As the sun sets, the travelers split from Isengard. They ride for a few hours before camping for the night on the flatlands at the base of Dol Baran, which is near the Gap of Rohan.
Merry is sleepy, but for some reason, Pippin just cannot get comfortable, so the two of them stay awake, chatting about Gandalf.
Now that the old wizard is back from the dead, he seems different. Before, Saruman was Gandalf's superior, but now he's even stronger.
But that's not what's bothering Pip. No, he's distracted by that glass ball that got chucked out of the tower of Orthanc.
Curious, as usual, he wants to look at it. Practical Merry tells him to wait until morning.
Pippin lies still, but he still can't sleep because "the thought of the dark globe seemed to grow stronger" (3.11.35).
Finally, Pippin can't take it anymore. Oh no.
He sneaks over to Gandalf and slips the thing out of his hand. This is such a bad idea.
Pippin looks into the glass ball, and suddenly, it glows with fire, holding him.
When it stops spinning and burning, Pippin gives a cry and falls over. Buddy, you really should have listened to your cousin.
Gandalf wakes him and asks Pippin what he sees. But the poor hobbit is too traumatized to answer.
After Gandalf insists, Pip tells him that he saw a dark sky and tall towers. Nine things with wings wheeled into view. They seemed to fly out of the glass ball.
Then, Sauron came. Dun dun dun.
The Big Bad wanted to know who Pippin is. Even though he tried his hardest not to answer, he couldn't resist; he told Sauron that he's a hobbit.
Sauron's response? Laughter.
He says, "We shall meet again soon. Tell Saruman that this dainty is not for him. I will send for it at once. Do you understand? Say just that!" (3.11.55).
Gandalf smiles at this news and says Pippin has been saved by good luck. Apparently, Sauron might have gotten more information out of him if he hadn't jumped to conclusions and gloated so much.
Gandalf then hands the glass ball over to Aragorn, who agrees to take it, since it is "the palantír of Orthanc from the treasury of Elendil, set here by the Kings of Gondor" (3.11.64).
Impressed by this declaration, Gandalf kneels in front of Aragorn to present the palantír to him.
Even though we were dreading Pippin's curiosity getting the better of him, Gandalf admits that Pippin may accidentally have saved them all.
See, Gandalf was planning to look into the palantír himself, which would have revealed to Sauron the fact that he is still very much alive. But Gandalf really wants to keep that a secret for the time being. It's better Sauron think he met his doom in Moria.
Now, speed is of the essence.
Gandalf decides to ride ahead, and he brings Pippin with him to keep the hobbit's mind busy and out of trouble.
Théoden and the rest of the Company (including Merry) have to book it back to Helm's Deep.
A Nazgûl (in its Winged Messenger role as a spy for Mordor) flies overhead, which makes things all the more urgent, so Gandalf races off with Pippin, who admires Shadowfax's speed.
As they ride, Gandalf talks a bit more about the palantíri. There are seven, and they were made initially by the Noldor of Eldamar (Westernesse)—perhaps by master craftsman Fëanor.
The palintirí belonged to the House of Elendil.
Because each of them could communicate with the others, they were placed in strategic locations throughout the kingdom of the North.
Gandalf thinks Sauron probably found his palintír in the ruined tower of Minas Ithil, which is now called Minas Morgul and is an evil place.
Saruman kept his palintír a secret, using it to delve closer and closer to Sauron, until Sauron finally noticed Saruman and caught his mind, turning it bad.
Pippin then asks where the Nazgûl came from—was it coming to fetch Pippin for Sauron?
No, that's impossible, Gandalf assures him. News can't have reached the Nazgûl that quickly.
It is more likely that Sauron sent that messenger to Saruman to find out why he hasn't been in communication.
That means Saruman is in a real pickle, because his boss is getting antsy (and probably a little angry, too).
Now, Gandalf is concerned that Saruman will spill the beans that Gandalf was at Orthanc, with hobbits in his company and Aragorn, son of Arathorn, at his side.
That's why they have to move quickly to Gondor, so that they can prepare for war, which will probably come sooner rather than later.