10. Daring getaway
He told himself he’d always planned to hand Goldilocks over to the big Bosses eventually but still, deep in his black heart, he wondered what might have been if circumstances hadn’t conspired to force his hand. It didn’t bear thinking about however, and stealing a last glance at Faramir, lying warm and tousled in his sleep, Shagrat made his way across his room to the stairway and began the downward climb in silence. It was still early enough, he thought. It ought to be all right.
Faramir stirred fitfully, registering in his sleep that the warm, solid – if malodorous – bulk of Shagrat, against which he’d been resting quite contentedly, had moved itself out of their shared bed roll. He came awake a short while later, to find the Uruk crouched down a short distance away, watching him intently in the grey, pre-dawn light.
“Get dressed. Take everything you might need,” Shagrat told him. “Then follow me. Keep quiet.”
“Where are we going?” Faramir whispered, as he pulled on his outer clothes and leggings.
“Downstairs,” Shagrat said, shortly.
Faramir felt as if his heart had stopped. “You’re taking me down to the barracks? To the other Orcs?”
“No,” Shagrat interrupted him impatiently, “I’ve sent - I mean, the main garrison’s already out. I’m taking you downstairs to the side door. There’s a secret entrance that I – I may have forgotten to tell you about. The coast is clear. I’ve just been down to check.”
In silence they made their way down the spiralling staircase and through the familiar Uruk barrack room, which was, as Shagrat had said, presently unoccupied. Shagrat exited the barracks by a side door, which Faramir had noticed before but which had always been barred shut and locked. Behind the door another narrow flight of steps descended into a small, brightly lit chamber – the other entrance to the Tower that Shagrat had been speaking about.
Shagrat went on ahead, hurrying down the steps but then stopped short in the doorway, thrusting Faramir back on to the stairs behind him. In the anteroom ahead of them were waiting a number of Orcs and Uruks, plus a massive creature, that stood twice as tall as an Uruk, and was brawnier than any four of them combined. The beast was drooling copiously. It had tiny, idiot eyes and wore a leading-chain draped around its neck. It was a cave troll, a fearsome kind of creature that Faramir had heard about, but never before seen in the flesh.
“What’s this? Deputation?” Shagrat barked out to the Orcish Company.
‘That’s that Tark, what the big bosses is all looking for, innit?” one of the smaller Orcs squealed.
“Shut it, you,” the largest Uruk told the Orc, clouting it heavily on the shoulder. “Keep your mouth shut unless you’re spoken to, maggot.” He looked eagerly at Shagrat. “It is though, isn’t it, Shagrat? This one,” – he shoved the small Orc forwards - “says he was part of the patrol that picked the Tark up in Ithilien. He reckons you’ve been keeping him, these three weeks past.”
Shagrat shrugged, nonchalantly.
“It must be him,” the lead Uruk insisted.
“Is it him or isn’t it?” the lead Uruk demanded, his limited store of patience evidently having become exhausted.
“I don’t know,” Shagrat growled. His head dropped aggressively and he narrowed his eyes. “Is there a prize?”
“Come on now, Shagrat,” the lead Uruk said. “Orders are orders. You’ve had your fun, but you’ll hand that Tark over right now, if you know what’s good for you. Or we’ll be taking him, fair and square!”
“Take him, would you, Vashnek? I’d like to see you try. This Tark is my Tark, I tell you!” Shagrat howled murderously. “He’s mine!”
“You can shout about it all you like, but you know it’ll come to nothing in the end.”
With one practised movement, Shagrat unsheathed both his side-weapons, then tossed the blade he held in his left hand to Faramir. He caught the heavy, notch-bladed, scimitar, at the same time as Shagrat was jumping feet-first off the stairs, into the waiting company. The Captain used the sword in his right hand to hack through the neck of the patrol Orc who’d spoken up earlier, then swung it haphazardly back and forth, clearing a rough semicircle ahead of him, as the smaller Orcs skittered backwards to get out of his way. Stunned by his sudden attack, they seemed incapable of mounting much of a defence, and he fought his way through their ranks, stabbing and gouging indiscriminately.
“I’ll take the door,” Shagrat shouted to Faramir, “we mustn’t let any of them past.”
“Traitorous scum!” Captain Vashnek bellowed out, enraged. “I’ll see you drawn and quartered for this, Shagrat! Guards! Get him!”
The guards, collecting themselves at last, began to advance towards Shagrat, who had turned to meet them, his back against the exit door. He was outnumbered at least five to one, and though two or three of his adversaries were small snaga-Orcs, some of whom had already been wounded in his earlier assault, there was also a pair of full-size, hefty Mordor Uruks facing him. But Shagrat was not an Uruk Captain for nothing, and what his fighting technique lacked in sophistication and refinement was more than compensated for by the savage brutality of his style; as he cut and stabbed, every thrust was a move that aimed to disable or to kill, and in very little time he was circled about by a ring of fallen opponents.
Faramir had begun to rush to Shagrat’s side at the beginning of the fight, but had been brought up short by Captain Vashnek, who halted him with his sword, its blade turned flat against him. Steadfastly, the Uruk Captain blocked Faramir’s advance, using his weapon, his fists and his brawny bulk to halt the Gondorian’s progress. Though Faramir attacked him desperately, it was clear that he was reluctant in the extreme to seriously injure the young man, for all Vashnek’s feints and parries were defensive manoeuvres. Evidently his plan was that Faramir would be taken alive.
As if bemused by the skirmishes going on all around it, the Uruk-patrol’s cave troll had been standing stock still in the centre of the room since the start of the conflict. It blinked foolishly, watching, as another Uruk despatched by Shagrat, the last of his adversaries, went crashing to the floor.
“Cave troll!” Vashnek cried over his shoulder, “You! Finish the traitor! Spit him! Do it now!”
Slowly and deliberately the troll turned to face Shagrat head on, paused, then began plodding towards him. Seizing the moment of distraction provided as Vashnek glanced back to check on the troll’s progress, Faramir was finally able to deliver a mortal wound to the Captain, and sliced through the side of the Uruk’s throat. Vashnek, however, did not stop fighting at once, and resolutely holding his neck-injury shut with his fingers, he continued blocking and parrying, at last aiming a vicious series of sword-cuts at Faramir, in spite of his declining strength, even as he began to stumble and fall.
The cave troll, still lumbering towards Shagrat, had drawn back its weapon, a short-staved but heavy spear-pike. It launched the weapon at him at the same time as Faramir’s scimitar, hurled with all his strength, hit the troll in the back of the head, neatly splitting its scalp, the blade cleaving deep into the skull beneath.
“Shagrat!” Faramir cried, as Vashnek’s bulk finally toppled down, crushing him. Breathlessly he heaved the Uruk away as he rolled onto his side. His entire field of view was taken up with the cave troll, which had fallen in front of him, and he struggled to get past, to find out what had happened to his Captain.
Feeling awash with relief, Faramir saw that Shagrat was still upright, although he seemed to be holding an odd, unnaturally lop-sided stance. Faramir blinked across at him, still in a daze. The Uruk was standing on tiptoes, his left shoulder hiked up so painfully high that his whole body appeared to be dangling down from it. To his horror, Faramir realised that the blow from the cave-troll’s spear had lifted Shagrat partway off his feet, running him through with such force that despite his armour, it had penetrated his body and driven the spearhead deep into the wooden door behind him. Shagrat had been left pinned against it, the pikestaff sticking into his shoulder just below the collarbone.
“Goldilocks!” Shagrat gasped, “help me!”
Faramir thanked whatever higher powers there might be for the fact that Uruks seemed quite resilient to being killed. Shaking his head vigorously to clear it, Faramir got up and stumbled over to where Shagrat was impaled against the door. He closed both hands around the pike-shaft prior to removing it, and braced his feet. He glanced up briefly at Shagrat, confirming that he had steadied himself.
The Uruk met his gaze, beseechingly, desperately.
Faramir hesitated. Shagrat was pinned against the doorway that was the concealed side entrance, and now the unguarded exit, from the Tower of Cirith Ungol. Faramir stepped back from Shagrat and released his hold of the pike. It was his duty to escape.
“Goldilocks?” Shagrat croaked at him in disbelief. “What are you doing? Goldilocks?” his tone became more urgent as Faramir, stooping down to arm himself with a selection of fallen weapons dropped by the Tower guard, moved out of his line of sight. “Goldilocks! Faramir! Help me - I’m hurt!”
It took all Faramir’s strength to heave the prostrate cave-troll far enough aside for him to be able to force the door ajar. He tried to swing the door open, and with it Shagrat, as smoothly as possible, but without much success.
“Faramir!” Shagrat cried, an edge of panic in his voice. “What are you doing? Don’t do that – don’t!” His feet scrabbled against the floor for a moment as he felt the door swinging him forwards and he tried to keep standing. “Stop, won’t you! Please, stop it! Stop! Faramir, I thought that you and me, we –“ off-balance, he lost his footing, and let out a horrible, agonised scream, as the weight of his body descended on the wound in his shoulder.
Anger at his own betrayal of Shagrat made Faramir cruel, and he rounded on him, thumping his fist down with full force just shy of the Uruk’s head. Shagrat swiped at him ineffectually with his free right claw, shuddering, as Faramir’s blow reverberated through the wooden panelling of the door and the shaft of the pike. Faramir unsheathed one of the daggers he had taken from the guards and held it pressed against Shagrat’s throat.
“I should kill you for that,” Faramir spat at him. “Anything you imagined to exist between us - I forsook my own honour, to survive, and no more than that. Remember it.”
The single, stricken look of disbelief the Uruk shot him made Faramir pause. “You thought we – what, exactly?” he said.
“Nothing, Goldilocks,” Shagrat panted in anguish, hiding his face. “I didn’t think anything,” he muttered weakly. “Nothing. It was - nothing.” His head dropped further, then lolled onto his chest as he sagged downwards, in a dead faint.
Faramir stared him in consternation, torn between the necessity of making his getaway and his desire to help. Yes, it was his duty to escape, but not to torment Shagrat, whether he was an enemy or not. With some care, Faramir set about trying to release him. The pike-head proved to be too heavily embedded behind Shagrat for Faramir to be able to move it, and at length in desperation he resorted to sliding the Uruk bodily forwards, inch by painful inch, off the handle end of the pike. At last he was free from the thick wooden pole, but Faramir had no idea how much additional damage he might have done to the awful, ragged wound in Shagrat’s chest. It was bleeding copiously, and Faramir hurriedly applied a rough field dressing, made from filthy strips of fabric torn from the clothing of one of the fallen guards. He leaned his weight on it, having to use a great deal of pressure to staunch the flow. At this unwelcome treatment, Shagrat groaned softly, his sparse eyelashes fluttering as he regained consciousness. Seeing Faramir leaning over him, he started back violently, his right hand clawing for a weapon with which to defend himself.
Feeling an inexplicable degree of resentment on witnessing Shagrat’s new-found fear of him, Faramir straightened up, and quickly kicked the few knives and spearheads that had fallen near to where Shagrat was lying out of his reach. Then he knelt down again. The Orc, who was panting and trembling uncontrollably, as if suffering from the effects of an emotional shock, still would not look at him, and Faramir was a little disappointed, as he had truly believed the Uruk to be made of sterner stuff. He reached for Shagrat, and to the Uruk’s great surprise, began to secure the makeshift bandage in place. When it was done he turned his back on Shagrat abruptly, making ready to leave.
He was almost at the door when Shagrat called after him.
“Goldilocks, wait,” Shagrat said. “When you go. You have to look out for a narrow stair. Torech Ungol. The way is high. Very steep. It’ll take you out if you stick to it, and follow it up and over, but that path is guarded. At the height of the pass, you must take care.”
Faramir eyed him sceptically. “You’re telling me the way out? How can you expect me to believe that?”
“Listen to me, you fool!” Shagrat interrupted him, desperately, “I wouldn’t lie, I tell you, not to you. Blades and side arms won’t help. Take a torch –“ he gestured at a number of unlit fire-brands that were set in wall-brackets around the room – “no. Take more than one. Don’t light them till you reach the top-most point. Not before. Then get through, as fast as you can. There’s –“ he broke off.
There’s what? Faramir asked him.
Something it was better that Faramir didn’t know about, Shagrat told him, which was not much of a help. Further than that, however, he refused point blank to elaborate.
“Get going,” Shagrat urged him, “the call’s gone up. They’ll all be down here, in a minute.”
“Shagrat, I – “ Faramir began, but then thought better of it. The things he wanted to tell the Uruk were perhaps better left unsaid. “Goodbye, Shagrat.”
“Right,” the Orc muttered faintly, as unconsciousness overtook him, once again. “I’ll – I’ll see you.”
But of course he hadn’t seen him again. That Shagrat was an Orc effectively cancelled out the fact that he had saved Faramir’s life twice, as no good deed, no matter how selfishly, or selflessly motivated, could possibly compensate for the plain fact of his unspeakable origins. On his return to Ithilien, after a journey that had been arduous, and had taken two, otherwise uneventful days, the young Gondorian had been wise enough not to speak about his experiences in the Land of Shadow to anyone. And for years Faramir had tried to put all thoughts of Shagrat from him - with varying degrees of success.
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.