22. Day 23: Wishes (Theoden, Eomer, Eowyn)
Destiny is not a matter of chance, but of choice. Not something to wish for, but to attain. -William Jennings Bryan
As you think, so you are. As you dream, so you become. As you create your wishes, so they create you. -Wendy Garrett
Despairing that his nephew and niece would ever feel at home with him, Theoden resorted to the last weapon at his disposal: storytelling. Alas, even sweet-pastries had failed, and if this should prove unsuccessful--
So, when night came and before retiring to begin crafting answers to his most pressing reports, he summoned Eomer to him and, together, they made their way to Eowyn's room.
His niece was delighted to have them both as guests, and promptly made room so that Eomer could jump in with her on the bed. Eomer, on the other hand, did not seem quite as excited--embarrassed, perhaps?--but complied, nonetheless. Lately, he had shown himself rather unable to resist falling in with any of her schemes; although, as Theoden had noted, it had landed him in not a few embarrassing situations for a boy his age. He wondered at that, and had a few ideas as to why, but could never be sure until he prodded Eomer for information and something always stayed him. Even now I must afford them some privacy. They are still largely unused to me.
With these thoughts, Theoden took a seat next to them on a chair, from whence he had a chance to observe once more the practiced way they moved about each other: how a kind hand moved to stroke his niece's back, how she cuddled herself against her brother's side. At least they still have each other, he thought, and made himself smile to dispel the bitterness the thought had brought him.
After situating themselves to their comfort, two pairs of eyes fixed expectantly on him. Eowyn smiled, Eomer looked straight at him, waiting, wondering what he could do, and thus they effectively managed to break his reserve, for it has been many years since he has told a bedtime story.
"My mother used to tell it much better," he said, "but this was my favorite tale." Mine and my sisters's. That last bit he left out, for what good would it do them to be reminded of their loss yet again? "It goes like this: There was a shepherd boy who lived in the Westemnet, near the skirts of the White Mountains. His family's livelihood depended on their sheep, so he was very serious about his work, as you would expect any son of the Mark to be. One day, as he was pasturing the sheep, he heard thunder far-off, but closing in: a storm was coming. What should you do if you are ever caught in a storm, Eowyn?"
"You find shelter," she said, matter-of-factly.
"He was on the open field, though, Wyn."
"More of a reason to find a place to stay."
Forestalling what could turn into a strategic analysis if he let them have their way, Theoden hastened to add, "The only problem was that the crack of thunder scared the sheep and they scattered every which way."
"Poor sheep!" cried Eowyn.
"Poor shepherd, is what I say! Had he a dog?"
"No. No dog, and only the bleak prospect of a climb up the mountain to herd back the ones that had gone that way before they climbed out of reach and were trapped in the storm."
Two identical grimaces mirrored themselves back at him. He went on, eagerly, for he had arrived at the best part of the tale.
"The boy began the arduous climb--"
"Hard, Wyn. Difficult."
"Let him go on."
"Thank you, Eomer. Yes, it was a very difficult climb, and with little hope and always the thought that he did not know how, in the name of Bema, he would bring those sheep back down. Still he went on, upwards, upwards to the top of the mountain where the air is light and the world looks white. Where he could not see the darkness of the coming storm. Up to the homes of the eagles."
"The eagles?" Eomer asked, forgetting for a moment that he was supposed to be a grown boy.
"Yes," said Theoden, pleased. "He heard new thunder from below and felt the hair on the back of his neck stand on end. And at that precise moment, an eagle swooped down and alighted beside him. It was a monstrous, beautiful creature, wonderful as the sun. And it spoke to him."
"What did it say?" the children chorused.
"I am Goldenwing," Theoden said, making his best eagle impression, "the lord of the eagles. Few have entered my domain with purity of heart and intent; therefore, I am bound by law--and it is also my desire--to grant you three wishes, young shepherd boy. What," Theoden asked, "What would you wish for, had you three wishes of your own?"
"That's easy," Eomer said without thinking. "I would wish for Eowyn to find something to do so she would stop cr--" and, at a tug from his sister, he changed what he was going to say, or so Theoden thought, "so she would stop plaguing me to play with her; I wish that my grandfather and my cousins in Aldburg would know that I still care for them, though I am now a city-dweller; and I wish to be strong to fight and keep my family safe so we will never have to be sad or left alone again."
It was all said in a fast, breathless manner, as is usually the way with an unpleasant task that one wishes over and done. Theoden looked at his nephew long and keenly, but the boy was intent upon the blue ribbon that twined through Eowyn's braid. He sat erect, clutching at the small hand his sister had offered him.
Up until then, Theoden been unable to measure just how deeply the grief ran in his nephew. Eomer had seemed quite in control of himself, had seemed not to want any attention nor help; but, Theoden knew that sooner or later the pain would surface and the lad would have to deal with it, whether he wished to or not. So, his initial efforts had been directed to Eowyn whom he suspected-pand Eomer had unwittingly confirmed it--cried for her Mama every night. He should have seen that Eomer also ran a grave, if different, danger for being the older of the two--with more maturity and mental capabilities to cope came all the attendant dangers of over-rationalizing, of blaming oneself. Bitterly had Theoden learned that. All Eomund's son, Eomer was much too practical to be given to wallowing; instead, as Theoden could now see, the boy's grief was beginning to shape itself into a sense of uprootedness that could haunt him if left unatended. It was clear to him that the boy's revelation had been a cry for help, regardless of his own awareness of the reasons for his need. He had to pull through this for the children's sakes, if not his own; he had to find a way to help them adjust, even if that meant forgetting about his own grief in order to do so.
Theoden thought about the options before him and, coming to a decision, gave his thighs a slap in a determined way. "I tell you what, lad: As to your first two wishes, they may be fulfilled easily enough. We will take Eowyn to the stables and finally teach her how to properly groom a horse, and we may send letters to your family in Aldburg and promise a visit. As for your third wish... It may take considerably more work, but I may be able to help you. Are you up to the task?"
"Aye, sir," Eomer replied in that same breathless, almost disbelieving sort of way.
"Well, then I suggest we all seek our rests. I'll be having a rather long day if I am to be at the disposal of two young masters tomorrow," Theoden said with a smile. "I bid you goodnight then."
"No! What about the sheep?"
"And the shepherd? What happened to him? Did Goldenwing fly him down?"
"All excellent questions, but they will have to wait until the morrow."
They both kissed Eowyn goodnight, then he walked Eomer to his room. "Do not stay up thinking too much, lad. We will have an early start."
The next morning, Theoden woke Eomer before the break of dawn and bid him follow him.
"Where to, Uncle?"
"To the place where warriors are made," Theoden said; and, with that, ushered him into the training grounds.
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.