The Lords of the Ring

An Audience at Orthanc

‘My Lord Saruman.’ Héorl dropped to his knees before the wizard’s throne.

Saruman gestured for him to rise.

Around them, the tower of Orthanc rose, black stone into the night. What Héorl thought of as the throne room was filled with Men and Orcs – and some of this new breed, too, the Half-orcs that Saruman had used his wizardry to bring into the world.

What must it be like, thought Héorl, to have power enough to bring a new race into the world?

Saruman spoke, and the words filled Héorl with pride that such a man as Saruman would listen to him – to him!

‘How goes the work?’ Saruman asked.

Héorl rose at last, and stepped forward into a pool of light cast from the torches set into the walls of Saruman’s tower. ‘The men of the Dunlending fear us.’

‘As they should,’ said Saruman, and the moment Héorl heard it he knew it to be true. Why had he not seen it before? Were the Riders of the Mark not the bravest of all? If only Théoden would rouse himself from his lethargy and lead them to war, as he should! At least Éomer was out on the plains.

‘Does something pain you, my friend?’ asked the wizard, stepping forward into the light himself.

‘I… it would do no good to speak of it, my Lord,’ Heorl responded.

‘Please, set your mind at rest. There is nothing that you cannot speak of with me.’

‘I wish… Sometimes I wish that my King would ride to war again.’

Saruman sighed deeply. ‘His illness… his age… it cannot but be expected.’

‘Of course. Yet sometimes I wish that all could be as it was.’

‘A most excellent response. Most excellent.’ Héorl felt his breast swell with the thought, as Saruman walked down the steps towards him. ‘But I fear it is not to be, and that I must ask, even, for you to do more. With the King indisposed and Éomer busy in the East, it will fall to you to pacify the Dunlending.’

Héorl’s blond eyebrows pulled together slightly in his confusion.

‘But, my Lord… most of their villages are gone already. What else should I do?’

Saruman put an arm around his shoulder. Héorl turned with him and they walked towards the exit from Orthanc. ‘They must know of the power of the Rohirrim,’ Saruman said. Of course, thought Héorl. They were a savage people. Perhaps even the burning of their villages would not suffice.

Then they were at the door to the tower. Saruman’s orcs pulled the doors aside to reveal the great circle of Isengard, and Héorl once again was overcome by the sight.

Great towers of marble, copper, and iron linked together by heavy chains marked out the borders of each road crossing the deep bowl a mile across. Between the roads, great domes of stone were lit in red, blue, and green. As Héorl watched, steam vented from one of the domes.

He thought it quite the most beautiful thing that he had ever seen.

‘The Dunlending require a little more, before they will be willing to do what needs be done.’

‘To surrender, my Lord?’

Saruman smiled. ‘Indeed. To surrender utterly. They are almost there, I think.’

Héorl stood straighter, set his blue eyes to Saruman’s own. ‘Then tell me what I must do.’

‘They must know that the Riders of the Mark are a force to be reckoned with. To be feared. Double your attacks.’

‘My Lord, I have but a few men, the rest are with Éomer…’

‘It matters not,’ Saruman replied, cutting him off. ‘It will be enough. Things will unfold as I have foreseen. The Dunlending, so useless until now, will finally see what they must see. Double your attacks.’

‘Of course, my Lord. And any captives? Would you have them here, to aid in your great works?’

Saruman paused for a moment, staff in hand, and observed his domain. The sound of hammers and wheels, turning deep beneath the earth. The Orcs and Men, and those that contained a little of both practicing in formation. The carts bringing in fuel and raw materials.

Saruman turned to him, and Héorl knew that what he said would be true and right.

‘Burn them,’ said Saruman. ‘Burn them alive.’

Héorl bowed, and left to do his will.

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