Frodo and Sam learn of Gollum's pursuit from an Orc-quarrel
Event Type: Military/Strategic
Age: 3rd Age - Ring War
Date: March 16, 3019
An event in the prelude to the Destruction of the One Ring; see that entry for an overview:
In the end they were forced to go back down the ravine that they had climbed and seek for a way along the valley. It was rough going.... After a mile or more they saw ... the orc-hold that they had guessed was near at hand.... There was no movement to be seen, but the hobbits crept by cautiously....
They went two or three miles further...; but they had hardly begun to breathe more freely again when harsh and loud they heard orc-voices. Quickly they slunk out of sight ... Presently two orcs came into view. One ... was armed with a bow of horn; it was of a small breed..., with wide and snuffling nostrils: evidently a tracker of some kind. The other was a big fighting-orc.... As usual they were quarrelling....
Hardly twenty paces from where the hobbits lurked the small orc stopped. 'Nar!' it snarled. 'I'm going home.' ... 'No good wearing my nose out.... There's not a trace left, I say. I've lost the scent through giving way to you. It went up into the hills, not along the valley, I tell you.'
'Not much use are you, you little snufflers?' said the big orc. 'I reckon eyes are better than your snotty noses.'
'Then what have you seen with them?' snarled the other. 'Garn! You don't even know what you're looking for.'
'Whose blame's that?' said the soldier. 'Not mine. That comes from Higher Up. First they say it's a great Elf in bright armour, then it's a sort of small dwarf-man, then it must be a pack of rebel Uruk-hai; or maybe it's all the lot together.'
'Ar!' said the tracker. 'They've lost their heads.... And some of the bosses are going to lose their skins too, I guess, if what I hear is true: Tower raided and all..., and prisoner got away. If that's the way you fighters go on, small wonder there's bad news from the battles.' ...
'That's cursed rebel-talk, and I'll stick you, if you don't shut it down, see?'
'All right, all right!' said the tracker. 'I'll say no more and go on thinking. But what's the black sneak got to do with it all?' ...
'I don't know.... But he's up to no good, nosing around, I'll wager. Curse him! No sooner had he slipped us and run off than word came he's wanted alive....'
'Well, I hope they get him...,' growled the tracker. 'He messed up the scent back there, pinching that cast-off mail-shirt that he found, and paddling all round the place....'
'It saved his life anyhow,' said the soldier. 'Why, before I knew he was wanted I shot him, as neat as neat, at fifty paces right in the back; but he ran on.'
'Garn! You missed him,' said the tracker. 'First you shoot wild, then you run too slow, and then you send for the poor trackers. I've had enough of you.' He loped off.
'You come back,' shouted the soldier, 'or I'll report you!'
'Who to? Not to your precious Shagrat. He won't be captain any more.'
'I'll give your name and number to the Nazgûl,' said the soldier lowering his voice to a hiss. 'One of them's in charge at the Tower now.'
The other halted, and his voice was full of fear and rage. 'You cursed peaching sneakthief!' he yelled. 'You can't do your job, and you can't even stick by your own folk. Go to your filthy Shriekers, and may they freeze the flesh off you! If the enemy doesn't get them first. They've done in Number One, I've heard, and I hope it's true!'
The big orc, spear in hand, leapt after him. But the tracker ... put an arrow in his eye as he ran up.... The other ran off across the valley and disappeared.
For a while the hobbits sat in silence. At length Sam stirred. 'Well I call that neat as neat,' he said. 'If this nice friendliness would spread about in Mordor, half our trouble would be over.'
'Quietly, Sam,' Frodo whispered. ... 'We have evidently had a very narrow escape, and the hunt was hotter on our tracks than we guessed. But that is the spirit of Mordor, Sam; and it has spread to every corner of it. Orcs have always behaved like that.... But ... [they] hate us far more.... If those two had seen us, they would have dropped all their quarrel until we were dead.'
There was another long silence. Sam broke it again.... 'Did you hear what they said about that gobbler, Mr. Frodo? I told you Gollum wasn't dead yet, didn't I?'
'Yes, I remember. And I wondered how you knew,' said Frodo. 'Well ... I think we had better not move ... until it has gone quite dark. So you shall tell me how you know....' ...
There the hobbits sat under the cover of the thorny bush, while the drear light of Mordor faded...; and Sam spoke into Frodo's ear all that he could find words for of Gollum's treacherous attack, the horror of Shelob, and his own adventures with the orcs. When he had finished, Frodo ... took Sam's hand and pressed it. At length he stirred.
'Well, I suppose we must be going on again,' he said. 'I wonder how long it will be before we really are caught and all the toiling and the slinking will be over, and in vain.' ...
It was difficult and dangerous moving in the night in the pathless land; but slowly... the two hobbits toiled on hour by hour northward along the eastern edge of the stony valley. When a grey light crept back over the western heights ... they went into hiding again and slept a little, turn by turn.
The Return of the King, LoTR Book 6, Ch 3, Mount Doom
Elena Tiriel 22Aug06