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Unbridled Turmoils

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She came into Arda like a dark storm, fierce and terrible, rejoicing in the tumult of the earth, her brother beside her. Their footsteps echoed like iron.  Through the great forgotten wars of the Beginning, Meássë whirled, spear-handed, armour-clad, her arms red with blood; less concerned with who was her enemy, or why, than with the joy of battle.  

The peace of Valinor was not to her taste, although it was the spoils of victory.

When Melkor returned to the West, bringing the Great Darkness, she followed, joyful, feeding upon his black rage, from West to North across the Ice into the East; the only pursuer not baffled by the darkness. 

She marched iron-clad into the tumults of Angband, and cried out: defiance and greeting, and the tall iron Gates of Angband gaped open before her.  Fearless, she strode through, deep into Angband itself, until she saw before her at last a tall figure seated on a terrible throne, and she smiled.

“My Lord Melkor! I am come to serve you in your wars!”  she cried in a great voice. The walls shook, and the King of Arda himself stood up from his throne and came to greet her, naming her Little Sister, Meássë the Warrior, Meássë the Lioness of Darkness, whose claws rend the Children of the One.

High above, clinging to the ceiling of the great Cavern-Hall of Angband, Thuringwethil looked down, her flat black eyes wide in wonder.  

Thuringwethil’s own lord was the Precious Master, and he was mighty among the lords of Angband: Lieutenant of Angband, Lord of werewolves, Necromancer.  He had given her gifts with a generous hand to win her allegiance: a golden ribbon for her hair, a golden ring for her slender fingers, and the guise of a bat to wear that would let her soar upon the dark winds, and creep through windows to seek for blood. She counted herself fortunate.

Now she crept like a dark stain across the cracked and riven rock, staring in wonder at Meássë’s broad shoulders, the dark hair that tossed around her like a sea riven by storms, feeling, even high above, the heat that burned within her.  Thuringwethil breathed deep, nostrils flaring. The rich scent of blood that hung around the Lioness was intoxicating.

The King had finished speaking.  Meássë was leaving, in the company of a captain of orcs.  Thuringwethil snuffed the air. Her Master had not called for her.  She dropped from the rock and flittered after them. She would find out where the Lioness had been given a place to sleep. 

 

******

 

Precious Master was busy, preparing for the war, and Thuringwethil had been given no duties to do.  She took to roosting, quiet and unnoticed, in bat-form near the Lioness’s window, a rough torn-looking split in black granite that looked out into darkness, high over the distant depths of Angband far below. 

Until... there was an angry shout from somewhere within.  Sniffing for the distinctive scent of blood and musk and heat, she crept closer, sensitive ears flicking.  She could hear a heartbeat and a faint flicker of movement as she peered around the rough corner of the stone.

With lightning speed, a hand shot out and grabbed roughly at her wing, pulling her in one movement, inside, and then pinning her to the wall. 

It was Meássë. Tall, strong and ironclad, her yellow eyes narrowed, staring straight at Thuringwethil. There was a long black knife in the hand that was not holding her wing pinned against the wall. 

Thuringwethil’s heart skipped a beat as Meássë leant forward to stare into her face. 

“You’re back again,” she said, her deep resonant voice almost a purr, shifting her grip to hold Thuringwethil’s wings spread wide and vulnerable against the rough stone of the wall, one forearm holding the wingtips. She brought the point of the knife up so that Thuringwethil could feel it sharp against her throat. “Why have you been watching me, little bat-woman?” 

Thuringwethil’s claws dug into her palms, but she raised her head to speak as fiercely as she could. “Who wouldn’t watch you?” she demanded. “Look at you! You’re glorious. I saw you and I smelled you, and I came after.” 

Meássë smiled lazily. “So you came only to look, little bat?”

All at once, she let go of Thuringwethil’s wing and stepped back a little.  Thuringwethil shook them out carefully, folded them protectively behind her, and then, feeling at a disadvantage, pulled the hood of the bat-fell from her face, and pushed it from her shoulders, so that her true face and form could be seen. 

“I came to look.  I didn’t know anything more was available,” she said, baring her teeth, defiant. “I watched you come to Angband, striding in as one who knew she would be welcomed by the King of Arda. I was impressed.”  She made herself step forward. Better to try her hand and be refused, than to be dismissed like a slave. 

Meássë laughed, her eyes brightening with interest, but she did not look angry. Instead, she reached out and ran the blade of the knife down Thuringwethil’s cheek, so delicately that her skin was not even grazed. She shivered at its cold iron touch.    

“You would love me!” Meássë’s teeth showed in a feral smile. “You, with your dark eyes and white skin, who puts on wings to fly through the firelight into darkness. You have a sweet mouth,” she said, running a thumb across Thuringwethil’s lips “but behind the mouth, there is an appetite that would drink the world, is there not?”

“I am not so mighty as that,” Thuringwethil said, sulky at having to admit it. “Blood calls to me, and I hear your sweet heart pound strong within your chest. But my thirst has limits.”

“Ah! Blood calls to me too, to spill upon the thirsty ground.” Meássë smile widened showing many long white teeth. She ran the tip of the knife down to Thuringwethil’s throat again, and Thuringwethil barely dared to breathe, caught between excitement and terror. “I am promised that very soon we shall march out to war. The ground will shake, the sky will be dark with the storm of battle, and I shall shed blood and to spare of our enemies.  Perhaps also the blood of my brother Makar, for he chose not to follow me out of the West. That will be a good fight! I long to face him again in battle. I miss him, and I shall kill him if I can.”

“That’s fierce,” Thuringwethil said, admiring despite her terror. “You’d slay your brother so willingly?” 

“Who else should do it?” Abruptly, Meássë flipped the knife back into the sheath upon her belt. “He is my brother.  I would have him die by my own hand, and send his formless spirit whimpering back to his masters. Then I shall weep for him, and laugh, for I shall have won.”

Thuringwethil laughed. “I never had a brother to drink.” 

“No?”  Meássë put a large hand upon Thuringwethil’s thin shoulder, then ran it up her neck and along the line of her jaw. Thuringwethil leant back into the touch, feeling the blood that ran under the skin of her hand, the strength and heat of it. “How are you called, little bat?” 

“Thuringwethil,” she said. “But it is not only the shadows that I love. I linger in the shadows, but the heat... draws me.”

“Thuringwethil,” Meássë said slowly, as if tasting each syllable in turn. “Thuring weth il.  I like it, bold and bloody little bat. You may not have the thirst to drain the world, but there’s a joy to your thirst I think, like to the joy in breaking bones and spilling blood.  Will you fly out to war beside me?”

“If my master allows it,” Thuringwethil said, uneasily. “I serve the Precious Master, and must obey his word.” 

“The precious master, eh?” Meássë said and laughed again. “And do you serve him well, Thuringwethil? What are you doing here, and not with your master?” 

“He’s busy,” Thuring +wethil said, sulking again and sure she was about to be dismissed. 

“Is he? And so you came to look at me.  A bold choice, but who could complain at the admiration in your eyes? Here I am, pent in Angband, and the blood is restless in my veins,” Meássë said. “Your master may be busy, but I require your service.  Come!”

She pulled Thuringwethil forward, turning her to the door.  A pulse was beating under Meássë’s chin, and the sound of it echoed in Thuringwethil’s ears like a drum.  

“Come,” Meássë said again, and Thuringwethil’s heart leaped, the scent of blood fizzing through her so that every nerve seemed alight. “Let us go and speak with this precious master of yours. I have a mind to go hunting.” 

Precious Master was not well pleased to be interrupted, but grinned like a wolf when he heard that the request was one that he could meet without upsetting his many complex plans.  “Go!” he said to Thuringwethil. “When I need you, I will call for you.” He bowed to Meássë, who gave him a long doubtful stare, and then turned without further acknowledgement and strode away. 

“You don’t like him,” Thuringwethil said, when she had caught up with Meássë in the great tunnel up to the gates, and caught at her hand so as not to be swept away by the troops of orcs marching back from duty at the Gate. “Why don’t you like him?” 

“I don’t trust him,” Meássë said curtly. “He belonged to Aulë.”

“You were in Valinor when the King was in prison!” Thuringwethil exclaimed, shocked. “You only just got here! He has served the King faithfully all these long years.” 

Meássë frowned and walked faster, towing Thuringwethil along in her wake, until they came to the Gates.  “I still don’t trust him,” she grumbled. “He’s a wolf at heart. Wolves are for hunting. I flay them for their pelts. They don’t run armies or build strongholds.” 

Thuringwethil considered her Precious Master silently, passing through the iron gates. “Sometimes he’s a serpent,” she said, eventually. 

Meássë hoisted her great axe to her shoulder and began to stalk westward on silent feet, unanswering. “Or an Elf with long fingers and pale fiery eyes. Or a bat, like me.” 

Meássë scowled. “Hmph.  I bet he is. I bet he is.”

“I bet you wish you were a shapechanger,” Thuringwethil said, feeling she was daring to suggest that mighty Meássë might envy the Precious Master in any way. 

Meássë, startled, huffed a brief laugh.  “Impudent little bat! I made this form for myself in the very-long-ago when I came to Arda.  It pleased me then, and it pleases me now. I desire no other form. It isn’t everyone that longs to flitter against the shadows on wings of night!”

“Of course you don’t like my wings.”  She made a sour face, folding the thin membranes behind her back.

“They’d need to be more than a bit bigger to lift my weight,”  Meássë said suddenly very jovial, and smiled a smile that was all teeth. “They suit you , though.”

“I shan’t be able to carry you off to my lair then,” Thuringwethil said, her heart soaring. She pulled the bat-fell around her and leapt into the sky, hovering around Meássë’s head.

“Do you even have a lair?” Meássë laughed, craning her head from left to right as Thuringwethil flew past and grazed her cheek with a deliberate wingtip. 

“Might have. That would be telling!” she shrilled. “Where are we going, anyway?”

“West,” Meássë said. “Hunting.”

“Hunting the enemies of the King of Arda?” Thuringwethil asked, testing. 

Meássë shrugged. “Anyone who gets in the way.”

 

*****

They went on, south and westward until they came to a misty land fenced by mountains.  Here Elves still dwelt in the pale starlight, moving quietly among the wild woods and meadowlands that lay within the encircling mountains.  The Mountains of Shadow, the Elves called them, for beyond the mountains lay horrors unnamed, lest naming them should lure them close. 

Now two of those horrors had passed the mountains, and among the Elves they sought their prey, dealing death from the star-shadow of the mountain-crags and the thick clotted silence of darkness under woven trees. Thuringwethil flew ahead, scouting, her keen senses a match for any Elf. The young she folded in her dark wings and supped their blood, but when they came shouting and waving spears and torches, she fled like an arrow to the great savage figure of Meássë, where her war-axe and great talons awaited them. 

So they took their savage delight for a while, as the stars turned dim and faint above the mist, until the word came out of the North that they were needed.

*****

 

The dark and formless barren plains that lay before the Gates of Angband had long been devoid of life, save only for the servants of Melkor the Magnificent, King of Arda.  Now his hosts came forth boldly from the iron gates: legions of orcs led by Balrogs with their flaming whips, enslaved spirits of the dead, barely to be seen save for the faint glinting of their chains.  The Precious Master with his wolves about him, and Meássë leading out a platoon of trolls with great red flaming torches in their rough-shapen hands. 

The King himself did not come forth.  He stayed in his fortress, sending out his generals to do his bidding.  

Meássë was disappointed by that. She had hoped that Melkor himself would lead, as he had done in the great wars at the birth of the world, and that he would tear Arda open with his blackened hands: so she had said to Thuringwethil when the order of the day was announced. 

Thuringwethil was secretly glad, though she did not admit it, not to the other vampires, and certainly not to Meássë. Her Precious Master was mighty enough to fight the silly Elves. Meássë with her hair drawn back and her strong arms bare for war was a sight that sang to her heart.  But she feared the King of Arda. He was the strongest of the Valar, and even though she was a blood-drinker of the shadows, to her, his might was terrible. The safest place to be was out of his sight.  

Now she flew above his armies, darting among the black banners and singing harshly in a voice so shrill that few could hear it, a song of blood and shadow.  Meássë looked up and saw her.

“Ready to deal death, my little bat?” she called, throwing her axe high into the air, and caught it by the handle as it came down.  Thuringwethil dived like a bird after the axe, and settled on Meássë’s broad shoulder. 

”Coming with me, then?” Meássë asked her.

Thuringwethil chittered agreement. 

 

******

 

The war went well. They stormed West and South, the King of Arda’s armies spreading across the dark land.  Balrogs flaming bright, orcs marching in great columns under their command, urged on by their fiery whips. The Elves fled before them to their ill-defended cities. Or they gathered in small, brave hosts, on hilltops or in quiet woodlands, and there they died, and the stars shone helpless above their deaths. And Meássë laughed joyfully, seeing the tumult of the world that she had loved was not all lost, her arms red with blood.   

She seemed to grow as their power spread west towards the Sea, and when Thuringwethil saw her, shining hot with her heart beating strong, her heart was filled with eager delight. 

Then they saw the new Elves marching East from the Sea, a terrible light in their eyes, tall, strong, gleaming in armour and carrying many brilliant lights. Thuringwethil, winging over the wolves of the Precious Master, shrieked at the fearful light of them.  She could feel her master’s will tremble in surprise, wary and suspicious, and that was enough for her. She hesitated, wings outstretched, poised in a moment of suspense before she turned to flee to the darkness of the mountains. 

But over to the south, Meássë sent up a glad shout, and charged her enemies with the fury of the avalanche. A leader of the elves charged out to meet her, his company close behind him on their great fierce horses. 

From the shadows of a crack in a crag high above, Thuringwethil watched, and nibbled at her claws in agony. 

For far too long, her sharp ears and nose could tell her nothing.   But then, with a roar, Meássë broke free, her mighty axe swinging, and her enemies fell back away from her.  But the smell of blood that hung heavy around her now was her own. 

Meássë stepped back, and back again, retreating into the broken foothills of the mountains, and Thuringwethil skittered sideways in the shadows, moving around the rocks with all the stealth at her command.  She could hear the Precious Master calling, somewhere east and north, but she turned her ears away and moved silently downward, until the scent of red blood and anger told her that Meássë was not far away. 

Meássë was leaning heavily against the mountain-wall, but her head went up, alert, as Thuringwethil descended the cliff like a clot of darkness, her talons hooking to impossibly-small crevices in the rock-face. 

“They drove me back,” she exclaimed, low-voiced but explosive.  “The impudence of it! I thought at least my brother would be with them.” 

“That wasn’t him?”  Thuringwethil was almost sure the leader had been an elf, but perhaps Meássë’s brother was a shapeshifter too. 

Meássë spat out a bloody tooth. “That?  No such luck. Tyelkormo, they called him in Valinor, one of the Elf-princes of the Noldor. He rode with the Hunter in the West, and Oromë has taught him to have a heavy hand. Bastard.”

“You are hurt,” Thuringwethil said, uneasy. 

Meássë looked down at the thick blood running down her arm from the shoulder. “Hungry are you, little bat?  You’ll have to wait a bit if you think you’re going to finish me off. I’m too strong for you yet.”

Thuringwethil snarled, showing her fangs. “I came to help you!”

"Why?"

“Why not?” Thuringwethil said lightly.  “I can’t carry you away, but together we can hide and watch for Elves. I’m not only hunger on wings.” 

“Are you not then?” Meássë sat down heavily.  “Come on then. You can lick the spilled blood if you like.  But no trying to drain me! I know what you vampires are like.” 

“I don’t think you know anything about vampires at all.” Thuringwethil stepped lightly down beside her and snuffed the air once, before pulling back her batfell to look more closely at Meássë. Her face was unusually pale. “You’re bound to that shape,” she said, realising the truth of it. “It’s weakening you.”

Meássë snorted. “I daresay I could make another if I really had to,” she said, defiance in her voice, but she did not believe it.  You could see it in her eyes. “I told you. I’m no shapeshifter. I made my choice when I came into Arda and I’ll stick with it.”

Thuringwethil nodded, and began to clean the wound: carefully, carefully, tongue and fingers lapping. Meássë’s shoulder felt as strong as mountains, and her blood tingled with power.  The scent of her sweat, so close, was mildly intoxicating. Thuringwethil took a moment to enjoy it, then pushed it aside to to employ her own small enchantments, to bind the flesh and hold the torn muscle

“Uff!” Meássë said, and leant back, relaxing. “You’re more skilled than I expected.” 

 “I can’t hold my prey with brute force, like you,” Thuringwethil pointed out.  “My arts are subtler.”  

Meássë nodded, still smiling lazily, her great limbs loose and relaxed. 

“Why did you come to Middle-earth to serve the King?” Thuringwethil asked, greatly daring. 

Meássë huffed a laugh. “You want the truth? I didn’t. I came because I was bored. I wanted war, and freedom to do exactly as I want. To dance, to rend, to tear, to destroy, to eat. There’s no freedom in Valinor any more, and precious little battle.”

“But you came to Angband.” 

“The obvious place. I’ve no desire to spend three Ages locked in the gloomy Halls of Mandos, wrapped in chains. Melkor has more sense than to order me to do anything I don’t want to do anyway.” 

Thuringwethil blinked through the shadows, shocked.  Then she showed her teeth in a smile, and brushed a kiss onto the arm she had lapped clean of blood. “I won’t tell anyone.”  

Meássë glanced sideways at her and smiled back, a smear of blood and dirt across her cheek. “I do believe you won’t, little bat.”

 

*****

The war was harder now. The Elves of the Wood had thrown back Angband’s eastern army, and their terrible bright-eyed witch-queen had made their woods into a fortress that no winged vampire or the most cunning orc could penetrate.  The Elves of the West had allied with the Elves of the Sea, and were too strong to be swiftly overcome.

But there had been a few small victories, here and there, for the might of Angband. They killed the King of the Noldor, and captured his heir, and after that, the Elves from the West seemed less terrible, and more like prey again despite their shining eyes and armour. There were no signs that the Elves would get further reinforcements out of Valinor, either. None of the Valar had come out to war. 

After a while, they began to send out companies again, and a while after that, orc-hosts. They avoided the West-Elves in their encampment by the lake, and travelled further west, seeking for smaller settlements to bring to ruin. 

 

*****

Thuringwethil and some of the other vampires of the Precious Master were out almost at the western shore again, when the Great Change came.  There was nothing to herald it, no warning. She was scouting ahead, sharp ears cocked in the darkness, her dark eyes wide, searching for elf-child or pig, or deer — she was not too particular, for it had been some time since she had fed. 

And then the terrible sound, echoing wildly down the long firth that lay black in the starlight: trumpets calling, silver trumpets from the West making a strange, wild music, that lifted curious thoughts in the heart: thoughts of a home she had never had, of longing for a light lost. 

Thuringwethil winced, and her wings faltered, but there was worse to come,for beyond the trumpets there was a great silver Light, a light more brilliant and inescapable than any that she had ever seen or imagined, and there stood a host of tall Elves, and before them their shadows stretched long and blue from the Light of the new Moon rising. 

Thuringwethil shrieked, one terrified wild cry, and wrapping her wings around herself in a doomed attempt to hide, she fell, tumbling from the sky.  The impact of the ground knocked the breath from her.  

Even then there was no refuge.  The awful light shone on, and it was rising in the sky, coming closer and watching her with a round white face with terrible judging eyes, and the sound of the feet of the Elves marching was a drum in the earth, shaking her bruised bones. 

Until a great hand, oddly gentle, came around her, picked her up, and tucked her into the safe warm darkness of a black cloak. 

“Don’t fret, little bat,” a deep voice purred. “Don’t fret.  It’s only light. You get used to it.” 

Thuringwethil sought for words, but could find only a tired squeaking. 

“Hush,” Meássë said, and cradled Thuringwethil in her magnificent bosom. “Hush, brave little bat.  I’ll take you to a cave, shall I? Come. You shall have a small drink from my wrist, and later, we will find you prey. Don’t cry, little bat.”  And she pressed a kiss to the top of Thuringwethil’s forehead.