by Milly of Isengard

Pairing: Gandalf/Saruman

Rating: NC-17

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 5 - Opportunity

Curunír awoke at dawn, as they grew very close to Rivendell.

The dread voice hissed at him viciously: Hurry! Make haste. Idiot! Fool!

He seethed inside at being addressed in this way: he was used to respect, even grudging respect, and did not appreciate being called a fool.

Even when Mithrandir spoke to him - another fellow Maia - he did not degenerate into abusiveness.

That's alright, he mused, the day will come - and then he cut off his thought abruptly. Not good to think on that any farther. He already knew his own plans, why allow them to be spied upon?

Mithrandir came over then, with a pot of fresh tea - "Good morning, my friend - would you like some tea?" he asked politely.

"Why do you speak to me so kindly, when I am well aware of your hatred for me?" Curunír asked him suspiciously.

Mithrandir frowned, and replied: "I do not hate you. I do not even wish to harm you. If I had wished to do so - believe me- you would already be harmed!"

Curunír regarded him scornfully, and then answered: "Yes, of course, that's right. You said I was pitiable, or something along those lines. Always so forgiving. Weakling -you disgust me!"

Mithrandir suddenly seemed to grow several sizes and was now looming over him - "Weakling, for feeling pity? How far you have fallen, indeed! But do not be mistaken: I do not absolve you of guilt, you could have fought much harder against the Dark Lord, you ought not to have used the Palantir- you knew that! - and you are a traitor and a murderer at heart, at least you are these days! So do not mistake my mercy to you for weakness!"

Curunír stared at him, speechless for once.

How Mithrandir did change his attitude like the change of the breeze, he thought to himself. How unpredictable, how prone to anger he is! Even through the façade of kindness, there beats the heart of rage.


"Now, again I ask you, would you care for some tea?"

"Only if I may dose it with a healthy splash of your blood!" Curunír snarled back, although he had the momentary regret for his words.

Why was he provoking him?- he was hardly in a position to even defend himself. He might simply go over and fetch his sword Glamdring, and finish this here and now.

But Mithrandir only sighed heavily, and walked away.

Curunír felt bitter, shameful relief course through him.

In the flash of an instant, Curunír saw it: the chance, so longed for, and so hopeless-

In an extremely rare moment of carelessness, he had left Curunír within reach of the Staff- the black metallic guardian and culmination of his power.

Without taking even a moment to contemplate, he seized it from the saddlebag as swift as any lightning bolt - and felt his long fingers grasp its cold pitiless might.

"I think," he spoke in the old familiar confidence now, "I think there has been an alteration in our morning's plans, Mithrandir. You really ought to come out of that fog of yours. Too much Halfling leaf, I suppose."

Mithrandir turned slowly around, and beheld the sight he already knew he would see. A moment's distraction, a moment lost in frustration - and this was the result.

Anger always leads to ruin, he thought ruefully-I really ought to have heeded my own advice!

"But never fear, my old friend!" Curunír sounded almost kind, "We will be journeying this day. Yes, but we are going back to Isengard!

His dark eyes glowed with malevolence - "Now -get over there! Start walking, and keep your preaching tongue silent!" Shadowfax nickered nervously, and Mithrandir reached up and patted his nose. "Don't worry, it will be alright."

But would it?

He started to mount the white horse, and Curunír almost screamed at him, "No! I want him gone! Now! Or I will do it myself-permanently!"

Mithrandir knew it was not wise to argue it, so he whispered in the horse's ear, and he trotted away, not looking back.

Curunír drew himself up to his own considerable height, and faced Mithrandir again:

"Now- let us go, Mithrandir. If you enjoyed my hospitality before, you shall be utterly enamored of it this time. I promise you!"

Mithrandir looked at him in inexpressible sadness, and tried one last time to reach what used to be his greatest friend:

"Saruman- Curumo- why must you make it even worse for yourself? I plead with you- stop now before things go farther. More blood on your hands will only make your fate more difficult for you to bear!"

Curunír laughed his harsh laugh, and replied mockingly:

"Do not be troubled, old friend, as you take such pleasure in pity, I will give you more cause to feel it! You may wallow in it to your heart's desire!"

Mithrandir looked at him gravely, and whispered softly:

"Curumo- you may go so far that my mercy cannot reach you any longer. It may be taken out of my hands."

Unimpressed with the warning, Curunír pointed the Staff at Mithrandir and hissed:

"Be silent! Now, get going!"

They began the journey back to Isengard.