Login

Lost Password?

Create New Account

Of Falcons and Mûmakil

Chapter 29: Temptation

by Lialathuveril

Chapter XXVIII: Temptation

Lothiriel sat down on the bed and started brushing out her hair with long even strokes. She felt considerably better now; a hot bath and a proper meal had done wonders for her. After days of living out of her saddlebags it was also nice to have clean clothes again. The trunks with her possessions had been sent ahead a couple of weeks before she left Dol Amroth and had arrived here before them. In fact most of her things were already awaiting her up in the Queen’s Rooms in Meduseld. Not everything though, she thought and her gaze involuntarily went to her wedding gown hanging on a stand in one corner. The rich green silk shimmered in the muted light and the pearls embroidered on the wide bell sleeves seemed like tiny stars.

She looked round the room, her home for one night. Like most of the houses of the Rohirrim its walls were made of wood and stone and the ceiling was low and crisscrossed with beams. To somebody used to the high windows of Dol Amroth, that were meant to catch every breeze in summer, the windows here seemed small and few, but in Rohan’s cooler climate this made sense. The only illumination came from the fire burning in the grate, making the room seem remarkably cosy.

This was in fact the best room in the house and she felt vaguely guilty for crowding out the rightful inhabitants. In Rohan it was traditional for the bride and groom not to share the same roof until they were married, so Éothain and his new wife Alfhild had put her up in their house. They had insisted she use their own bedroom and there had been no polite way to refuse.

Well, after all it is only for the one night, Lothiriel thought, tomorrow…

She felt a shiver of mixed anticipation and nervousness run down her spine. The snow this morning and the many impressions on their journey had to some extent made her forget exactly what was going to follow, but now it suddenly came home to her. Tonight was the last time she slept alone. It was her wedding day tomorrow and she would spend the night in his – their – bed. Lothiriel had noticed him watching her the last few days with that peculiar hunger in his eyes that was flattering and alarming at the same time. In a way she had rather enjoyed fanning the flames by teasing him, although lately she had started to ask herself if this was entirely safe or if it was rather like taunting a sleeping lion.

Well, tomorrow his hunger would be satisfied at last.

Lothiriel drew her soft robe closer around herself. There was really no reason for her to be feeling apprehensive, after all she trusted him. And she liked the way he kissed her, didn’t she? The joy she had felt on seeing him again for the first time after their long separation had rather startled her in its intensity. Something had flared up between them for a moment, something fierce and reckless. It was an unsettling thought to wonder whether they would be able to control that barely contained passion.

If only she had been able to spend some more time with him on her own, but ever since they had entered Rohan her brother Elphir had watched her like a hawk for any behaviour he considered unsuitable. This very moment there were two guards outside her door, probably being bored to death. It had been nice to ride with Éomer in the afternoon, but she had simply been too tired to do any talking and had just enjoyed feeling his arms around her.

Her thoughts wandered back to what he had said when he had helped her down from Firefoot’s back on arriving at Éothain’s house.

“Remember, my Lady Princess, you still owe me something,” Éomer had murmured in her ear, “retire early tonight.”

She was uncertain what to make of that, but as it happened she had retired early, but purely because she was tired. Surely he must know about the two Swan Knights guarding her room and there was nothing he could do about them. Suddenly feeling uncertain she went to open her door and peeked into the hallway. Sure enough, there they were and being her father’s finest guards they were instantly alert.

“My Lady?” one of them turned round.

“I am going to bed now,” she said, “and I don’t want anybody to disturb me, not even my brothers.”

After a short considering pause she added, “actually, especially not my brothers.”

The guard was too well trained to show any emotion, but she thought she detected just the faintest hint of an understanding smile in his expression.

“Very well, my Lady, I will see to it,” he nodded.

For good measure she shot the bolt as well. Then she sat on the bed again and chided herself for feeling slightly disappointed. Even the King of Rohan had no way to somehow do away with two of his ally’s men, just so he could come to her chamber. And did she even want him to?

All of a sudden there was a low thudding sound that made her jump. Where had that come from? It seemed to originate from the direction of the windows and as she listened attentively it came again. Her room was situated on the first floor and looked out over the backyard, which should be quiet at this time of night. Lothiriel quickly made her way over to the row of small windows and opened one, her heart starting to beat faster. A blast of cold air came in, making her shiver, and when she looked out she could not make anything out at all, it was so dark.

“Lothiriel!” somebody whispered and then she recognised his form below her, no more than a shadow. Éomer seemed to balance on some kind of crate, for he could nearly reach the windowsill. Surely the window was too narrow for him to climb through, though.

“Lothiriel,” he whispered again, “Climb out and I’ll catch you. I want to show you something.”

She hesitated. While she had played truant many times with her brothers, this was an altogether different proposition. To be out with a man completely on her own at this time of night could not be considered anything but very improper behaviour.

He seemed to be able to read the misgivings in her mind. “Remember, you still owe me a forfeit,” he said with laughter in his voice, “or are you afraid?”

That did it! She would not let it be said that a Princess of Dol Amroth did not keep her word.

“Wait there, I’m just getting dressed,” she replied curtly.

While she put on her warmest clothes and grabbed her cloak from where it was drying in front of the fire, Lothiriel reminded herself that he was after all the man she was going to marry the next day. She would be perfectly safe with him. Wouldn’t she?

The window was narrow, but with some wriggling she managed to squeeze through and felt herself caught round the waist and lifted down. It was too dark to see Éomer’s expression, but his voice was warm as he praised her, “That’s my fearless little princess. Come along!”

She hung back. “Éomer, won’t we be seen? What if we meet my brothers?”

He reached out and put up the hood of her cloak. “Don’t worry. I’ve sent them down to the Yule Fair with Elfhelm.”

So where are we going? she thought.

Éomer took her by the hand and quickly led her out of the courtyard. He seemed to know the way perfectly well and several times took a shortcut through a kitchen garden or a backyard. There were only few people still about on these small back streets and most of those they simply avoided by ducking into darkened alleyways.

Despite her initial doubts Lothiriel was starting to enjoy herself; this reminded her so much of the adventures with her brothers when they used to stay in Minas Tirith. They had just reached a slightly wider thoroughfare when Éomer stopped abruptly and with a low curse pulled her back into the narrow passage they had just traversed. Lothiriel opened her mouth to enquire what was the matter, but he hushed her before she had the chance to utter a single word.

“Éomer? Is that you?” somebody called and he cursed again softly in Rohirric.

“Just my luck,” he muttered.

“Who is it?” Lothiriel whispered.

He threw her a chagrined look. “My beloved sister…and Prince Imrahil.”

Her father? Lothiriel felt panic sweep through her and cast about frantically for a place to hide. However, the alley was completely bare of anything bigger than what would conceal a mouse.

“Éomer?” Éowyn called again, sounding very close.

“Hide under my cloak,” he hissed at her and planted himself so as to cut off his sister’s view.

Lothiriel quickly did as she was told and slipped under his cloak, pressing herself against his back. It was a good thing he was to tall, she thought.

Muffled in the thick fabric at first all she could hear was the wild beating of her heart, but then she made out the crunch of footsteps on the snow.

“I thought it was you!” Éowyn exclaimed, “What are you doing here?”

“Sister,” Éomer greeted her, not sounding very pleased, “I was just answering a call of nature. What are you doing up so late?”

“I’m taking Prince Imrahil to see the Yule Fair.”

“A good idea,” Éomer replied, “Don’t let me keep you.”

Lothiriel suddenly felt laughter bubbling up inside her at the annoyance in his voice. It was such an absurd situation to be hiding behind her husband-to-be on the eve of her wedding day. His woollen tunic was rough under her fingers and she felt the heat radiating from his body even through the thick cloth. Without thinking she slid one hand slowly and teasingly up his back.

“Éomer, are you all right?” Lothiriel wondered what expression was on his face, for his sister sounded downright worried. Éomer’s muscles had gone hard as stone under her touch.

“I’m fine,” he said in a strangled voice, “why don’t you go on.”

“You look strange, what’s the matter?”

Lothiriel recklessly slid her other hand up his back as well. He took a deep breath. “Éowyn, for the sake of the love you bear me, stop asking questions and just take Imrahil and go!”

More softly he added, “I’ll explain later…”

There was a pregnant pause and then Éowyn said, “I’ll keep you to that, brother.”

Her footsteps retreated. When they could no longer be heard he whirled round and grabbed her wrists.

“And what do you think you are doing, my Lady Princess?”

She was shaking with laughter. “Just getting even for that night in my tent, my Lord King.”

He was staring down at her, his expression unreadable. “Do you know you are playing with fire here? Come along!” he ordered her and seized her by the hand.

The sky was cloudless now and the stars were so many and shining so brightly in the clear air that there was enough ambient light to find their way by. The snow made the footing treacherous, however, and they had to be careful. Lothiriel began to wonder where they were heading for when it suddenly dawned on her that they were climbing steadily. The next time they stopped at the top of a steep flight of stairs to let her catch her breath she looked up to see the Golden Hall much closer.

“Where are we going, Éomer?” she asked rather uncertainly. Maybe it had been unwise of her to provoke him like she had?

“You’ll see, hurry up,” was all he replied, before leading the way again.

Lothiriel knew from his letters and Éowyn’s accounts that the private rooms of the king were at the southern side of the hall. Was that where he was taking her? She hesitated, unsure what to do.

“Éomer?” she asked again.

He turned round to face her. “Hurry up or we’ll be late,” he said and there was just the slightest trace of amusement in his voice.

Be late? Is he so impatient? Surely not! Or…is he? Lothiriel thought nervously. Well, she was completely lost by now and there was no way she could have retraced her steps. It looked like she would just have to go on. The hill got even steeper now and they had to scramble across a garden wall and up a steep bank before reaching another flight of stone steps that led up to the terrace encircling Meduseld. She hadn’t known snow could be so slippery!

Éomer pointed to some low buildings to their left. “Nearly there now. That’s the kitchen.”

Lothiriel was slightly out of breath and panting. “Where do you know all the back ways and shortcuts from, anyway?”

His eyes were glittering and he gave her one of those grins she found so difficult to resist. “You don’t want to know…”

There was a wide cobbled path leading from the kitchen the remainder of the way up to the crown of the hill. There were actually a couple of guards stationed here, but they recognized Éomer and exchanged a few soft words of greeting. Drawing her hood up closer, she was aware of their curious stares and wondered what they made of the presence of a woman with their king on the eve of his wedding. She rather doubted that in her present dishevelled state they would recognize her as the Princess of Dol Amroth.

They had now reached the paved terrace that she knew encircled the entire Golden Hall and he took her by the hand again and led her around to the other side of the hall.

“This way,” he said and she could feel her pulse speeding up. Would he ask her to come to his rooms? Lothiriel wondered what she would answer. She knew of course what she should answer.

However, they did not take any of the side doors leading into the inside of the building but instead went round to the eastern side. Lothiriel got a jumbled impression of richly carved beams and sinuous decorations of gold glinting in the darkness.

“Here we are, “ Éomer said, “and only just in time as well.”

He turned her to face the view and she was confused at first. Below her spread the many houses of Edoras, encircled by the massive stone wall. Then she lifted her gaze and saw it. To the east the Ered Nimrais, the White Mountains, spread for league upon league, their slopes covered in snow. And behind them rose the moon, tonight waning and no longer quite full, but riding high at this time of the year and very bright. Lothiriel caught her breath as the landscape was transformed into a glittering fairyland, all the harsh edges of the land smoothed away by the snow.

Éomer put his arms around her from behind and for a long time they just stood there, looking outwards while the wind tugged at their cloaks.

“It’s beautiful,” she sighed and could feel him nod.

“It’s a rare sight and I wanted you to see the Riddermark at its best,” he explained.

Some of her earlier playful mood came back. “Actually I have already seen the best of the Riddermark…”

“Have you indeed, my Lady?” his grip tightened.

“Surely the people of Rohan are what makes your country so special. Their welcome was heart-warming.”

“And is there any particular inhabitant of the Mark that has caught your fancy?” his breath was warm on the side of her neck.

“That’s difficult to say,” she answered teasingly, “everybody has been so kind to me.”

“Careful,” he warned her, “remember that forfeit you still owe me.”

“I thought I have just redeemed it?” To her own surprise she found she was no longer nervous of what he might do.

“Not quite…” he replied and turned her round for a slow, leisurely kiss. In a smooth, familiar motion his hands slid around her waist and up her back, leaving a trail of delightful sensations even through all her thick layers of clothing. With a contended sigh Lothiriel slid her arms around his neck and pressed closer. All the tension accumulated over the past days seemed to simply drain away and she felt herself relax.

“This is just so nice,” she said without thinking and felt laughter rumbling in his chest.

“I’m glad you approve,” he whispered, “for I’m not finished yet with claiming my due.”

She suddenly became aware of how exposed they were up on this lofty terrace and in the bright light of the moon.

“What if someone comes along?” she asked.

He considered this for a moment.

“You are right, my lady,” he said and before she realized what he was up to simply bent to pick her up.

“Éomer,” she exclaimed in surprise and tightened her hold around his neck, “what are you doing?” Her throat had suddenly gone dry.

His eyes were dancing with mischief. “I’m looking for a more sheltered place, just like you said. Don’t you trust me?”

Éomer’s face was inches away from her own and Lothiriel let her gaze travel over the now so familiar features. The firm chin, those lips that could somehow work havoc on her, his unruly hair that she liked to lace her fingers in, and finally his eyes, so often cool and distant, but not with her, never with her. She was safe with him and always would be.

“I would trust you with my life, my body, my soul,” she said.

His grip tightened convulsively and he wasn’t laughing anymore. Very gently he set her on her feet again and cupped her face between his hands. His fingers were hot on her cheeks as he gazed down at her. Lothiriel met his look unwaveringly.

Éomer had got more than he had bargained for. What had started out as a dare had turned into something much more serious. On the way up he had enjoyed the slight apprehension in her voice, had thought it a fitting way to get even with her for getting him all wet and cold this morning, let alone her provocative ways earlier on tonight. That was all he had intended.

He had not reckoned with the burning fire the mere touch of her soft lips could kindle within him. The temptation to pick her up and take her to his rooms was almost overwhelming. Éomer wondered what her father would say on not finding his daughter in her bed the next morning. She was still looking up at him with that melting expression on her face. What did you answer when the lady you loved handed you her heart like that?

“Thank you,” he breathed, feeling unexpectedly humbled.

There was a sudden gust of wind and he became aware of the fact that she was shivering.

“You are cold,” he stated, and when she nodded shyly he hesitated for the barest moment. “Come with me.”

Her hand trembled slightly in his own as he led her back the way they had come, but she came willingly with an almost childlike trust in her eyes. Did she even know how much she tempted him? It looked as if she had unintentionally turned the tables on him, blindsiding him neatly with her innocent faith in him. He had the distinct feeling the joke was on him this time.

It took every ounce of willpower he possessed to lead her past the door to his quarters and down the stairs instead. At the bottom of the first flight he hesitated and then turned right. There was more than one way to warm her up again and he was not quite ready yet to relinquish her company.

***


The kitchen was dark and quiet when they entered, but there was a low fire burning in the grate. This was by no means the first time he had sneaked in here at night and he knew exactly where everything was kept. He was just reaching for a couple of mugs and handing them down to Lothiriel when the door to the pantry opened and somebody exclaimed sharply.

“Who is that? What are you doing here?”

Éomer jumped and looked up guiltily. It was Hergyth, the old cook, who had been in Meduseld since from before he could remember. Feeling like a little boy caught out stealing cakes (as he had in the past) he met the old woman’s glare.

“It’s only me. I was just getting something hot to drink.”

“Éomer?” she peered at him with the shortsightedness of the aged, “is that you lad? What are you doing up at this time?”

“Just getting a drink,” he repeated soothingly, half expecting her to tell him to go back to his bed like a good little boy. Apparently she did remember, though, that he was a grown man now and her king as well.

“Let me do that,” she commanded him and took the mugs off him, “you sit down at the table.”

Meekly doing as he was bid he sat down on one of the long benches framing the kitchen table and pulled Lothiriel down beside him. The old woman had given her a sharp scrutiny, but had not asked her name. He had a shrewd idea she knew the answer to that already. However, for the time being she was simply busy bustling about importantly, making tea.

Éomer raised an eyebrow in surprise when Hergyth came back not only with their mugs filled with tea, but also a small pot of honey to stir into it and some of her famous nut cakes.

“So this is your Lothiriel, then?” the old woman asked.

For a moment Éomer wondered if the princess would be insulted at this unceremonious form of address and got ready to jump into the fray, but Lothiriel gave the other woman a slow smile.

“Yes, I am his Lothiriel,” she answered in her lilting Rohirric.

Hergyth nodded sagely, apparently pleased with the answer. “I thought as much. Welcome to Meduseld.”

An unspoken message seemed to pass between the two women and Lothiriel inclined her head. “Thank you.”

“Well, Éomer,” Hergyth turned to him, “and what have you done to deserve such a beautiful wife?”

Under the table he took one of Lothiriel’s hands in his own. “I really don’t know.”

Hergyth nodded as if satisfied at something. “I’ll leave you to it then,” she said, “but make sure you get your lady off to her bed soon.”

“Yes Hergyth,” he replied obediently, but with a smile in his voice and she gave him another sharp look before she turned to go out the door.

“And make sure you clear up the dishes before you leave!”

Silence reigned when she had left. He slipped an arm around Lothiriel’s waist and with a grateful sigh she leaned her head on his shoulders.

“So now you’ve met the true ruler of Meduseld,” he joked.

“Have I? She reminds me of our cook in Minas Tirith,” Lothiriel said and wrapped her fingers around her mug of hot tea, “She always used to have treats for us when we were children.”

“I thought Hergyth was quite unique actually,” Éomer replied dryly, making her chuckle.

“She bakes delicious nut cakes, anyway,” Lothiriel remarked, nibbling at one of them experimentally.

“That she does.”

Éomer was watching her attentively and noticed how tired Lothiriel looked all of a sudden. What had he been thinking off to drag her up the hill after she had just spent a whole day on horseback, and this after two weeks’ hard travelling? She had every right to complain, but instead she just sat there, quite content in his company.

“Hergyth is right, we’ll have to get you back,” he said with some reluctance when they had finished their tea, “it’s going to be a long day tomorrow.”

“I know,” she nodded and rose from the bench, “I just hope I still fit through my window after eating all those nut cakes.”

As he put the hood of her cloak back up he gently caressed her cheek. “I will come and get you tomorrow. Make sure you are ready.”

Her eyes were dark with fatigue but she looked serene.

“I will be waiting for you.”

Chapters

Jump to chapter

Chapter name
Temptation
Created
18 Mar 2006
Last Edited
18 Mar 2006
Hits
913
Words
4154