WARNING: Beginning with Chapter 26 ("A Sudden Change"), this story - and all subsequent parts of The Rohan Pride Trilogy - will deal heavily with the subject of rape. Although there are no rape scenes after Alone, there are many references and/or flashbacks to these scenes in Reunions, Terms, and the epilogue. As such, The Rohan Pride Trilogy may be triggering for survivors of sexual abuse. If you would like to know more about the triggering parts before you decide whether or not to read, please do not hesitate to PM me and ask for clarification.
PLEASE NOTE: This is the only disclaimer you will see in Alone. I do not, in any way, shape, or form, own any part of Tolkien's brainchild. I am not making any money from this. The non-canon characters, however (with the exception of Raniean and Trelan, who are borrowed with permission from Cassia and Siobhan), are my original creations.
The Rohan Pride Trilogy
Part One: Alone
When Gúthwyn, the youngest child of Théodwyn and Éomund, becomes a slave of Sauron, she makes a deadly bargain with the Dark Lord. If she fails at the task he sets before her, then the lives of those she loves will be compromised.
About the Trilogy:
I have decided to do what Tolkien did with his books. The Fellowship of the Ring had two books within the text, as did The Two Towers and The Return of the King. The only change I have made is the first part in my trilogy: Alone. This will be divided into three books, the first book explaining how Gúthwyn got to where The Fellowship of the Ring started.
Théodred anxiously strode down the street from Meduseld, the King's Hall, into the heart of Edoras, searching for his younger cousin Gúthwyn. The twenty-six-year-old prince had not seen her in awhile, and he was starting to worry, the evidence clear in his azure-colored eyes. His fair hair flew out behind him as he made his way through the everyday crowds, scanning the road for any sign of Gúthwyn.
At last he found her, sitting near the edge of the road watching a group of boys wrestling. She was five years old, with dark brown hair (unusual for one of the Rohirrim) that reached her waist in a tangled mess. Her blue eyes were stormy and dried tears lay upon her cheeks. Her arms were folded across her chest.
"Gúthwyn, what is the matter?" Théodred asked, sitting down beside her. She turned to look up at him, and her eyes flashed as she explained her anger.
"They won't let me play with them!"
"Who will not let you play?"
"Them!" Gúthwyn exclaimed as she pointed in the direction of the boys. "They say that since I am a girl I should be inside sewing, because that is what their mothers do. They say that I am too weak. It's not fair!" she pouted.
"That is ridiculous. Your sister could easily best them," Théodred responded, his eyes fixed on the fighting children, noting their level of skill. Gúthwyn sighed, and Théodred could tell she was close to tears again.
"But she is nine! I am only five," she reminded him.
"Well, my cousin, you have not learned to fight yet either," Théodred gently pointed out. This time the tears really did come, and as Gúthwyn buried her face in his shirt he instantly regretted his words.
"It's not fair!" she sobbed. "I want to wre… wre…"
"Yes, I want to wrestle with them!" Théodred's heart went out to his little cousin.
"I will teach you how to fight," he offered. Instantly she perked up, and when she lifted her face from his tunic a toothy smile graced her features.
"Really? Do you really mean it?"
"Of course I mean it," Théodred replied. "Now come with me and we will get some lunch—I cannot teach you anything on an empty stomach."
"Alright!" Gúthwyn eagerly agreed as she bounced up. After sending one last glare towards the other children she allowed her hand to be held by Théodred's and together they made their way towards Meduseld.
Meduseld was a majestic hall, with a roof thatched as if with gold, containing King Théoden's grand throne room. On the outside, its walls were decorated with golden vines and horses, the latter being loved dearly by all the people of Rohan. A short flight of stairs led from the street to it, where its doors were guarded ceaselessly with men wearing armor and carrying spears and shields.
Seeing Théodred and Gúthwyn, the guards moved aside so they could enter through the great doors; Théodred held one of them open for his cousin. Once stepping into Meduseld they were in the throne room, a long hall that also served as a dining room with a hearth in the middle of it. On a dais at the far end was the throne, upon which Théoden son of Thengel sat, deep in thought at the moment. Golden locks fell onto his shoulders, framing a face in which dark-colored eyes were set. When he saw the two enter, he smiled.
"Hello, my son!" he called to Théodred, who gave a short bow. Remembering her manners, Gúthwyn performed a brief, wobbling curtsy, much to the amusement of her kin and other guards in the room. "Greetings, Gúthwyn my lady," the King said, trying to keep a straight face.
"Father, we will be getting some lunch and then I will take Gúthwyn back outside," Théodred spoke, moving towards the throne with Gúthwyn close behind. He purposely omitted why he was taking her out, for he did not think the king would approve. Éowyn had had to wait until she was two years older than Gúthwyn was now to begin her training.
"All right," Théoden replied. "Just be careful."
"We will," Théodred promised. Taking Gúthwyn's hand again, he turned around and led her to a door on the right-side wall. Pushing it open, he held it for Gúthwyn and followed her into the kitchen.
Brytta, the cook, was busy cutting up a piece of meat with a large knife when they walked in.
"Hello, dears," she greeted them, hurriedly wiping her hands on her apron. "What can I get you?"
"We would like a lunch for two, please," Théodred responded. Gúthwyn made no sound—she was staring at the knife in fascination. Théodred realized she had never been in the kitchens before, and that the only knives she had ever seen were the small ones they used to eat.
Brytta quickly began opening cupboards, pulling out various eating utensils. "You two head back into the hall and seat yourselves at a table. I will bring your plates out soon," she told them.
"Thank you," Théodred replied. In an undertone he said to his younger companion, "Gúthwyn, what do you say?"
"Thank you," she echoed Théodred.
"Oh, any time dear," Brytta responded, withdrawing a loaf of bread from a smaller cupboard.
Théodred and Gúthwyn went back into the throne room and found a table in the corner to eat at. Théoden was now reviewing a report that one of the older guards had given him. Gúthwyn was silent as she stared around the room, and Théodred let her remain in her thoughts. Gúthwyn's siblings, Éowyn and Éomer, had already eaten, he supposed.
The three children had come to Meduseld only two years ago, after their mother Théodwyn had died from grief and illness. Éomund had been killed in an Orc ambush only a little while before that. Stricken from his sister's death, Théoden took her children in and was raising them. Éomer, the oldest, had been eleven, thirteen years younger than Théodred. Only last year had the three siblings somewhat recovered.
Théodred's thoughts were interrupted when Brytta placed two plates in front of him and Gúthwyn. A bowl of soup was in the center and a slice of bread lay on the plate. Next to the food, the cook placed a mug of ale in front of Théodred and one of water before Gúthwyn, along with a cloth napkin each.
"Here you are," Brytta said.
"It looks delicious," Théodred complimented her.
"Thank you," she answered before returning back to the kitchen.
Théodred and Gúthwyn ate the rest of their meal in silence, Gúthwyn occasionally fidgeting in her seat at the thought of finally learning how to fight. When she finished, Théodred was still consuming his meal. She began hopping around in her seat, impatiently waiting for him to be done. When he had drained his bowl, she breathed a sigh of relief, but then she saw that he still had half of his bread left.
"Théodred, hurry up!" she begged. Her cousin merely grinned, and slowed down his chewing. Gúthwyn's face became pained. She had not yet learned how to be patient. "Théodred!"
When the prince had finally finished, he insisted on stacking the plates and bowls neatly on top of each other. Gúthwyn was almost beside herself with anxiety. When all of the utensils had been arranged to Théodred's liking, she turned around and began to run towards the doors leading to the street. But something was wrong. She was not moving.
Théodred laughed as he pulled his cousin back towards him. "Gúthwyn, we are not ready to go yet. We have to make sure you are clean." Gúthwyn sighed: She had forgotten about that.
The prince knelt down and checked Gúthwyn's dress and face for soup stains. Seeing none, he stood up. He knew that he should get her in more appropriate clothing, but he thought he had tortured her enough.
Gúthwyn needed no words before she bolted for the exit. Théodred jogged to catch up with her and opened one of the doors, sending a bright sunlight streaming into the hall. His cousin ran past him, holding up her dress so as not to trip on the fabric. She made a rather comical sight, Théodred thought. Apparently the guards agreed too, for underneath their helmets one could see a smile appear on some faces.
At the bottom of the stairs, Gúthwyn turned to wait for Théodred, not knowing where he would take her. When the prince joined her, he took her hand again and began leading her around the side of Meduseld. Tumbled slopes surrounded the Golden Hall, but if you walked far enough past the armory you would see a spot where the land was as large as a grand clearing in the forest. When one stood on this piece of land, they had a spectacular view of the mountains and plains.
There was a small path leading to this clearing, which Théodred quickly found and began to walk on.
"Théodred, where are we going?" Gúthwyn asked, her eyebrows knitting together in confusion.
"Patience, young one, you must learn patience. You will see when we get there," Théodred responded. Gúthwyn pouted, but it was only for a few seconds until the prospect of what was ahead re-entered her brain.
A short while later found them coming into the clearing. Gúthwyn gave a cry of joy and raced around the enclosure, stopping at the edge and staring at the landscape below and before her. Théodred came silently behind his cousin and took a moment to appreciate the beauty of Rohan. Even this high up, he could see the mounds of kings before his father to his left, covered with the white flower simbelmynë.
He noticed Gúthwyn looking up at him impatiently, and he tore his eyes away from the view and smiled down at her.
"Well, let us start, shall we?" Gúthwyn whooped happily but quieted down a second later as Théodred's face grew serious. "Before we do, however, I want to talk to you about something." He knelt down so he was eye-level with the little girl. "The skills I will be teaching you are for your defense. You must never start a fight, never join one unless you are thrown into it, and then by all means get out as fast as you can. Do you understand what I am trying to say?" Gúthwyn nodded once. "Then what am I trying to say?"
"I must never use what you're trying to teach me on inn… inno… innos..." she paused, searching for the right word.
"Innocent," Théodred helped her out. She nodded again.
"Innocent people," she finished.
"Good," Théodred praised, standing up again. "Now, the first thing I will teach you is how to throw a decent punch. Afterwards, we will move on to more complicated maneuvers." By the way Gúthwyn frowned he guessed that she did not know what the last two words meant. "You will see when we get there. Make a fist for me," Théodred instructed. Hesitantly she complied, and right away the prince noticed something she was doing wrong. "You never, never, never want to place your thumb inside of your fist. When you punch someone hard enough, you could break it. Keep your thumb here." Bending over, he removed her thumb from inside her grip and placed it so that it was touching her middle finger. "There. Now try punching me."
She looked up at him, confused. "But I'll hurt you!" she protested. Théodred merely chuckled.
"I will manage," he replied.
"Where should I punch you?" Gúthwyn asked slowly, still not believing her older cousin was letting her hit him.
"In the stomach," was the response. It was just as well, for Gúthwyn only reached up to the man's waist.
"Are you sure about this?" she questioned.
"Yes, I am positive." Gúthwyn checked to make sure her fist was still in the correct position. Gathering all her strength, she raised her clenched hand and thrust it into Théodred's abdomen.
Théodred staggered back as the air left his stomach. Although as the Second Marshal of the Mark, he had received much worse in his time and was not really in pain, he had not believed that a five-year-old could throw a punch that fast and strong. Gasping in shock, his eyes widened as he looked down at Gúthwyn. Tears welled up in her eyes and she threw herself at her cousin, clutching his right leg and crying into it.
"I'm sorry!" she sobbed. "I'm really sorry! I didn't mean to hurt you!" Quickly Théodred regained his breath and moved his hand up to stroke the young girl's hair.
"I am fine," he whispered. "You just caught me by surprise, that is all." His excuse was feeble, but he knew that a young one would believe it. Sure enough, her tears changed into sniffles, and she looked up at him curiously.
"Honest?" she questioned, wiping her eyes on the back of her sleeve.
"Honest," Théodred confirmed. "Let us see that punch again." Gúthwyn's eyes were now cautious, and when she backed up and threw her fist at him, it was half-hearted and weak. "That was not your best effort," he reprimanded her gently. "Try harder."
And so she repeated the punch, over and over, until Théodred was satisfied of her abilities. As the day turned to dusk, the prince of Rohan continued to teach his cousin the necessary skills of defense, heedless of the time.
Éomer and Éowyn were sitting at a table in the great hall, eating their dinner as night fell outside. It was close to their bedtime and they were determined to stay up as long as they could before Théoden herded them to their bedrooms.
The king was dining with them that day, and as a result servants would continually come by to make sure their king and his niece and nephew were doing all right.
"Where is Gúthwyn?" Éowyn questioned Théoden.
"She and Théodred went outside awhile ago," the king responded, a touch of worry coming over his face. At that moment, the doors of Meduseld opened, and Théodred strode in, carrying a worn-out Gúthwyn. Her head was resting on his shoulder, and her eyes were bleary, yet she had not fallen asleep.
"Greetings, Father," Théodred spoke, coming up to the table and sitting down next to Théoden, still carrying his cousin.
When Théodred sat down, Gúthwyn looked up, curious to see why they had stopped and what Théodred was saying. Seeing her siblings' faces, her eyes cleared and she grinned.
"Hello, Éowyn and Éomer!" she smiled, waving at them. Éomer waved back, and Éowyn replied:
"Hello, Gúthwyn. Where have you and Théodred been?"
"Théodred was teaching me how to fight!" Gúthwyn answered before Théodred could stop her, grinning triumphantly.
"Théodred was what?" Théoden asked, although his gaze was fixed on his son.
"Teaching me how to fight!" Gúthwyn repeated, unaware that she had placed her cousin in an uncomfortable position. Théoden sighed.
"Éowyn, can you see to Gúthwyn and make sure she has dinner before putting her to bed?" he asked. "I have to discuss something with Théodred." Éowyn nodded. "I will check on all three of you later," Théoden continued as he motioned for Théodred to follow him. The prince set his cousin down between Éowyn and Éomer before walking after his father, steeling himself for the lecture ahead. Gúthwyn took no notice of Théodred's manner, waving goodbye at him and giggling.
Théoden led his son through a door and into his bedroom. A large bed sprawled over much of the space, but a wooden desk and chair had been placed in comfortably. Théoden motioned for his son to sit on the chair, and when Théodred complied, the king began speak.
"Why did you teach Gúthwyn how to fight? You know she is going to want to use the skills you taught her! She is too young! I made Éowyn wait until she was seven!" The king paused in his ranting, taking a deep breath to calm himself down. "Why would you teach her defense so early?" Théodred blushed, for he had a feeling that his father would not like the following explanation.
"She wanted to wrestle with some boys down the street," he put it simply.
"She wanted to wrestle with some boys?" Théoden yelled. "And you are saying that when you had finished teaching her you would let her?" Théodred decided that in his position it was better to say nothing. "As much as I love my niece, she is not old enough for that to happen! They could hurt her! I promised I would protect your cousins, but I would break Théodwyn's trust if I were to let her wrestle with these boys at such a young age!" Théodred thought this slightly unfair.
"But father, Gúthwyn learns quickly. She is not as vulnerable as you—"
"Unless I am mistaken, I am the guardian of this child, not you." Théoden replied. "When she reaches Éowyn's age, I will permit her to play with those boys, but until then I don't want her going anywhere near them, do you understand me?"
"Yes, Father," Théodred sighed. It would not be an easy task to obey the king's command.
"Good," Théoden replied. "Now get some sleep." Nodding, Théodred rose. After bowing to his father, he walked out of the room, headed towards his own sleeping quarters. Looking after him, Théoden sighed, and then went to check on Éomer, Éowyn, and Gúthwyn.
Five minutes later found Gúthwyn racing through the dining room along with Éowyn and Éomer, struggling to evade capture from the evil, terrible monster that sought to seize them. Gúthwyn's face was beaded with sweat, and occasionally she would let out a shriek as the assailant neared her. Éomer would come to her rescue just in the nick of time, darting past the demon and picking her up before the creature knew what was happening.
"Éomer! Éowyn! Gúthwyn! Stop this nonsense right now!" Théoden ordered as he ran after the three. He had given up on the thirteen-year-old Éomer, his nephew being extraordinarily fast for his age. Unfortunately, whenever the king got close to Gúthwyn, Éomer would fly past him and scoop his sister up in his arms, never slowing down a bit. Why he still took part in this childish game Théoden did not know, but he had a slight suspicion that his nephew thought it funny to help his sisters evade him.
The guards were not interfering; rather, they were watching with increasing interest as the children managed to stay away from their uncle.
Has it been that long since I left the throne? Théoden wondered as he ran after Éowyn. "Théodred! Get out here and help me round these three up!" A hand shot out of an open door just as Éomer ran past it, grabbing the boy by his shirt and bringing him to a stop. Out stepped Théodred, and Théoden breathed a sigh of relief. He knew it would not be long before the two girls were caught without Éomer to help them; out of the corner of his eye, he watched in satisfaction as Théodred herding Éomer towards the bedroom that they both shared.
Théoden felt someone run behind him, and as quick as lightning whirled around and grabbed an unlucky Éowyn.
"All right, Éowyn, you have been caught. Now get to bed," Théoden told her. Meekly, Éowyn nodded, and when her uncle let her go she raced after Théodred. Now there was only Gúthwyn to take care of. Two down, one more to go, Théoden told himself, and then he could end this ritual. Normally Théodred was chasing the three, but as the prince had retired before the siblings started, the king had been stuck with the task of rounding them up.
Gúthwyn screamed as her uncle came running after her. He was less than two feet away and reaching down to grab her when she dropped to the ground and crawled under Théoden's legs, coming out the other side and running again.
This was too much for the guards, and they burst into hysterical laughter, their serious façade dissolving instantly. Théoden turned and glared at them before rushing off after his niece. As he neared her once more he tripped over his own feet and fell face-first to the floor. Gúthwyn waited patiently for her uncle to get up, but when he did not she began to feel worried.
"Uncle?" she called. "My lord?" She remembered the phrase from the guards' speech to Théoden, and it seemed to be directed at him. As a last resort, she tried his name. "Théoden?" Still he did not move. "Uncle!" she cried, racing out from behind a table and running over to him, kneeling down beside his still form. The guards did not make a move to help their king, and she wondered why. But that did not matter—she had to make sure Uncle Théoden was alright.
Suddenly the king's eyes flew open, and Gúthwyn gave a shriek of surprise as he reached up and grabbed her. "NO FAIR!" she yelled at the top of her lungs as her uncle stood up, still holding her. "You're not supposed to cheat!" Her complaints continued as Théoden carried her towards the door that led to her bedroom, trailing off into silence once he had walked in and shut the door.
The guards looked at each other. "Háma?" one of them questioned. The head guard thought for a few seconds, and then replied,
"About fifteen minutes to catch them all." The others nodded, and the other guard, Ceorl, spoke.
"Théodred's record of five minutes has yet to be bested." The other guards murmured their agreement, and quickly resumed their composed faces.
"But I don't want to go to sleep!" Gúthwyn protested in her room as she changed into her nightgown. Turning to face her uncle, who sat on the bed, she put on the most adorable, pleading puppy-dog face. However, Théoden would not be swayed.
"It is past your bedtime, Gúthwyn," he replied, waiting for her to finish buttoning up the front of her sleepwear. His niece refused to listen, and she continued the face.
"Please?" she begged, allowing a tear to form in the corner of her eye.
"No," Théoden answered firmly. "Come now, I will tuck you in." Scowling in annoyance and wiping the 'tear' from her cheek, the five-year-old walked over to her bed. Stepping on a small stool, she used the extra height to her advantage and clambered onto the top so she was sitting on her comforter. Théoden pulled back the sheets and Gúthwyn unwillingly crawled underneath them, leaning back against the pillows.
"Can you tell me a story?" she inquired, still trying to stay up later.
"I am sorry Gúthwyn, but your bedtime has long gone by," Théoden answered. Gúthwyn sighed. "Goodnight," Théoden said, leaning down and kissing her.
"Goodnight," she replied, pulling the comforter up to her chin. Smiling at his niece, the king picked up the candle that sat on her night table, the only source of light in her room except for the moon, whose rays pierced through the window and lit areas of the floor.
After checking to make sure Gúthwyn was comfortable, Théoden blew out the candle and strode out of the room, softly closing the door behind him. Another day had gone by.
A sleepy Gúthwyn woke up the next day to find the sun streaming in through her window. She gave a huge yawn, arching her back and stretching her arms. A couple of her bones cracked and she smiled.
Somewhat more awake than she had been a few seconds ago, she sat up and threw the covers off of her. She dangled her legs over the side of the bed for a few seconds, allowing her bare feet to get cool, and then slid down until her foot found purchase on her stool. Once she stood with both feet on it, she jumped off, landing with a slight wobble. Frowning, she stepped back onto the stool and repeated the jump until she landed without moving. Once satisfied, she went to her drawers and quickly pulled out a dress to wear.
She hated dresses, just like Éowyn. They were stuffy, itchy, and all-around uncomfortable, yet since she was young and a girl she had to wear them all the time. Théoden had confiscated her one pair of breeches, after he found out that Éomer had let her use a pair of his from when he was Gúthwyn's age, and now she wore only dresses.
Gúthwyn slipped out of her nightgown and into the green dress, grimacing when she had put it on and taken a look at herself in the mirror. How she loathed wearing these gowns. Making a face at the dress, she walked back to her bed and got onto the floor. Underneath the bed frame were several pairs of shoes and slippers. Her hand went under the dust ruffle and groped around for a few seconds, pulling out the first pair her hand latched onto: Blue slippers. The outfit did not match, but she could not care less about that detail as she opened the door and raced out of her bedroom without brushing her hair. If she was lucky, she would be able to catch Éowyn, Éomer, or Théodred before they finished their breakfast. Théoden no doubt would be sitting on his throne and discussing politics or something equally boring (in her mind, at least) with one of his advisors.
Only Éomer was sitting at their usual table, and Gúthwyn bounded over to him and climbed up onto the bench to sit next to him. Éomer grinned at the sight of her hair, which was a mess and falling around her shoulders in an uneven way.
"Hello!" she greeted him. Éomer nodded in response—he had just taken a bite of his toast and was still chewing it. Swallowing, he was about to speak when Brytta approached their table. She smiled at Gúthwyn and asked,
"Would you like some toast too?" Gúthwyn nodded.
"Yes, please," she replied.
"I shall be right back," Brytta promised, turning around and heading back into the kitchen. Éomer cleared his throat and started to begin again.
"Éowyn and Théodred are at the stables," he said. "I will be joining them. Do you want to go with me?"
"I want to go outside and play," she answered, and by that she referred to the countless hours they had spent with the other children of Edoras. "Can you go with me?" Éomer hesitated. He had been looking forward to grooming his horse, yet he could not resist the innocent, pleading eyes that were now turned his way.
"All right," he sighed. "I will accompany you." A brilliant smile spread across Gúthwyn's face as she hugged her brother.
"Thank you!" she cried.
"Your welcome," Éomer answered. At that moment Brytta came and put a plate down in front of Gúthwyn with two slices of toast resting on it. A cup of milk quickly followed. Éomer looked at them disinterestedly and turned around to gaze at the many paintings on the walls, waiting for her to finish.
After a minute, he turned back just in time to see Gúthwyn place her napkin on an empty plate.
"Can we go now?" she asked.
"Yes," Éomer replied. Then, to Gúthwyn's pleasure, he did not stack the plates up in perfect order like her cousin had insisted on doing. "Let us go," he spoke, rising from the table. Gúthwyn hopped off the bench after him and ran to catch up with her older brother.
They had neared the entrance when the doors opened and Théodred came through, stopping when he saw his cousins.
"Where are you going?" he questioned.
"I am taking Gúthwyn outside to play with the children," Éomer informed him. Although the thirteen-year-old missed it, Théodred's face paled slightly.
"Éomer, if you wish, I will take her down the street and you can see to your horse," he offered, guessing that his cousin would rather have been elsewhere at the moment. Éomer smiled. Thank you, he mouthed at his older cousin. Théodred grinned, winking at him before taking Gúthwyn's hand. "Come now," he said. Gúthwyn barely noticed the change in her companions, so anxious was she to go outside.
And so it was that when they walked out of Meduseld, Éomer turned left to go towards the stables, and Gúthwyn and Théodred continued to go straight. Once they entered the village that lay at the foot of Meduseld Théodred spotted an elderly woman struggling to carry two buckets full of water towards her home.
"Gúthwyn, be careful. I am going to help this woman with her chores," the prince told the young girl. Gúthwyn nodded once, and Théodred began walking towards the female. The five-year-old made her way through the crowds, until she came into an area where there were fewer people. The reason for this became apparent when she saw the wrestling boys. Her eyes hardened and narrowed and she clenched her fists at her sides. She would show them! Immediately she spotted the oldest of the boys who was waiting for a turn to fight with someone. He could not have been more than eight years old.
Making up her mind, Gúthwyn strode over towards him. When he took notice of her, the boy asked,
"What do you want?"
"I want to wrestle with you," she responded. The boy began to laugh as the others stopped what they were doing to watch.
"You!" he gasped. "You are too young! You cannot fight with us!" Gúthwyn looked around the group of boys, her gaze resting on a small boy who was sucking his thumb.
"What about him?" she inquired, pointing at him. "I would guess that he is younger than me, yet you let him join." Instantly the boy's argument changed tactics.
"Besides, you are a girl!" he scoffed, gathering a laugh from the other boys. Gúthwyn's face grew red and furious until she had forgotten what Théodred had taught her about using her skills wisely.
"How's this for a girl?" she demanded, raising her fist and slamming him in the stomach. The boy gasped in pain, bending over and clutching his abdomen as Gúthwyn watched triumphantly and the others murmured in surprise.
Then, with a roar of rage, the boy straightened and threw a punch at her. Recalling the most difficult move she had learned, Gúthwyn stepped out of the way and came back in when his fist was past her, grabbing it and using his momentum to her advantage as she flipped him over her shoulder.
When Théodred had finished helping the woman, he went in search of his cousin. He was nearing the end of the street and starting to get worried when he heard a commotion go up in the crowd a couple of yards ahead of him. Making his way past the people, he came to a clearing. When his eyes saw the unfolding scene before him, he moaned.
His younger cousin stood over a boy who was lying on the ground. As he watched, she reached down and punched his nose, eliciting a sickening crack. The boy moaned and curled himself up into a ball, covering his face with his hands.
"Gúthwyn!" Théodred cried. "What are you doing?" When the others heard his voice, they scattered in fear until the only ones left were Gúthwyn, the boy, and Théodred.
Gúthwyn looked up guiltily. Théodred strode over to her and moved her away from the boy, bending down to check on him. The eight-year-old boy's nose was broken, a steady stream of blood oozing out of it and down his face. His eyes were glazed and Théodred saw that he was losing his hold on consciousness. Picking him up, Théodred turned towards Gúthwyn.
"What did I tell you about using what I had taught you?" he demanded, frowning down at his younger cousin.
"I-I'm sor-sorry, Théodred, b-but he wasn't going to l-let me p-p-play with th-them," Gúthwyn stuttered.
"That makes no difference," Théodred replied. "You should not have struck him. Now we need to get this boy to his home." He looked at the boy and saw that he was still awake. "What is your name, young one, and where do you live?" he questioned.
"My… name is Tun…" the boy answered faintly. "I live in… that house… over there." He pointed at a small dwelling shortly down the road from them. The gesture seemed to sap much of his remaining strength and he closed his eyes, becoming limp in Théodred's arms.
"When we get there, Gúthwyn," Théodred spoke, "you will apologize to his guardian." Gúthwyn looked panicked and she opened her mouth to speak but Théodred cut her off. "I do not want to hear any protests. What you did was wrong and I am sure that whoever he is living with will want to know what has happened to him." As he talked, he began walking down the road towards Tun's home, Gúthwyn following him dutifully.
When they got to the house, Théodred knocked on the wooden door. He heard soft footsteps approach the entrance and a second later the door opened a crack and a woman's head peered out.
"Prince Théodred!" she gasped, pulling the door open the rest of the way. "Why have you come to vis—" she stopped as she saw whom Théodred was carrying in his arms. "Tun!" she cried. "What has happened to him?" she asked, frightened for the boy's safety.
"Gúthwyn will tell you," Théodred replied. "Gúthwyn?" Now the five-year-old found herself at the center of attention. Taking a deep breath she began speaking rapidly.
"I wanted to wrestle with him but he wouldn't let me because I'm a girl and so I punched him and then he tried to punch me and then I flipped him onto the ground and then I punched him and broke his nose and I'm really sorry and I won't do it again I promise!" she finished. The woman's face grew angry; Gúthwyn thought it was directed at her, and she grabbed Théodred's leg.
"I do not know how many times I have told my son to stop wrestling with the boys! They are all younger than he is, and they constantly go home bleeding or carrying new bruises. Up until now he has not gotten a scratch. I told him that one day he would get some of his own back but he never listened!" The woman paused, and Théodred held Tun out to her. Taking the sleeping boy she blushed and hurriedly curtsied. "My apologies, Prince Théodred, for not having greeted you properly," she murmured as she rose.
"That is all right," Théodred responded. "It is not important."
"You are most kind," she answered.
"Thank you. Gúthwyn and I must be off now. If there is anything we can do for your son, just let us know," the prince replied.
"I will be all right," Tun's mother said. "Thank you for offering. Good day."
"And you, my lady," Théodred spoke. "Farewell."
"Goodbye," Gúthwyn whispered, following her cousin out the door with one last look at Tun.
Once Théodred shut the door behind them he turned to Gúthwyn.
"You are lucky that she was not angry with you," he told her. "Your uncle would have been most displeased. But this incident is between you, Tun, his mother, and me, agreed? My father does not need to know about it."
"Agreed," Gúthwyn repeated, relief washing over her face as she grasped Théodred's hand. They walked back towards Meduseld in silence, Théodred mulling over his cousin's recent display of what she had learned from him. Yes, she definitely had potential. Théodred made a silent vow as they started up the hill to continue training her until she was old enough to learn how to use a sword.
And train her he did, and under Théodred's wing Gúthwyn grew stronger and better at the art of combat everyday. Anyone who looked upon her face saw an immense joy in her eyes, especially after Éomer had taught her how to properly ride a horse and she got one of her own—a mare she named Heorot. Horses were held in high esteem in Rohan, and nearly every day after her lesson with Théodred she would ride with her siblings over the grasslands near Edoras.
Later she would remember those years as some of the most joyous days of her life. But on her twelfth birthday, that happiness would end.