2. The Shadow's Vow
The Shadow's Vow
The Outer Void. More distant than anything beyond Eä, for indeed the whole of Eä was within it; and where it ends, the Void expands, out towards a matterless infinity. Countless times he had explored its fathomless wastes in search of the Secret Fire, and though he failed in this endeavour, he came to embrace a new thing: Darkness. And Darkness he now used to define his essence. For here, in the belly of the Everlasting Night, Melkor returns to where his evil began.
Like his malice, Melkor knew all the regions of the Void, and secretly he relished at this feat, for indeed no Ainu had ever traversed such immeasurable distances. Or so he thought. For now, he had gone far beyond he had ever reached, and he himself knew he was treading into regions unknown.
Melkor looked to his surroundings. Too distant was he now for the eyes of any of the Valar to unclad him; yet still he chose to cloak himself in shadow, and in this form he traversed the Void, dark and terrible. Great strength he has recovered since his banishment, and as a formless Shadow he now assumed for himself; his burning eyes the only evidence of his existence apart from the Void, for indeed he had grown dark as the emptiness about him.
But now, coming upon this region of the Outer Void, he sensed the darkness grow even blacker. It was utterly empty, bereft of all matter, yet it seemed as if the nothingness was even denser than the core of Arda itself, and the mounting pressures sought to crush him; but being formless he remained unscathed. And he knew she was near. With eyes that could pierce the shadows, he sought to see beyond the impenetrable void, yet even this proved strenuous as well.
Still he went deeper, until at last he came to a place where the Void was no longer void, but of something else; dark, yet not without Being. For indeed it was an Unlight: of Darkness made Being. And here, he believes, Ungoliant dwelt.
Long ages had passed since he first sought her in the mountains of Avathar, when he, aided by her lust, plotted his revenge against the Valar. Great use she had in the darkening of Valinor, for without the Poison of Death in her body, the Two Trees would not have died so utterly. Yet neither did he forget how she had risen in uproar against him, she having desired the very Silmarils he had claimed for himself. And secretly, he loathed her. Yet strangely, it seemed their fates were tied, for in his desire for vengeance, always he found himself standing before her very door. And here, in the most distant regions of the Void, where no eyes of the Valar could pierce, he will seek to persuade her once more.
But now, Melkor tread deeper into the realm Ungoliant had made for herself, and about him, he felt the pressures rise to seemingly intolerable force.
Then suddenly, as if heralding the presence of their weaver, the dense shadows appeared to abruptly thin, so that once again Melkor could see parts of the Void. And then he saw her: a vast, incomprehensible pit that opened into nothingness, blacker than the blackest, darker even than his own Shadow. For that was what Ungoliant had become: as a puncture in the Void, whose sustenance was Darkness itself, and whose emission was the very thing she devoured, for no Light more could she find; and yet the darkness she spewed was blacker than the Void itself, for it was wrought with malice; and it was with Being. The Unlight.
And indeed Melkor became afraid, for her size dwarfed in scale anything he had yet seen. Slowly now, she appeared to rotate from her center, so that her fringes, like the spokes of a wheel, curved in around her in a vast disk, embracing her in a deathly dance. In horror, Melkor saw parts of the Void being drawn towards her, as if the very fabric of the Void itself was being torn apart, and slowly now, they circled about her periphery. But from her gaping mouth, he saw even darker nets of gloom being spewed forth; in powerful jets she ejected them, so that in great speed they hurtled out into the emptiness. And he dared not come near her, lest he be drawn inexorably into her crushing center.
But Ungoliant was aware of him, and in a voice that seemed to draw from the very bowels of her emptiness, she spoke: "So now! I see that you have come once more, Blackheart!"
And Melkor hid his fear, lest Ungoliant perceives this. And his pride was great, for still he deemed himself Lord. "It seems you have run out of light to consume, Ungoliant," he said. "For why else would you devour the darkness around you, if not for the lack of it."
But then Ungoliant burst into cruel laughter, and she said: "I see now why you have come. As before, when you first came to promise me the blood of the Trees, and all the Light of Aman at my dispose, here you are once more, offering me more of the same. For that is why you are here, is it not? So that another may deal the blows of your vengeance on your behalf?"
And Melkor sensed her taunt, and in anger his pride rose with it. "I am Lord of Eä," he declared haughtily. "And so being, it is in my power to give what I deem fit. To which I now freely do, for verily, I offer you all the Light your hunger may desire."
But Ungoliant was unconvinced, and she scorned him. "Once you have vowed to me the same reward for my aid. And now you promise me more Light than I could ever consume. But when I have done so, when all has been consumed, what then will you promise me, Blackheart? The World? Or would it be Eä now?"
And then it was Melkor's turn to laugh, and genuinely he indulged in his mirth. "Come now! I think you overestimate your appetites, Ungoliant. Why, the stars within Eä are innumerable beyond count! Can you so much as consume a fraction of them, and still be unsated?"
But looking at what Ungoliant had become, he was indeed in doubt, for he felt her hunger knew no bounds; and seeing how hungrily she devoured the Void, she may as yet consume all matter within Eä. But too late was it now to withdraw his offer. For to achieve his vengeance, he would offer everything to all who would aid him, even if it were to be the utter ruin of Eä.
Yet Ungoliant hesitated, for she remembered the pursuit of the Valar in ages long forgotten, when they had murdered the Trees and had stolen the Holy Jewels of Fëanor; and she feared the wrath of the great Lords.
Melkor sensed her trepidation. "You fear the Valar will give pursuit, yes? Verily you should, as indeed the Valar are terrible in their wrath. But my wrath far outmeasures theirs, for no being knows hatred as deeply as I have. And that is why we are both beyond failing. For my hate shall be my weapon, and your hunger shall be yours. And they shall be the fuel of our revenge; so much so that no defeat shall ever come upon us, save only to those whom we loath."
But Ungoliant was reluctant. "Mighty words of vengeance you speak, Blackheart. And yet you forget it is their guardianship of Eä that keeps us here, locked in the Void."
"And whoever said we shall strike only with half blows?" Melkor laughed. "For in Aman itself, I will strike in full, and no Light of theirs, or strength of arms, or of weapon yet unheard can hope to withstand my onslaught."
And hearing this, Ungoliant stirred from where she lay; and her vast shape rose upwards, as of a wide disk upon a plane inclines steadily upright, until at last the broad stretch of her emptiness faced him in its fullest expanse; and Melkor was frightened, for although he knew a great measure of space separated them, her looming darkness seemed to erase all sense of distance.
In malice now, she spoke: "Very well, Blackheart! I will do as you bid. But knowest this: No more hindrances or promises withheld shall I brook from you. Aid you I shall, but you will leave me to my desires."
Then Melkor's darkness rose in answer, his ever-shifting shadow growing to such enormous proportions, so that verily it seemed threatened to blot out in full this region of the Void. But in white-hot heat his eyes continued to blaze, the only light in these deep wells of night. And together now, as of two great creatures of the Dark, they stood facing each other, Shadow blending into Shadow; and they were terrible to behold, though no eyes were fated to ever see them as they are now.
Haughtily, he replied: "Very well, Ungoliant. Do as you wish. I care not. For I shall have my revenge just the same. But knowest this also: At no instance are you to ever touch Arda, for it is mine, and mine alone."
And hearing this, Ungoliant laughed mightily. "A small price to pay for my lust," she said. "So be it."
And so it was that Melkor and Ungoliant, in these deepest regions of the Void, where even Eä and the Timeless Halls were but a distant reality, have sealed the fates of Arda and Eä, and themselves. But they knew this not, for they were not Mandos.
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