The Dragon and the Fox

by Varda

Chapter 54: Lieutenant of Sauron

Although they were so many and he only one, the Orcs hesitated to attack Marfach. They held their long black pikes out in front of them as if to ward him off and glanced nervously at each other. None of them wanted to be the first to attack this tall warrior with the red braids and the bright sword of Gondor glinting in the cold sunlight.

Marfach swept their ranks with his keen grey eyes and looked beyond, down the ruined street of the once beautiful city of Osgiliath to where the Anduin shone in the pure morning light. Its surface was defiled by a host of dark craft, ferrying Sauron’s army of invasion across the river to attack Minas Tirith. Orcs, clad in black armour and carrying blades and spears and axes, swarmed up the rubble-strewn streets.

‘Even so…’ thought Marfach. ‘Lord Sauron, you seek to make the world anew, in your own image….’

But just then a breeze, carrying the scent of the pines and myrtles of distant Ithilien, blew from the South. Marfach felt his spirit lift. In the wind he thought he heard voices. It was Aragorn, giving him pardon…or was it Boromir, saying to him;
‘Look after my brother Faramir….’

Marfach thought to himself ‘I have kept my promises at least…..

Then he raised the Ranger’s sword and smiled at the orcs as if sharing some secret. They gripped their pikes uncertainly and in that moment of hesitation Marfach rushed forward and knocked aside the spearheads and ran between the shafts to fall on the enemy like a wild animal.

The orcs, closely packed and not expecting their quarry to charge, impeded each other in their attempts to strike Marfach. He thrust his sword through the orc in front of him and rammed the spiked boss of his shield into the visor of the next. As the orcs in front fumbled to draw their swords and those behind hastily lowered their pikes Marfach slew a third, struck off another’s hand still grasping its scimitar and slashed his blade across the face of a great black-armoured orc as it thrust its spear at his chest.

But Marfach could not long maintain the unequal fight; these orcs of Mordor had ravaged the lands of Ithilien on their way to Osgiliath and were well trained and bold and full of fight. When they recovered from their initial panic they spread out to give each other more room and lowered their long wicked pikes and began to drive Marfach back against the wall. Again and again he parried their spears or sheared the heads off the shafts but at last one caught him on the elbow and another snagged his ancient Numenorean chain mail and he stepped back and lost his footing on the body of an orc he had slain and fell under his enemy’s spears.

Even on the ground Marfach fought back and made any daring enough to come within range of his sword pay with blood but a great orc with an axe finally broke the blade of the sword Marfach had taken from the dead Ranger Ciall and another trapped his round black buckler under a mailed foot. Marfach looked up past the ring of attackers at the sky, so endlessly, peacefully blue, and waited for the end…..

‘Alive! I want him alive!’ a voice bellowed from far beyond the battle. A spear was darted in and scored Marfach’s ribs but it was the last blow; the orcs fell back muttering angrily at being deprived of their kill.

‘Get back, you slime-born maggots!’ the voice came again. Marfach put his good hand on the wound to staunch the blood and tried to see through the milling throng of orcs around him. They parted, and a broad, commanding figure, bearing itself arrogantly and more like a human warrior than an orc, pushed through the crowd. It was clad in black leaf-mail and had a mantle of wolf fur and in its hand was a short stabbing spear. It had a hairless, misshapen skull and a deformed face but under the heavy brow one eye was piercing black and one bluish-white, blinded by a sword cut. Enough features remained for it to show satisfaction when it smiled down at Marfach lying helpless in the dust. Then the smile vanished abruptly and it barked at his followers;

‘Don’t touch him! You stupid scum, don’t you know he is one of ours?’

The orcs muttered angrily and drew back, but still eyed Marfach suspiciously. Gothmog, however, stepped over to Marfach and held out a deformed hand to him.
‘Marfach, greatest of Sauron’s captains! How came you here, and what impudent champion of the West bit off your hand?’

Marfach stared up at him in horror. Gothmog saw the look and cackled with laughter.
‘Give me your hand, Cróga. Thought you would go back to your people, did you? Fight for the last remnant of the Numenoreans? You are a fool! No-one ever deserts Sauron….’

His mind in turmoil, Marfach could think only that he knew the voice. Memory stirred from ages past; it was one of the Company of Melian, one of his beloved brotherhood of warrior Elves. No matter how defiled, how twisted, it was the voice of Fíréann, the Just. ….he tried to scramble backwards, away from it. He remembered his dagger and groping in his belt whipped it out and held it between him and Gothmog.

The orcs roared in anger, as if justified, and rushed on Marfach, pinning his hand down and knocking away the blade. But before they could kill him Gothmog called. ‘Enough!’ and they fell back muttering. Then their fell captain walked slowly over to Marfach and gazed down at him for a long time. Smoke from the burning city drifted across the blue sky and away to the West came the sound of the orcs hunting down and slaying the last of Faramir’s garrison.

‘Did you think to escape into death, Cróga?’ said Gothmog quietly, almost wistfully. He shook his head, and Marfach saw his blind and half-closed eye leaked tears. He whispered so only the Elf could hear;
‘When you slew all our comrades but left me for Sauron, you condemned me to this estate...' he held out a twisted claw of a hand.

'Now you will share it with me. Let me help you up, Marfach, Lieutenant of Sauron...'