Originally written for Amber in the 2009 Ardor in August exchange, this story is currently in the process of being re-edited. If you'd like to help out, please don't be shy; any concrit is welcome!
Thank you so much to my lovely beta-reader Jaiden, without whom this story would have been entirely unreadable. Thank you also to my alpha-reader rxlcrab, for bearing with my wailing and gnashing of teeth.
I'm very excited to thank Mirach, for drawing the Eönwë from this story. You may find a link to her lovely art on my profile.
Now Eönwë, Captain of the Host of the Valar, drew nigh his tent, set at the heart of the great encampment that was laid in the drear North at the change of the world. Passing amid the lamplit press, there rose about him the mist of lamentation, weeping those new-slain of kindred by kindred, at a time when all death and slaying were done. Eönwë joined them not. On this night he was weary of deeds and war and of the corruption of this earth. In victory he tasted the ashes of doubt.
He had bade his company put up their swords, and had himself walked with the remaining sons of Fëanor until they were far from his host. There were they overcome with torment, even as he had foretold to them but a little while ago. Suffering neither bondage nor further slaying, he had seen them safely from the camp, and let them be. For this there were some among his host who eyed him askance, and he heard an accusation in the fair voices uplifted in song, but it had seemed to him that in such a chance all choices led to ill.
Now for any who wished to see, two points of unsullied light faded from the darkling distance, one mingled with the fires that sprang out of the nether forges, and the other seized by the hungry grasp of the deep, that with every billow devoured the western lands. One more had died needlessly from Eönwë's command, and the last Light of the blessed Trees was lost, never to be retrieved ere the End.
Turning to the vaulted sky in supplication, where even the Northern stars were veiled in shadow, Eönwë knew the loneliness of failure and its regret. His thoughts leapt homeward then, where once, in command of this victorious host cast shipless upon shifting strands, he had longed to return to rest. Now no rest awaited, for soon he must report his conduct before the Valar. Into his tent he returned alone, to the cold victory of a bitter war.
But it was not so. For when he lifted the tent flap, one stood within to greet him. He was clad in fair form, that raiment in which he walked with Eönwë upon Arda in long ages past, fashioning the substances of the deep-rooted earth. Sauron, lieutenant of the Enemy and his greatest and most trusted servant, revealed his presence before Eönwë, and cast himself at his feet.
Eönwë said, "What trickery is this, you vassal of Melkor? You will not find your master here." But even as he spoke he entered the tent, and shut its walls without calling a guard.
"I pray you, Eönwë," said Sauron, drawing near, "hold blameless the servant for the ills of his master. Few in Arda have strength of will such as yours, and if I have broken upon the bonds that Melkor laid about me, then may I receive your pity before your anger.
"In humility and repentance I come to you, and in gratitude. Yes, for by your great victory you have released me from darkness and the fear of darkness. Will you not forgive me?"
Eönwë hardened his heart against him, and answered, "So you come at last. You fly to me even as a moth to the flame."
He looked upon Sauron, casting his thought through the long ages of his works: the singing and the making, and the ordering of lands when the First War was won. Through all were Eönwë's vigour and agency foremost in Sauron's thought. But at the resting time, when all watched Aulë's Lamps bring forth the Spring, a cloud fell over Sauron's mind, and he revealed no more.
Marking what he sought, Eönwë issued his gaze to pierce bitter as the wind upon the pinnacle of Taniquetil and more profound than the secret gulfs beneath the deep. Thus was Sauron laid bare, and, naked and trembling, he cried out his shame and fear.
Eönwë surveyed all that was revealed. He saw a darkness of treachery and malice that entwined with light and desire for light; but shame whelmed all, and terror was its brother. Melkor did Sauron fear, but the more he feared the Valar. From the dim fastness of Taur-nu-fuin, he had beheld the might and magnificence of Eönwë's host, there he had hid as they broke all Beleriand in their fury, and there had he descried them bring forth in bonds his erstwhile master, footless and bent, who oft had recounted to him the pitiless judgements of the Lords sitting upon their thrones far in the Uttermost West.
Then Eönwë thought to himself, "Am I, too, not beset by the anguish of regret? And do I not also dread judgement for my conduct of this war upon my return? Yes, I have lost the last unsullied Light, and Elves were slain, needlessly, it may be claimed. Yet Sauron has come to me in despite of all, and he has yielded unto me the gates of his mind."
Pity sprouted in Eönwë's heart, seeded by that withered shadow and trace of him whom he once had loved before the world was made. Though Eönwë rued always the fencing of Valinor against the entreaties of the Children of Ilúvatar, he turned now his thought to those others, Melkor's servants, whose lot seemed the direst and most terrible, for their very spirits were defiled and changed. Of all the bitter hurts that Melkor had wrought upon Arda, this marring seemed now the most grievous. In his pity it came to Eönwë that he should seek to thwart Melkor's mastery in all things; he desired to defeat him, if he might, within the spirit of his servant even as he had defeated him on the field.
For the first time since alighting upon Middle-earth, Eönwë cast off earthly raiment, so that the twain were revealed in the fullness of their splendour, undimmed by the veil of incarnate form: the one keen as the wind that scours the barren tors, and the other a living shadow of fire. Thus Sauron rendered himself to Eönwë's glory, and received him, and wheresoever Eönwë touched burned with a clear flame that neither scorched nor marred. Sauron craved it, its pain and its releasing, and his thought was fell and strange. It seemed for a time that darkness was upswept into the airs to become a mingling of the substances of Arda, arising as the windstorm that reveals of weathered rock the fine tracery of its bones.
Rekindled within Sauron was the glede of the Flame Imperishable, that had but slept through his fall in Melkor's service. He looked upon the world in amazement as a new thing, marvellous-wrought and strange in its beauty, but to him the more perilous, for he understood a little more clearly the full measure of his past misdeeds.
All this did Eönwë perceive, the wonder no less than the fear. As the domed panoply that mantles all pale and blinking things of the earth from Arien's blazing gaze he arrayed himself about Sauron, saying, "Receive now my forgiveness, but not my pardon, for no authority have I to give it. Yet, if you will, return with me to Aman, and there render yourself unto the mercy of the Elder King."
Then Sauron knew that Eönwë would not shield him forever, and despair woke anew in his heart. He sundered himself from Eönwë, saying, "There is no mercy for me in the West, however I beseech the Powers and fawn grovelling at their feet; for I have shown no mercy to any, and so deserve none for myself." Even as he spoke, there rose before his sight a tower of sable adamant set nigh unto a fiery mountain. In foreboding he said, "Is it your desire that I should return with you beyond the Western Sea? But I say to you, Eönwë, that when you come no more to these Hither Lands, my doom shall fall upon me at last." And then the vision passed, and all was clouded.
"I see within you not doom but pride that cleaves you to this shore," answered Eönwë. "Lay down your pride, and submit to the Elder King's judgement, that you might redress the wrongs you have compassed and have your spirit healed."
Sauron answered him in fearful scorn, "I need no King's judgement to judge what wrongs I must redress! Think you that healing will be the doom laid unto me? Look upon Melkor! No, they shall fetter me for long ages in narrow thraldom, maybe, until all is dark before my sight and once again Melkor casts his dominion upon my thought. Or worse, they shall cast me into the Void, where ever shall I be laid bare to the torment of his gaze. Small healing will I receive if I submit to such!
"But you, Eönwë, out of the West have you come to Middle-earth in its need, while all the Powers sit idle upon their thrones, heedless of the wide expanses of Arda that lay for long Ages succourless. You have driven him forth who was King of this Middle-earth, and you are now greatest in might in all Arda, and all the hosts of the world answer to your command. Middle-earth is your own. Will he who is mightiest be content now to creep back to his coop at the beck of some self-clept King? What King is he who holds no dominion? Who guides not his people, yet pronounces high judgement upon those deceived and betrayed? No, I will forgo his tyranny.
"But you Eönwë, to you I will submit, if you bid me."
Amid this converse many moons waxed and waned, until three years of the swift sun were passed. Círdan grew restive, for the fingers of the sea crept up the sheer-cloven precipices that sundered the slopes of Ered Luin, so that with each tide the shipyards were flooded, though thrice they had removed to higher ground. Ingwion and Finarfin took upon themselves to seek counsel from the captain, but his tent was bound about by enchantment, so that none could open its walls.
Ingwion pointed westward, and said, "This land is sinking fast, as the sea pours in between the mountain cleft, but there is a great isle clothed in strong stands of pine, and not since the first cataclysm has the sea upclimbed its slopes. There, maybe, shall be a fair place to build our ships."
"That land is evil," answered Círdan. "We named it Taur-nu-fuin before the North was changed. Strange powers and deep arts uphold it above the faces of the Sea."
Then Finarfin besought certain Maiar of the host for aid. On a bright noontide one took an eagle's hue, and the wind of his wings swept aside the white walls of the tent, so that Eönwë and Sauron were revealed within. Waking to the world anew, the lands seemed to them swiftly changed. Freed from the trammels of earthly raiment, the weariness of corruption was stayed, so that it seemed that time, as is known in Hither Lands, was stilled, while the space of three years of the sun was passed, and a great fleet amassed in the firth.
To Ingwion, Sauron recounted the slow devisings that he had worked upon Taur-nu-fuin, so that its stone stood firm against any torrent. In ordered rows he made the trees to grow thick and strong, sheltering the earthen slopes from the ravages of rain. For he it was who had guarded the heights from all, in those years when he hid from Melkor's wrath after the yielding of Tol Sirion.
Eönwë's gaze darted from the isle to Círdan's ships that, borne upon the rising tide, rode but a little distant from his encampment. Though the fleet was seeming great, his camp was increased now a dozenfold by the Children fleeing from their sunken lands, so that glutting the wide ways between bannered tents, brakes of motley sailcloths burgeoned as bright blossoms of weeds that choke the shrinking courses when mountain snows are fled. He said, "The manner of the change of Beleriand is unknown to me, as to you, until its fulfilment. But this I say: we depart in two companies. Upon the ships that lie now at anchor shall the host of the Valar sail first with our captive, and then shall some return the fleet unto these shores, that the remnant of the Elves of Beleriand shall follow, even as they will. We go at once."
Of the new-built fleet, the first to be launched and the fairest was a swan-ship, white-sailed and pennoned in white, upon which his guards brought Melkor chained. But behind the bulwark of a grey precipice, Eönwë stood a long time with one unseen, speaking together with the light of their eyes, so that though the clamorous affairs of haven and fleet bustled about them, to none was the matter of their discourse revealed.
"Though you esteem it not," said Sauron, "I will submit to you, for I trust to your pity. And more, I will pledge to you that I should mend those hurts that I have wrought aforetime, and in all things I will serve you faithfully, in the reordering of the world."
"Is such then your desire?" asked Eönwë, gazing beyond the ships unto the gloaming shadow of Tol Fuin that darkened the unending distance. "That you should render all things according to your will?"
"Not according to my will," cried Sauron, "but Law. Then shall the world run as an instrument set within an adamant cage, a precious jewel whose gleam lights the halls of Eä. Ever onward it shall march down the long road of Time in perfect beauty and symmetry until the End. Neither waste nor dearth shall lurk therein, for to a precision shall all things be accounted. Neither war nor any strife shall assail the Kindreds, for they shall be at peace under a strong and uniting hand. Could you, Eönwë, with this your host here gathered, would you not command them?"
Eönwë turned away, saying, "You know not what you say. Even were I the most and greatest of our brethren, yet I will not snatch such power that Eru himself has waived. You know well that in each He has set the Flame Imperishable that sprang from the Secret Fire, and in each the Flame may light as it may devour. In a kingdom wrought in gears and wheels will it be smothered, that is the greatest of the gifts of Ilúvatar."
"To what good is such a flame," cried Sauron in bitterness, "that is so easily defiled and so hard to constrain, and that, once defiled, remains sullied forever?"
"Ever the good and the ill must be at once together; so do stars shine the brighter that pierce the curtain of night."
"Yet in the night of my mind few stars sail, and they are clouded."
The concourse that had gathered about the pier dispersed, and Eönwë knew that Melkor was boarded. He clad himself again in raiment as one of the Children of Ilúvatar, and once more he entreated, though with little hope, "Come with me, and forswear rebellion! Fear not, for I pledge to you that whatsoever doom you are given, I shall await you, in the end."
Seeming as a Vanya of the host, Sauron arose. He put away bitterness, saying, "Do you hold, in truth, that the ill is needful to know the good?"
"I do," said Eönwë; and he took Sauron's hand, and it trembled, "for so it is sung ere all things were made."
"Then seek me in Eastern lands. Maybe the grace is given to me, in a deep country, far from the habitation of any folk, to make good those ills that I was party to the working, and so assuage some measure of my shame."
"I shall await you in Aman, when you return."
They parted in sorrow, but not in anger. Eönwë strode to his ship, and did not look back. But when Sauron passed through the host of the Valar, amid songs of joyful farewell, his mood was grim, so that all shrank unthinking from the path of his coming. Hidden beyond the broken rocks that strewed the far-sundered cliffs, he changed into wolfish hame.
High above the first and fairest ship of the fleet that cast off from Hither Shores wheeled a far-sighted hawk, who upon the rent earth new-changed descried a lone wolf hastening into the East.