Title: Trust to Hope - Prologue
Author: Novedhelion
Type: FP Het
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Pairing: Éomer/Lothíriel
Rating: PG for now...

Warnings: Girlish angst...Overbearing parent...Annoying brothers...

Beta: Riyallyn...
Thanks to Gliowienrayna for the title!!

Disclaimer: Although I truly wish I could lay claim to these lovely characters...I am not J.R.R. Tolkien. I do not claim any of these as my own except Camwethrin...the others are all characters Tolkien created and I used and abused them. Elenion is also mine. I don't intend to make any profit here. It will be a waste of time to sue me, I have no money. I tried to follow canon where possible but did take some artistic license. If PJ can put Elves at Helms Deep...

Feedback: This is my first attempt at Fanfic. But yes, I would like feedback. Just remember if you can't say something nice....

Any Sindarin will be translated at the end of the chapter. I promise no perfection.

Trust to Hope

"Women wish to be loved not because they are pretty, or good, or well-bred, or graceful or intelligent, but because they are themselves."
Henri Frederic Amiel, Swiss Philospher

Dol Amroth
20 Narwain, 3019 T.A. (JANUARY 20)

The princess stood on her balcony, looking out across the water; the conversation with her father still ringing in her ears.

"I would not wish to marry simply for political gain, Ada." She crossed her arms, looking at him defiantly. "We have had this discussion."

"Lothíriel, you have a duty to your people. Suitors have been coming for years and—"

"And when I fall in love with one, I will marry him." Leaning on the inside of the stone archway, she watched the ships moving in and out across the harbor. "I understand that when I do marry, consideration will have to be taken as to how my union will affect the realm. But I still do not think it is too much to ask that I at least LIKE the man I marry."

Lowering his voice, the prince tried reason again. "This is not a game, Lothíriel. This one could be beneficial to us. We need his help. He is a nice young man. He comes from a very well respected family with a long history of working the harbors successfully. We could use his experience, with the Corsairs terrorizing our villages as they are." He paused, softening his tone. "Another large group of refugees came to the city today. Their village had been completely destroyed, and most of their men killed."

The princess cringed, shaking her head. The stories from the coastal towns had been much the same for months, raids on defenseless villages and innocent people being killed or worse, taken captive. It angered her that it seemed so little could be done.

Her father continued. "Apparently Mardil and his uncle have had some success in reducing these attacks on their own harbors. Perhaps his cunning will be useful to us as well. And from what I can tell, he is quite popular with the ladies."

She whirled to face him. "Oh, Ada. That is just what I need. An arrogant, pompous ass for a husband!"

Imrahil was taken aback at the language his daughter used. Perhaps she spent a little TOO much time in the stables and on the training field. "LOTHIRIEL! You will watch your language, young lady—"

"I am not a little girl! I am twenty-four years old! Stop speaking to me as if I were still a child!" She stormed out on to the balcony, leaning her elbows on the rail.

The prince sighed deeply. His wife had always been so much better at reasoning with their youngest child. It was times like this that he really missed her.

He followed his daughter outside. "Please, Lothíriel. All I am asking is that you meet the young man. He is coming to dinner tonight—"

"What?" The princess spun around and stared at him.

"He will be here tonight. For dinner." He eyed her clothing. She was wearing a tunic and trousers, tucked into her black boots. "And please, for the love of the Valar, put on a dress."

Lothíriel regarded her father, taking in his exasperated expression. "Alright, Ada. I will meet him. I will be polite and charming and well mannered and all of the things the courts expect of a princess." She stepped forward and hugged him. Leaning back, she shook a finger at him. "But do not make me promise you more than that!"

The prince nodded his assent, and turned to leave. Looking back at his only daughter, he smiled, his tone softening. "I am only trying to do what is best for you. I want to make sure you are taken care of. I will not be here forever. I want to be sure you have a good husband."

"I know," she answered, her defiance mellowing. "Please do not talk like that. I will be fine. Even if I never marry, Elphir and Erchirion and Amrothos are here, and..."

"And your brothers will probably marry soon themselves." He paused, smiling mischievously at her. "You would give me no grandchildren?"

"If my brothers marry, let them give you grandchildren," she snapped with a grin.

It was a waste of time to continue the argument. "I will see you at dinner. Please, wear a dress."

She sighed. "I promise."

"Thank you, Lothíriel." He left the room, closing the door behind him.

And now she stood, on her balcony, in the promised dress. The least revealing one she could find. Dark blue velvet with a high neckline, it still fit nicely through the waist and hips, accentuating her figure. At least it played down her other attributes. She put her long curls up, pinning them securely with a jeweled clip. Even with an effort to look matronly, she did not.

"What do you think?" she asked the pretty blonde seated on her bed.

Cam eyed her up and down, pursing her lips. "It does not matter how hard you try, you are not going to be unattractive."

"Thanks, Cam," Lothíriel answered sarcastically.

The knock on her door interrupted their conversation. "Ladies, time for dinner. May I have the honor of escorting you down?"

Amrothos. The youngest of her three older brothers, he had always been the one closest to her. There were only two years between them in age. She opened the door. Amrothos eyed her outfit appraisingly. "Umm...if the look you are going for is 'hands off' I should say you achieved it with stunning success."

"Dín, Amrothos. You know I hate being ushered out and displayed for these so-called suitors like some horse up for auction. I feel like Ada would sell me to the highest bidder just to be done with me."

"That is not fair. Come on, give this man a chance at least. He seems very polite. Elphir and I have been downstairs talking to him." Her brother offered his arms to the ladies, casting a quick glance at Cam. She looked lovely in the rose colored gown she wore, her blonde hair pulled back in a braid that fell down her back. The prince sighed. "Could not ask for more, escorting the two most beautiful women in Middle Earth to dinner," he joked, leading them to the stairs. At the bottom of the steps, he reached behind his sister and yanked the pin from her hair, letting the loose curls cascade down her back.

"Amrothos! Give me that!" She reached for the clip, but he held it high above her head.

"No! You have such beautiful hair. Why do you hide it? You look much younger with it down." He tucked the clip into his pocket. She shot him a searing look.

"I was not trying to be attractive, Amrothos!"

"I know," he answered, pulling her into the dining room. "Ah, here we are."

The gentlemen rose from the table. Lothíriel looked up at the visitor. She almost gasped out loud. Raven black hair fell loosely about his shoulders, his skin fair and his face clean-shaven. Tall and broad shouldered, he stood straight, smiling politely as she entered. Well, at least he was handsome. That was more than she could say for some of the others.

Her father approached, looking pleased at her appearance. "Princess Lothíriel of Dol Amroth, I would like you to meet Lord Mardil Fenwick of Lebennin. His family runs the harbors at Ethir Anduin." The smile broadened, revealing perfect teeth. Bowing slightly, he took her hand and kissed her fingers. "I am honored to make your acquaintance, Your Highness."

His eyes. Steel grey with long, dark lashes as black as his hair. He was smiling at her, but his eyes...there was something there she could not place.

The princess shook her head slightly, pulling her hand back quickly. "Thank you," she responded, taking a seat between her brothers, Amrothos and Erchirion, across from the suitor. Lothíriel looked over at Cam, who was also eyeing the visitor warily. Fenwick smiled graciously at her.

"I apologize, but I did not catch your name," he said to Cam.

Amrothos leaned toward Cam. "This is Lady Valesa, daughter of Admiral Merric of the Swan fleet."

"I am pleased to meet you as well, my lady." Mardil smiled, standing and bowing slightly.

Cam acknowledged the greeting with a slight smile and a nod, but did not offer her hand.

"So you are from Lebennin, Lord Fenwick?" the princess piped up as a servant filled her chalice with wine.

"Yes," he responded, sipping his wine. "My uncle runs the harbors along the Mouth of the Anduin. It is a huge region."

Lothíriel nodded. "I would think so. We only have one river of traders through Dol Amroth and it seems at times there could not possibly be more traffic along the waterways. It is mostly our villagers we are concerned about. They are being attacked and looted all along the coastline. I hear you have had some success at reducing such incidences in your region. May I ask what measures you have taken?" She punctuated her question with a sweet smile, then picked up her fork while she waited for an answer.

"Lothíriel, must we discuss the Corsairs over dinner?" her father put in.

"I am much more interested in learning more about you, Your Highness," Fenwick replied. "Your brothers tell me you are very interested in politics. That is refreshing. Most women care little for the affairs of state, preferring needlework and gossip."

"I never held much talent for either, Lord Fenwick, much to the chagrin of the women of this court." She lifted her goblet to her lips, regarding him over the silver bowl. "My father has indulged my curiosity, agreeing that I should be aware of what is happening in our land. I have sat in on almost all councils since I was old enough to do so."

And probably caused more than one man not to pay as careful attention as he would have otherwise, Fenwick thought to himself, acknowledging her statement with a surprised nod.

Lothíriel smiled sweetly, masking her frustration. The constant parade of suitors at her dinner table was beginning to task her sorely. She knew, at her age, that most women were already married, but thus far none of the suitors whom she had entertained had been able to hold her interest even an evening, much less a lifetime.

The princess was also aware that she had been fortunate not to have been married off as a young girl, betrothed against her will and wishes to Valar knows who. But there was a matter of duty, to her father and to her people. Her choice of a mate would have to be political in nature. She only hoped she could fall in love with him as well.

She continued to question Mardil, who proudly talked about himself and his family. Fenwick was impressed by her ability to get him to talk, often finding himself answering questions he would otherwise have dodged, had they come from anyone else. She was definitely graced with the art of extracting information in such a charming fashion that one would divulge their innermost secrets before even realizing they had. Her persistent grilling both annoyed and intrigued him.

Her brothers, too, asked leading questions, followed up with statements like, "Is that not interesting, Lothíriel?" She fought the urge to roll her eyes on several occasions.

Finally excusing herself from the table, she headed out to the terrace, Cam in tow.

"Can you believe this?" she whispered harshly to her best friend. "Ada is so determined that I marry. Why is he not finding Elphir a wife? He is the eldest, and next in line for the throne. Sometimes I think he just wants to get rid of me. And this one..." She gestured back toward the dining hall. "I have never seen one so self absorbed! What was he thinking?"

"I cannot answer that," Cam answered quietly, shaking her head.

"But he is better looking than most," Lothíriel sighed. "At least there is that..."

"Ah, ladies, here you are." Her elder brothers walked out on to the balcony with Fenwick. Amrothos motioned to Cam, taking her arm and leading her toward the door. "I need to speak with you a minute, please, Cam."

"Amrothos, Ani and I were--"

"Now, please, Cam." He took her by the hand and pulled her inside. Her other two brothers quickly disappeared as well, leaving the princess alone with her would-be suitor. So much for subtlety, she thought to herself.

"I am sorry, Your Highness. I realize this is...uncomfortable." Fenwick smiled.

She drew herself up, at least impressed that he addressed her correctly. So many of the suitors had not had the slightest knowledge of protocol. "Yes, it is indeed. I am sorry my family chooses to make these things much more difficult than necessary. I appreciate you taking the time to come here, but you need not have. I told my father quite plainly..."

"Yes, he told me. You do not wish to marry to further a political agenda. You wish to marry when you fall in love. I can understand that completely."

"Then you also understand that your coming here was a waste of your time, Lord Fenwick. Please excuse me." She headed for the door.

"Princess Lothíriel," Fenwick called after her. "May I just say one thing?"

She turned to face him, looking at him expectantly.

"When your father told me his daughter was still unmarried, I expected...well...I just did not would be so..." he sighed, trying to find the right words.

She tossed her hair back over her shoulder. "You expected a dowdy old maid, is that it?"

He smiled. "Well, I suppose perhaps I did."

"I am sorry if I disappointed you, Lord Fenwick," she quipped, a very slight smile on her lips.

"I would not say that. Surprised is more like it. And the fact that such beauty also comes with a sharp wit makes it that much more pleasant a surprise."

"I see, Lord Fenwick. Surprise or no, this was still a waste of your time. I apologize for my father's impetuousness. He does not always consult me before he makes decisions concerning my life."

Fenwick shook his head, realizing her father had not yet discussed with her their agreement. How little she knew the truth of that statement. He stepped closer to her, flashing his most charming smile. "Well, Princess, it does not have to be a waste of either of our time."

He took her hand and kissed it, locking his eyes on hers. She drew in her breath sharply in surprise. Gods, he loved it when women did that.

The princess backed up, shocked. She had never had a suitor behave so inappropriately. Not only to address her simply by title but to actually touch her! She quickly regained her composure. "A little forward, are you not?"

"You will find I am not one to waste anyone's time, Princess," Fenwick responded smoothly, looking down into her eyes.

His inappropriate familiarity was beginning to annoy her. "And what exactly is meant by that, Lord Fenwick?" she inquired, her head cocked to one side, jerking her hand from his grasp.

"Only that if I held no interest in courting you I would have left just after dinner."

The princess laughed. The man had nerve. "You? Courting me?"

"Your opposition to political marriage is a lovely, romantic concept, but it is not practical. One must consider the potential ramifications of any union." He backed up and leaned on a pillar, folding his arms across his chest. "But that does not mean I would not be willing to expend a certain amount of time and effort to win you over." He smiled confidently. "I am certain, given the opportunity, I could change your mind."

"Change my mind about what?" She refused to let this insufferable prat rile her. Tearing her gaze from his, she stepped over to the balcony rail, eyes drifting to the ships bobbing gently in the harbor below.

"Your father believes you need a husband, and Dol Amroth is in dire need of assistance with the Corsairs. Both are issues I can address easily." He pushed himself off from the column and walked slowly to where she stood. "I need a wife with social grace and political savvy. And you have both, my dear, in spades. Not to mention how lovely you would look on my arm." Fenwick stepped close behind her, leaning over her shoulder, his hands folded behind his back. He grinned as she shivered involuntarily. "I could show you how this union would be beneficial to us all," he whispered.

Laughing out loud, the princess turned to face him. "I will not be a mere ornament for any man, to be paraded like a prize stallion! I beg your pardon, Lord Fenwick. I may not be a young girl but I am NOT so old that I am that desperate for a man's attentions."

"Indeed," he replied, leaning back slightly but maintaining his position behind her. "I am certain you would have no difficulty at all attracting the attention of any man, should you wish to do so."

She whirled around and glared at him, shocked at his impertinence. "And by that you would mean exactly what?"

He flashed another dazzling smile in her direction. "I am only saying that you are lovely and quite charming, and could have any man you wanted in the palm of your hand before he ever knew what hit him."

Lothíriel raised one eyebrow skeptically. "And your purpose for saying this would be...?"

"Only that I understand you, and dare not underestimate you. Your brothers may be ahead of you in line for the throne of Dol Amroth, but surely they see the political advantages of having skills such as yours." He walked around her in a circle as he spoke, hands behind his back, reminding the princess of the stories the Admiral had told her of how sharks circle their prey before closing in.

"Skills, Lord Fenwick?"

"I have watched you this evening. You have an ability to speak to anyone, be they the lowest scullery maid or a member of the royal family. You treat them all as if they are the most important person in the world at that moment. You are able to use your place of power and authority to get things accomplished and find out answers to your questions without resorting to ordering others around. It is a gift, Your Highness."

"Merely diplomacy," Lothíriel scoffed. "I try only to be fair and treat others with respect. It is the way I was raised."

Fenwick nodded. "A noble goal, that, however misguided it may be." He sauntered around to the other side of her, turning his gaze out over the harbor. "I hear you are quite the story teller as well."

The princess chuckled. "My, but my brothers have been gossiping, have they not?" She shook her head. "Tales and songs learned from a court glirdan to charm an audience are one thing, Lord Fenwick. Dealing successfully with Dol Amrothian courtiers is quite another story. I fear I have placed my royal slipper in my big mouth far more often than I care to admit."

"Ah, but the fact remains that you are unopposed to speaking your mind when it comes to what you believe. That in itself is a trait to be admired." He stopped his circling and regarded her in the moonlight. The slight breeze rifled through her long dark curls, large green eyes silently met and held his gaze. "I have met far too few women like you."

"You admire me for my outspokenness, Lord Fenwick? That surprises me. I did not take you for the type who appreciates a vocal woman."

Mardil smiled wickedly, his grey eyes locked on hers. "Ah, but I do. In some cases far more than others."

The princess stared at him a moment, unsure if she had heard him correctly. He continued to smile broadly, raising a dark eyebrow, assuring her he had meant exactly what he had said.

"I see, Lord Fenwick," she responded, stressing his title a bit sarcastically. "But I understand how vocal a woman is has much to do with the circumstances in which she finds herself. Perhaps that has been the issue with other women you have met." Squaring her shoulders, she turned on her heel and casually walked back into the palace.

Her father had come up to see her as she was preparing for bed. "He is a pleasant young man, is he not?"

"No, Ada," she admitted. "I did not find him charming at all." The princess sat at her dressing table, roughly brushing out her unruly curls. "I found him insufferably arrogant and annoying. And he does not have slightest concept of propriety!" She yanked the hairbrush through the stubborn waves. "He addressed me simply as 'Princess', and more than once!"

The prince sighed heavily. "Lothíriel, at this rate you will never marry. I have given you the last several years to make a decision on your own, and you have rejected every eligible man in Belfalas! I think it is time we made an arrangement."

"What?" She whirled around to face him. ""

"I have spoken with Mardil and he has put together a proposal to help me deal with the problems the Corsairs are causing. He is willing to help run the harbors here in Dol Amroth as he has in Lebennin. He comes from an excellent family, and as Harbormaster will be a very suitable husband for a princess. He is a very wealthy man, Lothíriel. He has a lot to offer. Mardil will be a good, stable mate for you."

Anhuil's heart pounded. "Oh, no, Ada...tell me you have not already—"

"Yes, Lothíriel, it is done. I have spoken with Mardil and with his family, and they are more than happy to have this arrangement. He was quite taken with you at dinner."

Lothíriel leapt to her feet, fists clenched. "Father! How dare you! The least you could have done would have been to consult me!"

"This has been decided. Please, do not challenge me on this. You have a duty to do what is best for Dol Amroth. You have seen the havoc these pirates are wreaking on our shores. Mardil can work closely with Admiral Merric to help protect our people. You would deny them that?"

"Why, Ada? Why must he marry me to do this duty?"

"A union between his region and our own will make his authority more palatable to our people, Lothíriel. You know how the sea folk are. They do not like change, nor do they appreciate strangers. As your husband, he would be far more readily accepted. Your betrothal to Mardil Fenwick will be announced next week, after the agreements are signed." He paused, letting it sink in.

"You feel this is my duty, Ada?" she queried, her expression incredulous.

The prince regarded his youngest child quietly. "We will discuss it further when you have had time to think it over. In the meantime, I suggest you get to know Mardil. He will be staying with us for a while." He spoke with such finality that Lothíriel was in shock.

She could not believe what she was hearing. He had arranged her marriage.

He left the room quietly. The princess stood in silent shock, staring out at the harbor, the moonlight flickering on the water. She collapsed on to her bed. And cried.

It's my life
It's now or never
I ain't gonna live forever
I just wanna live while I'm alive
It's my life
(It's My Life - Jon Bon Jovi)

Dol Amroth
8 Nínui, 3019 T.A.

The princess held her breath, her best friend holding the dagger at the back of her neck. "Are you sure about this, Ani?"

"Yes, Cam. I will not be able to deal with it. Please, just do it." She closed her eyes.

Sighing, the blonde looked down at the beautiful thick braid in her hand. Using the sharp dagger, she sliced through it, chopping the princess's long locks off in one swift motion. Lothíriel opened her eyes, looking in the mirror. Short curls fell just below her chin, barely brushing her shoulders. She ran her fingers through them. It wasn't so bad. And it would be easier, on the road.

"It has only been a few weeks. Maybe you just need to get to know him better." She paused, knowing that was not true. Getting to know Mardil Fenwick better was not going to change things. And Cam knew it. "Are you sure you do not want me to come along?"

Shaking her head, Lothíriel smiled. "No, Cam. I need to go alone. I need to get away from here. I cannot marry him."

"Where will you go? What shall I tell them?"

The princess sighed. "Perhaps I will finally travel to Lothlórien to finish my research on our family. But I do not know for sure." She shrugged. "So tell them honestly, you do not know where I went."

Camwethrin watched her friend scurry around her chamber. The princess had dressed in her leggings and a tunic, boots, and a hooded cloak. Picking up a vial of lavender oil, she opened the top and sniffed it. She corked it and stuffed it into the bag. Cam cocked her head to one side, questioningly.

"I is not exactly essential...I just love it so." She picked up the small embroidered handkerchief that lay on the dressing table, running her thumb across the delicate blue flowers.

"That was your mother's," Cam observed.

"Yes," The princess bit her lip. "She made it herself. Mother would never have made me marry him, you know," she hastily tucked the cloth into her pocket and strapped the belt that held her dagger around her waist. Almost as an afterthought, she picked up a small, leather bound journal and flipped through it, then stuffed it in her bag with a couple of quills and a small, corked bottle of ink.

"What are you doing?" Cam asked her.

"I want to keep up my journal," she explained, then looked up at Cam. "Who knows? Perhaps something will happen that is worth writing about."

The blonde touched her shoulder. "I will miss you, Ani. Be careful."

"I will miss you, Cam," she hugged her again. "Elenion will be with me. He will protect me." Blinking back the tears, she threw her bag, her quiver and her bow over her shoulder, and began her descent from the balcony.

"Anhuil," Cam called from above. The princess looked up. "I hope you find whatever you are looking for."

"So do I, Cam." She whistled softly, and a large wolf bounded out of the darkness. She scratched his ears affectionately. With a last wave, she disappeared into the dark, the canine at her heels like a shadow in the night.

11 Nínui, 3019 T.A.
Dol Amroth

"Gone? GONE?"

"Yes, your highness. I am sorry," the blonde responded. "I should have told you earlier, but I truly thought she would return inside a day." Cam wondered how sincere she sounded.

"Where in the name of the Valar did she go?" Imrahil stared at her in utter disbelief from behind his desk.

Cam sighed deeply. "In all honesty sir, I do not know. I do not think she was sure herself. I tried to talk her of it, or at the very least to allow me to come with her. She would not hear of it."

"Lothíriel is alone, then?"

"Elenion is with her," Cam offered.

"She was far more angry with me than I thought," the prince acceded, rubbing his temples with his fingers. "I never thought she would resort to this."

"Yes," Camwethrin agreed. "I do not believe she thought you would ever resort to arranging her marriage."

Imrahil looked up at the blonde. "She does not approve of my choice?"

Cam hesitated, measuring her words very carefully. "I think she was far more upset by the fact that you made this decision without consulting her."

"She had to know it would be done eventually," he answered. "A princess cannot stay unmarried forever. And she has always said she understood her duty to her people. I had no idea she would react this way." Dropping his head into his hand, the prince rubbed his forehead with his fingertips.

He raised his gaze back to the blonde. "Find her brothers. They must mount a patrol and go after her."

"Yes, my lord," Cam responded obediently, ducking out of the office as quickly as possible.

15 Nínui, 3019 T.A.
Dol Amroth

"Lord Imrahil..."

The voice shook him from his reverie. He stood, raising his gaze to the young soldier at his door. "What is it, man?"

"My Lord...I am not certain how to relay this...."

"Just spit it out, man. What is it?"

The young soldier drew a long breath and swallowed hard. "My lord, we have found some traces of the princess."

"What?" The prince raked his gaze over the young man expectantly. "What have you found?"

With another long breath, the young man produced a small saddlebag, placing it on the prince's desk. "We found this, my lord. Along with the carcass of her horse and two dead Orcs. One dead by her arrow, the other appeared to have been attacked. His throat was ripped out."

Imrahil sank into his chair, taking quite some time to find his voice. "And this is all you found?"

The soldier nodded. "Yes, my lord. There were tracks...some from that wolf of hers and some appeared to be her own, and at least seven or eight Orcs."

"But no trace of her, no...."

"No sir. We found nothing but her horse and this bag, which appears to have had only some extra food and a map, but no indication of which direction she was heading."

Closing his eyes, Imrahil reached up to rub his forehead with his fingers. "Then she could yet be alive."

"We cannot say for certain, sir, but it appears she was pursued on foot." He shook his head. "With the ground still frozen in areas it is difficult to track, especially over rock. I cannot say for sure one way or another, sir. It is possible she got away from them, but we followed the trail as far as we could, and..."

"Where was this found?" He asked, indicating the leather saddlebag.

"We found the horse near the Ford of the Ringlo, at the base of the Mountains, sir. Near the pass."

Imrahil nodded thoughtfully. "Did you check with any of the inns along the way? Any of the villagers? Was she seen by anyone?"

"We are checking into that now, my lord. My men are scouring the villages to see if anyone remembers her."

Imrahil leaned his elbows on his desk, his face in his hands. "It is my fault. I should never have done this without even discussing it with her. To think of her alone, with those vile creatures... If anything has happened to her..."

Cam stepped over to his desk, laying a hand on his shoulder. "Do not fear the worst yet. Ani is clever. She may yet have escaped them. And Elenion is with her. You know he would die defending her if need be." She spoke confidently, trying to convince herself as much as the prince.

He smiled weakly up at her and put his large hand over hers. "He would indeed. But still I fear for her." He turned back to the soldiers. "Keep searching. And please let me know the minute you find anything."

"Yes, sir," the young man bowed politely and exited the study.

Camwethrin watched the door fall closed, then turned to the prince. "I will go after her."

The prince leaned back in his chair, turning to look at the blonde. "Absolutely not. I forbid it."

"But your highness," the blonde reasoned, "if she finds your men following her she will run that much further and faster. Ani will not run from me. She will listen to me."

"A valid argument, my dear, but no. It is too dangerous. Your father would never forgive me." The blonde stared at him. "Valesa, you are like a daughter to me. I could not bear the thought of something happening to you as well. My men will find the princess and bring her home."

"And what if she does not wish to come home? If she refuses, will they tie her up and bring her as a prisoner? They will never convince her to return!" Her blue eyes pled with the prince. "Trust me, my lord. If she does not wish them to find her they will not. Ani and I have spent our entire childhood avoiding detection by your men, and --"she stopped suddenly, aware she had said a bit too much. She swallowed hard as the prince stared at her, gaping. "Please, let me go with them."

Imrahil shook his head. "No. There is rumor of war in the north, and should I have to ride out I will need you here to look after things with Lothíriel gone. Your father will be in port day after tomorrow and we must meet to discuss our plan should a red arrow be sent." He took a deep breath; steeling himself against those big, blue eyes. "No, Valesa. I need you here. Your father needs you here. Dol Amroth needs you here. You are not to go after her. Is that understood?"

Cam fought a flare of rage when the prince brought up duty. It was his sense of duty that had his daughter on the run in the first place. She bit back her sarcastic comment, deciding reasoning with his son might be better. "I understand, Your Highness."

Eyeing her doubtfully, the prince nodded. "Good." She started toward the door. "Valesa," he called after her, "is she truly as good with a bow as her brothers claim?"

"Better," Cam answered with a smile, then stepped out of the study.

"I hope you are right," Imrahil muttered under his breath. He rubbed his forehead with his fingers, his worry for his only daughter nearly overcoming him. "Melkor's chains, I hope you are right," he repeated.

Ada - Father - Dad

Dín - shut up (be silent)

glirdan - a bard or historian

Anhuil (Ani) - A nickname for Lothíriel