Silmarillion Writers' Guild Most Sinister Villian

4. Nénimë

"I am confident that we will have finished the Temple within a month's time, and that we can have the inauguration in early Spring,"Mairon told the king, who reacted with rather less enthusiasm than expected.

"Very good. Very good," he said, but his heart did not seem to be in it.

Mairon raised his eyebrows. "Are you well, Highness? I thought the news would cheer you more."

"I am thoroughly cheered,"Ar-Pharazôn said. "The speed with which you have built this Temple is commendable, and it looks most impressive. Strange design, but pleasing. Very good work."

"I am glad," said Mairon, bowing. "What is wrong then, my lord?"

The king gave him a wistful smile that Mairon found as repellent as reassuring. "You are right, of course; something is troubling me." He sighed. "This inauguration, it will comprise the full ceremony that you have told me about?"

"Naturally, my lord. I can provide you with the full procedure, if you wish to familiarise yourself in advance...?"

Ar-Pharazôn sighed again. "Yes, yes, I suppose that would be helpful." His jaw worked for a while until he finally said, "So there will be a sacrifice?" He sounded almost frightened, and that surprised Mairon. He tilted his head. "Of course, my lord King. The full ceremony, after all."

Ar-Pharazôn began to pace, and again took a while to order his thoughts. Mairon watched him, somewhat at a loss. Hopefully the king would explain himself soon, he thought. No doubt he would be able to deal with whatever troubled the man, but it would have been nice to be able to plan ahead nonetheless.

Finally, Ar-Pharazôn stopped his pacing, and looked Mairon in the eye. There was a haunted quality to his gaze, as though the issue had cost him many sleepless nights already. "I must admit that I am... not entirely comfortable with the idea of that sacrifice," he said, unconsciously raising his chin as if challenging Mairon to laugh at his discomfort. Mairon did not laugh. He was not in the least amused. One should think that he had invested time and persuasive power enough to win the Ar-Pharazôn's unquestioning trust. Instead, the mortal king evaded him again and again. Something had gone wrong, apparently – again! But what?

"Have you had another letter from Aphanuzîr?" he asked, not bothering to keep the annoyance out of his voice. If Amandil had written to the king again – and the king was still inclined to listen to the old lord – that was a desaster. It meant that the danger from Rómenna was more dire than previously assumed. Mairon wondered how Amandil might have heard about the planned sacrifices. Had anyone overheard when he had explained the purpose of the Temple to the king – some servant, maybe, whose presence he had not registered at the time? No, impossible. He had been too vigilant for that. The easiest explanation would be that the king – foolish man! - had spoken about this to his queen, who might then have written to Amandil... but no, Mairon read all their letters, he would know. Unless they knew that he was reading along, and had developed some sort of code to fool him...?

He was unable to mask his relief when the king snorted and said, "Aphanuzîr? Hah. I have not heard from him for months." His fondness for the old lord had declined significantly after Mairon had declared Elentir guilty of cursing the queen. Which was as it should be, Mairon reflected, although there was a trace of bitterness in Ar-Pharazôn's eyes and voice, suggesting that the king was unhappy about Amandil's silence.

Before he could further ponder this, the king interrupted his thoughts. "Why did you think I had?" Mairon forced himself to focus on the present. "Oh, it is just that such qualms do not suit you, my noble lord. You are, after all, a great warrior – you have slain people before!" He paused. "As has Aphanuzîr, come to think of it."

"Yes, yes, of course, but that was in war or punishment," Ar-Pharazôn said. "But in worship? Somehow that feels... I don't know. Wrong. In all the ceremonies I had to attend at my uncle's behest, there were no sacrifices..."

"Well, that should tell you how useless those ceremonies were," Mairon said hotly. "A gathering on a windy mountain-top and no sacrifice, what good is that supposed to do? Why should a supreme being be inclined to listen to its worshippers when they do not even care enough to offer gifts? Ridiculous." He was half-afraid that the king would take offense at his brash tone, but he could not find the energy to maintain his usual mask.

The king was too upset to take offense, anyway. "Why, out of love, I suppose," he said. Mairon closed his eyes in despair. Fortunately Ar-Pharazôn was not done thinking yet. "But you are right, of course. We are not, after all, intending to repeat Inziladûn's mistakes."

"Indeed, my lord," said Mairon, infinitely relieved.

"It is just a troubling thought, that is all," Ar-Pharazôn said. "Can we not offer a bull or something of the sort?"

"If you wish to attain immortality for the cows of Yôzayan, then by all means, sacrifice a bull. With all due respect, lord King, I fail to see what troubles you so. I know your laws, and I am quite certain that being quartered is no more pleasant than being burned alive- "

"Justice must be dealt," Ar-Pharazôn said, and when his eyes met Mairon's again, they were defiant. "Slaying people wantonly is a different matter."

"Wantonly? Highness, if you want to win a favour from the Lord of All, certain sacrifices have to be made!" Mairon had heard people describe their king as ruthless. Clearly, they had no idea what the word meant. "Combine it with justice, then," he said in a more peaceable voice. "Sacrifice only those who deserve it – traitors and murderers, for instance. That should ease your qualms, I take it?"

The king appeared a lot less troubled. "If it could be done like that, I would indeed be much relieved." He even managed to give Mairon a rather mischievous look. "Except that you are having all our traitors released after the Temple is built."

Mairon, who had hoped that the king had forgotten about that part of the bargain, managed a shrug. "I would not worry about that. Some people never learn..."

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