The Dunlending [Lord of the Rings fanfiction]

This board is for original fiction not related to the Warhammer worlds.
Please maintain an awareness of age-suitability.

The Dunlending [Lord of the Rings fanfiction]

Postby LordLucan » Thu May 02, 2013 12:27 am

An unusual perspective from withint he setting of the Lord of the Rings. I hope you like it:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


The Dunlending


Part One: The Boy and the Orc

Through the rain, Welf crawled warily on all fours, like a cat stalking the undergrowth of the wood. He kept low, following the river for the most part, but making sure to keep away from the wider paths between the trees. The horse men came and went along those routes, and they’d string him up if they caught him again, he was sure. His bruises and cuts from his last encounter with the pale-haired Rohirrim had yet to heal properly.

The boy’s hair was long, dark and tangled as the shrugs he often found himself clambering through. His clothes were a tattered mess of skins and rabbit hides, stitched together with as much skill as he could manage on his own. His boots and vest were packed with dried grasses, but despite this he shivered, the rain drenching everything. His short bow and its meagre supply of arrows were bundled together in a leather sheath, which he hoped kept them dry. That last thing he needed was his bow, the one valuable thing he owned, getting warped by water.

The rain sapped what little warmth he could muster to his scrawny limbs. He would have wept in the past, perhaps. But he shed no tears anymore, for he had long passed beyond the measure of grief. He had nothing less to lose, beyond his life, for what little that was worth. He had lost his mother when his infant mind was still too small to remember much, beyond the vague outlines of a friendly face. His father he did remember, but of the people he came from, there was little Welf knew. Pa had been a huntsman and a warrior. In the days, they would roam the fields between the Isen and the Adorn, hunting hares, conies and trapping deer. At night they retreated to dark places in the woods, or in caverns in the southern foothills of the White Mountains. There, he remember Pa cursing bitterly in the flickering campfire light, spitting out ‘thieves’ and ‘horse-lord murderers’ between mouthfuls of stringy rabbit morsels. He wasn’t what one would call a loving parent, or even an attentive one, but it was all Welf had.

He cried the most when Pa died. It was after they had taken two sheep from a field north of the fords. His father knew the sheep were not his, but owned by some Lord of Rohan; perhaps that is precisely why he took them. He was ridden down by one of the blond riders, a spear through his thigh. But as the rider closed, from his vantage point, he saw his father hack the legs from his killer’s steed with a reflexive swing of his hefty axe. They crashed together, a tangle of horse and intertwined warriors. His father lay still for a time, but the rider was still alive, wheezing and cursing loudly as he laboured to shift the crushing bulk of his own horse from his legs.

Tears welling in his eyes, Welf slowly crawled from his hiding place, and approached the fallen rider and his stricken father. The rider was virtually helpless, with only one arm free to push futilely against his dead horse. He didn’t notice the prowling little urchin. Before Welf knew what he was doing, he had drawn his father’s dirk. The horseman looked so surprised when Welf wrenched off his helmet. This expression turned to a wide-eyed, uncomprehending one, when Welf plunged the dirk through his throat, to the hilt. The dagger held fast in the man’s vertebrae, Welf recalled. He couldn’t free the knife in time, when he saw the second rider crest a nearby hill, bellowing after the little murderer. Welf snatched up what little he could, and made for the nearby safety of the woods.

It was only then, when the curses of the man of Rohan had died away to nothing, that Welf finally allowed himself to weep. He wept openly, hugging his short bow to his chest as the long shadows of dusk encircled him in shadow.

That was years ago, but it still hurt to recall it. From then on, the boy had spoken to no one, and met only angry, hate-filled Rohirrim faces whenever he strayed from the unloving embrace of his woodland home. They say there is a wizard that roams the woods and speaks to trees, and is friend to every bird and bee, but if he exists, he must have potent powers, for the forest is no friend to those who are strangers in its realm. Cold, skinny boys find no solace there. Roots trip you, branches snatch at you, the water is cold and chill as the grave itself, and all the bounties of the woods hide from sight, leaving Welf a shivering, desolate vagrant and an outlaw. Not that he knew which laws governed his domain. There were men of the white tree south they said, but he’d never met one. Or maybe the horselords were the only authority? He shuddered at the thought.

As he crawled through the undergrowth, at last he spied his quarry. The forest fowl did not hear him approach, for the rain muffled his movements and disguised his scent. When he had finally closed the distance, he drew his shortbow from its sheath, pulled back with one of his three black shafted arrows, and fired. There was a storm of feathers, as the creature’s legs jerking wildly in its death throes. But it was dead. To make certain he ringed its neck when he retrieved his bolt from the bird.

Welf waited until the rain stopped to set a fire, plucking and cooking up the bird hastily. His father taught him how to make fires and shoot his bow, but there was little else the man had imparted to him, save for a fear and distrust of his fellow man. It was a lesson that, thus far, Welf could see no lie in. It was sound council to shun those who seemed hell bent on killing you.

He only ate a fraction of the fowl, and he stored the rest in his patchwork satchel for later. Though he hadn’t eaten for many days, if he ate too much at once, he was more than likely to throw the meal back up again. It was safety to pace himself.

That night, as he sheltered between the roots of a gnarled old oak, he heard raised voices. Not only that, screaming, and fire and the ringing of iron against iron, the whinnying of horses, the hideous roaring of something vast and bestial, and the wet crunch of lives being ended, like the sound of the horse Welf’s father had carved the legs from. Lightning flashed, and he felt the whole forest come alive in a frightened uproar. There was an unholy, blood-curdling howl. Something crashed down, not far from Welf, almost shaking the ground itself. Welf didn’t dare move from his hiding place. He huddled down, withdrawing himself into his bunched up skins.

Come the first faltering rays of dawnlight through the wood’s vaulted ceiling of green, Welf clambered from his bolthole. Cautiously, he travelled through the trees, to the wide path, ignoring his own rules forbidding this.

There were corpses, dozens of them. The corpses were those of monsters. Their limbs were long and tipped with clawed fingers. Their faces were the colour of bruises and dark blood, with fangs crowding their wide mouths. Even their armour was dark and segmented, mail and plate beaten into ugly, bladed forms. Each monster looked different, but they were equally dead. Amongst their slain was the largest wolf Welf had ever seen. Large as a bear or a horse, the black-furred monster lay on its side, slack-lipped jaws hanging open, two throwing spears struck into its flank like an explorer’s banner poles. He edged closer to the beast. Using one of the fallen monsters’ daggers, he cut some strips of stinking meat from the beast’s side, stuffing the gory strips into his satchel. Even in dread, his mind always drifted to securing his next meal, no matter its origin.

As he looked closer, he noticed that there was something strapped to the wolf-monster’s back. Bound by crude leather straps, it looked like a harness, similar to the ones the Rohirrim placed on their horses. But the rider was not there. At first, Welf thought it must have been one of the other monsters, but then he followed the trail of disturbed shrubs that led away from the wolf, down a slope, towards a fallen tree, he one which had crashed down hours earlier.

That was when he saw it; pinned by one leg beneath the great fallen oak, laid a writhing monster. It was armoured like the others, and was clad in skins and straps of dark leather. It lacked a pot helm like the other monsters, so its balding, dark mottled grey head was on full display. The beast had one long, pointed ear, while its other ear looked to have been mauled by a hound. Its eyes were yellow and cat-like, set into sunken eye sockets ringed by darkness. Its nose was short, almost non-existent, and its mouth was wide and full of yellowing fangs stabbing up from black gums that oozed ropey saliva. It had long arms, with long grasping fingers that pressed and hopelessly tried to push the trunk from its leg. The trunk moved slightly, but nowhere near enough to free the beast. The beast roared and snarled and spat, scratching at the wood like some demented cat, cursing in several languages Welf had never heard spoken. The beast, despite its monstrous countenance, trapped as it was, reminded Welf of the man of Rohan trapped under his butchered stallion. Almost helpless.

Welf took another step forward, snapping a twig beneath his foot. The thing’s head snapped around, fixing its piercing yellow eyes upon the boy. It snarled, desperately reaching for its fallen scimitar, which lay just out of reach. Welf yelped in alarm, darting back into the undergrowth.

He retreated to his hollow under the upright oak, and set about making another fire. The wolf meat was dark and tough, but it seemed to cook just as well as the fowl. He cooked it until a black crust formed on the red meat. Welf had no idea whether the meat was even edible, so he resisted the urge to eat it, and ate the rest of his fowl meat instead. It wasn’t until nightfall came again that he plucked up the courage to return to the pinned creature.

It lay where he had left it hours before. Its struggles had become weaker, its skin blistered and flaking after being trapped beneath the sun’s rays all day. From his vantage point, he could see the beast’s face was still contorted in its permanent snarl, its crooked teeth clenched tight as it seethed with rage. When it heard the wild boy approach again, it continued to spit and curse him. Welf was sure he understood some of the words, but they were delivered with such bile and venom, they came out as little more than abusive barks.

Welf didn’t know why he threw the cooked meat down the slope. Perhaps he wanted to see if the wolf meat was safe, or maybe, somehow, he felt a pang of sympathy for this thing. The meat landed just within the creature’s grasp, and it hungrily snatched the charred meat, ripping it apart in a greasy frenzy. When it had finished, it resumed its snarling and ranting, spittle and wolf fat splattering the forest floor as it struggled. Welf once again fled.

He returned again the next night, rolling foraged nuts down the slope, which the creature reluctantly crunched.

Welf grew more confident each time, approaching closer to the beast. He had never been told the stories of the orcs, or their apparent born cruelty. What his father didn’t tell him, Welf had not know, and all else he knew, he had learnt during his desperate struggle to live.

Finally, he approached the orc on the fourth day, a sturdy stick clutched in both hands. His hands shook as he neared the fanged monster. It watched him with its piercing eyes that glittered in the twilight, barring its teeth.

“Finally mustered the guts to finish me, little man?” it said, its deep voice wet and sibilant. “Your guts’ll feed the maggots before long, you can be sure of that. I don’t die easily boy.”

Welf closed the distance, barely a couple of feet from the orc, which had gone still; poised, tense, hackles up.

Welf raised his makeshift staff, and thrust downwards with all his might.

It struck the ground, where the leaf-strewn earth met the gnarled bulk of the fallen trunk. Once the lever had been secured, he hauled down with all his weight. His strength was meagre, and his weight was slight, but the lever multiplied his effort, and the trunk began to wobble, albeit fractionally. The orc realised what he intended, and began to add its own strength behind the effort, shoving against the trunk at the same time. Together, the wooden mass began to truly move, rolling back and forth, making the orc howl in pain. But it knew freedom was close, and threw everything into the effort, heedless of its own agony.

At last, with a final rumble, the trunk lurched back, just enough for the orc to kick its good leg against the bar, and wriggle its other leg from beneath it.

Welf fell to the ground, exhausted. Before he could take another breath however, the orc was on him, fast as a hawk. One of its massive hands closed around his throat like a constricting snake, the other raised its retrieved scimitar in front of Welf’s face. Its breath was stale with rotten meat, a black tongue writhing in its mouth as it licked its foul lips. Those eyes, to fierce and full of hate, bored into Welf’s own, clear blue ones.

“What’s this about? No human rats save us, who’s your master, who sends you to do this? Why’d you haul me out eh?”

“I... don’t know...” Welf wheezed in the common tongue. It was an honest answer; every fibre of his being told him to leave this monster to rot in the woods, or cut its throat. But then he considered the first time he had killed. At the time, it had felt righteous, but when the deed was done, and the Rohirrim lay coughing up blood into the dry soil of the field, he did not feel joy or satisfaction. He knew killing the orc would not improve his life one jot. Now, he chided himself for his mercy, as the orc squeezed his throat.

The cruel curved blade inched closer to his face, till the tip pressed against his cheek lightly. Welf forced himself to look his killer in the eyes. The orc’s expression changed, fractionally, as if it were considering the possibilities. It lowered the sword, and dropped the boy. Welf noticed that he was barely shorter than the stooped, bow-legged creature. His father was far larger, but even he hadn’t had the fearsome grasping strength of limb the orc possessed.

The orc hobbled away from him, turning its back as it muttered to itself. The leg it had trapped was crooked in a way the other wasn’t, and the orc winced as it staggered around. How the creature didn’t collapse from the pain was astounding to the boy. Eventually, the creature turned back to glare at Welf.

“Are you Rukh’s friend then boy? Is the man thing a little friend of Rukh’s? A mate eh? What is his name, little man?” it asked insidiously, lips mimicking a human smile poorly. Every expression the orc tried to make was a mockery of a real emotion; every smile an involuntary sneer, every grown a scowl laden with implied violence. T was hard to look at the hateful thing he had unleashed. But he forced himself to once again meet Rukh’s feline eyes.

“I am Welf, son of Hrodir.”

“I don’t care what your father’s called!” it snapped, making Welf flinch. “Angband’s pits, you’re a wet one!” Rukh added, scratching his blotchy cheek absent-mindedly.

“I can get you food. More wolf, some fowl...” Welf added.

Rukh didn’t answer immediately. Instead, he sat down, and ripped some leather scraps from his armour. Rukh then snapped the lever stick in half, and held it to his leg. There was a crunch, as he reset something loose in his leg, before he bound the half-stick to his lame limb.

“I’m sick of eating warg. I’d wager the mangy thing is poison. I want man food. Get me chicken; we’ll eat chicken.”

Welf bit his lip nervously. This was the most he’d talked to another living thing is years, and it was an orc. He’d dreamt of talking to someone before, but never this. This was torture, not knowing whether he’d be killed and eaten, or whether he was forming an alliance. Knowing his luck, it was both.

“I can get a forest fowl?”

The orc spat, cursing in orcish. “No meat on the bones; like you. I need something plump and soft, and supple to tear,” Rukh grinned savagely.

“I... there’s a farm, on the border of the forest. I can get you chickens from there. Wait and I’ll... I’ll bring you some,” Welf decided finally.

“Will you now? What a friend you are, friend. What a loyal runt you are. I will come too.”

“No,” he said firmly, surprising himself. “No; you are crippled. The farmer would see you. I will go. I’m a runt aren’t I? I can sneak in and out. I promise to return.”

Rukh chuckled, the sound ugly and spiteful. However, he didn’t seem to disagree. Welf took this as a form of acceptance.

###

It was still dark when Welf stepped out from the trees, and crossed the field of swaying long grass, to reach the farmer’s roosts. It was the first time he had left the dubious safety of his woods in years, and still the sight of an uncovered evening sky made him nervous. He wanted to cower, to slink away beneath leafy canopies. But he needed to do this. Not for the orc, but for himself; he wouldn’t stay a prisoner of fear. He’d wanted to take a chicken from this farm for months, the orc’s presence seemed to steel his resolve.

He’d get the orc its meat, but then he’d leave it. Whatever good it did Welf, it was still a mistake to save the orc. Welf was a lot of things, but he couldn’t be like Rukh. The orc was twisted and broken. The beast wasn’t just wicked; it was as if it did such things in retaliation to the unending misery of its life. Even in his darkest moments, Welf had never felt such a depth of resentment, not even for the man who had taken his bitter old Pa from him.

He kicked away the bottom panel of the hen house; that was wide enough for his narrow little body to wriggle inside. He snatched the nearest chicken and rung its fat neck. Within moments, the house was full of flying feathers and frantic clucking and squawking. Welf stumbled backwards, instinctively throwing up his arms to ward against the frantic chickens that flapped all around him. So much for him being stealthy in this matter.

To hell with this, Welf decided as he made for the way he’d come in. So distracted by the chickens was he, that he didn’t see the fist which snapped his head back and sent him sprawling across the coop. A broad shouldered man stood over him, his thickly bearded face twisted with a shadow of the hate on Rukh’s features.

“Thieving little Dunland rat! I’ll not have poaching scum on my land. I’ll beat you bloody!” the man roared, as he lay into Welf with the haft of an axe. The man was a giant to Welf, and all the boy could do was curl into a ball as the blows rained down on him, again and again. This was it, this was death. Teeth sprayed across the floor, he felt his skin rupture and one of his eyes close. The blows began to bleed into one another, until Welf felt nothing but a continuous tide of impacts, breaking his body and his spirit.

The man was screaming as he stood over him with his axe handle, swinging it double-handedly into every unprotected flank or exposed eye socket. One of Welf’s eyes wept blood.

Then, the farmer fell, his shouting turning into a strangled gasp. As he fell, a black shadow rose from behind him, like a waking demon of Morgoth. Welf knew those glowing yellow eyes, and the blade which rose and fell over and over again, as the farmer weakly tried to fend off the frenzied attack. Rukh hacked off his fingers, chopped into his chest, opened his belly, and lacerated his face a dozen times. When he was done, he drove the scimitar, point first into the man’s face, and twisted.

Welf couldn’t speak, only look up at the simian monster which had inexplicably saved him. Rukh was drenched in blood, and not just the farmer’s. Feathers clung to the boots of the orc, as it panted with hateful satisfaction.

“Are you dead yet? I’ve seen worse; you’ll live,” the orc chuckled, hoisting Welf into a seated position, despite his whimpers.

“Not as stealthy as you hoped. Lucky day for us that I am,” Rukh began, snatching a live chicken in his grasp. “But you make for a good distraction. They never figured I’d be slinking in the dark.”

Rukh looked to the bird writhing in his grip, then back down to Welf. “There were chickens. A man of your word yes?”

Rukh took the fowl’s head in his jaws, and bit down, noisily crunching the skull. between his teeth.

“You’d be a terrible orc.”
Check out my debut fantasy novel from Fox Spirit Books, The Hobgoblin's Herald (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hobgoblins-Herald-R-Aston/dp/1910462047). If you've read it, please rate and review it on amazon; I'd be eternally grateful. The sequel, Eater of Names, is out in 2018, so watch this space.
User avatar
LordLucan
 
Posts: 3561
Joined: Thu Mar 03, 2011 9:05 pm

Return to Board index

Return to Other Fiction

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest