From the king’s hand the black staff fell clattering on the stones. He drew himself up, slowly, as a man that is stiff from bending over some dull toil. Now tall and straight he stood, and his eyes were blue as he looked into the opening sky.
‘Dark have been my dreams of late,’ he said, ‘but I feel as one new-awakened. I would now that you had come before, Gandalf. For I fear that already you have come too late, only to see the last days of my house. Not long now shall stand the high hall which Brego son of Eorl built. Fire shall devour the high seat. What is to be done?’
‘Much,’ said Gandalf. ‘But first send for Éomer. Do I not guess rightly that you hold him prisoner, by the counsel of Gríma, of him that all save you name the Wormtongue?’
‘It is true,’ said Théoden. ‘He had rebelled against my commands, and threatened death to Gríma in my hall.’
‘A man may love you and yet not love Wormtongue or his counsels…
‘If Éomer had not defied Wormtongue’s voice speaking with your mouth, those Orcs would have reached Isengard by now, bearing a great prize. Not indeed that prize which Saruman desires above all else, but at the least two members of my Company, sharers of a secret hope, of which even to you, lord, I cannot yet speak openly. Dare you think of what they might now be suffering, or what Saruman might now have learned to our destruction?’
‘I owe much to Éomer,’ said Théoden. ‘Faithful heart may have forward tongue.’
‘Say also,’ said Gandalf. ‘that to crooked eyes truth may wear a wry face.’