2. Indistinguishable from Magic
"Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age" The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien, Houghton Mifflin Company, First American Edition, 1977, p. 286-287.
Seeing the desolation of the world, Sauron said in his heart that the Valar, having overthrown Morgoth, had again forgotten Middle-earth; and his pride grew apace. He looked with hatred on the Eldar and he feared the Men of Numenor who came back at whiles in their ships to the shores of Middle-earth; but for long he dissembled his mind and concealed the dark designs that he shaped in his heart.
Men he found the easiest to sway of all the peoples of the Earth; but long he sought to persuade the Elves to his service, for he knew that the Firstborn had the greater power; and he went far and wide among them, and his hue was still that of one both fair and wise. Only to Lindon he did not come, for Gil-galad and Elrond doubted him and his fair-seeming, and though they knew not who in truth he was they would not admit him that land. But elsewhere the Elves received him gladly, and few among them hearkened to the messengers from Lindon bidding them beware; for Sauron took to himself the name of Annatar, the Lord of Gifts, and they had at first much profit from his friendship. And he said to them: "Alas, for the weakness of the great! For a mighty king is Gil-galad, and wise in all lore is Master Elrond, and yet they will not aid me in my labours. Can it be that they do not desire to see other lands become as blissful as their own? But wherefore should Middle-earth remain forever desolate and dark, whereas the Elves could make it as fair as Eressea, nay even as Valinor? And since you have not returned thither, as you might, I perceive-that you love this Middle-earth, as do I. Is it not then our task to labour together for its enrichment, and for the raising of all the Elven-kindreds that wander here untaught to the height of power and knowledge which those have who are beyond the sea?"
It was in Eregion that the counsels of Sauron were most gladly received, for in that land the Noldor desired ever to increase the skill and subtlety of their works. Moreover they were not at peace in their hearts, since they had refused to return into the West, and they desired both to stay in Middle-earth, which indeed they loved, and yet to enjoy the bliss of those that had departed. Therefore, they hearkened to Sauron, and they learned of him many things, for his knowledge was great. In those days the smiths of Ost-in-Edhil surpassed all that they had contrived before; and they took thought, and they made Rings of power. But Sauron guided their labours, and he was aware of all that they did; for his desire was to set a bond upon the Elves and to bring them under his vigilance.
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
- Arthur C. Clarke "Profiles of The Future", 1961 (Clarke's third law).
Somewhere east of Lindon, ca. 1200, Second Age.
The stallion snorted and stamped his hooves as the man approached him with the headstall. The man and the horse had only recently become acquainted, and both were uneasy with one another. The carbon-black beast was a magnificent animal, swift yet large enough to accommodate the man's height. Determined to win over the stallion, it was a matter of pride for him to avoid using a bit on the animal. When he reached for the horse's head to steady him, the animal curled his lips back, exposing his formidable teeth, and prepared to bite the man.
Control him. Break him.
No, be gentle. Persuade him. Show him affection.
The latter tack won over quickly since cajoling was to be his modus operandi. The man crooned to the horse with a low melodious voice, using the old language from Tirion, the speech with the rolling vowels that flowed like song, which appealed to him deeply. Given his destination, he made a point of using the pronunciation of the phoneme that indicated allegiance to the long dead but still influential patriarch of that diminished clan. The horse calmed as the man continued to speak softly and stroked the beast's muscular neck. He slipped the headstall over the horse's head, and then placed the light blanket and saddle over the animal. Soon he was on his way east and away from the borders of Lindon.
As he rode, he took inventory of his body, still unaccustomed to this form. He had only recently re-shaped himself, sequestered in a chamber of cyclopean caverns beneath the rising tower. There he had been protected during the vulnerable period of intense metamorphosis. Although he had previously worked his wiles among Men and Elves in other fair guises, he wished to bring the powerful Noldor under his influence. He gave considerable thought to human behavior. He knew that both Men and Elves were most comfortable with those who resembled themselves so he had crafted a shape like theirs.
He had reached deep within and twisted his molecular structure, an adaptation that had evolved in his species on a long forgotten world with a harsh, ever-changing environment. The Guardians of Arda had further enhanced his kindred's ability to change form, finding this useful in his folk, now servants of the Guardians.
He had selected the chromosomal DNA and the protein machinery required for the re-sculpting of his form. Making subtle tweaks in this gene and that one, he fashioned his foundation of twenty-three pairs of chromosomes into the patterns consistent with this world's humans. Then he had assembled the protein complex to bind to the master switch that orchestrated the interplay of biochemical systems peculiar to the Elves, resulting in their distinction as a sub-type of this world's humans. It was a minute genetic event that created the Elves' profound differences from their mortal kindred.
He had focused on each corporeal manifestation from the atomic to the molecular to the cellular to the organismal, from his skull to his toes to his liver to his fingernails. Like the humans of this world, the Maiar possessed the dichotomy of gender, female or male. Thus potent androgens shaped his bones, muscles and genitals, even to the extent of producing functional and genetically sound gametes. Every detail had to be ordered, perfect and believable.
When he had finished the transformation, he lay exhausted and had slept. Desperately thirsty when he awoke, he had gulped down water, the foundation of all biochemical reactions, and what he so craved after rearranging his molecular structure.
Thirst slaked, he had examined himself: tall, not inhumanly so, yet still imposing; long fingers on large powerful hands; muscular chest, shoulders and arms required for labor in the forges; smooth hairless skin except for coarse hair in the axillary and pubic junctures as appropriate to this race.
He had looked in a mirror then, and his reflection confirmed his goal as the face of a Noldorin man gazed back at him. His facial features were highly symmetrical, a distinctive Elvish characteristic that conferred that people's great beauty, but neither were his features absolute perfection because he did not wish to be uncanny. Handsome. Yes, that was enough. Silky-thick dark hair grazed his waist; he knew that copious, lustrous hair was a desirable trait -- a sign of vigor and health -- among these people. His eyes pleased him with their pale gray irises ringed with dark-soot borders. He had deliberately crafted his ocular genes to yield proteins that refracted silver-sheened light, reminiscent of mithril, a rare metal that the Elven-smiths coveted. Something of a subliminal message, he thought with bemusement.
The entirety of the process had been much more challenging than morphing into a beast of horror, because those were mere cloaks. This was a more complete and exacting transformation. The new form's appearance would reach deep into the brains of the Noldor and trigger ancient neural recognition patterns: he is one of our own, part of our tribe, a member of our troop. It was a form to put the Noldor at ease, to encourage familiarity and to allow him to insinuate himself into their social structure.
More difficult than the transformation of his body was the dissociation of his mind so that his darkest thoughts and designs were contained and separated from the rest. The Eldar were perceptive. He wanted them to see a persuasive, charismatic personality with deep knowledge, even kindness and affection, and not their hated enemy. His personality already had a tripartite quality. Long ago, he had compartmentalized his thoughts to best be able to serve his master effectively and survive the cognitive dissonance his servitude initially engendered. For the task at hand, he required even more profound demarcations among his three aspects.
He had excised his darkest self, he who had long served his master, he who lay hidden deep in destroyed Angband and waited for his master's return. He extracted the tentacles of his pathological aspect that had driven Felagund from the island and claimed it as his own and who had been humiliated by that half-Maiarin witch who reclaimed it in turn. Then he carved out the bright personality -- the creative one -- who sang in harmony at the beginning and who toiled with Aulë, his beloved former mentor who vainly tried to protect him from the master's influence. Overseeing all was the cool, calculating mind, full of cunning and wisdom, who served as the governor of all his thoughts: the mediator between the dark and the light, and detached from emotion. The detached mind brought the bright one to the fore and placed the dark aspect in a cerebral vault where it rested, diminished and hidden.
In spite of the painstaking craft that he had applied to his mind and body, his overtures to Ereinion and Elrond had been rebuffed. Their initial interactions with him were cordial, friendly even, but in the end, after years of war and hardship, neither was inclined to trust this unknown being in Eldarin form who claimed to be an emissary from the Valar. In particular, Elrond became suspicious. The perelda had managed to turn the King's mind against him in spite of his efforts to win them over to his designs. This rejection, although disappointing, was not altogether surprising. It did not put an end to his plans for he knew of another population of the Eldar who would be far more willing to accommodate him. His inquiry had been met with great enthusiasm, and the Noldor of the city near the foothills of the mineral-rich mountains had invited him to join them in their work.
He spoke softly to the animal, and the stallion broke into a canter. The wind of early spring, the bite of winter still lingering in it, rippled across his face and neck and sent his loose hair streaming behind him. As the muscles of his thighs contracted and released, he marveled at their strength and coordination. He turned his eyes to a kestrel circling in the eastern sky. He noted the subtle patterns under its wings and tail feathers, a testament to the keen sight of this Noldorin form. He thrilled to a slight pang of hunger, reminding him how much he enjoyed the gustatory sensations of wine, fruits, roasted meats and even simple bread.
He was exhilarated.
I wish to remain this way. This is natural; this fits my original template.
The darkness hissed, distant and angry. The wise presence was measured:
As long as it suits my needs, then I will remain in this form, but do not become overly attached to it.
He ignored his internal dialogue, and he began to sing as he had sung eons ago in the Chorus. He thought that he ought to sing the music of the Elves as consistent with his appearance, but he could not bring himself to sing the tiresome lays of the Noldor, many of whom now wallowed in abject misery and regret. He had no use for the insipid music of the Teleri. The Vanyarin hymns to the Valar, far removed from Middle-earth and unconcerned as to its fate, repulsed him with their misguided faith. The culture, if it could be called that, of the Dark Elves was beyond his regard at the present.
With his rich baritone voice, which would later be described variously as mellifluous, commanding and sepulchral, he sang of what he knew: galaxies spiraling in the far reaches of universe, the sun's plasma flaring into its corona, the deep oceans and tides of his adopted world, the tectonic clashes of the plates of the earth, and the weaving together of gold and silver, seamlessly translating his Valarin mother tongue into the musical Elven language. He pressed his left heel ever so slightly against the animal's side, twitched the reins just so, and he rode toward Eregion.