"There are some Brothers," Ushatar explained to Saalcaf, "But also fresh blood looking for a good enemy, and songs sung in their name."

In truth, it was more young blood. The Brotherhood had a different fighting style, freer, self-guided, but Ushatar had decided to set Bartaazgur over this new group, to make them into one machine. Terror would seize the bravest fighters, facing the wraiths; a proper squad would keep everyone moving and fighting, their bodies remembering the mission and methods even if their courage failed them. The best of those new fighters was a strapping whelp everyone called Lug. Bald-headed, with high, spiking ears barbed with bits of iron, Lug's footwork was surprisingly light for his size.

"Atishlati!" Bartaazgur barked, and the warriors halted, then snapped into three three-by-three squares. Ushatar frowned slightly; Bartaazgur spat into the snow. "Too fucking slow, you're all screaming thirsty dead shit now! Run, you dead shit fuckers!"

"Not what they're used to," Saalcaf grunted.

"The wraith's not like anything they've fought, Durub. It's not an enemy you can stick your sword in, to make it bleed. You can't rage at it or play with it, to take the heart from it. Their courage will shake, it could break, there'd be no shame. But in a pack, an Orc doesn't break. He's only a piece of a wheel to roll over the enemy. The wheel will keep moving, and pull him right along."

Saalcaf grunted again; he wanted to see results, whatever he thought of it.

"Halt! Eight-on-one's! Lug, Lâtagu! Kazan! You're the lucky maggots in the middle!"

"Now they train for speed under a swarm, eight Orcs attacking one," Ushatar thought, observing with quick, critical eyes. It wasn't enough. He'd do twenty-six to one before long.

"They're taking wounds," Saalcaf said, scenting blood on the air.

"To spare worse later," Ushatar told him. "And the blades are sharp and fresh. Even now, Aarth's melting down anything he's given. We'll make as many swords and daggers as we can."

A small mountain of cooking pots was gathering around Aarth-Anghum. Odd tools, arm bands, even detailed swords plundered from Rohan, kept from someone's sire's sire's raiding days, all fell at the smith's feet. All would burn, all would re-mold. Ushatar would have even the smallest milk-teeth whelps able to defend themselves, if he could.

Saalcaf said, "They can slice, they can swing, but they won't know that fear you spoke of until it's too late to learn. You sure this Isengard-style pack will hold to your wheel, in terror?"

"It's the best chance," Ushatar said.

"Will they fight you?"

Ushatar frowned at Saalcaf, knowing well the Durub could smell the frown even if he couldn't see it. "I'm no wraith. Sir."

"Sir," Saalcaf laughed softly. "You make everyone's blood run cold, Ushatar. Can't help it."

Ushatar didn't allow himself to flinch. He knew it too well. Even Tara'd gone away in her mind; gone away, yet watching him anxiously under those lifting crebain-wing brows.

"Everyone's grateful, no less," Saalcaf said.

"I know," Ushatar said. "I hope, if I help us win, they'll know I'm grateful for them too."

He drew his sword and strode through the snow, and Bartaazgur barked a halt, fall in!

"Who will fight me?" Ushatar demanded, and the answer was a frustrating silence.

Bartaazgur's gaze shifted to Ushatar, then back to the warriors. "Oi, you dripping cunts! You sweet-livered dog-fucking maggots, he won't suck your spirit out and turn it to a shrieker—At least I don't think so!"

"I'll fight," one voice finally offered.

"Kazan, isn't it?" Ushatar asked.

"Aye, sir," Kazan said. Bartaazgur called the others aside, leaving Kazan to stand alone before Ushatar's approach. The young Orc's bare chest—near pale as a rider, but grey like stone—heaved up and down as he fell into a defensive stance. Ushatar raised his sword and sliced it down on the whelp, hard but slow enough to block. Kazan leaped to the side, avoiding blow and fight both, his eyes wide. Ushatar thought he could hear the faint hammering drum of Kazan's heart.

Ushatar danced away, waiving his hand in beckoning. Bartaazgur snorted contemptuously and growled out filth, and Kazan gave a half-hearted stab.

"Faster!" Ushatar hissed. "There's no place for fear out there, with them!"

Kazan swung, Ushatar slipped away; but at least the whelp was trying now. A crowd had grown around them. As Kazan's heart grew, Ushatar's attacks became more calculated, his blows close enough to sever Kazan from his shadow. The young Orc would be dead a hundred times already, Ushatar thought, frowning, and all because he fears me too much to truly defend himself.

But finally, Kazan swung true. Ushatar's sword rose up to meet the blow, but before the swords could clash, Kazan's new-made blade seemed to ring against the cold, shimmering air. It froze in a flash of time so fast only Ushatar could perceive it, before the metal shuddered and came apart into shards and fragments that piled like ash around Ushtar's feet. Ushatar felt some deep, wild, instinctive piece of himself thrown forward, beyond his own skin, even. He had to fight to maintain his own balance, all in that frozen flash of a moment, and so he didn't hear the guttural shriek flee Kazan's lips. He didn't look up and back into the world around him until Kazan lay on the ground, shaking violently, his eyes rolled back milky white.

Ushatar threw his sword into the snow and dropped to his knees. He heard—sensed—Bartaazgur rush up behind him, but he threw a hand out and shouted, "No!" in dread that whatever he'd done to Kazan would spread to the others.

"No, no…" Ushatar took the writhing Orc's face in his hands. Kazan's body was ice. "I take it back, I take it back!" he groaned, sick, but the seizure held, the Orc weakened, the ice grew colder still.

I take it back! Ushatar thought desperately, and then he realized, I must actually take it back, as if with my own hands.

He'd imagined himself pouring into the fire, the metal, in Aarth's starlit forge; he'd perceived the finished blades in his mind as he'd spoken his words. Now, Ushatar struggled to push away his own horror, as he'd once pushed his master's call from his mind. And then he imagined—he felt himself—pulling that witless savage inside part of himself back into his guts, where it belonged. Warm, now, he thought, once he had himself together again, now you'll grow warm.

He could feel the heat in his hands, but it wasn't spreading through the Orc fast enough. The next idea leaped after the first, and while his hands pushed warmth, his mind conjured the hot springs from the old cave, the laughter of little imps splashing and playing, the scents of roasting meat. He imagined, he knew he could share these memories, warm and bright and real, so that Kazan's mind would fill up with them and push the other out. So focused, Ushatar didn't even hear the words lilting from his own mouth, ancient words like wind. But then, Kazan lay wide-eyed in the snow, blinking up at him, bewildered, both terror and comfort swimming in his drowned-looking eyes.

"You back, soldier?" Ushatar asked.

Kazan tried to speak, but his throat was too weak and dry. He merely swallowed, like there were thorns in his mouth.

Ushatar looked up, around him, into the crowded, silent circle, hundreds of eyes in frozen faces. He exhaled, stood, turned to Bartaazgur. Even Bartaazgur was stunned, like he'd been struck in the head with a club. But the Isengarder recovered first, straightening himself to more rigid attention, awaiting Ushatar's command.

"Get him to Brodha," Ushatar said. He stood up, backing away as Hanksar and Lug ran to lift Kazan up.

Ushatar closed his eyes, but he couldn't get away from all of the eyes raking over him. Unwillingly, he walked back to Saalcaf.

Voice cold and thin, Saalcaf demanded, "What was that? What just happened?"

"I don't know yet," Ushatar admitted. Saalcaf's icy fear assaulted Ushatar. "I don't know, but I'll figure it out, and get it under control. I need… I need to be alone for a while, to do that."


The dawn was coming. Ushatar sat in the snow, Morulur curled up not to far from his feet. Ushatar had hoped to hear sense from his thoughts—he'd been thinking so clearly, lately—but he had nothing for himself but bleak horror.

Sculpting fire and metal to his will had been thrilling. Pulling visions from his mind and drawing them faster than ever before, pure joy. He'd not expected these abilities, but they were a pleasure. What had happened tonight—

It was a war-power, he thought sternly to himself. But it was a power as terrible as his master's own and he'd never seen it coming. He'd saved Kazan—he hoped—through sheer desperation. He'd healed what he'd broken, but what if he had other, worse abilities? With no map to suggest what might lay in wait? Who else would he hurt? Who would he kill?

He turned his head just as Morolur lazily raised his own. "You shouldn't be here, Urauk."

"I'm not afraid of you."

"I'm afraid of me."

Urauk shrugged, coming to sit beside him. "I owe you my life anyway. Everyone's fussing over Kazan, but I saw you walk away. I thought you shouldn't be alone."

Ushatar sighed, resting long arms on bent knees. He shook his head: thought failed him entirely, as if his mind had been on fire, and had no more to burn.

"I was thinkin' about it, Ushatar. That sword my sire made you was magicked to break if someone else took it to swing on you. Maybe since you made these blades, any one of them'll break if it's swung on you."

"Might be," Ushatar said. Behind him, he heard more feet in the snow; he caught the other Isengarder's scent.

"Any blade," Bartaazgur said. He stopped, as if he was waiting to be told to sit. Then, looking at Ushatar, he shook the bull-pen off, and sat on Ushatar's other side. "Any weapon."

"Any?" Ushatar asked.

"Bet anything I had on it. I've seen that power before… In Mordor."

Ushatar's pulse fluttered. I knew what I was walking in to, when I went to Ranaash's dar, he thought. But still he asked, "How do you know it's the same, that it'll work that way for me?"

"Wouldn't," Bartaazgur said, looking down to his hastily made boots as he shook his head, "If it weren't for the other, what happened to that soldier after you broke his sword."

"That's also a Mordor power," Ushatar accepted, looking out at his warg. "Isn't it?"

"Black breath, Ushatar. You can shut your enemies down, with terror. Don't mean suck their courage out. They just break," the Uruk said, as he tapped his temple with a clawed finger. "In the head. Orcs, Men, Elves, anyone. The Lord of Minas Morgul, those were his powers. Truth told, his stronghold's not too rough of a run from here. He was killed. Imploded really, just sort of burst in on himself. Might be you picked up his powers."

Ushatar closed his eyes briefly. When he opened them, his vision swept past Morulur, out the black mountains beyond. He breathed in their cold wind; he scented for thirsting dead things. "Wraiths don't have minds to break with fear. What else could this Lord do?"

Bartaazgur dared half a smile, like Ushatar'd put his head back on straight again. In truth he'd only set the horror and hollowness down, as if placing it in a rucksack and resting it close-at-hand.

"A great many things, more than I know! More than I wanted to know! He could draw the clouds and shake the sky. He could play with fire, light his sword in flames, light up platoons, too! A real son of a bitching bastard, that one! You'll never get someone to spar with you again, Cap'n!"

"Fire," Ushatar repeated, softly. "What else? Did he wonder about the makings of things? Could he make entirely new things?"

"Said his spells well enough, but his head wasn't his own. It belonged to the…" Bartaazgur glanced at Urauk, and said, after the fashion of the clan, "The Enemy."

Ushatar glanced sideways, darkness burning though the fey brightness in his eyes. "Then he was just a slave."

"You played with fire already," Urauk offered in the sudden cold, angry silence. "You did. With my sire, and the blades. You made the fire and the burning metal do something you wanted it to do."

"I did," Ushatar said. "Enough fire, the wraiths'll pull back."

"You can keep the camp safe, can't you?" Urauk asked.

"I can try," Ushatar said.

For the first time, it seemed like they might live. But Ushatar still had his hand on his grief: he might have Urauk and Bartaazgur, but he'd have to learn to hold even them at a safe distance. And Tara, was she lost to him? He'd offered his life for his joy, but he didn't know it would be a living death, where he'd be able to feel his own heart break while watching his own change. And how could he blame her, for turning away from him? If he could break a warrior's mind in the snow without even meaning to do it? Ushatar thought in despair: I'm as dead as I thought I'd be, become more terrible than I thought I'd be, and I'll keep dying and growing terrible, alone, until I don't remember what it ever felt like to love.

"We should find someone to fill Kazan's place," Bartaazgur finally said. "Could be, he's too shook up to go out there with us and hunt the shriekers."

"The last one we ruled out, I can't think of his name," Ushatar said. "The stocky one who fought viciously but was too easily distracted."

"That's Voskor, I know him," Urauk said. "I'll go find him, tell him to be ready to train tomorrow night, just in case. You coming back now, Ushatar?"

"Think I'll sit a while, Urauk," Ushatar said, and he turned his gaze out again, towards the jagged black void, cutting into the starry sky beyond.