“He dreams of love with men,” she whispered.
“How do you know?”
“The stones, they are whispering it to me,” said Luthien.
The enchantment of Beren’s disguise sharpened his sense of smell until it could slice individual scent molecules from the air, weigh them, and determine not only their origin but the manner or mood of the substance that had created them; he smelled many things, this olfactory precision buried within and yet slithering along beneath his human nose. His mind struggled to comprehend the conflicting tones of scent: he smelled the rocks and the molds living between the rocks, the heat of the deep earth, and dust; his wolf-nose smelled the layers of exterminated life, each murmuring and crowded on top of the other. He smelled the digesting meat riding on the breath of a disgruntled Orc and knew that the meat had suffered much before its death. He smelled the dozing fires within the footprints of the Balrogs. He smelled the quarrels of the flies. He didn’t smell the desire of Morgoth, nor the touch left upon on the stones by his hands or his feet. The stones brooded upon their secrets. Polite as he was, they would not speak to him the way they spoke to Luthien.
“It’s going to have to be you,” she said.
“What do you mean?”
“He dreams of love with men,” she said. “I cannot enchant him. Not alone.”
“What would you have me do?”
“Wait. When the time comes, you will know.”
They came together into the deepest chamber hollowed out in the bowel of the mountain, a dark place where no light thought to live or could pass through the generations of heavy stone. Each wave crushed down upon the other until the despair moved through the great hall carved into the stone. It made the air heavy and enamored of the screams of the anguished. The oppressed air held the screams and the miseries of its womb aloft with the buoyancy of salt water and it conducted the megrims and foul magicks of its maker with quick obscene fluidity. Luthien felt the corruption of the sea, the perversion of it, in this slow thickened air; the spirit of Ulmo mocked within its cresting waves and its slow deep dark fecund tides. She came into the hall and tried not to think about the moaning mountains on top of her. How sickened the land felt. It was an piercing ailment in the belly of the world.
Yet the darkling air would favor her magicks, as well. In his preoccupation with conductivity Morgoth hadn’t thought of the interference cast by other magicks, other enchantments both clean and fair. Luthien concentrated into herself and let bits of herself flow outward in waves, finding it easy, finding the ease of it almost seductive, the way the darkling air was so hungry for its own use, the way it longed to amplify the slightest bit of power. They moved together deeper into the hall, and the eyes of their disguises craved the darkness and with its smoky laguor and velvet caress. They saw the thralls and the Orc-servants and the shadows that brooded and threatened to unfold into Balrogs of flame. They were asleep. Many of them slept in their chains and many slept adrift in sour dreams. Their breaths were curdled. Yet Luthien’s fëa swam out from beneath her skin and stretched out into all corners of the room. It filled the alcoves where the Balrogs slumbered in sulfurous fumes that were the same as those of dead flesh fermenting in the sun and thus a source of primitive terror for all those who wore flesh. It spread across the slumber of the Orcs and touched them with the long-lost scent of niphredil.
A kiss for love, she thought to Beren. And one more for providence.
They came to the stairs carved out of obsidian that led up into a vault of stone, up to Morgoth’s cunning throne made of wicked blades and steeped in the blood and skin of a thousand forced penitents. Beren smelled the anguish and the bloated rotting pleasure that had died within the skin and droplets of blood, the agony of making the climb up those sharp stairs on ignorant knees and the ecstasy granted in the wash of pain, the haze of worship and hope, all if worn into the grooves and tiny splinters of those cruel stairs. He smelled the birth of the stone, its endless scream as Morgoth dragged it forth from the lava that was once its home. There was a right way to use the stairs, a path that did not cut. He could smell it. Luthien was light enough to mount them with only scarlet scratches blooming upon the soles of her niphredil feet. She did not use the stairs. She blew her essence into the bat-wings of Thuringwethil’s raiment and took to the air. He listened to the chittering of her disguised voice, felt the sounds bounce and shape words in his ears out of hollow silence.
He will wake soon. No matter what you see, know that I am yours.
Soon. Yes. Here he comes.
The hollow words stopped in his mind. Something washed over them, something huge and salty and forged in laughing iron, something cold and sparked with fire, some overwhelming aggression formed out of the darkness between the stars and he knew that it was Morgoth, Melkor-That-Was shaking off the mantle of sleep and rising into his wakefulness like a storm breaking over the crowns of the mountains. The voice hissed down all around him like a throat full of roaring rain and the insistent curiosity welled up beneath his feet. “Who are you?”
Beren looked up. At first there was nothing but darkness within darkness, but the shadows danced upon one another and skin flared out of the vault of night, flesh the color of a night sky in which some pale mockery of stars danced and shifted. Beren had an impression of hair, long black braids, the falling movement fading back into the depths of the skin. The skin was a night-container that described the musculature of a seasoned warrior and failed to hide the scars acquired in unholy battle. Beren tried to look into the absence of light. “Beren, my lord. I would offer my services, my lord. After the manner of a minstrel.”
Beren felt the will of Morgoth penetrate his skin as though it was air; he strode inside and picked up his fëa like it was a garment. He brought it close and inhaled its essence, savoring all of the memories stored there. Beren felt a knife of bitter cold slice down the center of him. Parts of his fëa shed like little spores in autumn and disappeared into Morgoth’s voracious hunger. Strange pleasure radiated outward, sinking hooks into Beren’s flesh. He started to tingle. He came into his breath, stoked and aflame inside his throat. A voice like an avalanche spoke in the deepest parts of him. “Very well.”
Luthien waited, clinging to the stone roof. When Beren opened his mouth, she poured her essence into her beloved. He sang the words she fashioned, brought them forth wrapped in a cloak of tantalizing masculinity. Beren cast off his disguise and stood naked upon the bottom stair, his skin fragrant, bending all of his will up into the vault, pushing it toward the throne he knew was there, running it across that strange dark flesh. She felt Morgoth’s disdain, felt the helplessness beneath the disdain, his secret inability to refuse the raw and earnest offer of manflesh; she felt his anger at himself as he savored his growing lust, the tang of Beren’s restless manhood. Luthien drew music out of the air, wove it together out of her heartbeat and Beren’s, and when Beren began to dance, mimicking the love act with the movement of his hips, Morgoth’s fascination grew apace. Luthien wrought a song of such surpassing loveliness, such profundity, that when it came forth into the world through Beren’s voice, Morgoth lost himself. Luthien passed over his head, cloaking him with her veil of hair. He swooned into a fetid sleep anchored in dark dreams.
Luthien’s hand trembled as she cut the Silmaril from the iron crown. The iron whispered her name and cried out in pain. Morgoth stirred. The blade broke in her hands. A shard sliced the skin of Morgoth’s cheek and in his blood she smelled anguished rain falling upon a field of lonely stone. The Silmaril knew great joy at the kiss of her hand. She kissed it back, fluttering down to the ground. She gathered her feet beneath her and cast off the cloak of Thuringwethil. She put the Silmaril into Beren’s hand.
“Come,” she said. “The magic. It will not hold.”