16. Day 16: An Unexpected Adventure (Morwen, Thengel)
"No tea!" Morwen snapped and instantly regretted it. Her eyes searched for some sign that Berglas had been hurt by her curtness, but could see none. Her old maid had been with her through many moods and knew her well, yet that should be no excuse for her thoughtlessness.
"Forgive me, Berglas," she said, trying to summon a smile that would not quite come. "All these strangers seemed to have put me on edge."
"They have put all of us on edge, if you get my meaning, lady Morwen."
No, Morwen did not get her meaning. Or would not? What could messengers from Rohan want with Thengel? In all these years a few have come, but not nearly as many together. What is their purpose? She had determined that she would wait, patiently, as befitted a lady; but when conversation drifted to her from her husband's study, and when that conversation lapsed suddenly into rohirric—curses, if she had understood correctly; Thengel had never taught her his language, beautiful as it sounded whenever he spoke it—something could not be right. She had sent her daughters to play outside then, so that she would not be prevented from following, if not the train, at least the tone of the conversation, and she did not like what she heard.
"The lord is not best pleased," Berglas said, perhaps trying to draw her out from her silence. She realized that she had been making knots out of the fabric of her embroidery and could have well pricked herself with her needle. Setting it aside, she rose and opened the door to her sitting-room even more, disregarding all of her propriety in a desperate attempt to figure out what could distress Thengel so. In drifted her husband's baritone, countered by a couple other, less refined, voices. She bit a nail then.
Finally, the door opened and out stormed Thengel. She met him halfway down the hallway.
"Where is Theoden?" he asked, grasping her forearm with a strength that he had never used with her, not in that way.
"He is playing in the garden with the girls. You told him not to go riding unless you were with him," she said, and was surprised to hear herself use such a tremulous voice, but Thengel seemed not to even notice it. His face was so pale that she could see the throbbing of that vein in his temple that always betrayed his ill moods.
He swept past the house then, still holding onto her, and she followed silently behind, not caring that her guests had been left alone with no one to attend to them.
They reached the door to the garden and she suddenly felt the muscles in her husband's arm relax. He heaved a deep sigh and, following the trail of his gaze, her eyes rested on her beautiful son. Almost five years old and he already acted so much like his father that, sometimes, she could not help but laugh when she should discipline; such was his charm. Like Thengel's… such hunger, such liveliness, such fire…
"Is there aught wrong?" She finally asked and, suddenly assaulted by a frightful thought, hastened to add, "Do they want anything with Theoden?"
It took her husband a while to reply. "Nay. Nay, not with Theoden," he said, as his fingers sought hers and held tightly. "Though, ultimately…"
"Ultimately what?" she asked, but her question was met with more silence. The desperate, almost pleading quality of her husband's squeeze of her hand, the paleness that had come upon him… they were unnatural and painful to bear. "My dear heart, for pity's sake," she said, bringing her hand to caress his face, his cheek, his shoulder that was hardened with tension, "you must tell me what has happened before I drive myself mad with worry!"
Something in her tone must have jarred him back from the faraway place where he had wandered to. "Mad with worry?" he asked, almost amused. "Why, I have yet to see the lady Morwen discomposed in any way. I do believe that there is no equal in the world for you presence of mind."
"You shall make me lose it now if you do not make haste! What do they want with you?"
"Hhmmph." His elbow rested against the doorframe and he let his head lean against his forearm, closing his eyes briefly. He muttered something then, something in rohirric. It seemed to her that she could almost catch the meaning if she strained hard enough. "Forgive me. That was rather indelicate for you to hear."
"I did not understand it, Thengel."
"And I am glad of it. You might think differently of me now, should you have."
"I could never—You are quite changing the subject!"
"Entirely your fault, Morwen. When you caress me so…"
"Thengel! For all that is dear to you—"
His shoulders sagged, then, under an invisible weight and, powerless as she was to remove it, she felt herself gripped by fear and anxiety. Just when she felt that she could bear it no longer and would have burst into tears, his eyes opened and fixed, almost beseechingly, on hers. "It seems," he said, haltingly, "It seems I am the King of Rohan."