Bardvahalla - 2007
The elf's arrow strikes his torso with a meaty thud. The cold stone soundly kisses his pale cheek as he falls. There is pain, but also a great release as he feels the malignant spirit of the White Wizard's iron hold on his soul dissipate and disperse.
Free. Free at last.
Saruman's death brings tears of relief to his tired eyes. He lies flat on the chilled pale stone, exposed to the open sky atop the imposing tower of Isengard. His face is wet with salt tears and his chest with coppery-scented blood. The wings of a curious crow wafts close to his face as he hears the stomp of heavily booted feet and the cursing of the dwarf, Gimli.
Grima lies still and closes his eyes. The crow pecks at his limp fingers. He feels the rough prod of Gimli's ax, then the air itself rumbles as the dwarf yelled merrily to his companion below. "Aye. A fair shot, Legolas. He is dead, but he's no Orc so he doesn't count!"
A distant, light laugh. The crow again pecks at his palm. It draws blood this time. Gimli pauses and regards the pale corpse for a time, then stomps away – leaving the crow to its meal.
Grima waits, then his hand lashes out, grasps the feeding crow by the neck and snaps it. He turns over and attempts to pull the elf bolt from his body but the barb hooks onto a bone and the pain is too great. He moans into his thick sleeve. He must wait.
A long, cold night shivering on the stone, wrapped in his thick robe. In the misty, reeking dawn he hears, Gandalf and his entourage leave. Carefully he peers and sees then move out without a backward glance. There is no one left to guard the tower. Most of the Ents wander away to reclaim the forest, though a few linger to seek out and destroy any lingering orcs.
He struggles down the staircase, his black robe both hindering progress and cushioning him when he falls. His nostrils are filled with smell of blood, the stench of the crow's filthy feathers and his own fear.
With difficulty he cleans the bird, roasts and eats it. He sleeps fitfully, every movement an agony. What to do? Where to go? He knows he cannot linger here, eating stray crows and sleeping in shadow.
Saruman's chambers are ransacked. Gandalf to be sure. The books and papers still smoldering, the staff shattered. He stealthily goes to the storage areas. In the ruins of Isengard there is still a little food. Enough for a thin pale man for many days. He will need to carry it himself. There will be no horses.
There is no clean water, so he drinks from the sole keg of ale the greedy hobbits neglected to find. When he feels drunk enough he attempts to remove the arrow again but it snaps in his hand and leaves a deep sliver in his finger. Moaning, he gnaws at the shard of wood and pulls it out with his teeth.
He should have revealed himself. At least then he might know if she lived. They may have killed him quickly and at least he would not have perished alone.
Whimpering, he smears a stinging paste into the gaping hole and binds a clean cloth around the wound. The bolthead lingers in his pale flesh. He needs a healer, but knows that there is no one left in Middle Earth who would lift a finger to save him. Still, he refuses to die here.
Nauseous from blood loss, pain and ale, Grima considers his options. He cannot stay. Rohan is certainly not an option. The Rohirrim would slay him on the spot. He ponders the journey to the White City, if he survives. He has been there before. Gondor's libraries gave him new ambition when life in the Rohan left him no other options. Large enough to hide him, yes, but the city is doomed to war by Sauron.
Besides, the Rohirrim are there. He would be known.
Saruman once sneered when he spoke of the Shire, but Gandalf spoke wistfully. There are Hobbits and Men in Bree. A long journey, far from Sauron and the wars. If Sauron succeeds it might take years before he turns his Eye there. Yes. He would make for the border of the Shire. Grima searches the tower for small and innocuous valuables - anything he can trade eventually for a horse and rations. If he survives.
He packs the paste and others medicine in case of wound fever. He takes any light food that will not spoil and the best clothes he can find that fit him. Boots. Socks. It might be a long walk. He must be practical. He also takes a small linen handkerchief stained with blood & humiliation. It is bordered with fine lace threading. It belonged to the Lady Eowyn once. She left it behind in Theodred's chamber on the day Gandalf arrived.
Silent, cautious, frightened, he slips past the last few Ents, bolts for the plains and two days later, as he sleeps feverishly, Grima is taken by a small band of surviving Orcs.
They strip the clothes from him and string him up by his feet from a tree branch. The green-skinned, red-orbed nightmares make a game of grasping him by the hair and swinging him wildly back and forth. They laugh as they debate how to flay his hot flesh from his bones and whether to roast, boil, smoke, or simply devour the bits raw.
Grima vomits as he swings, and the bile splashes one of the Orcs full in the face. Enraged, the Orc raises a jagged sword to slay him. There is the dull thudding of horses' hooves, the sharp musical twangs of bow strings, the screams of pain and the acrid stink of Orc blood.
Delirious, Grima can only moan when the rough, warm hands of men cut him down, wrap him in a rough woolen robe and thrust him onto the solid arms of a rider. He never learns the name of the man who carries him, but he remembers the smell. Horse, man-sweat, leather and the grease the men of the Rohan use to make their swords gleam.
When he wakes he is in a rough beam bed. Naked, shaking with fever and calling out her name. He cannot see her face. Eowyn is in shadow, but she soothes him, and gives him bitter water to drink. The water makes his dull thoughts even more indistinct. He distantly feels a hard talon dig into his flesh. There is a sharp tug. He screams and faints.
Sweet, cool darkness.
When he awakes again, his body feels as limp as water. It takes a huge effort to raise his arm and inspect the wound. The elf-bolt is gone. Only the hot, stitched puckered scar remains. He rubs at his crusted eyes and feels stubble on his face and atop his scalp. Puzzled, he wonders why his hair has been shorn.
Oh yes. Of course. The fever.
He looks around and realizes he is in a rough hut. The kind Outlanders use. The peasant settlers of Rohan who till the soil, raise the sturdy plow horses or graze mountain sheep for wool.
The woman carries water. "Awake are you? Good. Glad to see I haven't lost my healing touch." He dryly croaks a word even he cannot recognize. She gives him water. It tastes heavenly. "Can you eat something?"
Grima nods. He must regain strength and flee. But to regain strength he must eat. She feed him a grain mush fortified with something he thinks he should recognize. He tastes herbs – King's foil and something else. Whatever it its, he feels much better. After more water, she hands him a hollowed out gourd. He weakly thrusts it under the blanket and carefully pisses into it.
He must not raise suspicion. He is still too vulnerable. "Thank you." Grima says, then falls back onto the straw mattress and sleeps.
After a week he can walk a little with the help of a staff. He makes a point of keeping his face to the sun and the wind for the Outlanders wonder aloud at his paleness. He says little but implies the orcs kept him imprisoned in darkness for a long time. In a way it is true.
The Healer is named Demelyn. Her hair is honey-gold, but it is not as long or as fine as Eowyn's. Her features are harder, but she smiles at him often and to keep her complacent, he smiles back. He tells her his name is Graymer.
Runners come from Edoras. Grima stays silent and hangs on every word. News of a great battle at the White City. Denethor dead, slain in battle by Nazgul. Eowyn, they say, is the slayer of a mighty dragon and the leader of the Nazgul. Eomer is now King. Eowyn at death's door. Ghosts slay the armies of Sauron. The return of the King of Gondor.
So much news and so many shouted questions. Rohan and the armies of men and Elves marching to Mordor? Her fate unknown, passed over, Grima flees the bonfires at the news of her valor and her terrible wounds. He stands out on the windy plain and gazes toward Mount Doom. Tears streak salt paths over his still pale face. Live. Oh, please let her yet live.
Demelyn brings him mulled wine. "Your Eowyn lives. If you stayed to listen you would have heard that the King of Gondor had healed her."
"My lady?" Grima whirls. "How do you say that?"
She presses the hot wine into his trembling hands. "In your fever you called out to her for forgiveness."
Grima stares into the mug. "Did I?"
She waits, but Grima has learned the value of silence. He will not let words doom him again.
Long days in thought. He considers taking a horse and riding to the White City and then pushes that thought away. What good would come of it?
Instead, he begs for a sword. Still suspicious, the settlers give one, but it is dinted and badly balanced. It takes hours with a whetstone to make it even half usable. Graymer sets up a straw target and tries to remember the old lessons. The ones given to every boychild of Rohan. He never liked the artless use of brut force. He preferred the books of mysteries, the honeyed power of words, the art of persuasion and magic. Much easier, or so it seemed. Not all men were meant for battle or tilling the land, he knew. He understood that the power of words can be worth a thousand swords. But the time for words had passed. His actions must speak now.
He slays the straw bundles into bits, then builds more and slays them again. The lame and the elderly farmers ask him why. The war is not here after all. The young warriors are gone to Mordor to fight with Theoden. All that can be spared.
"Should Sauron win," Graymer tells them, "and the Rohirrim are slain, the Eye will first send out orc scouts and then orc raiders. He must feed his armies. Mutton, horse or men, he does not care which."
Demelyn watches him train in silence, then sets up new targets. The warriors, few and old, follow her lead and begin to show the children and the women how to hold swords or to throw axes and knives.
Graymer the Pale becomes Graymer the Prepared.
A shepherd boy gallops in from the pastures. "Orcs – Orcs on the ridge!"
Graymer is given a horse and a better sword. A handful of elderly men who can still ride, or nervous, women who hold weapons look expectantly at him. Graymer, once Grima, asks the boy, 'Did they see you?"
The boy shakes his head.
"Orcs are singleminded." Grima tells the growing crowd. "They are probably on the way to the mountains. They mean to eat the sheep, or us."
"Well, let's chase them off then!" One old man yells.
"I have a better plan." Graymer smiles and draws on his skill with words.
The gully is blind, filled with brittle sticks and dry straw. A sturdy, knotted rope awaits. The orcs chase a fleet footed girl into the gully and then stop in confusion as she deftly grasps a rope and is pulled to safely. Graymer stands in the way of retreat as the farmer-warriors pelt the dozen orcs with jagged stones and flaming oil. Orcs scream as the rising flames sear them. The few that escape back out the gully entrance meet waiting swords and axes.
After the flames die out, Graymer cuts the left ears from the orc's heads and gives one to each blooded warrior. He praises them all. "You are not sheep," he says, and they are pleased because it is true. 17 orcs slain and only two wounded. Not bad for a few farmers.
They go to other settlements with warnings to be on guard and encourage their neighbours to arm themselves. Graymer and Demelyn train the willing in both healing and in defense. Returning wounded from Mordor see sense in this. Soon farmers throughout the fringes of the Rohan are trading for armor, iron and breeding mares for warhorses.
Demelyn rides beside him as they ride towards the Gap. Runners come with news of Sauron's defeat, and of scattered and fleeing orc armies. All men must be on their guard. Runners carry back the tale of Graymer the Prepared and the Swordmaidens burning of the orcs.
"As Orcs flee ahead of the Rohirrim, the outlanders will be most vulnerable." Graymer persuades the villagers to set traps of 'stray' sheep, barbed pits and all manner of untraditional defenses to lure the orcs to more favorable positions. "The harsh lessons of Helm's Deep should be well learned. Do not be caught complacent again."
He has a small band of followers now. A score of young women or brash widows who have taken to the ranger's life. Bands of roving orcs or goblins are tracked, tricked and slain. They encourage the idea of forming small units of compulsory rangers when the men return. Everyone, young and old to serve in rotation. In a few years, Graymer reasons, everyone will be battle blooded and ready to defend themselves.
But some of the older chieftains bitterly complain of the sons and warriors gone to Gondor, Mordor and lying dead at Helm's Deep.
Graymer stares them down. "Helpless women are dead women. Encourage them to ride and fight. If your ranks are thin, and danger comes, then mayhap they can slay your enemies until the warriors return."
The old chief sputters. "It just is not done."
Demelyn sneers. "Then the Orcs will feed well in your village."
Graymer's voice is heavy with emotion. "Surely the runners have told you of Eowyn's battle with the Nazgul? Did she not defend her King? Did she not lead her people to Helm's Deep? Can she not be be allowed to noble and brave simply because tradition demands she wear a skirt?"
The women hear his impassioned words as he reminds them of Lady Eowyn's deed. "Listen to Graymer," one hag shouts. "If Orcs are lurking in the plains I'd rather die on my feet than my knees."
And so it goes. The wearing of Orc ears become a fashion in the Outlands. Baskets of goblin and orc ears are sent as tribute to Eomer, and news of the deeds of the Swordmaidens reaches Edoras.
In his private moments, Graymer knows a mountain of ears will never be enough to earn her forgiveness. With each expedition he becomes more reckless. He goes off alone at times, always on the fringe of the Rohan, just beyond the range of the Rohirrim, but never leaving the Outlands. Sometimes he stands wistfully in the Gap of Rohan and stares towards Edoras and beyond to Gondor.
Months pass, years pass and he hears snatches of news. A marriage to Faramir of Gondor. A child. Another. Then news that Eomer intends to wed at Edoras … and that Eowyn will attend.
Demelyn and Graymer make rounds of the outlying villages, bringing news, organizing scouts, arranging fostering, tracking stray orcs, wargs and rogue mountain bands of men who would prey on settlers. Sometimes they find hoards of treasure taken by Orcs. They distribute this to the Swordmaidans who desire armor, warhorses and weaponry.
Demelyn notes he never passes though the Gap. Neither does he venture toward Isengard.
She strokes the scar on his tanned chest one night. "You can't avoid her forever."
"You don't understand." Graymer pushes the blanket off. He strides across the room and pisses into a wooden bucket. "And I can't explain."
"I do understand." Delemlyn sits up, her hair falling over her breasts. "I pulled that arrow from your chest, Graymer. It came from no orc bow. It was elf made."
Graymer leans on the wall, steadying himself. "And what did you make of that?"
"Nothing at first. Orcs will salvage spent arrows from a battle, even elf-made ones. But you spoke recklessly in your fever and I did wonder at the names you bandied about. Then the poems about the battles began to be sung by the travelling bards…"
Ah yes, the poems sung in winter by the fireside and the larger summer gatherings. The Dirge of Saruman. The Ballad of Eowyn. He knows he is prominently featured in both. The crowds hiss and spit when his old name is mentioned.
"And what is your advice for me then, Deme?" He pushes away from the wall and strides back to the bed. "How can I ever make reparations for the past?"
"You ask the wrong woman, Graymer. Ask her."
Faramir visibly winces as Duthodan the Chieftain pounds the table. The string of Orc ears quivers. "It's not suitable tribute, surely you agreed, Faramir of Gondor?"
"Perhaps that is better answered by a warrior who slays the dragons of the Nazgul."
Eowyn quells a grateful smile as she picks up the heavy necklace of ears. She takes a long, thoughtful moment to regard them, the silence in the room oppressive. Old warriors regard her with respect, but also with slight disapproval. Women with swords, they sniff to themselves. What next?
"I find it a fitting tribute." Eowyn finally announces. "Indeed, I can think of no string of gems that would please me better."
Eomer laughs. "I have received piles of these jewels that Swordmaidens send in your honour, sister. Indeed, they are so thorough the Rohirrim on the borders bitterly complain they can find none of their own."
Faramir takes the grisly bundle from his wife's hand. "Such jewels give peace of mind, King Eomer. But the mines for such jewels are not depleted, alas. This Graymer I hear tales of, he mines them constantly and never digs in vain."
"Graymer is a menace," seethes Duthodan. "If the women are too busy hunting Orcs to mind their business we may all starve in the end."
Eowyn gestures at Dethothen's ample belly. "Surely not."
Faramir hands off the bundle to Eomer, who idly tosses the ears in the fire and cries, "Enough. The bards sing of this man, Graymer and the deeds of the Swordmaidens. I find not fault with any warrior of Rohan who would – "
Duthodan thups the table again. "You would both sing a different song if Lady Eowyn have been brought back to Edoras in pieces, my King."
Eowyn counters, "And you might sing a different tune if the owners of those burning ears still lived to raid your own holdings. Did these frail maids not destroy a large party of Orcs on your own borders while men of Rohan fought in Mordor to contain the Southron armies?"
Chief Duthodan flushes. "My lady, I do not desire to undermine your brave deeds, but not all are meant to wield swords. It is folly to allow this Graymer encourage this."
"Did you learn nothing from our losses at Helm's Deep?" Eowyn marvels. "This Graymer's idea for a force of reserve warriors is nothing short of brilliant. If the outlying peoples, whether maidens or otherwise, can ferret out and destroy small pockets of orcs, then that filth cannot band into larger forces."
Faramir nods. "It's like destroying a hornet's nest when it is the size of your fist and not the size of a barrel."
A young runner appears, out of breath. "Sire… news from beyond the Gap. Goblins, sire! Four hundred strong.. Graymer the Outlander begs the Rohirrim for aid!"
Duthodan smirks at Eowyn. "It seems the Rohirrim stallions are not yet ready to put out to pasture, my lady."
Eowyn tilts her head with a gracious smile. "I never suggested they should be, Chieftain. I only desire that it be acknowledged that the mares of Rohan have very sharp hooves of their own."
"Enough." Eomer gestures to his generals. "Send runners to the Rohirrim! Bring my armor and my horse!"
"And ours!" Faramir adds. He earns a gleaming, feral grin from his wife.
Graymer opts for strategic retreat. "We lead them through the Gap and into Rohan. We lure them to the Rohirrim."
"Make certain we let them keep us in sight." Demelyn gasps, her arm still bleeding as she winds a rag around it. "But not too close."
"Wretched wargs!" growls a girl as she ruefully abandons her clawed horse to ride double with another.
"The lot of you – ride! Remember our plan, Demelyn!" commands Graymer. "I will buy us time." He reaches into his saddlepack for a small clay bottle and sprinkles its contents over the body of the dying horse. The feral wargs will not be able to resist fresh meat and this old trick has not failed yet.
Graymer mercifully douses the raw flesh with the poison. The dying horse takes a last shuddering breath and expires. He shoves the bottle back into the pack, mounts and flees. A goblin arrow thuds into the ground just ahead of him. Behind, the roar of a warg echoes in his ears. If all goes well, the starving wargs will taste the tainted meat before the goblin riders can deter them.
By nightfall Graymer has caught up with the group. They have set small bonfires and made false sleeping bodies made of grass under blankets to lure the goblins. But the scouts are not fooled this time.
"Something's wrong." He peers into the distance. His ruse is not working.
"I saw their leader." Demelyn whispers. "The big one riding the lead warg. He is different from the others."
When she describes an Uruk-hai, he understands. Now there is no time to explain. Graymer looks at his pathetically small band of brave women. "Get your horses. Now. We ride on. Single file."
They silently flee and hear the distant roars of the thwarted Uruk leader.
Uruk-hai. Graymer shudders. It will not stop. It will not sleep. It will not be easily tricked.
They pause briefly by a small stream. Graymer ponderin in silence and then announces, "We split up. Half of us make for Edoras, the others to Helm's deep. Tell the King and the Rohirrim there are Uruk-Hai in the Rohan."
"Whither you?" Demlynlyn asks, but her eyes show she already knows the answer.
"I go to Helms Deep. You to King Eomer. He best hear this from you."
The stream hides the hoof prints as the party splits apart. A half-dozen hardy women ride with him. The goblins also divide, and he sees from a bluff that the Uruk-hai leader follows his party. He grunts in satisfication. Perhaps his slight fame has reached their ears of their leaders. They are seek him out. Perhaps, he thinks, I may die a warrior's death yet.
"The leader is Uruk-Hai." Graymer declares to the swordmaidens. "And no ordinary orc. It's me he wants. When we reach the lake, we will split again."
"Nay, Graymer," a maid answers. "I will stand at the Deep with you."
A chorus of loyal, if exhausted, agreement follows. Graymer nods, and turns. "Ride then and hope the Rohan masons have healed the breach or it will be a short stand."
An Swordmaiden scout brings the King and the Rohirrim the news of the fleeing warriors. "Demelyn is not far from here, and Graymer says to give you word he is making for Helm's Deep, an Uruk-Hai and two humdred goblins pursues them."
Demelyn makes for the scout's signal fire. She wavers, nearly falling from her mount. One maid does topple from the saddle as the war cries of the pursing goblins reach her ears. "GO!" she commands the others and she drops from her saddle. Her legs nearly buckle. She pulls out the fine bow Graymer traded for her two season before. She takes careful aim and releases a bolt. The lead warg takes it in the paw and slows. She grasps the girl and slaps her face.
"Rise or we both die!" Demelyn screams. They struggle into the saddle and ride on.
Rohirrim surge from behind the rocks and follow the party of goblins. Swords flash in the bright sun. Wargs and goblins scream in rage, then fear, then pain. Eomer leads a charge of pike as Faramir's archers pick off the stragglers with their bows. Eowyn is on horseback, sword at the ready as the lead goblins surge after Demelyn. She emerges from behind a rock outcropping, rears up and beheads the leader with a harsh cry.
After the battle tips in their favor, the Chieftain marvels a moment at the carnage. The thousand Rohirrim outnumber the orcs five to one. He picks out the Swordmaidens features but does not find the one he seeks. He confronts Demelyn. 'Where is my daughter, you sword-wielding harrigan? Where?"
"Gone to the Deep with Graymer. An Uruk-hai in pursuit."
Dethothen roars and spurs his horse towards the Deep. Eomer and his men use their pikes to insure the fallen goblins are truly dead. Eowyn takes the exhausted girl from Demelyn's grasp.
"We have ridden 5 days and nights without stopping, my lady," The Swordmaid whispers. "There were too many."
"T'was a fine wedding gift, indeed. And I will hear songs in the halls in the years to come about your brave ride." Eowyn wipes the dirty sweat from the girls face.
"Save Graymer, my lady." Demelyn pleads. "He gone to the Deep, a mere six souls against two hundred."
Faramir rides up, bow still in hand. "To the Deep, my love?"
"Oh yes," Eowyn grins back. "To Helm's Deep."
""I've always have a mind to see those glittering caves of yours." Faramir spurs on his horse.
The Deep's stone wound is healed. Dwarf work done swiftly in Gimli's honour.
The study oak doors are the gift of the Elves. The armories are filled with proper swords, coated with grease. A few hardy dwarfs and Rohan masons are there, repairing the keep for future sieges. The iron grate is now sealed with thick stone. Water is now drained by a deep underground sewer. The keep will not be breached by the Saruman's foul magic again.
They stir at the sound of a distant horn. Graymer and his few warriors reach the keep and bolt the doors, the Uruk-Hai only a bowshot behind them.
The Uruk leader sees the breach is sealed and growls. He had not expected this. He hoped for better. He wants the Black-haired leader. The killers of his kin. The fouler of his plans. However, he orders the fires put out and the poles assembled.
"The doors to the keep are thick oakwood, my lord," simpers an Orc captain.
"Good," the Uruk grunts.
Uruk oversees the cunning portable catapults. Its overlarge arrows with the attached bladders of liquid thud into the thick planks and soak the grain. The arrows split the fine wooden carvings of elves and men. Thick doors. But still, only wood doors.
The thick, reeking oil is combined with acid. It seeps into the woods grain and smokes as it eats away at it. A single blazing arrow sets it all alight. From the turrets, Graymer closes his eyes in defeat as the few masons form a near useless water brigade. It will take hours but the doors eventually shall burn through, crumble and fall. The Dwarfs beside him curse and spit.
"Who taught that filth such magic?" they ask.
"Saruman, I imagine." His tanned face is tight with regret.
Hours pass and the Rohirrim do not arrive. The doors weaken and are breached. The masons and maidens barracade the hall entrance and look to him for guidance.
Graymer sharpens his sword. "Go to the caves, all of you. No exceptions," he commands. "Find the passage out. It's me they want."
Again his young followers protest, but he refuses them. "The Rohirrim will come eventually, but not in time. Go. This is my fate. This is my punishment. Go!"
"Graymer – "
"NOW!" Graymer shouts with all the old magic he can muster. "Get out or I shall kill you all myself!"
A battering ram booms against the doors.
"Bah! And we just finished setting this place to rights!" A dwarf pulls the stunned masons and the now weeping maidens towards the caves. "Good luck, Graymer!"
As they leave, Graymer ties his hair back from his face. The last time he looked in a mirror there were streaks of white at his temples. The carefully trimmed beard and sunburned face seemed to belong to different person. Only his eyes spoke of past sins. He must pay for them now.
The pounding at the doors goes on for an age. Graymer, once Grima, waits in the King's chair. A position he once desired for himself. He finds it fitting that he shall meet his end in this place, a stone tomb he very nearly doomed Eowyn to. Yes, he thinks, this is a good place to die.
The beams splits and the goblins pour though.
Graymer readys his sword.
The tale of Graymer is sung by bards throughout all the Rohan and beynd. It is a favorite of the Swordmaidens and, it is said, by Lady Eowyn herself.
There are always tears in her eyes when the ballad reaches the part where his body is reclaimed by the Rohirrim. The bards sing that Uruk leader had Greymer's corpse nailed to the hall doors. The bard's claim his sword was still in his hand, dripping with orc's blood.
But, Eowyn can never forget that she, and she alone, finds him.
He is lying in a vast pool of blood, a dying Uruk at his feet. She dispatches the Uruk and pulls off her helmet. She looks at this dying man, this semi-legend who sends his Swordmaidens against Orcs in her name. "Graymer?"
She knows those pleading eyes. She knows his face, but cannot quite remember where.
"My lady, I am s-sorry… forg-give me.
The blood is bright red, a man's blood, not the grey-black of the Uruk. His face becomes paler and he will be dead in mere moments. He is dying and she cannot stop it. She hears the footsteps of the Rohirrim behind her. "Healer! Bring me a healer," she screams.
"F-forgive me, my lady…"
"There is nothing to forgive." What can this man possibly be rambling about? Eowyn strips off her shirt sleeve and presses it to his wound. "Now, be still. We shall find a healer -"
"I d-die, lady. It is only j-just I die h-here."
His face is so pale now. A memory stirs again and then takes hold of her thudding heart. "Grima?" she breathes in wonder and horror. "But you are dead!"
"Soon now – but I t-tried to redeem my s-soul – the soul Saruman held it for so l-long! I t-tried…"
The idea had never occurred to Eowyn, that Grima could have been a puppet of the white wizard as her Uncle had.
Blood seeps from his mouth, glinting bright red on pale flesh, then red on pale stone.
He did this for her. He killed orcs for her. Taught the Swordmaidens to fight and not be easy victims to fate for her. He made a last stand, here at the Deep. One lone man against two hundred goblins. For her.
She squeezes his hand. "Oh Grima – I forgive. I forgive!" He weakly squeezes her fingers back.
His lips form a faint smile of blessed gratitude, and he whispers, "Bury me in the Gap of Rohan, my lo-"
His head tips slowly to one side. A single tear falls from his eyes and makes a clear spot in the pool of blood below.
And so Graymer is gone.
The bards sing that Lady Eowyn keeps his sword in her bower as a momento. They sing that Demelyn never takes another lover. The ballad reminds all of Rohan that the Swordmaidens have the blessing of the King.
The song ends with Eowyn's request that the body of Graymer the Valiant is to be borne by the Rohirrim to the Gap of Rohan and buried there. A pale stone is carved to mark the spot. A horse in the form of the letter "G". And it is so.
The last line of this ballad claims the Swordmaidens swear Graymer's spirit appears to the Outlanders when orcs are lurking about.
Or so the traveling bards of Rohan say.