Spoilers for The Two Towers
Four hours later Théodred and half the city guard were standing outside the gates of Edoras, fully equipped with horses, swords, spears, shields, armor, and full provision for the journey. Wormtongue, Éowyn, and Laramir were also there to see the company off. When Théoden had announced he wanted to say a few words at the send-off Wormtongue had suggested a heartening brandy to guard the king’s cough against the autumn chill, but the brandy had instead worsened the cough and the royal healers ordered him not to go outside for at least a fortnight. So Éowyn, as the only member of the House of Éorl not actually leaving, gave the commission.
“Men of Rohan!” Éowyn shouted over the howling wind, “this morning my friend Laramir and I received distressing news. Suffice it to say that orcs no longer attack just from the east, but from the west as well. And these orcs are more like men than any others you have ever seen.
“You are not riding forth to war but to rescue. My brother and the many other valiant men under his command are out there, risking their lives so that Théoden your king can understand these new enemies. Now is the hour for them to return home.
“Yet war may well wait for you. Defend what is yours, but do not attack, unless that is the only way to rescue Éomer and his men. Returning them safely will earn you more honor than slaying a thousand orcs, for the information they carry may help us kill tens of thousands.”
Théodred stepped forward. “Well spoken, cousin. For the glory of Rohan, for the sake of the Valar, and for our own honor, we will return your brother to you. Men of Rohan, Mount! Forth, Éorlingas!” And with that, five hundred horses bearing five hundred warriors, their five hundred spears shining in the late afternoon sun, rode off into the west.
Those were lean weeks, and Laramir knew it would get worse before it got better, much worse. The western towns had grown most of Rohan’s grain and had always sent a tenth of their crop as a tax to feed the city of Edoras. With little wheat to make bread and less barley for ale, the days of full stomachs were soon forgotten. Éowyn, set on keeping Wormtongue out of the king’s chambers, moved back to Meduseld and worked on nursing her uncle back to health, leaving Laramir to her own devices.
But Laramir was far from idle; that would have driven her insane. Theodred stopped at every village between Edoras and Algoras, taking with him all the men who could ride immediately and asking the chiefs to send any others strong enough to hold a sword back to Edoras, holding back a bare minimum to defend their women and children. So within a week boys and their grandfathers began arriving at Edoras, and beds and bread had to be found.
So Laramir was up before the sun, setting up tents in the fields outside of Edoras. She set the women to gathering whatever vegetables could be found wild and making stews, and the old men who could not fight or even stand, she set to sitting by their fires and whittling bowls, spoons and cups out of scraps of wood. Théodred had asked for all those strong enough to wield a sword, not necessarily those who had any practice at it, and Laramir’s own military training with Faramir back in Minas Tirith became worth something for the first time in her life. She halved the guards who patrolled the city and set the others to training the new recruits.
This went on for months until the spring sun broke through and winter began to fade away. The men wanted to return home to plant, but Laramir wouldn’t let them: she knew Théodred and Éomer had to return home to a unified and trained army, not scattered soldier-farmers across the country. So she and the other fastest riders of Rohan set out, riding from town to town, announcing that the men would be staying in Edoras and urging the women who were strong enough to plant as much crops as they could.
All this time Éowyn had been tending her uncle. The first thing she did was change his diet from the rich foods he usually ate to simple vegetables, stews, and water. “Hearty food makes for hearty health, and even the king must tighten his belt in times such as these,” she said to him once. The first night, when Wormtongue tried to bring in the king’s nightly goblet of wine, Éowyn seized it and poured it out on the stone floor. This was an Éowyn Wormtongue had never seen: beautiful, ice cold, and determined, no longer afraid to go against him. If he could break her, she might make a fitting prize, he thought to himself, and indeed prove useful.
So he let her have her way and hung back. With the king ill with cough, cold or flu, one after another throughout the entire winter, the task of governing fell on Wormtongue’s shoulders. Laramir saw to the troops in the field but Gríma controlled the storehouses, and if any of the people of Edoras had a complaint they came to him for justice.
At night he would bring in the simple dinner Éowyn ordered, for three: he, Éowyn, and Théoden ate together. One night after dinner he helped her lead Théoden to his bed. Their hands touched, and she didn’t shiver like she had always done when they touched before. “There’s hope,” he thought to himself. As always, he bowed and left her to her nightly vigil.
So it was that Laramir’s mind was on other things when she heard a horn call. Not a full-strength call but an echo of one sounding far away, yet strong enough for her to recognize. The horn of Gondor. And then a full-strength call from the silver horn of Rohan, Éomer’s call. She looked out across the field to see Éomer riding up with all his men, holding the bloodied and half-dead Théodred in his arms.