Knowing something has to happen and actually seeing it happen are two different things, Manwë realized now. Dagor Dagorath had arrived, and it had taken place exactly as Námo had predicted it. The whole of Arda had fought, and with grievous effort the light had prevailed. Now the Second Music would be sung and Arda would heal, become as beautiful as Aman and Arda Marred combined. The Elder King knew he should rejoice and celebrate… but in his heart a weariness had settled that he didn't think even the bliss beyond bliss of this new world could cure. Around him victory resounded, but Manwë didn't take notice of it. For him the world was completely still, consisting only of himself and the broken body of his brother, lying at his feet. Melkor… Manwë hadn't understood him, and sometimes he felt that if only he had understood him better, things wouldn't have turned out as they had. It was a nonsensical thought, everything had been in the Music after all, and Melkor had chosen his path when he sang the first deviant note in Eru's theme… but nevertheless, those thoughts didn't cure the weariness. It was one thing knowing that something has to happen. Seeing it happen… was something entirely else.
They had thought he would simply… disappear from Arda, after the Healing. Perhaps they had hoped for that, so that they could leave it behind them and pretend it had never happened. But he hadn't disappeared. He had remained, like a dirt stain on a shining white gown, until Námo had collected his tattered and unresponsive fëa. Manwë hadn't shown the hope he felt when the Doomsman had brought the news, but it had been there, a tiny speck of hope settling like a seed in the weariness. Perhaps his brother wasn't completely lost… That seed of hope was brutally killed though with Námo's description of the state Melkor was in; burned, broken, and filled with darkness through and through. Since Eru hadn't seen it fit to take him off their hands, and such darkness –even in an unresponsive shape- couldn't be allowed in the new world, there was no other option than to keep him detained. It was then that Irmo spoke up.
"Detention is not the solution. He has been detained before, he has even been deprived of all his power and thrown in the Void, and he still recovered and came back with more evil. No, detention is not the solution, and underestimating him would be dangerous. He may seem harmless and unresponsive now, but such an impression can be deceptive. We must protect Arda from being marred a second time."
"Then what do you suggest we do with him?"
Irmo gave him a sharp glance, and sent them all a thought that made Manwë recoil internally. From the looks of it, he wasn't the only one of the Valar to do so. Several protesting voices resounded.
"No… You can't do that…"
But the Vala of Dreams remained stern.
"We have been merciful before, and time after time he has deceived and betrayed us. He has no place in the new world, unless he changes drastically. And I see no other way for him to change than through this."
Manwë couldn't get the image Irmo had shared with him out of his mind. The sorrow broke through in his voice when he whispered,
"All that at once… It will destroy him…"
"As he should have been after Dagor Dagorath."
Manwë wanted to protest… but he didn't. The sadness of having lost his brother would perhaps be more bearable than once again seeing said brother betray him…
So instead of protesting he nodded, giving Irmo permission to do what he had suggested, to send Melkor a dream like he had never created one before... A nightmare composed of all the pain, fear, and sadness the free people of Arda had suffered from him. A torment of torments, the anguish of a whole world placed upon one being. Nienna burst into tears, Vana and Nessa sent him disgusted looks, and the usually stoic Oromë softly shook his head. Yet the decision was made, and none of the Valar openly contested it.
They all heard the scream. It wasn't a sound as such, but they heard it in their minds, a sensation so confused, terrified and tortured that it could only be described as a scream, completely overtaking everything for a moment and making them all clutch their heads in agony. In itself the scream was already horrifying, but Manwë recognized the mental voice of his brother like no other... It stopped as suddenly as it began, like a door being opened and then abruptly closed again. Perhaps it was exactly that, Melkor's cell door being opened just long enough for his thoughts to slip through... Manwë cried that night in the arms of his wife. He had known the extent to which his brother would suffer from Irmo's "treatment", but once again… it was one thing knowing something would happen, but seeing it happen was something entirely else.
And time passed. The door to Melkor's cell remained firmly closed, keeping the screaming inside, and slowly the Valar forgot about it. All of them… except for Manwë. Even when he wasn't consciously thinking about his brother, the weariness in his soul reminded him. Sometimes he imagined he could hear an echo of his brother's screaming fëa in the rustling of leaves, in the calm sea breeze or in the singing of birds, effectively destroying any pleasure he might have had in said things. Why, oh why hadn't Eru taken his brother away from Arda? He would have mourned him like the secondborn mourn their dead, because their parting would have been definite and forever… But at least he would have had closure then, and the wound of his loss could have healed. Now… Now he had still lost his brother, but the loss was a dirty, infected gash that kept opening every time he remembered what Melkor was going through.
"Go to him. Ask Námo to let you see your brother."
The Valie raised an eyebrow at his dismissive tone.
"Do you think I don't know what is going through your mind when you're staring at the sky like that? I am your wife Manwë, I know you better than anyone else. Go see your brother."
"Or what is left of him."
She was not deterred by his bitterness.
"Indeed, or what is left of him. At least then you'll know. It's the not-knowing that is hurting you. You have been like this for over an age now, it is time you allow yourself to let it go."
Varda's thoughts brushed over his in a mental caress, encouraging him, and Manwë smiled despite everything. Maybe she was right, and he had to see for himself before he could let it go…
The Fëanturi had exchanged worried looks when he had demanded to see Melkor. They couldn't blatantly refuse an order from the Elder King though, so they led him to the dark door behind which the fallen Vala was now locked away for the second time. Námo just wanted to open the special lock, when Manwë stopped him.
"Please, I… I have to know… The screaming…"
Irmo shook his head.
"He stopped screaming after a couple decades already." The Vala of Dreams had an ambiguous expression on his face. "It is said that people only scream when they believe someone can help them, even if that belief is only subconsciously present. I think he fairly quickly realized no one was going to help him, making the screaming unnecessary. You need not fear it."
Manwë's heart broke hearing that, but he hoped it didn't show. He told them to proceed, and a moment later he was in the cell. What he saw made him gasp for breath. On a bunk bed lay a beautiful young man in grey prisoner's garb, blonde hair tousled around his head, blue eyes unfocussed but wide with fear. Seeing how speechless Manwë was, Námo explained.
"He no longer had the strength to incarnate himself, so I did it for him. It made things less difficult for Irmo. As you can see it's a very weak rendition, he doesn't have the energy to sustain anything better."
All the words he had wanted to say were stuck in his throat and threatened to come out as a sob, so he just held his tongue. Melkor looked exactly as he had looked back in the very first days… But Námo was right; the incarnation was weak, it seemed to waver, and appeared almost translucent sometimes. Manwë carefully crouched down next to the bunk, not quite daring to touch the fragile form of his brother.
"Can I have a little privacy?"
Again the Fëanturi exchanged a knowing look, and nodded, leaving him alone in the cell with Melkor. Manwë carefully extended his mind, his thoughts brushing over his brother's tormented fëa. There was no real response, only broken flashes of pain and memories that didn't belong to him. He was either too deep in the nightmare to feel his presence, or the treatment had undone him so much already that he no longer had the capacity to respond. Manwë bit his lip and softly caressed Melkor's blonde hair, whispering,
"I am sorry, brother. I am so sorry."
He didn't know how long he sat there, raking his fingers through his brother's hair and hoping that at least a fraction of Melkor's mind felt it and derived some comfort from it. Eventually Irmo came to check on him, and he reluctantly got up, leaving his brother alone again. I will come back, he promised in his mind. I will keep coming back until you wake up again.
And Manwë kept his promise. Day after day he sat next to Melkor, stroking his hair and softly speaking to him in his mind, even though he got no real response. The bits and pieces of emotion and memory that sometimes seeped through made the elder king cry internally. Even if Melkor deserved his pain, why had Eru left it to him to dish it out? Hadn't he done all he could already, fiercely fought and opposed the one that he in his heart still loved like before creation? Why was he doomed to suffer even after the unmaking and healing of Arda? It was selfish, Manwë knew, to speak of his own suffering while his brother suffered all the more, being burdened with all the sorrow of the marred world… Yet he couldn't help it. Not once in all his life had he questioned the will of Eru, but with every visit to Melkor a sense of unfairness grew inside him. Why did things have to be like this? The Second Music had been great and wonderful, more so than the First, but he didn't understand it completely yet, and doubted he ever would. His fate, and Melkor's, were unclear to him…
"Leave it to you to make me unhappy even in a state like this."
Melkor didn't answer to the bitter comment, as usual.
Manwë's visits to Melkor turned into some sort of self-imposed exile, and after a while even Varda believed something had to be done about it. She went to Irmo and pleaded for him to release the fallen one from his nightmares. If she could only get her husband back when he got his brother back then so be it, she was tired of her cold bed. The Fëanturi were reluctant to adhere to her request, but they too saw that the punishment meant for Melkor was punishing their king as well. And so Irmo allowed Melkor to wake from the horrible dreams…
It happened without warning. The unresponsive mind of Melkor suddenly seemed to explode in a flurry of pain, fear and images, making Manwë pull back in his own mind to protect himself from the chaos, and when he opened his eyes again, he found that his brother wasn't lying on the bed anymore. He had curled up in a corner of the cell, trembling and shaking. From under messy blonde tresses a pair of frightened eyes stared at him. They weren't unfocussed any longer, but there was no recognition in them either, only fear and a strange resignation. To say Manwë was shocked was a euphemism. Carefully he reached out with his mind to the shaking figure, but Melkor only curled up further, letting out nothing but a pitiful mental whimper at the touch of his brother…
There was only pain. Everything he knew was pain, not his pain and yet it was his. He didn't understand it, gave up on understanding it long ago. It had hurt worse when he still remembered things other than pain. By now all what remained of that knowledge was a vague concept of not-pain. He couldn't fathom what it was though, or how it might feel. It was completely beyond anything he could comprehend.
And then it stopped, his whole world collapsed and he didn't feel the pain anymore. It was far more frightening than anything he could remember. He only knew one thing, and now that one thing was gone… No, there was no comfort in the strange absence of new pain, not at all. He didn't know how to deal with this…
Manwë tried again, carefully trying to comfort his brother. The mental touch seemed to frighten him, and all what Manwë could feel and hear was chaotic, pained emotion and unstructured thought, as if Melkor didn't even try to comprehend his own perception anymore. Irmo had done his job well, he bitterly thought, his brother's mind was utterly broken. From what he could tell, the fallen Vala had been reduced to a state wherein he was hardly self-aware anymore.
For a while they sat there, Melkor curled up in the corner and Manwë on the side of the bed, caught in an impasse. He couldn't leave his brother alone now, but there seemed to be nothing he could do to soothe him. Even the slightest touch made him recoil as if he had been hit. Manwë didn't know how long they sat there, or how and when the idea came to him, but fact was that it did. Unconsciously, he had started humming a tune… and the music succeeded where all other attempts had failed. Melkor's eyes widened, but not in fear, rather in surprise. His shaking lessened, and the chaotic emotions he sent out seemed to calm a little bit. Realizing this, Manwë started singing a quiet lullaby, hoping that it would help.
Slowly, he became aware of the variation in the not-pain he perceived. All the parts of him, that had previously felt only pain, known only pain, suddenly received different kinds of information. Not-pain wasn't uniform. The strangeness of this frightened him to no end. Not-pain was fear. In his panic-stricken state he suddenly perceived something… familiar. Something… no, he didn't know it, and yet he recognized it. Perhaps he had known it, once. He concentrated on it, tried to hold onto it. It was not-pain, but it resonated with something long forgotten, bringing up a memory that was both frighteningly unknown and wonderfully familiar. As it grew stronger, he felt drawn to it; he wanted to be closer to it, hide in it from the unknown of his new situation…
While he sang, Manwë suddenly felt a careful, apprehensive mental touch. He first thought he imagined it, but when he felt it again he was certain. Without stopping his song, he extended his mind again and caressed his brother. Melkor didn't recoil anymore; he seemed to cling to the touch, desperate for its contact. That convinced Manwë to approach him physically, and embrace the trembling figure. Melkor tensed up, but didn't resist, and a little later he lay cradled in his brother's arms. Manwë could feel the fear and confusion emanating from his mind, and he tried his best to calm him, wrapping his mind around Melkor and softly singing for him. Patiently he kept it up, until he felt that his brother's chaotic thoughts calmed and became languid and slow, and his eyes started to get hazy and unfocussed again.
"Sssh… Sleep, brother. You won't have nightmares now."
Melkor fought the sleep a little longer, but eventually he surrendered to it, lying exhausted in Manwë's embrace. The Elder King didn't know what to think or feel. Worry, sadness, relief? He didn't know. He simply sat there and held his brother, for what was probably the first time since the creation of Arda…
And then it was all around him. The strange, familiar feeling surrounded him, and it resonated with vague memories that he didn't really understand. He remembered things now; home, safety, and warmth… ideas that had little meaning to him, other than that they must be connected to this feeling. He was so tired… The feeling was so… so nice… he didn't want it to go away… but he couldn't resist the exhaustion; slowly he perceived less and less, until a warm, thick blackness overcame him and took away all thoughts.
Manwë held his brother until he was certain that he was completely unconscious, and would be for quite some time. The age of nightmares they had put him through hadn't given his mind any rest, and now he finally slept without dreams he wouldn't wake any time soon. Manwë wished he could stay with him, but he also realized he had greatly neglected his duties as Elder King of the Valar. His brother wasn't in pain anymore now, and whether or not he stayed next to him, he wouldn't be aware of it. It was time that he returned to his throne and apologized to Varda for leaving her to tend to Taniquetil on her own for so long. He would come back to Melkor when the time was ripe.
Every so often Manwë came to see his brother, who slept peacefully in his cell in Mandos' halls. The weariness that had burdened him before wasn't gone entirely, but knowing that even in his damaged state Melkor didn't suffer anymore was a great relief. There was, however, always the knowledge that one day Melkor would wake. Manwë didn't know how bad the damage to his brother's mind exactly was, and how much the long healing sleep would salvage, but he feared for it. He hadn't even dared to ask Irmo, afraid of what he would hear…
The thoughts came back, and with it the fear. There was no pain, but memories of pain, pain and other things. As he became more and more aware of his surroundings, he also became more aware of the broken-ness of his thought patterns. He couldn't think, he couldn't even understand things. He felt that he had once understood the memories, but now they were incomprehensible to him. The only thing that he understood, vaguely, was the strange presence, warm and so familiar, that surrounded and held him whenever his mind was released from the blackness. It soothed the confusion and made him feel safe and warm, keeping the fear away until he slipped back into the darkness of sleep. He felt like there was something crucial, some important detail in his mind waiting to be remembered, but exhaustion always overcame him before he could uncover it…
Melkor started to wake up, short moments of slight awareness in-between long periods of sleep. The moments of waking gradually became longer and more numerous as time passed, and Manwë could feel that slowly yet steadily his brother's mind was pulling itself together again, as good and as bad as it managed. Broken as his thoughts still were, they already seemed more restrained, less chaotic and frightened. When Manwë held him, the fallen Vala immediately relaxed, drawing comfort simply from his brother's presence. Melkor trusted him, Manwë realized. He was extremely vulnerable now, and yet he instinctively trusted him, his brother, the one person he had hated more than anyone back in the days. It was both sad and amazing. Manwë pledged to himself that he wouldn't betray his brother's fragile trust in him. He wouldn't allow anyone to hurt him again.
He remembered. Manwë. His… brother. And all of a sudden he knew quite certainly that the presence was Manwë. He had many conflicting thoughts, memories of pain and horrors that seemed connected to the name and threatened to overwhelm him… but they didn't truly resonate with the presence. The presence was nothing like pain, nothing like fear, and he just couldn't link the tortured memories to it. When he felt how it embraced and surrounded him once again, he sighed happily.
He had heard it clearly, a whisper in his mind saying his name. Had Melkor recognized him at last? Manwë softly stroked his brother's hair and whispered back.
"I'm here, brother. You're safe now."
He got an answer in the form of a contented hum, before Melkor drifted to sleep again. Manwë rejoiced, knowing for sure now that his brother was regaining his awareness. Things would surely get better now…
The name of his brother had been just a start. He remembered his own name too now, and with that memories came back to him like a wave, overwhelming him. They were painful, most of the memories, but he found he could look at them from a distance. Their pain was already familiar; it was all he had known for so long… He was an observer to his own life, as it played itself in his memory and the memories of countless others, and while remembering he began to understand things he had never understood before. They filled him with an odd resignation, a tiredness of sorts…
He had been wrong. Things didn't get better. Melkor became more aware indeed, but he also lost strength. His already weak incarnation seemed to waver more each time he visited him, and his already soft mental voice became a barely audible whisper. Manwë didn't understand it. It seemed as if his brother was fading, right before his eyes, and he didn't know how or why it was happening. That said there was a lot he didn't understand. Melkor remembered a lot of his life now, including his former hatred for him, but it didn't stop him from seeking comfort in his arms. Manwë wasn't complaining, but understanding it he didn't. The thought of losing his brother again, right after he got him back, filled him with dread.
"Melkor… Are you awake?"
The soft mental voice whispered the answer in his mind. Once again it was weaker than before, his thoughts stroking his in a barely perceivable touch. Worried, Manwë stated,
"You seem weaker again."
"You'll get better, I promise. I'll help you."
Manwë didn't understand, and he never had. His brother had always tried to do the right thing, but he hadn't understood it even a single time. Maybe that's why Eru had loved him more. Manwë hadn't seen the chains in the Music; he had been truly innocent as a child in the eye of Illuvatar. Oh, how he had hated him… He remembered it well enough. But through all the other points of view he had now, all the memories that still served to make him cry whenever Manwë wasn't there, he had truly come to understand. Even rebellion was chained. There was no action not in the Music. And so he had stopped hating his brother right the moment he recalled that he had hated him once. He simply couldn't anymore. He was so, so tired…
"I want to see Arda."
It was the first request Melkor made since regaining his awareness. Before he had always been content lying in his brother's arms, listening to his songs and floating between sleeping and waking for the most time. Manwë hesitated. Melkor was weaker than ever now, but he remembered Irmo's warning never to underestimate the fallen one…
"You… You don't trust me."
"That's not it." But it was… Manwë sighed. "I worry about you. You're still very weak."
Yes, Melkor had deceived them before… but as he lay in his arms, Manwë realized he was truly pleading. His mind was filled with a sense of true longing rather than anything even close to malice. He couldn't deny his brother that simple request, when he could feel in his entire mind that it was truly the only thing he still desired… And so Manwë asked Námo to come with them to keep an eye on things, as he brought his brother to Arda. He had to carry him, as he was too weak to even stand, let alone leave the flesh and travel by himself… On a beautiful field, glorious in the light of the restored Two Trees, Manwë lowered him. Melkor took a deep breath and smiled, his long fingers digging into the ground next to him as if he wanted to reassure himself he was truly there.
Manwë sat next to him, and looked at his brother's elated expression. The golden light made him look even more frail than he had seemed in Námo's cell...
"She is so beautiful…"
He then realized Melkor was crying.
"Why are you sad, brother?"
"Because… I…" Melkor sighed. "I love Arda."
It didn't seem like a sufficient answer, but Manwë didn't care. A sense of urgency took him over, a need to ask everything he had never understood now, because… because he might not get another chance to ask. It was a dreadful feeling, but he couldn't deny it.
"Then… then why did you want to destroy her?"
"Destroy? No… I only wanted to free her. She was beautiful before too. You… you called her marred… but she was so beautiful."
Formulating the long thought seemed to tire Melkor out. Manwë stroked through his hair like he had done countless times before, as his brother's eyes slid out of focus for a moment, and then back again. Even his mind was wavering in strength now…
"I wanted her for my own… like a jealous lover wants his object of affection… for his own… You wanted to bind her… but in my heart she was mine, mine a-alone…"
Tears didn't stop from running over Melkor's cheeks. Manwë lay down next to him and wrapped his arms around him, holding him close. With one hand dug into the soil and one hand clutching Manwë's, Melkor curled up in the embrace.
"I never understood you…"
"You still don't…"
There was a silence.
"Thank you… for bringing me here. I needed… her, n-needed to see her before…"
The fading progressed frighteningly quickly. Manwë couldn't hold back his own tears now, realizing that Melkor was truly dying. Futilely, he pleaded,
"Please don't leave me."
"I'm so tired... My part here is played." Melkor's voice broke. "I just want to go back to Father now…"
It sounded weary and sad. Manwë sighed.
"I love you."
Melkor's lips curled in a sad smile.
"And I love you… And I… I hope you never have to understand."
It was a cryptic message that Manwë, ironically enough, didn't understand. He didn't have to. He held his brother close for the last time, while Melkor looked at the sky and whispered breathlessly.
"She is so, so beautiful…"
And that was the last thing he ever said, his eyes glazing over in an empty stare when the final bit of his life left him. Manwë pressed a kiss on his dead brother's forehead, choking a sob.
"Sweet dreams, my brother…"
And with those words, the final goodbye was made, and Melkor's physical form simply disappeared, fading in the true sense of the word. Nothing was left behind but the scratch in the soil where he had dug his fingers into the ground. Manwë lay down and cried, his own fingers tracing that scratch. His very fëa ached at the loss of his brother… yet at the same time he realized that Eru couldn't have given him a greater gift than the extra time he had had with Melkor. They had reconciled, and Melkor had died on his beloved Arda, in his arms, calm and at peace with himself. Manwë didn't understand it, but he thanked Eru still. If his brother's passing had been truly unavoidable, then there was hardly a more beautiful death imaginable than the one he had gotten.
He stayed in the field until the golden light of Laurelin waned into the silver of Telperion, eventually falling asleep there. He knew that he would heal, in time... but right now he just wanted to close his eyes and pretend his brother was still with him. It was Námo who brought him home, he supposed, because the next morning he woke up next to Varda. And as he watched the Valie he loved with all his heart, a tiny bit of understanding came to him.
"Aye… she is beautiful indeed…"
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.