2. Faced With Death
Mine-- faced with death-- is the need to lament.
Mine -- with cause-- is to rail against Fate which has left me without him.
Mine is his praising without stint, without cease.
Mine is to be ever thinking long on his virtues.
Mine -- all my lifetime -- is sorrow for him.
Since mine is the mourning, mine the weeping.
Éomer had regained consciousness before they reached the guard house, but he remained limp and unprotesting as they stripped him of his armor and weapons and put him in the cell. He slid down to his knees as they released him, and didn't flinch when the cell's door swung shut inches from his face. He sat on his knees where they'd let him down, staring blankly through the cell bars, and in a moment let his head fall forward against them with a soft thunk. Théodred was dead.
When Gríma came to him that night he hadn't moved. His legs had long since fallen into numbness, then pain, then burning, then numbness again, and he hadn't moved. They were cold, and his forehead was cold from the bars. His head ached splittingly. The guard had come in to see if he was conscious once or twice, and he'd blinked at the man, but that was all the motion he'd been able to muster. Théodred was dead.
Gríma crouched in front of him, just out of arm's reach, as if Éomer would try to reach him now. Gríma had felt how much strength there was in those arms, and he didn't fancy another encounter, even here with the guard just on the other side of the door. "So," he hissed. Éomer blinked but didn't look at him. "It was much easier to dispose of you than I had anticipated."
Éomer moved his eyes slowly, refocusing them on Gríma's face, and they were profoundly, disturbingly hollow, with nothing behind them. It was unsettling. Gríma had never known there were depths behind the young man's eyes until he saw them missing now.
"You know your uncle's always thought you worthless," Gríma said. "Like your father. If your sister didn't look so much like your mother did as a girl, you know Théoden never would have taken the two of you in." Éomer blinked slowly. "You already know that your cousin wasn't just your only hope politically, he was also the only one who ever really loved you. Tragic, isn't it, Éomer?"
There was a flash of something dark behind the blank eyes, and Éomer looked at Gríma with dull hatred. "You had him killed," he said flatly, without passion, "didn't you. Didn't you, Gríma. And now you have me where you want me. What next? Will you kill my sister?"
"No," Gríma said, and licked his lips. "She's more useful alive. I think she could be subdued by other than death." Éomer closed his eyes, but the rage Gríma had been anticipating didn't come.
"Éowyn's much smarter than you are," Gríma went on. "She's repudiated you. She will bend where you break." Éomer was motionless, unresponding, and Gríma was a little disappointed. "Oh Éomer," he said. "Théodred was the only one who was true, bonded to you by anything more than blood and convenience. It's so sad that he's dead. And it's a shame you have to die. You could have bent to me and I could have spared you. You could still bend to me and I would spare you."
Éomer opened his eyes and looked mutely at Gríma's face. His eyes were horrible and blank again, a look Gríma had never seen in the willful young man's face before. Was it despair? Defeat? It was less sweet than Gríma had anticipated, but he persisted, determined to tease some satisfying response out of his most implacable foe. Théodred had been more formidable in terms of the obstacles he had presented to Gríma, but Éomer's splendid wrath was without parallel even in a nation of warriors.
"You could bend to me," Gríma whispered. "For your life."
Éomer closed his eyes for a moment, and Gríma had to restrain himself from leaning closer to savor the defeat. "Gríma," Éomer whispered. "Gríma, you had better kill me soon, and quickly when you do. And afterward, you had better make certain I am dead, until there can be no doubt." He opened his eyes and looked keenly at Gríma. "Or you will live to regret it." Suddenly Éomer gave a shout and smacked his own head against the bars. He fell backwards, crying out. "Gríma!" he shouted. "Aah, Gríma!"
Gríma stood up in horrified confusion, and the guard ran in with his sword drawn. Éomer pushed himself up shakily on his elbow, putting his hand to a new bleeding cut on his forehead. The guard looked wide-eyed between Gríma and Éomer, the lamplight dancing on the naked steel of his sword. Éomer gave a shaky laugh, shriller than his usual voice.
"Who do they love, Gríma?" he asked, his voice high and tight with pain. The guard took Gríma forcefully by the arm and led him without gentleness out of the guard house. Gríma noticed that the man didn't sheathe his sword until he'd closed the door to the hallway with the cells.
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.