Eomer sat his horse like an old man. He was weary from the battle, and was beaten with sadness at the loss of fifteen of his stoutest warriors and twelve of his finest horses. It seemed never ending; these wars and skirmishes against the forces sent by Saruman in order to weaken Rohan.
Eomer sighed, wiped his face with his sword-sore hands and raising his voice, called, "To me my men, you valiant men of Rohan, we must leave our comrades to sleep with the Valar, and return to the work of living and making our lands safe. Come, follow, leave only your tears."
He set off, his tall figure sitting straight in the carved wooden saddle, his long legs resting easily beside the flanks of his willing Firefoot. Eomer was in his prime, a handsome man with long hair that was neither blonde nor brown but flecked with the colours of leaves in autumn. He hung his helmet with the hard nose-piece on his saddle-horn and drank from a flask containing the last of the water brought from his own country. He passed the flask back to his companions, ordering them to drink a little to encourage them to think of their journey home.
There were sounds of hooves, voices and a deep growling voice that appeared to be grumbling. He called his troop to disperse in the forest edge, and waited, alone, on the pathway. Around the corner came a motley crew of about seventeen. Foremost, with the leads of two packhorses in his hand was a tall man, as tall as Eomer himself, but dressed as a Ranger. He rode his animal easily, and seemed to be relaxed at seeing a stranger ahead
"Hola - may we aid you?" His voice sounded clear, yet had a dusty tone to it. It was soft but commanding.
"Nay, I need no help, but who are you and why do you trespass over the borders of my land? I am Eomer of Rohan, Third Marshal of the Riddermark. I require you to state who you are and what is your business?"
"Aragorn, also known as Strider of the Rangers of the North country. I am here to travel to Rivendell on the orders of Gandalf the Grey, the wise wizard"
He gestured at his group, now waiting.
"I have these companions, an Elf, Laegolas Greenleaf, son of King Thranduil from Mirkwood. Over there with the glowering visage is Gimli, a descendant of Durin the Deathless. He has also offered his services to Gandalf, in an especial Quest we have to perform." Waving a long arm at the rest of their group, he offered the information that they were what they obviously were, helpers and servants to manage the packhorses.
Gimli growled deeply and began to move forward.. "I take no orders from Marshals of the Riddermark.. My race is older by far..." he gurgled to silence as the long arm of Strider swept down and hauled the bad-tempered dwarf back behind his horse.
"Excuse him, Sire, he is full of hot dwarves' blood! Laegolas, can you not control your friend?"
"My friend? I hate him as you well know, he and I have so little in common except that we must both breathe the same air!" The tall blonde elf, so finely built he looked like a willow wand in movement. His eyes of the sky looked up at Eomer on his tall roan, and a most sweet smile curled around the elf's lips.
"I am Laegolas, son of King Thranduil, but not on the best of terms with him at this time. May I admire your helmet? It is indeed a fine work of art." His pale fragile fingers reached forward and stroked the golden ornamentation. Eomer heeled Firefoot back, away from the intrusion.
"Touch not my helmet - that is for my hands alone!"
Laegolas looked surprised, but dropped his hand and bowed his head, "I am sorry if I offend, but you make - a most valiant figure." His eyes again lifted to the brown ones of Eomer. "I admire great warriors, so young and full of passion. There are not so many as once there were."
He turned back toward the group. Eomer had to watch the lissome figure moving, not exactly walking, but gliding effortlessly across the grass barely disturbing a single blade. There was something so - graceful, so - almost feminine in the lightness of the form. He rejoined the group, turning and smiling softly up at the stern visage of the Marshal of Riddermark.
Eomer was watching this motley band with suspicion. He had had no warning from Gandalf that anyone would be passing through his lands, and on a quest. What quest, and what...
"How can I accept your word? Who is this, your leader, by the name of Aragorn? Where is your pass from Gandalf?"
Aragorn dismounted. He strode over the greensward to Eomer and laying a hand on Firefoot's neck, calmly looked into Eomer's cautious dark eyes. "I am Aragorn, son of Arathorn, and we have a most pressing business to attend. May we discuss in private a little apart from my companions. I wish to convince you of my sincerity but ... "
Eomer felt secure, his men were round about hidden and would aid if it were needed. He dismounted and led Firefoot away from the patiently waiting servants, who were taking the chance of a rest, and a bite to eat.
Aragorn stood shoulder to shoulder, watching them calmly.
"I am Aragorn, and to prove to you my mission, here... see ... I offer you..." and he unsheathed Anduril from its scabbard, stroking it gently away from Eomer. "Here, you see on the blade..."
Eomer read, and envied this simply clothed man. He indeed held the blade of Anduril, reforged from the Broken Blade.
Then they sat together and Aragorn told Eomer of the trials they had already endured. The dire worries of Gandalf - the news of which caused Eomer to grow pale, knowing now that Saruman and Sauron would be all the stronger. And the calling to arms of Boromir of Gondor, whom he remembered meeting once a long time before. Aragorn seemed greatly concerned by the dire warnings of Gandalf, and was much in earnest. Eomer waited, quietly listening until he heard the rest of the story. The gathering at Rivendell to ensure the destruction of the Ring and the Quest which must be endured.
Then he knew there was going to be war, trouble and more deaths. To aid the group on their way, he broke all the rules of the Rohirrim by calling forth a soldier and bade him pass the reins of two of their warrior horses to Aragorn, "Our valiant men will not be needing these two, and you have more need than they. Take them and speed on your way, brave Aragorn. I bid you a happy outcome to this dangerous quest you will embark upon.
Eomer turned to the group, and swung lightly back into his saddle. He waited until Aragorn had remounted, and then spoke, clearly and with friendship in his strong voice.
"If you have no other desire other than to obey the orders of the great Gandalf the Grey, and in speaking his name so freely I doubt not your words, then I give you permission to continue your journey to Rivendell. I trust that your Quest will go well. and your travel will be swift and safe."
He turned Firefoot and swung off into the forest, soon disappearing. The group that was to become part of The Fellowship of the Ring continued on their way to the council calling. Laegolas remembered the big dark horse-lord that glowered at, yet did not show dislike to, an Elf.
Eomer returned to his lands, and forgot the small group travelling light, but speedily to the fairy lands at Rivendell. He had too much on his plate to think of pretty elves, though his body had seemed to curl toward that delicateness.
He was to meet with Laegolas again and again, over the months that followed, in battles and in sadness, in pain and in gladness at meetings. He developed a healthy admiration for the skills of this young and beautiful Elf, and for his undying loyalty to Aragorn. Laegolas was caring of his companion, as a brother would care.
The news that Aragorn was to fight all the evil powers sent by Saruman, and Sauron, the Evil Eye, until the Ring was cast into the belly of Mount Doom had been acknowledged by Eomer. He responded immediately when his country and his countrymen were called upon to come to the aid of Gondor and all the forces of Good. He was the first to lead his Eodor into battles, exorting all to feats of wondrous bravery. Theodren his father had remained at home, raging and cursing his son, his only son, for joining in a useless battle that he was convinced they would lose.
He had even exiled his son, casting him out to survive alone without a father's blessing. Eowyn his sister also left their home, clad in armour and hiding amongst the soldiers as they galloped from the gates. Eomer had confided in Laegolas around the campfire one evening that he had been very hurt by his Father's words. It seemed that the Elf was sympathetic to his pain, and understandingly had laid his arms on Eomer's shoulders, and held his calloused hands. Eomer had been comforted by those gentle moves. He found himself liking the Elf more each day, feeling drawn to him. He was a man of hot passions, Eomer. He needed women to satisfy him, often. He would take them when and where he could, but there was just something about this Laegolas that intrigued the body of a virile and hard-muscled horse-lord. He found he was wanting this frail looking body, that was as hard as elf-metal, and as pliant and whipcord, resilient as the wind in the trees. He wondered what it would be like to love this creature, and how beautiful he would look in the moonlight. Eomer would laugh at himself sometimes, telling himself he was turning into a silly romantic songsinger, who spoke of soft things like roses on lips, and kisses of bee-stings, needing pressure and licking to cure the urgent hurting want....
Months,or was it years later - to Eomer it seemed as if half his lifetime had passed, he again stood, beyond exhaustion, on the fields of battle. Fangorn Forest where a desperate battle against many orcs had taken place was in the past, but Pelennor Fields was the present.
It had been a battle where so much had been lost. It seemed to Eomer that nothing could be salvaged from the ruins around him. The smoke of battle, dying men and beasts crying for aid, the stench of blood and the sobbing exhaustion of men, the willing soldiers and warriors who had fought to a standstill. They had fallen to sit or lie anywhere, unable to stand or carry a sword more.
Eomer was returning from the healing halls of Minas Tirith where his sister lay mortally wounded, his father lay dead. He was the last and now the first. The weight of his burden was bearing down too heavily.
He sat upon a leg of one of the slaughtered Oliphants, a monstrous creature carrying houses on their backs, but which had fled eventually, screaming their fear into the skies. His face fell into his scarred and bloody hands. Then raised as he looked at the blood. It was that of his sister, and that of his father, mixed with his own. His hand reeked of blood, yet he was reluctant to clean it. He kissed his hand, the back, the fingers, the palm, hoping he could kiss his dying sister well, and regain life for his father who had died so valiantly, regaining his sanity and vitality at the end to show how a true King of the Mark would be. He was still kissing and crying when a quiet hand fell upon his shoulder.
"Be not so sad, my Eomer, it was a battle for good. A battle that had to be fought so that evil could be destroyed. Why do you kiss your hand? It is marked and sticky with blood?"
Eomer choked. He glanced up at Laegolas, seemingly untouched by the battle, unmarked in form or clothing. The tears shone on his cheeks in the late sunshine. "I weep and kiss my hand because it has the blood of all my family upon it. All my family. My sister Eowyn who is lying near death in the House of Healing, my brave Father, slain so atrociously here on the battlefield, his body so broken and bloody I had difficulty in lifting him to take him to our home. I weep because I am the last. And I am afraid.." His voice broke. Choking again as the exhaustion overcame him he sobbed brokenly, his bloodied hands falling limp between his knees.
Laegolas knelt at his shoulder, his hand reaching up to push back Eomer's filthy hair. "I understand the pain of men in their losses. I would comfort you. May I?" He reached both arms around the crouched form of Eomer and held him, close to his breast. He began to sing, softly in Sindarin. Sweetly, gently the Song of All Sorrows lifted the clouds from Eomer's heart. He rested his head against the warm solid chest of the young Elf, and just let all his woes drift....
Later, they were sitting at a bench in the broken Hall, litter and destruction still obvious despite the hurried attempts to clear most away. There was almost too much to do all at once.
"I saw you in the battle, Laegolas, you were the bravest of them all I would believe. I saw you run to the top of an Oliphant and shoot your miraculous arrows. You were almost dancing upon that fearful creature."
"I am blessed with a lightness of foot that would run with your horse, Firefoot... How about a race with him? When we have the time, maybe we can enjoy sparring and talking. There is so much to do first. We have to crown Aragorn as the rightful King of Gondor, and rebuild, or build this city, yours also, and all the other cities that have suffered so direly. It will be done, but work must not overtake a few short pleasures for you, to rest a mind and a body."
"I am grateful for your company, and I enjoy your sense, as well as your wicked jestings. I would know you more. Much more. I think I may learn a great deal from you. We have much to do, here in the city, and in our friendship, have we not? Let us go and begin." Eomer stood. His tall wide-muscled frame filled Laegolas' sight, brown, strong, smelling of horse, and sweat and a certain attractive odour. Laegolas smiled, an inner smile that found its way to his face.
"Yes, we have much to do my lord Eomer, to learn and enjoy with each other." His hand lay softly upon the shoulder of the horse-lord, again strong and firm in his resolution. A thumb travelled softly up behind the the horse-lord's ear and down again, firmly asserting against the corded neck. Eomer grinned, turning his head sideways and down, trapping the hand. His own brown hand with the healing scars and cleansed now of blood, reached up and held Laegolas' hand where it rested. "We have much to do, and much to learn and much to love. My Elf." His mouth smiled and reached forward. Laegolas stood and felt, responded with just a tilt of the head, but his eyes held those of Eomer, full of promises and wicked fun.
"Aye, for a horse-lord, you are strong. You are now healthy and in need of an Elf to succour you in other ways. We are strong enough for you, Eomer. You will not beat me down, in sparring, racing with your steed, or in love. I will equal you in all things. Are you - yes, you are ready for the challenge!"
Eomer laughed out loud. A laugh of relief, of joy and an answer to the challenge.
"Come to me tonight. We will see who then will be the Victor, an Elf or a Man?"