18. In This World and the Next
Theodred’s lieutenant dismounted, and briefly grasped Theodred’s arm in greeting. “Theodred! I’ve had quite a search, looking for you! The smith in Waymeet was finally able to tell me where you’d gone. You are urgently needed in Edoras!”
His heart seemed to freeze in Theodred’s chest. His father, Theoden…. But Grimbold dismissed that fear with a brief shake of his head, though his words were nearly as bad. “Ill news has come to Edoras. Saruman the wizard has betrayed us all, and has allied himself with Sauron. Gandalf came – borne by a great bird –“ and even in his urgency Grimbold’s voice was tinged with wonder, “and told how Saruman had held him captive. But the King refused to listen! He is utterly in the power of Wormtongue now.” He broke off, aware of the disloyalty of his words, but Theodred nodded with grim understanding.
“Eomer wished to ride to Isengard in strength immediately,” Grimbold continued “but Theoden would have none of it. But he did consent to send out scouts. Four days ago the first returned. Bands of orcs are issuing forth from Isengard. And among them, the scout said, are strange creatures, like orcs but larger and stronger, and unafraid of daylight. Almost like some foul mixture of orc and man.”
Elana had come to stand beside Theodred. At Grimbold’s words, the blood drained from her face, and her heart seemed to stop. The last puzzle piece dropped into place, and she understood. “Saruman,” she breathed. “Saruman was behind it all along.” She clutched Deore close to her as she was filled with rage against the author of her torment.
Theodred stared at Grimbold, unable for a moment to comprehend such enormity of evil from one he had thought an ally. Grimbold noticed Elana for the first time, and looked from the baby in her arms to Theodred with bewilderment. “Theodred, you are needed! You must persuade your father to respond to this threat. Or if you cannot….” He would not speak treasonous words, but the implication was clear. Theodred felt a great weariness and despair that it might at last have come to the hour he had dreaded, when he must act against his father for the sake of the country they both loved.
Grimly he nodded in answer to Grimbold’s unspoken words. He whistled for Silverfoot, then went to gather his belongings.
Elana watched him prepare to leave, knowing that he must, and that under these circumstances she could not go with him. She quailed at the thought of orcs coming again to her village, this time in daylight and in great numbers, bent not on a quick raid but on destruction and domination. Theodred must stand against them, and must not be hindered by the complications her presence, and Deore’s, would cause. She wept, silently, for all their bright dreams, dashed almost before they could be born.
His few belongings stuffed in his saddlebags and flung over Silverfoot’s back, Theodred turned to Grimbold. “Ride south into the forest. There is a woman there; bring her back here to get her things and then take her to Waymeet, to the smith’s house. I must ride directly to Edoras. Meet me there as soon as you can.” Grimbold nodded, and quickly mounted and rode away.
Theodred turned back to Elana. They had this final moment together. All he wanted to say to her rushed from his heart and choked together in his throat. He crushed her to him, careless of the baby pressed between them, who amazingly didn’t protest the rough treatment.
Elana clung to him. She kissed the soft skin of his neck. So vulnerable it seemed, his life’s blood pounding so close to the surface. Much as she tried to push them away, fell thoughts invaded her mind, thoughts of that tender skin sliced open, that lifeblood draining away. He rode now to war, and she was filled with despair that he would ever ride out alive.
Theodred stroked her hair. He gently tilted her head back until she could gaze into his eyes. He wiped the tears from her cheek, though tears lay sparkling on his own face.
“Elana, I love you. I will love you forever. I do not know what fate awaits me, or you. Our paths may lead us far from each other. But I swear, we will meet again, if not in this world, then in the Undying Lands beyond the sea.”
The tears continued to stream down Elana’s face, but her voice was clear. “My life is yours, Theodred, in this world and the next. I will wait for you, and look for your return, even unto a lifetime.”
Their eyes exchanged all their words could not say. Finally Theodred tore himself away. He bent to kiss Deore’s head, and tried to smile. “Deore, take care of your mother.”
Then he sprang to Silverfoot’s back. The horse pranced, eager to be off. Theodred reached out his hand toward Elana, as if seeking one final touch. “Farewell!” he cried, then wheeled Silverfoot around, and they raced down the path, away from Elana, toward their doom.
Elana stood, in shock, for a long time. Silverfoot’s hoof beats died away in the distance, and silence descended on the clearing. The wind rustled the branches of the trees, and a few birds twittered. The gentle babble of the stream carried on its endless music. The sun slowly sank into a blaze of orange clouds.
Elana felt drained and limp. The tumultuous emotions of the past hour had soared higher then she could have dreamed, and then crashed lower. Now she was left dazed, wondering if it could have been real, or all a dream. What was left for her now, with him gone? She longed to lie down and sink into the earth, to release the fear and worry and loneliness and be at peace.
Deore squirmed in her arms. Her face grew red and she strained. Then she started to wail, as a faint but unmistakable odor assailed Elana’s nose.
Elana took a deep breath. She shook the tears from her eyes and swiped at her face with her sleeve. Whatever her grief, a dirty diaper could not wait. The demands of a baby were insistent and immediate, full of life and vitality. Though her heart would long for Theodred forever, she had another love that bound her to life. So she would go on. She moved toward the place where she kept water and clean diapers. She hugged Deore and kissed her misshapen nose, and her steps grew stronger and more resolute.
She was a mother, and her baby needed her.
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.