Dec 18, 2017 5:48 AM
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beka didn't choose the orf life, the orf life chose her
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Kat gets older. She can say a few words, now ("eat" and "Mama" and "bright" and "up" and "no!") and she likes playing in mud and chasing little Elves and other little orcs around. She tries to grab people's hair and has not been cured of this habit yet. With enough little orcs around and Kat no longer unambiguously "the baby" Beka has admitted to calling her Kat; her own name is still a secret. There are no other orfs with whom she might be confused.

She hits on Macalaurë. She no longer seems to expect it might ever work; she's a little wistful when she does it.

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There's a war on. He's an Elf. Stripping away all the other complications really just leaves it at that.

 

Maybe there won't be a war on forever. But at present the Elves are outclassed, and know it; they enchant armor and refine songs and grow abundant food under the new lights, silver and gold, and make no plans for an assault on Angband. When it comes to the war they have outgrown their optimism. 

 

They take good care of the orc kids. They tell them never ever to swear things, never ever to swear anything, no matter who tells you to, no matter what they threaten you with. Death can be fixed, they tell them. Oaths can't. 

 

They make contact with the hidden kingdom. Elu Thingol is a disagreeable and reactionary sort of fellow but Maitimo expects they'll get along fine. 

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Beka reinforces what the Elves tell the kids about oaths. She does not tell them that death can be fixed, though.

She visits her siblings. They continue to wish to kill all Elves but as long as they're tied up they just chat with each other and her.

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Elves continue to not particularly want to kill any orcs, but to do so very efficiently if they run across them scouting. They make progress on a 'generic' orc song that excepts Elves. He sings Kat silly lullabies.

 

 

And one day there's an army on the horizon, not the kind that will only do psychological damage. Two Balrogs.

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- anybody she recognizes -

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There's at least eighty thousand of them.

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- her other twelve siblings look like this and her parents like that and her friends like so if anybody has a chance to check and choose nonlethals. If they get a chance. Balrogs can shapeshift, if there's two there might be more, hiding.

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They don't really anticipate having much of a chance to play nicer, this is going to be a close enough fight if they're trying. They'll be on the lookout for Balrog shapeshifters. 

 

Elves scurry to the walls. The army charges.

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Beka holds Kat and hides with the noncombatants.

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And the fighting starts. Elves fire arrows and ten thousand orcs die before they reach the walls. Somebody cries out that they think they might have seen a shapeshifter over there. Two songs war on the topic of whether the walls should stand. A Balrog charges against the walls, retreats injured, charges again to cover for some orcs slipping through. There's screaming. There's roaring. There are periods of long, tedious quiet for the hiding civilians.

 

And then the door to Beka's siblings' prison flies open and a dying orc staggers in, cuts them loose - 

Kill as many as you can, a voice in their heads orders them -

 

And someone else sends Beka an exquisitely detailed memory.

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She is six years old and shuffling her way to her parents because if they don't sand off a layer of her skin and wax her hair off and do that thing to her toenails and tie narrow biting strings tight-tight-tight around her arms and legs and thrash her all up and down her back, she might turn into an Elf, and then they wouldn't love her any more. And because it's worse if she doesn't go. But the memory shows her from outside, looking up and seeing not her mama and papa but some orc she doesn't know, not yet at age six. He doesn't introduce himself before he backhands her in the face, doesn't let her catch herself before he kicks her in the ribs, doesn't let her get up, and once he's gotten going he doesn't let her stop screaming until he's trying to get her to talk.

She didn't remember what she said, just remembered mumbling mimicked syllables around the taste of blood, wondering if her hands were really going to fall off, if her ears had already done it -

The memory is crystal clear, looking down at herself from his eyes - "Say it."

Sobbing, whimpering -

"You're not going anywhere till you say it, little halfbreed bitch, I can do this for years -"

"I promise -"

"Swear."

"I, I -"

"I - swear - never - to - aid - an - Elf -"

"I won't -"

"Swear."

"- I swear -"

And the view of the memory leaves the child on the floor where he dropped her.

 

This qualifies as communication from Angband and reporting it constitutes helping Elves and she wishes she were home in Angband, burning bleeding breaking, it would be better than -

(She drops Kat. "Mama, Mama," says Kat, and Beka hardly notices.)

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- someone help, someone else among the noncombatants shouts, and he takes their eyes -

 

- someone else should help, he is not uniquely qualified and presently engaged in winning a musical argument over the status of these walls, but the music flies out of his head and he's halfway there before he's done noting it's not really his comparative advantage. 

 

Beka is writhing and screaming on the ground.

- he should not let her activate the escape clause while she's free, he doesn't know her orders, he knows she's been picking up all the songs she can - he pulls her off Kat and picks up the baby and tells the others to go into the storeroom downstairs, they've breached the walls, there's not enough air there but it's momentarily safer - 

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Beka doesn't notice Macalaurë there either. She is out of air to scream and is just openmouthed in gray-pallor agony, features twisting with it, she did not turn into an Elf so her parents wouldn't love her anymore after all -

 

The sister who calls Beka Flowers, who calls Kat seedling, who Beka calls Snowflake, steps into view - sees a paralyzed uninjured orf on the ground and an Elf holding Kat who clings to his clothes -

- freezes -

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- but has orders, presumably - 

 

- he shifts Kat so he can draw his weapon again -

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- Snowflake's eyes dart from him to Kat to Beka, and her ankles tremble, but nothing else moves.

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someone get here right now -

 

The door flies open and someone cuts the orc down from behind and he turns Kat so she doesn't see it - I'm sorry, he says to Snowflake, I'm sorry, the Elf gods don't - really - torture people - "I swear that's true and I'd know -"

- the guard looks at him, confused -

"- you might need to restrain Beka," he snaps at her. "Beka, Beka, tell me you surrender, that's it, it'll end - tell me -"

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- Beka's a million miles away, impossibly compelled and crushed under it. She twitches, maybe, that's all.

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" - I accept that as surrender?" he says in case that counts. It doesn't. 

 

He hands off Kat.

 

He draws his knife.

His fingernails dig into her shoulder and he slits her throat and he sits there unmoving until long after the fighting has ended.

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"Mama," says Kat. "Mama, Mama, Mama, Mama."

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"It's her bedtime," he says inanely after a while.

 

 

The Elf who is holding her starts singing her to sleep.

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"NO," hollers Kat. "MAMA."

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"She's dead, Kat, she's dead."

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"MAMA MAMA MAMA MAMA MAMA."

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He starts singing her the sleep song.

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"Up."

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