Disclaimer: Lord of the Rings and all characters belong to Tolkien. I am merely keeping Haldir alive at Helm's Deep.
Authors Note: I do not know too much about Éomer so I am going to make some stuff up.
A Mortal Love
Part 11 - Decisions
Gamling's return later that night disturbed Haldir's sleep. The Man appeared in the doorway and gestured for Haldir to join him. Haldir frowned; why would Gamling want to talk to him again? He thought they had covered everything in their last conversation.
Carefully he disentangled himself from Éomer's embrace. Éomer reached for him, refusing to let him go. The Man remained asleep, but his dreams now turned restless. Haldir gently took hold of Éomer's wrists and rolled his new mate onto his side, tucking the blanket in around his form. "Stay here. I will be back shortly." He knew Éomer was asleep and couldn't hear him, but maybe his voice would soothe him and help him to go back to a peaceful sleep.
He padded over to the doorway, tempted to glare at Gamling for interrupting their sleep, but couldn't pull it off. Coming to a stop in front of the steward, he waited impatiently.
"I regret disturbing your rest," started Gamling in a heavy tone, "but we caught two of Grima's spies, who were still lurking inside the Hornburg. I suspected some of Grima's pawns had remained behind in the hope he would return, and I started hunting them down. I caught two of them, but more lurk around."
Haldir's eyes narrowed. "Grima's spies?" The mere mention of that hated name made him angry. "And you caught only two of them?"
"Grima gathered a handful of despicable creatures around him. Many of them hide inside the keep's walls and rarely show themselves. And then there are Grima's guards. I already banished most of them from Rohan." Gamling quickly cast a look at Éomer. Finding his former charge sound asleep, he said, "I do not know what their plans are. I doubt they will come for Éomer, but -- It is a well known fact that Éomer challenged Grima before Gandalf arrived. Who knows what last instructions the snake left."
A fist closed around Haldir's heart. "I will guard him closely. He won't go anywhere without me close." His hands turned into fists, showing his anger and distress. "If that snake tries to hurt him again..."
Gamling nodded approvingly at Haldir's protectiveness. "I will tell Éomer's personal guards to take up position in the corridor. The Rohirrim won't fail their leader. They admire him for his courage and cunning."
Haldir's gaze shifted from Gamling to Éomer. "Why did you tell me and not him?"
"I know the emotional turmoil he is in. He went through the same thing when we found him in Grima's room as a child. He needs time to mentally recover before he can hunt down Grima's allies. In the meantime, you, as his mate, should perform that duty for him."
Gamling's expression told Haldir that the steward expected him to keep Éomer safe, and he nodded once, letting Gamling know he would defend his mate with his life.
"What should happen to the spies we caught?"
Haldir considered the question. "If we lock them away, Grima's remaining spies might free them. I want them out of here. Banish them. Double the guards, if that is possible, and search the Hornburg."
Gamling nodded once. "The battle left us weak, but I will manage the search. And the snake's spies will never set foot within the Hornburg again."
Their eyes met and Haldir felt confident that Gamling would do his best to expose the traitors. "I vow not to leave his side."
Gamling smiled, pleased. "When he chose to bond with you I doubted his decision, but now I realize he chose wisely." He bowed his head in respect and left.
Haldir cocked an eyebrow. Gamling was quickly becoming a trusted friend. Turning around, he headed back to the bed where Éomer was stirring from his sleep. Not so long ago he had nearly rebelled when Celeborn and Galadriel told him about aiding the people of Rohan. He hadn't been thrilled to fight alongside Men, but he had followed his orders, like he always did, and had led his men here. Now he found that his opinion of Men was changing.
Éomer opened his eyes, blinked, and tried to focus on Haldir towering over him. For one short moment the Elf's body posture reminded him of Grima and he stifled a yelp. The long, silver locks became his anchor; it was so very different from Grima's hair. He reached out a hand, realized it was shaking, and pulled it back, embarrassed at letting his distress show. "Why did you leave the bed?"
Haldir, seeing the haunted look in Éomer's eyes, slowly sat down on the edge of the bed.
Éomer elbowed himself into an upright position and watched Haldir closely. "I thought I heard Gamling's voice."
Haldir nodded once and opted for part of the truth. "He wanted to make sure you were resting."
"Then he knows I fled to the tower. Before Grima was exposed it was the only safe place for me to hide." Éomer's shoulders slumped in defeat. "Gamling always worries about me."
Haldir disliked seeing the beaten look in Éomer's eyes. "Allow him his worry. It shows what a good friend he is."
Éomer looked into Haldir's eyes, searching for emotions, which he found in surplus. "I need time to get used to your changed attitude."
"I know that." Haldir smiled. "Would you like to go back to sleep? It is still the dead of night." Haldir settled down, propping himself up on his elbows to study Éomer.
"We should probably go back to sleep; I have a lot to do in the morning. Théoden is gathering his men to march for Gondor and I --" Éomer wasn't even sure he could join Théoden; what if Haldir hadn't completely recovered yet? The Elf seemed to be getting stronger, but how would his still-mending back react to riding on horseback? They would have to stay here whilst Théoden's army marched for Gondor.
"When will Théoden leave?" Haldir's thoughts had followed similar lines.
"Tomorrow at sunset." Éomer already knew the answer, carefully looking at Haldir. The Elf needed more time to recover. If they set out tomorrow evening Haldir would collapse sometime during the first few days.
Haldir knew he was recovering more quickly than he should due to the growing affection between them, but he doubted he would regain enough of his strength to leave for Gondor that quickly. Éomer was a warrior at heart and would hate staying behind at Edoras. For Éomer's sake he would try to keep up with the rest of them during their march. Maybe if he went on horseback he wouldn't slow them down.
Éomer placed a trembling hand on Haldir's arm. "Your health comes first, and we both know you are still recovering. Théoden and Aragorn will march to victory without us."
"But our place is with our men. You should lead the Rohirrim into battle and I what remains of my Elven archers." Haldir resolutely shook his head. "We will leave as well. We cannot stay here when we are needed."
Éomer realized he had to be the voice of reason, even if it meant staying at Edoras. "You nearly died in the last battle you fought. How much chance will you stand fighting Sauron's armies after an exhausting march? I cannot allow you to do this."
Usually Éomer's tone would have set off his temper, but this time the concern in the Man's voice was too obvious to ignore. "We will decide tomorrow evening."
Éomer raised an eyebrow at Haldir's tone. The Elf obviously considered this topic closed. "We will go back to sleep then."
Haldir nodded, rolled onto his side, and raised an arm. Seeing Éomer's knitted brow, he smiled cockily. "I want you close when I sleep." He knew he sounded arrogant, but that way Éomer would be close in case one of Grima's spies dared to sneak into their rooms.
Éomer considered protesting, but there was something in Haldir's expression that made him comply. He lay down facing Haldir, not comfortable yet with feeling the Elf behind him, and allowed Haldir to wrap his arms around him. "I won't hold anything against you if we decide to stay."
Haldir smiled. "Making sure I won't feel guilty?"
Éomer shook his head. "I never met anyone who is --"
"Complex? Charming? Cocky?" Haldir flashed Éomer a stunning grin. "And that is only a fraction of my excellent qualities."
Éomer's eyes had widened at Haldir's tone, but then he grinned, realizing Haldir was teasing him. "Well, you are cocky... And complex, that much is true, but charming? I have not seen a charming side to you yet."
Now it was Haldir's time to pretend to be stunned. "I am not charming? I must try harder then, but -- You are in my arms, are you not? That must mean you like me." They had bantered before, but now the tone was very much different. It was a loving tone, and the expression in their eyes teasing.
"Like you?" Éomer played along. "I hardly know you."
"I will court you and make sure you get to know me -- and my excellent qualities."
"You -are- arrogant," teased Éomer softly. Their friendly bantering was making him feel safe and it kept his thoughts from returning to Grima. Repressing his memories had kept him sane as a child. After Hama and Gamling had found him, he had kept silent for weeks, doing his best to forget Grima had ever touched him, but now those memories were finally surfacing and that scared him. Why was he no longer able to lock them away?
Haldir caught the change in Éomer's eyes and nodded slowly. "Enough of that. We should sleep now."
Éomer sighed softly. /Sleep. The snake disturbs my sleep./ But Grima's hold on him seemed to lessen whenever Haldir was close. He moved a little closer to the Elf, but still maintained some distance.
Haldir noticed the hesitant movement and kept his embrace loose, so Éomer could pull away when he wanted. Éomer's eyes closed, and he marveled at the Man.
"Stop looking at me like that! I cannot sleep that way." Éomer stared accusingly at Haldir. "I thought you wanted us to sleep."
"Elves sleep with their eyes open," said Haldir. "It amazes me to see you sleep with your eyes closed. It is a sight I have not yet grown used to yet."
"I know you sleep with your eyes open." Éomer swallowed nervously. "I watched you."
"You watched me?" Haldir felt pleased that Éomer was that interested in him. "Then allow me to watch you sleep tonight."
"But you should sleep as well."
"I will -- eventually."
Éomer knew arguing wouldn't get him anywhere and gave in. He rested his head against Haldir's shoulder and sighed contently. Suddenly, Haldir began to stroke his hair, and the gesture took him aback; he hated acting like a child which needed to be soothed so it would go to sleep, but Haldir kept up the soothing motion, and it finally lured him into sleep.
Pleased, Haldir continued to stroke the dark blond mane.
Legolas had been awake for hours, and from where he was resting he could look out of the window and watch the sun rise. He would have left the bed long ago, but Aragorn was holding him tightly; the Man lay spooned behind him and had wrapped arms and legs around him as if he was afraid Legolas would leave. Legolas smiled contently. Last night had surprised him, but he wasn't complaining. It was more than he had hoped for.
Deep inside his heart he had always known Aragorn loved and desired him as well, but it was good to see that love finally proven. But what would happen now? They would leave in the evening and face Sauron and Saruman's armies again at Gondor. /I need to keep him safe; Aragorn's survival is my primary concern. He is the only one who can defeat Sauron and destroy the shadow./
Aragorn moved behind him, shifted, and pulled him even closer whilst releasing a deep sigh. The smile remained on Legolas' face, realizing the Man was finally waking up.
The warm body in front of him felt comfortable and familiar, and Aragorn deeply inhaled the Elf's musky scent. Last night they had taken the first step in their new relationship, and there was no turning back now. "Have you been awake for long?"
"A few hours," admitted Legolas, "but I enjoyed you holding me so I did not move."
"I enjoy holding you as well." Aragorn moistened his lips and lifted one hand to bury his fingers in a sea of golden hair. "About last night..." His voice trailed of as words deserted him.
Legolas pressed closer to Aragorn, expressing his approval of their current situation. "I always hoped this would happen, but your love for Arwen held you back."
Aragorn licked the skin beneath his lover's ear. "But she has set me free now that she is sailing for Valinor." A sudden unease made his heart contract. "Legolas, you are not leaving as well, are you?" The Elf had never mentioned it, but he had to be sure. He had already given Legolas his heart; he had to know it was safe with his beloved.
Legolas considered the question, as it deserved an honest answer. "I will not sail for Valinor as long as you live. I cannot say what will happen after you... die."
That was good enough for Aragorn, but being reminded of his mortality hurt. "You will mourn my death one day." Elves were eternal beings. Legolas would still be there long after his lover had died. "And still you chose to be with me?"
Legolas slowly turned in Aragorn's embrace until he faced his lover. "Men have been granted the gift of mortality... I will endure eternal grief when you die; it will never leave me. But I will hold onto the memories of our love, and it will sustain me in the dark hours when you are no longer there to hold me."
Aragorn brushed a stray lock from Legolas' face and studied the blond's handsome features. "Our road will be harsh and difficult, and I promise to never desert you."
Legolas caressed Aragorn's brow, smiled, and pressed a chaste kiss on the Man's forehead. "Wherever you go, I will follow."
Aragorn traced the outline of his lover's lips with a fingertip. "I will be true to you, and from this moment on there will be no others. I want us to be lovers until the day I die."
"Of course," said Legolas smugly. "I did not expect anything less from you."
Aragorn laughed amused at hearing Legolas' cocky tone. "You seem very sure of yourself."
"You chose me, Aragorn." A sudden sad note echoed in Legolas' voice. "I would never have come between Arwen and you. Deciding who would be your mate was your choice, Aragorn, never mine."
Aragorn nodded thoughtfully. "I do not like talking about Arwen and your silent suffering; we should look to the future instead. We confessed our love and I will be at your side until the day I die." Aragorn paused, caressed a pointy ear, and continued, "I plan on showing the whole of Arda that I love you. I will never hide my feelings for you."
Legolas simply accepted that statement, knowing Aragorn was deadly serious. "Then I will do the same, but you should keep in mind that not everyone will understand your decision to take a male lover." What would happen after Aragorn had been crowned king and needed an heir to the throne? He saw the same question in Aragorn's eyes; the Man had considered that as well.
"I am sure we will find a solution to that problem when it arises." Determined to not let their worries influence their mood, he slowly touched his lips to Legolas', gently kissing the Elf. "I wish we had more time, but we have to get dressed and join Théoden. He will be eager to discuss our next move."
Legolas regretted letting go of Aragorn, but his lover was right. They needed to discuss strategy and prepare for departure. "Do you think Haldir has recovered enough to join us? Someone should lead the 'Lorien Elves now that they are marching for Gondor."
Aragorn shrugged, watching Legolas with interest as the Elf got to his feet. /By Elbereth, he is beautiful - and last night was perfect./ His body trembled as he tried to imagine what their first real lovemaking would be like. He quickly grabbed the sheet, covering himself as the mere thought of being with Legolas in that way made him hard. Legolas looked over his shoulder and Aragorn flushed, realizing the Elf had noticed his arousal.
"I wish there was more time as well," sighed Legolas. "I would make love to you forever."
Aragorn's blush deepened at hearing those words. Maybe now the time had come to entrust one of his secrets to his new lover. "Legolas?"
Legolas finished putting on his leggings and now slipped into his shirt. Looking at Aragorn, he sensed his lover's unease. He waited patiently for Aragorn to address him again.
"There is something I should tell you." Embarrassed, Aragorn cleared his throat. "You probably won't believe me but..." His voice trailed off and the tips of his ears turned red.
Growing curious, Legolas walked over to the bed and sat down next to the fiercely blushing Aragorn. "What is it? You know you can confide in me."
Aragorn fumbled the corner of the sheet, mumbling softly.
Legolas raised an eyebrow, wondering about the sudden change in his lover. "Aragorn?" He rested the palm of his hand against his lover's cheek and waited for Aragorn to make eye contact. What was upsetting the Man like this?
Legolas tried to make sense of the words that tumbled from Aragorn's lips. "What did you say?"
"I never had a lover before," said Aragorn more slowly this time. Tentatively he looked at Legolas, studying the azure eyes. "You know what it is like to grow up as the Lord's son; you have to set an example, and Elrond's expectations of me were as high as of his sons. I did not court anyone except Arwen and -- We never were -that- intimate. Elrond would not allow it, not before we were officially married."
Legolas registered the information calmly. "But last night you appeared very confident when you touched me."
Aragorn shrugged. "I was caught up in the moment."
Legolas smiled brightly. "Do not worry about it." Aragorn mumbled something barely audible, which Legolas failed to understand. "You can set the pace, meleth-nîn. We will explore our love slowly."
Aragorn nodded and grinned impishly at Legolas. "I take it you are experienced in this matter?" He knew he was being bold, but he was dying to find out.
"Aragorn, I have had male and female lovers in my long life. Aye, I am experienced." Legolas laughed softly. "You can trust yourself to me."
Aragorn's eyes twinkled. "At least you know what to do then."
"You knew very well what to do last night," said Legolas teasingly. "Now get dressed. Théoden is probably waiting for you to join him."
Aragorn sighed longingly when Legolas rose from the bed to put on his tunic and boots. Confessing up to Legolas had been less embarrassing than he had feared. After replaying their conversation in his mind, he got to his feet to get dressed as well. The time for romance had passed; now it was time to go to war.
Théoden paced the great hall impatiently. Elrond and Glorfindel had joined him, and he looked at the two Elves who were patiently seated at a table. He was unable to read their expressions, and that vexed him. He liked to know what others were thinking. In the end, he addressed the half-Elf. "Will Éomer and Haldir be able to take part in the upcoming battle?"
Elrond determinedly shook his head. "I would advise against it. Haldir may seem healthy and to be regaining his strength, but he will suffer a setback once his health is taxed. Marching for Gondor is out of the question."
"That means Éomer cannot join us either," sighed Théoden disappointedly. "I would have preferred having him at my side."
Elrond's gaze traveled to Éowyn, who was standing near Théoden's throne. Rohan's shield maiden was pale, and she resembled a statue made of ice. Her nails dug into the wood of the throne and she was biting her lip, trying hard not to speak up. "Théoden," said Elrond thoughtfully, "Éomer cannot be at your side, but you forget the one who never left your side."
Théoden turned and he frowned, looking at Elrond. "Do not speak in riddles. I grew weary of them after listening to Wormtongue's for too many years."
"Let the shield maiden of Rohan fight at your side." Elrond watched Théoden carefully and saw hesitance in the King's eyes. "She will not disappoint you."
Éowyn took a step forward and locked eyes with Théoden. "Uncle, I would make you proud."
Théoden started to shake his head, but then Elrond's glare made him freeze. Did he really have the right to deny Éowyn after all she had done for him? She had never left his side; Elrond was right about that, but --. "You must understand that I worry about you, Éowyn."
"I am honored that you worry about my well being, but I was raised to be a warrior. I can best any soldier with a sword and I will fight until my last breath. When we marched for Helm's Deep you asked me to take care of our people, which I did. Now I ask you to allow me a place at your side in battle." Her eyes begged him to really hear her for once.
Théoden sighed dejectedly. "I will allow you to march to Gondor with us, but -- I want you to stay close to me, do you understand?"
Éowyn's eyes widened at hearing Théoden's words. She had been given permission to fight! At last, her hour had arrived! "I will not fail you, uncle." Respectfully, she bowed her head and then hurried away to prepare for their departure.
"I will never understand her," whispered Théoden. "She should be content to look after our people. Women are not supposed to fight our battles."
Elrond rose to his feet and came to a halt in front of Théoden. "Not all women are supposed to fight our battles," corrected Elrond Théoden, "but your niece is different. Her heart is courageous and determined. She will fight well, and your men will draw strength from her example. You must release her and allow her to fly."
Théoden nodded thoughtfully. "In my heart I know that, but I still worry about her. You must understand; she must produce an heir, now that Éomer cannot. If we lose her, my house will die."
Elrond understood. "But that does not mean you have the right to lock her away. I am protective of my daughter as well, but I cannot clip her wings to keep her from flying."
Théoden raised a hand, indicating he was finished with discussing this topic. Looking at the doorway, he found Aragorn standing there. "Join us."
Aragorn entered and raised an eyebrow at seeing Elrond's expression, but didn't address his foster-father. Looking over his shoulder, he made sure Legolas was still at his side.
The blond archer joined Glorfindel at the table and stood silently, watching Théoden approach Aragorn. His role now was that of a spectator; to study them, listen and to provide advice to Aragorn later, if his lover needed any.
"The Muster of Rohan will begin this evening," declared Théoden, studying Aragorn closely. "But it will take us three days at least to gather all remaining soldiers. The army will be moving slowly for the first few days."
Aragorn cursed; he couldn't wait that long. "I revealed myself to Sauron last night."
Elrond said, "You used the seeing stone to show yourself to him?"
"Sauron knows about my plans. Maybe it was foolish to reveal myself to him at this point, but it seemed like the right thing to do." Aragorn briefly locked eyes with Legolas, and his lover nodded encouragingly, knowing what he was about to suggest. "My road lies elsewhere." He would need more support, more soldiers willing to fight for this cause; dead soldiers who could best Sauron's forces.
Elrond nodded thoughtfully. "The Paths of the Dead. It is a dangerous road you chose."
"I do not have a choice!" Aragorn drew in a deep breath, and was about to speak again when Gimli entered the hall.
"Aragorn! The Dunedain have arrived. Their leader, Halbarad, wants to speak with you."
Aragorn nodded; he had hoped Halbarad would arrive in time. "I will talk to him." His gaze shifted to Legolas. "You will remain at my side when we walk the Paths of the Dead?"
Legolas was somewhat surprised at hearing Aragorn's question, but he answered it with a determined nod.
"And so will I!" said Gimli firmly, "No Dwarf should ever set a foot on the Paths of the Dead, but I will not desert you now! My axe will serve you well!"
Aragorn's eyes sought out Elrond and Glorfindel. "The 'Lorien Elves need a new captain now that Haldir cannot join us."
Elrond heard the underlying question and nodded. "I sent them here, and now I will lead them." Glorfindel and he already decided it was their duty to step in for Haldir. "Would you prefer us to travel the Paths of the Dead as well or do you want us to stay with Théoden?"
"Will you face the Paths of the Dead for me?" asked Aragorn, looking into his foster-father's eyes.
"We will," replied Elrond, as his gaze shifted from Aragorn to Glorfindel, who nodded once.
"It is decided then," said Aragorn, pleased to have Elrond and Glorfindel at his side as well. "We will leave at sunset."
A dark shadow moved stealthily through the Hornburg, heading for Éomer's chambers, where it halted. The guards, positioned next to the door to Éomer's room didn't notice the dark form which the torches reflected onto the walls. The shadow passed them by, unnoticed, and slithered closer to the door.
The door presented no barrier and it slipped inside, moving toward the bed where Éomer and Haldir slept peacefully.
Claws formed against the walls, which were merely illuminated by a few candles. The clawed fingers began to reach for Éomer, but then pulled back abruptly. No, it had to wait for Théoden and Aragorn to leave the Hornburg, as only a handful of Éomer's personal guards would stay behind.
Cold laughter dripped from the walls as the shadow merged with the dark corners of the room.
Beta read by Ilye, thanks!
Return to Archive | next | previous