A/N: This is chapter one of the longest story, I have ever written about Lothíriel and Éomer. It is seen from Lothíriel's point of view, telling the story of how she came to meet the young King of Rohan. The story is complete and I will be posting the chapters so that the story ends before Christmas. To you it may seem as if you have seen similar stories before, but I assure you; it is a Frigg-original; the idea was originally conceived looking at the beautiful mountains around Twizel in the South Island of New Zealand, and most of it was written during the summer.

Of course, I do not own any of the main characters – as usual I just borrow them every once in a while. I hope you like it …. If not? Well, I can live with that --- I liked writing it!


DARK EYES Just a Simple Love Story ……

Chapter One

I was tending to a wounded soldier of Gondor, when I saw her being carried into the Houses of Healing. That is, my first thought was that it was a very young, beardless boy – much too young to be in armour, much too young to be fighting but then I realised that it was a young woman, dressed as a man. If this came as a surprise to me, I certainly had no time to mull over it. She was unconscious, apparently unscathed; only her left arm seemed maimed. Like my cousin she was pale and still, burning from a strange fever. Her brow was covered in sweat and her face with blood and dirt.

"Where can we put her?" the men, who carried her, asked. I pointed towards a small dais in the room, where there was one free cot. I dried my hands on my apron; they were full of blood and did not contribute much to the state of my apron; it was dirty and blood stained to a degree, where you could not see its original colour.

I dried the sweat of my forehead with the back of my hand and went over to wash my hands in a small basin. I was exhausted; like the other healers I had been working for neigh on two days without any sleep, and still the wounded kept coming in. I sighed – we had no choice but to carry on, rest was a privilege that we could not allow ourselves.

I walked up to the men and helped them place her on the cot; she was a woman and propriety would demand that she should have been placed in a separate room, but there was none to find – and besides who would care in this situation? So many wounded were being brought in from the Pelennor Fields and from the city. Young men, older men; men of Gondor and others – tall, fair-skinned men with long hair most of them blonde; the Rohirrim that had come to the help of Gondor when things looked most desperate. Most of them had terrible wounds, some were maimed for life – and there were men, women and children from the city. Some we could help, some we could not; we could only hold their hands when they drew their last breath or close their eyes, because they had already left this world. The stench of blood and screams from the dying and wounded filled the air; young soldiers crying for their mothers, children for their parents.

The woman was obviously from Rohan; I could tell from her armour; it looked like the armour of the others from her country. With the help of another healer, I removed her chainmail and laid her to rest on the cot. I asked a young rider, who was leaning against the wall nearby, his blonde hair matted with blood and dirt and he was cradling a severely wounded arm. "Who is she?" I was removing the leather tunic she wore under the chainmail. "Is it customary for the Rohirrim to let their women ride to war?"

"No, my Lady," he replied, "We do not know how she had come here. It is the lady Éowyn; she is the niece of Théoden King." I saw in his eyes the despair and the sorrow that he felt.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw a soldier also dressed in the armour of Rohan, but notably of some rank rushing in, looking wildly about him as if he was looking for somebody – and when he recognised the woman; he hurried over and knelt silently by the side of the cot. I was busy drying the blood, sweat and dirt of her face and making her as comfortable on the cot as I could and therefore did not look directly at him.

"Is she – is she alive? What is wrong with her?" A deep, raspy voice asked. Still without looking up at him, I replied. "Yes, she is, but what ails her I do not know – I am no skilled healer. I will fetch one to look at her as soon as I am ready here."

No, I was no skilled healer; I truly wished I had been, but I was learning as I went along – and the weeks here had given me some knowledge although I had none prior from home. And as to how I had ended up here? I had followed my father and two of my brothers to Minas Tirith. My second-oldest brother Erchirion had stayed in Belfalas as regent when my father, Imrahil, Prince of Dol Amroth and my brothers Elphir and Amrothos went to war. I had wanted to go with my father – to help out where I could. Arms I could not wield, but I would not stay back. I was sure that Dol Amroth would not be far safer than Gondor ---- and if the armies of Gondor could not defeat the Dark Lord, it would matter little where I was – and I wanted to be with my father.

Our mother had died when I was only six, leaving us motherless with a father, who would have succumbed to grief, had he not had four children.

My father and brothers had fought with the Swan Knights in Minas Tirith and on the Pelennor – and I had offered my help at the Houses of Healing – what little help I could render, I would. Although a princess of the realm, I was used to putting in an effort; my father had seen to that. He would never have permitted me to become just a spoilt princess. I had received the same education as my brothers besides the more ordinary female skills I had learned.

During the siege and subsequent attack on the city, even the Houses of Healing had been attacked and almost run over by Sauron's hordes. We had fought them off, closing the heavy doors to them and our archers had held them at bay until the Army of the Dead sweeping through the besieged city had rescued us. I could not wield a sword, nor a bow – it was not considered proper that women could wield weapons, but nevertheless I had been able to fight off and kill a couple of the beasts using the dagger, which my oldest brother had given me before the siege for protection or to kill myself – if ………… this ordeal had left me shaken, but I could not afford to be panicking when so many needed our efforts.

I awoke from my thoughts by the sound of a hoarse voice. "Mistress, then find a skilled healer – now! She is my sister; she is all that I have left in this world ……." His voice was commanding, but full of despair and broke slightly at the end of the sentence. I turned to look at the man, who spoke – and looked into the darkest eyes, I had ever seen – at least in a man with such other colouring – fair skin and blond hair.

He was tall, taller than my brothers and my father, and well built – and looked like any other rider of Rohan. His blonde hair was shoulder-length, dirty and wind-tangled at the moment, and a short, scruffy beard, a little darker than his hair, covered his chin. His face was tanned, probably from spending a lot of time outdoors, although presently it was covered with dirt and blood, as was his armour. Obviously also he came directly from the Pelennor Fields.

His eyes were pleading as he looked at me. "I will see what I can do," I said. I turned from him and ran to find Ioreth, one of the female healers. I knew that she was presently tending to my cousin.

My cousin, the Steward of Gondor since the demise of his father and the untimely death of his older brother Boromir, had been badly wounded in a suicide attempt to recapture Osgiliath – ordered by his father, Denethor, the brother-in-law of my father as he had married my father's sister, Finduilas. Finduilas died when Faramir was only five. My most precious cousin, always gentle and caring, now lying unconscious smitten by a most fatal fever it seemed – just as the young woman, I had just left.

"Ioreth!" I called out, "I need your help!" The old woman came from the room, where my cousin was lying.

"Do not shout, young lady. I am right here. What is it?" she inquired. Ioreth knew who I was, but treated everybody equally. Indeed, in the Houses of Healing, no rank counted.

"They just brought in a young woman. She is unconscious, and she needs the attendance of a skilled healer. Her brother is with her – and she is all that he has left in this world. We must help her," I explained.

Ioreth hurried to the large room and up to the dais where we had placed the young woman. Her brother sat by her side, watching her with empty eyes. He looked, as if he had been crying. Tears had made tracks in the dirt on his face, but he did not seem to care.

Ioreth examined the young woman. I could tell from her face, that she, too, was surprised that also women went to war, but soon her face returned to the usual thoughtful look. "Her arm I can surely heal, but what else ails her I cannot. It is the same fever as the Lord Faramir. I wish that we had a king in Gondor; they say that the hands of the king are the hands of a healer." She shook her head.

It was almost dark now. The candles and oil lamps had been lit, casting a dim and soft light over the many wounded – and on the face of the rider who still sat by his sister's bed, looking out into the room with empty eyes. As I went to and fro I sometimes sensed his gaze upon me, but he said nothing – and he always turned his gaze to his sister when I looked up. Only once did I catch his eyes, thoughtful and full of pain.

The White Wizard came silently into the room, he stood by the door looking at the spectacle with great sadness in his eyes. Apparently no one but I seemed to notice his presence. I went up to him and put a hand on his arm.

He looked up and acknowledged me with a tired smile. "Princess – you here?" He looked at me. "Although you do not look much like a princess at the moment," he said taking in my appearance – for work I had done the same outfit as the other healers, a simple grey woollen dress and the apron, and braided my waist length dark hair and covered it with a scarf. He nodded towards the young woman. "How is she – and how is your cousin?"

"I do not know, Mithrandir. The fever burns in them, and we can do nothing to quench it, let alone get them to wake from it."

The old wizard sighed. "I wish Aragorn was here."

A man in a hooded cloak, who had also just entered the room, now removed his hood. "I am here, Gandalf," he said, moving up to the young woman. He removed his cloak altogether and knelt down by the side of the cot. He cast a look at the young man sitting by the bedside and I heard him say softly, "Éomer."

The young man lifted his head and looked into the other man's eyes. He nodded. "I did not know, Aragorn – I did not know. If I had, I would have ……" I then saw the man called Aragorn lay his hand on the woman's brow; he closed his eyes and whispered some words in Elvish – but it must have been some ancient kind of Elvish; I did not understand it, and my Sindarin was fluent.

Then he looked up at Ioreth. "Do you know whether Athelas – kingsfoil - is to be found in the houses?" he asked.

She shook her head. "I do not know, my Lord."

"But I do," I intervened, "just the other day I helped the head warden make an inventory of our supplies of herbs and remedies and I noticed some old and dried Athelas leaves in the supply room – will that do, my Lord?"

The man, they called Aragorn, nodded. "Yes, they will do."

I ran out of the door to the supply room and fetched the jar, which contained the Athelas and brought it back. In the meantime, a bowl of boiling water had been fetched and now Aragorn crushed some of the dried leaves into the bowl. At once a soothing and healthy fragrance filled the air, and seemingly all felt curiously revived.

Aragorn put his hand on the woman's brow again and called her name repeatedly. Éowyn. He again spoke in Elvish and removed his hand.

Ioreth felt the woman's brow. "Her fever has gone, but why is she still unconscious?"

The young woman's brother – Éomer his name apparently was – looked up at Aragorn, who shook his head. "I have tried to call her back, but she keeps slipping from me. I cannot do it. Éomer, you try – you she knows and loves."

The young soldier looked at Aragorn with his dark, passionate eyes. "She loved you from first she saw you, my Lord; I am sure of that, and I knew that she was sad when you left by the Paths of the Dead, but I cannot understand why she would chose this way – I tried to dissuade her …..."

Aragorn looked at Éomer and said in a sad voice. "In me, she loves only a shadow and a thought, but you she truly loves. Call her back, Éomer."

Éomer knelt down beside his sister and, taking her hand, he called: "Éowyn, Éowyn, come back to me; fight the black shadow. You are all that I have left in this world, please Éowyn." His voice was hoarse and filled with grief. I felt strangely moved; it was obvious that these two had suffered great losses in their lives, I could tell from the young man's voice, it held all the pain of grief.

And – suddenly the young woman drew a sharp breath and opened her eyes. She looked at her brother as if in disbelief and said in a sad voice. "The dark shadow – is gone. Éomer, uncle is dead."

"I know, sister." The young man lifted his sister up in a tight embrace, crushing her against him. A dry sob escaped him. Aragorn patted his shoulder, and turned towards Ioreth.

"Are there others like her?"

Ioreth nodded. "Aye, my Lord – the young steward is lying in the houses; we have attended to his wounds, but we cannot wake him from this feverish sleep."

"Show me the way; all the lady Éowyn now needs is rest – and to be with her brother." Aragorn smiled. We led him to the room, where my cousin was lying – and Aragorn performed the same miracle with my cousin. He called my cousin's name several times and he awoke and looked straight into Aragorn's eyes.

– And then he said the most peculiar thing: "You called me, my Lord. What does my king command?" Aragorn smiled at him and said, "just rest and get well, Steward." He rose and left the room, remarking that others might need his help. He worked all night, healing the sick and the wounded.

"My king?" I looked at Ioreth. She had watched the spectacle with a knowing smile. "So it is true," she said, "the king will return – and they say by the hands of a healer, you shall know the true king."

Gandalf chuckled, "You do not know, how right you are, old woman."

I went to sit at Faramir's bedside. "Cousin, how come you are here?" he asked when he saw me.

"Father brought me; I thought that I could be of some use here." I smiled, "I am pleased to see you awake." I sat with him for a while until he got tired and fell asleep and then left him to carry on with my other duties. It was close to morning, and none of us had gotten any rest nor sleep for many days. Strangely enough, I felt elated and rested. Could it be the influence of the Athelas?

Passing the alcove, where Éowyn had been moved to and where we had been able to provide a real bed, I heard her brother's voice calling me. "Mistress, I must go to an important council, and I do not like that my sister should be left alone," he said, "will you watch over her; she is sleeping peacefully now – but if she awakes, she might need attendance." His dark eyes looked solemnly at me and looking at him in the pale morning light, I realised that I had not really seen how handsome he was – under the dirt and blood on his face. I wondered briefly, how he would look when his hair and face were clean.

"I promise," I said, "I will take good care of her. She must be awfully brave to ride with the men into battle." He nodded silently to me, casting me a solemn look from his dark eyes and left the room. I looked after him – in his stride you could see that he was a warrior – purposeful, determined and strong, his shoulders and back straight and his head held high. But that was natural as he was of royal blood; I remembered that the young rider of Rohan had told me that Éowyn was the niece of the king ….

As the door closed behind him, I awoke from my reverie and went about my duties, rolling bandages and finding clean bed linen. Two hours or more went by in this fashion. I was sitting by Éowyn's bed, rolling some bandages when she opened her eyes, looking at me without comprehension.

"Where – where am I? And my brother …… Éomer, where is he?"

"You are at the Houses of Healing – and your brother had to leave; he was called to a council." I said. "It is good to see you awake." I felt her brow; the fever seemed gone and there was a brighter look in her eyes. "Would you like something to drink?"

"No, I cannot lie here --- I must get up. My uncle ….., my brother ……. I must get out of here; I need to – I cannot stay." She struggled to get up, but was still too weak to do so.

I pressed her back in the pillows. "You cannot get up; you have been gravely ill; you still are. I can get the warden of the houses and have him explain it, but he will most certainly not allow you to leave," I said determinedly.

She looked at me with her grey-blue eyes. Oddly enough – her brother's eyes are so dark … I shook my head – really, Lothíriel. "If the warden will not allow it; I need to speak to someone with authority. Is there not a steward of Gondor?" She was obviously somebody, who would not settle for a no – she did not faze me, however.

"Yes, the Steward of Gondor is present in the houses, but he is a patient here just like you, and I do not know whether he is well enough to talk to you," I said in a firm voice.

She nodded. "Fetch him; I need to talk to him! – Or if he cannot come to me, take me to him."

Commandeering, eh? I shook my head and went to my cousin's room. I was astonished to find him up, sitting in a high-backed chair by the window with a small table in front of him on which a number of scrolls were placed.

"You should not be up yet, you have been gravely ill, but stubborn, you always were, cousin!" I said. He turned towards me. "Not as stubborn as you, dear Lothy, and I have work to do now that my father is no longer here, and so many need me."

Mithrandir had told Faramir as gently as possible what had happened to his father. I had been there and I could see how much it had affected him. However, Faramir had always been braver than his father had believed – almost more brave than Boromir in some ways and he had always hidden his feelings well.

Now he embraced me. He still seemed pale and worn, but seemingly wanted to take up his duties even though he could hardly have recovered in the short span of time since Aragorn called him back to life. I found this to be very typical of Faramir, duty before all.

I explained the situation to him and he smiled – a sad little smile. "If you think that I can be of any help, I most certainly will go to her, if you will help me." I called another helper and we supported him, as he was certainly not able to walk on his own. Indeed, very typical of my youngest cousin, he would rather die that let anybody down.

We led him to Éowyn's bedside, where he sat down, and moved away to let them talk. They did so at length. Apparently, Faramir succeeded in persuading her to stay - his gentle ways were really very convincing - you always were exceptional at convincing people, cousin, except for your father, I thoughtand at the end of the conversation I even saw her smiling shyly at him – and blushing like a very young girl.

I could see the sweat beads on Faramir's forehead and also noticed the slight wincing of pain on his face, and I therefore went up to them, nudging Faramir to leave. "Please, cousin, you should be back in bed, you are still weak. I am sure that the lady will grant you that?" I looked at Éowyn. She nodded. She, too, was tired, I could tell. So I summoned a couple of maile helpers and had them lead Faramir back to his room.

I turned back to lady Éowyn. "How do you feel about something to eat and drink now, my Lady – and then perhaps some rest?"

She smiled at me, an apologetic smile. "Thank you for bringing the steward to me and forgive me for shouting so at you; a vile habit inherited from my Rohirric ancestry – and something, which I share with my brother. Yes, please. I would very much like something to eat, if that is possible?"

I nodded and went to fetch some broth and some fresh water. She tried to sit up and eat on her own, but failed; she was still weak. I helped her to sit up, arranged the pillows behind her back to support her and sat down by her bedside to help her eat. She smiled. "A good thing that Lord Faramir persuaded me to stay here; I do not think that I would have been able to wield a sword after all, let alone get up on a horse. Both you and he were right."

"Presently the fighting has ceased, and we won the day, did you not know?" I remarked.

She smiled back. "Yes, but the Dark Lord is not yet overturned, is he?"

"No," I shook my head solemnly. "He is not, and we still have to fight; it is not over."

She looked at me. "The steward – lord Faramir – told me that you are his cousin, and the daughter of Prince Imrahil, but you do not look as ….."

"Royalty? Yes, it is so. I am the Princess of Dol Amroth ----- although I may not look it."

"And I ordered you about," she smiled weakly.

"So did your brother, but he too was excused; he did not know who I was either." I smiled back at her. "I do not mind; I am here to help out, not because I am a princess. Here I am just another helper, rank nor birth count here."

I fed her the last of the broth, and she leaned back in the pillows. "Did you talk to my brother? He must have left while I slept," she asked.

"Yes, he sat by your bedside all night – until he was called away to meet with the other captains. He asked me to sit with you." I said as I put the bowl and the other utensils on a table and sat down at her bedside again. We talked for while, until the door to the hall opened and through it came a person, who was well known to me.

"Father!" I exclaimed. "Oh, it is truly wonderful to see you – how are Elphir and Amrothos?" I embraced Ada fiercely.

"They are fine, my daughter. Only minor scratches." Father looked smilingly at me – and at Éowyn, who was sitting back in her pillows. "I am pleased to see you looking better, lady Éowyn," he said, "I trust that my daughter is looking well after you?"

Éowyn nodded. "Indeed, my Lord – both your daughter and your nephew," she said.

I heard a surprised sound coming from behind my father – and realised that it came from the young rider, who apparently had been accompanying my father. Why?

Father looked from me to him – and back. "I presume that you have already met my daughter, Éomer. But --- it seems to me that you have not been properly introduced."

I could see that he quite enjoyed the situation. He would, wouldn't he? At times he is actually worse than Amrothos.

"Lothy, my dear – this is – as you know – the brother of the Lady Éowyn, Éomer – the next king of Rohan, and Éomer, this is my daughter the Princess Lothíriel of Dol Amroth – mostly called Lothy."

Éomer bowed to me and kissed my hand. "Princess …" he stammered, "I am sorry, I did not know – if I had I would never have presumed to order you about, as I did."

"It is quite all right, my Lord … that is what I am here for ….." and then it occurred to me, "King of Rohan – ooh, I am so sorry, Your Majesty ---- I only took you for a soldier." Even though I had gathered that he was the nephew of the king, it had never occurred to me that he could have been anything but a soldier although of some rank; had I not heard that Théoden King had a son?

He laughed a little. "But that is what I am, Princess – a soldier. King is something that I have only just become --- at the death of my uncle on the battlefield. Please do not apologise."

I curtsied and left the room with my father, still feeling a bit embarrassed – both by the fact that this young man had turned out to be a king, and by the fact that my father seemed to be enjoying this awkward little encounter very much. Éomer stayed with his sister.

I tucked my arm under my father's as we walked along, and rejoiced that both he and my brothers were all right.

I did get to hear a lot about Éomer from my brothers – and my father. They told me the story of the arrival of the Rohirrim on the hill above the Pelennor at dawn two days ago. How everybody had been elated by the sound of their horns and the thunder of several thousand hooves across the field. I remembered hearing the horns, but I had not known from whence the sound came. At the time we had been busy fighting off the invaders and protecting the wounded in the Houses of Healing.

They told me of the bravery of the king of Rohan – and of his nephew, Éomer – the Third Marshal of the Mark, who had brought about, single-handedly, the fall of two of the mighty beasts, the Mumakil. They also told me the story of his sister, the White Lady of Rohan, who had killed the Witch King and his fell beast to protect her uncle, only helped by a small hobbit.

Unfortunately, the king had died from the injuries he had suffered when his horse fell on him. Éomer had found him and received the royal banner from his uncle. He had been hailed by his dying uncle as the new king of Rohan and had thrown himself into the fight with all the defiance and despair of a grieving man. My brothers told of him hoisting his sword in the air before he and his men scattered the Southron forces.

Éomer had met with Aragorn on the field and together they had fought off the last remnants of the enemy forces on the Pelennor. Then Éomer had planted the banner of Rohan in the ground right beside the Swan banner, which my father had planted in the ground, and had then found his sister on the battlefield among the dead. Suffering from shock and despair, he had believed her dead, but father and lord Aragorn had found out that she was not and had had her taken to the Houses of Healing – "and the rest you know," father said.

I nodded; all this was wondrous and I could not help thinking that all this had happening while I had been busy at the houses. I also wondered about Éomer; he must be some man to elicit this admiration from my brothers, who were formidable warriors themselves. Then I awoke from another bout of reverie and asked, "Ada, is lord Aragorn really the lost king of Gondor? Ioreth believes that it is so. She says that by the hands of a healer, you shall know the true king. Faramir believes it, too."

Father nodded, "He is; he wields Andúril, the Sword that was Broken, the sword of Elendil reforged and he wears the Ring of Barahir. He commanded the Army of the Dead, none but the heir of Isildur could do this. Indeed, he truly is Isildur's heir; the hope of the forces of light in the battle against Sauron."

My brothers looked solemnly at me. I could tell that there was something that they were not telling me. And father as well. I waited – but they said nothing. Then I spoke. "I know that there is something that you are not telling me. I know that the Dark Lord is far from defeated, please let me know – what is happening?"

My father put his hands on my shoulders and looked into my eyes – the sea-blue eyes with shades of green, which they say, are so like my mothers.

"Lothy, darling. We are setting out for the Black Gate – the united armies of Gondor and Rohan. We have to do it; we must help the Ringbearer in his quest. Aragorn has devised a plan to lure out Sauron and we must all go."

"All?" I choked, a sickening feeling spreading in my body.

"Yes, all – we must muster all the strength that we can …., though we are far outnumbered. I believe that Éomer is telling his sister this as we speak."

"When – when will you be leaving?" I whispered. My oldest brother Elphir put an arm around me. "In three days, little sister; when we have mustered all that we can. We cannot linger; Sauron's forces will overtake us if we do not act."

I sank down on a chair. I had feared this – and known this. The Battle of the Pelennor had not been the last; a more fearful battle waited. Then I rose.

"I must go back to the Houses tomorrow; tonight I will be with you – and tomorrow night – but every hand is still needed in the Houses of Healing. I am sure that many of those, who are still there – be they Gondorian, Swan knights or Rohirrim will want to go, even if they have to crawl on their knees."

My father nodded – no more was said of this and the four of us went to dinner. We spent a quiet night together, talking about everything besides war.

Next morning saw me back in the Houses of Healing. As I had predicted, most of the men, who had not been badly wounded but were still recovering, wanted to get up and march with their comrades to the Black Gate.

During the days that proceeded their departure, I had occasion to meet Éomer when he came to see his men – or his sister, and I spoke with him – although very briefly - on those occasions. I also got the opportunity to introduce him to my cousin. Faramir and I were sitting on a bench in the garden, talking quietly. He told me that he had been seeing more of Éowyn, and of how much he admired her. I suspected that they were getting along quite well – but how could she not like this gentle, handsome and kind man that Faramir was.

I also suspected as much from the flush in the shield maiden's cheeks when I mentioned that I knew that she had been spending some time with my cousin. And I saw from the light in her eyes when she spoke of him that the admiration was mutual.

Éomer had been visiting his sister and was now apparently returning to the camp. I called out to him as he was passing us, wanting to introduce the two men to each other.

They took an instant liking to each other, I could tell right away. For some reason, it pleased me that it was so.

Faramir was called away by Beregond to look into some matter and he took politely leave of us. I caught a glint in his eye as he watched me – and the king. Something seemed to amuse him greatly; perhaps the way I reacted around Éomer? I could not take my eyes off him, I was constantly flushing and I felt as twittering as a very young girl. He must think me bereaved of a brain, I thought and cursed quite un-ladylike to myself.

Éomer did look quite as handsome as I had imagined that he would under all the dirt and blood when first I saw him at his sister's bedside. He obviously had washed his hair, which now was golden as ripe wheat, and combed the wind knots out of it. His eyes were hazel, I ascertained – now that they were not darkened by grief and anguish, with tiny green flecks in them.

We walked for a while in the garden, talking about little things – as though by mutual consent we did not speak of what awaited. I found that I had never felt so alive – or so relaxed around a young man. Being the sister of the princes of Dol Amroth, I had constantly been surrounded by young men – most of them handsome and entertaining to a certain extent, and had never wanted for dance partners or cavaliers to escort me, but I had never met anybody, who intrigued me as the young king of Rohan did.

Even these few moments – brief as they may be – left me with a sense that something was happening between us; something which had begun already the moment we saw each other for the first time; a wordless, inexplicable attraction between two people with no prior knowledge of each other – and I felt that who we were would have made no difference at all. Even though, to be honest, we might have faced some difficulties if he had, indeed, only been a rider of Rohan – or I just a healer's assistant – that little sensible thought did strike me although I dismissed it rapidly. Whyever should this matter? It would only be an issue if indeed we would like to marry – and nothing like that had come up. Indeed, my mind was bereaved of any sense at the moment.

I had heard described that you could fall in love in an instant – just by looking at someone, but could this really be so? It sounded like a fairy tale – but we were not characters in a tale. And the times were perhaps not so that one would – or could - pursue such dreams.

The night before the armies were to leave, I went for a walk along the city walls to gather my thoughts – I had said my goodbyes to my family, embracing my father and my brothers for a long time. I wanted also to go somewhere to cry where nobody saw it; princesses are always expected to be brave – but I did not feel particularly brave that night. Hope faded rapidly.

It was so late that I had not expected meeting anybody, except for the guards, but passing the battlements just outside the Houses of Healing, I spotted a figure standing at the stone balustrade looking out over Pelennor Fields. Éomer – by now I would have recognised him anywhere. He looked very lonely, as he stood there seemingly deep in thoughts, his arms crossed over his chest and his hair flowing in the breeze.

As if by instinct, I walked up to him and put my hand gently on his arm. He jerked, and when he recognised me, he exclaimed, "Princess …."

"Did I disturb your thoughts?"

"Yes, you did actually," he said, a shy grin spreading on his handsome face. "But then they were much too sombre … so I welcome it."

I moved to stand beside him. "You looked so lonely as you were standing here." I said softly.

"And I was; I have just said goodbye to my sister – and I just realised that we are very lonely in the world, she and I – and she will be even more so if I do not get back. I need hope, Princess …" His voice trailed off.

"Then you shall have it," I said – and standing on tiptoes I kissed his bearded cheek softly. He smelled of horses, leather and musk – a very male, but not unpleasant scent. "Think of me and let the thought be your hope. I shall think of you, my Lord."

He took my hand and held it against his cheek; then he kissed the palm. "Thank you, I shall," he whispered softly and released my hand. "I must go now – to my men, I will see you …… when we get back."

"Namarië," I said quietly. I saw him walking down the street towards the gate, towards his camp and his men, and my heart cried as I saw him disappear into the shadows, as my heart cried for my father and my brothers – yes, indeed for all the brave men, who would march out to meet an enemy far beyond their numbers – to fight for the light, for the survival of the people of Middle Earth.

Was it love I felt for him? I did not know yet, how could I, but my heart went out to him because I knew that I might never see him again, although I had spoken of giving him hope.

The next morning I stood high on the battlements watching the Host of the West leaving towards the Black Gate. I saw Aragorn riding in front, and right behind him followed my father, my brothers, Gandalf, the elf Legolas – and Éomer. I saw the white horsetail of his helmet waving softly in the breeze.

I heard voices to the right of me, and when I looked, I saw my cousin and the lady Éowyn standing there watching the same sight I did. I saw my cousin holding Éowyn's hand and I smiled. Then I turned and went to the houses – I needed the distraction that work would give me, otherwise I would go insane waiting.

When the work in the houses of healing did not occupy my time, I spent some of the time of waiting with Éowyn; we sat in the gardens or went for short walks – sometimes alone and sometimes with Faramir, and we spoke of him (when he was not there, of course) – and we spoke of my family and of her brother, her uncle and her cousin. She missed her uncle and cousin greatly, and I could tell even though she tried not to let on that she feared for her brother. Feared that he would not come back to her. We did not speak much of hope or of seeing those we loved again. We could not; it was obvious that it would hurt too much.

We did not speak much of what awaited us if indeed the Army of the West failed; there was no need – and we both knew that it would certainly be death and destruction, so why discuss it in detail?

Thus we waited and waited for news from the Morannon – for days on end, it seemed. Even without the subjects we avoided, we talked a lot, Éowyn and I. We talked about the similarity in our situations – both of royalty, both living in men's worlds.

We had both grown up among men – I with a father and three brothers, she with a brother, a cousin and an uncle. Our mothers had died when we were quite young, leaving us only with a few women – mostly housekeepers and maids – around us, not role models, who could guide and teach us the ways of royalty – and of royal women.

Therefore we were both more accustomed to the male side of the world, and had become independent, outspoken and brave – not exactly the prototype of noblewomen. Not that we were not feminine, but we were perhaps not so wise in the ways of women, especially the women of the court. We were not interested in the intrigues and the gossip that usually followed in the trail of such women. I had met them, of course, but never had much to do with them.

We both loved riding and reading and the great outdoors, we knew of weapons, although I could not wield them as Éowyn could, and of politics. We loved all these things above the usual female activities – sewing and cooking – although none of us were strangers to household work and chores; elderly and severe royal housekeepers had seen to that at least.

We became friends during this time of waiting. My cousin spent as much time as he could with us – when he was not minding his duties as steward, and they were plenty in this time of rebuilding and waiting for our doom.

I rejoiced in seeing the relationship between the two of them bloom. They looked so right together; my handsome, gentle and wise cousin and the beautiful and courageous Lady of Rohan with her long, blonde, wavy hair and the big, grey-blue eyes that warmed more and more to my cousin.

Then at last, when we had almost given up all hope, we saw the light returning to Middle Earth, in the distance we saw the eruption of Mount Doom and the word came: the Ringbearer had fulfilled his quest – the ring of the enemy had been destroyed, the Dark Lord was overthrown – and our loved ones were safe.

Éomer sent a message to his sister asking her to join him at Cormallen, where the armies now rested and celebrated before returning to Minas Tirith, but she was reluctant to go sending word back to her brother that she did not yet feel up to going. I suspected that my cousin was the cause, as the warden had released her from the houses some time ago and she had chosen to stay at her own free will, handing herself into the care of Faramir.

Father had also sent me a message that they were all safe, but he had said nothing of wanting me to go. I suspected that he feared that there would be a little too much frivolous celebration – and knowing my brothers, especially Amrothos, I knew that it would be so. I was quite content, though, staying in Minas Tirith and I still had much to do in the Houses of Healing. Wounded and maimed men were being brought back from the Morannon, and we still had a lot to do with the wounded from the siege of Minas Tirith.

Finally, we received news that the victorious armies would be returning to Minas Tirith shortly – and that Aragorn would claim the throne of the kings of Gondor, which had been empty for so many years. Faramir was busy arranging all the things that went with the celebrations, the rebuilding of the city – and the upcoming coronation of the king.

He was also looking forward to relinquishing the rule of the stewards to the king – but not to the King of Rohan coming back to the city. He had confided in me that he feared that the king would take his sister back to Rohan and that he would never see her again.

"Faramir that will never happen! Once he finds out that you love her – and that she loves you, he will let you marry. He is a good and kind man, I am sure of it; he would not stand in his sister's way." I reassured him – and somehow knew in my heart that it was so.

"If only I could be so confident, but then Éowyn says so as well." He stood for a while looking ahead of him. "I love her, Lothy, and I never thought that I could feel so happy."

"You deserve it, my dear cousin," I said --- and I meant it; his life had not been a happy one. Telling Éowyn about it had really made me realise how sad a life Faramir had had – he had also suffered the loss of a mother at a very early age; his father had treated him abominately and his only support, his older brother Boromir, had died on the quest to destroy the ring. The only thing that showed that my uncle actually loved his son was the despair he had felt when he thought Faramir dead and wanting to burn alive along with his son.

There was no doubt in my mind anymore that Éowyn really and truly had fallen in love with my cousin. I could tell from her eyes when she looked at him – and her voice when she spoke of him. She also deserved to be happy. From what she had told me – and from what I had learned from Éomer, her life had not been full of joy, either.

They were here! They had been spotted and the trumpets rang out from the Tower of Ecthilion. The king was approaching – well, actually the kings – with the victorious armies. Faramir would welcome them at the gate, and then the celebrations that would conclude in the coronation of Aragorn some weeks from now would begin.

Éowyn and I stood together on the battlements overlooking the big gate. But I do believe that we were watching different things. I was first and foremost looking for my father and brothers – and then Éomer, whereas her eyes rested firmly on the young Steward of Gondor, as he welcomed Aragorn to the city of Minas Tirith, relinquishing his staff – and getting it back from Aragorn, who bade him take up the office of steward to the King. I could see the pride in her eyes.

And – there was my father and my brothers. How marvellous they looked, the three Swan Knights in their glittering armour. Three dark-haired, magnificent princes – but I must admit that the person, on whom my eyes rested mostly was a man in red and gold armour, a green cloak with golden trimmings – and a helmet with a white horsehair tail flowing in the wind. Éomer, King of Rohan under the green and white banner of Rohan.

The procession, now including my cousin, rode to the citadel at the upper level of the city and for the first time Aragorn dismounted and stood at the stairs to the king's hall as King of Gondor, although not yet crowned.

Éowyn and I had followed the procession on horseback and now joined the men in the yard. Father opened his arms and I ran right into them. "My daughter," he whispered as he held me close.

After my father, my brothers hugged me, and I curtsied to the king. Aragorn smiled at me; he remembered the girl from the Houses of Healing, I could see that.

Then I turned; Éomer was just releasing his sister from a bear hug, to which the elves and other dignitaries were amused spectators. Faramir was watching them with a gentle smile.

I looked up and Éomer's hazel eyes caught mine. I read astonishment and admiration in them and I knew that I must have looked very different from how he had seen me last. Even on the last occasion that we spoke, I had still only worn the simple dress, which I had worn at the Houses of Healing with my hair in single braid down my back. Now I wore a dress in the sea-blue colour of my country, with a cloak in the same colour adorned with silver and my hair, loose and flowing down my back, was held by two silver combs.

I more sensed than heard the gasp from his lips as he approached my family and me. Looking straight at my father, he inclined his head slightly and then turned to me. He bowed over my hand and kissed it; his lips were warm against my skin and I believe that goose pimples broke out all over me.

"Thank you for bringing me hope, my Lady," he said in his dark, deep voice and his eyes glittered at me.

"I am glad that I could, my Lord," I answered in a whisper.

After the feast where they had placed me beside my father just across the table from Éomer and his sister, the company split up into several smaller groups talking, smoking pipes, and just enjoying life. Éomer came over to me. Éowyn and my cousin had disappeared to the Valar knows where and my brothers and my father were talking with Legolas, Gimli and the hobbits. Gandalf and Aragorn were sitting in high-backed chairs just watching all of this with relaxed faces.

Éomer looked at me, the green flecks dancing in his eyes. "My Lady," he said, "would you care to take a walk in the gardens with me? Few that they may have been, I have sorely missed our conversations when I was away."

I nodded. "Gladly, my Lord. Although you have not missed the company of my family, I hear?" Amrothos had told us over dinner, how he, Elphir and Éomer had managed to win over the dwarf Gimli at a drinking contest one memorable night on the Cormallen.

Éomer laughed softly. "No, my Lady. I did not; your family is really very valuable company. Only, I missed the company of their sister."

We walked for a while; the weather was wonderful. Living through the dark shadows only a few weeks ago, one would not have thought that spring could come with such beauty. I mentioned this to Éomer and he smiled.

We had reached the low garden wall where you could overlook the city and the Pelennor Fields and we stopped there. We sat down on the wall and Éomer turned to me, taking one of my hands in his.

"Princess Lothíriel," he said, "thinking of you and the fact that you would actually be thinking of me gave me hope when we faced the fearsome enemy before the Black Gates. And you must have thought a lot about me." His eyes, now dark as forest pools, looked directly into mine.

"Oh, but I did, my Lord --- far too much at times, I am afraid," I burst out and blushed. "Your Majesty, please excuse me for being so bold."

"Please do not call me that, Lothíriel. I just want to be Éomer right now. But I am glad that you spared your thoughts for me. My little sister certainly seems to have other things on her mind?" He smiled at me and caressed the back of my hand absentmindedly with his thumb.

Whatever was this? What was happening to me? The simple, innocent caress sent a shiver through my body and I blushed profoundly.

Éomer must have noticed my embarrassment, because he let go of my hand – and sent me a rather sheepish look. "I am sorry, princess, if I have offended you," he said.

"You have not offended me, but perhaps my father and brothers would find you a little too forward, if you keep holding my hand like this," I laughed. "I on the other hand do not."

"Then let us just sit here, keep our distance and talk – I do not feel that we had sufficient time to talk before I had to leave," he said with a smile.

We spent the afternoon talking; he told me about the march on the Black Gate, the fighting – and about the utter release he had felt when he saw the Black Tower crumble and knew that this was it; the fighting was over, Middle Earth was saved and he had survived. We talked of hope --- and sometimes we just enjoyed sitting there together in silence, watching the beautiful garden, as the shadows grew long.

And when my brother Elphir came to find us, indignantly furrowing his brow that I had spent an entire afternoon alone with a man without a chaperone, we both found it much too soon.

My brother's dark-grey eyes shot arrows at the King of Rohan. "Do not for one moment think that the fact that you are a king and the friend of my father and me warrant that you can do as you please with my sister. Otherwise you are much mistaken!"

I had learned from Éowyn that her brother had a wile temper when reproached without reason, but he kept it well in rein and just said to my angry brother. "Elphir, being an older brother myself, I would not presume to take advantage of your sister. I assure you that Lothíriel has come to no harm while she has been with me." He looked calmly at my brother and turned to me. I could see a glint of mischief in his intense dark eyes.

"Princess, would you do me the honour of riding with me and my sister tomorrow morning – that is, of course, if you would allow it, Prince?"

Caught thus off-guard, my brother nodded – although reluctantly. "I will allow it, my Lord – as your sister is coming with you."

Before Elphir hauled me back to the palace, Éomer bowed over my hand and kissed it. He also managed to whisper to me: "And now I will have to make arrangements with Éowyn."

Elphir scolded me for spending so much time alone with a young, unmarried man – a fact, which he emphasised at least three times over. He had looked all over for me – he went on and on. During this tirade, I could not help thinking whether it would have better if it had been an older and married man that I had dallied with as he put it? But I did not dare ask him that question; I feared that he might have exploded.

I did not get a chance to spend more time with Éomer that evening; my brothers saw to that, and I retired early, as Éowyn told me that we would be starting quite early in the morning. "My brother's perception of morning is very early – before dawn I would say."

At dawn the next morning somebody banging on my door woke me. "Wake up, you sleepy head!" Éowyn. She peered in, "Éomer is waiting for us at the stables," she said. I got up, splashed water in my face and quickly dressed in my riding clothes – a long tunic, leggings as well as boots and tied my hair back with a band. Grabbing some fruit I followed Éowyn to the stables.

One of the grooms had obviously pointed out my red brown gelding to Éomer. The head groom was still suffering from slight shock that the King of Rohan actually had undertaken to saddle the horses himself.

Éomer was tightening the saddle straps of his own steed – a big, dark-grey stallion with light grey mane and tail, when Éowyn and I entered the stable. He sent us a big grin. "Usually my sister would have to do this on her own, but since I was saddling yours, I could not well leave hers, now could I."

Éowyn snorted. "And I am supposed to express my gratitude that the high and almighty sovereign has stooped to this?" She went past her brother, and slapped him as she passed him. He grinned cheekily.

He was dressed for riding in leather breeches and a jerkin, not in armour – and I realised that I had only ever seen him in armour or in his official gear since I met him. He had fastened his hair in the back with a leather thong and he looked like a young boy; he turned towards us. "Would any of the ladies require my help to get up?"

Éowyn shot her brother a look. "That would indeed be the day, dear brother of mine," she said sardonically and swung herself in the saddle.

I smiled at him. "No thank you, my Lord. I think that I can manage." He looked almost disappointed, but shrugged and mounted his own horse.

We rode over the Pelennor towards Osgilliath and the river. It was a quite beautiful morning, but it could not hide that the land still bore fresh evidence of the big battle, which had raged only a few weeks before. Fresh mounds where now soldiers of Rohan, Gondor and Dol Amroth slept their eternal sleep were spread over a large area. Large, black-burnt spots bore witness of where bodies of orcs, mumakil and Haradrim soldiers had been piled and burnt.

Both Éowyn and her brother fell silent as we passed the spot where Théoden King fell and where his mount Snowmane had been entombed. But soon the pleasure of the ride and the sunshine chased away the dark shadows. I realised that it would, indeed, be some time before those, who had taken part in the fierce fighting, would recover completely – if ever.

As we let our horses run, Éomer threw back his head and laughed out loud. It was clear that this was what he cherished most - to be free to let his horse run over the fields and enjoy the free air around him. We could not help laughing with him; we felt it, too. Too long had darkness and despair reigned in Middle Earth.

Returning to the city, we slowed down to a trot and conversed leisurely about various subjects. Éowyn teased her brother – and his deep, throaty laugh filled the air as he shook his head and murmured "sisters". I soon fell in with their friendly banter, which reminded me so much of my relationship with my brothers. It was, indeed, good to spend time with Éomer and his sister – and not having many females of my own status in my life, especially of my own age, I cherished the time I spent with Éowyn.

We halted our horses outside the royal stables. Éomer dismounted. He gave his sister a hand as she dismounted and then turned to me. He caught me by the waist as I jumped down and held me – perhaps a little longer than necessary. I looked up into his face with a little smile, and then heard a grumpy voice behind us.

"Let go of my sister, my Lord." Elphir, of course.

"Calm yourself, Eli – his Majesty was just helping me dismount." I could not help giggling. That did not improve the situation. But, really, Elphir should be the one to talk; he had obviously forgotten that I had watched him operate on numerous occasions, especially when he was trying to make an impression on Amelica, who now was his wife. My darling brother had not always conducted himself according to strict, Gondorian standards.

Éomer looked calmly at me; he was obviously not easily scared – and certainly not by Elphir. "I trust that we shall see each other later, my Lady?" he said.

I nodded and sent him a smile. "Of course, thank you for the ride, my Lord." Éowyn and I went to our rooms to wash and change for breakfast. We were both supposed to go for a dress fitting later in the day.

The weeks went by; I spent a lot of time at the Houses of Healing. Many had still not recovered from their wounds, and help was always needed. Even Éowyn participated in the work. We spent a lot of time together, and I spent a lot of time with my father and my brothers – and in my opinion entirely not enough time with Éomer. I would have liked it to be much more – but still we slowly got to know each other better during the little time our surroundings allowed us.

We managed to escape Elphir – with a little help from Amrothos, who was always the rebellious one – and he took me for rides in the countryside – with or without his sister, and for walks in the city and the gardens of Minas Tirith. We talked about anything and everything. I found out that he really was a remarkable man – he had a lot of knowledge about a lot of subjects and remarkable wit – and even spoke a little Sindarin, which his mother had taught him. He had a marvellous sense of humour, which matched my own, and he defended his beliefs with both passion and vigour. He loved his sister, his country and his people dearly. He would have died for them without hesitation.

I had long wanted to know what his outburst to Aragorn about his sister had meant, and one day as we were walking in the gardens, I asked him. His face grew solemn, and he hesitated slightly before he replied. "The night before we rode from Dunharrow, I confronted Éowyn. I somehow suspected that she was not content to settle for staying behind when we left for battle, and when I heard her encouraging – and defending – Merry, when Gamling and I mocked his fighting abilities, I became suspicious and tried to discourage her, telling her that she knew nothing of war – of the blood and the horror and that war was the province of men. I thought that I had succeeded, conceited as I was."

He paused, his face showing his regrets. "I should have known better; I knew her, knew her beliefs and her abilities! I knew that she felt caged! And regretted that she was not born a man. How could I not? She was forever complaining that she could not do as Théodred and I during the dark years – ride off and fight the enemy, whereas she was trapped with uncle – and Grima Wormtongue. Being a shield maiden of Rohan, she also wanted the honour and renown, she felt could only be won on the battlefield."

I nodded slowly. I could follow Éowyn's line of thinking although I did not think that I would ever be that desperate to be part of war and fighting; after all I had followed my father and brothers to Minas Tirith to work in the Houses of Healing to at least feel that I accomplished something.

"But – it was not your fault, Éomer. There was so much else that you had to do, and I do not believe that you could have stopped her, even if you had known. It was her choice," I tried to soothe him as I felt his despair.

"Deep inside I know that, but right at the moment when I saw her lying there, all the guilt came down on me, and I am afraid that I cannot rid myself entirely of the thought that I might have stopped her ……" He looked at me, his eyes dark and solemn. I realised that there was nothing that I wanted more than to chase these thoughts away.

Was he the man that was meant for me? I was beginning to think so. I admit that this multi-facetted man intrigued me. There was no doubt that he took my breath away, just by looking at me. He had the most wonderful passionate eyes that burned into mine. The colour changed from hazel to dark brown, depending on his moods – almost black when he was angry or sad --- or very passionate, and he had the most wonderful boyish grin with a devil buried deep in his eyes when he spoke of things that amused him.

We connected, almost like kindred spirits. Often when we saw something, which amused us we had only to look up – and then we knew why the other was smiling. It was so easy to talk to him – about anything really. Also because you felt that he was deadly honest – and would never lie to you.

He was handsome – but I was no stranger to handsome men. I was a virtuous noblewoman of Gondor – how could you not be with three brothers, who watched over you zealously? But I was the sister of three of the handsomest young princes in all of Middle Earth (save the elves, of course), and they had in turn numerous friends, who were equally good-looking, and the princess of Dol Amroth had therefore never wanted for male attention, dance partners or suitors. Many of the young noblemen of Gondor had never hidden the fact that they would very much like to court the young sister of the three princes.

They had treated me with the utmost respect, and some of them I had allowed to kiss me – which some did politely, others more passionately. But – none of them had ever evoked the feelings in me that just being close to Éomer did. Not just his eyes, but also his entire being attracted me; the tall, well-built body, his golden hair, the bearded chin. I was not used to men with beards, but lately I had found that this was indeed very attractive – on him at least. And his hands – strong, large and well formed with long fingers. I shivered when he took my hand, helping me down from stairs or across hindrances. I wanted to be touched by him – and never had I wanted to be kissed, as I wanted to be kissed by him --- and I realised that I had wanted it almost since the first time that I saw him at the Houses of Healing.

I had a feeling that it might be mutual, but so far Éomer had been too much of a gentleman to even try to do anything about it, or else my brothers had managed to scare him off. Somehow I doubted that very much; Éomer was not somebody you easily scared off.

I realised that my stomach did somersaults whenever he looked at me; I blushed like a very young girl – and I could not stop thinking of him when we were not together. All the signs that the somewhat more experienced maids of our household had told me about. I was definitely in love with the King of Rohan.