Author’s note: This is a short exploration of the relationship between Theodred and Eomer. It draws on LOTR, and somewhat on the UT. It is important to remember that the story switches not only points of view but the time and setting in which they take place (but that should be easy for those familiar with the book).
The Horns of Eorl
Over the rolling hills the young prince rode, his blood hot within him. The fire of his fury seemed to fuel his horse, which he kept in running through day and night. Even when the pale skies above shone clear, the storm of his wrath seemed to darken the sky and blaze through the lush grass his path before him.
In his following were some hundred weary Riders; their spirits kept alight by their leader’s boundless energy as he pulled them down the path of vengeance. At the Royal City they had waited idle for some order of the king to cleanse his kingdom of the foul enemies pouring through its borders and ravaging his people’s homes. Anxious they had been to set forth, and avenge the death of the crown prince, when they were shocked by the king’s efforts to restrain them.
Thus it was that the new heir to the throne in his mutiny had little trouble finding men to help him. When he at last decided to leave his thoughts ever remained deeply troubled by the king’s resistance to action. By now his cousin’s killers had long left the scene of the crime. Yet they could very well be among the band of enemies seen trekking deep into his territory, along the Eastern borders of the kingdom. Their direction was now his.
In the desperate spot where the enemy now held him and his men, he could not deny that for once he felt fear. His courageous spirit as a leader of his people was at last giving way to his weariness, and hope for the bleak situation in which they found themselves bled away into the river.
The crown prince had been riding and battling nearly two days without rest, against the wizard’s forces that sorely outnumbered them. His men found hard and bravely, as they ever did, for which he was always grateful. But his enemies were tireless – never relenting, as his men fell fast all around him.
There in the ford of the Isen River the ring the enemy held around them tightened. His forces behind him had been scattered, and any left struggled desperately to keep the East bank in Rohan’s control. The wolves of the Wainriders let out their chilling cries and snarls as they contributed their lot to the fight. The evil Men Saruman had mounted on horses were not quite as challenging as the Uruks, but rendered effective damage with their height and their arrows. The sun was setting, and in the mists of the dimness it was all the harder to see their black foes moving about them.
The Marshal’s checkmate closed in; by now his men had fallen to but a few. There were moments when he could catch a short breath, and he would think of his cousin who remained at home in the Royal City. Though Theodred regarded his cousin very much as a brother, Eomer was in many ways unlike himself. He had long been calm and cool and unambitious, and though concerned with the threat of Saruman seemed always to have distaste for rising to the challenge.
Here upon the battlefield the fair grass burned brown, and the vapors of Saruman wreaked foul the sweet air, and the blood of his people puddled the fields and tainted the river they stood over. The great Theodred’s valiance was slowly betrayed by his waning strength, and he wondered if his young cousin would yet snap out of his spell and offer his strength to the fight in time.
As the emboldened rider shot across the fair green plains, his heart would at times cool, when he would remember his days of not humility, but perhaps arrogance, rather. Though he respected his cousin, he could not understand his enthusiasm for combat and his eagerness to begin battle with Saruman. He had these many months been of a like mind to the king, whose mind expressed intense disdain for many of his battle-minded subjects, and who sought always to avoid confrontation, despite the loss it was now costing him.
But now the king’s only son, whom the new prince had loved as a brother, was dead. From where he had sat, idle in the confines of the palace, he desired vengeance – not only upon his cousin’s killers but also upon his own cowardice. Upon hearing Theodred’s last words, in which he wished to remain where he had fallen and await his cousin to come redeem the battle, Eomer’s mood at last had changed. He could either set forth as his cousin had hoped, or remain in the palace at the foot of the king, hoping his own shame would kill him before Saruman did.
And now, arrayed in weapons and riding free upon the fields, he heard the horns of Eorl call to him, and he felt the fighting spirit of his people inhabit him again, as if his cousin had indeed bequeathed it to him. He couldn’t remember when it had ever left him, or why. He began to wonder if he hadn’t been under some spell of Saruman’s all this while.
Saruman’s Uruks never let up, never waned, until at last he, the Crown Prince, First Marshal of the Mark, had fallen. The Uruk hatchet flew into him with such a force that he was thrown to the ground. He thought for sure his head would be next, but for Grimbold and the coming of Elfhelm, who at last turned the tables and scattered Saruman’s troops.
Now he felt his strength drain from him as he never had before. It was his final hour, he knew, and as the night set upon the field so too did it set upon him. Just as he uttered his last request – to let him lie there until Eomer came, he heard the shrill horn of the enemy signaling the end of the fight. He wondered the coincidence of it sounding in the moment of his last breath.
The dying soldier thought then of Eomer, who still, it appeared, remained safe in the palace. Would his spell at last be lifted? Would his beloved cousin come to his last call? The prince continued to hope, when all around him faded away and he could see no more.
The company slowed soon before they caught up with the Orcs. They stole along quietly for the next few hours, waiting for the moon to wane. At last the deep shades of night began to lighten. Dawn was nigh, and their moment had come.
Following their leader to success or doom they descended upon the Orc camp in such a fury that even those hiding in the woods could not escape. Though they did lose several men, their victory came surprisingly easy, by their renewed sense of strength and spirit. Ready for the next battle, they cleaned up the field, impatiently awaiting the Marshal to announce the next move.
For his part the young prince looked upon his victory, and was satisfied for a time. For he had redeemed some of his long lost Rohirric pride, and felt as though his life had at last returned to him. He resolved that he would fill his cousin’s role as heir to the throne, and even if he had to walk to the ends of the earth pursuing servants of evil, he would do the title justice. He fancied that his cousin now smiled upon him, and Eomer rallied his men to find the next challenge, as he awaited the next turn of fate to cross his path.