67. Quo Vadis?
'merr? did i go bad place?'
'pip? what is? no we 'live now… your orc taked we…'
'…no i bad place… hitted i …hurted…shake-shake much… bad drink at i…sick and sick…'
Merry heard a plaintive little sob. He was not sure where all the pain and nausea was coming from, him or Pippin, they had both been knocked about and shaken up a lot, to say nothing of the vomiting. Both the hobbits were still very drugged and disorientated as Smagnu carried them up from the dungeons, Merry on his shoulder and Pippin under his arm.
'…know feel bad… poor my pip…but we not go dead…'
'…think i bad place… wait you get i merr…'
'… i here now pip… you go be fine soon…'
'…can see you merr… not i talk yet… not i hear no things yet…'
'…we not go dead pip… can touch you at i?'
'… try reach…'
Pippin stretched his hand out and managed to catch hold of Merry's foot, he held it tightly.
'…we not go dead, pip… need talk at legolas… he think we go dead… he much sadder…'
'…legolas! you hear at us?'
'Merry, Pippin, yes my little ones I can hear you. I heard you being sick, thank The Valar! Who was hitting and shaking you? They had a powerful blow.'
'…other orc go hitted at we… much strong he too…legolas? we sorry… not goed die yet…'
'I am not sorry! You must not harm yourselves like that! Do you understand?'
'…but what happs when wraith go we?'
'Wait and see, I do not know what will happen, but Éowyn and I are still riding towards Mordor, there may still be a chance.
'…think we got go sick 'gain now…'
'I know, I can feel it! You go and be sick.'
Smagnu had reached the courtyard and he also realised Merry was about to vomit again and set him down just in time. The hobbit, shaken up by the renewed jostling, retched and brought up more emetic and poppy juice.
"Please Mr Smagnu," Merry was still very groggy and unsteady as he finished throwing up on the flagstones of the courtyard. "we di-didn't want to get you in trouble… but w-we c-can't let the Wraith…' He tailed off not sure how much the Uruk was on their side.
"Listen," Smagnu could hardly believe what he was about to say himself. "I know this makes no fugging sense but I'm not taking you two back to the dungeon. I'm getting you out of here."
"Wh-what?" Merry could scarcely believe it either. "How? Why?"
"You explain some things to me first." Smagnu set Pip down as well, lifting him up to his feet as he sank to the ground. "Why did you try to kill yourselves?"
"W-we had to p-protect our f-friends and f-families." Merry acutely aware, even in his drugged state, that he could not mention the Ring, even to this trusted orc. "W-we were going to d-die anyway and th-this seemed easier."
"What did you have to protect your friends from?" Smagnu knew there was a lot he was not being told.
"Mr Smagnu, I don't know w-what to tell you." Merry realised he had probably already said too much. "I don't know where your loyalties lie or whose side you are on. I don't know…"
Smagnu caught the little hobbit as he slumped forward. He realised that he was asking too much, why would the creature reveal to him what he had been prepared to die to conceal. Whose side was he on? It was a good question - one he had not properly considered himself.
Smagnu was not a complex creature. He resolved to deal with the practicalities of the situation and leave the issues to fate. He had made his decision.
Lifting Merry up again and shaking him a little to bring him round, he took both the imps by the scruff of their collars and marched them over to the water butt where they were unceremoniously lifted and dunked. As he did not see what was coming, Merry let out a squawk of shock, quickly drowned out as he was submerged in the barrel, wondering as he sank below the freezing water if Smagnu had decided to just drown them instead.
They both came up spluttering, coughing and shivering, but very much more awake. Merry felt for Pippin as they were lifted out and stood in the courtyard, still wobbly and uncertain, hanging on to him, so happy to feel his life force again and stunned that somehow they had survived once more what seemed insurmountable odds.
"Now, new little Pip," Smagnu took his cloak off and wrapped it around the soggy pair. "We have to work out a way to get you both out of here – fast!"
They were sitting in comparative warmth, both his and Pippin's wet clothes discarded in a heap with Smagnu's big cloak wrapped around them both. The big Uruk had stowed them for the time being in the only secret place he could think of, the tunnel where Pippin had found the mithril coins.
On the way to the tunnel, Smagnu had carried them in a bundle wrapped up in his big cloak and slung over his shoulder like a sack of coal. There had been some nasty moments when he thought he would be discovered, such as the trip through the mess hall when several orcs had shouted out to him, asking whose body was in the bag. The big Uruk had merely growled, threatening that there was still plenty of room in there, which had silenced most comments.
'…what we go do now?'
Merry remembered then that he had not explained to Pippin about Smagnu's change of heart, that he was going to help them escape, if he could just work out a way to get them outside the walls of the dark tower.
'…big uruk…smag… he gone get us 'scape…'
'…how we go?'
'… he get horse… gone go kir-ung towrer… got stair there… got passgage… get out mordor…'
'…when we go?'
'…got prob… not know how get us go out here…'
'…here… black towrer… big gates… lot lot guards…'
'… we go this one - tunnlel…'
'… this we be in… it go all out way… not stop… go out…'
'… you sure pip?'
'…course… i been'd! …waited you come fore go 'scapes…'
'… oh pip! you clev hobb't…'
'…merr… we go now?'
'… wait smag… he comes back i tell he…'
'… smag? my orc called smag?'
'… not sayed it right… it smag then it nu… but say 'gethrer…'
'… sayed smag - nude?'
'…not thinked that right pip…'
'…what smag-nude gone tell wraith we goned?'
'…think he go big trub…'
'…merr… where he go at now?'
'…gone get things at us… go 'scape…'
"New Pip! Are you there?" Smagnu was too big to crawl as far into the tunnel as the hobbits, so it was good to have one of them that could at least hear him.
"Yes Mr Smagnu. Shall I come out?" Merry whispered in a voice that still echoed along the narrow tunnel.
'smag comed back at we…' he quickly informed Pippin.
Pippin was well honed in his response to the Uruk and wriggled out of the cloak and along the tunnel as fast as he could, fastening on to Smagnu's leg, totally heedless of his own lack of clothes. Merry crawled after him, feeling his way, and bumped heads with Pippin who was coming back for him.
"Ow!" Merry rubbed his head and reached out to rub Pippin's as well. The disadvantage of a mind link in such circumstances was that you got double the pain.
'my orc… my smag-nude got things and things…merr!'
'clothes and food and food… in bags!'
Merry emerged from the tunnel and Smagnu greeted him with a hand to his head. "Now then, new little Pip, I got all the things you're going to need. Only thing I didn't work out yet is how to get you out of here."
"Pip, little Pip worked it out." Merry explained quickly. "This tunnel goes all the way to the outside. He's been there before."
"All right. So if I explain to you where to go." Smagnu worked out slowly, "you can explain it to little Pip and he can lead you both there."
"Yes," Merry agreed. "That's easy! You tell me and I'll tell Pip. Then he can lead the way."
"Just explain one thing to me." Smagnu picked Pippin up and checked him over, listening to his heartbeat, looking at his still bleary eyes. "How do you talk to little Pip and he talk to you? I don't hear anything or see you do anything. Is it magic?"
"A little bit." Merry agreed. "We… that is… well our minds are linked together. We talk in our heads."
"And are all your kind like you two?" Smagnu put Pippin down, satisfied that he was reasonably recovered from his overdose. "Do you come in pairs, with one to see and one to speak? One blind and one deaf?"
Merry was a little perplexed at the question to start with, but then began to see it from Smagnu's viewpoint. "No," he shook his head, surprised as Smagnu lifted him up and subjected him to the same examination he had given Pippin. "It's just Pip and me. We're hobbits and usually our kind can see and hear as well as anyone. We just… just well, something happened to make us like this."
"Hobbits you say? All right, well how come you're both called Pip? I thought maybe that's because you came in a pair."
"Oh well, no I'm not really called Pip." Merry realised he had never explained this either. "But…"
Just then there was a terrible screech that rang through the corridors of the lower levels of Barad-dûr. The Nazgûl had returned and discovered that the hobbits were gone!
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