Characters/Pairing: Grima, Saruman
Warnings: ironical prompt usage, optional but probably helpful drabble-eclipsing endnotes
Book/Source: LotR, Unfinished Tales
Disclaimer: Characters belong to Tolkien. No profit reaped by myself, aside from a wealth of intellectual giddiness.
"Departing? But the..."
Revolving an almost uncanny white jewel in his hands, Saruman spared Gríma a scathing glance. "The tree? You've not spent weeks currying favor with him; yet I've seen to it while you've taken your skulking leisure."
The wizard placed the jewel in a box, put that in a niche, closed a concealing panel, then glared down on Gríma's unvoiced question. "None upon our road could purchase it, nor would I undervalue it even now. Doom prescribes poverty." His eyes sparked briefly, proud, ironic. "It shall be known, at least, that I possessed these things for a while."
The jewel is referenced in Unfinished Tales III.I, "The Disaster of the Gladden Fields," in a passage describing items recovered from Orthanc after Elessar's reign began: ...a treasure without price, long mourned as lost for ever: the Elendilmir itself, the white star of Elvish crystal upon a fillet of mithril that had descended from Silmarien to Elendil, and had been taken by him as the token of royalty in the North Kingdom…
It occurred to me recently to wonder why Saruman would not have taken such an item to sell on the road when he left Orthanc with Gríma, since he doesn't seem like the type to gladly suffer poverty. I came up with a few reasons, which I hope have been explained in the drabble. I'm particularly fond of the idea that Saruman left the Elendilmir behind deliberately as sort of a last laugh, just to show everyone that he could.
On a totally self-indulgent note, the idea that Saruman "spent weeks currying favor with" Treebeard is my own elaboration on the canon, hinted at in my story "Of Time and Trees," where Saruman begins trying to talk with Treebeard on Midyear's Day (about six weeks before Treebeard did in fact release him). I do not believe Saruman could have convinced Treebeard to free him with only one or two conversations, and that quite a bit of protracted effort must have gone into it.