Silmarillion Writers' Guild Most Sinister Villian

6. Melkokyermë

Mairon paced in circles before the king's study, trying to work out his defense. That, at least, was an advantage of Ar-Pharazôn's refusal to see him – it gave him some time. Nonetheless Mairon was not at all pleased that the king was preferring the company (and, no doubt, the earful she was giving him) of Ar-Zimraphel to his own. Things were not going as planned, not in the least. If he did not steer very, very carefully now, he was about to run aground. The past day's ceremony had very nearly been a desaster. That accursed tree had burned with such dark smoke and such a smell that no one could possibly believe any deity would take pleasure from the offering. Additionally, Elentir had once more proved incontrollably troublesome. He had used the large audience present to preach against Melkor, even under the lash and the knife. Mairon had been forced to abbreviate the rites in order to burn him sooner, but even that had not sufficed to silence that obstinate man, who had sung praises to Eru even on the pyre until finally he expired. The mere memory enraged Mairon – was such stubbornness to be believed? And of course such a display of faith under duress had made quite an impression on the audience. He would have to drug any future sacrifices senseless to avoid a repetition of that spectacle, but that would of course make them insensible to the torments also. Most unsatisfying. Now people were muttering that the Giver of Freedom had not accepted the sacrifice, who had so clearly resisted him until the very end - if they were not protesting the worship of Melkor altogether. And the king might be inclined to listen, Mairon feared; he had looked rather ill at ease throughout the ceremony, and had been unwilling to speak to Mairon afterwards. It was Mairon's fortune that the king had not recognised Elentir in the sorry state he was in – otherwise all would be lost.

He had been to hasty, that was now painfully obvious. Now all his work of the past years was at risk. To add insult to injury, the grandson of Amandil, who according to Mairon's informants had spent the past months more dead than alive after a mysterious hunting accident(1), had chosen yesterday of all days to recover miraculously. Now the queen was probably busy telling Ar-Pharazôn that this showed Eru's will at work, and what was worse, she might even be right. And instead of being able to defend himself, Mairon was locked out while she poured her poison into the king's ears. Curses!

By the time the queen emerged from the study, however, Mairon had managed to calm himself and to prepare his defense. Thus he managed to bow with seeming equanimity when she gave him a haughty and triumphant stare. She did not deign to speak with him, instead striding away quickly. Mairon glared after her, counted to ten, and then cautiously looked into the study.

"May I come in, lord King?" he asked, and thought, too meek – Pharazôn shouldn't get the idea that he felt sorry about anything. He tried again, more firmly. "I think we may need to talk."

"Zîgur. Yes, indeed," he said. Mairon closed the door, and walked closer, pretending not to notice that the king still looked upset, or that he appeared to look through rather than at Mairon as if thoroughly distracted.

"I am delighted to report that the inauguration has met with great success," Mairon said with a smile. That brought the king's attention back to the present at once.

"It has what?" he asked sharply. "Did we attend the same ceremony, Zîgur?"

Mairon tilted his head in mock-surprise. "I believe we did, lord King. Whyever not? Everything has been done according to protocol, and has not Mulkhêr (2) already sent a sign of his pleasure?"

Ar-Pharazôn blinked. "He has?"

"Oh yes, your Highness. I've had reports that the young lord Nîluhâr (3) has recovered from his injuries quite unexpectedly – this very night! Clearly the Lord of All has chosen to show his power by plucking your nephew from the very gates of death. Bountiful is Mulkhêr!"

"I heard of that," Ar-Pharazôn said. "You think it was the work of Mulkhêr?" He ducked his head unconsciously when speaking the name, which Mairon registered with delight. The king went on, "My wife told me that it rather showed the might of Eru..."

Mairon took a deep breath. Then he spoke, deliberately slowly, as if hesitant to contradict the queen. "Your wife is undoubtedly a very wise woman, but in this matter she is naturally blinkered by the prejudices of her father. Think about it, dear lord: Nîluhâr's family is foremost among the worshippers of Eru, and surely they have prayed for the lad's recovery. Should not their Eru, if he had the power, have answered their prayers? Instead, Nîluhâr has lain dying for months, and awoke only now that we have made prayer and sacrifice to Mulkhêr. Indeed, if their Eru existed, should he not have prevented the sacrifice of one of his followers?"

"My wife says that Eru gave that man the strength to endure... the ceremony," said Ar-Pharazôn, but he no longer sounded convinced.

It hardly needed Mairon's wry retort, "My, what a generous way to reward such loyalty! See Mulkhêr instead: He has saved one who opposes him to show his might and mercy."

The king nodded thoughtfully. "I suppose you are right. Yes, that makes sense. Bountiful indeed!"

"As you say, your Highness."

"No, my good Zîgur, as you say. Forgive my doubt."

Mairon bowed before the king could see the wild delight in his eyes. "Majesty, there is nothing to forgive."

"So when," Ar-Pharazôn asked, "can we have the next ceremony?"

Mairon smiled. "As soon as you wish."

- - -

(1) As the Silmarillion tells us that all Faithful were forbidden to enter the courts of the king and that nobody at all was permitted to come near Nimloth, Isildur would surely have been executed in his bed if anyone of had figured out that he was the stranger in the garden – it would have been the perfect excuse for Sauron to act against Amandil's household directly. Accordingly I presume that nobody figured it out. In my reading of the story, Amandil and/or Elendil immediately came up with some hunting accident story to explain Isildur's injuries, even towards friends and allies, so no conflicting story could get around.

(2) Mulkhêr: Apparently the Adûnaicised form of Melkor's name.

(3) Nîluhâr: And while we're at it, Isildur clearly needed an Adûnaic name as well. nîlo/nîlû for the moon (Quenya isil) is attested; hâr is again my invention, as explained in Chapter 2.

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