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To Catch an Orc
This week we continue our journey through The Voice of Isengard as Saruman the White tasks us with hunting down and capturing an orc......
Saruman received Gríma and his escort at the steps of Orthanc. The strange black tower rose coldly from the midst of Isengard’s luscious gardens. It’s ebon walls seemed out of place among the greenery of the vale and stood in stark contrast to Saruman’s brilliant white robes. Saruman, somehow, had already known about the affair at the ford. He lavished praise on the heroes for their rescue, and reassured Threol. “The Dunlendings have grown daring of late, dear Captain.” The wizard spoke with a silky voice. It was a voice that enthralled, a voice that rung wiser than the wind, and its faint lilt was as encouraging as dawn itself. “Such an attack surely could not have been imagined until this ambush.” The wizard’s servants took the company’s packs and horses, and Saruman led them up the steps into Orthanc’s great front hall. The walls were made of the same glassy black substance as the tower itself, generously hung with white tapestries and lit by delicate sconces. Fires from several braziers warmed the hall yet seemed to give off no smoke. “The clans have never forgotten their old feud with the people of Eorl,” Saruman continued, his voice reverberating in the great hall. “The clans fight amongst each other, and they all fight Rohan.” He spoke with sadness and regret “It is a shame such bravery and strength is wasted, when the days now darken in the east.” Saruman glanced sideways at the heroes, keen intelligence in his gaze. “I hope one day to convince the clans to unite their efforts.” Saruman smiled, and none felt untouched by it. “For the cause of our greater good.” On their fourth day in Isengard, Saruman asked the heroes to dine with him. Neither Gríma nor the Rohirrim were invited. They ate in the wizard’s elaborate private study. A great balcony adjoined the room, overlooking the great cobblestone courtyard that laid before Orthanc’s front doors. A late harvest moon shone through the balcony, white and wreathed in a ghostly halo. The food and wine was splendid, rivaling even that of Denethor’s table. Saruman ate little, preferring to talk and ask questions while sipping wine. “I sense you are under the favor and employ of my dear friend Gandalf the Grey,” he said after concluding a bout of questions on Gondor and the disposition of Ithilien. “You must know that we seek the same end, Gandalf and I,” Saruman continued, pleased with his guests’ comfort and attentive ears. “While Gandalf wanders, while he turns the rocks and douses small fires, I confine myself here.” The heroes nodded in appreciation as the wizard gestured proudly around his study. He sighed gently. “Here alone I study matters of the deepest significance. Of old things. Of such lessons as would help us face the rising shadow in the east.” “While Gandalf’s ways differ from my own, there is one thing we share in equal measure.” He smiled. “The need to retain brave allies––those of stout heart to face danger and hardship in our cause.” He toasted the heroes, and all seemed right with the world. “To that end, my friends, I ask you for your assistance, which I dearly hope you will choose to grant.” He steepled his hands, as if emphasizing what was to be said. He looked at each hero in kind, taking their silence as interest to learn more. “You already know the Orc threat has been growing in the mountains,” he continued. “In Gundabad, in Moria, near the high passes. Like the Wild Men, the servants of the enemy grow ever more aggressive.” He took a sip of wine, and his voice grew more intense. “In fact, one such band threatens the peace of this very valley.” “I am uncertain of the band’s numbers, but I know they are led by a particularly large and gruesome specimen of their kind––a chieftain who goes by the name of ‘Mugash.’” Saruman pursed his lips as if the word was bitter. The heroes rose and spoke at once, proclaiming their willingness to destroy the Orc. Saruman waved them to their seats once more. “I am afraid it is more complicated than that,” the wizard sighed. “This chieftain, this ‘Mugash,’ has knowledge of his kin’s desires, of their movements, of their plans, and, most importantly, how they are receiving word from the east.” Saruman lowered his voice to a near whisper. “The task I request of you, is not to kill this specific Orc,” he curled his fingers to form a cage as he asked the impossible, “but to capture him.”
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