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Sing All Ye Joyful
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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1

The old king was feverish and agitated. He would not quiet down, not even after a soothing potion. He called for his councillor and for his niece.

"Gríma, Gríma, Gríma," he would mutter. And "Éowyn, Éowyn, Éowyn."

It was never clear if he expected both of them to be there – together – or if he did not want that. Them. Together.

"I think a song would soothe your uncle, my lady," the councillor suggested.

Éowyn felt another shiver pass down her spine. This man made her skin crawl. Those eyes always seemed to delve deeper, touch parts of her no man had ever laid his hands on. However, there was nothing she could do, but reply courteously. "Should I call for the minstrel, my lord Gríma?"

There was a faint smile playing around the strangely pale lips of the councillor. Wormtongue, worm lips. The accolade meant to honour the councillor's glib rhetoric was uncannily fitting for his outward appearance. He was pale, compared to the riders of the Mark, who spent their days riding and fighting in wind and rain and sunshine.

"The presence of strangers, of people not belonging to his most trusted friends and members of the family has upset your uncle during the last days, my lady. His health is frail. I am loath to risk the little strength he has gained."

Éowyn sighed and suppressed the urge to draw away from the councillor. He was right; the presence of strangers did disturb her uncle – and there was really no telling whom he might regard as a stranger these days.

"How about if you sing a soothing song for your uncle? And I could accompany you? You have such a lovely voice, my lady; I am sure this would warm your uncle's heart and ease him into slumber."

She almost felt her stomach heave in revulsion at the thought of singing with this sleazy and cunning politician. How could she sing with someone her heart and her body recoiled from?

Someone she wouldn't touch with a pitch fork, given the choice.

She swallowed hard. Her uncle moaned. A sound that was almost her name.

No choice. Somehow there never was a choice for her.

"This is very gracious of you, lord Gríma," she said, her voice dry as the wind from the West in the grass of the plains in autumn.

"Just a soothing little song," he answered, with a brief smile touching his pale lips, but it was a grimace that left his eyes cold, apart from the usual calculating glance down at her breasts.

"Whatever," was her too curt reply, which provoked another smile in him, a knowing smile that sent a shiver down her spine.

He took her hand, politely guiding her to her uncle's bed. She wanted to tear her hand away from his grip. But of course that was impossible. She was glad for the presence of the shy maidservant in the corner of the room, one Lathwyn.

She looked at her uncle, who was tossing and turning and obviously barely recognizing her, and thought that her heart would burst with the pain of seeing him reduced to this wreck of an old man.

Then the councillor began to sing, softly, soothingly, but his voice raised goose bumps on her arms and she felt sick to her stomach. What she had known and loved as a gentle song of night and day and the joys that came with the passage of the seasons, now seemed a barely disguised threat.

But her uncle turned towards her, holding his hand out towards her and whispered in a wheezy old man's voice, "Éowyn, my Éowyn!"

She swallowed hard and blinked twice to suppress threatening tears. Then she opened her mouth and joined Gríma's song.

"Sing all ye joyful, now sing all together!
The wind's in the tree-top, the wind's in the heather;
The stars are in blossom, the moon is in flower,
And bright are the windows of night in her tower…"

The old man quieted visibly to the soft song. There was a cold gleam in Gríma's eyes. One could think he was trying to hide his pity for the king. One could also think he was trying to hide something else.

As soon as the king was asleep, Éowyn fled from the royal apartments and withdraw to her own chambers.

But in the silence of her room, she could still hear the councillor's voice, soft and gentle, a sweet poison, and underneath the sickening sweetness, barely disguised steel.

"…The stars are in blossom, the moon is in flower,
And bright are the windows of night in her tower…"

But her tower had no windows.
And her night was always dark.




~~~

"Sing All Ye Joyful" is a poem by J.R.R. Tolkien, most respectfully quoted. You can read it online here.

~~~


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