1. Eomer's Banquet
Written for fun
When they left the shadow of the trees, the plain opened before him. Éomer reined in, bringing Firefoot to a halt and taking a deep breath as he stared at the soaring walls of Minas Tirith. He had been expecting the view, but the edifices of stone, blushing palest pink in the early morning, took his breath away. And from the very heights, the Tower of Ecthelion a glittering spire that thrust into the morning sky. At its top he could just make out the dark smudge of the King of Gondor’s standard. Warm anticipation filled him. Until now he had not realised quite how much he had been looking forward to this visit. Even though he knew he would be returning to Edoras without his sister, the pleasure of meeting up with Aragorn and Imrahil again compensated a good deal.
As he played with the thought, Éowyn drew alongside; he heard a long drawn-out sigh and turned his head towards her. She stared at the city, her mouth half open, eyes not full of happiness as they should be on the eve of her wedding, but sombre and joyless. Éomer guessed why she looked so sad and his heart went out to her. Last time she had ridden to Minas Tirith, she had arrived at a battleground. “What are you remembering, Éowyn?”
She didn’t answer for a moment continuing to look towards the city, but then she slowly twisted to face him, pain clouding clear blue to dull indigo. “It looked as though all the area in front of the city was covered with crawling black ants. I was so scared, but so desperate. I didn’t want to live. But now I have found Faramir I want to live so much that it hurts.”
“Do not be sorry for that, rather be thankful that you have found such a good man to love.” Éomer smiled at her, pleased to see that he evoked a smile back. “It won’t be long now. I imagine he is already pacing the terraces watching for you.”
Éowyn laughed suddenly, her joyful countenance quickly returning. “I am not so sure. He will not be expecting us this early and is probably in his study surrounded by parchments.”
“Well, he will know very soon.” Éomer nodded to where he could see the dust of a galloping horse heading straight for the gates of Minas Tirith. Someone in the guard-post on the Rammas Echor must have spotted them coming. Unconsciously Éowyn straightened up and lifted her hand to her hair, twirling a few errant strands in her fingers before pushing them behind her ear.
“Tomorrow I will be married. I will be a princess of Gondor, Éomer. I hope I don’t let him down.”
“Let him down! Éowyn, sometimes you talk utter nonsense.” Éomer spluttered his astonishment “Let him down indeed. Gondor is fortunate to be having you, and I shall make sure everyone knows that. Now come on, let’s go and get some breakfast.”
He signalled to his standard bearers to take up position at the front, raised his hand and the company took off at a slow canter towards the North Gate. The guards waved them straight through and a thousand Rohirrim, men and women, poured onto the Pelennor. Éomer scanned his eyes from the city to the river, and down to the Harlond. Everywhere there were signs of rebuilding: homesteads and farmhouses flattened by war had been roofed with new straw, already they glowed yellow as the sun climbed a cloudless sky. He could see a few figures working in fields, where rich brown furrows showed evidence of recent ploughing. Then to the left, near the river, movement caught his eye. He squinted into the sun and saw a small group of galloping horses. As he watched they made a sweeping turn heading across some open land and coming diagonally towards them.
“Someone out for morning exercise,” Éowyn remarked. She put her hand up to shade her eyes, brow creasing in a frown. “I am sure that’s Faramir. The second one. Something about the way he sits.”
Éomer looked again. The riders were closing the gap fast and one horse raced in front of the others. What! A pale streak of fluid muscle and grace flew across the plain; he would recognise that horse anywhere. Angrily he turned to Éowyn. “That’s Lyftwynn in the lead, but it surely can’t be Arwen riding her”
“No,” Éowyn agreed. “She would not be galloping like that in her condition. But it does look like a woman on her back.”
Éomer gripped the reins, surprised at the depth of his anger. “I gave her to Arwen. The best we had. I did not intend for any other woman to enjoy her.”
“You are being unfair, Brother. She will need exercising until Arwen can ride again. And it looks to me as if her rider is worthy of her.”
He had heard Éowyn’s placating tone quite a lot over the last year, this time she was obviously right. But the horse had been a noble gift to Aragorn’s wife, given when King and Queen had come to Edoras for Théoden’s funeral. A gift between friends, not between heads of state. “Well whoever she is, I damn well hope she isn’t going to approach us at that speed!” But as he watched the rider gradually slowed the mare to a canter and allowed the others to catch up. When they did the small group slowed further, trotting along a track that ran almost parallel to their own for a short distance before it converged on the main way. Éowyn had not been mistaken, now almost within hailing distance, Faramir raised his hand. Éomer studied his companion, the woman who rode Arwen’s horse. Admittedly she did compliment the light-grey mare. Wearing a deep mulberry colour riding dress, her black hair hanging in a long plait down her back, she sat straight and confident. And although too far away to see her facial features, somehow he knew she would be comely. But that thought got pushed aside and Éomer ground his teeth as she moved Lyftwynn right next to the Steward. So close that surely their legs rubbed together and then she reached her hand over. It didn’t take his good eyesight to see her squeeze Faramir’s arm, look up into his face and make some comment which got his sister’s betrothed laughing.
Éomer glanced at Éowyn. She sat stiff, gazing fixedly at the little scene, lips thinned in fury. His own ire rose further. The sooner he met up with the hussy the better. Probably some lady-in-waiting who thought to advance her position. Éowyn shouldn’t have to deal with this sort of thing on the day before her wedding. He kicked Firefoot on, riding right through his standard bearers, and charging his horse up to the unknown woman. Firefoot had to sidestep to avoid bumping into Lyftwynn, but trained in the Mark, the mare did nothing more than toss her head. The woman, no doubt trained in the courts of Gondor, raised elegant eyebrows, her mouth opening in surprise.
“You’re riding the queen’s horse! How dare you!” Éomer barked it out before he even greeted Faramir. Just as he did so his eyes fixed on the woman’s face. Béma, a beauty. No wonder the worthy steward looked to be enjoying his morning ride. But he continued to glare at her. She didn’t drop her gaze like most did when treated to that particular stare of his, but returned one of her own with eyes almost too large for her elf-like face. Ignoring that, he flicked his own eyes to her breasts - a natural move for any man. The deep vee of her otherwise severely cut riding dress showed a mouth watering figure. Éomer drew in breath, but then a jolt of realization hit him. Surely that was…Oh no! It was. An embroidered motif decorated her bodice, silver thread woven into the unmistakable shape of the Swan-ship of Dol Amroth. Damn! His foul temper would get him into real trouble one day. Attempting to retrieve his dignity, Éomer prepared to stutter an explanation of his ill-mannered behavior, but was forestalled by a guffaw of laughter from Faramir. “Éomer, is that the way you normally greet a lady? No wonder you remain unmarried.” When he didn’t answer, sometimes less said the better, Faramir continued. “Éomer King, allow me to present my cousin, Lothíriel of Dol Amroth, Imrahil’s daughter.”
“Oh, Lothíriel,” Éowyn’s voice came from behind him. She sounded relieved. “We wondered just who Arwen would trust with Lyftwynn. Of course it makes perfect sense now.”
“Part of my duties, lady Éowyn. We could not possibly leave such a wonderful horse languishing in the stables.”
Low and melodious, her voice matched her face, Éomer decided. Exquisite. She smiled and the morning became even brighter. But Éowyn must have heard no more because Faramir jumped down from his horse and held out his arms to her. She fell into them, and the Steward swept her into a passionate embrace, black hair mingling with gold. Éomer watched with increasing wonder – so much for Gondorian reserve. He heard a few coughs and whispered comments from the men behind him. Faramir had gone up in their estimation, too.
Lothíriel’s lips twitched but, unlike his men, she politely ignored the pair and turned her attention to him. He wasn’t going to object to that. “This is only a temporary arrangement, my Lord King. Lyftwynn is very much Arwen’s horse and she visits the stables almost every day. I merely keep her happy until her mistress can ride again.” As if to agree the mare tossed her graceful head, causing her rider to chuckle indulgently and lean forward to fondle velvet ears.
That started his pulse racing. “I can see that Lyftwynn is in good hands, my lady. If I sounded bad-mannered just now, I hope you will forgive me.” Éomer tried to remember the last time he had apologized for anything. A moment’s thought reassured him it was a rare thing. But then he was not usually rude to beautiful women. Especially daughters of close friends. Reluctantly he drew his eyes away, returning his attention to his sister.
“Put her down, Faramir,” he drawled. “The men are hungry and the City awaits them.” A few chuckles came from behind and Faramir released Éowyn, grinning up at him.
“The City is waiting for them. The air of expectation is tangible. I have emptied the lock-ups in preparation.”
“Humph…! I do not believe the Rohirrim will cause you any trouble. We have brought wives with us. That will ensure the peace.”
Faramir did not look convinced, but said no more and lifted Éowyn back on her horse. Surprising Éomer, who had never known Éowyn to permit anyone to help her before. The two rode together which allowed him to ride next to Lady Lothíriel. A beautiful woman on a beautiful horse. He cast his eyes sideways, noting the slim suede-clad leg and dainty polished boot that peeked out from her riding habit. Neat gloved hands too, that fingered the reins lightly. But hardly unexpected, that any offspring of Imrahil’s would be an expert rider. Lifting his gaze to her face, he encountered a cool assessing look from those grey orbs. But as their eyes lingered on one another, her luscious cherry-red lips parted into a smile, which sent a huge jolt across Éomer’s chest. Béma, somehow he had to convince her he wasn’t really an uncouth lout.
“I didn’t realize who you were, my lady. And when I saw you being so familiar with Faramir …well, I….”
She broke into a low chuckle. Now her eyes sparkled! “You thought I was a scheming woman who had designs on your sister’s betrothed?” Her eyebrows rose in question, but when he said nothing, only twisting his lips in reply, she carried on. “Then I can understand your anger. Shall we forget it and start again?”
He beamed at her. “I’d like that. And of course Lyftwynn needs exercise while Arwen is indisposed. I cannot think of anyone I would prefer to ride her.”
She grinned back. Éomer decided she must have a sunny nature. Unusual, as in his experience lovely-looking women were often arrogant and haughty.
“Well, my lord. I do admit to be enjoying this part of my duties. I ride with just an escort most mornings, but on my way to the stables today I found Faramir pacing about at the top of the wall. It is not often I see my cousin so impatient, but waiting for Lady Éowyn to arrive tried him sorely. That is why I suggested he pass the time by riding with me.”
Faramir impatient for his bride to arrive! Éomer rather liked the sound of that. He also liked the sound of Lady Lothíriel’s voice and would be content to listen to it all the way to the gates of the city. He liked the way she unwaveringly met his eyes, too. So many of the girls trotted out for his inspection over the past year had been able to do nothing other than simper platitudes and whisper inanities into tightly laced bosoms. “Riding is obviously something you enjoy, my lady. Surely you must have your own horse. Are you exercising two?”
Grey eyes darkened, and immediately Éomer realized he had said something to cause her pain. But she did not drop her gaze and continued to look steadfastly at him.
“My horse was killed in the war, my lord, and has not yet been replaced. We are still short, so all the horses you sent have gone to our warriors. That is why I am grateful to be riding Lyftwynn.”
“Killed in the war!” He could not help his astonishment showing. “I did not think the enemy got so near to Dol Amroth.”
“No.” She shook her head. “But everything we had was needed to defend the White City. I lent my horse and my betrothed to Gondor, my lord. Neither was returned to me.”
Damn! Now what had he said. He vaguely remembered Imrahil mentioning something about a family tragedy, but so much had been happening then. The first woman he had met for years that really stirred his interest, and twice he had managed to behave like a boorish oaf. “My lady, I am so sorry.” This was becoming a habit. “I do remember your father telling me, but with so much going on back then and since …” He stopped: keeping on apologizing would not help. Direct speech was always better. “Is that why you never came to the victory celebrations?”
“Yes.” She had regained her smile. “I did not feel like merrymaking. But the king is very kind and when Arwen’s condition was known, and my grieving had lessened, he asked me to come and take over some of her duties. Being kept busy dealing with Gondorian servants, the organization of court functions and a steady stream of petitioners, has taken my mind off my loss.”
“And now, my lady?” He could not stop himself asking.
“Now I remember both with sadness and with affection. All gave a great deal to ensure victory, my lord. Not many came through those times unscathed.”
No, not many, including himself. But as for Imrahil’s daughter? Well, she had certainly got his juices flowing. He consoled himself with the thought that she did not sound totally grief-stricken.
Already surprised that Imrahil had requested a meeting – after all they had met and talked together many times during the past three weeks – Éomer was not expecting to find Aragorn present as well. Although the King of Gondor sat on a chair in the corner, slightly behind Imrahil, leaving the Lord of Dol Amroth to put forward any proposition. The deliberately nonchalant and over-relaxed attitude of the man facing him, suggested some kind of proposal was forthcoming. Imrahil sat on the edge of the leather-topped desk swinging one shiny boot, a benign smile on his face. Éomer sipped his wine and waited, wondering how his friend would approach whatever needed to be said. He didn’t have to wait long.
“Éomer, you remember we had a talk in Edoras last August, about the succession of Rohan?”
Bema! Did they never give up? He remembered it only too well! Why did they think he could not sort it out for himself? No wonder Aragorn hid in the corner. He might be the High King but for some reason Éomer never had any trouble being rude to the ex- ranger, whereas Imrahil, born and brought up in the upper echelons of Gondorian society, evoked his best behaviour.
Imrahil gave him no chance to answer and immediately launched an attack. “The situation is becoming urgent. Elfhelm tells me there is no lady in the Riddermark who has gained your interest, but besides the need for an heir, Éomer, with Éowyn in Gondor you need a helpmate. You need a queen and a wife.”
Just wait till he caught up with Elfhelm! “Imrahil, I have met scores of ladies since our talk. Those who could easily fulfil the role of queen I would not let past my bedroom door, whilst the others…” A laugh came from the corner. Eomer glared over Imrahil’s shoulder, meeting brimming eyes.
The Lord of Dol Amroth ignored both of them and carried on. “I can well believe you have done your best, Eomer. But sometimes friends can help in these situations.”
“They can?” He said, trying for politeness, still wondering why they thought he needed help.
Immediately Imrahil pounced. “Éomer, I have noticed that you and Lothíriel have spent time together in the last three weeks, both in conversation and out riding.”
Ah! What a surprise. Éomer could have laughed out loud but managed to keep a serious face. “Your daughter, Imrahil, is far pleasanter company than most of the hierarchy of Gondor. Present company excepted, of course.” A feast for the eyes as well, but he hesitated to say that. He glanced at Aragorn – the King of Gondor was examining his nails. No doubt knowing what was coming; he probably didn’t want to look his Rohirric friend in the eye. Returning his gaze to Imrahil, Éomer set his face into a bland mask.
Imrahil met it with a benevolent smile. “I would like to make a suggestion, Éomer.”
The Prince nodded. Éomer could have sworn his lips twitched, but Imrahil sounded deadly serious. “I would like to suggest to you that Lothíriel would make an excellent Queen of Rohan.”
“Queen of Rohan?” Éomer hoped he had done a good job of looking astounded, as if the thought had never entered his head. He dropped his eyebrows and said slowly, “You think I ought to marry your daughter?”
“The only way I know of to make her queen,” Imrahil drawled, not reacting to the astounded look. “She would be very good at it, you know. I doubt you could find a better.”
“Wife or queen? To my way of thinking there is a subtle difference – what appeals to the eyes and tastes well on the palate, does not always do well in the stomach.” Imrahil glared at him, but he grinned to show his friend he was funning. “But I am sure she would make a good queen, my friend. One cannot fail to notice her fine qualities.”
Imrahil stiffened. “I like to think she has proved her worth during her time deputising for Queen Arwen. She has handled difficult assignments with tact and diplomacy, and it takes a lot to discomfit her. Elessar would be the first to acknowledge that.”
From the corner, Aragorn nodded. Éomer agreed. She had certainly not been discomfited when a certain Horse-lord had charged his stallion full pelt towards her. But that was not the point. “There is more to being Queen of the Mark than being diplomatic and an efficient organiser, the lady in question would also have to fulfil the role of wife. Wives in the Riddermark tend to live much closer to their husbands than they do in Gondor. Generally marriages are made between people who are in love with one another; it would be disconcerting for any woman to marry a virtual stranger.”
“You are hardly strangers, Éomer,” Imrahil retorted. “And Lothíriel has been brought up to the likelihood of a political match.”
“It may be so, but life in the Riddermark is very different from the Courts of Gondor, Imrahil. And Meduseld no vast castle like Dol Amroth. ”
“She is well acquainted with the differences between our two countries, Éomer. Both I and her brothers expounded greatly on the beauty of Rohan and the friendliness of the inhabitants of Edoras after our visit last August.”
Their eyes locked, and Imrahil’s lips definitely twitched this time. Amrothos and Erchirion had certainly found the natives to be friendly. He would wager they had not told their sister quite how friendly. “From what I understand your daughter was promised elsewhere, but her suitor died in the war. Even if I felt I could develop a genuine affection for your daughter, I would not want a wife who still harboured deep feelings for another.”
Imrahil smiled and got up, wandering to the window. He looked out and then turned back, a look of reassurance on his face. “I do not think you need to worry about that, Éomer. While I have not directly put this proposal to her, I have good reason to believe she would not be adverse to it. Lothíriel and Bahain were childhood friends and sweethearts. I thought her too young and I really did not think they were totally suited, only giving my permission because of the war. If he had lived, I am not sure they would have actually married. Lothíriel grieved for a friend not, I think, for a lover.”
That fitted in with what she had confided to Éowyn. “Then I suppose the logic sounds good, Imrahil. The Riddermark does need a strong queen and such an alliance would benefit both our countries. Strengthening the already close bond between our families would bode well for the future.” That got Imrahil beaming at him. “But I would like to get to know your daughter a little more before I decide. I will not consider any marriage until I am sure we will become fond of one another.”
Imrahil stared, the smile now plainly sceptical. “I would have thought you had a pretty good idea about that. You and she have spent a great deal of time together since you arrived.”
“Well yes, but the traditions here do not allow for ladies to spend time alone with men who are not related. It is difficult to talk about important matters or really get to know one another when a maid walks behind or an escort gallops alongside. I would like to have some time alone with her to assure myself that she is in agreement with your plans, and that we will suit each other.”
A choking sound came from the corner and Aragorn stood up, coughing loudly. “Went down the wrong way.” He held up his goblet in explanation.
Éomer studied his friend. Aragorn definitely had a smirk on his face. Now why was that? Wondering if he was missing something Éomer turned back to Imrahil. “With your permission, I will arrange a private meeting with your daughter. After that we should both be able to come to a sensible decision.”
“If Imrahil agrees,” Aragorn inclined his head to the Lord of Dol Amroth, “may I suggest the small courtyard at the back of the citadel. It is extremely secluded. I can send a page to arrange for Lady Lothíriel to meet you there now, Éomer.”
It was the first time Aragorn had really contributed to the discussion and it set Éomer on edge. He flung one of his looks at the king, but Aragorn returned only a benign smile. “An excellent idea,” Éomer replied, still a bit suspicious of the glint in Aragorn’s eye.
“Yes, do that please.” Imrahil was all smiles, anyway.
Aragorn opened the door and passed some instructions to whoever stood outside. Closing it again he looked directly at Éomer, his expression bland. “I am sure you will find the courtyard suitable, Éomer. It is only overlooked by one window. A small one at the back of my book-room. You may not even notice it, hidden by that large plane tree.”
The misbegotten spawn of a maggot; son of a mangled warg; troll’s… Éomer clenched his fists but managed to close his mouth without saying the words aloud.
“But don’t worry, Éomer. I am not using that room today.”
Never let the enemy know they had exposed your strategy! Pushing himself from the chair and feigning nonchalance, Éomer nodded a farewell to Imrahil. Dealing with this lot was worse than storming a den of orcs. “Right, I will talk to you later.” Aragorn got up and opened the door. Passing him, Éomer dropped his voice to whisper in the king’s ear. “You, my friend, should have stuck to sleeping under hedges. A location more suited to your personality.” Encountering only Aragorn’s disarming grin, he exited into the corridor, hearing stifled laugher behind him.
The twitter of birdsong greeted him when he silently pushed open the wooden door. Lothíriel sat on the stone seat, half turned away from him. Studying her for a moment he pondered on how life could change in a few short weeks. Her father was right, difficult to imagine any woman making a better queen for the Riddermark. Diplomatic; honest; robust, in spite looking like a beautiful fragile flower. She could ride well, too. The list was endless. Éomer glanced up, peering through the branches of the leafy tree. He could just make out the small window Aragorn had mentioned. Her reconnaissance skills needed honing, though. She had insisted no one could see them here. Perhaps in the future he would take over those duties. Deliberately moving his foot on the gravel, he witnessed her lovely face light with pleasure when she looked around. He took a few long strides and she stepped into his arms. Éomer drank his fill, the heady blend of soft lips and fragrant skin making him forget everything except the woman he had fallen in love with.
“What did my father want?” She asked when he eventually released her.
“He wants me to marry you.”
Lothíriel chuckled into his chest. “And what did you say?”
“I said I needed to discover if we would suit each other.” He bent his head, seeking to slake a deeper thirst that he had ever known. “The decision will surely take at least another hour of deliberation.”
Getting out unnoticed and unscathed would be difficult, but Éomer had planned his campaign well. And no one could fault his reconnaissance. He had already ascertained that the gate to the side of the hall was unlocked and the key to the outer door to their apartments nestled deep in his pocket. All that remained now was to steer his bride out through the main doors on the pretext of getting fresh air…but there lay the difficulty. Firstly because every man in the hall wanted a turn dancing with her, and secondly because a couple of his guards had positioned themselves by the door. His men did not want to be denied the traditional riot that happened when the bridal pair retired, and Éomer knew they would be on the look out for any avoidance tactics on his part. Lothíriel had never struck him as a prude, but he didn’t want her upset. The Rohirrim were likely to behave a lot differently than the Gondorians had done at Faramir’s wedding.
Éomer let his eyes follow her around the hall. How beautiful she looked with her black hair flowing down her back. So light on her feet, laughing when Aelfisen whirled her around. As she came past him their eyes met and she smiled. That got him thinking about her lips: so moist and tender. That was it! He’d had enough! Or, in fact, nothing at all since the kiss when they had exchanged vows. His hunger had been growing all evening. Now it gnawed relentlessly at him and he wasn’t prepared to wait a moment longer. He wanted her now! Pushing straight through the dancers invoked laughter and ribald comments, but he didn’t care. Ignoring Aelfisen’s loud protests, Éomer claimed his wife, pulling her into his arms before guiding her to the side of the hall.
“I’m not letting you go again tonight, so don’t think I am.”
“I don’t want you to let me go,” she murmured leaning into him. “In fact I am beginning to think it’s not me nervous about our wedding night, but you. Surely it must be getting late.”
Another thing he loved about her: no false modesty; no pretence. “Then let us not wait a moment longer, my lady wife, but you have to decide how you wish to leave. We can try sneaking around the back; I have the key in my pocket. Or we can brazen it out.”
“What usually happens?”
Éomer chuckled. “Traditionally, I pick you up and carry you to our bed. All the men clap, shout and stamp their feet, making as much noise and as many lewd suggestions as they can think of. The vulgarity increases with the amount of ale they have drunk.”
“Well, what are we waiting for?” Lothíriel raised her arms and wrapped them around his neck. Laughing, he swept her up. The cheering started before he had taken the first step.
The noise reverberated in his ears, but the bawdy comments and innuendos passed over his head, all his concentration centred on the woman in his arms. She had buried her face in his tunic, the vibrations of her laughter drumming against his shoulder. What a wonderful queen she was going to make.
Compared with the frenetic atmosphere of the hall, the corridor resonated calm. Éomer put his shoulder against the door to their chamber; it flew open propelling them through the opening. With Lothíriel still in his arms, he only just kept his feet.
He knew he had shut it tightly earlier, but then he spotted the culprit standing next to the great bed. “What are you doing here? Out!”
But his wife’s Gondorian maid came from sterner stock. She drew herself up to all of her five foot three inches, thin lips quivering. “I have seen to the princess for the past ten years, my lord. Just because she is married does not mean she can get herself into bed on her own.”
Lothíriel slipped to the floor, her lips compressed together to stop her laughter. “Lisswen, I really can manage. Why don’t you have a night off? You must be tired after the journey.”
Lisswen sniffed, shoving her pointed nose in the air. “If you’re sure, my lady, but I doubt any of us will get any sleep with that row going on out there.”
Éomer held the door open for her. She swept past, casting him a sideways look full of suspicion and then stopped, turning back to Lothíriel. “What time do you want me in the morning, my lady?”
“The queen will ring when she’s ready.” Éomer answered for his wife, just stopping himself from pushing the maid out of the door.
When she had passed through he closed it firmly, sliding the bolt into place. A heartbeat later and Lothíriel was in his arms, the warmth of her body and the fragrance of her hair sending his senses reeling. His at last, to be treasured, savoured and enjoyed. He nuzzled eager lips into her neck, nibbling into tender flesh. One hand wandered to her breast: ripe and full, her desire as urgent as his own. “Does your maid really think I am incapable of undoing a few laces?”
Éomer let the pleasure of the morning wash over him. They would have to get up soon – the sun had risen eons ago – but he did not want to lose the unique feeling of contentment. At one time in his life he had thought this joy would never be his, had never allowed himself to hope the darkness would end. But this was the first morning of hundreds – thousands — that he would wake with his wife cradled in his arms. All the years ahead of them, there would be good times and bad times, but none would be quite the same as this. She moved, but only to snuggle harder against him. He didn’t want to break the moment, but others were waiting. “The morning is old, sleepy- head.” He whispered the words against her silky hair before moving his lips down to suck at a convenient earlobe
Squirming, Lothíriel moved her head so their lips connected. “I am so sleepy now because my husband kept me awake for a great deal of the night.”
Éomer just had to sample the tasty morsels presented to him before answering. “And I cannot remember my wife objecting. In fact I recollect that my wife woke me before dawn.”
“Only because I was in danger of being suffocated.”
“But I remember you chose not to go back to sleep for quite a while.”
She giggled against his lips. “I have discovered that sleep is overrated.”
He personally thought he would be seeing a great deal more of his bed in the future, but maybe not to sleep. “I am glad to hear it, but now unfortunately we can neither sleep nor indulge in anything more pleasurable. Our guests will be waiting. Those who are leaving today will not want to do so until they witness the giving of your morning-gift.” He knew she would love his choice: a beautiful horse for a beautiful woman. And an unusual and distinctive colour – the red of the mare’s coat already showing mottled grey patches on her neck. But she would remain fiery for a few years yet. Elegant, bold and fast: a gift for his wife and her alone. The very best he had. No one else would ride her.
“Oh!” Lothíriel pushed him away, “Then we must get ready because now I cannot wait either. Shall I call Lisswen, or are you as adapt at getting me into my dress as you were at getting me out of it?” Before he could answer she pushed back the covers and hopped out the bed, searching for her slippers.
Éomer groaned, the sight of his wife’s naked body seriously compromised his resolution to do his duty by his guests. Rolling across to her side, he reached out a long arm and pulled her back into the bed. “They can wait a while; we haven’t had dessert.”