3. Chapter Three
"Eight," he spat, his face a study in anger.
"Ah, I wouldn't call a clear amputation a wound," I pointed at his foot. He glowered at me for a long instant before muttering something about how he should have sent me to face that mad king.
"But I would have won, milord," I said confidently, helping him out of his mail without awaiting his assent.
"Claim you that you are mightier than me?" he asked in a low, dangerous voice.
"Of course not!" I scoffed. "The High-King had a thousand reasons to battle you, and none to battle me. You did kill his father and you supervised his brother's death too. And there was the matter of the extended hospitality we persuaded his nephew to accept. He would have been at his avenging best in battling you."
"He did shout something about avenging them," Melkor grumbled. "It was a pity that I had to kill him. He made a beautiful sight, you know, with that shining shield, coat of mail, sharp blade and fey grace."
"No wonder you were distracted enough to lose your foot," I chuckled. He shot a warning glare at me. But I did not take heed. He was easily handled, once one knew how to achieve that.
"Shall I?" I knelt before him and inspected the bleeding foot.
"It cannot be healed."
He was right. None of his wounds could be healed, we found much to our dismay. There was nothing to be done but to let them fade with time. I prepared a soothing concoction of herbs and applied the liniment to his wounds.
"Was he as fiery as his brother?"
"Very. He did cut off my foot, after all!"
"Well, you shall be glad to hear that we had no trouble with any of the other flanks of attack," I told him. "The princes of Dorthonion have been slain. We hear reports that Felagund has been captured by our commanders. Of the sons of your old friend, Carnistro and the twins have fled to Amon Ereb. They can be quelled easily. Tyelkormo and Atarinkë are fleeing to Nargothrond. They say Macalaurë is dead. I sent Glaurung to conquer that region."
"That is excellent!" he crowed happily. I could not help a grin myself. Forgetting all about his foot, he rose and then pain flashed across his features. I tutted and helped him back into the armchair again.
"Can we press onwards and take Hithlum?" he asked me.
I tilted my head to the side, pondering his question. He smiled wryly and said, "Let it be the truth."
"The lord of lies asks the truth of me?" I teased.
"I lie less frequently than you do." Melkor raised his eyebrows, adopting as haughty a posture as he could with the medicinal bindings.
"I say that we halt. We cannot afford losses at this stage. If we were to press on, they will unleash their desperation on us. Findekáno is his father's son." A grimace flitted over Melkor's features. I continued, "And there is the Himring factor."
Melkor hissed through his teeth and struck a fist on the iron-wrought table.
"Milord!" Elerrina called out softly as I passed by her dungeon.
"You should tell me if they use you thus," I remarked, seeing the state she was in. "You will not survive long if this continues and I recall that you had an obligation to live."
She brought a hand bearing the marks of manacles and nails to wipe away her tears before whispering, "How is he?"
"Alive," I replied and she exhaled in relief. I thought of my decision to join Melkor, thus saving Laurefindë. She had done the same, sparing the prince what she could.
"Is he," she hesitated and gulped before continuing, "alone?"
"He would have sent a messenger if he was to celebrate his nuptials," I said sardonically, aghast that she could think of such superfluous concepts when she lived in mortal danger every instant.
She cast her eyes down and I continued uncomfortably, "I hear that he is yet unmarried."
So was Laurefindë. I had made discreet enquiries through spies. Laurefindë had not yet taken a lover despite all that had happened.
Sieges, sallies and indecisive petty wars ahead, we stood upon the fringe of the great battle that would seal the fate of Beleriand. Nírnaeth Arnoediad, they called it in later age lays.
"Mairon," Melkor came to my side. "We have Uldor, son of Ulfang. You must bring him around."
"I shall, milord," I bowed obediently.
Persuasion was an art achieved through degrees ranging from soothing words to silken threats. With Uldor, I had to resort to neither, for he was highly contemptuous of the warrior prince who had enlisted his aid for the coming battle.
"How is he?" I asked blandly. "I hear that his recent exploits on the front have been more daring than ever."
"You need to contain him, milord," Uldor said bluntly. "His strategy is cunning. From what I have learned, at first, he leads with the coyness of a maiden, until the enemy gives him an opening; afterwards he emulates the rapidity of a running hare, and it will be too late for the enemy to oppose him. That is how the riders have defended Lothlann under him."
"He has abandoned subtlety and grand designs then?" I enquired, shifting markers on the map I was poring over.
"Nay, he forestalls the opponent and drives him into the ground ere we realise we have been vanquished. Slay him, and Beleriand is yours."
"Tell me how he shall plan his attack and Melkor shall win," I commanded.
Uldor nodded briskly before taking up a cane from the corner and bringing it to the map. His features darkened as he explained.
"Nan Elmoth, Pass of Aglon, Eastern Marches: he confronts his warriors with the deed itself, never letting them know his design. When the outlook is bright, he tells them. When it is bleak, he drives them with his fiery speeches. But he has a weakness, milord."
His eyes held mine heatedly. And he spoke the word.
I had known. He had trusted me long ago even after the fact that I had been orchestrator and accomplice to his breaking. It was more a need to trust than trust itself.
"He trusts your people?" I asked briskly.
Uldor nodded again and said darkly, "Not the rest of his kin. But he trusts us and we fight under him. Thus we have easy access to his person and to his elite guard. We can kill him, milord, if you promise reinforcements ere it is done in the east. The western flank is led by the High-King who is impulsive and valorous. Maglor Fëanorion says that valour is another name for stupidity."
"He is right there," I shot Uldor a pleased smile and he settled in, smug. "Blood money is yours and so is Hithlum if you deliver what you promise, Uldor, son of Ulfang."
"I shall, and in a fortnight, Beleriand shall be your lord's."
I was assigned to the western flank, for tidings had come to us that Turkáno had come forth from his hidden city. It was with a thudding heart that I took my place in the fray, absurdly grateful for the elaborate Elven helms that hid manes completely.
But when engaged in combat with a young fool who thought he would take my head as trophy, I heard him scream to the skies, "If only Laurefindë had come with us!"
I brought my blade to his neck and forced him to his knees. With a swift blow, I unhelmed him and demanded, "Did he not come to the battle then?"
"No!" he breathed, frightened beyond comprehension at the sight of my armour-encased form.
"Why so?" I had to know. My sword arm trembled as visions of possible reasons conjured themselves in my head.
"Lord Turkáno barred his coming," the lad spluttered. "There was a letter from Lord Nelyafinwë saying that Laurefindë should remain behind as regent in the city."
I beheaded the young warrior, my nerves shaken and my body trembling. Fate - no, the Prince had spared me the torment of slaughtering Laurefindë by my sword. With renewed bloodlust, I returned to the fray.
Beleriand was ours.
"The sun rises bright and anew above Beleriand - our Beleriand," Melkor remarked as we stood outside the cavern palace. "What say you, Mairon?"
"I shall not call the sunbeam bright," I said simply.
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.