Chapter 14 - Lies and Love
Théoden sat in his quarters, pouring over papers, and finishing the day's work, when there was a knock on his door. He called for the visitor to enter and in walked Grima, dressed all in black robes that matched his stringy charcoal hair. His attire was in stark contrast to his pale skin, making him look sickly. Even his eyes had seemed sunk in and darker than Théoden had remembered. The King was reminded of the vultures that haunted a battleground after a bloody fight, circling and waiting for the reward of a hideous feast. Why was he feeling this threat from his chief advisor? Never had Grima given him a reason to feel uneasy in his presence as he did now. Though a bit of an odd sort, he had been a faithful servant to the king. Since his disappearance and unexpected return to Edoras, he seemed to be a different man, more untrusting of others. Théoden tried to give him the benefit of the doubt, and said it was due to his traumatic experiences. Still, he was unsure of Grima's story about his vanishing.
Grima had told the King that, while running an errand for Rohan, he felt he was being chased by an unseen foe. He was worried that something watched him, lurking in the shadows. The need to stay one step ahead was great, but there was always the threat of an indiscernible evil biting at his heels. Grima hid from the veiled enemy that chased him and kept him from his duty. Somehow, he managed to make his way to Isengard where the Maia, Saruman the White, found him cowering at the edge of his lands, hiding amongst the rocks and trees. The wizard took the man in, gave him food and a bed, letting him rest and recover. When he was well enough, Saruman told Grima about the spreading darkness and that it was too dangerous to travel back. Grima was already terrorized by his time in the wilderness, alone with only a small dagger for a weapon and no food. He said he had lost his important belongings as well as his horse during a storm that he had been caught in one ominous night. Staying in Isengard was a welcomed gift.
This part of Grima's story was true. It had all happened just as he told Théoden. The parts that followed, however, were naught but a story masked with lies that the old wizard fed to Grima with the hope that he would relay them to Rohan and its King. It was no mistake that Grima felt he was being chased. In fact, Saruman played a part in most everything that happened to the peculiar man. The wizard's magic directed him to Isengard. Once in the Maia's grasp, he began feeding false information to Grima, poisoning the man's mind until he fully trusted Saruman. The man was eventually promised riches beyond anyone's imagining and a seat at the White Wizard's side. He played on Grima's weaknesses and his loneliness, insuring him that his power would allow him to have anything or anyone he wanted, just as long as he did what he was told. After much flattery and persuasion, Saruman managed to manipulate Grima into becoming his henchman, and his first task was set upon Rohan. When the wizard was satisfied that the man was thoroughly under his command, he set Grima free to carry out his mission.
Before he left, Saruman gave Grima a ring, enchanted by dark magic. It was silver, in the shape of a horse's head and a single red ruby for an eye, nothing that would bring suspicion to the horse lords of Rohan. However, this special ring had a secret that only Grima could execute. When he circled the ruby with his finger, it opened, revealing a white powder within. Just a pinch mixed into a drink was enough to start poisoning its victim. This was Saruman's special concoction, just enough to make someone weak or slightly ill, but not enough to cause death, not yet anyways. The magic of the ring was that the compartment refilled all on its own when the powder was spent. All Grima had to do was to dispense the toxicant into Théoden's cup, and keep doing so until his body was weakened enough for Saruman to invade the King's mind. The eventual outcome was to destroy Rohan, the first step in Saruman's plan to overthrow the dark lord Sauron and become sole ruler of Middle-earth. There was still a lot to accomplish, however.
"Sire, may I have a word with you?" Grima asked as he slithered into Théoden's room.
"Of course, come in," Théoden answered, stacking his papers and pushing them to the side.
Grima, as he always did, walked directly to a shelf where the King kept a silver decanter of brandy, a rarity in Rohan. He took a small cup and placed it on a table. Then he removed the stopper, carefully setting it on the shelf. As he worked, he spoke, "I could not help but notice that you have allowed the elf a place in the army. Do you think it wise to give him this privilege?"
"Legolas is just as capable, if not more, than any of our young soldiers. He has been nothing but honorable and trustworthy. He needed a home, and I took him in, gave him the same opportunity as any of our young men, and he has proven without a doubt that he would do what he must to defend our people."
Grima looked over his shoulder, waiting for the opportunity to slip his secret talc into the King's cup, but now was not the time, "I am sorry, my liege. I do not mean to tell you what to do. I am only concerned because of some of the whispers I have heard while—" Grima stopped himself and turned to Théoden with an awkward smile, "Well, it is none of my concern now is it? You have made a wise decision."
Théoden stood from his chair, watching Grima, whose back was turned, "If someone speaks ill of Legolas, I would have you tell me," Théoden demanded.
"I believe it was merely a rumor brought on by a jealous trainee, nothing more, and not important … but there was talk of concern that the elf … I mean, Legolas may be using magic to sway some people's decisions," Grima waited for the King's response.
Théoden shook his head and turned his back to Grima, giving the advisor the opportunity to empty the contents of the ring into the glass of brandy. He swirled the cup a few times, making sure there was no trace of the powder and then spun around just in time to face Théoden. The King seemed perturbed by this information, "That is preposterous. Elves have no such magic."
Grima shrugged his shoulders and approached Théoden with the brandy in his bony hand. He offered it to the King, who took it and sipped slowly, savoring the unique flavor.
"I agree, my liege," he guffawed, "Elves and … and magic, ridiculous."
He started to turn away but stopped, as if in deep thought, "Although . . ." he took another pregnant pause for better effect, "Never mind, you are right. It is utter nonsense."
For some reason, Théoden was suddenly interested in what Grima was about to say, "No, go on. What are your thoughts?"
"Well, I was just thinking of Lothlórien, and their failed attempt to rid Dol Guldur of the filth that resides there. The elves of the Golden Wood had no reason to collaborate forces with the Woodsmen and the Beornings. Their army was large enough to accomplish this task on their own. Yet, they called up these men, our cousins mind you, and it cost many men their lives, lessening their numbers. Meanwhile, Lothlorien lost fewer and had the greater power," Grima brought his fingers to his chin, "Wasn't it the Woodsmen who brought Legolas here?"
"Yes . . . yes it was. He lived amongst them for a while after the burning of Mirkwood," Théoden answered with intriguing curiosity.
"It is strange, and makes me wonder how the elves persuaded men to join their cause so easily. And a curious thing that disaster seems to follow Legolas wherever he goes; the only elf to survive Mirkwood's destruction, the Woodsmen forced to leave their city, and then the Beornings." Grima smiled and waved his hand in the air as if chasing away his thoughts, "But what do I know of such things."
Théoden creased his brows. "If you are suggesting that Legolas is a spy—"
"No, Sire … no, I would never say such a thing," Grima drew a submissive stance, bowing his head and looking away from the King, "I was only pointing out the oddity of it."
Théoden had an uneasy feeling about their conversation. Since taking Legolas into his home, no one had ever questioned his decision. The elf was accepted as an equal, a citizen of Rohan and nothing more. The idea that Grima or anyone else would cast doubt on Legolas' loyalty was absurd, and he would not stand for it. Anger rose in his chest and he would have confronted his advisor about these suspicions, but he was suddenly feeling rather drained of energy, and he reached his hand out towards his desk to steady himself.
"Are you alright, Sire?" Grima asked mocking concern.
"Yes, just feeling a bit tired. I think I shall turn in for the evening," Théoden turned towards his door.
"Very well my King." Grima bowed and watched Théoden leave his office. Then he smiled to himself and eyed his ring. "Slowly it will all come together," he whispered before slinking out of the room.
Legolas was waiting behind an old shed, anxious about what the night would bring. Everything was planned perfectly. Lúta's story for why she had to work in the stable was enough to convince her family, especially her father. Théodred and Eomer would keep watch to make sure no one walked in on them unannounced. Legolas had even gone to the stable earlier and prepared an empty stall with blankets, a lantern and some food, just to help her feel more at ease. He wanted this to be the perfect evening for both of them, since they were taking a very big step. This was the right time, and Lúta was the right girl. Soon, Legolas heard someone coming up the path.
"Legolas?" Lúta whispered as she walked along.
He waited until she walked past his hiding spot, then he casually strolled up beside her and took her arm, "Good evening, Lúta," his smile was infectious.
"Oh," she cried, startled by his sudden presence, "I did not even hear you."
She smiled and gazed into his eyes, shining like the stars in the pale moonlight. She was used to seeing him in his guardsman uniform, leather pants, long metal tunic and heavy deep red chest armor. Tonight he looked relaxed and much more elvish in his moss green leggings and a long brown suede tunic that hung loosely. His hair was unbound, hanging straight and long. She couldn't help but notice how it shined like gold under the light of the half-moon above. Lúta laughed to herself, "You do not dress like the men when you are not in uniform."
"Is there something wrong with how I look," he asked in a teasing fashion.
"Oh, not at all. In fact, you look very handsome … and elvish. I like that about you. You stand out from all the others, even though you try very hard to fit in."
"I love Rohan and I know how fortunate I am to live under King Théoden's roof. He has been a great mentor, and he has given me every opportunity, as if I was his own flesh and blood. Still, I am very aware of my elvish roots. That will always call to me above all else."
Lúta stretched her neck and kissed his cheek, "Never change for anyone, Legolas. You are perfect just as you are."
A little further down the stone path that led to the stables, they passed Théodred. Legolas instantly shot him a look of warning not to interfere. Lúta hadn't known that he and Eomer were playing lookout tonight, and Legolas wanted to keep it that way. The prince stopped them and greeted them properly, "Good evening, my friend. Lovely night for a stroll is it not?"
"Quite wonderful," Legolas answered.
Lúta curtsied, "Good evening, Prince Théodred. It is good to see you back in Edoras. I hope all is well at our borders."
"Very well in fact, no worries," Théodred answered politely. Not wanting to keep them, he bowed, smiling, and said, "Enjoy your evening." Then he gave Legolas a quick wink before he walked on.
"He will make a fine king one day," Lúta commented.
"And I will be proud to serve under his command as a soldier."
Lúta have him a questioning look, "Don't you want to become a Marshall and be in charge of your own troops?"
"I'd be happy with any rank in the army, though it would feel very satisfying to lead my own patrol."
A little further on they came upon Eomer. He was sitting on a bench, his dagger in one hand and a sharpening stone in the other. Again, Legolas worried about what he might say. He could never be too careful when it came to these two.
Eomer saw them approaching and stood up, bowing as was proper greeting, "Legolas, what a surprise to see you here, and Lúta, always a pleasure."
Legolas returned the greeting with a bow and a smile, "Good evening, Eomer."
"Hello Eomer, how is that foal behaving lately," Lúta asked.
"He's as feisty as ever. Firefoot will be a handful by the time he's old enough to be ridden," Eomer answered.
"Well, keep at it then or you'll have a bigger problem on your hands than you will want. You don't want him becoming as stubborn as Brego. Théodred is the only one who can ride him, which makes it difficult when he is being cared for at the stables."
Eomer smiled and nodded, "I will make sure that does not happen, Lady Lúta."
"I will see you back at the hall," Legolas interrupted and Eomer got the signal.
"Oh … oh yes, enjoy the evening. Good night then," Eomer replied, and he pretended to head back home.
Legolas and Lúta finally arrived at the stable. All was quiet and the windows were dark. No one was there, just as he predicted. Before they went in, Lúta looked up with a sly smile. "So, do we have chaperones for the evening?"
Legolas pretended to be confused, "Chaperones?"
"Come now, Legolas, did you not think I would find it a bit odd to run into Théodred and Eomer tonight of all nights?"
He raised his hand to his head, running his fingers through his hair, trying to come up with a believable answer. Lúta laughed, "I can always tell when I have you over a barrel." She gestured to his hand combing his platinum hair.
Legolas never knew he was so easy to read and made a mental note to change that trait. Then he laughed nervously, "Alright, I'll come clean. They volunteered to keep watch for us tonight, just in case someone comes along. They won't bother us, I promise." To change the subject quickly, Legolas took Lúta's hands, rubbing his thumbs over her palms, "Are you alright with this, with us?"
"Are you?" she asked.
"I … I think so," he said nervously.
"We'll just take it one moment at a time, no pressure for either of us."
Legolas brushed his hand across the side of her face, leaned to her and kissed her lightly upon her lips. When they separated, they looked into each other's eyes, and everything seemed to fall into place. Without any words needing to be spoken, Legolas opened the door and waited for Lúta to go inside. Then he followed her and closed the door behind them.
There was a low flicker of a lantern at the far end of the stable. Legolas led her by the arm, feeling as if it was the longest distance he had ever walked. They came to the open stall and Lúta looked in. Legolas had arranged it perfectly. The smell of fresh hay was common, but lavender mingled along the edge of her senses, a very relaxing scent. A few hay bales were arranged in such a way that they looked like a small chaise draped with a dark blue blanket. Another bale made a table holding a lantern and a basket with part of a loaf of bread and a few pieces of fruit. Then she saw a bottle of wine and cocked an eyebrow as she regarded Legolas suspiciously, "Seems as though you thought of everything."
Legolas noticed the wine and felt himself blush, "That would be a gift from Théodred and Eomer," he said softly, embarrassed by the suggestion, "I told them this was not how I wanted our evening to proceed."
He walked over to the makeshift table and picked up the bottle to remove it, but Lúta stopped him as she gazed down upon the rich brown fur throws on the stall floor, feeling the butterflies in her stomach begin to flutter anxiously.
"Actually, I wouldn't mind a sip or two."
Legolas set the bottle down and smiled, "I guess just a taste would not harm us." He looked around their accommodations and gestured with his outstretched arms, "How did I do? I hope I thought of everything."
Lúta giggled, "You have done a marvelous job. I hardly know we are in a stable."
Legolas led her to the rustic version of a couch, and they had a seat. They sat close, but no one said a word until Lúta finally found her voice, "Legolas, why … why me?"
"What do you mean?"
"Why have you chosen me above all the others? I see how many of the girls watch your steps pinning for you and hoping you will see them. Why did you pick me?"
Legolas took her hand, "I did not pick you, as you put it. It just happened. I saw you one day with your red hair falling into your eyes," He stopped and laughed, "No matter how many times you pushed it aside, it just kept getting in your way. You seemed rather annoyed, but I could not help but think how beautiful you were. Then I spoke to you and learned how intelligent you are. Then I kissed you and I just knew. No one else makes my heart beat as rapidly as it does when I am with you." He captured her with his azure eyes, and held her within his spell. Leaning towards her, he kissed her, deepening it with every brush of his determined lips until they were both at ease, swept away by the rush of emotions that swirled between them.
When they parted, Lúta looked up to his handsome face and smiled, "I don't think we will need the wine after all."
Legolas kissed her fully and confidently, laying her down on the makeshift settee, and settling on top of her. She felt so warm through her dress, but she shivered. She was frightened. So was he.
"Lúta," he whispered. He searched her face, memorizing everything about the moment, "I am glad it is with you."
He felt her relax a bit and stop shivering as their eyes connected. The smell of fresh sweet hay and burning oil from the lantern hung in the air. The horses whinnied quietly in the background, as if they too were trying to give the couple their privacy. Legolas knew this moment would burn into his memory like a drawing in a book, forever etched on his mind to draw upon in later days. The night would hold many of these moments. This was only the start.
Lúta woke to the sound of a hushed voice calling from a nearby window, "Legolas … Lúta. Hey you two love birds, wake up."
Lúta gasped and sat up. She and Legolas had only wanted to rest a moment, but it seemed that they had both fallen asleep. She gave a desperate whisper, "Legolas … oh no, Legolas wake up."
Missing the feel of her naked body curled against him, and still in a dream state, Legolas reached for her and pulled her back down onto their temporary bed of fur throws and the blue blanket, "Not yet, just a few more minutes. You feel so good in my arms," he said sleepily.
Even on the verge of panic, her heart skipped a beat at the sound of his words. Legolas had been so tender and caring. She hoped she had brought him some kind of joy also, and from the sound of it, she had, "I wish we had all night, but someone's calling from the window."
Legolas sprung up from the fur throws and looked around for his clothes. His leggings lay closest to him so he grabbed them and threw them on quickly, "How long have we been asleep?" he asked as he dressed. Lúta shrugged her shoulders, half way fitted into her dress. Legolas pulled his tunic over his head and looked to the window. The top of Eomer's blond head just showed over the edge of the sill, "What is it? Is someone coming?"
"It's Lúta's father. He is on his way here. You two have stayed much too long," Eomer warned. "Legolas, you need to leave … now!" Eomer's gold head disappeared from the window.
Legolas looked around the stall in a panic. "We have to hide these things or he'll know something happened here tonight."
While he talked, Lúta quickly gathered the blanket and throws, and shoved them at Legolas, "What about you? If he sees you here, he'll figure it out quicker than a lightning strike."
The main door to the stable creaked open, and her father stepped inside, "Lúta, are you still here, child? It is late and your mother and I were worried for you."
"Oh … Father … yes, yes I'm still here. Everything is fine. I … I just fell asleep is all. You can go home and tell Mother I'll be there in a minute," she called.
Meanwhile, Legolas was throwing the blankets and the half-empty basket of food out of the window, hoping Eomer was still out there to catch and hide them. He looked around the stall once more and noticed the half bottle of wine in the corner, picked it up, and tossed it out the window. Someone below gave a cry and Legolas smiled. It seemed Eomer was still there just as he had hoped.
Lúta shoved Legolas towards the window, "Hurry, go now!"
Legolas suddenly felt the excitement of almost being caught. What a rush it gave him to be so daring and secretive. Lúta was in an absolute frenzy, and all he could do was draw up visions of their night together. He smiled a fiendish grin and grabbed her by the waist. Lúta pushed him, but he had a tight hold on her.
"Legolas, what are you doing? Get out of here. Do you want to get caught?"
"Maybe I do. Maybe I want to tell the world that I have fallen in love to the most beautiful girl in all of Rohan." His words enticed her, and she forgot about the severity of their situation. He captured her lips and kissed her passionately.
Lúta's mind and body wanted to give in to him until she heard the sound of footsteps walking across the hay-strewn floor and coming closer. Reluctantly, she pushed Legolas away and this time he allowed her to. Then her alarm turned to begging, "You need to go, Legolas, please."
He smiled, his dimples showing, his blue eyes dancing with new life. Her red hair had fallen into her eyes, and Legolas reached for it, tucking it behind her ear; oh, how long he had wanted to do that. His fingers traced the side of her cheek, and he memorized her beautiful face. Then he dashed to the window and sprang up and over the edge with little effort, disappearing into the night. Lúta sighed with relief, but suddenly realized she had not replied to his admittance of his love for her. Her father was only a few strides from the stall, but she did not care as she rushed to the window, jumping onto a bale of hay.
"Legolas," she called from the window, and there he was. He hadn't left yet. She smiled and stifled a giggle, "I … I love you too."
At that same moment, Lúta's father was about to step around the corner. Legolas quickly ducked and trotted off on silent bare feet, realizing he had left his boots behind. Too late, he thought to himself.
Lúta jumped down from the hay and stood with her hands behind her back, trying terribly hard not to look suspicious. Her father regarded her curiously. "Why are you still here at this late hour? What have you been doing all this time?" He picked a piece of hay from her hair, "You are a mess."
If he knew, he would surely hunt down Legolas and mount his stuffed arse on the wall. She smiled sweetly and mocked a stretch and a yawn, raising her arms over her head. "I'm awfully sorry, Father. One of the horses was acting rather peculiar at the end of the day so I decided to stay and keep a close eye on him, and I guess I fell asleep. I was afraid he had colic, but it turns out it was only an upset stomach and a lot of—" She pinched her nose and waved her hand back and forth in the air.
"That must be the reason I smelled lavender when I came in," he laughed, "to cover the smell." Feeling that she was behaving a little odd, he glanced around the stall, his eyes narrowing in the dim light. Something dark caught his attention, "Is that a pair of boots?"
Lúta heart leapt into her throat as she turned to see Legolas' black boots lying in the corner, "Boots? Oh yes … someone must have left them here. I hadn't noticed."
Her father walked in and picked up the shoes for a closer examining, "These belong to the elf, Legolas."
"Oh … well, he leaves an extra pair here. Sometimes he is in his guardsman uniform and, as you well know, those are not the most comfortable shoes." Lúta took them from her father and smiled, "I will just put them outside of Arod's stall so he will find them later."
He watched his daughter for a silent moment, and then smiled when he was satisfied that everything was fine, "Let's get you home now. You'll need to be back here in a few hours."
Lúta sighed, relieved that her father did not suspect anything. That was too close of a call. She and Legolas would have to be more careful next time. Next time, she thought to herself. Next time could not come soon enough. She already missed her lover, and could barely contain her happiness to hear him say he loved her again.
Legolas and Eomer hid outside at the back of the stable until they saw Lúta and her father walk along the path back to her house. They came out of the bushes, arms full of blankets. Eomer adjusted his load and rubbed the top of his head where the wine bottle hit him, "That hurt you know," he complained. Legolas shoved him rather hard.
"Hey," Eomer cried, "What was that for?"
"Could you not have given us more warning? I almost got caught, and what do you think would happen if I did?"
"But you didn't, did you? So, it all worked out well enough. Stop your complaining," Eomer argued.
They continued up the grassy courtyard at the foot of Meduseld until they reached the stairs. Neither one said much along the way, but now they stopped, almost too tired to climb to the top. Legolas looked at Eomer, "Where is Théodred?"
"I don't know. That is why I didn't warn you until it was almost too late. Théo was supposed to signal to me if he saw someone coming, but he never did. I was the one who saw Lúta's father coming up the path. Maybe he fell asleep."
"Or maybe he was distracted. Well, I guess it all worked out in the end."
Eomer smiled and nudged Legolas with his shoulder, "So, how was it?"
Legolas' face beamed, "There are no words to describe the feeling. It was … it ... was . . . Eomer, my friend, I think I am in love."
Eomer shook his head, "That's it then," he said making up his mind, "I don't care if she's a shield maiden, and I don't care if she's Eowyn's best friend. I'm not going to be left behind while you and Théodred have all the fun." They started to ascend the stairs when Eomer took Legolas by the arm to stop him, "Uh, you will tell me what to expect and how to … well, you know, satisfy her, won't you."
Legolas smiled and patted him on the back, "I will even be your look out if you wish." The two friends shared a laugh, and finally continued on to their rooms to get a few hours of sleep before the sun rose and the new day started.
In the shadows, Grima went unnoticed by either Legolas or Eomer. He could not sleep and was out for a walk, scouring his brain for new ways to cause mistrust amongst his fellow Rohirrim, when he saw the two boys coming home. He quickly scrabbled to a nearby bush and crouched down out of sight while he listened. It did not take much to realize what they had been up to at this late hour.
"So, the elf has found himself a girl," anger festered in his mind, "He should not be here. His eye is too keen, and his mind is too sharp. He will spoil my plans. I need to get rid of him somehow." As he listened, he heard Legolas say Lúta's name. Grima knew of the girl, and knew who her father was.
"The blacksmith's daughter, hmm, maybe I can use this to my advantage somehow. Get rid of the girl and maybe I can get rid of the elf as well." Grima rubbed his scaly hands together, and began devising a plan.
Authors Note: Some of you have reviewed as guests, and unfortunately I cannot respond to your comments. I would just like to say thank you, and I am glad you are enjoying the story. As for updates, I wish I could do that faster, but I am a slave to my beta, whom without this story might not be as enjoyable. I do promise to post as soon as possible and see the story all the way through. I've never abandoned any of my stories and don't plan on it. Thanks again!