In the Prophet's Tent
I had a Harad woman once. Southron, at any rate. They aren't all the same, though I never could remember all the distinctions. It was when we worked together during the War. Now there was a ticklish business: Orcs and Men trying to get along. Plenty of fights broke out, as you can imagine, and killings on either side. But cooler heads than ours were in charge, and the killings were fewer than you'd think.
The Southron men brought their swords and their tents, their horse and mûmakil; they also brought their women. Wives they guarded more fiercely than their lives, and whores they guarded nearly as well. They respected whores, you see, not like the Dunlendings or the men of Gondor. The meanest whores of Minas Tirith are miserable slags, little more than dogs and treated no better neither. But the least of the Southron whores are fresh and clean and wear bright garments, and the Southron men always bow to them in passing. So you can see they hold them in esteem.
Happened one day I was taking a piss behind one of the big convoy wagons when I heard shouting. Far enough off that, being where I was, I was the only one who heard. And I followed because I was curious, out to the dark scraggy trees beyond the Big Camp, and there were two of our lads having a go at a woman: two big Uruk-hai. She was fighting, but silently, with her mouth pressed shut, and the taller Uruk had her bundled in his arms so that her feet were off the ground. Not so good for his companion because, you see, she had his balls in her hand and she was squeezing hard.
As for me, I wouldn've got involved but for two reasons. One was that if our boys killed one of their women – and they would've had to kill her at this point, they'd already made such a hash of things – we would have more trouble than we wanted. And two, and more to the point, I knew these particular Uruk-hai, and they were no friends of mine nor of any other snaga Orc. So while Nobruz was holding the Southron woman tight as he could and Daglash was preoccupied with prying her hand off of him, I came in quietly behind them with my knife. Nobruz, I cut his throat from behind and his blood sprayed across Daglash's face so that Daglash swore and his hand went to his hilt and he called me many nasty names, though no worse than he had called me before. He was staggering blind and it was easy for me to knock him to the ground and cut him open, and cut the tongue out of his mouth before I killed him.
No I did not keep the tongue afterward. That would have been disgusting.
I'd expected the woman to run, but she did not. Nobruz's blood was on her too, but she didn't make a move to wipe it off. Only stood and watched me while I dried my blade on Daglash's worthless carcass. "You going to thank me, then?" I asked her smartly as I straightened. I asked in Southron, for I had learned a smattering of their speech.
"Why should I?" she asked in turn, in perfect Common. "It is clear you had your own quarrel with them." I suppose the tongue thing was a little much.
My woman was a whore, neither of the lowest nor the highest rank, neither young nor old. She was not tall, though she was taller than me, and there was nothing about her to indicate that she could stave off two Uruk-hai without any help. I asked her why she hadn't cried out as she struggled. Had she wanted what they planned to give her? Her eyes flashed. She replied that she had no desire to be attacked, but a fine vengeance in store if they'd achieved their goal.
"Been a bit late at that point," I told her dryly.
We walked back to camp together, and I profited by doing so, for though my commanding officer was an Uruk he was sensible, and he saw how my actions had saved him from bigger problems. I had a rap on the knuckles for costing him two able soldiers, and that was it. Good as a commendation compared to what I would have received otherwise! As for the Southrons, they recognized me as the mahahdurork who had saved one of their women, and while none of them liked me they were willing to let me walk through their section of camp when I pleased. Something they didn't allow any other Orc to do, and precious few of the Northern men. I took advantage of it: struck up a trade with some of the Southron craftsmen. I did well by reselling their sharp dirks and shiny greaves and other pretty tackle to our boys, and other Men.
From time to time I visited my whore as well – no, we didn't fuck, I haven't come to that part yet. Shut up and listen. I'd go to her tent and call in to her and sometimes she'd come out to me, and sometimes she would call me to come in. Didn't seem to care what her folk thought of that, and I don't know as it made any difference. Came to see that she was not well liked, and why that should have been I was not certain. She was not young, as I have said, and there were creases at the corners of her eyes, but she was still well made.
"You're good-looking enough, right?" I asked one day. "You're not ugly, are you? I can't tell." Orcs don't have those kinds of standards, I explained, and I did not know if Southron men liked different things from the men of the north.
Her mouth quirked a little. Yes, she was good-looking as her people reckoned such things, and why did I ask?
"Your folk don't seem to like you overmuch."
"It is not that they dislike me," she said. "It is that they fear me."
I laughed at her. You would have too; so would anyone who'd seen her caught between two Uruk-hai. Perhaps she sensed something of those thoughts, for she looked at me with eyes of stone and told me of her talent. A gift of prophecy, she said, to know the fate of men. For every man she lay with, she saw how he would die. Of course I didn't believe her, but she said it was true. Hadn't I seen the men who went into her tent, and seen them when they left? Always the same eyes when they left, though never the same men. They came once and only once, and nary a one came back.
"Oh I've seen—but I thought that you must be a very poor lay. So you're a fortune-teller as well as a whore."
"I am no fortune-teller. Fortune-tellers look at hands and foresee love and wealth. Men pay me to lie with them and tell them how they'll die." Fortune-tellers wove stories and hoaxes; what she told was the truth. "I am a prophet," she said.
Now I know you're wondering what we did in her tent if it wasn't fuck, so I'll tell you what was in my head when I made my visits. She was the reason I could walk freely in the Southron part of camp, and it only made sense to pay my respects and keep that channel open. Probably she knew that was it – I'm sure she did – but she let me come by anyway. I taught her Orkish games of dice, she shared board games from Khand. We talked as well when we weren't playing. Both well traveled, and I wasn't young either, so we never lacked for conversation. And it may be she was lonely, for whether they feared her or disliked her she certainly couldn't complain of too much company. I have told you she was neither the lowest nor the highest ranked of whores. She did good business, for new men entered the camp all the time: men preoccupied with death and war, who heard about her gift and sought her out. But she was never what you might call popular.
"You should let me fuck you," I told her. "Men are cowards—I'd come back for a second go. Who cares what comes out of your mouth? It's your snatch that's important." But for some reason this failed to persuade her. As for me, I wasn't offering to pay for a tumble. I am not a Man and I had never paid for that sort of thing in my life.
Camp was growing all the time – I have said there were always new Men coming in, as well as Orcs – and sometimes when I wandered into their part I went unrecognized and challenged. When that happened someone would usually let them know I was permitted, but if the situation was such that no one else was near, it was me who stood down. I wasn't about to spoil a good thing.
One such occasion it was near her tent that a young man stopped me. "Why do you come here?" he demanded. "Your kind is forbidden!" No one around, but her tent was in view so I explained that I was going there. "No Orcs!" he insisted, drawing his sword.
I spread my hands to appease him and as I did I saw the flap of her tent drawn aside, and her eyes looking out. She'll vouch for me, I thought, but her face was still as stone: she only looked and then withdrew, and fury rose up in me. "I say go!" said the Southron, and if his sword hadn't been out I prob'ly would've drawn my own in a rage. But he'd've been on me quicker than I could respond, so I only glared at him and walked away.
But next day I strode through their camp to her tent without being stopped or challenged, and I entered without calling first and I gave her a piece of my mind. Hadn't she seen I was there and what I was dealing with? Why didn't she say anything to stop it? I didn't shout but I was close to it, and she must have seen my anger, but she only stood and waited for me to finish. Then:
"That young man is dead," she told me.
"Dead?" This took me by surprise, though it went a fair way to mollifying me. "Haw! Well, that's all right then. Here now, did you do that for me? What a sweetheart!"
She only looked at me scornfully. She had done nothing of the kind. Ghemurak died that morning after challenging an Easterling, who had also crossed through their part of camp. They fought each other and Ghemurak fell, and the Easterling was slain afterwards for trespassing.
That still sounded pretty good, so I was inclined to be forgiving. It hadn't escaped me that she used his name and I asked her if she knew him. Of course she had. He'd been in her tent two nights before. "I guess you knew what was going to happen then," I said snidely.
"I did," she said. "And I told him, for that was why he came to me. I told him he would die in two days' time, defending our part of camp from an outsider."
"Prophet my arse!" I was amused. "You sent him looking for his death! Small wonder he found it quickly in a busy war camp, with so many men with pointy swords to provoke."
She only shrugged. "It happens that way sometimes…" And there was regret in her voice.
Let her sound sad. I knew she was a cold one and I said as much. We played six games of Six Horsemen and three of Road to Khand and she beat me four times at the first and every time at the latter. So you see she wasn't paralyzed by grief.
I have told you that I was doing well by trading with Southron craftsmen, but I haven't told you how well. It wasn't just weaponry and tack. There was silver-work as well, healing unguents, bolts of sheer fabric fine as spider-woven. Rare brews from the south that I sampled for myself and gifted to my betters. I was getting in good with the higher-ups, and I was eating well—not the barracks swill the rest of the snaga-rabble lived on when they couldn't steal or beg something better. They looked at me and said, "There goes a lucky bastard," and I felt like one, though of course it wasn't all luck. It was also work, and native cunning, and knowing how to capitalize on an opportunity.
I went to see my whore one evening, swaggering after a fine bit of barter, and perhaps I'd had a bit to drink as well. Put a hand on her thigh after she had trounced me at another game of dice and asked her if she'd care to make it. Only if I paid her such and such a sum, she answered promptly, and looked at me bemused when I said yes. "You mean what you are saying?" she asked.
Yeah, I did. Never paid to fuck nobody in my life: it came willing or I took it, one way or another, but I was riding high and she was partly the cause. But she looked at me as if she doubted, so I lifted the bottom of my tunic and jingled my belt pouch to show her I was good for it. "Or isn't Orc money good in this tent?" I asked her archly.
"Coin is coin," she answered slowly, "but I would not lose my only opponent in dice."
"Why should us fucking change things? I've told you I'd come back." Her gift of prophecy, she began, but I cut the warning short. As to that, I said, I'd gotten curious. Who doesn't wonder how he'll die? And if I didn't like what I heard, it was my choice whether to believe her or not.
She shook her head at me the while. "If I were better than I am I would say, Come back sober, but I think that you would say the same things then. But I have a choice in the matter as well. Stand and let me look at you."
She raised an eyebrow when I took my dick out. I don't reckon she'd ever seen an Orc's joint before (we won't be counting Daglash since he wasn't a proper Orc. Anyhow, I doubt she had a good look at it at the time.) But she played it cool: said I passed for clean enough and told me to take off the rest of my clothes. Took them from me one by one and hung them on hooks of ivory, then led me to the center of her tent, to a carpet plush with embroidering, and there she bid me lay. She never had men in her bed, or so she said, for that was where she slept. Dunno as I believed her, and I certainly wasn't pleased, for I'd been wanting a go at that bed since the first time I entered her tent. It looked comfy. But the carpet was soft, and she settled a silken pillow beneath my head, and then she knelt beside me.
How do the whores of Harad fuck? I cannot say for the others, but I can speak for mine. She took oil in her hand and placed it between my legs, rubbed it into my thighs and my ball-sack. That oil was like nothing we have in the north, and might have fetched an Elf lord's ransom. Smelled of honey and it warmed the skin the way good draught warms your throat. She stroked my dick with the softest hand I've ever felt, and you know I like soft hands; I swear to you, it was softer than a little girl's. Then when I was breathing hard and upright as a post she dried her hand on my belly and stood, raised her skirt of many colors and lowered herself upon me.
Yes, you understand aright: she rode me. Took me on my back in the middle of her tent, while I? I just let myself be ridden! Aye, and not ashamed to speak of it now either. She was a professional, knew exactly what she was doing, and only a fool would've tried to thrust up into her or otherwise muck with what she did. You might have been that kind of fool, but not me. I just grinned till I thought my face would split, lay back on my pillow and watched her, while she leaned forward with her mouth open and her eyes tight shut and muttered her witch words over me.
See this? I'm hard again just remembering! And you lot say I can't get it up no more…
So there I am on my back with her astride me, a-rocking and a-grinding of her hips, bringing me to the very edge when all of sudden she stiffens. Opens her eyes and stares down at me and says, "You are a monster," with a look on her face like she's never seen me before. Makes like she's gonna climb off of me and I growl and catch her hips to hold her in place. On the boil, lads, can you fucking believe it? Dunno where she thought she was off to just then but there was no way she was leaving without a fresh set of bloody furrows on either side.
She was a smart wench and didn't fight me but she didn't help me either: my whole arse clenched as I shot up into her and all the while she just stared down at me with those two eyes as though I'd turned into a snake beneath her.
As to why she changed like that mid-rut I cannot say. I had asked her once before if there was aught else she saw when she fucked men, but if there was she didn't tell me. I'm thinking she saw something more about me than she expected, though. More than the death that she was looking for.
Two days later I entered the Southron part of camp and was stopped before I'd gone two feet. I tried again at another point on the periphery and it was the same, only this time it was someone I knew: an old sword I'd done some trading with, not some brash young idiot trying to pick a fight. "You are no longer welcome here," he said, and that's when I knew it was my whore had put the word around. That part of camp was closed to me, same as any other Orc, and there was an end of my bartering.
I only ever saw her again but once, and that was some weeks later. I was passing by and I saw her in the Dunlending part of camp, talking with one of their officers. She nodded her head at whatever he'd said and turned from him to go. Stopped as still as a statue when she saw me, while I gave her a grin and a wave and a shake of my dick. "Cunt! Hey cunt! Thanks for the fuck, bitch! I'm still up for it, you know: you can ride this tool any time…" I kept her company all the way back to the Southron end, her staring straight ahead and never saying a word, and me paying her more and similar compliments as we went, and shouting them after when I could go no further.
So that was my whore, and I cannot tell you what became of her. It's sixteen, seventeen years gone now: she was not young and she'd be an old woman if she still lives. But that was wartime and who can say what happened…But what did she see that night, you're asking. Did she tell me aught of my death? She said plenty when I let her go, before she sent me out of her tent, though I'll not tell you all. Enough that it was the sort of enigmatic rigmarole you'd expect from a prophet, with some plain speech mixed in as well. I scoffed when she told me the years I'd have, but I've lived this long and how many like us can say the same? Beyond that I won't speak, for her words were for me and I've kept them so.
Now pass me another skin, lad. It was a long tale in the telling and I'm thirsty, and my death is a mystery I do not care to share. Don't need no one else trying to solve it. You'll let an old Orc keep his secrets, won't you?
This is a riddle I tell no one but me.
Disclaimer: Tolkien's works, characters and concepts are copyright J. R. R. Tolkien. Most relevant to this story, that would include the world of Middle-earth and the Orc species.
"In the Prophet's Tent" and all characters therein copyright The Lauderdale. Published January 16, 2010.
Though unnamed in the story, the narrator of this charming piece may or may not be Rukshash, an Orkish OC of mine. Read the stories Orc-brat or Treed if you care to see more of him.
Thanks go to Miscreant K for the word mahahdurork. It is not Tolkien-attested Southron but a word coined in RP and I have always liked it.
My apologies for the erratic capitalization of "man" and "men."