The Rhunland Bride.

A sequel to Moonlight and Shadow, by SteerpikeSister

AN: please read "Moonlight and Shadow" before reading this story, as it begins where M&S left off, and the following events might be confusing. This Story is Dedicated to WarLady, Vereena, and all the other Grimafans, and the Livejournal communities "Leechcraft", "Grimafans", and the wonderful Grimacounsellor himself.

Chapter one

The woman with hair the colour of moonlight swayed in the breeze, moving in tune with the tree she clung to, watching the distant procession, marked by its plume of red smoke that showed clearly through the dense pine forest. The breeze was strong and shook the branches that she held on to, but she went with the flow of the wind, feeling liberated out of sight of the villagers below.
"What cans't thou see, Lass?" came the shout from the gruff man below her, industriously heaving stone blocks around as if they weighed nothing.
"They're about a mile away, Mogray!" She shouted before climbing down the tree that had served her as a crows-nest. She dropped the last few feet to the ground and landed cat-like on the moist earth just in time to see her betrothed striding towards her from the village. His grey cloak swirled around him, whipped by the wind, like his long dark hair, into snake like tendrils that danced in the breeze. His heavy lidded eyes were fixed upon her own, and Eowyn could not help the shiver she felt at his strident approach. He seemed to glide like a predatory animal, an image that was not helped by his feral expression, his leonine sneer.
The Villager who had asked her to climb the tree stood beside her laughing.
"Here comes Grimaulkin, Lass. Thou should not let him order thee about as he wishes. Give him some trouble, Lass. Let him know what he's in for in marrying thee!" Mogray chuckled, amused by the frequent arguments the couple had, looking to incite them to more entertainment.
"Eowyn! Were you climbing trees again? And what on earth are you wearing?" he said, his strange grey and white eyes flashing with pretended anger, his lips twisted trying not to smile at her. Eowyn sniffed; She knew he was referring to the doeskin leggings she wore under her linen tunic. She was helping the builders, and it was not as if anyone cared what she wore here. In her homeland she was a noble lady, but here she was just Eowyn, soon to be the Wife of the Village Healer. The Erhundai were a strange, insular folk, but had taken to her well, and Eowyn felt at home amongst them as if she had been born to them.
"If I am to be of use I must be dressed appropriately, my love. Mogray suggested it, so if you must complain then take your grievances to him. If you want to take my place you are more than welcome." She said, knowing full well what his reply would be.
"I am much too busy. The amount of people craving my attention increases by the hour, even in such a small settlement such as this." He said grumpily before taking her hand and kissing it gently. As always, the touch of his lips on her skin made her shiver, and looked into his eyes to see the knowledge of this fact in his smile. Even the smallest touch had this effect on her, and her betrothed knew this and took advantage of it at every opportunity.
"When are Thalie and her husband due to arrive? I have everything prepared for them." Grima asked. Eowyn's former handmaid had married her Elven husband the previous year, and had resided in Esgaroth until a few months previously when Grima had suggested that Eowyn might like to invite them to come to Vashkah village in the Rhunland to attend Eowyn for her Marriage. The message, sent via Legolas, was received enthusiastically, and Thalie, Dathomir and their half-elf baby girl had begun their journey from the city upon the Long Lake to the village by the Inland Sea the red smoke that Eowyn had seen from the forest canopy had been their signal, so she told Grima that they should be in the Village within the hour.
"Well then," Grima said thoughtfully, "Should you not hasten to dress as befits your station for their arrival? It would not do for your former servant to appear more noble than the Lady of Rohan, would it?" Grima smiled at his beautiful bride-to-be, knowing without a doubt that were she dressed in dirty rags she would still be the most beautiful lady in the land.
"Thalie knows full well that I am a Shieldmaiden, and dress as I think fit for the occasion," she said, pouting. "But on this occasion I yield to your reasoning." She said happily, and ran back to the settlement, waving to Grima and Mogray as she ran, her heart light with excitement at the impending meeting with one of the few mortals, apart from her beloved Grima, who understood her.

Eowyn dressed quickly, choosing an emerald green gown with a silver and turquoise bodice, and the long, draping sleeves that marked her out as a Noble of Rohan. As the Princess of the Realm, she had worn many beautiful dresses and been draped in expensive jewellery, but during the months she had lived in Vashkah she had taken to making her own clothes, as those she had brought with her stood out amongst the villagers own animal skin and rough homespun cloth. She had given away quite a few of her gowns to the young girls who had never owned anything so pretty before, and had came up with the idea of dying their plain white linen with berry juice to give them some colour at least, but there was one dress that she had never worn before, that she had packed to take from Edoras many months before, and with reason. It was white satin, decorated with pale green ribbon and dripped pearls, its neckline was the lowest she had dreamed of, and the sleeves would trail on the ground behind her. It would be her wedding dress. She glanced at it as she always did while dressing, feeling a little thrill for the day when she would wear it three months hence.
As she brushed her hair, Eowyn reflected upon her situation. She had been living in Vashkah for some months now, and had not told her brother or anyone from her homeland that she would soon marry the man they had declared a traitor and banished from Rohan. She had sent a message to her Brother-King Eomer through the Kingsman Mirghast that she was to marry "Lord Greymist", a Rhunland noble, and that he was not to worry about her. This was true, as Grima was known here as Grimaulkin Greymist, his true name, but she still felt unhappy about the untruth. As much as she loved her brother, she did not think he would trouble himself about his wayward sister, not while he had a country of his own to reign over. Mirghast had returned to Vashkah a month before, bearing a message of goodwill for Eowyn and her chosen husband, not even enquiring as to the outcome of her mission to find Wormtongue. No doubt he was relived that she had finally "Settled Down".
Mirghast had lingered in the village since his return and had joined the men, newly returned from Mordor, in rebuilding the village. He had been useful, but Eowyn suspected that he remained intent on watching over her, and still seemed distrustful of Grima's intentions toward the Lady. Legolas, her other travelling companion, had determined the sincerity of Grima's words with his Elven senses, and left to attend his duties in Mirkwood, but had promised to return with Thalie and Dathomir to lead them to Vashkah and stay for the wedding.
The Wedding loomed large in Eowyn's thoughts, as ever. Months away yet, but still hovering in the back of her mind, it drew her attention away from everyday things for as long as she had nothing to do. It still seemed unreal to her that Grima, who loved her, and she who had but newly discovered her heart, were to be united in the autumn. From the time they had announced their intentions, Eowyn and Grima had had only a few moments alone together, as was appropriate, but the nature of those moments caused her to worry. She had expected, given the violence of his passion that he would at least have kissed her, held her, done something to express his love, but he had not. He had smiled, which made her smile at him, and they had talked, which she had enjoyed, but the distance between them was puzzling. She was aware at the impropriety of the actions she had expected, but was also aware that the stringent chaperonage that they had been subject to was designed to prevent the ruin of the Lady to be wed, but felt that it did not apply to Her, or to Grima. After all, she was nearly twenty- five summers old, and he more than ten summers older, and unlikely to betray her!
Eowyn sighed heavily. As usual her thoughts had led her nowhere, and now she was late to meet the long expected party.

By early that evening Thalie and her family had settled into the cottage Grima had prepared for them. As the villagers numbered so few, there were many empty dwellings suited to housing any who cared to stay. As she had expected, Grima had absented himself from the vicinity, as Thalie would no doubt recognise him as her country's traitorous counsellor, leaving Eowyn to inform her of the change in his favour. After all, they had discussed the situation at length and come to the conclusion that as a Princess of the country he had wronged, Eowyn herself was able to pardon him. She had done this immediately, laughing all the while.
Eowyn sat with Thalie as she rocked her child to sleep, the little child they had named Sueilila, meaning "Wood Star" and after talking with her at length about her journey and other concerns, Eowyn eventually felt bold enough to broach the subject of who it was she intended to marry.
"Thalie...there is something I must tell you." She said, frowning. Not for the first time she wished she had some of Grima's wit with words as she thought how best to explain her situation.
"Whatever could that be, Lady? Is something wrong?" the rose-cheeked girl asked, her youth still evident despite the care of the child in the rocker at her side. Thalie had served Eowyn longer than any other, most giving up after a time; her temper had been so ungovernable.
"I must ask you to keep a secret, Thalie. What I have to say will shock you, but I ask that you reserve judgement, but keep this information to yourself no matter what." She said earnestly.
Thalie smiled happily. She liked secrets, and was pleased that her former mistress had chosen to confide in her. She had immediately noticed the change in her former Mistress, and was eager to find out what had caused it.
"Very well. What is it?" she said, trying not to seem too interested.
"My Betrothed...is...someone we have both previously met...."she said hesitantly. If she could not tell her former handmaid, how could she ever tell her Brother?
"Yes?" Thalie urged her to continue.
"He is...oh, by all the stars...He is Grima, Thalie...Wormtongue." She said, searching the younger woman's face for her reaction.
"By the stars indeed...Wormtongue? Then he wasn't dead? But...how?" she replied brokenly, her eyes wide.
"He survived, and escaped, and came here...it's a long story that I will tell you in due course. I love him, Thalie. We are going to be married." She said firmly.
Thalie studied her Former mistress's expression intently. What she saw was all the confirmation she needed. Eowyn glowed, her skin was fresh and clear, her gestures light and animated, her manner changed so much from the cold and undemonstrative ways she had displayed in Rohan. Eowyn was in love. There was a light behind her eyes that Thalie had never seen before. But...Wormtongue? Thalie wondered what spell he had cast over the noble Lady, for she knew him to be capable of such evil. How could she love such a man? It was very strange to her.
"Please, I know that you do not understand my love for Grima, but talk to him tonight, at the feast. He has changed so much in so short a time!" Eowyn asked the young woman earnestly.
"Very well." She replied thoughtfully, not at all sure she would find any man, let alone the man who betrayed her country, worthy of her Lady's love.

That night a feast was held for the entire village, to honour their guests, and to begin the ritual of the three months for Grimaulkin and his Eowyn. An old Erhundai tradition that Grima insisted they endure, it meant that they could not be alone with each other until they were married, and each had to have a friend with them at all times. Eowyn was unsure as to why Grima was so reticent about the notion of being alone with the women he was to marry, but acquiesced to his request as she thought wise. Grima had asked Mirghast to be his watcher, an unusual alliance, Eowyn thought for the tow seemed to have no love lost between them, but she reasoned with herself, if he who so distrusted her Betrothed could satisfy himself that Grima's intentions were true, then maybe the rest of the world could too. Eowyn had asked the greatly flattered Thalie, who insisted that they stay in the same cottage together until the Three months was over. Thalie took this opportunity, as Eowyn had suggested, to study Grima, and see if he had indeed changed as much as Eowyn insisted he had. In truth, what she saw caused her great surprise, as Grima was no longer the hunched, thin and angular man he had been, but seemed to resemble a warrior with his broadened shoulders, his height, and his waist-length mantle of sleek inky hair. His pale skin made him seem ethereal, as did the laughter visible in his strange milky eyes. He was almost unrecognisable, an example of what hard work and simple life could do. Thalie covertly observed Grima all that night, and after a time was satisfied. His love for Eowyn, as evident as it had ever been, showed itself in the adoring looks and preferential treatment he gave her, and in her blushes and acceptance of his emotional tribute. Indeed, Thalie thought...they have both changed each other.

It was later that night when the Messenger arrived, when the children had been put to bed, and Eowyn sat with Thalie while the elders told tales around the fire. Legolas and Mirghast, who had heard his approach and set out to intercept his course, stopped the hooded figure as he hurried along the dirt track. Upon identifying him as an Erhundai, he was escorted into the circle of firelight to give his message to the Elders "I come from Askantai. The high elders have been searching for anyone who bears the old Kings line. Do any here yet stand for Old Ogrem?" Grama Grawly, the Eldest of the Villagers looked the visitor over. He wore the russet cloak of the Old King's house, and spoke with the accent of the askantian court. Even so, Grama was not immediately inclined to believe him. She spoke in the Rhunland Speech; "Vash grahagr spanz outré vasokah?" (What is your house to mine?) The messenger replied, "Nasha sohka ni minen mah vasti. Nasami mynuen!" (No more than mine to yours. I speak truth!) Grama nodded. He was true. "Let him speak." She told the villagers who watched interestedly. "Why do you search for the King's Line?" the old woman asked. "Ogrem is dead. His remains were found in Mordor. We have no King." He said succinctly.

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SteerpikeSister