18. Hands On
"That's a little friendlier than I like."
"Mushog…OI!" Kurbag let out a sudden yelp, whirling on the Uruk. "Piss off, you fucker!"
"But I'm not doing anything," said Mushog. Kurbag glared at him. Turning, he began to wade in the direction of the bank. "Oh, come on," Mushog shouted after him, "can't you take a joke?" He received nothing but a snarl and further splashing in response as Kurbag sloshed ashore. "I guess not," said Mushog, smirking a little. Look around him, he gave Hrahragh a thoughtful look. Hrahragh gazed back steadily. His face was completely impassive, but Mushog's eyes quickly moved on. They settled instead on Bragdagash, who was sluicing his shoulders. Mushog grinned. "Hey Chief, need any help there?"
The taller Uruk glanced at Mushog. "Let's see. Can you keep your hands above the water?"
"Oh, I think that I can manage that," he said with the faintest of leers.
"Then we should get along famously." Bragdagash smiled a dangerous smile. "And of course we're all friends here, so there is no need for my standing on ceremony. Anything touching my nipples will be simply ripped off, no questions asked."
"…ah," said Mushog. He scratched his neck hesitantly. "On second thought, I think I'm going to swim a little more."
"I think that is a very good idea," agreed Bragdagash. Hrahragh snorted.
On shore, Kurbag shook himself like a dog, scattering bright droplets of water on the green grass. Padding over to his pack, he hunkered down and unfastened the flap, rummaging around inside until he had found and pulled out a crude comb of carved bone. At least Kurbag thought it was bone—Rukshash had told him once that it was ivory, carved from the yellow-white tusk of a downed mûmakil. Kurbag had no way of knowing the truth of this. He had never seen a mûmakil and, while Rukshash had endeavored to describe one to him, Kurbag had dismissed the older Orc's descriptions as exaggeration. Nothing that big could live, surely. Teeth the length of a tree? What would be the point of that—the beast wouldn't be able to chew with them. What, were they just there to look pretty?
No, enough for him that the comb was of some kind of whitish hard stuff and that it served him well. He had found it on a dead man once, and when the opportunity to use it came along it was nice to have on hand.
Settling comfortably in the grass, he began to run it through his wet black hair, fastidiously working out the tangles that he found. The others used their claws for these, and that lout Mushog in particular made short work of them—a snarl for Mushog was generally answered with brief use of a knife, and never mind the clump of hair he lost in the process, or the ragged way that it looked afterwards. Kurbag's comb had thoroughly spoiled him. Some of the teeth were broken but it had been that way when he first found it, and it was otherwise sturdy and a thorough pleasure to use.
The sun had shifted to the opposite bank so that its slanting rays reached him even under the trees. Kurbag shifted on his bare ass, turning away from the river, humming in his throat as the bright sun warmed his back and began to dry his wet shoulders. He closed his eyes briefly, then opened them again. Facing the deeper wood, he cocked his head at the sight of the Orcs there and what they were about. There were several of them gathered in close around Squeaker's little friend, who had evidently been put to work oiling and scraping Shrah'rar's back. The human girl looked distinctly sulky. Shrah'rar, on the other hand, looked as though he never wanted to get up again. Kurbag couldn't remember the last time the smaller Orc had looked so blissful—not without the involvement of livestock, at any rate.
Kurbag's ear flicked and he turned his head to see Nazluk emerging from the trees, a look of dour satisfaction on his face. That satisfaction vanished abruptly when he saw Kurbag. Nazluk stopped and stared at him in disbelief. "Oh, that is just too cute!" he expostulated, putting a hand on one hip.
Kurbag looked at him oddly before he realized Nazluk was referring to his comb. "Give over, Nazluk. You've seen me use it before," said Kurbag in a bored tone of voice.
Nazluk, having nothing really to say to that, put as much disgust into his responsive snort as possible. Resolving to ignore Kurbag, he headed in the direction of his fellow Orcs, faltering only briefly when he saw what was going on. He stopped beside Grushak, who was watching the business in front of him with silent amusement. "What's going on here then?" he asked, though the answer was obvious.
Grushak grunted but it was Rukshash who made reply: "We've discovered this one has some unsuspected talents," he chuckled, jerking his head toward the girl. "Sorry, Nazluk. You missed your chance at me."
"Oh?" Nazluk threw the child a thoughtful look but shrugged. Nazluk often complained and spoke darkly of Kurbag's own captive and her continued presence among them; in an display of seeming contrariness, he was not particularly annoyed by Grushak's tark-brat. He did not view it as the same situation. She was no Elf, and Grushak was not Kurbag. Of course Nazluk, always looking for an edge in any situation, kept half an eye on her anyway. He knew that Kurbag's Elven bitch was fond of her and he figured this could come in handy down the pike. Otherwise, though, he gave her no great thought. And if she got him out of doing Rukshash's back, well, that was fine by him.
Nazluk glanced at Grushak.
"Scrape my back?" Grushak asked in Orkish.
Well, evidently he hadn't gotten off entirely. "What, you don't want your tark to do it?" asked Nazluk as he took the vial and the scraper Grushak handed him and got behind the big Orc.
Grushak laughed at that. "Hah! Her? She'd take my hide off," he said with a chuckle, leaning forward comfortably. Grushak was under no illusions about the animosity that Maevyn felt toward him. Even if she hadn't told him frequently that she hated him, he had eyes and a perfectly good nose. The smell of her hatred was part of what made her so amusing—that and her bloody-minded stubbornness, which was nearly a match for his own.
Nazluk's dry palms slid over Grushak's back, his skinny fingers taking an initial assessment of the tension in his muscles. Rukshash was right when he said that Nazluk had a clever touch: his tongue was sharp but his hands could be damnably pleasant. It was not enough for him to oil and scrape. When Nazluk touched a fellow's back his inerrant fingers seemed to effortlessly find and soothe away every sore spot. His pacing was always leisurely, his manner always thorough. Grushak had asked Nazluk once why he took such pains; why he took his time and didn't make a quickie of it as the others did. Nazluk's answer had been a nigh incomprehensible mutter and Grushak didn't press it.Whatever Nazluk's reasoning, he went about the business of scraping your back in a way that felt very good indeed.
There was another bonus too: on such occasions he was always very quiet, saying little or nothing by way of his usual sarcasm. Unless, of course, you made the mistake of talking to Nazluk. But Grushak had no intention of ruining this with conversation.
He heard the vial as it was uncorked, the faintest burble of oil escaping the mouth of the vessel, and then he heard the brisk rasping sound of Nazluk's hands. Nazluk had slicked them and was rubbing them together, warming the oil with his heated palms. Placing them against Grushak's back once more, he began to massage the big Orc deeply.
"My turn!" crowed Pryszrim as he replaced a reluctant Shrah'rar in front of Maevyn.
Maevyn scowled. "My hands are sore," she said, defiant. "I can't feel my fingers."
"Ouch," remarked Grymawk less than helpfully. He was waiting to have his back done after Pryszrim.
She glared at him. "My arms are sore, and my shoulders, an' my back hurts too."
"I could do your back," said Rukshash, who was sticking by in a proprietary sort of way. "'Course, you'd have to take your shirt off for that!" He cackled.
Maevyn had flinched at the suggestion, realizing the same thing. She was young and didn't have anything to be seen there, but she was still scared when she thought about Leni. Leni, after all, was not so very much older in a way, and the Orcs had shown no scruples with her. Anyway, Maevyn liked the idea of an Orc touching her even less than she liked touching the Orcs. They were forcing her to do their backs, but at least when she was doing the touching she had some control. She made no further comment on her back hurting. Instead, she glared at the back of Pryszrim's neck. If looks could kill, Pryszrim would not so much have died as been instantaneously vaporized. There would have been nothing left of him but the lice.
The lice. Ugh, the lice. Pryszrim had many due to the foolish garb of bundled fur he wore and to the fact that he never expended any effort trying to get rid of them. The daughter of her parents, having their habits and having been raised in a decently civilized village, Maevyn knew there was any number of basic precautions you could take against lice. Pryszrim's being an Orc was no excuse: Shrah'rar and Rukshash had hardly any, which was a little odd for Shrah'rar. But Pryszrim had obviously never taken even a lick of effort fighting lice in his life. This meant that she was going to be picking them out of her own hair later, which infuriated her no end.
As she rubbed his back Maevyn began to squeeze and pinch the Orc surreptitiously, but when Pryszrim squirmed back with enthusiasm she gave it up for hopeless and just returned to rubbing the oil into his skin as quickly as possible. "I hate you all," she muttered under her breath.
Pryszrim sighed happily.
Grushak was in a similarly good mood. Leaning back into Nazluk's cunning fingers, he shut his eyes and shifted a little, the muscles in his powerful shoulders rolling pleasantly as Nazluk kneaded and manipulated them. It felt so good his pleasure was translating into response elsewhere. "Fuck, I'm hard," murmured Grushak.
"Too bad," said Nazluk absently.
"Lend a fellow a hand?"
Nazluk paused. "I already am," he said in a cold voice. "Beat your own meat, Grushak. I'm busy."
"Now now, lads, take it to the bushes if you're going to be like that," said Rukshash.
Nazluk rolled his eyes and Grushak chuckled, his own eyes still closed.
Foregoing questions of Mushog's exuberance and of just how that stick had gotten up Nazluk's ass, there was no buggery among the members of Bragdagash's band. It wasn't that they had the moral scruples of their Elven or human counterparts, but it was just stupid to screw your shield mate. Brought all kinds of complications into play, issues of power and of dominance. Resentment and grudges were nearly inevitable, and the havoc it could play with larger group dynamics was just not worth it. There was nothing wrong with a casual jerk among comrades, though, and a helping hand with a fellow Orc's dick, as with scratching or scraping or a dozen other friendly gestures, was generally given and received with the same casual good humor.
Too bad about that stick up Nazluk's ass. He had never given a sign of wanting to engage in that sort of thing, not in all the time Grushak had known his company. It really was too bad, especially when his hands were so very good.
Grushak toyed with the notion of taking Nazluk's advice and unfastening his own breeches. Feeling comfortable enough as he was, he decided against it—and, in so deciding, refrained from inflicting a whole new world of revolting on Maevyn. She sat not so very far away, obliviously, angrily scraping Pryszrim's hide, unaware of the bent of Grushak's thoughts. Unaware she'd just been spared a level of nasty that would have thoroughly trounced Pryszrim's lice, and might even have supplanted the traumatic memory of Rukshash's back.
Eleluleniel cleaned herself a second time after he left her, numb from the encounter. She brushed soil from the knees of her dress and washed it from her fingers, ran a wet palm over her throat and collarbone and shoulders and, lifting her hair out of the way, over the back of her neck as well, trying to forget Nazluk's hands and the hate that had been in them. As she made these ablutions she could hear the last words he had spoken to her. He had said them in the coldest terms of his dislike, but she could still hear the ring of truth in what he said.
She didn't want to go back, thinking of his eyes on her and the contemptuous twist of his mouth. She forced herself anyway. She had been gone for too long as it was. Better to go back before Kurbag came looking for her.
When she returned to the impromptu camp by the river the Uruk-hai were just coming up out of the water. She waited discreetly behind a tree as they passed by: Bragdagash with his long stride, and then Hrahragh, idly scratching one shoulder with his dark claws. Kurbag, she had seen, was already on the bank. That left only—
"Boo," came a guttural voice from behind her. She started, whipping around with wide eyes and a pounding heart, and her shoulder slammed painfully against the trunk of the tree. Mushog roared with laughter at her dismay. "Hiding, then?" he asked with a mocking gleam in his golden eyes. "See anything you like?" She flinched and the nude Uruk laughed again, dropping his hand to waggle his flaccid penis at her obscenely.
Sneaking up and terrifying the wits out of her was evidently all the cheap thrill that Mushog was looking for just then. He made no move to molest her, chuckling as he passed her by. As he sauntered past Kurbag he jabbed his thumb back over his shoulder. "Were you looking for Squeaker? She's behind that tree."
Kurbag glanced sidelong in the direction Mushog had indicated. He'd been wondering where the Elf had gotten off to. "So that's where you are then, eh? Come here."
Biting her lip she did as she was told, stopping a little distance from him. She did not like to come closer. She did not like to be near Kurbag, particularly when he was exposed, but he flicked his hand in a come-hither gesture and she stepped reluctantly within his reach.
He didn't touch her, cocking his head as he looked her over. "You washed," he said.
She looked at him warily. "Yes." Of course she had washed. Kurbag was not a fool but he did have a habit of stating the obvious. The other Orcs sometimes mocked him for it, though he took it in good humor. It seemed to be part of his natural volubility, this business of conversation without purpose: talk for the sake of talking. Eleluleniel had never understood how any one living person could talk so much and say so little.
What he said next, though, surprised her. "I need to get you a new dress. That one is nearly worn to pieces."
It was the same dress she had been wearing when first he had captured her, on that long-ago day, in those other trees so far away. Once it had been a simple adolescent's gown: a long garment pleated below the bosom to hang in sedate folds on her body. The kind of simple dress appropriate for an Elven maiden who is no longer a child but is not yet a young woman, a girl more than ten years and less than twenty from her majority. It had not been one of her better dresses but she had liked it well enough and had worn it for walking and for the out-of-doors.
Now it was dingy and stained, the long skirts soiled with travel and many miles walking, with dirt and with worse than dirt; the sleeves were ragged, sullied with rough treatment from the Orcs as well as mundane wear and tear. Long she had taken pains to clean it and to keep it at least somewhat presentable, using whatever she could for the purpose. The task was a hopeless one, though she kept it up out of habit. Elven fabric is woven beautifully and strong, but even the fabric of Elves, subjected to such continuous abuse, will degrade under the punishment. It was no longer a dress she wore but tatters: tatters that, at one time, Eleluleniel would have thrown away without a second thought, disdaining even their use as rags.
And yet it was her dress. It was still her old dress, all that she had to clothe her body and all that she had of her old life. She watched unhappily as Kurbag toyed with the material of her skirts, appraising it critically and paying no attention to her. "Must you?" she asked softly.
"I'll find you something when next we raid," he said, running it through his fingers. "It should be easy enough to find a few your size. Won't be a problem."
Eleluleniel heard women screaming in her head: saw faceless cowering forms, unmoving bodies, smashed trunks, strewn clothing. No problem at all, she thought faintly. Said out loud, rather helplessly, "But it is mine."
He looked up, eyes narrowing at her reaction. "You do see that it's dirty, don't you, Squeaker?" he asked as though he spoke to a child or to one whose wits were failing her. "I thought your folk like to be clean. That's what I've always been told anyway, that you Elves are such sticklers for being neat and tidy and all that."
She was struck by the absurdity of the exchange: of being told with great patience, by an Orc no less, of the customs of Elven cleanliness. She began to laugh, half bitterly, half with genuine amusement.
Kurbag, not knowing why she laughed, looked at her with baffled interest. "Sit," he said, tugging on her skirt.
And suddenly it was no longer funny.
Eleluleniel closed her mouth and looked around them, but there was no one in their immediate vicinity. The nearest Orcs were Hrahragh and Bragdagash, who were sprawled indecorously in the grass, sleekly enjoying the afternoon sun. She did not know why she looked around thus, as though someone would help her. Instinct, she supposed, though what use instinct was, she did not know. There was no real way to keep Kurbag from doing what he wanted, when he wanted it. His solid inevitability wearied her to the marrow of her bones.
"Sit," he said again, and she sat slowly. He was naked but not aroused, and his interest in her at that moment did not seem to be lustful, for he did nothing more than touch her hair. It was matted and unkempt but he stroked it with every sign of appreciation, running his fingers through her pale tresses. When his talon snagged on a tangle he made a grunting sound and picked up his comb. Rather than pulling her to him he scooted up against her. She sat un-protesting as he began to comb her hair. "Pretty thing," he murmured close to her ear, and she stiffened, but he said nothing else for the moment, concentrating on the task before him.
Squeaker's hair, pretty as it was, presented difficulties for Kurbag. It was not like his own, which was quite inhuman: like the thick dark strands in the tail or mane of a horse, tough and coarse. Squeaker's hair was equally inhuman, but so fine in contrast that it didn't feel quite real in his hands. It was also easily damaged. He lifted a bright lock carefully, delicately in one clawed hand. Holding it away from her scalp so that he wouldn't pull on it by accident, he ran the comb through in a gentle but insistent way until the individual strands hung smooth and free of entanglement.
It humiliated Eleluleniel to be treated in this manner, as if she were some living doll with which he amused himself. She would have infinitely preferred to use the comb for herself, but they had been down this road before. She knew from experience that he wouldn't give it to her, taking an Orc's characteristic pleasure in control. She did not like him touching her hair but he was not hurting her, and her hair needed the care that he was showing it. For these, and for the chief reason that she had no real choice in the matter, she sat silent under his attentions.
Sat, all unconsciously, with the same straight shoulders and folded hands with which she had once been accustomed to sit as her older sisters brushed and braided her hair. They had liked it for its coloring, which came from her grandmother and had skipped a generation. Her parents and her other sisters were dark. How she had loved her sister Alageth's long black hair. It had hung at the older girl's back like a silken curtain and, when Eleluleniel had been a very little girl, nothing made her happier than when Alageth would consent to sit and let her little sister brush her long black hair.
"What," grumbled Maevyn.
"You stopped," Grymawk complained.
She sighed and began to rub again. She had paused when, glancing up over the Orc's shoulder, she noticed Leni standing in front of Kurbag, her back to Maevyn. As he drew the Elf girl down Maevyn's eyes widened, but when he did nothing sinister she felt some measure of relief, and a small resurgence of irritation. She was resentful of the way that Leni had abandoned her earlier. She wondered what Leni had been off doing while she had been left behind and trapped into scraping Orcs. Something Elf, no doubt. Probably singing or picking flowers or talking to bunnies, or all of the above, the whole time that Maevyn was suffering.
Well. At least Grymawk wasn't as bad as the others. They had groaned and made other disconcerting creepy noises under her hands. Grymawk uttered little exclamations of pleasure from time to time, but mostly he just talked. Maevyn paid him no mind. She finished oiling him and picked up the scraper, laying it against his back.
"There," said Nazluk a few meters away. "Done." Standing, he thwacked the scraper against Grushak's olive-colored hide, surveying the end product with a critical eye and with grim satisfaction in a job well done.
Grushak lay back abruptly, making Nazluk utter a sharp oath and step aside to evade his considerable bulk. He shifted and rubbed his body against the ground. His back felt tender and raw: sensitive as an Orc just spawned. The cool crushed grass was soothing after the faint sting of the scraper.
"Yes, that's right," said Nazluk bitterly, "I clean you up and you roll around in the dirt. That makes perfect sense."
"Shut up, Nazluk," said Grushak comfortably.
"'Shut up,' he says. Well isn't that always the way of it? 'Shut up, Nazluk' and never so much as a 'thank you' for services rendered..." Nazluk muttered as he began to strip down himself, baring skinny shoulders, a narrow chest and a wiry whipcord torso. When he stepped out of his trousers he folded them and sat, laying them across his lap in an oddly discreet manner.
This was a peculiarity of Nazluk's to which the other Orcs had become accustomed, not without some initial jeering. They'd once had a notion his balls were missing, he was so finicky about his privates. And yet, in the inevitable forced intimacy of a small band of Orkish raiders, that kind of thing would not have stayed hidden for long. A glance while pissing, a flash while scraping—the other fellows were going to see your dick. Nazluk had the regulation number of bollocks, and his dick was intact too: real as life and twice as ugly. There seemed to be no discernable reason for his secrecy, but it was such a longstanding practice of his that the others barely took notice anymore.
His crucial bits covered in this fashion, Nazluk smeared oil on his arms in a perfunctory way before he began to scrape it off.
"I don't know how you can stand to marinate yourselves like that," said Mushog, who had wandered over in the direction of the smaller Orcs. "You stink of oil."
Maevyn looked up at the sudden loud voice to see Mushog standing, legs spread, practically in front of her and Grymawk. Taken off guard, she squeaked and immediately redirected her eyes. She had nearly become impervious to the nudity of the regular Orcs—couldn't very well do otherwise, trapped among them as she had been for the past two hours. But at least, scraping their backs, she was behind them. Mushog was facing in Grymawk's direction front-on: that meant Maevyn had gotten a full frontal view.
If I never see another Orc's thing again, it'll be too soon….
Mushog noticed the girl's reaction and was delighted. Immediately he dropped into a loose, dripping squat in front of her and Grymawk.
"Yes, because splashing around in the drink is so much more dignified," Nazluk was saying dryly.
Mushog chuckled, rocking on his heels as he waited for the tark child to lift her head again. He looked oddly boyish at that moment, like a teen boy gearing up for a prank rather than an Uruk seeking to expose himself to a hapless nine-year-old.
"Gah. What's water do that oil doesn't do better?" asked Rukshash. "Oil makes your skin supple. Gives you a nice healthy sheen."
"Voj mir thag mushof agh shemator sharku-hai. Jut mir nar sharku agh mir shofat." He grinned, thinking to get Maevyn's attention with the Orkish. What he got was a stream of invective from Rukshash on young Uruk shits who thought they knew everything and had all the brains of pig dung.
Maevyn was sitting with her head bent forward, her nose almost brushing Grymawk's spine. She started to look up only to see Mushog waiting for her, all leering anticipation. She lowered her face again immediately, ears burning.
"Hey, what are you doing back there anyway? Are you going to finish scraping my back or what?" asked Grymawk plaintively over his shoulder. Looking forward again, he sighed. "Mushog, will you get that thing out of my face? I'm having my back scraped here—you can play with the tark when I'm done."
Mushog snorted. Rising to loom over both of them, he gave himself a deliberate tug. Grymawk ignored it and Maevyn had fixed her eyes narrowly on Grymawk's back. Mindful of his addendum, she made a slower go of it. Grymawk didn't object, possibly recognizing a move to delay, probably just enjoying the more leisurely pace and the long, slow licks of the scraper.
Grushak, unbeknown to either Maevyn or Mushog, had propped himself up on one elbow and was watching the Uruk with an inscrutable gaze. Mushog was hovering near Maevyn, clearly bored out of his skull and looking to entertain himself. He smelled horny, but Mushog always smelled horny. It didn't necessarily mean anything. Still, Grushak decided that he had better make something clear. "Oi. Mushog."
"Katu." He lay a hand on the grass beside him, palm down.
Mushog ambled over readily enough. "Something on your mind, Grushak?" he asked, licking his lips.
Grushak smiled, a trifle dangerously. "Rrau, Mushog." As Mushog dropped into another squat, Grushak said, "Nar kurvanug shara-foshan."
"Aw! Why not?" said Mushog, though he had no interest in doing that to the little tark: not really. Anyone could see she was not ripe, but Mushog was in a playful mood, enjoying his game of threat and intimidation. "Mir dafrim. Sharagru baj mir smakafsog." He turned his head to leer at Maevyn again.
"Lat molva sharagru kaul. Snaga-rim agh nar mir vadokan."
Grushak's voice had taken on an edge. Mushog shrugged. "Nar voskor kurvanat sharagru. Shum sma."
"Nar kurvanug," Grushak reiterated.
"Nar kurvanug, yes, all right, fine!" He gave Grushak a resentful look but did not go so far as to bare his teeth. Snaga-Orc though Grushak was, Mushog was no fool. Grushak might not be as tall as him, but he was built like a mountain: a mountain that fucking moved. Mushog's sense of self-esteem was healthier than average, and he thought highly of his prowess as a fighter. He thought he might be able to take Grushak, but he didn't like to bet on it.
Grushak grunted and settled back, while Mushog sat by sulkily. The others had been watching and listening with interest, waiting to see if the two would come to blows. There was some disappointment that the matter had been resolved without bloodshed. "I was looking forward to a good row," said Rukshash. "Little brat. You certainly cause enough trouble."
"I didn't do nothing," Maevyn muttered crossly, irritated not to know what was being said when they were clearly talking about her. She wished her Orkish was further along. She had understood something about Mushog collecting ears in baskets, but didn't think this sounded right. She sensed somehow that Grushak had protected her, which was annoying. She did not like to be in his debt for any reason.
As she finished Grymawk's back she had a chance to look over what she had done. Much like Nazluk, she found satisfaction in what she saw. It was the first she'd had an opportunity to study the end results, really—seemed like before, every time one Orc was done, another plopped down in his place. Having a chance to look Grymawk over, she was surprised by the difference from when she had started. His skin, previously mottled and dark, was several degrees lighter in shade: an ashy gray color. His back was smoother than Rukshash's and he bore no scars, which may have been partly why it was so much more tolerable on the eyes. There was not a trace of dirt or other Orc crud to be seen. He looked…clean.
He's cleaner than I am, she thought with wonder. This gave her a queasy feeling in her stomach. Suddenly she stood outside herself, looking with disgust at the girl with the bedraggled clothes and tangled black hair, the girl with greasy hands and grime on her face and on her brown arms and legs. The last time her hair had been brushed was the last time her mother had brushed it; the last time she had washed was when her mother had been boiling laundry outside their house and had made her and Demmi clean behind their ears.
She had not washed behind her ears—had not washed any part of her body—in days. It was no wonder she was filthy. Maevyn was dismayed to realize that she was dirtier than an Orc.
As if he could read her thoughts, Grymawk started snuffing the air. He turned and looked at Maevyn. "You stink," he observed.
She stared back at him.
"No, I mean, you smell truly foul," he said. "Aren't you going to clean yourself?"
"What, this little one? Take her pretty clothes off around us nasty horrid Orcs?" Rukshash fingered her sleeve with a wicked chuckle.
Maevyn yanked away angrily. "Quit touching me!"
"We've oil a-plenty. Go ahead. We won't look, we promise." He smirked.
Like she would believe that. "No!"
"Skai," he said, shaking his head, as if with a sense of profound regret. "Doesn't know what's good for her. And yet here she's been so good to us. Doing our backs so nicely, with nary a sigh or complaint. Demands some sort of good turn, now doesn't it?" Rukshash looked at Shrah'rar and Grymawk with a slow smile. "I could hold her down while you two used the oil…."
Maevyn was horrified. She was even more horrified to hear Grymawk saying, "Well, she is very rank…."
"NO!" Maevyn shot to her feet. She shouted it in high dudgeon but could not help the sudden alarm mixed in with her fury. Their broad nostrils fluttered and flared as they caught the scent. They could smell it on her, like dogs…but what could she do? She could not simply will her fear to dissipate! Grymawk and Rukshash were both rising, as were Shrah'rar and Pryszrim. Maevyn began to back away—
—and bumped right into Mushog, who was standing behind her. "Now lads, lads…" he crooned, catching her before she could escape. "Anyone can see she wants nothing to do with your oiling and your scraping and your nasty, nasty hands…"
It was Mushog's hands that terrified her at the moment—his hands, and his nakedness, and his uncovered thing, which she could not see but which she knew was behind her. She began to struggle frantically but he had caught her in his muscular grip. Horribly but effectively he tucked her under his right arm and, arm wrapped tight around her own arms and upper torso, held her pinioned against his side, no matter how she yelled and kicked. And she was doing plenty of both, though it was to no avail. Mushog only laughed and began to walk away with her under his arm.
Wrenching her head around and staring back in disbelief, Maevyn could see the other Orcs watching them leave with so much shrugging and indifference. Grushak, who she thought had protected her earlier, only looked after with something like amusement on his ugly face. She had thought she was safe. She was wrong.
"You'll thank me for this later," said Mushog, "when you aren't dwelling in your own reek."
Maevyn did not comprehend his words: at that instant she saw Leni's face as they passed her and Kurbag, and the look of distress in the Elf girl's eyes smote Maevyn to the very heart. "Let me go!" she cried, writhing in terror. "Let me go, let me go, LET ME GO!"
"As you like," said Mushog cheerfully. And shifted his grasp on her. And, with another laugh, threw her into the river.
The panic she had felt in his arms was nothing to the panic she felt now. She screamed, but there was no sound—water immediately filled her mouth and went down her throat. Bubbles of precious air escaped into the water around her. Her wide eyes darted through the murky gloom: it was green and glimmerlit, pale light slanting through particles of floating silt. She was completely disoriented, unable to tell up from down. She thrashed and kicked, but her legs were tangled in her skirt.
She could not breathe. She was drowning. She was going to die.
Something caught her by the hair and hauled her up out of the water. She broke the surface sputtering and flailing. Hrahragh dragged her into the shallows, still by the hair, as she kicked and splashed and choked. Releasing her, he looked down at her with faint contempt. "Fool snaga. Drown in four feet of water?"
Four feet? That had not been four feet. She was sure it hadn't. But she was unable to protest, was too busy vomiting, hands buried in thick river slime. As she coughed up a mixture of water and bile, she could hear jeers and cruel commentary at her expense. Orcs of both breeds were on the riverbank, watching her and laughing. Not surprising, really. Her limp hair and the sodden clothing plastered to her trembling, dripping body made her looked like a half-drowned rat.
"You see?" Mushog was saying loudly. "And all I had to do was throw her in. You can't do that with oil!"
Voj mir thag mushof agh shemator sharku-hai. Jut mir nar sharku agh mir shofat. "Oil is for dry skin and ugly old folk. Water is for the young and good-looking."
Rrau, Mushog. Nar kurvanug shara-foshan. "Sit, Mushog. No fucking the man-brat."
Mir dafrim. Sharagru baj mir smakafsog. "Good sport. The girl would make a nice snack."
Lat molva sharagru kaul. Snaga-rim agh nar mir vadokan. "You'll break her open. She's my slave and is no good dead."
Nar voskor kurvanat sharagru. Shum sma. "I have no desire to fuck her. She's too small."
Nar kurvanug. "No fucking."
Huge credit for this chapter goes to Miscreant K! Because every time I stopped and scratched my head, her brilliant suggestions got me going again….Special credit to her for the "reek" line, which made me laugh. Also, I didn't plagiarize per se, but I feel obliged to mention that writing this chapter gave me flashbacks to Draylon's "Leader of the Pack." Those who haven't yet really ought to read her Muzluk trilogy, beginning with "Warg Pit One Hundred and Thirteen" and available on fanfiction.net.
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.