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Recaptured!: 71. Déjà vu
Merry sat up straight on Smagnu's horse as they galloped on, holding tightly to the animal's mane, his unseeing eyes fixed straight ahead into the wind.
"You live in holes?" Smagnu was learning about hobbits.
"Oh but they're very nice holes." Merry explained enthusiastically. Hobbits love an audience when discussing their society, although the Uruk was finding the whole culture very alien and peculiar. Lots of large families, mostly related, living in comparative harmony in burrows.
"You sound more like rabbits than people."
"I suppose we do." Merry chuckled.
"You seem a happy little race as well." Smagnu observed, "I don't suppose I've seen hobbits at their best with you and Little Pip then?"
"No! Hobbits don't usually stray so far from home," Merry agreed.
"Back under my cloak now!" Smagnu pulled Merry close in and made him scrunch down a little as he shrouded his black cloak around the little hobbit again. "There's a battalion up ahead so you be silent."
Merry heard the marching feet as they drew level to the army of orcs.
"Halt riders!" An orc voice came to Merry's ears. "What is your division and who is your commander?"
Smagnu pulled up as he knew to ride on past would result in a fusillade of arrows in his back. Grutfley reined in his slightly smaller horse just behind, with Pip carefully concealed beneath his cloak. "We are on a mission from the Dark Tower," Smagnu knew this carried some authority. "We have to collect a spy from Cirith Ungol."
"Get down! We ain't letting you pass," The commander was a large Uruk like Smagnu, but with only one ear. "We got orders to stop anyone."
"You don't stop us!" Smagnu asserted. "Let us by or I'll take your name and numbers and report you back to Number One. It's his orders we're following."
"Don't I know you?" One Ear looked critically at the Uruk. "It's Corporal Smagnu - innit?"
"So what? I still ain't getting down." Smagnu kept a very tight hold on Merry, fearing the commander would discover the hobbit at any moment. "Now get out of my road."
"You was the one what took my ear off." One Ear snarled. "I ain't about to forget you in a hurry! Now gerroff that horse. You and you! Get hold of them horses!"
Several orcs leapt forward to do the commander's bidding and Smagnu could see at least twenty arrows pointed in his direction. Still he kept his seat. "Look, we already got these spies and we have to get 'em in Cirith Ungol double quick - thass our orders!"
"You got spies on you?" One Ear stood foursquare in the road in front of Smagnu. "Where are they? I don't see no spies!"
"I ain't gotta show 'em to you." Smagnu realised he could be in deep trouble now. This Uruk had a very big grudge against him and he had a blind hobbit under his cloak. "They're top secret, not for the likes of you. Now let us through or you'll be in real fugging trouble."
"We're all on the same side here." One Ear was not intimidated. He was in command of a large battalion, about forty or so Uruks and 600 orcs of a smaller breed. "Now show us your spies or I'll give you fugging trouble!"
Smagnu drew his sword, still keeping a tight hold on Merry. Grutfley did the same, pushing Pippin down so his face was on the horse's mane. "We're under top orders and if you don't start using your remaining ear I'll take that one off an' all, along with yer fugging head!" Smagnu threatened ominously.
The commander blenched for a moment, but then steeled himself and narrowed his eyes. He wasn't going to let this jumped up corporal talk to him like this. Besides there was a war on and if the Uruk got killed no one was going to blame him. Apart from that, he wanted the horses the pair rode, he fancied a stop in Cirith Ungol and he wanted Smagnu… oh he wanted Smagnu badly, a chance like this may never come again.
"If you ain't off that horse before I finish talking, there's gonna be so many arrows in you we could use yer for a sieve." One Ear held his arm up to signal the archers. "Now!" His arm dropped.
Smagnu dropped from the horse at the very second the archers let fly. Most of the arrows missed him but two lodged in his body, one in his arm and one in his chest. Merry had been pulled off with the Uruk, who dropped him to the ground so that all the arrows missed the hobbit.
Pippin had been peering from under Grutfley's cloak and when he saw the other two go down, he wriggled frantically out of the orc's grip, slid off the horse and, hitting the ground with a jarring thud, ran to Smagnu and Merry. Grutfley came off the horse just after the hobbit, pulled down by several large Uruks who deprived him of his sword and held him tightly.
Pippin and Merry were both sheltering behind Smagnu's legs, the big Uruk pulling the two arrows out and throwing them contemptuously down, then lifting his sword, daring One Ear to come on further.
However, there was no need. One Ear signalled to his row of archers to reload and Smagnu was suddenly facing another barrage of twenty arrows. "You put your sword down and hand them spies over here," the commander demanded. "We'll deliver 'em for yer. You can just join my little battalion here, what's bound for the front."
"Can't fight in your battalion without no sword." Smagnu pointed out. "An' you don't know nothing 'bout where to takes these spies, nor nothing 'bout 'em."
"Don't matter if you ain't got a sword." One Ear sneered at him and Grutfley. "Always need front line fodder in a war, thass where we put the deserters, like you two."
"I ain't no deserter!" protested Grutfley, "we was on a proper mission, an' you're gonna hear 'bout this an' all!"
"Just hand 'em over." One Ear lifted his hand to ready the archers again. "How many arrows d'yer think it'll take to kill you Smagnu? I got enough, I'm sure."
Pippin saw the threat and Merry heard it clearly enough. The hobbits flashed one anxious thought between them very quickly and so simultaneously it almost crashed in the middle and it was hard to tell which had said it first. 'Boromir!'
Together and hand in hand they stepped out from behind the Uruk, Pippin surreptitiously reaching up to quickly kiss the mighty fist, and walked towards One Ear, their hands held slightly in the air as a sign of surrender.
"Well what have we here?" One Ear reached out and picked up the hobbits by the scruff, one in each hand. "Two very dangerous spies."
The assembled company laughed and hooted at their commander's wit, while Smagnu, sword still in hand, started towards One Ear. Two Uruk's, spoiling for a good roughing up, barred his way. Their swords clashed and Smagnu ran one through and turned for the other. All the battalion orcs' blood was up now and they started howling and screeching as the fight took off.
Smagnu was cut several times as he parried and hacked at his opponent, but he finally triumphed by slicing the other's arm clean off.
"That's enough!" Snarled One Ear. "Take him out now you fugging pus-heads." The commander signalled the archers and twenty arrows let fly, five of them piercing the great Uruk. He dropped to his knees, looking up at the little hobbits still in One Ear's grasp, his eyes full of apology.
Merry of course couldn't see, but Pippin, who up until now had kept very still, the best reaction he knew to being picked up by Uruks, suddenly started to kick and struggle, squirming frantically in the iron grasp. Merry could hear him crying.
'no, please not, (hic) please not go like Boromir, please, please… merr…. smag-nude go dead… go dead 'cause of we… (hic - sob) not… not…!'
The Uruk turned Pippin round in his grasp to face him. "Keep still you little rat!" he shook him violently and Pippin managed to kick him in the face.
More from surprise than hurt, One Ear dropped him as if he were hot. Pippin frantically ran over to where Smagnu still knelt on the ground with the five arrows in his body. The little hobbit put his arm around the big neck and lifted Smagnu's hand up, placing it on his curls as the Uruk always did. The weak hand slipped off and Pippin reached out and put the hand back up on his head. Smagnu smiled at him briefly, before slumping on to his side. Pippin still clung to the unmoving body and once more held Smagnu's hand to his face, as if willing the Uruk to be alive.
One Ear passed Merry, who was also fighting and struggling and sobbing, to another orc to keep, and strode over and caught hold of Pippin to pull him away. The little hobbit turned and bit viciously into the hand that grabbed him and then snarled and spat as the Uruk drew back in surprise. Then he leant forward and took Smagnu's hands again and kissed them both before nestling himself gently against the inert body and closing his eyes.
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