She sat on the hillside clad in her visible form, watching and listening intently. On her oval, solemn face was an intense expression that was hard to read. Far below her a merry feast went on in the glow of the Telperion, for it was ”night” in Valinor. She could see the proud crown of Manwë amidst the crowd, as its wearer moved among the Valar, Maiar and Eldar that had come to the gathering. In her mind's eye she could see the serene smile on the holy lips of the King, and the adoring gazes that the Eldar directed at him. Everyone was clothed in his or her best garments; the outward forms of the Ainur had even more splendour than usual, and the Eldar guests wore richly embroidered silk and velvet, like of which only their best craftsmen and weavers could make.
But her attention was drawn more to a group of Maiar that danced a little distance away from the main group. They were a glowing company, with forms as fair as they were varied. They circled round and round, and their laughter rose from the field to the listener's ears. She flinched as if stung.
”She is there also...” she thought, and a small shadow came upon her heart. She shook her head and her thin lips moved in a whisper.
”No, no! I must not think so. It is not her fault we were made so differently.”
Still, she could not wholly wipe away the feeling she did not want to name even to herself. She let her head to gently lower to her knees, and her dark hair covered her feet like a silken cloak. She sat so for a long while, silent and unmoving.
”Tirisórnë! What a surprise seeing you here!”
She bolted upright at the sudden speech and looked to her right. There she saw a being approaching. He was clad in the form of a tall, handsome man with a dark hair. His black eyes looked at her intently, but did not reveal anything of his own thoughts.
”Greetings, Melkor,” she said in a sharp tone and a curl of disdain appeared on her lips. ”Or should I say Milyalantro, since you are not so mighty anymore?”
There was a wrathful flash in Melkor's eyes, but it was quickly extinguished.
”Please, mock me not,” he said mildly. ”My brother has pronounced a judgement on me, and that should be enough.”
Tirisórnë shrugged and turned her attention back to the field. She was in no mood to argue. Melkor sat beside her on the lush, fragrant grass. After a moment of silence he pointed to the group of dancers:
”Ah, I see your sister is there! Why are you not?”
”I care not about feasts. They are so noisy,” Tirisórnë said.
Melkor laughed gently.
”And that is why you watch them from afar, especially when Olórwendë is there?”
He nodded towards the field and went on:
”How beautiful she is! And she dances well. No wonder she is so beloved, lowly as she is among us Ainur.”
”Oh yes, my sister is beloved by many, even by those who do not know her! Of course, because she shows them what they want to see, not what they need,” she spat. Then, with an effort, she collected herself and said coolly:
”I do not understand why I said you this, Melkor. I do not even like you. If my opinion was asked, you would still be in chains.”
”That I know well enough,” he said cheerily and gave her a most infuriating smile. ”Have you not even tried to warn the Eldar against me? Or so I have heard from some of the Noldor.”
”That I have done,” she said. ”But as you surely know, they do not listen to me. They want only the pretty pictures my sister so eagerly weaves into their dreams.”
Melkor leaned back on his elbows and said:
”And why do you want to be listened?”
”It should be self-evident. I see the perils hidden in the world's fabric and come to the dreams of the Children to show them, that even in Valinor and their hearts there can be things dark and dangerous. So, I ever advise them to caution and vigilance, to see ahead lest they stumble on their road. That is my task.”
”A thankless one, I gather,” Melkor replied. Tirisórnë nodded.
”Indeed. They do not want to reminded that their bliss is not to be taken wholly granted, and so close their mind's eye from me. They flinch away from the images of danger, with which I try to make them awaken to this reality. And the Valar do not need my counsel, since they have foresight of their own, much as it seems to differ from mine in some points.”
Melkor stroke his chin, as if to hide a smile, and said slowly:
”It makes you feel so powerless, does it not? Like that might which have been granted to you was empty.”
”Yes!” she said, forgetting even her dislike of Melkor in her anger. ”How infuriating! Sometimes I would like to – never mind.”
”To compel the Eldar to listen to you?” Melkor's reply came, very softly.
Tirisórnë started and looked Melkor in the eyes.
”Who told you? Or have you penetrated my mind, even though I guard against it?”
”There was no need,” he said with a dismissive wave of hand. ”It is written on your face and voice plainly enough.”
She took a deep breath to calm herself and said:
”Very well. It has been my wish. But Lord Manwë will not allow it. 'We are not come to force the Children to our will', he said to me, 'but to guide and protect them.'”
”Ah, and there's the problem!” Melkor cried. ”How can one guide and protect without the power to compel? You have seen yourself how impossible it is, if the Children will not that guidance.”
A shiver ran through Tirisórnë and she bit her lip.
”Are you trying to deceive me somehow, Melkor?” she said at length, her deep blue eyes trying to force their gaze into the mind of the Vala. But they could not get in. Melkor said:
”No, I only stated the truth. And now you know a part of my mind, and I yours. For have I also not grown weary of the leash that is imposed upon me?”
He pointed towards the feasting crowd below and continued with a gradually rising contempt and wrath:
”My brother, all due reverence to him, is content to be a shepherd. And that suits him well, diligent and faithful as he is. But I, I have manifold the power that he has been bestowed and a burning will to use it as a ruler, not as a servant. Yet I am not allowed to show my true might, not even a fraction of it.”
”Who does not allow?” Tirisórnë said, and her face grew pale. ”Oh, be silent! I fear you will blaspheme.”
Melkor snapped his fingers and said, although now with a more measured voice:
”I have not named anyone. But is it not foolish, that beings like us cannot make their wills a reality? For what have we been given this power then?”
”For doing that which is good and just,” said Tirisórnë gravely.
”Just? Was it just, or even good, to give you a nature that will give you only frustration and leave you powerless, as if you never were at all?” Melkor said with a furrowed brow, and Tirisórnë looked at him as with new eyes. Suddenly Melkor looked more pleasing to her, even a little sympathetic.
”You are angry for my plight?” she asked.
Melkor put his hand on her shoulder and said:
”Yes, Tirisórnë, I am. Why should I not be? Deeds are not just only because their doer says so. You and I have both felt it.”
”Look!” he said and with a slight concentration of his mind brought the sight of the laughing and rejoicing Olórwendë very near Tirisórnë's gaze. ”Look at her, and say if it is right that she is happy only because she was made a certain way, and you her sister are not! You should be angry also, not accept this like a slave accepts a blow from her master.”
Trembling, Tirisórnë looked at the image of her sister, and it wounded her more deeply than she cared to admit even to herself. Since the awakening of the Eldar, it had been Olórwendë who had been ever happier and Tirisórnë, who had been continually disappointed. She had earnestly desired to be a guide for these Children, to teach them inside their dreams to avoid the dangers lurking in the darkness of Endórë. But it was not to be for long. After the imprisonment of Melkor those foolish Eldar thought that they did not need such counsel any more, that all danger was past. But it was not so, that Tirisórnë knew well, and could dimly feel even more than knew.
The she turned her anguished gaze again into Melkor's eyes. She saw a fire there, a black flame that could only be hidden for a while, not wholly put out. Horror filled her, as she realized that a sparkle of the same fire had been kindled in her also. Horror – but also curiosity and a new will. Had she not listened during the Music to Melkor's themes more intently than she should have, even though she had then not followed them in her own play? With a last effort, she swallowed hard and said with a strangled voice:
”I – I do not hate her. I refuse to!”
”Why?” Melkor said. ”Has she ever cared for your plight? Has she ever offered to help you by weaving your words of wisdom into her more pleasing fabrics? No, she has heart only for herself and her own amusement. She basks in the light of her power and admiration, and even glimpses not into the shadow where her own sister is compelled to remain!”
There was a painful twinge inside Tirisórnë, because she could not deny that what Melkor said was at least partly true. She had never complained to Olórwendë of her disappointment, that was true. But should not a sister have seen it without words, too? Should not Olórwendë have helped her? A searing envy and anger was rising in Tirisórnë, when Melkor spoke again:
”But she does not deserve you full wrath. For she has only been selfish, as much as that has wounded you. There lies not your deepest hurt. Search higher, and then you will see who has truly wronged you!”
Tirisórnë longed to rise to her feet, to run away. But Melkor's hand on her shoulder was like a shackle, and the other half of her mind could not but agree with his words. The Vala's speech had torn into light all the doubts she had so carefully hidden within her. She looked to the heavens, past Telperion's silvery rays of light, past even Varda's vast star-gardens, beyond the very borders of Ëa. She longed to cry out with all her voice:
”Why? Why you made me? Why have you done this to me?”
But inside her the dark fire leaped high, and she remained silent. No, she thought, she could not anymore plead like a slave to her master (was that not the expression Melkor had used?). Not after how she had been wronged. A great hatred, along with despair and grief swept over her and carried every other thought away. She covered her face in her hands and sighed:
”What am I to do? Melkor, what have you done? Even if what you say is all true, it can only make my pain worse. Nothing can help me, and now I also am a blasphemer. I am lost.”
Melkor leaned closer to her and said into her ear:
”Maybe I can help you. There can be power for you to fully make true what you can be, regardless of Him who made you. And that power might come from my hand.”
”Is that so?” Tirisórnë said, trying to be scornful but sounding only tired. ”What can you, a prisoner, offer anyone? Your power is only whispers in the dark, not true might.”
”Perhaps I will not be a prisoner much longer,” he replied. ”And I know more than you. Did you know, for instance, that the Eldar are not the only Children to come into the world? There will be a second kindred also, not long from now if my yet dim feeling proves right. If I know rightly, they will be weaker than the Eldar and easier to guide, easier to make into the image of those who ascend to be their masters. Only think about it; what power could you also wield over them? For their protection, of course, but also for its own sake. We are, after all, beings of will and might, and should not deny our nature.”
Tirisórnë drew a trembling hand over her brow, as if hesitating. But then she raised her head and said, a sudden flash in her eyes:
”Let us speak of it, Melkor. Tell me what you can give me.”
They sat long, heads together, whispering to each other. Below them the feast went on in the light of Telperion, and the mirth of the dancers and those sitting at tables echoed from the hillside.
She watched intently, as the man squirmed. It was exquisite; as great chieftain as he was, in the dream he was wholly in her power. She could lead him anywhere she wished along the paths of the mind. Even to the darkest pits of his own fears, if only she was careful to put on the pressure gradually, so as not to awaken him from shock.
This was her delight now, a great power indeed. That was all she cared about anymore; all her dreams of protecting the second-born Children were gone. No, she despised those weak creatures who could be cowed by a simple nightmare. What gratified her most was that unlike her master, she did not need naked force to bend Men's wills, but could achieve that by tugging unseen at their own impulses and thoughts. Skilfully and stealthily, like a spider lures its prey.
Her master had broken his promises, misused her adoration he had once cunningly won, as she had come to realize all too bitterly. But this one thing he had truly given her: The freedom to use her might as she wished. And to that she clung, even at this hour when her lord's defeat hung on a thread. For her there could be nothing more left ever, as she thought.
There was indeed much potential for control in the dreams. Sometimes she showed false omens to Men, so as to make them fall into errors. Sometimes it was sowing discord among allies by planting doubtful images in their minds. And often, as now, she enjoyed herself immensely by throwing all restraints aside and drawing fully from the well of primeval fear that is within every Man. When she did that, it could be the death for weaker victims, whose heart could not stand the terror.
She had planned this dream beforehand. At the moment she was encircling her victim by beasts fouler than Orcs, since she had realized the chieftain feared and loathed anything deformed. Of course, the man was naked and without weapons. She stifled a laughter, when the man rushed shrieking down the only open path in the dark forest she had conjured into his dream.
The dreaming man was convinced that the war against Morgoth had been lost and that he was the only survivor. Thus, he could only flee. Soon he would be where she wanted him to be. Only a few moments, and he would come to a hut. And there, inside – his wife's butchered corpse hanging from a hook. That would shake him for days, so that he would be unable to fight effectively.
She prepared to direct the threads of dream just so for the greatest effect, as she was proud of her skill. But then, just as the man was about to enter the hut, a ray of light broke into the forest. The chieftain stopped and raised his eyes to the sky which was rapidly lightening as the nightclouds burst.
”What is this?” she thought, aghast and angry at the same time.
She tried to take the reins again with a violent effort. But even as she wrestled for control, she felt a searching will that was aware that her own was somewhere near. Soon it would find her. Sensing a power greater than hers, she reluctantly released the dreamthreads from her grasp. Quietly she slid away into the space in between minds and cloaked herself into shade. It was time to make a fast retreat.
Her form jolted as her spirit entered it. Again she cursed that she had been so shackled, but there was no help to it. After her fall she had realized at some point that she could not walk unclothed and still retain her power. So she had to remain in her visible form at all times and send her mind out, as an arrow from the bow, whenever her master's commands or her own malice dictated. And both leaving and returning were increasingly painful as time passed.
”Still, a sweet pain it is,” she thought even while gasping and quivering where she knelt. ”Sweeter than the humiliation I had to endure before.”
Her brow furrowed, as her thought ran on:
”But who was it that thwarted my plan? Olórin perhaps? Or maybe – no, not she! That would be too fateful.”
She had only just recovered, when the sound of heavy steps came from the corridor. She did not move, since she knew who was coming.
”You are come back so soon?” Morgoth asked, when he strode in. ”Is it done?”
”No, my lord,” she said without turning her head. The right side of her face, which only was visible in the flickering light of a brazier, was expressionless. ”There was some other power at work, which prevented me from giving the last blow. I had to retreat before being found.”
”Coward,” Morgoth said. ”But then, what could be expected of a weakling like Tirisórnë?”
The kneeling Maia's expression changed to one of badly concealed fury, but her voice was submissive:
”Please do not call me by that name, my lord! I am now Herilórnorië, and have long been!”
”Then act according to your name!” Morgoth growled. ”I commanded you to bring terror to the hearts of the chieftains of the Edain. Do my will, or face my wrath!”
A booming sound came dimly from above, as if through many layers of stone. Herilórnorië found some long buried scrap of courage and said:
”If you have time to carry your doom out, lord, before you yourself are defeated! Hearken, it is the horn of Eönwë!”
Morgoth glimpsed upwards and said in a voice more unsure than Herilórnorië had before heard:
”I shall win, be sure of that. Who could defeat the mightiest being that is?”
”The same ones who did it before,” Herilórnorië murmured. Morgoth, who was still concentrated in listening, did not seem to hear but said:
”Who it was that came to your way? And can you defeat him or her by some ruse?”
”I do not know, lord,” Herilórnorië said wearily. ”There are many of my kindred who can enter dreams and do battle there. Even my sister, even though she prefers waking visions. And as for defeating, no, I believe I cannot stand against any of them. Even though I would not have believed it, I am weaker than I was – before.”
”You seem to regret serving me,” Morgoth said with a suspicious glance.
”And why should I not, my lord?” Herilórnorië cried in angered despair. ”You lied to me, promised me things of which I only received a pale mockery! You lied even to yourself, for here we are, trapped as our enemies stand outside.”
Morgoth drew himself to his full height, and his face was stern.
”Be silent, and do as I commanded! And do not anger me, or I shall strip you of your form and cast you into nothingness, naked and cold”, he said.
Herilórnorië let out a shrill, terrible laugh.
”Ah, this beautiful form of mine!” she said and turned her face fully to the firelight. The left half of it was a thin mask of sickly grey, rotting flesh that barely clung onto the skull beneath. Half of her mouth was drawn to a horrid grin, as the shriveled lips had retreated from above the teeth. She stared at Morgoth with both her good eye and one glazed over like a corpse's when she continued in a hysterical, mocking voice:
”Is what you threatened not exactly what the Valar shall do to you also, my lord, when they drag you out of here?”
Morgoth's face contorted into an even uglier mask of wrath than usual. He raised his mace, but then suddenly lowered it again. An expression of disdain played on his mouth as he spoke coldly.
”You are not worth even slaying, slave. You call yourself a lady, but are nothing. Let the Valar punish you, if they win. If not, then I shall have time enough to make you suffer for your arrogance.”
He turned around and limped out of the chamber to join the battle that was raging outside. Herilórnorië stared after her lord, trembling all over as despair, shreds of a dark love and hatred battled in her heart.
”It is he who is a coward,” she murmured. ”He only let me be because he fears. Ah, what a fool I was to once believe his words!”
Even to the depths of Angband she could again hear the blast of Eönwë's horn, and knew not if to rejoice or to fear.
After writing my last fic, Olórwendë, with dreams and visions as one of its theme, I suddenly realized that there is something to say also about the other side, nightmares and those images that arise from the mind only to cause anguish. So, this piece was written. It is an independent ”sister” story to Olórwendë, as its main character is to that story's female lead.
The meanings of the names appearing in the text:
Tirisórnë - Warner to Vigilance
Herilórnorië - Lady of the Night Dread
Milyalantro – Falling in Weakness
Tirisórnë - Warner to Vigilance
Herilórnorië - Lady of the Night Dread
Milyalantro – Falling in Weakness
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