Religion in Middle-earth

The She-Orc

4. Sea-Change

   

Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes.
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
William Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act I, scene ii

There were many tunnels, and dens throughout the grounds of Angband.  Several of them, Ghash knew, connected with longer underground roads beneath the Mountains of Thangorodrim.  Morgoth wanted his Orcs to have speedy access to the regions beyond his domain, so that he could strike in force without warning.  Though Ghash had never been beyond the mountains herself, she knew where the tunnels started.

Once, long ago, she had considered running away, but at the time, she had realized with dismay that there was nowhere for her to go.  Morgoth had many powerful enemies.  Those who hated Morgoth would not hesitate to take out their vengeance on one who had been his servant, even if she were only a wretched she-Orc.  She could never have dreamed that one of her master's strong foes would ever attempt to rescue her.

As the sky began to lighten, and the other Orcs hurried to seek shelter from the sun, Ghash made her way to the mouth of the passage which led under Thangorodrim.  Glancing about furtively to be sure no one was watching, she darted into the tunnel.  If luck was with her, she would avoid meeting anyone coming the other way.

She moved quickly in the tunnel, straining both eyes and ears for any sign of approaching danger.  She had no difficulty making her way in the darkness.  She felt at home in the dark, and could see well in it.  She did not know how it would be when she came out at the far end and had to walk openly under the sun.

Though the way before her twisted and climbed, it only branched once or twice.  The road was broad and smooth, designed to provide rapid access for Orc marauders.  Just as she was beginning to relax, she heard foot steps up the passageway.  Her heart pounding, she shrank back against the curving wall and froze.   Nervous sweat moistened her palms as she grasped for the hilt of her knife.  The approaching footsteps grew louder.

She heard a soft voice, like a whisper in her mind, "I'm here, Gilnara.  Don't be afraid."
Before she had time to wonder about this, the creature whose arrival she had been dreading rounded a corner and came into view.  It was a lone Orc, a big soldier with a cruel scimitar.  If it came to fighting, Ghash knew she wouldn't stand a chance.

"Do not fear," the gentle voice repeated.  Ghash held her breath as the Orc passed right by her.  He gave no indication that he had seen or sensed her at all. He shuffled past quickly, completely oblivious to her presence.

For the rest of her journey, Ghash never met another living soul.  She made swift progress and at last she neared the outlet.  Ghash could see the bright sunlight streaming in the tunnel mouth.  Like all Orcs, she feared the daylight and had never gone out under the open sun of her own free will.  She shivered and almost lost her resolve.  Yet, she could not go back.  With Morgoth there could be no atoning for the crime of killing a prisoner.  In her heart she realized she didn't want to go back.  She grasped the pouch of ashes in her hand, took a deep breath and stepped out into the sunlight.

At first she squinted so hard her head ached, but as she made her way down the lower slopes of the mountain, she found the light did not hurt as she had expected.  She began to relax her eyes and look around her.

What she found most amazing was the color.  Even here in the bare and craggy rocks, there were a million shades of black, grey and brown.  She saw bits of green here and there where grasses grew between the rocks.  The sky above was a remarkable blue, "As blue as his eyes," she thought with a deep sigh.  Having lived all her life in the darkness, she had no idea the world was full of such color.

"Even though he didn't make me an Elf, at least I was able to see this," she thought, caressing the pouch which lay against her chest.

 She made excellent progress in climbing down the slopes and had soon reached the foot of the mountain.  She had no clear idea where to find the sea, except she knew that she must travel west.  As she sat for a moment to take a drink from her water skin and eat a mouthful of bread, she heard the unmistakable sound of water rushing over stones.  A stream!  She had heard that all rivers eventually flow into the sea.  She resolved to find this one and follow it.  

After a few minutes search, she found the stream.  It was cold and clear and deliciously clean.  She bathed her face, hands and feet in it, and the wonderful sensation of water on her skin made her want to laugh aloud.  "Thank you," she whispered.

As the sun sank in the west, she found she was not weary, and so she continued to follow the stream, running along its banks at an incredible pace.  She felt no need to sleep, but her mind slipped into a sort of waking dream.  As the stars came out overhead, they merged with the brilliant night sky of her dreams, near the gently flowing waters of the glittering lake.  The Elves were singing to her in their soft, unearthly voices.  Their song urged her onward, ever onward until she saw the eastern sky grow pale.

As the sun crept over the horizon, Ghash looked on in wonder.  For the first time in her life, she could watch the day dawn without fear!  She stood still and watched as the sky was painted with brilliant and varied hues, incredible shades of pink, orange and purple!  Just to experience this was a treasure beyond compare.  Joy and thanks welled up in her breast.  Her heart wanted to sing, her feet wanted to dance. 

For days and nights she ran by the stream, both waking and dreaming, but always rushing toward the sea.  On occasion, she would stop to eat and to drink from the stream.  She discovered foods she had never tasted; ripe juicy berries of red, and deep purple.  Their flavor was exquisite.  She relished every bite, and breathed her silent thanks for the opportunity to taste such food.   For the first time, she saw flowers, really saw them, with all the delicate symmetry of their beautiful petals, and colors and scents that took her breath away. "He has not made me an Elf," she thought, "but, he has given me so much!" 

Soon, she realized she was nearing her goal.  The river had grown very wide, and marsh grasses grew in the waters along its banks.  White sea birds wheeled overhead calling out mournfully to one another.  The air smelled different, fresher, more bracing.
Suddenly she could see it spreading out before her: the sea.  She had never imagined anything so vast.  She knew now why he had wanted his body to be brought here.  This place was like him; tranquil and deep, yet surging with a wild intensity.

"I have come," she said aloud.  "I did not trust you, as I should have, to my own sorrow and shame.  But I have brought you to the sea.  May we both find rest beneath its waves."

She waded out into the water until it reached her knees, her waist, her chest.  From between her breasts she pulled the precious pouch, and with trembling hands, she cast his ashes into the sea foam.  Her quest was done.  There was nothing left for her to do but die.  She could never go back to her old life, and she did not want to live without him.  He was her life, and he was here, in the sea.  She walked on as the swells rose above her neck.  Waves washed over her head.  For a few frightening moments, everything was a blur of white sky and blue green water.  The rushing noise of breakers crashing over her head drowned out all other sounds.  Up through the churning green waves, she thought she glimpsed a figure walking toward her on the surface of the water. Then she sank down into darkness.

"Gilnara," she heard a voice calling to her out of the blackness.  "Gilnara, look at me," where had she heard that voice before?  She felt warm and comfortable.  She was wrapped in a soft blanket, her head cradled in someone's lap.  Gentle hands were stroking her hair.  Slowly she opened her eyes.  He was smiling down at her.

"Did I die?" she asked him, confusion furrowing her brow.

"In a way, yes.  The Orc that you were died, but I rescued you.  I breathed life back into you.  Gilnara, you have just begun to live again."
 

"But you! I burned your body. I murdered you.  I ripped out your heart and ate it," at this Gilnara covered her face.   Her shoulders shook as mournful sobs wracked her body.

With infinite tenderness he pulled her hands down and wiped away her tears.
 

"I forgive you."

"You do?"

"Yes.  What you did was horrible, but it is gone now, buried in the depths of the sea."

"But…"

"You did not steal my heart, Nara, I gave it to you freely.  Now my life is in you.  I love you as I love my self.  I gave you my heart, I could never harden it against you."

"But how is it possible that you are here, and alive?  I burned your body.  I cast your ashes into the sea."

"Yes.  You did well.  You persevered on the quest that I set for you.  I knew that rescuing you would cost my life, but I also knew that if you returned my body to him, Ulmo would revive me.  I am a vassal of Ulmo, the great Vala who rules the sea.  I am one of the Maiar, who serve the mightiest Valar. My name is Earglin, and today my lord has also bestowed on me a new name: Seregdil, because by my blood I have freed you from slavery to darkness.  Here, you are still weak.  Come and eat."

Looking about, she saw a small fire with fish roasting on it.  "Here," he said laying a steaming piece of fish on a slab of flat, golden-brown bread and bringing to her.  He began placing bites of the warm, white meat into her mouth.  As he did so he said,

"Though my physical frame had been destroyed, my spirit went with you on every step of your journey.  It was I who protected you from capture as you escaped from Angband.  It was I who guided you to the stream.  Though you weren't fully aware of my presence, I was rejoicing to see you begin to live as what you really are."

Strengthened by the nourishing food, she sat up and he handed the bread and fish to her.  When she had eaten her fill, he knelt before her, taking her hand in his.

"Gilnara, your father begged me to find you and rescue you if I might," he began.

"Who is my father?"

"Your father is Cirdan the Shipwright, lord of the Falathrim.  His people are the Teleri Elves who keep the Havens on the coasts of Beleriand.  Though others of the Teleri embarked for Aman, your father was loath to forsake these shores, in part because of his concern for you.  He did not wish to leave you behind, never knowing for certain what had become of you.  Though your kinsmen had presumed you were dead, your father would never believe it. 

When the Teleri settled on the coastlands, Cirdan beseeched my lord, Ulmo, to send his people to search for you.  Though the Teleri have always been especially beloved of Ulmo, and your father in particular, my lord was reticent to send his Maiar on what might well prove a fruitless errand. 

But, your father still would not give up and he begged me to help him.  He promised me your hand if I should succeed.  I volunteered for the quest, and Ulmo at last agreed that I might seek to find and rescue you.  Long years I searched, but in the end I found you.  I knew that to undo the evil which Morgoth had wrought would require me to suffer much, yet I was willing to endure whatever I must for the joy of setting you free.  For the joy of making you my bride," he looked into her eyes with his unwavering gaze, deep as the ocean, intense as the fire, "Nara, will you marry me?"

Burying her face in a fold of her blanket, Gilnara cried out in despair, "But I'm so ugly!" 

With gentle firmness, he pushed her arm down.   Taking her chin in his hand, he turned her face toward him, and said, "No, Nara, not anymore.  I told you I would never lie to you.  You are beautiful.  When first I looked on you, you were the loveliest child ever born, and now you have grown into the fairest among women. There is not another so lovely to my eyes.  Come, look for yourself."  Taking her by the hand, he drew her to a tide pool of deep, clear water which gave back a perfect reflection of the sky above.  "Look in the pool.  What do you see?"

Gilnara bent her head to look into the water.  She saw a face framed by a glorious cataract of white blonde hair, and deep azure eyes, as blue as the heavens.  At first she thought it was his face she was seeing, but looking more closely she could see the delicate, feminine features, the smooth, fair skin, and the lithe, slender figure. She realized with a start that the beautiful creature staring up from the water was indeed herself.  She laughed out loud.

"I love you, Nara.  Will you marry me?"  She looked up at him, her eyes shining with wonder, but again her face clouded.  Her past rose up to haunt her.  There had been so many lovers before him…

As if reading her thoughts he said, "There were many who used you to gratify their own desires.  You have never had a lover.  Will you have me? Will you be my bride?"
She looked at him with amazement.  Who could resist such love?

"Yes, Seregdil" she said, "I will be your bride." Laughing for joy, he caught her up in his arms and whirled her about exuberantly. Then setting her down, he held her close and she could hear the beating of his heart, the heart which he had given for her. He looked down into her face and straight into her soul with his piercing eyes. All of the vile things she had done, all the horrors she had suffered, faded like an evil dream in the clear morning light as she was kissed for the first time by her one and only true lover.


This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.

   

In Challenges

Story Information

Author: Wordweaver

Status: General

Completion: Complete

Rating: General

Last Updated: 12/04/05

Original Post: 09/01/05

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