Hey y'all, it's a quick update this time. This one's kinda long, but a lot of what happens here will be very important later, so pay attention. Disclaimer: I don't own LOTR. Now, let's get back to the story and find out who the mystery character at the end of Chapter Three is.
4. Mourning and Flight
The first thing he felt was an ache all over. He couldn't remember having felt anything like this before in all his thousands of years. All he could see around him was blackness, and he felt as though an entire tower had collapsed on him. He felt some part of him moving, but couldn't tell what, or where, it was. The blackness around him split as two…somethings…were pushed apart by a force he had yet to identify. A large hand in a spiked gauntlet came up to press against his forehead.
With a shock, he realized it was his hand. He quickly sat up and saw that he had not just a hand or even an arm, but a whole body! His body. At long last, he had it back.
So my plan has succeeded, he thought, I will have to reward Shagrat greatly for this.
It was then that he remembered that Shagrat had been in the tower being tortured by the Mouth. Shagrat had screamed his name at least once, but, having no body, he had been unable to respond. He stood up and looked around. Where was Barad-dûr? He had to get to it, and fast if he wanted to have any chance of aiding Shagrat.
His eyes fell on the remains of a black dais that had once held a throne. The black color had faded with age, except for one spot where some black liquid had been spilled on it. Curious, he ran his finger across it. It was dry, but a small bit rubbed off on the clawed finger of his gauntlet. He stuck the claw into one of the slits in the front of his helm, where he could just reach to lick a bit of the stuff off with his tongue. As the sweet and tangy taste filled his mouth, he shook inside. It was blood. Orc blood. His immediate thought was Shagrat. And he suddenly realized he was standing in all that was left of his throne room The room in the very center of the tower, where the Mouth had tortured Shagrat. Where Shagrat had screamed his name. Where Shagrat had…
No! he scolded himself, Do not think such thoughts. He never thought them about you. You will find him. He will be all right.
His next thought was the Mouth. Now what was he to do with that treacherous scum? Make it suffer the way it had made Shagrat suffer? Banish it and strip it of its power? Kill it?
"Well, before I do anything, I have to find it." he said aloud. "Maybe I will figure out what happened to Shagra-" His gaze fell on the blood again. With a horrified shriek, he set to digging frantically through the remains of his tower.
After what felt like ages but was probably only about two hours of digging, he began to lose hope of finding anything. He was about to turn and leave when he spied something under a block of stone. Carefully, he pulled it out. It was a sword, too small for his hands, but the right size for a human…or an orc. Its blade was long and straight, with a straight hook on the square end of it. He turned the sheath over and saw the symbols tooled into the leather that identified the owner: a crude stick figure with a spiked crown, and a small stick figure holding its hand.
He knew only one orc who used that symbol.
He felt his eyes watering as he looked at it. He remembered the first time he had seen that image. It had been drawn on top of his crop production records from the south. He had wanted to get angry, but hadn't been able to. The look on the little orc's face had been too pitiful, and when he had actually looked at the drawing, he had been touched by what the little orc was trying to say. A tiny voice spoke in the back of his mind, a voice he had heard long ago, and whose owner he had loved like his own child.
I love you, Dark Lord.
He could still see that little face in the back of his mind...
Something wet dropped onto his hand. Ordinarily, he would have stopped himself and held it in. But he saw no need to do so now. No one was here to see him. So he sat down on a block of stone and let the tears fall. And there, in what was left of his land, he, the Dark Lord Sauron, cried for his lost child.
Nia led the two brothers to a large fenced in corral, where she told them to wait. They did so, and she leapt gracefully over the fence. and ran off across the corral. She came back a few moments later leading three large black horses. She handed each of them a pair of reins, keeping one for herself.
"Um, Nia," Shagrat said, catching her attention, "I don't know how to ride."
She looked at him for only a moment before she turned his horse loose again.
"Then you will ride with me and I shall teach you." she said, matter-of-factly. " After all, isn't that what i am supposed to do?"
"Erm, yeah...I-I guess." Shagrat stammered. She smiled and led him over to her horse. Isthey was already mounted and waiting for them. Shagrat stood by the horse and waited for her to get on.
"Lift your foot." she commanded. Puzzled, Shagrat did as he was told. He let out a yelp of surprise when she grabbed him by his foot and threw him up onto the animal's back. She mounted, more gracefully, behind him. She took her reins in one hand and wrapped her other arm around Shagrat's waist so she could hold him on. She looked to Isthey and they started off.
For the first part of their ride, Nia controlled the horse, having Shagrat watch her hands and her legs as she gave the horse different signals. At times she had him place his hand on her leg so he could feel how the muscles tensed or relaxed to signal the animal, or on top of her hand so he could feel how she held the reins and checked them ever so slightly when she wanted to slow down or change direction. True to his nature, Shagrat picked everything up rather quickly, certainly faster than Nia had expected. She knew her father would be pleased to hear this.
After they had ridden about halfway to where she wanted to go, give or take a few miles, she handed her reins off to Shagrat. He panicked for a moment, until she placed her hands on top of his and moved his hands into place.
"Remember how I showed you," she said soothingly into his ear. He seemed to relax at her touch, and even more at the sound of her voice. Once he got over his panic, he was able to control the horse with greater ease than even he had expected of himself.
They had ridden quite a bit further when Nia called Isthey to ride up beside them.
"Now is your first test." she told Shagrat. And before he could even think of his response, she leapt over onto Isthey's horse, leaving him alone on hers. Shagrat quickly returned his attention to his mount. He could see Isthey's horse ahead of him, and took this as an indication that he was to follow. A slight tug on the left rein brought his horse into line directly behind Isthey's. A small squeeze from his legs urged it into a faster canter as he followed his brother up a small hill. Isthey stopped there and looked back at him, smiling Shagrat returned it, his face beaming with pride at his accomplishment of riding the horse on his own. Nia leaned around Isthey to smile at him as well. So entranced was he by her smile, he stopped paying attention to the horse. His heels dug into its sides as his reins jerked it hard in the mouth. The horse whinnied loudly as it reared and bucked. Isthey jumped from his horse and ran to catch the frenzied animal. Shagrat held on to the saddle for dear life, until a particularly hard buck sent him sprawling onto the ground. Isthey grabbed the horse and pulled it away before it could hurt Shagrat by stepping on him or kicking him. Shagrat's vision blacked out for a moment, and when it returned, Isthey had his head in his lap.
"Shagrat! SHAGRAT!" he cried, until Shagrat's eyes fluttered open. "Are you all right?"
"My head hurts, but I don't think I broke anything." Shagrat groaned, rubbing his forehead. Isthey ran his hand over the area and felt the enormous swollen knot there.
"Is he hurt?" Nia called from where she had been collecting the horses.
"No, he's all right." Isthey answered, helping Shagrat to his feet.
"Except that I failed the test." Shagrat muttered glumly.
"It doesn't matter. It was only your first time." She put a reassuring hand on his shoulder, "Besides, those who are not good with horses prove to be excellent with our next lesson, which is the real lesson I had planned for today."
She took Shagrat's hand and led him after her to the edge of the cliff they were on. He looked back to see Isthey following close behind them.
"A Seylán is not like a horse." Nia said, drawing his attention back to her, "Once a bond has formed, the Seylán will fly with only one orc for the rest of its life." Shagrat remembered the huge flying steeds the Ringwraiths of Mordor had ridden. He could just imagine one flying off with him in its talons, the way an eagle flies with a freshly caught fish.
"So how do I get one?" he inquired.
"You will enter their nesting grounds. Many of them will flee at the sight of you. You must stay there. You must wait for your Seylán to Choose you. Once it has, you must mount the creature. The moment you touch it, its mind will become open to you. You will then open your own mind and form a bond with it." Nia explained.
"And how do I know if it Chooses me?"
She hesitated and looked back at Isthey before answering, "It will try to kill you." Shagrat felt the blood drain from his cheeks at those words.
"All right, when do I do it?"
"Now." Without warning, she pushed him out from behind the rockface. He stumbled for amoment to regain his footing and looked up. What met his gaze left him speechless.
Fell beasts. Hundreds of them. Some were flying, some were sunning on rocks, and others were merely trying to get away from him. They all kept their large, reptilian eyes on him, lest he should pose some unknown threat to them by stumbling so haphazardly into their nesting grounds.
He cautiously approached one. But before he got very close, it gave a loud shriek, flapped its wings, and flew away. Several others followed its lead. Obviously, none of them had Chosen him. He wondered how long it would be before one of them did Choose him. How long would Isthey and Nia leave him here? Would they leave him for days if he hadn't been Chosen yet? And if they did, what would he eat or drink? Then the worst thought occcured to him.
What if none of them chooses me!
Then he saw it. The largest of all the beasts, the one the others avoided more than they avoided him. The one that was looking right at him. It gave a threatening hiss as he approached.
Immediately, Shagrat was on his guard. He decided to test the beast and make sure it was doing what he thought it was doing and not just being overconfident because of its size. He curled back his lips, pinning his ears back against his head, and let out a threatening hiss of his own as he assumed a fighting stance.
The creature eyed him, as though sizing him up. He saw its legs bend and its wings lift, its neck arch and its tail lash as it prepared to strike. He turned himself sideways, with his back facing away from it and his shoulders hunched up around his neck, knowing it would most likely aim its attack at his back or his neck. He watched the creature and figured his plan in his mind. But, as years of combat experience had taught him, he waited for his opponent to make the first move.
It struck. With a speed he had thought impossible, its head shot toward him He waited, searching for his opening. he knew he only had one chance. If this attempt failed, he would be dead before he knew it had failed. Like it always did when he was in battle, time seemed to slow down. His mind cleared of all other thoughts, and it seemed as though he was seeing himself through the eyes of an onlooker. He saw his arms stretch forward as he leapt and they wrapped around the beast's neck. He felt his body position itself behind the shoulders as his hands reached out and grabbed the spine on the creature's neck in front of him. Time sped up again now that he was on. He felt the Seylán bucking and jumping worse than the horse had, and he feared the animal would throw him off over the cliff. He could see Nia shouting something at him, but her words were lost in the creature's roars and shrieking cries. The second part of her instructions came back to him as he felt something pushing against his mind. He immediately opened his mind and let it in, exposing every detail of who he was, what he had been through, and even his deepest secrets, to the other mind. At the same time, he looked for an opening in its mind where he could establish a bond.
Without warning, the Seylán assaulted his mind. White hot daggers stabbed into every corner of his being, and icy talons held him. Panicked, he tried to shut himself off, but the beast was too powerful. He screamed in his mind as the beast dug into the very core of his being, nearly ripping him apart. It would kill him if it continued much longer. And he was powerless to stop it. The worst part was, neither Isthey nor Sauron could save him here. Ready to succumb entirely to his pain, he gave one last desperate cry.
Stop! Oh, please stop! You're hurting me! You'll kill me! Please!
To his surprise, the pain melted away, leaving him gasping mentally.
Forgive me, came a soft, gentle female voice, I meant you no harm, but I had to be sure you actually were who and what you appeared to be. That you were not some wraith or sorcerer come to enslave me.
No! Shagrat protested, I wouldn't! I couldn't!
I know now, little one, she assured him, Now it is safe to tell you that I am Nyra, and I have Chosen you...Shagrat.
He saw Nia beside him gently pudshing Nyra's massive body so she faced the edge of the cliff.
"Very good, Shagrat. But you are not through yet. Your first flight together will seal your bond forever. This cannot wait. Think of what you want her to do in your mind, and she will do it. Tell her to fly now."
Fly, he thought. In response, Nyra tossed her head, spread her wings, and leapt off the cliff with a deafening roar. Shagrat screamed and held on tightly to the neck spine in front of him.
They fell for a few seconds before a mighty downbeat of Nyra's huge wings sent them rocketing skyward. Shagrat shut his eyes against the rush of wind in his face.
Don't be afraid. I will not let you fall. Nyra's voice sounded calm and reassuring in his mind. He tried hard to force himself to relax, but his efforts were futile. Only when Nyra leveled out was he successful. Only then did he dare to open his eyes and look down.
Far below, to the north, he could see the mists rising from the Falls of Rauros, and the satiny ribbon of the Anduin flowing southward. To the west lay the long chain of mountains that separated Gondor and Rohan from the other lands in the Wset. Turning south, he could see the peaks that held the Beacons of Gondor and the great citadel of Minas Tirith, where the heir of Isildur now reigned. Beyond that, on the thin hazy line where sky met earth, he could just make out the sunlight glinting off the distant sea.
Nyra banked left and turned until he faced east. The black rock mountains that bordered Mordor were still there, but the cloud of ash and darkness that had always hung over the land was gone. For the first time in thousands of years, sunlight poured into that forgotten land, and even as Shagrat flew, somewhere in Mordor, the Dark Lord felt the warmth on his back and looked up in awe and wonder at the sight of the sun. That light gave him stregth to believe that all was not yet lost, and a feeling of hope rose in his heart that his dear orc was out there somewhere, and that he would find him someday.
I am sorry for what I did to you back there, Nyra's voice was soft and and sad. As she spoke, Shagrat could feel her regret for his pain.
It's all right, he told her, I would have done the same.
Mmh. She said no more.
Besides, he added, this is worth every bit of it. She said nothing, but he felt her appreciation for the compliment.
They flew for a while longer before they angled back toward where they had come from and began a slow circling descent. They landed in the clearing where Shagrat had fallen from the horse. Isthey and Nia were running to them even before Nyra touched down. Shagrat slid off and practically fell into Isthey's waiting arms.
"Well done, Shagrat!" he exclaimed, clapping his brother on the back. "That's the fastest I've ever seen anyone get Chosen. She must have had her eye on you from the start."
"Probably." Shagrat agreed and looked at Nyra, who curled up her lip in what seemed to be a small grin. She brought her head around and nuzzled him affectionately on the arm.
"Yes, well done indeed." Nia complimented, "And now I have something to give each of you." She set down the large bundle she had brought with her and pulled out what looked to be a large tangle of leather. She slung it over Nyra's back and Shagrat realized it was meant to be a saddle. It was little more than a wide piece of leather across her back where he would sit, a strap around her neck for him to hold on to, and two wooden footrests where his feet would go. Nyra watched as Nia fastened the cinches, careful not to make them too tight. He saw straps down the side above the footrests and realized these would go around his legs, most likely to keep him from falling off.
"That'll help you ride out any rough flight." Nia explained, "You'll need it. Trust me."
"Thank you, Nia."
"I'm not finished yet. This is for you." She pulled out a smaller band of leather about as wide as two of his fingers and placed it on his head. It sat lightly above his ears with a nosepiece that ran about halfway down his nose. An animal bone ran down the center of it, and the top rim was decorated with sharp teeth pointed to the sky. Two pieces of some clear, veined material hung down just above his eyes. These were angled out, away from his face.
"Those will keep the wind out of your eyes." Nia explained. Shagrat thanked her again.
"Well, now that Shagrat's passed his first test, I say it's high time we had some lunch. Anyone object?" Isthey called impatiently from atop his horse. They both agreed. Nia offered to take Shagrat on her horse again, but he quickly declined, eager for an excuse to fly with Nyra again. As the other two galloped off, Shagrat mounted again. He told Nyra to follow the horses. She raised her wings and leapt into the air, but this time, Shagrat was ready. He closed his eyes and sighed blissfully at the feeling of the warm breeze on his face. Nyra's wings made no sound as she soared like an eagle on the wind. Below, Isthey and Nia were a pair of tiny brown specks moving slowly across the field. The sun shone down on him and warmed his skin. He lay down on Nyra's neck, with his arms draped down the sides. After so many years of hurt, pain, and poverty, Shagrat finally felt truly happy for the first time in his life.
Okay, so, who guessed it was Sauron and how did you figure it out? If you didn't guess Sauron, what made you guess who you did. And who here wants a Nazgûl now? (jumps up and down waving hand wildly) Tell me your answers in your reviews, and I'll start Chapter Five as soon as I can! Thank ya!