There was a sharp bite in the autumn air this night, the land had already seen the first cold snap of the season as just this very morning she had glimpsed a fine frost upon the grass. It had even settled itself upon the petals of the flowers that bloomed late into the fall in her most treasured garden. It was quite whimsical, for it seemed to Eowyn that as she had slept an artist had strayed into her garden and with his brush dusted every last petal with a powder of crushed crystal, for they shone and twinkled merrily in the growing light of the dawn.
Now Eowyn ached to feel that same careless joy she had felt as she had risen as the cold now sliced through her as sharply as a well honed blade even though she wore heavy stockings beneath her nightgown and clutched at a woolen shawl about her slender shoulders, she still too keenly felt the brush of cold against her flesh.
Eowyn had retired early to her bed this evening but lay awake as sleep had not found her and stirred by restlessness she had risen once more to seek out her husband. It was not unusual for Faramir not to join her until the smaller hours of the morning, for he lost himself in the hours, locked away in his private study beneath towering mounds of documents and scroll’s. Often she simply content to watch him, his head bowed over his work and his brow knit in such fierce concentration and she often teased him that while he was so deeply absorbed in his work she could off all of her clothes and walk about in aught about her skin and he would still take no notice of her.
It was not her intention to disturb Faramir at this hour but the house was so still, the servants having long since retired to their own quarters and beds and even the hounds which slept on the warm stone beside the dying embers of the hearth did not raise their heads to watch her as she passed, her stocking feet made so little sound save for the occasional soft creak of the wood beneath her weight. As Eowyn neared the study she did not see the telltale soft glow of candlelight which pooled beneath the door which meant her husband was no longer within, nor had their paths crossed as she had come from their chamber’s and she certainly saw no reason why he would take care to avoid her.
Thinking that perhaps he had only just finished his work and had merely extinguished the candles a moment before she had came Eowyn stood before the door and softly knocked “Faramir?” she called softly pressing her cheek gently against the smooth grain of the wood but received no answer. Though she strained to hear it there was a soft rustling, movement from within.
Curiosity overcame her better judgment then as she drew aside the door and stepped into the room. At its centre there was a large wooden desk that was as it ever was, cluttered with many documents and candles burned so low they were little more than a melted puddle of wax with the wick emerging from its centre.
It was a more than familiar scene that was lain out before her but absent from it was Faramir, her husband and a faint frown touched her lips. The logs in the fire now blackened and charred collapsed in upon themselves sending up a dark cloud of ash. Eowyn startled and just as quickly locating the source of her fright sharply scolded herself for such foolishness. Though she did not see the wink of ember from the ash, it was a sign that the fire had been permitted to die and the wood had now grown cold. Still, it was undoubtedly the very same sound she had heard earlier, if not the stirrings of some small creature seeking warmth from the cold winter night and while she detested the presence of rodents in her home she found herself secretly glad at that thought, what harm was there in a small mouse seeking shelter?
Silvery light spilled from the window pooling upon the floor, The moon was full and pregnant in the sky above and it granted the study it’s own light without candles as Faramir had built this space so that he might look into her garden’s, quiet now as the seeds she had planted in the autumn would burst into life with the coming of spring.
Now the light of the moon, pale and pure as the water of the stream’s which ran through Ithilien fell across a dark figure which stood not a full step from the closed window and a terrified rill of horror rose in Eowyns throat as she had been alone but moments earlier and it was impossible to enter the room without first brushing past her. Eowyn fought to collect herself, savagely reining in her fear and when she spoke her tone was strong and clear “Who are you?” She demanded even through her throat threatened to close about the words “Show yourself to me!” she commanded, though as the figure slowly turned to face her, Eowyn immediately came to regret her order.
As she beheld the lone figure in profile her eyes fell upon something very odd in his appearance, blended with his dark robes in the dim light. At first it seemed to her that several small stick’s stuck out from the man’s back and her soft blue eyes narrowed into sharp slits, Arrows?
Dark hair fell limply in ragged clumps framing the man’s pallid features; it reminded her of the dark seaweed clinging to rocks at low tide. Yet as she looked the features fully her heart seized within her breast, a scream rose in her throat and the blood in her veins ran cold as ice.
Blood pounded within her ears as at once she knew that she looked upon one who had been long before been slain and buried, yet coherent thought had left her as a frightened bird taking to the wing upon hearing a nearby predator.
Before her now stood none other Grima Wormtongue, disgraced son of Rohan and much loathed once Counsellor to Theoden King. Milk white eyes which held the glass like sheen of a corpse sightlessly regarded her from within sunken sockets. The bloodless flesh of the face had grown so pale it was well nigh have been transluscent and she could see the the delicate interplay of black veins beneath the flesh. The very presence was like a blast of cold air which had blown from the most desoloute mountain peak in the heart of winter, Eowyn shivered beneath her night dress but this was not entirely in part to the creeping cold that crept upon her bones as terror clawed like some wild beast at her every sense.
The hideous spektar was clad in the very black robes that she knew so well and they were soiled and torn, the death shrouds of a corpse, the figured was hunched over as though the gauzy fabric were terribly heavy, and would not allow it to straighten and stand upright. Always Grima had always carried himself as a dog that expected another beating from its master at any moment, yet was too fearful to run and escape.
Eowyn had been struck dumb with horror as she had received word many month’s ago of Grima’s death and she had not grieved for him, but found comfort in the knowledge he would never again haunt her steps. “N-no!” she exhaled upon a shuttering breath as she fought down the sickness which welled upwards in her throat, twisted her gut “You are dead! Cursed Traitor” she spat, her anger slowly pushing fear until it was nearly overtaken completely, but not quite. Taking a step backward’s and nearly falling as she collided sharply with the edge of a small table which was piled high with documents which were set so precariously and the small table swayed for a moment before the papers toppled the floor in a flurry of loose sheafs of paper but she could not allow herself to remove her eyes from the horrible twisted creature before her for a solitary moment.
The flesh across her arm’s and back prickled uncomfortably as she starred down one who she knew to be dead yet here he stood, as surely as she lived and breathed in the flesh before her and she saw upon his throat and face a darkening of the flesh, the beginning of decay and her breath was indrawn in a sharp hiss as the stench struck her, the reak of rotten meat and the heady scent of rich soil, her nostrils flared as the musty stench of the grave struck her and she fought down the bile which burned her throat.
Eowyn had in her young life once before confronted death given from, A witch king she had later heard it later called but at the time she had not given herself time to think upon what she had done, for she was senseless with grief and rage after watching her uncle struck down.
To now gaze upon one whom she had once known, grown with and as time had slowly passed, come to hate for he constantly stalked her steps, creeping in shadow. It was a dark, unsettling memory she had placed behind her, for she had been too young, too na´ve for many years to truly understand the counsellors dark design’s for her, when she had come to understand she had both feared and loathed him though she knew he dared not touch her. It had not been difficult to forget for her day’s in Ithilien had been filled with the light of Faramir’s love for her, she had not regretted coming here though she missed Rohan, for it would always also be her home
The ashen lips parted as though Grima would speak and Eowyn braced herself but no word’s emerged, but a terrible wretching sound as the figure convulsed horribly, arm’s with their claw-like fingers flew out and jerked though they belonged to a child’s toy that was being carelessly flung about. The sound grew steadily louder and Eowyn felt sickness raising in her own throat at the sound and her hand flew up to cover her mouth, her eyes widening in horror.
Grima finally ceased his terrible movement’s as though he were a puppet controlled by cruel, careless hands. A forked tongue flicked out from the depth’s of gapping mouth, from behind the pale lips that were opened in a silent scream of agony, and then a snake’s head emerged from between the thin pale lips.
It regarded Eowyn with beady black eyes set on either side of its flattened skull, it’s tongue flicked out once more to taste the air. It’s grey scales shone in the pale moonlight as it slithered from Grima’s mouth to his shoulder, it’s body curling about his neck and down to another arm and then tracing a trail across the chest and then downwards to the floor as with a final choking gasp the tip of it’s body emerged from the spectres mouth and the large snake fell to the floor with a soft plop.
Again the wicked forked tongue flickered out, tasting the scent from the air and Eowyn vaguely wondered if the snake could taste her fear as well.
As though answearing her unspoken questioned the pointed snout was turned towards her and the snake slithered soundlessly across the floor, the long body coiling and twisting as it moved, it’s round body appeared to grow larger in girth.
The brush of cold, clamy scale’s against her ankle jerked Eowyn from her inability to move and she shrieked as she felt the snake wrapping itself about her leg, and she kicked out wildly fighting to rid herself, to stomp upon it’s head with her foot but it coiled itself even tighter, contracting about her as soon her other leg was equally entangled and she could no longer move though this did not stop her from attempting to flee and instead was sent crashing to the floor
Even amist her wild terror she caught another glimpse of the broken form of Grima Wormtongue, head bent in silent submission. Though slowly the head was lifted, the features no longer eerily impassive but twisted in a grimace of pain, the flesh taunt over the skull and the dreadful scowl deepened and the lips parted but this time a sound did emerge. The scream hardly seemed to come from the lips of the man but it was several sounds all at once, joining in a blood curtling sympathany as it was the scream of an animal stuck within a trap, the high pitched scream of a frightened child, the mournful cry of a hound to the moon. The sound filled the room, it broke beyond, cutting into the silence of the night. It grew fainter until it was the sound became the scream’s of one man. It was a sound borne of agony and suffering, the wail of a spirit bound eternally to a dark master.
“Get away!” Eowyn screamed even as she thrashed against her living bond’s “Curse you!” she cried, words of fury boiling up in her like the fat from boiling bone’s even though she was also in peril from the great snake which moved to coil about her she could not hold back the word’s she had kept in private for so long for the one who she dispised utterly, she kept no pity for him, not now, not ever.
The snake moved upwards, it moved upwards across her stomach, across her chest until she felt the flickering of its tongue against her throat as its body had grown so thick she had no hope of breaking free of it, it began to tighten itself once more and excruiating pain shot through her and she opened her mouth to scream one last time before all breath was forced from her body.
“Eowyn!…By the Gods!”
No longer did the crushing hold of the snake hold her, but she found her wrist’s firmly held by the strong warm hands of her husband that she had cracked quite smartly across the cheek and a reddening spot now appeared where she had caught him with her fist as she had struggled “Eowyn!” Slowly she blinked, and drew a long deep breath, kicked out her leg’s, wiggled her arm’s and relished every moment of the blessedly unhindered movement.
Faramir’s eyes, filled with concern for her bore down into her own and she sobbed with grateful relief as she cast herself upwards, throwing her arms about his neck and buried her face into his tunic, she breathed deeply of his scent, for as always’s he smelled of the wood and wind, of all thing’s good and clean. To her quiet shame she wept against his shoulder, tears born of mingled fear and relief and once they had dried she merely held to him to draw comfort, to still the wild beating of her heart.
Eowyn did not hurry to pull herself away but as she did she could not help but take in the state of the room for the table, little more than a stool actually, that Faramir had employed as another surface to cover, remained toppled and document’s scattered about. Apart from her husband who remained crouched by her side there was no other in the room and she drew in another deep shuttering breath.
Faramir’s handsome features were drawn with concern as he slowly rose and extended a hand drawing her to her feet also, the steward seemed to take no concern in the state she had left his study but watched her intently even as she raised her hands and drew her long hair back and way from her face in a small effort to compose herself “Eowyn, What happened? I heard your screams…” Her husbands voice tapered off, she heard the fear in his tone and saw it in his eyes.
Slowly, as she began to breath evenly once more Eowyn at length told Faramir of everything, and he listened in utter silence until at last lifting his hand’s to either side of her face and brushing his thumb’s against her cheek “It was a dream Eowyn, Nothing more” Eowyn drew sharply away at this “It was no dream Faramir!” she cried she drew back throwing out an arm to encompass the small room “How did I come to be here?” she demanded of him, some part of her feverantly hoping he could offer some, she know she did not dream all of what had happened.
“Grima Wormtongue was killed month’s ago, You know this Eowyn” Faramir told her firmly in a tone that caused irritation to flare through her despite her current state, he spoke as though addressing a senseless child that had merely woken from a nightmare. Eowyn turned her face away from him, suddenly feeling a great deal less inclined to tell Faramir anymore for the shock was slowly fading away and leeching with it her strength.
“No, I saw him just as I see you now!” she insisted, another shudder running through her, had she the desire she might have reached out and touched Wormtongue, but even in life she had not brought herself to do so, why would she desire to touch him in death? Sickness caused her stomach to churn uneasily once more at the mere thought.
A warm hand was lain upon her shoulder, she still faintly trembled even as Faramir wrapped strong, protective arm’s about her “Hush now” he mumured close to her ear, despite her fright even this was enough to send shiver’s up her spine, this time not of any fear “I saw him” Eowyn murmured quietly, her gaze troubled as she stared out the window and into the quiet, still garden beyond, into which she had poured so much of herself, she fought to draw calm from the sight but a nagging disquiet remained.
Eowyn could sense Faramir’s frown even if she could not see it, he did not believe in the lore of roaming or vengeful spirit’s whilst Eowyn had been raised on such tales yet never had she beheld such a thing for herself. “Come to bed” Faramir murmured, It was an enticing offer she could scarcely refuse to be held for this night in warmth and safety. Wordlessly she accepted and allowed herself to be lead from the room. Though not before she cast one last glance behind her shoulder if only to assure herself that all was truly well and once she was content, Eowyn allowed Faramir to guide her away.
A gentle breath of movement stirred the paper’s spread across the floor like a freshly fallen blanket of snow. A small grey snake emerged from beneath them, it’s tongue flicking out once more with a soft hiss before slithering away and disappearing into a dark corner.
This story was written for ALEC on livejournal (A long awaited contest) and for the October theme of "Death and Dead things" and it came in first place in the Het category but I am not going to get too excited over that as it was also the one and only entry in the het entry!
Chapter End Notes:
This was written as a Halloween story and I did try to make it is as scary as possible but it did steam from the thought that Grima was a puppet to Sauron in life, Did much change when he was killed. Or was he still a puppet to a stronger will in the after life, The story took off from there but that was my intial thought.