49. Friends and Strangers
Pippin was still in shock from his ordeal and more than a little befuddled with the orc whisky and poppy juice. The big orc had come back and, seeing the saucer empty, had filled it up with water. The hobbit had picked it up to drink but actually managed to spill most of the water on the blanket he was wrapped in, then clumsily dropped it on the floor where it broke into several pieces.
The big orc looked angry and Pippin could see his lips moving quickly which usually meant he was in trouble. He curled up as small as he could and pushed himself half under the bed, as far as the tether on his neck allowed. The Uruk grabbed hold of the rope and pulled him out again.
The big creature picked him up under his arms and turned him around, checking for damage as Pippin trembled with cold, hurt and fear, wondering what was going to be done to him. Was this big orc going to kill him slowly? Maybe cut him up and eat him – perhaps he liked cooked hobbit.
Smagnu obviously didn't think any of the injuries were worth worrying about and just set the hobbit back down and gave him his shirt and breeches. Pippin managed to drunkenly dress himself.
The orc pointed at the broken pieces of saucer and Pippin painstakingly, in his befuddled state, picked up every bit, balancing the shards one on top of the other. He put them on the floor in a neat pile and sheepishly pushed them towards the orc and backed away again.
Looking anxiously up at his terrifying benefactor, Pippin suddenly realised that the great Uruk was laughing. The orc bent down and picked up the broken bits of crockery and with his other hand ruffled Pippin's unruly curls, then patted his head.
Pippin curled up on the floor again, getting as far under the bed as the rope permitted, dragging the soggy blanket with him. He probably could have untied the cord but thought he was safer where he was, for the moment anyway.
Too many thoughts and images tumbled through Merry's head as he was dragged off the horse at the end of the terrifying ride. What had happened to Legolas? Who had attacked them? What did they want with him? What would Gandalf think? Would he think they had run away – absconded?
"Here it is – where's our money?" The gruff voice came from the man holding him so tightly.
"Is it the right one? Let me see." That voice was familiar, Merry recognised it at once. He tried to reach up to his mouth and pull the retching gag off but the man held his arms down as soon as he moved.
"How many halflings are there round these parts?" The gruff voice sneered.
"Ah yes, the little blind one. That's what I wanted."
"Good – then where's our pay?" Merry started struggling violently. He did not want to be handed over to this man. "Hold still you brat." The callused hand clouted him across the back of his head.
In reaction Merry stamped down hard with his heel on the man's foot. He had already worked out the best place to aim his blow by feeling surreptitiously with his unshod hobbit foot and hit the arch, which was almost unprotected in soft leather. The man yelled in pain and let go his hold of the hobbit.
Merry lunged forward out of reach of the restricting arms and pulled the gag from his mouth. "What do you want with me?" He shouted angrily. "Haven't you done enough harm?"
"Keep hold of him you idiot!" It was the voice that Merry knew again.
The ruffian was still howling his pain, but he obviously had a partner, as the other caught hold of Merry by the scruff of his collar and clubbed him to the ground. The little hobbit yelped with pain but struggled to his feet again and backed away from where he thought his kidnappers were.
But the first man was recovered by now and caught the Merry by a fistful of hair and a great hand around his neck and shook him in temper. "Break my bloody foot – I'll teach yer."
"That's enough – you kill him and you'll get no pay." The familiar voice once more. "I'll give you half now and the rest once we deliver him."
"Our deal was full payment on delivery to you." The man kept a grip on Merry's hair but held him at arm's length to stop him kicking.
"No you must come with me and help to take this one to Mordor." The other said, "You will be well rewarded."
"With an arrow in your back!" Merry shouted. "What did you do to Legolas? Where is he?"
"Silence you little rat. If you mean your elf friend, he should give us no more trouble." The rough voice laughed. "My arrow took him in the heart not the back."
"And I will pay you back in kind!" Merry threatened. "Or that traitor will – before he gives you money he will betray you with knife or poison."
"Oh no little one." The voice whined. "I never kill, so wasteful. There are better ways to use my enemies."
"You killed Legolas, or had him killed." Merry's temper rose with indignation at the lies. "And you betrayed Pip – you dungpile – you gave him to the Nazgûl. I will be avenged of you Wormtongue! If I don't kill you for this day's work, someone will!"
"No, you are going to the Nazgûl, my little friend." Wormtongue came over to Merry now and ruffled his hair in mock benevolence. "After all a promise is a promise and the Dark Lord knows how to reward obedience and loyalty."
All at once Merry's knees buckled and he sank to the ground, the ruffian letting go of his hair in surprise. The little hobbit suddenly clutched at his upper chest in agony and cried out with pain.
Pippin was trying to sleep under the Uruk's bed. He shivered with cold.
Grutfley had come to get some rest and, seeing where his blanket had gone, snatched it away from the sleepy hobbit with a growl. Pip had been cold to start with and was now frozen through and through.
He crawled out and peered about in the dim light that came through a high slit window. He thought it was daytime, but he was still very cold and it was quite dark. These two orcs he thought must work during the night and sleep all day.
The big orc was sleeping on the bed that he was tied to and the bed looked quite big and roomy. It also had several warm looking blankets on it. Pippin was never one to think things through to the end and decided that where he needed to be was in the bed and under the blankets.
With much difficulty he managed to untie the knot on the tether and quietly as possible crawled up onto the bed and crept beneath the blankets, finding a warm spot against the Uruk's legs. He was very tired and still under the influence of the whisky and opium so he fell asleep almost immediately.
Smagnu woke up shortly after Pippin had dozed off and wondered what had disturbed him. He felt down in the bed and found something small and warm curled up against his leg. Lifting the blanket he was completely bemused to find the little creature had snuggled up to him and gone to sleep.
It was a unique feeling, one he had never experienced before. Unbidden and without prompting, this little imp, that he could probably crush with one hand, had trusted him enough to fall asleep in his bed.
The big orc shook his head as if to shake out the strange sensation that he got from this un-looked for trust and the feelings that came with it.
He watched the little thing for a while. It was breathing deeply, not quite snoring, but it struck him that it was also very pleasant to look at – delicate almost, like a female or a child. He thought perhaps that Grutfley had been right all along and this was some kind of faerie or magical imp that carried bewitching powers. Perhaps it was bewitching him right now.
Suddenly the little creature woke, its eyes wide and staring. It clutched its upper chest as if in agony and scrunched its knees up to its chin in obvious pain.
Smagnu thought that it might be seriously wounded and realised for the first time in his existence that he actually cared whether it lived or died. "What's wrong little thing?" He patted its hair and gradually put a great arm round it to comfort it. "Don't die little thing."
Legolas opened his eyes wide and clutched his upper chest in agony. An arrow was there and the pain of it was blinding. But as he returned to consciousness he realised that, although he was in the middle of the trees where he and Merry had walked and that the little hobbit was gone, he still was not alone.
'Merry? Pippin? My little ones, I'm hurting you! Don't be in my head.'
'legolas, you go be 'live?'
'legolas, you much hurted now!'
'Yes Merry, I'm alive. Where are you?' Aaahhh! Sorry!'
'…s' all right - aaag! s'big hurt in you lego- l-las!'
'who go h-hurt you legolas? oooww!'
'An arrow Pippin. Don’t worry little one. Try to go out of my mind so you won't feel it.'
'can't too big hurted…'
'I'm sorry… you must try not… to' Legolas made a supreme effort as he came to a little more and pushed both the hobbits out of his head. He was surprised that his pain had transferred to them so easily, but it was probably because he was unprepared.
The elf felt the wound tentatively and realised he was going to have to walk back to the camp to get help as no one knew where he was. The growing realisation then hit him that both hobbits had now been captured. But who had taken Merry?
As soon as he got this arrow out and the pain had subsided he would be able to find out. He reached up to the arrow again and broke off the end, leaving just the point and about two inches of shaft. He could feel it was not too serious and that nothing vital was damaged – it was just very painful.
He began to limp slowly back when he realised that he must not wait until the arrow was removed to find out who had stolen Merry away. Anything might happen in the meantime. He sat down on the grass again and called to the hobbit.
'Merry, Merry can you hear me?'
'legolas? can hear – you still hurted i feel… you get strider fix?'
'Merry just tell me – who has taken you away? Where are you?'
'not know where – who is worm – worm too big name – gave my pip to wraith…'
'Grima Wormtongue! Why has he taken you?'
'give i to wraith – legolas! p'raps i go get pip now…'
'Merry you must try to get away – we will send someone after you. Do you understand? Try to leave some kind of trail.'
'trail – i do legolas – you go hurted now! aaahh! 'gain… you go bettrer soon…'
'Soon Merry – don't worry. We'll find you."
'and i find pip…'
Legolas could feel the pain welling up again and broke the contact before it radiated into Merry. But as the elf made his way back to the camp he couldn't help worrying about the little hobbit's last comment. 'i find pip.'
It was he who had told Merry to make the most of any opportunities that came his way and now he wondered if that had been the best advice.
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.