5. In the Tower of Cirith Ungol
A more restful period – comparatively speaking, that is. The days were monotonous, and they were all exactly the same. The nights – well, Shagrat had quickly taken to keeping company with Faramir at night, and at those times, Faramir was on a completely uneven footing, continually off-balance. At night, Faramir hadn’t much idea where he stood at all.
Except that when Shagrat was with him, Faramir knew without a doubt that he had every bit of the Uruk’s attention. His gaze followed Faramir constantly, and sometimes Faramir would surprise Shagrat watching him, staring at him with open admiration and appreciation. It was deeply unsettling, but at the same time for Faramir, conditioned as he had been by years of harsh condemnation and unwarranted reproach, this had been a heady experience, indeed.
And to Faramir, sometimes the wily old Uruk even had a certain kind of raffish appeal about him – a sort of white-knuckled, headlong good-humouredness, although the idea that a servant of the Enemy could possess any kind of redeeming feature was not a concept that the young Gondorian’s training would easily allow him to accept.
Shortly after he had begun his first military posting as a Ranger in Ithilien, a scouting party of which Faramir had been a member was attacked by a patrol of Orcs, evidently hailing from a squadron stationed just inside the Black Gate. In the confusion of the ambush, Faramir, who had fallen behind while helping to defend the rearguard of his comrades’ retreat, became separated from the rest of the party. Finding himself alone, and unsure of his position in the wild, unknown terrain, the young Ranger had quickly been cut off from his companions, and surrounded by the eight surviving Orcs and Uruks. Though he had fought them with maniacal energy, dispatching or mortally wounding a number of his foes, in very little time he had been subdued, and taken captive.
Faramir had not understood, at first, why they had not killed him outright. He had been blindfolded and bound by the Orcs, his hands tied behind him but his legs left free, and in this condition he had been moved onwards at a sprinting run, for what seemed to him like several hours. Between Faramir’s increasing exhaustion and the cruel goads his Orcish captors applied, he’d had little opportunity to develop a proper sense of fear and apprehension about his situation. All this changed when the patrol reached its destination, however. After a long, waiting period, during which the Orcs and Uruks crowded round Faramir to hide him, pressing so closely that he was nearly suffocated by their proximity and the reek of their stinking bodies, he was rushed a short distance then down a long flight of steps, and finally was thrown roughly into an enclosed space. He lay for a time, resting against cold, damp stone, with the Orcs all around him quarrelling noisily. They spoke together using their own fell language, the harsh consonants of it grating cruelly in Faramir’s ears, even as they cast an odd taunt or insult at him in the Common Tongue. Even without understanding the specifics of what they were saying, it was clear to Faramir that they were bickering over who should have ‘first turn,’ and he knew that they were debating about when to begin torturing him to death. The young Gondorian lay quietly, gathering his strength and trying to contain his rising panic.
The Orcs’ decision was soon made. Faramir was kicked over onto his back and the blindfold was removed. His shirt was stripped open by a bulky, long-armed Orc, a red-faced creature with yellow, protruding fangs, which sported a row of metal staples in its forehead. The Orc bent low over him, and probed its talons delicately into the whip-marks that had recently been left on Faramir’s shoulders. Faramir immediately brought his knees up into the Orc’s belly, momentarily fighting it off, and was booted viciously in the side of the head for his trouble. In a daze, he was lifted and turned onto his stomach, his legs held down in a scissor-grip by another Orc, while the first one mounted him. It clambered up to lie flat against Faramir’s back, its dreadful weight crushing him as it pressed itself close, like a lover. It fitted its hand over Faramir’s nose and mouth, pulling his head backwards with terrible strength, cutting off his breath.
Faramir shuddered as the Orc ground its groin against his back, and rubbed itself onto his still-bound hands. Its erection butted insistently against Faramir’s buttocks, pushing into the fabric of his breeches, and to his horror he realised that the vile creature planned to use him to take its own pleasure. His resolve to bear himself as befitted a soldier of Gondor evaporated utterly – he had steeled himself, and had prepared to withstand pain, and torment, but not such a fate as this. The Orc whispered foul endearments to Faramir, chuckling softly into his ear, its claws pricking at him. Faramir nearly choked, from fear and lack of air. Loud, clattering footsteps, followed by a draught of cold air as the door to the cellar was briefly opened and shut revived him somewhat.
“Maggots,” rumbled a new, much deeper, voice. It had none of the snickering, slavering tones used by the Orcs who had captured Faramir. Like them, it used the Black Speech, but its accent was clear and cold, and the inflection quite different. “Let’s have a look at what you’ve got there,” it said. “Out of my way, Snaga –“ this was followed by a hefty thump as the new speaker batted one of the lesser Orcs off Faramir’s back, and then Faramir was grabbed under his arms and hauled to his feet. He found himself face-to-face with a large Mordor Uruk, evidently a creature of some rank, from the way the smaller Orcs were scuttling around and making way for it.
“Well, well, well,” the Uruk said, gazing intently down at Faramir. Faramir, dazed, and disoriented, was quite unable to break eye contact with him. “This is a fine looking prize, and no mistake. When were you boys planning on telling your Captain about it, hey?”
“We was just on our way,” one of the Snaga replied.
“Too late,” the Captain said, “seems to me you’ve had your chance and lost it. I’m taking charge of the prisoner myself.”
“Oi, Shagrat,” the red-faced Orc whined at him, “now, we brung him back off our own bat. It’s only one of them Dunna – Dunnedeea – one of them Rangers out of Ithilien. They’d never send nobody there what was worth anything, would they? So what’s the harm in us having a bit of sport, before we finish him? Share, won’t you? Fair’s fair.”
“Not a chance,” Shagrat said. “I’m having him for my own personal use. Captain’s prerogative.”
The other Orcs muttered mutinously under their breaths, but there were no further protests.
“Follow me, Goldilocks,” Shagrat said. Faramir looked at him foolishly. “Yes, I’m talking to you,” the Uruk told him, switching languages abruptly, and using the Common Tongue. “Not simple, are you? No? Well come on, then.”
The Captain moved off quickly, striding ahead in great long-legged lopes so fast, that as eager as he was to escape, Faramir was hard-pushed to keep up. He followed the Uruk unthinkingly, running not so much after him, as simply to get away, from the cellar and the other Orcs. They climbed the stairway that brought them back up to ground level, and made their way towards a large, circular barrack-room. Evidently the building they were in was one of the dark Watchtowers that lined the inner walls of the Mordor Gate. Faramir baulked where he stood on the threshold; the room beyond was filled with Uruk-hai and Orcish troops. Some were eating, seated around rough, wooden tables, while others lounged here and there in groups or rested on the floor, leaning back against the walls. Without speaking, the Captain pushed his way through the throng, elbowing his comrades roughly aside. The crowd parted before him and closed in his wake.
“Here, Shagrat, what have you been picking up today?” one of the Orcs cried out, registering Faramir’s presence for the first time.
“’Av’ you brung us all a present? Or did you fetch ‘im for me, special?” another Orc shouted.
“Go on! I saw him first!” the first Orc retorted. “Such a sweet, pretty thing. I’d love a bit of that. We all would - wouldn’t we, boys!” The attention of the entire group was now focussed on Faramir, and they all began jeering and catcalling, howling out obscenities, and meaningless, bestial yowls. Uncertain of their meaning, Faramir hesitated, stopping short in his tracks. Three short, bow-legged Orcs stepped up behind him immediately, blocking his exit. Encouraged by all this, the first Orc began to push his way towards Faramir, while the trio at Faramir’s back forced him forwards, further into the chamber.
From near the back of the room, Shagrat launched himself at the Orc who was approaching Faramir, tackling and grappling him to the ground so quickly that Faramir, in his confusion, barely had time to register what was happening. Shagrat’s claws, feet and teeth ripped into the hapless creature mercilessly, while muffled, wet, tearing noises snarled out of the Captain’s mouth. The Orc gave a horrible, cut-short yowl as Shagrat’s teeth crunched, with awful finality, through the back of his neck. Shagrat threw the body down, disgustedly, and jumped to his feet to stand in a hunch-backed crouch. Scowling at them, snarling and slobbering like an animal, he drew his sword, and slowly turned this way and that, staring down the rest of the troops. All of them pointedly avoided his gaze.
Shagrat twitched. He straightened up, wiping his mouth.
“This Tark is mine,” he said, with quiet menace. “Everybody. Understood?” A clamour of hasty assents answered him. The Uruk and Orc troops fell back, scrambling to get out of the way.
Shagrat began to climb a flight of black stone steps at the opposite side of the barrack room.
“I won’t tell you again,” Shagrat said to Faramir over his shoulder, once again speaking so that the young man would understand. “Goldilocks, you’d do well to follow me.”
Faramir lurched forwards, finding himself pushed on towards Shagrat. The staircase the Uruk was ascending followed the inner wall of the tower, spiralling upwards, and soon Shagrat was one or more turns above and ahead of Faramir, and had passed out of sight. The stone flags below his feet as he climbed were damp and slick with grease and with his hands still tied behind him, Faramir had difficulty in keeping his balance. He stumbled repeatedly onto his knees, at last falling full-length, cracking his chin down hard on the steps ahead. A moment later, the Uruk was beside him, and once again had hauled Faramir roughly up to his feet. Shagrat shoved him face-forwards into the wall, holding him firmly in place there by the neck, and Faramir heard the metallic scrape as he unsheathed his sword. Weak at the knees, he squeezed his eyes shut, expecting both death and dishonour, that the Captain would soon begin using him however he saw fit.
The Uruk sliced through the ropes that bound Faramir’s wrists, then let go of him, immediately.
Faramir turned round. “Thank you,” he said, automatically.
Shagrat recoiled visibly from him, his unlovely face, still a mask of drying Orc blood, contorting in a wordless snarl. He turned his back on Faramir and bounded off up the stairs. Slowly, Faramir followed after him, at a distance. What else was there to do?