2. Prisoner of Darkness
"For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son.... And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach..." Colossians 1:13 & 21-22
Years passed, and Ghash survived. In Middle Earth great changes occurred. The sun and moon arose, the fathers of Men appeared, and Morgoth retuned from exile to reclaim his throne in Angband. But very little changed for Ghash.
Once or twice in recent years, Morgoth had attempted to mate her with Men. She remembered them with fondness. She even carried a small memento of one of them in the leather pouch around her neck which held her most precious possessions. It was a needle which she had crafted herself from one of his bones.
These mates stood out in her memory, not because her liaisons with them had been manifestly different from her experiences with Orcs. Rather, it was because afterward, Morgoth had rewarded her with their flesh. She had devoured her own mates, like some bloated, poisonous spider.
The salt-tang of red blood in her mouth had ignited in Ghash an insatiable hunger for more. There was nothing she wouldn't do for the promise of man-flesh. But such treats were rare.
On the whole, Ghash's life wore on in the same unfailing rhythm. She mated, she whelped, she nursed, she worked in the dungeons: a never ending cycle. She was not happy, but she didn't expect happiness. It was enough to survive, to eat and not be eaten. What right had any Orc to hope for more?
Just over six months since her last whelp had been taken, Ghash found herself, once again tending prisoners in the dungeons. Though she did not enjoy such work, she understood quite well that, in Angband, those who wished to be fed must not be idle.
Over the years, she had learned that Morgoth always had a reason for keeping someone alive. Orcs who let their bloodlust get the better of them and killed a prisoner were likely to become supper themselves. Though she might steal from the prisoners, taunt and torment them, even threaten them with her brutal blade, she knew she must keep her teeth to herself.
Ghash shuffled down the corridor, with a water-bucket over one elbow and the huge key ring clanking at her belt. As she approached the last cell on the wing, Ghash noted that a new prisoner had been brought in since she had made her rounds the previous night. Curious, she fitted a large iron key into the lock and turned it. The door swung slowly open, and Ghash stepped into the lamp-lit cell.
To her right, against the wall, stood the prisoner. He was naked to the waist. His arms were stretched out even with his shoulders, bound to the wall by the pair of manacles on his wrists. He appeared to be an Elf, but taller and more beautiful of face, with white blonde hair and intense blue eyes, like wells of deep water. His piercing eyes followed her every move as she busied herself about the dungeon. Because he was pinioned to the wall, she had to bring the water bucket up to him and hold it to his lips. She felt the intensity of his gaze as he drank. It was as if he were looking right through her, as if he could read her thoughts. She wanted to hide, to stop him from staring into her. To relieve her discomfort, she began to mock him.
"Well, Elf-boy, why's the Dark Lord so interested in you? Here you are bein' shown his finest hospitality, waited on hand and foot. He don't do that for just anybody. You must have something he really wants. Soon enough you'll wish you didn't. You'll wish you were never born when he's through with you." He had drained the bucket. She pulled it away and turned toward the door.
"Thank you," he said quietly. Ghash stared at him for a moment, her mouth agape. Who was this person?
The next night she came again. Again his gaze was riveted to her. "What are you staring at?" she demanded. She slapped him, then pinched and twisted his ears as she taunted, "Why's he keeping you alive, I wonder. I hope it won't be for much longer, 'cause I fancy you'd make some good eating. What does he want from you, eh? Why are you here?"
His eyes locked on hers, with that same unnerving stare. "I've come to rescue you," he said quietly.
Ghash broke into cackled shrieks of laughter.
"If you ask me," she observed dryly, "I think it's you who's in need of rescue just now, not me." The cell-door slammed shut before he could respond.
When she had completed her nightly chores, Ghash returned to her den. She could see the sky lightening, and knew she must hurry if she hoped to be in bed before sunrise. She was bone tired after working hard through the night. She ought to have been able to drop to sleep as soon as she lay down on her pile of dirty straw. But as she curled up for the day, sleep did not come easily to Ghash. She could not get her mind off of the strange prisoner. When she closed her eyes his face filled her mind. Under his relentless gaze she felt at once attracted and ashamed. She kept turning his strange words over in her mind. Why would anybody want to rescue her? It was the promise of a mad man. Yet deep within her heart a foolish hope flickered.
"So why you want to rescue me, Elf-boy?" Ghash demanded. After being robbed of a day's sleep, she had to know the answer. "You hear of my fabled beauty and charm? Oh, I'm good, I am. You got a thing for Orcs, eh? Them pretty Elf-maids not hot enough for you? They don't call me "Fire" for nothin'."
The prisoner in chains completely ignored her distasteful innuendos, and looked straight into her eyes. "They call you 'Fire' because it's a part of your true name. When you were born your father named you Starfire. Long before the Firstborn of Illuvatar were summoned on their journey to the Sea and to the Blessed Realm beyond, you were lost, stolen by the Dark Lord's minions and twisted to serve his terrible ends. Do you not remember, Gilnara? This is not who you were born to be. This is not how you were born to live."
Ghash stared at the prisoner in appalled disbelief. Was this Elf raving? Could anything he said be true? All her earliest memories were of Angband. She had been living in the Orc pits of Angband for hundreds of years now. Yet somehow…
"Think, Nara. The Dark Lord cannot make anything. His dominion depends on distorting what already is. If he could make Orcs for himself, he wouldn't need breeders like you, would he? He steals what is already made and perverts it for his own ends. Orcs are the miserable victims of his evil influence. You were once an Elf," and now the Elf leaned toward her and whispered with intensity, "If you will trust me, I can make you an Elf again."
Ghash searched his face. Could it be possible? Even if it were possible, what good would it do? He was chained to a wall in the Dark Lord's dungeon. He couldn't even save his own life, much less rescue her from her misery. He was a fool. He was mad. It was probably a trap anyway. He was trying to put her off her guard.
"You're crazy. You're a liar, and I hope Morgoth rips out your liver," she screamed at him, as she poured the remaining half of his drinking water onto the floor and stormed out of the cell.
When Ghash made her rounds the following night, she attempted to ignore the prisoner, but he wouldn't allow it. His voice was soothing, but insistent, "Nara, I'm here to help you. Please trust me."
"Why should I, Elf-boy? You're the enemy. You kill Orcs. Only Morgoth is good to Orcs."
"But Morgoth will never love you as I do," he responded tenderly.
"What did you say?"
"I love you, Nara. That's why I've come to rescue you."
"Oh, that is rich! You love me! Now I know you're crazy."
"I do not speak from madness. I know who you were. You were the first babe born under the stars, by the waters of Cuivienen. I was," here he paused, as though searching for a suitable word, "a friend of your father. He laid you in my arms. I had never seen anyone so tiny and so perfect. You grasped my finger in your small fist and smiled up at me. I blessed you, saying, 'Live! Thrive! Shine, little Starfire!' and I kissed your fair brow.'"
Ghash mouth dropped open. Could he really be talking about her?
"After you disappeared, your kinsmen searched diligently for you. But alas, no trace of you could they discover. Then Morgoth was defeated and taken captive by the Valar, and the dungeons of Utumno were thrown open. Your people did not find you among the handful of survivors who were released, and so they concluded that you must have been slain. But your father was not satisfied. When your people settled on the sea shore, he and I met again after many long years. He reminded me of you, who had been the fairest babe ever born in Middle Earth. He implored me to continue the search, to find you, to rescue you. I know who you were meant to be. I know what you can become if you'll only trust me."
"Alright, Elf-boy. Let's say I believe you. What do I have to do for you to turn me back into an Elf? Give you the keys?" she asked, shaking her key ring in his face.
"For Morgoth's evil to be undone, my life must become your life."
"How? You gonna kiss me and turn me into an Elf-maid?"
"You must drink my blood and eat my flesh."
"I'd be happy to," Ghash replied, with a cynical chuckle, "but I don't eat prisoners until Morgoth's finished with them. Besides, I've eaten my fill of meat: Man, Orc, and Elf. I'm still the same. It never transformed me into nothin' beautiful."
"No, it's transformed you into something detestably ugly." Swift as lightning, Ghash raked her sharp nails across his face. The stranger recoiled from her attack. The bright red weal of her claw marks dripped blood down his cheek, but he went on, "Morgoth gave you flesh to eat to make you his slave. It accomplished just what your lord wanted it to. If I give you my flesh and blood freely, you will belong to me, and not him. His power over you will be broken."
"And then who'll be my master? You?"
"I would not have you be a slave any longer. Your father promised me your hand if I succeeded in my quest to rescue you." The prisoner's face beamed, despite the claw marks. "I would make you my lady, Nara. That is my heart's desire; to be your lord and husband."
"O, first you insult me, now you'll be makin' me your lady! You really are crazy. Besides, if I eat your flesh and blood, you won't be nobody's lord. You'll be dead."
Without missing a beat, the prisoner responded, "My life will be in you. You must cast my body into the sea."
"The sea?" she asked quizzically.
"Yes, you must return my remains to the sea. Now hurry, unlock these shackles."
"Wouldn't you like that, now? Not on your life, Elf-boy." Brandishing the keys in his face with a contemptuous sneer, Ghash darted out the door.
As the sun arose, Ghash returned once more to the filthy den in which she slept. She shared it with no one, since her last whelp was weaned. She would sleep alone until the breeding season began again. She knew it wouldn't be long now. Spring was in the air, and she could feel a growing restlessness rising within her. "Good," she thought, "soon I'll get back to some real work. No more playing chamber maid." She laid down on her bed of dank straw, wrapping a ragged scrap of cloth about her shoulders, and tried to get comfortable. Her thoughts turned to the prisoner she'd been tending. "I wonder why Morgoth is keeping him so long. One thing's certain, he's already lost his mind. Imagine him asking me to eat his flesh so I'd turn into an Elf!"
Then suddenly a new idea dawned on her. What if Morgoth planned him to be her next mate? The handful of times when she'd mated with Men, they had been sent to her under the influence of powerful aphrodisiacs. It was no easy task to induce a Man to mate with an Orc. What if this Elf's delusion about rescuing her and being devoured in the process was a fantasy crafted by Morgoth? That must be it. This mad idea that she was really an Elf must be necessary to entice the Elf to become her mate. And then she really would drink his blood.
Ghash was certain that this must be the answer. The Elf was deluded. Far from being a hero to rescue her, he would become her victim. She was nothing more than an Orc, and never would be. Braced by the realism of her new insight, Ghash laid down to sleep. She felt an empty, gnawing ache in the pit of her stomach that had nothing to do with hunger. Slowly she drifted off.
She dreamed of a vast sky full of beautiful stars. The waves lapped gently upon the shores of a shimmering lake. Its surface reflected back the twinkling hosts of the heavens above. Elvish voices sang a slow haunting melody. But she could not remember the words.
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.