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Markhînh

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Éowyn snarls at the orcs who are standing outside the reach of her sword, as if waiting for something. They have been trying to get to her cousin, but seem reluctant to harm her in the process. She's been using that to her advantage, standing over Théodred to keep the orcs from getting to him and finishing what one of the corpses that create a second circle around her had begun.

"You will tire eventually, princess." There is one orc she's beginning to wish would actually come close enough to kill, a taunting bastard who seems more intelligent than his companions. "We will have the Rider."

"Only if I am dead," she snaps back at the orc, baring her teeth in defiance. She will not leave her cousin, no matter what the orcs try. No one is going to take Théodred's life while she still has breath in her body.

"You are alone, with no one to take the watch if you fall. No one will come in time."

Her brother will come when he learns she's here. Her uncle or her mother will send help when there is no word. Éowyn needs only to hold out until someone comes. To keep Théodred alive until then.

"I. Will. Not. Fall."


Théodwyn has no warriors to send to answer the silence from her nephew and daughter. No Rider to go find her son and send him to the aid of his sister and cousin. She has no aid even for her brother, dying in his bed of what poison the viper has fed him.

She has only her own strength, and that of the women and children and old men who remain in Edoras. A strength that has been tested again and again in her years, by death and sickness and pain, and she cannot let herself rest yet. So she sends a girl who is in the gangly stage of youth on a swift horse to find Éomer. Women who had been shield-maidens before they had children and still have horses to ride go toward the Isen to face the silence there.

And old men and women who know of herbs and healing do what they can for their king, and in the end, carry the bier to lay her brother to his rest under a mound that marches in line with their fathers. They sing the mourning words she cannot force past the knot in her chest, and look to her as the queen she will never truly be while they wait for the return of her nephew.

It is she who sits upon her brother's throne - her nephew's throne - when word comes that strangers approach Edoras. She who smiles a brittle smile when Gandalf is brought to her, with companions she does not know.

"You will find a poor welcome in our golden hall, I fear, Gandalf." Her voice is clear enough, and her strength enough to face the sorrow in his eyes, and that of the man with him. "Rohan's strength is drained by a viper and his poison, and I do not know if it shall be enough now to defend itself, no matter what you might ask of her."

"What has happened here?" The man speaks, and there is strength in his voice alongside the worry. Strength Théodwyn wishes for a fleeting moment she could lean upon, but she knows it is something she cannot do.

"My brother has been killed, his son and my daughter gone to defend our western borders, where they have fallen silent, and my son in the east to slay what orcs have crept in while our strength has been held back."

"We met Éomer upon the road. He lent us horses to search for our missing companions." The man looks for a moment as if he might offer what she will not accept, but keeps silent. "He rode on, saying only he could not tarry long, but must keep his vigil upon the borders."

Her son, at least, is well, and she can only hope the girl sent to find him had done so, and delivered her message.

"It is good he was well, but I do not fear for him." Théodwyn pauses, looking over the four who have come to her. "But that does not tell me your names, nor your purpose here, and that I would know before aught else. There shall be shelter for you, no matter, but after."

"My apologies, Lady Théodwyn." The man bows his head a moment, before saying, "I am Aragorn."

"And I am Kíli, at your service," the dwarf adds, bowing in as courtly a fashion as any she's seen, though there is a smile trying to be seen beneath his beard that speaks of an irrepressible cheer.

"Tauriel." The elf is almost terse, though there is a warmth to her expression that Théodwyn is uncertain of. What would an elf find in this place to be anything to her taste?

"You are already familiar with my name." Gandalf smiles, though there is still a deep sorrow there. "I am afraid our purpose was to aid Théoden, and I am sorry that we have come too late to do more than find sorrow in his death."

"What aid we might lend to Rohan, we will." Kíli speaks before Gandalf can add anything else, the words seeming to be naught by impulse. Honorable impulse, to be certain, but unplanned nonetheless.

Théodwyn will not turn him aside, no matter. She must use all she has to keep her people alive and well against the rising tide of grief and shadows.

"Rest tonight, Kíli. There is nothing that might be done now that cannot wait until morning." Théodwyn smiles again, as brittle as the first smile. "You may come to regret such an offer, but I shall hope you do not."

Kíli smiles in return, wide and cheerful, though there is an almost grim strength that runs beneath it. "I shall not."