Disclaimer: I do not own any of the recognizable characters; I am only borrowing them for fun for a little while. They belong to J.R.R. Tolkien.
Many thanks to my wonderful Beta’s, Marsha and J.
Many thanks to my wonderful Beta’s, Marsha and J.
Théodred wondered where his young cousins had gotten to. He was not in the habit of looking for wayward children, but his father wanted to speak with them before supper and he had been sent to track them down. Where the two might be playing he couldn’t imagine. Especially Éowyn, what did he know about little girls? Pausing on the wide porch of Meduseld, Théodred looked around, his gaze resting on the royal stables and with a brisk nod he headed down the steps and made his way toward the beautiful building that housed the Mearas and other horses ridden by the king and members of his household. He remembered spending many hours there when he was Éomer’s age and perhaps the boy had gone there. Hopefully, Éowyn would be with him as he did not want to spend more time looking for her.
He came to an abrupt halt when he reached a large pile of wood that was neatly stacked up against the wall of the stables. The sound of children could be heard and it only took him a moment to recognize the voices as belonging to his two young cousins. Théodred paused before stepping into view of the children when he heard Éowyn’s sob and cry that she wanted to go home. That she missed her mother did not surprise him, though he was surprised at the depth of pain and longing he heard in her voice. Having never known his own mother – who had died at his birth - he couldn’t really understand what either of his cousins were feeling.
Biting back a smile at the scorn Éomer felt toward the nursemaid, Wynléas, Théodred glanced around uneasily hoping no one was watching him as he eavesdropped on his two cousins. No one was in sight. His attention was quickly drawn back to the children when he heard Éowyn mention her dislike of Lyfides. Why would she not like the woman? She was efficient and did her job well and had always treated him with affection. Though that had been many years ago, he admitted to himself. Had the woman changed or was Éowyn spoiled? His heart sank when the little girl said that the nursemaid didn’t hug her or even speak to her much. Perhaps Lyfides had changed. Théodred knew the woman’s daughter had died in the last year or so, perhaps she was still grieving he thought with an inward sigh and a deep frown. Well, there were some things he could change. He stepped around the woodpile.
“But I can do something,” he said looking down into the startled faces of the two children. Éomer scrambled to his feet. Éowyn quickly followed but she hid partially behind her brother as she stared up at the tall man who was her cousin.
“What do you mean?” Éomer asked worriedly. “What will you do?” He wasn’t sure what Théodred had overheard, but he hoped that whatever it was he would help Éowyn. He felt Éowyn grab the back of his tunic before she spoke.
“Can Wynléas be my nursemaid?” she asked hopefully. She knew Théodred was a prince, but what that meant beyond being important in some way, Éowyn wasn’t really sure.
Seeing the nervousness in the little girl’s eyes and realizing he was looming over her, Théodred got down on one knee to be closer to her eye level. He motioned for Éomer to step aside so he could speak directly to Éowyn. To his surprise, Éomer did not move immediately. The boy gave him a hard look and then reluctantly moved one step away, although he grasped Éowyn’s hand and held it tightly. Théodred wondered if all brothers and sisters shared such a bond, such loyalty to one another or if these two were especially close because of the death of their parents. Perhaps speaking with them wouldn’t be as easy as he’d assumed. He gave what he hoped was a reassuring smile and was relieved when Éomer returned it. Éowyn just stared back unblinkingly as she waited for him to speak.
“I don’t know if Wynléas can be your nursemaid, Éowyn.” Théodred hurriedly continued as the little girl’s eyes filled with tears and Éomer scowled at him. He suddenly wished he’d gone out riding earlier with his friends as he’d planned before his father had called him in to discuss matters regarding the Dunlendings. “I don’t know anything about her. Is she married? Does she have children? I’m sure Father would be willing to ask her, but Wynléas might not want to move here,” he finished in his softest voice. The one usually reserved for his favorite horse.
“She’s not married,” Éomer replied eagerly. “Not anymore… not for a long time. I’m sure she’d come if Uncle Théoden asked her to, or maybe Éowyn and I could go to Aldburg and ask her to come.” He’d like to go back home and see his friends, if only for a short time. While he didn’t want to be around Wynléas and was glad he was too old to need a nursemaid, if Éowyn liked her then he was willing to have her come to Edoras to live.
“She has two daughters and a son,” Éowyn said staring down at the ground. “One of them has a little boy - I’ve played with him - and there’s a baby, too.” She looked at Théodred, her grey eyes wide with hope. “But-but you’ll ask?”
“I will,” he promised, “and if Wynléas will not come then my father or I will speak with Lyfides. However,” he cautioned when Éowyn’s face lit up, “I don’t know what will happen, she’s been a faithful servant for many years.”
“But you’re the prince; can’t you order her to be nice to me?” Éowyn asked, puzzled.
Choking back a laugh and struggling to keep a straight face, Théodred shook his head. He glanced at Éomer from the corner of his eye to see that the boy had turned his head away but he thought he was grinning. The intent look on Éowyn’s face suddenly reminded him very much of her father, who had commanded the first éored Théodred had ridden with. He was reminded again of what she and Eomer had lost… and the uncle and aunt he had lost.
“I am a prince, but not even a prince… or a king can force someone to like someone else, Éowyn. I think you know that, do you not?” he asked as he studied her.
“Yes,” she replied with a long, deep sigh. “But-but can you ask her? Or,” Éowyn said as a thought came to her, “maybe I don’t need a nursemaid anymore. I’m old enough not to have one. Éomer doesn’t have one,” she pointed out as she turned to look at her brother.
“I’m four years older than you!” Éomer exclaimed indignantly. “I had a nursemaid until I was ten. You have to have one. Who’s going to put you to bed at night? Who would get you dressed?”
“I can dress myself,” she snapped back furiously.
“But you can’t comb and braid your hair,” he shot back standing with his hands on his hips as he stared down at his little sister. What could she be thinking? She had to have a nursemaid.
“You can’t either,” Éowyn said scowling as she looked up at his mussed hair, the braids half out of the leather thongs after a long day of running around.
Théodred looked back and forth between the two children with amazement filling his bluish-grey eyes. How the two of them had gone from protecting each other to quarreling in such a manner in just a few moments was astonishing. He was particularly shocked to see Éowyn so loud and vocal when she had always seemed so quiet. It was becoming clear to him that he had not seen the real Éowyn since she had arrived in Edoras. It made him wonder about Éomer, if he had seen what the boy was truly like. Théodred shook his head slightly to clear those thoughts away; it was something that he would need to spend time thinking on later. However, it did appear that he needed to spend more time with his two young cousins if he wanted to get to know them for who they truly were, they certainly were… intriguing.
“Hush,” Théodred said to the quarreling boy and girl as he stood up. “We need to go see my father. It’s why I came to get you and I’m sure he’ll be wondering what’s keeping us.” A slight furrow creased his brow at the worried glance the siblings exchanged. “Now, Éowyn,” he said turning his full attention on her, “you will have a nursemaid. You are far too young not to have one. As I said, we’ll speak to my father about Wynléas but you will have one,” he said firmly.
“Yes, Théodred,” she whispered with an aggrieved sigh. She clutched the doll to her chest and stared at the ground. Théodred turned to Éomer.
“Your sister is right, Éomer, you need to take more care with your hair,” he said winking at the boy.
“Yes, Théodred,” he replied, grinning.
“Now, come along.” Théodred put his arm around Éomer’s shoulder and tentatively held out his hand for Éowyn to take. She stared at the hand and peered up at him through her eyelashes for a long moment before finally slipping her small hand into his large calloused one. Strangely pleased by her trust in him, Théodred smiled down at her as they began walking back toward Meduseld. “Tell me about your horse, Éowyn,” he asked as they emerged from behind the woodpile. Her eyes lit up as she eagerly launched into a detailed description of her beloved horse. Bemused, Théodred nodded from time to time as she spoke, unable to get a word in, although Éomer corrected her on several points and she didn’t seem to mind. As he walked through the wide doors of Meduseld, Théodred’s opinion of his two young cousins was much different than it had been when he’d left the building a half hour earlier and he’d somehow agreed to take them out riding with him the following day.