79. Visions in a Stone
Placing his hands on the cold crystal, Sauron stared into the depths. What is Saruman doing? he wondered. What foolish games is he playing? I will crush him like an insect if he dares to stand against me.
He made contact with the Orthanc palantir almost immediately. Colors and shapes swirled in the stone until they formed into the brownish face of a…of a…
Sauron gasped, but immediately regained his composure. If he could see the creature, it could see him. He threw up a fairly standard defense against the creature, bombarding it with images of horror and destruction while he plumbed its mind for any information.
A Halfling had the Orthanc stone. Since the Orthanc stone was in Isengard, Saruman must have the Halfling. Why bother to show him the creature though? Unless…unless…
He had the Ring!
This was the Halfling who carried the One! Sauron committed the face to memory, frowning in displeasure as the connection was suddenly broken. Saruman did not want the Dark Lord to do more than observe the White Wizard's triumph.
"That bastard," Sauron hissed, placing the palantir back on its pedestal. If only he had the Nazgul here. He'd send them all against Isengard. But Vorea was already on her way. She would sort out Saruman and claim the Ring for Sauron. She was loyal…unlike so many of the others.
"The end of this Age is coming rapidly upon us," Melkor purred as he slipped into the room like a shadow. "The orcs are assembled in Minas Morgul. They await only your signal. As do I," he whispered in the Dark Lord's ear. The whisper spoke of many things: soft beds, silken sheets, but also of whips and agony. A promise of what would occur following either victory or defeat.
Sauron refused to be intimidated. He seized his former master's chin and kissed him harshly. "You will lead them into battle," he commanded. "Take Osgilith; they will surrender that quickly. Then lead them against the Tower of Guard itself. Break the invincible gates, burn the houses, kill everyone."
"The city has seven gates," Melkor whispered. "Like Gondolin."
"And like Gondolin, it shall fall." Sauron took the first Dark Lord in his arms and they sank down to the floor.
Vorea circled Isengard for several hours. The ents below would occasionally throw things at her, but they had terrible aim. Besides, the Fell Beast had a measure of self-preservation and never came within range of serious danger.
What was she going to tell Sauron? That Isengard had been destroyed by a group of long-lost ents? That Saruman was imprisoned within his tower? He would laugh. And then he would look into the palantir and know it to be true.
"Sir ents!" Vorea called, coming as close as she dared.
The ents, for the most part, ignored her. One or two glanced up, but cursed her and looked away.
"Mordor does not curse you for what you have done. Saruman was a traitor to us as surely as to the West. We thank you for your service! And ask a favor."
"Go back to the shadow!" one large ent bellowed, pointing a crooked limb at her.
"Have any come here besides your gracious selves? Has the new king of Rohan arrived? Some envoy of his?"
"Why should there be a new king?" one small ent squeaked. "Theoden's still alive!"
Truly? Then perhaps others survived as well. "Did he come to these very gates?" Vorea called.
"Indeed he did," the large ent growled. "And many with him."
"Who might those have been, honored ent?"
"Gandalf the White, Aragorn son of Arathorn, and many more besides. They took the Halflings with them back to Edoras."
Gandalf the White. Saruman wore white, and Gandalf was dead. What strange melding was this? "I see. Thank you, good ent." Back to Mordor, Vorea thought. Sauron would be able to make better sense of this.
Early the next morning, Sauron found himself still on the floor of the palantir chamber, staring up at the cold stone ceiling. Melkor was gone, back to Minas Morgul to prepare for war. Minas Tirith was doomed and hadn't even realized it yet.
Denethor probably had though. Sauron had nearly driven the old steward insane, though the death of his favored son seemed to be completing that job. The Dark Lord wouldn't have been surprised if the steward killed himself before the invasion was complete.
All the better. Minas Tirith would collapse without a leader. The legends of Gandalf's resurrection were exaggerated. Besides, he was in Rohan. From that land to Gondor was but a step, but from Edoras to Minas Tirith was a leap. He would never be able to arrive in time.
The palantir was doing something strange. Standing up, Sauron gazed down at the stone while adjusting his clothes. Someone was using it with the express wish of contacting him.
Snarling, Sauron picked up the palantir, already seeing Saruman's sneering face. He would break the Istari's mind here and now if he dared gloat.
But it was not the hawk-nosed Istari staring out of the crystal with black eyes. Instead, the noble visage of Elendil looked out with gray eyes that had seen too much sadness and death in their time. For a moment Sauron thought it was Elendil himself, resurrected and younger, out for vengeance for himself, his sons, and his people.
Then the Dark Lord relaxed. It was the Heir, the last of a fallen house and broken line. "So Saruman has captured the Heir as well," he mused. He was starting to become uneasy. To have both the Halfling and the Heir use the stone, but not Saruman? Something didn't sit right…
And then Sauron gasped. The Heir said nothing but held up a sword. A shining blade etched with runes the Dark Lord knew only too well. Even from the vast distance that separated them, Sauron could still feel the power of the blade, its thirst for his blood.
But Narsil was shattered, broken. It had broken on his armor in Elendil's last, valiant stand. The blade was in two pieces, kept in Rivendell.
But it had been reforged. There was no mistaking that hilt, that blade, nor the hunger that seeped out of it.
The Heir of Isildur held the sword of kings. He needed only the crown now. And this was his way of telling Sauron he was out to claim it.
With a snarl, Sauron hurled the palantir away from him, only realizing seconds later that in that moment of blind fury the Heir had been allowed a glimpse into his mind. Hopefully whatever he'd seen had driven him mad. But there were plans there, important things, that no one of the West could know.
What was done was done and could not be undone. Sauron sank down on a chair and stared at the faintly glowing palantir across the room. His worst fears had been realized. The Heir was going to claim his throne. This could not be allowed to happen.
Rising, Sauron plucked up the palantir and set it on its stand before leaving the chamber.
"My lord?" an orc asked, saluting as Sauron passed him.
"Send more orcs to Minas Morgul, and send a message to our Haradrim and southern allies," the Dark Lord commanded. "They have four days to arrive in Morgul Vale. On March tenth, we march for Minas Tirith."
"Yes, my lord!"
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.