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20. Persuading an Uruk-hai
“At least don’t kill the little ones,” pleaded Wynne, and pressed Thranduil’s arm. She had no idea why she felt so strongly about that, she did not even like children, but somehow the woman’s desperation had touched her. She had been willing to sacrifice her own life for her babies.
Then it occurred to Wynne that the father had done the same, in a way. The tall uruk had given himself up, even though he must be fully aware that his own death might be the outcome of it, and he had done it so that his wife and children could escape. That, if any, was proof that he could not be altogether evil.
“If they shall be allowed to live, they must be closely monitored,” said Thranduil. “We cannot leave them, and be without the means to control the outcome of this experiment.”
“You mean to take them with us, then?” Legolas looked surprised. “Surely our mission is no place for baby orcs. And who would tend to them?”
“Nay, this is why it would be complicated to save them,” his father said. “Besides, bereaving a mother of her young, would hardly be less cruel than slaying them.”
“What about the uruk-hai?” asked Galion.
“I do not trust him. I could never trust an orc.” Thranduil sounded definite.
“I do,” said Wynne. “He gave himself up for his family to live.”
Thranduil shook his head. “He may be less amiable toward outsiders, we cannot risk that. We must either kill him, or take him prisoner.”
“The woman mentioned other uruks. His friends,” Nodir broke in. “Maybe he can lead us to them.”
“How would you persuade him to do that? I do not hold with torture.”
“If we let him and the orclings live – for now – he might do it in return for sparing them,” suggested Legolas. ”In addition, it would give us time to observe him, and decide whether he really has good intentions.”
“I like that idea,” said Wynne.
“It has some merits,” Thranduil cautiously agreed. “One needs more than a first impression to read someone’s character.”
“Yes, otherwise you would still have thought me useless.” Wynne grinned at him, and to her surprise he smiled back.
“Indeed, I would.” He turned to Nodir and Bronedir. “You fetch the human, she cannot have gotten far.”
They rode off, bringing an extra horse for the woman, and Thranduil approached the uruk-hai again.
“You shall live, you and your family, if – and I stress this point – if you obey my commands and prove to me that your ways are not evil.”
Wynne noticed Thranduil had not mentioned they might still be killed later, even if they did obey. He certainly was a sly elf.
The half orc bowed his head in compliance, obviously knowing that he had not many other options.
Thranduil continued: “This is only a precaution, as I am sure you understand. Galion, bind him.”
The uruk held out his hands, silently allowing the elf to tie them tightly together.
It did not take many minutes for the brothers to return with the woman, demurely riding in the front. The elves carried one wailing orcling each, and looked extremely uncomfortable about it.
When she saw her bound husband, the woman’s shoulders sagged even lower.
“Please, let me have my babies back,” she begged. “I will not run away again. I promise.”
Thranduil nodded to the dark elves. The tiny orcs were placed before their mother on the horse, where they soon silenced.
“Now that you are both here, you shall know what your task is. If you accede, we shall spare your lives.” Again Thranduil omitted that this was still not decided. “You must take us to your friends, the other uruk-hai you mentioned. If they truly have turned to the good, they have nothing to fear from us. Will you do this?”
“You would have us betray our friends.” A deep scowl had formed on the uruk’s forehead.
“It would not be betrayal, I only wish to speak with them. We mean them no harm.”
“You think we believe that?” the woman said. “We’re not stupid. You will use us to find them, and then you’re gonna kill us all.” She shivered noticeably where she sat, making the horse prance nervously and the babies whimper.
“I cannot promise to spare everybody, but I will promise you this: If they prove themselves to be honest, and if you prove your honesty as well, you shall live. Whereas, if you refuse, you most certainly shall not.” Thranduil bore his icy stare into her.
“Using threats to force people to submit.” The uruk-hai spat contemptuously on the ground. “Don’t bother, Sidra, he’s like Saruman. He’ll do anything to get his way.”
Thranduil looked outraged at the comparison, but only coldly repeated his question from before.
“Will you do it?”
The uruk-hai and his wife locked eyes, and seemed to come to some sort of silent agreement.
“All right.” The woman’s glare at Thranduil was fierce.
Wynne was sorry for her, she could very well understand how she must feel. To put her children’s and husband’s lives in the hands of strangers, and now having to risk her friends’ lives too. All for a very slight chance of survival.
As for herself, Wynne felt caught in the middle of something very unpleasant. The uruk was right, Thranduil’s methods weren’t really fair. But they must have been aware this might happen, when they decided to marry and have children. The fact that they had been hiding here, in this inaccessible, barren landscape, proved that they had known.
The uruk’s dagger was removed from him, and Galion felt through his clothes for any other hidden weapons. The woman too must be searched, and the lot to do it fell on a very dismal Wynne.
“Sorry,” she mumbled when she ran her hands over the worn fabric. Standing so close, she felt the other’s pleasant, spicy scent. She was still trembling, and Wynne’s heart went out to her.
Neither the orc nor the woman carried anything more dangerous than a small knife each, obviously for eating and preparing food with, both of which were confiscated.
“Can we get our belongings before we go?” She had turned to Wynne with her question, maybe she thought a fellow human would be kinder than the elves.
Thranduil replied in Wynne’s stead: “We shall gather them for you, if you tell us where they are.”
“Behind there is a cave.” She pointed up to the juniper bush where Wynne had first seen her.
Galion and the brothers went to check it, while Thranduil led the rest of them back to the water hole.
“We rest before we leave,” he declared.
The orc family was shown a place to sit by the cliff wall, where they could be easily seen in case they tried anything. The woman and orclings were still not bound, Thranduil obviously figured them not to be so much of a threat as the uruk.
The little ones soon began to totter about in the purple heather, plucking stones from the ground and showing them to the parents.
Wynne, who still felt bad, sat down next to the couple.
“I’m Lady Wynne of Örn, a Rohirrim house,” she introduced herself. “I’m very sorry things have to be this way.”
“Sidra of Tariq, from Harad.” The woman bowed with a hand placed over her heart. “And this is Nugu.” She stroked the uruk’s arm. “I understand why you can’t trust us so easily.”
“I will do all I can to make them spare you,” Wynne said earnestly, and was rewarded with a slight smile.
Wynne observed the woman with unveiled curiosity, this was the first Haradrim she had met. She had seen paintings and tapestries about the War, of course, but in those the Haradrim warriors had their faces covered and looked very mysterious. Sidra, however, was clad in ordinary woolen clothes, much like Wynne’s own. She had tanned skin as Wynne had observed from the beginning, and the eyes were a dark brown, much like those of Nodir and Bronedir. The hair was black with a mahogany hue, and fell in a wavy cascade down her back. She was pretty – with a straighter nose and less plump face she would have been beautiful, even.
“What’s it like in Harad?” Wynne asked. “Isn’t that where the oliphaunts first came from?”
“That’s right, my uncle even used to breed them, the mûmakil , as we call them. We use them for everything, to work in the forests, to carry stuff, for travelling, for war. They are really helpful when trained right.”
“Almost like our horses then.”
“Those horses are from Rohan, aren’t they?” the woman asked and nodded at the grazing animals. “They really are extraordinary. We have horses in Harad too, you know. But bigger and heavier. War horses, more.” The woman had relaxed a little, and seemed to try her best to be friendly. Perhaps she knew she had not much time to make her captors like her. “Harad is a lot warmer and more humid than here,” she continued. “In my part of the country there were grass plains, and huge forests full of birds and other animals. I used to live in a bamboo house on the edge of such a forest.” Her face had got a longing expression. “Bamboo is a kind of thick grass,” she added, noticing Wynne’s confused look.
“Wow. A house made of grass.” Wynne thought of the thatched cottage from her daydream.
“But then Saruman snatched your mother to the breeding dens, and that was the end of that.” The uruk cut in. Again he almost snarled when pronouncing the wizard’s name. “And my mother. And everyone else’s mother down there.”
Wynne stared at him, realization dawning on her. So that was how Saruman had bred his uruk-hai army.
Saruman... ugh. ;(
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