"My wife, my lady...Elfhild," I remember saying, holding the babe awkwardly. I have the hands of a warrior, they are not fit to handle such a thing. The child, my child, began to whimper in my harsh grip. Because of tradition I have had to wait, but I shall wait no longer. "Take him," I said, pushing the child unceremoniously into the midwife's arms. I know that several women behind me were protesting, and heard the rising squall of the babe, but did not heed them.
The stench of blood has not been shocking to me since I was young and first learning to fight. I have seen many men, both friends and family, fall to an unglorious end in battle. All thoughts I had of being a hardened warrior and a stoic king left as I entered that room, women still lingering and my wife lying motionless among the sheets. Every fear, every doubt came back to my mind in a roaring rush of grief. The blood on my arms, on the child's blanket, was hers. The room was nearly silent.
"Elfhild..." Her breathing was uneven and laborious, and she did not respond to me. She shuddered, and after a minute of silence that lasted longer than all the hours of cries, all of the women bowed their heads and began to clean up the room. I felt a hand on my shoulder.
"Theoden-King, your son-"
"No." My voice was thick.
"He must be named. The heir to Rohan-"
"No." I was holding her hand then, and it had already begun to go cold. I know the midwife was holding the babe behind me, waiting for me to take him in my arms and begin the simple ceremony. "Leave." And then I was alone.
I have not counted the hours since my wife's death. All I know is that she is gone, and I am here. I can hear the child breathing softly in his high sided bed near me. He breathes with stolen life. How could I look at such a thief? I feel as though I have aged five hundred years this day. Yet, how can I be so completely powerless over the loss of the one thing I would have given my kingdom for? I have never had a great gift for words, preferring to use straightforward sentences and commands to rule. Elfhild taught me the beauty of language, and at the sight of her I could find myself singing songs and uttering things that would only be considered silly elsewhere. Now I can think of nothing to say for the woman who showed me how to weave words into gorgeous tapestry. No words are worthy of her.
Some say she wasn't the most beautiful of women...but she was to me. She always thought her nose was too big, or her lips too thin. She had a frail build, which is uncommon among the Rohirrim. I remember the first time I saw her, at a celebratory feast after a safe return from battle. She sang that night. There is--there was something about her, and my eyes could never stray from her, not after that night. What she might have lacked in physical beauty she made up with the music she could bring to the hall. And now...and now she will never sing for me again. Tears are slowly consuming me. I was taught a warrior should never cry, no matter what happens. Should one's best friend die in your arms, you do not cry. Crying leaves you weak, vulnerable to attack, and you may soon be the next casualty in battle. Is not all of life a battle? I have lost her in the smallest and most significant battle of my life. No, not lost. Have it stolen. Not even a goodbye.
"Let the tears come," I say. I clutch my wife's cold hand, a wetness on my face I have not experienced in many years. The choking sobs bring no relief, and do not cease. It is long before I realize that I do not cry alone.
"My Lord? He calls for his father." It is Grima, and in his arms he is holding the child. He is wailing as well, his face turning purple with the effort. "You must name him." My advisor holds the babe out to me, pretending to take no heed of my own tears and stifled sobs.
"Yes, Grima, I must." He has quieted down a bit now, and his face is returning to its normal healthy pink. He opens his eyes, a deep, intelligent blue, and looks at my blearily. "Theodred. Yes, Theodred." I raise him high in my hands as I name him, then slipped a leather cord around his neck. On it is a pendant of green with a white horse in the center.br>
"A good name, my Lord. Strong, and befitting of the heir of Rohan." Grima finally seems to take notice of my state. "Do not worry yourself about the child. You must grieve your loss, for I can see it has been a hard blow. Perhaps you should take rest outside of Edoras, after the Lady's funeral. To clear your head and grieve away from the troubles of your house."
"Yes, yes. I believe you are right, and I shall. I trust you to keep an eye on Edoras while I am gone. And make sure my son is tended to as he should be."
"Yes, my Lord," Grima replies, as he takes Theodred from my arms. My son has stopped crying and yawns widely.
"Goodbye, little thief." For you have stolen my heart as well.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.