Morwen Steelsheen, kinswoman of the Prince of Dol Amroth was born in TA 2922 in Belfalas, western region of Gondor. Later, her family moved to Lossarnach, famous for its flowers.
In the lands of Lossarnach, she met, befriended, and eventually courted Thengel, son of Fengel, Prince of Rohan. Due to disagreements with his father, Thengel was in self-imposed exile from Rohan, living with his Gondorian mother’s family. Morwen and Thengel married in TA 2943.
For the next ten years, the two lived happily in Lossarnach. Throughout their marriage they had five children. The first three of these were born in Gondor, including Théoden, future king of Rohan.
It could not last. In TA 2953, Fengel died, and Thengel returned to Rohan to take up the kingship. Morwen dutifully followed, and brought with her a measure of the language and lore of her Númenórean heritage.
Among the Rohirrim, her height and dark hair marked her an outsider. However, her beauty, grace, and pride earned her both the respect of the people, and the moniker “Steelsheen.”
Thengel ruled Rohan well for over 20 years, drawing upon Morwen’s learning and wisdom. Due to both Thengel’s own time in Gondor and Morwen’s influence, Westron became the language of the court of Rohan, and the Elven-tongue Sindarin was the day-to-day speech in the king’s house.
While in Rohan, Morwen bore the remainder of her children, including Théodwyn, who later married Éomund, and became the mother of the famous Éomer and Éowyn. All told, she bore four daughters and one son.
It was during Thengel and Morwen’s reign that the mysterious figure known as Thorongil came from the North, and took service with Thengel for a time. As became known in later years, Thorongil was one of the names taken by Aragorn, son of Arathorn, during his wanderings. It is unknown whether any of his heritage was known to Morwen or Thengel, but he distinguished himself in battle, and eventually left to serve Ecthellion II, the current Steward of Gondor.
Eventually, in TA 2980 Thengel died, and the kingship passed to Morwen’s son, Théoden. Morwen’s death is not recorded, though many speculate that she outlived her husband due to her Númenórean ancestry. Regardless of the duration of her life, she obviously impacted both the House of Eorl, and the Kingdom of Rohan. Not only was she the foremother of several of the great Rohirric figures in the War of the Ring, but she herself brought lore, learning, and nobility to the Rohirrim, and the King’s House.
Morwen Steelsheen was a natural choice for a character in our deluxe box focusing on the Rohan and Gondor traits due to her strong ties to both groups. For her design, we particularly wanted her to synergize with the Rohan ally-discard archetype, as one of the primary goals of the deluxe box was to give a significant boost to that archetype.
With this in mind, my thoughts then turned to what the archetype was missing. After several games of playing with the new cards, I realized that some of the aspects the deck struggled with were threat reduction and healing. Rather than hand the archetype a dedicated solution for each problem, I thought it would lead to some interesting player decisions to tie them both to a limited ability on the same card, which also had some decent stats. That way, each turn the choice needs to be made whether to quest with her, use her for healing, or use her for threat reduction.
Her Gondor synergy was easy to tie in by allowing her ability to trigger off allies that leave play for any reason, rather than strictly discarded. This gives her a place in Lothíriel, Imrahil, or Gondor chump-blocking decks.
After Morwen Steelsheen was spoiled in the previous article, I’ve seen a few people ask whether you could use her first ability to get her into play for “free” if you have no Gondor or Rohan allies to discard. Alas, you will always be able to fulfill the forced discard because she herself is a Gondor and Rohan ally! Originally, her first ability was worded as a cost: “Discard a Rohan or Gondor ally you control to put Morwen Steelsheen into play…” but it was reworded to allow her to trigger her response immediately after entering play.
Out of the North
The stranger bowed his head. “Hail, Thengel, son of Fengel, King of the Mark.”
He speaks Westron well, though with an unfamiliar accent. Not a man of Gondor, whatever his height and eyes may say.
“I greet thee, stranger, and ask the courtesy of thy name, so that I might welcome thee to mine halls.” Thus spake Thengel, her husband, King of Rohan. His sharp eyes peered at the man, seeking to judge his nature, as a king should.
“I am called Thorongil, lord.”
“And for what purpose, Thorongil, did you seek this audience? What dost thou seek to accomplish in mine lands?”
“I am a wanderer, lord, and I hunt all servants of he who sits in the Dark Tower. It is well-known that thou art a strong warrior, and often ride to the aid of Gondor in their wars against the Black Land. I am here to offer thee my service, shouldst thou accept.”
He speaks truth, but does not reveal all. There is something he wishes us not to discover. I sense no duplicity, simply a closely held secret.
She leaned forward. “My king,” she spoke quietly in Sindarin, the Elven-speech, so that none would overhear. “This man is not of Gondor and he holds a secret from us. His speech is like that of my kinsfolk, the house of the Prince, but his accent is not of the land of Gondor, from Belfalas to Ithilien.”
“I agree, I shall question him further,” Thengel replied in the same tongue, laying a hand on hers. Turning back, he asked, returning to Westron, “Where do you come from, Thorongil? Thy stature and eyes mark thee not of the Rohirrim. Indeed, along with thy speech, they wouldst imply thou art of the land of Gondor.”
“Alas my lord, I have not yet had the fortune to visit that fair land,” replied Thorongil. “I have not seen the fair waters of Belfalas, nor breathed the fragrant air of Ithilien.” He smiled as he said it, and glanced at Morwen.
He understood! This man had understood their conversation, despite their use of the Elven speech. She knew of no mortals outside her homeland who still used that tongue, and this man did not appear to be of the Elven-folk.
She looked aside at her husband, who hid his surprise well, but not from her. They had been married over a decade, after all.
“However,” the man was continuing, “one day I hope to do so. I come from the North, a land far away. I would be happy to tell thee more in the future if thou desirest. For now, what sayest thou to my request? Would my sword be of use to thee?”
The King pondered for a few moments, glancing at her. He did not need her approval, nor could he not make up his own mind, but he often sought her counsel.
This man is no brigand, nor a sell-sword. He carries himself like a lord, and there is truth in his voice. And he knows the Elven-speech. I believe he will be a true ally.
She nodded, nearly imperceptibly.
“I will accept thy service, Thorongil of the North,” announced the King.
Thorongil bowed his head again. “I swear to serve thee loyally and ably for a time, so long as thou oppossest the Dark Tower.”
“Very well, Thorongil, I swear to lead thee well and honorably, and that thou shalt be welcome in Meduseld for the duration of thy service.” He turned to Morwen.
She stood from her stool beside the throne. “Be welcome in our halls, Thorongil of the North!”
Morwen turned aside and called to servants, “Bring bread, salt, and wine for our guest.” She gestured to a low bench to the side of the hall, indicating Thorongil should sit. He did so, and looked out upon the others in the hall as if interested in the goings on of the king.
While the King spoke to messengers from the Westfold about skirmishes with the Dunlendings, Morwen’s only son, Théoden, approached her.
“Who is he, mother?”
“His name is Thorongil, Théoden, and he has come to swear service to your father.”
The youth looked intrigued. “Is he from Gondor, then? He is tall, and has dark hair, like you. Is he a great warrior? Is he important?”
So many questions, but still only one. Who is he?
She turned her gaze away from Thorongil, to meet her son’s eyes. “I do not know whence he hails, my son, but he is not from Gondor. I do not know how he acts in battle, but perhaps we shall see, now that your father has his sword.”
This seemed to satisfy her son, who caught his father’s eye as the messengers stepped back. Thengel gestured for Théoden, who ran into his father’s arms for a hug. The King smiled.
It is good to see that joy on his face again. It appears less and less since his father died. The kingship weighs on him.
Théoden whispered something to his father, pointing, not quite rudely, at Thorongil. His father laughed and replied in a like manner, though without the rude pointing. Morwen returned her gaze to the stranger, now her husband’s sworn man.
“Is he important?” The question hung in her mind like a seabird over a fishing net.
“He might be, son,” she whispered to herself. “He just might be…”