Osgiliath, IV 100, sometime in early November.
This cannot be.
The young guard gazed at the lone figure crossing the bridge of Osgiliath. He could hardly believe his eyes. Without averting his sight from the heavily armored form, Debelg waved at his comrade. “Hurry,” he cried, “alert the Captain!”
Unsheathing his sword, he vaguely heard the sound of footsteps vanishing in the distance behind him. The creature was closer now, a massive biped clad in blood-stained iron, wielding a mighty axe under skies of a blood-red sunset. Beneath a crude helmet a pair of wild eyes glowed feverishly, and malformed lips parted in a vicious snarl. Debelg felt his knees grow weak as he noticed the horrid details of its armor’s ornaments: shrunken heads and skulls hanging from its belt, along with polished teeth decorating its breast plate in a gruesome pattern of dried blood and bone fragments.
Could that creature be an orc?
Debelg remembered the tales of the Great War his family and friends recited during the cold winter nights, tales of war and death and honor, of white wizards and hordes of monstrous warriors from the East. His grandfather had lost an eye and a brother at the battle of the Pelennor Fields and hated orcs with a passion. By the time Debelg’s father came of age, the war had long ended and the King’s forces marched in Mordor, clearing away the remnants of Sauron’s army, seeking them out in their hideouts and cutting them down to the last filthy beast. During the last decade there had been no sightings of orcs and most people believed them extinct.
The young guard readied his sword, hoping that reinforcements would soon reach the bridge. King Elessar was presently at Osgiliath, inspecting the reconstruction of the city. Rumors had it that a man clad in brown accompanied him, a man of great wisdom. Surely, the arrival of this creature could compromise the safety of such renowned guests and undoubtedly more guards would soon reach the bridge. But pure terror clouded his mind as the orc threw back his head and howled to the rising moon. Debelg had hardly any combat experience, and certainly not against such monstrous foes. His heart raced frantically, for nothing in the old tales spoke of such raw rage and unquenched bloodlust. In this dark hour all sense of honor and duty vanished before the desperate need for survival. His blade slipped his grip as Debelg turned and ran towards the city, seeking shelter.
The orc was faster.
The man in the brown robes silently watched the senseless charge of the creature on the bridge. It lasted longer than the guards had thought it would. After several unfortunate attempts to halt its advance, the orc stood panting, spitting out blood and supporting its weight on a broken spear amidst the motionless forms of several Gondorian guards. Black blood dripped down its body from numerous wounds and Radagast could see at least two arrows jutting out from its flesh. Any man would have long yielded to such injuries. But this was no man; and still its eyes burned as it held on to its axe, growling at any man who dared to approach it.
The King came to the aid of his men. The creature that common blades could not bring down, fell under Andúril. Clutching the wound that drove it to its knees, the orc raised its ugly head one last time and stared at the West, far beyond the king and the world of men. Then its eyes focused on the brown wizard and something stirred in the dying fire of its eyes. A growl escaped its throat and a bloodied hand rose in the air, in a desperate plea.
Radagast felt Aragorn’s grip on his shoulder. “Let it rot,” said the king. “Give it the slightest chance and it will stab you even with its dying breath.”
But he who loved all beasts could not deny any creature’s plea. “Fear not, Elessar,” replied Radagast, his voice ringing strangely calm amidst this mayhem. “It is of no threat to me.”
The wizard passed over the dead guards and knelt by the dying orc. Its outstretched hand grabbed the brown robe desperately while its other hand searched under its breastplate. Shaking, frantic fingers sought the wizard’s hands and placed something in his palm, something that felt like a folded cloth. Then the clutch on his robes tightened and it drew him closer, so close that the stench was almost unbearable. The orc stared at the wizard’s eyes for one long moment. “Remember,”
it finally growled, blood dripping down its face and neck. Then the grip loosened and the orc fell back, dead at last, its glassy eyes fixed at the western skies.
As the men of Gondor took care of their dead and wounded and fed the orc’s corpse to the flames, Radagast hid the orc’s parchment inside the folds of his brown robes and returned to the king’s side, before leaving for the forest.
Later that night, by the light of a burning log, Radagast examined the strange item. In the company of the night creatures, he saw the markings on what appeared to be a piece of soft skin. They were not random markings, though; they were letters. They were words
, telling the story of a fallen race. Written with what seemed to be blood, in a crude form of elvish, Radagast held in his hands the elegy of the last of the orcs. Much of it was indecipherable, as the blood of the orc’s grave wounds had covered most of the writing. But some of it remained intact.
A wolf howled in the distance and an owl perched on a branch across the clearing, as the Brown Wizard started reading.
Beasts, they’ve called us.
Beasts and monsters that feast on man-flesh and lust for blood. Creatures of the night and of pure evil they deemed us, black hordes cutting down their kin, slaughtering their cattle and burning down their villages.
It would be pointless to deny it. My kin have killed and pillaged and raped and I was among them, for the bloodlust runs deep. For more moons than I can count, I hunted and skinned elves and men, harvesting skulls and teeth and ears, wearing my trophies proudly around my neck and waist. I have pleasured the females of my kin and taken my pleasure with the females of the mortals, savoring their agony and torment like soft, juicy meat. I have sired sons, fierce warriors skilled in the ways of war. They are all dead now.
It is true that we have done all those things Men and Elves accuse us of.
Have they done anything less?
After the fall of the Black Tower we scattered, some fleeing to the hills and mountains, some setting up camps to regroup. The forces of the Man-king came after us, until few of our warriors were left. This was hardly the end. They sought our hideouts, slaughtering the females and the wounded, even our offspring, for we were nothing more than vermin to them. Those that escaped their wrath fled to the deserts, but no shelter could be found there either. Either by blade or by thirst and starvation, all of my kin perished.
(A portion of the following text was soaked in blood and practically unreadable).
Am I the last of the orcs? I do not know. But I have grown old and weary, having seen too many sons fall in battle, having buried my mate of many years in the plains of Gorgoroth. My eyes are failing me, the axe seems to grow heavier with every full moon and my back aches when the wind blows from the north. Strange dreams trouble me lately, dreams not of fire and brimstone, but visions of a white sail against the setting sun. I know not what the sea is like; I have spent all of my days in a land of fire and shadow, and yet I dream of the sea.
In my youth I heard tales that we were once Elves. During those younger days, I crushed the skulls of the fools spreading such absurd rumors. But lately, I wonder… I was aware that some of my brothers scribbled songs secretly in the dark, songs of war and lust. Some of them we sang around our campfires, feasting on freshly killed prey and drinking strong ale. Writing had little appeal in my mind though, for it seemed unfitting to a warrior. But as the end of my days draws near, another kind of fever keeps me sleepless. My race is lost. I must see that it is not forgotten.
(Another portion of the text was soaked in blood and practically unreadable).
The nights grow longer and my chest hurts badly every time I cough. Sometimes I cough up blood, the result of old wounds never fully healed.
I will not die ill and crippled in a dark cave.
When the Man-king rides to the town beyond the river, I will cross the bridge in full armor, wielding my axe of countless kills, bearing my trophies of countless battles. On this bridge I will charge one last time against the race of Men, and may Fate grand me a strong arm and a warrior’s death by the sword of the King.
So end the days of Kolgrun, last warrior of the race of Orcs.
The Brown Wizard folded the skin carefully and hid it inside his robes. With the night almost over, the first rays of sunlight danced among the leaves and the creatures of the forest woke and chattered happily at the break of dawn. Radagast’s heart rejoiced as the birds of the woods chirped their daily blessings. His time to return to the West had not yet come, for his heart was still captive to the creatures of Middle Earth.
Beasts, they’ve called us,
he heard the orc whisper in his mind. We were once Elves, I’ve heard.
One day, his path would lead him to a white sail waiting to take him back to Valinor. On that day, the bloodied parchment would rest against his chest and the blood of the last orc would cross the sea to the Undying Lands, so the lost children of Ilúvatar would finally return home.
So ends the circle of the tainted blood.
1. According to the Silmarillion, orcs were originally elves:
“Yet this is held true by the wise of Eressëa, that all those of the Quendi who came into the hands of Melkor, ere Utumno was broken, were put there in prison, and by slow arts of cruelty were corrupted and enslaved; and thus did Melkor breed the hideous race of the Orcs in envy and mockery of the Elves, of whom they were afterwards the bitterest foes.”
2. There is no account of Radagast’s fate after the War of the ring, so it’s possible that one day he would return to the West.
3. The town of Osgiliath lay in ruin at the time of the war of the Ring. Due to its strategic location, it is highly likely that Gondor would reconstruct the town after the war.
4. At the end of Lost Tales, Christopher Tolkien gives as an account of a draft of a sequel to LotR, "The New Shadow". In the ten pages or so of this draft we learn that in the early Fourth Age orcs have practically vanished and yet the echo of their evil lingered on.
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