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Eomer guided Firefoot into yet another lush forest. The scent of budding flowers and the sea filled his nostrils. He was getting closer. Maybe he was imagining this scent but it was definitely different from Rohan.

It was a joy to feel Firefoot trot on the path, after months spent listening to his counselor and marshals between four walls. His sword was on his side, his eyes surveying the area and his heart beating wildly. They may call him Eomer King but he wasn’t born for politics, he was born for the wild paths, untamable steads and battle. Here it all seemed possible.

He frowned when he heard a hushed voice speaking behind his back. Eothain saying something to another of his men. The illusion was broken. His shoulders slumped slightly. He hadn’t escaped from Meduseld, his golden prison, he was merely leading his men to Dol Amroth for a diplomatic meeting. Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth had arranged a get together with a few Haradrim noblemen and even someone from Khand. Now that the Shadow had passed, it was time for men to mend their broken ties. Aragorn must have arrived last night, Eomer would probably be the last one to find his way to the princedom. He didn’t want this journey to end. The wind in his air, fresh air in his lungs was worth seeing the displeased faces of those awaiting his arrival. Firefoot was also enjoying their ride. There was still so much to see and explore in Middle Earth. So many victories to find.

It wasn’t his fault, really, but that of the gorgeous scenery he had glimpse after the darkness of the Paths of the Dead. Eothain had complained and said something about wasting time but Eomer had indulged into the pleasure of riding through Lamedon, before finally reminding himself that he was a king that was awaited in Dor-en-Enril. He glanced over his shoulder, his escort was too big for his taste but not enough for his council. He missed being carefree, or rather, when he didn’t have to carry the weight of his people on his shoulders.

He was used to travelling with other rohirrim but there was now an invisible veil between them. Eomer King. What a silly title. Firefoot neighed, probably agreeing with his master. Eomer’s eyes caught something shinning through the trees. There was a clearing and he could hear the water rushing. This must be the Ringló crossing. He slowed down Firefoot and Eothain rode past him.

“Eothain.“

“Eomer, I’m sorry but…“ He trailed off. Of course, until Rohan wasn’t provided with an heir it would never end. This was an issue Eomer didn’t have the heart to dwell on. There was much to be done in the kingdom before he could think about women or having his own children. He was born in battle for the battlefield. Eowyn and Faramir would no doubt grace Rohan with many heirs. But him? All he desired was to bring back his kingdom to its former glory and find some peace ridding through the plains.

As he came closer, he saw that Eothain was standing next to his stead, talking to a hooded creature.

He got down to his feet. He heard a female voice explaining :

“… The bridge is still under construction. We were under the impression that King Eomer would cross the Ringló further North. The Prince sent me just in case…“

The lady turned to him. He blinked. Why was an elf giving them directions? It was hard to forget the distrust his people had for these creatures. Nowadays, their lives were tied to elves and even other beings that had only belonged to legends. Eomer squared his shoulder before speaking. Elves were probably ageless but this one didn’t seem to be that old and this matter would soon be settled.

“I am King Eomer. Do you have a message for me?“

“Prince Imrahil has asked me to invite you on board of the Silver Swan. We will be taking you to the palace.“

Eomer stared at her. She didn’t seem threatening and she seemed to be speaking the truth. Yet, it was too soon to learn to trust strangers. Why would Prince Imrahil send an elven lady to take them to his home? He couldn’t help but remember his wagger with Gimli. He might have to change his statement, he had now encountered an elven lady whose beauty was beyond that of Queen Arwen and Lady Galadriel. She shifted her weight from one foot to the other, and her hood fell to her shoulders. This was no elf. He could see her perfectly rounded ears peeping from her dark hair.

“And who might you be miss.“ He asked. He had to repress a smile when he noticed the indignant look she shot him. She straightened up before replying,

“Eomer King, my father warned me that you might no trust me so easily. Here’s a letter he sent you.“ She waved a piece of parchment under his nose. He could see she was not happy about being questioned. Yet she was still smiling.

He unrolled the parchment and recognize his good friend’s writing. He was telling her that Princess Lothíriel, Captain of the defensive company, of the Swan Knights would be his escort to the palace. Eomer read the words a few times before he looked at her again. He recognized the regimental sword that Swan Knights wore, on her belt, and the swan embroidered on her cloak. He could see a sash full of arrows at her side. This was no mere lady he could dismiss with a ‘miss’. Eowyn would find this ludicrous. And she probably knew about it, since her husband had probably taken her with him for this meeting. He wasn’t very good with genealogy but this was Faramir’s cousin.

The princess was patiently waiting for him to finish. She had crossed her arms over her chest and her eyes were following his. For a moment he was lost in her grey eyes. There was a spark in her, spirit, that threaten to spill over her politeness. A strong will that could match his.

“Princess Lothíriel.“

“Indeed, A pleasure to meet you Eomer King, “ She pronounced his name slowly but with the proper Rohiric accent. “Are you ready to follow me?“ Their gaze met again. He could have swore there was a hint of challenge in her tone and in her eyes.

He couldn’t help smile from spreading on his face.

“Lead the way.“

He heard his men whisper behind his back. This time he barely registered it. He followed the princess to the ship, guiding a nervous Firefoot. He could smell flowers in her wake. As if he was back on that forest path. He had a feeling the journey had barely begun. Maybe he would find a way to escape the Golden Hall, after all.