It was a sharp tone of voice that was often reserved for his boisterous young son and nephew alone but as Theoden watched his young niece run headlong towards where a mare stood watching over her new foal,a touch of fear brushed his heart. Even a mare possessing the most gentle spirit could become suddenly quite fierce in protection of her foal or be startled into an attack.
Theoden knew he had been heard as Eowyn slowed from a run, finally remembering what she had always been taught and walked, small hands held out before her with palms extended upwards.
The dappled mare snorted softly as Eowyn drew closer as though in welcome and lowered her head to the small child, gently touching her soft grey muzzle to girl’s golden hair and then blew out a breath causing Eowyn to laugh.
Theoden kept watch from a distance, though the sound of the child’s laughter reached him. Catching a brief glimpse of the bright smile on Eowyn face he suddenly felt a deep ache, it was so very much the smile of his late sister.
It was still a wound too near to his heart and the King turned away, his gaze sweeping across the herd of horses before him.
This time of year was truly a blessed one for the Rohirrim. It brought great joy to the heart of the King to look out over the fair green land and see so many fine clean limbed foals standing near to their side of their dams.
Many were born just this morning in the very early hours as a full moon had crested the night sky and had bathed the land in its pale light. Perhaps the mares felt safe beneath this light for they had wandered away to birth their foals before rejoining the herd once their young one was old enough to take to it’s feet and run.
There was always the threat of wolves that would only dare come near if they thought take a young foal but they were always killed upon sight. A wolf pelt served a far greater a purpose than a live wolf in the eyes of the Riders.
Showing patience that she seemed to reserve for horses alone, Eowyn was seeking to gain the trust of the young dark coated foal that initially had balked away from her touch. Though the inherent curiosity of the foal soon won out and it took a tentative step forward towards Eowyn, and then another.
Eowyn reached out to gently touch its face the foal jerked its head away clearly unnerved by this sudden intrusion. Theoden watched this with interest as an undaunted Eowyn held out her hand once more to the foal in invitation and slowly the foal craned its neck to her hand and gently nuzzled it, allowing at last Eowyn to gently stroke its face.
When at last Eowyn came bounding towards him her face was bright with happiness at her achievement. Wordlessly Theoden extended his hand feeling the smaller once of Eowyn slid into it as he turned away.
“Shall I one day be a Horse Lord?”
Theoden paused and quirked a brow at this, this question had taken him off his guard and he kneeled so that he may address Eowyn at her own level.
“Nay Eowyn, for to become a Lord, most certainly a Lord of the Horses, you must be a man and my dear, you are no man”
The small nose lightly brushed with freckles scrunched as the small girl thought upon this for a moment “What of Theodred? And Eomer?”
“They are young as you are Eowyn, they are Horse Lads” Theoden replied the edges of his eyes crinkling gently with warmth. Indeed his own son and sister son were young now but he was certain that his son would one day grow into a fine and just King and Eomer a mighty Knight of the Mark.
“What of me?” Eowyn asked in a small voice.
Theoden considered this for a long moment, he had come to quickly learn that his sister daughter did not take well to being left out and it seemed she was forever dogging the steps of her brother and cousin, never content to be left behind.
“You shall be a Maiden of the Foals” Theoden decided aloud at last and Eowyn let out a cry of delight.
“Yes! Yes!” Eowyn agreed excitedly “I shall watch over the foals!”
“Nay Eowyn, They have their mothers to watch over them”
As soon as the words had passed his lips, Theoden immediately regretted them as Eowyns face fell and he cursed his own carelessness as the girl had lost her own mother this very winter past and very shortly before that her father had been cut down. It was double stroke of grief upon the heart of one so young.
The merriment and laughter of short moments earlier was now completely forgotten as Eowyns eyes filled with tears and Theoden dropped to his knees to gather the weeping child closer before rising to his feet, holding the girl close as she cried broken heartedly against his chest.
Inwardly Theoden uttered every last curse in every language he knew.
Eowyn was of the age where she was old enough to understand that neither her mother nor father would ever again return and yet she was still far too young to be without them. Whilst at times she seemed far older in mind and heart than her young years though this only served to remind Theoden once more that she was still a very small girl who deeply missed her mother.
Though he had hoped to more closely inspect the spring foals Theoden resigned himself to return with the now sobbing Eowyn for there was very little he could do whilst holding the distraught child.
Even from a distance the great white stallion caught the eye of the King and Theoden sharply halted.
With a coat that shone like molten silver in the light of sun it would have been impossible to mistake Shadowfax for any other amongst the many fine steeds of the King’s herd.
Standing alone upon the green hill which overlooked the pasture where mares serenely grazed with their foals still near to their side Theoden knew that Shadowfax had come to look upon the many fine foals which he had sired.
“Eowyn, Look” Theoden murmured breathlessly and felt her stir against his chest and turn eyes that were slightly reddened from tears outwards to the world and heard her small wordless exclamation as she too saw the Prince of Horses.
“Shadowfax has come to watch over his sons and daughters” Theoden whispered and Eowyn looked on in wide eyed astonishment.
“They do not see him” Eowyn said in the same hushed tone as though she feared if she spoke too loudly Shadowfax would simply vanish and indeed the horses below continued to quietly graze, completely undisturbed.
“They will not” Theoden answered “Though their King shall watch over them and protect them even when they cannot see him”
Eowyn was silent for a long moment and when she at last lifted her face to his, Theoden understood her unspoken question and kissed her brow.