I, Ghazhûka, whom all now recognize as the greatest Healer of all our folk, was then just an apprentice among many. I was trying to learn a trade that might be of use—and might place me a ways back from the front lines. I bore arms like any Orc, was as fierce and bloodthirsty as any of us. But I never had much skill with weaponry. My eyes, you see. As weak as they are yellow. Things close by I see in fine detail, but ask me to look farther than the length of my arm and the world blurs.
This flaw in me I hid, easily enough, for I am not boasting when I say that most Orcs are as stupid as Trolls, and I am clever. Never met another of my folk more clever, and I ain't the only one to say it. I found ways to hide the dullness of my vision by using the sharpness of my thinking. Early on I found I had skills no others had—from when I was just a whelp of a thing, I understood the best way to splint a bone, or how to clean and bind a wound, and when to open a festering one. Word got out, and others came to me, and soon enough I found myself apprenticed to the real healers, the ones who knew how to mix powders and potions, who could drag a slow-birthing kit from between its mother's legs, who knew which head-conked lads would die, and precisely when.
Now some will say there ain't no use for skills such as mine, that why bother to heal one of us when there are always more Orc-lings growing up, multiplying like frogs in a pond. But that's daft thinking, if you ask me. It ain't always possible to wait so long for a youngling to grow up and replace a hardened warrior, not when you need one now, fast, when rebels and enemies are coming at you like flies homing onto putrid meat.
And it was just such a time I was apprentice, then, at the Great Caverns, the vast delvings the Stone-Rats name Khazad-dum and the cursed Elves call The Black Pit—Moria in their wretched tongue. I was learning fast and furious, for our place there was under attack. We were being invaded, by a horde of Dwarves all claiming kin to the raving, hairy runt named Thror that they called their King and who we'd played with for a few months before tossing his corpse out for the crows. The battle 'tween us and them puny bearded Stone-Rats with their deadly axes chanting for revenge was lasting nearly forever, and who would win out in the end was in the balance. Our side needed every lad who could stand and hold a blade, and no one voiced doubt as to the necessity of the healing arts. I honed my skill with suture and splint as fast as my claws could move, and was too slow for all that, the need was so great.
Azog was our leader—what a mean and stupid brute he is, but big, and uncanny strong even for one of our folk. I hate the stinking, putrid pale sight of him, truth be told. But it was Azog who changed my life—Azog who made me famous. For it was Azog the Great, known also as Azog One Arm, Azog the Defiler, Azog Prong-Hand who was dragged before me in the pitched height of the worst part of the battle. By all rights they ought to have brought him to the Chief Healer, but the Chief was back in the caves, and the noise was deafening, and the blood was pumping fast, hot and black. Even the dumb-shit maggots who were Azog's guards could see that if something wasn't done and done now, Azog was a goner for sure.
So it was pure luck that I was the one to wrap and tighten the tourniquet over the blunt end of his arm. Pure chance that the maggots got him to me before the last of his blood spurted out. Blind good fortune that it was right into my feeble eyes that the Great Azog first looked when he woke.
Later, it was my idea to drive that sharpened iron spike through what was left of his arm, me who devised the proper angle for it to be of use, and my drawing in the dirt that the forgers used in the designing of it. It was my potion that drugged him enough to allow such an alteration, though I admit that by then, with all the chief healers dead in the battle and the skirmishes between us that followed in the aftermath of our defeat, I stole the bag of powder off a dead healer's belt, plain and simple. And it was never clear to me which was more important: that I was the healer that saved Azog's filthy life, or that Azog is the stubbornest Orc that ever drew breath.
All I know is that he won't have no other healer with him now. He never lets me out of his sight, and at the least excuse he insists I come and tend him. He thinks I am his good luck charm. Every chance he gets he brandishes that prong of his, yelling and howling, as much from the pain of the thing as from his pride in it. And now, as our army marches on the Lonely Mountain to claim his revenge on the little Stone-Rat who took his arm in the first place—and grab that pile of gold for ourselves—it is I, Ghazhûka, that rides my wolf at Azog's side.