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Recaptured!: 83. Ambush
Nothing, except perhaps The Ring, still It was undiscovered. It galled his Master. He, the Wraith-Lord harboured no doubt It would be found, must be found, but these insect-like creatures, these accursed halflings seemed to have a charmed existence. They were obviously tools of some Maiar or possibly even sent by the Valar to confound his Master, for that reason if no other he would find the wretches and squeeze the truth from their stupid, befuddled minds.
He had ordered them killed before, but that was when it seemed they knew nothing and, out of spite, he would not suffer them to live. But it would seem now that one of these could be the halfling of the Gondorian prophecy. His Master had learned of this prophecy from His spying and consorting with Denethor the Steward and now, he knew from their mind jabbering, that the maggots had been with that sneaking sly creature Gollum – the one that had concealed the Ring for many years but then lost it.
He had listened to them chatter to each other, nothing that made sense and nothing to tell exactly where they were since they left the Spider's Lair, but it would not be long. The orcs he had sent to guard the way down from the passage would stop them, there was only that path they could escape by. He had heard them do battle with the great Shelob, and by some foul elvish trickery or perhaps sheer chance, incredibly they had managed to slay the ancient she-monster. But their luck would not last forever; their allies were running thin. Only the elf and that woman sought them now and he would take these two wretched halflings before they got near, he was certain.
The Witch-King surveyed his troops once more and, confident they were set upon their road, pulled his steed back as it beat it's great scaled wings and circled away towards the small ambush party of waiting orcs and the path that led down from Shelob's Lair.
Faramir's men came up the narrow path but slowed when they saw the even narrower way ahead that suddenly opened up into a wider area of ground, a dark entrance visible in the side of the mountain itself on the opposite side. It was obvious that this flat open area was a good place for an ambush. There could well be orcs or servants of the enemy lying in wait for those coming up from the narrow path or out of the entrance opposite. Faramir went ahead, his sword at the ready, with two archers close to his heels. Damrod and Mablung came close behind the bowmen, alert and weapons drawn. Faramir had indicated that the remaining six men should fall back a little until they had established if the open area was clear, although all were poised ready to follow their Captain into battle.
Lurgo smiled knowingly to himself. This was not the first ambush he had laid, in fact it was his specialty, preferring it to open warfare, it gave him the coward's advantage of surprise. Six orcs were stationed to the side of the approach where the ledge widened out, flattened back against the cliff wall and half a dozen had positioned themselves behind rocks facing the narrow path coming up the mountainside, these orcs were all carrying bows which were strung and loaded with arrows, nocked ready for the unsuspecting party, who were no doubt looking for these elf things as well.
The rest of his company was spread out around the wide area they occupied. He was certain they could take this group easily and he was looking forward to finishing off the leader himself, in fact he insisted on it. Not because he wished to exhibit his powers of leadership or his skill with a sword, neither of which he possessed. Rather, he knew the leader would usually carry any purse that was to be had and he would have first right to the plunder.
Nograt stood close to Lurgo as they waited just behind the lesser orcs, which they regarded as battle fodder. He too was waiting for an opportunity. Given half a chance he could stick a jagged knife in Lurgo's back. In the heat of battle no one would see that it was he who had done it or if they did, they would be too afraid to say anything. He doubted they even cared; one orc Chief was much the same as another to them. This would automatically put him in control and he could have his first pick of the loot.
Nograt smiled too.
Merry and Pippin were breathing fast, partly because they were out of oxygen from their exertions and Merry because he could hear the orcs' voices not too far away. But Pippin was hyperventilating, because to his utter astonishment, he could hear something!
It was not mind speak nor was it his imagination. The sound that reached his noise-starved, pointed ears was a sweet humming sound that seemed to be whispering something to him. "Beware! Beware!" It sang. Pippin suddenly realised, it was the magic elven rope! It was warning him. He wondered if Merry could hear it too? Of course he could! Merry could see the rope although he was blind and he, Pippin could hear the rope, although he was deaf. The realisation stunned Pippin for a while, then he shook his head and tried to concentrate on what the warning meant.
Merry realised he needed to tell Pip what he could hear, but before he could do so Pippin squeezed his hand tightly and risked a quick message.
'hears it too mer'
'you go hears pip?'
'rope can hear it i'
Merry squeezed his cousin's hand back to let him know he understood the brief words. They both knew to go very carefully now. They carried on climbing down the remaining steps until they were at the bottom and stood just inside the entrance. Pippin peeped cautiously out.
He did not want to mind speak to Merry what he had seen. Describing the ambush party of 20 or so orcs who appeared to be lying in wait, would be to give far too much of their position away to the Wraith. The orcs were oddly all facing away from the entrance where he and Merry were, poised as if waiting for a foe, or possibly victim, to come up the path on the other side of the open area. Certainly it would be difficult for someone coming up the mountain to spot the orcs, but from this side they were clearly visible.
Pippin was confused. Why were they there? It could not be Merry and him they were waiting for, not facing that way. Something was up; someone the orcs didn't like was coming this way. That probably meant if the orcs didn't like them, they would be friends to Merry and him. Perhaps it was Legolas and Éowyn! But if it were, then he needed to warn them or they would walk into a trap!
Now they were on the flat, Pippin untied the rope from Merry's middle and wrapped the loose end about his own waist. Then Pippin took his little sword from the scabbard and touched Merry's nose with his finger. But he was not quick enough. Merry grabbed the finger and then Pippin's wrist, shaking his head to say 'no' and holding him back at the same time.
Merry was not sure what they should do, but certainly Pippin rushing into a band of orcs brandishing his small sword and limping on a broken foot would not get them far.
The rope hummed louder in both their ears, still singing out its song of impending peril, "Beware! Beware!" the sound obviously increasing with the danger. Pippin kept his sword in his hand, he would wait, but he would be ready. In the meantime he had to risk a brief warning to their dear elf.
'legolas? is dange-rer at you … dange at eow'
'shhh my pip!' Merry warned him to say no more.
Pippin could not tell Merry that the orcs were poised for an ambush but facing the other way and that was why he feared for their two friends. He was wondering if he should try, when mayhem broke loose.
Merry heard the whoosh of arrows and piercing battle yells of the orcs and he flattened further back inside the entrance, while Pippin, surprised at the startled look on his cousin's face, peered surreptitiously around the side again.
He could see a band of men had come up the path and into the ambush, but they looked as if they had been ready to do battle and were holding their own against the orcs, although they were outnumbered two to one. Swords were flailing and arrows flying through the air, the men gradually driving the orcs back towards the entrance where the hobbits were hiding.
Pippin was relieved that the ambush had not been for Legolas and Éowyn although he still kept his sword at the ready. The men wore green and brown of varying hues as if to move among trees and foliage unseen, even their faces were hooded and masked, except for one. He seemed to be directing the battle even as he fought and was obviously their leader. But what startled Pippin the most was the likeness to his noble friend Boromir, the heroic Gondorian who had laid down his life defending Merry and him from the Uruk-hai. Even as Pippin watched, the unhooded man was beleaguered by two large Uruks and they were fighting him back towards the cliff edge.
All the other warriors, about eight still standing, were held back by the main thrust of the orc company. One managed to get an arrow targeted at his leader's assailant but he was brought down by an orc, making the shot go wide. The fighting was intense and fierce.
Pippin realised he was holding both his breath and Merry's hand tightly with the tension of what would happen.
The leader who looked so like Boromir was fighting valiantly against the two great Uruks, but, whilst they could not outmatch him in swordsmanship, they were two against one. He parried their blows and made many telling lunges, but Uruks are hard to kill and he was being pushed further back towards the cliff edge until he was seconds away from the terrible fall.
One of the smaller orc archers broke loose from the main battle and scrambled up on a rock and took careful aim. His arrow missed his own Chief's neck by inches and plunged into Faramir's chest high up and near his shoulder. Faramir sank to his knees as the shock and pain hit him.
Pippin gasped in horror. It was as if he were witnessing brave Boromir's death again. Then thoughts of his own orc, the gentle Smag-nude pierced with arrows as he defended the two hobbits, rushed through his head and Pippin bit down on his lip in rage. He must act, do something, anything, or die in the attempt.
The mighty Uruk raised his sword to deliver the death blow and Pippin tried to cry out, forgetting in his anger and panic that he could not. But before the sword fell, the Uruk himself gave a terrible cry and fell backwards past the leader and over the cliff's edge. The other Uruk had shoved his Chief over with his boot and pulled his knife from the first one's back as his body left the ledge.
Faramir, still on his knees, but now with only one foe to face, swung his sword at the victorious Uruk, catching him a mighty blow to the side. But the Uruk parried and with his other hand caught hold of the arrow sticking out of Faramir's chest, twisting and pushing it further into the wound.
Faramir blanched at the pain and the Uruk was able to grasp his opponent's sword and wrest the weapon from the weakened man.
The Uruk smiled a sardonic grin as he lifted Faramir's own sword above his head to bring it down on his second victim of the day. Not only had he disposed of his own Chief, he would soon add the enemy's leader to his count.
Merry gasped! Pippin was suddenly gone from his side. What had happened? Had he been ripped away? It was not like Pip to leave him like that with no warning.
As Pippin watched in horror from just within the entrance, all he could see in the face of the man about to die was Boromir. "Not again, please no!" raced through his mind and he propelled his small body forward, still dragging his injured foot in a painful limp. He was moved by fear, adrenaline and the humming of the rope, still singing it's warning, which had risen to a crescendo in his otherwise deaf ears. Somehow the warning note had changed and now it seemed to want to spur him to action, a challenge no self-respecting Took could resist.
Pippin would never know for sure how he covered the distance in time, but before the Uruk could strike home the killing blow, Pippin was between the great creature and the green clad leader, an improbable but nevertheless formidable figure. Desperately, and with all his might, he parried the downward blow with his own small sword.
The Uruk paused for a split second in stunned surprise as his sword met the hobbit's and was repelled, but Pippin remembered Boromir's careful instruction, never wait, expect the unexpected and act on it at once. Pippin, clasping his sword in both hands for better force, stabbed upwards into the Uruk's belly and pulled the weapon out again quickly, ready for another thrust.
It was not needed. The Uruk clutched the wound which had stabbed right through his vitals and lurched to the side, he was on the very edge of the cliff and teetering. Without hesitation, Pippin used his own bodyweight to give the great beast a final shove and the Uruk hurtled over the side and onto the rocks below to join his Chief.
The rest of the battle was almost over now, Faramir's men had made an easy conquest of the smaller orcs, especially once their leaders had been defeated. The few that were not killed had run, cannoning through the opening where Merry stood in confusion, pressed up against the wall. They ignored the hobbit. As both their leaders were now dead all they cared about was saving their own skins and so clambered up the steep stairs where they hoped not to be followed.
As the adrenaline subsided, Pippin shook a little at his actions and took a deep breath. He could see others coming over to help the fallen leader. He knew there would be questions and for that he needed Merry. Also he remembered with horror that poor Merry would not know where he had gone and was all alone with a great battle going on. As quickly as he could he limped back over to find his cousin.
Faramir held the arrow sticking from his chest, biting down against the agony. He turned his head to look for his small saviour to thank him, but the little hero had already limped away, disappearing back inside the entrance that he had come from.
Mablung raced over to his wounded Captain and knelt beside him, "Mablung how fare the company? Are any lost?" Faramir asked first.
"Some injuries, Captain." Mablung reported. "But all survived. This wound looks dire. I had best not remove the arrow yet until we can treat the injury properly. I tried to reach you but could not." Mablung's voice caught a little, he was obviously devoted to the Captain. " I feared you were lost."
"I was indeed, but my life was saved by a very valiant warrior." Faramir struggled round to look over to where the halfling was peering out from within the entrance in the mountainside. "Only he seems too shy to come and be thanked."
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