Author's note-- this story contains far more characters than indicated. Aragorn. Gimli, Gandalf, Theoden, Theodred, Faramir, Arwen, Eowyn

~ ONE ~

Eomer and his men had galloped the plains of Rohan in exile ever since Grima Wormtongue had cast some sort of evil spell over his uncle, King Theoden. He had been forcibly removed, cast out from the Golden Hall at Edoras, and every moment since he rode off into banishment he feared for Eowyn's safety without him there to protect her.

His uncle would provide her no protection from the leering gaze and perverted desires he'd seen in Grima's eyes as he lusted after Eomer's sweet sister. And his cousin Theodred was dead now and though he couldn't prove it he knew in his heart that Wormtongue bore major responsibility for the destruction of the family that Eomer loved only slightly more than he loved all of Rohan.

They were crossing a particularly wide stretch of plain and they could see for miles in all directions. That is when he saw the smoke rising in the distance. Somewhere on his beloved plains there was trouble. With a shout to his men they rode hard toward the smoke…..

The village was burning and she could hear the screams of the villagers as the wild men, perverted by, and under the control Saruman, laid siege to yet another village. This time it was her own; leaving peaceful villagers dead and dying. Any survivors would be homeless and starving, as they fled to seek refuge elsewhere.

Erienne, herself, had just barely escaped death, watching in horror as her own family was killed before her eyes. They had turned to her next, one of them ready to strike a killing blow when another one of them stopped him. Instead of killing her, he tied her up; her wrists bound behind her back, promising that they would still kill her, but that he had other uses for her first, his cruel eyes traveling evilly up and down her young body with malicious intent.

His hand came up grazing roughly across her bare arm, before moving to grip her breast, twisting it roughly causing her to cry out in pain. He took pleasure in her cry and reached for the other breast subjecting it to the same treatment. Erienne's family might be dead, but her will to live wasn't, and neither was her spirit. She was too frightened and angry to let her grief take her just yet. Determined not to passively allow him to derive pleasure from her pain, she spat in his face.

She should have known the blow was coming. His massive hand struck her face and sent her sprawling. With her hands bound behind her back, she was unable to break her fall and the ground was hard beneath her. The men standing beside him laughed as she now lay helplessly on the ground. Blood trickled steadily from her nose and the cut on her lower li.

But she refused to cry. He reached down grabbing her arm roughly and yanked her back to her feet. "Want more of that, you little witch?"

She responded with silence. He grabbed a fistful of her hair and yanked her head back forcing her to meet his gaze. "I asked you a question."

She glared at him and if anything it angered him more, he no longer wanted to spend his violent lust on her so much as he wanted to break her spirit. But he figured he could accomplish both at the same time and then he would kill her and watch the blood flow from her body as her life ran out her. Moving behind her, his hands grabbed the fabric of her dress and gave a good yank and the sound of rending fabric distinctly heard. He reach back to the front and pulled the torn garment forward baring her breasts to them all.

Erienne cringed as filthy, murdering hands began roaming her chest. More than one set in fact. One of them moved behind her biting her back and shoulders, leaving teeth marks and drawing blood. And another of them claimed her mouth, forcing his tongue past her lips, nearly choking her. She bit his tongue, drawing blood and that one backed away from her cursing. She was shoved back and forth from one set of rough, cruel hands to another, and then another. Then yet another one, or maybe the one from before grabbed her skirt, drawing it up and pushing a hand up between her thighs. She was reaching the point where she didn't think that she could take any more of this when her attackers heard the sound of pounding hoofbeats....

Hearing the Rohirrim battle cry, her assailants shoved her away from them and fled. They had no wished to tangle with mounted soldiers. Erienne was weakened from their assault and no longer had any sense of balance and she fell, humiliated and half naked on the ground….

Eomer fought back tears as he beheld countless dead bodies strewn throughout another gutted village. Fresh, heated fury arose as he witnessed the results this latest assault on innocence and goodness. He saw that some of the bodies were infants and small children. So many dead this time. His hatred for Saruman grew even greater.

He was about to turn away and leave the clean up to his men when he spotted a movement out the corner of his eye. A glimpse of white fabric moving at the edge of the village. He could tell it was a woman. He turned his horse, making his way to where she was. As he drew closer he swore under his breath.

What had they done to her?

Her garments were in shreds, her breasts exposed and her hands tied behind her. It took little for him to imagine what her intended fated had been. She didn't appear to be seriously injured but she had certainly been the subject of extensive abuse. He could only pray at this point that she had not been raped.

She was young, looking to be a bit younger than Eowyn and her hair was the color of cornsilk. And he couldn't help but think of how he'd feel if this were happening to Eowyn instead, of how she would feel to be exposed to stares of men without any choice. With his beloved sister in mind, Eomer dismounted, removing his head gear and tossing it on the ground. Then he yanked a blanket from his pack and approached her...

Erienne didn't know what to think when the wild men fled, leaving her sprawled out on the ground. She had only been vaguely aware of hoofbeats and war cries. She was unaware of Eomer's presence until he touched her, a blanket coming down to cover her before any of the other men arrived

She was startled, thinking they had come back for her and she began to scream in terror, not realizing that he wasn't one of the of the wild men. Then he spoke, his voice calm and reassuring, "Shhh, little one, I won't be hurting you. Let me help you."

She looked up into his face. He was absolutely beautiful. Erienne found herself staring up into intense dark eyes—empty of any malice and the concern she saw was genuine. He had golden hair that fell down well past his shoulders and she recognized him. He was Prince Eomer of the Golden Hall. She remembered his visit to the village a few months earlier with Prince Theodred. The men of the Rohirrim were well respected by her village. Her fear of this man faded.

Eomer watched her face, the subtle change in her eyes and could tell that she was no longer afraid of him. He kneeled down beside her, gently pulling her up into a sitting position and without looking slipped one hand beneath the blanket feeling at her wrists for the leather straps that bound her wrists together. His slid his knife blade under the blanket and carefully cut her bonds.

Erienne's muscles screamed in agony as they moved back to a normal position that now felt painfully foreign. She pulled the blanket securely around her shoulders. She looked up and him and whispered "Thank you." Then she tore her gaze away from his humiliated and ashamed of the condition she'd been found in.

Eomer reached out and tilted her chin up so that she was force to meet his gaze. He had to make her understand. "It's not you fault," he said gently. "None of you did anything wrong."

Erienne looked around at what remained of the village, the only home she'd ever known. It was gone, by sundown there would be nothing left but ashes. Her family was gone as well; her parents and her brothers. She glanced around to see if anything at all was left. She was alone and destitute. What was she supposed to do now? Where was she supposed to go?

She'd held her tears back for as long as she could. They began to fall unchecked and Eomer did the only think he could think of. He pulled her into his arms and simply held her while she cried her grief to the skies.

Her cries drew the attentions of some his men and some of them moved in Eomer's direction. With a simple jerk of his head, he waved them away, letting her grieve in peace. She clung to him, her body convulsing against his chest because she was sobbing so hard.

Eomer shifted into a more comfortable sitting position on the ground, but continued to simply hold her, his hand stroking her back gently and eventually her sobs subsided and she relaxed against him, her tightly fisted hands loosening their grip on his sleeves and she drifted off into an exhausted sleep. Erienne never saw the tears that Eomer had shed along with her as he, too, grieved for her loss. They had been his people too.