17. Both the Joy and the Pain
During the week that followed, Theodred and Roswyn worked to lay in supplies for Elana. Theodred hunted, and smoked the meat to preserve it. Roswyn gathered the autumn bounty of the forest. The three of them settled into a comfortable relationship. Roswyn avoided the baby, but true to her word made no effort to harm her. Theodred and Roswyn pampered Elana, making sure she had nothing to do but relax and tend Deore. Their evenings were spent around the fire, talking and laughing, singing and telling stories.
By the end of the week, Theodred knew he was completely and irrevocably in love with Elana.
The last day of their time together came much too soon. Theodred could no longer put off his return to Edoras, and Roswyn was eager to return to her family. Their belongings were packed. They planned to leave the next morning at first light, Theodred taking Roswyn back to Waymeet before riding on to Edoras. Theodred and Elana sat by the fire in the late afternoon. That morning Theodred’s arrow had found a deer, and he was working hard to smoke all the meat before nightfall. Roswyn was out in the forest, gathering a few more berries and roots.
Elana was troubled. She got up, paced around, and sat down again roughly. The motion woke Deore, who had been sleeping in Elana’s arms. Even before her eyes opened she burst into an angry squall. Elana absently shifted her over to her breast, and the cry was silenced as quickly as it had come, Deore settling immediately into contented nursing.
“Such a passionate little person she is,” commented Theodred.
“Yes, she feels everything so intensely, both the joy and the pain…. It’s amazing how much personality babies have, right from the beginning. She reminds me of my second brother; he is intense like that too, though not so much.” Elana was silent for a while, watching Deore as she drifted off to sleep again. When she was deep asleep, Elana gently detached her from the breast and eased her down on a blanket spread on the ground. Standing up, she walked a few steps from the fire and gazed out toward the pool.
“Theodred… I’m afraid.” The words came reluctantly, then more quickly, tumbling out in her desperation. “How am I going to do it, being alone? Deore is so completely dependent on me. What if something happens to me? How am I going to be able to gather food, wash, do the things that must be done, while taking care of her? It’s getting colder already – how will we make it through the winter? How will I be able to bear it, the long days, and especially at night, with nobody here?” Without you here, she wanted to say, but did not.
Theodred came to stand beside her. Her plea cut into his heart, and he knew he must speak. He could hardly bear to imagine her here in the wilderness, alone and vulnerable. “Elana – it’s not right that you should be alone! It’s too dangerous. Please, come back with me to Edoras. I will speak for you, and for Deore. Once people know you, and her, they will come to accept you.” He knew as he said it that it was not true. Orcs were too deeply ingrained in his people’s nightmares.
Elana turned to him. Her eyes were bright with unshed tears. “You know that would never work. Deore would be in far more danger there than here.”
Theodred took her hands, and gazed into her eyes. In a rush, he blurted out his secret hope. “I could stand as a father to her. I am the king’s son; no one would dare to harm her if I took her under my protection. Elana, if you would have me, I would wed you, and adopt Deore. I…I care for you, and her. I love you.” There it was, the truth of his heart laid bare between them. Now it was up to her to receive it, or to dash it to the ground.
Elana stood transfixed by his expression, so hopeful, yet so vulnerable. Could he really have meant what he said? In the past week she had felt love for him blooming in her heart, but she had never dared hope that he, heir to the throne of Rohan, son of the king, would ever return such feelings to her. Wonderingly, she reached up to touch his cheek. Though clean-shaven, it was rough with the day’s stubble.
“You would do that? For me, for us?” she whispered. “Oh, my love….” His arms encircled her waist and drew her close to him. He could hardly believe that this moment, that he’d dreamed of but never believed could be a reality, was here. He held her tight and bent his head to kiss her.
But suddenly the situation – his arms gripping her, his face looming over her – triggered a memory of terror in Elana. She stiffened and cried out, shrinking away from him.
Theodred sensed her sudden fear and let go, stepping back. He cursed himself for pushing her, for arousing in her memories of brutality. He felt helpless, filled with compassion for her suffering but baffled as to what he might do to help.
Elana breathed deep, recovering her composure. She opened her eyes and saw Theodred moving away, giving up, regretting that he’d spoken. “No!” she cried, to him and to herself. The orcs had taken so much from her; she would not let them take her beloved too. She stepped forward and threw her arms again around his neck, drawing his head down towards hers. The fear was still there, but she crushed it ruthlessly, pressing her lips to his.
Theodred, confused, did the only thing he could do – he put his arms back around her, and kissed her back. He felt the tension in her body melt, and the kiss caught fire, filling them both with a dizzying rush of delight and desire.
Neither wanted to stop, but eventually they drew a little away, still wrapped in each other’s arms. For a long time they just looked at each other, sharing the wonder of their new found love. Then they kissed again, slowly and tenderly, drinking in the joy of each other’s presence.
When the kiss ended, Theodred took her hand, and pulled her toward the hut. He couldn’t seem to stop grinning. “There’s so much to do. We’ll have to pack all your things. I wonder could Silverfoot carry all three of us as far as Waymeet, or should I take Roswyn there then come back for you?” Plans bubbled and fermented in his mind. Elana was quieter. She let him go off to start readying things, and went to sit by Deore, who was still peacefully sleeping, unaware of the momentous events taking place.
When Theodred came back, he found her gazing at her daughter, silently weeping. He sat down beside her, and stroked her hair. “What’s wrong?”
“It will never work. Look at her! I love her more than life, but even I can see she’s not human, not normal. People will never be able to accept her. Not even you can make them. They will revolt before they’ll accept their future king as father to a… a monster.”
Theodred looked down at the sleeping baby. Though he’d come to love Deore also, he had to admit that Elana might be right. Even in the best of circumstances it would be a near thing, and the court at Edoras was far from ideal right now. Wormtongue had poisoned the mind of more than just Theoden. He would probably see this as the perfect opportunity to get rid of Theodred altogether.
“Then I’ll leave,” he declared. “I’ll go into exile with you. Eomer will be just as good a king as I ever could.”
Elana searched his face. “No,” she said sadly. “You will never abandon your duty to Rohan.”
Theodred knew the truth of the words as she spoke them. Already she knew him better than he knew himself. “And you will never abandon your daughter.”
“It is hopeless, then.” Elana buried her face in his chest, her tears soaking through his shirt.
Theodred felt tears burning in his own eyes. Both of them had a prior claim on their hearts. He bent his head over hers, and his tears fell on her hair.
Something caused him to raise his head. His eyes fell on Deore, who had awakened, and now looked at him silently. Her eyes seemed to challenge him. Will you accept your fate without question? Or will you fight?
With sudden resolve, he seized Elana’s shoulders. She looked up at him, questioning.
“Perhaps it is hopeless. Perhaps it will not work. But by all that I hold dear, I intend to try!” He grinned at her. “Often has the house of Eorl faced impossible odds, and at the end of the day ridden home singing of victory. Perhaps the love of Theodred for the fair Elana will be worthy at least of a song!” Caught up in his certainty, Elana wiped her eyes on her sleeve and smiled tremblingly. Theodred scooped up Deore and placed her in her mother’s arms, then enveloped them both in an embrace.
Yes, thought Elana. Perhaps it will all end in ruin, and I will be alone after all. Probably that is what will happen. But we can try! She turned her face to meet Theodred’s kiss, and it was full of hope and promise. For a long moment she rested, safe within the circle of his arms.
Then suddenly, they heard hoofbeats in the distance, rapidly approaching.
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.