The Elf and the Orc: Part 4

    

      She did not expect him to stop. If anything, she thought Morfang would just leave her to fend for herself.

     They had been walking together for two weeks. During that time, Lindariel revealed herself to be very curious about Orcs and their culture. But whenever she alluded to what sort of woman Morfang liked, he’d shout at her to shut up and she’d obey.

     Lindariel admitted to herself that she liked Morfang in an odd sort of way. He wasn’t friendly nor was he kind and gentle. But there was a sort of air about him that made the Elven Princess want to befriend him even if he did not want her friendship.

     This day, she just couldn’t seem to walk right. Her feet had hurt for several days now, but she did not want to bother Morfang with her predicament. But today, she could barely stand on her own feet.

     “Stupid girl,” he growled, “why didn’t you mention this?”

     “Mention what?”

     “You’re feet are bleeding from broken blisters,” he snapped. “As it is, it’s impossible for you to walk right now.”

     Lindariel didn’t remind him of his threat to leave her if she slowed him down. Whether he forgot it or not was not for her to decide or to remind him of.

     He glanced around. “So far we’ve been lucky,” he muttered. “Not a single Hunter. And it doesn’t look as if your brother’s hunting us down.”

     “I wouldn’t be so positive about my brother’s actions. I’m sure even the Elf Lords know about you kidnapping me by now. At least half of all Elf-kind will be on the lookout.”

     “Well we’re not anywhere near an Elven settlement,” Morfang snapped. He jabbed his thumb behind him at a mountain. “We’re nearing Dwarf and Man settlements. Sixty-some years ago, a dragon of the name Smaug ruled these parts. He lived in that mountain which actually belongs to a clan of Dwarves. They reclaimed the mountain and it’s been their home since. I believe you’re people are at odds with the Dwarves of that mountain.”

     “They are.”

     “Even so, they will not let us go by without trying to cause trouble.”

     “Then what do you suppose we do?”

     “I’d like to say we’d go by it under the cover of night, but you need something for your feet and I don’t have any shoes to spare.”

     “Couldn’t we still go during the night?”

     “It’d be more difficult to do. I would have to carry you. I’ve nothing to hide my face and hands with and you’ll instantly be recognized as an Elf. I’d have to carry you if you insist on coming with me.”

     “That’s only if you don’t intend to return. I can’t walk as it is right now, so…”

     Morfang mumbled under his breath. “Alright, you have my word. I’ll return as soon as I can. Stay here.”

     He stood and sprinted away toward town. Lindariel clasped her hands and bowed her head, praying to Eru that Morfang would be safe in his travel…

     Morfang hid in the shadows, hiding his face with an old sheet. He snuck into a house and filled a woven sack with bandages, a pair of leather shoes, a tunic, and trousers. Perhaps the princess would be able to move more freely disguised as a lad. He also took a cloak and leather hide gloves.

     Hearing someone return, he climbed out the window and hid, waiting for them to go away. No one seemed to notice as he slipped away from the town.

     Thankfully, they were near the river, so she could bathe if she wished it.

     Morfang shook the thought away. Orcs are not Elves. They do not belong together, he kept reminding himself.

     Over the last two weeks, his thoughts occasionally strayed to the pretty Elf Princess following him around. Annoying as she was, she was insightful and eager to learn—eager to break away from her people’s prejudices.

     Elves and Men are both unforgiving alike.

     There were several Orcs throughout history who tried their hand at a normal life away from war and death, but eventually they were caught and captured by Men or Elves and put to death or suspected of a murder that they did not cause.

     Rumor of these unjust deaths later would reach the ears of other Orcs and the outrage would grow to enormous heights and a raid would be carried out. Millions had died at the hands of Orcs. Maybe more.

     However, those times had become almost myth to the Orc-kind.

     Morfang sprinted across the field and out of town. No one stopped him or asked him to wait, for which he was grateful.

     The town was an hour away from where he left Lindariel. He saw her resting her feet in the river. She looked up and smiled at him.

     “You took long enough. There was no trouble I hope.”

     “The town’s an hour or so away from where we are,” he said. “It might take longer to get there with your condition.”

     “I’m sorry,” she said.

     “Enough of that,” he snapped, pulling one of her legs out of the water and propping it on his leg. The river cleaned it very well. Apart from blisters, her feet were cut and some of the wounds were infected. He pulled out a vial of Orkish medicine and dabbed it on her foot. She hissed a breath and scrunched her eyes tight. He wrapped it in a bandage. “Don’t get it wet,” he instructed, taking her other foot.

     “That should be easy enough,” she said, wincing at the medicine’s sting again. After bandaging the foot he set it down on the floor and pulled out her new clothes.

     “Wear these,” he told her, setting them down on her own lap. “I’ll keep a lookout while you change, but be quick.”

     He gently set her legs onto the rocky shore and stood, looking away, scanning the terrain.

     “I don’t see how this will enable me to walk,” Lindariel said. Morfang glanced behind at her. She was fully dressed in the tunic and trousers, and had braided her hair back.

     Morfang handed her the shoes and she eased her feet into them. “They don’t,” he admitted, “but they’ll protect you from detection and the shoes will protect your feet while they heal and afterward.”

     “And until they’re healed?”

     “You’ll need a walking stick. I can’t carry you until you’re feet are better and fend off the Hunters or whoever comes after us at the same time.”

     “And what shall I use as my walking stick? There’s not a single twig around for miles!”

     Morfang frowned and looked around. He swore under her breath. “Fine. But only until we get to the town.” He wrapped the weathered cloak he found around him again, tugged on the gloves he stole at the same time as Lindariel’s new clothes, and knelt in front of her, waiting for her to climb onto his back.

     Lindariel limped over to him and wrapped her arms around his neck. He stood easily and they walked to the town.

     He didn’t know when, but as they walked, he noticed that the princess was far too quiet. Glancing behind him, Morfang rolled his eyes and shook his head. Lindariel had fallen asleep.

     He still battled with his conscious, wondering why he kept her around. He couldn’t explain it. Her people persecuted his merely because they weren’t…weren’t…

     Why did Elves persecute Orcs? Why the prejudice?

     Whatever the reason, his people were put to death merely for existing, as far as he knew. Because they were expected to be evil—because they were labeled as dangerous since their birth—Orcs had become what the people believed them to be.

    And yet, when no one else would show him mercy simply because he existed and suffered, along comes this spoiled little Elf princess who saved his life after he threatened hers. Surely, no matter how annoying she got, no matter how many times he vowed to kill her, he could never raise his hand to his dagger and just stab her heart and leave her to the wilderness.

     Morfang pushed his curiosity out of his mind and concentrated on getting to the town.

     By the time he returned, the sun had set and people were heading for inns and their homes. He took them into an inn and asked the bartender to show them a room. It was easy to tell the man that he was simply a Ranger who smoked heavily. It convinced him about Morfang’s scratchy voice at least. He did not ask about Lindariel, who still slept peacefully on the bed.

     Morfang crossed his arms and shook his head. “What am I to do with you?” he whispered, staring at the unconscious princess.

     Now that they reached a town, it should be easy to leave her here in the town. Eventually her family would find her and take her home. Eventually, someone would realize that she was Elvish Royalty and find a way to get her home.

     Unless the Dwarves of the Lonely Mountain got wind of her and decided to hold her hostage against Thranduil.

     Morfang went downstairs and left the inn, saying he’d be back soon and that to give Lindariel anything she wanted to eat. Payment would be made when they left (he may be an orc, but he had to travel too, even if unwelcomed. Orcs would steal the money off of their victims and kept it with them for when it was needed).

     He found a shop still open, but ready to close. He quickly selected a slender walking stick and lay the coins on the counter before walking out with it, ignoring the, “pleasure doing business with you, Sir,” that the owner said to his back.

     As Morfang walked back to the inn, he began to smell a scent that he did not recognize. He stopped and sniffed the air loudly. Dwarves, he thought. Did they recognize me?

     A dwarf passed by, but said nothing to him. Morfang shook his head, laughing at his own paranoia, chasing it away. No one would recognize him. There hadn’t been an Orc around in these parts for nearly sixty years. Not since the Battle of the Five Armies.

     Morfang returned to the inn and to the room he requested. Lindariel began to stir when he entered. He glanced at her and she sat up.

     “How long have I been asleep?”

     “Who knows,” Morfang said, resting the walking stick against the wall. “Since I started carrying you here, most likely.”

     Lindariel blushed. “I’m sorry!” she said, “I didn’t mean to fall asleep—”

     “Enough with the apologies!” Morfang shouted. Lindariel winced and opened her mouth again, but stopped herself and bit her bottom lip.

     Morfang sat at the table and stared out the window. After a moment, he glanced back at Lindariel. “Are you hungry?”

     “A little bit,” she admitted.

     “There’s a walking stick there,” he jerked his head over at the stick. Lindariel looked at it. “Use that to help you walk.”

     Lindariel stood and winced. Carefully, she walked over to the wall and grabbed the stick before heading downstairs.

     After she left, Morfang leaned back in his seat and wondered why it was that the Princess enticed him so much. Surely it had to be because she saved his life. Surely it had to be that she didn’t judge him for what he was.

     But then why did he feel compelled to take her with him on his journey? Why did he feel the need to have her by his side?

     It’s not as though he was falling in love with her.

     Right?

By Brittany Silverneko

 

 

 

 

 

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