Daughter of Kings

by Evermind

Chapter Twenty Eight: Brother of Fire, Sister of Ice

Eomer dug his heels into Firefoot's sides and rose upright in his stirrups. There was a fell glint in his eye as he spurred the chestnut stallion recklessly onwards. A fierce hatred seemed to consume him, quickening his heart so that the anger seared through him like his lifeblood. The thunder of hooves was loud in his ears, and his blank mind felt nothing but the desire to slay. Eomer raised his head giving tongue to his violent challenge, and behind him, the voices of his Eorred were raised in answer. Loyalty and caution were washed away beneath the tide of heedless wrath, and two hundred spears flashed in bitter onset. Eomer nocked an arrow to his bowstring and sighted swiftly. A great black uruk fell with the green feathered arrow in his throat. Their quarry fled before them like deer before wolves, and still the Eorred came on.

Eowyn stood in the stone forecourt of Meduseld, tall and defiant, and contemplated the utter ruin of her world. Alone and far off her unmerciful eyes descried an eagle circling upon the edge of sight. Her golden hair whipped about her in a frenzied maelstrom, and she raised her head, welcoming the painful sting of the east wind in her eyes. Truly now she was a creature wrought of ice. Pride and despair fought within her, and she welcomed them, succuming gladly to the blank oblivion that they brought. She clenched her fists at her sides and did not weep. Far away, upon the edge of sight, the eagle faltered, and seemed to fall.

Suddenly out of the darkness the great dark shadow of the Entwood loomed up. The uruks, as with some final burst of strength fled towards the drooping boughs. Eomer shouted an order, and the Eorred split with astonishing speed and skill, wheeling around to encircle the uruks in a ring of foes. The orcs rushed towards them, trying to break through, but a swift hail of arrows greeted them. They surged forwards again, and were beaten back. The bodies of the slain piled high about the perimeter of the circle. Suddenly there came a barked command in the black speech, and then silence. The sorties ceased.

The night passed slowly. The riders waited, patrolling ceaselessly about the ring of watch fires. Their captain, soothed now by bloodshed was prepared to wait. His calculating gaze surveyed the trapped uruks, the darkness no obstacle to the keen eyes of the son of Rohan. The uruks were more numerous than he had thought. But that little mattered now. They had the enemy surrounded. He could afford to wait. The coming of daylight would strengthen his advantage all the more. Eomer smiled. He had not become a Marshall of the Mark by waiting for advantages. He gave a soft chirruping whistle, and caught Eothain's eye. The soldier nodded and slipped silently from his saddle. Eomer followed.

Silently the two gathered a small handful of riders, and crept towards the enemy camp. Skirting around the red glow of the watch fires, the hunters edged slowly to the outer perimeter of the ring where the few orc sentries lay. Eomer glanced sideways and caught Eothain's eye, the supressed excitement of the hunt rising within him. Eothain grinned back at him, his teeth showing white amidst the gloom. Eomer nodded once, and leapt forwards. Dark shapes loomed up out of the night, and Guthwine sang through the air, delighting in the taste of blood.

Faintly beneath a pall of cloud, the stars glimmered, and Eowyn watched unmoving as the great swordsman, whom the elves call Menelvagor ascended the heavens. The constellation reached up, climbing over the rim of the world, and his starry belt glittered far above the darkened halls of Edoras. Then high in the east the moon arose, sailing like a great ship in a wrack of dark cloud. The wind was chill, and black shreds of cloud scudded across the surface of the moon. The night grew old, and still Eowyn stood harsh and unyielding as ice, like a statue carven in the stone forecourt of the Golden Hall.

Eomer could barely supress a gleeful smile as he vaulted into Firefoot's saddle. From the sound of things, the orcs had just discovered the deaths of their fellows. Gathering his reins into his left hand Eomer straightened, seeking new foes. Outside the ring of beseigers, a dark shape crouched upon the ground. Eomer wheeled Firefoot about, charging towards the huddled form. The moonlight glinted upon a drawn blade. Eomer nocked an arrow to his bowstring. Even in the dark his eyes saw keener than a hawk's. He drew the heavy bow, and fired. His aim was skillfull, or else guided by fate. The arrow swooped through the air and sank deep into flesh. A savage scream rent the night, and the black shape loomed suddenly tall. Eomer spurred Firefoot towards the sound, and the great horse lifted beneath him as he sprang surely over some object upon the ground. Then Eomer's foe was before him, and Guthwine flashed like fire as head and body were hewn apart.

At last Eowyn turned away. The smell of dawn was in the air. She needed to ride. Turning from her long vigil she slipped away towards the stables, and Windfola.

Before the sun was yet risen, it was over. Dark corpses lay stewn across the tussock, and beneath the threatening shadow of the Entwood, the field resembled some ghastly dream, a childhood horror story not meant to haunt him still. But haunt him it did. Though Eomer had known countless battlefields, seen countless horrors, slain countless living, breathing things, still this haunted him. It was always the like this. They opressive silence of the field, from whence all life had now fled, bannished at his command. The dawn broke clear of the eastern mountains, but no bird sang to welcome it's coming.

The captain stood tall beside the graveside, and watched Eothain set the carnal pyre alight. The fire choked, splutterd, and then caught, as a thick pillar of noisome smoke billowed up. The corpses of the orcs blazed forth in macabre splendour, and the dead ash was loosed upon the wind in a grey cloud. Beneath his feet lay fifteen bodies. Fifteen soldiers that would never return again to wives, to parents, to children. Fifteen bodies, straight and proud as soldiers of the king, even in death. Fifteen pairs of hands neatly composed upon cold breasts. Cold eyes in dismembered heads, blank gazes fixed unyeilding upon the oblivious sky. Silent, Eomer cast the first earth upon the grave.

Eowyn rested her forehead against Windfola's smooth cheek. She was weary of life than she could ever remember being; and now she was without hope. Theodred was dead. Eomer was gone. The King was enslaved. Eowyn felt more alone than she had ever felt in all the bitter years of her life. Hopeless, despairing, she bowed her head against Windfola's neck.

It was in the stable that Idis found her some hours later. The girl had been running, her breathing was ragged and her voice frightened.

"My lady! Eomer has returned! He has been imprisoned by order of the King!"