A/N: References are being made to other stories in this series. In my fanon, Angwë is Sauron's brother. The story of the Brood Fungus is told in The Turning of Angwë, and Sauron's aide Rautanor appears in Lords and Lordship. This story is set between the events of Artíre's Revenge and Lords and Lordship.
Deep in the bowels of Angband, Angwë sat in his workshop and considered the task he had been given. He had made many things for his lord, including the Brood Fungus, which enabled Orcs to breed quickly, but he had never made anything that could make people ill in large numbers. Morgoth was clearly talking about a plague, and although Angwë was aware that plagues of various descriptions had issued forth from Angband before, he had never had any part in making them, and had no idea where to start.
He knew there was no point in going to his master and asking for help with this project. Morgoth was so contrary these days that Angwë was loth to tell him anything that was not about the success of his ventures. The Balrog remembered the friction that had arisen between himself and Sauron when he had mooted the Brood Fungus as a method of getting the Orcs to breed. No, there was no point in asking for his brother's help with this.
It occurred to Angwë to give some more thought to Sauron when he remembered why his brother was not engaged in the making of the plague – he was in Taur-nu-Fuin licking his wounds and recovering from his encounter with Lúthien and Huan. Sauron was in deep disgrace at the moment, and would surely be willing to share his secrets if there was a chance of winning favour with their master again. With that in mind, Angwë made his way to Taur-nu-Fuin as quickly as he could.
High in the mountains where the river Sirion was just beginning to spread stood a high tower. While it had some vestiges of Elven craft about it, the place was unmistakeably evil. A pall of terror hung over it, and the creatures that dwelt there were all fell and cruel, feeding on the misery of others. The vegetation that sprang up around the place was twisted and poisonous, and smelt foul.
The tower stood among the ruins of an Elven city which had been partially rebuilt in a brutally functional style, which is to say that the builders had cobbled together the shelters they needed by patching up the original buildings and shoving lean-to sheds against those. At this point, the river was fast-flowing in a gorge, and the island on which it stood was a pinnacle of rock that the Elves had built on and around.
Angwë looked upon all this with a critical eye. 'The harmony of the Elves' work has been marred, and for no better reason than spite. These buildings will not last, for the builders have given no thought to keeping out the elements that could warp the wood or dissolve the tiles they are using. But I did not come to aid with the improvement of this place,' he thought. The mountains around him prodded his heart with a pang for Celebdil, the mountain he had made. Angwë pushed the thought down. He knew what the price of rebellion was.
Making his way deep into the forest, Angwë searched until he found a place of rank and rotten vegetation, where evil dwelt in the brooding darkness. There he remembered how he had first sought his brother out, seeking his aid.
A voice pulled him out of his reverie. “Hail, Angwë, what news from Angband?”
“I seek the wisdom of my brother for an endeavour our lord Morgoth has entrusted to me,” replied Angwë, anxious to ensure his brother's co-operation.
“Indeed, and what can Sauron do for you that you cannot do for yourself?” asked the Maia, who stood glaring insolently at Angwë.
“You are his servant, are you not?” said Angwë. This upstart was determined to ruin his chances of success, probably for the sake of some petty point-scoring exercise.
“I am Rautanor,” replied the upstart, whose arrogance lost none of its quality when Angwë flared his wings, a tactic that usually frightened other beings. “And when you work for Sauron, you quickly learn what is to be feared, and what is not.”
“Indeed,” said Angwë, his tone even. “And where were you on the night my brother came to grief? You seem unscathed.”
“I was attending to the prisoners,” Rautanor answered, discomfited.
“I heard you had a taste for Elves,” said Angwë, pressing home his advantage. If he could convince Rautanor that it was in his best interests to co-operate, the Plotter might prove useful instead of continuing to be a hindrance.
“My tastes are none of your concern,” retorted Rautanor, who had clearly begun to lose his composure.
“Even when they endanger my brother and his position in Morgoth's court?” asked Angwë, as he moved closer to Rautanor with his wings spread. Fire crackled along his body, sparking here and there. He appeared to be about to explode.
“What is that to you, when you are his rival?” squeaked Rautanor. He had begun to back away from Angwë, and was looking around in desperation.
“How can anyone who has been defeated by an Elf-maid and her dog be a rival to me?” roared Angwë.
Rautanor's stupid statement brought out the Balrog's innate hatred of the ridiculous. As a builder, Angwë worked with absolute standards at all times. The mental gymnastics performed by the rebel Maiar, and indeed by Morgoth himself, as they bent the truth into strange shapes often irked him, though he rarely expressed this. Besides, he had only agreed to work for Morgoth so he could reclaim his mountain from the Dwarves, and intended to collect on his promise as soon as he could.
“If you require Lord Sauron's aid,” said Rautanor, pulling himself up to his full height, “you will have to learn some manners, Angwë, else you shall be sent away with nothing.”
“I will not tolerate this disrespect, Rautanor,” said Angwë, “and my brother will be most displeased when he discovers that you are thwarting his recovery. Or do you think he trusts you in every matter?”
Rautanor hesitated. “I will ask him if he wishes to see you, Angwë, and will honour his decision. Wait here.”
Rautanor went a short distance away, where a large stone stood. He cast a spell, and a pair of doors appeared where bare rock had been. The Maia went inside.
Angwë remained where he was.
A while later, Rautanor returned. “Sauron wants to see you,” he said in a cold, tight voice.
In a cavern beneath the rock doors, Sauron sat in a corner. A torch burned in a sconce nearby, throwing dancing shadows against the dark, dank walls. Angwë entered the room, followed by Rautanor, who stood by the door as if waiting for a signal from his master.
“So,” said Sauron, “you have come to gloat, brother?”
Angwë regarded his brother, noting how low he had fallen. Sauron usually wore a fair Elven form when not garbed as a wolf. Now he looked like a shrivelled old man, bent and frail with the weight of years of care.
“Well? Do you like what you see?” asked Sauron, his tone sharp.
“I know how to make it better, brother,” Angwë replied, “but first I must curry favour with Morgoth. If you help me to do this, I will ask him to use his Silmarils to aid you.”
“I could ask him to use his Silmarils to aid me,” retorted Sauron. “I do not need your charity.”
“Then why have you not done so?” asked Angwë. “Are you not his chief lieutenant?”
Sauron turned away. “I am not sure where I am with our master,” he said quietly.
Angwë stood in silence for a while, then said, “If you aid me in my endeavour, I will surely give you the credit for what we achieve.”
Sauron turned and looked at his brother. “What is it you want from me?”
“I have been told to make a plague to unleash on Middle-earth,” replied Angwë. “I know you have learned how to do this.”
“I have indeed,” replied Sauron. “It is quite similar to that Brood Fungus of yours in the way it works. The plague is made of tiny living creatures that are similar to the spores you use.”
“Help me, Sauron,” said Angwë, moving towards his brother as if to embrace him.
“Give me your word you will tell our master this was my work,” said Sauron.
“You have it,” said Angwë.
“Then I will help you. Rautanor, prepare my workshop!”