So here comes the last chapter of the current story. I would like to thank all of you for dedicating some of your time reading, reviewing, subscribing or whatever you did to and with it. ;-D

I hope you enjoyed reading, and I especially hope you will enjoy this chapter. Hey, folks: It is the last one, but it is by far the longest!

I will quit (at least for a while), as RL is very demanding at the moment, but who knows: The wedding is supposed to be in March, so perhaps the next "report" might come then, directly from the horses mouth, er... from Edoras I mean.

Thank you again and fare you well.


Chapter 17

Brushing his still damp hair, Éomer eyed the clothes laid out for him on his bed wearily. An afternoon spent in negotiations about the wedding contract had done nothing to improve his mood, and even the cool, juniper-scented water he had sloshed over his sweaty body had brought no real relief. Now it would be an official dinner, the announcement of the betrothal, so there was no chance to forego the full regalia despite the heat of the day that still lingered.

What bothered him even more was the fact that since her surprising and pirate-style announcement in the morning there had been no chance to talk to Lothíriel in private.

He donned his breeches and was just about to put on the splendidly embroidered shirt, when there was a knock at the door. Expecting his squire, he barked a short "Cum in" and went on dressing, not bothering to turn.

"Oh, excuse me, my lord, I didn't know..."

Swivelling round, he met the sight of a middle-aged servant, blushing to the roots of her hair. "My lady sends me to…" With a trembling hand she held out a letter, avoiding his eye.

Jerking his head towards the desk near the window, he ordered her to put the letter there, but she shook her head. "The princess asks you to reply, my lord."

Taking the letter, he went over to the window, pulling down the semi-donned shirt on the way. The seal showed the Dol Amroth swan, flanked by two flowers, and breaking it, he scanned the short note.


I would very much appreciate to talk to you before the official meeting, as there are important and urgent matters I wished to be talked over and settled beforehand.

If you can spare some time I would like to meet you at the big plane tree in my parents' garden.

Please reply.


He frowned. As much as he desired to talk to her, the phrasing of the letter forebode difficulties. Turning round to the waiting servant, he said: "Yes."

"Pardon, my lord?" The poor woman was totally flabbergasted.

"Your lady wanted me to answer. The answer is: Yes. Go and tell her." Flustered and with a more than doubtful look at the King of Rohan, the servant left the room.

Reading the letter again, he shrugged. No matter what it might be, if she thought some discussion necessary, who was he to hesitate. Things had up to now simply gone too fast and smooth, there had to be a hitch somewhere.

Wrinkling his nose at the velvet tunic on the bed, he decided the shirt would do, as anything additional would make him sweat within the minute. So he slipped into the light shoes the princess had provided for him, shove his dagger into his belt and made for Imrahil's private garden.


Turning at one of the fountains, he headed for the big plane that cast this part of the garden into a fluttering shade. His energetic steps were clearly audible on the gravel, despite him wearing no boots, and when he came around the last bend of the garden-path, he found Lothíriel rising from the stone bench she had been sitting on below the protruding branches of the old tree. Wearing a simple light-blue dress of finest linen, her jet-black hair gathered at the nape of her neck with a ribbon of the same colour, she seemed much younger than her usual bearing caused to suggest.

Extending her hand towards him, she addressed him, her voice a little halting. "Thank you for coming, my lord."

In an attempt to lighten the atmosphere, he fell back to the teasing tone of their morning encounter. "Stop my-lording me. And remember: It was you, who told me to."

She gave him a half-smile, still nervous but nevertheless acknowledging his effort. "We are not on a boat, and it was about my-ladying, which I would never do in your case."

He wished he could continue in that bantering way, but knew too well it would not do justice to her uneasiness. Whatever she was intending to tell him, she needed to know that he cared. Taking her right hand, he stroke its back and the bandaged wrist. "Lothíriel, wherever we are, I would be glad if you used my name. And I already told you that I like yours."

She nodded her consent and for a short moment an awkward silence lasted, none of them wanting to start the due discussion, but then the princess lifted her chin determinedly and began to talk. "Éomer, I am sorry for the rash decision I confronted you with this morning. It must have seemed quite an assault to you."

Éomer shook his head. "Lothíriel, I told you, you were to set the pace. I have to admit you performed quite a tantivy, but I assure you: I don't mind at all, quite on the contrary. I proposed to you, and I was waiting for your answer."

She drew a deep breath. "I know, but nevertheless things should have been done differently, more personally and in private." Blushing profoundly, she added: "I would not have liked to be in your place."

"Well, as a matter of fact I was quite astonished to learn that I had agreed to an assumption your father certainly never had made, but as it obviously meant to trump some Gondorean noble, I was not at all averse to it." Giving her a big grin, he kissed her knuckles.

She twisted her mouth askew and then sighed. "I know it was oblique, but when I found Lord Radhruin with my father, I knew I had to act at once to create accomplished facts, just to prevent further complications, and so I fell back on my father's explicit authority."

Accomplished facts and no doubt! And he had to admit he was extremely happy with them. Smiling he stroke his thumb over her palm. "Don't you worry. Who knows better than me that a general can't explain his orders and decisions in the middle of a raging battle, but would you mind telling me now, who this Lord Radhruin is?"

She nodded. "That's why I asked you to see me. Partly at least." She seemed less agitated now, though Éomer thought her to be still far from confident and not wanting to press her, he simply waited, holding her hand.

She did not take long though to regain her composure and started to explain. "He's the Lord of Pelargir's eldest son and by no means a weak character, though you certainly found him vain and haughty this morning. But he's a gifted sea captain and commander, though still quite young. And he is one of Amrothos' friends. Before the war he, that is his father, had proposed for me to Father."

She paused, obviously not sure how to continue, but sensing there was more she wanted him to know, Éomer stayed quiet, giving her time to sort out her thoughts and emotions. They stood silently hand in hand for some time, the princess seemingly deep in thought, and with a jolt of his heart he suddenly noticed, that her fingers had started to correspond with his own in the stroking motion.

Realising what she was doing, she withdrew her hand and continued explaining. "It's not that I have anything against him, and had the times not been so dire, Father might have had agreed. But as it was, he was not too keen on having me stay in Pelargir, where in all likelihood a major blow would fall to open the river towards Minas Tirith for the enemy, and therefore he turned Lord Radhruin's offer down, putting him off till … well, nobody knew when."

So she had known about at least one candidate when she had talked to him about ending up in an arranged marriage … but she had not seemed too enthusiastic. He struggled not to let the feeling of triumph show on his face. "I see. So you suddenly found yourself confronted with two suitors and had to make up your mind on the spot."

Her reaction nearly had him double over with laughter: She snorted! "Do you really think I decided that very moment? No, Éomer, I had chosen well before. I only had to make clear what the facts were. "

He couldn't help it now, feeling simply glorious, he had to tease her. "You certainly have done that my lady, and I'd like to congratulate you upon your excellent choice."

Joining in his bantering tone, she raised her eyebrows. "How come that I have the strong suspicion that Éothain's remark would be quite suitable as an answer here."

He winked at her. "Am I that arrogant?"

She grinned. "If you try to, you certainly manage to be. But tell me, which word means arrogant?"

"Wlanclic. And as for the meaning of the other word: We all sit on it." Managing a straight face was difficult, as she grinned from ear to ear, totally unabashed.

"He surely does not mince his words, that captain of your guard."

"No, he surely doesn't. But besides the fact that he has been my close friend since childhood, being outspoken is something like an ethnic trait with the people of the Mark you had better get used to." Not that he thought she would have any problem with that. Squeezing her hand, he silently congratulated himself on his unbounded luck in his choice of a wife.

"The Rohirrim don't care much for rank, do they?" Despite her smile, there was a palpable seriousness in her tone.

He nodded."Yes and no. Rank certainly is important, but in a somewhat different way than in Gondor. Once they have made up their mind, they are reliable and fiercely loyal, but you have to prove you deserve that rank first."

She was silent at this, and he felt the urge to hug her, assure her that she would be welcome in the Mark, but there was something in her bearing that let him hesitate. There was a kind of unease he could not comprehend, a notion of something that had not been there in the morning. Was she overwhelmed by the necessary overhastiness of the events? Was she perhaps even regretting her decision? He scolded himself for his doubts, but he knew he had to find out. Composed and serious, he posed his question: "Lothíriel, why did you prefer me?"

Her head jerked up. "Are you daft?" Covering her mouth with her hand, she blushed at the slip of her tongue, but nevertheless proceeded after a moment of shock.

"Éomer, what do you expect me to answer? What do you think my family expected me to do?

Had she only acted to comply with everyone's expectations? His feeling of being rebuffed and misunderstood showed clearly on his face. Shaking her head about his lack of understanding, she went on, talking against his stubborn silence. "For Uinen's sweet mercy, what woman would not have preferred you? The young king of an uprising nation, our king's closest friend, Gondor's most important alley. And besides all that, said young king is quite handsome. No, not even Lord Radhruin himself would have thought he had the slightest chance, had he known you had proposed."

"Sure to expect reason from Imrahil's daughter." Without avail he tried to hide his disappointment.

Seeing his frustration, she sighed. "It always had been an arranged marriage for me …"

He scolded himself for being unreasonable. Under the circumstances given, his question had been improper and mistimed. She had given him a frank though hurtful answer, but he himself had asked for it. Better a clean hurt than a polite lie. He managed a lopsided grin. "And I'm not a bad choice?"

She nodded. "I told you so. There certainly could be no arrangement of greater national importance for Gondor and Rohan than a union between Rohan's king and the highest ranking Gondorean woman available."

Was that really the sole motive for her choice? Some part of his brain stubbornly refused to accept it. You did not stroke a man's hand for political reasons. And all that daring banter in the morning … for national importance? He was not buying that! Taking both her hands, he pulled them to his chest. "Lothíriel, what's wrong with you? You sound like my councillors."

"Do I?" She smiled mirthlessly. "I thought I sounded like Dol Amroth's. I have had them lecturing me on the importance of the alliance for nearly two hours this afternoon. Beyond doubt they see our marriage as some kind of high point of the trade agreements. And the last item of the auction: The princess of Dol Amroth to the most significant bidder."

Éomer sighed. Exactly what he had been afraid of, but it had to be expected. They were representatives of their peoples and nations first, but he would not let that mar their right to happiness. "I'm afraid thoughts will not differ much in the Mark. They will see you as a token of appreciation for Rohan's commitment at first, but they will come to know you, and then will cherish you for yourself. "

"I know. I will have to convince them that I ..." She stopped, as if realising that she was about to say something that had better stayed unsaid.

Breathing deep, she shook herself. "I'm sorry Éomer, I should not have let them affect me that much, and I should not have vented my frustration on you." She shrugged. "I knew all these things beforehand, and they would have held their speech no matter who I married, it was just that ..." Again she hesitated, looking at his hands cupping hers. Then, never lifting her eyes, she admitted: "It was just that I had felt so idiotically happy this morning, and then .."

Smiling he lifted both her hands to his lips. "You did?"

Now she looked up, facing him openly. "I had the feeling that I had found someone who understood me and would accept me, let me be the way I am. And I had the feeling of having a real choice … till those councillors came and made it clear to me that there never had been any choice in reality, because out of my duty as a Princess of Dol Amroth I could not have done otherwise."

Councillors! Couldn't they just go and hang themselves? "Lothíriel, whatever they think and say, it was you to decide and it still is. I will not have you do anything you feel not willing to."

She gave him a wobbly smile. "I know, and I know I can rely on everything you said, I trust you."

"Then why do I have the feeling that you are not confident at all?" Her shakiness deeply troubled him, as it contradicted everything he had seen of her so far. Was this the same woman who had boldly claimed him for her own this very morning?

"Because..." Avoiding his glance, she bit her lip.

He could not bear her distress any longer. Squeezing her hands, he softly kissed her forehand. "Lothíriel, you say you trust me, and I know you are open-minded and venturous, so what keeps you from telling me your troubles?"

Another deep breath and a shrug. "I don't know how to phrase it."

Pulling her close, he brushed his cheek over her temple. "Try. Try as directly and simply as you can."

"I will, but you have to let go of me"

Remembering her behaviour on the battlement, he reluctantly loosened his grip on her, and immediately she took one step back. What could it be that she needed that much courage and self-conquest for?

Squaring her shoulders, she resorted to the acquired stance of the Lady of the Realm, but her voice betrayed her persistent unease. "I would like to ask you something … That is, I would like to ask something from you."

What could that be, that it caused her such an effort to utter? Smiling assuringly at her, he acknowledged: "Anything, if it is in my ability."

Her hands folded behind her back, she looked very much like giving a speech in council and nearly managed to sound cool and composed. "As it is, our wedding is to take place coming March. Our betrothal is to be announced after dinner. It's the custom in Gondor that the bond is affirmed by a kiss."

He was totally at a loss, as to what she was aiming at, certainly what she had mentioned was nothing that could trouble her that much. He had to get to the bottom of all this. "Lothíriel, please, just tell me, what you want me to do."

She swallowed, blushed, but nevertheless locked on to his gaze. "It's rather what I don't want you to do: I don't want our first kiss to be something dictated by custom, practised in front of the assembled council."

He blinked. Was she telling him what he thought she was? Béma, this woman was contradiction incarnated! There she stood, proud and erect: his pirate princess, and yet beneath this impenetrable surface he sensed the young vulnerable woman she was. What fascinated him exceedingly was the spiritedness that caused he to overcome her violability and instead dare anything in her way. Yet he felt a little unsure if he had got her right; had she, a Gondorean princess, really asked him to kiss her?

He stepped up to her, reaching out to touch her, but she turned away, and the defensive raising of her hand stopped him. "Please, hear me out. I know that my behaviour would be called wanton in Gondor, but I trust that you will not judge me according to Gondor's standards. I ..."

She hesitated, and drawing a ragged breath, she turned back to face him again. "Éomer, you will leave the day after tomorrow. We have had but two days to come to know each other, and there will be six months of separation in front of us. I … I'm afraid I will forget you, forget your face over the winter."

Seeing the despair in her dark grey eyes it was difficult not to sweep her up in his arms, kiss her worries away. He sighed. "Lothíriel, what do you want me to do?"

"Nothing. I mean, I don't want you to do anything, but ..." Her gaze dropped to the gravel at her feet. "Would you allow me to touch you?"

It took him a second to realise that his jaw had dropped. He shut his mouth abruptly, his teeth clicking together. He had never expected her to be that bold. Yet there was nothing seductive or salacious in her bearing and mien. Did she even fully comprehend what she was asking? He didn't dare to respond, not trusting his voice. What made her to utter such a request?

Having delivered the most difficult part of her request, she seemed to feel relieved, and raising her eyes again to his, she attempted to explain. "I have no experience, but I suppose it's like swimming, riding, sailing ... what you will. Once you have learned it, you won't forget. It's not that your brain knows, it's not solely reason, it's your body that remembers. Don't misunderstand me, I … I don't want anything indecent or improper, I never … I mean ..." She spluttered and stopped, swallowing hard.

How could she be so outright bold and so entirely innocent at the same time? Éomer felt totally captivated. She looked like a lost child rather than the challenging young woman he knew. If it weren't for her genuine worries, he would have laughed out. But that would not do. She had trusted him, relaid on his care and understanding, it was his task to stop her misgivings, to show her that her trustfulness was appreciated. Smiling into her anxious face, he took half a step forwards and spread out his arms. "Don't you worry, Lothíriel, I'm at your command. Indulge yourself and touch me as much as you want."

Her gaze became worried as if she didn't trust her own courage, but nevertheless she proceeded. Stepping close, she raised her hand, but still hesitated, biting her lip. Éomer felt mirth raise within him.

"Don't be afraid, Lothíriel, go ahead." Cooing to her like to a frightened filly, he tried to encourage her.

Her outstretched hand touched his cheek, followed the edge of his beard, slid down to his jawline, while their eyes stayed locked.

"I can't!" Stepping back, she let her hand sink, looking utterly frustrated. "I can't if you look at me like that."

He couldn't help a chuckle. She was splendid, so sweet and defiant in her frustration. He was about to pull her close when she advanced on him, poking her forefinger in his chest. "You!" Her eyes sparkled with determination. "Close your eyes!"

"What?" His eyebrows shot up to his hairline.

"Close your eyes. I can't touch you if you watch me."

Still chuckling, he did her bidding and … froze. A sudden feeling of uncertainty swept up his spine, like clammy fingers brushing his vertebrae. Not seeing her, he did not know how close she was, could not comprehend what she felt, had no warning were and when she would touch him. And Béma, he wanted her to touch him!

The low crunch of the gravel told him she was nearing, then he felt her fingers again, caressing his cheek this time, gliding over to his ear, tucking a strand of hair behind it, her fingertips following the outline of his ear before sliding down his throat, making his larynge jump. Her other hand came to rest on his shoulder, her thumb scanning the edge of his collar bone. She must have stepped closer, as he felt her breath on the skin of his throat, noticed the smell of her hair ... sandalwood and something he could not work out, her fingers now trailing his jawline, soft, slightly touching, caressing and torturing in one... and disappeared. His senses highlighted, he waited for her next move.

There! A single fingertip brushed over his lower lip. Slowly, tenderly outlining its edge, sending ripples of desire through his body … and was gone. She must have stepped back. Was she watching him? Was she appreciating what she saw? He felt the urge to open his eyes, end the uncertainty, but then there were her hands again, gingerly stroking the upper part of his body, from his shoulders down to his waist, sliding over the plane of his chest with a feathery touch. The delicate linen of his festive shirt did little to numb the experience, and he sucked in his breath with a hitching sound, when her fingers stroke over his nipples. Immediately her hands were withdrawn.

"Éomer?" Her voice was anxious. "Have I incommoded you?"

He did not know whether to groan or to laugh. This would have been hilarious, had it not been so torturing. She was blissfully unaware she was burning him alive! Not trusting his voice, he shook his head.

It took her some time to speak again, and when she did so, her voice was halting. "May I continue?"

He nodded, holding his breath.

This time she started from his waist, moving her hands up his sides, over his shoulders, up his neck, losing themselves in the nape of his hair.

And all of a sudden he felt her lithe body press against his own, only lightly, as if accidentally and at the same time there was her breath, close, so close, smelling of the aromatic seeds the Gondiorean women used to chew, fluttering over the skin of his throat, his chin, nearing ever so slowly, till her lips touched his mouth, barely discernible, brushing over his lower lip.

He clenched his fists to keep his hands from clasping round her, pressing her to his tense body. She was obviously standing on tiptoes now, claiming access to his upper lip, which caused her to lean still closer into him. He ground his teeth to keep himself from groaning, his whole body tense, hard with desire.

Béma, how far would she go? He was fast reaching his limits. And then he felt her tongue nudge against his lower lip, fleetingly at first, more insistent the second time, until more daring, she pulled his head down to her and her mouth covered his, soft and moist, sweet, her lips slightly opened, resting pressureless for just a heartbeat, till finally her tongue traced the curve of his lower lip.

He could not help it: Of their own volition his hands slid down to her waist, his lips opened, inviting her to explore further. She hesitated and he felt her shiver before ever so slowly her tongue followed his invitation, tentatively approaching, withdrawn immediately as their tongues met.

He stood waiting, holding his breath, his nostrils flaring with suppressed desire. There it was again, the soft, torturing touch, a little bolder this time, yet wary like some wild animal, ready to retreat at the slightest danger. He had to muster all his willpower not to groan into the sweet hollow of her mouth, afraid to scare her away. And then his brain simply stopped functioning.

How his left hand had come to slide to the small of her back, pulling her close, while his right had slid up, supporting her head as he bent it back to claim her lips in a devouring kiss, he never knew. For a split second she stiffened in surprised shock and then her arms encircled him. Giving him lead and access, she seemed to melt for a moment under the fierceness of his onslaught, and then she counter-attacked, sucking in his lower lip, her fingers gliding down his sides in a breath-taking dance.

Gathering her to his body, he kissed his way down to her throat, rejoicing in her breathless moan of pleasure as his teeth grazed over the tender skin, the wild tattoo of her heart, racing under the touch of his tongue in the hollow of her throat. Cupping the firm softness of her breast, he felt her breath hitch, while her grip tightened, her body arching into his. A woman like wildfire! And like a wildfire his desire blazed up at that sound between moan and yelp she uttered when he stroked his thumb over her hardened nipples.

With an uncontrollable jerk her body tensed, her pelvis grinding into the hardness of his arousal, her fingernails digging into his flesh. Need roared in his blood, a hunger beyond his control, and meeting her ecstasy, he wedged his thigh between her legs. He wanted her and he would have her, here and now, he … With a painful jolt he came to his senses. Béma, what was he doing?

His eyes flew open, and the view of her face caused his heart to skip a beat. Her head was still flung back, exposing her throat to him, her eyes closed, her slightly opened lips bruised and moist from his onslaught. But it was the expression of rapture and absolute abandon on her face that nearly undid him.

Let them blame him for what he had done, he would do it again any time without any trace of remorse, just for the joy of seeing her like that.

"Lothíriel ..." His voice was hoarse, alien to his ear. Her eyes opened, hazy grey orbs, staring at him unfocussed. He gently stroked her cheek, fighting back the urge to claim those sweet lips again.

For a moment she looked at him uncomprehending, then she blinked and stepped back, detaching herself from him, only to stagger back against him as her knees buckled. Hugging her tenderly, he nuzzled the crown of her head. "Lothíriel, I'm afraid we have to stop. We ... I lost control and got carried away."

"You lost control?" She gapped at him in total disbelief. "How …? I didn't know … I thought … " Blushing furiously, she raised her hand to her lips. "I didn't know men could lose control when … I mean in a situation like this."

"What?" He could not make head or tail of what she was saying. Could she really be that naïve? Having kissed him like that?

His doubt must have shown, because she started to explain in an insistent tone, her face showing an expression in-between sheepish and stubborn. "From what I overheard eavesdropping when Roth and Erchi came home from the taverns, discussing their ...well … conquests, with men it is all purpose and determination. I … I did not know they might lose control ... at least my brothers never said anything the like. From what I heard and guessed it is just men making women lose control, like "kissing them senseless" and "sweeping them off their feet" ... and I did not appreciate that thought overmuch, as I do not like being senseless and controlled by anybody else."

Now it was Éomer's turn to blink. "Lothíriel, there certainly are times when a man stays in control, and there certainly are men who like it that way, but there is no rule about it. It can well be the other way round: the woman staying in control, but I believe, if it is good and strong, passion is something mutual, something man and woman share. You made me lose control, and that caused me to make you lose control: It's give and take, not ruling over each other."

"I made you lose control?" Still uncertain she looked at him, shaking her head, when he nodded. "I would never have behaved the way I did, had I know that could happen."

"Was it so terrible?" With a low chuckle he pulled her hands to his lips.

She shook her head vehemently. "No, not at all but … I would never have embarrassed you on purpose."

"Embarrassed me?" His brows raised to his hairline.

"Well, yes, making you lose control, I mean." She was no doubt apprehensive.

Chuckling he let his teeth graze over her knuckles. "Do you think I should feel embarrassed because of losing control? Do you feel embarrassed because you lost yours?"

"No, … no, I don't." She looked genuinely amazed. "But I had believed before that I would. And you are a man, so ..." Her voice petering out, she averted her head.

Béma, what was she tormenting herself with! He had to get these absurd notions out of her head. Lowering his head, he whispered into her ear. "Lothíriel, tell me: Do you think me less a man because you could make me lose control?"

She dared a quick glimpse down to his groin. So she had noticed! He found it incredibly difficult not to grin.

"No, certainly not." She paused, pondering what had occurred. "But you did not really lose yourself anyway: You stopped us in time."

He nodded ruefully. "Yes, but that's because I knew what I was up to, and I managed only just in time." Sighing he gathered her hands to his chest. "Perhaps you are right, and I should feel embarrassed. We probably escaped a scandal by a hair's breath."

Locking his gaze with hers, he could not help the rakish grin that crept over his face. "But I think it was well worth the risk."

She nodded thoughtfully. "Yes, it certainly was, though I had not known about that danger when I asked your permission to touch you."

"Did you really believe me staying cool as a fish with you touching me like that?" He teasingly kissed the tip of her nose.

Wrinkling her nose, she grinned. "No, I had expected some reaction, though not such … intensity." She nestled against his chest. "It has all been so different from what I had planned."

"From what you had planned?" Éomer chuckled, softly nipping her ear. "So you had planned the curse you were sailing quite carefully, my scipflota cwen?

With a wry smile she squeezed his hands. "Yes indeed, I just hadn't known there were riptides."

"It would not have helped to know. I did and still I could not help being dragged out."

"It is so strange. I had been so uncertain about what to expect, so ashamed that I would … submit to a man's ... control ... and at the same time I … I completely trusted you, believed you would not do anything I did not want you to do." She sighed. "I longed to feel you, but I did not want you to control me,... not now, knowing so little of you … I believed, if I remembered the feeling of your body I would be able to accept the thought that at our wedding I would give you access to … " Shaking her head, she looked up into his face. "I made a complete idiot out of myself."

"No, you didn't. You saw a problem and you acted to solve it, though not knowing all the necessary facts." He felt warmth spread inside him. Not the searing heat of passion, but the steady reliable warmth of care. She had trusted him, and based on this trust, boldly plunged into unknown waters. Resting his forehead against hers, he closed his eyes, whispering his hope and heart's desire to her. "Lothíriel, never cease trusting me. I never will strive for domination and mastery over you. We will find our way to please each other, to enjoy each other's care and love. Believe me, we will find love. Perhaps it is already there, and we just have to give it time to grow."

From the watchtower at the harbour the tolling of the bells announcing the setting of the sun sounded over the town, causing him to rise his head with surprise. Could it already be that late? They had to get ready for dinner.

Reluctantly he made to let go of her, but nestling her head against his shoulder, she wrapped her arms around him. "Just hold me for a little longer. There will be no chance like this, once our engagement is announced."

Just a little longer … For the rest of his life.

After a while she pulled away half a step, and reaching out to softly stroke his cheek, she sighed deeply, her face in an expression of incredulous delight. "It's so strange, so totally unbelievable. I never knew I could feel like that, forgetting all my fears and misgivings. I still can't comprehend it."

"Was it so surprising?" Cupping his hand around hers, he guided it to his lips, softly kissing her palm. She simply nodded, leaning into him.

"So will you remember me now, over those long months of winter?" He had meant to say it teasingly, but his voice gave away the seriousness he felt.

"Yes, and even if your features will blur before my inner eye, thinking of you, I will always be able to recall how your touch made me feel." Her voice was a mere whisper, her breath caressing his ear.

Madness … sweet madness. Gently he put his arms around her, resting his chin on the crown of her head. "Tell me how, Lothíriel." Give me a dream to remember.

She hesitated, her hands moving up his chest till they reached his shoulders. When she finally spoke, her voice was scarcely audible, low and soft, like dark velvet enveloping his senses. "Heavy... heavy and ... yielding. As if my blood had turned into something viscous, pulsing through my veins ... slow and sweet … like honey, making me feel heavy and warm ... dragging me down … till my senses were filled with nothing but the urge to lay down and melt."

Crushing her to his chest in a vice-like grip, he threw his head back in triumph. His! Male pride surged through his veins, coveting, sharp and aggressive, soaring like a bird of prey in the upwind of the mountains … and then faded, leaving room to some other feeling that rose within him, flooding his senses, blurring any distinction of flesh, mind and soul. A feeling he did not dare to name yet, pooling through his entire being, dark, warm, deep red and sweet, yet edged with some inapprehensible melancholy, like the slightly bitter aftertaste of ripe wild cherries.

With a sigh he loosened his grip on her, burrowing his face in the hollow of her neck.

The coming winter would certainly be long and lonely in Edoras.


cum in: (No! Not what you mean! ;-)) (Rohirric/Anglo-Saxon) enter; come in

tantivy: very fast gallop

scipflota: (Rohirric/Anglo-Saxon) pirate

cwen: (Rohirric/Anglo-Saxon) princess