The Return of the King (Page 62)

‘That’s all right, Mr. Frodo,’ said Sam, rubbing his sleeve across his eyes. ‘I understand. But I can still help, can’t I? I’ve got to get you out of here. At once, see! But first you want some clothes and gear, and then some food. The clothes will be the easiest part. As we’re in Mordor, we’d best dress up Mordor-fashion; and anyway there isn’t no choice. It’ll have to be orc-stuff for you, Mr. Frodo, I’m afraid. And for me too. If we go together, we’d best match. Now put this round you!’

Sam unclasped his grey cloak and cast it about Frodo’s shoulders. Then unslinging his pack he laid it on the floor. He drew Sting from its sheath. Hardly a flicker was to be seen upon its blade. ‘I was forgetting this, Mr. Frodo,’ he said. ‘No, they didn’t get everything! You lent me Sting, if you remember, and the Lady’s glass. I’ve got them both still. But lend them to me a little longer, Mr. Frodo. I must go and see what I can find. You stay here. Walk about a bit and ease your legs. I shan’t be long. I shan’t have to go far.’

‘Take care, Sam!’ said Frodo. ‘And be quick! There may be orcs still alive, lurking in wait.’

‘I’ve got to chance it,’ said Sam. He stepped to the trap-door and slipped down the ladder. In a minute his head reappeared. He threw a long knife on the floor.

‘There’s something that might be useful,’ he said. ‘He’s dead: the one that whipped you. Broke his neck, it seems, in his hurry. Now you draw up the ladder, if you can, Mr. Frodo; and don’t you let it down till you hear me call the pass-word. Elbereth I’ll call. What the Elves say. No orc would say that.’

Frodo sat for a while and shivered, dreadful fears chasing one another through his mind. Then he got up, drew the grey elven-cloak about him, and to keep his mind occupied, began to walk to and fro, prying and peering into every corner of his prison.

It was not very long, though fear made it seem an hour at least, before he heard Sam’s voice calling softly from below: Elbereth, Elbereth. Frodo let down the light ladder. Up came Sam, puffing, heaving a great bundle on his head. He let it fall with a thud.

‘Quick now, Mr. Frodo!’ he said. ‘I’ve had a bit of a search to find anything small enough for the likes of us. We’ll have to make do. But we must hurry. I’ve met nothing alive, and I’ve seen nothing, but I’m not easy. I think this place is being watched. I can’t explain it, but well: it feels to me as if one of those foul flying Riders was about, up in the blackness where he can’t be seen.’

He opened the bundle. Frodo looked in disgust at the contents, but there was nothing for it: he had to put the things on, or go naked. There were long hairy breeches of some unclean beast-fell, and a tunic of dirty leather. He drew them on. Over the tunic went a coat of stout ring-mail, short for a full-sized orc, too long for Frodo and heavy. About it he clasped a belt, at which there hung a short sheath holding a broad-bladed stabbing-sword. Sam had brought several orc-helmets. One of them fitted Frodo well enough, a black cap with iron rim, and iron hoops covered with leather upon which the Evil Eye was painted in red above the beaklike nose-guard.

‘The Morgul-stuff, Gorbag’s gear, was a better fit and better made,’ said Sam; ‘but it wouldn’t do, I guess, to go carrying his tokens into Mordor, not after this business here. Well, there you are, Mr. Frodo. A perfect little orc, if I may make so bold – at least you would be, if we could cover your face with a mask, give you longer arms, and make you bow-legged. This will hide some of the tell-tales.’ He put a large black cloak round Frodo’s shoulders. ‘Now you’re ready! You can pick up a shield as we go.’

‘What about you, Sam?’ said Frodo. ‘Aren’t we going to match?’

‘Well, Mr. Frodo, I’ve been thinking,’ said Sam. ‘I’d best not leave any of my stuff behind, and we can’t destroy it. And I can’t wear orc-mail over all my clothes, can I? I’ll just have to cover up.’

He knelt down and carefully folded his elven-cloak. It went into a surprisingly small roll. This he put into his pack that lay on the floor. Standing up, he slung it behind his back, put an orc-helm on his head, and cast another black cloak about his shoulders. ‘There!’ he said. ‘Now we match, near enough. And now we must be off!’

‘I can’t go all the way at a run, Sam,’ said Frodo with a wry smile. ‘I hope you’ve made inquiries about inns along the road? Or have you forgotten about food and drink?’

‘Save me, but so I had!’ said Sam. He whistled in dismay. ‘Bless me, Mr. Frodo, but you’ve gone and made me that hungry and thirsty! I don’t know when drop or morsel last passed my lips. I’d forgotten it, trying to find you. But let me think! Last time I looked I’d got about enough of that way-bread, and of what Captain Faramir gave us, to keep me on my legs for a couple of weeks at a pinch. But if there’s a drop left in my bottle, there’s no more. That’s not going to be enough for two, nohow. Don’t orcs eat, and don’t they drink? Or do they just live on foul air and poison?’

‘No, they eat and drink, Sam. The Shadow that bred them can only mock, it cannot make: not real new things of its own. I don’t think it gave life to the orcs, it only ruined them and twisted them; and if they are to live at all, they have to live like other living creatures. Foul waters and foul meats they’ll take, if they can get no better, but not poison. They’ve fed me, and so I’m better off than you. There must be food and water somewhere in this place.’

‘But there’s no time to look for them,’ said Sam.

‘Well, things are a bit better than you think,’ said Frodo. ‘I have had a bit of luck while you were away. Indeed they did not take everything. I’ve found my food-bag among some rags on the floor. They’ve rummaged it, of course. But I guess they disliked the very look and smell of the lembas, worse than Gollum did. It’s scattered about and some of it is trampled and broken, but I’ve gathered it together. It’s not far short of what you’ve got. But they’ve taken Faramir’s food, and they’ve slashed up my water-bottle.’

‘Well, there’s no more to be said,’ said Sam. ‘We’ve got enough to start on. But the water’s going to be a bad business. But come, Mr. Frodo! Off we go, or a whole lake of it won’t do us any good!’

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