by Milly of Isengard

Rating: NC-17

Pairing: Gandalf/Saruman

Disclaimer: no bread made, of course. Saru belongs to me (I wish) everybody else JRR's.

Warnings: strong slash / angst / violence / torture (halfling and otherwise)

Summary: Gandalf goes alone to Isengard in an attempt to parlay Saruman into surrendering - or failing that, to at least bring him back alive. It goes badly, and Gandalf falls prey to his former friend. To make it even worse, the halflings Merry and Pippin are captured and brought to Orthanc.

Chapter 12 - Deliverance

Mithrandir bore the endless agony with resolute strength, but it was the sounds of Merry and Pippin crying out that broke his heart.

He had been stretched painfully on the rack, to the point of very nearly crying out himself, but he had bitten his tongue fiercely to avoid doing so.

It was not a matter of pride, or even dignity- if Curumo heard him scream, or even moan in pain, he would be greatly encouraged to even greater tortures.

Then they had hoisted him up by his wrists, and lashed him with the studded whip- the one used on the halflings - till the blood ran again from the wounds, and opened again the misery inflicted by Curumo earlier. The pain had become almost surreal, and through it all, the sobs and screams of the hobbits tore into his mind, and he could do naught to help them.

It had gone on seemingly for many hours, and yet he found he did not truly have any gauge of time now.

He briefly caught a glimpse of Saruman, sitting on the rack, watching the activities with naked, hideous excitement. He wore a look of detached and frightening attention, and his eyes shone with dark malice.

He was clutching his black Staff, his long fingers clenching and unclenching spasmodically.

Mithrandir closed his eyes- he did not wish to see any more.

Suddenly, Saruman's voice boomed through the room - "Enough! Cut the halflings down!" and for the most fleeting of moments, Mithrandir dared hope that this might be ending- at least for them.

Perhaps Curumo had found his heart again - ?

But it was not to be -

"Time to die, shire-vermin!", he heard Saruman snarl, and then, "Bring that one - bring him to me - yes, one at a time, I want to enjoy this!"

Gandalf heard Pippin's unmistakable young voice wail in fear and unhappiness, and his heart wept bitterly.

And then -

There was a tremendous crash, and the door burst open- arrows flew, and Gandalf heard the sound of swords and cries of pain - so much pain, it never ends, he thought sadly -

"You there! Traitor! Stand down!" Aragorn's voice. Could it be??

"Against that wall, Curunír! - now! Drop the Staff- or my arrow will find your black heart!" Legolas.

A sound of something heavy - metallic - hitting the ground.

And then, hurried, frantic hands upon him, cutting him down, and gently lowering him to the ground.

"Mithrandir!" Legolas knelt close to him, and Gandalf managed a weak smile.

"What did he do to you? I shall slay him for this, and no relenting, this time!"

But even as he began to get to his feet, Gandalf grasped his arm, and whispered "No, Legolas, no! Let me - deal with him!"

"Mithrandir - please- let me end this - can you not see? The hobbits - oh, I beg you, let me finish him!"

Legolas helped Mithrandir to his feet, and then -"Here: you may have need of this!"

The Staff! His Staff!

"We found it as we came down here, in the possession of a very unfriendly Uruk - he had to be - convinced! - to relinquish it!"

He said this as a small attempt at humour, but Mithrandir had seen and heard enough of suffering this day. Anyone's suffering.

Enough agony to last a lifetime or two.

But the Staff- it was back where it belonged, and it began to glow at the end, the shaft thrumming with power, as if it had come back to life.

Aragorn spoke now to Saruman, who stood silently in the corner of the room, his face alight with pure hatred.

"Saruman - you are our prisoner! In the name of Middle Earth- I place you under arrest, for your crimes and your treason!"

Saruman curled his lips in a snarl, and spat out his scathing reply:

"You place me in arrest? You?? And who has given you such far-reaching sway? You, the bastard pretender to the throne! Roaming ranger with delusions of grandeur! I am not under your power, and shall never be!"

"But you ARE under mine!"

They all turned to Gandalf, who had composed himself significantly by now, and was facing Saruman, a look of calm determination on his weary face.

Curumo glared back at him steadily, but he had suddenly lost some of his own confidence, and now he fell silent again.

Gandalf turned to Legolas, who was tending the injured and badly terrified hobbits-

Gently, he reached out and touched their faces, and Pippin began to cry again. How like a child he really is!, Gandalf thought, with great love and affection.

Curumo- tortured them! - and they - at least Pippin- are but half-grown ( nearly a child )- and he tortured them!

Yes, I will deal with you myself, old friend.

I would have it no other way.