This was written as a surprise gift for Valinwhore on tumblr, whose art I found quite by accident several months ago now. As such, it is very inspired by the world she created and crafted in her own right with these characters we all love.
What is written here is set before Mairon's fall/seduction, and so takes place while he is still working in Aluë's forge. Let's pretend, shall we, that Melkor, while not allowed to really be there…ventures there anyway to seduce to the dark side - I mean be friends with - Mairon.
Fire that's closest kept
burns most of all
The pounding of his heavy hammer against the metal spread on the large anvil echoed through the forge, a rhythmic, molten clang to soothe away frustrations that continued to arise even as he worked. If only this damnable piece would form the correct shape - but it refused to obey the work of the hammer, and Mairon threw the instrument aside, instead taking large iron clasps to snatch the metal and toss the piece back into the fire to return it to a more pliable state. But instead of grabbing it back from the flames, he left it there and leaned back against the anvil, still hot from its previous use.
He reached out with his senses as he stood, feeling the blazing heat of the fire inside its containment. The energy of it came to life through his physical form, under his skin, and he closed his eyes briefly to hold it there for the faintest breath of a moment before releasing the power back into the forge where it belonged. After another second he moved forward and took the metal from the basin inside the fire again, that flicker of irritation flaring despite his effort to deny it as he found that single imperfection in his work refusing to relinquish such tight hold.
Even over the muted, thudding falls of the hammer against the edge of the long piece of metal, coaxing it into a sloped angle against the anvil, he heard footsteps in the hall, approaching his sanctuary at this very late hour. He did not bother pausing the downward swing of the hammer, and brought it up again even as he felt the presence of someone stopping in the doorway. The head of the tool slammed down against the stubborn gold, the sound of it meeting silence and wrapping around them both now, himself and the newcomer. Ignoring his visitor, he pulled his arm upward again.
"Rather late to keep the forge running, isn't it?"
The unexpected voice startled him much more than the sudden company, and Mairon was able to divert the fall of the hammer at the last moment before it connected with his fingers rather than the metal. He looked over his shoulder quickly, the hammer still held tightly in his hand angling toward the floor so the top hit the stone with a clang. "What are you doing here?" he snapped, voice tight with his frustrations now as they found someone to focus on.
"I was making my nightly rounds through these glorious halls," Melkor responded idly with a sly little smile. Mairon frowned. "I heard what could only have been you, working so hard, and came to see what project has you so enraptured."
"Rounds," he scoffed, only just catching the sneer before it crossed his lips. He lowered his attention to his anvil to watch the cooling metal, his eyes moving over it quickly only to find the same imperfections. His true anger was there, within the metal, and some of it died away as the gold rapidly lost its own heat. "You are not even permitted to be here with us. I am not sure what 'rounds' you think you can make through our home on a regular basis when you are so unwelcome by your kin."
"I can go wherever I please. The masters of this place certainly do not control me." Melkor waved his hand dismissively, not put off by the outwardly harsh words, and Mairon turned again to look at him.
"You are a terrible liar," he said, the words coming before he could truly think them through. He saw the faint wave of surprise come and go quickly across his companion's steady gaze, and his grip twisted around the hammer's steel handle. He did not look away. It was a refusal to back down from the growing challenge, though he was not quite sure why it had come so quickly - just as he was not sure at all why he wouldn't take those blithe words back, even if given the chance.
Melkor was quiet for a short moment before murmuring, "No, I am not."
Something fell between them then, as heavy as another blow of his hammer. Mairon felt it, a change in this dark unknown, and he understood it in a single breath as a shifting of knowledge, from one to the other, that no one had spoken to Melkor in quite this way before, that no one had seen through his facade so clearly and without effort, and made such simple comment on the fact. As an equal, perhaps, or as one unafraid of incurring wrath. Melkor stared at him with an indiscernible expression, waiting for an apology for his trespass, or rather simply to incite some form of discomfort until Mairon was forced to turn his gaze away, but he did neither of these things, holding the other's eyes easily with his own.
Finally - though it was truly only a very few seconds later - Melkor took a step forward into the room and broke the silence himself. "Tell me, then. What are you working on?"
"A belt," Mairon said, not hesitating now, and he released his hammer to lean against the anvil. He almost felt more free to speak, with the subtle change between them slowly still revealing itself, and Melkor came closer to peer down at the anvil on the other side. The gold strip was slowly cooling, its shape obvious as a long rounded piece meant to be attached to several more of the same to make a flat chain linked by smaller bands. "It is causing me a great deal of trouble. I think I may set it aside for something else."
Melkor reached out and touched the metal, not worried about the heat still intense within it. "Even this piece out of the whole is marvelous. Look at it, Mairon. Truly look at it." He picked up the strip with his hand and held it so the metal, still dull from the fire and hammer, caught the flickering light of the forge and many lanterns ensconced on the wall. "What do you see here that is causing you so much pain?"
Mairon stared at the gold, gleaming gently around the pale fingers encasing it, and sighed. Even held by someone else, he could feel the living pulse of the metal, the heat of the fire still alive inside it, and he held out his hand. Melkor placed the piece gently in his palm, releasing it to him. "It is not right," Mairon explained softly, his own fingers immediately finding the one place on the golden chain, just off from the center, that was not bending itself to his hammer in exactly the way he wished it to. "Just here," he said, voice falling to a whisper as he spoke more to his metal now, "it is wrong and I cannot fix it."
"And so you will not finish it?"
"No," was his immediate answer. "I will not."
"Who are you creating this belt for?" Melkor asked, taking the piece of chain from his hand back into his own to look at it himself again. Mairon watched him, letting out a short breath of annoyance as his work was so roughly handled by someone else, though he did not attempt to grab it. "Does the one making the commission demand such excellence from you? For I do not see any fault at all."
"Does it make any difference?" Mairon took a step back, closer to the fire to take in the strength of it. "A fault is a fault. I will not allow such things into any piece that leaves my forge."
"And that," Melkor replied quietly, still admiring the gold in his hand, "is why you are the most talented smith here." Mairon did not respond to what was obviously meant to be open flattery, and he turned his entire body to face the fire, instead focusing on the gently smouldering flames. "If there is no one expecting this completed product, might I put my claim upon it? If, of course, you do finish it."
"Absolutely not." He spun around from the flames again, eyes narrowed at the bold question.
Melkor looked at him, their gazes meeting fleetingly before his fell to the chain once more and set it on the anvil where it had been. Mairon relaxed just slightly as he took a step back.
"Such a shame. Not," he added when Mairon was about to interrupt, "not because I wish you to keep working on this piece specifically. No, you should put your effort into whatever your talent calls you to." He paused to grin at him, and Mairon crossed his arms around his abdomen, unmoved. "I ask because your work is too lovely with its perfection not to be worn."
The words hung between them, waiting to be addressed, and Mairon reached for his hammer, still resting against the anvil. "I would like to return to work."
"On your belt?"
"Perhaps," he replied waspishly, using his free hand to take the gold and toss it into the waiting fire. "Or perhaps it is time for a new project." He watched the gentle flames for a long moment, listening as the silence stretched. Melkor was still standing behind him, his presence just as intense as that of the heating metal.
"I work best alone," Mairon added quietly.
"A dismissal if ever I heard one," Melkor said with a small laugh. "Do not mind me, then, I will leave you to your hammer and fire. I do not enjoy the heat of this place, anyway. I would much appreciate leaving for the cool night air."
There was another lie there, spoken clearly within the easy flow of words, and Mairon glanced over his shoulder as Melkor left the room. Whether that lie was in regard to the heat of the forge, or not wanting to leave - he turned his attention back to his task at hand, no longer wishing to think on it. His peace was here, before him, with fire and metal. That was all that mattered, weaving and working his energy into his craft.
Nothing else was as important in that moment, as the fire.