4. To Catch A Traitor
He will recover, he will recover, I remind myself grimly, as I ride off into a scarlet dawn. Legolas had been badly beaten by Saruman, and three ribs had been broken, but at least - he will recover.
I had come back to the cottage, several days late, and very tired, and found no Saruman- only a small still shape on the ground. To my horror, I found it was Legolas, and he weakly told me what had happened.
"Don't harm him for it, Mithrandir. He is not in his right mind anymore." Good hearted Legolas, anxious to spare Saruman from my anger and sense of justice.
But he is right, and although I feel great wrath at the moment, I will not act upon it.
However, Saruman must be found- and the sooner the better. Obviously, he is very dangerous, not only to others, but to himself as well. If Sauron finds him first- I cannot dwell on that idea, it will do no good.
All day, I ride, searching the countryside; I know he is riding in full terror to escape me, but he is riding into great danger as well.
I must find him.
I think with dismal memory, of how I searched for Gollum, hoping to find him before Sauron, and failing to do so. The Dark Lord had tortured him for days and days, and I could perceive it all in chilling clarity, but I could not find him.
I shudder, and ride on.
Miraculously, I do find him, and even more miraculously, I see him before he sees me : in a dark glade of Fangorn Forest, a few hours before nightfall - where was he going?- Isengard? I do not know, I do not think he knows where he is headed.
He is sitting on a large boulder, his head in his hands, with a general look of great exhaustion and grief.
His - actually- Legolas's horse- stands in the shadows, lathered and foaming with weariness. Poor creature, he has ridden it nearly to death.
Silently, I walk up behind him- I clutch my Staff tightly, suddenly nervous- I do not intend to hurt him, but if what he has done to Legolas is any indication, there is tremendous danger here.
"Curumo- " I say his name very softly, trying to minimize the shock, and he looks up at me, wild-eyed, an expression of mingled fear and hatred on his face.
He makes a move to try to get past me, and I bar his way with the Staff- he backs away, looking at me with dark, glazed eyes that have no sanity in them.
I try to reach him:
"Calm yourself - I have not come to harm you! Listen to me- I will not try to make you stay as a prisoner again- I swear it to you- but we must leave here, we are in great danger, as you must realize!"
"Leave me, Gandalf! Go away, leave me alone!"
"I cannot do that, Curumo- you know I will not leave you here like this."
"Why won't you go away? Why?" his voice is almost pleading, and very
unlike him. "I tried to kill your Elf, Gandalf, but I ran out of time. I suppose I have run out of luck, as well. Is he dead?"
I manage to control myself, and I tell him: "No - he is not dead. Curumo- you are - not well. Let me help you. I will never lock you up again like that- I promise you! But please- let me take you back. Just you and I, alright? I will never lock the door again. But we must leave here -"
"I am sorry he is not dead, I really did give it my best try, Gandalf! If only I could have broken more than just a rib or two, I wanted to choke the life out of him, I really did, but I ran out of ti- " I cut off his hateful, insane words with a hard, backhanded blow to the side of his face- he staggers backwards, reeling from the force of it. I did not intend to lose my temper, and I immediately feel deep sorrow for it.
Saruman looks at me as if I have driven a sword through his heart, and collapses on the ground in front of me, clutching his hair with shaking hands, making a strange half-sobbing sound.
Immensely sorry for having struck him, I kneel down to him, and put
my arms around him.
He does not resist, and I can feel the mental disease in him that is driving him to do these things, his Master's hateful and malignant gift to him.
"It is alright, it will be alright, come back with me, no one will touch you, no one will harm you, I won't allow them to. Get up now, my dear Curumo- come on, pull yourself together."
I gently help him to his feet, and he whispers to me in a voice filled with anguish : "What has happened to me, Olorin? What is happening?"
I consider my words carefully, and then I tell him:
"Sauron has had a terrible effect on your mind, through all the many years. He has slowly -" I was about to say, "driven you mad", but I don't want to alarm him anymore than he already is - "He has had a very negative effect on- on your mind. But you will be alright, trust me, it will be alright."
I suddenly hear something utterly horrible- a sound that turns my blood to ice in my veins:
the eerie, sweeping sound of Ringwraiths on flying dragons. And they are, of course, coming closer.
I grasp Saruman very tightly by the shoulder, and tell him in an extremely firm voice:
"They are coming, Saruman- we have to go- NOW. Get your mount, quickly, quickly!" He looks at me vacantly, his eyes still moist, and I elaborate: "The WRAITHS- they are coming- I hear them! Hurry!"
And now there is the realization that dawns, and the horror on his face, and I push him roughly towards the horses in mind-numbing panic, and we struggle to untie our mounts quickly enough to escape - I look at Saruman's horse again, and I remember how exhausted it was, and I am about to shout to him to get behind me on Shadowfax, but he is already galloping away at full tilt.
I ride close behind him, and I can hear the approaching Wraiths, I can hear the wingbeats of the dragons echo in hollow, terrifying resonance across the woods.
As I feared, Saruman's weary horse lags quickly, and I ride up alongside him on Shadowfax - I hear the Wraiths so close, and as we ride into the open fields, it seems as if they are almost upon us.
Saruman lags even farther behind, and he begins to whip the horse with the end of the reins, trying to gain some ground, but it is no use.
He falls far behind in a matter of seconds, and as I wheel around to
ride back to him, I see, to my great dismay, a huge black shadow come down - I raise my Staff, and it sends brilliant White Light at the shadow, but it is too late:
As the flying demon pulls back up into the air, it carries with it a struggling, writhing prize - Saruman.
I cry out in grief and anger, and I fire another bolt at the dragon, giving it all I have, but it has risen too high now, and although it screams as the Energy hits it, it only scorches one wing. I can only watch in sickened disbelief as the Wraith disappears into the sky.
My mind gibbers wildly, putting thoughts together too fast for them to make sense.
Barad-Dur - the black heart of Mordor - I must go there - and I will plead for his life. And I will doubtless need to plead for my own as well, since I will most likely be immediately shackled and imprisoned -
As I turn to follow the flying devils, racing to cheat fate, I suddenly hear a strange sound behind me, and in the moment before it knocks me off Shadowfax, and into unconsciousness, I understand that it is another Wraith, and there is no time to react, no time at all.
Then the great talons strike me, and there is only the Dark.
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