Chapter X: The Counsel of Wormtongue

Chapter IX: Breaking Of The Fellowship

Part One

FFG- Rhovanion OutriderGrima son of Galmod bent low over his horse, riding with all the speed that could be coaxed out of his mount. He needed to return to Edoras, to the Golden Hall of Meduseld with all the haste and swiftness he could muster. His master, his true master needed him there for there was a duty only he could perform. The king of Rohan, Theoden son of Thengel, was a young man no more and relied on Grima’s counsel to maintain proper rule throughout the Mark. He knew as he rode that he would not be welcomed there, for he never was even in the days of his youth, and his service to the king had not ingratiated himself with the young lords of the court. But Grima was a faithful servant and would do as required, whatever the cost. The journey from Orthanc to Edoras was not a short one, and he would have plenty of time to formulate a plan of action for what would need to be done.

The White Wizard’s forces were nearly ready to be unleashed, but the conquest of Rohan would not be easy. Its Eoreds were veterans of a near-constant struggle against the Dunlandings to the west and Orc raiders from the east, and they would defend Rohan to their last breath. Horseman unequalled and trained with bow and spear, every single Rohirrim counted for a dozen soldiers on foot. But the true strength of Rohan lay with her Marshals, valiant men of war who lead their men into battle as true captains ought, rather than skulking behind the front lines. Theodred, son of the king, and Eomer son of Eomund would prove the most problematic to Saruman’s advance, and would need to be treated accordingly. These were not men who would merely rely on force of arms to win through, but under their direction the Sons of Eorl would pick apart any opponent, bands of horsemen probing for weaknesses and opportunities with arrows and javelins until at last a final charge would shatter an exhausted foe hemmed in by outriders and flanking units. Yes, these men would require Grima’s special oversight.

FFG- EowynAs he rode, Grima’s thoughts turned to Eowyn, fairest of all Rohan’s shieldmaidens. She was Eomer’s sister, niece and ward to the king and closest of his counsellors save Grima himself. When the daughter of Theodwyn initially arrived in court, she was little more than an annoyance, a distraction who diverted the king from his own counsels, but even Grima had to admit her early advice possessed a certain innocent wisdom to it. And as she aged and grew, her insight and perception developed until it was only matched by her cold beauty. A true princess, she was warm and open with the people with a core of ice and steel that radiated from her whenever it needed. And Grima’s respect for her abilities grew into admiration and then into something deeper. He would not call it love, for he was unsure of the sensation, his father leaving him nothing other than a name and a drinking debt a dragon would struggle to pay off, and his mother died bringing him into the world. But Grima had worked his way up the hierarchy of the court, taking every opportunity presented to him, until at last he now had the ear of the king and wanted for nothing. But Eowyn, though starting at the pinnacle of the kingdom, was never presented with any opportunities. He saw she was trapped, that she yearned for her freedom, for her chance to excel and have the songs sung about her deeds. Eowyn was raised in the king’s household on the same stories and sagas as Theodred and Eomer, filled with the same desires, and yet was never allowed to step into the sun. So in the shade she stayed, a winter bloom longing for the touch of spring’s dawn but kept in the cold. Soon she would wither, which Grima would not be able to stand. And so when an opportunity came to free her, Grima took it and treated with the White Wizard.

Part Two

FFG- Saruman and GrimaTwo days ago, Grima rode into Isengard bearing news for Saruman the White of the goings on of Rohan. Under the sanction of Theoden, Grima would make this journey from Edoras to Orthanc every full moon, bearing tidings and counsel from one to the other that could be trusted to none else. It was on just such an errand that the White Wizard spoke to Grima of the king’s niece, of her plight and of how Grima might be able to free her from her invisible cage. Nothing serious, nothing untoward, but merely the possibility of how she might be able to be given the chance to prove herself to the king. A thief discovered in the night perhaps, or a corrupt Marshall being discovered. Maybe that would not be enough to win her renown, perhaps an attempted arson of the stables being uncovered, or halting an assault on the king. No, it would have to be more dramatic to secure her place in the songs. An ambush on the king’s party, that would never do any harm to Eowyn herself, or indeed the good king, but one in which she might demonstrate her skill with a blade. Then is was realised that certain trees would need to fall for the shieldmaiden to take her place in the sun. An aging lord, perhaps, or a junior captain. Maybe even a Marshall of the Mark would need to be removed. But then, the problem runs much deeper than that. It is the king’s own family, nay the king himself keeping her restricted and bound. The most certain way, the best way to save Eowyn, would require the greatest sacrifice. A regime change. And in the interregnum, who better than a wizard, chief of the Istari and leader of the White Council no less, to steward the kingdom until a suitable heir is ready to assume the throne.

Image result for theoden artAnd so Grima began supplying Saruman with information, that he might better understand the kingdom so when he does assume temporary stewardship the transition might be as smooth as possible. Harvest details were produced, trade logs and treasury accounts were furnished, censuses, building plans and muster records were procured, all for Saruman’s study and education. And in return the White Wizard offered Grima certain boons. But Grima had no interest in the pipeweed traded in from the Shire to the north, nor the wines Saruman had acquired from Dale, all he wanted was the betterment of his people and of the kingdom of Rohan, something that would surely be better achieved with Eowyn taking a more active role in its government and leadership. But that would require the removal of Theoden, who was too beloved in the eyes of his people and his lords to simply be assassinated and forgotten. No, Grima would have to destroy the image of the man before Theoden could be removed.

Thus Grima was persuaded to learn the art of poisons. A bad stomach could easily be mistaken for undercooked food, and while recovering from such, it would not be unexpected for the king to contract some other illness while in his weakened state. A nasty cough perhaps, one that takes away his breath and stamina. He would surely need to be kept inside for his own good, the cold wind could make any ailment worse and the people should not see their ruler in such a debilitated state. The cough may grow worse, giving him headaches and migraines that might require bed rest for the remainder of the day. And in that condition, the king would not be able to stomach strong or rich food, but rather simple bread, broth and porridge will suffice until his health returns. No, he is too weak to bathe and besides, the leeches have not finished for the day. The king’s health must be the absolute priority of the household, leave the running of the small chores to Grima, good and faithful Grima. And when Theoden King is found one morning with a dagger wound in his chest, who else could it have been but the son embittered by his father’s persistent refusals to temporarily pass on the crown to him until his health recovers. And who else but his best friend Eomer, driven out of brotherhood and loyalty, would be complicit in this dreadful act of treason against the beloved Theoden King, against Rohan itself.

Part Three

As Grima took some bread and cheese for his lunch by a great window in Orthanc, a great commotion drifted through the air from the gate of Isengard. Annoyed by the disturbance, Grima looked, and there by the gate were a number of horsemen all hooded and cloaked in robes as black as their steeds. He did not know why, but the son of Rohan suddenly felt a great terror seize his heart and he hid to the side of the window that they might not see him, but still he might hear what was said. For a voice as cold and harsh as chains rattled across the plain of Isengard, demanding that Saruman come out and answer them. Almost before the words had reached Orthanc, from a balcony far above Grima a deep, melodious voice rang out. “And why is it that you have come, Lord of Morgul? There is no need for threats or ultimatums.Can we not speak peaceably together, you and I?” This seemed to slightly mollify the stranger, though the edge in his voice did not dissipate as he called on Saruman for any information about the land known as ‘Shire’.

FFG- Ringwraith on HorseGrima frowned to himself. The land the pipeweed comes from? What purpose could these Fell Riders have in that gentle country? His thoughts were interrupted as Saruman’s voice rolled out once again: “It is not a land that you look for,” it said. “I know what you seek, though you do not name it. I have it not, as surely its servants perceive without telling; for if I had it, then you would bow before me and call me Lord. And if I knew where this thing was hid, I should not be here, but long gone before you take it. There is one only whom I guess to have this knowledge: Mithrandir, enemy of Sauron. Fortunately for your purpose I have him within, taken captive not three days past. If your patience would allow it, I shall question him on your behalf.” Hearing a door slam above him, Grima knew the wizard had left the balcony and even now would be questioning Gandalf. Setting down his cup, Grima left the room and crept silently up the stairs in the central hallway up to Saruman’s study.

Pressing his ear to the door, Grima was able to make out two voices; one was the deep voice of his master, but the other was tattered and weary, like a proud banner that has been too long in the wind. “My friend, I cannot keep the location of the Shire a secret from them for long,” said the voice of Saruman. “If I do not say then they are sure to come across someone who shall, but I can misdirect them and buy time. I need to know, has your hobbit left the Shire? Is it safe to send the Nine there where the Ring is not?”

The Ring? The same as the One Ring of Power told of in the sagas of Sauron and the High Kings of Elves and Men? But surely it was destroyed at the Battle of Dagorlad? After what seemed as an eternity, the tired voice of what could only be Gandalf came: “Curse you Saruman. You were once the chief ally of the Free Peoples. Have you fallen this far that you set yourself against both us and Sauron. You can never hope to survive this. But the Ring has left the Shire.”

“For all our sakes,” the voice of Saruman said, “I hope that you are indeed correct, my old friend.” Footsteps receded from study out through some other passageway, and Grima turned to go.

“I know you are there Grima,” Gandalf’s voice came through the door. “Do not trust Saruman, his words are as poisoned honey. You were once a man of Rohan, a man who served your king as best you could after your fashion. Theoden needs you now, more than he has need of Erkenbrand or Eomer, more than even his own son Theodred. More even than Eowyn. Rohan needs you.”

Grima paused, for the wizard’s voice served only to add to his doubts and confusion that now boiled within him. But he shook his head, pushing them away. Rohan did need him, but it did not need Theoden. The old fool did not know of what he spoke. Grima returned to his window to hear Saruman’s reply to the Lord of Morgul.

“I have make the arch-enemy Mithrandir confess. I will report this myself to the Lord of Barad-dûr,” he said loftily, “to whom I speak from afar on great matters that concern us. But all that you need to know on the mission that he has given you is where ‘the Shire’ lies. Thus says Mithrandir, it is northwest from here some six hundred miles, on the borders of the seaward Elvish country. You must cross Isen by the Fords, and then rounding the Mountains’ end make for Tharbad upon Greyflood. Go with speed, and I will report to your Master that you have done so.”

The leader of the riders hesitated, as though pondering whether to press the matter further. But with a great piercing scream, he reared his horse and the group galloped with all haste south and east from Isengard, and Grima never saw them again in the vale of Isengard or lands of Rohan.

Part Four

Four months passed after the Black Riders had treated with Saruman, but Grima did not forget their cold presence, nor the words spoken softly to him by the Grey Pilgrim. Was Saruman truly not to be trusted? Were his words not a ruse to dispel the threat the horsemen posed? Surely the White Wizard could not actually be in communication with the Dark Lord, let alone in league with him. But if he was, what would that mean for the land of his people? What would that mean for Eowyn?

Almost as though aware of his presence in Grima’s thoughts, the White Wizard appeared at his side. “Grima, my faithful friend, you seem distracted,” he said, laying his hand on Grima’s arm. “Come, tell me what troubles you. Perhaps I can be of assistance to you.”

Grima hesitated. “My lord,” he began. “My lord Saruman, I am afraid I have failed you.”

“Failed me?” The wizards voice had the sound of mirth in it, but Grima could detect a steel beneath it and knew he had to tread carefully. “Come now Grima, there is nothing you could do that would make you a failure to me.”

FFG- Isengard“Well it is just that, the king, my lord.” Saruman nodded in encouragement. “The king is not weakening as swiftly as we might have hoped. He is still strong of constitution, and his mind is not as dull as his condition might have facilitated.”

“And why do you think that might be my friend? I am sure you must have given this matter your wise thought.” Grima could feel the mirth slip from the wizards voice and the steel within began to take more prominence.

“He draws his strength from those around him, from his wards and his son especially.” Grima stammered, aware that if he said the wrong thing that his life may very well be at an end.

He need not have worried however, for a laugh echoed around the chamber from the lips of Saruman. “Oh my dear Grima. You need not concern yourself on that account. The king’s son and nephew shall soon be dealt with.” Seeing the confusion on Grima’s face, Saruman drew off toward a door in the chamber he had not noticed before. “Come my friend, there is something you need to see.”

Grima paused for a moment, his fear of what he might be shown only outweighed by the command of Saruman’s voice. The wizard passed through the door, leading Grima down a long and winding flight of stairs lit only by the braziers of the wall. Down and down they went, far further than the base of Orthanc Grima reckoned, until he thought they must be approaching the foundations of the earth itself. Eventually Saruman led Grima out into a vast cavern beneath the ground, far greater than any he had seen before, even greater than the Glittering Caves beneath the Hornburg. But it was not the size of the chamber that caused the son of Galmod to be rooted to the ground in terror. Nor was it the deafening tumult of a thousand hammers beating on anvils with the grinding of untold machinery with the roar of unseen furnaces.

“Do you see now, my friend. There is no cause for fear,” Saruman reassured Grima. “If Theoden King will not slip quietly into the night, he shall be helped there, he and all who would oppose us.”

FFG- Uruk HaiIn the cavern before the pair was a vast host of men and orcs, toiling together on all manner of diverse machines of war. Grima could see battering rams being fashioned, catapults and ballistas arranged together in order, smiths and armourers crafting stout swords and thick plate, numerous pits of wargs and training fields filled with broad dark-skinned orcs drilling themselves in formations and maneuvers. One such Uruk saw the pair arrive and made his way over to them. Dropping to his knee, the Uruk told Saruman of their progress in training and the numbers now fit for battle.

“Excellent work Ugluk, I am pleased with your efforts,” Saruman intoned. “Now I have a couple of tasks for you, one for which you shall need your swiftest hunters.”

“Speak your will, my lord.” Grima was amazed at the deference the Orc had for Saruman, the respect afforded to him was almost patriarchal.

“Thank you Grima, that will be all.” Saruman turned to the son of Rohan. “I trust now that your fears have been allayed?”

FFG- WormtongueGrima had no choice but to bow so as to hide his eyes from the wizards gaze. “You have surpassed my wildest expectations, my wise lord. I take my leave of you.” Grima backed out the doorway of the cavern, pausing once he was out of sight to choke back a sob. As he caught his breath, Saruman’s voice drifted after him: “Send one quarter of your force to the Fords of Isen, I intend to set a trap for a certain horse prince.”

“It shall be done my lord.” The Uruk Saruman had named as Ugluk assured him. “And what of my hunters?”

“This shall need your special oversight I am afraid. Tell me what you know of the River Anduin.”

Part Five

Grima son of Galmod bent low over his horse, riding with all the speed that could be coaxed out of his horse. He needed to return to Edoras, to the Golden Hall of Meduseld with all the haste and swiftness he could muster. His master, his true master needed him there for there was a duty only he could perform. The king of Rohan, Theoden son of Thengel, was a young man no more and relied on Grima’s counsel to maintain proper rule throughout the Mark. He knew as he rode that he would not be welcomed there, for he never was even in the days of his youth, and his service to the king had not ingratiated himself with the young lords of the court. But Grima was a faithful servant and would do as required, whatever the cost. The journey from Orthanc to Edoras was not a short one, and he would have plenty of time to formulate a plan of action for what would need to be done.

Chapter XI: The Uruk-hai