Drawing in a deep, long breath, she prepared herself for his next attack. Her breathing was strenuous and beginning to come in short gasps as she tired to regain stamina. Watching him carefully, she was waiting for the right time to lunge at him. He saw her eyes shift down and took the opportunity to attack her with his long sword...
"My Lady!" one of the handmaidens cried out, but found the young woman parrying his attack easily. The group of handmaidens watched their lady pull her helmet off, revealing a young woman underneath. The warrior she'd been fighting bowed low and pulled his helmet off, his long brown hair falling down his shoulders.
"Well met, Princess. You truly are born to hold a sword and you've learned the arts well. We can spar again tomorrow," the man stated, walking over to the sword rack and placing his sword back in its sheath. Handing her helmet and sword to a soldier, she turned and walked over to her maids. Brunhilde, Princess of Iceland, daughter and only heir to King Eldric and future wife of King Gunther of Burgund at seventeen had waist-length, blonde hair that was ornately braided most of the time, sky blue eyes and sun-kissed coloured skin. Walking out of the training yards, she strode into the palace hall to find her father sitting at the long oak table having breakfast. He stood and embraced her, kissing her cheek.
"I saw you sparring. You've learned well -- someday you'll ride into battle at the head of a great army, astride a mighty steed," he beamed as they pulled apart. Brunhilde mutely nodded, not returning the words with one of her kind smiles as she usually did. Sitting down, she picked up the small, wooden cup and began playing with it absentmindedly, not realising her father had stopped eating to watch her with a curious expression. "What vexes you Brunhilde?"
Sighing quietly, she set the cup down and raised her eyes to meet her father's grey eyes. "Father, must I marry Gunther, a man I've never even met before? I can rule Iceland without any problems, most of the Lords support me as the next heir, even though I'm female," she inquired.
Eldric looked at his daughter; she was exactly like her mother Aaricia in everyway, especially in appearance wise. Aaricia, his Queen, had passed away when Brunhilde was seven, leaving the old King to raise his daughter alone. Even at that young an age, Brunhilde had shown she wasn't as ladylike as some women; instead of learning to sew, she chose the arts of combat and had mastered using a long bow and sword by the age of twelve.
Choosing his next words carefully, he answered, "Daughter you must marry there will be no leader to follow your footsteps if you do not. Now smile, Brunhilde, you're too beautiful to frown."
Brunhilde smiled at her father as she stood, murmuring in reply, "I know but... never mind. I'm going to go for a ride, Father. I love you. I need some time to think."
- - -
Entering the palace stables, Brunhilde smiled at finding her golden stallion saddled and ready. The only thing she hated about becoming Queen was that when she went to battle Light-Hammer wouldn't be able to be her mount. The young boy holding the reins stared up at her as if she was some great leader -- or Odin himself. She'd always liked the young stable boy, Gang, ever since he'd become a helper three years ago. He bowed when she stopped in front of him. "Princess, I thought you might want to ride today so I saddled Light-Hammer for you," he said, his mouth still agape in stunned awe.
Brunhilde ruffled his hair as she took the reins from him, saying, "Thank you, Gang, you know me better than I know myself."
"Na, lady. I just knows what day to get Light-Hammer ready early."
Nodding, she smiled down at him before leaving the stables.
- - -
Inhaling the crisp, spring air, Brunhilde scanned the vast plain that she normally rode Light-Hammer across. Barely any trees covered it, making it good for riding long, hard distances -- but it also made a good position during battle, since whoever controlled this flat, grassland controlled the entire war -- which was not good when Saxon armies from Germania decided to attack. Their brute strength and fearless warriors demolished other Viking armies in one giant battle, that left the earth soaked red with blood, which is probably why nothing in the valley grew lush, green or strong here anymore.
Sighing, she kicked Light-Hammer's sides, urging him forward... a bright light suddenly appeared in front of her, causing her stallion to rear up on it's back legs, knocking her off. Her head hit a rock when she landed, knocking her unconscious...
- - -
The many warriors dismounted as they stopped among the scene they'd come to. Dead bodies lay around them, both Uruk-hai and human. It was dark and raining and muddy. The battle had been over long before the riders got there.
"Theodred. Find the King's son!" the lead rider demanded, searching the bodies.
One of the warriors near him, muttered, "Mordor will pay for this."
The lead warrior picked up an Uruk-hai and shook his head, saying, "These are not of Mordor." The white hand covering the front of the helmet proved his thoughts correct; Saruman had sent them.
"My Lord! Over here!" a rider called out, turning over a human body. The blonde rider rushed over to his wounded cousin's side. He felt for a pulse, it was there, but it was weak. "He's alive."
- - -
The group of riders thundered across the vast open plain towards Edoras. The lead rider carrying a gravely wounded man in the saddle with him. "Hang on cousin!" the blonde man murmured into the other's ear, desperately hoping that they made it to Edoras before his cousin's condition worsened and he lost him.
- - -
The fair haired woman ran up the stairs to the Golden Hall and entered the bedchamber, where the wounded man lay. Her breathing came in long, gasps as she rushed to the bedside. "Theodred, can you hear me?!"
The wounded man seemed to hear her pleas but was unable to respond, due to the large abrasion on his side. He couldn't see anything but dark shadows because of a cut on his forehead. The blonde man nodded in the direction of Theodred's torso when the young woman looked at him questioningly. Eowyn, the young woman drew the covers back and upon seeing her cousin's fatal abrasion, her lips tightened and she closed her eyes, bracing herself against the flood of emotions that swept over her. She looked over at her brother and found him watching her, waiting for her to speak. Without saying a word to him, she stood and left the room. Eomer was quick to follow his sister and he caught her arm, stopping her.
"Eowyn, can you help him?" he asked.
"Maybe, if he fights the fever and the poison," she answered softly, looking away from her brother's face.
- - -
Eomer and Eowyn entered the Golden Hall to find their uncle, Theoden sitting motionless on his throne, wizened and aged far beyond his years. Placing a hand on Eowyn's shoulder, he smiled reassuringly at her before moving away.
"Your son is badly wounded, my lord," she remarked, bowing her head to him in respect as she spoke.
Eomer spoke: "He was ambushed by Orcs. If we don't defend our country, Saruman will take it by force."
"That is a lie!" a voice seethed from the shadows, followed by a leech-like man appearing to the left of Eomer. "Saruman the White had ever been our friend and ally." Eomer stared angrily at the man, but shifted his gaze to his uncle when the king began saying something.
Grima leaned down close to the king at hearing him calling his name feebly. "My son...? Grima...?"
Eomer couldn't stand the sight of the leeches poison anyway and growled defiantly, "Orcs are roaming freely across our lands. Unchecked. Unchallenged. Killing at will. Orcs bearing the white hand of Saruman." He threw an Orc helmet onto the ground, which toppled over to reveal the white hand print of Saruman.
Grima looked up from the helmet to Eomer who was staring pointedly at him, an accusing look on his face. "Why do you lay these troubles on an already troubled mind? Can you not see? Your uncle is wearied by your malcontent... your war-mongering."
"War-mongering?" Eomer questioned heatedly. He lashed out and grabbed Grima, pinning him against a pillar. "How long is it since Saruman bought you? What was the promised price, Grima? When all the men are dead you will take your share of the treasure?" Eomer saw Grima's eyes shift from his face. Turning slightly to see what he was staring at, the Third Marshall of the Riddermark found his sister walking past. She stopped to stare back at Grima for a moment before departing from the hall. Eomer jerked Grima and wrapped one of his hands around Grima's jaw, forcing the smaller, weaker man to look into his face. "Too long have you watched my sister, too long have you haunted her steps."
Grima's eyes looked to the left, and relaxed when Eomer was suddenly pulled off Grima by the leech's thugs. The black haired man straightened, saying to the Horse Lord, "You see much Eomer, Son of Eomund. Too much." One of the thugs punched Eomer in the stomach, nearly bringing the man to his knees from the force of the hit. "You are banished forthwith from the kingdom of Rohan. Under pain of death!"
Eomer looked at Grima, grief and despair in his eyes as he took in what Grima had ordered. The thugs dragged a fighting Eomer from the Golden Hall.
- - -
Moaning as she stirred, Brunhilde found a dark figure hovering over her. When her vision cleared and sharpened, she gasped; the person -- creature was hideous -- his face was enough to frighten the young princess to near death.
"Looks like we found ourselves some dinner boys," the creature jeered, grabbing her arm and yanking her to her feet. She looked around to find it was near twilight. The group of creatures surrounding her all resembled monsters she'd only read about in books.
"Where am I? Who are you all?" she questioned, only to find one of them binding her hands together. She was roughly shoved to the ground, beside two very small figures, both of which looked up at her curiously.
"Who are you?" one asked, shifting closer. She couldn't understand why the two boys looked like they were full grown men, only a child-like size version.
"Brunhilde. Where am I? Who are you?" she replied, quirking an eyebrow in amazement at how large and hairy their bare feet were.
"I'm Merry. This is Pippin. Why do you ask where you are?" the older of the two inquired her, looking at her strange clothing.
Sighing Brunhilde looked around at the large clearing they were in, then to her captors. The stench of their bodies reached her and she nearly vomited at the smell of rotten food and dried blood. /Wherever I am, it's certainly not home. /She turned her gaze back to the two small people and smiled softly at them.
"Why are you so short? I only ask because I've never see full grown men your height," she whispered, keeping her voice lowered so the creatures wouldn't hear her.
The second little man inched closer to her, murmuring, "We're Halflings... Shirefolk... Hobbits?" Brunhilde was now even more confused than what she'd ever been before in her life.
"Okay, so where am I?" The two "Hobbits" were now truly stunned by her question. Looking at each other, then back to her as they tried to think of the best answer to give her. Merry opened his mouth to speak to her, but low rumbles and groans caused the trio to look at where a group of the creatures were chopping down trees.
"What's making that noise?" Pippin inquired, looking at the other "Hobbit" expectantly.
The other hobbit... Merry looked at the forest, whispering in reply, "It's the trees." Brunhilde looked at the forest and quirked an eyebrow at Merry's words. On the outside she looked calm and collected -- yet curious -- but on the inside...
How can this be happening to me?! Creatures like my captors only exist in books, not in real life. And these... hobbits, they don't exist either, so where am I and more to the point, how did I get here?!
"Do you remember the Old Forest? On the borders of Buckland? Folk used to say that there was something in the water that made the trees grow tall... and come alive," Merry questioned Pippin who to Brunhilde's amusement now looked exceptionally scared of the forest.
"Alive?" Brunhilde looked over at the large creatures and found one watching her. Quickly lowering her gaze, she turned her attention back to Merry who was once again explaining things about the trees.
"Trees that could whisper. Talk to each other. Even move." The trio looked at the forest again and Brunhilde couldn't hold back the shiver that ran down her spine as the eerie noises once again reached her ears.
"I'm starving." Brunhilde and the two hobbits turned their gazes towards the creatures upon hearing one speak. "We ain't 'ad nothin' but maggoty bred for three stinkin' days!"
Swallowing the lump in her throat at remembering what one had said before hand about her being their dinner.
"Yeah. Why can't we have some meat?" another added, turning his gaze to the trio. All three looked at each other. "What about them? They're fresh." Brunhilde felt like she was going to be sick at the thought of being eaten by these strange things.
"They are not for eating!" another roared. Brunhilde inwardly sighed, silently thanking the larger creature for not letting them eat her, Merry or Pippin. The two Hobbits had quickly grown on her in the few minutes since they'd met, because of how nice they were to her and how they answered her questions without inquiring about why she asked, well except from when she'd questioned them about where they are.
"What about their legs? They don't need those. Ooh... They look tasty!" Merry and Pippin looked down at their legs and gulped.
The larger one that had defended them before shoved the smaller one back. "Get back scum!" The smaller ones of the band began to move restlessly toward the larger creatures.
"Carve them up!" one of the small ones ordered. Another moved towards the hobbits and Brunhilde, drawing his blade in the process.
"Just a mouth full."
"One mouth full to each of them and all three of us are dead," Brunhilde muttered, sliding backwards, towards the forest and away from her captors.
"No!" The leader once again stood in front of the trio, shielding them from the others. The two hobbits recoiled in fright and began following Brunhilde's actions. The creature moved towards the three, only to meet the larger ones blade. The leader cut the smaller ones head off, which landed in Merry's lap. He quickly pushed it off and crawled away from the group. "Looks like meat's back on the menu, boys!" All the creatures cheered and started tearing into fresh meat. Brunhilde once again nearly vomited when she saw the creature still alive as its intestine's were pulled out.
"Let's go," Merry ordered now that the creatures' attention was turned away from them. With their hands still bound, the Hobbits began crawling away. A foot came down on Merry's back and Pippin was turned onto his.
The creature brandishing a blade in front of Pippin's face, remarked coldly, "Go on. Call for help. Squeal! No one's gonna save you now!" Brunhilde looked around for anything she could use as a weapon. Noticing a thick branch within reach she grabbed it and scrambled to her feet.
"Hey!" she called out to the creature, who being as dim-witted as she'd guessed looked up. She slammed the branch into his face, causing him to stumble back. He snarled and went to attack her, only a spear suddenly pierced his back. Riders burst from their hiding places, ambushing the creatures.
Brunhilde dropped back to the ground when she reached Merry and Pippin, who both nodded, silently thanking her. Jumping up, the three began running towards the forest, dodging the arrows, horses and dead bodies in their path. Pippin was knocked onto his back. Looking up, he found a pair of thrashing hooves bearing down on him. Brunhilde turned sharply at hearing him yell, only to come face to face with another human. His eyes went wide in shock, when he noticed she wasn't one of the creatures, but a young woman. Before he had the chance to grab her, she had disappeared from his vision as if he'd only dreamed her.
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