Never Say Never – Part One
“Éomer, a rider approaches!”
“Where?” he demands, getting to his feet and walking with the sentry to the edge of the encampment.
“From the north, a single rider from what I could see.”
The marshal looked up and down the line, seeing that his men were ready for whatever orders he may give.
A single rider from the north, he muses, his hand tightening on the hilt of his sword. Was it a scout?
Anymore of Saruman’s Uruks would come from the south and Sauron’s pawns from the east…and they surely would not be on horseback.
As the lone horseman came into view, Éomer steps forward, squinting into the darkening evening sky. The horse was running as if Sauron himself pursued them, the cloaked rider lying low against the animal’s neck.
Something was familiar about them; the way the slight figure blended with the horse, effortlessly following the movement of the running mount. A last ray of sunlight briefly illuminated them and Éomer gasped in recognition.
“Malthen,” he whispers, then louder to the confusion of his men. “Malthen!”
As the horse whinnies in what could only be a greeting, Éomer smiles and hurries forward to meet the rider. Within moments, the mare had slid to a halt before him and the rider nimbly leapt from the saddle, startling the gathered riders of Rohan.
“Nae saian luumé, Éomer,” came the greeting, the voice melodious and obviously feminine.
As the hood from the dark grey cloak slips back, it revealed hair so black it appeared blue pulled back in braids behind elegantly tipped ears. But what held Éomer’s attention were those familiar green eyes he had thought to never see again staring right through him.
“It has been too long, Rían. It is so good to see you again,” he says as he briefly embraces the she-elf before turning to one of his men. “Berul! See to Lady Rían’s horse.”
“Malthen,” Éomer says, running his hand along the mare’s golden speckled flank as she was led away. “I would have recognized her anywhere. But come, I will get you something to drink also and you can tell me why you are here.”
“I could ask the same thing of you,” the elf says as they take a seat before the campfire. “I was not expecting you this far north of Edoras…but I am glad of it.”
The elf immediately felt the tension in her friend and the discord amongst his men.
“Éomer, what has happened?” she asks gently.
Looking at Rían, seeing the concern in her eyes and remembering all she had taught him so long ago, he took a deep breath and told her everything. He could feel her grief and anger when told of Theodred’s death and of his banishment. He knew she was second guessing herself. She had tried to warn Theoden of trouble from Isengard, but she had had no name, no specifics. Grima. He had been subtle as a serpent, spent years insinuating himself in the king’s court; something the king had not been expecting. She had done what she could to prepare them, but she felt as if she had failed. What could one elf do against Sauron’s machinations?
When the marshal finished speaking, Rían’s head was bowed, her hand over her heart as she whispered a prayer. When she looked back up, Éomer could see the tears trickling down her cheeks.
“The hour indeed grows dark,” she finally says, her voice thick with emotion, “and we are needed at Helm’s Deep.”
“Helm’s Deep?!” Éomer was obviously shocked. “How do you know we are needed?”
Rían swallowed past the tightness in her throat, forcing her voice to maintain its calm.
“Lord Elrond advised me that Theoden King has emptied Edoras and even now is preparing to face Saruman’s army at the Hornburg. They are vastly outnumbered, mellon-nin. Your uncle…your people need you.”
Éomer stood, running a hand through his hair as he gazed out over the encampment. Most of his men had overheard the conversation; they had recognized the elf as Theodred and his cousins’ former teacher and were eager to learn why she had traveled so far and alone to reach them. Even now word was racing through camp that Saruman was marching on Helm’s Deep.
As much as Éomer wanted to strike camp and ride out now, they would have to wait. His company had ridden hard only the day before and had destroyed a large group of Uruk-Hai. The men and horses needed rest.
“We ride at dawn!”
The order spread quickly through camp and those men not on sentry watch made sure the horses were bedded down before resting themselves.
Satisfied for the moment, Éomer turns to look at his friend. The elf was hugging her cloak tightly against her body, her eyes filled with something he had never before seen in those green depths. Fear.
“Rían,” he says, placing a hand on her shoulder, “what other troubles are you carrying in your heart?”
Blinking rapidly, the elf quickly schools her features before returning Éomer’s concerned gaze.
“I will be fine,” she says with a forced smile. “I have ridden long myself and would value a rest.”
At that, a squire brings two bowls of stew, offering them to his marshal and their guest.
“Please, tell me all I have missed while we eat,” the elf says after thanking the boy.
Éomer signs in defeat. Lady Rían had always been quite adept at shifting the focus of a conversation so no one would notice. But there was no hiding the fact that the elf before him now was wholly different than the one who stayed in Edoras while he was a child.
It was well past midnight, the encampment was silent except for the occasional nicker of a horse or the creak of armor. Even though the weather was mild, Rían wrapped her cloak about her trembling body, inhaling the almost forgotten scent of its former owner. She closed her eyes against the ache in her chest, the fear she felt clutching painfully at her heart. She prayed for courage..for peace. She prayed also for forgiveness for not telling Éomer everything.
The Rohirrim were not the only ones who needed help – ‘he’ was on his way to Helm’s Deep.
‘He’ would need her.
*Nae saian luumé — It has been too long