Title: The heir of Théodred

Disclaimer: I own nothing but the words and the original characters; the rest belongs to the Tolkien estate.

Warning: Obviously AU, but not drastically so

Summary: Two years after the war of the ring a strange secret is unearthed in Meduseld. Lothiriel whilst exploring the palace comes across a letter addressed to Théodred, the deceased cousin of her new husband King Éomer. When it is opened, it reveals something no one could ever have expected...

The heir of Théodred

Chapter One

Lothiriel looked over the mountains that surrounded her new home and felt a familiar sense of longing. Long had it been since she saw the ocean and she wished dearly for the familiar scent carried on the soft winds. She was happy, she could not deny that, but she wished so dearly that the man she had fallen in love with was not the King of Rohan, but a man of Dol Amroth. The role as queen was still alien to the young woman and she often found herself wishing that she did not have to share her husband with the rest of the nation.

The wind buffered against the young queen and she wrapped her cloak around her shoulders. As she did this the parchment she kept hidden in her breast pocket pressed against her skin and she bit her lip. Had she done wrong to explore the palace? Had she been wrong to take the letter addressed to her husband's deceased cousin? What was she going to do with it?

"My lady?" Eleriel, Lothiriel's handmaiden and most loyal friend, said softly from behind the new queen. Lothiriel reluctantly passed out of her reverie and turned to face her dear friend. Eleriel looked slightly worried. "The party from Ithilien will be arriving shortly my lady, and I have been asked to help you prepare for their arrival." Lothiriel smiled and nodded.

"Of course my dear friend," she said and together they retreated into the palace. Lothiriel was looking forward to the arrival of the party from Ithilien, despite the graveness of their reason for visiting. She was especially eagerly awaiting the arrival of Eowyn, her heavily pregnant sister in law. The two women had met at the coronation of King Elessar and had instantly become firm friends. It was Eowyn who had introduced the young princess of Dol Amroth to the newly crowned nervous king of Rohan.

Lothiriel had been severely worried for Eowyn and her husband for many months now, since the orcs that remained in Mordor had assailed the borders of Ithilien under the leadership of some Harad mongrel. The armies of Ithilien and Gondor were outnumbered by the orcs and the Haradrim. Finally it seemed that Faramir had accepted defeat and was bringing his wife to the safety of her brother's home and was coming to ask for aid.

"Which gown would you like to wear my lady?" Eleriel asked holding up the two options. Lothiriel gave her friend a tired look.

"Eleriel, we are no longer in public, please, enough with the 'my lady' nonsense," she chuckled and Eleriel went slightly pink in the face.

"I'm sorry dear Lothiriel, I am still trying to get used to the ways of this land as you are!" the handmaiden sighed, but as soon as the look of dismay had creased her pretty features it was gone once more, to be replaced with a happy smile. "Anyway, come now, we must hurry, I'm afraid we are behind schedule as I could not find you in these grand halls." Lothiriel smiled fondly at her friend and pointed to the pale yellow dress that she held in her right hand.

"I'll wear that one."

X X X

Lothiriel kept silent as Faramir addressed her husband and the council. She had only briefly greeted Eowyn and her husband before they had been swept into the great hall in order to discuss the grave situation at hand.

"Perhaps we should take our leave," Eowyn whispered to her friend. Lothiriel smiled and gave the glowing mother-to-be a sidelong glance.

"You may be right sister," she whispered back and together the two ladies crept out of the hall unnoticed. "How do your people fare, have there been many casualties?" the queen asked as soon as they were out of the hall. Eowyn sighed and shook her head.

"I fear that many have perished in the smaller villages along the Anduin, but my husband's armies always arrive too late. I do hope that my brother can send riders in aid of our people," Eowyn explained, sighing heavily. Lothiriel nodded.

"He will," she said softly and the pair turned a corner onto the corridor that Lothiriel had been exploring that very morning. This brought Lothiriel's attention back to the letter she had unearthed and she decided that perhaps she could use it to distract her friend from her worries. " Eowyn, this morning I found something I think you and my dear husband should probably know about," she said reaching into the inner pocket of her cloak. Eowyn turned to look at her curiously.

"What is it sister?" she asked eagerly. Lothiriel sighed before pulling out the letter and presenting it to her friend. Eowyn upon seeing the name on the letter looked slightly stricken, but she reached out to take it nonetheless. Trembling slightly she opened the letter, as memories of her dear cousin came flooding back. With one look to her friend she started to read the short note written in a beautiful script.

XXXXXX

My dearest Théodred,

She is beautiful. If only you could come sooner, you will miss the first weeks of her life. She looks like her father. She has your eyes. I know she longs for you in her heart of hearts...she will not lie still and she cries even when she is fed and dry, and nothing I do can still her. Your daughter needs you my lord...as do I. Please find your way to Gondor soon.

With all my love Maydithil, and your precious Mayda Théodwyn

XXXXXX

"Dear friend, you have gone deathly pale, will you not sit?" Lothiriel suddenly gasped once Eowyn had reached the end of the short note. Eowyn shook her head firmly and looked into her sister-in-law's eyes.

"Where did you come across this?" she asked sounding amazed. Lothiriel guided her friend to the room she had been rummaging in and she showed her the pile of belongings that had not been disturbed for several years. " Why I have never seen any of these things before," Eowyn gasped as she lifted a few pieces of blank parchment to find a journal and several more letters. Without hesitation she picked everything up and rushed out into the corridor.

"Where are you going?" Lothiriel called after her.

"We must show these to my brother, it cannot wait!" she called back and the two women rushed back to the hall they had just vacated. All eyes turned on them as they burst in. Éomer jumped to his feet in surprise and Faramir rushed towards Eowyn. She however, pushed past him to her brother and dumped the papers at his feet.

"You will not believe it brother, you simply will not believe what I have to say," she panted, placing a hand on her swollen belly.

"Well what is it dear sister?" Éomer asked sounding amused. Eowyn thrust the letter Lothiriel had given her into his hand and watched as his expression turned from one of curiosity to one of utmost shock. He read it several times before looking up, eyes wide with amazement.

"He had a child?" he croaked.

"A daughter! Éomer this is incredible, how is this even possible?" Eowyn gasped, finally sitting down in Lothiriel's throne.

"Well where did this come from? How do we know that it is real?" Éomer asked looking to the papers at his feet. He reached down to pick up the journal and opened it to find his cousin's handwriting staring back at him.

"Lothiriel found the letter in a deserted room I have never been into before," Eowyn replied looking to her sister-in-law for input. Éomer looked up in surprise at the name of his wife and he looked at her questioningly.

"I found it this morning my lord, I was exploring," she explained sheepishly. Éomer smiled affectionately at her and turned back to the journal.

"I have never seen these before. Théodred obviously did not wish for these things to be found," he said and he opened the journal in the middle and skimmed over the pages. The names Maydithil and Théodwyn appeared in almost every sentence. "This is just unbelievable. How could he have a family that we did not know of? Why did he not marry this Lady?"

"What's more brother, if these items are not feigned, then we must seek out this child, for then Théodred has an heir," Eowyn said softly. Éomer's eyes went wide and he looked to his sister in shock. An heir...he was not the rightful king...

"Faramir," the King suddenly said, stepping down off the throne platform. Faramir stepped forward to meet him. "I will come to Gondor to your aid, and I will bring two thousand riders."

X X X

By sundown Éomer and Eowyn had read all there was to read and they had gained some insight on the acts of their departed cousin. They learnt that this Maydithil woman was in fact a Lady of Gondor, the sole heiress to her father's estate along the Anduin. She feared to leave Gondor and wished for anything except a grand life. When Théodred had begged her to return to Rohan to be his bride she had refused to his first wish, but assented to his second. Stricken with love Théodred married his lover in Ithilien and travelled out to see her as often as he could. After several years Maydithil fell pregnant and she bore Théodred a daughter named Mayda Théodwyn, in honour of Éomer and Eowyn's mother. He travelled to see his family more often until finally the last entry in the journal described the little girl's fifth birthday.

By dawn the riders of Rohan had assembled and Éomer was ready to lead the Rohirrim back into battle.

"I cannot believe that I have pushed you away into battle ere we have been married two months," Lothiriel whispered to her husband as he came to bid her goodbye.

"You have pushed me to nothing my love, I would have gone to aid my sister's husband had you not presented the letter," he countered taking her hand in his. "But now we have learnt of this child, she must be found and brought to safety! I have a niece Lothiriel, a niece who is the rightful heir to this land and I must find her." Lothiriel nodded gravely and she kissed his weather-beaten fingers.

"I know my darling," she sighed and she looked up to her husband's eyes and kissed him. "Be safe!"

X X X

The ride to Ithilien was brief as the well-trained Eorlingas could cover many leagues in a day. Not three nights had passed before the riders had reached Ithilien. Here they split into éoreds and Éomer bade his brother-in- law goodbye in order to take his éored in search of the small village that his cousin had described in his journal. As they crossed the lands of Ithilien they did not meet much resistance, but the wreckage that was left in the wake of the orcs was heart breaking and Éomer was more than pleased when they reached a ridge to find orcs pillaging the village that was home to Maydithil and Théodwyn.

"Ride Eorlingas, let us rid this land of the foul creatures that soil it!" he shouted to his troops and they rode into the village dispersing many of the orcs. Éomer took three of his most trusted riders and led them on the route he had memorised by heart the route to the estate of his cousin's wife. They met with much resistance and by the time they had reached the dilapidated grand mansion they had slain many orcs.

"It does not look inhabited my lord," one of Éomer's riders pointed out. Éomer regrettably nodded in agreement.

"Perhaps someone has remained and can tell us where the lady of the house has gone," he said and they climbed off their horses and walked towards the house. They found it deserted and were returning to their steeds when they heard the foul cry of orcs. Éomer clutched at his sword and ran round the back of the mansion, followed by his men. They found a company of orcs closing in on a small wooden hut...a shed almost, which lay towards the back of the large garden.

"Come now little one, we only want to eat you," one of the foul creatures cackled and the orcs burst out into laughter that made Éomer's skin crawl.

"On my mark," Éomer whispered to his men and he crept round the back of the company of orcs. "Now Eorlingas!" he shouted and they leapt into the back of the hoard. As Éomer's men dealt with the majority of the company and led them away, he struggled to the front in time to find an orc opening the door to the shed and peering in. Without hesitation he slew the Orc and rushed into the shed, managing to close the door, shutting out the pandemonium that lay outside.

Éomer stepped forward tentatively. A tiny child on the other side of the wooden shed shuffled into the shadows, and Éomer could have sworn he saw her shaking from fear. He stepped back slightly and cast his armour a glance in understanding. He quickly undid the chest plate and pauldron and rested them on the ground before stepping forward once more.

"I am not going to hurt you child," he said softly, hoping that this child was the one he sought. The little girl moved to the side and a ray of light was cast on her pale blue eyes. In an instant the image of Théodred flashed before Éomer's eyes. She has her father's eyes, he gasped, amazed at the similarity between them.

"You're from Rohan," a small whisper came from the shadows. Éomer smiled and fingered the horse emblem on his hauberk. "What are you doing here? There's nasty orcs outside, aren't you afraid they'll hurt you?"

"Are you afraid of them?" Éomer asked taking a few steps closer and then crouching down within an arm reach of the little girl. The pair of eyes nodded in and out of the light jerkily. "Won't you come into the light so as I may see you?" The child did not move.

"Why are you here?" she repeated sounding scared. Éomer smiled and leaned heavily on his knee, leaning forward.

"I am looking for you," he whispered. The little girl stared him in the eye and she must have seen the kindness that lay there, for she stepped forward into the light. She was a half-starved little thing, dressed in a tatty dirty surcoat and cloak, but nothing could detract from the childish beauty that was evident even from beyond the mud and scratches that littered her face, something in her look reminded Éomer of his sister. Her long blonde hair was a mass of tangles hanging limply down over her shoulders. Tied to her belt was a dagger. It was an orc's blade that she had evidently robbed from the dead that littered the streets.

For a moment Éomer hesitated, was this really the child of the Gondorian Lady he had read about in his cousin's letters and journal, but then he saw the necklace she wore. It had once belonged to Elfhild, Théodred's dear mother who had died in childbirth. Éomer himself had been present when his uncle Théoden had presented it to his son. So that is where it went, Éomer thought, remembering that one day the jewel had disappeared from around Théodred's neck.

"Who are you?" the little girl asked looking up into Éomer's eyes. Her gaze was unnervingly penetrating and Éomer felt as though she were reading him like a book.

"First let me ask you a question, if I might?" Éomer said raising his eyebrows cautiously. After a moment's hesitation the child nodded. "I came here seeking two people, but now I am here I find only one. Where dear child is your mother?" Éomer instantly regretted asking this question, as tears started to well up in the girl's eyes. The girl seemed incapable of speech, but her eyes gave away her secret as they darted towards the door where the orc Éomer had assailed lay dead.

"She was killed by orcs." Éomer sighed. It was not a question. The girl nodded and she wiped angrily at her tears.

"A year ago," she hissed, her stare turning into a murderous glare as she eyed the dead orc, but soon her face dissolved into a look of dismay and she looked back up at Éomer.

"That is true, I was to tell you who I am, but in doing this I must first ask you just one more question if I may?" The little girl nodded slowly and stepped over to him, crouching down in the same manner as he stood. Éomer smiled at her and leaned closer. "Do you remember your father?" For an instant a look of glee crossed the girl's face and a happy smile pulled at the corners of her mouth, but as soon as it appeared it was gone again.

"Yes, he was a prince! He used to bring me pretty dolls and dresses and he would always play with me. He used to let me ride on his back as though he were a horse and two times he even took me out on a real horse, all the way to the border of Rohan!" she explained, a look of immense pride on her face, but soon it fell and the tears returned to her eyes. " But then he stopped coming, and mamma told me that he had died and she cried all night and all day and then all the next night too. I miss him." With this she fell back into silence and looked up at Éomer in suspense. Éomer though was caught up in his thoughts. How could his cousin, who he thought of as a brother, have kept a family he held so dear a secret? "Um, excuse me sir, but can I know who you are now?" Éomer was shaken out of his unhappy reverie and he looked to the little girl and smiled.

"Of course my dear child, my name is Éomer, and I was your father's cousin," he said. The child looked up at him in awe. "Hello Théodwyn," he added softly. The girl cocked her head to one side and frowned.

"Théodwyn? Who is that?" she asked sounding confused. Éomer too looked suddenly confused.

"Is that not your name?" he mumbled. The little girl giggled and shook her head.

"No," she giggled. "I'm called Mayda!" Éomer sighed with relief and smiled.

"Did you not know that your name was Mayda Théodwyn?" he asked smiling fondly at the little girl. Her eyes grew wide once more and she shook her head. "You were named for my mother Mayda who died when I was very young, just like your father's mother. He was like a brother to me Mayda and I too miss him dearly. If you will allow me, I would like to take you back to Rohan to look after you as my own, as my dear uncle once did for me..." He paused as an orc cry was heard right outside the shed. Instinctively he reached out to his niece and pulled her into a protective grasp. The little girl did not object. "We cannot stay here. Come we must go. Will you come with me to Rohan?" She looked up at him with longing and nodded eagerly, it had been too long since this precious child had had a home to call her own. Éomer smiled and climbed to his feet.

"Very well," he said heartily and he pulled his armour back on. " Do you have any possessions in this...lovely hovel?" Mayda smiled impishly and rushed to the very depths of the shed and found a small pack. She threw it over her shoulders and rushed over to her uncle. Éomer took up his shield and handed it to the little girl. "Hold this in front of you until we reach my éored," he ordered firmly, but the child stared up at him blankly. "Until we reach my company," he added with a smile. Mayda nodded resolutely and took the heavy shield from her uncle, bending with its weight. Éomer took up his sword and helm. "Are you ready?" Mayda nodded grimly, grasping for Éomer's hand. He took it and pulled the child close. " Whatever happens Mayda, do not let go."

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

More to come soon. What do you think? Comments, criticisms (bearing in mind that this is labelled as AU), praise, anything, will be much appreciated. Except malicious flamers, they're the scum of the universe!

A/N – I know it should be first cousin once removed, but seeing as Éomer and Théodred were as brothers, Éomer sees the child as his niece