Disclaimer: I don't own Grima, or indeed most of the characters and places depicted within this story. They belong to someone else, Tolkien's ancestors or possibly New Line Cinema. But as I don't get paid for any of this I don't get sued. Yay!
Author's Note: Originally going to be one long story, I have split this into three chapters- Grima's childhood, his youth and the beginning of his corruption, and his life at court. I haven't found anywhere that could tell me how old Grima meant to be, but I have imagined him to be only a few years older than Eowyn. Some might find my title "Fallen Angel" too strong a phrase to use in connection with Wormtongue. Grima is certainly not an admirable character, and I am not trying to excuse him. These are mere suppositions on what his life might have been like. No one is born evil, after all…
Chapter One- The Pen And The Sword
It is suffocatingly, horribly dark in the bedroom. I draw back the curtain letting the moonlight spill in onto the floor. The bed remains swathed in shadow. I take a step forwards peering into the gloom. He is so still that at first I think he is asleep but then I notice the whites of his eyes glistening. His small body is rigid with fear, and as I move closer the air is thick with the stench of sweat. I grip the hilt of the knife more firmly- for I, too, am trembling. Our eyes meet and his widen as the moonlight catches the gleam of metal. A tear trickles down his chubby cheek, his small fingers gripping the sheets. His eyes shine in a mute appeal. Suddenly I am back beside the fountain, surrounded by a wall of giggling children. My hand falls limp by my side. I can't do it. Perhaps Lotho senses my hesitation for he finally gathers courage to speak
"Please" he bleats "D-don't"
I feel a prickle of irritation. Pathetic, snivelling creature, what makes him think I want to hear his pleadings? I remember what my father used to say never, never, never beg the enemy for mercy… I raise the knife.
I do not ask for forgiveness. I do not ask for pity. I ask only to be heard before I am gone from this world forever. It cannot be long now. This life that I have not the courage to escape is fast becoming unbearable. Either He will do it or one of those poor runts under my control will turn one day and take his revenge for the rape of his country. I will die and all that will be left of me is a name, bitter in the mouths of men. My kindred will spit at my memory and all the world will know me only as this -Wormtongue, the traitor, the coward. The murderer. But I was not always what I am now.
My life has not been a happy one. That is no excuse, of course. Many lives are miserable, many wretched, helpless creatures toil under this sun. Many hearts swell with the thought of revenge in the darkness of the night, but in the morning find their fingers too weak to lift the blade. But I betrayed all that was good and true, I would have watched while all that was beautiful shrivelled and sickened.
Where shall I begin? When did it start this sour slow corruption of my soul? Was I always doomed to fall? Begin at the beginning then.
I was born before my time, a pathetic mewling creature. I am told I did not cry like other babies, but could only manage a whimper. They thought I would die, like the rest of my would be brothers and sisters had. But somehow I clung on to life with leech- like determination. My health, however, remained poor.
My father was a great warrior, a Marshall of the Riddermark, a man who had worked his way up the ranks to become who he was. The Rohirric ideal; fair, strong and proud. It was no wonder he was ashamed of me, a pale feeble child, clinging to its mother aprons. Oh, I tried please him- indeed, it often seems as if my childhood was just one long futile struggle to win his love. An impossible task. My father was a man who prized bravery above all other virtues whereas I was a coward at heart. He valued strength, the physical prowess needed by a soldier while I was weak, stunted and constantly ailing. No matter how I hard I tried I could not suppress my true nature, and become the son he wanted.
It is hard to look back to that time, to recount all my petty failures and inadequacies. I soon found that I did not belong in the world I had been born. For one thing horses terrified me. Untidy, smelly brutes and so large, with those strong heavy hoofed legs that I knew were capable of administering a hefty kick- I stayed well clear of the stables. Even now, when a flatter myself I have learned how to command their bodies (if not their hearts) I can muster no great affection for the creatures. In Rohan, where horses are treated almost as equals, and the riding and tending to their needs almost second nature, this was indeed a disadvantage.
Another area in which I fell deficient was in what my father fondly called "the arts of war". My lessons in swordplay (which he, naturally, insisted on) were a daily terror. I dreaded the moment when I would have to don the face guard and pick up the sword, feeling the disapproving eyes of my instructor on me as the sweat slithered down my face and I began to shake…. Why was I so frightened? We fought with wooden swords and our clothes were padded. There was no real danger of us damaging anything but our pride. Still I dreaded the prospect of my inevitable failure, and the smarting sting of the sword thwacking down on my poor shoulder still made the tears spring to my eyes. I was always extraordinarily sensitive to pain.
One of my most painful memories from this period concerns the annual Games ceremonies held at Meduseld. Every year young noblemen gathered to compete in various sports- racing, archery, throwing and, of course, fencing. It was a friendly competition- the only prizes were a crowns of beech leaves the admiration of a crowd of spectators, but it was an important social event nonetheless and I was not the only small boy who dreamed of making his name by such means. Oh yes, I did dream, foolish, as it may seem. I imagined myself victorious, the crown placed upon my head and the crowd cheering my name and my father lifting me high on his shoulders, filled with pride that I was his son….
In truth I was far too young to enter the main competition but there was one event organised for the younger children to participate in- a small fencing tournament. My instructor was rather reluctant to let me enter, but fool that I was I insisted on it. I suppose I must have known at some level that I would be humiliated, but I could not bear to renounce my dream.
My memories of the event are rather hazy. A sea of faces, eyes fixed scathingly (or so I imagined) on me as I stood to take my place. My instructor nodding at me curtly as he handed me my sword. My opponent, a good two years younger than myself and almost an inch shorter, looking at me warily through his face guard. Then the sudden whirl of colour, the dark shape of a sword swinging towards and then -cowering on the floor my hands over my head. Please, oh, please don't hurt me. My mortified instructor refusing to meet my eyes, and my father turning away in disgust. And my mother taking me up in her arms and kissing me through the face guard and telling me it didn't matter didn't matter at all.
Oh yes, my mother loved me. I was her only child, her world, her life and she believed in me implicitly. I worshipped her. A small slight woman, (rather pale and strained looking it's true but still lovely to look at) with a cloud of soft golden curls. I thought her the most beautiful being that walked on the earth. She had high hopes of me I knew that I would prove intelligent and always encouraged me in my studies.
And in that at least I did do well. I loved to pore, squinting, over ancient tomes, to fill sheets of parchment with my own neat handwriting. Most of all I enjoyed arithmetic. I had a shrewd mind for figures and I soon discovered the satisfaction being the one to untangle a difficult problem, the thrill of seeing those neat orderly rows of figures and knowing that I was the master of them.
An odd child, then. Many thought my fondness for learning unhealthy and wouldn't I prefer to be playing outside in the sun? My father laughed at me, saying I was a milksop, only fit to be a scribe of a clerk, not a soldier. Sometimes when he had drunk too much I heard him ask his wife what he had done to deserve such a son. Then he would begin to shout at her, saying it was her fault, she spoilt me, or was I not his son, was that it? She had played him false, a whore for a wife and a milksop for a son, oh how very unfortunate he was.
And then one night he hit her. It was not so hard, just few blows to the face (he was too drunk to do much damage) but I felt each one like a kick in the guts. And I didn't stop him. Why didn't I try to stop him? I should have run between them, should have tried to stay his hand. But I just stood there, rooted to the spot croaking at him "Don't, don't".
And then, not long afterwards my mother fell ill. Her death was entirely unrelated to the events of that night, as I have said he did not hit her particularly hard, but I still could never forgive my father for it.
I can still remember the doctor's face as he told us, weary with telling the same bad news over and over again. Consumption, bad business, and of course he was sorry, it was a terrible loss.
"It's your fault." I hissed at my father. "You shouldn't have hit her."
To my surprise he said nothing, but bowed his head into his hands.
Don't ask me to recount the pain I felt at her loss. She was everything to me and any account of the tears I shed and the nights I spent searching in my mind for some shred of comfort would belittle my pain. Some things are best left unspoken.
I was then twelve years old. A scrawny, ugly lad, forever slinking off into corners and reading. Odd. It was no wonder the other children teased me. And with my mother, my one protector gone this became worse than ever (after a decent interval of a couple of weeks, for they were not callous children by nature).
It is hard to explain to a person who has never been the victim of this age old childhood "game" why exactly those feeble childish insults, those empty gestures should have had such an effect on me. They did not hurt me, or at least, not often and when they did the bruises faded, no it was the little things that hurt. They called me names, pelted me with insults and jeered at all my failures. Sometimes they would spit at me or run up behind me and give me a hard poke in the back of the neck before running away giggling. Oh, they had a hundred different ways of showing how worthless they thought me.
Of course, it was nothing a son of a Captain of the Mark shouldn't have been able to handle. Be a man, Grima. And I tried. I couldn't fight them so I endeavoured to ignore them. I would learn huge chains of numbers, facts and figures so that when the taunts began I would have something to think about, to block them out…
And of course I avoided them whenever I could. As a Marshall of the Rohirrim my father spent most of his time when not of duty at court attending on the King and so our family, like many others, lived as part of the royal household. Anywhere I went in the palace I was in danger of encountering my tormentors and they were most assiduous in seeking me out, when other pass-times had palled.
So I found myself certain "safe" areas, hiding places if you will. Places where children seldom played, dull places, uncomfortable lonely places. Security carries a price. One of my favourite havens was the old fountain in the Eastern courtyard. It was seldom visited in summer due to the lack of shade and the fact that it faced directly into the sun and took the full blast of the summers heat, but this I found was tolerable in small doses and the sound of the water falling was soothing. It was on one of these occasions that I first saw her.
A summer's afternoon and I sat on the edge of the fountain immersed in an essay I was writing for my history tutor. I didn't hear them coming until too late. Hearing a muffled giggle from somewhere behind me I looked up and received a splash of water in the face. Gefaran stood in front of me, fighting to keep his face straight
"Whoops!" he said "Sorry. Didn't see you there."
Titters from the gaggle of children clustered around him. I got up shakily and began to walk away.
"What's that you're writing Worm?" (Oh yes- even then I was a worm. Isn't it funny how names stick?)
Moving deftly in front of me Gefaran snatched the roll of parchment from my fingers.
"Give that back!" I squeaked, trying to grab it back but he held it out of my reach, dangling it from his fingertips.
"I just want a look," he said in a tone of outraged innocence. More sniggers. 64. 64 doubled is 128. 128 doubled is-
"The History Of The Umbardrim" Gefaran read aloud, his eyed gleaming.
"My, my what an exciting life you lead, Grima."
500 doubled is-
"Hey Wormy." Baldor spluttered with laughter "Why don't you give up studying and take a bath!" They laughed exaggeratedly, sniffing at the air around me and reeling back as if made dizzy the smell. I saw their eyes flashing with excitement, the shameful thrill of ill used power. I wondered dully whether I should just run and let him keep the stupid essay.
"How's your swordplay going?" Gefaran asked innocently. "Thinking of entering next year's tournament, are you?"
Merila sniggered while Baldor did an impression of me grovelling on the floor, arms over his head.
"Don't hurt me, oooh, don't hurt me."
And suddenly my temper snapped. With a cry I lunged at him, fists flailing wildly. Hands flew out grabbing at me and arms locked in mine, restraining me. I struggled, hitting out wildly and elbowed Merila hard in the face. Her hands flew to her face and I saw a glimpse of blood, bubbling out of her nose.
"He hurt me!" She cried out in shock. One of the other girls put an arm around her, throwing me a disgusted look. Gefaran waggled a finger at me.
"Hitting girls." He said "Not nice"
"I hate you!" I yelled, "I hate you! You're a pig!"
Gefaran dropped his mocking smile, thrusting his face threateningly close to mine
"What did you call me?"
I spat. There was a sudden silence as he wiped the glistening beads of spittle off his face.
"You shouldn't have done that," he said quietly. Without warning he sprang at me pulling my arms in a painful grip behind my back and yanking my head backwards by my hair with the other.
"Let me go" I choked. I was no longer angry now but frightened "Please let me go"
"What do you say?"
"S-sorry" I stuttered, "I'm sorry"
"What do you think?" Gefaran called out over my head to the others "Should I let him go?"
"Duck him" suggested Baldor enthusiastically "Duck his head in the fountain."
The others grinned. Gefaran gave a grim smile as he pulled me over to the fountain.
"Like a bath, Grima?"
He forced my head under the water. It was painfully cold, rushing to fill my ears and nose. I swallowed a mouthful of water and gagged, panicking. I'm drowning I thought they've decided to kill me at last. Then suddenly the pressure on the back of my neck eased and I resurfaced, gasping.
"Again?" Gefaran asked silkily.
"Please-" I began coughing uncontrollably
"What's that? What did you say?"
"No" I whispered.
"I think he wants some more, don't you?" Gefaran said loudly, his grip tightening on the back of my neck.
"Stop!" A clear voice rang across the courtyard "How dare you? Stop this at once!"
Miraculously Gefaran's hold on the back of my neck loosened was able to raise my head.
A little girl in white stood at the top of the flight of steps leading up to the hall. The sun shone from directly behind her making her hair shine bright, molten gold and her dress so fiercely white it hurt to look at it.
"Let him go at once" she commanded.
"It's only a bit of fun." Gefaran muttered biliously.
"Yeah" agreed Merila.
The girl walked slowly down the steps and deliberately stood in front of Gefaran, forcing him to meet her eyes.
"It's not fair. Let him go."
"But-" began Baldor. She shot him a contemptuous glance and he fell silent. She turned again to Gefaran.
"Let him go."
Slowly Gefaran removed his hands from my neck and arms.
"Good. And you must leave him alone now" she said, in the tone an adult uses to reprimand a child. She looked around piercingly at the open- mouthed mob of children.
"All of you"
She couldn't have been more than nine years old, while the very youngest of them was at least eleven yet they obeyed her without question. At the time I thought she must have been a good witch or Elf to cast such a spell over them- later I found out that being the niece of the King probably had more than a little to do with it.
With amazement I watched them slink away, shame- faced, like a pack of hyena's confronted by a lioness. I began gather up the sheets of parchment that had fallen onto the floor. My quill, I noticed had fallen to the floor and been crushed underfoot. The girl stood, watching me, silently. I stood up.
"I-um- my thanks." I was already beginning to feel the shame of having to be rescued by a girl
"That's alright" She said graciously and ran off into the palace.
It was many years before I saw her again although I often thought of her and saw that fairy- like form and golden head dancing through my dreams.