Chapter 4: Grima
Grima. His shadow huge against the wall distorted by the guttering candle. He watched the face of the old man before him, sleeping, dreaming troubled dreams. 'Yes, dream, old man.' he whispered. 'Dream dreadful dreams…See the might of Saruman, his army massed before you. Despair.' Intently he stared at the movement of the old man's eyes under his lids. Close his face was to the king's, his breath touching the withered cheek, lifting the white hair. 'And die. Your beloved horses and riders, your stupid nephew, too, too stupid for the role he was born to. Your stupid, stupid son. Know that I killed him, Théoden. In your deepest dreams know that I killed him. And she …' he swallowed, for She was the purest, the only thing that could now touch his cold heart. He saw her in his mind, turning slightly, sunlight catching her hair, her eyes laughing. She had worn that white dress, as if to mock him with her purity. And her smile. She had smiled up at her brother, and then the elf had taken her elegant hand, he had touched her when Grima never would. And she had smiled too at the elf. Well he would pay. Grima rubbed his knuckle, chewing his lip. Yes, he would pay, but first, he had work to finish.
He picked up the goblet near him, and swirled the dark red liquid. He stared into it for a moment, and then raised his other hand to lift the king's head. He pressed the goblet to the other's lips. Théoden murmured and shook his head weakly.
'No more, Grima. I will not….' He struggled to open his eyes, but as one asleep and dreaming, he could not fight it and the liquid seeped past his lips and he swallowed.
Suddenly there was a noise outside the door. Grima froze. The candlelight touched his pale face as he stared at the door, breathless, one hand still under the king's head, the other grasping the goblet. No one could be there. The single sentry at the door had strict orders to leave him in peace unless called. He did not move, until he felt a slight chill.
He glanced around and the window was open. It must have blown open in the wind. He carefully rested Théoden's head down on the pillow, and placed the goblet on the table behind him. He went over to the window to pull it shut.
Outside the air was crisp with frost and the promise of the last snow before spring. He breathed it in before he realised and suddenly, there he was; as a boy standing in the long grass, hand wisping over the top of his little brother's head. 'Stand here long enough,' he was saying to his little brother, 'And the Mearas will come'. And he had hoped and hoped that they would, had hoped not to disappoint his small brother.
And it was gone.
He stared. Where had that come from?
He turned back to the king. White hair spilled over the pillow and the candlelight seemed to turn his skin gold. Grima remembered when he had first arrived at Meduseld….no, he would not remember. He forced the memories away. It was the smell, the scent of clean air, fresh off the mountains, of pine and grass and green that had made him forget himself, distracted. Somewhere, there seemed to be music, he strained to catch it but it eluded him.
He picked up the goblet once more and settled himself to his task. But then found himself drifting once more… it was the sound of home… the sound of wind whispering through tall grass and the forest stream plunging down from the cold mountains…
Later, he realised that he had become aware of the elf, rather than actually seen him. He was standing only feet away. Later, he recalled that the elf had no weapon, rather there was a look of intense concentration on his face, as if listening to something deep, far below the sounds of the world. Later, Grima thought he might almost be singing so quietly. Standing no more than a couple of feet, he was sure, and yet, he felt he was breathing the elf's breath, feeling his warmth when he felt the most awful thump on the back of his head. And toppled slowly to the floor.
That broke the spell.
'You took your time.' grumbled Eowyn. 'What were you doing? I thought the plan was to just get in, whack him, wake up Théoden and tell him Saruman is coming.'
Legolas sighed. 'You remind me of a dwarf I know,' he said dryly, he was pushing open the door to an antechamber and peering into the dark. 'We have to do this carefully, Eowyn. It would not do for him to awaken and see you. If I should fail…..'
'You will not fail.' she said impatiently. 'What are you looking for?'
'IF I should fail,' he repeated, just as firmly, 'I need you to be free. It will do none of us any good if you join Eomer and me in the cells. This time there will be no escape. I will not have a second chance at this and Saruman must not know you are involved in this.'
He looked thoughtfully at the unconscious man and then lifted him easily in his arms. 'I almost reached him I think. There is something there.' He lifted his hand to Grima's face, now it was relaxed the bitter lines had vanished. The cheeks were lined though and between his eyes a deep furrow of anxiety. Legolas wondered what had led him to betray his people so completely. Gently, he drew his fingers lightly down the other's face.
'Oh will you stop and get on with it.' Eowyn was unwinding rope from round her waist. She followed him to where he gently put Grima down, her expression one of disgust, but she restrained herself from giving the unconscious man a well deserved kick, instead tying his hands together adeptly.
'We need to stop him from calling out, or speaking,' Legolas reminded her.
She nodded. 'The sentry has gone,' she said, 'as you said, he heard suspicious sounds outside. He has not returned. That was you?' He nodded, not taking his eyes from the unconscious man.
'You go on, I will finish here,' she told him, with every intention of making it as uncomfortable as possible for Grima. She still could not understand why the elf seemed so set on trying to 'save' the man.
Legolas knelt beside the king. He breathed deeply, watching and then matching him breath for breath. Théoden was not deeply asleep, his lips moved but there was no sound. 'You dream darkly, my lord.' The elf whispered, and he leaned in closer. He slowed his own breathing and Théoden became still. Close enough now, for the man to feel his warmth, his breath on his cheek.
When Eowyn returned she found Legolas kneeling at the king's side so close that their breath mingled. His eyes closed in profound concentration, hands laid lightly on either side of the king's face, which was drawn and troubled as if in pain. She moved, hand outstretched as if to stop him- after all, elves were dangerous, and it was said that those of Mirkwood were even more dangerous. She knew nothing of him; the witch of the Golden Wood could have sent him.
She drew a deep breath and stopped. These were not her thoughts- but the fears and superstitions of lesser folk. She would trust Legolas. So she watched and became transfixed by the stillness of them both while the candle burned low.
Grima slowly opened his eyes. He was bound and gagged. Furiously he wriggled and twisted. How had that elf managed to do this? He had been suddenly aware of the elf in the room, no knife or sword, just standing only feet away. Then nothing. Did he have some greater magic than Grima knew? He felt the Voice uncurl within him. Fool! It told him scathingly. He is an elf from a backwater kingdom, it sneered. He is nothing.
Grima paused. But he had glimpsed beyond, to the promise the elf had offered – there was another way and it was not too late, even now, it was not too late. He tried, he did try, but the Voice was powerful and destructive. He was a pathetic little man, with power only borrowed to serve the purpose of the Voice. He had never achieved anything.
But look! Look at this! He tried to show the Voice his position, his power in Meduseld- who could have imagined that he… He was cut off. Look again, fool – the Voice told him, and showed him the Tower, a black fang of stone against the twilight. Beyond him, he could see the Plain of Orthanc, and across the plain. Hundreds, no, thousands and thousands of tiny fires, torches. And legion upon legion of orcs, they clamoured and bayed for the blood of Rohan. Grima stared in absolute horror… What had he done? And the Wizard turned to him, a thin sneer. 'You are nothing. You are rightly named Worm. You have done nothing but give me a conduit for my power. A tool, nothing more. Now go and finish this.'
He blinked. The ropes slid from his wrists and in a stupor, he pulled away the gag. He opened his mouth to scream but nothing came out, just a whisper from the Voice of Saruman. It eased between the cracks in the door and slid ahead. He followed, helpless now but to do its bidding, though in his heart, he glanced back to the mountains and deep forests of his home. Too late, too late. All is lost now. He saw the legions of orcs, stamping and howling. It is over, he thought.
The woman he desired was standing near the door, unaware of Grima sliding through into the room behind her. She stood transfixed, straight and still as a statue, elegant gown draped over her form, her golden hair gleamed in the candlelight, her skin pale. He reached out to touch her and she turned suddenly. Her hand flew to her mouth and she gasped. Too late she reached for the knife at her belt, his own hand caught her in a grip stronger than his own and he pulled her toward him. She fell against him and he felt her breasts against his chest. Lust surged through him almost painfully but he pushed it away.
The elf was kneeling at the king's side, lips almost touching, his eyes closed, breathing with the king. The air softly resonated with sound, like a pulse.
Suddenly his eyes snapped open and turned on Grima. Eyes blue, like the high blue sky above the Plains of Rohan, and then, he blinked and they were hard emerald ice. The man was caught in that hard ice gaze but he opened his mouth and the Voice swept from him in a roar. The king's eyes flickered open, he seemed to struggle and then shut tight in pain.
Grima saw the wind rush past him, and the elf was caught up in a storm, his hair streamed about him and he narrowed his eyes against the unnatural wind. A fell voice filled the air and Grima saw him gasp. The elf struggled against the force of the wind that tore around him, buffeting him. A glass was thrown from a stand and shattered, the curtains whipped and thrashed in the sudden wind, knocking over a small table and the casement window was thrown open. Legolas was shouting something Grima only half understood, words that fought inside him like beasts, but he could not understand and the roaring of the wind was too loud. Golden hair streamed across his eyes and he felt the woman he held flattened by the wind against his body. She struggled and pushed herself away. He watched as the elf raised his hand against the wind, then suddenly stooped, rose swiftly and something flew from his hand, skimmed Eowyn's cheek lightly and she turned, shocked, her hand on her cheek. The firelight caught it briefly and it gleamed silver and white.
Abruptly the wind dropped.
Grima looked down. A long white knife was deeply embedded in his chest. He realised there was intense pain, like nothing he had ever known, a tearing and burning in his lungs and a crimson stain spread across his chest. He watched the blood seep onto the white gown of the woman. He sank to his knees and she stood over him, eyes hard and bitter. 'I did all this…' he whispered, 'for you.' She stared at him with contempt and left him to rush to her uncle's side. He could hear her murmuring to the wakening king and she stroked his forehead.
Grima blinked, the pain tore through him and his heart pumped blood from his body to soak the cloth that was held to his wound. He looked up into the anguished face of the elf. He was saying something, Grima blinked. It was hard to concentrate now as the pain took hold of his consciousness, but he felt sorry for them, for the relentless hatred they would face now, and the terrible utter destruction Saruman would wreak. His lips moved once and he stared up at the elf who had killed him.
Eowyn smiled as her uncle opened his eyes and looked in wonder upon her.
'I know your face,' he whispered.
She blinked tears away; she did not know what Legolas had done, if it was some kind of sorcery she did not care. Théoden's fingers sought hers and clutched her hand as if in fear of drowning. She was aware of Grima's rasping breaths and small moans of pain. Legolas had stood frozen for a moment and then sank to his knees beside the dying man, holding him in so tender an embrace she was appalled. She could not deal with these emotions and thoughts now. She had to waken Théoden and then gather together the captains.
'My lord,' she said hurriedly, still stroking his brow, 'You must awake. Rohan is in danger. We must summon the captains and make ready for war.'
He frowned.' War? Rohan is at peace…' he sighed 'Gondor has made enemies it is true, but we are yet safe'.
'No. my lord.' She knew she sounded desperate. 'You have slept long and there are armies on the move, they advance on Edoras. We must summon our forces and be ready. Awake.'
'No, child.' He smiled benignly at her, 'these are but foolish dreams in the night. Sleep now. There is nothing to fear.' And he closed his eyes.
Eowyn became aware of a little sound of distress behind her. She turned to see the elf still cradling the dead man. He was hunched over him, long hair falling around them both. He softly cried something in words she did not understand. Again, her heart shrank at her reaction. How could he grieve so? Grima had caused so much fear and pain – he deserved to die.
Legolas lifted his head then and met her eyes, and she was struck to her core at the pity in his gaze. 'I failed.' he said. 'I tried to help him. To give him hope, but I am not strong enough.' He bowed his head once more and she was sure he wept. But she could not go to him. After a while, he slowly folded Grima's hands over his breast. He arranged his robes so they were dignified, and lastly, he drew his fingers over his eyelids and closed them. He knelt in silence and his fair face seemed lost and troubled.
Gradually, Eowyn became aware that Théoden was watching the elf intently.
When Legolas lifted his head again he did not meet Eowyn's gaze, but allowed his gaze to slide past her to Théoden. He smiled gently then and he rose easily to his feet. He looked with piercing bright eyes at Théoden and spoke softly to him.
'Awaken now, my lord. It is time. Rohan needs you.'
Théoden's blue eyes widened and he drew a breath. 'You called me. You were there. You called to me through the smoke and the fear, my lord and I came.' He struggled to sit up, pushing aside the heavy rugs and blankets. He kept his gaze fixed on Legolas. Legolas did not move, nor a flicker show on his face.
'Come, Théoden King. You are yourself again.' Eowyn put her hands under the king to raise him, but still he stared at Legolas, unaware of the woman.
Then slowly, like he was awakening again, he blinked and looked around him. This time, he saw Eowyn. 'Eowyn? Where is your brother? What are you doing here? Ah,' he looked down again at her hand on his arm, supporting him as he rose, 'Always so capable.'
'My lord, summon the guards and the captains. We will be under attack.' Eowyn urged him, but he glanced at the elf first. She stifled the desire to sigh irritably, why do men always look first to other men, she thought.
As though the king's awakening had roused him also from his despair, Legolas strode over to the door and threw it open, shouting loudly, 'Awake! The King commands you. Summon the captains to the Great Hall. Awake.' There was a pause, and then sudden scurrying and muffled swearing as the men of Rohan were roused. Then gradually, the sound of doors opening and slamming shut, of footsteps rushing past and away, of hurried voices whispering, calling quietly to each other.
Eowyn helped her uncle from his bed slowly. He seemed cramped and bent over before, now he pushed himself upright slowly, bones creaking and sinews stretching. He grimaced. 'Too long have I slept, too long. My bones feel tight and weakened. This is not a good way for a Rider of the Mark.' His voice became stronger as he stretched himself tall. He held out his hand. 'Give me my sword. My fingers itch for the feel of it.' Eowyn felt her heart surge with joy and she lifted the heavy broadsword from its hanging and handed it with both hands to the king. 'Ah.' He smiled and swept it lightly before him. 'That is what I have missed. Now. Where is Snowmane? I have need to feel the wind rushing past me, to hear the drumming of horses galloping and the ring of steel and stirrup, to see the high cloud and huge empty skies.' He stared into the middle distance for a moment and murmured too quietly for any but Legolas to hear, 'I was lost in that dark place, and you found me. You found me.'
Legolas smiled and held the door. He bowed as the king walked past with Eowyn holding his arm. She flashed him a radiant smile and he stopped for a moment and looked after her.
There was some confusion in the Great Hall. All the captains were assembled and waiting tensely. This had been done before and resulted in Eomer's banishment, and the dispatch of Theodred's band to be slaughtered by orcs. The captains waited nervously, and Grima's men gathered in the shadows. They were anxious also. Grima had not warned them of this, although he was unpredictable, keeping them guessing and anxious to please him. It was a shock to all of them when Théoden walked in unaided, tall and proud, his white hair streaming over his shoulder and his face clear, blue eyes piercing. The loyal captains with one voice sighed, a great weight lifted, and when Théoden addressed them, 'Riders of Rohan, Grima is dead.' a great cheer went up.
Eowyn glanced at Legolas, who stood in the shadows and she could not see his face.
Théoden heard then the reports from the captains, one by one they told him of the raids by orcs, of the terrible atrocities committed and of the gradual whittling away of the forces of Rohan. His face was grim as he looked and named those great warriors of Rohan who were no longer there and he cursed the memory of Grima Wormtongue, and of his own weakness for succumbing to him.
A small commotion at the great doors disturbed them. Hama, the grizzled, loyal doorkeeper rushed in. 'My lord, there are two strangers without. One is a Ranger from the North and the other a dwarf from the Lonely Mountain! They claim to be here as friends of the Mark and of Eomer.' A murmur went up and those who had been with Eomer when first they met the remnants of the Fellowship, whispered that the Heir of Isildur was without.
A Dwarf and a Man stood in the doorway, the dwarf eyeing the crowd warily. Legolas muttered under his breath, 'About time too.'
The crowd stared- none had ever seen a dwarf before. First an elf and now a dwarf in the hall of Meduseld - strange times indeed! He wore heavy chain mail and a round helmet on his head. His russet beard was braided and his axe was heavy, bigger than one would expect. He held it by the haft in front of him, not threatening but ready. The man with him stood watching. He was taller than most men and lighter than the Men of the Mark. His hair dark and his clothes undistinguished, but there was about him, an aura. He held himself as a warrior, and with balance and grace. The sword that hung at his hip had seen much use. Both wore grey cloaks that seemed to shimmer and the eye glanced off them strangely.
Théoden's voice broke the spell. 'Welcome you strangers. Ever has Rohan welcomed wanderers and given them shelter. Come,' he said, standing before his throne to receive them, 'speak your names and be welcome.'
The man then stood forth. 'My name is Aragorn, son of Arathorn. This is Gimli Glionson of Erebor.'
'And you, Aragorn, you have a look of the Dunadan about you.'
Aragorn acknowledged this simply and modestly. 'We bring news of Gandalf,' he began.
In the shadows at the edge of the hall, Legolas felt his heart again shrink from the dreadfulness of Gandalf's death. He supposed that all should know of his fall into the Dark Pit, but it was still so hard to hear again. He wondered why Aragorn did not simply proclaim himself and bid all men follow him against Orthanc and Mordor. He stood tall, trying to see the hobbits – surely Gimli and Aragorn would not have abandoned them, unless they were already too late and the hobbits were in Orthanc. His heart cried out to think of those merry folk in such a dark place. He remembered one other who was also in a dark place, and slipped away. Perhaps the hobbits were safe outside the hall, awaiting Aragorn's summons once all was clear, he thought optimistically as he left the warmth of the halls and turned towards the dark dungeons of Meduseld.
'News of Gandalf? He returns?' Théoden asked, 'I have a memory,' He spoke vaguely, and looked about him as if he had lost something, someone .' He came and asked a boon. I granted him a horse and he took Shadowfax… the King of the Mearas… did I dream this?'
'No my lord,' Eowyn stepped forward and took his hand, ' Grima did not wish for you to aid Gandalf, but ever has he come to us in time of our need, and you graciously granted him this boon.'
So Aragorn looked first upon Eowyn and thought her fair and cold, like the Moon. But she saw a king among men.
'Gandalf bid us give you this message if you will?' Aragorn continued. Théoden inclined his head to give permission and seated himself once more. 'He bids you arise, Théoden King, and muster your riders. War is upon you and legions of Saruman follow in our wake. We arrive on the tide and must unite against our common foe.' Aragorn's voice rang out true and stern, and the Rohirrim could not help but feel their blood stir and their courage surge. He stepped forwards, 'He also bade me give you this as a token of our intent.' He handed the King a ring.
Gimli looked suddenly up at Aragorn. Surely this was the same ring Aragorn had worn since leaving Rivendell, the Ring of Barahir.
Théoden took it and looked carefully. Then he glanced up at the man who had come bearing the message. 'You are Aragorn you say…' he looked thoughtfully at the ranger, 'A man I once knew had a ring much the same as this, Thorongil he was called. A good man who did much service to the Mark. Know you of him?'
Aragorn smiled modestly and inclined his head. Théoden looked sharply at him once more and then, suddenly tired and thinking all this could be resolved in the morning, waved his hand.
'Show our guests good quarters where they may rest. Tomorrow we muster the riders.' A wave of approval went up from the gathered captains.
The dwarf cleared his throat. 'Erm. I wonder if I might ask your lordship, a friend of ours was here. An elf?'
Next chapter: Back to poor old Eomer languishing in the dungeons.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.