Author's note:

This story is a prequel to "Last Hero". Once I portrayed Eomer as such an outright escapist, I had to wonder how he became one, growing up in a war and all. This may seem like an Eowyn story, but it's not, really. Bleah on Eowyn.

This is also a chapter one. There will be more.

The title is taken from the same song "Last Hero" was named after. It's by Michael Longcor and it's the definite Eomer song. You all go hear it, now.


2 The Banquet of the Brave

A tale of Rohan, derived from the chronicles of the Third Age as translated by J. R. R. Tolkien.

The dark sneaked into Eowyn's hair disguised as innocent shadows. It tickled her skin, as real as the firelight, creeping slowly down her back, behind her eyes. In the fireplace, flames were dancing with the dark, and it seduced them and made them play with it and turn away from the eyes it opened in all the shadowed corners. Silence hung in the heavy air, infinite as the plains, the silent Rohan night, a pale moon shining sadly through the window. Crickets were trying to distract the little girl from the monsters hiding under her bed, but it was a doomed effort to begin with. Eowyn was small, but she was not stupid. The things with the glowing red eyes were there, though usually Eomer would chase them away with his sword, because wood frightened them a lot more than metal anyway. Him, or Father.

But neither of them would, not this time.

A few hours earlier, many men came from Eastward. They had dirt and blood on their clothes, and their swords and shields were broken. They led Father's horse, but it had no rider on it, just something wrapped in bloodstained fabric. Mother cried when she saw them, but Eowyn did not, because Eomer did not either. He looked at them, though, very long, and followed them into the house, into her parents' room. Then Mother closed the door.

Eowyn went very quietly to her room, and got very quietly into her bed, and waited in the dark.

Father went out to ride that morning. He was chasing Orcs.

Mother tried to tell him not to go, but he laughed, and said nothing could possibly happen. He gave Eomer the big, black helm of one of the Orcs he chased last time, and ruffled Eomer's always messy hair, and told him it would be his turn someday. Eomer seemed to like that; he wore the big black helm and chased her around the house for hours.

Eowyn tried to ask Father when it would be her turn, but Mother told her to shush. She was not sure why Mother did that, and felt better when Mother told Eomer to take off that hellish thing and go read something instead.

Eomer pouted and went to read something, and told her that reading was such a waste of time, and that he would much rather be out practicing swordplay. Eowyn agreed wholeheartedly, even though being only seven years old, she could not even lift Eomer's wooden sword.

It was just a few hours ago, but it seemed very far and unreal now.

Eowyn tried to ask Mother where Father was after the men came, but Mother only cried harder. So she went to bed, and pulled the blanket over her head, and waited. Maybe Eomer would come to chase the monsters away, he had to. Maybe Father would.

No, Eowyn decided, Father would not.

The dark came and sat on her head. It poked fingers into her eyes. It called the wind, and the wind came howling from outside the window. The dark was rarely this confident. Usually it hid more.

Father would not come to chase it away, not tonight. Father went to chase a bigger, deeper dark, and it swallowed him up, shining sword and all.

If Father only stayed home, Eowyn thought, the dark would never have gotten him. He would be stroking her hair now and telling her a goodnight story, if he stayed home.

Or maybe, if Eomer had been with him… if she had been with him…

The door opened.

Eowyn shuddered. The door always made a terrible creaking sound, though usually, after that sound came the voice of Mother or Father. The dark lifted its terrible red eyes and fled out the window, hiding beneath it just for a while until it could come back.

There was a shuffling sound, and Eowyn buried her head deeper under the blanket, and prayed that the sounds would go away. Then something light settled on her bed, and a hand came and stroked the blanket under which was her head.

Father? Eowyn hesitantly stuck her head out. Her eyes settled on a tall, scrawny form, matted golden hair clashing with the shadows. No – not Father.

"Eomer…" she whispered. Her brother's eyes were pools of shadow, but the firelight revealed some of his face, wet with trails of tears. He wore no real expression, and stroked her hair in silence. "Eomer, Father is…"

"Father died a great man," Eowyn winced at the sound of her brother's voice before the words he spoke registered. It was choked, raspy and dry, but more than that it was hollow. He whispered the words into the dark and the dark took them gratefully. "He went after the Orcs with no thought of himself. He fought them bravely and they're all dead now, he was valiant and true to his duty."

"But Father is…" she started to shiver a bit. She could not complete the thought as Eomer did. The flickering of the fire silenced her voice, and she felt her eyes starting to tingle unconsciously, without comprehension in the feeling's wake. She clutched at the blanket and her brother's hand, but Eomer did not give her one look.

He was staring into empty space, into the distance and the dark. "Father is a hero."

"Father is dead, Eomer!"

Her brother shook his head in a jerking motion, swallowing hard, gripping her hand now tightly, it almost hurt. His eyes were empty and his hand was cold, and his voice was detached and meaningless. The words he spoke poured out into the dark, growing louder, louder. "Father went to rest with the glorified Kings of the Mark. His deeds were legendary, his courage… they will sing of his last charge forever. They will sing of him. Great, beautiful songs…"

Eowyn jumped up, throwing away the blanket. She grabbed her brother tightly, desperately trying to look into his eyes. His gaze, unfocused, did not find hers. She felt the tears flowing freely down her face, and did not feel seven years old. She tried to shake Eomer violently, but he sat there like a statue, and he muttered things…

"Beautiful songs… the only way to live, the only way to die…"

"Eomer, Father is dead!" Eowyn screamed. The dark lurched under her window, stormed it, into her room, into her brother's eyes.

His eyes, large and bloodshot and bright with the fire reflecting within them, came to life in a flash and scanned her face. Then he lifted his hands and pressed her to him, crying into her hair even as she cried into his lap, hiding her face from the dark all around her.

And he stroked her gently, and whispered in her ear: "Someday, little bird… someday it would be my turn."

~~To Be Continued~~