I am working on a longer fic but this little fun scenario has been niggling away for some time, so in the end I gave in. LBJ

'Éomer of Rohan came riding to the City, and with him came an éored of the fairest knights of the Mark. He was welcomed; and when they sat all at table in Merethrond, the Great Hall of Feasts, he beheld the beauty of the ladies that he saw and was filled with great wonder. And before he went to his rest he sent for Gimli the Dwarf.' From 'The Return of the King' by JRR Tolkien.

Knife Edge

By the time Éomer reached the passage that led to his quarters, Gimli had caught him up. Not surprising since he had been stopped at every turn by people wanting to greet him. He just hoped the dwarf would not stay too long.

'Send for some ale, would you?' Éomer requested the guard who kept station outside his door. But instead of moving to obey the command the guard's eyes fixed warily on Gimli, before he leaned towards Éomer, whispering fiercely under his breath.

'Lord...I don't think you should take anyone into your chamber at present. It's late and...'

'Nonsense,' Éomer interrupted.' Master Gimli's just coming for a talk and a drink.' Fengel's guts, what did the man think he was going to get up to? And why did he look so embarrassed? Surely he didn't suspect... No, they knew him better than that. But the man hadn't moved.

'Ale, I said.'

'But lord...'

'Now!' he barked. This was getting ridiculous, was his life not his own anymore? 'Come on, Gimli, we have something to thrash out.' He threw the challenge over his shoulder at the dwarf. 'Gimli, Glóin's son, have you your axe ready?'

'Nay, lord,' said Gimli, 'but I can speedily fetch it, if there be need.'

'We shall see!' Éomer pushed the door open and Gimli stomped after him, nearly bumping into his back when he came to a halt just inside the door. Something about the room felt different. Éomer looked round suspiciously, but nothing seemed out of place. Behind him he heard Gimli sniff.

'A bit pongy in here, lord. Don't say you're getting the habit of dousing yourself in scent like these mincing Gondorians.'

No he wasn't. But Gimli was right: a definite sweet smell hung in the air. Éomer shrugged. 'Must be the maidservants.'

He motioned for Gimli to sit down on one of the chairs drawn up to the large covered table. He had been using it as a desk, which was why the servants must have thought to protect it with a huge piece of brown velvet. Good job if there was a valuable bit of furniture underneath – the cloth was already blemished by a wine stain and he noticed a couple of blobs of ink. If Master Gimli behaved true to form it would probably soon be spotted by ale.

Éomer sat down, pushed some papers aside and leaned back in the chair. With a sigh he stretched his legs out under the table, glad to relax after the formality of Merethrond. Perhaps he should wait until the ale got here, drink was sure to mellow the belligerent dwarf. No, he was tired; he would say his piece and accept the consequences. Suddenly Éomer went still; something had tickled his leg. A mouse? Surely not.

'Anything wrong? You look like you've found half a maggot in your apple.'

'No, Gimli, nothing, just impatient for the ale.' Éomer did his best not to jump when the something wiggled its way over the top of his boot and pulled at hairs on his shin. He grabbed the bottom of the tablecloth intending to pull it aside, but with sudden insight stopped. Luckily a knock on the door and the arrival of a foaming jug with two tankards caught the dwarf's attention. Taking the opportunity Éomer moved his other leg around, encountering what felt like a bundle of cloth. He daren't do more as Gimli was frowning at him suspiciously.

'The ale's no good left in the jug.' Éomer poured the dwarf a full measure and passed it across; his own he left a little light, feeling he would need his wits about him before the evening ended. Éomer reached over and touched the rim of his tankard to his companion's. 'Here's to beautiful women.'

'Ah,' Gimli downed a gulp of ale, wiping the foam from his beard with the back of his hand as he stood up, 'then you have reached a decision, lord. Do I need my axe?'

'You shall judge,' said Éomer, as fingers – the something was definitely fingers – traced a pattern on his leg. 'For there are certain rash words concerning the Lady in the Golden Wood that lie still between us. And now I have seen her with my eyes.'

'Well, lord,' said Gimli, 'and what say you now?'

'Alas!' said Éomer. 'I will not say that she is the fairest lady that lives.' The fingers stopped, waiting...

'Then I must go for my axe,' said Gimli.

'But first I will plead this excuse,' said Éomer. 'Had I seen her in other company, I would have said all that you could wish. But now I will put Queen Arwen Evenstar first' – a nail jabbed painfully into his flesh, but he managed to carry on with only a slight hesitation – 'and I am ready to do battle on my own part with any who deny me. Shall I call for my sword?'

Then Gimli bowed low. 'Nay, you are excused for my part, lord,' he said. 'You have chosen the Evening; but my love is given to the Morning. And my heart forebodes that soon it will past away for ever.'

'There is always a price to pay, Gimli. Let us be thankful that we have been privileged to see such beauty.'

Gimli hung his head, the ale forgotten for a moment. He mumbled something into his beard but then recovered himself and took a big swig before he sat down again. 'Mind you, there are some mortals worth looking at. That girl of Imrahil's now, she's not bad. I favour pale beauty myself, but I saw you dancing with her and since you have a preference for dark hair...'

'Just doing my duty,' Éomer got out quickly. The fingers had resumed their exploration of his leg but halted at his words. 'I couldn't get out of it, a friend's daughter and all that. She's a bit on the thin side for my taste.' With a grin he took a gulp of ale. Bad mistake. Pain shot through his calf as a lump of flesh got squeezed hard, and the mouthful of ale bypassed his gullet and went straight to his lungs. Coughing frantically he lurched to his feet. Tears gushed from his eyes, his leg forgotten as pain cramped his chest. Thump! A heavy blow landed on his back.

'Are you sure you're well, lord?' Gimli thumped him again.

'No more ...I'm fine.' Still trying to clear his airway, Éomer warded off the next blow, and pushed the dwarf back towards his seat. He sat down himself, struggling to breathe normally. Gimli watched him until he was sure there was to be no repetition and Éomer was able to cautiously take a sip of ale.

'As I was saying,' Gimli continued as though the incident had not happened, 'I would have thought you might have given her a second look.' Bushy brows drew together as he deliberated. 'She's not that thin. Feed her up a bit and you would have a real beauty.' The dwarf nodded his head sagely. 'She might be worth you considering, since Lady Éowyn told me they're already going on at you to get mated.'

Éomer froze, feeling a whisper of danger as the knife he kept in his boot was slowly withdrawn. The sharp blade slid menacingly over his skin. Trying hard to relax, he took another swig of ale. 'Perhaps you're right, Gimli. She's got lovely eyes and that glossy black hair is undoubtedly appealing. And of course it's being tall that makes her look thin.'

'She's certainly not thin around her...'Gimli huffed into his tankard, squirmed on his chair and finally got the word out...'chest.'

The point of the knife pricked against his skin. Éomer stood up fast and moved out of harm's way. 'I think after all that I am a little unwell, Gimli. Do you mind if we resume our conversation tomorrow?'

'Not at all, lord, not at all. I expect the long journey has upset your innards.' Gimli drained his tankard and looked longingly at the jug.

'Take it with you, my friend, I won't be drinking any more tonight.' Éomer ushered him to the door. As soon as the wood had banged shut behind the dwarf, Éomer strode to the table and yanked up the covering.

'Lothíriel, whatever possessed you? If your father finds out about this I'll be thrown in a dungeon.'

Laughing grey eyes met his angry glare. 'Oh, I don't think so, Éomer. He'd probably make you marry me.'

Lothíriel struggled to her feet, helped by Éomer's outstretched hand. The other hand he held out for the knife. With an elegant little shrug and a wicked grin, she handed it to him. That was it: all anger left him, the knife went down on the table and he pulled her into his arms. Soft curves pressed against him; Gimli was right about one thing anyway. And she smelt divine; he buried his lips in her thick hair. 'What did you tell the guard?'

'That we had no time to talk to one another and my brothers hung around every time we tried. He sympathised greatly, and said that he only went outside for a few minutes with a girl, perfectly innocently, but her father caught them. The next month they were married.'

Éomer put his hands her shoulders and slid them slowly along until he could use his thumbs to tip her chin up towards him. Red lips quivered in anticipation. Next month would suit him fine. 'I'll talk to your father as soon as Théoden is buried. And we'll marry with all speed.'

'You still want to marry me even though I'm too thin? And of course I don't compare at all with Queen Arwen...'

'Lothíriel,' Éomer shut her up by the simple method of placing his mouth over hers, 'you will do for me.'

The end

A big thank you to Lialathuveril for the beta and her title suggestions. LBJ.