6. Chapter Six
“Saruman- I must tell you something: there is news of the Ring, and of Sauron!” I inform him, as we walk in the garden; he says nothing, and I take this to mean he is simply thinking about what I have just told him, so I continue:
“The Ring is in the possession of someone I know.”
He stops then, and looks at me with great interest-
“Oh? And who is that? Where are they?” he says softly. There is a look in his eyes that makes me feel as if I am being searched to the very core of my soul.
I hesitate- and then I tell him the truth- and immediately recognize my mistake.
The light in his eyes as I tell him of Frodo, and the Ring, is a dark light, born in some nameless abyss, a vivid living void.
And then he smiles at me, with great kindness and affection, and embraces me suddenly. I in turn place my arms around his broad shoulders, and then he abruptly breaks our closeness, and pulls away from me.
“I must go now.” he says quietly, and turns towards the Tower; “Come with me back inside, and wait for me in my study. It will not take long.”
“What will not take long?” I question him, and he turns and gives me a chilling look.
“I have something I must do. It will not take long.” He repeats again, and walks towards the Tower, walking in long, fast strides.
I struggle to keep up with him, and my feeling of dread is overwhelming now. His long magnificent robes wrap around him as we enter the doorway, and he speaks again, in a very strained voice, “Do not follow me – go to my study. I will be back very soon, my love.”
“Saruman- wait a moment.”
I put my hand on his arm firmly, and he looks at me in mild wonder.
“Yes, Gandalf?” he says, and I try to find the words. I have never openly defied him before, and have always shown only abject and total obedience. He has not been an easy mentor, but except for coming to grips with his unusual moods and comments, I have never found it difficult to obey him, or trust him, as far as my own safety was concerned.
“What are you going to do, my Aratar?” I ask him, the words choking in my throat, “Can you not let me know? For it seems you keep so much – hidden – from me, these days.”
My heart is pounding painfully, thudding against my ribs; in the two thousand years of our time here, I have never questioned him like this. He looks at me carefully, with a mixture of rising anger, stress, and amusement.
“Gandalf – I find it rather charming that you are so courageous in your curiosity today- but I cannot indulge you, I am afraid. You could not have chosen a worse subject, or a more inappropriate time!”
“Wait”, I press further, my hand still on him firmly, “You must talk to me, Curumo. We have avoided this too long. I – I am becoming afraid for you. I know something is - not right.”
I try to speak in what I hope is the most respectful and gentle manner.
Without even realizing it, I have blocked his path, almost by instinct. And I cannot bring myself to let him pass, I am genuinely fearful for him, and it seems as if I must keep him from whatever he is about to do, at all cost. He glares at me in what is rapidly becoming fury, and I wonder, myself, at what I am doing.
It is unthinkable, my insubordinance!
Saruman’s eyes flash dangerous lightning, and he pushes me aside roughly, silently, and strides past purposefully. Then at the staircase he turns to me again:
“Do you want to see? Do you want to know, my lover? Are you so determined? Then follow me!”
I follow him upstairs, with a sick fear filling my heart. I cannot even feel the steps under my feet, for the terror in my soul. We reach the chamber, and he stands back and motions me inside, and then shuts the heavy door with a thud behind us.
I have never mistrusted him before- I have not always understood him, or his ways, but nothing like this. But as I stand here in his room, I am gripped with foreboding. There is a palpable air of actual danger.
“So you would know everything, would you, my love? Cannot quiet that inquisitive mind of yours, eh?” he says in a distinctly unfriendly voice-
“Very well! All shall be revealed, and nothing held back! After today, you shall have no more questions on this matter, and your heart shall be at ease!”
My heart is far from at ease at this point, and the tone of voice he is using is not helping. I understand he is angry that I am defying him, but this reaction is only increasing the strain.
“Come here!” he commands, as if I am a house-servant,and I obey him, and he gestures to the table, with the Palantir. “Look into the Orb!” he says in a rough tone, “Look deeply, and there will be no more questions in your mind!” I move close to the Orb, and he comes up behind me, and grasps me around the waist, pressing into me sensually.
“There- see- just relax- and look within the globe.” His voice is becoming The Voice now, coaxing and sweet-sounding, infinitely smooth and deeply intoxicating. His whole demeanor has changed, and he is using the magic on me, perhaps actually against me?
“I wanted to tell you, Stormcrow”, he purrs in my ear, licking it, as the Palantir shimmers to colorful life in front of me; “I wanted to share this with you, but I could not- but I will now - as I see you are ready- ” - he pushes against me harder, and I can feel the hardness of him, and I stare into the Palantir, and from out of its depths comes a roaring voice, and an agony in my being upon hearing the sound of it. I hear myself gasp, and I try to step back, but Curumo does not let me move away, and whispers to me :
“No, do not give in to weakness. You must remain, and allow it to happen!”
The vision in the orb rises up, and there is something there, I cannot make it out clearly, but I feel pain at the perception of it, somehow. The voice in the Palantir roars at me, with a sound that is haunting and familiar, and yet excruciating to hear. It rapidly becomes unbearable, and I make a tremendous effort to escape the pain, wrenching away from Saruman’s now iron grip on me.
“No!” he snarls, and reaches for me, but I am too quick for him and back away to the door- if I can only open it in time! – I manage it and make my way down the staircase as if I am in flight. At the bottom of the steps, I turn and face Saruman, who has followed me and is nearly upon me.
“Saruman! Cease! What is the matter with you?”
I try to sound stern, and in control- I must not give in to the horror of the moment.
But Curumo is far from being in control- he looks at me with a wild rage, and I do not even recognize him at this moment. He looks utterly mad, beyond all reason. He raises his Staff at me, and the power of it knocks me against the wall, and he advances on me, still with that strange, cold expression. I hit the wall hard, and sink down slowly, hurt both in body and heart.
He used the Staff- against me, to harm me! My shock and grief are devastating, but there is no time for that now.
He is almost upon me, and I raise my own Staff in pure self-defense, and aim a non-lethal repelling blast at him. He staggers backwards slightly, but then raises his own Staff again and hurls a deadly – and very lethal- bolt of energy at me. I feel the impact as it hits me, and then I am being lifted up, and spun around violently. Dizzy and ill, I can barely hear his voice, raging at me :
“I gave you a chance, Gandalf! For love of you, a chance of aiding me willingly! I had hoped you would be wise enough to take it! But you have elected the way of pain!”
I am hurtled towards the ceiling, and I know no more.
Then –I awaken.
How long I have sat up here in the rain and cold, I do not know. I have had many long hours to contemplate the horror that has happened, the chaos that my world has become. No one will ever know, I will never share it with anyone, the agony of the betrayal, and the shattering of all I held close to my heart.
My tears have mingled with those of the sky, which seems to be weeping with me. I am a prisoner on the pinnacle of Orthanc Tower, a victim of the one I had loved and trusted the most.
I fall asleep again, there is nothing to remain awake for.
And then I am awakened by approaching footfalls near me, and I open my eyes to see that it is morning again- how things have changed in a day and a night! Silhouetted against the blue of the sky, I see Curumo standing over me. He looks down at me with an expression that I cannot read.
“Gandalf- stand up.”
I do so, and we regard each other warily. He has taken my Staff, I am defenseless. Or is that entirely true? Slowly, my hand goes to my hip, and I feel it still there: Glamdring- the Elven Blade. But my surprise and elation at finding it are meaningless- I could never use it against him.
I would never be able to bring myself to sink a killing blade into the body of the one I have loved for so many years.
Saruman notices Glamdring finally now, as well, and he moves back quickly, as if bitten; he frowns darkly, and mutters, “ Ah, what of it, Gandalf, do you wish to kill me?”
I look back at him in deep sorrow, and I answer him truthfully:
“How can you even ask such a thing of me as that. I would never harm you.”
He does not look convinced, and puts even more distance between us. He has never been a sword fighter, and if we were matched in a battle, the outcome would be a foregone conclusion, and he knows it well.
I try to reach him, to mentally slash with a sword of reason through the tangle of his disjointed mind:
“Saruman - whatever is in the Palantir- can we not sit down and discuss this, rationally? I will not try to flee, and I would certainly never try to harm you or kill you, as you ought to know.”
Saruman looks at me and says nothing, his face impassive again.
“Give me the sword you carry. As a token of your good faith.” he finally says quietly; I carefully consider my reply before speaking :
“I cannot disarm myself in a situation like this, Saruman. Was it not you, yourself, who taught me that? But I have no desire to do you any harm, far from it. Nay, was it I who attacked you? You have a short memory, my old friend!”
He looks angry at this, but it is no less than the absolute truth, and he knows it. I risk another attempt:
“And I do not even know why you attacked me! Can you give me a reason? All these many ages I have trusted you utterly, and now, over a disagreement, you turn your magic and your power against me! How could you do that, Saruman?”
I fight mightily against the emotion strangling my voice as I say the painful words, “Do you no longer- love me?”
He suddenly looks hurt, and shocked, and whispers harshly, “No longer love you! Do not be a fool! Nay, it is because I do love you, that I must bring you to understanding! I must make you realize the true nature of your situation, and mine!”
He leans in closer to me again, and I make a point of keeping my hands to my sides, so as to not give any indication of reaching for the sword.
“Listen to me, my star, my heart’s desire, and hear me. The voice in the Palantir was that of the Dark Lord. There is no denying him, no way to win against him. And I ought to know: I have studied this matter for hundreds upon hundreds of years!”
Saruman looks carefully at me for a reaction, but I have none to give, I am too stunned, too numb. He sighs deeply, and then continues:
“The only hope we have- that anyone has- is to give way for now, and then try to regain some measure of power again, when we can. It is in the best interests of Middle Earth- and ours- to not stand against Sauron right now- he is far more powerful than any of you know. None can resist him!”
He falls silent, and slowly reaches out to touch my face; “I love you, Stormcrow.”, he murmurs in a barely audible voice, as if he is afraid of being overheard, “I do love you, but I must be cruel to be kind. If I fail to do so- we are all dead already.”
I say nothing, and look away over the valley of Nan Curunir, the Wizard’s Vale. He looks at me with sudden sternness, and says in a sharp tone:
“There will be no more disobedience! I am over you, in case you had forgotten that! That does not merely apply to my chamber! Now: you will do as I say, and this is the last we shall speak of this – disagreement.’
Saruman wraps himself around me, embracing me in his powerful grasp, and whispers very quietly :
“Now, enough of this foolishness. Come, let us enjoy this beautiful morning from our bed!”
Ah, how inviting!, I think to myself, but I dare not, my love. I cannot trust you.
“Do you love me still?” he is asking me, “Or has your heart turned to ice now?”
Oh, by the Valar, of course I love you, you fool!, I think darkly, But you are going mad, or betraying Middle Earth. Or most likely, both.
I look him in the eyes, and forcing myself to remain steadfast, I speak slowly and calmly: “You know that I love you well, Curunir,” I say, using his Sindarin name, “And there is nowhere I would rather be, than in your arms. But this- madness- or folly- whatever it is- of relenting to Sauron -I cannot agree to it, at least not on my part. Certainly, you must know you are in error.”
He looks at me with great sorrow, and disappointment, and shakes his silver maned head sadly;
“I cannot allow you to refuse this, Gandalf. I am sorry. You are not at liberty to refuse what I command of you.”
He backs away from me, and then speaks in a louder, different tone: “For the last time, Mithrandir, will you obey me, your superior, and do as I bid you in this matter?”
I dread what is coming, but there is no real point in a lie, as I will no doubt be called upon to prove nonexistent obedience to this insanity;
“I cannot, Curumo. It is against all you have taught me, and all that I know to be true and right. It is against our mission here, our sacred duty!”
And that is when the Staff came down against me, and I again fell into blackness.
How many more days and nights I spent on the top of Orthanc, I am not really sure. I would awaken in the morning to find food brought for me, and wine, but I never saw Saruman, or anyone else, although I heard much commotion far below me in the courtyards of Isengard.
I hurt from head to toe, and I was very badly bruised from the apparent beating Curunir had given me the last time I had seen him.
I was beginning to realize I was fortunate he had not actually beaten me to death, after knocking me unconscious. His fury and rage at me had been beyond anything I had ever seen from him, and the pain in my back and head told me how severely he had beaten me.
In one of my delirious, desperate moments, I had held a large brown moth- it had somehow made me think of Radagast, and I watched it fly away, and as it went it seemed to whisper “Gwahir- Gwahir will come!”.
I watched it drift away, and my head was spinning with weariness.
And now, one night when the moon is huge and full above me, Saruman returns.
He walks up to me silently, and the look in his eyes is that of a stranger. I see nothing in them of the Istar I know- and love.
His voice, harsh and commanding, billows over the high places like a macabre echo; “Olórin, get up!” - he has, by now, taken Glamdring from me- not that I would have ever used it on him, but it was better to have some threat of self-defense, however false. No Staff, and no blade.
Saruman towers above me, and I painfully try to get to my feet, only to find that I cannot – my legs are too weak, and perhaps even broken. The pain is horrific.
He looks down at me with a stern expression, and yet there is, perhaps, a hint of some concern on his set face.
“What is wrong with you? What are you doing up here?” he asks me, incredibly, as if he has no idea.
And from the irrationality of his behaviour, it may be that he truly does not understand. I force myself to find my voice, and attempt to reply to his amazing question:
“Curumo, it appears you have forgotten some details of when we last spoke- do you truly not remember- what happened?”
He looks at me in wonder and confusion, and then looks away, over the expanse of his domain. His expression goes blank, and empty. “Saruman?” I try to regain his attention, but he is drifting somehow, dreamily surveying the landscape far below us.
“Curumo!” I shout at him weakly, and he turns to me finally, with a vacant look in his eyes.
“Mmmm- yes , Gandalf, I am listening to you. Something about Rohan, hmm? Pray, continue.”
My initial disbelief at his strange mental state has become shock, as I realize he is not doing this for my benefit, to deceive me.
“Do you think the army will be prepared in time?” he asks me gravely, and I have no time to muse on this enigmatic question, as he turns back to the edge,and leans over, looking down the hundreds of feet below. He is very close, too close, to the edge.
“Saruman! Listen to me- come back from there- please.”
I try again to get to my feet,and this time, motivated by alarm, I succeed, although in great pain. I move over to him with a sheer force of will, and ignoring the fire in my legs, carefully lay a hand on his shoulder.
He pulls back from the edge swiftly, and looks as if I have startled him. His dark eyes are wide and wild, and I say the only thing I can think of, that may help:
“Come, let us go back inside, and I will pour you some wine. Would you like that, my melda?”
I speak in the most gentle and loving voice I can find, not just out of compassion, but out of a genuine desire to get both of us away from the dangerous top of Orthanc. One slip, or moment of madness, and there would be no surviving such a fall.
“Yes- yes. I would like that.” he says quietly, “ But- what has happened? I feel – I have missed something. Or a great deal. The army, he needs it- wants it ready. Now. But it is not ready.”
I can almost hear the chaos in his mind, and I understand, finally, the severity of his condition. But what has brought his fine mind to such a state? It can only be that demented orb- the Palantir. He had said it was Sauron himself, speaking through it.
Saruman now looks at me as if he is trying to remember who I am, and suddenly turns on me again, but this time, before he can raise the Staff he clutches with a death grip, I spin and turn out of his way. With an angry sound, he wheels around and tries to aim the Staff at me. I can see my death in his eyes- he will kill me this time, and perhaps not even recall it in the morning. Of this, I am absolutely certain.
And then, like a miracle, I see out of the corner of my eye a large dark shape, flying towards me, and I understand : it is the Eagle Lord Gwahir, my last hope! Saruman takes no notice of it, he is too intent on trying to get a good shot at me. Fire roars out of the Staff and barely misses me. With the very last of my strength, I leap off the edge and onto the huge feathery back of the Eagle.
Saruman looks at me in disbelief and fury, and screams a vile curse at me in the Black Speech, and as his voice dies in the distance, I hear him shouting to me that I could have had it all, we could have had it all together, but I had thrown all my hope away now. He watches me from the edge of the Tower, and I think perhaps he is going to lose his balance and fall, and I close my eyes, not wanting to see, and unable to prevent it.
And perhaps, it would have been the better and kinder fate, for all concerned.
But he does not fall, and I ride Gwahir on the stormy winds of my fortune, back to freedom.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.