PartIII Chapter 2.8
It was the hour afore the death of the night. A hectic harrowing hour for those in The Dark.
Sauron sought their presence. The Captain’s aide had come to fetch them, the Lieutenant and the Wizard. They strode to the hall, stories rehearsed; making the most of their advances, covering the failures or that which was lacking. They knew they stood a greater chance if they were united in their stance, but could they trust one another if it came to survival? For their Dark Lord purposively played one off against the other. They had the measure of their Master, and he of them.
They were ushered into the hall. Few candle-lights had been lit; it was in sinister shadow. It was how the Dark Lord wished his secondaries greeted, engulfed in a sense of his mastery and menace.
The Master and his Captain were seated at the table. Sauron at its head, the Captain to his right-side, deep in conversation.
The Captain brusquely motioned for the two to approach and take seats on the other side, and away from Sauron, who recoiled from the closeness of others.
They sat down.
Sauron glanced at the two with his piercing eyes, then continued to converse with his Captain in a measured sonorous tone:
‘What of the armament of the orc warriors, and news of the spies?’
The Captain responded:
‘The army awaits My Lord’s inspection on the morrow. All stand in readiness for its Goth’s – our Master’s - decree. The spies have brought news that the alliance of The Light has laid no open plans for warfare. The Quest remains fractured and unprepared; it will fall as a dove to an eagle. The news could not thus be better.’
Sauron replied, ensuring the three were clear about his message:
‘I sense The Light has some other strategy to play; with something acquired from the future. I will inspect Dark’s army; still I intuit that this war will not be fought on the field of battle by spear and sword, bar for future’s call. I must have access to Light’s travels and designs; to the secret the Ancient One protects. I will tolerate no further false steps or delays.
Sauron and the Captain turned to face the two.
The two understood, but did not speak; they waited to be spoken to.
The Captain announced in a clear forbidding voice:
‘The Dark Lord requires a full account of advances, failures and where things were lacking,’ unrolling as he spoke, a huge parchment, on which was tabulated figures and letters in a large scrawled handwriting. This was the record of The Dark’s campaign against with The Light. The Captain was meticulous in recording every detail.
The Captain continued, a raven’s quill poised:
‘Give your account Lieutenant’
The Lieutenant knew not to mince words, he asserted directly and confidently:
‘Much has been achieved. We have used Light’s own device, the bands, as our tracer. We can track the movement of each Quest member, though the signal is weak and as a point in time is crossed, the seeing-stone needs realignment, which causes a… lag in our vision. With ten to follow…’ the Lieutenant wanted to assert ‘the pursuit is daunting’, and hesitating in this declaration of weakness, the Captain cut in:
‘The Dark Lord is not concerned in the how and the difficulties, solely the results Lieutenant, report on the lûtskaats - the outcomes!
Sauron frowned fleetingly at his Captain. His Captain was correct to focus on the outcomes, nonetheless he also had a difficulty pursuing the ten simultaneously on his palantir so was interested in the Lieutenant’s trials; nevertheless he did not contradict his Captain and let the discourse proceed.
The Lieutenant continued:
‘Of the ten…’
The Captain interrupted:
‘Speak of each in turn.’
The Lieutenant glowered at the Captain, but carried on unflinchingly:
‘Of the White Wizard named Gandalf, Saruman has retrieved the meeting at Isengard on 4 March 3019 of the Third Age despite The Light’s reversal of these moments in time; of what transpired has been discussed with our Lord.’
The Lieutenant looked at Saruman to see if the Wizard chose to add anything. Saruman started to comment, when Sauron interjected:
‘The perception obliterated showed the White Wizard leave, did this Wizard return?’
‘No My Lord,’ Saruman answered with conviction.
Sauron stared intently at Saruman, then, as if knowing otherwise, he hissed:
droplets of spittle from his utterance propelling savagely into the air.
A stunning silence fell.
The Captain shattered this with the question:
‘Where did the Wizard go?’
Saruman responded guardedly, unsure of the facts of the how and why:
‘The Wizard travelled to the peak of Methedras and thereupon onto the Old Forest…’
‘By what mode did he cover this distance… and to the peak of Methedras…Why?’ retorted the Captain.
‘Our command of Light’s power of travel is limited; we as yet can trace movements via the bands to a broad area…’ Saruman hesitated, searching for an acceptable explanation; Sauron, impatient with the reasoning of lesser beings, interposed his insights:
‘With such travel, the Wizard could not have employed the time-map, only the eagles could have transported the Wizard thus.’
‘And the locations and intention, My Lord?’ the Captain asked in awe of his Master.
‘On Methedras’s peak, I surmise the Wizard searched for the sanctuary of the seer of the Sindar for some prophecy, and journeyed to the Old Forest, to the Ancient One, for an interpretation of its meaning,’ Sauron recounted this with a conceit for his prowess.
The Captain, trying to match his Master’s decisiveness, declared:
‘The exact location of the Ancient One is known. Lieutenant, see to the seizure of the Wizard there, and if not so, the Ancient One should be captured and questioned!’
‘Capture the Ancient One!’ exclaimed the Lieutenant turning to Sauron, ‘My Lord I fear….fear this is not possible!’
Sauron scowled at his Captain’s error of judgement, and leaning towards his trusted second, growled, a rumbling guttural pronouncement:
‘It would not be wise to attempt a capture of the Ancient One now. We are not prepared for this – not yet!’
Sauron then sat back in his chair, stony faced and grim; he had nothing further to say.
The Captain glared at the Lieutenant.
‘Move to the next!’
The Lieutenant nodded in respect, attempting to placate the Captain:
‘The king and maiden appeared on the sixth level of Minas Tirith in the Third Age on 20 August 2989, then moved to the seventh...’ the Lieutenant paused.
‘And so – to where exactly!’ the Captain rejoined.
The Lieutenant glared back at the Captain. The Captain had been fully briefed on the current limitations in the seeing-stone’s tracer, providing mere diffuse direction; this was the Captain’s ploy to put down their efforts; retaliating the Lieutenant parried addressing Sauron:
‘My Lord, you have seen the advances we have accomplished, we can track the Quest’s general journeyings; we have experimented harnessing the transmissions of The Light…’
The Captain, not to be countermanded, riposted:
‘Can you determine position or can’t you? Have any returned that you have sent through time?’
The Lieutenant gasped in fury and frustration, and not to be outdone, countered, openly confronting the Captain:
‘As you are aware Captain the situation is that presently our tracking is to a vicinity not pin-point position. We are working to refine and align this, as we are with our ability to utilize Light’s time-travel. Our connection has gone astray with several that we have sent forth. We have learned that to restrict the journey to hōrae… until we have more understanding and control…’
The Captain snorted haughtily, and was about to answer the Lieutenant, when Sauron intervened. The Dark Lord revelled in the joust, inciting a tension and competition between his deputies, however daybreak and The Light’s advance threatened. He spun to confront Saruman, and demanded:
‘And you Wizard, what do you know? Tell me of the others?’
Saruman was jolted into conspicuous focus, caught off guard; nevertheless recovering in a moment, the Wizard proclaimed confidently:
‘My Lord, as we surmised the king and lady’s intent was to consult the Great Books; we sent forth an agent who relayed that such visitors had arrived. Under pretext, the agent inspected then blocked entry to the Library, and was advised, and transmitted to us, that both king and lady had departed Minas Tirith… before …. before we lost contact…’ Saruman stumbled over this admission, then added: ‘this was inconsistent with our tracers on the bands…’
The Captain interposed:
‘What was what?’
‘The transmission was blurred; although it appears both remained in Minas Tirith, and in spite of the guard, accessed the Library.’
‘And?!’ added the Captain, seeing his Master’s gaze deepen in annoyance.
‘Our sole recourse is for me to ‘Light-travel’ there to gauge what the Quest has touched.’
‘Is that wise, being mindful of the limitation of Dark’s travelling, and the need for you here…’the Captain questioned stridently.
‘No other would be able to defy the authority of the Quest or to assess the purport of its visit. There is minimal peril with what we have learnt and can regulate, especially at departure, leaving at Maricha’s birth and zenith.’
The sound of a siren, shrill and stentorian, pierced their space. Sauron leant across to his Captain, whispered an instruction and rose from his seat; the three leapt to attention.
They watched him tread with booming strides to the southern end of hall, and disappear into his private chamber.
The Captain towering above the two pronounced:
‘The dawn of Quest’s fifth day is near upon us. Ready the seeing-stone and mark Light’s journeys and locations. The Dark Lord will expect answers; try him not with uncertainties and supposition; the two of you will be held accountable, count not on your favoured status…!’
The Lieutenant, not to shy away from intimidation, a tenacity that arose from one who had embraced physical combat fearlessly countless times, protested vehemently:
‘A titanic force emanates from this Light; there are things beyond our influence and injunction.... It may suit you to think that we have superior means than the foes we seek, but the reality is not so…’
The Captain fuming, shaking with rage, shrieked:
‘It is well that you did not use this as your defence with our Lord.’
The Lieutenant retaliated:
‘Do not lecture me Captain! I speak to you as one who likewise must succeed when things are not within the dominion of The Dark.’
The furor of the fray enveloped the three.
Three minds, raging and pitted, were consumed momentarily in their thoughts:
The Lieutenant is a fool to openly challenge me and my authority. Shaman! If it was not for my loyalty to my Lord and his purpose, I would see the Lieutenant fail or be dead, but I must hold my wrath till all use of these shaman powers are over.
The Captain is a fool to threaten or set me up to fail. I will not be silenced or denied alerting the Dark Lord that, even with my shaman powers and the sorcery of the Wizard, there is grave jeopardy in assuming we can achieve dominion of The Light overnight.
Take care - you need to stay on side with the Captain and the Lieutenant. My plight is dire, for even with the shaman powers of the Lieutenant and my sorcery, there is grave jeopardy in assuming we can achieve dominion of The Light. For now though, with the dawn near-upon us, it is imperative to sway the Lieutenant from this dispute with the Captain, and attend to the seeing-stone.
With the titans posturing, Saruman bowed to the Captain and walked between them, taking hold of the Lieutenant’s arm and saying respectfully:
‘Come now Lieutenant, we should ensure that the seeing-stone is prepared to monitor Light’s traversings at first-light.
The Lieutenant initially shrugged off Saruman’s hand, then placated, recognized the Wizard’s judicious action. Calmed, the Lieutenant was shrewd enough to acknowledge the Captain’s higher rank and favour, and conceded:
‘Captain there is much to discuss, but now it is essential that the Wizard and I tend to the seeing-stone.’
The Captain, still seething, accepted this cede (thinking, the playing out of this fray could wait to later), and advised:
‘Target the Steward’s first-born and the maiden from Rohan. Exploit the traps our Lord has devised should an escape via the catacombs of Minas Tirith be attempted. And uncover the identity the Blue Wizard who has come to the aid of the Quest… and do not forget, establish the whereabouts of the Rings…and all-others! Our Lord will summon you prior to the noontide for a complete report…’
The Lieutenant and Wizard, glancing at each-other, expressions overwhelmed by the enormity of the task, said nothing. The two followed the Captain to the hall doors, and preceded with haste to their seeing stone, reeling from the course laid out for them, their thoughts like a turbulent torrent.
The Captain returned to the Dark Lord.
Sauron, sensing the smarting of his subordinates, smirked with satisfaction.