Just a little Valentine's for those individuals such as myself for whom the good ship Gríowyn appeals.
DISCLAIMER: Recognisable characters and settings are Tolkien's, not mine. Shocking and devastating, I know, but, hey, what are you gonna do?
At night, when the golden hall became a silver hall, Meduseld was a kingdom of shadows. The light of the moon threw long and intricate renderings of the darkness across the stone floors, threaded silver fingers around the corners and bred pools of darkness in the corridors, as treacherous as deep water. The silence only added to the gloom, much like the constant buzz of conversation and activity heightened the golden of the daylight. Truly, Meduseld by night was a glorious, terrible place.
It was of no surprise then, that it was by night that Gríma, King's Counsellor, never felt more a man of Edoras than in the bitter darkness of Rohan's capital. In the palace where he found little welcome in the day, the shadows of its nights accepted him as an old friend and protected him, hid his troubled midnight wanderings from prying eyes.
But as much as the darkness loved him, he longed for light - not for morning, and the sneering distaste of Rohan's people, but for the single light that shone bright enough to illuminate him for what he was.
A snake, she called him. Spat at him. And even in dreams, he could not escape her. The hard silver of her gaze, cold and lifeless. So beautiful, so frozen - like a leaf caught in ice, suspended green and whole and unchanging. So it was better then, for him to stalk the shadows, avoiding the troubled sleep he usually found himself in; better, then, to escape the beautiful hauntings that the night-Éowyn afforded him.
It happened, however, that there were ill dreams in the night for more than just Gríma.
Éowyn awoke from her nightmare with a sharp intake of breath. With a shaking hand, she swept at the sweat beading on her forehead. Scenes from her dream assaulted her, the sounds echoing in her ears; the clash of swords, the sound of metal against flesh, and the screams, the pitiful whimpers, of the wounded. It was the same every night. Each time she closed her eyes, the horrors found her and followed her.
Extracting herself from the clammy furs of her bed, she gasped as the soles of her feet touched the cold stone floors. The shock was good, the shock was welcome - it was something to focus on. Standing, she shivered in her thin linen nightdress, feeling goosebumps erupt on her skin. Éowyn, letting the cold air numb her, found comfort in the chill. Knowing there would be no more sleep tonight, the Shieldmaiden of Rohan slipped through the doors to her chamber and started a cold and familiar walk down the freezing corridors.
It was a ritual by now. To wake, then to wander. She did not know of the eyes that found her and followed her, not with purpose or forethought, but with the chance that another broken sleep provided. Padding down the corridors, Éowyn felt the numbing effect of the cold air slip through to her fears, and she almost did not hear the quiet voice as it spoke.
"What rouses you at so early an hour, my lady?"
The question came as a sibilant whisper in the semi-darkness and without turning, Éowyn knew who was asking. Who else? Twisting round on her heels, her heartbeat hammering against her ribs, she faced the counsellor with her chin tilted high.
"What business is it of yours, snake?" she spat at him, feeling her hatred burn a hot path through her numbness. "Might not one but you sneak about the darkness now?"
Wormtongue barely bristled at her unkind words, his mismatched eyes locked on hers. His dark hair was snarled and tangled about his face, his spidery hands curled into his furred cloak. "Forgive me," he drawled. "But the hour is late for one such as you to wander. Does my lady not fear the danger in such darkness?"
Éowyn felt her lip curl in disgust. "No more than I fear you, haunting the shadows. Whose keyhole do you hiss your poison through tonight, leech?"
The Wormtongue's hands clenched at his sides, and Éowyn felt a stab of pride at her ability to use words, his own weapon, against him.
"You wound me with your brother's words, my lady," he accused gently. "Though I confess, the cut feels all the deeper when wrought from so sharp a tongue that hides behind the fairness of your face."
"Better a sharp tongue than a deceitful one," she retorted. "Are you not content to haunt me in the hours of day? Do you seek me by night, now?"
"I had no intent as such. I heard your footsteps..." She saw him glance down at her feet, heard the sharp intake of breath as he saw them bare and white, so small beneath the hem of her nightdress. His eyes were wide when he met her gaze again. "I merely sought to provide some kinship for my lady's troubled sleep."
Was it so obvious then, the sleep she sought to avoid? The horrors she tried to outrun in the darkness? Éowyn looked to the Wormtongue, tried to read his face. The pale, almost grey skin gave no clue to his thoughts, but there seemed to be less... less pretence than usual. There was no facade of fawning, no angry bitterness in his voice. She noticed then that the bags under his eyes seemed more pronounced this night; even in the limited light, she could see the purple bruises against his pale skin. Perhaps she was not the only one who suffered a broken sleep. A little of the venom left her voice when she spoke next.
"Did my wandering wake you?"
His hairless brow quirked slightly before he could conceal his surprise at her question. "Do not worry, my lady. I am a light sleeper."
"You lie," she said, but there was no malice to the accusation. She gestured at his attire. "You have not yet been to bed, Counsellor. Your day clothes give you away."
Gríma bowed his head, strings of his dark hair hanging limply over his face. He licked his grey lips before replying. "I will not deny it, then."
A strange curiosity stole over Éowyn as she considered him, standing stooped and distant in the corridor. She had ever thought that it was in the shadows that Gríma would seem strongest, that the darkness would lend him power. Indeed, enough of his twisted words had leaked from dark rooms and poisoned the light. Yet tonight... Éowyn found herself meeting the gaze of his intense heavy-lidded stare, and had the strange feeling that here in the darkness he seemed less than himself.
Clearing her throat, Éowyn stepped closer. Gríma's eyes widened slightly, but he said nothing. "Will you explain it?" questioned Éowyn softly, more curiosity in her tone than demand.
Gríma, son of Gálmód, blinked slowly. He looked down at his hands, the spidery fingers flexing seemingly involuntarily before he replied in a hoarse voice. "Unrest plagues my dreams of late, my lady. It is easier to escape that which you do not face."
The sentiment of his statement pulled her back to her situation. She had not thought to have something in common with the loathsome creature, but it seemed they had more kinship than she might have guessed. "An unrest of your own making, no doubt," she said in clipped tones, if only to remind herself exactly whom she was dealing with.
His smile was crooked without being deceitful; on another less pinched face it could easily be considered wry. "Perhaps you are right, my lady Éowyn. But I have little doubt you share the same fault in your own unrest."
Éowyn shook her head. In his voice there was little of his usual serpentine lust for her; the concern was shared as one might speak with a friend. "I face it all the same," she said quietly.
In his slow, measuring nod, she found strength to look upon him as her dear uncle did. Surely if he trusted this twisted tongue there was some worth in its whispers, and tonight was the first time she had seen such humility in his foul person. She forced herself to speak again.
"I would have your counsel, Gríma, if you would give it."
Even as she spoke the words, she would never guess how he had longed to hear them.
Gríma, again, did little to hide his surprise, bowing his head reverentially. She could not know the missed beat of his scarred heart as she said his given name, pure and quiet, or the breath that caught in his throat at her long-awaited request. "I have ever been at your disposal, my lady, should you have need of me. I give it gladly."
Whatever innuendo lurked beneath those words did not register with Éowyn as it might had she not been so caught up in the hauntings of her darkness. She turned away from him, tilting her face to the window. Gríma wondered how she could make even an emotion such as fear seem achingly beautiful. He was able to examine her without fear of reprisal for some moments before she spoke.
"I cannot sleep but to see their faces," she said finally. Her voice was so quiet he might have missed it, had his ears not been so fine tuned to the sweet melody of her voice.
"Whose?" he questioned softly, moving ever closer.
Turning, she looked at him again, and he was pained by the sadness in her eyes, their coldness melted with her fear. "My people," she answered. "The women, the children, their fallen warriors. I dream of a war, bigger than anyone should ever imagine. And I know I send them to their deaths, so I dream on their faces, that they know it as I know it. The blame in their eyes keeps me from sleep. The path I send them on is death's own track, yet I do it still."
His warrior, his Éowyn, so timid and unsure before him. Emboldened, Gríma stepped closer again. "You act only because they demand it," he whispered silkily, "and you have ever chosen as best as circumstances allow you to. Take heart in that knowledge, Shieldmaiden. They would judge you far more quickly for failing to act than they would for anything you might actually pursue, however fruitless."
Her breath seemed so loud in the silence. He could hear her teeth chattering, and his mind drifted back to the thin cotton of her sleeping garment. So fair... so cold... Perhaps, this night, it was his lot to warm her. Shrugging out of his furred cloak, he stepped closer, then closer still as she made no move to stop him. He draped it over her shoulders daringly, and breathed out a breath he did not know he was holding when her white hands crept up to grasp at the heavy folds gratefully.
Still standing behind her, he spoke his next words into the curve of her ear, his fingers so close to her skin but not touching. Never touching. "You dream on your worries too much. Rohan's people will always crave action, you know this. It is the product of their pride."
She turned to face him, seemingly unaware or uncaring of their proximity. His hands fluttered back to his sides. "You speak almost as one not of Rohan, Counsellor. Do you consider our people vain, then?" Her voice was sharper than it had been.
"I meant nothing of the sort, my lady. Rohan's is a noble, justified pride."
She looked at him, seeming so small and light in his dark furs, yet filled with such strength that he felt a coward before her. A coward, giving craven counsels in the darkness. He did not know what she was thinking. "But is it your pride?" she asked him.
Gríma did not drop his unsettling blue glaze. "With your leave, my lady," he whispered. "I would gladly share it."
Éowyn returned his gaze with a long, steady look, her grey eyes questioning. "This place has been good to you, has it not?"
So good, so good. It let me set sight on your fair face, after all. He simply nodded. "Rohan is a fair land, I cannot argue."
"But its people? Do you not consider yourself one of them, even after your long years in service here?"
"It is not my place to consider myself beyond what I am tasked with, my lady. I strive for Rohan, not the acceptance as one of its people."
"Surely you have thought on it, though? Surely—"
"My lady, do not. You asked me for counsel, but I did not seek yours." He cursed himself for his too-sharp words, but she did not know what she was asking. Surely, she, more than any of Rohan, knew he would never be accepted, if not for his foreign mother then for his low standing in the kingdom. It was unkind, what she was doing, even if she did it without meaning to - that in itself was harder to bear than her usual acerbic baiting.
Her perfect mouth snapped shut and a frown appeared between her brows. Then her face softened, and she looked to her feet; he saw her eyes move to his worn boots. They were still so close. Reaching out, she ran a finger over the pale skin of his face and traced a blue vein at his temple. It pulsed slightly under her touch. She lowered her eyes to see Gríma's face; his mouth hung slightly open, his thin lips parted in shock; his ice blue eyes were wide and questioning. She pulled her hand away but did not step back.
"Forgive me," Éowyn whispered. "I give poor thanks for your good counsel."
Her hands were so small, though not as cold as he would have expected. He could still feel her fingers on his skin. He reached out and took her hand in his; she did not fight him. His eyes flickered over her face, so pale and beautiful in the silver moonlight.
"It is a poorer counsel than you deserve, my lady. Might that I could wish you better dreams, and cure the trouble whole."
Éowyn did not, to his surprise, tear her hand away in disgust. She kept her eyes on his, her grey eyes full and round. "Might that I could wish you the same, Gríma. Though you have not yet said what haunts your nights and keeps you far from your bed."
A frown pulled Gríma's hairless brows together. Was she asking, truly ignorant of what - who - stalked his dreams? To see her there now, her radiance caught up in his black cloak, asking him what kept him from sleep... It was remarkable to him, that she could be so blind. Further remarkable, that she could talk to him as an equal, ask his counsel, even thank him for it. This was not Éowyn, the temptress who shot him down with spiteful words, this was not she who loathed and grudged his every breath. And then it came to him...
It was a surprise to Éowyn that Gríma's hands were not ice cold as she had expected; the palms were warm and slightly moist, though not unpleasantly so.
"I did not ask to pry, Counsellor," she said when he did not speak. "But only to offer what I could by way of comfort."
His gaze snapped onto hers at those words. Something in his demeanour had changed, but she could not say exactly what. "Comfort?" he asked hoarsely.
"As you have given me."
He looked at the hand that held hers and gently untangled his fingers from hers. He stepped back, his empty hand curling into a fist as he did so. There was an odd look in his face.
"You ask what haunts my nights, my lady?" he began softly. "You should know it well. A vision, a vision of beauty unrivalled, but for the bitter coldness of her hardened heart. I cannot hope to warm her - she is the light of the sunrise, I am the darkness even moonlight will not touch. It is she who sets me wandering the corridors of Meduseld, avoiding the sleep that brings me to her feet each night."
Éowyn could hardly keep his gaze and she fought the urge to blink, so intense was the blue stare he fixed her with. Of course, she had known that Gríma desired her - the warnings of her brother and late cousin had seen to that - but to hear it from his lips, without malice nor mockery, played on her heart in a way it should not.
"I did not think that she could too stalk my waking hours," he added bitterly.
She could hear the sincerity in his tone, the tiredness, the sadness. This was not one of Gríma's crafty lies, his edited truths. He was simply telling her his feelings. She was almost startled when he spoke again.
"But perhaps this too is a dream, and she has fooled me into believing I am awake. After all, the real Shieldmaiden of Rohan would not otherwise pass words with me in the darkness, much less offer me comfort."
Of course - that was the odd look in his face. He thought he was being tricked, fooled, still dreaming. Éowyn searched her own feelings, and found herself lacking in her usual repulsion for the creature, nay, the man, that stood before her now. The darkness made him seem smaller, and his words lacked their usual bite. She stepped closer to him, intrigued despite herself, grateful for the warmth of his cloak around her. Placing a hand on his pale cheek, she met his mismatched eyes without fear.
"Perhaps," she murmured. "Perhaps it is a dream then, Gríma son of Gálmód."
She saw his hands, the long fingers stained with ink, twitch at his sides. His eyes darted down to her lips, lingered for a moment, before he met her gaze again, searching her grey eyes for something she did not know. He looked down to his feet. "It is a cruel dream," he said finally. A hand crept up to alight on hers, still soft against his cheek. "Pray ever that your heart is not captured so, night-wraith. It is an exquisite agony."
Night-wraith, he calls me, though Éowyn amusedly. He still believes this is some trickery. She smiled slightly, and he immediately took his hand from hers, stepping back.
"You mock me," he accused, a twisted snarl on his lips.
"I do nothing of the sort, dreamer." As she spoke, an idea stole over her. A bold, brilliant idea. Moving towards him, she took both of his hands in hers, casting his cloak to the ground and revealing again her thin night clothes. "Surely I can only do what is your will, my lord, if it is indeed your dream."
Gríma's mouth dropped open, but he quickly closed it. A smirk, almost feral in its careful appearance, crept to his face. "My will," he repeated, in a low growl. The two words, from his so famous mouth, made her heart race.
His lips, the coldest shade of grey, descended upon hers as if making a claim for them, pressing softly against hers in a gentle entreaty. Éowyn melted into the kiss, throwing caution to the wind, her heart racing with what she was allowing the Wormtongue to do to her. Oh, but it was a deserving name, she thought coyly, as he explored her mouth eagerly. Opening her eyes, she found that Gríma had not closed his; the pale blue bore into hers with an almost frightening intensity.
Suddenly, she felt him pull back, as if sensing he had overstepped. "My lady...?" he whispered.
Éowyn reached forward and pressed two fingers to his thin lips.
"Shh," she urged him in a whisper. "Lest you sleep so lightly that a single spoken word might break the dream."
At his slow nod, eyes wide, she removed her fingers and returned her lips in their stead. Gríma made small, hungry noises against them, his long fingers alighting on her skin, tugging at the borders of her nightgown. His movements were careful in a manner that told of his inexperience, hesitant in a way that showed his disbelief. She pulled him closer, her hands grasping in his already tangled hair.
Much to her delight, when she lifted her lips from his she saw the light colouring that touched high on his cheekbones. She felt a secret delight that she was the one to produce such a reaction. Gríma Wormtongue, untouchable to the kingdom and its soldiers, had a weakness in his flesh, a chink in his carefully-crafted armour. He is only a man, she reminded herself. However much he styles himself in the craft of the snake, the windings of the worm, there beats a human heart under it. Her hands fluttered to his high collar, thin fingers deft at removing the material, then continued down his chest, placing her palm flat. Yes, there beat a human heart. And it beat fast.
At the sudden feel of Gríma's moist lips upon her neck, Éowyn moaned softly and threw her head back, allowing him better access. No doubt her own heart was pounding just as furiously as his. She could not help an enjoyable shiver as he muttered quiet words into the hollow of her collarbone, cursing and praising her in equal measure. And the tongue that could fell entire armies with only a few carefully chosen words contented itself with lapping at pale, untouched skin as he pulled at her gown. When his lips found her bared breast, she gripped his head with shaking fingers, murmuring sweet words into his hair.
He knelt to the floor then, pulling her with him. As she knelt before him, his small stature making them of almost equal height, she could not take her eyes from the intense longing in his face, the unabashed victory in his expression. He noticed her attentions and returned to her face, claiming her lips once again.
"My will," he whispered, when he pulled away. "This is my will."
"And mine," replied Éowyn, cupping his face with a small hand. His eyelids fluttered closed, and he leaned into her touch. His breath was harsher than usual, but he was gentle when he returned to press a chaste kiss to her lips.
His hand traced down her body then, eyes never leaving her face. Éowyn had never felt so desired as she did then, as the stained fingertips pressed here and there, eliciting noises from her that she did not know were possible. And all the while, he stayed focused on her face, and she on his, each delighting in the other's responses. When a hand slipped lower, she let out a startled gasp and Gríma kissed the perfect 'o' of her mouth. Her head sunk into his shoulder, and she heard him fiddling with the clasp of his breeches with his free hand. When he had rid himself of their constraints, he placed a hand on her chest and pushed her gently downward, until she lay at his knees.
The way he eyed her - his prize, she thought suddenly - should have frightened her, but Éowyn felt nothing but excitement, almost believing herself that it was only a dream, a thing of nighttime fancy. For surely the Gríma she knew in the daylight did not kiss so intoxicatingly, nor touch so perfectly. His tongue slipped out to lick his lips - lightly tinged with colour now - before he lowered himself to rest between her legs.
"My will," he said again, pale eyes on hers. "My will, my lady, my... my Éowyn..."
The last word, her name, was uttered on a sigh as he eased himself into her, giving her time to adjust to the feeling of him within her. She whimpered slightly at the tone of his voice, low and growling. Slowly, he lowered himself to rest above her, catching her lips with his desperate fervour. She moaned into his mouth as he began his rhythm.
Each sweet movement within her wrought a soft cry from her lips. Her hands explored the pale skin of Gríma, clawing, stroking. He was not as muscular or well-defined as most men of Rohan, but Éowyn found no fault with his imperfections, so entranced by his touch was she. She gripped his shoulders hard as he increased his speed, pumping into her with a frenzied need. She caught his lips messily, not caring for gentle affections now, making soft noises into his mouth as he replied in kind.
"E- Éowyn," he stammered into her ear, his nose nestling in her hair. "My Éowyn."
"Yours, Gríma," she breathed in reply. "I am yours."
It was enough, those three words. With a choked groan, he stiffened above her and reached his peak, spilling her seed into her. Éowyn followed soon after, her arms holding him to her body as if to anchor her to the moment as her body spasmed and shuddered. Spent, he lowered himself and she felt his full weight upon her as he panted into her neck. Éowyn pressed her hand to the crown of his head, smoothing his slick hair back from his face. She placed a soft kiss upon his brow, marvelling at the very real blots of colour on his cheeks now.
Slowly, after some time, Gríma drew himself upright and settled back on his haunches, regarding her oddly. "Once more I am brought to my knees before you, night-wraith," he said thoughtfully. "Only this time... I welcome it."
Éowyn smiled at him, reaching for the cloak that lay around her and covering herself with it. "Then it is a good dream?" she asked quietly.
She watched in silence as he redressed himself and passed her the gown he had so eagerly unwrapped her from. He shook his head, and muttered something in a language soft and melodious that she did not understand.
"What do you whisper, Gríma?"
A wry smile quirked his thin lips. "It is an Elvish poem I found some days ago. Roughly translated, it says the following:
'To dreams such every man is lost,
In comfort, at the sharpest cost;
Of waking lone and cold of morn,
From dreams such every man is torn.'
I merely thought it apt. It is still a cruel dream, my lady, for I shall wake alone with only the memory of this, the dream of what was not."
Éowyn stood, covered once again in the thin nightgown and dark furred cloak. "But the memory is yours, is it not? It is a good memory."
He nodded his head slowly. "It is a warm memory for the long nights."
Moving forward, she pressed one last kiss to his thin lips, touched the pale skin of his cheek one last time. "Might that you dream of me more often, Gríma son of Gálmód."
Gríma nudged closer and spoke against her kiss-reddened lips. "I will think on naught else, night-wraith."
Éowyn dropped the black cloak from her shoulders, pressing it into his hands. Feeling Gríma's pale gaze on her, she left the dark corridor to return to her quarters, exhilarated by her deeds, feeling the invincibility of the dreamer, though her brain still whispered of her wakened state... She paid it no heed.
Truly, thought Éowyn, Meduseld by night was a terrible, glorious place. Terrible, in its darkness, but all the more glorious for the unexpected light that shone through the darkest places. As she wrapped herself in the furs of her bed once again, her fears allayed for the night, she wondered if perhaps she did not run from shadows, but rather to them - for Gríma was surely the darkest shadow in Meduseld, but he was also her brightest light.
A/N: D'aww. I wanted to write a creepy fic but Cupid wouldn't let me.
Grima's 'Elvish' poem is a little ditty courtesy of yours truly, just a variation on Bilbo's Dúnadan poem for Aragorn ("Not all those who wander are lost...") because it's Valentines and there has to be a poem. I should work for Hallmark, I know. Such a wasted talent for crappy rhyming.
The whole 'dream' idea is of course borrowed from the Aragorn/Arwen scene in TTT. Sorry Peter Jackson, but I'll put it back when I'm finished, honest!
Anyway, I hope you take this lemon and make lemonade with it. By which I mean, enjoy and review. Perhaps I shall sail the ship of Gríowyn again some day; until then, I bid you adieu.