Finrod stood still, waiting for the Númenórean army to appear, Eönwë a comforting presence by his side. Briefly, he wondered if he should have listened to the counsel of the Valar to abandon Tirion and retreat. He had planned to, but when the word had spread that Sauron himself was with the army of the Edain, Finrod had shown that he was truly a Noldo, and refused to leave. He would not flee from his old foe, and was determined to put up a better fight this time.
The Valar seemed to realize that arguing with Finrod would be a waste of time, and agreed to lend their strength with the stipulation that they try diplomacy first. Finrod had the feeling that they were planning something, or else did not believe that they should take direct action against the rebellious Dúnedain.
Finrod let out a hissing breath as the army and its banners came into view. He was still shocked, horrified, and slightly disgusted that Beren's descendants had come to this. Tar-Calion had none of the characteristics of the man Finrod had died for–except perhaps his stubbornness. Not that was a good thing in this situation. He was also apparently incredibly stupid, taking Sauron prisoner, then promoting him to chief advisor. Finrod clenched his teeth as his hatred for the Maia flamed anew.
The army stopped within hailing distance, and a man stepped forward with an honor guard. Finrod guessed it was Tar-Calion, due to the truly gaudy crown he was wearing.
"A welcoming committee!" he boomed. "Here to surrender?"
"No," Finrod replied shortly, in no mood to talk to these people. Eönwë shot him a cautioning glance.
"We are not here to surrender, but to attempt to correct a misunderstanding you seem to be under," Eönwë said calmly. Tar-Calion raised an eyebrow but said nothing.
"You come seeking immortality," Eönwë said. Tar-Calion nodded.
"It would have been ours, should have been ours!" he proclaimed, and his army cheered.
"If Elros had chosen immortality, you never would have been born, considering his brother hasn't even had children yet," Finrod snapped. "And the rest of you would still be on Middle-earth, living like your distant kin there. You know, the ones you enslaved?"
There were distinctly hostile murmurs in response to that statement, and Eönwë shot Finrod another look.
"Even if you were to dwell here in Valinor, you would not be immortal," Eönwë tried to reason. "Indeed, you would most likely die sooner, as you were not created live in these conditions. Death is a gift from Ilúvatar to your kind, and the Valar cannot take it away, no matter what you wish. The kelvar and olvar, as well, only live out their appointed lifespans and then perish. This realm is not 'deathless'; only those who live here."
Tar-Calion actually nodded thoughtfully. "That is what he said you would say," he commented. "See, either you or my little Maiarin friend is lying. Now, I know, he has by far the worse reputation. But he has kept to his story admirably: if he is lying, I'm going to be impressed." He turned to one of his guards. "Bring out our...guest."
Finrod felt Eönwë stiffen next to him, and wondered what Tar-Calion had meant by that statement. Then he caught sight of the figure being dragged forward between two guards, and nearly reeled backward in shock.
He remembered Sauron vividly, the refined, dead-eyed Maia, who had stood there in impeccable clothing, not a hair out of place, which was a marked difference from the group of elves and one mortal who had recently been disguised as orcs.
If he hadn't been told the two were the same, he never would have believed it. Long, black, matted hair that obviously hadn't been washed or combed in a long time concealed Sauron's features, but not the thick chains wrapped around him. He was being dragged along, practically on his knees, and Finrod wondered if he was unconscious, until he realized that his legs ended at the ankles.
Tar-Calion laughed shortly at their shocked expressions. "As I said, if he lied, I will be most impressed," he said dryly. He strode over to the bound Maia, roughly pulling his head up.
"Guess what, Sauron," he said in a pleasant voice that entirely failed to hide the menace in it. "These fine folk seem to think you're lying. Now, I know you were most insistent on your story, but perhaps now that we're here there is something more you'd like to add?" The Maia barely blinked at this statement, not saying a word. Tar-Calion studied him for a long moment.
"You know, all this time with us, and we never scarred your face," he mused. "Such pretty eyes…it would be a shame to have to take one to validate your story." Sauron didn't react to that, simply continued staring straight ahead. Finrod had the sinking feeling threats like that had ceased to affect him. Tar-Calion seemed to think the same.
"Or perhaps...we didn't spoil your face, and truly, you are quite pretty…" Tar-Calion said, leering at the Maia and running a hand down his face to cup his chin. That got the reaction the King seemed to be looking for. Sauron abruptly wrenched backwards, pulling his face from Tar-Calion's grip.
"Haven't quite lost all your fire, have you?" the Man laughed, backhanding the Maia sharply. Eönwë, from his place beside Finrod, gave a short, muted growl.
"So tell me, Sauron," Tar-Calion continued. "Did you lie to me?"
Silence reigned for a long moment, and then Sauron raised his head from where he hung between two guards.
"Yes," he replied simply, his voice raspy. Tar-Calion's face abruptly turned crimson. Sauron seemed strangely emboldened by this, and continued.
"Yes, I lied to you. There is no way in Arda for you to gain immortality, and no way for you to leave the bounds of Eä to look for it save by that death you fear. You have turned against the Valar and brought their wrath upon you for nothing, Pharazôn." Tar-Calion drew his sword in a swift, convulsive movement, resting its tip against the Maia's throat.
"I will kill you for this," he swore in a harsh voice. Sauron actually laughed at that, a bright sparkle in his eye. Finrod recognized it, having seen it in the eyes of his kin when they no longer cared what happened to them, before they did something rash that usually resulted in their deaths. Finrod was certain it had been in his own eyes when he had fought the werewolf.
"I don't care," the captive Maia said defiantly. "After what you have done to me, all I care about is accomplishing your destruction, and I have done that. Besides, you are forgetting something."
"And what is that?" Tar-Calion growled. Sauron grinned.
"I am immortal," he said, and the grin grew, as if he knew he was digging himself deeper with every word, and not caring a bit. "You are not: and you never will be."
Tar-Calion actually screamed in rage at that, drawing back his sword to bring it down on the defenseless Maia. But he never got a chance, as suddenly it seemed the whole world was in commotion. Rocks trembled and slid, sending up plumes of dust, and the commotion was deafening as the world shook. Finrod was vaguely aware of Eönwë and the other Maiar throwing up protection for the Eldar around them, but was too busy keeping his feet to notice much.
Finally, it stopped, and there was no sign of the Númenóreans. Rocks and cliffs now stood where their army had been. The only sign that anyone had been there at all was the still figure lying before them, black hair creating an inky pool around him.
For a time, all anyone could do was simply stare. Then Finrod turned to his second-in-command.
"Take everyone and fall back," he told him softly. "The Valar have taken care of this fight, and rest of our people need to know everyone is safe."
"This was not the work of the Valar," Eönwë said softly. Finrod frowned.
"What do you mean by that?" he asked. Eönwë shook his head, an expression of awe on his face.
"I do not know why what happened did, but Ilúvatar himself has changed the shape of Arda," Eönwë said. "Valinor…Valinor is no longer part of the circles of the world."
"What of those of our kindred who remain in Middle-earth?" Finrod asked, concerned over the fate of his sister.
"I am sure the Valar will assure they can still travel here when they desire to do so," Eönwë reassured him. Finrod nodded.
"Well, we will certainly have much to discuss when everything has settled somewhat. But first, our soldiers need to return to their families and assure them they are safe." With that, he nodded to his second-in-command, who returned the gesture, and quickly the army of the Noldor was on the move towards the West, where the rest of the Noldor had retreated.
Finrod stayed, waiting until the rest of the Eldar had passed beyond earshot before turning to Eönwë.
"What about…" he trailed off, turning back to the Maia who was laying deathly still where he had apparently been thrown during the tumult. Eönwë didn't answer, as two of the Valar suddenly appeared before them. Finrod instantly recognized Námo and Estë. Námo stepped forward, bending down next to the still Maia, and gently ran a hand down his spine, obviously checking for injury. There didn't seem to be any, as the Maia moved almost imperceptibly, and Námo gently rolled him over onto his back before picking him up.
Meanwhile, Estë had been busy setting up two chairs, a low padded table, and other equipment she might need, assisted by Eönwë. When they were finished, Eönwë bowed to her and left. Finrod realized that he was the only one still there other than the two Valar and the fallen Maia, but unless he was specifically asked to leave, he had no intention of going anywhere.
Námo brought Sauron over to where Estë had set up her equipment, and gently laid him on the table. Closer, Finrod could see the Maia was a mess: the chains were stained with old and new blood, as was almost every inch of exposed skin. He could also hear the unusual sounds in the Maia's breathing that meant a punctured lung.
"All right, little one, let's get you out of these," Námo murmured softly, grasping the thick collar around Sauron's neck. A resounding crack could be heard as it split under the Vala's hands, and he carefully removed it. He continued moving down the Maia's body, removing the chains that held him. Sauron didn't react until Námo removed the bindings on his arms, and they changed position. Then he cried out, softly, but obviously in pain.
"I know, child," Estë soothed. "But we have to get you out of these chains." Sauron said nothing, simply continued to breath too quickly, his lips beginning to take a bluish tinge as the damage to his ribs and lungs prevented him from getting enough air. As more of the Maia's ravaged form was revealed, the more grim the two Valar became. When his crushed ribcage was finally free, Estë quickly placed her hands on it, and Finrod could hear the sound of bones shifting before Sauron cried out again.
"You have to be able to breath if you have any hope of keeping this form," Estë said gently. Meanwhile, Námo was getting to the end of the chains, simply slipping off the ones that had bound his ankles. Then he moved back to the Maia's head, laying one hand against the side of his face, the other over his heart.
"You need to steady your heartbeat and breathing, child," Námo said. From the sounds of his breathing, Sauron tried to comply, but wasn't very successful. Estë continued to work, apparently repairing internal damage, but the frustration on her face made it clear it was not going as she had hoped. As time wore on, he struggled for breath more and more, and his weak cries came more and more often. Finally, Estë stopped, and looked at Námo with tired resignation in her eyes. Námo nodded, and removed his hand from the Maia's chest.
"You need to let go now," he told the Maia, stroking his face. "You cannot sustain this form any longer, it is too damaged. The longer you hold on to it, the more you will injure yourself. It will be alright, little one, but you have to let go." Sauron whimpered at that, apparently terrified.
I'm scared of dying. The small whisper of a thought surprised Finrod, who realized that his image of Sauron before this day was remarkably one dimensional.
"I know," Námo said gently. "It will be alright. Let go." With a shuddering sigh, the Maia complied, and the damaged form disappeared in a shower of sparks that made Finrod glance away briefly. When he was able to look again, Estë and the table were gone, and Námo was carefully lifting the tattered scraps of a fëa into his arms. Finrod had seen wounded fëar during his time in Mandos–including his own–but had never seen one so ravaged. It apparently had once been golden, but very little of it still was. Parts were now red and orange, as if the gold had been distorted, but most was covered in a choking darkness. Overall, it had the appearance it had been shredded.
Hurts. The soft thought was accompanied by a small sob.
I know. Námo's answering thought was gentle, so it shocked Finrod when Sauron yelped in fear and fled, coming to a stop beside the Elf and curling up protectively before seeming to study him.
Know you… the Maia mused. Then the memories seemed to connect, and Finrod had the interesting experience of seeing their duel through his opponent's eyes. The memories flashed on, to his defeat at the hands and teeth of Lúthien and Huan, to the dreadful summons from Morgoth to explain that loss, and the torment he was put to because of it. Finrod stared in horror at the broken Maia, who barely shivered at the memories.
Why can't I think? Sauron was frustrated. Finrod could feel that his thoughts were broken and distorted, and he was having trouble processing what was going on.
Is this a dream? I want to wake up…Dreams…dreams...Olórin! Where is Olórin? I want my brother… Again, there was a deluge of memories, and Finrod watched Sauron's heartbreak as his brother discovered his treachery, and he fled the bliss of Valinor. With nowhere else to go, he turned towards Middle-earth, and the Vala he served out of fear…
Oh. Hates me. There were tears audible in the Maia's mental voice now, and he seemed to curl up tighter in desolation.
Hurts! The heartbroken wail ended in a sob, and Finrod's heart clenched. Surely there was something that could be done to help him.
I know, little one. Come here, and I can help you. Finrod was shocked at the sudden, innate desire Sauron had to obey Námo's gentle command. He had always assumed that the Maiar were simply accustom to obeying the Valar, and that was what fueled their instinctive obedience. Now he realized it was truly that: instinctive. But the Maia was wary, and resisted the urge, studying the matter.
It could be the truth, Sauron reasoned, and Finrod's heart clenched again as the Maia shoved away the hope that rose with that statement.
Or he could hurt me more…But I couldn't take that, it would destroy me. And then the pain would end, he continued, before addressing Námo directly.
You'll make the pain stop?
I will, little one. Come here. This time Sauron didn't resist the urge to obey, and shot across the space separating him from the Vala. He gave a soft sigh of relief as the pain was suspended: not truly gone, but blocked. Námo let him rest, gently cradling him.
Little one? He finally asked Sauron softly. Sauron raised his head, looking at Námo.
Yes? He answered.
I can make the pain stop completely, but it will hurt you considerably before I finish. Námo said. Sauron seemed to cower back slightly at that, an odd resignation filling him. Námo could do as he wished, and Sauron knew perfectly well he could not stop him.
You are right, though I wish you had never come to understand that. But this truly is your choice, I will not act unless you wish me to. Námo said sincerely. Sauron took the mental equivalent of a large breath.
I'm scared, he admitted. But…I want the pain to end. I care not how, anymore. Námo gently ran a hand over the broken Maia, then picked up a small golden ring from beside him. Finrod winced, and wished he had left when he had a chance. He had a vague idea of what was going to happen next, and it was not something he wanted to witness. He clapped his hands over his ears as the Maia began screaming, but it did no good, as the sound was mental, not audible. The agonized screams continued until Finrod was seriously contemplating throwing away both pride and dignity, and simply sprinting as fast as he could in the other direction.
Finally, however, they stopped, and Finrod looked back to find Sauron limp in Námo's arms, Ring nowhere to be seen. He was now completely golden, though some parts of him were so faint as to appear transparent. It almost seemed as if the Vala had scoured his soul to remove the darkness. Finrod flinched slightly at that idea. Námo was stroking the exhausted Maia gently, compassion on his face as he watched him. Finrod could feel as Sauron's thoughts slowed and stilled, his world narrowing to the soft comforting touch.
As Sauron relaxed completely, he began to hum, a soft note of contentment. It surprised Finrod, however, for even though Sauron was not incarnate, the note was perfectly audible.
We did sing the universe into existence. Sauron said with slight amusement, having caught Finrod's shock.
"I didn't realize that was literal," Finrod said in amazement.
Well, it is slightly more complicated than that, Sauron allowed. But if you had been around then, you would have been able to actually hear us. Finrod had drawn closer during this conversation, and was now studying the Maia.
"I thought we couldn't see you in your natural state," he said. Sauron gave a mental shrug.
Most Maiar habitually hide themselves when unclad, he explained, yawning. I have no reason to do so, and am too tired to try, anyway.
"I see," Finrod murmured. He reached out a hand, before abruptly pulling it back. He had no idea if he could even touch Sauron, let alone what the Maia would think of that.
Go ahead, the young Maia murmured. With as exhausted as I am, I won't even burn you.
Finrod shot Sauron a look as the Maia gave off a distinct air of mischievous. Deciding Námo would have stopped him if he was doing anything detrimental to either himself or the Maia, he gently reached out and rested a hand on Sauron's side. He couldn't quite make sense of the sensations he received. It was as if the air had thickened so much that it became solid, as well as filled with an intense heat. The Maia was barely cool enough for Finrod to touch him and not wish to pull his hand away.
"The Maiar have missed their purpose," Finrod said lightly, daring to carefully stroke his hand down the broken Maia. "They would make excellent rugs on cold winter nights."
Rugs? The thought was tinged with both amusement and incredulity. Finrod grinned, slightly sheepishly.
"Just a thought," he said.
It would be dreadfully boring to be a rug.
"I wouldn't have any idea about that."
You should try it sometime; spend a day as a rug. Just to see what people would say to that.
"I think I will."
Finrod Felagund, King of Nargothrond, Crown Prince of the Noldor…and rug. It has a nice ring to it, don't you think?
"I think you're crazy."
It's entirely possible. I have never claimed sanity.
"Which is a good thing, as I doubt it would claim you."
No, probably not.
The moment of levity passed, and Finrod continued to stroke the exhausted Maia as he lapsed into a contemplative silence.
"My lord?" he finally addressed Námo. "What is to be his fate? Surely…Surely knowing what we know now, it won't be…He won't be sentenced to…"
"No," Námo said gently. Both Finrod and Sauron relaxed, the later having tensed considerably when Finrod had asked his question.
"No," Námo repeated. "The decision has been reached, and he will be coming with me." Finrod smiled at that. Others might think that was not an enviable fate, but Finrod knew better. Sauron would be well taken care of.
"Good," Finrod said. "I will have to come visit."
"As long as you don't die again to do so," Námo retorted, standing. Finrod laughed, Sauron smiled, and Námo took himself and his new charge back to Mandos, leaving Finrod to contemplate just how everything had now changed.