Protector of the Small
A/N: A substantial chapter! Hurrah!
Summary: The thing about trauma and isolation which people always forget is that it can be somewhat hilarious. There we were, Becca and I, whisked away from everything we had loved. Stuck in Middle Earth, feasibly forever, and all because of some bogus prophecy. So we decided to record our adventures, so that you might find some pleasure in the retelling of it all. EomerOC. LegolasOC.
Chapter Two: Many Months Later
I cried at first. At night, into my pillow. I wept bitter tears for the people I loved and the world I had lost. I cried until there wasn't a tear left in me – until one night when I didn't feel like crying any more.
It was in that state, desolate and numb, that I came to a conclusion.
If I wanted my freedom and my old life, I would have to fight for it.
Rebecca and I became angry. Our names had been changed, to match the fashion of the time. Asha. Becca. Our new names were a betrayal, a denial of our identity. We clung to our memories, but time made them slippery, and soon we forgot even the simplest of things from our pasts.
We spent our days labouring in the kitchens or setting fires in various hearths. It wasn't taxing, but it was mindless. I found no shortage of time to think about the family I loved and the modern technology I had very strong feelings towards.
I had abandoned her hostile approach to my captors weeks earlier, seeing as it was reaping no results. Rebecca, however, was upholding her aggression towards the people of Rohan out of principle. Regardless of our differences, however, we had become fast friends. It was not entirely clear whether or not this was a result of necessity.
"I miss cinemas." I sighed. It was a hot afternoon, and we were sitting on the grass outside the Golden Hall, trying to catch a hint of breeze. "Cinemas have air conditioning."
"I miss air conditioning, full stop." Rebecca replied. "I tried to run away, yesterday." She added.
"I know. They caught you." I nodded. "I still think they're mad. We're not heroes. We don't even get to listen to what's going on. We can't even fight."
"It's insane." Rebecca agreed. "Maybe they'll send us home when they realise that."
"I don't think they know how to send us home," I said soberly, "I think that we're stuck here forever."
"Positive, you are."
"Learnt from the best," I retorted easily. "You were saying just yesterday that we were likely to die of plague or something horrible of that ilk."
"I've now considered the fact that we have modern antibodies. I think we'll live remarkably long lives given the average life expectancy of Middle Earth."
Through the biting back-and-forth, we endured, planning and plotting our way back home. The plan which was enthusiastically named "Operation Hit It and Quit It".
Operation HIAQI was comprised of three simple steps:
#1: Ascertain where they were.
#2: Ascertain where they needed to be.
#3: Ascertain how to get there without dying.
Eomer entered his quarters, muddy and sweaty and generally unclean after a day down at the training grounds. He began unbuckling his armour, and let his mind wander to the events that had transpired earlier in the day.
Asha, as she was to be known, had been serving in the hall that day. She was having trouble holding the two large pitchers of ale she'd been given and negligently plonked them down on the table as soon as she could. Ale had sloshed onto the table.
"Sorry." She had muttered. She began to pour the ale with more caution.
He had motioned for her to fill his cup. She poured a little too quickly and the cup overflowed onto Eomer's lap. He cursed.
"Sorry!" She exclaimed, straightening her dress nervously as she hovered there.
"It matters not," he had said, waving her away, "I was dirty from training, in any case."
She smiled in her relief. "Thank you."
"Thank you, my lord." He corrected her, not ungently.
"Yes." She nodded, frowning. "That."
The other girl, the one with rusty hair, snorted from across the table where she was more successfully filling drinks, muttering indistinctly "... self important, good for nothing... hrmm...".
He didn't know why he had recalled the incident at all. He didn't know why he bothered thinking of the girl with the pleasant face. Edoras was full of pleasant faces. He pulled his tunic over his head, having finally shrugged off his armour. He threw the garment in the general direction of his bed.
There was a sound from the door. An intake of breath.
He turned to see Asha blushing crimson. Thankfully, he had not yet finished unlacing his breeches, so only his chest was bare.
He stared her down and made no move to make himself decent. "Generally people knock."
She was clearly flustered. She made to speak a few times, but the words seemed to get caught in her throat. Eomer grew impatient.
"What do you want?" He asked shortly. "Servants should not intrude in this manner."
"Um, yes, sorry." She managed, keeping her eyes on the floor. "I have a request."
"Then make it." He said roughly. He had little time to indulge the girl, he would be dining with King Theoden tonight, and he intended to do so without the stench of sweat.
"I'd like to learn about this world, and perhaps how to defend myself." She said, this time her voice was a touch stronger. "I believe Becca wants the same. We were wondering if you could find someone to teach us."
"If I find someone to teach you anything, it will be manners," he said shortly.
Her face hardened, and bizarrely tears began to well up. Eomer muttered a curse.
"There's no need to cry," he said harshly, causing the girl to do just that, staring at him accusingly with angry tears streaming silently down her face, "damnit. Fine. You can have your history lessons and play your knife games. Just stop crying."
At that, she pulled herself together. She looked at him with an aggrieved expression which he felt was somewhat unfair.
"Thank you, my lord." She muttered angrily, and took her leave.
"It was stupid to cry," I complained to Rebecca over a pile of dough. "I wasn't even sad. I was angry. It happens sometimes, I get so angry I cry."
"You're under a lot of stress," Rebecca said fairly. "You know, torn away from everyone and everything you've ever loved."
"Thanks for that," I muttered. "At least we got what we wanted, I guess."
Rebecca nodded. "I think Operation HIAQI will be more successful if we're armed and know where we're going."
"Why do you want to escape?" I asked. "What if the best course of action is to stay here? We don't know what's out there, if it's worse than staying here... more dangerous."
"I want to find that wizard," Rebecca admitted, "if we're to go home, surely it'll be through magic."
"I'm inclined to agree," I said. "But we have no idea where the wizard is. He hasn't been heard from since the night we appeared here."
"He was going to a place called the Shire." Rebecca said certainly.
"Well, then that's just what we're going to have to ask our tutor about when we meet him tomorrow morning." I replied. "We might need to learn how to ride horses, too. The idea of walking to the base of this hill tires me, let alone the idea of walking across a country or two."
"Yeah, but they're baby countries. Not like home. Not like Australia."
"Oh, Australia," I said with relish, "how I miss thy sunshine and general lack of sexism."
"Amen." Bec muttered. "But yes, you're right. We should figure out the deal with horses."
We returned to kneading dough in silence. I let my mind wander to my earlier encounter with the Horse Lord Eomer.
I shivered as I thought of his fierce, brazen expression and the sight of his exposed chest and arms. There was something very raw and masculine about him. I had to admit it was deeply attractive. Modern men were generally clean and doughy, with no real affinity for violence. He was strong. A true warrior.
All the more reason to keep away. I thought. He'd toss you over his shoulder and drag you back to his cave given half the chance. That is, if he was attracted to you in turn. Which he isn't.
Our tutor ended up being Gamling, with whom we'd become well acquainted over the past months. He nodded to us as we took our seats and resumed our lessons from the day before. He pulled a map from a pile of parchment and smoothed it out onto the table, using little pebbles to weigh down the corners. He pointed to one area and looked up expectantly.
"Gondor," I said hesitantly, "Capital: Minas Tirith. Ruled by the House of Stewards since the death of Isildur."
Gamling nodded, his eyes flickered to Ashley.
"Currently ruled by Lord Denethor, to be succeeded by his son, Boromir." Ashley added. "And yeah. That's all I've got."
"Acceptable," Gamling allowed, pointing to another area.
"Rohan," this time I did not hesitate. "Capital: Edoras. Ruled by Theoden, son of..."
"...Thengel." Gamling said.
"A nation fond of horses?" Ashley provided hopefully.
Gamling sighed. And so went our lesson.
I had been fairly sporadic with my dedication to the martial arts. I only got down to the training ground every week or so. It was my way of convincing myself I wouldn't actually have to do anything dangerous. It was Eowyn who had convinced me.
"Those who cannot wield swords can still die upon them."
The sentiment lingered in my mind.
I pulled back the bowstring hesitantly, and let the arrow fly.
It soared through the air and sunk into a nearby tree, completely missing the target.
"I hope your history lessons are going better than your archery." Came a wry voice from behind me.
Eomer. I blushed.
"I managed to hit the target before," I said defensively. "It was just one bad shot."
He gave me a look that indicated he was clearly unconvinced.
I knocked another arrow and took aim.
"Relax your bow arm," he instructed. "Straighten up, you're angling your shot to the left."
I grudgingly obeyed, and let the arrow fly. It wasn't a fantastic shot, but at least this time it hit the target.
"Better," he allowed. "Though you might have more luck with a dagger. A bow isn't a woman's weapon, not that there is such a thing. Bows are for war and hunting."
I glared at him. I knew he was just a product of his time, but I was becoming tired of everyone telling me I was soft and incompetent on account of my sex.
I was soft and incompetent for a myriad of other reasons, none of which had anything to do with my uterus or my lady-brain.
"I like the bow," I shot back, "and I'll thank you to stop making assumptions about my capabilities."
"It's not hard to make assumptions about your capabilities, as they are few," Eomer said darkly. "It's easy to imagine yourself a warrior now, when you're facing a dummy in the training yard. But when you're facing a real enemy, someone who wants to kill you, lets see if you still have your courage."
"You will see," I said stubbornly, "I won't run."
"Then you're a fool, and you will die." He said. "Leave the fighting to the men."
"Where I come from, women fight in armies." I said hotly. "They fight and die and are just as brave as any man. I'm going to work at this, I swear, I'll work at it until I'm so good not even you could beat me."
He didn't reply, he just shot me an incredulous look and walked away.
After that, I practised every day.