1. A Horse Of White
Matted blonde hair was streaked with blood, and his hands were shaking uncontrollably. More blood covered a faded green tunic, and Eomer's eyes were wild with something akin to...was that fear? Never before had Theodred seen that look in his cousin's eyes. Not even five years ago when he first had come to Edoras. Or, if he had, Theodred decided The look had been considerably different, as different as the meaning behind it.
Perfectly clear though each of those were, Theodred had not the idea of how to handle either situation. He had never guessed, when his father had told him of his aunt's death, and the impending arrival of his younger cousins, precisely what a part he would have to play in especially Eomer's life, how many times his help would be needed. It seemed as if now were one of those times, but as for what to say or do...Nay, he was at a loss...
"Eomer?" He asked simply, crossing towards the boy and laying a hand on his shoulder, hoping for some sort of response, but nothing came. "Eomer." He tried again, louder, waving a hand in his face. "Are you still with us? Eomer?" Again, nothing. Clearly this was going to require some more dramatic action. "Eomer Eomundson!" he demanded, using his 'Marshal' voice, the one that he was not required to use often, with his men, the voice that always got results, the voice that Eomer had learned to jump for after only a week with his eored.
“Sir?” Almost immediately Eomer jumped to attention, though his hands still shook. Well clearly this was going to require more than the nominal approach Theodred had grown used to. In essence this made sense, after all, Eomer had always been different, a challenge, had always needed something more, but what exactly was Theodred equipped to give him? Did he even know.
"You fought well today." He said at last, clapping his cousin's shoulder. "One would never have guessed that was your first battle."
Eomer looked away briefly, focusing his eyes on the ground. "I knew it.." He muttered. "Every minute of it...I knew it and Oh Bema...I can't believe I..." He shook his head, the matted gold tangles obscuring Theodred's vision for a moment. "That I was...And that I..." Eomer paused, "Forget I said anything. It all makes no sense."
"What makes no sense?"
"Just..." Eomer muttered more to the ground. "Nothing...I can't explain it...Now do you need me for anything?" He asked, his voice turning surprisingly sharp now. "Or would you mind if I happened to change into something clean first Marshal Theodred?" The sarcasm was biting, and had it been anyone else but Eomer, Theodred might have said something. But no, sometimes when it came to his cousin it was better to leave well enough alone...Wasn't it?
"I...of course." he finished lamely, watching Eomer's back as he retreated. He had a feeling of course what this was about, but there was very little he could do, if Eomer refused to be helped. Theodred, hated it, this helplessness, this inability to do anything. The fact that he was powerless, had never sat quite right with him, and the Marshal didn't care who knew it.
There had never been a problem that couldn’t be fixed somehow, even with Eomer. Was any of this even really about his cousin? Of course he hated seeing Eomer like this, but why did it bother him so? Because of Eomer himself, or because fixing the boy’s problem would mean that there still was something he could fix, one person he would not be letting down as he had done to his father.
Even now, Theodred knew, Grima was at Theoden's ear, poisoning his mind with his words. Words, that Theodred knew, did more damage to his people, than the swords of a thousand enemies, and there was nothing to stop them from coming. Nothing he could do...and...He glanced toward the row of tents Eomer had disappeared into. There was...Well, he could attempt to do something about this, at the least. Following Eomer, he waited for a few minutes, then opening the tent flap, peeked in.
"Eomer?" There was no response from his cousin, who's face was turned away from him, facing the canvas wall. "Eomer, I think we need to talk about..."
"There is nothing to talk about!"
Again the insistence, to vehement for Theodred to really believe it. "Eomer please if you would just..."
"Just what? Really Theodred I am perfectly fine. Or." Eomer added somewhat darkly, "I will be, once you've left..."
Why, Bema why did the boy have to be so stubborn? Well, Theodred reasoned, stepping closer to Eomer's cot, He could be fairly stubborn himself when he wanted to be, when it was important enough. Now was one of those times.
"I don't think I can do that." Theodred spoke quietly as he would to an injured horse, gently placing a hand on Eomer's shoulder once more. "And no you are not fine. Eomer, I know you too well for that. Something is wrong. I would have you tell me."
"And I would have you leave, but we both know the likelihood of that!" Eomer snapped, tossing his blood stained hair defiantly in his cousin's face.
"Slim to none." Theodred agreed, "In fact, I would say you've as much of a chance of getting me to leave, as...As I have of you admitting what is bothering you." He finished at last, sighing, wanting so badly to help Eomer, to do the one thing that he still could to help heal the ever weakening Mark. Did any chance at succeeding remain?
"Yes..." Eomer answered softly, bitterly, "Knowing you, the odds would be evenly matched. In this thing at least."
"And what other thing do you speak of now?" He trailed off slowly, unsure. Certainly Eomer did not mean... "Today?" He asked at last. "Does that have to do with whatever is troubling you?"
"I..." Eomer sighed, his eyes on the ground. "Yes...No...I..."
"Not exactly but it does?" He shrugged, "Did that even make sense?"
"I see..." He fell silent, considering for a moment. "If you are worried as to how you fought today, it was well. You know that, or I should think you do. You are on your way to becoming a fine warrior, and someday..." He shot his cousin a quick grin. "My Marshal."
"Your..." He saw for a moment the briefest hint of a smile, then sighed as Eomer pushed it away. "I do not think that possible Dred. Ever. Not after..." He shook his head rapidly. "Forget that I said anything would you?"
"Again I cannot. And what makes you think that such a fate is not possible for you? I would think that...Eomer, the least you could do is look at me when I'm talking to you. That is better." He added, a moment later, as hazel eyes met his. "Now then, a real answer would be even better."
"If I had one wouldn't I give it?"
"No. I do not believe you would. Or," He added, "That you are. It this is about the fighting...There is no shame in being afraid of it Eomer. When I first saw it I..."
"But I was not. At least..." Eomer shrugged, silently admitting his defeat. "Not of them. Or of being hurt."
"Of. Oh." Theodred nodded, now understanding. "I see what you mean..."
"I just...When I was out there, fighting. It was as though every one of those orcs was the one who..."
"Who killed your father?" Theodred slipped an arm around Eomer's shoulders. It was not often that the subject of Eomund came up between them. Eomer nodded slowly.
"And then, when I was out there, it was all I could think about, all that I could concentrate on. How much I wanted to see them all dead for it. How much I wanted to hurt them, to make them bleed to...” He sighed. “I can scarcely believe it was me out there...The way that I felt...as if it were overcoming me...I...shouldn’t I have been able to control it?”
“No...not always.” Theodred ran his free hand through his hair. “In this case, I do not think it would have mattered.”
“But, if I’ve no control then...who knows what may happen later? What things I might do. Already there is Grima and thinking of him...it feels much the same as I did today...out there. How he angers me, how I would love to spill his blood...And, it is not me...but it is...” He looked away again, ignoring Theodred’s reassuring pat. “I am so scared...”
“I know Eomer. But...thus far you’ve not done anything. There is nothing wrong with you for wanting to, after the things that he has done...Just thinking about them...Well...I feel much the same. And we know well what the orcs have done to this land and her people...” To you, he added, silently, taking hold of Eomer’s chin, and turning it so that they faced once again.
“Then how do you manage...”
“I...” Theodred shrugged, “Channeling your energy into other things...can help. Firefoot, your riding, the day we end all of this for good.”
“You say that as if it were easy...”
“No...It is not. It may never be. But if you give up trying, if you let it get the best of you then...you have nothing left.”
“And you would know because?”
“Because...Do you remember what you were like when you first came to Edoras?”
“Yes.” Eomer laughed a bit, ruefully. “I am still rather surprised that you did not elect to kill me when you had the...“ He trailed off, as though realizing...“Oh.”
“Yeeess...” Theodred nodded. “I wanted to at times. At most times as a matter of fact.”
“But I am still here because?”
“Because despite that, no matter how many times I may have wanted to knock some sense into that arrogant little brat, I could still see Eomer in there somewhere, trying to come out. So freeing him became my task. Perhaps we need to find one for you.”
“Perhaps...” Eomer appeared to be relaxing a little now. “But what? How?”
“That I am afraid, must be your choice. Which I would not make for you, even if I thought such possible. But you have time yet to decide. Now perhaps if you like. The riders will be requiring us in a few moments for supper but if you would rather have some time.."
"I..." Eomer hesitated. "They will know that we were here...they will think that I..."
The first rider to say anything, Theodred decided, Was going to pay.
"And most of them would have no room to think it, considering that we all have been there. I highly doubt that any of them will care, but if it helps I will tell them that you..."
"Nay..." Eomer shook his head. "That may make it worse. As though I have something to hide. I mean of course I do but I would not have them..."
"Eomer. Look at me. You have nothing to hide. Not from them, and most certainly not from me. You never will either."
"I...suppose... No.." Eomer admitted. "I know. It is just...going back out there to face them after..."
"I'll be with you. Every step of the way...If you would like me to that is..."
"I..." Eomer nodded solemnly, rising, pulling away as Theodred made an attempt to tug at his hair. "Thank you."
For once in the longest time, Theodred decided, as they started back towards the others, and the already glowing bonfire, something had gone right. Perhaps eventually, as he had told Eomer, they would all work out. He and Eomer would do it...Or at least, he told himself, stepping back out into the night, it was something to hold onto ...
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.