Gríma is pleased.
Because of Lord Théodred’s preoccupation with Lathwyn, Gríma has been able to take full advantage of the King’s nightly wistful remembrances of years past. He listens with seeming sympathy, but he is looking for weakness, for doubts that can be exploited.
As spring slowly becomes summer, Gríma does not have to contend with Lord Théodred’s antagonism at all, for the Second Marshal is more and more often away from Edoras. When he returns to the Golden Hall, Lord Théodred delivers reports of Orcish activity and discusses matters important to the rule of Rohan. But little changes these days. Often the conversations he has with his father are merely those which they have had many times in the past, with no new conclusions being drawn. The Lord Théodred is most eager to chase pleasure with Lathwyn and spends little time lingering in the Hall or with his father, once these stale topics have been exhausted.
Do not concern yourself, my lord - there is time yet for him to wed. The Steward of Gondor’s eldest son is of an age with yours, and he has not yet taken a wife. Let him chase the maids a while longer. He serves you well, and deserves a bit of…relaxation.
The Lord Éomer is another matter, for though he, too, is oft away on patrol, he is young and inclined to speak his mind plainly. He has no distraction as does Lord Théodred, and is more willing to argue pointlessly. And it is clear that he hates Gríma with the cold passion of a blade, though even Lord Éomer is not impulsive enough to state this in so many words directly to the King.
Grima also knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that Éomer Éomund’s son would slay him in a heartbeat for no reason other than the way Grima watches the Lady Éowyn.
If he is ever to have that lady, Gríma must rid himself completely of the young Lords, but he does not yet dare attempt such a manouver. But he can turn the King’s ever more confused mind to his advantage.
There can be no argument that he is a not powerful warrior, sire. But he can be reckless. Would you lose another beloved family member - and more Riders - as you lost his father? He will chafe at the restriction, but he is young, and undisciplined. It is your duty to make certain that your Marshals are not acting without your authority, even if that Marshal be your sister-son. You cannot allow him such free rein.
Gríma congratulates himself on using Lathwyn as messenger for his correspondence. She cannot read, so there is no danger that her curiosity will lead her to investigate the contents of any letter. He leaves such letters in the dusty unused library of the Golden Hall, she retrieves them, delivers them to a courier, collects any packets arriving for him, and returns these to the library. It is the work of a few moments, in which no-one misses Lathwyn’s presence.
Never do any missives directly pass hands from Lathwyn to Gríma; never does any man bringing such missives speak Gríma’s name, nor the name of the sender. The couriers do not even know what Gríma looks like - Saruman saw the wisdom in doing away with the men who did know Gríma’s face. If the letters are ever discovered, there is nothing to connect Gríma to their contents. If the letters are ever discovered, it will all fall on Lathwyn, for Gríma will deny any such arrangement. There is no-one in the court who will take the word of a slatternly kitchen maid over that of the King’s advisor.
The King’s health is poor, as it has been since he contracted a lung illness the previous summer -- but he is not declining fast enough to suit either Grima or his master.
Gríma confronts Lathwyn. The King seems to be in much pain - he walks so slowly. You have not forgotten to prepare his joint draught?
She regards him with something like offense mixed with deep respect. He does not ask for it every night.
Rage flares in Gríma, and although he is always careful to hide such anger when it strikes, he notes Lathwyn recoils almost imperceptibly--as if she were waiting for him to strike her. He does not think that she herself knows how she has reacted, but this reaction makes him smile inwardly. She would do well to fear him.
Théoden King is a proud man - if he asks for the draught, then the pain is truly beyond reckoning. Would you willingly have your king in pain, if you can prevent it?
She is slow to answer, and Gríma restrains his impatience with her stupidity. I cannot give him such a potent medicine without his consent. It wouldn’t be proper.
Gríma moves one step closer to her, and there is a light which dances briefly in Lathwyn’s eyes as he does so, as well as a shadow of wariness. I am telling you, as King’s Advisor - you must give it to him nightly. Else he will soon be crippled by the aching.
Again she hesitates, and deliberately, Gríma tenses his shoulders, as if he is about to raise his hand. Again, Lathwyn flinches - but she gives the answer he wants. Of course, my lord.
It is by Saruman’s command that Gríma has begun to so weaken the King’s constitution. He does not know how it will be done, for he knows nothing of wizard’s deeds, but by overthrowing the King’s body, Saruman will be able to entrap the King’s mind. And then Rohan -- and the Lady Éowyn-- will be Gríma’s.
This, too, can never be laid at Gríma’s feet, for the potion which so undermines the King’s health is delivered by Lathwyn. Gríma did not procure the dwail from any in Rohan, and there is no-one to support any claim Lathwyn might make against him.
Gríma knows she has no close friends, and he has observed the hostility with which the other women servants now treat her. It is well-known that she has spread her favours liberally among the men of Edoras. This, along with the fact that she spurned the Lord Théodred for so long, only to abruptly welcome his advances, will only feed the idea that she is inconstant and untrustworthy.
She will have no defense. She will raise a cry and point her finger at him, this Gríma knows - but she will not be believed, no matter how Lord Théodred despises Gríma. She has no proof but her own tarnished word, and there is no amount of skill in the bedchamber that will protect her from the wrath of Théoden’s son if her part in this is ever uncovered
Gríma leads her further into his snare with approving expression and encouraging nods, feeling great satisfaction at the respectful way she listens to him. He is careful to make certain that he is never seen speaking with alone with her, and, when he does have need to speak directly to Lathwyn, Gríma makes certain that there are always other people nearby.
She is oblivious to her danger.
Gríma congratulates himself on a plan well-executed.
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.