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Not Quite Like Ancient Rocks  by aiwendil

I am the last.

The thought pounds against my mind like a single drumbeat from what was once a mighty orchestra. It pounds like my lone heartbeat.

Alatar and Pollondo are lost. Saruman – he, whom I thought the greatest of us – confesses treachery with proud laughter. And Radagast – he, whose humility I thought would lead him truly – it was Radagast who led me to this doom.

I recall Radagast to my mind as last I saw him. His dress was much the same – course folds of brown cloth, his staff a twisted treebranch, his hands free of any ornament. I found no lie in his voice, no treachery in his eye. But did I look? Did I search for subtlety in a friend I thought had none?

He'd spoken in his usual darting tone, his words coming swift and airy like a bird's song. He did not meet my eye, but this was not unusual. No beard had he, his face thin and aquiline, his feathered hair falling to his shoulders.

I go over the memory in my mind, and wonder where my wits failed me. And then I wonder what could have tempted Radagast, so simple and honest in his cares, to abandon his duty and take the side of evil. What cunning words could Saruman have used?

But with a sinking heart I believe I know those words. For Radagast's charges were never men, but the beasts who labor beneath them. For their protection, he might have strayed.

And so I circle back to this thought: I am the last. I am the last, and soon I will be no longer. Doubtless I will be questioned soon, once Saruman thinks me softened by captivity. I will resist, for I can do nothing less. And he has the power to break me.

I did not think my failure would come at the hands of my own kindred.

And though Saruman has always been to me a superior, I counted Radgast a friend, something like a cousin. His betrayal cuts me the deepest, though it is from Saruman that I have the most to fear. But if cousin turns against cousin, what hope has Middle Earth? I think for a moment of Frodo and Sam, wondering if they too are lost.

Suddenly, my ears catch the sound of beating wings. What message do they bring you, Saruman? What orders from the Great Eye? Am I to be sent to Morder?

Imagining those fell fires and the terrible questioning that I would endure, I cannot hold back a shiver. I set my mind once more to the question of escape, but I fear it is not within me. My power is broken and jagged under the force of Saruman's assault.

The sound grows stronger. Frowning, I push myself to my feet. A great eagle cuts through the air. His gaze seems to catch on me, and his path alters, soaring towards me upon great wings until he is perched on the edge of my prison.

“Gandalf,” the eagle says. “I come bearing news.”

“News?” I say, head spinning.

“Yes,” that great bird replies, impatience in his tone. “Radgast told me you were wanting it.”

Then all slots into place and I laugh.

There were not two betrayals, but one. Friendship yet has meaning and hope may still endure.

“It is wings I need now, not news,” I say gruffly. My friend, you have brought me the only news I needed.

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