With the utmost care, he pried the mold apart and set one half down on the black volcanic ledge that served as his worktable. He turned the remaining half over, tapping the top gently with one hand to dislodge its content, allowing the object to fall into his open palm.
The gold circlet in his hand still glowed with heat, reflecting the copper light of molten rock that bubbled below him. The metal was still hot enough to burn the flesh of any foolish enough to touch it, even that of the Firstborn, but he was of the Maiar of Aule; he feared it not.
Annatar, the Lord of Gifts, he named himself to the Noldor of Eregion. He lived amongst them, taking on a form as fair as that of the elves. With honeyed words he played upon their ambivalence, their desire to remain in Middle-earth at odds with their desire to partake of the peace and bliss that could only be found in the West. Simpletons. The eagerness with which they took his counsel pleased him in the black crypt that was his heart. His guidance would be their undoing and they knew it not. Soon. Soon he would rip aside the veils that obscured their vision and reveal the truth, but not yet.
He walked to the end of the tongue of stone that jutted out over the lake of fire. Kneeling, he raised his hands, one set upon the other with the ring lying on the upturned palm. His eyes closed as he centered his thoughts, for now came the most difficult and delicate part of the making.
Softly he began to chant, his words unintelligible. All of his concentration, his whole being, he focused on the gold in his hands. With time and great effort, his voice grew louder, stronger, while all his other senses were tuned to the ring. Scattered images whirled and danced in his mind but they were not a distraction. He let his loathing of the Firstborn and his fear of the Men of Númenor stoke the fire of his hatred and his lust for the power to dominate them all.
He could see it now, the power of the elves subject to his will alone, and the might of Numenor broken and bent to his purpose. The dark flames in his heart leapt and roared at the image of the proud Noldor prostrate before him, worshipping Annatar above all the Valar, above Illuvatar himself. And he would not stop with the elves.
He raised the volume of his voice until the cavern rang with the words of command. Dizzy with the power that was building within him, he felt as though he would explode into a blazing conflagration.
Annatar gasped as the power and strength flowed from him into the ring. He swayed as the ring greedily drank from him, draining him. It was too much. He had pushed himself to the brink of safety and sanity. Yet still he chanted. The Ring grew while he shrank and faded. Grimly he kept on. His breathing became labored, his vision blurred, he was almost there.
Ash nazg durbatuluk, ash nazg gimbatul, ash nazg thrakatuluk, ash burzum-ishi krimpatul.
He chanted the words, over and over, as a fiery script snaked its way over the outer surface of the smooth band.
Done. His hand closed automatically over the ring as he collapsed to the rough cavern floor. It had been a difficult task and had cost him much, but it was finished.
One Ring to rule them all.
Once set on his finger, none of the other rings would be hidden from him, not the Three, the Seven or the Nine. It mattered naught that he had no physical hand in their making. By availing themselves of his lore to help create them, those who wore the rings were made vulnerable to the power and influence of the One.
Annatar struggled to his feet. Oh, how he was weary. Much of his power and a large portion of his life force had been invested in the Ring. He and it, they were one now. His power, the power of the other rings were now bound to the One. If perchance, his treasure was ever taken and, as if that were possible, destroyed, he would be reduced to an impotent shade and the other rings, along with all their works, would slowly wither.
A short bark of laughter burst from his throat. Even if the One ended up on another’s hand, it would have to be brought to where it had been forged ere it could be unmade. Impossible, of course, there was not a single mortal or immortal that was immune to the lure of the Ring. Any who tried to claim it would be corrupted, broken, or enslaved.
A wave of dizziness passed over him as his knees threatened to buckle again. He forced himself to remain erect and overworked muscles screamed in protest. He had to regain his strength first, and then he could place the One on his finger and bring the bearers of the other rings under his sway. Then they and their people would fall to his will and dominance. Finally, he would shed the insipid guise of Annatar, the wise counselor so generous with his lore. He would return to his true form and name, Sauron, Ruler over All. No. Sauron, the Dark Lord of all Middle-earth. Much better.
At the entrance to the cavern he grasped the wall quickly as his vision faded and an insistent buzz droned in his ears. It took longer this time to regain his senses. Rest, he needed rest. He gazed at the razor sharp teeth of the Ephel Duath that separated him from his prey.
“Rest easy this one last night,” he snorted contemptuously. “Fools.”
Tomorrow, he promised himself.