(Prompted by thestraggletag on Tumblr. She wanted Eowyn to seek Grima's help in proving that Shieldmaidens are an important part of Rohan's cultural history, and she wanted him to demand a kiss as a prize. This is what came forth.)
There had never been a door so intimidating as the door to Gríma's chambers.
True, the door was much the same as any other door in Meduseld. It was the same sturdy wood and iron hinges as its twins within the hall; but quite unlike those other doors, Gríma's had guards posted on either side, with locks and bars to keep out any intruders who might manage to slip past the guards. And somehow, his door seemed larger, darker, thrown deeper into shadow. He certainly kept no torches near it, as if fearing that the light would expose some weakness in the door that the darkness could obscure.
Standing before it, Éowyn felt very small, and very angry. Who was Gríma, to deserve extra protection, to intimidate and frighten guests before they ever met him face to face? Was it not the king's protection Gríma should be seeing to, instead of his own?
Éowyn bit her lip, swallowed her pride, and took a few steps forward. "Is he within?" she asked, raising her chin and staring coldly at the first guard.
The guard hardly glanced at her. "He is," he said. "Shall I announce you, Lady Éowyn?"
She hesitated. Should he? She could turn back now and no one would question it. There would be no need for this embarrassing favor, no need for her to face her uncle's counsellor alone. But then what would she tell her brother, her cousin, her uncle? What would she say when they demanded to know why she clung to her childish fantasies of battle and war? What could she say, without Gríma's help, that would convince them?
There was no time to run. The door opened before she could make up her mind.
"My lady," said Gríma from the shadows, voice a buttery purr. "What a pleasant surprise. What is it you require of your most humble counsellor?"
Éowyn clenched her fists. His very voice was enough to set her on edge. Nothing he said ever sounded sincere. "No need for such pleasantries, my lord," Éowyn said, pushing past him uninvited. "I do not intend to take up much of your time."
Gríma turned after her with a small frown. "Yes, please do come in," he said, mocking. Éowyn ignored him, quite distracted by the chambers themselves. She wasn't certain what she'd expected, but it certainly wasn't this: neatly regimented shelves of books on every wall, a perfectly clean desk with parchments stacked in perfect piles and quills laid out side by side with the sort of military precision her brother used to hang his swords. She approached the desk and lifted one of the quills, feeling Gríma's stare burn into her back. He was a surprising man, this counsellor; but she already knew his help would not come without a price, and she feared to hear what it was.
She turned back to him with a small sigh, turning the quill over in her fingers. "You have some knowledge of the lore of Rohan, as I understand it," she said, hardly daring to look at him.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw him dip his head. "I am well acquainted with the subject," he agreed, "But then, my lady, so are you. You have sung all the old songs and heard all the great tales told in the hall. What more could you hope to learn from me?"
Éowyn turned the quill a bit too quickly in her fingers, sending it flying to the floor. Embarrassed, she flushed and dove for it, quickly scooping it up and placing it haphazardly back on the desk. When she looked back to Gríma, she caught the tail end of his flinch. "As it happens," Éowyn said, cautiously, "There are certain stories that are not told so often any longer, and have not the historical facts to make them believable to – certain parties. I had hoped that you might provide some context for a few of the legends that might perhaps make them seem more – more – "
"Realistic?" Gríma arched both nonexistent brows, smiling thinly. "I do have many volumes of greater historical veracity that might be of use for such a need. But I should need to know which tale it is you seek to validate."
Eowyn's fingers twitched again. Irritated, she grabbed for something to still them – another of Gríma's quills. He followed its removal with cold, narrowed eyes, stiffening just a little as she turned it in her hands. He seemed awfully particular about their placement. Éowyn made a mental note of it. "I – I was hoping to find something about – well, about Shieldmaidens," she said, hardly daring to look at him.
"Ah," he said; and with that single sound, Éowyn knew she had been laid bare before him. Cringing, she slammed the second quill onto the desk, at an angle from all the others and messily crossing the first quill. The pleasure glittering in his eyes dimmed, but did not go out entirely.
"This is for your own personal research, is it?" he said, approaching the desk. He came to stand beside her, so close that the soft velvet of his cloak brushed against her arm. He removed one of the quills from its place and set it neatly beside the others, fussing with it until it was resting at precisely the same angle as the rest. "No," he corrected himself, before she could. "You mentioned certain parties. Your brother, I suppose; and your cousin as well, if I guess right."
Éowyn gritted her teeth. "Perhaps."
Gríma chuckled softly. "My lady, you shall find that I am quite unable to help you if I do not provide me with the details I need. What is it you seek to prove to them? Is there a specific Shieldmaiden you would have them acknowledge? Or do you hope to validate the existence of Shieldmaidens altogether? Or..." Here he paused, eyes sliding upward and piercing deeply into hers. "Is it rather that you would have them acknowledge your own right to be a Shieldmaiden, and bear arms and battle as they do?"
Éowyn broke the stare at once, swallowing hard. She had never been good at hiding things from anyone, and Gríma was the worst of all: he saw everything and knew everything about her and her hopes. And every day, Éowyn carried with her the knowledge that it was in his power to give her her dreams, or destroy them – now more so than ever.
"You know which," she said, unable to look at him.
Gríma clicked his tongue and stepped away, much to Eowyn's relief. "I am afraid you will not find either of your certain parties very receptive, my lady," he said. "They would see you kept safe from the dangers of war, no matter the cost."
"Safe," Éowyn spat. The word tasted bitter on her tongue. "Safe like my mother was, I suppose, left at home to wither away and mourn at her husband's death. Would they have me perish the same way, once they are dead and gone? Would they have me shrink and die here in this Golden Hall? Is that what they call safe?"
She bit down on her lip, struggling to catch her breath. She had said too much, far too much; if she had been bared before Gríma before, she was now stripped of flesh and blood under his eyes, so that the very core of her was open to him. She looked at him with wide eyes, hardly daring to read what was in his expression; but he was only looking at her with a great sadness, and something far deeper and stronger.
"There are many who do not understand what it is they do to you by keeping you chained," Gríma said softly, "And for that, I am heartily sorry." He half-smiled. "Do you know, the first time I saw you, you were in the streets of Edoras with a stick in your hand and your skirts around your ankles? You were battling some local beggar boys, I think. You gave them bread from the Golden Hall once you had beaten them." He sighed. "I doubt you would remember."
In fact Éowyn did remember, all too clearly; it was the first time she had seen him too, as he passed by on his black horse, swathed in dark furs and heavy golden chains around his neck. He had looked at her with eyes colder and bluer than the sky itself, and he had smiled mysteriously at her when she turned to look at him, as if he had seen something he liked very much and meant to have one day. At the time, she had thought he was mocking her and had taken an immediate dislike to him. Now she knew better; and the truth was perhaps more alarming than her first assumption had ever been.
"Grima," she burst forth suddenly, "If I mean anything to you – if you ever admired the child that I was in the streets that day, or the woman I am now – then you must help me."
Gríma lifted his chin, eyes narrowing. "Must," he repeated slowly. "Such a strong word, a forceful word. How very Rohirrim of you."
Éowyn took several steps towards him, seemingly not of her own will. "Life has not treated me gently, my lord," she said, "And my words in turn will never be gentle. I am sorry if I offend you – "
"Offend me?" Gríma laughed and stepped closer to her, closing the gap between them. "No, my lady, you rather delight me, despite your force and your idea of what it is to be ill-used." He stared into her face, and for a moment Éowyn forgot that he was barely taller than her, that he was the weaker of them both; for a moment, he loomed over her, swallowing her, overpowering her. "Do you know what it is you ask for – truly? It isn't like the songs. It isn't pretty battles and honorable, glorious deaths. Thousands of soldiers fall and are never spoken of again. Heads are hacked off, limbs lost, bodies crushed beneath horses and corpses. You will cover yourself in blood and gore, and perhaps never be remembered for all that. Is that what you want? Is that what you would have me give you? The right to a grisly death, with your guts in your hands and orcs tearing you to pieces to devour you?"
Éowyn clenched her jaw, and did not flinch back. "I know I cannot stay here and live," she said. "Is that not enough?"
For a moment, there was perfect stillness between them. Neither of them seemed to breathe, or move at all. And then Gríma sighed, and the stillness was broken. He turned from her slowly and shuffled to a shelf, where he removed a very old tome that it appeared to be nearly falling to pieces. He turned back and brought it to her reverently, his eyes downcast on the book. "This volume is very old and rare," he said, "But you will find it most useful to your purposes. It is a record written at the hand of Éorl himself in parts; and it is those parts I would advise you to reference. You will find them quickly enough, I deem." He placed the book gently in her hands. Éowyn held it as if it was a child, cradling it in her arms. "See that volume safely back to me," he said, wearily. "It is likely the last of its kind; and I will not take kindly to its ruin."
Éowyn nodded, barely able to force out her thanks. Bowing her head, she turned to flee his chambers, triumph singing in her veins.
She was almost to the door when he spoke again. "And Éowyn."
She turned back slowly, euphoria fading. "My lord?"
He smiled coldly. "I expect you will give me something in return for this kindness?"
Éowyn swallowed hard. "Whatever you ask, counsellor."
His smile widened. "Whatever I ask? Now there's a hefty promise. I like it. See that you keep it."
Éowyn didn't bother to nod or curtsy. She turned and fled his chambers as fast as her feet would carry her, her prize clutched tightly in her hands.
The book, she found, did not have its desired effect. In fact, it only seemed to produce in Théodred a rage the likes of which she had never before seen. "He put you up to this, didn't he?" Théodred had said, voice ringing in the rafters. "That filthy bastard will do anything to see this family ruined."
"He did not suggest it," Éowyn said, snatching the book away from Théodred before he could harm it. Gríma's words still hung heavy over her head. "I went to him to ask for the book."
"Went to him?" Éomer repeated. "Éowyn, that man is dangerous – far more dangerous than you can guess. To ask for his help – "
"What else would you have me do, when neither of you will listen?" she cried, grip tightening on the book. "This book is written in places in Éorl's own hand – does that mean nothing to you?"
"It means nothing when the one who told you this fable is an outsider," Théodred spat.
Éowyn nearly threw the book at him at that, but Éomer held her back. "Éowyn," he said, "It is not the book that concerns me. Mother charged me with the duty of protecting you long before she died, and I mean to keep my promises to her. Battle is not a safe place for you, no matter how capable with a sword you may be."
"Battle is not a safe place for you either," Éowyn retorted. "There are days, weeks, when I doubt that you are coming home. How do you think that feels to me? If I could just ride at your side – if I could be with you through the trials of battle and wilderness – "
"No," Éomer said, glowering. "No, Edoras is where you are safe, and Edoras is where you will stay."
Éowyn shook with both rage and sadness. "Do you think I want to see you die as father did?" she asked. "Do you think I want to die as mother did?"
Éomer whirled to face her, hands clenched into fists. "Do you think I want to lose you as I lost both our parents?" he shouted. "Would you have me lose everyone I love to this war and these monsters?"
There was for a moment a long silence. Finally, Éowyn dared to ask, "And what of me, brother? Would you have me lose you as well?"
He sighed. "No," he said. "I would that all of us might make it through this war alive. But given the choice, to willingly put you in danger or to keep you where I know you are most likely to survive, I would keep you safe."
"Then you leave no choice for me," Éowyn said, voice breaking.
He cupped her face in his hands and kissed her forehead. "I'm sorry," he murmured, and turned on his heel and left.
Théodred was not so kindly in his parting words. "See to it that that book disappears," he snarled, "Or I will."
The next morning, just before the sun rose, Éowyn awoke to a great ruckus outside the Golden Hall. Had battle come to Edoras? Gasping, Éowyn leapt out of bed and grabbed her sword, running outside still clad in her nightgown.
When she charged down the steps, she found not an army, but a small gathering of villagers – and an enormous pile of books. Some of them had been burned; some had been torn to pieces; some had been left in water so that the ink ran and made it impossible to read what had been written there. Éowyn slowed her pace, gaping in horror at the disaster below. A sick feeling crept up in her belly. There was only one place that she knew of where so many books could be found in Edoras. And if these books had come from there –
The doors to Meduseld flew open with an enormous bang, and Gríma burst of them, hair disheveled, dressed only in breeches and a thin white shirt. He froze when he saw the pile at the base of the steps, horror etched in every line of his face.
Éowyn's gut twisted. She had not done this – would never have dreamed of doing this – but it was her fault all the same. She had gotten him involved in her mess, and this is what had come of it. Sickened, blood draining from her face, she glanced between the books and Gríma, waiting for him to say something, anything.
He came down the steps slowly, almost staggering, as if he was seeing his entire family slaughtered before his eyes. He joined her on the final steps, stopping right next to her.
Éowyn flinched, fearing his wrath turned upon her. "My lord – I'm so sorry – I don't – I didn't mean for this to – "
"Who?" Gríma rasped.
Éowyn paused, mouth open. "I – I'm sorry?"
"Who did this?" he said. His voice was alarmingly calm, save for its ragged, weary edge. Then, more loudly, he demanded, "Who did this?"
The townspeople looked from one to the other, until one spoke up. "These books were doing evil," he said, "Turning minds and hearts in bad directions. They – "
"Are you confessing, Leofric?" Gríma said, his voice as sharp and cold as a knife-blade. Éowyn only briefly had the presence of mind to wonder how Gríma knew the man's name.
He who was Leofric shook his head at once, eyes wide and glassy with fear. "N-no, my lord – it was not I who did this – but there was a guard here who gave us their reasons – "
"And what was the guard's name?" Gríma asked, so quiet even Éowyn almost did not hear him.
Leofric winced. "I – "
"Give me his name!" Gríma roared, and everyone – even Éowyn – jumped.
"H-Hereward, my lord," Leofric stuttered, splaying his arms in front of a lady who was presumably his wife. "Please – "
Gríma stormed down the final steps towards the pile of ruined books, knuckles white and fists clenched. "Get out," he hissed.
The villagers, whom Éowyn had never believed to be cowards, seemed so in fear of him that they fled at once, heads down, clutching at their loved ones as they ran. One man against a village, and still he set them running. Perhaps there was reason for her brother and cousin to fear him so.
Still, he did not seem so frightful to Éowyn now, bent over the books like a father over the body of a broken child. She approached him slowly, as though he were a wounded animal, her sword clutched tightly in her hand.
"Are any of them salvageable?" she asked.
Gríma's voice shook when he spoke. "Hard to say," he said. "A few might be saved, I suppose – some of the wet ones can be dried over a fire, and the text might yet be fixed. But these..." He lifted a burned book, which crumbled in his hands. "I do not know. Éowyn, these were some of the most precious and rare texts in all the world. Some of them were the last of their kind. How could anyone – how could – " He paused, then rose abruptly and turned to her. "The book I gave you – is it – "
"It's safe," Éowyn assured him. She had hidden it after her cousin's threat, too in love with the words on the page and the history it contained to ever think of harming it. "I will return it to you at once if you wish – "
"No," he said, turning back to the remains of his library. "No, please, keep it. Keep it safe. I suspect if you return it, it will only be destroyed more violently than all the rest."
Éowyn felt a lump in her throat. "I'm sorry," she said. "I did not mean to bring all of this upon you. I never imagined – "
"No, of course you didn't," he said, and no matter how much Éowyn puzzled over his tone, she could not determine if it was an accusation or an absolution. He turned to her with heavy eyes and motioned to the pile. "If you would not object... I don't think I can manage cleaning all this alone."
Éowyn nodded slowly, and set down her sword. "Of course," she said softly, and together they began to gather up the remains of Gríma's library.
Éowyn had thought, in the wake of the disaster, that Gríma had forgotten his promised prize – or perhaps she'd merely hoped against hope that he had forgotten, knowing that the price she owed him now would be triple what he might have asked before. True, she had not destroyed the books herself; but what was that to Gríma, who had lost everything for helping her?
He would be compensated for what he had lost. He would take something precious from her in recompense. The only question was what, and when.
The when at least she had an answer for a week after the incident. At the feast that night he approached her in one of her rare moments alone and leaned close to her ear.
"I believe there is a prize you owe me," he said, breath tickling her neck.
Éowyn shivered. Folding her arms across her chest, she did her best to look haughty. "I am aware," she said. "What is it you would have of me, sir?"
She could feel his smile against her throat. "See me tonight after the feast, and I will tell you."
Éowyn frowned. "And where shall I meet you?"
"I believe my chambers shall suffice."
Éowyn spun to face him, startled and quite alarmed. "You overstep your bounds, my lord," she said, eyes narrowing. "The impropriety of such a visit – "
"Who will know?" Gríma asked, his smile widening. "This lot will be abed with their whores and serving maids before much longer; and after that they will all sleep, and none will be aware of your comings and goings. So come, or let someone else pay the price for those many books. It is, of course, your choice."
"A choice that is no choice at all," Éowyn said angrily. But she could not refuse – not now that the mysterious someone else had been brought into play. She could well guess who that someone else might be. "Why not the courtyards?"
Gríma laughed. "I would not think that much better, my lady; and we are far more likely to be seen there."
"Somewhere else, then," Éowyn pressed. "Even the hall outside your chambers – "
"Do you think that wise, my lady – to be seen standing outside my chambers as if to go in?"
Éowyn wanted to hit something. "And do you suppose it better for me to actually enter your chambers?" she said. "If you presume someone will see me in the corridor, why would they not see me go in?"
Gríma's smile finally slipped. "I merely mean that if we stand in a corridor for a long period of time we are more likely to be spotted," he said.
Éowyn leaned closer than she should have, just to get a better look into his eyes. Everything about him was slippery, impossible to grasp – and she needed more than anything to have a grip on him now. "Why do you want me alone so desperately, my lord?" she said, her voice low and angry. "Alone, with you, in your chambers?"
Gríma's eyes danced over her lips, and something hungry seemed to awake inside him. "You promised me anything I asked," he murmured. "Will you keep your promise, Éowyn?"
For a few seconds, her heart seemed to stop beating. "I – Gríma – I can't – we can't – "
To her surprise, he smiled. "I am not asking for your body, my lady. At least, not entirely."
Éowyn frowned. "What does that – "
"Your chambers," Gríma interrupted. "Is that acceptable to you?"
Éowyn hesitated. "I – I suppose..."
"So be it." He stepped back and turned away. "Expect me later tonight, then."
He disappeared as quickly as he had arrived, leaving Éowyn to spend the rest of the feast in quiet terror for what awaited her.
Gríma took far longer than Éowyn expected to appear at her chamber door. It was long into the night before she heard his light knock. Her heart leapt, and panic flooded her veins. She paced towards the door, then back into her chamber, and then finally practically ran to her door and yanked it open. "You certainly took your time," she started, but stopped when she say Gríma's eyes, glazed and heavy in the torchlight by her door. "You've been drinking," she said. She could not recall ever having seen Gríma drink to excess before.
He stumbled inside, though he managed to stumble with a certain surprising elegance. "Liquid courage," he told her, through a slight slur. "The best and quickest method for cowards like me."
Éowyn hurriedly closed her door, before someone outside could see. She prayed no one had seen or heard him as he came down the hall. "And what precisely does my lord require courage for?" she asked, turning towards him. "I thought you were only here to claim your prize."
"That requires some amount of courage, I'm afraid," he said. "At least for me. It would be easier if you were drunk too."
Éowyn stiffened. "If you mean to take advantage of me – "
"Believe me, I would not dare," Gríma said. "Regardless of how much I would delight in having you in my bed, I am not the sort of brute who forces himself on women, whatever others might say. And I have no doubt you keep a knife or two somewhere on your person for just such an occasion. I'm sure you would take great joy in the opportunity to use one on me."
Éowyn stood frozen, not certain what to say in response to such candor. She had always been able to see through Gríma on a deeper level than most; but this – this was Gríma at his most honest, laid bare before her as she had once been stripped before him. "The drink makes you bold," she finally managed.
He turned to her with a grin, large and boyish and quite unlike his usual reptilian smile. "Bold," he said. "That sounds lovely coming from you. I wish you thought me bold all the time. You deserve someone bold."
"I will decide what I deserve, thank you," Éowyn said. Despite herself, she was beginning to relax. There was something precious and vulnerable about the drunken counsellor. "I presume you did not come here to talk to me of what it is you wish for me, and for yourself."
"No, no," he agreed, straightening and running a hand through his hair. "I came for a kiss."
Éowyn inhaled sharply. "A – kiss?"
"Indeed." He tried to stay straight, but had to lean against her bedpost after a few moments of wobbling. "Just one. I don't expect it to lead anywhere, or get me anything except perhaps a well deserved slap; but one kiss from you is worth a hundred books. Now." He released the bedpost and looked hopefully towards her. "Will you keep your promise?"
Éowyn looked him over with a speculative frown. Everyone had told her, from the moment Gríma had come into Edoras, that he was a dangerous man, a man not to be trifled with; and this would certainly count as trifling, she supposed, no matter what she did. But nothing about him seemed dangerous in this moment – not with his disheveled hair, his unlaced boots, and his shirt that sat askew across his chest, bunched and wrinkled in strange places. It looked as though he had attempted to change into something fresh and neatly pressed and had given up halfway through because the laces and buttons were too much effort. Éowyn realized with a start that his shirt was blue. She had almost never seen him wear any color other than black and gold.
She walked towards him slowly, her eyes locked on his. She watched his cheeks turn from pale white to pink in the space of those few seconds, saw the way he straightened and his tongue ran over his lips as if he was tasting the air for her. But he didn't move to grab her, not even when she was only inches from him.
"One kiss?" she said softly. "Just one?"
"Just one," he promised. "And nothing more. Nothing that you would not give me of your own will."
She nodded once and leaned in to him; and it was then that he took hold of her, fiercely, darting forward and pressing his lips to hers. He tasted of strongly of the mead he had been drinking, and smelled of some kind of spice. His hair was wet, and Éowyn realized what she was smelling was soap. He must have taken a bath just for her.
She had expected the kiss to be a short one, but it was anything but. Right at the start he yanked her flush against him, one of his arms wrapped tightly around her waist, and his free hand buried in her hair, pressing her mouth tighter against his. She had nowhere to put her hands but on his chest, where they stayed while he deepened the kiss. Her lips parted obediently to his tongue, and quite outside of her own intent, Éowyn gave a tiny cry of pleasure.
The small sound was enough to make Gríma moan. In seconds he had switched their positions, spinning her so that it was now Éowyn pressed against the bedpost and Gríma holding her there. She clutched at his shirt as he dropped his mouth from hers, sliding down her throat and to her collar bone, leaving a trail of wet kisses down her skin. Heat flared deep in Éowyn's core, spreading into every limb and pooling in her lower back and deeper, between her thighs. Each kiss against her neck was like a shock, burning and teasing every nerve. Gríma smiled and nipped at the joining of her neck and shoulder, and at the sharp sensation Éowyn cried out again, louder this time. Gríma cut off the cry with another kiss, tilting her chin up to him and pressing his lips hard against hers, his tongue dancing in her mouth.
He pulled back at last, leaving Éowyn panting and gasping against her bedpost. Subconsciously, she reached out for him at once, her hand flying forward and tangling in his shirt. He came closer obediently, but didn't kiss her again; his lips hung centimeters from hers, his nose brushing hers, but he would not close the gap, and neither would she.
"Éowyn," he breathed. "Oh, Éowyn..."
Éowyn knew he would stay, if he could – that he would take a hundred more kisses, and the rest of her, if she would let him. She could not say in that moment that she didn't want him to. Every inch of her was aflame, a hunger awoken in her that she had never realized she possessed; and it took every last inch of her willpower not to close the distance once again.
She gently pushed him back, still gasping for breath. "Was that a kiss worth a hundred books?" she asked, her smile small and fragile and just a little hopeful.
Gríma stepped further away, his fists curling. "Worth a thousand," he said. "And yet I wish I had asked for two, or five, or ten."
Éowyn laughed softly. "You would be a rich man indeed to own so many books."
"I would be a rich man indeed to have so many kisses," he replied. He stepped towards her once more, and cupped her cheek in his hand. "Éowyn..."
She took his hand and pulled it away reluctantly. "The agreement was one kiss," she said. "Just one."
Gríma growled, deep in the back of his throat; but he stepped away again. "As you wish it," he said, with a mocking bow. "The snake must go back to his nest now; the White Lady has had her fill of his poison company."
Éowyn pushed herself free of the bedpost, surprised to find her legs a bit wobbly. "I didn't say – "
"You don't need to say, my lady; I know what you mean," he said. "So farewell, and goodnight, and thank you for the kiss."
"Gríma – " she said, hurrying after him.
He waved her off. "Unless you mean to kiss me good-night, you may as well stay right there," he said, grabbing for the door.
Irritated, Éowyn grabbed for his shirt, spun him around, and yanked his head down to her, planting a firm if unromantic kiss on his lips. He made a noise that was part growl, part moan, and started to grab for her again; but before his arms could close around her she tugged open the door and pushed him out.
"Good night, counsellor," she said with a smile. "And next time you wish recompense for books, don't bother to drink so much before you ask."
He swallowed hard and bowed again, less mockingly this time. "As my lady wishes," he said. "If this is my reward, I shall be sure to have my books destroyed more often."
Éowyn laughed, lightly closed the door, and went to bed too giddy to ever sleep.