The polluted, barren valley of Udûn between the gate of Morannon and Gorgoroth was a toxic, depressing place. Great forges, quarries and parade grounds littered the injurious landscape where hordes of orcs and trolls roamed and breathed in air that was so thick with smoke and noxious gases and fumes that it could barely sustain life.

Apart from the hustle and bustle of the orc camps on the northwestern side of the valley there stood a lone tent near the Moria camp. Moria orcs were considered the lowest class of orcs in Mordor, but the occupant of this one tent was an unusual individual who’s reputation had warranted a visit from a Black Uruk Captain Dargum from Durthang. All the other Moria orcs were afraid of the solitary occupant of the tent and his reputation was legendary among them. Dargum had heard so many unsettling stories of Hivras’s deeds that he had been very curious to meet this legendary orc in person.

The tent was ragged and filthy and not unlike all the other tents in the Moria camp apart from it’s somewhat remote location from the other tents. There was nothing in Hivras’s outward appearance that could have explained the fear the other Moria orcs had for him. He was thin and not very tall. His lips were thin and his chin weak, almost non-existent. His cheeks were hollow and cadaverous and his dark eyes had sunken deep within his dark-skinned face.

”What do you want from me?” Hivras asked of Dargum in a voice that was just as unpleasant as his face.

”Have another drink”, Dargum said, offering to pour Hivras another drink of orc draught from his flask. Hivras reached out his cup for a refill. The tent was littered with all kinds of ugly, terrifying weapons.

”What do you want from me?” Hivras asked again after he had sipped the strong, foul-smelling brew.

”We have heard of your reputation all the way in Durthang”, Dargum said. He was fat and soft-looking for an Uruk-captain from Durthang.

”Oh, have you now?” Hivras rasped. ”Then you must also have heard that I’m not like the other boot-licking worms you see in this craphole. When Sauron’s lackeys come to boss me around, I won’t jump on the dirt to lick their boots. I’m an artist. If you want me to do something, you must pay the price.”

”Don’t worry about payment. You will be well-compensated for this job. We need someone who can work independently and follow complex instructions.”

”I always work alone. But what can you possibly offer me that I want from this craphole, unless it’s a sow?”

'A sow’ was a deragotary term orcs often used for female orcs. In orc societies females and their offspring lived in slave-like conditions in harems, totally at the mercy of their owners. Male orcs were only allowed to keep harems after reaching a certain rank. The vast majority of male orcs were never allowed to touch a female in their lives. But sometimes an orc of lower social standing could be rewarded by giving them a harem-slave, ’a sow’, to do as they please with for one night as a reward for outstanding services.

Hivras had had many encounters like that with harem-slaves. None of them had ever survived the encounter with Hivras without scars. Sometimes they had not survived at all.

”You will be paid handsomely in gold from the vaults of Barad-dûr”, Dargum said. Hivras stared at him for a while as if he was nothing but a gray mouse that had slipped into the tent to seek warmth against the winter chill of Udûn.

”Let me see that gold then.”

Dargum took a small pouch from his belt and tossed it in the air. Hivras snatched it dexterously with his long, spindly fingers. The orc opened the pouch and peered inside.

”What’s the job then?” Hivras asked, fixing a suspicious stare at his guest.

”I want you to travel to the Drúadan forest as soon as possible”, Dargum said. ”Do you know where it is?”

”Yes, I know it. Go on.”

”In a couple of weeks from now we are expecting a dwarf going through the Drúadan forest along the main road, coming from the direction of Minas Tirith, traveling west. I want you to ambush the dwarf and kill him in the forest. Can you do that?”

”How do I know it’s the right dwarf?” Hivras asked.

”Minas Tirith is not exactly teeming with dwarves these days. If you see a dwarf on that road, it must be the right one.”

”I see. I can do it. Do you want me to cut off his balls and feed them to him? I have done it before.”

A sadistic smirk spread on Hivras’s face. Dargum’s face remained impassive. It was precisely those kinds of stories – and worse – that had been attached to Hivras in the rumors he had heard in Durthang.

”Nothing like that”, Dargum said. ”Here’s the tricky part, and I want you to listen carefully. The dwarf will most likely be accompanied by one or several men of Minas Tirith. You may not, under any circumstances, touch a hair from their heads. I repeat, the men of Minas Tirith must remain unharmed in the attack, but the dwarf must die. Can it be done?”

”Sure it can. A poison arrow. I have my own special brew. It may take a while, but the dwarf will surely not live. Neither the dwarf nor the men will never know what hit them. But what makes you so sure I won’t just take this gold and piss off back to Moria with it?”

”Your reputation. I have heard that you are an orc who cares for his reputation as someone who always follows the job through. Besides, there is more gold to be had after the job is done.”

”More gold?” Hivras smacked his lipless mouth. ”Pray tell.”

”After the dwarf is dead I want you to travel north to the Falls of Rauros and make a camp there. Try to avoid attention and not to kill anyone unless absolutely necessary. Make a camp there near the statues, but avoid going to the ruins of Amon Hen. There is someone in the ruins who must not be hurt nor alerted of your presence there. Just camp there and avoid attention. Later in the winter, a month or two from now, you will be approached by a Black Númenórean from Barad-dûr. He will have more gold and more instructions for you.”

The tent canvas flapped as a reminder of the storm beating outside. Hivras was quiet for a while, as if reflecting Dargum’s words.

”What a boring job”, he finally said. ”But the gold at least is good. What is the point in it though? Why can’t I kill the people from Minas Tirith? Or the one at Amon Hen?”

”That is not for you to know.”

”I decide what I need to know or not. I don’t always trust you guys from Durthang, you know? Perhaps you are setting me up to take the fall in one of those bogus plays Sauron so loves to play.”

”We keep our word”, Dargum claimed.

”Mordor orcs have no honor.”

”And you do? What are you?”

”You said it yourself”, Hivras grinned smugly. ”I always follow the job through.”

”I don’t know the details any more than you do. The operation has been planned well above our heads.”

”All right then.” Hivras stuffed the pouch of gold down the collar of his leather armor. He drained the last drops of his draught. ”At least I understand what you want me for. I’ve never met an orc who wasn’t dumber than a boot, you included. You need someone with brains. I do have one more request though.”

”Tell me.”

”I need a sow. You have enough rank to have a small harem of your own somewhere in Durthang, don’t you? A harem full of beautiful sows. Give me one for a night. I might hurt her a little, but I won’t kill her. Probably. If I do, I will compensate her full worth from the gold you just gave me. Deal?”

Dargum’s mouth twitched as he struggled to remain impassive. Suddenly he was in a hurry to get away from this filthy creature.

”There is no time for that”, Dargum said. ”You need to leave right away, as soon as you can. I’m not sure how much time we have before the dwarf leaves Minas Tirith. I want you to be in place as soon as possible.”

”Don’t give me that face”, Hivras said, squinting his eyes.”I know exactly what you are. You are just like me. I will do the job for you, but don’t ever think that you are any better than me.”