The night of the wolves had brought him self-knowledge, and he strove within himself until he felt like a battlefield, desolate and grim. Malawen had become his delight; his tenderness for her was sweet agony. He wanted to fight a troll for her, to catch her up and carry her where no one could ever hurt her again, to keep her for his own, make himself one with her, until Arda fell to pieces and melted into the Sea...
He dragged his attention back to the present. They were coming into a region of marshes now, meandering slow streams and little islets of solid ground; it behooved him to watch where he was going or he would have them both waist-deep in the mire.
She is not for you, Bloody Knife, Death-dealer! She has suffered enough from Orcs! He lashed himself with every contemptuous name he could invent, holding out his arm sometimes and contrasting his rough grey skin with her pearly whiteness. But his yearning did not abate for all his self-flagellation.
When his fingernails grew too long he took out his knife to trim them, and on impulse he filed them down to the ends of his fingers, instead of cutting them into the sharp Orc claws he had worn all his life. Often Malawen reached out for his support to steady her as she stepped from one grassy tussock to another, trying not to slip into the quagmire, and the next time she caught at his hand she felt his smooth fingertips and smiled at him without speaking.
He grew warm with embarrassment, yet he was pleased that she had noticed, and angry at himself for being pleased. If she could see into your mind, Black-heart –
But he did not finish the thought, distracted by wondering what the Elf-girl really thought of him. She journeys with me of her own will, he reminded himself. By her own wish she climbed into my hammock. But he had not allowed that to happen a second time. It had been too sweet, her softness pressed against him through the night. He had lain awake holding her until the morning, torn between rapture and anguish.
He was ashamed of his body's response to her. All his experience of sexuality was bound up with violence and degradation; he had raped and he had been raped, in the old days that he tried to forget, and now the memories stalked his dreams. As deeply as he longed for a son, yet he recoiled from the act which must beget new life; he did not know how to separate union from brutality. And his Elfling –
"Watch out!" he exclaimed, pulling her back. She half fell against him and he flung an arm around her, holding her to his side. A watersnake just beyond their feet opened its mouth wide in silent threat, before it disappeared beneath the surface.
"Thank you." She leaned on him, and he could not muster the strength of will to push her away. "Oh, I hate them! I never saw snakes in Lothlorien while Galadriel ruled, but later they crept in sometimes." She shuddered. "Hold onto me, Canohando, please. I don't want to fall in that water; it's so murky, you can't see what's down there."
He could not tell her no. They went on hand in hand, her fingers curled trustingly around his, and his heart sang even as self-contempt churned in his mind.
He thought she was unaware of his agitation, until the morning he woke to find her staring down at him through the netting of her hammock. She was a little above him in the tree, and her eyes held him as if he had been bound with the light, thin rope the Brown One had carried so many years ago, strong for all its softness.
Her eyes are like the leaves, he thought. Green… no, golden… hazel? I cannot tell. He shook his head, trying to clear it.
"You would not hurt me, Canohando," she said, and the absolute conviction in her tone was contagious. He stretched out his hand to her and she grabbed it, nearly tipping herself out of the hammock.
"Careful!" He let go hurriedly and she righted herself, laughing. "No, Elfling, I would never hurt you. I would cut off both my arms first." He looked up at the pale little face with the amazing eyes, and gladness shivered through him. He felt a great shout building up in his throat, one that would startle the birds out of their nests and set the new leaves dancing on all the branches, and he clenched his teeth to hold it in. They were hiding, after all. There was no telling what might hear him.
But the next time memory scrolled scenes of long-ago carnage before his eyes, he would not look. "Both my arms first," he muttered, and was comforted.
Malawen had never been out of Lothlorien and knew no more than he where they were. Canohando brought out the map Arwen had given him, and they bent over it together. The marshy country was marked as Loeg Ningloron, and the river which flowed into it from the west as Sir Ninglor.
"Goldenwater, that means," Malawen said. "I wonder why; there's nothing golden about it. I would have called it Mud-water, if I'd been naming it." *
Canohando chuckled. "Elves have music in their blood, I think, and would rather speak in poetry than plain words. Perhaps the one who named it thought the yellow water looked like gold."
"He must have been blind, then." She turned the map over to read what was written on the other side. "What is this? Arwen Undomiel grants leave for Canohando the Orc to enter the Shire-- Where is the Shire? I thought you were going to Rivendell."
He took the map hastily and rolled it up again, reluctant to have her handle it, though he could not have said why. "Rivendell first, but then to my brother's land."
It came to him suddenly that he had never told her more than the bare fact that he had known Ninefingers. He tucked the map away, and as they walked he told of his friendship with Frodo and his desire to see the Halflings' country.
"But I am too late to find him again," he finished. "I miss him, Elfling."
"What a strange tale," she marveled. "An Orc and a Halfling - and now we are friends, Canohando. An Orc and an Elf. How is it that you draw such varied folk to you? The Queen and her brother -- the Men of your company --"
He shrugged. "It was the Brown One, perhaps. He was a man of power; I felt it in his hands when he healed my wound. Are we friends, Elfling?"
"Mellon-lithui, that is what you are. My friend as-grey-as-ashes."
He grimaced. She was teasing, but he had grown to hate his grey skin, outward sign of inner depravity, the Orc nature he could not escape. "And you are Mellon-bain," he said, matching her carefree tone with an effort. "Have I got it right? My beautiful friend."
"You know Sindarin?" The admiration in her voice took away the sting of her name for him, and he smiled.
"The Lady was teaching me, but I don't know how much I remember."
"Really? Let's find out. What is this?" She held out her arm.
"Ranc," he answered, and she nodded.
"Good. And this?" She lifted a strand of her hair.
She laughed. "No, that's your hair, in braids. Mine is laws, loose and curly."
It pleased them both, Malawen tutoring him in the Elven tongue, and it passed the time as they walked. It was well for them that the country they were traveling through was nearly empty, for they completely forgot to be cautious.
They came out of the marshes of Loeg Ningloron and into upland forest, still following the River, and they strolled hand in hand as casually as if they had not been scouting through trackless wilderness, where neither had ever been before. The woodland glowed with spring sunshine, where later in the season all would be deep green shade. Violets and hepatica bloomed underfoot and birds flitted from branch to branch, busy with nest-building. There was no sound but the wind in the treetops and the laughter of an Elf and an Orc, who were friends.
*note: Sir Ninglor is the Elvish name for the River Gladden, named for the yellow waterlilies that bloomed along its marshy banks and reflected in the water. The lilies would not have been in flower this early in the season, if indeed they still grew there at this period.
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.