The Fell Courtiers of Shadow

There once was a hole, deep under the mountains of Mordor.  This hole was like many holes found near the domain of the fell Necromancer, and quite unlike the comfortable hobbit holes of the shire.  This hole was dank, dirty, and wet and had the foulest of smells from the fell corruption that was sired within.

Within this hole toiled a great many orcs.  Most were small and broken backed, deemed not very useful by their larger and more powerful kin.  The orcs that worked within the dank and dour holes of Mordor were the weak ones whose only use was to dig at the rock and fetch the black iron that would give blade and helmet and shield to the bigger warriors that would raid the dominion of elf and man and dwarf.

Among these wretches that never saw the light of day was one whose tale was a bit brighter than his unfortunate fellows.  He had no name, like many that toiled the mines, and so only went by the name Snaga, which meant Slave in the dark tongue.

Snaga was a crafty fellow, and what he lacked for in stature and strength he made up for with a cunning mind and murderous intent.  Snaga’s cunning often carried into his speech, and it was this that angered the larger orcs in the mines.  It was often said that Snaga was too smart for his own good.

The overseer of the filthy mining hole where Snaga spent most of his life was Gobad.  Gobad was an old brute, almost as tall as a man was, and bald with blue crusted scales covering his body.  It was said that the scales were a foul elven disease that had befallen the orc during his time as a raider, but it seemed to have no ill effects other than to itch maddeningly and put Gobad into a fouler temper than normal, if you can believe that.

Gobad hated Snaga, and would kick or punch or slap the smaller orc whenever he could, which was many times a day.  He would line up the orcs he detested the most and send them on duties that were meant to kill them.  That Snaga continued to live after being sent on dozens of murderous quests infuriated Gobad to his wits end (which for an orc was not very far truth be told).

“Snaga!  You miserable worm!”  Gobad would bellow through the tunnels.  “Get your lazy carcass to the kennels and feed the beasts!”  And so Snaga would take himself to the kennels where the wargs were kept and manage to feed them without becoming their dinner as well.

“Snaga!  You wretched villain!  Climb to the top of the fetid shaft and bring me back a nugget of the blackest iron!”  And so Snaga would scurry up the steep mining shaft past the corpses of dozens of orcs that had fallen the treacherous climb and procured a choice nugget of the black iron for Gobad.

“Snaga!  You blasted thief of joy, the Master’s shaman has lost his pit viper.  Find it and return it to him, and if you get bitten don’t come back at all!”  And so Snaga would creep about the dark tunnels and wet caverns until he found the pit viper and managed to corner it and trap it before returning it to the shamans.

Day after day of dangerous tasks, and Snaga thwarted the reaper’s toll every time by his quick wits.  Gobad began to realize that if he wanted himself rid of the Snaga that he would have to take matters into his own hands.

“Snaga!  You champion of filth, fetch the Master tonight’s stew and don’t be making him wait too long ‘ere else you’ll be feeling the back of me hand!”  Gobad screamed down the tunnel.   Snaga did as he was told, and went to the kitchens where he expected to find the night’s stew waiting for him to slop into a wooden bowl.

The kitchens were empty.  The fires had died down and there was no stew waiting for Snaga that evening.  A shadow crept over him from behind, and turning quickly Snaga saw Gobad standing in the doorway blocking out the light of the tunnels with his frame and holding a pitted hooked sword in his meaty hand.

“Don’t look so surprised feeble worm.  You had to know your days on this world were soon to be over, and this time it will be me that punches your ticket.”  Gobad said, lumbering toward the smaller orc.

The hooked sword arced overhead, but Snaga was possessed of a speed befitting his small stature, and the heavy iron implement smashed into the wooden table behind where the orc was standing.  The blade was embedded, and Gobad struggled to free it.  Snaga crept behind the larger orc and produced a small blade.

Gobad wrenched the blade free of the table with a growl and turned to face Snaga.  The smaller orc threw the blade, and Gobad parried it with his bigger sword.  The dagger scratched the flesh of his meaty hand, drawing a thin stream of blood.  Gobad looked down at the hand and chuckled.

“You think you are a warrior now Snaga?  You larder of garbage.  You wouldn’t last five minutes out in the wild before the elves filled you full of arrows.  I’m going to gut you with that little knife of yours, that’s what I’m going to do!”  Gobad charged and drove his shoulder into Snaga, driving the orc back and over a cutlery table.

Gobad’s grin got wider as he stalked over to the fallen Snaga, kicking him with the toe of his iron boot.  “Come warrior, show me that you are the one to march with the Master’s warriors and raid the men and the elves and the dwarves!”  Gobad laughed as he lunged forward to drive the point of his wicked blade into Snaga’s chest.

Snaga kicked out and crunched the side of Gobad’s knee.  The larger orc gave a yelp and crashed to the ground, while Snaga rolled away as fast as grease.  Gobad used the sword to help him stand back to his feet, and coughed.

“You wretch!  You canker on my arse!  I’ll have your head on a pole I will!”  Gobad screamed, coughing again.  He lunged forward once more, but found that his strength was failing him.  The blade fell harmlessly out of his hand and clattered to the cold stone ground, and the big orc fell to a knee in an attempt to catch his breath.

“Poor Gobad.  Can’t catch his breath.  Too old to fight he is.”  Snaga smiled, broken teeth protruding out at all angles.  He held up a dirty glass vial that held a clear liquid.

“Wots that?”  Gobad said between wheezes as he struggled harder to catch a breath.  His lungs were seizing and his vision became spotty.

“This?  This is the venom that I got from the viper that the shaman lost in the tunnels that you made me find.  I put it on that there little knife, the one I made from a chip of that iron you made me fetch from the top of the fetid shaft.”  Gobad’s eyes were bulging now as his hands wrapped around his own throat.  He collapsed onto the floor, breath not coming to him as he quivered in agony.

“You.  Parasite.  You.  Murderous dog.  You…” with a gasp the big old orc died.  Snaga looked down at the body before picking up the wicked curved blade that Gobad had tried to run him through with.  It took a few messy tries, but Snaga was able to cut the head from the body after the third or fourth whack.  Reaching down, he picked up the head and held it up to his own.

“Gobad!  You old wanker.  Feed the rats!”  Snaga threw the head over to the corner of the kitchen, where it landed with a sloppy wet thud.  Examining the sword more carefully, Snaga decided it was time for him to be boss of the dingy dirty hole deep under the mountains of Mordor.

His Master would need to know that Gobad was no longer capable of his service.

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