3. Secrets, Lies and Conspiracies
She was grateful that those abominable Lamps no longer shone, for the paltry illumination granted by the scattered crystals across Ilmen wasn't enough to hamper her vision at all. Nor did she need to hide herself quite so carefully, for she could feel that the lowlands bordering the ocean had never known the deliberate touch of Valar Intent. If they hadn't cared what happened in this place before, she doubted they would care now. She was still cautious, however; unwilling to reveal her presence too easily or quickly.
The creatures to be found there, such as they were, were stunted and stupid, easily hunted from the limbs of the trees and stabbed with the lethal weapon she had given herself. But habit was hard to break. She would wrap her paralyzed prey in a thick coating of silk and then carry it back up the mountainside to a deep ravine just below the tree line, at the bottom of which lay the opening to her new lair. Only when she was safely back in the bosom of Darkness would she feed.
As time passed, several of her daughters found their way up the mountain, as did many of the smaller creatures of Shadow that had ever found haven within her Darkness. Their company was not as stimulating as that of her Dark Lover, but it mattered not. She sang to them a song of Dark purpose, of resentment and anger, of hatred for the Light, of betrayal, of loneliness, of despair; and what contentment she knew came when a cacophony of lesser voices would join her in her Dark song.
It was only after she had well-established herself in the fractures and empty places of the great mountain, only after she had explored their depths and learned the many twists and turns of her new home, and only after she had taught her daughters to hunt for her and bring the helpless prey back, that she ventured to the other side of the mountain. And there, as she suspected, she quickly found signs of the Others' Creativity at work. She had found their haven - their refuge - and rejoiced to find the way unguarded.
The creatures of the plains that stretched at the foot of the mountain on the inland side were larger, juicier, more nourishing; in many ways, the protected plains reminded her of the bounty of the World before the destruction of the Lamps. She suddenly understood the reason behind the form of the mountains: they were a barrier, meant to protect these abundant inner lands from Melkor's wiles and, perhaps, even her beloved Darkness and the purpose with which Ilúvatar had invested her. It gave her great delight to think that she had found a way into their protected haven without raising the slightest alarm; but still, as she climbed into the spreading branches of tree only to fall upon a wandering kine, she listened for the sounds of outrage or prohibition.
It would not do, however, for any of the Others to know that she had followed them. They had despised her, reviled her; there was no reason to believe that they would welcome her now. As she felt the need grow to deposit yet another egg sac, she hurried back into her comfortably dark lair and thence into the Shadowed seaward lands. She would bide her time, and she would not be conveniently present when parts of the Creation sheltered by the mountain needed to be lessened to make room for the New.
But even these plans were foiled when she made yet another silent trek into the abundance of Inland, only to find herself again blinded the further north she went. She would never completely understand why the Light so delighted the Others, nor why they felt compelled to chase away the necessary Darkness? Disgusted and disappointed, she restricted her hunting to the plains that remained in no more than a half-light, where the shadows could grow deep and the unsuspecting prey would frequently wander. She left no silken curtains behind; nor, after an initial taste, did she attempt to draw closer to devour any of this new Light. As delicious and sweet as it might be, she would leave no indication of herself behind to eyes as sharp as her own.
She could exist on the very edges of the lands now controlled by her siblings, and in a very real way rule the Shadowed lands that they had, in their paranoia to protect themselves, left behind. Soon, generations of her progeny had made their homes in the darkened, twisted forest, and she knew herself to be Queen of them all. Her songs began to hold a note of triumph and pride.
It began as a distant hum, barely discernable. Agitated, her daughters swarmed to her, seeking her counsel. But, not able to know for certain what this new sensation was, she could not guide them except to school them to a caution unknown to them before. Finally, however, she was able to sense and understand what was happening: the Children had Awakened! A dimly-remembered vision of creatures tall and slender and graceful and full of Ilúvatar's beauty crawled forth from a forgotten corner of her mind, only to be shoved back with disgust.
Had she ever really been as gullible as that? As besotted by Ilúvatar as that? Had she truly labored hard and long in order to prepare Arda for them?
The hum was distant, however; these Children were nowhere nearby.
Just as well, she thought to herself with a satisfying snap of powerful mandibles. They looked juicy and flavorful, and it would be difficult to resist the temptation to hunt them. And if any creature was certain to have the protection of Ilúvatar, it would most certainly be his long-awaited Children! Hunting them would be hunting her own destruction.
What irked her more was that the joy and curiosity of her siblings at this event had become a palpable creature of its own. And, unlike her, the Others seemed to have little qualms about approaching these so-called "special" creatures of Ilúvatar's own Intent. From the shelter of her Shadowed trees, she watched the ship that carried one of her lesser kin to the eastern lands - lands that had been sear and lifeless, she thought - the songs of invitation to the Children clearly heard, both from those who remained behind to wait and from the one sent to lead the Children "home".
She was still there, in the Shadows, when the very first ships carrying the Children - who sang a Song not so very unlike the first Song of Ilúvatar Himself - to a safe harbor prepared for them by those who had waited. Worse: an opening suddenly appeared in the impenetrable wall of mountains, an opening that allowed a narrow strip of Light from the protected lands to touch the seaward Darkness, driving it back. She knew it was an invitation to the Children, but it was an insult to her.
How she raged at this theft! Did the Others not have all the lands within their stronghold that they needed, or were they growing greedy now that they had Ilúvatar's Children to care for and guide?
Did you really expect anything else of them?
The smooth mental voice from out of the distant past stunned her. Melkor?
Long have I searched for you, my Dark Lady, he purred.
Quickly she shut away most of her thoughts, lest he see that she knew his betrayal of her or know of her anger. You have searched for me?
Of course I have. Did I not topple those hideous Lamps for you?
Liar, she told herself. You toppled those Lamps to spite Manwë when you could not win Varda to you. And yet, she schooled her mental voice to a suitable level of surprise and pleasure. Indeed? You did that for me?
Do you doubt me?
Of course I do, she thought inwardly with an equally inward sneer; but to him, she purred, I knew not what to think. All I knew was that everything was suddenly swept away. I had to flee here just to survive.
And where is 'here', my Dark One?
Oh ho! Not so fast! she told herself. The last thing she intended to do was leave herself vulnerable to him again. It matters not. I created the shield you suggested long ago, and have locked myself within.
And I too have taken a form. It does not mean that we cannot share… as we have done…
Another lie uncovered! You mean, we can still touch, even though you told me that it would be impossible…
I have grown in power, my dear, as I imagine you have as well. And while we might no longer be able to share in quite the same manner as before, I'm certain that we would be able to find some other, equally pleasing activities to mark our reunion.
While remaining convinced that he continued to be false and treacherous, she felt staggered by the temptation to enjoy even a pretense of communion that washed over her. Only he had ever bothered to help her set aside her loneliness and sense of abandonment, to genuinely or willingly spend time in her company and commingle their essences. To know herself loved again… even if she knew it to be an illusion… would be so…
She shook herself forceably, in order to shed the fantasy that he could be anything but manipulative. To remember him as the liar he was. To remember the pain she had felt at his betrayal. But why has it taken you so long to find me? she inquired, filling her mental tone with as much longing and sweetness she could without making herself sick. I have been alone for a very long time - since long before you destroyed the Lamps.
It could not be helped, my Dark Lady. Like you, I needed to craft me a refuge and a stronghold.
The wind carried stories of your stronghold far in the north long ago, my lord. It has been finished for a great while. What draws you from it now to seek me out?
You assume I have other reasons than merely enjoying your company? His tone gained a note of disquiet, frustration.
As I have had to learn other reasons to exist than enjoying your companionship, so I imagine you had to do as well, she reasoned carefully. There would be no profit in stirring his ire too soon.
Melkor's mental chuckle chilled her. I should know better than to try to hide my deepest thoughts from you. Yes, I have reason to seek you again; but does that mean that we cannot enjoy a pleasant reunion?
That depends, she answered, her tone hardening, on the reason. I have become accustomed to my solitary situation. You have seen fit to ignore me until it suits your purpose to remember I exist again. I think I have ample cause for caution.
Caution? All trace of humor vanished. Do you not trust me?
I have learned that it is best to trust in no one but myself, she replied stonily. I am safe where I am, and I would not jeopardize my situation for no good reason.
Even if my reason and your preferences are in perfect accord?
Tell me the reason, then, if it is in such good accord with my preferences, she insisted.
I would, but I would have us be together when I did.
But what you would matters little to me. I am no more the servant of the Others or of Ilúvatar than I am your servant. Convince me that our meeting is in my best interest, and I shall tell you where I am. Those are my terms.
She could hear his burgeoning anger; but for the first time, it affected her not at all. Then you do not trust me after all.
Trust is not the issue. You have pursued your destiny, and I have pursued mine. I remind you that it is you who has sought me out, and not the other way around. You have a reason for seeking me out; no doubt you need something that only I can provide, for surely if any of your own could have given it to you, you would not be speaking to me after all this time. Now she let some of her own ire and frustration show. But let us speak of trust: when you destroyed the Lamps, did you think to see whether I was harmed in the aftermath? No. In all the Ages since then, have you once thought of me? No. I am neither blind nor stupid. You seek me only when it serves your whim.
His voice bellowed now. You insult me! I destroyed those Lamps because we both deserved to enjoy the Darkness - together.
I am certain you had your reasons for your actions, my lord; but I doubt that they included any consideration for me. If they had, you would have sought me out when the Lamps were gone. She allowed her voice to turn cold. So either you tell me what you wish of me, or this discussion is at an end.
For a long moment, silence reigned supreme; and she began to wonder if, in her anger, she had driven him away - possibly for the last time. And while the thought that she had at last accomplished what had before taken all of the Ainur together - to frustrated him in his plans - gave her great joy, it also worried her. Melkor was an opponent of great cunning; to cross him meant putting everything she had created and now enjoyed in peril.
But no. Very well. You are aware that the Others have once more crafted an obscenity of Light?
Well do I know it, she replied, and this time her frustration was at the Others. With it, they have taken for themselves a part of the Shadowed lands that I had claimed.
Have you looked upon the source?
Her laugh was bitter. You know as well as I that I cannot see when in the Light; it blinds me!
As you no longer trust me, I am certain you would not believe me if I told you…
I do trust you, to a degree…
A degree which seems to quite defy measurement. Tell me, though: have I ever lied to you?
She pondered her answer. Would telling Melkor what she heard while in his stronghold benefit her - or should she follow his example and lie to him to avoid more anger at being overheard? She shook herself again; lying accomplished nothing - ever. It took too much effort to keep the lie hidden to make it worthwhile. And it wasn't as if she needed his company anymore. She looked at her lesser children about her and smiled to herself.
Yes. You lied to me long ago, and you are still lying to me today.
Again the silence stretched long. She had shocked him - at long last, she had told him something he had not expected. Indeed. And what were these lies you would lay at my threshold?
That you cherish my company, that you care…
No! She had nursed the injury of overhearing his secret thoughts for far too long! It is not I whom you cherish - but Varda. You did not destroy the Lamps to ease my way in Arda, but to seek revenge on Manwë for being the chosen one of Varda. You called me ugly - an abomination!
This time, she relished the silence that answered her accusations. Truly, he had no defense!
But did not my destroying the Lamps ease your way in Arda nonetheless?
NO! I had to flee, for not only did you destroy the Lamps, but you made my home uninhabitable. All of the Creation that the Others had made which had sustained me was washed away in the fires. And now, after doing me and mine great harm…
You and yours? Of what do you speak? To you was given the duty of Destruction, not Creation.
I have Created too, she stated proudly. Her rear legs carefully wrapped her latest eggs in their protective sac. I continue to Create. As you lied to me even as we were together, I took what had been denied me from you so that I too could Create.
You would steal? From ME? The echo of his fury matched what she had heard in the depths of his fortress.
She simply didn't allow it to touch her. For once, it was she who held the upper hand. And so, now that we both are aware of the insults the other has inflicted, are you ready to tell me what you want of me? Because, in all honesty, unless what you have to say benefits me directly, you and I truly have very little cause for companionship any longer.
The silence was an uncomfortable one; she could not tell his mood. Then: Perhaps I need to rethink whether I should trust you or not.
Perhaps you should, my lord, she laughed outright. Is it wise for you to trust one who has dealt with you as poorly as you have dealt with her?
You have changed, my Dark Lady.
I have learned, my Dark Lord. And so what say you? Do you tell me why you are come, so that we can discuss what it is you desire honestly, or shall we bid each other farewell?
How can I be certain that, once you know my intentions, that you will not take your knowledge to the Others in order to win their approbation?
Do I seem to be interested in anybody's approbation, Melkor? Were I so desperate as to curry favor with whomever I could convince, would I have not conceded immediately to your wishes? Decide now. Quickly. I grow tired of your excuses.
A reflection of heat rolled through her mind, giving her a clear idea of his fury at her refusal to simply agree with him. Others should have denied you long since, she smirked inwardly. Ilúvatar Himself should have chastised you for your insolence long before we were given distinct form or names. The moment you sang your disharmony, you should have been obliged to pay for the offense.
About her, she felt her lesser daughters huddle close. Can they sense him as well? She hummed her song to calm them, and felt their returning confidence in their murmuring responses.
It seems, if I am to succeed in my plans, I have no choice but to trust you. Oh, but he sounded reluctant!
Then speak. I am waiting.
Melkor heaved a reluctant sigh. Very well. Yavanna, it seems, is the one responsible for the new abomination of Light that afflicts you. She has caused two Trees to grow in the very heart of their protected lands. The Light of these Trees now shines on the Children, and the Valar themselves have taken a hand in teaching the Children themselves to begin Creating. This cannot be the Intent of Ilúvatar.
She sniffed. The actions of the Children are as nothing to me. I know that, being favored of both Ilúvatar and the Others, if I were to hunt them as I do the rest of Creation, I would myself be hunted and destroyed. The Light I can avoid by staying away from the protected lands. I do not concern myself with the Intent of Ilúvatar any longer.
But would you not be free of the Light once more?
She stopped to consider. Why? What would you do?
You have a way to bring your Darkness with you, a way to hide yourself and any other that might travel with you, do you not?
Yes, she replied cautiously. What of it?
As much as Yavanna, Varda and the others are determined to bathe this World in Light, I would prevent them. Therefore, I am considering ways to kill the Trees and sending the World back into the Darkness. But to accomplish this, as I am probably less welcome in these protected lands than even you, I would need your help.
Audacious, bold and reckless - all of these described his plan. But yet she hesitated. You wish only to kill the Trees?
Tell me all of it. I cannot give you my answer until I know everything you intend.
I am telling you all of it. The Children have been Creating of their own accord. We cannot allow this to continue.
She could feel his bluster. Because Creation should belong to the Ainur. The Children are here to be guided…
You didn't answer my question.
Because it is time that the Others - and the Children - discover that they cannot have their way at every turn! His voice turned to soft velvet. If you help me do this thing, and if you are not content when all is done, I will give you whatever you still desire with open hands.
Whatever I want? She paused and thought. And will you protect me from the wrath of Ilúvatar Himself for aiding you in destroying the Trees and plunging the Children into Darkness?
Of course I would! Do you think I would leave you defenseless?
Of course you would, she told herself bitterly. If you thought you could win your freedom by sacrificing me, you would tie me to the altar and light the fires yourself! Still, she couldn't express that to him - it would invite the very thing she was expecting. How do you intend to defend me? Once the Trees are dead, we will have all the Valar at the very least crying for our blood.
Their anger is of no concern to me.
But it is to ME.
When we have finished with our business, we shall head for my fortress in the north. We can cross the ice easily; and once in Angband, they cannot follow. My defenses there are very strong.
So, I do this for you, and I must give up my new home and allow you to protect me within your stronghold?
He sounded smug. I am certain you will not need to stay long. And when it is safe to leave, you need not go back to Shadowed lands. There is more than adequate hunting in Arda again to the south, places where some pieces of the older Creation has replenished itself.
I still am not certain this is a wise thing to do, she hedged, not entirely comforted by his bravado.
Think! he urged with quiet vehemence. They have spurned you, cast you out, refused your company, reviled your efforts. This would be your opportunity to get back a little of your own at last - show them that the power of Darkness is a force to be reckoned with.
That is true, she admitted slowly. I owe the Others nothing - I owe Ilúvatar even less.
And through it all, you would not be alone. You and I, together, are a force to be feared. Together, if we put our minds and our intents into it, we would be unstoppable!
The Others need to be shown that even they have to live within limits! she agreed heartily. The idea of striking a blow for herself for a change was appealing.
Then help me, o Dark Lady! Bring me to you, and let us wait until the right time to come forth and strike a blow for the Darkness! And when we are through, you shall have all you desire with open hands, and I shall refuse you nothing. On this I give you my solemn word as bond. What say you?
No, she didn't trust him. She knew better. But the prospect of a revenge that promised to taste sweet was all too enticing.
It was too good an offer to refuse.
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.