Federation-Apocalypse Session 130 – Lords of Darkness

   Kevin-Morgoth observed the three Silmarils, rotating slowly before him in the telekinetic grip of his mind, and frowned… There was power there, yes – but it was almost purely of this realm. Not like the energies of the two back in Kadia… What had happened to throw a trio of silmarils into the Manifold? There had been a multi-megaton blast and a fusion of disparate realities. Ryan-Feanor had come before Iluvater – perhaps acting as one of the masks of the true Creator, as all such entities might on occasion be – and been sent back, oddly changed. Had that happened to the Silmarils as well? Had their voyage through realities been responsible? Or had some part of Ryan’s power wound up bound to them?

   Didn’t the silly man know any better than to keep doing that? He used a lot of bindings, yes, but he’d studied topic for a decade before he started, and he ALWAYS made sure that he didn’t bind a part of ANYONE’S self permanently into anything! Tying a permanent or semi-permanent anchor onto any soul was asking for backlash or for someone to exploit the link! That was why HE taught the Thralls to make simple power-foci rather than greater relics!

   Anyway… These were… not WEAKER, not exactly. They were just… more LOCALIZED. They belonged to this realm, were bound to it, and were greatly limited elsewhere. Just as annoyingly, they were just different enough from the two he had, that their resonance was of no use at all in searching fo the third – and he cold see that the two he had wouldn’t work in conjunction with these three, or even with the one that he didn’t currently have. They’d be more useful in this world – the synergy of a complete set guaranteed THAT – but there wouldn’t be much point in taking them along if he left.

   Although, judging by the mess outside, they’d draw Orcs, Elves, and greedy loons just as well as the set Ryan had gotten involved with.

   Wouldn’t you know it, when he needed a sage who’d undertaken an extensive study of holy artifacts from across the manifold, there were none to be found. When he was busy with something else, they came popping out of the woodwork to try and reform him! Blasted powers of light. Always sending you what you needed for spiritual growth, rather than what you wanted!

   He set a link on the third Silmaril; it woldn’t be as much help as the one he was looking for, but it was better than nothing

   He turned his attention to the war… Gothmog – in his guise as a deformed Orc commander – was off getting the troops organized, Marty-Sauron was off making some weapons, and it looked like… yes, there were a fair number of souls among the Fallen Maiar, some among the Orc Chieftains, Werewolves, and Vampires, and a scattering amongst the Trolls. There weren’t any dragons yet; it looked like he was too early in the plotline for them.

   And most of those appeared to be well-aware of who they were and were… Mostly in local roles that they were using to visit the most exciting bits of the story in roles that were too generic to really hold them… Great. Tourists of Evil. Didn’t anyone get into a role properly any longer? Fly-by-night powers of darkness. It was enough to make a serious Dark Lord rather ill!

   Oh well, they still made better generals and such than the phantasms for the most part, even if wouldn’t make likely recruits and they weren’t entirely serious about it; they still reacted better to deviations from the plot.

   Meanwhile, Gothmog was consulting with Sauron… It looked like whoever was playing Morgoth was going to need a bit of pushing to get back on track, even if they WERE powerful enough to actually take the role’… The reconstruction and redesign of Angband had been fairly impressive after all – but peaceful negotiations indeed! Even if there was any possibility of that working, what with the Oath burning fresh, the new-shed blood of kin upon the hands of the Noldor, the recent murder of Finwe upon Morgoth’s hands, and the destruction of the Two Trees, it would hardly be permitted! It would be an attempt to derail the entire plot at the very beginning, and no realm – much less one as strong as Middle-Earth – would allow that!

(Gothmog) “What sort of Herald shall I send to the shores Sauron? Or shall I simply wait for the Host of the Noldor to arrive and set up camp? Hundreds of thousands of orcs armed with the best weapons and armor available to kill them, burn their ships, and leave a mountain of corpses along the shore so high that none shall be able to land there again?”

(Marty-Sauron) “Perhaps we should send an innocuous herald, to throw them off their guard.”

   Gothmog winced. Oh, not ANOTHER one! And he was already hard at work making stuff, rather than preparing the troops for the confrontation! What was up with this pair? Were they just interested in borrowing the roles of Morgoth and Sauron to use their powers as master craftsmen or something? That’s be incredibly silly! Roles of that power could haunt you long after you’d accomplished such a task – if you could get out of them at all!

   He tried pushing a bit more.

(Gothmog) “The head of Feanor’s wife?”

   Hah! Marty-Sauron was a bit too subtle to allow that! Besides… it was easy to forget at times, but he WAS trying to keep the worst of Kevin’s tendencies under control – and they didn’t have her anyway! What was Gothmog up to?

   Marty-Sauron reached absent-mindedly into the darkness which cloaked him, and pulled out Limey – in part to consult, in part to see what form he’d be taking – and found that he had a young werewolf.

(Gothmog) “Three pieces of coal with a note attached “Thank you, the light energy from those silmarils was quite tasty?”

   Marty-Sauron had to grin at that one. He LIKED it – but he was against antagonizing Feanor too quickly. After all, the mission was to speak with him – and Feanor wouldn’t be inclined to do that if Morgoth and Sauron were too heavy on the evil right off… No matter how appealing it would seem to send him some coal (or his wife’s head for that matter), the mission was paramount!

   Hmm… Were there any corrupted men or elves around? Humans weren’t supposed to be awake for a few months yet, but they tended to get in everywhere anyway.

   Ah, yes; there were lots of corrupted men, albeit no corrupted elves unless you counted a few captives that hadn’t yet been fully changed into orcs and a few of the older orcs that were still running around.

(Gothmog, who had picked out THAT thought easily enough) “Shall we send the handsomest corrupted man among us, since the elves are the loveliest mortals in existence?”

(Kevin-Morgoth, who had finally turned his attention their way again) “Let us send a couple of men with a flag of truce and a few basic maps and other supplies. At worst this will be confusing and loose a couple of men, but they may wind up filled with doubts and triple-checking every foot of ground on those accurate maps looking for the trap…”

   Gothmog winced. That was subtle and confusing, but it certainly wasn’t MORGOTH. It didn’t have the proper amount of domination and evil!

   Well, maybe Sauron would have some modifications. Perhaps a little genocide to show that they meant business?

   Marty-Sauron considered… Threats of a dire fate if the men are captured? Maybe lace the water supply with something to sap their wills if they refused the demand for negotiation? He needed something devious and subtle!

(Kevin-Morgoth, sighing) “But I do mean business! I mean to recruit them! Feanor and his sons have already sworn a dark oath! They swore by Iluvater, who will hear no evil vow. They swore by Manwe and Varda, who refused their oath. And they swore by the Darkness, which is mine…

(Sauron) “Well, let’s send our representatives out and show them your dark will!”

(Gothmog groaned. These two were never going to get into the swing of things. Now HE was going to have to get out of character!) “Right… so emissaries will be sent out with samples of heavy mage water and refusals to stop enrichment?”

   Kevin-Morgoth glanced Gothmog’s way… it looked like his local identity didn’t fit that well.

(Gothmog) “Well it would be proper to do something evil in this besides giving out maps, supplies and a truce. Or are you one of those dark lords that likes faking it and doesn’t know how?”

(Kevin-Morgoth) “You aren’t thinking far enough ahead. I want the Host of the Noldor in my service. Why fight what you can make your own?.. And, if it doesn’t work, I can always simply blast the entire area.”

(Gothmog) “Ah, a worthy tactic to take there. Gothmog approves.”

   Well, it was a lot more subtle than usual – and certainly didn’t seem likely to work – but at least the backup plan got right back to the point.

   They sent out a couple of harmless emissaries with a flag of truce, some minor gifts, and an offer of negotiations. That wasn’t quite the way that Morgoth had gone about things originally, but it should fit in well enough.

   The emissaries returned some time later with a message.

(Marty-Sauron) “I shall deliver it to Lord Morgoth.”

   The message was a tidy little scroll… The paper was of exquisite quality, and the roll was of a very fine wood inlayed with metal engravings that shone with some internal light. The seal itself was a perfect wax mark of the Family of Feanor signed with the Tengwar script.

(Kevin-Morgoth) “Ah well. Lets open it up and see if it’s a nuke!”

(Sauron) “You might want to do a divination first.”

(Kevin-Morgoth, crankily) “Oh all right!”

   He had one of the Thralls who was being a Balrog and knew divination do it.

(Thrall-Balrog) “Very strong enchantments sir, and they are layered quite deeply. I’ve never really seen anything like it. Whoever made this knows his stuff.”

(Kevin-Morgoth) “Botheration!

   Oh well; he had one of the Balrogs who could absorb magical energy open the silly thing, while the others threw up some quick containment effects around him. That way the kid could be ready to absorb anything hostile.

   The Balrog opened the scroll, looked confused for a moment and then turned to Kevin-Morgoth. (Thrall-Balrog) “It says I should give this to you and not read other people’s messages.”

   Kevin, considered that for an instant. Oh botheration. That meant that – almost certainly – one of the simulacra was back in Feanor’s role. Besides, the only people he’d ever seen who could suck all the fun out of things like this were Ryan, Shayn, and A’ikana!

(Kevin-Morgoth) “Oh fine. Enouch silliness!”

   It wasn’t like he couldn’t absorb magic and such too.

   Marty-Sauron had to agree with that thought – which he was used enough to Kevin to read even without any special powers in active use. These Middle-Earth roles all seemed to be addictive – and he had to agree with that last thought! Especially A’ikana! Stuffy, self-righteous, and disapproving… but never with a better idea! You’d think that there was something WRONG with being a Dark Lord!

   Meanwhile, Kevin-Morgoth – thanks to his multi-tracking – was taking a look at the scroll… For a moment, the energies of the Silmarils he was bonded to back in Kadia resonated with it before falling silent. The scroll itself glowed for a moment before returning to its normal appearance. The writing appeared to be in the tongue of the Tengwar – and then shifts to the tongue of the Vala.

   Huh. He could read that without a spell at the moment. Oh, it probably came with the identity. It might be even more powerful than he’d thought…

“Since you can read this, I imagine you really must have them then. Kindly please hand over the true silmarils in your possession and I will leave in peace. Should you choose to resist and keep them, then I am afraid I may have to show some rather nasty abilities. I recognize that bright and shiny objects might be nice to look at, but those things really need to be in the possession of someone who understands what they are capable of. So I will give you a few days to come to a decision and will await your reply.”

   Well, that would have been awkward even if the originals had been in this dimension – unless the pesky simulacrum could expand the links to pull them through. Hardly impossible, but likely to be more than a bit unpleasant… Still, this took all the fun out of things! Ryan-Feanor had probably just assembled a bunch of ships with his own power, had skipped the massacre, and had already derailed the plot – or, worse, had already recruited the Noldor to his aims.

   Was there much point to being here at all? This made it pretty unlikely that they’d be able to get any useful information on the oath, or on the location of the third Silmaril, or recruit Feanor, or borrow the Noldor Host, or – for that matter – pick up Angainor… Well, he could swipe a few werewolves. Most of those seemed to be relatively unaware, and they’d make interesting pets and Limey would probably want some, even if they were more giant spirit-beasts than shapeshifters.

   Still, it was pretty annoying.

   Limey did indeed want some “dogs”. Even more so now that he was a hybrid of a computer and a werewolf who wanted to take over Marty’s holdings.

   Marty-Sauron was be taking the opportunity to forge a relic or two, but the influence of Sauron made it hard to keep his mind on things… Oh, what the heck. He’d forge some weapons. A shortsword for himself… A longsword for Kevin-Morgoth? That was very classic! Besides… as far as he could tell, save for the ensouled population, the basic structure of the realm looked relatively pristine as it related to the source material.

   Lets see… what did he have to work with? Using special materials wouldn’t have much effect in most other worlds, but there were enough Tolkien-influenced areas to make it worthwhile. Lets see… there were plenty of corrupted materials available; wood from ents, various magical metals such as mithril, leather from the hides of numerous large and powerful animals, stone from the pillars of the world, pieces of the two lanterns, elemental creations, and the spirits of elves…

   Marty-Sauron had to worry what a shortsword and knife made from the lantern pieces would be like… Even if that only added artifact qualities to things locally, it should still be quite a basis for a set of swords.

(Marty-Sauron) “Hey, Lord Morgoth! Let’s REALLY stick it to the elves and make some swords from these lantern bits!”

   Kevin-Morgoth was still brooding – or perhaps just waiting for inspiration to strike, as usual – so Marty-Sauron got to work on forging. Perhaps he’d put a fire elemental in the shortsword or something…

   The metal fragments shone variously, with pale blue or golden light. A fine mist hung around each of the fragments, cool, yet not cold. As he passed his hand through it, it seemed to infuse his hand, and it glowed from within. He could feel a distinct sense of well-being and contentment around the metal and mist, as if he would never be truly lost or without hope.

   In the Sauron identity, it was kind of irritating. Ah well, what better materials to corrupt into a source of pain and suffering?

   Not so much later – as the Host of the Noldor approached for the Battle Under the Stars – pieces of the two lanterns had been forged into Alcanaro (Fellfire) and Nortudun (Horrorstorm) – dark and terrible weapons of pain and suffering. They radiated an aura of despair and hatred in a wide area as they sucked the light out of the world. Ah, delightful implements of agony!

(Gothmog) “It seems the elves wish to meet your doom, shall I go forth and annihilate them Lord Morgoth?”

(Kevin-Morgoth) “Certainly. Given that their backs are to the sea, and their camps are along the shore, I shall call up a tidal wave to trouble them given that they have refused to risk speaking to me! That is fear to the point of foolishness!”

(Marty-Sauron) “And I shall call upon Nortudun to set the Spirits of Darkness on them!

   An enormous host of orcs, men, trolls, werewolves, vampires, and other dark creatures set forth from the gates of Angband. Gothmog was most pleased with their discipline; their synchronized marching reverberated through the bedrock and shook trees for miles around. Loose rocks from the surrounding mountains and hills tumbled to the ground, and the very walls of the citadel had the dust shaken from them as the great host marched forth.

   Kevin-Morgoth was troubled… boredom on one side, and the plot and a desire not to spoil things for all the people who were here for the war on the other.

   Oh well! It could be a small tidal wave! Just enough to wreck supplies and any fortifications! The Noldor dependents should – at least at the moment – be able to survive considerably more than that!

   Pulling up an enormous wave was even easier than it would have been in the Forgotten Realms… It would throw confusion into the rear, be a distraction, and do a little damage. It wasn’t in the plot – but then the Noldor had a little extra edge of their own… He made sure that it was out of range of magical senses and countermagic and such by heaving up the water well out to sea and letting the wave itself be nonmagical.

   Meanwhile, Marty-Sauron was busy summoning up a horde of shadow-beasts and lesser horrors to frighten and horrify his opponents. He also waded right into the thick of things – wielding his new lantern blades of despair, slashing away and slaughtering phantasms – just because he was still Marty underneath it all.

   With the wave well on it’s way, Kevin-Morgoth watched the battle from afar, and considered dumping a mountain on the Feanor/Ryan Simulacrum for being annoying. In fact… to share that annoyance, he notified the real Ryan that one of his copies was acting up over here. Even Marty-Sauron had thought that was a good idea; after all, he was looking for them too. It wasn’t like he didn’t have plenty of Thralls working for the man to pass the message on after all…

(Ryan) “Eh, found one of them did you? I take it is being a major pain then?”

(Kevin-Morgoth) “Rather.”

(Ryan) “Any notable traits with this one? The kill mechanisms are rather specific to each one.”

   Kevin-Morgoth had one channel pass on the magical signature, a description of scroll and its workmanship, a report on the simulacrums rather threatening tone, and what he was currently observing in the fighting, since “Feanor” was also leading from the front lines.

   Meanwhile, Sauron had waded into battle, slaying phantasmal elves and letting his blades bind their spirits (OK, the psychic energies which shaped them from the infinite reaches of the Manifold) for later transference into new evils… A most foul aura of despair began to seep across the land, but the elven army held firm.

   Marty made a note to himself; don’t let his forthcoming kids play with these blades. Kevin made a note to himself; he’d almost forgotten what with everything else going on, but the next time he ran across a nursing home, he had an experiment to run.

   True to form, Gothmog was the first major player to run up against Feanor.

   The battle between Gothmog and Feanor was a shock. While it had taken a swarm of Balrogs to pull Feanor down in the Silmarillion, THIS version of Feanor simply whipped out a massive chain and whipped it around Gothmog – who howled in pain and collapsed to the ground.

(Feanor) “You really think I had learned nothing of the maia in my time in the undying lands? You are still one of them no matter how foul a form you may have taken. Don’t worry though, I can’t slay you, but I can bind you for all eternity. How does a depth of 30 miles or so sound to you?”

(Gothmog) “What, this isn’t supposed to happen this way! You are supposed to be slain at my hands!”

(Feanor) “You seem to have me confused with someone who doesn’t learn. Now begone.”

   Kevin-Morgoth frowned. Trying to imprison someone for ages to come after they’d just revealed – rather blatantly – that they were a manifold visitor playing a role (and might well be a youngster for that matter) was pretty much renouncing all claims of “heroism” right there. It didn’t fit in well in Tolkien’s world either. He had a half a dozen of the Thralls pool their telekinetic powers to get that Chain off Gothmog and away from Feanor…

   Besides, that chain might be handy sometime!

   Feanor looked up as the chain was ripped out of his hands.

(Feanor) “I see, more of the empowered children posing as Balrogs? Annoying really if you think that you can stop me with such parlor tricks.”

   Marty-Sauron was somewhat distant – but the orcs and other creatures were scattering from the elf that had brought a Balrog to it’s knees.

   Not that they orcs and minor creatures had stood up to well to the Host of the Noldor direct from Valinor in the original story anyway. After all, a tiny army of Noldor had defeated hundreds of thousands of orcs.

(Feanor) “Now, let’s have some fun. What shall we do first?”

   Kevin-Morgoth opened up a link. He’d try talking to the creature; oratorical powers were quite easy to transmit at long range – and few people bothered to erect major defenses against oratory.

   Feanor looked to an outcropping of rock.

(Feanor) “Ah, that will work nicely. Sometimes the simplest methods are really the best after all.”

   Kevin attempted to fascinate him with his oratory – which he resisted easily. Fortunately, it was well within Morgoth’s power to throw in a secondary reality-disrupting effect, destroying every piece of equipment that he was carrying.

   Marty-Sauron was still moving in, and used his powers of dominion and darkness to curse the Ryan-simulacrum and all his “Family” – or at least those who were foolish enough to accept the Oath of Feanor to provide a link – with a curse of clumsiness.

   The wave of destructive power washed over Feanor, and ripped through him. The equipment he was carrying exploded in a hail of fabric, metal, wood, and fiery bits of shrapnel. Feanor still stood however, wearing only a ragged pair of pants and smoking slightly while holding a small glowing object in his right palm.

(Feanor) “Bother, do you even understand how difficult it is to manufacture stuff that works across realms? Or are you filled with a small sense of accomplishment that you’ve managed to destroy what I consider clothing?”

   Kevin-Morgoth had the Balrog-Thralls use a bit of their hoarded personal time to make a massed spell-and-telekinetic effort to remove that small glowing item – while Marty set Feanor’s pants on fire while he was closing in.

   Hey, it would distract pretty much anybody!

   Over on the link with Ryan…

(Ryan) “Well, it definitely looks like the summoning/abjuror specialist. He’s going to be a real pain if he can get off a summoning powered by the glow if it is what I think it is. If it has had any time to prepare, expect it to summon more equipment soon enough. Best bet is to go for basic negation auras. Single target negations/dispels won’t work though. Gotta use area effects with a bit of power behind it. Or just do enough damage to severe the head from the body.”

   The massed power of the Balrog-Thralls was considerable, Marty-Sauron was invisible (thanks to Witchcraft) and closing in at high speed for one of his patented focused strikes – and Kevin-Morgoth used his oratorical powers again, this time combining the damaging disruption with a Disjunction effect.

   There was a massive show of telekinetic might, the Balrog-Thralls reached out and grasp the glowing object in the simulacra’s hand – although “Feanor” anchored himself to the ground somehow, instituting a massive tug-of-war. The ground shook and crumbled as the power struggle built up until, with a crack like thunder, the ground broke apart and “Feanors” arm ripped free, flying into the air – just about as Kevin-Morgoths massive reality-disruption rolled over him.

   Feanor came crawling out of the pile of rubble, missing an arm, looking haggard, and looking rather annoyed.

(Feanor) “Like a child, grasping at shiny objects because they look pretty. You inherited the powers of hell and this is how you spend your time? Do you even know how to use them? Or do you hand them to those petty girlfriends of yours that you fuck in exchange for trinkets?”

   Marty-Sauron was keeping mum as he got closer – moving in for a decapitating strike.

   Somehow it sounded like the simulacra had gotten a dose of infernal power there. Hadn’t Ryan managed to dump all of it, or was it simply still tainting his rituals? It might explain why things went wrong for him so much… If he still had part of it, but wasn’t accepting it, there were bound to be side effects. Besides… not only was the attack on Kevin’s sex life silly, but honestly – from a superhero’s viewpoint, it would be hard to think of a much more benign use for “the powers of hell” than using them to get girls.

   Whatever had happened to Ryan’s simulacra – if they hadn’t been like this since their creation – it had left them a lot less heroic and with virtually no sanity at all. Hard to say if they had souls though… they had SOMETHING which mimicked a souls stabilizing functions, but it wasn’t like Kevin-Morgoth had a lot of time for analysis.

(Kevin-Morgoth, somewhat startedly) “And you spend your time chasing after nonsense? There is a REASON why the things have made the choices that they have!

   Kevin-Morgoth was editing what he passed on to Ryan. If the silly man didn’t yet know that he, Kevin, had the silly Silmarils – even if he personally wasn’t too interested – there was no need to tell him yet.

   Marty-Sauron got close enough to try for a decapitation just as “Feanor” began to regenerate his arm, using the rock debris surrounding him for raw material.)

(Feanor) “Nonsense? Is it nonsense to swear an oath upon all that you hold dear? Is it nonsense to dedicate your life to something that holds meaning to you? Is it nonsense to lose what respect you had in society merely because of the world you were born into and the accidents that have followed you since birth? Or is the real nonsense to be a sniveling child hoarding gems from their rightful owner because he wants to impress his bitches with shiny rocks?”

(Kevin-Morgoth) “Yes it is definitely nonsense; you’re not Feanor – you’re not even RYAN – and you don’t share his history, and you never swore an oath, you just inherited it from someone who was silly enough to accept it! As for “my bitches”… I haven’t slept with any werewolves yet, but thanks for the suggestion! Memo to self! Stop by anthropomorphic worlds and seduce some wolf-girls as a memorial to “Feanor”. Oh yes! buy some slave-pups, have them fixed, and give them that name!”

   Marty-Sauron (grinning a bit at Kevin-Morgoth’s comeback) struck from surprise and behind with the lantern-knives – appallingly powerful magical weapons.

   That was the way to do it!

   Kevin focused his power to bombard “Feanor” a bit more – but it turned out to be unnecessary. Marty-Sauron’s strike was more than enough… As Marty-Sauron sheared through the neck and killed the simulacra, he could feel an enchantment of some sort being soaked up by the sword and disrupted. Feanor’s torso turned to ice, and glowed brightly for an instant before exploding like a fusion warhead. The entire battlefield was abruptly awash in flame as molten light fell everywhere and set everything burning that wasn’t instantly vaporized and turned the ground into a molten sea… Apparently “Feanor” had filled himself with the oil of the two lamps or some such.

   That took out most of the remainder of Kevin-Morgoth’s army, most of the Noldor, most of the Balrog-Thralls (as Balrogs they were immune to fire, but there were limits – although a few had special personal defenses), and could be felt eighty miles away within the walls of Angband.

   Marty-Sauron, annoyingly enough, simply rode the blast wave into the sky in the form of a crow.

   Wait, hadn’t Ryan done something like that the first time around?

   Gothmog was looking horrified, and the few Noldor survivors were fleeing as fast as they oculd. (Kevin-Morgoth) “Really! How petty! Insulting Melkor’s sex life… Now, admittedly there was only one mention of Sauron or Melkor even having one – and that was Sauron, lusting after the most beautiful elven woman ever to live on middle-earth… Wait! Maybe that’s why you got that ID Marty!”

   Marty-Sauron was sorely tempted to harass the enemy as they retreated, but settled for buzzing them as they ran. Ah, elven women…

(Kevin-Morgoth, to Gothmog) “Well, he certainly took things far too seriously – just like his progenitor! This is quite a mess!”

(Gothmog) “That wasn’t a normal Feanor. What was that thing?”

(Kevin-Morgoth) “A simulacrum of Ryan O’Malley. One of the ones that’s been running amuck across the multiverse. The first one I’ve met personally, but I can see that they’re going to be quite a pain! And I’m going to have to slip the Noldor some assistance to keep things from going entirely off track!… Lets see… Some unreasonably warm weather up near the icy reaches where the second host is marching should save them an awful lot of casualties and trouble. It can be because of the sudden upwelling of fire energy over here! This war would be very boring without enough Noldor!”

   Darn. “Feanor” had vaporized his chain too. Oh well, they could get their hands on the original Angainor after all!

(Gothmog) “Ryan O’Malley? Isn’t he some insane super scientist from Crusader or something? Or is he from Marvel?”

   Oddly enough, Kevin-Morgoth was feeling far more cheerful… With Feanor and most of his sons blown away, the plot was a wreck already – and there might be something to do here after all!

(Kevin-Morgoth) “Crusader, but he gets around. He spent some time as Feanor apparently, got entangled with the Silmarils and the Oath, has apparently followed his usual habit of unloading his problems on other people, and now his Simulacra are raging across the multiverse trying to fulfill Feanor’s oath.”

(Gothmog) “Bloody hell, and now one of them has just blown a hole in Middle Earth going after the Silmarils here?”

(Marty-Sauron, having returned) “Seems like it.”

(Kevin-Morgoth) “Yep! Now, admittedly, we too wanted some information, but that’s just rude…”

(Gothmog) “Why hasn’t anyone taken the idiot down and forced him to reincarnate?”

(Kevin-Morgoth) “WELL he’s an Opener, and extremely difficult to kill I fear. Excuse me for a moment, while I tinker with the northern climate a bit…”

(Marty-Sauron) “He’s powerful as hell. Here, I’ll tell you what my associate told me…”

   Marty explained what he knew about Ryan’s visit to the realm – and gave Kevin some time to tinker with that climate.

(Gothmog) “Sounds to me like the various governments need to band together and take the idiot down for the good of the manifold.”

   Oh, now that was a new one. A public-spirited Balrog.

(Marty-Sauron) “Hey, I’m with you on that. But they seem to think other stuff’s bigger. Where are you from, anyway? You’re definitely not from here.”

(Gothmog) “The New Imperium. I got tired of the Jedi/Sith conflicts that still pop up and left the place. At least here the wars are about principled stands and fight for destinies… I highly doubt Emperor Skywalker would tolerate this nonsense from some superhero with no sense.”

(Marty-Sauron) “Yeah, I know what you mean. Oh, by the way… what do you know about Feanor’s Oath? I REALLY don’t know Tolkien beyond the movies.”

   Good grief. Kevin had done it again. He was, once again, the lesser of the available evils! Even if they were, in this case, hell-infused Openers!

(Gothmog) “The basic transcripts available on the networks. He more or less damned himself should he never recover the silmarils. It doesn’t matter who has them or why, if he or his kin do not have them, he will kill to retrieve them… Ah, here we go.”

   “Be he foe or friend, be he foul or clean Brood of Morgoth or bright Vala, Elda or Maia or Aftercomer, Man yet unborn upon Middle-earth, Neither law, nor love, nor league of swords, Dread nor danger, not Doom itself Shall defend him from Fëanáro, and Fëanáro’s kin, Whoso hideth or hoardeth, or in hand taketh, Finding keepeth or afar casteth a Silmaril. This swear we all… Death we will deal him ere Day’s ending, Woe unto world’s end! Our word hear thou, Eru Allfather! To the everlasting Darkness doom us if our deed faileth… On the holy mountain hear in witness and our vow remember, Manwë and Varda!”

   Well, at least Gothmog had been around long enough to provide some background on “how this actually worked in the multiverse” – but it wasn’t good news.

(Marty-Sauron) “Thanks. This was a lot of fun. Might do it again sometime.”

(Gothmog) “Minus the superhero nutjobs more closely resembling villains?”

(Marty-Sauron) “Yeah, that would be nice. I’ve seen corporate CEOs back home who wouldn’t blow themselves up like that.”

   Kevin-Morgoth had been hoping that there would be some local variation… While Tolkien had been human, and subject to absent-mindedness, it had seemed likely enough. After all, the Oath was sworn before the Sun had existed, or had even yet been thought of; presumably Feanor – already in the dark beneath the stars, and never having experienced a “day” less than an age long – wouldn’t have sworn “ere the days ending” – which meant that there might have been other changes in the blasted oath. That was just the classic version… Besides, swearing to kill anyone who handed you a silmaril, and by entities that would surely not have accepted such an oath, seemed a bit odd. The only power in there that would have backed such an oath was the Darkness – and that was Morgoth’s. Asking a dark god to back an oath against himself seemed just a bit odd. He’d been kind of hoping to put the pin back in the grenade by tossing the second set of Silmarils back to Feanor and pointing out that the oath was now at an end – which was why he’d come prepared to set up the link he actually wanted on the thing. Oh well. It was never that easy.

(Marty-Sauron) “Long story. I’ll just say I’m from out THERE and drop it.”

(Gothmog) “Circle six or seven then. Gotcha.”

   Marty-Sauron spent some time engaging “Gothmog” in casual conversation to see if he could be a useful trade or information source. He seemed to know a bit about the Manifold and dislike politics at any rate.

   Meanwhile, over on the channel to Ryan, Kevin-Morgoth complained about the failure to mention the gargantuan explosion problem.

(Ryan) “It exploded? How big an explosion are we talking about?”

   Kevin-Morgoth sent him some details.

(Ryan) “None of the enchantments had that kind of power behind him. Nor did I ever install anything on that sort of scale technological. They must have added that “feature”. Any idea if it was working with any of the others?”

(Kevin-Morgoth) “No way of knowing offhand. It sounded like an individual obsession, but it could have been a group effort for all I know.”

(Ryan) “Damn it all, I really didn’t need simulacra of me running around and detonating like nukes when killed.”

(Kevin-Morgoth, more than a bit crankily) “Well the rest of us didn’t need them either! Or Matthias and Serah! Or the Hellstorm! Or any of a number of other things!”

(Ryan) “If you think you can do better, see me in 50 years and give me a status report, child. I am not the only one creating train wrecks wherever I go.”

(Kevin-Morgoth) “What, you want to compare fifty year reports? I’ve been at this just as long as you have!”

(Ryan) “Uh huh, sure you have. If you don’t have anything else to report, then I need to get back to upgrading a planetary defense grid.”

   Kevin had linked Marty in – and Marty decided to prompt Ryan about the arrested aging.

(Marty-Sauron) “Hey! Don’t you realize he’s SEVENTY YEARS OLD? Sheesh.”

(Ryan) “Of course I do. However, sitting around faerie, buying slaves in Rome, and screwing dragons in an old game world isn’t exactly involving yourself in the Manifold at large. Sorta like the teenagers that tell me they are experienced manifold travellers because they know their way around the porn worlds.”

   Kevin-Morgoth chalked that up to being too distracted… Ryan had apparently never realized how throughly Kevin was linked with his Thralls – or how many Gates the Thralls allowed him to open, or how many places they’d visited and shared their experiences with him, or how much of the Manifolds commerce he’d been enabling over the past forty years. Yes, he’d been very cautious and quiet about using his powers in the early decades – but that was why he’d chalked up so few utter disasters!

   Most Openers could manage one gate every week or two, if they were lucky and didn’t spend their powers on other things. Even back at the beginning, when he’d only been able to directly hold a dozen or so Thralls, he’d been able to open one or two a day – and to supply Gatekeepers to run them. Bringing prosperity and trade was a WONDERFUL way to keep things calm – and to recruit. Ryan had built his own organization. Kevin had enabled twenty – and, while each had been only paying a little attention to his goals, he didn’t think his influence had been any less in the end. Just less direct… Still, he didn’t exactly advertise most of that information, and neither did his trading partners – although he had to admit that the publicity he was getting now was good for recruitment.

   He – AND his simulacra – did seem oddly hung up about sex though. Was that just the lack of a Core education, or was it something endemic to Crusader? It was a healthy form of recreation, and necessary for good mental health!

(Kevin-Morgoth) “Well, now I know where the simulacra get their self-righteous routine from!”

(Marty-Sauron, unaware – for once – of Kevin’s thoughts, since they were currently on another channel) “Uh, do you have any idea what he’s been doing? Let me tell you the NONCLASSIFIED stuff.”

   And he did. At length.

(Kevin-Morgoth) “You know, half the work so far has been cleaning up AFTER YOU.”

(Ryan) “Think carefully about how long your name has been known to the powers that be in this Manifold and how long that has had to catch up with you. You’re still starting at this and to expect to be able to put me in my place is still beyond you yet. And for all my messes, a great number of powers still feel it invaluable to continue to support my efforts.”

   The powers that be? Like the Precognitives, who’d known about Kevin for decades? The great trading houses of the thousand realms? The Unified Church, the Department of Mysteries, and assorted empires and mythic gods? Oh well… Ryan did have quite a record of his own, although he seemed not to have realized that he was running short of allies…

(Kevin-Morgoth) “Shall we count the precognitives? As for putting you “in your place”, at the moment I am once again shoring up your defense efforts because you’ve been ignoring the rest of the planet – who were not happy about it. Yes, you’re powerful, experienced, and have drawn a lot of attention before it was at all necessary – but you get too wound up in your projects of the moment. I have my own flaws, but I don’t try to either pretend that they’re not there or justify them; they are indeed flaws.”

(Ryan) “As I said, go ahead and prove me wrong. I am quite willing to quit saving the world if someone else can do a better job. In the meantime, I have a job to do.”

   Ryan cut the link – or at least stopped talking to the Thrall who was relaying.

(Marty-Sauron, over the private link.) “What a stuck up jerk.”

(Kevin-Morgoth, also privately) “I suspect we hit a nerve there.”

(Marty-Sauron) “You think?”

(Kevin-Morgoth) “Ah well. I think he needs someone to blow up at. Perhaps I should tell some of the Thralls I’ve assigned him to get into his bed if there’s no one else there at the moment… He needs to relax a bit! It’s that superhero philosophy… For the most part, any world that doesn’t save itself doesn’t want to be saved – and if they do want help, that’s when someone like me turns up.”

(Marty-Sauron) “At least we have a version of the Oath now. I guess research should get us some more.”

(Kevin-Morgoth) “Well, if we can’t defuse it here, at it’s origin, I suspect that we won’t be able to handle it that way. That leaves putting up with it, allowing one to fulfill it and hoping that it carries over – rather than setting off a war between them – or getting rid of all of them. Oh well. We have business here. Lets get some scouting reports in…”

   As it turned out, roughly a third of the host from the battle had managed to make it out alive. The original plot had Morgoth losing most of the forces he’d sent anyway, so that was expected on his side… About a third of the host had managed to make it out alive., but most of them were in dire need of some level of medical assistance. The base camps were in disarray trying to deal with all the wounded – especially after the wave and flooding.

   Hm. Should they attempt to capture the lot? There should be lots more Orcs available, if nothing else – and he could always make another wave.

(Marty-Sauron) “Let’s get the orcs. I think Melkor might be getting to you a bit there.”

(Kevin-Morgoth) “Hey, I’ve already made sure that the second host will get here intact. That means that this one is mostly disposable!”

   Marty-Sauron attempted to weigh the morality – while Kevin-Morgoth did a distant survey, to see whether most of the women-and-children background characters were just phantasms… Once again, the vast majority were. phantasms, and the few ensouled were likely byblows of manifold travelers.

   Odd that… Kevin would have thought that a LOT more would be ensouled; the place had been popular for centuries… Still, it was also possible or likely that most of the ensouled remained in Valinor – or were in a version that isn’t resetting all the time. After all, the population that kept invading middle earth probably selected against souls.

   Kevin-Morgoth send them sand, shallow quicksand, and bog, and surrounded them with Orcs and some of the remaining Balrogs – plus some Balrog-Thrall reinforcements from Kadia and set about capturing what was left of the first host.

   It was easy enough, to round up a large number of wounded elven men, and crying elven women and children. Keeping the orcs from abusing them was harder… Still, Kevin-Morgoth needed more Orcs! He first sorted out the ensouled ones, and then got ready to afflict the remainder with the DARK POWER OF MELKOR…

   Marty-Sauron protested…

(Marty-Sauron) “Hey! Can’t they stay elves?”

   That sounded like something more serious than Kevin’s usual binding ritual!

(Kevin-Morgoth) “Unless some would like to be werewolves! I need replacements there too! What? Er… Why? They wouldn’t get along with the orcs anyway! Although.. I suppose they can be dark elves if they like.”

(Marty-Sauron) “Yeah, if we’re going to be mean to them, might as well let them stay elven. That’ll confuse people.”

   Kevin-Morgoth didn’t really believe that Drow-type dark elves were really a viable species in Middle-Earth. It was one of the rules… inner corruption would, eventually, show externally, in both individuals and species.

   Oh well, it might take quite a long time for any individual case!

   Kevin-Morgoth had them sorted out… The ones with souls to be dealt with later, phantasms to be turned into fearsome werewolves if they were young, into dark elves if they were older and sensible enough to accept it, and into Orcs if they were stupidly defiant and heroic! After all… the second Host of the Noldor would be along shortly, and Feanor blowing up like that had really put a hole in his forces! Besides, wouldn’t having the Noldor unknowingly battling more of their relatives be a delightful evil?

   He did give the werewolves special instructions. If Huan showed up, they were to run away if they could. Males should roll over and submit if they couldn’t run away, and females should either submit or – if they liked his looks – try to get him to sire some pups.

   That still left a bit of a bad taste in Marty-Sauron’s mouth, but the local phantasms could have done far worse. And Kevin-Morgoth was making sure that they all got patched up. There was no point in leaving your new forces wounded!

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