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…
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
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
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
Not another day.