PartIII Chapter 2.2
At the place of The Dark Quest Day
It was mid-morn. A desperate doleful day for those in The Dark.
There was a shudder, then a deep growl.
The two Maiar recognised immediately something momentous had occurred.
Sauron and Saruman, in remote parts of Dark’s Tower consulting their palantirs, beheld a vision, then as if a giant whirlpool of magma exploded from the depths of the earth, an opaqueness burst like an uncoiled spring, spiraling violently anti-clockwise, and then as suddenly as the vortex started, the whorl stopped, and the palantir went blank, and all memory of the vision was erased from their minds.
Saruman foresaw that a summon would be issued; Sauron would demand an audience with the Wizard to explain the happening.
Saruman sought furiously to recover from memory what had been erased; erased as simply as a drawing in the sand is by the waters of the sea washing over the image’s grains. Saruman knew that Sauron would countenance no failure; he would expect Saruman to retrieve what had been obliterated at that moment, yet for an instant had flowed into the now.
Saruman reckoned there was only one chance, through a secreted force, to regain the memory. Saruman had hidden this, conscious of the dire peril that would befall if the Dark Lord was to perceive the existence of such a one, but for-now a greater menace loomed.
Saruman took the ring from its secret recess and put it on. Instantly the Wizard felt powers resurge, powers of insight and foresight. Saruman had little opportunity to restore the vision, for as predicted, the summons came, a raging knock on the chamber door and order:
‘Wizard, the Dark Lord requires your presence, come now.’
Saruman, revitalized, took off and replaced the Ring, opened the door and walked with the messenger to where the Dark Lord was waiting.
Escorted along the shadowy passageways to the Great Hall, the happenings of yesterday filled Saruman’s mind. Lieutenant and Wizard, huddled together, had worked night-and-day, under Sauron’s dark threat, anxiously seeking an answer to The Light’s intrusion of the palantir. They had been successful; for they had uncovered the Ancient One had been able to harness the spirit of the sun to enable The Light to intrude-upon the visions of The Dark’s seeing-stones. By an ancient code, Saruman had deflected this solar influence away from the palantirs, enabling once again clear vision during the light-of-day. At nightfall, the palantirs could function, countering any intrusion, Sauron’s potency ever-increasing, overwhelming that of The Light in this, his realm of night-tide. The Dark Lord had accepted their answer, but now, the palantir had failed again. Although Saruman determined that this emanated from a different source, he walked uneasily for he was unaware if Sauron assumed this just a failure of their previous solution. Saruman expected the worst.
Saruman arrived at the hall, was told to wait, and was seated in the ante-room; a desolate windowless room, with a high-vaulted ceiling and ebony walls and floor. The bitter coldness of fear seeped into the Wizard. Saruman could barely control the feeling of foreboding: heart racing, legs shuddering in random spasms, palms clammy with apprehension. However, in the manner of a Maia, when finally summoned, Saruman was composed, and projecting an air of confidence, strode out to face the Dark Lord’s questioning.
Sauron was sitting on the throne, the Captain standing at his side.
Saruman strode across the hall, and bowed deeply to the Dark Lord.
‘You observed the vision in the palantir’, the Captain uttered obviously on behalf of the Dark Lord.
‘I have Captain, and the shudder…’ Saruman was replying, when Sauron interrupted:
‘Wizard, You sensed the shudder?!’
‘And the boom of time reversing,’ Saruman added confidently, showing no sign of the burgeoning turmoil of terror welling within.
Sauron sat silently, the Captain, who had not seen or heard anything, was about to interrogate the Wizard, when Sauron continued in a cavernous snarl:
‘Kin-Maia, I laud your faculties, for I judged that none other than myself perceived this, for the Captain did not.’
To which the Captain nodded in affirmation, but Sauron did not stop to acknowledge this, and proceeded in a casual tone as though asking the time of day:
‘Then Wizard, tell me your opinion of what has transpired.’
Without flinching, controlling the internal tumult, Saruman reciprocated in like manner:
‘Gandalf, with the mastery of others, for the Wizard of Varda would not be capable of this alone, reversed time – the mid-morn of Quest’s 4th Day – of what was once 4 March 3019 of the Third Age.’
Saruman hesitated to observe Sauron’s response, expecting some sign of approval for this revelation, but Sauron stayed stony-faced, awaiting more.
Harnessing the excitement of exposition, Saruman pronounced:
‘On this morn in this time, Gandalf appeared at Orthanc; not as is written in the lore of old, but as divined by new lore.’
Sauron seated in sinister silence, stared at Saruman – drawing from the Wizard every flinch and inner thought. The Captain, not with the wit to appreciate the joust being played out by these mighty Maiar, injected in a threatening timbre:
‘Wizard, disclose at once whatever information you possess? The Dark Lord does not want to engage in your games.’
Saruman saw Sauron glance impatiently at his Captain; thereupon refixing his glaring gaze on the Wizard. As he did, Saruman discerned a glimpse of a sneer which formed on Sauron’s lips, a solitary glimmer of emotion as the Dark Lord revelled in his upper-hand, but instantaneously this vanished, this show of emotion recalled to nothingness; for nothing of the Dark Lord’s inner-self was ever to show. Saruman tremored inwardly at the realisation of Sauron’s consummate control, and desperately endeavored to resist his gaze, which wrenched at what lay innermost. Saruman mustered a Herculean presence-of-mind, repelled Sauron’s advance, and declared:
‘Gandalf wished to entreat me to renounce The Dark and become once-more an ally.’
Sauron’s pupils contracted and deepened to a thundering grey.
A silence hung, ponderous and baleful. Sauron wanted more, but did not want to ask, to declare his hand. The two Maiar wrestled in this gulf of sound. Saruman faltered under Sauron’s immense sway, and was about to yield, when the Captain, unable to abide the void, retorted:
‘What-else Wizard, what-else did the Maia of Varda seek? Do not linger with your words – we risk losing our advantage by your procrastination, for which you will be held responsible!’
Saruman released momentarily from Sauron’s hold but mindful of the Captain’s warning, decided to reveal all, and announced:
‘The Maia of Varda is a weak fool. Gandalf reasoned with the fall of Isengard, I would be willing to relinquish my service to the Dark Lord, and return to the fold, to the White Council. Gandalf always envious of my knowledge and intellect, tempted me with high positions with the Kings of Rohan and Gondor. But in the reversing-of-time, all this meeting was voided and naught flowed from this time into that of the Third Age.’
Saruman had asserted this vehemently and proudly, letting the impact of the vision he had retrieved take hold. Saruman glanced at Sauron; what would be his reaction?
At that very moment, Sauron had looked-away, seemingly having been distracted. He then stood-up from in his throne, and commenced walking to the southern end of the hall. The Captain moved to walk with him, but he motioned that the Captain should stay. The Captain and Wizard looked after him as he paced southwards with colossal thunderous steps. As Sauron reached the cabinet that ran almost the entire length of the southern wall, he chanted in a low monotone voice, and the panel on one-side slid-open. He reached in and pulled out a large black-leather tome. He rested the volume on the meeting table, and leaned over reading from several pages, which he turned slowly.
Sauron left the tome opened, then returned to the other-two. He whispered to the Captain as he passed by.
Saruman had a sense of a new tension, and noticed a flicker of a twitch in Sauron’s left eye.
‘Was nothing-else said?’ interrogated Sauron, implying that he was cognizant of and demanded more.
Saruman replied decisively:
‘In this time, I rejoined to Gandalf by rejecting the offer, and as I had previously, proposed that he should join me in service to you, My Lord. But…’
Saruman took a breath. Sauron waited. His Captain stood mute.
‘My proposal was rejected; at which time I incarcerated Gandalf, and that was as far as…’
Before Saruman could finish the sentence, and not entailing any perceivable physical movement, Sauron was transposed from the throne to stand beside the Wizard. He towered over Saruman, and bent over to hiss:
‘And this… this is all you know…?!’
Sauron’s transposition was so sudden and astounding, that Saruman reeled back in shock. The Dark Lord was so close that Saruman could feel the heat of his exhalation and the pulsation of his dark-force. The Wizard gasped, but with a resolve and mettle known of the Maiar, Saruman recovered, and faced and addressed Sauron:
‘My Lord, the palantir projected an image of events, which was erased from memory when Gandalf reversed time. I have found a way to reconstruct this image… from this I have recounted what took place in this time, but was set-aside from flowing into the Third Age and effecting what took place thereafter.’
Sauron drew himself up to his full height, lingered at Saruman’s account, then stepped away from the Wizard towards his Captain. They exchanged animated whispers. Saruman looked on.
After a lingering pause, both Master and Captain in long equal strides made their way to the black-leather tome lying open on the table. Saruman remained where he was, though he turned to watch the two.
Saruman could see the huge gloved hand of Sauron, the index-finger missing, a legacy of a bygone-time and battle, flick-through the pages. Sauron poured over the writing, the Captain stationed alongside; Saruman staying where he was, remaining until called.
The two conversed in hushed tones, then the Captain beckoned Saruman. As Saruman began moving in their direction, Sauron withdrew to the western-most part of the wall. There, with a terse mantra, a granite door swung-open with a booming groan, and Sauron stepped out-of sight.
Saruman, having watched Sauron disappear, hastened over to the Captain.
‘Wizard, the Master directs you to interpret this rune from a sage of The Dark, once a disciple of an Elven prophet on Methedras,’ the Captain proclaimed, pointing with a monstrous finger that emerged ominously from the formless cloak, at six lines on the page.
The rune was written in the language of The Dark, which Saruman had studied and could read, but it was not the wording itself, but its meaning which Sauron commanded… Saruman mouthed the phrases, repeating them, in the hope that the meaning would emerge:
Hipo ij pokyiqojj, ih uziwoj ne-eno
Unw enqc in eno puc ih jhuc ihj room
Xek u xahako tiwwon, u mujh vigon
Hto mkojonh ij dtoko u kogokjuq puc koom
Zc htkoo jhukj unw xeak ih pajh zo wkigon.
And only in one may it stay its keep
For a future hidden, a past given
The present is where a reversal may reep
By three stars and four it must be driven.
They formed a riddle on the reversing-of-time, but try as Saruman could; the Captain hovering menacingly, no meaning arose.
Saruman was still struggling with the riddle when Sauron reappeared.
‘Wizard, you are correct, time was reversed! A powerful but dangerous device, one I considered beyond The Light, but mark, mentioned here in the rune of Dark’s necromancy. I will have this power Wizard, when can you make this so!’
Sauron exclaimed this with such vehemence that the candles quivered and their light spluttered across the hall.
Their quivering shadows fell-upon Saruman, and hid the Wizard’s wan-expression. For while relieved that Sauron did not demand the explanation of the rune’s riddle there-and-then, Saruman feared it not in the means of a Maia to devise such a power, at least not unless… the coffer of the Council of the Wise!
Saruman swiftly evaluated the options, and responded in measured terms:
‘My Lord, this power is not easily devised, despite the aid of Dark’s rune,’ the Wizard hurried over the mention of this, in case Sauron asked for more,
‘None, even the Ancient One, has admitted to this power. Nonetheless, if it is within the means of a Maia, then I will find a way to activate it. I have access to potions and codes connecting to the essence-of-time, but I need to revisit Isengard to recoup them.’
To which Sauron commented casually, with a fleeting taunt:
‘From the coffer of the Council of the Wise?’
Saruman was taken aback that Sauron was aware of this coffer, but recovering a steely composure, professed assuredly:
‘Yes, My Lord, from the coffer.’
The Captain answered with a sly expression, clearly having already conspired this act with the Master:
‘Then there is no need for you to travel there. One of our agents will fetch it.’
‘I intended only to bring what I needed from the coffer...’ Saruman ventured as a rejoinder, then realised the trap he had fallen into. Saruman looked at Sauron; Sauron stared back, emotionless as stone, impenetrable as the darkness of deepest night, challenging the Wizard.
Oblivious, the Captain spoke on:
‘Wizard, the whole coffer will be delivered to you. Our Lord has an interest in what it contains.’
The Captain could sense the resistance in the Wizard, so persisted forcefully:
‘You surely have no concerns regarding this. You have no allegiance to the Council.’
‘Of course not,’ countered Saruman, wisely understanding there was no choice, but added quickly, ‘The coffer needs a cipher to unlock it.’
‘The coffer will be delivered to you. It will be brought to you by the morrow’s dawn. You can report to the Dark Lord on its contents.’
Saruman stood-affixed and calmly gestured agreement, but seethed inside knowing not to trust what was promised.
Sauron scrutinized the Wizard, detected the mistrust, called-over his Captain, muttered an instruction, then, ignoring Saruman, retraced his steps to the door on the southern wall, which opened on his command and through which he disappeared.
The Captain motioned Saruman to leave. The Nazgûl accompanied the Wizard to the hall doors, with the parting ominous comment:
‘The Dark Lord tolerates no failures Wizard; you must reclaim the dominion of the palantir and provide the power to reverse time.’
Saruman did not reply, for it was a given, there was no choice. Consumed in thought the Wizard trod back along the corridors, Dark’s sentence weighing heavily upon him.