Women of the Mark, Part 2
A Long-extended Party presents the Women of the Mark. A look at Tolkien's female characters featured in the upcoming Children of Eorl deluxe expansion. Lore notes and additional backstory written by Levanthalas, ALeP Lead Lore Expert. Design notes written by Shellin, ALeP Lead Playtester.
Théodwyn was the youngest and most beautiful of the five children of Thengel and Morwen Steelsheen. Born in TA 2963, Théodwyn was 15 years younger than her only brother Théoden, who loved her dearly. When she was only 17, Thengel passed, and her brother became King of the Mark.
In TA 2989, at the age of 26, she married Éomund of the Eastfold, trusted by the king as chief Marshal of the Mark. In TA 2991, their son, Éomer was born, followed by his sister Éowyn four years later. It was around this time when Orcs from Mordor began to raid the Eastfold. Éomund often rode against the Orcs to defend his land and people, though he sometimes did so recklessly, not mustering enough men before riding into battle. Unfortunately, Éomund was slain in such a battle in TA 3002. The grief combined with an illness brought about Théodwyn's death later that same year, leaving Éomer, eleven, and Éowyn, seven, orphans.
The children were taken in by their uncle, Théoden, king of Rohan. He grieved heavily for his sister, and raised her children as his own, in the house of the King. After Théoden's only son Theodred died at the Battles of the Fords of Isen in TA 3019, Éomer was appointed as heir to the throne. Both children inherited their father’s willingness and prowess in battle. Éomer inherited his father’s likeness and strength, while Éowyn inherited the beauty of her mother, and the height, grace, and bearing of her grandmother, Morwen Steelsheen of Lossarnach. Both would play critical roles in the events of the War of the Ring, and Théodwyn of Rohan will always be remembered as mother of Éomer Éadig, 18th King of the Mark, and Éowyn the Lady of the Shield-arm, Bane of the Witch-King.
Beyond raising two of the most famous figures in Rohan's history, Théodwyn herself ruled the Eastfold while her husband was away at war, an unfortunately frequent state of affairs. She was trusted with this task by both Éomund and King Théoden. She worked tirelessly to provide for her people and their safety, proving once again that warriors are not the only vocation of worth in Middle-Earth.
The Lord of the Rings. Appendix A: (II) “The House of Eorl”
Unfinished Tales. The Battles of the Fords of Isen, Notes
Design NotesThéodwyn was a bit of an oddity in playtesting, in that she was one of the few cards that actually underwent zero changes after being passed through the design and tuning process. Her stats and Response are the same in the final product as they were in September 2019 when I first played a game with her.
There are quite a few three-cost uniques within the Rohan trait, so it made a lot of sense to have Théodwyn join the likes of Gamling, Háma, and Éomund in the cardpool. Resource smoothing and card draw were two holes we saw in pre-ALeP Rohan decks, and Théodwyn can combo fairly well with both her brother and her father to help out on both of those fronts. Originally, Thengel's ability required spending a resource from his pool, so the idea behind Théodwyn was that her cost could be reduced to two with Spirit Théoden, and then when she entered play she could put a resource back on Thengel to fund his ability. After Thengel was updated to no longer spend a resource during playtesting, I found that I used her for card draw more often than for the resource, but having the choice depending on what was in my hand was always a nice feeling.
In addition to pairing well with Thengel and Théoden, she is also a fantastic target for the new Tactics event, Worthy of Remembrance. Getting her into play either for free with Thengel, or at a discount with Théoden, means that she is a great target to get the extra two damage kicker for discarding a unique ally. One of my favorite playtesting decks utilized her, along with Éomund and a newly revitalized hero Háma, to recycle Worthy of Remembrance and another, as of yet unspoiled, Tactics event from The Children of Eorl to great effect.
Théodwyn sat, watching for Éomund's company to return. The wooden chair the door-ward had carried outside for her was comfortable, but she shifted uneasily.
He should have returned by now, or sent a messenger. What keeps him?
Almost as she finished the thought, Éomer ran up to her.
"Mother, there are horses coming! I saw them! Is Father home?"
The boy was covered in sweat and dust, as was his habit. Between training with the soldiers, riding the horses, and nearing 12 years of age, Éomer spent many hours outside, and often returned in such a state.
He looks like his father after a battle.
Struck by the thought, she didn't respond to her son for a moment.
"Mama?" came a higher voice.
Éowyn stood behind her brother, nearly as dirty as he was. Her hands were clasped behind her back, not so much for posture so as to hide the wooden sword she toted.
Théodwyn smiled, "Hello dearest. Have you been fighting your brother again?"
"I-no…" began the girl. Then she seemed to realize she still held the evidence. "We were practicing, Mama. I want to be a warrior like Papa."
She may look like me, but she is her father's daughter.
"There have been many shield-maidens of renown in Rohan, Éowyn, but there are other callings of worth." Théodwyn always tried to steer away from the thought of Éowyn fighting. She worried enough about Éomund, and Éomer who would join him all too soon. "Your grandmother Morwen, the Steelsheen, never fought, but she helped your grandfather Thengel rule for many years. She was very learned and wise."
"But I can fight! Éomer says protecting the people is our greatest duty, so why can't I help?"
Théodwyn looked at her son, who smiled, but shrugged in apology.
"We also protect by ensuring that none go hungry, and that all are warm in winter. I have no doubt that you will find the best way to serve our people, Éowyn." Just please, let it be far from the battlefield.
The girl smiled, and nodded her head forcefully. "Then I shall be a shield-maiden, and fight with Éomer and Papa."
Théodwyn sighed to herself and rose, glancing back at the dust-cloud Éomer had spotted earlier, now close enough to be seen as riders of their house. "Well, it looks like your father is returning. Éomer, please take Éowyn inside and clean up, so that we may greet him. Éowyn, wear the white dress that he brought you from Edoras, he will like that."
Éomer nodded dutifully. "Come on, Éowyn. If we're fast, I bet Papa will tell us the story of his battle!" The two rushed off, blond hair streaming in the wind.
As Théodwyn smiled, watching the children hurry away, a guardsman approached, glancing at the children and frowning as he passed. He reached her, and bowed his head.
"My lady, the Éored returns."
The Éored. They always say Lord Éomund. No...no…
He continued, "I am afraid, my lady, that Lord Éomund… he has fallen."
No...no. Please no.
She fell to her knees, the guardsman too slow to catch her. She couldn't seem to catch her breath.
"My lady, are you well? Shall I send for your son? Lord Éomer?" He corrected himself immediately.
"No!" she exclaimed, then covered her mouth to stifle the sound. She glanced at her children, happily dashing across the yard, laughing together. "No. Let me have a moment." And let them keep this, this last sliver of happiness for just a bit longer. Let me protect them as long as I may.
There would be many things to handle. His burial, the thanes in the Eastfold, appointing a marshal to lead until Éomer came of age.
She would speak to the captain of the Éored herself, to find out what happened. She would determine how to break the news to her beautiful children. She would grieve, and then… Then she would do her duty.