It is blacker than night in the large cavern where the final Silmaril will be presented. Those in attendance fidget nervously. They are here in spite of their better judgment. Memories of last year’s ceremony haunt the minds of anyone foolish enough to return… and yet… there is something about this particular award that draws even the most cautious, even the wisest. The charismatic pull of a truly evil villain cannot be completely denied. And so, despite the eerie setting and the solemn mood, the cavern is filled with onlookers.
But none of them are standing too near the dais. None, except for five dark forms, silhouetted by the eerie spotlights.
A tall figure strides up onto the stage, imposing and fearful in black robes. With every step, torches in their sconces flare to life, illuminating more of the cavern and its onlookers. His cowl is up, shading his face from view, though a large, steel crown can just be made out, and deep in the recesses of his hood are two pinpoints of gleaming malevolence.
“Good evening,” his voice flows out over the crowd, filling every shadow and bringing a hush to the silent murmurs. “I understand that you were expecting a different host this eve, but my lord was so displeased by his minions last year that he sent me in their stead. Since he cannot be here himself, he has placed his confidence in me. It just goes to show that you should never send a wizard to do a Ringwraith’s job!”
A tall, white bearded man strides confidently up to the mic. “Excuse me, to whom are you referring as a minion? Nobody told me there was a change in plans.”
“Begone, Saruman,” the Witch-King (for that is who stands before the crowd) waves a hand. “Stand not between the Nazgul and his microphone.”
Saruman stares at the Witch-King. “Last year’s debacle was not my fault. It was that hideous Gollum-creature. But he was turned to stone by Queen Jadis, the White Witch, and cannot interfere again this year. There will be no repeat. Especially since Her Majesty declined the invitation to be at tonight’s proceedings once she was informed that she would be required to leave her wand behind.”
There is a violent hiss and a thick, long-necked creature with a reptilian head shifts in the shadows behind the Witch-King. Saruman flinches back slightly.
“Thou hadst thy chance, wizard,” the Witch-King snarls. “This year it is my turn. Or wouldst thou enjoy being borne to the houses of lamentation by my friend, here, where thy shriveled mind can be consumed by the Great Lidless Eye? Believe me, should my Master be capable of presiding over these ceremonies in his physical form, thou wouldst cower before him as is his due!”
Saruman’s mouth opens and closes a few times. Then he hisses at the Witch-King. “I hoped to vindicate myself here this night, but you have robbed me of the chance. I hate you!” He spits and whirls, storming from the stage in cold fury.
The Witch-King is unperturbed. “Shall we continue?” he asks. He raises his long, berobed arm. “Will the five competitors please rise?”
There is a slight shuffling and then the five forms standing before the dais all…. stand up straighter. The Witch-King does not seem to realize that nobody is sitting… there are no chairs. After last year’s hubbub, we decided to take no chances on placing obstacles in anyone’s way should the need to flee arise. There is a single long table along the wall where refreshments are available, but nobody seems to be willing to sample the offerings there. Perhaps it was a mistake to take the theme of tonight’s award so far… I can understand why no one would want to try the “poisoned apple pie” or the food labelled “feast of Ramandu” (in my defense, it wasn’t the feast that caused the seven lords to fall into a cursed sleep) … but the brownies and punch are particularly good and I’m not sure why everyone is avoiding them. I worked hard on… oh, sorry, the Witch-King is speaking again.
“All five of you should be quite proud, this vote was extremely close.” The Witch-King pauses briefly. “Only eight votes separated the first and fourth places,” the pinpoints of light deep within the dark hood grow brighter with admiration. “With 8% of the vote, in fifth place… the loser…” he cannot keep the contempt from his tone. “The Keeper from Entwined!”
The Keeper’s shoulders slump, but he turns to wave a hand at the audience. A few boos escape into the darkness.
“In fourth place, Death-in-Life from the Tales of Goldstone Wood!”
The Dragon’s seven-foot tall skeletal frame gathers the shadows about him, but he gives a dignified nod.
“In third place, Captain Hook from Peter Pan!”
The hook-handed pirate’s confident grin turns into a sneer, but he sweeps off his feathered hat and bows with a flourish. He is so debonaire and charming that a few in the audience find themselves clapping, despite his known villainy.
“In second place, Queen Levana from the Lunar Chronicles! Congratulations, my lady.” The words of praise sound like a back-handed compliment as they emanate from deep within the hood.
The woman with curly, auburn hair turns to face the crowd. Her lips are the color of blood, and her eyes are as black as night. She smiles, though the expression resembles a grimace more than anything else. The audience fidgets with discomfort beneath her gaze.
“And in first place, by but a single vote…. SHIFT the Ape from The Chronicles of Narnia! Please come forward and claim your Silmaril. The powers that be have decided that we villains are not worthy of one of their golden awards, and our Silmaril is faded… but I am sure it is still worth something, even if it is not as brilliant or as powerful as the one they presented to their Hero…” the Witch-King spits the word “hero” with a snarl. If we could see his lips, we are certain they would be curled.
There is a hush. The audience freezes as the hideous ape climbs up onto the stone platform and approaches the microphone. With one hand, he clutches the mic, while stretching out his other hand to receive the precious Silmaril.
“THIS IS INTOLERABLE!” The tall form of Death-in-Life shifts and grows, filling the cavern as he transforms into a magnificent dragon. “An ape? A miserable APE has received this honor?” His eyes burn with cunning as they sweep across the crowd, and light on Queen Levana. “My lady,” he whispers, his poisonous breath wafting across her face, “shall we let this hateful verdict stand? One vote, says the robed-one. A single vote has stolen thy victory from thy grasp. Will you allow such robbery?”
Queen Levana stares into the Dragon’s flickering eyes, then, subtly, her form alters. The glamour drops and reveals a horrible visage. Scars cover her face, sealing one eye shut, and traveling down her neck and over her shoulder. Her mouth pulls back in a terrible snarl. “No,” she hisses. “I shall not tolerate it. That Silmaril should be MINE!” She ends with a scream and together she and the Dragon lash out towards the Witch-King, who reels back at the unexpected attack, his cloak billowing. The reptilian head of the Nazgul darts forward to defend its master. However, the Dragon was expecting such a move and his serpentine form lunges forward, clashing with the Nazgul, poison and flame pouring from his hungry jaws.
The audience, who had begun backing away already, flees into the night, their screams of terror echoing out across the hillside. Within the cavern, chaos has erupted. Queen Levana strides over to Hook and The Keeper, and at her word they fall beneath her spell and advance upon the Witch-King.
The Nazgul’s shriek changes into a death gurgle and the Dragon’s head comes up from his fallen prey, his eyes fixated upon the robed Ringwraith.
The Lord of the Nazgul glares down at them and a harsh laugh emerges from his throat. “No living man may hinder me!” his voice booms out as the shrieks of his steed pierce the air.
“Fool!” Queen Levana and the Dragon scream at him in unison. “I am NO MAN!” Together they converge upon the Witch-King with vengeance in their hearts.
In all the commotion, Shift still stands on the podium, one hand gripping the mic, the other closed tightly around the Silmaril. He looks down at it, and then up at the villains surrounding him. He is no fool. In cunning, greed, and deceit, he knows he is the greatest villain ever to roam the fantasy realms. But in physical prowess and magical power… well, it is plain to see that he is overmatched in the presence of these other entities. If he could just talk to them, perhaps he might persuade them to fix their sights on the creators of this obviously rigged system. Why should heroes and councillors and silly bards and their ilk be given Silmarils at all? Perhaps, with their combined might, the villains could rise to the top and rule them all next year… but as The Dragon breathed a gout of flame at the Nazgul and the Witch-King of Angmar raised a sword high above Captain Hook’s head… Shift comes to the realization that nobody in the cavern is in the mood to listen to a villainous scheme just now. Perhaps later, when they have all cooled down… perhaps then he will be able to persuade them to listen to his plan over a few tankards of honeyed mead. Until then, he decides to make himself scarce and leave the fighting to those more qualified to participate in such sport. With a little shuffle — he is extremely old, after all — Shift tucks the gleaming Silmaril into the pocket of his vest and limps out of the cavern and into the darkness of the night. The sounds of ferocious battle behind him make his hideous face stretch into an evil, toothy grin. When those others are finished with their competition, if they can be made to listen to reason… what an ARMY they would make!
“Oh dear! I do hope that nothing terrible comes of that,” Jenelle mutters, much later. She was at the ceremony, but ducked into a hidden secret passageway when the ruckus started. Once the villains wore themselves out and decided to go down into the village for a pint or two, Jenelle crept out of the passageway to tidy up. She gazes around, glad that there is little to do, after the decision to eliminate chairs and other niceties in favor of open pathways to the exits. She turns off the mic and puts out the torches in buckets of water. She shakes her head slightly as her InterFiction Badge begins to gleam a faint red. That is not the color it usually turns when she is being called to do an interview…. no… that is the color of trouble in the FictionVerse. Jenelle sighs. Coming so close on the heels of tonight’s awards, she can only guess at what havoc Shift and the others might be wreaking. She is tired, but she knew that this job would come with long hours and being on-call 24/7. With a weary grimace, she clasps her hand around the badge. A moment later, she winks out of view, leaving the darkened cavern empty… until next year….
What do you think, dear Reader? Did the winners you expected take home their prizes? Did any of the winners catch you off-guard? Either way, I hope you have enjoyed the second annual Silmarillion Awards as much as I have, dear Reader! However, the festivities do not end here. Tomorrow we celebrate the 63rd Birthday of The Lord of the Rings! Feel free to join in either with your own blog posts revolving around topics like “Why I love LOTR” or “What LOTR means to me” or just “Random Tolkien Trivia” or whatever else you can think of! Also, the Winner of the ONE GRAND PRIZE TO RULE THEM ALL will be announced tomorrow, so make sure you come on back for that!