A Dream Come True.

Cormallen – April 25th 3019

The smell hit him first: that mixture of unwashed body, sex and cheap perfume. She materialised out of the darkness behind him, but the warning gave him chance to catch her wrist before she could wind her arm around his neck. He held on as she struggled to slip her hand into the open neck of his shirt, tight bracelets cutting into his fingers.

"No! Thank you, but no."

"But, my lord, think what pleasure I can give you." The words purred out, but the girl gave up trying to investigate his chest and instead moved her other hand from his shoulder to run it under his hair and up the back of his head, massaging her fingers into his scalp.

Éomer dropped her wrist and stood up; the sudden movement causing the girl to lose her footing, but with quick reaction he reached out and steadied her. Already the ribald remarks had started from the men around him. Ignoring them, he studied her for a moment: black hair, kohl rimmed eyes; white powdered skin; red lips. But probably barely sixteen.

"Send her over here, my lord, if you're not up to it." The words came from the group around the fire somewhere to his right.

Éomer turned the girl in a half circle and clasped her behind, gently pushing her in the direction of the call. "Go on, you will find trade elsewhere." She went a few steps and stopped, looking back over her shoulder. Her red lips formed a pout and her eyes beckoned one more time. He shook his head. The girl shrugged, dismissing him. Éomer watched for a moment as one of his riders stood up, took her hand and led her out from the fire into the shadows.

"Give me a drink, Éothain." Éomer said as he sat back down.

Grinning, Éothain picked up Eomer's mug from the ground and passed it to the man in charge of the barrel. "Not in the mood, eh?" he asked, a smirk on his face.

Éomer glanced over to the spot where rider and harlot had disappeared, "Not for that, I'm not."

"I don't remember you being so fussy when we first got here." Éothain chuckled, and reached over to retrieve his friend's brimming mug from the keeper of the barrel.

"When we first got here, Éothain, the lust of battle was on us all. And the ladies of pleasure looked fresh and new."

"Fresh and new!" Éothain exclaimed, drawing some attention from those around them. "You were kidding yourself if you thought that."

"Alright, you could pretend to yourself they were fresh." Éomer took the mug and went to put it to his lips, before pausing and letting a slow smile cross his face. "Now they stink," he said, downing a draught.

"Well, give the word and we will get one washed up for you. You might as well get some benefit from your new rank."

Éomer stared hard at his Captain, trying to contain his amusement. "You'll wash one, for me?"

"As I said, say the word and I'll round a few up. You can choose the one you fancy and the men will take her down to the river. Get her scrubbed up — a few more mugs of this fine brew," Éothain raised his mug to his nose, sniffed and pulled a face, " and she will seem like a coy virgin."

"Éothain, I am touched. It gladdens me to think that you take my welfare so much to heart. But …" he grinned. "I am not sure a virgin will do for what I have in mind. So I think I will wait until we get back to Minas Tirith."

Éothain raised a brow, "All you will get there is a higher class of whore. More expensive, but no more skilled."

"But clean."

"Clean maybe," Éothain agreed, "but can you wait that long?"

Éomer looked deep into his mug. "I can certainly wait if I drink any more of this stuff. What's in it?"

Éothain glanced to the barrel, which was now being tipped up to drain the last dregs. "Don't ask. The Eastemnet men will drink anything. It comes from living on the plains all year. They traded for this with some rough looking characters who were manning one of the ships." His face brightened, "Do you want a refill? They are just about to tap another one."

Éomer emptied the remaining contents of his mug down his throat and held it out: getting drunk was a sure-fire way of keeping any annoying bodily needs at bay. Idly he let his mind wander to their imminent return to Minas Tirith. Maybe there would be more on offer there than painted whores. Evidently the city was almost full: the women had returned and besides that, the forthcoming crowning had drawn musicians, players and dancers from the furthest realms of Gondor. According to the captain of Aragorn's new guard, the returning heroes would be able to take their pick of the unattached beauties that would be attracted to the new court. Wasps to a honey pot as he had put it. Éomer took another large gulp from his mug – he could wait.

Two hours later, his head spinning and his voice starting to become hoarse from drink and singing, Éomer stood up. Right now he might just be able to make it back to his tent unaided, stay any longer and they would have to carry him. It registered somewhere in his befuddled brain that he retained enough sense to work that one out. Good, it would not do to be completely inebriated; he wasn't a Third Marshal any more, he was a king. Kings needed control over themselves. "I am going back, Éothain," he said, kicking his friend's foot.

Éothain, who was leaning against a tree stump with his legs stretched out in front of him, opened one eye. "The barrel's not empty."

"I know, but I want to go for a walk. My head feels like it's been in contact with Gimli's axe and I think I am supposed to be having a conference with Aragorn in the morning."

"Will you be alright alone or do you want me to come?"

Personally Éomer didn't think his captain looked to be able to stand on his own two feet, let alone protect him in any way. "I reckon I can make it safely through our own lines. Just make sure you are fit enough to escort me tomorrow. We need to get the guard out; I am not having those Gondorians thinking we are savages."

"Have you ever known me to have so bad a hangover that I couldn't fulfil my obligations?"

Éomer twisted his mouth into a grin. "That time Théodred took us to the tavern and you finished off a barrel of cider that no one else would touch. You fell off your horse and lay in a puddle begging to die."

"I was eighteen," Éothain retorted. "And the cider was bad."

"Obviously," Éomer replied. He burped loudly and rubbed his stomach. "Béma knows what was in that stuff."

"Mûmak piss probably. It came from one of the Corsair ships. I didn't tell you before."

Éomer groaned, rubbed his stomach again and looked around for the best way to retreat so as not to cause any fuss. He needn't have worried – most were in a worse state than Éothain. "Who did we leave on duty?"

Éothain closed his eyes again, his brow furrowing with the effort of thought. "Halstrad," he said at last.

"That's alright then, he's a safe pair of hands." Éothain nodded and Éomer turned to leave, throwing a parting shot over his shoulder, "Make sure you are back on duty by morning."

Stepping over a few prone bodies he left the circle and slipped between two of the storage tents, heading towards the river and his own part of the encampment. Halfway there he changed his mind: a real walk would do him good and if he went back now he'd probably have to listen to a recount of the various misdemeanours that were bound to have been perpetrated during the evening. He managed to locate the track that passed through the lines of the Westfold men and led directly to the river, which showed he still retained some sense. All around him he could hear the sounds of ribald laugher and merrymaking. More sore heads in the morning. They had been here long enough. Home beckoned. But first he had to see Aragorn crowned and perhaps enjoy a few days of well-earned recreation in the city before the long trek northwest.

His thoughts were interrupted by a high-pitched giggle coming from under the covering of nearby cart. Some grunting followed, and then the cart began to move in an unmistakable rhythm. Béma, he couldn't get away from it. That made him lurch on towards the river.

The moon appeared from behind a cloud and a slight breeze blowing up the Anduin ruffled the water into little silver tipped wavelets. Éomer took a deep breath, the air was fresher here and he needed to clear his head. The bank of the river had been kept free of tents and only the guards patrolled. Tempting to see if he could get past his own men, but after he stumbled drunkenly over a tree root, some remaining wisdom prevailed and he made himself known before starting to follow the river downstream.

Deep in thought, only when a challenge rang out did he realise that he had left his own lines and entered the area controlled by Dol Amroth. Drawing himself to his full height Éomer tried to give the impression that everything remained normal inside his head. Luckily Théodred had ensured that he had received a good basic education.

The man came forward suspiciously but the ploy must have worked, or maybe it was because the guard did not know him well that he seemed to see nothing amiss. "Oh, it's you, my lord. I recognise you now. Do you want the Prince?"

Éomer shook his head, "Just walking off too much ale. Shall I turn back?"

"I have orders not to let anyone but our own through tonight, my lord. But I am sure that does not apply to you."

"I'll walk a bit farther, but it sounds as if a celebration is going on so I will keep to the river bank." Strains of some unusual music wafted over from the centre of the circle of tents and every now and then he heard sounds of laughter and the odd cheer.

"Yes," the guard grimaced, "and I am stuck here."

Éomer laughed and staggered on, keeping well away from the backs of the nearest tents. He didn't want to interfere with whatever festivity Imrahil had arranged for his people. A little way further and he came to a place obviously used to store supplies: packing crates were piled up and covered with tarpaulins. Intending to turn around and retrace his steps he caught sight of movement behind a pile of wooden boxes – someone was probably searching for provisions. But whoever it was made barely a sound. Intrigued, and wondering if he might be about to startle a thief, Éomer crept to where he could look through a gap in the wall of crates and nearly called out in surprise. He could see a woman moving a few bags of goods to clear a space in the middle of the storage area. Almost immediately Éomer felt his groin tighten. He stared mouth open – or perhaps that should be tongue hanging out, he acknowledged, as he unashamedly studied her.

She wore some totally unfamiliar clothing, which in the bright moonlight looked like being made of layers of an almost transparent material. The colour he couldn't discern, but the top had no sleeves and numerous silvery bangles adorned her slim arms. Running his eyes down her body he realised that what he thought to be a skirt was actually a strange pair of trousers, loose, but gathered tightly around her ankles. Her feet were bare. She stood still in the middle of the rough circle she had made for herself and appeared to be waiting for something. It wasn't until she stretched her arms over her head and looked up at the stars that he realised it was the music. She had been waiting for the music to start again. Dancing, she'd come out here to dance.

As she stretched, the thin fabric pulled tight across her breasts showing them off to perfection, nipples standing proud in the cool night air. Her lithe body started to writhe in time to the strange rhythm, and every half a dozen beats a foot would stamp on the sandy ground. It was only then Éomer realised she had a bangle around each ankle. Mesmerised, he watched long wavy tresses of black hair swing across her back, as with lips parted by some inner rapture, she weaved her head from side to side.

Enough was enough, principles were all very well, but he'd not had sufficient drink to dull his appetite for such a beauty. Whore or not, he was going to have her. He had no idea why a harlot would be dancing on her own at the back of Imrahil's camp, and he didn't really care. Éomer pushed through the gap in the crates. She abruptly ceased her dance, startled by the noise he made. Her eyes widened as he took a few strides towards her and she tried to run. Too late! Éomer snaked out a long arm.

"Not so fast, my pretty. I think you and I can do business." Oh…, she smelt good; he buried a hand in her thick hair, the sweet perfume such a contrast to the heady stuff they normally used. His other hand found her breast, and he squeezed gently, feeling not only a hard nipple under his palm but a wildly racing heartbeat.

"No! You have made a mistake. I am not a …."

Taking no notice of her protestations, Éomer ruthlessly brought his mouth down on hers. She struggled for a moment and then went limp, offering no resistance but no cooperation either. Suddenly realising something was not quite right, he released his hold slightly. Her knee came up and slammed into his groin. Agh…! Éomer doubled up, poleaxed.

"You drunken oaf, you stink! How dare you touch me! Just be grateful I haven't called the guard." She gave a last kick to his leg, whirled away and was gone.

Éomer bent over, retching into the dust. Having got rid of a good quantity of ale he could think again – he must have missed something, something important. Whores did not generally turn away trade, or knee one in the groin. He groaned, whether from pain or chagrin he couldn't decide. It seemed likely she wasn't a harlot but surely no lady dressed like that, so who was she?

Luckily the Dol Amroth guard's attention was taken up by a group of Aragorn's men who wanted to take a shortcut back to their own camp, so he just nodded as Éomer limped past. His own sentry said nothing when Éomer glowered at him, but when he arrived back at his quarters Halstrad showed no such reticence, following him into his tent.

"Did you get into a fight?"

"No I didn't. I slipped and fell on something hard." That was as near the truth as to make no odds.

"You'll want cold water for that," his commander remarked after Éomer had unhooked his undergarments and let them fall to the floor.

"Yes, I think you are right. But I'm not going in the river tonight." Éomer sat carefully down on the edge of his cot. "Send for a couple of buckets, would you?"

Halstrad poked his head out of the tent and yelled. A few minutes later two buckets arrived and he put them on the floor at Éomer's feet. "Are you going to ladle the water over, or dangle them in it?"

Éomer topped up one bucket from the other. "Both! Dangle them in it and then pour the water over my head. If you see me anywhere near a barrel for the next six months you have my permission to knock me out. It will be less painful." Éomer inched his way off the edge of the cot and held the brimming bucket beneath himself, sharply drawing in breath as hot throbbing flesh hit cold river water. "Is Éothain back yet?" he asked when the power of speech returned.

"No, but there are still a few hours left before dawn."

"You'd better send someone to get him. I want him sober in the morning."

Halstrad nodded and bellowed an order out the half open flap. Éomer winced, feeling sorry for anyone who wanted to sleep. "Is there anything I need to know?"

"No, it's been quiet… Oh, Prince Imrahil came looking for you earlier this evening. I told him you'd been invited to join the Eastemnet men as they had procured a few barrels. That seemed to amuse him."

Éomer shrugged, not quite knowing why it should amuse the Prince. "What did he want?"

"I think he wanted you to spend the evening with him. But anyway, he's invited you to share his board after your conference tomorrow. He said he's had a large cargo of food arrive from Dol Amroth. Fruit from his hothouses or something, and fish."

Éomer screwed up his nose: he could take fish as long as it was not fish with legs. "Anything else?"

"Oh yes." Halstrad grinned openly. "He had his daughter with him."

"Daughter? I didn't know his daughter had arrived."

"She came with the fruit and the fish, by all accounts."

Éomer shifted himself in the bucket. The water no longer felt cold. Something hammered at his beleaguered brain …Imrahil's daughter! …. Oh, Morgoth's balls! "Halstrad," he said very slowly and very distinctly, "What does his daughter look like?"

"Look like?" Halstrad thought for a moment. "Well, she's not bad looking if you like those prim sort of women. You know, hair all scraped back from her face and tightly braided. She might have a good figure, but it's difficult to tell the way they lace their breasts down."

"What colour were her eyes?"

"Eyes?"

Halstrad looked at him a bit strangely but he didn't care. "Yes, eyes." Éomer held his breath; not quite off the hook yet.

"Nothing special, grey like her father's and brother's."

Éomer expelled thankfully. The description of prim with braided hair and squashed breasts did not fit the alluring silver-eyed beauty he'd so painfully encountered. So who was the mystery dancer?

"She had a nice smile," Halstrad added as an afterthought.

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"Aren't you up yet? The sun's touching the first ridge."

Éomer groaned. He'd lain awake for ages not being able to get comfortable and now, in the middle of a wonderful dream that involved a dark haired woman dancing almost naked in front of a roaring fire, Éothain had woken him up. At least he'd worked out who the girl was during his wakeful hours – one of the professional dancers sent from Dol Amroth for the coronation celebrations. She must have arrived on the same ship as Imrahil's daughter, which accounted for why he had not seen her before. He'd just have to apologise – make that grovel – if he bumped into her again. After all, the girl had a perfect right to practice her routine without some drunken oaf assaulting her. Damn fool that he was – if he had approached her properly he might have persuaded her to… Éomer sighed, no chance now. He just had to be thankful she hadn't called the guard. Relieved, and realising his loutish behaviour could have led him into a lot worse trouble, he cautiously levered himself off the bed.

"I think you would have been better off staying with me. All I've got is a thumping head and a griping stomach." Éothain stared at the purple-hued, still throbbing group of appendages that hung between his king's legs. "What happened?"

"Nothing happened." Éomer replied.

Éothain whistled through his teeth. "In that case I wouldn't like to see them if something had happened."

Éomer pulled on a shirt and a pair of loose breeches and headed out the door.

"Where are you going," Éothain asked.

"To the river."

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Glad the conference was over, Éomer nodded agreement to Imrahil's suggestion that they go straight back to the Dol Amroth camp – where the cooks have been busy. He was not sure he could eat anything, let alone things with hard shells and spiny legs, but he could not refuse and fell in beside his friend when they left Aragorn's pavilion.

"It must have been a hard night, you look all in Was it too much drink, or something else?"

Éomer gave the prince a suspicious glance. Had he got wind of anything? Had the girl returned to her countrymen around the fire cursing all yellow-haired savages from the north? "Too much ale," he answered.

Imrahil started to chuckle. "The ale being those barrels purloined from one of the corsair ships?"

"I imagine so," Éomer agreed wondering what amused Imrahil so much.

"My lot refused to touch it; they reckon it was made from camel piss."

Éomer stopped so abruptly that his heels clicked together. So did two more delicate parts, but he managed to hide a grimace, snapping out, "What's a camel?"

Imrahil laughed louder. "A bad tempered beast with the same colour hair as you. They travel long distances with nothing to eat or drink. Not much different from the Rohirrim, really. Except they come from the far south."

In spite of himself, Éomer felt his lips twitching. Humour restored, he grinned. "I just wish you had turned up before I left last night. You would have saved me from a sore head." And a sore something else, but he could hardly tell Imrahil that.

"Yes," Imrahil still had a smile on his face. "It's a shame you couldn't join us. My daughter arrived on the supply ship, so I organised a bit of entertainment. You would have enjoyed it. And I wanted you to meet Lothíriel. She's a lovely girl, I am sure you will get on."

Éomer wasn't at all sure. Prim not being much in his line. But he hesitated to say that to a doting father.

He couldn't stop himself looking around apprehensively when they entered Imrahil's camp. But thankfully no dancers were in sight, just the usual soldiers going about their business. Reprieved for the moment, he followed Imrahil into the big striped tent the Swan Knights used as a mess hall. The long table had been covered by a white cloth and groaned with every kind of food he could imagine. In the middle, a huge pyramid structure overflowed with differing kinds of pink shellfish, their numerous legs seemed to be waving at him. His stomach heaved, and he fought down the bile that rose in his throat.

"Ah, Lothíriel," Imrahil called to a grey clad lady who was arranging some flowers at one of the side tables. "Come and meet Éomer."

She looked up, smiled, and glided towards them. Halstrad was right. Prim described her perfectly. She wore her deep black hair so tightly braided around her head that Éomer wondered if she suffered from a permanent headache. Before he could say anything, she swept down in an accomplished and elegant curtsey.

Rising, she fixed her pale-grey eyes on him, her face a mask of Gondorian courtesy, "My lord, it is a pleasure to meet you. I have heard so much about you from my father and brothers. How nice that you could join us today."

Éomer took her outstretched hand and drew it towards his lips, wondering if she would she think it nice if he threw up all over that pristine white tablecloth.

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Edoras - eighteen months later.

Éomer always thought how much steeper the steps seemed to be after a long fast ride and spared a pitying thought for his squire struggling behind him with all his gear. Looking up, he saw his wife already waiting at the top, cup in hand. Studying her as he closed the distance between them, he decided she did look a little different from when Imrahil had first introduced them, but not much. She still wore her thick hair scraped back from her face, although at least he had persuaded her to wear it twisted into one heavy braid down her back and not wrapped in a stranglehold around her head. Rohan-green had replaced the grey, but the fine wool overgown covered her from neck to ankle and from shoulder to wrist. It was just about possible to make out the shape of her hips where the embroidered girdle lay, but her breasts were hidden somewhere underneath. Acknowledging the salutes from the Doorwards, he approached his wife.

Ferthu Éomer hál!" Lothíriel said in her well-polished accent as she handed him the cup. "I did not expect to see you before tomorrow, my lord."

Éomer took the required gulp and then kissed his wife chastely on the cheek. She did not approve of an overly show of emotion. "We rode hard, the men preferred to reach home tonight."

"Come then, my lord. You must be weary. I will have hot water sent to your chamber and whilst your squire removes your armour and you cleanse yourself, I will set out your meat in the solar. You will not wish to be bothered by matters of state until tomorrow."

Éomer crushed a grin. He could already see his most persistent advisor heading across the hall towards them, a sheaf of papers in his hand. He stood no chance. If Lothíriel had decided her husband needed to relax and eat his meal in peace then that was what would happen. One real advantage of marrying a Princess of the Blood, born to a man such as Imrahil, was that she had learnt to command from an early age. Not for the first time he wondered how many of the Council regretted their eagerness to take up Imrahil's and Aragorn's suggestion that the House of Eorl and the House of Dol Amroth be joined by marriage.

Lothíriel put up her hand to stay the advance of her most tenacious opponent, and Éomer took the opportunity to call out a greeting before dodging round a pillar and slipping down the side of the hall. As he walked quickly away he heard his wife's first sortie.

"The King is only here tonight because in consideration for his men and their families, he pushed home at a hard pace. Therefore, Lord Egbert, you can hold your audience with him tomorrow, as was originally planned."

Éomer jumped the three steps to the dais, crossed the platform with a few long paces, pulled aside the heavy curtain and disappeared through, thankfully shutting the heavy door behind him.

As expected, when a short while later clean and with beard trimmed he entered the solar, his wife was busying herself arranging the gold plate and cutlery to her exacting standards. She had not come to Meduseld unaccompanied; her dowry had taken up many chests. True, he occasionally had a slight nostalgia for the days when he'd been happy eating from a wooden platter and drinking from a stone cup with his men, but not often. In general he appreciated the refinement and culture she had brought to his home and his life.

"Your meal will be here any moment, my lord." Lothíriel picked up a napkin, polishing the goblet in her hand until it gleamed in the candlelight.

"You are not eating," he asked, seeing the table set for one.

"I have already done so, my lord. But I will sit and take some wine with you if you wish."

Éomer nodded as she handed him a goblet and poured one for herself, putting it down opposite his set place. He walked over to the tall windows, pulling the curtains aside with a sweep. Lothíriel's head jerked up in question. "I wish to let the moonlight in."

She didn't answer because the servants arrived with the trays of foods and she concerned herself with making sure it was hot and of sufficient quality to grace her lord's table. Éomer went to the fire, kept burning most of the time as the draughts of Meduseld were notorious. He added another log.

"You must eat, my lord," she said as soon as the door closed and they were alone. "You are likely very hungry."

Éomer put down his goblet on a small table with elaborate care and then took two quick strides towards her, snaking out a long arm to catch her as she tried to dodge behind a chair. "Not so fast, my pretty one. You are right," he said as he pulled her to him, burying his lips into that delectate spot just below her ear. "I am very, very hungry." She smelt superb, sweet jasmine. She wore it always.

Lothíriel giggled; the wonderful deep, throaty giggle that only he ever heard. "The lion may be hungry for love, but he needs his meat or his roar will diminish."

But she mewed with pleasure and made no protest when Éomer let his lips travel from her ear along her jaw line to her chin and then up, brushing her mouth and kissing the end of her nose. He kissed each eye and then the middle of her forehead. "Turn around." The ribbon undid easily and Éomer gently pulled her braid apart. Skilfully he teased the hair with his fingers until it fell down her back in long wavy tresses, and then he pulled her round to face him. The girdle came off next, to be thrown over a nearby chair. Then after a struggle with a few laces he hitched his hands into the neck of her woollen gown, easing it off her shoulders. A sigh of satisfaction escaped him as he uncovered the pale diaphanous garment beneath the wool. The overgown puddled on the floor and Éomer lifted one slim arm pushing the thin silver bangles up to enable him to plant his lips on the inside of a sensitive wrist. His lips travelled past the bangles, brushed the inside of her elbow and skimmed a silk-clad shoulder, finally to claim her eager lips. Her body arched against his, so invitingly soft and warm through the thin material, but he refrained from doing anything other than holding her, letting his need for her wash over him in waves of delightful anticipation. "Have you any idea how much I desire you at this moment, my lady wife?" He whispered the words into one delicate ear.

Another throaty giggle rewarded him. "You always did. Right from the moment you treated me to a drunken grope. Forcing me to take appropriate measures, I might add."

Holding her so close he felt her mirth spiral upwards before the chuckle escaped her mouth. Appropriate measures! A kick from an angry mule would have given him less pain. He nuzzled against her hair. "Very ladylike, don't you think? Why didn't you just tell me who you were? It would have saved a lot of bother."

"Tell you? You could have been anyone, and were hardly in any fit state to listen. I didn't imagine for one moment that you were royalty."

Guilt still spiked him occasionally over his behaviour that night but he raised an eyebrow in pretended indignation. "What about the shock I had when Imrahil introduced me to his cherished daughter. How you kept that sanguine expression when I stared so stupidly at you, I shall never know."

"Years of practice," she chuckled, "which stands me in good stead now that I have to behave like a queen. Besides, I had no wish for my father to find out what I had been up to." She reached up, pushing back a lock of hair that had fallen across his face. One finger traced down to his chin. "Did you desire me quite so much in my decorous grey garb?"

Éomer caught the finger between his lips and nibbled gently. "Much more, imagining what might be underneath," He remembered the way he'd kept apologising as soon as they had had a moment to speak in private. And then all the circling around her he had done in the months afterwards, never daring to say what was in his heart. "I was just so scared of offending you again that it took until that time in Emyn Arnen for me to tell you so."

Lothíriel leant back, laughing up into his face, "And, Éomer son of Éomund, lady-killer of our time, you would not have done so then had I not taken the initiative and kissed you."

"Very forward for a strictly brought up young lady, I thought."

Another soft chuckle. "I don't think my father realises to this day. It took him ages to work up to telling me he intended to speak to you. And when he did, I sat there with my most demure face pretending I felt it my duty to agree to the scheme."

"I have to admit I found it amusing," Éomer agreed, remembering the look of apprehension on Imrahil's face when he'd approached him with the idea. The Prince not knowing that he and Lothíriel had already decided they wanted to marry each other. "He was on tenterhooks when I said I would have to refer the matter to the council."

She put her head to one side looking up at him, lips curved in a wicked smile. "What would you have done had they said no?"

"What? And miss out on all that dowry; I know them better than that." He waited for the inevitable reply.

"So sir, you married me for my dowry?"

"Lothíriel, you are the most aggravating, provoking, unpredictable, beautiful woman I have ever imagined meeting. I married you because I love you more than life itself. And well you know it."

"Hmm… well if you put it like that." Their lips met again and agile hands buried into his hair as he tasted her very essence.

"You must eat, my lord, or your food will get cold." Her words came breathless as they broke apart.

Éomer let his hands cradle her face, drinking in the beauty of her. Huge eyes that glittered with desire, the moonlight turning grey to silver. "My roar will never diminish as long as I have you, Lothíriel. But I will eat and you will dance for me."

The end

Thanks to Lia who read this again and again.LBJ