Memories of the Dagorlad



The orc-captain stood on top of a rocky hill, so that he could see far off, and gaze at the enemy positioned opposite of him. Their banners did not flap in the windless morn, but the glint of their colors was hideous in his eyes. So he glanced left and right instead, and he could not see land on either side, for the plains were covered with orcs for as far as his eyes could see. Lastly he looked to the sky, and sniffed the air. 

The orcs had the numbers, the best position, and the dark clouds made sure the cursed sun would not trouble them. But they waited for the golug and the tark rabble instead of making the first move. He did not understand the bosses’ reasoning. Still, they were the bosses, and the orc-captain really liked his head over his shoulders. 

That thought didn’t make the wait any less maddening, and the lads under his command were already restless, fidgeting below.

“Stay in line, maggots.” He cracked his whip and growled as a handful of them left their position. “No getting ahead of yourselves on my watch.”

If the battle took much longer to start, he would grow restless too. He might even fidget like the long-armed orc in front of him, wandering to and fro nonstop. He kicked him on the head, and the orc wailed and halted.

“Still, you bastard. There's enough of them for the whole lot of you,” the orc-captain said, narrowing his sickly yellow eyes. He studied his whip more closely, as if suddenly he found that it was lacking. If the battle took longer to start, he would need more than a whip and a handful of kicks to keep his lads in place.

But he did not need to think of that any longer, for at last a horn was sound in the valley, and the orc-captain watched as a swarm of the elves charged down towards them. He sniffed the air, and grinned as though he smelt an incoming slaughter. It was not the golug that came to challenge the orcs, but the wood-rabble in their green and brown rags. Ahead of them marched their king, but soon he disappeared from the orc-captain’s sight as the elves clashed on the orc lines in the distance. That was someone else’s trouble.

Tired of sitting idly, the orc-captain raised his spear and jumped down to the ground just as the drums began to beat in a slow but steady rhythm. He walked to the front of the lines where the wood-rabble now struggled against the orcs. He snarled and cried orders now in one of the orcish tongues, now in another, and every time he did he raised his spear high. If orders did not do, the whip did, but with the battle finally began, the orcs required little encouragement to do as they were told. 

The first assault was fierce, and many orcs fell. But the fortune of the elves was short-lived, and they were halted, for the orcs, outnumbering them greatly, rallied and began to push back. It was then that the orc-captain joined the battle, driving his spear through the first enemy to challenge him. As the elf clutched his chest and fell to the earth, the orc-captain laughed, for he found then that the wood-rabble had no iron, and their spears clattered uselessly against his mail in retaliation for their fallen companion. 

The orcs now seeing that their leader had come to the front of the battle, joined in his laughter as they slaughtered, and a dark glint was on their eyes. Soon they were coated in elven-blood, and ever and anon the orc-captain had to crack his whip to keep his soldiers from straying from the battle while disfiguring the slain that littered the ground or taking prisoners.

“Orders first,” he would shout every time, pushing ever further into the elven lines. There were elves aplenty. The time for enjoyment would come. 

-----

The spearman of the Woodland Realm clutched the injury on his chest as he was removed from the frontlines by his companions. A deed for which he begrudged them. He was no mortal man, but an Elda. If he could still stand, he could still fight. Yet his protests fell on deaf ears, and soon he was lowered on top of a boulder. 

There he sat gloomy, leaning on his spear and catching his breath while his friends returned to the fray without a second look. 

At first things had gone well for his people. They sprang upon the orcs with such ferocity, with their king ever at the front, that many enemies had thrown their weapons and fled before their onslaught. The orcs were too many for them to contend against, however, and once they rallied, they launched themselves against their spears as a great wave crashing upon the shore. 

The orc-captains cared not for how many of their charges perished. For each orc the elves slew, there were nine others ready to take the place of the fallen. The elves had no such luxury, and though they resisted unmoved as the orcs threatened to overwhelm them, the price they were paying was bitter. 

Thus the injured that were brought to the back of the line grew steadily in numbers, many of them in far worse a state than the spearman was. It was as he rose, intent on aiding the wounded, that things went astray. 

The crude voices of the orcs rose in laughter louder than before, and the beating of the drums quickened in pace. With a great clamour of weapons, they overwhelmed the elves, pushing and hewing their way through their shieldwall. 

Before the spearman could brace himself for the flow of enemies that sped through the breach in the elven formation, an orc lept at him, scimitar in hand. The elf raised his shield just in time, and drove his spear through the orc’s thigh. He withdrew the weapon from the first orc and took a step back as another aimed a cut at him. This he parried more surely, and his spear soon brought the orc low before him.

He kept his position, even as the lines of the Woodland people fell into disarray. But at each orc he slew, another assaulted him faster than the previous. The spearman endured as he could, but at last he was thrown off balance, falling on his side. A long-armed orc stepped forward to finish him, armed with a spear and grinning widely.

The elf raised his own spear, hoping to catch the orc off guard, but many things took place at once before he could strike his foe. A sound of thunder deafened the drums, even if only briefly, and a clamour of voices mighty and numerous accompanied it. The long-armed orc gave a loud cry and turned to flee, only to fall flat on his face with a spear trespassing his body.

It was not thunder he heard, the elf realized as he looked over his shoulder with difficulty, but the sound of many hoofs. Indeed tall riders clad in blue and silver had joined the wood-elves, and their spears shone with a fell light as they sprang upon the orcs. Many perished by their weapons, and some were trampled by the hoofs of their great horses, but most retreated to the safety of the bulk of their forces. 

The spearman got to his feet and saw that his people began to gather, until they stood shoulder to shoulder. They knew not how the battle fared elsewhere, and no command of their king had reached them since the fight had began. So it seemed that it was their lot to continue the struggle against the orcs, until they were ordered otherwise. 

They held their ground, prepared to fight, but saw that even the riders were dismayed at the sight of the orcs advancing again with renewed strength and numbers. 

Now the tallest of the riders seeing that the elves there gathered wavered, leapt from his horse. He was clad in black rather than blue and halted before the spearmen of the Greenwood. He withdrew his sword, and raising it high, cried in a mighty voice.

“Utulie'n aure! Auta i lómë!” 

Hearing those words, the riders stood on their stirrups as woken from a dream, and echoed their leader with lifted spirits. Although the spearman knew not the language of the High-elves, at that moment it seemed to him that the distant voices of a host vast and powerful joined in that battle-cry. Whether he had a glimpse of a battle of bygone ages or merely heard the host of the King of the Noldor as it came at last upon the orcs in the distance, he never knew. 

Be as it may, the elf found to his surprise that his heart too was uplifted, his wound and sorrow momentarily forgotten. He sprang to battle gladly then, even beside that strange people, tall and terrible as they were to behold in their wrath. 

____

“This sword is very dear to me, and through shadow and flame it has accompanied me hence. Keep it safe, and draw it not from its sheath,” said a tall elf as he handed his sword to one of the guards of Felegoth that stood at the corridor. 

The guard nodded and took the sword in his hands. But as the other elf passed deeper into the Halls of Thranduil, he followed him with his eyes. Not if twice the amount of years that lay between him and that great battle which claimed so many of his people had passed would he have forgotten that voice. Memories stirred in him, and he smiled solemnly.

“Auta i lóme,” he muttered in a soft voice. His companion in duty gave him a strange look, but he could not find it in himself to mind, for the night was passing.