"I wonder if they'll be coming down again."
"Oh, they'll be coming down all right. The question is how fast!" Mushog chuckled at his own joke.
"'Cause they could fall, right?"
"Oh, you're clever." Shrah'rar rolled his eyes at Pryszrim.
"Lay you silver one comes down alive," said Rukshash. "Grymawk won't be falling. He may not like heights, but he's good for 'em. No coward either—least, not when the heat's really on. Damn me but I wouldn't want to be the one under him when they get climbing proper, though."
Mushog made a retching noise and they all laughed.
Kurbag was a distance from the other Orcs, paying no attention to their banter. He stood leaning back against the sun-warmed surface of a boulder. It should have been a pose of relaxation, but he was too forbidding a figure in his dark leathers and dismal armor, arms folded across his chest, an impassive look on his face. Normally he would have been jesting and laying bets with the others, but he'd been quiet and said little since the incident with Nazluk and Squeaker. Not six feet away from him the Elf sat silently on his bedroll, staring at the hands she held clasped tightly in her lap. Squeaker liked to keep her distance when she had the choice, but she was sticking pretty close to him at present. Close for her, anyway. She'd sat on his bedroll without comment when he put it down for her.
Nazluk had given her a nasty turn, Kurbag knew, and was annoyed. He'd reached her side within seconds of the other Orc letting her go—she'd looked like she was going fall, and when Kurbag put his hands on her he felt her trembling. Looking angrily at the other Orc, he had seen Nazluk eye him back with dark satisfaction: him, and not Squeaker.
"What was that for?" he had demanded in a sharp voice.
"It worked, yes?" Nazluk spread his hands in a gesture of mock appeasement. "Anyhow, she's not hurt, is she? She's still in one piece."
True. She was undamaged, which had Kurbag relieved. He was not one for second-guessing himself—most Orcs aren't—and so he wasn't inclined to question his own concern for Squeaker. Leave such analysis to Nazluk, that smug ass, who turned his own thoughts over and over in his brain like a dragon counting coins in the dark. Talking was a part of Kurbag's thinking process. He usually rendered his thoughts out loud, and there were a number of choice words he would have given Nazluk at that moment, except there had been an expectant look on Nazluk's face, even an eager one, and Kurbag was not inclined to gratify the fucker.
Ignore Nazluk: that's what he was doing. Watch Squeaker instead: study the spreading fan of her pale hair, the smooth slope of her back. The tightly interlocking fingers of her slender hands. And wonder, Ah Squeaker…what was it you did to piss him off, anyways? besides being an Elf...
"Two pieces say she's bird-food."
"I still say she falls and breaks her neck."
"How much do you care to lay on it, Mushog?"
Grushak, under the semi-decent shade of a rather pathetic pine tree, had watched the small figures grow smaller with distance before grunting and turning his attention to his pack again, scanning its contents and then refastening the flap. Unbinding the mouth of a drinking skin, he slugged it and went back to staring in the direction in which the man-brat and Grymawk had disappeared. At first he was angry, but another swig and he felt decidedly mellower. The good thing: there was always beer.
While Kurbag brooded, Nazluk smirked and the others conjectured about the ultimate fate of the two erstwhile adventurers, Hrahragh watched Grushak down another swallow. "Have some?" the Uruk asked. Grushak shrugged and passed him the skin. Hrahragh took a brief suck at the contents and ran his tongue over his teeth. "Good." He handed it back. "I don't think she dies," he said. Grushak grunted again. "We'll see, yes?"
"I guess we will."
Hrahragh examined the black claw-tips on his right hand. "Why give her the knife?"
"She wasn't going without it," he said simply.
"Hmm. Could have said you'd give it after."
"Could've. She wouldn't have gone, though."
Hrahragh nodded. They both agreed with this assessment. "And you'd have killed her if she hadn't. She knew that. Funny little snaga. Has a will to her."
"That she does." Grushak's mouth twitched in annoyance, mixed with something else. Hrahragh put his hand out for the drinking skin again and Grushak watched the Uruk's head tilt back, watched the muscles of his throat at work. He was standing clear of the shade from Grushak's pine tree, body edged in sunlight, brown skin gleaming. The large Orc grunted incomprehension. "Huh. Fucking noontime. Don't know how you lot can stand it."
Hrahragh smiled a lazy smile. "Sun's good." And downed the final contents. He dropped the limp drinking skin in Grushak's hand.
Grushak looked at him moodily. "Sun-bathing mother-fucker."
"Be quiet," Grymawk muttered down at her, "and don't do anything sudden, or we could both regret it." They were ten feet up the rough face of the cliff, and he was acting like they were ten times that high already.
"I'm not doing nothing."
"You're talking, aren't you? Shut up and climb."
But she hadn't said a thing before he—! In a rare display of restraint Maevyn bit back a retort. He was higher up than she, after all, and she was within easy kicking range. Not a smart place to provoke anybody.
"Why they always have to send me, I don't know, I swear I do not," the Orc was grumbling to himself. "They could have sent up that filth Shrah'rar. I'm surprised he didn't volunteer. I suppose birds aren't his thing—hah! A wildlife enthusiast like himself? now there's a first…."
He continued in this vein. At first Maevyn listened to him in sullen silence: Oh, so it's fine for him to talk. Then she just stopped listening to focus on what she was about. Climbing a mountain was much different from climbing trees.
At first their ascent had been more of a hike, really: a rougher continuation of the terrain they'd been crossing already, scrabbling over more loose gravel and shale, and then clambering over and around huge rocks and boulders. And then they'd rounded an abutment and come to a place where the stony way was sheer rough wall, and it was a matter of hooking fingers into tiny crevices, feet finding purchase on the slightest protuberances. At that point the hike had become a climb in earnest.
Now they were at thirty feet. She looked down and thought the ground looked far, and said as much.
"Don't look down," snapped Grymawk.
What? Why? Just because he was scared to? "Look look look," she said under her breath. And yelped as a displaced clump of dirt went down the back of her neck.
That had clearly been deliberate! For the most part the Orc did not misstep: he was too slow and methodical for that, and obviously deeply concentrated despite the constant grumbling. Grudgingly Maevyn allowed to herself that he was good at this—had even given her some things to go by. He'd taken off the thick-soled sandal things he wore for the vertical part of their ascent: this made sense to her and she had followed suit, slipping her knife into one of her own thin leather shoes before thrusting both into the pocket of her skirt. Then when they began hauling themselves up she was able to watch where he took his toeholds and follow his example.
In this respect she had it easier. On the other hand, when he paused for whole minutes at a time, deliberating his next move, her fingers and toes would cramp and lock in place and she would wish she could just climb around him. He was being too careful, too cautious: these little eternities when all she could do was cling to the side of the mountain and wait for him to move were maddening.
Like the pause he took now. At first she thought he was looking for another handhold. Then she realized it was something far more sinister.
"Ohhh…" Grymawk groaned, hunching his shoulders, "…damn…" and craned his head to the side. Beads of sweat stood out on his gray face.
"What's wrong?" Alarmed: "Are you gonna be—" He started to heave and she shifted her body as much as she was able before he was sick.
When he was finished he cleared his throat and spat a couple of times. "Well," he said, and sounded almost cheerful, "that's out of the way." And began to climb again.
Maevyn, shaking a little, continued to cling where she was. There was Orc vomit all down the side of her right arm.
"Hey, come on, you. Time's a-wasting."
"You're not going to do that again, are you?" she asked weakly, starting after him and trying not to think about the smell, or the burning sensation on her arm.
"Hmm? No—I shouldn't, anyway. It's usually just the once."
Usually, she mouthed.
"It's much better afterwards. Steadies my nerves." Indeed, where he had halted and hesitated before he now moved upwards at a much quicker pace. Maevyn had to expend some effort to close the gap between them. "The beginning is always the hardest part. Be so much easier if it weren't for beginnings. This rock's gonna give."
That was all the warning she got before her hand dislodged the rock he'd just stepped from and she nearly lost her purchase. The rock skimmed her shin, struck the side of the cliff and fell to hit the rocks below with a rattling sound.
She made an angry hiss in the back of her throat. "I'm tired of this. Let me go first, ahead of you."
"Hah! Shit no! You'd only fall on top of me and we'd both go down. No, I'm keeping you well behind me. You may be a fair enough climber but there's a little more involved than that. We have eagles to watch for." He paused. "Surprised Mommy up there hasn't had a go at us yet."
"Why hasn't she?" asked Maevyn, who'd been wondering the same thing ever since that huge form first swept over them at the base of the mountain. The eagle had made several subsequent forays, each time wheeling twice overhead before disappearing again.
"Female. Brooding. They get stupid when they're like that." He elaborated, "The problem with the big birds is they're too smart to be birds, so it just makes them dumb in other ways. A regular eagle, you cut on its territory, get too close to its chicks, it'll dive at you without a second thought, or even a first thought for that matter. Her up there, she's wondering whether she can afford to leave her eyrie. Figures if she can see us, there must be something else she doesn't know about. Come after us, something else will get her spawn. Leastaways, that's what I figure she's figuring." Reflectively, "Of course she could also be counting on Daddy-Eagle to take care of business. But I think we would have met him by now, if there was a Daddy-Eagle."
Maevyn was quiet. She was thinking about the mother, hunched protectively over her precious clutch of eggs, and how worried she must be. Maevyn could hear her screaming at intervals as they climbed.
"It's not like up North," Grymawk was musing. "They're more community-minded up there. Seem to be more the loner-type in these parts. Maybe the males leave after mating."
Suddenly he gave a grunt. "There's a ledge just up ahead of me. We'll take a breather, see how best we might proceed. Be glad to get clear of this accursed sunshine." Maevyn was certainly warm enough for her part, but the Orc was panting, his tongue lolling out of his mouth like a dog's. He topped the ledge and Maevyn pulled herself up after. Grymawk didn't make a move to help, only flopped into a cross-legged position and took a drink from the leather skin he had brought with him.
"Is that water?" He nodded. "Give me some." Shrugging, he handed her the drinking skin. Thinking of the Orc's mouth on it, she tilted it over her lips in such a way that the vessel didn't touch them. Then she poured some of the water on her arm to clean it off.
"Oi oi oi, that's plenty!" shouted Grymawk, grabbing the skin back. "What do you think this is anyway? Fuck!" He shook the drinking skin, which was now partially empty.
Maevyn made a face. "That was nasty before. Anyway, there's still some left."
"Why you little—I ought to throw you off this ledge, is what I ought to do!"
"So try it! Maybe I'll throw you off instead, huh?" she taunted him.
As sudden as that he was on his feet. Before Maevyn could make a move to defend herself he grabbed her by the front of her blouse, swung her around and slammed her into the side of the cliff. She might have had an inch or two on Grymawk, but the little Orc was easily strong enough to keep her pinned: worse, he caught her arm and wrenched it behind her back. "Don't push me, girl. I am not in the mood!"
"Ow! Stop! Stop that—ow! Ow!" He continued to hold her in place as she struggled, her cheek and ear mashed against bruising stone. "My arrrrrrm!"
It finally grew obvious, even to Maevyn, that she wasn't getting anywhere with this, and she went still. "Are you finished?" he demanded. She whimpered assent and he gave her arm another punishing jerk before letting go. "Behave yourself, or you'll get more of the same. We don't have the luxury to muck around here."
Turning slowly, rubbing her wrenched shoulder, cheek already starting to swell, Maevyn glared at the Orc and thought about charging him and knocking him off the ledge. But Grymawk stood in a ready position and Maevyn knew that if she made the attempt, she was the one who would make the plunge. At length she lowered her eyes in mingled resentment and newfound respect.
"That's more like it." He turned and spat off the edge. "They may say what goes below, but I am boss up here." He looked up. "You've got that knife on you?" She stiffened, thinking he was going to take it and ready to fight him if he tried, whatever the consequences. Then she saw the shadow pass over them both. "Get ready. We're about to be for it."
There was another one of those ear-rending screams, and the eagle was on them. The world was a sudden fury of pinions as she battered her body against the ledge. Clutching, spasmodic talons scrabbled against stone; massive wing gusts beat the air to frenzy. Maevyn pressed back against the stone behind her, hand fumbling desperately in her pocket for her knife. By the time she pulled it the eagle had surged up and away again, and she was confronted only with tranquil blue sky.
Grymawk had disappeared. She hurried to the edge to look over, shielding her hand over her eyes to scry for his body before she thought to cast a wary glance upward. The eagle was nowhere to be seen, but Grymawk was hanging from a lip of rock overhead: he dropped to land beside Maevyn. Had he been tossed up by an updraft from the eagle's flailing, or had he somehow scrambled up in the chaos? "Phoo! We're not dead! Think I scratched her, too. Let's get moving."
Maevyn did not know that Grymawk carried, in addition to his quarrels, small darts tipped in a poison made by the spiders that lived in the place he came from. It was one of these darts with which he had scratched the eagle, and from which sprang his new cockiness. Not that he thought the dose enough to really set back something as large and fierce as an eagle. Still, he hoped it would slow her down some and give him a chance to stick her again.
Maevyn had no way of knowing this now. Now she only chalked the new swagger up to the Orc being crazy. They might not be dead yet, but they would be soon enough. Still she followed him. Why not? It might be a bad choice, but at least it was one she had made for herself.
The cleft in the rock began another forty feet up: a barely perceptible hairline crack at first, gradually widening into a V-shaped passage big enough for Maevyn to climb inside. She clambered awkwardly after Grymawk, almost managing to get stuck in the process. With some maneuvering she was able to plant her feet on either side and stand aright. This was the fissure out of which the eagle had flown, and over their heads the space broadened until Maevyn could see how it was able to accommodate that huge wingspan.
There was some light from an unseen source lost in the folds of stone far above, and it imbued the interior of the cleft with a kind of dim rosy glow. She would have taken a moment to get her eyes better accustomed, except that she could see Grymawk grimacing and gesturing for her to hurry up. He had unbuckled the weird bow-looking thing from his back and had drawn a peremptory arrow from his quiver. This was a dangerous place to linger. The eagle could easily catch them and dispatch them on another sweep of the passage.
Maevyn pulled her knife out of her pocket and Grymawk nodded curtly before turning and scurrying along the passage. She hurried after him as best she could: the diverging angles of slanting rock underfoot offered no problem to the Orc's ungainly limbs, but for her young human legs they presented some difficulty. Nonetheless she soon found her—awkward, painful, pitching—stride, and was moving along at enough of a clip that, when Grymawk stopped, she plowed right into him.
He turned and backhanded her. Hissing, she made an abortive swipe at him with her knife. He dodged it easily. "Stop that or I'll gut you," he whispered. "Look!" He jabbed a finger upward.
Maevyn looked up. Over them was suspended a jumble of boulders, dizzying in size and in imminence. It was as though some giant child had dropped a handful of playing marbles into a crack on a whim, and left them there. The boulders hung wedged between the diverging walls of the cleft, forming a kind of rough rocky platform. Over the edge jutted the dark outlines of branches and large sticks. Maevyn and Grymawk were looking at the underside of the eagle's nest.
"Hrreee…hrreee…" the soft thrumming came from overhead: the uncertain murmur of an anxious mother animal. Maevyn lowered her knife.
"Right," said Grymawk. And gave her an appraising look. "I didn't really think you were going to make it this far," he remarked. "I could still use you as bait, I suppose. But then you wouldn't be able to carry anything. Wait here." Before she could protest he was scuttling up the stony side of the fissure.
Nervous and annoyed, Maevyn looked around her. Though she could make out forms and even some colors, her vision still wasn't very good. She certainly didn't have the Orkish prepossession that Grymawk had in the dark. Tucked in the narrow and protected space under the stones of the eagle's nest, she knew that she was relatively safe—at the same time, she didn't like to be left alone in such a place, even if the alternative was an Orc…and she really didn't like it when she knew that something important was about to happen somewhere up over her head, something that she couldn't see.
Maevyn started climbing up the same way Grymawk had. She hadn't gotten very far when she heard a strange sort of breathy whistle that cut short in a hard thwop. And the eagle screamed. It wasn't like before, when her screams had been screams of warning or attack. This was a scream of shock, pain, and sudden terror.
The next second Grymawk came half running, half sliding down the wall, right smack into Maevyn. She lost her hold and they tumbled down together. Struggling free of their entanglement with a curse, Grymawk was on his feet first, already poised with another quarrel at full-cock.
He did not have long to wait.
The eagle pitched herself over the side of the nest, screaming and beating her wings. He fired again, a shot that should have entered her breast, but the buffeting of her wings knocked his bolt askew and it hit her neck, where his other bolt was already lodged. Cursing again, he jumped away as she dove at him and struck stone where he had been an instant before. "The nest! Get up to the nest, right now!" Grymawk snapped at Maevyn.
She began scrambling up the wall again.
"You see that?" he shouted at the eagle, dodging her clacking beak. "You great featherbrained tit! She's gonna get them if you don't watch out!"
The eagle's head snapped up in the direction of this newest threat to her eggs. She shrieked incoherent fury and lunged again, this time at Maevyn – and, in the process, exposed the downy fluff of her breast feathers to Grymawk, who had been watching for just this opportunity.
The Orc's bolt thudded home.
Maevyn clung to the edge of the nest in a paroxysm of terror as the large sharp beak opened and shut, mere inches from her head. She saw the two black pupils contract suddenly before dilating slowly to fill the eagle's large eyes, turning them into depthless pools. Below, she heard Grymawk give an excited shout, heard another arrow leave his bow. A long hiss left the eagle's throat, but Maevyn knew the bird was already dead.
She shuddered and pulled herself up over the edge of the nest. Sitting there, she continued to shudder.
Grymawk reached the top a bare few seconds later. Standing, he turned; lifting his weapon coolly, he fired into the eagle's left eye. His arrow entered so deeply that only fletching protruded, and a clear glistening fluid ran out of the dull marred eye. The archer lowered his crossbow, certain of his kill. "That's done her," Grymawk said with satisfaction. He patted Maevyn on the head. "Good bait! Now let's see what it was we came to see."
The nest was large and surprisingly clean, without a smidgen of bird droppings. Maevyn, who considered herself quite the expert on bird nests, found this strange. More familiar was the untidiness of the giant nest, woven as it was of branches and sticks and torn-up mountain bramble. She picked up a golden-brown wing pinion as long as her forearm and peered at it closely. It had a rich dappling pattern that shifted as she turned it this way and that.
He had to search a bit, but when Grymawk found the eggs he gave a contented sigh. Ah, there were the little beauties. He pushed aside a covering of bird fluff and feathers to reveal the beige exteriors of three ovular shapes. Each was slightly bigger than Maevyn's head. She stroked one curiously: it felt like touching an animal, leathery and warm under her hand. Its mama had been taking good care of it. This thought troubled her, and she didn't let herself think about why. She made herself think of the savagery of the creature that had attacked, and not of a mother caring for young.
They packed up their spoils together, Grymawk thrusting handfuls of the mother's soft downy feathers in with the eggs as well. He was none too gentle about it: this padding was intended to function as heat insulation rather to protect the shells, which were very thick and didn't need much protecting. A fully-grown man could stand on an eagle's egg and it would not break. Turning Maevyn around, the Orc buckled their cargo onto her back. She complained of the weight and he cuffed the back of her head. "Oh, come off it—you've done hardly anything this whole while."
How she glared at that. Hadn't done anything? Her hands and bare feet were torn and blistered. Her limbs were stiff and sore from climbing, and she would be climbing again yet. Being used as a decoy and nearly pecked to death by a giant eagle on top of everything…she thought that was plenty!
"And now I suppose I have her to contend with." Grymawk muttered something darkly to himself in Orkish as they began climbing down from the nest. He gave the eagle's head a savage kick, making Maevyn wince. "Great stupid thing. Well, I shan't be doing the whole bird, anyhow. Just the choice portions." He pulled a small hooking dirk from his belt.
Maevyn watched, fascinated, as the Orc set about dressing the eagle. The body was wedged into the base of the cleft in an upright, albeit somewhat slumped, fashion. For all of Grymawk's grumbling about awkward angles he was deft and quick, resting his feet against the carcass for leverage and slitting the bird open neatly from a semi-recumbent position. Laying bare the secrets of this silent body, he filleted strips of flesh, wrapping and packing them with great efficiency. It only reinforced Maevyn's experience beside the village well. She was a farm brat and had seen her share of animals gutted and cleaned, but nothing to master an Orc's butchery. Grymawk, if she was to go by his commentary, had never dressed an eagle before, but he was doing so now with the brisk hands of a professional.
Finally, tongue thrust into the side of his cheek, he leaned into the bloody cavity of the eagle's chest, reaching in almost shoulder-deep. "Seat of vigor indeed," he said as he carefully detached the liver and drew it forth. It was about the size of a cow's heart. Licking his lips, Grymawk cut off a small piece and put it in his mouth, chewing and savoring for a moment's uncharacteristic silence.
"You smell like blood," Maevyn spoke up as they returned the mouth of the cleft and saw the blue sky beyond.
He was an Orc so he wouldn't care. Of course they would smell like blood a lot; would like blood a lot. He looked disgusting, sticky and crusting over with the eagle's gore. When he winced and shrank back out of the sun she got a mean grin on her face. That was something she'd always heard in the stories, that Orcs didn't like sun, and she had seen it confirmed now on several occasions.
Her grin faded. So what good was it? It didn't seem to bother some of the others at all, and the ones that it bothered it still didn't seem to stop for long. It hadn't stopped Grushak, had it? or the attack on the village. She would have liked to know what good the stories were, anyway! Where was the ending with all the Orcs dead, and all the wrong they'd done put right? What about Leni and what had happened to her? What was supposed to change that? What kind of ending could Maevyn hope for, when her family and all the people she knew were gone? What ending ever put anything back the way it was before?
How do I go back?
"Hey." Grymawk elbowed her. "Stop daydreaming. You're going first." He had been fixing up a heavy gray rope of some kind, half the coils of which he now tipped over the edge of the cleft. Both watched the rope unfurl as it fell. It looked both strong and tenuous: long and thick, but wavering, the end waggling with the faintest breeze. And very far below it, the ground. It looked a Long Way Down.
Maevyn stared, and wondered just how she had made it all the way up here to begin with. She'd never climbed so high in her life: every inch of her body was shouting it. And now she was to climb down it again with all this stuff mounded up on her back. Grymawk had turned her into an awfully convenient pack mule. It was heavy enough just to walk with: how she was to climb down with all of this on her back, backwards, and not fall was a mystery.
"Oooh, scared now, are we?" he mocked. "That's made her eyes bug out." The straps of the innumerable packs he'd piled on her crisscrossed her chest and stomach: the little Orc collected several of these straps in one hand and fed a belt-thing under them, which in turn he cinched to the rope. "Come, I'm doing all the work again. I'll feed this out until you reach that ledge, and then I'll come down after you. If you fall the rope will burn right through your clothes and into your skin, so don't fall. You can use handholds or you can just hold on to the rope and use your feet to walk down. Just don't muck around, right? You fall, I could get into trouble."
This time he did not miss her grin: he caught her by the belt and yanked her close, bringing his fangs near her face. "Don't. Muck. Around."
Still smiling faintly, she shook her head. As tempting as the thought might be, she had something she had to do. There might be no happy ending, but Grushak was going to die. She had sworn it. It was the biggest promise she had ever made in her life, and she had no idea how she was going to keep it, but there it was, and it stood between her and a crushed skull at the base of a cliff.
And so she started down, lowering herself off the edge. She tried holding onto the rope at first as Grymawk said, trusting it with her weight while she used her legs to walk the side of the mountain, but it felt too weird…all the stuff on her back made her feel teetering and unbalanced, and she didn't like the idea of Grymawk's hands slipping, of her falling from that great height. And so she went back to the familiar, clinging to the rocky surface and doing her best to spider down under her own strength instead.
It was a good thing that she did this. Grymawk was tired, the sun was aggravating his skin and eyes, and even if he wasn't supporting her weight, gradually lowering the rope for the little man-brat was monotonous work. Casting his eyes out, he thought he could see the others waiting on the dusty yellow terrain below, but those images could just as easily have been the stark forms of little dark pines. His eyes were sun-spotting…unreliable. He had thought he'd seen more than one eagle the other day, but he'd been wrong, hadn't he? And right glad he was of it!
A dark shape was moving on the landscape: an elongated, curving shadow, turning on its axis. Grymawk's eyes focused and narrowed. He lifted them to see what was casting the shadow. "Shit," Grymawk said, and dropped the rope. "Shit!" he cried, and grabbed it. At that moment the eagle screamed. It had seen him and was taking a course of immediate interception. "SHIT!" he yelled, and dropped the rope again.
Out of a smooth glide and into an aggressive stoop, the eagle plunged toward the cleft, claws open.
This is another chapter where I draw on The Hobbit, for its information regarding eagles: Eagles are not kindly birds. Some are cowardly and cruel. But the ancient race of the northern mountains were the greatest of all birds; they were proud and strong and noble-hearted. Where the eagles in this story may diverge, please subscribe it to their being of a non-Northern variety, but feel free to take what Grymawk has to say on the subject with a pinch of salt. After all, he doesn't know everything.
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.