Grushak was grinning as he tickled the girl's eyelid with her own knife. He wanted to pierce the little ball of jelly beneath, to hear its owner squeal in disbelieving agony, but then, he didn't really want to rush things either. Certainly there were occasions in the past when he had regretted being hasty. Savor the child or enjoy instant gratification? Decisions, decisions….
"What's that you have there, Grushak?" came a reedy voice.
Decision made for him, for now. Grushak lowered the knife, feeling the girl relaxing the slightest iota under his arm. He gave her a small but nonetheless gut-wrenching squeeze to let her know that this wasn't over before he turned his attention to the Uruk with the bloody dagger who hulked in the doorway and the smaller Orc standing slightly behind him. The second Orc, the one that had spoken, looked at the girl Grushak was holding curiously. "It's a rabbit, Pryszrim," said Grushak sardonically.
The Uruk chuckled. The smaller Orc only looked dubious. "It doesn't look like a rabbit," Pryszrim said, sounding uncertain but willing to be persuaded. At that, the Uruk gave a loud guffaw.
Grushak, for his part, rolled his eyes. "Ever hear of sarcasm, shit-wit?" Pryszrim started to open his mouth, but Grushak was already speaking to the Uruk. "Hrahragh, what about the others?"
"Good take." Hrahragh's eyes gleamed. "All dead. Lots of blood." He lifted his bloody dagger with a smile and licked it.
Under Grushak's arm, the girl shivered.
"That's a good way to cut your tongue," remarked Pryszrim.
Hrahragh shrugged. "Tastes good. I killed…" he trailed off, cocking his head in thought. "Eight of them. Old man, old man, old woman, young man, young man, young woman, young woman." His eyes went lazy and half-lidded with remembered pleasure. "They were very good."
"That's only seven," said Grushak.
"The boy from earlier," Pryszrim reminded him.
"Ah." Grushak didn't say anything else. The boy had come as a surprise to them, bursting into the clearing where they had paused to reconnoiter before they hit the village. Hrahragh had been the first to act, and quickly, wrapping his long arm around the child's neck and twisting as he slit the soft belly open with his dagger. The child, eyes bulging, had fallen without a sound or even the opportunity to struggle. It hadn't seemed a proper kill at all, really.
"He barely counts," Hrahragh agreed amiably with Grushak's unspoken sentiment. "Maybe for half?"
"You win with seven anyway. I just took five: three outside, and then these last two." Grushak nodded towards the corpses of the man and woman on the floor.
"Have six when you kill her," Hrahragh pointed out.
"Mmm." Grushak looked down at the girl, who was staring wide-eyed at the other Orcs. He took a hank of her hair between thumb and forefinger, pulling her head back to examine her face. There was fear on her face, but there was also still anger, and something else, a cold calculating look as though she were studying his face with any number of guessable and not so guessable thoughts running through her head. Grushak's upper lip curled over one fang. In deliberate Westron he said, "Think I'll keep this one for an appetizer."
Maevyn, caught under the Orc's arm, was very still. Her eyes flicked continuously back and forth between the other two. She didn't understand what it was they were saying to each other—it wasn't like any speech she had ever heard, and the hard plosives and flat, heavy vowels were harsh on her ears. She was also disgusted to see how spittle flew so when they talked. When the taller Orc licked its knife her blood went cold and hot at the same time. She wanted to hurt them. Wanted to kill.
She knew that most likely it would be she who was to be hurt and killed, but she was hoping that they might be distracted long enough for her to figure out some means of escape. When their attention shifted to back to her, that hope plummeted. The Orc holding her pulled her head roughly backwards, obliging her to look into its face. It looked down at her briefly, then its mouth opened and she was suddenly assaulted with the odor of blood and spoiled meat. "Think I'll keep this one for an appetizer," it said in its guttural voice.
After hearing them speak back and forth amongst themselves in their vile tongue, the implicit taunt in saying this so she could understand wasn't lost on her. Rage made her stupid. "I'll kill you," she spat. "I'll make you bleed—kick you, hit you, hurt you—make you scream and tell me to stop, but I won't stop until you're dead—"
The Orc threw back its head and roared with laughter. She gritted her teeth as the violence of its amusement caused it inadvertently to squeeze her tighter. Her ribcage was badly bruised from the abuse it had already undergone. "Little one," said the Orc, shaking its head and chuckling, "I don't think so."
The other big Orc by the doorframe said something and laughed, and her captor nodded, responding in the same tongue. Still holding her, it stopped briefly to pick up the discarded silver cup, which it shoved under its belt before heading toward the entrance.
She closed her eyes involuntarily against the light outside after the house's dark interior. The Orc holding her and the smaller Orc also drew back for a moment against the light, muttering to one another in a complaining tone. The biggest Orc, the one with the dagger, strode forward unconcernedly. He was shaped different: easily a foot taller than the tallest man she had ever seen, but his proportions were more human than the other Orcs. He wasn't quite as broad in the chest—relative to his height anyway—and he stood almost man-straight. His hair was long, black and snarled, and his hide was rust-brown in color. He was also wearing less than the other two, only a shirt of corroded chain-mail that hung very short on him and a sort of loincloth covering the crack of his buttocks and his privates. This bothered Maevyn. He was closer to human in appearance than the others. It was easier to think of him as a man and that made the sparse covering on his body disturbing.
He turned his head to say something to the other two, and her sensibilities were further affronted by his multiple piercings. Only women ever wore earrings in Maevyn's experience, and when they did it was a sedate single ring per ear. The Orc had five in one, eight in the other, in the fleshy lower part and all up the curving outer edges of his earlobes, and in each pointed tip was a black ball stud. One of his broad nostrils was also pierced, as was the flattened bridge of his nose, between his orange eyes. Maevyn stared at him with morbid fascination, wondering what it felt like to have those things put in. She wondered if it was done all at once or on successive occasions, and how much it hurt.
The smaller Orc was squarely built in the shoulders and torso, but its arms and legs were skinny and it was probably only a few inches taller than she was. She supposed it was male—supposed they were all male, actually, since that was how they sounded in their low growling speech. He wore a sort of rough brown animal hide bundled about him with a belt of leather and on his head sat an incongruous pointed helmet with a low neckguard. The helmet looked far too big for him. Where the tall Orc strode, the small one almost scuttled.
Her own Orc moved in a gait that was something between a walk and a lumber. It was a purposeful movement and powerful. He only used one arm to carry her and it pressed uncomfortably against her body. Maevyn wiggled experimentally—his hold was tight, though, and there was no give to it. "You'll stop that if you know what's good for you, maggot," her Orc muttered, not even breaking his stride. She subsided sullenly.
They had passed Threnoch's house, and Benard's. Benard was an older boy her brother had adored and whom she herself had often admired for how far he could throw a stone, how high he could climb a tree. Higher even than she could. Benard's body was lying in front of his house. A few seconds later they passed his head, which was lying separately in a ditch. His eyes and open mouth were crawling with flies.
Maevyn saw this. Maevyn saw everything. Maevyn kept her eyes open, barely blinking as she observed each new atrocity with a hundred-mile stare, noting every broken doorway, every smoking house, every dead body. She had created a little dark compartment inside her head and was methodically storing it all away within. None of this would be forgotten, and there would be a reprisal.
If she lived to make it.
The village was centered about a communal stone well with a small roofed pulley, and there the four other Orcs who had gone on this little expedition were waiting. They hooted when they saw what Grushak was carrying. "Fuck, Grushak, that's a little bint," said Shrah'rar: rather ironically, since he was the smallest of their group and no bigger than the girl himself. "What can you even do with her?"
Rukshash, an old Orc who had survived fighting under Mordor during the War, picked his nose coolly. He was missing an ear, a slashing wound across the face had ruined his vision in one eye long ago, and his left hand was badly mangled. Glancing sidelong at the girl, he observed, "Man flesh makes good eating but you'll split her good if you try to take her, friend. They don't handle it so well when they're that small."
"They don't always handle it so well when they're bigger," claimed Mushog. The Uruk was leaning back against one of the well posts with a very self-satisfied look on his face. "Of course, Grushak probably doesn't have those kinds of problems. Not hung like the warhorse I am."
"I don't know about that, Mush-brain—I've seen my share of warhorses and I've seen your pisser, but I've never seen a warhorse hung that small." Rukshash looked up from examining the big green booger on his knobby finger, grinning wickedly.
"Oh right. I'd forgotten how much time you spend eye-level with horse cock," Mushog retorted.
Rukshash laughed. "Think you're mixing me up with Shrah'rar, friend."
"Hey!" exclaimed the smaller Orc.
Grushak ignored the ribaldry. He tossed the girl roughly to the ground so that she landed on her hands and feet, then placed a foot on her back to push her down on her belly. "Shut the fuck up and give us some cord, eh?" Someone accommodated him and he knelt down, placing his knee against the small of her back to hold her still. Catching both her wrists in a one-handed clasp and holding them roughly over her head, he tied them tightly. Mushog played benefactor and gave him some more cord from his pack to bind her ankles.
Outside of Mushog's gesture and the initial banter, the Orcs didn't pay much attention to what Grushak was about. The practice of taking captives for torment after a raid or a massacre was not uncommon, though generally the preference was for a hardier sort of plaything that would give more substantial enjoyment. The girl was small to their eyes, and weak. It was doubtful she would survive long.
"This was an easy lot," said Mushog dismissively, glancing around the surrounding houses. "They barely put up any fight at all."
"A well-off lot, though. I took fine silver from the dead." Grushak didn't actually show them the cup when he said this. They had all been foot companions for some time and had developed a certain degree of trust, but only to a point. Grushak hadn't lived this long without learning caution.
"I'm going back," said Shrah'rar. "I found good leather in one of the storage rooms."
"Was there cornmeal?" asked Pryszrim, sounding interested.
Shrah'rar gave him a disgusted look. "Sure, big bins of it—you want a little baggy?" he asked, sneering. Even though he was slightly shorter than Pryszrim and size played an important role in their kind's hierarchy, Shrah'rar never bothered to hide his contempt for the other Orc and his often distinctly un-Orkish traits. Such as his preference for starches over good bloody meat.
And his spinelessness. Pryszrim didn't take the bait, only grunted and looked away. "Fuck you, you little goat-suck," he muttered. "Maybe I was just getting some for Squeaker, eh?"
Shrah'rar started to open his mouth for a withering retort but was interrupted by a low rumble from another Orc. Nazluk was below man size, about as tall as a human woman, but still big enough to tower over both of them. "Corn meal for Squeaker?" growled the Orc with the mismatched eyes: yellow and pale green. "Kurbag's pet? That one can damn well feed on goat shank with the rest of us and be glad of it. Miserable little thin-skin shouldn't be with us in the first place. So that's where we are now, eh? Special consideration for Kurbag's pet? Special consideration, oh yes, yes, that's how we've gotten to this point. Well, I won't have it. Do you hear me, you little toad-lickers? I said I won't have it—enough is enough. Kurbag can get his own cornmeal if he wants it so badly."
Grushak straightened. "If you three fools would care to shut your face holes for just a damned minute you might care remember that we are going to be leaving in the none-to-distant future. So quit your jawing at one another and go find what spoils there are to be had, or so help me, I'll gut the lot of you and leave you for the bloody tarks to find!"
The smaller Orcs dispersed quickly as their larger fellows had already done. Grushak glanced down at the man child at his feet. He nudged her with his foot. Her face in the dirt, she made a soft, quiet sound but otherwise didn't respond. He hadn't tied her hands behind her back because he wanted her to make easy carrying, so she wasn't really trussed as securely as she might be. Nonetheless, he knew her bonds would keep at least until the Orcs were ready to leave. He grunted in satisfaction, then left her there while he hunted out more booty.
Stupid Orc. Stupid, smelly, nasty, stinking….
Maevyn waited until his footsteps faded away before she made any attempt on her bonds. Pushing with her elbows and knees, she pulled her body into a fetal position, knees pressing into her chest. The cord was tight and rough on her skin. She felt with her fingers for the cord around her ankles but was unable to find where the knot ends were. Her nails scrabbled vainly, only causing the most minor fraying. Not enough to avail her any.
Maevyn whimpered with frustration. She didn't know why the Orc hadn't killed her, but she knew that it wasn't out of charity. If she could only get loose, she knew what she would do. Run, run far away to where they couldn't find her. She would still have vengeance, but vengeance could wait. Looking for Mama and Da had been a mistake, she knew that now. Even if they had been alive, what could she have done for them? Mama would have told her she was a little fool.
Don't think about Mama. Don't think about any of it.
But she told herself that in vain. The blood was in her mind, and the ripped dress. There was the grotesque wet sound coming out of her mother's throat when Maevyn had entered the house, the low hissing rattle….
The girl gave up for the moment on the cord around her ankles. What she needed most was to get her hands free. She brought her bound wrists to her mouth and tried chewing the cord. It was thick and hard between her jaws, and its roughness cut her tongue and the corners of her mouth. Biting the rope didn't help so she tried nibbling the outside of it. That was better. She could feel the little individual strands that formed the cord breaking under her teeth. Yes, that was the way: thorough and sure. Don't bite off more than you can chew.
But it was so slow. So slow. And she was hot. The day was well into afternoon now, and the sun was directly overhead. Her mouth was dry and dusty. She stopped to spit grit out of her mouth and thought sadly about the well—only a few feet away from it, she was, and the clear cool water available from its stony gullet, deep within the earth. How she longed for a trickle to wet her parched throat: a mouthful to hold behind her teeth for a moment, pure and sweet and good, before she swallowed.
Time seemed unending as she worried at the rope with her teeth. She had barely nibbled a sixth of the way through it and was so involved in what she was doing that she didn't even notice some of the Orcs had returned until there was a sudden whump immediately to her right. She froze, then slowly turned her head to see what it was. It was a young calf, its big pretty brown eyes glazed over, its pink tongue hanging out of its mouth.
There was another whump to her left. A large ewe, white rims of the dead eyes exposed.
Whump. A brood sow. Whump. Another ewe. Dead animals were being dropped on the ground all around her. Maevyn wanted to scream: she managed to choke it back, but she could feel her body shaking uncontrollably.
The words, distorted but still recognizable Westron, caught her attention. "Sweet meat, good to eat, eat the head and eat the feet, hmm, hmm, bones to crack, hmm hmm hmm hmm hmm hmm hmm…." It was the smallest Orc, singing to itself, its voice high and grating. There was a squelching sound as it opened a long cut in the dead calf, peeling back the hide.
"Bones to crack and flesh to tear, rip into it anywhere…." One of the bigger Orcs.
Another Orc joined in: this time the words were unintelligible to her but by the intonation of its voice it too was singing. And then they all were, in their snarling, cruel tongue, as they cut and quartered lambs and kids and ewes and goats and pigs and calves—all dead, all dead. They were carving up the flesh and packing it into the hides they had stripped from the bodies, binding them up with cord and fouler things.
If nothing else good could be said of the Orcs, they were certainly efficient.
The smell of blood was heavy in the air, making Maevyn's head swim. A tuft of loose fleece tickled her nose. She lay helpless, not daring to move lest she attract attention, as the butchery continued all around her. Dully she thought to herself that maybe this was what she had been kept alive for. It made sense after that "appetizer" remark. Soon one of Orcs would turn her onto her back and slit her open, lifting out her insides and carving up her flesh to pack in bloody animal hide with the rest of the meat. And then where would all her work with the cord have gotten her? Her tongue prodded the slivers of hemp caught between her front teeth almost dreamily. If only she could have a drink….
One of the Orcs interrupted the singing peremptorily as it rose and went to the well. She could hear the pulley turning smoothly, hear the sound of water sloshing as the Orc lifted out the bucket. One by one the Orcs all finished the animals they were working on and went to drink. They drank long, longer than she could have thought possible, as she listened to the pulley rise and fall, the sound of long, steady gulps. She almost wanted to ask for a drink, even a sip, but she wouldn't let herself do it. She would ask them for nothing.
Two feet in front of her. Skinny legs, crude boots of burlap, hairy taloned toes exposed. Maevyn shrieked involuntarily as she was suddenly hauled up by her hair. It was the smaller Orc with the oversized helmet. He kept lifting until she was practically on tip-toe. Then he gripped her shoulder, dirty nails digging into her arm, holding her upright and forcing her to hop over to the well. He leaned her roughly against the well's stone side and started winding the pulley, bringing the bucket up one final time.
Her wrists were tied but her hands could have held the bucket—rather than handing it to her he caught her by the hair again instead, forcing her head backwards so that he could pour the contents of the bucket into her mouth. Water gushed over her face, soaking her hair and head and blouse, going up her nose and making her sputter and making the watching Orcs roar with merriment. Some of the water actually got in her mouth, though, and down her throat—what didn't go down the wrong way and half drown her appeased the worst of her thirst.
She coughed up water, gagging, as the Orc with the big helmet released her, and nearly fell before she was caught by the first Orc, the big one that had captured her. He lifted her up onto his back, sliding her arms down around his thick neck so that her bound hands prevented her from slipping. She hung against him, shivering. Her wrists hurt, the tightness of her bonds as she dangled cutting off circulation. Her fingertips tingled for lack of blood.
Around them, the others were lifting up the bloodily packaged meat and other things: knives and belts, packs and sacks and tools, some furtive gold and silver. They worked quickly, bundling their spoils and securing them on muscular shoulders and backs. The Orcs were clearly preparing to leave, and they were taking her with them.
Suddenly her Orc grunted. "You're dead weight, man-brat. You have to support some of it."
"I—" she coughed and half-whispered, "I can't, you stupid…tied my legs…."
"Mother-fucker," growled the Orc. "Mushog!" She assumed this was some kind of insult or curse, but another Orc turned his head and came over. Maybe it was his name. Her Orc said something to him and the second Orc came around behind them. She felt thick fingers fumbling against her ankles and the cord binding them parted suddenly and fell away. Her Orc hefted her up higher onto his back and she unconsciously put her legs around him as much as her skirt would allow, gripping with her knees and heels. This alleviated the strain on her wrists considerably and the Orc grunted again.
Emboldened by the exchange, she asked, "Where are you going?"
"Want to know where I'm taking you, huh? Maybe you don't want to know, meat-bag."
"Should've…killed me when you had the chance."
He laughed. "Would you listen to her tough talk? Gonna kill you yet, little one. But I believe in saving my fun for later."
She shivered at the cruel good humor in his voice.
Suddenly one of the other Orcs shouted and her Orc turned. The tallest Orc, the one with all the piercings, had picked up a disemboweled nanny goat and was dangling her over the well. Horrifically, even with her guts hanging out the animal was still alive: one leg kicked and she bleated feebly. He let her go and she fell. There was a resonant splash deep within the well. The other Orcs laughed uproariously. They all began picking up animal carcasses and discarded entrails to throw in. Maevyn's gorge rose at the sight of the Orcs deliberately fouling the village well. Her disgust manifested itself in a sickly hiccup. She tasted bile at the back of her throat.
The Orc that she thought was called Mushog raised his fist suddenly and bellowed. The others stopped what they were doing and bellowed back. They followed as he turned and began to run. Her Orc started to run as well, entering an easy lope. Each heavy footfall sent a powerful jolt through her body: metal studs dug into her chest and the cord binding her wrists rubbed her skin painfully. She clung tighter with her legs and the crooks of her arms and shut her eyes with the effort. Her Orc was snarling and slavering under his breath, and she could hear all of the others doing the same, keeping up a steady accompaniment to their pounding footfalls as they left the village behind.
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.