5. Theoden's Funeral
AN: In my little part of the universe, Théoden is buried after Elessar's wedding and Arathea is still kind of hiding in the background.
--Late July Early Aug 3019
Éomer stood at the top of the steps outside the Golden Hall with his sister to his right and steadfast Gamling on his left. Many of the lords and captains of Rohan gathered as well to watch the procession arriving from Gondor. The young King had not expected such a large delegation and was touched by it. Théoden had lain in state in Gondor for some time before he was brought home. There really was no need for Lord Faramir AND Prince Imrahil to journey to Rohan, yet, it meant a great deal to Éomer that they did.
Out of the corner of his eye he could see Éowyn begin to fidget as the handsome Steward of Gondor came into view. Éomer cleared his throat causing his sister to blush; she had been caught staring!
"It is good to see the spark of joy in your eyes, again," the King whispered. Éowyn responded with a shy smile and a deepening blush. The travelers had reached the courtyard and dismounted. Imrahil and Faramir approached the bottom step.
"Greetings, Éomer King. May the Valar bless you with a peaceful reign and long prosperous life," the Prince of Dol Amroth said as he bowed.
"Welcome, Lords of Gondor," Éomer began, "you honor us with your presence. You are welcome in the lands of my fathers." Éomer hated all this formality. It seemed so unnatural, rehearsed, bordering on insincere. But, protocol dictated much of what he did now; he wanted to be sure to do everything right. These men were powerful allies, not to mention one of them being a serious love interest on the part of his sister; Éomer did not wish to embarrass her. "Please let my grooms tend to your horses and we will see you settled and rested before the evening meal."
"You are most gracious," Prince Imrahil said with a smile. He nodded his thanks and nudged the man next to him. Faramir tore his eyes from Éowyn long enough to bow, enduring the soft chuckle from his uncle.
As the party began to disband, Éomer caught sight of her; the beautiful flower of Dol Amroth, that refreshing spark of light and joy amid the thorns of his sorrow. Their eyes met but for a moment; Éomer nodded, a small smile on his face. Lothiriel returned the gesture, a delicate blush staining cheeks. For a brief moment, the world faded away and the two young people were lost in each other's eyes. Éomer's heart then did something most unexpected; it fluttered. The feeling however, died when he heard the princess' chaperone.
The arrogant woman looked down her nose at the King with no less than loathing; she grabbed Lothiriel's elbow rather roughly and pulled her along, up the stair and past the Éomer without so much is a 'by your leave'. The young man could not hear what she whispered in Lothiriel's ear as they past but knew it was nothing positive. When they vanished into the Golden Hall, the King released the breath he had been holding; he hated formalities!
Dinner was a simple affair—a funeral feast honoring Théoden would be held the day after the funeral as was tradition. Éomer sat at the head of a long table, Éowyn to his right, with Elfhelm, Grimbold and Grimbold's wife, the Lady Cynwen, respectively. Prince Imrahil sat to the King's left with Faramir next to him and then two of Prince's sons. Lothiriel sat between her brother and Lady Beriedis. While Éomer wished the young woman sat closer so they might speak a bit, from his vantage point he easily could look upon her and that was quite pleasing to him. Therefore, it was no surprise that Éomer was brought up short as he gazed at Lothiriel.
"Your Majesty?" Prince Imrahil tapped Éomer's arm, startling the King out of his thoughts.
"Forgive me, my mind drifted. It has been a trying few weeks," the younger man stammered. Éowyn hid her smile behind her napkin as Éomer shot his sister a dangerous look.
"It is understandable. I had inquired if it would be alright for Lothiriel to go the stables tomorrow. Éowyn mentioned you had some colts and a litter of kittens; I fear my daughter has a soft spot for animals.
Éomer glanced at Lothiriel. So she liked animals; that was good. "I would be more that happy to escort the Lady, myself." Éomer replied with a small smile. He watched Lothiriel for something—anything--that might indicate she would find pleasure in that.
Imrahil raised his eyebrow; he knew interest when he saw it. He looked at his daughter to gauge her reaction.
What Lothiriel thought was soon irrelevant as Lady Beriedis spoke up first. "That is completely unnecessary. I am certain that the stables are not so hard to find, we will manage ourselves. Now, it has been a long journey and the Princess needs her rest. If my lords will excuse us, we will retire for the evening." With that she stood and waited, rather impatiently for Lothiriel to do the same.
With a look of longing, the young woman stood and quietly bid those at the table good night. As she left, she stopped, turned and addressed Éomer. "Thank you for your kind offer, your majesty, perhaps at another time." Her blue eyes, bright as a summer sky, met his hazel ones and Éomer, for the second time, felt something stir inside him. He responded with a smile and slight incline of his head. His actions and admiration did not go unnoticed. Éowyn look across the table at her beloved; Faramir gave her a conspiring wink. Perhaps there was hope for Éomer, yet.