4. Heavy Hearts and Unspeakable Truths
Chapter IV—Heavy Hearts and Unspeakable Truths
The author of the journal was Elvish, undoubtedly Noldo, and a man. Sigilithil saw no dates and no names of persons or places. The author had been careful to be vague in his descriptions, as if he feared that his comrades would discover his true sentiments:
My beginnings were neither humble nor haughty. The father and mother to whom I was born were fair of appearance, mind, and spirit. I have not known an arduous life, and as the sole heir to my parents, great comforts have been heaped upon my crown. One would expect that I be grateful, for I have climbed into high favour and am welcome at court. Friends call me serene, a surprisingly calm fellow, and fine company needed when the air is thick with tension.
Not one understands who I am inside, my true workings. I should be happy but am constantly filled with woe and foreboding. Elves were made to last with the world, but I feel that my part of the world is fading fast. Evil stirs to southeast of our happy haven. Rumours regarding goblins and disorderly Men course through the city daily. Fear does not yet choke our singing or revelries, our market streets or production, our loving or friendly rivalries. However, fear has tempered our usually boisterous voices. I am more sullen than most and retreat to the privacy and sanctity—false sanctity of my quarters. I cannot bear to rejoice for large or small things. I can no longer knowing the truth about the shadow that lurks near our happy corner of the world.
The entry ended with a quarter of the page left blank. Sigilithil pitied the poor fellow, but the author's woes were not abnormal to Elves. With the fairness, love, and compassion with which Elves were born, in a world marred by evil, even the heartiest of the Fair People could barely endure the many trials imposed by the world.
Sigilithil glanced at Norgash and his large, wolfish companion. They seemed deeply engaged in their conversation, and so, Sigilithil continued to read:
My mind does not feel as it used to feel. I no longer recognise the path that I walk and cannot make sound decisions on my own. More and more I retreat from kin and kith. I can satisfy none, and the person I least satisfy is myself. I walk a crooked path, and I no longer trust who is 'right' or 'right.' I no longer trust myself.
The danger to the southeast has grown bolder and bolder by the week. Men terrorise traders, and slowly, business has begun to dry. The king has ordered roads closed, and patrols track the movement of the goblins very closely—perhaps not close enough. We have all grown fat with contentment, and the enemy is dangerously clever. I have grave doubts about the ability of our warriors—if you could call them that—to fend off a full-fledged attack, let alone a small patrol of goblins and evil Men.
I also have the biting inkling that they might find a way in. The history of the fallen city of Gondolin might very well repeat itself in our city. By means of betrayal or the pure ingenuity of the enemy, I do not know, but it is certain—they will find a way in. They are too determined now and gaining far too much confidence to retreat and we are fools to linger. We are fools to linger out of the strange hope that a stranger called Happy Chance might smile upon us.
I refuse to smile back, but I do not flee. I fear the wilderness more than what I expect, and I expect the worst to come and soon.
"Oi, lad! Time to pack up and leave."
Sigilithil looked up at Norgash as he strode toward his rucksack and began to shuffle around his possessions. Sigilithil closed the book and handed it back to Norgash.
"Here's a bit of a rag," Norgash said as he handed it to Sigilithil. "I got a bit of oil left what I snuck from Isengard before it fell. We'll have enough to light four more torches, if we're conservative, but that's it. So we'd better get as far to lighter patches as possible."
Sigilithil nodded and began to help the Uruk clean up the camp. They took only one torch with them.
" 'ere, lad, take my cloak," said Norgash. "Your habits are still in tatters. It's no substitute for a shield, but it'll certainly hinder any arrow that comes your way."
"Thank you, Norgash," said Sigilithil as he donned the weather-beaten cloak. Then he held the make-shift torch and lit it with the last licks of the camp fire.
Norgash tossed the blankets onto Mauhúr's back, followed by the large rucksack. The Warg gave no protest and instead kept smelling the air and sniffing the ground.
"Which way, lad?" asked Norgash.
The Warg sniffed round the campsite and sniffed the air again. He sniffed the bushes and the trees, and finally, when he found the smell that he sought, he growled in his Warg Speech and cocked his head in a particular direction.
"Then that's where we go," said Norgash. "Come along, Sigilithil, and keep three strides behind Mauhúr. We don't want him worrying about you burning his tail, and if he sees something he doesn't like, we don't need you trippin' him up when he's leapin' for a throat."
"Understood, Norgash," replied Sigilithil, and the Elf and Uruk followed the Warg through the dark depths of the forbidding forest.
By instinct, not one spoke, growled, or snarled. The sole sounds were their footfalls upon the forest floor, the occasional, phlegmatic snort emitted by the Warg, and the torch as its flame licked away the darkness. Like the treacherous days of Mirkwood, strange creatures lurked in the woods, some fouler than Orcs and even less willing to talk: spiders, wolves, weasels, owls, wraiths, and indescribable beings. A troll or two had probably retreated in there when the War had ended, and Norgash had whispered to Sigilithil, "If I didn't know better, I thought I saw the flash of a vampire a while back. Prettiest thing with long red hair. Tall and pale as an Elf, but a sickly glow, not like your Fair People's starry glow."
"You continue to believe I am better unarmed?" Sigilithil queried.
"You got the torch, haven't ya? When the time comes, I'll toss you your little butter knives, but for the time being, we remain as we are."
The warrior conceded and said no more. He kept his eyes and ears wide open, and the Uruk kept his ears open as well. Uruk-hai did not see as well in the dark as the lesser Orcs did, but they certainly heard plenty better. Tense as the journey was, no ill befell them, and for a time unaccountable—but certainly long enough—they marched in relative silence before they reached reprieve.
The darkness in this portion of the woods did not encompass them as terrible as previously. Slivers of sunlight filtered through the loosely connected canopies, and the party reached a clearing where the sky could be seen. Gazing up through the patch in the canopy, Sigilithil knew from the light that the sun was setting. He sighed with relief.
Finally, I may again see the stars, he thought, for he so longed to see some vestige of comfort, of a world removed from ravaging Uruk-hai and perilous woods laced with enervating magic. He already saw the twinkling of the stars, and finally, hope returned to and lightened Sigilithil's heavy heart.
"We'll go ahead and set up camp here," said Norgash as he pulled the pack off of Mauhúr's back. "Don't get too cosy standing there, lad, I'm to set up the fire in the middle there."
"I ask for no forgiveness, Norgash," said Sigilithil, "and I do not forget that you know not the joy that comes from gazing at the stars. Too long have I gone without seeing them, though I never forgot them. I do not know if I have appreciated them as much as I do now, but I do. I love them dearly, so especially dearly now."
Norgash stood in the centre, gazing up at the sky as it slowly morphed from vermillion to violet. The Uruk harrumphed.
"Elves… I'll never understand ya," he said. "All my learning, and still, I don't understand you lads."
"You are forgiven," said Sigilithil.
"Pah! I ain't asking for forgiveness," said Norgash. "We need to get a camp fire started and fast before the last of that sun gives way to your sparkly, little fantasy. So hop to it, lad, these Uruk eyes weren't meant for the dark."
Sigilithil obeyed Norgash as the Uruk began to set up the fire. Once it was roaring, they set out the blankets nearly opposite to one another. Norgash handed Sigilithil the journal and said, "Keep yourself occupied while Mauhúr and I go on a little patrol."
"Patrol for what?"
"Food, lad. I haven't had fresh meat in a while, and Uruk-hai do not live on healing liquor and radak alone."
Then he grabbed his scimitar and another long blade and mounted the Warg. He marked, "Now, don't let your Elven particularities inhibit your sense of gratefulness. You eat what we catch or you're on your own."
"Very well, Norgash, but do not take too long."
" 'Take too long'? Gar!" the Uruk cursed. "It's hunting, Elf, how'm I supposed to make it quick?"
Sigilithil smiled and replied, "Forgive me, let me explain: to my surprise, I have grown fond of your company, unprecedented as our Peoples cooperating is. I should feel rather guilty if some ill befell you because of me, not that I already feel like a useless child, being attended to by a rather reluctant parent."
Norgash's eyes widened. He rumbled in surprise and grumbled unintelligibly. He cleared his throat and steered Mauhúr away.
"I'll… catch you a rabbit or some rot like that," said Norgash, and Mauhúr began to trot away.
"Little Moon-dagger—gives me a splinting headache every time he opens his bold, bloody mouth," Sigilithil heard the Uruk say. "Zanbaur grazadhug, zaugizg azta, the little motherfu…"
Sigilithil ignored his curses. He thumbed open the journal and resumed reading the entries:
I continue to feel that my mind is slowly ripping in two. The complacent half, my stronger—or should I say, louder?—half continues to believe what my kin and kith tell me. "Be of good cheer," they say, "for though the days grow darker, though our times become wrought with trouble, it is but a trial. It shall pass for a clearer day."
My defiant half bemoans and warns me that the worst is yet to come. We cannot maintain this false optimism, it tells me. The people need to know, they need to prepare; they should flee as did Idril and Tuor from the fate of Gondolin. They refuse to listen. They would stubbornly remain and die, yet I have no way out. Alone I cannot survive in the wilderness, for I was not raised to survive in the worst expected scenario. All my allies and all our allies live too far, and the orcs have begun to block any roads of escape.
Why, oh Ilúvatar, why could you allow this to happen? I beg, what have I done to offend? Why must I suffer? Why can none hear my case? Why blight me to be so unskilled, so helpless and—
The writing stopped. Instead, ink angrily scratched the proceeding pages. Sigilithil deciphered them as angry curses and profanity, often repeated mindlessly. He began to puzzle over the true identity of the author and decided to look more closely at the entries in the fire light.
Sigilithil made no mistake about the fine make of the pages and the cover. It was indeed Elven made. Then he took a closer look at the ink and the strokes. He searched for any grammatical or spelling errors, finding only a few, which began to accumulate during entries of extreme anxiety. He began to read more rapidly through the entries, the author's despair increasing with every entry. The journal was not a hoax but indeed a disturbing glimpse into the mind of an Elf, who had grown increasingly agitated and desperate for help, which the author dreamed of but never came.
Sigilithil's head was swimming before he could finish the journal. He shook his head and put it aside, reclining on his cot.
Despite his long years, his many experiences and uncountable encounters, Sigilithil knew not how an Elf could descend to such an abnormal level of sorrow. The author clearly had suffered from some strange malady, though he had neither been as blind as the vengeful Fëanor and his sons, nor as treacherous as the black-hearted Maeglin. Nevertheless, a strange stain had besmirched the author's spirit, and Sigilithil prayed that all those black premonitions had not come to pass.
"What's this now? 'ey, lad!"
Sigilithil groaned. He had slipped into a light slumber and awoke to rough voice and a pair of familiar, jade green eyes.
"How in the world do you sleep with your eyes open like that, zanbaur?" asked Norgash. "You have any idea how creepsy that is? Lah!"
Sigilithil's eyes flickered and brightened. He yawned and stretched, sitting slouched as Norgash paced about the camp.
"What is the hour?" he asked.
"Star-struck hour, my little zanbaur. Your precious Lady has a nice blanket of indigo and diamonds with which to caress your eyes."
Sigilithil cocked his head and glanced up at the opening in the canopy. True to Norgash's words, the familiar host of stars glistened before his star-loving eyes. Sigilithil stood and walked close to the centre, blocking the light of the fire with his hands as best as he could. The Elf warrior smiled, and his heart sighed at the sight of the beloved night sky.
"It is a tender blanket, Norgash," said Sigilithil, almost laughing with joy, "that Elbereth has made for me. It is a tender blanket to all the Elves that can see. Forbid that I should ever go blind, for then the glorious sight shall no longer be mine."
Norgash rumbled. "Knows his poetry, he does… I don't suppose you'll be singing anything in Elvish whilst we dine, melindo? Not that I doubt you've a wonderful singing voice."
"As you wish, Norgash," said Sigilithil, and he sat beside the fire near the Uruk.
"Caught one rabbit, I did," said Norgash, "and already did most of the hard work, skinning and gutting it. You're welcome to cook yours, but I'm fine eatin' mine raw."
"And what of Mauhúr?"
The Uruk grumbled, "Lucky bastard… he caught himself a pig—a pig! In this neck of the world… Lucky son of a bitch."
Sigilithil turned round. The Warg had nestled itself a few strides from camp. It grunted as it picked at the pig-flesh carefully, eating the choicest parts of the body first. Sigilithil grimaced and turned back round as Norgash handed him a sharpened stick.
"My word," said Sigilithil, "you are a strange one for an Orc."
"Uruk," Norgash corrected him. "You call lesser Orcs 'Orc' and big, healthy lads like me 'Uruk.' Anyhow, don't think I'll be nursin' you for the rest of your life. I don't think poor old me will even live that long."
Sigilithil smirked. He pierced one of the rabbit's thighs onto the stick and began to roast it over the fire.
Dinner passed serenely. Norgash and Mauhúr took the remains and buried them far from camp. They returned and settled by the fire, near where Sigilithil lay gazing at the stars.
"You asleep again?"
"Mmm? No. No," Sigilithil replied with a slight chuckle. "I am gazing at the stars."
Norgash propped himself up. "You really enjoy lookin' up at those things, eh?"
Sigilithil chuckled, but the laugh did not sound normal to Norgash. He sounded joyful, make no mistake, but almost melodic, too. The Uruk rumbled to clear his throat.
"You all right, zanbaur?" asked Norgash. "You're starting to give me the chills."
Sigilithil stopped and sighed. He rolled over and crawled closer to Norgash, an almost unshakeable smile on his Elven face. He seemed to glow in an otherworldly manner, and the shaman in Norgash shrank upon beholding Sigilithil.
"It is strange," Sigilithil confessed. "Not since I have entered this strange forest have I felt myself. When I roamed with my original company, all was well. Then suddenly, before I had realised, I was lost and my splendour diminished. I had thought that I had offended a greater power, and I was immediately repentant. The band of Uruk-hai attacked me and with the queerest ease captured me. Yet you saved me, and here I am, feeling whole again. Here we are, the queerest company, yet somehow… oh, hoho! It is naught."
"What?" asked Norgash, cocking his head.
"As I lay gazing at the stars, an amusing observation occurred to me, and now that I speak of it, I would like your opinion, Norgash."
"Well, get on with it, lad. I'm not gonna be young forever, but you'll look stunning no matter how many centuries got you."
Sigilithil smiled at those words, but his smile immediately fell when he said, "I cannot shake the undeniable sensation that our meeting was preordained. You are not a typical of your race, and with that can I share mutual status. No Orc—or Uruk," he smoothly added, "no matter how restrained would ever, in any age, do for an Elf what you have done for me."
"So… what? You sayin' I'm special or something?"
"I do not know what your true purpose is, though I may assume many things and, despite years of wisdom, be terribly wrong. You are meant for a path strange to your kind, Norgash, though I cannot see it. I pray you live long enough to see the destination."
The Uruk growled softly and glanced wearily at the fire.
You're meant for strange fate, Norgash. You're a strange lad…
Norgash glanced over at his rucksack and then sat tall. "Where'd you put that journal, lad?"
Sigilithil rose and crawled over to grab the journal. He returned and handed it gently back to Norgash. The Uruk inspected it carefully, weighing it in his hands, eyeing the cover, and flipping through the pages. He hummed roughly and nodded.
"It's a truly interesting read, isn't it, my pretty little golden hair?" he queried.
Sigilithil frowned. His brow fell heavy with gravity, and he pulled back loose strands of hair from his face.
"The author is dead," he said. "This I know now. I remember tale of a kingdom in the north that I had never visited and few ever did. The road was too perilous, yet the citizens were rumoured to be a happy people. We never heard word from them for years at a time, and we know that they must have fallen."
Norgash nodded. "By chance, I took the road up there, and I tell you, I don't want to ever go back. Uruk-hai fear nothing, but that place could have chilled the armour off a Nazgûl. Nothin' but death and bad spirits; not even we black-blooded types—all the orcs and spiders and trolls and wolves—will go prodding about those ruins, not without a fine number of troops to follow along with."
"Yet you went," said Sigilithil. "You entered."
Norgash spat. "And 'bout lost my 'ead. I still get these… these damned dreams, these damned visions in my head. I used to think it was just because I was a shaman. My mum warned me that once you poke around the spirit world, you can stop any time, but the spirits will always want to talk to you afterwards.
"But gar! These visions—they got worse when I got a hold of this bloody thing: Mormirion's journal."
"My name for the poor bloke."
"What are your visions, Norgash?"
The Uruk scoffed. "Look, lad, you already think I'm a funny one. If I told you my most private thoughts, you'd call me bonkers, and I'd rebuke you. We'd get in a nasty tussle, and I'd have to slit your throat, gut you, and dry you for later consumption."
"By my honour, Norgash, I shall not mock you. Only the Enemy and unsympathetic Men mock the ideas, thoughts, and dreams of others. My nature prevents me from committing such cruelty."
Norgash continued to hesitate. His nature, he said. What of Norgash's nature? He was funny for an Uruk, there was no mistake about that, but he could not bare his damned soul to an Elf, of all people. Of course, it was not like there was anyone left to talk shit around him or behind his back, just Mauhúr, and he kept his big maw shut most of the time. What harm could there be in it?
Even without his knives, I'm in deep shit if I say anything, he thought. The bloke was all timid and polite before, but something's changed. He just don't look right or feel right any more, like he's got a power that isn't his own but it is.
Norgash snarled and tousled his coarse mane with his claws.
"However, if it would drudge up too much pain—"
Sigilithil was taken aback by the Uruk's cry. Norgash's eyes had widened wildly, and he looked like a terrified animal, ready to fight or flee.
"No…" he said, heaving a great a sigh. "I'll tell you, if it will so please you, lad. But you won't like a lick of it, no, sir. It's nightmare to any Elf who remembers where Orcs came from. And it's just as bleak as the curse Fëanor laid upon himself."
Sigilithil leaned closely and listened well to Norgash's tale of his life and visions.
Glossary: Zanbaur grazadhug, zaugizg azta (Bl.Sp.) Rotten Elf-son, I oughta kill him…
Mormirion (Quenya masc.) into the darkness.
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.