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Ch. 2 - "In my heart this is right!"
Edoras, 3005 TA
Théoden was true to his word. As Théodred returned from the Eastfold, the king had sent a messenger to his son to meet him before evening meal. The young rider approached Théodred, “My Prince,” Théodred motioned for the rider to continue, “Your Lord Father wished you to attend him before the evening meal. There is something he wishes to discuss with you and the Lord Éomer.”
“Indeed?” Théodred raised a dark blond eyebrow. “Curiosity abounds. At what time did the King say?”
The young rider answered, “Half an hour before, My Lord!”
“Thank you, Aldor! Tell the King I shall attend.” Aldor bowed, fist on heart and retreated.
Théodred watched the rider leave and pondered what his father had to say…and with Éomer called to attend as well. “Curious….” He murmured to himself as Fasthelm unpacked his saddlebags.
“Shall I ready a bath for you, my lord?”
“Hmmmm….” Théodred was shaken from his musings, “Oh yes, Fasthelm. I wish to wash the road off! Thank you!”
Fasthelm bowed, fist on heart, “As you wish, My Lord!” and departed to prepare the bath.
Théodred sat on the bench at the foot of his bed and started unbuckling his bracers as he pondered the King’s request. He shook his head. He would find out soon enough.
Freshly bathed and properly attired in a new tunic of green and gold and dun colored breeches, Théodred walked to his young cousin’s door and knocked. Éomer opened the door and a look of delight crossed his usually somber face. “Cousin! You are back! So good it is to see you!” and Théodred found himself enfolded in an enthusiastic bear hug.
He laughed, “It is good to see you as well, cousin!” He looked at his young cousin. Éomer was seven years his junior but the age difference did not seem to matter. He was a serious lad, current greeting notwithstanding, with much responsibility laden on his young shoulders too early, but once one saw past the gruff façade there was goodwill and humour to be found. One just had to be patient enough to find it. “So how have things been progressing here…Have you pulled together enough courage to talk to Ealith?” Théodred teased his young cousin about a tavern maid he had found particularly buxom and beautiful. He delighted in the fact that Éomer blushed and stumbled out the denial, “No,” coupled with the excuse, “it hasn’t been the right moment.” Théodred laughed and said, “You MAKE the moment!”
Éomer blushed more and then said a little more seriously, “We had a moment of a different sort here yesterday.”
Théodred’s eyebrows came together upon hearing that, “What has happened, cousin?”
“Saelith has been picking on Éowyn.”
Théodred’s demeanor changed immediately. All the protectiveness of a growly mother bear lit within him. He did not like it when anyone treated either of his cousins poorly, especially little Éowyn, who was only ten. “What happened?”
“Apparently Saelith had a few less that glowing opinions about Papa and Éowyn disagreed.”
“Well there was also hair pulling and fist punching involved and by the time I could separate them Saelith did look a little worse for wear!”
“Good for Éowyn! Saelith is a nasty little one. She is too like her mother. Ahem…I mean she shouldn’t be fighting.” He intoned ineffectually.
“Agreed on ALL counts, but the fighting began when Saelith laughed at Éowyn because she wanted train to be a Shieldmaiden.”
“Yes! She wants to train.”
“But it is not done! Has she been told—”
Théodred just shook his head, “she is a stubborn little piece of business!”
Éomer just sat there on the bed nodding.
Just then a whirlwind entered the room, “Théodred! You are home!!!” Éowyn ran at her cousin and engulfed him in an all-embracing hug. “So happy you are back!” He spun her around and set her down on her boot tips.
“And I am so glad to be home! Perhaps I should go away more often if I am guaranteed a welcome like that every time!” Théodred ruffled her partially undone plaits.
Éowyn turned serious, “I wouldn’t want that! I hate it when you go away!”
Théodred smiled and sat on the bed and motioned for Éowyn to climb into his lap which she readily did. “I know you do, lytling. But it has to be done sometimes. Now what is this that I hear about you and Saelith?”
Éowyn exclaimed, “She said mean things about Papa! And…well…I just got angry!”
“Well, officially I should say you shouldn’t be fighting but unofficially,” Here Théodred’s voice dropped to a conspiratorial whisper, “She is a nasty, little swine!”
Éowyn laughed and Théodred put his finger to his lips, “Shh-sh! We shouldn’t say such things! Though it is true!”
Éowyn tried to look contrite and failed miserably. “She did deserve it though, she laughed at me when I told her I wanted to be a shieldmaiden! I saw them training down in the lower edges of Edoras.”
Théodred eyed his young cousin, “Éowyn…what were you doing in the lower reaches of Edoras…alone. Did you evade poor Guthhild again?” Éowyn had a habit of doing just that when it came time for her to do something she did not want to do.
Éowyn tried to feign innocence, but as she was basically an honest child she was unconvincing, “Maybe…It was time for needlecraft and I didn’t want to.” She exclaimed in way of an explanation.
“Poor Guthhild, she is going to begin to think that you don’t like her,” Théodred tried to argue.
“Well I don’t…” Éowyn relented a little, “At least not when she is trying to make me learn to sew, or do needlework. Shieldmaidens don’t need to know that stuff!”
Théodred countered, “Yes they do. And besides.” Here he tried to soften the blow, “Éowyn. Only village women can train to be Shieldmaidens. It is not for Noble born ladies.”
Éowyn jumped off his lap and shouted, “Why does everyone keep telling me that!” she had her hands fisted up into little balls at her sides. “If I had been one maybe I could have ridden at papa’s side and saved him! Why does nobody think that?” She ran off in tears down the hallway that lead to the stables.
Éomer and Théodred just looked at each other. Both were taken aback by the fervency of her words and the reasoning behind for it.
“And that is why I wished to speak with you both,” both cousins looked at the door and there standing in the doorway was King Théoden.
Théodred spoke first. “What do you mean Father? It has always been the practice that village women need to learn to defend themselves given the circumstances in which they live. Their menfolk serving with an Eored they need to know the basics of defense to protect themselves and their families. But those that live within Edoras it has never been deemed necessary or proper.”
“Yes, Théodred. I know that. And that has been the way. But did you hear what Éowyn said? I did and my heart aches. I think she should be given some form of training.”
Éomer looked at his uncle, “Uncle, are you saying that you do not believe in my ability or commitment to protecting my sister?”
Théoden looked at his nephew, just on the verge of manhood at almost fifteen, who stood looking at him with the eyes of doubt.
Théoden sought to quickly allay the hurt he saw in those eyes that reminded him so much of Éomund, his father, “No. No, Éomer. I have absolutely no doubt of your heart, abilities or commitment to your sister. I have great faith in you.” Éomer visibly relaxed. Théoden smiled. “It is for Éowyn herself that I am concerned. If she were to train in at least the basics, it might give her an outlet for her grief. You have had your training to give your life structure. She has not. It might give her a purpose to work toward and help to channel her energy instead rising to whatever bait Heregar’s daughter or others might want to throw at her.”
Théodred nodded, saying, “It is sound thinking, Father, but for the gossip and scandal it will cause. Might it not cause more fodder for discussion?”
“I have thought of that. And yes, I do believe that could be the result and that is the last thing I want for Éowyn. So, I propose that you teach her in private, when you can. Start with the basics and see how apt she is. I have already discussed this with Éowyn, she is very excited about the prospect. Archery can taught to her without undue comment as it can be a noble lady’s pursuit. It is swordplay that will have to be done in secret.”
Théodred looked at his father, “If you think this is best course of action I will of course do as you bid.”
“I do not know if it is good to break with tradition in this way, but I would see her smile again. The memory of my sister speaks in my heart that this is right.”
He looked at Éomer, who had been quiet through most of this discussion, “What say you, my nephew. Does my plan meet with your approval.”
Éomer looked at his uncle somewhat in surprise that he should seek his approval. He saw in his uncle’s eyes no mocking or disregard but a genuine desire for his opinion on this matter. Though he was still young his uncle was seeking to hear his thoughts. Éomer felt proud and humbled at the same time, but he straightened his shoulders and drew himself up as he said, “I wish to see my sister happy. If you think this course of action will achieve this, then I agree with you. I also would like to see my sister smiling again.”
Théoden hid a smile as he solemnly nodded to his nephew. The boy was becoming a man; it was important that Théoden acknowledge that in whatever decisions he could allow him to take part in. He must steward the raising of his sister’s children and help them both to grow as she and Éomund would have wished. It was a responsibility he took most seriously.
“Very good. In this we shall move forward.”
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