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Akallabeth in August
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In this Age, as is elsewhere told, Sauron arose again in Middle-earth, and grew, and turned back to the evil in which he was nurtured by Morgoth, becoming mighty in his service. Already in the days of Tar-Minastir, the eleventh King of Númenor, he had fortified the land of Mordor and had built there the Tower of Barad-dûr, and thereafter he strove ever for the dominion of Middle-earth, to become a king over all kings and as a god unto Men.

Into This Wild Abyss: The Measure of Dreams by Pandemonium_213

Into this wild abyss the wary fiend
Stood on the brink of Hell and look'd a while,
Pondering his voyage; for no narrow firth
He had to cross.

~~ John Milton, Paradise Lost

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Thanks to the Lizard Council for first pass readings and comments and also to Lilith, who aptly quoted this fitting verse from one of my favorite poets.

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Pumice crunched beneath his booted feet when he stepped on the leavings of ancient eruptions.


He knew the precise length of his stride. From heel strike to heel strike, it did not vary, at least not when he paced a measurement as he did now.


The sun beat down on his shoulders. He paused, raised his head and squinted against the glare toward the fire-mountain in the distance. Behind undulating heat, it lay dormant with only a whisper of vapor trailing from its summit, but he knew from the subtle shifts of the earth beneath his feet when he had first entered this empty land that some day, it would rise with might, and he along with it. He resumed his count.


It occurred to him that he ought to create a name for the measurement of his stride. He grinned with amusement at the thought of a new word in his invented language that served as a diverting game, a way to exercise his mind when he had traveled alone across the vast expanses of the East.


The rocks scattered around the dust reminded him of the rich sources of stone nearby: grey granite and black basalt, and further away, dark limestone, all perfect building materials. But who would build his dream? Orcs and trolls? He resisted the urge to spit with contempt, concentrating on his paces.


He knew he must make use of orcs and trolls for brute labor when the night fell. Melkor’s consuming rage against all light -- save for the savage brilliance of the three stolen jewels that shone from his crown -- had led to the breeding of creatures with a strong aversion to sunlight. Useless then for work in the day and also for more exacting tasks, the tasks that required intelligence.


He swatted at a fly that had the effrontery to try to bite his neck, but continued the count.


He stopped, placed his hands on his hips and looked straight up into the crystal blue sky, soaking in the hot light of the sun on his face. He imagined that he peered up at the ramparts and battlements of the tallest tower of a fortified city, a tower that would rise from the plateau high above the plain. While he gazed upward, his thoughts delved deep into the calculations of the size of the pylons needed to support the structure. Yes, it could be done. Then he lowered his eyes, casting his sight at the panorama around him.

It was a strange, forbidding landscape, but possessed of a stark beauty with the jagged mountain ranges marching across the northern and western boundaries of his realm and to the south, the inland sea surrounded by rich soil, made fertile from the ash of the fire-mountain. Here in this land of his stronghold he would gather those who gave their allegiance to him: Men, Dwarves but also -- he dared to hope -- Elves --- all those who shared his vision of a new world order. But his vision would not be realized without hard labor, including his own.

He resumed his count. Yes, it was time to call in those debts, the oaths of fealty sworn in return for the knowledge he had given, the skills he had taught, the power he had bequeathed.

Men, he thought. Men shall build this for me.

He slapped his neck. Without a pause in his purpose or stumble in his count, he examined the crushed insect: a black fly with a crimson mark on its abdomen. He wiped his palm against his robes that billowed in the wind, leaving a red stain of his own blood on the white fabric, and continued to pace the measure of his dream.

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