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Chapter 1: Passing

by Alassante

Théoden did not react to the healer’s long dreaded words, unable to gather a single thought for a few moments. Left alone, he walked to the window and stood watching Théodred teaching young Éowyn how to handle a blade. His sword probably weighed as much as Éowyn herself but she would not complain and be thought of as weak. Even so young, she strived to prove to her uncle and cousin that she was capable.

For the past months Théoden had tried to encourage her to learn how to sew or other pastimes more ladylike. Éowyn had been so offended, it amused her uncle. Théodred had made it his mission to show her it simply was not done; the royal woman in Rohan did not fight battles. They tended their home and children, waiting for their warriors to come back. Théoden often wondered when the two of them would realize that both were equally stubborn and wouldn’t back down.

The king looked across the garden where the pair were sparring for Éomer, but found him with his back to the two, his eyes scanning the horizon. He had grown quieter each day as his mother grew sicker. His sister seemed not to understand how serious it was but Éomer had always been a very intuitive young man. He saw many things that most would not. Perhaps he saw what others chose not to.

Taking a deep breath, Théoden began the dreaded journey outside to talk to his niece and nephew. As soon as he joined them, Théodred stopped short and looked at him, studying his father’s face. Nodding slowly, the king conveyed the message without words. Théodred took the sword away from Éowyn, who turned big innocent eyes to her cousin.

“What is it, Théodred? Do you have to leave again? What…” seeing her uncle she stopped suddenly, the look on his face seeming to frighten her. “What has happened?”

As huge silent tears rolled down her face, Théodred explained that her mother had finally succumbed to her illness and was no longer part of their world. He picked her up and the girl laid her head on his shoulder. Théoden’s heart ached for her as he ran his hand gently down her back for a few moments.

“Father, I will take Éowyn inside so you can have a few moments alone with Éomer.” Theoden knew Théodred knew how much this was hurting him as it was his son, but right now, Theodwyn’s children’s care came first. They would deal with their own grief in time. These children had suffered so much this year. First their father died horribly in an orc ambush, then their mother’s illness, now her death. After his father nodded, he left him, taking Éowyn inside Meduseld.

Théoden walked slowly to where Éomer was sitting. He was no longer watching the skyline but studying the grass intently. The king sat beside him and paused a moment trying to find the words that seemed so hard to say.

“Please.” Éomer did not look up and Théoden had to strain to hear his quiet voice. “You don’t need to say it out loud. We all knew it would not be long before she would…be gone.”

“She passed peacefully,” Théoden replied.

After a moment, Éomer looked at him, fire flickering in his eyes. “My father did not. Yet neither loss seems less painful. Hers seems harder to understand. Orcs kill. It seems comprehensible that my father, a great warrior, would die in battle. But my mother…I cannot understand why she had to be taken from us now. Why do the women in our family die so young, leaving their children on their own? What will I say to Éowyn about her future? My sister needs her mother.”

“Éomer, there are no words to explain this to you,” Théoden replied after a moment. “When my wife died, I searched for answers and never found them. Death holds no prejudice; children die before parents, wives before husbands, good before bad, never is it fair.”

“I will never love a woman only to see her die and watch her children cry at her passing.” Éomer crossed his arms over his chest, his face grim.

“The moments you spend with those you love are all that makes this life worth living, child. Do not renounce love. I do not regret one moment spent loving those I have lost. Denying yourself this love will create emptiness in your heart that you will seek forever to fill. Love is what makes us different from the evil we fight in these lands.”

Éomer eyes were full of sorrow and doubt but he said not a word before rising and leaving his uncle. Théoden sighed deeply and wondered how he could ease their suffering. Only time could mend their broken hearts but he worried that Éomer would become hard and distant without a mother’s love. Hopefully since they had each other, things would be easier. They were so much like he and their mother, Theodwyn. Pain twisted his heart at the thought of his sister. He would miss her so much and he vowed to give her children all that he had.

“Never will they doubt my love for them,” Théoden whispered to the setting sun, tears glistening in his eyes.