An Orcish Memento - From a Trip to the East

Vorondil has come across a little treasure in his recent perusal of his memories and mementos...

Dear Sir:

Recently, I had the opportunity to rediscover some mementos of mine that for many, long years I had believed lost. My greatest pleasure was to find intact this curious, old photograph, which I think you will find most interesting. It was taken during my extensive travels in the East during the last years of the Third Age. Those were exciting times mind you, and as a rather adventurous young man, I found myself inexorably drawn toward the field of anthropology. I was very keen on studying the savages of the East. You will recall that those were dark years when there was quite a lot of unrest and cause for large-scale migrations. Innumerable orcish tribes were amassing in Mordor, so I seized the incredible opportunity to see first-hand the greatest, and sadly the last, congregation of orcs, uruks, half-orcs, and races rarer still, in their final and most magnificent hour.

It was not long before I found myself traveling east and eventually living amongst those exotic races. When I first arrived, the orcs were quite adversarial and upon many occasions caused me to genuinely fear for my safety, especially during the course of meals. Ironically, I gradually earned their trust over time by engaging them with, of all things, dentistry. Truth be told, my dentistry amounted to little more than the distribution of a copious supply of baking soda and a score of tooth-brushes, which I had the foresight to bring as valuable trade goods. You must understand, these savages had the most appalling dentition. Until you've looked down the yellow-fanged, red-tongued, rotten maw of an uruk suffering from extreme gingivitis, you have not truly learned to value the real triumph of Physical Culture in the West.

My true breakthrough came after half a year, however, when I was initiated as an honorary member of the Snaga-Hai, perhaps the least prestigious orcish tribes of all the hosts of Mordor. Nevertheless, I was truly delighted by this embrasure and immediately adopted the whole of the savages' costume, much of their harsh tongue, and some of their remotely wholesome customs, which were few enough. I am probably the only Westerner to ever have lived in such intimacy with the Mordor savages, who would be vanquished all-to-soon and would ultimately vanish before the unstemmable tide of modern man and the advent of the Fourth Age. While living amongst the Snaga-Hai, it chanced that I befriended a rather curious and promising young orch. Named Azhglob, he was quite unlike his coarser fellows, who harboured a great superstitious fear of my photographic equipment--- as they always did regarding anything more technologically challenging than fire and edged weaponry. To the contrary, Azhglob was very eager to tackle the subject, and I was glad to have him as an apprentice of sorts. I schooled him in rudimentary photographic theory, fieldwork, and processing techniques, the latter of which were carried out in a cramped, makeshift darkroom set up in a sweltering and malodorous hide-tent. It was not long before Azhglob, eager to put his fledgling knowledge to the test, insisted that he take my portrait. I naturally thought this a splendid idea and agreed at once. My swarthy apprentice's zealousness soon turned to protest, however, when I suggested that we hazard a trip out onto the open, treacherous field lying before the dark fortress of Barad-dûr, which I imagined would make a fine monumental setting for the portrait. Azhglob eventually yielded, and we made the trip on a gloomy morning in the summer of 3017.

A Mordor Memento
It was not a long or particularly trying journey, yet my fellow Snaga-Hai tried his best to make it so with a mounting trepidation, which I simply attributed to the turbulent extremes of his savage constitution. As for me, I was quite enthused and was feeling rather daring. I had donned full orcish war-regalia, replete with the typical hide and rusty plate, rakish tusked helm, and imposing spiked shield common to the lesser orcs. I fancied myself quite the dashing figure and found myself filled with a sort of fierce, almost orcish, pride. That is, until we arrived at our destination. I must admit that I felt a bit queasy gaping up at the obscure heights of the looming tower of Barad-dûr. It was very hot that morning, as were all mornings in Mordor, yet I felt an eerily cold chill beneath my orcish defenses. Azhglob seemed doubly unnerved, ears twitching and fangs clacking as he muttered continuously about the so-called "Great Eye" resident in the tower. Were it not for the intangible, oppressive weight that seemed to ooze from the air itself, his frantic attempts at setting up the tripod and adjusting the aperture with his ill-suited claws might have seemed comical. And perhaps it was, for as you can see in the photograph, Azhglob managed to immortalize a fleeting grin on my face. Yet, Azhglob's increasing urgency, combined with an uncanny fear, which immediately repossessed me, only afforded us once chance for the portrait. It seemed that as soon as we had arrived, we were hurrying on our way, Azhglob scuffling increasingly further ahead as his fearful mutterings about the "Great Eye" grew fainter and fainter in the distance. I had always had disdain for that sort of orcish mumbo-jumbo, regarding it as an unhealthy and superstitious manifestation of an impenetrable fear of the unknown that seemed so counterproductive and all pervasive amongst the primitive races.

But on that day and in those final years, as history later came to realize, the "Great Eye" was all too real. Its power and that which matched it would soon force poor Azhglob, the Snaga-Hai, and the nearly all the pitiable savages to their bitter end. In fact, the moment of my portrait was the last that Azhglob and I spent together before we were forever separated by the cruel and creeping tendrils of the Shadow beneath Barad-dûr. Today, I remain amazed by the skill with which my fearful apprentice managed to capture the image he did, under such treacherous circumstances, which I did not fully grasp until years later. You now hold in your possession tangible proof that even the least of savages may be schooled in the refined aesthetic sensibilities and may approach the equanimity inherent in the civilized races, when granted the proper guidance. In my youth I was ever the antiquarian. Now nearly fossilized myself, I have seemingly joined the ranks of what I once pursued. I recognize the increasing scarcity and high demand for all rarities and documents originating in former age.

Therefore, I hope that you will welcome this photograph, as well as its story, as a treasured addition to your important collection. Furthermore, I hope that through this glimpse of a fleeting moment, others may gain insight into a rare and unrecoverable partnership between East and West, between savage and man, and ultimately between friends---a moment of mutual understanding that stands in such stark contrast to the tragic, wanton, and complete destruction that characterized the end of the Third Age.

Best Regards,

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