Daughter of Kings

by Evermind

Chapter Twenty Seven: Wrath and Ruin

It was a young errand rider of Elfhelm's company who bore the news to Edoras. His thin face was pale as he stood in the centre of the darkened hall before Theoden's throne. Slender and small he looked, and alone, a pale shape in the dim glow of the dying embers. His silver-blonde hair hung in damp curls, and a clumsy bandage was bound about one forearm. He could not have been older than sixteen.

Wormtongue shuffled nervously, crouched as ever snivelling at Theoden's feet. His face once again was unfathomable, dark and twisted with power and hatred. Grima was gone again, and in his place was only the broken shell of Wormtongue the traitor. He bore no sign that he remembered the words he had spoken in his tortured dreams. Eowyn shivered. One by one, she thought; One by one Saruman is destroying us all.

"I bring news from Elfhelm, Theoden King." He spoke quietly, yet his eyes were blank and fearful. "The Fords of Isen fell yesternight. Many men were lost. Helm, Fastred, Baldor. Galmod" His eyes flickered towards the Wormtongue. The boy drew a shuddering breath, and the fear that Eowyn had felt since first entering Grima's chamber the night before rose in her throat, choking her. She had not spoken to any of Grima's words, but unacknowledged, deep within herself, she knew them to be the truth. Eowyn stared in terror at the messenger, willing him not to speak the dreaded words. And then an emotion wholly new entered Eowyn's heart, one which she had known but seldom before - it was fear.

The young messenger took a single halting step forward. "My Lord Theoden" the boy whispered, "My Lord, thy son is dead."

There was utter silence in the great hall. Eomer's eyes were wide, fearfull, not wanting to believe. Then the tears came, thick and fast. Eomer gasped as the hot tears striped his cheeks. He opened his mouth as if to cry out, but no words came. He swayed heavily, leaning for support upon Theoden's throne. The King sat silent, staring at the aged hands folded in his lap. Tears dimmed his sight, and he felt suddenly older than he had ever felt. The darkness pushed at the edges of his concious, as he heard over and over the young messenger's words. He is dead! He is dead! The words became a chant, the voice of his enemy crying out his triumph, as Theoden stood at last within his final power. Saruman's voice gloated over his failure, and the words thundered within his beating heart. He is dead! No heir for Theoden son of Thengel. No more the quick sons of Eorl's blood to dwell in Meduseld and hold the land within their sway. As with a final catylyst, the little corner of Theoden's mind that was still his own gave way beneath the onslaught, and the darkness consumed him. Theoden's head bowed to his chest.

No one moved or spoke. Eowyn stood still as stone, her fists clenched at her sides and her eyes fixed, unseeing upon the young messenger's face. Grief rose in her chest and she shudderd, choking back the tide of weeping. She was a shieldmaiden of the house of Eorl. She would not weep. Not even for the cousin who had been life itself to her. She was strong, stronger than iron, and nor death nor pain could break her. Theodred had died a warrior's death. Of that she was glad. He had never lived to see Rohan crumble into dust. 'Bealocwealm.' She thought, 'Bealocwealm hafath freone, frecan forth onsended.' Eowyn lifted her head high, refusing to blink, refusing to let herself cry.

It was Wormtongue who broke the silence with a soft hiss of breath. His eyes flickered wildly, and his pale lips twitched in a half smile. With triumph in his eyes, he raised his head to meet Theoden's face.

"My condolences, Lord." His voice, smooth and silky as thought. "This grief is great, not to thee alone, but for all of Rohan." Theoden's shoulders slumped, and a single dry sob escaped him.
"My Lord." Grima's voice shook with supressed excitement "I sympathise my King. But I too have suffered from this needless war. Thou hast lost a son, and I have lost a father. Thou hast no heir now, for the son of thy sister Theodwyn is too petty and mean. See how he seeks ever to advance himself in thy sight, and look now at how his grasping hands clutch even at thy throne! My lord, let me be as son to thee."

Eowyn was not aware of moving, only of her fist smashing into Wormtongue's face. She felt him collapse to the ground, and then she was upon him, lashing out with fists and feet, not caring whether what she struck was flesh or stone. She heard Eomer's roar of enraged grief, heard Grima's voice crying out for guards before she was flung aside as the worm swept his blade from it's sheath. Eowyn struck the stone flagged floor, heard the clash of steel as her brother leapt to the fray. Grima's face was white and panicked as he parried furiously with his long disused blade. Eomer's sword bore down upon him, and Wormtongue's blade flew from his grasp. He collapsed to his knees.

Then Hama was there. He tore the two apart, holding the struggling worm in one mighty fist. Three of the guard threw themselves upon Eomer, wrestling to hold him still, attempting to pin his arms against his sides. Eomer roared like an enraged bull, muscles straining as he fought to break free. Eowyn scrambled to her feet, aiming for Wormtongue, but Hama put out an arm to stay her. Theoden had not moved. Eomer shook himself free of the guards and stood alone, sword in hand before his uncle's throne. Wormtongue spat.
"Lock him in prison, my Lord." Wormtongue hissed, his voice twisted with hatred. He met Eomer's murderous gaze, and quailed slightly.

"My Lord Theoden." Eomer spoke sharply. "My eorred and I leave at once. I have had reports about an invasion of uruks which makes swift progress northward towards Isenguard. I intend to stop them, and I shall make haste to do so." Wormtongue started, and there was real fear in his eyes.
"Nay Theoden!" he urged swiftly "Do not permit this scoundrel to leave! It is a wild goose chase only! Let him not ride Northward, the peril now lies east! Let him not go! The fords must be retaken, and Eommund's son set at once within the strongest fastness of the Mark!" Wormtongue's voice was unjustifiably panicked. Theoden made no answer but sat silent, his head bowed with pain.

With a firery glare at the worm, Eomer turned on his heel and strode for the doors, while the stuned guards stood motionless in his wake. Before the great fire pit, Eomer paused. Clearly, making sure that his actions were seen by all, he drew back the sleeve of his tunic, and placed the slender blade of Guthwine upon his wrist. His eyes locked upon Grima's, and then, with a swift downwards thrust he severed the bracelet about his arm. The horsehair strands gave beneath the silver blade, and then snapped, spinning free of each other, released from their long bondage. As the plaited bracelet touched the dying embers, the fire leapt suddenly to flame. Red and gold fingers of light sprang up, and for a single moment the strands of braided horsehair could be seen, enshrined within the fire's heart. For a moment, the bracelet glowed white hot, then it writhed, curled into ash, and was consumed. Eomer, without word or sign turned and strode from the hall.