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Toby and the Orc
by Jerry Belcher

Chapter One

As the rooster crowed its morning call and the sun crested the horizon, little Toby Proudfoot swung his small, but very dignified, hobbit feet out of bed.

"Today is the day," he said with a grin.

This was no ordinary day, no, not at all. Today was the day for young Toby’s first adventure. This would be the day the name "Proudfoot" was recorded in the history books next to such names as Baggins, Gamgee, Took, and Brandybuck. What exactly young Toby planned to do to get into the history books, he had no idea.

He quickly got dressed and grabbed his small wooden sword, Sting, which he had named after the great blade of Bilbo Baggins. After he belted on his sword he headed for the kitchen to say good-bye to his mother. Two years ago his father had given him Sting, which he had carved himself. Two months later his father had left on a trip to Bree for some outside news. He never returned.

His mother had grieved for months, and sometimes he still thought he heard her crying after she thought he was asleep. As he rounded the corner and entered the kitchen, he saw his mom sitting at the table. She was staring into a cup of tea and he noticed her eyes were wet with tears. Some hobbits would have turned tail and waited for the grief to subside. But not Toby; he was a real gentle-hobbit, just like his dad. He ran to his mom and clutched her in his small arms.

"Oh, Mom, it will be all right," he whispered.

She looked up at him and smiled. "Toby-lad, what would I do without you?" she asked, as she playfully tousled his hair. He smiled and took the seat next to her.

"Well, Mom, it’s finally the day I go on my Big Adventure," he said, with a very stoic face. She only smiled and patted him gently on the shoulder.

"Well, Son, I have something for you. It is for your Big Adventure. I would only use it when you are in great need, though." She got up and went to the counter. She had her back turned to him so that he couldn’t see what she was getting. Finally she came back and laid a large leather pack before him.

"Look inside, Toby," she said with a smile. His eyebrows narrowed and his tongue poked out of his mouth as he fumbled with the small leather strap, trying to relieve the pouch of its contents. Finally, after an awkward bout with the small silver buckle, he hit paydirt. As he folded back the leather flap he saw what was inside. Toby gasped in disbelief.

"Mom, is this what I think it is?"

"Yes, my dearest, that is the Phial that Galadriel gave to Frodo."

He couldn’t believe it! This had to be the greatest gift he had ever received! Well, besides Sting, he thought, as he patted the hilt of his blade without thinking about it.

"But, Mom, I don’t understand. Where did you get this?" If for a moment his mom looked flustered and confused, he didn’t notice.

"I . . . uh . . . well, Toby, I have sworn by the Elven Code not to reveal that," she said finally. He looked at her suspiciously.

"Mom? What Elven Code?"

"Why, the Elven Code of Finrod, of course." His face brightened visibly at this.

"Oh, of course, I should have known," he said, with an air of false authority. "Everyone knows that code. Yes, I wouldn’t tell me either, if I were in your place."

At this his mother had to suppress a giggle with her hand. She was still worried about his Big Adventure. This was the day she had finally agreed he could go and play in the nearby woods. She had been over-protective of the lad, this was known by all of Hobbiton. She was viewed by many as an eccentric, but she didn’t care. She only needed Toby to be happy. The loss of her husband still weighed heavily on her heart. But as long as she had her little Toby, and he was happy, well, then she was content.

She watched her son lovingly as he held the small Phial and looked at it with wonder. Of course she had purchased the bottle last week and had kept it as a surprise. As Toby held the bottle and stared deeply into what was none other than ordinary well-water, he truly believed he could see Earendil’s Star. He leapt to his feet and hugged his mom again.

"I love you, Mom."

"I love you too, Son. Now go out and have a good time, and beware! to all dragons who go out in search of young maidens today! Captain Toby Proudfoot will be your doom!"

He puffed out his chest visibly at this and clutched the hilt of Sting. "Mother, evil will not prevail this day, not while I go forth to meet it." She smiled and shooed the young hero out the door so that she could tidy up the Hobbit-hole.

Chapter Two

Toby passed quickly and quietly through Hobbiton. A few of the older Hobbits nodded. He knew later they would all whisper and pass rumors about him and his "crazy mom," as she was known to some of the younger, crueler Hobbits. He didn’t care; he knew the truth. So what if people saw her still mourning the loss of her husband? She had the right. If that made her crazy, then so be it. He guessed that made him crazy, too. After all, he did still cry sometimes before he went to sleep. He missed his dad, was all.

As he traveled through a small field just outside of Hobbiton, he imagined he saw legions of undead warriors rushing towards him. Sting leapt from its sheath. It was no longer wood; now it was cold hard steel of cunning Elven design. He grinned with the thought of a fine morning battle. Fools, he thought. There are no more than one hundred, no, ten thousand, of them, definitely no match for my fell sword hand. As they advanced, with his doom proclaimed in their cold, sightless eyes, they drew their pale wraith blades. "Sir Toby, yes, I am a Knight of Gondor, Personal Guard to Aragorn himself," he added as an afterthought. Sir Toby swung Sting about with the cunning skill of a veteran knight. He dropped the blade and looked at it dumbly for a moment. Then he quickly picked it back up as if nothing had happened. He raised Sting above his head, poised for battle.

If you would have seen little Toby just then, you would have chuckled. There stood a figure just under three feet tall. His face was smeared with dirt, like some tribal war-paint. His hair was mussed from running in the wind, and there he was ready to attack thin air. Only it wasn’t thin air to Toby. What stood before him was an entire army sent from Mordor to conquer the Shire. I am the Shire’s only hope, he thought. His eyebrows suddenly came together; he smiled in grim defiance, and the light of battle gleamed in his eyes. "Attack me if you will, foul denizens of Mordor. But know this: I am your bane, and I deliver your doom!" He liked that last phrase, and decided to say it again. "I am your bane, and I deliver your doom!" The black legions of Mordor charged, but they were no match for the veteran Knight. The battle was quick and decisive. Only Toby was left standing. He wiped the sweat from his brow and sheathed Sting. He swept a judgmental eye over his fallen foes. "Not bad for a day’s work, I suppose," he said with authority. He was beginning to get his first hunger pains and realized it was getting close to lunchtime, and that he should probably head back soon. "Oh well, just a quick peek in the woods, and then I’ll head back."

Chapter Three

As he neared the forest he noticed he was growing tired; he had not slept much the night before, and his sword arm was sore. Well, you can’t slay ten thousand, no, thirty thousand creatures and not feel it. I might be a Knight . . . he thought for a moment. I might be Lord Commander of Aragorn’s Knights, but I’m also still just a Hobbit. Yes, that sounded much better. Finally he was here. He reached out and touched one of the trees. All this time, and finally, I can go into the forest, he thought. Hmmm. Now that I’m here, I don’t want to go in as badly as I thought I did. That’s when he decided to head home.

But when he turned to leave, that’s when he heard the sound. He had never heard a sound quite like that. While it scared him, it also beckoned to him. Whatever it was, it was in pain. When it finally came down to "plain old hobbit-sense," and his curiosity, well, curiosity prevailed. He walked cautiously, moving stealthily from tree to tree. As he walked deeper into the forest, he noticed there was a small clearing. He quietly snuck to the last tree near the clearing and peeked around its trunk. On the far edge of the clearing, near a fallen tree, lay a figure. Something was wrong with its shape. Without realizing it, Toby had drawn out the small Phial and held it tight to his breast. Then he approached the figure. "Hullo, there, Mister, you all right?" Then It rolled over, and Toby screamed. Suddenly he felt very odd and disoriented, and he realized he was going to faint. He looked one last time at the living nightmare and fainted.

Chapter Four

As Toby slept, he dreamt of nightmare creatures with yellow fangs and cold, bright eyes. He screamed and woke up. The first thing he noticed was that the sun was descending, and he knew his mother would be getting worried.

Then Toby remembered the wounded thing. Maybe he had just imagined it earlier? He hadn’t. He could see it was holding its knee protectively. Toby was scared, and he opened his mouth to scream again. Then something funny happened. The thing flinched and looked pained.

"Why did you do that?" Toby asked. Later he would wonder how he knew the creature would even understand him. He just knew.

"I thought you were going to scream again," it answered. Toby considered this.

"I was, actually," he said in a shamed voice. Some knight I am turning out to be, he thought.

"Oh. Then why didn’t you? Surely I’m a frightening figure. I thought all little boys were scared of us nasty Goblins," it answered with mock surprise. Toby looked the creature over. It was about four feet tall, heavily muscled, and its claws, they were horrible. Once again, Toby noticed its injured knee. There was no doubt about it, it was broken, and badly, from the looks of it. He felt his courage slowly starting to come back.

"You are an orc, right? Like from the wars in the Third Age?"

The Orc narrowed its eyes. "Yes, I’m an Orc. We are all but extinct now. Only a few tribes are left, scattered, hiding in holes and other dark places."

"Do you have a name? My name is Toby Proudfoot," he said, extending his hand. What am I doing, shaking hands with a goblin?? The Orc looked at the outstretched hand with a puzzled expression, as if he couldn’t believe what was happening.

"I’m called Gurzmah," he said suddenly. For some reason, this struck young Toby as hilarious.

"That sure is a pretty name," he joked, and smacked his knee for emphasis. Suddenly Gurzmah’s arm shot forward with lightening speed and grabbed Toby’s arm.

"I could eat you, you know. In fact, I’m rather hungry, and I’ve heard nothing tastes sweeter than impolite little brats." The Orc’s breath was fetid and made Toby dizzy. Now I’ve done it, I’m a goner now, he thought. But then Gurzmah’s hand reached down and clutched Toby’s hand and shook it up and down once and released. Then he sat back and laughed.

"Proudfoot? That’s your name?" Toby nodded. "Well, Proudfoot, I like to joke around too. If I had wanted you for dinner, then you would already be dead."

"Then why didn’t you? When I was passed out you had the perfect opportunity. I always assumed Orcs ate little kids."

Gurzmah looked into Toby’s eyes and answered, "I guess I’m not that kind of Orc." Both laughed at this, Toby a little uneasily.

"Well, what kind of Orc are you?"

Gurzmah rubbed his knee. "A dead one." The laughter died on Toby’s lips. Gurzmah sat forward suddenly, looking into Toby’s eyes, always the eyes. "I left my home in the Misty Mountains and came out west to die. But not like this. I had planned on making it to the ocean, but as you can see, I had a bit of an accident."

"Why the ocean?" Toby asked, confused.

"I’m tired of being hunted, feared and hated. I want it to end. My race has been cursed by the Dark One. He ruined us. Not all of us are evil. Some start out good but are forced into murder by rogues who wish us death. But I have hidden deep and avoided that. I thought I was lucky, then this happened." He cursed suddenly, hitting his wounded knee. "I just wanted to see the ocean and swim out to my end. I had hoped the Creator would wash away all this," he gestured to his body. Right then Toby noticed he looked very tired, and . . . sad. "I hate this life I have been cursed with. When you first saw me, you screamed. That is the way of my life, and so it must end."

Chapter Five

Toby was upset. He felt bad about screaming when he first saw Gurzmah. He couldn’t imagine living the tormented life of Gurzmah. "What happened? What I mean is, how did you hurt your knee?"

"I saw your land from afar and thought it would provide a little shelter from unfriendly eyes, for a while, at least. I saw the forest and thought it would be nice to walk in some shade for a bit; the sun is murder on my skin." He grinned suddenly, and the boy wasn’t scared this time. He paused a moment to shift his knee, and then resumed. "As I was entering the forest, I heard a sound and smelled something. Whatever it was, I knew it walked upright. Don’t ask me how I know that; it’s a trait in our species. I thought at first it was a man. But it happened to be one of your kind. He looked like he was on some type of patrol, and I have not survived this long by fighting, so I ran. As I was coming down that hill over yonder, I snagged my foot on something. A vine, a root, or a rock, it doesn’t matter. I lost control, and when I hit bottom, I had broken my knee somewhere along the line."

Toby looked at the Orc and felt near tears. "I’m really sorry, Gurzmah, I wish you were okay." Gurzmah shot Toby an odd look. Was it a grateful look?

"It doesn’t matter, Proudfoot. I came out west to die, and I guess here is as good of a place as any. It’s not the ocean, but there is nothing I can do about that."

Toby’s face brightened. "Let me help! I can go back and get some sturdy hobbits. We can get a wagon and help you."

Gurzmah only smiled sadly at Toby. "Young Proudfoot, what do you think they would do when they saw me? Do you really think they would help? You know they wouldn’t. They would fill me full of arrows and burn my body, if I were lucky."

It was true. There is absolutely nothing I can do, Toby thought. He began to cry in frustration.

Gurzmah looked carefully at Toby. "Why are you crying? I’m just another Orc."

Toby wiped his eyes. "It’s not fair! You are not evil. You don’t deserve to die like this." Toby was ashamed of his sudden tears. But he couldn’t help it. When he looked at Gurzmah, he saw what no other leaving being had ever seen.

Gurzmah was weeping.

"No one has ever cared what happened to me, Proudfoot. I consider you my friend, and I have never had one before. I don’t think any of our kind has ever had a friend. I guess I am lucky after all." He winked at Toby through his tears. Gurzmah knew he was living on borrowed time. He already felt weak and sick. He was dying, and fast.

"You are my friend, too, Gurzmah. I’ve never had a friend before, either. All the other hobbits think I’m strange. But you are different." Suddenly he got up and approached Gurzmah and hugged him: an event that had never occurred in the history of the world. Toby had no idea that he was forging his name in history. As he hugged the tired Orc, he knew that Gurzmah was near death. "I won’t forget you, Gurzmah. Never."

"I won’t forget you, either, Proudfoot." With that said, Gurzmah slipped into death, and Toby wept. He was confused about what to do next. He knew his mother was probably worried sick. But he couldn’t bear to walk out on the body of his friend. As he tried to think of what to do, he felt a presence behind him.

"Hello, Toby." Toby leapt to his feet, startled. There before him stood the bent figure of an old man. He wore a tall white hat and was wrapped in gleaming white robes. The old man’s beard hung down by his midsection. Toby noticed that the old man wore a fiery gem on his finger. "I am proud of you, Toby," said the wizened figure.

Toby was too shocked to speak. Surely this couldn’t be . . . ? "Are you . . . ?" Toby started.

The old man cut him off with a shake of his head. "No time for questions, Toby, I haven’t much time." The old man looked down at the Orc. "Look what you have helped accomplish, Toby."

Toby turned and looked at the body of Gurzmah. The Orc’s body was bathed in white light, and it was changing before his eyes. Toby stood shocked as he watched Gurzmah’s corpse change to that of an Elf. "You unwittingly helped break one of this world’s oldest curses, Toby. All over the world, the few remaining Orcs know what is transpiring here. You are a hero, Toby. Morgoth’s curse is broken!" He then told Toby that some day, the world would be clean of Orcs, and that they would follow Gurzmah’s path. Gurzmah would become the only celebrated Orc in history: a hero.

The old man was starting to leave when he turned around and brought out two small packages. "Take these. One of them is for your mom; it will cure her sadness. The other is for you, Toby."

Upon saying this, the old man vanished. Toby opened the package with his name on it. I wonder how my name came to be on this? As if the old man somehow knew this day was coming, he thought. When he opened the package, he found a package of fireworks labeled with the "G" rune.

When he finally opened the door to their comfortable hobbit-hole, he said, "Mom! You are not going to believe what happened to me today . . ."

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