3. Undesired Knowledge
Chapter III—Undesired Knowledge
Sigilithil knew not how many hours had passed. The canopies of the trees wove tightly together and blocked out the sun, the moon, and every star that could tell him the hour, the day, and even the time of year. He knew only that quite a while had passed since he and Norgash, the Uruk of strange (but certainly welcome) character, had become somewhat acquainted. The Elf had slipped into a meditative state, just barely out of slumber's reach, and finally, he had awoken with a dry throat and empty belly.
Surely, he could acquire food that would not upset his Elven sensibility. He merely needed to ask Norgash for help, not at all fearing rejection. The problem was that Norgash was absent.
On my own again, fretfully, he thought, stretching and then standing up carefully. Luckily, the fire was still roaring, and as the Elf looked around, he noticed that all the Uruk's possessions were present. The Elf cocked his head from side to side, scanning the forest for any sounds.
He heard the shifting and crunching of detritus material from behind him and toward his left. Sigilithil gazed into the dark and noticed a familiar shape.
"Norgash," he said, "where were you?"
The Uruk rumbled. "Taking my little Norgash for a walk, that's what. Can't be relieving myself near you, or else you'll take to sprinting out of here like some prudish Elf-maiden."
Sigilithil smiled one-sidedly. "I appreciate your courtesy."
Norgash grumbled and strode beside him, eyeing him closely. He growled, "What are you doing up, anyway, Sigilithil? Gotta take yours for a walk as well?"
"Your words, not mine, Norgash," replied the Elf. "That need shall come in due time. In the meanwhile, I am in need of some food and drink. How much can you spare?"
"Well, it's certainly worth taking a glance, isn't it?" replied the Uruk, and he plodded over to his rucksack and rummaged through it. He removed two flasks and a couple of boxes, plus something wrapped tightly in paper. He shook one of the flasks and handed it to Sigilithil, warning: "Now, mind you, I haven't got much. I'm short on my liquor. Just of tad of it will do your belly some good."
The Elf nodded and sipped carefully from the flask, wincing until the burning sensation passed. Then he handed it back to Norgash and kneeled beside him. The Uruk opened one of the boxes and handed the Elf what appeared to be a piece of crumbling bread.
"What call you this?" asked the Elf.
"Radak," said the Uruk. "Most Orcs aren't keen on bread-stuffs and the like, but Uruk-hai have a larger range of things we eat. I prefer mine with a bit more bite, so this batch might be a tad hot for your Elven sensibilities."
"We shall see," replied Sigilithil with a smirk, and he nibbled on one of the larger pieces before it, too, crumbled.
The bread tasted fresh, albeit spicy, and was not terribly offensive to the pallet. Sigilithil returned to his make-shift cot and finished the rest of his share, sitting quietly and gazing thoughtfully at the fire.
" 'ere, now," said Norgash, as he handed the Elf something flat like a piece of bark. "I don't suppose elves eat meat, now do they?"
"Most are not adverse," replied Sigilithil. "I would much prefer to eat that which I have caught, if you do not mind."
Norgash laughed. "'fraid you might accidentally eat a cousin or who-have-you, eh? That wasn't much more than some frisky buck I caught in the forest and dried a while back. Heh! 'Fraid he'll eat one of his own or what-not, pah!"
Hesitating, the Elf sniffed the dried meat and weighed it in his hands. He inspected it closely in the fire light, and then, he tore a sliver off and chewed.
It was naught more than dried and salted deer meat; a little hard on the teeth, but certainly not foul on the tongue.
"I must thank you, Norgash," said Sigilithil. "You have gone to great lengths and fought hard the ancient feud to save me and share your resources with me. I wish that I could repay you in kind, but I fear I know not what an Uruk would wish of me."
"Other than tyin' you up and playin' rough," stated Norgash without guilt. "Just you be glad I'm not young and horny any more, or else I'd be asking for the favour returned real quick."
Though he tried to feign a smile and chuckle, the Elf found it all too impossible at the moment. He blanched, chewing the dried deer meat even slower. He had all too quickly forgotten that this was indeed an Orc, a former servant of the enemy. This Norgash was very clever, a story-weaver for sure, and he was quite possibly instilling a false sense of friendship and security with the seasoned Elf warrior. He could well have been plotting any number of miserable devices against Sigilithil—
"Why'd you stop eating?"
Sigilithil awoke from his trance. He glanced up at the Uruk, who gazed at him with one hairless eyebrow raised.
"I was just tousslin' your hair," he said. "No need to get all serious-like."
Setting aside the final bit of his meal, the Elf looked back into the fire. How could he ask him without arousing his emotions? Would he be able to fend him off, or would the evil spell of this forest befall him again and render him powerless?
"Norgash… forgive me my discourtesy, but I am curious. When captives were in the hands of the Enemy, what means of torment did Orcs use?"
"Beg pardon?" growled Norgash.
"Allow me to be frank: do Orcs always violate their prisoners or only those in which they find the greatest fondness in violating so?"
The Uruk nearly choked on his food. Sigilithil glanced over at him, whose eyes had widened to the size of sickly pale green moons. Norgash rumbled and smacked his lips together, scratching his head.
"Ja kiddin', right?"
Sigilithil shook his head. Norgash rumbled and snarled.
"Fucking… Look, lads like to get their jollies off once in a great while, it's true. But most lads don't want to stick it into anything, whether it belongs to another lad or a lady."
"But what of those—"
"Them lads?" Norgash pointed toward the forest. "Pah! They're the exception to the rule, as Uruk-hai tend to be, but it's still mostly the same: Orcs are not keen on shaggin'. Our masters forced us all to breed like damned cattle, so no one is consenting: not the lads and not the ladies. We've got the choice to breed or we get tortured."
"But then would it not be an appropriate punishment to deal to enemies?" asked the Elf.
Norgash chuckled in his terrifying Uruk manner, causing Sigilithil to shrink.
"Oh, certainly, lad, it's used but sparingly… Hear, now, do you know how many lads are superstitious?" asked Norgash. "Oh, sure, they've put a few women from the race of Men over the table and gotten rowdy, but most of them won't get their dicks anywhere near an Elf's privates. They think your ladies and some of your lads got monstrous teeth that'll bite off the first thing that pokes its head inside. Of course, Uruk-hai aren't that stupid."
Sigilithil cleared his throat. Norgash's information had quickly quenched his morbid curiosity, and he began to regret having asked.
"Now, to answer any more questions you got, since we're on the subject…"
Sigilithil blanched. What door had he just opened? Suddenly, Norgash sat beside him before he had any time to move. The Uruk cast off his cloak and leaned uncomfortably close to him.
"… I have had a bit of fun back in my younger days. Uruk-hai tend to be a frisky lot when they're young, and we don't discriminate between sexes, races, or even if it walks on two legs or four. I'm sure I've fathered pups of my own, though I've never seen 'em, but only with fine female stock, ya hear? I came from strong stock, and the females I had fun with were worthy lot, only the heartiest; what would swear to heaven, give you a nasty beating, and cut your throat in the middle of passion as their way of saying they were fond of you and only you."
"I… I…" I am speechless, he did not manage to say, although to his surprise and misfortune, this awkward conversation raised many questions in Sigilithil's mind. Out of all the uncountable years that he had lived, fighting against the orcs, he still knew very little about the creatures. His knowledge was base at best, meant only for combating them, hunting them, and slaying them. None had ever sought to make contact with them, for Orcs were a highly unsociable people, even with members of their own kind. As morbid and vulgar as this conversation would have been to many Free Peoples, the Elf warrior was intrigued (as he was nauseated) by Norgash's information.
"So what other facts can I disgust you with, my little Sigilithil?" asked Norgash. "Shall I regale you with my story of one lad I fancied—yes, I do fancy me a dick or two when I'm lonely! It was back when I was still living with my tribe, workin' up to be a high shaman, when—"
"Actually, Norgash, may I ask you…"
"What's that, lad?"
"Have you ever been with an Elf in an impure manner?"
The Uruk's mouth hung open as if in mid-sentence. The sole sound of the fire cracking wood was all that Sigilithil could use to measure the passing of time. Norgash immediately turned away and looked into the fire. He rumbled quietly, and as the moments passed without reply, Sigilithil grew increasingly uncomfortable, losing his trust in his would-be saviour.
Finally, after licking his teeth and lips anxiously, Norgash rumbled, "Define 'impure manner.'"
"Have you lain with… Hmm… Have you forced yourself upon an Elf, say Dimelda, for example?"
In an instant, Norgash turned and snarled, teeth bared like wolf ready to fight. Sigilithil jolted back and nearly leapt to his feet. Their eyes remained firmly locked on each other, even as they spoke:
"I never hurt Dimelda!" Norgash snarled. "You have no idea how badly I wanted to just fuck the little prisoner. You have no idea have much I wanted to rape and rend and tear apart with my teeth and claws, but I never laid more than a claw on his pretty flesh."
"Then why do you describe him in such vulgar terms?" demanded Sigilithil. "You describe him like a man with terrible fascination for girl, who has no idea of the predator gazing at her."
In a flash, Norgash towered before the Elf warrior and roared, "Do you have any idea what shit I woulda been in if I confessed that I fancied an Elf? That my pet name for 'im was melindo? Do you know how fast Saruman himself woulda been dolin' out my punishment? And don't think he never had suspicions toward the end—oh no, indeed!"
Sigilithil's mouth dropped. How could that be? Not even a learned creature like Norgash had the capacity for love. An Orc will always be an Orc, and love is not known to them. Joy, compassion, a love of beauty, and love itself—the Free Peoples knew these qualities, and best of those who knew were the Elves.
All that is evil did not begin so, he remembered. Even Morgoth was good before lost control of himself, of his destructive pride. What of orcs? They were not evil creations, for evil cannot create but only ruin, only twist and distort. Norgash was the descendent of those distortions, distortions that refused to return to all that was good, who made no effort to return to what they once were. Some unexplainable element compelled Norgash to reach further back to his true ancestors, his Elven ancestors, but his battle was obviously one fraught with conflict—within and without.
"Norgash… Norgash!" Sigilithil cried. "Where are you going?"
The Uruk whipped around, a scimitar in one hand and a torch in the other. The Elf froze as he stood, gazing at that ferocious blade.
"Somewhere I ain't gonna do damage," he growled. "I'm all riled up now because of you."
"Yes, you. Now, you had best sit your arse down and keep my damned fire going. The pile of faggots is by my pack, and you had better leave my things be! I'm buggering off, and I don't know when I'm coming back, so you stay put and not get any fucking ideas."
Then without another word exchanged, he turned and stomped into the darkness.
Sigilithil frowned, brow furrowing. What a terrible mess into which I have fallen! My bearings have been turned upside down this terrible forest. Only that Great Orc seems to know the way out, and he can give no vow that I or even the Ainur can trust.
The warrior slumped beside the fire, contemplating his next move. The peril in leaving on his own seemed too great, but he simply could not remain unarmed in this Uruk's company.
Then out of the corner of his eye, he spied glinting a few degrees round the fire. He walked over and saw wrapped in bundle, tucked indiscreetly under a log, the hilt of one of his weapons.
Sigilithil kneeled and unwrapped the rags, discovering both of his blades. Then he searched behind and discovered his bow and the last of his arrows, also wrapped tightly. The Elf glanced into the darkness and, seeing no sign of Norgash, took his blades with him.
Forgive me, Elbererth, he prayed, if I should seem ungrateful, but I like neither this Uruk nor the changes of his mood. If the need should arise, then I must defend myself and find my way home alone.
That damned bloke—that damned Elf! And damn his own self, what the hell was he thinking? Gar, it was Isengard all over again. What the hell kind of interest was an interest in Elves, anyway? All the buggers did was sing and make poetry and revelry and fucking hunt Orcs for sport. That was all they did; why did he have to fancy them so much?
It was those visions, those damned visions from when he was a pup. His mum, high shaman that she was, had said, "You're meant for strange fate, Norgash. You're a strange lad, and not one Orc'll wanna touch you, much as they'll take a few swings atcha."
Even as he had trained to be a shaman, he had scoffed at her words, but when Saruman approached his tribe, seeking a worthy apprentice to whom to teach Sindarin and Quenya, every claw pointed at Norgash.
"But you remember, lad," his mum had warned, "you can't un-learn what's been taught. Learning opens up doors in this world and the next world, and don't be surprised if otherworldly things begin to take interest in you. Don't be surprised when you go from strange to being a stranger."
Norgash rumbled as he swung his scimitar at a tree. "Accurate bitch… Rrah!"
Norgash stomped and rumbled through the forest. He would need to turn round soon and get back to that damned Elf. Problem was, every time he turned, he couldn't see as much as twinkle, even with his torch.
"By the Fiery One's balls!!" he profaned and swung the scimitar again. "Raugh!"
Suddenly, he heard a growl behind him. Norgash whipped round and held his torch high. He snarled and stood ready to make battle.
"Well, there you are, bloke," he growled. "I was wondering when you'd poke your ugly sniffer round again…"
Sigilithil whipped round when he heard crashing in the forest. He knew not the time that had passed since Norgash's disappearance. He drew his blades high and prepared himself for the worst. He stepped behind the fire and kept his eyes and ears sharp for peril. Suddenly, he saw the glowing of a light and heard a familiar voice.
"Oi, lad! What've you got in your hands?"
Sigilithil crept cautiously round the fire. Norgash had returned and with large comrade, no less.
The beast stood about as tall as a horse, and its eyes glowed as they reflected whatever light they could capture. Fight scars marred its narrow muzzle and face, and a part of wolfish ear was missing, cropped by an enemy, no doubt.
Sigilithil shuddered at the sight of the Warg, for the creature radiated an ill aura. The Warg snarled at the sight of Sigilithil, also wary, and needed to be coaxed out of attacking by Norgash.
"Now, now, Mauhúr, keep your fangs in," he said. "I saved this lad, and as big a headache as he's caused me, I don't need you mauling him and spoiling all of my work."
The beast cocked his head back in disgust and began to speak in some gnarled, unintelligible tongue; unintelligible to Sigilithil, that is. He understood him even less than when orcs spoke their base language.
"I know, I know, but you and he need to get along. We all need to. And we need your sniffer to help us get out of here, all right?"
The Warg spoke again. Norgash shook his head.
"Look, I never ask much of you. Now, I'm the one that saved your fluffy arse when the Ents besieged Isengard, when all the others scurried off and let your pack drown. Now is you gonna help us or just leave us 'ere?"
The Warg snarled and shook its whole body. It puffed up, gazing venomously at Sigilithil, who began to ease his stance. Obviously, the creature did not care to help an enemy that was so well-armed.
The Warg turned away and began to paw at the ground. He lay and growled to himself.
"Grousin', he is," said Norgash. "He isn't keen on helpin' an Elf, let alone one that's gone his shiny needles in hand, which by the way, I ask you give back to me for safe keeping."
"Forgive me," said Sigilithil, "but after our altercation, I feel much safer with my weapons close to my side."
Heaving an exhausted sigh, Norgash warned, "You either give 'em to me, or Mauhúr leaves you behind. These are his terms, not mine."
Sigilithil raised an eyebrow. He glanced at his weapons, then at Norgash whose hands rested akimbo. Up to this point, decisions had already been imposed upon him, and his choices had been run through a narrow strait. He had no problem engaging Norgash in hand-to-hand combat, but the Warg was another matter.
"Very well," the warrior conceded, handing them to Norgash. "My choices are few—"
"Now, don't get all dramatical on me," growled Norgash. "Here, I'll do you tit-for-tat." Then he strolled over to his rucksack and pulled out a thin book, whose green cover had begun to fade to sickly colour. The assemblage had loosened with age, but the pages, though wrinkled, were in good condition. Norgash handed the book delicately to Sigilithil and said, "You take care of this. I mean, real good care of this. It means a lot to me, and if I lose it, I'll feed you to Mauhúr in a heartbeat."
"What it is?" asked Sigilithil.
"It's got some pretty powerful words, Elf. Oh, it i'n't any spell book, but it might as well be. From what I gather, it's a journal written by a bloke some many years ago. I found it in a warm, dry tunnel underneath some old ruins up north. Can't read most of it—never got that far in my lessons—but perhaps you can make out more than my share.
"Meanwhile, I've got to speak with ol' Mauhúr," Norgash noted. "He's been scoutin' around while I've been taking care of you, and we've got a lot of catching up and explaining to do."
Sigilithil nodded and returned to the fire. He tossed part of the bundle of faggots into the fire before settling down. He carefully cracked open the journal and gazed at the Tengwar, written in the Forbidden Tongue. With his age and his knowledge, he knew how to decipher Quenya with ease, but soon, he began to wish for the lack of Elvish skill that was Norgash's lot.
Glossary: radak (Orkish) a plant from which flour is derived.
melindo (Sind.) lover.
Footnotes: Mauhúr (Named after cavalry captain of Isengard, killed on the way to assist the Uruk-hai who had captured Merry and Pippin. I have decided to retain Mauhúr's wolf-like appearance as opposed to describing him as a hyena-like beast from the Peter Jackson movies.)
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. Radak was coined by the author, Enros, in "One Dark Night." Derivative characters are the intellectual property of Lynx of Isengard and may not be used without permission.