Black and Gold

by NorthStar

Part IV

When Frodo looked up into the face of the Uruk Hai, he was not surprised to feel the ring calling to him. The pull to slip his finger into it was so strong, in fact, that he had been forced to clench his fist at his side and block it from his mind, lest his desire overcome him.
Sam’s shaking body next to him cemented his will to resist. He could not leave Sam alone, at the mercy of a monster. And Frodo was under no illusion that he could slip away, then attack the other long enough for Sam to get away. These were Uruk, not men, after all.
After the Uruk had called to his brethren, it had not taken long for the clearing to fill. He had felt them circle him, staring down at him with curiosity. This is what their master desired? These tiny creatures? Yes, they resembled men, but what use could they possibly be? Frodo heard the mutterings, the doubt in their voices. He wondered what they knew.
Sam still had not been able to bring himself to look up. His forehead was pressed into the dirt, his lips moving soundlessly. Frodo wished he had some means to comfort him, but there were none. There was no Strider now, no Legolas to protect them.

They were alone.

The muttering increased as a heavier tread broke through the pack. Those around them broke away to let him through. “ So these are the halflings.” The voice was harsh, ugly, but not without intelligence. “Don’t look like much, boss,” broke in another voice. “You sure this’s what the Master wants?” “Well, lets see, now,” said the leader. He reached down and grabbed Frodo’s arm, flipping him over as one would a dried leaf. Frodo winced and bit down on his lip, hard enough to bring blood. The acrid taste filled his mouth.

The yellow eyes staring down at him were like those of an animal- watchful, alert, filled with a sly cunning. The taut skin of its face was dark, darker than the others; the white handprint was stark contrast. Its teeth were fangs, rotting and dripping with saliva. Frodo returned the stare in horrified fascination; no tale Bilbo had ever spun had been as frightening as this. Even his vague memories of the Nazgul paled in comparison.

The Uruk-Hai leaned down, his rancid breath fouling the air. Frodo grimaced, making the orc smile. “You’re right, Agrak…doesn’t look like much at all. But He said they were little, runty things, scared of their own shadow…and these two sure look scared!” Raucous laughter broke out. Beside him, Sam squirmed, his indignation getting the better of him. Still smirking, the Uruk addressed Frodo directly. “What do you carry that HE wants so much?” Caught off-guard, Frodo stuttered. “Wha, what..what do you mean?” “I mean,” said the orc, leaning even closer. “HE wants you, alive and not hurt. Unspoiled.” He licked his lips. “Pity. But that’s what HE says.”

Drawing courage from somewhere deep inside, Frodo pulled himself up to a sitting position. ”I don’t know what HE wants, but I carry nothing. And I don’t know why he wants me…er,us.” A voice piped up from beside him. “And if you don’t know why your master wants us, either, maybe you just better let us go!” Sam had jumped up and stood flushed with anger, glaring at their captors. The leader turned his head and regarded the small being who dared to speak to him so, and seemed on the verge of cuffing him roundly. Frodo, sensing this, took a painful step to insert himself between Sam and the orc, to shield him. Watching this, the orc suddenly laughed. “Protective, ain’t he?” sneered the second orc, the one the leader called Agrak. The leader didn’t reply, but regarded them both with renewed interest.

Abruptly turning away, he called to his followers. The orc called Agrak bent and scooped Frodo up, body, pack and all, and slung him over his shoulder. Another smaller, sturdier orc grabbed up Sam in the same manner. Sam’s struggles seemed to amuse him, and he solved the problem of wriggling, by trussing Sam up with a rope like a pig on a spit, and carrying him across his back. He set off ahead of Agrak, who had no such problems with Frodo. Frodo did not struggle, but lay still on the orc’s shoulder, in too much pain to move any more than absolutely necessary.

The orcs moved quickly, wasting little movement, marching in almost military formation. The green of the woods became a blur to Frodo, and he finally closed his eyes.
If he had not, he might have seen just the smallest scrap of cloth caught on a passing branch; looking closer, he might have seen a pair of bright eyes, filled with fear and sorrow.

Pippin’s tears slid down his face, cutting tracks through the dirt and mud caked there. He looked over at Merry, who was still watching the retreating backs of the orcs, a look of hard determination transforming his much-loved features into something colder than Pippin had ever seen before, “Merry,” he whispered miserably. Merry broke his gaze away from the black masses and looked at his cousin; then pulled him close and hugged him hard, his own tears falling fast.

After a moment, he let Pippin go, and wiping his face on his sleeve, stood up, craning to see what direction the Uruk-Hai were heading. He looked at the shadows and setting sun, memorizing their bearings. After a moment, Pippin stood up too; also watching the dust kicked up by the orc exodus. “Do you think they got Strider, too, Merry?” Merry shook his head. “Not Strider; he’s a better fighter than that whole army.” He paused. “We gotta find him, Pip. We have to tell them what’s happened, so we can find Frodo before…” he trailed off.

Pippin nodded. He knew what Merry was going to say. All their fates were tied to a tarnished band of gold, cut with runes to rule the world.

“Come on Merry. They can’t be far from here, yet.”

The two hobbits brushed themselves off and ventured out of the brush. Night was coming, and their time to find the others was waning fast.

Without another word, they began to run.