The Old Grey Wizard
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The Kindness of Strangers: 5. Waiting
Saruman's curiosity soon drew him up the long and narrow stairway and back to the window to spy on his captive. The Grey Fool was pacing again, as briskly as ever. The White Wizard began to watch nearly every day as his prisoner paced for hours, only occasionally taking refuge in the small patches of shade thrown by the pillars. As the first fortnight came and went, Saruman suppressed an irritating sense of admiration. Where did the Fool find the stamina to go on with no food or water?
Many times, Saruman placed his hand in his pocket and fingered the keys to the door. He wondered if he should go out onto the platform, put his staff to use and force the Fool to speak. Enough pain would loosen anyone's tongue. But something always held him back. It would be beneath him, for one thing, to stoop to the low, brutal task of interrogation. And another thing: once warned, Gandalf never let go of his staff, and always kept Glamdring girt at his waist. Saruman could hardly admit it, even to himself, but he was reluctant to measure his newfound power against that of the Grey Wizard. He had no desire to risk being on the receiving end of one of his fiery bolts.
And so, each time Saruman considered another direct confrontation, he found a logical, sound reason to delay. Tomorrow. And when the morrow came, he postponed his visit again.
A few weeks of almost daily treks to the top of the stairs had produced only one positive result: Saruman's legs were stronger. He could climb much more easily now. He had been growing rather lazy, and was pleased with his improved physique. The exercise had spurred his appetites, and not just for succulent food and delicious wine. Even the woman from Khând mentioned how firm his muscles had become. He had rewarded her with an extra coin that evening.
Another week passed. Gradually his captive's fierce energy seemed to lag. His movements were slower, and he spent more time sitting in the scant shade, head bowed, rubbing his hands together, than up and walking. Exposure was finally taking a toll on him. His skin became like worn, stained leather; his eyelids were swollen, and his lips were paper-dry. Surely he must be ready to give in. Would the Fool rather die of deprivation and heat stroke than cooperate? No reasonable person would allow themselves to perish in such a pointless manner, Saruman thought, not when a simple knock on the pillar would signal capitulation. Without a doubt, this endless waiting would soon come to an end.
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