will. But I cannot leave Edoras undefended. A small contingent will remain here, under your command. We are expecting the party from Dol Amroth in the next few days, and I trust you will serve as host in my stead.”

“Éomer,” Gamling paused, waiting until the king looked at him. “You do not have to do this. I can ride out in your stead.”

“I think it best that I go. Ani is more than capable of the duties that will be expected of her. She has never been one to shun responsibility. Besides, after tomorrow, she will be kept busy with our guests.”

Éomer looked up. Gamling still stood, staring at him. “Was there something else?”

Gamling cleared his throat. “You have much to do in preparation. Would you prefer I inform the queen?”

The image of Ani standing in the hall in his robe came back to him. “No,” the king said softly. “I will do it.”

*************


Chapter 8 - Of Trials & Troths, Part 3

Trust To Hope – Book Two
OF Trials and Troths - Part 3
Author: Novedhelion
Type: FP Het
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Pairing: Éomer/Lothíriel aka Anhuil
Rating: R
Warnings: Sex. Yes, married people can and DO have really good sex.
Beta: Riyallyn
Disclaimer: Not responsible for the elevation of your blood pressure.

*************************************************
The first, the last, my everything
And the answer to all my dreams
You're my sun, my moon, my guiding star
My kind of wonderful, that's what you are
I know there's only, only one like you
There's no way they could have made two
You're all I'm living for
Your love I'll keep for evermore
You're the first, your the last, my everything

Barry White
*******************************
Of Trials & Troths, Part 3
*******************************
Edoras
15 Lothron, 3020 Third Age
********************************


In the corridor outside the private chamber he shared with his wife, Éomer took a deep breath, and pushed open the door. His wife sat in a chair near the fire, still wrapped in his robe, rubbing the head of the huge canine beside her. It wasn’t often Elenion would deem to enter Meduseld, spending most of his time in and around the stables, but he seemed to know when his mistress needed him.

He turned his head toward Éomer, his amber eyes glinting in the firelight. Anhuil might insist that the beast was only half-wolf, but the look the animal was giving him right now was purely lupine. And unmistakably protective.

Elenion gave Éomer the equivalent of a wolfish once-over, realized he posed no threat, and laid his head down on Ani’s knee. Éomer couldn’t quite decide whether to be pleased or offended by the animal’s vigilance. He stepped into the room, closing the door behind him.

“You are leaving,” Anhuil said softly, before Éomer could speak. Her gaze remained on the fire, her fingers still idly stroking Elenion’s head.

“Yes,” he answered. “There have been attacks on the villages and herds in the north. We cannot afford—“

“You do not have to justify your riding out to me, Éomer. I know that you would not go were it not necessary.”

“Gamling offered to ride in my stead, but I feel this is something I must do.”

She nodded. “You must do what you think is best for our people. I am perfectly capable of handling the courts until your return.”

“I have no doubt,” Éomer said, moving to stand beside her chair.

“Then it is decided,” she announced with finality. Rising from her seat, she stood in front of him. Her spine straight, her shoulders square, and, he noted, her eyes were dry. Elenion laid down, resting his head on his paws, and dutifully ignored them.

“You leave at first light?”

“Yes. We have a long ride ahead, and will need every moment of daylight.”

“Then you will need rest.”

Éomer nodded at what he assumed was his dismissal. He picked up a clean tunic from the back of a chair and moved toward the door. “I will get my things and go back to my—“

She'd be damned if she was going to let him walk out again. “No.”

The word was spoken so softly he wasn’t sure he heard her correctly. He turned, his expression questioning., and stared at his wife. Dark hair, tousled from sleep, tumbled in wild waves over her shoulders, ending in curls that teased the curves of her breasts at the top of the low-cut shift she wore beneath his robe. Her eyes held his steadily, unabashedly.

She took a slow, deep breath. “Please stay.”

His hand fisted tightly around the tunic he held, his eyes closing. He couldn’t, not after what he’d put her through. “Ani...”

Anhuil tugged at the belt of the robe she wore, untying it. She shrugged out of it, letting it fall to the chair behind her. Clad only in the thin shift, she walked slowly toward him.

Éomer's knuckles whitened around the tunic in his hand as she closed the distance between them. The scent of her, soft lavender, fogged his brain as she came closer. His gaze dropped to the loose lacings on the front of her shift, his heart hammering as he took in the shape of her silhouetted by the flames through the thin gown. Closing his eyes didn’t help, as it immediately brought on vivid thoughts of tracing those wicked curves with his hands, his mouth...

“Come to bed, Éomer,” she whispered softly.

Gods, but he wanted nothing more than to carry her to that bed and cover that shapely little body with his own. Lifting his eyes back to hers, he held her gaze, but didn’t answer.

Anhuil raised an eyebrow at him. “So this is the way of it?” She leaned close to him, tracing a finger lightly down his chest. The gentle touch speared desire through him, her finger burning his skin through the fabric of his tunic. “I am to be denied your company and my own pleasure because you feel guilt?”

“You know I would deny you nothing,” Éomer answered, his voice husky. How could she want him still?

“Then come to bed," she said over her shoulder as she started toward their bedchamber.

“Ani...”

She whirled around to face him. Familiar fire blazed in her green eyes, but she kept her voice calm. “You deny yourself because you do not feel you deserve what you want. But in punishing yourself, you deny me what I both want and need.” She came back to him, taking the shirt from his hand and tossing it aside. She stepped closer. “Do you love me still?”

His hand came up to touch her cheek, but stopped just short. “More than my own life,” he told her.

Anhuil grasped his hand in hers gently, her small fingers closing warmly over his. Even the light touch made him shudder. “And do you want me still?” she asked, bringing his hand to her lips, but keeping her eyes on his.

Éomer stared down at her, swallowing hard. “More than I have ever wanted anything in my life.”

"I do not wish for you to sleep in your study again. Ever.” She laid his hand flat against her skin, just above the bodice of her gown, and closed her eyes at the warmth radiating from him. “I want you in our bed.” Her fingers guided his hand to the laces of her shift, her eyes raised to his. “If I must, I can accept whatever happened before we were wed, but I will not allow that woman to come between us now.”

Suddenly remembering he hadn't yet explained about Willa, Éomer balked. “Ani, I was in the study. Éothain had just left…she came to me, told me she had become disoriented and wandered down the wrong corridor…I did not…I sent her—“

“Stop.” She laid her fingers over his mouth. “I am not unaware of her schemes. I would not put it past that woman to do everything in her power to drive a wedge between us.” Sliding her fingers down his throat, Anhuil wrapped the laces of his tunic around them and pulled him closer. "It will not happen."

The touch of her cool hands had his breath catching in his throat, his heart pounding against his ribs. His fingers lay motionless on the laces between the curves of her breasts, her dark eyes watching his intently. Her lips curved into a seductive smile as she gave the laces of his tunic a playful tug. "You remember how those work, meleth nin?"

Éomer returned the smile. "I am fairly certain."

Slowly, his fingers grasped the ribbon that tied her shift and tugged it free, unlacing the bodice. The rising and falling of her breast beneath his fingers quickened as he traced the edge of the fabric with a calloused fingertip.

“Kiss me, Éomer.”

He hesitated only for a moment before lowering his mouth to hers. His wife’s eager hands entwined into the golden waves of his hair, pulling him closer, her lips parting under his.

The fingers that had deftly untied the laces slid up, catching the ruffled edge of her shift and pushing the soft fabric down from her shoulders until it fell in a pool at her feet.

****************

The heavy drapes were still drawn, the sun not yet risen over the mountains. Anhuil rolled to her back, sighing as she sank into the soft mattress. A slow smile spread across her face at the memory of the previous night.

It still amazed her that she could feel so much. Éomer could make her feel cherished and treasured, and at the same time, wicked and wanton. His hands were gentle and soft one moment, greedy and seeking the next, wracking her body with pleasure. His mouth would tease hers with arousing kisses, lips and tongue playing lightly over her skin, only to become heated and heathen and hungry, taking her to places that she never imagined existed. It was a miraculous and astounding thing, she thought, to be both wanted so urgently and loved so deeply.

Éomer slept on his stomach across the big bed, the tangled waves of his golden mane spread across the muscles of his back and shoulders. He was a beautiful man, she thought, although she could imagine his scowl at her saying so. She could hardly blame other women for wanting him. The thought gave her some pause, but she knew he was hers. Hers alone, despite whatever happened before their vows were spoken.

She propped herself up on one elbow, looking down at him, remembering the first time she’d seen him like this. She’d crept into his room at night, in the Citadel of Minas Tirith. There had been so much doubt then, so much fear. Fenwick had threatened his life, threatened the life they both so desperately wanted together.

The fairy tale had ended happily after all, and now reality had set in. Whatever challenges they would face, they would do so together.

Leaning down, she brushed his hair aside and pressed her lips against the back of his neck. Éomer murmured something unintelligible into his pillow, making her giggle softly. Her hand slid down his back, beneath the covers.

Éomer groaned softly, rolling slightly back toward her. He opened one eye, glancing over his shoulder. “Woman, you will be the death of me.”

“You should be so fortunate,” Anhuil whispered against his ear. She pressed herself against his back, her hand sliding over his hip, over the hard muscle of his thigh. His skin was warm beneath her palm, his hair tickling her cheek as she nipped his ear lightly.

“And what an epitaph that would make for a king,” he teased. “Instead of singing of my death in the glory of battle, or as an aged, wizened king,” he continued as he shifted his position, turning toward her, “bards would sing of how Éomer King perished of pleasure atop his beautiful, saucy wench of a wife.” Flipping her on to her back, he grabbed her roaming hands and pinned them beside her head.

She grinned up at him. “And would that be such a terrible fate?”

His mouth curved slightly. “I cannot think of a better way to die.”

Last night, their lovemaking had been tender, rolling them both over wave after wave of pleasure. While Anhuil cherished the sweet kisses and soft caresses of slow loving, there were other times when she wanted him with a desperation that didn’t wait for gentleness. The heat that flooded through her when he lowered his mouth to her throat made this one of those times.

Oh, gods, the things that man could do to her, Anhuil thought as his mouth moved lower, teasing, tantalizing, tormenting, before finally closing over her breast. “Do you not have to ride this morning?” She gasped out the question, breathless.

Éomer grinned against her skin, reveling in the feel of her heart pounding beneath his mouth. “Oh, I plan to,” he promised, giving her a slightly wicked nip with his teeth. She jumped, the little moan that escaped her lips sending a bolt of desire screaming through his system. His mouth roamed over her breasts, her belly, nibbling along the side of her waist with his teeth.

“For Valar’s sake, Éomer,” she pled. Her eyes were closed, her head thrown back. He kept her wrists in his hands as his tongue left a moist trail back up to her throat. She struggled against him, fists clenched. The desire to touch him, to feel his skin under her hands, to have his mouth on hers, had her writhing beneath him. “I thought riders of the Mark were not capable of falsehood,” she panted.

“What lie have I told?” he asked, his teeth and tongue continuing their torture at her breasts. She could feel him pressing against her thigh.

“You said you were—Oh, gods,” she whimpered as he slid down her body again, still pinning her arms, this time to her sides.

“Yes?” His lips were warm against her skin, his long hair softly brushing her thigh.

“You said you were planning to…” She bit off her own words with her teeth in her bottom lip as his tongue drove her higher.

“Hmm?”

“Ride…”

His mouth was busy, his fingers tight around her wrists.

“Elei, Elbereth,” Anhuil gasped.

“Do you want me to take you, Ani?” His lips skimmed over her belly. Unable to speak, she nodded. Éomer chuckled softly. “Do you want me to take you?” he asked again, smiling when she raised her hips beneath him, her body instinctively seeking his. He raised himself over her, pinning her hands beside her head, propping his weight on his elbows. “Look at me, Ani,” he whispered.

Her eyes fluttered open, dark as midnight. When they met his, he smiled. “Do you want me to take you?”

Anhuil gasped for breath. Her voice was thick, her eyes clouded, but they met his steadily. “Yes! By the gods, take me, you arrogant son of a--“

Her words stopped abruptly with a keening cry as Éomer thrust into her, hard. Pleasure shot through her system, catapulting her almost painfully over that first wild wave. He held still, knowing full well the sweet torment he was wreaking on her, but wanting so desperately to prolong it as long as possible for both of them. Pressing his lips together, Éomer grappled for control as he felt her shudder beneath him. He watched her face, waited for her eyes to focus again, and grinned at her.

Anhuil’s eyes met his, registering his cocky expression. He knew full well what he was doing to her, and was enjoying it immensely. She returned the smirk and lifted her hips, grinding them against his. He gripped her wrists, his muscles tensing.

Pulling her trump card, Anhuil turned her head to whisper in his ear. "San amin, meleth nin...Anira lle san amin..."

Éomer growled. Burying his face in her hair, he swore. He had yet to understand why her soft voice whispering low pleas in Elvish could send him reeling into complete, helpless insanity, but there it was. His hands slid up her wrists to clasp hers, linking their fingers as he drove into her. When she cried out, her legs wrapping around his, Éomer’s vision blurred.

His breathing was ragged against her neck, her own labored, as they spiraled frantically from one sensation to the next. Relentless, she arched into him, moving with him, fighting to drag him with her over the sharp edge.

She heard voices, murmuring, her own incoherent Sindarin mingled with his Rohirric, but the words were drowned out by the sound of her own pulse hammering. Aware only of her husband and the delirium he brought her, the delightful havoc he was wreaking on her body, Anhuil dug her teeth into his shoulder, and leapt, soaring into the white light that shattered like glass as she fell.

Éomer gasped for breath as his wife’s body went taut against his. His fingers clasping hers tightly, he closed his mouth over hers and followed her into the abyss.

**********

They had said their farewell in private, discussed what matters needed to be handled over their hurried breakfast. She had helped him into his armor, praying silently as she buckled each piece in place. Now, standing on the steps of the Great Hall, Anhuil watched the muster of the Rohirrim. Eorlingas, she corrected herself silently. That was what they called themselves. Rohirrim was the Elvish word for the horse lords, the word the people of Gondor used.

She was no longer of Gondor. The thought pleased her more than she ever thought it would have.

Bells rang out as the men gathered in the courtyard, banners flapping in the ever-present breeze. Lovers embraced, passionate kisses exchanged as the women gave their men a final farewell. After nearly three months of living among them, Anhuil knew the Eorlingas were a relatively uninhibited people, but it still took her aback slightly. It was nothing like the somber and proper farewells soldiers of Gondor received. She was beginning to feel sorry for them.

Éomer turned to look up at her, flashed her a quick smile, then finished giving his orders. Stalking up the steps, he kept his eyes locked on hers, the burnished gold of his hair and the metalwork of his armor glinting in the early morning sun. Anhuil sighed. She couldn’t help it. She loved the way he looked in in his full armor, his sword at his side, the dark golden mane that she had brushed and braided back herself spilling across his wide shoulders.

He stopped in front of her, taking one of her hands in his. “Our scouts tell me the party from Dol Amroth should be arriving by tomorrow.”

“I heard.”

“Please give your brother and Cam my regrets.”

“If anyone understands duty, it is Amrothos,” she reminded him.

He paused a moment, studying her face. “Ani, I wish I did not have to--”

“I will be fine. I can handle matters here.”

Éomer nodded. He didn’t doubt that for a minute.

Their eyes stayed locked as he raised her hand to his lips. With her other hand, she reached up and withdrew a small piece of cloth from the bodice of her dress and pressed it into his hand. Éomer looked down at it, running a thumb over the familiar blue flowers embroidered around the edge. It was white again, the lavender scent renewed from her soap. “I looked for it this morning,” he admitted. “Thank you.”

Aware that their people were all watching, Anhuil offered him a proper curtsey. “Sy ðu hal, cyningmin,” she said softly, in practiced Rohirric, and started to step back.

Éomer raised one eyebrow, clearly amused. He shook his head. “Is this what Gondorians consider a proper send off?”

When she opened her mouth to answer, he swept her into his arms, covering her mouth with his. Taken off guard, Anhuil stumbled against him, her fingers gripping the shoulder plates of his armor. Shocked at first, she made a pitiful effort to pull away, which was promptly ignored by her husband. Giving in, she slid her hands into his hair and gave herself over to the mindless kiss.

The sound of their people cheering registered somewhere in the recesses of her scattered senses as Éomer finally lowered her to the ground. Breathless, her fingers gripped his arms as she steadied herself, his hands still on her waist. He grinned, that rakish, devilish grin for which she had fallen so hard.

She knew she was probably blushing, but couldn’t find it in her to care. The men cheered and hooted, a few shouting rather lurid intimations. Her husband grinned, obviously amused by the antics of his men. Well, she’d show him. Knowing what her speaking Elvish did to him, she licked her lips and looked up at him. “Sina lle merne lle uma amin, meleth nin?”

His eyes narrowed playfully. “Do not start that or I will never be able to leave.”

Anhuil raised up on her toes, pressing her lips close to her husband’s ear, and whispered a stream of words in Sindarin that only he heard.

Éomer didn't understand all of it, but he got the general idea. He grinned, raising one eyebrow. “Care to translate?”

“Come home to me, meleth nin, and I will show you.”

“Minx,” he teased, kissing her again. Taking her hands in his again, he brought them both to his lips. “I love you, Ani.”

She grinned. “I know.”

Drawing her in for one last lingering kiss, Éomer held her tightly. He brushed a kiss over her hair and stepped away.

As Éomer descended the steps, the memory of their hurried goodbye on the plains of Rohan flashed through her mind. Anhuil swallowed the lump that seemed determine to form in her throat and smiled as her husband mounted his horse. She listened as he called the men to ride, his deep voice echoing across the courtyard.

She stood on the steps long after they’d left the city gates, watching the cloud of dust disappear in the distance.

*****************

From her position near the outer doors of the Golden Hall, Willa watched the sweet farewell between the king and his queen, fists clenched at her sides. The last thing she’d meant to do the previous night was drive him back into his wife’s arms. Cornflower blue eyes narrowed, she laid a hand over her swelling belly as if to comfort the squiriming child within.

“Do not fret, little one,” she crooned softly. “Our resources are not yet exhausted.” She looked down at the round mound beneath her frock and smiled.

****************


San amin, meleth nin...Anira lle san amin - Take me....I want you to take me...
Sy ðu hal, min cyning. – Fare you well, my king.
Sina lle merne lle uma amin, meleth nin – Do you know what I want you to do to me, my love?
------------------------------------------------------------------

Printed from Open Scrolls Archive (https://www.openscrolls.net) on Tue Jun 02, 2020 12:29 am