Lord Théodred is concerned. All through the hot days of summer, he has sought out and destroyed Orcs where he has found them. But something is wrong -- there are not enough Orcs. Summer is when these foul creatures are most active, and in past years, it has often been a struggle to keep Rohan safe. This summer, however, it is as if the Orcs have gained some sort of insight into the Rohirrim’s defenses. He and his men find traces of camps, signs of Orcish activity -- but too frequently, no Orcs. Much time is spent tracking the creatures down, time which could be spent protecting outlying villages.
He suspects the Orcs are being fed information of the Riders‘ movements, and knows, with every instinct he possesses, that such information is coming from Gríma Wormtongue. But he has no proof, nothing upon which he can act. Gríma is canny, and no hint of his treacherous behaviour can be found. Théodred cannot speak to his father the King of his suspicions, for Gríma is always lurking at Théoden’s elbow. And Théoden has grown more distant and less coherent of late. The King has good days and bad, but even when his father seems perfectly lucid, Théoden is less and less likely to tolerate any words against his advisor.
Théodred is also wary, for, though all éoreds
are occupied in slowly hunting Orcs down, there has been no word of increased attacks on such isolated areas. The activity of the Orcs has not significantly increased or decreased; it is simply that the beasts are harder to find. He does not understand why this should be. It makes no sense.
For reasons Théodred does not know, the King has begun to keep a strict watch on the doings of the Third Marshal, and Éomer is growing more and more frustrated. Théoden has never done so before, trusting to the Second Marshal his son to deal with and report any disciplinary problems. Théodred knows that his young cousin is offended and infuriated by the restrictions which have been imposed upon him for no clear reason.
I know that it is insulting, Éomer. But you
must be wary of seeming rebellious. I tell you, Gríma is looking for a way to rid himself of you, and me, and he would be more than pleased to charge either of us with treason. And no matter what his motivations, no-one in Rohan could deny his right to do so if we flout the will of the King. I cannot do without you -- you must not give Wormtongue that opportunity.
Although Théodred does not like to admit that his father the King has any failings, he cannot deny that Théoden’s state of mind is not what it once was. It is not apparent for all to see yet -- presently the King seems merely weakened in body -- but his kin and those closest to him are aware of the change.
He speaks of this to Eledher one night, for she has recently taken over all chambermaid duties for the King and spends much more time in the royal presence.
How seems my father to you?
She turns on her side to face him, and Théodred is surprised when she answers with deep anxiety, as if he were her own father. He does not eat as he should. I can tell by the state of his bed that some nights he does not sleep in it, or at all, and he depends too much on ale. Sometimes…
She is hesitant to continue, until he makes an impatient gesture for her to go on.
Many times he calls me Théodwyn , and once he called me Elfhild. Sometimes he does not appear to notice I am in the room, but he will talk to people who are not there.
Théodred knows there is nothing he can do to stop his father’s decline, and he is filled with helpless anger. He does not share his concerns with his cousins; both Éomer and Éowyn have enough worries of their own. He certainly cannot discuss such matters with other Riders, or even with other Lords, for it would undermine the country‘s confidence in Théoden son of Thengel. So he begins to unburden himself to Eledher, for he knows that she does not spread rumours as so many other of the servants do. He does not speak to her of his misgivings about Gríma Wormtongue, for it would be highly improper for him to voice such unfounded accusations to her, no matter how close-mouthed she is.
She listens, and does not try to reassure him that everything will be all right, for which he is grateful. He finds her calming in this respect, and in others as well. Eledher does not suggest that he should make their arrangement permanent. She does not hint that she might be with child, nor put forth any effort to wring jealousy from him. She does not ask for special treatment in the household, nor does she flaunt her connection to him to any in the Meduseld. Nearly every other woman Théodred has taken into his bed have done one of these things, and those women grew tedious very quickly. Eledher is a welcome change, as well as satisfying company, and he is often soothed by her presence.
She still has occasional nightmares, but these restless nights do not often disturb him. A gentle touch or word from Théodred sends Eledher into quiet, dreamless slumber, and he rarely need wake fully to so comfort her. He wonders how well she rests when he is in the field.
Théodred comes to the breakfast table one morning yawning hugely, and Éomer grins knowingly. Perhaps you should
sleep at night, cousin. Though I have heard she is rather lively.
Éowyn rolls her eyes, but Théodred is unaccountably irritated by this jest, and his reply is sharp. She does not always sleep well, cousin. And as a result,
I do not sleep well.
Éomer looks startled at Théodred’s tone. If she keeps you from slumber, why do you not simply send her to her own bed?
Théodred’s irritation threatens to become anger, and he keeps a tight rein on his temper. I fail to see how that, or her “liveliness” is any concern of yours, Éomer. Might I eat in peace?
He turns to his food, for as far as Théodred is concerned, the conversation is over, and he does not see the puzzled, faintly concerned look that passes between Éomer and Éowyn.
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.