After.

"Tell me."

Now, after all dooms had been full-wrought, after the world had been cloven and made anew, after the song had been perfected in a hundred thousand tongues, the roles were reversed. Now Námo sat, Mandos no more, watching as Nienna held her court of compassion among the myriad souls.

(Those who knew him said that the former Doomsman had never looked happier. Neither had Nienna.)

"My life was filled with woe." Túrin stood, hands on the hilt of his sword - the sword that had brought the first Song to an end, one of but two to endure in this time beyond time. "The curse that was laid on me by him," he pointed at the sullen figure behind Nienna, "followed me wherever I went, destroyed all I strove to build." His brow furrowed in remembered anger, then softened into some fonder memory. "And yet… if only someone had been able to draw me back from my path, his cruelty might have come to no end. I might have lived, content in Doriath or Nargothrond - had I only had someone to hold me there."

"I know of what you speak." An elf pushed through the throng, tall and dark, his hair bound severely back: Maeglin, prince of Gondolin when such titles had meaning. "They call me traitor," he said, "and perhaps I was - but had one ever shown me a sliver of kindness, all the tortures of the Enemy would had had no effect on me."

"And I will say it a third time." Ar-Pharazôn the Golden, aged and worn but still every inch a king of Númenor, stepped forth to join them. "None have ever faulted my courage. Had I been given the slightest hope that I might spend the days beyond death with one who cared for me, how could the Deceiver's promises have touched me? Nay, even should the Dark One himself come before me, I should have remained firm, and taken the Gift of Men willingly."

Nienna, tears glinting as ever in the corners of her eyes, held up a hand. She moved as if to speak - then paused, as if hearing some silent voice. After a moment, she nodded and stepped aside.

The figure thus revealed was not broken, not bowed, though many had wished it; rather, he was healed, the scars of his misdeeds washed away in his remaking. Dark still, indeed, but no longer the Morgoth: Melkor rose.

"I know what you would say," and even here, in the bliss of Ilúvatar, his voice crawled with wry sarcasm. "That had you but found love, things would have gone different." He fixed his gaze on Ar-Pharazôn. "But should Tar-Míriel be held accountable for the actions of one who betrayed her?" The King shied away from his piercing stare.

Melkor turned to Maeglin. "You, who so swiftly betrayed your city for greed and envy - would the forbidden love of Idril have made any difference? Or would there always have been something, some promise I could have set forth to turn you?" Maeglin brindled, then lowered his head, shoulders falling.

"And you." Melkor looked at last at Túrin, and the black sword standing steady in his grip. "You, who have razed kingdoms and redeemed worlds. Cursed you were, by my hand, that all your great deeds would turn to ash - but could you have given them up?" He held up a hand as if to catch the crystal light of the new world. "You could have lived a simple life with Nellas of Doriath, losing yourself in the endless moment of her mind; or had nobility and honour in Nargothrond, hand in hand with Finduilas. Yet you rejected them; and when the time came, you rejected even your Níniel, and drew your sword again against the foe."

Túrin's hands flexed on Gurthang's black hilt, but he did not raise his blade. "Yes," he acknowledged quietly, his eyes unmoving from Melkor's face, "and had I my time again, I say now would choose the same."

Melkor nodded, conceding the victory, and then turned to Nienna. "But what of me?" he said, touching a hand to his chest. "I, too, was spurned by one I longed for. How might things had gone, had she responded to my love in kind? Had you, Nienna, Pity and Mercy that you are, given your heart to me, in the days before the Light? Could the love of a good woman have saved even me from my fallen state?"

He turned again, sweeping his gaze across the three petitioners, then bowed his head and resumed his seat. "I suppose," he said in a low voice, "we will simply never know."


Disclaimer: All characters belong to J.R.R. Tolkien.

Huinesoron's Note: Tongue so firmly in cheek it comes out the other side…

The frame for this story arises out of a couple of prophecies that never really made it into the published Legendarium. The Second Prophecy of Mandos holds that Morgoth will ultimately be slain when Túrin runs him through with Gurthang. Meanwhile, Finrod Felagund prophesied in the Athrabeth that after the end of the world, Elves, Men, and the Ainur would all live together in a perfected world. So here they are. I've assumed that, even in what's basically heaven, the personalities of those involved will be retained, though in a much less twisted form. (Giving Mandos a well-deserved holiday, however, is entirely mine.)

The content comes from one too many instances of 'if only (woman) had loved (antihero/villain), he would have been redeemed'. Which, to my mind, simultaneously gives the male characters far too much credit, and comes uncomfortably close to blaming the women for the men's failings. Still, I felt they should be allowed to have their say. ^_~

(The conspicuous absence of actual women's voices is simultaneously a concession to the narrative - it would be rather ruined by Tar-Míriel yelling at Pharazôn about abuse - and a commentary on it.)

Credit to Urwen of the Barrow-Downs for some of the ideas on both sides of this debate. And you may decide for yourself whether Melkor is being serious at the end... ^_~