"Not Even for Redemption"
"What is it? What has happened?"
The dark forest was alive with fleeing orcs, with the stench of spilled blood, with thick smoke rising unto the sky from the trees. Sauron gripped the reins of his horse in his metal-sheathed hands, the pointed claws of his gauntlets encircling the leather thongs.
"Speak to me!" he ordered the fleeing, panicked orcs that surged around him. "I demand to know—"
"It is the Master, Lord," an orc hissed behind his horse's rump. Sauron pulled at the reigns viciously, making the beast turn in the orc's direction. The orc was stained with dried, dark blood. It was missing one eye, which had been bandaged sloppily with a piece of cloth tied over its slimy face. Tho it took Sauron a moment, in this dark, with this new disfigurement, he realized that he actually remembered this one—the orc was called Shagoth, or something like that. "The Master has been taken, the battle is lost."
"What say ye?" Sauron demanded.
"Lord, the Master is in the hands of the Valar! Shagoth heard during the battle. He did not flee before the Master's capture—only after—"
"The Valar captured him?" Sauron interrupted him, cutting off the creature's feeble justifications. The horse bucked under the sound of his rage, but knew better than to flee. "What have they done with Lord Melkor? Does he still—"
An orc, carrying a bundle of dirty cloths that almost hid the glint of treasure within, rushed past them wildly, nearly bucking the horse. Sauron stared after the orc, and his face twisted with fury beneath his helm. He leapt from his steed, pulling his mace from its place on his back, and started after the creature. Swinging the mace over his head expertly, Sauron let it fly, watching it spin heavily through the air before the pointed head struck the creature's back. The orc was propelled forward with a spray of blood, falling to the ground onto his bundle.
Sauron marched upon the twitching body, and violently pulled his weapon from the thief's back. Fist closing around the handle until his glove's leather palms creaked against it, he brought the mace down once more, smashing in the creature's skull. Blood and bone struck his armor but he paid no heed, instead returning the dripping mace to his back and kicking the orc onto its back.
"Vile thief!" Sauron hissed at the body. He bent down to retrieve the bundle, opening the cloth to see not only precious golden baubles from Melkor's treasury, but one of the Dark Lord's own spiked crowns.
Sauron gripped the black crown, quaking in fury. He considered taking his mace to the blasphemous orc once more, but it was dead and no amount of pounding would make it feel the pain. Instead he turned toward the others, holding the crown up high. "You beasts!" he screamed. "Fleeing from my Master as well as robbing him! I will hunt down any who has plundered Angband and torture him to his death!"
Some orcs scrabbled to a clumsy stop, whether their arms were full or not. Others continued to run, as if they did not even hear his raging vow. Without Melkor, they were lost, and not even Sauron's dark screams could pierce their panicked state.
"My Lord," said Shagoth, cautiously coming up behind him, "mayhap you should flee. They are bringing down Angband itself! That is why we are running. By the time you reach Angband, hours will have passed, and the place will surely be beyond saving."
Sauron stared into the distance, watching the dark, acrid smoke that boiled upwards from the trees. In the distance, he could make out Thangorodrim's shadow.
He had hoped to join Melkor at Angband this night, to be with him in battle. For the past many weeks he had been elsewhere, carrying out Melkor's dark tasks. Upon completion, he had yearned to aid his Master now that the armies against him had surged in number and might.
He had been too late.
"Gather what orcs you can," Sauron ordered. "We must hide for now, and learn in greater detail what has happened."
"Yes, my Lord."
Sauron returned to his horse, gripping the armored saddle and returning to its back. Master, he called out. Master, where are you? What are they doing to you this time?
He heard nothing. Sauron spurred his horse onward.
In a small, hidden tower, Sauron slinked around the room tensely, occasionally looking out the single arched window before turning away and planting his hands on the room's table.
Days before, he had been in a rage, marching through the rooms and halls like a dark, vengeful shadow, knocking over or impaling orcs that got too close to his person when he was in his most bitter moments. The orcs learned quickly to stay away from him and his impenetrable foul mood. They only came to him, and obeisantly so, when they had news for him that could not be unspoken, lest he take out his rage on them even harsher.
The rage was gone now, and even the bitterness was gone.
Sauron stared down at the table, acutely aware of his heart—the heart he had given himself—beating wildly in his chest, no matter what he tried to do to calm it. Beneath his armor he was cold, and sweat slid down his dark face. He pulled away from the table, so fiercely the pitcher of water he'd called for spilled under the rocking surface, spilling onto his papers, blurring the ink.
He made no move to save them.
He'd learned that Melkor had been sentenced by the Valar. And his sentence was most horrific—so horrific that Sauron had frozen on the spot, as if he, too, were being punished by the orc that had relayed the news. The orc had died when Sauron forced himself back into reality, his fear and despair gripping his heart.
Melkor had been banished from Middle-Earth and Arda—from Eä itself. The Master had been sent into the Void, and the Valar did not intend to ever free him.
Sauron clicked his glove tips together, eyes darting about.
The first time Melkor had been taken by the Valar, they had chained him for three ages, then released him so that he might repent. In that time Sauron had escaped their judgment, trying to avoid detection lest he share the same fate. But now the Valar were not content to merely bind Melkor—they had banished him away into the nothingness outside of Eä.
And that was what terrified Sauron. He had rejoined his Master willingly—ecstatically—when Melkor had been unchained and returned to his old ways. If there was to be no second chance for Melkor, Sauron could only fear there would be no second chance for him as well.
I cannot go to the Void, Sauron thought. Not even for Melkor!
To spend eternity in a vacuum, with his failure laid bare to his Master... He shuddered at the thought of being trapped forever with Melkor, being punished for his worthlessness.
What shall I do?
Sauron considered, suddenly, taking his life. His Maia spirit could flee his body, and then, when the armies took this place and his orcs, they would find him dead, and stop their search.
But his spirit would be pursued by the other Ainur. And as strong as he was, he could not flee them forever.
There was only one thing to do. He could not flee the Ainur. But perhaps he could appeal to them.
Go to them before they come to you, and plead for mercy, Sauron thought frantically. Show them that despite your deeds your nature is nowhere near the nature of Melkor. It is the only way to survive. Perhaps they will be merciful if you admit to your wrongdoings.
He could do that—could become a faithful Maia once more. The humiliation of standing beside his brothers and sisters after forsaking them would be almost unbearable, but nothing could compare to the Void.
Yes, that could work. He could surrender to Eonwë. Eonwë might still be on Middle-Earth—he had led the Vanyar in the battle against Morgoth.
Perhaps—perhaps he will have mercy. He is a noble warrior, after all. Any prisoner or defector he would treat humanely—
Sauron went to the window, looking out on this corner of Middle-Earth. He despised it, suddenly. He had toiled so hard for his Master's dominion over this land—now those countless years may well lead to his own destruction.
Sauron forced the hatred away. He could not feel such things—he must be as pure as he could manage—he must show nothing that would harden Eonwë's heart towards him. This fearsome, appearance would not do, either. Black armor, clad in spikes and sharp angles, would only remind Eonwë of his crimes, the vicious nature that he had succumbed to thousands of years ago.
Sauron stood still, calming his mind as best he could, and thought of a form that was fair and beautiful; something slightly frail, that would appeal to Eonwë's sense of mercy.
He chose pale, porcelain skin that almost glowed with a warm aura, and soft blond hair that was almost white. A soft, pink cloak fell in folds around him, and he adjusted it self-consciously.
He abandoned the tower, and fled for the shameful, but necessary, act before him.
Eonwë was staying on Middle Earth for a few nights longer, Sauron learned, as a guest of the Elves. Sauron found him, as he was Maia and not a true Middle Earth being, and entered the private rooms he had been given by the Elves.
Eonwë was tall, draped in a rich cloak and covered in golden armor. But the battles were drawing to a close now, and each piece was being removed from his strong form. Helm, shoulder pauldrons, chain-mail—all clanked and clinked as he set each piece along with the others. He reached for his sword, taking it and its sheath from his heavy belt.
Sauron heaved a shaking breath, and stepped forward from the shadows. "Eonwë, servant of Manwë...my Lord..." He fell to his knees, hands held out in submission.
Eonwë pulled back, hand gripping the hilt of his sword and bringing up the blade. "Who..." He searched Sauron's mind, and his eyes—normally so cool and icy blue—widened in understanding. "Sauron—?" The eyes narrowed into slits. "Sauron!" he hissed.
Sauron bent closer to the ground. "No longer," he said. "I am no longer an abomination Middle-Earth has to fear—"
"You beast!" Eonwë strode toward him, sword held out and shining so coldly that Sauron was seized by fear and felt compelled to run. But he held himself on the floor, even as Eonwë towered above him, the point of the blade thrust at his face. "Come to beg for mercy now that your master has fallen, coward?" Eonwë sneered at him. " Did you think this body would indulge me to grant you the mercy you spared those you have tortured and killed?"
"I have come to repent!" Sauron told him, and he repeated the words he had practiced, steeling himself from tripping over them with his own tongue. "I reject Melkor's ways. I will make everything right that I have set wrong, and I will serve Eru and the Valar forever."
"Ha!" Eonwë's sword touched his cheek, almost drawing blood. "Hollow promises made by a pathetic traitor," he muttered harshly.
"No!" Sauron let his fear come out in his eyes, let it permeate his gaze. "I will make everything right. Please, Eonwë, please show your fellow Maia compassion!"
Eonwë made a doubting noise, derisive and almost cruel. "Is this really the great Sauron?" he asked. "This whimpering creature?" He pulled his blade away, but did not sheath it. "You disgust me, Sauron. You shame the Ainur by being here. You are a dark cloud that blows in the wind—you go where it takes you, will change any allegiance—"
"Please," Sauron repeated. He leaned in, grasping Eonwë's cloak. "I beseech you, let me repent. Unlike Melkor I will not waste the forgivingness of the Ainur. I will learn to be good again, and I will never again stray. Grant me mercy, though I do not deserve it." His fists tightened on Eonwë's cloak, and the Maia stiffened.
"Release me, Sauron," Eonwë said.
Sauron stared up at him, eyes pleading, but bowed his head and let go. "Do not call me that. I would like my real name—"
"Yes, well—you will forgive me if I find myself unable to speak it." Sauron heard Eonwë swallow forcefully, as if trying to rid himself of some annoyance in his throat. Eonwë turned away from him and walked steadily around the room. "I do not have the power to grant you the mercy you seek, Sauron," he said finally. "If you are truly repentant, you must go to Manwë, to the Undying Lands, for judgment."
Sauron shook his head. Manwë was the most powerful of the Valar, second only to his brother—Melkor. "I...I cannot," he said.
"It is the only way to make up for what you have done," Eonwë told him firmly. "You must face the consequences of your crimes, Maia. When your punishment is completed, you will be beloved by your brothers and sisters again."
Sauron remembered again what they had done to Melkor the first time—chaining him in Mandos, leaving him imprisoned for ten thousand years before setting him free. He shook his head numbly. "I...I do not wish to subject myself to what they may do...how can I face them in that spirit, with them knowing what I have done..."
"It is the only way," Eonwë told him, and his voice was almost gentle this time. "Maia, it is not possible to redeem oneself without repairing oneself. If you have a desire to do good, you must also desire the punishment of evil deeds...even your own evil deeds."
Sauron swallowed, his throat burning with bile and face flushed with humiliation. He nodded sadly, and a moment later he stood. "I...understand, Eonwë."
He turned away from his fellow Ainu, and left, running away into the woods to disappear. As he ran he turned into an old form, that of a werewolf, and streaked through the trees.
I understand...but that, I cannot endure.
Eonwë placed his sword alongside his armaments. He brushed vaguely at his coat, as if to rid it of Sauron's essence. Even after several moments, he could still vividly see the Maia's fearful eyes in front of him.
"He cannot change. His pride will not let him," Eonwë said to himself. And the freedoms Sauron had enjoyed under Melkor would be too much for him to let go, even for redemption. Perhaps he would not trouble Middle-Earth again, but he would never have the courage to face the Ainur.
Eonwë allowed himself, for a brief moment, to remember Sauron as the Maia used to be, a long time ago—a fellow Maia, a servant of Aulë, one who enjoyed the forge and craved order and the abolition of chaos.
...one who was sure he knew best—what was best for Middle Earth and its Children. One who liked to control a little too much.
How was it that Sauron had been the greatest Maia of them all?