Chapter 1: Killing Orcs is Good
Lynn sat draped across the table, chin resting on her arm, one hand slowly tipping a half-empty wineglass back and forth. Her green eyes stared intently at the liquid's movement as it shifted and sloshed.
Across from her, Aragorn's fingers were steepled before him, his elbows on the arms of his chair. Beside him, Arwen sat with her eyes cast down to her lap where she fretted with a bit of needlepoint that had long since lost any interest for her. To the king's other side, a stern-faced soldier glared at the woman with clear dislike.
"Lynn," the former ranger said quietly. Several pairs of eyes swiveled in his direction as he broke the tense silence. "What possessed you to steal this man's horse and ride it through the market like a wild woman?"
...men and women cursing, waving their fists...
...wild, maniacal laughter...
"Didn't steal it," she muttered, fixated on the glass.
"It belongs to me, you took it without my permission," the soldier growled. "That spells 'stealing' in my book."
"Read another one, then," she retorted. "I brought it back. Poor thing needed exercise."
"Not in the marketplace, and certainly not at the busiest time of day!" Aragorn snapped, momentarily losing his patience. "Lynn, I understand that you are restless, but acting out your frustrations will only cause someone to get hurt."
"Gimme a job, then," she said quietly. "Everyone had someplace to go after the war, except me. Isn't there something I can do that'll get me out of this god damned city?" Her eyes finally left the glass to pin Aragorn to the wall with their intense color.
"The only things my men are engaged in are hunting down the surviving orcs, and ensuring the law is upheld in the farther flung regions of the country. Which 'job' most appeals to you?"
"They both suck," she said dully. Heaving a great sigh, she said, "I guess I'll take the orcs."
"Good, that's settled then," Aragorn replied with relief. Arwen, however, was not so pleased.
"You would send a maiden alone into the wilds to fight orcs?"
Lynn snorted with grim amusement, but Aragorn overrode any comment she might have made. "No, my love, I will not be sending her alone. She will accompany several troops under Captain Delon's command."
At his words, the soldier straightened, a look of horror on his face. "Under my command? What did I do?"
Grimacing, Aragorn replied, "You were unfortunate enough to be sitting next to me, and your men are preparing to depart in two days." Forcing an encouraging look that fooled no one, the king continued, "Take heart, Captain. She is a capable fighter, and if properly motivated, may not give you too much trouble." Shooting Lynn a significant look, he added, "Will you, Lynn?"
She only grinned and winked. The Captain groaned.
The trees gathered along the foothills of the White Mountains were thick and held their greenery even in the late fall, yet Lynn had other things on her mind than foliage. The Captain's trackers had discovered a recently used trail, and she was leading the troop investigating it. It did not take long for her men to locate a small camp of orcs.
It was the first band they had seen in weeks of relentless searching. While Lynn was no stranger to battle, and certainly not adverse to slaying orcs, she couldn't help feeling a little...wrong...about attacking these lone groups. There were no reports of mischief from the last trio they had tracked and slain less than a month ago. This camp at least looked more permanent, and there had been some complaints of missing livestock. Yet she couldn't shake it. The war, after all, was over. In her own time, the last thing a victorious army would have done, or been allowed to do, was hunt down and slaughter non-combatants. At least they had not come across orc children. Yet.
With regret, Lynn gave the order, and the men descended upon the surprised orcs with a little too much zeal. The woman averted her eyes from the more blatantly vicious assaults, concentrating on ensuring none escaped the trap. Within minutes, all six were dead, and Lynn began investigating the shelters.
One tent was larger than the rest, clearly owned by the group's leader. Ducking inside with her sword drawn, Lynn surveyed the dimly lit hovel. Nothing moved, not even a breath of wind, which would have been welcomed in the foul-smelling tent. Sweeping the area, she was about to turn away when something caught her eye.
There was a body lying face down at the back of the dwelling.
Raising her sword, Lynn warily approached the still figure. They had watched the camp for hours, taken careful count. There were only six of them, and all had been slain. Was this extra one a sick companion, or a captive?
Her eyes finally adjusted to the dim light, and what she saw made her suck in a shocked breath. It was a really, really big orc, possibly six and a half feet tall. The others in the camp were the typical squat, bandy-legged sort she'd seen in places like Moria, not even meeting her average height. This was obviously not one of them. Nudging the body with a foot, the orc did not respond, as if he were dead. Yet she could clearly see his ribs expanding and contracting with his shallow breathing.
His body was a disaster area. It didn't require a military background in this time or any other to recognize the signs of grievous torture. The orc had been beaten, whipped, burned with brands, starved, and...well, judging by the thick coating of blood down the backs of his legs, likely raped. His wrists were bound cruelly behind his back, his shoulders strained nearly to the breaking point by the severity of the angle. Not only his ankles, but his knees as well were tightly bound. He wore nothing but a pair of rough cloth breeches, long since soiled to the point of ruin by blood and waste.
While Lynn stood there staring at the orc, one of her men entered the tent.
"All is clear," he reported. "We got'em all...oh." Clearing his throat, the soldier said weakly, "What the hell happened to him?"
"I think," Lynn said, her voice unsteady. "I think he's an Isengarder. An Uruk, one of Saruman's."
"Weren't they all killed?"
"But," the soldier said, "why would the orcs do that to him? Aren't they all...I mean, they're all orcs, aren't they?"
The woman snorted. "The same can be said of the men of Harad, or Dunland. Are they not men? Why do we fight them? Aren't we all the same?"
"Hmmm. I see your point. What should we do with him?"
She thought for a moment. She could not, in good conscience, slay this orc, no matter how much suffering he may have caused during the war. He was helpless, abused, and likely on the point of death. Shaking her head, she said, "Bring him. Send someone ahead to prepare my tent for a badly injured patient, and make sure the healer has plenty of supplies on hand."
"May I ask why?" the soldier asked timidly.
...no, you may not...
Tearing her eyes from the orc's body, she faced the soldier sternly. "Are you such a monster that you would take his life as he is? Even apart from the morality of the situation, he may have valuable information. It is true, the Uruk-hai of Isengard were believed slain. If he is one of them, he may know of others who escaped. It would be wise to at least question him on the matter."
Once dragged out into the daylight, the terrible condition of the orc was even more obvious. His captors had been completely drunk with the feeling of power subduing such a formidable opponent must have given them. And to keep him submissive clearly required a lot of rough handling. The back of his head, for one, was swollen and bloody from multiple blows. Cutting his bonds, Lynn rolled him onto his back and checked his pupils. The catlike slits were difficult to assess at first, but eventually she was able to deduce that he hadn't been permanently damaged by the cranial traumas. At least, the pupils reacted normally to light. Whether he would have the full use of his body when he woke was another matter.
There was a good deal of blood down the front of his breeches as well as the back, and the woman dreaded looking to see what damage had been done there.
They had not expected to haul an unconscious orc back to camp. Lynn oversaw her men draping the orc's limp body over the back of her horse, and reluctantly consented for him to be bound in case he woke in transit. But such was not to be. Whether the blow to his head kept him unconscious, or his captors had used some sort of drug to achieve their goal, the orc was not going to wake up anytime soon.
In fact, it was the following morning before anything like life stirred in the orc.
In the meantime, she had to face her own battles when Captain Delon saw the 'souvenir' she brought back from the raid.
"No," he said, shaking his head in denial. "No, you didn't. You did not just bring an orc back to camp."
Rolling her eyes, Lynn turned away to direct her men toward her tent with their burden. "Yes. Yes, I did. If you'd open your eyes, you'd see why."
"My eyes are open, and I see orc filth." Wrinkling his nose as the men carried the orc past, he said, "I smell it, too. What the hell were you thinking?"
"I was thinking that we aren't supposed to be heartless, cruel, and mean. Look at him. If he were a man or woman of Gondor we'd found, you would have not only praised my actions, you would have sworn vengeance on his abusers. Hell, I'm sure you would have somehow resurrected their corpses so you could kill them again for what they did."
Delon rubbed his forehead in an attempt to stave off a full-blown migraine. This woman was so blasted infuriating! "He is not a man or woman of Gondor, or Rohan, or Eregion, or any number of civilized places. He is an orc, and I don't give a damn what his kind do to one another."
Crossing her arms over her chest in defiance, she stuck out her chin. "What's done is done. He's here, and he's in my care. Don't like it? Tough."
"I am your superior, and you will obey my orders! Get that piece of shit out of my camp!"
"I am not a soldier, and you can kiss my ass! He stays!"
Face purple with fury, Delon clenched his fists at his sides impotently. If he struck her, the majority of his men would protest his actions as behavior unbecoming an officer. Word would get back to his king. It didn't take a genius to see the folly of abusing the personal friend of one's sovereign, no matter how deserved. Lowering his voice to a menacing growl, the Captain snarled, "Keep him out of my sight, and out of trouble. The tiniest hint I get that he's out of your control or poses a threat to anyone, he's dead. Are we clear?"
She had the good grace not to smirk, at least. Nodding stiffly, she threw him an only slightly mocking salute, then stomped to her tent.