As the months of our betrothal passed, it became clear to me that my lady was uncertain in the ways of love.

Long ago I learned the pleasure of kisses. Still, I had never felt much urge to couple. Such trysts offered the joining of bodies rather than a union of hearts. I had only ventured once, in youth and heat and loneliness, to a fair woman's bed.

Yet Éowyn seemed to know even less of bodily love. Her youth had been darkened by the sorrows of war and the lust of a slinking traitor. The man they called Wormtongue had shadowed her steps, stalking her through the very halls of Meduseld. She had survived that cruel siege by locking the natural inclinations of youth away, behind a wall of ice, allowing only her love for what remained of her family to escape.

I did not want our marriage bed to hold cruel surprises for Éowyn. I honored her, and would not take her maidenhead until she was ready and willing to yield to me. But I deemed that she should at least be familiar with the touch of my skin to hers before we wed. For weeks, in Minas Tirith, and in Edoras, after her uncle had been buried and her brother crowned, I walked with her, guards and attendants discretely following. I stroked her beautiful, long-fingered hands with mine, worshipped the proud line of her jaw and cheek with my fingers. Slowly, she grew easy enough to sit close against me by the fire, my arm around her and her head often leaning against my shoulder.

Now, Éowyn had come to celebrate Mettarë in Gondor. The people of Minas Tirith had joyously greeted her with songs; and the King and Queen had held a great feast in her honor: a fitting welcome for the slayer of the Witch-King, and almost enough accolade for the lady who owned my heart. And yestereve, Éowyn and I had set the torch to the traditional bonfire, at Aragorn's request, to the loud applause of the throng assembled in the Citadel.

This day, I took my lady from the City, flanked by my retinue and hers, to the land where she would reign as Princess. We rode to the forested slopes of Emyn Arnen. There, atop the highest hill, our new home was rising around the ruins of my family's ancestral seat. I showed Éowyn the sites where the gardens and outbuildings would soon take form.

I meant to do no more than perhaps hold her hand, or perhaps, greatly daring, blow lightly in her ear after kissing her cheek. She had seemed to enjoy those tender touches; or at least had smiled when I had tried them on other occasions. Éowyn looked so lovely, standing proud as a Queen of Númenor, wrapped in the rich blue cloak with silver brocade that I had given her before we set out this morn. The cool winter breeze fanned her pale gold hair about her face, which was white as pearl except for her ruby-red lips.

We were speaking of the stables, and the many horses they would hold. "Which shall come sooner, my lady" I asked, half in jest; "the first foal of the Ithilien stables, or our firstborn child?"

"Why, that shall surely depend on the stallions, my lord." She said smoothly; "For I know that the mares are willing." Seeing the amusement on my face, Éowyn looked suddenly nervous. I saw her began to wall up her discomfiture, as she was wont to do, behind a shield of cool indifference. Pleased by her words, and the quick and ready wit behind them, I leaned closer to her, meaning only to reassure her…

Then, unbidden, my mouth found hers and fastened on those tempting red lips. Éowyn gasped briefly, startled; and as her lips opened, I slipped my tongue between them. She trembled slightly, but moved forward, lifting her head closer to mine. Absurdly pleased, I cupped her chin in my hand. Her tongue flicked out, unsure, to touch mine. A shiver coursed down my body, and, like lightning, ran also through Éowyn's slender frame. Emboldened, I sucked ever so lightly on her lips, and our tongues met again, caressing most sweetly. At last I broke away, reluctantly, to breathe. I saw then, over Eowyn's shoulder, that her attendants were still occupied on the far side of the hill.

Éowyn looked shocked, her breast rising and falling rapidly with quickened breaths. Her eyes were downcast. Had I frightened her? We had kissed but thrice before, in a gentle press of my lips to hers. Mayhap I should have waited to do more. Maidens are delicate, strange creatures. I kissed her hand chastely, and asked "Is all well?"

As she raised bright grey eyes to me, Éowyn's face turned a most amazing shade of pink, like the dawn sky lit by the first rays of the rising sun. I cannot recall ever seeing a fairer sight in all my life. I wanted to take her in my arms and kiss her senseless. With some difficulty I controlled myself, fearing to alarm her further.

But she favored me with the most glorious smile; my fair Lady, white no longer, but pink and gold as the flowers of spring, and said quietly: "Do it again."

Delight, like love, is wondrous when it comes as a surprise.

AUTHOR'S NOTES: Emyn Arnen was evidently the ancestral home of the Stewards of Gondor. "The House of the Stewards was called the House of Hurin, for they were descendants of the Steward of King Minardil (1621-34), Hurin of Emyn Arnen, a man of high Númenorean race." (ROTK, Appendix A, Annals of the Kings and Rulers, the Stewards) Aragorn commanded Faramir to live in the hills of Emyn Arnen in ROTK, The Steward And The King

Mettarë is the Gondorian version of Yule, a holiday celebrating the winter solstice.