His hands are ice cold, but there is a faint sheen of sweat upon his brow. I gently wipe it away with a damp cloth, hoping against hope that he will pull through, that he will live…
He does not respond when I call his name.
He remains impassive, mute; not even an eyelid flickers at my voice.
His body battles the fever, and is losing. How can he die? He is – was – so strong, in life; always the outlasting all the others in the jousts and hunts. That must count for something.
I have not allowed myself to cry. It does not achieve anything, and it never will, so I have not and will not cry. But this silence, so impressing and heavy and surrounding that I cannot escape… it resembles too closely the cage of my nightmares, that haunts me in sleep.
Théodred does not struggle or whimper in discomfort; he just lies there. This complete silence cannot be good, so unlike to other fevers I have witnessed and experienced. He is still breathing, and his wounds are no longer infected. Perhaps it is just his weakened state that renders him so still.
And yet there is a small part of me that still hopes, that refuses to give up. It is this small part of me that keeps me here, holding his hand and keeping him comfortable, ready if he should wake up. If a miracle does happen, and he returns to us, I will be ready. That is what keeps me here, in my silent vigil.
Sometimes …omer comes and sits with me. He takes my free hand and holds it, and we sit like this, seeking comfort in each other's familiar presence. We watch him together, and remember. I know …omer blames himself for not finding Théodred sooner; that is he had, this could have been prevented.
I look at Théodred, my eyes following the familiar lines of his face, a face I have looked upon so many times since my childhood, my heart begins to ache. I have not let it up 'til now, but in the continuing silence and stillness I know it is futile to resist. Théodred will not be returning to us. That thought hurts like a knife; sharper than when my father died – I was too young to fully understand, then, and my memories are too nebulous to cause pain. I know …omer remembers, and still hurts, sometimes; but for me there is no real sense of loss. After all, one cannot really mourn what one has never really had.
Losing Théodred, however, is like losing a brother; like some vital part of me has been ripped out and I can no longer function. I can't eat, I can't sleep; all I can do is wait and watch.
And so …omer and I watch together, our hands gripping each other to find solace as we watch our silent cousin. …omer's hands are warm and strong, safe and reassuring. As we sit, Théodred gives a sigh, and a mumble. His fingers flex within my grasp.
At this movement I gasp and kneel next to Théodred. …omer does the same next to me.
'Théodred', I whisper, calling to him. 'Théodred, come back.' He twitches again, and repeats his mumble. It sounds like 'father'.
'He's here,' I say desperately, squeezing his hand, 'your father will be here, Théodred.'
He says nothing more. His hand squeezes mine weakly, then falls limp.
I stare at him. The slight rise and fall of his chest, only just perceptible before, has stopped. I gently release his hand, and stand up. I wobble, and …omer holds me steady.
'Prince Théodred of Rohan is dead,' I say to no one in particular. There aren't even any guards to hear me. I look at …omer and see the grief in his eyes, barely veiled.
'The king must be told,' I say. I think about what this will do to the king, my uncle. If he even registers what I say. King Théoden doesn't respond to anyone, more often than not, unless Wormtongue is present. Will Théoden even realise his son is dead, and mourn his passing? Or will he continue to live in the dream world it appears he inhabits, shut away from everything? I don't know.
I look once more upon Théodred, golden hair and a face open and friendly yet powerful and kingly, and so like his father's; a face I will never again see smile or laugh.
I damn the dark forces that are waking in Middle-Earth. They have taken my cousin. Woe betide the creature that takes anyone else from me.