At Orthanc

by MirkwoodJRJ

The once wise but now not-so-wise wizard ran his fingers across the smooth surface of the mysterious orb. Time waits for neither man nor wizard, and Saruman needed some answers. Fast.

"REPLY HAZY. TRY AGAIN."

Irritated, Saruman flipped the orb over, revealing its double-circle rune of asking, which in the elven tongue is called "otsea", or in the Westron "eight". No one knows what it is called in the Khazad tongue of the dwarves, or indeed if the dwarves can count to ten without an elf's help anyway.

A vigorous shake he shook, hoping for a reply less hazy than before.

"ASK AGAIN LATER."

Saruman cursed under his breath, the immediate effect of which was that one of his small houseplants burst into flames. It needed watering anyway. Sighing, the White[-Is-Really-Many-Colors-Under-A-Prism-Anyway] Wizard sighed. He decided to adopt Plan B.

Shortly thereafter, two of his orcish horde wandered in. A wandering band of orcs, tired of working for the circus, had taken up residence in the bushes around Orthanc several years before, performing odd jobs for the wizard. In exchange, Saruman had let them camp out in the caverns of Isengard, which would otherwise have been converted into a tourist attraction by the Park Service. They regarded each other in the same manner as one regards three-day-old spaghetti: with mild irritation trumped only by lazy disinterest.

"What news from Mordor?" asked the first orc, hobbling forward.

"We have work to do. And why are you limping?" Saruman demanded.

"I stumbled up the stairs." The orc rubbed his sore thigh. "You should put in a ramp. All these stairs, it's not safe. Especially for you, gramps."

"Silence!" growled the wizard. He was sensitive about his age, and, besides, the zoning regulations prevented him from installing a ramp. It was a sore subject.

The orcs rolled their eyes, but wisely said no more. Saruman then outlined a complex plan to convert the Isengard brewery (home of Isenbrau, a second-rate beer that no hobbit would drink unless threatened or especially thirsty) into a more sinister source of revenue. When war is afoot, the real money is in mercenaries, or maybe plastics, but Middle Earth didn't know about plastics. So the name of the game was arms welding and wielding. The first step was to clearcut the trees to use for lumber and to fuel the fires of the forges. Saruman gave this task to the orcs, then retired to take a nap. His couch was on the eleventh floor of his tall but inefficiently compact tower, and this did not improve his mood.

Some time later, the cranky sorcerer checked on the progress of the orcs. With great industry the horde had pulled down one tree (which had been struck by lightning the year before and was now quite dead). A couple of orcish children had gnawed through three saplings but now complained of toothaches.

Still limping, the orcish leader apprised Saruman, "The trees are strong! And Bob broke the last axe, so now we can only use these ropes to yank on the trees until they fall over."

"Rip them all down!"

"Hey, you're the wizard. Can't you just wave your magic wand or point your wizard staff or mumble some hocus-pocus..."

"Quiet!" thundered Saruman.

"I'm just saying..."

"QUIET!"

Another orc piped up. "You've managed to kill all the houseplants. Why not a few trees?"

"I SAID BE QUIET!" With that, Saruman began to whack the second orc on the head with his staff. Harshly.

"OUCH!" cried the orc. Trying to prevent additional blows, he grabbed for the staff. His aim was poor, however - he was an orc, after all - and got only a fistful of Saruman's hair. The wizard squealed like a girl while the first orc, who as you remember was still sore and limping, giggled with delight. An orcish giggle is not a pleasant thing.

Meanwhile, the wizard, by now fully enraged, took a step back, whipped his head to toss his hair back, aimed his staff at the two orcs, and let loose a stream of incantations that mixed three elvish dialects, a bit of dwarvish, random esperanto, and other tongues long forgotten. There was a flash of light and *poof!* one of the orcs was turned into a little dog that went yip! yip! yip! before piddling on the side of Orthanc. The second orc shrank into a strange gray moth, which the little dog chased.

The moth fled from the dog, flitting this way and that, finally dodging behind the side of Orthanc and meandering up, up, up the way moths are won't to do in the presence of bug-zappers and wizard fortresses. Saruman, for his part, stormed back inside Orthanc, darkly supposing that the little yip! yip! yip! would drive him nuts. Two moths would have been better, perhaps.