7. Land of the Lost
"You are clever. Far more clever than I would have given you credit for. You have sent a minion to Gondor to spy on the Numenoreans there, thereby keeping her from questioning your actions, while at the same time gathering information. And by sending that pair of imbeciles to the realm – or should I say realms – of Arnor you have gained important information. I also congratulate you on your skilled manipulation of that Haradrim. She has been gone for so long now I can hardly recall her."
"She left of her own free will," Morion said, staring out at the gray, misty landscape. "I had nothing to do with it."
Melkor snorted. "Your patience has paid off. Gondor is at its peak and with the ascension of another king will begin its decline. And Arnor has fallen and been divided. While Arthedain may be strong, and Cardolan an ally of that land, Rhudaur is ripe for the taking."
"Not yet," Morion said.
"Your patience is beginning to seem foolish," Melkor said.
"The ring prevents you from taking my mind," Morion said, recognizing the gleam in the Dark Vala's eye. "I am master of my own thoughts and actions."
"You need allies," Melkor hissed. "Sauron is stirring, I can feel it, but he is not strong enough to contest the powers of these lands. They will fall soon, but you must cause the falling!"
"I will do it in my own time, in my own way," Morion said. He ground his teeth in frustration with the Vala. It was always the way whenever Melkor wished to talk. Morion would suddenly find himself in a gray land covered in rolling mist. Shapes of trees, and of animals, but nothing substantial, covered the land. A river ran through the land, dividing it in half. What lived on the other side of the river, Morion did not know, and had no wish to. He had named the desolate world the 'Land of the Lost'.
"You are a fool," Melkor snarled. "You will gain everything only to lose it!"
"Then so will you," Morion said.
Melkor snarled and slapped Morion, sending the ringbearer falling to the ground, blood trickling out of his mouth. He knew when he woke up he would find no trace of the injury, but still, it hurt.
"I can always find better servants," Melkor snarled.
"But it will take you a long time," Morion said, standing up and wiping the blood away. "You are not as patience as I."
Melkor glared at him, but did not strike again. "Follow me," he said, walking toward the door of the strange gray mansion Morion always found himself in.
Leaving behind the gray building, Melkor led Morion to the edge of the river. "What do you see across the water?" he asked.
Morion frowned. "Nothing," he said.
"Look closer!" Melkor snarled, slapping him again.
"A mountain," Morion said. It was just barely visible against the omnipresent mist.
"Nothing," Morion snapped. "There is nothing else there!"
"Do you know what is in that mountain?"
Morion shook his head.
"There are two sides of this land," Melkor said. "Mine, which is this side of the river. The other side belongs to the being that lives inside that mountain. Though I am stronger by far than it, the being can cause immense trouble in your precious world. Just as I controlled your mind and body for but a short time, so too can it control those around you! Do not let your guard down!"
"What is it?" Morion asked, staring at the mountain. "What lives there?"
Melkor did not answer but looked down the river. "Ah, here he comes again," he muttered.
"Who?" Morion asked, looking downriver.
A ship crafted in the style of long-lost Numenor slowly drifted upstream, manned by a crew of two men. Both looked old, haggard, and thoroughly demoralized.
"Who are they?" Morion asked, though he knew the answer immediately.
"Do not say anything!" Melkor hissed as Morion stepped forward.
"He is my grandfather!" Morion snarled. "Amandil!" he cried out.
The ancient patriarch of the Lords of the Andunie looked up wearily. "Who is there?" he asked, his voice broken.
"It is I, Morion!"
"What are you doing in the water, my child?"
"He thinks he is floating to Valinor," Melkor said mockingly. "He is unaware that he drifted into these lands and can never get out."
"Amandil, you have strayed off course!" Morion called. "You are in…another dimension," he said for lack of a better term.
The old man frowned. "I do not think that is so, Morion," he said. "We are close to Valinor, I can feel it!"
"No, you are lost," Morion said. "Hopelessly lost!"
Amandil shook his head sadly. "I must be hallucinating," he muttered and began to steer the boat back up the river.
Desperate, Morion tried to think of any way to save his grandfather from an eternity of rowing up and down the river dividing the Land of the Lost.
"Tell him to go to the West," Melkor muttered, annoyed.
"Go to the West!" Morion called.
"That is where I am going!" Amandil called.
The words appeared to have no effect, but then a bright ray of true daylight streaked through the clouds and mists of the land, blinding Melkor, who turned away with a curse. Morion, however, watched as the small boat sailed into calm waters. The shore there was green and tall trees grew. The land, though, he could see as the beam of light faded, was in constant twilight.
"Eldamar," he whispered in reverence.
"Yes," Melkor snarled, looking back once the vision, and Amandil, faded. "You freed him from this place. I hope you are pleased."
"I am," Morion said. "Why did you help me?" he asked suspiciously.
Melkor shrugged. "The Valar are now in your debt. For many long years they wanted Amandil's suffering to end, and now you have done it. They will reward you for this."
"But I am Sauron's servant. They despise me."
"They are honorable creatures," Melkor sneered. "They will repay you."
"How?" Morion asked, looking to where Amandil had vanished with intense suspicion.
"I do not know," Melkor said. He was grinning. "But this is good news. Good news indeed. For now two have left these lands. So two must come and join us."
Morion was puzzled. "Must there always be two floating down the water?" he asked.
"It does not matter what they are doing," Melkor said. "Tuor and Idril were here before Amandil and his servant. When the hapless Numenorean arrived, the others were allowed to go free. Now that Amandil has left, the Valar must fill the void with others."
"You have an idea of who would you like," Morion guessed.
"Of course I do," Melkor said. His tongue flicked across his teeth in a sign Morion knew all too well.
"I will see if the Valar are fools enough to give him to me. Perhaps they still remember his deeds with the bitterness that led to the raising of storms barring the passage into Eldamar. We will see. In the meantime…"
Hoping to avoid further injury, Morion did not resist as the Dark Vala crushed him against his body.
As he ravaged the lord, Melkor glanced up and across the river to the mountain. He shot it one dark glance and a quick arrogant smile. Was it his imagination or did a flash of darkness respond in bitter anger?