Title: Second Marshal of the Mark

Author: Jade Hunter

A.N.: Entirely a Théodred ficlet, a one-shot.

Disclaimer: Lord of the Rings doesn't belong to me.

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"Orcs have been spotted at the Fords of Isen!"

This battle cry was enough to boil the blood of any Rohirrim within earshot, for the knowledge that Saruman dared venture into lands of the Mark was outrageous and foul indeed.

Théodred, son and heir of Théoden-king and Second Marshal of the Mark, was no less incensed as he buckled on his sword and donned his armor. He took up his helmet and strode quickly to the stables, making straight for his horse, Candidus, who was being saddled and bridled by one of the young stable hands.

"Théodred," someone called, and he turned to see his father-sister's son, his cousin Éomer, headed for him, garbed as Théodred himself was in Rohirric battle armor. Behind him came his sister, Éowyn, her white dress billowing behind her as she rushed to keep up with her brother's longer strides.

It had been Éowyn who had called him, her fair face pinched with a strange longing, and Théodred knew immediately what it was she wanted.

"Nay, Éowyn, go back to Théoden-king's side," he told her firmly, but gently. "This is not the battle for you."

She was his cousin, and he loved her well, but her desire to prove herself as a shieldmaiden would bring her naught but quick death. Behind her, Éomer looked relieved. It was obvious that she had pleaded first with her brother, then, seeing it was futile, decided to go higher up to Théodred, who was Second Marshal to Éomer's Third.

Éowyn looked vexed. "When will it be my battle?" she demanded, her hands clutching the fabric of her skirt tightly, indignant. "Not this battle, nor the one before, nor the one before that! I am no pampered lady who dawdles about waving a kerchief at men; I am a shieldmaiden of Rohan! I can fight!"

"You are able to, yes," Théodred told her, his patience wavering. They'd had this argument too many times to count, ever since Éowyn had defeated in armed combat her shieldtrainer. "But you may not."

Candidus was ready, and Théodred took hold of the reins that barely restrained his mighty stallion. With practiced ease, he mounted the majestic horse, and glared sternly down at Éowyn. Éomer, having mounted his horse during his sister's rant, waited off to the side, giving instructions to the stable hands and the various riders that came by. Théodred was glad for this, for it Éomer had tried to join in as he lectured Éowyn, she would have visibly bristled, indignant, for the young man was only four years past his sister.

"Know this, Éowyn," Théodred warned his battle-eager cousin, younger than he by more than seven and ten years. "I will not be pleased if I find that you have disobeyed me. You are not to be in this battle."

Her lips pressed together tightly in anger, Éowyn reluctantly nodded. None of the stable hands would ready a horse for her after the majority of the riders were off to battle Orcs, and, between them, Théodred and Éomer knew all the riders in their company. She could not join them if she tried.

Seeing her consent, Théodred waited to see her head back to the castle before he had Candidus join the gathering ranks of Rohirrim. As they had their horses trot outside the borders of Edoras, Théodred had Candidus catch up with Éomer and his own stallion, Wrynet.

Truthfully, I would rather have Éowyn come with us to battle than leave her alone with the Wormtongue, he though darkly, thinking of the weasel of a man who had taken his place in his father's confidence. Nevertheless, he would not allow it, for his greedy eyes are fixed on her; and I, the heir of Rohan's throne - the son of the king! – can do nothing.

Once they were well away from Edoras, the party of equestrian warriors bade their steeds to carry them faster, and obligingly, the horses of the Mark lengthened their strides. With Théodred and Éomer leading the charge, they were soon upon the large band of Orcs, for the horses of the Mark were strong and fleet footed. Briefly, it occurred to Théodred that this was odd, for seldom did these smaller Orcs travel by the light of the sun. However, the thought was pushed away by the heat of the battle.

"For the Mark!" was the battle cry, as scores of spears and arrows flew and found their marks in Orc flesh. "For Rohan!"

Théodred felt the familiar stirring in his blood as the thrill of battle overtook him; he skewered an Orc with his spear, skewered another, and rode past a dead Orc, grabbing the spear that had impaled it, looking for his next target.

Animalistic roars echoed, and some of the younger horses started.

An ambush! was the first thought that came to him, echoed immediately by Éomer's cry, "It's an AMBUSH!"

Hordes of the larger, more stronger Orcs – Uruk-Hai, they called themselves – poured into the Crossing, and Théodred wanted to howl in anger at the sight. How dare these foul beings invade the land of his forefathers – his land! His spear flew, quick and true, into the heart of one of the Uruks. He unsheathed his sword, its elegantly carved hilt and blade gleaming in the sun, proclaiming to all that cared to see his rank as Théodred-prince.

What came next was a blur of Orc blood and Uruk corpses, for his sword flashed quick as a snake, its blade covered in thick black liquid. Candidus did not shy once, for he was chosen for Théodred for his steadiness in battle. He kicked the stallion to leap over an Uruk body, and cleanly severed the head of the Uruk who had just been growling at him.

The excitement of impending victory filled him, and –

Something hard and sharp connected with his head unexpectedly, knocking off his helmet in the process. Dazed, Théodred could only watch as the Uruk who had given him that awesome blow with his shield came running back, blade drawn. Vaguely, through the ringing in his ears, he could hear the voice of Éomer, calling out his name and a warning. Feebly, he raised his sword to try to block the blow despite the blood that blurred his sight, but he was still unbalanced, and the Uruk took advantage of it.

Théodred hissed in pain as the foul blade slid cleanly into his side. The pain didn't register at first, but came back with a vengeance. He couldn't stop himself from slipping off Candidus, and couldn't help but be embarrassed in the small portion of his mind that had distanced himself from the pain. A howl of pain and rage – Éomer? – echoed through the Crossing, and other voices joined in, creating a symphony of anger. Words filtered through, and he vaguely recognized their meaning.

Rohirrim…charge…for Rohan…for Théodred-prince…

Black spots pulled at Théodred's vision, and his head rolled to the side, still streaming blood from the cut from the Uruk's shield. It seemed only moments later – or was it an eternity? – that he was being propped up; gently though they tried to be, he groaned in pain and protest.

"Théodred," a man said, "Théodred."

That is me, he realized. But who is that calling me?

"Do not give up yet, cousin," said the voice, anger and desperation in his tone. "We will get you to the healer."

Healer? But Edoras is leagues away… his thoughts protested. Edoras? Yes, in Rohan. For Rohan. For Théodred-prince, for…me? Yes. But who is that? Is that..

"Éomer?" he rasped, feeling himself being lifted.

There was a pause as he was hoisted up somewhere, and then a large hand clasped his shoulder. "Yes, it is Éomer."

Something important nagged at him, despite the haze of pain, and he struggled to remember what it was. After a moment, it came to him – "Candidus?"

"Your steed is in good health," Éomer assured him.

Théodred was aware of feeling relieved. "Éomer?"

"Théodred?"

They were moving now, the familiar rhythm of horseback, except it had never been as painful as this.

"My sword…" The sword of the Heir of the Mark. If I am to die… "If I am to die…"

"You will not die, Théodred."

"You will take it. You will take it, and you will take Candidus."

"Théodred…"

"You will take them both." Do not argue with me, not this time.

Then darkness enveloped him.

"…dred?" a gentle voice called to him, a devastated note in their tone. "Théodred?"

"Mmmm," he groaned, for pain had lanced through him as he'd tried to find the owner of the voice. It sounded so familiar...

The sound of tears, muffled, and a small hand grasping his. Harsh, angry breathing next to the quiet sniffles.

A hand lifted up something that had been draping on him, to check on something. There was a silence, and Théodred assumed in the haze of his mind that it was not good.

"What happened?" the voice said, a girl's voice, a woman. "How did he get this way?"

"We were ambushed." Another familiar voice. This one, he knew was…Éomer. That voice is Éomer. Then the other one must be Éowyn.

Suddenly, "Did you say something? Théodred?"

Did I say that aloud? Éomer? Éowyn?

Movement of light cloth, shifting of heavy armor, "We are here, Théodred."

Someone else should be here. Who? Who should be here? "Théod…k..ing?"

A pause. "No, Théodred. Théoden-king is not here."

He should be here. He should! He is… "Fa..th..r?"

"…Would you like to see him, Théodred?"

Yes, yes. Fetch him. I am Théodred…Théodred-prince. Cousin. Father-sister's children. Éomer. Éowyn. Father. Théoden-king. Heir of the Mark.

"Théodred? Théodred?"

Why won't you come? Why are you so against me?

"No one is against you, wake up, Théodred!"

I am his son! You are nothing, you are his adviser! You cannot take the place of his heir!

"Théodred! Éowyn, call the healer!"

Nay, you cannot come to battle with us, Éowyn. You are a shieldmaiden of Rohan, yes. But you are my cousin first. You should be safe.

"Éomer! Help me hold him! He is thrashing too much! His wound will tear further!"

His eye is on her, Éomer.

"What is he saying? Whose eye is on who?"

I am Théodred-prince, and I have no power in my own castle.

"Théodred? Why does he say these things?"

He watches her so closely…disgusting worm.

"Who watches who? Éomer?"

Keep her away from him, Éomer. My brother. Keep our sister safe.

"Théodred? Théodred? Théodred!"

*****

At that moment, Théodred-prince, the only child of Théoden-king, slipped into a coma, never again to see the light of day. He would die, mere hours later, during the night. Éomer was given his horse, Candidus, and the sword of the Heir, despite protests from Gríma Wormtongue, for all the riders that had been with them that fateful day had heard Théodred's words.

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FIN.