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Recaptured!: 72. Truth and Lies
Pippin woke thinking he had had a bad nightmare and then realised with horror it was real. His hands were bound tightly and he was slung over a horse like a saddlebag, He could feel that they were galloping quickly and he opened his eyes a slit to see where he was. His eyes felt sore and hot and he remembered he had been crying - they both had.
He had clung to the Uruk until he was physically lifted off and the orcs had dragged Smagnu's body and Grutfley away to who knows where. Then the hobbits had been bound tightly and thrown into a little crater where two large Uruks stood guard over them.
Eventually One Ear had come. First he searched them, taking Grutfley's knife from Merry and the little bag of mithril coins from Pippin, then he questioned them. At least that's what Pippin thought he had been doing. He talked and Merry said things back, in between crying and mostly only when the orc shook him violently or hit him.
At first the big orc had tried to question him, and had clouted him hard, but Merry had tugged on his sleeve and spoken, probably explaining that he couldn't hear. One Ear had put his hands on his hips and laughed at whatever it was Merry had said. He then turned all his attention to the older hobbit.
The last thing Pippin remembered was the Uruk picking Merry up and slamming him hard into the wall of the crater, the evil orc eyes narrowed and angry as he raised his great fist. Pippin had desperately tried to stop the blow, jumping up to catch One Ear's arm with his bound hands. The Uruk had held his wrist, still not completely healed, and twisted and Pippin remembered no more until waking just now, slung over the horse.
As his eyes focussed he could see no sign of the battalion, but alongside was Smagnu's horse being ridden by One Ear with Merry slung in a similar fashion across the animal's neck.
He realised now what had woken him.
'pip… you go good now?… pip sayed me things…'
'merr… i good… i waked…'
'Poor Pippin, is your wrist hurt?'
'legolas… you talked at we?'
'Only for a second, I was worried about you both.'
'we go 'live… but not go good…'
'Little one, I'm sorry…'
'YOU ARE IN TROUBLE NOW. I FEEL IT! NOW FEEL ME - FEEL MY DARKNESS! YOU STILL CANNOT HIDE. I WILL FIND YOU ELF! QUAKE IN FEAR AT MY VOICE BEFORE I CAST YOU DOWN ONCE MORE… RUN… RUN NOW!'
The three immediately fell silent at the Wraith's intrusion, wondering how long it had been listening, hoping they had not given too much away, pulling their minds and thoughts as far back from the link as they could.
Pippin looked worriedly over at Merry. His cousin's face was just visible and it looked white and drawn, but at least he was awake. If it hadn't been for Merry at that moment, Pippin felt as if he could have given up. He was devastated at the loss of Smagnu, his big orc, his protector, his carer and, most importantly, his friend. He had saved Pip from almost certain death several times and at the end there was nothing Pip could do to save him. And, as with Boromir, if it hadn't been for him and Merry, the big Uruk would probably still be alive.
Blessedly Merry was still alive though and for that Pip knew he had to be brave. But he wished this ride would soon be over. He felt sick and was afraid he might vomit if they carried on much longer. Merry looked as ill as he felt, but they had both had a bad time recently. They were hardly over the attempted suicide and Merry still had that terrible gash in his forehead that had not completely healed. His own injured wrist was throbbing from where the orc had twisted it and numerous other cuts and bruises were making their presence felt, although which were his and which were Merry's it was hard to tell. He wished he could talk to Merry.
Merry was frantically wondering how long it would be before he dared talk to Pippin again. They were far too vulnerable at the moment, if the Wraith homed in on them now, they would be taken back to Barad-dûr immediately, without… without… he could scarcely bring himself to think about it. Why had Smagnu fought so hard for them? He had only heard what had happened and not witnessed what must have been the full horror as Pip had.
But he needed to talk to Pip to find out how much he remembered. The Wraith had broken in and made them flee the link before he could discover whether Pip knew what had happened. All he could recall was the enormous and overwhelming grief in his little cousin's mind.
Being thrown over a horse like a piece of luggage with his hands tightly bound after being beaten senseless by the Uruk was not helping his memory. But he was certain that Pip had not been conscious when he had tried to talk to him earlier so Pippin still didn't know what the commander had told him.
Merry had been in a whirl of confusion during most of the episode, trying to remain calm and to work out what was happening. He had hit the ground, pushed down by Smagnu, and stayed there until Pip had bowled into him from the side and dragged him back. He realised they were behind Smagnu's legs and he kept a hold on Pippin's hand.
Then he heard the commander's voice threatening the arrows. He and Pippin had had the same thought at once. They had to surrender, they could not allow Smagnu to be killed defending them as Boromir had. Together they had walked out towards the voice of the chief orc, who had grabbed them and held them up and laughed at them. They were used to this kind of treatment and just kept still, waiting to be put down.
But Smagnu had come on. He had fought. Merry found it terrifying he could not see who was winning, who was hurt. At the end he realised that Smagnu had won the fight but was about to be brought down by the archer orcs.
Then he knew it had happened, not from the command or from the whooshing sound of the deadly arrows but from the massive surge of emotion that burst from Pippin. His mind gave a scream of agony, pain and grief and for a flashing second Merry had seen through his cousin's eyes Smagnu, for he knew it was he, kneeling on the ground with five arrows sticking in him. Merry almost fainted at the image. It was exactly the whole dreadful scene of Boromir's death being replayed.
Merry desperately tried to find Pip with his mind, but he was gone, in total turmoil, out of reach and swept up in a devastating wave of grief. He struggled against his captor then, if he couldn't find Pip mentally, he needed to find him physically. But he could not break free.
Eventually he felt Pip beside him again. His hands were being tied tightly and they were both thrown into some sort of hole in the ground. When the commander returned they were searched and questioned. Merry had been dumped on the ground and could tell the Uruk had gone straight to Pip.
"So you're a spy are you?" The sneering voice laughed derisively. "Who are you and what have you been a-spying of?" The sound of flesh on flesh told Merry that Pippin was being clouted. He pulled himself to his feet and, glad that at least his hands were tied in front, flailed about until he found the Uruk's sleeve and tugged it.
"It's no use questioning him." Merry said as loudly as he could. "He can't hear, he's deaf and he can't talk anyway."
"He's deaf and dumb?" The commander caught hold of a handful of Merry's curls and pulled his head backwards, looking into the sightless eyes. "And you're blind aren't you?"
"Yes." Merry agreed, trying to twist his head out of the painful grip.
The Uruk laughed long and hard at this. "One blind and one deaf and dumb! What kind of fugging spies are the enemy sending us!"
"We're not really spies," Merry said, it did, after all, seem unlikely, "we're just two lost hobbits of absolutely no importance. We're not worth anything."
"Those two seemed to think you were." The commander took hold of Merry's arm now, all the laughter dried up and gone. "So what are you worth?" He backhanded the hobbit across the face. "Were they getting a reward for you - was that it?"
"No! No, nothing. Truly!" Merry was not even lying but did not expect to be believed.
"They were taking you to Cirith Ungol." The commander shook Merry like a toy. "Why'd they want you there? Who are you both?"
"You didn't ought to have stopped them." Merry protested hoping to put some fear into this violent creature. "Smagnu's an important corporal and you'll be in trouble for killing him."
"Ha! He ain't dead. Not yet." The commander held Merry's arm as he shook him some more. "Take more 'n a few arrows to kill an Uruk like that. But don't worry he'll be dead afore long. He don't get off that easy. I gotta score to settle with that one."
Merry did not even attempt to answer this time. His head was hurting and tears streamed down his face. But Smagnu was alive! He was obviously badly hurt and in grave danger, but Merry reasoned, after all they had come through recently, it meant there was still hope. He wanted to tell Pippin but it was too hard to concentrate his mind, the Uruk was still shaking him and asking him inane questions.
The Uruk slammed him up against something solid, the wall of the pit he guessed. He expected an immediate blow, but it did not come straight away. Pippin was there, Merry heard his movement. Then he felt his pain, the wrist injury, it was being twisted. Pip screamed in Merry's mind, 'aaiiiiee!' Then he fell silent.
Grutfley was thrown roughly down next to Smagnu, his sword was gone and New little Pip had his knife, although he suspected he had probably been relieved of it by now. The orc turned his attention to his companion. At first he thought he was probably dead, but he found a pulse and a flickering eye.
"Get those fugging arrows outa me!" His voice was low and gravely but spurred Grutfley into immediate action. Carefully, so as not to cause more bleeding than necessary, one by one he pulled the vicious shafts out of the orc's flesh and stoppered each resulting hole with a plug of cloth torn from his own shirt.
He then remembered the whiskey stashed in his jerkin and unstoppering the flask, poured a little into each of the wounds and then a bigger portion into Smagnu's mouth. The big Uruk spluttered at first, then grabbed the flask and took another longer swig.
A shadow moved over them and both the orcs squinted up to see who it was.
"So you thought you could beat my whole battalion did yer?" One Ear sneered down at the pair. "Well I'm in charge round here and you two had better tell me what you was gonna get for those little spies and who you was taking 'em to."
"Fug off." Smagnu was in no mood to give One Ear anything. He tried to stand up, wanting to see where the little Pips were, but could not quite make it. "You'd best not touch 'em you know." He snarled. "You'll be in even bigger trouble than you are now if anything happens to 'em."
"Says who?" One Ear jeered. "You?"
"Naw!" Smagnu realised that the truth would serve quite well under the circumstances. "Tell him Grutfley, they belongs to Number One and if anything happens to either of them he'll have you."
"It's the truth." Grutfley nodded vigorously. "Number One's got 'em earmarked as his own. Want's em for questioning in Cirith Ungol, away from everyone else."
"Yeah that's what he ordered." Smagnu took up the story. The Uruk reasoned it would give the hobbits the best chance of getting to their destination in one piece. "Wanted them both delivered to Cirith Ungol, but whole and unharmed, so as he can find out all about 'em."
"Well I may just have to ask 'em a few questions of my own first." One Ear told them. "But you look after yourself real good, Smagnu! 'Cause I'm gonna be looking after you and your fat friend too." He beckoned several large Uruks to come and stand by them. "These are gonna be your friends from now on. Gonna escort you nice as nice up to the front line, where you'll be proud to die for your Lord and Master."
The Uruk walked away muttering. "Cut my bloody ear off!"
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