Work Header

When days were younger

Chapter Text

Yavanna hid her face in her hands, afflicted by the spectacle in front of her eyes, and returned to the forge. Therein, the powerful arm of her husband beat the anvil with a hammer, and sparks of fire hovered over his head like little stars.

-Have you seen what's happening out there, Aulë?

-I suppose that what happens always. -said her husband, shrugging apathetically without looking away from his work.

-Melkor has ruined the fertile soil that took me such effort to prepare! Instead of moist earth there are ditches filled with fire, instead of placid rivers, geysers of boiling steam, and cliffs cut steeply instead of my rolling hills, and craters of ice in my valleys. Where will my creations grow now!?

Aulë sighed, wiping soot and sweat from his face, he turned to face his scowling wife.

-And what do you intend me to do about it, dear? Melkor is the brother of Manwë and the most powerful of us all. I can’t go looking for him just like that and hit his head with my hammer.

The tanned forehead of Yavanna furrowed still more, and Aulë prepared himself for the imminent outbreak:

-The ravages of Melkor don’t affect you as much as me! After all you work with the hard rock that resists both fire and ice. But my creatures will be tender and delicate when they come to the world! There must be something we can do about this enemy that has risen among us!

At that time, one of the Maiar of Aulë interrupted the forging of the bracelet at his hands, and let his cold, calm voice be heard:

-My Lady, it might be possible to speak with Melkor and reach an agreement. I’m sure that his intentions aren’t bad and that his works also have a place in the construction of Arda.

The one who had spoken thus was Mairon, the favourite disciple of Aulë and also the most talented, though his extreme pallor and taciturn character didn’t make him very popular among the other Maiar.

-You're too naive, Mairon, if you think one can reason with that... that... rebel! –snapped Yavanna, crossing her arms.

-I may be naive, but maybe that “rebel” is so as well. Maybe he doesn’t realize the harm he’s causing, maybe he believes he’s cooperating. How will he be amended if nobody makes him see his mistake?

The Maia who worked with Mairon dropped his hammer and snorted furiously.

-But do you ever listen to yourself!? Of course Melkor is fully aware of the harm he causes! That has been his intention from the beginning: to take over all Arda and wreak the work of the other Valar! Didn’t you hear his discordances during the Music?

-No, Curumo, I didn’t hear any discordance. My mind is adapted to order and doesn’t perceive chaos easily. –replied Mairon, squinting with a veiled threat.

He had always felt a deep antipathy for his companion Curumo, and the feeling was more than mutual. Especially since Curumo had envied him from the beginning, and lost no opportunity to make him look bad in front of his Lord. In fact, Mairon suspected that if Curumo had chosen white as the colour of his long hair and clothes, it was only because Mairon had chosen, unusually, black for his. Overall, Curumo was one of those spirits with his feet on the ground: terribly conventional, terribly mediocre, and not original at all. And those were the qualities that Mairon most despised in him.

-Enough with the bickering and return to your chores! -ordered Aulë, with firm (though paternal) severity.- Regarding Melkor, I will talk to Manwë and propose some kind of alliance to deal with his menace.

Yavanna’s expression softened at this, and she smiled, deeming herself satisfied.
Mairon, for his part, looked furtively through the opening in the rock that served as a window for the forge. Outside, in the black sky, the glowing trail of Melkor tore the air and matter of Arda, leaving fanciful figures and a rare geometry in his path. Until the light faded into a shower of sparks, only to resurface in new forms the next second.
And Mairon wondered if something so beautiful could be evil.

Indeed, Aulë kept his word of meeting with Manwë to address the issue of his brother, not so much for fear of the latter, but for fear of the wrath of his wife if he didn’t do so.
However, Manwë flatly refused to start any hostile action against Melkor. His reasoning was that not even all of them together could face such a powerful enemy. But the other Valar, gathered also there at that time, guessed right away that Manwë simply didn’t want to antagonize his brother to that point.
There was a general clamour upon hearing this decision, especially by Yavanna, Ulmo and Oromë, supporters of a harsher response. Even in the tense expression and tight lips of Varda could be read disagreement, though the Queen of the Valar didn’t contradict his husband publicly.
In the end, all the Valar agreed to meet in an esplanade with the enemy, to parley and reach a truce, even though almost none trusted the effectiveness of this plan.
In the forge, Curumo shook with terror when he learned that his master Aulë would meet face to face with that evil Vala, and was glad that no Maia was allowed to attend. Mairon, meanwhile, felt somewhat disappointed. He had never seen Melkor up close, and was curious to know how would look that being of pure light that he had so often glimpsed in the sky, tracing his fantastic figures.

The Valar had to wait a long time in the esplanade and cry out for Melkor, before he noticed their presence and deigned to descend by their side.
The land on which they stood, still soft and half-formed, rocked dangerously when the evil Vala placed his foot on it. And the rough sea in which it floated began to boil and emit vapours.
Melkor had also adopted the body of the Children of Ilúvatar, though he was naked, and his unique beauty appeared wrapped in the cosmic light that he extracted from Arda with so much tenacity. Some of the shyest Valier looked away, unable to withstand the intensity of those eyes, black as the Void and burning as the bowels of the world.

-What do ye want from me? Don’t ye have enough importuning me with your existence, that ye also have to distract me from my creation? Speak!

Manwë stepped forward and cleared his throat, uncomfortably.

-Well Melkor, I have received many complaints and protests about your behavior, and I also share them. We all work hard in our respective fields to give the best possible shape to Arda, and of course your contributions are valued, but the problem is that...

Melkor had approached Manwë more than usual, and was now grabbing the folds of his blue robe and pawing them with fascination. The King of Arda didn’t believe that his brother was listening to him.

-What is this, why does your body have this form and texture!? -he exclaimed, with an indignation hard to understand.

-That's not my body, these are the clothes that cover it -explained Manwë- Didn’t you see the Children of Eru in the Music, how they adorned themselves with beautiful embroidered fabrics, how they hid themselves with them, feeling naked and defenseless when they didn’t wear them? We saw those things, and we agreed that clothes were something good and beautiful, and that henceforth we would wear them.

-Yes, and YOU, Melkor, should wear them too! –interrupted Varda, pointing at him with an accusatory finger.- Instead of strolling around naked, with your private parts in view of everyone.

Melkor looked down, frowning.

-I’m not naked, I'm covered with light!! And I'm so beautiful, so brilliant, that you, envious Varda, cannot stand it! You, ugly and dark, your light is nothing compared to mine!!

Varda opened her mouth to reply, but her husband stopped her. It wasn’t the nakedness of Melkor what they had come to talk about, and that conversation hadn’t started on a good foot.

-... As I was saying, Melkor, your contributions are valued, but there is a problem. –continued Manwë- We can’t dwell together in Arda if you, with your work, destroy in an instant what we have built so painstakingly. And the Children of Eru need a world in calm to live.

-And my creations too! –interjected Yavanna.

- ...Yes, and Yavanna’s creations can’t thrive in this state of absolute chaos either. That’s why we have come to talk with you.

Melkor smirked and raised his head haughtily, looking askance at Varda.

-Well, then when do ye leave Arda?

Manwë blinked, confused.

-What... what do you mean?

-That when will ye depart from my world and will leave me to do things my way. That's what you said, right? That ye can’t live with me because my greatness and power overwhelm you, so ye have to go away. Well, when is it going to be?

Manwë fixed his blue eyes on the eager face of his brother, and forced a smile:

-No, no, Melkor, perhaps I haven’t explained myself properly. What I meant is that it’s you who must adapt to our presence, who must retreat a little so that we can work and create without fear. It’s for the sake of Arda; everything will be more glorious if we collaborate. After all, Arda was delivered to our care, to all of us, and no Vala must overcome the rest and claim it for himself. Of course that you will be granted a wide sphere of influence. As the brother of the King you...

-Brother of the King!? I am the King of Arda!! -burst out Melkor, and the ground beneath their feet cracked.

Some of the Valar had to jump away from the deep crevices, where the raging sea penetrated now.
Melkor felt great pain, and anger, and other feelings that didn’t have a name yet. Why did he have to endure these horrible insults? It was the others who did wrong being there, and he was the one who had to step back? Why, how!? He was more powerful!
And then an old memory made his heart sink:
In the beginning there was only him, and Eru, the Creator. And all the attention, all the love of Eru were on him, because he was the entire Creation.

-You are Melkor, the one who rises in power, and you will be powerful over all things.

That was the first thing that Melkor learned and felt: power. And it was good. But then something changed. Suddenly there were others, suddenly he was no longer the entire Creation, he was only a part, and Eru no longer looked just at him, no longer loved just him. And Melkor felt diminished. And it was bad.

Now, again, he was in the same situation: the more of Arda that he yielded to the others, the less would be left for him, and the more diminished he would become. Didn’t he have perchance the right to become infuriated? How to endure such injustice?

-No, I will never yield!! Arda will be mine entirely or won’t be at all! -he shouted, and the black sky lit under menacing lightning.

Hearing this, a murmur of complaint rose among the Valar, that soon became a clamour. Trapped between the two sides, Manwë prepared himself resignedly to weather the storm.

-Let’s attack him now that he’s alone and without his Maiar! All together, we can surely immobilize him on the floor. -proposed Oromë, stepping forward emboldened.

-It would be easier for me to drown him under my waves. –replied Ulmo.

-Manwë, your policy of dialogue is a disaster! –groaned Aulë, and pulled the hammer away from his wife, who tried to snatch it.

-Lend me the hammer, and I will give a lesson to that scoundrel of Melkor!

In the back rows and a little apart from the rest, Mandos leaned over his brother Lórien and whispered:

-Look at them, arguing and squabbling like children. And it must be thus until the last chord sounds. –at which his brother replied with a sly chuckle.

Meanwhile, Melkor looked with pride at the discord sown among the Valar for his cause. Perhaps he didn’t even need to destroy his enemies himself, perhaps they would end up destroying each other. After a while, however, he grew bored, as the focus of attention was now Manwë, over whom rained down complaints, and not him.

-Well, this was a very pleasant conversation. –interrupted Melkor, with sarcasm.- But now I must go back to my duties. I still glimpse far away a faint glow of light. And all the light must be mine, I cannot stop until it is so.

-Your objective then has no hope, because you will never possess all the light for yourself. –said Varda, throwing at him a triumphant, piercing look. Melkor froze, without understanding.- Yes, Melkor, haven't you raised your eyes toward the distant firmament of Eä? Haven't you seen the points of light of my stars, burning, beautiful, forever virginal? You won't ever extinguish that light, you'll never make it yours, because upon entering Arda you became subject to Arda, and your power avails you nothing beyond its walls. Lift up your head and look at the lights that challenge you, that mock you, with which I mock you!

And Melkor looked up at the stars, which until then he hadn't noticed, and felt deeply hurt. In a burst of anger, his own light flashed across the plain, blinding the other Valar.

-It can't be, all light must be mine, mine alone!! -he shouted maddened- And those stars will be as well! I don't care that they are beyond Arda; the Walls of Night are opened above, and I can cross them, and penetrate the black emptiness and possess them.

And saying this, Melkor rose like a column of searing clarity and disappeared over the walls of the world.
Manwë couldn't believe his eyes.

-Varda, see what you've done! Now Melkor is lost in the empty spaces of Eä. -his wife, however, shrugged:

-Well, and where is the problem? Getting rid of him is what we wanted, and he can't do any harm to my stars. Now we will have peace to complete the designs of Ilúvatar.

-Not for long. -muttered Mandos, and exchanged meaningful looks with his brother.

After this unexpected outcome, each of the Valar returned to their respective domains, partly relieved by the truce that was granted to them, but restless and disappointed in the depths of their hearts.
Upon hearing what had happened, Curumo rejoiced greatly, and tried to reassure his lords with the implausible idea that Melkor would be lost out there and would never return.
Mairon, staring into an intricate filigree of gold, said nothing about it.

But Melkor, far from being lost, traversed the vastness of Eä chasing the stars, until coming face to face with one of those huge fireballs. Then he tried to penetrate it, to possess it, to absorb its essence and make it his. But it was all in vain. Instead of being the one who ravished the star, it was the latter who repelled him, who violated him and injured him in his deepest being, while its unscathed light remained equal and serene.
Melkor cried out in frustration upon realizing his impotence, and he searched for other stars to possess, but also to no avail.
He fought against the light for a long while, until finally, dejected and sunk in despair, he let himself wander adrift in a sea of darkness. If what he desired the most was the light, but he couldn't have it all, then what was the reason of his existence, what was he but a nothingness?

Plunged into the blackest thoughts, Melkor didn't notice that a blackness deeper than the Void had approached him.

-I know thee. -said a voice.

When Melkor turned around, he found before him a shapeless and ominous mass, without colour or matter, from which sprouted thousands of filaments that reabsorbed in the nucleus the next moment.
Melkor moved a couple of steps away from the entity, suddenly invaded by primordial fear.

-Well I don't know you. What are you?

The huge shadow stirred, as if it thought long the answer, and finally said, with a horrible voice of hollow cave:

-I remember Eru in the beginning, and where He was, the light and things were. And where He was not, I was. I desired his light but I couldn't have it, because if I approached him, He disappeared, and if He approached me, I disappeared. That's what I am: the denial of light. More I cannot say.

-Don't you know anything more? What is your nature? Are you an Ainu or something else?

-I am She.

-And how do you know that? You don't even have a body.

-Eru is He, so I must be She. There is no other possibility, I'm a denial.

Melkor, more confident but without letting go of his caution, approached the entity and searched its bottom. But there was no bottom in that darkness.

-What is your name?

-I don't have a name. Give me one thyself.

The Vala thought for a moment, until a word emerged in his mind out of nowhere.

-You will be called Ungoliant.

- I like Ungoliant, yes. -celebrated the voice, and its multiple filaments quivered with joy, merged with each other to become thicker, and stretched like eight arched legs, while the central nucleus adopted a bulbous and oblate shape.

Melkor felt some repugnance, but also pride for his creation. Then, upon looking absently at his arms, he realized that something wasn't right. His body, full of light before, now looked much paler and quenched. He soon discovered the cause of this anomaly: two appendages of darkness had entered him, and through them Ungoliant was sucking insatiably the light of his interior.

-What are you doing!? That's mine! Leave me alone, abominable creature! -and Melkor tried to flee from the appendages, but these stretched themselves no matter how far he went, and if he fought against them they only sank further into his body and emptied him even faster.

By the time the Vala was free, his spirit had lost all brightness already, and instead Ungoliant had swelled tenfold.

-I'm sorry, but I was very hungry, and thou wert so beautiful that I couldn't avoid it. - explained the monster.

Melkor looked at himself with pity. Without his light he felt fragile and, for the first time, terribly naked and ashamed. But apart from this inconvenience, he didn't regret the loss of his light too much; at the end of the day, if he couldn't possess it all, he didn't want it at all.

-Go away, Ungoliant! I don't want you to see me naked, I feel very embarrassed. -groaned Melkor, shrinking into himself in an attempt to hide.

For some strange reason, it was his crotch what he wanted to cover the most, right where Varda had pointed at him when telling him he should wear clothes.

-If thou wantest I can weave something for thee, so thou wilt not feel naked. -offered the entity, and Melkor nodded, relieved.

Ungoliant then began to vomit darkness, and her eight legs weaved it at an astounding speed, creating long undulating ribbons that approached Melkor and caressed him, as if asking for permission to cover him. The Vala accepted the darkness and gave himself to it.
A ribbon curled along his right arm and another along his left arm. Upon reaching the shoulders, the two ribbons widened a little and crossed over his chest, covering his nipples gently. Melkor shuddered with a pleasant feeling that radiated from those two points, now hardened. Meanwhile, another pair of elongated fabrics climbed up his legs and thighs, brushing him with the exquisite chill of darkness. The ribbon that had curled on his left leg slid then across his hipbone, descended between his buttocks, and finally, covered his sex with a caress that forced a sigh out of him.
Melkor looked at himself satisfied. The darkness didn't cover him as well as had done the light; rather it could be said that it prevented the sight of a nakedness that was still present. But it made him feel powerful, and filled him with cold, and burning, and lust, and pleasure. Melkor loved the darkness even more than he had loved the light.

-Now I see that this is my true element, that which corresponds to me by nature. Even if you're inferior to me, Ungoliant, I name you my mother, and superior to my miserable father Eru, who wasn't able to understand my greatness. -proclaimed the Vala, stretching the darkness that swirled around his arms like wings.

-Thou art very generous giving me such a high title.

-Now let's return to Arda to give a lesson to those stupid Valar. You will be my servant and will always obey me.

The monster agreed with a movement of her eight legs, and they crossed the empty vastness like two black meteors. Nobody saw them arriving at the earth, wrapped as they were in shadows. But when Melkor turned his head, he discovered with annoyance that his new servant had slipped away, and he couldn't find her anywhere.
However, he didn't lack followers, because as soon as they detected his return, a large number of spirits of fire surrounded him, ready to do his will. Melkor hadn't noticed them until then, but the spirits assured him that already in the Music they had followed him, so he accepted them and entrusted a mission to each.

Shortly thereafter, Yavanna wept bitterly. The tender shoots that had begun to grow in the absence of Melkor, appeared now gray and dissolved in ashes. A great cloud of fire and scorching swirls flooded the sky, destroying everything on earth.
Melkor had intensified his attacks, and worst of all, he didn’t even use a beautiful element as light anymore. Now he wielded the ugliness of shadow, showing without qualms his true evil, without even trying to hide his violence under the guise of creative act.
In the forge, while Yavanna whispered to his husband, Curumo lost no opportunity to rub in Mairon’s nose how wrong he was, for believing that Melkor’s intentions could be good.

From that discussion in a low voice arose a new council of the Valar, and this time Manwë was unable to calm down the spirits. The indignation of his peers in the face of this new appearance of the threat was unanimous. And so were their demands: to ask Ilúvatar for help against the enemy.
Manwë brooded for a long time. That wasn’t an easy decision to take, because Eru had left them in charge of Arda to resolve their problems on their own. What would happen now if they asked him for help? Probably he would think that they had failed as guardians and that they weren’t worthy rulers.
Therefore, he decided to consult with Mandos, who thus far hadn’t defined his position in any way.

-What Eru has written, won’t be changed by any prayer in the world. What he hasn’t written, is irrelevant. –sentenced the Judge of the Valar.

For Manwë, these cryptic words amounted to say that one lost nothing by trying.
Therefore, the King of the Valar gathered around him all the winds, and his plea was raised beyond the Walls of the Night and the spaces of Eä, until reaching the ear of Eru, there in the Timeless Halls.
Eru smiled to himself, in part glad and in part saddened, because everything that happened in Arda was for him a mixture in equal parts of both feelings. Then he called before his throne an Ainu who was perfect for the role he had in mind. This Ainu had wandered so far through the Void, alone and anxious to discover his function. So when his Lord required him, he came at once filled with hope, and knelt before Him.

-Tulkas, my beloved son, I have an important mission for you, because your siblings of Arda are in need of your great strength to battle Melkor. To fight with this one will be your role now. But whether it will be thus in the future, that will depend on you. -said the fatherly voice of Eru, and with a gesture he motioned him to get up.

-I will go to Arda right now and will give that evil one what he deserves! –exclaimed Tulkas, eager to get going and measure his forces, wasted all this time.

-Yes, but first you will receive some gifts. I will give you courage in battle, and I will give you joy in the pleasures of the world. They are very important gifts, do not misuse them. -and Tulkas bowed his head to receive the gifts from his Father.

-Wilt thou also give me cunning and wisdom, as thou hast given others?

-I won’t. Because cunning quenches courage, and wisdom darkens joy. Now go.

Tulkas gave thanks, and retired with a bow.
That was how he descended upon Arda, full of joy at the new world that opened before him. And during his journey through Eä, he started forming his physical body according to what he had seen in the Music about warriors and fighters. His members became big and muscular, his chest firm, his visage noble and stern, with long hair and a short beard, both fair and gleaming like the light that he had loved so much in the Timeless Halls. His torso was covered with a coat of mail, his forearms with bronze vambraces, his legs with leather leggings and greaves of steel. Tulkas wasn’t sure if his clothing was exactly what he had seen in the Music, but he tried to approach it as much as he could. And when he finally found himself on the land of Arda, his new body filled him with pleasure upon experiencing the sensations that offered that world. He went across the incipient forests at full speed, feeling the caress of leaves and branches in his arms, the damp earth at his feet, and the scent of plants in his nose. He dove into the water and discovered with wonder how the liquid gave way around him and held him floating, how his clothes and hair were adhered to his body, wet and cold. He descended into deep caverns, where lava and molten rock covered him with sweat. And he ascended to the air, where winds carried him from one place to another. All these things inflamed him with joy, and for long his laughter was heard in every corner of Arda.
Until finally, Tulkas stopped, and found that, indeed, something wasn’t right. The forests disintegrated scorched, the seas boiled and roared furiously, the underground fires emerged with explosions, and the winds whistled in swirls. Then he remembered why he was there: to stop Melkor, the cause of those turbulences.

And it didn’t take him long to find him. There he was, between the cliffs and gorges of a mountainous region, destroying the peaks to lift them again, still more monstrous and sharp. Darkness surrounded him like a sticky and obscene fabric.
For Tulkas, seeing him from afar, he seemed of an inconceivable ugliness.
He stopped laughing, and full of fury, lunged at the other Vala and hit him by surprise. Melkor landed against the side of a mountain, opening a large hole in it, and blinked in disbelief.

-Who are you and how do you dare to attack me in such a way!?

-I'm Tulkas, and the other Valar have called me to come and fight with you. -he said, proudly showing his muscles.

Melkor laughed, but a second punch showed him that this was not a rival who should be taken lightly. The counterattack was swift, anyway.
Under the earth beneath Tulkas’ feet appeared some meandering rivers of lava, which glowed through the rock, and when they came right under his feet, they burst into terrible geysers of fire that launched him into the air. The rock cracked open where Tulkas landed, threatening to swallow him. And when the Vala clinged to the edge of the precipice to avoid falling, appendages of darkness curled around his members to immobilize him. Tulkas tensed all his muscles, and with a monumental struggle, he tore the bonds of darkness and broke them in a thousand pieces. Melkor cried out in pain and frustration, and the other Vala took advantage of this distraction to pounce on him.
Both rolled on the ground, destroying everything in their path, the rough and sweaty members of Tulkas intertwined with the soft and delicate members of Melkor. The evil Vala squirmed gasping and screaming, and fluids came out his body, and poisonous vapours that blinded Tulkas. A swirl of frost pushed the latter away his rival, and several rocks detached from the hillside fell on him. But nevertheless, despite everything, Tulkas realized that this fight caused him more pleasure and joy than anything else he had ever known: that was what he had been created for, that was his real mission.
With a triumphant laugh, Tulkas threw away the rocks, which made respective craters upon falling to the ground. Melkor frowned angrily.

-Why do you laugh, wretch!? I forbid you to laugh, I cannot stand it, I cannot stand your detestable laugh!

And he threw himself against him, spreading his wings of darkness to seize him. But Tulkas was faster, and gathering all his strength in his right fist, threw Melkor against a rock wall. An agonized lament echoed through the mountains, and Melkor felt the most terrible pain coursing through his body in waves that emerged from his abdomen. Then, looking down, he realized why. A sharpened stake of rock stuck out from a bloodied hole beneath his navel, piercing him side to side. He had been impaled on the wall.
Melkor run his trembling hands along the stake, lubricated with his blood, as if he didn’t believe that the strange protuberance truly emerged from his body. Tulkas didn’t believe what had happened either, and stood there frozen, not knowing what to do, while his enemy writhed and agonized between gasps. Finally, Melkor lost consciousness and his body was left hanging limp.
Only then Tulkas was able to react. And terrified, he rose to the ledge and took the body of his enemy in his arms, pulling it carefully out the stake and depositing it on the ground. A cold sweat trickled down his forehead; that wasn’t right, that wasn’t what Eru had sent him to earth for. He was supposed to fight Melkor and banish him, but not to kill him, not to destroy thus one of the Ainur, one of the beings that Eru himself had created from his thoughts. What would Ilúvatar think of him now? Wouldn’t he punish him perchance? Hadn’t he overstepped his duties? And what was that thick red liquid that kept pouring out his innards? That liquid frightened him terribly.
Tulkas pushed away the black hair from Melkor's face, as if that would help to revive him. Then he realized that despite what had seemed to him in the distance, the dark Vala was not ugly. He was, in fact, very beautiful.
Tulkas stroked his cheek, but still his enemy wouldn't wake up. He then focused his attention at his lower body. From the horrendous hole kept flowing blood, that dripped down his belly, and dyed his soft pubic hair in red, which the darkness didn't cover entirely. Tulkas tried to clean this area, tried to return the blood to the hole, hoping that his enemy would resurrect thus, tried to close the wound, but all in vain.
Finally, he introduced a finger into the hole, and then another, and a third one, and blood stopped dripping for a moment. Then Melkor moaned and shuddered, as if awakening from a nightmare. And when he finally opened his eyes and saw his enemy over him, he kicked him away, and rose into the air to distance himself.

-What were you doing, why were you touching me!? -he shouted, shaking a little.

Tulkas couldn't feel any more relieved, seeing that everything had settled itself happily.

-I thought you were dead.

-Yes, as if a stupid wound was enough to kill Melkor, the Mighty Arising, greater than all Ainur together! -he proclaimed, extending his arms, and the wound in his belly closed without trace.

Tulkas laughed in a good mood:

-Great. Then we can continue with the fight. This hasn't been but the warm-up for me. Come here! -and he pounced on him.

But Melkor eluded the strong arms that surrounded him. He was still confused and frightened by the loss of consciousness that he had suffered, and by what Tulkas was doing to him upon awakening. So, rather than facing him, he escaped over the Walls of the Night and vanished into outer darkness.
Tulkas stood there planted for a while, disappointed at having lost Melkor. But he was sure he would see him again, he was sure he would return, and he would be there to greet him, always waiting, always remembering him until the end of days.
Because that was what he had been created for.

Hidden among the broken pinnacles of one of the peaks, one of the Maiar of Aulë, whom the fight had surprised working on the rock, had seen it all. In particular, the image of Melkor impaled on the ledge, while red liquid flowed from his interior and he writhed among gasps, had etched into his mind, and he couldn't stop thinking about it with trembling.
That was the first lesson of Mairon in Arda. He learned what pain was. And he liked it.

In the days that followed the exile of Melkor, the Valar and Maiar gave themselves with passion and effort to the rebuilding of the world. Now that they enjoyed peace, all their works finally reached their most perfect finishing, and the resulting Arda was more beautiful and glorious than could have ever been imagined by each of them separately.
So far they had just a limited view of that which had attracted them most in the Music. But now, upon coordinating and complementing their works with each other, they understood the true greatness of the vision of Eru.
First, Ulmo calmed the seas, he purified and sublimated them, until they became faint as the air of his beloved friend Manwë. Vaiya he called them, and they served to sustain the earth. But Manwë was so pleased by this cold and ethereal substance, that he decided to raise it to the heavens as well, and form therewith a dome to protect Arda and separate it from the Walls of the Night. Under this dome he still created other two: Ilmen, luminous and burning, and Vista, of heavier and denser air. For the love of Ulmo, Ilmen entered Vaiya and also encompassed the earth from below, right where the roots of the world penetrated, through which the Vala of the waters traveled. This way, the great friends Manwë and Ulmo merged their respective elements both on earth and in heaven, and their union was sealed.

No less work had Aulë and his Maiar, for upon them fell the difficult task of creating a living space for the Children of Ilúvatar. The murmur of picks and shovels digging, hammers in the forge, rocks and mountains being uprooted and transported from one place to another, shook every corner of Arda. Tulkas, who had been accepted with great joy and gratitude by the other Valar, helped not a little to load rocks and move lands.
Mairon had spent long hours in the forge, designing drawings and diagrams with the exact measurements and the shape that the earth should have. His ideal model had been a single landmass in the exact center of Vaiya, perfectly square and uniform. Even if this model didn’t displease Aulë entirely, the other Valar rejected it outright, especially Yavanna, Oromë, Vána and Lórien (though Mairon suspected that the latter had only complained out of malice).
Finally, although Mairon was forced to compromise and had to delineate a land of irregular contour, he managed to make it totally symmetrical and centered. Amid this firm ground, Ulmo opened a circular lake around a beautiful island, and east and west he also opened two large seas, with a much heavier and altogether different water than that of Vaiya. Although the seas were not as symmetrical and regular as Mairon would have wished, their harmony was quite satisfactory nonetheless.
The Maia couldn’t but shrug at the designs of his superiors, even though deep inside, he took pride in the fact that the discords and chaos of Melkor hadn’t affected him so much as, so it seemed, the others.
But then, why couldn’t he stop thinking about the dark Vala, and his body impaled on the rock, and the blood, that purple, hot, steaming blood?
Sometimes in the forge, when he was sure no one was watching, Mairon picked up a chisel and made small cuts with it on his arm, fascinated by the image of the blade penetrating his flesh, and the deliciously painful feeling, and the texture and taste of his own blood.
Until one day Curumo burst in unlooked for, surprised him doing this, and threatened him with telling everything to Aulë (although he wasn’t sure why he should). Since then, Mairon didn’t cut himself anymore, even when some insidious idea didn’t go out his head.

The greatest of the works of Aulë was yet to come, so Mairon postponed his plans for later and gave himself body and soul to the new project.
Two huge pillars rose to the north and south of Middle-earth, and on them were placed two splendid lamps that Varda filled with starlight and Manwë consecrated. The light of the lamp in the North, Illuin, was cold and bluish. While the lamp in the South, Ormal, bathed the earth with a warm orange light. The effect was especially beautiful right in the center, on the island of the lake, where both lights mingled and almost seemed a physical substance that vibrated in the air. Aulë and his Maiar were covered with praise and revered for this work, considered the most beautiful and useful of all. And it was agreed that later a big party would be held in his honour.

Now the land, Imbar, was afloat and completed, and the light of the two lamps warmed it gently in its middle part. Then came the turn of Yavanna and her sister Vána.
The first one left in her path tender green shoots, which upon receiving the singing of the second, grew as fragrant plants, as shrubs and trees of all types and sizes. A blooming of fertility poured over all the earth, covering it with a green mantle. Even in the forge of Aulë, he and his Maiar had to fight against the roots and vines that had come snaking through the cracks, and threatened to destroy rock, anvil and tools alike. They were forced to cut them with picks, much to the displeasure of Yavanna, and for the enjoyment of Aulë, a greater one than he dared to confess.
But not just plants grew in that first explosion of life. The woods were filled with quiet animals, of beautiful and wondrous bodies. Branches, rocks, and even underground tunnels vibrated with the hum of tiny creatures. And waters swarmed with a multitude of colourful fishes, except for Vaiya, which remained cold and imperturbable.
Thus began the Spring of Arda and the days of glory for the Valar. Only Mandos, Lórien and Nienna remained idle all this time. And though the other Valar reproached them for their laziness and disinterest, they claimed that their time had not yet come, and Manwë told his peers to let them be.

At last, the Valar chose the island in the middle of the lake, which they called Almaren, as their place of residence, and built their mansions there. The forge of Aulë wasn’t on the island, however, and some of his Maiar (Mairon the first) refused to leave and live among their companions.
Thus Mairon found himself quite lonely in those days, and he rarely left the forge to enjoy the new world, troubled as he was by his thoughts.
Until one day, the silence around him was broken by a cheerful voice that called to him from the window.

-Hello, Mairon!

The aforementioned looked up from his drawings and diagrams, and saw through the opening in the rock the smiling face of a feminine Maia. She was very beautiful, with green eyes and long black hair that fell inside the window.

-Do you know me perchance? Who are you?

-I'm Melian, and yes, I know you. Although I think you have never noticed me.

Before Mairon could stop her, the Maia had sneaked in the forge through the window, not caring if her dress, embroidered with flowers, got covered in dust and soot.

-I admit that I had never seen you before. Who do you serve?

-Vána. Although I like spending time with Lórien. He’s a weird fellow. He amuses me. –she said laughing, as she tapped with a hammer on the anvil.

-Leave that alone, you can’t be here! And you could hurt yourself. –complained Mairon, taking her away from the tools.

-How grumpy! Why are all the Maiar of Aulë so grumpy? The other day I met that partner of yours who is always in white, Curumo I think he’s called, and I wanted to play a trick on him. He was so furious...! And all because I made branches and plants to sprout in his head.

Hearing this, Mairon couldn’t help chuckling under his breath. He was beginning to like that Maia a little more already.

-I wish I had seen that.

-Oh, and you could see a lot more if you didn’t stay always locked up in here! I remember having observed you while you worked in the Lamps, and having thought: “That Maia, so pale and dressed in black. He seems to be always sad, and I bet he has no friends. What is that which gnaws at him?” So I thought I could keep you company, be your friend, and show you how Arda has become now that it’s already completed. Come with me!

Mairon wanted to protest, but Melian grabbed his hand and dragged him outside.
However, as the two traversed the new world, Mairon began to feel more and more dejected. Plants and trees had grown haphazardly, so that their roots and stems broke the symmetry with which he had planned his mountains. The beasts had dug burrows there where the ground should have been smooth. The rain pierced rocks that Mairon barely recognized anymore. And the coasts, that he had measured to the nearest millimeter, now had another appearance, since they had yielded to the pressure of waves.
Noticing that all these irregularities afflicted her companion, Melian led him to the edge of a lake to show him something different. The maiden threw a flat stone on the surface of the lake, and it bounced gracefully taking several jumps. Mairon smiled a little when he saw the effect that the stones of his Lord worked in the water: in its path it had left circular and concentric waves, separated by growing but regular intervals, and they slowly dissolved with each other. There was a pleasant, though not perfect harmony in all of that. Taking a stone as well, he tried to throw it to the lake, but it sank with a splash.
Melian laughed at his frown. She approached him from behind, put a new stone in his hand and gently led it in another throw. This time the stone bounced five times.

-Not bad for a clumsy Maia of Aulë! –she celebrated- But come, I still want to show you something that you’ll surely like.

The Maia then led him to the foot of a huge mountain, the highest of all of Arda by Mairon’s reckoning. From the top, a winged figure descended upon noticing their presence. It was Eönwë, the herald of Manwë. Mairon had recognized him at once: silver hair, a short tunic of the same colour, inlaid with blue gems, and above all, the pair of white-bluish feathered wings that distinguished him from the rest of Maiar.

-Who is this one, Melian? -asked the herald, rather coldly.

-He’s Mairon, a friend.

Mairon didn’t entirely agree with the name of “friend”, but he limited himself to offer his hand and look friendly. Eönwë looked him up and down, and seemed somewhat disturbed. This wasn’t the kind of Maia that he used to have dealings with. He hadn’t soft, aerial features, but hard and sharp ones. Nor graceful limbs, but sinewy arms accustomed to working in the forge. And his fibrous body, instead of being covered with ethereal and delicate dresses, wore just a simple black leather vest, leggings of the same material, and sturdy boots. In addition, Eönwë perceived in him a smell of smoke and molten metal. A little embarrassed, then, the herald shook the hand that was offered. But the next second, his haughty expression softened:

-Well, Melian's friends are my friends. I suppose ye want to climb to the top of the mountain, isn’t it?

-Indeed, we want to see the snow. -said Melian.

-Then ye don’t need to disembody. I myself will bring you up.

And saying this, Eönwë grabbed each by the hand, and ascended to the clouded summits with his large wings.
Mairon was very impressed by that new substance in which his feet sank. Neither solid nor entirely liquid, of a perfect and blinding white, extremely cold and easy to mold. Mairon was fascinated by the snow.
Especially when he observed the snowflakes up close and discovered the symmetrical beauty, the geometry always different but always regular, of those tiny particles. There, there was enclosed a fundamental truth, a truth that he had sought and for which he had struggled since the Music, but that even then escaped him.

-Who is responsible for such a magnificent creation?

-No one. The snow came by accident. –said Eonwë.- It was when the waters of Ulmo collided with the immoderate cold of Melkor, that this new substance was born.

Mairon was perplexed upon finding that the rebellious Vala had taken part in it. And a shiver ran down his spine, though not because of the chill of the snow.
The impact of a cold ball against his head pulled Mairon out his reverie. Melian was laughing, and the next moment another burst of balls rained against him and Eönwë. The herald tried to regain his composure, shaking the snow from his hair and wings. But it was in vain, for soon he found himself overwhelmed by all sides, by Melian as well as Mairon, who had decided to put aside his usual seriousness, at least on that occasion.
Melian’s joke ended up becoming a full-fledged battle. And at the end of it, the three Maiar lay together on the snow, soaked to the bone, shivering and laughing nervously.
There, on top of that icy mountain, the three swore that they would always be friends. And the oppression in Mairon’s heart eased a little, but the shadows didn’t disappear.

The feast in honour of Aulë took place shortly thereafter, on a quiet hill of Almaren. It was agreed that, on the occasion of the celebrations, each of the Maiar of Aulë would present to their Lord the most wonderful work that they had been able to forge on their own, so that all attendees could admire the skill of his servants. Each of the Maiar had spent a long time preparing their project, and of course all had been kept secret to avoid imitations. Mairon, for his part, had deeply pondered about his, and had taken an unavoidable decision, something that had haunted him since the idea came into his head. As usual, Curumo had tried to spy on him and find out what he was up to. But this time Mairon had been very careful, and his rival was frustrated.
Aulë sat then on a throne of rock, next to his wife, and at his feet the various Maiar presented their works one by one. Most had wrought jewelry, pendants, bracelets, lamps with gems, and other beautiful objects of magnificent technique, though quite unoriginal. When his turn came, Curumo dragged before the throne a heavy metal contraption, full of wheels and gears.
Now that was a novelty.

-This, my King and Queen, Manwë and Varda, my Lords Aulë and Yavanna, is a “machine”. A device that I developed after long hours of study and that will serve to greatly facilitate the works of mining. By simply heating this boiler filled with water and pushing this lever, my machine is able to dig the deepest hole in the hardest ground, to unravel all its secrets: the veins of gold and silver, the gems, the precious stones... In a word, everything a goldsmith could desire. And within minutes and effortlessly! -explained the Maia pompously, making melodramatic gestures with his white robes.

And then he set out to make a demonstration. He lit a fire under the boiler and stirred it, until it began to boil and bubble, and then pushed several levers and adjusted some wheels. The whole contraption began to vibrate and creak with a deafening noise, a couple of monstrous picks sank into the earth, alternating at high speed, and soon thereafter sprung in the air lumps of grass, mud, pulverized rock and oil from the machine itself. The attendees of the first rows were bathed in that filth, but the racket of the gears was so hellish, that it drowned out the protests.
Until finally, one voice rose above the others:

-Stop, turn off immediately that... that... THING!!

Curumo jumped upon recognizing the voice, and rushed to stop the machine. His white hair and robes appeared now brown because of the mud.
On her throne, Yavanna, who was the one who had shouted thus, trembled pale with rage,seeing the ugly hole opened in her beloved hillside, and the dead grass on her clothes. Looking around, Curumo discovered with embarrassment that many other Valar had been also splashed by the earth thrown by the machine, and that most were outraged. Only Tulkas laughed out loud, covered with grime.
Aulë cleared his throat, somewhat uneasy in that situation:

-That has been very... very interesting, Curumo. Let's see... uh... let's see the next one.

Curumo withdrew, dragging his machine crestfallen, and run into the malicious smile of Mairon, who was headed to the throne now.
In contrast to the ostentatious entrance of his predecessor, Mairon was very sober. He just pulled from a black sheath, hanging from his belt, a curious thing, and knelt before his Lord to show it to him. Instead of the motley jewelry that had been presented before, this was just a metal blade, long, narrow, and very sharp at the tip and sides. It had, however, a kind of grip on the other end, with inlaid onyx. All attendees were puzzled.

-What's that, Mairon? –asked Aulë, eyes wide.

-It's a sword.

-Humm! A sword? And what is the use of that?

-To sink into the flesh. To kill.

Aulë looked askance at his wife, upset. Among those attending, some nervous whispers were heard. Tulkas had stopped laughing and was now more livid than anyone, while a cold sweat trickled down his forehead.

-Certainly, Mairon, I don’t know what to say about this -muttered Aulë, thoughtful.-No being has ever died in Arda, not even Yavanna’s animals kill each other. I know nothing about death.

-You will know. –interrupted the icy voice of Mandos.

But nobody paid him much attention.

-Well, I think it’s a great invention! –exclaimed Oromë, stepping forward.-Listen, Manwë, Aulë and all the others. I've seen some of this in the Music, sharp weapons, but longer than this sword, or lighter and feathered, that flew through the air and dug into the body of beasts. Magnificent and dangerous hunts. For that I was created, and that’s what I desire the most in this world: to kill wild animals. This Maia has made just what I needed. Aulë, ask him to forge many more weapons for me.

-Oh, splendid! -complained Yavanna.- First one of your Maiar, dear, creates a machine to destroy my lawn. And now it turns out that another is devoted to making horrible things to kill my animals. Why do ye all conspire against me!?

-But, my lady Yavanna, I will only use them to hunt evil beasts. -apologized Oromë.

-None of my beasts is evil!

-But... they could become evil... someday. –insisted Oromë, shrugging.

Yavanna snorted, looking away. It was clear that, once again, the other Valar would get away with it and would trample on her creatures. She could only give up.

Thus, Mairon was very busy the next few days forging weapons for Oromë, according to his specifications: spears, arrows, bows, hunting knives... Melian and Eönwë visited him occasionally in the forge and tried to help, but their skills in that field were disastrous. Eönwë scorched his feathers and even his hair, while Melian didn’t manage to bring out the anvil but deformed pieces full of bumps. Mairon also had to give up.

Meanwhile, Tulkas had been distraught since the incident of the sword. He ran across the Walls of the Night, anxious and alone, occasionally peering over the edge to the outer void. And his laughter no longer resounded on earth. Manwë shook his head, saddened, upon realizing that Tulkas, who had helped them so much, wasn’t entirely happy in Almaren.
So one day, when almost all the Valar were gathered in his mansion, Manwë went looking for Tulkas to accompany them. He found him, as usual, before the fences of the world, punching the cold, translucent and totally unbreakable wall with which they were made.

-Tulkas, my friend, why have you become so taciturn? -he said, laying his hand gently on his shoulder.

-I don’t know. I'm sad, but I don’t know why.

-I know what happens to you. You feel alone among us. And I think a Vala of your character, cheerful and vital, could use some company. Someone who would wait for him upon returning home. You may have noticed that most of us have spouses... What about you? Is there anyone in Arda that you specially want?

-Your brother Melkor!

Manwë blinked a few times, not wanting to believe what he had just heard.

-My... my... my brother!?

-Yes, your brother, who escaped cowardly before the end of the fight! I want him to come back so I can give him what he deserves.

Manwë breathed a sigh of relief, realizing what was it all about. And he tried to erase the grotesque image that had formed in his mind.

-What I meant, my dear Tulkas, is marriage. Wouldn’t you like to get married?

Tulkas scratched his head for a few seconds, and finally shrugged.

-Yes, I guess so. I'll get married.

Manwë was radiant. Nothing excited him more than seeing two Valar joining in marriage. Could there be anything more beautiful than that harmony, that conjunction of related minds? There was no doubt that the intention of Eru had always been for the Valar to marry each other... at least those who could get a partner, of course.

-Excellent, you don’t know how glad I am to hear that, Tulkas! Come with me, they’re all gathered in my halls and must be told.

Manwë led him to his mansion, and he had barely crossed the tall marble doors, when he was already announcing to the four winds the great news.
All the Valar rejoiced for Tulkas, who was still quite confused by the whole affair.

-And have you already decided whom you’ll marry? –asked Vána, beaming.

-It's true, you must choose someone. -confirmed Manwë.

Tulkas looked around at each of the Valar gathered there, trying to decide whom he liked the most.

-I’ll marry her! -he said, pointing to Varda.

The queen of the stars became so pale and rigid as an icicle, and in her outrage, she didn’t even manage to say a word. Manwë smiled nervously, and whispered to Tulkas aside:

-You’ll see, Tulkas, you can’t choose Varda because she... well, she's already my wife.

-And can’t she be the wife of both?

-No, I can’t be the wife of both!! –yelled Varda, her former iciness transformed into steaming anger.

-Alright, alright! Then I want him. –continued Tulkas, pointing this time at Lórien.

Several attendees blushed to the roots of their hair. But the aforementioned let out a malicious chuckle, looking up and down the muscular body of Tulkas, and only muttered:

-It will be my pleasure...

Varda's patience was reaching its limit. And she pressed her temples, trying to think what would be the best way to reason with Tulkas:

-Look, you can’t choose Lórien either. -and looking at him askance, she added between her teeth: - Although I don’t doubt that he would love it...

-Why can’t I pick him? He’s not married.

-Yes, but the problem is that he’s a “he”. You have to choose a Valië, not a Vala. So works marriage: a masculine spirit must join a feminine spirit.

-And because?

-Because yes!

Tulkas clenched his fists, tense. Maybe he didn’t understand at all what that marriage thing was about. Maybe he didn’t understand at all what many things were about. But definitely, these explanations confused him even more. Didn’t the other Valar see that he had arrived the last and still had quite a lot to learn?

-I have a good idea! -announced Oromë.- Why doesn’t he marry my sister Nessa? I think she would be perfect for Tulkas. She’s also cheerful, lively, active, and likes to live outdoors. In addition, she’s very beautiful.

Everyone nodded to the proposal, although Tulkas didn’t know what to say. Nessa was not among those present, since she didn’t like mansions or enclosed spaces. And truly, Tulkas wasn’t sure if he had ever seen her. But apparently, the others had already decided for him.

The problem was that Nessa knew nothing of these arrangements, and Oromë suspected that it might be difficult to convince her... or find her. Nessa had some of a “wild” character. However, Oromë and Manwë found her in one of the gloomiest forests, where barely reached the rays of Illuin.
Nessa danced in the twilight, and at first she ignored them completely. When Manwë asked her if she would accept Tulkas in marriage, she laughed wildly, and disappeared all of a sudden into the thicket. Manwë and Oromë exchanged glances with a shrug, assuming the mission had failed.
But then, from the depths of the forest, came again the singing laughter of Nessa, and a single word in response to their request: “I accept”.

The nuptials were organized almost immediately, taking advantage of the festive atmosphere that reigned in Almaren after the celebrations in honour of Aulë and the Lamps.
For Tulkas his new wife seemed beautiful, and he felt happy. At least he thought so. But as the festivities carried on, a kind of unease and foreboding gripped him. Believing that he would relieve himself thus, Tulkas kept eating the delicacies offered to him by the Maiar servants, and drinking without restraint the liquors that Lórien had distilled. His head spinned, and without knowing how, he was caught in an insane dance with Nessa. The Valië grabbed his hands and began to twirl around with him, more and more dizzily, until the space disappeared behind them. Tulkas only saw her now: her black hair flowing around like a veil of darkness, her inviting smile, her dark, narrowed eyes, which seemed to promise some dangerous and uncertain pleasure. Feverish, Tulkas grabbed another huge jug of liquor and drained it, accompanying his wife’s dance with increasingly uncoordinated steps. Always looking at those eyes.
A word lit up in his head out of nowhere, a word that he didn’t know until now: “lust”. And why then, just then, as he watched Nessa dancing to consumption, rose before his eyes, clearer than ever, the image of Melkor impaled on that stake? And the blood running down his belly, disappearing between his legs?

In the outer voids, and surrounded by some of his fiery servants and other monstrosities, Melkor waited impatiently the news from Arda. Finally, in the black distance appeared a point of light, which grew into a huge demon, wrapped in flame and shadow as his only clothing. It was Gothmog, the leader of all the other fire demons: the Balrogs, as Melkor called them.
Gothmog arrived exhausted.

-My Lord, thou canst not imagine what has happened in Arda. It’s much changed, thou wouldst have to see it for thyself! -he announced, out of breath.

-Much changed, in what sense? What have told you my spies? Explain yourself!

-It's... It's better that thou seest it with thy own eyes... There are lamps and...

-What is a lamp!? Now you're talking nonsense, Gothmog! -Melkor glanced around, inspecting all the spirits of Eä who had followed him in his exile- But whatever, let's all go and see what it’s about! Strength is on my side, and I must fear nothing.

An impenetrable shadow rose above the Walls of the Night, north of Middle-earth, though the Valar didn't notice it in the midst of the feast and lively music.
Melkor was furious at what he found there. The whole Arda was ruined, the land had the wrong shape, the seas were not in their place. And worst of all, two horrendous pillars stained the world with their light, marring the surface and giving a false appearance to things.

-This is an inconceivable insult, born from the meanest iniquity of the Valar!! -burst out Melkor, in a fit of rage.- Now that I have renounced light, now that I have embraced darkness as my element, Manwë and his lackeys dare to light up the world with such lamps (because that's what they are, isn't it , Gothmog?). And all that, all that they have done just to offend me, just to contradict me! Look how they have destroyed with their light the shadows that I extended, even in the deepest valleys and the hollows of the mountains. And what is that which they celebrate?

-The marriage of Tulkas, my Lord. -explained Gothmog, sheepishly.

-How, how is it possible that Tulkas gets married!? It cannot be, I won't allow it! -a maelstrom of fire emerged from the Vala's body, and even the Balrogs had to take cover.- I've been away for too long, I think, and it's about time that I return to put things back in place. Those stupid have been so busy building stupid lamps and getting drunk in their feasts, that they didn't even bother to finish the walls of the world. Surely they don't think I would come back. Well, they were wrong. Follow me, the brave and loyal, and those who do not, be forever cursed and banished to the Void! Let's go there. Glory is for the one who strikes first.

And with this exhort, Melkor, all the Balrogs, and most of the multiform spirits who were with him, descended to the earth, protected by darkness.
In Almaren, Tulkas and Nessa had collapsed, as dead, after that unrestrained dance. And Mairon, sitting a little apart with Eönwë, who hadn't stopped talking about trifles during the feast, shifted uncomfortably. A strange feeling had frozen him inside.

Melkor and his spirits tore the land in a frenzy, dug deep trenches and rooted out pillars from the earth. Some of his followers took then the most grotesque forms, and from the fetid pits they raised their tentacles, lifting stones one after another. In a confusion of flesh, bone, iron, rocks and miasma, the fortress of Utumno started taking shape. And Melkor poured his power and darkness in every corner and every one of the creatures that swarmed there.
Once the fortress was completed, the Vala watched with satisfaction the main hall. Twisted columns, in part solid, and in part living and throbbing, got lost in the shadows, and the only light now came from the fire of the Balrogs. But Melkor felt his legs faltering, and a sudden weakness caused him to fall into the arms of Gothmog.

-My Lord! What happens to thee? -cried the Balrog in alarm.

And looking at him, he realized that the darkness that covered him had become somewhat translucent.

-Humm! I don't know... While I let out my power to build Utumno, I felt an immense pleasure, as a palpitation... all over my body. -muttered the Vala, rubbing his temples and trying to stand up.- Now that I've finished, I feel a deep satisfaction but... I think I need to rest. It will be over in a moment...

The flagstones of the floor opened, and from the hole sprung countless tentacles, which twining themselves quickly, formed a seat. Melkor let himself fall languidly into that soft and slimy throne, while the tentacles of his servant caressed and comforted him.

-This can't be normal, my Lord. -continued Gothmog, scratching his head in puzzlement.

But Melkor despised his words with a wave of his hand.

-Bah, I already feel much better! And look, the darkness that covers me is thickening again.

-Perhaps... perhaps thou hast let too much power out of thy interior? Perhaps power can be spent? -pointed out one of the Balrogs, who wasn't precisely one of the brightest.

-How dare you!? My power can't be spent, it's infinite! -one of the demons elbowed his companion for his insolence.- And soon I'll show my enemies. I won't limit myself to Utumno, no. I will spread over all the earth, and I have already thought about how to deal them the first mortal blow.

The Vala smiled, lost in thoughts of unfathomable malice. Gothmog had only eyes for his Lord, especially when he saw him thus, absorbed and mysterious. He was almost jealous of the tentacular creature, and the honour that supposed for it to touch Melkor so intimately.
Still upset by what the other Balrog had said, Gothmog also gave him a good nudge.

The effects of the return of Melkor didn't take long to show, and soon the Valar realized that something was wrong. The rivers from the north became murky and poisonous, and many dead fishes appeared carried by the current. Trees of a twisted and unusual look gained ground in the woods, while weeds poisoned and left barren the once fertile plains. As Oromë had predicted, many beasts became fierce and dangerous. And the Vala had the opportunity to use his weapons for the first time, in hunts that filled him with joy, and a certain sense of guilt.

The fatal outcome, that the Valar hadn't even imagined in their naivete, occurred shortly thereafter.
Mairon had felt uneasy since the wedding of Tulkas, as if some darkness stirred inside him. In some way, he had expected that it happened so.
Now, safe on the highest peak of a mountain, alone, he watched the destruction caused by the fall of the two Lamps. The cracked, lightless land appeared divided by rivers of fire that gave off eerie glints. Any symmetry, any order to which he could have aspired, had disappeared in the chaos of Melkor.
And yet, there was something there, something that eluded him once again, a different geometry, some hidden laws under a shapeless appearance. Smiling wryly, Mairon realized that precisely the most perfect and studied work of Aulë's forge, that work whose plans he had revised countless times, calculating its measurements with an obsessive accuracy, that work, had been the cause for the collapse of any plan, of any calculation. And in his interior, Mairon conceived an insidious and horrible feeling, a feeling from which he tried to escape in vain, and for which he hated himself deeply.
Because Mairon hated himself upon understanding that, despite everything, he saw beauty in that image of destruction.



Chapter Text

The fortress of Utumno emerged from the earth as a pulsating tumor, and the two Valar standing before it hesitated in fear for a moment, before following Tulkas inside. The reeking mouth that served as entrance arch was unguarded, but in the antechamber they ran into a couple of doors as massive as the pillars of the world, and not even Tulkas’ punches were able to move them an inch.
Manwë touched his partner in the shoulder so he stopped beating the structure. At the end of the day, if they wanted the plan to go smoothly, they must feign good will and submission towards Melkor until the end.
It hadn’t been easy for the king of the Valar to convince his peers of the suitability of that plan. And least of all Tulkas, for whom all the problems in this life were solved by facing Melkor in a spectacularly destructive close-quarters fight. But from the very moment in which Oromë returned to Valinor with news that the Firstborn had awakened in Middle-earth, Manwë saw it clear: it was necessary to keep Melkor away from them, especially now that they were still young and defenseless. And it had to be done without violence, without cataclysmic struggles that opened pits in the ground and uprooted mountains.

For that reason, he, Oromë and Tulkas had traveled alone to the fortress, wading through the swamps, and avoiding the scalding vapours that sprang forth from cracks, in the lands around Utumno. They came apparently unarmed and with the express intention of paying their respects to Melkor and beg him for the Firstborn’s sake. Although of course, they hid a secret weapon.
Tulkas, however, didn’t understand it yet:

-This whole plan seems wrong to me, Manwë. -he protested, giving the doors a respite.- Our messengers told Melkor that we came to serve him, but actually we come for something else. Isn’t that lying?

-Well ... uh ... yeah, it's a bit like lying ... a little. –sighed Manwë, fearing what would come next.

-But isn’t lying bad? You always say that we must do good, Manwë, and fight against the evil of Arda. Then why do we lie and deceive!?

-Because sometimes, Tulkas, a lie, if it’s small, avoids more evils than those it causes.

-Well, but this lie seems to me rather a fat one. Look, what I will do is cry out for Melkor, tell him that I have come to grind his bones, and do exactly that when he leans out the door. Then we return to Valinor, and if he ever bothers the Elves again, then I will come back and give him another beating. That’s the best.

And Tulkas was already about to challenge Melkor at the top of his lungs, before a horrified Manwë and an incredulous Oromë, when the doors opened from the inside by a gear.
A small creature, ugly, clumsy and with long arms, peeped out the doorway, and looked at the majestic Valar with a frown. He didn’t seem very impressed, and soon began to yell something at them in an unintelligible jargon.
Oromë became interested in the newcomer at once.

-Such a curious being! I wonder to what race he belongs... -he smiled, fingering the creature for inspection.

The beast wasn’t amused, and he bit Oromë on a finger, though his small fangs only made the Vala laugh.

-Hey, pipsqueak! Do that again, and I'll sink you into the floor with a slap. -threatened Tulkas.

The creature lowered his ears and hid behind the half-opened door, groaning in his strange language.

-Is this the only herald that sends us my brother? We can’t even understand a word of what he says. Certainly, he has lost all sense of decorum and hospitality if he thinks that this is an appropriate welcome for the king of the Valar. –sighed Manwë, crestfallen.

The ugly creature must have read the disappointment on his face, and he replied with an obscene gesture.

-Now you’ve earned it for real, little rascal!! –roared Tulkas, approaching the trembling emissary.

But at that moment, the doors opened wide, and a blinding clarity burst into the antechamber. Between the creature and Tulkas stood a Balrog with crossed arms, almost as muscular as this Vala.

-The lord Melkor isn’t going to find funny that those who, supposedly, come to pledge him fealty, treat his Orcs like this. -he growled, narrowing his eyes.

-Orcs? I had never heard of those beings... -murmured Oromë, for whom nothing was now more interesting than this new kind of savage beast.- I would like to take him, nothing more.

The Balrog raised an eyebrow, and Manwë pushed Oromë aside, clearing his throat uncomfortably.

-Forgive my companion, uh...


-That’s it, Gothmog. We didn’t mean to offend the lord Melkor, and I assure you that we come with the humblest intentions and as supplicants. However, we are grateful that the Lord has deigned to send us a Maia who understands Valarin, since this creature is unintelligible.

-Yeah… The lord Melkor was the one who invented that language for them. They are his creation.

-His creation? But how…?

-Ye haven’t come here to argue about the Orcs, I understand. –interjected Gothmog, looking at them with suspicion.- So ye better follow me without further ado. I will bring you to the Lord.

The three Valar let themselves be guided through the gloomy corridors of Utumno.
The fortress seemed to breathe with a life of its own, and from its very walls emerged occasionally moans and laments. Peering into the darkness, one had sometimes the impression that the columns were made of repulsive tentacles, and that in the vaults opened the phosphorescent eyes of some nameless thing.
A black and fetid liquid poured from above onto the white hair of Manwë.
Restraining his disgust, the Vala looked at the ceiling, and thought he discerned some disfigured bodies hanging from chains. The Orc, who brought up the rear, burst into hysterical laughter.

-Those, Manwë, are the "unfortunate". -informed Gothmog, with a note of sarcasm in his voice.

Manwë shuddered at the thought of the horrors and abominations that his brother could have committed in all this time. The mere putrid look of that fortress was a testimony to the moral decay of Melkor.
Tulkas, for his part, had stopped in front of one of those pillars of flesh, disgusted and at the same time fascinated by its moist and viscous texture.

-Is this Melkor? -he asked, caressing the surface.

-In a sense ... –replied Gothmog.

Tulkas dipped a finger into the column, and the flesh yielded to his advance with a sigh.
The Vala had the impression that a lewd voice whispered his name in his ear, and immediately he withdrew his hand in fear, and returned to his companions.
Oromë had gotten away with it in the meantime, and had finally caught the Orc, who now squirmed in his arms trying to escape.

In the main hall, Melkor awaited them on the throne, flanked by his guard of Balrogs and some Orcs in the back rows.
He sat cross-legged on that mass of twisted tentacles, smiling and serene, and the shreds of darkness slid slowly over his body, at times hiding and at times uncovering fragments of his white skin. The image that he offered to the newcomers was at once ominous, evil and perversely sensual.
Tulkas felt very uncomfortable all of a sudden, and looked away toward the Balrogs.

-Brother of mine, how honoured I am that you have deigned to meet us, us the lesser Valar, in your splendid fortress! –announced Manwë, with a well-rehearsed bow.- I know that in the past I haven’t been always fair to you, I haven’t been always able to recognize your greatness and superiority. For all that I apologize, and I beg you to accept now our vassalage and hearken to our prayers.

Manwë was about to continue his speech, but Melkor cut him off sharply with a wave of his hand.

-Silence! I haven’t given you a more splendid welcome because ye aren’t welcome at all. You speak of vassalage, brother, but perchance you don’t think that I can read the hypocrisy in your words? Do you think seriously that pride blinds me to the point of not discerning the trap in your adulation?

Manwë looked askance at his companions, and only was able to stammer:

-I... don’t know... I didn’t say... it’s not what you think and...

-Ah! Is it not what I think? In that case, Tulkas will have no objection to take off his cuirass, isn’t it? Strip off, Tulkas! -smiled the rebellious Vala, with a gleam in his eyes difficult to interpret.

Tulkas hesitated for a few seconds, indecisive before the consequences of that act, but Manwë and Oromë told him with gestures to obey.
In front of the expectant eyes of Melkor, he stripped off his cuirass, revealing a hardened and weathered torso... and a thick chain wrapped around his shoulder. It was Angainor, the secret weapon of the Valar, not so secret anymore.

-Oooh! Then ye didn’t hide anything from me, right, Manwë? Ye came with the "sole desire to pledge me fealty". -laughed Melkor.- What a pathetic trick! I'm not surprised by you, brother, ever so diplomatic and hypocritical. But Tulkas...? You disappoint me! I believed you to be a force of nature, brutal and honest, not a schemer. In any case, you cannot hide anything from me. For me you're transparent, and I've seen that chain from the very moment you crossed my threshold. Don’t you understand, dear Tulkas, that a sinister bond unites us even before the Music?

These words pierced the ears of Tulkas like sharpened stakes of ice. Again he looked around for his companions, hoping that they considered the scene to be over and ordered him to attack. But still the signal didn’t come.

-It's true, Melkor, we have hidden that chain from you. Though we weren’t saving it for you, but only as defense against a possible monster that came in our path before reaching Utumno. –explained Oromë, trying to sound convincing.- We would have never expected that a simple chain could restrain the supreme power of Arda.

-Of course not!! Still, ye have offended me, and ye must pay dearly for your audacity. Now ye will be my slaves until the end of days! Every second of your lives ye will spend in satisfying all my desires, and each of those seconds ye will curse bitterly for the suffering that it will bring you. Balrogs, hold fast those two! Gothmog, chain Tulkas with his own weapon!

The Valar endured patiently to be subjected. And Tulkas, still with clenched fists and grinding his teeth, allowed Gothmog to surround him with Angainor, and tighten the chain until almost sticking it into his flesh.
Melkor felt confident; in that chain he had recognized the hand of Aulë, and he knew it was unbreakable. With Tulkas thus neutralized, he had nothing to fear from the other two.
The Balrog handed to his master one end of the chain, and he yanked it, bringing Tulkas down on his knees before the throne.

-Now, insolent dog, you must learn what true submission is. Kiss my foot! -and Melkor extended his bare foot toward him.

Tulkas watched hesitant the pearly and translucent skin, each of the phalanges that moved beneath it, not knowing exactly what to do. How should one give a kiss? He had never kissed anyone, and wasn’t sure he had ever seen anyone do so. One thing was clear at least: it was done with the mouth. Leaning therefore over Melkor’s foot, he pressed his lips on it... and right after, he ran his tongue across one of the swollen veins in his instep.
Apparently, he was right with the kiss, since Melkor seemed very pleased:

-Oh, Tulkas, what a surprise! I didn’t know you were so... "experienced" on these issues. I think that having you as slave will be very interesting. I want more! -and pulling again from the chain, he forced Tulkas to bow his head to not strangle himself, and focus again on the foot.

The Vala licked the instep, the sole, the ankle bone, the tendons, placed each of the toes in his mouth. And even when he heard the Orcs laughing in the background, surprisingly, he wasn’t angry at all. On the contrary, the velvety feel of that skin against his lips felt very soothing.
Above his head, he heard Melkor letting out a moan, that the walls replicated. Tulkas couldn’t look up to see him, but he had the impression that his right hand no longer rested on the throne, but between his legs.

-Mmm, delicious! -sighed the rebellious Vala, with half-closed eyes.- Later, perhaps, I will require you in my chambers, Tulkas. But step aside. Manwë should also pay me homage.

With a yank, he made Tulkas fall to one side, and Manwë approached the throne after exchanging indecisive glances with Oromë. The king of the Valar was about to lean on the other foot, when Melkor stopped him.

-No, brother, no! How could you think that I would ask you something as menial as crouching at my feet? Enemy or not, you're my brother, however, and therefore of the royalty of Arda. No, dear Manwë, you're going to kiss me a little higher, as befits your higher rank.

And licking his lips lasciviously, Melkor spread his legs, to show his brother where he wanted to be kissed exactly. The king of the Valar grew pale, his eyes open wide, and Oromë looked away. Even if all that was somehow alien to their nature, it wasn’t so much that they couldn’t understand the implications of such an act.
There arose among the shreds of shadow, a swollen, throbbing, red and wet member. And seeing this picture, Tulkas couldn’t restrain himself any longer. He didn’t know what awoke so much fury inside him: the fact that Melkor had ordered that to Manwe, to his Lord, or the fact that he had ordered that to Manwë, instead of him, or the mere view of that member, so obscene, so inviting. The fact was that Tulkas needed to pounce on Melkor, and he needed to do it NOW, without waiting for any signal.

With a roar that shook the foundations of Utumno, Tulkas ripped the chain from his body as if it was made of fabric.
Then Melkor understood his terrible error: yes, the chain was the work of Aulë and it was unbreakable, but it had been created for him, only for him, and its power had restrained Tulkas only in appearance. The rebel Vala shrunk on his throne, yelling angrily:

-Traitors, treacherous dogs!! Balrogs, Orcs, Gothmog, stop them! Stop them, protect your Lord!!

But none of his servants came to his succour. Manwë had unleashed all his power at once, and a terrible hurricane swept the Balrogs, extinguishing their flame. Meanwhile, Oromë terrified the Orcs, or hunted them with his bare hands and left them unconscious without difficulty. Melkor was alone, alone in front of his nemesis Tulkas.
Although that was just for a moment, because before he could react, he was no longer in front of him, but struggling beneath him. To his surprise, the greaves and armguards of the wrestler opened then, falling to the ground: they were actually a pair of manacles and four shackles. Tulkas extended his enemy's arms above his head and placed a manacle in each wrist. Then he spread his legs and did the same with the shackles and his ankles.
As they closed, the metal of each of them turned red and glowed with a rune of great power. And when Melkor tried to disembody or change his form to flee, he discovered that he couldn’t anymore. He had been reduced to a mere body of flesh and bone, and without his powers he realized then how vulnerable and naked he was.

-What is this, what have ye done to me, what are ye going to do with me!? Gothmog, come here, release me!

-I'm afraid that Gothmog is out of action for now. –replied Manwë, entering the prisoner's field of vision.- Now you know the manacles Vorotemnar and the shackles Ilterendi, wrought by Aulë with the magical metal tilkal. I would have preferred not to reach these extremes with you, brother, but your attitude has driven us to it.

Melkor stirred in panic and anger, but the chain Angainor wrapped itself around his limbs and his neck, immobilizing him completely.
Upon finishing, Tulkas stood up and looked at his work. The evil Vala pierced him with sunken eyes, filled with hatred, and every time he took in a breath, the metallic links dug into his flesh, leaving marks here and there: on his shoulder, on his side, on his neck, next to his nipple…
Tulkas was surprised upon realizing that seeing him thus, oppressed, immobile and defenseless, seemed to him incredibly... alluring.

Shortly thereafter, the three Valar left Utumno the way they had come, with Tulkas in the rear, half-dragging a cursing and vociferous Melkor. Manwë, however, soon discovered that his brother wasn’t the only prisoner that accompanied them:

-Oromë, what are you doing with that creature in your arms?!

The hunter of the Valar looked at the Orc hanging about his neck, the same one that had opened the door for them, and who now clung to him between terrified and pleased.

-I'm taking him to Valinor. I want to know more about these beings, and besides, look at these long arms! He would be an excellent archer.

-No, no, no, absolutely not! You are not going to take that evil and corrupt creature to the Undying Lands, so that the sanctity of Valinor may be defiled by his presence. That won’t happen as long as I have my throne in Taniquetil! –snapped Manwë.

Melkor laughed madly:

-Ah, brother, you fear the corruption of a single Orc and yet you bring me, their origin and creator, into the heart of your kingdom! You don’t know the huge mistake you’re making. -but a yank of his chain silenced him.

Resigned, Oromë left his new pet on the ground, at the gates of Utumno. Anyway, he could see him again when he came back with reinforcements to destroy the fortress.
In this way, the Valar departed back to Valinor, while the abandoned Orc dismissed them with yells, which were probably insults.

The trial of Melkor didn’t take long to start, and on the hill of Ezellohar, under the mingled light of the Trees, the Valar took their place in the Ring of Judgment. The accused, on the ground facing them, and still chained, was closely guarded by Tulkas, and at a safe distance from the Ring, some curious Maiar had crowded together to hear the sentence.

-Look at him there, so impudent, so impenitent! Not even laden with chains leaves him that expression of arrogance. –snarled Eonwë, more to himself than to his companion. -If I had my way, I would destroy him completely, I would tear off that lascivious form with which he covers himself, and as a naked spirit he would be impotent forever.

Mairon raised an eyebrow in a sneer:

-That's a very harsh sentence for someone who hasn’t personally harmed you.  Am I to be glad that it’s not you who occupy the seat of Mandos?

-Very funny, Mairon. Laugh if you want! But even if that evil one has done nothing to me, Arda however is covered with the scars of his works. And who knows to what torments he will have subjected the Firstborn before the assault on Utumno!

-That is true, but we must ask ourselves, my dear Eönwë, who is to blame for such a situation. If Melkor was already occupying Middle-earth, wasn’t then Eru's responsibility to awaken his Children in a safer place? And isn’t this assault against Utumno, ultimately and as last resort, the consequence of a miscalculation of our eternal and infallible, almighty Father?

Eonwë's eyes nearly popped out as he heard this, alongside Mairon's perfidious grin.

-I hope you're joking ...

Mairon laughed:

-But of course. You know that I always talk jokingly, even if I always say serious things.

Eönwë shook his head and mumbled something through his teeth, focusing his attention on the trial again.
His relationship with Mairon, though formally friendly, had become more and more tense over time. And Mairon had realized that it was never more tense than when Melian was around. The two Maiar could be alone perfectly. But as soon as the maiden of Vána appeared and had a mere affectionate gesture with Mairon, something as simple as a kiss on the cheek, a caress, or placing a hand on his shoulder, Eönwë became annoyed and evasive, and immediately found excuses for leaving. Jealousy?
The cavernous voice of Mandos drew Mairon from his thoughts. At that moment, the Judge of the Valar pronounced his sentence solemnly: three ages of confinement in his halls. Tulkas protested at once. Hadn’t he been, after all, the one who had captured the enemy, who had knocked him down with his blows and reduced him to submission? And now what, should he just conform and surrender his prisoner? Deliver him to that sinister Vala who had done nothing at all?
Some of the attendants raised their voices too, in defense of Tulkas, and soon a disorderly clamor spread through the Ring of Judgment. Mandos then raised his arms, and the crowd fell silent:

-So it be. Since Tulkas is not satisfied with my sentence, and considers himself qualified and entitled to custody the prisoner, he will take charge of his evolution, for better or for worse, after the three ages of his imprisonment have passed. Melkor will be sent to Tulkas's house and will serve him as the vilest slave. Is this agreement acceptable, Tulkas? Remember, this is your last chance to back out.

Tulkas had been left a bit confused upon hearing this decision.
He looked at Mandos, looked at the attendants, looked at Melkor chained at his feet, who returned his gaze with a wicked smile. Finally, he shrugged and accepted the agreement. And perhaps it was his imagination, but he had the impression that Mandos pierced him with eyes as cold as ice stakes.

Thus began the three ages of the captivity of Melkor. The prisoner was taken immediately to Mandos, and there thrown to the floor of a room, empty and white like the dreams of a comatose.
All this time, the rebel Vala had not stopped cursing and insulting his captor, fighting in vain against the chain and the shackles that restrained him. He only fell silent when he discovered that Mandos was stripping him of the strings of darkness that covered his nakedness.

-No darkness has room in these halls. This is a place of punishment, true, but also of purification and return. -explained the Judge, removing the last strand of darkness.

Melkor half smiled with sarcasm.

-That, or you just wanted to see my backside… Well, if that's how things are going to be, you can start by taking care of this. -he snapped, spreading his legs before him.

But as sole answer, he received a black cloth thrown to his face.

-Today is not your lucky day, Melkor. Maybe in another life, in another universe. For the moment, you can start putting on this robe: a humble and discreet dress of servant, according to your new condition.

-I won’t rub my skin with these disgusting rags! I am the king of Arda!! –roared Melkor, sending sparks through his eyes.

-Well, then don’t do it and stay naked. But soon you will discover that I am a cold Vala, and my halls are cold, and being trapped in a body of flesh and blood as you are, carries certain disadvantages. -and as he said this, the temperature of the prison seemed to fall several degrees.

A shiver ran down Melkor's spine and he felt his skin bristle, and some parts of his body grew in size and others shrank instead. Muttering between teeth, the rebellious Vala had no choice but to cover himself with the tattered robe.

-I hope that Tulkas will be more fun than you! Because as far as I see, these three ages are going to seem very long for me.

-You're not the only one for whom they’ll seem long, Melkor. You’re not the only one. –sighed Mandos, and turning around, he abandoned the room and left him alone.

During those early days when Melkor remained hidden from the eyes of the world, Tulkas felt very restless, even irritable. He often wandered around the silent walls of Mandos, hoping to hear something, some curse from his enemy, anything. But he was only received by the breaking of the waves against the cliffs. Once in a time he had even felt the unspeakable desire that his enemy should break his magic shackles and escape. Because then he would be there, ready to fight once more, to pursue him to the ends of Eä if necessary. And he would feel useful again.
Of course, these thoughts filled him with guilt later. And they weren’t the only ones he had about Melkor.
In his spare time (which was abundant now), and especially if he had drunk some liquor, he surprised himself recalling the scene in front of Utumno's throne. How he had kissed the foot of his enemy, and what had happened immediately after. And again, the image of Melkor impaled on a stake.
Then, once more, fury and ardour filled him, the same violent feeling that had forced him to pounce on him on the throne. Sometimes Tulkas needed to take long walks through the woods, or to submerge himself in the frozen waters of a lake to calm down.

On one occasion when he was strolling with Yavanna through her gardens, he discovered something that attracted his attention.
Two birds had settled in front of them, one of bright colours and somehow bigger, and the other brown, with a less attractive plumage. The coloured bird performed a strange dance around its companion, chased it for a while, and finally, when the brown bird seemed to tire of the game, let the other bird climb upon it. The coloured bird fluttered for a few moments, then came down. Both ended up grooming their plumage.

-What are they doing? –asked Tulkas, confused.

-They are mating: the male mounts the female and impregnates her. In this way, animals have offspring which is similar to them, and although they die as individuals, they are perpetuated as a species. Here, in the Undying Lands, all animals and plants are immortal, and in theory they wouldn’t need to reproduce. However, this is an instinct so powerful, so rooted in their nature, that even here they continue to carry it out. Look, Tulkas, each living being seeks above all its own benefit. Except in this case. Conceiving children is the ultimate sacrifice, because from now on, these beings will stop worrying about themselves and all their efforts will be for the benefit of their offspring. –explained Yavanna, and then, with a slightly melancholic smile, she added:- I sometimes wonder... I wonder if my creatures began to reproduce because they died, or instead they die because they reproduce. I don’t remember how it happened.

Tulkas caressed his beard, thoughtfully.

-I don’t know much about death, other than it happens in Middle-earth, although I have sometimes accompanied Oromë in his hunts… Hunts of corrupt beasts, of course! –he quickly rectified, upon noticing a flash in Yavanna’s eyes.- And of course, I know nothing about this “mating”, although I feel that it hides a great truth, something very deep and important. Tell me Yavanna, this... this only happens between a male and a female? I mean... what if they were two males? -Tukas blushed visibly, though he didn’t understand why.

-Oh, of course it happens sometimes! It’s not as common, but certainly not uncommon either, especially when there are no females available. Of course in that case there is no offspring.

-And is that something... something evil? That is, two males together...

Tulkas had chosen the wrong words, for the flash he had seen a moment ago, announcing a storm, became an explosion:

-For the last time, NO, none of my creatures are evil! Nothing they do is evil! What do I have to do to get that idea out of your minds? Nobody judges the other Valar! No one asks Aulë if his mountains are evil! And his dwarves, are they evil, eh? Because for me some creatures that cut down trees with axes seem evil! But no one talks about that, no, and on top of that I have to endure that Eru gave him his approval. Were not for my ents, I don’t know what I would do...

Seeing that being close to Yavanna could be dangerous at that time, Tulkas decided to move away little by little. The Valie had become especially susceptible to these subjects, and especially now that the dwarves’ awakening approached. The cries of her argument with Aulë, when she learned what he had made, still reverberated in the caverns and bowels of the earth. Some would call it "echo."
Tulkas, however, had discovered something fundamental in that stroll, and he perceived that it had much to do with his restlessness, his rage, and his yearning. But something was still missing. It was as if the scene with the two birds was nothing more than an impoverished and anodyne version of something much more beautiful. It didn’t move him, it was too vulgar, too mechanical; the brown bird, for example, hardly seemed to have noticed what happened.

He found a much more definitive answer, not in the gardens of Yavanna, but in those of Lórien.
To tell the truth, he had ventured into that gloomy forest almost without realizing it, absorbed in his thoughts, and when he came back to his senses he couldn’t tell where he was. The paths seemed to blur and change as in a dream, crepuscular lights confused shapes, and the atmosphere was so sweet and heavy ...
Suddenly, behind some thick bushes, he discovered a clearing. In the center stood the well called Silindrin, where at that time Silmo, a Maia servant of Lórien, poured out the silver dew of Telperion. Tulkas watched him in silence for a while, without revealing his presence, and shortly thereafter, Lórien appeared in the clearing, approached his servant from behind, and gently grabbed his shoulders.
Silmo turned around with a timid smile.

-I have finished pouring the dew, my lord.

-I can see that. Have you missed me all this time?

-Thou knowest I have…

And then, before the astonished eyes of Tulkas, Lórien leaned over his servant, who was quite shorter than him, and kissed him on the mouth. Silmo sighed, and with a skillful maneuver, he opened the clasp that held his master's robe, and it fell to the ground. With the same adoration with which Tulkas had explored the foot of Melkor, Silmo explored the body of Lórien with his mouth, and finally he introduced his member into it. Tulkas swallowed as a muffled sound escaped Lórien's lips. Now his member was different; it had the same appearance as that of Melkor when he spread his legs on the throne. And Tulkas couldn’t stop staring at it, as if hypnotized.
Lórien's gasps had become faster and choked, and caressing the hair of the Maia, he pushed his head away from himself, made him turn around, and fall on all fours on the grass. As he lifted his tunic, he revealed a slender, elastic body, masculine but much less shaped than his own. His skin seemed silvery, or perhaps it was an effect of the light that emanated from the well, or of the drops of dew that evaporated on its velvety surface. Silmo rubbed his member rhythmically, eager and impatient.
Then his master, kissing his neck, mounted him from behind and entered the other body, pulling a moan from him. That was similar to what Tulkas saw in Yavanna's gardens. But at the same time, it was totally different. There it was desire, passions, sweat, moaning, struggle, and pleasure, exquisite pleasure, as could be read on the faces of the two Ainur.
And something stirred in the bowels of Tulkas, and he felt heat and fury, the wish to smash something, to beat Melkor. But he also knew, in some uncertain way, that he must remain hidden. That unlike the two birds mating, there was something secret in that act, something sacred, something... dangerous?

When they finished, the two Ainur lay languidly on the grass, Silmo's head resting on his master's lap. The violent passion they showed a moment ago, had suddenly transformed into sweet and serene calm, while their breathing adjusted.

-You can get out of your hiding place already, Tulkas. –said Lórien suddenly, running his finger indifferently down the Maia's hip.

The heart of the alluded one turned. And full of shame, he emerged from the bushes. He was sure that his face was red at the moment, although hopefully the intermingled light floating in the atmosphere would disguise this.

-If you wanted to participate, you had just to ask. -continued the Vala of Dreams, with a wry smile. Silmo chuckled.

-I'm sorry, I ... I've gotten lost.

-Of course! And in more ways than one, my dear Tulkas.

Ignoring these puzzling words, the intruder sat in the clearing next to the other two.

-Lórien, I have some important doubts, and I think you could help me. Can we talk in private?

-As you like. -and with a signal, he motioned Silmo to stand up.

-We’ll see us later, my lord. I'll have some surprise prepared for thee... -whispered the Maia before leaving, giving him a slight bite on the earlobe.

-This lad is going to do away with the few energies I have left! –laughed Lórien, following the naked body of his servant as he disappeared into the thicket.- He isn’t very intelligent, but he’s beautiful. And beauty is more valuable than wisdom, because it’s more ephemeral. -the Vala then cut a white flower that hanged from a tree, and handed it to Tulkas to smell it; its fragrance filled him with a delicious drowsiness.- Like this flower, for example: as soon as you cut it, it begins to wither, even here in Aman. And nonetheless, only cutting it, only profaning its virginity, it exhales its scent and gives us the best of itself. So it is with some people... But wait a moment. If we are going to speak, I’d prefer that your gaze didn’t divert from my eyes so often...

Lórien pulled his robe over his shoulders and closed it on his lap, though Tulkas noticed that he left on view a nipple and some silver hair between his legs. Maybe he did so on purpose, but Tulkas tried to ignore it.

-How did you learn to do it?

-Do what?

-To do it... That ... That which you did with Silmo.

-Oh, that! It’s natural that I know how to do it, since I am the Lord of Dreams and Desires. It’s something I have often seen in the dreams of the Children of Eru. Especially in those of the Secondborn. They are the ones that fascinate me the most, although I feel they’ll still take a long time to wake up. But you see, I’m the brother of Mandos, and as such I’m given the knowledge of some things of the future, although of course to a much lesser extent. I know their minds well, however. Elves are... how would I say, a race of extremes. They are able to experience the most sublime of joys and the most desperate of sadness. But I'm not interested in extremes. I'm not interested in black and white, but in grays. Like the blending of lights, like the dew of Telperion in my garden. I walk in the twilight. And Tulkas, the mingling of lights in the hearts of men is so perfect and fascinating... The most beautiful feelings and the most evil wickedness can nest in the soul of the same man, with no apparent contradiction. It was in those dreams, in those twilight desires, that I learned to make love as you have seen it before. It’s no longer innocent, it’s no longer merely necessary. That's why it's exciting, that's why... one needs to be cautious. -Lórien's eyes gave off a disturbing gleam as he said this.

-Why cautious? I'm not afraid of anything. I have fought with monsters and beasts, I have defeated Melkor several times. I want to try this, I want to discover it.

-Be careful, Tulkas. Knowledge is often accompanied by pain. You may experience the most delightful ecstasy, only to sink into the misery of jealousy the next moment. Are you sure you want to give up your simple and innocent pleasures for this?

-Yes, I want everything, all the experiences, all the sensations that this life and this body can offer me! Caution is for the faint-hearted, I am brave, I am strong!

-And muscular... I'm sure Silmo would be delighted to know you more “in depth”. Do you want me to lend him to you?

But seeing the malicious grin dancing on Lórien's lips, Tulkas's spirits faded a little.

-No, that's not exactly what I'm looking for. Silmo is too young.

-Too young? -replied Lórien, raising his eyebrows.- He’s older than the world, like all the Ainur.

-Yes, I know, but... how can I explain it? He seems too young, too small and fragile. Like a… Like a…

-Like a boy?

-Yes, that… I think. It doesn’t seem appropriate. There’s something in that picture that isn’t right. And I think you shouldn’t penetrate him under that form.

-Oh no? However, there will be moments in the history of the Secondborn that this kind of love will be regarded as the most exalted and pure of all. And some of the most beautiful verses in the world will be written to exalt it.

-Well, it seems to me that you look too closely at certain parts of the future. –said Tulkas, folding his arms.

Lórien laughed heartily. But at once he became serious, and approaching his interlocutor he whispered:

-Then there's only me left. What do you say? -and his robe opened, revealing his delicate nakedness again.

Tulkas barely succeeded in stammering a few words, while Lórien approached him like a lurking cat. The wrestler was left half reclined on his elbows, admiring the body of the other Vala, sitting astride his lap. He felt the violent impulse to touch that body, to make it his own, to penetrate it as it had penetrated another before. But it was this last image what stopped him: barely half an hour earlier, that same Vala had been lying with another, and shortly after doing it with him, he would be with another once more. And Tulkas found hard to accept this. For in spite of everything, he continued to prefer white and black; grays confused him.
So he moved away gently from Lórien.

-Oh? I imagine that it’s not an effeminate and decadent Vala what you want either.

-You are very beautiful, Lórien, but you can’t give me what I seek. Please do not be angry.

-I’m not. -he smiled. Tulkas stood up to leave, and Lórien with him.- But if you ever change your mind, you know where to find me.

-Of course, thanks for everything.

Tulkas hadn’t been able to satisfy his desire, certainly. But now he was one step closer to understanding what he really wanted. And a few days later an idea lit up in his mind: wasn’t he married to Nessa? If there was anyone in the world with whom he should experience such pleasures, this was his wife Nessa. It seemed adequate, it seemed very logical.
Thus Tulkas left his house when Telperion shone with greater force, and ran restlessly through the plains, until reaching the forest which his wife frequented at that hour.
He found her dancing naked among the birches. Her dark body and black hair contrasted sharply with the pale trunks. Tulkas watched her in silence for a few moments: her limbs were thin, but firm and fibrous, and somehow, though she had a definitely feminine body, she seemed less effeminate than Lórien. Curious.
Nessa had seen him, but didn’t greet him or say anything. She only smiled at him with narrowed eyes, for a moment, until her hair covered her face in the midst of the incessant dance. Tulkas cleared his throat:

-Nessa, I've been thinking... I've been thinking that... well, you're my wife. So I think you should have sex with me. It's something I want to try, and you have that duty... right?

Nessa stopped in her tracks, and blinked a couple of times, revealing no emotion. At last she burst out laughing:

-You're very direct, and I like that, husband. However, I cannot give you what you ask. -and turning serious again, she added:- I am the mother of many things, things that hide in the thicket and lurke with glowing eyes, things that whisper from solitary trees, things on the shores of shadowy rivers and things that live under the damp earth. I am the mother of all of them. But I will always be a virgin, just like the woods where I dance. For I am too wild to be tamed.

Tulkas frowned, but it took him a moment to assimilate these words and give an answer:

-But we're married! As I understand it, marriage works so, and the wife has a duty to please her husband. That I think I heard, not that I know a lot, but it must be thus. And even if it wasn’t, it’s what I want and I'm going to get it!

Nessa smiled slightly, not moving from her place.

-Well, since you are so insistent, this is what we will do: pursue me through this forest, and if you can catch me, I will submit to you. What do you think?

-Seems fair. –agreed Tulkas, getting ready for the hunt.

Then Nessa turned into a white deer, and disappeared like lightning between the birch trunks. Tulkas laughed; that couldn’t be more difficult than hunting with Oromë.
However, he soon realized that he was wrong.
No matter how much he ran, Nessa always seemed to take advantage. If he thought he had seen the white legs of the doe behind a bush, he found that they were but the branches of a birch. If he heard the creaking of footsteps to his left and ran there, the doe leapt several yards to his right. Branches and thorns scratched his arms as he lunged through the trees, leaves tangled in his hair and beard, and the white deer, always visible as a vague mirage, was always equally unattainable.
Defeated, Tulkas finally stood in the middle of a clearing, trying to catch his breath. And from afar came Nessa's laughter, and these words:

-Dear husband, the hunt is more important than the prey.

The waxing and waning of the two Trees followed unperturbed, as it had always done, and in the course of days many changes took place in Aman. The Elves were called to the Undying Lands, following an agreement between Manwë and the other Valar. At no time was Eru consulted to make this decision; Manwë supposed that he wouldn’t object. Mandos didn’t say anything about it.
The first emissaries of the Elves arrived and returned with their clans, to tell them of the wonders they had witnessed and of the splendour of the Valar. Nevertheless, many Elves didn’t heed the call and turned to the darkness of Middle-earth.
There was a great stir when the first two clans, the Vanyar and the Noldor, finally established themselves among the gods. Everyone wanted to meet the newcomers, discover their customs, learn their language, admire their beauty and their bodies, so similar to those of the Ainur, but so fragile at the same time.
Tulkas was so excited by the novelty, that he soon forgot all about his previous obsessions. Although he soon realized that the newcomers weren’t appropriate partners for wrestling. And a few bruised Elves later, Manwë strictly forbade him to train with them.
The rumour of the Elves’ arrival reached even the empty halls of Mandos, and in his solitude, Melkor tasted the bitter swallow of envy.

For his part, Mairon often argued with Eönwë about which of the clans was the best. The herald maintained that the Vanyar, and of course, Mairon preferred the ingenious and intellectual Noldor, so close to his lord Aulë, over those "effeminate poets”, as he called the Vanyar.
In these discussions, Melian used to withdraw and look silently eastward across the ocean. There the third of the clans, the Teleri, still waited, and at the thought of them filled her with a strange melancholy.

-What has become of them, the beautiful Elves of silver hair? –sighed the Maia one day.- I imagine them often under the light of the stars, lost in the dark, more beautiful under the twilight than those that have already seen the light of the Trees. I have heard that their king has gone astray and they don’t find him. I saw him when he came as an emissary to Valinor; our gazes crossed for a moment and I felt as if something had pierced my heart. I can’t forget those gray eyes.

Melian turned to her companions and sat down on the grass beside them.

-How can you praise the beauty of those Elves in the presence of the most handsome Maiar of Aman? You'll make me jealous. -joked Eönwë.

Melian laughed, regaining her usual good mood.

-You're right, I should not forget my boys. And that reminds me one thing... Mairon, have you ever seen how Elves kiss their wives?

The aforementioned turned his attention away from the stone he was carving, and raised an eyebrow.

-In my opinion, it’s an uncomfortable and impractical greeting.

-I wouldn’t expect anything else from you! But you always boast of having an open and inquisitive mind, willing to learn new things. Aren’t you curious to know what it feels like to kiss someone? -Melian blinked with mocking coquetry.

-What do you want? That I kiss you? Well, that's fine, if that's what it gets to stop you both saying silly things... -and Mairon leaned over her, joining their lips in the same way he had seen the Elves do.

A clean and technically perfect kiss, he thought. Melian clapped, exultant. Although Eönwë's frown revealed his disapproval.

-I'd better go. I don’t want to interfere with your “little games”. –mumbled the herald, standing up.

But Melian tugged at his arm and forced him to sit down again.

-Don’t be dumb, I'll kiss you too! -and as she said, she did at the moment, even though it was a shorter kiss.- This is so fun ...! Now it's your turn to kiss each other. Come on!

Both Mairon and Eönwë exchanged glances, eyes wide, and the latter flushed visibly.

-I... I won’t do that, Melian! -stammered the herald.

-What, are you afraid I'm going to bite you? -grinned Mairon, showing a fang with sarcasm.

-Well, if Eönwë doesn’t dare to kiss Mairon, it's my turn to kiss him again.

And Melian was already leaning over the Maia again, when Eönwë, furious and humiliated, came forward and joined his lips with Mairon's. The smith was surprised by the anger contained in that kiss, so abrupt, almost painful. When they separated, Eönwë's face was somber, and without a word he rose and left.
Mairon touched his lip, where the kiss of the herald had left a burning mark.
After this, he and Melian decided not to bring up the subject again, at least not in the presence of Eönwë. In any case, the maiden would soon have more interesting things to attend to, when signs of the third clan were finally seen on the shores of Aman.
Melian moved anxiously to the new island of Tol Eressëa to be one of the first to receive the Teleri. How great was her disappointment upon discovering that king Elwë wasn’t among them!
Ossë explained to her that the king was still lost in Middle-earth, perhaps under the spell of an evil spirit. And neither he nor that part of his people that was faithful to him, had high hopes of ever reaching Valinor.
After learning this news, Melian reclused herself for a time, stricken with inexplicable sadness, and none of her friends saw her in several days.

Nevertheless, the remaining years of the chaining of Melkor, were a peaceful idyll for almost all the inhabitants of Aman. And not least for Tulkas, who later would remember this time with special happiness.
But this idyll came to an end for the Vala a beautiful day in which no one would have suspected any calamity. Laurelin shone in all its splendour, when someone knocked on his door. When he opened it, Tulkas bumped into two figures dressed in black. And their sinister appearance seemed out of place under the dew that gilded the earth:

-Greetings, Tulkas. As you see, a promise made is a debt unpaid, and I always pay mine. -said the cold voice of Mandos.

And the Judge made the chain clink in his hands, the end of which closed around the neck of his prisoner. Melkor looked at him from the depths of sunken eyes, and his half-smile made Tulkas shudder.

-Humm! What is all this about?

-What do you mean? You know very well, dear Tulkas. Three ages ago, in the Ring of Judgment, you questioned my right to guard Melkor. You said that he was your prisoner, since you had captured him, and it was agreed that he would be delivered to you as a servant at the end of his sentence. Well, today that sentence ends, and therefore I bring Melkor to you. You’re not regretting it, right? -and he arched an eyebrow sarcastically.

Tulkas's heart had just turned. Not that he regretted it, it wasn’t exactly that. But to have his old enemy now in front of him, so close that he could touch him, after having been hidden so long, so long that he almost seemed to never have existed... Anyway, at least he found it implausible.
Mandos hadn’t waited for his answer, and was already removing the chain Angainor from his prisoner. The magic shackles, however, would remain on his wrists and ankles.

-One moment, one moment, Mandos! Are you going to remove the chain? Are you sure this is a good idea?

-Come on, Tulkas, I didn’t think you were so pusillanimous! How will he serve you if you keep him chained? In addition, Melkor has shown an exemplary behaviour during these three ages in my prison. Isn’t that true, Melkor? -and the Judge stroked his hair mockingly.

-Yes. Touch me again, Mandos, and I'll bite your fingers off. –replied Melkor with a charming smile.

-Don't take him wrong, today he’s somewhat irritable. Anyway, Tulkas, you are left responsible and in charge of the enemy of Arda. I hope no one has to regret your decision someday. Specially you. -and with these words, which fell upon Tulkas like a tombstone, Mandos closed the door and left him face to face with his enemy.

Melkor simply looked at Tulkas with contempt, and with his head held high, he passed as if he was already master and owner of the house. He went through each of the rooms, inspecting everything with an air of displeasure, while Tulkas followed without knowing what to do.

-Mph! What an ugly house! –muttered the rebel Vala, not caring at all whether the comment offended his new lord or not.- Look at these walls, look at these columns! So cold and static, undoubtedly the work of that mediocre blacksmith Aulë. Anyone who can’t feel Arda's throbbing as he draws his ear to a wall, or hear the wail of the damned trapped in a living column, doesn’t know the truth of this world. He locks himself in his pathetic box of bricks, fearful of that truth. Cowardly and conformist as a child.

Melkor turned to Tulkas, and the wrestler felt intimidated even in his own house. For a few moments, they both looked at each other in silence, an eternal, uncomfortable silence. At last Melkor cleared his throat:

-Well, what are we supposed to do now?

Tulkas shrugged.

-I don’t know... You're my servant so... do servant things. -Melkor opened his eyes in disbelief, and Tulkas looked around the room, desperately searching for something to get out of trouble.

Nothing around him was very clean, but neither was anything too dirty. At last, his eyes fell on an earthen jug on top of a nearby table. It had some dust.

-Look ... Look at this jug, for example. I want you to clean it.

-Which? This one? -and Melkor smacked it to the floor, making it a thousand pieces.

Tulkas blinked several times, not believing that gesture of gratuitous evil, and his fists clenched.

-But what have you done!? Pick it up right now!

As the only answer, Melkor overturned the entire table, throwing in the air everything on it. That was too much for Tulkas. His face turned deep read, each tendon in his arms went into tension, and the next second he was on top of Melkor, punching him.

-I'm going to teach you to disobey me!! Now you are my servant and you will behave as such!

-The lord of Arda is no one's servant, nor will he ever be! –replied Melkor among struggles.

Despite the shackles that constrained much of his power, the evil Vala was still a considerable opponent. And when Tulkas managed to subdue him and hold his wrists against the ground, he noticed the destruction that had caused the fight. Instead of a simple broken jug, the floor was now full of broken glass, the chairs upside down, and some tapestries torn. But Tulkas was no longer angry. It had been a long time since he'd felt as alive as he felt now, his breathing ragged and his forehead covered with sweat. While his mortal enemy, beneath, continued to curse and squirm.
Without warning, Tulkas burst out laughing in a good mood.

-You are crazy, Tulkas, crazy! –snapped Melkor, and kicking him he pushed him aside, though the other didn’t stop laughing.

No one put the scattered furniture back in place, nor collected the glass and broken objects. For a long time, that room remained a battlefield, but since Tulkas didn’t receive many visitors, he hoped that no one would discover it. Or maybe he hoped it would clean itself alone. Definitely, he had already lost all hope that Melkor did it, and he knew he could never count on his obedience. At best, he aspired that his new "servant" wouldn’t burst into anger again and throw down the whole house.
And yet, when he had this fully assumed already, it was when Melkor gave him a surprise.
One day, some mysterious noises coming from the destroyed room alerted him. And when he entered it, he bumped into a scene of impeccable order and cleanliness. Everything was back in place, there were no debris or rubble on the floors, and from the center of the room, Melkor smirked.
Tulkas was speechless, moving toward him as he checked the perfection around him.

-You ... You ... have you done this? But why!? I didn’t even remember this.

Then Melkor's icy hand closed around his wrist, and a seductive but terrible voice whispered to him:

-Do you know why, dear Tulkas? Because you didn’t expect it. And I don’t want you to get too comfortable, I don’t want you to think I'm predictable, to think that you can understand me and control me. Keep this always in your mind: You won’t ever know what my next move will be, you won’t ever be safe with me.

And the rebel Vala walked away. As he passed, his hair brushed Tulkas's face, and he perceived a tempting scent in it.
A shiver ran down his spine.

Of what Melkor had said, one thing at least was true: that Tulkas would never know what he’d find when he returned home. Sometimes he encountered a scene of destruction and fire in his own bedchamber, sometimes neat floors and furniture, or even with the delicacies he had grown used to on the table. Although Melkor sometimes didn’t do any of these things, or he did them all at the same time, and offered him a delicious roast while the kitchen was consumed in flames. Always with a sinister smile on his face.
At first Tulkas was enraged, but soon he found that beating his servant didn’t change anything. However, not reacting in any way didn’t work either, and not even flattery and rewards were useful. Perhaps, on certain occasions, hitting Melkor until his nose bled made him behave well the next day, but at other times only made things worse, and it was with gifts and words of praise for his wickedness as one compelled him to fix the damage.
In the end, Tulkas simply shrugged helplessly. At least he was fulfilling adequately his duty as guardian, and as long as the chaos of Melkor was confined to his four walls, the rest of Arda would be safe. Because the rebellious Vala was, in fact, as much a prisoner of Tulkas as he had been of Mandos, and couldn’t leave the house in any way. Aulë had made sure that it was so, reinforcing the door of his friend with unbreakable bronze, and putting bars in each window, firmer than the roots of the mountains.

Because of this, Melkor was often bored, and when he was not upsetting Tulkas, he sat on the floor of the room he had been assigned, ruminating on his hatred. The room only had a rickety old bed against the wall and a tall, ample window, with particularly sturdy bars.
Behind those bars, Melkor received an unexpected visit one day. A black shadow, which at first glance seemed like an enormous bat, suddenly darkened the light coming through the window. Then he realized that it was only a Maia perched on the sill.
Melkor blinked a couple of times, impassive.

-And who are you supposed to be?

-I am Mairon, the Admirable.

-You don’t seem much admirable to me.

-Well, neither dost thou seem much mighty arising.

-Oh! So we have an insolent one here, huh? –retorted Melkor, twisting the corner of his mouth sarcastically, and took a few seconds to examine the intruder.

Pale and thin, long legs, skillful fingers, sharp fangs in a shark's smile. But he dressed rather humbly, with just a black leather vest and pants. The wristbands, also of leather and studded, added a further touch of roughness to the outfit.

-A blacksmith. A vulgar blacksmith from the forge of Aulë dares to appear at my window and treat me informally just like that.

-I haven’t treated thee informally. And I'm not as vulgar as thou thinkest.

-Does Aulë know that you are here, does your daddy know that you have escaped his forge now that Laurelin loses its brilliance, and that you are talking to the Enemy of Arda? Are you aware of the horrible things I could do to you if you fell into my hands, Morion?

The insolent Maia tapped the bars.

-Not while this stands between us. And believe me when I tell thee that they are very resistant: I myself participated in their forge. But in answer to thy question, it’s Mairon. And no, nobody knows I'm here. It wouldn’t be good for my reputation (which is probably not very good to begin with).

Melkor closed his eyes and leaned his head against the wall, somewhat jaded.

-Then why did you come? Get out of my way, your presence importunes me!

Mairon's smile became even more evident, but now there was an air of uneasiness in it.

-Thou... fascinates me... -Melkor opened his eyes again, his curiosity slightly excited, and let the Maia speak:- From the beginning of time I have admired thy work and thy vision, so unique, so different. But the same question always came to me: Why art thou evil? Why dost thou not put thy talent to the service of the other Valar, as the rest do? And where has this evil brought thee? Thou art rotting in a prison when thou couldst rule all Arda with Manwë. So, what dost thou gain by being perverse?

Melkor raised an eyebrow:

-Well, would I still seem so unique and different to you if I had put myself at the service of the Valar, as the rest?

Mairon opened his mouth to reply, but thinking twice, he didn’t say anything; he didn’t have an intelligent retort for such a true statement.

-Besides, I'm not evil. -continued the Vala.- Who told you that stupidity? I simply have differences of opinion with my siblings. No doubt you also have differences of opinion with other Ainur, don’t you? You’re a Maia of Aulë, so I guess the works of Yavanna... aren’t much to your liking, am I mistaken?

-No, they’re not to my liking.

-Does this mean that Yavanna is evil? Or that you are?

Mairon shook his head.

-No, no, it's not the same. Yavanna and I may disagree on certain subjects, but the main thing is that we both followed the theme of Eru during the Music. We both played his theme, only with different notes.

-So what? Does good have anything to do with complying with Eru's demands? What is Good?-Melkor had stood up and advanced a couple of steps toward Mairon.

The Maia, by instinct, shrank a little intimidated. There was something deeply enigmatic in the eyes of that Vala, and his mind, so perceptive at other times, collided against it as against an opaque wall. But soon, remembering that Melkor couldn’t hurt him, he regained his haughtiness:

-Good is what Eru decides, for He created everything that exists. There is no ambiguity in this reality.

-Oh, but what is reality but ambiguous!? –laughed Melkor, stretching out his arms.- Our father Eru said nothing clear about Good and Evil. And even if he had said it, shall we measure ourselves by his rod? No. I am my own measuring rod. And if we really come from Eru and are part of him, then my principles are as valid as if they came from Eru himself. And if we don’t come from him, then he’s not as omnipotent as he makes us believe, and therefore, what he thinks or doesn’t think is irrelevant.

Mairon's smile had abandoned his face long ago, and now his tight lips almost disappeared into a pale line.

-Those thoughts, though logical, are dangerous. And they lead to nothing practical or viable, only to a spiral of destruction. It’s better not to think of such things, and simply go with the flow, for the common good. -said Mairon, almost in an inaudible whisper.

Now Melkor was very close, dangerously close, and from the other side of the bars pierced him with those eyes. Mairon trembled whenever he met them, and still he couldn’t stop looking at them. And when at last the Vala answered, after a few moments of tormenting him in that way, his voice sounded like a knife penetrating his flesh.

-How hypocrite sound foreign words in your mouth, Maia! Both you and I know that it’s not your heart what governs you, but your intellect. And your intellect tells you that my words are true, and that this is the only thing that counts, without going into sentimental and ridiculous considerations as "the common good." You know this, Maia. And what's more, you know that I know it. And in some way, in some way you dare not confess to yourself, in some twisted and arrogant way, you... feel proud that I know it.

These last words Melkor said within inches of the Maia's lips, and Mairon felt wounded, and terrified. The Vala had discovered his soul too clearly.
Without a word, Mairon stepped down from the windowsill and ran away, beneath the crepuscular shadows of Telperion.
Melkor roared with laughter.

-That is, run, Moiran, return to the safety of your forge!!... You will return.

But Mairon didn’t appear in the following days, and Melkor felt horribly bored. He had also stopped tormenting Tulkas with random wreckage in the house; at the end of the day, he didn’t want it to become a routine.
Seeing him in this somber mood, and a seemingly calmer state, Tulkas thought he could do something beneficial with his servant for a change.

It was a glorious day, and the light of Laurelin extracted golden glints from the bronze columns in Tulkas’ courtyard, where he and Melkor stood opposite each other.

-We’re going to practice hand-to-hand combat. I have not had many opportunities to do it lately, and since you're at my command, it's the least you can do to please me. Besides, it’s high time you learn to fight like a man, without cheating or dirty tricks.

Melkor looked around distractedly, showing as much disinterest as possible to the words of his "master”.

-Here, put this on. -continued Tulkas, placing in his hands a cuirass, greaves and armguards of tanned leather, with brass reinforcements.

Melkor simply dropped the equipment on the floor, scornfully.

-I'm not going to wear this garbage for soldiers! Do you think I'm an Orc?

Tulkas blinked, puzzled:

-It's not garbage for soldiers. Oromë himself made it for me, and even Aulë put his good work in the reinforcements. Pick it up right now!

And Melkor, very obedient, picked it up from the ground, approached the well that stood in the middle of the courtyard, and threw everything into it.

-So that’s the way it is, right!? Well, then if you prefer to fight just with that poor robe of yours, it’s your problem.

-I won’t fight with you, Tulkas! This is stupid, and besides...

But Melkor couldn’t finish the sentence, because the next second, the other Vala had thrown himself on him and was beating him with great mirth. Melkor tried to avoid his chokeholds, but it was impossible without changing his body, and Tulkas threw him in the air without problem.

-Come on, fight!! –laughed Tulkas, tangled with him in a confusing knot of limbs.

-I don’t want to! And leave me alone, you idiot!!

Melkor had ended beneath his rival, with their faces so close to each other that they could feel their breaths. But even though he was defeated, Tulkas didn’t withdraw from him. No, it could almost be said that he pressed more and more against him.
Melkor felt something soft and warm against his crotch, through the thin fabric of the robe. Annoyed, he raised his knee suddenly and drove it between Tulkas's legs.
In a moment, the wrestler rolled over the ground howling, and Melkor was free.

-Don’t play tricks, Melkor! Only women would use such a low blow in the middle of the fight. -scolded him Tulkas, when he recovered from the pain.

-Well, it must be the only useful thing those fools have come up with.

-But how can you say something so terrible!? The ladies of the Valar are worthy and respectable goddesses!

-Oh yes! Goddesses of weaving, and flowers, and dances in meadows. Such worthy nonsense!

-You insult my wife now?

-Do you care? She’s your wife only by name. Where is she now? You don’t even know it yourself. She should be the one to take care of household chores, not me! -Melkor took a step toward him, his eyes narrowing in a vaguely seductive gesture.- Besides, Tulkas, you know as well as I do that this isn’t a real fight. That what you most desire in the depths of your soul is to fight with me as in the old days, when we could unleash the subterranean forces of the world with just our hands. Not this ridiculous farce! It’s in your power to make it so again... Like that time... You want it.

And Melkor extended his wrists to him, trapped by the shackles.
The prospect was very tempting for Tulkas. Melkor's wrists were tempting, with their swollen, blue veins peering out from beneath the metal. Melkor's lips were tempting, and his teeth shining behind a half smile. Tulkas was about to run his finger across the shackles. But he backed off at the last moment.

-No, you want to trick me. You want me to release you with the excuse of engaging in a real fight. But actually you’re only trying to regain your powers to flee and continue to sow chaos. Anyway, you're wrong if you think I have the power to remove those shackles. Not even my whole strength gathered would serve.

And here Tulkas was telling the truth. But there were others who had that power, and Melkor was about to discover it.

Mairon returned to Melkor's window four days later, as subtly as the first time.

-I've been thinking long and hard about our last conversation. -he said, leaning his head against a bar with indolence.

-I, for my part, haven’t thought about you in the slightest, Mirion.

-It's Mairon! And besides, maybe thou shouldest think more about me. Keeping in mind that I am, as thou knowest, a servant of Aulë, whose shackles are closed around thy wrists and ankles.

Melkor opened his eyes, intrigued:

-What do you imply with that, slave?

Mairon laughed, and a fang flashed in his mouth.

-I don’t know if thou art the most indicated to speak of me as a slave. But what I imply is that, perhaps, I could have access to the secret of the runes that bind your power to those shackles.

-Would you be willing to release me, then? Me, the greatest nightmare of the Valar? Even knowing that you could be one of the first to succumb to my anger?

-I didn’t say I'm going to release thee. Although I have come to understand a bit better thy vision and thy position, that doesn’t mean that I find any advantage in seeing thee free. I love order, and there’s no possible order with thee. No, the only thing I wanted thee to know is that I have access to that knowledge which concerns thee so much.

-It's a matter of pride, then. You just wanted to rub it in my face. –sneered Melkor, sitting on the bed with a sly visage. Mairon shrugged. -And don’t you know, perchance, that pride is the main characteristic of those who took my side and rebelled against the Valar?

-I'm not one of them. I didn’t follow thy theme in the Music.

-Only because of pride... -Melkor narrowed his eyes, and suddenly Mairon had the impression that the light from the Trees withered a little.- Be careful, little Maia. The fact that you’ll be the last to fall, only implies that your fall will be all the more spectacular.

Mairon felt a chill, and stood up on the windowsill, ready to leave. That conversation wasn’t pleasing to him.

-I will never follow thee! -he said.

-On the contrary. You belong to me since the first time you laid eyes on me.

Mairon frowned, furious, and turning into a bat he fled away.
Melkor peered through the bars and followed the dark shadow until it disappeared into the tops of distant trees.
A faint smile was on the corner of his mouth.

In fact, Mairon applied himself to the study of runes by pure spite. But he did so hidden from everyone, entering the library of Aulë when he found himself alone and prying his designs furtively. It wasn’t that the study of runes was forbidden in itself, nothing further from the truth. But he felt an inexplicable sense of guilt in doing so, as if something disastrous would happen in consequence... And he knew it.
Of course, Curumo ended up finding about his comings and goings in the library, and he told Aulë everything. When his master asked him about the subject, however, Mairon was unable to tell him the truth. He had never lied before, let alone to his lord. And there was no suspicion in Aulë's attitude. Nevertheless, Mairon found himself telling him an ornate story about how the desire for beauty had awakened in him, and how he wanted to learn the making of even more beautiful jewels, that rivaled with those of the Noldor. For this reason he studied filigree models. Aulë seemed very pleased with the explanation, and didn’t bother him again, so he could continue his investigations with even greater discretion.
That was Mairon's second lesson in Arda. He learned what deception was. And he discovered that it was effective in achieving his goals.

For his part, Tulkas was more tormented than ever by the presence of Melkor from the day they fought and he fell on him. When their bodies brushed each other tightly for a few seconds. Again, old images returned: of birds courting, of Lórien's robe opening over his crotch, of the white deer that he couldn’t reach, of Melkor bleeding on the ledge, of Melkor subdued, of Melkor smiling with malice, of Melkor, always of Melkor.
He had him before his eyes, sitting in an armchair with his head resting on his hand, and he seemed to doze. His ivory foot appeared beneath the edge of his robe, naked and translucent. And Tulkas fell on his knees before him, and kissed that foot, and began to raise the edge of the robe to discover a perfect, snowy leg, and he lowered his head to catch a glimpse of what was hidden under those clothes.
Then Melkor opened his eyes:

-Have you lost something down there, Tulkas?

-I...I... I don’t know. I haven’t seen anything. It's very dark.

The evil Vala laughed, and indolently pushed Tulkas away, showing him the same contempt he had shown him from his throne of Utumno.

The final trigger took place a few days later. It was one of those occasions in which Melkor wanted to get into the kitchen and prepare something to eat. And maybe he would serve it to Tulkas, or maybe he would throw it in the trash after finishing, because he never ate.
He had a knife in his hand and cut some vegetables with rage, with his back to Tulkas, who watched him from the door. One of the sleeves of the old robe had slipped down his shoulder, exposing part of his back. Tulkas couldn’t help but stare as hypnotized at that piece of skin, and the bone of his shoulder blade moving at the rhythm of the knife. Without knowing how, he suddenly found himself beside Melkor, caressing and kissing that bone with adoration.
The evil Vala stabbed the knife sharply on the table.

-What... are... you... doing!? -but as Tulkas didn’t answer, absorbed as he was on his shoulder, Melkor turned sharply, knife in hand, and made a cut on his finger.

Tulkas stepped back a couple of paces, watching the blood flow and still lost in reverie. Then a knife whistled past his ear and stuck to the far wall. The wrestler looked at it, looked at Melkor, blinked a few times, and laughed.

-So you want to fight, huh? Fantastic for me, you know that I never refuse a good fight when the opportunity presents itself. -Tulkas flexed his muscles, preparing for combat.

Melkor cast a quick glance around, assessing the possibilities of defense or flight.

-I'm not going to fight with you now, stupid Tulkas, you know I'm not interested! Get out of here once and for all!! -he warned, leaning back against the table.

But Tulkas didn’t listen, and laughing he pounced on him, inflamed with desire and yearning. Melkor tried to reach another knife hanging from a shelf, but the heavier body of his rival dragged him and all the kitchen utensils to the floor.
The two Valar rolled on the floor, one attacking with punches, the other defending himself with nails and teeth and no less savagery. Taking advantage of a distraction of his enemy, Melkor hit him on the head with a frying pan and disengaged himself from his arms. Tulkas, however, was holding the edge of his robe, and it tore from side to side. The sight of the other Vala, almost naked, was the last provocation that Tulkas needed. Completely out of his mind, he pushed Melkor onto the kitchen table, throwing an infinity of junk to the floor, and laid him on his back. From a nearby drawer he drew a rope, and with it he bound his wrists to one of the rings of the table, where he used to hang hunting pieces. Once his rival was immobilized in this way, Tulkas ripped the shreds of cloth that still covered him, uncovering white under black, and black on the white crotch.
Melkor looked at himself: he had been left completely naked and at the mercy of his enemy, and his position on the table was so forced that he couldn’t even close his legs. His most vulnerable part was open, and there was nothing he could do to escape, he couldn’t move, he couldn’t avoid to be done what he guessed was going to be done with him. And seeing himself thus, realizing his impotence, he became more aroused than he had ever been.
It might have seemed strange, but his member was no less hard or swollen than that which Tulkas now showed him, threatening. And though he stirred, and cursed and spat, and his flesh opened painfully to give way to that member, too large for him, Melkor felt an immense pleasure. A guilty pleasure, forbidden, and therefore delicious.
Of course Melkor had copulated countless times with his servants in the days of Utumno, and even before. In his futile attempt of begetting offspring, he had mated with creatures of all kinds, shapes, sizes, and sexes. But there was a great difference between copulating with a spirit of fire when one is as formless and fluid as fire, and doing what they were doing at that moment. Now he was trapped in a body of flesh that could break and bleed, and his wrists were doubly trapped by shackles and ropes, and he was master neither of himself nor of the reactions of his body, nor of the pleasure he felt. Arda's most powerful being had no power over anything at all. And wasn’t this the greatest possible rebellion against the designs of Eru, against the role he had given him in Creation?
This mere thought came accompanied by the touch of his member against his stomach, so erect it was, and the tip was even moist already. Above him, Tulkas gasped and grunted, alienated and enslaved by his lowest passions. And with each of his thrusts, Melkor moaned and opened a little more, trying to get rubbed right in that secret spot that so exquisite seemed to him.
Tulkas was coming dangerously close to climax, and at one point he tried to kiss the other Vala. But Melkor wasn’t going to tolerate this, and instead of a kiss he received a painful bite in his lips and began to bleed. Then it was when Melkor's entire body shuddered with a choked cry, his back arched in a spasm, and his inner muscles contracted around Tulkas.
The wrestler of the Valar was no longer able to resist, and he poured his seed inside the other, in the midst of an ineffable pleasure that carried him to the Timeless Halls for a few moments.

But when the pleasure of both began to subside, and they separated their bodies, and their minds cleared, each looked the other in the eyes. And it was in that instant, in that border between the confusion of instincts and the light of reason, which is as thin as the edge of the blade, when Tulkas understood what he had done.
Horrified, he untied Melkor and ran away from the house.
Melkor slid to the floor, exhausted, and for a long time his mind went blank.



Chapter Text

Tulkas ran across the plain of Valinor. Across Vána’s meadows, Oromë’s forests, and Aulë’s steep cliffs. But the world around him seemed to have blurred into a dizzying dream.
It was possible that some Ainu called him by his name, that he pushed some unsuspecting Maia in the middle of his run, or that some elf stepped aside, frightened by the Vala’s fury. But in this moment, none of that existed for Tulkas. He was blind and deaf to everything except the road that disappeared under his feet, insensitive to everything except the wrath and horror that burned in his heart.
Melkor's agonized moans still echoed in his head. And the image of his naked, trembling body flashed before his eyes like a spectre.

At last, he was forced to stop in front of the western cliffs. Where the earth died in a sea of calm and silence. Falling to the ground on his knees, he screamed in anger, and uprooted huge pieces of land which he threw into the sea.
But the waters of Vaiya remained undisturbed.

And Tulkas cried out for his father Eru, cursing what had happened in his house, claiming an answer. He asked if what he had done was right or wrong, if that was how a guardian should behave or, on the contrary, he had failed his duties. He reproached Eru for not giving him more wisdom and good sense.
But although his cries pierced the three layers of Arda's air, and the Walls of Night, Eru stayed impassive and silent in the Timeless Halls.

Defeated, Tulkas dropped his head and arms, realizing his demands wouldn’t be heard.
At that moment, a hand as cold as death touched his shoulder.

-Do not think that Eru doesn't hearken to you. He knows everything and has all the answers. Yet He never says any more than we really need to hear. -Mandos's voice made him shudder, and Tulkas turned around slowly. The Vala was smiling at him, but his eyes reflected something else, something hard and icy.- What have you done, Tulkas? What sin have you committed to rebuke Eru so?

-Uh... I... Nothing. –he stammered.- I hadn’t even noticed that your halls were here... I’m sorry about the racket and for messing the earth.

-You should go back home. These cliffs won’t give you the peace you’re looking for. Not now. Though maybe you will return one day, once you’re wiser, once you have returned from many other things... It will be different then.

Tulkas nodded and rose from the ground, wiping the dust with certain embarrassment.
Just before he left, Mandos leaned over his ear and whispered:

-Be careful, for you’re treading on very thin ice. You might fall.

While he saw his dark figure moving toward the walls of his fortress, Tulkas had an ominous foreboding. Just how far could that Vala read in his mind?

Sitting on the floor of his room, Melkor was ruminating about what had happened between him and Tulkas a few hours earlier.
A familiar shadow darkened the light of the window.

-Thou seemst lost in thought. Did something happen?

Melkor looked up with disinterest and showed half a smile of contempt.

-Oh, it's you, Maroin! Nothing, nothing happened. Tulkas has raped me, that's all... I don't know what to think about this matter.

Mairon was so perplexed upon hearing this, that he didn't even bother to correct his name for the umpteenth time.
He blinked several times, opened his mouth in an attempt of replying, closed it again without saying anything, and cleared his throat.

-What!? -that was, at last, the only word that he could pull out from his vocal cords.

Melkor snorted in annoyance and rolled his eyes.

-Stupid Maia! Do I have to explain everything to you? I said that he raped me, that he penetrated me by force! It’s not so difficult to understand.

-But... that’s not possible! The Ainur don't... they don't do such things!... Intercourse is just for animals... for the hildren of Eru...

Melkor let out a mocking laugh.

-How naive you are! You spend so much time in your forge, focused on your silly jewels, that you haven’t even noticed what you have between your legs... -and with a sly motion of his eyes, the Vala glanced at the Maia’s tight leather pants.- ...Even though it’s not so small...

Mairon's pale cheeks flushed an unusual red, and clearing his throat, he turned his head away. He didn't want to keep talking about that repulsive subject, although Melkor seemed to have other intentions.

-What's the matter, am I bothering you? I bet that certain images are taking shape in your mind right now. You can't help it, right? Thinking about the Lord of the Valar, his legs wide open, pierced by the member of his worst enemy, and yet enjoying every perverse moment. It makes you tickle in inconfessable places, doesn't it?

Mairon felt the Vala's finger running up his leg, and abruptly moved away from the windowsill. He hadn't even noticed his sudden proximity.

-Leave me alone! I’m well above those vile desires! They haven’t the slightest usefulness for those who are immortal and cannot be destroyed. I had come to tell thee something, but now... I’m regretting it.

-Oh, really? And what could be it which you wanted to tell me? –Melkor rested his head on the bars with some coquetry.

-I wanted to tell thee, that I’ve made quite the progress in my study of those runes that restrain thee. Just that, in case thou art interested.

-And I’m pretty interested. Now you’re behaving like a good servant.

Mairon twisted his mouth with disdain and arrogance.

-I’ve already told thee that I’m not thy servant! And even if I discover their secret, I’ll never release thee. I’ll leave thee here, rotting away, knowing that I know it. And unable to do anything about it.

Melkor laughed again, this time with real delight, at the indignant visage of the Maia.

-Definitely, Morian, once you finally surrender to those "vile desires," as you call them, they will count you among the sadists. It will be delicious to have you by my side!

Tulkas stopped before the bronze doors when he returned home. It was the first time he felt a certain concern, even fear, of crossing that threshold. No fear for Melkor’s reaction, whom he could dominate with his strength, after all. But fear to face again his unconfessable act, to bump into the result of his mistake.
At last, breathing in, he pushed the heavy double-leaf doors and entered.
He was welcomed by a ceramic jug striking his head, which broke into a thousand pieces, although it barely scratched him. From the back of the room, Melkor glared at him with anger-sparkling eyes.
Under normal circumstances, Tulkas would have just laughed, but he didn't feel like laughing that day.

-Melkor, I... I’m very ashamed of... of what... Well, of what I did to you before. –stammered the Vala, still less eloquent than usual, and barely looking up at his interlocutor.- Even if you're a prisoner, however, I have certain duties towards you and... Anyway, I think that wasn’t part of my duties. I don't know what happened to me. I should have controlled my desires, but I couldn’t, I wasn't strong enough and... I'm supposed to be strong, but it wasn't like that... I hope you can forgive me.

The Vala sighed, his eyes glued at the carpet, waiting for a downpour of reproaches and curses, and perhaps some physical attack. But instead, he only heard an evil laugh.
Not trusting his ears, he immediately raised his head and found Melkor leaning indolently on a wall, with a half amused, half mocking visage:

-Stupid Tulkas! You and your siblings have countless reasons to apologize, even on your knees, for all the grievances that your arrival in Arda caused me. But this isn’t one of them. Who gives you the right to judge how I feel about that incident? What you did to me there, tied to the kitchen table, is the only useful thing you’ve done since I’m here. It gave me great pleasure... and I think it was the same for you.

Tulkas scratched his head, stunned.

-Aren’t... Aren’t you mad at me? Then... why did you throw me a jug when I entered!?

-I don't need reasons to hate you. My hatred for you and the rest of the Valar is born spontaneously inside me. I threw you the jug because I wanted to hurt you, nothing else, it's that simple. I love your pain just as you love mine. It has nothing to do with that incident.

The dark Vala approached him, deviously. The shreds of his robe bared and hid spots of white skin as they moved, just as primordial darkness had done in the past. It was an obscene reminder of how he had been defiled shortly before.
Tulkas swallowed and backed away, until his back hit the wall.

-This is what you’re going to do: -whispered Melkor in his ear, running a cold and velvety finger down his cheek.- I want you to possess me with the same fury, with the same irrational passion as before, to tear from me the same moans of pleasure. No, I don't want it, I demand it! This is the fight that you and I will have from now on.

Of all the reactions that Melkor could have had regarding the incident, this was, without a doubt, the one that most frightened Tulkas. Everything would have been much easier if the other Vala had become angry, if he had strictly forbidden him to lay a hand on him again. Then Tulkas would have known what to do. He would have still desired him, of course, but he could have restrained himself, knowing that he had done wrong. Everything would be very clear, everything would be either black or white, without ambiguities.
Now, however, he was trapped in that twilight gloom that confused him so much.

And it was due to that confusion, to that feel of having lost his way, that Tulkas ended up walking one day through the only place where he hoped to find answers.
Mandos had not helped him, but his brother Lórien was the right person to guide him. He knew those desires as well, he could give him advice.

However, once he found himself in front of the Vala of Dreams and his servant, in the clearing of the last time, all his resolution vanished. How could he confess his secret? Even if Lórien loved that boy, and did similar things with him, Silmo wasn’t the Enemy of Arda, nor had he taken him by force. This had nothing to do with his problem.
Tulkas cleared his throat, before Lórien's questioning look, but didn’t dare to speak. However, he needed to say something, to come up with some excuse. If not, they would begin to suspect him. In the end, he pretended he had only come in search of a sleeping potion. Something to calm his nerves, now that he had to deal with Melkor at home.
Lórien gave him a faint smile, and Tulkas had the impression that his eyes guessed something else. Anyway, the Vala simply nodded, and disappeared into the thicket. Upon returning, he brought a glass jar with a rosy liquid inside, which gave off a sweet and sharp fragrance.

-A few drops in your wine glass will be enough to calm those nerves, dear Tulkas. -he said, handing him the bottle, but staring all the time at his face with those gray eyes.

Tulkas half muttered a word of thanks, and hurried out of the forest.
Lórien watched him for a long while, as he ran away at full speed.

-He’s like a stray beast, don't you think, Silmo? –he sighed.

The Maia laid a hand on his lord's shoulder, and leaned toward him with certain worry:

-My Lord Lórien, I think thou hast taken the wrong jar. That wasn’t a poppy potion. It was the elixir that thou and I use... well, when we want to get more "enthusiastic" in our meetings... if thou gets what I mean.

Lórien turned to the Maia, with a playful expression at the corner of his lips.

-Oh! Is it so, Silmo?... Such an unfortunate mistake! I'm so absent-minded...

Silmo narrowed his eyes:

-Thou wilt not have done it on purpose, right, my Lord?

-Who, me? Absolutely not! How could I!? -assured the Vala, putting on his most charming face. And he placed a sweet kiss on the boy's lips, who soon forgot all his concerns.

It was in those days, when all the eyes in Valinor turned to a specific Elf. The prince of the Noldor, Fëanor, to be exact. For he had achieved what neither Aulë, nor any of his Maiar with all their ability, had ever achieved. To encapsulate the light of the Trees in three gems, with all their infinite mixtures of hue and nuances.
His fame had become so great, that rumors of this extraordinary work had even reached Melkor's ears, in his seclusion.

At first, the dark Vala didn’t feel interest for the story of the Silmarils. What use could those vulgar jewels have for him, who had embraced the black night of the Void? Were they not a dull copy of the two Trees, whose light he hated so much?
This was so, until the day when an unusual glow flooded his cell. At that time, only Telperion should have shed its silver light. And yet, the room had suddenly filled with golden, red, green and blue flares, as at the moment of the most perfect blend between both Trees.
Melkor leaned out behind the bars of the window. And then he saw them: on the proud head of a Noldo who was walking near there, shone a headband with the three Silmarils set. Perhaps the Elf's wife was also with him, holding his arm, but Melkor wasn’t sure, because the light of those jewels eclipsed everything else for him.
It was then that the old desire to possess all light, which had dominated him in his early days in Arda, was revived in him. Revived with a virulent and painful outburst, perhaps for being the last one.
All light, the Silmarils represented all light. And he desired them, he agonizingly desired them from his prison.
He tried to attract the Noldo's attention by calling him, shouting at him, insulting and cursing him when he was ignored. But Fëanor just looked sideways at the Enemy of Arda, frowning in disdain. And he grabbed his wife tightly to get away as soon as possible.
Even during the brief moment when their eyes met, he had perceived a desire in the Vala's gaze that filled him with bad omens.

Unable to satisfy his lust for the Silmarils yet, but never forgetting them, Melkor let off some steam with Tulkas as soon as he had occasion. And he didn’t stop tormenting him, until he agreed to immobilize him with strong chains and possess him this way. Tulkas immediately noticed that Melkor was more aroused than usual, as he moaned and writhed under his muscles. Those encounters still filled him with guilt, but he was weak against his enemy's seduction.
When he finished, he slumped exhaustedly over Melkor's white chest, who was still chained. And he soaked in his scent, as he listened to the rhythmic pounding of his heart and his faltering breath.
It was the perfect time for the proposal that Melkor had in mind:

-Tulkas, dear... I was thinking that, since you’re a powerful lord of the Valar, and one of the most magnificent and hospitable, it wouldn’t hurt to organize a great dinner and invite our friends: Manwë, Oromë, Aulë and their wives... This mansion has seen very few celebrations since I'm here, and that's not right. I know how much you like revelry and feasts...

Tulkas suspected that his velvety voice hid ulterior motives behind those words. But he couldn't confront Melkor then. Not after having been inside his warm body, and spilling his seed in his entrails a few minutes earlier.
Thus, the fighter merely expressed his approval with a sleepy groan.

-Will you behave during the dinner?

-Of course! I’ll be the most discreet and polite of servants. I’m also interested in Manwë seeing progress in my behaviour... But Tulkas, dear, the party won’t be complete if you don’t invite the most important man of the moment. Fëanor. So he can attend with his Silmarils. Promise me that you’ll invite him, swear it. Without him, the party will be meaningless...

The spluttering of a half-sleeping Tulkas was all the approval Melkor needed. And he smiled to himself, immersed in his evil designs, even if he had to wait now for him to wake up, in order to be unchained.

The feast was held at Tulkas' mansion a few days later, and it was attended by Manwë and Varda, Oromë and Vána, Aulë and Yavanna, and of course, Fëanor, presiding over the table with his seven sons around. The absent were the usual ones, and in Nessa's case, Tulkas hadn't even managed to find and invite her.
Nor was Nerdanel, Fëanor's wife, able to accompany him.
The evening passed uneventfully, with a Fëanor between overwhelmed, upset and filled with pride, for all the attention he and his Silmarils were receiving from those gods.
Melkor kept his promise to behave like a good servant, although closely watching the prince of the Noldor.
More closely than it was comfortable for Fëanor.

-Those Silmarils are very beautiful ...  –whispered the dark Vala from behind the back of his chair.- I wonder if I could touch them.

-Perhaps thou shouldst wonder then if thy heart is pure enough to do so. Because my Silmarils burn the skin of every corrupted creature that tries to approach them. –replied the Elf, turning to him and holding his gaze in a defiant attitude.- What dost thou say, Melkor? Art thou a pure Vala?

The aforementioned twisted his mouth.

-Don't ask that to me. But to my master Tulkas. He’s the one in charge of watching over my behaviour.

All eyes were fixed then on the host of the house. And Tulkas was so startled, that he spit the beer in his mouth and turned completely red.

-Eh... well, I... I try... I try to educate Melkor but... uh... I think he’s a bit impertinent...

-Oh, there’s no need to apologize, dear Tulkas! –exclaimed Manwë.- I’m really pleased to see how my brother has progressed since he’s here. In previous days, he would have knocked the roof down on us, and would have melted your copper columns. And yet he’s standing there, serving us cups of wine as a good servant. He didn’t even want to eat or drink with us when we offered it to him. I don't know what you're doing with him, Tulkas, for him to have changed so much. But whatever it is, it works.

Upon hearing this, Tulkas blushed even more, if that was possible, and raised the mug of beer in an attempt to hide his entire face from those present.
From the back of the room, he had seen Melkor wink at him lasciviously.

What the rebellious Vala knew, and the others ignored, was that there was a concrete reason why he was so interested in serving the wine. In one of his trips to the kitchen, he had managed to slip a few drops into the cup of Fëanor, from an elixir that Tulkas kept in the cupboard. A bottle with a rosy liquid, which the fighter had marked as "poppy potion", with his usual bad writing. Fëanor and his children were going to sleep in the mansion, since Tirion was too far away to leave after dinner. And Melkor hoped that, once the potion took effect, Fëanor would fall so sound asleep, that he could sneak into his bedroom and steal the Silmarils unnoticed.
Certainly, his plan seemed to work, for towards the end of the evening, Fëanor began to stir restlessly in his chair. He seemed flustered and unwell, and ended up excusing himself to retire to his bedroom ahead of time. The other guests still endured a couple more hours, which seemed eternal to Melkor. But finally, Fëanor's sons also retired to sleep, and the other Valar returned to their respective mansions.

In the stillness of the house that followed that retreat, only the evil Vala remained awake and alert. Tulkas snored, drunk in his bed, and no noise came from the sons' bedrooms.
Standing in front of Fëanor's door, Melkor hesitated about what he should do.
Stealing the Silmarils... and then what? He couldn't hide them forever. And without a doubt, Fëanor would never leave the mansion until the jewels and the culprit appeared.
But perhaps he could steal their light, absorb it all until they were reduced to simple opaque crystals. Or he could destroy them in the worst case. Or maybe... Maybe it was enough to have them in his hands for a few hours, until he found a better chance. Yes... Having in his hands the most beautiful thing that Arda had given, the culminating work that combined the best of the Valar and the best of the Firstborn. To possess it for the moment... until it was time to possess Arda itself once more.
With these thoughts, Melkor turned the door knob, and slid into the bedroom. Telperion's light barely filtered through the closed shutters, plunging the room into a grayish gloom. He distinguished the figure of Fëanor on the bed, but no sign of the Silmarils. They should be well hidden inside a chest.
Melkor was about to look through the room in search of them, when the Elf's voice startled him:

-Who's there!? -and immediately, the light of a lamp drove away the chamber’s shadows.- You!! What... What are you doing in my bedroom!?

Melkor stayed on the spot, not knowing what excuse to let out, or if he should let out one anyway. His tongue had become quite skilled at lying, but he wasn’t so eloquent when he was forced to speak in Quenya, a language he despised.

-Hmm!... I thought your sleep would be deeper... -he blurted out at last, as a mere remark.

-Well, it isn't! In fact, I feel particularly "awake" tonight, I don't know why. But you still haven't answered my question: What are you doing here? You wanted to steal my Silmarils, right? I've suspected it since you laid eyes on them for the first time.

Melkor approached the headboard, still not answering his question, and looked amused at the Elf, with his head half tilted. Fëanor cringed under the covers, frightened by the closeness of the evil Vala, although his expression tried to hide it.

-You haven't warned the landlord about my presence yet. Should I suppose there’s something you want to negotiate with me in exchange for the Silmarils?

-Nothing, there’s nothing in this world I’d trade them for! And of course, nothing you can give me, Enemy of Arda, not even with all your power.

-Remember that I’m Melkor. It's much power we're talking about...


Fëanor turned his head to the other side. It was hard for him to keep his gaze on those eyes, open to a pit of evil, and he just wished the Vala would vanish.

-Are you sure there’s nothing I can offer you in return?

-No! I already have everything I could wish for. Talent, intelligence, a beautiful wife, seven sons, and my Silmarils. What could a prisoner like you give me?

-I could free you from your own prison ... –whispered the Vala, and his icy fingers caressed the Elf's cheek. Fëanor shuddered and tried to move away a little further.- What’s doing a being with such talent here, confined behind the mountains of Aman? Doomed to pale in the shadow of some gods who believe themselves greater than you. While all of Middle-earth is given to those Lesser Children of Eru, who haven’t even woken up yet. I could raise you above Aulë, as your superior skill in the forge deserves. I could give you emotions, greatness, ambitions, freedom... Are you going to stay here and allow those pathetic "men" to monopolize all the glory?

Melkor's words seeped in Fëanor's ears like a sweet, tempting poison. They were words that stirred well-known longings in him. Longings he feared, but could not deny. Why did the Enemy perceive the pride of his soul so clearly?
In the confusion of his thoughts, he had barely noticed that the Vala's fingers had run down his body, caressing him through the sheet. But when they reached his navel, Fëanor suddenly came to his senses and jumped.
Then Melkor knew why the Elf had cowered so much in bed all this time.

-So this is what you meant when you said before you were quite “awake,” right, Fëanor? -exclaimed the Vala with a laugh. Under the sheet, the prince’s arousal was more than evident between his legs.- Oh! I see there are more things you want from me than you dare to confess...

-That... That has nothing to do with you! I don't know... I don't know what happens to me tonight. I don't understand... And when Nerdanel isn't even here... -he tried to excuse himself.

Melkor raised an eyebrow suspiciously. Perhaps the elixir that he had slipped in his cup wasn’t an opiate, but something else. It was quite possible that the stupid Tulkas made a mistake when he labelled the bottle.
A malevolent smile peeked over the Vala's lips.

-You know? There are other things, apart from power, that I could give you to change your mind.

And before the Elf's horrified face, Melkor ripped the sheet that covered him and exposed his naked body, and the erect, yearning member that throbbed in the center.

-No!! What are you doing!? Stop! I don't want… -but a moan cut his last sentence when the Vala's lips closed around his sex.

Fëanor struggled to get rid of him, but his opponent held him tight against the bed, and was much stronger than him.

-Why don't you admit that you like this? –murmured Melkor, caressing the slit at the end with his tongue’s tip. The Elf shuddered and stifled a cry.

-No... I don't like it... What makes you think I’d want to do this with a repulsive being like you?

However, and much to his dismay, his body was reacting in the worst possible way, and his struggles were losing momentum. Fëanor cursed the strange bewitchment that made him so aroused tonight.

-Ah! But you’re a lustful Elf, aren't you? -Melkor kept provoking him, both with his words and his tongue.- After all, you’ve had seven sons, and that’s a lot for an Elf if I’m not mistaken. Which means you've fucked with your wife at least... seven times.

-Ha! And many more! Do you take me for an idiot?... Oh!

The Elf's thighs and abdomen were trembling, and Melkor felt the taste of his first fluids in his mouth.

-Give me the Silmarils, Fëanor, and I promise you I’ll give you more pleasure than is allowed for the Children of Eru in the confines of this world. I’m very skilled at this.

-I understand now... ah!... I understand now that all this time... you’ve been nothing but Tulkas’ harlot. Your favours cannot pay the price of my Silmarils... They’re rather a punishment...

-Well. Then I’ll rape you if you don't give them to me. Is that a better deal?

The Elf could barely answer now, choked among gasps. And he didn't even resist when the Vala parted his legs. That hateful tongue had dragged him to the brink of climax against his will, and he just wished everything would end as soon as possible.
What none of them expected was that it would end the way it did.

-Father? –a weak voice came from the door. And when they both turned, they bumped into Maedhros' dumbfounded face.- I... I thought I heard strange noises coming from the room and... and I got up and...

It was evident that Quenya wasn’t enough for the Elf to express the inexpressible.

-What are you doing standing there like an idiot!? Run for help! –Fëanor rebuked him, still immobilised under the weight of the Vala.

The youth hesitated, doubting whether that scene was real or he was still dreaming. But realizing that no nightmare or disturbance of his mind could ever produce such an image, he ran away as he had been ordered.
Seconds later, a livid Tulkas with bloodshot eyes watched the scene from the threshold. And his fists opened and closed twitching, marking all the veins of his forearm.
Melkor hadn’t even bothered to get out of bed, and blew a kiss at the fighter, with a mocking gesture. Fëanor, on the other hand, didn’t know if he was more enraged because they had tried to steal his Silmarils, or because everyone was standing there gazing at his privates, or because, after being left in such a situation, he couldn’t even get satisfied.

Tulkas grabbed the Vala by the neck, and dragged him out of the bedroom, while the prince of the Noldor tried to regain his composure.

-Don’t say a word about this to your mother! –he grumbled.

And Maedhros swallowed. He knew his father's temper all too well, to dare to ask questions.
Right after, Tulkas threw Melkor into a lightless room, and locked the door. The Vala spent many hours there, sitting in the dark, frustrated for not getting the Silmarils, though secretly satisfied by the scandal he had caused.
When the door finally opened, the silhouette of Tulkas was outlined against the threshold. And he had a thick black whip in his hands.

-I’ll teach you to treat our guests with the deference they deserve. -he announced with a deep growl, such as a bear about to attack.

Melkor crawled a couple of steps away from him, his instincts alert upon sensing danger. But Tulkas knocked him down on the ground and chained him to a ring on the wall.
With a yank, he opened his robe from behind to expose his back. And next, the whip cracked against his white skin, leaving crimson grooves on the previously unscathed surface.
Melkor clenched his teeth, while an electric current ran through each of his nerves and limbs. A stream of hate, and at the same time of pleasure, not very different from what he felt every time Tulkas penetrated him.
Melkor's laugh hurt the wrestler's ears:

-Hypocrite! You pretend to punish me for having dishonored that insignificant Elf. But both of us know that you don't care about that. You’re simply jealous because I was touching him, instead of you.

-Lies!! –roared Tulkas, wielding the whip with twice the anger, and tearing scraps of skin in his wake.

Drops of blood ran down his back like little streams, which flowed into the lake at his feet.
Melkor moaned in pain, and felt his member hardening among throbs.

-You know it's true, Tulkas. You just punish me because you can't stand me being involved with another. Because you want me, you want me all for yourself!

-No no no!! It's not that, you're wrong! –but no matter how much he shouted, he couldn’t silence the echo of those words in his head.

-Why are you doing this, Tulkas? Wouldn't you rather have me in your arms? Make love to me? –and again that accursed laugh that confounded his senses.- Make love to me, Tulkas.

Not knowing why, feverish, drowning in his madness, Tulkas dropped the blood-coated whip. And embracing his enemy from behind, he began kissing his neck and stroking him between the legs. The smell of his blood was more intoxicating than the best of wines.

-That's it... That's what you really want. –sighed Melkor, licking his lips with lust.

-No... No... Shut up! I don't want to hear your cursed voice... I must be insane...

-You are, dear Tulkas, you are... I’ll be your undoing.

At that moment, a knock on the bronze doors of the entrance echoed throughout the mansion.
A visit.
Tulkas was frozen on site, unsure of how to react in such a situation. He still had a bloody and visibly aroused Melkor in his arms. He couldn’t welcome anyone under those circumstances. What to do then?
A new knocking got on his nerves. And he thought he heard Manwë's voice calling him.

-It would be better if you opened, Tulkas. The so-called king of Arda comes to see you.

Confused, Tulkas ran to his chamber to change those blood-stained clothes. The knocking continued insistently. And when he opened the door, he was still panting because of the run.
Manwë and the gloomy Mandos were waiting for him outside.

-Huff! I... I'm sorry I made you wait... I was sleeping and didn't hear the call... -the fighter excused himself.

Judging by the visitors’ faces, he guessed his excuse wasn’t very credible. Not when his face appeared red and suffocated, instead of sleepy.

-Ahem! –Manwë cleared his throat.- Sorry to bother you, Tulkas. But I thought it would be a good idea to bring Mandos here, so he can confirm Melkor's progress himself. I was very impressed by his behaviour on yesterday's evening. It would be good if the Judge of the Valar saw with his own eyes how my brother is reforming.

-That’s it, if what you see with your eyes is no deception. –replied the Judge, with the hint of a smile on his pale lips.

Tulkas tried to hide the horror on his face.
Of course, Manwë didn't know anything about what had happened to Fëanor after his departure. And the prince of the Noldor had made him swear that this shameful incident would remain in the strictest secret, between him, Melkor and Maedhros. So in no way he could show Melkor in his current state. If they saw that scene of blood and sadism, vaguely sexual, they would discover how bad a guardian he really was. And then Mandos would take Melkor back to his halls. And he wouldn’t see him again.
Tulkas’ bulky figure blocked the entrance.

-I... uh... I'm sorry, but you can't see Melkor right now... -Manwë raised his eyebrows, surprised.- Yes, well... you see... Melkor got sick and he’s resting right now.

Mandos narrowed his eyes, although he said nothing.

-Sick? How is that possible? The Ainur don’t get sick. –replied Manwë, scratching his head.

Tulkas felt a cold sweat trickling down his forehead, while he tried in vain to find an appropriate answer.

-Ah, oh... Is... Is that true? I... don’t know…

-Allow me to see my brother, Tulkas. It will only be a moment…

But Mandos' hand on his shoulder stopped the king of the Valar.

-I think it would be better to listen to him, Manwë. Remember that Melkor is trapped in a physical body now, and as such, he’s susceptible to disease like any other living being. It’s a weakness linked to his new condition. Let him rest.

Tulkas sighed in relief upon seeing the two visitors turning around, to return where they had come from. However, before leaving, Mandos pierced him with a furtive stare that froze his blood. As if the Judge of the Valar had guessed the truth.

Mairon couldn’t understand why Melian had summoned him before the cliffs of that island of Tol Eressëa. For some time now, she had lived apart from others, and neither Eönwë nor he had heard from her. Therefore, that sudden meeting, and right there, had left him confused.
The maiden was standing off the coast, watching the calm sea. Telperion's rays reflected on its surface as in a mirror of enigmatic sparkles. And the sea breeze stirred her hair and clothes, bringing a melancholic smell from the beach.
This time, Melian didn’t smile.

-You have come in the end, Mairon. –she just said, upon sensing his arrival. But she didn't look away from the waves that broke under the cliffs.

-Something afflicts your heart, but I don't know what it is.

Melian turned her green eyes to him. They were the same hue of the sea when Laurelin's golden light fell upon it.
The Maia smiled, though sadly.

-I'm departing to Middle-earth. And I won’t return.

Mairon didn't know what to say.
He had sensed something when Melian went to visit his forge a few hours earlier, to meet him there. But he didn't guess it was something so definitive, so final.

-Why? There’s nothing but death and darkness on the other side of the ocean.

-There’s also life. There is life in the moist, dark and deep earth. Just as I guess that life can sprout from the dark cavity of my womb. –the maiden sighed, and after a long pause, she finally confessed what had tormented her so:- I want to be a mother, Mairon.

The other Maia shook his head.

-A grave is also a dark, deep cavity. If you do that, you will be tied to the bonds of flesh, Melian. And you will die, as the Children of Eru die.

-I still want to do it, I must do it. I have a feeling that this is something important, that it’s my fate to become mother. I know that the most beautiful songs will be sung about the fruit of my entrails, and it will bring a beauty never seen in the circles of Arda. –Melian then turned to Mairon, pulling a strand of black hair that the wind had blown on his face.- You won't come with me, right?

-No, I'm sorry.

-Don’t you love me?


Melian laughed softly. There was no surprise or disappointment in that cold answer. It was cold, because Mairon was so. She didn't expect anything else from him, and the familiarity comforted her.

-It doesn’t matter. I’ll search for my Elven king under the silver twilight, and we’ll be king and queen in his forest. You won’t come with me. And yet, I feel that we’ll meet once again in Middle-earth. Although perhaps, not as friends anymore.

Saying this, Melian placed a last kiss on Mairon's lips.
And leaving behind her physical form, she left for the other side of the ocean, transformed into a seagull.
The dark figure of Mairon stood for a while on the coast, until the white gleam of the bird was lost on the horizon. At his feet, the maiden had only left her dress, embroidered with flowers which looked like snowflakes under Telperion’s light.

After that, Mairon returned to his forge. And he worked for hours with the hammer and anvil, shaping a piece. With an empty, absent mind. Until his blows made dents in the metal, they broke it and left it unusable. The Maia threw the piece on the floor, furious.
For several days, no one saw him leave the forge, and the echo of his hammer rang tirelessly in the depths of the mountain.

Melkor was, as usual, sitting in his hellhole behind the bars. He stared indolently at the cuts and bruises on his pale arms.
Tulkas had been particularly ardent in their last encounter, he thought, biting his lip with a slight smile.
Then he noticed his presence on the window sill; he didn't even need to turn around to know it was that Maia dressed in black.

-Why, why would a god want to be trapped in a body of fragile and perishable flesh? - muttered the newcomer, without even greeting him.

Melkor raised an eyebrow, doubting if the question was addressed to him, or his visitor was just talking to himself.
Anyway, whatever Melkor had to say would always be more important than the thoughts of a pathetic Maia, so he decided to answer:

-No one asked me for permission to imprison me in this body. But I must admit, that being so closely linked to flesh has given me a knowledge and understanding of the world, that eludes the other Valar in their ignorance.

Melkor approached the window and spread his arms between the bars.
Then Mairon ran his finger languidly accross the blue veins and cuts that scored the Vala's skin, once pure and untouched.
Pain and pleasure. Real pain and pleasure, was that what he had discovered?
Mairon twisted his mouth in disgust; that was an obscenity, it had no value whatsoever. And realizing he had been stroking his arms for a while, the Maia withdrew his finger with revulsion.

-I didn’t mean that. There’s more to it. What could compel a female spirit to become pregnant by a vulgar Elf? Why surrender yourself to the lust of an inferior being, and destroy your own body to give life to another? A life that immortals don’t need at all? -Mairon shook his head.

Since Melian announced her departure and designs, that enigma had constantly haunted his head. And he felt all the more frustrated, because he wasn’t able to unravel the mystery. He, who always solved any problem by analyzing it with a precise and infallible logic.
But Melkor simply shrugged.

-Those are women's problems, they don't interest me. What are they but simple hollow vessels? And hollow as they are, I understand they can only be filled by becoming pregnant and giving birth. That is their only function.

Mairon showed a fang with a half crooked smile.

-Thou showest great contempt for the female gender. Isn't there a single woman in the confines of Eä that pleases thee, not even a little?

Melkor narrowed his eyes, as if trying to remember something.

-Perhaps... I once met a being... She was a mass pregnant with darkness, swollen, voluptuous. Thousands of filaments were born from her womb, like thousands of offspring thirsting for light. She seemed to me the supreme female, the supreme mother, the culmination of femininity. If I had to choose a queen, it would be her. But I don't need her; Melkor, the Mighty Arising, reigns alone.

-Now, however, thou "reignest" under Tulkas’ shadow, the culmination of masculinity. -Mairon laughed with malice.- I’m not surprised that thou art not interested in fragile femininity, accustomed as thou art to his muscles and strong arms. What does he do to thee, exactly?

Melkor turned away from the window and cast an oblique glance at his interlocutor, as he ran a finger provocatively accross his Adam’s apple.

-He does exactly what I order him to do. Tying me with ropes, with chains that sink into flesh until the bone creaks. He lashes me with whips, whose grooves leave their signature on my back. And the smell of my blood... that smell drives him insane.

Suddenly, the Vala approached the window again and grabbed Mairon through the bars, with a great force that those thin arms belied. With no time to react, the Maia was immobilized, his head pressed against the iron bars.
He felt then a wet tongue sliding down his cheek, his jaw, and even the corner of his lips.

-I let him do to me everything, except kissing me. He touches me between my legs... -and as he whispered this, he slipped his hand over Mairon's body and stopped at the slight bulge that could be guessed under his trousers.- ...And he licks me.

The Maia held his breath when he felt the Vala's tongue caressing him in that place through the black leather.
For some reason, he was left motionless and empty of thoughts. There was something, an incandescent energy, emanating from Melkor's body and burning him, leaving him helpless. Neither his will, nor even his feeling of disgust, were anything against that irresistible energy.
As if he were a mere spectator of what was happening to him, he let the Vala unzip his trousers with his teeth, and then put his member in his mouth.
An electric current shook Mairon's spine at such a strange and unusual sensation, and a sigh escaped from his lips. That mouth, that tongue, of a god who could have killed him with a single word in other times, was caressing him in his most sensitive and vulnerable area.
And this caused him terror and pleasure in equal parts.

-But Tulkas doesn't just do this kind of things to me... –continued Melkor, stopping at the moist tip of the member, now completely hard. The vibration of his lip and his breath’s caress against the slit, ripped a frustrated moan from the Maia.- ...There’s more. Tulkas likes to be inside me...

Then cold hands slid inside his trousers, caressing and separating his buttocks. Not knowing why, Mairon opened his legs instinctively. And he allowed the Vala's fingers to violate his inside, first one, and then another, and another.
The Maia threw his head back, holding his breath so as not to let out a cry.

-…Yes, Tulkas likes to penetrate me. All the way inside, until breaking and tearing my innards, showing no compassion. Sometimes with objects. Sometimes with objects that stay inside for several days. But he does it… because I desire it. –sighed Melkor, introducing the member full into his mouth, while his fingers brushed a particularly sensitive spot inside Mairon.

This time, his victim couldn’t stifle a moan of unmistakable lust, and he gripped the bars desperately.
But just then, Melkor withdrew his fingers from inside and turned away from him.

-Ah! But where are my manners? I had forgotten that you’re not interested in the vile matters of the flesh. You’re a pure, cold and impassive intellect in your solitary tower of reason. Isn't that right, Miaron? -he said, with an affected hand gesture.

Mairon looked at him confused, and then looked at himself: throbbing, suffocated, with his eager member still peeking between the bars... Pathetic.
With a furious shout, he got rid of his physical form, and materialized again within Melkor's own cell. It was the first time he dared to enter there, but he put aside his sense of danger to focus on the only objective that mattered now.

-Since thou hast started this, finish it at least! -he threatened.

The Vala backed away a little, until his back touched the wall.

-And what if I don’t? Are you going to rape me?

-I will, if necessary. -Mairon ran his tongue over his fang.- As long as Aulë's shackles restrain thy power, I don't have much to fear from thee.

And unsheathing the sword that he always carried on his belt, he pressed the edge against Melkor's throat. The latter swallowed, and nodded with half a smile.

-Fine, fine, go ahead! Do with me as you please... if you can.

Mairon snorted, and moved the sword away from his neck. Then, with a simple slash, he cut the clasp that closed the Vala's robes.
Before his eyes, a decadent spectacle of white skin, metal, and marks of torment was uncovered. A ring stuck in a nipple, another ring in the opposite one, and hooked between both, a silver chain across his chest. Also in the abdomen, in the ribs, in the navel, shone rings and pins, sunk in reddened flesh. As a goldsmith, Mairon could only admire such work of jewelry set in a living body.
With slightly trembling hands, he tried to stroke one of the nipples. That was when a sharp voice stopped him.

-Don’t touch me.

Mairon raised his head in disbelief. And at that moment, he met Melkor's gaze. But it was a different gaze, which he didn’t remember perceiving before. In those eyes, he saw with horror the night of the outer Void and the fire from the depths of Arda. The immensity of power, restrained but never extinguished, that was latent inside, that could engulf him and everything else.
And an unwavering will, more immobile than the roots of the world, seized him like a coiling chain. A single command was enough, "Don't touch me," and suddenly it was he who felt loaded with shackles and pierced by rings and chains. Slowly, Mairon withdrew his hands, despite his desire to possess that body.

-Stupid! Do you still not understand that you cannot do anything against my will? – whispered Melkor, with cruel sweetness, while holding his chin.- You’re my servant, you always have been. You have followed me since the beginning of time, since the Music of the Ainur.

-No... I don't... I haven't been... –stammered the Maia, his heart more and more agitated by a bad omen.

-Are you sure? Remember. Remember the Music. It’s a music that is engraved in the heart of all the Ainur, from the first chord to the final note. What did you sing then, unhappy Maia?

From the depths of his spirit, the memory of the Music emerged for Mairon. And he could hear it in his head with total perfection, as if it was sounding right there. He hadn’t followed Melkor's song, his notes were opposed to his, they were governed by order and symmetry, they clashed head-on against his discordances, and yet... And yet, upon separating his and Melkor's songs from the rest, upon hearing them clearly without the other melodies, he discovered with horror an irrefutable fact.
Far from colliding, both songs complemented each other perfectly, precisely because they were so opposite. They entwined, merged with each other, to the point that Melkor's music didn't even sound discordant anymore. No, the result was very beautiful, indescribably beautiful.
Mairon opened his eyes wide, and looked confused and horrified at Melkor. The Vala was smiling at him: perverse, sweet, seductive. Had he always belonged to him, even not knowing it? Was his supposed loyalty to Aulë nothing but a lie, an appearance?
Unable to bear this truth, Mairon left the cell, transformed into a black cloud from which two bat wings seemed to emerge. And he flew through Aman without sense of direction, dazed, aimless.
Perhaps he would have continued flying like this, in the midst of his madness, if a strong blow hadn’t knocked him down. Recovering his usual form, he looked at his assailant from the ground. It was Eönwë, who watched him with restrained anger.

-It’s all your fault!! -the herald rebuked him.

Mairon rubbed his cheek, where he felt the pain of the blow although a second before he had no physical form.

-My fault? What are you talking about!?

-Melian! She has left... Why didn't you stop her!?

Mairon rose from the ground, shaking the dust.

-That has nothing to do with me. If she wanted to leave for Middle-earth, what could I do to avoid it?

-Idiot!! She... she loved you. -Eönwë clenched his fists, trembling with rage, and his voice faltered.- If you had... If you had said something... If you had done something... she would have stayed with you, instead of marching to certain death... Into that land of darkness... alone... Couldn't you show any feeling on that imperturbable face of yours!? Not even once!?

Eönwë attempted to hit him again, but this time with much less resolve. Mairon had no trouble evading him.

-I wasn't going to lie to her. If I don't love her, I don't. This is a fact that she accepted, and she made her decision upon it. -replied Mairon.

His calm and coldness contrasted with Eönwë's excitement, provoking him to even greater fury.

-You don’t have feelings! You’re as cold and hard inside, as the gems that you like to carve so much. We won’t see our friend again... and you don't care at all.

Defeated, the herald dropped his shoulders with a sigh. Mairon raised an eyebrow when he saw him like that, and some suspicion woke up in his mind.

-Eönwë ... could it be that you loved her?

The other Maia fixed wet, red eyes on him. But he twisted his mouth with disdain:

-You're wrong. How typical of you, not understanding anything about others’ hearts!

-Oh, no? Well, I think that you loved her. That you were jealous every time she paid attention to me. And that you just get mad at me, because deep down you're mad at yourself. For not having dared to confess your love when you had still time.

Eönwë lowered his head, and to Mairon's surprise, he burst out laughing. A nervous and bitter laugh.

-All this time... How blind you’ve been all this time! Do you want... Do you want to know who I really love? Do you want to know my secret? -he muttered under his breath, as his choked laugh almost became sobbing. Mairon failed to answer anything in the midst of his bewilderment. Then Eönwë looked up at him; Mairon had never seen so much resentment and hate in those eyes.- It's you! It's you who I love, stupid! All this time it’s been you!

The herald turned his head to the other side, unable to look at the other Maia for another second. And he stood there, still shaking with anger, perhaps with shame.
In the heart of Mairon a thousand conflicting feelings were triggered. What to do with such a sudden and unexpected confession?
Eönwë was still there, at his fingertips, waiting for some kind of reaction from him. His friend was in a very vulnerable situation right now. But was he really his friend? Did he care about that Maia, or was it all false, like the fact that Aulë was his lord? If his true master was Melkor... if he had always been so... what did he care about the other Ainur? Fake friends, who had never understood him, nor could to. They’d never accept him once they knew his secret. Now he understood why he had never felt part of them completely.
And Melkor... He could still feel the soft caress of his tongue between his legs, his fingers inside him... The desire, the irrepressible desire that had awakened in his body. And how it had been left unsatisfied.
Mairon licked his lips.

-Do you love me then, Eönwë? And what do you expect from me, exactly? -he whispered, approaching him like a black cat on the prowl of a white dove.- Do you want me to kiss you? Is that what you expect from me?

Eönwë shuddered and swallowed, suddenly finding Mairon's face so close to his. So close, that his lips almost touched.

-N... No... I didn’t... I didn't mean that...

-I think you do. –and grabbing him by his nape, Mairon forced his head forward and sealed his mouth with a kiss.

At first, Eönwë struggled and tried to resist. But Mairon's tongue broke his weak defense and entered his mouth, intertwining with his. The herald let out a sigh, dropped his wings, and little by little, his body relaxed.

“He surrenders himself to lust so easily.” –thought Mairon, with a smile.

And surreptitiously, while Eönwë's arms encircled his back, he slid his hand down his side, his hip, and finally placed it between his legs.

-Ah! Mairon... what... what are you doing? Not there! –complained Eönwë, blushing.

Mairon chuckled, and stroked the semi-erect member under the tunic.

-You say I shouldn’t touch you here, but your cock is eager to come out and play.

-N... No...!

-Tell me, did you dream of me touching your most secret parts? Or maybe you touched yourself in solitude? Away from everyone's eyes, imagining that it was my hand which slid down your member. And feeling shame for your dirty acts and thoughts, for being so lustful behind that facade of moral righteousness. As it got harder and harder, and your hand got moist with your own fluids.

Eönwë let out a moan, and Mairon's lewd words only aroused him further. The other Maia had unbuttoned his trousers, and he felt his member’s tip caressing his own, while both shafts joined in the blacksmith's hand.

-This is wrong, Mairon... It's wrong... If Manwë found out... -he gasped, all the while rubbing against his friend.

Mairon had pushed him against the trunk of a nearby tree, so he was left immobilized and at his mercy.

-I'm going to fuck you. That’s what you really want too, am I wrong? –whispered Mairon, lightly sticking his fangs in his neck.

Eönwë shuddered. He felt some moisture flowing through his glans, and he could hear the obscene sound of Mairon's hand as the fluids spread accross both members. He didn’t dare to answer, so he merely separated his legs slightly and relaxed his muscles.
A glint of malice flashed in Mairon's eyes. And crushing him against the tree, he lifted the herald's legs freehand, and sank into his hot flesh. Eönwë couldn’t suppress a cry at the brutal assault, but his groans soon turned into moans of pleasure.
How long had he wished for that in secret? Joining in that way. Being open, completely open, while he filled him all the way inside. The dark figure of Aulë’s Maia, hard, sinewy as the roots of earth, penetrating the white and aerial body of Manwë’s Maia. Somehow, there was something concordant in the way their black and blond hair entwined, in the way the veins and sweat of one collided with the velvety skin of the other. Something concordant, and at the same time, blasphemous.
For Mairon, however, it was just a poor substitution of what he had wished to do with Melkor. The friction was pleasant, no doubt, and sent waves of pleasure through his member to his lower abdomen, and from there to the rest of his body. But he couldn’t perceive there the power he had perceived in the Vala. In that body so light, so air-like faint. So weak…
On the verge of climax, Mairon began to thrust inside him even harder. Eönwë's wings scratched against the bark, although the sensation of that member penetrating him again and again drowned out any notion of pain.
Then, a shudder ran through Mairon's spine. And in the midst of an explosion of physical pleasure and mental confusion, he spilled all his seed inside the other body.
With a last moan, and still panting, he moved away and released him. Eönwë fell to the ground, with no strength and trembling, but happy. Mairon didn't know if he had climaxed or not, but he didn't care.

Moments later, both Maiar lay in the grass, intertwined with each other. Eönwë's white hand caressed his partner through the black leather, and he let him do so, somehow apathetic.

-What are we going to do, Mairon? -he sighed, sinking his face into his neck.

-What are we going to do about what?

Eönwë frowned.

-About this, of course! We have united and... and I don't know how we’re going to explain it to others. We Maiar are not supposed to do this kind of thing... How am I going to talk about our love to Manwë!? I'm not even sure if we can get married, both of us being male spirits...

Mairon snorted and stood up, wiping the remains of grass.

-There's nothing to talk about. Because there’s no love at all. -he said coldly.- It's that simple.

Eönwë froze and opened his eyes wide.

-W... What... What are you saying? How come there’s no love at all!? You’ve just been inside me! We have embraced, we have kissed...

The initial stupefaction of the herald was giving way to gradual anger, judging by the trembling of his lip. Mairon shrugged and turned his back.

-You offered yourself easily and I took you. We’ve both satisfied our lust, and you haven’t enjoyed it less than me, if I’m not mistaken. But there’s nothing else between us, so you better forget what has happened. I don't love you, just as I didn't love Melian. In fact... maybe we can't even be friends anymore.

And with total indifference, Mairon walked away through the meadow, leaving Eönwë there on the ground. Half naked, consumed by indignation and shame.

-Wait, where do you think you’re going!? Don't you dare... Don't you dare to leave me here! Mairon!! First Melian and now me!? I swear... I swear you'll regret this!

But the Maia of Aulë kept walking without looking back, ignoring those vain threats.
Melian, Eönwë. Did they ever mean anything to him? She had chosen an uncertain and lonely road to Middle-earth. He had given himself as a toy, leaving aside all sense of honor and pride. Thus they should pay the price of their stupidity.
They no longer had anything to do with him... with a Maia of Melkor.
That was Mairon's third lesson in Arda. He learned what cruelty was, and that those who are weak easily succumb under it.

The Maia had a lot to think about, and they were gloomy thoughts. Perhaps because of this, his feet unconsciously led him to the western cliffs, near the halls of the dead.
As he looked at the horizon, towards the walls where Arda ended, beyond the inert waters of Vaiya, he felt a presence near him. Turning around, he found Nienna, standing and silent. Streams of tears fell down her pale cheeks.
Mairon shivered at the sight of her eyes... Or rather, the place where they should have been. And he wondered why she, the Valie whose function was precisely to cry for Arda’s pain, had chosen a face with two empty sockets instead of eyes.

-I don’t need them. -she answered in an impassive voice, reading his thoughts.- I watch the inside of souls, their torments, their passions, their fulfilled hopes and their hopes in vain. I don’t need eyes to see it, eyes can deceive and hide the truth.

Mairon turned back to the sea, and replied with some disdain:

-It must be very sad, having to cry for the pain of all Arda while nobody cries for thee. Above all, when it’s not in thy power to change the destinies of the world.

-Ah! But I’m not crying for Arda... -she replied, without the slightest emotion in her voice.- Now I'm crying for you, Mairon, just for you. Because of your descent into darkness, because of your fall, because you’re lost and no one can save you anymore.

These words stuck into Mairon with the ruthlessness of a knife. And turning to Nienna, he showed a fang in a gesture of contempt:

-Thou dost not need to cry for me, lady! My decision is made.

And that was how, shortly thereafter, Mairon returned to Melkor's cell. But this time, his visit was different. This time he didn’t come as visitor, but as vassal.
There, in that sombre room, hidden from Tulkas and the whole land of Aman, Mairon swore eternal loyalty to the Enemy of Arda. And despite his humble robes, Melkor's presence seemed like a king's to him. A king much more real, much more beautiful and legitimate than Manwë or any other Vala.
While he watched him kneeling, Melkor gave him a pleased, but enigmatic smile.

-You’ve always been my servant. But if you really want to follow me till the very end, you must know that I’m a severe master, and my love is bought with pain. You still have time to remain here. To pretend that you’re a Maia of Aulë and continue your life as a blacksmith as you’ve done so far. To carve pretty jewels, surrounded by beauty, by the songs of the Elves and the love of your friends. To live amidst this sweet lie. And one day, disappear without anyone remembering your name. Or you can come with me, and be lord under the shadow of the King of Arda. You will have your own slaves and troops at your command, the heads of your enemies will roll upon finding your sword’s edge, and you will soak the land with blood to please your master. Your name will be remembered and feared throughout Arda, and it will be so until the world completes the last of its ages. But you must be willing to face darkness, destruction if necessary, and the Void itself. Willing to be consumed as the ephemeral flame or sink into the abyss. Since one must always pay a price for true power. –and as if to emphasize this fact, Melkor stretched his wrists towards him, showing him the shackles of his captivity.

Mairon ran his fingers accross the metal, accross those shackles’ runes, whose magic he was willing to destroy now.
He raised his head to his Lord with resolve.

-Everything is decided. I choose power, glory, blood. And the Void, and the abyss, and everything that comes thereafter. I choose thee.

-So be it. -said Melkor.

And offering him the back of his hand for kissing, he sealed their union forever.