A/N: A picture is worth a thousand words, so here are ten drabbles to finish things off.
I hope you've enjoyed the anthology, and thanks for reading!
The ache of burying Théoden King-- dearer than father-- eased when Éomer betrothed his sister to the man she loved, and saw her face radiant as the sun.
He was not the only one pleased. "No niggard are you, Éomer, to give thus to Gondor the fairest thing in your realm," Aragorn said, smiling, teasing him gently.
But Éomer was not looking at Éowyn; his eye had been caught by a black-haired woman whom he had somehow never noticed before. "Mmm," he said, without looking away. "Perhaps we could trade."
Aragorn turned, and followed his gaze, and started to laugh.
Only the flailing woman's head and one hand were visible over the torrent as she held on for dear life to a slender rope, surfacing and then disappearing again. After a second of startled immobility, Éomer nudged Firefoot forward and plunged into the water.
She must not have heard them coming, for her resistance nearly unhorsed him; only by an undignified scramble did he get her up in front of him. She coughed and half-turned, and he noticed wide, grey eyes framed by long black lashes; then she scowled and demanded, "Why did you do that? I nearly had it!"
Lothíriel stepped into the stable, listened, and followed faint splashing sounds to a man partially immersed in a rain barrel. "Hello," she said doubtfully. "Do you know where I can find Éomer King?" King Elessar's prized mare had suddenly gone into heat, and the Rohír's stallion was breaking down the fence to get to her.
She was showered with stray droplets as he straightened, and she blinked. His bare chest was heavily muscled, his sodden hair was nonetheless golden, and he was as tall as her father. He wiped his face on a piece of sacking. "What do you want?"
Pounding hoofbeats alerted every man in the clearing and hands went to sword hilts. It was only one horse, Éomer realized, and exchanged a glance with Éothain; was something wrong in the city?
The first shock was that the rider was a woman; the second was that she was bent almost double over the horse's mane, barely keeping her seat, as blood ran down from a long, deep gash across her chest. As the out-of-control horse careened by he grabbed for the reins, and nearly fell before Éothain caught the bridle.
"Bear," the woman gasped, and collapsed into Éomer's arms.
Lothíriel closed the door behind her with relief. She was glad to be quit of the taxing feast; the newly-arrived Rohírrim had not appeared, and consequently it had been a disappointment.
She looked up. Shock paralyzed her body, forcing her eyes wide and her mouth open; then she found her breath with a startled gasp. "What are you doing in my rooms?" she demanded furiously, heart pounding.
The strange golden-haired man sprawled on her bed woke, blinked, saw her, sat bolt upright and stared at her blankly. "This is my room," he said irritably. "Who in Bema's name are you?"
He saw her first as a dark head next to a golden one. He'd come to the gardens to seek out his sister, but he stood for a moment and looked at the picture the two women made. They sat on a bench framed by trees in white blossom, and the blooms had drifted down and rested on their shoulders like delicate snow. They were bent over a book, and the gentle breeze stirred their skirts.
Then he heard Éowyn's laughter, a sound rare for too long, and felt a swell of gratitude towards the unknown woman, whoever she was.
The boy dashed heedlessly out into the street. Lothíriel wasted no time with cries but ran after him, pushing him out of the way just as the careening cart reached them. Then she was bowled over and her head struck something hard, and everything went dark.
She opened her eyes to see a golden head swimming in her vision. The mouth was moving, but the words were barely audible above the ringing in her ears. Closing her eyes against the dizziness, she finally caught an understandable inquiry. "Can you speak?" a man demanded.
"Is the boy all right?" she whispered.
"Look, it's Éomer King!" her cousin exclaimed. Though the streets were filled with people cheering the Rohirrim, who had returned for the body of Théoden King, from her father's balcony they could see everything.
Lothíriel frowned. The Lady Éowyn rode in front, but alone. "Where?"
Anaríel pointed to a tall man with flowing golden hair. "Isn't he lovely?"
"Mmm." Lothíriel had to agree that her cousin's infatuation made a lot more sense now. "He's not bad-looking." As Anaríel turned to stare at her in disbelief, her brows furrowed. "Who's the woman beside him?"
"Lady Aelgifu," Anaríel sighed wistfully. "His betrothed."
Lothíriel laid her flowers on the grave and stifled a sigh. So many good men had fallen on the Pelennor Fields. Too many. "Your children have grown tall," she whispered. "The babe your wife carried when you went away looks just like you." Her throat closed.
A noise made her look up and she saw one of the Rohír standing at the entrance to the memorial. Her cheeks warmed. "The captain of my father's guard," she explained. "He was... very kind to me when I was a child."
The man nodded. "My uncle's standard-bearer lies beside him," he said softly.
"I am not in love with Lady Everild!" Éomer exclaimed with exasperation. He looked around, but the redhead was thankfully nowhere in sight among the crowds. Still, he lowered his voice. "I am not, Éowyn." But she merely raised a single, infuriating eyebrow; Faramir raised his hands in a gesture of neutrality, knowing better than to get involved. The third spectator watched curiously.
Afterwards, Éomer always maintained that desperate measures had been called for and Éowyn's expression had driven him to it. "See?" he said, and grabbed the black-haired woman next to him and kissed her firmly on the lips.