The Orcs at the base of the pine tree made taunts and catcalls, but when the man-brat leapt a stunned quiet fell upon them. There had been leering speculation she might jump, but none of them expected such a powerful effort from something so small. Wide eyes and gaping mouths followed her passage through the air, and when she traversed the space between the two trees, successfully reaching the limbs of the other pine, there were exclamations of disbelief.
"What in the—!"
"How did she do that?"
Grymawk began babbling excitedly: "Did you see that? I did not just see that. She cleared it! I can't believe she did that. Did you see that? I did not just see that." He would have gone on like this at further length but was knocked out of it by an absent cuff from Mushog, who didn't even break off gawking to do so.
It was obvious that she was struggling. The slick pine needles evidently made her hold on the second pine tree treacherous. She cried out in dismay as she slid several yards down the length of the bough she had grabbed. The observers muttered ominously among themselves and when she locked her ankles around the branch, cutting her descent, and then began wriggling her way up, there were actually a few scattered curses of approval. Some of the Orcs, who had been calling for her blood moments before, were grown fickly invested in her progress.
Rukshash clacked his jaw in frank amazement. "By the Great Eye! That's simply not human. She climbs like a bloody Easterling ape!"
"Aye," Bragdagash agreed briefly, and he said no more, but a thoughtful flame flickered in his eyes.
But Grushak, cheated of the quarry he had thought so nearly his, was in a towering rage. "You'll not get away that easily," he growled, picking up a rock as he had before. Drawing his arm back, he hurled it with all his strength. And this time made contact.
The rock clipped Maevyn on the shoulder. First she simply felt it as a hard blow, and then pain blossomed, unfurling in undulant folds of white agony. In a stunned instant she lost her grip, slipping from the branch to which she clung. She didn't even have a chance to scream. Part of her brain shut down in a kind of little death and she watched the ground rush up toward her with a strange detachment.
And then, a bare six feet from the ground, she was caught by a pair of strong arms, the suddenness knocking all of the breath from her lungs. Velocity checked with such abrupt force, it felt as though her heart continued to plummet, smashing into her gut. The immediacy of impact brought her back to herself and she gasped in belated terror at her near brush with death. It was such a shock to her system that she couldn't hold it inside. A broken wail burst out of her, long and high, and she buried her face against her unexpected rescuer's chest, shaking and shuddering uncontrollably.
Hrahragh looked with bemusement at the howling girl in his arms. He was baffled by this sudden undisciplined display, in such stark contrast to the surprising toughness she had displayed till now. It was a paradox, and one that invited thought.
The time for contemplation, however, was short-lived. A dark form lumbered blackly toward him. In the dimness the Uruk could not distinguish the features on Grushak's face, but the large Orc's yellow eyes smoldered in an unmistakable fashion. "Give her here, Hrahragh. I'm gonna rip her apart." And his glowering eyes lent credence to the words. Grushak had every intention of reducing the little tark child to disparate shreds and chunks of bloody meat and bone.
Hrahragh shrugged. Shifting his grip to clasp the girl under her armpits, he held her silently forward. With a menacing snarl Grushak reached for her.
"Oi! Not so fast!" Bragdagash pushed his way through the other Orcs. "That was impressive up there," he said. "And worth thinking about."
"Screw thought. I'm hungry," growled Grushak, eyes intent on his prize.
"Abide your appetite a time, friend. She might be of some use to us."
Grushak, finally tearing his eyes away, looked at Bragdagash as though the Uruk had lost his senses. "Eh? And what is it you're saying, exactly?"
"I'm saying don't kill her." He peered at her in the gloom. "Yet." A moment's silent thought, and then an abrupt decision: "Bring her back to camp. I want to take a closer look at this man-brat of yours…."
Maevyn's shoulder throbbed brutally, as it had ever since the rock hit her. She hadn't had any time to examine the injury, and she was trying to imagine how bad the bruise was going to be. One to put all other bruises to shame, hers and Demmi's both, and she should know! The two of them had used to compete over their respective scrapes and scratches all the time. This bruise, she could tell from the slow burning agony of it, was one to be proud of—a purple royal above all others. A pity she most likely wasn't ever going to see it. The sight of a bruise, the oohs and aahs over its mottled hue, were normally some consolation for the pain. This way, in the dark, all she had was the pain and none of the pride.
Oh well, it's not gonna matter so much longer anyways, she thought to herself faintly as she was hauled through the trees. Grushak had her by the wrist, and his crushing grip hurt. When she stumbled from time to time on the irregular ground, unable to see where she was walking, he would only jerk her forward with a forbidding growl. He never once looked at her, and she was glad of that—she had caught a glance of his eyes earlier, glowing horribly in the dark, filled with such an ugly feral look that she had to shift her own away in a hurry. She didn't try to fight his lead—she could feel the rage pulsing in his grip, a tangible force running through his arm and up her own, visceral and intense. He would seize on any excuse, she knew, to rend her where she stood.
That Grushak was in such a foul mood should have gratified her. She had no love for him. But all Maevyn felt at this point was tired and sick and scared. Still, some embers of resistance remained, burning in her gut and gullet. They flared up some at the sight of the fire as they came again to the Orc camp, and she realized suddenly that she had lived for longer than she had truly expected earlier, when she first pulled away from Grushak's grip. Then she would have counted another moment of breathing a success, five minutes a miracle. And when she thought about it that way, her vain little escape of over an hour ago didn't seem so very fruitless anymore, not really. Thinking this made her chin lift and her back straighten, and when Grushak pulled harshly on her wrist Maevyn quickened her step to avoid stumbling and lifted her head higher.
The girl's change in posture didn't go unnoticed. Bragdagash raised an eyebrow at it, and the dim idea he was toying with found stronger footing in his mind. "Right then, bring it over here," he said, taking up a stance by the campfire. Looking sullen, Grushak stopped and pushed the man-brat toward Bragdagash. The Uruk caught her by the shoulder, and he didn't miss her sharp intake of breath as his hand closed on it. Brow furrowing, Bragdagash took a handful of the material of her blouse at the neckline, yanking it down to bare her right shoulder. She made a startled move to pull away and he cuffed her. She subsided, swallowing angrily, and he continued his examination in a brusque but unhurried fashion.
Grushak had done a number on her. Bragdagash's tongue took up thoughtful abode in his cheek as he appraised the sizable bruise on her shoulder, the slashing rips in her clothing, the livid weals where skin was exposed. They didn't quite have the look of whip marks, though, and he was puzzled briefly before he remembered her fall from the tree and concluded that she must have been thrashed a number of times as she fell through the branches. It was amazing that she hadn't cracked her skull, or any other bones in her body for that matter. She was covered with scratches, most likely from the pine needles, and these were only the most recent additions to the abuse she had sustained over the past two days.
He held her hands, turning them this way and that, absently noting the painful sounds she choked back in her throat. A stubborn one to restrain herself in this fashion, for the ropeburns on her wrists were ugly and obviously still hurt her. However, the period for which her hands had been bound did not seem to have compromised them—at least, not judging by her performance in the tree. Wanting to test her grip, he placed her hand on his index finger. "Squeeze it."
She only stared at him disobediently, but another cuff and she grudgingly did as he said. Curling her fingers around the digit, she clamped down as tightly as possible. The force she exerted didn't quite hurt, but it was uncomfortable and Bragdagash, studying the small fist attempting to crush his finger, decided that it was strong for her size. "Stop," he said. Her grip relaxed briefly, and then she renewed it, trying to dig in with her nails. He caught hold of her hair, gave her head a punishing jerk. "Stop," he said again, and she subsided. He obliged her to repeat the exercise with her other hand, maintaining his lock on her hair to discourage any similar stunts.
Then, pulling her head back for a more accommodating view, he scrutinized her countenance closely, looking past the smudges and scratches to study the twist of her mouth as she scowled, the anger that glinted in her eyes. Those eyes glared back at him, and he could see his own powerful physique and forbidding features reflected in them in miniature. If her eyes had been utterly without fear he would have judged her foolish or mad. The examination would have ended there and he would have tossed her back to Grushak without any further thought, to be disposed of at her resentful captor's pleasure. Rather than an absence of fear, then, it was the presence of fear, mixed with a kind of angry, hopeless, ballsy determination, which decided him.
He looked up. "Oi, Grushak. Take this one over and tell Squeaker to slather some ointment on her. We keep her in health and hearth another night."
Grushak's expression, one of fierce anticipation, became one of surprise and cheated outrage instead. "Another night?"
"Aye." Bragdagash nodded. "Another night." His gaze shifted again to the man-brat, who only returned an unblinking, uncomprehending and suspicious stare. "I've a new proposal for the morrow…."
"Oww-oooh," Maevyn whimpered faintly as Leni dolloped the gunky stuff on her knee. She had been sitting with her lips pressed together, trying not to utter a sound, but the ointment stung so much. It was the first noise to pass her lips since the Elf girl began treating her injuries.
Leni, who had maintained a strained silence up to this point, relaxed a little at what she evidently thought a cue for speech. "I am sorry. It hurts, I know. It is Orc medicine, and they do not bother with making their treatments pleasant. Nonetheless, it will heal you in a fashion. It hastens the mending process—you will notice a great difference tomorrow even, when you awaken." She paused, apparently waiting for Maevyn to speak.
Maevyn said nothing.
Leni bit her lip as she smeared more of the ointment into a particularly vicious cut on Maevyn's left ankle. "It is good that Bragdagash ordered this. So long as he wishes to preserve you the others will not cause you trouble. And he wants to keep you alive, or he would not expend this unguent on you. They do not scrimp on it, but neither do they use it casually, and certainly they do not waste it on…I mean, you being…." she trailed off.
Maevyn said nothing.
Evidently discouraged, but still trying: "It…it does nothing for the subsequent appearance, unfortunately. Orcs do not object to scars—if anything, they find them a source of pride. All of the Orcs have a great many scars. More than they would if they did not use this substance to treat their wounds." With a forced lightness in her voice: "It is ironic when you think about it."
Maevyn lifted her head at this, looked Leni directly in the face. "How many scars does Kurbag have?"
The Elf blanched. She paused, her fingers poised over Maevyn's leg with another dab of the medicine, opened her mouth as though to reply, and then closed it again, looking away. She continued her ministrations in silence.
Maevyn was grimly glad of the reaction. She didn't want to think about what she had seen earlier, but the ugly memory persisted nonetheless, and with it, increasing resentment. She hated Leni, and she hated Kurbag. The sound of his voice added new fuel to her hatred every time she heard him speak. Over around the fire the Orcs were holding a noisy discussion and she had a feeling that it pertained to her, but she didn't know what they were saying and, frankly, she didn't care. She was grown weary of conjecture. She sat by stiffly under Leni's care and stared ahead, suffering the ointment's astringent burn with perverse satisfaction, and it was somehow appropriate that her dark mood be accompanied by the growling, spitting speech of Orcs.
Grushak, for his part, was seriously pissed off. As a general rule he respected Bragdagash: the Orc chieftain had more than superior size and strength on his side, he had a certain degree of brains and affability as well. Not always mutually inclusive properties, those, in either an Orc or a boss. Nor did Grushak choose to argue with Bragdagash on the man-brat's score, for he could see the sense of the Uruk's proposal. It was a plan the like of which he might have proposed himself if he had been thinking straight at the time. But the fact was that he hadn't been—his blood had been up: he had hungered for her squeals, absorbed in the anticipation of playing Cat's Cradle with the little tark's entrails…and instead he had been badly cheated. And Grushak did not take kindly to being cheated.
Meanwhile, others in the band were expressing their own opinions of Bragdagash's decision.
"Not that I'm arguing against it," said Kurbag. "It just seems a little unusual, is all."
"Yes, I guess you would know all about that," Nazluk remarked pointedly.
"Oh, bitch bitch bitch," groaned the half-Uruk, making a talking gesture with his hand. "Let's do keep on beating a dead Warg, shall we?"
"And in any event, of course he would want to use her for it. After those pretty tricks of hers up in the green places?" Nazluk shook his head, a dismissive sneer on his face that this wasn't obvious to everybody to begin with.
"There you go, Nazluk, evidently we're just not as smart as you," Rukshash said sarcastically.
Nazluk gave him a baleful look. "Yes…it is good that you are able to admit it, Rukshash. You're never too old to learn a little humility."
"Oh ho. So that's the lay of the land then, is it?" He leered. "Never too young either, you yowling little pisser, and I'm the Orc to teach it to you."
Mushog, complacently ignoring the sniping among his fellows, shrugged. "I have no great thought on the matter. She's a titchy little thing. All that's going to happen is she's gonna break her neck." He grinned at the thought. "Which is entertainment in itself, certainly, but aside from that accomplishes little."
"Heyla, didn't you see her climbing earlier? She climbs better than Grymawk does." Rukshash sucked in his cheeks thoughtfully, then stated in a decided fashion, "It's those skinny limbs of hers. I said it before and I'll say it again: she's built like a monkey." The others looked at him blankly and he repeated, "A monkey. The Haradrim, the lads as rode the mûmakil in the War, they used to keep 'em as pets. Took 'em around on pretty little golden chains. They were, oh, 'bout so big…." He indicated an approximate two-foot distance. "Like squirrels, but with hands, catch me? Human hands, and their feet were like hands as well, and their skinny tails could grasp like it was almost a fifth hand, and their faces were like the face of a human infant. Big-arse eyes they had: peered at you all creepy-like. Shrieked and chattered fit to drive you mad." They continued to stare at him. "What?" he demanded. "Don't look at me as though I'm some senile old goatfart—it's simple fact I've seen some things in my time as you lot haven't, and I say she's built like a monkey!"
"Thank you for that enlightening comparison." Nazluk rolled his eyes. "Look you, I'm not disputing the brat can climb. What I'm wondering about is Grymawk. He's already going to have his hands full as it is, yes? How will it be when he has to worry about company as well, eh?"
At this point the individual in question spoke up. "I likes company!" declared Grymawk in a slurred voice. "I likes it gooooood." An evening's steady drinking and general good cheer had finally caught up with the small Orc. He hiccupped, tossed his head back for another draft of beer, and promptly toppled over. A series of guttering, glottal snores ensued shortly thereafter.
Bragdagash, who had been sitting by tolerantly enough during the conversation, laughed. "I think Grymawk has the right of it. So if you lads are quite finished rehashing the divorce of the Two Towers, I'd suggest some shut-eye."
"Now that I'm all for!" Mushog spoke with enthusiasm. "This slumber party is growing old. To sleep, then, and to sweet dreams of rut."
"You," said Kurbag, "have a one-track mind."
"Aye," the Uruk agreed. "And a pleasant track it is!"
This statement was answered with laughter from all among their company save Grushak, who stood abruptly. "Piss," he growled. It seemed an unprovoked and rather curious sort of insult at first, before he walked away and his meaning became clear.
Sleep. The first intelligent thing any of them have said this night, he thought darkly, obeying the usual male instinct to find a projection to urinate against. His foul mood made him seek a spot out of sight of the campfire. Stopping before a promising tree, he unfastening the front of his breeches and took his member in hand. Useless fucking lot. He aimed his stream at the base of the tree. The hot urine plashed against the rough surface, steaming even in the dark. Grushak grunted with gradual relief, and his thoughts turned to the real source of his irritation. Didn't ask so much as a mother-fuckin' by-your-leave….
And out loud: "Quit trying to sneak up on me, Nazluk. This is a piss-break, not a bloody ambush scenario."
If Nazluk was miffed at being caught out, he didn't express it. He took up a position to Grushak's left, and for a brief time there was no sound but quiet spatter.
Grushak, who didn't much hold with the kind of slinking shifting indirectness Nazluk affected, at length growled, "Well, what do you want? If it's buggering I'm not interested." He shook himself dry before slipping himself away, and he made a point not to be overly considerate doing so. Some droplets hit the back of Nazluk's hand and the other Orc grimaced but did not make complaint.
"An odd precedent our Bragdagash is setting," Nazluk said instead, eyes fixed in the direction of his own scalding jet. "I don't wonder that you're angry."
"Hrmm," Grushak rumbled in the back of his throat.
"It's every Orc's basic right to deal with his own personally captured property as he chooses. Unusual for a chief to meddle in that so casually."
"Oh, I wouldn't say casually," said Grushak, watching Nazluk askance through dour, half-lidded eyes. "This idea of using the man-brat is a good one."
"True. True. There is sense to it, yes." His stream having dribbled off, Nazluk tucked his member into his breeches in unhurried fashion. "But somehow, I have a notion that he didn't ask you first…?"
Grushak's tongue passed over his teeth. The other Orc's words were of a twin with his own line of thought. Never mind that it was a stupid line of thought.
Orcs did not ask. They took.
"The balance of things has been thrown off," Nazluk whispered. "Interfering, keeping the tark alive? It is as I've said, yes? make accommodations for an Elf, and…."
Now that, of a certainty, didn't follow, and Grushak's eyes narrowed. "Ahhh. So we've left the subject of Bragdagash's leadership behind, then?" Nazluk was silent and Grushak chuckled softly. "I see. Every Orc's basic right, hmm? Kurbag seems to be exercising that just fine, now doesn't he? Of course, it's different when you don't approve of his choices." He took a deliberate step towards Nazluk, and another, until he was looming over him. "I've some advice for you, snaga. This little quirk of yours, this bent for trouble. This need to stir things up. You had better curb it." He leaned in, his eyes dangerous slits as he looked daggers into Nazluk's own widened orbs. "'Cause it's gonna get you dead." He wheeled and strode heavily away.
When Grushak was out of sight Nazluk let out the ragged breath he was holding, and only then became aware he had been holding it to begin with. In a sudden mad frenzy he grabbed a knife from its place at his hip and drove it into an unassuming spruce. The knife quivered where it struck and he grasped the hilt to pull it out. The blade stuck fast. He cursed it, not in the vernacular of any known language in Arda but in the universal tongue of incoherent frustration, ultimately planting his foot against the tree for leverage as he worked to yank the weapon free.
When he finally succeeded in returning it to its sheath and had steeled himself to a controlled and brooding calm, he returned to the fire. The others were sprawled out on the coarse thin pallets that served the band for bedding. Most of them were clearly already asleep. Nazluk threw himself down on his own pallet and turned onto his back, glaring up at the stars. Yes, and what are you looking at? he thought resentfully.
The stars made no reply.
A whisper in the dark. "Maevyn? Will you not come to bed?
"You will be cold if you do not come in under the furs."
"I'm all right."
Hesitant. "If it is…I mean…." A sigh. "If it is that you do not wish to sleep with me, then…" The soft sliding and shifting of furs.
"I don't want one. I don't want any of them. I'm not tired, and I'm not cold." Leave me alone.
"If it is what you saw, then…."
Don't talk about it. Don't talk to me about it.
"I did not want you to see. I did not want you to know." A pause. "…I—I wish that you had not…that I had not…I…." Stumbling words, faltering in the dark.
Coldly: "You said he wanted to keep you. When were you gonna tell me why?"
"I thought you hated them, like I do. I thought you were just too scared to run away. But I guess that was never it, was it?"
"Do you think…I want—?" A long pause. "Maevyn, what do you know of…of the ways of a man with a woman?"
A sneer. "How old do you think I am?"
"Please. I do not mock you. Among my folk, maidens are not told of these matters until they begin…until we are of a certain age. I did not know until I was thirty, not so very long ago."
I don't care about what Elves do and don't do. Stupid Elves. "I know what you were doing, Leni. I've seen it lots of times: dogs and sheep and goats and pigs. My mama told me all about it, and what it's for, so there's no use your pretending about it. He was putting his thing up inside your quim, and you were letting him. You were doing the coupling thing, the stuff they do to make babies. D'you think I'm stupid?"
"Why? Why would you do that with him? How can you do that with something like him? You're not even supposed to do that until you're—it's dirty, girls who do that are dirty, doing that when they aren't even—"
Wet swallowing sounds.
"What, are you crying now? What are you crying for?" Maevyn despised her.
Soft, gasping words. "I am crying because you are right—I am crying…because I am defiled. But you do not understand…you cannot know….This is not something that I have chosen…this is not something that I have asked for…it is not, sweet Valar, it is not…."
"He forces me, Maevyn….It is not by my will….He uses me when he chooses, at his own pleasure….I have no say in it….I do nothing with him, he does it to me…."
Dubiously: "You don't like it? I…I thought it's s'posed to be—"
A strange harsh laugh. An ugly sound. The first ugly sound that Maevyn had ever heard Leni make: Leni, whose voice was so gentle and lilting, and whose normal laugh was like the tinkling of little bells. "Like it? Dear heart, I…I am not grown. I am not even of his kind. He is too big for me, he….It hurts me. It hurts me very much. Sometimes, I think it even…does me damage.…"
Confused. "Then…how come you don't fight him? How come you let him do it, if it's so bad?"
That ugly laugh again, and Maevyn realized why it was so ugly—it was wedded with a sob. "Because I am weak. Because I am useless. I have not the strength to keep him, to keep any of them, from doing as they wish. Think you I did not struggle in the beginning? That I did not resist, did not cry out? Struggling was only met with cruelty; crying out, their amusement. Squeaking little one, they called me. Their little squeaking mouse. They only laughed at me. Laughed! And did as they pleased. And took what they wanted. It was the same, whether I cried or not. Whether I fought or not. And so…after a time…I did not resist. I did not struggle. I lay there, and I let them take me. And one by one, they lost interest." Muffled. "Kurbag alone remains…."
Such a long silence.
"…Leni?" Pause. "Leni, are you all right?"
"…No. No, I am not. I am defiled and shamed. I am ruined. That would be shame enough, but it is worse, for I am also fearful, and weak. Too craven even to…." A guttering sigh. "Who could ever want me now? Who could ever love me now? Used plaything that I am, befouled…corrupted…."
"But it's not your fault! You never did anything, never asked for it…."
A dull voice, and weary. "What does it matter anymore, anyhow? It is simply so. It is the way things are. I am tainted. Even you will not abide me."
"But I will! I do, I do—" scrambling into furs and hugging the stiff slender form. The embrace was awkward because Leni was weeping into her hands, and her left elbow dug into Maevyn's armpit uncomfortably, but the younger girl clung to her nonetheless. "Please, please don't be sad, please? You're right, it isn't your fault, you didn't do anything wrong. It isn't your fault he made you nasty….You're pretty, and you're nice, and I like you, I do. Please don't be sad. I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I didn't know. Please don't cry…."
Supine on his pallet, Nazluk could not hear everything the two girls said, for there was much that was whispered and what wasn't whispered was muffled. But there was that which he found interesting in what he did hear, and he smirked, scratching his neck with an idle claw and thinking how it always comes in handy to pay heed to what is going on around you, however irrelevant or trivial it may seem. And for some time after their misery finally found its outlet in unhappy slumber, the little tark and the Elf, he lay there with his arms folded languorously behind his head, smiling to himself in the dark.
Quim. An Anglicized version of "cwm," the Welsh word for "valley" and a traditional synonym for the vagina. So far as I know, Tolkien never coined any Ardalambion for genitalia, but quim sounds Tolkienesque to me and just seemed the kind of word Maevyn's folk would use.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.