5. A Sorrowful Tale
Chapter V—A Sorrowful Tale
When Norgash spoke, his entire voice changed. His tone became steadily solemn, and his speech was no longer punctured by colloquialism. Even the immediate air with which he breathed changed. It was as if a spirit had possessed him. After all, Norgash had mentioned that he had trained to become a shaman; therefore, his transformation made more sense to Sigilithil.
"Before I can tell you of my visions, Elf, I must first tell you a little more about myself. The tribe from which I hail consisted of powerful Uruk-hai, shamans with the power to curse a poor soul at a distance or cure with strong herbs and hearty placations to the spirits. I've told you that Saruman chose me because I was unique, for even among my bewitched kind, my spark differed tremendously.
"As the heat of the War intensified, I consulted with the spirits more and more but none answered me. I sought help from no mortals, for Uruk-hai must not display weakness so openly. But I read the signs in the polluted air, in the putrefied water, in the rancid soil: the time for Isengard was running out, and if I did not depart, I would be swept away because of my inability to heed.
"I had no time to warn my people. Many of them had already gone to their dooms at Helm's Deep. I sought no permission for Saruman, for he was too wrapped up in his muddy fantasies and wouldn't have listened to me anyway. But I could not leave alone, and so, I brought Mauhúr with me the day that the Ents besieged Isengard. He was the only Warg who listened to me, for he too is a strange one, though not as strange as I am.
"As we turned back, we saw the world wash away. We cursed the Ents, cursed the arrogant wizard, and turned away, as far away from anyone as we could."
"And all this time," began Sigilithil, "you have managed to run free without detection?"
"Ah, we were clever lads, but I could do dealings with people as long as I kept a cowl over my head. But I've kept to myself since that day. I know how to survive in the wild because I can change with the world. Uruk-hai are not like Elves. We can adapt; we can be surprisingly patient; and we observe our surroundings, our world, very, very closely."
"What about your visions? When did they begin?"
Norgash rumbled and fingered the tarnished cover of the journal. "Beginnings…
"Ever since I was a pup, I had a dream of walking through misty woodlands, a place clear and clean, like what elves might walk through. But I could never find my way out. I'd get scared—yes, an Uruk, frightened in his dreams by the unknown, the unseen. As I got older and beaten up and toughened, I experienced the dreams less and less. Then, after I had fled from Isengard, I wandered up north, too far north, and discovered that forbidding city.
"I shan't bore you of the details concerning exactly where I found it, nor the strange things that went on as long as I stayed there. But I shall tell you what I think, brother—yes, I said brother. For didn't you say yourself—didn't you imply that there are greater powers than ourselves, friend? Do you agree that there are?"
"Yes," replied Sigilithil as he puzzled over Norgash's words. "I have even come to know the Powers for myself, and they are terrible and magnificent all at once."
Norgash grinned his nasty Uruk grin. "You see, Mormirion did die—oh, yes, he did die. But he didn't stay dead and didn't hear the call to Mandos. He rejected it out-right and wandered the world, a cursed spirit cursing the world and the refusing to listen to Powers who did not hear his prayers."
Sigilithil gazed with hard eyes at Norgash. He anticipated the Uruk's coming remarks, yet the gravity of what they meant still stunned him.
"You cannot be one of the reborn," said Sigilithil. "It is a privilege, not a curse, and reserved under certain conditions."
Norgash scoffed and waved a finger. "Wrong, little Elf, or should I say gwador? Fëanor was not the only one who could utter foul curses that yielded tragic results."
"But how can you be certain?"
"Indeed, Elf, I do not know for certain," said Norgash, sighing. "But in my dreams nowadays, I am again wandering through the forest, but it isn't some non-descript realm any more. I recognise it as the woods belonging to that fallen city in the north. The mists there are the same as they are in the dream, and sorrow that I felt—that no Uruk can feel or should—is no stranger to me.
"In the dream, I'm wandering, lingering in the world. All my family, all the city has departed for other lands, leaving me alone and angry, just as angry as I was in my old life. I keep hearing voices, sweet but solemn voices, whispering to me, but it isn't my name. But I know it's meant for me, Elf, they keep saying: 'The Lord of Mandos calls for you, Mormirion of the fallen city. Come to the Halls of Mandos where awaits your fate.'
" 'I refuse,' I reply weakly and turn away from them.
" 'Come, come to the Halls of Mandos. Your fate awaits you.'"
"I refuse a second time and turn from this second group of voices.
" 'The Lord of Mandos commands you. Come to the Halls—'"
"And I've had enough. I cry out at them and curse at them. They've bedevilled me for so long. I can't take their echoing and their haranguing me any longer:
" 'Hear me, vain powers!' I cry. 'I curse your Mandos! I curse the Halls of Death! By Elbereth, I swear a thousand times upon the stars, I would sooner be condemned to the body of the Enemy than be dragged so closely to the Powers, who denied my people victory. I swear it!'"
Sigilithil gaped in terror as Norgash towered above him, changed completely from the Uruk he had grown to know. A darkness had consumed him and threatened to extinguish their fire. Even Mauhúr, who had previously been unengaged, dozing, had woken and stared wide-eyed at his master. Mauhúr did not like the sniff of things as they had turned, and he snarled dangerously at Norgash.
Then Sigilithil rose. He touched Norgash's shoulder, and the Uruk instantly awoke from his trance. The Elf bid him, "Be at ease, my friend. Your curse was fulfilled long ago, I see. It has already come to pass. Be still."
Elf and Uruk sat quietly and watched the fire slowly rise to its normal height. Mauhúr no longer bared his deadly fangs but instead calmed and curled behind his master. Norgash sighed and pat the beast on its head.
"You'd think I'd know what it means," said Norgash, "but I keep tellin' myself it's only a dream. It isn't what it seems. It could be the spirits playing tricks on me."
"You cannot truly reduce all your visions to pure fantasy," said Sigilithil. "I have not known you for more than a day or two passed, yet I see you walk on a preordained path. You are special, Norgash. You are cursed, but there is hope."
Norgash scoffed. "Hope… what hope is there? How do you even know that I was an Elf? How do you know that I haven't made up this little story?"
"I know, Norgash. I know well the arts of liars and deceivers, of those who mock and twist what is seen and what is unseen. You are an Uruk, and no amount of repenting can save you from that, but your final years need not be ill as your foul brothers. You have the inkling of good in your spirit, and no Orc or Uruk would have ever treated an Elf as you have treated me. You final fate may be much better, if you should choose the road of peace."
The Uruk heaved another heavy sigh. "Just… get some rest, zanbaur. I'll take the first shift."
"I have rested enough," replied Sigilithil. "I shall tend to the fire and the first watch. You need your rest more than I."
Norgash shook his head but did not protest. "Beat yourself. Mauhúr, get your beauty rest too, lad. We've got a long day tomorrow."
Mauhúr growled in agreement and nested a few strides from camp again. Norgash crawled beneath his blankets and laid his head on a pile of leaves. Sigilithil smiled. He took up the journal and tucked it away in the rucksack. He sipped from the flask, and then he began to fetch wood for the fire.
Sigilithil lay with his eyes on the stars again, dwelling on the tales that Norgash had told. He contemplated his arrival in these strange woods, of his power which had diminished, and its sudden return that night. He knew that greater powers than he had delivered him there into great danger and into the Uruk's company. He had realised his new task, but whether Norgash would cooperate or trust him enough had yet to be seen.
"Rrrrraughrr, you've caused a fair share of trouble, gaurug."
The Elf rounded swiftly at the sound of soft growling. Standing behind him, eyes aglow in the fire light, was Mauhúr. He licked his teeth and lay slowly flat on his belly, like a cat about to pounce.
"You speak Common?" Sigilithil wondered.
"Hhrrraugh… When my people were young, gaurug," growled Mauhúr, "we knew all the tongues of the world, rrraughrr. Orcs, trolls, wolves, bats, Men, Dwarves, Elves… hrraow… but we have grown fewer, gaurug, and we have grown stupider. Many in my pack had become nothing more than stupid mounts for stupid orcs, rrraowooo…"
"I did not know that Wargs could speak any tongue beyond their harsh language," said Sigilithil, "though certainly you can understand the tongues of others. Does Norgash know?"
Mauhúr grinned and panted. He glanced at the slumbering Uruk and growled, "He knows I've a sharp mind, rrraughrr, but I speak only Warg to him, and he—he may speak whatever he pleases to me, rrraughrr…" Then he licked a forepaw and continued:
"You should not stay, gaurug, not with him, not for long, hhrrraughrr. When the Ring was destroyed, all the pretty Elf magic that was tied to it, rrraowooo, has come to diminish."
"Of this I am sorrowfully aware," said Sigilithil, "but it has come to pass."
Mauhúr nodded. "Yes, rrraowooo, but now, any Elven part that dwells in Norgash has begun to fade as well, rrraughrr. He shall not achieve the better life, the peace, that you pray for him. In time, he shall become another Elf-hating Uruk and completely forget all vestiges of his old life, hhraughrrr…"
Sigilithil glanced at Norgash. He was completely unaware of their conversation, wrapped his in deep slumber. Sigilithil could not imagine Norgash any way other than what he knew. Certainly, the Uruk had blood on his hands, and he still carried some of the darker inclinations of his kind. Nevertheless, Sigilithil had seen what few people rarely, if ever, saw. To see that vanish was an altogether horrible thought.
"I shall take him with me," said Sigilithil.
Mauhúr's ferocious fangs gleamed devilishly in the fire light as a deep, throaty laugh emanated out of those jaws. "You, gaurug? You shall cure an oorach of being himself?" The Warg laughed again, and Sigilithil feared that Norgash would awaken.
"I can smell every century that's passed by you, Elf. I can smell every land that you've set foot on, even lands that no Man could dare tread. You should know far, far better than this, O Wise One. Where can you take him that others would accept him? Rrraughrr…"
"Mmm, what's this now?"
Sigilithil and Mauhúr quickly turned their heads towards Norgash. His eyes were heavy with weariness. He groaned, "What's with all the noise, lads? We got unwanted gruesomes or what?"
Neither replied immediately. They glanced at one another from the corners of their eyes. Then mustering his joviality, Sigilithil smiled and answered, "We were having a lively conversation about you, Norgash."
"Right," he scoffed, "and I'm the King of Mirkwood."
"You will forgive us for gossiping, I pray," said Sigilithil.
Norgash waved a dismissive hand. "Right, right. Well, just let me sleep 'til it's my shift, and we'll all get on keen as pie."
"Very well, Norgash. Rest well, friend."
Norgash groaned and pulled his blankets up and tight.
Sigilithil glanced gravely at Mauhúr. The Warg yawned, sat up, and shook himself. He truly did not seem to care how Sigilithil decided to be involved in Norgash's life. He had given his warning—a mere opinion in Sigilithil's mind, rather—and whether Mauhúr liked it or not (and he did not seem to care either way), Sigilithil would or would not heed his words.
However, their conversation had illuminated a rather pressing and disturbing point. Though Sauron had never touched the Elven rings of power, their fate had been linked to the One Ring. With its destruction, all that pertained to the Elves and their makings were doomed to fade.
Sorrow weighed down on Sigilithil's youthful brow. He gazed upon Norgash and felt his heart tighten.
So it is, he thought. Mormirion shall fade forever into his curse, into his doom.
Glossary: gwador (Sind.) brother (not by blood).
gaurug (Wargish) Elf; related to the Orkish Golug "Elf."
oorach (Warg.) Uruk.
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