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Ship Amnesty Night

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His voice rang out like a great iron bell; deep and full of majesty.

"Luthien, daughter of -"

"Do be quiet," Luthien said with annoyance, tilting her head back to look at him. "I came here to negotiate, not to listen to bad love poetry."

The End of Days has made this place a great plain; the earth is already so broken, and where mountains once reared their proud heads water now laps only a few feet away from their feet. But Luthien stands here, small and bright with her long dark hair down to her feet, calm and unimpressed; the ages have not changed her.

Melkor laughs a little to hide his discomfort, and as he paces towards her shrinks down into a form not much taller than she. If there is any consolation for these end-days, it is that - that he can change shape at will again, as if he were finally able to put off a heavy cloak and change his clothes when he wished.

"Then I will speak plainly." He came to a halt in front of her. The white flag he has planted in the sand snaps and shudders in the sudden wind, and he wonders if the Valar are watching. "I once saw you... and misjudged you."

How he cursed himself for that! If only he had seen the true worth of the girl then, would he have been able to persuade her to his side?

"I would not make the mistake of doing so now." He poured all the persuasive power he could into his voice, leaning towards her and catching her eyes with his. "You are worth far more than to be the toy of any Vala. And fighting on their side, that is all you are to them."

The winds of the world whistled around them, but Melkor easily raised his voice above them, and Luthien did not even flinch at the sting of the gale.

"Come to me now, fair Luthien - nay, more than fair; great Luthien. Come to me and you shall be a Queen, lovely and terrible. Bind your hair with shadow; you should have dragons to serve you and to ride to battle upon, and I would take a Silmaril from the burning heart of the earth to ornament your brow."

He reached out to her, letting his voice drop to a sweet murmur. "You need not love me; you may decide in your own time what you wish. But be my general, and the world shall bow at your feet."

Luthien's breath rushed through her parted lips, her grey eyes fixed on his; and for a moment he thought he had ensnared her.

Then she laughs, tossing her head, and her hair ripples over her like a cloak as the winds begin to still.

"Sweet words from a black mouth, Belekoroz." And the sound of his Valarian name on her tongue - how did she know? - left him speechless. "I have power enough of my own; I have a husband and children and grandchildren - great-grandchildren, and their children! I have everything I need. I will not sacrifice that to give you one of the many things that you lack."

And she reaches out and plucks the white flag from the sand, making a mocking salute with it, before turning and walking towards the smudge on the horizon that is the great camp she came from. Melkor watched her go, gritting his teeth and weighing the odds of capturing or killing her before she got out of range; finally, he shakes his head and turns back toward his own camp. Perhaps there is still time to sway her.

It occurs to him half an hour later that she stole his flag from under his nose and he had not even noticed.