The Taming of a Dark Overlord - Chapter XVI
The streets were still filled with the shadows of early morning when they stepped outside, the air not yet fully warmed by the sun. Ilmariel inhaled deeply, enjoying the crispness in the air, but was cut off halfway through by Sauron coughing.
"We've been gone a total of three seconds and you are already having problems?" she asked, not really expecting an answer. "What does this forebode for the rest of the morning...?"
"Well, excuse me," said Sauron (sarcastically, of course), when he got a grip on his coughs. "It isn't like I want to be hacking my guts out."
"Thank you for that lovely mental image," Ilmariel said as she began to walk down the silent alley towards the streets.
"You're welcome," Sauron said. "Anyway, I can't help it. This whole place reeks."
"Oh, yes," Ilmariel replied. "Flowers are horribly putrid."
"It isn't the flowers," said Sauron. "It's you. You and all your people."
"Pardon?" Ilmariel asked, although she did not bother to be offended. By now, she had concluded that more of the things that came out of Sauron's mouth would be of an offensive nature than those that were relatively harmless. To allow herself to be bothered by every little comment would not only be tiring, but a sorry waste of energy.
"You Elves--- you just have this..." Sauron waved a hand around a little as if to aid the thinking process and hopefully stir up the right word.
"Aura?" Ilmariel supplied.
"That's the word!" Sauron exclaimed. "Aura, yes. You have a certain aura, and it doesn't sit well with me. Like last night, when I was sleeping and Cirnil got too close--" He shook his head, cringing slightly. "It set me off. It was like being smacked across the face. And this whole place in just disgustingly full of it," he finished waving his hand at the general surroundings with distaste.
"You handled it fairly well on the boat," Ilmariel commented.
"I was just sick with other things then," Sauron snapped back. "I didn't have time to be sick this way."
"Well, get over it," said Ilmariel. "You are virtually an Elf yourself now, so you are probably contributing to it."
"Oh, that's an ugly thought," Sauron said, looking completely repulsed. "I don't think I am. Can you imagine how annoying it would be if you were actually allergic to yourself?"
"Okay, stop," said Ilmariel, holding up a hand.
"What? I'm just thinking. Is that a bad thing to you? I mean, I know that you don't have much going on in there, but to deprive others of the opportunity... That is just so un-Elflike."
"No, thinking is not bad," Ilmariel stated. "That is, if you are actually doing something constructive, and not merely muttering off your train of thought to the world."
"It is a habit that grows on you when there isn't anybody around for you to talk to," Sauron justified.
"So you talk to yourself?"
There was a short pause. "Yes, but it isn't like it's a bad thing. I mean, it's just thinking aloud... and... directing it back to yourself."
"Whatever you say, Sauron."
A longer silence followed, but this too, of course, was doomed to be cut short.
"I need a new name," Sauron stated.
"If you think that no one will ask it all day, then no. But I have this feeling that it might be asked, and so it would be better if I had one to answer with, since I can't use my 'true identity' as it has been called."
"Just stick with Rondae," Ilmariel replied.
"No!" Sauron answered, looking disgusted at the mere implication. "That is a horrible name. I still don't even know how you came up with that."
"It was just a random thing," Ilmariel replied.
"Sure." Sauron shook his head. "I bet you were just waiting for the chance to say it and hopefully doom me to be known by that name for who-knows-how-long."
"For one, I have no idea why you dislike that name so much," said Ilmariel. "Two, purposefully giving you a name that I thought you would dislike was the furthest thing from my mind. If you care to know, I simply took another name and switched it around a bit."
"That's stupid," Sauron remarked.
"Well it was better than anything you came up with, wasn't it?" Ilmariel clipped back.
"So, what name did you switch it around from?" Sauron asked, choosing not to answer Ilmariel's question.
A distant look came into Sauron's face then, as though he was looking for something far back in his memory. "That name sounds familiar..." he mused, "but I can't think of why..."
"He was a minstrel," Ilmariel supplied. "He made music for Luthien."
Just then, Sauron tripped, over Ilmariel had no idea what, and just about fell flat on his face. Although she would not have had time to premeditate her reaction, Ilmariel's natural reflex to reach out and catch him must have been in a momentary lapse, for she did nothing of the sort. After picking himself up, Sauron stood stone still in the street.
Ilmariel paused and turned to wait for him, realizing that she should not allow any substantial distance to grow between her and her charge.
The expression on Sauron's face was even more distant now than it had been before, and Ilmariel found it rather unsettling. She contemplated giving him a nudge to bring him back to the present... but that was not a solution she felt like actually carrying out. As it turned out, however, she did not need to do anything, because Sauron then spoke. His voice was quiet, tinged with a certain undertone that sent a shiver down Ilmariel's spine.
"So... you gave me a name... after someone who played for..." he said, his words trailing off.
Ilmariel was just able to gather enough gumption to talk by reminding herself, quite a few times, that Sauron was little more than she was now. "Yes... I looked at the stars, and I thought of the Quest for the Silmaril and the Lay of Leithian, and then I thought of Luthien and Daeron, and changed the syllables in his name. As I told you, it was very random."
At that moment, something in Sauron snapped. He thrust Ilmariel against the alley wall and pinned her there, his eyes absolutely flaming (quite the contrast against the listless appearance he'd had but a few seconds earlier). Sauron had been mad before, and, apparently, he was mad again. The phrase "he is no more than you" ran through Ilmariel's head so quickly in the next few moments that all the words smeared together in her mind.
"'Random', you say?" Sauron raged in a whisper. He jabbed Ilmariel's chest with the index finger of his right hand. "Of all the 'random' things to choose, how could you pick that? You speak of the Lay, and yet you must have forgotten about half of it if you would pick a name from it and even think about giving it to me!" he seethed, poking Ilmariel quite hard to emphasize certain words.
"Ah, could you knock that off?" Ilmariel asked, pushing Sauron's hand away and rubbing her chest; she was sure that it would be bruised. "I could not forget it when I only knew half of it or less-- more likely less, only a few scattered fragments --to begin with. Not that it is really important," she added quickly, being careful not to ramble on too long. "But why is it so odd that I would take a name from that lay when there is almost nobody who has not heard of it. It's really fairly common."
"You must have led a secluded life."
"I suppose I did..."
Just then, someone came around a corner and spotted them, her expression instantly turning to one of curiosity and suspicion. Sauron looked over his shoulder at the person, and probably glared ---Ilmariel could not tell for certain. The reaction elicited by whatever he did was the elleth hurrying her steps on down the road. Ilmariel waved weakly at her as she passed, trying to smile (and failing miserably).
Sauron turned his attention back to Ilmariel after a moment. "So then, you did not know that I am in that lay, did you?" he asked heatedly.
Ilmariel frowned. "You're in it?"
Sauron sighed crossly, rolling his eyes. This seemed to release a little of his anger, but not enough it for Ilmariel's comfort. "Yes, I am in it, you dim, base creature."
"Oh, that was a little harsh, don't you think?" said Ilmariel. "I honestly haven't read the story. What do you do in it? I mean, I can guess that you do something terrible and evil and not nice at all... but that could cover a wide spectrum, so could you narrow it down a bit?"
"No! I will not!" Sauron stepped back and began going down the road again. "I cannot believe that I am even talking about this in the first place!"
At this point, Ilmariel was concluding that Sauron was a bit bipolar. Only, rather than bouncing back and forth between overly happy and incredibly depressed, he went from being calm and reasonably well-behaved, to raving mad. Unsettling though it was, Ilmariel figured that she would prefer having things that way, with him swinging around a bit, over him just being down into the raging area all the time. Although it would have been even better if he could just stay up on the indifferent side, Ilmariel knew that this was asking far too much.
Ilmariel followed after Sauron, shaking her other thoughts from her head. "Come on, what happened? Why was it so bad that I picked Daeron? Did he do something to you?"
"No..." Sauron answered slowly, an icy thread running through his voice. "But he loved her, did he not?"
"Um... yes, I believe so." Ilmariel thought back briefly to what snippets she could recall of the story in question. "Is that the bad part then? That he loved Luthien?"
"Yes, and no. It has more to do with you calling me something that is from the name of a person who loved her."
"Oh. So you hated her? Well," Ilmariel continued musingly, "you hate just about everybody, don't you... so that really is not all that odd." She paused a moment, frowning. "Did you hate her especially, then?" she inquired at last.
"Yes," Sauron answered, the tone of his voice so bitter that Ilmariel could almost taste it.
"Why?" Ilmariel asked as she caught up, her trepidation already dissolved.
"I don't want to talk about it!" Sauron snapped.
"Come on, I will not be able to learn what things not to talk about or bring up if you don't tell me."
"Okay, well, here then--- Don't talk about Luthien in front of me!"
"What about from behind, then?"
Sauron muttered something under his breath that Ilmariel could not catch, and did not figure she had really needed to hear. "Leave it be, Ilmariel," he said aloud.
"I won't be able to, now. I want to know," Ilmariel persisted. "The sooner you tell me, the sooner you will have peace," she reasoned.
"Ask Cirnil," Sauron said, his voice taking on something of that listless quality again, as if the conversation was wearing him out. "He'd probably know."
"I would have to wait until the end of the day to do that. Why will you not just tell me now?"
"Because it is worse than the Númenor thing," Sauron stated, almost dejectedly. "I don't like talking about it."
"Have you ever talked about it?" Ilmariel asked.
"No." The tone of Sauron's reply indicated that he felt the answer should have been obvious.
"Then how do you know that you will not like to talk about it?"
Sauron made the faintest hint of a growl, quickly becoming agitated again. "Because," he said, "by now, I think I have figured out what I do and do not like. And that sense leads me to believe that I would not like to talk about it, so just stop!"
"You know I will not do that," Ilmariel responded bluntly, "especially now that it seems to be so important to you. Now I have to know for sure."
Sauron finally stopped and turned to her. "Fine. You really want to know?" he demanded.
"Um, yes... that is actually what I have been getting at for the past few minutes," Ilmariel answered with the slimmest of grins, nodding.
Still seeming rather upset, Sauron grabbed at some fabric under his tunic, which Ilmariel had not noticed ere now; it was loosely wrapped around his neck. He then quickly pulled down both the underlying fabric and the tunic's collar, revealing a series of many thick scars all along his throat. "There," he said. "That is why."
Ilmariel cringed, touching her own neck as Sauron pulled the fabric back up. "Ooww... that looks like it hurt."
Sauron shook his head. "No, do you think?"
"How did it happen?"
"I never said I'd explain it."
Ilmariel blinked a few times as she tried to put the pieces together. This, however, proved rather difficult to accomplish, as it seemed that a few of them were missing. "But... Luthien obviously did not do that..."
"No," Sauron responded slowly, the acrid tone quite thick in his voice once more, "but she was commanding the one who did."
"Who was...?" Ilmariel prodded.
"Huan, the dog." Sauron spat the words out, as if they tasted every bit as bitter as they sounded. "Now, enough! That's it; story time is over."
"Did she really command him?" Ilmariel inquired, all of this being quite new to her.
"Ilmariel, I was there, you idiot!" Sauron exclaimed. "He only released me at her word."
"Well, should you not hate Huan, then, if he was the one who actually did... that?"
"I just told you that I would not say any more!"
"Come on," Ilmariel implored. "Just a few questions?"
"Then will you shut up about it?"
Ilmariel laid her right hand over her heart, nodding somberly. "Upon my honor."
"Oh, perfect... I'm sure that is an excellent thing to swear by..." Sauron muttered to himself.
"I will not talk about it to any further extent, I promise," Ilmariel insisted. "So, shouldn't you hate him, too?"
"Yes, and, anticipating that your next question would be whether or not I do, yes, I do hate him. Just like, as you pointed out, I hate everybody ...except myself, of course."
"So then, why was it so bad for me to call you 'Rondae', again?"
"Because you thought of it from the name of a person who loved Luthien, and I hate her; therefore, that name is dissatisfactory. Make sense?"
"Yes, I suppose so..." Ilmariel answered slowly. "I mean, at least in the context of your twisted mind, it makes sense."
Sauron did not reply to this, and they continued down the silent road for a little bit. Remarkably, however, Ilmariel found that she needed to speak. This was quite the pity, really, considering that she was the one always vying for silence.
"Sorry to say this, but... we never really finished the conversation."
"Really?" Sauron responded. "I thought that the long silence, along with the promise I got from you to be quiet, would count as the end of the conversation."
"I promised not to bring that whole thing up anymore, I did not promise not to talk. Moreover, although a pause of that length would normally denote the end of a conversation, we never figured out what your name is going to be, which, unless I am mistaken, was the point of the whole thing to begin with."
Sauron seemed to consider whether this was a worthy enough reason for him to have to talk again, but did not take too long. At least, it was not long enough that Ilmariel became impatient about it. "All right," he said. "What do you propose?"
"Nothing," Ilmariel answered. "What do you want to be called?"
"I don't know. I haven't really had to think of a new name for a long time. Besides, more often than not, people end up giving them to me, rather than me giving them to myself."
"You still have more experience at it than I do."
"Well, you're the Elf. What could I use? It would probably be better if you suggested things than to have me just pick one out, because I doubt that you would allow any of the names I could come up with. In that case, I would get frustrated and angry, and I'm sure you do not enjoy it when I am like that."
Ilmariel's gaze shifted. She stared ponderingly off into space for a moment, and then unconsciously shook her head. Very well, she would have to think of something. Obviously, she could not go off in her normal thought patterns, as it was more than likely that whatever she would come up with from such a logical proceeding would end up being something that Sauron had a bitter memory about.
...So much for getting out the easy way.
She turned several ideas over in her mind, always deciding that they simply would not work. Well, to be more exact, they might work... but she doubted that Sauron would allow them to. Therefore, it came to pass that, after a few minutes, she began to get a little irritated with her inability to come up with something suitable.
"How about you just go by Fingorfin and we'll call it good?"
Sauron stared at Ilmariel in silence for a minute, and then shook his head. "Ha, ha. That was very funny. You're so clever."
"Isn't like it wouldn't fit," Ilmariel shot back.
"I think we both know that I am not going to use that, so just come up with something else."
"No," said Ilmariel, annoyed. "Think of your own name."
"We already went over this. You probably would not like the names I would come up with."
"And you probably will not like the names I come with. So, as I see it, we are in the same boat."
"Well then, just say whatever you think of."
"I already said what I thought of."
"Think of something else."
"I can't think of something else; I haven't really thought of anything to begin with! If this keeps up, I won't ever get anything!"
"That's not a very positive attitude," Sauron remarked.
Ilmariel threw her hands up in the air. "You, of all people, talking about being positive! What next?!"
"Let's start with you figuring out a name. Preferably sometime this Age."
"You always must have something to quip back, just for the sake of having something to quip back, mustn't you? You just enjoy irritating everybody!" Ilmariel exclaimed in exasperation.
Sauron gave a little derisive huff. "Ah, wrapping up the essence of my purpose for being in so many words."
This gave Ilmariel an idea. Now that it occurred to her, it seemed a bit obvious, as if the idea must have been jumping and waving its arms around in front of her face for the past few minutes, trying to reach her brain.
"What's that?" Sauron asked, apparently having tuned out, probably assuming that Ilmariel would've ranted off on him a few minutes more, and that he therefore need not have bothered to listen.
"Iaewur should be your name."
The instant the words had left Ilmariel's lips, Sauron opened his mouth as if to immediately smash down this new idea; however, he paused, seemed to process the name a bit, and then closed his mouth. He cocked his head slightly to the side as he considered it, and then nodded to himself. "All right," he said, at last. "I could probably live with that. Could be better... but, then again, it could be worse, too." He then turned to Ilmariel. "I don't suppose you meant it in any sort of positive light, hmm?"
"I did not intend for it to have any particular sort of light," Ilmariel replied, ...although the fact that it is not really the most flattering thing does not bother me at all."
"None of the names that people have given me had lovely connotations," said Sauron.
"Nonetheless, I seem to earn them from the work I've done, so I try to take them as compliments."
"You're messed up," Ilmariel stated.
"Not any more than you are. And, speaking of things that are messed up, one of your braids is coming undone," Sauron said, smiling falsely.
Of course, he had known that this would bother Ilmariel, and so she was now quiet as she searched for the braid that required fixing. Sauron watched her as she pulled down one skillfully twisted section of her raven-black hair after another, sometimes crossing her eyes in order to see what it looked like.
"Now, if that isn't pathetic, I don't know what is," he remarked. "Just leave it alone."
"No, I have to fix it, now that you've told me it is there," Ilmariel responded.
"Let it go. You're stuck with me and my hair, so having yours perfect isn't going to get you a better reputation, or whatever you're looking to do."
Ilmariel shook her head. "I have to fix it, because otherwise it will bother me knowing that it isn't right."
She continued on for a bit more, finally locating the erroneous braid. However, just as she had it and was starting her attempt at untwisting it so that she could set it right, Sauron interrupted her, again.
"Oh, stop," he said, "you're embarrassing."
"No." Ilmariel continued undoing the braid.
"How about, if you leave your hair alone for now... I'll let you fix my hair later?" Sauron twitched a little as he said it, but he actually seemed to be serious about the bargain.
"Why?" Ilmariel asked him.
"Because, then you will not be embarrassing at the moment, and I will not be embarrassing to you in the future."
Ilmariel did not require much convincing on that one. "All right," she said. "It's a deal." She then dropped her hair, trying to forget that it was not entirely in proper order. Although she had anticipated that this would be a little difficult, it ended up not being so ---Just then, they reached the large lanes of what must have been the market.