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2
Part 2

THE LAST STAND
by Soledad


Author’s notes:
For disclaimer, rating, etc., see Part 1
There will be Orc sex. You have been warned.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


~~~

So it was that they did not see the last stand, when Uglúk was overtaken and brought to bay at the very edge of Fangorn. There he was slain at last by Éomer, the Third Marshal of the Mark, who dismounted and fought him sword to sword. And over the wide fields the keen-eyed Riders hunted down the few Orcs that had escaped and still had strength to fly.

TTT – Chapter 3: The Uruk-hai (p. 73)


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

PART 2

They ran and ran all day, with the single-minded stubbornness only the Uruk-hai were capable of, even among Orcs. They never paused, only slowed down a little to sling the prisoners to fresh carriers, so that no-one would be worn down by the added weight. Each and every one of the Uruks took his or her turn, save the tracker, the whip-master and Uglúk himself – they were needed for more important tasks.

Although Uglúk’s original intention had been to herd Grishnákh’s band before them, the Uruk-hai gradually passed through the miserable rats of Lugbúrz, who then closed in behind them.

“I don’t like it,” growled Thraknazh in a low voice. “They’re holding back deliberately. They should be far before us.”

“But we are faster and hardier than them,” pointed out Krumkû, breaking the nose of one of Grishnákh’s folk, who had come too close for her taste, with practiced ease.

“Thraknazh is right,” replied Uglúk. “That cursed Grishnákh is planning something. Keep an eye on him, Krumkû, ‘til we reach the forest.”

“You plan to go into the forest?” asked Krumkû, her discomfort clearly visible. There were not many things that could frighten Krumkû the Horrible, but those strange, ancient woods were among them. Uglúk shuddered, too.

“Not if we can avoid it, no,” he replied. “But we might have to. The horses of the Whiteskins wouldn’t follow us in…. and if we leave the Northern maggots to the trees to play with – and don’t touch the tree themselves – we’ll be all right, I think.”

“You think?” asked Krumkû incredulously. Uglúk shrugged.

“I hope. We cannot fight both, the trees and the horsemen, and right now, the horsemen are the lesser peril.”

They kept running, and soon they were gaining also on the Northerners, far ahead. The sure-footed Lugdush ran on the peak, untiring, unresting, her strong legs going up and down, up and down, as if her whole body were made of wire and horn, and Uglúk allowed himself a moment of indulgence, envisioning the splendid offspring he would sire with this exceptional female. Lugdush was still very young, barely two years beyond maturity, and she had not been allowed to breed yet. But at the age of eight it would not be too early; and Uglúk was determined to safeguard her for himself.

At the moment, however, they had to run if they wanted to reach the questionable safety of the forest. So run they did, and Uglúk saw with dismay and suspicion that Grishnákh’s folk was indeed capable of catching up with them.

In the afternoon they actually overtook the Northerners. Those were already flagging in the rays of the winter sun, pale and powerless though it was. Their heads were hanging down and their tongues lolling out.

“Maggots!' jeered Thraknazh, swinging his whip to urge them to greeter speed. “You're cooked.”

“The Whiteskins will catch you and eat you,” added Krumkû with a grin. “They're coming!”

The other Uruk-hai hollered in amusement. But Uglúk’s mind was not set to jests right now. He had heard Grishnákh’s frightened cry, and looking back, he could indeed see the horsemen already. The cursed Whiteskins were still far behind but gaining on them like a tide over the flats on folks straying in quicksand.

Uglúk shook his head angrily. Right now, he had no use for these strange images about a Sea he had never seen, nor his ancestors as far back as he could count them. He snarled at Thraknazh to redouble the pace, and the whip-master ran back, wielding his thongs with the usual cunning hand. Not that the Uruk-hai needed any urging, but the rats of Lugbúrz spurted better under pressure than on their own.

The sun was sinking already behind the Misty Mountains, and though the Uruk-hai did not fear its rays, nor were weakened by them, Uglúk gave a relieved sigh, seeing how the shadows reached over the land. Shadows and darkness were their allies – they all fought better at night. Even the rabble of Grishnákh lifted their heads and began to put on speed, now that the sun was gone.

The forest was dark and close, promising safety – if true or false one, he dared not to ask, but there was some hope at the very least. As they passed a few outlying trees, the land began to rise more steeply. Some of the more tired, smaller Orcs slowed down involuntarily.

“Steady now!” shouted Uglúk. “No falling back, unless you want to be shot down, fools! Run! Run as long as you still can!”

As if they wanted to give his words more weight, the riders had caught up with them eastward already, galloping level with them on the plain. The sunset gilded their spears and helmets and glinted on their loose, yellow hair. Uglúk did not like what he saw. He did not like it a bit. The horsemen were hemming them in, preventing the maggots from the North and Grishnákh’s rabble from scattering, and driving them along the line of the river.

“That doesn’t look good,” he growled to Krumkû, who nodded grimly.

“We walked into a trap,” she said. “If we survive this, I’m tearing that snaga to pieces with my bare hands. Had he shot that horseman, we wouldn’t be in this mess to begin with.

“We could beat the Whiteskins,” sneered Skaithak, glaring at Uglúk challengingly. “If we had a chieftain with stones, that is.”

That was not a challenge Uglúk could have left unanswered, not when he wanted to keep his position. But ere he could have drawn his sword, and arrow came seemingly out of nowhere, hitting Skaithak in the throat, and the Crippler, who had been running right before the ones carrying the prisoners, stumbled and did not get up again.

Uglúk looked around, seeking for the source of that arrow, and detected a few riders with great bows in their hands. They appeared to have ridden swiftly into range, to shoot the Orcs from a running horse. Many of the lower soldiers of Lugbúrz had fallen already – though this was the first time that one of his own lads had been killed. And while Uglúk certainly did not mourn for Skaithak, this was unsettling nonetheless.

The fools of Lugbúrz were shooting back wildly, but since none of them dared to halt, their arrows went widely off target. The riders wheeled out of the range of their bows easily.

“Stop it, you fools,” shouted Uglúk angrily. “You are just wasting your arrows. Run! Run to that hillock before us – there we can defend ourselves better, should we not reach the woods in time.”

None of the Orcs needed encouragement to do so, not even the fools of Lugbúrz. Night was falling quickly, but the riders did not close in for battle before the fall of night; something that Uglúk found strange and unsettling at the same time. The Orcs managed to reach the hillock that he had pointed out earlier, but they could not go any further, even though the eaves of the forest were very near.

“Probably three furlongs away, no more,” murmured Lugdush,” mayhap even less. Should we try to run for it?”

Uglúk shook his massive head. “Nah; don’t you see the horsemen before us? They cut us off, the cursed Whiteskins.”

“They have completely encircled us,” corrected Lugdush grimly.

She spoke in a low voice, but not low enough for the sharp ears of the rats of Lugbúrz, who panicked from the thought of being trapped at once. Uglúk tried to calm them down, with the questionable help of that twice-cursed Grishnákh, so that they would not waste their strength before the actual battle broke loose, but there was no reasoning with the dim-witted idiots. A small band of them broke off to run for the forest – only three returned a little later.

Grishnákh, of course, was furious, and tried to put the blame on Uglúk, as could have been expected.

“Well, here we are,” he sneered. “Fine leadership! I hope the great Uglúk will lead us out again.”

Uglúk paid him no attention. There were orders to give and troops to organize. Their situation was precarious at the very best – but he still trusted the strength and courage of his lads, if they only could set up a well-defended camp until the reinforcements arrived. Mauhúr would not let him die and rot in this trap, of that he was certain. There were no true bonds among Uruks born by the same female, not even among twin cubs like Mauhúr and himself. But beyond the bonds of blood, they were also allies… and they both knew their duty to the Wizard and to their own kin.

“Put those Halflings down!” he ordered Skarburz and Kumghash, who were currently carrying them. “You, Azdreg, get two others and stand guard over them! They're not to be killed, unless the filthy Whiteskins break through. Understood?”

Azdreg, one of his best lads, whom he had trained personally and hand-picked for this perilous task, gave a short nod and did as ordered. Uglúk lowered his voice to an almost inaudible growl.

“As long as I'm alive, I want 'em. But they're not to cry out, and they're not to be rescued.”

Azdreg nodded again. He was as loyal to Uglúk as any Orc ever could be – meaning that he only set his own interests above those of his chieftain.

“Bind their legs!” he ordered, and the other guards carried out the order mercilessly.

In the meantime, Thraknazh tried to organize and settle the troops with the help of his trusted whip. That caused a great amount of noise, of course, with the whip master and his helpers shouting, the rats of Lugbúrz snarling and clashing their weapons and the mountain-maggots from the North squealing with fear like piglets.

They gathered on the hillock, hiding and resting as well as they could in the cold and still night. Sitting on the top of the knoll, Uglúk grimly watched the little fires springing up all around them, in a perfect circle.

“They are within a long bowshot,” calculated Ashluk, their best bowman. “I could hit them from here.”

“You could,” shrugged Uglúk, “if they showed themselves against the light. Which they do not, and… Hey, you stupid rats,” he jumped to his feet, running down to the band of Lugbúrz, who started shooting at the fires uselessly. “Stop wasting your arrows, or I’ll make you another head shorter!”

“There’s no use to try anything ‘til the moon rises,” Lugdush agreed.

“That could take half the night,” said Thraknazh. “Time enough to do that which must be done.”

The eyes of the nearby Uruk-hai turned to Uglúk in expectance. They were no fools; they knew that they could be killed in the upcoming battle with the horsemen – all of them. They were sitting in a trap, with basically no way out.

Uglúk hesitated. On the one hand, they needed to mate before the battle, to make the females pregnant, in the hope that some of them might escape and ensure the further existence of their bloodline. That which must be done, Thraknazh had said. The urge to ensure the clan’s next generation was in their blood.

On the other hand, Uruk-hai had shared one peculiar treat with the hated Elves: by creating offspring, they had to give up a part of themselves. Elves were said to sacrifice part of their very essence – their fëa, the Wizard had called it – both parents had to, to call a new life into being. Uruk-hai were taught that they had to give up a great deal of their strength by creating offspring, at least temporarily. And, in fact, the act of breeding weakened both participants considerable for the next couple of hours. Which they could not truly afford in the present situation.

Yet Uglúk knew that the urge to ensure the further existence of their bloodline would win over the more sober considerations. It always did. It was simply too strong to be ignored. ‘Twould be best to give in right away, so that they would have at least some time to recover. That could save their lives.

“You’re right,” he said to Thraknazh with a heavy sigh. “We must do this, and we must do it now, while there’s still time. Let Bâshdûl guard the prisoners. I’ll select the ones who are most worthy for breeding.”

It was his right to make that all-important choice. He was the chieftain. But it was a hard choice indeed. They had but a handful females with them, aside from Krumkû who was already taken and for Lugdush whom he had already selected for himself. As for the rest, Bâshdûl was infertile and thus useless, which was the very reason why she got selected for every perilous task – she was expendable. Gâshag was already beyond breeding age. That left only four females, and almost thrice as many impatient males to choose from.

After some consideration, Uglúk chose four of his biggest, strongest and most loyal lads: Azdreg, Krumghash, Skarburz and Ghashur. He left Grothrásh and a few extraordinarily strong but rather slow-witted lads out. They would need their full strength in battle later. More so since the others would be weakened.

“You know what you must do,” he said to the selected couples. “See that you get all females pregnant – and that they escape, no matter the costs. They – and the cubs they’ll bear – might be all what remains of our clan by tomorrow.”

The others nodded grimly. They were the best and the brightest of their generation; he did not need to lie to them. They would do what had to be done, proud that they could save their excellent bloodlines. Individual Uruks were expendable, but the clan had to survive.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
This was not how Uglúk had envisioned his mating with the gorgeous Lugdush, but it had to do. If they survived, he could take his time and full pleasure later. Now he had to focus on getting her pregnant – which was not an easy task. As much as Uruk-hai shagged merrily for recreational purposes, creating a new life demanded a great deal of effort… from both participants. Mounting the female for some thrust-and-grunt was not enough for that.

Fortunately, this was not Uglúk’s first time to breed, so he knew what to do and what to expect. He only regretted that they did not have the time or the peace to actually enjoy the act – Lugdush yielded to his mastery so beautifully, her luscious body hot like the furnaces under Orthanc, her limbs so smooth and so strong. With a tiny part of his mind on the physical requirements, Uglúk neared completion almost too quickly, while the larger, more important part of his mind waited for what was about to happen: for the truly important moment of their coupling.

And yet it caught him unaware. The touch of Lugdush’ mind upon his own was like living fire, dark and all-consuming. They fought for a moment for dominance – and then they merged to one dark, violent flame, much stronger than the two separate ones had been before, burning with a merciless heat even the Uruk-hai could endure but for a short time. Uglúk felt the strength pour out of his limbs, out of his very spirits, as liquid metal would pour into the casting mould to create something new, something strong, wondrous and full of dark beauty only an Orc could appreciate. He could almost touch that new spark taking shape between the two of them. He could feel it grow and form itself…

Not being able to hold up the mental bond any longer, he rolled off his mate, exhausted but comforted by the certainty that they had succeeded.

“Did it catch?” he asked, just confirm his feeling, knowing that while he could be wrong (as unlikely it might be), Lugdush could not. It was an instinct with females – they always knew.

Lugdush, too exhausted to speak – breeding took its toll on females, too, even more so than on males – gave a weak growl of agreement. Uglúk patted her rump affectionately.

“That’s good. Rest now, as well as you can. You must try to slip out of our camp as soon as you’re strong enough to walk. Before the Whiteskins attack. I want you gone before the battle breaks out. Head for Isengard, but hide in the Wizard’s Vale ‘til you can be sure Orthanc is safe.”

“Why shouldn’t it be?” asked Lugdush, proving the amazing recovery powers of the Uruk-hai once again. Uglúk shrugged.

“It seems the Wizard has made a lot of enemies lately. I think he’ll be victorious in the end… but I wouldn’t risk your life – or that of the cubs.”

“I can’t tell if there are more than just one,” admitted Lugdush.

“’Tis too early for that,” said Uglúk. “But whether one or more, you need to be safe. Remember Old Gâbkrísh’s hiding place just outside the Ring of Isengard? You can lay low there for a while.”

“What about you?” asked Lugdush. “I’ve got a rotten feeling about this battle.”

“Me, too,” said Uglúk, “but we can’t run away from it now. If I survive, I’ll go after you. If I don’t – it’s up to you to protect the cubs. Even if it means to turn your back on Orthanc.”

Lugdush nodded in agreement. By breeding new generations of Uruk-hai, with a keen mind of their own, the Wizard had practically laid the foundation of their disloyalty, when it came to the first imperative of their existence: the survival of the clan. They would fight and die for Saruman, without a thought – unless doing so endangered their offspring. That was something the Wizard did not know, and they were sly enough not tell him. They had not been the puppets the Wizard thought them to be for a very long time.

“I’ll send Krumkû with you,” continued Uglúk. “She’s older and stronger than you, and for a while, she’ll be very useful. But you must not trust her.”

“I never did,” said Lugdush with a tired grin. “She’s insane.”

“That she is,” agreed Uglúk, “and when she frenzies due to her pregnancy, she’d kill you in the first unguarded moment. If you think she’s insane now, you should see her when she’s with cubs. I have – and I don’t want to see it ever again.”

“Why are you sending her with me, then?” asked Lugdush.

“You’ll need protection in the first couple o’days, ‘til you regain your full strength,” answered Uglúk. “Even weakened, Krumkû is formidable – the two of you have a better chance together. But you must part ways with her as soon as you feel strong enough.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Feeling strong enough to walk again himself, Uglúk reluctantly left his mate behind (contrary to common belief, Uruk-hai actually did feel a certain degree of fondness for those they bred with – as long as it would not endanger their life or position) and went to check on the perimeters of their camp. The moon had just come out of the mist, so that the shadowy shapes of the riders could be seen now and again in its whit light, as they moved in ceaseless patrol.

The guards saw them, too, and they were not happy.

“They'll wait for the Sun, curse them!” growled Búrztakh, called the One-eyed for obvious reasons, the blood-red ruby he wore in his empty eye-socket glinting in the firelight. “Why don't we get together and charge through?”

Some of the others picked up his remark and agreed. The other Orcs supported the idea. None of them liked sitting in a trap, waiting for being slain… or being cooked in the sunlight.

“What's old Uglúk think he's doing, I should like to know?” added Búrztakh, pouring oil into the fire. He was one of Skaithak’s allies and hated the chieftain with a passion. Mayhap he hoped to take over Skaithak’s place, if he only played his cards well.

“I daresay you would,' snarled Uglúk stepping up from behind. “Meaning I don't think at all, eh?”

He found the fearful cringing of Búrztakh very satisfying, but he was not about to let him rouse the others. They had no time for this folly.

“Do you?” riposted Búrztakh challengingly, knowing all too well that the chieftain was still weakened from the mating and wouldn’t waste his strength with the killing of one rebellious underling. “Or has all that shagging clouded your tiny brain too much? I’d say…”

He could not continue his hateful tirade, for Grothrásh, slow-witted but as loyal as any Orc could ever be, hit him in the face, breaking his nose with one brutal punch.

“Curse you!” the Slaughterer scowled. “You're as bad as the other rabble: the maggots and the apes of Lugbúrz. As if you didn’t know them! No good trying to charge with them. They'd just squeal and bolt, and there are more than enough of these filthy horseboys to mop up our lot on the flat.”

Which was all too true, of course, but the reminder did not serve to calm the agitated Orcs down.

“But we’re still sitting in a rat-trap,” said Bagdreg, voicing everyone’s main concern. “We should try and break out as long as it’s still dark. The maggots are stronger at nighttime.”

Uglúk shook his head. “No, Grothrásh is right. There's only one thing those maggots can do: they can see like gimlets in the dark. But these Whiteskins have better night-eyes than most Men, from all I've heard; and don't forget their horses! They can see the night-breeze, or so it's said.”

“Great,” scowled Búrztakh, carefully pawing his still bleeding nose. “And why are we sitting here and waiting for them, then?”

“Because there's one thing the fine fellows don't know,” replied Uglúk with a feral grin. “Mauhúr and his lads are in the forest, and they should turn up any time now.”

The other Orcs were not much comforted by this promise, but the Uruk-hai sighed in relief. Mauhúr had troops as strong as their own – even stronger, as they had lost quite a few lads near Rauros themselves – and with he help of the other rabble, they could trap the horsemen between them and slay Men and horses alike, providing not only a way out but also a most satisfying meal.

Uglúk ordered the rats of Lugbúrz to post a few watchers – not that he thought it would be of any use, but at least it gave them something to do – and returned to where he hoped to find Thraknazh. The whip-master was slowly regaining his strength, too; Krumkû was a demanding mate, even under normal circumstances, and getting her pregnant had been a rather… exhausting event.

“The females have left,” he reported. “Krumkû went with Lugdush, as ordered, and the other two left together. Any sound of Mauhúr and the others?”

Uglúk shook his head. “Not yet. But soon. Mauhúr is shrewd; he’ll use the darkness to close in.”

It had indeed become very dark again, for the moon passed westward into thick cloud, and not even the keen night-eyes of the Uruk-hai could see any further than a few feet away. The fires of the horsemen brought no light to the hillock. But Uglúk was grateful for the protecting darkness. It made it easier for Lugdush and the others to slip through unnoticed.

Thraknazh moved his massive shoulders a little to get the kinks out of his back. There would be battle, soon, and he needed his skills sharp and honed. This was not the first time he fought the horsemen and knew it would not be an easy fight. With the Whiteskins, it never was.

“What now?” he asked. Uglúk shrugged.

“Now we wait.”

TBC

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