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To the Headsman's Axe

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Sauron was in his beginnings a Maia of Aulë, and greatly skilled in the lore of that people; of building, of smithcraft, of the fires in the deep places from whence are born earth-gems and precious metals. These were the matters to which his love was given, and he was greater in might and craft even than Curumo, who was his peer. In that time, his name was Mairon, which is Admirable in the tongues of Men.

Since the Ainulindalë, he had been enamoured of the stuff of which Arda was made, and from the earliest days, had clothed himself in a body. Very fair to look upon was this form; his skin glowed yellow as a hot iron on the forge, and his hair was as fire, and in his face was a fey beauty. He bedecked himself with many rings, with fair silks broidered with threads of copper and silver, and burnished pauldrons upon his shoulders.

Though Mairon was in his nature of the folk of Aulë, his loyalty wandered elsewhere, for Aulë he had judged, and dismissed. He was like unto metal quenched too quickly, or coals in a brazier which had dwindled to a mere smoulder, something which might have been great hobbled and reduced. He was too meek, too quick to bow to the will of Ilúvatar, as if he were a whipped hound and not one accounted great among the Ainur. And having found Aulë wanting, Mairon’s thought turned instead to the mightiest of the Valar: Melkor, He Who Arises in Might.

Melkor in the raiment he wore was black; black was his helm, and black his mighty armour of iron, and he wore about him his power like a cloak of shadow and night. And yet his eyes were a fire which could scarce be endured, and the spirit which the flesh clothed burned bright as the heart of a mountain set to blaze as one of the stars of Varda. The spirit of Melkor was bright as molten metal so hot the very air is scorched, and Mairon was enamoured of him, and yet fearful also.

But Melkor saw that Mairon’s eye wandered, and he came to him in a place far removed from the Timeless Halls of the Ainur. ‘Wherefore dost thou serve an unworthy lord, O Mairon?’ he asked. ‘For thou art mighty, and skilled in craft; I would use thee to a better purpose.’

And Mairon was shaken, for he had ever before only grudgingly borne the lordship of others, and yet before Melkor, he thought that he would fain be used. ‘My lord?’ said he, and in his voice, as fair as was the rest of him, a quiver might be heard.

The smile of Melkor was glorious and terrible in that hour, and Mairon saw in it the promise of the great deeds he might do if not hindered by Aulë his master and the rulings of Ilúvatar. ‘Thou hast higher ambitions, I think,’ murmured Melkor, ‘than to be the blacksmith of Aulë. What wouldst thou, had thee thy way?’

These thoughts he had ever before kept in the silence and secret of his heart, and yet at the bidding of Melkor, Mairon now spoke them aloud. ‘All things I would have ordered, not free as was seen in the Song, to wreak ruin as they might; the Children would be as servants to us, who are wise in the ways of Eä! And we would safeguard them from their own folly, and they would pass out of the world after their lives were finished. Arda I would see made beautiful, a jewel of obsidian and chalcedony and great leaping fires, not marred as my Master would have it with filthy seas and forests and mindless creatures who serve no purpose but to live and die their own small lives.’

It was only after he had spoken that he remembered his just fear of Melkor, and would have thrown himself upon the ground were it not for his pride. But he was not so prideful that he did not repent his audacity-- in word, at least, if not in thought.

‘If I have given offence, lord, I most humbly beg your pardon--’

‘Nay,’ said Melkor, who was much pleased, and raised a long hand. ‘For thy thoughts are even as mine. I thought it were such. Thou art a craftsman of much command; show me now how thou wouldst order the world, had thee such power as I might give to thee.’ For he delighted in rebellion, and in finding another such as himself whom he might draw down the path he meant to forge.

Still, Mairon was unsure, both of his right and of Melkor’s meaning, though he was sore tempted, being beguiled by Melkor, and ever wishing to receive praise for his deeds. ‘What is it you wish me to do?’

But Melkor came nigh then, and pressed himself against Mairon’s back, so that he needed to bend to speak in his ear, and his cloak of darkness drew about them. To any who might have seen, those two together were a sight of surpassing beauty. Mairon was as if a brand of gold and orange and yellow, a blazing star amid Melkor’s darkness, made the brighter and hotter by it, and the blackness in which Melkor arrayed himself seemed an endless, velvet void.

‘Show me.’

Melkor spoke in tones of command, and his voice was deep as the empty spaces of the world. For only a moment, Mairon’s head fell back to rest on the iron of Melkor’s great breastplate, and his neck, high and proud, was bared as to the headsman’s axe, but it was moment enough for Melkor to speak again. Soft his voice was, and yet would not be denied.


And Mairon did as he was bidden. Long ages of time, perhaps, passed as he gave voice to mighty songs, and crafted many things of skill with his hands; tall towers he builded, and mighty caves he delved; metal he beat and shaped with magics into living creatures, servants of terrible beauty who knelt before them; seas he drew from the depths, and then blasted to steam. He razed the towers he had built, and filled the wondrous caverns. And watching his work with hunger and pleasure was Melkor. He was behind him, and all around him; his lips were at Mairon’s ear, and his burning spirit was in him. It was an exquisite pain, a holy pain, such that Mairon fell back against him once more, the vessel of his body open and weak and wanting, even as his spirit roared high.

A word of command he spoke, and all that which he had caused to come into being in the void was smitten to dust and fire, and the breath of Melkor was at once cold and hot against his neck and in his hair as he sighed his pleasure.

‘Admirable thou art named, and so thou art indeed. Very good.’

His voice was a rich resonance of promise and appreciation, and the kiss he laid beneath the fall of Mairon’s copper hair was as a brand. Mairon’s eyes were closed, for he found that he desired Melkor’s dominion and his lordship, his power and the burning light of his spirit.

‘All this,’ whispered Mairon, ‘I would do for you. If you will it.’

‘I will it.’

Thus Melkor spoke, and willing it so, he took, and Mairon fell as in a swoon against him. Ever after he was the lieutenant of Melkor, and his most faithful servant, and followed him down into blackness until they were given new names by the Elves, and were called Morgoth Bauglir, the Dark Foe of the World, and Sauron, Gorthaur the Cruel. And their dominions as they were in ages hence, were as a reflection of that first moment, shadow and flame.