Dinner in Isengard

by Varda

Chapter 1


They reached Isengard as night fell. Pippin had fallen asleep on the back of the great Uruk charged with carrying him the last few miles, but Merry was
wide awake, the pain of the wound on his forehead keeping sleep away.

The Uruk-hai and the orcs that had followed them from Mordor sensed the end of their long and hazardous journey and Merry felt their pace quicken as the
sun set, and soon up ahead he saw the sky lit by a thousand fires reaching out of the open pits and furnaces of Isengard. Merry’s heart sank, for now
he knew that their last hope of rescue was gone; Saruman had them in his grasp.

Around Isengard there was built a great thick wall of black rough-hewn stone and in this wall was a high iron gate. The Uruk-hai and the orcs quickened
their pace and jostled each other in a rush to gain the safety of the enclosure beyond this gate. Far behind now were the Rohirrim who had picked
off so many of their number, and the shadowy hunters whose scent had carried to the Uruks on a treacherous wind. Now they had regained Isengard, with the
prize they had been sent out to find. What matter that they had lost their leader Lúrtz? Uglúk had taken command and now the halflings were almost in
Saruman’s grasp. Tonight they would feast on manflesh, and their lord would have what he most desired...

As night fell the Orcs from the North gained in strength and boldness. They hated the light and fought poorly in daytime. Not as tall as the Uruks but
with long powerful arms and broad stooped shoulders encased in black armour emblazoned with the Red Eye, they were renewed by darkness. Their leader
Grishnak laid a hand on the sleeping Pippin and tried to pull him off the Uruk who carried him. The hobbit came awake with a yelp and Uglúk swept out
his scimitar with a grating ring.
‘Keep back, maggot!’ The Uruks piled up behind him, and the orcs behind Grishnak.
‘You want to bring them in to the Boss, make out that you captured them and get the reward that we earned!’
A great growling and snarling arose among the Isengarders. Grishnak glared at him.
‘Fair’s fair, we helped you bring them here, we deserve our share!’
At this a storm of snarling and snapping of sharp yellow teeth broke out. No longer fearing they would escape, as the door to Isengard stood open right
before them, the orcs threw the hobbits to the ground as they argued over the spoils. Merry crawled over to Pippin.
‘Pip! Are you all right?’
But Pippin was staring around him. He looked at Merry and said;
‘Merry, where are we?’

Merry swallowed hard and replied;
‘We’re at Isengard, Pip. This is the end of the journey...’

Pippin said nothing, but in the light cast by the fires of Isengard Merry saw him go pale. All along they had hoped against hope that they would be
rescued, even though they knew other, greater matters must claim the efforts of their friends. Did they not have a duty to protect Frodo? Would trying to
rescue them not throw out all the plans? But still they had hoped. But this was the end of all hope.
‘I’m sorry, Pip’ said Merry. Pippin shook his head.
‘It’s not your fault, Merry.’

Once, long ago now it seemed, Pippin and Merry and the Bolgers had gone for a picnic beside the Brandywine River. Pip had fallen in. He remembered how
he had felt, as the waters closed over his head; this is it, the end. But it was not the end. He had been rescued, pulled out of the water by Saradoc
Brandybuck who rowed out to him in a boat. Perhaps even now there was hope...

They were seized and hauled to their feet. The argument was over. Grim-faced and watchful, the Uruk-hai marched through the gate of Isengard, pushing
their tiny captives before them. The Orcs of Mordor followed in sullen silence.

At the end of a short unlit tunnel the hobbits were thrust out into the inner circle of Isengard. In spite of themselves, they stopped and stared in
horror at the sight.

By now it was dark, but night was turned into day by the fires of Isengard, their red glow rising from innumerable open pits and forges. The ground was
white and dead, like ash, and to and fro across it scurried countless misshapen creatures, grey-skinned from the smoke and ash, bent on unending
tasks of warlike industry. In the middle of it all, its ribbed and polished black sides reflecting the flames of the furnaces, stood Orthanc, like some
great cruel spike reared up into the starry night. But so thick was the smoke from the fires that the hobbits could not see a single star.

Pippin’s legs gave way and he fell on his hands and knees. This time it was really the end, he thought. There could be no rescue from this terrible
place. He remembered what Elrond had said;
‘The youngest at least should not go. He can stay here with me in Rivendell or go back to his people as a messenger, to tell what has befallen his
friends...’

Oh if only he had done what Elrond advised! But Gandalf was always saying what a fool he was….
‘Pip!’ Merry said. The orcs coming behind unwound their black whips and before Merry could raise him they curled their keen lashes round his legs.
He bit back a cry and struggled to his feet. Merry took his arm and as they staggered forward together Pippin whispered.
‘What do you think will happen to us, Merry?’
Merry hesitated then said
‘I hope we get dinner, but I wouldn’t depend on it.’ Pip smiled, but he saw Merry was pale under the grime of their journey. Merry glanced back at the
orcs, and ahead at the Uruks and said in a low voice.
‘Pip, we must not betray Frodo’ Pippin felt his blood grow cold. He knew what Merry was about to say.
Merry looked at Pip and now his face was pale too.
‘Saruman will wring the truth out of us, Pippin. He is a great wizard, he will bewitch us and make us tell all we know. Pip, it will all be in vain if
he finds out about Frodo. Everything, Gandalf falling in Moria, Boromir defending us to the end at Amon Hen, everything, everything will have been
in vain.’

Up ahead the Uruks had raised some fierce chant as they marched along.
‘They trusted us, Pippin. We must not betray them…’

The Uruks were traversing Isengard along a great stone path, hemmed in by a row of stone pillars linked with chains. On both sides wide ravines yawned,
of great depth. The Uruks, believing themselves safe and at the end of their labours, were not watching them, nor were the orcs trailing sullenly behind.
Pippin nodded grimly and whispered..
‘You’re right, Merry. We mustn’t betray Frodo, that is all that matters…’
He was looking at the mouth of the underground cavern where Saruman had his foundry. Merry looked too and their eyes met. Merry took a tight grip on
Pippin’s hand.
‘Are you ready?’ Pippin nodded, his face was pale and into his mind came a thought of Boromir, fighting on when struck down by arrows in order to
protect them. He said to Merry in a trembling voice;
‘I’m just sorry no-one in the Shire will ever know what became of us…’ Not trusting himself to answer Merry just shook his head.

The Uruk-hai had drawn a good distance ahead. The orcs were a long way behind. Merry shouted
‘Now!’ and he and Pippin ducked under the chains and ran as fast as they could towards the gaping chasm in the wide barren land of Isengard...

As darkness fell a single star shone down through the Mallorn trees. It reflected in the clear water of the stone basin and the Lady bent over it,
watching in the deep blue dusk as the water began to change and grow troubled, and images began to form and move in its depths. At one point she
gasped and leaned over, her outstretched hand almost touching the water. Then she whispered some words, and stood back. The water rippled and again
grew calm. Galadriel looked up at the evening star and smiled.