50. Knots and Plots
The residue of Legolas's pain gradually subsided and Pippin rubbed his chest wondering what could have happened to hurt his sweet elf so badly. He shook a little at the echo of the agonising piercing pain and wiped his eyes on his shirtsleeve, not sure whether the tears of hurt were his or his friends'. He heaved a silent sob and then realised with some surprise that he was being comforted. His surprise grew to shock when he discovered it was the big orc looking at him with concern, the enormous arm on his little shoulder, as he patted his head.
Most hobbits or humans would have been inclined to push away from the great beast, but Pippin had that Tookishness about him that stopped him from shying away from new possibilities and situations. It was what gave Tooks the reputation for being adventurous. It flashed through the still slightly drunken hobbit's mind that he was probably the only Took to ever be cuddled by an orc, but right now he needed a friend. He snuggled into the Uruk's arm, still hiccupping a jerky sob for Legolas and Merry every so often, and closed his eyes again.
Legolas managed to stagger halfway back to the camp before Gimli found him. The dwarf had grown anxious waiting for the elf and hobbit as he didn’t know where they had got to and they were due to leave for Minas Tirith also Gandalf was getting impatient.
As soon as he saw Legolas's faltering walk, Gimli knew something was wrong. He rushed to his side and tried to persuade Legolas to wait there while he fetched help, but the wounded elf would not hear of it, although he was happy to accept Gimli's arm to lean on for the rest of the way, as he explained to the dwarf what had occurred.
Aragorn had long since left, as had King Théoden and the Rohirrim, but Éowyn was well versed in healing and she took charge of Legolas at once.
"Removing the arrow will, I am afraid be quite painful," Éowyn warned her patient. "But I can give you some sedative distillation to dull the pain."
"No, I am not sure what that might do to the little ones," Legolas explained. "When I regained my thoughts after the arrow struck they were both drawn into my pain at once. I fear the same may happen again if I am not alert."
"Their bond with you now is truly amazing," Gimli said in wonder. "Is this the first time such a thing has ever happened?"
"In my knowledge yes." Gandalf stood at the entrance to the tent with Gimli. "But this could be an important factor in the hunt for Merry, for we must find him. Grima Wormtongue must not be allowed to hand him over to the Witch King and certainly not to Sauron."
"What of your plans to travel to Minas Tirith, Gandalf?" Gimli voiced what they were all wondering. "Legolas is certainly in no fit state to go anywhere, nor likely to be for a while."
"I must still go – and depart today." Gandalf felt very weary but he knew what the priorities were. He would have to find another way to deal with this problem. "How long Éowyn do you think it will be before Legolas can travel?"
"If he were a man, I would say days," Éowyn answered. "But an elf I do not know. The wound is deep, but it has only cut the flesh and has not bled overly much. How long do you think, Legolas?"
"The need to find Merry will cure me." Legolas looked up at Gandalf. "I know the urgency of the matter and I will not rest until he is returned."
"You are not fit to travel today," Éowyn pointed out. "The wound will be even more grievous once the arrow is pulled."
"But we must start soon, or the little one may be lost," Legolas took Éowyn's hand. "I trust your ability as a healer. You must use all your skill to make me well enough to ride today, for I shall go no matter what."
"I can make a better offer." Éowyn placed her other hand over the elf's. "I will ride with you. I am as competent with a sword as any man, I ride as swiftly and can also tend to your wound should the need arise."
"Someone must go to rescue Meriadoc," Gandalf agreed. "But I will need assistance also in Minas Tirith. Legolas will need to pursue the little one, if only because of his mental link." The wizard turned to Éowyn. "Your offer My Lady is well taken and I understand well both your heart and spirit in matters of honour and battle."
"So it would seem that I am left to be your companion Gandalf." Gimli shrugged in resignation. "I would be inclined to pursue and rescue Meriadoc, but if there is swift riding to be done, I will be but a burden."
"Then Gimli shall ride with me," agreed Gandalf. "I would value your company Master Dwarf and your axe. There is much to be done in Minas Tirith."
"The Fellowship is breaking into even more diverse parts and it grieves me to leave my companion when he is wounded," Gimli stood by Legolas looking back at Gandalf. "But I see your logic, Gandalf. I would only serve to encumber Legolas in his search."
"Then it is decided," Gandalf looked to the other three. "I will wait while Legolas's wound is tended then Gimli we must make all speed."
Merry staggered back to his feet as the pain in his chest subsided and was immediately grabbed again by the rough hands. They dragged him a few paces and then he felt his hands jerked up into the air until his arms were high over his head and held there by the rope around his wrists, his toes barely touching the ground. Merry realised that they had probably tied his hands to a tree branch above his head. It effectively stopped him moving in any direction and made struggling futile.
The men and Grima carried on arguing about him and his value, but Merry's attention was pulled inside his head as Legolas came back to talk to him.
His friend was still hurting from the arrow, but Merry could feel that the thoughtful elf was trying to keep the pain to himself as much as he could.
He had managed to tell Legolas that Wormtongue had kidnapped him and why, but then he let slip again his hope that the situation might lead him to Pip. Merry realised he should keep that thought to himself in future, it would not meet with approval from Legolas or Gandalf and the little hobbit did not want to be handed over to the Witch King with no plan of action. It would be pointless and not serve to rescue Pip anyway. But at least now he was going in the right direction.
Legolas had said he must leave a trail and Merry was thinking very hard now about how he might manage that. At the moment of course it was impossible. But they would have to untie him sooner or later, so what would he do then to show where he had been.
Make marks on something? Now his sword was gone he had nothing on him that would make a visible mark and he doubted Grima or the ruffians would lend him a knife.
Drop something? The way Pip had cleverly dropped his elven brooch for Strider to find. But he had very little on him and it would be a rare chance for followers to find their trail anyway. When the orcs had carried him and Pippin across the plain of Rohan they had cut a wide swathe for the hunters to track. This was only a few, four at the most, bodies for pursuers to chase.
Merry explored the rope that was holding him up using the tips of his fingers. His arms were starting to ache quite painfully now and he wondered if he could loosen the bonds. He could feel a very tight unyielding knot that had been double tied and he could never hope to unfasten, especially with his limited movement.
He turned his mind from the problem of how to leave a trail to the problem of how to get the knot loose. Both feats seemed impossible. But then, like a flash of lightening, the two problems coalesced to provide a solution. He would tie knots!
Even without being able to see, Merry was sure he could surreptitiously tie knots in the grass, in the foliage, whatever he found lying around that could be tied. He could even pull threads from his clothes and tie those in knots to leave as a sign. If Legolas were to be the one following him, Merry would be able to let him know what he had done, that way the elf would know what to look for.
At that moment the ruffian untied the tether from above Merry's head and pulled him forwards. He stumbled and almost fell, but a rough hand grabbed his arm hoisting him back to his feet. The hobbit heard the clink of money changing hands and vaguely wondered what his price had been.
Pippin slept very soundly for the rest of the day. He had been exhausted and once the terror and pain and hunger had subsided a little, enormous fatigue had taken over. Smagnu had woken earlier and left the little creature asleep, alone in the big bed, curled up under the blankets.
Now the Uruk needed to eat before going on patrol and was wondering what he should do with his little creature. If he left it on its own for long the other orcs would probably get hold of it and it would be dead within the hour. On the other hand, if he took it with him it might escape and Grutfley would be bound to complain.
In the end he decided Grutfley could go shag himself and he would keep the little thing close so it wouldn't run off. Later he could teach it to stay close on its own.
"Yer not bringing that fugging thing with you on patrol?" Grutfley whined. "It'll be all kinds a' trouble."
"It'll mind me." Smagnu assured him as he woke Pip up and tied the cord around his neck again, not tightly but just to let him know who was boss. "Watch it, it'll come easy enough." He pulled fairly gently on the leash and beckoned at the same time.
Pippin obligingly hopped off the bed and followed Smagnu, not having any better plans of his own at that moment. He was still quite fearful of the big Uruk, but growing more confident as time went by.
"Come on little thing." Smagnu led the hobbit out of the room and into the corridor.
"It'll get us both in trouble afore the night's out. You'll see." Grutfley was far from convinced.
They came to the large mess hall where rations were being doled out and many orcs were sitting at a long bench table, squabbling and stuffing food at a great and noisy rate. Pippin was at once terrified at the sight and scrunched down on the floor, holding on to a metal grating to stop himself from being dragged into the orc filled hall.
"See I tol'd you it'd be a bloody nuisance," Grutfley crowed. "Just strangle it and have done. No one'd blame yer."
"No, our orders is still to keep it alive," Smagnu stubbornly pointed out. "but it's mine now anyway and I plan to keep it."
"You ain't allowed no pets in the Dark Tower." Grutfley pointed out. "Least I don't suppose you are – no livestock at any rate."
"It's not a pet." Smagnu scowled at his objectionable partner, "it's a… well it's a prisoner. You just mind yourself, Grutfley or it'll put a bewitchment on you."
"Reckon it's already bewitched you right enough."
"I'll bewitch you myself in a minute." Smagnu threatened, "with my bloody fist. Now go and get us some grub before it's all gone."
Grutfley went mumbling off. Although he argued with the Uruk, he was actually quite afraid of the bigger orc. Smagnu picked Pippin up, easily pulling his desperate fingers off the grating, and carried him into the mess hall. Several of the orcs pointed to the little hobbit and laughed at the sight of the big orc carrying the little thing under his arm.
"Whatcha got there, Corporal?" One wit cried, "your dinner?"
"Did you dig that out with a toothpick?" another suggested.
Smagnu just growled at them and the jibes stopped. He sat down at the table in a large carver chair rather than on the bench and carefully stowed Pippin underneath, tying the leash to the chair leg.
Grutfley came with the food, which consisted of porridge, bread, some tough looking meat and a small amount of cheese. There was however a good quantity of ale to drink. Smagnu doled out a small portion of everything into a little bowl and pushed it to Pippin under the chair. The little hobbit, using his fingers to dunk the bread in the porridge, hungrily ate everything except the meat, the origin of which was very doubtful.
Once he had finished eating, Smagnu stood Pippin up and gave him a long draught of ale from his big tankard. The little hobbit was almost drowned in the beer as it ran down his face. The Uruk let Pippin tip the mug up on his own next time as he obviously had difficulty drinking from such a large vessel. Smagnu frowned at the mess Pippin had made of himself and wiped the hobbit's food covered fingers and beer soaked shirt with a piece of rag from his own pocket.
Smagnu suddenly became aware that an odd silence had fallen on the usually raucous, bickering assembly and, glancing up, he realised that practically every orc was staring at him open mouthed.
"What the fug are you looking at!" He growled.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.