CHAPTER 1 - AN UNEXPECTED PAIRING

Uglakh leaned against a tree heavily, resting from his long travels. He looked to his left and right. Trees everywhere. The landscape seemed so alien to him after spending most of his life in the barren, deserted plains of Mordor. He could not deny that the sight of life growing all around him had somewhat of a comforting effect, but at the same time it made him a bit claustrophobic. It didn't help that he stood out like a sore thumb. A big green sore thumb; Uglakh was an orc, and orcs were few and far between in the Shire. He had already passed through two predominantly Hobbit-populated villages since Bree, and in both tried to ignore the short curly-haired creatures staring up at him strangely. It was starting to get to him. Then again, everything was getting to him since he had left the ring at home. The ring was calling to him, and the further he traveled the stronger he felt it.

Uglakh shook the feeling off and walked back to his car. Turning the key in the ignition he looked at the sign on the left side of the road.

Gray Havens Airport
40 Miles

The car whined in protest for a couple of seconds, then clunked and sputtered to life, a sound accompanied by the harsh orcish heavy metal music from his favourite band Uruk-Hai. He grinned and bobbed his head to the music as he accelerated down the forest road.

-

Jimmy Baggins looked out the window of the airplane nervously. The waters of the sea were behind, and there was land below. He was relieved because it meant that the trip was almost over, but also couldn't get the thought out of his head that a plane crash at this moment would be much more potentially fatal than a crash in the water.
A dwarf in the seat beside him chuckled. "Don't like flyin' much, do ye?"
Jimmy tore his view away from the window. He looked at the dwarf and forced a smile. "Is it that obvious?"
"Aye, that it is." said the dwarf. "My suggestion'd be to stop lookin' out the window all the time."
"Excellent idea." said Jimmy, quickly pulling the shade over the window.
Jimmy's attention was pulled away by an incredibly attractive elvish stewardess who stood in the aisle.
"Thank you for flying Gwaihir Airlines." she said with a smile. "We will be landing in Gray Havens airport in approximately five minutes. Please fasten your seatbelts and make sure your trays are in the upright and locked position. Have a nice day!"

After the plane landed, Jimmy resisted the urge to kiss the ground, and instead looked around to see the person he was supposed to meet there. It didn't take long; a six-foot tall orc towered above the crowd of hobbits. Jimmy shifted the heavy pack on his back to a comfortable position, then walked up to the orc and extended his hand.
"Good afternoon." said Jimmy. "You must be Uglakh."
"Yes." Uglakh said abruptly, reaching down to shake Jimmy's hand.
"My name is Jimmy Baggins, and I have been sent to investigate your claim." said Jimmy as they started walking out of the airport.
"Hello." Uglakh said.
Jimmy raised an eyebrow. "Do you say more than one word at a time?"
"I sorry." Uglakh said haltingly. "I not good at common speech."
"And I'm absolutely horrible at orcish. This'll be fun..." Jimmy said. "Now, the important question: do you have it with you?"
"No."
Jimmy stopped. "And why not?"
Uglakh shrugged his shoulders. "I think it not good idea because I hear that ring is very powerful, can effect thoughts and do bad things to people."
"Where did you put it? Is it somewhere safe?"
"I leave it back home."
"Home... that would be Udun, in northwest Mordor, wouldn't it?"
"Yes."
Jimmy sighed. "This really doesn't help us. There aren't any airports closer to Udun than this one, so we're going to have to drive all the way there. And this doesn't really add to the credibility of your story."
"I know, but..."
Jimmy started walking again, and Uglakh followed. "Do you know how many calls we have received from people claiming to have found the One Ring? So many have turned out to be hoaxes or publicity stunts. And we have to investigate every single one, no matter how wild or outrageous the claim may sound."
"Who is 'we'?" asked Uglakh.
"The fellowship. I'll explain more later... after I see the ring."

They left the airport and walked down a flight of steps to the underground parking lot. Jimmy gasped when he saw Uglakh's car, the oldest, most beat-up vehicle he had ever seen in his life.
"Is this thing going to last all the way to Mordor?" Jimmy said half-sarcastically.
"It make it here okay." said Uglakh. "Should be good for trip home."
Uglakh popped the trunk open and Jimmy loaded his backpack in.
"Hold on a second" said Jimmy. He unzipped the side pocket of his backpack and pulled out three photographs.
They both went inside and Uglakh started the car, the sound of Uruk-Hai roaring in Jimmy's ears.
"Agh! What the hell is that?" yelled Jimmy.
"Pretty good, is it?" said Uglakh with a smile, bobbing his head to the rythm.
"Turn it down!" screamed Jimmy, his hands to his ears.
Uglakh lowered the volume to a somewhat tolerable level. "You not like orcish music?"
"You call that music? Sorry, not my cup of tea."
Uglakh shrugged and accelerated out of the parking garage.
Jimmy showed the photographs in his hand to Uglakh. "Back to business. These photographs you sent are essentially the only reason that I am here today. As fantastic as your story sounds, enough elements fit in place that Gandalf personally authorized and financed my trip to the Gray Havens."
"What you mean?"
Jimmy flipped to the second picture in the pile. "I like how you placed it next to a pencil in this picture, so we could accurately measure the ring in proportion to it. The elvish writing on the side is clear and legible, and exactly the same size as our records indicate the writing was. That, coupled with the recent eruption of mount Doom leads us to believe that there is a significant possibility that the one ring has returned."
"What we can do now?" asked Uglakh.
"I don't know, but Gandalf probably will. But, on the other hand, what I'm thinking is you probably just did your homework, read through some of the historical records of the war of the ring, the Tolkien edition maybe..."
"No! What reason I have to lie about this?" Uglakh grunted.
"I don't know. But it's my job to be skeptical. Now, could you go through your story with me one more time?"
"Okay. It start one morning..."

-

Uglakh woke up after a good night's sleep, the first restful night he had had for a week. Being fired from his job at the local Elessar Burger had left him in a bad financial state, and it would take a lot of sacrifice and creative budget balancing just to keep his apartment. Electric bills weren't as much of a problem as before, he had replaced most of his house's lighting with fixtures made of that weird elvish metal... he forgot what it was called, but it was the type that glowed when orcs were close to it. He enjoyed the soft blue color that filled his house, though at times it made him depressed. Something that was not helped by the fact that he lived alone.

However, this morning there seemed to be a different color, a much more grayish tint surrounding him. He pulled himself forcibly out of bed and looked out the window. At first glance he thought that it was snowing outside, a rare sight in Udun, and quite unlikely considering that it was summer. He quickly put on a robe and stepped onto his balcony. His nose and throat were immediately irritated by something in the air, causing him to cough. Looking at the swirls of particles kicked up by his feet, he realized that it was not snow, but ash. It covered his balcony, most of the side of the apartment building, and the streets of Udun down below. Wondering what could have happened he ran back inside and turned on his TV. Reception was pretty bad; he had to adjust the antennas on his TV to get a partially clear picture.

"...rescue crews are still forced to hold back in certain areas around Mount Doom where there may be survivors. The unpredictable lava flows present too much of a risk. So far the official death toll is at 434, but it is predicted to rise to at least three times that much when all are accounted for. People in surrounding areas are encouraged to stay indoors as much as possible, and wear face masks when outside to protect your lungs from the flying ash that has spread all over Mordor."
Uglakh's attention was taken away from the TV when he heard a metallic clink from outside. He walked out onto the balcony again, and saw something half-buried in the ash. A small golden ring. He reached down and picked it up, a sudden shiver running through his body. He gazed intently at the ring and saw that something was written in glowing elvish letters. He couldn't read it; he had forgotten the little bit of elvish he had learned back in highschool. To his surprise, the glowing writing began to fade away slowly, until it completely disappeared. At that moment something clicked into his mind; a book that he had tried to read once but had given up on. He rushed back inside to his desk and opened up a cabinet full of books. He searched through the pile and found what he was looking for. "Lord of the Rings: an account of the ancient history of Middle Earth. By JRR Tolkien (orcish translation by Zylka Numbluk)".

-

"So, that's when you made the mental connection with the story of the one ring?" asked Jimmy.
"Yes. I remember the book because it very racist toward orcs. That why I stop reading it before."
"Some might call it racism, but it's historical fact that Sauron used orcs in his armies to dominate the world."
"He use humans too. Do not forget."
"Good point." said Jimmy.

They continued driving along the great east highway for 11 hours until the misty mountains loomed ahead of them. They stopped at the Rivendell Motel for the night. Uglakh fell asleep instantly, but Jimmy found himself stirring around in his bed, like some external force was working to keep his mind occupied. The stress getting to him, he left the room, took out his cell phone, and dialed a number.
"It's very late. This better be important." came the gruff voice on the other end of the line.
"Gandalf, it's Jimmy. I'm phoning because... well.."
"Yes?"
Jimmy took in a deep breath. "It's just this feeling I'm getting. Normally I wouldn't call you about it but ever since I met this guy, I've had some kind of gut feeling that he's telling the truth."
"Where are you now?"
"The Rivendell Motel. Look, this must sound pretty stupid to you. I know it sounds dumb to me. All my logical thoughts and previous experiences tell me that this is a hoax... but that damn feeling..."
"I have felt it too. This just clinched it for me. When do you think you will reach Udun?"
"We should be there tomorrow evening if everything goes all right."
"I will meet you there. Do not do anything with the ring until I have arrived. Do I make myself clear?"
"Yes, sir."
Jimmy hung up and went back to the hotel room. His mind was more at ease now that he knew Gandalf would be there to help him.

-

Late that night, somewhere on the Highway between Rivendell and Mordor, "The Wild Men", Middle Earth's toughest motorcycle gang were gathered together at a bar for a drinking binge. The bartender looked to the entrance of the bar and saw eight men dressed entirely in black robes that concealed their faces. Sensing trouble, he immediately withdrew to a back room.
Ripper, the leader of the gang let out a hearty laugh and walked up to the men in black. "What's this here? You guys just come from a costume party?"
The rest of the gang laughed with him. Their laugh was cut short by the sinister voice of one of the men in black. "Give us your horses."
Ripper raised an eyebrow. "Our 'horses'? You better not mean our bikes because if you do that means I'm just gonna have to cut your throat open."
The man in black didn't flinch. "Give us your horses or die."
Ripper took out a switchblade and pointed it at the man in black's face. "What the fuck are you gonna do, bitch? Do you know exactly who it is that you are fucking with right now?"
All eight of the men in black drew swords. Ripper immediately dropped his switchblade and raised his hands. "Okay, you can..." Ripper's sentence was cut short along with his head, which bounced off a table, knocking over a bottle of beer before landing on the floor.
"Give us your horses." the man in black said again.
The other Wild Men all threw their motorcycle keys at their feet.
"Thank you." said the man in black, one of the eight remaining Nazgul who had reawakened when the ring had returned. And now the Nazgul rode again, this time on two wheels.