The Fighting Uruk-Hai began to run again, but no leisurely jog was this, warming lazily up to pace like a fire gently caressing the crackling fields before springing up to engulf them. Her footsteps roared eagerly to the soaring rhythm, refusing to even let the earth wince before she crushed it. Speed grumbled as it was forced to increase almost instantaneously with the rest as they followed, only Lugdush and Bograt growling to keep beside her. Then Ugluk plunged up. No longer did he have to linger alongside and behind the others to ensure all remained in place. The peril of fierce spears and galloping steeds secured their fear and therefore that no one would lag behind. And if one did, it would prove no detriment. If the slowest and weakest couldn’t keep up, let them at least deter the horse-boys. It was a pity the Morians weren’t still behind them, but that might be rectified at the tempo the Uruks were traveling. Smiling she increased the pace. This was what she had trained for-the long miles waiting to be flogged, the gushing of slow-burning agony into muscles, the exhaustion collecting breath and restraining it, trying to force her to slow from lack of air . . .and then continuing on, smirking at pain and clutching endurance, halting its squirming with sharpened claws. She was an Uruk-Hai, and she’d keep on. The Sauronites boasted about how they’d endure until their lungs collapsed in sagging defeat, or until their hearts, furiously squirting blood in a mad race to catch up with the pumping of feet and arms, exploded. The idiots. They claimed they were strong, yet the Uruk-Hai knew you ran and never let any part of you get so in control that it could have the nerve to surrender and fail you. Of course, these whining weaklings behind her couldn’t really be called Uruks if they were afraid of men. You’d think Saruman’d sent an army of half-breeds-too orc-like for men, too man-like for orcs. And the sad thing was that they never seemed to realize how alone and worthless they were. Like the halfling she’d been lugging about. Probably this one, too.
The ground indented in a small yawn, trying to trip her, obstructing for an instant her menacing stride, and extricating a flash of anger as she reprimanded her balance. The halfling blenched, the soil-encrusted vest sliding across her hide. Where had he come from, anyway, to be so weak? Probably somewhere verdant and fragrant, with meadows bursting with flowers and scent, and fields anxious to grow yet another bumper crop. No wonder he’d left. Those kinds of places needed a few weeks entertainment before they’d wilt and become somewhere livable-all stone, fire, sweat, and sinew ready to be tried. Not that he could survive in that habitat. He’d soon be wishing he’d never departed from that emerald environment when he encountered the torture chambers of Isengard. It was pitiful how even now he clung to her, the one thing preventing him from tumbling under crashing iron, when to do so would save him from a much worse fate. Of course she’d never submit to death’s easy route, but then again she’d never allow herself to surrender so completely to fatigue that she had to be carried. She was alone, yes, but unlike this pathetic creature it had fortified her will and hardened her might-not reduced it to a pile of horse-guts. Did he think he was going to get sympathy for his condition? No . . .he’d been too “defiant” for that -he was probably aiming for respect, fighting valiantly before being captured, keeping up good humour even when in dire condition, and not even squeaking as she bore him along. Fool. Did he think his minuscule efforts would win her over? Ha! It would be rewarding to pass on the lesson Ripwarg had taught her.
The blinding rays of the soaring sun poked long, brilliant nails into the slitting eyes of the young Uruk-Hai, and she concentrated, the flashing veins of misery her skull was mining realizing their grievances were no use. Unlike most of her fellows she’d been in the sunlight before, but always as its dying amber was gasping its final minutes before being sucked into the shadows behind the mountains. Now it was re-emerging in youthful vigour and her muscles were already whining from a night of exercise.
Saruman glided between the wincing ranks, white robes glinting, reflecting waves of colour, mirages in the wind. “Why do you flinch, my Fighting Uruk-Hai?” he asked, and his tones were sweeter than a mound of satisfying kill, laden with blood, yet they were flame and steel also. “You must learn to tolerate the sun. Do not shrink from it,” he continued, raising one reluctant chin with his staff, “instead relish it and the power it gives you. You are strong, yes,”-hundreds of muscles admired themselves in the sun-“but your prowess in battle, your agility, your endurance are nothing if you wilt at the first peep of a sunbeam and are unable to meet your foes on their own battlefields. Do not be like your cousins in the West and East,” she smiled at the condescending, mocking way he slipped the term “cousins”, “who battle fiercely and then are hewn down like grass under your feet. Crush all who come against you, and be hindered by nothing, and especially not the sun. No go-run! Ripwarg will guide you.” He swirled back to Orthanc, but his words still whipped `round, strung through with control and the power of the master over his servants.
“Move!” Ripwarg’s order shouted at them and they sprang forth, a tidal wave pent up for too long behind a dam. She poured ahead of the others. Ripwarg had been placed in command once again. She would prove she was just as tough as he. So she was female. The others didn’t know that, and it wouldn’t impede her achieving superiority even over his prowess. Panting in great plaits of heat and air, she latched herself to the space at Ripwarg’s side. For miles they persisted in a race against themselves, vaguely shadowed by the heavy, whacking steps of the rest, and constantly accosted by the unforgiving sun until every minute was a weary fight against collapse, and her throat had passed memory and forgotten what delicious wet meant. Ripwarg, of course, was still pressing on, face and smooth stride free from determined, clumsy jogging and grim despair. Next to his swift motions what beautiful force she had left was abandoned for a more critical, ridiculing viewpoint. At least it would gain her respect, perhaps even fashion her into a point of wonder among the others. Maybe even Ripwarg would allow the notion that through all odds she’d never let exhaustion’s tide sweep her back-that she’d persevered relentlessly by his side. She twitched her cracked lips into a half-grin at that. Yes, even the most dangerous and powerful Uruk would learn to respect her.
Giggling beams of light cast away their dark cloaks, unperturbed by the shades their discarded garments transformed into, and Ripwarg finally ceased, restraining mirth at the piles of bodies attempting to stay on their feet after five hours of running.
“Congratulations,” he growled, “it’s ten o’clock in the morning, and despite your filthy grumbling and attempts to convince me you were too weak to go on, you’ve managed to survive. There’s probably meat waiting for those who can make it to the mess hall without dying like a sick elf.”
Hoarse crows of joy at this announcement were trampled under the clunking of aching feet as the rabble stumbled rapidly away. She was not among the jubilant mob. Why should she dash like a deranged snaga after a hunk of aged flesh? If there wasn’t any when she arrived, she’d either steal some or catch her own. Strolling lazily, she checked once again the gnawing urge to rest and strove to maintain evenness in her tread. Ripwarg strode up next to her, matching her step, rhythm in perfect union with the ground, a flawless of stream of movement.
“You ran hard today,” he noted, and she prepared herself for the grudging compliment that was sure to follow, “and if Morians were running, you might be called tough. But only if you were competing with Morians.”
“What?” How dare he? She hadn’t succumbed to tiredness and lingered behind him once!
“I saw you trying to keep up. Slurping in breaths like you’d never taste air again and dragging your feet along. You’re trying to beat me, gather the pitiful respect of your comrades, yet you’re just making an idiot out of yourself. When you can run that far without huffing like a worn out dog, then perhaps you’ll show you have some endurance-but I doubt it. Enjoy whatever flesh you can scrap up-but you’ve dallied long enough that it’ll have disappeared by the time you get there.” He laughed and sauntered off, leaving her to snarl at his muscular back and lazily swaying knife. She was wise enough to not challenge him now, but some day . . .
That was before the practice fights with Ripwarg, of course. Still she’d gotten hardier, the blazing sting of his comment never really fading, flying back to taunt her whenever it felt she needed an annoyance and incentive to train harder. That was the solution to everything-exercise until you could fight an army bare-handed and run across Middle Earth in a couple days with no refreshment. And if you ever achieved that standard, you still couldn’t cease to train because you never knew when some arrogant little filth would try to beat you. Not that she’d minded taking that position when molding her skills to double and then exceed Ripwarg’s. That was probably also Slignikh’s purpose, she reflected-to improve his own capacities for combat and play, and through her involuntary teaching become another master of endurance so that one day even-especially-the Uruk-Hai would fear him and his challenges. And so through the pride of Isengard a Sauronite, a snaga, would become the bane of Her. He wasn’t bad as company, though, so she’d tolerated him for a while. These halflings, on the other kill, appeared to be trying to gather willpower and vigour from her while just enacting the part of annoying burdens. It’s not like they’d picked up anything useful, either. At least Slignikh had been a champion entertainer, but all these weaklings seemed able to do was flop wearily down and mumble garbage. Yes, one had tried to escape, but what creature wouldn’t?
Curls nestled helplessly into her neck as the captive struggled for solace from his evil dreams. What sort of respite did this rat think he’d get? By the White Hand, this and the other one were as bad as lice, sticking to her. When Ripwarg and Slignikh remarked that it was always easy to find subjects for recreation she’d laughed, but was it always this simple? And the Morians and Sauronites called the Uruk-Hai arrogant! This was audacity-traveling nearly unarmed, and completely untrained, and thinking you could fell the strongest soldiers in existence! Not that the Uruks had proved themselves very well, letting terror sprout wherever a horse left a footprint.
“What’s your name, little weakling?” she rasped, dryness fashioning her voice into an even harsher current than before. He jerked from ripped nets of insensate turmoil and whispered,
“Meriadoc . . .Merry.” The words were faint, the language despicable Westron, but the name was clear.
Merry? This was the comrade the other had been calling to, had thought was carrying him? The idiot. His Merry couldn’t even completely wrest himself from reeling nightmares, let alone bear another. Why had she even asked his name? To taunt him, obviously, to scrape some comedy from the monotonous melody of running, but you didn’t need a name to taunt. He was probably too immersed in his own suffering to be affected by it, anyway.
“`Ere! Pass the halfling to me! You’ve carried him long enough,” Skritnog’s ungainly legs tortured the very concept of striding along as he blundered into her vision, pretending he didn’t mind the exertion of remaining next to her. He nudged her, pleased at his own brashness, and then held out his arms, poised to react to a hurtling bundle. She ignored him until he bumped her again and then made him scurry away at her growl. It was time to pass on her burden, but she’d be elf-meat if she let him take it.
“What, and have him spoiled because you’re too weak to hold onto him?” She replied, chuckling at his scowl. “No. Bograt can take him,” and swinging the captive to the surprised Uruk beside her she allowed the pace to once more lurch forward and roll her thumping feet along, deserting her thoughts in memory’s shifting soil.
Although I’m not in the habit of dedicating stories to people, I’d like to dedicate this part to several factors:
My school and parents who together manage to build up stress and anger to the point where I could easily slip into her mindset.
The songs “Keep Walking” and “The Cheeseburger Song” from Veggietales, which have been running through my head for the past few days, enabling me to hum and write at the same time.
On another note (pun intended), I know this is going to sound repetitive and unnecessary, but criticism is a good thing. Thank you, and may you have a wonderful day!