12. The View from the Barad-dûr
Mordor, ~1580, Second Age.
I believe the genus is Melanocetus, but the species name escapes me. The fish dwells in the abyss of the ocean in waters too deep for sunlight to penetrate. Humans on this world rarely encounter it although an occasional specimen is caught in nets. Its grotesque appearance with its oversized jaws ringed with needle-sharp teeth horrifies the superstitious fishermen who discover it. They call it the black devilfish and regard it as an ill omen rather than the marvelous specimen of adaptation that it is.
Melanocetus is a predator. The animal relies on a lure, a spine that protrudes from the bone above its eyes, and tipped with bioluminescent bacteria, symbiotes to the fish. The bacteria are not unlike those I used as a light source in the blue lamps and similar to those that were the source of the DNA spliced into Samaril's recombinants. The bioluminescent lure glows in the blackness. The curious prey cannot resist it. Attracted to the light, the prey approaches, and the fish swallows it whole.
So the Noldor were attracted to my light for over two yéni. I will not swallow them whole just yet. That will take time. The Ring's crafting is painstaking work, proving to be a difficult task since I must transfer so much of my own capabilities into it. I continue to experiment, unsuccessfully so far, with various alloys suitable for the Ring, all of which can be formulated only with the temperatures available through geothermal energy. Orodruin is thus my ideal crucible. As I always told my students, research is tedious work, but made worthwhile by the "Ah, ha!" moment. I know that the solution will come to me soon.
I did not fully appreciate how much the Elves contributed to the manipulations of the materials, but it was significant, and truth be told, I miss their intellectual stimulation. As it is, dullards surround me in Mordor, even if they are obedient dullards. I wish I could have taken someone of skill and intelligence with me as an assistant. I groomed one for such a task, but in the end, the risk to my plans was too great. There is still time for that, and once I have crafted the One and have the Seven and the Nine in hand, the Eldar will have little choice but to join in alliance with me.
I would never have predicted how thoroughly I was able to integrate myself into their society. Certainly, a large part of that was due to taking on the form that I did, but the mental state I crafted was equally effective. If Melanocetus is the zoological analogy for the manner in which I lured the Noldor to my designs, then the triumvirate godhead of Sakal an-Khâr - Vishnu, Brahma and Shiva - is the paradigm for my mind. I, Mairon the Wise, am as Vishnu the Preserver, who is the governor of all my thoughts and the thoughts and actions of others. My avatars are Aulendil the Bright and Gorthaur the Cruel.
My mind has not been whole since I became Melkor's. The cognitive dissonance of cleaving to him after my time with Aulë was shattering, but I so wanted what Melkor had to offer me. I coped by effecting this dissociation, which has served me well for eons.
Gorthaur was born soon after I joined Melkor, but it may be that this dark monster of my personality had been there since my beginnings. He dominated for ages while I held his reins, often releasing them when it suited my purposes. Aulendil, the foundation of my origins, just as I am, remained a whisper until I let him out of his prison after the War of Wrath so that my deference to Eonwë was sincere.
Aulendil was more than ready to face judgment before Manwë and the rest of the Valar, so eager he was to return to Aulë, even as a prisoner. I - he - was starved for emotional connections. Such lack of ties to others, the lack of companionship, affection and love, is as unnatural for my species as it is for the humans -- mortal and Firstborn alike -- of this world. But sometimes one must live an unnatural life for the sake of ordering the world to one's liking.
What Eonwë proposed was anathema to Gorthaur, who protested most vociferously, writhing with disgust at the prospect of obeisance to the Valar. Ultimately, it was I who did not wish to subject myself to humiliation before Manwë and the rest of those manipulative monsters. The Eldar and Men elevate the Valar as divine ethereal beings. The fools are further from the truth than they can possibly imagine, even those Eldar who dwell in Valinor among my kin.
The last several years in Ost-in-Edhil was particularly difficult as my mind sought to regain its former equilibrium. My colleagues and those closest to me assumed I was descending into madness, and in a sense, they were correct since the process wrecked havoc with my Noldorin neurotransmitter balance. Although my mind has been compartmentalized for millennia, this more profound separation took its toll. As Gorthaur began to re-emerge, and Aulendil receded, I struggled to maintain outward signs of normality and even more so, to hide the source of my turmoil from those closest to me. Fortunately, Sámaril, Teretion and Tyelperinquar worked steadily so the Rings were completed in a timely manner, and I was able to leave before Tyelperinquar perceived what was happening to me. In any case, I am not sure he would have recognized the diminution of Aulendil until it was too late, since he was blinded by trust and loyalty not only to me, but also by obsessive devotion to his own craft.
With my oversight, Aulendil served a very useful purpose in Eregion: charismatic, persuasive, likeable, and adaptable. Only a handful in the West suspected something, and even then, they could not articulate their apprehension to anyone else's satisfaction. The combination of the Noldorin body and Aulendil's bright spirit won the Eldar over, more effectively than I could have ever hoped.
Aulendil was the perfect lure, shining and glowing in the depths. I became Tyelperinquar's brother of the heart as well as his colleague and mentor. The whole of the Otornassë Mírëtanoron admired me, respected me, and my journeymen and apprentices worshipped me, vying to study under me. Since there was a risk that Tyelperinquar would have perceived what I was doing when I assisted with the Nine and the Seven, my guidance of Sámaril and Teretion as they cast the Rings served my purposes beautifully. So trusting. So loyal. So ambitious. Even when Gorthaur revealed himself, they were ever in denial that it was me, their beloved mentor, who was the source of the darkness.
Sámaril was one of my best pupils. His inherent talent for manipulating materials came to the fore under my tutelage. His intellectual acumen was formidable, more than he realized, and nearly equivalent to that of Tyelperinquar. His eagerness to please me worked in my favor, but it was his overarching ambition and intense desire for recognition that played into my agenda so well and made him easy to manipulate. My kinder aspect developed a great deal of affection and respect for Sámaril. I respected the young man and appreciated his enthusiasm and creativity. But if it serves my purpose to dispose of him, then I will do so. Gorthaur will see to that.
For now, Aulendil grieves over his life left behind in Eregion. He weakens like a dying man, but this is how it should be, because ultimately, I must control all. He must be diminished enough for me to shut him away again. However, the time in Eregion imbued him with surprising strength, so I do not know if I will ever be able to fully suppress him. Still, I am certain he will never be strong enough to interfere unduly with my plans.
I console that part of myself still capable of camaraderie, love, and regret, assuring him that I will return to Eregion, victorious once I have forged the One, when they will be under my sway. I will take the Seven and the Nine if they do not relinquish them to me. He takes solace in the prospect of return, regardless of its circumstances. No matter what the price, he wishes to regain his comfortable and creative life in Ost-in-Edhil, so much so that he has deluded himself that all will be as before, that he will be forgiven by those he hurt so terribly. Yet at the same time, he desires to see the One Ring created for its own sake. The task appeals to his insatiable curiosity, and he views this as a great challenge of his creativity. He is - I am - in thrall to the pursuit of knowledge, just as the Noldor are.
Gorthaur, on the other hand, is a problematic component of my mind, yet he is also extremely useful. He acquired a ravenous appetite for torture and cruelty in the ages past. Suppression of such anger and hate required a great deal of effort while I was in Eregion, for his personality is strong. The balance between Aulendil and myself is easy to achieve, since logic and wisdom have always appealed to Aulendil. Gorthaur represents a malignant pathology. The integration of the wise and the cruel has ever been uneasy, but I need his strength and his ability to generate fear and despair.
Gorthaur and Aulendil were - and remain - forever at odds, particularly since Aulendil relished the beautifully engineered Noldorin form. Gorthaur detested Aulendil's emotions and sentimentality, his embrace of his masculinity and its effects on his decisions and actions, especially when his behaviors dredged up memories I had thought long dissipated: memories of my past, distant in time and dimension, before I arrived in Arda with the others.
Gorthaur's strength far outweighs Aulendil's, but I rarely had to intervene in Eregion until the end as I re-equilibrated. I had locked Gorthaur in my mind's vaults, and Aulendil's spirit was much more compatible with the Noldorin body than was Gorthaur's, and thus better integrated into the whole. I learned enough from Aulendil that I believe I can make use of his behaviors again by mimicry. I will have no need to bring him forth again as I did to gain the Noldor's trust.
Distant shouts and the clanks of machines and armor echo from far out on the plain, distracting me from my ruminations. I set aside my work on the desk, a gold circle of light cast upon it by one of Sámaril's lamps. From the balcony, far above the plain, I survey my land under the pall of night. The height of the tower is spectacular, and I am pleased with it, this wonder of the world. The final turrets should be completed in a few years. The impenetrable surface of the black stone composite is smooth against my hands, a prime example of my well-honed abilities to reach into the substructure of the rock and form microarrays of perfect order and superlative strength.
The orc platoons and the squadrons of Easterlings march below me in the darkness. Gorthaur, of course, favors the orcs, base creatures who will obey his every craven desire, and bring him victims for torment. The orcs are also useful, as soldiers with marginal free will. Unfortunately, they also lack intelligence. Their ranks grow as they breed more of their young, ready for training. My return to Mordor has accelerated their generation although not by my direct oversight; supervision of the breeding program is a truly loathsome task that I delegate. During my absence from Mordor, the orc societies were in shambles, and my thralls around the Sea of Núrnen were greatly weakened. It has taken time to rebuild, and I do not yet have sufficient troops to launch my campaign against the Elves and Men of Eriador.
My military strength is also bolstered by alliances with Men of the East. These Men intrigue me. Many have keen minds coupled with rank ambition, an optimal combination for my purposes. Because of the insular West's bigotry, the Easterlings have not been integrated into the western societies, such as they are. Alliances between East and West are practically non-existent. The Númenóreans return to the shores of Middle-earth as conquerors, further alienating the Men of the East. This has worked to my advantage, and I have persuaded many of the Easterlings to come to my side. Because of their anger, their outrage at unjust treatment, it was easy to accomplish.
The orcs and Men on the field below are visible by starlight. The orcs suffer under the stars. Gorthaur detests their light. He would blot out all the stars in the sky with a pall of fumes from Orodruin, but that is just part of his irrationality that serves me so effectively. Gorthaur generates fear, and fear is my greatest weapon since it distorts the perceptions and decisions of Men and Elves alike. The powerful psychological effects of mass hysteria cannot be underestimated.
The stars do not disturb me, not in the least. I raise my eyes to the majestic Sirë Elenion, flowing across the dome of the sky. My sight is that of the Eldar, so I can see stars of dim magnitude, even binary systems, and thus the Sirë Elenion blazes with the plasma-fires of a billion suns. My origins lie somewhere in that direction, toward the center of the galaxy, but those details of my past are barely discernable, faint wisps of stardust at the borders of my memory.
I know what lurks in the heart of the river of stars. Aulendil fears it. If he were able, he would go crying to Manwë in supplication before allowing himself to become one with its immense beauty, its perfect darkness, a darkness so complete that sub-atomic structure is torn asunder in the riptides of gravity. It lies there spinning, taking in strange matter and flinging out huge quantities of radiation, warping time and space. No one knows what happens to the matter or light sucked into the singularity, but I know Melkor resides there: Melkor, the heart of darkness, worthy of worship and of sacrifices made on his behalf. Such worship and sacrifice are among many things that I will bring about when I cast the One.
I gaze at the center of the galaxy, toward the heart of darkness, and with my mind's eye, the ajna chakra, I am aware of many paths before me, the strings of many dimensions, many universes, running alongside each other in parallel, but sometimes touching, creating new futures or annihilating one another as they meet. The strings all lead to the creation of the One Ring. There are many possibilities after that, but they are masked from my scrutiny, obscuring interpretation. But I am confident. I will create my masterwork, and no one of this benighted world shall sunder it from me.
Melanocetus - Latin is again used as a translation for the fish's genus in the taxonomy (presumably in Valarin) used by the Maiar and Valar, but the identity of the fish is the same as our contemporary world, i.e., contiguous with Middle-earth.
yén, pl. yéni: 144 solar years.
Sakal an-Khâr: the Middle-earth equivalent of ancient India. This is taken from the MERP gamers world, where it is designated as a mix of Etruscan and Carthaginois cultures. Huh? With a name like Sakal an-Khâr, which is firmly based in Marathi and the Moghuls? That makes no sense to me so make it Indian cultures, darn it!
Note, December 2011: Since I wrote The Apprentice, I now refer to "Sakal-an-Khâr" as "Bharat," the Sanskrit name for India, and have since written one story in that setting.
Although this diverges from the Atlas of Middle-earth by Karen Wynn Fonstad and JRRT's canonical sketches, I like the following map of Ambar from the Lindefirion Maps and Charts site by Sampsa Ilmari Rydman for MERP use. The original may be found under the list for Endor, and is designated thusly:
Middle-earth according to Parmandil Merhast of Minas Ithil, 1434 T.A.
If you squint, you can make out Sakal-an-Khar Bharat as it gets ready to ram into the Land of a Thousand Cities.