Silmarillion Writers' Guild Most Sinister Villian

5. Súlimë

There was nothing lordly about the former Lord Elentir anymore, yet he stood between Mairon and his fellow prisoners with all the self-assuredness of his lost office. "You promised that we would be released," he said, his eyes glinting with belligerence. "We have fulfilled our part of the deal – we have endured all this punishment – and I hardly need to add that most if not all of us are innocent of the crimes of which you accuse us in the first place-"

Mairon ignored his tirade, and only said, "I cannot remember permitting you to speak."

With most of the prisoners, he felt, that should have sufficed. There were various flinches around the cell, and some faces averted in fear. Elentir, however, remained unfazed. Even after months of hard work and deprivation, he managed to stand as proud as if he were wearing golden clasps instead of lice in his tangled hair, and splendid robes instead of chains. "We were told that we would be released as soon as your... building... was completed," he said, squaring lanky shoulders. "It is completed now. Therefore I no longer consider myself bound by your terms."

Unbelievable, Mairon thought. This family seemed to exist purely to stump him. With their combination of mortal obstinacy and Finwëan pride, they truly were more troublesome than all the Valar combined! Only with some effort could Mairon maintain his façade of cool indifference.

"Yes, well, it seems that your chains speak a different language," he said.

One of the guards snickered. Mairon glared at him before he could stop himself. It was such a pity, he thought, that he had to make do with such dull fellows. Back at home, his guards and stewards had been the more intelligent inhabitants of his stronghold. Here, the only people willing to serve him were the decidedly Orc-minded. Well, that would all change once he was the king. Until then...

"Only if you betray your promise," Elentir interrupted his planning. "But surely even you have some vestige of honour!"

"Oh, of course I do," Mairon retorted. "Is it not so, Rahak, Karbukhôr?" He turned to two of the newer guards, who had started out as prisoners but had been smart enough to change sides. Rahak looked a little worried at being addressed, but Mairon gave him an encouraging smile and the man relaxed. "Have you not been treated honourably, after you gave up your foolish misapprehensions?"

"Very honourably, sir," said Karbukhôr while Rahak nodded eagerly.

"There you go, then. The good and the loyal are rewarded freely. But I will not brook opposition. My enemies-" he caught himself on time, and added pointedly, "that is, the king's enemies, will be punished without mercy."

"Without mercy indeed," Elentir growled. "Wait until my nephew on the throne hears about the way you have treated us..."

Ah, that was a sore spot indeed! Mairon was certain that he kept his worry secret, but something must briefly have registered in his eyes – Elentir was one of the few who managed to look him in the eye – for the old man gave a triumphant smile. "That is why you will not release us, isn't it? You are afraid that we will speak of these... indignities... to the king, and then it will be you who goes in chains again!"

Mairon fought down an absurd flash of fear. "Hardly," he said in a cold voice before the guards might get any wrong ideas. "Pharazôn has fully authorised me to deal with you as I see fit. Rebellion against me means rebellion against the king – so you are making yourself a traitor twice over. Besides, you have been so very useful – it would be foolish to let go of such useful servants, would it not?" He smiled briefly. "But I am not, despite all you think, without mercy. Forswear your ill faith and renew your pledge of loyalty, and you can have your precious freedom." He looked around at the other prisoners, who watched their argument in apprehensive silence. "That goes for all of you."

Elentir actually laughed – a loud, scornful laugh. "Why should we believe your promise now, when you have already proven to be a liar? And why should we forswear what we know to be true, and become traitors to our conscience and to Eru?"

Insufferable fellow! Mairon just barely resisted the temptation to strike him down. Patience, patience! A duel of wits had to be won with words. He forced himself to smile. "'What you know to be true'? Second-hand knowledge at best, crumbs off the Nimîr's(1) table, misinterpreted and mangled across the generations! Why should you believe such garbled traditions instead of my testimony, who I was present when the world was created?"

For a moment, something like doubt seemed to flash up in Elentir's eyes, and Mairon's smile intensified. That would be a fine victory, to turn Amandil's own brother against the Elf-friends' faith – almost worth losing such a satisfying victim!

But again, the man's obstinacy won out. "Your testimony is a lie, just as your promises were lies. That is all you are, Lord Zîgur – a lord of lies!" And he spat in Mairon's face. His aim was good; it hit Mairon underneath the right eye, from where it slowly trickled down his cheek. Mairon shuddered with disgust.

But the guards had moved already, bearing Elentir to the floor and striking and kicking him for his insolence. That helped Mairon to maintain his composure. He wiped the spittle of his face with one decisive flick of his hand.

"It would do you some good to ponder that your Eru, if he existed, created me in this manner," he told Elentir, pleased at how measured his voice sounded. Then he turned to the guards. "Very well! I believe we have a volunteer for tomorrow's sacrifice."

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(1) Nimîr (sg. Nimir): Adûnaic word for the Elves

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