The original drabble, in lotr100. The longer version is behind the lj-cut.
It had been a long march from Medulsed, and a longer one for other whom had galloped fast from the corners of the Riddermark. Everyone was walking now, to spare their horses for the battle they would moot at dawn. Éomer led his tired éored to their place of encampment, scattered up and down the cold, quiet mountain road that led to Minas Tirith. As his company set up their bivouac, he walked among his men, offering quiet words of encouragement and doing final checks on equipment. He sent some men off to get their swords resharpened, and others to replace rings in their mail. Some sat with hammers and fixed outer armor and helmets. Though some light banter was exchanged amongst the younger soldiers, most were thoughtful and quiet as they sat, warming their hands over small, protected fires.
These men would gladly die for Rohan, Éomer thought. And many, if not all, of them will.
As he walked, Éomer’s look touched upon the many faces of his soldiers. In the night before battle, it was customary for the officers to lie with a fellow soldier. Éomer had never excercised this “right” before. Tonight, though, was likely his last night before his death. He feared that none would survive the battle the next day. His sister, his only true friend and companion, had been left behind at the entrance to the Paths of the Dead, with instructions to lead the women, children, and elderly to Medulsed. How he missed her constant companionship! He was lonely this night, when he should have been up late talking with his sister, reflecting on war and horses, kings and rings.
He started scanning the ranks more carefully, seeking out a soldier who would meet what he needed this night. Many were already lying down under their blankets, but a few fires were still going. He noticed at one fire there was a fighter who still bore his helm, despite the reasonable safety and the late hour. His build was smaller than many other men his height, but suggested a wiry power.
Strong, small, powerful, and anonymous, Éomer thought. I will have that one.
“Soldier!” He called out. The thin warrior turned around and met his gaze with piercing blue eyes through the steel of his helmet. Éomer faltered for a moment, sensing familiarity with those eyes. He quickly brushed the thought aside. I have trained many of these men, he reminded himself, probably including this one. “Gather your things,” he said when the soldier stood closer to him. “You will be sleeping in my tent tonight.” The soldier hesitated a moment, then nodded once. He bowed, grabbed his supplies, and followed Éomer into the regal tent.
When Éomer had spoken a word to his guards to leave him undisturbed, he closed the fine, woven curtains. When he turned around, he found his warrior standing at attention next to a pile of furs and blankets.
“Come now,” Éomer spoke softly, “there is no need to be formal in here.” The soldier relaxed a little, but still seemed a bit stiff. Éomer sighed. “Please, take off your helm so that I might see your face.” The fighter paused, uncertain; however, he had been trained to obey a superior’s order. He turned around so his back was to the heir of Rohan and carefully removed his helmet. The warrior shook his head and let the hair fall completely free. His hair, dirty, stringy, and matted from days of travel was longer than most men of the Riddermark’s. He must be from the Eastmark, where they grow their hair long. Éomer could still see that it was of the common golden sheen that was the trait of the Rohirrim.
“Turn around … what is your name?” Éomer realized that he had not asked before. What’s more, he realized that he had not heard this man talk, either.
Another pause. “Dernhelm, m’lord.” The voice was sweet and husky. He did not turn around.
“Dernhelm,” Éomer asked, “do you know why you’re here? Do you know why I’ve brought you to my tent? Do you know what we are to do this night?”
“Yes, m’lord,” the voice of the soldier was trembling.
“Dernhelm,” Éomer commanded again, “turn around.”
Reluctantly, the soldier turned his small body around. Éomer’s mouth fell open in surprise. He did indeed know this soldier. He had trained with this warrior since their youngest days in the house of Éorl. He had never bedded this one before, though. Now, his desires of the day came back to him: here was the company he had longed for!
“Éowyn,” he asked, uncertain, unwilling to believe, “is it truly you?” Unable to speak, she nodded.
Revealed at last, she looked at her brother questioningly and took a tentative step towards him. He reached out his arms and pulled his sister in close, armor clanking against each other.