DISCLAIMER: Of course. The characters don't belong to me, I just get to think about them day and night.
Chapter 13 - Rescue
Boromir and Gimli hauled a glowering Saruman out of the pit, and Gandalf ordered the wizard's hands bound. Saruman looked around in disbelief as the people he had thought dead appeared from hiding -- the other man, the Elf, one of the halflings, and...
"You live," Saruman spat as Frodo hesitantly approached. "My incompetent minion reported that he had..." He turned to Gandalf and smiled thinly. "Did you interfere and bring this mortal back from death, my old friend? Perhaps I underestimated your willingness to use Power."
"It was an heirloom of the Elves -- and determined friends -- that kept Frodo from death," Gandalf said coldly. "You know little of true power, Saruman."
Saruman laughed and looked pityingly at Frodo. "Gandalf speaks of heirlooms," he said casually. "This one will not return it, you know," he said with deep regret in his voice, motioning to Boromir. "The Ring is lost to you, my young friend, as completely as it is lost to me."
Frodo gasped and shook his head. "No," he declared. "Boromir will return it. He promised."
Saruman quickly turned to Boromir. "Your city will fall," he said gravely. "You know this, son of the Steward. Only the Ring can save it."
"Do not allow him to speak further!" Gandalf declared. Merry handed Aragorn several long cloths, and Aragorn tied the gag around Saruman's mouth before forcing him to his knees in the sand.
"Boromir!" Frodo cried out, running up to the man. "Give it back! Now!"
"Frodo, Saruman's words are poison," Gandalf explained. "Do not let---"
"Frodo," Boromir said quietly. He held out the Ring. But even as Frodo reached to take it from him, Saruman's words echoed in the man's head. Your city will fall... He tried to open his hand, but found himself clutching the Ring even tighter.
"Boromir," Frodo said urgently, "the Ring cannot save your City. It cannot be used. Remember what you said to me? Not even if I saw it lying upon the sand, untended, would I take it. Boromir, do not let it take you."
My city. The false Denethor Boromir had seen... Saruman's greed and lust for power... that would be his father, in truth, if the Ring came to Gondor. That will be me, Boromir thought grimly. My city will indeed fall, if I allow it to happen.
Aragorn suddenly rushed to Frodo's side and knelt, steadying him. Frodo was pale, his breathing labored. Having run on his still-healing leg, and with bruises yet on chest and back, he was in pain, and it showed. But still he held Boromir's gaze with trust and confidence in his remarkable blue eyes.
"Boromir," Frodo whispered, "you can do it."
"For Gondor," Boromir murmured. With one piercing glance at Saruman, he dropped the Ring into Frodo's open hand. Frodo sighed with relief and sagged against Aragorn, who carried him back to the shelter, the other three hobbits in his wake.
"You see," Gandalf said to Saruman, "there is power of which you know nothing." He turned to Gimli and Legolas. "Guard him well," he advised. "Círdan's ship comes tomorrow, on the morning wind, and we will leave this place."
"What of Saruman's servant?" Legolas asked. "Do we leave him here?"
Gandalf nodded. "We do not have time to seek him out, and I do not believe he can cause harm on his own, here on this island. Perhaps someday he will get a second chance to redeem himself."
"What will you do with Saruman?" Aragorn asked. "Will he not have opportunity to cause more harm once we return to Middle-earth, than he ever would have on this island?"
"He must be guarded," Gandalf declared. "Does the fortress in the Gap of Rohan yet stand empty?"
"It does," Boromir replied. "Neither Rohan nor Gondor maintains a garrison there." He nodded. "It is a good choice, Gandalf. Even a wizard would be easy to guard in the ancient tower at Isengard."
Isengard, Saruman thought. Secluded and easy to guard... or defend. It lies between the horse realm of Rohan and the halflings' Shire. Perhaps I will go there. But in my own time, and not under guard. He smiled secretly to himself. My exile on this accursed island is finally over, but I have learned much from these years. In addition, Gandalf has forgotten something. Or rather... Saruman was careful not to look at Merry. ...someone. Buried deeply in the mind of this hobbit is one last command, which I will use when the time is right. I will call, and he will come to me. When the time is right... when I am once more within reach of the shores of Middle-earth.
Frodo was well enough, the next morning, to stand with his friends as the beautiful, stately ship approached the island and anchored in the deep water offshore. A small grey boat was lowered, and a tall, grey-bearded elf was rowed to the beach by two companions.
"Círdan," Gandalf said with a smile. "Thank you for coming, my friend."
Círdan clasped the wizard's hand, then turned to the others.
"Master Dwarf." Círdan greeted Gimli first of all the company, and bowed, to Gimli's surprise. The stately elf spoke with Legolas and Aragorn, then greeted everyone else respectfully and without haste, seeming to know each name. The delight Sam took in meeting more elves more than outweighed -- for the moment -- his trepidation at knowing that he must soon step on board a boat -- however beautiful or seemingly well made.
When Círdan came to Frodo, he knelt and took the hobbit's hand. "Ring-bearer," he said gravely, "I bid you and your companions welcome."
"Thank you, sir," Frodo replied. "Frodo Baggins, at your service."
"Your name is known to me," Círdan said, "and not just from this." With a smile, he traced with a long finger the colored letters still visible on Frodo's hand. Pippin, seeing, blushed and shuffled his feet in embarrassment.
"I know you have been injured, Frodo," Círdan continued seriously, "and are yet recovering. We will make your journey as comfortable as possible."
"Sir," Merry asked, "was anyone out looking for us?"
"Indeed they were," Círdan replied. "The news of your disappearance spread quickly; however, once I perceived Gandalf's thoughts and knew of your whereabouts, I was able to send out messengers." He smiled at Pippin, who was sobbing with relief. "Your families know that you are well and safe, my young friend." He gestured toward the ship. "Shall we depart?"
"A dwarf taking ship with elves," Gimli grumbled, but his eyes twinkled with good humor. "This will indeed be a tale to tell.
One evening, a week after leaving the island, Círdan announced that the ship was now but a short distance from the Havens and they would arrive before morning. The hobbits went to their beds, overjoyed that they would be home soon, after such a strange adventure.
Saruman had been allowed to walk on deck each day, guarded but unbound, after swearing an oath to Gandalf that he would not speak. To the surprise of many, he had kept his word, and caused no trouble. Each night his hands were once again bound, and he was restricted to his cabin.
That final night on board, when all was dark and still, Merry stirred restlessly in his sleep as a voice called to him -- insistent and compelling. Opening his eyes without fully waking, he left his bed and walked silently to the cabin which had been assigned to Saruman.
Saruman smiled in the dark as the door opened silently and Merry walked in, the hobbit's eyes glazed and unseeing. Saruman held out his hands, and Merry came to him; and with a bit of effort, finally loosened the ropes well enough for the wizard to free himself.
You have fulfilled your final duty toward me, young halfling. Return to your room and sleep. You will awaken in the morning and remember nothing of this.
"He is gone," Gandalf said grimly to Aragorn. They stood together on deck in the morning light, as the ship docked at the Havens.
"It would have been easy for him to swim to shore once we came close, if he were able to free his hands." Aragorn clutched the railing angrily. "We should have guarded his room each night."
Gandalf sighed. "The fault is mine, for not taking every precaution. Aragorn..." He turned to the Ranger. "It is now more important than ever that the Shire be guarded. Saruman knows now who bears the Ring, and where he dwells... and he knows a great deal more about hobbits than I would have wished. He will wait, and watch, and try nothing right away. But we must be vigilant."
"Perhaps the time comes which you have long foreseen," Círdan said quietly, coming to join them. "The Ring must someday be destroyed, Gandalf. It cannot forever be hidden from those who would wield it, either with evil intent or good. And now..." He smiled gently at the sight of Frodo, Legolas, Gimli, and Boromir laughing nearby at some jest. "The Ring-bearer has shown great spirit, as well as unusual strength, courage, and wisdom -- and has found unlikely allies among all the Free Peoples of Middle-earth. Perhaps someday the time will come..."
"Perhaps," Gandalf said thoughtfully, "someday..."
AlabrithGaiamoon: It was one of the oldest tricks in the book! Naturally, arrogant Saruman would never suspect that anyone would use it on him.
Avarwen: Thank you! What fun this story was to write. I'm so glad you've enjoyed it.
Azla: I hope you enjoy "Lost"! It's a very unusual show.
BregoBeauty: You discovered this story just in time! I hope you enjoyed it.
Elven Kitten: I'll miss your bubbliness! I'll have to come up with a new story soon... :D
Hobbit luvr: I think this was the Boromir we always knew he could be, given a second chance.
Laitaine: I'm very happy you discovered this story, and that you enjoyed it so much. It was a lot of fun to write, and it was a pleasure giving Boromir a noble and respected role.
lindahoyland: Thank you so much. I've really enjoyed letting the characters evolve and "show their quality" in this brave new world.
mirthor: It's been challenging to find unpredictable twists for this story; glad you've enjoyed them!
Mysterious Jedi: It's been such fun writing this. Thank you for coming along for the ride.
PlatinumRoseLady: You're dancing! Yay! I hope you enjoy the ending, and thank you very much for reading.
Scifirogue Kane: I'm so happy you (and sis!) enjoyed this story... and I hope your exams are over!
smalldiver: I love writing 'noble' and strong Boromir.
Starfire Moonlight: And the wizard escapes to fight another day!
tree: We'll have to strand you on a desert island so you can give up the cigarettes!