You do not know pain. You do not know fear.
The words echoed in his mind, yet they were lies. Such pain as he had never known in his entire existence wrestled him to the ground, pinned him there, and hovered over him like a ravenous beast. Rukhtorû dared not move, for moving caused the beast to bite down harder. As awareness returned, the pain increased, punishing him for not staying down, for not dying like the others.
Voices, not far off. The victors, searching among the dead, no doubt. He knew they would find many of their own, and chuckled mirthlessly. It cost him; the blade still sunk in his chest grated against ribs, sliced a little more deeply, wrenched a groan from his throat. It was not a normal blade that stabbed him; the metal still glowed a bright blue and seemed to burn him from the inside out. He watched with dismay as his hand feebly touched the hilt, too weak to pull it out.
Then he knew fear. He felt the lifeblood seeping from his leg, remembered the downward stroke of the sword that had cut through the metal guard, cut him to the bone from hip to knee. He would bleed to death eventually, he knew. He did not want this; a swift death in battle was far preferred to a weak, trembling, drawn out death, left at the mercy of his enemy, abandoned by his master.
Head swimming, he dimly saw movement, heard footsteps approaching. A slight smile curved his mouth. Here it comes, he thought with relief. My swift death at last. Meet it with eyes wide open, for I am fighting Uruk-hai. I will not know fear.
She couldn't take her eyes off the carnage they had wrought, though it made her sick to her stomach. There had never been time to look upon the dead they left in their wake in Moria or at Amon Hen. Now, she could see their faces, bestial yet intelligent. They had not died quickly or cleanly, as they did in stories. Their faces showed pain, suffering, anger...
Here was the severed forearm of a Rider from Rohan, horse's reins still clenched in the dead fist, the horse split open on the ground. There was an Uruk berserker's still helmed head, mouth gaping in silent fury.
Kill any orcs you find alive, Theoden had said when he sent them forth to search for wounded men. So she was gingerly picking her way among the dead, occasionally waving down the cart driver collecting the wounded to come fetch another breather. So far, though, she had seen no living orc. More than a few of the men she found breathed their last still waiting for the over-burdened cart to reach them.
The killing field was silent in the waning daylight. The deceptively peaceful trees swayed in the breeze. Probably by nightfall they would move off, heading back to Fangorn. Romana briefly wondered if they'd leave a grisly trail of black-skinned body parts behind in their wake. The thought made her shudder.
Grimacing, she stepped over the body of an orc lying spread-eagle on the ground, the broken shaft of a spear protruding from his chest. Death was merciless in its final moments. Many of the dead, men and orcs included, lay in waste, their bowels releasing in their death throes. Expressions of terror frozen on their faces, even the pale tracks of tears through the grime of battle. Men and orcs alike.
In the stillness, the sound of a groan echoed and carried to Romana's ears. Sighing, she diverted her path in that direction.
Just ahead lay an orc's body, chest rising and falling. The movement made the blue-glowing dagger shift back and forth unsteadily. He was not just alive, but aware, his eyes staring at the sky, blinking occasionally. His hand swayed slightly as he feebly tried to take hold of the hilt, but his aim was bad, control over his arm elusive in his pain.
Her stomach clenched. That dagger was hers. She'd been gifted it by Lady Galadriel herself a million years ago in Lothlorien. Had she roamed this far during the battle, that the orc whose body claimed her prized weapon was found so close to the edge of the field? Or had he crawled away?
Steeling herself, and nearly feeling as awkward as a little girl approaching an intimidating stranger, Romana walked closer and looked down into the orc's face. His yellow eyes flicked to her face, his mouth contorting with malice. When his lips parted over his sharp teeth, black blood seeped from the corner of his mouth and ran into his hair.
She slowly sank to her knees beside him, swallowing hard. His eyes followed her, but neither of them made a sound. Her trembling hand held her spare knife, and she slowly leaned over. Time seemed to stop; the world held its breath. Or perhaps she couldn't breathe. The blade was almost touching his throat. A hard swallow made his neck rise just enough to make contact, and his eyes never left hers...
No. This wasn't right. Romana drew back and sheathed the knife, shaking her head. Tearing her eyes away from the orc's bewildered face for a moment, she dug a cloth from her haversack and wadded it up. Reaching forward a little hesitantly, she gingerly took hold of the hilt with one hand and pressed the cloth against the wound with the other. Taking a deep breath and glancing at his face, she pulled the blade free.
His roar hurt her ears, and his body shook violently before going still. She almost thought it was too much for him and he died, except that his breathing began to slow to a more reasonable pace. Romana grimly held the compress to his ribs. His eyes closed for a few moments with relief. Even his face relaxed somewhat.
Looking him over, she saw the ghastly wound on his leg. Her sword had done that, she remembered. The fine, elven blade had cut through his armor like paper, tearing flesh and muscle to the bone...
Taking his hand, she pressed it on the stab wound, then pulled a roll of cloth from her bag. Setting it on his belly, she worked at the buckles on his leg guard, removing it and casting the ruined metal plate aside. She gently raised his knee, then wrapped his thigh tightly with the bandage.
Rukhtorû watched her work, baffled. How could she not slay him, after all that was done? And now she was helping him? He could not understand why she would do this, and now he was confused by the fact that she had stabbed him in the first place. He remembered her now, though her identity had not been as obvious in full armor and helm. But her scent... he would never forget the smell of the whiteskin that nearly killed him.
The rumble of a cartload of wounded came to his ears, and he turned his head to see. The sound got her attention as well, and she stood and started waving wildly.
"Hey! Over here!" she cried. Rukhtorû saw the cart driver acknowledge her and start making his way in their direction.
Crouching down by him again, she rested a hand on his shoulder and smiled at him.
"Trust me," she said. "I know what I'm doing."