Let's get back to the game-playing, shall we?
This is weird. I honestly never expected it to last this long.
Disclaimer: The recognizable characters appearing in this are Tolkien's, not mine.
Varda was looking the other way. Morgoth frowned at her back. She had turned around the moment he put the Sue on the table, and refused to turn to face him again. He felt his hopes rise. Could he finally have chosen a Sue so horrible that Varda couldn't defeat her?
Then she turned around, and Morgoth pushed his chair back. The shine in her eyes was pity.
"Morgoth," Varda began kindly, "I- well, there are times I am almost tempted to let you win."
"You said just a while ago that you would never do that," Morgoth pointed out.
"Well, yes, but you obviously don't learn." Varda gestured to the Sue on the table. "Or you wouldn't have chosen this one."
"You'll probably defeat her, too," Morgoth muttered, folding his arms. "You always do."
Varda sighed. "This time I won't play you."
"You won't?" Then Morgoth's happiness dissolved as he remembered that Tulkas and Ulmo were no longer around to guard him from the Wrath of Fëanor. "But-"
"Oh, don't worry, I'll sit here and watch you," Varda assured him. "Just not play to stop you." Then she whispered, "And I'll make sure that the big bad Elf doesn't get you."
Morgoth glared, then remembered what she had already done for him and tried to look grateful.
Varda sighed. "You haven't had enough practice with that expression. Just look gleeful, and I'll know what you mean."
Morgoth did his best to oblige, though it was hard to be all that gleeful when he was now listening for distracting sounds behind him.
Bellatrona adjusted her breastplate and glared up the long slope of Caradhras. Ungrateful males, to leave without her! She had been hastening from the kingdom of Amazonia, where she had just put down a rebellion by the men who wanted to enslave all the women and make them brood mares, and that had delayed her a little. But they should have known that she was coming, to aid them on the Quest of the Ring. Her aid had been foretold by Gandalf long ago.
"Men," she said to her palomino mare, who flicked her ears in agreement. "Fools, all of them."
Bellatrona touched the mare's neck- she rode without saddle or bridle, since animals trusted her so much- and the horse began forging her way up the slope.
"Just a question, Morgoth." Varda's voice was so polite that Morgoth couldn't tell what emotion she was hiding. He looked up suspiciously.
"She's wearing- only armor?" Varda gestured. "Breastplate and greaves? And all of it is made of metal?"
"Yes, of course," said Morgoth. "She's a warrior Sue. She wouldn't wear some wussy skirt."
"No, I knew that, but I thought she might like some cloth underneath it," said Varda.
"Metal next to her skin. In a place as cold as Caradhras?"
Morgoth shook his head. I think she's just trying to confuse me. "I don't understand what you're getting at."
Varda sighed. "Just play."
Morgoth peered at her with renewed suspicion, but began telling Bellatrona's tale again.
Bellatrona came on the Fellowship's camp just as they started setting out food. At once one of the pigs leaped to his feet and drew his sword. Bellatrona rolled her eyes.
"Relax, Boromir," she said. "I've just come to join you on your quest."
"A woman in battle?" Boromir laughed. "I would as soon see a pig dressed in armor and wade squealing into the fray!" He paused. "Actually, the pig would be smarter than the woman who dares to lift a sword."
Bellatrona quivered with fury, but stopped herself from attacking him as she saw Gandalf the Grey stand up. His face was lined, worn, and old, but full of relief as he gazed at her.
"Bellatrona," he said. "I am so glad that you came. Now our Quest is much safer."
"Safer?" Boromir scoffed. "With a woman about?"
Gandalf laughed. "Bellatrona is not one of the fragile maids you were used to in Gondor, Boromir. She is the ruler of a land of her own, one where women rule over men."
"Why?" Boromir asked, gaping at Bellatrona.
Bellatrona tossed her mane of red hair over her shoulder and smiled coolly at him. "Because women are wiser, and we are the source of life," she answered. "And because we don't do stupid things like underestimating our opponents just because of sex," she added, looking down her nose at him.
Boromir gaped at her, having no idea how to answer.
"'Fragile maids of Gondor?'" Varda asked, in an expressive way.
Morgoth looked at her in confusion. "Well, yes. After all, Boromir's mother just withered away, or some such thing."
"I see," said Varda, again with no expression.
Morgoth shook his head. He would have thought that Varda, as a female herself, would have liked this expression of female power. But then, he had never really understood women, whether they were Vala, Elf, Maia, or stupid singing half-Elves, half-Maiar who somehow charmed him and then stole a Silmaril out of his crown-
He gritted his teeth, and forced his thoughts back to Bellatrona.
"I w-w-w-want a f-f-fire," Pippin said, his teeth chattering as the cold wind blew over them.
"I cannot light one for fear of revealing my power," Gandalf answered.
"I can," said Bellatrona, giving the wizard a scornful glance. "I am not afraid to show myself." Gandalf had the good grace to flush.
Bellatrona held her hands out and called on her fire magic. At once, a bright red glow surrounded her fingers, and then it zapped out and became a cheerful fire. The hobbits crowded closer, their eyes bright with awe.
"Typical women's trick," said Boromir sourly from the other side of the camp. He was upset that everyone was ignoring him and paying attention to Bellatrona since she joined them.
Bellatrona at once sprang to her feet, her sword flashing free from the sheath. "I challenge you, Boromir," she said calmly. "I challenge you to fight me the way we fight in Amazonia."
Boromir frowned at her. "And what way is that?"
Bellatrona smiled slowly, scornfully, at him. "You are male, so you may keep your clothes. I will fight in the barest essentials."
"What is it?" Morgoth demanded.
"I'm trying to let you win, but you're making it very hard," Varda told him, and seemed about to say more. But then she looked over his shoulder, her eyes widening, and her mouth forming the name "Maedhros."
Morgoth whirled around, but no one was there. He turned back to the sound of Varda chuckling.
"You did something to my Sue!" he accused her, since he wasn't about to admit how frightened he was.
"No," said Varda. "I couldn't do anything more than what I already did. Have the fight and get it over with." She locked her fingers over her face, only her eyes peering through. "It's horrible, but I can't look away."
Morgoth scowled and started the fight between Bellatrona and Boromir.
"Until first blood, then?" Boromir asked, watching Bellatrona as she stripped.
"Why first blood?" Bellatrona asked with a smirk. "I assure you that I will be trying to kill you. You are a blight that should not be allowed in a world of women."
She pulled off her breastplate, and then removed the ceremonial golden one from her pack and put it on. She did leave on her chainmail underwear and black leather boots, but removed the greaves. Her long red hair billowed freely around her face as she paced towards Boromir.
He just gaped at her.
Bellatrona rolled her eyes. Stupid males. The only thing they're any good for is sex, and that's just ten minutes out of the twenty-four hours, for most of them. "Are you fighting or not?"
"You're fighting like that?" Boromir asked.
"Of course," said Bellatrona. "Surely you're not afraid of a girl?"
Boromir shook his head slowly, and they saluted each other, then began to circle.
Bellatrona struck first, springing forward. Her sword clanged off his shield, but she had expected that, and at least he staggered. Bellatrona smiled complacently. That would show Boromir the power of a woman!
Then a wind blew across the pass and swirled her hair in front of her eyes. Bellatrona blinked, trying to see. She couldn't see what Boromir was doing, and that annoyed her.
She most certainly felt it, though, when his steel sword dived through the golden armor and out her back.
Morgoth watched the gout of blood across the snow, and then lifted his head and glared at Varda.
"You cheated. You did do something to my Sue when my back was turned."
Morgoth blinked as he realized what he'd just said, and glared at Varda. Varda sighed and shook her head, but the pity in her eyes had changed to laughter.
"I really did try to let you win, Morgoth," she said. "But your Sue would have peeled her skin off with her armor, and made everyone look at her strangely for insulting Boromir, and golden armor is no protection against steel. In this case, it was your own stupid choices that defeated you, as it is almost every time."
Morgoth started to answer, then noticed Varda was staring over his shoulder and muttering something about Maedhros again. This time, he refused to turn around.
Something tapped him on the left shoulder, and something blunt rested on his right one.
"Hi," said Maedhros, leaning forward so that Morgoth could see his hand and his stump. "Long time no see. I trust that you received my gift?"
Morgoth shivered and looked appealingly at Varda. "What is he doing here?" he demanded.
A stink of dead fish preceded Ulmo to the table, and his heavy words, "I caught him diving into the sea, trying to retrieve the Silmaril Maglor threw there. I would imprison him in Mandos again, but his father would only find some way to get him out. And so I think that he should play the game."
"No," said Morgoth at once.
"Oh, come, come, Morgoth," Varda said, grinning. "Wouldn't it be better for you to play an opponent you know will cheat?"
Morgoth just scowled at her.
Varda leaned towards him. "Manwë is being unreasonable," she whispered. "I'm sure that he knows where Fëanor is. I can get it out of him. Just a few more starry-eyed glances, and he'll yield. But I need the time. Let him play you."
"Yes, let me play you, Morgoth," Maedhros whispered. "We're going to have so much fun together."
Morgoth shuddered, but the thought of having both Fëanor and Maedhros eventually locked up again was too much temptation. He would play the son, for the chance of both father and son going away and never bothering him again.
He looked at Varda and nodded. "But only if Ulmo stays here to guard me," he added.
"Agreed," said Ulmo. From the look on the Lord of Water's face, Morgoth suspected he was more than annoyed with Maedhros right now, and would interfere to prevent anything drastic from the Elf. He relaxed a little.
"Very well," said Varda, and slipped away from the table. Maedhros took her place at once, rubbing his hand and his stump.
"We shall play, yes indeedy," he said.
Morgoth eyed him warily, and chose the next Sue.
Poor Morgoth. And I say that in all seriousness.