Azure was the crystal water, nearly matching the hue of the sky. The mountains rose high reaching into the heavens, their peaks capped in pure white snow.
True, the pages were worn, the corners torn. The color was still vibrant though. Rhianan gently traced the mountain with her fingertip, feeling something deep in her soul stir.
Rhianan could not comprehend what it was like before the Fall. Oft had she pondered it. Sorrowfully, Rhianan knew her only link to that lost past were these few Elvish books kept in the library of Meduseld. How they had come to be there, she
could not guess. She knew only that she had enjoyed them since she was a small child. They were illustrated unlike any-thing she had ever known, doubtless a timeless work of a
forgotten Elvish artist. Though Rhianan could not read the runes, her imagination ran wild considering what they might say.
Softly she sighed, closing the books. She had come to the
library seeking solace, hoping to find peace among the ancient manuscripts. Yet the images of a perfect land, of the Elder Days, served only to remind her she did not live in a perfect world. One could not hold onto such an illusion when around Grima.
The taste in Rhianan’s mouth turned sour as she though of the King’s counselor. ‘Counselor-ha! He rules the King’s mind! Wormtongue indeed,’ she thought. It had not been more than an hour since Rhianan had departed from his presence in the Great Hall. No longer did she doubt the man to be a servant of darkness. The once strong ruler of Rohan,
Theoden King, was a withered mindless old man now. Grima had poisoned his mind; Rhianan wondered if he would know his enemies from his allies. How could he? He was controlled by the Wormtongue!
Rhianan stood, attempting to shake herself from her reverie. ‘If only Eomer were here,’ she thought.
Perhaps Theoden would hear him. Or, if Theodred were here, surely he would listen to his blood-son if not his adopted son.’ Yet both were with the Rohirrim.
Somewhat painfully Rhianan recalled her last moments with Eomer. He had told her he would leave again soon, but she had not counted on it being the next morning. She had not
gotten to say goodbye, had not even gotten to see the eored off. It had been a week’s time since they had left.
Rhianan did not know when they might return, but it was her prayer it would be soon.
* * * *
Three days later, the Rohirrim arrived back at Edoras. Yet all was not well.
Ilora raced through Rhianan’s door without knocking, her face the color of death.
Rhianan leaped to her feet. “Sister! What-“
“Rhianan! Theodred is wounded, he may not survive and-“
“They have returned?” she demanded.
“Only moments ago. I was in the Great Hall when they arrived.”
“What of Eothain and Eomer?” Rhianan questioned in a whisper.
“I know not of Eomer. ‘Twas Eothain who bore the news to the King.”
Rhianan headed for the door, then paused to speak again to her twin. “Will you come, or are you staying?”
Ilora shook her head, her mouth a thin line. “I cannot go,”
Rhianan nodded before hurrying out the door.
She found her brother in the courtyard, handing the horses
of the eored into the care of the stablemen. Rhianan went to Eothain’s side, but said naught.
Soon he turned his attention to her. “Theodred-” he broke off, struggling to keep his composure.
“I know,” she said softly. “Will he….is he badly wounded?”
“If he lives it will be by the grace of Eru.”
“Eomer? What of him?”
“He is fine. He has gone with Theodred.”
Rhianan’s pulse slowed a bit to at least know Eomer was well.
“There is nothing for us to do but wait. Though perhaps you might see to Eowyn,” Eothain said.
Rhianan nodded. “Alright. You are sure you’re fine?”
Her older brother forced a smile. “I am. I am going to my chamber if you need me.”
Rhianan went in search of Eowyn, and quickly discovered she also was with Theodred. Somewhat hesitantly Rhianan made her way to Theodred’s chambers.
Several guards stood at the door and steadfastly refused her entrance. Resignedly, Rhianan accepted it. Slowly she made her way back to her own room, her heart heavy.
* * * *
The morning dawned with a sick light, as though it were an omen of the day to come.
Rhianan dressed quickly then left her chamber. She did not know where she meant to go, but was compelled to leave the confines of her room. She wandered till she found herself in a secluded part of Meduseld. She stopped short as she turn-
ed the corner and saw Eowyn sitting in one of the deep windows. Rhianan would have retreated back down the hall, but Eowyn turned her head and saw her.
“Rhianan.” Her voice was hoarse and her eyes rimmed with red.
Eowyn failed to notice the term which she had long told Rhianan to stop using with her. She beckoned Rhianan to come to her side. “Theodred is dead,” she said flatly. Her tone held no emotion despite the pain that must of gripped her.
Rhianan took Eowyn’s hand and held it tightly for she knew not what to say.
“And Eomer…” Eowyn trailed off, her eyes cloudy. After a moment of silence she shook her head and said, “They have imprisoned him.”
“What?” Rhiana cried.
The outburst seemed to stir Eowyn, for she slipped nimbly
to the floor from her perch. “Grima is at work here. Our safety is questionable.”
Rhianan ground her teeth to keep from screaming.
Why had they imprisoned dearest Eomer?
Eowyn looked into Rhianan’s pale green eyes. “Theoden is beyond mortal help, he is controlled by something far more sinister than Wormtongue. Evening last Eomer was taken to the dungeon….he has been accused of treason.”
Rhianan swallowed. “Treason you say?”
“Grima suggests he was behind Theodred’s death,” Eowyn’s
voice caught. “Also he claims he has been disloyal to the King, though he has not stated in what way.”
A moan escaped Rhianan. “What are we to do?”
Eowyn stared hard at Rhianan, as though measuring her up.
At last she spoke. “Grima had enough foresight to order the guards not to let me see my brother; however, I doubt he will have forbidden you entrance.”
Rhianan nodded. “Shall I go now?”
“Yes, go. Listen carefully to whatever Eomer tells you,” Eowyn needlessly admonished.
Rhianan made haste to the dungeon, hardly believing a Marshall of the Mark was being kept there. As she approach-
ed, she drew herslf up and her features became a cold mask.
Pausing she looked up at the guard at the door. “You will take me to Lord Eomer,” she said, her voice cool.
He appeared unsure, but opened the door and led her down a long hall. Stopping, he motioned to another door. “He
is within.” He made no move to open it, as though he hoped merely showing her the place of Eomer’s imprisonment was enough.
Rhianan arched her eyebrows. “I want to see him.”
The guard sighed, then reluctantly unlocked the door. “Now,
m’lady, if Grima-“
“Curse the Wormtongue!” she snapped, throwing open the door.
Subdued, the guard closed it behind her.
Eomer leaped to his feet when she entered. “Rhianan!”
he exclaimed as she hurried to him.
She paused, several feet still between them. Rhianan realiz-
ed her inclination had been to run to him and embrace him.
The thought brought a blush to her cheeks. “Are you well, my
lord?” she asked.
His expression darkened. “I will not be well till the day Grima lies dead before me.”
Rhianan was somewhat taken aback, but she said nothing.
Eomer’s frown deepened. “Forgive me….I should not have spoken so.”
Silence followed. Eomer was the one to break it. “It seems I
have been a prisoner too long and have already forgotten my manners, Lady Rhianan. Will you sit?” he asked, indicat-
ing the sole piece of furniture in the room, a wooden bench.
She sat, Eomer beside her.
“Pray tell what brings you here? I am not so naive as to think you come only to see me,” Eomer said.
“Eowyn cannot come, Grima has forbidden the guards to allow her entrance. As of yet he has not so stated of me.”
Eomer nodded. “Then you know all that has transpired?”
“Of your imprisonment and of Theodred, yes.”
Eomer looked away, then ran a hand over his face. “I have been accused of killing Theodred…..he was my brother,
Rhianan! Yet now he is gone….if I had only fought beside him, maybe….”
Rhianan grabbed both of Eomer’s hands. “No! It was not your fault. Never think that! I know you did all that was within your power.”
Eomer studied her face, then turned his gaze aside. “There is more,” he said. For the next hour, he told Rhianan of a meeting that had occured while the Rohirrim were riding. The
eored had come upon a trio; a man, an elf, and a dwarf. They were seeking their friends that had been taken by Orcs.
“Aye, at first I was greatly suspicious of them, but the man told me their story. A fellowship of nine left Rivendell with Gandalf the Grey as their leader,” Eomer paused. “He has fallen and is no more.”
“Alas! Heavy tidings are those,” Rhianan mumured.
Eomer nodded his agreement before continuing. “Ah, but would you know who the man was? Though it seemed a dream, it was Aragorn, son of Arathorn, heir to the throne of Gondor.”
Rhianan gasped, wondering if Eomer was jesting. Yet clearly he was not.
He told all that happened during their meeting, and how he had told King Theoden also, when he had returned to Edoras.
Eomer shook his head. “Grima has used it against me.
Aragorn confirmed my fears of war to come.This news I brought before my King, unwisely. See what good it has accomplished,” Eomer said bitterly.
“The Lord of Gondor spoke of war?”
Eomer nodded. “‘Tis true Isengard has joined with Mordor.”
A shadow seemed to fall over the small room at those words, and Rhianan shivered. “We cannot fight Sauron,” she
whispered. “We are hard pressed to defend ourselves even now.”
Eomer closed his eyes, leaning heavily against the wall. Soon though, he spoke. “Where is Eothain?”
“See that he is wary. Grima may yet attack him as well.”
Rhianan paled. She had not considered that possibility. Still holding Eomer’s hand, she tightened her grip. A single tear ran down her cheek. Angrily she wiped it away–now was no time for tears.
Suddenly, Eomer’s arm slipped around her shoulders and pulled her close. She leaned her head against him, letting him hold her.
“Ah, Rhianan….I never meant for you to become involved.
I don’t want you to be hurt,” Eomer whispered in her ear.
She pulled away to look at him. “We are all involved, Eomer.
If there is war, none will escape it.”
Their gazes locked and Rhianan was abruptly aware of how close they were.
Eomer raised his hand to her cheek, his touch infinitely gentle. Slowly his hand slipped around to the back of her neck as he leaned closer.
Rhianan’s mind cried against it, her old fears of love return-
ing. But her heart won out.
Her eyes closed. She felt his lips brush her’s—BANG!
The door flew open and a figure stalked into the room.
Eomer released Rhianan, but the Wormtongue had already seen the situation. An expression Rhianan could not read was written across his features. His gaze pinned her to the wall, nonetheless.
“Lady Rhianan, I really would have thought better of you.
But then….perhaps it was not what it seemed.” His eyes took on a cold glint. “Maybe Eomer is even less honorable than I
Eomer tensed. The implication was clear.
“Now, my lady, you may go. The man will be dealt with accordingly.”
Rhianan was on her feet and at him almost before he finsh-
ed. “You filthy wretch!” she cried, her hand coming around to slap Grima.
He caught her wrist in a painful grip. “You are too bold, woman,” he hissed before shoving her out the door.
It slammed behind her as she stumbled into the hall. She was kept from falling by the same guard who had shown her to Eomer’s cell. He looked down at her as he steadied her.
“M’lady, I am sorry! I did not know he was coming, and then it was too late to warn you. I don’t know how he knew you had come….”
Rhianan was only partly listening to his apologies. Eomer’s
life might well be in danger….would Wormtongue dare to harm him, though? With Theodred dead, Eomer was heir to the throne of Roham–Rhianan nearly choked as this dawned on her. That would be all the more reason for Grima to wish him dead!
Never before has Rhianan felt so helpless. Her mind racing,
she mumbled something inaudible to the guard, then took off down the hall.
Perhaps Eothain or Eowyn would yield some ideas….Ilora was best left out of it all, she was not strong enough for such a burden. For that matter, Rhianan was unsure if she herself was strong enough….
* * * *
Eomer leaned against the wall, staring out the tiny window of his cell.
Where was hope? Where was courage? The lord of Rohan doubted, briefly, if they existed at all. Would everything end there? Would the Riddermark fall; would the forces of dark-
ness triumph once and forever?
Eomer suppressed a shudder as he recalled his conversation
“Death seeks you and it will find you even if it is not by my hand,” Eomer said.
Hate contorted Grima’s face. “Go on! Speak of death! It is I who holds your life in my hands. Theodred is dead, Theoden might as well be–who do you suppose is next? After that, then what? Rohan will be mine!”
“Fool, do you truly think that Saruman will allow that?”
Grima did not hear Eomer, so consumed with his thoughts of power was he.
“The people of Rohan will never submit to you nor your tyranny. Have you not heard what they call you? Wormtongue.
Never shall we be ruled by any but our rightful King,” Eomer
Grima glared at him. “Listen to my words, troublemaker,
and know this,” his voice dropped dangerously low, “fair Rhianan may be, but any resistance from you and she shall join Theodred in the halls of your ancestors…..”
To Be Continued