Flying Free

A/N: Be sure to let me know if there is anything strange in this chapter - like stuff missing or duplicated. I came in to add this A/N and found chunks of it were missing, so I repasted it in and hopefully it will post just fine.

Minimoon raised the issue about how rude Imrahil was being to Eomer (as a king and good friend of Aragorn), and she has a valid point. My thinking on this (in this scenario) is that Imrahil isn't thinking clearly and is being ruder than he intends, but that they had become such good friends that Eomer is tolerating it more than he might have from someone else. Plus, if Eomer wants to marry his daughter, he can't afford to antagonize the man too much - friendly persuasion usually working better than force. If it did seem to be progressing to something much more serious, I think Aragorn would step in and mediate, but they haven't gotten to that point quite yet.

Anyway, the real reason for this note is some FYI stuff: According to Tolkien, Thorongil (Aragorn) fought with Thengel and Ecthelion from 2957-2980. We know he was serving Thengel in 2957 and left Gondor's service in 2980. We don't know how many years he was in Rohan and how many he was in Gondor, but even if we assume only 5 years in Gondor, that puts him there from 2975-2980. Imrahil was born in 2955, which means he would have been 20-25 years old when Thorongil was in Gondor. You'll find out below why I bother mentioning these details.

Chapter 7

The guard closed the door behind Imrahil as he politely acknowledged his king. "Elessar, you wished to see me?"

Elessar smiled gently at the man and nodded, "Yes. I confess I have been lost in my memories a bit of late, and thought perhaps you would be so kind as to indulge in a little reminiscing with me. There are few around who still remember Thorongil and his time in Minas Tirith."

The two men chuckled together. "Indeed, I do remember. I rather looked upon you as a hero then."

"But not anymore?" the king queried in amusement.

Imrahil blushed slightly, and amended, "I respect you in a much different manner these days, for I better understand life now. But, yes, I would have to say I still consider you a hero."

Elessar bowed his head modestly, not having intended to fish for compliments, "You well know I am just a man, doing the best he knows how in difficult circumstances. If I am a hero, then I am one among many."

Imrahil nodded agreeingly, "True." They were silent a moment before he ventured, "And what direction were your reminisces taking, my friend?"

Elessar rose and moved to the window, staring out over the Pelennor. "Truthfully, I was remembering your lovely wife." Grinning teasingly, he added, "You were a fortunate man to win her heart. There were many who admired her!"

Imrahil smiled in fond remembrance, "Aye! And I felt my good fortune, I assure you. Hardly a day went by that I was not in awe of the fact that she had chosen me." He slid into his bittersweet memories, and for a time Elessar did not speak further.

At length, the king observed, "Lothiriel reminds me of her a great deal. The same gentle manner, the same quiet strength, and of course the same dark beauty."

The Prince smiled indulgently, "That is for certain! I see so much of her mother in her. At times, it is almost like having my dear wife back with me again."

Unwittingly he had wandered in precisely the direction Elessar intended. Turning to face the younger man, the king said quietly, "It is my belief that your daughter may have found a love such as you and your wife knew – in Eomer."

Imrahil stiffened at the comment, but Elessar pressed on, "My old friend, please, hear me. I have spoken with several people who have seen them together. All believe that love has grown between them in the time of their acquaintance. I know it will be difficult for you to part with her, especially to a land so distant as Rohan, but would you truly wish to deny her the happiness you yourself were blessed with in marriage?"

The Prince rubbed a weary hand over his face and sighed. "No. I would never wish to do that." His whole frame slumped in discouragement, "But how can I give her up?"

Elessar came and stood before him, resting a hand on his shoulder, "It will be hard, and painful, but you also are a hero, my friend. I cannot imagine you would sacrifice your daughter's happiness for your own selfishness. Keeping her at Dol Amroth will not bring your beloved wife back."

Imrahil's shoulders shook with sobs, and Elessar's hand gripped more firmly. "What have I done?" he moaned mournfully.

"You did what you thought was right, at the time, but now that you see things more clearly, you will do what any loving father would do. You will make it right. It is not too late. I am sure Eomer was upset with you, but I know him too well to believe he will simply give up. If he truly loves her, he will return."

Almost as if in fulfillment of a prophecy, a knock sounded at the door. When Elessar summoned the guard, he announced, "King Eomer of Rohan to see you, my lord."

A small smile creased Elessar's face. "Sooner than I expected," he murmured, "but then he has never been patient."

Looking down at the Prince, he asked, "Shall I see him elsewhere and give you time to compose yourself, or would you speak with him now?"

xx

Faramir had been one of the first to learn that Eomer had returned to Minas Tirith. Not certain the meaning of this odd behavior, he felt sure that Lothiriel needed to know, and sent a servant straight away to tell her.

Lothiriel reached the courtyard of the Citadel only moments after the king had dismounted and gone inside. She glanced at Eothain who sat holding the reins of Eomer's horse. The soldier gave her a smile and barely perceptible nod. While not entirely understanding what he meant by it, for some reason it gave her hope, and she dashed inside to follow Rohan's king.

She skidded to a halt when she reached the hallway outside Elessar's study, her gaze fixed on Eomer waiting there to be admitted. Softly she called questioningly, "Eomer?" Normally, he might not even have heard her, but the stone walls magnified the slight sound and he turned toward it.

Both stood unmoving and staring, not sure what to say or do. Just then the door to the study opened and Elessar welcomed Eomer in. When the young king did not immediately respond, Elessar's gaze followed his and a satisfied smile lit his face. "Lady Lothiriel. Will you join us, please?"

Pulling herself from her stupor, she nodded, acknowledging the request, and slowly moved toward the two men. They stepped aside to allow her to precede them into the room.

Lothiriel was not expecting to find her father there as well, and moved to the side, glancing curiously among the three of them, wondering what was happening.

The men also did not seem to know quite where to begin and shifted uneasily, though Elessar least of all. Seeing that someone had to open this discussion, he turned to Eomer and said, "You left us without warning, my friend, and now you return with equal suddenness. I am not sure everyone in this room understands why that is so." His glance swept over Lothiriel, then back to Imrahil and Eomer.

Nervously, Imrahil cleared his throat, "He left because…because I told him to stay away from Lothiriel."

Lothiriel's eyes grew wide at this revelation and she softly exclaimed, "Father!"

Imrahil could not meet her gaze and stared shame-facedly at the floor.

"If that is why you left, Eomer, then why did you return so soon after?" Elessar prompted, more to spur conversation than to gain needed knowledge. He could readily guess the reason.

Eomer's jaw tightened and he leveled his gaze on the Prince. "I have come back to persuade Imrahil to change his mind. I would have Lothiriel for my wife." He winced slightly inwardly; that had been rather blunt, but he preferred being straightforward and direct.

By now, Lothiriel was blinking in astonishment at this new information. She had thought this whole matter was merely between her and Eomer, but now it was clear there was much more going on.

Gently, Elessar asked, "And what of you, Lothiriel? What do you want?"

She stared back and forth between these two men that she loved so dearly. How could she ever choose to go with one and leave the other miserable? With a muffled gasp, trying to hold in her tears, she bolted out of the room. She crashed blindly into the guard outside the door, who was so solid she would have been knocked off her feet had he not reached out and steadied her. Pulling frantically away, she tore off down the hall.

Behind her, Eomer started toward the door, but Elessar called him back, "Eomer, let her go."

Mutinously, he turned to the other man, a glare on his features, "I cannot do that!"

"Eomer," Imrahil interrupted, "we must talk first. For the moment, there is nothing you can say to her that will help."

Rohan's king eyed him suspiciously, waiting for an explanation. With a sigh, Imrahil sat down heavily in a chair. He raised a shaky hand to rub at his temple. "I have been a fool. I refused to see your feelings for each other, because I did not want to lose her. She is so dear to me – so much like her mother – I selfishly could not let go even when I knew I must." He raised his eyes to the younger man, "I was wrong, Eomer, and I am sorry for the pain I have caused both of you. Elessar has reminded me of a few things I had forgotten." With a sigh, he rose and moved to clap a hand on Eomer's shoulder, "If Lothiriel agrees to it, I consent to your marriage."

Eomer thought he should be ecstatic at these words, but the final comment made him pause – 'if Lothiriel agrees'. Would she agree, if she knew how much pain it would cause her father?

Imrahil seemed almost to read his thoughts. "I think I should speak with her before you do, my friend. I do not know that she will willingly come to you until she knows that I release her."

Eomer's tense stance relaxed, but he looked kindly at the other man, "I do not wish to deprive you of your daughter. I will make every effort to see to it that she visits you often. And you would always be welcome in Rohan, whenever you can come."

The two men embraced, with some difficulty due to Eomer's armor, and then Imrahil stepped back. "Now then, if I am able to find my daughter, I think it is time for us to have a serious talk about her future."

Clearing his throat, Eomer suggested, "You might want to check in the garden behind the Hall of Feasts. It is rarely used and she once commented that it is a favorite place of hers when she wishes to be alone."

Imrahil smiled ruefully at this information. How ironic that in twenty-one years he had never known that about his daughter, and yet she had confided it to Eomer after knowing him only a month. He nodded his understanding and left them.

Eomer and Elessar stood awkwardly for a moment. Then Eomer firmly told him, "Thank you, Aragorn. I am not sure what part you have played in this, but I suspect that without your assistance there might not have been so happy an outcome."

Elessar smiled warmly at him, "I was pleased to do whatever I could, and I realized there might be things I could say to Imrahil that no one else could." He moved behind his desk and sat down, "So, shall I have a room prepared for you now that you have returned? I assume you plan on staying for…awhile, at the very least."

Eomer grinned and nodded, "Let me check with Eowyn. She might prefer having me stay with her this time. I managed to send Gamulf on home with the rest of my guards, so we will not have him to contend with this time."

The king inclined his head in understanding, "Speak with Faramir when you know and he will arrange for whatever you wish." Changing the subject rather abruptly, he gave his friend a mischievous smile, suggesting, "Since you will soon go to speak with your lady, perhaps you would like to leave your armor here for the time being? As I recall, armor is not very conducive to romantic interludes with lovely young ladies!"

They chuckled together and Elessar rose to assist him in unbuckling his gear. Once it was removed, Eomer looked ruefully down at his wrinkled, and somewhat dirty, clothing. "I am torn between seeing her as soon as possible and thinking she would prefer I take time to bathe and change!" he observed.

Elessar rubbed his chin, then volunteered, "I think, at the moment, she would prefer to see you as soon as possible – dirty or otherwise."

They laughed again, and Eomer clapped a hand on Elessar's arm before nodding and leaving the room.

xx

Eomer had been correct – Lothiriel was in the garden as he predicted. Imrahil heard her sobs before he actually saw her, and hastened to her side, gently taking her in his arms. "Oh, my dearest girl, what have I done?" he murmured, stroking her head, as he realized just how much misery she had endured because of his blindness.

When at length her sobs eased and her tears ebbed, he pulled back to look into her face. "I was wrong, dearest. I should never have tried to keep the two of you apart. I will miss you greatly if you choose to marry him, but do not let your love and concern for me keep you from finding happiness with Eomer. Your mother would be very upset with me right now for my bad behavior through all of this!"

Despite her tears, Lothiriel could not stifle a laugh. She barely remembered her mother, though her brothers and father had spoken of her so often she sometimes wasn't sure what was memory and what were things she had been told. "Are you sure, Papa? I do not wish to cause you more pain."

"Papa? You have not called me that for ages!" he chuckled, then admitted, "It is good to hear it again."

Firmly gripping her shoulders, he told her, "I am sure. I would not have you miss out on the kind of love your mother and I shared. One of the reasons I could not bring myself to arrange a marriage for you was the thought of binding you to a man that you did not love. I am very pleased that you have found someone you can feel deeply about – that greatly eases my heart in the matter."

A sound off to the left drew their attention and they turned to see Eomer, trying to inobtrusively stay out of their way. Bringing a hand to his daughter's head, he pulled her toward him and kissed her brow. "And now, dearest, I think there is someone else you need to have a long talk with, so I will leave you two alone."

They rose and Imrahil moved slowly away from her toward the young king. As he drew near, Eomer met his gaze and Imrahil nodded in affirmation of his consent, then stepped past Eomer and left the garden.

To his amazement, Eomer suddenly felt awkward. He had always been so comfortable with Lothiriel that it had never occurred to him anything could change that. Now he found that he had just asked to marry a woman who he had never told that he loved her. In all their dealings to this point, they had never spoken of their feelings for each other. He believed they felt the same, but there was always the possibility that he was mistaken in her regard for him. Taking a deep breath, he stepped toward her. Either way, he wanted to know now whether or not she would have him.

Lothiriel eyed him nervously, unsure what to think, or do or say. Idly she noticed that his clothes were wrinkled and dirty, and he appeared to be tired. They had only left yesterday morning and now it was midday. Had he ridden through the night instead of sleeping?

Hesitantly, Eomer reached for her hand, and she watched him twine his fingers with hers. They both fixed their attention on their interlocked fingers rather than look at each other. Eomer frantically tried to think what to say to her, how to explain all that had happened, and all that he was feeling. He was not a man given to flowery, flattering speech. He could only speak what was in his heart. "Lothiriel, I love you." He paused, then softly added, "I should like very much to have you for my wife, if you would wish it."

When she did not answer, he could not keep from looking up at her. Her face was struggling with her emotions, and he raised a questioning eyebrow to encourage her response. Somewhat breathlessly, she murmured, "I love you, too, Eomer. I…I would very much wish to be your wife." A tear slipped down her cheek, and he leaned over to kiss it away.

She pulled her hand from his grasp and slipped both arms around his neck, burying her face in his chest. Eomer reached to draw her close into his embrace. The feel of her in his arms was better than anything he had imagined. Silently he thanked Elessar for making him remove his armor before coming to her. And there was just one more thing that needed doing. Pulling back slightly from her, his hand moved to her face and lifted it so he could look in her eyes. With a slow smile, he lowered his mouth to claim hers; not the uncertain, mild kiss he had given her a few days ago, but one of longing and hunger and promises of things to come. He knew it was very likely that this was only the second real kiss she had ever received, and she had not much experience with such things, but she was a quick learner. In an instant she was responding warmly, seeking to tell him what words could not adequately convey.

A few moments later, they broke breathlessly apart and he chuckled. "Not bad, for a beginner," he teased. "I cannot wait until you have had an opportunity to practice!"

She flushed red and hid her face, but he tilted it back up and kissed her again. As it ended, he murmured, "Do not be embarrassed, my love. I would be disappointed if you did not enjoy showing me affection. We Rohirrim are not so reserved as you Gondorians. I welcome your enthusiasm!"

She blushed again, but caught his face and kissed him this time, taking him at his word.

As they drew apart, he rested his temple against hers and whispered, "It would appear Gamling may keep his position as Doorward. I have other plans for you!"

THE END (almost - see below)

1/17/06 – 1/24/06

Postscript for Blues Eyes At Night (who won't be satisfied otherwise): Eomer and Lothiriel were eventually married in Edoras and then settled down to do much babymaking. As a result, Lothiriel suffered many long and painful deliveries, but in spite of that, they all lived happily ever after. THE END - REALLY, REALLY THE END. SO DON'T ASK FOR MORE!