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Practice Makes Perfect

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May 17, 3000

Éomund stood at the foot of the steps leading into Aldburg's great hall, his heart in his throat. Éowyn had run off from her mother before, but had never been missing for this long. And this time she had not been found in any of her usual hiding places. Every servant who could be spared from their duties had been called upon to help in the search, some of the riders as well, and the city rang with the sound of both men and women calling her name.

Éomund's fear grew stronger with each passing moment, and he knew that Theodwyn was near to frantic with worry.

"Marshal Éomund! Over here!"

The marshal looked over at the young rider who had beckoned him and then ran towards him. The Rider turned as he approached, and they continued on together. In minutes they were approaching the stables and slowed to a walk before they entered the building. The younger man stopped just inside the doors, looked at his Marshal and then silently pointed towards the box holding Thunder.

Éomund froze for a moment when the impact of the gesture hit him; his little girl in an enclosed stall with his warhorse…/

He gave a small nod, clapped a hand on the rider's shoulder and hurried towards the stall to face whatever he would find inside.

Once he had looked over the door he leaned against it in relief./

Lips pursed and brow furrowed in concentration, Éowyn stood behind Thunder on a wooden box, her small hands full of sections of his tail. Her hands moved slowly, though he could not yet see what she was doing.

Éomund called her name softly as he entered the stall, and she looked up at him then smiled brightly.

"Papa! Look - I made Thunder pretty!"

Thunder turned his head to look at Eowyn then back at his master, his expression baleful.

Laying his hand on Thunder's forehead, Éomund ran it soothingly along the stallion's neck and body as he advanced towards his daughter. After what felt like an age he reached her and scooped her up in his arms to hug her tight with relief. It was a long moment before he looked back to Thunder to see what she had meant.

A very messy and uneven braid adorned the stallion's tail, and Éomund could not help but offer a weak laugh. "Aye… Aye you did, sweetheart."

Thunder gave a short snort, followed by a soft stamp of a hoof.

Éomund bent to pick up the box his daughter had been standing on, then made his way back out the stall, putting the box aside and closing the stall door securely behind them before setting Éowyn on the ground. He took a breath and released it slowly before crouching down to look at his daughter eye to eye. "Éowyn, why did you run off from your mother that way? Why would you worry us so by making us look for you?"

"I'm sorry, Papa..."

He put his hands on her arms. "And what have I told you about going into Thunder's stall?"

She looked at the ground and shuffled her feet a little, but didn't answer.

"Answer me, Éowyn"

She glanced up at him quickly, then dropped her eyes back to the straw at her feet. "That I should not, unless you are with me." The mumble was barely heard, even in the quiet of the stable.

"Aye, that is right. Because he could hurt you very badly, Éowyn, without even meaning to."

"But, Papa, I only..."

"No. I will not hear any excuses. Éowyn..." He stopped and sighed deeply as he looked at the floor. When he looked up again his face was stern. "You know the rules, and you have deliberately chosen to break them. There will be consequences for this, Éowyn. Go to your chamber, and wait for me there."

Her chin trembled slightly before she nodded and whispered. "Yes, sir."

Hardening himself against the show of tears he added. "Go straight there, daughter. Do not dawdle along the way or go to the kitchens first."

Eowyn looked up and met her father's eyes for a moment, before dropping them again as she nodded a second time. Slowly she turned and started to walk toward the doors of the stable, dragging her feet in the straw with each step.

Éomund watched her until she disappeared through the stable's doors, then pressed an unsteady hand to his eyes for a long moment before standing. He walked a little way down the aisle and found an apple, which he offered to Thunder.

As Thunder ate his treat Éomund scratched his forelock and ears.

"Thank you, my friend."

Thunder regarded Éomund as he chewed, then nudged his nose into his master's shoulder, making the man smile a little.

"I will come back and right your tail as soon as I can." He chuckled softly. "Will you be as kind to me as you were to her?"

Thunder nickered softly, clearly saying that he would make no promises.

Éomund laughed more fully before giving the stallion's neck a final pat and following his daughter towards the hall.