Sauron is dead; the poisonous dark fume over the land is lifting; and the Orcs have been smited--swallowed up by a vengeful earth that held them in hateful contempt. All but one, that is. This is his story.
And the young human female did speaketh.
“Hi! Are you an Orc?”
He stared up.
He should’ve been like his now-dead brethren: he should’ve seen his opportunity and grabbed her and eaten her alive. She was probably quite tender. But even with death staring him in the Face, he couldn’t force himself to look at this girl like that. He swallowed hard and cleared his throat. He went to speak in the Black Tongue, but what came out instead was English:
“Orc. Yes … starving. Legs … broken. Don’t … know.”
He gasped for air, amazed at himself, and amazed at her. The juvenile girl seemed utterly unterrified.
“Men …” he said. “Army … Gondor.”
She understood. “They left early this morning. Didn’t you hear them?”
He shook his head. It was a genuine miracle they didn’t discover him lying here and finish him. He gazed up at the girl, whose face was upside down in his vision.
Her home must be close by, he reasoned. If so, it was smack-dab in the middle of Orc territory. Or … it was.
She knelt at his shoulder and patted it consolingly. “I will bring back some food. Don’t go anywhere, Mr. Orc, okay?”
She sprang to her feet.
Before he could croak out another (English!) syllable, she turned and ran off.
He raised his arms over his face to shield it from the sun, and closed his eyes to make sure he wasn’t dreaming.
She returned hours later. The sun by that point had been thankfully occluded by large puffy clouds. A breeze had kicked up and cooled him as well. He wheezed in his weakness and waited.
“It’s human food, Mr. Orc. I hope you don’t mind.”
She put a plate down by his shoulder and stood and watched him.
He could smell it. Fowl of some kind. Chicken? His mouth was suddenly watering. He pushed himself to an elbow and looked down at the plate.
It was chicken in between two thick slices of bread. He grabbed it with his free hand and stuffed it whole into his mouth.
“Wow!” exclaimed the girl. “That’s impressive! When I try that at home, my mom gets really upset!”
He chewed manically, swallowed. It was delicious. He looked up at her.
“Are you thirsty?” she asked.
He glanced at the stream a few feet away, then back up at her. She followed his gaze and nodded in understanding.
“Are you still hungry?”
“Hungry,” he rasped, still amazed at the ease with which English came to his tongue. “Hungry.”
“If you come to my house, I can feed you more.”
She lifted the empty plate and put it in the pack behind her. “Here. Let me help you.”
She grabbed his shoulder—again, without fear or trepidation—and said, “Sit up. Can you?”
With her help, he sat up. He looked at her. “Legs. Broken. I think … broken …”
“Roll up your pant legs. Let me look,” she offered.
She came around to face him and knelt at his right knee. With her help, he rolled up the bottoms of his torn and filthy pants.
She rubbed her chin as she studied his legs. “Hmmm. Well, now, let’s take a look …” She shrugged. “That’s what our physician says when I get sick. I think it helps.”
She went back to rubbing her chin in a very professional and studious manner while visually examining his legs. She reached cautiously and touched the right one, then gently squeezed his calf. “Does this hurt?”
He felt no pain and shook his head. She reached for his knee, gave it a squeeze. That did hurt, and he squealed. She released it like it was suddenly hot. “I’m sorry, Mr. Orc! I did not mean to hurt you!”
“It’s … okay,” he rasped. “Okay. Knee. Not broken … just … sprained. I will be … all right.”
She looked horrified that she’d hurt him. To help her confidence more than anything else, he offered, “Would you … check the other one, please, young physician?” The sound of easy English coming to his lips felt so odd that it made him queasy.
She nodded very tentatively and reached for the other knee. She gave it a very light squeeze. It didn’t hurt, and he told her.
“My … hip … that side. And … back. Injured.”
“And your knee,” she said.
“I can … stand … with your … help. Please, young physician. I would be … most … grateful.”
She helped him stand. It was very painful, and he squealed, and that scared her. But she did not abandon him.
On his feet, he leaned against her as little as he was able. Under his arm, she gazed up at him, an unsure smile glancing her lips. “Can you walk? Our house is just up this stream, no more than a mile.” She motioned with her chin towards a tree-covered hill. The creek meandered out of the shadows there. It would be a very difficult trek.
“I … can … try … if you … if you are willing to … to help.”
“Let’s go,” she said, and together they took their first steps together.
The pain of it was excruciating, and he had to stop often for rest, many times after taking no more than five or ten steps. But eventually the big trees drew near.
“Orc,” he told her. “I’m … Orc … enemy … of humans. Why … why help me … young human?”
Her face was covered in sweat, and it appeared that she was approaching exhaustion. They stopped just a hundred or so feet away from the welcome shade.
“Rothtia,” she said as she caught her breath. “That’s … my name. My mother calls me Tia. You can too.”
“Tia,” he said.
“Why … why help … me, Tia?”
She shrugged under his armpit. “Because you need it.”
“But …” he rasped. “I … am … Orc.”
She shrugged again.
“Your mother …” he said.
“She always told me that if I wanted to go to Heaven, that I should look for the good in all God’s creatures. Besides,” she went on, “we’ve known many bad men, as bad as Orcs. No offense, Mr. Orc. We could find no good in them, try as we might. One of them—a soldier of Gondor—hurt her real bad once. Ever since that happened, the Orcs left us alone. C’mon.”
With that, they limped into the shade. She lowered him against a tree next to the creek, which burbled happily. She opened her pack and filled two cups at the creek and brought them back. They drank.
He was covered in sweat and the shade cooled him, as did the water, which was delicious.
“What is your name, Mr. Orc?”
His name, in the Black Tongue, was Krasphé. When he tried to pronounce it, it stuck in his mouth like a thick paste.
He tried coughing to get it out. Tia stared at him, alarmed.
“Are you all right?” she said urgently, standing. “Can I do something to help you?”
“My … name …” he rasped, spitting, “… name … Kras …p. Kra … s …p. KRA … -cough! - P … P! KRRRRAP-P-P-P!”
His chest heaving, he gave up.
“Good to meet you, Mr. Krapp,” said Tia.
The home was uphill a good way, which made the trek that much more difficult. They eventually came upon a trail.
“This is ours,” she gasped from under his armpit. “Not far now, Mr. Krapp.”
He looked up. The trail started out as groomed dirt climbing over and running in between thick tree roots. Stonework covered it a hundred feet on. From there it snaked through a stand of several very large trees to the right and disappeared. From that direction a faint call sounded out: “Tia? Tia? Where are you?”
“I’m here, Mom!”
The faint voice came back: “Where is ‘here’?”
“The trailhead! I need your help!”
Krapp (he couldn’t even pronounce his Orc name to himself!) felt fear flood through him. He was an Orc. The human mother wouldn’t understand her daughter helping him. She’d call on men to dispose of him. It was inevitable …
She appeared several minutes later. When she saw what Tia was holding up, she stared. Krapp saw fear in her eyes … but only for a moment. Tia must have seen it too, because she blurted out: “He’s hurt, Mom. His name is Krapp. He’s hurt. You always told us we should look out for those who need our help. He’s nice, Mom, really he is!”
Tia’s mother stared … and then cautiously approached. A foot away she stopped. She hesitated for a long, tense moment. Tia waited breathlessly; Krapp could feel her body become rigid in expectation.
“Mr. Krapp,” said Tia’s mother. “You indeed look hurt. Let me help …”
And with that she moved to his left shoulder, where she threw his arm around her shoulder. Together the two human females helped Krapp limp to their home.
Chapter Three will be posted in late March!