Hrahragh sat a little distance from the fire, one of his knives lying on his knee. Picking it up, he looked at its stark cutting edge outlined against the brown hide of his hand. It was a throwing knife, not intended for use as a deflective weapon, but there were some little niches from when one of the men yesterday had closed with him during the fighting. Hrahragh removed the black whetstone that hung on the hempen cord around his neck and began the process of smoothing out the burrs, sharpening the edge keen.
Over on the other side of camp, Bragdagash was doing the same with his broadsword. It was nearing noon, and the sun was warm and bright, rays slanting through the pine boughs overhead. Grushak, who was lying by the fire, stirred and at length rose sullenly. Still half-asleep, eyes closed against the light, the large Orc sought out thicker shade in which to take his rest. The smaller Orcs, who were awake but similarly unenthusiastic about the daylight, were already there.
Hrahragh's broad mouth quirked. He liked the sun and its heat on his bare shoulders and back. He liked the scrape of the whetstone, the sight of the sharpening edge under it. He liked laying the tip of his finger against the edge and watching the thin bloodline form, liked putting his finger in his mouth and sucking briefly, idly.
High-pitched but quiet voices: Kurbag's Elf girl and the man-child. With Grushak gone they were beside the fire now, the Elf heaping the embers and coaxing them with kindling. It caught slowly—she fanned it with her hand and the little red flames began to lick more eagerly. Keeping an ear on the two girls' activities, Hrahragh sharpened his knife.
"It should be hot enough now. I will put the dough in. Here, sit you down a spell while we let it bake."
Maevyn sat her rear down, watching Leni slide the flat stone with the dough on it under the makeshift oven. She cocked her head at her friend's stilted syntax, which she had been wondering about for a while now. "Do all Elves talk funny or is it just you?"
Maevyn was truly curious, but she suddenly realized the comment had probably sounded rude. She could just imagine Mama cuffing her for it. "I'm sorry."
The Elf girl laughed. "No, I think I know what you mean. Westron is not my first language. That would be Sindarin."
"Is that Elf-talk?"
"Of a sort, yes."
"Like when you met me. You called me a melon," Maevyn remembered.
Leni laughed. "You have a good memory. I called you 'mellon-nin.' That is Sindarin for 'my friend.'" She smiled, then looked around in a regretful way. "It is good to speak Sindarin, even to someone who does not understand it. But I ought not do it too often: they—these Yrch, they do not like it."
"And that's Elf for 'Orc,'" said Maevyn, earning a nod of affirmation. "What's Orc for 'Orc'?" she asked. She had decided it would be a good idea to find out as many Orc words as possible.
"Ur-uk. What are some other Orc words?"
"Ah...I do not know many," said Leni.
"What ones do you know, then?"
The Elf girl smiled, but it was a somewhat stiff smile. "I have learned some of their tongue in the time I have been among them, Maevyn, but I do not choose to speak it."
"Maevyn. I said no."
Maevyn wanted to persist. She didn't like it that the Elf girl was holding out on her. She didn't like being among these big creatures whose speech amongst themselves she didn't understand and yet who could say things that were important for her to know. A sense of their language might help her to protect herself. She wanted to say this to Leni but she didn't quite know how and of course there were also Orcs around them right now and they had ears. And then too the expression on Leni's face didn't brook much argument.
Though normally that wouldn't have stopped Maevyn. She was accustomed to back-talking her elders and betters and had often smarted for it. She didn't mind a cuffed ear or a slapped face, but somehow she didn't want to make Leni upset, and the set to the Elf's mouth told her that upset was just what Leni would become if Maevyn kept up this line of questioning.
It was strange: Maevyn felt an odd reticence around Leni that she had never felt around anyone before. It was her nature to be talkative and lively—rambunctious, truth be told. Maevyn was already subdued by her experience of the past twenty-four hours, but Leni's nature curbed her normal behavior still further. The older girl had an advantage—for one thing, she was older, and she seemed to have a certain tired confidence among the Orcs that Maevyn didn't have in the slightest. Then too she was an Elf, and Maevyn had never met one before in her life.
Leni's voice was so gentle and musical, and she was so very pretty. Maevyn had never seen anybody as beautiful as Leni before. The slender points of her ears were so different, but nice—much nicer than regular boring rounded ears, Maevyn decided—and her skin was so very fair. Her hair was mussed and unwashed by daylight, but that didn't matter to Maevyn, only how lovely and pale the long tresses were. And her eyes were so pretty and so sad...
Maevyn lowered her gaze. She wanted to apologize, but two apologies in as many minutes—no, she wouldn't do that! She would remain silent. If Leni didn't want to talk, that was fine. She set her jaw and didn't look up.
"Maevyn...are you sulking?"
Shocked eyes darting up: "No!" Maevyn didn't like Leni talking to her like that, like she was some sort of child. Seeking to change the mood, she said, "Can you at least tell me their names then? You said you would last night. Then I can know which is which."
Well, maybe talking about the Orcs at all wasn't the best way to change the mood, but Leni nodded. "All right. Well. You know Grushak already, yes?"
Maevyn got a sick feeling in her stomach at the sound of the big Orc's name. She nodded heavily and pointed to where he had gone to sleep under a tree. Some other Orcs were sitting nearby, playing at dice. She shifted her finger to indicate a little one that she hadn't seen before. "Who's that?"
"That is Grymawk. He is not so bad. He has never been cruel to me. He is an archer."
"He's littler then the others," said Maevyn. In fact, he might even be an inch or so shorter than her! It amazed her, all the different shapes and sizes the Orcs came in. She appraised the small Orc quickly. I could fight him, she thought to herself. And I could knock him down too. It would be bad if I was far away, because he could hit me with an arrow. But I could win if I fought hand to hand with him. "The one next to him?"
Leni provided each of their names in turn and Maevyn repeated them after her: Pryszrim, Shrah'rar, Rukshash. It was comforting for Maevyn to have names for them, some way to identify them. Like knowing what to call them told her something about them. She carefully stored away any information that Leni gave her. Rukshash had fought in the Great War. Pryszrim, the one who liked bread, wasn't very smart. Shrah'rar ignored anything that wasn't furry, whatever that meant. Mushog, whom she had seen, was very loud and a braggart. Bragdagash was the leader because he was the biggest Orc of all.
Maevyn looked around and saw the tall Orc who had spoken to her before and called her a slave. "What about that big one over there—the one with the knives—what's his name?"
Leni opened her mouth to speak, but—
"Hrahragh," said the Orc, examining his blade. He didn't even look at them.
Maevyn was startled to realize that he had heard her. He was far away from them, and they had been speaking very softly. Not sure of quite how to respond, she fell back instinctively on a long honored tactic in her arsenal for whenever she didn't know what to do. She stuck her tongue out.
"Maevyn, stop that!" hissed Leni.
He started it, Maevyn nearly responded, but since of course he hadn't started anything, she didn't. Holding her hands in her lap and twisting the hem of her skirt, she decided simply not to speak at all. Leni tried after a few minutes to make idle conversation but Maevyn wouldn't pay any attention to her.
Instead she looked around at the Orcs and painstakingly named and renamed them in her head, going from one to the next until she was sure that she had all of them correctly. Looking at them all, she realized there was something different about three of them: Hrahragh, Bragdagash and Mushog. They just didn't look quite like the others. They were bigger for one thing, but it was more than that: it was in their faces and the way their bodies were. They wore their hair long too. But Hrahragh wore his longest, and it was like the tangled black tail of a badly groomed pony.
Maevyn's upper lip curled a little. Hrahragh. That's a stupid name. Like the noise you make when your throat itches. Somehow, though, she couldn't stop watching him.
Well, not him so much as his knives. Rather than slipping them away when he finished sharpening them, he kept two out, one in either hand, hefting them thoughtfully. Maevyn was startled by what he did next. Suddenly he began…twirling them in his fingers. The blades were blackish rather than bright and shining, but they made dazzling dark wheels as he spun them. He spiraled them around his head in devastating proximity—Maevyn didn't know how it was he avoided cutting himself. Then he tossed one in the air abruptly and she gasped aloud as it whirled downwards…and he caught it easily, harmlessly, the sharp point between thumb and forefinger.
He cast a glance in her direction and she quickly looked away, her face hot, telling herself that she was just planning for the ideal moment to steal one. Then she could use it on Grushak. Grushak, who had taken Demmi's knife from her. She remembered the hard tight feeling of his arm across her arms and chest as he threatened her with it: again she felt its sharp edge against her throat and her whole body was hot and cold with the memory. She felt the horrific events of yesterday trying to suck her under, and anger was the lifeline she clung to.
I'll get it back, she swore to herself. I'll get him back, and he will bleed.
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.