PartIII Chapter 3.1
Quest Day 5: For those of the Light and Dark
From day’s dawn to its zenith
Of the brothers
The previous deep-night had seen furious industry and panicked preparations in Minas Tirith. Word of Sauron’s new awakening and ominous mobilisation had taken hold of the White City; all feared his imminent lethal blow. The Steward had made some provisions and called for aid from Rohan, yet there had been no sign of Théoden’s willingness to stand by his Gondorian brothers. News had reached the people that their beloved Boromir had fallen, and his father had been paralyzed by grief. They had felt bereft and powerless; a feeling of desperation and desolation had spread throughout like a ferocious frenzied fire.
Within the bowels of Minas Tirith, two had supported a third, and descended into the city’s depths. They had come upon the landing that led to the Royal Palace, however they had not taken this passageway; instead, along a stairway unknown to the brothers, he had veered east then down. The flight of steps had narrowed, so they had struggled to walk two abreast supporting the third, and the ceiling had hovered just above their heads, so the younger brother had felt like they were being consumed by the rock. Dust had lingered in the air as if in some recent time others had travelled this way; still, other signs had spoken of this having been devoid of any use since ancient times. As they had stepped, things unseen, had scampered past their feet, and cobwebs torn by others, hanging low from the stone ceiling, had reached out for and covered their faces with silvery glutinous threads. The air, thin and dank, and the darkness, despite the glow of the light, had been overwhelmingly oppressive. He had kept up the pace and led them farther into what seemed like an unending blackness. Although battle-fit, the captain had felt as if his lungs would burst, and wondered how this rotund scholar could continue with their heavy semi-conscious charge.
As they had descended, Faramir could not remove thoughts of the sense of panic he had felt occurring in Minas Tirith. Faramir knew that Gandalf would be arriving soon. His mind jumped from one thing to another. He knew that things must continue as written, for despite the death and destruction of the days to come, ultimately Sauron had been defeated. Of things before him, Faramir was conscious not to change that which sat delicately balanced on a knife’s edge while bringing triumph for his people and those of the alliance. Despite Gandalf’s reassurances, he felt ill prepared to know what needed to be changed to ensure Boromir’s safety, but what would not change this ultimate victory against the Dark Lord. He knew that he would not see his father again in this time, and indeed, what lay ahead for him in the Third Age.
Andil had stayed with the Steward throughout the night, watching his every movement; watching as the frenzy of his body dissipated, and waiting for him to rouse to see if that of his mind also had departed. By the moments before dawn Denethor had slowly came to consciousness. As he did, it appeared he had been composed, however to Andil’s lament, when his Lord had sat up, he had recognised the signs of a mind still in turmoil. Denethor had not acknowledged Andil, until he had spoken to him:
‘My Lord, it is good to see you awake.’
The only response, from a shrunken man whose eyes shone only grey with despair:
‘Is my son Boromir dead? I believe he is dead; there is no hope. No hope for any of us, The Dark will defeat us all.’
Andil had recognised that while the frenzy in his Master had gone, his mind had travelled too far into the shadows.
Andil helped his Master up. Although at first he had wanted and took no food, with coxing eventually he had recovered somewhat from the grim depression of grief, and had moved to that of anger about his favourite son’s death. Andil saw his Master with more spirit and will, but realised that the die had been cast. There was no way for him to recover completely. Andil feared what would inevitably come to be.
Faramir knew what the ending would, must be, for Denethor. Faramir had hoped that there could be another; that in gaining the Light’s promise of understanding, this would in someway change his father’s end, even though The Light had spoken against such an outcome. For in Faramir there lingered the hope, as Gandalf had foreshadowed, that things would be put right when all the pieces had moved in accord.
Unseen by the three in the darkness of the catacombs, the sun had fought the deep-night for accession, casting away its shadows and heralding the dawn of Quest Day 5.
Faramir’s thoughts were distracted by the sounds of an awakening Boromir. Raalta stopped, and the two released Boromir onto a step.
As Raalta was about to issue a warning, Boromir uttered:
‘Faramir, I saw lights pulsating and heard a roaring siren calling me,’ then Boromir stopped, searching for the words, ‘I cannot say what these were from. I know something is missing, yet I cannot recall what.’
Raalta intervened as Faramir was going to respond:
‘Nothing is safely spoken here. We should continue, can you walk?’ careful not to say Boromir’s name.
Boromir had not seen Raalta, who had stood on a step above him, but he had now stepped down beside him. Although dazed, Boromir understood Raalta’s warning, and replied warily:
And so they continued their journey. Boromir struggled in his weakened state; Faramir keeping cautious watch over him, helping him as he stumbled. They said nothing, feeling the breath of the Dark Lord following close.
It was a painfully slow descent; finally, they came to a doorway:
‘Just two to go to the outside,’ Raalta whispered.
He had a single key, and despite going into the lock, it did not turn the bolt.
‘It has been a long time since this door has been opened,’
then he noticed that the years of dust covering everything in the tunnel had been rubbed off the lock as if sometime recently the lock had been opened.
Boromir, spent, felt himself holding his breath; if the key didn’t work then they would have to retrace their steps, and he sensed that Sauron lingered in the space behind. Boromir had always protected and defended others – he knew the cost of past victories was the fear of any future defeat; any acceptance of weakness or vulnerability. He felt overwhelmed by these thoughts; he shuddered at his core. He recognised that Sauron was feeding his fear of powerlessness, of retreat, yet he could not control the despondency that was engulfing him. He felt at the edge of control - as if Light’s band was choking him, and in a frantic attempt for release, he started pulling at it, trying to pull it off.
Faramir saw his brother’s desperate action, but realising that without the band he would be lost. He rushed to his side and tried to calm him – it was then that he saw that a red light was enveloping that of Raalta’s blue; that which masked Gandalf’s and protected them from detection, was being consumed by another.
‘Raalta,’ he called out ‘your light is failing.’
Raalta, busy in trying to coax the key to turn, had not noticed the emergence of the red light nor the waning intensity of his own, he dropped the key and rushed to Boromir.
‘The band,’ Boromir yelled ‘I feel him engulf my being through the band…’
Raalta and Faramir restrained Boromir, and Raalta gave him a drink of a brew he had brought; it took some minutes to take effect, but it calmed him. They propped him on the step.
Raalta pulled Faramir to one-side, whispering:
‘Here is the quandary Faramir, I am certain that Saruman is tracking Boromir through the light and his band…’
‘Then he is correct…’
‘I believe so, nevertheless if Boromir removes the band he will have no link to the Quest; we need to trust that you can make the safety of…’ then concerned of being overheard… ‘whatever happens Faramir, it is imperative that you leave Minas Tirith – they have located you here, though I sense that their vision is fragmented and are desperate to keep you here while they can plan an attack. If we can get you to a safe haven, you will be protected there… Come, we must make our way out of these catacombs, where The Dark now has mastery.’
Raalta returned to the lock; Faramir to help Boromir.
With gentle turning, the bolt released. Raalta cautiously opened the door, and then when he was sure that it was safe, he led the brothers out. Once out, he rebolted the door. The brothers had no idea where they were, but dim light flooded the area from a small opening somewhere high up in the passageway. The floor was covered with slimy water and an olive-coloured moss. They were overcome by the sourness of the air that swamped them. There was no sound, no sound at all, except the swishing noise of their watery tread. They said nothing to Raalta. He felt their rising concern, nonetheless he did not say anything, for it was not safe to stop or speak.
They walked briskly on the flat, relieved that the steps had ended. Raalta leading the way and the brothers following, trying to keep up with this man who certainly no longer appeared feeble or old. They said not a word, occupied with thoughts of what danger lay behind, and that which lay in front of them. They had no sense of how long they walked, then as they reached a sweeping bend in the passageway, Raalta announced in a hushed voice:
‘The final bend and door.’
He turned the bend, and stopped suddenly in shock.
Far from them, away from their sight, a resurrected Arien positioned a brilliant yellow orb at its peak in a sky filled with venom and fear. Unbeknown to the three, the interaction of the Maiar lights desperately trying to deflect the vision of The Dark, like a tidal wave to water on a shore, had sucked up their morning hours.
Of the maiden
Éowyn looked out the window – the dawn had just come into being – a hazy indigo mist rose from the undulating plains, heralding the awakening of an amber sun clad in a crimson cloak.
She was beleaguered by conflicting emotions; elation and relief from the message directing her search, and loss and emptiness, for he was gone. And should they meet up again, and she was not as confident as he that this would occur, he will not be the Aragorn she knew. She lingered almost numb, torn, waiting for Raalta to appear, and for their search to commence anew. She waited, not conscious of the time, yet it seemed an age after her parting with Aragorn, when she heard the knock at her door.
There was Raalta. He bowed, and spoke with reserved urgency.
‘My Lady, we must make our way to the Library without delay. I must attend to an urgent matter but will leave you with what you need, then return quickly. It is not safe to take refreshment in the dining hall, I will bring some…
‘Do not concern yourself with this Raalta, I am anxious to begin.’ Éowyn replied.
‘Then are you ready to leave?’
She confirmed she was, and they retraced their steps through the passageways into the hidden entrance to the Archives. As they had made their way, he felt eyes upon them, they were being tracked; he did mention this to her.
Raalta removed the four Great Books that related to the second millennium year of the Age of Númenórean glory.
‘I have taken out the Great Books I think you need. I will return soon. Do not leave the chamber unless I do not return by mid-day, in which case return to my lodgings and wait – you will be safer there, here is a key..’
He gave no instructions what she should do then; she knew she alone would need to determine this.
Bowing and gracefully clasping her hand in reassurance, he left.
His words would have perturbed most, however Éowyn had such resilience and determination, that even with her sense that they were being tracked as they made their way through the passageway, these did not unsettle or deflect her from her task. She put these thoughts aside, if and when she needed to deal with them, she would; now she put her mind to finding Hadiyar.
She sat down and methodically began her search for the Erukyermë in SA 2000. The Great Books were not a simple chronological record of an era. They were filled with accounts and tales that the various monks had gained on their travels, transposed into words, commentary and illuminations by the elder scribes, making the record a rich patchwork of the fabric of the times.
In this way, her search took her through the five Books, picking up snippets and clues from the stories as they were told.
The Erukyermë was not difficult to find. Mention was made of the event and of special visitors, relating it to other prior and later festivals, in several passages scattered through the books. In spite of this, there was no mention of someone who would fit the description of a Northern Queen. There were lists of guests who attended the ceremony, and Hadiyar was not mentioned by name, title or other reference. Could Sauron have erased any mention of her from the numerous stories told of the actual event? She pondered at this, and then determined not. Hadiyar may have travelled to Numénor for the ceremony, but she did not attend it. The most plausible explanation was that she had been slain by then. Then she thought, what if Gandalf’s message was not correct, perhaps it was not then. She searched the writings for clues…no, unmistakably, this was the event, for in a quote in the third book, a young minstrel had composed a ballad of the festival containing the words:
‘Power and peace adorned the skies above…’
Surely, she surmised, this referred to eagles and doves; the doves were part of the ritual even if Hadiyar was not. She was now sure of it; if only she could find some direct reference to corroborate this… She read on. She read through to the end of the third book as the sun wound its way through the low slopes of the sky. She was not conscious of the time, of hunger, thirst, warmth of the day, or sound; lost in a world of words.
She opened the fourth book and started her reading. It was mostly confined to the going-ons in Numénor in this year, of the establishment of dominions on the coasts and the rumblings of unrest in some colonies, which would manifest into open rebellion centuries in the future; there was no mention of the festivals. As she progressed through the book, her concern grew; she began to think that an answer would not lay here. Then she came to a section devoted to famous sayings of Tar-Ciryatan during his reign. She read through these half-hearted, not envisioning these would give her any clue. In fact, she nigh missed the entry, a pair of lines in hundreds of quotations:
Doves may fly together with eagles,
But nothing will undo the death of righteousness.
She sat dumbfounded, overcome by the revelation: “doves”, “eagles”, “death of righteousness”; there was no doubt she had found mention of the death of Hadiyar.
And since doves and eagles only flew together in the Erukyermë of 2000, she had the year confirmed at last, but what of the exact date of her death and where she had she been slain?
Éowyn slumped back in the chair. She felt tortured by this all. She was closer to Hadiyar than ever before, yet, unlike when within The Light, she had not received any message from her – no sound, no music, no recognition that she was nearing to finding her.
Éowyn felt a despondency creeping over her, for she now felt overwrought and abandoned. She had lost sense of time. The chamber had become oppressive, and she walked to the window, and pushed a shutter ajar. The day outside seemed so remote. The sun was vast and golden, the sky blue and cloudless; there was a surreal calmness about it all. She yearned to be outside, to be away from all the turmoil and tragedy. She reckoned it must be late-morning, and lingered at the window, staring out to the horizon.
She was reluctant to continue her search, realising that this would bring her to the certainty of Hadiyar’s end, even though she knew this was inevitable.
As she looked out, a solitary dove flew across her path of vision, flying westward. An eagle appeared, and to Éowyn’s amazement, it did not assail the dove, instead it flew with her soaring with the updraft and gliding together as if a strange union had been forged. Then out of the east a huge black hawk swooped, talons outstretched and with rapacious squawks seized the dove; the eagle hovered, watching, as the attack occurred, then flew off.
Éowyn shuddered at the sight, horrified by what seemed the betrayal - but why? She slammed closed the shutter and slumped onto the chair. She felt consumed by the sight, for it was as though she had witnessed the slaying of Hadiyar, and then she realised that this is how it had happened. Uncontrollably, with the sting of this insight, tears welled up and fell like a sobbing rain. Then, as if released from the trauma of it all, Éowyn felt a calmness come upon her, and with this, a revitalized determination to uncover the when and where. Composed, she reflected on what she knew.
Hadiyar was dead before the ceremony, howbeit the doves remained part of the festivities, and clearly the King knew of her, and her end. As she would have been a dignitary from the North, why had she come to Armenelos? Was it simply for the festival of Spring? But what of the proclamation of love, which had been not destroyed in spite of the command from Sauron. Someone loved her deeply. Had she come to Armenelos because of this? Why the secrecy, who was this person? Did the words not say that all those who knew her also were killed? Perhaps their deaths would be recorded?
Deep in thought, Éowyn did not hear the door open and Raalta make his way to her.
She was startled by his words.
He put his hand gently and reassuringly on her shoulder:
‘Sorry to startle you so. I come with news. We are not in immediate danger and have time; however we must finish our search then leave Minas Tirith as early as we can.’
Unflustered, Éowyn replied:
‘What has happened Raalta?’
‘Saruman will be arriving at nightfall. He has by some means located your presence. I surmise it occurred through Gandalf’s transmission to you.’
‘But once we find the place and time, I will have to use the Band to inform Aragorn...’
‘I have an alternative way we can achieve this, now that Saruman has infiltrated your Light. Let us not tarry on how or why. What have you found?’
Éowyn reported what she had uncovered, and her reckoning on where to take their search. As she explained her vision of the dove, eagle and hawk, earth’s star soared in the sky to its peak, and the day moved to its zenith.
Of those of Brandybuck and Took
The hobbits woke to the warmth of a day reborn. As they rose, they heard and saw the shadow of mammoth flapping wings.
Treebeard stood motionless in the middle of the clearing, immersed in thought. They could see that he was consumed in trawling through his memories, so they did not disturb him. They were famished and relaxed; they were safe and secure, having reached Treebeard, their goal for QD4; the trial and terror of yester-day had dissipated as a faded dream. They opened the supplies they had bought and ate heartily of the corn-cakes and raisin biscuits, and drunk their fill of the cool waters of the Entwash.
Sunrise moved to the early morn, and Treebeard joined them.
‘Ah, my dear hobbits, I have placed the events in order. I called forth the mighty Gwaihir to help capture and sort those I have witnessed and heard of; he has departed, needing to leave at sunrise, but all is in readiness. We have looked for those inventions and discoveries from the so-called “Age of Enlightenment”, though Gandalf should be made aware there is contention about its dawn. I have chosen to journey from the earliest of the given dates, from the revolution of knowledge commencing with its Master, Newton. I hope my memories will be accurate and serve your Quest well,’ he pronounced in his usual slow-paced, self-effacing manner.
He then walked to and stood under the Entwash’s revitalizing cascading falls and consumed a large vessel of its sparkling spring.
‘I am ready,’ he announced refreshed, ‘As I travel systematically through the past, you must record the events for Gandalf to inspect.’
Merry and Pippin took out the scroll and quill of Rúmil.
And so they started, meticulously and deliberately, for hours uninterrupted, Treebeard revealed the details of all the inventions, discoveries and facts that featured in the history of man from that Age to the present. As Treebeard recalled these from his memory, so the hobbits took it in turn to scribe them for Gandalf, ensuring that Rúmil’s quill never left the surface of his parchment. And so the list grew, through a balmy morning and warming breeze. A list burgeoned as testimony to the ingenuity and cunning of man, of things great and good, and those of dark and evil, and those whose purport changed or wavered over time.
Differential and integral calculus; the law of gravitation; reflecting telescope; conservation of momentum; champagne; calculating machine; distance to Mars; universal joint; pressure cooker; steam engine; rejection of absolute space and time; wave theory of light; theory of probability; seed drill; piano; tuning fork; atmospheric steam engine; diving bell; mercury thermometer; fire extinguisher; making of oxygen; heat is motion; flying shuttle; cure for scurvy; electrical capacitor; lightening rod; English dictionary; sextant; chromatic lens; marine chronometer; spinning jenny; carbonated water; spinning frame; improved steam engine; electric telegraph; flush toilet; electric telegraph; steamship; submarine; spinning mule; bi-focal eyeglasses; circular saw; Critique of Pure Reason; Uranus; Newtonian black hole; law of combustion; hot-air balloon; parachute; self-winding clock; steel roller; threshing machine; safety lock; power boom; chemical bleaching; torsion balance; guillotine; contact electricity; gas turbine; bicycles; gas lighting; ambulance; cotton gin; ball bearings jar; smallpox vaccination; carding machine; lathe; soft-drink; lithography; battery of zinc and copper plates; sheet paper-making; Jacquard loom; gas lighting; steam ship; arc lamp; printing press; tin can; steam powered locomotive; plastic surgery; spectroscope; photography; blood transfusion; stethoscope; dinosaur fossil; catalogue of 3222 stars; laws of electrodynamic action; water-proof fabric; toy balloon; Portland cement; essence of human fertilization; safety matches; microphone; typewriter; Braille printing; sewing machine; law of electrical induction; magnetic position of North Pole; chloroform; analytical engine design; reaper; electric dynamo; corn planter; refrigerator; calotype photography; wrench; propeller; revolver; telegraph; Halley’s comet; air-conditioning; measurement of fixed star; ozone layer; artificial fertilizer; postage stamp; morse code; hydrogen fuel cell; platform scales; rubber vulcanization; blueprint; stapler; grain elevator; facsimile; mercerized cotton; pneumatic tyre; anesthesia; antiseptics; safety pin; reinforced concrete; measurement of speed of light; thermodynamics; law of magnetic induction; Neanderthal skull; ‘Origin of the Species’; gyroscope; airship; glider; fiber optics; rayon; pasteurization; ‘Man’s Place in Nature’; high explosive rifle bullet; transatlantic cable; steel; rotary washing machine; internal combustion engine; elevator with brakes; yale lock; telephone; machine gun; dynamite; torpedo; Cro-Magnon skeleton; antiseptic principles; airbrakes; tungsten steel; traffic lights; periodic table of elements; celluloid; excavation of Troy; germ theory of disease; periodic system of elements; metal windmill; mail-order catalog; electromagnetic theory; barbed wire; carpet sweeper; 4-cycle gas engine; moving pictures; excavation of Mycenae; electric light bulb; electrical locomotive; cholera, anthrax, rabies vaccines; hydroelectric plant, skyscraper; toilet paper; seismograph; metal detector; roll film; automatic player piano; fountain pen; cash register; steam turbine; machine gun; automobile; motorcycle; Coca-Cola; radar; gramophone; contact lenses; AC motor-transformer; electromagnetic waves; matchbook; cordite; antitoxins, tetanus, diphtheria vaccines; escalator; diesel-fueled internal combustion engine; vacuum flash; alternating-current generator; steel-frame buildings; robot; insulin for diabetes; zipper; carborundum; cinematographe; motion picture; x-rays; typhoid fever + plague vaccine; malaria treatment; wireless; radium; roller coaster; diesel engine; vacuum cleaner; quantum theory.
Treebeard stopped, the two hobbits sighed; Pippin holding the quill firmly to the parchment.
‘It is not all, but enough for the time being,’ Treebeard uttered in a spent tone, ‘I am not confident with some of the sequencing, some things are beyond sorting accurately – coming as they do from so many sources, and there is never surety from things recalled from memory. And even at the times of invention, there is conflict of opinion of when and who first discovered what…but it is what I can recall for now.’
‘For now,’ exclaimed Pippin, ‘how much more is there, Treebeard?’
‘Oh, this takes us merely through the first two and half centuries, we have another one to go…’
Merry and Pippin were speechless, so many events and discoveries – all of which they could not contemplate the meaning of; the quill transposing Treebeard’s spoken words to words on the parchment, which grew, as Gandalf had assured them, as the list expanded.
Merry broke their silence, saying:
‘Treebeard I understand little other than man seems to have achieved an incredible number of things, but I know not how each could be appraised as virtuous or villainous.’
‘Hm, hoom, very wise Master Merry, for even those who thought what they brought into being was for righteous means, found others have used for vile purposes. Countless men and women have put their lives, body and soul, into these works, only history can tell how their end will be judged.’
‘But with so much Treebeard,’ Pippin responded anxiously, ‘what thinking will Gandalf use to find “the one”?’
‘Hm, ah, Gandalf has extraordinary insight. But he will not “think” but “sense” the one, for feelings have greater power than reasoning alone. And Master Pippin, I have only scratched the surface of man’s achievements, for I have not mentioned the works of the geniuses of the arts and music; here there is immeasurable beauty created by man – one day we can speak of this. Now we need some break from the words and take refreshment; I from the Entwash – and you have other provisions. Come Master Merry, I see it is Master Pippin’s turn to keep quill and parchment engaged – you take a walk and drink…
Merry jumped from his post and stretched as he walked to the stream and splashed the icy waters on his face, then he lay on his back letting his tired muscles relax by sinking into the lush grasses of the clearing.
‘I will take over the quill in a minute Pip’, he promised, looking up at the sky and seeing an incandescent silver ball of fire directly above his head.
Of the Dark Lord
He watched his palantir in his chamber. He awaited their arrival – they had been summoned. His Captain would greet them and send for him when all was prepared.
He had an abortive attempt to ensnarl the Steward’s first-born, which irked him, but he now knew the measure of those that protected the Gondorian warrior, and sensed a waning and desperation in those powers. It would take one further attack, for which plans had been laid, and there the Captain of the White Tower would cross to The Dark or be destroyed – it mattered little to him which. And of the Rohan maiden, the Wizard’s infiltration of the bands, gave him access to her darkest fears, to use against her. He smirked with satisfaction at the thought that he was using Light’s defenses to destroy its own:
‘What fools those weaklings of The Light are!’, he verbalized to himself with sinister elation.
Of the Lieutenant and the Wizard
The dawn had passed successfully for the Lieutenant and the Wizard. The seeing-stone had mapped the location of the Quest members free from incident, albeit with restrictions. The limitations were a fount of frustration for them, and an irksome irritant for their Master; they searched for ways to put the best light on these for when they would have to be explained. They had made significant inroads into understanding Light’s force. They could track the time-travelling, although not with pin-point accuracy. As a Maia in the land of the Valor, Saruman had practiced a form of time-travel. Even so it was not the advanced faculty The Light had perfected in this Age, with chronomaps and the like; they were in awe of Light’s abilities. They had been successful in relaying agents into the time of the Steward’s sons, and whilst they had retrieved messages, they had not been able to affect recovery; the agents becoming lost in a warp-of-epochs. They had learned much from their failures, refining their methods of transmission and retrieval, and were sufficiently confident to contemplate sending Saruman after the maiden.
They had also decoded the essence of Light’s bands, and under Sauron’s specific instructions to focus on the Steward’s first-born and the Rohan maiden, intercepted fragments of thought-waves, painstakingly deciphering the threads of content. Their capability was not foolproof; nevertheless it was sufficient to piece together the vulnerabilities of their targets. If all else failed, and the two were not captured in Minas Tirith in Light’s travelled-times, this insight was used to set traps to overwhelm them and, if not brought to The Dark, to be annihilated. The Dark Lord had indicated either end would suit his purpose, notwithstanding his wish for the opportunity to personally interrogate the Captain and Maiden.
In other matters they struggled with their Master’s expectations; most importantly, they did not have command of the reversal-of-time. For this, Saruman placed wary hopes, if any hope was possible in The Dark (a faint prospect the Wizard desperately clung to), on the contents of the Coffer of the Wise; for which the delivery had been promised on that morn.
Huddled deep in conversation, the Lieutenant and Wizard had not noticed the messenger of the day struggle to reach half-mast in Dark’s doleful sky. It was as they were collaborating on their report that the summons came.
Saruman was surprised at being so composed about the audience, having become increasingly aware that Sauron saw and knew all, and that in the reports, he was testing his underlings, instilling in this way a sense of menace and malice.
In an alliance, Wizard and Lieutenant jointly profited; the Wizard from the Lieutenant’s sharman skills and favoured standing with Sauron; the Lieutenant from a Maiar’s wisdom and knowledge. It suited and sustained both.
Saruman doggedly dealt with the pervading perilous position by concentrating on surviving day by day; the aim was to inveigle Sauron’s trust in order to gain control for over an independent dominion on Middle-earth or beyond. Saruman tried to shut off all such thoughts, recognizing that such manipulations might be considered treacherous or treasonous. However, as they walked along the corridors to the hall, Saruman sensed that Sauron had already detected these.
They were ushered into the hall immediately upon arrival, being reminded that the Dark Lord was waiting. In fact he was not in the hall when they entered. They were directed to places at the table by the Captain, who with an air of aggravation and admonishment, growled a command regarding reassurances for their Lord, then the three sat in silence, awaiting his arrival.
‘Arrogant henchman,’ Saruman could not help thinking, though he tried not to release in thought what Sauron could retrieve.
The only sound was that of the few lit candles spluttering in a rampant draft, the source of which Saruman could not discern, all the window shutters having been tightly bolted.
Suddenly the stone door of the private chamber flew open and Sauron appeared. They jumped to attention. He strode to the table and took a seat at its head. They waited, standing and breathless, for him to speak.
He offhandedly motioned the three to be seated. He did not hurry to fill the soundless space, choosing rather to stare searchingly at the Lieutenant then the Wizard.
He then declared, his voice low and resonating, ominously leaning forward:
‘I have little time to hear your briefing, so I will disclose to you what I know, and you can then inform me if there is any-else.’
He paused, leant across and whispered to his Captain, who got up, and with thundering strides left the hall.
Saruman had never been in Sauron’s presence without that of his Captain, and instantly felt consumed by a paralyzing power.
The candles began to flicker violently and a booming drone throbbed through the hall.
An icy chill cut to Saruman’s core, as if all substance was being sucked from the Wizard. Caught in real dread, for nothing could be hidden or protected from this engulfing force, Saruman teetered on the verge of consciousness, on the edge of life-itself, engulfed in a whirlpool of blackness, of nothingness, of oblivion.
Then Sauron spoke, and the spell was broken.
‘I have seen all that you had to tell me, and more. I will say that your progress does not please me, for there is much that I have asked of you that you have not achieved,’ he hesitated then continued in a rumbling snarl, ‘and things I have achieved adverse to your actions,’ he paused again, rising to his feet with such abruptness his chair toppled over and crushed to the floor.
Saruman anticipated a deadly blow.
Instead Sauron leant over the Wizard’s shoulder, hissing:
‘Still I will tolerate your existence on the basis that your acquaintance with those of The Light, and others, gives me an advantage The Light cannot account for.’
He straightened up, a towering titan, and added, walking back to his chair, righting it with a flick of one-hand, and sitting upon it:
‘I need the Captain for this discussion.’
Thereupon the Captain re-appeared and re-entered the hall, marching over to Sauron, then conversing in hushed tones, the Captain nodded acquiescently, conspicuously avoiding the gaze of Saruman.
The Lieutenant and Saruman looked on, dazed by their trial, and expecting the next.
Sauron, emotionless in his whispering to his Captain, finished his conversation, then pronounced to Lieutenant and Wizard in a grave dictatorial manner:
‘There can be no further delays or failure. I must have all which I seek and want. You will give to the Captain an immediate transcription of intercepted messages and record each and every journey of the Quest and convey this to the Captain for me, ’and with a wave of his hand, ‘Lieutenant you may leave, I will call for your counsel later.’
The Lieutenant quickly rose, bowed, and quit the hall.
Sauron observed the Lieutenant’s exit, then turned to address Saruman; Saruman shuddered inside.
‘Wizard, I have appraised your proposal to travel to Minas Tirith in pursuit of the maiden and her cause. I concur with your reckonings and this plan. You must ensure that you return by mid-night to work with me on an urgent mission’, then turning to the Captain, ‘Captain, bring the Coffer.’
This was part of a deliberate ploy of Sauron’s; trying to undermine Saruman’s self-assurance by promising one thing and doing the contrary; for it had been agreed that the coffer would be delivered directly to the Wizard; it was in fact delivered to Sauron.
Saruman was shocked by the announcement, having relied on the assurances given, nonetheless, conscious not to betray concern, responded by saying:
‘It is good that it has arrived, My Lord.’
‘Then we can view what it contains’, the Captain retorted, carrying the coffer from Dark’s library, where it had been locked away, to table.
‘Of course,’ replied Saruman, realizing this was part of Sauron’s test of nerve.
Saruman chanted the secret code over the coffer, then raised the lid as nonchalantly as he could, attempting to dispel inner qualms; sensing Sauron detection of each move and emotion.
Saruman pushed the coffer in front of the Captain, pronouncing:
‘See Captain, the coffer holds papers and potions.’
The Captain glanced at Sauron, then rejoined:
‘And is everything as you expected?’
Saruman went through the documents, discovering that the crumpled parchment of love had disappeared. Aghast and overcome by an avalanche of suspicions, which for an instant could not be contained (‘Could Sauron have taken it – no, for…’) Saruman frantically tried to mask the dilemma of whether to admit to having had such a document and that it had gone missing… With an iron-resolve Saruman managed to calm the internal furor, and answered by deflecting the issue:
‘It is an age since I last referred to the coffer and several papers seem in disarray, yet this is of no import, for those with the ciphers and spells for dismantling the forces of The Light are present.’
Then Saruman took off a ring and shook a whitish powder from it over the contents of the coffer, and a silvery object materialized amongst the documents, where nothing was visible or detectible before. Sauron and the Captain looked upon the appearance in amazement. Saruman lifted out the silvered tube. It was made of magic mithril, a present from Durin, King of Khazad-dûm, to Celebrimbor, leader of the elven jewel-smiths, to reciprocate for the gift of The Ring. From this Saruman unfurled an ancient scroll and unrolled it in front of Sauron.
Sauron’s eyes fell upon the vellum, and his pupils dilated with desire, for before him was the chronicle of the Arda, the annals of Valar which he had searched for unsuccessfully over the millennia. He picked up the scroll covetously, dismissing the Wizard:
‘You may go. I will send for you anon,’
then walked hurriedly to his chamber, leaving the Captain to escort the Wizard from the hall.
As the Wizard traipsed along the passageways, conveying the coffer with its remaining contents, Sauron’s raven scouts squawked raucously overhead. These spies of the sky returned twice daily to their Master to deliver reconnaissance: at this time in the glare of the mid of day, and then later in the deep of the night.