A Maiden of Faith - Chapter 16


Lothmîr approached Elfwine at the feast, a fire burning in her eyes. As she approached she smiled at Lady Lothiriel and Lord Eomer. Her steps were measured and full of purpose. "Hello, my lord and lady. How are you, this fair evening?"

"Fine, dear. Will you not sit with us? Or are you dining with your betrothed?" Lothiriel gestured to the seat beside her. Her golden hair was glittering in the light of the party, and her eyes were sparkling with a deep kindness that reached deep into her heart, her soul.

"I'm sorry, but I'm already seated with Eldarion." She smiled through the lie. In all honesty, she hadn't even seen him yet tonight, though the evening was well underway. The Queen wouldn't know, she was too trusting of a person. "I was wondering if I might have a word with Elfwine?"

Elfwine's eyes grew large as his father laughed and answered, "If it be your will, fair maiden of Rohan!" Eomer gestured for his son to rise. "Go, my son, honor this woman with your company!"

Eowyn, who was seated beside her brother covered her mouth, holding her own laugh at bay. For she had seen her nephew's surprised expression. Faramir, Prince of Ithilien, however, unlike his wife, let a small laugh pass his lips.

"Thank you..." Lothmîr turned a fiery gaze on the prince. "Come, Elfwine."

"Yes, Milady..." As Elfwine stood he glared at Eomer, in farewell, "Father, mother."

The King of Rohan said nothing, only took a sip of his wine, a laugh in his eyes. Lothiriel smiled at her son, a knowing look in her all ways wise eyes. Eowyn gave him a sympathetic look, which he made a mental note to thank her for. Faramir looked at him with a shrug, as if he had no power. His cousins and sister all looked at him, grins mocking him and from the younger ones little giggles. Elboron, about his own age, only looked at him with a pity in his eyes. The young man rose and made his way toward a different table, leaving Elfwine defenseless.

When she had him a safe distance from earshot and eyeshot, she pounced. "What do you know about Eldarion? Where is he? Why is he not here?" Lothmîr grabbed the neck of his tunic.

"I know nothing! He isn't here? I could have sworn he was feeling well, I saw him earlier today..." Elfwine had a look of ponder on his face. "I wonder what happened?"

"You're his friend! You should know such things!"

"You're his betrothed... Don't you keep tabs on his every move?" A sarcastic look lit his eyes. He knew Eldarion had no feelings for the woman, however lovely she may be. It was rare for a woman of Rohan to have such dark hair, but her mother had been from Gondor, her father of Rohan.

"The maiden is gone as well." Lothmîr let him go, she slumped down on the bench behind her. "I fear I have lost him..."

Seeing the pain in her eyes, Elfwine decided to take some pity. He sat beside her and looked around before he took her into his arms. Her sobs were bitter, and stained his tunic. "There, there... Everything will be all right. You'll see. Even if you have lost Eldarion, there are men of Rohan who would gladly take you as a wife..."

"I love him!" She wept, her shoulders shaking in his arms. "I've always loved him!"

"Lothmîr..." He pushed her out and wiped the tears from her eyes. "You won't have any trouble finding a husband, he'll love you and you'll love him, even if it isn't Eldarion..."

"You don't understand... No one understands..." She turned her face away.

"Make me." He cocked his head and smiled at her.

"Ever since I was little, since the first time I saw him... I loved him. I thought he loved me too... But this Katrina, she has stolen his heart, his eyes, his love... He never..." She trailed off.

"Never what?"

She wiped the tears away. "He never looks at me like that anymore." Her hand trailed across her cheek, as if remembering something long forgotten. "He used to welcome my kiss, my caress... He used to hold me... Now, he only looks at me with cold eyes, his tender words are forced, his kiss brief, his touch seldom."

Elfwine took her hands in his. "He is older now, unsure of what he wants." He leaned close to her face. "You need not fear, lady. Others have looked at you with tenderness, I have seen it." His own feelings for her were muddled, unclear...

She shook her head. "It is not the same..."

"My aunt, Eowyn, she used to love Aragorn. Never did he hold her in such affection. He cared for her, but did not love her. She loves Faramir now, and none other holds her heart." He brushed a strand of dark hair out of her eyes. "She could not be happier. It is my observation that the line of Kings in Gondor, of late, has been making women of Rohan fall in love with them... While their own hearts dwell on women who are far different from themselves."

She smiled weakly. "I think you are right..."

***********

Eldarion had wandered from the feast, farther away anyhow. He now stood looking over the wall, his eyes looking toward Mordor and the Shadow Mountains Ephel Duath. Three figures were going that direction, in rather rapid speed. He could not make out who they were, but dark figures.

Horse hooves sounded behind him. Turning, he saw the great white steed Shadowfax. Jumping to the horse's side, he forgot who it was. He took him by the mane and began to soothe the horse. To his amazement, Shadowfax listened.

He is brought to you... A soft voice said.

In that instant, Eldarion knew that Katrina was one of those three figures. A terror clenched at his heart as he looked back over the wall. Sure enough, one of the people appeared to be staggering between the two other figures, and fell with no way to brace themselves. His heart sunk into his gut, and a sob wrenched his stomach up into his throat at the same time, threatening to make him vomit.

Turning back to the steed, he whispered, "Shadowfax, who has taken her?" He was really asking himself, but it was easier to say it out loud to someone else - even if it was a horse.

A Elven woman called Valeth, and a Man called Deladan. They have been ordered to find her and take her to their master.

He had not been expecting an answer. His eyes grew wide as he looked up into the horse's face. What was going on?

Shadowfax whinnied, as if laughing at his expression. He stamped his feet and tossed his head.

It was I, Iluvatar, My son, not Shadowfax... She needs you, she trusts you. I have shown you this so that you might save her. You will take her from this evil! The Man with a crown of thorns, holes in hands and feet, and a sword slung at His side came into Eldarion's mind. Then He vanished, with the echo of, You will take her from this evil!

Eldarion stumbled back. The horse darted, leaving him to his own thoughts. He was determined to see where they were headed. The exact valley, the mountain.

Ephel Duath, the Voice said. Valley of shadow...

"Thank You, Lord," he whispered. Then he felt a gentle wind brush across his face. A soft caress from the One.

Still, he peered over the edge of the wall, wanting to ensure her safety. He would die if she was killed, or hurt.

***********

Lothmîr had been walking with Elfwine, who felt bad for her. She knew his feelings were nothing more than that of a friend. He had been comforting her.

She gasped when she saw Eldarion leaning over the wall. Turning to her companion, a pleading look came to her eyes. "Please, wait for me farther down the path..."

"If it be your wish..." Elfwine continued on, pain in his heart. She was going to get hurt again, and she would cry more and harder...

Lothmîr reached a hand out. She laced her fingers with Eldarion's and circled her other arm around his broad shoulders from behind letting her hand splay across his chest, his heart. How would he react?

He didn't flinch, to her surprise. In fact, he seemed relieved. His hand move up to hold the one on his chest.

She rested her head against his back between his shoulder blades. Happiness warmed her heart.

Eldarion turned, still holding her hands. His arms slipped around her waist. He kissed her brow, his breath warm on her face.

"Eldarion..." She breathed, it felt as if all was right in the world. He held her comfortably, and she could not have felt any better.

"Lothmîr, we need to talk."

Her heart froze in its beating. Those four words, the most horrid thing to hear. Then, her heart began beating heavily, swiftly, as if trying to warm itself. Her breathing became labored.

"Not now..." she muttered. "Please, spare my being from more pain... I cannot take anymore..."

"I-" He choked with despair. He had loved her, once, a long time ago. As they aged his feelings faded. All he saw was a hollow maiden, though gorgeous, faded.

"Please!" She shrunk away from his strong arms. Her face contorted with hurt, pain, and sadness.

No, this maiden was not bereft of emotions, she was full of them. Her beauty was not all that she was made of. Her heart, though at times cold, was deep and at the moment fluttered.

"Lothmîr..." Eldarion pulled her to himself. "I do not want to harm you. Nothing in Middle Earth, not even a Silmaril, would make me want to hurt you!" He kissed her cheek. "Please, do not cry!"

"Then, you still love me?" She stilled in his arms. Her cries paused, waiting for his answer. She stopped breathing, hoping he would say yes...

"Yes..." His gaze looked into her blue eyes. "As the dearest friend I have ever had."

Her eyes clamped shut. A single tear fell before she opened them again. She laced her fingers with his, and raised his knuckles to her chest. She held them over her heart. Leaning upward, she kissed his mouth with a tenderness. Was there any passion left? Was there any hope for her soul to not die in her body?

His eyes fluttered shut. His mouth responded to her caress with a soft one, as if saying good bye. His hands slipped up to hold her face as her arms encircled his neck loosely. For a moment, something flared in him. Why did he love Katrina, when he had this maiden all to himself?

He could have them both. That was what he wanted! Why not? He was, after all, a prince. Anything he wanted was his!

A harsh voice rang in his ear. You can have both of them!

Eldarion! Her voice broke his heart. Please! Katrina's deep blue eyes flashed to mind. A scar white hand stretched over her eye and cheek. It was burned into the corner of her mouth. Don't give in!

No, I do not want both of them.... He thought sharply, his mind clearing from the deception.

"Lothmîr!" Eldarion shoved her away. "I'm sorry, but I love Katrina. You are my friend, the dearest one I have. Please, do not dishonor yourself. Not on my account. It is over. This thing you love is but a dream. I could no sooner make you happy than make the stars in the sky. I'm sorry." He turned to look over the wall. The middle figure had stopped, frozen.

***********

Katrina could feel it, like a dagger in her heart. Satan was pulling his most treacherous card. He was going to take him from her. Forever take her love from her, pull her heart out.

"Nenuial?" Valeth turned around. She saw the maiden's vacant eyes, the sadness there. "So it has begun."

"What?" Katrina looked at the Elf.

"He has started to torment you?" She moved a burning hand to come rest on her shoulder. Though, it was intended to be kind and soft.

"He is taking him from my grasp." Her heart was raising in her throat, threatening to make her suffocate. "Lord, give him strength," she whispered. She gazed up at the towering walls of Minas Tirith. Running a hand through her short golden hair, she closed her eyes. Voices filled her mind, all telling her lies.

He never loved you!

He was using you!

Why do you think he was talking to that girl anyway?

Then, one voice rang out the clearer, the Voice of truth. He loves you. He has not fallen into temptation. Have faith, My daughter! Her mind eased, but fear still raised in her. What was going on? Why was she here? "Lord, give me strength..."

**AUTHOR'S NOTE**
Hey, everyone! A little mushy! =) This chapter was in no way intended to show Eldarion as a careless person, the way he lured Lothmîr. The thing is, the Devil was tempting him with something of the flesh, and really, most people are tempted with this. Just thought I'd throw it in there. =)

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