The Elf and the Orc: Part 8
“May I ask why you are traveling with an Elf-woman?” Skumbog inquired after they had arrived to the Great Hall of Mt. Gram. Skumbog was pea green skinned and dark haired. He almost resembled Gorbag in likeness, but his ears were pointed higher and his nose less crooked. And he was younger, just a few years older than Morfang, and not even a century at that.
“It’s a long story,” Morfang said. Two bowls of stew were placed in front of them.
“Don’t worry, Elf,” another orc named Mekog (a black skinned Uruk) laughed, “we aren’t so cruel we’d feed you your kind.”
“W-what is it?” Lindariel asked in a quiet voice. Mekog had already left so Morfang tasted it. And blinked in surprise.
“It is beef.” He turned to Skumbog. “You can actually get cows up here?”
“There’s a village of giants around the mountainside,” Skumbog explained, taking a long dreg of piss-stinking ale. “They tend to have plenty of food, so why not take a couple dozen for ourselves? Thankfully they don’t like our taste. Can’t say I blame them.”
Lindariel looked a little green and placed her head on the table.
“Course, that doesn’t stop them from stepping on us if we’re caught,” he continued. Morfang finished the stew and glanced at Lindariel before returning to Skumbog.
“So…Mother Shapogrataar is here? Really, physically in this place?”
Skumbog nodded, grinning. “Why else would we be so prosperous? Under the Mother, we are not forced to fight like the Uruk and the Morgul Maggots. After the Dark Lord got off’d by a Halfling, survivors have been pouring in almost daily. Of course, you’re the only one who came with an Elf. I still haven’t heard that story.”
Morfang began with his run in with the Hunters and went up to their landing on the “Front Porch.”
Skumbog scratched his chin, thinking. “That’s some story. If the elf wasn’t here for me to see, I’d have called you a lying maggot. Especially about the part about her being the Elvenking’s daughter. So you’re the son of Gorbag, one of the Captains of the Morgul Army?”
“Was one of the captains,” Morfang said. “He’s dead.” He turned to Lindariel. “Princess, you need to eat.”
“I’m not hungry,” Lindariel moaned, “take it if you want.”
Morfang shrugged and took it. “Don’t mind if I do.” Morfang held the bowl to his mouth and drank the cooling stew. He finished it in three gulps.
“I heard he died,” Skumbog said. “The Uruk he battled with is here. I don’t know his name, but he’s here, always bragging how he got the shiny shirt.”
Morfang stared at Skumbog.
“Course, the idiot is in confinement for misdemeanor against our women. The Mother can be a nasty shrew when she needs to be, but she’s a fair shrew.”
Morfang meant to demand where Snagrat was being kept, but an Orc-woman bonked Skumbog on the head with an empty bowl. “Gossiping again, Skumbog you rat?” she hissed. Her voice was snakelike. Her dirty hair was styled in short dreadlocks and her ears were studded with multiple piercings. She was black skinned and lean with gangly arms.
Skumbog glared at her. “Morurty!” he stood and reached for his blade. Morurty pulled out his blade before his hand even touched it, aiming it at his throat. “Put that knife down, Morurty.”
“You were about to pull it out on me,” she growled. “And you call yourself my betrothed? You’ve a heap of maggots in your head then eating at your brain, Bog.”
“Hm! Most of these men of ours are damned idiots, they are!” another female (AN: by “men” they mean males, not humans. Hopefully you got that, but just in case you didn’t you know now) cackled. “I’d stick him and feed him to worms if I was you, Morurty.”
Lindariel tugged on Morfang’s sleeve. “What?”
“Shouldn’t someone stop them?”
“Nah. Best not to get involved.”
“Don’t worry about it, it’ll be over fairly soon.” Another woman poked her head between them. Her white hair was thin and draped over her shoulders down to her waist. Her skin was coal black and her stature burly. Her forehead had bright red paint signifying herself a widow. “What?”
“The Elf is to stay with the women,” she growled in a scratchy voice. “By order of Mother Shapogrataar.”
“Does she not trust me—”
“It is not a matter of trust on your part, but on the part of the men. Mother Shapogrataar wants the Elf Girl in my care.”
“And you are?” Morfang growled. The Orc-woman grinned, baring blackened teeth.
“Mistress Mekrunt, Boy.”
Morfang scowled, and his hand itched for his knife. No one had called him boy since he had turned fifteen. Not even his father. He’d been called Maggot and Rat and Worm, but those were normal insults. To be called “Boy” felt far more demeaning.
“No need to be so unkind,” Mistress Mekrunt cackled. “No harm will come to your Elf under my watch.” That said, Mistress Mekrunt pulled Lindariel to her feet. “Come along, Child,” she said, pulling Lindariel out of the hall.
Morfang’s attention was diverted back to Skumbog when he was thrown across the room by Morurty…
Mistress Mekrunt pulled off Lindariel’s boots. “What happened to your feet?” she inquired, holding Lindariel’s right foot.
“I traveled too long with Morfang without footwear,” she said in a small voice. “You see, he kidnapped me to get out of my father’s realm and after he released me, I decided to follow him.”
“If I had gone back, I’d never be allowed to leave,” Lindariel mumbled. “My father’s strict and my brother is overprotective. Sometimes, I hate being a female.”
Mistress Mekrunt smirked, unwrapping Lindariel’s feet. “I suppose he threatened to kill you a couple times before giving up and letting you travel with him.”
“Yes! Oh, yes! And without originality too! He kept holding the knife to my throat as though it was enough to scare me. I’ll admit I was afraid a little bit, but hardly enough to be convinced to return. And perhaps I was pushing my luck a little far, but he never carried his threat out. Otherwise he would have killed me long before.”
“Ha! He is a boy still if he isn’t carrying out his threats.” Mistress Mekrunt set Lindariel’s foot down gently. She stood and went to a chest in the corner of the room before rummaging through it. “Did he stop threatening you since then?”
“He has after he gave in and allowed me to travel with him. Morfang is not what I expected him to be. He’s generously tolerant whenever I asked questions about his people—your people, I mean.”
“Strange to find an Elf that’s curious about Orcs,” Mistress Mekrunt said, returning with a bottle and a basin. She set the basin on the ground and measured a cupful into the basin before walking over to a stream and dipping a pitcher into the pond that overflowed with white water. “Orcs and Elves have been at each others’ throats since as long as I can remember. Mother Shapogrataar could tell you exactly how long perhaps.” Mistress Mekrunt returned and poured the water into the basin which mixed with the concoction already in until it was a soft golden color, but smelled putrid. She took Lindariel’s feet and dipped them into the mixture. The injuries on her feet burned. “Keep them in, Little Elf.”
Lindariel gripped her stool in a death grip. “Ouch.”
“Hurts, I know, but it will heal your feet in no time. Now if I may pry?”
“It’s something that the Mother wanted me to ask you before she met with you in person—and she will, don’t think she won’t.”
“Why won’t she ask me herself?”
“Because if you’re answer is ‘no’ to what I ask, she won’t want to see you at all and will have you sent back to your home.”
“What does she want to know?”
“Do you love him or think you might love him?”
Lindariel blushed, lowering her gaze from Mistress Mekrunt’s piercing gaze. “Love Morfang? Elves are not permitted to love an Orc any more than they are a Dwarf.” She bit her lip, trying to keep tears from spilling out.
“You aren’t among your people here. And you can trust me. What I hear today goes straight to Mother Shapogrataar.”
“It’s forbidden,” Lindariel whispered. “I know it’s forbidden and yet…yet I didn’t think it’d happen at first, I thought I’d be able to patch the relationship with the Orcs and Elves if I befriended one of them. But that isn’t what’s happening,” Lindariel’s eyes stung with tears and her vision blurred. “I love him. I didn’t expect it to be so painful, but my heart aches knowing that my father and brother will choose a betrothed for me and it won’t be Morfang but some complete stranger from some other Elvish Settlement.” Lindariel’s voice caught in her voice, tightly constricted by a ball in her throat.
Mistress Mekrunt clicked her tongue. “Do you know if he loves you back?” Lindariel violently shook her head, her voice escaping the constriction in her throat to come in gasping sobs. Mistress Mekrunt picked up one of Lindariel’s feet and examined its sole. “Just a little longer now,” she said, putting it back in the basin. “I’ll prepare you a bed. Once your feet are healed, you should get some good rest. When it’s daylight again, I’ll bring you something to eat. Does he know?”
“I told him,” Lindariel choked out. “But I don’t know if he believes me or feels the same. And it was an accident—a slip of the tongue—I never intended to tell him…”
Mistress Mekrunt checked Lindariel’s foot again. “There we are,” she said, drying it and setting it down outside the basin before taking the other. “You’re all healed up now and I’ll fetch you something to wear to bed. Now you listen to me, Little Elf,” she picked up the basin. “Orc or Elf, we’re the same on some level. Orcs are not as bad as your people seem to make us out to be. You love him and that’s exactly what is what the Mother wants to hear.”
“Hang me if I know! All I know is what I’ve been told and Igrim Shapogrataar doesn’t tell everything that she sees in her mirror.”
Lindariel blinked. “Mirror? How—”
“It’s some sort of Elf Magic she uses. Orcs were once Elves, you know. And the Mother is old enough to remember when she was an Elf. Now don’t budge an inch, Little Elf, I’ll be back with your change of clothes.”
Mistress Mekrunt left, leaving Lindariel to her thoughts.
To be continued…
By Brittany Silverneko