1. The Quarry
Inspired by a Nuzgul from Una, this one. I'm not terribly happy with it in certain ways, but what the heck.
For the third time Faramir walked over and peered out of the mouth of the cave, into the rain.
"I think the water has stopped rising," he reported to his brother-in-law, "so we should be safe enough, but we are certainly not going to be able to get out of here today. Tomorrow, if we are lucky. If I had thought there was any chance of this I would never have suggested hunting in the hills so late in the season. Nor would I have urged you to pursue our quarry into this ravine. My apologies, brother."
Éomer shrugged. "At least we were on foot for the rough terrain. We could never have convinced our horses to climb a rock wall to safety! And you know Éowyn would have had both our heads if anything had happened to them; she will be less concerned when she hears about us, I suspect."
Smiling a bit ruefully, Faramir said, "You have the right of that. Although after being tossed around in the water like ducks, I at least will have plenty of bruises to elicit her sympathy." He felt gingerly at his ribs. "One bit of fortune we have had, though. These hills are riddled with caves - Elbereth must have smiled on us, that we ended up in one of the ranging companies' caches! Now that it looks as if we will not be flooded out of its dubious comforts, I will look to see what they may have left."
Éomer rose and helped him rummage within the lidded stone chests that had been built along the rear wall of the cave. This particular cache seemed to be little used and not often replenished; the food supplies were scanty, though there was plenty of dry firewood.
"There's a comfort," said Éomer. "I am chilled through after our dunking, and no dry clothes to put on."
"I, too," agreed Faramir. Though wait - here," and triumphantly he drew forth two rather dusty and prickly wool blankets from the last chest. "We can wrap up in these and let our things dry overnight."
The fire drove back the shadows of the approaching night and warmed the air, but did little for the winter-cold stone of the cave's floor and walls. Presently Éomer suggested that they had better spread one blanket on the ground to sit on, and drape the other around them both.
"Practical - just like your sister," was Faramir's reply as he stood to make the change.
"Well, we did share a great deal of training, growing up with Théoden," said Éomer. "You should not be surprised at how alike we are. I feel warmer already, do you not?"
"Yes. Pass me a piece of that dried meat, would you?"
They chewed companionably for a time. Faramir laughed.
"What is it?" asked Éomer.
"Oh, something just struck me as funny. Well, two things. First, that had you known what you were in for, you would never have agreed to spend five precious days of your visit with your sister traipsing around northern Ithilien."
"Indeed no," chuckled Éomer. "You promised me beautiful autumn hillsides and good hunting, not a sudden storm and being trapped in a cave with muddy flood waters all around, eating a strip of meat that resembles dried Mûmak-hide. And the other thing?"
"Just that I would give a good deal to be in these circumstances - with your sister! She is so busy now with our children that we rarely have much time together. I was laughing at the irony that I should get what I want with her brother instead. You do look a great deal alike - fate simply made a small error, is what I think," said Faramir.
Now Éomer laughed aloud too. "I was thinking more or less the same thing - there is a strong resemblance between you and your cousin Lothíriel, you know, and I would not at all mind being here with my wife, just the two of us."
"Exactly." Faramir yawned. "I should really not be tired, but since there is no particular reason to stay awake, what say we get some sleep?"
"I would not object to that myself. We should probably build up the fire first, though, so it will last through the night."
Éomer crawled out from under the blanket and arranged the fire, adding wood until he was satisfied that it would not burn out quickly. He turned around to see Faramir watching him.
"Nothing, brother. Nothing. Did you turn over the clothes so they will dry?"
"Of course," said Éomer, lying down and tugging back his share of the blanket. "Good night, Faramir."
"Rest well, Éomer," Faramir replied, his voice muffled from resting his head on his arm.
Éomer roused slightly when the first light of dawn struck into the cave, feeling the familiar morning urge. Still half-asleep, he pulled at the arm draped over him and murmured Lothíriel's name, wriggling backwards into the warmth of the body behind him.
Faramir had been dreaming of Éowyn, riding free across the fields ahead of him, challenging him to follow. Without opening his eyes, he brushed aside the long strands of hair that had drifted into his face, and pressed a warm kiss onto the skin where neck and shoulder joined. Reaching around to cup his wife's breast, he was jolted fully awake when he realized he was touching wiry hair and firm muscle instead. He stiffened and began to withdraw his hand, but Éomer clasped it and turned over to face him.
They stared at each other for a long moment.
"I'm sorry, I dreamed…" began Faramir, just as Éomer said, "I thought you were…" They both broke off.
"I am sorry, Éomer," Faramir repeated. "I was dreaming of Éowyn - I did not intend any offense."
Éomer said steadily, looking at him, "I took none. It was - not unpleasant."
"No." Faramir rolled onto his back. "Unanticipated, unintended, but not unpleasant. At all."
"Did you…" Éomer cleared his throat and continued. "Before the war. When you led your own band of men through these hills, hunting Orcs. Did you ever…?"
"No, never. I was the captain, after all. It would have been bad for discipline," Faramir said. He paused for a moment. "Though there were times when I was undoubtedly tempted. And you?" he added hesitantly.
"On occasion. I think perhaps there is a little more equality of status within an éored than in your companies, brother. Or perhaps we Rohirrim are simply less concerned with it," said Éomer. "It is not the same as with a woman, to my thought."
Faramir heard him move restlessly, and add, "But worth the trial."
"Is it?" asked Faramir curiously. "I never considered it more than a way for men to laugh at the chance of death, before a battle."
"Aye, it is that, right enough. But there is something more as well. I would never choose it instead of loving a woman, but…" Éomer shrugged. "I cannot explain, really."
Ithilien's lord thought about it for a while. At last he said, "If you cannot explain, perhaps you could - show?"
"Happily, brother," said Éomer, and bent to that task.
Afterward, he asked, "So what is your opinion now, Faramir?"
"You were right. It is - different. And worth the experience. But not to be compared to the love of my wife," Faramir said.
Éomer laughed. "That's as well. Look, I am certain that Éowyn knows this sort of thing goes on in an army - she did ride with all Rohan to battle, after all - but I do not think she need know that it has happened between her husband and her brother! Nor would Lothíriel be terribly pleased, I imagine."
Faramir shook his head. "I see no reason to speak of it." A broad smile spread across his face. "I promised you a chance of hunting, Éomer - but never thought that I would end up your quarry!"
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.