4. The Sweetest Song - Rated R
In which Éomer and Lothíriel are both united and divided
The ruffian and his lookout man perched on a rock in the Outlaw Hills, sharing a flask of home-made spirits. Their eyes were on a moving grey dot that approached across the greening fields of Erech. They waited, and soon the dot became a horse and rider. When the ruffian saw who it was, he laughed for joy. Not only was it the Onion Man, but he was riding a greyed-out horse that could only be of Rohan.
"The Onion Man killed the strawhead for me!" he said, unable to imagine parting a living Rider from his horse. "Now I'll just bring some token of his death to Gríma Whey-face, and trade it for more money." He foresaw a long and profitable relationship with the pale man from over the mountains. "I could ride that horse to Edoras ...but, no. They would take me for a thief."
"Or a murderer," added the lookout helpfully.
The ruffian sighed. Perhaps the Onion Man's appearance was not so lucky after all. "He should have stuck to the plan. All I wanted was from him was news. I could have done the slaying and gotten the horse and whatever swag there is. Now I'll have to get it from the Onion Man and he's too clever by half."
So saying, the ruffian went to meet his accomplice, calling "Keep watch!" over his shoulder. He could think of only one way to get the swag, and it was not negotiation.
The sun had dried the dew off the grasses by the time Éomer and Lothíriel came to the slopes. They saw the Onion Man's trail vanish into the beech trees around the base of the hill, but saw no other sign of him or anyone else.
"We don't have much time," Éomer said, looking up at the sun climbing in the sky. "Will Rianné raise the alarm?"
"Yes, if we are late. Then the steward will come with all his knights. Unless you escaped pursuit he would put you in prison. You would need a powerful family or friends, at least, to help you." She changed the subject, thinking he was unlikely to know such people. "Are you planning to kill this man?"
He was delighted that she thought him fierce and wondered if she found him attractive as well. "The men of Rohan do not kill other men readily, only Orcs. But we shall see. I intend to have my horse when I leave."
" 'When you leave,' " she repeated quietly. They both looked somber.
"Now I will dismount and go on foot for silence' sake," Éomer continued, his voice rougher. "When I find Cloud I will try to stay hidden until I can loose his reins. Then I shall mount and flee. With no weapon but a knife, I dare not fight unless I have to. Cloud is well trained and I will have the advantage of surprise. You stay here, mounted and ready to ride when I come flying past. Give me your knife again. "
"I want to help," she said.
"I know, but have you ever drawn a weapon to fight? Then - hold!"
They heard voices coming from around the base of the hill: someone's deep growl, and the refined drawl of the Onion Man. Éomer led Nightfall to a nearby tree. He gestured to Lothíriel - Stay here! - and disappeared between a double line of spring-gold bushes, those that always are first to blossom in spring. They led up the hill, flanking a faint path. Maybe a farming couple had lived up there once. Maybe the husband had planted these bushes to please his wife, back when both were young. If so they were long gone now, but the bushes remained in golden, riotous, perennial life. The thick branches and yellow foliage gave good cover for a tall strawhead clad in a green horse blanket.
When Éomer came to the top, he could see, down the hill's other side, a half-circle of a clearing ringed by budding beeches. At its edge stood Cloud! The reins were thrown carelessly across a branch and were not looped, Éomer noted. At Cloud's feet lay a bag from which his green cloak spilled, and his sword was nearby. All was perfectly positioned for his stealthy plan.
Except, of course, for the occupants of the clearing's center who rendered his plan useless.
Saruman snared Gríma through his love of power, and Gríma got the ruffian through his greed for gold. In turn, the ruffian should have found accomplices of weaker character and slower mind than his own, but that would have been hard to do. Nevertheless he achieved it in the person of the lookout.
When that fellow saw the tall blond man and the pretty wench, he had just enough sense to get out of sight and ponder what to do. He found pondering hard work, and while he debated whether to shout or charge, the man started up the hill between the hedges. The lookout's decision was made. The wench would be an easier foe than the ragged youth, and likely, more useful. As a shield. A weapon against the youth. Ransom. Or maybe she is in a mood to dally. This brightening thought chased most others from his head. When the young man was gone, the lookout made ready to grapple with Lothíriel and bring her off the horse.
Lothíriel quickly lost sight of her "Outlaw" as she thought of him. The hill, though small, was steep and mostly shielded by the spring-gold bushes. She heard no more voices from the other side of the hill. In fact, to her town-bred ears the country silence around her was ominous. She was alone. Except for a horse-thief, his ruffian master, and a comely outlaw, she thought. Now she doubted her insistence in accompanying the outlaw. Perhaps I should have listened to my head, not my heart. Looking about, she spied a long tree limb overhead, hanging by a strip of bark. A rare ice storm last winter had weighed it down and broken it nearly away.
She thought, It would be good to have that limb in my hands…
"Easy, lady," she said and with her knees signaled Nightfall to hold. She reached the limb by standing in the stirrups. But it did not come free when she tugged.
"Oh..." she said, and thought of a word the stable master had taught her. "Go forward, Nightfall," she urged, and this time Nightfall's great strength pulled the tree limb free. Quickly Lothíriel broke off the springy tip and stripped the stringy parts away. What was left was a fair cudgel some five feet long, as thick around as her forearm and made of still-green wood. Lothíriel did not know what she might do with it, but it felt good to hold, just the same.
Just then a mouse-grey bundle of fur streaked along the ground by Nightfall, who whirled, nearly leaving Lothíriel sitting in mid-air. Next thing she knew, another streak, red this time, rushed by.
"Oh!" she gasped as Nightfall reared and neighed. If anyone was listening, they were found out. I do not like this, she thought, and then there came the highest-pitched scream she had ever heard, the scream of an animal. It was the hare dying in the jaws of the pursuing fox.
"Easy, lady," Lothíriel said, trembling. "There, beauty. Be still." She took a deep breath, hoping it would calm both Nightfall and herself. "I cannot abide any more scares."
The lookout, who had watched all this from behind a boulder, chose this moment to launch himself toward her.
Lothíriel's mouth opened in surprise and she froze, unable even to breathe. This is a bad dream, she thought as the man sprang into view from nowhere and ran toward her, seeming to take all the time in the world. A purely detached corner of her mind inquired, Does he really mean to tackle a nervous horse?
Apparently he did. At the last moment he leaped from an outcropping of stone, and his momentum carried him almost far enough. But Nightfall had had enough. She neighed again and raced up the hill, with Lothíriel barely managing to stay on. The lookout scrambled after them, and it was a short hill.
When Éomer saw the ruffian and the Onion Man in the center of the clearing, he forgot that the Onion Man had waylaid and robbed him and left him in a perilous predicament. You sheltered me and cured me, he thought, and I owe you, as you said.
The Onion Man lay belly down on the grass with his ankles tied to his wrists. The burly ruffian stood over him, as tall as Éomer and bigger in girth. Unlike Éomer, he had a sword, clothes, and boots. He was putting the boots to use: punishing the Onion Man with kicks to the ribs. "Who told you to kill the strawhead?" he roared.
"I killed no one, dunce! Who are you talking about? Huhh!"
Éomer assessed his chances. A frontal assault was risky, but hurling the knife at the ruffian would be disastrous. His skill was not so great as with a spear, and he dared not lose his only weapon. So down the hillside he sprang, landing beside the astonished ruffian.
"I am alive. If you wish to remain so, loose your sword belt at once."
The ruffian did not budge, frozen as he was in surprise at the sudden appearance of the shouting young giant. "But you are not the one," said the ruffian finally. "Gríma said the man was thirty-..."
"Grima said!" repeated Éomer with dawning realization, and in that second they all heard the neighing of a frightened horse, a high-pitched shriek, and the approach of a rider. Before anyone could move, Lothíriel came charging over the hilltop, clearly struggling to control her horse. Close behind, and without much care to avoid either Lothíriel's cudgel or the horse's hind quarters, came the lookout, who, Lothíriel thought, put the 'rough' in 'ruffian.'
"Outlaw! Help!" she shouted, and this finished Nightfall's nerves nicely. She reared and this time Lothiriel slid off her back, landing right in the arms of the pursuing lookout. Her skirt rode up and displayed her bare legs, which sight transfixed the lookout and his master.
Meanwhile Éomer remembered Gríma's words at Meduseld: "You must go in Théodred's place" and suddenly he knew the right question to ask, and its answer.
"Lady! Was your steward making ready for the king's son of Rohan?"
Lothíriel paused her struggle with the lookout and gave him a blank look. In a flash Éomer recognized the deceptions of Gríma Wormtongue and knew the peril of his house and kin.
And his own peril. The ruffian had shaken off his surprise and drawn his sword. "You're a fool to fight me, boy," he said. "My reach is longer; my arm is stronger."
"Ah, but I am more handsome and my wits are keener," replied Éomer, guarding with the knife.
"Keen enough to protect you from me, and her from him?" said the ruffian, nodding at the lookout and the struggling Lothíriel. "You cannot help, as you will be dead in a minute, and the wench has no chance against him on her own...."
Then to Éomer's delight they saw Lothíriel snatch the lookout's dirty hand, pull it to her mouth, and bite down hard. The lookout screamed like a hare in the fox's jaws, jerked his hand away, and for a moment turned his back to the clearing. He never saw it again. Éomer took his chance, let loose a prayer, and the knife, and watched it fly straight and true. It would draw blood from the wind. The lookout fell, trying with his last strength to remove the blade from the left side of his meaty back. Then he lay still at the feet of a horrified Lothíriel.
Still, she had enough presence of mind to pick up her dropped cudgel. "Catch!" she shouted, and threw the stick to Éomer.
He grabbed it from mid-air and swung it at the ruffian, who swung his sword in response. Crack! went the cudgel and a slice flew off. Now the cudgel was short, and sharp on one end.
Éomer began to see a plan.
He feigned a dash past the ruffian, reaching for his own sword that lay on the pile of goods next to Cloud. But the ruffian moved with him, circling so as to stay between Éomer and his gear.
A few more steps would put the ruffian just where Éomer wanted him. Take the steps, he begged silently. He moved closer to the ruffian, brandishing the cudgel with the pointed end forward. Then he lunged forward. His outstretched arms were in great danger of being cut off. The ruffian made a mock retreat, grinning, and raised his sword.
"Any last words?" he taunted. Then he took the steps.
"Only my thanks to the powers," Éomer replied, "and this."
He put his fingers to his mouth and let out a piercing whistle that started high and rose higher. And patient Cloud, trained with love for twelve years, lifted his hindquarters and kicked like a mule. His hooves cracked the ruffian's back. The ruffian screamed and plunged forward. Éomer's makeshift lance was there to meet him and pierce his heart till the stake came out his back.
"My reach was longer after all," Éomer observed, hardly believing his luck. Then Lothíriel ran to him and threw herself into his arms. He held her tight. They both turned away from the two bodies on the grass.
"My hero, my love!" she said, trembling.
Éomer trembled also; his heart was racing. "My blood froze when I saw that villain clutch you," he said. "Are you hurt?"
"Yes, I am," said a voice below. "Make love later, Strawhead. My arms are in agony."
"Poor fellow! We forgot the Onion Man," said Lothíriel.
Éomer took the ruffian's sword, knelt and cut the captive's bonds, "I ask pardon for your distress. You did more than save my life. Thanks to you I discovered a great peril to my family, and" - looking at Lothíriel - "to my heart. I am glad you are spared."
"Just when my sniveling spirit had gotten used to serving you in the afterworld," grumbled the Onion Man, standing up and rubbing his arms.
"Only do not steal my horse again. Can you take the ruffians' … bodies away from here? If you search them you may find a money pouch stitched with a small white hand. You may as well keep the contents, but if I were you I would destroy the pouch. And in future stay on the good side of the law. You are as poor an outlaw as I am a liar and I will not always be here to save your ..." and he smote the Onion Man on the backside with the flat of the ruffian's sword.
"Thank you," said the Onion Man, wincing, "for your counsel. I know of a cave on the other side of these hills and I will take them there at once."
Quickly he put the bodies across the ruffian's mule, which was tied up nearby. Éomer and Lothíriel stood watching, side by side with their arms around each other's waists.
"Farewell, gentles," said the Onion Man. He looked long at Éomer and then plodded away, taking the dead and leaving the lovers behind him. He stopped once.
"Kiss his red lips for me, Lady," he said and then he was gone.
They smiled. "Why, I think he is sweet on me," said Éomer.
"I am sweet on you," she said and kissed his red lips indeed. Sooner than she wished, he stepped away. He removed his makeshift tunic and picked up his own clothes. High above, the sun moved with her usual disregard for those who wish to stop time. They embraced again, and each felt the other's heartbeat, dizzying and wild.
After a moment she whispered, "Do not mind the sun. Stay with me a while."
"I would stay forever, love, but we must return."
"We must do something else first. I would not tumble you -"
"Nor I you, I would bring you to my family with ceremony. I -"
"But now is all the time we have, I know it."
"My heart tells me to stay, but I have duties as well as desires. A man I thought harmless is plotting murder and more against my kin. And, and, you, lady, should not conceive a child."
"I have taken thought for it. I am only two or three days from my monthly courses and so the time is wrong. Besides Elvish women never conceive unless both desire it. Have you not heard I have Elvish blood?" She smiled bitterly at the old family joke. "We will not meet again. So if I am your true love, love me now."
"You are my own true love," he said. Now Éomer could not claim a drop of Elvish blood, but sometimes Mortals glimpse the future too, and he did so now. The Seen World faded. He saw all of Rohan as from a great height. A shadow swept over it. He heard a thunder of horses and the crash of a mighty battle. Out of the shadow came a crown with wings, and behind it, another: the crown of Rohan.
"We will meet again," he said, "and when we do you shall wed a king."
"I would rather wed you," she said. "I shall prove it."
"There is no need, lady," he began, but he could not lie, and there was need.
She spread his makeshift tunic on the green grass and it was a blanket again. "Come." She loosened the ribbons of her bodice and showed him breasts no lips had ever touched. Éomer drew a deep breath. Nothing ever again moved him so much as when Lothíriel, languorous on the blanket, raised her skirt to her waist. Éomer came to her then. She parted her thighs wide for him.
At first he was content to admire her beauty with his eyes, but soon he must use his hands and mouth. He hungered for the taste of her skin. He found it salty as blood and headier than the honey wine of Meduseld. Her breasts were a feast of kisses.
He lifted her legs and looked between them for a while. She was already wet as a fountain. He touched her with a finger and traced the crease of her buttocks with the moisture, exploring the short distance to that other place. He rubbed there and she shuddered.
She thought she would die as he trailed his fingers over her nether lips, as he rubbed his stubbly face against her thighs and soothed the abrasions with his tongue. He spent a long time there. She had not known such pleasure existed. Well are you avenged for my play with the breechcloth, she thought madly. She grasped his flesh, the only man she would ever touch so, and urged him with her hand to be her lover.
When they were both ready and more than ready, they joined their bodies beneath the trees in spring. They cried aloud together. Lothíriel felt her spirit became one with his when his body became one with hers. It was the Elven blood and the indissoluble bond. "More," she begged and Éomer gave her more.
Afterwards, they slept awhile as lovers do when done: he between her wide-spread legs and she with her arms around his neck. Sated. It was the sweetest song their bodies ever sang.
The sun had risen three fists and more when Éomer and Lothíriel galloped back across the meadows.
Lothíriel said, "Always before I gained everything in life that I wished. But I see no way to keep you with me. Oh, will you not stay?"
Éomer shut his eyes tight. For some reason, the day his mother died came into his mind. "Lady, I must," he began, but his suddenly his breath hitched in his throat as if caught in a noose.
Before he could continue, they saw the gates of the manor-keep open. The steward's guards poured out, led by three figures: the steward himself, his wife who once had been a shield maiden, and Rianné. She had waited three fists of the sun to the moment. Then she had ridden bareback to the manor house and raised the alarm.
One guard loosed an arrow and it whistled horribly close to Lothíriel. They saw Rianné charge toward that guard, swing her bow, and hit the surprised guard's helmet so hard that they heard the crack. The guard swayed. After that there were no more arrows. Instead, Rianné came riding hard toward the lovers. She found them at the grove of trees where they had first met. The outlaw was helping Lothíriel to dismount. He was whispering something that Rianné did not hear, and Lothíriel clasped his hand and kissed it.
Now he was mounted again while the sound of the steward's soldiers pounded closer. Rianné saw tears on his cheek. He turned his grey horse and rode like mad toward the north and the Rohan road. The steward's soldiers wheeled about and followed, but it was clear they would not catch him.
The strip of black cloth he had worn around his eyes was still lying where he dropped it. Rianné picked it up and pressed the ends to Lothíriel's eyes. "How can you love such a ... brigand as that?" she asked but her tone was gentle.
" 'Lady love an outlaw like a little boy love a stray dog,'" Lothíriel answered, quoting a proverb of the farm folk. She stopped her tears; great ladies did not weep for themselves. "Is he not splendid! I shall wave to him." And she did, just as Éomer looked back.
Later, Éomer told Théodred, "She was the most beautiful woman I ever saw, clinging to that rearing horse, waving goodbye. I swear I saw stardust - don't smile! - stardust sparkle from her hand. Powers help me, I've fallen in love with a fairy woman, brother."
So thought Éomer as he headed back to his troubled hall. He returned to find Edoras in an uproar and Théoden lying deep in a senseless sleep. When the king awoke at last, his mind was much altered for the worse, and all Éomer's insight came to nothing because of Gríma's doings. Then war overtook Rohan, and Éomer did not see Lothíriel for many years.
Everyone knows how the war made Éomer a king, and how Lothíriel wedded him, and they loved each other well and were loved by all the Rohirrim and the folk of Gondor. For that tale has been told, and told well, by a mighty bard.
The proverb "Lady love an outlaw" is from the movie "Goin' South" in which actor Jack Nicholson speaks the line to actress Mary Steenburgen.
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.