Author’s Note: A lot of people have asked me what I meant when Pippin said “Seas, this hurts” or “By the Seas”. Well, to put it simply, it’s an exclamation, just like we say “Heavens, this hurts!” or “Good heavens!” Just to clear that up for you.


We may still stand, if only on one leg, or at least be left still upon our knees . . .

The words echoed in his head, throbbing through his pain and pulsating thoughts into his mind. He didn’t know where he had heard them, or even if he had ever. They seemed familiar, but not as if he had once known them–rather in the sense that they were close to him, whether or not they had happened yet, or were to happen someday.

He didn’t even know why he was thinking all of these things. He wasn’t sure where he was, but wherever he was he wasn’t supposed to be there, judging from the pain he was feeling; and whatever reason he was there wasn’t a good one. Seas, this hurt. The fact that, in the middle of all the chaos and confusion and pain and uncertainty, he was still awake enough to process thoughts, and even to feel annoyed, was very disconcerting.

Where was he, anyway? Somewhere bad; he’d known that from the start. He tried to make his mind go backwards, to dip back into the past, and try to dig up some clue to tell him what on Arda he was doing here . . . nothing came to mind, although he fancied that he heard shouts of dismay in his memories . . . maybe a battle? Or perhaps he had been caught in a flood, and the screams he was hearing were the sounds of thousands of people being washed away in a torrent of pain, of water, rushing in, pouring down and destroying everything . . . the water of pain . . . oh, Seas . . .

He shook his head. No, no; this wouldn’t do at all. Approach this thing logically, he told himself.

Well, he’d start with what he knew. He was awake enough to shake his head–that he’d found out a minute ago. He was in pain, but he was still only semi-conscious, so it didn’t bother him physically as much as it did mentally. Where in all of Middle-earth was he? And why did he keep remembering screams, and–and black arrows?

Wait–he’d seen arrows flying along with the screams. And screams coming from behind the arrows. And arrows hitting things, and screams coming after they’d hit–Someone had been killed.

Was it him? Was he dead? No, it couldn’t be that; dead people couldn’t shake their heads. Maybe he was a ghost? But then, ghosts didn’t have heads to shake. Perhaps someone he knew had died . . .

But who did he know? He knew his name, of course; knew who he was; but faces and remembrances of anyone else just wouldn’t come to him. He was sure that he knew some people, just who they were kept eluding him, kept jumping away just as he dove to capture them . . . almost as if it were a little merry game. Well, this wasn’t going to do. Perhaps if he focused on those screams–goodness, they were persistent, weren’t they?–he would be able to make out whom they were directed to, and perhaps catch some names amidst their jumbled syllables . . .

That was more like it. Bom-something. Bomi? He didn’t know any Bomi. Straining his mental ear, he tried to get it right–

Beramir. It sounded like that–bora, borom?

Oh, Seas. Boromir.

Pippin groaned and rolled over onto his stomach. Where in all this madness was Merry? His eyes adjusted, and he saw grass–if you could call it grass; it wasn’t green, hardly–beneath him, smashed against his face, its blades bent and crushed under his weight. By degrees, the physical pain began to set in; first he noticed the excruciating position in which his wrists had been bent and held; then he felt the thick coarse ropes that had bent them so, tied mercilessly around his wrists, so tight, it was a wonder his hands hadn’t gone dead and lost their color and just fallen off. There were stones, little hard prickly stones, jabbing underneath him, finding every possible point on his body into which they could stab just enough pain to madden him. And after a few seconds, he began to realize for the first time in his life how truly uncomfortable it is to be lying on one’s stomach when the stomach is churning and leaping with pain and fear and not enough food and a horrid sick feeling inside. Pippin would have let himself throw up, except for that he didn’t relish the idea of doing so with his face pressed against the ground. Perhaps if he could sit up–

Ai, ai, bad idea, fool of a Took! he cursed as he quickly gave up the effort. That wasn’t going to get him anywhere. At all.

And ironically, it was just when he thought that his discomfort couldn’t grow any further when a heavy iron-shod foot lowered itself onto his back and pressed downward. Pippin gagged as he was driven slowly, cruelly against the hard ground and sharp stones, and then the foot lessened its pressure and kicked him.

He grunted, half whimpered, and stopped moving. He heard a laugh.

“Wake up, me pretty,” said a voice, horribly twisted and in such awful tones that Pippin felt nearly obliged to obey the order given. It was–it was a smirking voice, that’s what it was, and it pierced even his mind, so that there now was nowhere he could retreat to, to get away from it.

Now the foot was in front of him, and he could see the green skin smashed tight behind the metal boot. He was afraid that it was going to kick him in the face this time, and so, trying not to think anything about the pain or the effort, he sat up.

A wave of nausea met him head-on, and dizziness clouded his brain. He gasped, and would have flailed his arms wildly for balance had they not been bound together.

“Awake now, are we, pretty?” smirked the voice again. The grisly face of an orc leaned in front of his, snarling and bending closer and closer until its disgusting breath was level with Pippin’s. “How’s the belly?”

Pippin let “the belly” answer for him by spontaneously throwing up in the orc’s face.

The orc screamed, cursed, kicked him ruthlessly a couple of times, and probably would have done worse, had not a taller, darker, blacker creature stepped firmly up and deposited a swift arrow in the orc’s backside. The orc squealed, hissed, gnashed its teeth, and fell down, motionless. It did not move again.

“An’ let that be a lesson to ye,” said the blacker creature, “to any of ye, be he of my company or nae, to set finger upon the prisoners.” Slinging its crossbow back over its shoulder, the blacker creature stooped over Pippin and twisted several thick, terrifyingly muscled fingers into his hair.

Pippin choked in pain as the fingers lifted him upright by the top of his head. As soon as the hand had unwound itself from his hair, however, he collapsed on the ground again, shivering for cold, trembling for fear, shaking for suppressed sobs. The horror, the horror, by the Seas, would he ever get out of it? Please, please, where is he? Where is Merry; why can’t I please be safe?

The blacker creature grunted, and Pippin was rolled over by a swift heavy foot, and something hard was forced into his mouth. He tried to keep his lips shut, not to let the orc or whatever it was pour poison liquid down his throat, but the hard thing shoved its way into his mouth, bruising his lips against his teeth and slicing a thin cut on his tongue as it was pressed farther in. He tasted blood. A burning something rushed out of the container that the orc-creature had forced into him, and Pippin’s eyes opened wide in shock as he somehow choked the fire-drink down until he had no breath left; and even then he was forced to keep drinking it. Before he suffocated or choked, however, the orc-creature removed the bottle and left Pippin gasping, swallowing repeatedly, sprawled on the grass.

“Now stand,” growled the thing; and it really was a growl–not just an angry person’s snarl, but an animal growl taking the form of speech. Pippin had to obey, and found that he could, if rather weakly, do what might be called standing. His legs, he noted, were not bound, but this possible comfort spoke ominously of long days of running to come, running beyond all human limits, or hobbit limits, running until he outran even death . . .

A scream came from somewhere near–I thought that was just in my memories, thought Pippin confusedly as he tried to place it. But this scream wasn’t calling for Boromir; it was calling for–

“No! Nooooo! Please, don’t; let me go, noooooo!

Seas. It was his cousin.

“Merry,” he called in a cracked voice; then stronger, by his own determination, “Merry!”

Some sort of commotion was going on at the east side of the camp–we’re in a camp? he thought, surprised. An orc-camp. How pleasant. He tried to stand on tiptoes to see what was happening; succeeded in falling over, and then rose up again doggedly and peered out across the camp . . .

Oh Seas. Don’t let it be true. They were murdering his cousin. A small figure with bound hands was writhing in pain, in the tall grass; while larger evil figures bent over it and–were they whipping him? He couldn’t see what they were doing, but it was causing agony for Merry, because his cousin screamed and twisted in the creatures’ grasp, like a drowning man clutching desperately at an ocean rock as sea creatures sank their teeth into him and prepared to rip him off of his hold–

“Leave him alone!” shouted Pippin, a little more strongly this time. The orc-creatures paid him no heed, but the blacker creature beside him strode forward across the camp–with too-slow strides, striders that could cost his cousin his life–and seized the nearest of Merry’s oppressors by the neck.

There was a snapping sound. The body of the orc fell dead into the grass, and the blacker creature turned to the three others who had by this time ceased their torture of Merry and were crouching, frozen, blood-stained whips limp in their hands.

The blacker creature then proceeded to draw a small dagger, and made quick work of slitting the throats of the perpetrators; then took a bleeding, terrified Merry in an iron grip by the wrists, and hauled, dragged, him over to Pippin’s side of the camp. He dropped him on the ground a few yards from Pippin, and Merry’s white tear-stained face was visible in the dark, eyes closed, mouth taking gasp after shuddering gasp of air, skin dirty with blood or dirt or something. Pippin’s knees buckled. He cowered on the ground and hid his face in his hands, and for the first time since he had awoken in the Uruk-hai camp surrounded by his captors, Pippin cried.

Yet even as the tears flowed onto his muddy hands and he knelt there in the grass, alone and lost, the words to which he had first woken up played back in his head, We may still stand, if only on one leg, or at least be left still upon our knees. A new strength arose in him, and, although his tears did not cease, he suddenly felt encouraged in some strange, never-before-felt way; and, tears trailing down his cheeks and over his set jaw, he looked around him at the orcs and the forces of evil massing from all directions; and amidst his tears Pippin laughed. For it struck him suddenly that, while he was in the same place as the orcs around him, and in the same situation, undergoing very much the same things, he had something which they would never have; and even though they might destroy his body through torture and anguish, and fill even the depths of his soul with misery, they could not take this one thing from him no matter what they did, or how hard they tried to thoroughly break him. And recalling the words that he remembered, he rose from his knees, and stood firmly on both legs, bound hands clenched together in a symbol of determination; and raising his eyes from the images of destruction and hatred and despair around him, he gazed upwards, tipping back his head until the full view of the sky was above him, free in an expanse of air. One white star above him glittered reassuringly . . . and there, smothered even in the cloud of death and hopelessness, Pippin smiled. All would never be lost.

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