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The two towers, p.34
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       The Two Towers, p.34

         Part #2 of The Lord of the Rings series by J. R. R. Tolkien
 

  once.'

  'Bad business,' said Gorbag. 'See here – our Silent Watchers were uneasy more than two days ago, that I know. But my patrol wasn't ordered out for another day, nor any message sent to Lugburz either: owing to the Great Signal going up, and the High Nazgul going off to the war, and all that. And then they couldn't get Lugburz to pay attention for a good while, I'm told.'

  'The Eye was busy elsewhere, I suppose,' said Shagrat. 'Big things going on away west, they say.'

  'I daresay,' growled Gorbag. 'But in the meantime enemies have got up the Stairs. And what were you up to? You're supposed to keep watch, aren't you, special orders or no? What are you for?'

  'That's enough! Don't try and teach me my job. We were awake all right. We knew there were funny things going on.'

  'Very funny!'

  'Yes, very funny: lights and shouting and all. But Shelob was on the go. My lads saw her and her Sneak.'

  'Her Sneak? What's that?'

  'You must have seen him: little thin black fellow; like a spider himself, or perhaps more like a starved frog. He's been here before. Came out of Lugburz the first time, years ago, and we had word from High Up to let him pass. He's been up the Stairs once or twice since then, but we've left him alone: seems to have some understanding with Her Ladyship. I suppose he's no good to eat: she wouldn't worry about words from High Up. But a fine guard you keep in the valley: he was up here a day before all this racket. Early last night we saw him. Anyway my lads reported that Her Ladyship was having some fun, and that seemed good enough for me, until the message came. I thought her Sneak had brought her a toy, or that you'd perhaps sent her a present, a prisoner of war or something. I don't interfere when she's playing. Nothing gets by Shelob when she's on the hunt.'

  'Nothing, say you! Didn't you use your eyes back there? I tell you I'm not easy in my mind. Whatever came up the Stairs, did get by. It cut her web and got clean out of the hole. That's something to think about!'

  'Ah well, but she got him in the end, didn't she?'

  'Got him? Got who? This little fellow? But if he was the only one then she'd have had him off to her larder long before, and there he'd be now. And if Lugburz wanted him, you'd have to go and get him. Nice for you. But there was more than one.'

  At this point Sam began to listen more attentively and pressed his ear against the stone.

  'Who cut the cords she'd put round him, Shagrat? Same one as cut the web. Didn't you see that? And who stuck a pin into Her Ladyship? Same one, I reckon. And where is he? Where is he, Shagrat?'

  Shagrat made no reply.

  'You may well put your thinking cap on, if you've got one. It's no laughing matter. No one, no one has ever stuck a pin in Shelob before, as you should know well enough. There's no grief in that; but think – there's someone loose hereabouts as is more dangerous than any other damned rebel that ever walked since the bad old times, since the Great Siege. Something has slipped.'

  'And what is it then?' growled Shagrat.

  'By all the signs, Captain Shagrat, I'd say there's a large warrior loose, Elf most likely, with an elf-sword anyway, and an axe as well maybe: and he's loose in your bounds, too, and you've never spotted him. Very funny indeed!' Gorbag spat. Sam smiled grimly at this description of himself.

  'Ah well, you always did take a gloomy view,' said Shagrat. 'You can read the signs how you like, but there may be other ways to explain them. Anyhow. I've got watchers at every point, and I'm going to deal with one thing at a time. When I've had a look at the fellow we have caught, then I'll begin to worry about something else.'

  'It's my guess you won't find much in that little fellow,' said Gorbag. 'He may have had nothing to do with the real mischief. The big fellow with the sharp sword doesn't seem to have thought him worth much anyhow – just left him lying: regular elvish trick.'

  'We'll see. Come on now! We've talked enough. Let's go and have a look at the prisoner!

  'What are you going to do with him? Don't forget I spotted him first. If there's any game, me and my lads must be in it.'

  'Now, now,' growled Shagrat. 'I have my orders. And it's more than my belly's worth, or yours, to break 'em. Any trespasser found by the guard is to be held at the tower. Prisoner is to be stripped. Full description of every article, garment, weapon, letter, ring, or trinket is to be sent to Lugburz at once, and to Lugburz only. And the prisoner is to be kept safe and intact, under pain of death for every member of the guard, until He sends or comes Himself. That's plain enough, and that's what I'm going to do.'

  'Stripped, eh?' said Gorbag. 'What, teeth, nails, hair, and all?'

  'No, none of that. He's for Lugburz, I tell you. He's wanted safe and whole.'

  'You'll find that difficult,' laughed Gorbag. 'He's nothing but carrion now. What Lugburz will do with such stuff I can't guess. He might as well go in the pot.'

  'You fool,' snarled Shagrat. 'You've been talking very clever, but there's a lot you don't know, though most other folk do. You'll be for the pot or for Shelob, if you don't take care. Carrion! Is that all you know of Her Ladyship? When she binds with cords, she's after meat. She doesn't eat dead meat, nor suck cold blood. This fellow isn't dead!'

  Sam reeled, clutching at the stone. He felt as if the whole dark world was turning upside down. So great was the shock that he almost swooned, but even as he fought to keep a hold on his senses, deep inside him he was aware of the comment: 'You fool, he isn't dead, and your heart knew it. Don't trust your head, Samwise, it is not the best part of you. The trouble with you is that you never really had any hope. Now what is to be done?' Fur the moment nothing, but to prop himself against the unmoving stone and listen, listen to the vile orc-voices.

  'Garn!' said Shagrat. 'She's got more than one poison. When she's hunting, she just gives 'em a dab in the neck and they go as limp as boned fish, and then she has her way with them. D'you remember old Ufthak? We lost him for days. Then we found him in a corner; hanging up he was, but he was wide awake and glaring. How we laughed! She'd forgotten him, maybe, but we didn't touch him – no good interfering with Her. Nar – this little filth, he'll wake up, in a few hours; and beyond feeling a bit sick for a hit, he'll be all right. Or would be, if Lugburz would let him alone. And of course, beyond wondering where he is and what's happened to him.'

  'And what's going to happen to him,' laughed Gorbag. 'We can tell him a few stories at any rate, if we can't do anything else. I don't suppose he's ever been in lovely Lugburz, so he may like to know what to expect. This is going to be more funny than I thought. Let's go!'

  'There's going to be no fun, I tell you,' said Shagrat. 'And he's got to be kept safe, or we're all as good as dead.'

  'All right! But if I were you, I'd catch the big one that's loose, before you send in any report to Lugburz. It won't sound too pretty to say you've caught the kitten and let the cat escape.'

  The voices began to move away. Sam heard the sound of feet receding. He was recovering from his shock, and now a wild fury was on him. 'I got it all wrong!' he cried. 'I knew I would. Now they've got him, the devils! the filth! Never leave your master, never, never: that was my right rule. And I knew it in my heart. May I be forgiven! Now I've got to get back to him. Somehow, somehow!'

  He drew his sword again and beat on the stone with the hilt, but it only gave out a dull sound. The sword, however, blazed so brightly now that he could see dimly in its light. To his surprise he noticed that the great block was shaped like a heavy door, and was less than twice his own height. Above it was a dark blank space between the top and the low arch of the opening. It was probably only meant to be a stop against the intrusion of Shelob, fastened on the inside with some latch or bolt beyond the reach of her cunning. With his remaining strength Sam leaped and caught the top, scrambled up, and dropped; and then he ran madly, sword blazing in hand, round a bend and up a winding tunnel.

  The news that his master was still alive roused him to a last effort beyond thought of weariness. He could not see anything ahead, for this ne
w passage twisted and turned constantly; but he thought he was catching the two Orcs up: their voices were growing nearer again. Now they seemed quite close.

  'That's what I'm going to do,' said Shagrat in angry tones. 'Put him right up in the top chamber.'

  'What for?' growled Gorbag. 'Haven't you any lock-ups down below?'

  'He's going out of harm's way, I tell you,' answered Shagrat. 'See? He's precious. I don't trust all my lads, and none of yours; nor you neither, when you're mad for fun. He's going where I want him, and where you won't come, if you don't keep civil. Up to the top, I say. He'll be safe there.'

  'Will he?' said Sam. 'You're forgetting the great big elvish warrior that's loose!' And with that he raced round the last corner, only to find that by some trick of the tunnel, or of the hearing which the Ring gave him, he had misjudged the distance.

  The two orc-figures were still some way ahead. He could see them now, black and squat against a red glare. The passage ran straight at last, up an incline; and at the end, wide open, were great double doors, leading probably to deep chambers far below the high horn of the tower. Already the Orcs with their burden had passed inside. Gorbag and Shagrat were drawing near the gate.

  Sam heard a burst of hoarse singing, blaring of horns and banging of gongs, a hideous clamour. Gorbag and Shagrat were already on the threshold.

  Sam yelled and brandished Sting, but his little voice was drowned in the tumult. No one heeded him.

  The great doors slammed to. Boom. The bars of iron fell into place inside. Clang. The gate was shut. Sam hurled himself against the bolted brazen plates and fell senseless to the ground. He was out in the darkness. Frodo was alive but taken by the Enemy.

  Here ends the second part of the history of the War of the Ring.

  The third part tells of the last defence against the Shadow, and the end of the mission of the Ring-bearer in The Return of the King.

 
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