A/N: Okay, it's official! I got curious and finally went back to actually count how many E/L scenarios I have written (oneshot or longer). The final tally is 14, plus one E/other character. Possibly you could make an argument that "Alone" and "Flying Free" came from the same basics, but the stories are slightly different so I'm counting them separately. So I've found 15 ways to get Eomer hitched to Lothiriel or someone else! And now you know! You can sleep easier tonight.

Tutelage

Chapter 7

Lothiriel wasn't sure how she managed to get through the meal. She had a heightened awareness of the man sitting across from her, and though her father did not seem to notice, she very much suspected that Erchirion had. More than once his eyes had flicked between the two of them, a grin quirking at the corners of his mouth, though he suppressed it admirably. She desperately hoped he would not make some remark that would embarrass her or Eomer. If he wished to tease in private, and point out what a good match it was, she could endure that, but she would be mortified if he said anything to or in front of Eomer about her.

She didn't quite know what to make of the fact that Eomer seemed perfectly at ease. She could discern no indication that he had been rattled by their earlier encounter, as she was, or that he might be eager to take up where he left off. Did that mean that she had read more into it than was there? Or was he just very calm under such circumstances and did not allow his nerves to show? What was he thinking? She would go mad wondering about all of this!

None too soon, the meal ended, but Eomer excused himself and departed directly afterwards, saying he was expected by Elessar. Rather than risk having to listen to Erchirion, Lothiriel retreated to her room, where she could stew in solitude over the recent events. As she paced the room, she unconsciously put her hand in the pocket of her dress, and only then did she realize she had not returned the handkerchief to Eomer. Pulling it out, she examined it more closely.

It seemed an odd article for Eomer to be carrying. He did not strike her as the sort of man to use such a thing, but then, he was a king now, and perhaps had to behave a bit more respectably in public. Even so, she giggled at the image of him actually making use of it. No, that was definitely not how she pictured him in her mind! Carefully folding it, she tucked it back into her pocket, enjoying having that piece of him close to her.

As she realized her thought on the matter, she gave a snort. What a fool she was! This was preposterous! It could never work between them. He would never be attracted to someone like her, and she would be most unsuitable as a queen, and…and…for the first time ever she wished she had paid more attention to the lessons they had been trying to teach her all of her life. What was it Amrothos had said? "If you know nothing about that sort of thing, it is not for lack of Father trying to see you are taught it. If you would just get your nose out of books once in awhile, you might learn the proper skills a lady of your standing needs to have. The daughter of Dol Amroth's prince would, should, be eminently suitable to be a queen. More than any other lady of high rank!"

Only now did she see how correct he was. She should be everything a king would want in his queen, but she had carefully avoided learning such things in favor of reading of other people and other places. Now that she might actually like to be a queen, though the prospect was still daunting, she hadn't a clue how it was done. Queen Arwen made everything seem easy, but she was close to three thousand years of age, and an Elf as well. Lothiriel was not yet twenty-one years, and all too human. What could she offer a king? What could she offer a man?

She plunked down in the window seat, overcome with despair at her gloomy assessment of her prospects, and having quite convinced herself that Eomer would never want her. She spent the next few hours, staring out the window and berating herself for all that she lacked and all that she was not. She had never been one for weeping, but now she wept with regret for all the time she had wasted in her life.

A knock at her door drew her from her misery-laden reverie, and she reluctantly dried her eyes, blew her nose, and went to answer it. It was Erchirion, and he eyed her much too keenly. Trying to appear nonchalant, she turned away from him and pretended to be straightening her dresser as she asked, "What did you need, brother?"

He came in and stood beside her, watching her hands fuss over the articles on the dresser, without actually doing anything useful with them. At length, he reached out and captured her hands with one of his. When she glanced up into the mirror, meeting his gaze, he inquired quietly, "What troubles you, dearest? I have rarely seen you so agitated."

She was on the verge of weeping once more, and very much did not want to do that in front of him. Trying to appear calm and unruffled, she assured him, "I am well. I am just eager for the wedding."

"And you are a terrible liar!" he chastized. "Do not think me a fool, Lothiriel. Something is wrong. Will you not tell me? Perhaps I can help."

His kindness undid her, and she flung herself into his embrace. "No, no there is nothing you may do! It is hopeless!"

He held her in silence, his brow furrowed. She had not been upset at dinner, so he could not think Eomer had done anything to cause this. Still, he knew his sister, and her imagination was quite lively. Possibly she had worked herself into this state without due cause. If that was so, then he would just have to steer her back on course. Eomer had already as much as admitted he cared for Lothiriel, and during the course of the winter, Erchirion had become convinced that she felt similarly toward him, though she had never owned to it. But how to bring them together? Eomer would resist matchmaking attempts, he felt certain, and Lothiriel was too inexperienced to know how to act on her own. Somehow, someway, he would have to bring them together, alone, long enough for them to reveal their feelings to one another.

Pressing a kiss to her brow as her tears subsided, he said softly, "Do not weep, dearest. I am sure you take a gloomy view of things. This should be a joyous time, for everyone. Now, do dry your eyes and let me see you smile. Come, we will go for a ride on the Pelennor. How does that sound?"

She didn't tell him that horses now always made her think of Eomer, but getting some fresh air and exercise did sound appealing, so she nodded.

"Good. Get changed and meet me downstairs." He whistled a lively tune as he departed, not bothering to mention to her that he had passed Eomer on his way back to the house a short while ago, and been informed that the king was headed down to the Rohirrim camp to speak with his captain. If they happened upon the man while they were out riding, it wasn't particularly by design, though Erchirion was going to make every effort to cause such a convenient 'accident'!

Not until they were exiting the City, and Erchirion struck out on the road north, did Lothiriel become conscious that their course would take them past the Rohirrim encampment. Her stomach lurched briefly, until she reminded herself that likely Eomer was in meetings with King Elessar and nowhere on the Pelennor. She wasn't sure whether that realization relieved or dismayed her. Either way, she was not entirely at ease the nearer they drew to it, especially when her brother suggested stopping for a visit to see if anyone they knew was present.

Not unexpectedly, they located Eothain, the captain of the king's guard, and with him was the king himself, as Erchirion had been anticipating and Lothiriel had been dreading. If Eomer was surprised to see them, it did not show and he greeted them cordially, inquiring as to what led them there. Lothiriel listened in silence as Erchirion explained they were merely out for a little fresh air, and decided to stop since they were in the vicinity.

"Well, then, since you are here, perhaps I might have a word with you in private, Erchirion," Eomer said, more a command than a request.

"Certainly!" Erchirion replied, jumping down from his horse and passing the reins over to Eothain. "Please excuse us for a moment," he added, speaking in the general direction of his sister as he followed the king a short distance away.

Once they were out of sight behind a tent, Eomer wheeled on the Dol Amrothian and slanted a glare at him, growling, "I thought I told you to let this be!"

"Aye, you did!" Erchirion admitted cheerfully.

"Then you do not have a problem with your hearing?" Eomer inquired, with feigned curiosity.

"No, no. My hearing is fine. It is the ability to follow instructions that sometimes gives me difficulty." He cocked an eyebrow at Eomer and said more pointedly, "Particularly when I am dealing with extremely stubborn friends. You are not attached, Eomer, and I have seen ample evidence to suggest that my sister would consider you. I have given you an opening. Will you not take it?"

Eomer was silent for several minutes, and then finally told him, "Be gone with you!"

Erchirion grinned in response. "I intended to do so. Shall my sister be able to find her way back to the City without me, do you think?"

Eomer swung a leisurely backhand at him, that was easy to sidestep, and laughing, Erchirion moved away. "All right! I am going!"

When they returned to where Eothain and Lothiriel waited, Erchirion took his horse's reins and asked his sister, "Will you be all right for a little while if I go with Eothain? I have something of importance I wish to discuss with him."

Her brow furrowed at the sudden departure, but before she could respond, Eomer spoke. "I would be happy to keep your sister company for a time, if she has no objections."

Lothiriel's stomach lurched again at these unexpected developments, but certainly she could not complain about time in Eomer's presence, though she doubted it would do much to improve his opinion of her. "No," she murmured, with embarrassment, "I do not mind."

Erchirion wasted no time in moving off, taking Eothain with him, and Lothiriel sat awkwardly, wondering what she should do now. A moment later, Eomer had moved to her side, gazing up at her with a smile. "Shall you dismount? I believe I can find some sort of refreshment for us."

She nodded, unable to squeak out a response, and began to disentangle her skirts from the sidesaddle, but abruptly Eomer reached up, caught her by the waist and easily lifted her down in one quick motion. She gave a small gasp of astonishment, which stuck in her throat as she landed on her feet, trapped between him and the mare. His nearness was unnerving, and she found it difficult to breathe. She couldn't be certain, but it almost seemed as though he was aware of her reaction, and was enjoying it. Evil man!

At length, he casually stepped back and offered her his arm, and she hesitantly took it as an esquire moved forward to take charge of her horse. Eomer guided her to a nearby tent. Inside, there was a table and single chair, but another servant appeared with a barrel that he placed at the table also. Once Eomer saw her seated in the chair, he plunked down on the barrel and spoke to the man in Rohirric. The servant nodded and disappeared, returning moments later with a bottle of wine and a couple of mismatched mugs that he set upon the table, before leaving once more.

The king eyed the mugs and then grinned at her. "My apologies for the lack of grandeur! But the wine will taste just as well no matter the vessel we drink it from." He reached for the bottle and worked the stopper out, then poured some of the liquid for each of them. Slowly, Lothiriel took the mug he offered to her, but before she could take a swallow, he lifted his slightly in her direction, saying, "To my lovely visitor."

She blushed, murmured a soft 'thank you' and hastily took a drink. Eomer drank also, and then sat staring down into the mug, lost in thought. At length, he rose and paced around the small enclosure, seeming to search for words. His apparent agitation put her on edge as well and she sat stiffly, waiting to hear what he had to say.

"My lady…Lothiriel," he began, then paused to judge her reaction to his informality. She gave no indication of disapproval, merely eyeing him curiously, so he continued, "I…I fear you may have misunderstood my intention during your visit to Rohan. I was not mocking your fondness for reading, but merely teasing you about it. Forgive me. It is the sort of thing I would do with Eowyn, and I meant no offense by it."

Her brow knit at this unexpected apology, and she couldn't think how to respond to it. Still, he seemed to have more he wished to say as he continued to struggle for words. "Your brother –"

"Eomer? Are you there?" They both blinked and turned toward the unexpected interruption. It was Eowyn, calling from the tent flap, and he went to admit her.

"Oh, Lady Lothiriel. I did not realize you were here also," Eowyn acknowledged upon sighting her. "Am I intruding?" She eyed her brother with a raised eyebrow.

Again hiding his thoughts behind that impassive mask, he shook his head. "Not at all. Erchirion and Lothiriel were out for a ride, and stopped to visit. He has gone off somewhere with Eothain, so I offered her refreshment."

Something in Eowyn's eyes said she did not entirely believe this explanation, but she refrained from questioning him further. Instead, she told them, "Faramir and I were doing the same, as it is such a lovely day. Shall you ride with us?"

It wasn't what Eomer had in mind to do, but declining might raise Eowyn's suspicions further. A glance at Lothiriel made him think she was not overly eager, either, but it could not be helped. Their conversation must wait until another time. He smiled inwardly – Erchirion would just have to find him a new opportunity! If the man was determined to play matchmaker, then Eomer would let him put in all the effort, and save him the trouble!

Lothiriel set down her mug and rose, accepting Eomer's offered arm to escort her outside. Faramir was waiting with the horses, and did not appear particularly surprised at seeing his cousin coming toward him. An esquire was already bringing Lothiriel's horse, and Eomer gave him instructions to fetch Firefoot as well. While they waited, Eowyn explained Lothiriel's presence to her betrothed, and then they decided to ride toward the Harlond when all were mounted. Eomer had assisted Lothiriel onto her horse, and for a brief instant, their eyes met. She wasn't sure why, precisely, but she very much suspected this was not his preference. What had he been about to tell her before Eowyn arrived? She hoped he would have the chance to say it later.

Despite not being alone with Eomer, Lothiriel considered it a pleasant outing, and too soon they were returning to the City to ready themselves for supper. Uncharacteristically, Lothiriel took more note of what she wore, as the two families of the wedding couple were to dine together in the Steward's house. Caladael pulled forth a green silken dress from her wardrobe and laid it on the bed, efficiently setting out accessories to go with it. She had not bothered to ask Lothiriel her opinion, as the lady never desired to offer one, but in truth, Lothiriel thought the woman had excellent taste. The gown was beautiful, and was very appropriate to honor the Rohirrim, as well as being apt for spring.

She allowed her hand to run lightly over the material, involuntarily wondering what Eomer would think of it. At the thought, she inhaled slightly – she was doing it again. This must stop! She could not spend all this time mooning over him like some silly child. If she truly had feelings for him, then she must behave in a manner befitting the daughter of a prince – in a way that would make him consider her as his queen. Part of her was saddened by that notion. She was not opposed to improving herself, but why did it feel so…weak, to give in to pressure to be other than she was. Could he not appreciate her good qualities now rather than wanting her to change? Clearly the answer was no, for he, along with her entire family, had actively sought to make her see reason, and change to suit their view of how she should conduct herself. Suddenly, her cheerful mood at the prospect of the evening was dampened, and she lethargically allowed Caladael to see her attired.

Erchirion arrived to escort her this time, and his eyes narrowed at her subdued demeanor. It had been most annoying to discover that Eowyn and his cousin had turned up, interfering with his efforts to bring Eomer and Lothiriel together. Well, he did not intend to be thwarted. He would see it done! He was utterly convinced they had formed an attachment for one another, and he would help them see and admit to it if it was the last thing he did. They both deserved such happiness, and he could not think of anyone who would disapprove of the alliance – well, other than perhaps the noblewomen of Gondor! Likely they would not appreciate having Eomer become unavailable as a marital prospect!

The meal was relaxed, with much laughter and conversation, though Lothiriel remained rather quiet. Erchirion was not the only one to notice; Eomer had readily noted her lackluster manner, so once the meal ended and they adjourned to the library for further socializing, he took the opportunity to slip close to her. Coming to stand beside her, where she stood gazing off the balcony, he quietly asked, "You seem out of spirits, my lady. Did the outing overtax you?"

She noted that he had gone back to a formal address; she had rather liked it when he had earlier called her by name. All of a sudden, she decided to be honest with him, trying not to consider what the ramifications might be from doing so.

"I am. I have noticed lately that everyone seems determined to change me to something they deem more suitable. Apparently, they do not consider me sufficient as I am!" She defiantly lifted her chin, but she couldn't quite meet his eyes, afraid of what she might see there.

It made her uncomfortable when he did not immediately respond, but at length he answered quietly, "If I have had part in that, then you have my apologies. I have always found you quite acceptable, just as you are. My only concern has ever been that you lose yourself in reading rather than in living. Reading has its place but, as I said before, it is not the substance of life. And I would not have you miss out on all the possibilities it holds for you."

His words stunned her, and took her breath away. Could it be true? Did he truly think her satisfactory as she already was? Emotion welled in her at the prospect, and a tear slipped out against her will. Before she could reach to wipe it away, his hand came up and did it for her. His voice was warm and husky as he enjoined her, "Do not change merely for change's sake, Lothiriel. If you alter who you are, do it because you wish it. I see nothing wanting in you; indeed, I find you quite desirable."

She gasped and looked up into his face, seeking confirmation that he spoke the truth, but there was no dissemblement there. Her breathing became quite shallow, and she wasn't sure how to react. In the next moment, however, he leaned and brushed a kiss over her lips. "Yes, very desirable," he murmured, causing a radiant smile to break forth on her face.

A noise just then reminded them that they were not alone, though strangely no one seemed to be making any effort to draw them back into the library and the conversation there. From where they were standing, they could not see that Erchirion had stationed himself in such a way as to be able to redirect any who attempted approaching them.

Drawing their attention back to each other, Lothiriel turned her face up to Eomer once more, and this time he drew her close into his embrace, offering a more acceptable kiss, tender and lingering. She reveled in the sensations it sent shooting through her, and her arms crept up around his neck. When at last they broke the contact, they remained wrapped in each other's arms.

Neither spoke until an idle notion drifted through Lothiriel's thoughts. "There are few books in Rohan," she remarked.

"I shall travel far and wide to purchase all the books you desire!" he vowed, sealing the promise with another kiss.

As they parted once more, she smiled up at him. "I am not sure that is wise! Likely I will not have much time for reading. I will be too busy writing my own story…with you!"

THE END

2/16/08 – 4/24/08

Caladael – "pool of light"

Edre – "stream"

Durraen – "dark wanderer"

Theodhild – "people's battle"

Tortleoth – "bright song"