7. Orc talk
“Nother one?” the second Snaga said. “How many’s that make, now? What’s old Vashnek want another one for, eh? He’s only got one friggin’ cock.”
“Not,” the first Snaga replied, “Captain Vashnek.” He paused dramatically, for emphasis. “Captain of our Watchtower. Captain Shagrat.”
“Shagrat!” his companion exclaimed.
“Yes, Shagrat,” confirmed the first Snaga proudly, “you heard it from me first.”
The second Orc shook his head in disbelief. “Nah. You’re ‘aving me on. Every sod knows that Shagrat, that big bugger, he doesn’t like to fuck. What is it now, must be two hundred years I bin here, and in all that time, nothin’ but him wanking on his lonesome up in that frigging Tower. He does have the odd wank, d’you reckon? Brrrr! It don’t bloody well bear thinking about does it? What’s all that about, d’you suppose?”
“Ah, well, our dear Captain, he hasn’t always been the big, vicious bruiser what we’ve come to know and understand and spend all our time trying to keep on the right side of. Time was, and this is going back a long, long while, mind, he was more of your classic underdog. Bottom of the pile, in more ways than one, if you know what I’m saying. Me, I was a squaddie in one of the garrisons stationed out at Lugburz about the time he was first conscripted. Captain always was tall for his age, but he came into his weight a lot later than usual, so I guess ‘cos of that he’d have landed up with more than his share of rough-housing, down in the barracks at first. And you wouldn’t think it to look at him now, but he was quite a pretty boy in those days. All in the breeding. Beautiful head of hair on him and then some, and other things too, what he couldn’t do nothing about. Those sort of sports crop up every few generations or so, like you know. So of course that’s never helped him neither, ‘cause you know how Uruks genr’ly like to mess up anything what’s a bit too nice and fancy looking for its own good. Well, our young Shagrat came in for a lot of that, and was soon messed up proper. Stuff what went on would make yer hair curl. Went on for ages, it did, till he’d filled himself out a bit.”
“And that’s how he came to be such a miserable old devil?”
“Yes. That Shagrat. He’s a grudge-bearing bastard too. Every one of ‘em, what had ever made things difficult for him early on, once he’d got some muscle behind him, and started rising through the ranks, he made a special point of doing ‘em down. Every last one. Proper vendetta – he’d see to it personally. It took him longer than you’d believe, but he never forgot - even though there was some thought he must have done, what never lived to see their mistake. In the end he got the last of the old crowd of Uruks on the end of his blade and after that he shut himself away from everyone, up top in the Tower. Hardly talks –“
“Except for when he’s screamin’ orders at folk,” the second Orc broke in.
“That’s right,” the first Snaga continued, “never talks, ‘cept for when he’s screamin’ and bullying, only comes downstairs when he has to. And so help you if you even brush up against him, accidental like, when you’re going past. He’ll kill you, and won’t never think twice about it.”
“No! Just for touching him by mistake? I reckon he’s crazy.”
“Yeah. I do. Even more than most. And that’s saying something.”
“So what’s he want with this new Tark-boy, then?”
“Well, that is the question. That is the question. But who can say, who can say?” the first Orc replied, shaking his head doubtfully. “But he is besotted, Shagrat is. That Tark’s thrown a chain around his heart and then some. Always rushing off early, making any excuse to bunk off back to his rooms. Betterer mood than I’ve seen him in ever, but he’s letting things slide. Our old Captain, some say he’s losing his touch.”
“Shagrat, nar,” his companion scoffed. “You’ll never tell me he’s got a bleedin’ heart in the first place.”
The two Orcs stood in silence for a moment.
“Now, how’d he come by this new favourite?”
“Patrol brought him. Wanted to have a go at him in peace and quiet but got well rumbled on the way in. You know what Shagrat’s like for picking up anything that’s a bit bright, or eye-catchin’. He’s like one of them birds, what c’her call ‘em, what hangs around battlefields, getting stuff off the bodies. You know what I mean, to see one’s terrible bad luck.”
“Vultures,” the second Snaga said, nodding wisely.
“Not vultures you idiot,” the first Snaga replied, “Those little black-and-white jobs. What are them things called, maggot-pies. But -” he paused, considering - “you’re right, though, the dear Captain does look like a bit like a vulture.” He crossed his arms and drew himself up into a very passable imitation of Shagrat’s high-shouldered, stoop-backed, hunching stance - a recognisable pose that certainly was shared by Shagrat and vultures, both.
The two Orcs, cackling raucously, moved out of Faramir’s line of sight.
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