The Old Grey Wizard
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The Kindness of Strangers: 10. A Fool's Hope
A Fool's Hope
Coräc could not stay away from the great Tower. He visited every day. He soared above the ruined plain of Isengard, spiraling downward in ever tightening circles until the tips of his wing feathers nearly brushed the surface of the glittering black stone. The observatory platform remained empty and forlorn. Sometimes he would land and explore, sniffing the greybeard's abandoned cloak, or sticking his head into his boot. Sometimes he gazed at the reflection of his eye in the mirror-like surface of the sword. He grabbed the end of the staff in his beak and dragged it in a half-circle, just for the amusement of it.
Finally he settled into a routine. He would fly as high as he could, soaring in such a lofty circle that he could barely pick out the top of the Tower, then he would slowly descend. The pattern of the Grey One's scattered belongings never varied much. Sometimes the wind moved the blue-grey hat a few inches in one direction or another, or the cloak flapped open or closed. But nothing else changed. Coräc would land and peck each object in turn: sword, staff, cloak, hat, left boot, right boot. He would stretch his wings, croak a few times, and leave.
"Why do you bother?" Morigian asked one afternoon when he returned to the roost. "Your greybeard is dead. The White One is a murderer, like most humans. Anyone who has gazed into his dead eyes can see that."
The Raven Lord shook his glossy head. "I prefer to believe he is alive, inside that black spike somewhere."
"I thought he was your friend, Coräc," his wife scolded. "If he is still alive in there, at the mercy of that stone-eyed White One...well, then, you know what must be happening to him. I would think you wouldn't want to believe that."
Coräc stared at her. "But if he is alive, is it not better that someone believes it...and hopes for his escape?" He shook his feathers, flicked his tail and looked up. "Rain comes again soon," he croaked.
Morigian stared at the sky, watching the thick clouds roll into the Wizard's Vale. "Yes, it does... Come, my foolish, loyal husband," she cried, as she took off toward the Tower. "Help me do something hopeful!"
Coräc sprang into the air after her.
Thirty minutes later, in the midst of a pelting rainstorm, two ravens could be seen cavorting atop Orthanc, apparently toying with a human's leather boot. Ravens are mischievous creatures, but this pair seemed exceptionally playful. They took turns catching the strap at the side of the boot in their bills and flapping as hard as they could. Finally, they both caught hold of the leather loops at the side of the boot at once, and they succeeded in standing it upright. The ravens waited in the rain for several minutes. Then one flew up and flapped above the boot, peering downward. He landed lightly on the edge of the boot and called vigorously.
They both flew off into the storm, and their echoing croaks sounded like deep-throated human laughter.
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