13. The Advisor - V
The mood of the Meduseld has changed. Gríma has a vague idea that Lord Dúnhere's visit put this change in motion, but he cannot identify what, precisely, is different. Something tells him that he must keep a closer watch on Lord Théodred, and he obeys this instinct without question. It has never failed him.
Gríma wishes that he could have private speech with Lathwyn, without rousing suspicion, for he believes that she could give him some insight into the workings of Lord Théodred's mind. However, of late Gríma has noticed that Lathwyn, once childishly eager to please him and do his bidding, now seems to avoid him. He cannot be sure; she has little enough reason to be anywhere near him on a daily basis, so perhaps she is simply involved in her duties to the King.
Of course he has noticed the humble bracelet she now wears on her wrist; of course he has noticed that Lord Théodred also now wears such a token. Even if Gríma had not seen it with his own eyes, he would know, for every servant in the Meduseld is gossiping over this bit of news. He cannot be sure if this is some sort of ruse on Lathwyn's part, or if she is sincere in her affection for the King's son. He is inclined to think the former, for on the rare occasions that the two are in the same room, Lathwyn ignores Lord Théodred as she always has in company, and surely she would not do so if she had honest feelings for the man. But once or twice, Gríma has seen Lathwyn unconsciously touch the bracelet, as if it gives her comfort, and the smile on her face, though fleeting, is strangely content. If she is sincere, there must be a way he can turn this to his advantage.
Gríma is on his way to the library when he hears low voices from one of the rooms. He stops, curious, for the rooms along this corridor are usually empty of any except the maids. Gríma realizes that it is the Lords Théodred and Éomer, and furthermore, they are arguing. He moves closer to the door, hoping to glean useful information from their discord.
…an idiot, Théodred! Lord Éomer is clearly frustrated, and, to Gríma's surprise, Lord Théodred gives a weary chuckle, as if the argument has been going on for some time.
She brings me joy, and a bit of peace, something I have found too little of lately. Would you deny me that, when every day things worsen, and death follows us so closely? But I did not expect to have your approval, Éomer, nor do I need it. Lord Théodred's voice is gentle, yet matter-of-fact.
There is a long silence. You are a fool, Théodred . Nothing good nor lasting can come of this. You will only end up hurting her and yourself deeply.
That may be true. But it is not your concern, cousin. And I do not wish to discuss it further.
Lord Éomer sighs. Then shall we discuss Dúnhere and Erkenbrand? Have you had word from either recently?
We shall discuss it, but not here. Come, we will talk as we ride. It is the only way we can be certain that no-one is listening.
Gríma conceals himself into the room across the hall as he hears the two Marshals moving toward the door. He ponders to himself what he has just overheard. Not the argument over Lathwyn; that is disinteresting and predictable. No, Gríma wonders why the Lords Dúnhere or Erkenbrand would have need of private communication with the King's son. It is not usual for Rohan's lords to correspond with Lord Théodred without the knowledge of King or the King's advisor, but Gríma suspects that it is happening nonetheless. This raises fierce glee within him, for he does not think Lord Théodred canny enough to keep secret all such contact. If Gríma can find a shred of proof that the Marshals are working against orders signed by Théoden King, and conspiring with these lords, then he has ample reason to order all four locked up and charged with treason. He resolves to send instruction to his men in Helm's Deep and Harrowdale this very day.
Gríma reads a letter from his master and does not understand its contents, for there is reference to information which he cannot remember seeing. He searches through past letters, and finds nothing. Furious, he goes to Théoden King's chambers.
Lathwyn starts when he slams open the door, and turns from her task to greet him as he enters. How may I assist you, my lo---
He advances on her, and Lathwyn takes a step back, confusion on her face. You may tell me what you've done with my letters.
Alarm glimmers in Lathwyn's eyes. My lord? I .. I do not know what you mean…I delivered the packet to the library not an hour ago…
Not. Today's. Gríma spits the words at her. Those from yesterday, perhaps? Or the day before? I am missing a very important letter, and , as it is your duty to retrieve these items for me, I assume that you still have it in your possession. You had best not be keeping it from me…he moves closer to Lathwyn, and she backs still further from him, stifling a gasp as her hip collides with a tall, narrow table.
Why would I keep such a thing from you, my lord? There is a barely-concealed note of panic to Lathwyn's voice, and her face has gone white. I have no use for ---
I do not care if you have use for it or not, Gríma snarls, and Lathwyn flinches. You are not my concern. The safety of Rohan is. And if you have compromised that safety with your incompetence, then you shall be the one suffer the consequences. Now, what have you done with it?
Gríma is pleased at Lathwyn's obvious fear of him, and he is tempted to strike her, to emphasize upon her the magnitude of her error. If he were not certain that she would run immediately to the King's son with the tale, he would do so. But Grima is not foolish enough to abuse the woman for whom Lord Théodred has so recently proclaimed an affection.
My lord, I do not know what you mean! Her voice shakes. I have done nothing with your packets but what you bid me! I have delivered them all to the library, as you requested!
Gríma's patience snaps, and he grabs her roughly by the upper arm. Then you will show me, he orders, pushing her toward the door. We will go to the library together, and woe betide you if what I seek is not there.
They proceed to the library, and Lathwyn goes to the shelf designated for Gríma's deliveries. There is nothing there, and she throws an anxious glance at him before beginning to search the other shelves. He regards her in silent anger, watching as she grows more and more frantic, and muses over what a suitable punishment would be.
Here! The relief in Lathwyn's voice is unmistakable as she brandishes a packet with a trembling hand. It had fallen behind the books, my lord.He snatches it from her hand, and she jerks away as if she is afraid he will bite her. I will not stand for such lack of attention to your duties, he warns her. If such a thing happens again, I can easily have you sent back down to the kitchens, is that understood?
Yes, my lord. I am sorry, my lord, it will not happen again.
Gríma favours her with a cold, measuring look. No. It will not.
In the safety of his office, Gríma reads all these letters, and understands now the reference to "our Gondorian friend". Saruman has a spy within the Steward's court, one that goes completely unnoticed, yet has access to all of Lord Denethor's most important councils. He wonders how Saruman managed such feat; Gríma himself tried to plant an agent in the Citadel, and found it impossible. There is also a great deal of information as to the inner workings of Gondor in this misplaced letters. Not for the first time, Gríma is greatly impressed with Saruman's resources, though he will never be foolish enough to let the wizard know just how impressed.
Gríma sits back in his chair, a small, unpleasant smile on his face, secure in the knowledge that he has, indeed, chosen the most powerful ally. And he is certain he will be well-rewarded for his part in Saruman's plans.
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