Stories of Arda Home Page
About Us News Resources Login Become a member Help Search

Shadows of a Nameless Fear  by Budgielover

Chapter Seven – In a Pit of Darkness

T’wasn’t fair, Sam thought, wiping tears from his eyes. I can’t wait here while Mr. Frodo’s in the hands of those Men. He’s not himself yet. The memory of Frodo’s face as he darted for the privy swam before Sam’s eyes and he writhed in mortification. Clumsy oaf! he growled at himself. You hurt him! Hurt of his own intruded on his misery; despite his protest to Merry, his feet felt as if he were again walking on the razor-sharp slopes of Mount Doom.

“Master Gamgee? My lord?”

Sam turned to find Mikah bowing to him, the man’s florid face distressed. Behind him stood nearly a dozen people. The remaining sedan-chair bearer moved among them, seeking what information they could provide. The folk ranged from the little girl who had seen Frodo carried away to the pale-faced women and boys and old men who comprised the greater part of the population of Minas Tirith after uncounted years of war. Most of the people were shaking their heads; they had seen nothing. They bowed when they saw Sam looking at them and whispered amongst themselves, looking nervously from him to the innkeeper.

“We can help, milord.” Seeing Sam’s confusion, Mikah rushed on, “Let us help, lord, please. We live here—we know the City.  We can carry word to the Gates quicker than any of the King’s men. They won’t take him out that way.”

Sam nodded; Mikah was right. “Thank you, sir,” he said softly. “That would be a help.” Mikah swung back to the crowd with a nod, and several boys took to their heels, grim determination on their young faces. Sam clamped down on his urge to call them back – despite being taller than he was, they were just lads, just children. He shouldn’t let children go into danger!

He started as a small hand slipped into his. “Your feet are bleeding,” the little girl observed, her voice quavering. Sam looked down in surprise. There was blood between his toes. Ah, that explained why his feet burned so. Some of the deeper cuts must have re-opened.

“One of my mum’s friends is a healer,” the child began, but Sam shook his head. She tightened her grasp, refusing to give up. “Please, sir. He and his family live close. I’ll go for him.”

Sam squeezed her hand gently and gave it back to her. “Thanks, lass, but my master needs me.” He grimaced as he raised a foot, shaking bright red drops onto the cobblestones. “Mr. Mikah, sir, if you’d tell the King when he comes–”

“Me talk to the King? Me? To King Elessar?” Mikah’s voice rose with each word and his round face drained of colour. He looked near to fainting. He staggered back, eyes bulging, and Sam leaped forward to catch his arm and steady him. “Talk to the King?”

“No, it’s all right,” Sam tried to reassure him. “He’s a right good Man. Just talk to him straight, and don’t let them courtiers rattle you. If he comes with Gandalf – oh dear!”

At the mention of the White Wizard, Mikah had clutched his chest and slid to a boneless heap at Sam’s feet. Sam crouched opposite him anxiously. “Don’t take on so, sir,” he begged the innkeeper. “Strider—I mean, King Elessar—and Gandalf, too, they’re good folk. When you tell them what happened to Mr. Frodo outside your inn—”

Mikah gurgled inarticulately. Sam patted the man’s shoulder and sighed. It seemed he’d be obeying Mr. Merry after all and staying to talk to Aragorn himself. And he didn’t relish the thought any more than the poor innkeeper.

* * *

In some ways, the King of the West reflected, life had been easier when he was Chief of the Dúnedain. Then, he could give an order and know every man who obeyed it. Now, he was hampered by commanders and chains of command, and endless people he did not know fighting to do his bidding. “Chains,” Aragorn muttered to himself, “chaining me from commanding!”

“Can you lead us there by a quicker route?” he asked the leader of the sedan-chair bearers. After easing the poor man’s fear of him, Aragorn had ordered the man stay to serve as guide to the place of the Ring-bearer’s abduction. The man was now trotting the long corridor at his side, looking frightened and befuddled by all the activity about him.

“No, sire,” the man replied between puffs. As accustomed as he was to trotting under the weight of a heavy chair, the King’s long legs made quick work of the marble floors and the man could barely keep pace. “To cut through the back ways would not gain us time—there are fences and other obstacles in the way. Little has been done to clear the debris from the fighting yet.”

Gandalf strode before them, the click of his staff on the polished floor like the gnashing of teeth. The soldiers of Gondor, who had faced overwhelming numbers of orcs and trolls and Ringwraiths on flying monsters took one look at his face and stayed out of his way. Men were rushing everywhere, summoning every on- and off-duty soldier, armouring themselves as they mustered. Swords and lances and long knives were being donned, some within inches of the King’s person. The unfortunate sedan-bearer shuddered as a guardsman ran past him with sword drawn, his shouts unheard in the disciplined confusion.

“Aragorn!” The dwarf’s bellow momentarily stunned the assemblage to silence. His ears ringing, Aragorn looked ahead to the great doors to see Gimli striding towards him, Legolas at his side, one hand over the ear next to Gimli. The dwarf crossed the marble floor in great strides, fair bristling with anger.

“Is it true? Frodo’s been taken?”

“It is true,” Aragorn said briefly. “This man brought word.”

Aragorn’s hand on the sedan-bearer’s shoulder propelled him forward. The trembling man bowed. “I—I am sent by Prince Faramir, lord. The Ring-bearer was kidnapped outside of Mikah’s inn, on the level below us.”

“Was he hurt?” Legolas’ voice was calm but his eyes flashed. The man had never before seen one of the Firstborn and stared at him in astonishment before he found his voice again.

“I —I don’t know, my lord.”

An officer in black and silver ran towards them and knelt before the King. “Sire, the men present are ready but not all those on leave have reported in. We need more time—”

“Enough preparation. We are going now,” Aragorn ordered him.

* * *

Pippin darted around the sedan-chair bearers, past Faramir, and managed to snatch the trailing hem of Merry’s cloak. Faramir pulled up, struggling not to collide with the hobbits and crush them. The men overshot them all and stumbled to a halt, brandishing their makeshift weapons and looking about them as if they feared imminent attack.

Merry’s hands flew to his throat. “Gaaaaakk!” He slid to a stop and delivered Pippin a reproachful look.

“What are you trying to do, Pip? Throttle me?”

“I’m sorry!” Pippin cried, distressed. “But Merry – did you hear that?”

“Hear what?”

“I heard nothing,” Faramir commented. With a wave of his hand, he sent the two men on. Pippin bit his tongue, swallowing the retort that sprang to his lips; Merry would box his ears if he dared remark that nothing could be heard over the noise of Men. Thudding boots, jangling chain-mail, panting breaths – oliphaunts ran with more quiet.

“What did you hear, Pippin?” Merry asked.

“I heard Frodo.” At his cousin’s look of disbelief, Pippin continued, “I know I did. He was calling me! I heard him, Merry! I did!”

Merry made placating motions with his hands. “All right, all right. I was too far ahead of you to hear. Which way?”

The young hobbit looked at the winding streets and alleyways, at a loss. “I don’t… I think it came from somewhere over there.”

“We will split up to search for him,” Faramir said decisively. “I know the City best; I will go on ahead. Merry, you take the left. Pippin, you the right.” Faramir paused and gazed distractedly in the direction Pippin had indicated, his face troubled. “That area was badly damaged in the fighting … it might be you heard only the workmen calling to each other.”  

Pippin shook his head. “No! It was Frodo!!”

Merry looked at him worriedly. “All right. But don’t you try to take on those Men yourself, Pippin. We didn’t survive the Quest and the whole War of the Ring for you to get yourself killed by Gondorian ruffians.”     

* * *

Frodo landed awkwardly, though of no fault of his own. The floor was strewn with rubble; the great stone hurled from the Enemy’s catapults had smashed through the wall then continued on to shatter everything in its path. Broken furniture littered the floor, domestic items lay shattered and abandoned amongst the wreckage. It was too dark to see any detail, but Frodo realised he had intruded into someone’s home.

“Hello?” he called softly. He did not receive an answer, nor had he expected one. It was utterly dark; had this home been occupied, there would have been some light. What illumination there was was suddenly blocked. One of the men was peering through the gap in the damaged wall—it was the man he had marked with a stone. Frodo hoped the despicable creature was still bleeding.

Frodo scuttled deeper into the darkness, holding his hands out before him to ward off collisions. The man leaned further into the entry and peered about, and the hobbit realised he must be momentarily blinded by the contrast of the afternoon sun outside and the utter darkness within. Quick as thought he stooped and his seeking hand closed on a shattered piece of stone.

“Owwww! Look out! He’s got more rocks!” The dark form howled, diving aside from the opening. The howl was followed by the sound of fervent cursing. Frodo grinned in the darkness.

“Inside, then spread out,” came the leader’s voice.  “Pick up a chair or something to use as a shield. Force him against the back wall where we can trap him.”

“We can’t see!”

“Then he can’t see you,” the leader roared. ‘Now get there, you useless, whining, miserable clods of dung!”

Frodo crouched and retreated farther from the men as they clambered through the broken wall. He had kept his gaze down after casting the stone, urging his dark-sight to kick in. He had discovered that he could see in the dark far better than he could before, far better than his fellow hobbits, better than any of the Fellowship, save perhaps Legolas and Gimli. A legacy of the Ring, one he did not want. But now it might come in useful.

Any small sound Frodo might have made was covered by the Men’s shuffling steps and snarled curses. They stumbled into the smashed furniture, slipping on the rubble. One stepped on something that slid beneath him and went down with a thud and a groan. Frodo tensed, but the man was up again too quickly to allow him a dash for freedom.

There was a metallic clang and a rolling sound, then the man Frodo had hit stooped and came up with a lantern in his hand. There was the rustle of cloth, then the strike of a flint. Oh no, thought Frodo.

“Well, hullo again.” The leader smiled nastily as his cohort raised the lamp. “Thought you’d get away, did you? Brin, bring that light around. I want to make sure the little rat don’t get past us.”

The man with the lantern—Brin–held up the lamp and sneered at him. He looked more than willing to extract revenge for the stones and other hurts Frodo had managed to inflict. Frodo fell back—andcontinued to fall.He flailed frantically, trying to regain his balance. No floor! flashed through his mind. The stone that broke the wallIt broke the floor, too!  

The leader threw himself forward and landed flat on his belly, clamping his hand around the hobbit’s wrist just as it disappeared under the floor. Frodo cried out; the pain in his wrist and left shoulder was unendurable. It felt as if muscles were tearing. He looked up into his captor’s face as he sought to drag Frodo up. “Got you!” the man shouted in triumph.

No, thought Frodo. Not again. Not ever again. He twisted sideways and kicked as hard as he could, using the momentum to swing his body up so his other hand could fasten on the grip imprisoning him. He did not have the same strength in his right hand after losing his finger, but there must be enough for this. Agony tore through his disfigured hand as he wrenched the man’s smallest finger back. Bone snapped. The man screeched and dropped him. In silence, Frodo fell.

* * *

Pippin paused at the turning of the alleyway, his pointed ears twitching. Somewhere ahead of him, a Man had cried out. He listened intently and heard what seemed to be cursing, the words indistinct but the sentiment behind them clear. He wavered, too well aware of what a wrong decision would mean for Frodo.

For a heartbeat, he debated on rushing back and finding Merry and Faramir, then discarded the idea. There might not be time. If Men were shouting and cursing, there was a fair chance his cousin was the cause of it.

Praying he was not wrong, Pippin ran down the alley. The sun had begun its westward journey and the shadows it cast into the narrow way were tricksy and confusing. He followed the voices to a gaping hole in one side of the wall lining the alley and paused, peering into it. The faint light of a lantern bobbed in the darkness.

Someone was in there! Pippin plastered himself against the wall just to the side of the dark opening. He drew his sword, holding it carefully as he inched closer. His black uniform blended well with the deepening shadows and disguised his movement as he peeked around the edge into the black room. By the light of the lantern, he could see three ill-favoured Men standing around a pit of darkness at their feet. The largest was shifting from side to side, clutching his hand against his breast, his face contorted in pain. Pippin did not recognize them, but he had not paid much attention to the other diners at the inn.

Frodo was nowhere to be seen. Pippin feared he had made the wrong choice. His cousin was most likely being carried even farther away while he wasted time chasing down three innocent Men about their own business. Or more likely, about someone else’s business. He would report them as looters to the first guardsman he saw. Stepping away from the wall, he sheathed his sword.

“Bloody halfling! Hoy, down there! Are you hurt?”

Pippin froze, his heart in his throat. Frodo. He did not hear a reply. Made careless by sudden fright, he jumped forward and leaned into the opening. His shoulder struck one of the loose stones on the side. It fell, and in the listening silence, the sound of its falling was louder than the clanging of a bell.

The Men whirled and stared towards the opening but Pippin, hobbit-quick, had already jerked back. He pressed against the wall, trembling. What to do? What to do? Merry and Faramir would be out of hailing distance by now. Run back to the inn and rouse Mikah and his friends? Attack the Men himself and hope to hold them off until help came? Pippin heard a snarled order, then the slide of steel leaving a sheath. Footfalls. One of the Men had drawn a long sword and was picking his way warily towards the door, leaving the other two with the lantern.

Pippin closed his eyes and fought to still his terror. Frodo was in that hole. They called him the Trollslayer, Pippin reminded himself. He could do this. He must.

* TBC *

<< Back

Next >>

Leave Review
Home     Search     Chapter List