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Recaptured!: 77. Shelob's Revenge
Pippin had stopped running. He realised that he had lost Merry and that tearing aimlessly up and down in the dark was not going to help to find him. The little hobbit decided resolutely he would not give in to panic so he sat down and thought. How do the orcs manage? They go through this tunnel, they must be able to see. They must use torches! Well if they use torches where would they keep them? At the entrance of course!
'pip… we move more'
'find you soon merr…'
Pippin was on his feet again and ran like a mad thing, following the main tunnel back to the entrance. He looked all around, behind rocks, under rocks, no up! They would keep the stuff up high to keep it dry. He clambered onto some rocks just inside the entrance and his logic was rewarded. There was a supply of oil and torches and a tinderbox. Quickly he soaked the material and struck the spark, his frantic urgency producing a flame on the second attempt.
'still look you merr…'
He slung his shield on his back and with his sword in one hand and the torch held aloft in the other, his wrist aching badly from the effort, he made his way back into the tunnel. Now he could see the honeycomb of offshoots, but which one had they taken?
Pippin thought of all he knew about tracking, it was not much, but Strider had said look at everything, the minutest detail can hold a vital clue. Pippin stepped a few paces into each side tunnel, eyes sweeping the walls and floor and as far ahead as the torchlight allowed.
Then Merry called him again. Perhaps he could help. He asked Merry to tell him things - any things! Merry said it smelled bad 'is like pig house in hot sun…' he said. Gandalf's advice! "When all else fails, follow your nose!"
Pippin ducked down each entrance sniffing frantically. 'Bad, but no, not bad enough. Next one, hmm, not pigsty exactly. Next one? Yes! This was it!'
Pippin started down this off-shoot and paused at something glinting on the ground. Merry's knife! Pippin laid his sword down while he picked up the knife and put it in his belt, then took up his sword again. Just then he almost jumped out of his skin at the frantic mental scream.
He started to run further down the tunnel and as he did he fell over Gollum running in the opposite direction. Pippin dropped his torch but rolled back to his feet, sword at the ready. "Nassty hobbit, stay out of here!" The creature snarled at him and grappled him to the ground, taking hold of his sword hand and trying to wrench the weapon away from the startled Pippin.
Pippin fought back frantically, but the creature was strong and sinewy, it moved its other hand to Pippin's throat and started to clutch and tear. The hobbit felt himself weakening under the pressure, his sword starting to fall from his grip. His mind grew fuzzy as he struggled for oxygen and the edges of his mind started to drift towards blackness.
Merry stood pressed up against the wall of the cave the squelching noise was moving towards him now. He started to edge away from it, keeping against the wall the whole time, hoping to eventually find the entrance. If he made a run for it, he would probably fall, he reasoned. It was unfamiliar ground and once he was down, She would be on him in a moment. Merry had no doubts of what it was that was stalking him. From the stench and the disgusting sounds, he was almost relieved not to be able to see Sam's terrible monster spider creature.
But then Merry's heart almost stopped at the ghastly hollow rattling sound as the monstrous spinnerets cast out in the little hobbit's direction.
She was not going to poison this one – there was no need. Her servant had told Her it was blind and helpless and She was hungry. All She had to do was lash a few cords around it and She could suck it dry at once. Her belly was wounded, suppurating pus and venom in a wide slug-like trail, She needed good food to help Her repair the disgusting damage and it was fitting that another of these little creatures would pay for the one that had stuck Her. And this one had no sword, it pressed its hands against the wall and its eyes gazed unseeing at nothing.
Merry was trembling with horror now as the sounds were gaining on him and he couldn't find the way out! It was nearly on him! Sticky ropes suddenly whipped across his face and his feet, he felt another draw across his hand. He struggled, trying to pull them off, but they wrapped around and stuck like glue covered rope. He tripped and as he fell to the ground the ropes pulled tightly around him stopping him from moving. The squelch was on him now, the stench was poisonous, making him retch and vomit. The creak of overgrown aged joints, accompanied a sucking, hissing breathing that bore down on the petrified little hobbit, who knew that he was taking his own last breaths. He wanted to scream out to Pippin, but it was too late. It would only distress him to feel what he was feeling, he wanted to say goodbye, but it would be too difficult, again. But most of all he did not want Pip to fall prey to this abomination. He sent a desperate mental message.
'go back pip! not come…please…go find legolas and eow…'
'find you merr…'
'no…it bad…I can't…'
'i find you Merry!'
Pippin heard Merry's sad little message. But he also felt what was happening to Merry. Gollum had given his cousin to the spider! Rage surged through the little hobbit and adrenaline came with it. He dropped his sword and, as he did, Gollum let go of his wrist and tried to pick up the fallen weapon. Pippin used the now freed wrist to tear Gollum's other hand off his throat and at the same time pushed him violently off, pulling Merry's knife from his belt as he did so.
Sméagol could never deal with direct confrontation and as soon as Pippin had wrestled him off and stood over him with the orc's knife, he cringingly crawled to his feet and then fled.
Pippin had no time for pursuit, he plunged the knife back into his belt and grabbed up his sword and the still burning torch and tore down the tunnel.
As he reached the lair of Shelob, Pippin came the closest he had ever been to screaming out loud since he had been struck dumb and his face contorted in a silent scream of terror. The sight of the great jointed, clawed legs and the enormous distended slack belly sloughed on top of Merry, as the monstrous spider leaned down to suck the blood from his still living cousin's neck, gave him such a shock that it reverberated through Merry and into Legolas too.
Merry gasped in agony and horror as Pippin's full vision hit him. He not only saw Shelob for the first time, but he saw himself lying helplessly beneath Her, waiting for death as this abomination got ready to feed off him. The sight gave Merry a rush of anger too. He wrestled himself out of Her immediate reach, rolling over and struggling against the sticky cords.
Pippin, still not over his initial shock, rushed in, his sword held high, ready to stab up. As he ran forward a voice shouted in his head. It wasn't Merry, it was Legolas.
'No use the flame little one! Stab with the flame!'
Pippin realised in a split second what the elf meant and, instead of striking with the sword, he jabbed the burning torch at the monster's eye clusters and She backed away in fear and pain, withering from the blinding light and the scorching fire.
Keeping the torch held up and pointed at the spider, Pippin started to cut the cords off Merry. He concentrated first on freeing his cousin's hands and then when Merry could move again, he gave him back his knife so that he could saw through the rest of the bonds.
But She was not finished yet. Merry moved away hitching himself backwards along the ground, all the time hacking at the sticky ropes. Pippin stood in front of his cousin, torch and sword held defiantly in either hand. She came on. Pippin stood his ground.
She had enough poison left for both these tasty little morsels and She could still run fast. One had a flame and a sword, but the other was blind and She could outmanoeuvre both of them even with Her leaking belly.
Merry was free again and back on his feet, he had lost his shield but he held Grutfley's knife at the ready. The two hobbits started backing away, Pippin guiding Merry with the odd kick and hip shove across the wide space, through the disgusting hanging corpses and towards the entrance.
Suddenly with unexpected speed She was across the distance they had put between them and on top of Pippin. He resolutely held his sword, although the torch fell from his fingers as Shelob threw a cord of sticky substance from Her spinneret around the hobbit's weak wrist. Desperately Pippin stabbed at Her wildly.
After Her recent encounter with the other one, Shelob was wary of the sword and these aggressive little creatures generally. She would prefer to get the other, the one that was blind. Using the cord that was still attached to Her jaw She caught the fighting creature in Her front claws and lifted it to Her mouth to bite down with a paralysing poison, but it managed to get two hands on the stabber and brought it down into Her mandible. She threw it from Her in anger and pain without delivering the injection, but it smashed into the wall with a satisfying thud and slid down to the ground.
As the monster grabbed Pippin he had shoved Merry, making him fall backwards. He scrabbled around on the ground trying to feel where Pip had gone.
'pip! where you?'
'Merry don't panic, Let Pip fight it!'
'she throwed i at wall...
'foots is hurt!'
'i finds you pip… where you?'
The other one was delightful now. She had not fully appreciated it before, but now in the light of the burning torch She could see it blindly flailing around, trying to find it's companion, unaware of Her approach. She liked to play with prey occasionally, and was tempted to bind this one up and save it for later, but She was hungry. Her legs rattling in quivering anticipation She crawled over it again.
Pippin was conscious although when he had tried to stand his foot had collapsed under him, but all he was aware of was Merry. He couldn't reach him, but he could see Shelob about to sink down on his cousin once more, to wrap him and suck his blood.
'merr! stab up! up! up! now!'
Merry reacted swiftly to Pippin's direction and, holding the knife in two hands, stabbed upwards. He found a target, something soft gave with the plunge, although he thought he did not pierce the hide. He pulled back and this time stabbed and ripped simultaneously, something gave. More stinking mucus and pus poured from the new wound, splattering over the hobbit. Heartened by his success, Merry scrambled to his feet and feeling with one hand, realised with sickening horror he had found an eye cluster. Biting his lip and numbing his mind, the little hobbit stabbed into the cluster with all his might at the same time imagining how it would feel to have a jagged orc knife plunged into his own sightless eyes.
Shelob spat and hissed in rage and pain, backing away from the not so helpless creature. Merry winced now, feeling the agony in Pippin's foot for the first time.
Pippin pulled himself along the ground, one foot dragging uselessly behind him, ignoring the white hot pain. He made his way to the still burning torch and wielding it once more, moved towards the damaged spider.
'mer… we got fin she… i not can get up…not can walk… you got take sword i…'
'pip? we got do?'
'Pippin's right Merry, you have to finish it.'
'FILTHY CREATURES! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO THE MASTER'S PET? YOU SHALL PAY DOUBLE IN MISERY NOW! I SHALL WAIT FOR YOU! I KNOW YOUR PATH YOU CANNOT HIDE FROM ME AGAIN!'
The hobbits were so full of fear and adrenaline already there was hardly any room for more, but the Wraith still managed to seize at their hearts and set them pumping even faster. Pippin took a deep breath.
'mer… walk at i… on…on… stop…littlel turn… other way… on… on…'
…and Pippin caught hold of Merry. He put the sword in his hand and Merry put his knife in his sheath.
'…is torch… is burn fire… can take you? not burn you?'
'…can… you go help i…'
Pippin put the torch in Merry's hand and turned his cousin round to face Shelob. Merry resolutely walked a few paces towards the still spitting, hissing creature until Pippin called out with his mind for him to stop. Shelob did not move. Her eyes were damaged, there was now another great jagged tear next to the one that Sam had put in Her belly, not as deep but damaging all the same and She had burns on Her from Pippin's earlier desperate jabbing with the torch.
'put torch at she'
'not know how do pip… where put?'
Merry was at a loss. If he stabbed blindly with the torch She might retaliate and kill him outright. Pippin saw the problem. He would do it himself but he couldn't make his foot stand on the ground. He grit his teeth and clenched his fists tightly instead and stared hard at Shelob as he thought hard at Merry.
"Oh!" Merry let out a little exclamation as he suddenly saw through Pip's eyes the monster lowering in the corner, full of hate and venom. She had wanted to kill him just for Her hunger and would no doubt prey on the next innocent creature that travelled through Her lair. Merry also saw in that moment the hanging corpses of many that had gone before, some rotting where they were, other fallen to carpet the ground on which they stood. Pip and Legolas were right, he had to finish Her now.
Even as he looked She started forward again, pulling Her enormous body up on the great hinged legs and towering over Merry, ready to strike down at the helpless blind creature.
And Merry, through Pippin's eyes, saw himself standing beneath Her with the torch in his right hand, a tiny figure covered in the creature's stinking pus and venomous blood as She poised over him ready to devour his life.
'Merry burn Her now – quickly!'
Desperately wanting the vision to be over, Merry knew he had to obey Legolas and he watched himself lunge upward with the torch and jam it into Her belly.
The gas and poison that was pumping from the wounds caught light as it met the flame, frying the hide on Her belly making Her shrivel and writhe. Merry took advantage as She began to back away from the flame and pushed the blazing torch at the eyes and mouth, which hissed and sizzled although the noise did not come from Her throat, it was the sound of burning.
While he could still watch his movements through Pippin's eyes, Merry ran the flaring torch over the gross body, burning through one of the legs and seeing it fall off like a piece of singed wood in a campfire. The stench of burning started to mingle with the stink of the creature and the decaying corpses until it was almost overwhelming. Gradually the body stopped moving and Pippin, satisfied it was dead, allowed the link to subside as he collapsed to the ground, totally exhausted and spent.
Merry felt spent himself, although he realised Pippin was in a very bad way now. He threw the torch into where the remains of the spider must be and listened to the body continue to sizzle and burn as he felt his way over to Pippin's unconscious form.
Merry sat down beside his brave little cousin and pulled his head into his lap, stroking his cheek and holding his hand gently. He lifted the limp hand up to his face and softly kissed the little fingers that had saved his life.
Suddenly he felt a small movement in the hand he held and a throb in his own foot.
'i not be scareded farmrer magg-rot's dogs ever 'gain!'
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