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The Queen's Orc  by jodancingtree


In the daytime Canohando searched out wood to his liking and began fashioning their bows. Once they were shaped, he warmed them before the kitchen fire and sat rubbing oil into the wood. Malawen beside him was sewing quivers of soft deerskin. She had embroidered half a starburst in the center of each one. "For Arwen Undomiel," she said. "She was the Evening Star, and you are her knight."

"She was my Queen, melethril," he said. "But you are my bright morning."

She blushed and thrust her needle into the deerskin. "Come outside a while; it is too warm sitting by the fire. Where is your wizard keeping himself? We have not seen him in a se'enight."

He shrugged, putting the unfinished bows up on the mantelshelf, but Dartha looked up from the pastries she was making to say, "The wizard spends his days in the guardhouse, with the captain of those Elves who brought you here."

"With Itaril?" Canohando repeated, but Malawen reared up her head, her eyes flashing.

"Why would he waste his time on such a one, so arrogant and bloodthirsty? Celeborn is too kindhearted, keeping him in the guardhouse; a dungeon would suit him better!"

"Hush, Elfling," the Orc said softly. He stroked her silken hair, from the crown of her head to where the rippling curls ended at her waist, over and over, gentling her. "I could have guessed where the old man would be, if I had thought about it." He put an arm around her, leading her out into the sunlight.

"He is mad," Malawen said, subdued but still fierce, and Canohando smiled.

"Oh, yes. He is mad; he always was. If he were fool enough to think that Orcs could be turned from the Dark, why would he doubt that an Elf could be redeemed? The Brown One leaves no barren soil untilled."

And a few days later, Canohando showed no surprise when Radagast sought him out with the request that he come and visit Itaril. "I thought that would be next, old man. Yes, I will come."

"No!" Malawen cried. "From the beginning he sought your death, and now all the more so, when he is shamed and prisoned! Leave him to Celeborn, love, and to the wizard if he is so eager to reclaim him."

But Canohando kissed her forehead and unwound her arms from around his waist. "I did not fear him when I was bound and he had a score of archers at his back, certainly not now that I am free. I must do this, Elfling. Go and sit with Dartha, and I will come to you after." But she would not leave him; she hung on his arm, white-faced, as they made their way to the guardhouse.

They found Itaril in a small, windowless room with a barred door. He sprang to his feet when he saw Malawen and the Orc.

"Do you dare bring your tame monster to me, Wizard of Rhosgobel? And the stunted dwarf who follows at his heels?"

"You are more monster than he is, morion! Lord Celeborn did well to pen you up; you are not fit to roam free!" Malawen's voice shook with passion, but Canohando pulled her into his arms and stood soothing her, murmuring in her ear. He did not spare a glance for Itaril.

Radagast waited until Malawen had calmed before he asked, "Can you see Yarga in him, Canohando?"

The Orc took his time in answering. Malawen had pulled away from him and stood glowering, but Canohando leaned in the doorway, perfectly at ease, searching Itaril's face.

"Where is his friend?" he asked finally.

"What do you mean?" Radagast said. "The others were sent on to the Havens."

The Orc grunted. "We went after Yarga, old man, when he fled from the Black Pit. If we had left him to run by himself…" He scratched his back against the doorframe. "We saved each other, when we would have drowned alone. But this Elf has no one to hold his head up when he founders."

"What would have drowned you, Orc? Your own evil?" Itaril's voice dripped scorn, but Canohando regarded him gravely.

"The Darkness," he said. "Yes, it was our own, or at least it lived in us, as it does in you."

The Elf did not answer, but he looked daggers and Radagast stirred. "He says he will not go to Valinor; he will throw himself from the ship, rather, and sink beneath the waves. It matters nothing to him if he dies."

"What would you do if you were free?" Canohando asked.

"I would return home. Eryn Lasgalen still harbors those who will not leave, whether or not King Thranduil takes ship at last." He spoke as if the words were dragged from his throat.

"Valinor has been torn by malice before now," said Radagast. "Celeborn thinks to have the High Ones there pass judgment on him, but my heart misgives me, to bring such untempered wrath into the Blessed Realm."

"If the Lord of Rivendell commands –" Canohando began.

"The last word does not rest with Celeborn. It is up to me to hold Itaril or release him, and I would have your counsel. You sense what I do also, the darkness in him. Can he cast it out, if I let him go back to Lasgalen?"

The Orc regarded Radagast doubtfully. The wizard's dark hair was frosted with white now, his brown robe travel-stained, but he was brisk and kindly as he had always been. There is power in him, but is it enough to overrule the Silver Lord?

The wizard smiled as if Canohando had spoken aloud. "Power is not always clad in armor. Celeborn will say no word against it, if I unlock this door and let Itaril go. But it is you he wronged, and Malawen, and Elladan. I will send him to judgment in the West, if that is your desire."

"Send him." Malawen raised her head to speak in a clear, hard voice. "We do not want him here."

But Canohando was watching the Elf, noting the bitter mouth, the eyes that held no hope, only seething resentment.

"Let him go home," he said. "It were better if he had a friend, but perhaps he will find one in his own land. Give him the chance you gave to us, old man."

Radagast looked at Malawen, but she said no more, only holding Canohando's hand to her lips. The wizard touched the lock on its hasp and it broke in two, falling to the ground. He pulled open the door.

"You have received kindness from those to whom you would not give it," he said sternly. Go home, Itaril of Eryn Lasgalen, and learn what mercy is."

Itaril stalked out of his cell, picking up his cape and swirling it around his shoulders. He glanced with contempt at Canohando and Malawen, but then he met Radagast's gaze and his eyes fell.

"Thank you," he muttered.

"I will walk with you to the border, that no one hinder you." The wizard clapped Canohando on the shoulder as he passed. "I think there is more Donkey* than Orc about you, these days," he said.

Canohando grinned. "That is my hope," he said.

It was some days before they saw Radagast again. The bows were finished, their quivers full, and they were practice shooting down by the river, challenging one another to increasingly difficult shots and laughing till they could scarce hold their bows steady enough to aim.

"I am glad I never had to face you in battle, Elfling. You have a deadly eye."

Malawen gave a crow of glee and fired, her arrow sticking in a tree trunk behind him, a yard above his head. "See you remember that, Orc! You are my mate, but do not try to come the master over me!"

He held up his hands in mock surrender, but when she went to retrieve her arrow he fell upon her from behind, pinning her arms and lifting her up over his head as she shrieked and struggled.

"Now, little bird, tell me who is master?"

She kicked furiously, and he ducked, trying to avoid her flying heels. Then suddenly he let go of her and she dropped, flailing and crying out now in genuine terror, only to be caught securely in his arms.

"There, love, there, I would not let you fall!" He cradled her to his chest, kissing away her fright, but then he grinned. "Who is master?" he demanded.

"I am," she said, looking up at him boldly, and he roared with laughter.

"I think she is, indeed, for I doubt that you can tame her," said a voice, and they turned to find Radagast watching them with a broad smile. "It is good to find such cheer still in Rivendell," he said.

"Did you send the Elf-captain safe on his way, then?" asked Canohando.

"I did, and now I have something to show you both, if you will take time to come with me."

They went with him willingly, and he led them along a narrow path until they came to a rustic outdoor room. A circle of trees, large and old, with smooth, silvery bark, surrounded a little clearing. In the center a murmuring spring fed a fountain carved in the image of a woman, an Elf, who held a bowl in her hands, pouring its water endlessly into a pool at her feet. Her face was neither sad nor glad, but peaceful and very beautiful.

There was a stone bench before the fountain, and Radagast sat down on it. "The Elves call this place 'Elrond's Tears'," he said.

Canohando regarded him with knitted brows. "And Elrond was – who? The Lady's father, was he not? Did he shed so many tears, to name a fountain for them?"

"Sit down, Canohando," said Radagast. "Has Malawen told you Arwen's history?"

"Some of it, and Dartha in the kitchen has told us more."

"So you know that Arwen's mother was captured and tortured by Orcs in the mountains. Her sons came to her rescue, but she did not recover. Elrond had ample cause for tears. And later, also, when his daughter chose a mortal life."

Canohando nodded, feeling that he would rather not have been reminded of the Lady's mother, who had suffered at the hands of Orcs, as he would rather not be in this place named for Elrond's grief. Would he never come to the end of his shame at being an Orc, spawn of a race accursed? He stared unseeing past the ring of trees, and then a movement among them caught his eye and Celeborn walked into the clearing.

"Do not get up, Canohando," the Elf-Lord said, for the Orc had started to scramble to his feet. "I wish to speak to you and I asked Radagast to bring you here. This seemed a fitting place for what I have to say."

He moved over to the fountain and cupped his hands in the water, letting it run through his fingers. "Yes, a fitting place," he repeated. He filled his hands once more, and then he stepped over to the Orc and poured the cold water over his head.

"Elrond's Tears," he said. "This grove was his refuge, when he could not bear the loss of Celebrian; here he came to hide his grief until he could compose himself again, for a strong leader cannot be ever weeping, no matter what his sorrow. Orcs caused much of his pain, but not all of it; his fore-knowledge of Arwen's death grieved him long before it came to pass."

Canohando sat with bowed head, water dripping from his hair, and Malawen beside him stared up at Celeborn fiercely, as if she would silence him with the hardness of her gaze.

"Nay, little sunbeam, I am not heaping reproach on your beloved; do not glare at me! What Elrond in all his wisdom could not know, was how Arwen would be comforted at the last by an Orc. That is why I wanted you to see this place, Canohando.

"You have torn apart a web of sorrow that stretches back to the earliest times. Only one strand is broken, perhaps, of all that monstrous weaving, but it is a portent. Even to your deadly enemy you mete out mercy, for the Wizard told me how you urged him to send Itaril back to Eryn Lasgalen. And so I tell you, Canohando of Mordor, you have found favor with the Powers. To you alone of all the lost ones of Morgoth, it is given to pass into the West."

Canohando's head jerked up, his eyes wide with shock, and Celeborn smiled. "I shall sail at summer's end. Radagast will be of the company, and I suppose most of the Elves now gathered at Rivendell. You may both come with us, if that is your desire."

The Orc said nothing, only joy flushed his face like sunrise, and he turned to share it with Malawen. But she leaped up with a cry and darted away into the woods.


*Donkey was Radagast's nickname for Frodo, the Ringbearer. He told Frodo he was like a patient little donkey, overloaded almost to the breaking point, and he took him away to be healed in the wilderness .

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