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Author's Chapter Notes:
Inspired in part by “Weep and be Burned” by Gwedhiel.
Available here: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/9270412/1/Weep-and-Be-Burned
I don't know if I'm really happy with this chapter, but here it is.
Also, I'm unsure as to whether it's correct here to refer to Sauron as Mairon, but I don't know if he was referred to as Sauron yet (there's a headcanon I really like floating around Tumblr where it's Maedhros who starts calling him Sauron), so I just stuck with Mairon.
Chapter 2 At the touch of the Maia’s hand upon his shoulder, Maitimo saw once again his father’s workshop in Valinor. It was just as he remembered it from his childhood, on the very first day Fëanáro had taken him there. He felt his father’s warm, callused hand around his own, small and soft. Light streamed in through high windows, illuminating metalworking tools, half-finished projects, and the blueprints, notes, and sketches that were haphazardly affixed to the walls. The smell of metal and smoke cut through the air, and Maitimo could taste it on his tongue. “My Master does not give his hospitality as a gift – oh, no. You must earn your keep here.” Mairon turned to the large anvil in the center of the room, and with his free hand, slender but firm as a claw, he pulled Maitimo after him by the wrists. He placed the end of the glowing piece of metal into a hole in the anvil and took up the hammer that rested on a nearby table. With strength and fluidity that made Maitimo’s bruised arms and lash-torn back ache, the Maia brought the hammer to bear on the metal, pounding it into a U-shape. Maitimo’s arms and shoulders screamed in their familiar chorus as Mairon placed the hammer in his hand, and just as before, he shaped the metal according to the Maia’s specifications. Mairon’s golden eyes watched him every step of the way, though the Maia was silent, the edges of his mouth curved up into a perversion of a smile.
An Interlude in Iron
Fëanáro led Maitimo by the hand to the forge, where an apprentice was removing something from the fire with a pair of tongs – a length of iron about six inches long.
“A project for you, Fëanárion,” a voice not his father’s purred in his ear. The Lieutenant.
Maitimo’s vision swam, and he emerged from the memory of his father’s forge to a reality that made him sick to his stomach. It was Mairon who held the tongs, golden eyes flashing in the firelight, a wicked grin painted across his perfect lips. The familiar scent of metal-tinged air had been replaced by the stifling miasma of Angband’s ironworks and the stink of sulfur and orcs. Two of the creatures stood guard by the door to the room, fangs glinting in the flickering half-light from the forge.
“Can you guess what it is?” he asked, turning again to Maitimo as he let the metal rest on the anvil’s surface.
A link for a chain. Maitimo knew the answer but did not speak it. Instead, he pressed his lips together as he always did in response to leading questions by the Enemy and his Lieutenant. His continued stubborn silence had earned him punishments beyond his imaginings, but he would not give Mairon the satisfaction of playing his game. The Maia already savored screams and gasps of pain as if they were drops of honey. He would not get the added pleasure of cooperation. Not from the scion of the House of Fëanáro.
“Now, now. My servants have not cut your tongue from your mouth,” Mairon said in a voice laced with sweetness. He leveled his eyes at Maitimo, willing him to speak, but the Elf said nothing. “Yet. There is no need to be coy with me.”
Oh, but there was. Maitimo mustered the courage to glare.
Mairon let out a short laugh like the sound of a broken bell. “Or maybe you do not know what this will become? Your father would feel such shame.”
Still, Maitimo gave no answer. Mairon had no inkling of what Fëanáro would or would not feel. Have felt. Fëanáro was gone. The sight of his father’s body disintegrating to ash, scattering on the breeze, blazed in Maitimo’s mind. He choked on the smell of charred flesh and burnt hair, and his eyes ached with remembered tears.
Mairon smiled. “That must be it.” His smile broadened.
Mairon took Maitimo’s hands, and Maitimo winced at the heat of the Maia’s fingers as they skipped over his skin and unfastened the manacles about his wrists. He could almost feel the tender flesh blister. This did not mean Maitimo was free, of course: a chain a few feet long connected the band around his left ankle to a bolt on the floor, and the guards remained at the door.
With agonizing care, Mairon guided Maitimo through making the remainder of this link – heating the ends of the U-shape, flattening them and bringing them together and joining them into a final oval. They repeated this process, fashioning more links and joining them together, until a chain a few feet in length had been formed. The labor exhausted Maitimo, and his parched lips cracked and stung with the sweat that dripped down his brow and nose. His eyes ached from the light of the forge, so much brighter than the dark corridors and other chambers of Angband. But Mairon allowed him no time for rest, watching him with bright amusement.
When the chain was complete, Mairon took the cooling metal in his hands as if he were holding a bolt of silk. “Beautiful.”
Maitimo spoke at last. “I suppose it is for me.”
As suddenly as a serpent, Mairon grasped Maitimo sharply by what remained of his hair, forcing his head back so that their gazes could meet, a clash of silver and gold. “What a selfish notion,” the Maia sneered. “But those of your family have always been selfish, have they not?” He released Maitimo from his grip, and started towards the door, speaking over his shoulder. “There are many who toil in other forges. How fortunate they are to receive a lovely gift from so mighty a prince.”
When it came to pass that Maitimo had lost count of how many visits to the forge he had made, a trio of orcs took him from his cell, and he was led by his chained hands through countless dark and twisting tunnels until the group reached a gigantic, cavernous chamber lit by the fire of a great many forges and the glow of hot iron. They stood on a balcony overlooking a wide floor where many small, hunched forms toiled. Mairon was there, surveying the goings-on below, and he turned to Maitimo like a cat who has just finished consuming a feast’s worth of mice.
“Bring him forward,” Mairon commanded, and the orcs shoved Maitimo towards him, passing his chains into the Maia’s hands.
Mairon simply stood beside Maitimo for a few moments, letting him continue to take in the room. The sheer size of it was astounding, as was the quantity of workers below. The hordes of the Moringotto were great in number indeed and so, it seemed, was the number of craftsmen supplying them. Upon closer inspection, however, he realized that the workers he was watching were not orcs. Their nearly-naked bodies were covered in wounds and filth, much like his own, and their expressions were empty.
“Your people,” Mairon sighed. “Crafting the weapons that kill their own kind.” He chuckled. “Kinslayers, you might call them, in their own way.”
Maitimo did his best not to flinch at the use of the term. Mairon was trying to get him to react, baiting him as he always did. “Why did you bring me here?”
“I do not need a reason, prisoner,” Mairon replied, still smiling, but his eyes glowed with malice in the firelight as he dragged a finger along the side of Maitimo’s jaw, his claw-like fingernail drawing blood. “I can do with you as I please.” Expression thoughtful, he licked the blood from his finger as delicately as if he was sampling a fine wine. “But there is something I wish you to witness. Look below – it will happen soon enough.”
The crack of a whip echoed through the chamber, but it did not sound as if it was hitting flesh. Instead it had simply snapped at the air itself. Maitimo could not help but follow the sound to its source, a particularly muscular orc who towered over a group of thralls, one of whom had fallen to his knees before the creature, mumbling words Maitimo could not understand. The orc was unmoved by this supplication, and hauled the thrall to his feet, dragging him over to a set of manacles attached to a nearby wall by a short length of chain.
Maitimo’s stomach lurched up into his throat. He knew what was coming. But when he tried to look away, he found Mairon’s hands, strong as talons, holding his head in place.
“Do you remember our lessons in the forge?” Mairon asked.
Maitimo was silent.
“Those beautiful links of chain you crafted?”
The orc moved away from the now-restrained ner and drew back his whip.
“They have been put to good use.”
Snap. Leather through air. The wet sound of flesh tearing. Though the thrall shook and whimpered, he did not cry out as the whip carved more red welts into his skin. The lightning of remembered sensation rushed through Maitimo’s own scars and still-healing gashes, and he struggled in vain against Mairon’s hold.
“You must be so proud.”
No. Not proud. Shame and guilt threatened to bore a hole through Maitimo’s chest. He could do nothing for these others. They would suffer, and he would suffer, and that fact was unchanging as the rock surrounding them, steady as the clanging of hammer on metal that pervaded the air. The thralls would never again see the stars, would never again breathe air that was not tainted with forge-smoke, and he was just as helpless as they were. If his brothers came for him in some foolish attempt at rescue, would they be forced to work as their muscles frayed and their backs broke and their bodies and spirits were slowly starved?
Mairon only released him when he began to retch in revulsion.
“Shame on you,” the Maia chided, glowing with satisfaction. “Do you take no joy in your handiwork?”
Maitimo was still silent as he regarded Mairon, but there was no glimmer of defiance in his eyes this time, only a dull, unactionable hatred.
“Very well. Let us return to the forge. I have one more thing to teach you.”
The piece of metal Mairon removed from the fire this time was more rectangular than the links of chain had been. Thicker, more solid, more singular.
As Maitimo worked, he saw that this piece was different from those he had crafted before: it was a manacle instead of a fragment of chain. Fresh memories of the violence he had witnessed flared red in his thoughts. Whose wrist would feel the bite of this metal when it was cold? Would it be used to restrain another helpless prisoner as he was beaten, or to keep a thrall from fleeing the cruelties of laboring in the pits? Whose skeletal arm would it bind to the wall of a dark cell? The manacle’s curvature mocked him, turning the safety of an embrace to imprisonment and despair. The wholeness of a circle could be broken.
Maitimo’s arm stilled, the hammer a dead weight. I cannot.
“But you must,” Mairon said, lips whispering softly against his ear. He felt the Maia’s grin spread like a drop of poison through wine. “This one is for you.”
At the touch of the Maia’s hand upon his shoulder, Maitimo saw once again his father’s workshop in Valinor. It was just as he remembered it from his childhood, on the very first day Fëanáro had taken him there. He felt his father’s warm, callused hand around his own, small and soft. Light streamed in through high windows, illuminating metalworking tools, half-finished projects, and the blueprints, notes, and sketches that were haphazardly affixed to the walls. The smell of metal and smoke cut through the air, and Maitimo could taste it on his tongue.
“My Master does not give his hospitality as a gift – oh, no. You must earn your keep here.”
Mairon turned to the large anvil in the center of the room, and with his free hand, slender but firm as a claw, he pulled Maitimo after him by the wrists. He placed the end of the glowing piece of metal into a hole in the anvil and took up the hammer that rested on a nearby table. With strength and fluidity that made Maitimo’s bruised arms and lash-torn back ache, the Maia brought the hammer to bear on the metal, pounding it into a U-shape.
Maitimo’s arms and shoulders screamed in their familiar chorus as Mairon placed the hammer in his hand, and just as before, he shaped the metal according to the Maia’s specifications. Mairon’s golden eyes watched him every step of the way, though the Maia was silent, the edges of his mouth curved up into a perversion of a smile.
Chapter End Notes:
Hopefully I will be able to get the third chapter done in a more timely manner than this one.