13. Too Far
“Will they be alright, my friend?”, he asked Legolas very softly –
He again reached out to Pippin, and stroked his frightened young face-
“Shh - Pippin, it’s alright now, my dear little Pippin. Legolas will take you away from here, both of you, you will be safe now!”
He turned to Merry : “Merry – be strong- be brave! - take care of your cousin – will you do that for me?”
“Yes- yes, Gandalf! Of course I will!”
Mithrandir knew that by giving Merry a task, he was helping him to recover more quickly from the horror he had just undergone – and Pippin DID need to be looked after, as well.
He put a gentle hand on Merry’s small shoulder, and squeezed affectionately.
Mithrandir stood up, and addressed Legolas and Aragorn:
“My friends, you have come to me, in my hour of most dire need, and I can only hope I can repay you some day. But now- I ask you - to take these two out of here, and ride back to Rivendell, and await me there!”
Legolas shook his head, frowning, and replied:
“Far be it for me to disobey you, Mithrandir – but I made the mistake once of agreeing to such a thing. I do not wish to leave you alone again with - with this monster!”
He looked over at Saruman, who was watching them intently.
Aragorn spoke up as well, saying:
“He is right, Gandalf, how can we leave you here alone with Saruman?”
But Gandalf merely sighed, and said:
“I must insist, and you must trust me. Take the Staff of Aule back with you, for safe keeping. He will not be needing that. Ride swiftly, and with caution. Do not look back, and do not return to Isengard. I – we- will come to Rivendell, when this – is settled!”
Legolas began to say something, and Gandalf stopped him, saying:
“There is not time, mellon! Do as I ask of you – take the hobbits back to safety!”
Legolas looked at him in fear and grief, and then he and Aragorn turned away, and gently helped the hobbits to their feet.
Legolas picked up the black Staff from the floor, carefully, as if he were afraid it might burn him to touch it.
Saruman started forward, seeing this, and Gandalf raised his own Staff, and said sternly:
“Back, Curumo! Back, and do not move out of your place!”
Curunír glared at him in fury, but he backed into the corner again, with the look of a wolf at bay.
“Go, now!” Gandalf said to Aragorn and Legolas, and they moved towards the door, taking the hobbits with them.
Pippin looked back at Gandalf, and in a small, hurt voice, said:
“Gandalf, be careful – please? Please be careful!”
Mithrandir smiled at him, and replied in his most reassuring tone:
“Don’t worry, my young Peregrine! We shall be joining you very soon- Saruman and I have a few things we need to – work out! But never fear – we shall be along presently!”
Pippin looked even more worried, now, and after a moment’s thought, said in a shy voice:
“Are you sure you cannot – uh – just come by yourself, Gandalf?”
Gandalf shook his head, and then said softly:
“No, no, my young Took, but you will never need to fear an ordeal like this again. I promise you, from the bottom of my heart! And I have a feeling that Lord Saruman may even apologize to you both, after we have our little talk!”
He winked at Pippin and Merry, and then said:
“Now, you must go!”
They departed, still casting fearful glances backwards.
He turned now to Curunír.
“Curumo – we are alone again, my friend.” He slowly began to walk toward Curunír.
“Come here, Curumo – we have much – to ‘discuss’.”
He smiled gently.
And now, it was Curunír who moaned, and sought deliverance.
But there was none.
He had gone – too far.
Saruman backed against the hard stone wall as far as possible, and then there was simply nowhere left to go.
His eyes locked with Mithrandir’s, and for what seemed an eternity, they simply stared at one another.
Saruman felt extremely unwell, physically – he would have done anything, anything at all, to have been able to escape.
Gandalf’s retribution on him would be - well- he could not really bring himself to think of it.
He had tortured the halflings- nearly killed one of them- and he had been warned.
Gandalf had warned him – had pleaded with him! – to stop, stop before – but of course, none of that mattered now.
Outside, Saruman could faintly hear the sound of Aragorn and Legolas riding off.
All the Orcs and Uruks had fled, or been killed. They were not very likely to return. Grima had fled, as well, apparently.
They were alone now, utterly alone.
That was it, then.
Even the Staff was gone, carried away by that damnable Elf!
He looked at Gandalf, who was looking steadily back at him with a frightening and strange expression. Cold – so very cold!
Curunír felt himself shiver, and he was unable to stop. His legs felt as if they would give way, and the world swam in front of him. His blood had gone very frigid, and the trembling became more intense.
So, this is what terror is like, he thought, in bleak dismay.
Mithrandir startled him badly by suddenly speaking:
“Curunír – come here!”
Saruman found he could not speak, and was astonished at this.
Gandalf frowned then, and knit his great brows.
He raised his Staff, and to Curunír’s very great alarm, began to draw him forward. He tried to resist, but there was really nothing to be done.
Mithrandir pulled him forward by sheer magic, and when they were only a few feet apart, he spoke again:
“So, our fortunes have changed again, Curumo. I think, this may be the last reversal. I do not find you to have the upper hand, now.”
He spoke in a tone that was very unusual for him, a voice that had no kindness or gentleness, and Curunír’s blood went from chilled to pure ice.
Mithrandir looked at him ever more steadily, and then spoke words that carried sheer terror to their hearer:
“I think, now, it is time you learn to understand the nature of pain, at long last.”
He walked over to the wall where the iron shackles hung, as if patiently awaiting their prey.
Mithrandir looked at them silently, and then back at Saruman, who merely stood there, rooted to the spot, and speechless with horror.
“Shall we begin?”
He raised the Staff, and began to pull Curunír towards him.
Curunír choked back the sound rising in his throat, with a great and savage effort, and realized, in terrified wonder, that it was a scream.
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