Part One

Come to me in the darkness and linger with me there

Offer me your freedom and give to me your cares

To protect you, I must destroy you

To gain you, I must lose you

To touch you, I must take you

Come to me in the darkness and linger with me there


The Order of Execution

The order for the execution of The Third Marshall of Rohan was signed in the king's own hand. The Lord of the Mark's signature was the scratchy scribble of an illiterate man who has been taught to sign his name, but does not comprehend the full meaning of the letters he forms. He inserts or removes extra loops until just the general impression of the name remains. The signature started on the line then drooped through the middle of it, cramping for space against the edge of the paper as though the writer had fallen asleep halfway through signing. To other illiterate men, the signature looked like the final flourish of an impressive legal document. To the few in court that could read, it was a child's scribbling. No one doubted that the signature was authentic.

This order was tacked outside of the high hall where all who passed by the Meduseld could view it. The impending execution of the Third Marshall provoked much muttering and speculation in the sometimes sleepy and always insular villages of Rohan. Most of the gossipers expected that clemency would be granted since the king was the uncle and guardian of the Third Marshall. It was deemed unlikely that the king would wish to execute his only remaining heir; his true son had just died tragically young. True, the condemned had a sister, but the women of Rohan did not inherit lands or titles.

Most likely, the villagers whispered in their dark huts over their simple dinners, the king was merely trying to teach the Third Marshall a firm lesson about the perils of insubordination. When the moment came, he would intervene. The death sentence must be intended for show, and the people resolved to attend the show. No one wanted to miss the dramatic moment when the king of Rohan halted the execution of his nephew with a sweep of his tremulous hand. Perhaps the Third Marshall would weep and fall to his king's feet in repentance. Likely these events would be made into a stirring song. As the workers, farmers, ranchers, soldiers, wives, and daughters of Rohan reflected on this throughout their daily routines, they began to hum snatches of old heroic songs in anticipation of the historic deeds that they would shortly witness.

But few who still remained in the Meduseld doubted that the execution would be carried out to its grisly conclusion. For the king was not himself these days, and had not been for many months. When the courtiers looked at the execution order, their eyes swept above the childish signature to the rest of the document drafted in a cramped, but clear hand with a few ink smudges bordering the paper. Most of the court members could read little more than their rustic counterparts, but they recognized the tight, efficient handwriting as belonging to the king's counselor. The counselor, they knew, was the real power behind the throne. The last few months, the king's will seemed to have entirely shriveled away, through sorcery or through old age. A glance at the senile scrawl at the bottom of the legible print convinced the courtiers that the execution order came from Grima Wormtongue, not the king of Rohan.

Those who were so perceptive knew that Grima would not stay his hand at the last moment, not for the condemned of all people. The Third Marshall and the counselor had loathed each other from childhood and a dark, vengeful man like Wormtongue would not miss his opportunity to rid himself of a powerful foe and a rival voice in the king's ear. While the population of Rohan watched awaiting a pardon with open mouths, while the feeble king stared blankly on, no counter-order would be given and the headsman's ax would fall. The Third Marshall's head would roll onto the grass and his lifeblood would soak into the plains of Rohan.

A line of script scrawled immediately above the king's signature fixed the date and time of the execution for three days later at sunrise.

A/N: Please review and let me know what you thought. The style of this prologue is not entirely representative of the rest of the fic, this was just an introduction to set the tone. I hope it was epic enough. The next chapter is longer and more detailed, and introduces us to the fair princess. Our leading man will also appear shortly.

Though this is a WIP, I am committed to finishing it (already have 10,000 words) and I will be updating once a week regularly. I hope you will enjoy it.