She returned North, to her home and her duties. There, she governed as she once had; even as her belly grew and she was forced to slow down lest she hurt herself or her child.
On the day she bore her son, when he was placed in her arms for the first time - still warm and damp from birth- the women asked the one question on all their minds; "What will his name be?". One named one's child after its father and she had no husband with a name for him to bear.
She smiled to herself as she rocked him and told them that he had no father; he only had a mother so he will bear a name of her family.
So, she named him Eadric after her first ancestor. As soon as she was able to ride again, she left in the company of her cousin Beleg, leaving her son in the care of Merewald and Folcred. When no word came, they feared the worst but four years later she returned with her hair cut off and many a story and souvenir of her travels. Her eyes had seen from the frozen wastes of Forochel to the scorching deserts of Harad and the experience had changed her, body and soul, forevermore.
They told her that the King had married, a Gondorian beauty he had met whilst visiting King Elessar. She smiled and truthfully said that she was happy for him; happy that he found love again. She would never love another man again. Her love was given to her children and the Fortress and every pebble, blade of grass and speck of dirt that made up the Wold and Rohan.
Oft she spoke of a love for Harad also and this was evident in her change in mannerisms upon her return to the Wold and the many Haradic valuables that came with her. And yet, she rarely spoke of her dealings there. In her old age she would sit by the fire in the Great Hall of the Fortress and if her grandchildren scrabbled at her robes and pleaded for a story of her adventures there, a great sadness would be seen in her milky eyes and a single word she would not utter.
When she eventually died, at peace in her own bed and surrounded by her family, her body was burned at her request. Her ashes were scattered in each of the great places of Rohan, the Fortress, Edoras, Helm's Deep, Dunharrow, so her spirit may protect the country that she loved so from any enemy that opposed it. And, as her cousin Beleg had predicted, her adventures and memory were celebrated in song and it became a tradition of the Fortress for her tale to be sung at each and every Spring Feast.
And her spirit also endured through her children. Her adopted son Cahal founded the first and greatest of the Harad-Rohirric dynasties and captained and trained a team of scouts surpassed only by their Ranger cousins of Ithilien and Arnor. Her son Eadric she saw take the Oath of the Riders and the Oaths of Fealty and Lordship in Meduseld in his eighteenth year and after her death, he rose to become Third Marshal of the Riddermark to his half-brother Elfwine King.
She was the daughter of Ailred and Gléowyn, one-time lover of Éomer Éadig, life-long friend to Éowyn, the White Lady of Ithilien, and mother to Cahal and Eadric.
Her name was Ailith; the Shieldmaiden of the North.
So, here we are at the end. It's been a long journey and I'm glad you are here to see it, whether you found this story today or you have been following it since the first chapter was uploaded.
Despite what she may think, Ailith wouldn't have made that bad a queen in my opinion. She would have just been downright terrifying. In fact, I have drawn quite a few parallels between Queen Ailith and General Armstrong from the Fullmetal Alchemist manga. But Queen Ailith and the Ailith here are completely different people with different lives, I think it is important to say that.
And I like Lothiriel too much to break that canon pairing. :D
This isn't the end of Ailith. I intend to write a short sequel based on the time Eadric takes his Oaths in Meduseld and I have an idea for an AU story where Ailith did marry Éomer, concerning one of their children and Eldarion.
Thank you so much, whether you reviewed, favourited, followed or even just read this. It means a lot to me.