Daughter of Kings

by Evermind

Chapter Nineteen: An Enemy Revealed

For many days after Boromir's departure Grima's aspect was that of a wolf who has finally succeeded in cornering his prey. The worm sat at the King's feet with a smile upon his twisted face, and evil in his heart. Eowyn watched him with shadowed eyes, fearing some evil stroke that she had yet to become aware of. But ten days after Boromir's departure, Gandalf Greyhame returned to Edoras.

Eowyn stood as was her wont upon the high terrace before the doors of Meduseld. The doors, like all the great hall were wooden, twined about with the carven shapes of beasts, birds, trees, all golden in the early dawn. And horses, always horses. Carved upon the pillars and the gables, carved of stone in the gushing fountain at the foot of the stairs, their carven manes ever blown in a forgotten wind, their eyes hollow and blank as they reared their proud necks in every detail of the courts. Men at arms stood before the doors. Burnished mail they wore, and cloaks and shield of green trimmed with gold. Hama their captain stood beside Eowyn beneath the flagstaff from whence the King's banner was whipped about by the brave wind.

From here, high above, Eowyn thought that she descried an eagle flying, and again she was reminded of the aed faeder and his tales. The eagle drew closer, flying in ever diminishing circles, and as it grew larger it seemed to Eowyn that she saw a figure astride the eagle's great back. Hama cast Eowyn a startled look as the eagle, with one last great swoop of it's wings plummeted towards them. It alighted in the courtyard, and Eowyn watched, astounded as the figure slipped from it's back. His grey robes were torn and filthy, and his long beard ragged. A staff was clutched tight in his hand and his eyes smoldered with flame. The aed faeder seemed momentarily to speak with the eagle, and then he hastened towards them. The eagle, with one thrust of it's great talons was aloft again, and it's pinioned wings swept the skyline as it rose swiftly and was gone.

As the wizard approach the doors, Hama bowed before him.

"My Lord Greyhame." he spoke in an awed voice, and yet barred the door uncertainly as he spoke.

"What is thy errand to my Lord? To Theoden son of Thengel?"

roughly, the wizard pushed the doorward aside.

"I am in haste, Hama." he said swiftly, pushing his way towards the golden doors. "I have knowledge of thy enemy."

Startled, the guards gave way and let him pass, Hama and Eowyn following swiftly in his wake.

Gandalf hurried down the length of the hall. A stream of sunlight flooded through the doors, and the darkness for a moment relinquished it's hold. Then Hama pulled the doors to behind him, the great hall was dark again. The embers of the great fire flared slowly.

"Hail, Theoden, son of Thengel." The wizard spoke hastily.

"I beg thy aid, Lord of the riddermark. Saruman has turned traitor."

The intake of Wormtounge's breath could be heard as a sharp hiss in the silence that followed. Eowyn looked up, startled by this revelation. Saruman. Their enemy. Her breath caught in her throat at what this could mean. Gandalf continued as if he had not noticed.

"I was ensnared by him in Orthanc, and only now have I escaped. I beg thee to aid me. I must have a horse at once. I should have been in the North weeks ago."

Theoden did not move, nor make a sign, but Grima did. His face was bloodless and his breath came harshly.

"Get thee gone!" the snake hissed, and in his eyes was fear. "My master is ill! Leave thy tales and get thee hence. Saruman the white is our friend and ally." he turned to Theoden, groveling at the King's feet.

"Do not believe him, master!" Wormtongue cried. "he seeks but to snare thee in a net for his own devices!"

"I tell thee Saruman has betrayed us." Gandalf almost shouted and his voice was frenzied with urgency. 'Frodo. the thought played itself over and over in his mind. Frodo. If the nine had reached the Shire... If Barliman had not remembered the letter... He should be there. Frodo needed him. And here he was delayed yet again by treason...'

"Saruman is our friend." Wormtongue repeated.

"Please." the wizard begged "I have no time. I must needs ride! Lend me a horse, Theoden King. Speed only I ask!"

Theoden looked doubtfully at his counsellor. "It is possible.." he spoke hesitantly. "Our enemy is not Sauron. Who else commands such power as to be capable of this?" Eowyn and Hama looked at each other. Certain it was in their eyes who spoke the truth.

"I believe the aed faeder, eam." Eowyn declared. "Give him a horse as he asks." The wizard shot her a grateful look, but Grima's eyes narrowed in fury.

"Mayhap he does speak the truth." The worm spat. "But only half of it. These conjurors are all in league. I will wager that he is as much our enemy as Saruman!"

"Please..." Gandalf's voice was desperate. "Theoden son of Thengel, I promise I will aid thee in any way I can if thou wilt but grant my request."

For a moment Theoden wavered between the two courses, glancing doubtfully at his counsellor. At last his face cleared.

"Take any horse and go." he told the wizard. "Only be gone ere tomorrow is old. You tire me." he added, pettishly. "Come, Grima. Escort me to my chamber."

Wormtongue rose, and shooting one last look of pure venom at the wizard, he allowed the King to lead him from the hall.