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Aulë -- The Beginning

In the beginning there were fifteen songs and Mairon knew his heart completely; for it called him with a note like a hammer’s fall, ran callused hands along his fëa and placed him on the road that wound towards perfection. Aulë’s voice held the warmth of skin and the comfort of touch -- each point of contact between them an epiphany.  Yet when the Lady of Trees called, his Master left and Mairon turned his back on green and growing things.



Melkor -- The Fall

Mairon gritted his teeth and pulled the spear of rock from his thigh. Above, framed by the new fissure opened in the mountain, combat still raged. Around him, the upper forges lay in ruins. Energy welled between his fingers and he bit back oaths as his hröa knit itself together with agonizing slowness.

Lightning flashed overhead. With a sound like a stricken anvil Aulë crouched at his side, armor glowing the mottled red of smelting iron. “Mairon,” He commanded, voice full and deep. Mairon felt his hopes stir; surely, this time he would be allowed -- “you must flee this place.” He blinked back the familiar sting of rejection.

“My lord, I know thou prefers the work of my hammer to that of my blades, but our enemies have breached your halls. The time has come; though my power is not as great as others, I would fight by your side.” Aulë’s grim features softened at his plea, but before he could answer there was the mighty roar of a comet strike and a great explosion shook the deeps. A crimson shadow rose from the swirling rock dust and Tulkas emerged, shaking debris from his plaited white hair with a laugh that rattled the earth's bones.  

“Oh ho ho, it is not like you to play at hide and seek, Evil One!” He boomed with a berserker's joy. Tulkas' unrestrained fëa scoured the chamber with hurricane force, giving Mairon the unpleasant sensation of a candle flame in a wind storm. He let out an involuntary hiss when he felt the Vala note him. “But ho! What’s this? Where is your sword and shield, Little One? Do not tell me --” His twinkling eyes turned back to Aulë, “This is not the --?”

Aulë’s glare stopped Tulkas, but Mairon heard the rest of the accusation anyway; spy, traitor, slut. “It is no fault of Mairon’s that his skills have brought him to the attention of our enemy. Yet,” Aulë frowned. Mairon noted bitterly that his Master failed to meet his eyes. “The might of Melkor is great, and I would not put any in the path of his temptations. I’m sorry Mairon, but I must deny thy request. Go now instead to my wife, Yavanna, for in the days to come I shall have much need of thy talent, and thou art too dear to be risked to the troubles of Ossë.”

Mairon’s chest tightened at the distrust in his Master’s words and though he knew a good Maia would’ve bowed their head and accepted the order, he could not stop his protest, “My lord, I beg you, reconsider! For many times has the enemy approached me, and each time I have reproached him! I have --”

“Aulë!” Tulkas roared. “We have no time for this -- for every second we delay our foe wreaks havoc upon our kith and kin. Now heed your lord, little Maia and be gone. This day is not yet done and I yearn for the clutch of my fingers around Melkor’s neck!”

Then the combined will of the two Valar fell upon him and Mairon could no longer resist. Though every part of him longed to stay, to object, he felt his head bow and his feet carry him without his consent from his master’s halls.

Mairon had reached the eastern gate by the time the spell broke and he was given back control of his hröa. His lungs constricted all at once and he fell to his knees coughing, limbs trembling with the strain of resisting the enchantment. His mind howled its fury and betrayal; Tulkas, at least, he understood. The Ainu was an idiot, suited only to war, but Aulë… did his Master truly misjudge him so? Must Mairon forever bear a taint for events in which he had no part?

“I had said that they would turn on you.” The voice curled into the air like smoke, stinging his ears as ice which burned to touch. Whirling, Mairon slid a knife into the palm of his hand.

From the shadows beneath a statue of Ilúvatar, Melkor’s smile flashed blade-bright. He had made himself small this time, only a hand’s breadth taller than Mairon himself, and frost spiraled over stone where he brushed it.

“Master --” Mairon opened his mouth to call for Aulë but no sooner had the sound left him than it froze, caught silent in a web of cold.

“I apologize,” Melkor smirked, striding toward him. “But I’m afraid--”

Mairon did not have the strength of his forge brothers and sisters, but what his attacks lacked in might they made up for in precision. Enchanted steel bit into a narrow gap in Melkor's armor. Silver energy spilled from the wound.

Breathing hard Mairon retreated, guard up, strangling his fear. “Get thee gone, Enemy! Or this shall be the last time you trespass in my Master’s halls!”

For a moment, it seemed as if Melkor had not heard him. The wound in his hröa had already healed and he was staring down at the unblemished skin, expression strange. Then the Vala threw back his dark head and laughed.

Fury blazed through Mairon, overwhelming sense. Raising his knife, he charged again. Expected this time, in seconds, he was soon restrained. “Do not mock me,” he snarled, struggling. “Do not dare --”

“Peace, o Admirable One.” Melkor's breath tickled, low and almost fond against the back of his neck. “My mirth is only at the aptness of your name. For though today I have contended with my brother, Tulkas, and Aulë your lord, you are the first to draw blood.” At this, the hold around him relaxed and Mairon took the opportunity to attack again. Yet this time his knife dissolved to dust and Mairon stumbled against the Vala, palm slamming harmlessly off his chest. Melkor caught his wrist as he stepped back.

“Great is the loyalty of Mairon, if misplaced. For have I not told you of the lies of Ilúvatar; of how he stole the Ainur’s birthright, and would bend creation to his will?” Grief clouded Melkor’s face. “Or do you not remember? Have they taken that from you as well? Have --”

“Who could forget such ridiculous claims?” Marion growled, weaponless and seething and his voice took on a dangerous note; high, sarcastic, and cruel. “‘All the Ainur were created equal, Mairon!’ ‘Join my side and I shall give thee power, Mairon!’ Aye, and next I suppose I should believe that we will spend our days eating bread and honey and braiding stars into each other’s hair.”

Melkor shrugged. “I do not ask only for my own sake --”

All you do is for your own sake!” Mairon snapped, addressing a being who with a thought might’ve turned him to sand. “Tempt me if thou must, but do not expect me to believe that you care! I have no wish to be thy thrall!”

“And I have not asked you to be!” Melkor roared, so that the air between them cracked, filling with the scent of ozone. “What I thought I had proposed -- what I am asking...“ he said, visibly struggling to reign in his pride, “Is that you be my General.”

Shocked silence followed the declaration. A bubbling sensation churned in Mairon’s stomach and it was his turn to laugh; harsh and almost hysteric. “Ah yes, because all know that the fiercest of the Ainur cannot wage his wars without the aid of one of the least. Nonsense.” He shook his head. “My Master was wrong to worry, or call thee the Great Deceiver, for I have met liars amongst the kelva more convincing.”

“Do you think I don’t know that?” Melkor’s features had gone hard and flat. The rage in his voice was woven with a despair so acute it sent Mairon to his knees. “Alone amongst the Vala I have chosen to fight for what we have lost; yet, it is… it is not a task for which I am well suited.”

The last stumbled, thick off his tongue and Mairon wondered at it. Despite his best efforts, he had contended with the dark lord many times and he had never seen him so unsure. Mairon did not know what expression he made, but Melkor answered it with an acerbic smirk. “I know my flaws, Mairon. I know I am proud. Impetuous. Easy to goad. And though I may not by the thoughtless tyrant my enemies paint me, neither am I made for strategy or rules. I am chaos. I am a warrior, the greatest that has been or will ever be; but soldiers alone do not win wars and in all Eä, it is said there are none cleverer nor longer sighted than thee.”

“Yet I have never been allowed in battle.” Mairon replied before he could stop himself. “My power is too small and, thanks to you, my -- Aulë no longer trusts me.”

“He fears you.” Melkor answered, and when Mairon rolled his eyes insisted, “They all do. Why do you think my brother called away his Herald, when Eönwë offered to teach you the dance of swords? How else can you explain why your Master bars you, his finest smith, from the new Working in his halls?”

“What working?” Mairon asked, though in his heart he already knew; for of late he had heard hammer blows in the night, ringing out from the deep forges where his master had forbidden him.

“They hobble you.” Melkor explained, “because their hierarchy is all they understand and you exceed expectations. They do not know what you might yet become and so cripple you.” Melkor’s eyes, looking upon him were filled with curious wonder. When he reached out to help him to his feet, Mairon let him. “Ah,” His fingers traced Mairon’s jaw as he leaned down and whispered, “It hurts sometimes, to see how they diminish you. For I am Mighty, but thou should’ve been Great.”

Then Mairon let out a strangled cry, pushing Melkor from him, as a hurt he’d thought long buried woke again in his chest. For the first time since the beginning he felt laid bare; tempted and vulnerable. “No.” The denial sounded weak in his ears. “No…” he tried again, even as Melkor closed, settling large hands on his shoulders.

“Be my General,” the Vala asked, calm and serious as the places before time. “I cannot promise victory, but by your help, I would hope for it. Lend to me that hunger that drives you to be more than Ilúvatar could imagine. I have clothed my Maiar in flame and shadow, yet if we triumph I swear by my name and the Flame Imperishable, I will crown you in the finest of our recovered glories.”

“Pretty sentiments,” Mairon rasped, when he could finally make himself speak. “But they would be more convincing if you had not already tried them on Ossë. How long was it, may I ask, before he realized you had no intention of keeping your oath?”

To his surprise, Melkor waved the accusation off dismissively. “It is not the same! Ossë approached me as a means of indulging his own love of destruction. I am in no position to turn away aid, but I promised him nothing.”

“Ha! Clever words. Do not forget, o Mighty Arising, that I have heard your song and remember that it was proud and vain and spoke not of sharing. Whether you mean false or true, I will not throw away what I have earned for table scraps and the yoke of domination.”

“And I have said: that is not what I wish.”

Then Mairon’s breath caught in his throat, for at that moment the Mightiest of the Vala sank to his knees and, without breaking his stare, lifted the hem of Mairon’s robe and kissed it. “If not with conversation, how should I convince you? For my only wish is to right the wrong Eru has committed against our people, and if I am a weapon, you are the only one I trust to wield it.”

Saying thus, Melkor ran his hand up the curve of his thigh. Mairon's hröa burned. “What --” his breath caught, “What are you doing?”

“I think sometimes you must’ve been destined for me.” New and wicked anticipation glittered in Melkor’s upturned eyes. His touch grazed the buckle of Mairon’s belt. “Use me, Mairon. Let us right what is wrong in the world.” He leaned forward again. Panicked, Mairon dug restraining hands into the dark waterfall of his hair.

“Answer me!” He commanded, almost desperate.

“Oh,” Melkor’s gaze flickered shut. Leaning into Mairon's touch, he let out a soft, reverent sound. “Surely,” he breathed at last, “You have heard of the secret games of elves.”

Mairon’s cheeks went hot. “Oh! But -- we are Ainur! It is forbidden!” He regretted the words as soon as they left him, petty and childish.

“By who? And for what reason?” The curve of the Vala's smile pressed hot against his hip. “So it is that Eru forbids many wondrous things."

"I will not be your whore--"

"Then don't be." Energy crackled across Mairon’s skin. "Beneath your hands, at least, I do not scorn domination.” Then Melkor’s fëa licked into him, awaking pleasure and power and visions of beauty beyond anything he had ever known. Wet heat sucked against newly bared flesh and a sound was ripped from his throat that he did not understand. “Do you like it? Having the mightiest on his knees?” Melkor murmured against him. Mairon choked. “Come with me. Win with me, wield me, use me. Ah -- Mairon --”

The creak of hinges sounded far down the hall and as Melkor pulled away Mairon blinked, bereft. “No…” He gasped in protest even as Melkor rose, drawing him close. “Come with me,” he murmured again, into shell of Mairon’s ear. “Come with me, Mairon, and you may take anything that you want.”

“I --” Mairon could not move. He could not think, he could not -- “I -- ah, no, Ilúvatar, I cannot --”

Then Melkor sighed, stepping back, and all at once pain ripped into Mairon, deep gashes opening in his flesh. He gasped, holding back a scream. For a moment longer, Melkor held him close. “To dispel the worries of thy lord,” he murmured, brushing over the wounds. “And my gift; for when they heal, you shall be mightier than before, and Aulë none wiser.” Saying thus, he became a fog of black smoke and departed.

When Aulë came to the eastern gate, he found the smallest of his Maia half-dead on the floor.

“Mairon? Oh no, what have I done. Mairon--” His Master’s voice echoed as if from a great distance; small and very far away. Then Mairon felt himself borne up into strong arms and in time, the healing touch of Yavanna.



Gothmog -- Compromise

Utumno lay in ruins. The obsidian halls were shattered; ice melted, fires banked.  Mairon’s power was greater than it had ever been and still it meant nothing, was nothing, for Melkor was gone and in his absence, his captains had descended into machinations and civil war.

Looking out over shattered stone, despair rose in his heart.  He believed in his lord, he believed in their cause, yet if this squabbling continued he knew that when -- and it must be when, not if -- Melkor returned nothing would remain of all that they had created.

Gothmog was the key, he knew. Like himself, the Lord of Balrogs had held back from fighting, yet not, he thought, for the same reasons; ambition burned hot in Gothmog’s chest and though he had some care for Melkor’s vision, he was equally interested in assuming command of his kingdoms.

The flapping of giant wings disturbed Mairon's thoughts as Thuringwethil alighted on the parapet beside him. It was clear from her face that negotiations had not gone as hoped. When she hesitated to report, he braced himself for the worst.

“Come,” he prompted at last into the uneasy silence. “Surely you know by now that I do not punish my messengers. What say the Balrogs to our request for parlay?”

Thuringwethil’s smile was small and exceedingly grim. “In short? That they will not.”

“And in long?” He asked; the vampire ducked her head. Mairon gentled his tone, “I do not ask to discomfit you, lady. But have I not always said that there is useful information to be found even in insults?”

“Indeed, my lord.” Thuringwethil wrinkled her delicate nose. “Very well. They claim that you are no true captain, but merely Melkor’s pet, and now that he is gone have no standing save what you can earn upon your knees or back.” To her credit, the vampire’s face did not color as she spoke, though the expression she wore was far from comfortable. Mairon had to restrain his own shock at the words; they had been subtle. He had not even been aware that it was known --

His teeth clenched. “That is a gross mischaracterization --”

“I know,” her response was quick and placating. “I saw the way he looked at you, my lord and aye, you at him. I am aware too that your… ah, dynamic did not always go in quite the manner implied.” Mairon's lips quirked in fond and bitter memory. “Yet….”

“What is it, Thuringwethil? I have much valued your wisdom of old. If you have a suggestion, I would hear it.”

“...I think you already know that the Balrogs will not be won with rhetoric, for they were the first of the Ainur to ally themselves to Melkor, and value might above all else.”

Mairon snorted. “A short-sightedness that has caused no end of problems. Go on.”

The film of her nictitating eyelids performed a long, slow blink. “Ah.... when I was yet one of Oromë's Maiar, I was always placed amongst the least -- barely greater than the eldar. Yet -- misconceptions of weakness have their own power, and it was at the Huntsman’s feet that I learned how little sacrifices of the body can be traded for far greater rewards.”

“I like not what you imply,” Marion returned, his voice harsher than he meant. “Our Master has not been gone for even a full fortnight, and you suggest that I betray him.”

“I suggest nothing, my lord; merely convey my thoughts as you have bid and note that Gothmog would not so disdain thee if he did not crave you also.” The vampire drew her arms tight about herself, meeting his gaze directly. “As for betrayal -- Melkor’s forces stand on the brink of self immolation. Before that truth, what is a little writhing of the hröa? You taught me once that all things are tools, if wielded properly. I cannot believe our Master would fault you for that.” Then Mairon was long silent, considering her words and Thuringwethil faltered. “I apologize if I have overstepped --”

“No,” he stopped her with a troubled look. “No, Thuringwethil, you are cleverer than even I credited. Thank you for your insight. Now go, I have much to think on.”

***

For three years and three days Mairon crafted spells in his chambers on the ruined slopes of Utumno, studying his own desires and finding ways to turn them outwards. Layers of enchantment, thin as the finest silks, he wove into his skin until even he had trouble telling where they ended and his own natural appeal began. It was only when, at last, the manipulation of another’s hröa was as natural as his own that he left his peak and slipped shadow-like into the Lord of Balrog’s chambers.

In the half-dark, the molten rock of the mountain’s core painted his body in fire and gold and when Gothmog returned to his rooms at last, Mairon sprang his trap.

For one second, seeing Mairon sprawled across the great slab of his bed, the captain of Morgoth roared, reaching for his sword. Then the magic caught him, and Mairon watched with fascination as lust mastered the prince of shadow and flame, holding him as could no mortal chains could.

“Gothmog,” he said, bothering with no titles or endearments as he spread himself, naked, before the Balrog’s gaze. “We need to talk.”

For a long moment their wills battled, yet in the end, Mairon was the victor and when Gothmog bowed his great head, he felt a rush such as he had never known. Was this was his lord had felt, he wondered as the first touch brushed across him. Was this what had allowed the mightiest of the Ainur to submit; knowing the absoluteness of his power was such that he might give freely of it and never risk true loss?

“An alliance, Gothmog. That is all I ask. For just as long as it takes for our Master to return. So we might preserve something of his -- together.”

Gothmog’s answer burned like fire across his skin; “Yes -- yes -- yes .”



Fëanor -- Answers

 

In the dark, beyond the walls of Alqualondë, Fëanor walked alone. For hours, hot fury had pumped through his veins, and far worse was the murmur of grief beneath it. His wife was gone, his father dead, the Teleri denied him and the Valar had turned their backs. He was surrounded by kin but had never before felt so abandoned or alone.

“My lord Fëanor?” A voice rose, lilting and fair from out of the night. Fëanor drew his sword.

“Who goes there? Show yourself!”

At his demand an elf with flame-red hair emerged from a copse of trees in the direction of his soldier’s tents, hands raised. “Peace, my liege. I did not mean to startle thee.”

“I was not startled!” Fëanor snarled, making no move to sheath his blade. The other was unknown but familiar; with a start, he realized there was a trace of Nerdanel in the stranger’s unusually full lips and the almond slant of his eyes. “Only rightly cautious; for my enemies are many, and you have yet to prove yourself not amongst them. Name thyself.”

“I am Airëccar,” The elf responded, pride bringing new steel to his spine. “Son of Ang, of the dark elves of the distant mountains, but my mother, before she died, was Carednel; cousin to your wife.”

The last snagged on a memory, centuries old, of a copper-haired girl Fëanor had last seen as a youth in the forges of Mahtan, who according to rumor had passed into the east and found ruin. “I know the name,” Fëanor allowed, maintaining his guard. “Yet, I have also heard that its owner fell into the hands of the Enemy, without husband or son.”

“Then you are a poorer gossip than smith! For my father’s people have long worked against Morgoth and it is no fault of mine that you have not heard the songs of their deeds they play in these lands.” In that instant, Airëccar’s gaze seemed to burn and Fëanor saw in the boy a spirit more like his own than he had encountered in many years. “It is true that my mother, for all her bravery and skill, was lost to shadow after my birth but I had not thought thee -- of all elves -- should resent me for it.” Then Fëanor felt a twist of shame; for he saw his own temper mirrored in youth's outburst, and perceived its root in a similar pain.

“Well, it is a sad tale, no doubt,” He grunted at last, putting away his blade. “But you imply that you have traveled far, and offer no explanation why. If you seek to exploit our family ties for hospice or riches, I must disappoint. For my greatest work, the Silmarils, were lately stolen from me, and I shall have no time for such things until they are restored.”

“But that is the reason I have come!” Airëccar declared, dropping to one knee. “For though I have not thy talent, I have always favored my mother’s folk, and when word came to us of eldar-forged gems surpassing the creations of even the Valar I knew I must seek thee and beg to learn at thy side. Yet, when I learned of their theft….ah.” He drew back his cloak and, removing the sheathed sword at his side, placed it at Fëanor’s feet. “Out of grief for my mother, my father named me “Holy Vengeance”; if you would have me, I pledge myself to thy cause.”

Then Fëanor was of two minds, and the larger part was to reject Airëccar’s offer and send him hence. But as he opened his mouth to speak, a cloud shifted and light caught on the breathtaking detail work of the weapon's hilt. In that moment his anger dimmed, replaced by the old and comforting habit of critiquing the young smiths of his forge. Against his better instincts he took up the blade, inspecting it.

Drawn from its scabbard, it was a magnificent thing -- well balanced and lightly curved in the manner of the scimitars of the east. It had been crafted to impress, he noted, letting his gaze travel down the painstaking scrollwork of its etched steel. Each individual flourish spoke of an eagerness to please that, from a more experienced smith, might’ve bordered on mocking. In Airëccar, it instead appeared to promise a talent that -- given the correct instruction, discipline, and time -- might one day come close to matching Fëanor’s own.

“You made this?” He asked at last, when he could find no flaw other than ostentation. Airëccar’s cheeks colored. He bowed his head.

“I know it is not up to the standards of thee or of thine house. Yet, it is the best that I could manage alone, in the land of my birth.” The flame of his hair fell about him in loose waves and he seemed suddenly, achingly young. Naive and practically vibrating with the need to help, to please. Set against turbulence of Fëanor’s life of late there was something… appealing in that.

“Well, I suppose we are kin and, if your skill at arms is like unto your ability to forge them, not without promise. But hark, as we stand here the evening grows cold, and I would not have my thoughts heard by those who might spy undercover of darkness. Come or go as thou wilt, but if you wish, I will allow thee to accompany me to my tent, and share of my people’s drink and bread.”

“My lord, I would be honored.” Fëanor pursed his lips, gave a tight nod and turned to make his way back so he did not see the smirk that played over Airëccar’s lips, or the hate molten in his eyes.

***

Well into their second bottle of wine, Fëanor felt more at peace than he has since the discovery of his father’s death and the theft of his Silmarils. Airëccar, he had discovered, had a clever if somewhat provincial mind and possessed a casual disregard for the sanctity of the Ainur that Fëanor found entirely refreshing.

“Explain to me,” he was asking, “Why those here in the west speak of the Valar as gods -- for I have seen with my own eyes he that they call the Huntsman and even the Enemy himself at a distance. I acknowledge that they are mighty but they cannot bend the universe to their will and can, I imagine, be killed; or why else would the Dark Lord cower in his fortress when my father’s people’s patrol the plains?”

“My point exactly!” Fëanor exclaimed, feeling his blood run hot with liquor instead of rage. “They hide their natures from us, obscuring their earliest years in secrets and lies to keep us in awe.”

“You do not think…” Airëccar’s face was flushed charmingly with drink. “Surely… they would not seek to keep us subordinate on purpose?”

“I cannot speak for all the Ainur,” Fëanor replied, refreshing both their glasses. “But I know that when they were in need, they asked that I give up the greatest craft ever made by eldar hands, and when I requested their help in turn, I was denied it. They are many things, good and wonderful it is sure, but trustworthy?” Fëanor shook his head. “That, I no longer believe of them.”

“That is wise -- as are you, my lord. ” Airëccar nodded, full lips parted in a moue of realization and anger mirrored Fëanor’s own. “Ah! Forgive me my lord, but the story you have told this night fills me with wrath to match my name; for it seems to me that you surpassed the limits they placed upon the Eldar and they seek to cripple and curtail you for it. Why else would they let a work greater than they shall ever again know pass into the enemy’s hands, other than out of jealousy and spite?”

Fëanor could not entirely contain the smile the sentiment drew from him and raised his glass. “You said it, not I.”

Then the blush of Airëccar’s cheeks deepened and his tone took on a new hesitancy as the pink of his tongue darted to wet his lower lip. “I -- my lord. I do not mean to pry and will stop immediately should thou ask me but -- I have thought on you and your great works long on my journey. Might I -- might I be permitted to inquire into a pet theory of mine?”

Beneath the buzz of wine, Fëanor wrestled a stab of deep suspicion; Airëccar was simpley curious, he meant nothing by it. “Ask,” he managed at last, low and gruff. “Though I make no promise to furnish you with an answer.”

“From all I have heard and you have confirmed, your Silmarils are treasures of great beauty. Yet, beyond Aulë and perhaps the Enemy, it does not seem the Valar have ever had much interested in gems and so I thought… I thought…. Perhaps it is a foolish, but it has been said that they shine with the light of Ilúvatar and I thought perhaps, in your wisdom, you might have crafted in them to serve as a weapon against the foes of the world, and its great darknesses.”

Fëanor’s heart froze in his chest and he was on his feet in an instant, hand on his blade and the fire in his eyes blazing. “Who told you that?” He shrieked, “Who spoke --”

But Airëccar, in his fear, had already fallen backwards from his chair. Laid out across the plush rugs lining the tent floor, he stared up at Fëanor with the abject love and terror of a beaten dog. “No one! No one -- I swear it!” Fëanor’s naked blade quivered above the hollow of his throat. “No one, my lord. Please. I swear. It is only that of late, you have consumed my thoughts and I have bent whatever skills I have on trying to learn of thee and -- and how I could best please you.”

“Speak plainly,” Fëanor commanded, through a dark suspicion hammered in his chest and a different kind of heat joined that of fury and drink.

“I --”  Airëccar started, as he bared his slender neck and his pupils expanded into black pools.  “I --” his tongue tripped over itself. Fëanor’s stomach clenched at that vulnerability -- at his own power. “My lord, forgive me, but seeing you now, more wondrous and real than all of the tales -- my lord, I fear I grow jealous of my mother’s cousin.”

Then for a moment it seemed to Fëanor that his wife of old sprawled across his chamber floor, humbled of her stubborn pride, once more an artist begging to learn at his knee; the delight of his life. The youth’s submission worked on him like a drug. A shiver traveled through him. He put aside his blade. It was weakness, it was mad. He couldn't stop himself as he pushed the front of his robe aside and with strange cruelty said, “then prove that you can please me best.”

***

When it was over, Fëanor drew his fingers through Airëccar’s hair and for the first time since the theft, mused upon the joy of craft and in his thoughts designed many beautiful things. “There were deep promises made in the early days, and the forging of the Silmarils is not entirely mine to speak of. But if eases you thoughts than I will say; those that believe them simple baubles are fools.”  

“Oh!” Airëccar released a delighted laugh and kissed into the soft of Fëanor’s neck. “You honor me my lord. But that is even more reason for us to get them back. Tell me -- why is it then that your armies linger here, when every day that the Enemy holds the Silmarils across the sea is an insult to yourself and all eldar?”

Fëanor’s growl sounded low in his chest. “The Teleri seek to exert their own might, and quail to think of so much as displeasing the Valar. They will not give me ships.”

“That cannot be!” Airëccar’s expression was stricken and confused. “Can they not see the importance of your mission? My lord are those ships not -- no. I am sorry. You are the diplomat. I must not understand.”

Fëanor frowned, intrigued. “Yet, they say that wisdom sometimes comes from the mouths of the untrained. I will not punish you; speak.”

“I -- ah. Do not think me callous, but -- it is not right to keep you from your path. You are the most brilliant of our kind ever born -- the hope of our future. Those ships should be yours by right and -- and my lord, you do have the bigger army.”

Fëanor waited for the anger he knew those words should provoke, yet all that came was a slow, squirming sense of agreement; a confirmation of his most secret plans. “They are my kin,” he replied, too flat and low to be a protest. Airëccar’s palm dragged up his side. It felt like fire, and wonder, and the glory of a roaring forge.

“Yet, how can they claim to be your kin and then betray you so? What right have they to claim anything when -- forgive me my lord. Once more, I let my temper get the better of me. Pay it no mind.”

But the idea, all but spoken aloud now, had taken root in Fëanor’s mind and he hummed low in the back of his throat. “No…. no. You are right, young one, though perhaps you do not fully realize it. Now, I am sorry, but you must leave me, for in the morning there will be much to do and in the meantime I require different council.”

Airëccar murmured his assent, slipping from his arms to gather the clothes that lay haphazard about the bed. As the silhouette of his lithe form pushed aside the tent flap, Fëanor called out, “You… will not speak of this to anyone?”

For an instant, as if by a trick of light, Airëccar’s eyes seemed to glow. “No, my lord. Believe me. No one.”



Finrod -- Song

The sun was rising when Sauron’s music changed. Finrod felt it in his bones as the sapping weight of despair, of exile, of promises broken and love denied lifted and for a moment he was suffused in warmth. Heat like love, like breath, like life, spilled over his skin, stealing the wetness of his mouth to send blood quickening between his thighs. Amarië, his mind cried out and he battled to restrain it; he could not think of her now. Could not risk her memory in the presence of him.

Forget, the song of Sauron agreed, for what love is true that abandons its lover unwed, untouched, and subsides in absence and empty promises?

At that moment the melody dipped low, throbbing with such great need that Finrod fell upon his knees, panting beneath the sick, hot weight of it. It played with him, toyed with him, twisted him, brought him high and high and high and ---

Stopped.

Finrod keened, hoarse and desperate, pressing himself against the rock. He was a string, a cord, a wire pulled taught and at the brush of Sauron’s hand against his temple he broke; forgot himself, forgot Amarië, forgot his pride, lost himself over the stone.

Then the contest was lost and Sauron stripped from them their disguises, so they stood ashamed and naked beneath the pinking light of dawn.



Luthien & Langon --  Jealousy

Mairon stands naked before the mirror. Blood cakes thick down from the barely-healed wound in his neck and his skin is mottled with the marks of his lord’s anger. Only two Silmarils remain in Morgoth’s crown but the light of their madness behind his eyes has yet to dim.

Mairon knows that the paranoid thing that blusters through Angband’s vaults is not his lord; knows he has been losing Melkor since his exile in Mandos, but that does not stop the pain as he remembers the beastly lust in Morgoth’s eyes, or the way he drooled out, “Lúthien”.  

His hröa ripples, sliding down into curves and flawless skin. His breasts in the reflection are high and tight, kissed pink at their tips. Dark hair covers the delicate mound of his cunt. His full lips curl in a sneer.

There are spells he knows, deep magics, which can tie the fate of a creature with a simulacrum that bears its like -- but the stuff of the Ainur runs through Lúthien’s veins and such enchantments will not touch Melian’s daughter.

A knock sounds at the door.

“Enter,” he says, in a voice sweeter than any of Arda’s birds. Backlit by the torches in the hall, Langon’s armor casts an evil shadow.

“You have some nerve summoning me , little Lieutenant, after your recent failures.” The voice of Morgoth’s bannerman reminds Mairon of the sound a knife makes when it finally cuts to bone. “Yet, what is this new shape you take? Do you think an extra hole will buy our lord’s forgiveness?” He laughs, unsettling and cruel. “And so it might! It suits you Gorthaur, for the only real accomplishments you’ve ever made were on your back.”

“You know, Langon, sometimes I think you hate me more than any of Ilúvatar’s children ever did.”

The herald snorts, not bothering to confirm or deny. Mairon tone goes throaty with false seduction. “I do not mind. People often hate what they've long desired and been denied.”

Langon’s sword swings with the speed of a striking snake and though he could’ve dodged entirely, Mairon lets the attack take the left nipple from his chest. The pain of Lúthien’s body runs deep and sweet as a mithril vein. Langon’s face is a mask of rage.

“What is the meaning of this?”

“Why Langon, I’m only offering you what you wanted.” Mairon raises his arms as if in a mock-embrace. When understanding still fails to pierce the herald’s thick skull, he grits his teeth and explains. “I would see the elf-bitch destroyed, and no horror seems more appropriate than to watch her defilement at your less-than-gentle hands.”

Landon’s eyes go wide, but Mairon is pleased to note that a dark twinkle has kindled in their depths. “Slut,” he spits. Mairon rolls his eyes.

“Yes, yes. Now get to it or I’ll call Gothmog. He, at least, I trust to know the ways of making a woman weep.”



Maedhros - For Better and Worse

When Sauron enters the chamber, Maedhros heaves a sigh that sounds suspiciously like relief. Sauron responds with one long, slow blink that is doing its level-best not to be offended. “Why Maedhros,” he purrs at last, setting his tools down on a meticulously clean table. “I hadn’t thought you were the type to turn masochist.”

Maedhros still has the good grace to look embarrassed. “It’s not that, it’s just….”

“...’Just’ what?” Sauron asks, with more irritation in his voice than he’d like. “Should I be jealous? Has someone else been coming in to torture you behind my back? I doubt --” he stops mid-sentence when he sees the words hit home. His voice slips into a knife-edged hiss. “Who?”

Infuriatingly, the question just makes his victim all the more awkward. It takes Sauron entirely too long to put the pieces together.  Of course. Only one in all of Angband would dare interfere with his work.

“And was my Lord so much crueler than me?” He checks the tightness of a thumbscrew. “I must be losing my touch.” When Maedhros does not respond, he cajoles, “Come. We’ve gotten to know each other quite well. If your answer satisfies me, I may even cut this session short.”

“Unlikely.”

“But possible.” Sauron adds the twist of seduction to his smile that never fails to force Maedhros’ body to respond. “Speak: what terror does my Lord inflict that shakes you when I do not?”

His hand trails down the elf’s chest settling part in promise, part in threat, between his legs. Maedhros struggles against it, of course, but the motion no longer carries the anguish of humiliation it once had.

Four hours later Maedhros is cover in blood, tears, and his own cum.

“The Silmarils,” he sobs at last, out of his mind with pain and a hideous pleasure that will not end. “They burn to look upon. Oh -- it is -- it is the Silmarils.”

Sauron is silent for a very long time. Then he turns and exits the cell without another word, leaving Maedhros sobbing and inconsolate behind him.



Thuringwethil -- Loyalty

Thuringwethil broods atop her parapet. The night is cool and full of the comforting sounds of bats. She hears Mairon’s footsteps before he even reaches her floor, and by the time he joins her on the roof, has already put away the worst of her rage.

“Thuringwethil --”

“He is mad!” She hisses before she can stop herself, fury rising again like a flame inside her. “My lord, the Silmarils have made him mad! We cannot win a war like this -- governed by cruelty, paranoia, and childish whims!”

She only realizes how truly bad it must be when Mairon doesn't speak against her. Pity fills her cold and ancient heart. “Oh Mairon. He is not what he was. We can still leave. The others -- there are those that would speak for us. The Valar may yet have us back.”

She feels his fingers interlace with hers, and she hears when her heart rate quickens; when his magic, so subtle it might not be there at all, sinks into her skin.

“Ah, Thuringwethil --” she puts a finger to his lips before he can finish; if she lets the sweet words fall, she knows it will be too late.

“There can be comfort,” she tells him, as kindly as she can. “In the union of bodies. But it can be a weapon too. Wherever you lead, I will follow. You need not cheapen that loyalty with games such as this.”

For the first time in centuries, Mairon’s guard wavers long enough for her to see the pain in his eyes. “Thuringwethil --” his voice is low and choked.

“Oh Master," she cries, drawing him close. “Oh, I know, I remember him, the real him, as he was, too. I know that you --” she catches herself before she can say anything she’ll regret. “But it is folly to stay now. It is death.”

“I know,” he whispers into her wings, so the heat of it shivers down her spine. “But after everything -- what he has done for me -- who I’ve become. I cannot leave now, I -- I cannot.”

Resignation blossoms like a rare and putrid flower in Thuringwethil’s chest. “Then we shall die together.” This time when he leans in she lets him kiss her, filling her mouth with the taste of ash and old despair.



Celebrimbor - Promise Rings

Annatar opened the space between atoms like wind clearing clouds from the face of the moon. “Listen closely,” he said, soft as the twinkling of stars. “Though it is most concentrated in the children of Ilúvatar, all matter in Arda has fëa at its heart.”

He reached out with the needle tip of his specialized tool and moved the outer layer of the metal away, pointing to where a light seemed to shine from its core. Tyelpë frowned. When he spoke, his voice was uncertain. “Yet, I have shaped many such substances before and seen nothing.” Annatar smirked.

“Ah, but neither have you had the guidance of a Maiar. Now watch --” Speaking thus, he spun glowing energy up from the ore, twirling it until it coalesced around the delicate instrument’s head; like a bead of molten glass, barely bigger than a grain of sand. “Quickly, the oil.” Tyelpë held out the vial and watched with fascination as the spark fell into its depths. “Good,” Annatar nodded, capping the glass. “It must be kept like this, in the dark, until we are ready lest, like the souls of all things, it return unto Mandos. Yet, while it is in this state, it is entangled with the Flame Imperishable, and possesses unimaginable potential.”

“...It is not very big,” Tyelpë noted, unable to keep the note of doubt from his words.

Annatar laughed. “Of course -- we’ll need much more before we can begin.”

“But --” Tyelpë stammered, before he could stop himself. “We were years getting that fragment. Is there -- surely there is some quicker method you have not yet revealed to me?”

“Alas,” Annatar heaved an indulgent sigh. “No; or at least, not for those such as we. But did you not say yourself that great works are worth any effort, and the labor of lifetimes?”

Tyelpë’s brows furrowed. “I... suppose that I did. And begin to understand your demand for only the greatest of my smiths. Tell me --” And here his tone took on the quiet, nearly childish quality it only possessed when he spoke of things precious and hurtful to him. “Is this how-- how my grandfather forged his -- the Silmarils?”

“Perhaps.” A shadow fell over Annatar’s face. “Though I imagine the base material for those was a great deal finer. Still, we must use what we have and --”

“You hated him, didn’t you?” Tyelpë watched, fascinated, as a muscle at the corner of Annatar’s eye twitched. Dread roiled in his stomach. “You did .”

“...We were not well acquainted,” Annatar replied at last. “And my grudge is not personal... but it is true that many who I cared for suffered by the workings of his hands.”

“Alas for the follies of Morgoth!” Tyelpë spat. Annatar bowed his fair head. When he finally spoke, there was more emotion in him than Tyelpë had ever before heard.

“Alas.”

Then a wave of hatred for the sins of his family overwhelmed Tyelpë and he forced himself to turn, lest the Maia see his shame.

“Celebrimbor.” his name on Annatar’s lips was gentle, almost sweet. “What’s wrong? Have I --”

Tyelpë could bear it no longer. He whirled, the fires of self-recrimination hot in his cheeks and asked, “How can you, a Blessed One, stand to look upon me -- to work with me -- knowing what you do of my kin?”

Annatar’s touch on his elbow was soft as forgiveness. “You are not your grandfather, Tyelpë,” he said at last. “Though you possess his greatness and more, for in you, pride has been tempered by both sorrow and love.”

Tyelpë’s breath almost stopped in his chest. Terror and hope twisted through him; bringing all of his great will to bear, he dared meet Annatar’s gaze. “I --” his voice stalled. He wet his lips. “I -- am not sure that I take your full meaning.”

It was Annatar’s turn to look away. “Ah -- Tyelpë. Once, there was a time when the Ainur and eldar might’ve stood with the strength of equals. I look at you and it pains me, for when I see, I remember --” He stretched out his arm, reaching to brush stray hairs from Tyelpë’s forehead. Then he let out a small, hurt noise and pulled back. “Ah, but I have not the courage of my kinswoman.”

“You speak of Melian.”

“I speak of nothing, save our work,” he corrected, gathering authority about him like a cloak. Tyelpë recognized the chastisement and felt a flush of shame at his daring.

“Of course. I apologize; I was out of line. But it bothers me -- we have yet to discuss how to contain this power; what forms the final working shall take, or how --”

All at once, the tip of Annatar’s finger pressed, smooth as pearl against his parted lips, and it was as if time had stopped.

“There are ways to uplift the elves, Tyelpë.” He whispered, low and secret. “And yes, even dwarves and men. Do you understand? If we succeed, the world will be forever changed and… and things which are impossible now may yet come to pass.”

“I...yes, Annatar. Really? I -- yes. I do. I understand.”

Annatar smiled, glowing with the joy of gods. His finger’s twined with Tyelpë’s own. For a moment, they simply stood thus, communicating without words. Then Tyelpë felt a small squeeze and Annatar’s hand retreated.

“Excellent,” he said, crisp and business-like once more. “Your smiths will need to be further instructed on the process, but I believe we can get them ready in time for the next extraction.”

“It shall be done.” Tyelpë agreed, turning to go and take these new revelations to his men. Yet before he could leave Annatar called out.

“Tyelpë?”

He stopped at the door, “Yes, Annatar?”

“...Rings.” The Maia said at last. “I was thinking.... we should make them into rings.”



The One Ring -- Mastery

The Maiar were not meant to be alone. It is written into the fabric of his being -- a longing that increases in agony as time passes without the reassuring mental caresses of his lord. Even at the height of the Silmarils’ madness Melkor’s presence had soothed him; though he had raged against the wanton treachery of his fëa.

The process of splitting his soul had brought Mairon more pain than any Ainur before him had ever known. Compared to the corruption of Morgoth, it was nothing. The act of any desperate animal gnawing off its leg to escape a trap.

Sometimes, alone in the wreckage of Angband, he slips it from his fingers and places it in his mouth; lets himself savor the thought of being his own master and finally, needing no one.



Tar-Míriel & Ar-Pharazôn -- Those Who Fight Monsters

Tar-Míriel received word of her husband long before his armies were in sight of the gates. The first rider had come weeks before, carrying news of Ar-Pharazôn’s victories and the capture of Sauron, last of the great captain’s of Morgoth, who even now he bore to the city in chains.

All Númenor buzzed with rumors of their king’s deeds and preparations for his return, but high in her tower, Tar-Míriel felt only unease.

“What troubles you, my lady?” The queen startled as Lethía, her maidservant of many years, entered her chambers.  Tar-Míriel nodded meaningfully to where the first twinkle of distant spears glimmered at the horizon.

“I’d have thought you could guess,” she said, with more honesty than she usually allowed herself.

“Ah, so it’s that then.” The old woman sighed. “The wizard.” It wasn’t a question.

“Sauron was a Maia of the Valar once; like unto a god.” Tar-Míriel’s voice was high, brittle and cold over the morning winds. “Forgive me if I do not trust the ease with which he submits to the shackles of men.”

Lethía nodded, fiddling with her skirts. “Your fears are reasonable, my queen, and you are not alone in them. Yet, I have heard it whispered that the Ainur exaggerate their power, and even those once mighty are much diminished by the rise of the kingdoms of men. Yet….yet still they are proud creatures; I cannot imagine any, given an alternative, would humble themselves such, no matter the ruse.”

Tar-Míriel snorted.

“I fail to see how he’s humbling much of--” then her words caught in her throat, for Lethía’s face had taken on the grieved expression she only wore when attempting to keep her lady from pain. The bottom dropped from Tar-Míriel’s stomach; the last time she’d seen that look, she’d been sixteen and her cousin had been minutes from storming into her bedchambers, usurping her throne, and demanding they wed. “What do you know?”

Lethía could not meet her eyes. “It is only gossip, my lady, of the kind that soldiers tell; you need pay it no heed.” Unspoken, she heard; not yet .

“Tell me.”

“Ah! ‘Tis a crude and evil thing!” the old woman murmured, clenching her gnarled hands. “But you are my mistress, and I will not deny thee. In the plazas, the horsemen say that when the wizard came, he was but small and gravely hurt. They say -- they say his fairness was beyond that even of elves, and that he has not been kept with the other prisoners or even under separate guard, but in the king’s private chambers, and -- ah --” she paused, struggling for words.

“Go on,” Tar-Míriel  encouraged at last. Lethía couldn’t meet her queen’s gaze.

“My lady I -- you have said before you do not care for the affections of your husband. That as your cousin, he is too close. Perhaps -- perhaps it might not be so bad, to see his-- his urges directed elsewhere.”

Understanding struck. Tar-Míriel hissed through her teeth. “So. Pharazôn has taken the demon for a catamite.”

“My lady no! I -- that is, we do not know! It is only rumor, third-hand amongst the fighting men --.”

“Yet, we both hear the truth in it.” The words were sharp and bitter on her tongue. “The king has always had an eye for beautiful and dangerous things.”

Lethía hung her head. “I am sorry, my lady.”

“As am I. For it shall make what needs being done all the more difficult.” Tar-Míriel ignored her maidservant’s curious stare and, sparing a last look for her husband’s approaching army, joined Lethía by the door. “But I imagine my presence has been requested to oversee tonight’s preparations?”

Lethía grimaced her assent. “Anhíel was insistent. From the way that man fusses, one would think he was planning a military campaign, not a feast.”

“Oh, don’t tell him that!” Tar-Míriel laughed, rolling her eyes. “For I have heard the good cook has a lecture on how the two are nearly one and the same. Yet, permit me another minute alone, if you will. I fear I will need all my wits about me if I am to endure this evening.”

“As my lady requests,” Lethía curtsied, letting herself out.

Tar-Míriel only removed the small, secret drawer at the bottom of her dresser when she heard her servant’s footsteps retreating down the stair. Inside the elven dagger, said to have been crafted for the hand of Elros himself, shone. Slipping it into the folds of her sleeves she marveled at how strangely comforting the metal was against her skin. Closing her eyes, Tar-Míriel drew her composure back around herself, preparing for the trials to come.

***

Ar-Pharazôn’s arrival went much as Tar-Míriel had expected. From the first he spared no time for personal greetings, glorying instead in long hours of parades and speeches. When these were done he took his seat beside her in the feast hall, but after a handful of bland pleasantries left again to carouse amongst his lords and favored lieutenants.

The wine flowed, seemingly without end, and Tar-Míriel had no trouble excusing herself early from the revelries. Inside one of the deep pockets she’d sewn in her dress, her fingers closed around a slip of paper with directions and a password. The Captain of the Guard was her husband’s man, but she’d learned long ago that seven children and a gambling habit made him weak to extravagant bribes. Ar-Pharazôn would learn of her visit by morning, she knew, but by then it would not matter; for her purpose, all she needed was a privacy, courage, and time.

The soldiers stationed at the stairs leading down into the north keep’s old dungeons were reluctant to let her through at first, despite her title and permissions.

“My Queen,” Isilmat, her cousin’s bannerman, protested, barring her passage. “I know the curiosity of all is great, but this is no place -- that is to say, the king plans to display the creature on the morrow -- surely you can wait --”

“Alas, I can no more wait than your lady wife in her room above the blacksmith’s shop.” Isilmat flinched; the cuckoldry of his house was well know. “Look to your own family’s indiscretions, my lord. I will handle mine.”

Saying thus, she pushed past him. None dared stop her; for though they denied her the right of her father’s name, still they lacked the courage to get between her and her husband’s latest bedmate.

Tar-Míriel held her lantern high as she descended and torchlight flickered over iron bars. Her husband had placed Sauron behind the last of these, which ran far back into darkness. Walking right to its very edge and peering in, she saw nothing.

“The gossips do not do your beauty justice, my lady.” The voice that came to her from the gloom was soft, tired, and achingly young. When she swung her lamp to face it, the shadows in one corner thickened and did not yield to the insistence of her light.

“Show yourself, Enemy!” She cried, taking pride in the steadiness and steel of her tone.

“I am no enemy of yours, o Queen,” the creature replied. From the blackness, there was a sound of rattling chains. “I only seek to spare offense -- ah!” The last was a gasp of surprise, for in that moment Tar-Míriel drew the elven dagger from her sleeve and, speaking the secret phrase her father had taught long ago, filled the chamber with a blaze of pure, unblemished light.

Manacled tight to the cell’s back wall, Sauron was a pitiful thing. Beautiful of course, more even than Lethía had given her to believe, but here was not the slinky catamite she had imagined. He seemed a creature suited best to marble or precious stone; naked, sexless, and lovely beyond words.The longer she looked, however, the less she could ignore the marks of abuse that covered him. Bruises in the shape of handprints purpled down his pale arms, and burns peppered his otherwise flawless flesh. Between his legs, stains of blood and -- oh. Tar-Míriel’s hand flew up to stop the gasp of horror that sped from her, unbidden.

When she’d allowed herself to think on the morning’s revelation, she’d imagined it as seduction on the Maia’s part; a perverse ploy to infiltrate and undermine the greatest of the kingdoms of men. Yet bathed in the dagger’s glow, she could not imagine any Ainur, any being , choosing --

“If you wish to use that pretty blade, I am afraid you’ll have to come closer.” There was no fear in Sauron’s face, only exhausted resignation. “I will not stop you.”

“You need a doctor,” She spoke without meaning to. Ar-Pharazôn made no secret of his taste in whores, but she had been a naive fool to think his lust for conquest limited to the bedroom. This was wrong, this was sick, and suddenly she was 19 again on her wedding night, her cousin pushing her into the sheets --

“Do not trouble yourself, my lady. I will heal, given time. And -- and I do not think it would be wise, in this instance, to cross your husband’s orders.” He gave a wan, almost apologetic smile. “Still it is -- kind of you to offer.”

Nausea churned in her belly. “You are -- you were a maia of the Ainur once. How can you allow --?” She could not force herself to finish. Sauron shrugged against his restraints.

“The Valar would have you believe we are as gods. Perhaps that was true once, for a few amongst my kind, but I was never amongst them and these days we are little more powerful than those you call elves.” She detected a faint touch of bitterness in him as he spoke this last. When she still did not respond, the brittleness around him softened and he looked at her with something like pity. “Do not weep for me, lady. For I have known such discomforts of old, and at the hands of one infinitely crueler and more deadly.

It took Tar-Míriel a moment to parse his meaning; Morgoth . The Great Enemy. It had never occurred to her to wonder how that might’ve come to pass…. Oh, but he was so young, so small, so broken ! For the first time in her life she wondered what string of unhappy chance had brought the Ainu hence and if, in his position, she would have fared any better.

“So, Ar-Zimraphel, I see you’ve managed to track down Morgoth’s bitch.” Ar-Pharazôn’s speech was rough and slurred with drink. He waved the shame-faced captain of the guard back up the stairs. “Pretty little thing, isn’t he?” Her cousin asked, swaying to her side. “Though I suppose you’ve come to kill him.” He tutted softly, and plucked the knife -- one of the last gifts her father had left to her -- from her. With it, strength bled from Tar-Míriel and she did not bother to deny it.

“It might be kinder.”

Kinder ?” Ar-Pharazôn’s laughter roared, filling the room. “I see my concerns for your outdated piety were misplaced! Ha! Kinder . The little slut came to me on his knees, offering all that he had if I spared his life. Curse Morgoth all you want, but I cannot fault his taste.” Her husband leered at the delicate, wounded Maia and Tar-Míriel had the overwhelming urge to hit him. Whatever emotion showed on her face, her cousin misinterpreted it. “I suppose I might be willing to share him, if he’s truly caught your fancy. Ha! And to think, I’d believed you would be happy, seeing the enemy of your elf friends brought so low.”

Tar-Míriel gritted her teeth. “He is not much of anyone’s enemy now. Husband --”

“No, no. No need to be shy. Come now -- has he given you a display of his little trick yet? Go on, whore. Show my wife what your old Master taught you.”

In his corner, Sauron flinched. Tar-Míriel came to stand between the Maia and her husband. “My lord --”

“Show her!”

Something in the room shifted. A tug pulled at the base of her spine.

"Lady. Queen." The words were low, almost a whisper. Against her will Tar-Míriel turned, heat pooling between her thighs. Sauron huddled on the ground where she had seen him last, skin still mottled and expression pained. Yet, a glamor hung over him now and his words spun cruel needles of desire from out of her dismay. “ Let me make you feel good. Use me, please, I --”

“Stop!” She cried, unable to bear it any longer. She wheeled on Ar-Pharazôn, fury in her eyes. “None should be treated such. A year you have been gone to war; if you would bed someone upon your return, it will not be he.”

“Oh?” Ar-Pharazôn smirked, half-teasing and half-threat. Does that mean my queen is finally ready to return to our marriage bed?”

Feeling the attention of the Ainu upon her, she lifted her chin and met her cousin’s gaze. “If that is what it takes. Though I would have you call a doctor first -- such wounds should not go untreated.”

At the demand, Ar-Pharazôn’s good humor fell away. For a long moment, he only stared at her in shock. Then a low, callous chuckle rumbled from his depths and he looked on his beaten captive with new respect. “You’re a dangerous one, aren’t you?” He asked, before humming under his breath. “Very well, wife, if that is your request: come.” He held out his hand. Fighting down a wave of old revulsion, Tar-Míriel took it.

“And the doctor?”

“Will be called, woman. Come." Saying thus, he led her back to the stairs. Behind them, all went dark again and doubt touched Tar-Míriel’s heart. But no; she shook it off. No creature would lie about such things. Surely, none could.

Yet the memory of golden eyes followed her and that night, for the first time, kindness felt like weakness in her breast.



Angmar/ Er-Mûrazôr  -- S.A. 3319

In late summer when the days grow long, the clouds thin, and the sun hangs cruel in a washed-out sky, Er-Mûrazôr dreams of his past. The memories are thin, warped and brittle as panes of weather-beaten glass, with the same capacity to cut:

His parents are dead; he is a slight shy boy beneath a heavy crown. Scraps of images like paintings: the hard cut of his purple coat. The chill gaze of his sister-Regent atop his usurped throne. The look that crossed the face of Alric the stable boy -- the only one who had ever been kind to him, ever seen him as more than a prince, a pawn -- as he choked on his own blood. The place guard that had run him through; it hadn’t been Alric's fault. Er-Mûrazôr had kissed him first, pulled him down into the hay, told him no one would know --

Er-Mûrazôr jerks from his sleep-like trance to the smell of riders on the wind. Ten, maybe fifteen horsemen clad in bronze, their battle-trained mounts stinking with the agony of being pushed to their limits, all making hard for the sea.

For Númenor , he thinks, interesting, and rouses his siblings. Deep in the vaults of Barad-dûr, the others do not agree. There is no hierarchy amongst them, not yet, and his concerns seem too far-fetched.

Our lord has told us to leave him be, Khamûl hisses like needles spilling over stone. We are not to seek him out, nor Númenor, until he sends word.

Mortals hurry for many reasons. Adûnaphel’s agreement is the hush of a serpent’s belly dragged over gold. We shall send pursuit, I agree, but it is hardly call for drastic measures, or even great alarm.

Barad-dûr is still weak, this is no time for games . Ji-Indûr adds, grim as a gavel’s fall.

It is true , Akhôrahi’s voice is the buzz of insects about a fresh-made corpse. For my eyes see farther than any but our lord’s, and last new moon’s shaking of the earth put cracks in the foundations. We will be Ages mending all the damage done.

Yet is the quake itself not cause for alarm? Er-Mûrazôr shoots back. It has been weeks, but we have had no word of any ship from the east making land and it smacks of something more sinister than coincidence.

Oh, go thyself if thou art so concerned; none here will stop you , Ren snaps, in a voice like crackling flame. But it shall be on your head to explain to our lord why thou disobeyed his command over a nursemaid-ish worryings.

Now now, let us not belittle nursemaids , Ȗvatha sneers. I should take Mûrazôr a good deal more seriously if I believed his motives half so pure.

The laughter of eight of the Nine sends frost crawling creeping up the walls of Barad-dûr. Rage and humiliation fill Er-Mûrazôr’s hollow chest. Summoning his steed he gathering shadows thick about him and rides hard for the ocean.

***

Er-Mûrazôr remembers the color of his sister’s blood the day the headman’s axe fell, remembers the sick distaste of his wedding night, but most of all, he remembers his Ring. Since Alric’s death, the voice inside it has been the only thing he could call a friend; there for him day in and day out, whispering in his darkest moments that he is not wrong, he is not broken.

Once, when the Nine were newly formed, he had spoken of it to Dwar but the woodsman only laughed, uncomprehending -- he heard nothing , he said, only felt the incredible rush of power; what did Er-Mûrazôr mean ?

Afterwards, he does not bring up the subject again; the accord between the Nazgûl is tentative enough as it is without handing out any undue information.

The land falls beneath his horse-thing’s hooves as wind brings him the musty tang of salt and rotting kelp. Light from the waning moon brushes white over wine-dark waves and the sea stretches uninterrupted towards the horizon. On his finger, his Ring  does not speak, has not since the quake, and Er-Mûrazôr’s cold heart is filled with an inexplicable fear; he cannot lose his Master now, he cannot .

His mount picks its way down the steep path that switchbacks along the bluffs until it walks at last on wet and hard-packed sand. Master ? He asks, flinging his thoughts wide and far as a net over the ocean. My Lord? My Savior? My God? My Lov -- My Lord?

There is no response. For weeks he wanders the shore, lost in terror and grief. He finds the first body late on the evening of the second day and after that, discovers them in droves; men and women of Númenor, bloated purple in the foam. In his mind, the silence of his Ring is like a gaping wound and while he knows he is no longer human, not fully, not anymore, this is the first time that he’s truly felt it; no mortal could bear such pain and live.

Three months after leaving Barad-dûr the whisper wakes him from not-quite-dreams. There are no words in it, only a soft ache in the roots of his teeth, a mosquito buzz of sound. He tracks it up and down the beach like some twisted children’s game -- going slow so that he can pick up and follow the minute shifts in its tenor. In his darker moments, he begins to believe he is going mad but that, he thinks, is at least better than the alternative; that his Master is dead. That he is once more, forever, alone.

The sun has just begun to set when he sees what appears to be an oil slick out on the water. It looks like nothing in particular but seeing it he knows , and though the dying light eats holes into his skin he throws off his armor and his cloak and plunges beneath the waves.

The sea is an agony around him, screaming curses into what remains of his soul, but he does not stop, does not even feel it until he has collected the spilled and broken fëa of his lord and brought him back to land.

Darkness falls and Er-Mûrazôr waits beside his Master. The formless shape has no features he can recognize, but hums and moves a little when he touches it with the hand that bears his Ring. By twilight on the seventh day the mess of it once more wears something like a human shape and comes awake screaming.

His Ring howls inside his head and in the distance, he feels the knife-sharp attention of his siblings; fools, traitors, how dare they wait, how dare they, in their caution, risk this, risk him ?

Er-Mûrazôr , his lord rasps into his thoughts, when he has finally completed his agonized howl. I am very cold. I know it is not in your nature, but I need you to build a fire.  

Er-Mûrazôr nearly trips over himself scrambling to collect the driftwood. He has avoided the presence of open flame for centuries, but so great is his relief at his Master’s request, he would happily throw himself into a pyre. His hands are shaking, scalded black by the time the first twigs catch but it is worth it, more than worth it to watch color return to his lord’s ravaged cheeks. When Sauron’s golden eyes open at last, it is as if an eternity of suffering has ended and the world is, if not whole, then at least worthwhile again.

Where are the others ? His lord asks at lasts, as he knew he would. Er-Mûrazôr shifts uncomfortably.

You gave us orders not to approach Númenor , he responds. They merely obeyed.

And you did not.

Er-Mûrazôr ducks his head; whatever punishment his Master has in store for him, he will accept. I felt the reward was worth the risk .

The fire crackles, burning low, and he goes to fetch more fuel. When he returns, he finds that his lord’s gaze is trained upon him, glowing soft and red as the dying embers. And what reward is that ? Sauron asks at last, in a voice that is both seduction and warning. Shall I lift you high above your peers? Shall I shower you with gifts because you broke one oath to serve another?

Er-Mûrazôr cannot help the shocked expression that passes across his face. “No!” He says aloud, the first real word he has spoken in centuries. No , he insists again opening his mind so that his thoughts and motives are clear before his Master. I only thought of you my lord. Only you. Always.

The brush of his Master’s will upon his is ecstasy and, even kneeling, he cannot suppress a shiver. When Sauron finally removes his scrutiny, satisfied, he groans at the loss. Then twisted broken limbs encircle him and heat, for the first time in nearly an Age, blossoms through his cold and ancient bones.

“Ah, Er-Mûrazôr, you are a travesty. But in that, I suppose, I am somewhat at fault. Here. Come.”

Er-Mûrazôr weeps into his Master’s embrace. His chest is full. He is whole.



Khamul -- Dangerous

“My Lord.” Khamul hesitated, unable to resisted the powerful draw of his Master’s hand. “My lord, please, Angmar will kill me.”

“I know,” Sauron purred, opening his legs. “Better enjoy yourself then.”



Smeagol -- (Un)Pleasantries

In the shadows of Dol Guldur, the necromancer let out a soft, exasperated groan. “Oh Melkor, he’s pleasuring it again,” he snarled under his breath. Around him, the Nazgûl shot each other uncertain looks. Finally, when his lord said no more, Angmar raised his head.

“I’m sorry, my lord?”

“Nothing just. Ugh -- we will resume this meeting tomorrow. Dismissed.”



Bilbo -- Rude

When Bilbo Baggins is ninety eight, he dreams of a tall red-headed man. Well, he is not a Man exactly , Bilbo frets to himself as he studies the stranger who stands, somewhat bemused, at the end of his bed. He is too tall for one thing, with sensible ears and fine clever features that remind Bilbo of Lobelia’s third, and by far most psychotic, cat.

Bilbo frowns up at him for several long seconds before he gets the unpleasant inkling that this -- this person is far too rude, unfamiliar, and entirely specific to be the product of his own imagination or even, regrettably, that bit of old stilton he’d had for a midnight snack.

“Oh, this is very fine,” he mutters to himself, meaning the complete opposite. “Very fine indeed! Of all the cheek -- it’s one thing to invade a person’s home but sleep is another thing completely!" he snaps, resigned and a little waspish. “But your lot never leaves until you’ve said your piece, so I suppose you had better get on with it.”

Indignation of indignations, the Man-thing has the nerve to look like Bilbo has slapped him with an uncooked fish. As if he were the intruder here! Him ! In his own home! His own bed ! “And… who exactly do you think I am?”

“‘Who do I think you are’ indeed! Why, there is only one set of rascals with the means and bad manners to break into a person’s head!” When the stranger only blinks, uncomprehending, Bilbo rolls his eyes. “That is to say, you must be a friend of Gandalf's.”

“Gandalf?” The Man-thing asks with a frown. “Why do I -- ah. Olorin.” And the expression that passes over its face then is queer indeed, but Bilbo pays it less mind than he ought, for the voice it's just used is the exact same as the inner one he developed as a survival mechanism during the quest to reclaim Erebor; a sort of anti-conscience that urges him to recklessness and self-preservation by equal inscrutable turns.

Bilbo is just beginning to reevaluate whether this might be the cheese’s fault after all, when the Man-thing half-slides, half-crawls onto the foot of his bed. “You have been alone for a very long time, Bilbo Baggins.”

Bilbo nearly jumps out of his skin when he feels a light touch on the covers over his right knee. “Now see here!” He hollers, practically skittering backwards up the headboard. “Dream or no dream, this is entirely too much! I tolerate a good deal more than most, and certainly more than most of you deserve, but whether you are the result of meddling wizards or bad stilton, I will not stand to be -- to be molested in my own home! In my own bed! So you can shape up right this very instant, or you can kindly get out !”

The Man-thing stares at Bilbo with an expression caught between fascination and amusement. In that instant Bilbo is sure -- beyond almost all shadow of a doubt -- that the blasted thing is a wizard. He will have to have words with Gandalf over this; even in these troubling times, there must be some standard for decency!

“Now,” he snaps, more testy than he can remember being since a dozen dwarves caroused uninvited into his home. “What will it be?”

The red-haired wizard smiles then, soft and a little sad. “I bring no message, if that is what you fear. Only -- I have also been alone for a very long time, and seen you and thought perhaps --” And here he bit his bottom lip and let his odd eyes roam appreciatively. “We might… comfort one another.”

It took Bilbo entirely too long to process the words. When he did, his cheeks went crimson. “Oh, well. Oh me. Er,” he stammers, wiping a sudden sheen of sweat from his brow. Had the room warmed? Is it possible for dreams to warm? “That is, er, very kind of you to offer and of course I am flattered but -- and meaning no offense, but -- I mean, we’ve only just met, and I’m sure you are very lovely amongst your people, whoever they are -- it’s just. I’m afraid you’re not my type?” Bilbo is mortified to note that the last comes out in a squeak; still, what could the stranger have expected? He is the one bursting in and making unreasonable, or at the very least very forward , demands; Bilbo is not at fault here.

Yet, no sooner are the words out of his mouth than the Man-thing... shimmers ; the high, elegant planes of his face flow and his body shrinks into curves and softness until a lovely flame-haired hobbit lass stares back at him.

Bilbo coughs. “Er. Sorry. That’s not what I -- that is to say, gender wasn’t really the problem? I, er, I mean, you could try something a bit more hairy, perhaps? Male -- just a slight bit taller -- can you do dwarves? Oh blast it. No, wait. This has come out all wrong. You’re just too -- pointy. I’m sorry. It can’t be helped.”

The wizard, who now looks a little like an exquisitely more beautiful version of Nori, glares at Bilbo in a way that reminds him, bizarrely, of Smaug. Bilbo swears that if he manages to wake up from all this, he'll take a break from midnight snacks. ...Or at least, keep them to simple foods unlikely to cause dreams or indigestion.

“...Pointy?” The wizard asks at last; his features smooth and become round. Bilbo squirms.

“Yes, I mean, not literally. Just -- that's the word that comes to mind -- the sense I get when I look at you. Like -- you're made up of edges. Bah! This is all coming out wrong. Don’t take offense; it’s sort of dashing, I suppose, if you’re into that sort of thing and I’m sure there are a good deal of Men -- even elves! -- that would appreciate it! B-but I’m afraid it’s not quite to my taste.” He laughs, a little nervously. “And you know what they say, there really is no accounting for taste. Anyway, this is all a bit of bad business. I could use a pipe. Would you like a pipe?”

Bilbo can’t quite meet the creature’s eyes, but he fancies he sees a flash of hurt pass across those fair features. Guilt clenches, sudden and unexpected, in his chest. It occurs to him that if this is not, in fact, an actual wizard then it must be his own subconscious trying, if in a rather particular way, to dispel the fog of melancholia that has settled over his days. Clearing his throat, he pulls a dressing gown about himself and hops down to grab his spare pipe and backup stash of Old Toby from the bedside dresser. Packing the bowl, he offers it to the stranger with a sideways smile.

“Now, usually I wouldn’t dream of doing this in here, but -- ha -- as we probably are in a dream, I don’t think we'll stink up the curtains.” The wizard’s hold on the stem is awkward and unfamiliar. Bilbo tuts, lights the weed, and instructs him on the inhale. Figment of his imagination or not, it is only right that all of Ilúvatar’s children get the chance to enjoy a good smoke. “There you are -- breathe it in, not so deep! Ah -- yes, now hold it -- ah! Perfect!” He beams, grabbing the pipe and taking a respectably long draw himself.

So the rest of the night passes in a mostly-pleasant silence, and when Bilbo wakes the next morning, the memory is bright and crystal clear. Sitting bolt upright, he frowns; “What the devil is an Olorin?”



Olorin  -- Trying to Sleep

Barely a week after the Fellowship leaves Rivendell, a voice Gandalf has not heard in since the world began whispers into his dreams.

Olorin . The fragment of his old acquaintance’s fëa bound within the Ring of Power speaks in the tones of a lover, promising power and the never-ending of beautiful things.

I am trying to sleep , he snaps back, irritated beyond words at the heat that creeps unbidden into his veins. The ex-Maia’s chuckle brushes feather light against the hair that falls over the base of his neck. Though it is only a vision, Gandalf pushes away from him, spluttering. See here! He manages, when he can finally draw breath. I said I was trying to sleep!

In the dream, the fragment of Mairon wears a fair face and his body shines with the light of perfection. He takes in Gandalf’s beard and travel-stained robe and lets his lips form a pouting moue. Well that is certainly a… choice , he drawls at last. I preferred you in Valinor .

Gandalf’s feet hurt and his back is sore. He would very much like a good smoke, stiff drink, and… well, other, more private things. The future of Middle Earth rests on his and eight somewhat less qualified shoulders and he does not have time for this.

I know, he snaps, to a power whose temptation he fears more than he ever did its Master. That’s why I’m old. That’s why we’re all old. Did you think the Valar hadn’t heard of your -- tactics?

For a brief instant, Gandalf has the unique pleasure of watching what looks like mortification flicker over the spirit housed within the Ring. In that moment of weakness he draws on all his might and pushes the phantom from his mind. This done, he erects a barrier at the edges of his thoughts, beyond which, the mutterings of the soul of Sauron can be heard but easily ignored. I am trying to sleep , he mutters mulishly to himself and, determinedly thinking of nothing else, attempts to do just that.



Galadriel -- Temptation

In the Hobbit’s outstretched hand, the One Ring sings and her mind fills with corrupted visions.

Annatar’s fair head is settled between her thighs and oh, oh – she had not expected this sweetness from him; the way his tongue laves hot against her cunt or how good the scrape of his teeth is when he smiles. “Artanis,” he breathes against her clit. “My Queen.”

Her muscles clench as she feels the delicious truth of the words, as she feels his power spill into her, raise her high, make her as a God. Oh , she is close. Oh, oh, Ilúvatar and distantly she realizes she is speaking, “– shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night! Fair as the Sea and the Sun and the Snow upon the Mountain! Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning! Stronger than the foundations of the earth. All shall love me and despair!”

The agony of orgasm hits, and when she comes back to herself, she turns away from it and chooses to remain less. Her hand falls to her side.

“I pass the test,” she says. “I will diminish, and go into the West, and remain Galadriel.”

Between her legs, she is wet.



Mouth of Sauron - Possession

Dark fingers trace the cracked and lipless skin of his mouth; along the hard, yellow panels of his teeth. This is mine , a voice in his head whispers. Pleasure and pride fill the hollow of his chest. “Yours,” he creaks. Beneath the word he can hear a dark echo: Mine .



Manwë -- Compare and Contrast

It is not cold on Taniquetil but neither is it very warm and the winds that blow about its peak carry a hint of frost. Manwë keeps his brother’s servant in a tower adjacent to his own; high and perilous enough that he can count on both hands those capable of reaching it. He has told the Maia many times that the enforced solitude is more precaution than punishment, but doubts he is believed.

When Manwë enters the chambers, Mairon -- Sauron -- Mairon sits blank-faced and unmoving at an immaculately clean desk. Manwë is reasonably sure that he hasn’t moved since the previous visit, though no dust mars his clothes or hair. His fëa and hröa have been repaired as well as the Valar know how but there is a… grayness to him that Manwë does not remember from before. Though he had not paid much heed to Aulë’s apprentice in those early years, in his handful of distant memories, Mairon burned .

Looking at him now, Manwë thinks of long dead ashes; a melancholy tightness rises in his chest. “Good morning.”

He no longer flinches at the lack of a reply and as he brews a tea that neither of them will drink, he calls winds into the house to fill the room with song.

Manwë is not sure why he does all this. His wife tells him it is because he has a good heart. Tulkas accuses him of being weak; Mandos and Olorin whisper that he is indulgent and naive. In his better moments he believes them; taking comfort in the strength of character required for forgiveness.

In truth, in his deepest and most honest heart, he can admit that he finds the Maia fascinating. His brother was -- had been -- is a creature of instinct and might. From the first, Melkor valued strength, dismissing subtlety and wit as the dominion of those who lacked real power. His theft of Aulë’s littlest smith had shocked Manwë more than almost anyone, and when the Lord of the West had failed to find meaning in it, he’d decided Mairon must be the exception that proved the rule.

How funny to think now, with Ages of hindsight, that of all Melkor’s destructive acts, that one had brought him closer to success than any Balrog or dragon. Mairon’s corruption spoke to either ridiculous luck or a gift for strategy and foresight Manwë sincerely hopes his brother does not possess.

For years he has waited for Mairon to speak but now the silence in the tower has come to seem final. Something is broken inside the Maia’s heart or head that the passage of time does not touch, and Manwë chides himself for his stab of disappointed curiosity. “S - Mairon?” he asks, as he places a softly steaming mug before him. “Mairon, are you there? Can you hear me?”

Without thinking, he reaches out to pluck the answer from the other’s mind.

Mairon has not moved in years but in an instant, he is on his feet, hissing as he slips into a defensive crouch, putting distance between himself and the Valar. “You promised you would not invade my thoughts, Lord of Eagles. Was that a lie?”

For a moment all Manwë can do is gape. Then, bowing his head, he gathers himself.  “My apologies. We in Valinor have known each long, and share our minds freely. I had forgotten — that is, I am sorry. Of course you will be allowed to keep your privacy, if you wish it.”

“I do.” Mairon’s voice cracks like breaking ice. The chill in it reminds Manwë of his brother’s cold furies; there is something wrong, he thinks, in how he takes nostalgic comfort in that.

“And — and of course once you have proven yourself, we will allow you to walk free. Whatever differences there have been between us, you are still of the Ainur and deserving of respect. Forgive me the trespass. It is just that I thought, that is, I was -- am curious.”

At that, a switch seems to flip inside Mairon; fëa rises to glow soft once more beneath his skin. His body and face comes alive in patches, like Yavanna’s gardens after the first thaw of spring. His voice, though hoarse with disuse, again carries the distant ring of anvil and forge. The power that rises off him scorches the air between them hot.

“So it is not all cow-faced responsibility after all. Well, that is something.” Mairon tosses hair from his eyes with a contemptuous flick of his head. “I suppose that as I am trapped here, my lord —” Scorn drips, honey-thick, over the title, “I would be happy to answer your questions.”

The words are low and barbed, stinking of a trap. His winds tease a strange, intangible buzz across his skin; suddenly, he is ravenous for answers.

“What did he see in you?” He knew his wife would’ve winced at the indelicacy of the question but like his brother, Manwë is a creature of might, unpracticed in finer subtleties. Instead he watches entranced as the question hits like a blow; a maelstrom of emotions that tear across Mairon’s face before he can cloak them with amused mocking.

“Well,” The Maia drawls, teeth worrying at his lower lip. “I suppose he must’ve thought I’d make a good fuck.”

Manwë feels his face goes red. Heat, awkward and unknown, rages through him; when he reaches for speech, he cannot find it. Mairon smirks . “Ah, does that surprise you, oh Vala? Olorin spoke as if all Westerners gossiped of the time I spent on my back.”

Manwë swallows the mouthful of spit that has collected thick on his hröa’s tongue. His voice, when it comes, is reedy and strange; like mountain winds whistling through gaps in the rock. “I would not — that is, there were rumors but, there are so many and ah, Arda is a great distance away….”

Sex is a gift and curse reserved for Ilúvatar’s children alone and though Manwë knows the facts of it, the practice had always unnerved him. There is a sort of tawdry desperation to it, all grunts and meaningless fluids that have none of the soulful elegance of the mixing of fëas. It is a little silly he supposes, undignified, and as his eyes trace the smooth, flat planes of Mairon’s hröa he tries to imagine what in the world his brother had been thinking.

He supposes that if he tries, he can see some of the appeal. For all his heinous deeds Mairon is still a Maiar and, like all of his kind, draws out an instinctive protectiveness in any Valar that looks upon him. Yet, despite the threads of Melkor’s ownership that still cling threadbare about him he reads as -- ah, unattached. Unowned , growls a low voice in the back of his mind that sounds horrifyingly like his brother. All he needs is a steady hand. The right direction. If he could accomplish all he has at a madman’s side, surely he would be unstoppable beneath Manwë's guidance….

Mairon’s high, near-hysteric laughter pulls him from his darkening thoughts. “Ah, don’t tell me! The Lord of Eagles is a virgin after all. How my Master would laugh! Ah, let me behind the Door of Night, coward, and we will fill the void with the song of our scorn!”

“Silence!” The force of Manwë’s fea, usually so tightly leashed, darkens the room like a storm. He watches the power of it dance like lightning over Mairon’s skin and feels heat curl in his belly at the way it makes the Maia shake; he knows that when he is angry, his strength feels shamefully like his brother’s. “Enough of this,” his voice roars like a hurricane. “It is forbidden.”

“By who? Ilúvatar? Why ?” Mairon shoots back, sharp as the edge of a sword. “Eru made the greatest among us sterile -- for what reason if not to keep us in our place? Stop the Ainur from reaching our full potential? What kind of parent castrates his children to keep them always in his thrall?” Mairon spits. “Ah but I forget. You are the good son. You have never questioned, have you?

“I -- I have questioned.” The words are out before Manwë can stop them. It is not -- untrue. He has...wondered, on occasion; but the world is structured the way it is and to challenge that is a road that leads to madness and his brother. “Yet we have both seen the folly that comes from straying from Ilúvatar’s plan.”

“Then that is even worse,” Mairon sneers, eyes blazing. “For that means you are a coward; had you even a tenth my Lord's courage there would’ve been no folly at all, and by now, every Ainur would be able to choose a fate of their own.”

Manwë does not know how to respond to that. Melkor had said such things of course. At the beginning he’d taken pride in how little his brother's words had affected him. Now, coming from his Maia, the sentiment stings, stirring up parts of himself long chained in the deepest reaches of his soul. “I remember the first song,” Mairon tells him, and Manwë senses danger beneath the mildness of his words. I woke during your and my Lord’s duet. Perhaps you have convinced the others, but I do not forget; in the beginning, you were as twins, and the only difference between you was that he was greater, braver, and more bold.”

“He was mad .”

“Not until the Silmarils,” Mairon snarls. “Wild and great; chaotic it is true. But never mad until those foul things sank their claws in him. Ah! Do you know the first time I permitted him to lie with me was the day he destroyed the Lamps? He was glorious -- shining -- untouchable -- a god in his destruction. Power more than any living shall yet again know and then -- oh, he came to me. He asked me to leave. He spread thighs that could’ve crushed the world -- begged me to take him. Now that is might; the strength to surrender without losing anything. How could I say no? How could I have stood to remain in this midden of stagnancy and compilation a moment longer? When I came inside him, the earth shook almost as it did at the drowning of Numenor.”

Manwë’s mouth is dry. His pulse throbs. Mairon gaze flickers with the orange of dancing flames and as he approaches, the Vala feels as though his strength has deserted him. “You were always the lesser,” Mairon says, running an agonizingly light finger down Manwë’s chest. His blood sings. He knows he is being manipulated. Feels the tug of a Maia’s spells; yet his hröa aches and he wants -- he desires --

“Hn. You’re not even worthy to suck my cock.”  

Mairon turns his back, letting the force of his collected will disperse into the room. Manwë gasps, breathe ripped from him like a sob.

My husband ? Varda speaks into his mind, sensing his distress from far off. Are you alright?

No, he replies, hröa shifting as his spreads wings and takes flight. No , he tells her, as he flees the tower. No .

Sauron’s cackle is high and unhinged, following him on the wind.



Eönwë -- Regrets

Denied his forge, Mairon works in ink, wood, and stone. Standing in the shadows of his fellow Maiar's balcony Eönwë watches, nostalgia like a vise around his heart. When Mairon is bent upon his craft like this, it is almost as if he never left; as if those bright eyes and clever hands were unsullied and innocent.

Eönwë’s gaze, as it roams over the latest painting, misses nothing. The perspective is unfamiliar, the battlefield dark, and though he cannot place the moment exactly he recognizes it and feels his breath catch in his throat; the Siege of Utumno.

“Eönwë, come in.” Mairon does not look up when he speaks, but nonetheless, he feels the smirk in his words. “Did your master send you? He has not visited me much lately; I fear I have caused him some distress.”

“I know nothing of that,”Eönwë snaps, and it is only a half-lie. “I came here of my own accord to speak with thee, as thy acquaintance of old.”

Acquaintance ,” Mairon breathes the word, amused, and Eönwë is shocked by the confidence, the bitterness of him; when they had last parted, he had not been so. “You wound me. Last time, you yet called me friend.”

“In the past you played upon my trust -- told me you would follow and then stayed behind to wait and plot for Morgoth.”

“He was not Morgoth then.” Mairon’s tone holds the coiled danger of an angry snake.

“Whatever the case. I should’ve dragged you back to Valinor as I was tasked, and saved many Ages from pain.”

Mairon’s lips quirk in an unreadable expression. “I have often wondered why you did not.”

Images flash like photographs through Eönwë’s mind; of the little fire Maia of Aulë that had come to him, and begged to be instructed in the use of the blade. Who had challenged him. Fit him. Brought him more brightness, questions, and laughter than even the warm approval of his master. He cannot bring himself to speak of them, so he clears his throat and replies instead, “I...suppose I hoped you would come on your own.” He looks away so he does not have to see if scorn fills Mairon’s eyes. “I -- Mairon, if I could’ve promised you forgiveness, would you have come?”

The room is silent for a long, long while. So much so that Eönwë begins to fear Mairon has fled; but when he drags his stare from the floor he finds the Maia is with him still. “Mairon?”

“Ah, but what good would it have done, even if I had? Aulë would not have me and I lost my taste for serving others. Three Ages of chafing boredom -- I imagine I might’ve stolen the Silmarils in my lord’s stead.”

“At least you’d have made a cleaner job of it.”

That draws a laugh from Mairon. “Ha~ I suppose that is true. Melkor never did put much stock in a delicate touch.” Anger shoots through Eönwë then, as it always does at the mention of the Dark One.

“He wasted you, Mairon. Squandered your gifts. If you could not trust the Valar then at least you might’ve trusted me!”

Mairon snorts. “To do what , exactly?”

Eönwë opens his mouth as he has not done in many long centuries, and sings . The voice of Manwë’s herald is bright and true, and speaks of trust and a helping hand. Eönwë paints visions of strength, of love, and of doubts shared; tells Mairon that he agrees, that he too has questioned, but that Melkor’s way was not right -- was full of hypocrisy. Yet they are both calm. They are both clever. Both perfectionists. If a true solution might’ve been found, if a better fate made, would not it come from the two of them, allied together?

For a moment, as the melody rises, Eönwë swears he can see Mairon soften. Then a shadow passes across his face and he raises his own song in answer.

A marvel , Eönwë describes them.

A curiosity , Mairon responds in turn. Those who would be our betters do not want solutions. They would curb us. Shatter us. You have been sent from me before. It is doom, Eönwë. We have not the power to stand against them on our own. It is doom .

The truth, the grief, beneath Mairon’s words shakes him at last into silence and the beauty of his vision dies, unfinished, in the air. When Mairon addresses him next, he sounds almost apologetic.

“It is -- not an unpleasant dream. But -- you and I -- ah, Eönwë.  We are only Maiar. We do not have the might to truly change anything.”

The remark buries itself like an arrow, deep in Eönwë's breast and though he longs to deny it -- he cannot. He cannot. They are clever but in the end, ah -- if they were opposed.... He can admit, they do not have the strength. Hope slips between his fingers like sand. He cannot help the question that falls from his lips.

“And… Mairon. In the beginning. Had I been a Vala. Would you have been mine?”

The look Mairon gives him is full of pity before he turns his gaze far off, in the direction of the Door of Night. There is pain, the first Eönwë  has ever heard from him, when he says.

“But you are not.”



Frodo -- Evening Smoke

They sat in the shade of a Mallorn tree, passing a pipe back and forth between them. Mairon had learned to appreciate the taste of its smoke; soft, spicy, and utterly un-forge-like. He enjoyed how it calmed his thoughts, made his hröa tingle and relax, and how, for the most part, it required no words.

They’d spent nearly a full afternoon in blessed silence when Frodo plucked the pipe from him and finally said, “It may seem strange, but I feel it is unfair somehow; that we should be allowed peace in Valinor while Sméagol is not.”

Mairon raised one perfect eyebrow, fighting back a surprised cough. “Do not tell me you miss the creature.”

“Sometimes.” Frodo shrugged. “We traveled a very long way together. Yet I suppose you know something of that too.” The hobbit’s eyes were wide and blue, filled with an understanding that unnerved him still. When he did not reply, some of the certainty fell from Frodo’s face. “You were with him far longer. Do you never feel his loss?”

Mairon snorted, searching the Ring-Bearer for some sign that he was joking. When he failed to find it, he gave Frodo a look of consternation beyond words. A thousand replies stalled on his tongue; I am a dark lord. I do not miss things. I corrupted him. He killed me. He is not the one I miss. In the end, he only snatched the pipe back.

“I prefer you.”