Melkor opened the door to his apartment and stopped. Blood and glass were everywhere and Mairon was nowhere. Which was not a good sign, because Mairon had stayed home sick (not that he would admit it) with the flu.
Also, Mairon’s phone was lying unbroken on the ground. He picked it up and saw that it was open, a video queued to play. He pressed the play button, frowning.
Mairon had filmed himself and was talking in the video. Melkor turned the volume up and continued watching.
“This will be the last time any of you ever see me as I am now. They are coming. Look in the museum for the painting People of Middle-earth. If you find any blood on the ground, yes, it’s probably mine. Also their’s. Goodbye.” It ended and Melkor dropped Mairon’s phone. Before it even hit the ground Melkor was his own to call Thuringwethil.
“This is Thuringwethil.” Her clipped voice snapped from the phone into his ears and he breathed a sigh of relief.
“Thil, Mairon’s dead.”
“I came home and found blood all over the floor. There was video he left confirming it. I guess they dragged the body away. I could check the cameras.”
“I’m coming over. I’ll bring Gothmog with me.”
“See you then.”
Fifteen or so minutes later, the three of them were hunched over a computer. Thuringwethil was reading an article on the painting and where it was located. “So we have to go to the Gallery of Artistic History to find a specific painting because Mairon is trying to tell us why and how he died?” Thuringwethil huffed.
“I guess,” Melkor said, scanning over the article for the umpteenth time.
A voice so old it might have been mistaken for God had it not been so purely evil reverberated silently throughout the museum. It was a quiet humming, so low in noise and pitch that you had to walk in complete silence to hear it, and since the trio walking through the museum looking for a very specific painting was speaking, not one of them heard it.
“I found--no, wait, that was the People of Sparta ,” Gothmog said, frowning. Thuringwethil and Melkor had similar experiences.
“Were you looking for this?” They turned almost simultaneously, only to see a tall woman with short dark hair and blue eyes looking at them in a condescending manner.
“Who are you?” Thuringwethil asked suspiciously.
“I’m Koss. Koss Lanaki. Were you looking, by any chance, the People of Middle-earth?” she said, grinning. Thuringwethil nodded, then glared.
“How did you know that?”
“This place has precisely two People of paintings. Since you weren’t looking for People of Sparta, I assumed that was what you were looking for,” Koss said simply. She pointed at a painting behind her.
“Here it is.” They moved towards it, transfixed. The painting was incredibly detailed down to the fingernails of each person. In it, an armoured figure knelt beside a fallen demon, helmet on the ground. Nearby, a king stared down a flaming eye and an obviously inhuman man stood beside a red-headed woman, who was holding a baby and smiling.
A piece of paper was sticking up out of the frame, and Melkor grabbed it.
So you found it already. That’s good, I guess. Well, if you think this will be that easy, you’re wrong. In the statue garden outside, there should be two statues, one marble, one obsidian. Say hello to the black one: the person it depicts owes me a favour. He will know the next clue.
That was all there was. “Well,” Melkor said, “We need to visit a certain obsidian statue.”
The garden was gorgeous. The statues were most likely exaggerated, as both had wings and horns. Feeling a little silly, Melkor stepped closer to the obsidian staatue and said nervously, “Um…hello? A friend of mine said you owed him a favour.” The statue did nothing, but a flash of brilliant darkness did. Standing directly in front of them was a tall, snowy-skinned man with long hair that was black and red. His eyes were blue and he had silver horns.
“ Yes?” he asked.
“Hi,” Thuringwethil said, her face arranged in an expression that told everyone else to back off. “We have a friend by the name of Mairon who says you owe him a favour.”
“ Mairon, you say? I knew an Uruk who went by that name as well as his birth one. Describe him to me.”
“Short, red-headed, amber eyes,” Thuringwethil supplied.
“ Hmm. I remember him as tall and dark-haired, although the eyes…well. Perhaps. As far as I know, this Uruk I called Mairon is the only person I have ever owed a favour to. Which of you shares my name?” he asked.
“What is your name?”
“ Melkor, but I am most often called Morgoth, Bauglir, or the Moringotto, to name a few. I did once have a lieutenant who would always call me ‘the pain in the arse over there on the throne.”
“That would be him.” She jerked her thumb at Melkor, who started.
“ Yes. He lent me images of you in his mind--voluntarily, of course. He spoke of you as most Orcs speak of their shaûk --almost in reverence.”
“He talked about me like that?” Melkor’s eyes widened an almost comical amount. Even Gothmog looked shaken.
“Of course! Anyway, what exactly is it you want? I’ve been trying to get to Aman, but I can’t contact my brother. I may as well help you…mortals.”
“Well, as far as we know, Mairon is dead. He left us a series of clues and--”
“Ah. That was the message. I can tell it to you.”
“That would be great.”
“Here it is: So you have found him. The next clue is simple. Well, it really isn’t a clue at all. Look for the mighty and the last in Orcish. Then you will know.” The ethereal version of Melkor gave a small wave and vanished in a blast of acrid-smelling smoke.
“Well, that was weird,” Gothmog said, laughing nervously. They nodded, not noticing that just before they left, the marble statue shifted.