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Akallabeth in August
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But Sauron caused to be built upon the hill in the midst of the city of the Númenóreans, Armenelos the Golden, a mighty temple; and it was in the form of a circle at the base, and there the walls were fifty feet in thickness, and the width of the base was five hundred feet across the centre, and the walls rose from the ground five hundred feet, and they were crowned with a mighty dome. And that dome was roofed all with silver, and rose glittering in the sun, so that the light of it could be seen afar off; but soon the light was darkened, and the silver became black.

A Struggle with Darkness by Fireworks

When Mara watched how unsteadily he walked down the road to meet her, her heart gave a lurch so violent that she had to stop to catch her breath; but it was not until she saw his unfocused, listless eyes that she allowed herself to truly fear for him.

"Âmrazôr!" she cried, and ran to him, just in time to catch him as he missed a step and swayed on his way. It was difficult to hold him; he had always been broad-backed and had become even more heavily-muscled during the years he had worked with the builders, but she managed. In truth, Mara would much rather fall herself than see him do so, but it was hard work--he seemed to have no notion of how he should move, or why.

Lacing her arm with his so that no one down the street would perceive something was amiss, she led him down the cobblestone pathway, finally straying into one of the side streets that led to the garden of the herbalists, where they usually sat to tell each other of their day before turning to their homes, he to his widowed mother, she to her cousins.

They stumbled as she turned them, and mayhap the motion jarred him, for she heard him whisper, "Mara?"

"I am here, Âmrazôr," she said, looking up at him, trying to smile in a reassuring way though, afterwards, hastily trying to dry a few tears, unnoticed. He looked so unnaturally pale, those haunting eyes so... so... She could not bring himself to even think it!

"Maraphel," he called again, holding tightly to her arm, "is that really you?"

"Aye, Âmrazôr. We will sit down soon, and get some water."

He nodded, seemingly gone again; but, when they reached their usual bench in the garden and she had lowered him down, he clutched to her by the waist, like she had seen children do when their parents were taken by the guards.

"Do not leave me, Mara. I am so cold!"

Extricating herself from that desperate grasp was difficult, but she finally succeeded. Thanking the impulse that had made her fetch a cloak that morning, even though it was only very early Fall, she removed the cloak and placed it upon him, to try to warm him, while she rubbed his hands and tried to blow hot air into them. Âmrazôr moaned like a sick man, and she steeled herself for the awful sounds; but, when he began to shake, she could not hold herself together.

"Âmrazôr! Âmrazôr!" she cried, taking his head in her hands. "Whatever is the matter? Let me fetch a healer, I beg you, you are not well!"

"Mara, there is no healer who can cure me of this," he said, hiding his eyes from view. When she felt the wetness in her hands, she understood why.

"Oh, Âmrazôr," she said, kissing his forehead many times--she could not stop herself. He was going to think her a lose woman, but the despair in his voice had chilled her. "Will you tell me, now, what is wrong?"

But, by now, he was crying with such harsh, choked sobs, that he could not speak, and once the sobs had died down, his whole body shook violently for a good while before he finally looked up at her.

"Inzil-mîth," he whispered, tenderly, trying to wipe tears from her cheeks she had not known she had shed, finally caressing her lower lip with his thumb in a way that was maddening and, she suspected, entirely improper. "You bit your lip," he offered by way of explanation. "Was I that frightening?"

Mara could not speak, so she shook her head, hoping that he would understand.

"It is getting late," he said, she supposed, when he realized what he had been doing, for he let his hand fall at once.

Was she going to let him leave just like that, without hearing what was wrong, just because he had touched her? Shaking her head, she put a hand on his shoulder to restrain him.

"Surely a few more minutes will not make much difference at home, while you tell me what the matter is. I have watched you sink under this malaise in silence, but I will do so no more. Either you tell me what is going on, or--"

"Or what?" he asked, with such a sweet, tender expression that it almost seemed as if he was smiling.

"Or else I will have to go to the construction site and find out for myself."

Before she could blink again, she found his face inches apart from hers, his hands gripping her shoulders so tightly that she gasped in pain, yet he would not release her.

"You must never go there, Maraphel. Never! Do not even look at that mountain! You must promise me you will not try anything so dangerous as that!"

"Dangerous?" she asked, "The Minultârik?"

His eyes became unfocused again. Dead-like. But only for a moment. Swallowing hard, he released her, shook his head.

"I have always been able to tell you everything," he said, "but this... I do not even understand this... I do not want you to know, to worry, to get curious."

"I already worry, Âmrazôr." He tried to smile the same shy smile he always sent her way, but it came out crooked and mask-like. Mara touched his hand, lightly, trying to urge him to go on. "You know things about me that no one else knows, yet I know they are safe with you. Be sure that I will also keep your secret safe."

"It is not a secret, Mara; you may understand it better than I, but it is sinister, dark. I do not want to frighten you."

"Nothing frightens me now."

"Except the sight of a shaking man?" he asked, brushing her lip lightly with the back of his hand.

"That is different," she said, and true enough, for everything pertaining to Âmrazôr she held very firmly apart from her usual petty worries.

He nodded, perhaps resigned, perhaps agreeing, and took her hands in a tight grip.

"Do you remember what happened to those guards who carried out the order to fell the Tree?"

Of course she remembered. The poor men seemed to have withered themselves. Suddenly, it hit her, what he was implying, and she nearly jumped out of her seat, but he held her steady.

"Not yet," he said, "but I think it is starting. When I am there, I feel like I am being stifled. Sometimes it is so bad that I cannot move. I have been punished with the harder tasks already--for slacking, though I do my best--but I can barely carry them out. There is an evil will at work there, an evil spirit. It frightens me, Mara," he said, searching earnestly into her eyes. "Some of the other men say they hear the screams of the dead guards. I never have, but the wind howls so, and the earth seems to shake beneath my feet until I am face down on the ground. That temple... There is something wicked about it, though I cannot say what it is, how it works. It scares me to the core." His hands began trembling again while he spoke, and, to her surprise, so were hers. "What think you of it?"

Mara knew what he meant, looked around them to make sure she could speak, leaned in closer to him to be able to whisper.

"No hallow had ever been built upon the Sacred Mountain. It is said that men dared not speak when they ascended to the summit. In all truthfulness, I had wondered how you were managing to build at all."

"But had not asked?"

"I did not wish to anger you."

"You could never anger me, girl. But, tell me, do you think this fear, this numbness comes from your Manwë, or from this new lord?"

The Lord of Darkness. She shuddered when she thought about that horrible name and, as if suddenly becoming aware that he was wearing her cloak by her trembling, he removed it and fastened it upon her.

"I do not think that the lord Súlimo hallows the mountain anymore, nor that he would send any evil, disturbing influence on you."

He frowned, looked away. "Do you think it is my guilty conscience?"

Guilty? Her heart skipped a beat. Could it be that Âmrazôr was beginning to see the error of the ways he had been taught?

"Do you feel badly about building there?"

"I feel like nothing should disturb that mountain. Is it the same thing?"

Mara knew not how to answer.

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They did not speak of it again, but mostly because Âmrazôr hardly spoke at all. He became increasingly paler and weaker, would eat nothing beyond spoonfuls of broth, would not sleep. His mother said he spent the nights moaning incomprehensible things--she had called them unnatural sounds, but Mara would not believe it.

Still, as he insisted on keeping his duties at work, she insisted on escorting him to and back, mornings and evenings, as far as he would let her go, until that awful day when his mother came, desperate, to fetch her at her work one afternoon.

"Maraphel! Maraphel!" she called, hysterically, "He has collapsed! I know not how to bring him back. They sent him home early and he fainted on the way. He is too heavy for me but, if you were to help..."

Her mistress would only let her leave when she relinquished pay for the day, even though she was no more than a couple of hours shy of work's end, but, just then, it did not matter.

They ran to him; Mara got to him first, for she was not tired, and much too worried to stop herself. Âmrazôr still lay on the ground. Some stray chickens were pecking at his boots, but his mother promptly turned them away, while Mara knelt to check on him. He opened his eyes, smiled, weakly, at her before closing them again.

"Do you think your brother could help us take him to the house?" Mara asked, as she unlaced the top of his shirt.

"Everybody is at work. I already tried, but they would not even let me see him."

Mara could try her cousins, but she doubted that they would stir themselves on her account, and she did not wish to leave Âmrazôr in the cold any longer.

"Well, mistress Amrîk, I think we will have to try ourselves, I have helped him get home before," Mara said, trying to lift his back so she could grab a strong hold under his arm, instructing his mother to do the same. "We are not too far."

They were. And, a limp weight, Âmrazôr felt heavier than ever. He stirred occasionally, and murmured apologies, but was otherwise incapable of conscious thought or conversation. Mara doubted that he knew what went on around him, and she struggled very hard to fight tears--It was not the time to be sentimental, but it was so frustrating to be so little and helpless, and not knowing whether he would recover from this consuming darkness was too much for her heart to handle at once. That horrible prospect spurred her on. She would plead to Manwë, even if she were killed, and the lord Súlimo would spare Âmrazôr. He would.

They both collapsed as soon as they had lowered him onto the bed, but Mara knew that they had to move, get him warm, find a healer. She helped his mother get him into a clean shirt and breeches--so eager was she to get him comfortable that she did not realize what she had done until she was at the door, ready to run for the healer. She could have left without a cloak for the heat that overwhelmed her! Âmrazôr would never forgive her for that. But, then again, he needed not know.

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The healer could not say what the matter was and, after a good many questions and a good deal of making Âmrazôr uncomfortable, he gave them some herbs to ease the fever and left them with instructions to make sure he ate and was kept warm and rested.

They decided that Mara would take watch that night, so that mistress Amrîk could care for him during the day while Mara was at work. It was a long night, full of nightmares for him and fear, and prayers, for her. She remembered their conversation together weeks before, tried to understand what he spoke in his sleep, hoping it might hold a clue to what afflicted him, but most of it seemed nonsense.

No healer can cure me of this, he had said, and she began to fear that he had been right when she returned the following evening and he had not woken up once.

"Lord of the World," she prayed in a whisper, aware that it was death to be heard, but even more certain that Âmrazôr would die if the One did not intervene. She held his hands firmly to her, and went on, "wouldst thou not show thy power now? Let him believe like I believe. Please, spare him, and I will never tire of encouraging those faithful to thy name."

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When Mara returned the next evening, she found Âmrazôr sitting up on his bed, taking some broth. She also found some bad news.

"They came to see if he had not returned because he had joined with the Faithful and was scared," Amrîk said. "Like they could not see how ill he has been."

Mara hugged her, briefly, before returning to Âmrazôr to help him with his food.

"You were right, Mara," he said. "It is hard to escape while being clutched."

"It will turn out all right, in the end," she said, while holding a bowl of water to help him wash his face and hands. "You are awake now. With an appetite."

She saw him try to return her smile, and that failure settled on her heart like an evil omen. If he has lost the will...

But Âmrazôr continued to improve and, when the week was out, his mother announced that he might be well enough to return to work the next day. Mara glanced at him at once, saw the flicker of dread she had thought she would see, noticed the curtness of his nod.

That night, he offered to walk her back to her house but, as soon as they had walked out of sight from his, he took her arm and steered her a different way.

"I need to talk to you," he said, "but your house is too close."

"I think I know what troubles you."

"I cannot go back there," he said, and the pressure on her arm was almost unbearable, yet she steeled herself to hear him through and be strong for him. "The only reason I recovered was because I was away from that accursed place."

"Oh, Âmrazôr! You will quit then, quit desecrating the holy mountain?"

"They will kill me for it."

"What?" she cried, and felt his hand on her mouth to shush her. "They could not possibly."

"You heard my mother tell you. They will kill me for turning Faithful. I am not the first one getting sick. Nor will I be the last."

"Have others died?"

"Not many, and no one is sure why, but I know," he said, and became frighteningly silent. Then, when a crow crowed far ahead, he leaned in to her and said, "I would die as punishment for daring to stand against the Lord of Light. Would die, gladly, rather than succumb to the darkness that has taken the others and be forever doomed. You must help me, Inzil-mîth. Help me to die well. Teach me what I must know, to be ready."

The floor was shaken from her feet, and she had to hold on to him to keep from falling. She felt him slowly release his grip on her arm and go up her face, holding on to her like a thirsty man holds on to the one giving him water.

"Maralindë... I cannot do this if you do not help me."

"Maralin--how did you know... my real name?"

He planted a soft kiss on her forehead. "Maralindë... It is a beautiful name. I wish I knew the correct way to say it, that we could use it more often."

"I will not help you die, Âmrazôr," she said, feeling a sudden burst of strength. "We will find another way."

Again, silence.

"Have you a different answer?" she asked when she felt his arms tense about her. He slowly nodded, but would not speak.

"Âmrazôr, if you have another way, you must tell me at once. There is no time! You need to go back in the morning, and I fear for you."

Âmrazôr took a deep breath, almost a sob.

"Will you, then, help me live?" he asked, a low, raspy whisper.

"I would do anything for you."

"Do not say that, for I am not worthy of it, and you will not like what I will ask you to do."

"I will like it better than watching you die!"

He took a deep breath and held her tightly. "You need to stab me."


"With a knife."


"My leg. On the place that I will show you. It will give me a limp, they will have to release me from the builders' guild."

"I could never do that, Âmrazôr!"

"I knew you would recoil from me. It is madness, cowardice. Forgive me for asking, Inzil-mîth."

"No." She reached up, brought his head to rest on her shoulder. Thinking of causing him that kind of pain made her stomach churn and she began to sweat, though her hands were cold. Could she hurt the light of her life? Could she plunge the knife into his flesh, see the blood flow red from the wound she caused, watch him forever struggle with a limp that she gave him?

Would she watch him die, for her cowardice?

His hot breath on her neck was delicious to her, a reminder that he was alive, right now, and needed her.

"It is the bravest thing I have ever heard," she said, running her hand through his hair, "but it does not make it easier to contemplate."

"I will have to go back to being a butcher. Poor."

"But it will be the right thing to do, far from the Lord of Darkness. Your soul will be safe."

"Do not speak that name to me, Inzil-mîth!" Then, more tenderly, "Do you believe that?"

"Oh, Âmrazôr!" she cried, holding on to him as much for reassurance as for comfort.

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In after days, it was said by the Faithful circles in Armenelos that the crippled butcher from Oarsmen's Row had stared at the Lord of Darkness in the eye, and struggled with him, and he had given him his limp. His smile would grow tight, he would look at his wife, and say, "Not the Lord of Darkness, but of Light. As a reminder."

"Of what?" some curious Faithful of those they harbored in their home would ask.

"Of how one cannot play too closely to the fire, and not be burned."

~the end

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On Mara's multiple names:

Mara is short for Maraphel, which would have been the name that she took for herself since she could not use her real one, Maralindë, in the forbidden tongue.

Inzil-mîth would be a term of endearment that Âmrazôr has for her, something like Flower-maiden.

All the names, except for Âmrazôr, were made up by me--I am sure you can tell ;-)

Minultârik is the Adûnaic name for Meneltarma. I also have her use Fall, rather than the correct Elvish name; at this point, I figured they would not be using those names anymore.

Finally, Lord of Light is not a canonical name for Ilúvatar nor Manwë, but I have Âmrazôr use it because it was a good contrast for him and his experience with the dark side...

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