She woke. Grimacing at the audacity of the sun to stay up so long, she blinked twice and effortlessly killed the thought of tiredness from the hard work the day before. It had been hard, but she was strong, muscles hewn from long, monotonous days, and she felt no pain. Normally she would not even sleep during a journey such as this, but somehow she felt she’d need the extra energy slumber would give. Many miles had she run, ferociously and steadily, and many miles would she have to go to reach Isengard. Her sleep had been short, perhaps not more than an hour, but it was enough
Nearly seven feet tall she stood, proud and with an endurance and power that nearly rivaled Ugluk’s. There was nothing to distinguish her from the other Uruks save a waist that was slightly trimmer, and a face whose hideousness was not as grim, yet she was different. Female. A mistake. She had never let anyone know, and yet she knew, knew as she slaughtered and obeyed. Somehow it took some of the joy out of torture, and the triumph of slaying all who came against her. Even the rush of victory as she made her first kill, annihilating the brother who had dared to challenge her was slowed and diluted by her difference. The others were confident, fighting and running in discordant rhythm, while she felt constantly out of step. One of a kind, massacring to a different war drum, and the fact that she cared was the worst of her predicament.
She looked down at the patched earth. The captives lay on the ground, as sprawled as their cruel bonds would allow them to be. One was awake, a mix of sleep-studded stupidity and fear, while the other was still unconscious. His head had a slight gash, and she thought mockingly of the weakness of a creature on whom such minor damage could prove an impediment. Then again, they were small, smaller even than those pitiful orcs who accompanied her and the rest of the Fighting Uruk-Hai. They could have been miniature men had it not been for their hairy feet and ears like those despicable elves. They were alone here, even more than she. Fools. They should never have gotten involved with matters too big for them. At least they would provide good sport later on. She hadn’t had a laugh in ages.
Strolling over with a grace an oliphaunt could only dream of, she seated herself on a flat stone near the halflings. Slignikh joined her. He was an orc of Sauron, shorter and leaner, but he hunted well and fought like a devil when given half a chance. She could almost forgive him for not being an Uruk. Together they watched as the smaller of the captives fought a war with the cords that chomped into his flesh, securing him.
“What’s he think he’s going to do? Escape? In the middle of a camp? Not even the Morians are that stupid.” She laughed harshly, and Slignakh, appreciating her wit, let his growling mirth gyrate about hers.
Still chortling under her breath, she strode over to the halfling. Crouching, the metal toes of her boots digging into the crumbling soil, she grated her tongue over the abominable Common Speech which he probably spoke: “Rest while you can! We’ll find a use for your legs before long. You’ll wish you had got none before we get home.”
Slignikh snaked over, his wicked knife, black as blood, comfortably tense in his fist. She smiled, her sharp grin adding to the horror on the halfling’s face as Slignikh leaned over him. Slignikh’s love for play surpassed even her own, and it amused her to see how masterfully he frightened the captive, using the last dark rays of the sun to set off the evil blade and add ominous, unspoken threats to his already nasty comments. Letting him do his work unhindered she began to stand, but stopped when Slignikh began a long tirade against the Uruk-Hai. His dialect was that of Mordor, but the words still rang in her mind, a mutinous, disgusting rage against the White Hands. She allowed her knife, diligently sharpened by battle and stone, nudge against a tree, slicing carelessly through the bark. Slignikh turned, ceasing in mid-word to meet her glare. He had killed Uruks before, and knew their weaknesses, using his long limbs to his advantage, but at the same time he knew his companion was much more than a match for him. The urge to kill surged through him and he braced himself, aware that she would kill him in a matter of minutes if he fought. He saw the insult ripple angrily through her muscles, her green-black eyes narrowing.
Then biting, jarring argument clashed in her ears and she relaxed slightly, crushing grass into dirt as she treaded over to the fray. Slignakh watched malevolently, knife clutched tightly until she had faded into the black silhouettes of the other orcs. He knew she would never forget, and that he must always be on vigil from now on. She would fight, and soon.
She stood near Ugluk, selecting carefully her shadows, and waited, knife at the ready. The filthy Morians wanted to kill the captives now. She could understand that. They were both pitiful and dead weight, but they would provide good play, even if they didn’t have real torture devices. Tickling knives and ripping claws could often do just as good a job, if not better. She would have enjoyed it. If only Saruman didn’t want them! What did he need them for, anyway? The little sons of elves looked about as useful to the master as horse-flesh – as food, not bad, but for information? Hah! Of course the Sauronites wanted them taken to Lugburz. The cowards. They always needed their little Nazgul to protect them. She’d never seen a Nazgul, but it probably wasn’t anything special, even if it was supposedly better than the Sauronites in battle. She’d known Morians better than the average Sauronite, and they were about as bad as a half-way decent fighter could get. She could probably kill three or four at a time with her bare hands in the right conditions, and that was with their puny daggers. Slignikh, though, she would have to deal with him. Anger was bubbling over, and a good slaughter would surely soon ensue. She could kill him then.
A tiny movement caught her eye. The smaller captive was listening to the conversation, hearing them debate his fate. Not so stupid, after all, but still just a weak hunk of flesh. At least he hadn’t begged for mercy. He knew he would be shown none. The other was still asleep, too exhausted even to shift in restless half-dreams. She had seen him “fighting”, jabbing with his short, ineffectual blade. The only thing that had kept him from being killed instantly was that he had to be captured. Some decent Uruks had lost arms and hands to him, trying to capture the little abomination. Less competition. The younger halfling hadn’t even had the guts to strike, fainting dead away. Coward.
Snarls and swords clanged, and she swivelled her attention back to the debate. Then Ugluk surged forward, and she followed, relishing the sweetness of twisting and ripping flesh, hearing anguished grunts and metallic squeals. For a moment she forgot . . . then it came back and she glared at the black smears slipping down between her fingers, the joy of death gone. Slignikh’s amber-fanged sneer dived through her mind and she snarled, lunging at him. He flew around too slowly, and she thrust her knife into him, slicing and pulling back sharply., ignoring the pain as he gashed her shoulder. He tumbled, fell, and then sprawled across the smaller of the captives, who stared up horrified, half covered in broken power.
“Pick up those prisoners!” Ugluk roared. “Don’t play any tricks with them! If they are not alive when we get back, someone else will die too.” Two Uruks began to move toward the captives quickly. She knew the one who was getting at the smaller one. Nikdag. He would never get him back unspoiled, the clumsy brute. He had trouble getting back himself without stumbling over someone. The only reason he’d survived this long was that he was big enough to kill anyone who got mad at him. She shoved him roughly aside and flung the captive around her neck. Nikdag growled, but didn’t advance. She was too powerful to battle with on such small cause.
The captive was heavier than she had expected, and she was glad. It would build up endurance. After the first two miles, though, she tired of having his nose squished into her neck, so she jostled him into a more comfortable position. Now she only had curly hair to worry about. And a mouth. She had forgotten about that. He began mumbling something gently, and it took several bumps to get him to shut up. She didn’t need a commentator to spoil her running.
The grasses bowed and were mashed into a soaring mix of dirt and rock as she ran along, pelting the knees of those behind her. She enjoyed the involuntary rumbles of pain when an especially large stone was hurtled back. Slignikh, too, had found joy in scraping out bits of sharp stuff to throw back. Once he had even managed to uproot an entire thick-needled plant. Slignikh. The slime. Unbidden memory broke through. . . .
“I’ve found those filthy elves have a weakness,” he remarked, tearing at his meat.
“More than one.” She responded. Elves were not her favorite topic.
“This is new.”
“They have women.”
“Yeah, as if that’s new. They’d have to- the disgusting things seem to pop up overnight. What, you think they grow off trees? You’re an idiot, Sauronite.”
He slashed angrily at the small animal that had dared to come near. It squeaked. “You arrogant White Hand. Women stop them from fighting.”
He leaned over, eyes gleaming with past kills. “I came across an elf-maid once. The filth couldn’t even fight-just call on that Elbereth of theirs and cry for mercy. I only had to slice. Then in ran her little elf, all fear and anger. The fool didn’t even reach for his bow because he was afraid of hurting his darling. Two knife strokes was all it took, and we had meat for dinner.”
“Lucky he was scared,” she snorted, “otherwise you wouldn’t have stood a chance.” Slignikh clutched his serrated dagger, than determined instead to continue in the humor of the moment.
“At least you don’t have Uruk-Hai females. Can you imagine how they’d whine? Probably be lousy fighters, too.” He laughed, expecting her approbation. So much stronger than he, she was the only one he gave any sort of respect, and he relished it when she deemed his jokes good enough to laugh at. To his surprise, she was tensed, wrathful at some unknown comment of his. She often was, and orcs and Uruks alike had often been felled by her ill humor. Perhaps she would try to kill him, too. Then he could battle with her, and even if he failed slice that hardy flesh into strips for the Morians to grapple over.
She didn’t even give him notice when she rose, enmeshed in her own vicious thoughts, bothering only to scrape him a bit with one clawed hand as she strolled by . . .
Now she ran, untiring, unwilling to be slowed by whatever obstacles the rough path presented. She was alone, had always been alone, and she could feel their indifference to her plight choking her. They regarded her with respect, but it seemed they were always talked more with each other, always fought jokingly with everyone, even the runts, but her. They didn’t know, of course, but they did so all the same. Or did they? They might just be too timid to try. The thumping of hundreds of feet upon the broken earth continued, nearly monotonous, filling the air with determined drums. The sound rose and engulfed her, and she stomped all the harder. Her shoulder throbbed in half-recognized rhythm with the off-beats, and she snarled, realizing again that Slignikh must have gotten in his blade somehow while she struck.
Small trees woke too late to the downsides of sprouting from the earth and were slashed and trampled. One, braver than the rest, had the audacity to plant himself close to the hewn path, and she smiled. The halfling had been in slumber, however evil, too long. She couldn’t hurt him, but it would break boredom for a bit. She aimed footsteps well, and rammed into the whippy branch, yanking it forward so it would zing back in a stinging rush. Instead of lashing the weakling, though, as she had intended, it merely zipped through his earth-stained curls. Only one twig managed to get near his face, and it stuck between his arms and her neck. Struggling back slightly, as if only to mildly choke her, one small fist closed around a leaf. Growling, she shook him back into position. He began to mutter again, and she gritted her teeth. If she threw him around again to make him shut up, it would be a sign of weakness, as if she couldn’t bear him much longer and was trying to keep on. Surging forward, she tried to make the wind clutch his words, but to no avail. The rat kept on.
“Swing me higher, Merry, please? It’s not too far . . .Merry? Merry? Where are you?” His plaintive cry, swept from sorrow and soft from exhaustion rose to her ears, and she gave a half-smile. The runt must be lonely. Of course he was lonely-he was alone, except for that other one, and they’d be kept as far apart as possible. No sense in letting them plot-assuming they had the brains to do so. He was even worse off than she-at least she could mask what she was and keep on, having her share of loot and butchery. He’d never have the opportunity to kill again, not with what they’d do to him. Not that he looked to be a fighter anyway. Too short, with a heart to mask. Fainting at the sight of a fight!
“Merry . . .are you all right? I can walk. How’ve you been carrying me anyway, all this time?” He shifted, and his arm rubbed against her gash. Her eyes winced. Why couldn’t he be still? “Merry, you’re hurt! Here, I’ve got some leaves. Sam says they’re good for healing.” Again he moved so the leaves from the stuck twig were dangling into her sliced shoulder. Twisting to cast them away, she caught the glance of Yulnug, a Morian behind her. She could fight him, but to do so now would be to break ranks, and while this baggage would normally be a good shield, she couldn’t hurt him. His gaze told her that the moment she seemed too delicate he’d slice her from behind. Insolent snaga. She’d kill him later. For now, though, she’d have to tolerate leaves and a mumbling halflng.
“Pints?” Sauron, he was at it again.
“Quiet, you measly rat, ” she hissed.
“Don’t worry, Merry, I’ll protect you.” was his response. Protect her? Him? She chortled. The day when he could protect her would be the same she’d be beaten by a man without a shield! Protect her! She had been wrong before. He was even stupider than the Morians.
Lily’s Note: I sort of took a shot in the dark with this story. How is it? Suggestions? Thanks for taking the time to read.