Chapter 11

"My King, a rider seeks your audience." Announced the guard.

"From what land does he bear message to Rohan?" Eomer, King of Rohan asked, lounging indolently in the throne that had been his uncles.

" A place far to the north and east. The Rhunland, Sire."

"Very well, send him in."

The Rider entered the hall, approaching the throne with an undaunted stride, his russet leather cape shedding rainwater to glisten on the wooden floor of the Golden Hall.

"Eomer-King. I bring to you an invitation for you and your court to attend the coronation of our new King."

Eomer sat up at these words, alert to the prospect of a celebration and a bout of revelry.

"Who is to be crowned, and when?" he asked bluntly, diplomacy be damned.

"There are several candidates undergoing selection as we speak. As a people we are anxious to rejoin the world, seeking to rebuild that which we had lost. Our land lies close to Mordor, King, and was ravaged by that ill luck. The coronation will be held soon, I am to lead you to our citadel when you are ready."

"Indeed? Then please, await my return. Hama, have my horses made ready, I go to Gondor, at once."

"The Rhunland? Yes, I received an invitation not long ago. I believe I intend to go, do you?" Aragorn replied to Eomer's question, his voice echoing in Gondor's feast hall, where they sat, King and King, supping on mead by the fire.

"Are there any of your Rangers in that land? Is it safe?" Eomer asked again.

"I remember one, I think. We have a map of that land, as such; it should be safe enough. I wish to meet their new king…he may be of some use. Besides, I would not have thought it like you to avoid a festival, surely you could not deny your sister some merrymaking?"

"Eowyn? She is…she is there already! Going to be married to some lord or other…I forget his name." He said, stroking his patchy blonde beard.

"Truly? You neglected to inform me;" he said thoughtfully. He hoped most fervently that this lord should love Eowyn, and be worthy of her. "Then you already have a duty to attend, and see your sister is well."

"I do? Bah, Eowyn can take care of herself!" he said with a grunt.

"That is not my business, my friend, but were she unhappy, would you not be to blame? Did you make no investigation into her marriage? A marriage of a princess is a tie not lightly undertaken."

"She has no claim to my throne while I live, Aragorn, it is no issue."

"That is the point, old friend; you do not have issue, and her children might claim your throne in time."

"But I had not..." he said, his brow furrowing with the effort of thought "are you saying I must marry also?"

"Nay, only that the ladies of the Rhun might be as yet fair as our own, and that this celebration might unite this land, all our kingdoms at peace together."

"So we go?"

"We go. Make haste tomorrow, back to your lands and I shall make my preparations. Let our two bands make the journey together, and we could be there within a month."

"I like it, the green suits you." Eowyn laughed. Her love stood upon a stool while the robe-maker fussed over him, his new dark green robes with their trimmings of grey fur hanging loosely as she worked to fit them to his awkward frame.

"It pleases me that you find this such an amusement, for I shall revel in it when your time comes, my laughing one." He retorted with a wry smile.

"If you think I'll be trussed up in this castle one more day, you must have lost your mind. Once you're finished here, let us go out for a walk. I need Trees, Grima!"

"Ah, so my golden princess has most truly abandoned her breeding." He grinned outright, loving that he could rile her with a few choice words

"I am here am I not? Please, my Love? I'll gladly go veiled, but I must get out of these oppressive walls."

"Of course, my Darling, I shall have men paint the black marble white, just for you." He smiled sarcastically. It was truly a delight to him to both tease and torment her, and that they named each other Love so easily. It had been a long time coming, from their peaceful idyll in the village he had grown up in, where he dreamed of taking her to wife, and now, when he prepared to make her his queen. He adored her pout, he had decided, and it pleased him to make her assume the expression when it suited him.

When the seamstress had finished his new robe they did indeed go for a walk, but Eowyn had neglected to wear her veil, and dressed instead in her sturdy village clothing, and Grima himself wore his buckskin and woollen tunic. In this guise of humble foresters, here for the celebration, they wandered the woods, the scent of moistened fertile earth beneath their feet freeing them once more.

"When I am King we may walk in these woods whenever you wish, My Lady." He promised her solemnly, his mind drifting to the coronation, which was but a few days hence.

"When you are King you shall be subject to matters more needful than the wishes of your wife." She reflected.

"I want to make you happy, Eowyn." He said, handing her a small white flower he found in the grass.

"I know. But you will make me most happy by being the king your people need. Good and kind and true." She smiled while winding the flower in her hair, her own thoughts drifting to the changes in this man since his banishment from her country, to how little he had needed to change to be loved by her.

Grima stopped, and unslung his pack from his back, putting aside their picnic for later, took their swords, and threw Eowyn hers, and they began their practice, or in Grima's case, training. He had never learned swordplay, and Eowyn was determined not to marry a man who could not handle a sword, she had jested. This had lead to their clandestine lessons, while the Ranger or the Elf looked on.

The Elf in question was studying the flowers on the far side of the meadow, looking over now and then, smilingly indulgent. It had taken much time, but with encouragement from all three, Grima had become a competent fighter, but none were intending to tell him, lest he take offence. The sounds of their mock battle well within his hearing, he drifted, enjoying the woods, hearing the trees talk.

These trees were different from his homeland, mysterious, dark and undeniably wild, he felt they were as interested in him as much as he them. Indeed, several times he had tried to explain to his companion Mirghast that he sensed their reluctance to let him go, and he feared what a wrench it would be to leave them finally.

"Ah, you got me! I am surely dying!" Grima laughed, getting up from the ground and inspecting a small cut on his shoulder.

"It is but a scratch, get up and fight like a man!"

"Better than fight like a shieldmaiden! But enough for today, I plead; I ache, and the sun goes down soon."

"Bah! I was just beginning to enjoy it! But yes, the light looks to be lowering. Legolas! Mirghast! We return to the castle."

Mirghast appeared from the trees as was his usual mode, and soon the Elf joined then, a thoughtful look on his pale, pointed face.

"My lords and Lady, there may be trouble ahead. I hear a large group of horsemen approaching. They wear metal armour, and are heavily laden. Their horses have travelled far."

"They approach the castle, but it is several hours journey from here, they must make camp before night." Said the Ranger.

Eowyn smiled. "Might we investigate? If we are to reach the castle ahead of them that they might make preparations for their arrival, might it not be wise to know who it is that approaches?"

The Elf paused, listening. "You may get your wish, My Lady, they pass by not far to our west."

And so they crept stealthily westward, led by Legolas, into a patch of briar high enough to hide them all, yet sparse enough to observe the horsemen.

"Those standards are of Gondor! And look, those of the Mark!" whispered Grima, startled. "We must warn our people that we are descended upon in war!"

"Wait, Grima," whispered Eowyn, "these are not a battle ready company, see their donkeys, and the womenfolk, I believe they come for the coronation."

"Even worse! What are we to do? I may be recognised!"

"Legolas, Grima, come to my chambers after we return; there is something I have in mind."

The journey back was not as swift as they had hoped, but they still made it back in time to have supper in Eowyn's rooms. As late as it was, they together decided that any mention of their impending visitors might lead to questioning about their previous activities, and this was most undesirable, so it was left to them to feign surprise upon the morrow.

Still later, after Mirghast had returned to the rooms he shared with Legolas, Eowyn began her efforts to make Grima unrecognisable.

"After all, they think you are dead. And you have become much stronger these past years. We will keep you in green, I think. Black is a mistake." She said, as she combed out his long, wild hair.

"Legolas, hand me that beaded necklace from the dresser?"

He did so, and watched amazed as she broke it with a swift snap, and piled the beads carefully in her lap. They were glass, with tiny flecks of colour in them, delicate and exotic. "I think I see your plan, my lady. May I assist?"

"I was hoping you would. Do so, for your fingers will prove more skilful than mine." She smiled, as Grima looked on, confused.

The night passed as they worked, and in the morning light, Grima bore a head of tendrils and braids, decorated with glass beads that clicked and tinkled when he turned his head. The effect was dramatic, and made Eowyn blush at the rakish and piratical aspect her betrothed now possessed. To his green robes had been added leather vambraces and sturdy boots, decorated with interlocking silver plates, and a wide silver belt.

"I look like a corsair!" Grima complained.

Eowyn replied, "Indeed, you look most unlike a dusty traitorous scholar. We should get some sleep before the castle wakes." She said, shooing them both from her rooms, and settling down to sleep, hoping for a few hours of rest before putting her plan to the test.

AN. i'm sorry this took so long! i got sucked into Doctor Who, and completely lost the plot! but i'm back on it now, and hopefully the next chapter wont take two years! lol.