As the sun rose free from its cloudy prison, the quiet of the early dawn broke with the harsh thump of many an armoured boot. Relentlessly they struck the ground, advancing with remarkable speed across the treeless plain, destroying the lush green grass beneath their feet. Such was the course of this travelling party of Uruk-Hai, and orcs.
The unwelcome sunlight burned the face of Harsnat as sweat trickled down his muscular neck. His back ached with the added weight of one of their captives whom he had carried for the past two days.
“Are we going to Isengard?” asked the halfling from his back.
Harsnat grunted, confirming his baggage’s guess, then added a low growl, hinting for him to say no more. Isengard, he seethed angrily, those were not his orders. If the Uruk’s number had been less, Harsnat would have gladly made short work of them and he would now be racing toward Mordor.
He cursed the wretched sun as he kept pace with the Uruks and sneered as he saw the smaller orcs of Moria tire. Useless, pathetic; he would have their heads before this task ended. The sun strengthened its glare, disrupting his thoughts and burning his skin with new malice. Not that he cared much, it was just a slight discomfort. He had travelled in daylight for centuries and had grown used to the pain.
Letting his mind wander as he slowly spent his great reserve of energy, he recollected the events of the day he and his fellow orcs , and part orcs in the Uruks’ case, had captured the halflings. His thirst for blood had reached an unbearable point, and he would have been satisfied with sweet man blood had it not been for the orcs of Moria. Idiots, good for nothing except hiding in their cavern home. They had gotten in his way, fumbling with their arrows and knives; he slew them and devoured them all. He also came close to tasting man flesh, but that elf had interfered. He would have been dead with one stroke of Harsnat’s blade, but he held back. There had been something in the elf’s blue eyes, something familiar, something that stirred a deeply hidden memory. Thus he had retreated, leaving the elf on his knees, when he could have so easily delivered a killing blow.
“What’s this? Harsnat daydreaming? Of what? Pretty flowers and happy birds?” jeered one of the smaller orcs who had caught up with him, breaking into his thoughts.
“Do you want to keep your head?” he growled.
He had seen him in battle, scared witless by a halfling with a blade. His head was of no use to him, it contained no devious plot nor did it have anything else that might be useful. He would fare better off without it, Harsnat thought with an evil grin. A blood lust seized him, and without waiting for the other to answer his question, cleanly cut off his head with a lightning stroke of his blade. His black lips curled into a grin of satisfaction as he watched the insubordinate orc’s limp body fall to the ground. The company moved on, unheeding and uncaring of the loss of one of their number.
By nightfall they stopped, unable to keep such an inhuman pace for so long without food or drink. Though Harsnat would never admit to it, he felt grateful for the rest.
As soon as they stopped, the Uruk-Hai captain sent a team of orcs for wood from the nearby forest. Harsnat, about to heave himself up from the ground and assist those in the wood, knowing that they would most likely not be able to do their task properly, heard a rustling sound from the trees. He strained his ears, each muscle in his body tensing for any sign of an ambush. A sound very much like moaning came to him, and it took him a moment or so to realize that it came from the trees. He glanced about him with unease. Never had he felt remorse at any of the bloody murders he had committed, never had his soul been touched by pity for another life, until now.
Harsnat lay down on the soft grass to ease his troubled mind. Unwittingly, he fell into a deep sleep, filled with dreams as vivid as reality. He was among trees again, but this time, he felt no pain. He noticed a peculiar emotion he had not felt for as long as he could remember, it bubbled inside of him and calmed him. The strangest thing was that he enjoyed it. Finally, he came up with a word to describe this sensation, joy. For the first time he looked down at his hands. They were no longer blood stained and ashen grey, but pale peach with slight sword calluses. He touched his face and where it had been coarse, his hand now ran along smooth skin. Next he examined his ears and found them soft and elegantly tipped.
Once he had marvelled at the changes he had undergone, he noticed a path before him. Having nothing better to do, he started down the path. It was surrounded by trees on either side, each trying to outgrow the other. The sun high over-head did not burn his skin, but highlighted the drops of rain clinging to the leaves. He breathed in the fresh scent of the forest with clean lungs, lungs that had never breathed the foul smoke rising from the Barad-dur. The ever burning bloodlust and hate within him ebbed away. Though he felt tired, he was at peace.
The path opened onto a collection of rather large trees with dwellings built around them in elven fashion. The clearing before him was filled with elves, who greeted him with a smile or a few kind words as he passed through them. His mind hesitated, but before he could control himself, he was replying and smiling back. His feet guided him toward the largest tree, which appeared to have a castle-like platform built around and in harmony with the tree.
As he drew near, he noticed a young elf, barely four years old, playing with a pretend bow and arrow. The child’s hair was silvery-blonde in colour and he had big innocent blue eyes. Harsnat instantly filled with love for this child and felt as though he had known him for all of the young one’s life. When he was some distance away, the elf-child looked up and his eyes sparkled as he caught sight of Harsnat. He ran into his arms and cried “Muindor!” with delight. He scooped up the child and gently placed him on his shoulders, asking him, “Man agorach Legolas?” Together the duo made their way towards the castle with the young one explaining in detail what he had done that day. Just as they were about to step through the doorway leading up to the platform, a sudden darkness covered the world.
When it had cleared, the elf-child was no longer on his shoulders and the field in front of him had emptied of the joy it had contained only moments before. The once lively green grass was now stained with blood as Black Númenorean man met Greenwood elf in a struggle for life. About him weapons clashed and drew blood as he stood, unable to move. He broke from his trance-like state when he heard the defiant shout of a young voice. He whipped around in time to see his kid brother, who had only moments before been on his shoulders, in the midst of a group of jeering evil men. Fear gripped his heart as one prepared to sink a dagger deep into the child prince’s shoulder, bursting his limbs into motion. He knew the blade that the evil man held. He also knew that he would not be able draw sword in time to stop the morgul blade’s descent upon the elf-child, held taught by two other men. Defiance and honour could be perceived in the young one’s eyes, masking his fear. Harsnat found the hilt of his own dagger and without a moment’s pause, threw it at the man about to torture his baby brother.
Fury erupted within him as he leapt at the men, covering the distance between them with ease. He swiftly cut down the ones holding Legolas and turned to him for a split second, making sure he was unharmed and fixed him with a commanding gaze, “Noro Legolas!” Legolas nodded, his previous mask falling away, revealing the terror in his young eyes, then did as he was told and ran as fast as his short legs could carry him, while his brother, having saved his life, fought for his own.
Harsnat swung his elven blade from side to side, slaying a man with each stroke. He paused for a moment to ensure that Legolas had reached the cover of the forest safely. With relief, his keen elven eyes saw their mother take him into her arms and run further into the trees. As he was about to turn back to the battle, pain exploded in his side, forcing him to his knees. He immediately felt the chill of the morgul blade freeze the blood in his veins. A man appeared in front of him, with a sneer on his twisted face and Harsnat’s dagger protruding from his chest. With his last reserve of strength he rose and lashed out with his blade, felling five men to no avail. More came and pinned him to the ground, wresting his blade from him and binding his hands. Anger welled inside of him as he resisted the tug of the rope around his wrists. He soon learned the price of his one-man rebellion as a whip cracked across his back. He bit his lip, stifling any cry that may have escaped him otherwise. Though he was tied and dragged along, he remained on his feet, keeping his dignity while fury burned in his eyes. As they passed through the bloodied field, his heart wrenched every time he saw a fallen elf. Many he knew.
Most of the men suddenly fell back, having taken many an elf prisoner, and hastened away with their captives. Before he could be ushered out of the field, he stopped dead in his tracks, horror engulfing him. On the other side of the field stood his love, fighting an impossible battle against ten men. Their eyes met and she mouthed the words I love you, just as a dagger slashed across her throat. He leapt forward, gaining new strength, but could do nothing. He felt the evil twinge of the whip on his back, but he no longer cared. Her limp body fell to the ground, lifeless. Hate and pain consumed him until he knew no else, he had no desire to live, only to slay these evil things, they did not deserve to be called men. Then darkness fell again, dulling his keen elven senses.
This time, when the veil lifted, he only knew it through his returning senses. He was suspended between four wooden poles, sprawling a metre above the ground facing upwards. The only way he could tell up from down was the tiny speck of light far above him. His side still burned with the stab wound and the ice still pulsed in his veins. Suddenly, he heard the sound of squeaking pulleys and felt the ropes tighten around his wrists and ankles. As a bed of knives cut into his back, he learned exactly what the source of that sound was. Were they only knives, he could have stood the pain, but they were tainted with the malice of Morgoth.
Upon the penetration of his skin, not only did his back burn, but so did the very blood within his veins. The burning spread like wildfire until it reached his chest and intensified to an unbearable flame; it had found his soul. He writhed in anguish as it threatened to consume him. Being unable to bear any more, and with all dignity forgotten, he screamed. His tormented screams echoed around the chamber, filling it with all the grief and pain his soul went through. The louder they became, the worse the burning became. By all rights death should have claimed him and freed him of this torment, but no, hate, anger, despair and pain were pumped into him, etching themselves into his soul. Then, finally, the soothing darkness and blissful dulling of his senses came once again and enveloped him in a comfortable cold, soothing his burning soul. When it had lifted he awoke, staring at the inky sky above the borders of Fangorn Forest.
He was grateful for the slight hate, pain and anger burning as always inside of him. He could stand it, unlike the torture of his dream. His dreams. He recalled them all, never had he dreamt a more life-like dream. They were so powerful that he could even feel the emotions now, the love, the hate, the joy, the pain. He then remembered the eyes of the elf-child, full of fear, yet unyielding as the morgul blade descended. Those eyes, so familiar, he had seen them before. He thought for a minute, all his will bent on finding the solution to this perplexing riddle. Then it came to him. The elf! He realized with a jolt, the elf he could not bring himself to kill. Though they had matured and had lost their fear, they did not loose their resolve. But if the child was real, though now grown, then that could only mean that his dreams must be real as well, some lost memories, before his service to Morgoth and now Sauron. He was not an orc, but an elf, tortured into what he had become, forced to forget what he once was, and shaped into a servant of evil, filled with hate.
This realization caught him off guard. Though the absurdity of the whole situation came to him, he could not deny the flood of memories returning, of his parents, of his home, of his brother, of his love. His love. A new kind of pain filled his soul as he remembered her terrible end, an end she did not deserve. He remembered they way she had felt in his arms, so strong, yet so vulnerable. Emptiness filled him as he ached for her.
At that moment, having retained his memories, his soul freed itself of the evil that had been entwined with it and came into full control of his mind and now scarred body. Though his appearance did not change, he ceased to be Harsnat the orc, and became once again Hundil, prince of Mirkwood. He now loathed what he had become, but knew enough to forgive himself. He had turned back to his former self on the inside, but could not free himself of the slight burning, remnant of his torture, that bound him to his physical body. He ached inside, and wished for nothing but death to soothe him.
A sword wedged itself into the ground near him, drawing him back to his current situation. He saw that a fight had started among his companions and that the two halflings were doing their all to escape. An orc noticed and started after them. Hundil saw his chance to do some good in this world and drew his bow from his back. With two swift arrows, he brought the orc down. He hurried over to the halflings and before they had time to attack him, he quickly cut their bonds.
He then heard the horn of the Rohirrim, and remembered the horrors the Uruk-Hai, orcs and wild men had put these people through. His blood boiled and he slew every orc that stood in his path. He took no pleasure from it, but did it as a duty, for if he didn’t, there’d be more to add to the great army preparing to end the world of men. He saved the life of more than one man, receiving looks of puzzlement as they stared in awe at what they thought was an orc fighting against its kin. Thus he fought, just as he had so long ago, with elven speed and grace.
But even as an elf, he could only do so much and only fight for so long. As he turned to lash out at another orc, a long spear plunged into his chest. He staggered back and collapsed by the first trees marking the beginning of the forest. He felt the pain for what it was, a fatal blow. With his remaining strength he drew the spear from his chest and hurled it, pinning a nearby orc. He noticed with great satisfaction that his blood was no longer the oily black of an orc, but the deep red of an elf. He felt no fear knowing that he would soon die. He would be reunited with his love at last. What he did feel though, was slight regret, at having missed the opportunity to watch his brother grow up, the one for which he had suffered so. But perhaps it was best this way, he now knew that Legolas lived and had seen what his little brother had become. The affairs of this world would no longer trouble Hundil.
As the red sun rose, Hundil breathed his last breath, his last thought wishing his brother all the happiness this world could bring. The first rays of light touched the twisted body in the shape of an orc, and transformed it inch by inch, into that of an elf. The elf possessed all the beauty his kind was renown for and were it not for the stillness of his chest one would assume him to be asleep. And thus he stayed, his body asleep for the rest of the ages of the world, and his soul filled with joy once more.