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Chapter 4 – Lord Grima Should Hear About This
Alone in his quarters, Grima brooded. The events of the morning had disturbed his carefully laid plans, and he must reconsider his next move. Though Grima had worked hard to poison the relationship between the king and his son, it was now obvious that some vestige of their former bond remained. Grudging as it had been, Theoden’s permission to Theodred to order Rohan’s defense had solidified Theodred’s position. Now he could act freely, without orders perhaps, but without fear of being accused of going against the king’s will. He and Eomer, between them, were quite capable of leading the armies of Rohan against Saruman, with far too great a likelihood of success for Grima to allow them to pursue their course unhindered.
Those two! When first he had been set to his task of destroying Rohan’s leadership from within, he had foreseen the task to be trivially easy. Two strong, able young men, both charismatic leaders, both ambitious – what could be easier than setting them at odds, with a throne at stake? A word here, an insinuation there, and soon each would be deeply suspicious of the other. They would compete for the favor of the king, each would plot to do away with his rival, and soon all of Rohan would be divided into factions. So simple it had seemed, and so Grima had immediately set upon his course. To Eomer he gave flattery, playing upon his ego and pride, subtly hinting at the unjustness of the accident of birth that placed him second in line to inherit. To Theodred he whispered suspicion, warning him to be cautious to secure his own position, causing the ballads sung around the fire in the evening to be always tales of scheming younger brothers plotting against the rightful heir.
And it had all failed miserably. When they didn’t ignore him, they laughed at him. All his machinations had run into the unyielding wall of their love and trust for each other, and it was a barrier he had as yet been unable to breach. He feared he had been too obvious. They were well aware now of his designs against them. Wormtongue, they had named him, and the epithet stuck. Grima’s mouth twisted in a mirthless grin. He wore the title with a perverse sort of pride.
Rising, he paced restlessly. He walked a fine line now. Eomer and Theodred were only held from open rebellion by their mutual love for the old king. Though Theoden was almost wholly within Grima’s power, he dared not exercise his control too obviously, lest the two finally feel the situation warranted true treason. They had enough support from the army and from the common people that they most likely could overthrow both the king and his counselor.
Grima sat again, a firm resolution taking form in his mind. If they could not be corrupted, the two must be eliminated. Grima considered his options. Theodred was the stronger of the two, older, more experienced, and as the heir trusted and supported by both warriors and commoners. If he were dealt with, Eomer could be controlled. Now how should he go about it? The simplest would be to arrange for him to fall in battle…
A timid knock at the door broke into his reverie. Annoyed, he strode over and opened it to reveal a young serving wench. “Well, what do you want?” he snapped.
“Excuse me, please, Lord Grima, sir. I…I heard something, that I thought you might want to know. I mean, they do say you want to know what people are saying, and that you might even drop a coin or two if you’re pleased enough….” The girl squirmed and appeared likely to bolt at any moment. “So when I heard Lady Eowyn and Lord Theodred, what they were saying, I thought, surely Lord Grima should hear about this….”
At Theodred’s name, Grima’s attention was caught, and he held back the abrupt dismissal he’d been about to bark at the girl. Instead he drew the girl inside and shut the door. The girl stood before him as he perched again on his chair. Casually he loosened his purse string and drew forth a small silver coin. Turning it in his fingers, he smiled at the girl. “Yes?” he prompted. “I would be most interested to hear what you have to say. Go on.”
As the girl recounted the conversation she’d heard, it was all Grima could do not to laugh aloud. How perfect! Theodred besotted with the mother of an orc-brat! Let it never be said that providence favored only the virtuous. The situation promised so many possibilities that his mind swam. How best to use this knowledge? He schooled his face to remain calm, and when the serving girl finished her tale he smiled gently at her.
“You were right to come to me, and I thank you for your service,” he told her. “But there is one other thing….” He slipped the coin back in his purse. The girl gave a small squeak of disappointment, quickly muffled. He brought out another, slightly larger, with the gleam of gold. Her eyes locked on it, and then rose to his when he pressed it into her hand. “You need not speak of this again. To anyone.”
She nodded mutely, and then scurried from the room at his wave of dismissal. Grima drew a deep breath to clear his mind, and then set about considering exhaustively how this new information affected each aspect of his overall strategy, and how each possible move on his part might play out. When he was confident he understood all the ramifications, he nodded to himself. His initial instinct to silence the girl had been a good one. Spreading rumors about the relationship had seemed one obvious ploy, and one he might yet resort to, but more productive courses of action were possible if it remained a secret for yet a while. The first step would be to locate the wench and the brat and take them into custody. Then he would have powerful leverage indeed against Theodred, able to blackmail him with the threat both of harming the objects of his infatuation, and of exposing the secret of their existence.
Decided, he strode to the door. Summoning one of his underlings, he gave detailed instructions about the necessary search. When he was confident the man understood what he should do he dismissed him and settled again into his chair.
Ah, how sweet was the promise of his task’s fulfillment. Surely, now, the day would not be long delayed when all that he desired was in his grasp. His master would be pleased.
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