13. Chapter 13
'Do you mean that I am expected to spend the whole of every night in a bed with a man I have never met?' Lothíriel might have guessed the words would come back to haunt her. He had only been gone three days and she was missing him more then she ever would have thought possible. Cuddling up to the pillow was useless. The pillow was soft and he was hard. Very hard most of the time, actually, at least when they were in bed. Or even when they were in their apartment. Or when she went to talk to him in his study for that matter. But then they had only been married for just over six weeks so it was understandable, she supposed. And quite flattering really. But now it looked as if she would be spending another night on her own, although it was pretty certain he would be back tomorrow. She had to get used to it of course, as there was bound to be plenty of times in the future she would be waiting for him to return. Six weeks ago she was a nervous bride and now, well the words that came to mind she hardly dared to voice even to herself, they were gleaned from overhearing her brother's conversations. Hussy was one, but worse of all, something that disgusted her then but now seemed most appropriate to the way she felt, most of the time – a female dog in season was the polite way of putting it. She indulged herself by casting her mind back to their wedding night. It had taken hardly anytime for her nerves to disappear. They had gone inside and he had stood behind her unhurriedly unlacing her dress and nuzzling his lips into her neck. When the dress was fully unfastened he had not removed it but just untied the three ribbons holding the back of her shift together and then slipped his hands in between the silk fabric and her skin, reached right around the front until he held one breast in each hand, and then proceeded to rub his palms in a circular motion gently over her nipples. She had been undone from that moment and after he did slip off her dress and put his lips there… Lothíriel shivered with sudden longing. Yes, when he had eventually settled himself above her there were definitely no nerves left, only expectation. Grief, she must stop thinking like this, she could already feel wetness…
"My Lady, do you think this is the correct shade or should we use the darker one?"
Lothíriel jumped, nearly stabbing herself with her needle. Ernhild was holding out two different skeins of wool towards her. There was a distinctly amused expression on her face. She just hoped the woman could not read minds. She could do just about everything else.
"The light has gone," she managed to get out in a near normal voice. "It would be better if we made the decision tomorrow."
"Yes," Hulda agreed, "they will be laying for supper any moment." She got up and started to collect the skeins of tapestry wool together. "I must go and check on the boys, they are probably outside annoying the guards."
With that Fréowyn bustled into the hall followed by a kitchen maid. "Supper is nearly ready, my Lady and the guards say there is no sign of them. Shall I carry on?"
"Yes, please Fréowyn. It was not definite they would be back today."
Ernhild grinned at her Queen, "I am sure Éomer King would have been back if he could, my Lady. Alldrid says he has a smile on his face every morning, even when he is presented with a great pile of parchments."
That remark caused laughter amongst the group of women and caused their Queen to blush. Really, she thought, they were so outspoken. Not that she minded: it was refreshing. However good she was at embroidery and needlework she had found it a chore in Dol Amroth. Here, where they were making real difference restoring the ancient tapestries and hangings, the job was made even more pleasant by the open conversation of the ladies of Edoras. True, she had had to put up with a few remarks about her small frame, but it didn't bother her. Her mother was just as slightly built and she had borne three healthy strapping sons. Lothíriel resisted the urge to put her hand on her belly, Frecca said it was silly to even think it, but she knew.
She smiled; it would not hurt to go along with them. "I do admit to missing him," she said as she stood to pack her things away, "It is very quiet without him around."
"If you are lonely at night, my Lady, then I am sure Frecca would not mind sleeping with you."
"Thank you, Eldis. She has offered," Lothíriel replied politely, "but I think it important that I get used to being on my own. I am sure he is going to be away a great deal over the years." Anyway, it was just possible he would come back late and he certainly would not be pleased to find Frecca in the bed as well. Two weeks ago, when he had gone up to Dunharrow to see Halldor, he had returned very late. She had been asleep for hours but…
"I doubt you will be on your own for too long anyway, my Lady." Ernhild was looking at her speculatively.
Lothíriel caught her eyes, questioning, but the woman just bowed her head, smiled knowingly and prepared to leave. She was sure Frecca would not have said anything, especially as Frecca did not believe her anyway. Alright, she could not just go on her instincts and the fact that she felt different, and that her breasts sort of tingled even when Éomer wasn't around. She knew her courses were not late because of the excitement and her changed life; after all they had never varied by more than a day since she was thirteen, and had irritatingly arrived right on their appointed day one week after the wedding. Now though, over five weeks from then there was no sign. Yes, she knew alright.
Lothíriel pumped up the pillow for the umpteenth time. She had stayed up as late as she could, talking to Hulda for a while after she had put her boys to bed, but the older woman was tired with two lively lads to look after and needed her rest. Then she had a bath but she still could not sleep. Even though she had spent the morning working in the garden, given advice to the head of the Council regarding some correspondence with Gondor and spent the afternoon working on the hangings. At least she felt useful here; Éomer and his advisors did not hide the fact that they found her knowledge of all things pertaining to Gondor valuable. She had only just discovered how much she really knew. Years attending the most boring of functions had given her more insight into possible trading opportunities than she had realised and the information she provided was welcomed. That's what she liked about Rohan; they valued women, much more than her homeland anyway. Yes, she was happy here. It had turned out better than she would ever have imagined. She was lucky, she realised that. Lucky that she had such a loving and caring husband as well as one who excited her senses in the way he did. For an arranged marriage it had turned out well. She knew he did not exactly love her; he was pleased they were married, he certainly desired her, men never seemed to have a problem with that, but he did not actually love her. At least not as Faramir loved Éowyn or Aragorn loved Arwen, or even as her father had loved her mother. No, he did not love her, not as she loved him. She had thought about it since he had been gone these three days, thought about it more than once, wondering when it had started. She had decided it must have been the lion incident, when he had picked her up and carried her out of the arena, instinctively knowing what was right for her, when her brother had stood there shouting at her. Yes, that was definitely it. Now she was missing him terribly, and not just the lovemaking, but just him being there next to her. She missed the soft sound of his breathing, the feel of his hair tickling her face, the way his arms would draw her against him if she was restless…oh, it was no good, she was never going to get to sleep. She might as well get up and make a drink. Camomile tea was supposed to help, although she had always thought it tasted disgusting. She was just about to get out of bed when she stopped; perhaps she ought to tell him she loved him. Or would it embarrass him? She could whisper it in an intimate moment, maybe. If she was going to tell him it had better be soon, before they knew for certain that she was with child. She wouldn't want him to think that she only loved him because he gave her a baby. He knew how much she wanted one. She sighed: arranged marriages were so difficult. If she had not been born a princess she could have married for love. But then she would not have married Éomer and that was an awful thought. Lowering her feet to the floor and finding her slippers Lothíriel looked around for her robe. Éomer's was hanging by the door. She smiled, she would take that. She wrapped the soft wool around herself snuggling into its generous folds. It smelt of him, assaulting her senses with reminders of his hard muscled body, long limbs and roving practised hands. She giggled to herself, whatever would the dragon aunts think of her now? Lothíriel rolled up the sleeves and picked up the lamp she left burning when he wasn't there, hopefully she would not trip up as the robe was only calf length on her husband. Perhaps the camomile would taste better if she added some honey, she speculated as she left the room.
It was a cold night. Éomer thought it might even snow. He wiped his bread around the plate, supping up the last drop of gravy. It had been right to stop; he confirmed his decision to himself. The men were cold and hungry and that was when mistakes were made. Now they just had to decide whether to camp for another night or continue to Edoras, arriving somewhere around midnight. It was again his decision, of course, but he didn't really wish to force his preferences on his men. No, that was not true: he had never had any problem with that, it was just he knew he would be in for a ribbing if he said he wanted to go home. Rightly so, really, after all the occasions he had bemoaned his lack of opportunity to spend time in the wild enjoying the camaraderie of the campfire. He grinned to himself: it was probably worth the ribbing and a three hour ride to be able to tiptoe into their bedchamber, slide under the covers and wake her up. Last time he had done so it had been delightful and extremely rewarding. On the other hand why should they be surprised, there would certainly be something wrong with his marriage if after only six weeks he preferred to sleep on the cold hard ground rather than in a soft bed with his beautiful young wife wrapped in his arms. And she was beautiful with those fine elfin features and her huge eyes. He was lucky. Very lucky, when he thought who he could have ended up with if the council had had their way, which was why he had jumped at the suggestion when it was made. It had definitely been the right thing to do. After all there was no one he was in love with and he had to marry. It was good for the Riddermark and he had pleased the council. Yes, and it had worked out well. He had wanted her from the moment she fell into his arms, there was just something about that innocent but expectant expression that appealed to him and he had always liked smaller women. Invoked his protective instincts, he supposed. He smiled inwardly; she still had that innocent expression although it was now more fancy than fact. He had enjoyed watching her blossom in other ways too, standing up to her father and brothers. Gondorians did have odd ideas regarding women, did not seem to acknowledge their strengths at all. It was different in the Mark and he knew she appreciated it. His instincts had been right though. Imrahil's daughter would know how to behave as a queen. The servants were eating out of her hand and as for the council members. He suppressed a chuckle: she knew how to deal with them alright. The first time she had done it he thought it was genuine but the second time she had put on that guiltless face and pretended not to understand the Rohirric, he had realised. If she did not like what was being said or did not agree, then she would keep asking them to repeat it slowly until they gave up. He admired her determination as well; she had put in a lot of work with her riding, before she had arrived and since. She was quite an expert now and had formed a real bond with Jewel. No, it might not be a love match but they could deal very well together, and right now he wanted to head back and….and what? Start by burying his lips in those utterly desirable breasts, if he was honest. He put his plate down, Éothain was coming towards him.
"Everyone's finished, Lord. Do you wish to ride on or shall we make camp for the night?"
Éomer made a play of looking up at the sky and considering the weather before he answered. "I think we may be in for a snowfall, those clouds look ominous and it's cold enough. The horses are rested; it may be as well to go back tonight. It might be harder going in the morning."
Éothain's lips twitched, "So you are saying we are going on, Lord, are you?"
"I think it might be the right decision, what about you?"
"Oh, it doesn't matter to me," Éothain grinned, "I have been married too long."
Éomer laughed, "I don't believe that for a moment. Anyway we will go; I really do think it's going to snow."
"Good," Éothain replied, chuckling.
"So you did want to go back?"
"I wanted you to say we were going home. We have a wager on it," he laughed and turned around to rouse the men and collect his winnings.
At least he felt vindicated when about an hour from Edoras large snowflakes fell on them. Within twenty minutes or so the horses' hooves were muffled and they were in a silent world. One of the men started singing and soon the whole guard were giving voice to a Rohirric ballad about Brego driving the enemy from the Wold. It was a good ending to a good few days, checking on the herds and discussing the progress of the foals. It was something he always enjoyed even though he did not have to do it, but the foals were the lifeblood of their land and it was right for the king to take an interest. But now he was certainly glad he would be back soon. He smiled, and allowed himself the luxury of imagining her asleep. Hopefully she would not be wearing a nightgown, although it was cold and she probably thought he was not returning tonight. He would just have to take it off, very slowly. Easing it up over those slim calves smooth thighs and firm buttocks… Bema, if he kept on like this the rest of the ride was going to be damn uncomfortable.
Edoras was in sight when the snow stopped, leaving the landscape covered in a few inches of powdery crystals. It was enough to make everything beautiful but would not impede the normal day to day tasks in the morning, which was good.
"Éothain, don't sound a horn; we don't want to wake everyone up. The guards will see us coming in this light."
"I'll be glad to get in now my feet are frozen."
Éomer grinned at him, "At least you have got someone to warm them, think of those who haven't."
"I tell you it will have to be a bowl of hot water. If I put these ice blocks on her all I will get is a clout around the ear."
"Perhaps you have been married too long," he chuckled. Hmm, hot water sounded good though, hopefully there would be kettleful on the hearth in their chambers. In this weather the fire was always kept going. "Ah, the gates are opening, someone is still awake."
"If the guards went to sleep in this weather, they would be frozen solid." Éothain said wryly.
"You must be getting soft. This is only a taste; I bet it will be gone by midday tomorrow. It's too early for it to hang around."
"Well, if it's a taste then I don't want the rest of the meal," his Marshall muttered.
They emerged from between the lines of barrows and Éomer and Éothain led the column of men across the dyke and through the gates.
"You still here, Aldor?" Éomer called out to the old man, waiting to give the order to close up again. "You were here when we left."
"Keeps me out of mischief, Éomer King. That's if I was young enough to get into mischief," he added.
"When I look at you I know there is hope for us all," his king replied jovially. "Is everything all right, nothing I should know about?" If Aldor didn't know what was going on in Edoras, then no one did.
"All's fine. Apart from your lady Queen missing you, that is."
That set Éothain chuckling. "Why do you think we have had to ride half the night in freezing conditions?"
"I don't have to listen to this." Éomer urged his horse on, "Come on, Firefoot let's get you in a warm stable." He turned back to Aldor, "I told her you were a rascal and you are."
A few lamps came on as they made their way up to the Royal Stable, but because of the snow many would not know their king had returned until the morning. Nobody made more noise than they needed, life in Edoras started at first light.
The stables were warm, even on a night like this. It had got colder again and the snow clouds had given way to a clear sky and near full moon.
Díor came out rubbing his eyes and yawning. There were always lads on duty, day or night. "Do you want me to see to him, my Lord?"
"I'll rub him down, Díor. You go and get some feed. As long as he is really dried off tonight, you can brush him in the morning. The saddlecloth will need a good clean as well." The boy nodded and went to the feed bins.
Éomer took off his cloak and removed Firefoot's saddle and tack and reached for a felt cloth. However keen he was to see his wife it was a job that could not be neglected or even hurried. Firefoot was damp from snow and sweat and Éomer started with long strokes giving the area under the saddle special attention. It was a job he enjoyed, even at this time of night and he did not skimp on it.
When he was at last satisfied and sure that Firefoot had suffered no hidden injury from his long day, Éomer handed him over to Díor and strolled over to Éothain.
"Have you finished?" he asked his friend.
"Yes, I am coming now."
Éomer yawned. "Perhaps Alldrid will not realise we are back and I might get a bit of peace in the morning." His head of council was an early riser and very conscientious.
"Well, I won't tell him."
The two men made to leave the stable stopping only to wash the worst of the muck from their hands. The others headed to their various houses but King and Marshall walked together up towards Meduseld. Éomer was waylaid by one of his guards for a moment and when he started up the steps to the Hall Éothain was in conversation with one of the Doorwards. Éomer greeted the man but did not stop, eager now for the privacy of his own chambers.
Éothain waited for him just inside and, instead of turning left to his own quarters, beckoned him into the hall. "Come and see," he was grinning, "you will have a surprise."
Éomer stopped some paces from the big hearth in the middle of the hall. Curled up on a settle to the right of the fire, a small figure was fast asleep.
Éothain dropped his hand onto his King's shoulder, "I will leave you to it then," he whispered. "Hulda was the same the first few times I had to go out on patrol. It was a while before she could sleep properly with me not there."
When Éothain had gone, Éomer walked quietly up and stood looking down at his wife. Her features were soft in sleep, her long dark lashes brushing her cheeks and her wonderful black hair totally loose and spread over her shoulders and down over her chest. He realised she was wrapped very tightly in his own robe. It completely covered her except for one little bare foot peeping out.
He felt a sudden rush of emotion warming him to the core and a smile slowly crossed his face. For the first time his initial reaction to her was in his heart and not in his groin. He savoured the sensation for a few seconds, realising that he more than welcomed the new feeling. It completed things. Putting his cloak and gauntlets down on a nearby chair he thought for a moment. If he just picked her up he would wake her: his outer clothing was wet and cold. Silently he unbuckled his sword and that joined his cloak on the chair. Then his outer tunic and after that his long mail shirt, it was a good job he was not wearing full armour. Probably the fact that the king had undressed in the hall would be commented on in the morning, but nobody would take much notice. Once down to his wool shirt and breeches he bent down and retrieved the slipper that had come off and fallen under the settle. He shoved it in his waistband. Éomer carefully slid his arms under his sleeping wife and lifted her up easily against his chest. She murmured a bit but did not wake. Now he had a dilemma, he could not carry a lamp as well. He could see in the hall as there was a lamp burning and the moon was giving some light through the high windows but once he got to the tower vestibule it would be black. Hopefully there would be a bit of light from the fire once he opened the door to their bedchamber. He mused on what to do, not wanting to bump into anything and wake her. Strange that, all the way home he had been thinking about waking her and now… he would have to find the words to tell her how he felt. He wondered if she felt the same and thought perhaps she did. He hoped so anyway. He would certainly have to tell her before they had a child; he wouldn't want her to think he only loved her because she provided him with an heir. No, he would tell her soon. He left the hall with his burden and stood with his eyes closed for a moment trying to get some night vision before he headed for their rooms. It would have been all right if an empty copper water jug had not been left outside their door. It went clattering on the stone floor. Damn!
She jumped in his arms. "It's all right," he whispered, "It's me. I am back."
"Well, it's no one else carrying a half naked queen through Meduseld," he chuckled softly.
"I am not half naked."
"You are, because my robe is falling off you. And very nice it is too, I might say."
"It's so dark I sure you can't see anything."
"It was not that dark by the hearth and it fell off when I first picked you up. What were you doing in the hall anyway?"
She hesitated a moment, "I found it difficult to sleep properly without you there so I went to get some camomile tea. I missed you."
He nuzzled into her neck "I missed you as well. And now that you're awake I'll be able to show you how much. No!
"Now you are awake there's something I must show you first." Instead of pushing open the door of their bedchamber Éomer headed towards the door that led to the garden. When he got there he struggled with the bolts holding Lothíriel against him with one arm.
"We are going outside? It will be freezing," she exclaimed incredulously.
"It will only be for a moment. Here, put your slipper on before I open the door." He took her slipper from his waistband and Lothíriel held out her foot. Éomer fitted the slipper on her bare foot and then he took hold of the robe and tucked it around her as best he could.
"You could put me down."
"No I couldn't. Look!" He opened the door and Lothíriel gasped.
"Yes. Have you seen it before?"
"Only from a distance. On the mountains when we visited Lamedon years ago."
"Well, it will probably be gone tomorrow so we will have a look now." His boots crunched as walked out onto the terrace, the sky was totally clear now and the snow had frozen. The ice crystals were glistening in the moonlight. When they reached the tree Lothíriel reached out to a branch and took a handful pressing it together between her palms.
"Is this how you make snowballs? I have heard about them."
"Yes," he laughed, "but if you want a snowball fight you will have to get some clothes on, or you will freeze."
"From what I gather there will be plenty of chance during the winter." Lothíriel dropped the snowball and put her arms around her husband's neck
"I am sure there will be. Sometimes we are totally snowed in and sometimes there are raging blizzards, but we are used to it. I am afraid you are not."
"I will manage and it is beautiful now." She was looking out over the rooftops of Edoras towards the White Mountains. The moon would soon be sinking behind them but at this moment the whole landscape had a magical look: snow topped rocks and white dusted trees contrasting with the long dark shadows thrown onto what looked like a carpet shining diamonds.
It reminds me of the glittering caves of Algarond," Éomer said softly, "do you think I could ever persuade you to come and see?"
"If you hold me as tightly as you are doing now, I am sure I will not notice the dark."
"Lorí, if there is something I really enjoy doing, then it is holding you tightly against me."
Lothíriel giggled and slipped her cold hand into the front of Éomer's shirt, "Were you really going to put me in bed and let me sleep?"
There was a sharp intake of breath. "Well, I had every intention of doing so, but now you are awake it's a different matter and it feels if one hand at least needs warming."
She withdrew her hand and started wriggling her lower body about, clasping her arms tightly around his neck.
"What are you doing?" he asked in his amused voice.
"I am trying to get in a position so that I can kiss you. I would like to do so out here in the snow." He was pleased because up to now, although she had been totally responsive and enthusiastic, perhaps a lack of confidence in their relationship had stopped her taking much initiative.
"In that case let me help you." Éomer shifted her in his arms and held her around her waist so that she could wrap her legs around his hips. Their faces were only inches apart.
Moving his arms up and crossing then over her back allowed him to hold her against his chest and their lips to meet. They were already cold but they tasted of honey and the cold lasted only a moment as he plundered her mouth with his warm tongue.
"Is it just a kiss you want?" he whispered huskily when they drew apart. "You know, Lorí there are other things we could do in this interesting position."
Her eyes widened and he observed her expression with interest as she took in the significance and the possibilities of her legs being wrapped around his hips. She was biting her bottom lip, a sure sign she was working something out. Although, he imagined she could hardly fail to realise, given his rapidly increasing response to her.
"Oh, you would have to hold me up for quite a time. But it's too cold out here, anyway."
He chuckled at her rather perplexed expression, "I think we can safely assume I would have no trouble holding you, and we could go inside," he suggested. The more he thought about it the more the thought excited him. He started to head inside. She was right; it was bloody freezing out here.
She nodded and her face broke into a grin, "But before we do anything else I am going to have to wash you."
Once back in the vestibule, Éomer put his shoulder against the door and managed to slide one bolt across.
"Yes, all over." She was giggling openly now. "There is a distinct whiff of horse about you and as there is not enough water for a bath you will have to stand in the tub and I will sponge you down."
"Sponge, as in dead sea creature?" She had brought a few strange things to Meduseld. Some stranger than others.
"It is much the most efficient way of doing it, especially when there is only one kettleful of hot water. And the soap lathers so well."
Éomer pushed open the door of their bedchamber, it was blessedly warm. The huge log in the hearth was barely half burnt and gave a faint glow to the room. He put his wife down gently on the rug in front of the fire and found a candle which he lit from the log.
He turned back to her putting one hand around to the nape of her neck and lifting her chin with the other looking down into eyes that held a mischievous sparkle. "Now, my sweet little wife, I am not denying I need a good wash and I am not disputing that the sponge is probably the most efficient way of carrying it out I am merely suggesting that you lathering your hands would be a much more exciting way of achieving the desired result."
Her fingers trailed from their position on his waist to the remaining fastenings on his shirt. "You will need to bring a tub in here, in front of the fire, it's too cold next door," she pulled at a fastening.
"Oh, I have every intention of doing so." He dropped a light kiss on her nose, "I do not intend to be the only one standing in the tub. Now stay there and keep warm. I will fetch everything." Éomer went to the next door dressing room and looked around for the things he needed: soap, sponge and drying cloths. He threw them in an empty tub and picked it up. He stopped for a moment; it would probably be a good time to tell her, during an intimate moment. He was pretty sure she felt the same but he didn't want to make a big thing of it. He headed back into the bedchamber.
The tub went on the rug in front of the fire and he picked up the big kettle of hot water from the hearth. Lothíriel picked up another jug. "We will need some cold in there unless we want to burn our feet." He nodded and she poured half the jug in.
He liked his wife undressing him, loved the way her small delicate hands ran over his body. Enjoyed her undoing his breeches and pulling them down over his hips. It was usually a bit of a relief as by this time he was always feeling a little restricted in that area. It only took a moment to relieve her of his robe and lift her into the tub with him, wrapping his arms around her so that there was no space between them.
"We will compromise," she whispered. "I will wet you with the sponge and then rub the lather over you with my hands."
"And I will just rub my hands over you," he murmured softly. "You must have already had a bath, you smell exquisite."
"I did earlier this evening, in case you came home." She started sponging him down with the water and when he was all wet she picked up the bar of soap and started lathering his chest. That was good, but when she reached around him it was even better as her delightful breasts were squashed against him and with his hands cupping her buttocks…. He started chuckling, Bema, at this rate the rest of him was never going to be washed.
"What's the matter?"
"Perhaps you had better use the sponge for the rest of me."
"It does seem to be exciting you somewhat." She gave a giggly laugh, "I think you are right it's taking rather a long time like this." She picked up the sponge, loaded it with soap and quickly washed down and rinsed the rest of him, holding the sponge behind her back when she had finished.
She was looking at him with a somewhat straight face, trying not to grin.
"You have forgotten a bit."
"Have I?" Their faces were only inches apart and her lips were tight together, suppressing her laughter.
"Well, I was saving the best bit for last."
"Best bit, eh?" He studied her for a moment enjoying the mirth in her eyes. He was glad he had made the effort to come home. "You, my once innocent little wife, are turning into a proper little minx," he laughed softly, "but I love you anyway." He watched her eyes widen in surprise as she took in what he had said. Lothíriel dropped the sponge and put her arms around her husband's neck, standing on tiptoe so that she could whisper in his ear, "Éomer I …
Authors note: that's all from these two but be assured that she is pregnant and she will tell him soon. LBJNote on chapter length: Maximum word count for individual chapters in the HASA system is 11,000 words including HTML markup. This is an approximately 20 page Word document, Times New Roman font, 12 pt. type. The text will truncate after that amount. Please break very long chapters up to avoid truncation.
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