9. Chapter 9
Despite his foul mood, Theo had to smile at his nephew. Ari chattered excitedly as they approached Edoras, relaying all the facts and history he’d learned while reading about the Rohirric city. The boy had leaned so far out of the wagon to get a better view that Bori was holding his brother’s coat to make sure he didn’t fall.
“Now I know what an elf looks like when he first sees Valinor,” Eomer whispered to Theo.
Theo nodded. Ari had been beside himself when he’d’ learned they were coming to Rohan. Ever since he was old enough to understand the stories his grandmother told--stories of Rohan and the kings he was descended from--Ari had been obsessed with all things Rohirric. He’d pushed himself to learn to read, just to be able to understand the big leather tomes of Rohirric history and law in his grandfather’s library that had been a gift from Éomer King.
Pippin spoke to the guards, then the massive gates at the bottom of the mound were opened to let them pass into Edoras. Theo looked up the hill along the road that wound it’s way between the small houses, taking them to the very top. People stopped their work as they passed by, bowing and curtseying polite greetings. A Rider had left Isengard yesterday to alert the king of their arrival--Theo supposed word had gotten around that it was their king’s niece arriving in the wagon full of hobbits today.
Meduseld looked the same as Theo remembered it from their visit fifteen years ago, the summer before Ivy had married Pippin. The Golden Hall was set on top of the great mound, keeping watch over the people that surrounded it. Theo knew that if he walked to the far side of the hall, it suddenly dropped off: a long fall off the rocky cliff. He didn’t think he could live here and call a place like this ‘home’. Home to him was down on the ground. Or under it. A warm and cozy smial to share with a wife and children. He sighed. But he wouldn’t have a wife or children, so what did it matter where he lived?
“Theo?” Eomer asked.
Theo shook his head. Eomer must have caught him frowning again. He had to quit letting those thoughts get to him. “I’m fine,” he mumbled and turned his attention back to their destination. They were nearly there, to the small yard near the stable below Meduseld. Then they would climb the massive stairway to the hall itself.
Ari jumped from the wagon as soon as it stopped. “Ari!” Ivy called after him.
“I’ll get him,” Theo said. He could use the distraction anyway. He hopped down from his pony and tossed the reins to Eomer. Then he trotted off after his nephew.
Ari was already halfway up the steps. He turned back to look at Theo as he scrambled upwards. “Gran said that...” But the rest of his words were blown away by a gust of wind. Theo frowned, huffing his way up the steps, trying not to get bowled over. They were above the protection of the other buildings now and he’d forgotten just how strong the wind could get here. Or maybe he just noticed it more, now that he was older and didn’t have the energy of a teen. He stopped to catch his breath for a moment, watching Ari go up the final steps to the entrance of Meduseld. Now he knew why hobbits had chosen to live underground.
He pushed himself up the final stretch of stairs. Ari had stopped on the huge porch, gazing in awe at the pillars carved with beasts--horses, maybe? Or perhaps dragons?
A tall man stepped out from the doorway. Though he was a little grayer than when Theo had last seen him, and he was dressed in a simple tunic and breeches rather than royal raiment, Theo immediately recognized Éomer King. He was looking down at Ari, hands on hips and a smile on his face. “I see we have visitors,” the man said.
Ari looked up at him, having to tilt his head all the way back to see the man’s face. “I’m here to see Éomer King,” Ari proclaimed quite boldly. “He is my mother’s uncle.”
“Is that so?” Éomer asked. He shared an amused glance with the guard standing near the pillar.
Theo snorted, which was amazingly difficult to do when you were out of breath. Ari had never met Éomer King. Trouble with orcs in the Eastfold had kept the king from attending Éowyn’s wedding to Theo’s dad in the Shire.
Theo made it up the last few steps to the porch, trying hard not to gasp for air. He bowed to the king.
“Wes ðu hal, Théoden,” Éomer said, bowing his head in return as he said the traditional Rohirric greeting.
“Wes... ðu hal,” Theo panted. He patted Ari’s shoulder. “This is Aragorn.”
Éomer smiled. “I should have guessed, from what his grandmother has written about him.”
Ari furrowed his brow at the man. Theo chuckled at him and tugged a reddish-brown curl. “This is Éomer King, sprout.”
Ari’s eyes got huge--Theo was reminded of the owls that roosted in the stable rafters--and his mouth formed an ‘O’ of surprise. Then he dropped to one knee, head bowed. “Éomer King!” he breathed.
“You may rise, Aragorn,” the king said, winking at Theo. Ari scrambled up and gaped at the man in awe. “And no more bowing,” Éomer said, patting Ari’s head. “I am your mother’s uncle after all.”
Theo crept through the quiet hallway of Meduseld, making his way towards the kitchen. He couldn’t sleep--he hadn’t gotten a good night’s sleep since August, really--and it sometimes helped to get a snack.
It did help some, being here in Meduseld. Unlike at home, he wasn’t left with too much time to think. In the two days they’d been here, he’d been kept busy with riding and practicing swords and chasing after nieces and nephews who wanted to explore the city. But his mind seemed to make up for it at night, keeping him awake wondering about Rose.
He was surprised to see a light in the kitchen, and he heard the murmur of soft voices. Someone else couldn’t sleep? He tiptoed closer, wanting to find out who it was before interrupting them.
“We just don’t know how to help him.” Ivy’s voice. And she was most likely talking about him.
“Perhaps the trip away will help heal his heart and he’ll find another girl when you return.” That sounded like Leofwen, Elfwine’s wife. Theo heard Ivy’s sigh. He sighed, too. Ivy knew very well he’d never try to find another girl to replace Rose.
He edged closer to the door and glanced around the corner. Ivy was sitting at the kitchen table, drinking tea with Queen Lothíriel, Leofwen and Elfleda--the wife of Beornhelm, the king and queen’s younger son. Theo pressed back against the wall. He didn’t want to interrupt them, not when they were talking about him. He turned to leave.
“Why is the girl’s family so set against Theo?” Elfleda asked. “Would it not be an honor to marry into such a respected family?” That made Theo stop in his tracks. He knew he shouldn’t listen, but all those years spent gossiping to gather information for Ivy while she was in Gondor made him turn back. Not that he’d learn anything. He’d asked Ivy the same question, since she exchanged letters with Elanor quite often.
Ivy coughed slightly. “You have to understand, with hobbits... Well, hobbits are quite set in their ways. Marrying outside your class is nearly unheard of, and it’s never happened in the direct line of Master or Thain. And the Gamgees...” She sighed again. “They only want to protect Rose. If they allowed the courtship, many hobbits would see it as an attempt by Sam to use his friendship with my father to make his daughter Mistress of Buckland. And he had been accused of that, when Theo and Rose were still seeing each other.”
Theo let out a breath. Ivy hadn’t told him about that, that Uncle Sam had been getting grief about it as well.
“I know they only want to do what is best for Rose,” Ivy continued sadly. “And they truly believe it’s what is best for Theo as well. I just fear for my brother. He’s going to be crushed when Rose marries another lad. And it’s almost certain that Rose will marry Mattas. Elanor said everyone is quite happy with the match. Sam is even considering letting Rose get married before she’s of age.”
Theo clapped a hand over his mouth, holding back the cry that wanted to escape. He hadn’t known any of this. He hurried away from the kitchen. He couldn’t listen anymore.
Instead of going back to his room, he went out the door to the walkway around Meduseld. He needed air. He nodded to the guard at the door, then quickly walked around to the rear of the hall, where he would be alone.
He wanted to be angry with Ivy for keeping that from him, but he knew she only wanted to protect him. And what could he have done anyway? Try to win Rose back? That had been his plan, anyway. He’d always held on to the hope that he could convince Rose to come back to him. But now that hope was slipping away--she was as good as betrothed. She might already be betrothed by the time they returned to The Shire. He only hoped they’d stay in Greenholm after the wedding, so he wouldn’t have to see them very much.
He gripped the stone wall and leaned over, looking far down the sheer cliff to the rocks and trees below, silvery gray in the moonlight. They’d dropped gourds over the edge once, the last time they were here and Elfwine and Beorfrith had still been boys. They’d made a game of it, seeing who could get the biggest splat.
Maybe he should just tip himself over the edge and have done with it? For a moment the world seemed to spin a little as he leaned farther over the wall. What would Rose think of that, if he ended up a splat on the rocks? Maybe then she’d realize how much he loved her! His fingernails dug into the mortar between the stones. What if she didn’t care, though? What if she really was happy with... him? He thought of that lad, whatever-his-name-was, and the smug smile on his face last August when he led Rose away to dance. Theo set his jaw and pushed back from the wall. No. He wouldn’t give the bastard the satisfaction of having him dead.
He leaned back against the cool wall of Meduseld. He didn’t know what to do anymore. He’d spent months worrying over how to win Rose back, and now... He sighed and walked back towards the door. Now that he knew the truth, that he’d never get Rose back, maybe he could finally sleep.
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.