It was late evening, and night was falling on the slopes of Ephel Dúath*. Above all was darkness, but in the west the accursed sun gleamed one last time upon the walls of Dushgoi** before disappearing behind the mountains. If Gothmog had had a nose, he would have wrinkled it in disgust. As it was, he could not because of the disease that made the left part of his head swell up. Instead he only narrowed his good right eye and shielded it from the burning rays. If this had been an ordinary day, he probably would have been drinking with the other commanders down in the caverns below the main tower. However, this was no ordinary day.

He growled with frustration and turned away from the wall. He walked down the stairs of the wall as fast as he could, into one of the houses and down the stairs to the cellar below. An old, perhaps even ancient Orc female with thin white hair sat on a chair leaning against the wall, guarding the door before him. She looked like she was sleeping at first, but as Gothmog came closer she opened one eye and spoke.

“Whaddya want?”

“Aren’t they finished yet?”

“No. Get back up.”

“But they’ve been in there for an eternity! Let me in!”

She opened her other eye and growled. “You know it as well as everyone else! You’ve got nothin’ to do in there before it’s out! Now get away! It’s not gonna happen quicker because you stand here.”



Gothmog growled menacingly towards her, baring his yellow fangs. But he knew the old hagling was right. He had nothing to do in there. He backed a few paces and leaned against the wall. Then the suddenly painful silence was broken by a hoarse moan, immediately followed by a loud and protesting shriek. The old hagling smiled at the sound, and then cackled when she saw the happy look upon the great Uruk’s face.

The hagling almost fell off the chair when the door to the chamber was opened and another old Orc female peered out. She poked a gnarled finger in Gothmog’s direction and signed for him to come closer. As he did so she flung the door open and held out a black bundle towards him.

At first he didn’t really know what to do. It was very seldom Orc fathers got to see their cubs when they were newly born. Most times they only got to know if the cub was healthy and if it was male or female. The only thing males could decide about in these matters was its name. And that only if the cub was male. The cub knew who its father was, but the father seldom knew the child. Gothmog knew of many warriors who had unknowingly had command over their cubs in battle, and the cubs didn’t tell them the truth until they finally lay dying upon the battlefield.

The bundle began to move, and a small whimper of protest over being held out in the cold came from it. The haggling walked over to him and pushed the cub into his arms. He slowly unfolded the black cloth and gazed down into the little face that became unveiled.

Huge red eyes, almost too huge for its face, looked curiously up on his distorted face. Eyes not very unlike his own. The skin was similar as well. ‘So small,’ he thought. ‘So very, very small and fragile.’

The old Orc female watched the Uruk examine the cub. She was watchful; she knew very well why so few males were allowed to see their children. Many Orc males didn’t have that family-sense that was common among the females, and they were so rough and brutal they might kill the small cubs. They might see the cubs as rivals, or even – food.

Gothmog lifted a finger and poked its cheek. Then he stroked the finger down between the cub’s eyes, over the small pointed nose and down the chin. The cub followed his finger with its eyes, and when he moved the finger up across its cheek again its suckling reflex began to work. The cub turned its head and bit down upon his finger. He gave a loud grunt when the small but sharp fangs stung into the skin. The Orc female cackled.

“He’s a big boy, ain’t he? Already got fangs and all. Thought of any name yet?”

Gothmog nodded slowly while the little Orcling continued to suckle and chew on his fingertip. He pulled his finger out of the Orclings strong grip and lifted the small being into the air. The cub got interested in its own fists instead and put one into its mouth while all the time keeping its eyes upon its father.

“Erishnak,” he growled. “Erishnak.”

* Ephel Dúath – the Mountains of Shadow on the western borders of Mordor.
** Dusgoi – the Black Speech name for Minas Morgul.

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