1. Nightfall's Darkest Treasure
He had difficulty sleeping these days. The threatening looks he seemed to get from every quarter were enough to send even a guiltless man into conscious spasms, and Grima was far from guiltless, though he had not done what those glares accused him of. Assassins had been heard of before to assassinate men with far less suspected of them than he.
Eomer Eomundson. The name reeked of trouble. Grima did not doubt that a single mutter from his sister of ill towards him, and he would have to contend with a fight, or worse, a mob, neither of which he wanted. So he patrolled the halls one last time before retiring to bed, looking to make sure the restless third marshal was not making trouble again.
Not that it was his job. No, that was up to the guards...
And Prince Theodred.
Grima's lip curled slightly in dislike. Theodred, Second Marshal of the Mark, whose lance work was supposedly the best in all of the Mark, had a disliking for Grima, and Grima shared that dislike. Theodred also was disgustingly protective of all that he deemed 'his'. And certainly all within the halls of Meduseld fell under that protection.
Though, Grima thought, if Eowyn had been his cousin, he'd have been protective too. She was young, as far as age fell, though in temperament he knew children older then her seventeen years. And in sword-play... no woman of this age paralleled her, and very few dared cross blades with her, for her temperament did not permit losing, nor did it permit losing ungracefully.
He knew somewhere behind him, Theodred was making similar rounds, waiting patiently for disaster, or anything to blame upon his father's advisor. Well, Grima thought grimly, he won't have it tonight. There was too much at risk already to be caught doing anything... unusual.
A door to the left was ajar. Curiosity-- always Grima's great curse-- drew him near it. Who would leave their door ajar in times such as these? What kind of man would permit the door to be left open with such ill things as-- as himself, Grima thought with bitter amusement-- to be about?
It took his eyes a moment to adjust to the dim light of the room, but when they did, his breath came a little quicker then it should have. Bathed in the last lights of the moon, Eowyn slept, seeming almost peaceful, though evidently a rough night had befallen her earlier-- the bed sheets were twined around her slender frame, and because of this, Grima saw the glint of silver in her hands, cold iron in the moonlight.
Her chin rested on the handle of a sword, and her long hair flowed around it. A curious stance. What woman would be so lonely as to prefer the company of a sword to being alone? And what woman would be so afraid of the company of a man to prefer the sword?
There was something sad about her, though she seemed to be sleeping quietly. But Eowyn had always possessed a curious sadness, firmly refusing to be shaken. To prefer cold steel to human flesh... was she afraid? Was it fear that led her to sleep with her frame curled around the sharp blade?
All it took was a little jump, and that sword would cut across her pale skin, leaving trails of red fire across her legs... what danger. What danger to her. How could she fear interruption so as to risk such a thing?
He had no right to watch her now, knowing how near to danger he brought her. All it took was the softest of sounds, for they claimed Eowyn was a light sleeper, to cause her a sudden movement, either in sleep or waking, and the bed sheets would be soaked with her blood, and it would be of his making. The thought was too grotesque, even for him.
Eowyn shifted, as if in discomfort, curling her fingers around the hilt of the blade. It seemed to him a warning, a gesture of threat, a sign he should go, before she woke either in surprise or pain. To be caught watching her as he was... he knew she had only to report such a thing to her cousin, or her brother, and his career was ended as abruptly as his life should be. He knew how it looked, how it sounded. He knew too well his own heart, and how it was.
Grima moved away from the door when a hand reached past him and pulled it shut silently. He cursed his lack of attention silently as Prince Theodred took a step back and glared with all the hatred and contempt any man could summon for someone such as he, caught doing as he had.
Theodred's hand was on his sword hilt, but he did not withdraw. He was strangely silent, as if refusing to dignify Grima's behavior with doubts as to their nature. Theodred was, Grima thought silently, a very difficult man to get around. Yet he was waiting, giving Grima a single chance. This was more then Eomer would have done.
"Her door was open." Grima began softly.
"You should have closed it." Theodred said coldly.
"I was moving to."
"I saw you." Theodred replied. "I know what it is you were doing."
Here it came, Grima thought. Had he been Theodred, poetic justice already would have been served, for what man could have mercy on one such as he, caught spying as he had been? He knew Eomer would have done the deed already. He had taken his chances. He would pay now... but if nothing else, the golden hair amid the cold steel... the pale light of moon radiating against the silver gleam... that was price enough for banishment, and even death, if it came to it.
"You," Theodred said softly, contemptuously, "think to yourself you are lucky Eomer did not find you."
Grima said nothing.
"You are lucky only that Eowyn sleeps, and the sound of my sword will awaken hers." Theodred replied. "I would send you from my sight now, save that I will not wake her."
Grima waited. He could tell Theodred was not done.
"You think Eomer's rage swift to be stirred and his justice tempered little by mercy. You think him foolish." Theodred said. "But I swear, if such a thing happens again... if you so much as look at her within my sight, if she so much as frowns because of you, you will find a temper to rival Eomer's, and a lance point that will be much swifter to be driven into your heart then his sword will be."
"Such a thing, Marshal Theodred," Grima said smoothly, "will not happen."
"We will see." Theodred said softly. "You have places you should be."
Grima moved to pass him, but Theodred's heavy shoulder blocked him for a moment. "My lance sings your name in its song of death." He warned. "I would like nothing more then to see that song quieted."
Grima said nothing, and Theodred moved out of his way, glaring daggers that would have killed had they come to life.
Each day, there was a new price to pay.
One night, it might be his death.
Yet the priceless treasures he garnered... such stolen moments of joy as observed, shadows kept in sleep, understanding gathered in watching... perhaps in the end, these would be worth their weight in knife edges and sword blades...
And lance points.
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.