Gríma despises celebrations such as the Midsummer Festival, but it is traditional, and all in Edoras look forward to it. He interacts with no-one unless he must, rarely leaving the King's side, and watches the merry-makers with well-hidden contempt.
His eyes are drawn again and again to the Lady Éowyn. She dances with numerous Riders, including her kin, and Gríma’s heart aches at her beauty. The golden arc of her hair as she is spun around, the wide smile on her face, her joyous pealing laughter, the lithe grace in every motion she makes - it shakes him to his core, makes him vulnerable, and he looks away so that he may build his defenses against her.
But he cannot keep from watching her any more than he can keep from breathing. This is his prize; this will be his reward once Saruman has the King fully under his control. This is what he wants more than power or wealth. She will be his, whether she wishes it or no, for he deserves her.
The Lady Éowyn catches him watching her, speaks to her brother, who turns a cold narrow gaze on Gríma . Gríma does not look away, only meets Lord Éomer’s eyes with seeming dispassion. He is doing nothing of which he should be ashamed, for he is not the only one watching Lady Éowyn. She is the most radiant woman in Edoras.
Several times over the course of the day, Gríma sees a man who is obviously not of the Rohirrim. This is not unusual for such an occasion - many of the musicians and merchants are from other lands. However, he suspects that this particular man is a spy sent by Saruman to make sure that Gríma is carrying out all orders properly, and this angers him. He sees Lathwyn glance toward this man once or twice, as if he is known to her, and this confirms his suspicion, for the only way she would know him is if he were a messenger.
This angers him so, in fact, that when the man wanders close to the royal platform, Gríma summons a guard and orders him to keep an eye on the man. The guard, who at first seems reluctant to heed Gríma’s order, obeys without question when Gríma points out how similar in colouring the man is to the Dunlendings.
Let him report that to Saruman, Gríma thinks. I will not be second-guessed on my own field of play by a man who will not come out of his tower.
The Lord Théodred enjoys such festivals. The informality of the setting gives him time during which he can relax and joke with Riders and common folk alike as if he were not one of the highest-ranked men in the land. Though of course he is still Second Marshal and Heir to Rohan, today he can afford to ignore both those titles, just for a few hours, although he knows that at any moment he may be required to take them on again.
He is pleased by the way none of the Riders - of his éored
or otherwise - hold back against him in the exhibitions, for it is dull when they are deferential. And he is perfectly aware that Eledher watches him as he mock-fights a Rider from Aldburg. He smiles to himself at the expression on her face when he dunks his head in a trough to cool down, for, although many of her moods are still a mystery, her look of frank appreciation promises a lusty night ahead.
He watches her in turn, and is mildly startled to see her keeping company with Liðides and her husband Éofor, a man in his own éored
. He wonders how she came to be friends with that couple.
He has never seen Eledher as she is today; he only seen her when she is tending to her duties -- or when she is tending to him. He has not seen her when she is smiling so, nor heard her laugh in delight as she is doing now, when her current partner spins her too quickly around the square and her unbound hair flows behind her like a banner. She seems carefree and cheerful, a different person entirely from the inscrutable woman who is so uninhibited in his bedchamber, and he is taken off-guard by his reaction to her lighthearted demeanor.
Have you cast her off, then?
Théodred turns, surprised, to his cousin. What would make you think I have done that?
Éomer takes a drink of his ale. It is the rumour. You have been avoiding her all day.
Théodred regards the younger man with mild irritation. I have not been 'avoiding' her. I just did not think it seemly to flaun --
Éomer snorts rudely. It is not as if the entire city does not know about your association, Théodred. And it is not as if, in past years, you have not flaunted your current
lufestre at such celebrations. What would you expect people to say, when you have not so much as danced with her all day?
Théodred has to admit this is so.
Would you favour me with a dance?
She looks up at him with wide, startled eyes, and then a warm smile, almost bashful, certainly surprised, lights up her oft-solemn face. I would be pleased, my lord.
He takes her round the waist and leads her into the square, thinking it odd that it feels unfamiliar to hold her. After all, he knows every inch of her, has had her in his arms countless times.
But it is odd to touch her through layers of fabric, when before it has always been skin against skin; odd to be with her in front of all eyes, including his father's; odd that she seems nervous, though she does not miss a step of the dance, and that he himself is slightly nervous as well, for reasons he cannot articulate. And it is odder yet that he finds all these things arousing, though, he thinks wryly, it is perhaps predictable.
The dance ends, and he does not loosen his hold on her waist. He can read the gleam in her eyes as easily as she can read the one in his, and he starts to lean toward her mouth.
Théodred pauses, sighing internally at her frequent reluctance to address him by name.
Her soft words are somewhere between a request and a statement, and he is curious. Festivals of this sort seem made for flirting and such behaviour; no-one would remark on a harmless kiss today.
But Théodred sees that the colour in her cheeks is not due entirely to dancing; she seems unnerved, and he realizes that she is very self-conscious - shy, even- at being held by him in front of so many people. He studies her a moment. She is not playing at modesty; she is quite serious, and he finds her reluctance at accepting his public caresses somehow endearing.
Théodred takes her by the hand, and notes how small it seems in his.
Come with me.
Lathwyn is relieved to find that, at least for the duration of the festival, the other women are friendly. She had not been looking forward to the celebration, for she had foreseen herself having no-one with whom to enjoy the day .
She need not have worried; Liðides and her husband Éofor invite her to walk the grounds with them, and these two have been friends since Lathwyn's arrival in Edoras, although Lathwyn knows that Liðides does not always approve of her actions.
She does not lack for dance partners, and is irritated at how many of them seem disappointed that she does not encourage advances. She does not understand, for it is well-known that she shares the Lord Théodred’s bed every night he is in Edoras, and, while she is far from pure, she is insulted that men assume this also means she is unfaithful.
She does not normally watch the Riders' exhibitions of skills, but this year, cannot help but observe Lord Théodred. She has always been aware, of course, that he is a warrior, but knowing this and watching him display his expertise are two different things. Lathwyn admires the supreme confidence in his actions, the predatory way he grins at his opponent as he advances. A slow heat begins to build in the pit of her stomach as she watches him mock-fight with another Rider, and she blushes furiously when Liðides gently teases her about Lord Théodred’s prowess with a spear.
She sees a man who is familiar, and, after watching him a bit, realizes he is one of the messengers who bring Gríma’s letters. She wonders if he is on such an errand today, but, when she catches his eye, a minute shake of his head tells her that he is not here for business reasons.
Lathwyn is resting after a particularly lively dance with a charming musician when, to her surprise, the Lord Théodred approaches her.
Would you favour me with a dance?
She blinks, caught off-guard. She did not expect to keep company with him during the day's festivities; it is not as if they have any attachment beyond mutual pleasure. But she hesitates only a moment before accepting with a smile, and she is as confused by the nervousness she feels when he takes her round the waist and sweeps her into the square as she is by the unexpectedly warm smile he gives her in return.
Lathwyn finds it very strange to be held by the Lord Théodred in front of any who will look. Although she knows the entire court is aware of where she spends her nights, she feels exposed as they move around the dance square, exposed as she has never felt when she is naked in his bed. Perhaps it is that it is unusual to behave in so chaste a manner while so near him; perhaps it is that she is aware of him in a way she has never been before, as he leads her around the dance square with unsuspected grace; perhaps it is simply that dancing with him stirs her blood, and somehow feels more intimate than anything else they have shared. Or perhaps, she thinks to herself with an odd pang of guilt, it is because she knows that Gríma is watching her with Lord Théodred.
The music ends, and the spark in Lord Théodred’s eyes is both familiar and welcome. He begins to lean toward her, and she turns her face away, flushing.
He stops, expression questioning.
He is clearly puzzled, and she does not know how to make him believe that she is too modest to let him kiss her in front of all revelers. It does not matter that she has seen countless men and women embrace throughout the day; she is not comfortable with such an action. It is far too personal a thing to let others watch.
He studies her for a moment, then nods, and takes her hand. It occurs to her than he has never held her hand so, never held her hand at all, and she finds the action strangely comforting.
Come with me.
Gríma sees the interactions between the Lord Théodred and Lathwyn, and is amused. He did not expect that she would be able to hold his attention for more than a month; she must be truly skilled, for it has been almost four. Though, he thinks, Lord Théodred has rarely been in Edoras more than seven days at a time, since winter faded. Perhaps he has simply not had her in his bed often enough to grow bored of her charms.
He watches them dance, curious. He sees a conversation between them when the dance ends, sees the Lord Théodred lead Lathwyn from the main celebration area toward the royal stables, no doubt in search of a quiet dark spot for a swift tryst.
Something about their postures, both in dancing and in leaving the square, intrigues Gríma. He cannot place what it is that catches his interest, not just yet - but he will keep it in mind. There is never any predicting when such things will turn out to be useful.
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.