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The Turning of Angw
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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7
The Brood Fungus

So I came up with a way to explain the Uruk that came out of the dirt in the pits of Orthanc...


~~~

Angw looked upon the wretched Elves that were, by now, little more than zombies. Though they had no true life any more, their transformation was not yet complete. The usual transformation period was one hundred and fifty years, because the process had to be slow enough to break the Elves' spirits without sending them to Mandos. They had to be encouraged to want to survive, so hope was never utterly stolen from them - they were allowed to dream of freedom in spite of their despair. It was by encouraging their natural self-preservation and competitive instincts that Morgoth had been able to twist them. Even as the near-Wraith creatures they now were, they had enough of their own wills to keep themselves alive and striving. Morgoth had usually made them one by one from those poor unfortunates he had managed to capture alive, but now he had a new order: to get the Orcs to breed.

There had been many failed experiments involving the torment and abuse of captured females from the races of both Men and Elves. These had failed for two reasons: first of all, in most cases the damage done by the abuse was so severe the women simply could not carry any sort of child to term even if enspelled; the other was that Elves in particular had the ability to choose when a child would be conceived. There was also the problem of disease, malnutrition and the effects of the poison/antidote regime: none of the Orcs was actually healthy enough to produce offspring. Now Morgoth could not end any of the processes he usually used as this would prevent the folk he had taken prisoner from becoming Orcs in the first place. Nonetheless, he needed an army to break the siege, which by this time had been in place for over nearly three hundred years. He was growing impatient, but so engaged was he with his other policies that he had delegated the breeding programme to Sauron and Angw. Actually, the truth was, he could not bring himself to ever admit to failure - it was easier to have someone else to blame it on.

Angw had hidden a small part of himself under layers of hatred and resentment against his former master Aul and his Dwarves, using a mental process not unlike the physical one he had employed when building the mountain Celebdil. This was the only part of him that had not been subsumed by Morgoth when he had entered into the spiritual embrace that had joined him with him the day he became a balrog. He had done this to ensure that Morgoth would keep his part of the bargain, which was to let him go at a certain time in order to reclaim Celebdil from the Dwarves, who were even now mining it. He was afraid to let it manifest itself at any time while he yet dwelt with Morgoth in Angband, because his union with him would then grow deeper, strangling his own ideas and desires, leaving him as but a vessel for his lord to pour himself inside at will. The rest of him was like a child created by this union, and lived to serve his master. However, even this had a will to act of its own accord, which enabled him to do a spot of lateral thinking. This, he hoped, would provide him with the leverage he needed to free himself from Morgoth and this hateful place once and for all.

After some considerable time had passed in which he exhausted all the possibilities he could, Angw conceived an idea that offered the solution that had eluded Morgoth for so long. Ever so often, Orcs would pour forth under cover of darkness to capture Elves (and occasionally Men) for their master. Angw went out one night, scouting with an Orc patrol in order to see if he could find something to support his theory. It ran thus: if the Orcs could not breed of themselves because they had to be enspelled to have any semblance of life after all the damage that had been done to them, then something would have to be found that would thrive in a shattered, poisoned wasteland and blended with them. It was so simple a plan that only a genius could have thought of it. He therefore scoured the Ard-Galen plains, searching among the unburied Orcs' corpses, looking for some kind of fungus he could use. It was the custom of the enemy at that time to pile up the corpses of the Orcs and burn them, and it was here that Angw searched for what he hoped to find. He used a spear he had found on the battlefield to poke and prod around the site until he believed he had found what he sought.

It turned out to be nothing, just a rotten piece of wood. He was still excited though, and determined to test his theory. He returned to the fortress and went deep inside until he arrived at the midden, where the refuse and the dead were dumped. Now the midden was adjacent to the furnaces where the tools and weapons of Angband were wrought, and the heat thereof was fierce. He poked about with the spear there, digging deep in places, until he found the thing he had so diligently sought. Digging carefully around it, he brought forth a strange, rotund, ugly bulging fungus, which throve there amongst the filth and fumes. The fact that it was to be found underground excited him the most, because it gave him the idea he needed for the life cycle he would need to set in motion in order for the Orcs to breed of themselves unaided. He dug up a few more samples and brought them to his brother Sauron.

"Brother," he announced gleefully, "behold! I have found that which our master has required for the breeding of his Orcs."

"What is this?" Sauron asked, curious.

"It is fungus, brother," Angw explained, "from the midden by the main furnaces."

"And why," asked Sauron, "have you brought it to me? How can it be used?"

Angw could barely suppress his excitement. "We shall feed it to them, brother, as it begins to spore. We shall..."

"What good is it, brother," Sauron interrupted him, "to feed them the very thing we use to poison them to make Orcs of them when this very process is what renders them unable to breed?"

"Allow me to continue, Sauron!" Angw shouted. "I perceive that your vile cruelties have failed to produce that which our master desires! Give me leave, then, to do his will!"

"What is the meaning of this?" Morgoth rasped, his voice booming as he entered the chamber. Angw and Sauron went as quiet as two naughty boys caught with the evidence of a stolen pie still smeared on their faces.

"My Lord," Angw hastened to answer him, "I believe I have found a solution to thy problem."

"And what is that?" Morgoth moved closer to him to look at the curious objects he held in his hands. They looked familiar to him.

"My Lord," Angw continued, "This is the fungus you usually use when making Orcs..."

"It is not," Morgoth contradicted him, "though it seemeth to be like it."

"My Lord," Angw smiled, "behold! I took this from beneath the midden where the dead and refuse of this place are put, and I crave leave to apply mine idea: that by blending the Orcs with this fungus in a spell that only thou canst cast by means of the Silmarils, thou shalt have the means of the breeding thereof."

Morgoth gave some thought to this before making his reply. He had been applying himself to the preparations for a battle that would break the Siege of Angband once and for all. If Angw's idea had any merit at all, it would be very useful indeed. He made his decision. "Go thou and essay this new plan. Mayhap it will provide the means for the breeding of mine Orcs after all."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Angw grinned like an athlete receiving a gold medal and went to seize an Orc. He brought him before Morgoth and stood him before him. He checked the fungus to see if it was shedding spores - the state he needed it to be in for his plan to work. The spores were to act as a fertilizer in the cycle he wanted to set in motion. The fungus was not yet ripe, and would most likely not be for some time yet. Unfazed, Angw held it up to Morgoth. "My Lord, now is the hour thou hast awaited. Put forth thy powers with the aid of the Silmarils and bring this fungus unto ripeness."

Morgoth was unsure at that point as to how this plan would work, but since, as he had heard Angw point out to his brother, Sauron's methods were producing no results worth mentioning, he decided to attempt it. He concentrated on the fungus, singing songs of power, willing it to grow to a state of ripeness. Since his desire was for a living thing to grow, the Silmarils glowed brightly and the fungus swelled until a whitish powder began to form on it. Angw then took the fungus and crushed it. Then he ordered the Orc to eat it. When he had done so, Angw locked him in a cell near the furnaces. When the Orc had fouled in the straw Angw carefully gathered it, bringing the Orc, his master and his brother with him, and buried it in a pile of warm slag. He bade his master to sing again, and to will the fungal spores to act upon the cells shed by the Orc as he defecated. As Morgoth sang, the Silmarils glowed and the spores went to work. Morgoth, as he sang, speeded up the process he was setting in motion. Therefore, it was not long until they all saw movement in the pile before them, and finally an arm was thrust out. Angw and Sauron joined in, calling forth the Orc that was struggling for life in the dirt. Eventually, just as the song was ending, the Orc stood up. Morgoth was delighted, and he laughed. He had finally achieved what he had wanted from the beginning: a way of getting Orcs to reproduce.

Angw showed the Orc where to locate the fungus, which was now enspelled to act as a fertillizer, and taught him to discriminate between one fungus and another. The new breeding process was repeated many times, until a mighty army was created. The "Brood Fungus" was carefully tended by dedicated Orcs, whose job it was to ensure a ready supply at all times. Now that the process was able to take place of itself, it was discovered that Orcs bred in this fashion took about two years to gestate in the warm slag until they were born full-grown. They would then live for about one hundred and fifty years. Sauron was displeased with his brother over this, and a rivalry sprang up between them after that, for he was jealous of his brother's position as the new favourite.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Morgoth was delighted with Angw's breakthrough, and began the planning of a great battle to end the siege on his realm once and for all. He called Angw, Sauron and his chief officers to a private chamber to discuss this. Sauron, he said, I shall loose the dragon Glaurung on mine enemies at the gates, to spew forth fire upon them. As they flee in panic, thou shalt lead the first wave against them. Angw will follow with a contingent of balrogs and annihilate any who survive the first assault.

This plan seemed good to them all, and when it was carried out, met with greater success than they had imagined. They poured forth from the gates of Angband like a mudslide down a steep mountainside and overwhelmed their enemies, who fled in panic before the flames and the terror of the dragon, who disported himself among them like a hungry cat in a room full of mice. Morgoth gloated as wave after wave of Orcs, balrogs, trolls and other monsters laid waste to their enemies' battle lines, destroying all before them. Flags and banners disappeared in the distance, fallen underneath an overwhelming flood of dust, smoke and the dead and dying. The screams and shouts of battle were music to his ears, and the horrors unfolding before him like a well-choreographed dance. Grinning with pleasure, he sat back and waited for his troops to return, and when they did, he was pleased to discover that many of his chief enemies had been slain.

My lord, called Angw as he returned to his master, I have captured this Man. He is Hrin, an ally of Turgon of Gondolin. We found him alone, surrounded by a great pile of Orc corpses that he had slain himself, with this, he said, handing a two-handed axe to Morgoth. Great notches had been chipped from its blade, and it had clearly been put to good use. What shall we do with him, my lord? What is thy will?

Take him to the pits, Morgoth ordered. He had special plans for this fellow.

Hrin spat contemptuously. I will tell thee nothing! he declared. No matter what foul things thou dost to me!

Morgoth grinned hugely. We shall see about that, frail Man!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Hrin sat chained to a wall in a stinking, filthy cell, bewailing his fate to himself. Pain shot through every joint. They creaked and cracked whenever he moved. Often, he thought of his family, and how much he missed them. If he could only see them - have just one glimpse and know what fate had befallen them! He missed his children, his wife and his home, and knew that they would never be together as a family again. Grief welled up in his heart, and despair held in him a tight grip, squeezing hope from every pore.

As he sat there suffering, Hrin knew that Morgoth was suffering too. It gave him some cold comfort to consider that merely sitting there in a state of horror and grief while refusing to give in to his enemy's demands was making Morgoth look weak in front of his minions. It was the knowledge of this fact, which grew more apparent every day, that gave him the strength to continue to defy the Dark Lord. Gritting his teeth, he decided to continue with his strategy. If he kept it up for long enough, he would win by default. Morgoth would have to give up sooner or later, and Hrin would be freed most likely by death. Grief overwhelmed him from time to time, but his resolve never wavered. It was the only thing he had left.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Frustration reigned in Morgoth's heart as he sat in his private audience chamber, considering his options. Hrin had suffered more than he had ever seen anyone endure, yet he continued to defy him. Was he mad? All he had to do was surrender, but he refused. If I could just destroy his will and force him to submit to me! he raged, pounding his fist on a table. But he refuseth utterly to even speak to me!

Angw and Sauron stood before him, silent in contemplation.

Morgoth turned to Angw. "This stubborn man doth refuse to answer yea or nay to all of my entreaties," he complained, "though his body be racked and burned and his soul tormented beyond anything I have essayed before. How then shall I deal with him?"

"My Lord," Angw replied, "set him free."

Sauron stared at his brother in horror. "What foolishness he prates!" he cried. "Thou hast not asked me for mine own advice, my Lord."

"And what would thou suggest?" Morgoth asked him.

"I would discover the whereabouts of his family," Sauron began, before Angw cut him off.

"My Lord," he argued, "threats and promises have not worked heretofore. My suggestion is, let him go unharmed, and with a guard of honour. Surely thou knowest of the distrust this would engender among his people?"

Sauron jumped like a schoolboy with his hand up in class, knowing the answer. "Wilt thou not curse him?" he asked.

"I will do both," Morgoth said, as an evil smile spread across his battle-ravaged face.

TBC...

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