1. Last Hero
A missing tale from “The Lord of the Rings”, as translated from the Western Tongue by J. R. R. Tolkien.
Author’s note: There’s just not enough fanfic about Eomer, so I had to make one myself. The climatic scene in the Pelennor Fields, depicted in this story, touched me more than just about anything else in the books. Eomer is so wonderful with his “deeds worthy of song”… these dreams make the war worth fighting.
The song quoted near the end is Michael Longcor’s “Last Hero”, the Eomer song, highly recommended.
* * * * *
It was only a game…
The wind was sweeping at his hair, but it wasn’t a pleasant wind, cooling his face and mind in the maddening heat of battle. His helm was torn from his head by a blow a while before, and now his hair was streaming swiftly behind him. There were many songs that sang of how the hero’s bright hair flew behind him as he rode, giving him an air of grace. But the songs never mentioned the hero’s hair being greasy and matted with sweat and blood, or the wind seeming to pierce the eyes or making the flags tear rather than wave. He could not remember any, though he tried very hard.
No, it wasn’t supposed to happen like that…
He remembered riding in the green fields of Rohan a whole forever ago, when he didn’t know of the shadow in the East. He remembered… the wind in his face, wonderful and chilling, and Eowyn’s laughter, high-pitched and melodious, carried in the air… Eowyn, his little sister, his dead little sister…
“What happens if you die in battle, Eomer?”
“I won’t, little bird.”
The possibility that she may die while he still lived never occurred to them.
It was a game, she was always better than him at swordplay when it was still a game. They both used to enjoy it so much, tearing branches out of trees and swinging them at each other until Theoden remarked he had too large a kingdom to run to take care of two little beasts. It was all a game; it was a great game, adventure, battles, glory, war.
He swung his sword high above his head and brought it down hard on the shoulder of an Easterling foot soldier. The man’s arm fell to the ground, and he soon followed, screaming. Blood erupted in a steady stream from the wound, staining his hands and the sleek skin of his horse, one stain among the many. One man down, many thousands more, surrounding them like an ocean of hatred, separating his men, reaping through their lines. The screams of the fallen, they were everywhere…
Ride! He wanted to shout. Ride harder! Victory awaits! Glory awaits! He ought to speak like this, wasn’t that right? To promise them a happy end?
He wanted the happy end, the stories promised a happy end…
”And so Eorl the Young led his men to the aid of Gondor…”
“Did they win, Eomer?”
“Of course they did. They were heroes.”
He remembered… Eowyn never really approved of happy ends. She said it didn’t make sense, how could anything end happily when eventually everyone dies. He used to laugh at her when she said that and tell her nobody died in the stories. And the heroes always won, and good always triumphed, and there wasn’t any pain at all, just fighting valiantly for forty days and nights until their enemies fled before them and…
So why were their enemies not fleeing? Why did he have to swing his sword and lop a man’s head off here and thrust a blade through another’s eye there and spread the third’s gut all over the battlefield ground…
Blood, everywhere, death, doom…
There was never any blood in the stories…
Hold on, you’ll be sick, he thought, trying to bring himself to his senses. It wasn’t his first battle, not his tenth, not his hundredth. He had spilled more blood than he could remember, and at times even enjoyed it. It made the nausea ten times worse now that he thought of it. Why was he shaken so? Was it not his favored game?
”Eomer, do Orcs feel pain?”
“Well… I don’t think so…”
“And the Easterlings?”
“Stop asking questions and go on with your reading.”
He could hear the roar of the battle growing ever louder, in his mind and in his ears. He fought relentlessly, and even heard himself shouting orders. In the midst of it all, he was King, and he had his people to defend and direct. It wasn’t just him and Eowyn anymore, playing around the court in Edoras. The sun used to shine all the time, and he would help her climb trees and sit with her in the canopy telling stories. Then when the servants would call they’d laugh knowing no one could find them. And she fell once, but didn’t cry, she was such a brave little girl…
“This is no time for dreams, my king!”
His head jerked up violently. An Orc was charging at him, madness in its eyes. It took one sword stroke, but his hand was shaking so bad the thing fell convulsing to the ground rather than swiftly slain. He looked at it a short while, wavering in the saddle, as the horrible red eyes rolled back…
He looked around and found himself in the midst of a terrible black cloud, surrounding him on every side. Fell voices came from it, flashes of deadly silver, and the screams, the screams of the wounded, the screams of the dead… they never screamed in the stories, they never screamed in the games…
The screams! White fire burst in his guts. It wasn’t supposed to happen that way. The world was cheating…!
“Have you ever been in a war, Eomer?”
“What makes you ask that, little bird?”
“You like pretending you’re in one…”
One second the world was dark, and when his senses returned he was no longer on the horse and there was a terrible taste in his mouth and dead bodies all around him. Firefoot stood over him, protecting, but there was no need. He was hidden beneath the tide of battle. He could wait until his head cleared, it if ever will…
But the war, the war was before him…
He struggled shakily to his feet. What would Eorl the Young do in such a situation? Or Helm? Or Elendil? Or any of his childhood heroes? Surely not fall to the ground and retch…
But he wasn’t any of them, was he? He was not even the strange man from the North who claimed to be King. He was Eomer of Rohan and that alone, a child playing in waging war, afraid of darkness, blood and pain, swinging a wooden sword against imaginary foes to prove he wasn’t…
No songs would be written of him, as there should not be…
“They’ll sing of you too someday, Eomer.”
“You think they will, little bird?”
“Eowyn…” did she, too, in her last desperate moments, realize the game was over?
The game was over. It landed on him like a thunder crushing through the sky. The story was over. There was nothing left to do but face reality. He didn’t want…
He had no choice.
He swung himself back into the saddle. He found his sword. He held it up and let it shine in whatever light it may find. He shouted out to his people commands in a voice that felt alien, as if another man was speaking from inside him, the man speaking now, not the boy.
Now he heard the shouts as they rang across the battlefield, screaming terrible names. He knew of the pirates of Umbar. Theoden told him and Eowyn the story of them when they were still so little it gave them both nightmares for weeks. He remembered holding her in the night when she came to him crying. A chill ran down his spine, just for a moment.
But then he wasn’t afraid anymore. Nightmares didn’t matter. Reality mattered. In reality the pirates were flesh and blood, and the Orcs and the Easterlings, and anything that is flesh and blood could be made to bleed.
So he dug his heels into Firefoot’s side, and he snatched up a flag of Rohan, white horse in a green field, defiant against the dark. He rode to a green spot in the distance, a small hill. He rode through the battlefield. He sang.
“The skies I saw, the trees I saw that now no eyes shall see,
To-night I die the death of God; the stars all die with me;
One sound shall sunder all the spears and break the trumpet's breath:
You never laughed in all your life as I shall laugh in death.”
He planted the flag upon the hill, breathing in, then crying out. His story was nearing an end, and even if there won’t be a single man left in the Riddermark to tell it, he would still make it worth telling.
In the newfound reality, he could only think of doing deeds worthy of song.
So he sang and raised his sword to catch the sunlight. He watched over the ships, and helpless to do all else, laughed loudly and cried a challenge.
“Game’s over, Eomer!”
“If it is, I think you’ve won.”
He watched mesmerized as the flag upon the ship unfurled, unable to take his eyes off the tree and the seven stars, shining out for the entire of the Pelennor Fields to see. Then with heart aflame and eyes beaming he threw his sword up and caught it and sang and cried out in mad joy in the middle of the battlefield. For a few minutes, Eomer the boy had his story back, and it had a happy end.
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.