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Tales of the Telcontars (PG-13) Print

Written by Susana

19 September 2011 | 56124 words | Work in Progress

Title: Ecthelion in the Orc’s Den
Series: DH AU
Author: Susana
Feedback: Please use the form below
Warning: AU
Disclaimer: All characters and everything else belong to Tolkien.
Summary: Once upon a time, Ecthelion (Theli) made friends with an orc. Sort of.
Beta: Thanks to Emma and Kaylee for reading this story over, and letting me borrow their Greenwood OC’s, including Linwe, Fileg, and Nestorion. Thanks to Beth for inspiring me to return to this story. Hope you like this story of an elf forming a tentative, temporary friendship of sorts with an orc!

A/N: The main story is set sometime after 1400 T.A. and before the Watchful Peace begins in T.A. 2053, the prologue is set a couple of weeks after Frodo Baggins Day in Fourth Age Year 16. As background, Theli (Ecthelion) is a healer and soldier elf in the service of King Thranduil of the Greenwood. He also appears in, “Cold Watch,” 28501; “It’s not you, it’s me,” 29470; and “Aid from an Unexpected Quarter,” 30570.


Ecthelion in the Orc Den

Prologue, the Long Gallery in the King’s House of Minas Tirith

Faramir’s middle daughter Mithiriel leaned forward, her striking gray-green eyes sparkling with interest, “Uncle Legolas says that you once befriended an orc, cousin Theli. Is that true?” Mithiriel was eleven years old, and fascinated by history, and stories of all kinds.

Eight year old Haleth stopped her game of helping Gilwen to arrange the toy soldiers in Amroth’s army, to listen. Princess Gilwen sighed, but followed her slightly older niece playmate.

Ecthelion, called Theli, adjusted the sling on his arm as he answered, “Yes, that’s true… well, sort’ve true. It wasn’t so much that I befriended an orc, as that I once had a moment of mutual-not-wanting-to-kill-oneanother-for-a-little-while, with an orc.”

Faramir looked up from his chess game with his father, “That’s still an impressive feat of diplomacy, in and of itself. How did it come about, Theli?” he asked, his gray eyes gleaming in a way that made the resemblance between he and Mithiriel quite plain.

Aragorn sighed, and teased, “You are losing, ion-nin, and so you are easily distracted.”

“Not true.” Legolas disagreed with an impish grin, pointing to a trap that Elrohir had recently taught to him and Faramir, which Faramir had properly laid so that it would soon lead to the inevitable capture of Aragorn’s King.

“Ah.” Aragorn commented as he tipped the piece with a chuckle. Gray eyes shining with fatherly pride, he reached out a fond hand to gently squeeze Faramir’s shoulder, “Well-done, ion-nin. Even if I suspect Uncle Elrohir has once again been teaching you tricks from Eldacar’s court at the beginning of the Third Age.”

Faramir smiled shyly back at his father, but Aragorn could tell that he still wanted his elven friend to tell the story of befriending an orc. Faramir had a softness for hopeless causes that bewildered and worried his father, at times. And it seemed likely to Aragorn that his younger granddaughters Mithiriel and Haleth, at the least, had inherited that characteristic.

Elrohir grinned, proud of his pupil, and Elladan rolled his eyes, before leaning forward to eye Theli with concern. “If the sling is uncomfortable, Theli, I can adjust it for you.” As a courtesy to his fellow healer, Elladan did not mention that it was still too soon after the injury to dispense with the sling except during sleep.

Elrohir and Legolas exchanged bewildered glances, before Elrohir remembered, “Ah, yes. The antagonism between the two of you was all an act the last few centuries.” Elrohir gave his twin a lightly reproving glare, still bothered by how Elladan-and Melpomaen- had kept their dangerous trips for Gandalf a secret for so many years.

Elladan gave Elrohir an apologetic look, and Theli disagreed, “It was more… a friendly rivalry, than antagonism, really…”

“Oh, no.” Elladan disagreed cheerfully, “I loathed you for yeni. Since not long after I first came of age, until when you patched me up under fire in Mordor, that first time.”

Conversation stopped. Aragorn coughed uncomfortably, and reprimanded, “Elladan, muindor, one does not generally confess to having previously loathed others, particularly if one is now friends with them.”

“At least not without first consuming copious amounts of alcohol.” Melpomaen joked lightly, giving Theli an apologetic look. Melpomaen had spent the better part of his lifetime apologizing for Elladan’s unwavering bluntness in social situations.

Theli laughed, “It’s all right. I more or less knew that I wasn’t your favorite elf, Elladan, when you took the time to write to my supervisor, Master Healer Nestorion, from Imladris to make sure he knew that you hadn’t seen my abominable handwriting in over a hundred years, and to ask why I had been excused from inventorying and correspondence duties with Imladris’ healers?”

Scandalized, Arwen laughed disbelievingly, “Elladan, you didn’t!”

“Oh, of course I did, muinthel.” Elladan disagreed, still cheerful as he explained, “And anyone would have, in my position. Here I was, trying to make of myself a healer, son of a famous healer, and what young elf does my father always praise? Not me… though to be fair, he frequently told me that he took pride in me, as well. But still, Adar was always, ‘Theli this,’ and ‘Theli that,’ and ‘I’ve never seen any apprentice learn this stitch as fast as Theli did during the War of the Last Alliance, and under fire, too.’”

“Please,” Elrohir begged, “I’ve heard this rant ad nauseam. Do take him up on his offer to adjust your sling, cousin Theli, and so spare me from enduring it again.”

Theli laughed, and accepted, and as Elladan fixed his former comrade’s sling, Legolas asked with interest, “What did Master Nestorion think of that, Theli?”

Theli chuckled again, “Well, Master Healer Nestorion thought that I should have known better, and I ended up with a number of ‘turns’ at inventorying supplies and corresponding about trades of different medicinal herbs with Elladan, which probably punished Elladan at least as much as me.”

“Undoubtedly.” Elladan agreed with a rueful grin, “Your handwriting was truly abominable, though it’s improved somewhat of late.”

Legolas, seated beside Aragorn, leaned forward, intrigued, “Is that why you always ended up inventorying weapons and military supplies, when our Captain was annoyed with you but couldn’t quite prove that you’d done something wrong?”

“I suspect so,” Theli agreed, smiling ruefully, “But you can ask Linwe yourself when we join him and your Adar in Ithilien-en-Edhil, next week.”

Legolas grinned, “I’m more likely to ask them if they know about how you patched Elladan up under fire in Mordor, the first time.”

Gimli rolled his eyes, and took Legolas’ goblet. “No more ale for you, not if you’re taking to blackmailing your friends again, my lad.”

“Aww,” Legolas mock whined, “What’s a little blackmail between friends?”

“A better question,” Faramir joked in turn, “Is what Gimli has to hide that Legolas knows of, that our dear Lord of Aglarond would bestir himself from his pipe.”

Aragorn complained that Faramir always took Legolas’ part, and the twins complained that Faramir only rarely did so, and was usually Aragorn’s confederate.

Meanwhile, Theli’s gaze had gone far away, thinking of a real blackmailer, long, long ago, and his sad fate. Elladan snapped his fingers in front of Theli’s eyes to recall him. Blinking, Theli forced himself back into the conversation, teasing Legolas in kind, “Ai, my prince, that is simply unfair. Particularly as I recall a certain elfling who once asked me for healing supplies, and lessons in how to use them.”

Aragorn smiled, and Gimli chortled, “That would have been when you were secretly befriending humans when you were supposed to be camping with your foster-brother, eh, Legolas?”

Legolas blushed, “Aye, Gimli, it was. But Adar knows all about it, anyway.”

“From Elrohir.” Theli pointed out, “Not from me.”

“To be fair,” Melpomaen pointed out softly, “You and I were both unconscious at the time, Theli. And it was a good thing that Legolas had given his human friends such lessons.”

“Aye,” Theli agreed, with a soft look for his Prince, “You were always one of the most apt of pupils, Las-nin, even though you did not aspire to become a healer proper.”

“You were always a good teacher.” Legolas replied, voice just as fond, and lips quirking into an irreverent grin as he corrected, “Provided that the subjects were healing or soldiery, at least. Beyond that, I had to learn to take what you said with a grain of salt.”

“Something cousin Thranduil’s children undoubtedly had a great deal of practice at.” Elladan pointed out.

Legolas started to take offense, and then realized, “Oh, dear. Did Adar once help you with your history homework, too?”

Elrohir laughed, “Aye, he did. ‘The Noldor left Aman because they were bored, and because they needed more elves to look down on. Also, they’d heard that the forests in Beleriand were much nicer.’”

Elladan continued, doing an impressive job of mimicking Thranduil in the process of simplifying something that he thought the rest of the world made needlessly complicated, “‘Be careful not to become too learned, young Elrondion. Too much learning warps an elf’s mind, and makes him do mad things like go off and make unspeakably lovely and horrific jewelry, just because his half-niece didn’t like him. When frankly, I don’t think she’s ever liked anyone. Except maybe cousin Celeborn, and your naneth.’”

Mithiriel’s mouth dropped in horror, “Cousin Thranduil didn’t really say that, did he?”

“Oh, yes.” Melpomaen assured his young student fondly, “My own Adar Erestor, who was my gwedyr’s main tutor, was less than impressed.” Melpomaen gave the twins a look of fond admonishment, “Adar rather felt that they should have been doing their own research, instead of just asking Aran Thranduil.”

Relieved that the subject of the conversation had moved beyond befriending orcs, Aragorn was about to retire for the evening when Mithiriel shook her lovely red-gold curls, and asked, “So cousin Thranduil shares cousin Theli’s distaste for history, but did he also make friends with yrch?”

“No,” Theli answered, with a smile for Mithiriel, who had been helping him with his own reading, “Our Aran was bemusedly appalled by my explanation of that little adventure, if I recall.”

“He said that he was glad you’d survived, mostly. At least that is what he always says when he tells the story of ‘Ecthelion in the Orc Den,’” Legolas corrected, “And he’s also said that you’re to call him by name, as you are our kin, however distant.”

“Old habits.” Theli said, with a shrug, looking ready to elaborate on how he had once, for a moment, shared a moment with an orc where they mutually did not want to kill one another.

Hoping to forestall that story (his children didn’t need more ideas, nor his grandchildren either) Aragorn interrupted kindly, “It will grow easier, in time. Faramir almost always remembers to refer to me as ‘Adar,’ now, or Aragorn if I’ve vexed him. I am only ‘my King,’ when council is in session, or when he thinks I’m behaving as an absolute idiot.”

Blushing, Faramir began to protest, “Adar, I would never…” then, eyes narrowing, Faramir realized why it might be that his Adar had felt motivated to bring that up, now, as a distraction. In part because he, too, wanted to hear the story of Theli and the orc, and partly because he didn’t like to be out-maneuvered even by his beloved father, Faramir smiled at Theli, and asked, “So, about your treaty with an orc?”

Lips quirking into a smile as Aragorn sighed, Theli recalled his first meeting with Faramir, and how he’d always known that he was in trouble with his friend the King when Thranduil called him “Ecthelion.” Something that was still true even today with his elder cousin the King. Thinking of that, and his attempts to be less of a trial- what he thought of as ‘less-Elladan-like,’ in polite company, Theli offered, “It is not too violent of a story, but if Aragorn would prefer that I not…”

Sighing, and casting a fond if exasperated look in Faramir’s and Mithiriel’s general direction, Aragorn replied, “No, go ahead. At least Arwen and I are here to engage in damage control, if needed.”

“And Gimli and I, and Elrohir and Elladan.” Legolas pointed out, adding, “And Faramir.”

“Hmm.” Aragorn murmured, grinning, “I meant what I said, tithen gwador. Although I should add, ‘And Gimli,’ perhaps.”

As Legolas made a face, and Gimli chuckled merrily, Theli began his tale.

Greenwood, some miles south of the King’s Hall, in the Third Age but before the Watchful Peace, as a storm raged, and an elven patrol engaged in a skirmish with a band of particularly fierce orcs

Lieutenant Ecthelion blinked away rain water as he fired arrow after arrow at the approaching orcs. Theli hated orcs with a passion. Had, ever since he first saw the ruins of a Nandorin village they’d left behind them, when he was still an elfling. The War of the Last Alliance had made him hate orcs more. Oh, he wasn’t fond of Easterlings, or the men of Harad, or any of the Enemy’s other humans. But humans, even those who served the Enemy, had cried for their mothers when they lay wounded and dying on the field. Had most often thanked the Allied healers who came to tend them, before sending them home as prisoners.

Not the orcs. They had tried to kill healers, just for offering a kindness. So Theli, and the other soldiers and healers, had learned to just kill the orcs.

And these orcs seemed to really want to die. Captain Linwe’s unit had actually been heading back towards the Hall. After all, even as fierce and experienced a Captain as Linwe would not keep his elves afield in this type of storm. This band of orcs could have traveled in peace this night, had they not chosen to attack Linwe’s unit. As the trees lashed back and forth in the wailing wind, Theli drew his sword and yelled in the harsh consonants of Mordor that all of the orcs had been bred of human stock, and were fit only to be snaga, or laborers. It was the one insult that had never failed to infuriate orcs, and make them come after him, in Theli’s experience.

It worked again, and several of the orcs broke rank to rush after him and his fellows. Lieutenant Teliemir and his elves, who were further to the rear and still had the distance for bows to be effective, shot the charging orcs neatly. Then a few were through the arrow fire, and Theli was longing for all of the days when he’d just had to fight orcs during a normal pitch-dark night, without driving rain and hail.

Still, during the occasional flashes of lighting, Theli could tell that the elves were winning the engagement. The orcs broke, and ran. After almost two thousand years, Theli was too seasoned a soldier to relax, but he was also a dedicated healer. He noticed that one of their youngest soldiers was down, and was turning to check on the youngling when a fleeing orc knocked into him.

Cursing himself for his moment of inattention, Theli stepped back. The ground behind him gave way, and he slid down, down into the rushing water of the Enchanted Stream. Which, given the rain, was more of a river today than a stream. As light as Theli’s armor was, it was enough to drag him down, and make swimming difficult. By the time Theli finally pulled himself out of the water, he was so far downstream that he couldn’t hear the call of his fellow soldiers. As the storm got worse, the hail becoming the size of his fist, Theli decided that he had no choice but to seek shelter, and try to make his own way back to the Hall, later.

By the time he found the cave, he’d been stumbling along in the lightning-lit darkness in growing pain for nearly an hour. Walking beside the stream, becoming increasingly concerned that the hail which had left bruises over most of his body would hit his head, and also aware of a long cut he’d taken to his back, somehow through his armor, Theli was in no mood to be picky about his shelter. He just collapsed, and didn’t truly become aware of his surroundings again until a pale, miserable new day dawned, just as full of accursed rain and hail as the previous evening.

That was when he realized he’d been sharing his cave with an orc. A relatively young-looking one, and a snaga rather than a soldier-caste orc, but an orc nonetheless.

Theli stared at the orc, hate and shock equal in his gaze.

The orc stared at Theli, whom she had last seen yelling insults and wielding his blade against the soldier-orcs who had kidnapped her and her fellows from their clan, and taken them as slaves. The orc didn’t hate Theli more than any particular elf just for killing the soldier-orcs she’d been serving, but she hated all elves, as she should. And she wanted to kill him.

Theli very much wanted to kill the orc, too. But when he reached for his sword, he realized that 1) he had somehow lost of all his weapons save the knife in his boot-sheath; 2) he was quite possibly too sore to fight an orc successfully, even this pitiful looking orc; 3) he really just wanted to go back to sleep; and 4) the orc wasn’t armed, either (other than it’s sharp claws and teeth), and it had even stopped growling.

“Fine.” Theli told the orc, “I won’t kill you, and you won’t kill me, at least not until the rain and hail stops. Then we’ll take it from there.”

The orc snarled, and then growled again, and Theli wished, for the first time in his life, that his knowledge of the orcs’ language extended beyond insults. But Theli was nothing if not persistent, so he tried, “Elf… not dead… orc, not dead.” The orc seemed to accept that, as her eyes closed. Theli watched her for another few minutes that seemed like an hour to him, in his pained and weakened state. Then, reflecting that every elf who’d ever gone to the trouble of teaching him a soldier’s trade would be bitterly disappointed in him, he went to sleep, too.

Theli awoke as the pale, paltry light of evening was dimming. Since it was still raining and hailing, the orc was still curled into a miserable ball as far away from Theli as she could be and still stay dry, and he was feeling somewhat better, Theli hastened to build a fire from damp drift wood and fire-starting materials that he carried in his belt pouch. Taking out a collapsible metal cup, Theli crawled stiffly to the stream, filling the cup and soaking himself, and also learning that he’d done something very painful to his left ankle, the previous night.

Boiling the water in his cup, Theli painstakingly washed his hands and his wounds, even though he had to take several more trips back to the stream to gather soap-root and refill the cup. The orc awoke at some point during this lengthy process. It didn’t move, beyond to sit up, and watch Theli, like maybe he’d hit his head.

Theli had to laugh. “I’m not crazy.” He told the orc, “I’m a healer. I’d translate that into orc, but then you might try to eat me like the last orc I told I was a healer, so I’m not going to bother.”

The rain continued, and Theli and the orc watched eachother uneasily for several hours. Then Theli fell asleep again, a bit worried that he hadn’t been able to properly reach the long cut on his back, to treat it. Remembering the last time he’d taken a similar injury, when he’d been an accidental runaway during the War of the Last Alliance, Theli dreamed he was back in Mordor with the army, and that an orc was eating him. It’s hot teeth burned, and Theli awoke, gasping and reaching for his knife.

The orc hissed, and Theli realized that it must have fetched more wood, and built up the fire. He also realized that he was running a fever, which might explain why he felt bad for frightening the orc after it had assured that the fire would not go cold during the night.

“Here,” he said, in his softest, elfling-soothing, talking-his-King-into-taking-medicine voice, “Come over, and I’ll wash that cut on your arm.”

The orc eyed him warily, but maybe it was bored, too, because after an hour or so of Theli coaxing it in Sindarin, and promising not to ‘dead’ it in orc-language, the orc warily approached him.

Theli washed his hands again, and then cleaned a cut on his own leg, making an ouch noise, but showing her how much better it looked than the cut on her arm.

The orc considered that, and then when Theli reached out to clean the wound on her arm, she permitted it. She hissed and then and snarled and growled at the sting of the soaproot, and Theli was afraid that she was going to attack him with her sharp teeth and claws. But she didn’t, she just retreated to her own corner of the cave as soon as Theli had washed out the makeshift antiseptic.

He fell back asleep after that, only to wake to a third dawn of hail and rain. Cursing inventively, Theli tried to find a less uncomfortable position, while still keeping an eye on the cave entrance and the orc. Granted, she was asleep again and seemed disinclined to bother him, but still. With a sigh, Theli gave up. His back hurt too much to lean against the cave wall, and there was no way to lean a shoulder against the stone and still keep an eye on orc and exit.

After a few hours of discomfort punctuated by the increasingly close rush of the stream, the orc awoke, and began rustling around. After awhile, she cautiously approached Theli, showing him first the healing cut on her arm, and then a deeper, suppurating cut on her thigh, that Theli had not seen before.

“Oh,” He commented, some sympathy in his voice, because he was after all a healer, “Yes, I can help you with that. It’s going to hurt worse, though.”

She snarled and hissed, but this time it sounded like assent, not a threat.

“Ok,” Theli said, taking out his cup, “I need you to go get wood for the fire. We have to boil the water, because otherwise it could just make things worse.” The orc looked out at the hail, which if anything now resembled cannon balls rather than an elf’s fist, at least in terms of size.

“Yeah,” Theli observed with sympathy, “But there’s some wood caught in the rising water.” He pointed to it, explaining, “I can make it burn, at least long enough to boil water, but if we don’t boil the water, we might as well not bother.”

The orc looked at the fallen branches, and then back at Theli, and hissed again, before saying something in the guttural language of the orcs.

Theli caught the word for ‘dead,’ but not much else. ‘Dead’ was a popular word, in spoken orc, he reflected. Summoning his ingenuity, and reflecting that he was definitely delirious if he was trying to explain proper healing protocol to an orc, Theli began in orc-language, ‘No fire… means water in hurt make dead. Make dead, like… elf-made orc make human-made orc dead.”

This orc, which probably was a snaga, or a laborer-class orc that the other orcs thought had been bred from humans, growled at that.

Theli shrugged. If the orc didn’t kill him, the fever might. “No fire, water make dead.” He insisted.

The orc hissed, but again, it sounded like assent. Soon enough, the orc had brought wood, and Theli had boiled water to wash her wound.

Carefully taking out the thread and needle that he carried in his belt pouch, Theli began stitching the now-cleaned wound, which had started bleeding profusely. Theli explained as he did so, “this will keep the blood in, and hopefully the infection out. Uh,” switching to orc, Theli tried, “Hurt… make not dead.”

The orc corrected, “Not die… if elf make pain with small knife.”

Bemused, Theli repeated that. Then, mostly for his own amusement, he taught the orc to say, “The Enemy licks his own balls” in Sindarin.

When night fell again, Theli and the orc both stayed nearer to the fire, which the orc kept going out to get wood to feed. The orc also caught a few fish, and shared one with Theli.

When the next day dawned, Theli thought that the hail had finally stopped, but it wasn’t as much of an improvement as Theli had hoped for. He now felt quite hot, and was seeing two orcs, and also a bright, pink, bird. Two orcs was not impossible, but he’d likely already be dead or at least tied up and in more pain, and besides, no bird Theli had ever seen looked like that, so he knew for certain that he was hallucinating.

At one point, as the hallucinatory pink bird flapped around the cave, the orc growled at him, and unraveled part of his tunic, miming sewing. At that point, Theli decided that the orc was right, it would be stupid to die just because he couldn’t reach the wound on his back. So he told the orc to boil water, put the thread and the needle into the water, made the orc wash it’s – or rather, her, he’d decided – hands. Theli threaded the needle for the orc, and explained again how he’d stitched the wound on her leg. Then Theli took off his tunic and undershirt, fought every instinct he had as an elf and a soldier, and turned his back on the orc.

The entire time the orc was washing and then stitching his wound shut, Theli had to fight against the prejudice, against the weak feeling of something terribly wrong. The orc was the most ham-handed ‘healer’ Theli had ever had plunge a needle and thread into him, and that included one of Prince Imrazor’s pirates who’d accidentally cut Theli when a disagreement over a game of dice went wrong. But she managed to wash the wound, and close it. And when Theli woke again, the hail had restarted, but he felt better enough to sit up, and eat some fish. He even felt curious, as well as grateful. So Theli asked the orc, still seated nearby, just on the other side of the fire, “What is your name? I’m Theli.”

As Theli spoke, he patted his chest, identifying himself. They’d done the same charades earlier, patting an object to indicate it, as they exchanged orcish and Sindarin words for fish, cup, and fire. The orc snarled.

Theli paused. It wasn’t the “I’m about to bite you or knife you” snarl, of a few days ago. It still didn’t sound friendly, more assertive. But it wasn’t actively hostile.

He thought for a moment… maybe that sound was her name? So Theli made the snarling noise back at her, and she winced, but nodded.

Theli explained, “That’s called a snarl. He snarled the word, and the orc seemed amused rather than pained. So Theli decided to call her Snarl.

Theli fell back asleep to the sound of the hail falling into the increasingly swollen stream. He hoped that the hail growing smaller in size meant that the storm was finally blowing itself out. He and the orc had spent several minutes discussing how to tell when it would be too dangerous to stay in the cave due to the rising water, which had led to the interesting revelation that the orc seemed to fear running water. Theli found that odd, as she didn’t mind fishing from it. But apparently, orcs, like elves, will do things that they fear in order to stay alive.

He woke up to a strange sound. After a few moments, Theli realized with a shock that the orc was crying, as she held her necklace of black beads in one hand, and rocked gently back and forth. Theli’s eyes widened, and he thought that this must be the strangest moment in the entire strange adventure. He was utterly overwhelmed. Theli didn’t know what to do when ellith cried, let alone female orcs.

After a few more minutes, Theli realized that the orc’s necklace wasn’t made out of black beads… it was made out of black seed pods. Like those he’d seen, long ago with the army, marching through Mordor. And nowhere else. Based on that, and the surety at this point that Snarl was a snaga, Theli figured out that Snarl hadn’t been with the orc his patrol had killed of her own free choice, that she’d been taken from her own people by the fierce orcs they’d been fighting, and been brought all the way here as their slave.

Crawling towards her, Theli took a branch, and began to draw a map in the dirt floor of the cave. He then explained to Snarl, carefully and repetitively, drawing and re-drawing maps on the ground, how she could get home. That time, Theli fell asleep next to Snarl.

During the night, the hail stopped, and Theli moved back to his own side of the fire. He considered leaving, as he didn’t know what would happen to their treaty now that the hail had stopped. But it was still raining heavily, and after the hail the past few days, it was possible that the spiders and wargs that infested the woods would be out hunting. Better, and safer, to wait until morning to leave.

Snarl had also been awakened by the cessation of noise. “Snarl not kill elf before light come.” She said, and Theli believed her. He was soldier enough to know to rest when he could.

The first light of morning came, and with it, the welcome sound of horns, including the King’s. Theli sighed with relief, and pulled himself to his feet, leaving the cave for the still soaking rain with a smile. But then a thought occurred to him, specifically what the King’s patrols were accustomed to doing to any orcs they found.

Theli turned to his erstwhile companion of the past few days, “Theli clan comes.” He warned her, recommending, “Snarl go back to Snarl’s clan-place.”

Snarl nodded, and fled the cave more quickly then Theli would have believed possible, headed in the direction of Mordor.

Just as Snarl was almost out of range, Second Lieutenant Thalion Aerandirion, the King’s foster-son, appeared from the trees. His dark eyes flashed in relief upon seeing Theli, but just as quickly he raised his bow, aiming at the retreating Snarl.

“Stop, ‘Lion!” Theli ordered.

Thalion obeyed, but turned to regard Theli with confused astonishment, “Theli. It’s an orc.” He pointed out, as two full patrols of elves appeared, all seeming relieved to find their missing fellow.

Theli, amidst happy greetings, explained to Thalion (who had to explain letting the orc get away), “She’s a young snaga, not a soldier-caste orc. She wasn’t trying to kill us, she was trying to get out of the way.”

General disbelief followed that statement, but Theli wasn’t really worried about that. Master Healer Nestorion had come with the patrol, and was currently occupied with checking over Theli with, in Theli’s opinion, overly-obsessive and attentive care to detail.

Despite Theli’s protests that he was well enough and that they should proceed back to the Hall, or at least about their other business, Master Nestorion insisted upon immediately taking a better look at the wound on Theli’s back, which he’d discovered in his gentle but thorough initial exam.

Aran Thranduil snorted in amusement, appearing to Theli’s eyes to be glad that Nestorion was bossing around a patient other than the Aran himself. Smiling, Thranduil told his soldiers to strike a temporary camp and build a fire so that Nestorion could examine Theli.

When Theli protested again, Thranduil told him firmly, “Ecthelion, mellon-nin, you will be the healers’ patient ,despite being a healer yourself, until Nestorion is entirely satisfied as to your good health.”

Then Thranduil left Theli in Nestorion’s hands, and turned to reassure his fosterling that Thalion was not a poor soldier for having let the fleeing orc go on the word of a senior officer who was possibly delirious.

Looking both amused and relieved, the Aran’s guard and cousin Lord Fileg informed Theli, “You’re probably better off with Nestorion, you know. Linwe wants a word with you, something about you starting to play healer before the enemies were gone.”

Theli sighed, but submitted to Nestorion’s ministrations with better grace. Captain Linwe was a stern and demanding commander, but he cared for all of the elves under his command. He wouldn’t be too harsh with an elf who was still healing. And besides, Theli could admit to himself that Linwe was right. Oh, the orc might have knocked him into the rushing stream anyway. But Theli had made a mistake, by starting to think like a healer when he should have still been thinking like a soldier. It was an occupational hazard of being Theli, but it was not one that Linwe had a great deal of patience for in his lieutenant.

Nestorion’s hands were infinitely careful, and his voice quietly regretful as he said, “Theli, the stitches in your back have done their job, barely, but I’m going to have take them out, clean the wound again, and re-stitch it. There’s still some infection.”

Theli winced, not looking forward to that much pain, but he agreed, “All right. Really, that was probably inevitable. The orc wouldn’t have even washed her hands before dealing with that cut, if I hadn’t made her.”

“The… orc, tended to your wound? Stitched it shut?” Thranduil asked incredulously, distracted from his conversation with his son.

“She was a young orc.” Theli said defensively. “She didn’t like me at all, at first, either. If she’d been strong enough the first night, she would have killed me.”

“She?” Asked Linwe, with mixed amusement and asperity.

“Snarl was a girl orc. There was just something that was somewhat delicate and feminine, about the way she curved her claws when she ate her fish.” Theli explained, trying and failing to demonstrate with his hand, until Nestorion smacked Theli’s bottom gently for moving whilst Nestorion was trying to treat Theli.

Thranduil shook his head, “Only you, Theli.”

Theli and the other elves went back to the Hall, and not much changed, at first. Theli still killed orc, though perhaps he did not go out of his way, or disobey orders as much, to kill more orc when they were already fleeing, and had not done anything particularly heinous during their last incursion into the Greenwood.

Snarl still killed elves. But she made it back to her home, and became famed amongst her clan for having done so. And she tended to injured orc whom she didn’t actively hate. And they survived. She also became more fierce, because orcs must as they grow, or they will be killed. Her adult name was Strangler. But she was most famous, as a healer. So famous that her clan listened to her, as they received many fine things and privileges from more powerful orc, those closer to their Master Sauron, for Strangler’s having healed the powerful. For Sauron did not often trouble to heal orcs, but Strangler would, if they paid her, or she saw some benefit in it.

And Strangler did not go out of her way to hurt or torture elves. She would if the Master ordered her clan to, or if she was serving a more powerful orc who asked it of her. But her early experience with the strange elf in the cave had left her with a lingering… confusion, in her hatred of elves.

And, some time later, it would matter a great deal that Strangler still had this confusion about elves. But that is another story.

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The following people read the story, enjoyed it, and would like to thank the author: Anna , Nerey Camille , Minx , delphae , missouri car insuran , LN Tora , ebbingnight , Tess , Tonia , Milagro , Nida , Fermin , Bianca , Harrison , Seth , Dwain , Leanna , Marsha , Elaine , Jeff , Mohammed , Florrie , Theresa , Jay , Adriana , Annmarie , Jamika , Cyrus , Kandy , Ginger , Lisa , Jestine , Sheree , Jesus , Tyrone , Ulrike , Kindra , Angelika , Kathrin , Barbra , Nicholas

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6 Comment(s)


NB: Comments span all chapters and may contain spoilers!

Oh these are wonderful. Eldarion is such an astute child :)

— Maria    14 October 2010, 02:28    #

A very interesting beginning. I look forward to reading more!

— Ria    14 October 2010, 04:05    #

I love these father-son moments, they’re so perfect and heartwarming.

— Anna    20 December 2010, 18:55    #

Just lovely!

— Linda    11 January 2011, 10:58    #

This is so lovely to read! It’s light and bright and makes me smile or chuckle during reading. Very enjoyable, I hope you update soon.

A.

— Aneyrin    2 February 2011, 16:56    #

Cute, cute, cute story.
Thank you for sharing it with us.

— lille mermeid    16 May 2011, 16:50    #

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