My Favorite Aragorn Stories
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Twilight of the Gods: 18. Of Murder and Reconsideration
For what seemed to him like an eternity, Éomer could think of nothing to say. He couldn’t move. He could do nothing but stare at the older man in utter, stark shock.
“Grodes… is dead?”
“Killed in his sleep, his throat cut.” Gamling looked as pale as Éomer figured he himself was looking. “Right among his kinsmen. They were all sleeping next to him on the floor when it happened, and none noticed anything. At least that is what they claim. And their guard was killed, too.”
“But – what about our own guards? Where were they? How could anyone enter the chamber without them taking notice? Or…” Another horrible thought came to the king’s mind. From behind, he heard swift footsteps as Lothíriel got up to investigate. He turned around and simultaneously grabbed his boots. “Grodes was killed last night. I will go and see what I can do. Although I don’t suppose there is anything left to rescue the peace talks.” He only caught a brief glimpse of widening brown eyes before he stepped outside into the corridor to follow Gamling to the source of the clamour further back. “Does Elessar already know about this?”
“I woke you first, sire, but I am quite certain that he will have picked up on the disturbance just like you did. And there he is already!” The Royal Guardian indicated the opening door further back, from where a very disturbed looking Gondorian king emerged, still trying to get his arms into the sleeves of his shirt as he hastened to join them with long strides.
“I heard shouts from the hall…”
Éomer’s lips tightened.
“Grodes was killed during the night. I’m on my way to find out more myself.” His grim face indicated how much of a catastrophe he deemed the horrible tidings. Aragorn nodded, stunned but ready to face whatever lay waiting for them.
“I’m coming with you.”
Together, the three men strode in haste through the great hall to the other side of Meduseld, where the guest chambers lay. The agitated chatter of the Dunlending delegates rose in volume as they approached, making it obvious how frightened but at the same time outraged the eleven remaining men were. As soon as they noticed the Rohirrim king, Woldro was about to stride to him, but the Rohirrim guards had already collected the short swords the Dunlendings had been carrying and stood around the viciously cursing group, blocking the way, and only Éomer's short nod made them step aside. The hillman walked away from the cluster of yelling men to intercept Éomer and spit at his feet, his face red with fury and a thick vein bulging on his neck.
“This is exactly what I expected, forgoil-king! I knew Rohirrim were not trustworthy! We come here, trust you! Talk with you! Grodes, he offers you peace! And you, you…” he made a cut-throat gesture as words failed him. From behind, Durden and the others glowered at their hosts with similar expressions – anger and fear, muttering in their language, what could be understood as curses without further knowledge. It was obvious they had tried to make for the gates and the Rohirrim had kept them from storming through the city.
“I understand your distress, Woldro, but please, grant me the time to find out what happened for myself, will you? At this point, I do not know anything.”
“You want us to wait while you look and pretend? You want to keep us here to kill us, too? We will not! We leave at once or you can kill us right here! But then know that your men will never return!”
“You cannot leave here on your own,” Éomer raised his voice, his own temper boiling. From brief bliss, the morning had straightway developed to a nightmare of the worst kind. “You have no horses, and you cannot travel through the Mark unprotected! You should be aware of it!”
“And your men protect us?” Durden spat from behind. “Like here, inside your house? Good protection this was, Éomer-King! Very good! You only put guards outside our door to keep us inside, keep us like prisoners to get killed at night – under your orders!” He continued his rant in Dunlendish, and Éomer turned away to mutter under his breath to Gamling:
“Send for Thor. I need him here urgently. Also get Elfhelm and Galdur.”
“Woldro,” Aragorn in the meantime turned to the enraged hillmen, “… what has happened is as much of a blow to us as to you, you must believe us! We will do everything in our power to find the ones responsible for it, but you will have to grant us the time Éomer-King asked you. We need to see for ourselves, and we will have to talk with the guards!”
Black eyes seething with hatred stared at him.
“King of Gondor, this meeting was under your protection! You guaranteed nothing would happen to us. And now? Two are dead! What say you now? You failed! You lied to us! You looked away to let your ally act like he wanted!”
“That is not true, and you know it, Woldro. If King Éomer would have wanted to, he could have let you all be killed on the ride. Why should he wait until you have come here? But let us not talk about this now. We need to find out what happened.”
“Woldro, Durden…” Éomer turned back, acknowledging the others with a nod while he waved one of the waiting servants over. “No matter what you say, you will have to wait. Please follow Hélath here over to the throne room and assemble around the hearth, and King Elessar and I will join with you momentarily.” An insistent nod. “Please? Let us have a look first, and then we will talk.”
“There is no need to talk anymore, forgoil-king! But it proves right, we cannot leave here like this. We are indeed your prisoners, just like you planned! We wait for you, but no matter what, we only stay until noon. Curse you, strawhead! Curse you for making us come here! May the gods punish you and your people!” Once again Durden switched into his native tongue, and only upon Woldro’s insistent tug at his sleeve did he and his kinsmen clear the way to the chambers to make for the great hall, accompanied by the guards. Durden's heated cursing could still be heard for a long time.
After exchanging a long, dreading glance with his concerned friend, Éomer took a deep breath and opened the door, for once ignoring the two guards who stood stone-faced next to it in expectation of his questioning.
“Careful, sire,” one of them said lowly. “The dead guard lies right behind the door. We left everything as we found it.”
The other man, whom Éomer recognised as the one who had held the first watch, also stepped closer, urgency on his face.
“We swear we did not enter this room at all, sire, and neither did anyone else, at least not from our side! If it was any of our men, they must have come from the window, or, the way I suspect it, they murdered him themselves!”
“What?” Éomer’s attention was immediately drawn to the scene of slaughter in the back of the room. Grodes’ dead body was still lying there, and even from a distance, the jagged slash that had killed him was clearly visible under his dark beard. A great red pool of blood had soaked the sheets and dried on the floor, and the stench was nauseating. Blood, sweat and ale. Setting his jaw, Éomer let his gaze sweep over the gruesome sight. He remembered well how drunken his guests had been after the dinner. For all their stout and hardy condition, Dunlendings apparently were not accustomed to the strong brews the Mark had to offer. He narrowed his eyes as he shifted his attention to the guard. “What do you mean? Did you hear anything from inside?”
“No, sire, but really… who should have done it? None of us would ever act against your orders, let alone commit treason! I cannot believe that a Rohirrim did this! That Durden, on the other hand, he seemed not content with his leader’s choices at all. When they got back into the room for the night, there were heated words. I did not understand them as they were Dunlendish, but that Durden certainly sounded furious. I would not be surprised if he knew more about this than he is telling. It was obvious that he is very much against a peace with us.”
“But would he kill his kinsmen?” Aragorn uttered, again meeting his friend’s eyes as he stepped over the body of the guard into the room and squatted down to inspect the dead body. The Dunlending’s throat had been cut, but he had not bled as much as Grodes. Yet when he lifted the old and partly torn cloak, which lay beside the dead body, a large spot was crusted with dark blood. “That man was dead quickly, but the murderer covered him before removing the weapon.” He looked closer at the ugly wound by cautiously turning the man’s neck and frowned. Then moved it again. “His throat was cut, but I do not believe that this wound brought him to death.” Deep in thought, he rested his forearm on his knee.
“What are you saying?” Éomer ground his teeth as he looked down on the fallen hillman with barely restrained frustration and disgust. As the first Rohirrim king ever, he had granted his foes access to the Golden Hall for negotiations, and this was how they repaid him? “I know how hardy Dunlendings are, but even they will fall when their throats are cut.” Aragorn slowly shook his head as he met his gaze.
“This man’s neck was broken. The knife wound was inflicted on him when he was already dead, which is why he did not bleed as much as Grodes.” He could see the effect of his words in Éomer’s expression. The Rohirrim narrowed his eyes.
“What do you mean? That whoever killed him cut him up later to make it look as if he was knifed?” He shrugged as he once again looked at the body, not certain whether he liked what Aragorn seemed to be steering at. The block of solid ice his stomach had turned into with the morning’s ill news would not melt. “Why do that? What would the assassin want to achieve by that? “
“Well…” Aragorn rose from his crouch and looked over to the window. “What, in your experience, is the most common way of a Dunlending to dispose of his enemies?”
The Rohirrim’s brow furrowed.
“Slashing his throat.” A brief nod at the two corpses. “Hence the scene of slaughter we are looking at.” Aragorn nodded as he - slowly and with his gaze directed to the ground - walked over to the window to look out.
“Aye. And we are meant to believe that a Dunlending did this. But I am not so sure.” Noticing the shadow that suddenly crept over Éomer’s face, he added, “The man’s neck is broken, but to inflict this kind of damage, the assassin must have been close to the man. He could not achieve this by entering through the door, for your own guards would have noticed him. This leaves the window, unless there are secret paths into this room...”
Éomer’s expression darkened even more as he stepped up to the Gondorian, looking through the opening.
“There is one, but it is known only to Gamling and myself. All of Meduseld is riddled with hidden pathways, but they are a secret that has been handed down only among the members of the royal families and their counsellors. They were built as a measure of defence if ever a foe would invade the Golden Hall. We can exclude this possibility, but there is another one: As soon as Grodes was asleep, Durden rose to kill him. The guard got in the way, so he killed him, first, maybe just making sure by cutting his throat in addition to breaking his neck that he was really dead. It would sound like the likeliest solution to this riddle, at least to me.” In a half-hearted attempt to discover telltale signs of what had happened during the night, his glance briefly brushed over the windowsill before it came to rest on his Gondorian counterpart. Aragorn weighed his head pensively.
“That possibility remains, of course. But Durden could have stabbed him from behind. The guard would not have considered him a threat. And the anger and fear of Durden and the others seems to be genuine. I feel inclined to believe them.”
“Instead of me,” Éomer stated indignantly, but swallowed the bitter words on his tongue in an attempt to be constructive. He wanted that riddle solved as much as Aragorn. “The assailant came through the window, you say? But what kind of guard other than a dead one would have failed to notice that?”
“What if the guard was already dead when he entered? That he was lured to the window and killed there? And when the assassin entered, he dragged the body deeper into the room, and cut his throat to make it look as if the man had been killed by his own companions. This would explain why he bled so little. Outside lies the path that leads to the back of Meduseld, is that right?”
A dangerous glint flickered to life in his opposite’s dark eyes, a sure sign that the Rohirrim King did not like the implications:
“That path lies in full view of the doorwardens, you have to pass them when you enter it.” He inhaled deeply, and at last could not hold back his anger. “You seem truly insistent to blame my people with this hideous deed, Aragorn. Grodes and his guard were killed in a room full of Dunlendings, in the way of the Dunlendings. Never mind that the guard’s neck was broken, it proves nothing. You heard what Eldred said: They were quarrelling among themselves even when they entered the room! Why are you so determined to make accuse a Rohirrim of this slaughter?”
“Ask the doorwardens, whether they saw anything during the night.” Aragorn looked at the dead Grodes. There were no signs of a fight. The man had died before he had even woken. “Perhaps he was disturbed. Or he wanted a Dunlending to be blamed for it ... or one of them did indeed kill his own kinsmen. I cannot say.” He inhaled deeply, again shaking his head, searching the floor and windowsill for any signs the intruder had left.
“Believe what you may, I know that none of my men did this,” Éomer declared forcefully. He swivelled, looking back at the waiting guards. “Eldred, I need to know exactly what you heard and when. Do you swear that no one entered this room during your watch, and that neither you nor the other guard abandoned your post even for a moment last night?”
“My lord, of course not!” The guard’s eyes widened. “I swear it! I take my duty very seriously, sire. I would never abandon my post, and I can say the same for Álmund.” He saw the king’s satisfied nod with relief and continued, even if Éomer was already turning his back on him again to let his glance sweep the room for anything he might have overlooked. “Their quarrel… it happened immediately after they entered the room; in fact they were already quarrelling when they arrived. That Durden, like I said, he seemed truly angry with their leader, and they got really loud. Yet I cannot say what they discussed, because…”
“…you do not understand their tongue. I understand.” Éomer finished his sentence, feeling beat. What was he supposed to make of the situation? Was there indeed a traitor in Meduseld, as Aragorn was insinuating? Or was Eldred right and Durden had killed Grodes himself to prevent him from achieving peace with a people he despised? The room did not tell him his secret as he stared at the dead tribal leader for one last time and then turned to the Gondorian King. “Come. It is time to see what we can salvage, even if I do not suspect that there is much left for us to do. Whoever killed Grodes, killed the chance for peace among our people, and he desecrated Meduseld. Never before had blood been spilled within these halls.”
With Aragorn at his side, the Rohirrim King approached the waiting Dunlendings. Their clamour could be heard through the entire hall and beyond; already word had spread about the incident, and it would not take long until the whole city would get the tidings. The young king pressed his lips tight upon meeting the angry leaders again. Woldro and Durden turned to face them.
“Now you saw yourself!” Durden spat. “What now? Will you kill us here too? That was the plan, was it not… King of Murderers?”
“I could have spared myself much trouble had I ordered my men to kill you on the way! Will you not see it?” Éomer growled, taking a quick step in the Dunlending’s direction, but Aragorn put a hand on his friend’s shoulder to hold him back.
“Gentlemen, this is not the way to finding the murderer. We do understand your anger and your grief upon losing your leader, Woldro… Durden.” He quickly let his gaze wander over the faces of the hillmen, but none of them gave anything away. Neither of them avoided his inquisitive look. “We inspected the room, but there were no clear signs to be found of who killed Grodes and the guard.”
“That is obvious! One of the king's men, who else! We won't wait here longer and listen to your lies!”
“Looks like you are the one who’s lying, Durden!” Éomer replied heatedly, finally tired of restraining himself any longer. “You quarrelled with him yesterday, even when you entered your room for the night! Why should not you have killed Grodes to prevent him from concluding a peace treaty with us? You made it abundantly clear that you are not interested in negotiations at all!”
“You accuse me, forgoil-king, of murdering my own kin? That is unheard of!” Durden was about to attack the king when the guards moved in, blocking him. Steaming, he turned to Aragorn. “Is this Rohirrim hospitality? Murder and insults? Must we stay to hear this? Was it not you saying that all this should end?”
“Nothing is set, Durden.” Aragorn's voice and posture made clear he would not yield. “The murderer acted quietly and hideously. He knew what he was doing and left no clear traces behind. It cannot be determined whether he had come from Rohan or Dunland. So if you do not want to be accused you should refrain from accusing others. Be assured that King Éomer will try to find the man who did this, and in the meantime you are free to leave. But you should ask yourself and your company if you are free of doubt that one of you prefers old hatred to the chance for peace.”
Durden’s reply was unintelligible, and upon Éomer curt nod, the guards accompanied the unwilling guests down to the stables, where the riders had already saddled up their horses. Éomer and Aragorn followed the group and waited until they had departed.
The King of Gondor had wished for the day to be remembered as the first day of peace between the neighbours east and west of the River Isen. Instead of hopes for prosperity now the old hatred was thriving and strong again. The negotiations had failed due to the intervention of an enemy yet unknown. No doorwarden or member of the Royal Guard had seen an intruder, and Aragorn still pondered why the murderer had cut the guard’s throat after he had already been killed. Could there truly be a traitor amid Éomer’s men? But that was only one of many riddles in this slaughter. It was unclear why the enemy had waited until the hillmen had been in Meduseld. To blame Éomer? To create a justification for a war with the Dunlendings? Or to prevent peace?
Éomer had sent a servant to ask for his attendance, and Aragorn kissed his wife gently, unwilling to leave her again.
“Try and encourage him,” Arwen said before letting go. “Do not let Queen Lothíriel's efforts be in vain.”
“It does not look like there is much of a chance left.”
She followed him to the door.
“A traitor can be found and sentenced, but if Éomer leaves the chosen path now there will be no hope for peace left.”
Aragorn found the Great Hall empty except for the guards and doorwardens, assuming their usual positions for the night. In the hearth a fire still gleamed, and torches were lit alongside the walls and pillars. Éomer was already waiting for him, his face a display of accumulated anger and festering frustration. He had wanted to accomplish so much, and yet the disaster had left him with nothing to show for all his relentless effort. No doubt his people would see it with relief and a degree of satisfaction, but Éomer was aware of the fact that this colossal failure would severely harm his reputation and the respect people had for him. The loss of authority stemming from this one mistake could not be estimated yet, but the king harboured no doubts that it would be substantial. Upon hearing his friend’s steps coming up from behind, he turned around.
“There are no new tidings from the guards and all who were questioned. I have to agree with the guards: The Dunlendings must have done it themselves. I am certain of that now. Quite a cunning strategy of them, if you ask me. We cannot prove it.”
“But would this be likely?” Aragorn replied quietly. “Would it strike you as something they would do?” Éomer's stare told him that it was so. The older man exhaled and stepped closer, accepting the tankard Éomer offered him. “Haven’t you seen their faces? Or heard their voices? I do not believe that Dunlendings could lie so well. They are a very straightforward, emotional people, just like the Rohirrim. It is this very character trait that makes negotiations between you so hard: it is your pride and unwillingness to consider the other’s perspective. But tell me, my friend, what was your impression of them?”
The Rohirrim’s eyes sparkled in the flickering light of the torches.
“I will not believe that it was one of my men! I will not let that stand, Aragorn. And that the hillfolk has learned to lie is of little surprise to me after what they have already done to us. Secretly arming themselves and learning to fight goes hand in hand with it. They are still lesser in number than we, so they make up the missing hands with crookedness.” He shook his head. “It fits perfectly, once you think it through.”
Staring at the dark liquid in his tankard, Aragorn remained silent for moment longer, collecting himself. Éomer was in the process of falling back into his old ways of thinking, simply blocking the signs he, too, ought to have been alarmed by.
“Aye. I agree that it could have been Durden. He is certainly strong enough and of a violent temper, and he was not in agreement with Grodes. He would have killed him and the guard this way to direct the suspicion toward your men. But you can also not deny that the method of this murder could likewise point toward a Rohirrim.”
“Then why not kill them all? It would have been easy enough. They were all drunken senseless when they left the dinner table.” Éomer resumed his pacing, consumed by restlessness and tension. The mere idea of a traitor within the holy hall of Meduseld was a devastating thought. It was not the Rohirrims’ way to cut sleeping people’s throats. Yet grudgingly, he had to admit that Aragorn was right - he could not reject the possibility entirely, as much as he would have liked to.
Aragorn waited until he could be certain of the other man’s attention before he answered.
“First and foremost, if the murderer had killed all of them, only a Rohirrim could have been guilty. Second, there would have been no need for a Dunlending to first break the guard’s neck and cut his throat afterwards. Third, the fact that the men were drunk only indicates that none of them would have been able to do it.”
“A Rohirrim would have had to enter the room from outside. The doorwardens would have seen him. Gamling interrogated them. The saw no one, and I will not believe that they lied.”
“There was no need to. What if their attention was distracted on purpose? Maybe the assassin planned to reach the path while they went looking, and the guards were too ashamed to admit that.” Aragorn intercepted Éomer's restless walk through the hall. His friend stared at him stubbornly, but it was written in his features that his objection was not heartfelt. And there was also dread of what it would mean if he were right. The complete trust of the Rohirrim in their king, that foundation the Mark was build on... was it already lost? Did his kinsmen feel they had to take their fate into their own hands now, since their king was no longer protecting them, a state that would even make high treason plausible to them, something that had never happened in the history of Rohan? Was it in fact him they regarded as the traitor now?
Éomer forbade himself to further think about the possible implications. It could not be.
“They would not have lied. Rohirrim don’t lie, Aragorn! It is not in our blood!”
“Either way, you have to face it, my friend: The traitor may be among your own men. You know that many of them were against your decision of inviting the Dunlendings to Edoras. You saw the reactions of the citizens when Grodes and the others passed through the gates. What if one of them thought it to be the only way to end these negotiations?”
Éomer swallowed, not willing to follow the thought down. The quarrel with the old warrior he had always considered his hero still lingered on his mind.
“There is none I can think of to have done it,” he stated, but his friend could clearly see Éomer's doubts.
“There is one.” Aragorn’s voice dropped in volume but grew in intensity. “One who, as you told me, almost fought you for his beliefs and you threw him in the dungeon for it. Are you so sure he would not resort to killing in order to keep you from walking a path he considers wrong and devastating for the people of Rohan?”
The thought was horrifying… and yet plausible. It froze Éomer in his tracks.
“Erkenbrand is loyal.”
“Loyal to Rohan,” Aragorn replied, holding the younger king in his stare. “Lord Erkenbrand almost went so far as to rouse your people against your decision. He will stay true to what he believes. And those beliefs might lead a man to desperate measures.”
Brusquely, the Rohirrim King turned away, unwilling to hear the accusations against his valiant and respected marshal any longer. His heart raced. He had never thought that one of his own men – and least of all a warrior as true and honoured as the Lord of Westfold – could one day be suspected of being a traitor. Was Aragorn right? Was it possible that Erkenbrand had chosen that path as a last measure to make sure Rohan would never be invaded by Dunlendings? It could not be! And yet he saw the old warrior’s hate-filled gaze clearly in front of his inner eye.
Out of the corner of his eyes, Éomer caught a glimpse of movement in the back of the hall. Someone was moving within the deep shadows, away from them.
“Who goes there?”
The shadow did not halt as it disappeared in the direction of the servants’ quarters. Briefly narrowing his eyes but still unable to identify the person, Éomer turned his attention back to his friend. The man – or woman – must not have heard him. After all, he had not used his usual, loud voice because it was already late, and Aragorn and himself were presumably the only people still awake within Meduseld. Shrugging, Éomer turned back after having waited a moment longer for a reaction that never came. His head was still reeling from Aragorn’s insinuations.
“You know what it would mean if it turned out to be true, brother?” He swallowed, and his features became even darker than they had been the whole day. “You know what I would have to do then? I would have to order Marshal Erkenbrand’s execution!” The mere thought stole his breath away. Silently, with widened eyes, Éomer shook his head. “I would have to order the execution of the Mark’s most esteemed warrior! There would be only one result possible from this: Rohan would burn in a civil war! If I dared to accuse Erkenbrand of high treason… the Westfold would not take it. I know.”
Aragorn’s grey eyes rested solemnly on him. He had been very clear about the implications when he had uttered the thought.
“I fear you are right, Éomer. But if it turns out to be true, what will you do? Swallow his disobedience? For the good of Rohan?” A long silence followed his words. Finally, the younger man turned away to resume his pacing. Already it was clear to the Rohirrim King that he would vainly seek oblivion in sleep for yet another night. After what had happened that day, there was no possibility for him to come to rest. When would this ordeal ever end? Why had he not chosen the simpler path, like so many of his predecessors? Why had he listened to Lothíriel? With a deep breath, he came to a decision, and his gaze hardened as he stared at his Gondorian friend.
“I will ride to Dunland the day after tomorrow. I will follow them. On the way, I will summon two or three éoreds, and if my men are not released, I will cross the river and find them myself! In the meantime, we will do what is in our power to find Grodes’ murderer, even if I cannot tell what is left to be done that we didn’t think of before.” He raised his chin in defiance. “Do not misunderstand me, Aragorn: I will do whatever I can to solve this riddle, but I will not forget my abducted kinsmen over it.”
“And once in Dunland will you fight your way through them, or make one last attempt to negotiate with the leaders once you meet them?”
Éomer did not evade his inquisitive stare. The silence that followed his questions was even longer than the one before.
“I cannot tell you yet, brother. I assume it remains to be seen in what manner they await us once we’ve crossed the Isen.” He thought of his wife. Of what it would do to her, and to their relationship, if he went to war now against her explicit wish. And he thought of his marshals and the people that trusted in him and had been alienated by the course he had steered for the last weeks. Would he have them on his side again, once he returned to the way the Rohirrim rulers had reigned for centuries? Or would they remain distrustful of him or - worse yet - view him as even weaker than they had thought, because he would yield from a chosen path upon the first obstacle? Who was he to let himself be defeated and his plans destructed by one filthy traitor, anyway? Somewhere deep inside him, resistance began to rise. He had led his land to this point. These had been the first peace negations between Rohirrim and Dunlendings in history! He would not allow anyone to thwart him now!
With more conviction than before, he countered Aragorn’s gaze. The older man had patiently waited for his answer, knowing that it had not been an easy one to give. And as he saw the resolute expression in his counterpart’s features, he felt thoroughly relieved.
“If it is still your goal to negotiate, I will accompany you to Dunland.”
“Let us see what revelations tomorrow will bring. You believe it could have been Erkenbrand, or a man carrying out his orders, I do not.”
“I do not give much on beliefs, my friend. I cannot prove who did it, but it would seem to me as if you can only beat that traitor by following the chosen path.”
“And if Durden did it himself?”
“We will find out.”
“I will not enter Dunland unprepared.”
“Their welcome will not be courteous, I agree.”
“Courtesy is not my concern. What if they attack us?”
“We will defend ourselves like we have done before.”
They locked eyes, until finally Éomer nodded curtly.
“I will order Elfhelm to get the men ready to leave the morning after tomorrow.”
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