In the Houses of Healing, three people sat in the secluded gardens. The red-golden haired man of the South sat in a high-backed chair, eyes flickering back between the wild shield maiden from the North and her equally untamed brother, so different then the people of his city, with golden hair and deep brown eyes that spoke of green valleys and rolling hills. The aforementioned shield maiden was glaring daggers at her older brother, the recently named King of Rohan.

"If I cannot go, you cannot go, Eomer!" Eowyn finally hissed, her arms wound so tightly around her, Faramir began to doubt that she would ever be able to unwind herself. Eomer snorted.

"Eowyn, you may be a shield maiden and a warrior to boot, but you were not even supposed to ride to Pelennor. Explain to me, dear sister, why on Middle Earth you should be allowed to go to the Black Gates? Especially when you know very well your arm is still not healed." Eowyn huffed, blowing a strand of hair out of her eyes.

"My arm matters not! Eomer, please, let me ride with you. Let me see how our world is going to succeed or fail!" She looked pleadingly to Faramir, who smiled wanly. "Don't you think I should be able to go, Lord Faramir? Don't I have a right, as someone who has fought in this war, lost loved ones, and tried to save this world?" Faramir gulped, keenly aware of the dark brown eyes of the king on him. He shifted his gaze to Eowyn. So fair, skin the color and texture of smooth alabaster, it was hard to imagine this woman killing Orcs and defending herself against men twice her size. But if Faramir had learned anything from the men of Rohan, it was to never to doubt their strength. He sighed, rubbed his eyes, and answered:

"Lady Eowyn, although I have no doubts about you being a fine and admirable warrior, probably even better than myself, I agree with Eomer-King that you should remain here. The Orcs trained in Mordor are unlike the Orcs you have encountered before. They are more foul, vicious, and blood-thirsty than any other creatures I have ever seen in my years of fighting. If they were to discover you were a woman, which they can do by smell alone, and a relative of one of the Kings present, they would not hesitate to harm you in any way possible. Of this, I am certain." Eowyn seemed to go even paler at this, and Eomer shot Faramir a look that clearly said too much. Faramir suppressed a groan. What a lovely impression he was making on the man he would have to ask for Eowyn's hand.

"Faramir, are you scaring innocent ladies with tales of Orcs again? I thought Elphir told you that was no way to attract a wife!" A young woman with long raven hair came around the corner, her grey-green eyes sparkling with amusement. Faramir stood up instantly, smiling.

"And I thought I had told you that eavesdropping was no way to get a husband." The new arrival laughed softly, and hurried her way through the maze of flower pots to fling her arms around Faramir. Both royal siblings were lost; who was this woman? Eowyn looked down right angry, Eomer had to resist the urge to reach over to prevent his sister from attacking the girl. Faramir stepped back, keeping one arm around the dark haired girl.

"Eomer-King, Lady Eowyn, this is my cousin, Princess Lothiriel of Dol Amroth. Lothiriel, this is Eomer-King, King of the Mark, and his sister, Lady Eowyn." Eowyn seemed to relax instantly, letting out a breath she did not realize she had been holding in. Eomer stood and gave Lothiriel an uncomfortable bow; he was still adjusting to the protocols of kingship. Lothiriel smiled widely.

"Please, don't get up for me, Eomer-King. It appears that I have interrupted a rather interesting discussion! I beg your forgiveness for my rudeness, and shall be on my way." She turned to leave, but Eowyn shot up.

"I think you could be of assistance, Lady Lothiriel. Please, do sit." Lothiriel exchanged a glance with Faramir, who smiled softly and nodded. She sank gracefully on to the bench beside Eowyn. Eowyn smiled at the younger girl, who cocked her head to the side in curiosity.

"Lady Lothiriel, did you know that I fought in the Battle of Pelennor?" Lothiriel nodded eagerly.

"Oh yes! I am quite envious; I have always longed to go into battle with my brothers and defend my home. You have done what I cannot. I admire you greatly, Lady Eowyn, but I fear I must say that I would not have done what you did. To spar against one's brothers, friends, or countrymen is one thing, to fight a band of Orcs or Corsairs is an entirely different matter. I do not claim to be a fighter, though my brothers tell me I am quick enough to stubbornness to be one, and I fear I would fail where you succeeded." Eowyn twisted her lips; the girl's answer was in-between admiration and judgmental.

"So, you believe a woman's place is not in battle?" Eowyn asked. Lothiriel locked her gaze with the other woman, trying to size up her motive.

"I believe that no one, women included, should fight if they do not have to. But, if they should have to, they should fight with all that they are." Eowyn nodded, satisfied, and turned back to her brother.

"You see Eomer! It is not only the women of Rohan who long to fight for those whom they love! I have to fight! You cannot deny me thus!" Eomer stared back at his sister, his expression steely.

"Sister. While you may want to fight, you do not need to. The combined forces of Gondor and Rohan will be enough to distract Sauron. I would not risk your safety so soon after nearly losing you. Surely, that you can understand." Eowyn huffed, but said nothing. A silence fell between the four, and all were wary to break it. Suddenly, the patter of small feet was heard, followed by cheery shouts. In burst the hobbits Pippen and Merry, both grinning from ear to ear.

"Lady Eowyn!" Merry exclaimed, as Pippen yelled, "Lord Faramir!" Eowyn laughed merrily as Merry hugged her round the waist and Faramir smiled as Pippen pumped his hand up and down enthusiastically.

"Pippen, I am pleased to introduce my cousin, Princess Lothiriel of Dol Amroth." Lothiriel rose, smiling charmingly at the half-ling.

"I believe I have much to thank you, Master Pippen. You saved my dear cousin's life. I could not think of anyone I would be more honored to meet." Pippen flushed and received an elbow from Merry, who was still grinning.

"Oh really milady, it was nothing. I couldn't just let him die." Lothiriel knelt down in front of the hobbit, stunning their audience.

"Nonsense! It is everything to me. You will always be welcome where I am, whenever you are in need of a warm bed and fresh food." The hobbit's eyes grew wide at the last part.

"Well, I am a bit hungry…" Merry, Eomer, and Eowyn laughed.

"You'll have to excuse him, milady. He's always hungry." Merry said, earning a playful punch from Pippen. Lothiriel rose to her feet.

"Hmm, I think you and my brother Amrothos should get along just fine then." Lothiriel said. Faramir chuckled at this, earning a tender look from Eowyn. This exchanged did not go unnoticed; Eomer scowled where Lothiriel, Merry, and Pippen smiled. Lothiriel noticed Eomer's scowl and set about distracting him.

"Tell me, Eomer-King, what do you think of Minas Tirith?" Eomer swung his gaze from his sister and Faramir to the princess.

"In all honesty, it is very different than what I am used to. I do not know if I would call it beautiful. So much stone and so high up! I long for the rolling hills of Rohan, and the thatched roofs of our houses." Lothiriel watched the king as if in a trance. The way he described the White City…it was exactly as she had always thought of it.

"Too cold and hard to be called beautiful, I think. You should see Dol Amroth, milord. It has a softer quality about it, though I am prejudiced, since it is my home. And the sea! Have you ever seen the sea, Lord Eomer?" Eomer shook his head, and Lothiriel saw the questioning looks of the hobbits as well.

"The sea! Merry, Pippen, you have not seen it either?" When they both shook their heads, she frowned. "You must come to Dol Amroth then! There is nothing like the sea, and you have not lived until you have seen it with your own eyes." Her genuine enthusiasm made Eomer's lips almost twitch into a grin; he was reminded of a younger Eowyn's passion for the trees of the forest near Edoras. Eowyn. That thought brought him back to the present, where he returned his gaze to his beloved sister and the new Steward of Gondor. That man's hand was far too close to Eowyn, and she was looking at him in far too fond of a fashion for Eomer's taste. He was on the verge of speaking when Merry and Pippen, who had been carrying on a conversation with the princess, abruptly broke into song. Before they could go into the second verse, one of the healers, Arien, came bustling into the garden, glowering at the whole group.

"Lord Eomer, Lady Lothiriel, Master Took, I must ask you to leave. These patients must have their herbs and rest, neither of which are you providing. You may return on the morrow, but only if you swear not to be so loud!" Lothiriel blushed, Pippen looked rather sheepish, but Eomer drew himself up to his full height and glared back at the woman.

"Lady Arien, I am leaving on the morrow to go to the Black Gate. I believe I have earned some time to spend with my sister." Arien looked abashed, and quickly back-tracked.

"Fine. You may come back this evening, after Lady Eowyn has rested and had her herbs. But for now, you must all go." The healer did allow those leaving to bid good-bye to their companions; Lothiriel hugged Faramir tightly, allowing him to press a kiss to the crown of her head; Eowyn held tightly to Eomer for a few minutes, refusing to cry; Merry and Pippen exchanged jokes under their breath. Lothiriel and Eowyn curtsied to each other, both smiling.

"It was a pleasure and honor to meet you, Lady Eowyn of Rohan."

"Aye, the same to you, Princess Lothiriel of Dol Amroth. I hope to see you again, sooner rather than later." The younger girl's face broke into a radiant smile at this, and she nodded vigorously.

"Of course! I shall return in the morning for more in depth conversation." Eomer and Faramir exchanged cordial nods. The three non-patients exited the garden, Pippen quickly excused himself, to "get my armor all shined up so I can make a grand appearance tomorrow!" and Lothiriel and Eomer were left alone.

"Lady Lothiriel, may I escort you to where you are needed?" Eomer asked. It was late in the afternoon, and it seemed wrong to let such a beautiful creature walk unguarded through a war-torn city. Beautiful creature? I really have been in the saddle too long Eomer grumbled internally. Lothiriel smiled and nodded, and Eomer offered his arm to her. She put hers through its crook, and the pair set off. Lothiriel immediately went about showing the city to the foreign king; pointing out shops and restaurants, statues of old kings and places of worship. Eomer listened half-heartedly, still distracted by the thought of his sister and the Steward. Lothiriel, perhaps sensing this, gestured for him to sit once they reached a courtyard near the royal palace at the top of the city.

"I do not mean to pry, Lord Eomer, but it seems you have something on your mind." Eomer blinked, suddenly aware of his rudeness.

"My apologies, milady." Lothiriel shrugged, still looking deeply into his face. He sighed. "What is your cousin like, Lady? Is he a good man?" Lothiriel smiled again, but her eyes grew distant.

"The very best, milord. Faramir is unfalteringly brave and kind to a fault. He is a fighter because he had to be, not out of love for blood-shed or a desire for glory. We have always been very close, he and I, because we were the misfits in our families. But, where I was treasured and loved for being different from my brothers, he was punished, treated as lacking and unfulfilled. He deserves better in his life than what he was given." Eomer grunted. Lothiriel seemed to notice her answer was lacking something and continued: "When Faramir loves, he loves with all that he is. Perhaps that is why he is so deeply wounded when someone he loves is injured, or does injury to him. If you are asking about his character because of protectiveness towards your sister, I can assure you this: there is no better man in all of Middle Earth that your sister could choose." Eomer grumbled.

"I fear I shall have to come to that conclusion myself before I can agree with you, Lady Lothiriel." Lothiriel shrugged.

"I cannot say I don't understand, I have three brothers in place of Eowyn's one, and they are all just as, if not more, protective of me." She smiled, and Eomer was struck again by just how beautiful she was, how different from the women he had grown up with in Rohan. She put her arm through his again, and they continued walking until they reached the royal palace. Lothiriel then extracted her arm and turned to face Eomer head on.

"I am glad to have met you, Eomer-King. I pray no harm may befall you at the Black Gate tomorrow." For some reason, had this been uttered by any other woman Eomer had met, he would have suspected insincerity, but when Lothiriel said it, he could almost see the truth shining behind the grey-green of her eyes.

"It was an honor to have delivered you safely home, Lady Lothiriel. If I do survive tomorrow, I would take great pleasure in calling on you again." Lothiriel smiled another sunny smile.

"I would be honored, Eomer-King. Until then." She dropped into a traditional curtsy, and he bowed. For some reason, Eomer felt as though he must survive the impending battle, if only to see her smile again.