26. A View Into the Palantír
Chapter Written by Angmar
In the Dark Tower, the Master could not take His gaze off the Ithil Stone. His stormy Eyes, molten pools of lava, mirrored the amber glow of the great bursts of fire which spewed forth from Orodurin. Silently, He watched all that was transpiring in the Deeping Coomb. He was calm, though, as He looked into the depths of the palantír; all too calm. His black form was still and unmoving save for a slight tapping of a finger upon a thigh, reminiscent of a large cat who, in its agitation, slowly switches the tip of its tail back and forth.
"If only it would pacify Him, I wish he would put the cover back over the seeing stone," the Lieutenant thought, fretting and wringing his hands. That would not, though. Nothing could placate Him now. The battle went ill, and He would be more wrathful than ever at this impeding loss of His victory.
"Someone will pay for this," the Mouth thought, "and I am very glad it will not be I. The spectacle of their torture should prove interesting to watch, though."
He smiled to himself.
"Why do you smile?" a cold Voice asked.
Fearing that he would be misinterpreted and caught in a possibly unpleasant situation, the Lieutenant rolled his oily tongue around in his mouth and thought quickly.
"Mighty One, I smiled when I thought of the false hopes that this apparent triumph will raise in the hearts of Your enemies. I am thinking of all the opportunities we will have to play upon their concepts of a perceived weakness."
"We?" A dark eyebrow raised. "We?" He repeated.
The Lieutenant considered. "O Great Delight of the Flows of Power From the Earth, Celestial Majesty Who Is Omniscient and All-Powerful, Everlasting Regent Who Thinks With the Same Thought as The Great One Beyond Us, I am unfit to let Thy shadow fall upon me! I am but a man and sometimes I misthink the words that I use. Forgive me of my infirmities and pardonthe mouth of Thy servant."
"Sometimes you set yourself too high in your own estimations, a lofty position to which you think you have attained. Never imagine for a moment that because you serve as My Mouth, My spokesman, that you also operate as My Mind. You never can and you never will. Forgiveness is granted, for you are clever enough to display your humility well."
"Master, You show great patience and mercy," the Lieutenant said sincerely.
"Only great Powers are capable of extending true mercy," Sauron said softly and kindly, and the tapping of the finger upon His thigh slowed. Within the palantír, a battle raged and the Dark Lord saw more of His vaunted Easterling cavalrymen fall, pierced by spears or felled by swords.
He looked to the Lieutenant. "I am much aggrieved. Such carnage!"
"It is no fault of Your own that these incompetents have failed. You had planned this campaign thoroughly and Your strategy was infallible, perfect, but," the Mouth sighed, "they have snatched defeat from the very jaws of victory!"
"It is more than the failure of man, My Lieutenant. The Others meddled again as they did in the South! My self-deluded kindred!" Sauron sighed heavily and groaned. "Always do they strive to work against Me! Constantly they plot against My rightful rule or they try to use men, whose minds are weak and cannot understand, as devices to fulfill their treacherous plots and conspiracies. They work to bring about My undoing, the undoing of us all!"
The Dark Lord's heart was troubled and as heavy as the web of dark shadows which wove themselves around the Tower of Black Adamant.
"Great King of Earth, the Valar are drunken, besotted upon their own lusts and vanity. They live in idleness, sloth, and are jealous of the work that You have done, of Your rightful place as Lord of All. But You are far wiser than they, and it is You Who will win in the final account. This battle is only a minor, temporary setback in Your Great Design for all of Arda. You have only to look upon Your own Finger to see the proof of this. Yes, Great One, the Treasure has come back to You!"
"There the Others failed in their desires to foil Me, but it was far too close, much too close! Besides My own kind, upon whom rests the most blame, Lieutenant, for this great defeat? And yes, Lieutenant, call it what it is: defeat, destruction, the denial of the great push to the North." His Voice was disappointed.
"Undoubtedly it is the fault of the Witch-king of Angmar. He does not quite seem the same since the South. Even though there was a great victory at Pelennor, things did not go well in the rest of the South. Considering his great losses and blunders there, perhaps he has lost confidence in himself, and thus his usefulness wanes. Then, of course, after him are the rest of his brethren and then Maugoth Tahmtan and all the high ranking officers. There needs to be a reshuffling, a purging of all those who failed."
The Mouth counted off the list of offenders on his fingers. He felt himself in perfect accord and harmony with his Master, so much so that usually his mind felt as one with that of the Dark Lord and he was only a mirror reflection of the Maia's thought. The Lieutenant paused in his recitation of the guilty and looked to his Master. "Yes, Great One, it is Angmar. His follies are the chief cause of the disaster!"
His expression changed from the narrow look that he had to one of surprise, as though a new thought had come to him, a revelation. "At least it would appear to be incompetence; I would not wish to call it disloyalty, but considering his past record..."
Though his mind was an echo of the Dark Lord's contemplations and wishes most of the time, the Lieutenant had been allowed to retain a good measure of his own thought. Underlings who only mimicked what their leaders did and said words their leaders might wish them to say were not as effective as those who retained a degree of individuality. Such a one was the man called the Mouth of Sauron, and though he had a oneness with the Maia Who had ruled him for so long, his distinctness of personality still left him prone to many of the lesser qualities of mankind.
He was jealous of the Witch-king, though he did not know quite why himself. It was not only the great powers that the other possessed, the city that he ruled as though it were his own, the vast riches that it was reputed that Angmar had gathered over the many years of his sojourn upon Arda, or the women whom he collected like flowers to be planted in his pleasure gardens. It was the man himself. The Lieutenant of Barad-dûr had known for many years that the Witch-king held an exceedingly low opinion of the Lieutenant, one which the Mouth had always felt was unjust.
The Mouth considered that, while it was appropriate that Angmar would view mortals as lower than himself, such a designation should not apply to him. The Mouth had never liked the Witch-king's arrogance and over the years had grown to hate him. At least the loyalty and dedication that the Lieutenant had for the Dark Lord was unquestionable and above reproach. Such could not be said for Angmar! The Lieutenant judged that if the Witch-king were left to his own devices, he would once again set to work carving out his own kingdom to rule. The other craved too much power, while the Lieutenant was content to be what he was.
"But then again," the Mouth ventured out loud, "with the return of the Treasure, he can be kept under better control." He suspected - nay, he was certain! - Angmar and several of the others had deliberately blundered in the search for the Master Ring! No one so shrewd and cunning as he knew the Witch-king to be could fail so dismally unless he deliberately wished to do so.
"What befalls him or any of his brothers is not your concern, Lieutenant. All will be dealt justice. The men will be given a chance to repent before they die in torture. The Nazgûl will suffer other dooms..."
Sauron's face lit up with gleeful anticipation at the punishments He would deal out, for the strong rod of rebuke commanded respect, and there could be no order if there were no respect. And was it not just that those who had failed Him most should be punished with greatest severity? Still He regretted being forced to do this, but if He did not, it would be considered that he was lax towards criminals and traitors. He must set an example for His own minions. All would be treated fairly, though the torments would be harsh.
"Aye, Mighty Power, the failures deserve to die, every last one of them. And Your sons, the Nazgûl, will learn well from the loving chastisement at the Hand of their Father."
Sauron turned back to the palantír and scowled. Then His look turned to one of great weariness and pained longsuffering. He thought of the endless years that He had tried to undo this shambles that his brothers and sisters in thought had created. How misguided they were! He knew that He had been successful to some degree, for the world had not yet fallen into complete disorder.
The only thing that kept Arda from sinking to ruin, disintegrating and turning into endless fragments was the strength of His great power which held it together. Such ordering of the world, though, required great concentration, and few appreciated His efforts. He had always regretted, however, that the implementation of order, even though it was for the overall benefit of the whole, was resented by the unenlightened, the men of the West, and always had they striven against Him, trying to disrupt His orderly designs. They had all refused to listen to good reason because of the greed of their avaricious hearts and their thirst for land and power was ravenous. They were jealous of Him and sought to take from Him what was rightfully His!
Not content with their own island, they had in the age before turned their attentions to His own lands. Their offspring had come to these shores like a ravening horde of locusts and spread themselves across like a blight, devouring all and usurping those who served only Him.
"Lieutenant, only you have the slightest bit of comprehension of what I seek to do, and even you cannot see it in its totality."
How He suffered by the holding of the world! He must safeguard all that was good and protect it from His vicious kindred who were selfish and cared not for the plight of the world nor of men. They did not even live on Arda now, having abandoned it endless years ago. Reveling in their vainglory and cloaked in pretense and thinking they were better than all, they had moved their habitations when Númenor had fallen into the waves. His selfless devotion, His adherence to Melkor's plans, had earned him ill favor with the others from the beginning, but still He knew in His heart what was right for the Arda. Only Melkor's Song had been true, a sweet melody set amidst the discordant strains of the others.
But Melkor was here no longer and had felt the cruelty of the Valar for His efforts, and they, in their hatred and envy, had callously hewn the very legs from beneath Him and cast Him into the darkness. Should their malice turn to Him, Sauron knew He would endure a like doom. Perhaps He would suffer a martyr's fate, as did Melkor. That sacrifice, perhaps, would be worth it, if only He brought some harmony and order to the shambles of the Valar's misbegotten creation ere their fell stroke of malice struck Him down!
"Lieutenant," the Dark Lord said sadly, "You know My great love for Middle-earth, how I have always tried to safeguard and watch over all that has been in My keeping. Have I not been in all that was made, having My own part in both the Song and the Creation? Why do they continue to reject Me as they did my Master? All We ever wanted to do was have an orderly world, not one filled with chaos and confusion, but always did they wrestle against Us. Will they never listen? Will they always oppose Me and My plans?"
"Ever are mortals foolish, Great One, and many are lost, deceived by Your jealous, wayward kindred. They are blind and do not see the Light, for if they did, they would love You and set You in a high place. Only You, Great One, can ever lead them to true enlightenment."
"Your words are true, Lieutenant, and ever do you speak for Me. Only you, and no other, have a glimmering of the essence of My Mind, and," He said, an intimation of His thought and feeling, "only you know how I suffer."
"Master, as a mortal, I can only know a glimpse of the great grief in Your heart. Though man can suffer greatly, only one of Your elevated kind can truly know misery, and when part of Your creation is in disarray, it pains Your total essence. All disappoint you. Your kindred betrayed you. Your sons have failed You yet again, and though it is necessary, it will grieve You to punish them, and... it pains me to my heart to say this: Angmar has always been a rebel."
Yes, only the Lieutenant had any understanding of Him. Sauron knew that in the end, He would be doomed to suffer the ultimate torments, but it was better for one to suffer than for the many. Fate was cruel... unless one controlled it. The order of all should be Melkor first and Sauron second, but it would not be. He knew that He was destined to pain, but to the very end, whatever that might be, He would fight against the madness of the One and the Valar! The struggle was not yet over.
"It encourages Angmar to let him think that he has independence and this makes him more efficient." The Mouth was becoming tedious today. He did not need to remind his own Master of what needed to be done.
"Great Lord, strike me dead if my words displease You, but what great work has he ever done for You? When the Great Misfortune befell You and the Prize was stolen," the Lieutenant looked diffidently down at the floor, "he spent six hundred years playing in his own kingdom in the North. He later vowed that this was done in Your behalf and led to the final destruction of Arnor. He wished only power for himself then and not for Your benefit. You have beheld his thoughts and You tell me even now he still wishes his own kingdom to rule."
"Perhaps he will have it someday... but not for long years. He has much yet to learn."
"He does not deserve Your favor."
Yes, the Lieutenant was becoming exceedingly tiresome, and Sauron could read his jealousy for Angmar. The Mouth was dangerously close to overstepping his place.
"You are a snide little bastard, Lieutenant, and, as ever, envious of the Morgul Lord. You are far too critical of him. Go back to your books of sorcery and your peeping, mumbling spells. Be very glad... and humble... that you are not the one to be served the feast of punishment this time.
"I will remain by Myself as I have ever been since my Lord was ripped away from Arda. Now," Sauron said mournfully, "He languishes in the Timeless Void, beyond the dragon-guarded Door of Night made of black basalt, a great and mighty God banished, wandering, encompassed about by sorrows, unfulfilled dreams, plans, designs... crushed by the ruthless will of perverted and froward minds. He, once greater in power than all the others and endowed with gifts sublime, brought low! He, though fallen, still retains the nobility, grandeur and grace that is His essence. My King! I mourn You still!"
"It is far beyond me, Master, even to try to understand the sufferings of the Powers! O Spirit of the Great Melkor Returned to the Earth, I am a debased parasite and a plague, not fit to be in Thy presence. Kill me now lest I perish in the glow of Thy light!"
"Yes, you are a parasite! I should slay you, but at least you know that you are filth! Many do not. Begone! You are dismissed! Do not come back until I summon you!"
The Lieutenant worried that his Master was going mad as His Master before Him had done from the wretched long years of failure and defeat. Already Sauron suspected treachery from every quarter, and fear of the wrath of the Valar weighed heavily upon His mind. How close had the One Ring come to being destroyed! His Master had sensed the hands of the Valar in every strange coincidence, in every western wind. "How much time still remains ere they destroy part of the earth in their fury and Mordor sinks beneath the waves as did Númenor?" the Mouth thought. "They are abhorrent and merciless and care little of the unutterable suffering the cruel stroke of their wrath would bring!"
"Do not fear. I am not going mad, but I am greatly distressed," Sauron said in a soft hiss. "I know My kindred. They will be pleased at this defeat and think that they have preserved their precious West. The balance of power remains as it was before, though the scales have tilted slightly in Our favor. I will not wage war again for a while. Let them grow negligent again, forgetful, secure in their perceived triumph. Then the time will be ripe for the next great strike. For now, We will rest from Our labors and rebuild Our strength."
"Aye, they will grow lax and careless once more."
"Leave Me now, Lieutenant. I must ponder these things."
With a bow, the Lieutenant slipped quietly out of the great hall. It was futile to be around his Master when He was this provoked.
Sauron looked back into the palantír. "Beyond all the vagaries of time and space, the unalterable law of all that exists is Mine to determine. It is inevitable, beyond all things and all creatures and all comprehension, that I will rule Arda in totality! It is undeniably ordained and it is My destiny!"
Though His thoughts were somewhat soothing, still the Dark Lord was plagued by many doubts.
"The Enemy in successive forms is always 'naturally' concerned with sheer Domination, and so the Lord of magic and machines; but the problem: that this frightful evil can and does arise from an apparently good root, the desire to benefit the world and others - speedily and according to the benefactor's own plans - is a recurrent motive." - Letter #131, Tolkien Letters, p. 146
"And then there is Sauron. ... Very slowly, beginning with fair motives: the reorganizing and rehabilitation of the ruin of Middle-earth, 'neglected by the gods', he becomes a reincarnation of Evil, and a thing lusting for Complete Power - and so consumed ever more fiercely with hate (especially of Gods and Elves)." - Letter #131, Tolkien Letters, p. 151
"Sauron was of course not 'evil' in origin. He was a 'spirit' corrupted by the Prime Dark Lord (the Prime sub-creative Rebel) Morgoth. He was given an opportunity of repentance, when Morgoth was overcome, but could not face the humiliation of recantation, and suing for pardon; and so his temporary turn to good and 'benevolence' ended in a greater relapse, until he became the main representative of Evil in later ages. But at the beginning of the Second Age he was still beautiful to look at, or could still assume a beautiful visible shape - and was not indeed wholly evil, not unless all 'reformers' who want to hurry up with 'reconstruction' and 'reorganization' are wholly evil, even before pride and the lust to exert their will eat them up." - Letter #153, Tolkien Letters, p. 190
"In my story I do not deal in Absolute Evil. I do not think there is such a thing, since that is Zero. I do not think that at any rate any 'rational being' is wholly evil. Satan fell. In my myth Morgoth fell before Creation of the physical world. In my story Sauron represents as near an approach to the wholly evil will as is possible. He had gone the way of all tyrants: beginning well, at least on the level that while desiring to order all things according to his own wisdom he still at first considered the (economic) well-being of other inhabitants of the Earth. But he went further than human tyrants in pride and the lust for domination, being in origin an immortal (angelic) spirit. ... Sauron desired to be a God-King, and was held to be this by his servants; [see footnote] if he had been victorious he would have demanded divine honor from all rational creatures and absolute temporal power over the whole world."
Footnote: "By a triple treachery: 1. Because of his admiration of Strength he had become a follower of Morgoth and fell with him down into the depths of evil, becoming his chief agent in Middle Earth. 2. When Morgoth was defeated by the Valar finally he forsook his allegiance; but out of fear only; he did not present himself to the Valar or sue for pardon, and remained in Middle Earth. 3 When he found how greatly his knowledge was admired by all other rational creatures and how easy it was to influence them, his pride became boundless. By the end of the Second Age he assumed the position of Morgoth's representative. By the end of the Third Age (though actually much weaker than before) he claimed to be Morgoth returned." - Letter #183, Tolkien Letters, p. 243-4
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