21. The Advisor - VII
Gríma is pleased, for he has identified at least two of Saruman's spies. Careful questioning has revealed that one of the stablemen is rumoured to have a Dunlending grandmother, though he has the features and look of a Rohir. This man has been seen at a tavern in the company of a farrier, who works at one of the city's public livery stables. They do not often speak to others in the tavern; more frequently, they talk between themselves for long periods of time, then disappear into the night. Gríma has made certain that one of his men is always at that tavern, and he has also bribed a cooperative whore to keep watch on these spies.
He is also pleased that Lord Théodred is spending so much time at Helm's Deep; one less Marshal to contend with makes Gríma's life much easier. He has not failed to notice that when Lord Théodred does visit the Meduseld, he does not spend much time in the company of his cousins except at meals. The tension between Lord Théodred and Lady Éowyn is almost tangible, though Gríma has not yet been able to determine what the source of the quarrel is. It does not matter, however – any discord works in his favour. There is a lesser tension between Lord Éomer and Lady Éowyn, but it is there nonetheless, and this in particular raises Gríma's interest. The siblings have always argued, but those disagreements rarely lasted for very long; now they speak, although seemingly pleasant, but something is not quite right. Gríma thinks perhaps they are in conflict over their lord cousin's lengthy absences, but he has no proof of this. It warms him to sense such conflict, for if Lady Éowyn is distanced from her brother and cousin, there is room for him to try and widen the gap between them, show her how supportive and sympathetic he can be toward her.
Lathwyn has begun to bore Gríma. When he speaks to her, he can almost see her recoil in fear and she answers in a tight, nervous voice which tells Gríma that she is very close to her breaking point. It no longer amuses him to see how deferential she is toward him. She still dutifully retrieves his letters, and sees to Théoden King with scrupulous care, but there are many in Edoras who could do as well with these tasks. He is reluctant to attempt to have her replaced; Lord Théodred would certainly want to know why his wench was no longer tending his father, for the Second Marshal has made it quite clear that he approves of Lathwyn's place as King's Chambermaid. Lady Éowyn seems to share this approval, and of course he will do nothing to draw her displeasure if it can be avoided. There is also the possibility, no matter how slight, that Lord Théodred will let his tongue slip one night, while drunk or weary, and Lathwyn will be able to provide Gríma with a bit of useful information. And Gríma has more important things to occupy his mind than one shivering housemaid.
Lord Éomer is fast becoming a difficulty. He is much like his father, so Gríma hears from every Rider who knew Lord Éomund. Lord Éomer is prone to arguing with the orders given to him, though all are signed by his uncle the King; he deliberately misinterprets any vague words in such orders, twisting them to his advantage so that he may lead his men where he wants to go, rather than obeying these commands to the letter. Worse, Gríma has heard no rumours of complaints from Lord Éomer's Riders at his actions; they simply follow him, trusting that their Marshal is doing as he has been bid to do. This worries Gríma, for a man who can rouse such loyalty is an obstacle to all his carefully laid plans. Lord Théodred does have such loyalty from his men, but he is far away, and not flouting Théoden King's missives under Gríma's very nose. And Gríma does not believe that Lord Théodred would disobey his own father so blatantly; Lord Théodred is older, more experienced, and understands how it would undermine the king's authority to ignore his orders. Lord Éomer is rash and hot-headed and young, still young enough to think that he knows how to defend Rohan better than an older man. To Gríma, it does not matter that all orders given to the éoreds are written by his own hand rather than by Théoden King's – the king has trusted his advice for years, and because he is incoherent of late does not mean that he would not follow Gríma's suggestions. What matters is that Lord Éomer openly hostile and disrespectful. Gríma has even seen Lord Éomer's hand twitch toward his sword when Gríma passes a word with the Lady Éowyn . He does not quite believe that Lord Éomer would act against him in a physical manner, but he is not imprudent enough to believe this wholeheartedly.
Gríma begins to listens to Lord Éomer's complaints, and gives the appearance of agreeing with him. Not always, of course – that would be the height of foolishness. But now and again, when Lord Éomer's temper is highest, Gríma smiles and nods his head, and says, I was not aware of this problem, my lord. I shall bring it to your uncle's attention straight away, and persuade him to see your point. In this manner, Gríma soothes a bit of the Third Marshal's frustrations at being restrained from what he sees as his rightful duties, and Gríma sees that Lord Éomer's outbursts of temper gradually become less frequent. So easy, he marvels to himself. So easily manipulated. If only his sister were the same.
Gríma is looking through his secret correspondence one day and sees something – they are not in the proper order. He keeps them arranged by date, earliest to most recent, and the oldest letters have been disarranged. There is a moment of overwhelming panic, but that quickly fades under his rage. Rage that someone has entered his chambers unnoticed; that someone has gone through his belongings; that he did not notice this trespass earlier. How could he not notice? Certainly the person responsible for this had to break into the box, and yet the lock is not broken. He examines the box closely, and finds that the hinges – metal, not leather, for he purchased this small chest years ago in Gondor – are loose. Looking more closely, he sees scratches on the metal and realizes the tiny nails holding the hinges steady have been drawn out, then sunk back in. He pulls the nails out himself, and discovers that once the hinges have been removed, the lid to the box can be opened wide enough to shake out whatever is inside.
Gríma throws the box across the room, cursing and near shaking with anger. It is one thing to know that his every move is being watched; it is another to know that they have been in his private chamber, searching and poking in every corner. It cannot be the farrier or the stableman- neither one has reason to be in the Golden Hall. This means there is yet another spy of Saruman's to be uncovered, one who will go unnoticed in the daily activity of the Meduseld.
He is still so enraged by this incident that he does not notice Lathwyn's change of mood when he speaks to her that evening in Théoden King's chambers. Though he is impatient and curt with her, she is not timid, but he does not mark it. When she relays the news that Lord Théodred has returned unexpectedly to Helm's Deep after spending only one night in Edoras, with no word of when he might return, Gríma snarls fiercely at her. This is not notable, to Gríma's mind, for Lord Théodred's comings and goings have been erratic for some time, but he does not notice that Lathwyn does not flinch away from his anger. He is so deeply sunk in his thoughts of finding the spy that he does not even notice that, for the first time in many weeks, Lathwyn does not shrink at Gríma's mere presence.
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