18. A Succession of Days
Afterward, she did not move.
She lay where the last one left her, her body curled double. For a time her mind was empty, void of thought. There was nothing, and then, slowly, awareness crept back. She ached and was cold. Mercifully, she could feel nothing below the waist. Had they broken her, she wondered? If they had, they wouldn't want her again. They wouldn't want something broken.
But pain came on her like another violation, worming up inside, and she tried to hide from it; tried to escape, as she had been unable to escape her tormentors. She told herself that she was a snail, slow, small, insignificant, and none could see her. She had withdrawn to where no one and nothing could touch her. There was no pain where she was. She was not this body in the dirt. She was a secret nautilus.
Gradually Eleluleniel realized that someone was standing over her. She thought wearily that Kurbag was going to take another turn, but he just stood looking down at her. After a time he stooped to pick her up, but when he touched her she began to scream. It was a raw rattling sound; she had screamed away the lining of her throat and her voice was almost gone. Distantly she wished he wouldn't touch her. She thought that, if she were to scream for much longer, blood would come out of her mouth and she would never be able to speak again.
He let her go but continued to crouch beside her like she was a puzzle that he could not piece together. After a brief interval his talons stirred her hair, parting the smooth strands. She made no response, had not even the strength to shudder. Eventually he got up and went away.
As much as she hurt, she was nearly asleep when he returned, and her drooping lids flew open in panic when she felt a sudden weight descend upon her. It was a furry hide such as the Orcs slept under on cold or rainy nights, when the air was particularly chill or dank. She felt the thick fur ripple against her body, trapping heat, while the smooth inner pelt was turned outward against the elements. Wordlessly Kurbag adjusted the hide on her as a parent might tuck a child in for the night.
She could not walk for two days after.
When they broke camp the next morning she thought that they would kill her out of hand or leave her where she was, but Kurbag carried her. Some of the Orcs looked askance at this but made no comment. Kurbag's actions had settled the matter to their satisfaction…all save Nazluk, who might say nothing but who sneered nonetheless.
Eleluleniel was not afraid of Nazluk, for all that his face threatened murder. He at least did not wish to have her: he seemed as revolted by the notion of contact with her body as she would have been with his. She also did not struggle when Kurbag carried her, suffering his arms in silence. She feared Kurbag—he had hurt her, hurt her badly—but when he was carrying her at least the others didn't touch her.
But when they settled in for the night and Mushog sauntered over with clear intent, Kurbag was no protection. He had taken a stance and, whatever he might feel about it now, he was keeping it. He got up while Mushog positioned her to his liking, and when the Uruk began thrusting into her Kurbag was nowhere to be seen.
She wept while it was done and moved feebly, but did not scream. She had no screams left in her. In any case, the sounds she'd made the night before had only served to entertain Mushog and the others. He had called her "Squeaker," and laughed. He did so again now, amused by the gasps and faint cries he wrested from her, even if she wasn't screaming. There wasn't much that didn't seem to amuse Mushog, and his eyes flashed down at her with wicked good humor while he raped her.
One of the smaller Orcs came later. She didn't see which in the dark. She felt the eager shape scrabble over her, felt raggedy-nailed hands paw briefly at her thighs, and then came the familiar stabbing between her legs and she turned her head to the side, waiting for it to be over.
Even with these fresh insults her flesh continued, appallingly, to heal. The second day she was able to sit up. Kurbag brought her food, which she did not touch, and water, which she used to clean herself. In the open midst of an Orc camp though she was and for all her good upbringing, modesty was subdued by necessity. With the civility of long habit she asked Kurbag for a rag, and he gave her one. She used the paltry thing to scrub herself as best she could, dabbing methodically, ignoring his gaze upon her as she sponged away their dried leavings and her own urine, and blood. She felt tremendous shame at the blood, and a new surge of fear to see the half-Uruk eying it. He didn't touch her, but she could sense something like hunger behind the look. He took the rag when she was through, and she didn't see what he did with it after that.
Though other Orcs sought her out there was no second group assault. On the third day she rose again and walked to the edge of camp to relieve herself. It hurt, unsurprisingly, and she could not suppress a moan of pain. There was still blood but less than before, and she thought that she would not die today.
"You're still around, eh?" She looked up at the ill-natured voice to see Nazluk leaning against a tree, scowling at her. "I thought Elves died," he said. "What are you, anyway?"
She mouthed the words, trying to make sense of them. What was she indeed? "I do not know," she whispered finally. "I do not know anymore."
Nazluk eyed her sidelong with a kind of vindictive curiosity. At length he spat. "Dung I suppose."
Tears stung her swollen eyes. What made it worse was that she could not argue with him.
On the fourth day they were traveling again. Kurbag did not carry her but had her walk near him at all times. When the way was broad enough to permit, he walked beside her with his hand on the small of her back. They traveled a long way that day. They stopped when Lagdush, who had disappeared some time before, emerged from a thicket up ahead and led them to a nearby glade where he had shot a beautiful doe and two fawns. Pleased, Bragdagash called a halt for the day. The Orcs found the fresh venison a pleasant change.
That evening Kurbag sat under a tree and pulled Eleluleniel down beside him. "You have such soft hair," he said, and took her on his lap. He began to run his fingers through her hair, idly probing out tangles and picking them apart with astonishing delicacy.
She had said little to Kurbag those past few days. Now she took a chance on speaking back. "Why will you not let me go?" she asked him. He didn't say anything, only continued to toy with her hair. "Please let me go," she said softly. "I want to go home."
"Hair like the moon," Kurbag whispered. "Hair like silver. Little moon-elf." He stroked it, winding her tresses through his fingers. Under her, she felt his quiescent member harden. Her lips trembled. There was a time when she would not have known what this meant, but that time was past. One of his hands dropped to free himself into the night air, stroking and tugging languorously. Lifting her, he turned her to face him; strong hands holding her thighs apart, he lowered her for impalement.
He finished buried in her deep as he might go, and she could feel him pressing up against her womb. Orkish usage had given her a keen and agonizing awareness of her internal parts. Another nudge and he would damage her beyond even the extent to which she had already been damaged. She whimpered in pain and fear of the danger she was in. Chin dropping to rest on her collarbone, she uttered the faint mewl of a dying animal, but he only held her in place, stroking her back with a slow motion, up and down. Abruptly he laid his hand upon the curve of her spine, steadying her against him.
"Please," she whispered, closing her eyes, her forehead on his chest. "Please let me go home." She said it over and over again in the gloom.
On the fifth day they came to a road, which the Orcs decided to follow for a time. A tinker's wagon had broken down not a mile from where they started, its front wheel lodged in a pothole. Seeking to draw his wagon forth, the frustrated driver was trying to coax his mare to greater efforts, but a recalcitrant horse proved the least of his problems when he suddenly found himself surrounded by a band of snickering Orcs.
"Need a hand?" Bragdagash asked the terrified man in amused Westron.
They did not have much sport with him. He died too soon for it to be worthwhile, before they had a chance to leave many marks. He was a stocky older man and Rukshash speculated that the tinker's heart had given out on him. They did get the name of a village from him before he died, though, and annoyance was forgotten in cheerful talk of a raid. Bragdagash detailed Lagdush and Mushog to go on ahead and scout around the village before reporting back, while the other Orcs turned their energies to looting and vandalizing the wagon. Shrah'rar, who had an unsavory interest in animals, made several attempts to approach the mare, but she was skittish and showed him the whites of her eyes, kicking out fiercely. She managed to clip his shoulder with one wicked hoof and the others laughed at the string of curses he let loose.
Kurbag vaulted up into the wagon from behind. Ducking to clear the dizzying array of pots, pans and kettles that hung from the ceiling, he scanned the interior. It was obvious that the tinker had basically lived out of his wagon: the quarters were homey and clean, with a rug and with high latched cupboards, and there was a bed at the front. A narrow bed, but one neatly made and spread with a colorful quilt. Kurbag appraised it thoughtfully as he contemplated bringing Squeaker in and rutting her on it. He savored the image of her lying under him, hair spilling over the crisp white pillow…but just then the wagon gave a lurch and he nearly lost his balance. Sounds came to him, even muffled through heavy wooden paneling, of screaming horse and raucous Orcs. What with that and the clattering saucepans, it was rather more noise and activity than he cared for when he was screwing.
What was it that the wagon smelt of? Snuffing the air he quickly found the source: a basket containing human foodstuffs—dried fruit, two loaves of bread, half a wheel of cheese and a small jug. Disdaining weak human drink, unenthused by the fruit and bread and outright revolted by the cheese, he picked up the basket anyway.
Outside of the wagon, Eleluleniel was trying not to hear the horse, as she had tried not to hear the piteous cries of the old man whom the Orcs had set upon. She was looking down the road the way they had come, and wishing that someone might come along it. A warrior. A ranger. A company of either, or both. But of course there was nobody. A road… Since chancing upon it that morning, she had nursed a hope that the road might mean travelers, and aid. But all there had been was a poor old tinker. She was glad that the man had died quickly.
The Orcs were not paying any attention to her, too busy with their current cause for amusement. She looked down the road the way they had come and wanted to run. It was a foolhardy idea, of course: they would retake her in a minute in the open. She looked instead to the trees, and the cover they might provide. Escape? Of course she had thought of escape! But she'd had few opportunities before this. She had waited too long those days immediately after her capture, and then when Kurbag had—when the other Orcs—
She had not been in any condition to try.
But her body was stronger now. If she were to flee into the trees she might be able to put some distance between herself and the Orcs: even take to the branches and lose herself in the bright sun-dappled foliage. And there was the road. There had been no road before now. If she fled now she could come back to the road again and follow where it led. She could find someone to take her home.
"While they do not watch," she whispered to herself, and she could feel the trees around her listening. They were not the trees she knew at home, but trees had heed for Elves. She was Elf, whatever Nazluk said, whatever her sickened heart might try to tell her, and trees heard Elves…trees helped Elves….
Now, she thought to herself, but did not say aloud, for even as she thought it she heard footsteps in the gravel behind her. She could have trembled for very disappointment, but schooled herself to reveal nothing and turned to him, only to lose her composure when she saw what Kurbag carried.
He was already smirking and when he saw her reaction he grinned all the wider. There was no masking the hunger in her face. It was little enough he'd managed to get down her throat, beyond water and some deer flesh yester-eve. He just hadn't had the right provender was all! "Ah," he said with characteristic brilliance and, scratching the side of his neck with his free claw, continued, "…food?"
Oh, that's clever, he thought to himself, and not for the first time wished he had the sharp way with words that Nazluk did. But Squeaker's attention was all for the basket in his hand.
Bread. It was so long since last she had tasted bread. Sitting on the grassy bank that overlooked the road, Eleluleniel ate with a haste she knew to be unseemly. She did not care, tearing off pieces and putting them in her mouth quickly, fearing that any moment Kurbag would take the food away, though he showed no signs of doing so. Sitting on the grass beside her, he examined a brown earthenware jug that had been resting in the basket. Uncorking it, he snuffed the mouth and grimaced. "Thin-skin fare," he muttered and raised the jug like he was going to throw it. Then he glanced at her, reached over and set it on her lap. "Here, wash that down."
She was very thirsty but when she picked up the jug the smell rising from it made her pause. She sat holding it a moment, caught between thirst and regret. "I cannot drink this," she said.
She shook her head and handed the vessel to him. "I am not allowed." She wasn't old enough to drink brandy, though her older sisters were. She was not yet forty.
"Not allowed? Who's stopping you?" asked the half-Uruk, baffled. He thrust the jug at her. "Go on. If you want it, drink it."
She took the vessel back again. It was not, she supposed, as if she had never tasted alcohol. Nevhithien had allowed her some secret sips of wine once, guardedly given amid giggles behind the closed door of their bedchamber. She would not make herself foolish. She would drink just a little.
The jug of brandy smelled strongly of plum, and when she drank it was sweet and tart and good. She took a few careful swallows.
"How is it?"
"It is good," she admitted. "Thank you."
He looked pleased. "Here, give me that." Hefting the jug, he took an experimental gulp and nearly choked. "AI!! Shum ambal pushdug! Awful!" He threw her a flabbergasted look.
"What's that you're chugging there?" demanded Rukshash, wandering over in their direction. "Garn! Keeping the best for yourself, you big bastard? Give it here." A disgusted Kurbag handed him the jug and watched, fully expecting Rukshash to spit the contents out as he had. Instead the old Orc drank slowly and steadily, finally lowering the jug with a sigh and wiping his mouth on the back of a skinny arm. "Ah. Now that's good brandy."
Kurbag couldn't believe it. "How can you say that? That stuff is vile!"
Rukshash snorted. "The problem with young rowdies like you, Kurbag, is you just don't know quality." He jabbed a thumb at Eleluleniel. "Now her, she's different. Raised to it, I'd imagine. And me, hah! Good plum brandy, oaken cask, aged two years? This would've done for officers' fare during the War."
"You old liar. You were never an officer."
He laughed. "Knew how to pinch from 'em though, didn't I? Hoity-toity Uruk bastards couldn't moderate their contempt: if they'd only taken their noses out of the air and looked down at us for a change, they might've known what was going on at belt-level."
Eleluleniel felt a moment's strange dissonance. She was sitting on a green sward having something resembling a picnic with her captors, and Rukshash sounded like an old friend of her father's: an aging human soldier who often reminisced about the Great War. The queasy brew of the familiar and the profane was disturbing. Kurbag might seem almost solicitous at times, but she had learned her lesson about him, learned it painfully, and Rukshash was no amiable old man but an Orc. A memory came unbidden of a few nights previous. Not all of the Orcs had used her physically. Some had watched. Rukshash was one such; he had never touched her but he had watched, and grinned, and she had seen what he did with his hand…
"Hey Squeaker. Squeaker!" Kurbag touched her arm and she flinched as she returned to the present. "You still thirsty?"
She looked at him with haunted eyes, and then at the jug from which Rukshash was drinking, the mouth of the vessel pressed between his rotting teeth. "Not for brandy," she said dully.
Nothing came of the village. From what she was to understand later, it had turned out to be more of a town, large enough to have a wall and men enough to guard it. Not the kind of fun that Bragdagash was looking for. Suddenly priorities shifted from planning a raid to putting distance between themselves and their original target. Nobody in the group was in a very good mood. The Orcs were all cross and Eleluleniel was devastated. They had left the road, and she had missed an opportunity that she did not think would come again.
On the sixth day she heard a ringing sound, loud and long, in her left ear. No one else seemed to hear it, not even Grushak, for all that he was on her. It started the first time that she blacked out, and continued seemingly without end. When Grushak grunted and shifted the angle of his thrusts the ringing became louder. When she came to after her second blackout he was gone. The ringing continued: fainter now, but unmistakable.
Ringing in her ears, and she had never blacked out before. She wondered if she was starting to lose her mind. Maybe that was what she was doing instead of dying. Maybe this was dying, but she did not think so. If it was, it was nothing like the tales.
Someone nudged her coldly with an iron toe. "Not dead yet?" When Nazluk saw her blinking up at him he curled his lip. "Then cover that mess and get up. Bragdagash wanted you to feed the fire."
He sneered at her when she did not move fast enough to please him and pulled her harshly to her feet. She thought her pelvis was damaged when Grushak first began, he had entered her so hard, but this did not seem to be the case. She had a new fear of the Orc. He was not an Uruk, but he was as large as one, and he had not been gentle. None of the Orcs were, but Grushak used his claws. She did not think that Kurbag would have liked this, had he seen.
But Kurbag was not around and had not been since that morning. It was difficult for her to tell the time: the sky was overcast and gray, and the clearing in which they were encamped was bleak, but she thought it was some time past noon. "Where is…" she said, and trailed off.
"What?" Nazluk demanded. "Either finish a question or don't say anything in the first place."
"Where is Kur—"
He cut her off irritably. "On guard duty, doing his job for a change. Will wonders never cease?" Mismatched eyes narrowed. "Why do you ask? So eager to take another tumble with him?"
She blanched, started to open her mouth and stopped. The ringing in her ear had suddenly gotten loud again.
Nazluk looked at her suspiciously. "You seem stupider than usual. Why are you making that face?" Her answer made him speculative—"That sounds like a head injury. Did you take a thump to it at some point?"—but he snorted when she responded in the negative. "Well, you wouldn't remember, yes? With any luck it will do you in, but I doubt it. You're stronger than you look or you wouldn't be here. Hold still!"
He took her head in his hands, probing her skull. It was not with her good in mind that he did this but out of hope for her misfortune, and glee at a chance to cause discomfort. Holding her head at a taxing angle he manhandled her roughly, scraping her tender scalp with his talons. She squeezed her eyes shut against this treatment, clutching blindly at his wrists, but he only ignored her and continued his brutal examination. She could hear him muttering under his breath, fragments of Orkish woven with Westron:
"Lulgijak, kisug dobat Golug…and you smell of flowers and of trees. I don't get it, what does he see in you? Marr auga, dil-vorbat—tru-uk voskor dajal-ob agh nar gajol rrok palhur-ishi…"
As through a dark veil she saw his green and yellow eyes flicker over her, searching, searching.
"Nothing!" Nazluk said finally, and let her go with a parting yank to her hair. "Sniveling filth! You're probably making it up. Well, come on, there's been enough delay. Look, the fire's gone out."
He hovered constantly that next long hour, and whatever secret frustration it was that preyed upon him he took out on her. It seemed she never ceased to give him fuel. She had not built a campfire before in her life, nor tended one. Most Elves delight in cooking, men as well as women, and many were the happy hours she had spent in the kitchen with her father or with one or more of her sisters. There, the tame orange flames of a brick oven were all she'd had to deal with as she baked bread and prepared simple meals, allowed occasionally to assist with the finer dishes. She had certainly had no experience with sifting through the gray ash of an open pit-fire, rekindling faint embers by blowing on them to bring them glowing back to life. Nazluk snarled at her when she didn't know what it meant to bank a fire; he was nearly apoplectic when it came out that she had never gathered kindling, and that she did not know which wood served to make a fire burn bright and fast or hot and slow.
With a series of vicious shoves, accompanied by cursing in both Westron and Orkish, he drove her into the outlying trees and stood by scowling as she burdened herself. Her jaw set as she followed the directives of her harsh taskmaster. Nazluk was cruel, but his was an angry cruelty: honest hatred with nothing libidinous in it. She listened carefully to what he told her, siphoning sense from sadism.
"Not that rotten shit—have you no head? Stupid bitch! It will send up smoke fit to choke us all. Look for the dry wood, the stuff that's dead and is starting to punk. Punk is rotting. Not yet rotted. Lulgijak…useless fucking Elf…."
After a while she no longer registered his contempt, finding an old serenity in labor. She felt that she was being productive after a long period of idleness. In the days since her capture Eleluleniel had been used and mistreated and forced to travel great distances with her captors, but little enough had she been given to do with her hands. She had never been one to enjoy sitting idle; gathering firewood and tending a fire were nothing like embroidery or gardening, but they were still work and something in which to lose herself, if only for a time.
Nazluk, venom spent and finding nothing else to rail about, finally left. The ringing in Eleluleniel's ear dwindled and died away at last, and in her heart something heavy seemed to lift. With the Orc gone she felt safe enough to quietly hum a favorite ballad. She felt the trees around her listening and so she hummed for them as well as for herself. She dared not sing her song aloud, but she could think it in her mind, and there it floated free and clear as a song in summer air.
It was not summer, though. It was mid-spring and overcast, the air oppressive and dull. It was a day tailored to Grushak's liking. He sat by the fire and sharpened his scimitar, and enjoyed the novelty of sitting, without pain or discomfort, under an open sky. Grushak was large but he was not Uruk, and he had the same sensitivity to the sun as other non-Uruk-hai. In a thoroughly decent mood, he looked up at the mustard-gray smear of cloud-cover overhead and wished there could be more days like this.
He heard Mushog before he saw him, and smelled fresh blood. "So there was a farm-holding," he said amiably. "Well well. Then you were right and I was wrong. I don't suppose I get a doggy-bag?"
"Not to worry," said Mushog. "Plenty to share. The others are bringing back some of the meat." He grinned. "It was fun! They barricaded themselves in, so it actually took us a while to get to them. Good sport to be had. Four generations, can you imagine? from the little pink newborn up to the old great grand-dam. You should have heard some of the nasty things she called us—before we shut her up, that is."
"Four generations." Grushak shook his head slowly. "They live too long, these men and their families."
"All penned up in the same house, too." Mushog made a face of disgust. "Breathing in each other's air and everything."
"Not so different from the caves."
"Unh. I wouldn't know."
"Hmm." Grushak chewed on that one for a moment. Regular Orcs were, if anything, more restless than their Uruk-hai brethren, quick to swarm out of their subterranean and mountain dwelling places at the slightest provocation…when they bothered waiting for provocation. Crowding and infighting kept them itching, launching their continuous incursions on the outer world: the great battle hordes of years gone by might be a memory, but seasonal sorties and raids were a mainstay of Orkish life. And those were just the quickie-jobs. Roving mixed units such as Bragdagash's band had the muscle and the flexibility to keep up good momentum, loping around the fertile lands for months on end.
They had covered much ground in their travels. Had seen and learned and killed a good deal. A little run south and then they would prepare to make the long stretch home.
"Where's the Elf?" asked Mushog suddenly.
"Mm? Getting firewood—can't you hear that insipid noise she's making?" They both fell quiet, and Mushog's ears pricked up as he heard the faint strains of the Elven girl's humming. Grushak grunted. "I'd've told her to shut up by now, but it's actually less irritating than the sound of Nazluk's voice. Raking her over the coals earlier, he was, and me trying to take a nap."
"There's a lot of wood already," Mushog said, observing the pile beside the pit.
"She's been at it for some time. Tends the fire a bit, then she goes straight out for more. I suppose it's exercise for her."
"Exercise? Aw! Haven't we been giving her enough?" Mushog laughed.
Grushak shrugged. "You may have. I gave her a little go today, but I was not impressed. There's no there there, if you ask me. I don't like 'em that soft."
"Soft." Mushog was gazing off, a thoughtful smile on his lips. "Have you had a look at her mouth? It's so small…and such little teeth. I'll bet she has a very soft mouth." The Uruk's tongue passed over his fangs. Turning, he headed in the direction of the trees.
"You're fucking insatiable. You know that, right?" remarked Grushak sardonically. The only response was throaty laughter. Grushak rolled his eyes before turning them to his sword again. Mushog had clearly had a pleasant excursion—Grushak smelled sex mixed with the blood—but there you go: some people are never satisfied. He heard a dull rumble in the distance and looked up. The yellow sky had gone greenish and the air around him seemed almost to crackle. Didn't feel like it was gonna rain, though. On the one hand Grushak was glad: he never fancied being wet. On the other, rumbling without rain was unsettling. Perhaps a little spatter wouldn't go amiss.
Kurbag's Elven girl wasn't humming any more. Her small voice had fallen silent, displaced by Mushog's low chuckle. Grushak didn't notice, waiting as he was for thunder.
Shum ambal pushdug! "This crap is too sweet!"
Lulgijak, kisug dobat Golug… "Flower-blood, squeaking weak Elf…"
Marr auga, dil-vorbat—tru-uk voskor dajal-ob agh nar gajol rrok palhurishi… "Stupid eyes, sun-blind—all the brains of a horny teenager and he can't keep his dick in his pants…"
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.