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The Plague
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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4
Production

A/N: Information about the plague flea's life cycle came from http: //www . insecta-inspecta . com/fleas/bdeath/Flea. html

A/N 2:My canon and fanon collide here. Maiar are spirit beings and don't need to have bodies. My idea is that making a body for themselves requires a certain amount of concentration to hold it together. To keep it together requires them to be bound to it. If the body is killed, then, the Maia would lose the portion of his being that was used to bind him to the body. If the process is repeated, the Maia would become diminished and end up being much weaker than before. To regain that strength, he would need to absorb power or energy from someone or something else. This explains the state Sauron is in, and why he can't just make the plague himself like he did before.


~~~

As they made their way to Angband, Angwë, Sauron and Rautanor stayed close together not because they were afraid of being attacked, but to conceal the extent of Sauron's diminishing from the other servants of Morgoth. Sauron's enemies were legion, and he knew that the slightest sign of weakness would be laughed about all over the evil realm.

When they arrived, Angwë ushered them quickly inside and brought them to his workshop. There he assembled all the equipment he needed to start work on the plague at once. Sauron set up the bowls and vessels while Rautanor assisted him. Angwë went looking for motes similar to the ones he had seen at Taur-nu-Fuin, and brought back some that looked promising. He gave the samples to Sauron, who put them into different bowls according to their types.

“I cannot transform these by the power of my will as I am now,” said Sauron, “and Rautanor does not understand these matters. You said you have the knowledge to do this, Angwë.”

Angwë took one of the bowls and gazed at it, allowing his consciousness to sink into it. He could feel the motes as if he had shrunk right down and was among them. They looked like veined purple bean pods to him.

“Those ones cause illness in Men, but are not as effective at killing them as the ones I developed,” said Sauron.

“I shall attempt to transform them,” said Angwë, and he concentrated on the contents of the bowl, trying to understand the nature of the motes.

He could see that they grew inside living creatures. What he wanted was for them to hunger for the flesh of Men, but since they lived in the guts of carrion eaters, he knew that putting them into the wells and rivers that Men drew their supplies from was the only way to make sure Men received them. The idea he had conceived in Taur-nu-fuin was to capture some small creatures and infect them with the disease. However, there was a risk that the infected rats he intended to use would die before they reached Men. What could he do? Angwë's thoughts turned to the hosts he intended to use. He went to catch a few rats to examine for his purposes.

Sauron and Rautanor took the vessel he had left behind. “He has made no changes at all,” said Rautanor. “He said he was going to transform them. Now he has gone to tell our master that he has made a great discovery so he can take credit for the work you have done, Sauron.”

“He mentioned getting rats to use for an experiment,” said Sauron. He was becoming suspicious of his aide, who always seemed to be finding fault with someone.

“Of course he did,” Rautanor drawled, arching an eyebrow. He was embodied in his Man-like form, and looked strong and well in sharp contrast to Sauron's shrivelled hame. “And he is coming back with our master to show him how diminished you are since Artíre the Watcher committed his treachery! You will see soon enough whether I am right or not.”

“Rautanor,” said Sauron, facing his aide, “I have been engaged in a feud with Artíre for two ages because of the things you told me about him. You kept telling me he was a threat and now he very well may be one. When Angwë came to ask for my aid and promised to get our master to help me to regain my strength, you decided that he must be an enemy too, though you have not told me what his contention with me is. How many more enemies will I have in the end? I cannot fight them all.”

“Artíre did betray you, Sauron,” insisted Rautanor. “Angwë spoke disparagingly of you at your very gates, so I doubt his loyalty towards you. I have only ever acted in your best interests.”

“That remains to be seen, Rautanor,” said Sauron. “But my enemies are increasing here in Angband. Did I not have enough of them before? You are too eager to pick on the slightest show of disagreement and present it as sedition! A molehill is made into a mountain if there is an opportunity to get someone into trouble with myself or with our master. Did you think I had not noticed your love of provocation, particularly if there is a chance of someone being destroyed – so you can take your share of them? I know where you were the night that Elf-woman Lúthien came to contend with me – feasting on the flesh of Finrod!”

“That is unfair!” shouted Rautanor, backing away.

“I knew there was a reason you appeared to be weaker than before in the aftermath of the attack of the Eagles,” persisted Sauron. “One of the others told me they found the body of a wolf in the caverns near where the prisoners were held, and that the Elf's corpse was nearby. Did he slay you as you tried to devour him, Rautanor?”

“I have given up everything for the advancement of your realm on Middle-earth,” replied Rautanor, who was up against the wall at this point. “What more can I do for you?”

“Stop ridding me of people I find useful!” snapped Sauron. “I am surprised you did not blame Artíre for your diminishing, but for mine.”

Rautanor sighed and closed his eyes. “I was indeed in the cavern, and yes, I was there to devour the Elf. I was surprised to find that after being starved and kept from sleep, he was able to fight me at all, but he slew me by biting my throat. It was as if someone else was controlling him, now that I think of it...”

Sauron shot him a warning look.

The Maia gathered his thoughts and continued, “Whatever gave him the strength, the Elf killed the form I had taken on. The shock of death took me, and I fell back, aghast. It was like being wrenched through a narrow pipe by the throat. Suddenly, I had no feeling, no sight or sound. All my senses were gone, and I was blind and naked. As I tumbled around trying to take form again, I became aware of the thrum of power. Something strong was approaching, and I could feel the footsteps of doom. I hid, just as I was, in a crevice and waited for the worst to come while I gathered my strength in the hope of putting up a good fight.

“The Man wept over his friend instead of trying to escape, and the sensation of approaching power grew stronger. Then the singing began, and I heard the tumult of battle. As I hid, I became aware of the presence of a Maia, and observed him crawling through a crack in the roof of the cavern to a spot under the bridge. I sensed his curiosity and love of conflict, Sauron; it could not have been anyone other than Artíre. There is no other Maia like him in all of Eä and you know it! His focus was on the battle between you and Huan, and I was aware of the spell he used to bind you to the forms you took because it was the one you taught me. It was a while before I could take form again, such was my confusion after falling to the Elf in the cavern, so there was nothing I could do about it.”

Sauron sat back and digested this report. Rautanor was rarely so honest with him, and never admitted to weakness. He had no choice but to believe it. “It would be counter-productive to continue my feud with the Watcher at the moment,” he said, “but when I get a chance to strike back at him, I will take it!”

Angwë came back to the workshop carrying a small cage full of rats. He was excited, and eager to share his discovery with his brother. “Sauron,” he gloated, “I have discovered how to carry the plague to Men using rats!”

“How?” asked Sauron, a sour expression on his wizened face.

“In the fleas!” exulted Angwë. “They carry the plague within them, and bite the rats. The rats carry the plague in their blood, and when the fleas leave them to move to other hosts, the plague spreads. Dogs and other furry creatures can carry it to Men – and you know how they love their animal companions!”

“But the hosts would catch the disease unless you gave them some immunity to it,” argued Sauron.

“Ah,” said Angwë gleefully, “the fleas do but carry it. The motes dwell inside the fleas, and they go from one host to another to feed on their blood. The motes are transferred to the hosts when the fleas bite them. A single female flea can mate once and lay eggs every day - up to fifty eggs per day. They can live for a year!”

Sauron looked at his brother, clearly impressed. “How did you learn all this so quickly, brother?” he asked.

“By simple observation, brother,” Angwë replied, wagging a knowing finger. “The best thing about it is that the eggs can lie dormant for months. Imagine a flea's egg lying in the dirt or in a crack in a floor somewhere, waiting for the right conditions. When the weather is warm, it hatches, and a few months later, a flea springs forth to land upon its unsuspecting host. It then jumps from host to host and soon infects them all!”

“How can you have learned all this in a matter of hours, though?” asked Rautanor in a suspicious tone.

“Because,” said Angwë in his most smug voice, “we have the ideal conditions here in Angband. It is always warm and there are many hosts for the fleas to feed on. In a matter of hours, I have been able to observe the entire life cycle.”

“So what was the importance of remembering that the motes are living creatures?” asked Sauron. His brow was furrowed and his expression was one of truncated comprehension.

“Because they, too, thrive in the right conditions,” said Angwë. “All of these things work together. In the springtime we shall unleash a great horror upon this Middle-earth.”

“So what can I do to help?” asked Sauron, looking somewhat concerned. “Have you not discovered all there is to know about these things?”

“You alone can understand the subtleties of these matters, Sauron. You told me yourself. I go now to bring our master here. I will explain it to him and ask for his help to transform the motes, and I will tell him we cannot do this without your knowledge. That way I shall keep my word to you and we will both be rewarded.”

Sauron nodded.

Angwë left with alacrity, looking insufferably pleased with himself.

As soon as his brother was gone, Sauron dropped his hame. It would not do to let his master see him as he now appeared when embodied.

Some time later, Morgoth came to the workshop.

Rautanor and Sauron stood to attention.

“Show me this thing you have made, Angwë,” commanded Morgoth.

“It is not yet ready, master,” said Angwë. “We need thine aid for thou art stronger than us all, and thou hast the greater portion of power.”

“That I do,” replied Morgoth, his vast form filling a large part of the room. “What is thy need?”

“See,” said Rautanor, stepping forward, “we have prepared the motes for thee to alter by the power of the Silmarils in thy crown. Change these, lord, to the form we require, that thy will may be done throughout Middle-earth.”

“And how shall I do that?” asked Morgoth, moving to take the vessel being held out to him by Rautanor.

“Put forth thy will through me,” offered Sauron, making his way towards his lord.

“Use the Silmarili as thou didst in the making of the Brood Fungus,” said Angwë.

Morgoth hesitated, looking intently at Sauron for a moment. Then he moved so that Sauron could stand in front of him. He focussed his power through Sauron into the vessel so the purple motes turned yellow and became like bean pods in appearance. A hunger for the cells that protected the body from infection was born in them, and their nature was altered so that they could dwell wherever a supply of blood could be found.

The power coursing through him was like being connected to a sustained bolt of lightning. Sauron could feel himself being filled by the strength of his lord's will and of the two Silmarili that remained in the iron crown. It was so exhilarating he nearly forgot to work on the motes, but he applied himself to the task until they were as he desired them to be. When Morgoth broke off the connection, Sauron was fully embodied and visibly stronger, having absorbed some of his master's power. The Deceiver's Elven form glowed like the moon did on a clear night, and when his master stepped away, Sauron bowed deeply.

“I see thou has gained some considerable benefit from mine efforts to alter the motes,” said Morgoth. “Art thou satisfied?”

“I am most grateful, my lord,” said Sauron as he rose. “And I will serve thee with greater fervour than before.”

“Be sure that thou dost,” said Morgoth, who appeared to be unconvinced. He glared suspiciously at the Maiar. “Orc breeding rates are too slow. Your next task shall be to increase them.”

“Yes, my lord,” said Sauron, with a bow.

The dark lord left the room without another word.

Angwë went to his workbench where the cage of rats was. By the force of his will, he moved the plague motes inside them, then he carried the cage out of the room.

When he had left, Sauron grinned triumphantly at Rautanor. “Well, it seems my dear brother has kept his word, and we are both in favour with our master again. I am much stronger now, and better able to re-establish my position with Morgoth.”

“I must concede that Angwë is no enemy, my lord,” said Rautanor, who looked decidedly uncomfortable. It was a well-known fact that Sauron was prone to holding grudges for every offence, whether real or imagined.

“Well, not to me,” replied Sauron. “That plague will prove to be most effective, I deem.”

A knock on the door caught the attention of the Maiar. An Orc poked his head around the corner. “Morgoth wants to see you in council,” he said, trembling at the sight of Sauron.

“Let us go, Rautanor,” said Sauron, putting an arm around his aide. “Our master desires our presence.”

They followed the Orc to the council chambers, each of them glad that whoever Morgoth considered to be his enemies, it was not either of them.

The End.

~~~

A/N: Lords and Lordship follows this story.


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