A/N: What can I say - I'm impatient and couldn't wait til next week to start posting this!
A/N: Some things you need to know going in - this is an AU story, since we all know Eomer ended up with Lothiriel. IF YOU DON'T like Other Characters, you probably don't want to read this. Also, the details of the story don't completely match the movies or books. I tried to stay fairly true to canon (movie or book), but for what I needed, I couldn't make it fit timewise. At one point, I leave the details rather sketchy and don't give names, dates, etc. - there's a reason for that. Since it doesn't match the known timeline, the less detail the easier it is to fudge. This was my second attempt at LOTR fiction and I was still learning (and still am) the universe.
Also, I rather think during much of this that Eomer is a bit out of character as we presently know him (book or movie). There are some nice/funny bits with him that are pretty true to character (at least as I see him) that you might enjoy reading, but don't be surprised if you think he is "off the mark".
That said, unless you are rabid about canon and dead-on characters, you'll probably enjoy the story. Sure hope so!
The Truest Friends
She moved out of the tree's shadow and cautiously approached the figure lying still on the ground. He was a tall man, she saw on closer glimpse, with a mane of blond-brown hair, that was presently matted with blood. His head was not the only part of him that was bleeding; much of his clothing had considerable amounts of both fresh and dried blood on them. Looking up, she eyed her companion, "Dog?" The animal sniffed at the man, then turned his gaze on her and gave a soft whine of consent that it was safe for her to approach.
Stooping, she rolled the man over onto his back. From the front, his condition was more evident and the causes identifiable. While some of his injuries were battle related - an apparent arrow wound in his left shoulder and what appeared to be a blade cut on the left side - his other injuries, particularly the bruising on his face, bore witness of abuse by someone else.
A check at his throat for a pulse told her he was still alive, but not for long unless he received aid. She mentally wrestled with the matter. The greater part of her wanted to go her way and leave him as he lay, but something deep inside would not comfortably allow her to just walk away. Aloud, she asked, "What do you think?" The dog gave another whine and a horse that also accompanied them gave a soft nicker. "Great. I was hoping you two would talk me out of this!"
She lay aside her pack, quiver and bow, and fighting blade. Studying the man thoughtfully, she announced, "This won't be easy. He might well weigh almost twice as much as me." She signaled the horse closer and had him lie down alongside the man and, with great difficulty, tugged and wrestled the deadweight over the horse's back. Carefully she steadied him as the horse rose, then pulled a length of rope from her pack to try and secure him in place, at least a little. Recovering her belongings, the trio turned and made their way silently into the woods.
When he awoke, Eomer was alarmed at first at being unable to see anything; then even more so when he realized his hands were bound and secured above his head where he lay on the ground. He let out a soft groan, afraid the Orcs had found him again and reclaimed him as their prisoner. However, his groan brought someone to his side and, as his eyes adjusted to the low light, he could make out that it was a woman.
A cool hand reached for his forehead as she studied him carefully. He tried to shift to a more comfortable position, but a sharp pain in his side and left arm took his breath away and he involuntarily cried out in agony. "Lie still. You have a broken arm and broken ribs, not to mention the broken leg and other injuries."
Suspiciously he eyed her, "You're helping me?" She nodded and he continued, "Then why am I bound?"
"Despite your injuries, I do not know what threat you might pose." She shrugged indifferently, as if that explained everything, and moved away from him.
"Who are you?" he asked.
She stooped by the fire and stirred something heating in a pot, but replied, "No one of consequence."
"Do you know who I am?" he questioned, wondering if his situation had truly improved or he had just fallen prey to a different captor.
"An injured man. That is all that matters."
He was surprised at her answer, and more than a little confused. Playing it safe, he didn't enlighten her as to his title, "I am Eomer. What may I call you?"
She did not answer his question, but instead came to his side with a bowl of something steaming. Blowing on it to cool it, until she was satisfied with its temperature, she set it on the ground near him and reached for the ropes binding his hands, advising him, "Don't try anything. The dog would rip your throat out if you did."
He looked to the dog standing attentively nearby and nodded his understanding. She released his bonds and moved behind him, helping him to sit up somewhat, though the effort was extremely painful and it took a few moments for him to gain control. When he seemed to relax a bit, she reached for the bowl and held it to his mouth, "Drink this."
He started to ask her what it was, but thought better of it and simply did as directed. If she wanted to kill him, she didn't need to go to this much trouble to do it. When he had drained the bowl, she eased him back down and moved away, the dog following her to lay down by the fire. Presently, she returned with various things in her hand, which it soon became apparent were bandages and medicines. She began examining his wounds and treating them as necessary.
Apparently she had forgotten he might be a threat for, during the course of the examination and treatment, she had laid her dagger down near his right side while she worked. He focused on it briefly, and considered trying to grab it to overpower her, but he knew his body would work against him in such an attempt. And, besides, in spite of her secretiveness and caution, he could not feel threatened by her. Her caution with regard to him made perfect sense, and nothing she had said or done suggested she wished him any harm. He decided to let this play out as it would. He closed his eyes and submitted to her care.
The sound of ripping cloth brought his eyes open again, and he saw her working to tear strips in it, probably for bandages. Without thinking, he picked up the dagger and offered it to her, "Would this help?" Her eyes met his and she nodded, reaching for the blade without comment.
When she was done, and began clearing her supplies away, he asked, "Would it be possible to tie my hands in another way. It is very uncomfortable, with my injuries, to have them over my head like that."
"You have broken ribs. It is best if you lie only on your back," she answered, not looking at him.
He sighed acceptingly, "Alright."
She made no move to re-secure his bonds as he had expected. Instead, she sat by the fire and told him quietly, "Try to sleep. Rest will help you more than anything else."
After a moment, he realized she did not intend to bind him again. He smiled slightly in the darkness. His instinct to trust her had paid off - apparently she trusted him more as well. Weary from his injuries and the recent exertion, he quickly slipped back to sleep, feeling safe for the first time in quite awhile.
As Faramir entered the Golden Hall, he spotted his wife, her brow creased with the worry that had been present ever since her brother, Eomer, had disappeared. He quickly moved toward her and knelt in front of her chair, taking her hands in his own. She gave him a weak smile, "I am alright." She meant it to be reassuring, but his concern for her was still etched on his face.
"Aragorn and the Rangers have arrived," he told her softly. "They should be here any minute now. They will find him. I feel certain of it."
Eowyn brought her hand up to his face and smiled again, "If anyone can, I know it is them. But I must accept the possibility that there is nothing to find..."
Just then there was a knock at the door. As Faramir rose, Gamling stepped inside to announce the arrival of King Elessar. Eowyn stood and nodded, "Show him in, please, Gamling."
A moment later, Aragorn was striding toward them, flanked by a blond Elf and swarthy dwarf. Eowyn smiled her welcome and gratitude, "King Elessar, Legolas, Gimli. Thank you so very much for responding." Each in turn stepped forward to kiss her hand, but only Aragorn spoke, "We would never consider doing otherwise, Lady Eowyn. The loss of your brother is almost as painful to us as it is to you. Please, tell us what you know. Let us waste no time."
Eowyn deferred to Faramir, who stepped forward and waved them all to seats at a nearby table. He spread out a map of Rohan and indicated the area in which King Eomer and his party had been when attacked. The six soldiers who had been accompanying him had all been killed, save one who died later. Before expiring, he had indicated that it was clear to him that their attackers had wanted the King alive, though not necessarily unharmed. Heavy rains had washed the area clean before it could be thoroughly searched, and later efforts to find a trail of any kind had been unsuccessful.
Aragorn rubbed his chin thoughtfully, then told them, "If there is any trail at all to be found, my Rangers will find it. We will rest here the night and start at first light." He rose and Gamling stepped forward, awaiting instructions.
"Gamling, provide lodging for the King and his two companions here and find places for his men. See that their horses are cared for and that they have anything they require for their excursion," Eowyn said.
Gamling nodded, and signaled the three to follow him, "This way, my lords."
Once they were gone, Eowyn sank weakly against Faramir, "Dare I hope he might still be alive and they will find him?"
Faramir stroked her hair thoughtfully and answered, "There is always hope, my love. And it would not be the first miracle Aragorn has performed. Let us abandon hope when there is no other option, or at least stronger evidence to do so."
Eowyn smiled again and hugged him tightly, but said no more. For the moment, she was content to take comfort in his embrace.