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8
Competition

Competition


Saruman was aware when Aiwendil arrived in Middle Earth. He was now visiting in Gondor, staying in a house in Lamedon belonging to a local lord. He’d been going through the Man’s library. “Of course,” the lord was saying, “the greatest library in the land is in Osgiliath, although I understand much of it is being moved to Minas Anor to the caverns there under the Citadel. I am told it is much dryer there for the documents and books than it is over the River. I am told the only greater library in Middle Earth is in Imladris, in the house of the Lord Elrond.”

The awareness that Eärendil had touched down on the waters of the Sundering Sea on this side of the Straight Path struck him, and he realized he was no longer the only one of his kind in the Mortal Lands.

“Lord Curunír?”

The Wizard lifted his face to look blankly at the Man standing beside him.

“I beg pardon, Lord Curunír. Are you well, my lord?”

Saruman shook his head somewhat. “No--merely listening to the words carried on the wind.” He straightened. “The mortal lands have accepted a new resident, is all. Now, you say that this scroll tells part of how it was that the Enemy, in the guise of Annatar, the Lord of Gifts, came to Celebrimbor and convinced him he could teach him the craft of forging Rings of Power?”

“Yes. It is as it was told to Celeborn, who later became Lord of the Golden Wood.”

“And how is it that it came into your keeping?”

“My ancestor fought in the Battle of Dagorlad, there before the Black Gate, and saved the life of one of the Elves who followed Gil-galad from the northlands. This he’d borne out of the fall of Eregion, finding it in the former household of Celeborn and Galadriel, and gave it to my ancestor, grateful that his children must not mourn his loss to the Halls of Mandos.”

The Wizard rolled through the ancient scroll. It was written on pieces of parchment carefully sewn together and rolled onto wooden rods of a remarkably silver hue. “It is but a portion of the story.”

“So I have found in my own study of the scroll. It appears that Lord Celeborn was in the process of copying the tale to this, a second scroll, from the original, which

I must suspect he carried with him to Laurelindórenan when he and his household fled there.”

“So, in order to read the entire record, I must approach those who dwell in the hidden land.”

“So my ancestor deduced, and I have come to the same conclusion.”

The Wizard’s face went stony. “I must not let those who follow me take from me the glory of defeating him!” he muttered in Adûnaic. “They are all sent by others, while I have come by my own will. I will not be bested by the rest. I will be the one to accomplish this task! I will be the one!”

“My lord?” The lord from Lamedon’s eyes were concerned, for he did not understand the language used.

“Do not concern yourself. I merely speak to myself. The Shadow will rise again, I fear, unless it is opposed.”

“Surely not!” the Man responded, in shock at the idea.

Saruman turned to look into the Man’s eyes. “Not in your lifetime will it come to dominance once more, perhaps; but it will rise again, and must be opposed.”

“My family stood against the Enemy before and within Mordor; and, it is said, did similarly long ago before the walls of Angband under the command of Elros Tar-Minyatur. If the Shadow is to rise again, I would have those of my descendants who live in those days follow suit.”

Saruman had to curb the desire to curl his lip in derision. “You, a mortal, would think to challenge the might of one of the Powers?” he asked.

“Only if all stand against him together, as it was done before, will he be defeated anew, Lord Curunír--of this am I certain.”

Saruman looked on the Man with disgust. But how was a simple Man to understand that such power as Sauron would wield the next time he rose must be met with equal or greater strength? “I see,” he managed to say with some semblance of courtesy, “how your mind works. But to think mere Men would be able to withstand the might of such a one as Sauron once he rises again....” He shrugged eloquently.

*


After he left Lamedon he went to Minas Anor and visited the archives there. At the moment there was little enough, mostly documents related to the founding of the city or the confirmation of Meneldil as Lord of Minas Anor and the King of Gondor as the heir of his father Anárion as well as the administrative records of the city since its founding. He could see the readying being done for the removal of the library of Osgiliath to this place, and already one shipment of books had been received. His offer to aid in the cataloguing and arrangement of the books, scrolls, and documents received was accepted, although he paid most attention to those larger scrolls that dealt with the founding and destruction of Eregion, the known trade done between the Elven lands and those of the Dwarves, and what had been saved of descriptions of dealings of Men, Dwarves, and Elves with the one known as Annatar, Lord of Gifts, or the capture of Sauron by the fleet of Ar-Pharazôn.

Two scrolls he examined had been brought to Middle Earth by Isildur’s folk, describing in Adûnaic the arrival of Sauron in Númenor, his abasement before Ar-Pharazôn, and his gradual displacement of the King’s more responsible counselors, the gradual but steady corruption of an already unstable ruler, the building of the temple to Morgoth.... He was appalled by what he read, but also fascinated. The detailed description of the manipulation of the King by the twisted Maia kept his attention riveted.

Since taking the shape he now bore, Saruman kept for himself little enough memory of how it had been in the days he and Sauron served in the forges and smithies and workshops of Aulë. He did remember the swiftness with which his fellow had understood concepts and skills taught them and how he’d found new uses and purposes for what was wrought, many of them destructive beyond understanding. As Curumo, he’d been deeply impressed by the quick mind of his brother, and had been somewhat in awe of the manner in which he who became Sauron could always find a way to use something destructively.

As Curumo he’d also felt the attractive power of Melkor, but had feared that power as he’d been well aware that the Vala could easily have destroyed him if he wished; and the one thing stronger than Curumo’s attraction to power was his sense of self-preservation. Most of the Maiar who’d followed Morgoth had lost their sense of self and, as Ossë had pointed out, had forgotten what they’d been created with the ability to do. So many had been lost once they took on the shapes Morgoth had taught them, for one needed to be extraordinarily powerful to remember it was but a shape assumed and not the entire scope of one’s reality. Sauron had been different, able (and willing) to shift from shape to shape and back again, and thus lose himself as little as possible in but one form.

One of these two scrolls from Númenor Saruman was able to secrete inside his robes and so bore it away with him, and he studied it assiduously. In later days he was to make copies of it as well as the scroll he’d taken from the lesser lord in Lamedon whose name he never afterward remembered; and with great show of his magnanimity he’d donated copies of each back to the library archive in Minas Anor; but by then he’d convinced himself he’d brought these with him from the Lonely Isle.

*******


He left Minas Anor not going north as he’d originally intended, but east, seeking to learn in what condition those lands had been left. There was still watch kept on the Black Lands at the Black Gate, and the guards set upon the lands had allowed him to enter the ruins of Mordor to examine them for himself.

Orodruin was quiescent, its peak bare rock and ash under the light of day. Saruman could not find the entrance to the Sammath Naur, for in the torments visited upon the Mountain when the Ring had been cut from Sauron’s hand it had vomited forth a last flow of ash and molten rock that had covered that side of the volcano’s flank to a depth of many feet.

Dressed stone from Barad-dûr could be found miles from the site of the tower; but most of it lay heaped in a solid hill of the stuff almost a quarter mile high over its foundations, and those, he sensed, were yet intact. He could not find the entrance to the dungeons or storerooms of the place for he could not bodily shift the massive building stones himself. He called upon the power held within his staff to move one, and managed it in the end, but felt weak as if he’d been laboring mightily once he had it moved sufficiently clear of the place to feel able to shift others.

In the end he’d stood in awe at what Sauron had managed to build here, in awe and in envy, for he realized he was unlikely to ever leave so lasting a monument in his own right. But as yet another night approached while he stood looking at the little he’d managed to set aright of the rubble left by the downfall of his failed brother he’d shivered, for the malice that lingered yet in the Black Land tormented him.

Now he remembered that malice--the malice and the ambition of he who’d been known as Aulendil before he was given the name of Sauron, he who could not bear to be bested at anything, he who would brook no competition. Only one among their number had ever been able to equal Sauron’s abilities; but Olórin had never harbored ambition. Had he come here to the mortal lands Olórin could perhaps have encouraged others to come together to build a tower sufficient to leave behind such a pile of rubble; but he would have had it built not in black or even grey, but most likely of parti-color stone, a work not to demonstrate his personal power over others, but more likely of caprice, a work to excite wonder and humor rather than mere awe. Then, once it was done, Olórin would not have lingered to live there in that tower, but would have left it to others to enjoy while he turned to another work.

How one as capable of might and power as Olórin could be so light hearted Saruman could not imagine, but he knew it to be true. The use of his staff to move the great stone had brought back the awareness of a memory of Olórin from the time beneath the Light of the Trees. The Maia had come into Aulë’s forge where gems were wrought. Fëanor had been there that day, seeking to learn how to bind Light into jewels. Several times before Olórin’s arrival had the great Smith demonstrated the technique, and once more after his entrance. Olórin had watched closely, as fascinated as any of the other Maiar or Elves present; then he’d gathered together simple black carbon and a smattering of silica and cobalt, and had pressed it together as had been demonstrated by Aulë, holding it so for some time before releasing it and capturing the Light he wished held in it and introducing it, then sculpting it into the shape of a great flower. Not completely satisfied with it, however, he’d taken it away and brought it to Lady Varda, and with her help coaxed the Light to shine not within it as much as throughout it.

An Elven child, an elleth, the daughter of Arafinwë (or Finarfin, as he’d been known in these lands), had seen that floral jewel and had been as fascinated with it as she was with the Maia who’d brought it forth from the forges to seek out Varda’s cooperation. Once the Light was fixed to the satisfaction of Olórin she’d asked him how it was done, and he’d told her, his instruction augmented by that of the Star-kindler. He’d told the secret of the Light of the gem to a child! What kind of irresponsibility was that? And then he’d enlisted the elleth to gift it to Yavanna, having her represent it as the product of her consort’s forge and leaving out his own involvement in its construction.

When later Yavanna had been seen with the great gem fixed in her hair, smiling upon him she’d taken as husband, Olórin had watched from a distance with satisfaction, accepting Yavanna’s thanks once she’d learned the full tale of its making with a dismissive wave of the hand. There had been some tension between the Lady of Growth and the Lord of Earth prior to the gift of the floral gem, a tension that had been relieved in part by its presentation; full communication and communion had been restored in part by the Maia’s manipulation of events, and both of the Valar had been grateful for Olórin’s assistance in effecting a full reconciliation.

Curumo had worked to try to equal the floral gem constructed by Olórin, but his jewel seemed small and paltry in his own eyes by comparison; and when Finarfin’s daughter had seen it and praised it he’d felt her admiration feigned, for he knew it could not begin to rival what Olórin had wrought. He dismissed her praise and broke the gem, leaving its component carbon and other ingredients in the containers from which he’d taken them, and freeing its Light. Never again had he sought to make another such thing, seeking instead knowledge of how to construct machines to ease labor, knowledge of which Olórin had never sought as far as Curumo was aware.

Shivering in the dark of the deepening night, he who’d been Curumo and was now known as Saruman and Curunír turned his back on the ruins of the great fortress tower of Barad-dûr and left the land Sauron had taken and left ruined, unaware that not all the malice he sensed was merely the lingering shadow of his fallen brother, but due in part to a watching Nazgûl, for he who’d once been known as Khamûl had seen him and recognized in him the same ambition he’d known when he was merely a mortal Man, King of a fell people long taken by Sauron and twisted to new purposes. He watched the leaving of this Maia in a Man’s form, and once that one had finally passed through the gates of what had been and would again be Sauron’s own realm he flittered away from the environs of the Black Tower, off to seek the place where his Master hid, seeking healing for himself before rebuilding his power base.

*******


Lord Elrond examined his guest. “Have you located yet where he is?”

“I sense he is far south and east of us, perhaps in the ruins of the Enemy’s great fortress. He examines the remains of a great wall, and speaks with Men of war.” Radagast’s expression was intent with concentration. “He ignores my attempts to summon him that I might present myself for his inspection and direction.”

“Then I suggest,” Elrond said, “you find a place suitable for your own abilities and contentment and begin your work. The Elves of Middle Earth will delight to aid you in your task of strengthening the earth, beasts, and birds against the depredations of the Enemy; and you will even meet some among Men and other peoples who feel the same. When Saruman returns to the northern lands you may meet with him at that time.”

Radagast sighed. It was what he wanted to do, but somehow not contacting Curumo first seemed wrong to him. However, not having any choice in the matter he set out to follow Elrond’s suggestions, first going south to the Gap of Rohan and then traveling north up the valley of the Anduin, finally finding a place near the Carrock that felt comfortable to him; and began calling to him the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth to learn of the places deepest hurt where his aid was most strongly needed.

*******


Far to the east traveled Curumo, seeing lands so far beyond Mordor that they knew nothing of Gondor or Arnor save for the rumor of rumors. In those lands closest to Mordor there was a feeling of desolation. So long had the people of these lands endured under the thumb of Sauron that they had no idea how to act without direction. This left them easy prey to tyrants and dictators, and he saw many excesses of violence and oppression. The further east he went the more delicate the web of tyranny, or so he found. In this land women were considered the chattel of their fathers or husbands, and might be given to whomever might be willing to pay the most for the pleasure of enjoying their bodies and directing the least significant aspects of their lives. In that one slavery was endemic, to the extent that perhaps but one Man in a thousand would be considered free to direct his own life as well as those under his control. In another those who held the land where water was found controlled the destinies of thousands they would never see face to face. In still another the birth of a female child before the couple had produced one or more sons was considered a capital crime. The sheer inventiveness of those who delighted in the misery of others fascinated the Wizard.

In a land of cold deserts he was welcomed into the felt tent of the ruler of the land.

“Enter and take your ease, Lord,” his host bade him. “I will have my wives and concubines and daughters bring you refreshment, and water in which to bathe. You may rest on the extra cushions of my own quarters, and remain as long as you will. However, I must deal with one requiring judgment. Perhaps once you have bathed and had some food and drink you would care to see? You might find it entertaining.”

As evening fell he joined his host in the presence room, accepting a place where he might recline upon cushions. Two young women and three girls who could not as yet have begun their menses brought him a goblet of the drink of the place, fermented mare’s milk, and fruits of such variety they must have been brought hundreds of leagues from the more protected and fertile lands in which they grew and ripened. One of the women and two of the girls had eyes red with weeping, and the eyes of the other woman were full of carefully suppressed fury. The last girl would not meet his eyes, her expression carefully blank.

His host struck a gong, and armed Men, barely more than boys, came in, half carrying between them a strong Man naked to the waist and clad lower down only in a breech clout, one who had been imprisoned in heavy manacles and chains, and who had been repeatedly beaten over several days.

The prisoner’s face was remarkably similar to that of the one who sat in the carven seat of the ruler of this people, proud and full of fury and even pity. He was drawn to his feet, and the Wizard could see one arm had been broken, that there were massive bruises on his abdomen and torso indicating he’d been repeatedly kicked, his ragged breath indicated he undoubtedly had suffered a broken rib, and one hip was out of its socket. Yet he held his tongue until his judge finally spoke.

“Well, brother, will you bow down and worship me as your Ghantsi?”

He who had to be held up gave a bitter if wretched laugh. “Worship you as Ghantsi? You who must take from me all that made life sweet, who holds our people as very slaves to your will, who takes our sisters to your bed merely to deny them the marriages they would prefer to make, who slew our mother that she not reproach you for the murder of her husband and now her elder son? You may have taken the title of Ghantsi with my imprisonment and our father’s death, but you will know little pleasure of it, I suspect. For you will find there is always one stronger than you, one more clever than you, waiting for your guard to drop sufficiently to treat you as you have me. Or perhaps one of our sisters will wait until you have sated yourself on her and finally sleep in her bedplace, and then will place a fine blade between your ribs, even as our aunt did with our uncle before she named our father Ghantsi in his place.

“Nay, brother, I worship none who walk the earth in the shape of Men and who must make water against the wall--and certainly not you. Nor will I give you the satisfaction of begging for my life. Better to be dead than under your ungentle hand.”

Saruman left the royal compound the next day, and passed the condemned brother’s broken body staked out on the dried earth beyond the last tent. He’d thought the Man dead until one slitted eye opened further and looked at him. Past broken teeth and burst lips he whispered, “And such as you witness the evil done by the likes of my brother and protest not? I spit on you!”

Deeply troubled, Saruman at last turned his path westward once again.

*


He was within the nearer eastern lands when he heard the tread of horses approaching. He no longer rode the fine bay he’d purchased a half-day’s walk west of Amon Sûl; nor even the finer black he’d received as a gift from the lesser lord of Lamedon he’d robbed of the unfinished scroll. Far to the east he’d found a warrior lying wounded and had made shift to offer him healing and aid. After five days, more of the Man’s own kind had come and offered to take over the care of the warrior, and the leader of the party had given him the wounded Man’s spotted horse with its rough, thick coat. Two days later the party passed him, the wounded warrior’s head spitted on a lance.

The spotted horse paused at the sound of approaching hoofbeats, neighing in concern. Saruman, who’d learned much of caution in his journey east, slipped from the saddle and drew it and the black he led behind the ruins of a caravansary left to fall back into sand and dust once the oasis that had supported it had gone dry.

Two riders approached in robes of blue, each carrying what appeared to be a staff in his hand. Reassured, Saruman emerged from his hiding place and greeted them.

“It is good to see you, brother,” said Pallando. “You have ridden into the lands to the east?”

“Indeed,” Saruman answered them. “Why do you go there first?”

Alatar shrugged. “It was our Lord Oromë’s will we do so, and do what we can to shift the primary allegiances of the peoples of those lands away from Mordor and so slow the return of Sauron to power.”

“Now that certain news of the whereabouts of Sauron is not known, most in the eastern lands have fallen prey to predators among their own kind,” the White Wizard told them. “It will be no mean feat to turn them from such lives to a semblance of civilization once more, you will find. At least one good was known under Sauron’s rule--these barbarians knew some degree of order under him instead of each small enclave seeking its own form of depravity.” He made no effort to hide the level of the disgust he knew from his long journey.

The two Blue Wizards looked to one another in dismay. “Then it appears we will have our work cut out for us,” Pallando said at last.

“Even so,” Saruman agreed.

The three made a camp together that night, and Saruman shared with them some of the conditions he’d found.

“What would you advise, then, as perhaps the best strategy with which to approach these lands?” asked Alatar.

Saruman shrugged. “That is hard to say. Perhaps find the one government in the eastern lands that offers the greatest level of stability, and assist it to take control over the rest, then seek to advise the rulers to a benevolent rather than tyrannical rule,” he suggested.

Alatar and Pallando could not question the wisdom of such advice. “It is at least a goal that cannot only be hoped for but is possible to attain,” Alatar noted.

After three days together the two Blue Wizards finally mounted their horses and headed again eastward, while Saruman wended his own way west past the Black Gate to the Anduin, then ferried across the Great River at Cair Andros to travel northward paralleling as much as possible the river’s course, examining more of the lands that had fallen loosely under the governance of Arnor.

*******


“You will not invite him to enter our lands?” asked Celeborn of his wife.

Galadriel Artanis shook her head. “If he can see our land and find his way to and across our borders I would not see him denied hospitality; but I will not lead pride such as his and the envy he holds willingly to the heart of Caras Galadhon.”

“You have seen him in the Mirror and your dreams?”

“Greatness is in him; but whether that greatness will lead him to full service or the will for total domination cannot yet be told.”

“The Valar would send such a one to us here in the Mortal Lands? But of what aid will such be should Sauron again seek to rise to power?”

“He knows much of Sauron’s nature, for they served together under Aulë for long ages before the poisoning of the Trees. He can give us much insight into the mind of the Enemy, you will find, if he can be persuaded it is to his advantage.”

“And you remember him from that time?”

“Even so, beloved of my heart.” She went quiet, then recalled an event. “Lord Aulë, at Fëanor’s insistence, was teaching how to create jewels of Light. Because his own creation, as wondrous as it was, could not rival that of Olórin’s, one Olórin must in the end enlist the aid of Varda to properly capture the Light within it, he destroyed the work of his own hands as unworthy. Totally his own it was, and a marvelous creation. Yet he would not see it in his own mind or imagine it judged inferior to the work of another, so he broke it. And so in the end the one to fully master the art of capturing and displaying Light within his gems was a mere Elf and not, after all, one of the Maiar.”

Celeborn’s laugh was bitter enough. “To speak of Fëanor of the Noldor as a ‘mere Elf’ must be akin to likening the falls of Rauros to a trickle from a spring over a rockface, Vanimelda.”

Galadriel’s own laugh was freer in spirit. “Indeed, beloved.” She grew more serious. “Perhaps had he known more serious competition from the Maiar studying then at the Smith’s side, my kinsman would have known more humility and not have valued the work of his hands beyond the honor of his family and the safety of all the peoples of Middle Earth.”

In the end Saruman did not see the golden Light of Laurelindórenan, and rode over the Dimrill Stair unaware he’d just missed the realm he sought. As his presence disappeared beyond Caradhras, Galadriel breathed a long-held sigh of relief.

*******


As he walked eastward from Mithlond, the one now called Gandalf, the Man with the Staff, looked on the lands abandoned by the Elves and the ruins of Cardolan with dismay. Once these lands had been thriving, wilderlands and great cities and pleasant villages side by side, each turn in the road bringing a new delight--this he remembered from the days before the downfall of Angband when he’d on occasion ridden behind Oromë, and from his secret journeys here over much of the last three thousand years. He could see how Radagast had already begun the labor of healing the lands he passed through as he followed his own path through what remained of Arnor. He felt the fertile fields of what had been Cardolan mourning the loss of the husbandmen who’d once tilled them and nursed the fruits of their open spaces and orchards.

Lindon was all but empty of Elven settlements, and no longer did Entwives visit the orchards they’d planted alongside those of Elves in these fair places; and now even the attempts of the Dúnedain of Cardolan had failed. Gandalf sensed this was fairly recent, probably since the coming of Curumo to Middle Earth. Had the first among their order so failed as to see the destruction of a land and people? Concerned, Gandalf hurried onwards along the remains of the East-West Road.

He came to where the Road forked, and took the one that at the moment appeared to go more directly, headed now for the Baranduin at its nearest point. He sometimes lost the track, but found the vistas beautiful as he traveled through a land of rolling hills and valleys, filled mostly with calm rivers and shallow streams that flowed joyfully to join with the Baranduin. A lovely land, a gentle place he judged, and he quietly determined to see it peopled once again, if possible by an agrarian folk that would appreciate its nature.

At last he came to what had obviously been a landing for a barge used to ferry folk across the river, and he saw at last what had been the site of the royal enclave of Cardolan. Once there had been a royal city here that had fallen into disrepair, in time becoming a few loosely connected villages along a road that had once been the main boulevard of the King’s seat.

The ridge on which the King’s House had been built was crowned now with swiftly moldering ruins; the one building still recognizable was what had been the King’s mill.

Olórin explored the ruins, and grieved for the hopes of glory that had died here. In spite of the defeat of first Morgoth and then Sauron, the people of this land had fallen prey to envy and a desire for power, and had fought constantly with its sister-land of Rhudaur for the control of Amon Sûl and the Weather Hills. And now this land, at least, was lost, its royal line apparently destroyed at the last.

At last he came to the border of the land, where a low stone wall marked the boundary between what had been the royal seat of Cardolan and the Old Forest, and began exploring the valley of the Withywindle. Now and then one of the trees would challenge him, but he found laughter disconcerted them. And so he began singing a song he’d heard earlier in the age among the small folk of the valley of the Anduin, a nonsense song of a fish that loved a bird, with the two seeking to decide where they’d build a nest. The trees appeared to be listening to him and stayed calm, and not even the ancient willow at the heart of the forest sought to do him harm.

“Hey now, a-hoy now, down down a-dillo!” he heard in the distance. Gandalf smiled. It had been a long time since he’d seen Iarwain, and he looked forward to seeing how Middle Earth was dealing with the Eldest.

They met a quarter mile past the willow, and Iarwain paused in his singing, raising his eyebrow in surprise. “Old Man Willow allowed you past him, Olórin? Is the poor tree losing its malice, then?”

The Grey Wizard laughed. “I think I confused the fellow by also singing. Perhaps he thought I was you in a change of appearance.”

Iarwain joined in the laughter. “So, that’s how you did it. No, he cannot understand humor, I find, and acknowledges my mastery. Many who wandered into the Old Forest from Cardolan have I rescued from his wiles.” His laughter failed, and his expression became stern. “And now that land is no more. Why did your masters send Curumo here?”

“I am told he offered himself for the service.”

Iarwain snorted. “He would be seen as the hero who in the end brings down the servants of the Shadow, would he? Nay, brother, if that is to be done, it must be as it was before, because all of good will and a desire for freedom to find their own way and to allow others the same right fight side by side. Can he not see that? Nay, instead he guards not his tongue when those of ill will seek information on the movements of the King’s son.”

Gandalf went utterly still in surprise. “You know this? How?”

“The wind speaks to me, as do those of good will who keep an eye on the doings at the crossroads village in the Breelands. He was impolitic at best.”

However, Iarwain could not hold onto solemnity for long. “At any rate, it is long since I had converse with those who have also studied at the side of Irmo. Come with me and meet my beloved Lady Goldberry. Come, my friend, and rejoice as our guest tonight, and tell me all you are able of the gossip of our brothers.”

And, singing together, they went back down the path to Iarwain’s home. As they traveled, Gandalf was glad for the nonsense of the lyrics of the singing, for his mind was busy considering the import of what he’d been told of Curumo’s earliest dealings within Middle Earth.

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