"What is the meaning of this?" Éomer demanded as looked from the Man pressed against the wall to the Elf who held him there. Haldir held his knife firmly against the soldier's throat, but he said nothing.
"I asked a question and I expect it to be answered!" Éomer thundered. His voice echoed in the dark hallway, but he was confident that no one would come running. They wouldn't dare. They would eavesdrop, that was certain, but none were brave enough to show themselves lest they anger the King further.
The Elf waited a moment before briefly turning his attention to the angry Man behind him. Éomer hadn't expected anything different; Haldir had never taken to obeying his orders.
"He presumes too much," Haldir said after a moment. His fist came up and for a moment Éomer thought he meant to hit the captive soldier. While the soldier probably deserved it, Éomer could not stand by and watch one of his men be assaulted.
When a gold coin glinted in the Elf's hand, Éomer paused in mid step, watching with confusion as Haldir pressed it against the soldier's mouth and continued to press until the lips opened and the gold disappeared. It wasn't long until the Man began to choke.
"Enough of this!" Éomer yelled. He took hold of Haldir's shoulder and pulled him back. The Elf moved easily, and Éomer knew that was only because he had tired of the situation. The King had no illusions to the contrary.
"You are lucky," Haldir said as he took a step back and lowered his knife. "Were it not for him, you would pay for your audacity."
The soldier coughed and spat out the gold coin. It hit the ground with a sharp clink.
"Someone will tell me what has happened, and they will tell me now!" Éomer demanded. He moved forward in what he hoped was a show of intimidation, though he wasn't sure who he was supposed to be intimidating.
"This Man," Haldir said, spitting the word as though it was a foul name, "was under the impression that I was a whore for hire."
There was a moment of silence while Éomer looked from the Elf to the Man, a look of incredulity marring his features. The expression soon bled away to be replaced with a dangerous scowl. The King of Rohan's eyes went cold as he slowly closed the distance between himself and the cowering man that had once been one of the Rohirrim's finest soldiers.
"You would dare to so insult a friend of Rohan?" he asked. His voice was flat, and the soldier shuddered. Éomer's hand ached to feel the polished wooden handle of Haldir's knife, and only years of practiced self control kept him from reaching for it.
"He is more than passing fair," Éomer continued, flicking his gaze over his shoulder to take in Haldir's countenance. The Elf glared at him and Éomer had to smother a smile. "You would do well to learn that to insult the Elves is to invite disaster."
In the blink of an eye, Éomer's hand was on the soldier's throat, mimicking Haldir's earlier stance. He squeezed down on the man's windpipe for a moment before relaxing his grip.
"What made you think that you could ever hope to have him warm your bed?" the King of Rohan asked. "What gave you the impression that he was a whore?" When the man didn't answer, Éomer yelled, "Speak!"
"People have… been saying things," the man stuttered. He attempted to shrink back against the wall as tension took hold of his King's shoulders, but the stone was unforgiving and he could more no further.
"You will point these people out and I will have their heads," Éomer vowed.
"Perhaps that is not the wisest course of action," Haldir said softly. He could hear the movements of several people farther down the darkened passageway, and he did not wish to make more people aware of the situation than was necessary.
"Then what do you suggest?" Éomer asked, looking at Haldir over his shoulder. "What is a fitting punishment for those who would insult one so dear to their King?" He turned back to the soldier. "He is dear to me," Éomer said softly, the words for the soldier's ears only. "We are shield brothers, he and I, not that anyone would believe it if you told them."
"Whatever you choose, you must do it quickly," Haldir said. Listening carefully, he could hear several of the King's advisors discussing whether or not they should intervene.
"You will leave this place," Éomer said as he let go of the soldier's throat and took a step back. "You will never again come to Meduseld. You will be demoted from your rank, and if anyone asks why, you will tell them that it is the price one pays for daring to insult the friends of Rohan."
The man rubbed at the red marks on his neck, and he nodded, not daring to speak.
"Your king has given you an order!" Haldir snapped. "You best see it through."
The soldier jerked his head in what was supposed to be a nod, and then he took off down the darkened passageway, no doubt running into the assembled people around the corner.
There was silence as Haldir and Éomer looked at one another.
"They are waiting," Haldir said.
"So they are," Éomer replied. He sighed and rubbed at the side of his head. "I must deal with them," he said. The Elf nodded.
"I will speak with you once you have finished."
Éomer watched as his friend disappeared into the darkness, his footsteps making no sound at all. Even after all these years, it still unnerved him. With a sigh, he decided that he'd left everyone to wait for far too long. He started down the hallway but paused when he caught sight of something shining on the ground.
He kicked at the coin angrily, sending it careening off into the darkness.