A/N: A story about Grima called Wormtongue, whom I've never had much sympathy for until I reread Return of the King. It seems like he was Saruman's puppet, and I can't help but pity him. So here it is. Read, Review (please review! even flames welcome!) and, above all, Enjoy!

Worm, Saruman called him, worthless, witless worm, stinging words accompanied by stinging blows and kicks. It did no good to try and escape; that only brought more blows. So he cowered, a beaten dog at his master's feet, until Saruman forgot him and turned his attention to other matters. Only then could he escape, out. Out was no punishment. Out was where there was good, clean air that always smelled like hope, no matter the trace of smoke that still clung to it, and a soft wind that felt good against his bruised, tender skin. Best, out was where the stars were. Beautiful, bright, clear stars, shining as if for him alone, friendly no matter how hurt he was, no matter what foul deeds he'd done at Saruman's bidding. They never struck him or insulted him, never called on him to lie and steal and murder.

If Fate had been kind, he reflected, lying on his back in an overgrown field, long abandoned, he would have been born a great Elf-lord, bright and beautiful to see, who could hear the secret whispers of the stars and watch them dance, slowly, with infinite precision, all night long. Instead he was born a pallid, weak Man, ugly and repulsive, with no talent at wielding a sword or crafting things or anything else but weaving words. If Fate had been kind, he mused again, he could have turned his talent to the spinning of tales, and been a bard, perhaps, weaving a spell of gilded bright words in the halls of kings, tales of bravery, and desperation, and the courage to go on. But Fate was not kind, and Saruman had found him instead.

He'd been only a child, little more than eight or so, and chained in the long lines of slaves coming to Isengard. Prisoners of war, to work his fields and labor under the sun. Saruman had heard the skill with which he'd lied, desperately trying to persuade the orcs to free him, and had decided that one with such a silver tongue should be in his service. He'd lost his old name, Grima son of Galmod, and become Wormtongue, servant of Saruman the Wizard, who was slow to reward and quick to anger.

Then had come his service in Rohan, whispering falsehoods in the ears of the king. And Eowyn, untamable, beautiful as a storm is beautiful, wild and free. Eowyn… He'd loved, truly, loved her strength and beauty and fierce will. And she had hated the very sight of him. During the Battle of Helm's Deep, when he'd thought she had died… he shuddered softly, remembering the blanks despair of those days. In those dark hours, he'd sat alone on top of the Orthanc, thinking. It would be so easy to lean over too far. A fall from so high would feel like flying… the world spread out below you… a swift death, better than the lingering one he faced. But no, he thought bitterly, he'd not had he courage. And his joy when he learned that she had survived knew no bounds. Even if she wasn't his.

And now this strange land, he mused, the Shire, inhabited by tiny folk, like the ones he'd glimpsed at the Orthanc. It'd been a lovely place, the Orthanc. He'd liked the trees there. They felt safe, protective, as he walked under them. He'd been fond of watching the stars from there. The beautiful, beautiful stars. Their loveliness reminded of Eowyn's: hard and cold, and tantalizingly close but always just out of reach.

He heard some of the hired thugs going by and instinctively crouched lower in the black grass. They knew Saruman's contempt for him and considered it fine sport to torment him. Once he was sure they had passed, he lay down again, the stars above him far distant, cold and lovely and untouchable, but for all that, comforting.

He slunk back indoors at dawn's first light, hoping Saruman would not notice his absence. The wizard was already awake.

"So, out watching the stars again, are we?"

A staff came down across his back, and a hard boot dug into his belly. His stomach churned, but he had nothing to vomit up; Saruman, in a foul mood the last few days, had ensured he went hungry.

"Keep your eyes to the ground, Worm; that's where you belong, in the dirt!"

Another blow across his shoulders. Grima knelt on the ground, silently begging for pity, and allowed his curtain of lank hair to hide his face. Another sharp kick to his protruding ribs.

Saruman had raised the staff for another blow, a horrible satisfaction in his wanton cruelty showing in his face, when one of his men came through the door. Grima took his chance and stumbled out, down the road and into one of the huts near Bag End. He watched as Saruman came striding up the road, into the once fine Hobbit house, and spoke with the four Halflings there. He listened as they banished him, and watched as Saruman came striding out, looking in a fine temper.

"Worm! Worm!" he called, an edge of mocking to his voice. Grima felt the horrible compulsion to obey, to serve, that he always felt when the wizard commanded him. It was what made it so impossible to break away from him. Now, at his command, he stumbled out of the hut, on all fours, unable to walk upright.

"To the road again, Worm! These fine fellows are turning us adrift again. Come along!" Grima stumbled after him, a cringing dog following at the heels of his master who holds the leash. He watched as Saruman attempt to stab Frodo, and despaired of leaving the Shire alive. The Hobbits will surely kill us, he thought. But to his surprise, Frodo commanded none to harm them.

And then, as they were leaving, the Halfling, less than half his height, yet a person of great command and dignity, offered to let him stay here, to rest and recover and make his own way. Grima hesitated. He would love nothing more.

Then Saruman laughed, a dry, hideous cackle. To Grima's horror, he told the Hobbits what he had done to Lotho.

"Stabbed him in his sleep, I believe. Buried him, I hope; though Worm has been very hungry lately."

Grima had stabbed Lotho; but he had done it as quickly and cleanly as he could, and had buried the poor little hobbit under one of the few trees still standing. He felt shame rise in him at the looks of horror and hatred on the faces of the Hobbits. Loathing rose in him for this demon who had him at its beck and call; who commanded him to kill, and forced him to obey.

"You told me to; you made me do it," he hissed. For some reason he wanted the Hobbits to understand that, that he hadn't acted of his own will, that he hadn't wanted to kill Lotho. Hatred was plain to see on his face. Saruman laughed.

"You do what Sharkey says, always, don't you Worm? Well, now he says: follow!" He kicked Grima once more, and turned away, paying no more attention than he would to a tattered rag he'd thrown aside in disgust. Something deep inside Grima snapped. He drew the dagger he had hidden under his tunic, rose to his feet, and leapt at Saruman with an angry snarl. It was the work of a moment to slit his throat; to take his revenge for the beatings and the starving and the names he'd endured for too long.

With one last shout, Grima ran off down the Hobbit lane. He heard rather than felt three arrows thud into him. He sank to his knees, death already drawing a misty veil over his eyes, leaving him just time to dimly appreciate that he died not as Worm, but as Grima son of Galmod, a free man of Rohan.

A/N: I think he'd consider himself a man of Rohan because his father was, and simply because he lived there so long, and especially because of Eowyn.