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Dawning Hope: A Day Out
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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1
Preparations

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.

Author’s Note: At the end of ‘Dawning Hope’ I said that I would be continuing on with that story and here is the first installment. However, I have decided that instead of posting it as one long story, I will post any stories that come to me as small, four or five chapter stories. I’m doing it this way for two reasons; one, I never intended for ‘Dawning Hope’ to be a long story and so I didn’t have an end in mind beyond how it already ended, and I can’t just randomly write without a fixed point in mind. Two, I like the idea of being able to skip around if I want to in this setting and doing short stories like this will allow me to do so. I will use ‘Dawning Hope’ as part of the title each time I post a story to help people know it is part of this series.


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“Is this enough?” Théodred asked doubtfully as he poked through the small bag of food Blídhe had set on the table. There didn’t seem to be enough for three people even if two of them were children. A large wedge of hard cheese, strips of dried venison, six apples, and a smallish round loaf of fresh baked bread were all that was in the worn leather bag. He slung two waterskins over his shoulder as he glanced at the cook.

“It’ll be enough, lord,” the elderly cook replied turning away from the stove and wiping her hands off on a cloth she wore wrapped around her waist. She limped heavily as she walked across the room toward him. “Neither of them seem to be eating much,” she continued with a worried frown. “I worry most about Éomer, it’s not right for a boy his age to eat as little as he does.”

Éomer was not eating? Why had no one mentioned that to him? Théodred wondered as he glanced from Blídhe back to the bag of food with a frown. Perhaps his father was aware of it, he had certainly noticed Éowyn’s uneasiness around Lyfides and had taken steps to help her. Although, now that he thought of it, his father had arranged for Wynléas to come to Edoras even before he knew about Éowyn’s dislike of Lyfides. Perhaps no one except the cook knew Éomer was not eating well. Théodred looked at the woman who’d been running the kitchens since his father had been a young boy.

“Does the king know?”

Blídhe shrugged, throwing her hands up in the air. “If he does, he hasn’t told me. He doesn’t frequent my kitchen the way you do, lord… hasn’t since he was your age.”

Théodred grinned. It was true that he’d spent a lot of time in her kitchen over the years. He’d run in for a quick bite of something, it never really mattered what it was, and Blídhe was always free with both the food and her counsel. And her hugs, he suddenly remembered. Up until he was nine or ten she always hugged him before sending him on his way. How had he forgotten that? It was something he’d just taken for granted he supposed with an inward smile.

“Perhaps I should bring Éomer and Éowyn here and let you feed them as you used to feed me.”

Blídhe chuckled and let out a small snort of amusement as she remembered back to when he’d been young and underfoot. “I don’t know if I can take two young ones running in and out of here like you used to, lord. But, perhaps,” she gave a deep sigh that was offset by the smile in her eyes, “those two can be taught to walk in quietly.”

“I’m sure that Éowyn can, but I’m not so sure about Éomer, Blídhe, he seems much like me at that age,” Théodred said with a small smile.

“I thought as much,” she said, shaking her head. “Well, you bring them in anyway and I’ll try and teach them the proper way to act in a kitchen. If it’ll get them eating…” her voice trailed off as she abruptly turned away and limped back to the stew she’d been preparing. “You bring them in after your ride,” she added glancing back over her shoulder.

“I will,” Théodred said realizing he’d been dismissed. Laughing softly under his breath he grabbed the bag of food and headed out of the kitchen toward his father’s study.

The king’s study was on the opposite side of the building from the kitchen and Théodred strode quickly across the great hall instead of taking the longer way around through the hallways. The huge room was mostly empty now after the conclusion of the daily court session when the king heard and judged the disputes amongst his people. A few servants were cleaning and several members of the King’s Riders lounged near the large hearth talking quietly. He acknowledged their hails with a brief smile and a nod but did not stop to speak to the men. Éomer and Éowyn had been down in the stables for some time and Théodred did not want to keep them waiting. Even though Renward had returned from visiting his wife’s family in the Westfold and Théodred knew the children would be safe with the stable master, he still felt uneasy about having sent them off by themselves. He hoped his father would not keep him long. The door to the study was closed and he knocked, entering at his father’s call.

“You wanted to speak with me before I left, Father?” Théodred asked as he approached the desk where his father sat hunched over a pile of papers, his chin resting in his left hand.

Théoden finished reading the paper in his hand before looking up at his tall son and giving him an appraising look. He set the paper neatly to the side before pushing his chair back and stretching his legs out in front of him. Picking up the pen on his desk he idly tapped it against the palm of his hand as he studied Théodred. He wondered if his son knew what he was letting himself in for by taking the two children out riding and he briefly considered joining them. A glance at the papers on his desk reminded him of his duty and the things he simply had to get done. He started at the sound of Théodred’s voice.

“Father? Is there something you need me to do?” Théodred asked, trying to keep the impatience he felt from creeping into his voice.

“No,” replied Théoden with a slight furrow creasing his brow at the edge he heard in his son’s voice. “Are you in a hurry to leave? There are many hours left in the day,” he said glancing out the small window that gave him a view out over the vast green plains of Rohan.

“I am in a bit of a hurry,” Théodred admitted. “I sent Éomer and Éowyn down to the stables as soon as their lessons were finished and that’s been some time ago now as I went to the kitchen to get food for our lunch.”

“Renward is back and they’ll be safe enough there,” Théoden said with a dismissive wave of his hand.

Théodred gave a reluctant nod. He trusted the stable master implicitly, but it still seemed like a long time to leave the children alone. It was strange, he mused, yesterday he hadn’t paid much attention to the two children and now he worried about them being left alone for a short time.

“I wanted to ask you about your plans for the day. You’ve never taken children out for a ride… you’ve never had full responsibility for any children before, and that,” Théoden paused seeking the right words, “concerns me.”

“You’re concerned that I can’t take care of two children? On a simple horse ride? What could happen that I couldn’t take care of, Father?” he asked, offended. How could his father doubt his abilities? He’d been leading his own éored for several years now.

“What concerns me, Théodred,” the king replied sharply, “is that you may not be aware that watching over children is different than anything you’ve ever done before. Children, unlike the men of your éored, do not always obey the commands given them. Which you may remember from your own childhood,” he pointed out dryly.

Théodred colored slightly. “I do,” he admitted, remembering two particularly memorable occasions when he had disobeyed his father and the resulting consequences of his disobedience. Although, only one of those did he truly regret and then only because Elfhelm had gotten hurt; the other time he still remembered quite fondly and with a bit of pride that he’d been mostly successful in carrying out his plan. Sneaking out of Meduseld past the guards and making his way down through Edoras with several of his friends to the most popular tavern in the city had been a thrilling adventure for a thirteen year old boy. The fact that none of them actually went into the tavern bothered him not at all; he knew he would have been spotted immediately and escorted back to his father by one of the King’s Riders who frequented the tavern. Even getting caught sneaking back into Meduseld did not quite ruin the memory of the evening for him… only dampened it a bit.

“I’ll watch them closely,” Théodred promised. “But I don’t think there’s anything you need to worry about. We’re not going far and I am sure they’ll listen to me.”

Théoden stared at his son for a long minute as he pondered once again whether or not he should ride out with them. It was a beautiful day and it had been several days since he’d been astride his horse and he just was not sure that his son understood what he was telling him. Still, between the work he needed to finish and the fact that Théodred needed to learn what it was like to have children under his care – he would be a father someday and this was a perfect opportunity for him to learn – Théoden decided to stay behind. He sighed softly.

“When will you be back?”

“Mid-afternoon, I think. I’m taking them a league or so down the Snowbourn to where that thick grove of willow trees grows alongside the river.”

Théoden nodded, it was a place he’d often taken Elfhild in the early years of their marriage. “Well, then, keep a close eye on them, especially Éomer, he strongly reminds me of you at that age,” he said, smiling. He gestured toward the door and Théodred turned to go, but paused and swung back around.

“Father? Blídhe mentioned that they weren’t eating well and she seemed most concerned about Éomer. Have you noticed?”

“Yes. I’ve seen them pushing their food around on their plates to try and hide the fact they weren’t eating much.”

“You didn’t make them eat?”

“Make them? How do you suggest I make them eat, Théodred?” Théoden asked, frowning at his son. “They are eating, just less than is usual for children of their age,” he said with a small shrug. “And for now we’ll watch them closely and make sure that they continue to do so. They’ve been through a lot in the last year and this isn’t unusual… they’ll eat when they’re ready.”

Théodred stared at his father, surprised at the crisp note in his voice as he responded. It dawned on him that his response might have something to do with his mother. They seldom spoke about her and never about the way she’d died or Théoden’s feelings about her death. But now was not the right time to speak about it, not with the children waiting. It was a conversation that would take time and Théodred was willing to wait until he returned. He nodded.

“Of course, Father, forgive me. You’ve had much more experience with such things than I have,” he said quietly. “With your leave?” he asked turning halfway toward the door.

“Go, and remember what I said,” Théoden replied as he bent back over his papers. He straightened up when the door closed and he gently tossed the pen on the desk with a deep sigh. After several long moments of staring out the window lost in thought, he picked up the next paper on the pile and began to read.

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To be continued…

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