The Old Grey Wizard
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The Kindness of Strangers: 11. Futility
Saruman's head throbbed. Another session with the Palantír was behind him, and he was recovering by soaking in a steaming bath. He looked forward in an hour or so to a delectable meal, several glasses of wine, followed by a vigorous rubdown with scented oils. If his headache had dissipated by then, he would send for the Khândian female. Maybe he would send for her regardless, headache or no. She could at least massage his scalp and help relieve some of this miserable tension.
Once again his tightly scripted strategy had left him furiously thwarted. Despite instructing Muzlúk to intensify his efforts at "persuasion," several more meetings in the northwestern antechamber and further liberal use of his staff, he had not succeeded. The Fool still refused to divulge a single syllable of useful information. The Urûk-hai were angrier than he was; they begged leave to tear the despised Bearer of Beater to pieces. Saruman wanted nothing more than to be rid of him, once and for all.
Now, he would be rid of him, and soon. Sauron had made it abundantly clear that he loathed failure, and that Saruman had failed utterly. That terrible voice still pierced his mind like a knife. You cannot accomplish even this one simple task! I must do everything for you. Very well, cease your useless efforts at once. Keep him alive, at all costs. My faithful servants shall be there soon, to collect him and bring him to me. And if he dies before they arrive, you will answer for it.
The White Wizard groaned and rubbed his brow. The Nine were coming. He must prepare himself. He must collect his inner strength, steady his resolve and above all, focus. He would put Gandalf the Grey Fool out of his mind. He would not give in to the already growing temptation to ascend to the rooftop and see his prisoner's condition for himself. He ordered the Urûks to remove the shackles; he would only aide the Nine so far. Let them take the trouble to subdue him again before the eastward journey. In a fit of kindness he instructed the Orcs to give the captive something to eat and drink and to return his clothing to him. It was a mark of the White Wizard's magnanimous heart, for despite all the Grey Wizard had done to interfere with his plans, he did not wish to see another Istar suffer the indignity of riding nearly naked all the long miles from Isengard to Barad-dûr.
September was passing. Saruman estimated they would arrive in a fortnight at the latest. All that mattered now was that the Fool survived for another week or so. When the Nazgûl came to take him, he must simply be alive, and still able to speak.
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