She re-enters the hall to clear away the last of the meal, and realizes that she is alone with Gríma. All the others have left - the royal family, the guards, the courtiers- there is only Gríma.
Although for her, there is always only Gríma.
Lathwyn steals a glance toward the king’s advisor, heart pounding, and sees that he sits at the table, head down, shoulders drooping, one hand rubbing his forehead as if it aches. His posture is utterly dejected, and it pierces her to the heart.
She cannot stand idly by and watch, if he is in pain, no matter what she might have to bear for daring to approach to him unbidden.
She advances on silent cat-feet, standing so near to him that she could easily reach out and brush her fingers through his hair. She does not, of course, though the temptation is almost overwhelming.
My lord? Are you well?
She has never been courageous enough to speak to him, not even when he has first spoken to her, and her hands are white-knuckled around the platter she holds.
Gríma raises his head, and Lathwyn braces herself for the deserved rebuke which will surely now come.
But his eyes, while weary, are only surprised. It is nothing
, he tells her. His smooth, sinuous voice slides over her like the shade of the moon, making her skin prickle in a rush of arousal.
I am only thinking of past days, when I could speak to my King alone, and not be constantly interrupted by the Lord Théodred.
Lathwyn does not know what to say to this; it is not the reply she was expecting. She was expecting a confession of a head-ache, or a poorly stomach - not this quiet confiding in her, as if he knows she is someone he can trust. As if they are friends.
He looks at a spot just beyond her shoulder, speaking as if to himself. He has taken a dislike to me, and argues every word I say. He is a man of war, and does not understand anything else. I cannot serve my King so opposed.
Gríma sighs, reaching for his wine goblet, and Lathwyn sees faint lines of tension at the corners of his mouth.
Her eyes fix on his mouth as he drinks, takes in the way his throat pulses as he swallows. All at once the hall seems far too small, far too warm, and greedily she wonders if the wine would taste the same, if she were to lean forward and lick it from his lips.
Then a light touch sends heat through her veins, pulling her out of her musings. With a shock so great it takes her breath, Lathwyn realizes that Gríma has laid his hand on her wrist. His skin is just as soft, just as fine and intoxicating and cool as she has so often imagined it would be, and for a moment, she is engulfed in sensation.
You are good, to listen to an old man’s complaints
, he says, looking up with a warm, full smile meant for no-one but her.
Her head swims, dizzy with the scent of rich oils that waft from Gríma toward her, even as she bridles inwardly at the self-effacing “old man”.
I will keep you from your tasks no longer.
He rises to go, and Lathwyn is so enthralled in his very nearness that she does not curtsey or even move aside to clear his way. She is frozen by him.
She inhales deeply as he moves by her, wondering what far, exotic land she is smelling, wondering if his bedchamber smells the same way.
He did not used to linger so long - but then, he was younger, and had other…interests with which to occupy himself.
She knows Gríma is murmuring to himself, as wise men often do, voicing their thoughts to the most learned person in the room.
But at overhearing these muttered words, she is struck with a way to bring Gríma’s attention to her for more than one distracted moment.
Lathwyn is not blind to the Lord Théodred’s attentions. She knows he thinks her coy, for she does not respond to his frank gaze, not in action, word, or look.
His bold eyes, which make Lathwyn want to shrink in upon herself so that he cannot see her, tell her that he is intrigued by her disinterest, even while he does not understand it.
But she also knows enough of men to know that if she encourages the Lord Théodred in any way, he will pursue her. And it will be easy, she thinks, to lead him into doing so.
She realizes that if she lets the Lord Théodred pursue her, she may, eventually, have to let him catch her, but this does not concern her.
She sees an opportunity to help Gríma; a way to show him how invaluable she could be to him, if he would but allow it.
The opportunity she has been watching for.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.