Along Came A Spider: 5. Return

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5. Return

Chapter 5 - Return

Southward she ran, and eastward, keeping herself well hidden from any unfriendly eyes. From time to time she would cast her eyes northward, in the direction that she knew his stronghold lay; and memories of the roars of unholy voices and the snaps and crackles of merciless whips of golden-hot flame would give her cause to shudder and wrap her beloved Darkness about herself all the more tightly and speed onwards. No time did she take to unburden herself of the press of eggs growing within her, for she could not trust that Melkor's army was not moving silently now, following her very faint traces.

As she ran, she berated herself repeatedly for having fooled herself into believing that Melkor would not once more prove himself the Deceiver, the Betrayer. Ever had he strived against all the others; and she, in her naiveté, had allowed him to turn her mind away from even her own experiences. She might not have been happy in her lair on the edge of the mountain fence across the Sea and Ice, but she had not been unhappy either. She had had her daughters, plenty to eat, songs of discontent and revenge; what had she now? Her legacy now numbered an empty belly, an unquenchable appetite for something that had never been meant to be hers – something that she would never taste the like of again – and the fear of being discovered, either by Melkor and his minions, or by Manwë and the rest of her siblings.

Perhaps her siblings had been right about her all along? Had she become so enraptured by the Darkness that she had lost all sight of what she was supposed to be about? Had she begun to take too much pleasure in the task of Destruction, so much so that she had turned away from the process of Balance?

Regretfully now she remembered the many conversations she had had with Melkor while they had been together, and only now did she finally hear how his words sounded so sweet, but held within them a sourness that clashed with everything else about them. She had been a fool! Ilúvatar had trusted her with one of the most difficult tasks that he had set for any of them, and she had allowed her loneliness and resentment to give the Betrayer an easy path into her heart and mind.

She had become as Dark and Evil as the others claimed her to be. She no longer merely served the Darkness, she had become Darkness Incarnate; and although Melkor had been the instigator, her steps toward that end had still been willing ones. She could decry Melkor forever, but truly she had only herself to blame. She could not even blame Ilúvatar for turning his countenance from her, so far had she strayed from her assigned path.

In despair and fear, she crossed mountains and plains, barely paying attention to the landscape or the bounty of Creation around her except to note that in this, at least, Melkor had not lied: the land had healed itself of the catastrophe that followed the breaking of the Lamps. But nowhere did she see a place where she could hide herself yet, nowhere did she feel safe enough to cease her headlong flight and rest.

At last, however, she found a stretch of land with tall, nearly impassible stone cliffs to the north, and a wall of decidedly familiar energies – as if from one of her lesser siblings – to the south. An opening capable of allowing her tremendous bulk to find shelter amid the tumble of boulders presented the barest essential for a kind of lair, and it was here that she finally succumbed to her exhaustion. As if marking the territory as hers, she gave in and released the eggs that she had had not had time to get rid of during her headlong flight. Moving beneath her Darkness, she deposited the sacs in hidden places where they could mature with little chance of discovery.

Not long thereafter, however, the world was once more inundated with Light: first by a soft, silver glow that brightened the sky but did not entirely blind her, but soon followed thereafter with a searing golden blaze that drove her as deep into her lair as she could possibly get, turned about so that her face was hidden in the Darkness that remained in the very deepest recesses, guarded by her tremendous body. When the golden Light had finally gone away, she backed out of her lair and shook her four front legs at the fickle sky.

Her brethren had done it again! Light was now filling the world, leaving very little of Arda to her. Then again, did she really expect them to do otherwise? Twice before had they sought to Light the world, each time with a Creation bound to Arda itself; obviously they had finally learned their lesson. Melkor would have a very difficult time extinguishing these new Lights! And for a very short moment, she celebrated even a vicarious victory over the one she hated with every fibre of her being now.

The return of a blinding, burning Light didn't make things very easy for her; so she set about breaking apart the rock at the very back of her lair to enlarge and deepen it. Disappointed in the scarcity of the prey to be had – not to mention disconcerted to find herself at times vying with her own daughters for the kills – she broke down and began to consume her eggs as she produced them rather than pack them into sacs and leave them to find their own way. The taste of these tiny bits of Life was sour; she considered it another indication of how far she had fallen from the sweetness that had been the taste of Light.

In time, she was able to fill her new demesne with fumes and such Darkness as could survive the cruel, golden Light. The hunting became even scarcer, and the competition between mother and daughters even more fierce and wicked. She sang no songs to them; they would not have gathered to listen if she had. She could sense their hatred and fear of her as if an extra scent borne on breezes that carried the scent of Death.

From time to time again, she began to experience the sharp, painful stabs of emptiness that was simple hunger, which made it difficult to think clearly. Her daughters, being so much smaller, had so many better places to hide; they could intercept any prey that ventured into her Darkened and poisoned land before she even knew of it – and left her nothing. If she remained here, she would starve, for while her eggs could keep her alive for a short time, she would not survive long if they were all there was to eat.

It was time to move on.

But moving on, now, was a more complicated matter. The golden, burning Light dominated the sky for long periods of time, during which it was impossible for her to see where she was going. Only when the soft, silver Light outshone Varda's gems was she able to be mobile. She would spew and spin Darkness and webbing to give herself some cover and run as fast as eight legs could carry her, and again she headed south; as the time neared when the golden Light would return, she would seek out a place to rest – even if it meant that the only part of her sheltered from the hateful glow was her face.

And again she berated herself. She should have at least given some care to the daughters she had scattered in her last lands; would it have hurt to sing to them once in a while? But no, now even her kin had turned against her, forcing her to travel in distress and discomfort. As a result, when she hunted, she was ruthless, often toying with her prey before wrapping it in her strong webbing to suffocate. Why not? The entirety of Arda seemed to be against her, why should she not share her misery with whatever had the misfortune of crossing her path?

The further south she went, the more the burning, golden Light seemed to seep into the very fabric of the land. Trees and overgrowth gave way to wide-open grasslands that offered very little by way of protection. She soon discovered that the only way she could rest comfortably during the burning time was to weave herself a cocoon of strong webbing that was thick enough to hold in both her and a concentrated spewing of Dark fumes, each of which she would leave behind her the moment the harsh Light vanished.

For a while, the hunting was better; while under the trees, she could go back to spinning webs that would snag a careless leg or neck. She could then swoop down, stab them with her weapon, wrap them in webbing and carry them along on her back until the time came to rest again. On the open plains, her speed was her greatest weapon, and again she would poison her prey into submission, wrap it, and carry it with her until she had woven her next temporary shelter. In the Darkness she would feed, and leave the depleted husk behind with her discarded lair.

The grassy plains soon gave way to an even less hospitable clime. Vegetation grew scarce, partly because the soil was rocky, but also because the heat from the implacable Light burned even the Creation. She sought what few mountains might harbor shadows in which to take refuge, but even those shadows were conquered by the mighty and merciless Light. Far too late it was when she realized that it had been long since she had seen even a hint of water - either foul and fetid or fresh and flowing - and she could feel her body failing her.

It didn't take long, then, before her legs – ever her capable transports and aids – failed her. Her bulk was too much to lift, and she sank to the burning hot sands.

She heaved a heavy sigh, suddenly very tired of Arda and Melkor and Manwë and the whole idea of Creation and Destruction. Such a futile thing, this existence she had been condemned to endure, all to end here, beneath a burning Light that allowed hardly any shadow at all to fall. What Darkness there was, existed solely within her; she had eaten, drunk, breathed and spun nothing but Darkness for almost as long as she could remember.

Could the process of Creation continue with her gone from Arda? She asked herself the question as the burning grew worse, but then sighed and let go of even that thought. It mattered not; what Melkor and Manwë had not managed to accomplish, her brethren would manage in absentia. She could feel her hold on Arda beginning to slip.

One last time she raised a single foreleg in a gesture of defiance at the cruel Light, gathering all of her hatred, all of her resentment, all of her regrets and crying out in a voice dulled by unending thirst into a bare whisper of blame at Melkor – and at Ilúvatar Himself for setting her a task that she was, ultimately, incapable of carrying out properly. All, in the end, had turned their faces from her. In choosing the Darkness, back in the time when such choices were to be made, she had sealed her own doom.

The burning finally cracked the Shield that had protected her for millennia without count, and her carefully hoarded Darkness spilled out over the sand to evaporate as if nothing but a mote of fog. She could only hope, as she long had with each and every egg sac she had deposited along the path of her life, that it would find fertile refuge even here, in a land ruled by cruel Light. She sent it forth with a blessing and a wish that it adapt to this inhospitable realm, and perhaps even discover a new champion eventually.

With nothing left to hold of herself save the spark that she had been in the very beginning, she let herself spill out onto the sand like her freed Darkness; and like that Darkness, she dissipated in the Light, passing willingly into the greater Darkness beyond.

oOoOo

Was that singing?

Awaken, child of My Intent. Your long and difficult task is now complete.

It was a familiar voice that resonated through every part of her, but she quailed at it. Time without measure had passed since last she had heard it, and times without count had she cursed the owner. Ilúvatar had turned his face from her, she had always believed, because she had chosen to follow in Melkor's wicked path. Was she wrong?

I have failed, she chastised herself, honesty forcing her words. I have become the Enemy, and abandoned my appointed role in Arda. I do not deserve…

You have done as well as I had wished, and in some ways better than I Intended
, was the calm and gentle answer.

But… I am no longer in Arda. I no longer Destroy so that the others might have room to continue their Creating. Only now, her Shield and grotesque bulk gone and her pain and insane appetite utterly vanquished, did she remember fully her charge: that she work in concert with her siblings, not in competition with them.

As was Intended, my child. Be at peace. Your siblings' days of Creation are finished as well.

But…


A soft chuckle bubbled through her consciousness. You and your wayward brother have done exactly as expected and Intended. The harder path I gave to you both, and to a few lesser siblings as well, and long have you trudged that path. But truly, have you forgotten all you knew before setting out on that path?

The question stopped her. Had she forgotten? What had she forgotten - and how? I know not what you mean. I believed… I thought that I had strayed from the task you set me, and that you had turned away from my waywardness.

Nay, child.
The voice soothed as if a gentle hand were placed on her head. I told you, back in the very beginning, that the Darkness you embraced and the processes of Destruction that were your appointed task were to be the crucibles from which even greater powers of Creation would spring, did I not? How, when you strengthened in that very task, should I turn away from you?

But I listened to Melkor - who ever stood in challenge to your Will!

Did he? Really?
The amusement in the response confused her.

Tired she was, exhausted and beyond hope. She was in no mood for jest, but knew that Ilúvatar would not use humor as punishment; such was not in His nature. I do not understand.

Of course you do not. None of my Children, Ainur, Eldar or Atani, will ever fully understand. To each is given a piece of the puzzle, but one piece only. To understand more of the puzzle, each must listen and learn from the other. Even Melkor, to whom I gave a larger piece, does not fully understand. Each understands only that part of the Music he or she is appointed to sing.

But be at peace; All That Is has come about as I Intended. There is not a single thought or thing that does not find its foundation in my Intent – no matter how it might be seen by another – no strain of Music or wayward harmony but that I would have it. Through your struggles with the Darkness, Melkor and your siblings, you have set in motion examples to others that will stand until the time is come for Arda to end and be reborn again; and in that task, you have done well.

You mean…
She struggled to wrap her mind around what he was saying. You mean you Intended for the others to reject me, to despise me? You Intended for Melkor to betray…

I told you that yours would be the heavier burden, my child, did I not?


He had. She just was having a hard time accepting that it was the treatment of others, as well as her own sense of guilt, that had made her path the more difficult one. For the first time since she had lost track of time, she felt a glimmer of hope. Then I am not truly Evil?

Again she felt as if a gentle hand rested on her head. Evil is a judgment, my child – a perception and interpretation of a piece of reality – made by those who cannot conceive of the magnificence of that one piece within the complexity of the whole of reality; nothing more. As you have experienced, the Darkness and the processes of Destruction seen as Evil by Manwë and the others are seen far differently by you and Melkor and Mairon and those others of your siblings who joined in that refrain of the Music. And think of it: the Light which was seen as desirable and good by the Valar was seen as Evil and terrible and destructive by you. Consider, now, that Darkness, Light, Destruction, Creation simply ARE; and what is more, they – as everything else – exist free of any judgment of good or evil save those judgments made by those who do not see the whole of the Music. That judgment does not touch their essential nature, anymore than Manwë's judgment of you or Melkor touches or defines your essential natures.

So no, you are not Evil, nor is Melkor; Manwë is not Good, nor is Yavanna. Creation is not Evil or Good, nor is Destruction; Darkness is neither, nor is Light. All simply is, as I Intended. You and Melkor serve the whole by providing excellent examples of one mode of thinking and believing and acting, while Manwë and Yavanna and the others exemplify another way of thinking, believing, acting. In the Music, Darkness and Destruction have just as important a place as do Light and Creation. Each balances the other to make for a whole. Together, there is harmony.

Besides, I did not sing Arda into existence to merely Be – to exist in a static form for all of Eternity – but to have its own dynamic, its own ebb and flow of energies and possibilities. Each of the Children, whether Ainur, First-born or Second-born, are created with the potential to do great good or great harm; and each is presented with choices in the course of their lives. The examples you and Melkor and Manwë and Yavanna have set allow for those who follow you to make informed choices.

So you see, child, you have served me well, very well indeed.


She could almost understand what he was saying; but it was the tone, and that final statement, that finally penetrated. Then I'm forgiven?

There is nothing to forgive, child.


Even as the sudden loss of the weight of her former body and the pains of her appetites had been a startling relief, so too the sudden relief of the burden of guilt and remorse was a staggering change that left her almost reeling. She had carried the load that was the result of all of her poor choices for so long that she couldn't even remember what an uncompounded existence was like.

Come now. Sing your part of the Music. Rejoice – and come home.

Around her, the Music swelled; and she raised her voice as she once had. At first she kept her voice soft, timid – as if expecting reproach and derision again – and then stronger as those expected blows never occurred. How wonderful it was to sing and be a part of something greater again!

She never even noticed that she had merged with the Music completely, for at the last, notice was no longer necessary. She was home – and that was all that mattered.

FIN

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.

Story Information

Author: Aeärwen

Status: General

Completion: Complete

Era: Multi-Age

Genre: Drama

Rating: General

Last Updated: 10/24/09

Original Post: 09/26/09

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Along Came A Spider

Huinárë - 07 Aug 11 - 3:19 PM

Ch. 5: Return

Aeärwen, this is the perfect conclusion to this story.  It's one of the few stories that makes Eru palatable to me--even the Ainulindalë itself did not do that (in fact, it did the opposite).  Good to see minor characters explored in a creative and compassionate way.


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