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Trust To Hope, Book Two

Chapter 7: Of Trials & Troths, Part 2

by Novedhelion

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.”

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

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Chapter name
Of Trials & Troths, Part 2
Created
04 Apr 2005
Last Edited
04 Apr 2005
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