2. A Perplexing Saviour
Chapter II—A Perplexing Saviour
As he slowly awoke from the chill of unconsciousness, the Elf heard a fire crackle and slowly felt heat seep into his body.
The Elf glanced at the fire and then looked up. Darkness pervaded around him, and he saw not the slightest twinkling evidence of the stars. He probably lay in that dreaded forest still, alive but in need of great assistance. He body continued to feel the heavy air from before, the air which suppressed his power. The Elf groaned despairingly.
A Elbereth, he prayed, I beg for forgiveness for whatever crimes I have committed. Make me clean of evil, fair Lady of the stars. Let me be free from malicious thoughts and evil works. Tell me, what must I do to return to the path of Light?
In that lonely forest, he received no sign and felt greater sorrow. The Elf carefully rose to sit, shoving away a thick, tattered blanket from his neck and chest. Where precisely was he, and what had befallen those Uruk creatures? For this fire was not theirs. Indeed, they had been slain.
They are dead, he realised, and then, he glanced about all his sides. What could have been capable of slaying a band of ravening Great Orcs, when a warrior of his years could not? Had a ranger come and rescued him? For that being had spoken Elvish, but what of that other tongue? It sounded as rough as the tongue of Dwarves, but though his experience with that race was little, the Elf doubted that the tongue and the being were Dwarfish in origin.
While he sat and wondered, a voice suddenly rumbled from the other side of the fire.
"Here now, what's this?" The person paused. "Ah! Good show, good show. The little zanbaur finally decides to wake. Good, good. This lad still knows how to mix his potions right, I tell you. I feared that it might have been a little too potent a mixture, even for you, Elf. You'd be sleeping forever and all my efforts go to tharn."
The Elf cocked his head. "Who are you, sir, and why have you saved me? I would thank you generously if I had the means, but I have lost my supplies, my companions, and my way."
"No kidding," the person said. "Strutting around the forest like a cock without its head! I'm amazed you Elves manage to live so long, walking at unawares."
Though not necessarily offensive, the comment stung the Elf warrior. Was it truly his fault that he had strayed? Surely Orc-hunting was not without risk, but had he made himself so obvious?
Desiring to steer away from dark thoughts and self-deprecation, the Elf said, "I am sorry if my people seem arrogant to you, stranger, but would you answer me this: you have spoken the tongue of Elves, and with that, I suspect you hate us little. But you have also spoken a rougher tongue with which I am not familiar. Do you care to reveal yourself, stranger? I should much care to speak more with you."
The person rumbled, and then he replied, "I don't know, Elf. You might not like my face—isn't exactly what you consider pretty."
The Elf smiled. "Appearance is not always telling enough. I have known Men of wild looks but hearts of gold. Likewise, I have seen and experienced cruelty at the hands of other Elves, for despite what others consider our fair looks, we too are marred and can be, unfortunately, hateful."
The being snorted. "I doubt anyone could be more hateful than my lads. We're naught but a host of trouble most of the time, runnin' around like great rats, spreading the plague of chaos wherever we go. How could you find anything good about my people?"
The Elf frowned. He tried to peer round the fire, but the being scooted out of sight. Then the warrior said, "You are good. You have saved me and slain those who would torment me and murder me. As a whole, all Peoples are flawed, but as individuals, we can rise and become exceptional beings, beings who remind the world that redemption, even when it is distant, is not impossible to attain."
More rumbling arose as the being contemplated the Elf's words. Suddenly, comfort and hope began to seep back into the warrior's spirit. Here before him was a man who had fought his darker nature. Perhaps he was a repentant Dunlending or rebel Easterling, thought the Elf.
"Please, kind sir," said the Elf, "I would be most pleased to see your face. I cannot properly thank you without some idea of with whom I speak."
That air of hesitation lingered. Surely, he would see him one way or another, unless he masked his face with a rag or clothe. Finally, with a heavy sigh, the being capitulated.
"All right, ya little zanbaur," he said, "I'll show you who saved you. But mind out, you promise not to run or fight or what-have-you. I've taken your weapons, anyway, so you won't be worrying me none."
The Elf promised and adjusted his body. Then the being grumbled and began to rise to his full height.
The Elf's face instantly chilled as the blood cascaded down his neck. Towering on the other side of the fire was a Great Orc.
His weather-beaten cloak concealed all but his leather boots and his ruined face. He had dark, mottled skin, prominent cheek bones, an ape-like nose, and a high forehead. His black hair was loose, coarse, and long, extending beyond his shoulders, and his ears were longer and far more intricate than Elf ears—all the better to hear prey, thought the Elf.
Of all the misfortunes! He had prayed vainly, he realised, for this was no saviour. This was his doom.
"Be at ease, little zanbaur," said the Great Orc. "I'm nothing like the other Uruk-hai; at least, not much. I'm good to the lad that's good to me, and I'm much gentler fellow, if you choose to believe that."
With a severe gasp, the Elf managed to reclaim his breath. He rubbed his hand over his heart, eyes averted from the Uruk. Shaking his head, the Elf said, "I can barely believe aught now."
"Then you are wise."
Turning his attention back to the Uruk, the Elf asked, "What… what reasons do I have to trust you, creature?"
The Uruk grinned, a less than pleasant sight to the Elf—or anyone. "You don't, but I do. I rescued you from a band of my own folk, when I could have very well kept my nose to myself. I killed the lot of them and whisked you off. For two nights and two days, you've been in and out of sleep. I've had many an opportunity to slice you open, but rather, I've tended to you. I'd assumed that I'd be caring for you a third night, but praise be to your shiny Elbereth, you finally woke."
In an instant, the Elf bristled. "Never utter the name of Elbereth Gilthoniel, vain beast. Do not think of Her glorious name or any other that She bears, for they will be the last words you utter and stain."
The Uruk snarled, but the Elf continued to stare defiantly into his eyes. Orcs already spoke many foul tongues and debased the less-than-fair Westron further with curses and other crude language. If the Elf should die for defending the speech of the Elves and the name of their glorious Lady, may it be.
However, instead of striking him, the Uruk sighed and marked, "No wonder they chose you, Elf. You're as rude as any Orc... just don't look the part yet."
"Why do your people persist in associating me with your foul race?" growled the Elf, his lividness climbing to its limit.
"Because... well, listen to yourself! Since you done saw my face, you've been giving me a hard time. Now that's justifiable and all, considering that our Peoples haven't always gotten off loving each other and such. But I did save your arse, quite literally, so you had better show me some respect 'cause I'm fighting real hard with my instincts. I can dump you in this Elbereth-forsaken forest any time I wish, and mark my words, zanbaur, there are nastier things than Orcs in this neck of the woods."
And when the Elf believed that the Uruk had finished, the creature snapped, "And don't you dare lecture me on using Her precious name. I do as I please, ya rotten prick."
Eyebrows knitting together, mouth sinking into a deep frown, the Elf realised that the Uruk spoke the truth. For reasons that he (and perhaps even the Uruk itself) did not know, this nearly impossible ally had rescued him and slain his captors. Perhaps it had a long-standing rivalry with that band, he thought. For Orcs quibbled over the minutest things. Sport was far from minute to them, and tormenting Elves satiated their darkest desires.
A long period of silence passed as the warrior dwelled on his quandary. He had sworn to this creature that he would not flee, but why did he not? The creature could not hold him to his promise beyond the use of fear, but he had no knowledge of this forest, and indeed, he was his sole guide. With great reluctance, he needed to bear this burden, trusting the Uruk to protect him, lead him out, and not spoil him.
All while the Great Orc remained on his side of the fire, nibbling on some bread and drinking his draught carefully. He eyed the Elf as he sat in deep contemplation. The Uruk smirked. Ah, he was a lovely one indeed, the handsomest one he had ever laid eyes upon. No one wonder those lads thought he would make good sport; looked as fresh as the first day of summer, and, minus their little squabble, polite as could be. Lucky for the Elf, he really had mellowed out with the years; otherwise, he would have taken him all to himself.
Then the most unexpected phrase slipped from the Elf's mouth: "I apologise."
Granted, he spoke in Sindarin. He forgot that the Uruk knew a lick or two of Sindarin, but ah!
"I accept," said the Uruk to the Elf's surprise; also in Sindarin.
The Elf's head jolted up with that reply. The Uruk understood him? Was he indeed the one who had spoken Sindarin? There was no other in his company. Of all the unanticipated things, an Orc understood and spoke the language of the Elves.
Again the Elf gazed upon the Uruk. For the being that he was, his appearance did not instil terror. He seemed—could it be?—serene for his kind. His eyes, which shown jade green even in the fire light, assured the Elf that he was calm, well-meaning, and (at that moment) non-violent.
Suddenly the Uruk growled, "Why do you stare, Elf? See somethin' wrong? Or ya just don't like my face?"
"To the contrary," said the warrior. "I am merely… curious."
The Uruk heaved a 'humph' and then grinned.
"You know, lad, most of my people might have taken a lock of stare like that as a challenge. If I hadn't known better, you being curious, I'd have killed you.... Hmm....
"By the way, we might as well get to know one another's names, eh? It'll be a while before we part ways. My mum called me Norgash; means 'lynx' in Isengard Orkish. Heh, she thought the way I prowled about that she'd slept with one. Having that said, I am a proud Isengarder and a former servant of the late wizard Saruman. And who might you be, if that's in your will to tell me?"
"I?" The Elf pointed a finger at his heart. The Uruk nodded his head, but for a moment, he did not reply. Could he bear the shame of letting this Uruk know who he was? Would he even believe him?
"I fear that at this moment, I have not the will to tell," he said. "You would call me either a fool or a liar but in either case laugh heartily at me. Since it is only fit that we exchange names, I shall devise one for this occasion."
With a rough and hearty laugh, the Uruk replied, "Very well, lad, what shall I call you?"
"You may call me… Sigilithil."
"Sigilithil?" the Uruk repeated. " 'tis a right tongue-twister, if I ever spoke one. But that is a pretty name for an even prettier Elf… Sigilithil… Yah, a right pretty name for a right pretty possession."
"What mean you by 'possession'?" he asked as he cocked his head.
With a rumble of amusement, Norgash said, "Now, now, you won't tell me your real name—not now, at least. Maybe not ever, at most. This is the name you've given to me, and what you give becomes that person's property, right? Which makes you my lovely piece of property, eh? If that makes sense, anyway."
Sigilithil, as he shall be called until this tale ends, merely shook his head. Though he certainly—and quite fortunately—lacked the malice of other Orcs, this Norgash still amused himself by administering smart jabs. However, if there was one kind of sport the Elf did not mind being, he was a good sport about the humour of others.
With a sigh, Sigilithil reclined back onto his make-shift cot, hands behind his head.
"You nappin' again, Elf?" said Norgash. "Here, I've something good for you."
Sigilithil gave no immediate response. He listened as Norgash's footfalls approached him. The warrior darted up as the Uruk kneeled and held out some kind of flask.
"Drink," he said. "It'll renew your strength."
The warrior raised an eyebrow. If memory served him well—and it did—the Uruk had administered some sort of concoction to make him sleep, when he rescued him from the other Uruk-hai. He seemed trustworthy, but what if he were deceiving him and this were some poison?
"Nothin' to worry about, Sigilithil. Here, I'll show you."
Sigilithil watched as Norgash drank steadily from the flask. Then the Uruk licked his liquor-stained lips and handed the pouch to the Elf, who cautiously drank.
"Oh!" he yelped as he returned the flask. "That is a hardy brew! It warms me from the inside instantly. I almost feel rejuvenated."
"Good!" laughed Norgash as he sat beside him. "You should because that's its job. It's supposed to help heal a body faster."
Indeed, to the Elf, his wounds seemed to vanish almost instantly. His face lost all soreness, and he felt renewed. Quite the miracle liquor, he thought, for Orkish fare, that is.
Since the pair seemed to be getting along well, the Elf decided to ask: "Norgash, how have you come to know Sindarin so well for an Orc?"
"Better question is 'why,'" said Norgash. "Saruman taught me how to read and write Sindarin. He even had me dabble in the language forbidden by King Greycloak."
"Saruman taught you? My impression is that he would have thought himself too superior to Orcs and too occupied to ever teach them aught first hand."
"So we all believed that. Yet as a brat, I was a bit brighter than most. I was an excellent warrior in my pack. And I guess my learning swiftly is because I'm an Uruk. I mean, that's why they call us the Great Orcs—we learn and remember: we dare to do such. And lacking this causes other races to fall because they don't change. Like Elves."
Sigilithil gazed wearily at Norgash. "You had me captivated, Norgash, until that rude remark."
One corner of Norgash's lips curled up to one side in amusement.
"Well, finally, I got to be somewhat of an outcast. My blessing became my burden, and my pack mates looked at me as too clever, even for an Orc. At first, the lads tormented me, but I could put up a nasty fight. Killed quite a few lads who looked at me wrong or said the wrong thing. Eventually, some of the boys ignored me altogether—which mind you, isn't very easy for Orcs to do. As much as we hate each other, we still love a good row. And then Saruman suddenly noticed me.
"Called me up to his tower. Offered to learn me a thing or two, and I did not refuse. Why should I have? I didn't have much else to go back to, except mingle with some of the leaders who actually liked my ideas. But they didn't have time to chit-chat with me. No one had time to chat with anyone. The War for the Ring broke out. When I wasn't trainin' for battle—or going out, beatin' the crap outta horse boys on the border—I went to refresh my memory of Sindarin...
"Pah! Stupid ol' Sharky... hardly had the time to help me, with Sauron breathin' down his hairy neck. Had to refresh me myself. And what other Orcs, in their foul minds, wanna practice Fair Speech? You tell me!"
"None as far I know."
Norgash snorted. "Of course!"
"But he had to have had more incentive in teaching you than your being unique," marked Sigilithil.
With that, the Uruk paused. He rumbled as he mulled over his words carefully, and finally he said, "You're all too right, my pretty Sigilithil. It didn't matter if it was comin' on a parchment or comin' out of live mouth. Sharky wanted information for the War. All I had to do was comprehend the message, even at the cost of the messenger's life."
A solemn silence foreboded over the tiny camp. Sigilithil did not dare ask, though the question tugged at his mind. Even this seemingly civil Orc had shed blood in the past. Stomach heavy with apprehension, the Elf eventually asked, "Norgash, have you killed Elves for information? Have you tormented them? I shall not lie, I have slain Orcs, but I shall not harm you if you speak the truth."
Norgash smirked. He sighed and stared wearily into the flames.
"Truly?" asked the grinning Uruk. "You aren't going to leap up and strangle me, eh?"
The warrior shook his head.
"Very well then. We don't have much choice when it comes to trust, eh?
"He was a lot like you. Didn't want to give his name either, so I called him Dimelda. Ah, he was a comely Elf: silver hair, skin with just the right touch of colour, and eyes—oh, yes, those eyes! Depending on the lighting, they were either a pure sky blue or pure rainy grey. But such a shame!"
Norgash's tone shifted from sombre to sinister. "Uruk-hai tore him up quite nasty, I'll say. I didn't have a hand in it, as much as a part of me wanted to." With that note, Sigilithil shivered, but Norgash continued: "I had my task: keep both ears on what he said, and write it all down later. A few times Dimelda spoke in Common Speech, but 'e mostly sobbed in Sindarin. And he always saw me, but he didn't know that I knew. Another advantage to teaching an Orc some Elvish: no one ever suspects. Thought I was just his appointed guard.
"Then came one night, when the boys hadn't beaten him senseless yet. Delirious lad started gloating to me in Quenya—shock to me, which means he must have been quite an old bloke. I still managed interpreting a good third of it. Usual Elf rant about the Light this and the Darkness falling that and what not. But then I replied in that same Forbidden Tongue: 'Fool Elf. You thought me the fool, but you thought wrongly.'
"Well, my Dimelda was absolutely horrified! His starlit eyes widened, and their light dimmed instantly. Then the boys came, and he cried out and begged me this time to save him. But as usual, I ignored him. And when they finished with dear Dimelda, I stood before that slumped figure, sword in hand. I tell you, he survived what kills most Elves instantly, and with him barely alive already, I wanted to put him out of his misery. And I did.
"Before his poor fëa departed, he looked into my eyes. He looked so relieved and whispered, 'Thank you.' And when I pulled out my sword, his last breath sighed from his hröa, and he lay there like a poisoned rag doll."
Norgash paused and chuckled out of disbelief rather than black humour. He ran a claw through his coarse hair and continued:
"Yes, my Sigilithil, I killed him for the information: so that no others could get it. Even burned my notes. I just said he spoke in a dialect I didn't know. But I remember still my Dimelda's voice as if I heard it yesterday." And with a sigh, Norgash rose and returned to his side of the fire.
The Elf reclined, pulling the blanket up to his slender neck. He wondered if that story was at entirely true, if it had ever even happened. But true or false, either answer gave way that these Great Orcs were as wise as much as creative.
How dangerous, he thought.
Glossary: Zanbaur (Bl. Sp.) Elf-son. Among Orcs, this is an insult.
tharn (Bl. Sp.) waste; garbage. This term can also mean "fearful" as the one who coined tharn, Richard Adams, intended. In an Orc sense, fear makes a lad useless, that is, like a piece of waste. (e.g. "Them damned Snaga-hai have gone tharn on us.")
Sigilithil (Sind.) Dagger of the moon.
Dimelda (Sind.) Sad Elf.
Footnotes: "Saruman taught me how to read and write Sindarin. He even had me dabble in the language forbidden by King Greycloak." (According to The Silmarillion, Thingol Singollo, King of the Sindari and a member of the Teleri, barred the use of Quenya and the presence of all but a few Noldor in his kingdom.)
horse boys (A derisive Orc reference to the Rohirrim.)
Disclaimer: The author, Lynx of Isengard, makes no claim over J.R.R. Tolkien's creations and makes no monetary gain from writing this fanfiction story. However, original characters are the intellectual property of Lynx of Isengard and may not be used without permission.
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.