12. Social Animals
"Hey Kurbag," said one of the Orcs, jabbing a thumb at Eleluleniel, "what's that white thing on yer arse, eh? That's no Golug, surely?"
"Yes it is," said another. "Look at the ears."
"Let's have a look then!"
Hard bodies jostled her, rough fingers catching at her garments. Frightened, she held all the tighter to Kurbag's belt, much to the onlooking Orcs' amusement. "Haw! Isn't that sweet? Look how she's clinging to him!"
A hand clamped down her shoulder as one of the larger Orcs bared his yellow fangs at her in an open-mouthed grin. "Hurrrrrr. You great bastard, don't tell me you brought me a present," he said, flashing his toothy smile at Kurbag. He was tall and brown-skinned and his black hair fell loose and ragged around his shoulders.
Kurbag grinned back at Mushog, but his expression faded slightly as he saw the Elf girl's fingers knotted over the edge of his belt, saw her trembling mouth. He put his large hand over hers, unhooking her from his belt.
"There's a story here, I'll warrant," said Bragdagash, having a seat. "Come on, then. You boys have some explaining to do." He shook his head, chuckling again to himself as Nazluk and Kurbag divested themselves of their packs. "'Kept us waiting.' Skai."
An hour had passed and the surfeit of beer and food was making the two prodigals pleasantly woolly headed. They had come to the meeting with Dushgar and his band now, and the others were alternately jeering and hooting about how that had gone down. "Stone me, lads, if they didn't dick you over proper," laughed old Rukshash, shaking his head in mingled amusement and regret.
"All that shiny," lamented Pryszrim.
"Not all of it," said Kurbag, and told about Nazluk's trick with the bracelets.
That got everyone's admiration and a round of cheers for Nazluk, as well as eager requests to see the swag he had been able to salvage. Nazluk produced the shining circlets and there were collective murmurs of appreciation and greed as the bracelets made their way to Bragdagash. The Orkish chief took a long moment to appraise them, turning each individually in the flickering firelight. "Not too shabby," he said at length. "No cause to complain about these."
"They lost a whole bag, though," said one of the Uruk-hai. "To those stupid tossers we ran in with before."
Nazluk bristled at this, feeling that the other Orc was slighting him and Kurbag. He was spared the need for a cutting reply by a snaga Orc who spoke up before him. "So what should they have done, then, faced down an entire company of Uruk-hai?"
"Aye!" said another. "You saw that lot: they were nearly twice our number. Don't be daft, Lagdush."
"That's not what I'm saying, you little snot," said Lagdush. "I'm saying: bag of shiny, eight pieces. Bag, eight." He held up either hand, imitating a set of scales. "That's all I'm saying."
"Eight's still more than nothing. Where's the last shiny you brought in?"
The others laughed at Lagdush, whose face darkened; he made an aborted movement as if he were about to get up but the Orc sitting nearest him caught his shoulder, grinning and clapping him on the back at the same time, and he subsided. "All I'm saying," he muttered, folding his arms over his chest and glowering at the fire. "It's a shame those cunts got all the swag, that's all, just because there was more of 'em an' all."
"Didn't get everything, though, did they." Mushog was sitting near Kurbag's Elf, smirking; as he spoke he reached over and tweaked her ear.
There had been some fumbling from this particular Orc earlier as he touched her arm or fingered the material of her dress, but that had stopped as they all became caught up in Kurbag and Nazluk's story. She had kept silent, not wanting to draw attention, but at his unexpected pinch she uttered a small cry and pulled away from him. At once the eyes of the entire band were upon her, curious and cruel. There were some unpleasant sniggers.
Mushog laughed and tweaked her ear again. "Pointy, just like the tales."
"They are pointy—no more than our own, though," said a goblin-Orc. "But I thought they were supposed to be tall. She's a bit on the slight side, ain't she?"
"They grow slowly," said the old Orc from before. He watched the Elf out of one eye, for his left eye was ruined and the skin around it scarred, but his right saw with an evil intelligence that more than made up for its lost fellow. It was a surprising blue and moved over her with frightening acuity. "I've heard that sometimes it is a hundred years before they reach full stature."
"Garn!" said several of the others in tones of disbelief.
"That's stupid," said Lagdush, who was still sulking.
But Rukshash only continued to look at her, and when he spoke it was to her. "How old are you, child?" he asked in Common.
"Th-thirty-three," she said in an almost-whisper.
He nodded as if satisfied by the answer. The others hooted. "HAW. Will you listen to the little granny!"
Kurbag did not say anything, but the Elf's answer had surprised him. Thirty-three. He did not know his own age, not to the precise year, but he knew that he was a good decade shy of that.
"Pretty grandmother, with her pale hair. Is it pale everywhere, d'you suppose?" Mushog slid his hand up the Elf girl's thigh and squeezed. Terrified, she struck at his hand; he laughed and caught her wrist.
"Here now, leave off," said Kurbag in Orkish, setting aside his thoughts for later. "It's not nice to muck with another fellow's plaything."
If they hadn't been better mates that might have started something, but Mushog just let go of the Elf with a good-natured chuckle. "Oh come, it was only in jest! I'll not meddle with her. Two days, though—you have more restraint than me, friend, not to have done something by now."
"Who says he hasn't?" said Pryszrim, a gawky foolish snaga Orc whom the others often mocked.
"Well, it's obvious, innit?" Mushog shrugged. "She'd be dead sure enough if he had."
Nazluk's eyes narrowed. He looked at Kurbag, waiting for him to say something, to correct Mushog, but Kurbag only swigged his beer, not speaking. The Elf had drawn closer to him, away from the Uruk; she sat with her head lowered so that her shining hair fell about her face, not looking at any of them.
Hatred roiled in Nazluk like a beast twisting in his breast and belly. "The only good Elf is a dead Elf," he said abruptly. He was gratified when the others laughed and drank to this.
"Here, Naz, tell us about that lulgijak that tailed you. Was he easy killing?" asked Shrah'rar. There was a small spate of similar questions. Nazluk had spoken in passing of the Elf scout tracking him and Kurbag and of how he had killed the scum: now they urged him to tell it again. He did so in greater detail, telling how he had doubled back to come up on the fellow from behind, and of the brief engagement that had followed before he cut the Golug down. The listening Orcs were grinning as he related what came after.
Nazluk told all in loving detail, fingers stroking his knife idly as he remembered. "It wasn't half of what I would have dealt him if I'd had the time. But it was some payment for my bruises."
"Did he never scream?" asked Mushog.
"Oh believe me, he screamed plenty before it was over," said Nazluk. Suddenly his eyes rolled up. His head fell back and his upper body jerked, and a terrible cry sprang from his throat as if a thousand blades were piercing him. Dark laughter and whoops of approval answered Nazluk's imitation of the tortured Elf. He straightened again with an evil smile, his gaze shifting to the Elf girl. She had jerked her head up at the sound of his scream and was staring at him with wide round eyes. "So much," he said in a slow satisfied way, "for the vaunted fortitude of Elves."
Nazluk's account kicked off a round of stories and jokes that kept them at it for another hour. That was when Bragdagash sat back, saying he'd had enough of them for the night. If they were going to keep flapping their tongues they could take it elsewhere; as for himself, he was of a mind to sleep.
"Hey boss. We still moving on the morrow?" rumbled one of the Orcs, an unusually large snaga named Grushak.
"Narrr…" Bragdagash stood, stretching. "We'll bide here another day, let the lads sleep in. We can afford it."
The lads in this case, of course, were Nazluk and Kurbag. Nazluk looked glad of it, and it was certainly a relief from Kurbag's point of view. The initial exuberance of reuniting with his fellows had passed now, and he could feel the weight of the previous night's watch heavy upon him. It was only compounded by a full belly after a longish spell without.
He stood, pulling up the Elf girl reflexively alongside of him. There was an immediate rash of leering and lewd speculation. "Oi, you gonna give us a performance then, Kurby? Maybe a little show for your mates?"
"Bugger off. At this time of night? 'S'all I can do to get the rest of me up without expecting me to rouse my todger." He yawned comfortably.
"Skai! Trouble standing, eh? None of us have any problems in that department."
"If you aren't up for it I can think of some as are…"
Kurbag made a casually obscene gesture over his shoulder. There were sniggers in response.
Eleluleniel followed where he led, staring down at his hand on her wrist, at the dirt beneath his black talons and in the creases of his knuckles. She had kept her eyes down throughout the time beside the fire, save for an early attempt to look at the Orcs through the fringe of her hair. She had thought to assess them, to determine their numbers and their strength, but the play of fire and shadow over their harsh faces confused her and made them seem more than their numbers could have been. Even as she knew, logically, that there could not be as many of them as there seemed, the sight of them induced paralysis. It was not their taloned hands or teeth or their malformed bodies that terrified her. It was the evil light in their eyes as they looked at her, the way that they kept looking at her. Any thought of initiative had deserted her beneath the weight of that collective malice.
Do not look. Do not look at them, you only give them power over you. They are making you too frightened to think.
Looking would avail her nothing if she could not think.
Kurbag released her and her hand dropped to her side. She turned her head, staring at him as he unrolled his sleeping pallet and then as he began to take off his boots. He grunted as he pulled a foot free, glanced at her. "Oi," he said, and jerked his head toward the mat. She only stood, not moving, as he took off the other boot, then straightened and turned toward her. "Come here." Still she did not move. He cocked his head and started toward her. That was when she bolted, or started to; he lunged after her, catching her by the elbow. She tried to break free and he caught her other arm as if it were nothing. "Come on, stop that." She struggled but he was stronger than she was. It was easy for Kurbag to pull her over to the mat.
"You need help with that one, Kurbag? We can always give you a hand!" There were hoots from the direction of the fire.
She had struggled wordlessly to this point, neither speaking nor crying out for fear of drawing their attention, but their laughter loosened her tongue. "No," she said, shaking her head, "no, no…" He was forcing her to her knees.
To Kurbag it all felt like a singularly dismal repeat of the night before. It was annoying. "Will you stop it, eh? I'm too tired for this. Just lie down." She didn't stop, and he lost patience. Grabbing both her wrists in one hand he held them tightly as, with his other hand, he reached for his pack and the cord within.
With her wrists tied she stopped fighting him, or at least she stopped struggling. Instead all of her joints seemed to lock in place, her slender body to go bolt-hard and unyielding. He manhandled her anyway, forcing her down onto her knees and then onto one side. Lying behind her, he pulled her against him in a crude spooning position, securing his arm over her ribs. There was no tenderness in it. He did not think she would run, bound as she was, but she had tried to bolt a bare few moments before. He would not risk her trying again. Even if he didn't catch her, the others would make short work of her if she did.
He closed his eyes, then opened them again. Her entire body was stiff and trembling against him. It was not particularly comfortable. He sighed annoyance and leaned forward, grumbling into her ear. "I said it, right? I'm not going to fuck you. Just relax and then we can both sleep." She made no response. He grunted and settled back again; he couldn't tell if she had heard him or not.
Slow steps approaching. "Eh, lad." Rukshash's voice sounded faintly amused as he passed them for his own sleeping pallet. "Tied or not, don't be surprised if you wake with your own dagger in your throat."
Her body remembered what had happened. For all his rough assurance it was long before she could stop shaking, and when she had mind enough to know her own surroundings it was quiet. She did not know how much time she had lost: enough that there was no more laughter from the fire. There were no sounds at all beyond the faint hiss and crack of the logs, the rasping snores of unseen sleepers. In the dark the monsters slept.
His heavy breath stirred her hair. She wanted to pull away but his arm was around her and she feared the prospect of waking him. Lying with his heat at her back was like leaning against an oven. The back of her dress felt soaked through; she was damp with perspiration. She wondered if he could feel it. He probably couldn't through his thick leather clothing.
If she hadn't fought him he would not have bound her. She had not wanted to be bound again. Yet she had had no choice in the matter, subject to fear beyond her control, the instant revulsion of her flesh. And now her wrists were tied before her as they had been that night: hands pressed one against the other, palm to palm.
She brought them to her face, pushed them against her mouth and cheek and tried to send her mind elsewhere. At first she thought of home, but thought recoiled from those last memories. Instead she thought of standing with Veisiliel, waving to her parents and her older sister. Of Mother and Nevhithien, riding together to Rivendell. They would have turned back when they heard what happened, but Eleluleniel ignored this and anything that reminded her of her current circumstances. Instead she created a scenario in which they had heard nothing, knew nothing. In which mother and sister were three days into their journey with only the brightest of prospects before them. She conjured it with all of her power, making herself see every detail: bright sun dapple and bright horse tack, happy Mother, happy Nevhithien.
When she slept she wanted to dream that she too was riding with them, somewhere far away.
They came upon the camp of sleeping Orcs, and they moved with a silence beyond anything mortal. Their blades were sheathed to prevent the blue glimmer from betraying them, but hairlines of eerie radiance shown between the hilts and scabbards. One hung back to dispatch those nearest the fire; the other approached the half-Uruk and the girl beneath his arm. The eyes of the Golug warrior glittered in the dark. There was no sound as he drew his weapon—
Kurbag's eyes flew open, lips peeling back in a snarl.
Nothing. No one stood over him, no blue blade hung poised above his neck. He was with his fellows again, and there was no way that anything could make its way unheard into a circle of keen-eared Orcs.
He felt a faint movement beneath his arm.
She had awakened when all of his muscles tensed at once, jarring her from sleep. He was holding her too tightly and she could hear him breathing quickly, almost gasping, near her ear. Even as she realized this he caught her shoulder, pulling her onto her back. She had time for one aborted cry before he clapped his hard hand over her mouth. He was staring down at her but didn't seem to see her. There was something erratic in his gaze.
There was little enough light but he could see the Elf girl under him, her pale skin, wide eyes above the dark shape of his hand. It took him a few seconds to process the image. He took his hand away slowly and in the silence she spoke.
"Did you have a bad dream?"
Kurbag stared down at her as if the words were wholly foreign. His heart still pounded in his ears.
"I-I had one also," she stammered.
The quality of his breathing changed as he listened to her. He was not hearing the sense of what she said but the sound of her voice. She was speaking very quietly, not quite whispering, eyes fixed on him intently. She lay completely still beneath him.
"I was lost, and I…I could not find my way. I was so frightened. Did it…in your dream…Were you afraid?" Silence. "Please say something. When you do not say…anything, I…" She cut off as he placed his hand on her elbow. It slipped down her arm to the juncture of her wrists and remained there, fingering the cord that bound them. She swallowed. "They are all asleep," she said. Now she was whispering. "If you let me go, they would not…they would never know…If you took me to the edge of your camp..."
His hand moved to the skirt of her dress, pressing against it, feeling her through the material. Her breath hitched in alarm. "No." She tried to wriggle upright. It was easy for him to plant a hand against her chest, to push her down again and hold her that way. "No."
He wedged his knee between her legs, pinning her skirt beneath it. Leaning forward on the hand that pinned her, he fumbled with his breeches. Her head turned desperately from side to side. She was crying already, tears running down her face as he took himself in hand. "No, you said that you would not. You said so. You said." In a nightmarishly ineffectual gesture she struck upward at him with her bound hands, beating at his chest, but he only pushed them over her head. Taking the hem of her skirt, he hauled it up over her thighs before pressing down upon her.
The blind prodding of his phallus provoked her to greater frenzy. Her scream split the still night air.
"Oi, what the fuck," a voice muttered somewhere nearby.
"Looks like our Kurbag is having a bit of fun."
"Fine time he picks for it. No consideration what-so-bloody-ever. Here now! Don't you know we're trying to get some kip?"
Unthinking, crying out in misery, the Elf girl turned her face in the direction of the voices. Several pairs of eyes hovered, glowing, in the dark. "Please," she sobbed, "please help me!"
"More than I'm worth, thin-skin," said one cheerfully. "Best lie back and take it: he'll be done soon enough."
She shrieked as a hard slam drove her forward. Her hair, caught beneath her, yanked her head back painfully.
"Couldn't wait till we could see it proper," the other complained. "Holds off three days, yet he can't manage a few more bleedin' hours—"
"Please…" she kept sobbing, "…please…"
"Hah! Hear that, Kurbag? Can't get enough of you, that one, you have her begging for it."
"Go on, you great pillock, give it to her! Show 'er what for!"
Kurbag ignored them, pounding with blind intensity until his moment of crisis came. He went rigid, trembling with release, then groaned and slumped down heavily. Lay that way for a brief time before rolling to one side. There was laughter and mocking commentary, mainly in regard to the length of Kurbag's performance, or lack thereof. With nothing more in the offering, though, that quieted down soon enough.
She pulled her bound hands over her eyes, whimpering. Kurbag watched her absently for a while before turning onto his back, staring upward. At that moment he had no thoughts, felt little beyond a general comfortable satiety. It was amazing what a good fuck could do. The tension of a few moments before was gone now, spent and dissipated, and he felt easy in his flesh. What had he dreamt of? He no longer remembered, nor did he care. It was good enough to lie like this and to feel the night air on his skin.
Lulgijak. A contraction of lul gijak-ishi or "flowers in the blood." This is a derogatory term usually referring to Elves and is the Orkish equivalent of calling someone a pansy.
Lagdush is the forbidden love-child of Lagduf and Lugdush in the books. Ok, not really, he just has a ridiculously similar name.
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.