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Scourge of Isengard
Fogstep slowed to a walk. I decided against spurring him on, giving him a break from the steady canter we’d held for fifteen minutes. I was just as sore as he, having ridden off and on since afternoon. Be I walking him through a marsh or cantering through an open field, we had been traveling literally all day. My gray pony’s breath came out in gasping puffs, visible in the chill air. Night had fallen about an hour ago, and I was now walking through a moderately dense. It was not so thick, though, that the night sky was obscured. Which I appreciated--the stars looked like the shrapnel of a diamond’s explosion on a velvety blue canvas. Here and there brown clumps of cloud floated in indifferent abandon, promising a possible rain in the night. I allowed myself and Fogstep a quiet moment of self-appreciation. We had traveled from Minas Tirith to Isengard, almost a five hundred-mile trip, in only a month. For a moment I almost convinced myself that I was the fleetest messenger under the rule of Denethor.
My moment of pride was ruined when my attention came to an oddly silvered cloud.
My heart jumped to my throat. Sensing my sudden terror, Fogstep sped to a nervous trot. ,Looking ahead, I saw the very crown of Isengard’s tower above the treetops. I was too close. That cloud would move any moment. Fast as my pony was, I would be even faster. There’s no way I could get away in time. I should have left at night a month ago, gotten a good look at the moon! Only one thing I could do now...
The cloud shifted, revealing more shafts of moonlight.
Feeling the blood pulse in my temples, I rather sharply pulled Fogstep to a stop. Shaking with adrenaline, I dismounted and smacked my pony’s dappled arse. Giving a snort of indignant surprise, he bolted. As my vision fogged with red, the last conscious image I saw were his galloping flanks. A sign of retreat turned my blood to fire, my instinct urging me to give chase. Despite my feverish eagerness, I suddenly felt nauseous, wobbling and toppling onto the unforgivingly damp leaf litter. I felt myself become an abomination.
Saruman stormed down the stairs from his chambers at Isengard’s crown. When a sniveling orc came up to him and bowed to the floor, the wizard was in such a mood that he almost slayed him on the spot. But his cooler side won over, and convinced him that this would be important if an orc would come all the way up here to tell him something. Most of the time they were not permitted past the twenty-fifth floor.
“Speak, you twit,” snapped Saruman, his frustration at losing Gandalf bleeding into his tone. He should have taken more precautions! If he could have broken that foolish wizard, he would have been a formidable ally. But now Saruman’s secret was out, and now it would only be a matter of time before news of his betrayal spread. The orc flinched in awe of the wizard.
“There is trouble below, sire,” he stammered, eyes darting nervously as if he didn’t want to be the bearer of bad news.
“What kind of trouble?” demanded Saruman, tiring of the orc’s clumsy respect. The blood in wizard and orc alike ran cold at the next note.
A long, bloody howl, long and clear and primal.
“Rally the Uruk-Hai.” ordered Saruman flatly, storming past so that his underling wouldn’t be able to see the fear in his eyes.
“But they are rallied--” insisted the orc, but Saruman was already rushing down the stairs with a fleetness one wouldn’t expect in such an elderly specimen. He was down in five minutes, but by then the wolf was really on a roll.
He saw it across the workyards, on the precipice of one of the chasms that held his war machines. Even from this far away he could hear its infuriated roars and see the hulking furred creature, silhouetted in the moonlight as it ripped the oncoming bipedal figures to shreds. Casting a basic-level teleportation spell in his head, Saruman suddenly found himself behind the animal. Though his dominant logical side screamed at the uncharacteristically bad idea, he found himself in awe for a frozen moment soon forgotten in the oncoming pandemonium.
As if in slow motion, he beheld it turning towards him, perfectly rippled muscles blanketed in shaggy auburn fur. A long muzzle crinkled in a snarl, revealing sublimely chiseled fangs tainted by crimson. Reaching digits with long claws sharp enough to befit that of a mountain cat rather than a canine. But those eyes, burning embers of orange with pupils dilated almost to the point of nonexistence. Those eyes that contained all the rage and ferocity of generations of werewolves, the eyes that knew nothing but three words: crush, kill, destroy.
It pounced at him, ending the magical instant to Saruman’s unprecedented dismay. But fortunately for him, his reflex still worked while he was busy observing the monster that was about to dice him. Swinging his staff up and out, he clobbered the beast upside the head with its mace-like head, sending the monster reeling and giving him time to back up to a safe range. Turning from the limited forces of working orcs and Uruk-Hai it had been merrily bashing moments earlier, the werewolf now turned its attention to a new, more promising opponent. Squelching his inner fear, Saruman regarded this threat with a glacial look in his obsidian eyes. Raising his staff, he muttered High Elvish under his breath, voice a composed baritone even as the beast charged toward him at a surprising speed. At the last moment the wizard’s eyes flared, and the milky orb in his staff unleashed a torrent of white hot ribbons on the wolf.
Sidestepping, Saruman let its momentum carry the beast past him as it shrieked in pain. Claws tearing the earth, the wolf skidded to a halt, patches of fur smoldering as if coals had been thrown at him. It struggled to its feet, a guttural growl rising in its massive chest. Before he could prepare himself another spell, the werewolf sprinted towards Saruman, using all four legs to rocket towards the wizard. At the last moment it pounced, giving him a much-needed alternative. Ducking and stabbing his staff up, Saruman winced at the sudden volume as the creature bellowed in agony directly above him. Pushing it off of his staff, Saruman hastily backed away again as it struggled to its feet. While a stab from a wizard’s staff that would have ended any lesser creature, only silver would finish this beast. Wobbling slightly from the intensity of the wound, it regarded Saruman with a new glaze of pain overcasting the luminous orange eyes. Saruman realized now that drastic measures were necessary, and racked his brain for the spell of Mordor that would suspend the animal long enough for him to get the right metal to finish it. But it was up again, and before he could react it lashed out once more.
He cried out in equal parts pain, surprise and outrage as the wolf’s fangs ripped Saruman’s arm. Sleeve tattered and bloody, Saruman yanked it back, staring at it in horror as he ogled the incredible amount of red. Sweeping his tail and hind legs around, the wolf cleverly tripped Saruman, causing the wizard to wince as his back hit the ground hard. Then he was staring into the maw of the beast, frothing slightly and sporting fangs that glistened with doom. He braced himself, at least glad in a way that he wouldn’t have to deal with the curse of lycanthropy--
Choking a little, the beast collapsed, knocking the breath out of him.
Pushing the corpse off of him, Saruman got up, breathing heavily as he looked down at the suddenly limp animal. An arrow had completely impaled the creature’s skull, yet it snored peacefully with scarcely a twitch of the lip. Saruman looked behind him, where the perpetrator would surely be. An Uruk-Hai, shaking slightly, clutched a bow and gulped as the other troops gave him a wide berth. Saruman nodded and gestured at his savior, trying to retain his authority.
“You there,” he rasped, voice slightly hoarse from the terror of his close encounter. “How did you put him out?”
“Lead mixed with fool’s gold,” grated the soldier, looking down at a powder clenched in his fist. “Dreadfully poisonous, sir. And that was a right bull’s-eye. Do you reckon the brute’s dead?”
“I’m afraid not,” replied Saruman, trying not to react himself as the other orcs chattered uneasily. “Only silver can kill a werewolf, especially such a specimen as this. But the human side of him could be an important figure that will be missed if we dispose of this...anomaly. Take him out into the woods, track him to the place where he transformed. Place him there, but put him in the shade so that he’ll revert back to human.”
Waving his hand to dismiss the soldier, the wizard watched nonchalantly as the Uruk-Hai yelled at three other soldiers to help him with the wolf’s body. Before they could touch it, Saruman hurriedly crouched down by the wolf’s limp corpse. He couldn’t remember which was the ingredient, so he grabbed a handful of fur in one hand and yanked out a fang with the other. Standing up smoothly, Saruman strode back to the tower, eyeing his drying arm suspiciously. His very bone ached as if even it had been dented by the wolf’s assault, and his open veins protested painfully. The stupid messenger orc from before came up by his side, hustling to keep up with the human’s longer strides.
“Do you need me to help you clean that up, sire?” he asked, bowing ridiculously low again. Saruman snatched his arm away, glaring at the orc as he shied away.
“No,” he retorted, striding into the tower again. This was bad, terribly bad. He could cleanse the wound with holy water, but he had a feeling it was too late for that. The curse was already in his system. He had to dig up that antidote brew, before the next full moon sealed his fate. Where could it possibly be? Was it within a month’s ride of Isengard? How would he manage to cure himself while juggling his new duties as a double-agent?
Today there is another werewolf in Middle-Earth, that roams Fangorn every full moon and terrorizes Isengard. Its pelt is snowy white, speckled with black, and its eyes are as dark and glossy as fresh obsidian from the livid volcanoes of Mordor.