2. Of Orcs and Elves
The heat of the Orcish brew burned its way downward to Elrond’s belly, yet the warmth was not unpleasant, and he savoured its spreading slowly outwards to thaw his cold limbs.
The Orc had food laid out beside him, and he pushed it towards the Elf. Elrond looked at the unidentifiable strips of dried meat with disgust, but picked up a piece of thick crumbling cake with his long fingers.
“What is this?”
“Radak. The flour is ground from the roots of the plant.”
The Elf-Lord broke it in two and examined it suspiciously, half an eye still on Uglúk. The Uruk watched him, amusement glinting in his greenish eyes. “You think I would poison you, Elf?” he reached forward and plucked one half of the sticky tack from the other’s fingers and thrust it into his mouth.
Fastidiously, Elrond lifted the remaining piece and bit into it, his white teeth cleaving the soft food. It was spicy and surprisingly sweet, melting lusciously onto his tongue. He finished the rest of it quickly, delicately licking the last crumbs from each fingertip.
Elrond nodded, “Yes, delicious.”
Uglúk grinned, showing his yellow teeth, “You did not expect it so?”
Elrond was forced to concede that he had not. He had always imagined Orc fare as heavy and tasteless.
“It will give strength for many days also.”
And the Elf-Lord did indeed feel an energy surge in him, the cold now banished entirely.
The Uruk reached back to retrieve some more pine faggots, which he threw onto the fire, causing it to blaze up with a rush of sparks. He also drew a rough blanket out of his pack, brother to the one he lay on, and passed it over to the Elf with a grunt.
Elrond took it gratefully, and stood to peel off his wet clothes.
Uglúk watched with interest, his eyes hooded, noting the strong, lean frame and lithe, well-muscled limbs. One or two old scars marred the fair flesh.
“How many years have you, Elf-Lord?” he asked as Elrond sat back down, draping the heavy wool about his shoulders.
Elrond looked at him curiously, studying the dark, swart face with its deepset, slant eyes. “I was born in the First Age. Seven thousand, two hundred and forty-two times have I seen the seasons come and go upon the land.”
The Uruk-Hai stared into the fire, his gaze distant. “It was but four short years ago that I was brought to my life, in the bowels of Orthanc, howling in pain and fear.” He looked up, his mouth twisted, “And yet I also can remember the days of the First Age.”
Elrond snatched his face round towards the other, a disbelieving scowl above his flashing eyes.
“Orcs are not born,” continued Uglúk, “they have no mothers to suckle them, no fathers protect them, nor wives comfort. They are torn from the earth, fully formed in body and mind. No time need be wasted teaching them, they have no need to learn, all that they need to know is already here.” He struck his heavy forehead with the heel of his hand. “Within an hour of his awakening an Orc is ready to run, to fight, to hate….to kill. He is thrust into the pack, to bite and claw his way among his fellows, or die trampled beneath their feet. But deep inside, the memories of all who have gone before lie, like a dark pool. Those Snaga, the weakling slaves, never look there – they dare not!” His great chest, the blue-black skin shining in the firelight, rose and fell with each breath.
“When Saruman created us, the Fighting Uruk-Hai, he gave us the blood of Men that we might know no fear in battle, and have pride and strength in body, that we might be clever and adaptable. But he miscalculated, for he gave us also other things – the ability to learn, the desire to learn, and the courage to look back.
“Back, into that lake of memories. Back down the many generations of death and despoilment, back through degradation and torment.” His voice dropped to a rough whisper, “Back to when we were Elves still.”
A bitter sneer distorted his mouth as he turned his gaze slowly towards the Elf-Lord beside him.
Elrond could not draw his eyes away from the Uruk, a storm of emotions tore through him – horror, disgust, anger, and pity.”
“To make an Orc from an Elf, one need add nothing,” the speaker continued, “It is sufficient to subtract. Take away the compassion, the love of beauty, pride, joy, bravery, loyalty. And what is left?”
He turned away again, “Look into yourself Master Elrond, into your dark places, and you will see the answer……..fear, cruelty, hate, weakness, and despite.” The Uruk lifted his great head towards the roof of the cave, snarling, “I should never have lived so long. I see the world, I look inside myself, and I am in despair. I am an unnatural creature, made only for war and destruction, and in all the lands under the sun there is no place for me.”
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