The stable girl is mine, everything else belongs to Tolkein.

Hmm seem to have been bitten by the legendary plot bunny. Not a Mary Sue honest, although Firefoot is definitely based on my horse. My first slightly smutty one shot, if I've got the rating wrong or should plain give up please let me know.

The nights are quiet these past few months and I am glad of it. In the days before it seemed that no one slept. From my makeshift bed high in the stable loft I would awaken to the muffled voices of the soldiers sent to patrol the Westfold by cover of darkness. They paid little heed to my presence and turning my face into the straw I would try to ignore the discrepancy between the numbers that departed and returned. Dark days they say, hard on the horses and hard on the men.

I remember a time before the shadow that rose behind the mountains, the time before orcs marked with the white hand of Saruman slaughtered the women and children. The days when king Theoden did not look like a shadow of the mighty ruler he had been. Dreams, they seem like dreams, and perhaps I am foolish to cling to hope when there seems to be none.

The rumours spread and so does the disquiet. There is a look of wariness upon the faces of the mothers when they watch their children playing in the courtyards of Edoras that was not present in the spring. Old as time those childish games, famous battles and heroic deeds re-enacted through a veil of innocence that only the very young possess. They seem like portents lately, wooden swords a reminder of the steel that is yet to come. Even the horses seem to sense the danger that lies ahead and pace restlessly in the stalls I work so hard to keep clean.

Ah the horses. I have been a stable girl for nigh on twelve of my nineteen years and the steeds in my charge are the one shining light in my life. Or at least they were. The many hard hours of labour spent grooming and cleaning, the cold water that splashes and chills me when I fill their troughs in the morning before the sun has yet risen. All these are petty trivialities when I run a hand along a silken back or hear the friendly nickers of my charges when I rise sleepy eyed in the morning. Old friends we are, and the rhythmic sounds as they eat their hay, the sound of their breathing and the occasional scrape of a hoof against stone is to me as soothing as any lullaby my long dead mother may have whispered into my ear as a child.

But peace is a haven that is far too easily breached. I had not meant to give my heart so easily, nor my body. I knew him by sight of course, all of Edoras did – the marshal of the mark, nephew to the king. And now to my shame I find myself crouching in the darkness that conceals the walls of the great hall. The ladies of the court pay me no more interest than they do the dogs that slink around the kitchens, but I am as hungry for news of him as they are for the scraps of food flung by the occasional soldier who takes pity upon them.

We first met when the grass was tall in the fields and not yet cut for hay. His stallion I knew of old, there were many in Rohan who had doubted that he could be broken. Theodred himself, whom most of our country regarded as one of the finest horsemen in the mark had given up in disgust after the colt had thrown him a dozen times in less than half a morning. Given to him as a challenge I had watched Eomer as he had wrestled with the horse for hours, and tried to ignore the voices of the soldiers who wagered on the outcome of their battle. The horse had bolted of course, and even with the strength he evidently possessed the marshal could not hold him back. They returned as the sun was setting, muddy and tired but strangely peaceful. As the stable girl Firefoot was my responsibility to rub down and settle, but before the reigns were passed to me I watched Eomer whisper into his horses' ear and run his hand along the crest of his mane. That night I lay awake and wondered what he had said to him, and tried to forget the brief brush of his fingers as he had relinquished the bridle.

The days that followed I do not dare think about too often. As a precious painting fades by the glare of the sun, I fear my memories will be tarnished by my desire to find any sort of hope to hold onto.

By day the marshal patrolled the borders with his Eodred, Firefoots' will as loyal to him now as that of his men. I would take care of the horses on their return, not daring to meet Eomers eyes as I took his stallion from him. I could not fight as his soldiers did; the only proof of my loyalty came in the care I took in the keeping of his horses. It was three days before he asked my name and five before he came for me when even the stables were silent.

I suppose I would not have resisted even if I had not desired him; he was nobility and I was a mere stable girl. The warnings my mother had given me as a girl were forgotten. He was gentle and took his time. I ran my hands along his ribs and the muscles of his broad shoulders as he lay me down amongst the hay, fingers twisted in his hair I barely made out the words he whispered when he took my maidenhood.

Later when he slept beside me I watched the steady rise and fall of his chest. The dark eyes that had so entrapped me earlier were thankfully closed, and I tried so hard not to fall asleep that when daybreak woke me it seemed as much a dream as the evening that preceded it.

He was gone when I awoke and for a while I wondered if any of it had been real. The call to arms and the tension of the soldiers that hurriedly saddled their charges were cold water in the face of such comforting thoughts. The white lady was crying and that in itself was ill omen enough, our lady as still and cold as steel does not break easily. He held her cradled in his arms, and for a moment our eyes met. The pain in his eyes was a sharp contrast to the desire that had so bewitched me last night. What comfort can you offer when you are a mere stable girl? I watched him ride away with his Edored and in the silent hours before dawn I wept quiet tears the horses that I watch over no more acknowledge than can understand.

And now I lurk in the shadows like the stable cat, until there is news of his death there is still reason to wake each morning. Perhaps there is still hope, after all banishment does not have to mean death. Firefoot's stall is empty now but I make sure the straw is fresh and the water clean. I have seen Eowyn from time to time and while she cannot hide her sorrow at least she lives, and perhaps somewhere out on the plains so does her brother.