For Into Darkness Fell His Star
By Dolores J. Nurss
Chapter 22, Part 163
The Musings of a Fallen Tyrant
May 17-18, 1452
Oh, what tales I could tell, if only the halfling would allow me! How my days grind on, my prisoner become my prison! Cruel are the ways of the Powers of the West.
I despise this shrunken flesh. I loathe everything about it, from the skipping naked feet to the bobbing rump-high view. Once I strode as a giant among elves and men, and I have not forgotten. I hate the simpering way that his eyes will linger over irrelevant things like the sunrise colors, or the dark eyes of a begging dog, and I cannot twist his head to more strategic sights, no matter how I try. I especially hate how he will gaze, again and again, on all of the soft and silly bulges that he seems to find desirable in women--I hate it when his lust burns us that this creature, in his spite, will never satisfy.
And this time the woman does not even have a face! Not that a face would be required for what he has in mind. I try to enjoy his guilt at wrestling with adulterous thoughts towards his best friend's wife, but it all seems so pointless, so unaesthetic. Except, perhaps in the aesthetic of the forbidden...if I could but tip him over the edge, that would tear apart this whole absurd, revoltingly smarmy household, expose the hypocrisy underlying all of the so-called good in the world. But he remains obdurate--obstinate, rather! And all too quickly the moment passes--a mere shudder of late adolescence, forgotten before I could even try to make use of it.
I do fear that his hormones might finally have begun to settle into the stodgy norms of an adult of his dull kind. And here I have made no truly satisfying use of his youthful fire! The watersprite adventure does not count, not for entertainment at least, though it gave me some strategic edge. She missed her chance to ravish him and settled for trying to drown him. Imagine my disappointment. He always stops just short of pleasing me.
My life grows harder and harder. Does no one care? Is there not one among the Valar willing to give me one more chance to create a perfect world? I meant no harm; tearing apart this family would have been mere exercise, to put the tone back in my strength, as I slowly drew what I needed from the hobbit's heart. I would have put my powers to good use after that. Surely they would all be happy to sacrifice themselves to my dream, if they but fully understood. Frodo...I almost had Frodo. For a little while he did understand--I feel certain of it!
A curse upon that dreary meddler who stole his heart away!
Ohhhh my. What are they doing now. As if I care. Oh, I see. The scar-faced woman teaches the bald little brat how to make mustard sauce. What a waste of effort! I have never been able to abide mustard. Such a vulgar condiment.
Even as she brings forth the mortar and pestle, Frodo drags me out to the fields for another day of manual labor. Oh, this is just too much--hour after hour, week after week, month after month, of the same dreary misery! I stretch myself away from him. I cannot find slaves fast enough to drink from...here, a couple in the nearest alley downslope, quickly! Hasten them to pass the brand between to light the pipes, draw from both at once, inhale them as they inhale this remnant of me...ahhhhhh! At last the three of us drowse comfortably against the wall and that dreadful hobbit body seems so far away. Retreat, back, back into the dream...but not too long. I cannot make it all come true if I wander here too long.
Ah, the skyline of glass towers, the lamps that never dim, stars fallen down to earth like cosmopolitan maiar too cool for the posturings of Valinor! Oh, the streamlined vehicles like drops of color in the night, that shoot around the curves of beautiful knotwork roadways lifted high above the dust of earth, making ribbons of red and white light. I sink into the kindly cushioning of purely synthetic upholstery, letting the vehicle take me, I care not where, my hands savoring the feel of the wheel that I grip, my foot heavy on the pedal that empowers this great metal beast at my command. I turn on music...no, turn it off again, it all keeps bending into the tyrant's measures, no matter how hard it tries to rebel. I do not need music. Just watch the cityscape stream by.
But wait! The poppy slows my reflexes, unsteadies the turning of the wheel--I lose control! The vessel careens into the wrong lane, a great metal brute comes rushing the other way and plows into me! Everything spins, metal sheers through my half-numbed flesh, as I feel this dream-body screeeeeeeeeam...
...and wake to find myself in a weary, all-too-sober, puny hobbit body, raising the hoe to our shoulder to start the long plod home. This happens more and more, every time I try to retreat into the dream--Olorin the Accursed has despoiled my paradise. I crash into his traps around every turn, his "truths", his "consequences", whatever he wants to call his cruelty. I know he must be behind it, O Dreamshaper, leaving me no peace in waking or asleep.
At least I have dodged one more tedious day of muddling around in the fields. I find that I lack the strength to endure any more of such contemptible conditions, not after taking so many unwarranted blows. Why could Frodo not assign the work to minions and be done? Can the imbecile not understand the most basic uses of the power invested in him by his upstart king? So now I find that I have dodged the nightmare only to resume his flesh right when aching fills it at his labor's end, and he no longer listens when I urge him to soothe us both at least with a little drink.
I was not made to endure such mundane pain. I did not come into this world to occupy such dirty feet! Well, that is something, at least--he has decided to bathe the feet in question. I could almost enjoy the warm water--if not for my disgust at all of the mud that sluices into the bowl. How can he stand these things, after I offered him a pure, clean world, insulated from all such nastiness--a world of shining, sterile metal and the most brilliant of synthetics? How can he tread on this soil of his own making, this amalgam of worm-droppings, rotted straw, and fermented manure? Is my hobbit so incorrigible that I cannot teach him finer tastes? I will ask him about it...
The sun has not yet set, but already he eats his nasty mother's cookies. Curse the day that I ever swore a binding oath by Morgoth, my only lord! High stakes, I knew it then, but I thought I could not help but win. The scene blurs before me, as though he drank unboiled brandy indeed, the aches grow distant, the hard bench softens...and I swirl back, back into the dream...
...and find that I can remember nothing, NOTHING! of my paradise when the bleary morning sun cracks across our face. I feel the mouth stretch into a ridiculous yawn, the fingers scratch the scalp, the annoyingly full bladder--oh how I hate this little body! But I never had the chance to show him the fullness of my plan--Olorin interrupted us before I got so far. The final goal--the creation of perfect synthetic bodies that feel no discomfort whatsoever, cushioned forever from this disaster of a miscreation, with all of its sickening smells and functions and distracting colors, and especially the vile taste of mustard on Gondor kippers served for breakfast first thing in the morning!
How perfectly my dear little flowers absorbed that ultimate dream, my precious, pure white flowers! Where are my slaves? I need a slave to comfort me, lest I faint from all these rude sensations, one darling slave with soul delicately poppy-softened for my tasting...
Stronger now. I had not the strength for as deep a draught as I need, and so the fool lives on, to waste another day's worth of the planet's air, yet I can endure now the hobbit's labors, hoeing side by side with his men like the country idiot that his father raised him up to be, sweat dribbling messily down our face. I might even banter with him some, help him to pass the time, distract him from all of this coarseness. I am not as ungenerous as some have said. I will disclose my heart to him, secrets long-cherished in my breast, thoughts unknown to all save for myself. Will that move him to some sympathy? Will he not relent to one who shows him love?
He has never heard my side, concerning the Ring of Power that his father so rudely helped his namesake to destroy. He needs to know.
Once, Frodo, all peoples respected me. Once I taught the lore of rings, and they bettered themselves with that lore. Oh, truly was I then called Annatar, Lord of Gifts! Through my generosity, each kind reached the pinnacle of their accomplishments in Middle Earth. Wasn't that what the Valar wanted, for us to raise the Children up? How was I to guess the long-term consequences? Everyone misunderstood me when I tried to remedy the situation.
Three Rings for the Elven Kings. Or Queen, as it turned out, though she never accepted the title, and a loremaster, and a shipwright who later cheated and passed his ring on to someone not an elf at all. No matter. Who expects truth in the ancient verses, anyway? These elves, my beneficiaries, grew in magic and they unfolded their hearts' desires upon the grateful world. How was I to know that their greatest desire would prove so fell? To preserve all things in the freshness of the ancient days--it seemed a noble cause. But by delaying the Fading, prolonging their time of mastery upon the earth, (not to mention the immaturity of humankind under their tutelage) they made it hit them hard and sudden later on--a horror and a madness to the more sensitive among them, not the soft decline they might have known, giving way in final glory as gracefully as leaves upon an autumn tree.
That was their doing, none of mine. I did not know that they would make that choice. I did not teach them to hate their immortality.
Seven for the Dwarf Lords, in their Halls of Stone. What harm, in amassing great wealth? Do not all people desire more? And I thought it an honest wish, satisfied by hard work, the rings guiding them on where they best could mine, to their own and the world's great profit, but not shoveling for them, not smelting or shaping. They had a right to feel entitled to what their rings revealed. Did they not?
We knew so little, in those days, about economics--this wholly new conception of the Children of Aule and Illuvatar. I did not--could not--have realized the impact of massive concentrations of wealth in limited coffers, how it would upset the balance, drawing more and more wealth unto itself from sources other than the dwarves' own labors in the earth, how its sheer mass would forge unstoppable economies of scale, driving men out of business...inventing poverty.
The dwarves got greedy. They discovered greed all by themselves; I did not help them there.
Nine for Mortal Men, doomed to die. Well, what did the elves expect? If they would persist in lingering on as eternal parents, never letting humankind grow up and take on the independence due to them, then of course the men would come to covet and resent the immortality that kept them down. Naturally men would reject the gifts from a patronizing hand that would not let them grow. Naturally they would crave power most of all--power too long denied to them. One cannot look at the impact of the Nine without admitting first the impact of the Three--those so-called unsullied rings, untouched by me. They shaped the desires of men more surely than I did myself.
I honestly did not know what would happen to human beings prolonged beyond their years. No one should blame me if I encouraged men to continue the same experiment that the elves themselves began upon their pet humans, the Numenoreans. I gave men what they wanted--what the elves themselves had taught them to desire. It surprised me as much as anyone that in undying they eventually stretched to the point where their personalities thinned down into nothing. But find it useful, to then replace their emptiness with will of mine? Of course I did. I never waste anything. And what else were they good for, by then?
So--One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them. Obviously I had given my friends toys much too big for their measure. They had all proven that they could not be entrusted with such treasures. I had to rein them back. It was all part of the plan for the eventual beautification of Middle Earth, because I saw no other honorable course to take, at that point, than to seize control and end a messy situation. The Valar claim that I never took responsibility for my messes, yet they never liked it when I tried to make amends.
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them. Yes. Bury them all deep in the cooling darkness, break them back down till they forget all of the mismade cultures that they had wrapped around themselves, riddled through and through with errors--let them start anew! Shove them down so far that they have nowhere else to go but up--yet an entirely new up, guided by my wisdom, purged of all the patronizing lessons of "light" that had distorted them, all of the false graces and hypocrisies, passing instead through the purification of pain into numbness and from numbness into bliss! That was my desire.
Freedom is wasted on the lesser creatures. It leads to their unhappiness. I would have shouldered the burdens of freedom for them. Does that really make me bad?
Ha! I almost believe myself! Of course the forging of the rings ended in disaster--and of course I meant it to! But that makes nothing I have said less true. I had to show the Valar what hopeless, wicked creatures they had chosen to favor over me. I had to prove that these two-legged beasts would always desire the wrong things. That if you whip them with one hand, or gift them with the other, you would achieve the same end--their utter ruination. The Valar dared to fault me for hurting their little darlings before, when I served Morgoth--but look what happened when I treated the rascals nicely! Could not one Vala see the uselessness of finding anything to do with these beings except to enslave them, and force them to create a perfect world despite themselves?
Well, it is long since out of my hands. They got what they wanted, the high and mighty ones. I hope they all choke on what becomes of the free will of the "Free Peoples". And they will, oh yes, my precious flowers, they surely will.
It was all a bad experiment anyway, this world-building. Someday every one of the Valar and the Maiar will regret their part in the Great Music as much as I do now, binding themselves beyond hope to this Middle Earth. I have that much, at least, to look forward to.
"Bad day?" Bergil asked as Frodo beelined for the cookie-jar.
"Not as bad as some," the hobbit said with his mouth full. "But not a garden-stroll, neither. No matter--I really do believe that Sauron weakens daily--finally getting old."