Galadwen seemed much put out as she stalked into Snaga’s room a few days later. Snaga only looked up once at her mother, briefly, and then went back to stabbing a needle into the hem of the dress that had been torn when Sauron threw her against the wall. “Look at me!” Galadwen commanded irritably, and Snaga put aside her needle and gave her a blank stare. “My Lord has commented that you are not obedient enough. He said you willfully disobeyed him when you went to see him last. He has told Shaglush to beat you every time you are not obedient.” Galadwen was smiling. No mother should smile when this sort of thing happens to her child! Snaga thought angrily. “Furthermore, he has told me that you do not wish to be his consort.” The smile was gone. Was this the reason Galadwen seemed angry? “It falls upon me, then, to teach you differently. I would have rather had a daughter who was not so stupid as to not grab at this chance, but I had you.” Snaga flinched at the bitterness in her mother’s voice.
“I have never told you of my past,” Galadwen said in a soft tone that Snaga knew meant nothing good for her. “Once you hear it, once you hear of the brutality of your ancestors, you will be glad of the power that My Lord is offering you.”
“Perhaps,” Snaga replied. “When Orcs fly,” she added under her breath.
Galadwen heard the addition, and she slapped Snaga hard before speaking. “When I was young, I lived in the woods of Lothlorien, the Elven realm. I was beautiful, Snaga. I am still beautiful, but much more so in those days. And I had a sister, Celebrian, who was almost as beautiful as I was.
“When Celebrian and I were young women, an Elf came to visit, Elrond of Rivendell. He was our age, and he was very handsome. We both fell in love with him.” Listening to her mother’s voice, looking at her face, Snaga found it easier to believe that Galadwen had loved a tree. Her face was hard as stone, her voice cold. “But he loved Celebrian. He loved her too well. She got inside his head and turned his thoughts against me. I went to him the night before he married her. I tried to tell him how I loved him, and alert him to what Celebrian was doing to him.” Galadwen’s voice grew impassioned. “He bore a Ring of Power, Snaga, given to him by a great Elven-king! He could have ruled all of Middle-earth with my help, but Celebrian’s influence had so clouded his mind that he did not even see this. He told me I was crazy, that he did not love me – but I know he was lying. He loved me at that moment, me, not my sister. He loved me!” Snaga flinched at the harsh tones of her mother’s voice. “Then he told my parents about my visit. But he said that I had tried to turn him from Celebrian to me. He told them nothing of my real reason for coming to him, of the future he could have had! Celebrian made him forget all that. Then my parents banished me from my home.” Galadwen’s eyes were glittering red. “They died fifty years later. That is your history, Snaga, your precious ancestors. Betrayers of their kin! They turned me out when I needed help most, they let me fend for myself.” She gripped her daughter’s chin so hard that Snaga cried out and pulled away. Galadwen gripped it again and stared into Snaga’s blue eyes. “Now are you grateful that you do not live among them?”
Snaga gave the only answer a smart person would give, confronted by those insane red eyes. “Yes,” she whispered, frightened.
Galadwen did not release her. “Good. Do not forget it.” She let her go, picked up the forgotten dress, and began mending it. “Shaglush is waiting for your lesson.” Shaking, Snaga backed out of the room.
My mother is crazy. That was the only explanation Snaga could give for Galadwen’s manner and tone while telling the story. And, wish as she might that she could believe her mother, Snaga knew that the story was twisted, maneuvered and shaped to the point where Galadwen could be happy with it. She wondered what had really happened. She wondered how her grandparents had died, and what had happened to her aunt and uncle. It was bizarre to think she had relatives outside Mordor.
She rounded a corner and froze in midstep. She was going to the parapet, where Galadwen had said Shaglush was waiting. Snaga swallowed a choke that rose in her throat whenever she thought of the Orc. After hearing Galadwen’s version of her story, Snaga wanted to be alone, to think it over. She remembered what Galadwen had said about Sauron – “He said you willfully disobeyed him” – but thinking of even Shaglush was preferable to thinking about Sauron. And besides, she thought mutinously, I am the heir of a noble line of Elves! Who is he to keep me from doing what I want to do? Only a fool would dream of saying it aloud to Sauron, but only a fool would not think it whenever they could. Snaga turned around and headed away from the parapet, down the stairs that would lead to the small extra room that no one used in Dol Guldur. It had a large window, and she liked to sit at the window and think.
But such freedom did not seem to want to be hers today. As she started walking down the stairs, Ghnakh came around the corner and bumped into her. They both froze in shock for an instant. Snaga recovered her wits first – she shoved Ghnakh aside and began running pell-mell down the stairs. Ghnakh, realizing belatedly what she was doing, turned around and began to chase her, yelling hoarsely, “Stop, slave!” Hearing his voice much closer than she wanted it to be, Snaga sped up – a hard thing to do in the curving, cramped staircases of Dol Guldur.
As she ran, she made lightning-fast calculations. She couldn’t go to her secret room now, not unless she wanted Ghnakh to discover it. She couldn’t, of course, keep running indefinitely, because although she had faith that she could surely outrun Ghnakh, she didn’t know how long she could keep going. The only alternative seemed to be to run until she found a room and slip inside without Ghnakh seeing her.
Of course, it wasn’t easy to run unnoticed through the whole tower with an irate Orc screaming “Stop!” behind her. Snaga gritted her teeth and increased her speed, leaving Ghnakh following behind and staring in shock at the vanishing Elf-girl. The speed was surprisingly easy to maintain, and Snaga found herself enjoying the swift run. She smiled into the wind whipping her hair back from her face.
A door loomed up on her right. Snaga slowed to a halt and gripped the handle. The door was very heavy. She leaned her weight against it and gave it a tug. It didn’t budge. She took it in both hands, dug her heels into the stone floor, and yanked it as hard as she could. It flew open with a bang, and the impact knocked Snaga to the floor. Her head slammed into the stones, and an involuntary cry of pain burst from her lips, but she forced herself to get up and go through the door. She couldn’t resist giving the door a hard kick as she passed it, which earned her satisfaction and a stubbed toe. Grimacing, Snaga hauled the door shut behind her and looked around at the room she’d come into.
It was an armory.
Pieces and suits of heavy Orc armor decorated the walls. Set in wooden stands were pikes and spears, and laid in cupboards, still sheathed, were swords. Daggers, arrows, and bows were piled in a corner. Snaga noticed that the weapons were not all of the crude Mordorian make – some were delicate, gleaming, carefully forged and well-used. Snaga guessed that the better weapons were for the Elf-fire that the Orcs enjoyed having every year. They would gather all the Elven possessions they had gotten over the year and burn them outside the tower. Snaga drew a finely-made dagger from its leather sheath and ran two fingers down the length of fine-tempered steel. It was a shame that the Orcs burned and destroyed such beautiful things.
Wait a moment…An idea began to blossom in Snaga’s mind. Why couldn’t she save some of these beautiful weapons and – and teach herself to use them? She walked quickly over to a cabinet with Elven swords and took one out of its sheath. It was far too heavy for her to be able to wield, and the point dropped heavily to the floor, but Snaga was smiling. It would take a long time to get strong enough to be able to do more than hold the hilt of the blade, but she could do it. Once she figured out how to permanently elude the detestable lessons with Shaglush, she would have all the time in the world.
Practice begins now. Snaga sheathed the sword and put it on the ground. It looked to be the lightest of all the blades in the cupboard, so she would take that one for her own. She walked over to a rack with only the heavy Mordorian spears and wrestled one free of the rack. She could barely hold the hunk of metal, but she gritted her teeth and forced her arms to straighten in the air while holding the spear five times. Sweat was coating her forehead by the time Snaga finished the fifth elevation. “Once I can do that easily,” she panted, replacing the spear, “I’ll move on to ten times.”
She leaned down from the waist and touched her toes with the opposite hands ten times each. That was easy – being an Elf, she was quite supple. Next, she unsheathed one of the longer daggers and practiced leaping back and forth, jabbing, feinting, and dodging, treating the dagger like a sword. Although she’d never held one before now, Snaga was sure that she was going about her fencing practice abysmally. I’ll just have to watch the Orcs training, she told herself. Now – back to work.
After she’d been sneaking away from Shaglush, Ghnakh, and Galadwen for a month,
Snaga knew she needed to find a better plan. She couldn’t go on evading them forever, and sooner or later they would follow her and discover her secret. Or, worst of all, Galadwen might find the sword and dagger that Snaga had hid under her mattress, the sword and dagger that she had selected as her own. She trained herself with heavier weapons, so the lighter ones would be that much easier to handle.
Suddenly the perfect plan leaped into her mind. “Of course!” Snaga cried aloud. “Why didn’t I think of it before?” It was perfect, neat, simple, and foolproof. All it required was…
The worst thing it could possibly require. An audience with Sauron.
It took Snaga a long time to talk herself out of her idea and then back into it, but finally she was climbing the stairs to the chamber where Sauron lived. Outside the door, she gritted her teeth, gripped the knob hard, and came quickly into the room. As always, the very existence of his presence smashed into her, and she stood by the door, recovering her breath.
“Little Snaga,” he said, his voice too kind. “What is it you have come for? Your mother tells me that it has been a long time since she spoke with you.”
“It has been a long time,” Snaga agreed, “but I wanted to ask a favor of you.”
The atmosphere in the room grew tenser. “What might that favor be?”
This was it. Snaga crossed her toes for luck and said, “My Lord, I’m not learning anything in the lessons my mother insists I have with Shaglush. If, instead of those, I could have the time to practice -” She took a deep breath. “- to practice ruling, I would be put to a much better use.”
Perhaps Sauron was so much of a deceiver himself that he couldn’t realize when someone was deceiving him. Perhaps he believed her. The words that came from his nonexistent mouth filled Snaga with joy and relief. “This seems quite reasonable,” he said. “Your request is granted. The lessons are canceled.”
Snaga bowed in relief and backed out of the room. She didn’t dare to collapse against the wall and gasp until she was in her own room, but once she was there, she did.
Then she pulled the dagger from under her mattress. As long as it and she were both here and she had permission from Sauron, she might as well keep working. Snaga allowed herself to smile.