Sunday, July 21, 2013

Tolkien Weekly #5 - The Saga of Khazad-dûm, Part II

Looking for Part I?  Click here to read it.

The Saga of Khazad-dûm
M.R. Michel


            Thus Flón son of Lûn instructed the Dwarves in the construction of a new mine beneath Mount Caradhras, and they named it Thak-Unrâg in the tongue of Khazad-dûm, which means Darkest Mine.  For when there was not a blazing torch lit in Thak-Unrâg, the darkness was as a thick mire that deadened the senses and brought horror to the mind.  And there was more than one Dwarf that ere the mine was completed succumbed to that murky blackness, and forever lost his wits thereafter.
            Now after twelve cycles of the sun were spent, it came to pass that Flón son of Lûn came to Thak-Unrâg on an urgent mission.  For during the night it was found that those who had been working in the mine during the day had disappeared, and no trace of their bodies could be found.  Thus Flón came with urgency, and he brought with him ten and two of the king’s guard, who were mighty in prowess of arms.  For he thought rightly that something was gravely amiss beneath the stone walls of Caradhras, and it was his desire that word of the disaster might not reach the king’s ear.
            The party descended to the utter depths of the mine, for it was there that the Dwarf miners had vanished.  And when they had come to the place of the mithril-hoard, there came up out of the darkness a foul wind that extinguished the light of the torches.  Then the Dwarves stood for a moment in great fear and confusion, for they did not know what was happening.
            Ere long a smoldering light became present in the darkness, and all of the Dwarves drew their gaze to the flame.  Then words came from the darkness, and they were spoken in Khuzdul, but they were hissed, much as steam rises from the mixing of water and fire.  The guards cowered and Flón son of Lûn pressed his face to the cold, dark stone.
            “Thralls of Aulë, masters of Khazad-dûm, lords of stone:  hear the words of a servant of Morgoth, and tremble.  For uncounted years I have lain here in the darkness of Caradhras, beneath the roots of the mountain; and I slept.  Dark! so dark have been my dreams.  I dreamt that the day of the Elves had waned, and that the kingdom of Men might yet be cast down.  And in my troubled sleep I saw that the land had been cast anew and that I alone of all the Valaraukar yet lived.  And thereafter I saw that the lords of stone had lost their strength and became proud, and that the day of my ascension was nigh. 
            “Hear, thralls of Aulë:  this is that day!  For your greed has destroyed you.  Is there one here among you that might deliver a message to your king?  Speak!”
            Then all was silence besides the whimpering of the guards, and Flón did not lift up his head, for he was in a mortal terror.
            “Is there not one among you named Flón, son of Lûn?  The others spoke of him, and gave assurance that he had the ear of the king.”
            “I am here, foul creature,” quoth Flón. 
            Then the shape in the darkness laughed, and a great stench arose in that underground place.  “Then take to your king these words, wretched stone-worshipper.  Ere darkness has fallen on this mount twenty times, it shall come to pass that King Durin VI shall meet his demise by fire and madness, and the gates of Khazad-dûm shall be broken.  I have spoken!”
            Then an unspeakable terror fell upon Flón and his companions, and they fled from the mine as ones who have lost their wits.  Thus it was that once Flón had returned he was admitted into the presence of the king.  A pallor hung about his face and his eyes were downcast; it was as if a wreath of doom hung about his head.
            Then King Durin VI’s voice rumbled from his throne:  “Speak, Flón son of Lûn!  Why does part of my guard quake in terror, and why are the dwellings of my miners filled with the keening of Dwarf-women?  Speak!”
            Flón opened his mouth, but no words would come out.  Two of the king’s assistants brought him a chair and a chalice of wine, which he raised to his lips and drank from greedily.  Flón let the wine gurgle in his throat and flow down his beard, and when he was finished he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.  Then wicked intent entered his eyes, and his mouth became small and cruel.
            Flón stood up and bowed mockingly.  “O king, do you have need of your servant?  Perhaps you want a report on the amount of mithril that we have mined at the expense of our lives?  No?  Or might it be that the king would seek to comfort the widows of his sisters’ sons, who have lost their husbands and sons for naught?” 
            Then one of the nobles in the court walked up to Flón and struck him across the mouth, so that blood formed at the corner of his lips.  Flón staggered and sat heavily in the chair that had been brought for him.
            “Speak not to the king in such a manner!” The Dwarf-lord cried out, and others echoed his sentiment.  But Flón son of Lûn bowed his head upon his chest.  Afterwards some said that at this time he wept, and others swore that he laughed so mightily that the tears flew down his cheeks like the waters of Anduin the Great, and perhaps they were not wrong.
            “He is coming,” Flón said.  “He shall come on the wing of a shadow, in the heat of a mighty flame, and none shall stand against him.  And then perhaps the king will remember the day not so long ago that his servant Flón, son of Lûn, spoke and advised him to put aside our shovels and hammers.  But now it is too late, and we shall perish forthwith.” 
            Then many of the court were downcast at his words, and questioned Flón closely, but he would speak no more on the matter.  And though the guards were brought one by one before the king and the assembly, none would speak of what they had seen and heard.  It was as if a great spell of terror lay upon them, and they had become dumb.
            “Hear the edict of the king!” quoth Durin VI.  “Henceforth Flón, son of Lûn shall be banished from the kingdom of Khazad-dûm, and shall not know the comfort of his kin.  For he has openly rebelled against the king, and has abandoned his people in their time of need.”
            Then there were many that counseled the king against this rash decision, and Náin I the King’s son was among them.  “For,” he reasoned, “it may be that once the temper of Flón has abated, that he may yet tell us more on this matter, which is of grave import.”  But the king would not hear these words of wisdom, even though they were uttered with his own son’s breath, and Flón was banished from the kingdom forthwith.
            The Dwarf took with him a sack filled with his scant belongings, and ascended the Endless Stair for the last time.  And it is said that when he had passed between the gates of Khazad-dûm, he turned back for a moment and spoke, and his words were but a whisper that were lost in the mountains.
            “Well met, servant of Morgoth!  I leave to you the plunder of our people and the warmth of our hearths.  For as fools we delved into that which was forbidden, and so wrought our ruin.”  Then Flón son of Lûn disappeared into the wilds of the surrounding region, and was never seen again.

This is a fan fiction story set in The Lord of the Rings universe.  
It is Tolkien Weekly #5 on Blaster Bolts & Galaxy Lore.
Your questions and comments are appreciated.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

"Project Pope" Review

With a title like Project Pope, I was expecting Simak to craft an intriguing science fiction tale.  Certainly, in the end there are some very interesting aspects that the author broaches.  However, I was quite disappointed that there wasn't a substantial, in-depth discussion on any religious principles.  I thought that the book would cover how machines approach religion, and more adequately peruse questions like, "Do robots have a soul?" and "Are robots capable of love, and if not, can they truly practice faith without love?"  However, in the end, a good portion of Project Pope just boiled down to religion vs. science.  Sadly, this is the route that most science fiction authors seem to take in the end.  The humanistic potential of machines seems to go largely unexplored, outside of a few authors (like Asimov).

However, there were some very entertaining parts of the book.  I felt that different alien intelligences were written quite well; and a collection of motley people that can see into other places and times was certainly an attention grabber.  The aspects of world-crossing reminded me of Asimov's classic The Gods Themselves.  All in all, Project Pope isn't up there with Simak's best work.  But it's not a bad read at all, really.  And not many people can say that they've read a book exactly like this one.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Tolkien Weekly #4 - Your Favorite LOTR Characters

This week we are taking a brief break from The Saga of Khazad-dûm to have a little discussion on our favorite characters in the LOTR universe.  Just give us a name and a bit about why you like the character.  They can be good, evil, neutral -- it doesn't matter!  The characters can be from the extended universe as well -- don't be shy about naming a character from The Silmarillion or The Book of Lost Tales!