Thengel looks at the three companions as if reading them through their words. "Well son, there is much wisdom in what has been spoken here today. There is truth in what all have said, but if I must chose a winner in this contest, I would say that Torwin has best argued his position."
Directing his attention to Torwin for a moment, Thengel says, "I perceive that you have the qualities of a leader yourself, young man. I have need of men faithful to our country, in whom I can place my trust. I have heard good reports about your service so far. You indeed have conducted yourself with honor. "
Then turning to Théoden, Thengel asks, "Well son, what have you to say in response to our guests. Do you agree with one of them?"
After a moment of thought, the young prince replies, “My mother taught me that truthfulness stands above as the king of all virtues, as truth protects all the other qualities of a man of worth. And yet I have learnt from you, my father, that it is loyalty that binds Rider to King, King to retainer. Without loyalty there would be no Eorlingas, nor the other virtues that make them great.”
Thengel grows thoughtful at Théoden’s talk of loyalty. He stares pensively at the burning hearth for a few long moments, then he raises his eyes to look first at his son, then to the companions sitting next to the young lord.
“This is well said, my son. Yet, while I do not doubt the steadfastness of the people of Rohan, at times pride takes over and clouds the mind of those whose position would require them to stand as an example instead.”
Thengel continues his speech explaining to his guests how a bitter feud among his right-hand men, the Second Marshal and the Third Marshal of the Mark, is worrying him. The rivalry between Cenric of Eastfold and Éogar of Westfold began at the time of Fengel King and has only deepened since Thengel took the throne. Each marshal despises the other, and their loyal kinsmen carry their struggle far and wide.
Individuals from each faction watch their rivals constantly and sometimes chase each other down. Insults fly at the Entwade crossings and at feast-day gatherings, and there has been bloodshed more than once when taunts went too far. Over the years, weregilds in gold have been paid to
make amends, but others have fled as outlaws. "This has gone far enough", says Thengel.
"There might come a day when the Lord of the Mark must tame his marshals by force. But I would rather lead them to peace by wisdom. Éogar and Cenric are mighty men, stern and powerful. The Riddermark needs their strength, uncowed and unbroken."
"How to achieve this end has baffled me, and yet my dear Queen thinks she may have found an opening to mend the rift between the Eastfold and Westfold." He looks at Morwen. My Lady, would you be so kind as to explain your plan to our guests?"
Prompted by the King, the Queen begins the tale of Mildryd Shielding of Westfold and Esmund, son of Edwin of Eastfold.
“Many years ago, Mildryd and Esmund, though not related by blood, grew as inseparable as brother and sister, as their families were united by a strong friendship. They remained close as they grew to adults, and many thought that brotherly love would soon give way to a different type of
“But they surprised everyone when Esmund married a lady from a prominent Eastfold family following his father Edwin’s advice, and Mildryd married a rich Westfold retainer. Both seemed content with their choice, and would have probably continued to be so, had not fate devised different plans for both unions. Not long ago, Esmund’s wife died bearing their first child, while Mildryd’s husband and children were slain in a Dunlending raid several years back.”
Queen Morwen pauses with furrowed brow, and looks to her husband. Thengel continues the tale.
“Today, Esmund is a brave captain despite his ill-luck and all the people of Eastfold love him. He is no friend to Cenric and would have cause to feud with the Third Marshal, but his loyalty instead has won his lord’s respect. Mildryd went seeking peace on the battlefield, as she took up shield and spear after the death of her husband as a Shieldmaiden and soon became famous for her relentlessness. Now she is one of Éogar’s chief lieutenants, the captain of his personal éored.”
“You all see where this tale brings us: can the life-thread of these two be entwined, to heal their spirit and mend the rift that jealousy and spite has dug between the folks of Westfold and Eastfold?”
"For too long Rohan has been divided east from west through divisions which grew in large part due to choices made by my father. I would see Rohan reunited. For this to happen, I must have my marshals to make peace and immediately settle whatever weregilds and damages they owe one another. They are proud men however, and I feel like an order from the king might just embarrass them and cause more friction."
"Morwen and I feel that only a marriage between the two households might provide the proud marshals with the excuse for peace that mere goodwill has yet to find. That may allow them to end their feud without shame. As free Eorlingas, Mildryd and Esmund are entitled to make their own decisions. They know each other. They may be far easier to persuade than the lords they serve."
"Thus I finally will reveal to you my true motive in inviting you three here today. You have proven yourself loyal and honorable. I would ask you to go to the Eastfold and the Westfold to act as my my messengers. I am not sending you as my agents, I will not impose my authority. But you can offer those involved my proposals and express my desires. What say you? You might have questions which I will do my best to answer."