The Last Wood Elf


Chapter 017




Chapter 17 - Gone

Legolas gazed at Lúta, the words still not registering, "What do you mean your father is taking you to Helm's Deep? Why and for how long?" His voice carried through the hall where Théodred and Eomer sat watching the exchange.

"Legolas," she said quietly, and he felt his heart drop, "We are going there … to live there … indefinitely."

"But you can't. I don't understand." His voice was full of desperation, "Is it us? Has he found out?"

Lúta shook her head, "No, it is by order of King Théoden."

Théodred and Eomer had been eavesdropping, and the sound of the King's name drew them to their feet. They approached.

"What order has my father issued?" Théodred asked curiously.

Lúta first took Legolas' hand before she answered, "He is sending all but a few of Edoras' blacksmiths to the Keep. I'm not sure why except that he says this is where they are needed right now."

"The Keep?" Eomer asked aloud as he tried to understand why, "Perhaps he has received word of trouble coming to Rohan, the enemy."

"But why send only blacksmith's?" Théodred contemplated, "Edoras may be safe now, but without our weapon makers, we would be vulnerable. I will speak with him, and find out what is happening."

"I will come with you," Eomer announced as he followed his cousin, but he hesitated and turned to Legolas, "Are you coming?" It was not so much a question, but more of a statement.

Legolas stilled and looked at Lúta, her eyes reddened from her tears. Without turning to Eomer, he answered, "I'll be along in a moment."

Lúta broke away from his stare, and watched as Théodred and Eomer walked past the dais where Théoden's throne sat, and disappeared into the dark hallway. Legolas touched her chin with the tips of his fingers, and had her attention once more, "So you are leaving?"

"I have to."

"You don't have to do anything you don't want to do, Lúta. You can stay here, and continue working in the stables … live in your parent's house. You are not a child anymore."

"What do you expect me to do, go against my father? He is only doing what the King orders." She seemed a bit perturbed by his statement.

"Your father has been summoned, not you. I want you to stay. Doesn't that have any meaning?" The anguish in his voice brought a new set of tears to her eyes.

"Please don't do this. I don't want to leave … but I have to go with my family."

"I am prepared to fight for you … for us. Will you not fight to stay?" His voice trailed off.

Legolas lifted his head capturing her with his steady blue eyes, "Stay, Lúta … please. I love you and I want you with me."

"I love you too, Legolas … but . . ." Again, she somehow managed to tear her eyes away from his, not at all an easy task. He had always been able to enrapture her with only a look, but ever since that night in the stable, when Grima came to see the horses, Lúta found her mind wandering with doubts about Legolas, the bewitching power over her, his immortality, and his heritage. She could hear that dark voice rising once more, and she silently pleaded for it to stay away.

"Tell him," it insisted, "Tell him you cannot be with him. Do not fall prey to his magic again."

Legolas saw a cold shadow flit across her eyes as she lost herself to her thoughts, "Lúta, what is it? Please tell me." Now his tone was agitated. Something was wrong, and he braced himself for what she needed to say.

Lúta forced the malicious voice back into the dark places in her mind, and let her gaze fall on him once more, "Things between us moved so quickly, and I think we became lost to our desires and our feelings towards each other. But we have not slowed down to considered what all of this means."

"It means that I love you, I care about you, and I don't want you to go," Legolas insisted, "Why can't you see that? Why do our conversations always fall to this same discussion? Lúta, I can't help who or what I am, and I can't help that my heart beats for you. I am willing to give you all of me if only you will stay and not go to Helm's Deep." He grabbed her waist and pulled her to him, burying his face in her hair, "So many have come and gone in my life … not you too."

Lúta wrapped her arms around his neck and held him tight. She hated this just as much as he did. She did not want to leave, but the dark doubts were becoming stronger, especially whenever he was around.

". . . no future with an elf . . . only heartache. When your youth is spent, he will betray you. It is only elf magic, not love."

These were the last words she heard every night before giving in to her slumber, and the first words that rambled through her thoughts as she rose to meet the new day. The dark voice was becoming unbearable, and it was affecting her relationship with Legolas as well. Every time he tried to discuss a future with her, she shut him down and changed the subject, or argued with him about something unrelated. She could feel this darkness grabbing at her throat, wanting to force out its unmerciful words, only to hurt Legolas. It just would not leave her alone, and she began to think that the only way to be rid of it was to turn from Legolas.

Lúta finally released him, no longer able to veil the pain in her eyes, "I can't even begin to explain the turmoil in my heart. I don't want to go, Legolas, but I can't abandon my family either. They need me. My little sister, she looks up to me. How could I tell her that I wouldn't be there for her anymore?" She paused, deciding she had to be strong, and not let Legolas sway her decision, "My mind is made. I'm leaving with my family. I'm so sorry, Legolas."

A pain seized Legolas in the chest, as if a blazing hand of fire plunged into his body and seared his heart. If he didn't get control immediately, he thought he might be consumed by flame. If he let his emotions take over, he would surely die, but he couldn't do that. Legolas hardened his heart, protecting it from the fire, from his fears … from Lúta, leaving him unfeeling and emotionless. He had done it before, and he could do it again, "And just like that you are prepared to go. You will not even discuss this with me. I have no say in the matter. So all of this has been for naught? I give you my heart and bear you my soul, and you turn from me with nothing more than, 'I'm sorry'."

"Do you want to know the truth then?" Lúta responded angrily. The darkness was enjoying this. It was reveling in her pain, wanting to hear her speak the words aloud.

"Go on," it demanded, "tell him the truth. Tell him now and be done with it!"

Unable to deny the dark any longer, she let it take over and spill its evil intent into the open air, "What kind of future do you think we could have? Can you really commit yourself to a mortal, to live in eternal youth while you watch your loved one slowly die? How could you even consider putting me through that kind of guilt, Legolas? I would grow to resent you, if you did not abandon me first. You don't belong with us, with mortals. You say I am not a child any more. Well, neither are you. An elf should be amongst his own kind. Maybe it is time for you to go and be with them, not with humans … not with me."

Legolas stood where he was, and did not move a muscle. Every word Lúta said struck him like a million tiny daggers, but he did not flinch. He just looked at her, his face seemingly carved from stone, unchanging and resistant.

As if lifted from a daze, Lúta realized that the words that tormented her had been spoken. Deep within her mind, there was a deviant laugh. The darkness was satisfied at last.

"Well done. You were such an obedient host. I leave you now. You shall not be bothered by me anymore."

The shadow vanished, and Lúta was left on her own to comprehend the damage that was done. Instantly, her heart ached. She had never meant to tell Legolas such hurtful things, "Oh … oh, what have I done? I … I did not mean . . ." She reached out to touch him, but he recoiled, as if she was contagious, "My words … I never meant for you to—"

From somewhere outside the great wooden doors, a child's voice called out Lúta's name. She turned her ear on instinct, hearing her younger sister searching for her. Lúta's feet would not leave their place on the floor. She couldn't leave things this way, "Legolas, please believe me when I say—"

Legolas ignored her and walked to the doors, pushing one of them open. A sunbeam streamed into the dark hall, and Lúta's eyes tapered to shield them from the blinding sun. Legolas was now just a shadow wreathed in gilded light. She could no longer see his face, but she knew it would be too painful to look at him now. The damage was done. It was over between them.

"Go," he finally said, "Your family is looking for you. Wouldn't want them to see you talking to an elf." His words were cold, bitterly chilled like the first frost of winter, making Lúta shiver.

She walked towards the open door, but stopped in front of him, "Legolas, please forgive—"

"Go!" he shouted, and his voice echoed through the hall of Meduseld.

For the first time, Lúta was truly frightened, and she felt just how powerful and deadly a wood elf could be. She hurried out of the door and down the steps to join her sister and take her home. She did not look back, afraid of what she would see, not the elf who she had loved, but something much more sinister that would haunt her behind closed eyes … something she was responsible for creating.

Legolas let the door slowly close, the darkness of the Golden Hall swallowing him. Théodred and Eomer were gone. He stood unmoving, staring down the length of the hall, but not seeing anything. He was in complete shock. Just like a leaf in a rush of wind, she was gone. She did not argue or fight to stay. He would never have given in so easily. Anger seethed deep in his chest. He was willing to do whatever it took to be with her. He was even willing to stand up to her father and battle for his approval … and she just threw it all away.

Approval … why was he the one always searching for this? He knew the answer of course. No matter what he did or how he behaved, he would never completely fit in. Maybe Lúta was right. He should be with his own kind … but he had no one. His kind was gone. Tears threatened his eyes. No … no, he could not be weak. His hands clenched into fists, fingernails digging into his flesh. He needed physical pain to shut out the unbearable agony in his heart. As he started down the dark empty hall, he stopped at one of the wooden tables and slammed the side of his fist down upon the rough wood. The punch jolted his body, a burning ache spreading from his fist, up his arm and shoulder, temporarily replacing the suffering in his mind, but it wasn't enough. He hammered his fist a second time and a third. The fourth blow proved to be the last as his raw skin began to bleed. Good, he thought to himself. This kind of pain he could control. Satisfied with his injury, he continued on to the hallway at the back of the King's receiving hall.

He was suddenly overcome with an eerie feeling that he was being watched, but the dark corridor was empty. His senses were not very keen at the moment. Lúta's recent abandonment was affecting him as well as his throbbing hand, and he wasn't thinking clearly. Legolas stopped and narrowed his eyes, staring through the dark corridor, but he saw no one. He glanced down at his bloodied hand, pulled it into his sleeve to hide it and entered King Théoden's private meeting room.

King Théoden silently stood with his back turned to Théodred and Eomer as they spoke in insistent tones. The King's son was addressing him currently, "But why send them now if there is no direct threat against Rohan? You are leaving Edoras vulnerable."

Théoden turned to face them, "Edoras is not nor shall it ever be vulnerable. Our armories are fully stocked, but it is Helm's Deep that has been left defenseless. It is no doubt our stronghold, but without weapons at the ready, the stone and rock of the fortress is not enough to keep an enemy at bay. Besides, I am sending no soldiers, only the blacksmiths."

Théodred shook his head, "I'm sorry, Father, but I think you have made a poor decision."

Théoden's eyes tapered into slits, and the lines on his forehead deepened, "It is not yours to make, now is it?" he spat with a hint of malice that took everyone by surprise. Théoden was always willing to hear what others had to say, especially Théodred. Just as quickly as the words were spoken, his indistinct temper disappeared, and the King returned to himself as he continued, "I never pass down orders without first conferring with my advisors, and after much discussion, I feel this is the correct action I must take."

Legolas had been watching and listening to their discussion, taking particular interest in Théoden's sudden and unusual mood change. This was not the way the King behaved, yet he had never witnessed Théoden during times of stress. His unease was suspicious.

"What changed that has made you come to this decision?" Legolas asked. Théodred and Eomer spun around, unaware that the elf had entered the room.

Théoden's attention switched to Legolas, "As I have said, my advisors and I—"

"Your advisors or Grima," Legolas interrupted.

Théoden scowled at the elf, but Legolas' numbness was ensuring his foolish bravery. No one spoke to the King of Rohan in such a manner.

Théoden walked past Théodred and Eomer, stopping in front of Legolas. He cocked his head to the side as he regarded the elf, "Do you have a problem with my chief counselor?"

Legolas pulled his shoulders back, standing tall and looking at Théoden with wide eyes, "I do and I am not the only one. Your people do not trust him, yet you take him at his word."

Théoden's creases around his eyes deepened. "This does not concern you, Legolas. You have only lived in Rohan for a short time, while I have known Grima for most of his life."

"My lack of Rohirric knowledge has been pointed out to me more than I care for lately." Legolas was willing to endanger his trust with Théoden. Lúta was gone, the King was taking advice from someone he thought was a danger to all of Rohan, and his festering anger was about to explode. He felt he had nothing left to lose, "I do not trust the man, and I sense he is up to no good."

The King shifted his weight from right to left and crossed his arms over his chest, "What proof do you have that Grima has been anything but honest and trustworthy?" Théoden challenged.

"It may be lack of your better judgment, as you still let him counsel you, that has sparked my suspicions," Legolas answered with malice.

Théoden brought his face to Legolas' and eyed him warily, "You dare to speak to me that way?"

"You will not listen otherwise. I am here to tell you that you should not trust Grima."

Legolas was prepared for whatever punishment King Théoden might hand to him. He knew it was wrong to go against the King, but neither could he stand by and say nothing. He expected to be sent from Meduseld, stripped of his guard duties, flogged even, but instead, Théoden's demeanor changed, and he took a more relaxed stance.

"Oh, the elves … always worrying about thing that they should not be, overthinking what others consider normal behavior." He placed his hand on Legolas' shoulder, "I appreciate your concern … really, I do, but I have made my decision." He turned to the others, "Now, all of this talk has more than exhausted me, and I must go lie down for a bit. Théodred, will you accompany me. Eomer, you may join us," Théoden brought his attention to Legolas once more, "I sense something is wrong on a … personal lever, for you have never challenged me in such a manner before. I suggest that you take some time for yourself to gather your thoughts. I will forgive you for your outburst … this time." With that, Théoden made for his personal quarters with Théodred and Eomer following.

Grima had been eavesdropping outside of Théoden's door. He heard the argument with Théodred and Eomer, and there was nothing surprising to him. He knew the King's son would try to persuade Théoden to retract his orders, but Grima's spell was wrapping tightly around the King's mind. The elf though, just as he suspected, the damn elf would be a problem. He needed to get rid of him before he spoiled everything.

Legolas was trying to turn Théoden against him, his biggest worry come true. Still, the King did not budge on his decision and he stood firm. Grima smiled to himself. Not even the magic of the elves could reverse the bewitchment he was weaving upon Théoden. Knowing he had this much power over the King in these early stages of sorcery was intoxicating to someone like Grima, who had always been looked down upon or seen as eccentric and a nonconformist. That would all change when he was finally put in charge of Rohan, if Saruman would give him the responsibility. Then, he would claim Eowyn as his prize. She would have no choice than to marry him. He would be a man of power by then, and all women loved such men.

Grima had been so indulged in his scheming that he had not heard someone approaching the door. He fled soundlessly down the hall and back to the shadows.

Legolas threw the door open and left Théoden's room. He was hurt, angry, feeling deceived by those that he trusted and loved. He rushed out of the hallway, and into the openness of the great hall. Even in here, he felt as though the walls were closing in on him. He stopped to collect his thoughts for a moment, when he had a sudden awareness of someone watching him. He had felt it earlier when he first arrived, but when he looked around, he saw nothing. Legolas was in no mood, and if his suspicions were correct, whoever was spying on him was just the person he needed to take his aggravations out on.

He slowed his steps and turned to walk the length of the dais. It was here somewhere, the person who watched from the shadows. Closer and closer, the feeling of utter disgust made his skin crawl. There, just around that wide column . . .

Legolas moved with lightning speed, whirling around the wooden beam. His hands grabbed at the blackness and caught a fist full of fur, feeling slick and greasy in his fingers. What felt like bones grabbed at his arms, skeletal hands grasping his flesh, but Legolas did not let go. With all of his strength, he forced the being back until it slammed into a wall. The black shape fought, but was outweighed by the elf's ferocity.

A breeze blew in through a window, lifting one edge of a heavy curtain, and allowing in just enough light for Legolas to see what he captured. However, he did not need to see to know it was Grima, the man responsible for the elf's misery.

Legolas adjusted his grip until he had Grima's arms pinned to his sides. He could hear the man's heart racing, and his breath coming in hurried puffs. They'd never come in close contact before, and Legolas thought Grima seemed as if he would faint. Then he realized that the man had no strength, and beneath the heavy black coat, Grima was no more than skin and bones.

"Unhand me this moment!" Grima demanded.

"You've been following my steps ever since you came back to Rohan. Well, you have my attention now. What do you want?" Legolas accused.

"I want for you to leave Rohan, but you will not go, will you? You have claimed this place as your own, or so you think, but soon even the King will not want you around anymore," Grima answered.

"And what makes you say that, Worm? Is it because you are in the King's ear every minute of the day, feeding him lies? It was not Théoden who gave orders for the blacksmiths departure, but you. Why? Why does he listen to anything you have to say? It is some kind of dark magic. That is what I say, and I'll find out soon enough, for as you have watched me, now I will watch you, Wormtongue."

"If there is any magic being conjured around here, it is you who is casting spells," Grima hissed in Legolas' face, "Théoden should never have allowed an elf to live in Edoras, let alone under his own roof. Your kind is not to be trusted, always with your ear to the wall, your head in other people's business and your hands on those who you are forbidden to touch."

Legolas' eyes narrowed, and Grima could see that he struck a nerve, "Oh yes, elf … don't think I have not seen you sneaking around with the blacksmith's daughter. That is not all you have done with her either, is it? You seduced her didn't you … took her innocence, and brainwashed her into thinking you were some kind of hero. Elves … you are all the same. You think you are a higher form than humans, that men cannot do for themselves. Well, I say your time here is over. Middle-earth belongs to men now." Grima knew that he should stop there, but he was drunk on the power of knowing that he was affecting Legolas, and he continued, "It was a day of victory when Mirkwood burned. Unfortunately, they left a few stragglers." This last word he said with emphasis, spraying Legolas with spit as he hissed.

The mention of his home was enough to push Legolas past a reasonable point. He released one hand from Grima and shoved his forearm against the man's thin neck, pressing hard enough to make him gasp for air, "You sound as though you know what happened in Mirkwood. Perhaps you know who gave orders for the orcs to invade my home. I should like to know whom I must hunt down for my revenge. Perhaps I will just start with you." Legolas forced his arm harder against Grima's neck, making the man sputter and choke for air.

"You should all burn," Grima croaked, "Ever last one of you filth elves."

Legolas gritted his teeth. Hate and vengeance were driving him mad with the need to kill, and Grima could be his first victim. He felt he had every right to kill the man. There was not a doubt in his mind that Grima was controlling King Théoden, if he only knew how. Kill him now and he'd have no more control. Surely the other's would understand his reasoning.

Grima was gasping for air, his eyes rolling up so that only the whites showed. Legolas was not letting up. The man regretted mentioning anything about Mirkwood. Just as he thought he would lose consciousness, or perhaps his life, someone called out.

"Legolas!" Théodred yelled. "Legolas, stop this!"

But Legolas did not stop. He did not ease his grip or turn to Théodred, "He is responsible. He must pay."

"Not like this," Eomer said from behind his cousin, "We believe you, but you must let him go."

Legolas did not react right away, making everyone think he would kill Grima no matter what anyone -said. Then, he lowered his arm and released his grip. Grima took in a long life-saving gasp of air and clutched his hand over his throat, rubbing his neck. He bent forward, heaving as if he might throw up, coughing and sputtering. His head slowly came up and he glared at Legolas, "I will have you thrown into the dungeons at once. You have attacked a citizen of Rohan and a man of the courts. Prince Théodred, call the guards and have this dastardly elf taken away."

Théodred and Eomer came to stand side by side with Legolas. Théodred shook his head, "I'm afraid I cannot do that."

Grima looked shocked, "You can and you will. You are a witness to the brutality that he bestowed upon me. He tried to strangle me."

Théodred smiled with devilry, "I suppose you are right. I did see Legolas bring you within an inch of your life, and I could have him arrested, but I also know that he swore to protect the city, and he would not act without reason. Since I am the Prince, I could order an investigation here; find out exactly why Legolas thought he needed to exterminate you. Perhaps a search of your room would reveal something of evidence."

Grima managed to come to his full height, anger showing in his black eyes, "You would find nothing."

"Ah, you see, that is where you are wrong. While I was speaking with my father, I had someone take a look around in your quarters," Théodred said, as he brought something out of his pocket.

Legolas looked to see what it was. Some strange talisman, he thought, until he realized that it was a lock of reddish blond hair tied to what looked like a small animal bone.

"Do you want to tell me whose hair this might be, and what kind of strange ritual you might be doing with it?" Théodred continued.

"Eowyn," Legolas whispered.

Unable to contain his anger any longer, Eomer lunged forward, grabbing Grima's robe tightly at the neck, and twisting as hard as he could, "Leave my sister alone, or you'll wish the elf had finished what he was about to do."

Grima could see he was outnumbered. He grabbed Eomer's wrist, pulling himself free. Then he looked at Legolas with evil intent, "This is not over." He pulled his robe around him and stormed off in the direction of his room.

Legolas stepped away from his friends, needing a moment to calm himself. Théodred and Eomer looked at each other, and then Théodred offered a friendly hand on Legolas' shoulder, "Are you alright?"

Legolas slowly shook his head, "I could have killed him. I wanted to, and I think I almost did. The things he was saying about me, about elves and Mirkwood—"

Eomer noticed a dark stain on the side of Legolas' pants. Then the wound on the side of his hand revealed the source of the blood. He reached for Legolas' arm and lifted it, "You're bleeding."

Legolas pulled his arm away rather hastily, but immediately smiled and nodded, "Oh that, I'd forgotten."

"Did Grima do that?" Théodred asked, hoping he had another reason to go after the man.

"No, I did, or rather, I had help from one of the tables," Legolas answered, trying to add a bit of humor. The tension in the air was too thick and he thought he might drown.

"Do you suddenly loath the décor?" Eomer chaffed.

Legolas tried to laugh, though it came out more of a huff of air. Finally, he turned to his friends and found sincere concern for his well-being marking their faces. These are men, he thought, no longer the boys he first met upon my arrival to Rohan. These were his brothers in a way. They would always be there for each other. They would never judge him, and they would always believe him, no matter what happened. Legolas realized that hope was not completely gone. Lúta may have left, and the King may not be in his right mind, but he could depend of Théodred and Eomer, and that was a very comforting thought.

He looked to the strange talisman that Théodred still held in his hand and gestured to it, "Did you really find that in Grima's room?"

"Oh, yes … well, I didn't find it, but someone else did," Théodred answered smartly.

"If you and Eomer were with your father, then who did you entrust to search Wormtongue's room?" Legolas wondered. Théodred would not have asked just anyone to follow out such a delicate order.

"Can I have that, please?" Eowyn asked as she approached. She took it from Théodred and held it, turning it over in her hand.

"You?" Legolas asked surprised.

"Who else?" she smiled, "Théodred caught me in the hallway on his way to see his father, and asked me to do a little snooping. Luckily, Grima wasn't there."

"That's because he was busy listening at the door," Legolas informed, "He seemed to know that we were talking about with Théoden."

"Grima seems to know a lot of what happens around here," Eomer said, adding to the conversation. He turned to Eowyn, and pointed to the strange talisman, "What is that thing?"

Eowyn held it with the tips of her fingers, "I presume it to be some sort of love charm. Luckily for me, it doesn't seem to work."

Eomer took his sister's hand, "Legolas informed me about Grima's wandering eye. Why didn't you tell me before?"

"I don't know. I guess I thought I could handle things on my own. Then Legolas was there one of the times, and saw the lust in Grima's filthy black eyes," she smiled at Legolas, "I still don't trust him not to bother me."

"I don't think he'll be around you much, now that he sees that we know his intent," Théodred said.

Eowyn lifted the talisman and made a disgusted face, "Whatever he was doing with this, I never want to find out."

She heard Legolas moan, and looked to see him flexing the fingers of his injured hand, "Oh, Legolas, you've been hurt," she said with alarm.

"It is nothing," he said, shying away from her, but Eowyn took up his arm and brought it into the light.

"You've broken the skin. What happened?" she asked concerned.

"He punched a table," Eomer answered for his friend with a comical tone.

Eowyn wanted to know why, but she could tell from the expression on Legolas' face, that he did not want to discuss it here. Instead, she released him and smiled, "Come with me, and I'll fix you up. Then you can avoid a trip to the healing house."

"I would very much appreciate that."

"Legolas," Théodred called as Eowyn led his friend away, "Meet Eomer and I at the mead hall when you are done."

Legolas nodded and continued along his way with Eowyn.

After attending to his injured pride, as well as his raw throat, Grima slipped into Théoden's office, surprised to find the man sitting in his chair looking worn. Grima was sure the King would be in his personal quarters, but this was just as well. It was time to get to work, and repair any damage that Théodred or Legolas might have done.

"Oh, Sire you look a bit fatigued. I do hope all is well," he hissed sweetly. He poured a glass of wine and emptied the contents of the horse ring into it, giving it a quick swirl to dissolve the poisonous powder. Then he handed it to Théoden, and smiled wickedly behind the King's back.

Théoden smiled upon seeing his chief counselor, "Ah, thank you Grima. Just what this old man needs to calm his mind." He took a drink, closed his eyes and let the warmth of the wine travel through his body.

"Is there something wrong?" Grima asked as he came around to stand next to the King, laying a gentle hand on his liege's shoulder.

"I just had a visit from my son. He does not agree with my decision, and I must say … I am beginning to have second thoughts too."

Grima cringed, "Why no my king, I think you have made the right choice. If what Lothlorien predicts comes true, and Dol Guldur empties its broken towers, Helm's Deep will need to be ready and armed by the time Edoras arrives." He waited until Théoden took another long sip and swallowed before he continued, "As a matter of fact, maybe you should send some of the city's weaponry along with the blacksmiths. You have plenty here to spare a few swords and spears. And the enemy knows that Rohan will not stay at Edoras. They know you will go to Helm's Deep.

"Yes," Théoden agreed, succumbing to the poison. "All of Middle-earth knows that the Rohirrim will take up their blades at the Hornburg." His mind cleared for a moment as he regarded Grima. "But what if they come unseen and attack the city while our weapons are stored at the fortress?"

"The elves of Lorien are ever watchful, Sire. They will send word. The orcs cannot get past without being seen. Besides," Grima laughed nervously, "Where else would the orcs and goblins approach from? Dol Guldur is their main stay from what I have heard." Grima took the goblet from Théoden and placed it on his desk, "If you would like, I will organize the weapons transport."

Théoden slouched back into his chair, suddenly overcome with drowsiness and smiled, "Again, you are right, Grima. Well, I will take your advice into consideration, but right now I think I shall retire to my quarters. I think the wine has made me a bit sleepy."

"As you wish, my King." Grima bowed and watched Théoden exit his office. When he was alone, he rubbed his hands together and smiled, "Perfectly played if I must say so myself." He laughed as he walked to a map laid out on a table, his skeletal fingers tracing a circle around Dol Guldur. "You are right, my lord Saruman, Théoden expects the enemy to march from the southern forest." His forefinger moved to the elven realm of Lothlorien. "And of course, the elves will expect this too." Then his hand hovered above Rohan. He dug his long fingernail into the yellowed parchment, leaving a mark as it moved from the Riddermark to Isengard, where Saruman resided in the tower of Orthanc. Grima laughed again, but this time with more malice, his grey eyes darkening, "But no one will see it coming from here. No one will be watching Isengard. They will not suspect a thing. By then, once my lord, the White Wizard has built his army, Théoden will be completely bent to his will. There will be no order of refuge at Helm's Deep. Edoras and its people will be vulnerable and susceptible to attack. Helm's Deep will remain empty, but for their weapons … hmm, the fools. Saruman will attack Rohan, and I'll return to Isengard with my heart's desire. Once Rohan is overthrown, I'll return to sit on the throne with my new queen. Oh, my sweet Eowyn, you will learn to love me by then. I will be all that you have left of Rohan and I will keep you safe." His eyes closed, and a half smile appeared upon his thin grey lips as he dreamed of that day, but a vision of Legolas stepping between them disrupted his fantasy.

"I must destroy the elf and the trust that the people have for him ... ruin his reputation and implant doubts until he is despised by everyone. And when he is no better than the things that swim at the bottom of a cesspool, and no one cares what happens to him, I'll kill him. It is the only way to rid myself of his nuisance."

Grima rubbed his knobby knuckles as he considered how to carry out his plans, "The elf must go, first and foremost, but I cannot do this alone. I need to recruit a few weak minds to do my bidding. It will be easier by the time all of this comes into play. That is what I need to do next, and I already have an idea of who will fit neatly into the palm of my hand." Grima left Théoden's office in search of his future henchmen. More minds to take over, more spirits to break. He looked forward to the challenge. He looked forward to the day that Legolas was no more.