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Destiny's Child  by Mirkwoodmaiden

My Thanks to My Hubby, my beta!


Chapter 17 – “Give Me Strength”

Battle-weary and heartsick Éomer and his Éored rode home to Edoras laden with knowledge that was thick with both treachery and wonderment.  Théogar had not been wrong though Éomer had sorely hoped he had been this once.  There had indeed been Orcs roaming the East Emnet. It was near Fangorn where they found the encampment of the foul creatures and made quick work for their bows and blades.  These were not ordinary Orcs, though.  The sight of the white hand of Saruman upon the helm in his saddlebag was branded on his soul.  The evidence of treachery should spur his uncle into action but somehow sitting in a very sad place in his heart was the bitter knowledge that it would not. “Still, I must try!”

“Pardon, my lord?”

Éomer looked to his left and saw Éothain looking quizzically at him, “What?” he asked distractedly.

Éothain answered, “You spoke though I did not quite catch what you had said.”

Éomer had not realised he had spoken aloud.  Chagrinned he stated, “It was just some internal musings, my friend, nothing more.”

Éothain looked at his lord doubtfully but could pursue the matter no further as Éomer touched Firefoot’s flank with his stirrup breaking from a walk to a quick trot thereby rendering conversation difficult at best.

Once again alone with his thoughts, Éomer wandered to wonderment.  The three travelers they had met earlier were vivid in his mind. The man called Strider.  Strider indeed Éomer mused as he marveled at the distance they said to have covered in a bare few days. An Elf and a Dwarf, both rarely seen and if the stories were correct, were rarely if ever seen together.  The things they spoke of casually were legends to his mind. He bade them come to Edoras to help the Rohirrim defend against what he now knew as the threat that Saruman posed his people.  But the three kept to their quest though he had told them that they most likely searched in vain.  Still, he sensed much valor in them and aided them by gifting Hasufel and Arod.  Pain slashed across his heart as he thought of Theobald and Baldric their former masters lost in the slaughter of Orcs the night before.  He prayed to Bema that the three hunters would come to Meduseld should their quest prove fruitless.  Valor such as they held would always be welcome.

They made camp at night and would be able to, at a hard ride, arrive at the Golden Hall the next evening. In the morning Éomer heard something in the distance coming quickly; hoofs pounding.  

"Éothain!" He called to his second.  Éothain was instantly at his side. "Horses!" he said in a fervent voice.  He paused for a few moments, "From the North! Make the men ready." 

"At once, My Lord," Éothain said, fist over heart and head bowed as he then stepped off to order the men.

From the north Éomer thought, foreboding settling in his heart.  He promptly attempted to brush it aside with only middling success.

After a few minutes horses crested a hill and Éomer's heart thrilled to see the green and white colors of his cousin's standard flowing in the breeze, but once again a warning flared in his heart. He did not see his cousin at the head of the column.  He saw Léofwine, his cousin’s second cresting the hill and he saw that he did not sit in the saddle alone.  In a flash he realised that the slumping figure held upright in the saddle with one arm was his cousin.  He heard someone shout “No!” and then realised the hoarse voice was his own.  Eómer stumbled forth to harshly question the older rider but stopped short when he saw the pain and frustration behind blue eyes that had already seen far too many die.  Eómer simply said, “What happened?”

Léofwine said tersely, much restrained emotion in his voice, “It was an ambush, my lord.  We were overrun.”

“Orcs?” Eómer questioned, “But unlike any you had ever seen?”

Léofwine gave him a hard stare, “Yes, my Lord.  How did you—

At that point Théodred blinked his eyes open, “Cousin?” he said quizzically, his voice low and strained.  “How did you get here?”

Eómer simply said, “I came because I was needed.”

“Always at my side,” came the strained voice now full of emotion.

“Always.” Eómer avowed, his heart alarmed at the paleness in his cousin’s face and the threadiness of his voice.

“Saruman has betrayed us! We must get to the King to tell him of this treachery!” Theódred spoke forcefully after which he coughed, and his face crumbled in pain.  Eómer’s eyes followed his cousin’s hand as it went to his side.  He could see blood staining his cousin’s tunic and a cold pit formed in his stomach as he realised that the wound was exactly where his nightmare had placed it.

“A scratch I assure you,” Theódred stated in as light a voice as he could muster.  Eómer looked at his cousin and saw the desperation behind the pale forced smile.  He tried to match the light tone but it sound hollow to his ears as fear flamed within his heart.  “You will rally in no time!”

Théodred locked eyes with his younger cousin; the truth shared silently and accepted.  “We must get to the King!" the Prince stated resolutely even as pain shot across his face.

“We ride, Cousin, now!”  With that determination made Éomer motioned Éothain over.  “Break camp we ride within the hour.”

Éothain placed his fist on his heart, “At once, my lord!” he said forcefully but his eyes strayed to Prince Théodred and quickly flicked back to Éomer.

Éomer accepted the look and nodded almost imperceptibly, “Be quick, man!”

Éothain nodded quickly and turned on his heel shouting, “Riders, make ready for the road.  We leave immediately.”

Éomer looked up to his cousin still sitting astride just in time to catch him as he fell from the saddle. “Théodred!” he called in high alarm, fearing the worst.  Éomer sank down under his cousin’s weight and unceremoniously plopped on the ground, Théodred’s head resting on his lap.  Éomer cleared sweaty dark blond hair from his cousin’s face.  His heart started again as he heard Théodred’s raspy breathing. “Cousin, don’t leave me just yet.” He whispered fervently, “Bema spare him, if only for a little while longer! Bring him home!”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Éowyn awoke with a start.  She sat up and looked around her chambers somehow expecting to find something different, something changed but she saw the same breakfast table, the same chair, the same green brocade coverlet across her bed.  She sat in bed taking deep breaths trying to calm her anxiety when Waerith entered with her morning warmed mead.  “Good morning, My lady.  Did you sleep well?” There was a thread of care in her voice, restrained emotion evident.

“Something’s wrong, Waerith.  Something changed but I just don’t know what.”

Waerith looked her Lady with eyes of sadness and regret.  “Oh, my lady.  I am so sorry and I regret it is me who has to tell you this.  But late last night both the Lord Éomer and Prince Théodred returned to Edoras.” Éowyn’s heart froze and she stood stalk still and simply waited for Waerith to finish.  “Prince Théodred, he was gravely wounded.”

“Does he yet live?” Éowyn asked in a cold still voice, bracing for the news as unwelcome as a chill wind in December.

“Yes, my lady.  He does but the healer says there is not much to be done except to make comfortable his passing.”

Shaking from her cold musing, Éowyn stated emphatically, “I do not accept that!” she flung the coverlet off, slipped into her fur-lined slippers.  She grabbed something that was thrusted at her and as she made her directed progress to her cousin’s chamber, she realised it was her dressing robe.  She hastily donned it as she rushed along the corridor to his chamber.  She reached his door and was startled when it opened quickly Leóulf exiting.

“Oh, my lady,” the healer started mournfully, “You shouldn’t be here.”

“And why shouldn’t I? He is my cousin!  I must tend to him!”  Éowyn said as forcefully as she could muster but the sorrowful look in Leóulf’s eyes nearly undid her.  She had known him since she was ten and always going to him for scraped knees and bruises.  He had always been very kind to her and more importantly he had always told her the truth, never shielding her from unpleasant knowledge. That alone was so very valuable living in the royal house where most sought to curry favour.

“There is nothing to be done, my Lady…”

“I will be the judge of that.” She asserted baselessly.  Her heart could not accept what the mind was beginning to suspect.  She walked forward and saw that her brother was at Théodred’s side.  She knelt beside him at Théodred’s bed and he turned such eyes of sorrow upon her that she felt her world start to give away under her.  She followed his glance to her cousin’s side and her eyes filled with the horror of the loose blood red bandage.  Her hand of its own volition picked up the bandage so she could see underneath.  Red mangled slightly swollen flesh greeted her eyes.  She shut out the horror of sight, but she could not stop the truth from lodging itself in her heart and twisting hurtfully as she finally accepted that her cousin was dying and no bluster, no amount of words thrown at the problem could deny it.  She looked at her brother and she knew that his sorrow was now tragically reflected in her own eyes.

“Cousin,” came a tortured whisper.  Éowyn’s gaze flew to Théodred’s face.

“Théodred!  Shh-sh!  Save your strength…” she weakly berated him, her heart still trying to keep pretense alive.

“Cousin, my feisty warrior.  Do battle for me.”  His weak exhortation interrupted by a feeble bout of coughing.

Tears choking her throat, “I will.” But sleep not yet of death closed her cousin’s eyes and he did not hear her.

Leóulf appeared at their side, “Come away. Let him rest.”

Éowyn turned on him hissing, “I will not leave my cousin!  I will stay by his side until—” Her voice choked as the ramifications about what was about to happen slammed into her full force.  She turned back to Théodred’s prone form, taking his cold hand in hers stroking it, “I will not leave my cousin!”  Éowyn stared at Théodred pale face her heart silently breaking.  She felt her brother’s hand on her shoulder and felt his kiss upon her temple.  She drew strength from his presence as she tried to breathe around the large lump of restrained sob in her throat.  She stared at her cousin’s pale face watching him almost willing him to draw the ragged breath that signaled life, unable even now to contemplate the loss of his steady, supportive presence in her life.

Intruding upon grief came the most unwelcome voice, “My Lord, My Lady I am grievously sorry to disturb these moments with the Prince, but the King commands your presence even as we speak.”

Both brother and sister turned.  Éomer spoke, “Leave us in peace, Snake!  Your machinations have proved too costly.  I heed not your words!”

At that moment Éowyn saw a truly malicious glee flash across the noisome face of Grima before the unctuous mask fell once more into place, “But they are not my words.  They flow from the King. I am merely the conduit.”

Éowyn could feel the rage begin to swell within her brother and she spoke before he could make more unguarded reply to Grima’s insidious lying.  She buried her grief within her heart where it would have to keep and pasted what she hoped was a serene look upon her face.  “We shall attend, Grima.”

Again that look of longing across Grima’s face and Éowyn was unfortunately not the only one to see it this time.  Éomer saw as well and took a step forward only to be stilled by Éowyn’s hand, “Too long have you watched my sister…” his voice trailed threateningly.

Éowyn stated again, “We shall attend.” She ended with a slight nod.

Grima flicked another look of maliciousness at Éomer, nodded to Éowyn and was gone in a swirl of dark layers of robe and cloak.

Leóulf hastily excused himself leaving brother and sister glaring at each other.  Éomer silently smoldered while Éowyn, whose temper was a match for Éomer’s on most days eyed her brother coldly.  “True as the description was, what exactly was gained by that piece of truth-telling.  Aside from the momentary release of satisfaction.”

“Honestly Sister, not even that was all that satisfying when truthfully all I really wanted to do was smash that solicitous look off his noxious face!” Éomer said, “I just lost my temper.” He quickly scrubbed his face in frustration, “What have I done.”

Éowyn looked at him, “Brother, I do not know.  There was a flash of malevolence in his eyes after you answered back but also…I don’t know..  a look of triumph.”  She sighed and then said in a tired voice, “We had best attend the King.”  She turned back to her cousin who was still asleep and breathing fitfully. She leaned over and kissed his cold clammy brow, “We will return, Cousin!  I promise you that.”

Leaving the chamber, Éomer turned to Éowyn and said, “I will join you in the audience chamber but there is something I must retrieve first.” And without waiting for his sister’s consent or denial Éomer strode forth purposefully toward his own chambers.  Éowyn stood staring after him feeling somewhat bereft and a large portion of aggrieved.  Steeling herself with a deep breath and a whispered, “Bema give me strength to do what I must do, to bear what I must bear!” she moved toward the audience chamber and the unknowing future it presented.

 





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