The Circles - Book Seven - Chapter 22

The Circles - Book Seven - Land of Treachery
Chapter Twenty-two
A Brief History of Lithlad
Written by Elfhild

As he followed Shakh Najor and his son, Khaldun observed his surroundings, politely listening as the two men pointed out various sites of interest around the Oasis of the Solitary Cedar. The village was a humble one, composed of goat hair tents and surrounded by a tall, thick mudbrick wall. To the east of the village, there was a large salt lake in the midst of the drylands, its jewel-like turquoise waters shimmering welcomingly in the light of early afternoon. Shakh Najor explained that several springs fed into the lake, some cool and some hot. Groves of hardy evergreens and desert palms flourished around the lake and its springs, giving the oasis an almost surreal appearance when compared to the surrounding landscape. Shakh Najor explained that at one time there was an enormous cedar growing near the lake, and the place was named the Oasis of the Solitary Cedar in its honor. Although the ancient tree withered away long ago, many of its descendants were still standing, their wide, spreading boughs providing relief from the searing heat.

As Khaldun was given the grand tour of the oasis, he found himself the recipient of an unexpected history lesson. Apparently, Shakh Zarkfir considered himself something of a loremaster, and had a great interest in the history of his tribe. He explained that fifty years before, a scholar from the Tower had worked extensively with the Dolrujâtar to record their history and legends, and then combine them with accounts from the Mordorian Tale of Years. The result of this lengthy process was a book entitled The Chronicle of Lithlad. Several years after the book was completed, the scholar returned and presented the tribe's chieftain with a copy of the richly illustrated, illuminated manuscript, which featured a sturdy leather cover plated with gold and embossed with intricate designs. The chronicle instantly became one of the most prized possessions of the ruling family, and Zarkfir had the entire tome memorized almost entirely by heart. Although Khaldun had little interest in the history of the Dolrujâtar, he could not help but admire Zarkfir's exuberance.

As Summarized by Zarkfir lûk-ob Najor

No one knows when the ancestors of the Dolrujâtar first migrated to the region of Southern Gorgoroth, but, according to legend, they were there when the Giver of Gifts came out of the East and bent the Fiery Mountain to His will. Though over the centuries, they came to adopt the Black Speech as their own tongue, they still retain some traces of their ancestral language. The Dolrujâtar dialect contains many words of Khandian and Rhûnian origin, a linguistic hint that at least some of the ancestors of the tribe once hailed from these lands.

According to legends passed down from generation to generation, the ancestors of the Dolrujâtar originally settled in northeastern Nurn, but conflict with other tribes who had settled in the same area forced them further north and west. Passing between the encircling arms of the mountains through the Gap of Nurn, the tribe came at last to the arid grasslands of Lithlad and Gorgoroth. Though the land was much greener in those days, it was still far less desirable than the lush paradise of Nurn, and so the tribe became lords of the wastes. During periods in which the Mountain of Fire lay sleeping, the flocks and herds grazed upon the grasses which grew about its rocky slopes. Some of the oldest members of the tribe remember a time in which Northern Gorgoroth was not a burnt-out desert, but that was almost eighty years ago. Since the return of the Lord of Middle-earth, the Dolrujâtar have remained south of the Mountain, far from its circle of destruction.

Although the ancestors of the Dolrujâtar had little to worry about from their southern neighbors, the region of Gorgoroth was not without enemies. Over the long years, many clans of orcs had come to make the Mountains of Shadow and Ash their home, building and fortifying their lairs in the many deep caves, rock overhangs, and narrow defiles which score the craggy ridges. Some of these clans claim that their ancestors dwelt in Mordor as far back as the dark days ere the Sun first arose, but many scholars doubt the veracity of such claims. When contemplating the ancient days, oft there is more supposition than concrete fact. These feral mountain orcs had no true overlord, only their own tribal chieftains, and they often warred against one another. When they were not fighting amongst themselves, they would harass the tribesmen, raiding their villages and stealing their livestock.

The ancestors faced other threats in Gorgoroth besides the orcs, many of which trouble the Dolrujâtar to this day; but such is life in a savage land. Roving bands of desert wolves would prey upon their herds, as well as the occasional scimitar cat from the mountains. Not even the air was safe; the winged fell beasts would swoop down from the heavens and carry away frantically bleating sheep and goats in their claws. Sometimes the fell beasts would fly off with an unlucky tribesman as well. Other creatures posed grave dangers for the ancestors… Enormous spiders, as large as horses, as well as cave trolls, made their dwellings in the mountains, devouring hapless travelers who wandered too close to their lairs. And then there is the great canyon which runs through the Gap of Nurn, Baur Tîmursham, the Dreadful Gorge. It is said that an ancient evil dwells in Baur Tîmursham, and that death or madness befall any who venture into the shadowy caverns which lie at the head of the canyon. The Dolrujâtar shun the area, considering it cursed, the home of evil spirits.

The ancestors had to be a hardy and resilient folk to survive in such a perilous realm, but it would help that they received the blessings of the Lord of Middle-earth shortly after they settled in Lithlad… Indeed, the tribe has been very fortunate to be so well favored by the Giver of Gifts.

According to legend, one day a mysterious wanderer from the East came to the Oasis of the Solitary Cedar. Like a man He was in appearance, but yet no mere mortal was He. His skin was as pale as bones bleached by the sun, and His hair flowed in the desert breeze as a river of fire; an aura of radiance surrounded Him, and His amber eyes shone with an otherworldly light. So great was His beauty that all of the women of the tribe, and many of the men, even those who did not favor their own gender, instantly fell in love with him.

The wanderer informed the tribesmen that He was an emissary of the Elder King, who had been unjustly exiled to the Void, and that He was tasked with the rule of Middle-earth in the absence of His Master. The Giver of Gifts, He called Himself, for great was His largess, and abundant were the blessings He would bestow upon those who followed Him. Long had He wandered the lands of the South and East, seeking the ear of kings and rulers, so that He might bring truth and enlightenment to all people. For the False Gods had utterly abandoned Middle-earth, and only He cared for the plight of the earth's many inhabitants. A beautiful island and years beyond those of mortal Men had the Valar given their chosen ones, but naught but death and despair were the lot of the lowly men who were considered unworthy of their favor. But the Giver of Gifts would right all the wrongs, and usher Middle-earth into a golden age of progress and prosperity the likes of which had never been seen before.

At last He had come to this land of contrasts and extremes, which the elven cartographers had called Mordor because of the black smoke which billowed from the Mountain of Fire, and the scorched earth left behind by its coursing rivers of flame. Mordor He knew well, for He had been there before, in ancient days when the world was first made, and the forefathers of Elves, Dwarves, and Men slept in their hidden bowers. The mountains which surrounded this region like the walls of a fortress had been wrought by the hands of His Master, the First and Mightiest of All the Gods, in the ancient days ere Moon and Sun. It was in this place of desolate wastes and verdant fields, that He wished to establish His realm, from which He might rule all of Middle-earth. To the people of Nurn He had come first, winning over the various petty warlords and tribal chieftains with fair words and promises of greatness and shows of divine power. Surely this was the rightful King of Men and Lord of Middle-earth, and it was only fitting that they worship Him! Soldiers they pledged for His armies, slaves they gave Him to serve His every whim; they worshipped Him as a god and built temples and shrines in His honor.

As proof of His divinity, the Giver of Gifts told the ancestors of the Dolrujâtar that He could make the massive mountain in the northern part of the plateau explode with flame. Although the Mountain of Fire had erupted many times in the past, it had long lain dormant, and few could remember the last time that fire had shot from the summit and coursed down the rocky slopes. Many of the tribesmen muttered with doubt and disbelief, but when the mountain shot forth fire and brimstone, they all fell upon their faces and worshiped the wanderer as a god. The Giver of Gifts gave the tribe a new name in the new language that He had devised for all the world to speak. The Dolrujâtar they were called from that day forward, the Guardians of Sheep, and they forsook their native tongue for the one that the Giver of Gifts had bestowed upon them.

The Giver of Gifts told the tribesmen that He wished to make the northern part of Gorgoroth His home and build a great tower upon the westernmost spur of the Ash Mountains. The Mountain of Fire would erupt more frequently – at least for a time. While this meant that the tribe would lose its northern territory, it would be a small price to pay for the patronage of the Lord of Middle-earth. Besides, this region was far from ideal. When the Mountain was sleeping, grass and shrubs flourished in the fertile soil, but when the fires that burnt within awoke into fury, the northern plateau became a desolate wasteland of ash and rock. Even when the Mountain lay dormant, there were many men who refused to venture close, lest they awaken the danger sleeping within.

The Giver of Gifts offered all those who would follow Him great rewards and positions of power and glory. Many tribesmen left behind their flocks and herds and took up the tools of the carpenter and mason as they helped in the construction of the mighty fortress of Lugbûrz. The majority of the people, however, chose to remain tribesmen and uphold their ancestral way of life in the region of Lithlad. In exchange for their fealty, they would receive the blessings and protection of the Lord of Middle-earth. The new empire of Mordor would have much need of cloth, and the wool from their goats and sheep would provide that valuable resource. The Giver of Gifts also took a great interest in the jewelry that the Dolrujâtar crafted from silver and adorned with turquoise, obsidian, and other gemstones. He taught them many new techniques in metallurgy and lapidary, elevating their simple adornments into magnificent pieces featuring intricate designs and complex artistry. As the years passed, the Dolrujâtar became known throughout the realm for their beautiful jewelry, attracting wealthy collectors to the Oasis.

One thing that the Giver of Gifts refused to do, however, was to drive the troublesome orcs from the land. He told the tribesmen that both Orcs and Men had a place in the new world He was creating, and magnanimously pointed out that the orcs had dwelt in Gorgoroth and Lithlad first. The Dolrujâtar tried to keep the peace out of respect for the Lord of Middle-earth, denying themselves the engaging sport of orc hunting. However, the Lord frequently came and went, sometimes staying for several generations, and then leaving for just as long. During His absences, the orcs crept out of their caves looking for mischief, and the warriors of the Dolrujâtar were just as eager for bloodshed. The Peace of Mordor was oft an ephemeral thing.

The Dolrujâtar would prove themselves faithful allies of the Lord of Mordor, serving in various conflicts over the long years of the Second Age. When the Lord of Mordor made war against the Elves in the distant lands of Eriador, many brave men gallantly answered the call of duty, journeying far from their desert home to fight for the glory of Mordor. When the vast armies of Ar-Pharazôn assailed Mordor, the tribe bravely continued to guard Gorgoroth, even though the largest part of the Mordorian Army quailed in terror and fled in shameful retreat. It was a sorrowful day when the wicked Númenórean colonizers took the rightful Ruler of Middle-earth as a hostage back to their island. However, He won over His captors with His knowledge and charisma, and brought truth to the ignorant masses. This angered the jealous Valar, who took out their wrath upon the Númenóreans and sank their island beneath the waves of the Great Sea. Those who dwell in Gorgoroth are accustomed to the earth rumbling, but there were such great upheavals of the ground in those days that it seemed that the earth was being ripped asunder. The skies became dark and filled with lightning; both earth and sky roared with thunder. Scholars say that after the fall of Númenor the world was made round, but the Dolrujâtar do not hold much stock in such theories. The earth is as flat as it always was.

After the fall of Númenor, the Lord of Mordor returned to His realm, and the Dolrujâtar were there to welcome Him home. The sight of Him filled the people with dread, however, for He no longer bore any resemblance to the beautiful Entity who had departed as Ar-Pharazôn's captive. The Great One had suffered horribly in the wrenching cataclysms of the earth, and His form now resembled that of a fire demon of old, with eyes that blazed with flame, a countenance dark as obsidian, and hair that swirled around His head like the black smoke which rises from the Mountain. Whether His appearance is fair or fearsome, though, the Giver of Gifts is still the true Lord of Middle-earth, and the Dolrujâtar remained loyal to Him. Every able-bodied man, and even some courageous women, fought under His banner in the War of the Last Alliance. Great were the losses of the tribe, but even greater was the sorrow that the survivors felt upon seeing their Lord fall in battle upon the slopes of the Mountain of Fire.

Those were dark days indeed for the Dolrujâtar. It was heartbreaking for them to watch the conquering forces tear down the tower of Lugbûrz, which their ancestors helped build. For over sixteen hundred years, the tribe was subjugated by the Gondorians, men who thought they were superior to the nomads in all ways. Many among the Dolrujâtar never fully accepted the loss of the War of the Last Alliance, and continued to harass the Gondorian occupational forces whenever they could. Men of Darkness, the Gondorians called them, Lesser Men, because their blood was somehow less pure. What utter absurdity; all men bleed the same rich crimson, and swiftly perish when that precious fluid is spilled in battle. These outsiders from over the Sea built towers and fortresses in the mountains to keep watch over Mordor, lest the Lord of the Black Land return. Although it was never the intention of the Westmen, it was their fear that the Dark Lord would return one day that gave the Dolrujâtar faith that indeed He truly would, and so many continued worshipping the Lord of Middle-earth in secret. There were those, however, who harkened to the teachings of the Gondorians and turned away from their old beliefs, revering the Lord of the Wind and the False Gods. This caused great division within the tribe that still lingers to this day.

Although the Great Plague ravished the Dolrujâtar just as much as it did the Gondorians, it forced the invaders to withdraw from Mordor, as they no longer had enough men to guard both home and afar. The tribesmen were glad for the departure of the unwanted men of Westernesse, and great were the celebrations when the Gondorians left in shame and defeat. At long last, the Dolrujâtar would have their freedom – at least for a time.

With the withdrawal of Gondorian forces from Mordor, Nurn fell into chaos as petty warlords rose to power and strove with each other for dominance. Not even the Dolrujâtar were spared from the conflict, and the tribe was often attacked by bands of raiders from the City of Rul, who sought to expand their influence into Lithlad. Between the Rul-hai warriors and the predations of the Sand Orcs, the Dolrujâtar tribe was almost wiped from the face of the earth. This period of turmoil lasted for over two hundred years, until a great warlord came from the East. A powerful and immortal sorcerer was he, and a mighty army was at his command. After defeating all the other warlords or intimidating them into surrender, Lord Khamûl became the King of Nurn and Ruler of Mordor. He demanded that the Dolrujâtar accept him as their overlord, but the chieftain, who was a follower of the Wind Lord, stubbornly refused. After several bloody battles, the chieftain was slain, and his son, who worshipped the Giver of Gifts, surrendered to Lord Khamûl, and the tribe became his vassals.

A challenger to Lord Khamûl's reign would soon come from a faraway land. The rival was a sorcerer as well, the leader of Khamûl's order, but the Shadow of the East refused to surrender command of Mordor to his overlord. Once again, Nurn was plunged into violence and war as the two sorcerer kings battled upon the southern plains. The Lord of the Nazgûl would be the victor, but he allowed Lord Khamûl to continue ruling Nurn as his vassal. The Dolrujâtar acknowledged the Lord of the Nazgûl as their liege, and many served under the banner of the Iron Crown during the siege of Minas Ithil.

And so, life for the Dolrujâtar went on as it had for thousands of years, with the tribe moving their flocks and herds across Lithlad with the changing of the seasons. There was the occasional Sand Orc raid, and from time to time there was an uprising amongst rival clans, but for the most part there were few events of grave import to mark the passing of the years during this long period of relative peace.

But then the Lord of Mordor returned, and everything changed.

That was seventy-seven years ago, and a few of the eldest members of the tribe still remember those dark days of wrath and judgment. For many of the Nazgûl, long accustomed to being masterless, refused to do the bidding of the Lord of Middle-earth and attempted to rebel against His just rule. The war which ensued was terrible, with great rumblings of the earth and flashes of lightning in the heavens that could be seen and heard from miles around. The Dolrujâtar dared not come to the aid of Minas Morgul, for the tribe has owed its loyalty to the Giver of Gifts for far longer than they had to either the Lord of the Nazgûl or Lord Khamûl. Instead, the tribe gave what aid that the Lord of Middle-earth requested of them, and then took their flocks and herds to the Ash Mountains, where they took sanctuary until the conflict was over. It is not the place of simple herdsmen to become embroiled in the affairs of Gods and their servants.

Now the rightful Lord of Middle-earth sits once again upon the throne in the fortress of Lugbûrz, and soon all the world shall fall under His rule. Although the Dolrujâtar are but humble nomadic herdsmen, they will always be among His most loyal vassals.

Twenty years ago, the Sand Orcs grew bolder than they had been for a long time, and renewed their raids upon the flocks and herds of the Dolrujâtar. A new king sat upon the Kafakudraûg throne, a loathsome goblin named Thaguzgoth, who was considerably more avaricious than his forebears. His greed and lust for gold knew no bounds; not satisfied with stealing from the Dolrujâtar, his bands of brigands began raiding the supply caravans traveling from Nurn to Lugbûrz. This flagrant disregard for the laws of Mordor incurred the wrath of the Lord of Middle-earth, who smote the rebellious orcs. He sent a large force of Black Uruks to drive the rabble from their dens, and a great number of the fiends were slain. Lithlad knew peace for many years after that, but of late the raids into Dolrujâtar territory have started up again. If the accursed Sand Orcs wish to fight, however, the Dolrujâtar will not hold back, and perhaps the warriors of the tribe shall finish what the Black Uruks did not!


"And so ends the account of my people, from the ancient days before this age, to the present day," Zarkfir proudly proclaimed. Traveling a meandering circle around the village, they had returned at last to Shakh Najor's tent.

"It is a rich and noble history," spoke the venerable tribal chieftain, his hand pressed against his heart and a look of awe in his eyes.

"I am honored that you would share your tribe's legends and tales with me." Khaldun bowed his head in humility. While he did find some parts of Zarkfir's tale interesting, he had not come all this way to discuss the lore of Mordor and its peoples with strangers. He had to appease these tribesmen, however, for the success of his quest relied upon building friendly relations with the Dolrujâtar.

"Soon we will be sharing our food," Najor chuckled. "The time for supper is almost upon us. I will have my servant take you to the guest tent so that you can refresh." He nodded to one of the servants in the entourage.

"When can I see my wife?" Khaldun asked, concerned how the vizier was faring.

"She will be returned to you after supper," Najor assured him. "Right now, she is enjoying the hospitality of my chief wife and her servants."

"I look forward to the return of my beloved." Khaldun had no doubt that the goblin was enjoying himself around so many women – and that was what worried him. So far, it seemed that the ruse was working, for there had been no cries of outrage to disrupt the peace that lay over the village.

"Until this evening; may you enjoy the comforts of the Oasis." With a slight bow, Najor touched his hand to his heart in farewell.

As he watched Khaldun depart with the servant, Zarkfir contemplated all that had transpired that day. When the captain and his men had first arrived at the village, he had been angered by their presence, for he knew they intended to take Özlem away from him. However, Khaldun was only a messenger, and Zarkfir's grievances were reserved for his master. Despite his initial misgivings, Zarkfir felt himself warming to Khaldun... of course, the fact that this handsome man resembled his former lover may have played a role in his change of heart. He had enjoyed recounting the lore of his people to the quiet, reserved captain, and secretly hoped he had been impressed by his knowledge of history. Perhaps if Khaldun were not married, and he were not betrothed... The thought was quite tempting, but so very, very wrong… Ah, but it did no harm to look… and to imagine…



First Age
Tolkien implied that Mordor existed as far back as the First Age. Most likely the land was created by Melkor during the Years of the Trees. Did anyone live there prior to the Second Age? One can only speculate. See notes below.

Second Age
500 - Sauron begins to stir again in Middle-earth.
THE CIRCLES: After being driven out of northern Nurn, the ancestors of the Dolrujâtar come to Lithlad.
1000 - Sauron establishes Mordor as his domain and begins to build Barad-dûr.
1200 - Sauron leaves Mordor to go to Eregion to instruct the Elves in Ring-craft.
1600 - Sauron comes back to Mordor and forges the One Ring.
1693 - Sauron leaves Mordor with a great force; the War of the Elves and Sauron begins.
1701 - Sauron returns to Mordor after being defeated by Elves and Numenoreans.
1800 - Sauron begins to extend his power eastward.
2251 - The Nazgul first appear.
3262 - Ar-Pharazôn assails Mordor; Sauron surrenders and is taken to Númenor.
3320 - After the destruction of Númenor, Sauron returns to Mordor. Númenóreans refugees found the countries of Gondor and Arnor. As part of the watch on Mordor, Minas Ithil is constructed on the western eaves the Mountains of Shadow.
3429 - Mount Doom erupts in fiery fury. Sauron launches an attack on Gondor, capturing Minas Ithil. The Gondorians manage to drive Sauron back to Mordor.
3434 - War of the Last Alliance: Sauron's forces are defeated at the Battle of the Dagorlad, and siege is laid to Barad-dur.
3441 - After three years of siege, Sauron leaves Barad-dûr to fight Elendil and Gil-Galad. His physical form sustains fatal injuries and Isildur cuts the One Ring from his finger. His spirit goes into hiding.

Third Age
After the defeat of Sauron in the Battle of the Last Alliance, the Gondorians build Cirith Ungol and the Towers of the Teeth to keep watch over the land in case Sauron should return.
THE CIRCLES: Gondor establishes various other fortresses throughout the mountains, as well as remote outposts in Mordor and Nurn.
1050 - Sauron establishes Dol Guldur as his new base of operations.
1300 - The Witch-king establishes the northern realm of Angmar.
1636 - The Great Plague severely diminishes the population of Gondor, and the Gondorians withdraw from Mordor.
1856 - Eight Nazgûl may have returned to Mordor at this time.
THE CIRCLES: Khamûl and Zagbolg return to Mordor, where Khamûl sets himself up as the ruler of Nurn. The other Nazgûl remain in Angmar, Rhûn, and Harad.
1975 - The kingdom of Angmar in the north falls; the Witch-king is without a realm to rule.
1980 - The Lord of the Nazgûl returns to Mordor and organizes the other Nazgûl.
THE CIRCLES: After the destruction of his kingdom, the Nazgûl Lord takes what remains of the Angmarian forces, as well as a large number of refugees, and travels to Mordor. He plans to use the Dark Land as a staging ground to launch an attack on Minas Ithil, both to avenge his losses as well as create a new kingdom to stand in opposition to Gondor. Although he faces initial opposition from Khamûl and Zagbolg, he persuades them to join him. He then sends messengers to the other Nazgûl, who rally to his cause.
2000-2 - The Nazgûl besiege Minas Ithil. Two years later, the city is theirs.
2942 - Sauron returns to Mordor in secret.
THE CIRCLES: In an attempt to regain part of the power which he lost after the Battle of the Last Alliance, Sauron demands that the Nazgûl return their Rings, for he plans once again to wage war against the West and conquer all of Middle-earth. There is a nine-year conflict between the Nazgûl and Sauron as the Nazgûl attempt to resist their master. This conflict ultimately results in the fall of Minas Morgul to Sauron's forces and an epic battle between Sauron and the Witch-king.
2951 - Sauron declares himself openly and begins to rebuild Barad-dûr.
2954 - Mount Doom bursts into flame.
3018 - The Hunt for the Ring begins.
3019 - THE CIRCLES: Sauron's forces attack Gondor, and the Battle of the Pelennor Fields is a victory. Ten days later, on March 25, Sauron regains the One Ring.

"No doubt because Gil-galad had by then discovered that Sauron was busy in Eregion, but had secretly begun the making of a stronghold in Mordor. (Maybe already an Elvish name for that region, because of its volcano Orodruin and its eruptions – which were not made by Sauron but were a relic of the devastating works of Melkor in the long First Age." – "Last Writings," The Peoples of Middle-earth, 390.

Over the years, many people have remarked that the design of Mordor seems to have been purposefully designed to be an enormous fortress, as opposed to a naturally occurring landform. One of my theories is that Melkor fashioned Mordor to be a backup lair in case he suddenly had to hide or was driven out of Angband. However, he never actually developed Mordor, and so the land lay vacant until Sauron's arrival in SA 1000. (Or did it…? It's theoretically possible that orcs and men could have lived there during the First Age.)

More evidence to back up claims of a First Age Mordor:

"Another note says historians in Gondor believed that the first Men to cross the Anduin were indeed the Drúedain. They came (it was believed) from lands south of Mordor, but before they reached the coasts of Harad they turned north into Ithilien, and eventually finding a way across the Anduin (probably near Cair Andros) settled in the vales of the White Mountains and the wooded lands at their northern feet. "They were a secretive people, suspicions of other kinds of Men [by] whom they had been harried and persecuted as long as they could remember, and they had wandered west seeking a land where they could be hidden and have peace." – "The Drúedain," Unfinished Tales, 383.

I am basing the presence of orcs in Second Age Mordor (and possibly First Age Mordor as well) upon the Eastern Orcs section found in "Note on the Delay of Gil-Galad and the Númenóreans" from The Nature of Middle-earth, edited by Carl F. Hostetter. Tolkien never specified WHERE the Eastern Orcs dwelt, but it COULD be possible that some had settled in Mordor. When writing about the East, sometimes Tolkien meant the distant lands east of Rhûn, but other times he simply meant lands east of Beleriand. Having the Kafakudraûg Clan as the descendants of these independent Eastern Orcs fits in well with the Circles canon, as this particular tribe of the Sand Orcs have little respect for Sauron. (Book 7 of The Circles was originally written in 2010, and the Nature of Middle-earth was not published until September of 2021. "A Brief History of Lithlad," which was written in December of 2021, was a later addition to The Circles. The chapter was inspired by discussions that Angmar and I had concerning the early history of Mordor, as well as materials from the History of Middle-earth series, and the newly published Nature of Middle-earth.)

"The orcs of various kind (creatures of Morgoth) were to prove the most numerous and terrible of his soldiers and servants; but great hosts of them had been destroyed in the war against Morgoth, and in the destruction of Beleriand. Some remnant had escaped to hidings in the northern part of the Misty Mountains and the Grey Mountains, and were now multiplying again. But further East there were more and stronger kinds, descendants of Morgoth's kingship, but long masterless during his occupation of Thangorodrim, they were yet wild and ungovernable, preying upon one another and upon Men (whether good or evil). But not until Mordor and the Barad Dur were ready could he allow them to come out of hiding, while the eastern orcs, who had not experienced the power and terror of the Eldar, or the valour of the Edain, were not subservient to Sauron – while he was obliged for the cozening of Western Men and Elves to wear as fair a form and countenance as he could, they despised him and laughed at him."
–"Note on the Delay of Gil-Galad and the Numenoreans," Nature of Middle-earth, p. 370

"Now Sauron's lust and pride increased, until he knew no bounds, and he determined to make himself master of all things in Middle-earth, and to destroy the Elves, and to compass, if he might, the downfall of Númenor. He brooked no freedom nor any rivalry, and he named himself Lord of the Earth. A mask he still could wear so that if he wished he might deceive the eyes of Men, seeming to them wise and fair. But he ruled rather by force and fear, if they might avail; and those who perceived his shadow spreading over the world called him the Dark Lord and named him the Enemy; and he gathered again under his government all the evil things of the days of Morgoth that remained on earth or beneath it, and the Orcs were at his command and multiplied like flies. Thus the Black Years began, which the Elves call the Days of Flight. In that time many of the Elves of Middle-earth fled to Lindon and thence over the seas never to return; and many were destroyed by Sauron and his servants. But in Lindon Gil-galad still maintained his power, and Sauron dared not as yet to pass the Mountains of Ered Luin nor to assail the Havens; and Gil-galad was aided by the Númenóreans. Elsewhere Sauron reigned, and those who would be free took refuge in the fastnesses of wood and mountain, and ever fear pursued them. In the east and south well nigh all Men were under his dominion, and they grew strong in those days and built many towns and walls of stone, and they were numerous and fierce in war and aimed with iron. To them Sauron was both king and god; and they feared him exceedingly, for he surrounded his abode with fire."
–"Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age," The Silmarillion.

While Tolkien wrote about Gondor building fortresses in the mountains around Mordor (Minas Ithil, Cirith Ungol, Carchost and Narchost), Angmar wanted to depict Gondor as having more of a presence within Mordor itself. In The Circles universe, Gondorian forces occupied Gorgoroth, Lithlad, and Nurn from the first years of the Third Age to the Great Plague of 1636. In the years following the pandemic, the Gondorians began withdrawing from Mordor. By 1856, the Gondorian occupation was all but a memory, and several of the Nazgûl had migrated back to the Dark Land.

Many people believe that all of Mordor, with the exception of Nurn, resembles the region of Gorgoroth that Frodo and Sam explored: a harsh and desolate wasteland. However, this might not have always been the case throughout the long history of Middle-earth. Fellow Tolkien scholar Gordis, with whom Angmar had many discussions during the early days of The Circles, believed that Gorgoroth would have had periods of great fertility, as volcanic soil is very rich. Gordis also believed that there would have been many springs that ran down from the encircling mountains into the plain, creating intermittent swamps and boggy regions. Based upon these theories, Gorgoroth could have been quite green from the beginning of the Third Age to the year 2954, when Orodruin erupted for the first time since the Battle of the Last Alliance. After Sauron's return to Mordor, he surrounded the northern part of his realm with scorched earth, much in the same way that Melkor left Ard-galen a desolate ruin. If Sauron had been successful in his conquest of Middle-earth, perhaps he would have commanded the volcano to sleep, and then Gorgoroth would have looked eerily similar to Sam's vision. ("And then all the clouds rolled away, and the white sun shone, and at his command the vale of Gorgoroth became a garden of flowers and trees and brought forth fruit.")

The exact location of Lithlad in the books is somewhat of a mystery, and because of this reason, various media depicts this region as being in a number of different places. In the Atlas of Middle-earth, Karen Wynn Fonstad depicts Lithlad as being the area around the Sea of Nurnen. However, the name Lithlad means "ash plain," which could be taken as an implication that it lies closer to Orodruin. In The Circles, Lithlad is another name for Southern Gorgoroth.

In the Tale of Years found in Appendix B of The Return of the King, the Witch-king arrives in Mordor in 1980, where he gathers the other Nazgûl. However, there is a note in "Gondor and the Heirs of Anarion," Appendix A, that states that eight of the Nazgûl may have returned to Mordor in 1856. (Emphasis upon "may" – a hint that the person writing this text in-universe was theorizing upon historical events rather than stating actual fact.) It is possible that the other Eight Nazgûl had been dwelling in Mordor since 1856, and the Witch-king merely "gathered" them in the sense that he organized them for war. However, if the other Nazgûl were waiting in Mordor, why did the Witch-king wait twenty years before assailing Minas Ithil? Perhaps the scribe who theorized that eight of the Nazgûl had returned to Mordor in 1856 had been mistaken, and only one or two Nazgûl were residing there at the time of the Witch-king's arrival. Perhaps the Witch-king had to send out summons commanding the other wraiths to join him, and this is why it took twenty years for the Nine to organize an attack against Minas Ithil.

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