The Price Of Being An Elf: Battle Carrion

Disclaimers and notes: Characters don't belong to me, I'm just playing. Tolkien would probably be horrified, or, at the least, confused.

Thanks to everyone who reviewed the first part of this. This isn't exactly following on, it's just later in LOTR, after the Battle of Helm's Deep. Several of you have commented on the dissimilarities between elves and vampires, and I know they are different. However, I still think there are similarities. As to vampires not being learned, I quote you one name, "Dracula". Thanks also to my wonderful, doesn't-mind-the-rant beta, Xani.

Reviews are always welcome. Remember, they cost nothing and take little time, but mean a lot to the receiver.

The battle is over. Many bodies litter the ground, but it isn't the dead I'm interested in. They're cold, they're blood holds no taste for me now. Crows, rooks and ravens, black bridesmaids of death, flock to the battlefield, their voices harsh as they sing their mourning hymn. King Theoden's people, aided by the Rohirrim, are gathering our own dead, carrying them back to the fortress of Helm's Deep. The orc carcasses they heap into great piles and burn. The stench of roasting orc fills the air here. The parties of body-collectors pay me no heed as I walk past.

Only Aragorn, stood on the damaged fortress wall, watches me go. He understands where I'm going, what I need. He's lived with elves for long enough to know. The gap in the wall beside him is a wide reminder of the past few days' battle. I can still smell the powder of Saruman, which was used to blast the hole. If I had succeeded in stopping the orc that carried the torch, could the battle have ended sooner? Could less people, less old men and boys have died? Or would another orc have grabbed it and gone on? These questions I ask myself now, and have been asking myself since the battle. My hands are picking at the dried blood on my tunic. It is a mixture of orkish, human and elven blood. The slight odour sent up as I pick at it reminds me of where I'm going.

I step through the corpses, avoiding the broken and abandoned weapons. Orc sword, snapped and bent, threaten to slice my feet as I walk. The arrows are splintered, pointing to an enemy that is no longer there. Their bodies are fouler in death than they were in life, if such a thing is indeed possible. Everywhere I see gaping wounds, some hacked by our riders, some inflicted by their own, fleeing arrows. Eyes, open now into eternity, watch me pass.

The air is heavy with stale death. I long for a fresh kill, to feel the end of life passing down my throat. I need the rich fluid of life to sustain me further. That is why I leave, temporarily, this place of so much mortality to seek more. I know that with the haste of the orcs' flight there will be stragglers. The slow ones will be the injured, easy to lead away from their path into my waiting arms. Orc blood is not so sweet as human, but it has the richness of many kills.

I am now out of sight of the fortress and its people. Most within know nothing of the true meaning of being an elf. My forebears have always kept the secret, and so shall I. My people would be shunned and feared if men knew, but while they remain ignorant we are respected. It is a dark secret that weighs heavily, but ant mortals who find out are easily killed. My conscience abandons me at such times, allowing me that freedom.

Creeping along by the rocky outcrops at the top of the ridge, I spy my first victim. Camouflaged by my cloak, I follow as close as a shadow. He limps, having been hit by an arrow in the foot. The blood from his wound whets my appetite, already high after quite a time without sustenance. I decide to waste no time. It is the trick of a moment to convince his oafish mind that he wants to stumble behind this particular outcrop. Now he is mine.

There is no foreplay, no persuasion. I attack his neck, my teeth finding the soft place behind the horny skin. His blood, dark and thick, is still tinged with the excitement of the battle. I see in my mind the confusion as the orc armies were routed, see Gandalf as a bright, glowing figure. The siege ladders are hauled up, to be pushed away again. The arrows of my own kind rain down. I smell the orc sweat and blood, feel so many deaths, then all these images are pushed aside by the wave of death, this particular orc's death, as it washes into me. It was a quick death, but so powerful.

It is not my usual style, to be so fast. There is always waste if they die too soon, half the blood gets left in the vessels. But I am hungry, and there are plenty more.

My second staggers, several wounds about his person slowing him. A white handprint, now partially soiled with blood, is still vivid against his black carapace. These confused, defeated creatures are so easy to persuade; he walks straight into my arms. He tries to fight, but his mind is far weaker than mine. He is passive, unresisting while I press in.

His blood is richer than the first's. He was in one of the forward columns of the army, fighting on as those around him were felled. For a disconcerting moment I see myself, as seen through this orc's hate-filled eyes, atop Arod's back, slashing at the foul creatures who attempt to swarm the fortress doors. Beside me are Aragorn, Theoden and others. The great horn of Helm's Deep rings over the battle sounds, heralding the arrival of the Rohirrim. I can feel this orc's panic, can see him turn and flee as the riders sweep through the ranks. He hacks at his fellow orcs as he tries to run. All the wanton killing, the fear-driven frenzy of madness, floods through me as I drink freely of his blood.

His death hits me solidly, as if I have been punched. A rush comes over me, and I sink down to sit back against a rock. I let the carcass roll a little way down the hill. The area is so littered with orc corpses, any more will not be remarked on. I grow so used to concealing the bodies that a battle seems like freedom.

I shouldn't think that.

Many friends died last night, men and elves. And here I am, feasting on orc blood, like one of the carrion crows hopping around down there. At least I feed on the living, not the dead. But does that make it any better?

It can't be wrong. Elves have been the same for millenia.

I think I've been spending too long in the company of mortals.