Disclaimer: Both of these great characters belong to JRRTolkien, who is probably turning in his grave, and calling down thunderbolts on my head because of what I've dared to do with them. It's only because I love them both so much………
Elrond pulled his cloak tighter about his ears as he fought to push forward against the driving rain but it was useless. Even the close woven Elven cloth was sodden and heavy, the folds clinging icily to his already frozen body.
"By Elbereth!" he cursed the night sky, "Can the heavens hold so much water?"
What had possessed him to come out here in the first place? Fool! Giving in to a yearning to wander alone in the Misty Mountains as he had in his younger days. Yes, the ring was destroyed but the foul creatures of Sauron and Saruman still roamed the land. And this storm? Where had it come from?
He squinted, trying to wipe the water from his face with a dripping hand. Was that a cave up ahead?
Inch by soaking inch he dragged himself towards the dark opening in the rain-drenched rock face, stumbling gratefully inside, and pushing back his saturated hood.
The relief to be out of the relentless rain was so great that it took a moment for him to realise that a fire burned in the cave, and he was not alone.
"Elf!" The voice hissed menacingly.
Elrond whirled, drawing his blade.
Laughter rumbled, and from the darkness beyond the flames a creature emerged.
"Orch!" Elrond expelled the word, as if it sickened him.
"Don't insult me!" He took half a step forward, and Elrond's eyes could see that here was indeed no ordinary Orc. "I am Uglúk, greatest of all the Uruk-Hai." He stood as tall as the Elf-Lord himself, his chest wide and shoulders broad. His body, straight and strong, glistened in the dark and his eyes shone, every inch of him a fearsome fighter.
Elrond hefted his sword, and cast his eyes back to the mouth of the cave, outside the rain pelted unceasingly.
"Yes," rasped his companion, "Tricky, is it not? Go back to face the storm, or fight me for the cave."
Elrond set his jaw, and narrowed his eyes.
The Uruk limped another half-step forward, his dark sabre glinting in the firelight. "That's right, Elf," he spat, "I am injured, but I can still take you down." He stood for a moment, assessing the other. The Elf was tall and strong, no sapling here but an experienced warrior. And in his grey eyes, no shadow of fear lurked.
He growled to himself. It was a bad situation. He might take the Elf, but not without further injury – damn the storm that had holed him up in this place! Lidding his eyes, he thought for a moment before speaking again. "There is a third choice."
Elrond lifted his chin suspiciously . "And why would I trust you?"
"Why would I trust you?" retorted the other. "Because we both of us wish to live to see the dawn."
Elrond lowered his sword slowly. "What oath can you swear me, that you will not break?"
Long and loud was the laugh of the Uruk-Hai. "None, Master Elf, for I serve no master, and bow before no gods."
The Elf stood waiting.
The Great Orc staggered forward another step. "It takes the greater courage to trust first," and he flung his blade, tumbling through the air, far out of the cave mouth into the dark, storm-tossed night.
Elrond's eyes widened with surprise, and the cave rumbled again with Orcish laughter.
"Come then," said the other, easing himself down beside the fire, "either attack me now, go back into the rain or join me. The choice is yours."
Slowly, and to his own amazement, Elrond set his sword against the cave wall, came forward and held out his hands to the fire. The heat was good.
After a few minutes he stood up and peeled off his sodden cloak, then settled himself down opposite the Uruk.
Uglúk smiled, his fanged teeth glinting in the red light. "So then, I have given you my name, have you the same courtesy for me?"
It was Elrond's turn to laugh, never in all his years having thought to hear the word 'courtesy' from one such as this.
"I am Elrond the Peredhil, Lord of Imladris."
"Master Elrond," his opponent savoured the name, "first among the Elf-Lords, I am honoured indeed." He shifted his position, and his breath hissed with pain.
"You have an injury."
"It is nothing."
"Will you let me look at it?"
The Orc leaned forward into the firelight, and gazed intently at his opponent. The face of the Elf was so beautiful, so perfect and somehow, so familiar.
He grunted an assent, and the Lord of Imladris moved to his side of the fire.
Elrond knelt down beside the Uruk. The injury was an arrow in the thigh, the haft broken off. Gently as he could he peeled back the cloth surrounding it, the wound was clotted and thick. He probed for the arrowhead, his companion's breath hissed but he made no other cry. Finding what he sought, Elrond drew a small knife from his belt. He glanced up at the Orc, who only smiled his terrible smile, then the Elf cut quickly and deep to release the arrow.
A snarl rose unbidden to the Uruk's throat, but it was quickly quelled. Casting aside the bloody arrowhead, Elrond anointed and deftly bound the wound, wrapping cloth firmly around the powerful thigh.
"Aaah!" Uglúk breathed easier, and nodded a grudging thanks to his unlikely guest.
"I am sorry," the Elf said, "I have nothing to give you for the pain."
"Ha!" returned the other. "I feel none."
"No," replied Elrond, an amused smile quirking his lips, "I do not suppose that you do."
"However," continued the other, "I do have a refreshing drink with me." He produced a flask, and offered it to the Elf-Lord.
Elrond took the flask and smelled it cautiously.
"Come now!" mocked the Orc, "I have just let you slice me up with your Elven knife, and you balk at a little drink?"
Stung, Elrond placed the flask to his mouth and took a deep swallow before handing it back.
Uglúk grinned, tipped back his head and took a long draught.
The heat of the Orcish brew burned its way downward to Elrond's belly, yet the warmth was not unpleasant, and he savoured its spreading slowly outwards to thaw his cold limbs.
The Orc had food laid out beside him, and he pushed it towards the Elf. Elrond looked at the unidentifiable strips of dried meat with disgust, but picked up a piece of thick crumbling cake with his long fingers.
"What is this?"
"Radak. The flour is ground from the roots of the plant."
The Elf-Lord broke it in two and examined it suspiciously, half an eye still on Uglúk. The Uruk watched him, amusement glinting in his greenish eyes. "You think I would poison you, Elf?" he reached forward and plucked one half of the sticky tack from the other's fingers and thrust it into his mouth.
Fastidiously, Elrond lifted the remaining piece and bit into it, his white teeth cleaving the soft food. It was spicy and surprisingly sweet, melting lusciously onto his tongue. He finished the rest of it quickly, delicately licking the last crumbs from each fingertip.
Elrond nodded, "Yes, delicious."
Uglúk grinned, showing his yellow teeth, "You did not expect it so?"
Elrond was forced to concede that he had not. He had always imagined Orc fare as heavy and tasteless.
"It will give strength for many days also."
And the Elf-Lord did indeed feel an energy surge in him, the cold now banished entirely.
The Uruk reached back to retrieve some more pine faggots, which he threw onto the fire, causing it to blaze up with a rush of sparks. He also drew a rough blanket out of his pack, brother to the one he lay on, and passed it over to the Elf with a grunt.
Elrond took it gratefully, and stood to peel off his wet clothes.
Uglúk watched with interest, his eyes hooded, noting the strong, lean frame and lithe, well-muscled limbs. One or two old scars marred the fair flesh.
"How many years have you, Elf-Lord?" he asked as Elrond sat back down, draping the heavy wool about his shoulders.
Elrond looked at him curiously, studying the dark, swart face with its deepset, slant eyes. "I was born in the First Age. Seven thousand, two hundred and forty-two times have I seen the seasons come and go upon the land."
The Uruk-Hai stared into the fire, his gaze distant. "It was but four short years ago that I was brought to my life, in the bowels of Orthanc, howling in pain and fear." He looked up, his mouth twisted, "And yet I also can remember the days of the First Age."
Elrond snatched his face round towards the other, a disbelieving scowl above his flashing eyes.
"Orcs are not born," continued Uglúk, "they have no mothers to suckle them, no fathers protect them, nor wives comfort. They are torn from the earth, fully formed in body and mind. No time need be wasted teaching them, they have no need to learn, all that they need to know is already here." He struck his heavy forehead with the heel of his hand. "Within an hour of his awakening an Orc is ready to run, to fight, to hate….to kill. He is thrust into the pack, to bite and claw his way among his fellows, or die trampled beneath their feet. But deep inside, the memories of all who have gone before lie, like a dark pool. Those Snaga, the weakling slaves, never look there – they dare not!" His great chest, the blue-black skin shining in the firelight, rose and fell with each breath.
"When Saruman created us, the Fighting Uruk-Hai, he gave us the blood of Men that we might know no fear in battle, and have pride and strength in body, that we might be clever and adaptable. But he miscalculated, for he gave us also other things – the ability to learn, the desire to learn, and the courage to look back.
"Back, into that lake of memories. Back down the many generations of death and despoilment, back through degradation and torment." His voice dropped to a rough whisper, "Back to when we were Elves still."
A bitter sneer distorted his mouth as he turned his gaze slowly towards the Elf-Lord beside him.
Elrond could not draw his eyes away from the Uruk, a storm of emotions tore through him – horror, disgust, anger, and pity."
"To make an Orc from an Elf, one need add nothing," the speaker continued, "It is sufficient to subtract. Take away the compassion, the love of beauty, pride, joy, bravery, loyalty. And what is left?"
He turned away again, "Look into yourself Master Elrond, into your dark places, and you will see the answer……..fear, cruelty, hate, weakness, and despite." The Uruk lifted his great head towards the roof of the cave, snarling, "I should never have lived so long. I see the world, I look inside myself, and I am in despair. I am an unnatural creature, made only for war and destruction, and in all the lands under the sun there is no place for me."
Unable to help himself Elrond leaned over to touch the Uruk's thick forearm. His fine fingers stood pale against the dark skin.
Uglúk looked round to meet the eyes of the Elf.
In one face, everything of beauty, of lightness, of joy, the eyes full with the wisdom of many years.
The other, born in darkness, knowing but pain and hate, the torment of a few brutal years his only life knowledge.
And yet, as Elrond looked on that face, that ruined mockery of Elven beauty, it seemed to him that from the depths of those embittered eyes, amid the awful fatalism, there shone an unexpected nobility.
Fixated, he felt himself powerless as never before. Slowly, almost without realising, he lifted a hand and traced his fingers over the dreadful features. The broad, high forehead, the heavy brow, the hewn cheekbones, and the baleful mouth.
Uglúk growled low in his throat, but the sound was one of pleasure.
Moving closer, the Elf-Lord took the great head between both of his hands. Fascinated, he ran his fingertips over it, lightly stroking the eyes, touching the strangely familiar ears, and pushing his fingers through the dark, neglected hair. His breath quickened, eyes dilated. Some part of him cried out with reason, but he pushed it aside.
The Uruk groaned aloud, and reaching out his strong arms, wrapped them around the Elf and pulled him close.
For a long moment they stayed thus, eye to eye, body to body. Each searching the depths of the other, the opposite, the antithesis to himself. Then Uglúk raised a hand, his fingers solid but gentle, and touched Elrond's elegant face.
"So beautiful," he crooned, stroking the long dark hair away from the Elf-Lord's face, and down his naked back.
Elrond gave a deep moan, eyes closing, his sculptured lips parting with pleasure, and Uglúk bent forward to steal a taste. That taboo tongue lit a dark fire in the Elf, spreading, consuming him, and he lifted his perfect mouth again, hungry with desire. The flawed lips and tainted teeth of the other mouth pressed down upon his, insistent, and he welcomed the invasion. Abandoning himself to the Uruk's greater strength, he surrendered his body to the powerful arms and felt himself lowered gently to the floor. Ardent hands brushed over him, caressing his shoulders, chest, loins; stoking the heat in him. He writhed, gasping with pleasure, wrapping one long leg about Uglúk's powerful thighs, his long fingers exploring the curves and clefts of the other body.
The Uruk's eyes devoured the Elf-Lord's exquisite form, the silken skin, the delicate ears, the perfect limbs, and the face……a rumble rose again from his throat as he bent his mouth, and pressed his body, once more to that font of beauty.
Gasping, Elrond found himself almost beyond endurance, and turning, he pressed his supple back against that mighty chest, one arm flung carelessly above his head, the other reaching urgently to grip Uglúk's mighty thigh.
The Elf-lord's invitation was unmistakeable, and the Uruk did not hesitate to accept. Together, they shuddered, and as the pleasure built, Elrond dug his fingers hard into the other's leg, while Uglúk lowered his dreadful teeth to the Elf's marble shoulder. Above their heads their hands interlocked. The dark, heavy hand of the Orc, and the long, fine fingers of the Elf, clutching together in pleasure, and then slowly softening with release.
Long they lay afterwards, speaking not a word. Uglúk with his face buried in the Elf's sweat-dampened hair, drawing in the sweet musky fragrance, savouring every breath, an arm wrapped protectively around his lover's chest. And lying thus, limbs in repose, body sated, Elrond's mind began to wander in waking dreams, as is the way of Elves, and there came to him an ancient song. Softly, softly he began to sing, his rich voice echoing against the rock, and resonating through his body. Of the Quendi, the first Elves and their home by the starlit water. Of their joy in life, and in the new world. Then how nameless fears crept in upon them, and shadows stalked those who dared to venture abroad. Of the Dark Hunter who captured the unwary, carrying them off to the deep pits of Utumno. From whence no Elves returned, but only rumours of torment and adulteration.
When the song was finished, he raised himself up and turned to gaze upon his companion, and the Uruk could see that his face was wet with the shedding of many tears.
"Ah" he murmured, lifting a rough finger to brush them away, "not for me, my beautiful one." Gazing deep into those grey eyes, he lowered his unlovely lips to gently kiss away their sorrow. "Pity me not. It is too late now, for we cannot change the past, and the future holds no place for one such as I."
Elrond's face was anguished. "Where will you go?"
"To the East. I know not how many years I may have, but it is my fate to spend them in wandering."
"So much pain," the Elf's voice was a strangled whisper, "so much loneliness."
"But not so much as there was." The Uruk traced again the exquisite features, his eyes drinking in every lovely detail. "I have now something of beauty, one bright memory to treasure, one light to comfort my darkness." As he spoke the first shafts of the morning sun broke their way into the gloom of the cave, and he rose to his feet, gently drawing the other after him.
"Alas!" cried Elrond, "Never was I so dismayed to see the light of Anor, for I know the dawn will never come upon us together again."
For many minutes they stood, the fair and the dark, two sons of Ilùvatar, the perfect and the misbegotten, staring long into the eyes of the other and many thoughts passed unspoken between them. Then silently, each bent about his own tasks of preparation.
Elrond dressed quickly, and gathered together his few items, having besides sword and cloak, only his pouch of healing medicines. He stood at the mouth of the cave looking out at the sunlit forest, his heart heavy. A glint of reflected light caught his eye, and with a wisp of a laugh he ran lightly over to retrieve Uglúk's sabre from the wet grass.
He returned to find his companion ready to leave. The powerful body once more arrayed in its dark and dreadful armour. Around one thigh, the shining cloth of Elrond's bandage the only brightness. The Elf-lord knelt to remove the dressing and examine the wound, amazed to find it already closed tightly.
"Uruks are indeed made of strong stuff."
A gentle laugh rumbled, and a strong hand touched his hair, "I had a good healer."
Elrond stood, and placed Uglúk's sword into his hands. The Orc sheathed it, then turned for the last time to the Elf, taking that fair face gently in his powerful hands, and reaching his mouth for a final, lingering, bitter-sweet kiss.
"Farewell, my brother," he whispered, then he turned and with a great bound was off into the forest at a run. And from the trees where the sound of his heavy feet retreated, a terrible roar of anguish shook the forest.
Looking after him, Elrond crushed the bandage, dark with old blood, fiercely in his fist, his jaw set hard. Then giving a trembling sigh, he tucked the stained cloth inside his tunic, and taking up his cloak and sword, he set his feet on the path for home – at once both more empty and more complete than when he had set out.