Near dawn, Éomer, King of Rohan after the death of Théoden Ednew, tossed restlessly in his borrowed bed. He had never aspired to be anything but a loyal Rider, expecting to someday being a Marshal to his cousin Théodred the heir. But Théodred lay under the simbelmynë in his death-mound, soon to be joined by his father, and Éomer, however unready he felt, must now rule.
He had no one with whom to share the burden, unmarried as he was, and in a year, his sister Éowyn would leave to join her betrothed, Prince Faramir of Ithilien, the Steward of Gondor. A new Age was dawning, complex and confusing, and Éomer must lead Rohan through its beginning.
How could he find balance between its strained resources and the needs of a war-torn people?
Sighing, he gave up on the notion of sleep. Rising and drawing on a pair of trews and a light shirt, he moved on bare feet out of the guest-chamber he had been given for his visit to the Westmark lord’s home. This great-house, like Meduseld in Edoras, was built atop a terraced hill, with one road winding around and up it through the town of Aldburg. He made his way quietly out through a door onto the broad porch, and stood, enjoying the cool pre-dawn breeze and the paling stars above.
You are troubled, King of Rohan, said a quiet, oddly familiar voice.
“Aye, I am—who speaks?” he demanded, whirling and reaching for Guthwine—but his sword was not belted at his waist.
You need not fear. Are not guards within the sound of your voice?
It occurred to him that he should have been challenged by Erragol’s house guards, but the night was quiet, and he knew that no one would reply if he called.
“What do you want of me, if you are too cowardly to appear where I can see you?” he demanded.
You have agreed with the new King of the Reunited Realm to allow convicts to cross our lands on their way north.
“Part of the route between Gondor and Arnor goes through Rohan. Elessar wishes to knit them together by improving the roads. The bargain I made with him has benefits to us as well; they will help us improve ours, and with the trade treaties we also signed, that will open up new markets for us.”
Rohan has little need for other markets. We have ever stood on our own. Why do you call it wisdom to position us between two halves of what may become an empire, the jaws of a larger entity that may gobble us down?
Éomer scowled. “Because standing on our own is not the only way. Had we not had aid, we would have perished at Helms’ Deep. Had we not aided Gondor, we would have fallen like wheat to the scythe. Indeed, had not the Gondorrim rewarded us for our aid to them with the land, there would be no Rohan! Just because Sauron is now disembodied does not mean all his minions are gone, and if they attack, we will welcome the help of our allies. That is also why I agreed to allow Gimli to bring Dwarves to Aglarond, for they are proven fighters, staunch allies, and will also increase the flow of trade. As for future threats, I cannot speak to that, for I will not live forever. But my sons and their sons must do their best to lead, as I shall strive to do.”
Lead or dictate? I saw no evidence that you have consulted the Council before signing these treaties.
“No matter when I am crowned, as soon as my uncle fell, I was King,” Éomer said heavily, feeling the sting of tears in his eyes. “It was by no desire of mine that neither he nor Théodred survived, and while I never sought the kingship, now that it is mine, I must discharge its duties as well as I may. When I return to Edoras, I will summon the Council, and I will listen to them, but in the end, as I am king, I must make the decisions, and the responsibility is mine.”
Only if the First Advisor agrees.
Éomer tightened his jaw to prevent it dropping. He had never been taught certain things about the kingship; those were passed from royal father to royal son. But now he remembered his cousin’s troubled muttering on what became his deathbed, which neither Éomer nor Éowyn had understood. “What shall I do, without the First Advisor?” Théodred had fretted. “What if he never comes? How should I rule, how should Rohan survive?”
“Then let him stand forth and speak with me,” Éomer said boldly.
A large form detached itself from the shadows, and Éomer gasped. Standing before him was a horse, a stallion—that began to subtly glow. Larger than most such, he was obviously one of the Mearas, the fabled steeds said to have been brought to them by Béma the Huntsman from Aman. But unlike Snowmane or Shadowfax, this one was dark, with a golden mane. He dropped to one knee, gazing. The thought crossed his mind: was the legend true, or that they were descended from Felaróf, Éorl’s great horse?
Why not both? The humor in that mind-voice was unmistakable.
A soft nose touched his shoulder. Rise, brother. I am Steelgleam, and as Snowmane was brother to Théoden, so I am to you. Now the voice was proud.
“Would you have been Théodred’s?” whispered Éomer as he stood up.
No. His mearh died untimely, defending a herd from Sauron’s minions.I am yours, and you have known me all your life, when I have chosen to speak with you.
“No disrespect intended, but I have never seen you before,” he protested.
The voice was quietly amused. Among my powers has been until now the ability to shadow your memory as necessary. Had I deemed you unworthy, you would never have heard or seen me again. You are the true King of Rohan, Éomer son of Éomund, sister-son of Théoden, and your reign shall be long and legendary. Rise now, mount and summon your men, for there is much to tell them. The time to stand alone is over, for you and for our land. Summon your men!
That morning, the men of the Westfold rejoiced, swiftly spreading the news across the plains: Éomer had been tested by the mearas’ new lord, and now rode him, blond hair gleaming above his dark grey body.
And the chroniclers told about the beginning of a Golden Age for Rohan, ruled by Éomer Farsighted.