My hiatus from writing has been far too long, friends. I hope to be back with a vengeance now, and thanks to all who have waited so patiently. Please encourage me with reviews. ;)

She could feel his eyes upon her, searching, probing, taking in every inch of her. It was a palpable intrusion, like hands upon her, yet it was only a look. Even in a room full of courtiers, of soldiers and statesmen, he was the only one in her mind and she knew he was watching her, every moment.

Eowyn suppressed a shiver, refusing the urge to look over at Grima, who was tucked against the king's throne, wrapped in his dark sable cloak against the evening's chill. But she knew his gaze was upon her.

She wondered, sometimes, what really lay in his heart. When she sat at the side of the king, she could feel Grima's presence behind the throne, the power of his will palpable in the silence of the court. Despite his slight stature, there was strength in him, a confidence and pride that Eowyn could not explain. Shunned by many, feared by most, he still had a mien of utter belief in what he was doing, and he did not care a whit for what people thought, or what they may feel because of his actions. For that, some small part of Eowyn envied him. So often, she felt conflicted, unable to decide on a course for fear of hurting someone, of angering or alienating them. To be free of those feelings sometimes seemed a boon, and was the one thing about Grima that she wondered about.

In the rare moments when Grima caught her alone, the feeling of trapped terror was nearly overwhelming for Eowyn. She felt that her thoughts were naked before him, that he knew her darkest fears. She also knew that he would not hesitate to use those fears to break her, to make her submit to him. What frightened her more were the moments when she met his pale eyes and asked herself if it was her duty to give herself to him. If she bowed to his will, would he release the king from his web? Would her sacrifice save her people? Could she live with the results of that sacrifice?

Eowyn's thoughts were drawn suddenly back to the present as the scrape of booted feet signaled the end of the audience. She watched with a detached gaze as the courtiers exited the hall, whispering amongst themselves. She could see the fear in their faces, the disbelief at what their strong king had become, the concern for what the future held. She smoothed her dress and breathed a sigh that seemed dredged from her toes. The afternoon had drifted into evening as the court squabbled and shouted, trying in desperation to find a solution to the encroaching threat on their borders. The king was no help, sitting silent and withered, only occasionally whispering in Grima's ear. Passing a hand over her eyes, Eowyn forced herself to stand, and watched as the king's handsmen tucked their hands under his elbows and walked him out toward his antechamber.

Eowyn drifted aimlessly across the hall, not wishing to return to her bower. The nights there seemed interminable, spent watching the moon skate its way slowly across the sky. She stopped and ran her fingers over one of the huge tapestries that had hung for long years in the great hall. Though faded from time, their woven histories were still clear if one took the time to read them. There were moments when she felt that she could lose herself in their stories, if she could force herself to let go of the present. She could drift back through the years to the time before her parents' parents, back to the days when Rohan was strong and her people were proud.

Eowyn started as she caught a movement out of the corner of her eye, but she managed to square her shoulders against the surprise and turn to face the intruder. Grima stood before her, cloaked in the shadows, his hooded eyes watching her like a bird of prey. His face belied no expression but there was emotion behind his gaze, and Eowyn could not read it. It made her more nervous.

"Why do you linger here, my lady? The evening has fallen, and still you stand alone." Grima's voice was soft, little more than a buttery whisper. Eowyn suppressed a shiver, wrapping her arms across her chest and gripping her shoulders. Grima's penetrating gaze chilled her.

Before she could stop him, Grima swept out of his cloak and moved to place it upon her shoulders. She dodged, knocking his hands away with a mixture of anger, disgust, and fear. "Do not dare touch me," she hissed. "You presume far too much."

If Eowyn had looked closely, she would have seen pain flash through Grima's eyes, but he masked it by raising his chin imperiously and sullenly folding the cloak over his arm. "As you wish." His mouth pursed and he paused for a moment, gathering his thoughts. "As always, cold and unhappy," he finally said, keeping the anger out of his voice. Eowyn turned and stared at him, her own rage barely concealed.

"And why shouldn't I be, Worm?" Eowyn spat. It took all Grima's willpower not to flinch at the hate in her voice. "My country is under siege, my brother is exiled, and my uncle is a withered shell. What warmth, what joy should I be finding in that?"

"You need not suffer alone, my lady." Grima's eyes didn't leave her face, and once again Eowyn couldn't help but feel that she was laid bare before his gaze. "Not all problems may be solved, but your heart may find some ease if you could share the cares that weigh so heavily upon you. And you might find that I could help to solve some of the ills which burden your mind."

"I've long thought you to be the cause of these ills, Worm. And I know what you would propose. My reply is, and always will be, this. Unless you can save my people from ruin, can restore my uncle to health and mind, and bring my brother home, I will never give you what you desire." Eowyn leaned closer to glare directly into Grima's eyes. She did not notice the tremble in his lower lip, nor the new light behind his eyes as she neared him. "You cannot give me the things that I desire, and you cannot lift any burden from my heart. And you will not get what you want. Remember your place, Wormtongue."

Eowyn turned quickly, lifting her chin and forcing her body into the regal posture her mother had taught her as a young girl, and stalked quickly across the hall. She did not deign to look back, nor did she hear Grima's whispered words as she departed.

"Do not be so sure of my place, Lady Eowyn. And do not be so sure that I will not get what I desire."