"As I said, it's just a small bump on the head,"
Gandalf commented as
Saruman passed him a glass of dark wine, commenting curiously about his
injuries. The old, grey-haired wizard nodded his thanks and explained
further. The head of all Istari had brought him to a private study
chamber high up in the spire of Orthanc and the two talked openly of
all that had transpired. "We were taken by surprise by a group of men
intent on plundering one of the ancient sites, Eowioriand, by all
rights. I have the map that proved it right here."
He fidgeted in the pocket of his inner robe and
produced the now
worthless document. "The words have all but faded from the parchment, I
am afraid. I was rather hoping to bring it to you, as it was written in
Valinorian." He raised his eyebrows as he passed the yellowed paper to
The white-haired wizard concealed his emotions well,
guest by casually turning the map so it faced him and pretended to
glance over the now nearly erased picture. So Gandalf and his friends
had indeed been the ones that Drelent had stolen the seeing stone from
and the thieves that the wizard had been so vague about had been the
very men that he had employed. His lips thinned as a frown crossed his
face, quite a different tale than the human had told him.
Mistaking Saruman's dark gaze, Gandalf spoke up
quietly, "The words and
the exact location of the ruins have faded. Eowioriand itself is no
more. The building tore apart when the seeing stone was removed."
"And of the palantir? Surely these men were not able
to take it from
you?" Saruman raised his gaze casually and fixed a strange stare on the
Gandalf lowered his eyes and sighed. He hated having
to pass on the
news that the ancient artifact had been destroyed. "Yes," he stated
simply, softly admitting his blunder before explaining. "They were able
to take it from me, I am afraid."
"And how was that accomplished? You are an Istar."
forward. He found he was enjoying the interrogation and Gandalf's
misery far too much; he hid the smiled that touched the corners of his
Gandalf glanced back and sighed once more, readying
himself for the
telling. "Eowioriand was falling and the human and the elf had not yet
escaped it. One of the thieves took me by surprise while I supported
the building long enough for the others to get out safely. He hit me
over the head, and I dropped the palantir."
"And then he took it?"
"I was told there was quite a scuffle for it and it
was in that fight
that Gwaihir was wounded. He dropped the palantir from no small height
and it fell into one of the fissures that scar the plain in front of
Methedras. They all claim the stone fell in, but the thieves went
seeking it anyway. My companions do not believe it was recovered, but I
can't help but think that perhaps it was. However its whereabouts are a
mystery to me now. I am truly sorry."
"If you had let the building simply collapse, we
would have the seeing
stone," Saruman chided the one in front of him, his eyes hard. His
anger was no longer simply directed at his unwanted guests. It
irritated him immensely that he had been lied to by Drelent, told that
the recovery of the palantir had been a simple thing. He had not
informed the Istar that they had attacked two Maiar in the process. His
ire with men rose another notch.
"You would have me forfeit the lives of two living
beings for a
palantir?" Gandalf was incredulous.
"What are two mortals next to the pricelessness of a
seeing stone? Your
love for the creatures of Middle-earth is your downfall."
"One of those beings is a firstborn!"
"Who are also susceptible to death."
"We were sent here for them."
"We were sent here to rule over them. They are not
wise enough and lack
the intelligence and strength to do so on their own." The white-haired
wizard leaned across the table.
"Only a servant may rule, Saruman. Even you are
aware of this fact."
Gandalf pierced his friend with a hard stare.
"And because of your actions we have now lost
another of the palantiri."
"We do not know that for certain," Gandalf answered
disappointment with himself showing on every line of his face for his
Saruman smiled inwardly. When the time was right he
would let the other
know that he did in fact possess the ancient's gift to men, but for
now... A dark satisfaction touched his heart, for now it would be his
own secret. He had plans for it. It would extend his reach and his
wisdom in ways that he could only begin to imagine. His thoughts raced
forward to the fool of a human he had hired. He had plans for that one
Returning his concentration to the wizard seated
across from him, he
feigned compassion. "Well, you did your best. I suppose you can't be
faulted for that. Why don't you take your rest for the evening? I'll
have Teovan take you to your room."
Gandalf stood with a slight nod. "Thank you Saruman."
"Would you like me to send a healer in to check on
you?" he offered
"That won't be necessary, but thank you for your
grey-haired wizard smiled softly, turning to follow the manservant that
had appeared at the door. He knew that he and Saruman might never see
eye to eye on everything. The white wizard had too much pride and
placed too little importance on the servant-hood aspect of their
mission. But every piece of a puzzle had its part to play and it was
not Gandalf's place to judge that of his superior. The wisdom of the
Valar had placed them in the rankings they were in and that was not
something to be taken lightly.
Teovan led Gandalf into the hall, but returned to
his master's study
when Saruman called him back. He asked the wizard to give him a moment
to attend to his liege before they left and stepped into the room alone.
"Yes my lord?"
Saruman glanced up at his attendant, his gaze dark
"Send for that fool, Drelent, and his young trackers. Have them brought
to me at once in my lower study."
Teovan turned to leave but was stopped once more as
the Istar spoke up
quietly, "And tell my pet, Skarmazh, to bring himself and a few of his
guards to my study room in the rotunda. I will have need of their
The servant bowed quickly and hurried out the door,
escorting the grey-haired wizard to a room near where he had placed the
ranger and the
elf. He shivered involuntarily at the thought of having to retrieve the
orcs that resided in the bowels of Orthanc. He did not understand why
his master suffered their presence there but he was loath to ask.
Indeed he was afraid of the answer he would receive and so he simply
Gandalf rapped softly on the door that Teovan had
indicated was where
the elf and the ranger were staying. He smiled to himself, thinking of
the two, knowing neither one of them had wanted to stay in Orthanc. He
needed to check in on them before he retired for the night.
The door in front of him cracked open slightly and
Aragorn peered out
"Strider, who is it?" Gandalf could hear Legolas
call softly to his
"Gandalf?" Aragorn glanced down the hallway looking
about the older
man, noting he was alone.
"You expected someone else?" The wizard raised a
bushy eyebrow and
leaned in towards the human.
With a small laugh Aragorn opened the door wide and
allowed the wizard
Legolas raised himself up on his arms as the older
man entered. He was
laying stomach down on the bed, his shirt draped over the foot of the
mattresses as Aragorn worked the healing ointment into the burns that
still decorated his back.
"Mithrandir! Come in, Strider was just finishing."
The elf glowered at
the human as he walked back to the bedside and pressed his friend down
"I was not. Now move that hair of yours away from
your neck so I can
see to the wound and stop arguing with me." Strider flashed a smile at
the wizard as he seated himself in a high-backed wingchair situated
the dead hearth set into the wall.
"Nice of them to give us wood for fire, don't you
think," the ranger
grumbled as he noted the empty fireplace once again.
"Don't start that," Legolas mumbled into the sheets,
moving his hair
gently away from the red welts that decorated his neck. He relaxed
fully into the soft mattress beneath him and sighed heavily as Aragorn
gently spread the thick ointment across the burns, his fingers light
and barely brushing the elf's skin.
"Better this time?" he asked.
"Much," came the muffled reply.
Aragorn turned his attention back to Gandalf as he
unwound a section of
bandage. "So what brings you to our room tonight or did you not want to
sleep in these chambers alone either?"
Legolas chuckled beneath his light touch as the
ranger carefully bound
the light fabric around the elf's neck, once again giving him temporary
relief from the biting sting that accompanied the burns.
Gandalf sighed and let his gaze fall to the plush
carpet. "Saruman was
displeased that I lost the seeing stone." It was hardly an unusual
thing for his superior to be displeased with him actually, for they
rarely ended up on the same side of any issue anymore but, more than
anything, Gandalf was displeased with himself.
Legolas turned over on his side and watched the
wizard, his expression
"But you yourself said that it may truly not be
lost," Aragorn repeated
his words softly.
"It still remains that the stone was lost to us at
this time. I know
not where it is. His disappointment was obvious and who could blame
him?" Gandalf easily met the gaze of the two younger beings. He had the
feeling that he was missing something somewhere... something very
important to do with that stone, or the situation surrounding it
perhaps... but what it was he did not know. This disturbed him greatly.
"It was not your fault, Mithrandir, you can not take
that guilt on your
own. We were unprepared for Drelent's attack and Eowioriand itself did
us no favors that day. Even Gwaihir couldn't keep the palantir in his
grasp," Legolas offered gently. "If it still exists, it will turn up
"That is what I am afraid of," the wizard muttered.
"Let us hope that
those who hold it do not use it for ill. It is still a dangerous tool
in the wrong hands." Gandalf worried, more to himself than the others.
"Legolas and I are discussing leaving Orthanc
tomorrow. The prince
needs to return home quickly now. Would you care to join us?" Aragorn
asked lightly trying to change the subject to more cheerful topics. He
looked forward to escaping the dark spire and their equally mysterious
"Tomorrow?" Gandalf repeated. "Do you think that
wise?" His gaze
lighted on the elf who was having a hard time remaining awake.
Aragorn looked behind him to Legolas, smiling
wickedly at the elf.
"Tired are we?" he taunted.
With a snort of disgust the prince shoved his friend
hard and slowly
sat up next to the ranger, swinging his legs off the side of the bed.
"I really do need to return home with all speed,
Mithrandir. My father
summoned me for the Yen and I have yet to make it back. He will be
livid," the elf explained.
Gandalf laughed lightly nodding in agreement.
"Knowing your father, you
are in for quite a lecture young one. Not to worry. The next Yen is
around the corner."
Legolas laughed at the wizard's unique concept of
time. "Perhaps I will
tell him you said that."
"You leave me out of it!" Gandalf threatened, his
serious. "Now listen both of you. I don't care how much you dislike
Orthanc, you need to take your rest here until you, Prince Legolas, are
fully healed. Those burns are nothing to be made light of. Saruman
will not mind you staying on for a bit. Stay till you are well."
Legolas glanced sidelong at the human seated next to
Aragorn slowly turned to meet the questioning gaze,
noting the barely
concealed humor in his friend's eyes. "Then you had better heal
quickly," he chided his friend, "and I am going to ask for wood. That
fireplace, empty and dark like that is..." He stared dismally into the
"I know, I know!" Legolas burst out laughing. "It's
finished the sentence for his friend.
"Well it is! And the sooner we are off the better.
I'd rather endure
your father's wrath than stay here." A smile replaced the frown on the
"Easy for you to say!" Legolas shot back with a wry
despite his words. "He's not your
father and you aren't the one
wrath is going to be aimed at!"
The mirth of the elf was contagious and soon all
three of them were
Down in the lower rooms of Orthanc, Saruman paced
impatiently. A knock
on the door to his study alerted him to the human's presence and he
ordered the man to enter.
Drelent walked cautiously into the interior of the
"Teonvan said you wanted to see me?" he questioned
uneasily. "We were
just readying to leave."
"Where are the two young trackers that accompanied
you here?" Saruman's
voice was low and deadly and he turned his back on the man, walking
an adjoining antechamber and forcing the man to follow him.
"I sent them on ahead. They left just after
nightfall. They were
unseen." Drelent stopped on the threshold of the round room that
Saruman had entered. Something inside him told him his welcome in
Orthanc had just run ou,t but he did not know how to end the
conversation gracefully. "If you don't need me, I'll be leaving also."
"Don't need you?" Saruman turned towards the man.
"Strange choice of
words, wouldn't you say?"
Drelent didn't answer and so the wizard continued,
"I needed you to
complete the job."
"I did!" the man defended himself. He did not like
the wizard's tone,
nor where this seemed to be going.
"I needed you to complete the job efficiently as you
to." The Istar was pleased to see the tracker flinch as he stepped
back towards the man. "Tell me again about how you obtained the seeing
stone." Saruman paced to the center of the room where a podium stood, a
circular object rested upon it underneath a velvet square of black
cloth. He reached out his hand and let it hang mere inches above the
covered globe. "How?" he repeated himself.
The man behind him glanced about them warily.
Something had gone wrong
or his employer wouldn't be so upset. "I told you how we retrieved it.
We took it from a small group of people who were pilfering the site.
else is there to tell?"
"And did you come across an old man, with grey hair,
perhaps in the
company of a great eagle? Or did such a striking thing somehow slip
Drelent nodded cautiously, "There was an old man
with an elf and a..."
His answer was cut off as Saruman stalked back towards him.
"That old man
is a member of my order. An Istar! Did you know that?
Did it never occur to you why
a great eagle would allow another being
to ride it?" He turned away from the human in disgust. "Fool. Would
that you were as efficient as your lies."
"We did nothing wrong. We completed the job and
brought you the seeing
stone. The old man... the other Istar, he has no clue that you possess
the seeing stone, no one does! There is nothing to tie us together.
There are no loose ends." Drelent tried to defend himself and his men,
he was becoming agitated with the wizard and turned on his heels
meaning to leave the others presence.
Something in Saruman's soft question stopped the
tracker and he turned
"No loose ends? So tell me then, why did my orcs
have to take care of
Paxcyn's men who survived Eowioriand? Why did your men not take care of
them like you were instructed?" He smiled cruelly as Drelent's mouth
fell open wordlessly. "Oh yes, that sorry excuse for a hunter. Dryxyn,
believe was his name? He and the others you released were taken care of
by my servants."
"How did you...?" Drelent never finished the
question as the dark
shapes of orcs filed in behind Saruman.
"This is Skarmazh. He never fails me. He always
completes whatever I
send him to do." Saruman held his staff up and pointed it at the
entrance behind Drelent. The double doors swept swiftly in, shutting
off the human's only way of escape. Orcs stood in the opposite three
entrances - Drelent was trapped. "Now Skarmazh, will finish the job you
were sent to complete."
The orc stepped forward, dark glee lighting his evil
eyes. "Come, my
pretty, we have plenty of things to show you below," he croaked in a
rasping, rough voice as the orcs swarmed the man. His cries were cut
in the dark tide and the high-pitched cackle of the orcs followed his
screams for mercy down into the bowels of Orthanc.
Saruman turned and walked back toward the palantir,
unaffected by the
humans' pleadings. In moments the door to the secret chambers of
Orthanc closed and silence descended again. He smiled as he removed the
black cloth and stared into the depths of the dark orb, reaching his
hand back towards it once more.
In their bedroom high in the spire, Aragorn jerked
awake. He was
certain he had heard orcs. His eyes were huge as he glanced around the
dimly lit room. Pressing himself up from his resting place on the
he looked over the bed and the still form of Legolas. The door to their
chamber was closed tightly and no one but them occupied the room.
The elf murmured softly in his sleep, reaching out
blindly with one
hand for the ranger on the floor next to him. His fingers tangled in
Aragorn's hair and he let his hand rest on the human's head. "Go back
to sleep, Strider. We are fine."
The ranger glanced up at the barely awake elf,
frowning at the
incoherent response. "I thought I heard orcs."
"You didn't." Legolas scooted to the edge of the
mattress and looked
down at his friend. "It was your imagination, my friend." Bleary eyes
locked onto his. "Go back to sleep."
"But I was sure..." He stopped as the elf sat up in
bed throwing the
sheets off and knelt down next to him.
Tossing a pillow on the floor the elf collapsed on
his stomach barely
awake. "There, better?" he murmured.
Aragorn snickered and shook his head as Legolas
groped for the sheets
trying to pull them down on top of him for warmth. The ranger reached
over his friend and drug the coverings down from the bed, tucking them
around the body of the sleeping elf.
With a sigh he lay down next to Legolas and listened
far into the
night, the sound of the prince's deep breathing finally lulling him to
sleep. Perhaps Legolas had been right, maybe he was just imagining it.
They were after all in the home of an Istar and why would an Istar
associate with orcs? 'One wouldn't', the rational voice in his mind
With a small smile he pulled his blanket up tightly
shoulders and fell to sleep. Still, he thought before the peace of
sleep claimed him, it wouldn't be soon enough before they left this
place; he missed the open-aired house of his father and at the moment
he even missed the forests of Mirkwood. It would be good to be home
again. Images of Elrond and his brothers chased through his dreams as
he slept next to his friend.
Soon they would leave this place and return Legolas
to Mirkwood. Then
everything would settle down and they'd have a chance to rest a while...
If fate has a face, then surely somewhere she was
smiling, thinking how
very little the two friends knew of what yet lay ahead of them.
For now however, all was well and it was enough for
them simply to rest
and regain their strength, they would need it. But that again is
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