War and Remembrance
24. White Flowers
You rode away in dawn's first light, at the head of your men as always, singing. You sang on as you rode past, though you knew that you may not return. May not? No you knew that you would not. We had spoken of such the night before, in the stables where we both had gone to seek comfort. I, clinging to Firefoot and ruminating on the disaster our lives had become, and you, coming to join me, silent at first, until your need to speak broke the spell night had laid on us both.
We spoke of many things that night. Theoden, Eowyn, The pathetic excuse of an advisor who was sending our world into ruin before our very eyes. We remembered the way that things had been, and dreamed of making the world better when we were given the chance. You as King, and I as First Marshall. Childish dreams of the past, yet we seemed to cling to them, even when we knew it was hopeless. We went on for an hour or more in this manner and then, then you decided to break the news, the best way you knew how.
"I am being sent to the Fords in the morning..." Those were your exact words. You looked at the ground as you said them, as if you were afraid to meet my eyes, for fear that I would know the truth. That you were not coming back. Yet I knew it already and told you to look at me. Tears seemed to shine in both our eyes, though we did not shed them. Men of the Mark of course do not cry, not even when facing death, and the loss of one who meant the world to them. The loss of so much more than a Prince, or a cousin, but the loss of a brother.
For that is what you were to me, and always will be. From the moment I arrived at Medulsed. Thirteen years spanned the difference in our ages, yet you always took time for the angry, frightened eleven year old boy whose very presence seemed to send the entire Golden Hall into chaos. Somehow you were the first to look behind that, to tear away the mask of arrogance. After that, things were never the same. It was always the two of us, and somehow it made sense despite our differences.
And that was how I knew, even when you tried to deny it, that we were spending our last moments together. When at last you admitted it, I begged you not to go, to stay somehow, to send me instead, but of course you could not. Our eyes seemed to sparkle with tears that night, and the following morning, when I watched you ride off into the dawn. Of course we did not let them fall...men of the mark do not cry. You taught me that Theodred. But you were wrong for once, for I am crying now.