Disclaimer: Lord of the Rings and all characters belong to Tolkien. I am merely keeping Haldir alive at Helm's Deep.
Authors Note: I do not know too much about Éomer so I am going to make some stuff up.
A Mortal Love
Part 14 - Shadows Chased and Caught
Rumil and Orophin joined Éomer and Haldir after a short rest. They felt too restless to sleep properly, and wanted to deal with this threat as quickly as possible. Looking at their brother, they found Haldir holding Éomer tightly whilst the Man rested in the Elf’s arms. It gave them a chance to talk to Haldir privately.
They pulled chairs closer to the bed and sat down, watching silently. Rumil spoke first. “Brother, what are you not telling us? Do you no longer trust us?”
Haldir cringed at hearing the hurt tone in Rumil’s voice. After making sure that his mate was still soundly asleep he made eye contact with Rumil. His gaze occasionally shifted to Orophin and then returned to look at Rumil. “It is about Grima. Éomer and the snake have had… dealings in the past.” He still wasn’t sure how much to reveal to his brothers. “Grima hurt Éomer when he was a child, and now that the shadow haunts Éomer, painful memories are returning.”
Rumil arched an eyebrow, sensing Haldir was telling him a half-truth. “And now you are worried because…?”
“I am afraid the past might somehow repeat itself. Grima has the power to hurt Éomer, and I will prevent that from happening at any cost.” Haldir affectionately stroked the wild curls, twirling one lock gently around a fingertip. “We must keep him safe.”
Rumil nodded thoughtfully and exchanged a glance with Orophin. “Haldir, I can stay with Éomer while Orophin and you aid Gamling in searching the keep. I promise you that he is safe with me.”
Haldir knew his brother well enough to know that Rumil was completely sincere. Rumil would defend Éomer until his last breath. “I do not want to leave him, not even in your capable hands, but --” Haldir sighed distressed. “I want to be the one to free Éomer of this threat. I want to end the snake’s life with my own hands.”
Rumil understood Haldir’s motives for staying close, but wanted some time alone with Éomer to find out what kind of man he was. “Haldir, join the search. The chance of you finding your enemy whilst staying at Éomer’s side is much smaller than when you actively search for him.”
Haldir wavered, but in the end he disentangled himself from Éomer, easing his mate into a comfortable sleeping position and tucking the blankets in around his form. “I am entrusting my mate to you, Rumil.”
Rumil nodded. “I will not disappoint you, brother.”
Haldir rose from the bed and stretched. It was about time that he started to move again. Searching the keep would provide him with much needed exercise. “I will return within the hour to check on him.”
“Be at ease,” said Orophin, “Our brother will keep Éomer from harm.” It had taken him a while to see the love and dedication in Haldir’s eyes, but now he realized that his elder brother had lost his heart to the Rohirrim. Getting to his feet as well, Orophin walked toward the doorway. Haldir still stalled at the bed, and Orophin whispered softly, “Brother, come with me. We should hunt down our foe.”
Haldir reluctantly followed Orophin and when he closed the door behind him, he stole one last glance at his mate. “I love him, Orophin.” His brother’s hand settled on his shoulder, reassuringly squeezing it.
“Rumil knows that. He will guard Éomer closely and won’t hesitate to risk his life defending him.”
Haldir sucked in a deep breath and turned away from Éomer’s room, facing the corridor. Determination shone in his eyes as he said, “Let us find that snake and pull its venomous teeth!”
They left to join Gamling and the Rohirrim who were searching the keep. They had to locate the source of this evil that haunted Éomer.
Rumil remained seated and leaned back into the comfort of the chair. Galadriel’s words and actions finally made sense.
A few hours before they had left, Galadriel had called him to her rooms. She had bade him sit down, and had placed a small flask, filled with liquid light into his hands. He had frowned, feeling the heat emanating from it and he had looked at Galadriel questioningly.
Galadriel had smiled knowingly, saying, “This light will illuminate the descending darkness which you will face shortly. It will consume the shadow and leave only light in its wake. Guard it carefully, Rumil. You will know when the time comes to put it to good use.”
Rumil now uncovered the glass flask and studied it. The light shone brightly, casting a sparkle onto the walls.
Éomer stirred from his sleep, but his eyes remained closed a little longer. His first action was to make sure Haldir was close, and his hands searched for his lover’s. Encountering soft and warm skin, he curled his fingers around it.
An amused chuckle escaped Rumil’s lips. “Open your eyes. I am not my brother,” he quipped in a light tone. He regretted his teasing when Éomer snatched back his hand and pushed himself into a sitting position, staring at him with dark, haunted eyes. “Haldir will return within the hour,” Rumil said reassuringly.
Éomer forced himself to calm down, recognizing Rumil, but still wished Haldir had never left. He felt strangely vulnerable facing Rumil, who was practically a stranger to him.
Éomer pushed himself to his feet and steadied himself by resting a hand against the wall. His face stung from where the fingernails had scratched open his face and the weakness he was experiencing unnerved him. He didn’t like feeling weak. “Where did Haldir go?” He wanted the Elf closely.
“Haldir and Orophin joined Gamling to find the one controlling this shadow.” Rumil slid the flask back into his pocket and studied the Man, who looked confused and exhausted. When their eyes met, Rumil was taken aback, seeing a fierce expression in those hazel eyes. Éomer was a born fighter, a survivor, and no shadow from his past would destroy him.
“Then we will join them as well. I refuse to be locked up in my own rooms.” Éomer walked over to his desk and collected his sword. “If Grima is behind this then I want his head.”
Rumil rose from the chair and walked over to Éomer. “I promised Haldir I would guard you with my life. I cannot allow you to leave these rooms.” Rumil’s features contorted momentarily, seeing the determined expression in Éomer’s eyes. “I am sworn to keep you alive, and I won’t forsake my brother or you.”
A cunning expression appeared in Éomer’s eyes. “Then join me on my search, but do not try to lock me up in my rooms. I will allow you to stay at my side, but I will not have you stop me. This is something I must do. This snake has haunted my steps for much too long.”
Rumil considered making one more attempt at changing Éomer’s thoughts, but the expression in the Man’s eyes told him that Éomer was determined to see this through. “I will stay close to you then.”
“Do as you please,” mumbled Éomer absentmindedly. “But do not get in my way.” He was already trying to think of a place where Grima could be hiding. The moment Haldir had mentioned the shadow he had realized that Grima was near. The snake had probably never left for Isengard, sneaking back in and using the powers Saruman had given him to control Théoden to create this shadow. Grima had to be close, controlling it while he hid in darkness.
Rumil was surprised to hear Éomer’s intense tone. This Man was driven by personal demons, and he wished Haldir had fully confided in him. At least then he would know what he was dealing with. Grima had hurt Éomer when he was a child, that much Haldir had revealed, but in what way had Grima hurt the Man? Éomer must have suffered terribly to be still affected by it.
“Where are we going?” Rumil asked, following Éomer into the corridor.
“To the passageways beneath the keep. Most of the women and children hid there during the attack. It is the perfect place for Grima to hide.” Éomer purposefully strode through the corridor and descended the stairs that would take him underground.
Rumil followed quickly, disliking the idea of going after Grima on their own. “We should search for Haldir and join him. We should not go after Grima without Haldir knowing about our whereabouts.” Something dark simmered in Éomer’s eyes and Rumil took a step away from him, startled at the anger and pain in the hazel orbs. “What did he do to you?”
“You do not need to know.” Suddenly the dark gleam disappeared from Éomer’s eyes and the Man sighed tiredly. “I do not want you to know. It is bad enough Haldir knows.”
Rumil finally managed to label one of the raging emotions on Éomer’s face. It was shame. Gathering his courage, he ignored the tormented expression in Éomer’s eyes and walked up to him. Acting instinctively, he placed a hand loosely on Éomer’s arm. Noticing the violent flinch that followed, he realized Éomer had been hurt physically in the past. Had Grima beaten Éomer as a child? But would that still affect Éomer after so many years? It had to be something else.
“Do not place yourself in danger. You might not care about your own life, but my brother’s survival depends on you staying alive and healthy.” Rumil finally saw understanding in Éomer’s eyes and the Man wavered in his steps.
“You would rather seek out Haldir and join him?” Rumil was right; he had to be careful. Haldir depended on him.
“Aye, that would be the best course of action. By going after Grima you might be doing exactly what he wants. Who knows what that vile creature has planned for you?” Rumil felt relieved now that Éomer had halted in his tracks. “Let us not venture farther beneath the ground, and seek out Haldir instead.”
“You are right,” admitted Éomer reluctantly, turning to face the Elf. “I acted rashly and did not consider the consequences of my actions.”
Rumil smiled forgivingly. “I do not know how badly Grima hurt you, but it is obvious that you are still hurting. It is understandable that your emotions got the better of you. Do not fret about it.”
Éomer smiled hesitantly at Rumil, wondering about the change in the Elf. At his arrival, Rumil had been displeased at finding Haldir bound to a Man. Had that really changed? Looking up the stairs, his eyes narrowed, finding the heavy oak door moving. Just before it banged shut, he saw a shadowed hand push it closed.
Rumil immediately spun around at hearing the lock click. He rushed up the stairs and pushed at the door, trying to open it. “We are locked in.”
“Grima is behind this.” His instincts told him his old nemesis was close. Shivers traveled down his spine, making him draw his sword. “He is close. He has set us up.”
Rumil nodded slowly. The fingers of his right hand closed around the hilt of his dagger, while his left reached for Galadriel’s gift. He wanted to keep the flask hidden as long as possible, not wanting Grima to know about their secret weapon.
Éomer moved a little closer to Rumil, determined to make sure the Elf didn’t end up hurt because of him. “Grima wants –me-. Rumil, you should stay here while I venture into the dark corridors. Grima will leave you alone when you are not close to me.”
Rumil shook his head. “Nay, I vowed to protect you and I always keep my word! I will not desert you now!”
Éomer sighed, resigned, wishing Rumil wasn’t this eager to protect him. /I can take care of myself, and I do not want Rumil to die because of me./ Reluctantly, Éomer signaled for Rumil to follow him as he descended the stairs. The dark earth swallowed them when the weak light faded, erasing their presence.
Gamling felt frustrated now that they had failed to find even the slightest proof that Grima was close. “He must be somewhere!”
Haldir’s eyes narrowed, feeling irritated as well. “Think, Gamling, where would Grima hide?”
Gamling inclined his head. “We have searched most of the keep.”
“What about hidden passageways? Are they any caves beneath the keep?” asked Orophin, trying to think along.
Gamling suddenly nodded. “Of course! Why did I not think of them before? There are a number of caves underground. When Saruman’s army attacked we took the women and children there! It is the perfect place for Grima to hide; cold and dark!”
Haldir glared at the steward. “And you only remember now? We must hurry!” He started to march down the corridor, but halted when a cold fist wrapped itself around his heart, squeezing it hard. Leaning heavily against the wall, he tried to calm down his suddenly wheezing breathing.
“Brother, what is wrong?” Orophin folded an arm around Haldir’s waist. “Talk to me! Your behavior worries me!”
Haldir steadied his breathing and managed to calm down his thundering heart. “Éomer is in danger.”
“But Rumil and Éomer are in his rooms,” said Gamling, worried.
“We must check on them!” Haldir started to run down the corridor, ignoring the burning ache in his chest. The bond that existed between them was weakening, and he could feel Éomer slip away from him. Was that because Éomer was getting further away, or because of the shadow and Grima? Probably both.
Orophin and Gamling followed Haldir closely. When the Guardian reached and opened the door to Éomer’s rooms, all three of them stopped dead in their tracks, finding the room empty.
“He cannot be gone,” whispered Haldir, shaken.
Orophin cursed Rumil for letting Éomer slip away. “Brother, you mentioned a bond between Éomer and you. Is it still there?”
Haldir nodded absentmindedly. “But it is weakening.”
“Then we must act quickly.” Gamling stepped in front of Haldir and made eye contact with the Elf. “We must venture beneath the keep and seek out the snake.”
“Grima will die a slow death,” vowed Haldir in a venomous tone. “Lead on, Gamling. We cannot waste any more time.”
Gamling immediately guided them toward the stairs that would take them to the underground caves, but cursed loudly at finding the door locked tightly.
Haldir growled softly, sensing how evil closed in on his mate and drew his sword. “We must force this door open!”
“Let me try!” Orophin, who had briefly disappeared, now returned, carrying a heavy axe. “This should work.” Swinging it, he let it crash into the door, close to the lock.
“Try again!” Haldir’s hands were clammy and his sword almost slipped from the sweaty palms. Closing his fingers firmly around the hilt, he gritted his teeth and watched how the axe finally shattered the lock. Metal and sparks exploded from the lock and the door opened when they set their shoulders against it, pushing it ajar.
One by one, they slipped past and ran down the stairs. Haldir tried his best to ignore the chilling cold that was cruelly squeezing his heart, making it hard to stay on his feet. “He is still slipping.” By Elbereth, he couldn’t lose Éomer now that he realized how much the Man meant to him!
Grima stood hidden in the shadows of the darkness that spread throughout the cave. He had come here after Théoden had thrown him out and he had been hiding here ever since. Théoden was gone, had left to aid Gondor, but Éomer had remained, and he wanted to exact revenge on the man who had challenged him.
/My sweet, little whelp, you have forgotten your place. You are weak, and I will show you just how vulnerable you are. Once Théoden is dead, you will hand the throne of Rohan to me and serve me like you did in the past./
Saruman had promised him Éowyn and Éomer if he served the white wizard well, and he’d had several wet dreams just thinking about imposing his will on them. The promised reward had made him eager to manipulate Théoden, and Saruman had gained great influence in Rohan, but then Gandalf had ruined his plans. Gandalf had left, but Éomer was still here.
When Éomer had been a boy he’d had complete control over the child, scaring him to death by threatening to hurt his sister in similar ways. Éomer had believed his every word, and concerned as he was for his sister’s well-being, had never told Théoden what was going on in the King’s home. /You are mine now. This time I will make sure you never challenge me again./
Grima pressed himself against the stone walls and watched Éomer pass him by. He grinned; Éomer didn’t even know he was this close! But he worried about the Elf. /That one is not supposed to be here. I will take him out first./
Calling out to the shadows that shrouded the cave, he made contact with the evil that had been buried here for centuries. When he had agreed to serve Saruman, the white wizard had given him an enchanted jewel, which he had worn as a pendant for years. No one had ever noticed the magical artefact. Now it enabled him to command the shadows, which were closing in on Éomer and the Elf. /You will suffer for denying me, Éomer./
Rumil sensed the evil closing in on them first. His hand instinctively reached for Galadriel’s light, but he didn’t uncover it yet, wanting to use it to their advantage when they needed it most. “The evil one is close.”
Éomer shivered. “I do not need you to tell me that. I sense him as well.” Goose flesh had formed all over his body and the hair at the back of his neck stood rigid.
Even in the darkness, they made out the advancing shadows. Claws reached for them, and Éomer’s eyes widened when pain erupted in his arm where the shadow had touched him. Panting softly, he leaned against the wall, cradling his injured arm against his chest. “The darkness will swallow us.” He blamed himself for putting Rumil in danger. He should have insisted the Elf stayed at his rooms!
“Do not despair,” said Rumil sharply, finally uncovering Galadriel’s light. “We are not completely defenceless.”
Éomer gasped softly as a warm, bright light flowed through the cavern, forcing the shadows to retreat. In the corner of the formerly dark cave, his nemesis was revealed.
“It is you, snake!” Éomer’s heart beat wildly in his chest as fear and hate fought for dominance. He refused to give in to fear, and clung to his hate, drawing his sword and charging at Grima whilst Rumil kept the shadows in check.
“I hate you! You deserve to die for what you did to me.” Éomer’s voice shook with barely contained rage and hate. “You won’t escape again! King Théoden showed you mercy when you did not deserve it, and now I will right this wrong! You won’t ever hurt a child again!”
Grima clutched his pendant and held it protectively in front of him, commanding the shadows to attack Éomer, but the Elf’s light paralyzed his powers and he slowly began to realize how utterly helpless he was.
Éomer’s hate consumed him, keeping him from thinking straight. His sword shone in Galadriel’s light as it reached for Grima’s throat. Éomer acted instinctively, not allowing himself to feel afraid for a single moment, knowing it would be his downfall.
Grima opted for one last attack, using words to hurt Éomer. “My little whelp, draw in your claws. Did you forget who is master here? You will call me that again!”
Éomer was instantly propelled back into the past, hearing Grima’s pleased voice. He spat at Grima, reliving swallowing thick and acidic fluids, which had nearly choked him. “Nay! It is over now! I will never call you master again!”
Rumil’s gaze shifted from the shadows to Éomer, trying to warn the Man to be cautious, but he couldn’t risk paying too much attention to Éomer, as he needed to keep the darkness under control.
Rumil finally began to understand what had happened between Grima and Éomer. The vile, lust-filled expression in Grima’s sneaky eyes explained it all. He also understood why Haldir had held back, realizing how vulnerable Éomer would be once they knew of the Man’s suffering. /But brother, I wish you had told us! I would have insisted Éomer stayed in his rooms!/
Éomer’s eyes simmered with hate. The pain burning his arm was forgotten when the tip of his sword dipped beneath the pendant which Grima was still clutching. It must be important if Grima clung to it like that, and he wanted it removed from the snake’s person.
Grima released an infuriated scream when the enchanted pendant was torn from his neck. “Nooooo!” His hands clawed after the pendant, but it slid down Éomer’s sword and was now lost to him.
Éomer’s fingers closed over the pendant, staring at the black jewel inside the mithril frame. Instantly the shadows retreated from the cave, and a weak light shone from the ceiling where a beam of sunlight flowed through a crack into the cavern.
Rumil still held Galadriel’s light in front of him, wary that the shadows might return, but nothing happened.
Grima dropped to his knees and stared in shock at Éomer, who now towered over him. Realizing he had lost, he raised his arms in pleading. “Mercy! Have mercy on me! Saruman clouded my mind!”
Éomer bared his teeth and growled; his sword resting against Grima’s throat. Ending the snake’s life had never been this easy, but a sense of intense regret and sadness now washed over him. Grima crouched in front of him and Éomer found it hard to believe he had ever feared the pitiful excuse for a man.
His hand, holding the sword, began to tremble as more memories resurfaced. He had only been a boy when Grima had used him to satisfy his perverse needs. Suddenly his strength deserted him, as the small child, whom he had kept buried inside his soul for so many years, cried out in pain. The sword slipped from his hand and crashed hard onto the stone floor.
Haldir’s heart missed a beat, seeing Éomer’s sword drop onto the floor. He had to prevent Grima from grabbing the weapon and turning the tables on Éomer. His mate swayed on his feet and the hazel eyes filled with unshed tears. Memories had to be rushing in on Éomer, now that he finally faced his tormentor.
He didn’t allow himself time to wonder about the light Rumil was holding in his hand and quickly kicked the sword out of Grima’s reach. Hate filled eyes glared at him when he placed his dagger at the snake’s throat. “Now you will pay for your foul deeds, worm,” he hissed, hate dripping from his tongue.
Éomer stared at Haldir in disbelief. Where had the Elf come from? “I— ” Words deserted him as the hurting boy inside him wanted to run away so he didn’t have to face Grima, but the man he had become insisted they faced their nemesis together.
“Kill me!” snarled Grima unexpectedly. “Kill me and you will become me. You are no better than me if you kill me!”
Éomer flinched as Grima’s words reached him. The child turned away in fear, whilst the man stared at Grima, realizing there was some truth in those words. Killing Grima meant giving in to the darkness and feeding it. No matter how much he wanted to make Grima pay for the pain the snake had caused him, he didn’t want to give Grima the satisfaction of seeing him fall into shadow. “Haldir…” His voice faded slowly.
“Just give the word and I will end the worm’s life. This snake has lost its venomous teeth!” Haldir’s tone revealed utter disgust. He risked one look at his mate and saw the raw pain in those swimming orbs. Hearing Grima taunt Éomer to end his life once more, he realized what was happening. “Rumil, take Éomer back to his rooms whilst I end this worm’s life.”
Éomer’s anguished eyes met Haldir’s, begging his mate to do what he could not. During his childhood Grima’s vile touch had nearly pushed him into darkness, and he couldn’t give in to it now.
Haldir nodded once. “Leave him to me. I will make him suffer. His death will be slow and painful.”
Éomer swallowed hard. “Do it.” Turning around he allowed Rumil to fold an arm around his waist, leaning into the Elf for support. Once he was well out of Grima’s sight he finally released the tears that had been building.
Rumil supported a shaky Éomer whilst climbing the stairs, and the Man froze briefly, hearing Grima’s horrified wail. Rumil had a good idea what Haldir had done. “Are you sure you do not want to see the worm die?”
“I do not want him to haunt me any longer. Knowing he is dead will help me deal with the past, but – ”
“I understand,” soothed Rumil. “The time has come to look toward the future -- and your tormenter has no place in it.”
Éomer locked eyes with Rumil, realizing the Elf had figured out what Grima had done to him in the past, but found it mattered little now that Grima’s screams were finally dying away. He allowed Rumil to guide him back to his rooms and collapsed on the bed, staring at the floor and hoping Haldir would join him shortly.
Haldir felt an immense sense of satisfaction as his knife cut through warm flesh, removing Grima’s genitalia and watching the man squirm in agony. “You will never again hurt a child.”
Gamling’s hands turned into fists, wishing he’d had the satisfaction of castrating Grima himself. He watched with grim satisfaction as a pool of blood formed beneath Grima, while the man begged for his life. One look at Haldir’s face told Gamling that the Elf was determined to end this for once and for all.
Complete silence descended onto them as they watched Grima slowly bleed to death. Haldir’s teeth were bared and his eyes never left Grima’s, relishing the fact that the snake was in excruciating pain.
Grima’s eyes widened as death finally approached. His body was now as cold as ice and his bleak eyes turned to Haldir, accusation in them.
Haldir’s glare was filled with hate. As Grima finally released his last breath, Haldir growled softly. His mate had been avenged and now he should return to Éomer’s side.
Orophin quickly followed his brother. Realization had dawned when Haldir had castrated Grima. By Elbereth, no wonder Haldir had been hesitant to confide in them! Éomer would want his secret kept!
No longer sparing Grima’s corpse a look, Haldir turned and left the cave, eager to be reunited with his mate.
Gamling took a step closer toward Grima and spat on the corpse. Then he turned away from it in silence, relieved that the nightmare had come to an end. Grima had finally received what he deserved.
Beta read by Ilye, thanks!
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