LOVE! Rohirrim Style

Chapter 14

Haleth Rising

If the servants thought it strange that the Rohirrim and their King, along with his new bride, played musical rooms and beds, they kept it to themselves. Many a shopkeeper in the nearby market did remark that the King of Rohan was apparently besotted with his bride, taking her from stall to stall and grinning like a mad man as she bought up long silken scarf after long silken scarf. Obviously, the Marshals of Rohan followed their liege's lead as they allowed the same of their lady wives.

Five days came sooner than Imrahil would like. Too early in the morning, the Rohirrim muster was lining up in the courtyard, saddlebags and pack animals loaded in such an efficient manner. Éomer was darting from horse to horse, making sure each one was ready for travel, checking Firefoot and Nihtweard.

"All is ready, sire," Gamling whispered quietly. Éomer nodded and moved to the front of the line.

"Haleth!" Éomer's voice rose over the din, over the bustling of the crowd. "Haleth! Son of Háma! Come here!"

From around the horses, around Riders and others, Haleth gingerly crept into the middle of the piazza. He was ready to ride, ready to return home. His borrowed cloak was fastened and his sword was secured at his back. "Sire?"

To one who did not know him, Éomer looked stern, almost angry. He was in full armor, his helmet, with its long horsetail, on his head, his feet apart. "You wear a Rider's Cloak, yet you have not been raised."

The chatter around now ceased, all eyes on the King and the young teen it looked as if he were about to chastise. Lothiriel started forward, as if to intervene, however a heavy hand rested on her shoulder. "'Tis a happy occasion, Lothiriel. An event rarely seen outside the Riddermark!" Elessar's smile was wide. "Although I do not believe young Haleth realizes it yet. Watch."

The Marshals and Captains in Éomer's éored were lining up behind him, an impressive show of Rohirric might. "It was a loan from Lady Aefre when I traveled," Haleth explained, his eyes darting about cautiously. "It belonged to Lufien. I promised to give it back when I returned." Haleth's voice was almost apologetic. "It was so cold-"

"Aye. I remember well the conditions you traveled to Gondor in. Give me your sword." Thinking he must have done something horribly wrong, Haleth sighed, reached behind him and pulled his sword free, handing the hilt to the king. Éomer took it, weighed it carefully in his hand before handing it to Gamling. "I took this sword from a boy. I will give it to a man, an Éorling; a true son of Rohan. Give me your cloak."

Haleth's shoulders drooped.

Whispering could be heard from those standing about the courtyard, not understanding what they were seeing and feeling sympathy for the boy as he removed the wrap and handed it to Éomer. The Rohirrim King then handed it to the one who loaned it to him – Aefre, who stood even with her husband. Even Imrahil's brow was pinched in ire. Faramir stood next to him, pointing through the sea of horses. From the back of the courtyard, Éowyn walked calmly between the steeds, carrying a swath of green. She came to a stop behind her brother, a sparkling smile of pride beautifying her features. When he saw her and what she carried, Haleth's jaw dropped and his eyes went wide.

"Kneel." Haleth dropped to one knee, his head bowed as he concentrated on the stones beneath him. "For your work and knowledge of our land, for your accomplishments in the Riddermark, for your service this winter in your travels to Gondor, but mostly," and here, Éomer grinned arrogantly, "for beating every Gondorian who challenged you to a horse race and making them Eat! Your! Rohirrim! Dust!" At this point, every Rohirrim raised a fist and saluted with three loud guttural grunts. "You have proven yourself a true son of Rohan; a clǽne yrfeweard a Éorlingas. Ástandan!" Haleth rose, a huge smile on his face. Éomer turned and took the precious green cloak Éowyn carried so reverently. He slung it around the young teen's shoulders, fastening the clasp. "Normally," he said very quietly, so only those nearby could hear, "First Rider cloaks are new, however it is my understanding that this belonged to your father and is precious to you. He would be proud." Haleth was choked up and could not speak, so he nodded in affirmation. "You have made him proud, so wear it with honor." Éomer leaned over and whispered in his ear, "Be careful who you wrap in it."

"Yes sir." Haleth was rubbing the fine wool gently between his thumb and forefinger.

After Haleth reattached his buckler, Gamling handed the sword back to Éomer. Again, he weighed it in his hand and handed it to Haleth. "I took this sword from a boy, but now I give it to a Éorling, to a Man of Rohan. Kneel." Haleth sank again to one knee, head bowed.

It was very quiet.

Éomer looked at Gamling.

Gamling shrugged and mouthed 'Just tell him.'

Éomer leaned forward and whispered. "Psst. Haleth. This is where you swear fealty to Rohan and her people, that you will fight for her glory and protect her, that you will obey the king-"

"And sing and drink heartily at every feast," Gamling added.

"And that you will clean his stables daily and shake the crumbs from his bed each morning because he still snacks there at night," Éowyn finished.

At that, Haleth's head shot up, a non-believing smirk resting at his mouth. "My Lady!" he hissed. "I might have been born a short time ago, but I was not born last night!"

Éomer burst out laughing, followed very quickly by his men and the women who heard Haleth's outburst. As the laughter died down, Haleth offered up his sword and spoke loudly. "I am Rohirrim. I swear by my honor, that I give my fealty to Rohan; to uphold her security and her people. My sword belongs to Éomer Eadig, King of Rohan, to use as he sees fit and where needed for as long as I live."

For the last time, Éomer took the sword Haleth offered up. He touched him on each shoulder blade. "So be it Haleth, son of Háma, Man of Rohan." He handed the sword back to him. "Pretty good oath for such short notice, Haleth. Ástandan, Ástígend!"

As Haleth rose to his feet again, the Éorlings of Rohan cheered him, quickly followed by those who witnessed the rising of this young rider. Before he could return to his horse, Éomer clapped him on the shoulder, "Did you really leave Prince Faramir behind in a horse race?"

Haleth looked over both shoulders to make sure the prince was nowhere near. "Beat his arse." He nodded to Éowyn.

"Aye, he did." Éowyn agreed. "Faramir said it was if the host of demons of Morgoth were chasing him. There was no catching him."

Haleth gulped self-consciously and paled. No one noticed.

But Gamling.

Éomer motioned to Lothiriel, so he could help her into her saddle. "Mount up, Rider. Your first duty is to call up the éored!"

"Yes sir." Haleth raced off, his newly won cloak billowing behind him. As he went by, each Rider clapped him on the shoulder, causing him to grin from ear to ear. He mounted up on Níðheard and settled into the familiar saddle. "RIDERS! HO! RIDERS! TO HOME! TO HEARTH!-"

"To Rohirrim women and our own beds!" Gamling leered at Aefre, as he gave her a hand up, she did not really need.

"You are such a man!" she retorted.

"TO ROHAN! RIDERS! FORTH ÉORLINGAS!"

~~~...~~~

They had been out several days, the party moving slowly back through the plains of Lamedon. This time, Éomer did not complain about the slow going of the éored; instead he took great pleasure in spending time conversing with his new bride. Many times, his laughter would be heard ringing through the group, Lothiriel apparently sharpening her Rohirric skills on him.

It was discovered later that Hæfern had taught her a few saucy things that would have scandalized her family, had they known. The King and Queen of Gondor rode with them, as did Imrahil and members of their cavalry, but it was clear to all that Éomer preferred the company of his bride.

Word of Haleth's prowess at racing spurred other Gondorian knights to darehim. He beat them, easily, the swiftness of his horse was whispered about and few noticed that while his challengers wore full armor, Haleth wore only his cloak and clothing, making him much lighter to carry. And as was his wont, Haleth always pointed out for a horseman to check his mount's hoof, or shoe, or that flank that appears tender…

Gamling watched with a careful eye. Faramir was correct. He rode as if demons nipped at his heels. So he watched and waited until one particularly lovely sunset, rather than join Aefre around the small cook fire she prepared, he sought out Haleth, who was alone, brushing down Níðheard. Gamling waited until the boy completed his task, checked his hooves and feed, making sure he was near grass and placed a fresh bucket of water within reach.

"Haleth. Come walk with me a ways."

Haleth put his tack away in his saddlebags and joined Gamling's side. They walked around the edge of the camp, in sight, but out of hearing. "I have not had chance to tell you how proud I am. You have done well. Your father would be proud."

"Thank you."

There was silence, somewhat uncomfortable as they continued walking. "Éowyn tells me while you stayed with them in Minas Tirith, you had trouble sleeping."

"Aye."

Damn! The boy was proving to be as tight-lipped as the Marshal himself.

"When we go near Pelennor Fields, Aefre tells me I am a veritable bear in my sleep. It haunts me to the fiber of my being. It was a horrible, horrible day that devils me the closer I am to it. I keep the beauty of Minas Tirith in my heart and my mind's eye because I desire to never see it again. I must wonder however," and with this he stopped and looked directly at the teen, "what abhorrent thing you have seen that would bother you so?"

Haleth stared at his mentor and Gamling saw clearly that while the boy was still a boy, his eyes had taken on an ancient, haunted look. "You would think it silly," he finally whispered and turned to continue walking.

Gamling resumed walking. "I have been around many summers. There are many things that long ago, I would consider silly or unfathomable. After what I saw at Pelennor Fields and at the Black Gate, I am less likely to question that which most would call silly."

They continued to walk, Gamling sensing Haleth was searching deep for words, for something, anything to make sense of what was haunting him. Finally…

"When I was young, Da used to tell me of a town, a ghost town that only showed itself to vulnerable riders in trouble. It was filled with the souls of the damned and that anyone who partook their ales or enjoyed time with their women, was lost, their souls doomed forever. They would stay there forever, turned to evil."

"Is that all he told you?"

"No." It was now coming out in a rush. "He told me that if a rider's heart were true and that he did not partake, that Béma would send a talisman to protect him until he could escape."

"Ah." Gamling nodded in understanding. "My da told me the same story, save he named the ghost town Witnung."

They walked.

"Why would our da's tell us such tales?"

"'Tis no tale, Haleth. I have been there."

Haleth's head jerked. "You have been there? When? How?"

There was a tree near by and Gamling sat, leaning against it motioning Haleth to join him. From his belt, he removed a small flask and uncorked it. He handed it to Haleth. It was a burning whiskey; much like that he had taken with him to keep his blood warm during his cold ride south. A wind blew now, the spring night beginning to cool.

"When I was just barely sixteen summers, I was sent on an errand. One of the settlements near our garrison was being harried by what was thought to be wolves. Their cattle and sheep were disappearing and the men had taken to putting all their horses in one stable, each taking turns to watch. We discovered it a group of sceaðan, very bold thieves indeed, and my father and the majority of his éored were in Aldburg for the rising of several captains, including Éomund, Éomer King's father. I was sent by our captain to retrieve the éored. I left late in the afternoon, excited to be away from my sisters whose chatter bothered me to my teeth. Besides," he elbowed Haleth in good-naturedly, "there was a young maid in Aldburg I fancied, so I was excited to get away."

He took a swig from the flask, savoring the burn. "I had been gone but a few hours, when the storm blew down on me. There was lightning from sky to ground and it struck close to my horse's hooves, spooking him to where he ran wild. I couldn't control him. There was no shelter, no farms or caves to take refuge in. The sky grew black and I prayed to Béma he would bring to my destination safe."

"After a particularly loud roar of thunder, I saw a walled settlement ahead. It appeared ramshackle and deserted, the gate hanging askew. I thought shelter was shelter, so I rode in. I heard nothing; I stabled my horse in the poor excuse for a stable. I wondered why I did not remember it. I had never seen the town, no one spoke of it." He took another swig before passing the flask back to Haleth. "No self-respecting Rohirrim would allow their home and hearth to become run down, or dilapidated. But by then, the rain was pouring down in buckets. I was drenched; Gástwynde, my gelding, was soaked and spooked. The stable was not much shelter, so I went across the street to what looked like an inn."

"There were people there. I heard them when I entered. They were crass, rude. The place stank of unwashed bodies and smoke. There was a barmaid-" At this, Haleth perked up, "who might have been passing fair, but she was painted like a whore, her lips were blood red and I had the feeling she wanted to bite me. They taunted me, demanded I join them, pay them for their company, when a man from back rose from the smoke. They backed away and he took me upstairs to a room in the back. It was warm and dry and I stayed there for the night, a day, and the next night. I was unable to see his face and he bid me to stay put and not leave. He brought me nourishment, told me my horse was cared for. It thundered and lightninged the entire time, a raging storm. I saw it strike a tree, away from the town, burned it to a cindercrisp. I thought I would go raving mad cooped up. On the second morning, the thunder and lightning stopped, but it still poured. The man told me to run, saddle my horse and go. He gave me food and drink and bid me leave and not look back. He told me to ride hard until I found a crofter's hut at the end of the day, to stop nowhere until the sun set. The farmer would care for my horse and me. As he was leaving, I finally got a good look at him."

"Who was it?"

Gamling breathed deeply. Normally, he was a man of very few words and all this had parched his throat. "It was my mother's da. He had been dead some five summers. When I was little, he would put me in the saddle with him and ride like a crazy man, laughing at the breeze. He taught me to not fear the wind in my face, how to judge a horse by its gait. My sisters teased me when he died, because I cried. Beornia was wretched about it, so I hit her and knocked her into the mud, which angered my mother. My da took me to the barn he said, to set my tail on fire, but he held me close and told me to cry it out. 'Sometimes, a man has to cry,' he told me. 'There is nothing unseemly about it.'" Gamling took the flask from Haleth, taking another swig. "I rode as if winged things of the night chased my very soul. True to his word, I passed several run down farmhouses, until the sun set, until I found the crofter and his wife. They took me in, fed my horse sweet oats and stuffed me with food. It rained again that night and I could hear the things screaming at me, demanding I come out. That crofter just sat in his chair, with his pipe glowing in the night, watching the fireplace. The next day, they fed me again, loaded me with food and told me I was lucky." He took one last drink, before handing what was left to Haleth. "I have never spoken of it; not to my da, not to anyone." He looked at Haleth in the dying light. "Until you. It exists, Haleth. It exists."

All was quiet for a few minutes.

"I saw my da, Gamling. He pulled me from the common room, away from… away from her. My da watched me all night."

Gamling stood up and held his hand down to pull up the boy. "I figured you must have. It is a gift, Haleth, to know the ones we love who have gone on, still watch over us." He started walking, sensing Haleth behind him. "Haleth, be careful who you speak of it to."

"I do not wish to speak of it to anyone." He gulped for air. "I miss him so."

"I know you do."

"I wish he were here, to see me raised." Gamling stopped, stayed quiet, for he sensed the torrent about to break. Haleth stood still, his fists clenched at his sides. "Damn that warg-rider! He stole my life! He should have been here!"

At that moment, Gamling did what his father had done for him when he grieved his mother's da. He reached and clutched him to him, wrapping him in a hard embrace, while the teen finally released all the pent up suffering. "He should have been here! He should have seen it, seen me! He should have been here!"

"He did, Haleth. He did."

~~~...~~~

Later, as Gamling and Aefre were sitting about the fire, Éomer came around, speaking to his Marshals and Captains. He sat down next to Gamling and watched as Aefre filled his mug with caffe. "I saw you with Haleth. Is he alright?"

"Missing his da."

"Ah. Anything I should know about?"

Gamling was starring into the fire, deep in thought. "He had an adventure." His eyes rolled over to Éomer over his own mug. "The kind you do not wish to speak of."

Éomer winced. "Too young. Too young to go through that." He stood up and patted the Marshal on the shoulder. "I will help keep an eye tomorrow. Tell him to come ride with me and Lothiriel a ways."

Aefre's ears were perked. "He went through Witnung? This early?" The men looked at her aghast. "I had a brother. My da told us the same stories." She studied her own mug. "It is not that big of a secret."

Éomer leaned over. "Neither are the hairpins, my lady." He held up five fingers. "Five. We are to have five! But hopefully, not for another year." He stretched and arched his back until it popped. "She might kill me before then."

~~~...~~~

They made a stop at Gamling's family homestead in the Westfold. Léoma made the rounds through the men, especially her da before reaching her mother. Where she wanted to perch on every shoulder, she was content to cuddle up under Aefre's chin and go to sleep. Aefre teared up the first time her daughter said 'Mama.'

As they were leaving, Gamling's four summers old niece, Gaberas ran into the courtyard and threw herself crying at Éomer's feet. Éomer picked her up as if she were his own and snuggled her. "What is wrong, dearest?"

"YOU WERE S'POSED TO WAIT FOR ME!" Her nose was running and Sulis ran from the house when she heard the commotion. "YOU WERE NOT S'POSED TO GET MARRY-ED!"

"Sweetling, I am sorry," Éomer was cajoling. "When you grow up and are a beautiful woman, I will be an old and decrepit man." He bounced her to his hip. "Surely, you would prefer…" he searched his memory for the outrageous little elfling imp that traveled to Gondor with Arwen's wedding party, "Tamtheril?"

"Tamtheril is an elf!" Gaberas wailed. "He will never grow up!"

Sulis attempted to take her daughter from the king. "Sire, I am so sorry. I do not know where she gets-"

""Tis all right." He continued to attempt to cajole the young girl, noticing his bride was having a hard time keeping a straight face. "I am certain you will grow up and find a young and handsome rider. You would not wish to be stuck with an old wrinkled man-"

"He eats in the bed." Lothiriel interrupted with a smile. "He leaves crumbs in the sheets. It is most irritating."

"Food? In the bed?" Gaberas wiped her nose on Éomer's sleeve. "But Mama says that is what the table is for."

"Your mama is right!" Éomer nodded in agreement. "It is a very bad habit I have."

"But-"

"He also passes wind in the tub," Lothiriel attempted to keep her voice down, but of course it carried on the breeze, causing the adults to snicker.

Gaberas looked at her king with snarl of contempt. "In the tub?" She closed her eyes and turned in disgust. "I can wait." She made a face as Éomer allowed her to slide down his leg and she stormed off behind her mother.

"Pass wind in the tub?" Éomer looked at his wife in mock despair. "Could you not come up with something less…"

"Rohirrim like?" Lothiriel finished for him. "It is my understanding, that is what you all do!"

Éomer scowled and headed to his horse. As he passed Gamling, he snarled, "We need to talk about the things your wife is telling my wife!"

Gamling waited until the king passed. "And this is my fault how?"

~~~...~~~

They entered Edoras in traditional style; Lothiriel perched on Éomer's lap, Nihtweard's reins tied to Firefoot's saddle. They were both wearing bridal wreaths and they welcomed the feast that was made for their arrival. There was much noise and singing and Lothiriel overheard Aefre and Gamling tell more than one person that they themselves had seen her wrapped in Éomer's cloak. As the party wore on into the night, the two snuck off to the king's chambers. When they shut the door, Éomer made a mental note to corner Aefre and kiss her well, to thank her for making sure the rooms were perfect.

They lay in the bed, cocooned in each other's arms, tired, exhausted and completely content. They both were staring into the canopy of the bed.

"Happy?"

"Yes, Éomer. Very."

"Good."

Silence.

"If you are ever unhappy, please tell me. I will do whatever-"

"Éomer." She squeezed his hand. "I am happy and tired. Please blow out the lamp."

"Ah. Goodnight." The single lamp was blown out.

There was noise out in the yard below the window.

"Éomer?"

"Yes?"

"What was that?"

"I am sure we will find out in a minute."

A moment later, the most Béma-awful warbling rose through the window.

As Éomer King stood by his Tub,
To shew his vicious Inclination;
He gave his noblest Parts a Scrub,
And sigh'd for want of Copulation...'

Although it was dark, Éomer could sense his wife's jaw was now slack. "Is that …Gamling?"

"And Elfhelm."

Free and frolick we'll couple gratis
Thus we'll show all the Human Race;
That the best of the Marriage State is,

Lothiriel's and Éomer's Case.

"Éomer! Are you going to do anything about that?"

"Why? They will pass out eventually. Or their wives will come and get them."

Their wives came two songs later. Soon it was quiet again.

"Éomer?"

"Aye?"

"Do you think we could get mirrors for the canopy in this bed?"

And there was laughter in Edoras.

***fini***

Ástígend - Rider

clǽne yrfeweard o Eorlingas. – a true son of Erol the Young, a true son of Rohan.

Ástandan – Rise

Níðheard – bold in battle

Daranau - thunder

Love! Rohirrim Style

Began 08/11/2011

Finished 09/14/2011