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Hope for the Uruk: 5. Escape
My birth-name, called thus softly, recalled me to carefree days when there was no Chief Ranger, no Elessar Telcontar; only the clear voices of the Twins in a crisp Rivendell dawn, calling me to hunt, to wrestle amidst frosty leaf-fall, or play naked in the streams. (Later, of course, I had met their sister, and all games had ceased abruptly).
Surely this was still night-time. I shifted comfortably, found a thick nipple against my nose, licked it tentatively, and settled back, safely cradled in long arms.
“Estel! You must move, little King. Those Snaga have finished getting into each other’s britches! They’ll be back to check you’re still alive soon.”
I had not died this time either. Stifling a sigh, I pulled up onto one elbow, and looked down at my companion’s craggy features which, in repose, held the impassive and grotesque beauty of ancient stone.
“How long have you known?” I asked.
“Oh, fairly soon, fairly soon, little King. I nearly ate someone who looked a lot like you back on Gladden when Isildur died. It ain’t that difficult to recognise Elendil’s line.”
“Elendur. My uncle at thirty-eighth remove.”
“Well, the Snaga recognised you after last time, so I thought I’d call time on this game. Don’t forget to give the order as you go.”
“To have me killed of course. And then you must get them done too.” he caught my incredulous stare, and added impatiently, “Oh come now! It’s what being a sodding King is all about.”
He was truly expecting to die. I began to laugh, a trifle raggedly.
“You too? Well, since you didn’t oblige me my ripping out my throat, I have no intention of executing you either. We must get you out of here fast. Let me think.”
“Oh fine!” he replied sarcastically, “Take all the time you need so long as it’s the next five minutes.”
“Shut up! If you’re so anxious to die, how is it that I have a gash on my leg caused by your broken shackle-link?”
“Ah. Well. Never said I’d let those fucking pushdug-glob actually carry out the order, did I?”
“So you’re free? Good. How are you at breaking the lock on the cage?”
“Could do it easy as cracking Tark skulls.”
“Then what are we waiting for? Get those breeches on and come.”
Ignoring the singing pains in all my joints, I rose and got my own clothes. Climbing into the loose robe was merely painful. The boots were sheer torture, until his large, capable hands helped me pull them on. He was now dressed, with sword-belt buckled on. He leaped from the open cage to retrieve his curved scimitar from the ground. I supposed that I wasn’t in any worse danger from him than when he was weaponless.
I closed the hanging lock on the door before asking him to snap it, which he did with no more trouble than I would have in cracking a walnut. I hoped it would seem convincing as I dropped it by the open door.
“Here! Put this on.”
“Smells of Cupcake.” he objected.
“So? It blends into its background. It will make you nearly invisible. And the scent will hide your musk. Follow me out, and keep to the shadows. With luck, they won’t see you. I shall lock the outer door as if you’re still inside. When will they next come to check on you?”
“Dawn.” grunted Shagrat taking the grey cloak gingerly and coughing in distaste as he drew it on. “And what the fuck’s wrong with my smell?” he grumbled to himself.
“Your feet show below the hem. Try to keep down!”
Obsessed with visions of a pair of huge feet sneaking past the guards, I nearly forgot to gather up a bit of filthy sacking from the floor as substitute for the cloak on my arm. Taking a deep breath, I flung the outer door open.
The two guards, looking somewhat flustered and dishevelled, spilled out of some recess or other. I felt air move behind me as Shagrat ghosted through the door, so turned back to call into the empty room.
“That’s enough, Orc! Your information was worthless as you well knew. You’ll be going elsewhere soon for stronger measures if you don’t come up with something useful. Think about it!”
I slammed the door with a satisfying crash and locked it with a flourish, tossing both sets of keys back to the guards as I set off up the stone-cut stairs to Rath Dinen. I desperately hoped that Shagrat was following.
“It’s a long way down to Pelennor.” I told the air behind me, “Try to keep up.”
I led the way through the fire-blasted shadows of Rath Dinen, hearing from time to time his heavy footfall behind me. Just before the entrance to Silent Street, I ducked into a small hidden archway where a narrow spiral descended into darkness.
“This will be a long steep climb.” I warned, “Watch where you put your feet. I don’t want you falling onto me, or we may both break our necks.”
“Oh, I shall fall soft, never fear, little King.” I heard him rumble.
It took almost two hours to clamber down the secret stair cut through the solid rock sheer from the citadel to the Great Gate. Twice I was forced to stop and ease my aching limbs. The second time this happened, Shagrat offered to carry me the rest of the way; and thereafter I said no more.
The Gate was, of course, still in pieces following the siege, but a temporary barrier had been set up and manned. The night-watch could be easily identified by their small fire. Beyond, on the Pelennor, the burial work continued stopping neither by night nor day.
I got us out without much trouble once I had revealed myself. We descended into the field, leaving behind us a guard marvelling at my magnanimity in deigning to visit at such an hour. Alas that the motives of great ones can be so misconstrued by the less!
The burial parties were equally grateful at my presence; but showed a disquieting tendency to provide an escort, saying (quite rightly) that all danger was not yet passed merely because the Dark Tower had fallen (“praise to your lordship and the Valar”).
“I can’t stay here long.” I muttered as we finally slipped away beyond a pile of rotting mumak, “Give me the cloak! I shall need it at dawn when I knock those guards flat, and hope they think it was you!”
“Ah-har har! We’ll make a Dark Lord of you yet, little King. So then you can have them executed for letting a prisoner escape?”
“No!” I whispered vehemently, “Then I say it was a difficult assignment which failed through no fault of theirs, split them up and send them to Ithilien and Pelargir.”
“Sha! Fucking soft – you!” it said in disgust as it handed me the cloak. “Well, I’ll be off then. Been nice knowing you. You want me to bring some of the lads for that honour-guard?”
“No thank you!” I shuddered, “G - good luck Shagrat.”
“Yeah, whatever.” And with no further formalities it loped off into the dark.
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