Halla and Maukurz were wild for each other. He brought her to a little pond fed by a falling stream, suggesting that they cool off in the fresh mountain water. But Maukurz had anything but swimming on his mind as he tugged madly at the frustrating tight laces of Halla's gown. For the first time she took him in her hands, stroking his engorged cock with her novice touch, and it was like sparks flying through him. As soon as he freed her of her ridiculously concealing clothes, Maukurz hugged her up in his arms and brought her quickly to the ground, getting inside her so hard and fast she cried out in surprise… and then she moaned his name, caressing his ears with the sound. He drove at her thoughtlessly, frantically, assuring himself on the most basic level that she was his still, that she trusted him and wanted him… And she was coming almost moments after, deeply excited by his rough passion. Sex games being something he'd been initiated to almost in his first breaths, Maukurz wasn't usually so out of control. But his fear of losing her, and his overwhelming desire for her had him senseless. At the last moment—or something just past it, rather—he heard her crying his name, telling him no and you mustn't! His growl was a roar as he ripped himself out of her, his seed spraying all over her flat belly. He shook fearfully over her, gasping as he rubbed his insanely sensitive cock over the sticky mess on her stomach. Fuck, I think I… Nevermind. Nevermind. "Damn, Halla…" he moaned roughly. "I dunno… I'm sorry…"

Her innocent eyes were hazy with pleasure. Maukurz sat up, rocking back on his heels, watching with wide eyes as she gently touched her belly, and daintily placed the tip of her finger in her mouth. He grinned wolfishly, watching her taste him. If she got pregnant, she'd have to come with me, and I'd have her all the time…

No. That's a fucked thing to think. I love her, and she said she didn't want it yet. But damn, I can hardly help it anymore.

Ensnared, Halla stared at his dark thick cock, which was hardly spent and shining with her juices. "I want more…" she murmured.

" 'Course you do," Maukurz laughed, grinning, crawling back over her obligingly. He found her mouth, kissing her, biting her lips softly; he nuzzled her neck and murmured, "Somebody made you just for me."

"Slow this time," she breathed, wrapping her arms around him. "And maybe… maybe that other thing you like… But gently..."

"You got it, taar mbal…" Maukurz purred, sinking into her again.

Edwyn will be pleased, Halla thought mischievously. Satiated isn't the word.

Halla lay in Maukurz's arms, utterly content, tracing her fingers over his chest. "How did you get these horrible scars?" she asked softly, having never seen the cruel kisses of a whip.

"Uhhm… It's… I dunno..."

"No secrets," Halla reminded him gently.

Maukurz sighed heavily. "I don't think much about those first days, Halla. I was really young. But... Well… after I was… born… they put me in a room with other… other Uruk-hai. Made us fight, to see who was fit for the army. I won—of course, or I wouldn't be here—but that little shit snaga pitmaster, he… After I won, I was all hot… Damn Halla, you sure you wanna hear this stuff? It ain't pretty. You're too sweet…"

Halla pushed herself up slightly, brushing her fingers tenderly over his smooth dark brow. "There is nothing you can tell me that will make me pull away from you, Maukurz. I can handle it. And after that business in the hayshed, with my maid… I really do want to know where you come from. No, I need to know. So I can understand."

Maukurz whistled softly, a fearful but resigned look in his eyes. "It's nasty shit, ashgaz. But all right. It was my first kill, and I was bred to… to love it. Killing, blood… Everyone like me does, 'cept that shit gets my cock real hard. Well, when you're done fighting and you're all juiced up, a whole mess of little Orcs rush in with their clubs, to get you down. 'Cause you're a hundred times stronger, and tasting blood for the first time… They do it to everyone. But it pissed me off good, and while they were beatin' on me I ate it, and I went for the biggest one. I killed him, and then another, and pretty soon the little snaga were running away."

"What's… snaga?"

Maukurz couldn't help but smile. "I think I'ma teach you Black Speech. It sounds good on you."

She nodded, but her eyes were demanding.

"Right. Snaga were the regular Orcs who served the Master. His pets, like, and his overseers too. We were bigger and stronger, but they had the power. But their clubs weren't putting me down, and I was ripping through them with my hands."

"Well they were beating you…" Halla said, eager to excuse him.

"Yeah, but I didn't feel it, I was so hot. And so they ran away from me, got on the other side of the gate quick as they could. I was gonna tear the bars out—was just learning my strength, remember, only a couple of hours old—but all of a sudden—and this I remember well, shit I can still feel it… All of a sudden my head felt like I was gettin' stabbed in the brains. Couldn't see, couldn't move… It was my Master, you see, with his magic. He was watching me already for my size, and I suppose… I suppose I pleased him right away. Well, next thing I know, two big Uruks were on my arms, and the pitmaster comes back and he says, 'Damn, this boy's still hard…' So Master says, put him on the wall, teach him what to do with it, he's just what we need."

Halla tried to keep the appalled shock from her face.

Maukurz grunted. "You wanted it… Should I stop now?"

She shook her head gently, hurting for him already. She kissed his scars softly, murmuring, "It's all right. Tell me. Tell me everything."

Maukurz sighed, cupping his hand over her soft head. "So they held me, the other Uruks. And the pitmaster, he sends over this little faggot Orc who starts touching my cock, real nasty-like, spittin' on his hand. I didn't like it at all. I think I was mostly scared he was gonna rip it off, and 'course I didn't know what a cock was for. So I kicked him in the chest, right across the room. And I fought the two holding me, swingin' 'em on my arms, and the Master, I can hear his voice, and he's all, 'This won't do at all. Teach him respect.'

"So the pitmaster comes out with this barbed whip. He's stinking with fear, but he's more scared of Master than me, so he does it. That whip…" Maukurz closed his eyes, shivering a little. "It had somethin' on it to sting the cuts, can't imagine what. But it tore into my chest. You can see where. And the pain stunned me a little, I guess, because the two Uruks got chains on my arms. And they told me to stop being a dumb fuck, Master had treats for me that would feel good if I just quit fighting it. Now there's blood pouring down my chest, and Master took his hold on my mind… Not painful this time, just sort of numb-like. He points at me. And this time the pitmaster comes over himself. Gets on his knees, tellin' me how fine I am, how big my cock is, and… He started sucking on me, Halla. Rubbing my chest and gettin' his hand all wet with blood, then touchin' me all over, pushin' and pokin', seeing what made me jump.

"And I smartened up, I guess… But it felt… Shit, I don't know why, but it made me angry, even though it felt so good. I wanted to kill the little fucker, and Master knew it. He used to talk to me, not with his voice but in my head, and now he's tellin' me to stick my cock where pitfaggot got his finger wigglin' in me. He's tellin' me to kill him, to rip him up, but… but use my cock. And the pitmaster's got me close to coming, but I'm pissed and Master's tellin' me what for, and my chest is burning and stingin', and my cock is throbbing… And then the chains were released. Pitmaster heard 'em pop… Got this look in his eyes like he knew he was done for. And I… well, shit, I did what I was told to do. I fucked the life right out of that little prick… and the whole time, I'm hearing Master… I'm feeling him, like cold wind on my back. He was pleased Halla. He said I was his Finest Creation Yet. And then he took me himself to a little room—I didn't need chains or clubs or whips with him—he took me to a little room with…" Maukurz closed his eyes. "With a girl. He said, 'this is much sweeter, and not near as much trouble. You will like this most of all. Take her, and when she's done in, if you do her good I'll give you another.' And he watched me… fucking—raping—those little girls. And all I could think was how good it felt and how good my Master was to me… that and wondering why, seein' as he liked it so much—and I got a nose for that shit, Halla, believe me—why he didn't join in himself. He only touched me a little. Examining, he called it. And then he put me in with the others. Said we were the best of the best, and there would be good sport for us as soon as we had a little training with our weapons. You can imagine the rest, I think."

Maukurz sighed heavily, chancing a glance at Halla's face, terrified she would be looking at him with those same broken eyes she turned on him after the woman from his past showed up in the hayshed. And sure enough, Halla was crying, silent tears pouring down her face. "I'm sorry," he groaned, "I'm so fucking sorry, you asked… You said tell—"

"I cannot... I cannot look at you, and imagine that... Any of it! Why would they do that to you? And to those poor-"

Halla closed her mouth. She did not wish to see down that road any further. It had been enough with Ailith. Her only consolation in this was that he'd had no choice at all, to be born into such a depraved and dismal world.

"They'd do it-He'd do it-to make me into a weapon. That's what. You... You ain't scared, not even a little bit?"

She shook her head slowly. "I've trusted you... In ways... You could have killed me easily, so many times. But instead..."

Halla let her cheek rest against his chest, though the deep furrow in her brow didn't smooth. A ragged sigh deflated his chest, and she Halla closed her eyes on her tears. "Does it help, or hurt, to speak of it?"

"Don't know. I didn't know it was wrong, see? Thought I was pretty fuckin' special, all the rewards he gave me."


"Aye. Better armor, better... meat... Spoils from Rohan. There were too many of us, like that. Twisted up, like. But I didn't... After a while, things got empty. Couldn't get enough meat. Enough... women. I started... Lookin' for more, or new, ways to feel. I'd do just about anything, to try to feel a new thrill. Didn't know what I was missing. Didn't know why everything seemed half a life, only. Worse than half a life. To want-to take-and to see hate, and fear, on that pretty face... Got stupid for a while, kept chasing their hate, too. But Halla... It was so easy with you. So easy to be with you... Like I've been with you my whole life. All that-before-it's just a dream now. A nightmare."

"But the scars are still there," she said quietly.

"Just scars," Maukurz said dismissively. "It's more... Well, yuh ain't running. That's all I care about. You said, come clean. I could spend three years telling yuh things, as long as I been alive, but that's the heart of it. That first day."

Halla pushed herself up on his chest. Her fingers brushed his face-as handsome as a dark Elf-and when he closed his eyes, pliant and relieved in her hands, she could not put together anything that he'd said with the half-Man who lay beneath her. But she needed to ask him, "If you spent so long in that life, being... rewarded... Do you never miss any of it, at all? He trained you to such wickedness, and you're free of him now, and I know in my heart that I am safe with you. But I can't imagine... it's all gone. All he put in you."

A quiet rumble shook his chest, and he closed his eyes, nodding. "Yuh ask if I can turn my back on what I was taught to desire. In most parts, yes. I don't-I think, if I'd been born, like you, and raised, I wouldn't have hurt no woman. I like what we have. Nothing-nothing-has ever compared to this."

"But you said, 'in most parts'," Halla repeated.

"I won't hurt you," Maukurz said urgently. "That I know. I couldn't do it."

"So what parts are still here with us, now?"

He clucked his tongue softly, and shook his head. He could almost taste Manflesh breaking over his tongue, could almost feel fresh, red blood slipping down his throat. He could not understand why this was so much better to him-the flesh of his own mothers, truly-than any other meat. It wasn't even that the taste was better. In those days-Isengard days-it was a wild and desperate need. The Uruk-hai talked it up, saying it was the true domination of an enemy, to consume his flesh, but there was something more behind it. The Master had powers no one could begin to understand. Maukurz often wondered, in his freedom, if Saruman hadn't twisted him up in more ways, things he could never know until they exploded into reality.

While Halla was not afraid, suddenly Maukurz felt a gnawing dread. He closed his eyes and breathed her in, and thought, NO. There was nothing, nothing that could be stronger than what he felt for Halla. She was pure goodness. She was a rope thrown to him, when he was drowning, one that led not just out of danger, but to a golden place that he could never have conceived of, before imagining it. It might be a fine thing to eat a Man, even just to kill one, but Maukurz would do nothing to endanger this beautiful thing he had with her. Well, he thought grimly, nothing more than tell her the truth, which might be enough to send her off for good.

After the long silence, Maukurz dared to raise his hand, smoothing his fingers over her pale cheek. "There's nothin left in me, Halla, that would ever cause me to hurt you. No part left in me. Yuh knew what I was when we met, and yuh know a little more now, 'bout what that means. If you go... I... Well, I couldn't say nothin'. It's up to you."

Halla pursed her lips together, watching him for a moment. Finally, she nodded. "I believe you, Maukurz. Against any sense, I believe you. I just know, I feel it... I know I'm safe with you. More than safe."

Embarassed, she lowered her voice and whispered, "I know I am... beloved."

Maukurz's breath shuddered out. She lay down against him, and he wrapped her up in his arms. "Aye, beloved. I know what it means to love, now. You're more than the sun, more than anything good in the world. I'll die for yuh, Halla, gladly. Do anything for you. Even dump that load a' shit on yuh, cuz yuh asked. That isn't me no more. Wouldn't never want it again. I'd kill 'im, if I could."

"When was the last time you saw him?"

"After Helm's Deep. I ran home with Shatauz, one of the Uruks you saw that day, and a few other survivors. The tree-monsters had finished their business but they were still lurkin' about, and we didn't dare get close. But we saw Master up high on the tower, in what Commander Baiurz called the window of… appearances or some fancy shit like that. He was just lookin' down on the ruins of his fortress, on all the dead folks floatin' in the water. He didn't speak to us at all, he just went back in his tower. I sensed his weakness, and it scared me bad. He ain't callin' me like he once did. I thought at first, well, he got no use for me now, but I think he might be dead. Anyway, some of the guys wanted to go to Mordor, but Baiurz said he had enough. So we roamed around with nowhere to go, and that's when we found Narzum and Dagalur like two half-drowned rats on the riverbank. I was beatin' on Narzum's chest and breathin' in his mouth, and lookin' at all those dead… all those bodies of good strong warriors… Well, I'd had enough too. Didn't want no more Master, least of all that fucked up Eye. I carried Narzum—clutchin' that damn drum he near got killed for—and Shatauz carried Dagalur, and we went lookin' for a nice hidey-hole. And here we are."

"You care about Narzum," Halla said softly. "Were you two lovers? Like Finnan and Edwyn?"

Maukurz laughed, a warm, rich sound that banished the ghosts of Isengard. "Something like that, and nothin' like it at the same time. But since I had you, I don't want nothin' like that from anyone else. I only want you. There's something special about you, Halla. Like I said… Maybe whatever runs the world don't hate us Uruk-hai so much after all. Because I think you were made just for me. I never knew what happiness was until that first day I had you."

"Neither did I," Halla said truthfully. "When I'm not with you, I can't even eat. I feel dead inside. I feel… so lonely, like no one cares if I live or die. But then I come back to you, and the world is perfect and beautiful, and I feel perfect and beautiful in it."

"You are perfect and beautiful," Maukurz murmured, lifting her chin with his fingers. He felt awkward now, showing her all the ugly, harsh bits of him; at the same time, he felt oddly clean, as if in saying it out loud, he'd cast off his past. All he wanted now was for her to show him that her desire for him was unchanged, untainted by his confessions. And she eased herself up his chest, and put her sweet mouth against his, pushing his lips apart and tasting his mouth deeply. Maukurz groaned softly, holding her so tightly he worried he'd crush her. "You're safe here, Halla," he whispered between kisses. "You belong here, with me. Your place is with me. I know… I know you are a great lady, you have your peasants to look after… But I need you, Halla. All my life… it wasn't nothing before you, and I need to live now. I need you, ashgaz… Please come to me soon. I can't give you gold and fancy dresses, but I will love you forever, and make feel good all the time, and you'll never feel lonely or sad again."

Tears flushed Halla's eyes. She could give him her mouth, and her body, and even her heart, but she couldn't say the one thing he wanted above all else: that she'd leave Finnan, and go off with him into the wilds.

Maukurz took her silence like a knife. But I never deserved this much, he thought. And it was so much, that she gave. Even after seeing the monster he'd been-there ain't no other word for it, but monster-she lay down under him, and let him cover her with his body which had done such harm, and let him devote himself to bringing her all the pleasure she'd allow.