Chapter Three

After what she judged to be about two hours, Éowyn had decided that although Wormtongue was admittedly intriguing for all his loathsomeness, he had exceedingly dull taste in reading material. In that time she had gotten through just one overstuffed bookcase, and was no closer to finding anything resembling a journal. Either it was well-hidden, or it didn't exist – right now, she chose to assume the former.

She moved on to the next shelf and opened up a pair of parchments that had been folded together. She had been checking every parchment carefully, thinking that Wormtongue would be secretive enough to hide something inside one of them. So far, she had only discovered the large papers to contain maps.

This one was different, though. Immediately she recognized the royal seal of her uncle, accompanied by Wormtongue's graceful script – this was the documentation of a law or royal edict. Carefully, she read its contents; it was not recently written, but it made her blood boil. It was the very document which had declared Wormtongue to be Théoden's chief counselor, second in authority only to the king himself. The action had infuriated Éomer and disquieted a fair many others, but Wormtongue had still possessed the trust of much of Rohan in those days.

Éowyn scowled and looked at the second parchment, which only deepened her frown. It was an expertly drawn diagram depicting the layout of the Hornburg, with every room down to the smallest cupboard meticulously labeled with its purpose and dimensions. She remembered how Wormtongue had insisted that it was necessary to keep records of such things, especially if Rohan should go to war. He had done what most had considered unthinkable – actually ridden out to the fortress with a small entourage to make all the records himself. This had actually made some of his critics think that perhaps he was looking out for the good of Rohan after all.

And look what came of all his noble work! Éowyn thought. This was how Saruman's armies knew how to get past our defenses – he had it all mapped out for him, clear as day!

She was filled with rage; she could stay here no longer! She ran to the door and tugged on the handle, but it would not budge. The window! She might be high up in the tower, but perhaps there was a way out.

Throwing the heavy curtains aside, she knew that to be impossible. She was up a dizzying height from the ground, which was a horrifying sight too, pockmarked with pits of fire as if she were in Mordor itself. Overcome with fear and anger, she stumbled back and sank to the floor at the foot of the bed, still clutching the map. There was a third emotion now, too, one that she did not want to face. Against her will and her efforts, she began to cry. She was utterly alone, there was no way out of this black prison, she would die here…


The soft voice startled her; for a moment she thought she was going mad, but she looked up to see the traitor himself advancing toward her, concern lined in his face.

He leaned down and offered her his hand. "Hush, Éowyn, and tell me what is the matter," he said gently.

"How dare you!" she cried, standing up. He quickly straightened as well. "How dare you come in here and ask me this as if you do not know?"

"My lady, I did not—"

She did not want to hear a single word from him. The nerve he had! Without warning, she slapped him across the face. The pale face became colorless, save for the red mark left by her hand.

"Do you take pleasure in my misery? Monster! Leech!" she shouted, spots of red burning on her wet cheeks. "Do you?"

His face was white, and his pale eyes wide with shock at her outburst. For several seconds he seemed at a loss for words, but then recovered himself.

"I only came to ask if there is anything you require, my lady."

"Require?" She took a step toward him; he seemed to pull back. "I require that you let me out of this prison! I require that I never see your wretched face again! I require my freedom!" He was stunned back into silence and made no attempt to reply. "Well? You asked if I require anything. You can grant these things – yes, such power you have attained for yourself!" She held up the map she had discovered; his eyes nervously flicked down to the parchment and then back to her.

"But by such cunning means!" she continued. "Should you not wish to exercise that power? Did you not come here to grant any request I might have?"

He spoke falteringly. "I – I cannot."

"You cannot what?"

"I cannot do what you have asked of me, my lady. But… I wish you to be happy."

Éowyn gestured to their surroundings. "This is hardly the way to show it. No doubt this is the culmination of your plan – is it just how you expected? What did you think would happen, that I would fall into your arms in blind grief? You are pathetic, and I would pity you if I did not despise you even more. You may profess that you desire my happiness, but I know better. If you truly cared for me you would grant me my freedom."

"I cannot do that, Éowyn," he said evenly, meeting her grey eyes with his pale blue ones.

"Why not?" she asked, emboldened to the point of recklessness by all that she had said thus far.

"I… because… Éowyn, you do not understand."

"I understand completely." Her voice was hard and challenging. "You would not part with your prize. Greed and lust, the vices of your downfall."

"No, my lady," he said, this time stepping closer to her. "It is evident that you are incapable of understanding. I thought perhaps you might have some inkling of comprehension, but you have grown too cold. I see that I was wrong."

"It would not be the first time," she told him, refusing to step away.

"Indeed not," he murmured. His eyes… she would not be the one to look away. "I shall return in the evening to attend to any requirements of a more mundane nature which you may have. Surely you do not wish to starve."

He turned and took a few steps towards the door, but then stopped abruptly. "And a word of advice from a counselor once trusted: if you wish to peruse my belongings, do so. I have nothing to hide from you. However, I warn you that, as you have already discovered, you may not like all that you find."

She did not know how to reply to that, and was irked when again he left with the last word.

She knew she was right. Greed and lust, that was what his sorry existence had become. And he had the gall to deny it, as if she couldn't see right through him. She had known him for most of her life, and she knew exactly how he was: withdrawn, defensive, venomous – in a word, snakelike. He was kind to you, though, she thought. Before everything went so horribly wrong. She knew he claimed to love her, but could love drive a man to change as he had, to do the things he had done?

Maybe she didn't understand.

A shortish sort of chapter as usual, but it's better than nothing, right? Again, thanks to the lovely Auri for getting me motivated to write this. A review would be just as lovely. :)