Rider Of The Mark

Chapter 38 - My Big, Fat Rohirrim Wedding
Posted the week of: April 4, 2008
 
*****
"Three times round, Once for the Daughter, Twice for the Crone, Thrice for the Mother, who sits on the throne."

Dréogan was not happy.

Gamling didn't blame him.

The war stallion had been fully dressed out in flowers and greenery. His mane and his tail were braided and ribbanded. His saddle was bedecked with garlands of pale pink roses and peonies.

He was almost as pretty as Adenydd.

***Why don't you just drape a 'Just Married' sign over his rump and be done with it...***

Adenydd was very taken with her ribbands and flowers. She kept looking back, nosing at the pretties. Twice, Haleth tried to distract her with apples, before brightening and reaching into his pocket for a carrot.

Abéodan was holding the stallion's bridle, close to the bit, struggling to keep Gamling's horse from pulling at the garland. Several times, the warhorse took hard nips at the Rider, who looked as uncomfortable as the horse. Gamling walked up close to the young Rider and whispered in his ear, "Who?"

"Not me! I wouldn't do this to him!" Abéodan hissed. "Or to you! I think Haleth and Cynn's apprentice went a bit far."

"Get rid of them."

Abéodan had the grace to blush. "No time. Here comes your bride."

Gamling turned to realize he was forced to peer through a sudden crowd of people. His mother,

***crying, as promised...***

His sisters, the one brother in law, trying hard not to limp, his nephews...

"Aefre isn't in this group," Gamling spat over his shoulder. "You have time-"

"I was threatened on pain of death," the young Rider hissed back. "I think I did well, considering as they tried to put a side-saddle on Lady Aefre's horse! Adenydd wasn't having none of it!" He was treated to the visage of a Gamling-glare.

"You have time-"

"Begging your pardon, but despite the respect I have for you, and fear your wrath, I'm terrified of your mother!"

"My mother ordered this?" Gamling's voice had lowered to a barely audible hiss.

"Actually, no." The two were interrupted by a familiar voice. Éomer was leading his own horse from the stable. "The order came from me, and your mother, Béma love the woman, delivered the message to - ah, here comes your bride!" Gamling's turned to see Aefre come down the steps of the Golden Hall, accompanied by Eowyn, Eadignes, and...

And who else didn't matter. He saw nothing, but Aefre.

Aefre, in the ice blue he had brought from Gondor, with a mantle of red and purple. It was trimmed with gold beads; true to his mother's words, her hair was done up, gold and multi-colored jewels glinting in the sunlight. Her floral bridal wreath sat on her head, like a crown, unlike his, which insisted on sitting cocked sideways.

He only saw her smile.

***beautiful, beautiful Aefre...***

He couldn't breathe, had forgotten how; she was there, next to him. One hand raised, an elegant finger drawing a red lock over his shoulder. "Good morrow, Gamling. You are well dressed for such an early morning ride."

There was no sound, not even birdsong. He hadn't taken a breath.

"I see you've saddled my horse. Are we going for a ride?"

Gamling still wasn't breathing. He was too busy taking all of her in...

***mineminemineminemineminemin-sweetsweet thing...***

"Have I grown a second head?"

In the recesses of his mind, he remembered this was a portion of the ceremony, part of the role he was to play. He could feel the gentle stroke of her finger on the rim of his ear. He blinked rapidly, hoping, praying to Béma, he wouldn't stumble over his part.

"I would take you somewhere special. Would you ride a ways with me?"

Aefre's eyes lowered, demurely; certainly not shy, not his Aefre, not his-

"With all these friends in attendance?"

"Unfortunately." Gamling shrugged, as if he had no choice. " They insisted."

Aefre leaned forward, as if to speak only to him. "I would be honored. Might I have a foot up? These skirts are a mite cumbersome."

"Is it far?" one of the little ones piped up. "My butt hurts if I ride too long."

"I need to pee."

Somewhere, somehow, he managed to step to her horse's side, his hands cupped to receive her leather - clad foot. As she lifted her skirts and swung into the saddle, a breeze whipped by, Gamling's cloak billowing and causing her skirts to rise high, exposing shapely, firm calves...

***Daaaa...***

I will be the breeze...


Aefre lowered herself, settling her skirts about her. "Bothersome, all this frippery."

"Better you, than m-"

***oops. did I say that out loud?***

"What was that?"

Gamling looked up with a wide grin. "I said beautiful. You look beautiful."

***she's blushing and Gamling makes a comeback!!!! YES! Who's the Rider... who is the Rider!!!!***

Horses parted, a path made, the couple and their entourage picking their way to the gates. Gamling lost count of the number of townsmen and women, at their doors, in front, sweeping the rock road in front of them. Children threw flowers onto the roads.

Good morrow to you...

May fortune light your path...


The pace of the party picked up after they went through the gates and down onto the plains. Both bride and groom were aware of the chittering going on behind them.

"They go this way first-" Éomer was spinning his finger in a circle, "and then I pronounce them-"

"No, no! You dolt!" Aelwydd was spitting. "The other way. Sun wise at first. They don't go counter-sun wise until you've pronounced them husband and wife!"

Gamling shook his head and leaned over towards Aefre. "If we put the spurs to our horses, no one will be able to catch us. We can beat them to the glade and by the time they reach it, I will have you well beneath me and wrapped in my cloak!"

He was met with a humored, but non-bendable glare.

***It was a thought...***

They rode quietly, listening to the terse instruction Gamling's mother was giving Éomer and the king's even shorter-tempered responses.

"Gamling, do you think they will kill each other before we reach the glade?"

"If Béma is gracious."

"GAMLING!"

All talking behind them came to a momentary stop, before continuing at a lower pitch. Gamling looked at her sideways, his bridal garland tilted at a rakish angle and a boyish grin gracing craggy features-

"Are we there yet? I really need to pee!"

"BOY! HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO REPEAT IT?" Aelwydd's voice carried over the plains and over her grandchildren's whinings. "I swear, you are as hard-headed as your da! And yes, I knew him well!"

Aefre's eyebrows shot to her hairline. "By all that is holy-"

"I'll not apologize." Gamling's eyes were now roaming the countryside, scouring for the glade -

- and Orcs and Mountain Men. Old habits die hard and the Rider suspected that this was one habit that would never fade.

***

I humbly ask the attendance of the Elementals of life.

***


"You really look beautiful."

It came from nowhere, caught Aefre by surprise. They had been traveling now in almost silence - well, as silent as Aelwydd and Éomer would let them be. Occasionally, they would hear Eowyn laugh; Éomer admitted to Gamling the night before, his sister now laughed more than he could remember since she allowed 'that Gondorian princeling' near her. Arwen and Elrond were somewhere in the small entourage, as was Imrahil and Lothiriel, invited by Aefre.

"I really look beautiful?"

Gamling sniffed, almost insulted. "I mean, I think you're beautiful all the time, but-" He stopped in mid-sentence seeing the humorous smile on his bride's face and he realized she was teasing with him.

***See if I try to compliment you again...***

"You look... very nice." Aefre whispered. Gamling could tell the admission had been difficult, but heart-felt.

***Hah! Two can play that game!***

"Thank you." It was stiff, but Aefre could see the smile on his face.

"I see your are wearing my ribband." This was true. Gamling had carefully washed the ribband she gave him when he left for Gondor and had tied it around his bicep. Gamling grunted in response. "That one is rather worn, I would have given you a new one."

"This one is fine."

Aefre had the feeling he was rather attached to that particular ribband and nothing else would have mattered. She continued on. "You trimmed your beard."

"Yeah," he admitted dryly, "I'm told I clean up nice."

"It gives you a different look," she admitted quietly. After thinking for a moment, Aefre drew her mount up against his, her skirt clad legs brushing against his. "Can I tell you a secret?" She was leaning as close as possible.

Gamling leaned over, attempting to whisper in her ear. "What?"

"I like you scruffy and sweaty from the barn." Gamling jerked upwards, shocked at the admission, but before he could respond, Aefre continued. "It makes you smell earthy and I just want to bathe you and lick you dry!"

***Forget the ceremony! MOTHER! You've caught us in my cloak, right?...***

"How much further is this glade?" Gamling's youngest nephew groused loudly. "My legs are sore and my butt hurts!"

"I'm hungry." The youngest niece piped up. "Wanna eat now."

"Are we there yet?"

"Stop your whinging!" Aglaeca retorted hotly. "You're to be a Rider of Rohan! And you too!" he snipped at the little one, causing her to recoil on the little pony she was riding. "Béma made you stronger than that!"

"Your butt, maybe-"

"Mama? Are we there yet?"

***

Welcome, O powers of Air! With clever fingers weave tightly the bonds of Heart, Spirit and Love between these two! Let none undo the fabric of their love!

***


Somehow, they made it to the glade without Éomer drawing and quartering Gamling's mother and Gamling's mother not laying out the King of Rohan. Gamling imagined he heard a sigh of relief from the party of riders when the glade came into view, from the children, especially. As the group dismounted, loosely tying reins, they made their way into the glade, Gamling holding tightly to his bride's fingers -

"I won't run. You can loosen your grip!"

"Oh. Sorry."

- and the children of Sulis running ahead of the couple, throwing the customary flowers on their path. It was obvious they had been coached very carefully, and they took their duties very seriously, one going as far as to use the toe of her shoe to push flowers exactly where she wanted them!

Éomer managed to call the Elementals of Life, without much prodding or correction.

Much.

Then again, it was still early in the ceremony.

Haleth was part of the ceremony; Gamling quietly insisting he be considered family. Truth be told, Aefre was equally prepared to argue for the almost teen, determined he was part of her family. Haleth held a lit censer, waving the smoking incense around, when a breeze picked up, causing the smoke to flair up and making Aelwydd sneeze loudly. He blushed as he called to the Elemental of Air.

***Daaaaaaa...***

***I AM the Air...***


It took several nods of the head and a finger point or two before he figured out where East was in order to set the bowl in its proper place. Once it was placed, Beornia, Sulis and Mayda had no difficulty placing their objects around the glade. A candle lit for Fire, (Haleth blushed even more furiously at the call for that Elemental!) a bowl for Water, a potted late-blooming daffodil for Earth. All were invited.

***

Welcome, O powers of Fire! Ignite the Passion and the Love for this blessed pair. Ever burning, yet never consuming one or the other!

***


Éomer's invocation began serious and solemn -

"Gracious Béma, Grant this blessed pair thy love and protection. We gather here this day in a ritual of love. Aefre of the Wold, and Gamling of the Westenmet, stand here before your friends, the elements, and your King to join together as the beginning of a family. For before there can be three, there must be two."

"Do you think anyone told him?" Beornia whispered to her mother.

"Béma, no!" Aelwydd spat, continuing to hold her skirts down - damn this wind! "Aefre will be giving birth before he figures it out!"


- but quickly turned humorous as he commanded them to not only love one another, but to love one another often enough to fill Edoras with screeching and love howls and to let everyone think that Gamling, even in his decrepit old age, was the most spectacular rutting beast in the Riddermark; next to the King, of course, and to do their duty of filling the hall with Horse Lords and Shield Toddlers.

If anyone noticed the Groom and the Bride staring at the ground, biting lips, no one ever said a word.

***

Welcome, O powers of Water! Bless this couple with a love as deep as any ocean! May richness of body, of soul and of spirit be theirs ever more!

***


When the stories were recounted that day, by those who attended the union, it would be said to the last soul, that all were shocked at how quiet and soft-spoken Aefre was. All had to lean closely to hear her vows, while Gamling, normally, a quiet man, who carefully chose every word that came from his mouth, and was not known to bellow, was strong and forceful. His voice carried to the treetops and there was no doubt, from the King of Rohan, to the sparrow, flying overhead, exactly how he felt.

He promised to worship her body.

Aefre pulled him close and whispered in his ear. "You better."

Only Éomer heard. But he told everyone in the Hall that night, after the two had retired to their chamber.

***

Welcome, O powers of Earth! Bless this man, this woman with thy strength and wisdom.


***

"What do you have to offer this woman for her love?"

Gamling had not thought hard on this one. He knew he had to present Aefre with something, a part of him that would be a symbol of his feelings. Feelings, he could cope with. It was simply talking publicly about it that made it difficult. So while he had not thought hard on what her would give her, he had thought long about how he would say it.

Publicly. In front of people.

***Just don't think about Éomer, or Mother, or anyone else. Just talk to Aefre. Hey! She's going to let me get a word in! I'm actually going to be able to finish a sentence! Wait, that's unfair...***

He turned to Aefre, pulling the battle-scared dagger and its sheath from his belt. As he went through the oft-rehearsed speech, his voice, starting softly, became louder and stronger. "Aefre, I offer you my love and my pledge. May I never knowingly or willingly harm or grieve you, in any form or fashion. Accept my battle dagger as a token of my trust. Like its blade, may my love be as strong. Like its metal, may our love be enduring. Accept it, for what is mine, is yours."

"He's got that right," Mayda's husband whispered to the stately Elf standing next to him. "Everything that's his is now hers! And everything that is hers is still hers!" He grunted when Mayda's elbow gouged hard into his ribs and Elrond smiled at the eternal love of Man.

Éomer was staring at Gamling. "I would have never believed such honeyed words could fall from your mouth," he whispered loudly. He wiped a nonexistent tear from his before placing a hand theatrically over his heart. "I am deeply moved."

"Shaddup," Gamling whispered back.

Aefre ignored the banter between Horse Lord and King and accepted the dagger, noticing despite the care and cleanliness of the weapon, it had seen use in battle and had served its master well. "I accept your pledge and your love, as I accept your token. May I guard and serve your heart always, as this dagger has guarded and served you. Know what is in my heart, as I know what is in yours. All of my love will ever be yours."

Éomer repeated his question to Aefre. "What do you have to offer in return for the love of this man?"

Unlike Gamling, Aefre had had a difficult time coming up deciding what to offer him as a token of her pledge. She had lingered over her personal weaponry, deciding that it was not proper. She wished she had her father's ornamental bridle, but her sister-in-law had appropriated all that had belonged to Aefre's family and coveted it for her son. The woman had gone as far as to go through Aefre's things when she forcibly removed Aefre from her childhood home, attempting to confiscate several items, including the wedding gift Aefre had chosen - a rare, pale blue diamond, set in a mithril chain, handed down from her grandmother.

"I present to him my love and this pledge. May I never knowingly or willingly do such a thing to harm, nor grieve him in any form or fashion. Accept this, my jewel, as a token of my trust. I value your love more than the most valuable jewel of my family. Just as its bright gleam, may our love glow. Like the stone that is its essence, may our love be as strong and enduring. Accept it, my love, for that which is mine, is yours."

"Bull. OUCH! Stop poking me, Mayda!"

Gamling leaned over, causing his bridal garland to slip over his eye, while Aefre fastened the chain around his neck. When he stood back up full, he tipped the garland back in place and took a moment to inspect the jewel. He had never been one for 'pretties' or 'sparklies', as his sisters had called them, but he was fascinated by the facets and many glimmers of light that reflected from the diamond. He could not begin to fathom the age of either jewel or chain, but he realized its worth was more than anything he would ever possess. That Aefre had given this-

"My... my love, I accept your pledge and your love, as I accept your jewel. Know what is in my heart, as I know what is in yours. All of my will, my love, shall ever be yours."

***

"With this binding I tie you, heart to heart, together as one. With this knot you are joined in sacred union. May Béma and all here, smile upon thee, and bless you with health and prosperity! May neither take advantage of the other. For remember what one may not provide, the other may!


***

At some point, their wrists had been bound with a silken, white cord, a binding that should not be removed until Gamling had taken Aefre to their chambers and removed it with their clothing. As ancient custom older than Rohan proclaimed, he would hang it on the door, showing his acceptance of his bride, as well as signaling to his friends and family they could safely *catch* he and Aefre wrapped in his cloak.

Éomer was feeling his oats; this was not the first time he had presided over a wedding, but this was *his* friend and as promised, he refused for it to be a simple thing. He had been to Rivendell on many occasions, trading with the Elves and he was fascinated by their jewelry, most especially, their betrothal and bridal rings. Over the years, he had collected several plain, but fine pieces, and had decided this would be his gift to his friend and his new bride. "Your vows have now been heard by all. These rings, like your vows, are without beginning or end. When placed, they represent a seal of your love and respect for each other."

"Éomer," Gamling whispered, "this is really too much."

"Shaddup. It's a gift." He nodded at Aefre. "Besides, she likes hers."

Aefre was inspecting the ring Éomer was holding out for Gamling to place on her finger. The craftsmanship was exquisite and she openly admired it. "Gamling is correct. This is really too much."

"You shaddup too. It's a gift and I'll be offended if you give them back."

"Really, Éomer-"

The King of Rohan raised a single finger to shush the woman. "If you do not accept this gift, I'll force you to spend a season in Belfalas, by the sea, doing nothing, but dancing attendance on the Royal Family. Nothing but talk and needlework."

Aefre shuddered.

"And no horses."

Gamling gagged.

"The rings are beautiful."

"Thank you, sire. Your generosity is-"

"Abundant and overwhelming," Éomer grinned, cheekily. "I'm so pleased you think so."

***Brat! Just wait until it's your turn...***

Éomer shoved the ring at Gamling. "Come on. You know what to say!"

With a frown, Gamling snatched the ring from Éomer's fingertips. Grabbing Aefre's hand, he placed the ring on her middle finger. " Aefre, you are my wife. You were not created from my head to out think me. You were not made from the sole of my foot to be trod on by me. You were made from my rib over my heart to be held close, side by side, and to be tucked under my arm to be protected by me and to be cherished! I will respect you as an equal partner and seek your counsel, for you are wise. I will protect you, argue with you, and listen to you, for I know you love me."

Éomer was much gentler with Aefre. " Gamling, you are my husband. I was created from your rib, over your heart, to stand with you, side by side. You will be the head of our household, the father of our children and the king of our holdings. I will comfort you and bind your wounds, see to your needs and respect you as an equal partner and seek your counsel, for you are wise. I will honor you, argue with you, and listen to you, for I know you love me."

***

We thank the elementals of life for their attendance this day and ask they go forth and herald this union.


***

Traditional Rohirrim customs were adhered to on this bright morning; they shared their first drink from what they discovered was the King's own chalice - Éomer was showing his favor on this union, indeed - exquisitely wrought silver, Rohan's standard finely etched on it.

May you never thirst.

They shared their first meal; honeyed bread, still warm from the kitchens of Edoras.

May you never hunger.

They jumped not only the sword, but the broom together.

May the sword cut all ties with the old and the broom sweep them away.

Éomer raised his sword and headed towards the eastern corner of the glade.

"Nonononono!" Aelwydd hissed. "North!" Her finger pointed at the potted daffodil and then spun the digit counter-clockwise. "And it's the other way!"

Éomer slowly changed direction, as calmly as possible. "I knew that. I simply wanted to check the horizon!"

"Mama? Is it much longer? I'm hungry."

"I need to pee."

***

Three Times Round, Once for the daughter, Twice for the crone, Thrice for the mother who sits upon the throne!


***

"You can take a breath, you know. Or we could just wait and you can proceed with the bedding."

Éomer's voice was sardonic, cutting through the couple's amorous reverie. Gamling raised his head from Aefre's, pulling her tighter into his embrace. "You said I could kiss my bride. I'm kissing her." He looked down at Aefre. "Where were we?"

A wide smile greeted him. "You are such a man!"

"Mama! I'm reeeeeeeeeally hungry."

Gamling turned loose of his bride and addressed his young niece. "We will ride back quickly."

"No, don't worry." Aelwydd was coming back into the glade with a large basket. Mayda and Beornia carried baskets also. "I knew this was a ways out, and we would be here a while, so I had a light lunch packed." She set the basket down and began to pull out bread and wine flasks. "This will tide us until we return to Edoras, where a fine feast awaits."

Gamling waggled an eyebrow at Aefre.

***Very fine feast, indeed!"

"I know what you're thinking." Aefre whispered.

"Thinking of bathing me and licking me dry?"

"Come on, you two! Come and eat!"

***grrrrrr... that's what I want to do...***

***

The meal was not heavy, but it satisfied the children, who had behaved as long as they could. Eyes raised and watched carefully as little ones found shrubbery and then played tag on the edges of the glade. After a time, the baskets and flasks were put away, all mounting up on their horses.

Except Aefre.

Tradition stated she was to be carried back in her new husband's lap. Except...

"Gamling! I can not ride in your lap the entire way back!"

Gamling was scowling. "Custom dictates-"

"I really don't give a mighty Orc's arse what custom dictates!"

"Mama? Did Aun' Aefre say what I think she said?"

"You never mind what your Aunt Aefre said." Sulis was glaring at the openly battling couple. "Let me help you on your pony-"

"I don' need help! I'm Ro-he-rum!"

"What's a mighty Orc arse?"

Gamling rolled his eyes at his sister's children's antics. Béma forbid, his own child should be this difficult! "Aefre," he started quietly, forcing a rather grim smile on his face, "it is our wedding day. Please do this for me."

"I am doing this for you, you oaf!" Aefre smiled back, her teeth gritting in a mockingly painful grin. "Carrying me on your lap the entire way would not only cut off the circulation to your legs-"

"She might cut the circulation from your Mighty little Horse Lord." Éomer was munching on the last of an apple. "You might want to consider it." He moved on, out of the way of the twosome.

***it's not little...***

"I still know what you're thinking," Aefre whispered. "And you're right."

Gamling raised a finger. "Don't get me off the sub-"

"I am not riding back on your lap." Aefre turned and whistled for Adenydd.

Gamling grabbed her by the elbow, spinning her around. "Look! The least we can do is discuss it! I have bathed for you today!"

"Oh," both of her hands went to her hips, fisted in tight wads, "thank you for considering your hygiene today!"

Gamling didn't take a breath. "I wore an uncomfortable dress tunic," His finger went around the collar, pulling it out, "that is too tight around the neck and is choking me!" He tugged for extra effect. "And it has too many spangly things."

"Those are emblems of your station!" Aefre was completely affronted. "You should be proud to wear them!"

Gamling was continuing, never taking a breath. "And a dress sword! I never have had the need for a," and with this he pulled it out for emphasis, " a shiny, blunt blade with jewels in the handle, making it impossible to grasp properly!" He shook it at her. "The blade is so dull, it couldn't cut down a baby Orc."

"Ooooh. Do you tink da baby orcses would like to pway?" Mayda's youngest daughter apparently no longer needed to go to the bathroom. Always on the lookout for a new playmate, it didn't dawn on her that this particular playmate wasn't desirable.

"I trimmed my beard for you!"

"Thank you." It was said through clenched teeth.

"And new boots!" Gamling's finger went in her face." That pinch! And I had them shined! Just for you!"

Aefre smacked at his wrist, knocking his hand away. "I am pleased your mother trained you so well!"

Gamling took a step back at that, snickering from the crowd behind them. "I even bathed Dréogan! He was quite pissed about that!"

Aefre's finger went in Gamling's face. "Don't lie! Dréogan loves to be bathed and you know it! You bathed Adenydd too and you know she loves her baths!"

Gamling attempted to focus on the wagging finger, having great difficulty, before reaching out and grabbing it. "I polished his fastenings, as well as Adenydd's! I even braided my hair! I went through all this for you-"

"And I endured nothing?"

"Mama?" Yet another young voice piped up. "Why are Uncle Gamling and Aunt Aefre fussing? I thought they were marry-ed?"

"That's why they are arguing." Mayda's husband grunted as his wife elbowed him for the fourth time.

"Weren't you listening?" Aglaeca answered for the child's mother. "They promised to argue with each other." He rolled his not-quite-grownup eyes and pulled up on his horse. "They are doing just that!"

Gamling and Aefre were oblivious to the jesting going on behind them. "We'll take turns," Aefre half-heartedly suggested. "I'll ride in your lap a ways, and then you can ride in mine!"

Gamling's finger was moving in a blur. "No. I want to know what you've endured for me today - besides agreeing to be my wife!"

Aefre's eyes narrowed. "You want to know what I've endured?" Gamling shook his head. "Fine! I sat while Eowyn half pulled my hair out of my head!"

"It needed to be tight-" Eowyn tried to interject. "You don't want it to fall down while riding or while your vows were being spoke."

"Bad luck," Éomer whispered to Prince Imrahil, who was watching the argument in fascination. "Wives tale is if the bride's hair falls during the ceremony, the groom will never get it uh--" The Rohirrim King blushed when he realized Imrahil's daughter was listening intently. "-uhp... la la la..."

Aefre's tirade was continuing. "I had to wear this ridiculously heavy dress with more skirts than is needed for three women! Sad thing is," she leaned forward so only Gamling could hear, "it's the only one I have that isn't tight in the waist! And that's YOUR fault as well!"

"It took two of us, Aefre!"

"Your boots that pinch? My feet are swollen! And the rings and bracelets and the earrings... I make more noise than a Dunleding in orgasmic throes!"

"That's pretty noisy," Éomer whispered to Faramir, who was having a difficult time keeping a straight face. The normally reticent Gondorian was very red in the face and his shoulders were shaking.

"Save me," he whispered to the blonde head tucked under his arm.

"Not on your life!" Eowyn grinned. She looked across the chest of her lover, towards her brother. "Eight!"

Éomer nodded. "Eight. Who should be next?"

***

"I can't believe I'm doing this." Aefre was grumbling and had been for the last five minutes. "This is damned uncomfortable and I know it's hurting your legs!" She was sitting across his lap, Adenydd tied to the back of Dréogan's saddle. Both horses had finally given up on eating their finery.

For now.

Gamling sighed, a comical, theatrical thing from him. "Edoras is over the rise. We compromised, remember? You were to ride Adenydd until we were within half an hour of Meduseld, and then you would ride my lap. That way -"

"I know, I know, I know! That way, it would look to the people that we had fulfilled customs's dictates, without-" Gamling's hand stole from her waist to a full breast. "Gamling! Get your hands off my-"

He took advantage of her open mouth. "Mine!" he whispered, descending in a kiss that made Aefre's toes curl.

"I believe he has found a way to hush her up." Éomer leaned over towards Imrahil. "I'll make note!" He completely missed the look of indignation from Imrahil's daughter.

The newly married couple were still arguing. "Well, if we are close enough for me to ride in your lap, we are close enough for you to put your bridal wreath back on!" Said wreath dangled on Aefre's finger. It had been part of the 'compromise' between the couple; she could ride her horse as long as he could remove the garland. Much to the consternation of Aelwydd, they had removed the bridal rope, each holding an end, retying it to their wrists when Aefre mounted Dréogan.

"That thing drives me insane."

"Well, now you know how I feel riding in your lap!"

"Kiss her again!" Multiple cheers came from behind them, causing both bride and groom to scowl at the party behind them. With a snarl, Gamling snatched the bridal wreath from Aefre and slapped it on his head, causing greenery fronds to fly over the fields.

"You'll have nothing left if you continue that!" Aefre's own garland rested gently on her head, her hair still up, with only a few well placed ringlets about her ears and neck.

Cheering from far off greeted their ears. Edoras was now well in sight.

"Urgh."

***Now the part I am going to hate...***

***

There was dancing, lots of it. There were demands of Gamling to dance with his bride, something they both refused. Éomer decided to dance with Aefre, an amusing thing to watch, as Gamling was tied to her wrist. A minstrel was strolling around the room, his lute plucking obscure tunes, most of the fluffy and romantic persuasion, that had women sighing, and men getting drunker and drunker. Gamling watched Éomer dance with Imrahil's daughter-

***What is her name again? Loth-i-ree... Lottie - loo... ***

- and then dance with Eadignes, dance with his sister, dance with all of Gamling's sisters. Gamling thought he would crawl under the table, when the King of Rohan danced Aelwydd. Gamling had never seen his mother move and wiggle like that.

It was obscene. A woman her age carrying on like that.

There was pounding on the tables with tankards with demands for kisses, which were always met. Gamling made sure his ale was well-watered; he did not want a repeat of the previous night! Aefre was drinking sparsely as well.

There was food, and more food, and two Elves that looked identical sang for the couple; it made Aefre sigh contentedly, but Gamling couldn't understand a word. He just smiled and nodded and applauded at the song's end.

He noticed several times Elrond staring at him thoughtfully.

Twice, he thought he heard the echo of a woman's voice in his head -

You have chosen well, Master Horse Lord...

- only to look up to see the Lady Galadriel staring at him intently. The depth of her eyes could clearly be seen across the room and it unnerved him in a way he would never admit to even Aefre. Both times, he set his goblet down and found somewhere to look.

Several times, a man, Horse Lord, Gondorian, Swan Guard, it mattered not, or an Elf, would whisper in his ear; encouragement, crass suggestions. Éothain was in his element that night with bawdy acts recently learned in the Blue Whale; Éomer was no better. The Elves suggested things that made sex sound like a twisted piece of bread, paining Gamling's joints just thinking about them. Imrahil, Elrond, and even Celeborn -

***who would believe such a revered Elf was such a perverted old coot?***

- had comments and suggestions.

***Do they think I'm a untried youth???***

At some point, he realized that Aefre's movements were becoming heavier and slower. When he looked down, he saw she was flushed and her eyes were fatigued. Taking her hand in his, he leaned down and whispered, "You are tired."

"A little." She dipped her head. "It is rather hot, as well."

He nodded towards the bard, calling him over. "Go to the far side and play something bawdy. Poke fun at Éomer or Faramir." The bard smiled knowingly, grimacing quickly, when Gamling grabbed his arm, none to gently. "Do not bring attention to my bride and myself. I will hunt you down." The musician smiled nervously.

"Of course, my lord. You wish your privacy."

They watched as the thin, young man strolled over to Éomer, strumming away. He opened his mouth...

He wears his silk pyjamas in the summer when it's hot,
he wears a woolen nightshirt in the winter when it's not,
But later in the Springtime and early in the Fall,
Éomer King jumps into bed with nothing on at all...


Éomer's jaw dropped and cheers went up. While everyone's attention was on the reddening sovereign, Gamling grabbed Aefre's hand and quietly snuck out of the over - heated and stifling room. He nodded to Willan, who winked and began to stroll over to the doorway, arms crossed. Willan had danced several times with Eadignes, a light in both's eyes, Gamling well knew and hoped would bloom into more.

No sooner than the twosome had turned the corner and began to move down the hall, a shout went up, demanding where the bridal pair had gone. Chairs could be heard scrapping back and Gamling tugged at Aefre's hand. "Run!"

They barely made it to their chamber - finally their chamber - slamming the door. Gamling leaned into it, feeling the thick brace of wood bounce and shudder as his friends pounded it. Aefre lowered the bar and between the two, they managed to bar it from any invaders.

"Aw, c'mon Gamling!" Éomer's voice was clearly slurred. He would awake in the morning with a hangover worse than this morning's and this time, Gamling would refuse any aid to the king. "Wuh jus' wanna say g'nite!"

"Good-night, sire." Aefre spoke to the door, before slipping off the bridal rope, leaving it dangling from Gamling's wrist and moving away, abandoning Gamling to deal with the drunken rabble outside.

"We wanna see t'bride!"

***where is Willan?...***

"You've seen the bride. Good night, m'lord." Gamling's forehead was resting against the cool wood. Several more times, it jolted, heavy fists pounding, before the occasional yelp and body slam announced that Willan had finally arrived and was clearing the hall. Finally, it was quiet and there was a gentle scratching at the door.

"Go enjoy yourself, my friend." There was an answering scratch. "Go gentle with her." Again, an answering scratch. With a dip of his head, he removed the white cord from his wrist, left dangling by Aefre and dropped it on the bar. It would be easy to find early in the morning when he was forced to crawl from the bed and hang it on the front latch.

Gamling turned away from the door, noticing the seemingly hundreds of candles lit all over the room. It cast a wondrous glow about the chambers, the bed turned down.

Aefre was sitting before the cold hearth, skirts pooled about the floor. She looked exhausted, but content. She smiled up at him. "Good evening, m'lord husband. What would be your pleasure tonight?"

***Husband... sounds sooooo good...***

Gamling dragged his chair over by her and said the first thing that came to his mind.

"Look at what Béma left for me." He tucked a finger under her chin and lifted it. "A rare flower of infinite beauty."
*****
 
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