Nor Irons Bars A Cage
by FayJay

Other women looked upon him kindly as his influence grew, and some of them were fair. It made no difference. When he lay with other women, it was Eowyn that he saw; Eowyn's breasts weighing in his palm; Eowyn's breath torn out in little gasps; Eowyn's hair half-hiding her face. Afterwards the illusion shattered and he despised them, and despised himself, and thrust them from his bed and out into the cold night air. His soul shrivelled a little more each time.

He had tried very hard to be worthy of her regard. He was not, it was true, the greatest of the Rohirrim, but nor was he the least. His sword arm was not the mightiest in the land, but it was strong enough. His horse was not the fleetest on the plains, but it was swift nevertheless. Still, if he were to win her, it would not be with valour or horsemanship

His tongue, though - now here was another matter. Grima's strength lay in words. Subtle he could be, and far sharper than the edge of her brother's blade. He had a mind full of tricks and traps and convoluted plans and he gathered up secrets easier than breathing.

They were a simple folk, the people of Rohan. Pragmatic and stiff-necked and honourable. Grima was not stiff-necked, nor was he honourable, but he was a pragmatist to the core. His lady looked upon him kindly, but not with love. She was free with her smiles and sparing with her heart. Grima knew he meant no more to her than any of her uncle's retainers and far less than her own mare. But it would not always be so. He would see to that if it cost him his life. If it cost him his soul.

Words imprisoned upon paper were not words to the Rohirrim: words lived on the wind or they died unmourned. But Grima watched the rare outlanders passing through their lands, the rangers and the wizards and the people stranger still, and listened to the tales of people not of the plains. He saw, as Theoden would not see, that power resided in many places. He questioned Gandalf the Grey about other lands and other languages until the wizard's face grew closed and wary and his answers grew curt. It mattered little. Grima knew enough and could guess much more. He watched his lady riding in the sun and began to plan for the future. Gandalf was gone, but he was not the only wizard, nor the wisest of the wise. The master of Orthanc watched him with hooded eyes but still he smiled cold smiles and taught Grima how to read.

The words opened up new worlds and earned the baffled mistrust of his peers. He unlocked hidden meanings in borrowed records and scrolls, gleaning all he could of other peoples and of long-forgotten histories. He listened to Saruman. There were kingdoms without kings and rings without masters, and the world was far wider than the Rohirrim had dreamed. He learned many things. Gradually people began to seek him out, grudgingly, for advice. Even King Theoden himself, in time. Grima smiled, and bowed, and said he was unworthy. And he watched his lady's smiles falter and her fair brow furrow beneath his gaze. He bided his time, and his standing rose. Saruman's smile deepened, and Grima saw many paths stretching out before him. He held Theoden in the palm of his hand, although Theoden knew it not. But he hesitated, for a king was still a king, and, more, his lady loved her uncle.

He saw women fairer than her twice or thrice in outlying villages, and they moved him not at all. They did not burn as she burned. It was this that he recognised, this reaching out for something more, and it spoke to him as much as did her beauty. Oh, she was lovely as ever maiden was, her limbs straight, her waist slender, her face far fairer than all her uncle's gold; but she was far more than that. She loved the land the way a king should. She practiced her swordplay alone when she thought no one knew, preparing for the sparring sessions with her brother or her cousin. Occasionally one of Theoden's guards would engage her in a practice bout at her urging, but their discomfort was always clear. Grima watched her swinging the polished steel with single-minded grace and his love consumed him. She was born for greatness and for use, as was he. She would be his, come what may.

And then Theoden's son began to smile upon her with a new light in his eyes, seeing her, perhaps, as she was. Too long had he looked upon her as a sister, but she was no sister of his blood.

Grima's heart hardened in his chest.

It was time to speak with Saruman.


Silverlake: Authors / Mediums / Titles / Links / List / About / Plain Style / Fancy Style