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This is an RP set in Rohan during the War of the Ring. King Theoden had been cured by Gandalf and he had ordered the people to take refuge in Dunharrow and Helms Deep. This tale starts on that dangerous journey to the Hornburg.

Exclusively Written by Skrifa and Dunedain-Ranger[.url]. The two primary characters are Runhild and Dunhama. The writers may introduce additional characters, and there is some minor use of canon characters in story background. We hope you enjoy this tale!

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The Road to Helms Deep

The journey to Helms Deep was long and perilous when trying to bring all the people of a city to safety. Even more, they had suffered an attack by warg-riding orcs. The Rohirrim soldiers did their best to keep the people from being attacked, but sometimes one got through. Dunhama drove a cart full of food supplies he had loaded from the storehouse in Edoras, and now he found himself waking up laying on the ground with a splitting headache. When he looked around, his cart had turned over and its wheel shattered. Nearby was a soldier cradling his dead wife, and two younger children stood by. Dunhama stood up and brought a blanket from the overturned good to him to cover his beloved, but there would be little time to bury the dead. The soldier looked up at Dunhama and a mix of sorrow and hate showed on his face. Dunhama had seen that look before, and he nodded and walked away.

Dunhama knew he was different from the others. He had known it most his life. The hatred he could see from the Rohirrim was because of the brutal raids the Dunlandings would launch over the Isen into the villages of Rohan. Dunhama himself was a result of one of those raids ere 21 years ago when his mother was a young wife. She was ravaged by some Dunlandings and taken as a slave, but she managed to escape after a couple years with her young son. He hated the Dunlandings, and he hated those who served the wizard Saruman, yet he had to take the hate from the Rohirrim. He accepted his fate.

He looked around and saw some others regaining themselves after the orc attack, and he thought he would wait on the rise for them to catch up. It was better to travel in a group, and they still had some ways to go.

Runhild stood silently amidst the fallen, her hands curled tightly in her hair. Her breathing was ragged, her throat sore, and sweat uncomfortably rolled down her back.

She didn't remember much of what had happened. There had been Wargs, she knew that much. The women and children had meant to be moved ahead, but they had been overrun before they could get a safe distance away.

She moved slowly through the ruin, searching the faces of the fallen. Here was a new soldier, fresh from his training. Here was a man she had seen come and go at the inn. He was powerful, yet wasted himself on drink. Here lay a woman who had refused to leave her husband's side. And here was...

She stopped short. No, it couldn't be. Surely it wasn't. She'd seen him flee with her mother down the hillside. It couldn't be...

Runhild dropped to her knees, scrabbling for a handhold on the carcass, searching for something, anything, that would prove her wrong. Fate, however, had other plans. Her hands found a beaded necklace carved from wood, slick with blood. Horrified, she scurried back from the corpse, accidentally yanking at the necklace and sending the beads flying. Tears burned her eyes.

Her father was dead.

Runhild sat there for a moment, staring at her hands. She was vaguely aware of a tear running down her cheek. She brushed it away, leaving a streak of red across her face.

She had to be strong, she knew. She was the only person left to her mother now. Slowly, Runhild rose to her feet and started towards the rise.

When some riders came up to the rise, one stopped and called out to the people who had suffered the attack. He said,,

"People of Rohan! The enemy have been driven back. We are secure for now! Take time to care for the dead, but be swift! We will not leave them for carrion!"

Dunhama stood not far away from them, and he decided to go and help. He had his Dunlanding axe, and he could hew out the turf and help dig, or make travios to move the wounded. There was little time to lose, for even as the rider spoke, the sun was obscured by clouds and a damp chill fell over the land.

He started back down the slope when he saw a woman walking toward him. There was blood on her face and her eyes seemed to stare past him into a time and place that was no more. Dunhama paused and as she stepped closer, he asked,

"M'lady, are you wounded?"

He watched her with concern as her eyes blinked and she returned from her thoughts. Dunhama tensed slightly as he did when encountering Rohirrim strangers, for he knew not what their reactions would be.

"I am unharmed," Runhild said softly, her voice trembling with each word. Her gaze latched onto the mans face, and she realized she recognized him. She'd seen him around Edoras, but only from a distance. Many had called him a half breed. She could see it now. He did not quite bear the same resemblance to the men of Rohan. And yet...he did not seem like the Dunlandings she had heard about.

Runhild offered him a weak smile. "My father...he has gone to join our fallen."

Admitting it tore a hole in her heart, but it had to be done. Pretending otherwise would bring her no peace.

"I have no way to bury him," Runhild whispered. "And I worry that he died in vain..." A slender hand tugged at her braids as she sought for some sort of comfort. Suddenly, she cleared her throat and rose to her full height. Her eyes shone again with unshed tears, but she forced herself to keep herself together.

Dunhama could see the pain in her face, and knew her father was dear to her. He had felt that way when his mother died a few years back. He had no such compassion for his father for he was a pillaging rapist. Dunhama could only hope he was long dead.

When the woman gathered herself and stood tall and proud, Dunhama gave her a neck scarf he wore to wipe away the blood from her face.

"You keep it."

he said as he looked back down where the wrecked wagon was. He nodded to himself and said to the woman,

"We will bring him with us and lay him to rest in the Hornburg! Come with me! I can help!"

Dunhama didn't wait for an answer before setting off down the slope. He could see the carrion already circling high above, biding their time before descending to feast. Already a few scouts were flying low. Her father would not be left! Dunhama planned on salvaging the broken railings from the wagon and use some rope to tie his cloak to them, and they could lay her father on it and they will drag him with them!

When he reached the wreckage, he turned to see the woman approaching some ways behind, and he started to get to work.

Runhild followed close behind him. The man's willingness to help had taken her by surprise, but it was greatly appreciated. Her smile had softened now, and she carefully tucked the scarf into the folds of her skirts.

She led him to her father's corpse. Gingerly, she grasped the body by the shoulders and hoisted him up, motioning for the man to take his feet. Then they quickly deposited the corpse onto the shattered wagon.

"Thank you," Runhild said after straightening up again. "My name is Runhild, by the way."

Lady Runhild.

Dunhama said and he gave her a slight bow. His mother had told him to always be polite and hold to protocol no matter what.

"I am Dunhama, most recently a kitchen hand of Meduseld. My deepest sympathy to you for your father's death. Do you have any others in your family?"

he thought he was being too nosey in asking that and he turned to look harder at the wagon. He counted their luck when the horse wandered back by the wagon. He coaxed the horse over with an apple from the spilled supplies and managed to secure her.

"Maybe if I knock the other wheel off we can hitch the horse and slideit"

He said to Runhild as he turned to look at her. He paused, then felt like he was staring too long at Runhild and turned his gaze. He said quietly,

"She is strong and the grass is slick. Maybe it will work"

Runhild looked thoughtfully at the cart and the horse before nodding slowly. She took the horse by its mane, speaking softly in its ear.

"It is only my mother and I now," she replied at last. She stole a glance at Dunhama just in time to see him look away. She felt heat rising in her face, and she turned back to the horse. She'd only just met him, after all.

"Yes, I think taking the wheel off shall be of help," she said quickly, daring to steal one last fleeting look at Dunhama.

His Dunlanding axe made quick work of the other wheel, and they shed as much weight as they could. They kept much of the food though as it would be needed. Potatoes mostly, and some grain sacks were kept. The apples were old from last season and so any that remained on the wagon was thrown off. He nodded as Runhild spoke, and said,

"I hope your mother is somewhere safe."

Dunhama gave a slight, somewhat sad smile to her before he turned and went and collected anything that was by where her father had fallen. There was little, but he found a medal that had come unpinned. He grabbed it and returned to the wagon where Runhild was comforting the horse after being hitched to the broken cart.

"Your father... he earned the King's Order of Gallantry - Westfold!

He held it out for Runhild to take but they both looked at it. Dunhama said softly,

"He fought against the Dunlanding raiders. I honour and respect your father even more in thinking he may have slain my father."

He looked down and his hair fell forward shrouding his face. He should not burden Runhild with any of his dark thoughts.

"I am sorry, I shouldn't have said that."

He dropped the medal into Runhild's hand and turned to see if they could get the cart to move. It had rutted in when it fell, and once they get it going they could get it up to the top of the rise.

Runhild came to Dunhama's side, her fingers closed tightly around the medal.

"There is nothing to apologize for," she said gently. "Though I do not share the same experience with you, I understand."

She bent down, grasping one side of the cart. With a surprising amount of strength, she began trying to push it out of the rut.

((OOC: I'm so sorry! I'm seriously stuck in writers block.))

After a few attempts, they finally got the cart to slide, but it was a hard go trying to get it up to the top of the rise. Dunhama started to consider making something lighter to carry Runhild's father, but once they got to the top, it was much easier. The momentum helped keep the cart moving and Dunhama and Runhild could now walk along leading the horse. He looked over to Runhild and asked,

"Did you grow up in Edoras? I think I may have seen you here and there through the years."

He saw Runhild start playing witha braid of her hair, and he smiled as he watched her.

"I did, yes," Runhild replied. My mother was a seamstress. Father, as you already know, was a soldier...I took after him, in a sense. I made it very clear to Mother that I would rather be a shieldmaiden than sew.

Father trained me like he would have a son, but I have never joined the ranks. My job is in the stables now."
She chuckled to herself. Fond memories of her father resurfaced, many of them of warm, balmy nights out in the hills, learning to ride and fight. She'd been decent, and knew how to hold her own, but it was not enough for her to join the Mark.

"You worked in the tavern, didn't you? I believe I've seen you around from the times I was there." She looked up, smiling shyly at Dunhama.

”Yes, I grew up there. Mom would get yelled at when I got underfoot in the common room, so I learned to stay close to the wall. My favourite place became near the fireplace where I could assist in keeping the fire burning. It was also near where the musicians played.”

They managed to keep the wagon moving over the flat as the clouds blew low and fast, spraying them with a misty drizzle. It was cold, but it kept the grass wet and slick. The little beads of mist made Runhild’s hair glisten as if it had tiny diamonds stuck in it, and Dunhama had a passing thought imagining how her hair would look loose and how soft it would be. Catching himself and blushing some, he took his leather surcoat off and set it about Runhild’s shoulders to help ward off the damp chill. He said,

”I never been to the Hornburg… well, not that I remember. I may have been when I was quite young.”

He looked ahead as he pondered some memories of his mother and what she had told him of their early days.

Runhild blushed faintly and pulled the surcoat tighter around her shoulders. "Thank you," she murmured. She studied Dunhama from the corner of her eye. She'd overheard so many treat him like an animal, as if he was no better than the Dunlendings he'd descended from. A few of the grooms she knew often spoke ill of him, but she'd never been so sure. Now she was glad she'd never taken their words to heart. Dunhama was a better man than those who spoke of him.

And it didn't hurt that he was handsome, Runhild found herself thinking. Again, her face was tinged pink. She ducked her head.

"I have only ever seen the Hornburg from a distance on rides. It's...beautiful, in a grim sort of way. Strong and cold, yet it can hold life..." She trailed off. Maybe the Hornburg could keep life alive one more time. She prayed a silent prayer that it could.

Eager to keep her mind off such worries, she quickly spoke. "You mentioned music...do you sing? Or do you prefer to listen?"

Dunhama blushed at Runhild’s question about music. He never talked about his abilities before. He never was asked before. He looked over to Runhild who was eyeing him inquisitively.

”I um… I listen… and I play instruments. I have sang, but I’m not very good.”

He swallowed as he felt embarrassed to say. He did find more words though and went on,

”I listened to the musicians at the tavern. Some were from faraway lands and sang in interesting accents of Westron, and sometimes in a foreign tongue…. Sindarin I think it was called. It excited me as a boy to hear the tales, and some worked to teach me how to play their instruments.”

They were coming to a low point not far from the mouth of the Deeping-coomb that led to the Hornburg and the ground became soft. As their boots started to squish in the boggy grass, the cart dug in and became bogged. It didn’t help the skies had darkened and the mist had become a steady drizzle. Try as they might, their feet, along with the horse’s, just sank into mud. The cart would go no further.

Dunhama leaned back against the cart and pushed his wet stringy hair from his face. He took Runhild’s hand and said,

”We tried our best m’lady.”

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