This is Middle-earth.
It is a wide and varied place, full of interesting people and fantastic creatures. But, as is the case with such places, there is a black spot. This black spot has a name.
This is Mordor.
It is a vast and desolate land of ash plains between mountain ranges. It never rains there. There is thunder and lightning of course, because a Dark Lord lives there, and it is Simply Done for a Dark Lord to have Ominous Thunder And Lightning in His Domain. But it never rains.
There are three ways into Mordor from the Civilized World, more commonly known to one and all as The West. The first is where the two separate mountain ranges just barely fail to meet, creating a gap of just about two hundred miles.
The West has failed to utilize this gaping hole in Mordor’s wall for two reasons. The first is that it happens to be almost five hundred miles away. The second is that there are hostile natives all the way to said gap, and then hostile natives inside said gap, and the blood-pumping organ of Mordor, the Dark And Evil Fortress where the Dark Lord makes Evil Plans, is three hundred miles due west over a barren and dusty plain. That is filled with hostile natives. Bearing objects sharp and pointy enough to take someone’s eye out.
The second way into Mordor is a pass where the western mountains are slightly lower than everywhere else. The West has failed to utilize this gap for three reasons. The first is that there are two city-fortresses that The West itself built, and are now manned by The Dark Lord’s Evil Minions (we shall call them ‘orcs’). The second is that there is a great big man-eating spider waiting in the upper reaches of the pass. The third is that apparently there are things in the pass’s valley that will make a man lose control of his bodily functions and the water from the valley’s river makes them go insane.
The third and final way into Mordor is the second (and behind it the third) gap between the two mountain ranges. The land between the second and third gaps is called Udûn. In the High Elven tongue this means ‘hell’.
The Elves got it right in one.
The whole space between the gaps is one gigantic bowl, and the scum at the bottom won’t come off with just some dish soap and elbow grease.
In fact, bowl is the wrong word entirely to describe Udûn. More suitable words that come to mind are pit, abyss, a great sodding hole in the ground, and of course, Hell. The latter of course only applies if one subscribes to a religion that says that the nasty people go to a great big black pit when they die. [1]
Now, one would think that, with The West being the mortal enemies of Mordor and having thrown out the other two ways in as options, they would have capitalized on this entrance. And after all why not? It is nearby, close to the pulse of the Dark Lord’s Evil Operations, and it has a road leading neatly from the biggest city of the mightiest Kingdom of The West into it. And yet they have not capitalized on this entrance.
One would begin to think that The West is led by idiots, and it’s a wonder that Mordor hasn’t just overrun them all. But they have an excuse. The reason they haven’t capitalized on Udûn is, as one Western General put it, ‘because there’s a sodding great wall in the way and I’ll be damned if I’m leading a charge at that thing.’
This is the Morannon.
Again, this is a High Elven name. The Dark Lord thought of a more suitable name for it, one that reflects the poetic, creative, and subtly gothic nature of His nomenclature. He named it The Black Gate.
Picture a black iron wall that stretches between two steep, rocky slopes. Now picture that it is thirty feet high. Now picture that two rocky spurs jut out from either side of the gate, and that atop the ends of those two spurs stand two black iron towers. Finally, picture that small, stunted, smelly and somewhat perverse black creatures swarm around everything. The wall-gate, the towers, the spurs, the slopes, the flat dusty areas in between are all positively buzzing with the movements of orcs.
This is the Morannon, which is the Black Gate of Mordor.
And it is about to have a new arrival.
He has a name.
It is Morsnak.

* * * *

Morsnak was, of course, an orc. No self-respecting Westerner would burden their child with a name like that. [2]
For an orc, however, Morsnak was a decent sort. He paid his taxes to the Dark Lord, was kind to the thralls that worked his father’s lands, and gave moderate sums to beggars in the streets. He had four baths a year, and combed his black, lanky hair into a ponytail to present a semblance of neatness. His clothes were always fairly clean and had a minimum amount of holes.
Because of all that, his father was ashamed of him. He was known to drink for days at a time after Morsnak took his quarterly bath. In public, he pretended not to be related to his son.
Now, here is where the story truly starts. In the local pub, on a cold winter night, with the only sounds outside being the moaning of wind and of thralls in the fields. Morsnak’s father swirled an unidentifiable brown substance in the bottom of his glass. Staring disdainfully at it, he placed it on the filthy bar top with unusual care. For an orc, at any rate. A Westerner probably would have considered cracking the bottom of the glass to be a bit rough.
Old ‘Anal’ Pirshak, the barkeep of twenty years, sidled over to Mr. Morsnak. He was cleaning one of the mugs with a filthy rag. When he wasn’t mixing drinks, he could usually be found cleaning glasses, earning him the name ‘Anal’. But as of yet, no orc had ever been served with a clean glass, so the general consensus was that he threw away the ones he cleaned.
In a rough tone, a bit like sandpaper, he addressed Mr. Morsnak, “Wossa matter wit yer drink? Is somethin’ wrong wit it?” His tone suggested that he was daring Mr. Morsnak to say that something was, indeed, wrong with the painstakingly prepared drink that was giving off a lovely aroma of rotten eggs.
“Nah,” Mr. Morsnak spat on the floor, “It’s disgusting as usual Anal.”
Anal Pirshak beamed. “Why the long face though?”
Mr. Morsnak, who in fact had a very long and horse-like face, frowned at Anal Pirshak, who cowered.
“I only meant it metaphorically.”
Mr. Morsnak sighed deeply, as people do before launching into a long ‘woe-is-me’ speech, “It’s that no good son-o’-mine. He’s trying to get me to pay the thralls! I mean bloody hell,” he twisted his face into an even more grotesque shape, “They’re thralls ain’t they? Its slave labor, meaning they don’t get paid for workin’!”
“Always said yer son was a bit of a git,” said Anal Pirshak supportively.
Mr. Morsnak glared, and said softly, “I hope you ain’t tryin’ to. . . wossname. . . im-somthin’. . .”
“Impugn,” added Anal Pirshak helpfully.
“Dat’s der bunny!” said Mr. Morsnak happily, then lowered his voice back into the low, dangerous tone he had been using before, “I hope you ain’t tryin’ to impugn on my family, Anal. You know I’m a big man ’round here. . .”
“And if yer din’t like my homebrew I’d’ve been dead, D-E-D dead before I could blink,” recited Anal Pirshak in a bored voice.
“And don you forget it!” slurred Mr. Morsnak; the after-effects of said homebrew were starting to kick in. After a moment he seemed to remember what they had been discussing. “I dunno what I’m gonna do about that git.”
“You could bump him off?”
Mr. Morsnak shook his head, “Nah, people frown on patriarchs doin’ that sort o’ thing in this town. I’d arsk the wife to eat him, but fer some reason she loves the little bugger. I dun get it.”
“Yer could send him off ter the army.”
Mr. Morsnak rubbed the greasy stubble on his elongated chin, “Ye might be onta somethin’ there Anal, but they’d reject him, on account of him bein’ a worthless pansy. I dun think that he’s ever even held a knife properly.”
Anal Pirshak contorted his face into an expression that could show disgust or thinking, or disgust at the prospect of thinking. After a moment, he grinned, revealing rotten teeth. Those that weren’t missing that is. He made small shuffling motions and jabbed his index finger into the air repeatedly. Mr. Morsnak watched him curiously for a while. Eventually, Anal Pirshak realized that Mr. Morsnak wasn’t going to ask him what was going on, and in a slightly disappointed tone said,
“You know what they do with orcs that don’t make it as soldiers, don’t yer?”
Mr. Morsnak was one of those orcs that knew very little about anything, but was too proud to admit it, so he set off into the dark recesses of his mind to find an answer. After some minutes, he found one.
“Er, throw ’em off the Morgai for a lark?”
“Um, no.”
Mr. Morsnak turned sort of a grayish-purple, which was as close as he could get to blushing, given his skin tone. “Oh,” he said, “Then what do they do wit ’em?”
Anal Pirshak beamed with pride at knowing something that Mr. Morsnak did not, “They makes ’em Watchmen.”
“I always thought tha’ species transition was impossible.”
“Garn. It’s jus’ a figure of speech. They jus’ give ’em a badge an’ tell ’em ‘Guard this thingy, Come-What-May. Mebbe we’ll give yer a medal later.”
Mr. Morsnak stroked his chin, hoping to look as though he was deep in thought. He looked at his glass, slowly leaking the molasses-like substance onto the counter. He looked up, “D’they get paid, Watchmen?”
Anal Pirshak nodded, “Yep, almost as much as soldiers. They don’t do much neither. Mostly they jus’ ring there bell and shout ‘All’s Well’ every hour.”
“I dunno, that whole bell-ringin’ thing might prove to be a bit much for Morsnak. He ain’t right in the head, y’know.”
“Nar, that’s where they put all the rejects. He’ll fit in all right.”
“Yeah, might do.” Mr. Morsnak traced a pattern on the bar top with his finger. He jerked up, “Hey! How come we never see no Watchmen ’round here?”
Anal Pirshak looked around wildly: this was unfamiliar territory. “Er,” he cast around for a reason, “Er, it’s on account of us bein’ so far away from the. . . er,” he paused, “Wossat called? It’s an organ of some sort, I know that.”
“Thass only in books, I thought.”
“Nah, s’ on the intestines. Liver?”
“Tha’ can’t be it.”
“Thass it! On account of us bein’ so far away from the Spleen of It All. They don’ need Watchmen ’round here. Nothin’ worth guardin’, see?”
“I think so. That settles it!” Mr. Morsnak tried to bring his hand down on the bar top in a decisive slap, but missed and fell off his stool. He shouted from the floor, “I’m sendin’ that little bugger to the Watch!”
Outside, the thralls labored on.
[1] So of course the orcs did not name Udûn, because they, in fact, rather enjoy slithering around in the kind of darkness that one only finds at the bottom of a really big pit. They believe that when a particularly nasty and evil (read: a rather decent sort if they could stop clubbing people for no reason) orc dies, they go to a clean white room where nicely dressed people politely offer them cucumber sandwiches and make small talk about the weather for eternity.

[2] Morsnak is either the Orcish version of ‘Maurice’ or ‘Prophet of the Ending of Time’. Sources vary.

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