The Road to Isengard

by Nefertiti

Rating: This chapter, alas, PG; most other chapters NC-17.

Pairing: (Series) Gandalf/Saruman, Gandalf/Erestor; individual chapters Gandalf/Legolas, Gandalf/Radagast

Disclaimer: The characters and world of Middle-earth belong to their copyright holders; this series is offered free of charge for the pleasure of fans.

Archiving: Meddling in the Affairs of Wizards; LoM; others please ask.

Author's note: Book-canon, based primarily on the "Flotsam and Jetsam" and "The Voice of Saruman" chapters of The Two Towers.

Thanks as always to Sarah for her sterling beta work and suggestions!

Chapter Fourteen

The night of March 2, Isengard

Saruman was pacing around and around the room about halfway up Orthanc that he had taken as his headquarters for the duration of the war against Rohan. It was not as comfortable as his study, but it was large, occupying nearly half the area of that floor of the tower. It had three windows, one facing north, one east, and, most importantly, one broad opening commanding a spectacular view to the south. From there he had been watching at intervals throughout the day as the thousands of Men, wargs, and Orcs in the broad circle below prepared to march out of the Wizard's Vale and across the Gap of Rohan. Night had fallen, and heavy clouds obscured the light of moon and star. Looking down, he could now see only a field of torches and here and there a campfire-as well as the faint glow in some of the pits within the Circle of Isengard, speaking of the subterranean fires, many now banked, that still burned at a reduced level in some of the machines and forges.

The room was also convenient as a place where his bird spies could alight to report what was happening further south. Within the last hour two had reached him, telling of how Théoden's troops had ridden forth from Edoras that afternoon. Headed for Helm's Deep, the Wizard had realized. Not the ideal place to attack them, but he had harbored little hope that Gríma would be able to prevent the Rohirrim from moving to that fortress. With his new blasting powder and the weapons of ten thousand soldiers, he was confident that his army would ultimately triumph.

In fact, it was high time that his army set out. Preparations must be nearly finished by now. The Istar grasped his staff and descended to the entrance of the tower, pausing once he had stepped outside and surveying the massive crowd assembled there. He walked down the outer staircase, and the soldiers clustered on the path drew back deferentially to let him pass. He paused to speak briefly with the leaders of some of the units, who confirmed that their troops were ready to depart and eager to begin the attack that they had long anticipated. All knew well that parcels of the fertile lands of Rohan, rich with cattle and villages, would be their reward if they conquered the country for the Wizard.

As Saruman approached the gate, one of the officers in charge of the sentinels posted there approached him with a concerned look. "My Lord Saruman," he said with a salute, "the guards on the north side of Isengard have sent word that something odd has been going on outside the wall there."

Saruman frowned at him. "What did they say was happening?"

The officer turned and gestured to a soldier who was standing near a bonfire by the gate, where a group of guards were toasting slabs of bread and roasting bits of meat on sticks. The soldier who had been summoned hurried over.

"Tell Lord Saruman what you told me," the officer commanded.

Nervously the Man said, "Well, my Lord, it started after dark fell. A steady rustling and creaking that came from the north and got louder as the night went on."

Saruman stared with mild curiosity at him. "What caused such noises?"

"We don't know, Lord Saruman. As I said, they began after darkness fell and just ended a little time ago. The light from our torches couldn't reveal anything. It wasn't bright enough, and besides, there seemed to be a dark fog or mist in the area. There being only this one gate to come and go by, someone would have had to be lowered off the wall with a rope to go and check and ... well, to tell the truth, sir, we were frightened. Whatever is causing the noises is big enough to fill that part of the valley."

Saruman shrugged unconcernedly. "Probably just mountain breezes in the woods."

The Man hesitated and looked at the ground as he said, "I doubt it, my Lord. The trees in that northern part of the Vale were cut down long before I was born."

The Istar replied with ill-concealed impatience, "Oh, yes, of course. Still, no doubt the dawn will reveal the solution to the mystery. For now, the important thing is to get these troops assembled and on their way."

The officer dismissed the Man, telling him to get something to eat and return to his post. The soldier looked doubtfully at Saruman, who had already turned away and was watching the first groups of Orcs and warg-riders lining up to depart through the tunnel leading to the outer gate. The Man lingered for a moment as if about to speak to the Istar again, but he sighed and went to do as he had been told.

Saruman glanced up at the sky and saw that the clouds were thinner than before and looked as if they would soon break up. He gave a nod to the officer. "It's time! Sound the trumpets, and open the gates!" As the fellow moved to pass along the orders to his subordinates, Saruman gestured to the leaders of the groups closest the gates. "Bid your soldiers strike up a song. They are marching to victory, after all!" he ordered. The officers obeyed, and a few minutes later the troops began pouring out through the narrow tunnel, many waving their torches and most joining in the fierce song with their harsh voices. The battalions behind them picked up the tune and passed through the arch noisily.

Saruman moved partway up the stone stairway that led to the top of the gate and wall, watching as they went. Many looked up and waved a respectful farewell to their leader, and he smiled slightly and nodded in encouragement. It took just over an hour for them all to leave, and gradually, as he had expected, the clouds dissipated enough to allow the starlight and moonlight to illumine the area slightly. Faint steams rising from the pits gave the scene a melancholy appearance. After the bustling assemblage of troops in preparation for the coming war, it seemed empty and quiet, though the Wizard had kept enough soldiers to man the walls as sentries. He stood gazing moodily out across the pavement, with its rows of pillars lining the path to the tower's door the only remains of the elaborate formal gardens that had once covered the area. He could long hear the sound of the troops' singing, echoing back along the walls of the valley, but finally it faded.

If those troops triumphed, maybe Sauron would keep his word after he had recovered the Ring. Perhaps Saruman would be thrown the kingdom of Rohan as a prize for his contribution. He thought back to the convivial evenings spend at Edoras, of the banquets and appreciative audiences listening to his anecdotes and tales, and of the lovers who had given him such pleasure in his sumptuous guest apartments. It would not be a disagreeable existence, but the prospect certainly did not excite him. The main thing, he reminded himself, was not to give the Dark Lord the faintest hint of how treacherous he had been. As Gandalf had once said, eternal torture in the Enemy's dungeons was an unthinkable fate. Saruman realized that he, too, would rather plunge to his death from the top of Orthanc than undergo that. He shook himself slightly. This was not the time for such grim reflections. As long as there was even the slightest chance of gaining the Ring, he should pursue it wholeheartedly. Attacking Rohan offered that faint chance.

Saruman spoke briefly with the commander of the guards and was about to descend the steps and return to Orthanc when a loud hammering sounded at the far end of the gated tunnel. A great voice cried out, "Saruman! Come forth! I wish to speak with the White Wizard!" and the hammering recommenced. Saruman grimaced in bafflement, striving to recall where he had heard that voice before.

Just then, from above him, a guard moved to the inner edge of the wall, looking down at the Istar. "It's a tree, my Lord ... or something like a tree. With twigs and bark and all, but talking and moving!"

Saruman clenched his teeth. Of course! The voice was Treebeard's. He remembered that from occasional conversations he had had with the old Ent while passing through Fangorn-though Treebeard's tone had been quiet and friendly then. No wonder he had not recognized it in this great booming challenge. But what in the world was the Ent doing at the gate of Isengard?! It could not be anything good, not with that pounding and shouting. Perhaps Treebeard had discovered the extent to which he had decimated the glades of Fangorn in his search for fuel--and had chosen this very inconvenient time to complain.

"Shoot him, kill him!" the Istar called up to the guards. Deciding not to go back to the tower until this absurd and unexpected skirmish was over, he moved to a small guardroom built into the wall next to the inside end of the gate to sit down and rest as he awaited the outcome.

As Saruman sat there, he suddenly heard a deafening hoom-hom that seemed to blend the bellow of an enormous animal with the note of a vast horn. He felt a moment of panic and stood up, calling out to the guards to ask what was happening. There was no answer. Instead, loud grinding and rending sounds began, and the earth trembled under his feet. Treebeard had evidently not been alone. Could Ents create such destruction? he wondered. More and louder trumpeting calls, along with the crashing of great chunks of stone into the area outside the door made it increasingly clear that they could. Saruman froze, undecided as to whether he should stay put, hidden, or attempt a dash for the safety of the tower. Cracks appeared in the walls of the guardroom, and dust and grit began to fall from the ceiling. Looking out, he saw Men and Orcs running toward the wall, and briefly he felt relieved, believing that they had come to rescue him. Instead they disappeared, and as he stuck his head cautiously out the door, he watched as they clambered through great splits in the wall. They were deserting him!

Saruman started as the inner gate near the guardroom fell to earth with a thump that shook the ground. His hiding place was no safe refuge, that was obvious. At any minute it might be ripped to pieces, crushing him in the rubble. Taking a deep breath, he launched himself out the door and ran toward the double row of pillars, hoping that he might hide himself in their shadows and escape notice. His white hair and beard, along with the shimmering colors of his cloak, would probably catch the faint light from the sky all too revealingly. Even as he reached the first of the pillars, a angry cry came from the area of the gate: "The tree-killer, the tree-killer!" The voice was not Treebeard's but one like it, slightly higher and lighter. Panic-stricken, the Istar redoubled his pace and ran toward the door, dodging in and out of the pillared walkway in the hopes of confusing his pursuer. For there was no doubt that the Ent who had cried out was after him. The creaking and the drumming footfalls testified to that, and they were getting closer.

The Wizard dared not look back, but he gasped in terror. He was past the last of the pillars now and sprinted to the foot of the shiny black steps. His many trips up and down the long spiral staircase within the tower aided him, for he was still strong enough to dart up the steps despite the half mile that he had already run. Saruman was convinced from the increasing volume of the sounds that his pursuer would momentarily reach out and crush him, but with a moan of relief he reached the entrance, slipped inside, and slammed and locked the door behind him.

For a short time he stood leaning against the wall, panting and listening for any sign that the Ents were powerful enough to breach even the entrance of Orthanc itself. After a few minutes passed with no sounds of the door being assaulted, he strove to stifle his panic and think of how he might defend himself. He went up to his study. It was not far enough above ground level that he felt at all safe, so he stealthily sidled over to stand by one of its tall, narrow windows. Cautiously looking out, he saw that there were more Ents assembling, some of them breaking apart the walls to the east. He moved to another room-"Gandalf's study," as he still thought of it, despite the fact that the other Istar had barely ever used it-and looked toward the north. Yes, even more Ents breaking through there.

So that was the answer to the mystery, he thought bitterly. "Rustling and creaking." Well, there was nothing he could have done about it even if he had heeded the soldier's report. The point was, what could he do now? Arrows and stone clearly did not harm these tree-herds to any extent, and besides, every one of his soldiers seemed to have fled. And fled away from Isengard, he noted sourly. Why couldn't they have been loyal enough to take refuge with him in the tower? Then they might have been of some use to him. Once the people tending the machines underground learned of what had happened, they might desert as well.

The machines underground! Suddenly it occurred to him that the machinery beneath the circle of Isengard could produce fire. Ents would not find flames belching at them from the many pits so easy to ignore. Burn a few of them, and the rest would most likely flee. He breathed a sigh of relief as he gained hope from the thought. Feverishly he ran down the stairway again, moving into the kitchen area, from which there was another stairway leading to the cellars. From there he had added entrances to tunnels leading into the various workings below the ground.

Those Men and Orcs who remained down there were not soldiers but workers who tended the machines. Although most of the mechanisms were set at low levels in the absence of any manufacturing going on, they made enough noise that these people had not been aware of the battle going on up on the surface. The Istar ran from one great underground workshop and forge to another, ordering the supervisors to throw wide open the controls that would turn the upper area into an inferno. Each stared momentarily at him in surprise and puzzlement, but none was foolish enough to disobey his urgent orders, for they saw the light of terror and madness in his eyes. Soon fires flared up, with drafts of air fanning them and carrying their flames to the outer air. Weapons designed to protect the tower in the event of an attack were activated, spewing liquid fire like fountains that arced and fell back to earth.

Once he had seen all this done, the Istar went back up to the tower, returning to his study and looking out more boldly to see the results of his efforts. To his delight, the tactic seemed to be working. Apart from the fire, foul fumes arose from many pits and vents in the ground, and some of the Ents had been set aflame, but their comrades quickly came to their aid. Suddenly a spray of liquid fire from a wide pit caught a tall Ent, and he emerged totally engulfed in flames, beyond rescue. To Saruman's disappointment, though, that was the only one killed. The flaming pits simply did not cover enough of the great paved circle to destroy a significant number of the creatures.

Moreover, the fiery assault was not driving the Ents to flee. Instead, it enraged them even further, and they began to roar in their trumpeting fashion, tossing great stones and pieces of metal high into the air. Saruman hastily withdrew from his window. Could even Orthanc resist the wrath of these creatures? he wondered. He thought back to when he had first visited Isengard and how the soldiers of Gondor who accompanied him had not been able to mar the black stone of the tower in the slightest, despite their best efforts with metal and stone. He would have to trust in Orthanc to protect him now.

Reluctantly he left his beloved study and climbed back up to the high headquarters in which he had spent the day. Most of the lamps had burned low or flickered out. Just as well, he thought. He crept to the southern window and looked out. From far below he could hear the noises of the continued assault, and by the lights from the sky and the fires he could see Ents grasping at the smooth, shiny rock of Orthanc's exterior and trying to pull it down. Some of them even hurled themselves against it in their rage. To the Istar's relief, they could not even get a grip on the walls, let alone dent or crack them, and their frustration was obvious. Perhaps they would harm themselves in their frenzy of destructiveness. From their heedless behavior, it seemed quite possible.

At least for now he was safe. Saruman relaxed slightly for the first time since Treebeard's attack on the gate. He paced in front of the window, panting a bit and listening to the din from below. Abruptly, though, Treebeard's voice rang out even more loudly, urging the other Ents to stop their futile violence. At once there was a complete silence outside the window. The Istar stopped, smiling incredulously. He had defeated them! They could not harm his home or get at him! Suddenly the Istar laughed, shrilly and triumphantly and loudly, defying his enemies. Maybe they had destroyed his wall, but his army would triumph at Helm's Deep, and thousands of soldiers would return to destroy these creatures. He could easily hold out in the tower, creating some semblance of his accustomed, comfortable life until that victorious return. The wall could be rebuilt, the sentries replaced. Alarming though this attack had been, it was a minor setback to his plans.

At last his laughter faded, and he listened for any sound from his enemies. The silence continued, however. Moving to the window, Saruman looked down. The light of dawn was just creeping over the scene, and by it he could see the Ents moving grimly off. Within half an hour there was no sign of any of them. The Wizard could not be sure that they departed the Vale entirely, but he felt even more optimistic. He still did not understand why they had attacked Isengard, but perhaps now they had recognized how fruitless that endeavor had been. Later he could investigate where the tree-herds had gone. For the present, he was exhausted.

Saruman went down the several stories of the tower to his bedroom. He undressed and washed, for all the running and the proximity to the machines had made his skin sticky and sooty-and besides, he decided defiantly, he would maintain his usual routine despite the Ents' maddening interference. The morning might have come, but he would still get his accustomed sleep. It occurred to him as he lay down and covered himself that he had seen no servants inside the tower as he moved up and down the stairs. Perhaps they were hiding, terrified, in their rooms or in some of the storage cellars immediately below ground level. His last thought as he drifted to sleep was to wonder drowsily whether any of the cooks would be there to prepare his breakfast.

The evening of March 3, Isengard

Shadowfax ran swiftly along the River Isen, up through the Wizard's Vale toward Orthanc. The great horse had carried Gandalf over much ground since the afternoon as the Istar rallied troops scattered during the fighting unleashed by Saruman and urged them to march toward Helm's Deep. They were to mass just out of sight of the fortress, awaiting his orders. Gandalf feared that he and Shadowfax would have to cover much ground together throughout the night, which was just falling, and yet the horse showed no signs of tiring. The Wizard spoke affectionately to him and tugged gently on the end of his mane to encourage him. Shadowfax tossed his head and ran a little faster for a while, as if to reassure the Wizard that he could make even further demands without exhausting his steed.

As they went, the Istar continuously turned over in his mind other possible ways that he could aid those trapped in the fortress that lay far behind him. The additional troops would help enormously, and yet the forces of Saruman might still prevail. He needed more help, dramatic and powerful. Gandalf knew that Treebeard's Ents, spurred on by Merry and Pippin, had attacked Isengard. He also was aware that a large band of Huorns had passed south through the Wizard's Vale, seeking the Orcs and Uruk-hai fighting in small battles scattered across the plains of Rohan. Some were headed for Helm's Deep. Such assistance, on a greater scale, was exactly what he needed. The question was, did Treebeard have any Huorns left to send, and if so, would he dispatch them southward when his anger remained fixed specifically on Saruman? It ordinarily took such a long time to convince the ancient Ent of anything, and time was in short supply.

The pair came now to a place where the road, up to this point simply trodden smooth, became a wide street, paved with great flat stones, squared and laid with skill; no blade of grass was seen in any joint. Deep gutters, filled with trickling water, ran down on either side. As Shadowfax moved along the road, his hooves clattering on it, suddenly a tall pillar loomed up before them in the dusk. It was black; and set upon it was a great stone, carved and painted in the likeness of a slender White Hand. Its finger pointed north. Gandalf's head turned to examine it as the horse moved past it. More overbearing pretension, Gandalf thought. Like the cloak of "Many Colors." The fear and dreariness of his imprisonment on Orthanc's roof made it difficult for him to ride on, but he urged Shadowfax to make what haste he was still capable of.

Finally, just as the remnants of day were fading, Gandalf saw the pitch blackness of Orthanc silhouetted against the sparkling indigo of the night sky. There were the rending noises of toppling stone, as if Isengard continued to disintegrate slowly. He also saw the two missing Hobbits, lounging just outside the gate. A whisper brought Shadowfax to a stop in front of Merry and Pippin, who sat looking up at him, their mouths agape with astonishment.

Pippin managed a strangled whisper: "Gandalf!"

Under ordinary circumstances the Istar would have paused to greet them, but he desperately needed to find Treebeard. Besides, Pippin was looking particularly slack-jawed for one who had helped inspire all the mayhem that had happened there lately. "Get up, you tom-fool of a Took! Where, in the name of wonder, in all this ruin is Treebeard. I want him. Quick!"

The two glanced at each other and then pointed toward the darkness just east of the ruined gate. Treebeard was there, slowly pulling down chunks of stone from what remained of the wall in that area. That explained the rending sounds. The Wizard wondered whether if in contacting the Hobbits mentally he had somehow influenced the Ent's actions as well. As Treebeard turned to meet him, he seemed not at all surprised to see Gandalf there. He walked forward with his long, strangely graceful gait. His deep eyes held a faint twinkle of conspiracy.

"Hoom! Gandalf! I am glad you have come. Wood and water, stock and stone, I can master; but there is a Wizard to manage here."

A very unmanageable Wizard, Gandalf thought, but that had nothing to do with his immediate purpose in being there. He said aloud, "Treebeard, I need your help. You have done much, but I need more." He shrugged in amused resignation as he went on, "I have about ten thousand Orcs to manage."

Treebeard looked surprised and inclined to inquire at greater length about the situation, but Gandalf felt as pressed as ever. Glancing at the Hobbits, he urged Shadowfax forward and touched Treebeard's arm, nodding toward the huge tower-lit, he noted, in only one high chamber. His mind strove to remember what that room might be, but he could not recall Saruman ever showing him more than a glimpse of any chambers in that area. He wanted to see just what the Ents had done to Isengard, and so he led Treebeard in the direction of the tower for their makeshift conference.

Gandalf was astonished to see how thoroughly the Ents had decimated the mighty Circle of Isengard. For a moment he paused, placing his spread hands on Shadowfax's withers to draw himself up slightly and survey the destruction. Then he and Treebeard continued on a short way closer to the tower before they stopped to confer.

To Gandalf's relief, Treebeard said that he still had a considerable number of Huorns nearby and was willing to dispatch them to aid Rohan. Now that he had decided to take action, the old Ent was enthusiastic and furious-and clearly ruthless. Gandalf appreciated that. As the Ent described to him the numbers of the vicious and ancient trees that would march south immediately, Gandalf's spirit grew lighter. It became clear to the Wizard that if these additional Huorns joined the ones that had already gone in search of the Orcs, the combined forces might well turn the tide of the great battle.

After a few more arrangements with Treebeard, the Istar cast a last, sad glance up at the tower. He wondered whether Saruman was at that moment regretting his treacherous path or deluding himself into thinking that he had the power to commit further evil acts or simply cowering terrified in that high chamber glowing amidst the general darkness. No matter. With all that hung in the balance to the south, Gandalf could not afford to worry about such things.

Still, things were looking much more hopeful now that Treebeard had promised to send the Huorns. After the Istar had ridden out through the gate's sundered arch, he again drew Shadowfax to a halt before the Hobbits, who stood up and stared at him. Smiling, he said, "I am glad to see the two of you."

Pippin gulped and cried, "But Gandalf, where have you been? And have you seen the others?"

The Istar's mind was already racing ahead, gauging to what extent the gathered troops and the Huorns would affect the outcome of the battle at Helm's Deep. Fully answering the Hobbit's query would take hours, but it was not Pippin's fault that the Istar's night was fraught with worries and duties. Trying to control any asperity in his voice, he said quickly, "Wherever I have been, I am back. Yes, I have seen some of the others. But news must wait. This is a perilous night, and I must ride fast. But the dawn may be brighter, and if so, we shall meet again. Take care of yourselves, and keep away from Orthanc! Good-bye!"

With that he turned the silver horse and raced toward the south. It ran through his mind that now he could again come and go at Isengard as he pleased. From what Treebeard had told him, the Ents would not be satisfied until they had flooded and cleansed Isengard. The Wizard wondered what would become of Saruman, who had been defeated both at home and in Rohan. He could not help his mind running over possible ways of saving his ex-lover, even as he sought to concentrate on the new shape that the ending of the battle at Helm's Deep might take. He reminded himself that he still needed to gather more troops that had fled after the defeat at the Battle of the Fords of Isen. And then, if the Rohirrim triumphed ...

Gandalf winced as he realized that, if Helm's Deep were won, he would have to return and expel Saruman from the order of Istari. He could not leave such a potentially powerful foe at his back once he set out for Gondor. Who knows what the other Wizard might still be capable of? And Gandalf knew why the Valar had assigned him his new color. There could not be two White Istari.

The evening of March 3, Orthanc

The day after the attack on Isengard had reassured Saruman somewhat. The Ents had disappeared, and he hoped they had decided that their vengeance had been served and had departed. They had made no further attempt to damage Orthanc itself, evidently recognizing that it would defeat any such efforts. Suddenly, from the northern side of the Wizard's Vale, there came the sounds of stone falling and rattling. Thudding noises echoed about the foothills of the Misty Mountains and off the flint-hard walls of the tower. Clearly the Ents had not left entirely. Perhaps they were completing the destruction of the northern edge of the outer wall, though when Saruman had looked out in that direction, he saw only a thick fog or cloud obscuring that entire side of Isengard. He felt sure that Ents were lurking where he could not see them, guarding his prison.

Inside the tower, some semblance of normalcy had been achieved. The few remaining servants had managed to cobble together acceptable meals for the Istar, and indeed he had only a little while ago finished a fairly agreeable dinner, accompanied by a delicious wine. Perhaps the Ents would soon finish their vengeful, destructive labor. Surely there was no point in them lingering about when they could not get at him. Once they departed, the servants could fetch more supplies from the storerooms-or more accurately, the ruins of the storerooms. This siege would surely end soon. He still felt confident that his own troops would conquer to the south. If rebuilding Isengard seemed too great a task, he could move his headquarters to Edoras. Yes, that was a good possibility. These Ents were a temporary nuisance, but they had overwhelmed Isengard precisely because its army was elsewhere. As soon as it returned, they would be routed.

As he had done so often that day, the Istar moved to the window of his study. All seemed quiet on this southern side of Isengard. No, not quite, he realized, leaning forward and listening intently. Slight thuds of falling stone reached him from the vicinity of the gate, though it was distinctly softer than what he had heard from the north. The night air was calm, and sounds carried far. He almost imagined that he heard a horse's hooves, ringing against the paved road that ran through the upper part of the valley to the ruined gate. Leaning even further, he tried to catch the noise again, but it had stopped-if indeed it had been real.

The faint breeze wafting in through the open window was slightly chill, and he considered closing it and retreating to his cozy fireside. Some unreasonable sense of keen anticipation kept him where he was, however, straining to see what was happening at the gate. All at once a faint white glow appeared, and the dim figure of Treebeard walking beside it, just visible in its light. The apparition moved forward until with a sense of disbelief Saruman seemed to see Gandalf, astride a huge silver horse, clad in radiant white. The pair stopped about halfway between the gate and the tower.

Saruman stood bolt upright, every muscle in his body tensed, staring at the horse and rider. It was Gandalf, he was sure of it, and yet how could it be? His breath came in shuddering, rapid, shallow pants as he wondered if he dared accept what he saw. His first impulse was to rush down and unlock the door, running out to embrace his lover, to draw him into the tower. Yet at once the bitter realization that he had made that forever impossible flooded through him. He struggled to rethink all the events of the past few days. Of course! That explained the Ents' attack on Isengard. Gandalf had commanded them to do so. No wonder the abrupt and unlooked-for defeat had overwhelmed Saruman. Such power might mean that Gandalf had the Ring. Maybe he had taken it from the Ring-bearer in Moria in order to defend himself and defeat the Balrog. Perhaps the reports of his death had been false, based upon the crude comprehension of the Orcs, who failed to see the battle on the Bridge of Khadad-dûm for what it really was. Dimly he speculated on how much Sauron knew of all this, but for the moment even that seemed of little importance.

All of Saruman's goals and desires seemed to swirl about him, changing so radically that he could not grasp anything except his renewed desire to obtain the other Istar. Revenge upon Sauron had swiftly come to seem pointless and impossible. He fought to think clearly. Could he possibly contact Gandalf somehow, to apologize abjectly for having imprisoned him and to promise renewed and unwavering loyalty in their great fight against the Enemy? Gandalf would be skeptical, but Saruman felt prepared to grovel to any extent if he could make even some tiny link to the other Wizard. To leave Orthanc and travel with Gandalf to Minas Tirith, even as a prisoner! The very thought of once more being with his lover in that city where they had been so happy together made him dizzy. To be sure, things could not be the same, but perhaps gradually he could regain Gandalf's love. Again his impulse was to race out and speak to the Grey Wizard, but his fear of Treebeard held him back.

Saruman stood unmoving for about ten minutes, hovering between longing and terror. Eventually Gandalf turned his horse and returned to the gate, accompanied by Treebeard. As so often had happened in the past, the White Istar's chance had passed him by.

Saruman wandered slowly back toward his fireplace, pouring himself another glass of wine as he went. For a short time he sat, remembering the wonderful evenings of lovemaking and conversation and embraces in these very chairs. Abruptly he clenched his teeth tightly. How could he contemplate trying to lure Gandalf into loving him again? How could he debase himself so? The other Istar had attacked him, had robbed him of his power, and had made his home a prison. He stared into space as an alternate possibility occurred to his tortured mind. Perhaps Gandalf wanted Orthanc for his own. If he had seized the Ring, the Grey Istar might be seeking to conquer all the centers of power. The Ents might be only the first of the legions that Gandalf might send against him. Gandalf might well want revenge for the ten dreary, frightening weeks of imprisonment atop Orthanc. Saruman reminded himself of how he had been deserted by the Grey Wizard even as the Nine stood before the gate of Isengard.

The White Istar tried to reassure himself. Perhaps Gandalf had not seized the Ring-at least, not yet. Perhaps instead he had sent it to Minas Tirith, to be hidden until it was finally used in the ultimate battle against the Dark Lord's forces. That would suggest that at the moment the other Wizard was powerful because of his many allies--but not invincible.

Saruman of Many Colors sat long into the night, finishing the wine and struggling to decide which was greater: his love or his hatred for the other Istar. Eventually he realized that the two emotions had blended so far as to be indistinguishable. No, he would never humble himself to Gandalf. If there was any chance to capture him or lure him into the tower, Saruman could imprison him there forever, forcing love upon him and thus fulfilling his own desires even as he revenged himself upon the other Wizard.

The wee hours of the morning of March 5, the northern reaches of the Gap of Rohan

Gandalf sat in the darkness near the dry bed of the River Isen. The troops of Théoden were scattered about the area, and those who could overcome their fear of approaching the Wizard's Vale, stronghold of the Istar who had done their land such harm, were asleep. Others lay restless in their blankets.

Even after having ridden far the night before and slept little the night before that, Gandalf could not sleep now. Despite the victory at Helm's Deep, worries hung over him. He knew that Treebeard had planned to flood the Circle of Isengard by diverting the River's waters, and judging by the steams and mists that presently hung above the valley, that had happened. But had the plan gone as intended? The Wizard also wondered what would happen once the Huorns returned from Helm's Deep. Would they return whence they had set out by skirting east of the foothills of the Misty Mountains or by coming straight up the valley of the Isen? If they took the latter course, they would pass by this campsite and cause terror among the Men. He needed to stay awake to calm such terror as best he could.

The Istar's greatest concern, however, was his inevitable confrontation with Saruman the next day. The Valar had sent Gandalf on his mission to Middle-earth two thousand years before, and there had been many obstacles and dangers along the way ever since. Yet few things had saddened him as much as the task he must now confront: casting Saruman from the order of Istari. How bizarre, he thought, that meeting the other Wizard long ago in Lothlórien had been so extraordinarily encouraging to him at a time when his hope had ebbed! He had had such dreams of what they could accomplish together, and later the love that they shared made it seem inevitable that the final victory over Sauron, should it ever arrive, would be a triumph shared by both.

Now, for a time, Saruman had become almost as great a foe as Sauron. Or so it had seemed. The victories of the Rohirrim at Helm's Deep and of the Ents at Isengard had shown that the treacherous Wizard's power was unpredictably vulnerable. Gandalf could not hope that Sauron would prove anywhere near that to easy to defeat. Yet if he could but summon the power to depose the former head of his Order-and he knew he could, for he must-that lingering danger would be quashed. He could focus his strength entirely on Gondor and the great battle that would draw the Enemy's attention away from the bitter plains of Mordor over which the Ring-bearer and his companion, with determination and good fortune, might soon be passing. Suddenly he longed for such a straightforward conflict, guiding the greatest military force of the West against the onslaught of the Enemy's troops. Much though the Istar hated the thought of driving Men into battle, it was what he was here to do, to conceive the strategies and to guide Men to carry them out.

Yes, deposing Saruman would clear the way for that. Yet he had to admit to himself that deep in his heart he carried a faint hope that he could convince the other Istar to give up his mad, hopeless ambitions and return to some semblance of his former admirable self. He determined that, against all odds, he would give Saruman that last chance. Gandalf would not be able to reconcile his conscience to condemning him without one final offer of pity.

The morning of March 5, Orthanc

Saruman lit his pipe and moved to look out of his study window, over the desolate, drowned Circle of Isengard. He had just finished breakfast. Not the usual luxurious morning meal that he had long enjoyed, but strips of bacon, accompanied by somewhat stale bread, which he toasted in the fireplace himself and smeared with some faintly crusted fruit preserves. After the flooding of Isengard on the previous day, the few servants that had still been in the tower had fled, wading through the dirty water without the Ents making any effort to detain them. Apparently there was no one at all left in Orthanc but him.

The Wizard had explored the pantries in the cellar and found enough provisions to keep him going for several days, and there was a functioning pump in the huge kitchen's sink. There were wine and preserved meats and fruit, and there was probably a small stock similar items up in the storeroom near the entrance to the roof. Most of the supplies, however, had been kept in some of the many rooms within the surrounding wall. With those destroyed and flooded, the area might yield nothing edible. Remembering the terror of being chased to his very door by one of the tree-herds, he realized that he could not dare to venture out to further investigate what he might be able to salvage. Would the Ents try to starve him out? Now that they had revenged themselves upon the Orcs and destroyed the machines and forges, did they plan to stay, or had they accomplished what they had wanted to? Might they leave eventually?

And where was Gandalf now? On his triumphant way to Minas Tirith? Did he really have the Ring? There were no means of finding out. Yesterday the White Istar had received messages from bird spies telling him of his defeat at Helm's Deep, but thereafter such visits had stopped. It had been 17 hours or more since any of his birds had arrived, and he strongly suspected that they, like his soldiers, had abandoned him. It amazed him how quickly the considerable power and riches that he had built up over hundreds of years could be stripped away.

Saruman struggled frantically to think of any way in which he could rescue some scraps from the ruins of his plans and ambitions. There was perhaps a faint spark of hope. Gandalf knew he was here, and he seemed to have some control over the Ents. Naturally. The other Istar loved trees so much-of course they would reciprocate that love and obey him. Now that Saruman no longer had the means to attack his neighbors, perhaps Gandalf harbored enough lingering affection for him to take pity and at least allow the Ents to bring the necessary food and provisions to him.

But even such indulgence left him a mere prisoner. No, his one link with the world outside the tower was now the palantir. If he could wait for Sauron's next summons to look in the stone, he could gauge the Dark Lord's mood. Did Sauron know what had happened to the raiding party of Orcs and Uruk-hai? If not, he might still view the Istar as an ally. Perhaps he would consent to send help. The idea made Saruman sit up and breathe more quickly in rising hope. Sauron might just be willing to send a Nazgûl or two to his aid. Surely even Ents could not withstand those dreadful servants of the Enemy.

Saruman grew dejected again, relaxing back to lean upon the window-frame, realizing that he had nothing to trade Sauron in exchange for such help. His own attack upon Rohan, which Sauron had counted upon to isolate Gondor and weaken its response in the coming war, had failed. The army that he had raised had been decimated, or, if any had survived, the Wizard was hardly fool enough to think that they would make their way back to Isengard-especially not as long as it was surrounded by Ents. No, he had no ability to offer the Dark Lord anything. He didn't even know what was happening to the south and east, so he could give Sauron no precious intelligence. Right now he himself was badly in need of any information he could get. He could only hope that the Enemy would see some advantage in rescuing him from his plight.

As he surveyed the dismal stretch of dirty water that surrounded the tower, he heard the loud, distinctive trumpeting sound of one of the Ents. Treebeard, he suspected, for the voice was strong and deep. Squinting, the Istar thought he could make out the head and shoulders of the Ent, towering above a portion of the severely damaged gateway. There was a small column of smoke rising from that same area, and Saruman wondered what its source could be. The waters of the Isen had drowned every flame in the Vale, it seemed.

For a few minutes nothing happened, but suddenly a dark figure appeared, walking through the ruined archway of the tunnel, followed by the Ent and what seemed to be two tiny Men. Hobbits! He had not seen any of those little creatures for many years. These must some of the ones that Gandalf favored, whom he had included as part of the Fellowship. What were they doing here? How had they become involved with the Ents? Could one of them possibly be the Ring-bearer? No, that made no sense. Knowing what Gandalf did of Saruman's designs on the One, he would never leave the bearer here, still holding the Ring and with such inadequate guard. No, these must be two of the companion Hobbits.

But how had they wound up in the company of the Ents? It occurred to him that the tree-herds might have rescued them from the Orcs before the Rohirrim had attacked the band. In fact, perhaps the Ents had aided in the battle itself. At any rate, it didn't matter now. Saruman knew that he could never capture the two little fellows to use as hostages, not as long as they were protected by Treebeard and the others.

The dark figure, though, was intriguing. As the Man walked forward and put a foot tentatively into the water, withdrawing it immediately, Saruman recognized him. Gríma. The fool obviously had come here after all others had deserted the Istar only because he was ignorant of the defeat of Orthanc's army and the attack on Isengard. Saruman smiled sardonically. Even from that distance he could sense Gríma's dismay and see that he was trying to retreat back the way he had come. Amazingly, Treebeard forced the wretched Man into the water and began to move slowly after him. Of course, it was the obvious thing to do with him-lock the traitor of Rohan up as well.

Abruptly Saruman left the room, moving quickly down the steps. Gríma might have some news for him. Presumably he had had something important to tell the Istar, and, having no bird messengers available, had left Théoden at some point and hurried here. Saruman paused by the door, unwilling to unlock it for any longer than he had to. The wait seemed interminable. Had the fellow drowned or turned back? At last there came a faint rapping. The Wizard quickly unlocked the door and opened it a crack. There was Gríma, looking even worse than usual, with muddy water plastering his clothes and hair against him. Fortunately Treebeard had not followed the Man far but was standing about halfway between the gate and the tower, surveying the Man's slow progress. Still, there was no point in keeping the door open longer than necessary, and Saruman reached out and grasped Gríma's arm tightly, pulling him unceremoniously inside. Immediately the Istar slammed and locked the door.

"Thank you, my Lord," the exhausted Man gasped. Saruman nodded and watched for a moment as water streamed from Gríma's clothes onto the floor. He realized that he could expect little news while his minion was in such a state of fear and cold and hunger and exhaustion. Grudgingly he took the Man up to a bathroom where a shallow tub of tepid water was all that he could offer. He lent Gríma a robe to wrap himself in as Saruman went down and assembled a makeshift meal.

Once they were seated before the fire in the Istar's study, Gríma gulped down his food, in between bites recounting in detail the arrival of Gandalf and his three companions at the court of Edoras, the other Wizard's restoration of the King to hope and vigor, and his advice that Théoden release Éomer from prison and send the armies to Helm's Deep.

Saruman frowned. "A Man, an Elf, and a Dwarf, you say. What names did they give? I would wager that the Elf is called Legolas."

Gríma glanced at him curiously, wondering how he knew this. He said, "Yes. The Dwarf is Gimli, and the Man Aragorn."

The Istar started and stared into space. The Heir of Isildur! Had he but known that when he stood at the edge of the firelight in Fangorn, he would have risked trying to kill all three members of the Fellowship. He was certain that the Dark Lord greatly wished the Man dead. If he had killed Aragorn and could prove that to Sauron, all his plottings against the Enemy would most likely be forgiven. He cursed his own decision to be prudent and withdraw. He sighed and struggled to bring his mind back to Gríma's account.

"So, Théoden took all of Gandalf's advice and sent the troops to Helm's Deep," Saruman said bitterly.

"Not exactly. The King did not send the army. He led them."

Saruman stared at him reproachfully.

Gríma flinched. "There was nothing I could do to dissuade him, my Lord! Believe me, I tried as always to convince him of his weakness and of my loyalty, but this time such appeals did not work. I could not undo what Gandalf had done. He managed to reverse years of my efforts in a matter of twenty minutes!" he added with a snort.

After a brief pause, Saruman nodded. "I suppose I cannot blame you overmuch. Well I know how fruitless it is to oppose the Grey Istar."

The Man looked at him with a ghost of a wry smile. "Grey? Grey he may seem, but now under his humble cloak he is clad in dazzling white. He shines so brightly that I was almost blinded."

Saruman frowned and glanced around the room in puzzlement. So that glow that Gandalf had seemed to emit the evening before was not an illusion or the reflection of moonlight but a true sign of a change. Had he become the White Istar? Had he really died, and if so, how had he returned? What was happening? Had his own adoption of a multi-colored cloak led Gandalf to mock him by boldly styling himself as the White Istar? As usual, such questions multiplied, and his head spun with confusion. He again sought to concentrate on following Gríma's words.

"All right, so Éomer was freed and the King led the forces to Helm's Deep. What then?"

Gríma hesitated before speaking reluctantly. "I do not know. I was chased out of the city. I was given a horse, though the stable-master deliberately chose one for me that was neither young nor swift. I came here as quickly as I could to report what had happened. But obviously I came too late for my news to be of any use," he concluded glumly.

"Yes. Well, brooding on the past will not help us. For now, neither of us has any choice but to stay here. At least, I gather that you would not have visited me here at Isengard had Treebeard given you the option of leaving." He stared coldly at Gríma.

The Man's eyes slid evasively away, and he shrugged slightly.

The Istar continued, "I am hoping that the Ents will leave eventually. In the meantime, you must help me in any way that you can, for our fortunes are bound to each other's, at least for now. Fittingly, you may have one of the bedrooms that were used long ago to receive the emissaries of Rohan, and I shall show you the kitchen and what few resources we have available."

Gríma gazed at him with a furrowed brow, for it dawned upon him that with Saruman's servants gone, the Istar probably would exploit him in many ways. From being a trusted counselor to a king, living in luxury, he might become little more than a slave to the Istar. Still, grasping that Saruman was right in saying that neither of them had any choice, he nodded resignedly and rose to follow the Wizard on the brief tour of those parts of Orthanc that Saruman was willing to let him see.

A few hours later, Gríma sat in a south-facing window of the room half-way up the tower. The Man felt relatively safe and calm for the first time since Gandalf and his companions had arrived at Edoras. True, he had lost his favored position and was now trapped in Orthanc along with a master who he suspected could be cruel and capricious. On the other hand, his belly was full and he was safe, at least for now. He had napped for a short time, but soon the Istar had set him to watch for any activities among the Ents. He hugged a blanket around himself, for the little fuel that was left in the tower had to be reserved for cooking.

Saruman had apparently gone off to other areas of the tower, gathering supplies and otherwise preparing for an open-ended imprisonment. Gríma had not been sorry to see his back. Although in the past the Wizard had paid him well for his services, lately things had changed vastly. Not only were they both trapped in a dangerous situation, but the Man had seen the light of madness in Saruman's eyes. One thought he strove to put aside. From what he had heard about the Istar's amorous activities in Edoras, Gríma cringed as he wondered whether Saruman might possibly demand sexual services from him. He sincerely hoped not. His own taste was for women, but he knew that he was unattractive, and he had long since become used to dealing with his desires himself. He hoped that Saruman would do the same.

A sense of security gave way to boredom, but at last he sat up straighter as a group of riders appeared from the valley to the south and approached the shattered gate. Even at that distance he could perceive the royal banner of Rohan, and he quickly rose and descended the spiral staircase, calling out Saruman's name. Eventually he heard a response from the Istar's study, and he went into the room, pausing just inside the doorway.

"My lord, there are riders outside the gate. Théoden, I believe, and some guards. Perhaps others. It is too far away for me to be sure."

Saruman nodded and rose, moving to the window of his study and staring out toward the gate. "Gandalf is there as well," he muttered. He wondered why the other Istar had bothered to come. Now that the battle of Helm's Deep was over and the Ents had stripped Orthanc of its power, there seemed little reason for Gandalf to trouble with him. He could have been back in Edoras by now, preparing to hurry to Minas Tirith.

His entire body clenched and again his desire to somehow capture the other Istar soared. If only he had some soldiers left. If only Gandalf was not in the company of this group of Rohirrim. If only the Ents were gone. If only, he thought bitterly. None of these things were real. He was trapped, facing hunger and privation within a few days, with only the ineffectual Gríma to help him.

The Istar sat at the window for nearly half an hour. The group at the gate seemed merely to be talking, and again he wondered why Gandalf had taken the trouble to visit Isengard. At last the riders set out, turning east and moving along the outside of the ruined wall. Immediately the idea that the group outside had come to try and invade the tower seized him. If Gandalf had the power to break through the front door, he would of course bring the others to search this study. Hesitating, Saruman finally crossed to the secret hiding-place where he kept the palantir and removed it. Carrying the wrapped globe, he went quickly up the steps to the higher room with the expansive view so that he could monitor the whereabouts of the group outside. The palantir was too heavy to carry about as he did so, and for the time being he placed it on the floor behind the desk and chair. Crossing to the window that faced east, he watched as the horsemen traveled quickly around the perimeter. Once they were out of sight, Saruman shifted to the north-facing window. There he witnessed the group meeting with several Ents. From that distance, he could not see what they were up to, but all descended from their horses. Heaps of rubble blocked his view partially, and he could not tell what they did next.

A rumble in his stomach gave him a hint: the group was probably having lunch. As if the Man had read his mind, Gríma appeared at the door, carrying a tray of stale bread and sliced sausages, pickles and dried fruit. He set it down on the desk. Saruman's eyes darted to the wrapped palantir on the floor, but there was nothing he could do with it at the moment. He certainly didn't want to call Gríma's attention to it. Saruman nodded his thanks and quickly went to sit down at the desk to eat, hoping that his body was completely interposed between the Man and the globe. Gríma remained standing uncertainly, but there was a fair amount of food, and the Istar gestured grudgingly that he should also partake of the meal. There was no second chair, so Gríma perched himself on the edge of the desk.

As the Man ate with downcast eyes, he contemplated how he might best insure his own safety and comfort. Clearly Saruman could offer him little protection. And the Ents and Gandalf and Théoden and the others would detest him as long as he served the White Istar. There was no future with Saruman. He should escape from Orthanc if at all possible. It occurred to him that if he were somehow able to kill the Istar, he might earn the respect and gratitude of the other Istar and the king of Rohan. And if they did nothing to reward him, he would at least be free of Saruman's control. He might even gain possession of Orthanc. The tower was built to be invincible. Without Saruman, he might rule it. He looked around and tried to imagine this room and the entire building as his. Of course, it would be impossible to be comfortable there without servants and a steady source of supplies. Still, he suspected that Saruman had stashed riches in the rooms of Orthanc. If Gríma could find such treasure, he could hire people to serve him in the tower. Beautiful young women especially, he thought, suppressing a grin.

A short time later, Saruman rose, sliding the chair back until he reckoned that its seat hid the palantir, and he returned to the window facing north. Gandalf and the others were on their horses again, moving back toward the front gate. This time, however, they did not ride around the perimeter but instead went straight across the great drowned circle of Isengard. The group proceeded slowly and cautiously through the rough terrain. Still, by now the waters had nearly all subsided. Here and there gloomy pools remained, covered with scum and wreckage. Most of the wide circle was bare again, a wilderness of slime and tumbled rock, pitted with blackened holes, and dotted with posts and pillars leaning drunkenly this way and that.

Saruman frowned, wondering why the group was taking a straight route for their return rather than backtracking along the outside of the eastern walls. Going to the window that faced that direction, he realized with a shock that they were pausing near the stairway leading up to Orthanc's entrance. They intended to visit him! He considered only briefly whether he should respond when they hailed him. Of course he should! He had little hope in his current position, and he should seize any opportunity to speak with his guests, to use his considerable persuasive abilities to gain any advantage that he could. This might be his last chance!

Forgetting the palantir in his panic and hope, the Istar curtly told Gríma to follow him and hurried down to his study. It contained a floor-length window, a door really, that led out onto a shallow balcony above the entrance to the tower. Saruman had scarcely ever opened that window, since the balcony was too small for even one chair, and there were plenty of other windows in Orthanc. Yet now it occurred to the Istar that the balcony would be the perfect place to be when speaking to those outside. He certainly did not want to unlock his door to them, not with all those soldiers and Ents about.

Saruman paused and leaned against his desk, frantically thinking how to behave once face to face with Gandalf and the others. For a start, he did not intend to answer their summons himself. He could not let them know that he was virtually alone in the tower, though they must suspect it. Treebeard would have described the departure of the soldiers and servants. He still had one minion, though, and Gríma would greet those without. He breathed deeply and slowly, preparing himself to confront his lover with all the calm and persuasive force that he could command. The Istar found that he still could not bring himself to think of Gandalf as his ex-lover, and the notion annoyed him.

For a long while nothing happened. Saruman calmed down somewhat, struggling to think of specific tactics to use. Surely he could not persuade the other Wizard to forgive him, for Gandalf was strong of will. Théoden, however, was quite another sort. Saruman knew well that the king had succumbed to Gríma's counsels of despair and dread. Only Gandalf had been able to pull Théoden out of that state, and perhaps an equally powerful personality could lure him back in the opposite direction. The soldiers would probably be easy to persuade, providing that he spoke eloquently enough. With the Rohirrim inclined to ally themselves with him once more, Gandalf might be more likely to take pity on him. At least talking first with Théoden could give him a chance to size up the situation and gain hints as to why this group had come.

Once his plan was made, Saruman grew impatient. "What in Arda are they doing, Gríma? Have they decided to leave after all?"

The thin Man looked cautiously out the south-facing window. "Some of them remained at the gate. The Man and Elf and Dwarf that came with Gandalf to Edoras are walking toward the tower. There are two children with them, and Gandalf is going alone to meet them. I can't see them, but the King and his troops must still be near the stairs up to the entrance."

"Not children, Hobbits," Saruman muttered abstractedly, but he experienced a surge of an emotion that had lain buried for many years now-jealousy. That Gandalf should have the temerity to bring his pretty Elven lover here! He clenched his teeth and seethed quietly.

There was a brief silence, and Gríma suddenly said, "They're coming this way! Gandalf is bringing them all toward Orthanc."

Saruman watched the Man's head slowly turn and tilt down as his eyes followed the group approach. Eventually he drew back from the window, unable to see them any longer. There was another tense pause, and the Istar wondered what could be going on outside. He moved to a hook on the wall and took from it his cloak of many colors, putting it on and glancing in a mirror to make sure that his hair was not disarranged.

Below, Gandalf was leading a small group up the stairs. Théoden was beside him, and the five members of the Fellowship followed. Gandalf paused before the familiar door. He could not help but remember the many times he had entered there to a joyous welcome. He reminded himself that he would already be in Minas Tirith, helping in the preparations for the main onslaught of the war against the Enemy-if Saruman had not betrayed them all. Moreover, he had come because he had a task to perform, and he would no more avoid it than he had any other obligation during his mission in Middle-earth. He would soon be the only White Istar.

Gandalf was almost certain that the other Wizard would refuse his offer of clemency. He was not entirely sure what he would do if Saruman did humble himself and at least pledge not to work against them, but it was not in his nature to avoid extending pity to one who once had been so admirable. The Istar raised his staff and beat it on the door, which rang with a hollow sound. "Saruman, Saruman!" he called forcefully. "Saruman, come forth!"

Saruman must have already been aware of the presence of so many of his enemies on his very doorstep. Would he respond? If not, Gandalf hated to think what he might have to do. Presumably break down the door and search the tower until he found the other Wizard. He would have to do that by himself, for Saruman was still a danger to others. Gandalf's own enhanced powers would protect him, he felt confident, but he would not put his companions at risk.

Fortunately after a short time there came the grinding metallic sound of the window above the door being opened. No one stepped forth onto the small balcony, but they heard a nervous voice call, "Who is it? What do you wish?"

Théoden growled, "I know that voice, and I curse the day when I first listened to it."

Gandalf nodded and turned his face upward again, saying, "Go and fetch Saruman, since you have become his footman, Gríma Wormtongue, and do not waste our time!" He took heart from the fact that Saruman had reacted to his summons at all, even though it was through his minion.

Gríma had closed the window after being dismissed by Gandalf, but he did not bar it. Saruman drew himself up and gestured the Man aside, slowly walking forward and opening it silently. He stepped onto the balcony and spread his arms, placing the fingertips of one hand on the railing as he grasped his staff tightly. Those below were not looking up but were whispering among themselves, clearly wondering whether he would answer the curt command. Saruman tried to ignore the presence of Legolas in the small group at the head of the stairs, for he knew that thoughts of him with the other Istar would cloud his ability to think. He composed his features into an expression that was grave and benevolent and a trifle weary.

"Well?" he asked, pouring all his power into making his voice as pleasant and soothing and convincing as he could. He continued with a tone that mingled kindness and mild reproach, "Why must you disturb my rest? Will you give me no peace at all by night or day?"

They all stared up at him, and the Dwarf muttered something that he could not catch. Saruman launched into his appeal. "But come now, two at least of you I know by name." He forced himself not to look at Aragorn, whose name he also now knew. His eyes avoided the other Istar as he continued, "Gandalf I know too well to have much hope that he seeks help or counsel here. But you, Théoden Lord of the Mark of Rohan, are declared by your noble devices, and still more by the fair countenance of the House of Eorl. O worthy son of Thengel the Thrice-renowned! Why have you not come before, and as a friend? Much have I desired to see you, mightiest king of western lands, and especially in these latter years, to save you from the unwise and evil counsels that beset you! Is it yet too late? Despite the injuries that have been done to me, in which the men of Rohan, alas! have had some part, still I would save you, and deliver you from the ruin that draws nigh inevitably, if you ride upon this road which you have taken. Indeed I alone can aid you now."

Saruman surveyed the soldiers, realizing that his words had had their desired effect upon them. Indeed, he felt that he had spoken as well as he could have hoped. The Men were murmuring and nodding, looking up at him with a combined fear and joy. Théoden seemed uncertain, making as if to speak and yet not doing so. The Istar expected Gandalf to reassure the king, urging him not to believe Saruman's fair words. Yet the other Wizard simply stood there, patient and waiting-waiting for what? Saruman wondered with a little thrill of fear. Gandalf was clad in a grey cloak, and in the bright sun of midday he did not seem to glow, and yet Saruman studied him closely for any signs of change. Was he indeed now also in truth a White Istar?

Saruman returned his attention to Théoden, who still seemed to waver. Suddenly Gimli growled, "The words of this wizard stand upon their heads. In the language of Orthanc help means ruin, and saving means slaying, that is plain. But we do not come here to beg."

"Peace!" Saruman snapped, but quickly he controlled himself and said in a soothing tone. "I do not speak to you yet, Gimli Glóin's son. Far away is your home and small concern of yours are the troubles of this land. But it was not by design of your own that you became embroiled in them, and so I will not blame such part as you have played-a valiant one, I doubt not. But I pray you, allow me first to speak with the King of Rohan, my neighbor, and once my friend." Saruman was relieved that it was not Legolas who had made the remark. He doubted whether he could contain his rage if he had to reply to the Elf, who was even more radiantly beautiful than he had remembered from their single meeting, centuries before.

The Istar turned his attention back to Théoden, who was still standing as if uncertain. Saruman spoke with all the power of his voice. "What have you to say, Théoden King? Will you have peace with me, and all the aid that my knowledge, founded in long years, can bring? Shall we make our counsels together against evil days, and repair our injuries with such good will that our estates shall both come to fairer flower than ever before?"

The king still remained silent, seemingly trapped in doubt. Saruman began to hope that he would yield, and yet another voice rang out. Éomer said to his uncle, "Lord, hear me! Now we feel the peril that we were warned of. Have we ridden forth to victory, only to stand at last amazed by an old liar with honey on his forked tongue? So would the trapped wolf speak to the hounds, if he could. What aid can he give to you, forsooth? All he desires is to escape from his plight. But will you parley with this dealer in treachery and murder? Remember Théodred at the Fords, and the grave of Háma in Helm's Deep!"

Saruman shouted in response, "If we speak of poisoned tongues, what shall we say of yours, young serpent?" At once he caught himself. This was going to convince no one. He breathed deeply and resumed more calmly, "But come, Éomer, Éomund's son! To every man his part. Valour in arms is yours, and you win high honour thereby. Slay whom your lord names as enemies, and be content. Meddle not in policies which you do not understand. But maybe, if you become a king, you will find that he must choose his friends with care. The friendship of Saruman and the power of Orthanc cannot be lightly thrown aside, whatever grievances, real or fancied, may lie behind. You have won a battle but not a war-and that with help on which you cannot count again. You may find the Shadow of the Wood at your own door next: it is wayward, and senseless, and has no love for Men."

Éomer still scowled at him, but Saruman forced himself to focus on Théoden. "But my lord of Rohan, am I to be called a murderer, because valiant men have fallen in battle? If you go to war, needlessly, for I did not desire it, then men will be slain. But if I am a murderer on that account, then all the House of Eorl is stained with murder; for they have fought many wars, and assailed many who defied them. Yet with some they have afterwards made peace, none the worse for being politic. I say, Théoden King: shall we have peace and friendship, you and I? It is ours to command." The Istar remembered the many pleasant visits he had paid to Edoras in the years before the Ring had come to haunt his mind and before Sauron had finally seized control of him. Those years could not now be recreated, but his longing for such things helped fuel his eloquence.

And indeed, that eloquence seemed to be having its effect. Théoden stood as if confused and defeated. Finally he said with great effort, "We will have peace."

Saruman gasped, thinking that he had convinced the king. He glanced at the crowd of soldiers, some of whom cried out gladly. Yet Théoden held up his hand and said in a ringing voice, "Yes, we will have peace. We will have peace when you and all your works have perished-and the works of your dark master to whom you would deliver us. You are a liar, Saruman, and a corrupter of men's hearts. You hold out your hand to me, and I perceive only a finger of the claw of Mordor. Cruel and cold! Even if your war on me was just-as it was not, for were you ten times as wise you would have no right to rule me and mine for your own profits as you desired-even so, what will you say of your torches in Westfold and the children that lie dead there? And they hewed Háma's body before the gates of the Hornburg, after he was dead. When you hang from a gibbet at your window for the sport of your own crows, I will have peace with you and Orthanc. So much for the House of Eorl. A lesser son of great sires am I, but I do not need to lick your fingers. Turn elsewhither. But I fear your voice has lost its charm."

Just though the king's words were, Saruman was nearly overcome with anger. He leaned over the railing, raising his staff as if to strike Théoden once he had denounced him. "Gibbets and crows! Dotard! What is the house of Eorl but a thatched barn where brigands drink in the reek, and their brats roll on the floor among the dogs? Too long have they escaped the gibbet themselves. But the noose comes, slow in the drawing, tight and hard in the end. Hang if you will!"

Saruman paused, panting, aware of the many eyes upon him as he struggled yet again to master his rage. His first thought to direct all his persuasive powers toward Théoden had failed. There was only one other possibility, a faint one. A direct appeal to Gandalf. Surely even after the other Istar's imprisonment during his last visit to Isengard, Gandalf would still retain deep in his heart enough love for him to aid him in his plight.

He spoke calmly, still addressing Théoden. "I know not why I have had the patience to speak to you. For I need you not, nor your little land of gallopers, as swift to fly as to advance. Théoden Horsemaster. Long ago I offered you a state beyond your merit and your wit. I have offered it again, so that those whom you mislead may clearly see the choice of roads. You give me brag and abuse. So be it. Go back to your huts!"

The Istar shifted his gaze to Gandalf, still standing and staring at the door of Orthanc as if he had not heard any of the conversation. Saruman's stomach clenched with longing, and he wished that he could call back all that had happened since he had begun to desire the Ring-to send the others away and bring the other Wizard into his study and make love with him as they had done so many times. He could say nothing of the sort in front of the group, but in desperation he knew that he had to convince Gandalf, striving to make him remember how much alike they were, how when they first met they had sensed their special affinity as Istari.

"But you, Gandalf! For you at least I am grieved, feeling for your shame. How comes it that you can endure such company? For you are proud, Gandalf-and not without reason, having a noble mind and eyes that look both deep and far. Even now will you not listen to my counsel?"

For a moment he was afraid that Gandalf would remain standing still and aloof, but the other Wizard looked suddenly up at him. The disdain in his eyes cut Saruman to the quick, and he realized that Gandalf had not forgotten any detail of his betrayal. "What have you to say that you did not say at our last meeting? Or, perhaps, you have things to unsay?"

Saruman pretended not to understand what the other Istar had said. "Unsay? Unsay? I endeavoured to advise you for your own good, but you scarcely listened. You are proud and do not love advice, having indeed a store of your own wisdom." He allowed a slight hint of pleading to enter his expression as he stared into Gandalf's eyes. "But on that occasion you erred, I think, misconstruing my intentions willfully. I fear that in my eagerness to persuade you, I lost patience. And indeed I regret it. For I bore you no ill-will; and even now I bear none, though you return to me in the company of the violent and the ignorant. How should I? Are we not both members of a high and ancient order, most excellent in Middle-earth? Our friendship would profit us both alike. Much we could still accomplish together, to heal the disorders of the world. Let them wait upon our decisions! For the common good I am willing to redress the past, and to receive you. Will you not consult with me? Will you not come up?"

Saruman could tell that his speech had been effective. The eyes of the soldiers, and even of Éomer and Théoden, looked at Gandalf anxiously, clearly half convinced that the Istar would answer this invitation and leave them to enter the tower and join with Saruman. His whole body was tense with the desire for Gandalf to do just that. If he would only step inside that door, locks and the impregnable stone of Orthanc would hold him there.

To his dismay, the other Istar suddenly laughed. It was the worst possible reaction, and Saruman listened with growing despair as Gandalf said in the midst of his continued amusement, "Saruman! Saruman! Saruman, you missed your path in life. You should have been the king's jester and earned your bread, and stripes too, by mimicking his counselors. Ah, me," he said, as his laughter quieted. He looked up keenly into Saruman's eyes, and Saruman finally understood that he had lost his lover forever.

Gandalf went on with quiet irony, "Understand one another? I fear I am beyond your comprehension. But you, Saruman, I understand now too well. I keep a clearer memory of your arguments, and deeds, than you suppose. When last I visited you, you were the jailor of Mordor, and there I was to be sent. Nay, the guest who has escaped from the roof, will think twice before he comes back in by the door. Nay, I do not think I will come up." He paused, and when he spoke again, his voice was deadly serious. "But listen, Saruman, for the last time! Will you not come down? Isengard has proved less strong than your hope and fancy made it. So may other things in which you still have trust. Would it not be well to leave it for a while? To turn to new things, perhaps? Think well, Saruman! Will you not come down?"

That was an idea that had not occurred to Saruman in a long time. To simply leave, to rejoin Gandalf, not as a prisoner, but once again as a colleague. To go with him and take up again their mission together. Was that still a possibility? The temptation to rush down the stairs and abandon the tower and go with the other Istar was momentarily overwhelming. Yet Gandalf had laughed at him and had seen through him. If he agreed to all this now, Gandalf would be in charge. He had always tried to talk Saruman out of his settled life in Orthanc, and here he was again, belittling it and urging him to turn to "new things," so condescendingly. Besides, who knew how Gandalf intended to punish him? Obviously he had not come here just for this pointless exchange.

Saruman spoke with mockery, trying to keep his panic out of his voice. "Will I come down? Does an unarmed man come down to speak with robbers out of doors? I can hear you well enough here. I am no fool, and I do not trust you, Gandalf. They do not stand openly on my stairs, but I know where the wild wood-demons are lurking, at your command."

Gandalf's look of pity and disappointment only deepened his fear and hatred. The other Wizard said, "The treacherous are ever distrustful. But you need not fear for your skin. I do not wish to kill you, or hurt you, as you would know, if you really understood me. And I have the power to protect you. I am giving you a last chance. You can leave Orthanc, free-if you choose."

Saruman felt himself losing control of his ability to reason, and he struggled to regain the upper hand in the conversation. Sneeringly he replied, "That sounds well. Very much in the manner of Gandalf the Grey: so condescending, and so very kind. I do not doubt that you would find Orthanc commodious, and my departure convenient. But why should I wish to leave? And what do you mean by 'free'? There are conditions, I presume?"

Gandalf's expression held such frustration, and again there was also disappointment as he replied, "Reasons for leaving you can see from your windows. Others will occur to your thought. Your servants are destroyed and scattered; your neighbours you have made your enemies; and you have cheated your new master, or tried to do so. When his eye turns hither, it will be the red eye of wrath. But when I say 'free,' I mean 'free': free from bond, of chain or command: to go where you will, even, even to Mordor, Saruman, if you desire. But you will first surrender to me the Key of Orthanc, and your staff. They shall be pledges of your conduct, to be returned later, if you merit them."

Gandalf was being extraordinarily generous, in a way, and yet the implicit superiority in his words made Saruman's mind reel. He laughed wildly for a moment, and he could hear the shrillness in his voice as he screamed, "Later! Later! Yes, when you also have the Keys of Barad-dûr itself, I suppose; and the crowns of the seven kings, and the rods of the Five Wizards, and have purchased yourself a pair of boots many sizes larger than those that you wear now. A modest plan. Hardly one in which my help is needed! I have other things to do. Do not be a fool. If you wish to treat with me, while you have a chance, go away, and come back when you are sober! And leave behind these cut-throats and small rag-tag that dangle at your tail! Good day!"

Saruman turned and stepped off the balcony, back into his study. He had lost, had given up any chance of making peace with his neighbors and, far more important, he had broken definitively with Gandalf. Still, he did not think that the little group before the door could invade the tower and seize him. Orthanc would protect him now, as it long had.

Abruptly Gandalf's voice came, commanding him, "Come back, Saruman!" The Istar halted instantly, though he had not intended to heed Gandalf's call. Some force emanating from the other Wizard held him and turned him against his will, and without wanting to, he stepped slowly out onto the small balcony, leaning on the iron rail with his right hand and grasping the top, panting. He willed himself to speak defiantly, but in vain. His left hand clutched his heavy black staff like a claw, and yet he realized that he could not lift it or use it for any magical purpose.

Saruman looked down into Gandalf's face and saw a resolve that went beyond anything that he could hope to say. This was not the Istar that he had known, and the power that had dragged him back onto the balcony was something he had never experienced. He realized that, try as he might, he would not be able to let go of that railing. He stood helpless, awaiting his fate.

Gandalf said sternly, "I did not give you leave to go. I have not finished. You have become a fool, Saruman, and yet pitiable. You might still have turned away from folly and evil, and have been of service. But you chose to stay and gnaw the ends of your old plots. Stay then! But I warn you, you will not easily come out again. Not unless the dark hands of the East stretch out to take you."

Saruman shuddered, remembering his dread at the idea that Gandalf would be taken away to the Dark Tower and tortured endlessly. Now the same thing could happen to him. He was trapped in Orthanc, prey to Sauron's wrath. If his persuasive talk with the Dark Lord through the palantir was as ineffectual as his speeches here had been, his prospects were non-existent. Yet now he had no choice but to try.

Gandalf went on, his voice now more powerful: "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 hand, and spoke slowly in a clear, cold voice, "Saruman, your staff is broken."

With a loud crack, the staff in Saruman's hand split into fragments, and its head fell down at Gandalf's feet.

As soon as Saruman had gone out onto the balcony, Gríma had left the study and returned to the observation room above. If Gandalf and the others were to break into Orthanc and seize Saruman, he certainly did not want to be there to be taken prisoner as well. Perhaps they would simply forget him or feel he was not worth a long search. Standing at the south-facing window, he could hear the conversation between Saruman and the group below. It was clear that the Istar would not be able to talk himself out of this situation. Gandalf and Théoden and the others would depart, leaving him and Saruman trapped together in the tower. A hideous prospect!

At last Saruman rejected Gandalf's offer of pity and moved inside the room. Yet Gandalf called him back, and Saruman stood helpless, clutching the iron railing of the balcony, unable to leave. That balcony was directly below the window by which he stood. If only Gríma had something heavy to drop on his master! He looked around and noticed the wrapped bundle behind the desk. Curious, he walked over to it and tried to lift it. It was a round globe, hidden under a cloth. He could hardly believe his luck, especially considering how barren the room was, apart from the desk and chair. The sphere was very heavy, exactly the sort of thing that would kill someone if dropped from a great height.

With an effort, he lifted the globe and carried it to the window, steadying it on the sill. Saruman was still standing on the balcony, one hand gripping the railing as if it were tied to it. The other clutched the Istar's staff. His head and neck and shoulders were exactly below the window in which Gríma stood. He heard Gandalf say, "Saruman, your staff is broken" and knew that all hope of protection from the White Istar was gone. He let go of the heavy ball and stepped back, waiting to hear it strike Saruman.

In the study below, Saruman was released from Gandalf's hold, and his grasp on the railing was freed with a suddenness that startled him. He fell backward onto the ground just inside the door, rolled over, and crawled further into his study. He heard a loud ringing noise and twisted his neck to see the iron railing of the balcony split and leaning grotesquely. An instant later a harsh sound of stone cracking and splintering reached his ears. For a moment he lay on the floor, baffled, and looked around for Gríma. The Man wasn't there. At once a horrible possibility occurred to the Istar. Rising quickly, he raced up the stairs toward the room where he had left the palantir.

In that room, Gríma was seated on the floor under the window. His first impulse had been to run, to hide himself somewhere within the many rooms and closets of the tower. That was hopeless, though. Saruman knew the place far better than he. Besides, it was an admission of guilt. He would have to bluff it out, claiming that the ball had been aimed at Gandalf. Peeping over the sill after he dropped the ball, he had seen it rolling down the steps, leaving a great spider-web of a crack directly beside where the Wizard was standing. Standing very much unharmed and hardly even flustered at such a close call.

It took only a couple of minutes for Saruman to climb to the level of the large room. Entering, he cast only a quick glance at Gríma as he hurried around the desk and stopped dead. As he had feared, the palantir was not where he had inadvertently left it. For a moment he was too stunned even to question the Man. Rather, he thought of the dire consequences of the loss of the palantir. Much though he hated being forced to commune with the Dark Lord through it, the result of not doing so was worse. Sauron would assume that he was simply refusing to answer his summons, that he was plotting further treachery and did not want to allow the Enemy the chance to probe his doings. Quite possibly Sauron would send one or more of the Nazgûl to Orthanc, this time not to take Gandalf away but to fetch Saruman to Mordor for questioning and torment.

The thought was so ghastly that he frantically looked around the room, hoping against hope that Gríma had simply moved the palantir. But the Man's cowering position beneath the window and the crashing sound that he had heard made it all too evident what had happened. In a burst of fear and despair, he shrieked, but he quickly clapped his hands over his own mouth and fought his emotions. He clenched his teeth to control his gasping. Finally he lowered his hands and stared at Gríma, a cold glint of anger in his eyes. He asked with great deliberation, "Why did you throw the Stone out of the window? Were you by any chance trying to kill me?"

The Man had expected this question, and he had prepared himself to answer without betraying fear and to infuse his reply with a tone of sincerity. "Of course not, my lord! I would never dream of such a thing! No, I saw Gandalf standing directly below this window, and I thought to do you a good turn by ridding you of your great rival." He managed a tight little smile. "I came very close to doing so, too. It was a near miss."

Saruman crossed his arms and contemplated him. The claim was somewhat plausible, though the idea that Gríma had simply sought to free himself by eliminating his master was even more so. The ball had struck the railing first, the railing where he had been standing only a second before, and its deflection off the metal was what had made it fall right beside Gandalf. Still, in a sense it didn't matter. He needed a servant whom he could cow, and he would keep a very close watch on the Man from now on. If the incident had been an attempted murder, Gríma would take care to do everything he could to disprove it. He would not dare try again. The Man fidgeted under his gaze, but he was such a wretch that he would react thus, be he guilty or not.

Finally the Istar began to pace. It was best if Gríma thought he believed him. Without looking at the Man, he said in a tone that deliberately held only a slight reproach, "A laudable goal, to be sure, but that which you chose as your weapon was highly valuable to me. Pray do nothing of the sort again without consulting me!"

Gríma murmured his assent, nodding apologetically and rising from his position on the floor.

Saruman replied, "At least Gandalf was not able to take the Key of Orthanc. We can protect ourselves from the Ents behind closed doors. Now, however, we must face our immediate situation. The food within the tower is running low. We shall need to scavenge what we can from the storerooms out near the gate. I want you to take a message to Treebeard requesting his permission for you to gather supplies. I shall ask him also about what arrangements have been made for new supplies to be brought from elsewhere-Rohan, I presume. Gandalf surely would not have left us locked in here with the intent of letting us starve."

"I, sire? Go out among the Ents?" Gríma looked appalled.

Saruman stared at him sternly. "One of us must go. You spoke with Treebeard on your way into Orthanc, and he did not harm you. He obviously only intended to imprison you. Whereas I ..." He paused, reluctant to let the Man know of his humiliation, but it seemed necessary. "I was chased and nearly caught by a tree-herd the night of the attack. He clearly intended to kill me, and the Ents strove fiercely to break into the tower that night. No, I dare not go out, but as long as you do not try and escape, I doubt Treebeard and the others would do you any harm. Come, let us go down to my study, and I shall write him a note. Possibly he cannot read, and if not, then you can read it to him."

As Saruman trod slowly down the steps, he permitted himself to think of something that he seldom allowed to enter his mind. The Valar. Gandalf had not done all this on his own. He could not change himself so and take the sole responsibility for the deposition of the highest of his Order. No, after all these centuries-two thousand years it had been-the Valar had taken a direct hand in the fate of Middle-earth. It had occasionally occurred to him over those centuries that he would be doomed to stay on that continent, for there he might be safe from their wrath. Now he could only feel relieved that they had not decreed some worse fate for him. Though perhaps, he reflected, there was some worse fate in store for him-if Sauron undertook the punishment of the White Istar ... he shook his head impatiently ... Gandalf was the White Istar, he reminded himself. If Sauron undertook the punishment of Saruman.

Shortly before they reached the level of the study, Saruman wondered with a little shock what might happen if Gandalf succumbed to temptation and looked into the palantir. He didn't know whether he wished that would happen or was appalled at the idea. No matter. He suspected that the new White Istar had the power to resist that insidious lure.

As Gríma followed the Wizard down the steps, he reflected that he would have to do what he was told. He must give every indication of being the devoted, obedient servant of the Man he had just tried to kill.

That evening, as the Rohirrim made camp, lit a fire, and cooked a simple meal, Gandalf moved a short distance away. He needed some peace from the bustle of the Men, for he had much to think about: the amount of time it would take Théoden's troops to reach Minas Tirith, where the Ring-bearer might plausibly be by then, what might eventually become of Saruman. Most of all, his mind was occupied with the heavy ball, wrapped in his cloak, that he placed on the ground beside him as he sat down on a clump of turf. He had recognized it as a palantir the moment he saw it, though he had never seen such a thing before. Yet his knowledge of the palantiri had been gained very long ago, and he knew it would take him considerable pondering before he could recall much of it. The question was, what had Saruman used the thing for? What part, large or small, had the Stone played in the other Istar's dangerous and treacherous games?

The easiest way to find out, the Istar suspected, was to try and use the palantir. He did recall that the palantiri could show small images of things far off and distant in time. Immediately he wondered if he could use the Stone to look back to the time before the deaths of the Two Trees, when Valinor was filled with a radiance far beyond the light of Arda as it was now and when the High Elves were still in Tirion, at the height of their wisdom and craft. Suddenly he ached to see the Trees again, as they had been in his youth. Or even just to see Valinor again, as it was today. It had been so long! He felt fascinated by the idea of testing the Stone for such a purpose-too fascinated, he realized. The thing itself was drawing him to it, and that was a disturbing thought. Besides, he could not use the palantir for such a selfish purpose, since testing such a potentially perilous object might endanger them all. It was not worth chancing.

He suspected that Saruman would not be nearly so upset at the loss of the palantir if all it could do was show him remote pictures. The other main power the Stones possessed was to speak to each other from afar. If another of the palantiri survived ... Gandalf would have to try and remember all that he could about where the seven originally were located and how they were used. That might give him clues as to the purposes for which the other Istar had employed this one.

The Wizard closed his eyes wearily. He had had almost no sleep the night before, due to the passing of the Huorns. The night before that he had been racing about the Gap of Rohan, gathering the forces that would save the day at Helm's Deep. And three nights ago, he had stayed awake as the others slept on the rolling prairies of the West Emnet, striving to test his new powers of sight and thought to obtain any clue as to Frodo's situation and Sauron's plans. Now he heard the clanking of spear on shield, signaling that the evening meal was ready. Gandalf rose, hefting the palantir and walking back toward the camp. At least, he thought, now I should get a decent night's sleep.