Yavanna hid her face in her hands, afflicted by the spectacle in front of her eyes, and returned to the forge. Therein, the powerful arm of her husband beat the anvil with a hammer, and sparks of fire hovered over his head like little stars.
-Have you seen what's happening out there, Aulë?
-I suppose that what happens always. -said her husband, shrugging apathetically without looking away from his work.
-Melkor has ruined the fertile soil that took me such effort to prepare! Instead of moist earth there are ditches filled with fire, instead of placid rivers, geysers of boiling steam, and cliffs cut steeply instead of my rolling hills, and craters of ice in my valleys. Where will my creations grow now!?
Aulë sighed, wiping soot and sweat from his face, he turned to face his scowling wife.
-And what do you intend me to do about it, dear? Melkor is the brother of Manwë and the most powerful of us all. I can’t go looking for him just like that and hit his head with my hammer.
The tanned forehead of Yavanna furrowed still more, and Aulë prepared himself for the imminent outbreak:
-The ravages of Melkor don’t affect you as much as me! After all you work with the hard rock that resists both fire and ice. But my creatures will be tender and delicate when they come to the world! There must be something we can do about this enemy that has risen among us!
At that time, one of the Maiar of Aulë interrupted the forging of the bracelet at his hands, and let his cold, calm voice be heard:
-My Lady, it might be possible to speak with Melkor and reach an agreement. I’m sure that his intentions aren’t bad and that his works also have a place in the construction of Arda.
The one who had spoken thus was Mairon, the favourite disciple of Aulë and also the most talented, though his extreme pallor and taciturn character didn’t make him very popular among the other Maiar.
-You're too naive, Mairon, if you think one can reason with that... that... rebel! –snapped Yavanna, crossing her arms.
-I may be naive, but maybe that “rebel” is so as well. Maybe he doesn’t realize the harm he’s causing, maybe he believes he’s cooperating. How will he be amended if nobody makes him see his mistake?
The Maia who worked with Mairon dropped his hammer and snorted furiously.
-But do you ever listen to yourself!? Of course Melkor is fully aware of the harm he causes! That has been his intention from the beginning: to take over all Arda and wreak the work of the other Valar! Didn’t you hear his discordances during the Music?
-No, Curumo, I didn’t hear any discordance. My mind is adapted to order and doesn’t perceive chaos easily. –replied Mairon, squinting with a veiled threat.
He had always felt a deep antipathy for his companion Curumo, and the feeling was more than mutual. Especially since Curumo had envied him from the beginning, and lost no opportunity to make him look bad in front of his Lord. In fact, Mairon suspected that if Curumo had chosen white as the colour of his long hair and clothes, it was only because Mairon had chosen, unusually, black for his. Overall, Curumo was one of those spirits with his feet on the ground: terribly conventional, terribly mediocre, and not original at all. And those were the qualities that Mairon most despised in him.
-Enough with the bickering and return to your chores! -ordered Aulë, with firm (though paternal) severity.- Regarding Melkor, I will talk to Manwë and propose some kind of alliance to deal with his menace.
Yavanna’s expression softened at this, and she smiled, deeming herself satisfied.
Mairon, for his part, looked furtively through the opening in the rock that served as a window for the forge. Outside, in the black sky, the glowing trail of Melkor tore the air and matter of Arda, leaving fanciful figures and a rare geometry in his path. Until the light faded into a shower of sparks, only to resurface in new forms the next second.
And Mairon wondered if something so beautiful could be evil.
Indeed, Aulë kept his word of meeting with Manwë to address the issue of his brother, not so much for fear of the latter, but for fear of the wrath of his wife if he didn’t do so.
However, Manwë flatly refused to start any hostile action against Melkor. His reasoning was that not even all of them together could face such a powerful enemy. But the other Valar, gathered also there at that time, guessed right away that Manwë simply didn’t want to antagonize his brother to that point.
There was a general clamour upon hearing this decision, especially by Yavanna, Ulmo and Oromë, supporters of a harsher response. Even in the tense expression and tight lips of Varda could be read disagreement, though the Queen of the Valar didn’t contradict his husband publicly.
In the end, all the Valar agreed to meet in an esplanade with the enemy, to parley and reach a truce, even though almost none trusted the effectiveness of this plan.
In the forge, Curumo shook with terror when he learned that his master Aulë would meet face to face with that evil Vala, and was glad that no Maia was allowed to attend. Mairon, meanwhile, felt somewhat disappointed. He had never seen Melkor up close, and was curious to know how would look that being of pure light that he had so often glimpsed in the sky, tracing his fantastic figures.
The Valar had to wait a long time in the esplanade and cry out for Melkor, before he noticed their presence and deigned to descend by their side.
The land on which they stood, still soft and half-formed, rocked dangerously when the evil Vala placed his foot on it. And the rough sea in which it floated began to boil and emit vapours.
Melkor had also adopted the body of the Children of Ilúvatar, though he was naked, and his unique beauty appeared wrapped in the cosmic light that he extracted from Arda with so much tenacity. Some of the shyest Valier looked away, unable to withstand the intensity of those eyes, black as the Void and burning as the bowels of the world.
-What do ye want from me? Don’t ye have enough importuning me with your existence, that ye also have to distract me from my creation? Speak!
Manwë stepped forward and cleared his throat, uncomfortably.
-Well Melkor, I have received many complaints and protests about your behavior, and I also share them. We all work hard in our respective fields to give the best possible shape to Arda, and of course your contributions are valued, but the problem is that...
Melkor had approached Manwë more than usual, and was now grabbing the folds of his blue robe and pawing them with fascination. The King of Arda didn’t believe that his brother was listening to him.
-What is this, why does your body have this form and texture!? -he exclaimed, with an indignation hard to understand.
-That's not my body, these are the clothes that cover it -explained Manwë- Didn’t you see the Children of Eru in the Music, how they adorned themselves with beautiful embroidered fabrics, how they hid themselves with them, feeling naked and defenseless when they didn’t wear them? We saw those things, and we agreed that clothes were something good and beautiful, and that henceforth we would wear them.
-Yes, and YOU, Melkor, should wear them too! –interrupted Varda, pointing at him with an accusatory finger.- Instead of strolling around naked, with your private parts in view of everyone.
Melkor looked down, frowning.
-I’m not naked, I'm covered with light!! And I'm so beautiful, so brilliant, that you, envious Varda, cannot stand it! You, ugly and dark, your light is nothing compared to mine!!
Varda opened her mouth to reply, but her husband stopped her. It wasn’t the nakedness of Melkor what they had come to talk about, and that conversation hadn’t started on a good foot.
-... As I was saying, Melkor, your contributions are valued, but there is a problem. –continued Manwë- We can’t dwell together in Arda if you, with your work, destroy in an instant what we have built so painstakingly. And the Children of Eru need a world in calm to live.
-And my creations too! –interjected Yavanna.
- ...Yes, and Yavanna’s creations can’t thrive in this state of absolute chaos either. That’s why we have come to talk with you.
Melkor smirked and raised his head haughtily, looking askance at Varda.
-Well, then when do ye leave Arda?
Manwë blinked, confused.
-What... what do you mean?
-That when will ye depart from my world and will leave me to do things my way. That's what you said, right? That ye can’t live with me because my greatness and power overwhelm you, so ye have to go away. Well, when is it going to be?
Manwë fixed his blue eyes on the eager face of his brother, and forced a smile:
-No, no, Melkor, perhaps I haven’t explained myself properly. What I meant is that it’s you who must adapt to our presence, who must retreat a little so that we can work and create without fear. It’s for the sake of Arda; everything will be more glorious if we collaborate. After all, Arda was delivered to our care, to all of us, and no Vala must overcome the rest and claim it for himself. Of course that you will be granted a wide sphere of influence. As the brother of the King you...
-Brother of the King!? I am the King of Arda!! -burst out Melkor, and the ground beneath their feet cracked.
Some of the Valar had to jump away from the deep crevices, where the raging sea penetrated now.
Melkor felt great pain, and anger, and other feelings that didn’t have a name yet. Why did he have to endure these horrible insults? It was the others who did wrong being there, and he was the one who had to step back? Why, how!? He was more powerful!
And then an old memory made his heart sink:
In the beginning there was only him, and Eru, the Creator. And all the attention, all the love of Eru were on him, because he was the entire Creation.
-You are Melkor, the one who rises in power, and you will be powerful over all things.
That was the first thing that Melkor learned and felt: power. And it was good. But then something changed. Suddenly there were others, suddenly he was no longer the entire Creation, he was only a part, and Eru no longer looked just at him, no longer loved just him. And Melkor felt diminished. And it was bad.
Now, again, he was in the same situation: the more of Arda that he yielded to the others, the less would be left for him, and the more diminished he would become. Didn’t he have perchance the right to become infuriated? How to endure such injustice?
-No, I will never yield!! Arda will be mine entirely or won’t be at all! -he shouted, and the black sky lit under menacing lightning.
Hearing this, a murmur of complaint rose among the Valar, that soon became a clamour. Trapped between the two sides, Manwë prepared himself resignedly to weather the storm.
-Let’s attack him now that he’s alone and without his Maiar! All together, we can surely immobilize him on the floor. -proposed Oromë, stepping forward emboldened.
-It would be easier for me to drown him under my waves. –replied Ulmo.
-Manwë, your policy of dialogue is a disaster! –groaned Aulë, and pulled the hammer away from his wife, who tried to snatch it.
-Lend me the hammer, and I will give a lesson to that scoundrel of Melkor!
In the back rows and a little apart from the rest, Mandos leaned over his brother Lórien and whispered:
-Look at them, arguing and squabbling like children. And it must be thus until the last chord sounds. –at which his brother replied with a sly chuckle.
Meanwhile, Melkor looked with pride at the discord sown among the Valar for his cause. Perhaps he didn’t even need to destroy his enemies himself, perhaps they would end up destroying each other. After a while, however, he grew bored, as the focus of attention was now Manwë, over whom rained down complaints, and not him.
-Well, this was a very pleasant conversation. –interrupted Melkor, with sarcasm.- But now I must go back to my duties. I still glimpse far away a faint glow of light. And all the light must be mine, I cannot stop until it is so.
-Your objective then has no hope, because you will never possess all the light for yourself. –said Varda, throwing at him a triumphant, piercing look. Melkor froze, without understanding.- Yes, Melkor, haven't you raised your eyes toward the distant firmament of Eä? Haven't you seen the points of light of my stars, burning, beautiful, forever virginal? You won't ever extinguish that light, you'll never make it yours, because upon entering Arda you became subject to Arda, and your power avails you nothing beyond its walls. Lift up your head and look at the lights that challenge you, that mock you, with which I mock you!
And Melkor looked up at the stars, which until then he hadn't noticed, and felt deeply hurt. In a burst of anger, his own light flashed across the plain, blinding the other Valar.
-It can't be, all light must be mine, mine alone!! -he shouted maddened- And those stars will be as well! I don't care that they are beyond Arda; the Walls of Night are opened above, and I can cross them, and penetrate the black emptiness and possess them.
And saying this, Melkor rose like a column of searing clarity and disappeared over the walls of the world.
Manwë couldn't believe his eyes.
-Varda, see what you've done! Now Melkor is lost in the empty spaces of Eä. -his wife, however, shrugged:
-Well, and where is the problem? Getting rid of him is what we wanted, and he can't do any harm to my stars. Now we will have peace to complete the designs of Ilúvatar.
-Not for long. -muttered Mandos, and exchanged meaningful looks with his brother.
After this unexpected outcome, each of the Valar returned to their respective domains, partly relieved by the truce that was granted to them, but restless and disappointed in the depths of their hearts.
Upon hearing what had happened, Curumo rejoiced greatly, and tried to reassure his lords with the implausible idea that Melkor would be lost out there and would never return.
Mairon, staring into an intricate filigree of gold, said nothing about it.
But Melkor, far from being lost, traversed the vastness of Eä chasing the stars, until coming face to face with one of those huge fireballs. Then he tried to penetrate it, to possess it, to absorb its essence and make it his. But it was all in vain. Instead of being the one who ravished the star, it was the latter who repelled him, who violated him and injured him in his deepest being, while its unscathed light remained equal and serene.
Melkor cried out in frustration upon realizing his impotence, and he searched for other stars to possess, but also to no avail.
He fought against the light for a long while, until finally, dejected and sunk in despair, he let himself wander adrift in a sea of darkness. If what he desired the most was the light, but he couldn't have it all, then what was the reason of his existence, what was he but a nothingness?
Plunged into the blackest thoughts, Melkor didn't notice that a blackness deeper than the Void had approached him.
-I know thee. -said a voice.
When Melkor turned around, he found before him a shapeless and ominous mass, without colour or matter, from which sprouted thousands of filaments that reabsorbed in the nucleus the next moment.
Melkor moved a couple of steps away from the entity, suddenly invaded by primordial fear.
-Well I don't know you. What are you?
The huge shadow stirred, as if it thought long the answer, and finally said, with a horrible voice of hollow cave:
-I remember Eru in the beginning, and where He was, the light and things were. And where He was not, I was. I desired his light but I couldn't have it, because if I approached him, He disappeared, and if He approached me, I disappeared. That's what I am: the denial of light. More I cannot say.
-Don't you know anything more? What is your nature? Are you an Ainu or something else?
-I am She.
-And how do you know that? You don't even have a body.
-Eru is He, so I must be She. There is no other possibility, I'm a denial.
Melkor, more confident but without letting go of his caution, approached the entity and searched its bottom. But there was no bottom in that darkness.
-What is your name?
-I don't have a name. Give me one thyself.
The Vala thought for a moment, until a word emerged in his mind out of nowhere.
-You will be called Ungoliant.
- I like Ungoliant, yes. -celebrated the voice, and its multiple filaments quivered with joy, merged with each other to become thicker, and stretched like eight arched legs, while the central nucleus adopted a bulbous and oblate shape.
Melkor felt some repugnance, but also pride for his creation. Then, upon looking absently at his arms, he realized that something wasn't right. His body, full of light before, now looked much paler and quenched. He soon discovered the cause of this anomaly: two appendages of darkness had entered him, and through them Ungoliant was sucking insatiably the light of his interior.
-What are you doing!? That's mine! Leave me alone, abominable creature! -and Melkor tried to flee from the appendages, but these stretched themselves no matter how far he went, and if he fought against them they only sank further into his body and emptied him even faster.
By the time the Vala was free, his spirit had lost all brightness already, and instead Ungoliant had swelled tenfold.
-I'm sorry, but I was very hungry, and thou wert so beautiful that I couldn't avoid it. - explained the monster.
Melkor looked at himself with pity. Without his light he felt fragile and, for the first time, terribly naked and ashamed. But apart from this inconvenience, he didn't regret the loss of his light too much; at the end of the day, if he couldn't possess it all, he didn't want it at all.
-Go away, Ungoliant! I don't want you to see me naked, I feel very embarrassed. -groaned Melkor, shrinking into himself in an attempt to hide.
For some strange reason, it was his crotch what he wanted to cover the most, right where Varda had pointed at him when telling him he should wear clothes.
-If thou wantest I can weave something for thee, so thou wilt not feel naked. -offered the entity, and Melkor nodded, relieved.
Ungoliant then began to vomit darkness, and her eight legs weaved it at an astounding speed, creating long undulating ribbons that approached Melkor and caressed him, as if asking for permission to cover him. The Vala accepted the darkness and gave himself to it.
A ribbon curled along his right arm and another along his left arm. Upon reaching the shoulders, the two ribbons widened a little and crossed over his chest, covering his nipples gently. Melkor shuddered with a pleasant feeling that radiated from those two points, now hardened. Meanwhile, another pair of elongated fabrics climbed up his legs and thighs, brushing him with the exquisite chill of darkness. The ribbon that had curled on his left leg slid then across his hipbone, descended between his buttocks, and finally, covered his sex with a caress that forced a sigh out of him.
Melkor looked at himself satisfied. The darkness didn't cover him as well as had done the light; rather it could be said that it prevented the sight of a nakedness that was still present. But it made him feel powerful, and filled him with cold, and burning, and lust, and pleasure. Melkor loved the darkness even more than he had loved the light.
-Now I see that this is my true element, that which corresponds to me by nature. Even if you're inferior to me, Ungoliant, I name you my mother, and superior to my miserable father Eru, who wasn't able to understand my greatness. -proclaimed the Vala, stretching the darkness that swirled around his arms like wings.
-Thou art very generous giving me such a high title.
-Now let's return to Arda to give a lesson to those stupid Valar. You will be my servant and will always obey me.
The monster agreed with a movement of her eight legs, and they crossed the empty vastness like two black meteors. Nobody saw them arriving at the earth, wrapped as they were in shadows. But when Melkor turned his head, he discovered with annoyance that his new servant had slipped away, and he couldn't find her anywhere.
However, he didn't lack followers, because as soon as they detected his return, a large number of spirits of fire surrounded him, ready to do his will. Melkor hadn't noticed them until then, but the spirits assured him that already in the Music they had followed him, so he accepted them and entrusted a mission to each.
Shortly thereafter, Yavanna wept bitterly. The tender shoots that had begun to grow in the absence of Melkor, appeared now gray and dissolved in ashes. A great cloud of fire and scorching swirls flooded the sky, destroying everything on earth.
Melkor had intensified his attacks, and worst of all, he didn’t even use a beautiful element as light anymore. Now he wielded the ugliness of shadow, showing without qualms his true evil, without even trying to hide his violence under the guise of creative act.
In the forge, while Yavanna whispered to his husband, Curumo lost no opportunity to rub in Mairon’s nose how wrong he was, for believing that Melkor’s intentions could be good.
From that discussion in a low voice arose a new council of the Valar, and this time Manwë was unable to calm down the spirits. The indignation of his peers in the face of this new appearance of the threat was unanimous. And so were their demands: to ask Ilúvatar for help against the enemy.
Manwë brooded for a long time. That wasn’t an easy decision to take, because Eru had left them in charge of Arda to resolve their problems on their own. What would happen now if they asked him for help? Probably he would think that they had failed as guardians and that they weren’t worthy rulers.
Therefore, he decided to consult with Mandos, who thus far hadn’t defined his position in any way.
-What Eru has written, won’t be changed by any prayer in the world. What he hasn’t written, is irrelevant. –sentenced the Judge of the Valar.
For Manwë, these cryptic words amounted to say that one lost nothing by trying.
Therefore, the King of the Valar gathered around him all the winds, and his plea was raised beyond the Walls of the Night and the spaces of Eä, until reaching the ear of Eru, there in the Timeless Halls.
Eru smiled to himself, in part glad and in part saddened, because everything that happened in Arda was for him a mixture in equal parts of both feelings. Then he called before his throne an Ainu who was perfect for the role he had in mind. This Ainu had wandered so far through the Void, alone and anxious to discover his function. So when his Lord required him, he came at once filled with hope, and knelt before Him.
-Tulkas, my beloved son, I have an important mission for you, because your siblings of Arda are in need of your great strength to battle Melkor. To fight with this one will be your role now. But whether it will be thus in the future, that will depend on you. -said the fatherly voice of Eru, and with a gesture he motioned him to get up.
-I will go to Arda right now and will give that evil one what he deserves! –exclaimed Tulkas, eager to get going and measure his forces, wasted all this time.
-Yes, but first you will receive some gifts. I will give you courage in battle, and I will give you joy in the pleasures of the world. They are very important gifts, do not misuse them. -and Tulkas bowed his head to receive the gifts from his Father.
-Wilt thou also give me cunning and wisdom, as thou hast given others?
-I won’t. Because cunning quenches courage, and wisdom darkens joy. Now go.
Tulkas gave thanks, and retired with a bow.
That was how he descended upon Arda, full of joy at the new world that opened before him. And during his journey through Eä, he started forming his physical body according to what he had seen in the Music about warriors and fighters. His members became big and muscular, his chest firm, his visage noble and stern, with long hair and a short beard, both fair and gleaming like the light that he had loved so much in the Timeless Halls. His torso was covered with a coat of mail, his forearms with bronze vambraces, his legs with leather leggings and greaves of steel. Tulkas wasn’t sure if his clothing was exactly what he had seen in the Music, but he tried to approach it as much as he could. And when he finally found himself on the land of Arda, his new body filled him with pleasure upon experiencing the sensations that offered that world. He went across the incipient forests at full speed, feeling the caress of leaves and branches in his arms, the damp earth at his feet, and the scent of plants in his nose. He dove into the water and discovered with wonder how the liquid gave way around him and held him floating, how his clothes and hair were adhered to his body, wet and cold. He descended into deep caverns, where lava and molten rock covered him with sweat. And he ascended to the air, where winds carried him from one place to another. All these things inflamed him with joy, and for long his laughter was heard in every corner of Arda.
Until finally, Tulkas stopped, and found that, indeed, something wasn’t right. The forests disintegrated scorched, the seas boiled and roared furiously, the underground fires emerged with explosions, and the winds whistled in swirls. Then he remembered why he was there: to stop Melkor, the cause of those turbulences.
And it didn’t take him long to find him. There he was, between the cliffs and gorges of a mountainous region, destroying the peaks to lift them again, still more monstrous and sharp. Darkness surrounded him like a sticky and obscene fabric.
For Tulkas, seeing him from afar, he seemed of an inconceivable ugliness.
He stopped laughing, and full of fury, lunged at the other Vala and hit him by surprise. Melkor landed against the side of a mountain, opening a large hole in it, and blinked in disbelief.
-Who are you and how do you dare to attack me in such a way!?
-I'm Tulkas, and the other Valar have called me to come and fight with you. -he said, proudly showing his muscles.
Melkor laughed, but a second punch showed him that this was not a rival who should be taken lightly. The counterattack was swift, anyway.
Under the earth beneath Tulkas’ feet appeared some meandering rivers of lava, which glowed through the rock, and when they came right under his feet, they burst into terrible geysers of fire that launched him into the air. The rock cracked open where Tulkas landed, threatening to swallow him. And when the Vala clinged to the edge of the precipice to avoid falling, appendages of darkness curled around his members to immobilize him. Tulkas tensed all his muscles, and with a monumental struggle, he tore the bonds of darkness and broke them in a thousand pieces. Melkor cried out in pain and frustration, and the other Vala took advantage of this distraction to pounce on him.
Both rolled on the ground, destroying everything in their path, the rough and sweaty members of Tulkas intertwined with the soft and delicate members of Melkor. The evil Vala squirmed gasping and screaming, and fluids came out his body, and poisonous vapours that blinded Tulkas. A swirl of frost pushed the latter away his rival, and several rocks detached from the hillside fell on him. But nevertheless, despite everything, Tulkas realized that this fight caused him more pleasure and joy than anything else he had ever known: that was what he had been created for, that was his real mission.
With a triumphant laugh, Tulkas threw away the rocks, which made respective craters upon falling to the ground. Melkor frowned angrily.
-Why do you laugh, wretch!? I forbid you to laugh, I cannot stand it, I cannot stand your detestable laugh!
And he threw himself against him, spreading his wings of darkness to seize him. But Tulkas was faster, and gathering all his strength in his right fist, threw Melkor against a rock wall. An agonized lament echoed through the mountains, and Melkor felt the most terrible pain coursing through his body in waves that emerged from his abdomen. Then, looking down, he realized why. A sharpened stake of rock stuck out from a bloodied hole beneath his navel, piercing him side to side. He had been impaled on the wall.
Melkor run his trembling hands along the stake, lubricated with his blood, as if he didn’t believe that the strange protuberance truly emerged from his body. Tulkas didn’t believe what had happened either, and stood there frozen, not knowing what to do, while his enemy writhed and agonized between gasps. Finally, Melkor lost consciousness and his body was left hanging limp.
Only then Tulkas was able to react. And terrified, he rose to the ledge and took the body of his enemy in his arms, pulling it carefully out the stake and depositing it on the ground. A cold sweat trickled down his forehead; that wasn’t right, that wasn’t what Eru had sent him to earth for. He was supposed to fight Melkor and banish him, but not to kill him, not to destroy thus one of the Ainur, one of the beings that Eru himself had created from his thoughts. What would Ilúvatar think of him now? Wouldn’t he punish him perchance? Hadn’t he overstepped his duties? And what was that thick red liquid that kept pouring out his innards? That liquid frightened him terribly.
Tulkas pushed away the black hair from Melkor's face, as if that would help to revive him. Then he realized that despite what had seemed to him in the distance, the dark Vala was not ugly. He was, in fact, very beautiful.
Tulkas stroked his cheek, but still his enemy wouldn't wake up. He then focused his attention at his lower body. From the horrendous hole kept flowing blood, that dripped down his belly, and dyed his soft pubic hair in red, which the darkness didn't cover entirely. Tulkas tried to clean this area, tried to return the blood to the hole, hoping that his enemy would resurrect thus, tried to close the wound, but all in vain.
Finally, he introduced a finger into the hole, and then another, and a third one, and blood stopped dripping for a moment. Then Melkor moaned and shuddered, as if awakening from a nightmare. And when he finally opened his eyes and saw his enemy over him, he kicked him away, and rose into the air to distance himself.
-What were you doing, why were you touching me!? -he shouted, shaking a little.
Tulkas couldn't feel any more relieved, seeing that everything had settled itself happily.
-I thought you were dead.
-Yes, as if a stupid wound was enough to kill Melkor, the Mighty Arising, greater than all Ainur together! -he proclaimed, extending his arms, and the wound in his belly closed without trace.
Tulkas laughed in a good mood:
-Great. Then we can continue with the fight. This hasn't been but the warm-up for me. Come here! -and he pounced on him.
But Melkor eluded the strong arms that surrounded him. He was still confused and frightened by the loss of consciousness that he had suffered, and by what Tulkas was doing to him upon awakening. So, rather than facing him, he escaped over the Walls of the Night and vanished into outer darkness.
Tulkas stood there planted for a while, disappointed at having lost Melkor. But he was sure he would see him again, he was sure he would return, and he would be there to greet him, always waiting, always remembering him until the end of days.
Because that was what he had been created for.
Hidden among the broken pinnacles of one of the peaks, one of the Maiar of Aulë, whom the fight had surprised working on the rock, had seen it all. In particular, the image of Melkor impaled on the ledge, while red liquid flowed from his interior and he writhed among gasps, had etched into his mind, and he couldn't stop thinking about it with trembling.
That was the first lesson of Mairon in Arda. He learned what pain was. And he liked it.
In the days that followed the exile of Melkor, the Valar and Maiar gave themselves with passion and effort to the rebuilding of the world. Now that they enjoyed peace, all their works finally reached their most perfect finishing, and the resulting Arda was more beautiful and glorious than could have ever been imagined by each of them separately.
So far they had just a limited view of that which had attracted them most in the Music. But now, upon coordinating and complementing their works with each other, they understood the true greatness of the vision of Eru.
First, Ulmo calmed the seas, he purified and sublimated them, until they became faint as the air of his beloved friend Manwë. Vaiya he called them, and they served to sustain the earth. But Manwë was so pleased by this cold and ethereal substance, that he decided to raise it to the heavens as well, and form therewith a dome to protect Arda and separate it from the Walls of the Night. Under this dome he still created other two: Ilmen, luminous and burning, and Vista, of heavier and denser air. For the love of Ulmo, Ilmen entered Vaiya and also encompassed the earth from below, right where the roots of the world penetrated, through which the Vala of the waters traveled. This way, the great friends Manwë and Ulmo merged their respective elements both on earth and in heaven, and their union was sealed.
No less work had Aulë and his Maiar, for upon them fell the difficult task of creating a living space for the Children of Ilúvatar. The murmur of picks and shovels digging, hammers in the forge, rocks and mountains being uprooted and transported from one place to another, shook every corner of Arda. Tulkas, who had been accepted with great joy and gratitude by the other Valar, helped not a little to load rocks and move lands.
Mairon had spent long hours in the forge, designing drawings and diagrams with the exact measurements and the shape that the earth should have. His ideal model had been a single landmass in the exact center of Vaiya, perfectly square and uniform. Even if this model didn’t displease Aulë entirely, the other Valar rejected it outright, especially Yavanna, Oromë, Vána and Lórien (though Mairon suspected that the latter had only complained out of malice).
Finally, although Mairon was forced to compromise and had to delineate a land of irregular contour, he managed to make it totally symmetrical and centered. Amid this firm ground, Ulmo opened a circular lake around a beautiful island, and east and west he also opened two large seas, with a much heavier and altogether different water than that of Vaiya. Although the seas were not as symmetrical and regular as Mairon would have wished, their harmony was quite satisfactory nonetheless.
The Maia couldn’t but shrug at the designs of his superiors, even though deep inside, he took pride in the fact that the discords and chaos of Melkor hadn’t affected him so much as, so it seemed, the others.
But then, why couldn’t he stop thinking about the dark Vala, and his body impaled on the rock, and the blood, that purple, hot, steaming blood?
Sometimes in the forge, when he was sure no one was watching, Mairon picked up a chisel and made small cuts with it on his arm, fascinated by the image of the blade penetrating his flesh, and the deliciously painful feeling, and the texture and taste of his own blood.
Until one day Curumo burst in unlooked for, surprised him doing this, and threatened him with telling everything to Aulë (although he wasn’t sure why he should). Since then, Mairon didn’t cut himself anymore, even when some insidious idea didn’t go out his head.
The greatest of the works of Aulë was yet to come, so Mairon postponed his plans for later and gave himself body and soul to the new project.
Two huge pillars rose to the north and south of Middle-earth, and on them were placed two splendid lamps that Varda filled with starlight and Manwë consecrated. The light of the lamp in the North, Illuin, was cold and bluish. While the lamp in the South, Ormal, bathed the earth with a warm orange light. The effect was especially beautiful right in the center, on the island of the lake, where both lights mingled and almost seemed a physical substance that vibrated in the air. Aulë and his Maiar were covered with praise and revered for this work, considered the most beautiful and useful of all. And it was agreed that later a big party would be held in his honour.
Now the land, Imbar, was afloat and completed, and the light of the two lamps warmed it gently in its middle part. Then came the turn of Yavanna and her sister Vána.
The first one left in her path tender green shoots, which upon receiving the singing of the second, grew as fragrant plants, as shrubs and trees of all types and sizes. A blooming of fertility poured over all the earth, covering it with a green mantle. Even in the forge of Aulë, he and his Maiar had to fight against the roots and vines that had come snaking through the cracks, and threatened to destroy rock, anvil and tools alike. They were forced to cut them with picks, much to the displeasure of Yavanna, and for the enjoyment of Aulë, a greater one than he dared to confess.
But not just plants grew in that first explosion of life. The woods were filled with quiet animals, of beautiful and wondrous bodies. Branches, rocks, and even underground tunnels vibrated with the hum of tiny creatures. And waters swarmed with a multitude of colourful fishes, except for Vaiya, which remained cold and imperturbable.
Thus began the Spring of Arda and the days of glory for the Valar. Only Mandos, Lórien and Nienna remained idle all this time. And though the other Valar reproached them for their laziness and disinterest, they claimed that their time had not yet come, and Manwë told his peers to let them be.
At last, the Valar chose the island in the middle of the lake, which they called Almaren, as their place of residence, and built their mansions there. The forge of Aulë wasn’t on the island, however, and some of his Maiar (Mairon the first) refused to leave and live among their companions.
Thus Mairon found himself quite lonely in those days, and he rarely left the forge to enjoy the new world, troubled as he was by his thoughts.
Until one day, the silence around him was broken by a cheerful voice that called to him from the window.
The aforementioned looked up from his drawings and diagrams, and saw through the opening in the rock the smiling face of a feminine Maia. She was very beautiful, with green eyes and long black hair that fell inside the window.
-Do you know me perchance? Who are you?
-I'm Melian, and yes, I know you. Although I think you have never noticed me.
Before Mairon could stop her, the Maia had sneaked in the forge through the window, not caring if her dress, embroidered with flowers, got covered in dust and soot.
-I admit that I had never seen you before. Who do you serve?
-Vána. Although I like spending time with Lórien. He’s a weird fellow. He amuses me. –she said laughing, as she tapped with a hammer on the anvil.
-Leave that alone, you can’t be here! And you could hurt yourself. –complained Mairon, taking her away from the tools.
-How grumpy! Why are all the Maiar of Aulë so grumpy? The other day I met that partner of yours who is always in white, Curumo I think he’s called, and I wanted to play a trick on him. He was so furious...! And all because I made branches and plants to sprout in his head.
Hearing this, Mairon couldn’t help chuckling under his breath. He was beginning to like that Maia a little more already.
-I wish I had seen that.
-Oh, and you could see a lot more if you didn’t stay always locked up in here! I remember having observed you while you worked in the Lamps, and having thought: “That Maia, so pale and dressed in black. He seems to be always sad, and I bet he has no friends. What is that which gnaws at him?” So I thought I could keep you company, be your friend, and show you how Arda has become now that it’s already completed. Come with me!
Mairon wanted to protest, but Melian grabbed his hand and dragged him outside.
However, as the two traversed the new world, Mairon began to feel more and more dejected. Plants and trees had grown haphazardly, so that their roots and stems broke the symmetry with which he had planned his mountains. The beasts had dug burrows there where the ground should have been smooth. The rain pierced rocks that Mairon barely recognized anymore. And the coasts, that he had measured to the nearest millimeter, now had another appearance, since they had yielded to the pressure of waves.
Noticing that all these irregularities afflicted her companion, Melian led him to the edge of a lake to show him something different. The maiden threw a flat stone on the surface of the lake, and it bounced gracefully taking several jumps. Mairon smiled a little when he saw the effect that the stones of his Lord worked in the water: in its path it had left circular and concentric waves, separated by growing but regular intervals, and they slowly dissolved with each other. There was a pleasant, though not perfect harmony in all of that. Taking a stone as well, he tried to throw it to the lake, but it sank with a splash.
Melian laughed at his frown. She approached him from behind, put a new stone in his hand and gently led it in another throw. This time the stone bounced five times.
-Not bad for a clumsy Maia of Aulë! –she celebrated- But come, I still want to show you something that you’ll surely like.
The Maia then led him to the foot of a huge mountain, the highest of all of Arda by Mairon’s reckoning. From the top, a winged figure descended upon noticing their presence. It was Eönwë, the herald of Manwë. Mairon had recognized him at once: silver hair, a short tunic of the same colour, inlaid with blue gems, and above all, the pair of white-bluish feathered wings that distinguished him from the rest of Maiar.
-Who is this one, Melian? -asked the herald, rather coldly.
-He’s Mairon, a friend.
Mairon didn’t entirely agree with the name of “friend”, but he limited himself to offer his hand and look friendly. Eönwë looked him up and down, and seemed somewhat disturbed. This wasn’t the kind of Maia that he used to have dealings with. He hadn’t soft, aerial features, but hard and sharp ones. Nor graceful limbs, but sinewy arms accustomed to working in the forge. And his fibrous body, instead of being covered with ethereal and delicate dresses, wore just a simple black leather vest, leggings of the same material, and sturdy boots. In addition, Eönwë perceived in him a smell of smoke and molten metal. A little embarrassed, then, the herald shook the hand that was offered. But the next second, his haughty expression softened:
-Well, Melian's friends are my friends. I suppose ye want to climb to the top of the mountain, isn’t it?
-Indeed, we want to see the snow. -said Melian.
-Then ye don’t need to disembody. I myself will bring you up.
And saying this, Eönwë grabbed each by the hand, and ascended to the clouded summits with his large wings.
Mairon was very impressed by that new substance in which his feet sank. Neither solid nor entirely liquid, of a perfect and blinding white, extremely cold and easy to mold. Mairon was fascinated by the snow.
Especially when he observed the snowflakes up close and discovered the symmetrical beauty, the geometry always different but always regular, of those tiny particles. There, there was enclosed a fundamental truth, a truth that he had sought and for which he had struggled since the Music, but that even then escaped him.
-Who is responsible for such a magnificent creation?
-No one. The snow came by accident. –said Eonwë.- It was when the waters of Ulmo collided with the immoderate cold of Melkor, that this new substance was born.
Mairon was perplexed upon finding that the rebellious Vala had taken part in it. And a shiver ran down his spine, though not because of the chill of the snow.
The impact of a cold ball against his head pulled Mairon out his reverie. Melian was laughing, and the next moment another burst of balls rained against him and Eönwë. The herald tried to regain his composure, shaking the snow from his hair and wings. But it was in vain, for soon he found himself overwhelmed by all sides, by Melian as well as Mairon, who had decided to put aside his usual seriousness, at least on that occasion.
Melian’s joke ended up becoming a full-fledged battle. And at the end of it, the three Maiar lay together on the snow, soaked to the bone, shivering and laughing nervously.
There, on top of that icy mountain, the three swore that they would always be friends. And the oppression in Mairon’s heart eased a little, but the shadows didn’t disappear.
The feast in honour of Aulë took place shortly thereafter, on a quiet hill of Almaren. It was agreed that, on the occasion of the celebrations, each of the Maiar of Aulë would present to their Lord the most wonderful work that they had been able to forge on their own, so that all attendees could admire the skill of his servants. Each of the Maiar had spent a long time preparing their project, and of course all had been kept secret to avoid imitations. Mairon, for his part, had deeply pondered about his, and had taken an unavoidable decision, something that had haunted him since the idea came into his head. As usual, Curumo had tried to spy on him and find out what he was up to. But this time Mairon had been very careful, and his rival was frustrated.
Aulë sat then on a throne of rock, next to his wife, and at his feet the various Maiar presented their works one by one. Most had wrought jewelry, pendants, bracelets, lamps with gems, and other beautiful objects of magnificent technique, though quite unoriginal. When his turn came, Curumo dragged before the throne a heavy metal contraption, full of wheels and gears.
Now that was a novelty.
-This, my King and Queen, Manwë and Varda, my Lords Aulë and Yavanna, is a “machine”. A device that I developed after long hours of study and that will serve to greatly facilitate the works of mining. By simply heating this boiler filled with water and pushing this lever, my machine is able to dig the deepest hole in the hardest ground, to unravel all its secrets: the veins of gold and silver, the gems, the precious stones... In a word, everything a goldsmith could desire. And within minutes and effortlessly! -explained the Maia pompously, making melodramatic gestures with his white robes.
And then he set out to make a demonstration. He lit a fire under the boiler and stirred it, until it began to boil and bubble, and then pushed several levers and adjusted some wheels. The whole contraption began to vibrate and creak with a deafening noise, a couple of monstrous picks sank into the earth, alternating at high speed, and soon thereafter sprung in the air lumps of grass, mud, pulverized rock and oil from the machine itself. The attendees of the first rows were bathed in that filth, but the racket of the gears was so hellish, that it drowned out the protests.
Until finally, one voice rose above the others:
-Stop, turn off immediately that... that... THING!!
Curumo jumped upon recognizing the voice, and rushed to stop the machine. His white hair and robes appeared now brown because of the mud.
On her throne, Yavanna, who was the one who had shouted thus, trembled pale with rage,seeing the ugly hole opened in her beloved hillside, and the dead grass on her clothes. Looking around, Curumo discovered with embarrassment that many other Valar had been also splashed by the earth thrown by the machine, and that most were outraged. Only Tulkas laughed out loud, covered with grime.
Aulë cleared his throat, somewhat uneasy in that situation:
-That has been very... very interesting, Curumo. Let's see... uh... let's see the next one.
Curumo withdrew, dragging his machine crestfallen, and run into the malicious smile of Mairon, who was headed to the throne now.
In contrast to the ostentatious entrance of his predecessor, Mairon was very sober. He just pulled from a black sheath, hanging from his belt, a curious thing, and knelt before his Lord to show it to him. Instead of the motley jewelry that had been presented before, this was just a metal blade, long, narrow, and very sharp at the tip and sides. It had, however, a kind of grip on the other end, with inlaid onyx. All attendees were puzzled.
-What's that, Mairon? –asked Aulë, eyes wide.
-It's a sword.
-Humm! A sword? And what is the use of that?
-To sink into the flesh. To kill.
Aulë looked askance at his wife, upset. Among those attending, some nervous whispers were heard. Tulkas had stopped laughing and was now more livid than anyone, while a cold sweat trickled down his forehead.
-Certainly, Mairon, I don’t know what to say about this -muttered Aulë, thoughtful.-No being has ever died in Arda, not even Yavanna’s animals kill each other. I know nothing about death.
-You will know. –interrupted the icy voice of Mandos.
But nobody paid him much attention.
-Well, I think it’s a great invention! –exclaimed Oromë, stepping forward.-Listen, Manwë, Aulë and all the others. I've seen some of this in the Music, sharp weapons, but longer than this sword, or lighter and feathered, that flew through the air and dug into the body of beasts. Magnificent and dangerous hunts. For that I was created, and that’s what I desire the most in this world: to kill wild animals. This Maia has made just what I needed. Aulë, ask him to forge many more weapons for me.
-Oh, splendid! -complained Yavanna.- First one of your Maiar, dear, creates a machine to destroy my lawn. And now it turns out that another is devoted to making horrible things to kill my animals. Why do ye all conspire against me!?
-But, my lady Yavanna, I will only use them to hunt evil beasts. -apologized Oromë.
-None of my beasts is evil!
-But... they could become evil... someday. –insisted Oromë, shrugging.
Yavanna snorted, looking away. It was clear that, once again, the other Valar would get away with it and would trample on her creatures. She could only give up.
Thus, Mairon was very busy the next few days forging weapons for Oromë, according to his specifications: spears, arrows, bows, hunting knives... Melian and Eönwë visited him occasionally in the forge and tried to help, but their skills in that field were disastrous. Eönwë scorched his feathers and even his hair, while Melian didn’t manage to bring out the anvil but deformed pieces full of bumps. Mairon also had to give up.
Meanwhile, Tulkas had been distraught since the incident of the sword. He ran across the Walls of the Night, anxious and alone, occasionally peering over the edge to the outer void. And his laughter no longer resounded on earth. Manwë shook his head, saddened, upon realizing that Tulkas, who had helped them so much, wasn’t entirely happy in Almaren.
So one day, when almost all the Valar were gathered in his mansion, Manwë went looking for Tulkas to accompany them. He found him, as usual, before the fences of the world, punching the cold, translucent and totally unbreakable wall with which they were made.
-Tulkas, my friend, why have you become so taciturn? -he said, laying his hand gently on his shoulder.
-I don’t know. I'm sad, but I don’t know why.
-I know what happens to you. You feel alone among us. And I think a Vala of your character, cheerful and vital, could use some company. Someone who would wait for him upon returning home. You may have noticed that most of us have spouses... What about you? Is there anyone in Arda that you specially want?
-Your brother Melkor!
Manwë blinked a few times, not wanting to believe what he had just heard.
-My... my... my brother!?
-Yes, your brother, who escaped cowardly before the end of the fight! I want him to come back so I can give him what he deserves.
Manwë breathed a sigh of relief, realizing what was it all about. And he tried to erase the grotesque image that had formed in his mind.
-What I meant, my dear Tulkas, is marriage. Wouldn’t you like to get married?
Tulkas scratched his head for a few seconds, and finally shrugged.
-Yes, I guess so. I'll get married.
Manwë was radiant. Nothing excited him more than seeing two Valar joining in marriage. Could there be anything more beautiful than that harmony, that conjunction of related minds? There was no doubt that the intention of Eru had always been for the Valar to marry each other... at least those who could get a partner, of course.
-Excellent, you don’t know how glad I am to hear that, Tulkas! Come with me, they’re all gathered in my halls and must be told.
Manwë led him to his mansion, and he had barely crossed the tall marble doors, when he was already announcing to the four winds the great news.
All the Valar rejoiced for Tulkas, who was still quite confused by the whole affair.
-And have you already decided whom you’ll marry? –asked Vána, beaming.
-It's true, you must choose someone. -confirmed Manwë.
Tulkas looked around at each of the Valar gathered there, trying to decide whom he liked the most.
-I’ll marry her! -he said, pointing to Varda.
The queen of the stars became so pale and rigid as an icicle, and in her outrage, she didn’t even manage to say a word. Manwë smiled nervously, and whispered to Tulkas aside:
-You’ll see, Tulkas, you can’t choose Varda because she... well, she's already my wife.
-And can’t she be the wife of both?
-No, I can’t be the wife of both!! –yelled Varda, her former iciness transformed into steaming anger.
-Alright, alright! Then I want him. –continued Tulkas, pointing this time at Lórien.
Several attendees blushed to the roots of their hair. But the aforementioned let out a malicious chuckle, looking up and down the muscular body of Tulkas, and only muttered:
-It will be my pleasure...
Varda's patience was reaching its limit. And she pressed her temples, trying to think what would be the best way to reason with Tulkas:
-Look, you can’t choose Lórien either. -and looking at him askance, she added between her teeth: - Although I don’t doubt that he would love it...
-Why can’t I pick him? He’s not married.
-Yes, but the problem is that he’s a “he”. You have to choose a Valië, not a Vala. So works marriage: a masculine spirit must join a feminine spirit.
Tulkas clenched his fists, tense. Maybe he didn’t understand at all what that marriage thing was about. Maybe he didn’t understand at all what many things were about. But definitely, these explanations confused him even more. Didn’t the other Valar see that he had arrived the last and still had quite a lot to learn?
-I have a good idea! -announced Oromë.- Why doesn’t he marry my sister Nessa? I think she would be perfect for Tulkas. She’s also cheerful, lively, active, and likes to live outdoors. In addition, she’s very beautiful.
Everyone nodded to the proposal, although Tulkas didn’t know what to say. Nessa was not among those present, since she didn’t like mansions or enclosed spaces. And truly, Tulkas wasn’t sure if he had ever seen her. But apparently, the others had already decided for him.
The problem was that Nessa knew nothing of these arrangements, and Oromë suspected that it might be difficult to convince her... or find her. Nessa had some of a “wild” character. However, Oromë and Manwë found her in one of the gloomiest forests, where barely reached the rays of Illuin.
Nessa danced in the twilight, and at first she ignored them completely. When Manwë asked her if she would accept Tulkas in marriage, she laughed wildly, and disappeared all of a sudden into the thicket. Manwë and Oromë exchanged glances with a shrug, assuming the mission had failed.
But then, from the depths of the forest, came again the singing laughter of Nessa, and a single word in response to their request: “I accept”.
The nuptials were organized almost immediately, taking advantage of the festive atmosphere that reigned in Almaren after the celebrations in honour of Aulë and the Lamps.
For Tulkas his new wife seemed beautiful, and he felt happy. At least he thought so. But as the festivities carried on, a kind of unease and foreboding gripped him. Believing that he would relieve himself thus, Tulkas kept eating the delicacies offered to him by the Maiar servants, and drinking without restraint the liquors that Lórien had distilled. His head spinned, and without knowing how, he was caught in an insane dance with Nessa. The Valië grabbed his hands and began to twirl around with him, more and more dizzily, until the space disappeared behind them. Tulkas only saw her now: her black hair flowing around like a veil of darkness, her inviting smile, her dark, narrowed eyes, which seemed to promise some dangerous and uncertain pleasure. Feverish, Tulkas grabbed another huge jug of liquor and drained it, accompanying his wife’s dance with increasingly uncoordinated steps. Always looking at those eyes.
A word lit up in his head out of nowhere, a word that he didn’t know until now: “lust”. And why then, just then, as he watched Nessa dancing to consumption, rose before his eyes, clearer than ever, the image of Melkor impaled on that stake? And the blood running down his belly, disappearing between his legs?
In the outer voids, and surrounded by some of his fiery servants and other monstrosities, Melkor waited impatiently the news from Arda. Finally, in the black distance appeared a point of light, which grew into a huge demon, wrapped in flame and shadow as his only clothing. It was Gothmog, the leader of all the other fire demons: the Balrogs, as Melkor called them.
Gothmog arrived exhausted.
-My Lord, thou canst not imagine what has happened in Arda. It’s much changed, thou wouldst have to see it for thyself! -he announced, out of breath.
-Much changed, in what sense? What have told you my spies? Explain yourself!
-It's... It's better that thou seest it with thy own eyes... There are lamps and...
-What is a lamp!? Now you're talking nonsense, Gothmog! -Melkor glanced around, inspecting all the spirits of Eä who had followed him in his exile- But whatever, let's all go and see what it’s about! Strength is on my side, and I must fear nothing.
An impenetrable shadow rose above the Walls of the Night, north of Middle-earth, though the Valar didn't notice it in the midst of the feast and lively music.
Melkor was furious at what he found there. The whole Arda was ruined, the land had the wrong shape, the seas were not in their place. And worst of all, two horrendous pillars stained the world with their light, marring the surface and giving a false appearance to things.
-This is an inconceivable insult, born from the meanest iniquity of the Valar!! -burst out Melkor, in a fit of rage.- Now that I have renounced light, now that I have embraced darkness as my element, Manwë and his lackeys dare to light up the world with such lamps (because that's what they are, isn't it , Gothmog?). And all that, all that they have done just to offend me, just to contradict me! Look how they have destroyed with their light the shadows that I extended, even in the deepest valleys and the hollows of the mountains. And what is that which they celebrate?
-The marriage of Tulkas, my Lord. -explained Gothmog, sheepishly.
-How, how is it possible that Tulkas gets married!? It cannot be, I won't allow it! -a maelstrom of fire emerged from the Vala's body, and even the Balrogs had to take cover.- I've been away for too long, I think, and it's about time that I return to put things back in place. Those stupid have been so busy building stupid lamps and getting drunk in their feasts, that they didn't even bother to finish the walls of the world. Surely they don't think I would come back. Well, they were wrong. Follow me, the brave and loyal, and those who do not, be forever cursed and banished to the Void! Let's go there. Glory is for the one who strikes first.
And with this exhort, Melkor, all the Balrogs, and most of the multiform spirits who were with him, descended to the earth, protected by darkness.
In Almaren, Tulkas and Nessa had collapsed, as dead, after that unrestrained dance. And Mairon, sitting a little apart with Eönwë, who hadn't stopped talking about trifles during the feast, shifted uncomfortably. A strange feeling had frozen him inside.
Melkor and his spirits tore the land in a frenzy, dug deep trenches and rooted out pillars from the earth. Some of his followers took then the most grotesque forms, and from the fetid pits they raised their tentacles, lifting stones one after another. In a confusion of flesh, bone, iron, rocks and miasma, the fortress of Utumno started taking shape. And Melkor poured his power and darkness in every corner and every one of the creatures that swarmed there.
Once the fortress was completed, the Vala watched with satisfaction the main hall. Twisted columns, in part solid, and in part living and throbbing, got lost in the shadows, and the only light now came from the fire of the Balrogs. But Melkor felt his legs faltering, and a sudden weakness caused him to fall into the arms of Gothmog.
-My Lord! What happens to thee? -cried the Balrog in alarm.
And looking at him, he realized that the darkness that covered him had become somewhat translucent.
-Humm! I don't know... While I let out my power to build Utumno, I felt an immense pleasure, as a palpitation... all over my body. -muttered the Vala, rubbing his temples and trying to stand up.- Now that I've finished, I feel a deep satisfaction but... I think I need to rest. It will be over in a moment...
The flagstones of the floor opened, and from the hole sprung countless tentacles, which twining themselves quickly, formed a seat. Melkor let himself fall languidly into that soft and slimy throne, while the tentacles of his servant caressed and comforted him.
-This can't be normal, my Lord. -continued Gothmog, scratching his head in puzzlement.
But Melkor despised his words with a wave of his hand.
-Bah, I already feel much better! And look, the darkness that covers me is thickening again.
-Perhaps... perhaps thou hast let too much power out of thy interior? Perhaps power can be spent? -pointed out one of the Balrogs, who wasn't precisely one of the brightest.
-How dare you!? My power can't be spent, it's infinite! -one of the demons elbowed his companion for his insolence.- And soon I'll show my enemies. I won't limit myself to Utumno, no. I will spread over all the earth, and I have already thought about how to deal them the first mortal blow.
The Vala smiled, lost in thoughts of unfathomable malice. Gothmog had only eyes for his Lord, especially when he saw him thus, absorbed and mysterious. He was almost jealous of the tentacular creature, and the honour that supposed for it to touch Melkor so intimately.
Still upset by what the other Balrog had said, Gothmog also gave him a good nudge.
The effects of the return of Melkor didn't take long to show, and soon the Valar realized that something was wrong. The rivers from the north became murky and poisonous, and many dead fishes appeared carried by the current. Trees of a twisted and unusual look gained ground in the woods, while weeds poisoned and left barren the once fertile plains. As Oromë had predicted, many beasts became fierce and dangerous. And the Vala had the opportunity to use his weapons for the first time, in hunts that filled him with joy, and a certain sense of guilt.
The fatal outcome, that the Valar hadn't even imagined in their naivete, occurred shortly thereafter.
Mairon had felt uneasy since the wedding of Tulkas, as if some darkness stirred inside him. In some way, he had expected that it happened so.
Now, safe on the highest peak of a mountain, alone, he watched the destruction caused by the fall of the two Lamps. The cracked, lightless land appeared divided by rivers of fire that gave off eerie glints. Any symmetry, any order to which he could have aspired, had disappeared in the chaos of Melkor.
And yet, there was something there, something that eluded him once again, a different geometry, some hidden laws under a shapeless appearance. Smiling wryly, Mairon realized that precisely the most perfect and studied work of Aulë's forge, that work whose plans he had revised countless times, calculating its measurements with an obsessive accuracy, that work, had been the cause for the collapse of any plan, of any calculation. And in his interior, Mairon conceived an insidious and horrible feeling, a feeling from which he tried to escape in vain, and for which he hated himself deeply.
Because Mairon hated himself upon understanding that, despite everything, he saw beauty in that image of destruction.