The fantastic and unexpected, the ever-changing and renewing
is nowhere so exemplified as in real life itself.
(Berenice Abbot, 1898 – 1991)
The next morning Lothíriel awoke when Éomer carefully untangled his limbs from hers and got out of the bed. Still feeling heavy with sleep, she was prepared to go straight back to the land of dreams. But there was this vague sense that something was not quite what it should have been. Snuggling deeper under the covers and seeking that warm spot on the sheets that Éomer had just vacated, she began to lazily sift through the wafts of mist clouding her mind for an answer.
Belatedly, it dawned on her that it shouldn't have been necessary for her husband to disentangle their bodies, because after the last bout in their argument they had gone to sleep on opposite sides of the bed. She opened her eyes, just a slit, and found that she must have moved across the wide mattress while sleeping. She was now on Éomer's territory.
Closing her eyes again, she listened to him moving around. He obviously was trying to go about his morning routine as quietly as possible in order not to disturb her. Apparently he had picked up the pieces of clothing he had scattered to the four winds the previous night, before he disappeared behind the screen that separated the washing facilities. She heard a big splash and her body shuddered involuntarily before her mind even had fully registered that Éomer must have had just plunged into the cold water of the bathtub. Last night Ælfgyth had had it filled for his evening bath, but he hadn't got around to making use of it due to their argument and the following lovemaking . . . and the further argument that flared up afterwards.
Hearing Éomer splashing about in the chilly water, she shivered again and pulled the coverlet tighter around her body.
After that bedlam all day yesterday, her final confession had unfortunately sparked another quite remarkable outburst.
When her brothers had given an account of the battle of the Morannon, they had spoken of how all of a sudden the earth had rocked beneath their feet, how it had groaned and quaked, how the air had roared and hissed. While beyond the great doors of the Black Gate, and across Udûn and Gorgoroth, Mount Doom had thrown its red-hot glowing body against the leaden sky and poured out its fire over the land of Mordor.
They had assured her that there were no words in any language known, be it of human or of elfish or of any other imaginable kind, to describe the violent eruption of a fire-mountain. It was something one had to see with ones own eyes, experience with ones own senses.
Well, after she had told Éomer that she had appointed the captain of his guard as her riding instructor, she now had a pretty good idea what a volcanic eruption would be like.
His physical reaction had literally rocked the bed. He had vaulted out of it with the force of a thunderclap and, by doing so, had disentangled her body from his and had sent her tumbling across the mattress. She had just managed to cling to the sheets and save herself from toppling over the edge.
What had followed had comprised of quite a bit of hissing and roaring. And she was not very hopeful that the commotion in the royal bedchamber had gone unnoticed. After all, Meduseld was built of wood and the sound absorption was not as thorough as in a palace with thick stone walls. There was only the Queen's Chamber between the King's Chamber and the one Elessar was presently residing in. And the next was her father's and then came the one Amrothos occupied, now that he had broken his leg. Lothíriel feared that they couldn't have avoided taking notice of Éomer's recurring agitation. His voice tended to carry.
He had paced their chamber like a lion his confining cage, tearing her off a strip with powerful eloquence. It had been – more or less – a repetition of all her misdeeds and wrongdoings of the day. However, as it had become clear over the course of his tirade, Éomer was first and foremost not concerned about what his kinsmen might think about his wife's exploits – not that he would not have to consider it in the long run. Annoying as it was, Amrothos had made a valid point when he had reminded her that she was still a stranger in Rohan, who needed to gain the acceptance of the people. - Listening to Éomer's vocal diatribe, it had slowly come to Lothíriel that this was something very private, that he felt primarily both irritated and infuriated because she had sought out another man . . . and that her actual reason for doing it didn't really matter.
That was something she first had needed to absorb and contemplate, but it had been somehow beyond her grasp. She had always believed she had a keen mind and that she was gifted with some intelligence. But her brain had apparently abandoned her. It had been unwilling to accept what actually had been happening.
She had taken a deep breath – after all, air was essential for the correct functioning of the mind - and suddenly her tongue had worked on its own volition.
"You are jealous."
Éomer had spun around – too quickly. He had crashed his small toe against the artfully carved leg of one of the armchairs that stood in front of the hearth and collapsed with a howl onto the same furniture.
For once Lothíriel hadn't cared about a possible injury to another human being. "Do you know how very insulting that is?"
"What?" He had squeezed the word out between his clenched teeth, having tucked up his leg onto the seat and holding his crippled foot in both hands.
"Your jealousy is insulting."
He had given her a truly fulminating glare. "I am not jealous."
"Do you know what jealousy at its heart is?"
"I am not jealous," he had repeated, making an effort to keep his voice low but it had been unmistakably laced with a good portion of indignation. He had sounded genuinely affronted but she had ignored the hint of a ruffled ego.
"Jealousy is nothing but the deluded belief of one person that his valued relationship with another person is threatened by a rival." She had sat up and wrapped the coverlet closely around her body. There were a few things you just didn't want to do in the nude. For instance arguing with your husband. Sooner or later that would only prove distracting – as they had demonstrated so well earlier. "And do you know why that is so insulting?"
"I am not . . . I suppose I will not by able to prevent you from enlightening me," he had muttered aloud, sounding thoroughly frustrated.
"Because with your jealousy you indicate that I am interested in such an alleged rival." She had found her hands squeezed into small fists. "And I am not certain what I find more insulting: that you think I could have any interest – of whatever nature - in another man or that I am so daft that I do not recognize Captain Éofor for the wastrel he is."
He had glanced at her for a heartbeat or two, his gaze ambiguous. Then he had put his injured foot down and crossed his arms over his chest. How many men managed to sit straight naked in an armchair, looking not only splendid but also regal?
"If you are conscious of the fact that he is nothing but a scumbag, why are you so insistent upon having dealings with him?"
"What about you? You think the worst of him. You do not even like him. Nevertheless, he is the Captain of your Guard. Why is that so if he is of such questionable character? "
"He is an excellent fighter, a great horseman. That is what makes him an elite warrior and leader of the household troops, and not necessarily his unflawed character. That I trust him with my life does not mean I would trust him with my . . ." He had cut himself off.
". . . wife?" It hadn't been difficult to guess what he had been about to say. "The point is you do not have to trust him. You have to trust me."
"Lothíriel, you are no match for a man like Éofor." He had hurled his next assessment at her as if it were a brick. "You are simply out of your depth when it comes to men."
"I know how to deal with men." The irritation she felt had edged into her voice. "I have grown up with three brothers."
"Who treat you like a hothouse bloom."
She hadn't particularly liked the implication of that assessment, especially as it wasn't true. When had Amrothos ever treated her with consideration? But Éomer hadn't given her the chance to answer back. He had got up from the chair and had limped to the opposite side of the bed.
"This debate is over, once and for all."
He had laid down, grabbed the corner of the quilt and dragged it to his side to tuck himself in. She had to let go of the coverlet. She was definitely no match to him when it came to a game of tug o' war.
"What do you mean by 'this debate is over'? We have not come to a satisfying conclusion."
"I have come to a perfectly satisfying conclusion. You had better get under the cover before to you catch a cold."
With that he had turned his back to her, unmistakably making clear that he regarded the matter as settled and that now he definitely intended to go to sleep. Lothíriel had been so flabbergasted by his utter disregard of her opinion that she had just sat there, the surprise rendering her mute, something, which happened very rarely. It took a few moments before she became aware of the chill. Rather reflexively she had stretched out next to him and reached for the quilt. There hadn't been much left for her to use, just the corner of the coverlet. With her back towards Éomer, leaving as much space as possible between their bodies, she had pulled it over her shoulders, curling into a ball for warmth. And while she had been lying there stiffly, her consternation had slowly given way to enragement, and the longer she contemplated about the way he had treated her and dismissed her – sound! – arguments, the more his arrogance made her blood boil. But when she flung herself around to give him a piece her mind, she had been greeted by a single, soft snore.
He had been sound asleep.
She had been quite certain of it. He might have feigned deep breathing to make her believe he was sleeping, but he wouldn't have feigned snoring. To her knowledge – based on her experience with the men of her family as well as with her patients - men were amazingly touchy when it came to snoring. Although all of them did – at least from a certain age on. Even her father had rejected emphatically that he did snore when she had surprised him just doing that while taking a nap during a midday break on their journey to Rohan.
That Éomer had fallen asleep so effortlessly after their disagreement, made her even angrier. It had made her so angry that she had considered giving him a good kick in the small of his back, which might – just might – have pitched him out of bed. She hadn't been so angry, however, as to disregard his possible reflex action to such a sudden assault. She had been angry, not suicidal.
And while she had been lying next to a peacefully slumbering - and occasionally snoring - Éomer, fuming silently and trying to decide what to do next, she had felt her lids getting heavier and her thoughts getting more and more unfocused. After all, a quite straining day lay behind her, being on her feet since the early morning; running up and down the slopes of Edoras; caring for Amrothos; arguing with Éomer; making love to Éomer . . .
Just before she finally drifted off, she had briefly wondered if she should have perhaps relocated to her own bedchamber, gone to sleep in her own bed, just to emphasize her displeasure with his attitude.
Instead she must have, while asleep, sought out the warmth of his body and moved back into his arms.
Lothíriel turned her face into the pillow to muffle her frustrated growl. As a side-effect, she got a good noseful of the intoxicating scent that was so very much Éomer. It made her growl again. How vexing that while her brain told her that she had good reason to still be cross with her husband, her senses told her something very different. She could hear him right now rising from his cold bath and her mind decided to play a joke by assaulting her with the mental picture of water streaming down a sculptured body. That didn't help at all with this muddle inside her. It was truly irritating being torn by so many contradicting emotions that her brain was unable to take control. That had never happened to her before. Well, at least not before she had met the King of Rohan. She wondered – not for the first time - how things would have turned out, had she not insisted upon him taking a bath and having his wound treated.
She heard Éomer climb out of the tub and begin to towel himself off. He tried to do it quietly, not really succeeding. Eyes closed, her hearing concentrated on those noises coming from her husband, Lothíriel pictured him with her inner eye going through his morning routine. He put the towel aside, cleaned his teeth and brushed his hair. When he stepped around the screen, Lothíriel made sure that she lay perfectly still and relaxed. He paused and she felt his gaze on her, but he didn't come over. After a moment he turned away. From behind lowered lashes, Lothíriel watched him as he walked across the chamber towards the chest that held his clothes and began methodically to dress. It seemed that all his garments were kept in that one massive chest.
Éomer was far from being a vain man. Cynewyn had told her that rather— the obligation he felt towards his station and his sister's urgings - than personal preference had prompted him to have his wardrobe extended since he had become king. The warrior Cynewyn had known for twelve years, since he was a lad of sixteen, could have stashed his personal belongings in a couple of saddle bags at any time.
Lothíriel wondered what he had made of the abundance of gowns and finery that had been sent to Edoras in advance as his bride's trousseau. She had thought the sheer number of dresses, cloaks, shoes and all kind of adornments as disproportional, if not downright embarrassing. She hadn't owned that kind of wardrobe for all of the first twenty years of her life combined. Of course she knew that there was plenty of money from her dowry which Éomer had refused to accept. But wasting coins on all that frippery had gone against her basic beliefs. The noble ladies of Minas Tirith in all their shallow vanity had bred only distain in her. And now she was in possession of the same sort of frivolous trappings.
Éomer had finished binding the crossgartering and was now retrieving his boots, which were still lying where he had discarded them the previous night. He pushed his right foot in the matching boot and stamped on the floor for a proper fit, then repeated the procedure with the left one. Each pound on the stone tiles was loud enough to have woken Lothíriel had she still been asleep. She decided to ignore the obvious purpose behind the noise and kept on pretending to be fast asleep.
She stayed perfectly still, not moving, just breathing evenly. However, Éomer also didn't move. Actually, she couldn't hear anything from him, not even his breathing. Although she was pretty sure he was watching her there was not a single noise coming from him that would have indicted that he was still in the chamber and what he was doing. She couldn't avoid a little frown appearing between her eyebrows. What kind of game was he playing now? He should either wake her or leave the room.
Finally, Lothíriel couldn't endure this peculiar stage of siege any longer. Abruptly she opened her eyes – and startled, flipped on her back with about as much grace as a landed fish flopping about on the river bank. Éomer stood directly in front of her. How a big man like him had managed to move that stealthily from the other end of the room to next to the bed, withal in those heavy boots, was beyond her.
Éomer's mouth had curved in a smug grin at her affright. "I thought so," he murmured.
"You are . . . ," Lothíriel began but couldn't quite come to a satisfying conclusion of what he was. Her husband raised his brows in polite interest.
She sat up and gathered her legs close to her chest and hugged them. With her chin propped on her knees she shot him a reproachful glare. "You are too imperious," she grounded out. "And you are too . . ." Her voice trailed off, not because she was too well brought-up to say what she meant, but because she couldn't again find the words she sought. And that was rather unexpected.
"Too what?" he inquired.
"Too arrogant," was what she settled for with a scowl and decided to continue right where he had broken off their argument last night. "You dismiss my opinions and my rooted objections."
His eyes glinted with sudden, genuine amusement. "That makes us two of a kind."
"Certainly not!" Lothíriel straightened her spine, indignant at the idea.
Éomer lowered himself on the edge of the bed and leaned over her. She inched back onto the pillows. He planted his hands on either side of her head, caging her. Lothíriel's lips tightened, but before she could reply his hand came up to cup the side of her face. The gesture was so gentle, so tender that anything she might have been going to say was instantly forgotten. Her inside turned to liquid. Just like that. All it took was the slide of his thumb over her skin.
"I think, I am going to kiss you," he announced casually.
"I think I have to kiss you." His nose touched hers. "It is rather like breathing. One does not have much choice in the matter."
She thought about that for the briefest of moments. "Yes," she agreed.
And then his mouth found her lips, and if he still felt any of the annoyance from yesterday towards her, it was not there in his kiss. He was soft and gentle, but so thorough that she was dazzled. Dimly she realized that his restraint was probably deliberate, that she was being tantalized right past the bulwark her good judgement should have erected, but she simply didn't care.
He broke the kiss. Then, slowly, he moved his hand to touch her mouth. Just the faintest butterfly touch, his forefinger rubbing over the soft curve of her lower lip, which was still damp from his kiss, but it was enough to make her tremble.
"Cold?" he asked.
This time the kiss was harder, deeper, compelling a response that she was only too willing to give. She wrapped her arms around his neck to pull him closer and kissed him for all she was worth. Arching herself up against him, clinging to his neck, she wanted to provoke the same response in him as he was evoking in her.
It became some kind of duel.
Éomer let part of his weight shift from his arms onto the upper part of her body, pressing her deeper into the bedding. He kissed her soundly until she had to concede and free her mouth to catch her breath, but he was unwilling to grant her mercy and captured her lips again. He drew her tongue into his mouth, sucking on it. His mouth was warm and wet and devastating. Lothíriel shivered and fought back, stroking the warm skin above his tunic collar at the nape of his neck, running her fingers through the couple of cowlicks that were hid there under his thick mane.
He was right. One did not have much choice. She thought that she finally understood what wanting somebody truly meant. She wanted Éomer like she wanted food to eat and water to drink and air to breathe.
He lifted his head. Lothíriel's lids fluttered up, and she drew in a shuddering gulp of air. His jaw was set, his mouth tight. She was pleased to see that he was breathing hard too. He watched her, his nose less than a hand width above hers. He didn't smile, but instead examined her face with a thoughtfulness that puzzled her. That unconscious little frown appeared above the bridge of her nose. Slowly his lips twisted to a smile.
"Min ælfscīenu dā."
He was about to kiss her again, but Lothíriel evaded his mouth.
"Did you just say 'my beautiful toe'?" she asked confused.
Éomer burst out laughing. For a moment he buried his face in the exuberance of tousled dark hair that haloed her head. Still chuckling he turned his face and kissed her ear.
"Not 'tā', sweeting. I said 'dā', 'mīn ælfscīenu dā'."
"Oh. What does it mean?"
Gently he caught her hands, which were still locked around his neck and in an instance both her wrists were in one of his large hands and manacled above her head. He straightened up to run his eyes over her. The upward movement of her arm had bared her breast to his gaze and he was quite obviously savouring the view.
He smiled at her affectionately. "Iċ clyppe ðec, mīn frymdig lytle mūl," he murmured before he let her wrists go and trailed a finger through the valley between her breasts. "I better go as long as I am able to resist the temptation," he paused and his smile turned wicked, "'fram ðēos ēaðbyligne lybbestre'." He kissed the tip of her nose and got up. "Before my morning meal, I wish to put an end to this nuisance once and for all."
"What nuisance?" Lothíriel propped herself up on one elbow. Her eyes narrowed suspiciously. "You are talking about our disagreement. What do you intend to do?" she hurled the question after him, again at her belligerent best.
Unperturbed, he walked over to the door. "I thought I would assume your approach towards controversial matters and present you with accomplished facts." His hand on the latch, he turned to face her, a confident smirk on his face.
"Éofor is not going to become your riding instructor," he announced with finality and was gone before she had the change to reply.
'tā' – toe
'dā' - fawn
'mīn ælfscīenu dā' – my beautiful fawn
'Iċ clyppe ðec, mīn frymdid lytle mūl.' - I adore you, my curious little mule.
'fram ðēos ēaðbyligne lybbestre' – of this irritating enchantress
Many thanks to Lady Bluejay for her editing.