After the initial “awakening” of Éomer, Ervinai’s patient healed extraordinarily fast. Ervinai credited it to God’s grace, but Éomer insisted it was because he was too stubborn to die yet. It was a day soon afterwards that Éomer began walking again. His back started scabbing, but Aragorn insisted on keeping it bandaged to protect it from being reopened. So, if Éomer walked a little stiffer as a result of his bound torso, no one noticed. Arwen had shooed Ervinai out to the garden to get some sunshine and fresh air, and Éomer, after dressing in a rusty red tunic and casual pair of trousers, went out for a walk as well.
Into a sunlit patch of grass Éomer stumbled, then stopped short. So close that she was almost at his feet sprawled the sleeping form of Ervinai. She had one bare arm flung decidedly over her eyes, but it was the shape of her lips and brown-clad form which gave her identity away to him. He backed up against a tree to ponder what he knew of her, besides the fact that she was beautiful and desirable.
Was it her beauty which attracted him or was it something deeper? What was the magnet within her which drew him like a moth is drawn to light? He admired her kind and selfless soul. Hadn’t she been his sole nurse while he lay unconscious and ill upon arrival in Minas Tirith? Was that what drew him then? Nay, it was something different…different, but connected somehow.
As Éomer pondered the matters which lay heavily on his heart he suddenly overheard voices coming his way. Listening carefully, he perceived the owners of the voices to be Master Merry, his esquire from Rohan, and his host and fellow hobbit, Peregrin Took.
“Pip, we’re supposed to sneak, not stampede!”
“I’m not stampeding, Merry, I’m flitting, from tree trunk-to-tree trunk.”
“Well, flitting or no, you’re making enough noise for a heard of oliphaunts. We saw Éomer come this way, and if it’s all the same to you, this is one prank I’d rather not get caught at.”
When the `herd of oliphaunts’ came crashing through the trees off to his right, Éomer ducked behind the tree he was leaning against and watched as the hobbits smashed through the foliage to stumble over Ervinai nearly the same way he had, only they actually went tumbling over her. Cries of `Watch out, Merry!’ and `Hoy! What is that?’ immediately ensued in the warm air, as well as a startled cry from Ervinai, who instantly jumped up, rubbing the spots where the hobbits had mistaken her for a log and gone traipsing right over her. The culprits, who still lay tangled in the grass where they’d fallen, now twisted round to gape at Ervinai. Her hair was tousled and her cheeks flushed from the sun, her plain brown dress was wrinkled, but her countenance was wonderful to behold. Such a look of shock had taken over her features that she seemed frozen with her mouth wide open, however, as the three personages stared at each other agape, her mind began to whirl. These were hobbits! Arwen had warned her to be on her guard with these two mischief-makers about. She’d better get the upper hand while she still could.
“And just who in Arda are you two?” she said in her most dignified voice, inserting a little irritation in her tone, to add to their stress.
“Uh…” Pippin intelligently contributed.
“Right. I’m Merry, uh, lady…er…angel?” answered the second individual.
“And just what do you mean by tripping over me?” she demanded, more intimidating than before.
“It was his fault…” Pippin again contributed.
“Oh?” Ervinai cocked an eyebrow at Merry.
“What do you mean, `it was his fault’?” Merry insisted hotly, turning round to face his companion. “You were the one who was making enough noise for a herd of oliphaunts!”
“Well it certainly wasn’t my fault, if that’s what you’re getting at.”
“Oh, oh, wait…don’t argue, gentlemen, my head might explode if you do…”
“Can I watch?” Pippin promptly inquired.
“Pippin!” his friend slapped him on the shoulder. “You don’t ask such things of a lady!”
“Oh really? Well, then how come I overheard you asking Estella Bolger if you could plait the hair on her toes? Surely one shouldn’t ask such a question as that either?”
Merry immediately blushed beet red, then shut his lips and, after one searing glare in Pippin’s direction, turned his face toward Ervinai. “Sorry, my friend seems to have become a bit delusional with that trip over your log-like figure.”
My log-like figure? Oh that’s just sweet, Merry. Ervinai chuckled to herself. She held up her hands, palms out, and said, “All I ask is that you do whatever I wish, little oliphaunts.”
“Whatever you wish?” Pippin asked, askance.
“Or I shall reveal your plot to Éomer.” she answered back. “Take it or leave it, gentlemen.”
“Take it, take it!” Merry shouted. “We can’t let him find out about this one!”
“Very well. Off you go then…back to your stampeding, my little oliphaunts.”
Both hobbits grumbled, but did as they were told. All the while mumbling to themselves.
“`Little oliphaunts’ indeed.”
“And you had to take the deal…”
“Would you rather Éomer find out?”
“No, but now we’re bound to her!”
“How harmless can she be? I mean, she scarcely looks large enough to harm a fly!” They both looked over their shoulders at Ervinai where she stood with hands on hips, watching them disappear. Pippin shivered.
“Well, she could certainly scare the wits out of one, that’s for sure.”
As soon as the hobbits were out of earshot Éomer let his suppressed laughter bubble forth unhindered. So! She could joke as well! Ervinai spun round to meet his gaze, fire in her own, before demanding,
“How long have you been standing there?”
“Long enough.” he replied, still chuckling, with the maddening air of one who’s just discovered something, but isn’t about to part with his newfound information. When she still continued to glare at him he asked, “So what sort of consequences are you going to cook up for these little ones here?”
Ervinai tossed her head defiantly. “I shan’t tell, my lord. After all, we’re all entitled to our own little secrets, aren’t we?”
“Ah. Well then I suppose I shall also keep quiet about a rumor I heard from the very lips of the queen this morning.”
“Arwen wouldn’t gossip.”
“Alright, it’s a fact.”
“I suppose I could allow you to share in the punishment of the hobbits.”
“Ah. Well then, there’s to be a celebration of our safe arrival in which you and I are to be the `guests of honor’.”
“How exciting!” she plunked herself down in the waving grass and her eyes took on a starry hue.
“Yes, it is rather exhilarating, isn’t it? Now, how shall we punish the hobbits?” Éomer asked, rubbing his hands together and whispering conspiringly.
“Do you suppose there’ll be dancing?” Ervinai asked, her mind still on the subject of celebrating.
“Yes, I would imagine so. Why do you ask?” Éomer looked downward on a blushing Ervinai, marveling at the curves of her cheeks and throat.
“I-I can’t dance.” Then she quickly glanced up. She thought she saw a flash of surprise in his eyes, but it was gone so fast she wondered if she’d really seen it. He posed the question nonchalantly,
“Not a step?”
“Not a step, milord.” was the meek reply.
“Well, this is just too good to be true! First I get to teach you sword fighting, then I am offered the opportunity to coach your dancing skills!”
“Oh!” she blushed and even deeper shade of raspberry. “Oh, that’s not what I meant at all!”
Ignoring her protests, Éomer stooped down in the sun-soaked grass and pulled Ervinai up gently to stand in his arms. “Now, put your hand here while I put mine just so. Then this hand stays in mine.”
She stood within the strong circle of his arms, with one hand on his shoulder and the other grasped by his work-hardened one. The sun beat down gently upon them and the smell of baked earth mixed with the sweet-smelling sod in the pulsating air around them while the long grass bobbed back and forth around them. He held her loosely, casually, just lightly resting his other hand against the small of her back, yet the blood throbbed so loudly in her ears she was sure he could hear it.
“While I move my feet you move yours to follow them.” he demonstrated, lightly pulling Ervinai after him as he began moving his feet in a slow rhythm. Ervinai anxiously watched his feet for signs of which would move next, to cue her on which of her own she should move in response. The initial steps went by with little mishap and she began to feel relieved, and looked up at Éomer to tell him so, but then his feet started moving differently. She bumbled along after him.
“Since when did the war expert become such a court specialist?” she muttered between clenched teeth.
“He began multi-tasking when he decided to rescue the princess from the dragon.” His feet stopped, but Ervinai’s kept shuffling along until she smacked head-on into his chest. She felt his arms tighten round her back, comfortably encircling her waist. Leaning her head back she glanced up to capture his chocolate brown gaze, then her hand resting on his shoulder found its way to his newly trimmed, slightly prickly cheek.
“Thank you, Éomer.” Then his lips encountered hers. In that moment fireworks ignited them both.
The wooden brush clattered to the floor as a light knock sounded upon her door. A startled Ervinai scrambled to scoop up the hairbrush as she called out, “Come in!” Resuming the monotonous task of straightening her unruly curls, she glanced in the mirror, trying to act uninterested in learning who her guest was.
It was Arwen, trailing several ladies-in-waiting who bore aloft a voluminous hunk of fabric consisting of blood red hue. Ervinai told herself she wasn’t upset it was `just Arwen’ at the door. She watched with divided attention as the queen instructed the maidens to lay the gown upon the bed and depart.
Arwen herself helped Ervinai slip into the middle of all the fabric so her arms filled the narrow sleeves, her neck rose gracefully from the short stand-up collar, and the gentle tapering of the waist set off the long, straight look of the dress. Over all went another red creation, of a sheer consistency, which calmly enveloped her form, allowing for many fluid curves.
I ought to be furious with Éomer for kissing me! Ervinai told her reflection sternly as Arwen took over the hairbrush. Instead of attempting to brush the curls out, Arwen gingerly reconstructed each dark curl and piled them all above Ervinai’s diamond-shaped face, drawing admiring eyes to meet Ervinai’s own brown ones.
“He kissed you, didn’t he?” Arwen finally queried.
“How can you tell?”
“Oh darling, I know.” she smiled.
“What? Is it written on my forehead for all to see?” Ervinai fought to keep irritation from her voice.
“Oh no, dear, only those who know the language can read the signs.”
“You appear to be glowing yourself, come to think of it.” Ervinai peered at Arwen via the mirror.
“You mean…?” Ervinai placed a hand on her own abdomen and raised her eyebrows in unison.
“Yes!” Arwen exclaimed, beaming.
“Have you told Aragorn yet?”
“No, I haven’t had the chance, with all the preparations for this feast.”
“Are you going to tell him tonight?”
“Oh I’m so happy for you!” Squealing, Ervinai leapt out of her chair to press her heart to Arwen’s. “When are you due?”
“Mithrandir said about five months.”
“Yes, he arrived late last night, just in time…”
“How do I look?”
“Like a dream.” Arwen’s maternal eyes shone with happiness and admiration. The word “dream”, however, reminded Ervinai of Éomer’s kiss and how she really should be furious, but for some reason she just couldn’t make herself angry at him for what he did. Could it be that she enjoyed it? Even sought it?
Ervinai quit her chambers to find Éomer dressed in the same color as she, standing outside his own room , just across the hall. She hadn’t been prepared for this meeting, yet Arwen gently shooed her into the hall to stand, eyes lowered, before her escort. A low thrumming filled the space between them.
Slowly extending his arm, Éomer caught his breath when her arm slipped through his, lightly brushing against his rib cage and causing butterflies to swarm in his stomach by the thousands. He had berated himself over and over again in the last few days since he’d kissed Ervinai. He hadn’t meant to let her see his feelings so soon, yet, when she looked up at him just now all caution flew out the window with the small breeze which wafted down the hall, and he reached up to tuck a curl behind her pointed ear. Her eyes closed and she caught her breath, but didn’t move away from his caress.
Neither noticed Arwen, who still stood behind them in Ervinai’s doorway, watching them with a queer smile on her lips.
“She certainly looks magnificent tonight.” Lûth, captain of the guard, said aside to Éomer as they stood together watching Ervinai twirl around the dance floor with Aragorn. Both pairs of eyes were stuck like molasses to the blood red apparition of delight whose charm and poise filled every corner of the large banquet hall. “My congratulations.”
Whether the captain was congratulating him for saving Ervinai from the dragon, or for being paired with her tonight, Éomer knew not. He gave Lûth a cursory nod before stepping into the fray and making his way toward Ervinai and Aragorn. Tapping his friend’s shoulder he asked,
Aragorn smiled and nodded to Éomer before offering Ervinai a half bow and turning back toward Arwen where she sat at one of the feasting tables.
Ervinai hoped Arwen would tell Aragorn the news soon, she dearly wanted to see what his reaction would be, but she also knew that it was a delicate matter, not to be rushed. Her wandering mind was abruptly brought back to the present by a deep bow from Éomer in his matching red outfit. He cheerfully held out his hand while opening his other arm for her to step into and querying,
“Will you suffer me for a dance partner, my lady Ervinai?”
Ervinai snorted. “You mean, can you bear to suffer me? I’m afraid I haven’t improved much.” She slipped into his arms, nevertheless, and he gave her a little squeeze,
“Would you favor another lesson then?” he witted, pleased when she blushed deeply and ducked her head. He skillfully steered her around the room, quite oblivious to the stares they received.
“I’m much too old to go dancing with such a young thing as Ervinai, my love.” Aragorn sighed as he seated himself next to his wife. She just snorted in response. “Look at them, dear, hanging on every word the other speaks, eyes glowing, and cheeks flushed. Reminds me of when we were younger.”
“Well, dear, speaking of young ones, there’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you. Perhaps we could move out to the terrace? I feel as if I could use some air.”
“Oh, yes, whatever you say, dear.” Aragorn slowly rose and offered his arm to his wife. Leading her out to a carved bench beneath the glittering stars he asked, “Now, just what delightful secret are you going to impart to your jealous old husband about those youthful lovers, hmm?”
“Are you really jealous of them?”
“No, of course not, dear, only of the adventure they’re brewing in their quest for one another. What were you going to tell me?”
“Simply that your crotchety old soul is bound to have some livening up in the next few months, some `new adventures’ you might say.” Arwen wore a maddeningly wicked smile.
“Oh I love guessing games! Be a dear, won’t you, and let me guess what terribly exciting thing is going to give me months of entertainment? Good.” he added when Arwen nodded her assent.
“You’ve ordered a new sword made for me?”
“No, dearest, but if everything turns out `okay’ I’m sure you’ll be ordering one within the year.” Though it won’t be for yourself.
“Hmm…You’re learning how to cook?
“Darling, I can cook, didn’t you enjoy the stew Ervinai and I made for you?” Arwen pouted.
“Oh, yes dear, you’re right, I forgot.” It rivaled Éowyn’s as the best stew I’ve ever tasted, he thought dryly to himself.
“Are you going to send Ervinai home with Éomer so I can have you all to myself again?”
“No, silly man!” Arwen finally burst out. “We’re going to have a baby!”
“A-a what?!” Aragorn sputtered.
“Yes, a baby!”
“Oh, Arwen! A baby!” Aragorn leapt off the stone bench and spun Arwen around, then held her close. “A baby.” he whispered.
Arwen smiled mischievously, “Are you still jealous of the young lovers inside, then, my old king?”
A hearty laugh. Then, “No, my dear, not at all. Their adventure is barely in the making, ours has already begun. I wouldn’t trade them for the world.”
“Neither would I.”
“We’re going to be parents.”
“Of a baby.”
“Yes, of a baby.” he replied, leaning his head down to steal a kiss as he whispered, “I love you.”
“I love you back.” she mumbled just before his lips captured hers in a sweet kiss of celebration and commitment.
Hey! Hope you guys enjoyed this one! It’s probably one of my favs so far. Stick around for more! This is only the beginning! 🙂