12. Chapter 12
“Here’s where you went wrong,” Bori said, pointing at the groups of metal soldiers on the parlor floor. “You put all your archers over here, when they should have been here and here.”
Barahir huffed, but nodded his agreement. They were having one last game of soldiers before Bori had to leave Gondor.
Theo smirked. Poor Barahir. He’d thought his hobbit cousin would be an easy enemy, but Bori always won their battles. Bori seemed to have a head for tactics, whether it was soldiers or chess. Barahir had received the metal armies as a Yule gift--tiny replicas of Gondorians and Rohirrim, Easterlings and Orcs. Minas Tirith (an overturned vase) had fallen often to Bori’s Easterlings that winter. All of the Yule gifts for the boys--including the hobbits--from their Gondorian uncles were military in nature. Each of them--Theo, Eomer, Fari and Bori--had received a sword, while the twins had received wooden toy swords. Ivy hadn’t been very happy about that, until Pippin had reminded her that she’d had a sword at that age.
Elboron came over to look down at the aftermath of the battle. “Do you see why Bori won?” he asked his son.
Barahir nodded, his cheeks flushing pink. “Yes, sir.” He took a deep breath, then recited all the mistakes he had made in the battle.
At first, Theo had thought it harsh of Elboron to be so hard on his son because of losing a simple game of soldiers. It wasn’t like Barahir was bad at it--he defeated every other opponent he faced, whether his cousins or his friends in Emyn Arnen. But Theo had learned the first time he saw a bloodied patrol return that it wasn’t just games. Barahir would be responsible for leading those soldiers someday.
Elboron nodded when Barahir had finished, and smiled and patted his son’s head. “Good.” Then he smiled at Bori. “I think you have yourself a Captain, Pippin,” he said, turning his smile to Bori’s father.
Bori flushed with pride, but Theo caught the worried look on Pippin’s face. Next to him, Ivy bowed her head, her shoulders tense. “Perhaps,” Pippin said. He reached over to touch Ivy’s hand. Over the winter, Bori had become just as enamored of Gondor as Ari was of Rohan. Ivy and Pippin now had two sons who wanted to become soldiers.
“Look, Mum, look! Look what Uncle gave me for Yule!” Ari held up a book, almost too big for him to hold. “It’s a history of Rohan! My very own! I don’t have to go to Brandy Hall to read Granddad’s anymore!” He ran his hand over the cover, worked with the designs of Rohan in dark leather, then hugged it to his chest, his face lit up with joy.
“If he starts calling it his Precious,” Eomer mumbled to Theo, “we’d better make a run for it--ow!” Eomer rubbed his ear and exchanged glares with Pippin. Theo shook his head. Eomer should have known better than to make jokes about the Ring within earshot of Pippin. They’d learned long ago that it was not a subject to be brought up lightly in front of their dad, Pippin or Uncle Sam. Especially Uncle Sam.
Ari was now showing off his new sword to Bori. He’d received a sword for Yule as well, though his was Rohirric in design, with horses decorating the hilt. He prized that even more than his book. He had continued his lessons with Éomund and, according to Elfwine, was proving to be quite skilled.
Theo noticed that Ari had grown some over the winter and was nearly as tall as he was. Apparently, he was going to be tall like Bori. Eomund’s mother had made new clothes for him to accommodate his growth spurt and, dressed like his Rohirrim cousins, it was hard to tell Ari was a hobbit.
That evening, Theo lay in bed, the necklace dangling between his fingers. They’d only stay a few days in Edoras before heading home to the Shire. If the weather held, they’d be home in time for his birthday. He’d decided he’d give the necklace to Rose then, as his birthday present. She certainly couldn’t refuse it then, right? And before leaving Ithilien, he’d asked one of Ivy’s friends--Brenna--to help him find a suitably romantic poem to go with it. Brenna had been quite enthusiastic about it. She’d gotten all teary eyed when he’d explained what he was planning to do, and had gushed over how sweet and romantic he was. Theo didn’t know about that, but if Brenna thought it was mushy and romantic, then hopefully it would work on Rose. Brenna had a small book of ancient poetry and she found him one that seemed suitable: the tale of a Núnenórean sailor who fought many obstacles to come home to the lass he loved more than anything.
“What’s that you’ve got?”
Theo startled at Eomer’s sleepy voice. He closed his fist over the necklace and tucked it under the blanket. He’d thought his brother was asleep. “Nothing.”
Eomer sat up, rubbing his eyes. “It wasn’t ‘nothing’, Theo. Even from way over here I could see you have something shiny in your hand. It was nearly glowing in the moonlight. What is it?”
Theo sighed. He hadn’t wanted to tell anyone about the necklace--he’d debated for days before deciding to let Brenna in on it. But it was Eomer. He figured if he could tell anyone, it would be his brother. “Do you promise not to tell? Not anyone? For a while, at least.”
Eomer got up and came over to sit on the edge of Theo’s bed. “Sure, Theo,” he said quietly. “You know I won’t.”
Theo nodded and sat up, then pulled his hand out from under the blanket.
“You have to tell me, too!” Fari scrambled up onto the other side of Theo’s bed.
Theo frowned at his cousin. “I thought you were a heavy sleeper?”
Fari grinned and shrugged, then leaned forward to look at Theo’s closed fist. “I guess I wake up if you’re planning on keeping secrets from me.” He looked up at Theo with puppy-dog eyes. “You won’t, will you?”
Theo exchanged looks with Eomer. Eomer shrugged, then poked Fari in the arm. “You’d better keep Theo’s secret,” Eomer said, “or I’ll throw you in the Brandywine.”
“All right!” Fari looked expectantly at Theo. “So what is it?”
Theo opened his hand, revealing the pendant.
“A necklace?” Fari whined. “Don’t worry. I won’t have trouble keeping that a secret.” He crossed his arms and huffed. “I thought it was something exciting, like... um... I don’t know. Something. Not a necklace, though.”
“What’s it for?” Eomer asked, pointedly ignoring Fari.
“Queen Arwen gave it to me,” Theo said. He held it up. The mithril did seem to glow in the moonlight. No wonder Eomer saw it. “It’s a courting gift for elves. Her dad had given it to her mum.”
“Why’d she give it to you?” Eomer asked. He reached out and brushed a finger over the delicate chain.
“To give to Rose.”
Fari coughed. “Rose? But--”
Eomer clapped a hand over Fari’s mouth and frowned at Theo. “You know she might be betrothed when we get back, right? Frodo had said things were moving quickly between them.” He let go of Fari’s mouth and sighed. “I don’t want to see you hurt anymore, Theo.”
“I know.” Theo swallowed the lump in his throat. Sometimes, Eomer reminded him so much of their mum, with his caring brown eyes and kind heart. “I know it’s only a chance. But... I have to take it.” He bowed his head and shrugged. “I love her.”
They sat in silence for a moment--even Fari didn’t have something to say for once, then Eomer patted his shoulder. “We’ll be there for you, no matter what happens. Right, Fari?”
“Right.” Fari giggled. “And if she turns you down, I’m sure I can get Pip to put frogs in her bed or something. Pip doesn’t like that hobbit she’s seeing. He said he’s boring.”
Theo chuckled. “Thanks, Fari.” He was glad he had told Eomer and Fari now, to have their support when he faced Rose. And it was nice to know that there was at least one other Gamgee besides Frodo on his side.
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.