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Leaves

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“Look at all of the leaves, Théo!” Theodwyn squealed with excitement as she hurried to the little grove of oak and ash trees near the gates of Edoras, pulling her older brother along behind her.

“I see, Wyn...” The prince replied, a massive yawn escaping him as his littlest sister finally released his hand and began to collect the leaves at her feet to make into a pile.

It wasn’t that he didn’t enjoy accompanying Théodwyn on her little adventures. In fact, he often looked forward to them.

However, on this particular day, Théoden was just simply exhausted, as just hours before this, their father had woken him in the middle of the night to attend an urgent meeting with the Captain of the Guard and some of his most trusted lieutenants.

The gathering had all been a bit of a blur, and in the end, the possible “threat” they’d all come together to discuss ended up being nothing to worry about anyway.

Théoden’s suffering had all been for nought, and now he could barely keep his eyes open as he watched Théodwyn piling up the colorful leaves on the ground around her.

“Do you want me to help you?” He asked the little princess, bending slowly to start gathering up the leaves as well.

“No!” Théodwyn refused, rushing over on her short little legs and all but smacking the leaves from her brother’s hands. “I can do it all by myself! You wait! I’ll make the biggest pile and then we can jump in it together!”

“Alright then. Have it your way.” The golden haired prince yawned again, stepping carefully over the exposed roots of the largest oak tree and taking a seat against its trunk to wait for his call to action.

It wasn’t long until his eyes began to close on their own accord, and his mind became dazed with the fog of imminent slumber.

He blinked a few times, trying to stay awake as Théodwyn continued her leaf gathering in front of him, but quickly he realized that will power would not be enough to prevail in this battle.

Before Théoden fell into a deep, much needed sleep against the trunk of the tall oak tree, his eyes shifted from Théodwyn just to confirm that his three other sisters were still nearby at the pond.

Surely they could keep an eye on little Wyn while he shut his eyes for a bit.

Sleep took him shortly after this final thought, and Théodwyn was not at all pleased to find her brother napping once she was finally ready to play with him.

....

“I can’t wait to see the look on his face!”

Théoden began to stir at the sound of a familiar voice above him.

“Shh! Be quiet Goldie.” Another whisper hushed the first speaker. “You’ll give it all away...”

“I think he’s waking up.” One more giggling girl joined the others.

“Good morning, little brother.” Maethild’s unmistakeable mocking greeted his ears in the first few moments of his returning awareness. “I do hope you slept well.”

When the prince opened his eyes he was not entirely surprised to find his sisters’ grinning faces staring down at him, though he was a bit concerned to see that the smallest of the four was missing from the bunch.

“Where’s Wyn?” He asked as he sat up straight and rubbed the sleep from his eyes.

“She’s here.” Goldrid assured her brother, lifting Théodwyn from her most recently destroyed leaf pile and setting her down again in Théoden’s lap. “See? Safe and sound.”

“It’s a very good thing we were here to look after her.” Beyryth pointed out. “You are quite a heavy sleeper, Théo. We all tried, but none of us could wake you.”

Théoden frowned and looked down to his littlest sister, who was glaring disappointedly up at him.

“You were supposed to play with me.” She reminded him, bringing up a fierce, and immediate guilt from the bottom of the prince’s heart.

“Oh, Wyn, I’m sorry.” He apologized, hugging the girl to him and kissing the top of her head. “I was just so tired...”

“I had to punish you.” Théodwyn informed her brother, sternness thick in her normally sweet voice. “Mae, and Goldie, and Bey helped.”

“Wha..? What are you talking about, Wyn?” Théoden asked, confused and a bit worried as he looked to the three other girls for a clearer answer to the four year old’s riddle.

“I hope you like your hair, brother.” Maethild smirked wickedly, earning a mischievous snigger from each one of her sisters.

“My hair?” Théoden blinked, reaching up to touch his head.

He sighed and rolled his eyes upon realizing what had been done to him.

His sisters had taken his long, golden locks and braided them to look like Theodwyn’s.

One or more of them had also added in a few white petaled wild flowers just to be cruel, and he highly suspected that the whole thing had been Maethild’s orchestrating.

“Very funny.” He muttered at them all as they began to laugh properly while he pulled the flowers from his hair one by one. “I’ll get every one of you back for this. Just you wait.”

“Awww, no you won’t.” Beyryth smiled sweetly at her big brother. “You’ve never fought back before.”

“Well this time will be different!” Théoden promised the girls, becoming even more frustrated when he found that flowers weren’t all that his sisters had woven into his hair. “Why did you put leaves in it too!?” He whined. “I can’t get them out! They’re crumbling!”

As the eldest three girls continued to laugh, Théodwyn reached up and cupped her brother’s face in her little hands, pulling him downward to look her in the eye.

“Don’t ever fall asleep on me again!” She advised him.

He obeyed.