8. A Private Conversation
The next morning found Éomer in the stables, tending his horse. Although the grooms were well trained and trusted, most Riders cared for their mounts; it built a close personal connection between beast and man that was a must when it came to riding into battle. Therefore, none thought it odd that the King still maintained that relationship with his steed. Éomer now stood in Firefoot's stall, meticulously grooming the majestic stallion. In his heart, Éomer knew that his horse's wellbeing was not the only thing that brought him to the stables. The young King hoped that he might catch sight of a certain obsidian haired young maiden. The king smiled at the thought.
It was not long before Éomer heard his sister's recognizable laugh, warm and rich. It was soon joined by a softer laugh as two women entered the stables. The young man waited with bated breath to hear the grating sound of the Princess' chaperone. To his surprise, he heard instead the unmistakable voice of Éowyn's beloved Faramir. 'Interesting,' Éomer thought.
The three moved to a small alcove near to Firefoot's box stall. "You should have seen the shock on your brother's face when Captain Gamling returned to the table with me in tow!" Lothiriel said.
"Oh I can imagine!" Éowyn replied. "Such a look has been turned to me many a time." The women giggled.
Faramir leaned against the wall. He had agreed to accompany the ladies at Lothiriel's request. His uncle had agreed although Lady Beriedis was most displeased. It seemed she did not think Faramir an appropriate escort as he had romantic feelings for Éowyn. Fortunately, Imrahil ignored her arguments, explaining that Lothiriel was old enough to chaperone the two love birds. It had all been a ruse. Faramir knew the princess hoped to encounter Éomer again and it was a good excuse for the Steward to spend time with Éowyn.
"You should keep your voice down, Little Flower," the Steward said with a smile. "There are those who would be quite unhappy to learn of your little adventure last night and it could create problems for Éomer."
For a time the three remained quiet, playing with the small kittens, completely unaware that Éomer waited and listened just feet away. Lothiriel turned her blue eyes to her cousin and gave him a little nod towards the door. She wished a moment alone with Éowyn.
Faramir cleared his throat, "Um, you know, the straw and dust in here is…" He coughed. "…getting to me. I think I will just wait for you outside."
Éowyn looked up from the kitten she was playing with and gave him a quizzical look. The Steward just smiled and strode from the stables. The shield maiden now gazed at her companion. Something was going on.
Lothiriel stroked the furry head of the little kitten she now held close. Finally the younger woman spoke, "May I ask you something?"
"Of course," Éowyn said with an inviting smile. "I have no secrets."
From Firefoot's stall, Éomer almost burst; no secrets his arse! He really should let the ladies know he was there, but…this could get interesting!
"It is about your brother…I mean the King." The dark haired woman blushed. "It is just," she continued, picking straw from the kitten's fur, "he seems so intense, intimidating at times."
Éomer felt his heart lurch at the Princess' perception of him. Is that really how he appeared to others? Granted, he shouldered a great burden and he was fierce in battle, but was he truly…intimidating? The King wracked his brain to find a time when he might have treated the young woman in any way that would warrant such a description. He had stopped grooming Firefoot and now leaned against the wall closest to the women, desperate to hear more.
"Éomer is, and always will be, a Rider. He is stubborn, quick tempered, demanding, and expects much of himself and others."
From his hiding spot, Éomer wanted to throttle his sister for her overly honest description of him. Éowyn continued, "Yet, he is always fair; he has a generous heart and a gentle soul. There is a good and passionate man beneath his rough exterior. It just takes a little time to coax that softer side out of him."
Lothiriel listened carefully; not just to what Éowyn said, but to what she did not. The princess had suspected that the King was a complex man. She held the purring kitten closer as she spoke her next question. "Is he…I mean, how are he and Arathea getting along? I have not seen much of the Lady."
Éowyn looked at Lothiriel. The princess had a strength about her that was carefully hidden behind the delicate disposition of a proper lady of Dol Amroth. Her eyes held an innocence, yet spoke of a deeper understanding than many might give her credit for. The shield maiden was aware of her brother's attraction to Lothiriel and now it seemed the attraction might be mutual; although she did not understand what Arathea had to do with it all.
Her confusion must have shown on her face for Lothiriel quickly explained. "I know that she returned to Edoras with the King. I had assumed that it was so they could become better acquainted."
It took a moment before understanding dawned on Éowyn. The blonde woman quickly responded with a laugh. "Oh no! There is nothing like that between them. Thea came to Rohan to help restore damaged manuscripts and as support for my brother. But I assure you, there is nothing more intimate than friendship developing." Éowyn did not miss the relief that flashed in the younger woman's eyes.
"Oh, I see. So he is not, I mean he does not have..." Her blush deepened.
Éomer felt his heart begin to flutter as he listened to Lothiriel's questions. She was asking about him, about his availability. Butterflies swarmed in his stomach as the King thought of the Prince's beautiful daughter. He wanted to burst from hiding and assure her that there was no woman in his life and the only woman on his mind was her! Still he remained hidden.
Éowyn laughed at the tongue tied princess. Finally taking pity on the girl she spoke, "No, there is not a woman in his life. I think he wishes to find that someone special that can share his life. I would be happy if he could find someone who would love him for the man he is…not the King."
Lothiriel remained quiet, cuddling the small gray ball of fur. Something deep inside her whispered that she could be that woman. That she was that woman. There were only two problems—she lived in Dol Amroth, and Lady Beriedis.
Her thoughts were interrupted by Faramir as he entered the stables again. "I hate to break up this womanly bonding, but it is getting close to meal time and I fear if I do not return Lothiriel soon, that pompous peahen will come looking. I would rather not be on the receiving end of that woman's ire!"
The two women laughed and, after saying good bye to their furry friends, headed to the exit. "Oh heavens!" Lothiriel exclaimed as her foot was suddenly attacked by the little grey kitten she had been holding.
Her cousin laughed. "Seems this little grey fella has taken a likening you; I do not think it is happy to see you go."
'He is not the only one' Éomer thought from his hiding spot.
Lothiriel picked up the kitten and returned it to its litter mates. "Now stay put, you little scamp."
Once Éomer was certain they had left, he emerged from Firefoot's stall. He looked at the litter of kittens and was happy to see that only one was grey. Picking it up, he headed to the stable master. He had a plan.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.