To Tread a Rocky Path - -Prologue

I cast a last longing gaze around me- the delicate rivers, the swaying grass, the strong trees, the unreachable mountains, the blue sky - and turned around, tears in my eyes. Our King shouted a word of command, and we leapt forth on our fresh and strong mounts. On the outside, we looked brave and yearning for victory. On the inside, we longed to stay on this familiar piece of land- home.

Under a strong tree with outstretched branches, sat Theowyn, a fat leather book sitting on her lap. It was so new it still smelled strongly of leather and new paper, faint scents of ink wafting above the crisp pages. A wind blew and her white-golden hair followed, tugging on her young face. She was deeply absorbed in this newly published fiction about a Rohan man fighting in the War of the Last Alliance. For all her life, she had been strangely fascinated by battles, though they were cruel and merciless. She enjoyed thinking of different reasons for waging them, though they were not very convincing- at least in her point of view.
"Theowyn!" a call came, riding the winds.
She looked up and smiled, seeing her older brother Theodred waving at her. She stood up and ran towards him, hugging her book closely.
"What?" she asked as she neared him. He had similar features with Theowyn, and always had a kind smile on his face. Today, his smile was rather excited.
"The guests from Gondor are approaching, Father wishes to have us greet them," he announced, eagerness clinging to his words.
Theowyn's smile faded a little, she frowned and said rather bitterly, "It wouldn't make a difference whether I were there or not."
Theodred patted her shoulder sympathetically and tried to comfort her, as he always did. "You should not think this way, they just- overlook you because you are the youngest."
"Alright, I'll go. I have no other choice," she said and ran up the slope. Looking over the city walls of Edoras, she saw a small company of horses approaching. She sighed and followed her brother to the door of the Golden Hall.
"Good afternoon, Father," Theowyn greeted Theoden, who was anxiously waiting for his guests.
He smiled and said absent-mindedly, "Good afternoon, Theowyn." Sometimes he just ignored her.
Theodren, the eldest son of the King stood next to him. He grinned when he saw his little sister and asked, "Another novel Theowyn?"
Theowyn loved Theodren most out of her family, he looked after her more lovingly than any sister could ask for. She grinned back and replied, "It's called The Call of Battle. It's based on the War of the Last Alliance."
"You'd better hide that book, daughter. I do not think our guests wish to see such ridiculous fictions lying around in the hands of my children," said Theoden coldly, looking disapprovingly at her novel.
Theowyn bit her lip. She hated it when her father started to criticize her. Once he started, he would not stop. Theodren gently took her book and said, "The usual place," and hurried inside the Hall. They always hid Theowyn's books in a cupboard quite invisible to others which was located in the wall behind the door. It was now full of all sorts of books she read and learnt by heart- she was a dedicated reader.
"Tie up your hair, Theowyn, you look like a beggar," Theoden complained, frowning at her.
Sighing, Theowyn gathered her long, gentle curls and tied them up with a pale blue ribbon that matched her frock. She had wondered all her life why her father despised her so. Perhaps it was because of her mother, who died a month after Theowyn was born. Or perhaps it was because of her immense fear of horses.
The latter was more likely. Theowyn could not recall when she had not been afraid of horses. She only remembered bursting into tears at the first sight of a horse when she was a mere child, or screaming "I'm not going near it!" when she learned how to speak.
It was quite difficult to live a horse-free life though, being the daughter of the king of the Kingdom of Horses. All she could do was to keep away from the stables, keep away from ride roads horses tread, and keep away from her father.
"Hey, Theowyn!" a small voice hissed.
Theowyn turned around and grinned. Eomer and his sister, Eowyn were standing on the brim between the Golden Hall and the steep slope beside it, looking flushed and sweaty.
"Now, what trouble have you two gotten into?" she asked, leaning on the wall.
Eowyn rolled her eyes and replied, "Nothing big, Eomer just set a wild horse loose."
"Me? Set the horse loose? Oh no, it was you, little sister," Eomer argued.
"Of course it wasn't me! You told me to hand you the reins so I did, but you backed away because you were scared and let the horse pull away. That's what happened," Eowyn said matter-of-factly.
"I never told you to hand me the reins! You just let them go all of a sudden because the horse bucked," her brother protested.
"Did not!"
"Did too!"
"Did not!"
"Did too!"
"Did not!" Eowyn said sharply.
"Shh! Do you want Uncle Theoden to know of this?" frowned Eomer.
"No," she admitted. "Anyway, what's the matter with him? He's been pacing back and forth here all day long like a madman!"
Theowyn, who had been listening to this amusing little conversation, said, "There are guests coming from Gondor."
"Uh oh, I'm out of here," Eomer turned round and slid down the slope which led to the stables.
"Me too, see you at lunch, Theowyn!" Eowyn said and followed her brother down the slope.
"Theowyn!" the King called pointedly just as the two kids went out of sight. "What are you doing over there?"
She whipped around and slightly flushed, "I- uh- was checking the rabbits out."
"Nonsense!" he frowned, "You know I do not allow rabbits in this city."
She was about to argue that they could have gotten into the city by digging underground tunnels when a clear call of a trumpet sounded. She looked up, and saw the company of horses galloping up the slope toward the Golden Hall.
"Welcome, my Lord Denethor! Welcome!" Theoden greeted loudly as their guests reach the top of the stone steps.
Denethor was a thin and tall man dressed in thick furs, a large grin pasted on his white face. He embraced Theoden and laughed, "Thank you, thank you, my Lord Theoden for this honour. We are delighted to be here in the great kingdom of Rohan!"
Theowyn disliked Denethor at once, mostly because of his appearance and she knew it was very shallow of her to think this way, but she could not help it. She turned from their noisy conversation of greetings and looked at the others.
Following behind was a strong young man of the age of Theodred, eighteen perhaps, and a younger one (his brother, she supposed) slightly older than Theowyn. He caught her eye and smiled, she smiled courteously back and turned back to the two lords, still babbling on.
"Theodren! Theodred!" the King called proudly. "These are my elder sons, my Lord. And Theowyn, this is my youngest daughter."
"How do you do my Lord?" the three children said at the same time, the two sons bowing and the daughter curtsying.
"Why, Theodren! You certainly have grown, now you are taller than me!" Denethor commented, chuckling and patting him on the shoulder. "Theodred, I do not believe we have met before. You are growing very strong, I see. I am sure you will soon catch up with your brother!"
As usual, Theowyn was missed out in their discussions. She stepped back a little, trying to avoid the sympathizing glances from the guards and the two sons of Denethor.
He put his arm around the older boy's shoulder and said, "This is Boromir, my firstborn. And this is Faramir, my younger son."
"We wish you a good day, my Lord," they said together, bowing politely.
"Charming, how charming, my Lord Denethor! Your sons are going to be great men, I see it in their eyes," Theoden noted, smiling broadly. "Now, why don't you children have a game of Horseback Polo while we move on to serious matters?"
Capturing her chance, Theowyn slipped soundlessly and unnoticed into the Golden Hall while confusion roused up at the door. She took her book from the dusty drawer, then sprinted to her usual reading spot to continue with the story of the greatest battle of all time- up to her time.

Trixie's Note: Hi all! This is my first piece of fanfiction, I hope you've enjoyed it Comments are most welcome, I would love to read your feedback on my work!

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