Hild was old enough that she only fell back on babytalk when she was upset, and it was clear she was upset now, Thengel thought as he crouched down to talk to her. She was not crying yet, but looking at the quivering of her bottom lip, that could not be too far away. He cast a pleading glance at Morwen, who pretended not to notice as she stood up to go to the garden. His wife had never hidden her view that he was mad for teaching the children to ride so young, but had given up arguing about it except for the occasional complaint about the cost of keeping ponies in Minas Tirith.
"You're getting too tall to ride Tubby."
"Don'care. I like Tubby."
"But Tubby isn't going away," Thengel argued. "Your brother also needs a new pony, and Tubby's the right size for him."
Hild said nothing, but she was clearly thinking about it. Then she gave him a sly look and replied triumphantly, "But if... if you give Théo the new pony, I can keep Tubby."
Thengel sighed. The child's logic was impeccable, but she really was outgrowing her pony, even if she was still deeply attached to the rotund little beast. "You'll hurt Tubby if you keep riding him when you're too big for him. I'm sure you don't want to do that."
"Oh..." She clearly hadn't considered that yet. "But I can still brush him and look after him?"
"You can help Théo, if he agrees, but you have to take care of your own pony as well." That seemed to be enough to reassure Hild, and she skipped off outside. For now at least the matter was settled, and once Hild saw the almost horse-sized animal he had in mind for her – and realised how much work two ponies were to care for – no doubt her feeling for Tubby would soon fade to no more than fondness. Of course, he would still have to convince Théoden that his pony should go to little Leofwyn, and that might be a harder task than this.
Watching his daughter as she ran off, Thengel smiled. Fatherhood agreed with him, and his life now was certainly not what his own father had envisioned when he had spat on the ground at his feet and pronounced a final curse. "However miserable you will be, it will be too good for you and no more than you deserve, wretch! Now begone!"
Thengel's expression darkened at the thought of Fengel. He could barely accord him the name 'father'; that required more than to merely be there at the begetting, he thought in contempt. He could not imagine that he would ever treat Hild, Théo, Leofwyn as Fengel had treated his children. After he himself had gone to Gondor, within the year his sisters had married to escape Meduseld, but found themselves, and their husbands, still at odds with the king, for Fengel was as mistrustful of others as he was dishonest himself, and could not accept that any would escape his control.
Looking back from the vantage of middle age, Thengel found himself wondering how Fengel and his father had got along. Folcwine had lost his elder sons in battle, and the youngest, adored and spoiled by all, had suddenly found himself the king's heir, unexpected and untrained, aware that all knew him to be second choice, second best. He shook his head; no, he might understand Fengel a bit better than before, his verdict had become no milder.
Though he had in effect exiled himself, Thengel knew leaving had been the right thing to do for many reasons, personal and political. Had he stayed, by now he might well have been either a living usurper or a dead rebel; neither situation held much appeal for him, and while he had no love for his father, he had no wish to end up a parricide. And yet... he had also turned his back on his mother, his sisters, his people; that the Mark still stood as strong as it did was thanks only to the good men who remained in the king's service.
Even so, he would rather serve Turgon than Fengel; here at least he served an honourable lord rather than a greedy pig who knew no restraint, no honour. While being a captain in the Steward of Gondor's armies might not seem much when one was a prince in another land, it suited him well enough. The ways of Gondor were not those of the Mark, yet he had made a home in this city of stone, and found his bride here. Even if he never returned to the Mark, he had no regrets.
His thoughts were disturbed by a loud knock on the front door. Thengel hoped there was no bad news from Ithilien, for he was not due back in the field for at least another month. As he opened the door, Thengel expected to see one of his company's runners, or one of the Steward's messenger, but instead there stood a man of the Mark.
As Thengel tried to remember the man's name, the other spoke after some hesitation. "My lord king, your councillors ask that you return to Edoras as soon as you can."
A/N: THis was originally written for the lotr_community LJ challenge for June 2008.
The theme: Father's Day, and my prompt:
"Fengel. He was the third son and fourth child of Folcwine. He is not remembered with praise. He was greedy of food and gold, and at strife with his marshals, and with his children. Thengel, his third child and only son, left Rohan when he came to manhood and lived long in Gondor, and won honour in the service of Turgon." *(RotK, Appendix A)
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.