The Old Grey Wizard
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The Kindness of Strangers: 1. To Take a Wizard
To Take a Wizard
"Well, the choices are, it seems, to submit to Sauron, or to yourself. I will take neither. Have you others to offer?"
He was cold now, and perilous. "Yes," he said. "I did not expect you to show wisdom, even in your own behalf; but I gave you the chance of aiding me willingly, and so saving yourself much trouble and pain. The third choice is to stay here, until the end."
"Until what end?"
"Until you reveal to me where the One may be found. I may find means to persuade you. Or until it is found in your despite, and the Ruler has time to turn to lighter matters: to devise, say, a fitting reward for the hindrance and insolence of Gandalf the Grey."
"That may not prove to be one of the lighter matters," said I. He laughed at me, for my words were empty, and he knew it.
They took me and set me on the pinnacle of Orthanc, where Saruman was accustomed to watch the stars.
FotR, "The Council of Elrond," 253-254.
July 10th, 3018, IIIrd Age. Early evening. The Tower of Orthanc.
How utterly predictable. Anyone might have guessed that the obstinate fool might not meekly submit to his inevitable fate, but really--this scene was becoming a bore. Saruman stood behind his handsome desk, carved of contraband mellryn wood that he had obtained in secret and at great price. He kept the sturdy piece of furniture between himself and the melee that was erupting in his study and sighed with annoyance.
He had summoned his coarsest, strongest servants when it became clear that Gandalf the Grey was not about to allow himself to be escorted quietly from the room. Saruman thought that two dozen would be sufficient, but now he wasn't sure. Twenty minutes had passed, and three Orcs lay smoldering; five more had been skewered. Their black blood was pooling onto the lovely white marble floor. The great Wizard gazed in horror at his extremely expensive, fine wool carpet from Khând. It had been his favorite, and now look at it! Ruined.
The remaining sixteen Orcs snarled and hissed as they surrounded the Fool, who for the time being was fending them off with that absurdly long, glowing sword in one hand and his ratty-looking staff in the other. Why did he always have to be so ridiculously stubborn? It was so tiresome, and in the end, the outcome would be the same. Even if the Grey Wizard managed to break through their circle and escape the study, Orthanc was well stocked with Orcs. He had thousands to call upon. Saruman shuddered at the thought of all those smelly corpses littering his stately Tower. Disgusting, and so wasteful. It was time to put a stop to this nonsense.
"Stand aside," he said in a low but commanding voice. The Orcs blocking his view slunk away. The Grey Wizard's back was momentarily turned. Excellent! He won't have any idea what—or who—hit him. With a sneer and a sudden jab of his ivory-knobbed black staff, Saruman released a streak of fire. Instantly, it flew across the room and struck Gandalf between his shoulder blades. Startled, he lurched forward and nearly fell.
It was the moment the Orc captain had been waiting for. The thick-limbed creature stepped closer than any of his fellows had yet dared and smashed the hilt of his heavy dagger into the back of the Fool's skull. His victim stumbled again. Encouraged, the others darted in one by one, swinging clubs and sword-butts at the hated Sorcerer Who Bears Foe Hammer, known to every Orc from the Grinding Ice to the Southern Sea as the slayer of the Great Goblin of Goblin Town, seventy-seven years ago, nearly to the day.
Saruman watched with annoyed curiosity as the Orcs, even now, with a distinct advantage, kept their distance. None of them would use their fists or even their booted feet to touch their foe, who continued to swing his sword and staff in an increasingly erratic defense. And even more irritating, the Orcs carefully avoided meeting their enemy's eyes. Why should they fear him so? Grey is not as powerful as White. He listened as steel and wood impacted flesh. Wait, he told himself. Let them satisfy their desire for revenge. Another minute passed, and with it, more thudding blows. And I, mine. The Grey Fool's breath came in heavy gasps as he struggled to maintain an upright posture.
Finally the Orc Captain stepped forward. Snarling, he thrust the tip of his dagger beneath the bearded chin of the Bearer of Beater, the dreadful weapon that gleamed with horrible, Elvish blue fire in his foe's right hand.
"What shall we do with him, my Lord?" the Orc sneered. The Grey Wizard now held perfectly still, save for his heaving chest. A stream of red trickled down his throat, and he glared at the Orc; but he did not let go of either staff or sword. Not one of the Orcs made a move to try to disarm him.
Saruman walked slowly around his desk and approached his former colleague. He stood a yard away and crossed his arms. His silken white robe shimmered with a rainbow of shifting colors in the lantern light.
"Well?" he said. "Will you cooperate? Or must I order them to knock you senseless and drag you off?"
By way of reply, the Grey Wizard carefully stepped back and away from the point of the Orc's dagger. He sheathed Glamdring, never taking his contemptuous eyes off Saruman's. He leaned on his staff and was silent.
"Get this insolent fool out of my sight," Saruman snapped.
The Orc Captain and three others began shoving the Grey Wizard toward the door that led to the downward spiraling stairs.
"Not that way! Up, to the very top. Leave him on the roof. I left the door ajar for this very purpose. Let him contemplate his choices while he enjoys a fine view of the heavens."
As the Wizard of Orthanc returned to his desk, he paused near a blue-grey object that lay crumpled on the floor. "And by the way," he said with a snort, "Take this ridiculous hat of his with you. I don't want the filthy thing in my study. It is permeated with the stench of pipe smoke."
* * *
Such a seemingly simple statement--"they took me and placed me." Who were "they," and how exactly does one "take" a wizard? After all, in the next few months we learn that this same wizard fends off all nine Nazgûl at the same time on the night of October 3rd on Weathertop. This opening scene is my attempt to describe a plausible way "they" might have been able to take him captive, and some rational reason why he could have kept his sword and staff up on the roof.
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