The Complexities of Power: Part 1 - Master and Slave
Summary: The corruption of Sauron by Melkor. For even Sauron the Deceiver must himself have been deceived.
"Service in a flagship might be a quicker way to promotion, but there were many crumpled petals in the bed of roses."
- C.S. Forrester, Horatio Hornblower.
The iron was changing. Morphing. It was becoming something greater under his hands; it was infinitely more complex and beautiful than what it had been before as a lump of ore. He applied more heat, and he watched as the metal glowed a yellow-red as it transformed.
"There is something graceful about you, Craft-master of Aulë (1). Very pleasing to the eye, in fact." The grip on the metal wavered as the bearer turned in surprise, for though the tall figure was shrouded in a dark cloak, the voice belonged to none other than Melkor, brother to Manwë.
Sauron inclined his head. "My lord," he said respectfully. "To what do I owe this honor?" No sarcasm or malice shaded the Maia's tone. Unlike many of his other kindred, he cared not for the politics that was ripe among the Ainur. Melkor was one of the Aratar (2), and as such, worthy of Sauron's respect.
Melkor pushed back his hood, his bright hair gleaming in the fires of the forge. "I am visiting one of my kinsmen. Surely that is not worthy of suspicion?" The Vala's eyes were filled with slight reproof.
"I meant neither disrespect, Lord, nor disbelief in your intentions." Sauron inclined his head again. "But I cannot deny my curiosity regarding your visit."
"To answer your question, I will say that my curiosity regarding you is what drove me here." Melkor cast his eyes around Sauron's workbench. "But it seems as if I have arrived at an inopportune time."
Sauron laid his tongs on the table and removed his apron. "No, you have not, my lord, for I have done all I can to this piece of iron today." His long fingers gestured to the cooling mass at his side. "Tomorrow, it will be something else." And although he tried, Sauron could not hide the pride in his voice.
"What is it to be?" asked Melkor. In familiar territory, Sauron explained how this mass of iron would be formed into one of the interlocking parts of a gate. Melkor, nodding with interest, listened carefully until the Maia had finished. Then: "What pleasure will you receive out it?"
Confusion flitted across Sauron's face. "The pleasure of a job well-done, the pleasure of seeing my work serving others. What other pleasures would I receive?"
Melkor toyed with some of the tools on the table. "How does what you have just made benefit you?"
"It benefits others-" began the Maia.
"Yes, yes," said Melkor. He held up prongs and examined them curiously. "But that was not my question."
Sauron gave him a suspicious glance. "May I ask, Lord, the purpose of these inquiries?"
Melkor waved the question away. "Forgive me, for I meant no offense. It was simply an idle question." The Vala began to wander around the forges, his head tilting in a child-like manner as he regarded other pieces of work. Sauron, left alone, watched Melkor for a few moments before clearing his bench. What silly questions to be asked, he told himself. What Melkor needs is a job. Then he will see the benefits received from hard work.
From the air around him, another voice whispered, What benefits? Aulë and the others do not reward you except by giving you more work. Startled, Sauron looked around wildly, but the only occupant in the room was Melkor, who was idly examining a set of cubes on the other side of the room.
"What are these?" asked the Vala as he gestured to the cubical objects next to him.
Sauron crossed the room. "Lady Vairë requested them." The cubes were each made of different materials, of stone, glass, and metal. "They represent the three facets to our existence." He pointed to each of them in turn. "Pain, pleasure, and eternity (3)."
Melkor pursed his lips. "Ahh, yes." He turned to Sauron. "What if I were to ask you which one you prefer?"
Sauron smoothed his dark hair. Pain, pleasure, eternity. "I prefer them all," he answered finally. "What is one without the others?"
"A good answer; wise in fact." Melkor lifted the cube of pain. "But not a satisfactory one."
"My lord, I must ask again. Why do you ask such questions?"
Melkor chuckled. "Why should I not? Is it wrong to quest for knowledge?"
Sauron felt frustration well within him. "No. But this knowledge – what will you gain from it? What significance do my answers have?" Again, Melkor's eyes probed him in that knowing way. "I feel that you wish for resentment to grow between my master and me."
"My dear friend, the tree cannot grow unless the seed has already been planted." Melkor placed his fingers on Sauron's lips to prevent him from speaking. "I see that your clever hands," and here Melkor released Sauron's lips to grasp the long fingers, "are forced to make things not of your own choosing." He lifted the hands and kissed them reverently. "What wondrous things you could create!"
"What bewitchment are you crafting?" whispered Sauron.
Melkor smiled softly. "It is you who have created bewitchment." He leaned forward and kissed the Maia's lips. "You are as a flame, and I as a butterfly, drawn to the heat unwillingly."
Somewhere, in the fogginess that was Sauron's perceptions, a shred of incredulity mingled with doubt arose. "My lord, I am nothing, a mere creature of the Maiar sent here to serve the Valar."
Melkor stroked Sauron's cheek seductively. "Perhaps that was your original purpose. But now I offer you a new one." He suddenly dropped his hands and strode out of the forge.
Sauron's cheek burned where Melkor had touched it. It was painful…but also erotically pleasurable. Unwittingly, his eyes fell upon the cubes nearby.
Melkor returned again a long time after. "Have you an answer for me, Kinsman? Have you given thought to what I have said?"
"What do you speak of, my lord?" asked the Maia uncertainly.
"I am sure that you know of my…disagreements with my brother, Manwë." At Sauron's nod, Melkor continued explaining his plan. When he was finished, he kept his bright eyes on Sauron's face.
"I know not what to say, save that your actions are treasonous against Eru, our master." Sauron backed away from Melkor slowly. "And these thoughts…you have deceived!"
Melkor nodded. "Deception is the key. It is an idea so heinous to our kind that it is wholly unexpected. And the name that you have spoken…he is no longer of any consequence to me. I serve only myself." He shifted forward, the voluminous folds of cloak swirling about him. "Consider what I offer. Here, you cannot create what you wish. Your potential is limited by your own master." He pursed his lips. "I seem to recall your anger at Aulë's new restrictions. Something having to do with Yavanna's pastures."
Sauron nodded, albeit reluctantly. "She will not allow mining and quarrying in most of the land, and her useless pastures cover some of the richest mineral and ore deposits." The bitterness marred his fair voice.
"If you join with me, you can mine wherever you please, and you may tear down as many trees as you wish. All of Middle Earth shall be your playground, and all its fruits shall be your toys." Melkor raised his arms slightly. "Here, you build pretty little halls of glass and wood. But in my kingdom, you will raise fortresses of stone and steal, places made strong by the fires of your touch." Seeing the desire in the dark eyes of the Maia, Melkor continued. "You will do great deeds. Terrible and cruel, perhaps, but certainly great."
Reason overcame Sauron's lust. "You would ask me to do evil?"
"Evil?" chuckled Melkor. "Evil is a word, nothing more. What you call evil does not exist, and for that matter, neither does good. Only power. I am offering it to you, a reward that benefits you instead of benefiting others. And you will receive more than the pleasure of a job well-done, more than having your work serve others. Instead, others will serve you." His voice dropped. "You will be happy. How can that be evil?" With that, Melkor gracefully took his leave, thereby leaving behind a distressed craft-master.
Fragments of Melkor's words hammered at Sauron. You will be happy. How can that be evil?
Sauron threw the newly formed gate piece into one of the fire pits.
Melkor visited again some time later. "Have you an answer for me, Kinsman?"
Yet still Sauron wavered, and reason fought against the tide of his long-buried resentment. "But you must steal this power – it will not be given to you. You will all your time fighting to keep it."
"A price worth paying. But rest assured, my kinsman, that a time shall come when my brother will yield. He will bow to me, and I shall take all that is his, what in fact is rightfully mine."
Still Sauron hesitated, but Melkor kept speaking. "There are those who fear, and there are those who cause others to fear. Those who lead quiet, insignificant lives and achieve nothing, and those who are guided by ambition and greed to achieve all that they desire." He gestured outside. "This is my test," said Melkor quietly. "To confront the barrier that Manwë's legend has become to me. I will overcome it, and I will triumph. And all his subjects," he said as the movements of his hands encompassed the space between them, "will one day be mine." He turned to Sauron. "And I will give to you Yavanna's useless pastures, and you will tear the very earth until it screams, and you shall take from it what has been denied to you by your masters."
A long time later, Melkor came to Sauron again. For the last time, the Maia knew, although how he knew he could not say for certain. "Have you an answer for me, Kinsman?"
"If I joined you, I would only be trading one master for another."
Melkor smiled. "It is a fair thing that you ask, and an answer I shall grant to you. 'Tis true, that I would be your master. But I would be a master that would not hold you back, that would not restrain your fires. For I understand that my greatness can only be enhanced if yours is. You would be the foundation of my power – a position most worthy of my undiluted respect, and homage shall be paid to you."
Respect…what respect has Aulë ever given me? As yet, Aulë refuses to let me create my own things, only what he asks of me. I am chained here. Briefly, he allowed himself to imagine creating tall and dark things, things of metal and stone. Never would he have to touch glass and wood again.
"Yes," said Melkor. "No wood."
In delight, he imagined the lands stripped of trees. How Yavanna would weep! "But what things would I create?"
In response, Melkor pulled a baby rabbit out of his cloak. "What do you think of this…thing?"
"One of Oromë's creatures, undoubtedly," said Sauron distastefully.
"He hunts with spears of wood. But perhaps you could create something more…useful with your beloved metals?" Melkor absentmindedly stroked the rabbit's fur, and it purred contentedly in his skillful hands.
Sauron watched the long fingers stroke the fur. His own pleasure overcame him, and he knew what to make with his metals. "Weapons I can craft for you." Already, images of swords overcame him, swords of steel that would penetrate flesh as effectively as his own hardening member.
Melkor smiled, his malice seeming strangely seductive. "Good. We shall need those." He dropped the rabbit on the floor, and slowly, he rested his foot on top of the squirming form. "Killing is a messy business, but much of it will have to be done."
Sauron's eyes flickered again, and the lust began to recede. But then Melkor began to press harder on the rabbit, and Sauron watched on, fascinated, as the fear in the tiny rabbit eyes grew. There are those who fear, and there are those who cause others to fear. The rush of pleasure was intoxicating.
And when the rabbit finally lay dead, bled and squashed, Melkor turned his bright eyes to the Maia.
"Have you an answer for me, Kinsman?"
- (1) Sauron, like Curunir (Saruman), was one of the Maiar in Aulë's company.
- (2) The rulers of the Valar, of which numbered nine until the fall of Melkor.
concept from Frank Herbert, which I am unashamedly using here.