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Of Falcons and Mûmakil

Chapter 32: Of falcons and mûmakil

by Lialathuveril

Chapter XXXI: Of falcons and mûmakil

“Wake up, dear heart.”

The words trickled slowly through the layers of her mind. Something was wrong with them, but Lothiriel just ignored them and snuggled deeper into her sheets. These were warm and smooth and she did not want to wake up, although the soft kisses planted on her eyelids were rather nice.

“Wake up, my sweet.”

The voice was deep and had a trace of laughter in it and there was definitely something wrong with it. Now somebody was nibbling gently at her ear and when she rolled over onto her stomach to get away from this irritation there was a soft chuckle. The bed creaked and she could feel somebody leaning over her.

“Come on, ladylove, wake up.”

More kisses, this time on that sensitive spot at the back of her neck. The voice was distinctly familiar, filled with warmth and also something else, but Lothiriel just wanted to sink back into her dreams. They had been nice.

“Go away,” she mumbled into the sheets and tried to draw them over her head.

“You don’t mean that, heart’s lady,” the voice purred, “You don’t want to miss your wedding night, do you?”

Her wedding night…

It suddenly dawned on Lothiriel what was wrong with the voice: it was a man’s voice… it was Éomer’s voice! She sat up with a start and only his quick warrior’s reflexes saved them from a painful collision. With a convulsive motion she scrambled back against the headboard of the bed and clutched the sheets to herself. The room was dark, only dimly lit by the fire in the hearth and it took her a moment to realize where she was. This was his bedroom, their bedroom.

Now completely awake, but with her heart still hammering wildly she slowly lifted her eyes to look at her husband. He was sitting on the edge of the bed, keeping absolutely still as if afraid to startle her further.

“Remember me?” he said with a lopsided grin and she gave a shaky nod in reply.

Then it hit her. She had fallen asleep while waiting for him on their wedding night! What a start to their married life! With an involuntary groan she buried her head in her hands, feeling thoroughly embarrassed.

“I’m sorry,” she tried to explain, “I was just so tired…”

Her voice petered off and she risked another quick glance at her husband. Was he angry? After all he had rights now and surely one of them was not being made a fool of by his wife on their very first night.

He stretched out a hand. “It is me who is sorry, Lothiriel. I didn’t want to startle you like that.”

“Well, I’m not used to having a man in my bed,” she blurted out without thinking.

He laughed out loud. “I should hope not!”

Then he lowered his voice, “I’m afraid you will have to get used to it, though, for I intend to wake up in the same bed as my wife as often as possible from now on.”

Her throat had suddenly gone dry. “Is that so, my lord?” she said, trying to match his tone. The bed that had been so big at first now seemed remarkably crowded and he hadn’t even moved from his place at the edge of it.

Lothiriel wondered what he read in her face, for he immediately gave her a reassuring smile. “Would you care for some wine?” he asked in a completely different voice.

She considered this for a moment and decided that she would indeed. “Yes please,” she replied and he got up slowly, moving with deliberate care as if she were some deer likely to be startled into flight at the slightest movement.

Lothiriel leant back against the headboard and drew in a deep breath, grateful to him for giving her some time and space to recover her composure. She wondered how late it was. There was a small table by the window and she watched him cross the room and fill two goblets from a bottle standing there. At some point while she had been asleep he must have changed his clothes, for he was wearing a short blue night robe now, and all of a sudden the unfamiliar attire made him seem a stranger. Then he looked up and smiled at her and was Éomer again.

“It’s a good vintage, from Southern Gondor,” he remarked conversationally and handed her one of the goblets. She accepted with a word of thanks and he seemed quite content to sit on the edge of the bed again and simply watch her sip her wine.

Lothiriel found that her heartbeat had returned to normal again, although there was still a flutter of nervousness whenever he glanced her way, for there was that unmistakable hunger in his eyes, tightly controlled though it was. She was relieved he did not seem to be in a hurry, though, and risked giving him a small smile.

He smiled back warmly. “This is to apologize for waking you up,” he said, lifting his goblet.

“I suppose the King of Rohan shows his true colours now that we are married,” she teased him shyly.

“I could not help waking you up,” he replied, “I haven’t got that much self-restraint…”

She put her head on one side and considered this for a moment. “I suppose it would be insulting if you hadn’t woken me up.”

He leant over and gave her a light and gentle kiss. Lothiriel could taste the sweet red wine on his lips and her heart speeded up again.

“I would not want to insult you, my lady…” he said, lightly caressing a finger across her cheek.

“… and anyway, I have it on good authority that I may kiss you whenever and however I please,” he added with a grin.

Lothiriel frowned, momentarily distracted. Where had she heard those words before?

“What do you mean? Whose authority?” she asked.

“Your own.”

There was a short pause while she worked this out. “Amrothos!” Lothiriel exclaimed full of wrath.

“Your brother did indeed have a most interesting tale to tell,” Éomer nodded, “Did you really say that to your aunt?”

She nodded shamefacedly. “In front of the whole court of Dol Amroth. She dared to call you a barbarian!”

He laughed. “Actually I have been called that before. And didn’t you know that the reason why I married you is to bring civilization to the House of Eorl?”

Lothiriel took another sip of the wine, starting to feel more relaxed. “Indeed?” she replied playfully, “I only married you for your horses.”

Éomer put a hand to his chest. “You wound me, my lady wife. Not for my good looks?”

“For that too,” she conceded, “your hair is like a lion’s mane…”

Shyly she reached out a hand and softly touched a strand of it, not yet used to making free with his person. He gave her an encouraging smile.

“… and of course I also married you for your pretty words,” she added wickedly, “nothing dazzles a girl like being compared to a drowned rat.”

For a moment he looked completely disconcerted, then he groaned aloud. “My sister warned me that would come back to haunt me.”

“It’s still better than being likened to a swan,” she consoled him.

“Is it?” he sounded amused, “A swan does not suit you anyway, my proud falcon.”

Éomer leant over and kissed her again, more thoroughly this time. He could feel a current of heat run through him when her lips parted willingly and she started to kiss him back. I have waited so long, he thought.

After a moment he drew back again, wary of startling her with demanding too much too soon. The apprehension had been so plain in her eyes, but also her innocent trust, and he had been touched. She gave him a shaky smile.

“You are going to spill my wine if you’re not careful.”

“In that case let me relieve you of it, my lady,” he replied gravely and took her glass away to put it on the floor, next to his own. She surrendered it willingly and slid down a bit further on her pillows. Seeing her lying there, her eyes enormous but steady and trustful, his desire for her nearly overwhelmed him, but he swore to himself that he would be patient and would not rush her, however much it cost him in self-control. That this might prove to be a challenge, their very first kiss back in Ithilien had shown him.

“You’re so beautiful,” he whispered and bent over her again. This time their kiss lasted longer and after a moment she put her arms around his neck and pulled him closer, making his blond hair fall around them like a curtain, mingling with hers on the pillow. When she hesitantly slipped one hand inside his robe he could not help drawing in his breath sharply and felt her tremble in response.

He disengaged gently to look down on her again, but although she was breathing rapidly she did not seem apprehensive and even gave him a little smile. Very gently he cradled her head between his arms and brushed a few wayward strands of hair away from her forehead. She seemed so delicate, as if he could have crushed her without half trying, even though he knew this was far from true. My wife, Éomer thought, mentally savouring the words, and wondered if he should be worried at how much he wanted her.

In the flickering light from the fire her eyes were dark like a moonless night, drawing him in. Slowly he traced the elegant curve of her eyebrows. “I want you to enjoy our first night together, dear heart. You know I would never hurt you. Trust me.”

Lothiriel gave him one of the smiles she kept only for him. “I do, you know that.” She hesitated for a moment. “I just feel so ignorant,” she finally confessed.

He suddenly wondered if any of her female relatives had ever bothered to have a talk with her about what awaited her in the marriage-bed. That aunt of hers sounded absolutely useless, but surely Melian would have talked to her, or was that custom unknown in Gondor?

“I will be more than happy to teach you,” he replied.

“I want to please you.” She sounded almost stubborn.

“Oh, Lothiriel,” he breathed, “You do. Just be yourself.”

She frowned. “It can’t be as easy as that.”

He had to laugh and suddenly rolled over and pulled her atop of him in a wild tangle of white sheets and crimson robe. “It is!”

For a moment she had been startled and had clutched at him, but now she smiled back in response. “If you say so…”

He lightly stroked one hand along her spine, causing her to shiver involuntarily. At the same time he wondered in the back of his mind how to get off this bridal robe, for there did not seem to be any laces along the back. Trust those Gondorians to complicate everything.

“I’ve waited a long time, my lady,” he said while running another hand down her back, “and I don’t mean this morning.” His voice sounded hoarse in his own ears.

She gave a wicked smile. “Not by Gondorian standards, you haven’t.”

“No?” he asked, “I tell you, I was worried for a while when I suggested the same day for a wedding date and your father replied by suggesting next summer.”

Lothiriel laughed. “Poor you! What did you say in the end to persuade him?”

“That was one of my better moments.” Éomer grinned at the memory, “I argued that I need to marry as soon as possible because Rohan urgently needs an heir. It worked like a charm!”

She went rigid under his touch. “What?” she exclaimed and stared down at him, “What did you say?”

Later Éomer reflected that his warrior’s instincts should have warned him of impending danger, but by then it was too late. Much too late.

She rolled off him abruptly, taking the sheets with her. “Éomer, please tell me this is one of your jokes.”

“Lothiriel, what’s the matter?” he asked in confusion, his brain still fogged with desire.

Belatedly he realized that this had definitely not been the right thing to say.

“You are serious…” Lothiriel whispered as if still not quite believing it. She stared at him, her eyes blazing with fury. “How dare you treat me like a brood mare!”

He sat up and gingerly reached out a hand for her. “What are you talking about! You know that’s not what I meant.”

She looked at his outstretched hand as if it was something particularly repulsive. “Don’t you touch me!” she snapped, “How could you decide my fate in this cold-blooded and mercenary way, as if I were a horse to be bought and sold.”

He was speechless for a moment. “It was only a pretext,” he tried to explain, “a reason your father could give to his council for the short engagement period.”

“His council?” Her voice rose, “Father discussed this with his advisors?”

“I’m sure he only wanted to see you happy,” he said, but somehow this only seemed to make her angrier.

As if unable to contain her rage any longer she jumped up and started to pace the room. “See me happy? By treating me like the mere means to an end, a thing?”

Her crimson robe billowed out behind her, the thin silk not hiding much at all and he caught himself staring at his wife’s soft curves.

“Éomer, are you listening to what I’m saying?” she snarled.

“You’re making it difficult,” he replied without thinking. Again this was not the right thing to say. For a woman of her size she could look amazingly dangerous. He was suddenly glad he had not started to teach her how to wield a knife yet.

He decided to try to reason with her. “Didn’t you want to be married as soon as possible, too?”

“That’s completely beside the point,” she hissed, “The fact is, you and my father went about this business as if you were buying a horse. I’m surprised you didn’t ask to look at my teeth!”

“That’s not true,” he exclaimed, “Can’t you see it’s just that I would have used whatever means available to make you mine and agreed to whatever conditions.”

“Conditions?”

Éomer bit his lip. He had not wanted to say that last thing.

“Éomer, what conditions?” Her voice was low, low and dangerous.

He decided to make a clean breast of it. “Your father agreed to the midwinter wedding. My side of the bargain was to let you go if you changed your mind in the meantime.”

She stared at him. “A few things are becoming clear to me now… You never told me!”

Well, what did she expect? He had not told her about his words, exactly because he had feared such a reaction by her.

“No, I didn’t,” he conceded, crossing his arms in front of his chest.

“Neither you nor my father thought to inform me of this convenient little bargain you made between you?”

Éomer felt the first stirrings of irritation at her sarcastic tone. “Please Lothiriel,” he said, “don’t you think you are overreacting slightly?

Once more definitely not the right thing to say, he reflected later.

“Overreacting?” Her voice rose again, “You consider it unreasonable of me to object to being treated like a prize being handed over by one man to another because the latter needs an heir for his country?”

Éomer took a deep breath. “Look, I’ve just explained that was only a pretext. What does it matter what excuse I gave your father?”

“It matters to me.” She turned away from him to stand at the fireplace, her hands curled into fists, and he did not at all like the way she eyed the iron poker hanging on the wall there.

Éomer ran his hands through his hair, trying to think of the right thing to say. What had happened to turn the willing and pliant lady in his arms into this furious wildcat? “Lothiriel, it’s only words,” he finally replied, “Do we really want to start our married life with a quarrel?”

Her next words left him speechless. “Well, we haven’t shared a bed and a roof,” she pointed out, “So we’re not legally married yet, anyway, are we? At least that’s what your bard told me when he instructed me on wedding customs.” She stopped abruptly.

He stared at her. If Forthred had been present at that moment, he would have found out he wasn’t untouchable after all.

“Do you regret your vows then, my lady?” Éomer asked in his coldest voice.

Lothiriel turned away from him and stared into the fire. Silence descended, broken only by the far off sounds of revelry from the hall, where people were still busy celebrating their union.

Éomer could feel his anger fading as quickly as it had arisen. She somehow managed to look angry and forlorn at the same time and it did not help that the fire behind her outlined every line of her body through the thin silk.

He got up to join her at the fireplace, standing behind her, but not quite daring to touch her.

“You are right, I should have told you. Will you forgive me?” he asked gently, “…I love you.”

Lothiriel threw him a glare over her shoulder. Did he have to tell her that now of all times?

Conflicting emotions were running riot through her. Just now she had felt appalled at her own words, yet at the same time she could still feel the heat of anger cursing through her body. Why had their wedding night gone so horribly wrong? Only a few moments ago she had begun to enjoy herself – more than that, to be honest – and now she felt as if there was an abyss looming at her feet. She closed her eyes and leant her head against the cool stone of the wall, battling desperately to regain control of her temper. Why had he kept this from her?

Éomer stood so close behind her, she could feel the heat spilling from him. Now he hesitantly touched her shoulder. “Lothiriel?”

She took a deep breath. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

The silence stretched between them. “I think I was afraid,” he finally said in a low voice.

“Afraid?” She could not imagine him fearing anything. This was the man who had ridden down those Southrons threatening her, who had come to Dol Amroth to find her and claim her for his wife. The Lord of the Mark, always completely self-assured and used to instant obedience.

“Afraid of loosing you, afraid you might change your mind.”

Change her mind? Didn’t he trust her? All of a sudden Lothiriel remembered how many of the people that he loved he had lost in his life already. His parents had died when he was only eleven years old and she knew he was still grieving for his uncle and his cousin. Lothiriel had seen some of the scars on his body and they were healed, but there were scars on his heart as well. Unexpectedly, her anger was flushed away by an overpowering surge of understanding.

She turned around and stepped into the waiting circle of his arms. “You have me, don’t you see? I’m here to stay. Didn’t I promise to be your joy and your strength?”

He nearly crushed her in his embrace, but she did not mind. “You are.”

She looked up at him seriously. “Éomer, I want no more secrets between us. Next time you tell me.”

He nodded. “I promise, dear heart.”

For a long time they merely stood there, their arms wrapped around each other, his chin resting lightly on her head, until they had both regained their composure. Lothiriel still felt shaky at the thought how close she had come to saying something unforgivable. She savoured the feeling of his warm strong body against her own, his male scent not as yet familiar. Slowly his hand started to draw lazy circles on her back and her pulse quickened in response.

“You look so desirable when you’re angry,” he whispered in her ear, his warm breath caressing her neck.

“Now you are trying to distract me.” Not that she minded.

“Yes,” Éomer conceded, “it’s the first tactic a warrior learns when faced with a stronger opponent.” He planted a kiss in the hollow of her throat, causing a delightful shiver to run through her.

“I thought you are like a mûmak,” she said slightly breathless, “brave, strong, unstoppable…”

He gave her a rueful smile. “Not quite.” His hands were roaming across her body, gentle but insistent.

“Lothiriel…” he said huskily.

“Mmmh?” It was difficult to concentrate on his words when all she wanted to do was melt into his arms. They had wasted enough time.

“This robe…” he said with a trace of laughter in his voice, “it’s very pretty, but how do you undo it? Are there no laces?”

“It’s a Gondorian bridal robe…” Were there some things her husband did not know after all?

“So? I have it on reliable sources even Gondorians take off their clothes on their wedding night.”

After a last lingering kiss Lothiriel gently disengaged herself. “You might find they do.”

With a wry smile she showed him how to pull the skilfully embroidered ribbons on the sleeves and by some clever fashioning of the seams the whole robe came undone at the shoulders and pooled at her feet. He wore such a stunned look that she had to bite back laughter. Then he exclaimed something in Rohirric, grabbed her by the shoulders and claimed her mouth in a kiss. It was like a banked fire suddenly flaring up.

At that moment it dawned on Lothiriel that all they had ever done so far had been mere practicing and only now was he kissing her in earnest for the first time. In fact he had no right to kiss her like that on her first night, for it was neither gentle nor considerate. She was a gently bred princess with no experience with men and the depth and urgency of his passion should simply have terrified her, but instead she found that she welcomed it, for it woke something deep within her, a matching hunger and need of her own. Without a moment’s hesitation she yielded into his arms and returned his kiss for all she was worth. It looks like I have woken the sleeping lion, was her last coherent thought before she simply let herself be swept into a maelstrom of desire.

Éomer stopped as abruptly as he had started, his breathing ragged. “Lothiriel, forgive me! I didn’t just want to pounce on you like that!”

She was breathless herself and would have buckled at the knees if he hadn’t held her so tightly. “I don’t mind,” she said after a moment, her heart still hammering wildly, “just don’t worry so much.”

He stared at her. “Worry? My wife tells me not to worry on our wedding night?”

All of a sudden she could feel mirth welling up within him until he was shaking with it. “Isn’t that what I am supposed to say?” he gasped between bouts of helpless laughter. It was a carefree and joyous sound such as she had never heard from him before.

“Oh Lothiriel,” he said and picked her up to whirl around in his arms, “I love you more than life itself.”

“I love you, too,” she whispered and wound her arms around his neck.

His eyes were burning with fierce joy at her words. “My beautiful, proud falcon.”

“Do you fancy yourself a falconer then my lord?” There was just the faintest note of warning in her tone. How often had she seen the poor creatures with their hoods and jesses and had felt sorry for them.

Her husband was a fast learner and this time he knew dangerous ground. “I was hoping my falcon would stay of her own free will or better still, would let me fly with her.“

“Can mûmakil fly then?” she asked with a little smile.

“They’re excellent fliers, didn’t you know?” he laughed, “I will show you.”

“And now my lady,” he added, “much as I would enjoy watching your brother’s face when you tell him we’re not in fact married, would you perhaps do me the honour of sharing that bed with me after all?”

Lothiriel had a hard time keeping a straight face when she tried to picture Elphir’s expression on being informed that she had decided not to marry the King of Rohan and that she wished to return to Dol Amroth. She cocked her head to one side as if carefully considering Éomer’s words.

“Yes.”

Almost before she knew it she was swept up into his arms again and laughingly deposited on the bed. The sheets were a mess and he solved the problem by simply sweeping them all aside. Then he hesitated.

“Wait there,” he ordered her with a grin, “I’ve just remembered something.”

She turned over onto her stomach and watched in puzzlement as he crossed the room and bolted the door to the anteroom. Where did he think she would go anyway?

“Just a precaution,” he remarked, “I do not intend to be interrupted again. Not by my sister, not by your brothers or anybody else. We have all night. In fact it’s bad luck for a newly wedded couple to get up before noon.”

Was he serious? Lothiriel got the feeling he might well be. “I didn’t know that.”

“Maybe Forthred did not tell you all of our customs.” Éomer was indecently amused again.

He watched her lying on the bed and his gaze was like a warm caress against her skin. Boldly she looked back, making no attempt to cover her nakedness. Where had she found this self-assurance? All her previous nervousness had gone and instead she was filled with delicious anticipation.

Still holding her eyes with his own Éomer crossed back to the bed and slowly shed his robe. Her eyes widened slightly, but she moved over to make space for him and when he lay down next to her, she moved into the embrace of his arms with the unselfconscious grace of a bird taking flight. Éomer closed his eyes and simply breathed in the scent of her, that heady mixture of perfume, the wine they had shared earlier on and something else that he could not have named, but that was uniquely hers and that he would have recognized anywhere and anytime. She sighed contentedly as she nestled closer, her bare skin warm and incredibly soft against his own. At that moment Éomer could finally accept that he had indeed been given his heart’s desire.

Lothiriel tentatively ran a hand across the smooth muscles of his chest, crisscrossed with old scars. She could feel the rapid beating of his heart under her fingers and the way he tensed in reaction to her caress. His skin was burning hot to her touch and she could not quite believe her own reckless audacity when she reached up and buried her hands in his long golden hair, pulling him down to meet his lips with her own. I want to be closer, she thought and arched her whole body against him, making him draw in his breath sharply. When she looked up and met his eyes they weren’t blue in the flickering firelight, they were midnight black and seemed to devour her.

“I need you so much,” he whispered.

“I need you too,” she replied, “I want to be yours…completely.”

Tonight in this space they weren’t king and queen or husband and wife, they were just Éomer and Lothiriel, claiming and being claimed in equal measure. Lothiriel did not take her aunt’s advice or Éowyn’s either, instead she met passion with passion and gave herself without any reservation. Before the night was over the world outside their chamber ceased to exist and they found laughter, joy and breathless fulfilment in each other’s arms.

And comparing the experience to a toothache definitely did not do it justice.

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Of falcons and mûmakil
Created
07 Apr 2006
Last Edited
07 Apr 2006
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