Melkor stood and watched Thangorodrim crumble. It was there, high up in the tallest tower of his fortress that he witnessed his own defeat. Ancalagon slain, the Balrogs destroyed and legions of orcs he had raised like his own children scattered as far as he could see. So many charred corpses. Glittering dark dragon scales melting in flowing streams of lava. Elves, eagles and Ainur all marching forth to doom his cause. He did not know what to do. And he was afraid.
So entranced was he upon sight of the mighty mountains crumbling that he failed to notice the presence at his back. Sauron was there, his armor bloodied and gleaming in the light of a burning world.
“Master… we should go.”
Melkor turned to him and looked utterly broken, his greatest efforts once more laid to waste by the others. Those of his kin, and the countless little elves who thought they could make the world a better place. He hated them all. A terrible scraping came from his hand then, and Sauron moved to place his fingers atop the clenched fist. Sparks came from how tightly Melkor closed his hand, willing with all the strength in his heart for the elves to be crushed and never draw breath again. His armored glove cracked and the straps holding it to his wrist burst. A moment, then the sharp ringing of metal hitting the ground.
Sauron looked up into the gleaming red eyes of his Master. There he saw anger directed both outwards and in. He knew Melkor blamed everyone but himself for the failings of his assault. But deep inside, the Dark Lord knew he had fucked up.
‘Why must this happen. I do not want to go back to the Void. They will never forgive me.’
Melkor could not speak as his teeth were grit so tightly they were about to shatter. Sauron heard his thoughts, and held his hand. The heat was comforting, but Melkor wanted it to swallow him whole. Sauron had always made things better. Always knew what to say, the right strategic moves in battle, just where to place his hands and how close to stand…
He lowered his head, and closed his eyes. Sauron could not see his pain. He was the mightiest of all the Valar, and to retreat was to be weak.
Yet it was the smartest thing to do if he wished to keep his freedom. Sauron told him this through the power of thought, and suggested locations they could flee to. Before the Maia could pull his master to the deepest underground halls of Angband, the floor shook and great footsteps thundered at great speed. Melkor squeaked then, like a mouse that had been stepped on and flattened to the ground. He tore his hand from Sauron’s loose grip and clutched his crown, the silmarils casting a dazzling light through his fingers.
“No,” he whispered, voice hoarse and eyes wide. “They can’t take it from me.”
“We shall.” A clear, firm voice came from behind Melkor and as he turned, he saw nothing there. Nothing but thick smoke clouds with the voice of his brother.
Sauron, seeing the imminent breakdown of the Dark Lord decided to push him out of the tower with both arms wrapped around his waist. Manwë gasped in surprise and went from cloud form to that of an eagle, speeding after the two dark figures with talons outstretched. Of course Sauron would make a rash decision to save Melkor’s behind. It was the sort of thing the other Ainur knew him for - when cornered, he would run rather than give up. There was only one he would submit to and that was his master. Death would take him before the other Valar would.
“I will not let you go again.” said Sauron with his face pressed to the back of Melkor’s head. Sharp spikes and dangerous edges cut him from the extravagant armour his Master wore, but he did not care. Melkor was screaming his head off as the ground rushed up to meet him, hearing nothing after but the dark chanting of his servant. Black Speech. Something else. A deep hole, the absence of light.
And then they hit the ground.
Manwë held council with the other Valar, gathered in the Ring of Doom to discuss Melkor’s escape.
“ ‘Tis unjust!” growled Mandos, clenching a bone-white hand around his scythe. “Melkor deserveth eternal binding and madness from isolation. Death is too sweet a punishment for him.”
“Thou shalt be calm, Mandos. Where might he be found escapeth us all. Our first task-”
“Is to kill him!” Tulkas interrupted Manwë with a wide grin and fist-to-palm gesture, much to the annoyance of the other Valar. Manwë narrowed his cold blue eyes at him.
“We would have him now were it not for thy assault on his stronghold, Tulkas.”
“Come now! I-”
“Silence.” Manwë’s unforgiving glare prevented any further protests. “We must findeth Sauron, with him Melkor. Their location is unknown, for not one of us can detect either within all of Ëa.”
Vairë spoke then, twirling a thin lock of hair in her fingers.
“Let us search through all time and space. None shall flee from our watchful eyes.”
“Not forever.” Manwë agreed, and raised his head to look up. Clouds swirled above his head, and his eyes fell shut. It would take great concentration to begin the search.
A greater presence watched it all unfold. And suddenly, his attention was turned to the most corrupt world he knew.
Middle-Earth, seven thousand years from now.
Melkor sat with his back against a cold brick wall, blood dripping from a spot on his forehead. His crown had cut him there, sharp black iron slicing his pale grey skin. Now, it was nowhere to be found. He had lost his silmarils and the sign of his rule over Arda.
‘How can I be King of the World now…?’
Sauron’s attention turned to his Master’s thoughts, finding them to be strangely quiet and difficult to understand. Their mental connection seemed a lot weaker, and the Maia startled at the notion of Melkor’s conscious mind fading away. Without their telepathy, Sauron would feel so terribly alone. He needed that powerful, all-knowing presence at the back of his mind. Even without speaking, just knowing Melkor was there whenever he needed him… it was crucial to Sauron’s sanity. What little he had left of it, anyway.
‘You are hurt….’ he murmured to Melkor, not moving his lips and with his voice a mere caress to his Master’s mind. The Dark Lord blinked slowly and looked up, his head tilted to the side.
“Didst thou sayest something?”
Sauron stepped closer and knelt before him. “Nay. Do not trouble yourself to move. Let me look after you.”
Melkor fell silent and directed his eyes to the left, Sauron glancing there for a moment before focusing his full attention to him. He could tell the Dark Lord was embarrassed, and generally feeling like shit. Some of those emotions seeped into his own heart, for Melkor held dominion over it just as he had power in Sauron’s mind.
His fingers went to move a few matted strands of Melkor’s long, black hair from sticking to his forehead. Before he could touch his Lord’s skin, Sauron took a look at his own hand. His flesh had lost its golden glow, just as Melkor’s aura of darkness had diminished. While the Dark Lord looked somewhat pathetic, his servant looked even worse. Sauron’s shining locks of fire and silk had dulled to a dirty orange-blond. In a nearby puddle he caught sight of his reflection and the vanity in his heart almost seized him with terror. Gone was the glow in his eyes; magma and flame reduced to deep honey brown. His fine cheekbones and shapely lips looked thin and dry, dark shadows emphasizing his suddenly gaunt features. Were those bags under his eyes? Never in his fifty thousand years of life had Sauron owned such an unsightly face. He plastered his hand to Melkor’s own to prevent him from taking a look. Melkor grunted and scrunched his eyebrows together, feeling the wound at his temple sting. Blood trickled onto Sauron’s hand, drawing his attention back to the Dark Lord. There were important matters at hand, things that needed immediate care. His own appearance could wait.
Sauron ran his sharp nails along Melkor’s hairline, picking up strands and moving them aside with utmost delicacy. The gash he saw was deep, peppered with dirt at the edges and pulsing with exposed veins. Sauron had nothing to clean it with and found the lack of hygiene between them both rather disturbing. But in times of war, exceptions had to be made. Gently he pressed his tongue to Melkor’s brow and licked the blood that had gathered there. He worked up and closed his eyes, whispering healing enchantments in between the moments where he contacted heated, bleeding flesh. When he looked to see his progress, it frightened him to see that while the wound had begun to clot, it was not healing entirely. Furthermore, Sauron sensed an immediate lessening of his own magical power. Something that had been an innate part of him since the day of his creation, and now it felt like it was slipping away.
Melkor shivered as Sauron tended to him, finding himself with a sudden great sensitivity to pain. He was of the Valar, and did not normally feel pain unless it was by great physical force of a strong being against him. Manwë’s slaps had never hurt much, but Tulkas body slamming him into the ground did. Now, there was sharp agony at his forehead only offset by the softness of Sauron’s wet lips. His servant kissed him and stroked the top of his matted black hair all the way down his back.
“You will be okay.” whispered Sauron, seating himself properly in Melkor’s lap. The Dark Lord could sense the turmoil in Sauron’s mind, but it was like listening to radio static on a windy day. Confusing, strange and painful to the ears. Not that Melkor knew what a radio was. Nor electricity, for that matter. He thought it mere sorcery that the flickering street lights to the right cast a glow into the alleyway. It reminded him of Valarian magic, and brought a snarl to his lips.
Sauron noticed and looked to the side. The lamp post did not seem to be doing anything other than failing to evenly light the sidewalk. Some of the filaments inside it were dead, and many moths fluttered nearby. It was then that Sauron took a better look at their surroundings, as Melkor seemed not to care. His mind was in a different, darker place. As it always was.
Light blue bricks formed the side of a building directly opposite the two Ainur. Shreds of a peeling poster with stylized Westron script clung to the rough surface, paint marks obscuring the images there. Many of those paint marks formed some sort of art, Sauron seeing a human face in shades of purple on a nearby bin. He thought to himself how much more exquisite his own craft was - why, he had several carven statues of Melkor in his forges, some cast in shining gold with jewels for eyes. He wondered what would happen to them if the elves stormed Angband in search of the Dark Lord. In any case, Sauron’s work was hidden well enough. Anyone who dared to cross his magical barriers would be turned to dust.
The floor was some hard, unnatural surface. Not tar or stone, some compound in shades of dirty grey. Sauron had never seen concrete before. As he trailed his fingers across it, the bumpy roughness caused him to quickly withdraw. This was no smooth-cut marble, that was certain. Plastic bags fluttered about with the wind, their artificial crinkling causing Sauron to follow the white shapes with his eyes. Like jellyfish they moved, lazy and floating without need for water or life. Sauron wondered what their purpose was.
He looked up, seeing the stars dimmed and sky black. The moon looked choked and bothered by many dark clouds, more than it had ever been when Sauron gazed upon it last. Melkor was watching too, as if the skies would open up and rain hell upon him. His eyes were dark, and very tired. Sauron pitied him just a little. Perhaps a lot. He would not admit such things to his conscious mind.
The air tasted different. Instead of the rich, sweet scent of burning flesh and evil smoke was something chemical and sickening, taking a word neither Sauron nor Melkor knew. This was the world of the twenty-first century, and it was a polluted, corrupt thing.