5. Chapter 5: Eomer
Disclaimer: As usual, the world is Tolkien's but we play in it. Please note the rating and click if you are going to be offended. In my version, elves are less discriminate than men – they have a long time to get bored!!
Chapter 5: Eomer.
Eomer languished. Yes, that was the word. He had no idea what was happening. Legolas had been gone forever it seemed and the unconscious guard had begun to stir. Eomer considered knocking him out with the water bowl again but he felt firstly, that it was not sufficiently heavy and secondly, he knew the man's name and he was not a bad man. He sighed. It would be fine unless another sentry came to relieve him. Then he would have a problem. Speaking of problems, the elf lingered in his thoughts like a taste. It had been too long.
Eomer paced the narrow cell. He knew exactly the number of steps it took to cover every inch of the cell, he knew how many stones there were in the walls and had calculated how many stones it had taken to build all five cells that made the lock-up of Meduseld. He had listed in his head every prisoner he had ever known to be locked up in here, and reviewed the justice system completely. Now he was picking the lock again.
When he heard the scrape of iron down the passageway as the door to the lock up opened, he swore and cast about for the water bowl. He quickly drew back the covers over the sleeping guard and checked he was still unconscious, then jumped onto the small pallet and threw the thin blanket over himself and lay still. It was his only chance. They would assume the guard had abandoned his post, to see a girl, to pass water, something. He himself would feign sleep and ignorance, and say that the elf had cast an enchantment over him. He closed his eyes tightly.
He lay absolutely still and listened. There were no footsteps. He slowed his breathing to appear asleep. Still no footsteps.
And then a quiet snick.
'Wake up sluggard!' a voice spoke right by his ear. 'You sleep while the world changes around you!' His heart leapt.
'Legolas!' he threw the blanket away and grabbed the elf. 'Thank everything that is good! I have been worried to death.'
The elf smiled, turning to lift the blanket from the still snoring guard, 'So I see.' He nodded, satisfied that the man would soon awaken. 'So worried, you were deeply asleep like a babe at its mother's breast,' he turned to face Eomer, a smile on his lips.
'I was pretending.' Eomer recoiled at the whine in his own voice, but still the elf smiled. He stood, arms folded across his chest, smiling irritatingly. Suddenly Eomer remembered the last time he had seen Legolas and the heat and embarrassment surged. 'You…when you left, you…' he spluttered incoherently.
Legolas simply raised an eyebrow, and his smile widened. 'I…' he offered helpfully.
But Eomer just blushed furiously. What could he say? He wanted to just forget about it. 'Well?' Eomer fumed.
The man exploded- 'No! Not back to that again!' and he leapt up and grasped Legolas' head in both hands and kissed him harshly, angrily, passionately. Legolas did nothing, just stood, until Eomer pulled away, glaring at him.
'Now YOU know what its like!' Eomer told him.
Legolas grinned. 'Now I know what it's like.' He agreed. Easily, he sat cross-legged on the edge of the bed, laughing. 'Do you wish to engage in such play when the world changes and Edoras rides to war?' His smile was mischievous and his eyes sought Eomer's.
Eomer shook his head. 'No!' What had he been thinking? Heat crept up his neck and into his face, he felt himself burning with the shame of it. Hands in his lap, he quickly sat down against the stone wall on the other pallet. He shook his head, like a horse trying to get rid of a fly, trying to get rid of the thoughts and feelings that had rushed up to welcome him.
Legolas shrugged and stood up. 'Very well. It is no matter.' He took one last look at the sleeping guard, a memory teased him with its irony; a captain of the guard asleep whilst other prisoners escaped. Then he flung open the door to the cell, gave Eomer his most impudent smile and led the way out.
But Eomer was lost then; it was no matter. No matter! And he confused himself by being insulted that it was no matter to this tall, beautiful elf that he had kissed him, and being appalled at how easily he had responded to that kiss… and it was only a kiss… and so he tormented himself with alternate shudders of horror, and of longing and lust. He followed the elf up out of the keep and into the main hall, where it all became even more confusing for the man.
He emerged into the early hours of dawn and the night was already drawing back. From the Great Hall, there were loud murmurs and voices, indistinct to Eomer. There was some gathering and then he heard Théoden's voice, clear and rich. Eomer quickened his steps until he had overtaken the elf, he burst into the hall, causing a flurry of voices and hands reaching for weapons. He thrust his way through the gathered Riders and gazed at his King, standing tall and straight, on his own, with Eowyn half-turned toward him, her dress white and hair shining gold down her back. A strange man stood to one side, hand on the hilt of his sword, and with him a dwarf. He felt an overwhelming rush of emotion, of gratitude and of delight.
The man smiled and the dwarf nodded, pleased, but looking past him, as if searching for something.
'Eomer, your arrival is well timed,' Théoden was speaking now and he stretched his hand out towards Eomer. 'We have much to discuss. Come with me now and let these good folk go to their rest'. He took Eomer's hand, his grip warm and firm, and led him away into his private chambers, where servants were busy clearing up a stain of red wine, Eomer thought, that had spilt on the floor. Eowyn went with them.
Legolas stood, forgotten in the shadows. He watched the dwarf look searchingly around the hall, his axe still gripped in those capable hands. He waited until the dwarf's deep eyes caught him and there was a moment of stillness between them. Gimli's shoulders dropped and he relaxed his grip.
'Come out you skulker in the shadows. So… you have been feasting and sleeping in feather beds whilst Aragorn and I have been doing the real work!' he cried. Aragorn turned quickly and his face too relaxed. Legolas went towards them and grasped Aragorn by the arm.
'It is good to see you too,' he said to them. He searched their faces intently, which they both endured, knowing now after many months of travelling, that the elf was simply reassuring himself they were well. They noticed too, the tension that strung him like a bow pulled tight. Gimli wondered what had been happening to wring out the elf so.
'Tell me of the hobbits,' he asked them anxiously, leading them to an alcove where there was food and drink.
Gimli watched disapprovingly as he began to add water to the ale in the heavy flagon. 'Here. Don't you ruin this stuff,' he grumbled, 'it is a long time since I tasted anything more than water or weak wine.' But he sloshed a goodly amount on the table, the bench, on himself and his companions before Legolas lifted it again with irritating ease and poured him a cup.
'Did you find Merry and Pippin?' he asked again, searchingly.
'No.' Aragorn took a long drink himself and met Gimli's eyes over the top of the cup. He smiled ' Ah... I have to agree with you, Gimli. Nothing like it.'
'What do you mean?' Legolas interrupted, 'You didn't find them?' Anxiously he scrutinised them and Aragorn immediately felt guilty.
'No, no.' he held up his hands, 'They are well' He winced when he saw the absolute relief on the Elf's face. He did not expect that rawness and pain in Legolas' eyes. 'They are in Fangorn Forest.'
'Fangorn! But Lord Celeborn…'
'has forgotten much that perhaps your own people remember,' said Aragorn soothingly.
'Ents!' shouted Gimli, 'Yes. Ents indeed! Or perhaps you do not know as much of the forest as we dwarves know. For dwarves do not forget!' he added a little smugly.
'I.. Yes, I have heard…' Legolas was confused. He felt he was rapidly losing track, and control. 'Just tell me where the hobbits are and that they are safe. When did you see them? How do they fare?'
'Ah. Well. We haven't actually seen them,' said Gimli, slowly realising how weak this sounded, 'but they are well I assure you,' he hastened to add before the devastated elf could protest further. He looked at Aragorn and then said, 'I think we need to tell you the whole story, from when you left us.' He nodded, agreeing with himself and then wiping his mouth with his hand he began again. 'Remember you had just gone off with your new horsy friends, we camped just beyond the forest. We were just settling down for the night when an old man approached. He just appeared.'
Legolas grew very still.
Aragorn glanced at Gimli, nodding, then continued the story, 'He did not speak although we challenged him, and offered him company. Suddenly, he just disappeared.' He glanced up at Legolas, noticing for the first time, his stillness and tension.
'Saruman.' The elf stated. His lips thinned.
Aragorn nodded. 'That is what we thought. The horse disappeared.'
'Definitely Saruman,' said the elf. Aragorn nodded.
'Yes, we thought it was Saruman,' Gimli chipped in. He grabbed a loaf of bread and tore off a chunk. 'We didn't really see his face. Next morning, we went into the forest, following the hobbits' trail. And then,' Gimli brandished a knife and began cutting off a chunk of meat, 'we saw the old man again...'
'Wait. The hobbits went into Fangorn? Were they taken or go on their own?'
'Well-we found the orcs as Eomer described.' Aragorn explained patiently, throwing Gimli a look, 'No bodies of hobbits, but a trail – two hobbits, went off into the forest.' He paused and glanced at Legolas. The elf had closed his eyes and breathed deeply. 'We followed. '
'And that's when we met the old man a second time.' declared Gimli, 'Only this time, he threw off his old cloak and he was all in white!' He paused dramatically, and looked expectantly at Legolas.
'Saruman.' Legolas hissed.
'No! Gandalf!' said the dwarf triumphantly.
'Gandalf.' The elf repeated, clearly unimpressed. Aragorn had to smile at the very dwarvish scepticism in Legolas' voice and on his face.
'Gandalf.' The dwarf repeated firmly.
Man, dwarf and elf looked at each other. Clearly, the expression on the elf's face said, you have been completely fooled, and far too easily. The belligerent expression on the dwarf's face said, clearly you are an idiot for not believing me. The man merely laughed at them both.
'Gandalf,' he said. He grasped Legolas' arm in his excitement, wanting to share the news, the relief. 'We could not believe it at first either. But he has been sent back,' his voice now hushed. 'The Valar have sent him back, he told us, to face Mordor. He is now Gandalf the White'
'And he told us the hobbits were safe with Fangorn. He's an Ent apparently, and we were to join you here. I suppose you need a dwarf to make sure everything happens as it should'. Gimli finished, he stole a glance at the elf to see if he would bite. But he did not, he simply looked aghast.
'You mean… you left Merry and Pippin there? You just… left them there? Where are they now?'
Later, after Legolas had told them his story of Saruman's possession of Théoden, Gimli thought he understood a little more Legolas' reaction. Gimli was still finishing off the last of the ale, chewing the last crust of bread and picking strands of meat from his teeth. He looked at the elf thoughtfully. He still had the same horrified expression on his face, thought Gimli.
'How can you be certain it was not Saruman in disguise?' he asked yet again. Like a dog worrying a bone, thought the dwarf. He would not let it go but just kept coming back to the same topic. Even when he had been told of the Ents that Gandalf said had Merry and Pippin in their safe keeping, he just looked away, with that closed-down inscrutable wood-elf face, thought Gimli. He had already questioned them closely, about Gandalf's assertion that the hobbits were safe, indeed, he had almost seemed critical. Gimli found a bit of meat tucked away in his molars and worried at it with his tongue.
'Yes, we are certain it was not Saruman in disguise.' Even Aragorn was getting a little impatient with the elf, Gimli thought, wrapping his tongue around the lodged morsel and pushing at it.
'…so… you left searching for Merry and Pippin... because this old man… a wizard… in white… like Saruman…told you they were safe..' Legolas asked for the umpteenth time, Gimli thought irritably. He also thought Legolas was not doing a very good job of disguising the implied criticism.
'No,' Aragorn explained patiently and with emphasis. 'Gandalf met us and he told us they were safe.'
Legolas clutched at the fabric of his tunic then, over his heart, Gimli noticed because it was the sort of thing he had once thought an extravagant gesture of the elf, but now knew that he simply felt more deeply, frighteningly deeply. He had seen the elf twist in pain over Gandalf's apparent death.
'How did you know it was Gandalf?' the elf asked- again, Gimli noted with alarm now. And then, Aragorn laid a gentle hand on Legolas' arm.
'I know this is hard, my friend. Please. Trust me.' Legolas shook his hand off and closed his eyes tightly, as if he were trying to rid himself of a memory, thought Gimli with startling perspicacity. He thought he heard Legolas say something then … but wasn't sure. But he turned away instead and was quiet. Perhaps he was, albeit reluctantly, accepting their assurances.
Gimli finally dislodged the stuck meat from his gum and chewed thoughtfully. He chased it down with another swig of very fine Rohan beer. He caught Aragorn's gaze briefly and cocked his head towards Legolas, frowning and shrugging. Aragorn lifted an eyebrow in response and thinned his lips. He didn't know what to say either.
And then Legolas sighed, turning away and looking anxiously at the sky. Thin rags of cloud turned red in the lowering sun. His grey-green eyes seemed to glaze and he stared away to the East, forgetting them, forgetting the carved and gilded halls of Edoras. His gaze seemed turned inward to a memory. When he spoke, his voice seemed not his own, and his words chilled their hearts.
'What I have seen in the eyes of a dying man will steal your breath. I saw the Tower, a black fang of stone against the twilight. Beyond, I saw the Plain of Orthanc, and across the plain, hundreds, no, thousands and thousands of tiny fires, torches. And legion upon legion of orcs, they clamour and bay for the blood of Rohan…' He squeezed his eyes shut, tightly against the images that tormented him. 'What have I done? What have I done?'
'Legolas!' Aragorn said sharply, he grasped the elf by the arm and pulled him to face him. 'Cease this. Come to yourself!' Legolas stared blankly at him for a moment, and then down at Gimli. He seemed far away and distant, then he blinked and his eyes focused a little. Gimli let go of the breath he realised he had been holding.
'I know what I have seen, Aragorn.' he said distantly. 'Saruman has an army such as we have never seen. They will come at us from the plains, but also from the mountains at our backs. There are too many. Without help, we will be surrounded. If we stay, we cannot get out.'
His words fell like a horrible echo. Gimli looked at Aragorn, determined that this time, the man would not ignore the elf as he had both in Moria and at Parth Galen.
'He's right you know. This is useless to defend.' he hoisted his axe over his shoulder. 'Best find some caves then.'
Later, Legolas watched the dwarf and man sleep. Their eyes closed but moving under their lids, like Eomer's. He wondered about their dreams and how they slept so deeply while there was so much danger.
Still, it was good to be amongst friends, he thought. He had missed the familiarity and the certainty of the dwarf at his back. He smiled at this – he would never have thought in his long life, to be so fond of a dwarf. But it was true that he found Gimli's company restful and it assuaged his longing for home. Gimli's feigned grumpiness disguised a true love of mischief. And it has been said by those who should have known better, more than once in Rivendell, that Mirkwood elves were 'more dangerous and less wise.' That had irked Legolas. So it amused him occasionally, during the rare quiet times on the journey with the Fellowship, to be provokingly, deliberately facetious and as skittish as possible, just to see the Ranger near the end of his considerable patience. Even better, to set Pippin up with some mischief that was bound to bring Gandalf's ire down on both of them.
He had missed both dwarf and man immensely, for his was a loving and loyal heart. He gave the dwarf a harder prod in the ribs than was actually needed to stop him snoring. 'Went off with my new horsy friends indeed!' Gimli harrumphed in his sleep, turned over and carried on snoring obliviously. Aragorn did not stir; he knew when to take advantage of the short respite from danger.
He could not doubt the dwarf and man, they were not fools, but he could not accept their story. In spite of his attempt to be loyal to his friends, he could not shake the feeling that they had been beguiled to abandon the hobbits. He could not bear the thought that Merry and Pippin might be in danger. During their pursuit of the band of orcs that had killed Boromir and split the Fellowship, he had found it too hard to conceal his anxiety; he knew he had resented Aragorn and Gimli's need to rest and, for the first time since Moria, had ardently wished it had been elves on the journey with Frodo and Gandalf.
The fire still burned in the small grate they rested beside. He watched the flames. And he prayed to Elbereth to light the way in dark places for all hobbits.
He let himself sink into reverie and a stillness, listening. The Song had changed again, he had known that for days… but he was not powerful enough, he knew, to trace the meaning of the change. There were those amongst the oldest ones of his home who could have told him what it meant. A sudden pang of loneliness stabbed him, intense longing for home. Again, he pulled his cloak around himself more tightly, needing the sense of elvishness and familiarity, of warmth.
Staring into the burning embers of the fire, his eyes going wide in reverie; memory of a warm body pressed against his.
The pressure and the constant watching for danger had worn upon him, he knew. Then they had lost Gandalf. And then the terrible day they had been attacked and in that one afternoon, they had lost everyone. Overwhelming him, came a wave of intense loss. He dropped his head onto his arms and hid his eyes. Failure sat heavily upon him and he felt chilled. Only a couple of hours had really passed, although it felt longer, and in his heart, the song of the fallen Grima lingered. Legolas had been already vulnerable, deep in Théoden's song when he had killed Grima - and the utter hopelessness in Grima's heart had seeped into his own, and he felt the dull edge of Grima's own despair.
Suddenly, Legolas felt cold, and he opened his eyes, gazing into the fire. Eowyn blazed, like a wildfire, with intensity, and Eomer had the strength, the slow burning warmth of the sun… both would warm the blood and bones of him…. the log shifted in the fire and sparks flew up. Flames burst from the fire and the glow reflected in the elf's eyes.
Slowly, he stood, stretching his limbs and his resolve. He even went as far as the doorway, and looked down the empty corridors towards the royal chambers. A thin sliver of light showed him that Eowyn did not sleep, and he heard a faint movement to the right of her room. He guessed that was Eomer's. He could not be sure but he thought he heard a quiet cry.
Silently, he stood, and thought for a while. Then carefully, he stepped away into the shadows of the corridor, lightly. Listening intently, still wondering. He paused beyond the crack of light, between the two rooms. Then he quietly walked back up the corridor to the dying fire where slept his friends. Easing himself down between them, he saw Aragorn had cracked an eye open. He nodded a greeting and then looked away into the glowing embers of the fire. The man closed his eyes and sighed, then fell asleep.
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This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.