3. Fire and Ashes
"'He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.'" Jesus, John 6:56
Ghash stood outside the door of the prisoner's cell, her fists clenched. In her heart she was angry with the Elf. Though she knew he was deluded, he had aroused futile hopes and longings in her, and she hated him for it. He would not toy with her heart. Taking a deep breath, she braced herself and unlocked the door.
The Elf's haunting eyes followed her as she carried in the bucket of water. "Gilnara," he said softly, "please look at me." Ghash stubbornly kept her eyes averted. He continued, "Gilnara, I want to save you, to rescue you from this life."
Inwardly, the she-Orc fumed, though she would not speak a word.
"I want you to be my bride. Will you not trust me?"
Finally, Ghash's wrath overcame her resolve to keep silent. "You're a liar. You're insane. You know nothing. You couldn't save me if you wanted to. You can't even get loose. Go on, get out of those shackles."
The Elf made no attempt to break his bonds. Such efforts were obviously futile.
"You see? You can't rescue nobody, not even yourself."
"Gilnara, please believe I love you and I want to help you."
"If you love me, then kiss me, Elf-boy. Kiss me and turn me into an Elf-princess."
Ghash leaned toward him, her jagged yellow teeth and cracked black lips just inches from his face. He closed his eyes and turned his face away.
"What's the matter? Don't you love me? Ain't I beautiful?" Seizing him by the hair, and yanking his head backward she shrieked, "Tell me I'm beautiful!"
"I will never lie to you, Nara. Not even to spare your feelings," he answered softly.
"Ain't I beautiful?" the Orc-bitch demanded, ripping out handfuls of his hair.
"No," he said frankly. There was sorrow in his voice, and pity in his eyes. "You are unspeakably ugly, a thing of evil whose only impulses are depraved. Morgoth has destroyed you, but I can re-make you."
The last thread of Ghash's self-control snapped. "I hate you!" she shrieked.
A blinding fury seized her. Faster than thought, she whipped the knife from her belt and drove it deep into his chest. She sliced a huge, jagged gash into his body, plunged in both her hands, and ripped out his heart. For an instant she held the Elf's heart up to his face in defiance. Then she devoured it greedily, gulping mouthfuls so fast she nearly choked as she crammed the bloody organ down her gullet. Even as she did so, Ghash realized with a touch of fear that this was like no flesh she had ever tasted before. The flavor was richer, stronger, wilder. This was not the blood of an Elf. This was the ichor of a Vala. She had murdered a god.
Taking a deep breath, Ghash looked up from her bloody hands. Still suspended from his manacled wrists, the stranger's now lifeless body had slumped against the wall. His head had fallen backward, and his vacant eyes stared up into nothingness. Pity washed over Ghash like a wave. With trembling hands, she reached up and gently closed his eyes. Even in death, he was so beautiful.
And now the horror of what she had done began to sink in. She realized now how wrong she had been. He had not been, as she assumed, an Elf caught in a web of Morgoth's deception. He was one of the mighty ones, a messenger of the Lords of the West, whom even Morgoth dreaded. He had come to rescue her, but she had refused to trust him. Instead of letting him help her, she had devoured him. Tears of remorse fell like rain as she unlocked the fetters which bound him, and eased his body to the floor.
"He did love me," she thought, "but I would not trust him." What a wretched fool! Tenderly, she laid out his body on the stone floor. Using the remaining water in the bucket, she washed away the blood from his chest. Soon the smell of blood would draw other Orcs, like jackals to carrion. She could not bear to think of his body being further desecrated. She needed to work quickly.
Ghash hastily cast her eyes about the room. Two oil lamps were mounted on the walls of the cell. She took these down and anointed his body with the oil. Then she set it aflame. His remains did not smoke, as she had expected. Instead, his body was quickly enveloped in a hot, white blaze. Amid the flames, it seemed to her that his skin glowed like burnished bronze in a forge. Very soon, his body was reduced to a pile of ashes. His remains were safe from the foul hands of ravenous Orcs. Now what?
He had said she must throw his body into the sea. His body was only ashes now, but she would honor his request. She felt it was the least she could do.
Ghash reached for the small pouch around her neck. She quickly emptied her precious possessions into a pile and began scooping the ashes into the little purse by the handful. Then she slipped the pouch over her head and tucked it into the neck of her tunic.
Ghash collected her things in the water bucket and gathered it up along with the key ring. Though her treasures seemed of little worth to her now, she could not afford to leave any traces of her presence. She stepped to the door and listened for any sound of approaching guards. She had to get out of Angband and away to the sea. Soon Morgoth would realize that she had killed a prisoner, and he would be angry. Before, this knowledge would have been enough to immobilize Ghash in terror, but it hardly worried her now. Her only thought now, her all consuming goal, was to honor in death the one who had come to rescue her by throwing his ashes into the sea. Whatever she must endure, however long it might take, she owed him this.
There was silence in the corridor as Ghash crept quietly out of the cell, being careful to lock the door behind her. She hurried toward her den, trying hard not to be seen.
Once there, she swiftly gathered provisions for her journey. She filled a skin with water, and tied a couple stale loaves of bread into the raggy shawl which served as her only blanket. Though she was loath to do so, she carefully cleaned her dagger and thrust it into her belt. It almost sickened her to look at it, remembering what she had done, but she might well need a weapon if she wanted to escape from Angband. When the new day dawned, and the Orcs settled down to sleep and to hide from the hated sun, she would make her escape.
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.