Lily’s Note: I dedicate this part to Boromir’sWargMistress for reasons that’ll soon become apparent. May she find satisfaction in it.
The Rohirrim rode on, guided well by the enemy horde up ahead. Every mile brought increased pace, but wariness was by no means dispatched back to Edoras. There was something unusually fell about many of these orcs– and it was not simply that they were larger and appeared stronger. A vicious, sinister air enveloped them, as if they would fight when normal orcs scattered in terror. If that were not enough, the scouts reported the white badge of Saruman clearly imprinted upon their gear and bodies. Orcs from Isengard. What treachery would emanate from that foul threshold next to ensnare and kill their people?
The anger of the riders bled to the horses, and the tempo rose. It would be a grim task, slaying these foes, but not without reward. Few actions were more satisfying than destroying these evil minions whose only pleasure was in mutilating and killing everything about them-including the fair land of Rohan, both pristine and hardened, beautiful and nearly invulnerable. Hooves blended with earth and air as the Rohirrim once again pressed their steeds to a swifter speed, pursuing the ugly, dark blob in the distance. With luck they would reach them before night had withdrawn her twinkling cloak from the sky.
Meanwhile, at the forefront of this hideous blot on Rohan’s golden-green hills, memory overtook the dwelling musings of the present once again, overshadowing one impending battle with the remembrance of another.
Lazy leaves glided erratically in the wind, rustling apologies at the constant collisions with their fellows. A strange scent was in the air-fouler than that of the company near them-and the sifting wind drew caution into its breathy gusts. Something was coming.
The Fighting Uruk-Hai also tasted a new aroma as they pummeled the whining plants with scowling shoes. Isengard lay far behind them, and at last the eternal leagues would surrender the halflings. Sun and shadows peeled apart, gauzy cloth shuddering in pain as it was ripped open by the delving gazes of the Uruks. Probing every aspect of the land, keen eyes peered forth in avaricious glee as the area before them revealed . . .nothing. No careless footprint or twisted, broken brush graced the glen, and though all stared not even the tremulous darkening of flickering patterns betrayed one crouched in hiding.
“Search the area,” Ugluk actually seemed displeased at the idea of having to hunt out their elusive prey. Then again, he always did prefer direct combat to tracking and confronting those who opposed him, unlike that fool Lurtz who would just lurk in the back until he got to use that famous crossbow of his. Ripwarg too had enjoyed playing games, stalking, as did she, but they always fought face-on, allowing their opponents to donate all they had to their efforts to stay alive. Ripwarg (and later she) had risked the possibility-albeit a slim one-that the opponent would not be the one tossed to Death’s starving wolves. Lurtz just stood there and placed all his ability to fight into a stupid piece of wood. And he claimed (although it was probably just coincidence that the scratchy pieces of air he vocalized formed intelligable words) that he was one of the top Uruk-Hai! It was revolting.
Ugluk continued, and she discarded Lurtz’s loathsome image for her commander’s orders. “Kill all you want, but keep the halflings alive and whole.” He glared at Yilkskig, who glowered back for a second before angrily lowering his eyes. Impatient snaga. Last time he’d been so eager for entertainment he’d torn an arm off a stray orc before it was ascertained that it wasn’t a halfling-just a small Morian who’d managed to meander away from the group. Since it was only a Morian, though, he wasn’t killed. If he’d dared to spoil a halfling . . .at least the lesser snagas would cease grumbling that they never got any meat.
The ruthless wave of knives, shining dark against the day, splintered as orcs broke off, no longer content to wait for fighting. Some were tromping, some slinking, but all kept weapons close and vision almost all diverted to seeking signs of future kills and captives. The rest of their attention, of course, remained solidly in the murky realm of feuds, offenses and the offended, anger and boredom. It would not do to find a halfling, only to be sliced down by someone you’d forgotten you’d slighted. Not that she often had to deal with that kind of arrogance anymore. The others had learned quickly. Still, caution mustn’t be lowered. It only took one stroke . . .she smirked. One of her strokes. Maybe fifteen of theirs. Weaklings.
Echoes cavorted through the trees, tossing memories of high, clear voices at the small clump of Uruk-Hai, trampling through the brush. Motion stopped. All minds centered, then spread out again, attempting to locate the source of the reverberating calls. They seemed to be getting closer, but it was difficult to tell . . . yes, they must be. Her fingers flicked over her blade, deadly in its tense calm.
Wait . . .what? Footsteps, light, and heedless, two blurs . . .and the halflings whammed into Bragnok and Slagwort, nearly making the two Uruks stumble. The stiff harshness of her knife handle was already rough against her hand, but she did not strike. As tempting as it was, the captives’ blood, presumably crimson as a dying rose’s, could not yet gush to the earth in lavish amounts. Not until they reached Isengard. The knife was for the others who would certainly come to aid their wards. Shifting her view to the outside of the group, she investigated the trees ahead for any trace of an approaching protector . . .
A yelp. Her gaze dashed for a moment to the Uruks, now fighting with the tiny creatures as they attempted to bear them away. So far the halflings were clutching their freedom well — the larger one was doing a rather nice job of chopping hands and arms off, while the smaller was handling his sword fiercely for one who looked about to faint from fright. Smiling, she strode forward to send him sprawling into unconsciousness . . .then the clanging of desperate swords chastised her for being distracted. A man had leaped into the mob of Uruks, and was now slashing, cutting with the strength of one who has been trained from childhood. She knew that strength, and knew also that even though he was only a pitiful human, with nowhere near an Uruk’s potential, he would take a while to kill. She would be the one to face him-the others could deal with the halflings. They’d capture them eventually, even if several of them ended up minus a few limbs. Shoving through the mounting cloud of growls and screaming steel that surrounded the man, concentration slitting her eyes . . .she stopped, halted by the stream of fear and deep, commanding tones ebbing through her. The horn had been blown.
The fear did not fly in on the silvery, molten wings of the sound, but rather undulated beneath it, slipping through armor chinks more easily than a biting edge through flesh. Her heart’s ebony stood haughty against it, and the fear fashioned cracks in her courage through which to slide uncertainty’s golden threads. And the sound permeated everywhere. She did not know if one blast had bloomed from that ornate ox-horn, or if many had blossomed, foul flowers destroying one side while fortifying the other. And so as bravery swelled in the souls of the warrior and those he protected, the orcs’ rush to the man’s sword was now less an unstoppable attack, and more the confused flow of those who could go nowhere else. She needed to kill the man, she wanted to, but could she really? He was so large, so powerful-surely he would overcome her as he had so many others! The horn had stopped, yes, but the echos still screamed at her from the quavering bark of the trees and shivering soil of the ground.
She was a Fighting Uruk-Hai! Was she afraid of a man just because he had a horn? The familiar warmth of adrenaline started to surge again. Yes, he was fighting bravely, yes, many of her companions gasped futilely for air in pools of their own inky blood, but he was only a human, and those Uruks had always been weaker than her anyway. She was not going to ramble about in turmoil until he killed her! But . . .that sound, that terrible, parasitic sound that sucked away her will, her strength, her spirit! Even when gashed nastily, red trickles swimming with black in a malicious medley on his armor, the man kept on battling, ignoring such trivialities in his attempt to stave off his attackers from both himself and his charges. Such might could not be ignored, and she was certainly too inexperienced, too frail in mind and body to continue. Yet she had been ready for Ripwarg! If she could beat him, then there would be no trouble in slaughtering this arrogant maggot.
Then again . . .she hadn’t beat Ripwarg. She’d waited all day for him to come, anxiety and readiness waging war in her stomach, knife slicing the gentle wind that tried to console her. She was finally dangerous enough, finally at least as masterful in combat as he was, and he had never come. His silhouette had never even slid into her vision.
This man would not beat her. She would crush him.
Swirling into battle, knife a swishing shadow until it cut, she blocked his blow. Then down again, and . . .he swerved, her blow skimming just past the side of his flesh, meeting instead the accursed horn, slicing it in twain, the pieces dropping into a helpless array on the dirt. The man stumbled, and she grinned. Was the loss of his horn that nerve-racking? What, couldn’t he fight without it?
This time the arrow’s wind slapped her on the face before carrying its owner deep into the man’s chest. It was one of Lurtz’s. How dare he steal her kill! Seeing her whip around, her glare freezing the air, he gestured toward the halflings and stepped forward, crossbow already prepared for another shot. She would kill him. With that disgusting, haughty crossbow perched in his hands her foe had no chance, and later, when the halflings were securely captive, Lurtz would learn that crossbows could not be used as a substitute for true combat.
The sweetness of his kill was never hers, of course. Although she hadn’t been there to see it, apparently another showed up and avenged his slaughtered friend. So now she had run, unsatisfied, for miles with sickly captives lolling on her back. Sad that they seemed some of the few in her group who weren’t terrified of battle awaiting them. They must know they would never survive it. She herself would not fear again. It only made you weak. Surprisingly, the rats she’d carried knew that, speaking cheerfully in the camp, chopping off the limbs of those would-be captors, not panicking. Astonishing how being delusional could sharpen the wits of these little creatures-the first one had appeared to be half-crazy as he tripped from one level of slumber to another, and he’d attempted escape. A bad escape, but an escape, nonetheless.
Why was she thinking about the halflings? She’d finally gotten rid of them, managed to liberate her back (not that she needed the rest), and still they oppressed her mind! If only she could play with them, break that measly spirit they pretended was courage. Slignikh had been educational in that area. He’d always been good at isolating victims, tinting their fear with hopelessness, their pain with the knowledge that they would never be rescued. Not that he was as talented as he’d been rumoured to be — his methods had never been effective on her. She’d endured. Even if she . . .because she was alone. These pitiful halflings couldn’t possibly believe they had that kind of stamina! Even the Riders behind them had not yet come to the point where battle was possible, and they had the confidence of companionship! If she were running alone, they would be left far, far behind, unable to divine where their intended had gone. That was, of course, if her decision was to run to Isengard like a fleeing deer and not fight. Which it wasn’t.
Still, the Rohirrim would catch them. There had been surety before, but the panting gasps of those behind her reconfirmed it. That was all right. Even if the majority of the orcs seemed cowards, there were still a few good fighters, and what measly horse-boy could face the Fighting Uruk-Hai and live? As for the rest of the orcs, if they couldn’t fight, they weren’t of any use anyway.
She would need to keep watch on Grishnakh. She’d seen the filthy elf-son sweeping long, greedy gazes at the captives. What was he up to? Probably going to grab them and bolt as soon as the time for battle arrived. She could kill the disgusting sample of Sauronite grime then. He would not live because he was too cowardly to defy death. Plus, there was the matter of the meat to deal with.
The ironic thing was that if her comrades knew about her, then she, one of the most perilous of them all, would be left uncounted among the worthless dead, but not necessarily by a rider’s spear. She, who could beat anyone but Ugluk, and perhaps even him if this journey had honed her skills at all. Yet the arrogant maggots would kill her. It didn’t matter. No one knew, no one would ever know. The obligatory, inner snarl of defiance was given, and she turned her attention to the land around her.
The scenery was boring, and the mountains had lost what interest they had. Not to mention that no snaga had been presumptuous enough to talk to her while running since the last Morian. All that was left was a tedious plane of dirt, feet, and derision for other’s fear- a subject that even she couldn’t dwell on forever. Abandoning her mind to nothingness, she continued on, hoping that in blankness, endurance, and monotonous lengths of ground falling and rising beneath her, the time would pass. Tireless running was impressive, and in that category, she was master, but it was no equivalent to the promise of battle.
The miles slunk by, and mindless oblivion dredged up thoughts-then set them to spinning as circular moonbeams, laced with blood, whirling in an unrecognizable dance that always returned to the first step. Shrugging slightly, she shifted to adjust the weight of an invisible burden that had until now been left alone, forgotten with the last cool breeze that both nipped sharply and soothed softly. For a moment prey and predator danced, careless of which side they were on as long as they didn’t tread on the line-now jet, now scarlet-that defined what they were, who was attacking whom. And through all was loneliness-no, not loneliness. Just being alone – the knife that shredded you to nothing or made you unassailable.
She woke from her waking sleep with an angry growl. Why was she acting like this? Idiot. With all this worthless, philosophical thinking she was going to provide an opportunity for attack to even the weakest enemy. What was she, an elf? She’d be crooning tales about pointy-eared, magical beings who did nothing but prance about in the starlight next.
“Thinking about something?” Bograt asked, shoving until he was next to her. He’d swapped the captive for the luxury of unhindered running, and appeared ready for both conversation and ridicule-whichever fit his mood and her answer better. “You’ve-”
An arrow, smooth and vicious, rammed silkily into his neck, and he fell. Behind her, there were few cries. The Rohirrim’s shots were deadly, and those who did not perish from a slender stick of wood did not have voices loud enough to overcome the brutal clomp of iron shoes tramping the last shattered splinters of life into the unsympathetic earth.
Lily’s Notes Cont.:
First of all, sorry for taking this long. I really have no excuse, except that I knew what I wanted to say and couldn’t say it until last night, when I realized what I needed to do. This part is a little odd, but I hope it managed to transfer the erratic and sometimes confusing quandry she’s been going through.
In any case, as always, constructive criticism is very appreciated. Can you tell the difference between how she thinks and acts a while ago as compared to right now? How’s my description been faring? Spelling? Punctuation? Is it powerful or the stuff for ridicule? Please–I only have about two parts left, at the most three, and I need to know. Thanks!
Well, now that I’ve stopped groveling like a pleading Morian, have a wonderful day, and may you never have to run as far and as quickly as she does!