She was a proud woman, Moriel of the people of Finrod, proud and deeply loving. Her love for her husband was a fierce, passionate thing which took her from Valinor without regret. No Doom, no Exile could break their bond.
She was a proud woman, Moriel of the people of Finrod, proud and deeply loving. Her love for her husband was a fierce, passionate thing. No Doom, no Exile could break their bond. Or so she believed.
''I am for thee, always,'' she had said. ''Nothing will separate us now. I have sworn it. Promise me no-one will come between us. Promise me!''
And he had agreed, smiling that complicated smile, (He had chosen her, after all) taken her face between his hands and kissed her until she burned, making a new light under the cold stars of Endor.
''Moriel,'' he whispered. ''I love thee.''
But Hendunár had never loved her thus, as if she were nothing, forcing her, hard and savage and with each thrust, the mocking: ''I love thee.''
He was dead, yet he was here, on her, within her. She clung to that belief even as she was raped, her mind rocking like a boat cast from its moorings, like the Swan Ships that had foundered. He was dead...he was here...He had to be here, the other image, of black arrows flashing into his body, of blades coming down on him until he was gone under the blows and hacked...that was not the truth. She had not been bound by clawed hands which pawed her and ripped her robe, her gown, until some unheard command halted them and she was dragged through the mists. Hearing voices around her, the clash of a skirmish, she cried out, but the fog swallowed her and left no trace.
No...! He was not dead. He was here, with her...
She kept her eyes closed. When it was over she breathed carefully, lost to herself, alive only in memory
''Now thou wilt rest,'' Sauron said, and added another word, a name of vileness and filth, shaped from mouths which spewed such, making a mockery of the language of the Eldar. He laughed and touched her stomach, over the womb. And she knew, through the slowly rising madness within her, she knew. Inside her, very deep, a screaming began.
Through the year of her pregnancy, her mind wandered. She was mad then; only the power of Morgoth Bauglir kept her soul chained to her body.
And after birthing, Moriel died. She gave to her twins the fierce beauty of the Eldar, her pride and, as if it was the last grace she could give, her ability to love.
It was beautiful once, thought the boy, as his fingers smeared through the grime of the walls. Beneath it, etchings inlaid with opalescent pearl gleamed softly. He stared at them in wonder.
He wandered where he would, if he dared, for no-one touched him; they knew not to, those creatures with their ragged teeth and cruel claws. They watched, leered, but laid no hand on him, and so at whiles he crept into abandoned rooms, where rich hangings gathered dirt and cobwebs. The glint of gold and silver threads still shone under the mold. Most had been torn down, anything of value long taken, but the impression of great strength and greater beauty lingered.
Who were they? Who built this? he wondered.
Who built this? The voice pierced his mind like a cold awl. A hand of iron and ice closed around the neck of his tunic, tearing the frail cloth. I will show thee!
The boy's feet scrabbled for purchase on the damp steps as he was propelled downwards. He struggled, was struck sharply, as if being brought to attention. A bruise flowered on his dirty cheekbone and he tasted blood as he bit down on his tongue. His eyes, under sooty lashes glared purple defiance.
He was terrified of Sauron, Master of the tower; there was a dreadful power in him, a strange, cruel beauty. His gaze ripped through the eyes and into the mind. Before it one felt as nothing. His sister tried to hide when Sauron came to their chamber, and it was her fear that forced the boy to reach within himself for a bravado he could not even pretend to feel.
Their food was scanty and poor, and the water tasted as if it had lain too long in some old, rusted barrel. The thin blankets scratched the skin; their clothes were shapeless, their feet bare. The children fared little better than houseless beggars in some rotting city of men.
Vanimórë, he had been called and his sister was Vanya. Sauron had laughed without humor as he pronounced the names; neither knew why, only that there was contempt in it.
Vanimórë had learned to steal not long after he learned to walk. He would thieve bread, sometimes meat and, swift as a fox, would flee with it to their rooms. If he was caught, he was beaten, but only by the Master, no-one else touched them. Vanya watched the punishment until she shook with sobs, begging Sauron to cease, and after she would tend to the injuries. Vanimórë did not weep, and would never plead.
As Sauron grasped him, Vanimórë struggled and was rammed against the wall. His head cracked against the stone, and white lights shattered his vision. He shut his teeth hard.
''Do not resist me, fool. Thou hast asked a question, and I will answer it.''
Vanimórë lost his balance and was hauled, bare legs and feet scraping and knocking against stone. They were descending deeper into the tower now, a place the boy had never been. The rooms had been used for storage once, but now they served a different purpose. At times he and Vanya would hear screams drifting on the air, and knew they were birthed down here.
Armored orcs stood guard at the door. They flung them open, almost bumping into one another in their haste as Sauron swept past into a room where fire glowed red. Vanimórë saw strange implements thrust into braziers, heard a hiss, smelled a vile stench.
''Here, slave, look.'' Sauron's voice held chill amusement as he dragged back the long hair, forcing the child to look up.
Hanging in manacles was a figure, his arms stretched over his head. He was bound in chains, skin mottled with bruises and the weeping, sizzling wounds of hot metal. Vanimórë's stomach roiled, but amazement quelled his rising gorge.
He had never seen anyone like this before. A mass of black hair curtained the man's face, and cascaded to his thighs. His skin was white as the marble the boy revealed when he cleaned dirt from the carven walls.
As Sauron spoke, the captive raised his head, and Vanimore gazed entranced at a face agonized, but hauntingly fair. His eyes held such a light that the child felt sudden tears of awe and longing flood his own.
''No, my lord, no! Let him go!'' His plea was instinctive and the man stared and loosed a flood of words in a alien tongue. Vanimórë could not understand them, but the hate and loathing chimed so much with his own emotions that he felt an unexpected and shocking sense of partisanship.
''Let him go? Very well.'' Sauron smiled. He loosed his grip on Vanimórë's hair, and stepped before the chained figure, spreading his long fingered hand on the chest. Then he thrust his fingers through and tore out the heart.
''No !'' Vanimórë hurled himself at Sauron in a flurry of thin limbs, tangling in long robes. His shoulder creaked under a tight grip, then he was thrown back, his buttocks hitting the floor hard. Looking up, he felt a warm splash strike his face.
The heart seemed to beat for a long time before it stopped.
''Beautiful is it not? No?'' Sauron smeared rich arterial blood across Vanimórë's skin. ''They built Tol-in-Gaurhoth, slave. Noldorin Elves. Just skin and bone and blood, when all is said and done.''
In the small room he shared with his twin, Vanimórë wept, curled in upon himself. His sister held him helplessly.
''They built this place,'' he choked. ''He was beautiful.'' He raised a face washed white with tears through blood and dirt. ''He looked like... like you, Vanya.''
He had never, in that place seen his own reflection, or he might have realized that the prisoner had also looked like him.
"Perhaps we are their children." He swallowed his sobs at the stunning thought. "Perhaps...they will come for us one day."
"But why would they have left us?" Vanya smoothed back his hair and handed him a cup of water.
"I do not know," he admitted, slipping one arm about her. "Perhaps we were too small to...run away."
The wind blew bitter from the north.
Mountains marched at their right hand for many days on that northward journey, and at times the children saw, far up, vast bird-shapes; for those peaks were the dwelling place of the Great Eagles. Beyond them, hidden from the eyes of Melkor, lay the shining city of Gondolin where ruled Turgon, second son of Fingolfin. Vanimórë did not know that then. He knew very little.
Once, the great plain they crossed had been called Ard Galen, but when Dagor Bragollach came and all the green was withered, it was given a new name, Anfauglith, the Gasping Dust. Nothing grew there. At whiles the tramping feet of the orcs and troll-guard crunched on bone.
The children's eyes widened on the mountains that loured before them, climbing into the fume-laden skies. Here, on an outlying spur of the Iron Mountains had been delved Angband, the Hells of Iron. From those excavations were raised the threefold peaks of Thangorodrim, which ever vented strange smokes, noxious and cloying. Black and monstrously tall, they climbed into a red sky across which clouds streaked like iron bars which would imprison even the stars.
In Tol-in-Gaurhoth, shrouded in gelid mists, the children had never seen stars. Vanimórë stared at them in wonder, astounded by their beauty, but as they approached Angband the stars dimmed, clouded by darkness.
Angband, fortress of a Power.
The road ran under huge battlements below a precipice, and into a down-sloping tunnel whereat the children balked. The horror pounded on their minds as they walked, clinging to each other until Sauron's hand slapped them apart. Their small feet pattered noiselessly after his robes down labyrinthine stairs, past rooms where reddish light flared and raucous laughter and screams issued. Arrhythmic pounding echoed and re-echoed. It seemed an Age until they came to vast, iron bound doors, shaped like a snarling, enfanged mouth, and what guarded them caused fresh terror to leap into their throats.
At first the creatures looked like shadows, but a sense of dark strength and burning emanated from deep within. As they moved, laval fire shone in their eyes and streaming manes poured down their shoulders; either great wings or cloaks fell behind them. Both bore huge swords.
The doors swung open and Sauron entered. He siezed each of the children and dragged them past great pillars and torches which spattered hell-light over them.
Something – some-one – sat upon a vast throne at the end of the chamber.
The oppression slammed into them like an iron fist and buckled their knees. Shivers weltered through Vanimórë's body, and his tongue clove dust-dry to the roof of his mouth as a voice spoke, dark as unending night, carrying the thrum of naked Power.
Compelled by the greatest Power who dwelt in Middle-earth, the children's eyes rose. Vanimore almost cried out. He heard his sister whimper, and reflexively reached for her small hand. It was like ice.
Tall and terrible He was. His eyes flicked between black and red, and a force of might poured from them. His will demanded obedience, that they grovel before him like the nothings they were; and they would have, but that their eyes were captured by what He wore on his brow.
The crown was of black iron, ornate, and heavy. Claws like cruel talons grasped three jewels whose light, even in this place shone with with defiant glory.
Thus did the children see the Silmarilli, stolen from Fëanor in Formenos, and the cause of an Oath which made Melkor smile for the tragedy inherent in it.
''They might be Elves, save for these eyes.''
Vanimore clenched his jaw as a hand – it burned...! – siezed his chin.
''Pretty, are they not, my Lord?''
''Thy blood, my power, increases their rate of growth, it would appear. Interesting. Yes, I am pleased...''
Thy blood? Vanimórë thought dazedly, and heard a rumble of laughter.
''Dost thou not know thine own father when thou seest him, boy?''
The laughter seemed to rebound from the walls and pillars of the room. The children cowered down.
No! Vanimórë cried soundlessly. He is not our father...Not our father...! Not! Not...! Blackness came down on his soul like the end of the world.
The children grew like weeds. Perhaps it was Sauron's blood indeed, or the power Melkor disgorged over them, or both. They grew. And from the moment of entering Angband, Vanimórë fought. Thus began his long battle against submission.
One day he was summoned, taken down many stairs into a pit about which torches were lit. Great orcs stood about and Gothmog, greatest of the Balrogs, High Captain of Angband. Melkor was there, the Silmarilli blazing on his brow, but two of them only, for even in their distant chamber the twins had heard his fury as he woke from enchanted sleep to find one of them cut from its housing.
To the very depths of Hell had come a Mortal called Beren and Lúthien Tinúviel, daughter of Melian the Maia, and Elu Thingol, King in Doriath. Lúthien, singing to Melkor, dancing before him in her glory, had cast he and his court into slumber, allowing Beren to release one of the Silmaril and flee with it.
Terrifying rage had siezed the Dark Lord and the corridors had trembled with his fury, yet Beren and Lúthien had escaped and the tale of it was whispered among the thralls who labored in the forges, among the orcs and wolf-demons. Vanimore had felt a fierce trembling of delight. Until then, all he had known was the ever-massing power of Melkor, which would sweep all the frail defenses of Elves and Men before it.
''It is time for thy training to begin, Slave.'' Melkor pushed a tall figure before him.
The Elf's eyes still blazed, though blood traced his form from the marks of whip and bruises. He wore only tattered breeches and doeskin boots, long hair caught back from his face.
''And here is thy teacher, who did come all the way from the Blessed Realm to help thee become a warrior. Thou shouldst be honored.'' Harsh mirth followed.
The warrior stared at the youth. He was white skinned and his hair, tied up with a leather thong fell in a plume like the tail of a war-horse to his knees, the darkest of blue-blacks. He was beautiful, but the eyes were unnatural; they were dark purple. It was as if his face were a statue's with gems set in the eye-sockets.
Who is this?
''He is just a slave, thrall, as art thou. Thou shalt train him.'' Melkor's voice smiled with black malice.
''I will do nothing for thee, Morgoth Bauglir! ''
It was the first time Vanimórë had heard that name: Morgoth, first cast at him by Fëanor after learning of his father's death and the theft of the Silmarilli. Melkor's fist sent the Elf flying backward, puffing up black sand, and Vanimórë gasped:
"No! Please, I wish to learn!"
He took a few steps forward. His words seeming to float away and hang on the air, and his temerity almost made his heart stop as Melkor's vast shadow spread over the thrall. Dropping to his knees under it, his mouth dry as the sand, Vanimórë saw in his mind Sauron tearing the heart from the prisoner in Tol-in-Gaurhoth...
And Melkor read his thoughts.
''Thou dost not desire to see his brains crushed out under my foot, slave? No? In time thou wilt learn to enjoy such things. But thou doth need a teacher.'' A deeper darkness laced through the words, as he turned, extending one scarred hand. It was said that the light of the Silmarilli had burned him when he fled from Aman with them, and he could never be free of the pain.
''Beg me, Slave.'' Vanimórë lowered his head, his lips scorching as he touched them to Melkor's fingers.
''Master. I beg thee. Spare this one.'' He tried not to flinch as his chin was brought up.
''Thou wilt learn...many things, Slave. Now, crawl to him.'' He gestured to the Elf.
The rough grit was warm as Vanimórë went on hands and knees.
Please, do not defy him, do not allow him to kill thee.
Whom art thou?
I am nothing.
''My Slave pleads for thy life, thrall. Should I let him have it?''
And then Melkor's command slid into Vanimórë's mind like oil, and he hesitated for a moment at the realization he wanted to touch this wounded man. Slowly, he slid his hands into the thrall's long hair, ran his fingers over a bruised cheek. His lips touched the darkening of the flesh, the corner of the lush mouth...
Vanimórë jerked back at the dragging hunger in Melkor's mind-voice, and the Dark Lord's laughter bounded through the pit.
''Thou hast so much to learn, young one. I will enjoy instructing thee. Get up.''
"I am called Valóron," the Elf told Vanimórë, after their first training bout. That was all he learned that day, but Gothmog and Melkor had watched, seen the speed and strength of Sauron's son. And Melkor was pleased.
Valóron did more than train. From him, Vanimórë learned from him of the Noldor, of Valinor, of the Oath of Fëanor, and much more. He acquired the language, some Quenya, but mostly Sindarin. There was so much he did not know ! Valóron thought him of the people of Finrod Felagund, he whom had built Tol Sirion, which became Tol-in-Gaurhoth. Surely Vanimórë had been captured and enslaved as a very young child? That must explain his ignorance.
Vanimore did not disabuse him. He had found his first friend, and could not bear to see the loathing which would awaken in Valóron's eyes if he admitted his parentage. ~