Well, this is my fifth scenario on how Éomer and Lothíriel met. I have included a bit more in this one as there were some things I have wanted to write about Éowyn and Faramir. Also, after 'Counting the Days,' I thought it was about time I wrote something a bit more serious – I managed it for about three chapters. After that, well, you will have to judge!
Synopsis In the eight days between Aragorn being crowned King and the Rohirrim departing from Minas Tirith, Éomer has to come to terms with, not only his new status, but also the realisation that his sister will be relocating to Gondor. If that wasn't enough, he has to deal with the discovery that he is becoming more and more attracted to a woman who is promised to another.
Chapter 1 – The Cloak
Tomorrow would not be the same as today. Éomer thought he would feel it more than anyone, except Aragorn of course. Gondor would have a new King, and he himself would have to start getting used to the idea that he was a King as well. They had called him King when Théoden died on that bloody battle ground, and they called him King now. Maybe he would not really feel he had taken on the role until the previous Lord of the Mark lay interred in his green barrow. Perhaps then would he be able to accept that the title was rightfully his.
Éomer wondered if he wanted tomorrow to come at all. He was happy here. Surrounded by friends, old and new. He looked across to Minas Tirith. The rays of a dying sun were picking up the crystals in the stone blocks and turning the whole of the west side of the White City into a shimmering pink edifice. No, he should not be thinking like this. Too many had fought and died for him to resent tomorrow coming. Tonight he would enjoy the comradeship of their last camp and in the morning he would follow Aragorn into a new future.
He looked up at the sound of Aragorn's voice. The aspiring King of Gondor was standing in the doorway of his tent, beckoning him over. Well, you could hardly call it a tent: pavilions were what they called them here. They had been sent out from the City to Cormallen, and then loaded onto the ships with everything else and erected again here for just one night. They were huge silken structures designed to house the Captains of the West in a manner befitting Gondor. The ones that had been given to him, Imrahil and Aragorn could have accommodated half an éored. Now they were all arranged in a circle on the Pelennor, with the companies of Gondor and Rohan radiating out behind them like the spokes of a giant wheel. In the midst of the inner circle a huge fire was blazing. He had been sitting alone in quiet contemplation, but as he got up to see what Aragorn wanted he saw the Hobbits leaving their tent and making for the fire. It would be another lively evening.
Aragorn was grinning and holding the flap open for him, "Come and look at this."
Éomer ducked under his friend's arm and stepped onto the richly woven rugs that covered the ground. The tent was very much like his own, with a cot, some chairs, a cabinet and a table covered with a standard. There was a suit of mail on a stand, in fact it was held up almost as if someone was wearing it. There was also a cloak around the shoulders of the ceremonial outfit. At least Éomer thought it must be ceremonial, it would be useless for anything else. The mail was black, but the cloak was white. Pristine white. He glanced at Aragorn trying to conceal his mirth. The Ranger said nothing but raised one eyebrow which drew attention to the laughter that was barely hidden in his deep grey eyes.
Éomer started to chuckle softly, "Where did that come from?"
"From the deep vaults beneath Minas Tirith, I imagine. I think Gandalf organised it. He has been showing a decided leaning towards the theatrical lately," Aragorn went to the cabinet and took out a wineskin and two goblets. All three items were decorated with the White Tree of Gondor.
Éomer surveyed the outfit with a thoughtful expression, "You must allow him that, after all his carefully laid plans have come to fruition. Mind you," he said laughingly, "the once ranger can probably get away with it. A dedicated warrior like me would look totally ridiculous." He took the proffered goblet and raised it in the air to connect with the one Aragorn was about to drink from.
"Éomer, you do not fool me. There is much more than just the warrior in you and it's a wonder he hasn't found you something similar."
Aragorn burst out laughing, "He hasn't?"
"No, not exactly. But my armour disappeared for twenty- four hours and when it was returned I hardly recognised it. In fact I had forgotten that the leather was once coloured at all. And," he shook his head disbelievingly, "I have a new cloak."
"A new cloak. Not a white one?"
There was an amused snigger, "No, I don't think anyone would seriously put me in a white cloak. I have a brand new ceremonial royal cloak. It came all the way from Edoras."
"Someone fetched one?"
"Yes, but I understand that Elfhelm arranged it. Although why, with all the other things he has to do, he would send a messenger all that distance to fetch me a cloak, I can't begin to think."
Éomer smiled ironically, "I think I hear activity outside. Are we going to join them? It is our last night."
"You are sad about that," It was a statement, not a question.
"A bit, I suppose. The last few weeks have been a respite. A building up of strength before the future has to be faced. That future will be hard for the Riddermark, at least in the short term."
"It will not be as hard as it could have been. And you are not alone, Éomer. Gondor will honour its debts."
"There is no debt. What we did was done for ourselves as well as for Gondor. Gondor owes us nothing."
Aragorn clapped the younger man on the shoulder. "We will work together in all things in the future. Neither of us will be alone."
Éomer grinned, "I have been talking to Elladan and Elrohir. They are riding with me when we leave, to meet up with their kin. "You," he poked Aragorn in the ribs playfully, "will not be alone for long. How did it go…? 'She shall not be the bride of any Man less than the King of both Gondor and Arnor…' what some men have to do to secure a wife."
"You just watch it, my young friend. I wager they are already lining one up for you."
Éomer snorted, "When I want a wife I shall find my own."
Laughing together the two uncrowned Kings left the tent to join the, now large, party who were gathered around the fire. The four hobbits were sitting on a big log chattering happily together, as were, of course, Legolas and Gimli. Imrahil was talking with Elrond's two sons and his own sons, Erchirion and Amrothos, were sharing another log. They were resting in amicable silence; their long legs were stretched out towards the warmth of the fire. Gandalf was standing on his own with his back to everybody else, his white robes catching the light of the fire. His arms were folded and he was staring at Minas Tirith. The City was pink no longer. The sun had set and its recent presence only remembered by the violent streaks of colour it had left in the western sky. It would be a starry night.
Gandalf turned around at the sound of their voices, "Ah, I am glad you are here. I want to make sure you know what you are doing tomorrow."
Aragorn winked at Éomer, "We are all primed up. We have gone through it once or twice before."
"Hmm…," Gandalf sounded doubtful. "In spite of what you think, pageantry is very important. It would not do for anything to go wrong so there is to be no shenanigans." He fixed his eyes on Pippin, "And that applies especially to you, Peregrine Took."
"Gandalf, I am sure everyone will do their utmost to make the crowning of our new King a spectacular and memorable event," Imrahil was always a diplomat. "And you need not worry: from the other side, Faramir will have it all under control."
"Yes," Gandalf replied thoughtfully, "I know I can rely on Faramir."
"It will be good to meet him properly," Éomer remarked, "the last time I saw him I did not think he would survive."
"I imagine his romance with your sister has aided his recovery somewhat," Pippin piped up in his usual cheery fashion.
"Pip!" there was a strangled cry from Merry. Ten pairs of eyes swung around to the two young hobbits and then swivelled further to fix on Éomer. The eleventh pair, Gandalf's, soared skywards.
Éomer worked hard to show none of the surprise he felt or the bolt of anguish that shot through him. He immediately realised that they were all waiting for his reaction. He wondered what they were expecting. At least it explained something.
"Merry," he said in a neutral voice, "do I understand that there was more to my sister's decision not to join us in Cormallen than you actually told me?"
"Yes… I mean no," Merry was looking most uncomfortable.
Éomer deliberately smiled at him, using the sort of smile that normally crossed his face when he was about to ensure that an Orc and its head parted company, permanently and immediately, "Yes or no, Merry?"
"Um… they became very friendly when they were convalescing," the young hobbit was clearly embarrassed with the whole group hanging on his words as well as being wary of Éomer, "And Faramir asked me for all I knew about the Lady Éowyn and well…," he hesitated a moment, "…she asked me all about him. They spent a lot of time walking and talking in the garden together," he finished lamely.
Éomer tried to keep a straight face and put on a stern voice, "And you thought to tell Pippin about this and not me?"
"Éomer," Imrahil stepped in, "let me assure you that if it is true that an attachment has been formed between your sister and my nephew, and we are not certain of that, then you have nothing to be alarmed about. Faramir is an honourable man and only good will come from such an alliance."
"It is certainly certain," commented Gandalf. "I have always been certain and they are now certain. There is nothing else to be said about it."
"It's certain then," Amrothos muttered under his breath.
"Of course," Gandalf carried on, addressing his remarks to Éomer, "it would have been better if they could have told you themselves." The wizard took the opportunity to glare at Pippin, "But there is nothing for you to be worried about, nothing at all."
"Gandalf's right, my Lord," Sam could not keep quiet, "I don't know much about such things and of course I have never met the Lady Éowyn, but without Lord Faramir we could have come to a sorry end. A true gentleman of quality, he is. Isn't that right Mister Frodo?"
Éomer intervened before Frodo could answer. "I am well aware of how Faramir helped you. And it did not escape my notice that when the two of you recovered sufficiently that the first person you asked about and wished to see, after your companions, was Faramir." He looked across at Aragorn, "and if my sister has found true happiness with an honourable man, then none will be more pleased than me."
"It would put light into my heart to see your sister joyful once more," The clear voice of Legolas floated over to Éomer.
"Hear, hear! And now we have got them sorted out and married off, can't we open that wine? A dwarf could die of thirst around here."
Erchirion got up from his log and made for the wine cask, "Let me oblige, Master Dwarf, I am with you on this."
"Good, a man after my own heart. But you had better give one to yon king first," Gimli jerked his head towards Éomer, "he looks to have had a shock."
Erchirion took the empty goblet from Éomer's hand and refilled it from the cask near the fire. He smiled as he passed it back, "My cousin is a good man, and my sister thinks very highly of him. He was very patient with her when she was young."
Éomer nodded, and sat back down nursing his wine. It was true he would be nothing but pleased if it turned out that there was to be such happiness ahead for his sister. And from what Gandalf had said he would have to accept that it was highly likely. He sighed to himself; he would just be so darned lonely. He might have guessed Aragorn would have known what he was feeling as his friend sat down beside him and said softly,
"You will be lonely for a while, Éomer but this will be for the best. It is what Éowyn needs. I hated to see her so desperate."
"I know that," Éomer placed his hand on Aragorn's shoulder giving it a squeeze. "I realise it will be best for all the reasons we know about. But that will not make it any easier in the short term."
"Something may happen: you may not be alone for long," Aragorn had a tilt to his eyebrows and a grin on his lips.
"Don't start. I meant what I said," Éomer scowled at him. "I will be in for it as soon as I get home and I don't want to hear anything about it now."
"Well, let me warn you, just in case you haven't realised," Aragorn was trying to look sympathetic but it didn't quite come off, "the unattached ladies of Gondor will all be targeting you at the celebrations tomorrow, so you had better be prepared."
"They can target all they like. In eight days we leave for Rohan and I doubt there are any who could keep up," Éomer answered with a grin.
Aragorn laughed, "Well, if any could, I suppose it would be a good way to find a wife for a Horselord."
"My sister could keep up, but unfortunately she is staying in Dol Amroth," Erchirion had come up with a jug to refill their goblets again.
"Yes," Imrahil confirmed having walked over to join them, "I had hoped Lothíriel would come and meet you all but she writes to say that she cannot be spared at the moment."
Imrahil looked to be addressing everybody, but Éomer had the distinct impression that the information was directed solely at him. Bema, the sooner he got back to Rohan the better.
"I wrote to Nienna and asked if she would come for the festivities, and she is." Amrothos gave out this piece of information as if he was expecting a thunderbolt to descend on him. What actually happened was that his father and brother stared at him in complete astonishment their mouths hanging open and, not recognising the significance of the utterance, no one else took too much notice. Except Legolas who remarked thoughtfully,
"Nienna was one of the Queens of the Valar.
"Not this one," Erchirion was now chuckling, "Nienna is the lovely girl my brother has been sweet on since he first saw her playing with her dolls. He just would not admit it before."
"Does this mean what I think it means, Amrothos?" Imrahil was now definitely looking pleased.
"Yes, Father, it does," his son held his eyes and then waved his hand in the general direction of the Morannon. "Being out there made me think. I don't want to waste any more time."
"Have you spoken to Adian?" Imrahil asked looking concerned.
"I did before I wrote to her. He had no objection whatsoever. Quite the opposite, I think," the young prince grinned. But then he suddenly looked worried, "I am sorry if I should have told you my plans first, Father, but once I decided I wanted to do it right away."
Imrahil shook his head, "No, you did the right thing. I am sure you know how I feel about it, I could not be more pleased."
"Good, good," Gimli got up raising his goblet, "another one sorted. That calls for more drink."
My grateful thanks to Eirwen for looking over this for me. LBJ