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Recaptured!: 75. Partings and Meetings
"You say that Pippin made friends with an orc?" Merry did not need to see the look on Frodo's face as his older cousin said this, his tone of voice was incredulous enough.
"Well, as far as I know he was an Uruk-hai," Merry qualified. "His name was Smagnu and he did look after us both very well."
"You were looked after by an orc?" Sam sounded more astonished than Frodo if that were possible. "You've told some pretty strange stories since we met up, what with mind talk and you having a curse on you and all, but having an orc for a nursemaid, well that's just about beats everything!"
"Well two orcs really." Merry thought he should acknowledge Grutfley's contribution, after all, he had apologised. "The other was not so good at first, but we sorted things out. His name was Grumpfly or something like that."
Pippin was watching Frodo's and Sam's faces while Merry was talking and looked from one to the other as their jaws dropped with pure astonishment. Then he gave a knowing little smile and, taking Sam's journal held it up to beg a piece of paper. Sam gave him the crayon and with his tongue firmly between his teeth in concentration Pippin wrote, 'meri tole yu abot smagnud and othr orc'.
Frodo read it out loud to Sam and Merry, smiling at Pippin as he nodded that he had guessed right. "Well I suppose during troubled times you have to make some strange alliances," Frodo sighed and gave Pip another hug. "Sam and I made one of our own with someone unexpected."
"Oh that's for sure," Sam agreed, "although I don't think it turned out for the best. It's thanks to Gollum you ended up in here." Sam was still bubbling with fury at the betrayal of his master to Shelob.
"Gollum!" It was Merry's turn to be amazed, "you made friends with Gollum?"
"Yes and he led us straight into the great spider's lair." Sam said. Then remembered that although they had drawn Pippin a map they had not told Merry about Shelob. "You and Pip have to go that way, so have a care. I battled this monster spider, and I stuck her good, but she may still be alive."
"Thanks Sam," Merry reached out his hand and, finding the little gardener's shoulder, squeezed it with affection. "We promise be careful if you promise too."
"We will," agreed Frodo, "although we are all treading perilous roads and it will be a miracle if we all come safely through."
"We can only do our best," said Merry.
Just then there was a terrifying screeching wail that they all knew well. The three hobbits froze with horror and Pippin looked from one to the other in fright, wondering what had scared them so badly.
"We must go," Merry was the first to react. "This tower is a dangerous place to be, we should not have lingered so long."
"Merry's right," Sam began packing his little sack again.
Pippin, sensing they were on the move, took the food bag he had liberated from One Ear, which was still half full, and pressed it into Frodo's hands. "No Pip, that's not fair. Merry we can't take all your food." Frodo protested.
"Of course you must," Merry agreed with his younger cousin's actions. "You and Sam will need it before we do. You have further to go and your journey is more vital. We'll be all right."
"Come now," Sam was all bustle after the scare of the Wraith call. "We haven't time to argue, we've got to get out of here."
Frodo finished dressing and tied the food bag to his front. Sam climbed down the ladder first with Merry next, carefully feeling for the rungs and Sam guiding his last few steps. Then Pip scampered nimbly down; quickly taking charge of Merry again and Frodo came last.
Sam took the ladder and laid it in the passage beside the huddled body of the fallen orc. The stair was dark, but on the rooftop the glare of the Mountain could still be seen, though it was dying down now to a sullen red. They picked up four shields to help them blend in; Pippin decided they could get rid of theirs later if these were an encumbrance. The little hobbit also liberated a belt with a long knife and sheaf from a small orc. It was still as big as a sword and scabbard for him.
Down the great stairway they plodded, Frodo noticed with pride how his little cousin guided Merry, making sure he did not trip. The high chamber of the turret behind where they had picnicked and chatted, seemed almost homely now, and terror ran along the walls. All might be dead in the Tower of Cirith Ungol, but it was steeped in fear and evil still.
At length they came to the door upon the outer court, and they halted. There was no sign of the other orc who had brought Merry and Pippin, he and the two horses were long gone. But from where they stood they felt the malice of the Watchers beating on them, black silent shapes on either side of the open gate through which the glare of Mordor dimly showed.
As they threaded their way among the hideous bodies of the orcs, the battle having spilled to every corner of the tower, each step became more difficult.
"When we get through here," Sam told Merry, "we go this way and you go that." He pointed in two different directions.
Frodo smiled and intervened before Merry could say anything. "If you can say the words to Pippin, Merry, with your mind talk, Sam could show him."
"Oh yes, I'm sorry Mr Merry, I keep forgetting, you make so little of it an' all." Sam was all contrition.
"That's all right, Sam." Merry took Pippin's hand. "This is quite hard, so make it as short as possible. I'll say little bits at a time out loud and in my head to Pip at the same time, so you know what he's hearing."
"Right, I think I got that." Sam took a deep breath. "After the gate…"
'pip' Merry said in his head and out loud simultaneously, "Pip"
'when we go gate…' out loud, "When we go through the gate…"
"…we go this way…" Sam pointed.
'frodosam gotted go this way…' out loud "Frodo and Sam go this way…"
Sam paused, making sure Pippin was paying attention. "…and you go that way.'
'gotted us go that way…' out loud "…and we go that way."
Sam pointed the direction out to Pippin. "You have to find the tunnel, the one on the map Frodo drew."
'gotted get tunnlel on pict draw frodosam…' out loud "We've got to find the tunnel on the picture Frodo drew."
"Do you understand all that Pip?" Frodo looked at him anxiously, although he could see that it was a very different Pippin than the one he had parted company with only weeks ago. He seemed so grown up and responsible somehow, especially in the way he took care of Merry.
'is all undrer… und-stand pip?' out loud. "Is that all understandable Pip?"
Pippin nodded vigorously at Frodo and Sam and they both gave him a hug. Then Frodo reached in the food bag and took a small loaf, one of several, and some dried fruit and made Pippin take that. Sam nodded in agreement, he and Frodo would need food desperately, but they could not take it all and let their friends go off with nothing.
It seemed to suddenly strike Pippin that this was where they had to part and then, that they might never see each other again. He threw his arms around Frodo again and hung on desperately. Frodo patted his shoulder and realised that his youngest cousin was heaving big sobs. He pulled him back to see large tears in his eyes. "Don't cry Pip it'll all be all right and it was wonderful to see you, even if it is in this dreadful place. Will you tell him later, Merry?"
"He knows, Frodo." Merry was feeling sick to his stomach at the thought of letting poor Frodo and dear old Sam go off alone into the depths of Mordor, but there was nothing else to be done. He reached out his hand towards Frodo who took it, putting the blind hobbit's hand up to his face. Merry gently touched the familiar features, running his fingers over the contours of his cousin's sweet elven face. "Bye Frodo, keep safe," was all he could manage before the tears spilled over.
Merry bit his lip and turned to where Sam waited patiently, "You look after him Sam, won't you."
"I promised Gandalf and I promise you as well." Sam hugged Merry fiercely, then let him go suddenly, standing upright and straight as a soldier, stiffening his quivering lip. "It's a double promise now."
"…and Sam," Merry added with a tearful smile. "don't forget to take care of you too!"
They turned now to face the archway. Pippin holding tightly to Merry's hand. They all felt frozen to the spot, even Merry who could not see the archway or the hideous carved figures there. To move an inch further was a pain and weariness to will and limb.
Frodo had no strength for such a battle. He sank to the ground "I can't go on Sam," he murmured. "I don't know what's come over me."
"I do Mr Frodo. Hold up now! It's the gate." Sam gave Pippin a little squeeze and steadied him as he could see the small hobbit was whimpering, albeit silently. "There's some devilry there. But I got through, and I'm going to get out. It can't be more dangerous than before. Now for it!"
Sam drew out the elven-glass of Galadriel. As if to do honour to his hardihood and to grace with splendour his faithful brown hobbit-hand that had done such noble deeds, the phial blazed forth suddenly, so that all the shadowy court was lit with a dazzling radiance like lightning, but it remained steady and did not pass.
"Gilthoniel, A Elbereth!" Sam cried. For, why he did not know, his thought sprang back suddenly to the Elves in the Shire and the song that drove away the black rider in the trees.
"Aiya elenion ancalima!" cried Frodo once again on his feet and behind Sam.
The will of the Watchers was broken with a suddenness like the snapping of a cord, and the four hobbits stumbled forward. Then they ran. Through the gate and past the great seated figures with their glittering eyes. There was a crack. The keystone of the arch crashed almost on their heels and the wall above crumbled and fell in ruin across the road.
Sam and Frodo ran in their direction and Pippin had frantically pulled Merry the other way. Only by a hair did they escape, running and then rolling head over heels as the masonry smashed to the ground, but now they were parted by a wall of rubble, unable to say their final goodbyes.
As they realised they had separated, a bell clanged and from the Watchers there went up a high and dreadful wail. Far up above in the darkness it was answered. Out of the black sky there came dropping like a bolt, a winged shape, rending the clouds with a ghastly shriek.
If Pippin could have squealed at that point he would have, but Merry had heard the noise and they both knew there was no time for calling out to Frodo and Sam. They ran, Pippin leading the way, Merry stumbling and picking himself up when he tripped.
Pippin found the broad steps leading down the cleft to the tunnel and slowed a little until Merry got accustomed to the downward gait of the steps. In the distance he could see a small blot that was the mouth of the tunnel. Panicking now, too afraid to look behind and see if they were pursued, Pippin sped up again, pulling Merry as fast as he dared.
They reached the tunnel and Pippin finally stopped, feeling a little safer with a roof over their heads. The hobbits were breathless and they sank to the ground, Pippin peering fearfully back the way they had come to see if they were discovered.
But equally terrifying was the shelter they had now found. The stench was appalling and around the entrance, like a torn curtain, fluttered the remains of Shelob's web where Frodo had hacked it apart. Pippin gulped at the thickness of the strands and the size of the web, even if this creature were wounded he still did not relish the thought of meeting it.
Merry wondered why they had stopped so suddenly, but decided that logically they must have reached some kind of cover. He was certain as he got his breath back that they were in a tunnel, the air was fouler and still and there was no breeze upon his face. Then he remembered that, although they were running from the wraith, they had agreed to try and draw it away from Frodo and Sam. Now seemed as good a time as any to begin.
'we go 'scape out mord now'
'wraith not go foll us'
'runned too fast it we'
Pippin gazed fearfully out of the tunnel, not totally convinced of their running prowess. He knew what Merry was trying to do, but was not sure they were out of reach yet.
'mer… we go more in tunnlel…'
'FILTHILY CREATURES I WILL FIND YOU NOW! YOU ARE IN THE TUNNEL OF THE SPIDER - THIS TIME I WILL KILL YOU BOTH IF SHE DOES NOT KILL YOU FIRST - I WILL BE DONE WITH YOU!'
The hobbits did not answer, but were on their feet and ready to move swiftly into the tunnel. Merry tripped over the strands of web as they started and Pippin had to hack the sticky silk free with his knife, it was like cutting through thick rope and took several minutes.
They had gone only a dozen yards when Merry grabbed tightly onto Pippin's arm, halting them once more. He had heard something, a voice, a whiney, unpleasant voice.
"Nassty little hobbitses, coming to kill poor Sméagol, minding our own business we were, they chasing us to be cruel. Sméagol helped the Master now he sending these other hobbitses back to hurt poor Sméagol."
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