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6. The First Orc Encounter
Everything seemed to happen at once.
The elves moved so fast their limbs became blurred. They hurled themselves off the horses, and drew their slender daggers. Galion’s two handed sword met an orc’s bent blade with a metallic clang, while the others circled their enemies at speed, trying to punch their daggers in vulnerable spots. Two of the orcs backed away under Galion’s onslaught, and Legolas used the gap to run farther away, where he could draw his bow. Soon, arrow after arrow showered over the orc band.
The horses, now mostly riderless, took the opportunity and bolted. Wynne was paralyzed with shock and fear, and when Vatna fled she promptly fell off, right in the thick of the tumult. She was instantly surrounded by yelling orcs, agile elves and the ugly smell of blood. In the confusion of trampling feet and weapons, Wynne lost all sense of direction. She curled up into a ball, trying to look small and inconspicuous, but that was not a good thing to do when in the middle of a battle. An agonizing pain shoot up her leg. She got a glimpse of a gruesome face with an arrow sticking out of its cheek, and then the creature was on top of her. Blood from the arrow wound darkened its thin lips when it bared a set of crooked teeth, making ready to bite.
Instinctively Wynne pulled away from under it and kicked the creature in its wrinkled face. A fountain of more blood sprayed her when the orc’s nose cracked with a sickening noise. The orc doggedly came back, raising its short sword as if to give her leg another jab, but Wynne kicked again, and again, and at last the orc was gone.
It had become strangely quiet then, and Wynne looked around her, in a daze. Dead orcs littered the ground, and around them the elves calmly cleaned their daggers and swords on the dry grass.
She could not believe it was over already. Where was the orc that had attacked her?
She soon saw it right beside her, but only its limp body. Its head had rolled away, with the arrow still sticking out. Had she kicked its head off? No, that was impossible. One of the elves must have decapitated it, without her noticing.
Galion came over and held out his hand to her, helping her stand.
“Are you well?”
“I’m fine, thank you.” She tried to move in the direction Vatna had ran, anxious to know that the horses were well, but her legs would not carry her. A strange weakness had come over her, and she sank to her knees.
She looked at her disobeying limbs in surprise, noticing a scarlet stain on one thigh. Had the orc bit her? She fingered the sticky fabric of her hose, and found a long rift in the wool. She had been stabbed, it seemed, but not very deep. Merely a flesh wound. Why could she not stand up?
“Let me help you,” said Galion kindly. The ginger elf pulled Wynne on her feet again, and led her away from all the blood and mess, back towards the hill they had first come over.
After only a few yards, however, she had to stop again. Bile rose in her throat and she bent over, retching heavily, without anything coming out.
“Good thing we had not had our supper yet, eh?” It was Legolas of course. Even now, after everything, that annoying elf would come and tease her.
Wynne rose angrily, and gave him a glare that only made him laugh more.
“I had better back off, or I too will get a taste of those impressive boots of yours. You kick like a Meara, My Lady.” He made a mocking bow and wisely moved away.
Before they left the battleground, the elves piled all the orc corpses together, and burned them by aid of some lamp oil. They would not allow the orc filth to poison the lands. The oliphaunt carcasses, however, were too big to burn. They had to be left to the flies and scavengers, even though it was a sad sight.
“Typical of orcs to ruin anything of beauty out here”, Galion remarked demurely.
They were all tired, and more than Wynne had blemishes and wounds that needed tending to, but none of them wanted to stay anywhere near the horrible stink of burning orcs and rotting oliphaunt flesh. The horses had luckily remained within hearing range, and came back as usual when Wynne whistled.
After about half an hour’s ride, Thranduil decided it was enough, and they made camp for the night.
The elves had brought lots of healing equipment, such as bandages, medical herbs of various kinds and pain killing tinctures. Wynne had similar articles for the horses in her luggage, and in addition Mother had given her two water skins full of undiluted distilled spirits. One for medical use, but the other, as Mother had put it, was for “making the elves relaxed and easy”.
Trying to seduce an elf was very far from the things Wynne wished to do at the moment, but she unpacked one of the spirit containers to disinfect her wound. It smarted more, now that the shock from earlier had begun to settle, and she suspected the dirty blade would cause a nasty infection unless she was careful. She picked out some sewing equipment as well, the cut was not deep, but even the short ride just now had made the gash widen considerably. She needed a few stitches to secure it close.
The elves were in various stages of undressing when Wynne came back from the pack horses, and it took some determination of mind to not avert her eyes in embarrassment. She must seem experienced and grown up, it did not do to blush like a little girl. Instead she joined them, and rolled down one of her hose to bare her thigh wound. She carefully soaked a rag in the spirits and started to clean the cut, wincing in pain when the strong alcohol stung.
“What is that?” Nodir took the water skin and curiously sniffed it.
“It’s fire water. We make it from sugar beets, with yeast.”
“Hm, it smells like some kind of strong wine. I never heard of sugar beet wine before. And you use it to clean wounds?”
“That, and you can drink it as well. But it’s very strong. Mother mix it with apple juice from our orchard.” That was quite a happy memory. The thought of Mother’s apple cider made Wynne remember harvest time, when the kitchen was bustling for days at end and Mother, Grandmama and Wynne all worked together, cooking and baking. Finally they would gather some old neighbours and relatives, and share the bountiful feast, eating and drinking all night long.
“Interesting.” Nodir tried the concoction on some nasty scratches, where an orc had clawed his arm. “Ouch! That burns!”
“Yes, but then you know it works. I like to think of it as the disease burning away.”
Nodir nodded and went over to his brother with the liquor.
“Here Bron, try this.” Nodir helped him clean a sword cut on one shoulder, laughing at his younger brother’s grimaces.
Wynne watched with interest, her own injury quite forgotten. Yesterday when the elves washed themselves in the river, they had worn long undershirts similar to her chemise, so she had never seen a male’s bare chest before, not even her father’s. Bronedir’s smooth, tanned torso reminded her of a horse in excellent condition. His muscles that rippled slightly when he tensed in pain, his flat stomach and broad shoulders, they were all signs of health and good physique. Wynne found that she quite liked what she saw, and something stirred deep within her, some unknown emotion.
She shifted her gaze to Thranduil, who was tending to an orc bite on his son’s hand. The king had a bandage wrapped around his waist, but the rest of his upper body was uncovered. He too had smooth looking skin, much fairer in color than Bronedir’s. Despite his baffling age, the king’s body resembled that of a young stallion in its prime. Not a hint of unnecessary fat or wrinkled skin anywhere to be seen. The odd feeling returned, and Wynne could not determine if she liked it or not. I was a weird combination of agitation and tension, like one could feel right before a competition.
The king looked up just then, noticing her stare, and Wynne hastily returned the attention to her cut. It was time to try and sew it, and she just hoped she could bring herself to it. With shaking fingers she threaded the needle, and sterilized it with the liquor-soaked cloth.
She tried to hold the cut and position the needle, feeling sweat break out at the thought of inflicting herself more pain.
“I can do that for you.” A bandaged hand took the needle from her trembling fingers.
Wynne sighed in relief, and gratefully extended her leg.
“I’d really appreciate it. Thank you.”
My, my, who might this gentleman elf be? :)
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