A/N: I'm so slow.  I'm sorry!  As usual, I lay no claim to the works of Tolkien – the only things that are mine in here are Bruieth and Brodda, and Brodda's name I stole from the Silmarillion.  (What can I say, there aren't many authentic Easterling names lying around.)

Bruieth was not the sort of woman who panicked easily.  A wide-shouldered widow who along with her sister had worked in the Houses of Healing since they'd both been old enough to fetch herbs and bind wounds, she'd left two daughters in Minas Tirith and the grave of a husband somewhere on the Pelennor fields to follow the household of Captain Faramir to Ithilien.  Prince Faramir he was now, but as likeable and unassuming a Prince as Bruieth thought you would find anywhere.  She seldom had to deal with him – unless his formidable wife drove him down to Bruieth's halls to seek medicine for this illness or that (so very much like any other man in that respect).  But Éowyn had yestermorn ridden for Rohan with what had seemed like half the able-bodied men in Ithilien, and it had been left to Bruieth to keep an eye on the Prince, still slumbering without any sign of sickness.

That in itself had been a worry.  She'd seen more than a few men and woman in the long-slumber in Minas Tirith, but there was always a reason.  A blow to the head might do it, or some types of ague – either way, there would be something, some injury, some fever, some hint as to what was wrong.

If that had worried her, then this was a thousand times worse.  For Estë's sake, he'd not been left alone more than an hour – Bruieth had been taking her evening meal, and had make the mistake of trusting an apprentice to not shirk their duties.  The apprentice, red-faced, had been the one to discover the problem first, after she'd decided to finish gossiping with their friends and actually peek inside the sick-room to check on her patient.

"His horse is gone from the stables."  Some apprentice or other had come skidding back into the room, fidgeting nervously with the knowledge that he had just blurted out something that Bruieth had not wanted to hear.

"How could he have woken up and walked out of here without anybody noticing?"  The apprentice was luckily smart enough to realise that this was a rhetorical question, and did not answer her.  "Let alone get into the stables, saddle up his horse and ride out." 

"One of the kitchen girls thinks she might have seen him…"

"Thinks, and might have, aren't going to do us any good now."  Bruieth sighed.  What was she supposed to do now?  She'd lost the Prince, and she hadn't even the faintest idea where he might have gone.  "Just keep asking.  Somebody must have seen him, know which way he went."  Somehow she didn't think the Prince's esteemed wife would take 'we lost him' as a suitable excuse.

-----

Brodda grinned, the wind on his face and the scent of battle in the air.  The Wizard had appointed him as chieftain of this army; it had been Brodda's idea to sneak around the side of the Horsemen before they engaged, although he'd half been hoping that the strawheads would attack the filthy Orcs before Brodda's men had to have anything to do with it.  If it wasn't for the Wizard (whose powers he'd seen first-hand and had no wish to run afoul of), he would have done without, although the filth did have their uses.  Like now.

At Brodda's signal, an archer sent a flaming arrow arcing over the river in the darkness.  Assuming the Orcs yet obeyed, they would attack upon that signal, leaving the Rohirrim unready for Brodda's own forces when they swept down from the North.  They would be close enough for archers soon – he imagined he could already see the glint of swords, the gleam of war spoils.

Very soon.

-----

One of the guardsmen spotted it first – a flaming arrow high over the Entwash, a signal of some kind – and it did not take long to guess what kind as the Orcs came streaming over the river, trampling over the bodies of their fellows as they piled up and pushing their way into the Rohirric army.

Then there was another army to the north.  But Éomer did not have time to think of that – Erkenbrand was on the north flank and would know to keep an eye on his men, ready to turn and face the new threat when it came to that.  For now, they had Orcs to deal with – behind the seething masses on the front lines were hiding archers, and black arrows rained down upon friend and foe alike.

In the close quarters, the horses gave some advantage but not as much as might have been thought – the filthy orcs must have known what they were up against, and were matching spear with spear.  There were more than a few trolls among their number, too – Éomer, already up to his elbows in black blood, had sunk a spear into the throat of one, only to nearly get his arm taken off for his trouble.  It had taken several more blows to kill the cursed thing – Gimli and his fellows had proven their worth there, with the axes of the dwarves felling trolls left and right.  A cry of Baruk Khazâd! rose up as yet another went down – and it was the riders of the Mark who were beginning to gain the advantage now, slowly but surely.

It was still dark when the Easterlings rushed them – all he heard was a cry from the north, and then they were turning as best they could to push back this new threat; more black arrows, and although the Easterlings must have been putting out a good burst of speed on the march to make it to the battle, they were not battle-wearied as Éomer's men (and dwarves).  He found himself near enough to the northern edge to work his way towards this newer threat; when the sun came up the Orcs would not be nearly as much of a problem, and some had already turned tail and ran before the Easterlings had arrived.

A curse on his lips and sword firmly in hand, he fought his way towards the front.  He could see the commander of the Easterlings – like Éomer, obviously not a man to stand back and let his men do the fighting for him, and with a yell headed for him.  If the leader could be removed, then the rest of the men would lose heart.

The enemy stood aside; the leader had seen him, and snarled something in their own tongue – threat or promise – that mostly cleared Eomer's path.  But the remaining Orcs were not as well-mannered; it was still a fight to move forward, although the Easterling leader was killing the few who got in his way as he charged towards Éomer.

"Éomer!" He hadn't realised Erkenbrand had been so close, but that was his voice raised in warning; then something hit him square in the back,  and he was flung sprawling forward into the blood-stained dirt of the battlefield.

A/N: And random trivia: Estë is one of the Valar, and was traditionally associated with healing.