7. Chapter Seven
In silence they rode up, and Gandalf raised one hand in salutations. Saruman merely nodded, remembering his less-than-pleasant experience at Orthanc.
Aragorn smiled broadly: “Gandalf! We are pleased to meet up with you! We were quite concerned- I feared you might not have made it out of Edoras!”
Gandalf returned the smile, and replied: “It was very touch and go, at first. But yes, we did make good our escape!”
Saruman said nothing, and sat in silence, regarding the others with cool disinterest.
Gandalf sighed wearily, and continued:
“I believe the most prudent course of action is to go separately on to Gondor, and for you to take another route as well. The fewer in our parties, the less attention we will attract.”
He paused-and then added: “Where are Merry and Pippin?”
Legolas answered him:
“We thought it best to leave them in Rohan, for now, until we found out what had happened. There are trusted ones there, who will bring them to Gondor, as it is deemed suitable.”
Aragorn frowned grimly, and then spoke in a grave and troubled voice:
“The Black Hand moves in Mordor, spreading darkness across the lands. Already, there is a fell shroud over us- look!”
He looked upwards, and they all looked to see an approaching mistlike blackness, covering the face of Anor itself.
Saruman went very pale, watching it.
Sauron was arising in anger and wrath, and was growing desperate, as the hour grew short..
And no enemy is ever as dangerous as a desperate enemy.
He turned to Gandalf, and murmured, in a low voice:
“What if we faced this menace, head on, instead of cowering like frightened and feeble children? Well, indeed, do I know Sauron, Gorthaur..the Cruel, indeed! You have no idea, Mithrandir- no idea what you are up against! But I do- better than any of you!”
They all turned to face him, listening, cautious, hesitant.
Gandalf smiled at him, and replied: “Speak then, my old friend! Tell us what you know of Sauron, and how you believe we may best deal with him!”
Saruman looked at the anxious and mistrustful faces watching him, and then with a heavy sigh, he answered:
“There is only one way to do this- to deal with him- and have there be anything left of this world afterwards. We must go to Mordor, ourselves, and slay the Enemy! Your vain hope in this Ringbearer, what if he does not prevail, what if he fails, and falls? Then so do we all! Nay, then, it is far too late! I know all the secret ways into Mordor, and I know the secrets of the Great Eye- he was very close to embodiment, last I scryed the Palantir! He will be- mortal- by now. We can kill him, Gandalf.”
Gandalf listened intently to every word that Saruman imparted to him, and could find no lie, no deception.
He was telling the truth.
“Kill him…” Gandalf murmured. “It is highly risky, deadly dangerous…and I had hoped..there might be another way…”
Saruman snorted scornfully. “Another way! What other way? Do you prefer death for all of us, then, to carrying out his? Did you think it would come to anything less? If we do not end his ill-begotten life- he will end all of ours! This is a war, do you recall that?”
He frowned darkly. “This is not time for leniency, or mercy, Gandalf. He could surrender at any time- but he will not! But I tell you: if we go to Barad-Dur to do this- we must finish him! If we give him a chance to deceive us, he will either turn on us, and make an end of us, or flee, and it will- assuredly-begin again!”
Gandalf looked down, musing on this.
He knew that it was very likely that if they were to defeat Sauron, it would end in his death. And Saruman was correct- this was war, and a terrible one, at that.
One death, to end all the other killing…
He looked to Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas.
“What say you?”
Aragorn nodded, and Legolas and Gimli looked at one another, and then Legolas spoke:
“Sauron came to my people in the Second Age, as you all know, and turned the love, and trust, of one of my own kind, into a trap and a blasphemy. Curunír speaks the unkind truth- the Abhorred will settle for naught less than our deaths, or his. It- it is his nature- he will not relent, or change. He has had thousands of years to cease hostilities!”
Gandalf nodded sadly, and muttered: “One of our own kind..a Maia…”
Saruman grunted, scowling. “As are the Balrogs! Sauron feels no kinship to us, Gandalf, he hates us, and cares for no living creature. His ability to love died when Morgoth did, I believe.”
Gandalf shook his head, and whispered: “And how do you propose we carry out this – assassination?”
Saruman sighed again- “It will not be easy. He will be in a young, strong body, agile, and he will give us a very hard time if we give him the chance. We must be- very swift. I believe- the best way is- a sword through the heart, from behind. It will take all our stealth and cunning to catch him by surprise.”
He considered a moment, and then added coldly: “He will be extraordinarily powerful in this body. The sword-thrust…it may not finish him immediately. We must be prepared- for this- and to do what must be done- to completion.”
They all wore uncomfortable, but determined expressions, at this, and Gandalf finally spoke again, to end the tension they all felt:
“Very well! We shall undertake to end the menace of Mordor, and to put paid to Sauron’s pitiless ambitions!”
Saruman nodded slowly, but in his own heart he was deeply worried- Gandalf was determined, as they all were- but in a close situation- would he carry out the- assassination, as he called it? Would he relent, costing them their lives in the process?
Saruman said no more, but to himself he made a vow: If Gandalf found pity at the wrong moment, and endangered their lives, and Arda itself, he would carry out the task himself.
No matter what.
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