Author’s Note” For this part, we’re going to have to pretend some things. First, pretend that Saruman had an apprentice. You and I both know that he really didn’t, for the sake of the story, pretend he did, because, you see, without Saruman’s “apprentice,” we have no antagonist, and with no antagonist, we have no plot. Bear with me and read on.
At the top of Minas Morgul, at the room in the highest tower, a lean figure cloaked in red sat with his back to the door. With a creak, he perceived that the door behind him had opened and he knew instantly who came to him.
“What news do you bring, Nazzog?” he asked, in a breathy voice. Nazzog, a tall, lean orc with gold rings all they way up his ears, stepped forth.
“We have gathered the two halflings, lord,” he said. “Shall we prepare the rack?”
“No,” the man in red replied, “see what information they will give freely. Then prepare the rack. Did you find the third?”
“The Elvish one? Nay, lord,” Nazzog quaked.
“And why not?” said the man in a dangerous tone.
“The Elf is fast and learned,” Nazzog said. “We are working as fast as time permits.”
“And what of our captive? How much longer?” the man inquired, releasing the subject of the Elvish intruder, much to the relief of Nazzog.
“A few more treatments in the mud, and the ceremony, and she will be one of us, lord,” Nazzog answered.
“Prepare the pits for her,” the man said, “I will speak to her. You may go.”
“Lord, may I venture to ask how much longer till we rise?” Nazzog asked.
“Be patient, the time is nigh,” the man said, “Soon we will avenge Lord Saruman, and I will take his place. I, his apprentice, shall prove greater than he.”
“Yes, lord,” echoed Nazzog.
“Now, go,” ordered the man.
With a boom of the door, Nazzog was gone. The tower was silent.
* * *
Merry could not believe his eyes. Lady Arias was standing outside the cell door, whispering one her door-opener spells, and within moments, she was inside the cell and embracing both hobbits.
“I was so worried…” she said and then stopped, for the sound of pounding orc feet was drawing near.
“Come,” Arias whispered, and motioned for them to slip under her cloak, “we must go get Aewen. I promised.” And so they silently slunk down the corridor and up the steps. Surprised orcs voices followed them. They began walking more quickly, still trying to stay silent, in the direction of Aewen’s cell.
The Elf was asleep on the floor. Arias shook her awake and she slipped under the cloak as well. They were very lucky and encountered no orcs on their way. They were in the middle of the great hall when an icy voice met their ears.
“Just where do you think you’re going?”
Arias froze and Aewen began to tremble.
“Yes, I can see you,” the voice continued. In the glowingness of invisible air, Arias saw a blackened figure stretch out its hand. Boom. Each door, in turn, closed around them. Trapped.