The Dragon and the Fox
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
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
‘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
‘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
‘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...'