3. Chapter 3
A coldness on her chest prompted her to lift a hand, her dress was unfastened. Had she done that? Or had it been…?
‘No! I shall not think of it.’ She scattered the slowly coalescing thoughts, her hands deftly redoing the garment. ‘It shall be as if it had never happened.’ She smoothed her gown and ran her hands over her hair. The congealing coldness that smeared onto her palm shrank her skin with horror, and she recoiled, shuddering with disgust.
Do not think. Do not think.
Wash it away. Let there be no mark left. Neither here, nor in my mind. She stumbled over to the bucket and with a trembling hand, dipped the cold water onto her silver hair, rubbing at it, wiping it, erasing his leaving.
There. It was done. She was clean again. She breathed deeply, clearing her mind, emptying it. Her stomach growled and she welcomed the distraction, the familiar normality of the feeling.
Sitting on the edge of the mattress, the blanket comforting around her shoulders, she nibbled a morsel of the bread, watching the play of the flame, dancing and flickering. She hummed softly to herself under her breath, and her mind wandered, walking in new paths, safe and alone in a place where evil could never reach.
Marlûk’s step was quick and strong as he headed towards the mess hall. A comfortable feeling of power and satisfaction filled him. He had taken his pleasure, and now he was hungry. The smell of fresh, roasting meat made his mouth water and as he entered the dark, noisy vault he rubbed his hands in anticipation. The low-roofed stone cavern was warm and poorly lit, crowded with tables, the ceiling and walls flickering with red light from the cooking fires.
“Oh ho! Our Captain returns.” This from his lieutenant, Snorbeg. “And with an appetite by looks of him.” The younger Orc met his commander’s eye with a look just short of insolence. Greed and envy on the broad visage.
“That’s right, Snorbeg.” Marlûk snarled into his face, “So you’d better fetch me some food right away.”
The subordinate rose slowly and made his way to the spits while the Captain took his place at the table, looking round at the others. They nodded carefully, avoiding his eyes, attention fixed firmly on their food.
A loud disturbance at the entrance made everyone look up, and what Marlûk saw made him grin with pleasure. A small party of Orcs had entered, at their head a gnarled veteran, his face bearing many scars, two fingers missing from the hand at the end of the long left arm.
“Norburz!” Marlûk strode forward to welcome his friend with a hearty slap on the back. “By the bowels of the earth! It’s good to see you.”
“Marlûk! Well met!” The older Orc returned his embrace. “Now I know my boys’ll have good hospitality.”
“Are you hungry?” Marlûk led the other over to his table, dismissing the others with a curse. “We have plenty of fresh meat.”
Snorbeg slammed a groaning platter onto the table before the two Captains, glistening hunks of roasted meat piled high, succulent flesh hot from the spit, the bones already split, dark marrow oozing, fat sizzling and dripping, skin crisp and brown.
“Ah.” Norburz speared a tasty cut with his knife, and raised the rich, savoury joint to his dark lipped mouth, twisted yellow teeth biting through the crumbly, melting crackling to the sweet flesh beneath. He chewed loudly, groans of appreciation through his slurping mastication, then wiped a scarred hand over his mouth. “Delicious.” He belched. “I prefer Man flesh myself, it’s stronger, but there’s a lot to be said for Elf.”
Marlûk grinned and shouted at Snorbeg to bring some ale.
“I can see you’re going to have problems with that one.” Remarked Norburz, “Getting a bit too big for his boots.”
“Ach.” spat Marlûk, “I’m not worried, he’ll step out of line soon enough, and that’ll give me a chance to teach him a lesson.”
“How long will you be here for?” Marlûk asked the other Orc as they sat back, replete from their meal.
“Only tonight, “ returned Norburz, rummaging in his pack and producing a leather flask. “We’re on our way to Gundabad, and I’m eager to get there.” He held out the bottle to Marlûk, “Now then, my friend, try this.”
Marlûk took the vessel and unstopped it, sniffing.
“I took it from a Man travelling north through Mirkwood. Brewed from seaweed, if you can believe that.”
Marlûk grimaced but took a draught nevertheless. Norburz was a great sampler of brews, and if he offered you something it was usually worth a try. The salty jolt was rapidly followed by a warm suffusion, and he nodded appreciatively.
“So,” his friend took a swig of his own, and leaned in conspiratorially, “I hear you’ve got yourself something a little special.” He motioned with his eyes, “downstairs.”
Marlûk bristled slightly, causing the other to laugh and hit him on the arm. “Ach! I’m not after a share! Elves are too delicate for my taste. I prefer Women, they’re tougher and they last longer.” He lowered his voice again, “I wouldn’t mind a look at her though.”
A slight sound started Celebrían awake from her dream, and she looked wildly about her with confusion. Her heart fell as she realised that she was still in her prison, and she tugged the blanket closer about her. The noise came again, footsteps and voices. Stopping outside the door. Fear rose in her, but she forced herself to breath slowly.
Don’t look. Don’t move. Don’t think.
She rocked slightly, humming a song of the Sea.
A harsh grating heralded the opening of the grill in the door, but she refused to hear it.
“Very nice.” growled Norburz appreciatively. “Have you sampled her yet?”
“Just a taste.” grinned Marlûk. “You know me, I don’t like to rush.”
“Yes.” Norburz put his eye to the grate again. “She’s starting to fade already though.” He looked up at the other, “That’s why I don’t like Elves, you’re just getting started and they up and die on you.”
“Ah, but that’s the whole challenge.” Marlûk licked a red tongue over his thick lips, “To keep her alive and willing as long as possible.” He slammed the shutter over and they made their way back.
“Hmmm.” Norburz mused. “You know, I’ve something in my pack that you might find helpful.”
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.