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Doomed to Live: 2. Of Hunters and Hunted
The sun had already disappeared beneath the tops of the trees when Boromir awoke. The pain in his shoulder and side had diminished to a dull ache, but shame and guilt still hovered at the brink of his consciousness. Opening his eyes, he found himself still lying at the edge of the clearing, that very place where first Aragorn and then Legolas and Gimli had left him alone. He felt a hint of panic rise in the pit of his stomach, a pang of fear that his former friends had abandoned him for his faults. Careful, so as to avoid any strain on his injuries, he struggled to a sitting position, but his clothes, stiff with dried blood, chafed at his wounds despite all his caution. It took several attempts ere he finally succeeded and even more time until the world stopped spinning around.
Before he could seriously consider any possible course of action, the sound of voices approaching the clearing forced him to focus on more urgent matters. For though he found his sword lying unsheathed by his side, he felt helpless and vulnerable, and doubted that he would be able to defend himself should any trouble arise. But his tension vanished as Legolas and Gimli entered the clearing, and he recognised the voices as those of his companions.
"So you are awake at last!" Gimli growled.
Boromir swallowed hard, not daring to retort the unspoken resentments in Gimli's remark. "Did you discover any traces of our friends?" he asked instead, carefully keeping a level voice in spite of the mixture of anger and shame that rose in his chest.
"Frodo and Sam must have taken a boat to the eastern shore," Legolas said, "for one of the boats is missing and Sam's pack as well. I doubt that anyone but Sam would burden himself with it. There were tracks of a boat having been pulled out of the water on the eastern shore. But they are already some hours ahead of us. If we wish to reach them before nightfall, we have to leave in great haste. Of Merry and Pippin we found only these." Legolas knelt down next to Boromir, and held up two knives, leaf-bladed, damasked in gold and red, and their sheaths, black, set with small red gems. "The Orcs took the Hobbits but feared to keep their knives, knowing them for what they are: work of Westernesse, wound about with spells for the bane of Mordor." He paused, absentmindedly caressing the elven-sheaths, parting-gifts of the Lady Galadriel to the missing Hobbits. "I will keep them," he sighed, "and hope against hope for a chance to return them."
"So the Hobbits are accounted for," Boromir said at length. "That leaves only Aragorn's fate still unknown."
"Where he fought last, we found only this shred of his cloak," Legolas said, revealing a small blood-stained piece of otherwise grey cloth. "But we found nothing else, neither his body nor any of his weapons, save his quiver and bow that he had left behind in our camp."
"So they took him as well," Boromir sighed, "but at least he lives."
"How can you be so sure of that? This would not be the first horde of Orcs to feast upon the remains of their defeated foes." Gimli replied with a shrug.
Boromir felt sick.
"But that does not explain why the Orcs discarded the Hobbits' weapons but took Aragorn's sword. Andúril is an ancient weapon of far greater lineage than the Hobbits' knives, and of far greater power at that. If the Orcs feared the Hobbit's knives, then why did they keep Andúril? Nay, my friend," Legolas turned towards the Dwarf, "Aragorn was still alive when he was taken, but he is in great peril."
Boromir was not quite sure whether Legolas' words were meant to give hope or despair, but as Elf and Dwarf remained silent, he spoke at last, "Well do we fear for him, and for the Hobbits: in the hands of Orcs, bound for Mordor! I dare not imagine what fate awaits them."
"A fate none of us would willingly share," Legolas replied. "But it seems that they are not bound for Mordor, at least not by the most direct route. For their trail leads west, not east."
"To the west you say?"Boromir wondered, casting a questioning look at the Elf. "What kind of Orcs did we face, Orcs that turn away from their Master though they are already that close to his realm?"
"That depends on their Master," Gimli said. "We found the remains of Orcs from at least three different tribes! There were small Mountain Orcs from the North, maybe even from Moria, and Orcs that bore the sign of the Red Eye. But most of them were of a different breed. They were unlike any Orc I have ever seen: huge, black, upon their shields they wore a mark shaped like a white hand, and a white S-rune marked their helms."
"We believe that these strange Orcs were bred and led by Saruman," Legolas added before Boromir could interrupt them with further questions. "And given their numbers they were obviously in command of the entire horde. So the Orcs are indeed heading towards their Master, but he resides in Orthanc, not in Barad-dûr. We ... discussed ... that matter to quite some extent." His sideward glance in Gimli's direction told Boromir enough about the nature of that discussion to be glad that he had been spared to attend their exchange. "The S-rune stands for Saruman, and his Orcs were in command. They are heading back to Isengard. That is the most reasonable answer to this riddle."
Boromir acknowledged the news with a curt, yet absent-minded nod, and waited for either Elf or Dwarf to provide him with some hints as to their intended action. Since the two of them had discussed the origin of the Orcs so 'thoroughly', Boromir was convinced that they had already made up their minds on which route to take. He himself was by now quite certain how to proceed, but he withheld any comment so as not to further tax his already fragile relationship to his remaining companions.
Yet Elf and Dwarf remained silent, and since Boromir was not one known for his excessive patience, especially not when the situation afforded a quick decision according to his opinion, he at last stated the obvious question. "And what is to be done now?" He was rather astonished as, instead of an answer, Legolas let his head drop with a sigh and Gimli's shoulders sagged as if he were burdened by a great weight.
When the Elf finally looked up again, his eyes were clouded with grief. Softly shaking his head as if to ward off an evil dream, he whispered, "I know not. My heart bids me follow the Orcs, yet we were sent forth to aid and protect Frodo."
"And we still have a fair chance of reaching Frodo and Sam if we leave now. As for pursuing the Orcs on foot, I know not ..." Gimli added.
"If we would follow Frodo and Sam, we would abandon Merry, Pippin and Aragorn to torment and death," Boromir said. "And I dare not follow the Ring," he added with a softer voice, "even if that would be the more appropriate choice. I fear to fall prey to its lure again." He took a deep breath and squared his shoulders, ignoring the discomfort the careless movement caused. "Nay my friends," he whispered, "my path lies clear before me at last, and it leads to the west. I will follow the Orcs' trail as fast as I may, and hope that I will reach our friends before it is too late."
"Even if you would reach them in time, you are in no condition to free them, much less defeat the Orcs!" Legolas said. "Your wounds may not be fatal but you shed much blood nonetheless, and need rest to recover." The Elf paused briefly, then said, "Yet I appreciate your choice to not follow the Ring."
A pregnant silence followed that last remark and Boromir could only wait while Legolas seemed lost in thought, a far-away look in his eyes. Gimli regarded his friend closely, his usual impatience held firmly in check. At length Legolas seemed to have come to a decision, for a gleam returned to his eyes. Fixing first Boromir and then Gimli with his keen elven glance he said, "I, too, would rather pursue the Orcs than the Ring. No oath binds us to Frodo's fate, thanks to Lord Elrond's foresight. None of us could foresee what he would meet upon the road, indeed. So I choose to follow my heart."
"Where you go I will go as well, for a haughty Elf like you still needs a Dwarf to watch his back!" Gimli said, folding his arms across his chest. Boromir closed his eyes, fearing that this was the beginning of just another pointless argument between the two, but Legolas ignored the Dwarf's teasing remark, much to Boromir's relief.
"Then let us tarry no longer, for the light of day lasts but a few more hours," Legolas said, helping Boromir to climb to his feet. He steadied the Man as he started to sway slightly, but in response to the Elf's questioning glance, Boromir confirmed that he would be fine. He then sheathed his sword that Gimli had picked up and offered him somewhat hesitantly, but he could barely suppress a wince as the movement pulled at his wounds.
"This way then," Legolas called, and with a last glance at the carnage they left behind, the three unequal companions disappeared in the darkening forest, following the Orcs' trail.
Emyn Muil, February 26th (evening)
An almost inaudible whisper brushed like a gust of wind against his ear, hardly discernible among the yells and laughter of Orcs. The whispered request was repeated, a little louder than before, more urgent, and filled with a hint of anxiety. "Merry! Talk to me, please!"
Merry struggled to open his eyes but failed. Blackness clouded his senses once more and relieved him of the nagging pain in his head.
Pippin groaned in disappointment as he noticed that Merry's eyelids had stopped fluttering, and the other Hobbit again lay perfectly still. He called again, not heeding whether the Orcs would hear him or not, driven by the desperate wish to see his cousin awake.
"Shut up, little maggot!" one of their captors yelled, an ugly short and crook-legged creature with long arms that almost touched the ground. One of those long arms seized Pippin by the hair and dragged him to his feet. "The lads here are only waiting to tickle you with their whips and blades if you give 'em a reason!" he sneered, while Pippin desperately tried to shuffle away from his grasp. But the Hobbit's tied hands and legs prevented the success of such a movement.
"Take your dirty hands off the Halfling! They are to be brought back alive and as captured, no spoiling; that were our orders!" another Orc shouted. He was much bigger than Pippin's captor, and his skin was almost black. But his captor's reply to the reprimand was lost to Pippin, for the sudden release of the Orc's grasp had left him tumbling to the ground.
It took some time ere Pippin recovered his senses and again dared to open his eyes. His surroundings had not changed much since he had at first woken from a troubled dream only to discover that facing reality brought no relief. There were still Orcs sitting and standing all about him, laughing and yelling in their foul tongue. And Merry lay motionless on the ground next to him, a blood-stained rag bound across his forehead that proved a stark contrast to the pallor of his skin. His cousin showed no sign of waking.
Pippin lay still. The sun had already disappeared behind the slopes that rose to the west, and a cold breeze descended from the ridged hills. The cords that were tied about his wrists and ankles chafed his skin, and the growing numbness in his hands and feet was only increased by the chilly wind. To distract his thoughts from his own discomfort he strained his ears and listened to the Orcs. At first all he could discern were angry snarls and growls, among them the voice of his former guard, but once he got accustomed to the sound, he discovered that most of them were talking in the Common Speech.
"What good are those Halflings anyway? 'Takes but the flick of a whip to cut them in half!" their crook-legged guard snarled, accompanied by acknowledging cries. "Not even good for sport! But no, Uglúk, the great, commands! And we have to drag those little rats over the Horse-breeder's plains," he continued to rumble, "I wonder why we were bothered to catch them in the first place?"
"I heard that one of them has something of great power, something that's wanted for the War," another Orc said.
"Then what are we waiting for? Let's relieve them of their powerful weapon, and get rid of that nuisance on legs!" the first one demanded but was interrupted by what Pippin had by now learnt to be Uglúk's roaring voice.
"Our orders are clear!" Uglúk bellowed, "kill all but NOT the Halflings; they are to be brought back ALIVE as quickly as possible. The prisoners are not to be searched or plundered!"
The shouts and cries only grew louder in response to Uglúk's interference, and Pippin could not pick out any further snippets of the Orcs' quarrel among the ruckus. But the sudden clang of metal as swords were drawn left no doubt about the twist the argument was taking.
Pippin desperately wished he were able to cover his ears as the noise of the quarrel increased, as sword met sword, armoury and unprotected skin, and lifeless bodies hit the ground. He had seen enough bloodshed and slaughter to last him a lifetime, and his vivid imagination now added the missing pictures to the sound. With growing horror he realised that the cries grew louder and that fleeing Orcs were coming his way. He turned his head just in time to see his crook-legged guard come tumbling in his direction, a viciously curved dagger protruding from his back. Moments later the air was knocked from his lungs as the dead Orc landed right on top of him.
Pippin gasped and tried to wriggle free from the dead weight that threatened to crush him. He had almost succeeded in spite of his bound hands, when something sharp bit into the soft flesh of his hand. He barely managed to suppress a cry at the sudden sting, but on discovering the source of his latest discomfort a tiny spark of hope flickered in his heart. A small knife, carelessly shoved into the Orc's belt, had nicked the skin of his palm. With trembling hands he pulled the knife free, just in time, for one of the large menacing Uruk-hai approached, grabbed the troublemaker by his neck and heedlessly tossed his corpse away.
Pippin was just about to release the breath he had not known to be holding, when - to his utmost dismay - the Uruk-hai bent down and grabbed his chin with his huge claw-like hand. "You still alive?" the creature asked, and, satisfied by Pippin's hint of a nod, released the Hobbit.
Pippin did not dare move until the Orc was several yards away, all the while clutching the small knife in his bleeding hand. He then took another deep breath to calm his frayed nerves and carefully hid the knife in the sleeve of his coat.
Just as the quarrelling Orcs finally stopped muttering, shouts near the edge of the makeshift camp caught Pippin's attention. He craned his neck to get a better view of the source of the commotion and saw the Orcs crowd about another group of their kin that had just arrived.
When they approached the place where Pippin lay, the sight of a limp bundle, heedlessly flung over the shoulder of one rather large Orc, made him hold his breath. The figure was too large for either Hobbit or Dwarf, and when the Orc dropped it carelessly to the ground, Pippin caught a glimpse of a pale face framed by dark hair. Strider!
Pippin closed his eyes in dismay and tried to imagine what forces could defeat the Ranger who had not even faltered when confronted with the Nazgûl in full wrath. But his thoughts were interrupted by more yells and shouts as Uglúk came stomping along, suspiciously eyeing Aragorn's prostrate form. "Why did you bring one of the Whiteskins along?" he growled, kicking the unmoving body to emphasise his words. "Curse you, Borsúk! Even you can't be that dumb to mistake this one for a Halfling! Our orders were clear: kill ALL but not the Halflings."
"This might not be a Halfling, but neither is he an ordinary Man!" the leader of the newly arrived Orcs snapped back, "this was the leader of their group!"
"This one, their leader?" Uglúk yelled, rolling the unresponsive man onto his back with his foot. "He looks more like a beggar to me! The other one, the one who tried to defend the Halflings, he was of much higher rank than this!"
"You didn't watch them!" Borsúk replied.
"No, we did not!" Uglúk said, "WE followed our orders, while some cowards hid behind the trees!"
"We only followed your command! But I wouldn't be surprised if you'd already forgotten your own orders!" Borsúk shot back, straightening his back so that his head came - almost - level with his commander's. "We watched them, according to YOUR orders. And we made good use of what we learnt. This one was their leader despite his shaggy clothes! He may be clad like a vagabond but his face speaks of high blood. Even the noble one followed his lead. And you have not seen the sword he carried."
With these words Borsúk unslung Andúril in its elven-sheath from his back and handed it over to his commander. Uglúk dropped the blade as if burned and shot the other a killing glare. "How dare you make me touch that elvish devilry? This is worse to the touch than the Halflings' little pricks, and we left those behind for good reason!"
"No ordinary man bears such a weapon," Borsúk continued, ignoring Uglúk's wrath. "And he knows how to use it well: he chopped Lurz to pieces as if he was nothing. I heard rumour that the Great Eye believes that there is still an offspring of the tarks' kings lurking in Middle-earth. And if that tale is true, he," there followed another kick in Aragorn's ribs, which elicited a soft grunt from the Ranger, "is the one, mark my words!"
"Yea, the Great Eye did not forget the bastard that lopped off his finger, and hunts those of the same cursed blood," one of the smaller, crook-legged Orcs threw in. "Great will be the praise in Lugbúrz for those who hand him over!"
"Rumour also has it that one of the tark-kings' blood even stood against the Nazgûl. Twice, and not long ago," Borsúk said. "That same rumour has it that the one was clad in a similar fashion ..."
"Rumour! Nothing but rumour!" Uglúk snarled. "You would have us run into the Horse-breeders on a whim and some Isengard gossip?"
"It was the White Hand himself who told that tale," Borsúk replied. "If you'd listened more and shouted less, you'd know as well."
"If your heads hurt from all that thinking, just tell me, and I'll relieve you of them!" Uglúk shot back.
"Let's take him to Isengard together with the Halflings. The White Hand will judge him." Borsúk suggested, again ignoring Uglúk's threat.
But Uglúk was determined to have the final say in this matter. "I won't take the risk of running into the Horse-boys just because you stupid maggots want to haul a tark through the mountains! You rabble delayed us enough already with your tale of a lost king. Kill him now and kill him fast, or I will make an end to his miserable life myself! And to yours to keep him company."
"The White Hand will not be pleased if he learns what treasure you gave away," Borsúk hissed in response, and his voice became more menacing with the sudden drop in volume, "neither will the Great Eye. They might suggest that Uglúk needs to be relieved of his head, since it proved to be of little use when it comes to thinking."
"He slowed us already, and he will delay us even further. He is much heavier than a Halfling to lug around," Uglúk said, but somehow Borsúk's threat seemed to have touched a raw nerve. "Wake him up and make him walk! As long as he can keep our pace, he may live. I am Uglúk. I have spoken!"
Ice-cold water splashed into his face, snatching away what meagre comfort the waning remains of sleep mingled with evil dreams had offered. Aragorn found himself dunked into a stream almost down to his waist, a heavy weight firmly holding him down. For a panic-stricken moment he feared to drown and tried to squirm free from whatever held him beneath the water. In this he failed, but in response to his movements a hand grabbed him by the scruff of his neck and jerked him out of the icy stream. Drawing a gasping breath, he tried to recall when he had passed out, for he could still remember snatches of the Orcs' conversation about his fate yet knew that he would have avoided the unexpected bath had he but been awake.
But before he managed to get his bearings, his captor dropped him, not caring where or how he fell. Unable to break his fall with his hands securely bound behind his back, he hit the stony ground hard and almost lost his still weak link to the waking world again. After lying still for a while, waiting for the worst of pain and dizziness to abate, he dared to open his eyes. He carefully turned his head to get a better view of his surroundings, and the swirling images of huge, dark shapes looming above him in the growing darkness of the approaching night turned into Orcs as he slowly regained his senses.
"I see, our precious guest is awake at last," a huge Orc kneeling next to him hissed, blowing his foul breath right into Aragorn's face. Aragorn closed his eyes, choking down the rising nausea, but a claw-like hand jerked his head back by his hair and forced him to face his captor again. "You slept long enough, Whiteskin!" the Orc growled, grabbed the Ranger's arms heedless of his injuries, and lugged his captive onto his knees.
Aragorn's vision blurred at the sudden movement, and a sharp pain shot through his arms and shoulders. The Orc laughed at his obvious distress, and said, "I hope you are fit for our little walk? Now is the time to use your own legs!"
Aragorn stifled a moan at the prospect of being forced to walk on his own. Though dangling over the shoulder of an Orc for the last few hours had allowed him to regain some of his strength, it had not alleviated the pain. For now all he longed for was to lie down, since his current condition promised that anything else would be rather unpleasant at best. His cloak and shirt were dripping wet, providing little protection against the chilly wind, but the cold at least helped him to stay awake. His right shoulder hurt abominably, but this was not the only source of discomfort. His wrists were rubbed raw from the rough cord the Orcs had used to tie him up, his hands were almost numb, his muscles cramped, and he felt every bruise and bump he had sustained in the previous fight all the more.
When he had awoken for the first time after the fight and the Orcs had forced him to walk at the tip of a sword, some deliberate stumbles had made them believe him weaker than he actually was. But there had been no chance for escape. Hoping that the Orcs would meet with those that had taken the Hobbits captive, Aragorn had taken his chance. Feigning a swoon had not required much pretence, though remaining impassive at the Orcs' none too gentle attempts to prod him into rising again had been another matter entirely. Yet he had succeeded and an Orc had heaved him upon his shoulder. But this ruse would not work for a second time and Uglúk's earlier threat still rang in his ears.
That's quite a mess you got yourself into this time, he berated himself, but his self-reproach was interrupted as a second Orc knelt behind him and wrapped his arms tightly around Aragorn's chest, pinning the Ranger firmly against his own body.
Aragorn could not withhold a moan as the first Orc ripped down his jerkin and shirt, and the tearing fabric got caught in the deep shoulder-wound. Trying to take his mind off the pain, he let his gaze wander over the horde of Orcs that stood and sat all about. Not without satisfaction he noticed a dead Orc lying nearby and a few more at a short distance away. But his heart sank as he estimated the number of those that remained: at least hundred and fifty he counted, but there were probably more hidden by the lengthening shadows.
Dirty fingers that clawed and prodded at his wound, brought his attention back to his tormentors. "Aah, good old Glanúk knew how to deal a blow. A pity you hacked him up!" the Orc holding him jeered, while the other produced a small wooden box from a pack. The stench of its contents became almost unbearable as the Orc opened the small container. Deliberately dipping his finger in the dark stuff, the Orc graced Aragorn with his most unpleasant grin, then he slowly rubbed the stinking paste into the raw wound with much more pressure than was necessary. Aragorn had tried to steel himself against the pain, for he did not expect the Orc's treatment to be anything akin to gentle, but the sharp, burning sensation caused by the vile medicine proved to be more than he could bear. An agonising cry escaped his throat and was quickly drowned by the jeers and laughter of Orcs.
Pippin had listened to the Orcs' earlier conversation with growing dismay. Though most of the talk had made but little sense to him - especially the part of kings and tarks - the prospect of being forced to witness the slaughter of their valiant guide and friend tightened his throat. So he almost felt relief when Uglúk announced his final command and even hope when Strider finally stirred and was dropped where he and Merry lay. But the feeling of joy was a fleeting one, chased away by Aragorn's piercing cry that rang over the camp. Tears welled up in Pippin's eyes as he saw the Ranger collapse into a trembling heap once Borsúk, who had held him, had released his grasp after the Orcs had finished treating and binding his wound. Since Aragorn had endured the rough-and-ready treatment with an astonishing composure after his initial display of pain, Pippin was shocked even more at his sudden break-down.
"Hullo, Strider," he whispered, closely eyeing the Man who now lay curled up on his side. As the other lifted his head, albeit painfully slowly, he added, "It's good to see you awake."
Blinking open grey eyes dulled with pain, Aragorn whispered in reply, "And it is good to see you as well, Master Took." He swallowed to clear his throat as his voice cracked, then continued, "though the circumstances are somewhat lacking."
"What happened? Where are they taking us? Where are the others? What about Boromir? The last thing I remember is seeing him fall with arrows sticking out of his chest," Pippin went on, hoping to get an answer to at least some of the questions that had been swirling around in his head since he had awoken.
"Easy, Master Took. You ask many questions for a weary man to answer," Aragorn replied, an almost imperceptible smile curling his lips. "Boromir was alive when I last saw him. His wounds were grave, but he will live." The ranger paused briefly, resting his head on the ground. "I doubt that Legolas and Gimli have come to harm, at least if they managed to stay together. What became of Frodo and Sam I know not, but I advise you not to speak of them while there are Orcs around." Aragorn paused again as if the mere act of answering Pippin's questions had left him drained. "What about Merry?" he asked at length.
"Merry is here," Pippin replied, "but he has not stirred since I woke up. I fear he was knocked on the head." He let his voice trail off, casting a worried look in Merry's direction. The Hobbit and the Man both lay silent for a while, each lost in his own thoughts, each fighting his own fears and pain.
"But what about you?" Pippin reluctantly asked after a while, anxious at Aragorn's prolonged silence.
"I have had worse before," Aragorn replied at length without even opening his eyes, "I will be all right."
"Are you sure? You look terrible, you know." Pippin did not quite believe the Ranger's assurance, not after having studied the injured Man for quite some time now.
Aragorn knew that Pippin's concern was not unwarranted. He had had ample opportunity to study his body's reaction to various kinds of injuries to know that his wound was not to be taken lightly. Though he knew not with ultimate certainty what damage the Orc's sword had done to the tendons and nerves in his shoulder - the lack of sensation in his hands and arms could as well stem from the tight bounds - he knew that the sword had severed muscles and crushed the clavicle and that the loss of blood he had sustained would make travelling with the huge Uruk-hai arduous at best. But watching Pippin's worried face, his eyes almost pleading for him to confirm that everything would be fine, he finally answered, "I did not say I would be fine soon," and tried to give Pippin the most reassuring smile he could muster.
"They said they would kill you if you failed to keep their pace!" Pippin warned the Ranger.
"I know. I did not expect them to carry me all the way," Aragorn replied. "It will not be an easy journey, but I have still some strength left, though I may look otherwise."
Aragorn was well aware of Pippin's scrutinising regard. The Hobbit was more than worried, and not without cause. But he would not have Pippin distracted, for the Hobbit would need his wits and his strength. So Aragorn cast the Hobbit the most reassuring smile he could muster and hoped that it would be sufficient to appease Pippin's worries. His act seemed to work, for Pippin, seemingly convinced that Aragorn probably had much more experience with situations like this, let his curiosity get the better of him. "I listened to the Orcs talk when they brought you here," he said at last, "what they said did not make any sense at all. They talked about a king and tarks, maybe you can explain ..."
Aragorn inwardly cursed for having failed to maintain a calm facade, but a feeling of dread and ill foreboding had clenched his stomach at Pippin's last remark. Somehow that part of the Orcs' earlier conversation had failed to penetrate Aragorn's bleary mind, but ere he could answer the Hobbit's question, the sound of approaching Orcs interrupted their whispered conversation.
"So our brave tark seems to have regained enough breath for a little chat!" one of them teased, "then he surely has recuperated enough to walk on his own." The Orc that had spoken jerked Aragorn's head back by his hair while uncorking a flask with his teeth. He shoved the small bottle into the Ranger's mouth, leaving him no choice but to swallow whatever it contained. Aragorn choked and coughed as soon as the flask was removed, but the burning liquid was already on its way down his throat. He felt a hot fierce glow flow through him, warding off some of the chill and pain.
His fit of coughing had hardly abated when Uglúk appeared on the scene, planting himself in front of him. "Move it!" he bellowed, and ordered his subordinates to drag Aragorn to his feet with a wave of his hand. Being hauled to his feet by two Uruk-hai was not the most pleasant experience, but thanks to the burning concoction he had been given, Aragorn was able to stand, albeit a bit shaky. "You will run!" Uglúk declared, "if you cannot keep the pace, then ..." he finished the sentence with an explicit gesture, leaving no doubt about the consequences should Aragorn fail to obey.
All around him the Orcs rose to their feet, two of them seizing the Hobbits like sacks. Aragorn watched an Orc putting his head between Pippin's bound hands and drag his arms down until the Hobbit's face was crushed against his neck. But when the Orc bearing the Hobbit broke into a run, the crack of a whip and the sharp pain that followed brought Aragorn's attention back to his own guards, and he started to move.
To be continued ...
tark: 'man of Gondor' in the Westron jargon used by Orcs, derived from the Quenya word tarkil, used in Westron for one of Númenorean descent (see RotK, Appendix F, p. 513).
A/N: And last but not least, for those who want to know which parts are mine and which are Tolkien's, here are the parts I 'borrowed' (page numbers refer to the Harper Collins Paperback Edition of LotR from 1999):
"... two knives, leaf-bladed, damasked in gold and red", "the sheaths, black, set with small red gems.", "`... but feared to keep the knives, knowing them for what they are: work of Westernesse, wound about with spells for the bane of Mordor.`", "`I will take these things, hoping against hope, to give them back`" TTT, The Departure of Boromir, p. 8.
"`Alive and as captured; no spoiling. That's my orders!`", "`I heard that one of them has got something, something that's wanted for the War,...`", "`Kill all but NOT the Halflings; they are to be brought back ALIVE as quickly as possible.`", "`The prisoners are NOT to be searched or plundered:...`", TTT, The Uruk-hai, p. 48.
"He felt a hot fierce glow flow through him.", TTT, The Uruk-hai, p. 52.
"An Orc seized Pippin like a sack, put its head between his tied hands, grabbed his arms and dragged them down, until Pippin's face was crushed against its neck; ...", TTT, The Uruk-hai, p. 51.
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