Elína - ~Chapter 8~
Grief hung like a fog in the air and I could not believe that we had just laid Theodred down in his tomb. I sat on the terrace surrounding the front of the Golden Hall and stayed there for a long, long time, thinking about nothing in particular. Amérgin had guard duty at the city gates. Undoubtedly, it was hard on him to guard the city just after one of his best friends had just been buried, but Amérgin never shirked his watch. I shook my head. He concentrated so much on honour and duty and rarely spent any time worry about himself. I guess he left that up to me. Éowyn had disappeared after the funeral. She most likely had gone to her room, and I would not disturb her, she was embarrassed when people caught her weeping. My sister was also missing. Bláilith had started to worry me. She was not around most of the day and only returned to eat and sleep. I knew I should do something about her, but what was I to do! I was not her mother, how was I supposed to raise her?!
I frowned as I scanned the horizon. There was no sign of Théoden or Gandalf, both of whom had stayed at Théodred's grave. Poor Théoden, left without his son, no parent should have to bury their child. Suddenly I noticed two men on horseback returning to Édoras, most likely Théoden and Gandalf. However, there were two other small people with them, children. Both children were half slumped over on their horse, completely exhausted. I jumped up and started to make my way to Théoden, determined to help.
"They had no warning." Éowyn said as she rose from the sides of the two children who had come with Gandalf and Théoden. Both of them, a brother and sister, sat together at one of our long tables eating the bread and soup that I had given to them. "They were unarmed." Éowyn continued. "Now the Wild Men are moving through the Westfold, burning as they go. Rick, cot and tree." I stood half hidden in the shadows of a pillar. Servants were generally not allowed to eavesdrop on these types of conversations in the Golden Hall so I hoped that no one would notice me.
I glanced over at the king to see his reaction to what Éowyn had said. He sat in his throne, his head in his hands. I pitied him instantly; so much had happened since he awoke from Wormtongue's witchery. Gandalf sat on a stool next to the throne, the same stool that Gríma had once occupied. The difference between Gandalf and how that worm had looked sitting on that stool was so striking I bit back a giggle.
At one of our tables the sat the man and the dwarf, while the elf leaned against another pillar. The man finger his pipe and the dwarf ate his food almost as hungrily as the children ate their soup.
"Where is Mama?" The girl asked beseechingly towards Éowyn. My heart went out to the child, and I prayed that whoever the girl's mother was, was safe and would soon return to her children. Éowyn, in reply to the child's question, wrapped a blanket over the child's thin shoulders and quietly hushed the child.
"This is but a taste of the terror that Saruman will unleash." The wizard muttered gesturing towards the children. "All the more potent now for he is driven by fear of Sauron. Ride out and meet him head on." Gandalf murmured persuasively towards the king. Théoden lifted his head out of his hands and faced the wizard who laid a comforting hand on the arm of the throne. "Draw him away from your women and children." Gandalf continued before whispering fiercely, "You must fight."
"You have two thousand good men riding north as we speak." The man who had come with Gandalf said calmly. "Éomer is loyal to you. His men will return and fight for their king."
"They will be three hundred leagues from here by now." Théoden half shouted, rising suddenly from his throne and walking down the stairs obviously frustrated. "Éomer cannot help us."
Théoden turned towards the wizard as he to descended the stairs. "I know what it is you want of me. But I will not bring further death to my people." The king said firmly, "I will not risk open war."
"Open war is upon you." The man who had come with Gandalf chipped in evenly. "Whether you would risk it or not."
I glanced over at the impudent man before turning back to Théoden to see his response.
"When last I looked," Théoden retorted, very irritated with him, "Théoden, not Aragorn, was king of Rohan."
I looked back over at the man called Aragorn to see how he took Théoden's answer. He stared up at Rohan's king calmly, no offence obvious on his face. I was vaguely impressed, this man had the nerve to speak up to a king and the sense to take no offence at the king's snappish response.
"Then what is the king's decision?" The wizard asked, leaning forward slightly, hope and expectancy in his voice.
Théoden turned and glanced back at the wizard, his jaw muscles working, as he considered his possible choices. I knew that my life as well as the lives of all I held dear, rested on this man's decision. I fervently hoped that he would make the right one.