4. Zalog the Orc
Catastrophic. Hopeless. Rotten. Bad. The huge battle on the slopes of Mount Doom was lost. The Elves had joined with the Mortals and brought Lord Sauron down. One of the Mortals cut Sauron’s ring from His hand and the battle was over.
Zalog saw it all from behind his squadron where he commanded with whips. He saw the deluge of arrows from the Elven bows, carefully staged; the wild charge against Elven lines; the hand-to-hand butchery. Zalog saw the Advent of Sauron and the turn of the battle to His favor. Gil-Galad the Elf fell, and Elendil King of Mortals died by the Hand of Sauron.
As Elendil lay dying, Zalog noticed a weapons station of the Alliance in a nearby trench. An Elven smith toiled there over a battlefield forge, mending swords and spears as quickly as he might. Zalog hated Elven smiths. He would kill this one. The smith popped up over the lip of the trench to grab a broken sword and Zalog got him through the throat with an arrow. There being no living soldiers around for the moment, Zalog scrambled over and found two bodies in the trench, the Elven smith and another - the apprentice. Near the bodies Zalog saw a pair of white-handled longknives. Some folk would have called them beautiful; Zalog called them stinking Elvish Zalog never said or thought the word “Elvish” without prefixing it with “stinking.” Still Zalog wanted them. They could be valuable in hostage negotiations when shown to surviving comrades, or for sport with captives.
So Zalog grabbed the pair of knives and straight away several things happened.
They burned his palms worse than the branding he had received in the Orc-pits of Barad-Dur, but this burning didn’t stop.
Screaming, Zalog threw them with uncanny skill at two nameless soldiers. The knives buried themselves in their backs, whence Elrond retrieved them later.
In the next second, Isildur Elendil’s son took up his father’s sword and defied Sauron as He stood over him.
“My Lord Sauron!” Zalog yelled, seeing the next event as if prescient.
Then Isildur cut Sauron’s hand from His body and The One Ring’s power left Sauron in an instant. The force of its passing knocked all armies to their knees and when they got up again, the Orcs were fleeing. Zalog fled among them, pain huge in his hands, already wondering how far to the north he could get. Dol Guldur? No; tempting as it was to seek that place of strength, it was too close to the stinking Elves of Lothlorien. Perhaps the mountains of the Great Greenwood? Fewer Elves there. Yes Zalog thought. I will find a hiding place in the mountains and from there, gather followers. I will bide my time.
And he would make the Elves and Mortals pay for the loss of his reason for living. Make them pay until they all lay dead of Orc arrows, or else they ended his life first.
Zalog dodged through the renewed battle – the Alliance soldiers were mopping up. He cursed the Elves and their white-handled longknives and he cursed the pain they caused him, but he embraced the anger of that pain. With Sauron gone he would need it, and he would use it well.
***Zalog - Legolas***
Legolas was astray. Wherever he was, a great press of hard and odorous bodies crowded him so closely he could hardly breathe. It was night and storming. They all seemed to be in the midst of a lot of trees. Indeed the tree trunks were as thick as the beings around him, and much the same color - grey. When lightning flashed overhead. Legolas saw to his amazement he was in the middle of a host of Orcs, heavily armed.
Instinctively Legolas reached for his bow and arrows. They were not there. The arm that did the reaching was not his green-clad arm. It was an arm of grey and warty flesh sticking out of a raw deer hide tunic. Legolas could see little more. His keen eyesight was lessened and his body was too squat to see beyond the misshapen backs in front of him. He could feel, however, and what he felt all around was the presence of a spirit so steeped in anger and desolation and pain it was unspeakable. It was the antithesis of his own fëa.
And then Legolas realized he was not bodily in the crowd. He was a passenger in an Orc's mind.
>O Elbereth, let this be a dream,< he thought behind his guard. The Orc did not sense Legolas's guarded thoughts, but Legolas could read the Orc's, which were - Teach the stinking she-elves to cross my path! Let me up front and I'll show them.
A sheet of lightning lighted the night. Orc-Legolas glimpsed a structure up ahead with walls and torches. The Orc shouted words Legolas recognized as Westron, "Out of my way now, rot you!" But the Orcs were packed too tightly to allow much movement.
From the front of the army a message came back, word-of-mouth: "The lights ahead are the hall of the Elf-king! His archers will be upon us!"
"Are the she-Elves dead yet?" roared the Orc. But word-of-mouth does not allow for an exchange of questions. "Rot you all," the Orc snarled. He raised his shield for protection and leapt to the shoulders of the Orc soldier in front of him. Legolas noted that an Orc-body was well suited to climbing and clinging. Then the Orc crouched with a foot on someone's shoulder and a knee on someone's head and Legolas was finally able to see more than Orc-backs.
Through the narrow alley of the Forest Path, Legolas saw the light and the fight. The light was torchlight on the walls of Thranduil's hall and the fight was between the Orkish army and two Elf-women; one dark-haired, one fair. He heard the fair-haired singing, “Blade is mightier than pen!”
Ale by the fireside! Am I in that tale of Thranduil's? Legolas remembered his mother’s words about the twisting of time on Lorien’s loop, and that dreams were the province of Lorien.
Huntress! Blade-singer! he shouted in his mind, forgetting to guard his thoughts. The Orc jerked as if lashed by a whip and nearly fell off the shoulders of his soldiers. Legolas was discovered. For a moment the Orc and Elf regarded each other, mind to mind.
The Orc was Zalog, and he was fresh from the Battle of the Last Alliance. His palms burned unceasingly. Legolas realized with wonder the Orc had once held in his hands the pair of longknives meant for an Elven guest-gift. Right now the Orc wanted two things - for the stinking Elf to come out where he could kill him, and to kill the two she-Elves by slicing their skinny necks with his curved sword.
I will kill you so slowly the beasts will not eat your putrid flesh when you die, he told Legolas, and even in thought Legolas could hear the snarl. Where are you?
The Elf was Legolas. Two and a half centuries from now, he would be born in the Elf-king’s hall. He knew those longknives that troubled Zalog so. They had come somehow to his Lothlorien kin and would someday come to him, only to be stolen by a wandering Dwarf.
The Elves keep the longknives that burned you, was Legolas’s open thought.
And then the knives called to them both. An image formed in their minds together: the pair of white-handled longknives in all their power and beauty. In the vision the Elf and Orc inhabited their own bodies and the longknives hovered above them, circling, the blades pointing directly at their heads. The Battle of the Last Alliance was raging all around, and Saelon Andreth stirred her cauldron. Zalog wept Orc-tears for the fall of Sauron that was going to happen again before his eyes, while a huge wind roared through Legolas’s head, bringing Saelon’s voice prophesying: death, calamity, destruction!
But whether for either, or both, they could not tell.
Death shall be yours, each spoke to the other, and suddenly, dream-like, they were back on the Forest Path again. Ahead of the Orc column, they heard a voice scream in pain.
Then Legolas got about the business of stopping Zalog from reaching the Elf-women. Or else, putting him in front of Berendil's sword. Even now Berendil might be racing to the parapets to see what was happening.
And indeed they heard a noise that was not rain or thunder but the thwppp of thirty-six Elf-arrows as Thranduil's archers located their marks and loosed. Zalog threw himself to the ground.
Next time I will make this Orc hold still, was Legolas’s guarded thought. If I die with the Orc, may my time in the Halls of Mandos be short.
Enraged at the touch of an Elven mind, Zalog roared, "Shields! Shields, blast you all! Or the next lightning will do us!" The lightning flashed again and Zalog raised his shield. Legolas struggled to stop him and was partially successful. Still when thirty-six more arrows came flying, not one of them reached Zalog. Again he clambered up to the shoulders of the soldiers in front of him and scrambled towards the Elf-women, who, unbelievably, still stood and fought. Legolas knew from Thranduil's story that Zalog would use Huntress’s wound to bring her down.
Meanwhile, Zalog had no time to spare. The Elves were lowering a large wicker box over their wall. Zalog doubted he would like the contents.
Legolas gathered his willpower as Berendil - welcome sight - emerged from the basket, shield and sword in hand. He raced across the bridge toward the Elf-women, their Orc opponents, and Zalog. Except that now, it was Zalog-Legolas.
Zalog reached between his battling soldiers and twisted the arrow lodged in Dark-hair's thigh. As she went down on one knee, Zalog drew back his scimitar to strike off her head, decapitation being his favorite technique, while other Orcs concentrated on Yellow-hair. Legolas reached out with all his mental strength and made Zalog's sword arm slice through the necks of the two soldiers.
Zalog had not expected that. But he recovered quickly. He tried for a backhand swing at Yellow-hair. Too late. The Elven warrior took the stroke on his sword and pressed his attack. Zalog found himself facing two Elves alone, for his soldiers, worthless recent pickups, were yelling with outrage or else laughing. And Yellow-hair was better with the sword than anyone he had ever encountered. The other Elf was deadly also, and fresh. The wounded Elf-women fell back behind the new warrior and retreated across the bridge, while the new warrior kept Zalog busy.
At last the dark-headed Elf was able to get into the wicker basket. As Blade-singer climbed in after her, Berendil slashed at Zalog, wounded him, and ran for the basket himself.
Zalog screeched in anger. He darted across the bridge despite his wound and Legolas's attempts to stop him. Overtaking Berendil, he climbed him like a ladder and sprang to the rim of the basket. It rocked, and Yellow-hair dropped her sword. Zalog was elated. He grabbed her by the hank of her long hair and pulled backward until he she faced him upside-down. For a moment Legolas looked with horrified Orc-eyes into Blade-singer's and she gasped with - recognition?
Then Zalog raised his curved sword. "I will drink your blood from the goblet of your heart," he whispered.
But Berendil leaped into the basket and grabbed for Blade-singer's fallen sword. With all the power he had, Legolas forced the Orc to turn his head and look into Berendil's eyes. Legolas reached out to Berendil with thought speech. Berendil, it is I! Kill this Orc. Now!
Berendil froze in astonishment and disbelief.
Then Huntress grabbed Berendil’s hand that held the sword and swept it through Blade-singer’s hank of yellow hair. She fell on top of Huntress, the Orc tumbled backward, and the Elvish wicker cage went up while Zalog-Legolas fell to the ground.
Lying there on the ground in the Orc’s body, Legolas thought, We are linked, Zalog, by those longknives somehow. Maybe the riddle of Saelon’s prophecy lies in your memory of them. Let us see.” And with that he opened his mind fully to that of the Orc.
A scream tore out of Zalog’s throat. Legolas screamed too, in his thoughts. He shut away his mind like slamming a door against the horror of Zalog’s being, but two Orkish secrets remained with him like taint on meat. Zalog hated the pair of white-handled longknives and feared to see them ever again. And he had no good feelings except absences: of pain, of hunger, of fear. Legolas pitied him.
The feeling was not mutual. I am wounded but I will recover, Elf, in the mountains near the Dwarf Road. The Mortal villages in the foothills will supply my troops. And then I swear I will come for you and yours.
Legolas responded, Tell all of Orc-kind to fear those white-handled longknives as you do yourself. For if they come to Legolas Greenleaf, the Orcs’ days are numbered.
His fear thus exposed, Zalog conceived a hatred of Legolas so bitter that any previous grudge was a mere shadow.
“You and yours,” he hissed. “Remember!”
Then Legolas felt an irresistible backward pull, like the wind that had pulled him from the dream-cave. He popped out of the Orc’s mind and went – outer. To the Seen World. And there he was, back in the Elves’ clearing by the hall of Thranduil. Seated nearby were the players he had woven into his dream: Berendil, Blade-singer, Elsila, Elwen, and Thranduil.
“The thoughts we sensed from you!” said Elsila, clasping his hand. “We were frightened.”
Their concern was not misplaced, for the touch of an Orc-mind will have its effect. When Legolas looked into Blade-singer’s eyes they widened in astonishment. She lay back on the grass, unnerved.
Legolas said, “I found the foretelling on the Path of Dreams, just as the vision said. Those Orcs that fought Blade-singer and Huntress that first night now live in the southern mountains, Father, above the Dwarf-road. They came just after the Battle of the Last Alliance. Zalog is their leader. He raids the Mortals for supplies. If we do not act soon he will be at our walls. And, he hates and fears the white-handled longknives. Do you remember, Elwen, the guest-gift Arwen spoke of?”
“I do,” she answered.
I need those longknives, Legolas thought, and the dream words of Saelon Andreth came back to him, whispering. I shall find them and claim them.
1. Lorien the Vala devised the Olórë Mallë in the First Age. What is the Olórë Mallë (Path of Dreams)? See The Book of Lost Tales Part One (LT1), JRR Tolkien, Chapter 9, “The Hiding of Valinor.” LT1 tells us that Lorien devised it at the bidding of Manwë after the Hiding of Valinor, so that Valinor would not be completely closed. This occurred after the Noldor’s rebellion and departure to fight Morgoth. Mortal children could visit Valinor via the Olórë Mallë, but only in their childhood sleep. Elves and Valar apparently could travel it at will. LT2 says in “The Tale of Eärendel” that when the fairies left Valinor to fight Morgoth, the Valar blocked the path forever with impassable rocks, Maybe this seeming conflict is why The Hobbit, LotR and The Silmarillion do not mention the Olórë Mallë.
2. The Straight Way existed since the time of the Awakening, but it must have changed in the Second Age after the Valar changed the world and bent the seas. See The Atlas of Middle Earth, Revised Edition, Karen Wynn Fonstad, “The Road Home,” pages 174-175 for a physical representation of the Straight Way. See pages 52-53 for an illustration of the world after the Change of the World. Figure I after the Foreword shows the Olórë Mallë. Was the Olórë Mallë the metaphysical component of the physical Straight Way? Only Elves know.
3. Morgoth’s Ring, JRR Tolkien, “Finrod Ah Andreth” “Andreth was a woman of the house of Bëor, the sister of Bregor, father of Barahir [whose son was Beren One-hand the renowned]. She was wise in thought and learned in the lore of Men and their histories; for which reason the Eldar called her ‘Saelind,’ ‘Wise-heart.’” - page 305. Earlier form of name “Saelon” – pages 351-352.
4. The Peoples of Middle Earth, JRR Tolkien, “Last Writings” Note 21 regarding Legolas as an authority on the ways of Dwarves.
5. Two pieces of fanfic inspired the idea of the psychic link between Legolas and Zalog. See “Toby and the Orc” by Jerry Belcher at http://fan.theonering.net/writing/stories/files/toby_belcher.html. See “Beauty” by Victoria Sweet at http://hosted.insanity-inc.org/vb/beauty.html. These two excellent pieces are extreme opposites in tone and are similar in theme.
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