Gamling strode purposefully into the crowded room, making straight for the back table. Lothiriel found she almost had to run to keep up. The over long cloak hanging about her complicated the matter as she tried to keep it up off the floor—it dragged terribly.
"If this were the olden days, my beloved, I would be greatly concerned to find a woman wrapped in your cloak!" Aglaril said as Gamling approached.
The tall captain pointed to the bench next to Aglaril; Lothiriel took the seat obediently. "How did you know?" the princess asked, peeking out from under the hood.
Aglaril smiled and put her arm around the girl. "Child, I am afraid it is obvious." Lothiriel's bright blue eyes grew wide with unspoken apprehension. The blacksmith quickly contoured, "As obvious as his cloak says 'tis no one's business who you are'."
Éomer stood to face his captain. "She should not be here!" he hissed. "Do you realize the trouble if she is discovered?" The King looked about the tavern, looking to see who from the Southern delegation was there. "You should have sent her back to her rooms."
"A lot of good that would have done," Gamling answered. "Better she be here, under my cloak than snooping about in hers! Relax Sire…" Éomer glared at the man. "It worked for your sister and it will work for her. She wishes to know more about Rohan. Now sit as people are beginning to stare. Perhaps her presence will lighten your mood."
The young King took his seat and kindly greeted Lothiriel. Gamling pulled up a stool, ordered refills on the ale and couple of mugs of cider for the princess and Aglaril.
After a brief, yet awkward silence, Lothiriel spoke up softly, her head bowed, "I am sorry for the trouble; I did not really think this through very well."
Éomer's expression softened and he looked, for the first time, at the beautiful woman across from him. "It is alright. You are just lucky Gamling saw you. He knows how to keep sneaky women out of trouble."
Aglaril raised an eyebrow, "Really, now? Is there something I should know about?"
Gamling growled at his King. Taking a swig of ale and wiping the foam from his mouth with the back of his hand the Captain answered, "Only that impudence runs in the royal bloodline." He then pinned Éomer with a stare. "You may be King, but I can still whip your hide!"
Éomer laughed at his Captain's rather idle threat. Lothiriel smile broadly; that one thing made the king seem so much more approachable. It also proved that here they did not stand on ceremony…at least not outside of the throne room.
Soon the four conversed comfortably as Lothiriel asked many questions. A boisterous outburst from the bar area, however, caught their attention.
"Good heavens who is that very tall man?" Lothiriel eyed a large blond Rohirrim. If Lothiriel stood next to the man she would look like a child!
Éomer looked over his shoulder and chuckled. "That, my lady, is Erkenbrand; and yes, he is rather tall. He even makes Gamling look short!"
"Insolent pup," Gamling muttered.
Aglaril patted the man's arm. "You are plenty tall enough for me," she said sweetly, earning her a roguish kiss.
Lothiriel watched the display. It made her happy. For all the sorrow the land of Rohan suffered, its people still saw the joy in living. Another outburst called her thoughts back to the present. She watched as a dark haired, robust man raised a tankard of ale. "To the King!" he shouted before downing the ale without stop. He slammed the tankard on the bar amid cheers and groans.
"Seems Elfhelm can still out drink the younglings." Gamling said with a hint of pride.
The four again returned to quiet conversation. Questions were asked and comparisons were made. In time, the conversation slowed and they just sat comfortably in silence, watching the world around them.
"It is late, Captain," Aglaril finally said. She knew neither Éomer nor Lothiriel wanted to end the evening, but the young lady needed to back to her rooms. "Why do we not see her to her room."
"It is out of your way," Éomer interjected, "I would be happy to escort her." He smiled softly at the blushing woman.
"I am sure you would, and I am sure she might prefer it; however, Aglaril is right. We will see her back. If by some chance we encounter someone, there will be less scandal with Aglaril present."
Éomer knew they were right, but he really wanted to spend more time with Lothiriel. Somehow her very presence lifted the shadow that hung about his soul. She was a shining beacon to him. Still, he did what was best. Standing and giving a small bow, he bid the lady good night with a smile. Gamling led the two ladies from the "Den" into the cool night air. He picked up Lothiriel's cloak as they passed the bushes and made their way back to the trellis beneath her window.
Lothiriel looked up. She did not realize how far up the bottom was. The drop had not seemed so far when she dropped down. Gamling came to stand close behind her. "Did not think about how you were going to get back up, did you?"
The Prince's Daughter looked into his twinkling grey-green eyes; the Captain was quite amused. Lothiriel blushed and replied quietly, "I guess not. Now what do I do?" Her voice pleaded with him to help her. Gamling looked back at Aglaril.
"Oh go on," she said with a snort. "It's not like it is the first time."
Gamling moved to the stone wall and interlocked his fingers. "Come, now girl," he commanded. Lothiriel quickly removed the Captain's cloak and donned her own.
"Up you go and quietly. Do not wish to wake the guard dog."
Lothiriel giggled. Approaching the crouching man, she kissed his cheek. "Thank you," she said as she stepped into the man's hands and he hoisted her to the trellis. With surprising speed she scampered up the greenery and disappeared through the window. Certain that she was inside safely, Gamling strode over to Aglaril.
"It has been an exhausting day and adventure filled night; morning will come all too soon."
Aglaril wrapped her arm around the tired man leading him down the path to her cottage. Tonight he would sleep wrapped in the warmth of her arms and love; and if Éomer played his cards right, someday, he might find that same comfort with a certain blue eyed sprite from the South.
AUTHOR"S NOTE: In this chapter, Aglaril makes a reference to an old tradition involving a woman being wrapped in a Rider's cloak. That idea comes from a story by ZeeDrippy Vessel where when man and woman are caught wrapped in the Rider's cloak, they are married---regardless of their state of dress—or undress. I though it was a cool tradition! However, in my tale, the tradition has gone by the wayside—as is evident by how often my Rohirrim wrap their cloak about a lady in an act of gallantry. Still, it seemed to fit in nicely here so, a BIG "Thank You" to Zee for letting me borrow the tradition. For more info about "wrapped in a cloak" (and a great story to boot) read her "Rider of the Mark" over at OEAM! It's an awesome read J. Thanks Zee!