Snaga of Mordor - Chapter One - Times Past, Times Now

The whip snapped barely three inches from Snaga's eyes. She jumped, and Shaglush laughed hoarsely. "Teach you to let your attention wander!" he chortled. Snaga bit her lip, wishing her four hours with the Orc were over. Her mother insisted that she spend four hours of every day with Shaglush, to teach her about the customs and language of Mordor. What customs? Snaga wondered. All they are is survive in a barren waste and kill. And as for language... She swallowed down the lump in her throat. She could remember in perfect detail the day she had learned that her name meant "slave." Shaglush had been pacing up and down in front of her on the parapet of Dol Guldur, shouting words in the tongue of Mordor into the wind, following them with the Elvish translation, his lips curling as he spoke the words. Snaga was to repeat them back to him, including the Elvish translations. Galadwen, who spoke to Snaga in Elvish and to the rest of Mordor in their harsh language, had insisted on this arrangement.

Shaglush had yelled the word "snaga," but his translation in Elvish had been blown away by the wind. Snaga, the equivalent age of an eight-year-old, had yelled back proudly, "Snaga - me!" Shaglush had laughed himself hoarser than he already was. "What?" she had demanded. "I am Snaga!"

His whip - the first time he had ever used it with her - cracked across her legs, and she cried out in pain. "Never contradict me, slave!" Shaglush shouted, drawing his arm back for another blow. "Do you hear me, slave?" he yelled as the whip came down again.

"I'm not a slave!" she had screamed, curling herself into a ball and covering her head with her hands.

"Yes, you are!" Between her fingers, Snaga could see flecks of spit flying from Shaglush's mouth. The whip lashed on her hands, and she screamed again as her hands were torn open. She cowered against the wall, the wind blowing her golden hair over her head, hiding the hideous slash on her hands. "Your name is Snaga!" Shaglush went on.

"What if it is? It's just my name!"

"Snaga means slave!" Shaglush roared, standing over her, a fury incarnate. "Your very name shows what you are! You are a slave, and can never be anything else!"

Snaga had stared at him in shock, tears flowing freely down her face. It couldn't be true. For all her mother was, she would never have named her "slave," would she? She couldn't have. She couldn't have! "No!" Snaga yelled back at him. "That's not true! You're a liar!"

Shaglush had dropped the whip and seized her around the waist. Snaga had cried out at the horror of the Orc's rotting skin digging into her own, but Shaglush had ignored her. He had held her up over the parapet, and she had cried out again at seeing the thousands of feet that she would drop if he let her go. He shook her, and Snaga screamed and covered her eyes. "Look, Slave!" Shaglush snarled. "I will drop you if you say I am a liar!" She had whimpered in terror. "I am not a liar! Say it!"

"You are not a liar!" she had screamed in fright.

"You are a slave! Say that as well!"

That had been harder, but she forced it out. "I am a slave!"

He hauled her back in and dropped her on the stones of the parapet, disheveled, bleeding, weeping frantically. He kicked her. "Get up, slave! We have a lesson to finish!"

"Letting your attention wander, slave?" Snaga jumped as Shaglush's voice recalled her from her memories. He leered, thrilled to see her discomfited. "Pay attention!"

Snaga boosted herself up on top of the wall. She had forced herself to overcome her fear of heights, told herself that the next time Shaglush tried to scare her with threats to drop her off the wall, she would not succumb to terror. It had worked so far, but it hadn't been put to the test, since Shaglush had never since threatened to drop her. "My apologies," she said as politely as she could. "Could you repeat what you have just said?"

Shaglush hurled his whip to the floor. "I have no time for teaching lazy, useless slaves!" he yelled. "Ghnakh!" His brother, younger by three years, hurried over to them from where he stood guard. "Take her to her mother. The lessons are over for today."

Concealing her elation behind a blank face, Snaga followed Ghnakh off the parapet and down the stairs to her mother's room. As Ghnakh turned and left her at the door, Snaga suddenly began to worry. What would Galadwen say when Snaga told her that Shaglush had ended the lesson early today? She would be angry, at the least. Snaga gulped down her apprehension and opened the door.

Galadwen had hardly changed since she first came to Mordor, aside from her red eyes and a harder look about her face. Even with all that, she was still beautiful, but from the look on her face as her daughter entered the room two hours early, one couldn't have guessed it. "What happened?" she asked, her voice carrying the cold tone that Snaga knew meant danger.

"Shaglush ended the lessons early," Snaga answered, hoping that would content her mother, but knowing that it wouldn't.

She was right. Galadwen got up off the bed and set aside the black gown she was embroidering in red. "Why?"

If Snaga had known of the existence of the Valar, she would have sent up a fervent plea to them to help her. Since Galadwen had not told her about them, she had to trust in her wits and her tongue to get her out of this. Unfortunately, they seemed to have deserted her, and all she could think of to say was the truth. "I was thinking of something that had nothing to do with the lesson," she admitted, bracing herself for the coming storm of rage.

Galadwen did absolutely nothing.

That frightened Snaga far more than if her mother had begun screaming and slapping her. Her eyes slid from Galadwen's to her own shoes, studying the rough black sandals as though her life depended on them.

Finally Galadwen spoke. "Since you refuse to learn what I want you to learn, you must submit yourself to my will in another way." Snaga froze, suddenly cold, knowing what was about to come. "You will go pay your respects to Lord Sauron."

Snaga could barely breathe with fright. Heights she might have overcome, but not Sauron. "Please, Mother," she whispered. "Please - anything but that -" She despised having to beg, but if there was the slightest chance to get out of having to talk to Him, she would take it in an instant.

Galadwen was immovable. "Go," she commanded, and returned to her embroidery. Knowing it was utterly futile to protest further, Snaga ascended the stairs to the tiny room where Sauron lived.

Her hand on the knob of the door, she paused. What was to keep her from turning around and running down the stairs, away from him? She could tell Galadwen that she had gone to see him - she could spare herself a serious fright -

"Come in, little Snaga," murmured his voice behind the door. "Your Lord commands it."

Snaga swore vividly under her breath, words that she learned from Shaglush more easily than the history of Mordor. "Yes, my lord," she said through gritted teeth, opening the door.

As always, Sauron's presence was very much alive in the room he kept to. Snaga winced as she walked into what seemed like a wall made of his vitality, not caring that he know how she felt about him. It wasn't as if he cared about how she regarded him. "Well, I'm here," she said tersely.

"I can see that," he replied. "Come closer, Snaga, so that I can see you better."

Snaga stepped forward into the room. "Better?"

"Much," he approved. "Snaga, you should start thinking about what you wish to do when you are my consort."

"And when would that ever be?" she snapped. "I know the arrangement you made with my mother - that when I was old enough, I would rule by your side." Snaga wanted to spit the taste of the words out of her mouth, but held the desire back. "But I have been old enough for a long time now, and you have not taken me." A faint smile touched the corners of her mouth as she added, "Am I not to your liking, My Lord?" She stopped, afraid she had gone too far, but glad she had said every word of it.

The next moment, Snaga was thrown against the wall, her head slamming hard into the stones. She gasped with the sudden pain, but Sauron's voice filled her head and blocked out her own cry. "Your privileges do not give you the right to cross me!" he roared at her. "Do so again and I promise you that you will suffer far worse than this!" For emphasis, he grabbed her shoulders and shoved her against the wall again. Snaga reached up a hand to touch the back of her head and found wetness. She was bleeding.

Sauron's invisible hands released her shoulders, and she fell to the floor. Her hands caught her weight, and her wrists screamed with the pain as they were forced to support her limp body. With an effort, Snaga shoved herself off the floor and onto her knees, folding her legs under her. Her tongue itched to snarl at Sauron, her hands to hurt him as much as he had hurt her - but she knew exactly how stupid that would be. She curled around herself, her hands gently rubbing her bleeding head, until she heard Sauron say, "Get out." She obeyed gladly, slamming the door behind her.

Her head throbbing, Snaga descended the stairs. Luckily Galadwen had left her room, so Snaga was able to slip through it and into her own. Once there, she picked up the end of her skirt, dipped it in a pitcher of water, and began very carefully to clean her head, wiping the spot where she was bleeding clean and working the red stains out of her golden hair.

The cloth scraped her head, and she let out an involuntary cry. The sound brought sudden hot tears to her eyes. Snaga dropped the wet skirt and cried, her head falling onto her arms. The tears burned their way down her face like fire, but she welcomed them. When she had no more tears left, she picked up her skirt again and went back to work, biting her lip between her teeth.

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