Lathwyn is bemused, for she thinks she is content. She now has an important position in the royal household, she has the Lord Théodred’s attentions, and she has gained Gríma’s approval. True, Gríma still looks after the Lady Éowyn, and does not seem to notice Lathwyn as she would like him to, but he is aware of her, and finds her useful. It is a start.
She assumes Gríma wishes her to deliver his letters to the library because he is a private man, and does not wish anyone to invade his office or sleeping chamber. But occasionally she wonders why, for she sees pages go into Gríma’s office frequently, and thinks that perhaps he simply does not wish a woman to enter his rooms.
The couriers all seem to be of a type - dusty, sullen men on second-rate horses who impudently size her up - and Lathwyn quickly learns that they will not accept any refreshment but water, and never do they linger in Edoras once their task is finished. She notes that only one of them is of the Rohirrim, and that there is no pattern in which courier will show up.
As spring becomes summer, the Lord Théodred is more and more frequently away from Edoras - two days here, six days there - and she finds the long nights by herself tedious. When he is gone, however, one or two of the women have begun talking to her in a friendly manner again. She cannot say why this is, but she accepts it, and does not hold a grudge against them for their coolness. She knows they are jealous of her, and knows snubbing them in return will not change those feelings.
Gríma approaches her. The King seems to be in much pain - he walks so slowly. You have not forgotten to prepare his joint draught?
She is offended that he would think her remiss in her duties, but pleased that he is so near her. He does not ask for it every night.
Gríma regards her wordlessly for a moment, and there is something in his eyes, an emotion that she cannot place, and a chill touches her briefly.
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 blinks in surprise at what she thinks he is suggesting. I cannot give him such a potent medicine without his consent. It wouldn’t be proper.
Gríma takes a step toward her, and for no reason she knows, Lathwyn suddenly thinks of Cynat, and is so taken aback by this incongruous fragment of memory that it is a moment before she realizes Gríma has spoken to her again.
I am telling you, as King’s Advisor - you must give it to him nightly. Else he will soon be crippled by the aching.
She hesitates, for even though Gríma is King’s Advisor, she is loathe to dose the King without his knowledge. However, she knows the answer he is waiting for. Of course, my lord.
Later, while finishing her nightly duties, Lathwyn wonders why Cynat came to mind. Cynat had no wisdom, no care for others and persuaded only through hard fists and vicious threats. Gríma is nothing like that Dunlending man. The memory shakes her deeply, and that night, she has dark dreams, and no Prince of Rohan to keep them at bay.
Contrary to what she had led Grima to believe, Lathwyn cannot bring herself to give Théoden King the potion without having first been asked to do so. Not only does she think it improper and presumptuous, but also because she remembers enough of her grandmother’s teachings to know that such medicines should not be taken if they are not needed. But she keeps a close watch on the King, once even daring to ask if he would not like some respite from the pain.
You are a thoughtful child, but I do not need such comfort tonight. Stir up the fire a bit before you go.
She notices, too, that the King’s health, never strong in this past year, seems to be declining further, inch by slow inch. There is not one specific thing that she can point to and say There, that is what ails him,
but she feels a sense of wrongness about her lord’s well-being. She worries for him, more so when he one day absentmindedly calls her Théodwyn, and does not seem to realize that he has done so.
The Lord Théodred returns late one evening, after nearly a month in the field, and Lathwyn is startled by her reaction when she sees him riding up to the Meduseld. When his eyes meet hers across the Hall, his intentions are so clearly writ there that she must look away, cheeks reddening. It occurs to her that this is much the same look which once made her shrivel inwardly, but now, this look throws her nerves into an uproar of anticipation.
She is approaching his chamber when she is caught up in strong arms, and squeaks breathlessly as his mouth captures hers. There is no mistaking his demanding or her body’s response to it, but unexpectedly she feels panic rising within her at the smell coming from him. She struggles to push him away as he is leading her into his room. Wait …Théodred…
He draws back, expression a combination of pleased startlement and frustration.
What is it?
Lathwyn is not even aware that she has called him by name; the odor is overwhelming. She has gone rigid against him, holding herself from his chest with stiff arms.
You…you reek of Orc…
He narrows his eyes at her, skeptical, and for a moment, she sees something odd in his gaze. Then it is gone as understanding comes across his face. Oh. I would not have thought you would -- yes, we came across a band this afternoon.
He releases her, and steps away, though his arousal is obvious.
She is surprised at his immediate acceptance, but unutterably relieved. I am sorry…I cannot…not while…the smell is…
it is as if she is again a frightened child, with that horrific scent filling her nostrils, and she cannot say more.
He gives her a wry smile. Bathing is no hardship, Eledher. Wait inside, and I shall return for inspection.
When he returns, she is sitting in a side-chair, pondering her violent reaction, for she had thought that memory tamed. He goes to his knees in front of her, lays his hands lightly on her thighs, and she is reassured to find a trace of humour on his face. He has decided to make this a game, she sees.
She leans forward, inhales deeply of the curve of his neck. There is soap-- saddle soap, if she is not mistaken - a hint of wet straw and grass, slightly stale water, mud, more horse than is usual after bathing and of course his own underlying spice.
But only a trace of Orc, so faint that she has to concentrate to find it, so faded that it does not send her into the past.
She laughs softly in his ear, and his hands slide to her hips, sending heat up her spine.
You bathed in a trough?
She breathes him in again, cannot resist planting a lingering kiss just behind his ear, sees the vein in his throat jump in response.
I did not want to wait for warm water.
His reply is very nearly a growl, and she pounces on him, toppling him backwards onto the thickly woven rug.
They do not even try to make it to the bed until much later.
She does not dream of Orcs that night, but over the next few days, she occasionally finds herself ambushed by the memories again - of Orcs, of Cynat, of Dunland and once of Gelendan, and is unsettled by the resurgence of the past. She pushes these thoughts aside as best she can, and soon, they do not trouble her so openly.
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.