Another Day

by Alasse Merenrel-(TV)
January 3, 2007
Written for the 10th Anniversary of the Valar Guild


And it was another day.

Another long march of chanting, snarling, and bloodlust prickling his tongue as he howled in obedient response to Saruman’s salute. This time their company was large, multiplied by the powerful New-Breeds of the White Wizard’s dens. They were going to war; they were going to a feast. The orcs beside him bared their fangs in anticipation of the flesh they would have perhaps for night meal, certainly for morn meal. No fortress could withstand this river of orcs.

He had long lost count of the years and the change of the seasons. When the heat boiled his skin he went nearly naked but for the most basic pieces of armor. When the cold bit his leathered skin he scavenged cloaks from the remains of his hoard’s meal, or simply stabbed the orc next to him and stripped the corpse of its clothes. Then he would cut up his former comrade (if he could be called such, that backstabbing…) and keep pieces for chewing during the march.

Long ago he stopped trying to remember. He found that it only hurt him, both because of the melancholy that accompanied it and because if the Eye caught him in a nostalgic state it would inflict unspeakable pain. And if it wasn’t the Eye, it was his equally dreadful High Servants that could sense and punish such thoughts. So to spare himself, he passed his days in a daze.

But when battle came the memories came barreling back. He would see faces and forms that once had been his and he would stiffen. Even as he threw himself into the fray he remembered Eldar, Cuivienen, Valinor, Iluvatar; heard the snatch of a song (Aiya! Varda Elentari); tasted lembas instead of sticky blood; remembered how his tongue curled to form the words meleth nin; and inevitably the Images would come.

He was a troublesome orc. Every orc in his regiment knew it. He would break down in the middle of fighting, collapsing and crawling away while clawing his head. In some corner or ditch or bush he would cower even after the last of the death moans had died. But there was no questioning his ability with the sword, or even with just his bare hands. Some starving orcs had made that mistake and attacked him, thinking that he was weak and a potential meal—within minutes each had been hacked to pieces and thrown to the rest of the company as a snack.

It would be such a waste to simply do away with this exceptional machine of death. So the Eye took control of it.

Now whenever there was battle his mind would be covered with red haze. His body would be filled with rage and bloodlust. He himself remained conscious and aware—oh yes, the Eye wanted him to know what he had done, savored in the anguish of his psyche. And he screamed and fought and tore at his mental bars, but all was for naught—he could only watch with horror as his own hands tore apart still screaming victims, felt the nauseatingly sweet and tender flesh slip still warm down his throat. He knew then what he was eating; his stomach churned and he tried to spit it out, but the red haze commanded his body to devour…

Later when the Eye finally released its hold he would stumble away to some corner and hurl.

He knew that he wasn’t the only one subjected to this…treatment. He’d seen plenty of others with the red light of the Eye in their eyes, a sign of Its mental control. Helpless, they were all helpless. And doomed, all doomed.

His company marched steadily through the night, never pausing. Then they were there. He could smell the stink of fear emanating from the stone fortress, the nervous men and…

He froze.

There were elves, row upon row of beautiful, long-haired immortals, facing mortality alongside men.

Fools! They should not be here—what were they doing here? No, he cried silently, no, no, no! He couldn’t do this. He couldn’t do this. It would come again, he knew that, and he would be forced to kill, to consume…

And then he felt that familiar blood-tinted shadow encroach upon his mind. The Eye had heard his thoughts. That certainty was soon confirmed as his vision became slowly clouded by red. His lips curled up in a snarl that was not his own.

Bloodlust seized him. A low rumble of laughter trembled within him as his arrows found their marks. He howled satisfaction at the cracking sky of rain and thunder as men and elves fell screaming into the waiting horde below. Bound in the depths of his mind he cowered and comforted himself with the fact that at least he hadn’t been forced to eat tender flesh and blood thus far.

Then the Eye turned him towards the cart. He saw himself rip the canvas off, to reveal Saruman’s most deadly weapon.

There was an elf on the wall that saw him. He saw him aim his arrows toward him and fire. Pain speared his side as one finely crafted arrow found its mark, but he lumbered on. Another. And another. He screamed for release, screamed for his limbs to stop, screamed for the elf to shoot straight and true into his pained heart and end its tortured beating.


He was at the wall. There was a cry of dismay from above as the elf realized that the orc had not fallen. Briefly he felt the savage triumph of the Eye course through his mind, and growling he thrust the torch into the stone.

And the red haze cleared. He was free. He could run. He…could live to experience another futile mental struggle against Saruman’s control while he gagged on blood and flesh and that voice inside screamed kinslayerkinslayerkinslayer…

The orcs around him scuttled away in silent anticipation, but he stood there, bleeding from his arrow wounds, watching dumbly. He watched the tendrils of flame crawl in slow motion the path ordained by the rough fibers of orc-rope, sparking as if desperately trying to lunge off its unstoppable progress towards the deadly powder. He felt a kind of kinship with the flame, for it felt his own wretched despair. How he wished that the flame could escape! But the flame could not be freed from its course—just as in all his own futile efforts he could not change his own fate. They were both helpless. They were both doomed.

Doomed. So were those elves upon the wall. Dimly he heard them yell warnings to men and their brothers alike. Why must they have come? The fate of Rohan did not concern them! Why did they meddle with the affairs of men? Did they not see that such interaction led only to pain, death, and loss? Why did they not stay hidden from the world in their impenetrable kingdoms, like the ancient land of Doriath back before Arda changed its form? Why did they not flee to…to Valinor, Valinor, Valinor the Blessed Realm where Aulë worked in his forge and Yavanna tended her garden and Oromë galloped laughing in his hunt…

The flame writhed steadily onwards.

Elves who chose a different fate. Elves who chose Arda and Death, instead of the Blessed Realm and immortality. Elves who could leap off the path of destruction this war ensured, but chose to stay and face it proudly with their brothers the Secondborn. If I could but stand with them, he thought, proud I would be of my life, stained as it is by orc deeds.

But he was orc, not elf. He stood below, in the mud; they towered tall on the wall. He brought destruction to this fortress; they came with its hope. Could he dare defy? As the sparks crept ever closer to its doom, as overhead on the rampant men and elves scampered for safety and made hasty prayers, as orcs bared their teeth and roared towards the skies—the skies that wailed rain over the impending massacre, thick clouds hiding the bloodshed from the moon’s pure gaze—he decided.

We shall face our doom together, he thought to the flame. Closing his eyes he bowed his head quickly and with his last coherent thought stood defiant of Saruman and Sauron, muttering words in a language clumsy with disuse on his tongue but fluent and flowing with practice in his heart.

Not another day.