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The Plague
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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3
Conflicts of Interest

A/N: According to the movie version of Lord of the Rings, Orcs are disease-ridden monsters. I use that idea in my own fanon.


~~~

The workshop was a large and surprisingly airy place. In a corner was a forge, and at the other end of the room was a worktop surrounded by shelves of bottles, jars and canisters of foul-smelling concoctions of various kinds. An alembic stood nearby on a tripod over a firepit which was currently not lit. Angwë wondered what Sauron distilled in it, and if the plague would be made using something connected with the apparatus.

Books and scrolls lined the walls on sturdy shelves; implements and instruments of every description hung on hooks or were kept in labelled boxes. Sauron made his way to the back of the room on the other side of the worktop where all the chemicals were stored. “Rautanor,” he ordered, “fetch me the water-borne plague.”

“Why is it water-borne?” asked Angwë.

“Because we need a way to dispense it,” replied Sauron.

“But what if our allies drink it?” Angwë persisted.

“They are easily replaced,” said Sauron. “Why are you so concerned about them, brother?”

“I just want to make sure the people we intend to hurt are affected by this,” explained Angwë.

“Indeed, and how would you disperse it?” Sauron asked, glaring at him.

“I do not yet know how this works,” answerered Angwë. “If you explain it, I will think of an effective way to make sure it spreads properly.”

Sauron stood with his hands on his hips as he faced the massive Balrog. “You are but a builder, Angwë,” he stated. “You have no appreciation of the subtleties of the knowledge I have spent ages pursuing.”

“Then you will have to teach me that, too,” said Angwë.

Sauron sighed. “Very well. This is the nature of the plague: look upon the contents of this shallow jar,” he said, holding up a small vessel with the lid removed.

“I see nothing but a noxious substance there,” said Angwë.

“Look closer,” said Sauron, his tone like a teacher telling off a recalcitrant pupil.

Angwë peered at the jar, but could see nothing beyond the brownish jelly-like substance inside it. “I cannot see what you are trying to show me,” he said, annoyance in his voice.

“Look into the very heart of it,” insisted Sauron. “I want you to look until you can see the very atoms it is made of.”

Angwë gazed upon the jar, analyzing each molecule of the contents thereof with his consciousness. “I see it!” he cried. “Tiny little creatures milling about. They split and grow, split and grow.”

“That,” said Sauron with a flourish, “is the plague.”

“How did you make it?” asked Angwë.

“These tiny creatures live among us, helping to complete the cycle of life. They break down the rotting flesh of the dead – they are the rot! I altered them by the force of my will to make them cause illness and death among Men,” crowed Sauron, clearly exulting in his wickedness.

“Would the rot not make people ill if you cast these creatures among them?” asked Angwë. The idea was a clever one – to use creatures so tiny that they could not be seen by the naked eye to wreak destruction.

“Men have a habit of washing with soap,” replied Sauron. “This ruins the creatures and keeps Men healthy.”

“So you put it in the water,” said Angwë.

“It is the only way I can think of to make sure they catch it,” Sauron told him. “They drink the water and fall ill.”

“What if something – or someone – was to carry it among Men, passing it to each of them in turn?” asked Angwë.

“Once they get it from the water, they spread it around as they nurse each other,” said Sauron. “It amuses me that their love and kindness contributes so much to their destruction. What value do these qualities have if they make people weak and expose them to evil?”

“Yes,” Angwë argued, “but what if our allies get it?”

“They are easy enough to replace,” answered Sauron.

“Are you sure about that?” asked Angwë. “Orcs are prone to disease, and though they are easy to replace, we do need to keep a certain number of them around.”

Sauron stepped back and regarded his brother. “What did you have in mind?”

“I need to take a closer look at these plague creatures,” the Balrog replied.

Sauron let Angwë examine the jar for as long as he wished. Eventually, Angwë said, “Brother, I have got the measure of these plague motes, and have thought of a way to direct them at our enemies while protecting our allies.”

Sauron seemed impressed. “Tell me what your plan is.”

“I need someone to test it on,” replied Angwë. “Like the Brood Fungus, it has a life cycle and can reproduce itself. The trouble with the plagues you and Morgoth create is that you forget that the motes are living creatures. I can use this.”

“What do you mean?” asked Sauron, his wizened brow furrowing with anger. “You knew nothing of this until I let you examine it and now you are insulting myself and our lord!”

“And now that I do I see things that have not occurred to you because they have no value for you,” retorted Angwë. “Why are you so defensive about this?”

Rautanor, who had been standing to one side observing the exchange between the brothers, stepped forward. “Sauron,” he asked, “what would you like me to do?”

Both Sauron and Angwë looked at him. Sauron looked back at Angwë. “What more do you require of me?” he asked.

“Someone to test this on,” replied Angwë, “some rats and fleas.”

“My prisoners were released by that Elf-woman,” said Sauron. “But at Angband there is always someone in chains.”

“Then we shall go there,” said Angwë.

Sauron looked around warily. “I cannot go looking like this,” he declared. “What will people think? They will see what I have become, and I cannot bear the thought of that.”

“Then you will have to drop your hame,” said Angwë. “Why be embodied at all?”

“Because,” replied Sauron, drawing himself up to his full height, “I have no desire to be mistaken for Artíre the Watcher!”

“Aye,” Rautanor added. “That sneaking usurper crept in here to destroy my master, aiding that Elf-woman Lúthien.* She could not possibly have managed such a feat by herself!”

“Why have you just changed the subject? I did not come here to discuss your quarrels with other Maiar, and do not wish to be drawn into your intrigues, Sauron,” said Angwë, his patience stretching thin, “I have heard the rumours going back and forth. But Artíre is in favour with our master so if you wish to conduct a feud with him, you will not have Morgoth's blessing to do so – and I have no intention of displeasing our master.”

“So you will not aid me against him,” said Sauron, “though you know what he has done to me.”

The look of bitter betrayal on Sauron's face as he glared at his brother was so comical Angwë found it hard to take the Deceiver seriously. “I know about the feud and the rumours,” the Balrog replied, “but nothing of a plot against you, Sauron. I know little of the Watcher and his doings, and have no interest in your problems with him. Besides, if there was any truth in the tales, would he not have finished you off when he had the chance?”

Sauron turned away.

“Well?” asked Angwë.

An awkward silence filled the room.

“He does not know how,” conceded Rautanor.

“This feud of yours seems to be a rather one-sided affair,” observed Angwë, “since he can but weaken you for a short time, while you can destroy him if you can find him. His only advantage appears to be that he is good at hiding. He is not known for any feats of magic or skill at making things.”

“Why do you not care for Sauron?” whined Rautanor.

Angwë turned and faced the Maiar, flaring his wings and glowing dangerously. “I came here to get the help I need to obey our master, and you have tried to inveigle me into taking part in some pointless feud. I will not be distracted from my task. Your problems are your own; and from what I understand, they are of your own making. If you will not aid me, I shall leave this place and find a way to make this plague by myself.”

A low growl rumbled round the room. Rautanor appeared to melt, shifting like soft toffee into another shape. His face stretched, pointing, and his mouth spread into an evil grin. Thick wiry fur sprouted from his hands and face as his body contorted. In the blink of an eye, a great Werewolf stood snarling at Angwë, ready to do battle with him.

Bursting into flame, Angwë flicked his right hand, and a sword sprang forth as if it had always been there. In his left hand, a whip flipped out and cracked on the floor right in front of Sauron. Angwë roared his challenge, and Rautanor howled with rage as he prepared to pounce at Angwë's throat.

“Stop this!” shouted Sauron. “Is it not bad enough that we are beset with enemies? Why must we fight amongst ourselves?”

The other two Maiar looked at Sauron. It would be so easy to pounce on him now that he was weak, but Sauron held his ground and faced the combatants. Rautanor morphed, returning to his usual Man-like shape. Angwë's fires went out and his weapons receded.

“That is better,” Sauron said, fuming.

The chemicals in the jars and other vessels were steaming and some of the contents were overflowing. The fire beneath the alembic was blazing away, and the worktop was scorched.

“See what you have done! I will aid you, Angwë, but I want you to help restore me to what I was before. This is the price of my aid!” said Sauron.

“I will do what I can,” replied Angwë, “and no more.”

Sauron sighed.

Rautanor rushed around the room putting out the small fires that had broken out and cleaning up the mess from the chemical spills.

Sauron turned to his brother. “I will find other work for my aide to do,” he said. “I do not want our squabbles to become any greater than what they are.”

“Neither do I,” replied Angwë. “Let us put aside our differences, then.”

“Very well,” said Sauron. “I shall drop my hame and go unclad to Angband, but when I am there I will need a body if I am going to help you.”

“You shall have everything you need, brother,” Angwë replied.

“Then let us go,” said Sauron, and prepared to leave.

Angwë grinned. Plans for the plague were taking shape already, and though he did not fully understand the nature of the plague motes, he knew enough to put his plan to deadly effect.

TBC...

~~~

*The events described here are my version of the story of the theft of the Silmaril from Morgoth's crown in Artíre's Revenge.

A/N: “Plague motes” refers to the bacteria Angwë intends to use, and the plague itself is Bubonic plague.


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