I, the Abhorred
by Sauron Gorthaur
The Elf's eyes were wide and red and his fear was a rank aura about him. That was something in which Mairon had proven to have a particular aptitude: sensing fear. Although, Mairon reflected, if the saying held true that practice makes perfect, then he supposed it was little wonder that he was the best.
There was always a moment before they broke, upon the very verge of despair, when he could see it in their eyes: a glassy look that strayed beyond the confines of the physical world, a vacant hopelessness that consumed them right before their wills shattered into a thousand shards, each one a piercing dagger of terror.
This Elf, however, had a long way to go before he reached the point of breaking. Afraid, yes, but also filled with churning anger and even hatred. He might have made a good orc, this one, Mairon mused, but Lord Melkor was no longer taking the trouble to corrupt new Elves for this particular use, not now that he had a thriving stock of his hideous minions from which to draw ample breeding material. After this initial interrogation, Mairon would determine whether it would be worthwhile to torture the prisoner for information, send him to Utumno for slave labor, or simply allow him to rot here in the deep dungeons of Angband.
Mairon leaned forward in his smooth, obsidian throne, resting his fingertips against his chin as he surveyed the prisoner kneeling on the black floor in front of him, flanked by two spear-holding orcish guards who kept their weapon points pressed painfully into the nér's lower back. Mairon could see several rips in his tunic and oozing wounds underneath where the guards' harsh prods had already pierced his flesh. His hands and feet were bound together with black iron and he wore a heavy collar that served no purpose beyond the utter degradation of its wearer. Mairon could see that he was shaking.
He pursed his lips thoughtfully. Interrogation such as this was an art, an intricate guessing game of strategy. Each prisoner was unique and much of the skill of his position came from determining (first) what each captive had best to offer and (second) how best to attain it. Some Elves needed little more than the threat of pain to shatter their wills – though Mairon had long ago discovered that unfortunately these were also the least likely to possess anything of true value – while others proved initially defiant but caved quickly under tactics of brute force, tortures that required little to no skill in the application. Others of a rare stronger will required a truly inventive and calculative mind to lead them down the path to their breaking point. A thin smile crossed Mairon's lips as he considered the fact that those who fought the hardest were often also the ones who in the end caved most spectacularly.
Minutes of slow, dark silence crept past as Mairon deduced what he could from the prisoner's seeming and simultaneously allowed the wretched creature to fester in his own fear. Finally finished with his initial observation, he leaned back in his throne and lowered his hand, tapping his fingers gently against the glass-smooth stone of his armrest. At a guess, he gauged that this Elf fell within his second mental category of prisoners, though it was possible that he might prove to be one of those third, stronger-willed types. In any case, it was usually best to begin with the basics.
"What is your name, Elf?" he asked quietly, the silence and immensity of the hall easily carrying his rich voice.
There was no reply from the prisoner, but his bound hands twitched almost unperceptively.
One of the guards dug his spear point into the Elf's side with a snarl. "Lord Mairon just asked you a question, filth."
Mairon raised a hand and flicked his fingers back, indicating for the guards to stand down. They did so with blunt obedience, withdrawing their spears and stepping backwards to leave the Elf kneeling alone before the dais, trickles of blood dripping forlornly down his flanks.
"All I want to know is your name," Mairon went on after several more seconds of silence, his tone professional, almost polite, as if to convey that his primary concern was concluding their business as pleasantly and efficiently as possible. "That is all I care to have at the moment. If you give me your name now, you will not be harmed and I will tell your guards to take you back to your cell where they will provide you with food and time to rest undisturbed. Or I can have my servants begin cutting your name out of you right now."
He paused just long enough to let the threat sink in and saw the muscles along the Elf's arms and jaw tense. The scent of fear grew stronger. "A silly thing for which to face torture, don't you think?" he continued. "I'm sure you hold things of much greater value than a name, things that will be more worth your time and strength. But a name, that is not so special, is it? Meaningless, really. We all have one or two, after all. What is yours, Elf?"
The Elf laughed then, a dry gurgle in the back of his throat, his head still lowered, red, sleepless eyes fixed on the floor, the dark knotted tangles of his hair thick about his pale, frightened face. Mairon frowned in concentration, calculating, appraising the sound. It had the ring of despair but not yet the kind that would benefit him or his Master. This was not yet the laugh of true brokenness, but rather the laugh of madness from one who knows he has nothing to lose and is yet still terrified of losing it.
At last, the Elf lifted his head, his wide eyes staring, that horrified laugh still bubbling off his lips like poison. He shook his head and spoke, his silvan accent sharp. "So you would have my name and you would take it by force if I will not give it? A little thing, you say, of such little consequence, not worth my time and strength. Yet, evidently, it is worth your time and strength to extract it. I am no fool and neither are you; we both know better. You will not stop with my name. You will try to take all that I am in the name of your master, and perhaps you will succeed. It does not matter if I resist you now or later; I will suffer regardless. Do you take me for such a fool that you think I do not know that death is now the only solace I shall find? My people know what happens to those who are swallowed up in the darkness of the Hunter."
His fingers writhed uselessly, as if trying to free himself from the relentless black metal encasing his wrists. Already his fingertips were tinged with blue.
Mairon kept his expression composed, smooth as the rock of his throne. This was not the first prisoner to answer him so, and the fact that this particular Elf had chosen the difficult path did not surprise him. He was clearly not one to fall blubbering on his face at the mere mention of pain. Mairon was not worried though. No prisoner went to waste, even if its sole use was feeding the ravening hunger of one of the evil spirits that Lord Melkor had bound to wolf form. But for now, a dungeon devoid of light, a starving belly, and the relentless gnawing fear of the unknown were skillful looseners of a defiant tongue, better sometimes even than knives.
He made a dismissive gesture. "If you will not cooperate with the will of Lord Melkor, then have it according to your own will, Elf. It is your choice. Guards, escort our nameless friend down to the dungeons and give him a while to think on the choice he has made. When I deem fit, I will meet with him again in the torture chambers and we shall see if he has changed his theme to better match Lord Melkor's discord. Take him from my sight now – he wearies me and I have more significant matters to attend to at the present than debating such a trivial matter. Oh, and guards…" he paused purposefully, "…this prisoner needn't reach his cell in one piece. If our friend can do without a name, I am sure he can also manage without a few fingers or toes."
A look of brutish delight lit the cruel orcish faces of the guards. And despite the Elf's bravado, Mairon was pleased to see a light of horrified panic ignite in his eyes, and his terror emanated from him in fetid waves. Mairon made no attempt to conceal the smirk that played at the corner of his lips.
The guards began to drag the Elf out, hauling on the merciless chains that already were beginning to cut into the prisoner's body. Despite the pain he was doubtlessly suffering, the nér seemed to shake himself out of his stupor of horror and started to struggle, fighting futilely against his inevitable fate as the orcs jeered at him and pulled harder.
They were nearly to the door when the Elf began to shout, straining backwards towards Mairon against his manacles and digging in his feet to delay his progress as much as possible. Mairon was used to such displays and curled his lip at the colorful curses spilling from the prisoner's mouth. He knew the Elf's goal, the same goal of all such captives: to have, if nothing else, the fleeting satisfaction of seeing Melkor's Black Captain riled. It was a satisfaction no prisoner had yet to experience. Mairon casually ignored the Elf, holding up his hand to admire how the torchlight glinted off the new ring he had recently forged which was now ensconced upon his left forefinger. What reason did he have to concern himself over the empty curses of one who was as the dead? Words were all the Elf had left at this point, and everyone in the room knew it.
The prisoner was all but out the door when the final strains of his rant reached Mairon. "You think you have won, but you know nothing. Nothing! Eru will not abandon us, and you and that dark monster you call a master will both fall. You will fall, Sauron!"
The name echoed through the dark hall, rebounding from the very shadows themselves. Mairon froze, his hand still suspended in the air. "What did you call me?"
The orcs paused, sensing their lord's refocused attention. The Elf tugged on his chains, regaining a little ground. His reddened eyes burned in his white face. "I call you what you are. You are Sauron."
Mairon's face remained smooth, but his eyes were suddenly fiery. "That is not my name, Elf. I am Lord Mairon and that is how I will be addressed."
The Elf lifted his chin, that despair-tinged laugh escaping him once again. "There is nothing admirable in you. You are Sauron," he repeated with renewed intensity.
Mairon's fists clenched as if of their own accord and to his surprise he found himself on his feet, trembling with wrath. "That is not my name!"
The Elf laughed again, the sound both maddened and maddening. "That is what all my people call you, Servant of the Dark One. We are the Quendi. We speak. We name. We know what you are. You are Sauron."
A violent hatred, a loathing of primal horror, rose up from within Mairon, rejecting that terrible name. But it was like a parasite; once uttered, it was as if it had buried itself inside him, becoming one with him, claiming him for its own. Somehow, irrevocably, whether he liked it or not, the name belonged to him now, or else he now belonged to it.
"I am not Sauron!" he screamed down at the Elf, rage and sudden terror pounding deep in his chest. "That is not my name!"
There was something new now in the Elf's eyes, not fear, but something just as old and powerful. The faintest hint of a despairing smile crossed his face, a type of humor that could be reached nowhere but upon death's door. "Oh, but I thought names were not so special. Meaningless, really. If that is so, then what does it matter what yours is?"
They were the last words the Elf ever spoke in that life. Mairon lashed out at him with a lightning-quick blow of his powers. His own burning will crushed the Elf's mind faster than he could have snapped his neck. The prisoner crumpled to the ground silently.
Mairon remained upon his dais, breath roaring through his flared nostrils. "Take that… that… filth and fling his corpse to the wolves," he ordered, the rage barely harnessed at the edge of his voice. He sat back down in a swirl of dark robes, his searing gaze flashing.
The orcs did as he commanded without hesitation, knowing the terrible extent of their lord's temper on those rare occasions when he was pushed beyond the limits of his iron-clad reserve. Within moments, there was no sound in the vast chamber save for the crackle of the torches and Mairon's own heavy breathing. He lifted his trembling hands and ran them through his long, dark hair.
We speak. We name. We know what you are.
You are Sauron.
Mairon closed his eyes, his jaw clenched, trying to brush away the incident as nothing but a minor annoyance, something that should be of no concern to one such as he. But deep, deep down, he knew something had forever changed within him.
He was Sauron now.