Theodred was dying.
He knew he was. He remembered the orc attack and the piercing pain in his side. Eomer had come for him, just as he always had. Eowyn had cared for him, just as she always had. He was sorry to leave them. His father, Theoden, King of the Riddermark was not himself – he was mean, and weak. Theodred knew that it was his duty to survive; he was his father's only living male heir.
But he could not. He could not survive and he could not worry. He hoped his father would recover from what was ailing him. He hoped Eomer would be the King Theodred knew he could be, and not resent him for leaving Eomer to shoulder the burden of their people. He hoped he would see her again; to spend the rest of eternity with her, even if it cost him a place in the halls of his forefathers.
He knew he was fading quickly now. He had held on, for how long he did not know, until Eomer had found him. He would not let his cousin, already well versed in grief; spend the rest of his life wondering what if he had arrived just a little sooner? Would Theodred have survived? It was one more thing Theodred would not let Eomer carry, so he had stayed alive, not conscious, he was not that strong, but alive so Eomer knew he had done all he could for his cousin.
But there was nothing to hold on to anymore. For months now, since she had passed in the winter, he had been a ghost in his father's Hall. He went on that excursion because he wanted to feel. He had not felt since the day they had buried his beloved. In that moment he had felt too much; the orcs had ambush them by the river and, somehow, Theodred knew he would not survive. He was sorry to the men that he commanded – they did not deserve to follow him in death just because he could not live any longer.
It had been easier than he thought. The battle had been quick but brutal; the screams, the spray and scent of blood. He had felt alive again, life was simple once more – he had an enemy and could end that enemy. The grief that had encapsulated his heart for so long melted away as he gave himself up to the moment. The movements were more than practice, they were exhilarating instinct. Then he had felt that pain in his side. He had looked down to see more blood than he knew he had within him staining the trembling fingers he slipped under the penetrated armour.
He had collapsed to his knees, and then on his back he lay. He looked at the sky and wondered if the stars he and his lady had gazed at in happier times where up there, even during the day. He hoped so; he wanted to believe the beauty that made his fair maiden light up was always there, even when they could not see it.
He knew when he was brought to his chambers at Meduseld. His father had not come to see him, his dying son. Someone else had though. She was there; his every thought was of her. His regrets – he never consummated their love, he had told her, but he had never shown her. His dashed hopes – he would never hold their child in his arms, watch their son grow. He had buried any want of a family with her in that cold, deep grave. His love – she had died, but he had not stopped loving her, that is why it hurt so much. His relief – it was nearly all over, whatever happened once his body gave up, it could not be a difficult as living the last months without her.
Darkness fell, he was left alone. Eomer had been taken some time before, Eowyn had gone to bed exhausted but still arguing with the attending servants that had to drag her away – love for his cousin swelled within Theodred's finally unfrozen heart, keeping him warm until his heart gave out. Eowyn was a fighter, she would be alright.
His dying thought was not of himself or of his lost love, but of the love he hoped Eowyn and Eomer may find once the dark had past – Theodred knew the Shadow could not always hold sway over Middle-earth. He wanted them to know love as he had – it had been wonderful, the short time it had been.
Finally, it happened. It felt like an age since he had first felt the blade pierce his skin. Now his limbs were heavy. He could not keep his eyes open. The pain, that had been so present he could not remember living without it, was fading. Or was it he that was fading? There was a dream fighting it way up from the corners of his mind. He had always held it back when he had been hurt before, kept the dream at bay. Now he welcomed it. It enfolded him like a mother's arms, so soft and gentle and comforting.
He was in a brightly lit hall. There were many men around him. Warriors. Kings. They were his forefathers. He walked through them. They parted as he passed as though they knew where he was going, even though he did not.
She had her back to him, staring up at a stained glass window, the light shining on to her, making her golden hair glow. She turned and he saw the sweet smile, whose absence had made his heart despair. She laughed and he picked her up and spun her round. He thought he would have more dignity when he met his ancestors but no. Heedless of their cheers, he lowered his mouth to hers, claiming the lips of his lady.
It was alright now. He knew he would see his father soon, Eomer not for years. He began the rest of his eternity his body whole, his heart full and his lady beside him.