by Eowyn
Night of June 12

The feast-hall cavern in the Hold of Dunharrow was prepared for the funeral feast of Deor and others who had succumbed to the shadow from the nazgul, as well as the riders who had fallen defending the valley. Torches lit the cavern and tapestries from the Golden Hall adorned the walls, and many tables and benches were set up for the feast. People filled the cavern and their conversation echoed off the walls and mingled as one sound.
At one large table sat Wulfhelm, put in command of Dunharrow by Bearn. To his left sat the relatives of the fallen and to his right sat those too old to fight and the captains of the eoreds guarding the valley. One of the guests sitting beside him to his right was the source of much of the conversation among the people, and many tongues wagged, gossip and dreadful rumors spread in hushed voices and whispers. It seemed to be the Lady Eowyn, whom everyone thought had died at Pelennor in an ill-fated escapade, or had been driven mad by the Enemy and was now a thrall. But no sable armor of man did she wear; she was dressed in white and her golden hair shone in the torchlight.
After speaking a few words, Wulfhelm asked Eowyn to pass a cup filled with wine to those around the table in memory of the fallen. She rose and drank first from it, her hands trembling slightly, then passed it to Wulfhelm, and after that, offered it to those around the table, praying that her anxiety would not show. She was quiet and cordial, not wishing to draw attention to herself; yet she knew that the people of Dunharrow would be talking about her for many weeks to come... at least it would keep their minds off their hungry stomachs as they starved.
Serving women then brought tankards of mead, and toasts were given to honor the fallen and many words were said. Wulfhelm announced that the feast was to begin, and the serving women brought platters of food: bread, roast beef, carrots, potatoes and greens. Sad-eyed dogs milled about the tables, missing the scraps that the people had always thrown to them as they ate. The dogs did not understand that there was a war and food must be conserved, and hungerly prowled about the tables, hoping someone would have mercy upon them or would accidentally drop something.
Wulfhelm seemed to take a liking to Pippin, and the two talked as they ate. Though the food supply of Dunharrow was limited, Wulfhelm and Eowyn let Pippin eat their leftovers, and more food was found for him by Hathawyn. After the feast, apples were passed around, the last of the winter store.
A song of the Mark was sung by one of the captains of the eoreds, a bard in peacetime, and everyone listened in reverent silence, each contemplating their own thoughts.
Eowyn kept trying to get Wulfhelm to tell her the location of the king and the Riders, and of the situation in the Harrowdale valley, but he tried to evade her questions and talk of other matters. She was still sick.... recovering from the black shadow, the healing of her mind and the remnants of the illness she had since she left the Mordor army. Such dire matters would certainly cause her health to worsen! Pity, always pity! Of course now, perhaps suspicion of her loyalty was added to the usual pity. She silently fumed, sullenly drinking her mead.... quickly forgetting exactly how much she had consumed.
She was able to pull some information out of Wulfhelm after much struggle..... that there were three eoreds guarding the Harrowdale Valley; 7000 Riders going to Helm's Deep, and the Army of Gondor, a force of 9000, already there. Then Wulfhelm changed the subject, engaging Pippin in a conversation about the Shire. Eowyn drank more, sulking, angry at both herself for being a thrall and at Angmar for making her one... and as always, frustrated with her lot in life.. For she was a woman, and they should stay at home in useless positions of duty and then die when all was lost.
The conversation then turned to the foul Enemy and his evil ring. Eowyn's grip upon her tankard tightened and she simmered with anger, her cheeks flushed, her heart beating faster as the desire to fight grew ever stronger. She felt she was in disgrace for her deeds in thraldom and longed to do something to win back her name, to redeem herself. Taking a drink of mead and bracing herself, she turned to Wulfhelm and proclaimed, "A thrall I was, but a thrall no longer. I wish to be pardoned for my deeds against the Mark."
Wulfhelm took a drink from his tankard and said, "Lady, i bear you no ill will! What is there to be pardoned?"
"I fought against my own people and served the Enemy for a time. I am as faithless as He."
Wulfhelm replies in astonishment, "There is naught to be pardoned, so no pardon I can give."
"i wish to do something to amend my deeds, to fight for my people and prove myself once more."
"Lady, you need to prove nothing. You have been ill. You are recovering!"
"Still, i desire to fight, as I once did."
"You are no longer captive to Mordor. You have been freed. You are freed! Fight? What talk is this? Have you not seen enough of war at Pelennor?"
Her determination showed upon her face, her set jaw, a stern gaze. "The war still goes on, whether i have seen enough of it or no. Let me fight, whether it be alongside the king, or with the eoreds in the valley."
"Nay, I will not allow you to be sent to fight. Your place is here among your people!"
And so they bickered back and forth, Eowyn repeatedly stating her desire to fight, to do anything other than wait and starve, and Wulfhelm doing his best to discourage her from the dangerous course she always wished to take. Though the lands of the West may have been ravaged by war, their armies beaten back and the people left to hide in their mountain lairs, the ways and customs remained the same. She was a woman; her place was in the home while the men fought to save the land. When the men were all dead, then and only then, could she fight at the last, when nothing mattered anymore and all chances for deeds of valor were gone.
What did it matter now if she fought or stayed behind? Death seemed certain.... either the slow, long death of starvation, or a quick one in bitter pain on the fields of war. Why should she tearfully hold the hands of those starving and ease their passing when her hands could wield a blade and fight against those who caused this trouble? She was always told her duty was with her people. Fighting and slaying the fiends of Mordor like the men seemed a more useful duty, than slowly waiting for death.
And she had already fought! She had disguised herself as a man and fought at Pelennor. Why should she be denied this priviledge again? She had already proved that she could fight alongside the men! Had she not been to the very pits of hell and back and survived to tell the tale? No one could deny she had been brave, that her will was strong, before it had been broken and she reduced to a cringing thrall. She had tried valiantly to save her uncle and failed, but she had tried, ere she was captured and her honor tarnished. Her eyes began to fill up with tears but she blinked them away. True, her fate upon the field seemed to prove the idea of her fighting as folly, but this time she fully intended to be slain in her turn, never to be captured again, or put in a cage. Always a cage, whether one of situation or duty. Her mind had escaped the cage Angmar had put it in, but her body was once again restrained by the old familiar chains of duty and womanhood. And pity. Never forget pity. And so it would be until she passed from the circles of the world.
These thoughts tumbled about in her mind until Wulfhelm declared the feast was over and everyone began to leave. After thanking Wulfhelm, she silently departed with Pippin, heading for her tent.... but she began scheming, devising a plan.... she would fight again, alongside her brother, alongside Aragorn, alongside the men, fight and die in battle, and do all that she was forbidden to do because she was a woman.
Dernhelm was reborn.
Eowyn pulled Pippin aside to a quiet spot in the field and told him of her desire to fight once more, to avenge her honor and truly help her people. And Pippin agreed to it, desiring to avenge the death of his cousin Merry. First it was to her tent, where she cut her hair like a man's by the blade of Westernsee. She felt a pang of sadness as looked upon the tousled heap of gold upon the ground, but she quickly shoved it from her mind. There was no time to think, no time to be given to feminine fancies. Bidding Pippin to wait outside the tent, she then changed into the tunic and leggings that she had gotten in Edoras. Throwing her cloak about herself and pulling the hood down low, it was off to the armory tent with Pippin. Donning the livery of Rohan once more, Eowyn and Pippin then went to the stables. Eowyn saddled up her horse, Dushtala, that bore her from the dark land for war, and set off towards the Harrowdale Valley, with Pippin riding behind, hidden by her cloak. They had no food save an apple to avoid withholding it from the starving people of Dunharrow, a few skins of water, a few supplies and a large dark cloak to wear as a disguise through the enemy-held part of the valley. Truly, they went into battle with no hope, seeking death and revenge, but Eowyn did not despair, for her temper was like a fire, the mead making it hotter still. To deeds of great renown ere all hope was lost! To vengance! To death! Battle fever raged inside her.
They began the journey down the stair of the Hold, one switchback after another on the steep mountain trail, heading towards the valley, praying that luck would be with them and they would not be hindered by friend or foe. Then it would be on to find the Riders of Rohan, wherever they might be.

By Eowyn
Night of June 12 - early June 13
Harrowdale Valley, Westfold

Eowyn, disguised as a rider of Rohan, and Pippin, hiding behind her under her cloak, make their way down the twisting, curving Stair of the Hold, and begin their journey upon the road that leads north out of the valley. The night is dark, the brownish black haze of Mordor hiding the light of Tilion and preventing the stars of Elbereth from shining down upon the earth. Night birds, frogs and insects sing and chirp; those close to the road silencing their song when the rider goes by, and resuming once again when she is a good distance away.
Soon, out of the unnatural shadows rides a small group of horsemen with others behind them. Somewhere from the gloom, Eowyn hears a gruff voice call, "Halt! Who goes there?"
Her heart begins to pound and her head swims as waves of sinking fear rush upon her, for she greatly fears detection. Though startled, she manages to keep her wits, replying in a deep voice, "A rider of Rohan."
The voice ahead calls out, "By what name are you known?"
"Dernhelm," she says.
"I have not heard that name among any of the eoreds in the valley. Come closer. Let me see your face."
Eowyn swallows, her heart pounding. She urges Dusthala, her horse, forward to the other horseman, and soon her horse is beside his. He motions for another rider to come and look at her. Seconds pass by like hours as her heart beats painfully in her chest, her every muscle tense. The other rider approaches and the two confer.
The one who seems to be the head of the group says, "Strike a torch. I cannot see this person!"
She silently waits in nervous anticipation. From behind the leader, a group of riders appear, one bearing a torch. They all gather around her. She winces at the sudden bright light when the torch is brought close to her face.
"What is your name again?" asks the leader.
"Dernhelm is min nama, leof." (Dernhelm is my name, sir)
"Who is your father?"
Eomund..... but, nay, she cannot say that. She tries to think quickly, and says the first name that comes to her mind. "Aedelbert, sir."
The leader asks the others, "Have you heard of that name?" They talk amongst themselves, some saying they have, others saying they have not. Eowyn's heart pounds as each agonizing second passes. Finally, the leader turns to her and asks, "So what is your business in the valley?
A sudden thought comes to her and she says, "I have been given permission from Wulfhelm to join the valley eoreds, sir."
She sees the man relax in his saddle, and she holds back a loud sigh of relief, feeling it would be premature. "Help we need for surety!" says the man. "But you are so young. You seem little more than a boy."
Eowyn knows that her smaller stature and frame, soft features, and absence of any facial hair make her look like a boy of few years. She nods her head. "Aye, sir, tis true."
The rider shakes his head. "Then these are sad days indeed when they send boys out to fight! With what eored are you to serve?
More quick thinking. "The third, sir."
"They are on down the valley. Go on that way." He motions with his hand for her to proceed down the road. "The first ten miles are under our control."
"Thank you, sir. I am sorry for any alarm."
"We must make certain whom we let pass, but I can see by your face, your livery and your language that you are indeed of Rohan, young though you may be. This is your first duty I suppose"
She nods. "Yes, sir."
"Then go on and tell the one you replace who you are and why you have come." Again, he motions her ahead.
"Thank you, sir," she says, and tells the rider farewell in Rohirric. She urges Dushtala forward and the soldiers ride back into the trees and continue to keep watch on the road. Now she breathes her sigh of relief, and her heart begins to slow its frantic pace.

The next valley patrol Eowyn encounters challenges her way, but this time she has a story to tell and a mission to accomplish. Eowyn and Pippin continue traveling down the road, and before long, they come to the last of the ten miles held by the valley eoreds. Soon they will have to journey through the contested five miles, where they could meet friend or foe, and be killed by either, should their luck fail. And then, should they survive that, there remains yet another five miles, controlled completely by the enemy.
She maneuvers Dushtala off the road, and begins to ride through the woods on the western side. To the left rushes the Snowbourne river, closer to them now. They ride slower now, weaving through the trees and underbrush. Eowyn decides to risk the possibility of being confronted by Rohirrim and replace her green cloak with her black one. She steers Dushtala behind a thicket of brushes, as not to be seen from any upon the road, and pulls the reins back so he will stop. She whispers to Pippin, "I am going to change my cloak now... since we approach enemy territory."
She unfastens the broach that fastens green cloak around her neck and pulls it off, wadding it into a bundle. The black cloak, which was under the other, still remains, and she draws the hood over her helm, concealing her face. She hands the green cape to Pippin. "Here, Pippin, stuff this in one of the saddle bags."
He reaches out from under the cloak, takes the bundle and puts it away. Eowyn signals for Dushtala to resume walking, and she continues her slow path through the trees. She hears some rustling in the woods ahead and motions for Pippin to be completely still. She can feel him duck lower beneath her cloak.
A harsh voice cries out from the darkness ahead, "Puzg!" (Stop) An orc approaches them from out of the gloom. He appears to be alone.
Eowyn can understand the command and pulls back on the reins. Dushtala stops and stands still. Eowyn can feel Pippin trembling behind her. Once again her heart begins to pound, but she remains silent, waiting for the orc to speak first.
"Kul-lat amirz?"(who are you) the orc asks gruffly.
Her heart skips a beat. Exactly who is she supposed to be and why is she there?"Adhn izish, zaug izg gor," (leave me, I have work) she says in the dark language of Mordor, her voice deep and commanding.
"Gor? Mal latum?" (Work? what's up?) the orc asks suspiciously.
"Zaug izg pukhlor," (i have a report) Eowyn replies quickly.
"Thrak pukhlor." (give the report)
She struggles to remember everything Angmar taught her in the dark speech, but her vocabulary is small, and her memory damaged. She reverts to common speech. "Nar, it is for higher up."
"For whom then?" The orc keeps talking! Is he trying to delay her, waiting for reinforcements to arrive? "Mautor Ufang?" he adds.
Ah! The name of a commander. How very convenient. "Akh," (yes) she replies. Dushtala becomes restless and paws the ground.
Yet the orc keeps talking. "What is so important you must take it to the Mautor?" Eowyn's breathing becomes more rapid. At this rate, she won't get out of the valley until dawn!
Suddenly an idea hits her like a jolt of angry lightning. Her heart leaps with anticipation, and her hands tremble slightly from both fear and sudden excitement. Yet she suppresses these feelings, and a sense of deadly calm envelops her. She motions for the orc to come closer. "Come, I will tell you." Beneath the cloak, she quickly and stealthfully moves her hand, no longer trembling, across to the hilt of her sword.
The orc walks over to Dushtala's side and stands there, waiting to hear the rider's report. Eowyn suddenly draws her sword from its sheath, swings it down and sideways and hews the orc's head from his body in one skilled sweep. His lifeless corpse falls to the ground, black blood spurting from the neck and puddling around the body.
"That was for questioning me," she says coldly, pausing for a moment to relish her victory. "Hold onto me, Pippin," she whispers, steely determination in her voice. "Now we must run!"
"Aye, my lady!" Pippin whispers breathlessly, and holds onto her tightly. Eowyn's heels tap repeatedly against Dushtala's sides, spurring him on to a gallop, quickly weaving in and out of trees and brush.

Soon they come across another patrol, who motion for the strange black rider to stop. Eowyn slows Dushtala to a trot, then to a walk as she approaches. She sees a group of orcs standing ahead, blocking their way. Battle fever rages inside her, making her bold and cocky. She calls out in a deep and harsh voice, "Thou sluggish snagas! dare thou block my way?"
The orcs mutter among themselves. "Nazgul! They send a spy on us!"
Beneath hood and helm, Eowyn grins wickedly, Indeed, her master taught her well. Becoming impatient, she calls to them, her voice cold and menacing... "Why dost thou still stand in my way?"
The orcs bow to her. "Akh, shakh, ukh!" (Yes, lord, go!)
She recklessly charges through the group, and they quickly get out of her way to avoid being trampled. As she goes, she screams and curses in black speech... "Globu urk!" (damn fools)

After traveling some distance away from that patrol of orcs, they come to another patrol. Eowyn's heart pounds with exhilaration. She slows Dushtala to a steady walk. "Snagaz frûz glob!"(Lazy fool slaves!) she greets the orcs harshly. "Shirking again?"
The orcs look at Eowyn and exchange confused looks amongst themselves. A fire burns within her, making her bolder.... she glares at them. Will they dare challenge her? Seeing their hesitation, she ventures, "Why dost thou challenge my way?"
The leader, a large orc of enormous girth, talks in hushed tones to his lads, and Eowyn is able to overhear some of their conversation. "No Nazgul is this, but some spy sent to watch us!" he says.
Another orc argues with him. "Nar, it is a spy from the Rohirrim who tries to deceive us!"
An orc with a hideous scar diagonally across his face wonders, "But if it is a Nazgul impersonating a spy from Rohan, what are we to do?"
Seeing that these orcs doubt her and are not so easily intimidated, her heart begins to pound more, and she becomes nervous. She forces herself not to show it, remaining arrogant and indignant. "Thou lazy sluggards! Why dost thou stand there arguing among thyselves!"
The leader bellows to the orc with the scar. "Coward! This is no Nazgul!" He swings at the orc with the scar and cuts off his arm. Soon all of the orcs turn on each other and a large fight breaks out. Eowyn takes that moment to draw her sword once again, and charges into the lot shrieking cries of war, swinging wildly as she goes. Dushtala's eyes flare as he plunges into confused and panicked orcs. "Matum! Matum!" (Death! Death!) she cries, her voice loud and fell, and feels her sword cut through flesh and bone several times.
She commands Pippin in a furious whisper, "Strike out to the left!" Pippin throws back the dark cloak on the left side and swings his blade, killing an orc, his very first.
"Dâgalûr!" (Demon) the orcs scream. "Shakh Gakh!" (Nazgul #3) others cry. They flee in terror before her into the woods and she pursues. Grasping the reins and pommel with one hand, she stands up in the stirrups, her legs tightly gripping the sides of the horse. She leans forward in the saddle, swinging her blade sideways at the head of the leader. She can hear him puffing and panting, attempting to make his thick legs go faster. But he, who has grown fat, probably upon the flesh of her own people, cannot outrun the shieldmaiden's horse. Her blade meets the back of his neck and slices through to the other side, severing it. He falls hard upon the ground, his head rolling and bouncing a good distance away from his body. Dushtala lightly jumps over the rolling head as it careens in front of their path.
Eowyn screams to the faster orcs, whose backs she can see as they flee across the road and into the eastern woods, "Number One shall hear of this!" She laughs wildly with fey joy, and her grey eyes glitter with mad pleasure and lust for black blood. No one from that patrol dares challenge the black rider now, and they run on in blind terror, convinced that a dark demon of madness and fear, summoned forth from their very nightmares, hunts them as they fly, riding an undead steed with glowing eyes and wielding a mighty sword of great power.

Soon Eowyn and Pippin are alone once more, and she slows Dushtala to a trot, and then a slow walk through the trees. Pippin sheathes his sword and hides under the dark cloak again. Eowyn stops the horse momentarily, takes the edge of her flowing black cloak and wipes the black blood from her sword, a look of satisfaction and pride upon her face. She sheaths it and rides on, glowing with pride.
Her heart begins to slow its frantic beating, but she still remains alert.... her battle fever still raging. She knows that this part of their journey will be especially dangerous, for they are coming to the last leagues of the valley before Edoras. The watch upon the woods and road will be stronger here. She whispers to Pippin, "Soon we come to the northern end of the valley. Expect the orcs to be thick here. We may have to fight our way out, should doubt fill them and they try to waylay us."
"I will be honored to fight with you!" Pippin whispers excitedly.
"Keep your sword handy, for there will be plenty more of the devils." Eowyn can hear Pippin draw his sword and she feels a slight movement to her side. She knows Pippin is holding his sword, readying himself for battle.
After traveling less than a league upon their wooded path, Dushtala becomes restless, sensing that something is up ahead. The night seems to become darker. No sounds greet their ears, and the voices of the night birds and insects are still. Eowyn slows the pace and rides with caution, and straining to see in the distance. Every muscle in her body tenses. This does not bode well.
Suddenly, two Mordor orcs with their long arms rush at them, reaching to grab Dushtala's bridle. "Where ye going, matey?" they ask in hissing, sinister tones.
Eowyn unsheaths her sword once again and lashes out at the orcs who try to grab her horse's bridle. "Fools!" she roars."Thou darest hinder a messenger of the Great Eye???"
The orcs still hold Dushtala's bridle but duck and step back, avoiding her sword. "And why is a messenger of the Great Eye 'ere tonight?" one asks.
Eowyn snorts with disgust and answers coldly, her voice deep and masculine, "Lazy sluggard! Thou didst not see my coming, and now thou darest question my going!" She still holds her blade aloft and Dushtala strikes out at the orcs with his forehooves. "If thou had been on thy mission and not out sulking in the trees, i would not have come on thee from behind! Get out of my way NOW or I shall put a maggot hole in thy guts!"
The orcs release Dushtala's bridle, and respond in confused and offended tones. "You don't need to get all 'igh 'anded ... We was doin' our job!"
Eowyn scoffs, and laughs sarcastically. "Then why didst thou let me come up behind thee and catch thee un-awares?"
They exchanged confused looks. The shorter of the pair, a shriveled looking orc with a squint eye, asks in a questioning voice, "And why do ye reek of our blood, matey?"
Eowyn glares at them, and quickly replies with great disdain, "I caught another one of thy filthy kind straggling in the woods, besotted on thy foul draughts. He paid the price dearly." Her head held high, the ice in her words begins to melt, replaced by an ever growing flame of fury. Her words drip with pride, arrogance and the feelings of loathing that all higher ranking men of the Mordor army have for orcs. How dare this scum question her! She turns her gaze upon the squint-eyed orc, and if they could have, her grey eyes would have glowed like fiery embers. "But THOU! THY fate may be different!" She pauses, letting the orc contemplate upon her words. Smelling the reek of fear in the orc's sweat, she asks in a cold voice, every word slow and pronounced, "What is thy name and number, so I shall give them to the Nazgul?"
The orcs' eyes widen and they gasp with horror. The squint-eyed one exclaims in an apologetic voice, "Garn! Matey! Don't be so upset! My name is Glokdagri, and my number is #59387457595. Don't be so uppity, mate! Don't report me!" He stares up at her with pleading, terror-filled eyes.
The dark rider pauses for a moment, pondering. She then says, her voice as arrogant as before, "I shall let this slip, snaga, if thy but give me a few jugs of thy draught and some bread, and any provinder fit for man. 'Tis a just punishment, for thy both think of thy bellies much too often."
The orcs bow repeatedly, their movements quick and shakey. "Just don't report us, matey! Be quiet about this!" The pair quickly retreat into the darkness under the trees. Soon, they come back with three jugs of orc draught and a bag of food containing bread, dry crackers, strange dried meats and some smelly cheese.
The orcs hand the rider the bag, and she takes it from them and adds it to the rest of her saddlebags. She then tells the orcs, "Now lads, keep about thy mission. Don't go off into the trees popping thy skulls out on draught and I shall not report any of this!"
"Aye, we will, we will!" the orcs reply shakily, relieved that the rider will soon be leaving them. As she rides away into the trees, they look at each other, and wonder which filthy scum squealed on them, for indeed, they had been getting drunk in the woods.

Eowyn travels a bit further through the woods, either tricking the orcs she meets into letting her pass, or riding right through them, swinging her sword as she goes. Pippin's blade meets many of the orcs who try to rush at Dushtala's sides when Eowyn charges through. Before long, the shieldmaiden and the halfling lose track of how many they have killed and wounded. Dushtala's sides are spattered with the black blood of orcs, and Eowyn holds each drop that adorns her dark cloak precious, wearing them as badges of honor.
It's been many a year since Eowyn felt this alive, this free. She considered it her first battle, for she could not remember Pelennor, and was loath to recall the fuzzy memories of being captured by her own people. Life courses through her veins like the lust for battle and fighting, and every sense seems awakened to greater heights. She is fey and fell, giddy with the fight and victory. If her mission didn't call for secrecy, she would be singing songs of war as she hewed down the orcs that rushed upon her. She smiles and laughs at her triumphs, her eyes shining, filled with joy.
Eowyn was doing deeds of great renown, like she had always dreamed about, that were always denied to her because she was a woman. They would be withheld from her no longer. She would wash away the taint upon herself with the blood of orcs and men, of all of the servants of Mordor. Even though she and Pippin might be killed ere anyone could write down their deeds in song, still she would have done them, and she would die in honor, fighting the enemy. Her welcome to the halls of her fathers would be warm and joyous, and she would make her father and uncle proud. Let Angmar simmer in his hatred! She was a thrall no longer.
About a league from Edoras, she urges Dushtala towards bank of the river. He is skittish and protests greatly at first, being trained to avoid large bodies of water, but she is able to master him and he plunges into the water. Soon, he climbs up the western side and onto dry land. They head west near the base of the mountains, keeping to the woods. After traveling a west for a few leagues, they cut north, going across the Great West Road, traveling through the burnt and blackened fields of the Westfold, Eowyn feeling that somehow her fate lies to the north. A great stench of burnt wood and grass still remains in the air, and the charred remains of vegetation crunch under Dushtala's hooves. They travel onward for some time on the blackened plain through the heavy haze of Mordor before they finally stop to rest.

By Eowyn
Fields of Rohan
Before dawn - mid-morning June 13

After their dangerous escape from the Harrowdale Valley, Eowyn and Pippin rode west for a way, darting in and out of the remaining scattered woodlands at the northern base of the mountains, south of the Great West Road. Very little cover remained after the Army of Mordor marched through several days before, but Eowyn took advantage of what she could find. After traveling far away from the occupied city of Edoras and the orc patrols that would be prowling the area, she turned and rode north for a good distance.
Finally they stop, Dunharrow now lying about 50 miles to their southeast in a straight line. A few withered looking blades of grass have survived, for this place was too far north for the onslaught of the Mordor Army to taint heavily. Dushtala nibbles at the sickly, yellowed grass hungerly.
After a light meal of stolen bread and orc draught, Pippin sleeps while Eowyn keeps watch, both cloak of black and green wrapped around her, her sword ready at her side. Ever watchful for pursuers, she stares into the darkness to her southeast, and listens for the sounds of approaching feet or hooves. To her far east, the darkness seems impenetrable, and she shudders involuntarily.
The flames of battle and fury and lust for blood that cry out within her have cooled for now, and she falls into a pensive mood. Many thoughts flit about in her mind like shimmering fish in a murky pond.... her uncle.... her life at Edoras.... the arrival of the travelers, Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli.... her uncle being restored to health and hope.... when Aragorn announced he was taking the paths of the Dead... the night hours before the day of the Pelennor... the few vague memories she had of traveling with the Mordor army... She sighs. Everything from her past felt like a dream now, dim and hazy, not part of the waking world; or like the story of someone else's life, not her own.
Time seems to drag with aching slowness, and Eowyn's eyelids begin to feel heavy. The furious ride through the valley begins to take its toll upon the shieldmaiden who almost died of the shadow only two days before. so white, so fair - crackling and burning - so quickly does it burn away - flesh and blood, bone and marrow - melting in the fire - great malice beating down - like heavy blows of pure hatred - enveloped in flames, writhing in anguish - burning, burning! - all shall burn - all is burning now -
...........darkness - blackened, charred fragments - all that remains - a dream - a memory perhaps - tatters - lost to the eastern winds - forgotten - ..........

Eowyn's head shoots up the minute it touches her chest. She was tired, not a good state to be when on guard duty, though she had been asleep for less than a second. No memories linger of any split-second dreams she may have had. Yawning, Eowyn looks over to Pippin's sleeping form, and gently shakes his shoulder.
"Pippin...." she calls softly, yet Pippin gives no answer. Finally after much prompting and shaking, Pippin begins to stir.
"What is happening?" he cries. He looks around blearily, then sees Eowyn's face hovering over him. "Is the enemy near? Are they attacking us?"
"No, no," she says. "At least not at the moment. But it is your turn to keep watch for them."
Pippin sighs with relief. "Very well," he says. Eowyn is soon sleeping upon the ground, wrapped tightly in her cloaks.
She walks in the Golden Hall once again, and her uncle, brother and cousin are with her, and their faces are filled with joy, and they are laughing and drinking mead. All seems well and pleasant, yet a sense of sadness and unchangeable turmoil seems to fill the hall. Beyond the tapestries and fair furnishings there lies darkness and blight; an evil, creeping fungus lurks in the shadows, and beneath the floor, the creatures that gnaw at the foundations of the earth gnaw at the stones that support the Golden Hall. And then it seems that the windows are shut and light comes no longer; and she is completely alone, in a tomb where memories are buried, and hopes and dreams shall never take life again. The roof is no longer thatched and golden, but covered with the white blossoms of symbelmine; no longer is she in Mesusled, but in a mound for the memory and honor of the house of Eorl.
But who shall weep in sorrow when there is no one left to mourn? And how shall the symbelmine grow in darkness, in the lifeless earth...?

Time passes, and Eowyn awakes, having the ability to time her hours of sleep. She hazily recalls the quickly fleeing memories of her sleep-thoughts. Though they are filled with sadness and loss, they do not disturb her; for they are familiar acquaintances of long years. No products of shadow are these, only the shadow that she has dwelt under for many years. No longer do the dreams disturb her; they ceased doing that long ago, and became merely silent reminders of loss. Yet now more than ever do they reflect the evil days. She sighs, and turns to Pippin, who is trying hard to stay awake. It is mid-morning by now.
After eating a light breakfast and drinking orc-draught, Eowyn prepares Dushtala for another day of riding. Dressed now in her green cloak, soon they set off northward, surveying the land for signs of the Riders. She must find them ere they go to the battle, for if she is too late, what use shall her journey have been?

The Night Watch
By Hobbitness

Pippin awakes to find Eowyn standing over him, shaking
him gently. He scrambles to his feet, drawing his
sword. "What is happening?" he cries. "Is the enemy
near? Are they attacking us?"

"No, no," Eowyn smiles reassuringly. "At least not at
the moment. But it is your turn to keep watch for
them. I have stayed up all this while, and now I need
some sleep."

Pippin sighs with relief. "Very well," he consents,
though it seems his own rest was far too short. He
yawns as Eowyn lies down and falls asleep quickly.

He gazes into the distance, straining his eyes for any
sign of movement, but the dark cloud prevents him from
seeing far. He can glimpse faint shapes of trees and
mountains. It all looks like a scene from a
nightmare, with vague forms fluttering under unnatural
shadows. His mind goes back to the burial mounds at
Dunharrow, formless shadows on the horizon, without
decorative emblems, only Wulfhelm's and his own toasts
at the feast to honor them. How long, he wonders,
before those mounds are ravaged by the enemy?

Pippin shakes his head to clear it of such dark
thoughts. Aragorn has told him not to let the shadow
fall on him again, and he must obey his King. "Yet
the graves at Edoras were desecrated," his mind
protests, "dug up and the bones scattered, when the
enemy finally found them." Pippin has no trouble
banishing this thought, for he cannot bear it. One of
those graves was Merry's.

Against his will his mind travels back to Gondor. He
sees smoke rising from the conquered city. He is with
the Fellowship again, clinging to Gandalf's hand as
they prowl among the fallen in search of their
comrades. Never has Pippin seen such ghastly sights,
but he continues searching every body in his path,
hoping to find Merry alive. After an eternity he
spots a heap of twisted metal, covered in blood and
gore, that looks smaller than everything around it.
Pippin breaks away from Gandalf and falls to his knees
next to the heap, shock bursting in his head and
tingling through his limbs. Was this a piece of armor
someone lost in the fight? Was it a soldier of
Gondor, crushed beyond recognition? Or was the small
size the true height of the dead soldier?

Gandalf, Legolas and Gimli come to stand beside him.
Aragorn kneels on the other side of the heap and
gingerly begins examining it. "Aragorn..." Pippin
stammers, "is it..." He cannot say his
friend's name.

"I don't know," Aragorn whispers. His leather gloves
search inside the creases of the crushed armor,
gently, as though he were tending a wounded Merry.
Then his hands close around something. After a mighty
pull, Aragorn lifts a bloodstained leaf-brooch, with
shreds of the Elven cloak still hanging from it.

"The leaf of Lorien! Alas for Meriadoc son of
Saradoc!" he murmurs, and then he weeps.

Pippin hears horrible screams all around him. He
realizes they are his by the burning in his throat.
He finds himself cast down on the ground, trembling
and clawing at the dirt. He feels sturdy arms pick
him up, but he breaks free from them and crawls away
to retch. When he is done, he stumbles back to his
friends. Gandalf puts an arm around him, and Pippin
clings to the wizard for dear life. Sobs well up from
him, shaking his frame, frightening him with their
violence. Gandalf picks him up again and cradles him,
but he can barely hear the quiet words of comfort.
Finally Gandalf places a gentle hand over the hobbit's
eyes and whispers a spell that Pippin cannot
understand, but soon he feels merciful sleep taking

Slowly, Pippin comes out of the memory. The dismal
landscape takes shape around him again. He checks for
signs of danger; there are none. He checks on Eowyn;
it seems her dreams are none too pleasant either.
Should he wake her? No, she needs her rest for the
trip, even if her dreams are dark.

He settles back to his vigil, crossing his legs and
sighing. A dull ache throbs in his chest. He has
thought about it again! Why is it that the harder he
tries not to think about it, the more it inserts
itself into his thoughts at every opportunity? That
is no way to keep his spirits up for the battle!
Besides, as Gandalf has told him, Merry would not want
Pippin to be unhappy. And frankly, he doesn't want to
be unhappy either. He turns his mind to more pleasant

Wasn't it fun to fight the orcs! He heard the men at
Dunharrow say it couldn't be done, that it was
impossible to get past the enemy patrols. And he and
Eowyn have done it! Pippin relives the suspenseful
ride crouched under her cloak, listening in wonder as
she switched between the common tongue and the
accursed speech of Mordor, seeming to frighten the
orcs with sheer magic. And then came the glorious
moment when the orcs surrounded them. "Strike out to
the left!" Pippin would hear Eowyn's command for the
rest of his life. Strike out he did, and his blade
met with resistance, then empty air as the orc's head
toppled to the ground. He stared at his bloodstained
blade with tears in his eyes. Even he himself hadn't
been sure that he was really able to fight, and now he
had proven himself. "One for the Shire!" crowed the
voice of his heart.

Then came a whirlwind of fighting, slashing to the
left, to the right, working his arms until they
burned, his ears filled with the screams of dying
orcs. And then they burst out of enemy territory,
safe at last, and Pippin slumped against Eowyn, his
shoulders shaking. "Are you all right?" Eowyn asked.
"Yes, I'm splendid! I'm not crying," Pippin whispered
excitedly, wiping his eyes. "I'm laughing!"

Pippin grins at the memory, giving his knees a
congratulatory hug. Little Pippin of the Shire, the
Fool of a Took, has become an orc slayer with the
White Lady of Rohan! His name will be in the songs
right next to hers. And Merry's.

Pippin's smile fades. The image of the crushed heap
returns, but instead of Merry, this time it is his own
body. Pippin blinks. Where did that come from? He
has to pry his fingers off the hair ribbon tied around
his arm.

He hears a sigh next to him. He looks over to Eowyn,
who meets his gaze. She seems to recognize something
in his eyes--the indescribable sadness and thrill,
hope and despair of war that engulfs them both. She
smiles sadly at him, and as he returns it, he feels a
true connection with the White Lady for the first

After a quick breakfast of bread and orc draught, they
ride off together, to whatever end.

"The New Rider"
By Eowyn
June 13, mid-morning to mid-afternoon
Fields of Rohan

Though it is morning, the land is under a cloud of perpetual twilight. Eowyn rides through the murky darkness, her thoughts vague and secretive, skittering through her mind. Pippin rides behind Eowyn beneath her cloak, trying to avoid being hit in the head by her shield, which is slung over her back.
Eowyn's eyes search the land around her for any signs of the riders of Rohan. Somewhere many miles to her south lies the Great West Road but she dares not travel too close, for certainly bands of orcs would be patrolling the length from Edoras to Helm's Deep. Helm's deep - she knew from Wulfhelm that the Riders were going there, but how long ago did they leave? Was the battle in progress? Or, perhaps, it was already over.
Time and miles pass, and the faint glow of the sun travels from directly above them towards the west. Suddenly Eowyn hears distant hoof-beats coming towards them. She immediately tenses, sitting erect in the saddle.
"What's wrong?" asks Pippin.
"Quiet!" she whispers. "Riders approach." She urges Dushtala into a small thicket of brush and trees and waits, not daring to breathe. Soon the riders come within view, and in the dim daylight, she can tell that they are of Rohan.
Eowyn rides out of the thicket, and prays that luck will not fail her. "Ic grete de, other guman aet thaes Mark!" she calls out.

The riders, six in number, rein their horses in and halt before the newcomer, looking upon him with scrutiny. A young man he is, of smaller stature and slighter frame than they, riding upon a fine black horse. The green and white surcoat bearing the heraldry of the Mark and a cloak of dark green cover his halberk of burnished mail, and a shield is slung over his back. A helm sits upon his head; tousled golden hair lies in tangles about his face and shoulders. He reeks of dried orc blood; obviously this man has been in a fight. No spy of Mordor would kill his own kind, and the men of that land are dark in hair and swarthy of skin, and know not the tongue of the Rohrrim. This man was definitely of the Mark.
"What is your name, rider, and why are you alone?"
"Dernhelm, sir," the rider responds. "My party and I were scouting further south, closer to the road, down yonder that way," he points southward, "when a group of orcs suddenly came upon us! They outnumbered us, and we were worsted." The rider pauses for dramatic effect, then continues in a low and serious voice. "I was the only survivor of the ambush, though I was hard- pressed to escape, and had to fight my way out of a ring of orcs. I lost the enemy, but, I, too, became lost as well in my flight. At least the black horde has been lessened by a few numbers," he smiles grimly.
The riders listen to this tale with interest. "A daring escapade indeed!" exclaims the man who first spoke. "You still smell of slain orcs," he chuckles.
Dernhelm grins. "A live orc smells foul, but the stench of dead orcs and spilled black blood.... ah, tis delightful to the senses!"
All the riders burst out in jovial laughter. "It is no surprise that one would get lost in this wretched darkness! Ah! If only the sun would shine unhindered again!"
"Aye. Though the darkness is both a curse and a blessing for them, as well as us."
The man nods, and the six riders talk amongst themselves for a moment. They have just returned from a scouting mission, and are riding back to the main army. Soon the six riders become seven with the addition of Dernhelm and they travel northwestward towards the army of Rohan. The light of the sun glows weakly through the dim haze and continues to move ever westward as they ride through the darkened fields of the Mark.

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