Isengard was one of the most important towns in Middle Earth with a strategic geographical location. It was also the provisional capital of Rohan. It’s importance was comparable to China’s Tianjin, Shanghai and other municipalities.
As early as two decades ago, King Théoden, the king of Rohan, handed over the governance of Isengard to his good friend, Saruman the White. Saruman had kept his true nature well hidden. Only when he had Gandalf imprisoned did he reveal his true character. This should only happen more than half a year later.
(ED: Isengard is in fact a Gondorian fortress, and was never under the governance of any Rohirrim king, it was given to Saruman by the then Steward of Gondor, Beren. The author, like in many instances, has taken liberty to mess with the continuity here.)
After Isengard fell into Saruman’s hands, he found one of the Palantíri in the the Orthanc Tower. Because of his indulgence in the Palantír, his long-term use enabled Sauron’s will to gradually corrupt and change him.
At the same time, due to his fanatical research in the One Ring, he was also plunged into a mire of desire for power while he was researching forces of darkness. The reason he allied with Sauron was not because he was enslaved like a Ringwraith, but because of his burning ambition!
The real purpose of Saruman, without a doubt, was to take the One Ring for himself and rule the world instead of Sauron.
The reason why Sheyan, who lost the opportunity to complete the main mission, came to Isengard was very simple. He was looking for Saruman!
Presently, Saruman had yet to expose his true colours, so in the eyes of other people, he was still the respected Head of the White Council, the holy White Wizard. At the same time, it must be acknowledged that Isengard was indeed flourishing under the administration of Saruman, and the people under his rule were prosperous and happy.
This means that it wouldn’t be too difficult for Sheyan to meet him. Secondly, Saruman wouldn’t reveal his true nature at this time; more precisely, it wouldn’t be worth it for him to do so for Sheyan. This means that Sheyan was not under a great danger.
As for the risks brought about by previous conflicts, Sheyan had also given it some thought. But only the Uruk-hai Lurtz had faced him in a confrontation. Sheyan did not believe that Saruman would be bold enough to keep Lurtz by his side. Lurtz did not look like a human at all. If he kept someone like Lurtz beside him, Saruman would have lost his reputation long ago.
The cost to teleport from Eriador to Isengard was truly astronomical. Sheyan estimated that they had used up gemstones worth at least tens of thousands of platinum coins, if not more. When the four of them emerged from the transport formation and walked out of the hall, there were tax officers who registered their names and origins courteously. When the officers learned that they were merchants trading in Dwarven jewels, they were taxed an amount that was neither too high nor too low, and were then approved to descend the mountain into Isengard.
Looking at Isengard from above, the feeling it gave was one that was mysterious, grand and sad. However, near the city, although there were still a large number of monuments and ancient texts present to remind visitors of the ancient past of the place, the bustling streets and liveliness of the townsfolk gave this place an indescribable vitality.
The knights patrolling the streets all wore solemn faces while they slowly spurred their horses on. Needless to say, the knights were all tall and strong, but the more important thing was that the horses they rode were all pretty sturdy and muscular. The white breath spouting from their nostrils almost reached one meter in length. While they walked, the sturdy mass of muscles underneath their skin would make an elegant squirming motion, demonstrating a powerful explosiveness.
It can be seen that these patrolling knights had a good relationship with the merchants on the street. They greeted them from time to time. Many merchants even took out food to feed the horses. It was eye-opening to see the horses eat almost anything they were fed with, be it eggs, bread, cereal, hay, bacon….
Melody had spent her entire live in Rivendell before this. She had just experienced the gentle, warm and passionate Shire, then witnessed the cruel and harsh Eriador. Now that she reached the bustling but orderly Isengard, she could not help but be amazed.
As he enjoyed the city’s well-organized flow and observed Isengard’s vitality and order, Sheyan thought for a while and nodded. He did not do anything else but directly asked someone for the direction to the largest jewelry shop in Isengard.
“Uh, a total of about 4,000 strangers came to Isengard today. 67 strangers arrived through the teleport formation. Among those 67 individuals, there were three people who we need to pay special attention to. We will dispatch 6 groups to keep surveillance tomorrow.”
“Wait, why were there only three? I remember there was a group of people who were also quite suspicious. They are a group of four. Two of them seem to be battle-hardened warriors, and one should be a mage. The last one is the girl who look ordinary, but there’s a powerful natural force in the longbow that’s on her back. It may be a treasure of the Elves.”
“We have already investigated this group of people. They stated that their business in Isengard was to trade in jewelries and we have confirmed that was indeed the case. After they entered the city, they visited six jewellers and magical item stores. The gemstones they brought were also high in quality.”
“That doesn’t clear them of all suspicion. I suspect that their jewels were stolen from Eriador. The place is still in an uproar.”
“I know, but a jewel that this group of people brought had caught the attention of Lord Gansdore. It was supposedly a stone with a strange soul imbued in it. Since the chief wizard under Lord Saruman is watching them, there is no need for us to waste precious human resources on them.”
“You’re right, sir.”
The Lord Gansdore mentioned by the spies was currently walking into Orthanc Tower. He respectfully bowed outside the magical laboratory. He showed no reaction to the vague screaming voices occasionally escaping from within. He knew that if he wanted to maintain his position beside Lord Saruman, he must learn to forget things that he should not see nor hear.
Gansdore was not the most powerful of Saruman’s subordinates, but he was the most cautious, and the one with the tightest lips. These were the reasons why he could keep his position for a long time.
Gansdore waited for half an hour, but his expression remained respectful. Even the angle of his bow was consistent. After a while, the door of the laboratory opened. A silent attendant stood before him.
“The great Lord Saruman will have his afternoon tea in 10 minutes. You have 1 minute to talk to the lord. ”
Gansdore nodded, straightened his back, and walked into a room next to him.
After he opened the door of the room, what appeared in front of him was a corridor. The marble pillars on both sides of the corridor looked like soldiers standing guard. Purple ivy climbed up in every direction to cleverly form a garden. There was even a sun in the sky. The shadows of leaves on the ground were dyed in a blush of bloody red.
From time to time there were servants shuttling through the corridor. Many of them were half-orcs. They were all tall and had dark brown skin. They did not have the kind of unpleasant smell one would expect, but instead had their hair tied up with leather buckles, decorated with some white bone ornaments. The half-orcs all looked numb and expressionless.
At the end of the corridor was another door engraved with words of praises for the gods and the angels. Through the door was Saruman’s reception room. This was a comfortable space. The ground was laid with a dark brown shiny bearskin. Stepping on it gave a sensation similar to stepping on soft grass.
The air was filled with the savory aroma of pepper, cinnamon, licorice, and pods. They can effectively help the wizards clear their minds and and recover their magic power. The stained glass around the living room depicted the rise of the Rohan kingdom. The wall lamps were shaped like angels, showering a gentle glow on all sides.
This was the mysterious magic tower personally laid out by Saruman. In this tower, he could experience the comforts enjoyed by kings.
Gansdore knelt on the bear skin and was careful not to look around with his eyes. He constantly maintained an attitude of humility. After a few minutes, an unusually tall wizard with a flowing white beard and long white hair stepped into the room. He was dressed in a spotless white robe and his eyes were deep and sharp like an eagle’s. He sat on a luxurious sofa in the very middle of the room, took the mahogany pipe next to the sofa, and lit himself a full serving of tobacco. He took a deep puff and immersed himself in the rich aroma for quite a while before saying.
“Tell me why you have come.”
Gansdore simply took out a beautiful purse. The clanking of coins could be heard within. He then crouched on the ground and said.
“There are 3,000 platinum coins in this purse, my lord. This is a fee paid to me by a man claiming to be a jeweller. He only required me to do two things.”
“Oh,” said Saruman as he spewed a cloud of smoke. He closed his eyes and continued, “I appreciate your loyalty and honesty, but this topic bores me, so I’ll shorten the time for this meeting.”
Gansdore produced another pouch.
“This is the first thing that the person wanted me to bring you, my lord. He claimed that the jewels inside came from another world – yes, another world, not another country. I made sure to confirm that was what he meant.”
Saruman waved his hand and the bag fell off, exposing an egg-size, dark transparent crystal that swiveled slowly in front of his eyes. The crystal was so dark that it appeared eerie.
“Interesting. I hear the fragile soul crying in this crystal. This is indeed not a product of Middle Earth. However, the soul in this soul crystal is too weak. It does not interest me at all. You have fifteen seconds left.”
“That person said that if my lord is not interested in the first item, then please give this box to you. Regardless of what your reaction may be, the platinum coins in the purse are all mine.”
“Where’s the box?” asked Saruman impatiently.