4. Folly and Betrayal Anew
The form that Melkor had taken for himself - like that of their siblings and Ilúvatar's pampered Children - was not equipped for climbing sheer rock faces. In the end, it was necessary for her to weave of her Dark silk a ladder that he could climb. Inwardly she reveled at the weakness in the otherwise powerful Melkor. Even you are besotted by the Children, my old friend and betrayer, so much so that you are forced to petition the aid of one you abhor. Outwardly, however, she kept her own council.
But climbing to the opening of her lair was only the beginnings of her labors on Melkor's behalf. He wished to see into the protected lands - to see with his own eyes the abominations of Light that polluted the land. So she kept weaving her silk into a ladder until the two of them stood at the very top of the highest peak, surveying all that lay below them.
Yes, from this height, it was a simple matter to make out the Two Cursed Trees that seemed to take turns lighting the inner lands. From here could also be seen the stone structures that the Children had built to house themselves. Close to the break in the wall of mountains they remained, where the Light could shine on them.
Let us descend into the protected lands, ourselves protected by your Dark, to observe the comings and goings of our brethren and the Children. The more we know of their activities, the more effective our attack, when we make it.
She could see nothing wrong with his logic, and so she once more set herself to spinning a ladder upon which he could climb down the mountainside. And all the while, she brought with her a shroud of the purest Darkness, which she kept carefully wrapped about them both.
Steathily they crept unseen beneath the limbs of the woods of Oromë, and through the golden, waving heads of grain that filled the fields and pastures that were Yavanna's realm. She was careful to try to leave not a single sign of their passage, using the beds of rivulets as pathways rather than touch the delicate grain stalks. Neither did she feed on any of the lesser creatures that populated the lands, desiring not to leave a single discarded bone to draw attention to something amiss in the land.
The closer they came to the Two Abominations, the more grateful she was to the Darkness that she'd brought with her, for the Light was truly blinding to her now. As much as she distrusted her companion – surely as much as he distrusted her – she had to depend on his ability to see and navigate within the Light.
Finally they paused to rest beneath the branches of the trees at the edge of an enormous hillock that rose above all that surrounded it. We have arrived, my Dark Lady, he whispered to her. We have only to top the hill, and we will have discovered the Abominations themselves.
What shall we do now? Do we just charge up the hill and smite the trees in front of all to see?
Nay. While you have been busy keeping your warm Darkness about us, I have been listening to the murmurs of trees and the chatter of any Children nearby. There is going to be a festival very soon, on the occasion of the commingling of the Light from both Trees. All will be attending on our brethren in their stone city, and none will be here to prevent us. Now, we wait.
And wait they did. She forced herself to complete stillness within her robe of Darkness, secure in its protection. She could feel Melkor next to her, his tension and eagerness a palpable presence. There must be more that he intends that he has not shared with me, she worried. And what do we do once the Trees are dead? Surely we shall have to flee far and fast across the grinding ice to escape Tulkas and Manwë's fury.
She felt him shift. There. See?
No, I can't see - remember?
Apologies. But if you could see, you would see that things are happening just as I foretold you. The Children are all leaving to gather in the city of our brethren. Prepare your Darkness for swift movement. We shall mount the hill, and I shall smite each Tree. Drink of the Light and take into your Darkness, my Lady, and drink your fill. When you are finished, and in the chaos that will surely follow, we shall visit the fortress city of the Children and relieve them of their futile attempts at Creation.
Wait! I thought we were going to flee across the ice right after…
Not until we have demonstrated to the Children that they reach too far when they strive to Create! His voice was rough and angry.
What about Manwë?
It will take them time to mount a search for us; plenty of time for us to take what was never the Children's right to possess!
There would be no reasoning with him, she was certain. And now, at the very moment of their attack, was not the time to dispute the plans. Whether she wanted or not, she was committed to what was about to happen. What she needed to do now was focus on the task at hand: make certain that the Two Abominations perished in as fast and as efficient a manner as possible.
She cast her Darkness even thicker about them and followed the sound of his footsteps up the hill. She nearly ran into the back of him when he stopped unexpectedly. Die, you obscene creature of Light! Melkor growled. She heard him grunt, and the sound of something metal striking wood - and then again.
Drink, my Lady! Drink your fill! he cried.
He need not have said a word. The air about her had exploded with an unearthly sweet aroma; and as the Light faltered, she pushed forward and felt around until she had found the wound that Melkor had dealt the Tree. Unable to help herself, she pressed her lips to the rough bark and drank.
Suddenly her entire perception of the world shrank to the taste of the Light; nothing mattered but that she get more. More! She clamped her mandibles into the bark and clung to the thick truck with all eight of her legs, her eyes closed in ecstasy. Almost without noticing what she was doing, she pressed the weapon at the end of her abdomen into the Tree over and over again, injecting it with her poison; with every thrust, the Tree spurted more of its life-blood into her waiting mouth.
There was an almost inaudible sigh, and then the stream of sweetness slowed to nothing. But she could still smell it in the air! Somewhere there was a drop of the nectar for her to consume. She followed the scent until she had found the second Tree, and latched on once more. Bliss! The sweetness filled her, and yet she had to have more; she clung to the second Tree as she had the first, injecting her poison and draining every last drop of life and Light until, at last, she was able to open her eyes and see what she had wrought.
Barely any Light at all remained in either Tree, and what there was of it was failing quickly. The sweet scent that had so drawn her had now soured, and she loosed her grasp on the dying Tree. Only then, moving to stand next to Melkor, did she notice that she had grown - the nectar had done more than quench a thirst she'd never known she'd had, but it had increased her.
It had also given her a desire for more - more Light, more Power. The scent of fresh, clean water drew her now, not as potent a lure as the life-blood of the Trees but enough to catch her attention. She waddled over to where the water had been gathered in a white stone Well and lowered herself until she could once more drink. Without hesitation, she drank until even the sheen of dampness on the sides of the Well had been consumed.
And still she thirsted.
Where are these Creations of the Children? she demanded, her desperation driving her to near distraction. The waters, along with the nectar she had imbibed, mixed and roiled within her, and she belched out noxious vapors even as she increased again.
In what little remained of the Light, she saw the dismay that filled Melkor's face when he looked upon her. But even her memories of his true thoughts of her were not enough to drive her from his side. Show me!
And she drew her Darkness about them, and let Melkor once more led the way. They traveled northward until they were in the very heart of the fortress home of the Children. In there, my Lady. The stone building he was pointing to lay just ahead. Already, in the distance, she could hear the sounds of dismay and anger as their brethren and the Children discovered what had been done.
My shield has grown too large, she growled at him. Bring out what you feel is ours by rights and let us begone from this place. Already I hear Manwë's roar.
Melkor hurried into the building, leaving her outside, shuffling back and forth in nervousness and in her new, insatiable thirst. She carefully cleaned each and every one of the little claw-like appendages at the end of her legs, hoping that a hint of the delicate sweetness might have caught there by chance. She proceeded to clean the weapon at her backside, grateful for the sweetness that lightened even the taste of her own venom.
What is keeping him? We must fly! But… She couldn't help but wonder what kinds of Creation he was collecting from within.
The sounds of many voices raised in anger and desperation and grief were growing closer. Make haste! she called out to him. Or I shall leave you here to deal with them alone.
Patience, my beautiful Dark Lady, he called back. I bring such Creations as those who did not join in the Music have no business possessing. Just a few moments more…
We have but a few moments more before we are seen!
Finally he exited the place. Quickly! Draw your Darkness about us, my Lady, and let us fly!
I cannot fly - you know thi…
Run, my Lady. Fly, run - we must move quickly, before Manwë and Tulkus find our trail.
While her size had prevented her from entering constructions sized for the Children and perhaps even her brethren, it made moving much faster easier. She drew her Darkness about them both, but then found that she had to wait for Melkor, who could not move as fast as she could.
Her fear was now driving her, as much as her need for more sweetness, more power. Never before had she been openly, deliberately hunted, sought for a crime against her kin. What would Manwë and the others do to her, should they catch her? Why, oh why, had she fallen in with Melkor's plan? Had she not led a comfortable existence in her lair in the mountain? Had she not had more than ample nourishment, either from the twisted, shadowed lands that she claimed for herself or from those she trapped and dragged from Oromë's woods?
She narrowed her many eyes on the lumbering shape next to her. It was all his fault! He had tricked her - played on her hatred for the Light and resentment at her treatment to feed his desire for revenge. She studied him, and then studied the huge bundle he carried over his shoulder. He promised me everything that I should want; that he would give it to me with open hands. I intend to hold him to that promise, and what I want is what he carries with him. I gave him Darkness again, and my price is the Creation of the Children - all of it.
They ran, as fast and as stealthily as they could. She spun and spewed Darkness and strong silken curtains to hide them to the best of her abilities. Through the crack in the protective mountain wall they slipped, as unnoticed as could be with the silly Children still scurrying about in dismay and grief over the return of the Darkness; and then northward again into yet another dark and narrow strip land between the sea and the high peaks. Grateful to be beyond easy detection, she was able once more to find at least the relief of ridding herself of yet more egg sacs along the way. She would travel ahead of Melkor, and hide her little gifts of Creation in the time it would take him to catch her up again.
Ever northward they went, until even the shadowed forests gave way to unending cold and ice. She would have stopped there, certain that their siblings would surely not have either the heart or the stomach to follow them to such unfriendly climes, but Melkor was determined to cross the ice to the shores that she had left behind so long before, swearing that the land had healed itself in the time she had been skulking in the mountains ringing the land of their siblings. Still lusting for power and determined to oblige him to keep the promises he had made to her, she reluctantly followed. Neither was graceful on the ice; far too many times one or the other of them would need the assistance of the other to find their feet again in order to continue on.
And now, with all the effort of fleeing, she began to hunger mightily as well. She had not feasted since before Melkor had called to her, luring her from her plentiful hunting with thoughts of Darkness Reborn and revenge against those who had dealt with her poorly. A pain such as she had never experienced before now stabbed at her stomach, and together with her thirst, was nearly maddening. There was nowhere to leave her egg sacs except in cracks in the ice, and even they often would break apart and threaten to drown her as the floating shards would drift apart or crash one into the other.
But at last they were once more on solid, albeit frozen land. Melkor's spirits seemed to rise with every step they took now, as if ever pace closer to his old fortress returned strength of will and purpose to him. Several times, during moments of respite, she caught him trying to slip away. It was quite apparent that he fully intended to abandon her and his promises to her; that now that she had helped him accomplish his agenda, she no longer served any use.
After one final chase, she backed him against the very rocks of the mountains with her bulk. Stay now! You will not depart from me yet; you have a debt to pay.
What debt, Dark Lady? Did you not feast upon the very life of those Two Abominations? Did you not empty Varda's own Well to slake your thirst?
You told me that if I were not content when all was done, you would give to me whatever I wished with open hands.
And have I not given to you all there is to have?
Black heart! I have done your bidding, drained the life from the Two Trees to return the Land to Darkness as you wished; and now I suffer in ways I had never imagined possible. I hunger and thirst still - and never before have I felt such yearnings. The sweetness of the Light from the Trees was such that I should never taste its like again, and yet I desire it still. No favor have you done me in convincing me to be your assistant, for in lending my aid to you, I have done myself harm unintended and unwelcome. And so the price of my help has increased accordingly.
Melkor threw out a hand. What would you have of me, then? The whole of the world before you? I did not promise you so much, for that is mine to hold and keep. Ask not that.
This is true - you did not promise me the whole of the world, and I shall not ask it. However…" She put out her foreleg and tapped the knot at the very top of the bundle that he had so carefully hauled over ice and snow, from the new Darkness of one land to the refreshing Darkness of the old. In this do you carry the treasure of the Children's Creativity. I have done as you asked, and I have decided that this treasure shall be my price. You will give it to me - even with those open hands, as you promised before.
Oh, Melkor looked most displeased at the very idea. This is treasure we should share equally between us as our due.
All of it shall be mine, she repeated insistently. It is I who suffer damage from the efforts made; and it is I who should have the greater recompense. Satisfied you should be that no further abomination of Light diminishes your own Darkness, and that again have you successfully stabbed at the heart of Manwë's presumption and remain free to boast of it.
You swore to me that you would give me what I ask with open hands if I lent my skills and assistance to your efforts. Faithless One, do you hold your own oaths so cheaply that you will swear with one side of your mouth and be foresworn with the other?
She stepped closer to him, pressed against the chilled rock of the mountainside as he already was, and surrounded his waist with her mandibles. I hunger. And as things stand, it would take but a little effort on my part to demolish your Shield and consume the Creativity you have invested in it, leaving you with no reason to want or need the Children's treasure. I might then even venture within your stronghold and feast upon the lesser creatures of your nature to satisfy my hunger. She squeezed slightly. It is your choice. Keep your promise, or suffer the consequences of being foresworn.
Very well, he growled, most unhappily. Let me loose, and you shall have your treasure!
From the thunderous expression on his face, she wondered if letting him loose was really in her own best interests, but she felt she had as much as obliged him to keep his word. Her mandibles loosened their hold and she backed away so that he had just enough room to slip from between her and the uncomfortable rock wall. He dragged out the bundle and worked at the knot at the top. I would have shared with you, you know.
And you shall share now. Be quick about it.
And such treasures he pulled forth! Gems of uncommon beauty and obviously unnatural manufacture. As he uncovered each, she lowered her head so that he could put it into her mouth.
Cracking each gem as if it were a nutshell, she savored the power that had been captured within, and once more felt herself increase with every morsel. The bundle seemed nearly bottomless, and Melkor fed each one to her and then waited patiently for her to finish crunching and savoring each tidbit.
Finally, however, he shook his head. That is the treasure, and I have given it to you as promised. Begone now - seek for juicier fare to the south, where once you did dwell. I have given you all.
Say not so, for while with the one hand you have given me tidbits of treasure that were indeed sweet with power and Creativity, yet still do you keep the bundle tight in your right hand. Open it, that I might see that you have fulfilled your promise.
She tipped her head to give six of her eyes the best vantage of him. What did you say?
I said no. I have given you treasure as was your due. For was it not my plan that gave you to feed on the sweetness of Light Immeasurable? And was it not with the power of my own Creative energy that you created that Shield that was of such assistance to us both in this endeavor? Indeed, I have paid a handsome price for your aid already. It is enough.
Incredible! She should have known that he would be ever faithless! Even now, he was backing away from her, looking about for crannies too small for her to fit into that he could use as refuge - for surely escape without paying the full price was foremost on his mind. I say it is not enough, Melkor. I told you the price was all the treasure trove of the Children's Creativity, and you swore that you would give to me all that I asked.
It is enough because I say it is enough! I have no further use for you, vile creature with an unceasing appetite. Begone! That which remains I name for myself, and I will keep it. As I did not promise you the whole of the world, neither did I promise you all of the Children's treasure.
A fury such as she had never before felt in her life filled her. The trifling insults and rejections of her other siblings, even the rejection she had suffered from him when she'd discovered the true direction of his affections, were as the buzzing of flies in the face of this deep stab of betrayal from one whom she had nevertheless aided, even at the cost of her own welfare. All of the remnants of love that she had once held for him and had yet hoped against hope would someday be returned, despite all he had done, soured into a deep and abiding hatred that could only be slaked by his complete and utter destruction.
She towered over him, and she could see dismay and fear fill him when he finally realized just how much she had increased with her consumption of the Children's treasures, even as he himself had diminished in the efforts needed to escape Manwë's wrath. With a casual strike of a foreleg, she brushed his spear - the weapon he had used to inflict the first wounds on the Two Trees - into a nearby ravine.
Then the price of my help shall increase again, Faithless One; and the new debt shall cost you your life!
And with that, she fell upon him, crushing him with her great weight and beginning to spin her strong silks with which to weave a web capable of holding him captive until she had drained the last dram of all that he was. As he fell, however, Melkor let loose a cry such as the entire of Arda had never heard before - one that made the mountains tremble and the waters of the rivers to flow far from their banks. The cry echoed between the peaks and across plains as if several Melkors were in dire straits.
But what she hadn't anticipated - what she honestly hadn't even considered - was that the cry would be answered, and not merely by echoes of itself. From the south and the east came the sound of a rumbling and a roaring that slowly built until it had her distracted from the struggles of her victim beneath her.
As if borne on the very flames at the center of Arda itself they came, unholy Creatures wrought with Melkor's twisted Creativity, each bearing a whip of stinging, burning, destructive flame that answered to its bearer's wishes. She quailed as she saw a virtual army of these beings that were swarming across the countryside, summoned forth by their Master's bellow of fear. Melkor himself she could handle with no trouble at all; but Melkor and an army of his minions? None of her greater daughters were at her side to balance the scales even a little bit.
She screamed in rage and disappointment. Now she knew what Manwë must feel, seeing her nemesis manage to once more slip out of reach and beyond punishment for his crimes. He promised! And yet, now she had to once more flee for her life - and from him this time!
Belching Darkness and spinning her strong webs that would catch and confound - at least for a short time - she fled, and kept running until at last she could no longer hear even the faintest echo of those vicious, snapping whips that could cut through her webs as if they were made of her unfulfilled and forever futile dreams.
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.