17. Strange Bedfellows
"We're moving too slowly."
Uglúk shot a contemptuous glare at Grishnákh as the leader of the uruks of the Eye joined him in his surveillance of the night. The moon was a sliver, shedding but little light, and that quite enough for orcs. But even so, he needed it not—the land lay like iron, hard and unyielding, and stone jutted from it, piling high into rocky hills that dropped down onto the plains where lived the cursed Horseboys. Then it was over the plains to Isengard, if they could reach it. When we reach it, Uglúk thought determinedly, as he turned slowly towards the thorn in his side.
He was not best pleased to have a lot of weak pups nipping at his heels, but there was no denying that numbers would help them should it come to a fight with the enemy. And there's always a need of fodder for the carrion fires, eh? Thus, however incredulous he'd been to chance upon a rabble of northerners tracking his prey, he'd been willing enough to hold with them for a time. Pathetic and stunted as they were, they were easily cowed and they could also track, which meant less work for Uglúk and his lads. But then they'd come upon Grishnákh and his Lugbúrz lads, and that time, Uglúk hadn't had a choice. Smaller they might be, but they were armed and ordered, and Grishnáhk had enough swords at his back that he'd have given Uglúk a fight that would've left the Uruk-hai of Isengard unacceptably weakened. So, much though it stuck in his craw, he'd allowed Grishnákh to join them, wondering the while what exactly it was about this one band of brigands that it could drag so many hunters after it. And there's that 'no spoiling' order, as well... Uglúk considered curiosity a fatally bad habit (and he made certain it was fatal in others) but he could not help but wonder.
Nevertheless, at the moment, he felt not a lick of it as he answered Grishnákh's charge, throttling the impulse to shove a knife down the other's gullet to silence him. "We'd have moved the quicker if your lads had stopped their wretched frolicking in the woods," he snarled in a low voice. "This is not a pleasure jaunt—keep your swords in their sheaths and save 'em for flesh. There's naught to be gained hewing wood."
"My lads were simply keeping pace with yours," Grishnákh retorted. "Run a little faster next time. And since we speak of running, let's settle this course. No need to deal with the maggots of the north." Uglúk grunted, for once in agreement, though had he his druthers, Grishnákh would be counted among the maggots. Grishnákh knew it, and seemed to take a special delight in playing up his own authority, treating Uglúk as if he were simply another captain among orcs, refusing to acknowledge the obvious fact that Uglúk would beat him in any fight. I will gut you for this and every other insult one day, worm, Uglúk promised silently, as Grishnákh continued, "My orders are to return with the prisoners to the river. The Great Eye knows its friends, and if you're wise, you'll make yourself one of them."
"And my orders are to bring the prisoners to Isengard. Let Saruman make himself your master's friend, I've naught to do with that."
"Then you're a fool," Grishnákh hissed softly.
"Foolish is thinking yourself higher than you are, swine," Uglúk retorted. "If Lugbúrz wanted an ambassador, they'd not pick you. You're naught but the errand runner, my fine fellow."
"Oh? And I suppose you're better than that?"
"I know my place," Uglúk retorted. "The fighting Uruk-hai belong on the battlefield; we do not make alliances, we do not make treaties. We kill, and I lead them in that. Saruman sent us out to capture the Halflings, and that we've done. That's an end to it."
"Indeed?" Grishnákh sneered. "How very... unimaginative."
"There's worse faults. Like meddling in things not your business," Uglúk hissed. "Now, in case you'd forgot: we took the Halflings, and my lads're watching them. And they're watching you and the maggots as well. Try anything, and we'll leave you gutted on the doorstep of the Horse Marshal, as a gift. A little farewell present, eh? Don't presume to give me orders, Grishnákh. We're going to Isengard, and you can come with us to safety or else leave. It's of no consequence to me. I—"
Just then, there came the sound of cursing, a stream of complaints from one of the northerners, and Grishnákh smirked. "Well, I wonder what that was about? Saruman-glob búbhosh skai? Perhaps you understand them better?"
"Shut it!" Uglúk snapped, feeling his claws bite into his hands as they curled into fists.
"You are the captain, are you not? If so, I suggest you control the maggots better. Or perhaps you would prefer us to do so? In any case, best we see to the lads," Grishnákh suggested, jerking his head at their encamped and unhappy followers. Clearly, an argument was brewing and Uglúk bit back on a curse as Grishnákh—without his permission—turned and walked away, skirting the edges of the Lugbúrz company as he made his way towards the source of trouble—the Halflings. But he was not going to leave Grishnákh with the victory tonight, no. And so he, too, began making his way towards the Halflings and the rising quarrel, and as he did so, a hideous smile curved his lips. For where there's an argument, there's blood to be spilled. Control the maggots, eh? I think I shall! But watch you, Grishnákh, for your turn will come. Oh, it shall come! With that pleasant thought in mind, Uglúk went forth to his night's work.
Orcish: "The Uruk-hai," TTT, 59.
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