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Written for Armariel for the LOTR Community Yule Exchange. Beta by Fiondil and RiverOtter.
The Turning of the Year Approaches…
Melkor sat, tightly wrapped within the dubious embrace of Angainor, in the center of his cell, his dull eyes fixed upon the far wall, which had inexplicably begun to glow somewhat. Suddenly a portal appeared in the midst of the formerly solid stone, and through it stepped one of Námo’s Maiar carrying a pair of ceramic pots. One was a dull black shot through with hints of a flaming red, and the other a formerly pristine white that appeared to have been rolled through a spent firepit and was now sullied with dead ash. Both were settled upon the cold floor before the cell’s inhabitant, the Maia studiously avoiding the fallen Vala’s dark eyes before he disappeared and the portal followed suit.
Melkor examined the two pots thoughtfully, contemplating their intended purpose. At last he looked upward, his thought almost growling, Well, brother—shall you reveal the purpose of bringing these to me?
It appeared that Manwë had indeed been awaiting some reaction from the prisoner, for as the walls ceased to vibrate from the demanding question a tone of music could be heard, and a breeze blew about the room, tipping the two pots upon their sides, their lids falling free.
After a moment, as if something were checking to make certain the Maia was gone, a drift of grey ash peeked out of the formerly white pot, followed slowly by more. Soon a rough figure of what appeared to be an elderly Man took shape before Melkor, examining him with a supercilious air. “And what have we here?” demanded the ghost of a voice.
Curumo? Melkor’s contempt and amusement could be discerned in his osanwë. So, you have taken to slumming, have you?
Certainly a Maia as high and mighty as you were would never think to be found, here in my younger brother’s deepest dungeon? Beneath you, what?
Curumo’s vague lip curled with disdain. “Certainly I have no place here. And I thought you had been thrust out into the Void.”
Mere propaganda. Melkor sighed. My brethren have no authority to open that portal. I’d thought to hide out there, but to do so I would have had to discarnate, and I could not leave behind my Silmarilli.
“Your love of such baubles was always your downfall. Why you didn’t leave them to that fool Fëanor----”
You never did appreciate things of beauty, interrupted the fallen Vala.
“And if you could not possess such things, you destroyed them so no one else could do so,” sneered the ghost of a Maia. “Wasteful, wouldn’t you say?”
I wished to be the one who bestowed light upon the Children, so that they would come to me for such benefits. And behold—when I brought away the Silmarilli into the Mortal Lands, did they not follow?
“Did they not follow?” mocked his companion. “Intent on destroying you!”
Foolish things—as if they had the ability to do so. Melkor considered the black pot. I must assume that my former lieutenant resides there. Mairon, you old reprobate—come out; show yourself!
A black tentacle of ash emerged slightly from the pot, proclaimed, Don’t want to! and retreated once more.
Curumo sniffed, “That’s about the most anyone has seen of him for much of our last age. Been hiding out since he lost his fair seeming along with that blasted Ring of his. Wouldn’t stir himself out of his hidey-holes in Dol Guldur or Barad-dûr, much less show himself. Most we ever saw of him was his shadow.”
A shadow of himself—that is priceless! chortled Melkor. How did he lose his fair seeming? And what ring?
“You didn’t hear? Talked Celebrimbor into creating rings of power for Men, Dwarves, and Elves, and then went to that volcano of his and created a final Ring of his own to rule the rest, infusing it with much of himself. He allowed himself to be taken hostage, corrupted a people, and lost his ability to take upon himself a fair appearance when the land foundered, then lost the ability to take a stable fána when a mere Man cut the Ring from his hand.
Celebrimbor? You mean Fëanor’s grandson?
“That I do.” The malicious tone was plain in the former Maia’s voice.
I’m surprised that Celebrimbor would have anything to do with him. Far too noble by half, Celebrimbor was. Disowned his own atto, last I heard.
“That he did. Not that any of the sons of Fëanor was worth much after the deaths of so many in Alqualondë, Nargothrond, Menegroth, and Sirion, proving themselves kinslayers indeed. Certainly Celegorm and Curufin received what they deserved after the fiasco at Nargothrond.”
They’d both taken a good deal of my own nature to them by that time, Melkor noted thoughtfully. I found them far more pliable than their older brothers. The Vala examined his companion more closely. Not, I suppose, that there is that much of your own nature left you. How is it you are here in my cell?
The ashes that appeared to define the former Maia curdled somewhat in distaste. “How am I to say?” he asked. He examined his own rather nebulous form critically. “Certainly I never intended to be seen in such disarray. One moment I was turning away from the Hobbit they called the Ringbearer, having pronounced his doom for him—just where is Lord Námo when he is needed to pronounce dooms? I thought that was his duty, after all….”
And just why, inquired a new thought, was I needed there? You had taken on yourself the role of my surrogate, after all.
Both turned their heads in surprise to find that the Doomsman of the Valar stood within the room, a carrier for an animal casually held in one hand as if it held but the slightest of cats, although it was in truth huge; a firepot dangling from his wrist; and a glass vessel held in the grasp of his other hand.
Melkor’s visage darkened. And what do you here, younger brother? he demanded with a good deal of rancor to his tone. Have you come to mock me in my misery?
Mock you, Melkor? Nay—not that. Indeed, I come at the behest of the Ringbearer, who begged a boon of me.
Curumo’s attention was clearly piqued, and an ebon, shadowy figure rose from the red-shot black pot, apparently trembling with anxiety or fury—it was difficult to discern which--to hear the pronouncement of Námo. “And what boon,” Sauron croaked in a voice that creaked with long disuse, “would that creature evoke from such as you?”
In the outer world it is the turning of the year, the longest night of the Sun’s cycle, after which the days will again lengthen, and light and warmth again return to brighten the earth and to engender growth and beauty. Frodo Baggins, the Lord Iorhael of all of the Free Peoples of Middle Earth, has but recently come to brighten our halls for a time ere he steps beyond the Circles of Arda to return to the Presence, and he has sought to bring reason to rejoice even to you three. He asked as to your disposition, and of all things expressed a desire to see you know the pleasures of the season as it is celebrated amongst his own folk. He wished that you might know the company of those who were closest to you, that you might know the comfort of the brightness of the hearth and food and drink in keeping with your desires, to know your quarters decorated and to feel yourselves secure, perhaps even with a dog to lie at your feet and before the brightness of the fire.
With that he poured out the contents of the jar, and a shadowy woman’s form could be seen briefly before it coalesced into the shape of a dark spider. The jar disappeared, and the carrier was opened and the dark, hairy shape of Draugluin was spilled out of it. The carrier evaporated, and the Vala opened the firepot on a raised structure reminiscent of a hearth against one wall of the room, and from it emerged a Balrog, apparently sullen and somewhat confused.
The shining forms of three bright Maiar came from behind him, and set a table amidst the three prisoners, setting it with dishes and cups, and a bowl of red liquid as viscous as blood, and platters of what appeared to be fell meats. These three released their physical forms and thought themselves away, and again the portal opened, allowing two shining Maiar warriors to lead in a group of about ten orcs, dressed incongruously in long white tabards over red robes. These were formed into two lines, and one of the Maiar raised its sword as if it were a baton.
Melkor turned a befuddled visage to meet the amused eyes of the Lord of Mandos. And why these? he asked.
To sing carols for you, as requested by the Ringbearer, they were told. As I said, the son of Drogo has asked that you be allowed to know the comforts his own people treasure, and song is very much a part of such celebrations.
The Vala nodded, and the Maia smiled. “All right, boys, let it be as we rehearsed. We shall begin with The Turning of the Year Approaches. On the count of three….”
And as the spider spun garlands of silk to decorate the walls and ceiling, the sullen Balrog flamed on its hearth, the werewolf hid its head beneath its paws and whined, and the orcs began to discordantly sing, “Lo, the turning of the year approaches, let all give thanks and praise to the Creator of all!”
Curumo and Sauron drew closer in revulsion to Melkor as Námo withdrew the large shape of a bat from his script and set it fluttering about the room. And with Thuringwethil to dance for you, he whispered into the ears of his captives….
Melkor was the name first borne by Morgoth. The Feanorians named him Morgoth, or the Black Enemy, in response to his evil counsels and actions against those who dwelt in the Blessed Lands.
Curumo is the name Saruman bore before he accepted his commission to sail from Aman to serve as one of the Istari or Wizards.
Mairon was the original name borne by Sauron before he turned to evil and became Morgoth’s greatest lieutenant. He also bore at times the names and appellations of Gorthaur the Cruel; Annatar, which means Lord of Gifts; Zigur, which means Wizard; and Lord of Werewolves. He had many shapes he could and would assume, from that of a noble lord when he was known as Annatar or Zigur, to a werewolf, the greatest of the vampire bats, and a Balrog. It is apparent that his truest nature was that of a Balrog, for it is said that his hand was hotter than a fiery coal, and so it was that Gil-galad died. Gandalf confirms this when he indicates that Isildur believed the inscription of the Ringspell faded once the Ring began to cool from the heat of Sauron’s hand. Sauron was apparently one of the most powerful of the Maiar originally, and did not sink to a single form until after he lost his Ring, at which time he appeared to become a mere shadow who must surround himself with a nimbus of fire in order to be discerned visually at all, giving rise to the appearance of being a great Eye.
Draugluin was the name given the former Maia who became known as the father of the werewolves, and is said to be a progenitor of Carcharoth, the great wolf who bit off the hand of Beren.
Ungoliant was the apparent female Maia who took a spider’s shape and fed upon light, assisting Morgoth to destroy the Two Trees by fixing her mandibles upon the wounds caused by Morgoth’s spear and sucking the light out of them. It is said she spun webs of darkness, stronger than spider’s silk. She is said to have been Shelob’s mother and the progenitor of the great spiders of Mirkwood and elsewhere throughout Middle Earth.
Thuringwethil was another female Maia, believed to have been a lover of Sauron, who at Morgoth’s behest became the first of the Vampires, and is said to have begun that curse within Middle Earth.
And who better to sing Yuletide carols to Morgoth and Sauron and Saruman than the creatures they created and sought to perfect as the height of depravity, ugliness, and cruelty—orcs?
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