1. Hero Songs
To Steve: (1980-2003) Westu Hal Aragorn...Westu Hal...
Maybe we shall cleave a road, Or make such an end as will be worth a song-If any be left to sing of us hereafter.
-Theoden King, The Two Towers, Helm's Deep
Eomer stole quickly from the Golden Hall, relieved at last to have a moment to breathe. The August evening had at last grown cooler, and he welcomed the breeze, turning his face to meet it. The temptation of a moment’s peace had been too much to resist. In the five months since achieving his rank, the new King of the Mark had begun to come into his own, able to assume a somewhat easy command. True, there wasn’t quite as much time to slip out on Firefoot as he would have liked, and he was still learning to curb his tongue when dealing with certain members of the court, but overall, his days were full now…except…
He turned to face the row of mounds covered in white cylambine and sighed. Tonight had been the funeral feast of Theoden King. He could accept it, that death, for while he had grieved for his uncle, Theoden’s life had been full, his death had come with a purpose, it hadn’t been… Eomer’s vision clouded as he glanced again to the row of mounds, and he sighed staring again at that of Theodred.
Indeed, Theodred’s death had been for naught. Eomer knew it well, indeed now, all of the Mark knew it well. So why did it have to happen? Somehow Eomer had the feeling he would be asking himself that question for the rest of his life, and never finding a decent answer, or even for that matter, an answer. He didn’t know, and he hated not knowing…he just…
“We wondered where you had slipped off to.” Eomer turned sharply as the voice broke into his silent litany and found Faramir standing next to him.
“Someone’s sent you after me then?” he quipped, “I’d imagine that has to be it. Seems the only way someone could manage to tear you from my sister. Unless the two of you just happened to up to some mischief of your own and need me to go away to complete your plans…in which case,” He smirked a bit, enjoying the momentary look of panic on his future brother in law’s face, “I would regret to inform you that I would be forced to put an end to it…”
"We were being good for once." Faramir protested, and when Eomer shot him a dubious look, "Really. And I was not told to track you down either. It just seemed tonight as if..."
"You were a million miles away." The steward's gaze became thoughtful as he too glanced towards the row of mounds, and then back to Eomer, seeming to gauge what was on his mind.
"Everything seems to have come upon us now does it not?" Faramir asked softly, stepping closer to Eomer and laying a hand upon his shoulder. "While it was all happening, we never truly had a chance to realize..."
"We were trying to survive, when we knew there wasn't a damned chance of holding out for long." the King of the Mark ran a hand through his hair and sighed. "Hope was dying...for a time it was dead...and even when much of it was restored..." Eomer's voice was low now, a harsh whisper reflecting everything he had felt concerning the news of Theodred's death at the Fords.
Bitterness, rage at Grima for arranging the circumstances in which it had happened, at Theodred himself for not fighting the orders to ride out and an unspeakable anger at whatever valar may have caused this to happen mingled now with unshed tears for the future his cousin would never see.
Eomer came close to shedding a few of those now, but no. He was the King of the Mark, and men of Rohan did not weep, nor would they in the future. He would carry on...He must, he had to...
"Yes?" Faramir quietly broke into Eomer's thoughts again, causing him to jump a bit. With the state of mind he was in right now, Eomer had completely forgotten the other man's presence.
"I...what was I saying?"
"That even when much hope was restored..." Faramir prompted.
"Right..." Eomer sighed, again turning away from his friend, unsure of how to voice this. How did he dare say it now? Looking around him, at the country he had helped to rebuild, thinking of Eowyn and how happy she was now, with Faramir, knowing that the shadow was lifted from Rohan, and from Middle Earth forever...how did he dare put into words the way he felt now?
"I just...sometimes...Never mind." Eomer trailed off. Far be it from him to ruin the happy ending everyone wanted to see. After all, how could anyonebe anything but happy now?
“Are you certain? I would help if only you would let me,”
“Faramir, I would much just rather forget that I said anything…”
“From the way you’re acting,” Faramir began, “It doesn’t seem like something you would be inclined to forget anytime soon, if ever, and it’s obviously not helping you by trying to keep this bottled up."
"Do you never know when to stop? Look," Eomer sighed, wishing there was a way he could just make Faramir leave. "It's late. Both of us are tired. "If we must continue this discussion might we do it at a latter point?"
"When it's important? No. And on that note..." Faramir stepped forward, grabbing Eomer's arm. "Neither of us goes anywhere until I have an idea of what's going on."
"What in blazes do you think you're doing?" Eomer stepped back sharply, attempting to pull away. Faramir's grip however remained firm.
"I think," began Faramir, in a tone that clearly stated he was serious, "That I am waiting to hear what it is that is bothering you. I also think that we can wait all night if we must."
"Oh will we?" Eomer sneered, not caring that the night would obscure any nasty looks he might give the steward now. "I suppose it never occurred to you, Faramir, that there are some things I would rather not talk about? Or that you are in no way keeping me here against my will. And that if I am not released this instant..."
With that, the King of the Mark shot forward, bringing his other arm round to connect soundly with Faramir's nose with a loud whump. There was a brief moment of silent in which two things happened. Faramir dropped Eomer's arm, his hands reaching up to cover his now thoroughly bloodied nose, and Eomer, taking one look at the situation before him, gasped, and then simply fled.
"What in Bema's name? Eomer!" At the exact moment her brother's fist had connected with Faramir's nose, Eowyn of Rohan had appeared on the scene and was now at Faramir's side, bringing a handkerchief to his nose to try stopping the blood flow. Ignoring her cries to 'get back here now Eomer!' he continued running, until he came to the one place he felt he could actually relax. Slowing to a walk as he entered the stables, Eomer made his way to Firefoot's stall and sank onto some straw piled up in the corner. He felt safe here, which was almost ironic considering...
So many memories were wrapped up in this stable, of his earlier days...and of Theodred. He sighed, thinking back on it now. There had been the countless riding lessons, the help in training, and in naming Firefoot, and so much more. It had been here that Theodred had announced that Eomer was to join his eored as a full rider, and here where he had congratulated him on achieving Marshall status...it was here that they had last...
No...he wouldn't think of that now. Or of Theodred's last warning against angering Grima...and how he had ruined that...how he had failed him. So what if it was fixed now? Eomer still knew the truth...but no...he shouldn't dwell...although sometimes it was all he could do.....
It didn't matter that everything was made all right in the end, because his last promise, had gone unfulfilled, had been broken, and that was how he was left to remember it. He had failed him, had failed the one person, he would never have wanted to fail, and there wasn't even a way to change that now. He couldn't say he was sorry, or at least, the words would mean nothing...the person who needed to hear them never would.
So many memories yes, and so much he would have said, if only he had gotten the chance. But fate, or whatever else he wanted to call it, had interfered, dealing a blow that had cut more than any wound Eomer had received, or would ever receive in battle. And it hurt, more than ever now. Head bent, Eomer tried to focus on the ground, on a stray bit of hay, on anything other than his current thoughts, but it did not come easy. Feeling warm breath on his neck, Eomer moved his head a bit, as a velvet nose nudged his shoulder comfortingly. Once again, Eomer was forced to wonder exactly how much Firefoot knew, then forgot the question as he buried himself in the horse's neck.
He remained there for a while, his eyes closed, trying to do anything other than remember, and finding he could do nothing but. Perhaps it would be better to leave for a bit, but somehow he couldn't. He wanted to leave, to forget that any of this had ever happened, to go on with his life as best he could now, but something was drawing him back, something always would. And this stable, full of memories as it were, well...call him crazy but if he listened hard enough sometimes, Eomer could swear he heard his cousin's boots clicking on the hard dirt, insane yes, but still there was definitely something, it was as if...
"Eomer." A hand on his shoulder brought him back to reality. Looking up, he found, no, not Theodred of course, but Faramir, green eyes still concerned, A wadded up handkerchief still stuck in his nose, probably to help with the flow of blood, Eomer thought a bit guiltily, but said nothing on that subject now.
"You've moved beyond calling me Sire I see." he commented dryly, releasing Firefoot's neck.
"After having this," Faramir indicated his nose, "Done to me, I hardly think I'm obliged. I do however think that I'm owed an explanation."
"I don't." said Eomer flatly. Damn it, why did Faramir have to keep pressing things? Could the man not see that he wanted to be alone? He hated for anyone to see him like this, and to have it be Faramir who had found him. That somehow made this worse. If it had been for instance, some random stable boy, he would have been able to 'persuade' them not to say a word, and to leave him alone. But Faramir didn't seem the type to take no for an answer...and he hated that.
"Funny. " Faramir settled into the straw beside him. "Because I don't leave until I get one." Green eyes firmly set, met Eomer's own hazel ones. "About everything." he added quietly. "And No Eomer, you'll not drive me away now. No matter what you think to try."
"You would be here a long time." Eomer warned, turning away from him sharply, not liking the effects of that gaze. It was as if Faramir were trying to read things he would rather have left unseen, and to say it made him uncomfortable would have been an understatement. Would the man just not leave? Bema! Why did this have to have gotten so complicated?
"I can wait. That is.." Faramir looked at Firefoot, "If your horse doesn't mind having me here?"
"He hates strangers." Eomer put in quickly, "Goes out of his way to make sure they don't get near him. Would attack anyone who tried." Unfortunately, at the moment, Firefoot was giving no indication of this being the case. Normally, he would have at least bitten Faramir by now, but tonight just happened to stand there, derisively ignoring the Gondorian as best he could.
"Tis True then," Faramir murmured quietly, "What they say about the rohirrim and their horses..."
"Meaning what exactly?" Eomer raised an eyebrow, and looked again at Firefoot, hoping that the horse would start his usual form of attack soon. It would even be worth explaining to Eowyn how her fiancée got crushed by his horse if only he could have some time alone. Damn it Firefoot...
"That they are often alike, then again," Faramir shrugged a bit, "I suppose that would only make sense, judging by Eowyn's explanations of how you find your mounts."
"I...yes that’s right." Eomer was surprised to find himself actually making conversation with Faramir now. "We go out to meet the nearest herd, with an officer, or an older rider, someone who's done it before and can help in the ceremony." His eyes took on a faraway expression, remembering, "I was sixteen when I was bonded to Firefoot, Theodred..." his voice caught, "Never mind...I..."
"Yes?" Faramir's tone was gentle now, as he shifted to look at Eomer again, this time refusing to let the King turn away from him.
"He went with me." Eomer added quietly, "And helped me train him afterwards. He always had advice on what sort of techniques I should be trying next, the right way to handle my spear. He was just..." Eomer's voice broke and he turned away again, not wanting Faramir to see the tears that were starting to fall. "Always there..." he added weakly.. "And now..."
For a few moments, all was silent. All save for Eomer's muffled weeping. Faramir just waited, unsure of exactly what to do next. That Eomer had been upset, he had known yes, but to actually see the younger man in such a state...It was something he had never thought possible. Eomer just didn't do this. He had never thought the man capable of it, and now...he had no idea how to fix it either.
"Eomer..." he tried, once, then paused, deciding how best to deal with this. It was quite likely, he decided, that Eomer didn't want and or need him here to see all of this, no matter how much he wanted to help. If it had been him in Eomer's place well...
"I'm outside if you need me," He said at length, standing, and making his way down the stable aisle, walking just far away enough so that Eomer would have some privacy, but close enough to keep a watch on situation at hand. If anyone had ever told him that by the end of tonight, he would have the king of the mark crying in a stable to contend with, Faramir would have thought that they were insane. Now though, he would have to have argued differently.
Eomer would have been grateful for Faramir's tact, if he had bothered to notice it at the moment. As it was, he had barely noticed him leaving, and honestly could have cared less. All that mattered now, was one he would never see again. All he could think of now, were things he had never said, and would never have the chance to say, of the months ahead, in which he knew that he would have no clue what he was doing as king, whereas Theodred, would have known taken control like always...would have handled it well. Things would have happened the way they were supposed to, instead of coming to this...Eomer wasn't even sure how to describe the state of events now, just that, they weren't as they should have been. And he wept for them, for the death of one he had considered a brother rather than a cousin, a friend, rather than a brother.
Eomer stayed there, remembering the past, and contemplating a future that would never be. He imagined what Theodred would say now to see him as king, He stayed...and he thought...until..
"I didn't imagine you would feel much like going back up to the Golden Hall tonight. " For the third time that evening Faramir's voice cut into his thoughts, but perhaps it wasn't quite so unwelcome now, after all Faramir hadn't..."So, I made excuses to..."
On the other hand..
"If you told anyone," Eomer glared at him again, "The truth about what happened, I swear that I will cut your heart out....With a spoon... It's dull so it will hurt more, you know."
"Actually." Faramir flinched momentarily but quickly recovered, "I said that you thought Firefoot may have turned up lame. I haven't the need to go around telling your secrets you know. Also," He let himself into the stall, handing Eomer a blanket. "I thought you might get cold so I took the liberty of appropriating this for you."
"I..." Eomer blinked, and took the offered blanket slowly, "Thank you. " He looked again at Faramir, his eyes unsure, "You promise that no one else knows of this?"
"Unless your horses have started to talk." Faramir quipped, "Other than that...I can see no reason they would find out. I should let you get some rest..." he paused as if trying to think of something else to say. "You look as if you could use it." Faramir turned to go, glancing once again at Eomer, opening his mouth to say something before he...
"Wait." Eomer spoke quietly, hardly even looking at him. "You needn't leave. At least..." he paused, "Until you've told me a few things."
"Such as?" Faramir moved further back into the stall, settling once again beside Eomer, honestly a bit confused as to why he had not yet received another threat.
"Why you've bothered with all of this for one thing." Eomer moved over a bit in the straw, glancing at Faramir from the corner of his eye, unsure, "Why you haven't run off to tell everyone of Eomer King's lost composure. And why, " he added, almost as an afterthought, "You are here now."
"Because.." Faramir paused, his own eyes taking on a faraway gaze before he looked back at Eomer. "If this has to do with what I think it has to do with, then, I understand."
"Do you?" Eomer shook his head slowly, "I doubt that. How could you possibly know?" He spoke bitterly now, his eyes cold as they met Faramir's. "How can you know what it feels like...to lose everything? To just...stand there, and watch as your world falls apart, knowing you can't do a damned thing to prevent it, and that you should have. To feel that even now, there has to be something you could have done differently to prevent it...a way you could have fixed it...a way..." He trailed off, staring once again at the ground.
"A way you could have saved him?"
"I know there wasn't. I knew it at the time and yet..." Eomer sighed, "Logically there still has to have been something. I can't help but wonder...It might have been better...if I had been the one to go to the Fords, things could have been different somehow..”
“As different as if I had been the one to go to Imladris. Oh trust me.” Faramir picked up a loose bit of straw and begin picking at it, “You aren’t the first to ask yourself such questions. I spent a month after learning of Boromir, asking myself the same thing, telling myself that somehow it could have been different. But, Eomer,” He sighed, unsure of how receptive the other man would be to this right now. “You can’t go on like that forever, living in the past. It isn’t good. You‘re liable to drive yourself mad.”
“Then you’re suggesting I do what? Just forget about him? Pretend that none of this ever happened and that life is suddenly perfect?” Maybe Faramir was able to do that, but Eomer knew that he wouldn’t, could never...”I won’t forget him Faramir, if that was your intent.” He proclaimed stubbornly. “I just...can’t.”
“Did I say forget?” Faramir shook his head, “That’s about the worst assumption you could make, because you never will. But...somewhere along the way, you’ll have to let him go.”
“You can’t?” Faramir raised an eyebrow, “Or you just don’t want to?”
“I...both I suppose.” Eomer got to his feet, moving to Firefoot’s other side, then leaned against the horse sighing heavily. “I miss him,” he added, stroking the grey’s neck. “I don’t see how I’m supposed to ever get past that. Or even if I want to.”
“You will,” Faramir promised, “And as to how...I suppose, you just do. You find a way of your own...and you use that.” he stood now, meeting Eomer’s eyes from Firefoot’s other side. “Was there never a funeral for your cousin then? The way you speak of it...”
“There was.” Eomer practically spat the words in a fury of disgust. “But I of course, was not permitted to attend. Traitors rarely get the privilege you know.”
"But you aren't.."
"Try explaining that to Grima Wormtongue."
Well, Faramir thought sarcastically, This was going well. "I'm sorry." he said at last, "I'd no idea that.."
"And besides.." Eomer interrupted, "What good would it have done me? It wouldn't have been like now."
"It still wouldn't have mattered. His death..." Eomer sighed, "With Theoden...at least my Uncle will be remembered. In the songs and stories of our people...at the end, where he helped to restore some of our hope...but Theodred..." He sighed again, "What would he possibly be remembered for? For riding out, knowing his death was imminent? For disappearing into the darkness, never to return..."
"For knowing what he had to do, what it was going to lead to, and doing it anyway." said Faramir quietly. "If that doesn't make him worthy of remembrance.."
"I know, but.." Eomer paused, "It just... doesn't seem enough. And even then...things get lost in the translation. I don't want to hear about his noble death...noble deaths mean nothing now.. I just...don't want a dead hero in place of my cousin, but it's what I have now, and...I hate it. "
Faramir looked at him and sighed, "I know you do...but if there's no other way then.."
"Don't you dare tell me I have to accept this." Eomer hissed, eyes flashing once again. "Because I don't. And I refuse to." Faramir opened his mouth like he was going to say something else, then shut it.
"I'm sorry." he said again, for lack of anything else, wishing he had something beyond words to offer the other man now. "If there is anything.."
Eomer shook his head. "There's nothing. Not now. Nothing anyone...Although.." he added, quite unexpectedly, "I appreciate the effort..."
"The effort.." Faramir muttered as he walked away, boots still clicking on the stable floor. "If only that were good enough.."
"Yes.." Eomer muttered to Firefoot as he settled back in for the night, "If only.."
The next morning dawned bright and early, and waking, Eomer could only wonder if the events of the past night had been a dream. Somehow he felt better today, if only a little. Maybe, perish the thought, but maybe Faramir had been right about talking this out. It felt almost better, to have someone know. Given the choice, he would rather no one did, but seeing as that wouldn't happen now, well having Faramir know was better than having someone else, King Elessar for instance, know. He didn't think he could have stood that, and hoped that Faramir would indeed stay true to his promise not to mention it. That, would be enough to kill him. Well, the only thing to do now, he decided, picking a bit of straw from his hair, was to go back up to the hall and see exactly what had happened...who had been told and...
A stomp of hooves and a loud snort interrupted whatever previous thoughts Eomer might have had. Curiously he turned his head, and walking in the direction of the sound, found himself standing directly outside Frealor's stall. Frealor...his cousin's horse who hadn't been ridden since...
"What in Bema's name?" he asked, letting himself in, and finding Faramir, calmly patting the horse's neck. "Care to explain what you're doing?" he asked, noting a small knife in Faramir's other hand.
"Hoping he stays calm long enough for me to do this." Faramir tugged on a bit of mane, then cut it. handing the dark hairs to Eomer. "Hold those a moment would you?"
Eomer blinked, feeling as he were missing something somehow. "I still don't.."
"Eowyn's told me a thing or two about your customs..." Faramir pointed to a braided circlet around Eomer’s wrist. “How the rohirrim bind themselves to their horses, by mingling your blood and hair, and when one dies, the bonds have to be cut.
“That happened already..” Eomer answered, giving Faramir a look that plainly said the Steward was insane. “Elfhelm was with him...He took care of, the arrangements.”
“Beside the point.” Faramir walked out of the stall, beckoning for Eomer to follow. “He said goodbye, you didn’t. And you’re going to do that. Now. This morning. Of course,” He was quick to jump in before the question came, “I know it’s not as you would usually do but nonetheless...” He continued walking leaving Eomer little choice but to follow behind, leading him out into an open field beyond the stables where a small fire already was waiting.
“I fail to see.” Eomer started, “What you are trying to prove here..”
“I think you do.” Faramir answered, giving him a slight push forward. Or at least he hoped he did. It this didn’t work, well frankly he was out of ideas. “Just try this.” he urged. “And don’t tell me you can’t. I know you a good deal better then that. “Trust me Eomer. Let him go.”
Eomer glanced at Faramir, then at the pieces of mane in his hand and walked forward, feeling like a fool to be quite honest. What this had to do with anything he didn’t know. This is crazy, he told himself, staring into the flames, It proves nothing... So why were his hands shaking so? Why did it still hurt to do this?
Exhaling deeply, Eomer stepped back a few feet, tossing the pieces of mane into the fire, watching as the hair caught fire, then rapidly turned to ashes, and in that moment, he knew..
“Westu Hal Theodred.” Eomer whispered simply as he stepped away, feeling as if a great burden had been lifted somehow. “Be thou well..” Turning now, he fell into step beside Faramir, and together the two made their way back toward the Golden Hall...and whatever Eomer’s future might bring.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.