(AUTHOR’S NOTE: The story you are about to read takes place in the land of Mordor, specifically the province of Nurn, several years before the Fall of Sauron. It flashes forward, as you will see…)

Screeching hinges on the iron-barred door announced the entry of the guards into the chamber, as surely as the blast of stench from their beefy bodies did. The guttering torch threw shadows onto the walls as the overseer stepped into the room, his sandaled feet crunching the bones of a forgotten meal beneath a broken bowl. His rat-like eyes scanned the corners of the cell, until they fell on the object of his task, huddled in the corner like an animal about to spring. If he feared the figure in the corner, he did not show it, he simply pointed the shaft of his whip and gestured, the message clear: It’s your turn again.

The figure rose, and moved in the shadows of the cell, a thin arm grasping a huge but threadbare cloak which when donned, concealed all but the bare feet, slim and small, but calloused and hard. The only other visible part of the figure beneath were the eyes, which the guards avoided looking at; even the overseer, betraying no fear, grew uncomfortable at the alien eyes that blazed from under the dark hood. Silently, the robed figure moved past the guards and out of the cell, padding on bare feet almost silently, footfalls drowned out by the stomping of the guards as they made their way through the catacombs and up the stairs, out of the pits and the dungeons.

As the party ascended the stairs, the dull thrumming noise echoing down the stone halls grew, until as they came out to a cavernous hall, the echoes turned to hoarse shouting and hoots of delight. The hall was a great arena, the floor sand and gravel, with seats like a theater carved back into the rock, and galleries on pillars above. Light came from torches and a bonfire, but also from gaping holes carved into the rocks above, allowing the sun to illumine the sands. The seats and galleries were full of men, some sitting, some standing, and off to the side were a set of seats, filled with figures dark and hideous – Orcs.

Two entrances stood at opposite ends of the floor, and out from one of them came the party from the pits. From out of the other entry walked a procession of robed and well-dressed men, richly adorned with precious stones and gems, led by an orc chieftain of huge size and bulk, but also in armor of better quality and robes of some beast’s fur. They came to a halt and at a motion from the hands of one of the men the party came forward, the robed figure surrounded by the others, the overseer behind. They halted a few paces in front of the man who gestured, and now spoke to the orc.

“Your word is partially good, Ghalash”, the man said. “I see here a prize, but is this what my gold has bought? A walking sack?”

“Just like you men, Torag, never seeing the value beneath,” Ghalash snarled, fangs dripping slaver. “You think I haven’t lived this long without my word being good? And the bag’s not for you – it’s to keep others from your merchandise! There are sticky fingers all over, as you well know. Your gold’s purchase you will see, now!” And with a gesture to the guards, the overseer reached up and grabbed the figure’s hood, and pulled it off with one smooth motion, louder howls and cries sounding from the stands at the sight.

Standing there in the light of the arena was a woman. In the midst of the filth and the reek and the sands, she looked almost clean, because her skin was pale and smooth, a sheen of sweat from the heavy cloak. Her limbs were lithe, and supple, well-formed muscle and sinew. Her clothes were only a loincloth and rag about her chest, nothing else to conceal her curves and her features. Her hair was dark and long, braided tightly, reaching down in a great rope to the small of her back, an iron spike braided into the end.

But for all the exotic image, it was the woman’s features that caused the most intense interest. Her face was expressionless, no twitch of muscle in jaw or lip. Only her eyes betrayed any feeling: green eyes, the color of forest and grass, colors that these eyes had never seen. The eyes darted between the faces in front of her, but as they met each pair of eyes, they blazed with a fever that none of them, not even the overseers, could endure for long. The ears, exposed by the pulled-back black hair, were pointed and swept back and away like the wings of a bird taking flight.

Torag, the merchant, looked in awe and barely concealed desire at the woman before him. “By the ash, Ghalash, you spoke truly! A she-elf, here in Nurn! I thought it impossible -”

“And not just a she-elf, but a sand-fighter, as well!” Ghalash roared in laughter. “Now, to show you the quality of my merchandise, I’ve got a little sport for you to watch, and so you can see your gold went to a good purchase.” Turning to the guards near the read entry, the orc shouted, “Oi! Ya-hoi! Bring out the sport, and let the game begin!” The crowd roared in approval, and began moving closer to the sands as a second figure was brought out in chains, a giant woman of dark skin and incredible size and strength, rippling muscles and rolling flesh, strained at her bonds, snarling to be released.

Ghalash walked forward and stood in between the two soon-to-be combatants, each restrained by their minders, as he addressed the arena. “Special today, lads! A bit of sport for us all, and for our honored guests,” he said in a mocking bow to Torag and his retinue. “You all know Goolan by now, the eater of the dead and the living!” And a hooting shout rose from the crowd as the dark woman, hearing her name, raised her flabby arms above her head, chains snaking through iron loops at her wrists.

Ghalash raised his arms to silence the crowd. “And here today, to delight us and entertain us, is our own favorite of the sands, ThainMaid!!” If the derisive roar from the crowd had any notice from the she-elf, she gave no notice, save for the clenching and unclenching of clawed hands, her breath coming deep and strong.

The overseers brought out weapons for the women. Goolan hefted a number of great swords in her meaty hands, finding one that fit her well enough, swinging it wide and making those near her fall back. But the elf, ThainMaid, simply stood still as her overseer brought her a bundle of rags, set it at her feet, and backed away, as one would set meat before a starving wolf. The elf knelt and opened the rags, swift and sharp motions amazing the crowd. When she rose to her full height once more, the crowd was buzzing, and Goolan watched the sight of two black-bladed scimitars in the elf’s slender hands, twirling slowly in deft circles, her feet shifting beneath her, gliding sideways like a desert serpent, silent and lethal.

A harsh horn sounded from the entrance, and the crowd roared; the fight had begun. Goolan roared in delight as her chains snaked away from her wrists through the loops, her hands and arms free at last, her anger and hate freed to vent upon the seeming child before her. This would not be a fight; this would not even be good sport. With a bellow, Goolan charged, sword swiping through the filthy air where ThainMaid had stood only a second before. The she-elf had simply leapt backwards, landing on the balls of her feet, crouched and sprung in her turn, high, higher than the top of Goolan’s head, twisting and rolling in the air, both black blades flashing. The elf landed on the sands behind the large woman, rolling on her shoulders, springing to her feet to face her opponent. Goolan stood there, screaming curses and clutching her head with her free hand. ThainMaid had slashed off both the woman’s ears as she flew overhead.

The crowd roared its approval. Goolan grasped her sword in both hands, swinging the blade back and forth in an arc before her, advancing on the elf, growling in pain and hate as she came on. ThainMaid swayed where she stood, her twin blades windmilling in her hands, her green eyes never leaving her opponent. The giant woman lunged; the elf twisted; three swords met with a ringing krang! of steel followed by a grunt and a shriek of pain. The twin blades had pinned the great sword, and a savage kick from the she-elf struck Goolan in the chest. ThainMaid then whipped her head round, the iron spike in her braids slashing across Goolan’s face, covering the giant’s eyes in blood.

The howls and shrieks of the crowd drowned out the giant woman’s cries, as ThainMaid now began a silent, hideous assault. Blow after blow, slash after slash, vicious cuts and stabs began to cover the giant woman’s body as the elf moved around Goolan, a deadly circle dance with sword-cuts faster than the eye could follow. The giant dark woman sank to her knees, shielding her face from the attack. ThainMaid struck off her hands with two furious blows and continued the violation of her opponent’s body. After what seemed like hours of torture, ThainMaid stood in front of her whimpering defeated foe, her pale skin spattered with blood and sweat, the glistening mounds of her breasts rising and falling from the exertions, her green eyes cold and void of pity. Placing the two black blades across Goolan’s throat, a double-slash sent the giant’s head rolling across the arena floor, the torso falling lifeless into the sands.

The crowd roared in ecstatic delight, triumph savagely screaming from every throat. A low chant began in the upper galleries, then grew as more voices joined it: “Golug-snaga! Golug-snaga! Golug-snaga!!” As if only just now hearing the roar of the arena, ThainMaid raised her head, her deadly green eyes scanning the galleries, the wild faces of men gloating over her body and bloodlust. And for the first time that day, the elf-maid spoke – a wild, feral scream torn from her throat and from her very heart…

…and sat straight up in bed, the cry still echoing in the confines of the room, the sheet falling from her shoulders, her long dark hair clinging to her skin from sweat. Her eyes adjusted to the soft light of the room in the Inn, the only sounds being her frenzied panting, the soft almost silent breathing of the baby in the cradle across the room, and the struggling grunt of surprise coming from the man in bed next to her. As she felt the comfort of arms encircling her, she froze, then allowed herself to collapse into the strength around her.

“The dreams again, melima?” he asked. “Breathe easy, all is well,” he said as he stroked her hair, and cuddled her close. “These dreams are only memories, they have no meaning beyond that.”

Her shoulders shuddered under the suppressed sobbing. She was safe. She was here, in Arnor, in the Westlands, married to a Dunedain Ranger. She was mother, and wife, and lady of the Dunedain. She was ThainMaid no more.


1. Golug-snaga – Black Speech, “Elf-slave”
2. Melima – Sindarin, “Beloved”

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