Gorbag marched up the rocky path, closely followed by a group of other Orcs. The Dead City could still be seen glowing eerily below. They walked up the path towards the pass above. Cirith Ungol.
Their job now was to check in on the pass. The Silent Watchers were uneasy, and they had been sent to investigate, as the Watchers were never wrong. Also, the Uruk-hai were becoming more rebellious of late. Uruks would turn traitor more often than lesser Orcs, as a fact. But Gorbag had had thoughts about it more than once. And he was no Uruk.
And proud of it. Uruks were filthy slime-balls who thought they were stronger and smarter than Gorbag’s kind. “They may be stronger, of course, but hardly ever smarter,” as he always told himself when he heard an Uruk bragging about his strength.
As has already been said, he had had thoughts of rebelling before. Now was one of those times. He hated having to walk all the way up the path each month. “Shagrat is too cowardly to turn rebel,” he thought.
As they finally came out at the top of the path, they looked about them at the pass of Cirith Ungol.
Two rock walls rose up on either side, and the path led straight forward. They followed it until they could see a point ahead where the path split. One way, Gorbag had never been down, but knew where it led. It led to Shelob’s lair. The other climbed up a small flight of steps, and then passed out of sight.
Even now, as he looked in that direction, Gorbag could see the Tower in the distance. A giant black pillar, at the top of which was a window through which a red light could be seen.
Walking towards this path, he suddenly heard voices talking. Though he could not make out what was said, he recognized the voices, and one most of all: Shagrat, captain of Cirith Ungol.
A large, grey-skinned Orc came into view, several other Uruk-hai following him. “Gorbag! What are you doing up here? Had enough of war already?”
“Orders, you lubber.” he growled in response. “And what are you doing, Shagrat? Tired of lurking up there? Thinking of coming down to fight?”
“Orders to you. I’m in command of this pass, so speak civil. What’s your report?”
“Nothing.” said Gorbag in an irritated tone. Suddenly, one of his men began shouting and pointing at the place were the roads met. Squinting in this direction, Gorbag saw something on the ground. It looked like a pile of white rags.
Each Orc ran towards the thing in the road. Gorbag got there first. Now he saw quite clearly what it was: a body, wrapped in silk strands. Those on his face had been ripped apart, showing what non-orcs might call a “beautiful” face.
“Here’s something.” yelled an Uruk. “Lying right in the road. A spy, a spy!”
“Take him to the Tower!” commanded Shagrat.The Uruks obeyed, of course, and the body was lifted up by two of them. “Now off! The quick way. Back to the Under-gate! She’ll not trouble us tonight by all the signs.”
With that, they were off. The Morgul-group followed closely, but Gorbag and Shagrat kept a distance from the others, taking up the rear. They followed the path leading to the tunnel…the way Gorbag hadn’t been before. But if Shagrat had gone in and come out again, so could he.
When they reached the tunnel, Shagrat grabbed a torch from another Orc. They walked for quite a while, and Gorbag noticed the Uruks were getting a bit loud. “Can’t you stop your rabble making such a racket, Shagrat?”
“Go on, Gorbag! Yours are making more then half the noise. But let the lads play! No need to worry about Shelob for a while, I reckon. She’s sat on a nail, it seems, and we shan’t worry about that. Didn’t you see: a nasty mess all the way back to that cursed crack of hers? If we’ve stopped it once, we’ve stopped it a hundred times. So let ’em laugh. And we’ve struck some luck at last: got something that Lugburz wants.”
Gorbag found these last words confusing. “Lugburz wants it, eh? What is it, d’you think? Elvish it looked, but undersized. What’s the danger in a thing like that?”
“Don’t know until we’ve had a look.”
“Oho! So they haven’t told you what to expect? They don’t tell us all they know, not by half. But they can make mistakes, even the Top Ones can.”
At this, Shagrat began to whisper. “Sh! Gorbag!” He looked around the cave, as if expecting too see eyes in the walls. “They may, but they’ve got eyes and ears everywhere; some among my group, as like as not. But there’s no doubt about it, they’re troubled about something. The Nazgul down below are, by your account; and Lugburz is too. Something nearly slipped.”
“Nearly, you say!” Gorbag noted the trail of blood, and the ripped cords on the fellow’s face.
“All right, but we’ll talk about that later. Wait till we get to the Under-way. There’s a place there we can talk, while the lads go on.”
When they reached the Under-gate (a stone door with a small space on top), they climbed up and jumped over (this was easier for the smaller, more agile lesser Orcs). On the other side, Gorbag and Shagrat stopped, while the others went on. Here they had a long discussion.
“Any idea what all this commotion is about, Gorbag?”
“No, I don’t know. The messages go through quicker than anything could fly, as a rule. But I don’t enquire about how it’s done. Safest not to.” He thought about the black, hooded figures, whose voices made even the Orcs shudder. “Those Nazgul give me the creeps. And they skin the body off you as soon as look at you, and leave you cold and dark on the other side. But He likes ’em; they’re his favorites nowadays, so it’s no use grumbling. I tell you, it’s no game serving down in the city.”
“You should try being up here with Shelob for company.” said Shagrat, looking back at the gate.
“I’d like to try somewhere where theirs none of ’em. But the war’s on now, and when that’s over things may be easier.”
“It’s going well, they say.”
“They would.” said Gorbag sarcastically. “We’ll see. But anyway, if it does, there should be a lot more room. What d’you say? If we get a chance, you and me’ll slip off and set up somewhere on our own with a few trusty lads, somewhere where there’s good loot handy, and no big bosses.”
“Ah! Like old times.”
Gorbag sniggered silently to himself. He was simply testing the fool. If any of that ever happened, he would turn on Shagrat at the first chance he had. “Yes, but don’t count on it. I’m not easy in my mind. As I said, the Big Bosses, ay, even the Biggest, can make mistakes. Something nearly slipped, you say. I say, something has slipped. And we’ve got to look out. Always the poor Orcs to put slips right, and small thanks. But don’t forget: the enemies don’t love us any more than they love Him. And if they get topsides on Him, we’re done too. But see here: when were you ordered out?”
“About an hour ago, just before you saw us. A message came: ‘Nazgul uneasy. Spies feared on Stairs. Double vigilance. Patrol to head of Stairs.’ I came at once.”
“Bad business. 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 sent to 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. Big things going on away west, they say.”
“I daresay! 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 to do my job. We were awake alright. 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 more like a starved frog. 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 orders from High Up. But a fine guard you keep down 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, you say! 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! She got him in the end, didn’t she?”
Gorbag was amazed at Shagrat’s ignorance. “Got him? Got who? This little fellow? But if he was the only one, she’d have had him of to her larder long before, and there he’d be now. And if Lugburz wanted it, you’d have to go and get him. Nice for you. But there was more than one. Who cut the cords she put around him, Shagrat? Same one as cut the web. Didn’t you see that? And who stuck a pin in Her Ladyship? Same one, I reckon. And where is he? Where is he, Shagrat?”
A new look of understanding (and slight fear) spread across the Uruk’s face.
“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?”
“From all the signs, Captain Shagrat, I’d say there’s a great 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!” He spat on the ground.
“Ah well, you always did take a gloomy view. 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 that you won’t find much in that little fellow. 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 that I spotted him first. If there’s any game, me and my lads must be in on it.”
“Now, now. 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.”
“Striped, eh? 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. You’ve been talking very clever, but there’s a lot you don’t know, though most other folk do. You’ll be in 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 ain’t dead! Garn! She’s got more than one poison. When she’s hunting, she just gives ’em a dab in the neck with her stinger and they go as limp as a 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 couple of hours. And apart from feeling a bit sick for a couple of hours, he’ll be alright. 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!” Gorbag’s lust for fun was suddenly awoken. “We can tell him a few stories at any rate, if we can’t do any thing else. I don’t suppose he’s ever been inside lovely Lugburz, so he may like to know what to expect. This is going to be funnier than I thought. Let’s go!”
Shagrat grabbed his arm and pulled him back. “There’s going to be no fun, I tell you! And he’s got to be kept safe, or we’re all as good as dead.”
“Alright! But if I were you, I’d catch the big one that’s loose, before you send any report to Lugburz. It won’t sound too pretty to say you’ve caught the kitten and let the cat escape.” With that, they were off again.
“The top!” Shagrat said as they marched along. “That’s what I’m going to do. Put him right up in the top chamber.”
Gorbag looked at him. The top floor of the Tower had only one room, usually used as a watch room. “What for? Haven’t you got any lock-ups down below?”
“He’s going out of harm’s way, I tell you. See? He’s precious. I don’t trust all of 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.”
They came out of the tunnel, and found themselves in a room. Gorbag knew that they were inside the rampart surrounding the Tower.
Gorbag’s troops laid their equipment in a small storage room, and then went to the top of the Tower. For nearly a whole day they interrogated the prisoner (who was indeed alive) when he occasionally woke up, looking through his stripped equipment the rest of the time.

Finally, while the lads were scattered allover the Tower and courtyard, eating dinner, Gorbag came across something in the looted equipment. Something that looked very valuable. He turned away from the rest of the pile, admiring the shiny silver-white mail coat in his hands. However, Shagrat turned and saw what he was looking at.
“Hands off! That shiny shirt! That’s mine!”
Gorbag intended to keep it for himself, despite his response. “It’s going to the Great Eye. Along with every thing else!”
An angry look spread across Shagrat’s face. “I take orders from stinking Morgul-rats!” He lunged at Gorbag.
But Gorbag, reaching behind him to where his sword leaned against the wall, pointed its tip at him. “You touch it, and I’ll stick this blade in your gut!”
A nasty fight burst out, and Shagrat managed to push Gorbag through the trap door. He rolled down the ladder and the stairs, falling on top of a group of Uruks.
“The scum tried to knife me!” Shagrat called down. “KILL HIM!”
Picking up his sword, Gorbag managed to slice several Orcs out of his way, and kick another headfirst out the window.
Coming upstairs to investigate, some of the Morgul-Orcs perceived the situation immediately, and attacked the Uruk-hai.
The battle intensified, and raged on for hours. Gorbag eventually found himself in a wide space in the middle of the Tower, where the fighting was worst. He was, at the time, fighting a very fat Uruk, who tripped over one of the many bodies lying here and there, giving Gorbag time to stab him. At that moment, though, Shagrat appeared from the turret, and saw him. He managed to stab the filth in the arm (although having already been badly wounded himself), but Shagrat had throttled him until he passed out, and left him for dead.
He awoke to to Shagrat’s voice. “Lagduf! Muzgash!” He lifted his head to see Shagrat leaning over the parapet, looking down into the courtyard.
He slowly lifted himself, picking up his sword, and snuck up behind Shagrat, preparing to stab him. But at that moment he felt a sharp pain from his wounds, and let out a gasp of pain.
Spinning around, Shagrat stabbed him square in the chest. “Got you, Gorbag! Not quite dead yet, eh? Well, I’ll finish my job now.”
The next few moments were horrible. When Shagrat was done, all that was left off poor Gorbag was a bloody, mangled corpse.

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