Those were the days when Morgoth was yet able to assume a form that seemed fair to elves. And even Maedhros, proud and cold with the force of his hatred, marvelled at the beauty of the power before him, that seemed to surpass Varda herself in this fortress of dark stone.
“You are fire,” Melkor told him. “Your place is with me.”
Maedhros refused to answer, but his silence seemed negated by the long white hand that reached out to touch his mouth. The touch of the Vala seemed to warm him as much as the sight of the Silmarils that glowed in the iron crown with a fierce purity.
“I thought the jewels would brighten at my touch,” Melkor said, “but they have scorched me instead.” His hand moved gently up Maedhros’ face, past his cheekbones and his eyes, to touch his hair. “Would you do the same?”
Something in Maedhros shivered and cried out, and he tried to jerk away from the touch. “I would,” he said squarely, facing the timeless eyes with all the strength in him.
Melkor took his hand away and sat gazing upon the elf for a long time. Finally he spoke, and his voice had changed. It was no longer the voice of a Quendë, but something that held an echo of the mountains in them, and the forging of ancient steel. His words reverberated in Maedhros’ soul. “Do you remember Alqualondë?” he asked.
Then it was Maedhros’ turn to be silent, but eventually he spoke as well. “I could not forget.”
“What did you feel then?” the voice asked.
“Fear,” Maedhros answered blankly. “Pain. Anger.”
“Madness, as it happened. Shock, when it was done.”
“But not regret.”
Maedhros was silent, helpless.
“What else did you feel?”
“What else did you feel?”
He felt Melkor’s eyes burning into him. Maedhros swallowed. “Power. Energy.”
Maedhros finally looked away.
Melkor smiled then, and his voice and eyes resumed a lesser force. “Your place is with me.”
As Melkor stood, Maedhros tried one last time to defy. “Never,” he said, with all his innate conviction, and his anger made him seem like an Ainu. “My place is with the people of the King you slew.”
Melkor smiled. “And I mean to make amends.”
As Maedhros’ bonds were freed, he became aware of the impossibility of escape. Melkor’s eyes were on him, and he was trapped in the midst of a ring of orcs. They were ugly, foul-smelling, crude creatures. He could not suppress a shudder. They had been called ‘Melkorhini’ by the grandfathers in Aman. Maedhros thought it was a mockery of parenthood.
He found himself walking down an endless passageway, surrounded by the – the word tasted bitter on his tongue – yrch. He had always found it difficult to believe Finwë’s stories of the corruption of elves. Surely the fëa was radiant and unbreakable? After all, was it not made of light, as the chain that had once bound Melkor to the Void had been? Now as he looked at the orcs, he realised that Finwë had been right. The body was the mirror of the soul, he had been taught. The truth of it hit home now. In Aman, no one had been – like this. Yet it was not the decay that made him ill. He noticed things now – a glint of golden hair, a delicate ear, a patch of pale skin, disfigured by pockmarks, that reminded him of what they once were.
The orcs seemed not to care. Some of them cowered behind his back, afraid of his light. Others walked dully around him. None of them met his eyes. And yet, like him, they could bear to be in the presence of a Vala and not crumble. He cringed again.
“Experiments gone wrong,” Melkor murmured to him, appearing at his side as they ascended a steep flight of stairs. Maedhros started at the suddenness of it.
Melkor turned to him, mouth curving softly. “Are you shy of me, hína?”
No one had called him that for years. To hear the word spoken in such gentle, teasing affection from the Dark Lord caused Maedhros more pain than he would have thought possible. His heart twisted for a moment, recalling his father. Then he collected himself, and looking straight ahead, he continued to ascend the stairs.
It was still possible to do that. Maedhros was one for whom courage had come hard-earned. It was not an instinctive, irresponsible thing in him as it was in Fingon. Yet strangely, in the presence of the greatest danger he had yet faced, he was calm. It was as though someone had frozen his heart, stopped it from beating too much or too loud. Everything was still and almost - peaceful.
They walked for a long time. Melkor’s silence began to feel oppressive. He seemed to walk as fast or slowly as Maedhros wished, always. By and by the orcs fell behind, until there was no sound or sign of them that Maedhros could discern.
“You have –“ he said, and stopped. His voice was shaking. Melkor seemed not to have heard, for he kept on ahead, as Maedhros had done earlier.
“You make a hideous understatement,” he said, not caring to control his anger.
Melkor turned and looked at him.
“Experiments – gone wrong? Experiments gone wrong?”
“Yes,” Melkor said, in a patient, explanatory tone. “What do you not understand about that? Do the Noldor not study the science of stone, judging how best it may be carved to give the most light? Were your father’s jewels made in one attempt?”
“They were not stone, these creatures. Your minions. They were elves.”
“And they shall be something else presently,” Melkor said.
“We are not yours to meddle with!” Maedhros said. Part of him fought to keep silent, for fear and pride. Yet part of him felt bold, and reckless, and wanted this to be over one way or another.
Melkor looked at him again, and once more Maedhros felt the gaze burn into him. Only this time it scorched his spirit, twisting and burning its way into his mind like lines of fire. He struggled to breathe, staggering against the roughly-hewn wall as he tried to fight the feeling, to block his soul off from the terrible heat. None could touch the mind of an elf without his own will and consent. Even Manwë himself had never been known to do so. And now Melkor was leaving his marks on Maedhros’ innermost being.
It withdrew suddenly, and Maedhros was amazed at the sudden and complete disappearance of the pain. He gulped the cold, dank air in huge amounts, trying to steady himself. He felt consumed by shame.
“Then whose are the lives of the Eldar, that they may meddle with them? The ones who took you away to a remote island, cutting you off from the world?”
Maedhros’ head shot up.
“That is why we left,” he said. “And you are worse than them.”
He braced himself for more pain, but it did not come. Melkor’s eyes were almost black, like the eyes of Manwë.
The Vala shook his head. “Do not lie to yourself. That is not why you came. You have simply followed me.”
Maedhros finally felt his heart lurch. It was fear, but of a different kind than he had expected. It was the fear of the suspicion planted by Melkor’s words.
“You Quendi think that the Valar have been made to serve the Children of the One. Why?”
Maedhros was silent. Melkor recited in ringing tones, “The Music of the Ainur made the world in preparation for the Awakening of the Children of the One, called Eru. Called Ilúvatar.” His voice contained utter disdain for the lesson Maedhros had learnt when he was very young. “Is that why?”
Still Maedhros was silent.
“The Music was wrong,” Melkor told him.
Maedhros looked up at the face of the Vala, his eyes filled with something like despair, and something now approaching fear. The light around Melkor’s form seemed to fade, leaving them in increasing darkness.
They began walking up the stairs again. There was no longer any light to see by, but the steps were easy to climb.
Suddenly Melkor spoke again. “You must learn to speak softer, Maitimo. Discourtesy is merited only by those weaker than oneself.”
“The Valar, you see,” he continued, “are not meant to serve the Children. The Valar are meant to rule the Children.”
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.