Chapter 14 – Epilogue
14 August 3019
Meduseld would, no doubt, seem very quiet now. Éomer watched as the tail end of the party crossed the Snowbourne and started off across the grassland. He wondered if the Golden Hall would ever again play host to such an exulted and varied gathering. Certainly Galadriel, Celeborn and Elrond would never return. More upsetting to him, however, was the possibility that he had talked to Gandalf for the last time. The Wizard had been very non-committal about the likelihood of ever returning to Edoras, but he hoped that perhaps the Istar would turn up one day, just as he had always done before.
However, his home would not return to normal quite yet. Éomer set his gaze to his right. Two women were standing there: both had their eyes fixed on the column of travellers which was now disappearing into the early morning mist that hugged the plains in late summer. They had their backs to him and, from this angle, they both looked alike: they were the same height; they were both slim; they both had black hair - today it was worn loose and long - and they were both wearing blue dresses. He knew that if they turned around, then they would still look very alike: they were both beautiful; they both had fine sculpted bone structure; they both had shapely well formed lips and they both had grey eyes. But that was where they differed: one set of eyes held quiet amusement and were as wise and as old as time and the other sparkled with the joy and laughter of youth and living. One set belonged to an Elven Queen who had chosen mortality and the other to a Gondorian Princess, who reputedly had elven ancestors, and would soon, hopefully, be changing one life for another.
As he stood quietly watching them, the princess placed her hand on the queen's shoulder, gave it a squeeze and turned and started walking towards him. He forced down the inevitable hot rush of desire that flooded through him as he admired the easy elegant way she did a simple thing like putting one foot in front of the other. Standing on such public view - the top of the steps outside the Golden Hall - was not a good place to have to deal with that kind of response to her, especially as her father, her brothers, her cousin and his sister were standing just a little way to his left.
"Is Arwen all right?" he asked as she approached him.
Lothíriel nodded, "Yes, I think so, but I feel she needs to be alone for a while. It cannot be easy for her. I thought she might have gone with them, then at least she would have been with her husband when it was time to say goodbye to her father and grandparents."
"I don't know why they decided to say their goodbyes here, but Aragorn will be back in not much more than a sennight. We will have to keep her company until then." He looked across to Arwen who was still gazing northwest. "But I agree: she probably needs to be alone for a while. So," he paused, "as everyone else can look after themselves…then will you come for a walk with me?"
A grin touched her lips, "Do you mean just you and me?"
"I do, and what's more I shall make sure of it." Being alone had been more difficult that he had ever imagined. And he couldn't just blame her brothers - with all the guests, staying inside the hall, and camping in and around Edoras– it had been well nigh impossible. There had been nowhere to be alone. But this time he was determined to enjoy more than the odd few minutes he had managed so far. He flashed her a challenging grin, "I am going to ask your father."
She did not answer but just caught her bottom lip with even white teeth and raised her dark eyebrows provocatively. Éomer turned to his left and was relieved to see that Amrothos and Erchirion and already gone back inside, probably to find something to eat. They had just managed to be up, after the frolicking of the night before, in time to join in the farewells. Éowyn and Faramir had also stared to wander away and Imrahil was standing on his own, looking pensive. Leaving Lothíriel where she was Éomer strolled over to her father. The older man did not notice him coming.
"Imrahil!" The prince gave a definite small jump and Éomer wondered what he had been thinking about.
"Sorry, Éomer." My mind was elsewhere.
"No matter, I just wanted to ask if you would object if I took Lothíriel for a walk. Only down to the Snowbourne," he clarified.
Imrahil slanted him a slightly amused look, "I can hardly refuse after what you told me last night, can I?"
Éomer laughed, "I was counting on that."
"Well, go on then. I am happy and I will try and convince my two suspicious sons that they have nothing to worry about."
"You do that," said Éomer as he turned to return to Lothíriel. She was looking expectant when he reached her but he said nothing, just took her hand and drew it through his arm to lead her down the steps.
"He doesn't mind?"
"No, he doesn't seem to."
They reached the bottom of the steps and started down the main way towards the gate. A lot of the citizens were still hanging about passing the time of day. Virtually everybody in Edoras had come out of their homes to pay their respects to the cavalcade of hobbits, elves and men, not to mention a wizard and one dwarf, as they left Edoras to return to their various homes. Éomer knew that by walking alone with Imrahil's daughter he would be sparking some interest and speculation. Not that he cared: they had better get used to it.
"We seem to be under a lot of scrutiny," Lothíriel remarked.
"They are looking at you," he said. "I doubt they have ever seen anyone so beautiful."
He wasn't looking directly at her but he could almost feel her amazement before she said, "It cannot be that. They have had Arwen to look at this past week. Every woman is eclipsed by the Queen of Gondor. And even by her grandmother," Lothíriel added as an afterthought."
Éomer almost stopped momentarily but quickly picked up his step again, this time he did look at her. "Let me tell you that I consider you to be more than a match for Arwen or any other woman."
Lothíriel burst out laughing, which wasn't quite the response he had thought she would make. It was actually quite a long time before she could stop giggling. "That is very noble of you, but I think you must be slightly…biased…shall we say."
"I am not biased and I do consider Arwen to be quite lovely but…" he sought for words. "She is sort of translucent. Almost unreal, in fact. You are solid flesh and blood, and I suppose I am more comfortable with that. Anyway," he grinned suddenly, "Lady Galadriel is even more unearthly and Gimli has really not quite forgiven me for choosing Arwen over her."
"Oh," Lothíriel laughed again. "I heard him pestering you for a decision in Minas Tirith. "You were brave to contradict him."
"Not brave enough to say I preferred you, though."
She never made any comment, probably, Éomer thought, because they had reached the gate and one of the guards was walking towards them. He forestalled him. "I am just going down to the Snowbourne. No farther."
"Very well, my Lord King," the man answered. "The area was patrolled not an hour ago. You should be safe."
"Thank you, I am sure I shall be," Éomer replied rather sardonically. He guided her to the left, around the edge of the dyke before taking a narrow path that led directly down to the river. "Éothain has them all primed," he explained to Lothíriel when he was sure they were out of earshot. "I think I told you that I am hardly allowed to go anywhere on my own at the moment." He thought she remembered the conversation quite well as a slight blush rose in her cheeks. He moved her cool hand from his arm and instead clasped it in his own warm one. "Which leads me on to why I have brought you down here," conveniently, they had reached the cover of some large bushes and without bothering to explain any more Éomer stopped and pulled her into his arms. Restraining himself with considerable difficulty he smoothed her hair back from her face and looked her straight in the eyes before dropping his lips to hers and indulging in a very satisfactory deep kiss. "Will you marry me?" he whispered as their lips parted.
A smile hovered around her lips for a while before she answered, it must have only been a moment but it seemed an age. "I said I would that night in Minas Tirith and as I promised then: I have not changed my mind." He let out a sigh of relief although he had expected nothing else - after the conversations they had had; the very infrequent stolen kisses and the surreptitious hand squeezing they had indulged in over the past weeks. He pulled her against his chest, holding her so tightly that she had to struggle to get the next words out. "After the three weeks of the journey and the time spent in Edoras I feel I know you and your kinsmen much better now. That has only made me more sure."
"Good, then I can put your father out of his misery." He didn't let he go but released his hold a little and stood with both his arms lightly around her.
"Éomer, he hasn't spoken to you." she sounded cross. Indignation clearly showing on her face as she looked up to him.
He gave a soft laugh, "Don't be angry with him. He was very diplomatic. Evidently he had noticed that we were spending a lot of time talking to one another and seemed to be getting on well. Then he said that you appeared to be happy here and it was a pity you had to go home soon."
"And what did you say to that?"
"I suppose I gave in. I said that I would quite like to ask you to return – permanently but it looked as if I was never going to get the opportunity of putting the question to you."
She giggled softly, "So that is why he let me come down here with you. He has made no secret of the fact that this is what he wants. In fact," she hesitated, "that is why I would not come to Cormallen."
"Ah…I did wonder…" Éomer mused thoughtfully. "I wondered if you had received a summons."
"Well, he didn't put it in so many words," she laughed softly. "But he must have made it plain to Elphir because Melina, my sister-in –law, told me. I was determined not to fall in with any plans of that sort but when Amrothos begged me to accompany Nienna, well, I couldn't refuse him."
"Being that you love him more than any other being?" It was difficult to resist adding that.
"Now you are fishing," she grinned up at him. But then her face became more serious. "I couldn't understand it," she said as though she doubted herself. "It was instant…the attraction, I mean, from the moment first I saw you. It started when you approached the city."
Éomer could totally understand it, since the same thing had happened to him, and he showed, and told her, that he was inclined to feel the same way. When they broke apart from whispering endearments that effectively sealed the bond between them she started on one of her soft giggles. "Not knowing that we had already committed ourselves, I think my father was beginning to think his plans were doomed to failure."
"I admit he did look rather relieved last night," Éomer muttered, as he ran his hands up and down her back.
"It sounds as if he can't wait to get rid of me."
The Lord of the Mark was fast losing interest in conversation and brought his hands up to her face. He just had to kiss her again. "I hope that's true. We can be married fairly soon, if that's the case."
"Well, Midsummer's Day is an auspicious day for a wedding."
"What!" He almost shouted, and then he saw that her lips were clamped together and she was trying not to laugh. He laughed himself, "If you think that I am waiting until then to marry you then you are very much mistaken, my Lady. I have promised to take Éowyn to Faramir early in the year. As soon as the roads are open for travel, in fact. Let me tell you that I have every intention of bringing you back with me." He lowered his lips and gently grazed them over hers, "That is if you do not object."
Her answer was to wrap her arms around his neck and make sure that he was totally aware of her feelings on such an important matter.
Fini - thanks for reading. LBJ