13. Chapter 13: Saruman
Warnings: AU although this story follows the timeline, this is elf-worship. Of course, you can read the rest in the real book.
Please note rating for violence and m/m, angst and extreme distress. This is going to hurt.
Note for HASA readers - I have taken Curious wombat's advice and will post the rest of this very quickly- probably a chapter a day or every couple of days so you don't have to go over to the 'Pit of Voles' as she describes ffnet!! Which has a ring of truth but people there are reading and reviewing so Voles with Taste :)
Chapter 13: Saruman
Next morning, Pippin had barely time to open his eyes before Strider had whipped off his blanket and thrown an apple at him. 'First breakfast,' the Ranger said. Pippin grinned and bit into the red apple. He gave Merry a prod; he was still fast asleep. Pippin took another bite from the apple and he watched Gandalf stride up the broken stone steps to where they had made their small camp.
Gandalf tapped the still sleeping Merry with his staff impatiently. 'Quickly now. Get up and you can begin tidying this mess away,' he said. He gave Merry another tap with his staff, a little more sharply this time.
Merry groaned and turned over, pulling his blanket up around his ears. 'I go to meet Saruman,' said Gandalf, ignoring the hobbit's protests. 'I think only I and Théoden and… Aragorn, you should come. But there is no need for everyone to traipse along,' he added gruffly.
Gimli bent over the fire, coaxing it into life as only a dwarf can. 'I will come too, Gandalf,' he said firmly, straightening up and looking Gandalf in the eye. 'And Legolas. For we alone represent our people here.' He folded his arms and stood with his feet square.
Pippin took another bite out of the apple and watched with great interest to see who would win. He bet on Gimli on this one. Nothing could budge the dwarf when he stood like that.
Pippin glanced over to where Legolas sat. He had his back to Pippin and was carefully checking arrows, sliding his finger along the shaft and then holding each one up, squinting along its length.
Gandalf lifted the hem of his white cloak up and scowled at the mud that edged it. 'I do not think…' he began.
'No need,' interrupted Gimli, hefting his axe across his strong body- a sure sign he wouldn't budge, Pippin thought to himself wisely. 'I have thought on it enough and it is right that Saruman's fall is witnessed by folk from both the Mountain and the Forest.'
Gandalf scowled at the dwarf but then he slid his gaze away towards Legolas who still sat mending arrows, as if oblivious to the discussion. Gandalf sighed. 'If you wish this, then let it be so.'
Pippin mentally awarded himself a large apple pie, and then added custard.
Gandalf raised his eyes to the black tower that rose up from the steam and mists that still lay in drifts across the vale. He squinted at the wreckage caused by the wrath of the Ents and shook his head slightly at some thought unknown to Pippin.
'Beware of Saruman,' said Gandalf suddenly solemn and Pippin paused, apple in hand. He looked up at the wizard, slightly awed by the sudden change. 'He will appear fair and just to you. Most especially, beware his voice.'
Even Legolas stilled his hands and let the arrow in his hands rest against his thigh.
'His voice has a power in it to beguile, and many wiser heads than yours have been fooled by him.' The Wizard continued, and tapped his white staff thoughtfully against his boot. 'Legolas?'
The elf finally looked up at the wizard. Gandalf smiled gently, trying to soften his words. 'I am against your going. You have incurred the wrath of Saruman and I do not know how he will seek revenge, for revenge he will seek. But you have encountered his power, however diluted, through Grima Wormtongue and only you and I have known his venom…You were able to withstand him then, perhaps you can do so again.'
Legolas let his gaze drift away for a moment. 'I do not fear Saruman.' he said quietly. 'My heart is steady and resolved.'
Pippin looked down at the remains of the apple in his hand and suddenly, threw the core as hard as he could away from the group.
Gandalf watched, surprised. He stared at Pippin for a moment and then said slowly, 'Very well then. Legolas and Gimli shall be for the elves and dwarves. But you should all be on your guard. He will seek to destroy us if he can. Beware how he twists words. He will seem to tell truths, and yet it will not be the full truth.' He frowned at Pippin briefly and then he turned quickly and strode off, not waiting to see if they followed.
Pippin scrambled up and grabbed his cloak. Strider stopped him.
'This is no place for a hobbit.' he said. Pippin stopped and opened his mouth to speak but Merry turned slowly towards him.
'No.' Merry met Strider's concerned grey eyes resolutely, and said, 'Nor was Moria. And nor is Mordor.'
Legolas turned his head towards the hobbits and regarded them silently for a moment. Then he put his hand on Merry's shoulder. 'If Gimli insists that we go, then who shall be for the hobbits, Aragorn? You cannot deny them this?' Tilting his head slightly he regarded Aragorn kindly. 'You cannot protect us from everything, my friend.'
Pippin made a small sound of distress that made everyone else look at him.
'Apples and cheese?' he said miserably, hoping they did not question him more. He held up a handful of apples to them. He did not want to think about the resolution in Legolas' eyes. There was no point in Pippin saying anything now. Legolas was going to Minas Tirith with Aragorn whether he heard the gulls or not.
'Very well!' Strider held up his hands in surrender. 'Far be it for me to deny you anything, any of you.' He held Legolas' gaze briefly and then turned to scoop up his blanket, quickly rolling it up. Legolas turned to pick up his bow and quiver, fastening the straps and pulling them to make sure they were secure. He flashed a quick grin at Pippin but the hobbit could not smile back.
Pippin followed Legolas unhappily. He trailed his feet a little and kept his eyes on the elf's familiar sueded tunic and boots, his long pale hair sweeping down his back. Pippin sighed, and wondered if he should tell Merry. But Merry was already walking with Strider, talking quietly as they followed Gandalf. Pippin could not bring himself to speak in front of the man to whom Legolas had sworn he would follow to the ends of the earth, even if it meant his death.
Gimli strode beside Pippin, his axe held before him like he was going into battle.
Eomer tried not to meet the elf's gaze when they drew abreast of each other. He felt hurt from their last encounter, felt he had been dismissed, that he was unimportant and that Legolas was merely dallying with him. Eomer sighed- actually, he felt all the confusion and irritation he thought he had rid himself of. Legolas seemed hardly aware of him, his fingers tight on the bow he carried eyes straight ahead and fixed on Gandalf.
Eomer fell back and walked with Gimli instead, and if Legolas wondered at this, he showed nothing, his face a beautiful imperturbable mask. Like stone, thought Eomer, admitting his hurt. He grasped the hilt of his sword instead and gripped it until the pain cleared his head.
Ahead was the Black Tower of Orthanc and Saruman waited like a black spider within its smooth, obsidian walls.
Gandalf seemed to grow in power as they approached the Tower, his robes swirled and flowed about him, like liquid light. He stood before the door of Orthanc like some ancient king, his white hair stirred slightly by the lightest breeze. When he raised his white staff and commanded Saruman to appear, none would have dared resist.
So it was that Saruman came to the narrow balcony about the door and looked down upon them. Like Gandalf and yet unlike he seemed, but he met them courteously and as one aggrieved.
Saruman's eyes wandered over the huddled crowd and they seemed a rabble even to themselves. Eomer's thoughts fled and he felt ashamed that he had thought of Saruman as a spider waiting in his lair. Instead, they stood here like vagabonds and thieves, for that is how they felt, every last man of them. He lifted his eyes up to the balcony where the tall stately man stood, leaning slightly on his staff, for he was old and perhaps frail. His face was gentle and his eyes mild, like a gentler Gandalf. Not at all what Eomer had expected. For a moment he wondered if they had made a mistake.
The old man cast his gaze about, and seeing Gandalf he looked relieved. He lifted his hand in greeting then. 'Gandalf, my old friend. Welcome. I am glad to see you hale for my heart told me that great misfortune had overtaken you. And I regretted the way we parted indeed. Forgive my haste.' His voice was resonant, mellow and full of sorrow for a friends' misunderstanding. He gazed at Gandalf with affection.
Surely, these two venerable wizards would wish to withdraw away from this common crowd and to talk together, thought Eomer. The Wise speaking to the Wise? He moved slightly to his right so he could better see the old man, and became aware that he had moved closer to Legolas, but if the elf noticed, he gave no sign. Eomer scolded himself for behaving like a love-sick maid, and focused instead on the two Wizards.
Saruman was speaking kindly and seemed glad to see Gandalf. This was not what Eomer had expected.
'I am sorry for I did not make my meaning plain. We misunderstood each other you and I. Come now old friend,' Saruman was saying, 'let us withdraw and discuss these weighty matters. You may bring Théoden King, for he and I are friends of old.' He extended his hand as if in friendship.
But Gandalf did not move. Intractable he seemed to Eomer, his mouth set and determined and his fist clenched round his staff. The great sword at his belt caught a gleam of sunlight. He seemed an ancient king indeed, but one who came in war not peace.
Eomer wondered briefly if Gandalf had misunderstood. He felt Saruman, the old wizard who seemed now so benign and sorrowful, had perhaps been wrong but now seemed to want to mend the breach in their friendship. He felt himself gently lulled, soothed as the Wizard spoke.
'Always have I had friendship with Rohan. We need to have strong allies now in these dangerous times, and wise counsel such as I hope I have given for many, many years will now prove to have been all for your good.'
Saruman spoke with such gentle wisdom Eomer felt humbled, his fears unfounded and he wondered why he had felt such hatred. He remembered how Rohan had prospered under the White Hand's guidance, how they had been safe from the Enemy because the wizard protected them…
A soft soporific daze washed over him like the brink of sleep yet his mind was sharply aware of the impressive black tower that pierced the clouds and mists that hung about Orthanc. This was the old wizard who had befriended Théoden, who had counselled him. He became aware, almost unconsciously, of a thought wavering in his dreamlike state… a realisation that he felt submerged, as if he were being pulled underwater but he didn't really mind…Everything was so still, so quiet. Only the gentle counsel and wisdom of centuries poured over them, like oil, soothing and quietening his fears…
And then distantly he thought he could hear a familiar sound, tugging at him. Far away it seemed at first. No words, just sounds that ran one into the other… an endless stream of notes that made him think of the great grass plains, horses running, wind across the spring grass…And the sharp scent of moss and pine trees, of cold frost that came down from the mountains… He frowned, remembering suddenly the pounding fear and noise of battle at Helm's Deep, the white hand on the shields of orcs, Grima's sharp face lit by torchlight in the dungeons of Edoras, fear for Eowyn…Legolas.
He gasped and was himself again.
He blinked and realised Legolas stood closer to him now. He could feel the heat from the elf's body through the leather and suede of his clothes. He found himself leaning inward, towards the elf.
Legolas was tense, almost… stretched… standing his full height and his fist clenched around his bow. His eyes were closed slightly and he seemed to focus entirely on his own breathing… Until Eomer realised he was not, he was humming, singing low, so low he could barely make out the sounds, but the men around him were tense and strained as if listening for something they could not quite hear.
Saruman was leaning forwards, his white hair flowed over his shoulders and lay across his cloak. His voice was mellow and resonant, but his deep eyes, like a hawk's, swept over them, seeking. A spark of anger was lit deep within them though his voice poured over them, warm and reassuring. His hawkish gaze paused and he stared at Eomer, or so the warrior thought. The wizard's dark eyes seemed to kindle suddenly, and then abruptly he looked elsewhere and the fleeting impression was gone. Eomer could hear the words distinctly now, as he could not before, submerged as he had been in the deep resonance of Saruman's voice.
'Théoden, worthy son of the Mark,' Saruman was saying, 'why have you not come here before as you used to? It is long since you and I had counsel my friend, and you have been bewitched by others.'
Théoden opened his mouth to speak but he said nothing.
'I see those who would counsel you to war, Théoden, Thrice Renowned,' Saruman spoke again, and it seemed to the Men of Rohan that he spoke fair to the King and that Gandalf had never spoken so fair or so fittingly to their lord.* 'I see that you have been enchanted and are caught in the thrall of those sent by the Witch of the Golden Wood.'
The gathered men as one, entranced as if watching a snake, shifted slightly, an unsettled sigh broke from them. Even Eomer frowned, knowing it was but a suspicion, a rumour, a difference… he felt his limbs heavy once more and lulled into that place submerged, like sleep … you can never really tell... The King had not led them to war until the elf came and then Gandalf had always been a bringer of bad news...a question hung unvoiced. He shook his head trying to focus on that other sound, the quiet melody almost unheard, almost below the level of sound, that mirrored his own breath.
Eomer shifted. He gripped the elf's arm, aware of the muscle bunched under his fingers, but Legolas did not move, eyes still half closed.
'The Shadow of the Wood may well be at your door next, my friends.' Saruman continued. His voice rang with sincerity and truth, and for a moment Eomer wondered if Legolas were indeed sent by the Witch to destroy Rohan? Eomer let his hand fall from Legolas' arm. Isildur had ever been weak. Perhaps Gandalf had lied about Saruman? He felt himself sway slightly and then a warmth stole through him. He felt the tug of the song on his mind again; mountains, cold frost and pine, and he re-emerged.
Gandalf would not lie. His heart knew that was not true, but others stirred slightly.
'Who knows what sorcery this is? Yes, Gandalf and his elvish friends claim to be the authors of your victory, but why do they want you to destroy me, who has always been your friend?'
Saruman walked along the balcony and gazed down upon them. It seemed he was stately and wise, he had always been trusted by Rohan, always been a friend. Still Gandalf said nothing, but stood silent and still beside Eomer and Théoden. The breeze fluttered the hem of Gandalf's white robe.
'Is it yet too late, my friends?' Saruman asked. He leaned on his staff and the light behind him shone on his robes; they seemed to shimmer, like a rainbow. 'Despite the injuries done to me, in which the Men of Rohan have, alas! Had some part, still I would save you and deliver you from the ruin that inevitably draws nigh…Indeed, I alone can save you. I alone can offer you peace.'*
There was a movement from ahead, where Gandalf stood silently with the King. Eomer tore his eyes from Saruman's mesmerizing form and tried to focus on his King. Théoden had drawn himself up, proudly and seemed to struggle inwardly for a moment. Then he opened his mouth and spoke.
'We will have peace,' Théoden was saying, thickly as though his tongue struggled to speak. 'Yes, we will have peace when you and all your works have perished.* I fear your voice has lost its charm and I will always turn to fairer songs that free me from the blanket of lies you sought to suffocate me with. I was freed by Legolas of the Woodland Realm, and if not for him I would still be YOUR thrall, still lost in the mists and in that strange land you sought to lose me in. If he was sent by the Witch of the Golden Wood, then I am glad and I owe my life! And had it not been for these other friends and for Gandalf, we would have then perished beneath the yoke of your tyranny and your orcish armies'
As if Théoden himself had broken the spell, as one, the Men of Rohan shifted and blinked. Eomer saw the slow awakening in their eyes even as he had himself.
Suddenly the wizard's eyes flashed and he raised his staff slowly. 'You fools! Then stay in your miserable kingdom and rot, for I have offered you the hand of friendship, the White Hand and you have spurned it.' His hard gaze settled briefly on Eomer himself. Eomer drew back, eyes wide. The wizard's eyes burned into him, black and deep as time. He felt the world tilt and then right itself but nothing was as it was before.
But it was not Eomer he searched for. Saruman leaned forwards, and listened; he knew what Legolas did.
Saruman's mouth opened and twisted in rage. 'You! Thranduillion come to gloat?' He made the name an insult, wrapping his tongue around the syllables like he would spit it out.
Eomer turned towards Legolas, who now stood frozen, lips parted.
'Enjoy your triumph for it will not last.' The wizard's lips curled back into a horrid sneer. His yellow teeth were bared, and he hissed, 'You should see Mirkwood.'
Eomer felt the moment that Legolas' song broke.
Legolas slowly raised his eyes then to the Tower, his face pale. He had heard those words before, spoken by the dying Uruk at Helm's Deep. He remembered a dreadful wound in the Uruk's chest, pumping its black blood out and soaking the ground, yellow eyes slitted and watching him, it had bared its fanged teeth in a horrid grimace of pain. 'You think you have won, elf,' it had panted, glancing down at the vambraces etched with Oropher's sigil. 'You should see Mirkwood.' It had gurgled as the elf, not pausing, cut its throat.
He had wiped his blade on the tunic of the beast and looked around. He had decided he would not think on what the beast had said. Now he wished he had and dread filled his heart.
Saruman leaned further forwards, feeding off the elf's pain. He seemed almost to grow and tower above them. The sky darkened and clouds seemed to have gathered without Eomer's realizing it. Saruman raised his staff and he surged with power. The air pulsed. Eomer tried to move, to push Legolas out the way. But he could not move. He frowned, trying to raise his hand but it seemed not his own and would only slowly, slowly come up before his face. He could see Gimli too, licking his lips and scowling as he moved his axe ever so slightly. Surely the Wizard would strike, send fire and pain.
Instead, like a snake, the Voice uncoiled. Almost physical. A horror that raised the hairs on his neck and seemed to fill his nostrils with the rancid tang of death. The Voice twined around them, suffocating them with its hatred.
'Yes, you should see Mirkwood… Ruined and burned,' it hissed. The wizard's face was transformed into something ugly and inhuman, eyes narrowed and cruel, mouth curled in a sneer.
It seemed to Eomer that the clouds of mist and steam that hung about Orthanc, grew denser, coalesced and grew tinged with yellow. He thought he could hear distant screaming. He blinked, trying to clear the stinging tears from his eyes and put his hand over his mouth as smoke filled his lungs. He tried to look about him, but he could barely move. There was a roaring in his ears that he realised was fire raging, and then he realised he could hear the sound of trees crashing... he was in Mirkwood. Somehow he knew this was not real... but he still felt the smoke burn his throat and choke the breath from his lungs.
The air was yellow and sulphurous, and from the dense smoke, he could see figures running, a glint of steel flash, and his foot touched something warm. He looked down. An elven warrior stared up, eyes open and mouth gasping. His dark hair braided and his grey eyes were wide with shock and pain. He said something but Eomer could not hear, could not understand. He tried to bend down, to lift the warrior, to help him, but his limbs were leaden and he could not move. The yellow smoke billowed and flowed and he could see Legolas ahead of him, standing rigid and still. Why didn't he help?
Lying over this terrible destruction, the Wizard's Voice slithered onwards, coiling itself around Eomer. He heard between the Voice and the screaming from the woods, another sound now… heavy breaths and whispered words of passion… Eomer felt an appalled heat suffuse his skin.
'While you busied yourself brawling and rutting in the gutter with the brats of this petty king,' Saruman's Voice continued, like fingers trailing poison over his skin so it burned…. Eomer could hear his own voice cry out with passion and the panting laugh Legolas had given when they peaked…He felt like everyone there could see, hear, smell them … and Eomer felt suddenly disgusted with himself, and with Legolas for seducing him… 'Your people spill their blood in the woods of your home…'
Eomer saw through the yellow smoke orcs pouring through the trees, black silhouettes against the infernal backdrop of the burning forest. Their grotesque shapes leapt over flames and suddenly a group of screaming children appeared, running for their lives. One child saw Eomer and pointed. The others ran towards him desperately. One orc leapt forwards, grasped a child, and without pause cut its throat with horrible efficiency. The orc turned to Eomer and snarled, dropping the limp child and leaping towards Eomer, cutlass raised. Eomer could only close his eyes. From behind him, a warrior stepped now. The children had fled and Eomer realised he himself could not be seen- it was the elven warrior the children and orcs saw. This is a dream, he told himself, only a dream.... it is not real… Saruman is doing this…
The smoke cleared suddenly for a brief moment and Eomer saw Legolas standing frozen, the light from the inferno gilding his hair and flames reflected in his wide green eyes. He was silent, his mouth open in horror at what they all saw.
The Voice grew stronger now and the images of the forest burning became even clearer. The yellow smoke coalesced into an almost tangible form, it coiled and twisted about the still form of the elf, it wound up his legs and body, and gathered above his head threatening to engulf him. Legolas' eyes were wide open in shock and fear, his lips parted and then the yellow smoke poured into him, and grew denser, stronger, filling the glade with a stench of death, of burning meat. There was the unmistakable sound of a terrified horse screaming somewhere not far away.
Light from the fires caught a glint of steel, made it bloody and red. Eomer turned. Orcs dragged an elven woman between the burning trees, her blue dress ripped open at her breast. Legolas gasped, breathless, suffocating; the Voice like yellow sulphurous smoke smothered and engulfed him. Above it all, Eomer could hear his own breath, heavy, lustful and panting.
Suddenly the smoke seemed to draw back a little; it seemed to swirl and move, thickening in a wall around the woman as she struggled against the leering, mocking orc that held her. It drew up its cutlass and plunged it into her belly, grinning as she twisted in agony and gasped.
Then the smoke walls parted and a tall powerful warrior in shining armour charged into the clearing, he raised his gleaming sword and struck down the orcs who ran from his fury. When he turned Eomer saw his hair was golden, his strong face proud, angry, beautiful. Legolas?
No, not Legolas. But even as the Elvenking – for Eomer knew it was he-surveyed the ruin of his forest, the Voice spoke again and there was a hiss and whine of arrows. Thranduil, magnificent and deadly, wielded his sword and the light glanced off the blade, arrows falling away as he did so. He turned, his face fierce, to his foes but one stray arrow hissed past Eomer and pierced flesh, finding its mark. The King stumbled and slowly, unbelieving, looked down. His sword fell heavily to the ground and he sank to his knees, raising his hands to his chest. A slow red stain seeped out between his armour and his neck, spreading over his chest. He raised his eyes and looked straight at Eomer, agony and despair on his face. His lips moved briefly and then suddenly, orcs swarmed over him.
Saruman's voice was suffused with pleasure, 'Yes, while you rutted and wenched, your father, the King, was slain.'
Eomer saw Legolas stagger, his hand clutched to his heart.
But Saruman's voice twisted onwards, slithered and slid over them, Eomer shuddered as the images formed in the smoke and mists before him. There was a hoarse cry as the image took shape and he saw the full horror.
'His still breathing body impaled and mounted upon a pole.' The smoke shifted and swirled and Eomer's gaze was pulled back to the burning forest and the dying king. A spear flashed briefly and then plunged down, a horrid sound of tearing flesh and another strangled cry was ripped unwillingly from the throat of Thranduil. The spear was hoisted up high and the weight made the orc bearing it stagger a little at first until others came round and steadied it.
'Your brothers are slain or taken. And you know what fate awaits those taken in Mirkwood by Dol Guldur.' Orcs gibbered and mocked, shrieking around the bloody banner with its horrid trophy.
'Mirkwood… bereft of its sons, bereft of its king…its standard broken, trodden into the mud. Oh, you should see what they have done in Mirkwood. You have abandoned her and now orcs rape the children of your dead warriors.'
Eomer became aware of another voice then, a purer voice chanting, light pushing away the yellow smoke, clearing the sky so it seemed he could look up and see the spire of Orthanc above him…A figure clothed in shining white, a staff raised above its head and clearing the smoke and fog away… this is not real, he told himself. This is some spell.
Legolas gasped and fell to his knees, chest heaving for air. Suddenly Eomer was released from his watching stupor and sank beside the elf. He put his arms around his shoulders. 'Be strong, my heart' he said. Legolas turned to face him, his eyes wide and stunned.
Saruman's Voice lashed out its revenge. 'Oh, now you have seen Mirkwood, seen your dying King, your father. And yet … you… are… here?'
Suddenly light poured through the smoke and the sky burst through briefly. The mists and clouds turned whiter and the screams and cries of battle faded…
They were in Orthanc. Mirkwood burned, but it was far away.
Gandalf stood nearby. He looked shaken, suddenly exhausted and Eomer thought of the pure voice that had pierced through the yellow smoke. Gandalf leaned on his white staff, looking suddenly very old. When he looked up it seemed he too had suffered some great loss for there was a very great sorrow in his eyes.
Saruman too had fallen back, his hand shook on his staff and he clutched the railing, his gnarled hand like a talon. He pushed himself upright and seemed to gather himself then. For a moment he looked gleeful and triumphant.
Legolas still stared at Eomer, his hands clenched around the man's arms and Eomer suddenly realised it hurt. He loosened the elf's grip and shook him slightly where they knelt together. They stared in each other's eyes, and Eomer saw the loss and vulnerability in the strange green eyes he had seen in both passion and now in despair.
Eomer's heart was stricken and he whispered, desperate for this elf to believe him, to believe in him, 'It is not real. It is Saruman's tricks… it is not real.'
Saruman gathered his sullied white robes in one hand and cast his free hand out towards Legolas.
'Why are you here, Legolas Thranduillion?' he sneered, lingering over the last word, 'Have you not heeded Galadriel's warning?' The voice lowered dangerously. 'You would follow him, the weak blood of Isildur, even to your death?'
Eomer's head shot up. Legolas was staring at the wizard, eyes bright with pain. 'Why did she send you this warning if not to turn you from your path? Do you not hear the cry of your Woods? It burns…It… burns. Nothing is left, only ash. No one is left, only bones. And yet…You… Are…Here.'
A sigh went up from waiting knot of men. Eomer glanced at Legolas. His hands had fallen onto his knees and he breathed quickly, still sucking in great gulps of breath. Then Legolas lifted his head and let it fall back like he would howl, but he made no sound. Only he opened his eyes and gazed skywards.
'The words of this wizard are poison, dripped into the ears of those who would listen.' It was Gimli who spoke, his voice like gravel to those who heard it after Saruman's fluid and comforting tones. Gimli spoke loudly, grinding out the words. But Gimli was like the mountain, solid, unyielding, steadfast.
'The words of Saruman stand on their heads,' the dwarf was growling, gripping the handle of his axe. 'In the language of Orthanc help means ruin and saving means slaying, that is plain.* Why then would we believe what you tell our friend here about the forest?' he demanded. 'And, more to the point, how would you know unless you had something to do with it?' He planted his feet squarely apart and thwacked the haft of his axe against his open hand. His strong deep voice rumbled through the crowd, breaking the mesmerising hold like rocks 'How could you know unless you had some part in this destruction?'
'Peace!' said Saruman, but they could detect the glitter in his eyes then, 'I do not yet speak to you Gimli son of Gloin. Far away is your home and small concerns are the troubles of this land or the forest.'*
'Not true,' interrupted the dwarf once again. 'This is my friend. These' and he threw his hand out to encompass all those who stood there, 'these are my friends and I would know, Saruman the Deceiver.'
Saruman suddenly stooped low over the railing and hissed at the name of the Dark Lord, 'You dare….' He raised his staff. Gandalf stirred from where he still leant heavily on his own white staff. But Saruman did not yet strike.
'Saruman the Deceiver!' repeated Gimli defiantly. 'What part have YOU played in this war? HOW do you know that Mirkwood has fallen, for I do not believe you!'
'Fools!' spat the wizard. 'You know nothing of the high arts! You know nothing! You think this old conjurer is a wizard?' He pointed at Gandalf. 'He uses his arts to make coloured lights and smoke rings! How that does offend the higher powers! How do I know? I have this!' He swept from under his cloak a strange globe. Its black impenetrable surface seemed to draw all eyes to it, to suck in the light and hold their gaze. 'This is how I know.'
Suddenly Gandalf stepped forth. He gathered himself and pointed his staff at Saruman. 'You, Saruman, have said quite enough!' he said sternly. 'I will not allow you to deceive any more. You have become a fool, and yet pitiable. You might still have turned from folly and evil and been of service. But you choose to stay and gnaw at old plots. Stay then, but I warn you, you will not easily come out again. Not unless the dark hand from the east stretch out and take you. Saruman!' he cried and his voice grew in power and authority. 'Behold, I am not Gandalf the Grey, whom you betrayed. I am Gandalf the White who has returned from death. You have no colour now, and I cast you from the order and from the council.'*
He raised his voice and spoke in a clear cold voice. 'Saruman, your staff is broken!' There was a crack and the staff split asunder in Saruman's hands and the head of it fell at Gandalf's feet.*
With a cry Saruman fell back and as he did so, the strange black globe surged with light and as if he had been scalded; it almost jumped from his hands and rolled onto the floor. Saruman sprang after it, grasping but too late.
The globe rolled along the floor and slipped between the railings. It plummeted below onto the black stone steps and the step rang and cracked under the impetus. The stair cracked and splintered in a shower of sparks but the globe was unharmed. It rolled on down the steps, a globe of crystal, dark but glowing with a heart of fire. It landed with a soft splash in the water that lapped about the foot of the tower. The water gave a slow greenish glow.
Suddenly Pippin darted out from beside Eomer and although he quickly put his hand out to stop the hobbit, his reflexes were slow and leaden and too late. The hobbit stooped and pulled the globe from the water.
'Here, my lad, I think I will take that.' Gandalf was saying and he leaned down to Pippin and scooped it up, hiding it from view beneath his white robes.' I will take care of this. It does not belong to Saruman now but another.' He glanced at Aragorn.
'It is the end,' said Gandalf. He sounded tired and he drew his cloak about him, 'Let us go.' He walked slowly to where Legolas stood with Eomer, his eyes downcast and shoulders slumped. The wizard looked drawn, his skin almost grey with exhaustion. He glanced at Eomer and smiled slightly. 'I think we will take him from here. Thank you, Eomer.'
Eomer found himself quietly but kindly pushed out of the way. Gandalf lay his hand on Legolas' wet cheek with immense tenderness and looked into his eyes. 'Come now, Legolas. You and I must talk.' He gently took the elf's arm.
Gimli was beside him, and he looked up at the man with deep eyes full of concern. 'It's alright lad, we'll take care of him.' He took Legolas' arm on one side and Aragorn stood with him. Aragorn did not look at anyone.
Legolas shook his head and pulled away from them. He spread out his hands in a gesture that seemed both of stilling them and defeat. He turned towards Eomer but looked away, avoiding his gaze. He said simply, 'I am sorry.' He looked quickly at the man and then away, as if he could not bear the sympathy.
And then Gimli pulled on Legolas' arm and with utmost tenderness, guided him away. The elf followed as if stunned.
Eomer stood bereft, watching them depart. He had no more part to play in this – he had been a distraction. It was as Legolas had said, 'It is what it is and no more'. And it had been enough, he had thought. But he found it was not.
The yellow smoke image is a small tribute, to Ithilien's fabulous story, The Hunting Trip, which –if you are fairly new to Fanfic you may not have read. It's one of the best Legolas stories on the site and I urge you to go and read it. Ithilien writes under the name Anarithilien now and it's thanks to her, as always for making this better and the punctuation not as irritating as it might have been!
Also, well… I know I said one more chapter…but actually, it looks like there are a few more to come yet - blame it on Anarithilien if you like- and Vectis and Mienepies and Wantanelf for being very demanding! Thank you Ashley for the nice comment and other reviewers, Red and Krahl for reviewing. Twilightdwarflord- glad you liked the Gimli-Nana reference! I admit to being pleased with that one.
Sal99 – yes, the tattoos are on all the limbs because orcs and spiders don't leave much that can be identified after they have finished and it's a way of identifying bodies/ parts. Yes, it is grim, but Mirkwood is a place where the Shadow has flourished and the White Council were persuaded over and over again, by Saruman, that the Necromancer was no real threat.