6. The Theft of Melko and the Darkening of Valinor

Now came Eriol home to the Cottage of Lost Play, and his love for all the things that he saw about him and his desire to understand them all became more deep. Continually did he thirst to know yet more of the history of the Eldar; nor did he ever fail to be among those who fared each evening to the Room of the Tale-fire; and so on a time when he had already sojourned some while as a guest of Vaire and Lindo it so passed that Lindo at his entreaty spake thus from his deep chair:

'Listen then, O Eriol, if thou wouldst know how it so came that the loveliness of Valinor was abated, or the Elves might ever be constrained to leave the shores of Eldamar. It may well be that you know already that Melko dwelt in Valmar as a servant in the house of Tulkas in those days of the joy of the Eldalie; there did he nurse his hatred of the Gods, and his consuming jealousy of the Eldar, but it was his lust for the beauty of the gems for all his feigned indifference that in the end overbore his patience and caused him to design deep and evilly.

Now the Noldoli alone at those times had the art of fashioning these beautiful things, and despite their rich gifts to all whom they loved the treasure they possessed of them was beyond count the greatest, wherefore Melko whenever he may consorteth with them, speaking cunning words. In this way for long he sought to beg gifts of jewels for himself, and maybe also catching the unwary to learn something of their hidden art, but when none of these devices succeeded he sought to sow evil desires and discords among the Gnomes, telling them that lie concerning the Council when the Eldar were first bidden to Valinor. "Slaves are ye," he would say, "or children, an you will, bidden play with toys and seek not to stray or know too much. Good days mayhap the Valar give you, as ye say; seek but to cress their walls and ye shall know the hardness of their hearts. Lo, they use your skill, and to your beauty they hold fast as an adornment of their realms. This is not love, but selfish desire — make test of it. Ask for your inheritance that Iluvatar designed for you — the whole wide world to roam, with all its mysteries to explore, and all its substances to be material of such mighty crafts as never can be realised in these narrow gardens penned by the mountains, hemmed in by the impassable sea."

Hearing these things, despite the true knowledge which Noleme had and spread abroad, there were many who hearkened with half their hearts to Melko, and restlessness grew amongst them, and Melko poured oil on their smouldering desires. From him they learnt many things it were not good for any but the great Valar to know, for being halfcomprehended such deep and hidden things slay happiness; and besides many of the sayings of Melko were cunning lies or were but partly true, and the Noldoli ceased to sing, and their viols fell silent upon the hill of Kôr, for their hearts grew somewhat older as their lore grew deeper and their desires more swollen, and the books of their wisdom were multiplied as the leaves of the forest. For know that in those days Aule aided by the Gnomes contrived alphabets and scripts, and on the walls of Kôr were many dark tales written in pictured symbols, and runes of great beauty were drawn there too or carved upon stones, and Eärendel read many a wondrous tale there long ago, and mayhap still is many a one still there to read, if it be not corrupted into dust. The other Elves heeded these things not over much, and were at times sad and fearful at the lessened gladness of their kinsmen. Great mirth had Melko at this and wrought in patience biding his time, yet no nearer did he get to his end, for despite all his labours the glory of the Trees and the beauty of the gems and the memory of the dark ways from Palisor held back the Noldoli — and ever Noleme spake against Melko, calming their restlessness and discontents.

At length so great became his care that he took counsel with Fëanor, and even with Inwe and Ellu Melemno (who then led the Solosimpi), and took their rede that Manwe himself be told of the dark ways of Melko. And Melko knowing this was in great anger against the Gnomes, and going first before Manwe bowed very low, and said how the Noldoli dared murmur to his ears against Manwe's lordship, claiming that in skill and beauty they (whom Iluvatar had destined to possess all the earth) far surpassed the Valar, for whom they must labour unrecompensed. Heavy was Manwe's heart at these words, for he had feared long that that great amity of the Valar and Eldar be ever perchance broken, knowing that the Elves were children of the world and must one day return to her bosom. Nay, who shall say but that all these deeds, even the seeming needless evil of Melko, were but a portion of the destiny of old?

Yet cold was the Lord of the Gods to the informer, and lo! even as he questioned him further the embassy of Noleme came thither, and being granted leave spake the truth before him. By reason of the presence of Melko perchance they spoke somewhat less skilfully in their own cause than they might, and perchance even the heart of Manwe Sulimo was tainted with the poison of Melko's words, for that venom of Melko's malice is very strong and subtle indeed.

Howbeit, both Melko and the Noldoli were chidden and dismissed. Melko indeed was bidden get him back to Mandos and there dwell awhile in penitence, nor dare to walk in Valmar for many moons, not until the great festival that now approached had come and gone; but Manwe fearing lest the pollution of their discontent spread among the other kindreds commanded Aule to find other places and thither lead the Noldoli, and build them a new town where they might dwell.

Great was the sorrow upon the hill of Kôr when those tidings were brought thither, and though all were wroth with the treachery of Melko, yet was there now a new bitterness against the Gods, and the murmuring louder than before. A little stream, and its name was Hiri, ran down from the hills, northward of the opening to the coast where Kôr was built, and it wandered thence across the plain no one knew whither. Maybe it found the Outer Seas, for north of the roots of Silpion it dived into the earth and there was a rugged place and a rock-ringed dale; and here the Noldoli purposed to abide, or rather to await the passing of wrath from Manwe's heart, for in no way as yet would they accept the thought of leaving Kôr for ever.

Caves they made in the walls of that dale, and thither they bore their wealth of gems, of gold and silver and fair things; but their ancient homes in Kôr were empty of their voices, filled only with their paintings and their books of lore, and the streets of Kôr and all the ways of Valmar shone still with gems and carven marbles telling of the days of the happiness of the Gnomes that cometh now upon its waning.

Now Melko gets him gone to Mandos, and far from Valinor he plans rebellion and vengeance upon both Gnomes and Gods. Indeed, dwelling for nigh three ages in the vaults of Mandos Melko had made friends to himself of certain gloomy spirits there and perverted them to ill, promising them great lands and regions on the Earth for their having if they aided him when he called on them in need; and now he gathers them to him in the dark ravines of the mountains about Mandos. Thence sends he spies, invisible as fleeting shades when Silpion is in bloom, and learns of those doings of the Noldoli and of all that passes in the plain.

Now soon after it chanced indeed that the Valar and Eldar held a great feast, even that one that Manwe had spoken of, bidding Melko rid Valmar of his presence at that time; for know that they made merry on one day every seventh year to celebrate the coming of the Eldar into Valinor, and every third year a lesser feast to commemorate the coming of the white fleet of the Solosimpi to the shores of Eldamar; but at every twenty-first year when both these feasts fell together they held one of the greatest magnificence, and it endured for seven days, and for this cause such years were called "Years of Double Mirth"; and these feasts all the Kôreldar wherever they now may be in the wide world still do celebrate. Now that feast that approacheth is one of Double Mirth, and all the hosts of the Gods and Elves made ready to celebrate it most gloriously. Pomps there were and long processions of the Elves, dancing and singing, that wound from Kôr to Valmar's gates. A road had been laid against this festival from the westward gate of Kôr even to the turrets of the mighty arch which opened in the walls of Valmar northward towards the Trees. Of white marble it was and many a gentle stream flowing from the far mountains crossed its path. Here it would leap into slender bridges marvellously fenced with delicate balustrades that shone like pearls; scarcely did these clear the water, so that lilies of great beauty growing upon the bosom of the streams that fared but gently in the plain thrust their wide blossoms about its borders and iris marched along its flanks; for by cunning delving runnels of clearest water were made to flow from stream to stream bordering that whole long way with the cool noise of rippling water. At places mighty trees grew on either side, or at places the road would open to a glade and fountains spring by magic high into the air for the refreshment of all who sped that way.

Now came the Teleri led by the white-robed people of the Inwir, and the throbbing of their congregated harps beat the air most sweetly; and after them went the Noldoli mingling once more with their own dear folk by Manwe's clemency, that his festival might be duly kept, but the music that their viols and instruments awoke was now more sweetly sad than ever before. And last came the people of the shores, and their piping blent with voices brought the sense of tides and murmurous waves and the wailing cry of the coast-loving birds thus inland deep upon the plain.

Then was all that host marshalled before the gate of Valmar, and at the word and sign from Inwe as one voice they burst in unison into the Song of Light. This had Lirillo written and taught them, and it told of the longing of the Elves for light, of their dread journey through the dark world led by the desire of the Two Trees, and sang of their utmost joy beholding the faces of the Gods and their renewed desire once more to enter Valmar and tread the Valar's blessed courts. Then did the gates of Valmar open and Nornore bid them enter, and all that bright company passed through. There Varda met them, standing amid the companies of the Manir and the Suruli, and all the Gods made them welcome, and feasts there were in all the great halls thereafter.

Now their custom was on the third day to robe themselves all in white and blue and ascend to the heights of Taniquetil, and there would Manwe speak to them as he thought fit of the Music of the Ainur and the glory of Iluvatar, and of things to be and that had been. And on that day would Kôr and Valmar be silent and still, but the roof of the world and the slope of Taniquetil shine with the gleaming raiment of the Gods and Elves, and all the mountains echo with their speech — but afterward on the last day of merriment the Gods would come to Kôr and sit upon the slopes of its bright hill, gazing in love upon that slender town, and thereafter blessing it in the name of Iluvatar would depart ere Silpion came to bloom; and so would end the days of Double Mirth. But in this fateful year Melko dared of his blasphemous heart to choose that very day of Manwe's speech upon Taniquetil for the carrying out of his designs; for then would Kôr and Valmar and the rock-ringed dale of Sirnumen be unguarded: for against whom indeed had Elf or Vala need to guard in those old days?

Creeping then down with his dark people on the third day of Samirien, as that feast was named, he passed the dark halls of Makar's abode (for even that wild Vala had gone to Valmar to honour the time, and indeed all of the Gods went there saving Fui and Vefantur only, and Osse even was there, dissembling for those seven days his feud and jealousy with Ulmo). Here does a thought come to Melko's heart, and he arms himself and his band stealthily with swords very sharp and cruel, and this was well for them: for now do they all steal into the vale of Sirnumen where the Noldoli had their present dwelling, and behold the Gnomes by reason of the workings in their hearts of Melko's own teaching had become wary and suspicious beyond the wont of the Eldar of those days. Guards of some strength were set over the treasures there that went not to the feast, albeit this was contrary to the customs and ordinances of the Gods. Now is there suddenly bitter war awake in the heart of Valinor and those guards are slain, even while the peace and gladness upon Taniquetil afar is very great — indeed for that reason none heard their cries. Now Melko knew that it was indeed war for ever between himself and all those other folk of Valinor, for he had slain the Noldoli — guests of the Valar — before the doors of their own homes. With his own hand indeed he slew Bruithwir father of Fëanor, and bursting into that rocky house that he defended laid hands upon those most glorious gems, even the Silmarils, shut in a casket of ivory. Now all that great treasury of gems he despoiled, and lading himself and all his companions to the utmost he seeks how he may escape.

Know then that Orome had great stables and a breeding ground of good horses not so far from this spot, where a wild forest land had grown up. Thither Melko steals, and a herd of black horses he captures, cowing them with the terror that he could wield. Astride those his whole company of thieves rides far away, after destroying what things of lesser value they deemed it impossible to carry thence. Making a wide circuit and faring with the speed of hurricanes such as only the divine horses of Orome ridden by the children of the Gods could compass they pass far to the west of Valmar in the untracked regions where the light of the Trees was thin. Long ere the folk had come down from Taniquetil and long ere the end of the feast or ever the Noldoli fared back to find their homes despoiled, Melko and his thieves were ridden to the deep south, and finding there a low place in the hills they passed into the plains of Eruman. Well might Aule and Tulkas bemoan their carelessness in leaving that low place long ago when they reared those hills to fend all evil from the plain — for that was the place where they were accustomed to enter Valinor after their quarryings in the fields of Arvalin. It is said indeed that this riding in a half-circle, laborious and perilous as it was, was at first no part of Melko's design, for rather had he purposed to get to northward over the passes nigh to Mandos; but this he was warned might not be done, for Mandos and Fui never left those realms, and all the ravines and chasms of the northward mountains were infested with their folk, nor for all his gloom was Mandos any rebel against Manwe or an abetter of evil deeds.

Far to the north if one may endure the colds as Melko could it is said in ancient lore that the Great Seas narrow to a little thing, and without aid of ships Melko and his company might thus have got into the world safely; but this was not done, and the sad tale took its appointed course, or the Two Trees might yet have shone and the Elves sung still in Valinor.

At length that daytide of festival is over and the Gods are turned back towards Valmar, treading the white road from Kôr. The lights twinkle in the city of the Elves and peace dwells there, but the Noldoli fare over the plain to Sirnumen sadly. Silpion is gleaming in that hour, and ere it wanes the first lament for the dead that was heard in Valinor rises from that rocky vale, for Fëanor laments the death of Bruithwir; and many of the Gnomes beside find that the spirits of their dead have winged their way to Ve. Then messengers ride hastily to Valmar bearing tidings of the deeds, and there they find Manwe, for he has not yet left that town for his abode upon Taniquetil.

"Alas, O Manwe Sulimo," they cry, "evil has pierced the Mountains of Valinor and fallen upon Sirnumen of the Plain. There lies Bruithwir sire of Fëanor dead and many of the Noldoli beside, and all our treasury of gems and fair things and the loving travail of our hands and hearts through many years is stolen away. Whither O Manwe whose eyes see all things? Who has done this evil, for the Noldoli cry for vengeance, O most just one!"

Then said Manwe to them: "Behold O Children of the Noldoli, my heart is sad towards you, for the poison of Melko has already changed you, and covetice has entered your hearts. Lo! had ye not thought your gems and fabrics of better worth than the festival of the folk or the ordinances of Manwe your lord, this had not been, and Bruithwir go-Maidros and those other hapless ones still had lived, and your jewels been in no greater peril. Nay, my wisdom teaches me that because of the death of Bruithwir and his comrades shall the greatest evils fall on Gods and Elves, and Men to be. Without the Gods who brought you to the light and gave you all the materials of your craft, teaching your first ignorance, none of these fair things you love now so well ever would have been; what has been done may again be done, for the power of the Valar does not change; but of more worth than all the glory of Valinor and all the grace and beauty of Kôr is peace and happiness and wisdom, and these once lost are harder to recapture. Cease then to murmur and to speak against the Valar, or to set yourselves in your hearts as equals to their majesty; rather depart now in penitence knowing full well that Melko has wrought this evil against you, and that your secret trafficking with him has brought you all this loss and sorrow. Trust him not again therefore, nor any others that whisper secret words of discontent among you, for its fruit is humiliation and dismay."

And the embassy was abashed and afraid and went back unto Sirnumen utterly cast down; yet was Manwe's heart heavier than theirs, for things had gone ill indeed, and yet he foresaw that worse would be; and so did the destinies of the Gods work out, for lo! to the Noldoli Manwe's words seemed cold and heartless, and they knew not his sorrow and his tenderness; and Manwe thought them strangely changed and turned to covetice, who longed but for comfort, being like children very full of the loss of their fair things.

Now Melko findeth himself in the wastes of Arvalin and knoweth not how he may escape, for the gloom there is very great, and he knoweth not those regions that stretch there unto the utmost south. Therefore he sent a messenger claiming the inviolable right of a herald (albeit this was a renegade servant of Mandos whom Melko had perverted) over the pass to Valinor, and there standing before the gates of Valmar he demanded audience of the Gods; and it was asked of him whence he came, and he said from Ainu Melko, and Tulkas would have hurled stones at him from the walls and slain him, but the others as yet suffered him not to be mishandled, but despite their anger and loathing they admitted him to the great square of gold that was before Aule's courts. And at the same hour riders were sent to Kôr and to Sirnumen summoning the Elves, for it was guessed that this matter touched them near. When all was made ready the messenger took stand beside the needle of pure gold whereon Aule had written the story of the kindling of the Tree of gold (in Lorien's courts stood one of silver with another tale), and on a sudden Manwe said: "Speak!" and his voice was as a clap of wrathful thunder, and the courts rang, but the envoy unabashed uttered his message, saying:

"The Lord Melko, ruler of the world from the darkest east to the outer slopes of the Mountains of Valinor unto his kinsmen the Ainur. Behold, in compensation for divers grievous affronts and for long times of unjust imprisonment despite his noble estate and blood that he has at your hands suffered, now has he taken, as is due to him, certain small treasures held by the Noldoli, your slaves. Great grief is it to him that of these he has slain some, in that they would do him hurt in the evil of their hearts; yet their blasphemous intent will he now put from memory, and all the past injuries that ye the Gods have wrought him will he so far forget as once again to show his presence in that place that is called Valmar, if ye will hearken to his conditions and fulfil them. For know that the Noldoli shall be his servants and shall adorn him a house; moreover of right he does demand —" but hereon even as the herald lifted up his voice yet louder swelling with his words of insolence, so great became the wrath of the Valar that Tulkas and several of his house leapt down and seizing him stopped his mouth, and the place of council was in uproar. Indeed Melko had not thought to gain aught but time and the confusion of the Valar by this embassage of insolence.

Then Manwe bid him unhand the herald, but the Gods arose crying with one voice: "This is no herald, but a rebel, a thief, and a murderer." "He hath defiled the sanctity of Valinor," shouted Tulkas, "and cast his insolence in our teeth." Now the mind of all the Elves was as one in this matter. Hope they had none of the recovery of the jewels save by the capture of Melko, which was now a matter beyond hope, but they would have no parley with Melko whatsoever and would treat him as an outlaw and all his folk. (And this was the meaning of Manwe, saying that the death of Bruithwir would be the root of the greatest evil, for it was that slaying that most inflamed both Gods and Elves.)

To this end they spoke in the ears of Varda and Aule, and Varda befriended their cause before Manwe, and Aule yet more stoutly, for his heart was sore too for the theft of so many things of exquisite craft and workmanship; but Tulkas Poldorea needed no pleading, being hot with ire. Now these great advocates moved the council with their words, so that in the end it is Manwe's doom that word he sent back to Melko rejecting him and his words and outlawing him and all his followers from Valinor for ever. These words would he now speak to the envoy, bidding him begone to his master with them, but the folk of the Vali and the Elves would have none of it, and led by Tulkas they took that renegade to the topmost peak of Taniquetil, and there declaring him no herald and taking the mountain and the stars to witness of the same they cast him to the boulders of Arvalien so that he was slain, and Mandos received him into his deepest caves. Then Manwe seeing in this rebellion and their violent deed the seed of bitterness cast down his sceptre and wept; but the others spake unto Sorontur King of Eagles upon Taniquetil and by him were the words of Manwe sent to Melko: "Begone for ever, O accursed, nor dare to parley more with Gods or Elves. Neither shall thy foot nor that of any who serve thee tread the soil of Valinor again while the world endures."

And Sorontur sought out Melko and said as he was bidden, and of the death of his envoy he told too. Then Melko would have slain Sorontur, being mad with anger at the death of his messenger; and verily this deed was not in accord with the strict justice of the Gods, yet was the anger of those at Valmar sorely tempted; but Melko has ever cast it against the Gods most bitterly, twisting it into a black tale of wrong; and between that evil one and Sorontur has there ever since been hate and war, and that was most bitter when Sorontur and his folk fared to the Iron Mountains and there abode, watching all that Melko did.

Now Aule goeth to Manwe and speaketh enheartening words, saying how Valmar still stands and the Mountains are high and a sure bulwark against evil. "Lo! if Melko sets once more turmoils in the world, was he not bound in chains aforetime, and so may be again: — but behold, soon will I and Tulkas fill that pass that leads to Erumani and the seas, that Melko come not ever that way hither again." But Manwe and Aule plan to set guards about all those mountains until such time as Melko's deeds and places of abode without become known.

Then does Aule fall to speech with Manwe concerning the Noldoli, and he pleads much for them, saying that Manwe wrought with anxiety has done hardly by them, for that of Melko in sooth alone is the evil come, whereas the Eldar are not slaves nor servants but beings of a wondrous sweetness and beauty — that they were guests for ever of the Gods. Therefore does Manwe bid them now, an they will, go back to Kôr, and, if they so desire, busy themselves in fashioning gems and fabrics anew, and all things of beauty and cost that they may need in their labour shall be given to them even more lavishly than before.

But when Fëanor heard this saying, he said: "Yea, but who shall give us back the joyous heart without which works of loveliness and magic cannot be? — and Bruithwir is dead, and my heart also." Many nonetheless went then back to Kôr, and some semblance of old joy.is then restored, though for the lessened happiness of their hearts their labours do not bring forth gems of the old lustre and glory. But Fëanor dwelt in sorrow with a few folk in Sirnumen, and though he sought day and night to do so he could in no wise make other jewels like to the Silmarils of old, that Melko snatched away; nor indeed has any craftsman ever done so since. At length does he abandon the attempt, sitting rather beside the tomb of Bruithwir, that is called the Mound of the First Sorrow, and is well named for all the woe that came from the death of him who was laid there. There brooded Fëanor bitter thoughts, till his brain grew dazed by the black vapours of his heart, and he arose and went to Kôr. There did he speak to the Gnomes, dwelling on their wrongs and sorrows and their minished wealth and glory — bidding them leave this prison-house and get them into the world. "As cowards have the Valar become; but the hearts of the Eldar are not weak, and we will see what is our own, and if we may not get it by stealth we will do so by violence. There shall be war between the Children of Iluvatar and Ainu Melko. What if we perish in our quest? The dark halls of Ve be little worse than this bright prison." And he prevailed thus upon some to go before Manwe with himseIf and demand that the Noldoli be suffered to leave Valinor in peace and set safely by the Gods upon the shores of the world whence they had of old been ferried.

Then Manwe was grieved by their request and forbade the Gnomes to utter such words in Kôr if they desired still to dwell there among the other Elves; but then changing from harshness he told them many things concerning the world and its fashion and the dangers that were already there, and the worse that might soon come to be by reason of Melko's return. "My heart feels, and my wisdom tells me," said he, "that no great age of time will now elapse ere those other Children of Iluvatar, the fathers of the fathers of Men, do come into the world — and behold it is of the unalterable Music of the Ainur that the world come in the end for a great while under the sway of Men; yet whether it shall be for happiness or sorrow Iluvatar has not revealed, and I would not have strife or fear or anger come ever between the different Children of Iluvatar, and fain would I for many an age yet leave the world empty of beings who might strive against the new-come Men and do hurt to them ere their clans be grown to strength, while the nations and peoples of the Earth are yet infants." To this he added many words concerning Men and their nature and the things that would befall them, and the Noldoli were amazed, for they had not heard the Valar speak of Men, save very seldom; and had not then heeded overmuch, deeming these creatures weak and blind and clumsy and beset with death, nor in any ways likely to match the glory of the Eldalie. Now therefore, although Manwe had unburdened his heart in this way hoping that the Noldoli, seeing that he did not labour without a purpose or a reason, would grow calmer and more trustful of his love, rather were they astonished to discover that the Ainur made the thought of Men so great a matter, and Manwe's words achieved the opposite of his wish; for Fëanor in his misery twisted them into an evil semblance, when standing again before the throng of Kôr he spake these words:

"Lo, now do we know the reason of our transportation hither as it were cargoes of fair slaves! Now at length are we told to what end we are guarded here, robbed of our heritage in the world, ruling not the wide lands, lest perchance we yield them not to a race unborn. To these foresooth — a sad folk, beset with swift mortality, a race of burrowers in the dark, clumsy of hand, untuned to songs or musics, who shall dully labour at the soil with their rude tools, to these whom still he says are of Iluvatar would Manwe Sulimo lordling of the Ainur give the world and all the wonders of its land, all its hidden substances — give it to these, that is our inheritance. Or what is this talk of the dangers of the world? A trick to deceive us; a mask of words! O all ye children of the Noldoli, whomso will no longer be house-thralls of the Gods however softly held, arise I bid ye and get you from Valinor, for now is the hour come and the world awaits."

In sooth it is a matter for great wonder, the subtle cunning of Melko — for in those wild words who shall say that there lurked not a sting of the minutest truth, nor fail to marvel seeing the very words of Melko pouring from Fëanor his foe, who knew not nor remembered whence was the fountain of these thoughts; yet perchance the outmost origin of these sad things was before Melko himself, and such things must be — and the mystery of the jealousy of Elves and Men is an unsolved riddle, one of the sorrows at the world's dim roots. Howso these deep things be, the fierce words of Fëanor got him instantly a mighty following, for a veil there seemed before the hearts of the Gnomes — and mayhap even this was not without the knowledge of Iluvatar. Yet would Melko have been rejoiced to hear it, seeing his evil giving fruit beyond his hopes. Now however that evil one wanders the dark plains of Eruman, and farther south than anyone had yet penetrated he found a region of the deepest gloom, and it seemed to him a good place wherein for the time to hide his stolen treasure.

Therefore he seeks until he finds a dark cavern in the hills, and webs of darkness lie about so that the black air might be felt heavy and choking about one's face and hands. Very deep and winding were those ways, having a subterranean outlet on the sea as the ancient books say, and here on a time were the Moon and Sun imprisoned afterward, for here dwelt the primeval spirit Moru whom even the Valar know not whence or when she came, and the folk of Earth have given her many names. Mayhap she was bred of mists and darkness on the confines of the Shadowy Seas, in that utter dark that came between the overthrow of the Lamps and the kindling of the Trees, but more like she has always been; and she it is who loveth still to dwell in that black place taking the guise of an unlovely spider, spinning a clinging gossamer of gloom that catches in its mesh stars and moons and all bright things that sail the airs. Indeed it was because of her labours that so little of that overflowing light of the Two Trees flowed ever into the world, for she sucked light greedily, and it fed her, but she brought forth only that darkness that is a denial of all light. Ungwe Lianti the great spider who enmeshes did the Eldar call her, naming her also Wirilome or Gloomweaver, whence still do the Noldoli speak of her as Ungoliont the spider or as Gwerlum the Black.

Now between Melko and Ungwe Lianti was there friendship from the first, when she found him and his comrades straying in her caves, but Gloomweaver was ahungered of the brightness of that hoard of jewels so soon as she saw them.

Now Melko having despoiled the Noldoli and brought sorrow and confusion into the realm of Valinor through less of that hoard than aforetime, having now conceived a darker and deeper plan of aggrandisement; therefore seeing the lust of Ungwe's eyes he offers her all that hoard, saving only the three Silmarils, if she will abet him in his new design. This she granteth readily, and so came all that treasury of most lovely gems fairer than any others that the world has seen into the foul keeping of Wirilome, and was wound in webs of darkness and hidden deep in the caverns of the eastern slopes of the great hills that are the southern boundary of Eruman.

Deeming that now is the time to strike while Valinor is yet in uproar nor waiting for Aule and Tulkas to block the passage in the hills, Melko and Wirilome crept into Valinor and lay hidden in a valley of the foothills until Silpion was in bloom; but all the while was Gloomweaver spinning her most lightless webs and ill-enchanted shades. These she lets float down so that in place of the fair silver light of Silpion all about the western plain of Valinor there creeps now a dim uncertain darkness and faint lights waver in it. Then does she throw a black cloak of invisibility about Melko and herself and they steal across the plain, and the Gods are in wonder and the Elves in Kôr are afraid; nonetheless they do not as yet suspect the hand of Melko in this, thinking rather it is some work of Osse's, who at times with his storms caused great mists and darkness to be wafted off the Shadowy Seas, encroaching even the bright airs of Valinor; though in this he met the anger both of Ulmo and of Manwe. Then Manwe sent forth a sweet westerly breath wherewith he was accustomed at such times to blow all sea-humours back eastward over the waters, but such gentle breathing availed nothing against the woven night heavy and clinging that Wirilome had spread far abroad. Thus was it that unmarked Melko and the Spider of Night reached the roots of Laurelin, and Melko summoning all his godlike might thrust a sword into its beauteous stock, and the fiery radiance that spouted forth assuredly had consumed him even as it did his sword, had not Gloomweaver cast herself down and lapped it thirstily, plying even her lips to the wound in the tree's bark and sucking away its life and strength.

By accursed fortune this deed was not straightway marked, for it was the time of Laurelin's accustomed deepest repose; and now behold, never more would it wake to glory, scattering beauty and joy upon the faces of the Gods. Because of that great draught of light suddenly pride surged in Gwerlum's heart, and she heeded not Melko's warnings, but sate herself now nigh to the roots of Silpion and spouted forth evil fumes of night that flowed like rivers of blackness even to the gates of Valmar. Now Melko takes the weapon that remains to him, a knife, and will injure the bole of Silpion as much as time will allow; but a Gnome called Daurin (Turin) wandering from Sirnumen in great boding of ill sees him and makes for him, crying aloud. So great was the onrush of that impetuous Gnome that ere Melko is aware he has hewn at Wirilome where in the likeness of a spider she sprawls upon the ground. Now the slender blade that Daurin wielded came from the forge of Aule and was steeped in miruvor, or never had he done harm to that secret being, but now he cleaves one of her great legs, and his blade is stained with her black gore, a poison to all things whose life is light. Then Wirilome writhing throws a thread about him and he may not get free, and Melko ruthless stabs him. Then wresting that bright slender blade from his dying grasp he thrusts it deep into Silpion's trunk, and the poison of Gwerlum black upon it dried the very sap and essence of the tree, and its light died suddenly to a dismal glow lost in impenetrable dusk.

Then did Melko and Wirilome turn in flight, nor is it too soon, for some that were behind Daurin seeing his fate fled in terror both to Kôr and Valmar, stumbling madly in the darkness, but indeed already the Valar are riding forth upon the plain speeding as fast as may be yet too late to defend the Trees which they now know to be in danger.

Now do those Noldoli confirm their fears, saying how Melko is indeed the author of the mischief, and they have but one desire and that is to lay hands upon him and his accomplices ere they can escape beyond the mountains. Tulkas is in the van of that great hunt leaping surefooted in the dimness, and Orome may not keep up with him, for even his divine steed cannot rush as headlong in the gathering night as does Poldoreain the fire of his wrath. Ulmo hears the shouting in his house in Van, and Osse thrusteth his head above the Shadowy Seas and seeing no longer any light come down the valley of Kôr he leaps upon the beach of Eldamar and runs in haste to join the Ainur in their hunt. Now is the only light place left in Valinor that garden where the golden fountain sprang from Kulullin, and then were Vana and Nessa and Urwen and many maids and ladies of the Valar in tears, but Palurien girds her lord as he stands impatiently, and Varda has ridden forth from Taniquetil by her lord's side bearing a blazing star before him as a torch.

Telimektar son of Tulkas is with those noble ones, and his face and weapons gleam as silver in the dark, but now all the Gods and all their folk ride this way and that, and some have torches in their hands, so that the plain is full of pale wandering lights and the sound of voices hallooing in the dusk.

Even as Melko speeds away a vanguard of the chase sweeps by the Trees, and well nigh the Vali faint for anguish at the ruin they see there; but now Melko and certain of his comrades, aforetime children of Mandos, are separated from Ungwe, who wrapped in night gets her gone southward and over the mountains to her home, nor does that chase ever draw nigh to her; but the others flee northward with great speed, for Melko's comrades have knowledge of the mountains there, and hope to get him through. There came a place at length where the shadow-veils were thin and they were viewed by a scattered band of the Vali, and Tulkas was amongst them; who now with a great roar leaps at them.

Indeed it might have come to battle upon the plain betwixt Tulkas and Melko had not the distance been overgreat, so that even as Tulkas gained to within spearcast of Melko a belt of mist took the fugitives again and the mocking laugh of Melko seems to come first from one side and then from the other, now from his elbow almost, now from far ahead, and Tulkas turns wildly about and Melko slips away.

Then Makar and Measse rode in all haste north with their folk, arousing Mandos and ordering the guarding of the mountain paths, but either Makar was too late or Melko's cunning defeated him — and the mind of Makar was not oversubtle, for no glimpse of that Ainu did they see, though assuredly he did escape that way, and worked much evil after in the world, yet none are there whom I have heard tell ever of the manner of his perilous flight back to the ice-kingdoms of the North.'