After Maevyn's terse education in the difference between Orcs and Uruk-hai, she began to watch Hrahragh as she had before. She watched him so single-mindedly that she didn't realize, at first, how he watched her in return. As soon as she did it made her nervous: she had thought she was very clever never looking at him directly, never saying what she didn't want him to overhear, but she knew nothing could escape such direct scrutiny.
Not long after settling in for the day, Kurbag came for Leni. She and Maevyn were sitting breaking wood for the fire: he stood over the two girls, eying their activity for a moment before saying, "You can do that later. Here. Get up." Maevyn's lip immediately curled in a snarl he paid no heed, looking as he was at his cornered quarry. Leni's face became unreadable, her eyes dull and vacant: she stood slowly and he took her shoulder, drawing her un-protesting in the direction of his choosing.
He towered head and shoulders above her. Watching them leave, Maevyn understood the futility of fighting something so much bigger than you. But logical comprehension was one thing—at gut level, she watched the slender girl follow where the half-Uruk led and was as angry with Leni as she was at Kurbag. Grushak was mean to Maevyn, tried to make her do things that she did not want to do, but at least when he did she fought him. He hurt her when she disobeyed, but knowing she had fought was some balm for her bruises.
Stupid Leni. Why won't you fight?
While the small girl stared after the disappearing Kurbag and his Elven maiden, Hrahragh was watching her. On impulse he picked up one of his daggers, tested its balance, and threw it. It struck home in the dirt near Maevyn's knee. She gave a start, looked at the dagger and than at Hrahragh.
"Pick it up," he said blandly. She hesitated but stood, picking up the dagger and turning it over nervously in her hands. "Bring," he said, standing up as well.
Perhaps because his tone was so matter-of-fact, she did as he said with no trouble, though she stopped just outside of reach. "Clo-ser," he said. She inched forward and held the dagger out to him. His eyes narrowed and he snarled, swatting it out of her hand. She yanked her arm back, startled by his action, though he did not make a move to touch her. "Not know how to give knife?" he growled but, seeing the confusion in her eyes, relaxed a little. "Pick it up," he said again. She did so quickly. "Hilt first," he said, holding out his hand. Gingerly she took the blade of the dagger in her fingers and held the weapon out to him as he had asked.
"Better," he said, and took it.
She capitalized on this brief exchange and lingered, watching as he took up each of his throwing knives in turn and examined them. He had selected a nearby tree on which to practice his aim—after appraising the final blade, he turned and hurled it with deadly accuracy. It struck with a solid thwock at approximately the level of a man's head. It barely even quivered: it had sunk in several inches. He grunted.
"You have good aim," Maevyn said, and marveled at her boldness.
Hrahragh turned and gave her a sardonic look. "You know my thoughts, then? What I aim for?"
"Didn't…didn't you hit what you were aiming for?"
He snorted. "Question is if I hit it again." He jerked his head in the direction of the dagger. "Fetch."
She hurried to do so, standing on tiptoe and jiggling the hilt to loosen the blade and work it free. She had a sudden apprehension that, as she did this, he might decide to continue his target practice with the daggers still in his reach. He didn't, waiting patiently instead until she returned with the one he had thrown. Then he threw it again. It struck not two inches from the same spot it had struck before. This time he continued to throw the rest of the daggers, one after another, till they formed a tight circle of bristling hilts.
Maevyn thought that if a real man had been standing there, he would not have had much of a face left. The thought should have horrified her. Instead she felt oddly excited. If I could do that, she thought to herself, oh! What I wouldn't do then! And immediately the image flashed into her mind of Grushak, falling to his knees, clutching at the dagger in his throat. It was an oddly bloodless image: as she realized this, her brain promptly filled in the inky spurt of Orkish blood welling between his fingers.
Hrahragh's nostrils flared, catching the scent of the girl's eagerness. He watched her as she eyed the dagger-studded tree. He still had one left.
Maevyn stiffened as she felt something touch her shoulder. Hrahragh had tapped it with the hilt of the remaining dagger. As she blinked at him he held it out to her. "You try," he said briefly. Her face brightened with excitement. She took it and faced the tree, starting to draw back her hand, but saw Hrahragh out of the corner of her eye with a pained look on his face. "Nar, nar," he said, shaking his head but making no attempt to show her different. His words made her stop anyway and consider what she was doing.
She looked at the knife in her hand and pictured the way Hrahragh had thrown its fellows. Her hand was curled around the hilt and she knew that if she threw it that way, the weight of the hilt would only make the dagger fall and it would thud to the ground not so very far in front of her. To travel any distance, it needed spin. Taking it in both hands, she positioned and then repositioned her fingertips along the blade, closer to the tip. Holding it pinched between her fingers in this fashion, she took aim once again.
When she threw the dagger it made a dazzling dark wheel in the air, and she cried out as it struck the base of the tree. Thrilled, she looked at Hrahragh. The Uruk scratched his jaw but offered neither praise nor criticism. "Fetch," was all he said, and she ran and gathered all the daggers up, and brought them to him, and handed them back to him one by one.
The last, however, the one she had thrown, she withheld for a second. He gave her a sharp look, eyes narrowing again. "Knife," she said quickly. "What is the word?"
He contemplated her in turn. "Thauk," he said at length.
"Thauk," Maevyn repeated.
She had forgotten Leni and Kurbag, caught up in the excitement of learning something new. Before Hrahragh grew tired of it he taught her many more such words. He taught her 'tree,' and 'throw,' and 'thrust'; he taught her 'blade' and 'dagger.' She sat at the fire afterwards and said them under her breath: "Dru, hodh, shati," she muttered, "pros, kurtil. Thauk."
She was still saying them when Leni returned to the fire, not looking very pretty at all. Her eyes were swollen and bruised—she had obviously been crying. They widened a little at what she heard coming out of Maevyn's mouth. With effort she kept from speaking in haste. "Maevyn, what have you been doing?" she asked carefully.
Maevyn kept saying the words as if she had not heard the question. Then she looked at Leni. "I've been learning stuff," she said, and there was challenge in her voice.
Stuff you wouldn't teach me. And what have you been doing, huh?
"Krir," said Maevyn, looking at her. "Pros, nugis. Daumab."
Krir. Pros, nugis. Daumab. "Slash. Cut, stab. Hurt." Yes, pros is the word for both 'blade' and 'cut.' I could have used plag for 'cut' instead, but liked the happy accident of pros.
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