10. One Dark Day in Lugbúrz
black-robed man who came out fixed his smoldering eyes on him.
"So, you are the one who caught him?" And, beside Sauron's lieutenant a figure shook like a rat that's fixed for dinner. Grishnákh's breathing became faster. So, that's why they had called him back! What did the wretched creature have to do with anything? Was it... was it important to the lord?
"I did, sir Mouth," he hissed, but one of the man's dark looks were enough to make his speech gentler. "We found him by the plain. The vermin muttered and talked nonsense, and quailed and struggled, but we managed to bring him, thinking that the lord might make use of him- "
"Hush." He raised his palm and behind the dark hood, Grishnákh saw eyes that wanted to pierce him with their fire. "Speak not of what you do not understand. Don't meddle in the business of your betters, and things will be fine for you."
Hot blood rose from his feet to his head, but he only clenched a fist
behind his back. "Yes, sir; the Eye knows best."
"He knows best," the lieutenant said, calmly, but did not send Grishnákh away. Instead, he began to walk along the rampart, dragging the maggot beside him with many a gollum out of his throat, and Grishnákh could do no more than follow and try not to shudder because of the cold wind. The sky was deep grey, almost black, just as they liked it in Lugbúrz, but the cold was somehow... uncanny. He looked around to see whether any Nazgul were nearby –it was always cold when the Nazgul walked by- but just then Sauron's Mouth turned back and spoke to him.
"The lord has been wondering about your... deed. To capture this
prisoner must have been no easy task." There was a queerness about the speech that Grishnákh didn't like. Was the Mouth testing him? Why? When he had felt hot inside with rage, he now felt cold with fear. Why was the lord suddenly interested in him? He thought about his answer; now was not the time to spoil things. No, he wouldn't let the opportunity pass him by, not even were all the Mouths and Lieutenants between him and the Eye. He would find out why the prisoner was important to the lord.
"It wasn't. He's sneaky and cunning, but there's nothing that us Orcs
of the Eye cannot do when the master commands."
"The master, you say?" and the voice came out in a low murmur. "If he is your master, you will tell me now what you've heard from this fool!" He tossed the maggot against the railings, sending him into a fit of whines and sobs. Grishnákh jerked back, but his eyes fixed on Mouth were, under the hood, the two flickers of eyes still shone, and he hesitated. If he played his cards right, he would learn more about the creature's strange words and riddles, but he had to be careful.
"Yon cursed creature didn't stop the sobs and cries and was drivin' us mad," he began, and saw Mouth lean forward. He swallowed hard, "He kept muttering `bout a dark cave and a baggins, and I said `What's a baggins?' and he said, `A thief! He stole it, gollum.' And went on whining and growling. He wanted it back."
"What did he want back?"
"He wouldn't say," Grishnákh replied very quietly, waiting.
"He wouldn't, would he? That's his way. But, I am assured that you found out more, didn't you? The lord would be pleased to hear."
But, somehow Grishnákh knew that the lord would not be pleased.
"The gollum talked `bout seeking for the master."
"I knew you had heard those words before. What else?"
Grishnákh opened his mouth to say something, but then closed it, and had to cough to cover the slip. He could not appear to know as much as he did, and still he needed to find out more without the heads noticing. But, in the meantime he had to appease the Mouth. "He said he'd show him; he said he'd learn."
"I- I suppose it was the baggins."
"Because he was a thief, or so the gollum said."
"What did he steal?" The man's voice was dangerously threatening. Grishnákh stepped back a pace and felt his jowl tremble, but he would not give up now, not before he knew.
"Something very... precious."
"He wouldn't say more."
The man tossed the gollum against him and cried, "You are to keep this fool out of the way. Leave it some place and... and let it wander."
"Let it wander?"
"Now!" And that was the end of the argument. Mouth strode away leaving him with the pathetic wretch, still crying and quailing.
"Why would they want to set you lose after all the pains they took with you, little one? What is it you seek? What is it you carried?" And it had to have been very small if he had it and the baggins had stolen it and nobody had noticed. What was a baggins, anyway? He kicked the gollum and it gave a step. He kicked it again and it gave another one. "What does the lord want?"
"He wants... my precious!" and then the gollum began to wail and would say no more.
"The precious, ah?" Grishnákh hissed. So, the precious was important, after all. What kind of thing was it? A weapon? A secret weapon, no doubt. But, it had upset the Mouth, it had interested the Eye, and now he was closer to finding out what it was. All he had to do was wait for his chance. And, wait he would.
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