Eodred of Rohan - Part Ten
That was hours ago now, though. Eodred shifted idly atop Aful, readjusting his seat. The horses had taken refuge on the far side of the river, but hadn't wandered far, so they rode. North, through Fangorn and beyond it. Eodred's mind wandered.
"Will you return to the Mark?" Eadil had asked him, but he knew that he could not. There were too many memories over those plains, to many half-familiar faces he would see, too many empty ghosts galloping beside him. There was a whole world ahead, the Shire and the Lonely Mountian, and Lothlorien, and the East; even Gondor, and beyond it the far south kingdom of Harad. No, he could not return to the Mark.
But his thoughts were spent more within than on what lay ahead. To him the rustle of leaves whispered voices, the tinkling of a brook was the ringing of bells flying over the plain, and the night was full of terrors. Or rather, A Terror. Shadows beneath the trees, and the little fire that kept them away. Shadow and Flame.
He could not sleep but it came in dreams, could not wake but see it in every shadow, could not welcome the sun but remember the Voice. Only with a conscious effort of will could he drive it away, and it was always there, waiting, waiting for him to lower his control; and then there it was, a demon-thing in manlike form, laughing, laughing. He had sworn he would destroy it, but oaths were nothing in dreams.
Eodred didn't know how many days had passed since the fords of Isen. They crossed miles upon miles of tangled woods, forded countless little streams, found paths and lost them again, once even crossed a river. Limlight Eadil called it, but Eodred could not remember where that was. Somewhere to the north of the fields of Rohan, deep in the fastness of Fangorn.
One morning Eodred watched Avar vanish into the trees with his black mount, as he often did, searching for game. He reined up, waiting for Eadil, and pulled into line beside her. "Avar is quiet," he noted unnecessarily. "I don't think I've heard him speak in all these days." He was looking for answers more than remarking on the situation.
Eadil looked at him. "He rarely speaks," she admitted, "He takes more after Elros than our mother. It is part of the reason he is the Unwilling." She hesitated, about to say more, then changed topics quickly. "I had thought that they taught Quenyan in the Mark," she said, eyeing him with forced curiosity.
Eodred changed to the new thread readily, wondering. "They do, but I have never had the knack. Only a word or two now and then. To tell the truth," and he laughed, "I didn't even believe Elves or Ents or any of it exsisted. In Rohan there are the plains, and the horses, and the songs; There are few travellers from the west. I had never even seen an orc."
"Truly," Eadil said, looking away, into the forest. That was the end of it, Eodred knew.
Some days later the forest thinned, and they emerged on the edge of another plain. Had they gone in circles? Eodred wondered. But Eadil only halted, and said calmly, "This is the plain between Fangorn and Lorien, west of the field of the Celebrant. It is narrow here, less than one hundred miles across--"
She was cut off from a sound like distant thunder risaing over the grass. Avar spurred forward, pointing, and though Eodred strained his eyes he could see nothing. "What is it?"
"Horsemen," Eadil said, looking where Avar pointed. "Some two thousand or more, I'd guess, under the green and white of Rohan. They ride swift, but I see no spears." She glanced over at him.
"I don't kow the why of it," he began, but then he caught a glimpse of shining silver, the armor of the Riders far across the plain. With it came a high ringing of distant bells. Without a second thought he spurred Aful forward, across the plain, racing for all he was worth. The bells called to him, amidst the thunder.
When he drew near he saw the Elves were right, in that the Running Horse of Rohan flew before the host, but of the silver and black of his dream he saw no sign. Nevertheless he joined the host near the front, the Elves beside him. The Rohirrim eyed him with wonder, but they were friendly with the Elves, and riding hard was no time to stop and speak. Eodred in turn looked at them in amazement. They were leagues upon leagues from the plains of Rohan. But he, and the Riders, realized that both questions and answers would have to wait for the setting of the sun.