"You go in and fetch it."
"I ain't touching it again – I told you – it ain't natural."
"It ain’t going to hurt you for fug's sake." Smagnu unlocked the door to the cell and held up a lighted torch. At first he thought that perhaps Grutfley was right and it was a magical imp and had escaped. But eventually he could make out a tiny form curled up in the far corner. "Come 'ere little thing," he called.
Pippin had awoken at the light and was both pleased and frightened to see the big Uruk again. Pleased because it meant he hadn't just been left to die and terrified in case it had come to kill him. It was leaning down and beckoning to him, so he crawled forward on all fours wondering if he could make a dash between its legs.
But as he drew nearer the Uruk grabbed him by his hair. Placing the torch in a holder on the wall, he put the thick cord around Pippin's neck again and this time he also tied his hands behind his back. Then he offered the lead to Grutfley. "Here take it. Don't reckon it can do you no harm like that."
Grutfley backed away. "No you take it up to Him. I don't want it. You can have all the glory."
"You mean all the blame." Smagnu sneered back "You was supposed to do this thing and you couldn't. Now you want me to take it back! Well if I do I'll say it was your cock-up."
"Naw, come on, we agreed." Grutfley tried to sound ingratiating, "give it to your Captain and let him take it back. We'll say it's been beaten into submission."
"It's fugging obvious to anyone that it ain’t been." The Uruk pulled sharply on the cord around Pippin's neck making him jump and gaze up anxiously at the big orc.
"Look it's staring at you now!" Grutfley pointed. "It's probably putting some sorta curse on you."
The Uruk wound Pippin towards him with the cord and bent down looking closely into the wide innocent eyes. "I don't think it's doing nothin’." Smagnu decided. "But it does look rather wide awake and not too beaten down."
"Well I'm not doing nothing else to it." Grutfley folded his arms defiantly. "It looks like it's up to something to me."
"This should knock it out a bit." Smagnu reached inside his jerkin. "I always keep some of this stuff, cost me a pretty penny too. But this thing won't need much to make it dopey." The orc drew out a small bottle and pulled the stopper in the top out with his teeth. He held Pippin by his hair again and pulled his head back, forcing the bottle between the hobbit's teeth and pouring some liquid into his throat.
Pippin had expected it to taste like the usual orc draught – burning and fiery and that it would wake him up. But the liquid that dribbled across his tongue and down his throat had a different, but still familiar tang to it.
A smile spread across Pippin's face – it was the same as poppy paste. "Mmmm!" Pippin thought, "It comes in pints!"
As dusk fell that evening an errand-rider of Gondor came for King Théoden He was clad with a cloak of dark green over a coat of fine mail; on the front of his helm was wrought a small silver star. In his hand he bore a single arrow, black-feathered and barbed with steel, but the point was painted red.
He sank on one knee and presented the arrow to Théoden. "Hail, Lord of the Rohirrim, friend of Gondor!" he said. "Hirgon I am, errand-rider of Denethor, who brings you this token of war. Gondor is in great need. Often the Rohirrim have aided us, but now the Lord Denethor asks for all your strength and all your speed, lest Gondor fall at last."
"The Red Arrow!" said Théoden, holding it, as one who receives a summons long expected and yet dreadful when it comes. His hand trembled. "The Red Arrow has not been seen in the Mark in all my years! Has it indeed come to that? And what does the Lord Denethor reckon that all my strength and all my speed may be?"
"What the Lord Denethor may know or guess of all these things I cannot say," answered Hirgon. "But indeed our case is desperate."
"It is a long road, and man and beast must reach the end with strength to fight. Hirgon, we shall come to Gondor’s aid as soon as may be." Théoden said. "Tarry here this night. Then in the morning you shall look on the muster of Rohan and ride away the gladder for the sight, and the swifter for the rest."
Merry had listened to this exchange, standing with Éowyn in the shadows. "So they leave in the morning." He whispered to the young woman.
"Aragorn and the Dúnedain depart also for the war ere the first light." Éowyn sounded very sad to Merry's ears. "It is hard at times such as this to be a woman with the heart of a man."
"Yes," Merry agreed, "or a hobbit."
The Uruk had expected Pippin to become doped and drowsy after about ten minutes. But the precious opium seemed, like everything else, to have almost no effect whatsoever on the little creature. The strange imp was now smiling happily and pushed its head against the big Uruk's hand and lifted its face up, licking its lips.
Smagnu frowned in consternation; even he was starting to get worried about it now. "I think it's beggin’ for more," he growled.
"It seems to like you as well." Grutfley found that even more surprising in view of their treatment of the creature. "P'raps you oughta give it the rest."
"It's had over half already," Smagnu held the small bottle up to the light and saw that the contents were more than half gone. "Unless it was really used to this stuff, that much shoulda killed it. I dursen't give it any more."
"We'll take it back to the Captain anyway." Grutfley decided. "It’s stopped staring at any rate."
"Hmm," Smagnu was not so sure. "It looks far too happy."
Just then the decision went out of the pair's hands. Their Captain arrived in the orc quarters himself and summoned the two over. "Have you finished?" He pointed at Pippin. "It oughta be done by now. You've had enough time."
"It's an odd thing, Captain…" Smagnu started.
"I don't think you'll have any trouble with it," Grutfley interrupted. "You wanted it biddable and obedient. Well it's that all right now. Look."
Pippin had a silly grin on his face. The poppy juice did not knock him out because of his increased tolerance to it, but it did make him relaxed and very happy. He was still nudging Smagnu's hand in a vain attempt to beg some more.
The Captain seemed surprised at the result of their work, but satisfied nonetheless. "Very well, he took the rope lead from Smagnu and tugged Pippin to him. "I'll take it now from here."
Pippin did not want to leave his newly discovered source of opium and pulled back from the orc captain to be with Smagnu. The captain laughed at the little thing's audacity. "Looks like you've got yourself a pet rat Smagnu. But you can't keep it."
He shortened the lead, pulling Pippin to heel and dragged the hobbit roughly after him. "They want it back upstairs!"
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.