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Pain-Bearer

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Nûl-lûpûrz. "He who begs for pain." The one who takes the pain of everyone else, in love for his master.

Except Bilbo held no love for his master, and every day he wished he could give the pain away -- but never to his fellow Hobbits, his cousins and neighbors who withered away one by one beneath the torments of the Orcs. After the Shirefall -- after the day the sky turned black -- Bilbo was one of the few Hobbits -- of the several dozen who were not sold to Orc tribes faraway -- who survived the torture of the Moria Orcs. Some fell to starvation, or to their wounds, or to suicide -- but not Bilbo, nor many others. He was too highly prized.

Nûl-lûpûrz. This was Bilbo Baggins's title in the darkened halls of Azog the Defiler. He was not "Bilbo" anymore to the people around him -- he was nûl-lûpûrz, Azog's personal slave. He was the only Hobbit who got a special name. The rest of his brethren were usually called snaga or akashuga by the Orcs. That was all they were, now -- halfling slaves to the Orc race of the caverns of Moria, no longer Hobbits of the Shire.

But Bilbo would always be called nûl-lûpûrz by any whose path he crossed. It had been given to him the very first day he was dragged crying and shaking before the great pale Orc. His mother Belladonna trembled beside him but did not scream, even as she reached for him, desperation in her gaze. His father Bungo was already dead, murdered when the Orcs first invaded. Yet Bilbo and his mother were spared, for they were âmbal to the Orcs, pretty with their pale curls and dark eyes -- so they were dragged, kicking and screaming, across the woods and plains past the burnt Old Forest, far beyond the crumbling remains of Bree and the empty fields that gave them unto Moria.

That day he had lost his mother. He had screamed when she was dragged before the great pale Orc who sat beside a white Warg. Azog had looked upon her, then gave her to his army leaders, his expression cruel as they ripped off her clothes. His mother was so brave -- she never shed a tear, though she screamed at the Orcs even as their claws pierced her sides -- but Bilbo could not handle the sight of his mother on her back beneath the horrible monsters.

He ran forward, the ropes around his wrists digging deeply, then relaxing as his Orc captors caught him. He fell to his knees and looked up at Azog, tears dripping down his dirty face. "Please," he begged, straining against the Orcs who dragged him back, "please don't hurt her! Please, please spare her! Hurt me instead! I will take her pain!"

The Orcs on top of his mother stopped when Azog lifted a hand. Azog gazed down at him, something glinting in his cruel, cruel eyes, the first light after the blackness of Shirefall -- and not one that Bilbo ever wished to see.

"No," he said simply, and Bilbo let out a shriek when the Orcs leapt on his mother again. He begged and pleaded and reached for her, his wrists cracked and rubbed raw from the shackles. He cried when her blood ran across the cold stones, firelight glinting on red. The Orcs drew back, laughing and shouting with triumph, but Bilbo looked upon his mother and saw that her eyes were blank, her hand ever reached out to him, as if to pat his head one last time and tell him it would be okay.

But it would never be okay. He had trembled, feeling black hate unfurl in his heart as he looked up at Azog the Defiler. Azog stared back at him, and with one pale hand beckoned his captors forward. He was dragged, silent and stunned, to kneel before Azog's throne, close enough to feel the heat of Azog's powerful body.

Azog reached out that pale hand to caress his dirty, bloody blond curls, and Bilbo would grow to despise that soft touch. "Nûl-lûpûrz-izub," Azog murmured, his fingers closing into a fist around Bilbo's hair, making his scalp burn. He did not know what it meant -- he would soon grow to hate the words -- but at that moment he felt everything break. He had held himself together somehow, clinging to his mother as they were taken from their home alongside hundreds of other Hobbits, after the skies turned black and Orcs invaded their warm little Hobbit holes -- after everything burned and everyone died. His mother, fierce Hobbit that she was, would not let him fall -- but her death was the end of his tenuous sanity.

His father's corpse lay in the front hall of Bag-End. His mother's corpse lay but a few feet away, covered in the filth of lustful Orcs. Behind him, other Hobbits screamed and cried as they were dragged off to their dooms. Before him sat the Orc who had ordered the fall of everything Bilbo and every other Hobbit had ever held dear. That day Bilbo had looked up into reddened blue eyes and felt his heart shatter for the last time.

Azog claimed him that night, and every night after. He was Azog's jewel -- the one slave the Defiler would share with no one else. No other Orc had ever touched him, except for the captors who first dragged him before Azog, and if any of them tried, they were quickly attacked by Azog's white Warg.

At first Bilbo did not know why. Then later, he would understand. It was his spine, Azog told him.

Every time Azog beat him, he stood back up but hours later. Every time Azog raped him, he crawled away to his little cushion at the foot of Azog's bed. Every time Azog taunted him, he glared and bit his tongue. Every time, he screamed and cried and beat against Azog's chest, and though he whimpered and begged to be let go, he still did not give in to his wounds or desire for death.

Azog loved the fire in him -- the steel in his spine, or so he murmured at night, when Bilbo lay crying silently on his cushion. Bilbo stood up to him when no other slave ever had, and Azog longed to break him.

But Bilbo had nothing more to break. Azog had taken everything from him already. All he had left was his pain.

~

By the Shire Reckoning, it had been 1323 when Azog the Defiler's army turned the skies black.

His cousins and neighbors and kin -- all of them disappeared. He knew some of the Hobbits had escaped into towns of Men -- he had not seen his Took cousins anywhere in the hundreds of Hobbits dragged before Azog -- but Bilbo knew not whether any of them lived. All he knew was that Hobbits were the slaves of Orcs, and that no army of Men, Elves, or Dwarves ever came to their rescue. They were abandoned to a fate worse than death. He did not blame the other races, though; he barely remembered that they existed, these days. No one could stop Azog the Defiler.

Bilbo had been Azog's plaything for seven years since the Shirefall. He did not keep time well, as he had not seen sunlight even once in the years since his capture, but he was certain that it had been about seven years. He felt much older than he must be. For a Hobbit he was still young, just growing into an adult, but the years spent kneeling at Azog's feet had aged him in ways he could not have seen eight years ago.

His days were spent at Azog's side, silent and obedient in front of Azog's minions. He knelt or sat on cushions beside Azog's throne, and Azog often ran his claws through Bilbo's curls as if in affection. When Azog had left the caves to lead an attack or simply did not want him around, Bilbo was allowed to roam the halls as he wished, and no Orc would dare harm him. He wore nothing but threadbare trousers and cold steel bracelets on his hands and neck. Azog's name was carved into his stomach amongst the scars of his punishments, marking him as untouchable.

His nights were spent in Azog's bed until the Defiler fell asleep. It was during these torturous nights that Bilbo fought back, and time and time again Azog would whisper to him with great cunning and cruelty, somehow convincing him not to throw himself into the depths of Moria's great caverns.

"If you bow your head and pleasure me, my pretty little hobbit, I will not have the next group of halflings beaten."

"If you shed no tears tonight while I take you, my pretty little hobbit, I will stop my Orcs from raping the little halflings."

"If you beg me, my pretty little hobbit, I will take away their pain."

"Instead, their pain will be yours."

But Azog always lied. Bilbo knew that his fellow Hobbits suffered no matter what Azog whispered into his ears in the darkness. He would have taken their pain and more, but always Azog was one step ahead of him, and even the Great Defiler could not stop the Orcs from plundering his poor kin. Oh, how Bilbo hated Azog.

~

Over time, Bilbo came to understand the innerworkings of Orc culture very well. Having a clever mind, he learned much of the Black Speech, though he never gave Azog or any of the other Orcs any hint of his knowledge. The other slaves learned the most basic of words -- akashuga, danghum, gîl -- the words that helped a Hobbit stay alive one more day.

After seven years of kneeling at Azog's side, listening to his meetings with his army leaders, Bilbo could understand the Black Speech near-perfectly.

So one day, when Azog returned from a hunt looking wild and gleeful, Bilbo listened carefully from his cushion.

Gazatu were mentioned. Dwarves, the most hated enemy of Azog's armies. Moria had once been a Dwarf kingdom, and Azog had lost his temper more than once growling about Durin's line and the Dwarves of Erebor. If Azog was angry about Dwarves, then Bilbo would likely pay the price tonight.

"I want Thorin's head," Azog murmured, and Bilbo remembered vaguely that Thorin was the last of Durin's line and one of Azog's worst enemies. He must have done something truly horrible recently to make Azog this aggravated. Azog had a peculiar way of showing his anger -- he seemed happy even as he raged. Azog let out a high laugh, and Bilbo shuddered.

"He has defied me for the last time. If he is to march on Moria, then we will meet him and burn his forces to the ground. His head shall be mine. Send word! There is a price on Thorin Oakenshield's head!" Azog thundered, and in front of them, Orcs cried out with fervent agreement.

Dwarves marching on Moria? A tiny hope fluttered in the back of Bilbo's mind. When would it happen? Would they really fight against the Orcs? What would happen to the Hobbits?

The Orcs cackled and leapt away, past trembling Hobbits that cowered as they pulled back the trays of food and drink prepared for the meeting. Azog rose and picked up Bilbo's chain, pulling him along as he stalked back to his room. Bilbo followed quickly, stumbling after him, and once inside the great stone room, Azog picked him up and threw him on the pile of furs, letting out a dark laugh again.

Bilbo backed up quickly, and Azog stalked up to the bed, his Warg slinking into the room behind him and growling softly.

"You will cry for me tonight, my pretty little hobbit," Azog purred, and for a moment Bilbo cursed the name of Thorin, the tiny hope in the back of his mind wavering in the face of the Defiler and his peculiar lust for Bilbo.