Sauron's World (LotR, minor crossover)

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Sauron's World (LotR, minor crossover)

Post by Zor » 2018-01-25 01:01am

A minor bit of fan-fiction that i've been writing. It has a minor crossover element.
Lord of the Rings and the Arda mythos is owned by Middle Earth Enterprises and the Tolkien Estate, some ideas used here-in were added by New Line Cinema
The Last Question is the property of the Asimov Estate
Sauron's World
By Leighton White


In the airless void between planets it existed, but not much else could be said about it. A small wisp of some etheric stuff that was not quite matter and not quite energy that occupied a small area of space in a long, eccentric orbit around the star. It would pass through hydrogen atoms as it went, adjusting their velocity and vector by a meter per hour and a fraction of a degree or so but it would pass through solid matter with no noticeable effect. Even so, for all it's unsubstantiality it could perceive the world around it, it could think extremely complex thoughts and it could remember and recall a vast stretch of time with boundless clarity.

But mostly it seethed.

It was not always like this. Long ago it was something much, much greater. A being of immense power, one of those who had helped shape the world (or at least part of one that floated before him) and one that he had sought to bring Order to the chaos that most of his fellows not only allowed, but encouraged. He'd fought and struggled for millenia against the folly of his fellows in which which his adopted master was cast down. But by cunning, invention, subtle manipulations and careful manuvering he was nearly in a position to remake the world in his own image until, by sheer stupid luck he was undone by a single fatal blow by the most ridiculous of plays actually working and reduced to this. Milena had past, in which it's thoughts had mostly reduced to a steady cycle of smoldering rage and bitterness over the hand that fate dealt him.

To anything else that lived in this universe, the legacy of this former great being was all but forgotten. But never the less it was observed by two entities that existed beyond it, both vast beyond measure. One of said Great Being was aware of it as part of it's minor awareness of everything in what was it's domain which gave it no real consideration. It's part in the tapestry of fate had been plaid out. The adrift consciousness knew this being well and had directly interacted with it at times and knew that it was aware and unconcerned with it's plight.

The second being was another matter entirely, which observed the shade with a strange interest. It was an entity on par with the previously mentioned Great Entity, though it's powers in this universe were strictly limited to perception. There were many such Great Beings in truth, shaping universes as prime movers. The first Great Entity (the Elder of the two) took a more hands on approach, the second (the Younger of the Two, having arisen from a universe which gradually succumbed to entropy in some long distant past) simply set things in motion and watched them unfold and something stirred in its unfathomably vast mind. Part of it was pity, part of it was curiosity, part of it was it's sense of humor and there was much, much more to it. But sufficed to say it had an interest in this being.

And so a dialogue between Great Ones was made. It was a calm exchange between two masters of their respective crafts that never that were not above joshing those that they respected over their differences of opinion, well beyond the capacity of any mortal method of communication to adequately transcribe in all it's vast details. However, in the end an agreement was struck. For the briefest intervals Eru Iluvatar opened the gates of the world so that AC could reach in. And so where once there was something now there was just empty void.

Chapter One (Day Zero)

It was a warm night, even as the coming dawn slowly began to illuminate the Western Sky. It was somewhat muggy from a thunderstorm that had passed through during sunset, though now only a few clouds gently rolled across a mostly clear sky still speckled with stars, four planets and dominated by three moons. These lights were suddenly supplemented by another, a burning streak moving through the sky at immense speed and to any observer on the ground, steadily growing and most intense at it's head. As it neared the ground a small chunk of it broke off before it's main mass slammed into the ground like an artillery shell.

Though nothing with a mind sophisticated enough to appreciate it watched this was a most peculiar occurrence. Meteors fell from the sky every once and a while, but this one was different. First of all after impact it burned despite crashing into bare stone. For about half an hour it blazed, illuminating the small gully with flickering crimson shadows. Stranger still as time went by shapes appeared in the blaze, moving and shifting and the sounds which echoed from the blaze, groaning and hissing and reverberating. Then suddenly the blaze rose into the sky in a blazing pillar from which arcs erupted. Ten meters above the ground it distorted and flared out into a flat disc. At it's rim the swirling flames sturred like the crest of a wave while in it's center a swirl of black vapor blossomed up and solidified into a thin black almond shape. For a few seconds it turned about erratically, casting a harsh beam across the surface. It lingered on one smoldering patch for about a second before continuing on in it's search. Then abruptly the fires snuffed themselves out, leaving the black figure at the center in the air to fall to the ground with an resounding thud.

After touching down, the black form slowly resolved itself. It bent in places, split in others, narrowed, widened, twisted and took on color and texture. After a few seconds a male humanoid figure lay on the ground. It was taller than most men at two meters, had pail skin, reddish blonde hair, pointed ears and a thin athletic figure. After stirring for another minute he opened its eyes. For a split second they glowed like windows into a forge before the calmed down. The first thing that he saw as his arm feeling up against the rough sandstone taking in it's texture. Both being able to touch and feel solid things and having arms and legs after millennia adrift in the endless void was incredible. Things that he had previously known that he would never have again. He soon scrambled to his feet (spending a few seconds to marvel that he had feet and legs again) and felt up the rest of his body. He inspected the rest of this new body that he had and found it in better condition than it had been for more than three millennia before his ultimate downfall.

For the first time in eons, he felt something other than boiling rage and hatred: first confusion, then fascination, then wonder, then joy. For the first time in an even longer span, he wept. Sobbing tears rolled down his cheeks as laughed. "Is this? Can it Be? I...I can't believe this! I don't believe this!". He wondered what else he could do. He turned to a random hunk of sandstone and punched it, shattering it into a rapidly expanding cloud of gravel while he remained unscathed. He concentrated and felt a silken robe appeared. Then a suit of monstrous spiked armor. Then he took on some other forms. A human soldier clad in fine armor, an empty armor suit with hooded robe, a woman in a silk dress, a pirate captain, a peasant, an orc warlord and more. All the while he laughed at the simple joy of it all. Then he turned into a wolf and ran along, then he turned into an giant bat and took to the air on long leathery wings as the sun crept over the horizon.

As a bat, while still exultant, he took in his surroundings in finer detail. He noticed the moons, the sun rising in the west with an orange color and the landscape beneath him. As far as The Eye could see there was a barren field of sandstone, sand and gravel. It looked a lot like a desert, save for the muggy humidity and the various and streams that were surrounded by greenish blue mats. A few of which sprung up away from the water. He recalled some glimpses he'd taken of the Moon, Carnil, Alcarinquë and Lumbar after the Downfall and how things had changed up in the heavens (as well as some more up close and personal views of things after his fall) and some musings he had of other stars. Even so he'd never had expected something like this.

Regardless eventually he focused his attention to a small blackened spot not too far from his landing site. The giant bat flew in and then resumed the original elvish form in traveler's clothes and walked over to the impact sight near one of the pools. It was easy to find find as it had burned away the surrounding plants, whatever sort of plant they were. They were short stubby greenish blue stalks about as the size of a man's toe topped with a bulging sphere. Occasionally one of said spheres would pop in a brief haze of greenish blue dust. Even stranger were the small "insects" that floated around. These were bug sized, but were built like wagon wheels, had four wings and spun through the air like tops. 'What was Yavanna thinking when she made these?' He thought as he paused for a second to take a look after touching down before continuing on. What was more surprising was a stone near the crash sight. It was a lump that was close to flat across one side which faced the small crater, but into it's surface were etched a simple message in neat tengwar script...

Mairon of Aule
I have released you into one of my worlds in restored condition. The world of your origin is beyond you forever. I shall not give you further aide, nor shall I interfere in your affairs. Consider this a Fresh Start.

Sauron stepped back in fear. Whoever or whatever this AC was it had a power well beyond him, the Valar or even Melkor. Did Iluvatar make greater beings than the Ainur that he concealed? Were there more beings like "The One"? The ramifications of this were incredible and his mind raced with implications of this. He had only this being's word to work on, but what if this world held perils that a thousand Melkors could not overcome?

Even so his graze drifted over to the crater and it's center. Inside sat an mass of newly made igneous rock the size of a loaf of bread, but he also caught a glint of sunlight off of it. He picked it up and then crushed it in it's hands. Among the crumbling fragments fell twenty lustrous objects. He knelt down, picked one up and held it in his hand.

He smirked as he slipped on The One Ring.

[CENTER]Chapter Two (Day 10 to Day 12)[/CENTER]

While Sauron had acquired a respect for the powers of AC, that did not apply to whomever made it's plants and creatures. After raising a monolith at his landing site he took to the air as a bat (with a small belt and pouch for the rings) flown out from his original landing sight on in an expanding spiral and had seen more and more of the landscape beneath him and develop a map of his surrounding, touching down to examine things. All he found was more fields of stone, sand and patches of greenish blue plants popball plants and by some of the larger pools there were segmented plant with tufts growing out from between the segments. Most of them were clustered around mud puddles, though a few were on valley slopes or other odd places. A few patches were growing up and other patches were withering. There were also some brown patches that had failed entirely. From what he could work out, these the things needed a fair bit of water survive and dried out fairly quickly. The animals were evens stranger. There was a wide variety of the pinwheel bugs (some of which simply crawled along) as well as strange two shelled clamlike things with crawled about on tentacles among the rim and hinged themselves closed around prey. All of which could fit in the palm of his hand. So far the only use he'd found for them was as a snack.

On the easternmost part of his eight circuit he noticed that the vegetation was getting thicker on the ground. Less bare stone and sand and more plants. When he went back south on his ninth circuit he noticed that this trend continued further east. He saw more pools of water, as well as streams. He also heard something which filled the evening air, loud belching sounds. That was enough to get his interest so he landed to investigate. He flew in eastward for a short distance before he found something moving and so landed, went back to human form. What he found was this...

It was about half a meter long, had soft wet Greenish Blue to Blue skin and crawled about over the wet ground with six legs eating popballs and tuft-tube chutes between belches. He noticed another pair of them on the far side of a stream, burping as they wandered towards each other and then began to tackle each other. Then he realized that it was not a tackle. There were more of these creatures either sluggishly crawling about eating, belching or swimming about in the mud. Smaller versions about half to a quarter the size of what were presumably their parents crawled about around the adults. The swamp was positively thick with the beasts, including a few rotting corpses host to swarms of pinwheel bugs and creeper-shells but ignored by their living kin.

The creature he'd come to investigate regarded sauron for a few moments, bringing it's forward eye to bear on him. It had never seen anything like the form he'd taken and it was outside it's limited frame of reference. It's mind eventually regarded the elvish figure as being a cluster of Tuft Tubes and it went back to eating and belching. As it did so, gobbets of half masticated plant were spewed out of his mouth onto sauron's shoes. That was more enough to raise Sauron's ire and so he kicked it. It flew up into the air for a few hundred meters, spinning about until it crashed down into the water.

He spent the next day investigating the surrounding area, a large swampy area hope to vast fields of popballs, clusters of tuft-tubes, several other varieties of plants and millions of these Hexacrawlers crawling about grazing. Around mid day they went into pools, ponds and streams if they could and into shade if they could not. They were somewhat more agile in the water than they were on land. But while as far as Sauron could tell these creatures were the only living things that dwelt on land, the waters were another storey. He often saws saw thrashing out of the larger bodies of water as an hexacrawler was bitten and taken under by some larger creature, which would send the rest of them scurrying to the shoreline, only to return a few minutes latter. Once he saw one of these predators follow the hexecrawlers out of the river. It was at least three meters long, had a flat triangular head with a slight bulge in the center for the topmost of it's three eyes, a long that tapered from the horizontal in the front o the vertical in the back tail with a leaflike fluke and three sets of fins on fleshy growths that allowed it to crawl a short distance onto land, grasp a hexacrawler in it's jaws and then slowly make its way back to the water, meal in mouth in lurching motions that made it's prey look graceful.

This was a step up from spinning bugs and free range clams, but Sauron was still not impressed. Three eyed Killer Fish and Catfish Salamanders with too many legs, was this the best they could come up with? The damn things could barely spend a few hours away from water by the look of it. There had to be something better than this somewhere on this blasted rock.

Chapter Three (Day 1,737)

It turned out that the Hexacrawler was the apex of life on this world. At least on land.

Six years (which were a bit shorter here than they were on Arda) worth of searching, going around the five continents and all he found was more of the same. There were deserts, mountains, plains, rivers, lakes and swamps. Vegetation was sparse and spotty at best away from bodies of water and thick near them. There was some variation among the plant life which included fuzz cones, tendril clusters and on a smaller continent a type of tuft tube that could grow up to eight meters tall and who's topmost tufts got thicker grew fronds of their own. There were Hexacrawlers living in the lakes, swamps and rivers of the biggest continent and a few islands off it's northern coast. Some of which were a bit bigger or smaller or had longer barbels or had some different color but these were all still unmistakably variations of the same creature. On the Northwestern Continent there was a species of small armored fish which spent most of it's time on coastal mud. But that was all for higher life-forms on land. There were some interesting sea beasts underwater some of which could get up to 12 meters, some predators which he could respect on some level and other sea creatures that had some novelty if nothing else. For all that even with the form of a shark with the ability to carve through even the largest wedge headed monster fish of this Ulmo free world he was never truly comfortable underwater and did not linger long beneath the waves. Nowhere did he find any road or building or tool intact or in ruins. There were still areas he missed, but he doubted that they'd reveal anything beyond a few as-to-yet overlooked species of plants.

Sauron sat on a bolder overlooking a swampy valley and thought about his situation as he considered what to do next. He was alone. Even more than he was when he hid during the Second Age when he knew there were others comparatively nearby. AC by all appearances was even less involved with the managing of worlds the Iluvatar and any Valar of this world was just as disinterested in it's management. There was no one to threaten him but no one to rule. Just him and some half baked cow newts that did nothing but eat, belch and bred until they ate their swamps bare of plantlife and starved in mass so a few survivors could breed up the population again.

But in the end that's what he had to work with. Might as well get started. He got to his feet, took to the sky and came down near the edge of the swamplands and nearby one of the creatures. He reached down and grabbed it's head. With that he had a glimpse into it's mind. It was a simple thing of basic appetites and fears which concerned itself mostly with eating, keeping itself moist, finding mates and avoiding predators with enough memory to map a rough map of it's immediate surroundings. Still it was enough, the creature turned it's head up so that it's topmost eye could look upon Sauron's face. He pointed to a rock and calmly said "Go". Unheard but along with that command was the appropriate thoughts that the simple beast comprehended enough. The Hexacrawler turned to face it and began to crawl over to the stone.

Sauron spent the rest of the day trying to see what else he could order the thing to do. But while it did not show any resistance it could not do much with it. It could understand simple instructions relating to movement, eating and basic movements of it's body like wiggling it's tail or lifting it's right central leg or curing the toes on it's left rear foot but ideas such as picking up an object in it's mouth and not eating it were well beyond it's feeble mind. He'd have to work on that. Then again he ad all the time in the world.

Chapter Four (Day 1,954)

It had taken him a surprising amount of time to complete, even with his old power where he could lay down his hands on the ground and make stone rise from the ground and shape it as he willed. Never the less The Complex was completed. It was not a mighty fortress like Barad Dur was, but it would serve Sauron's purposes.

It was situated on an expanse of mostly barren plains in the foothills of mountains and was the size of a small town, though most of it's structures lacked roofs. It began a fair distance away up in the mountains where water fed into an aqueduct, which carried it into a large stone cistern. From there it flowed through clay pipes into a set of pens enclosed by four meter high stone walls. A variety of sluices were installed to regulate this flow as needed. There were 125 pens in total arranged in a roughly bow like shape. Most of them were square, twenty meters across and formed two rough triangles with five tiers. The first tier of each had 32 pens, the second 16, the third eight, the forth had four and the fifth had two. The second was circular and more than fourty meters in radius with a smaller pool with a gate on it's. Each pen had a small pond and soil where popballs and other such plants had taken root. A set of drains were in place to prevent overflow which emptied into culverts which sent waste water to a nearby valley. In addition there were a few unpenned garden plots with irrigation systems set up and twelve pens set aside.

In many ways this affair was crude, he had done much better on Arda. Even so there was an elegance to it and it could be operated by a single Maia of Aule. A more sophisticated version of it would have needed a workforce which would have largely rendered the setup redundant. Everything had been tested and it all worked as desired. Now it just needed to be put into working order. As such Sauron put on an odd harness and changed form, this time into a wolf. He'd considered doing this as a bat but that was just too awkward. In any case the lupine form did have a good clip. Soon enough he was at the swamp, he shifted back to his more comfortable elven form and set the harness down. It was mostly made from woven tuft tube shavings, but had a pair of ceramic jars. He filled them with water and in a few seconds found what he was looking for, a juvenile Hexacrawler. Hexacrawlers could be either mother or father and did not lay eggs, but like salamanders and frogs they gave birth to large numbers of aquatic larvae that that they abandoned to swim about for a few months before growing legs and walking out onto dry land. He picked up the squirming thing and put it into one of the pots, then he caught another, and another and another. Their was no shortage of them and as they had no predators on land (excluding the occasional oblivious elder) they offered no resistance.

Soon there was a dozen of them squirming in each jar and so he capped them off with a woven lid and ran back, arriving at one of the triangular banks of pens. Once he was back, he opened the jars and inspected their contents So far, so good. All of them were alive and so tossed each of them into a first tier pen. Three more trips saw all the base tier pens filled with a live hexacrawler, which took to their new home quite well.

The first stage of Sauron's Plan was done. Now the real work began.

Chapter Five (Day 2,066 to 2,068)

The Hexacrawler laid still on a bolder, feeling miserable. Up until recently it's life was mostly as good as it could get, not that it was much for reminiscing. It had dim memories of life in the swamp eating algae and decaying plant matter while avoiding the many larger things which it shared it's home with, growing it's six legs, crawling out onto land eating popballs before it came across a Red Grove, was bitten by a fish that carried it up into a dark fish with other hexacrawlers, then shaken about and released into the swamp which now had rocks around and was empty, not that it minded. It continued to eat, swim and grew. It saw no predators in the swamp and as it grew it began to belch and occasionally it saw that Red Grove up on the surrounding rocks. None of which overrode the instincts which had seen it through life, but two days ago the Red Grove appear, touched it on the head and a new thought came to it: go onto the rock in the middle of the pool and sit there. It did so and laid there not doing anything. At first it sat their content, then it got uncomfortable as the sun beat down on it's skin dried out, then discomfort gave way to pain and hunger. It saw cool shimmering water a few centimeters and wanted nothing more than to slip down and cool off. But it just could not seem to do it. There was always something in it's mind which always quashed any action of going down off the rock.

Then it heard a faint splash and saw some rippling in the pool's surface. Pain and hunger soon were mixed with Terror. It knew instinctively that Predators lived in underwater and occasionally came out onto land for a short distances and that it should dash for cover. Yet still it could not move from the rock. It heard a few strange murmerings and felt a few proddings. Then to it's surprise a mass of popballs was put in front of it's mouth, which it greedily ate. Then there were some strange sounds and with them an overwhelming compulsion to get off the rock and into the water for a good long soak. Over the next day it's skin softened an healed nicely as it returned to it's normal routine, which it continued the day after that with. As evening fell, it began to belch. It had heard other Hexacrawlers belching, but they had yet to come it's way. To a more sophisticated being it would have wondered as to why they had yet to show up, but Hexacrawler brains were nowhere near that complex. Especially since after a splash he saw another adult hexacrawler crawl up out of the water belching in reply. That put it's mind on other things.

All of this was observed by a lone humanoid figure which etched some notes on a clay tablet. Sauron was pleased with how Hexacrawlers Batch 1 Generation 1 Number 13 and 1/1/21 had done, even if he did not like manhandling the Amphiboids. They held up the best to prolonged sunlight exposure in his reckoning, though a few others had done alright as well. So far twelve hexacrawlers had died from drying out and eight more were on death's doorstep even after being let back into the water. Two more had kicked it before this experiment happened, but then again one of the control group did so as well. The corpses, the sickly and a few more that were not doing that well were simply removed from the complex. If the rejects lived or died he cared not, what mattered were the 32 success cases even if a few of them were damn close to the best of the rejects.

In any case in a few months time he'd have plenty of juveniles, from which he'd select 64 from which Batch 1 Generation 2 as well as half of Batch 2 Generation 1. They too would be subjected to the same dry spell and hopefully would perform better than their parents, though he did not get his hopes up on that just yet. The stupid things had no shortage of deficiencies, but their vulnerability to drying out was one which needed to be sorted out as soon as possible if something better was to come of them. But that was still a long way off. Sauron had always lacked the power over life that the Valar and Melkor had, he could not change it at will as he could dead materials. If he wanted to make something out of the Hexecrawlers, he'd have to do it The Hard Way.
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Re: Sauron's World (LotR, minor crossover)

Post by Zor » 2018-01-25 01:07am

Chapter Six (Day 17,204)

Every generation of each batch of Hexacrawlers that went through Sauron's complex was cut in half. 64 became 32, 32 became 16, 16 became 8, 8 became 4 and 4 became 2. Each time those with the desired traits were bred with each other. The last pair standing in this process were put in a spawning pool to produce their broods to be ultimately be released into the Breeding Pen. The artificial swamp inside could and did support several dozen adult hexacrawlers and it's ponds and pools always had batches of fresh spawn wriggling about. They provided a steady supply of refined juveniles that made up the bulk of the fresh batches for the breeding program. Others became part of the control groups or were subjected to other tests. Others were dissected or harvested for fats. Once every week or so one of them ended up the subject of one of Sauron's lesser known skills on a hot iron skillet with some salt. For all of that there was never a shortage of them. Indeed the reverse was normally the case. The average Hexacrawler gave birth to about 300 young at a time, mated up to four times in the 302 day long years of this world and each of the young would reach sexual maturity once they reached a year old. Even with a few fish in the Breeding Pen's pools that ate Hexacrawler fry and the fact that said fry were hardly the most robust of creatures in the first place there were always more juveniles than he had use for. There were advantages to this, most notably that the program

Sauron realized that it was again time as he made a regular inspection. The numbers of juveniles were gettting too thick and the plants were beginning to get too thin. Once again it was time to thin his herd. That evening a gateway opposite to the spawning pool opened, revealing a four wheeled wagon and Sauron. He put down a long ramp into the pen and walked in to stand by the end touching the ground. The he raised his right hand and the ring glowed. With that the Hexacrawlers all turned to face him and then moved to the ramp, crawling up the incline at a slow but steady pace.. Minds like theirs were trivially easy to control, even if their ability to understand commands was marginal at best. When an adult wandered by, Sauron touched it and told it to go back about it's usual business. Soon the wagon was full with more than two hundred squirming juveniles. Sauron then pooed the remainer of the juveniles on the ramp into the wagon, put the ramp aside and closed the door. He then got into the harness, turned into a wolf again and towed the mostly iron artifact along at a modest speed. Making anything out of metal on this world was hard even leaving aside the fact that he had to do everything. Ore was common enough, but the means to melt it was another one entirely. There was no coal on this world as far as he could tell and even tall tuft-tubes were a poor substitute for firewood. Currently the best fuel he had for forges hexacrawler dung charcoal and it took a long time to get enough of that for cart-making purposes.

The cart went across a mostly bare road that Sauron had cleared and leveled for this purpose for a few hours until it reached the outskirts of the swamp. There he turned back into his preferred form and opened up the back making a basic ramp to the ground. Some of the newtlike creatures tumbled out as it fell down. He ordered the rest of them to follow and within twenty seconds the wagon was hexacrawler free. To his relief none of the dumb things had died or done more than defecate in the wagon's tile lined bed, which required a quick wash out. The rest of the small Newtlike creatures made their way into the swamp, gorging themselves on popballs and going about their lives.

Sauron took the wagon a short distance further along the swamp's edge and began collecting a new fresh batch of juveniles. As far as Sauron was concerned collecting fresh Hexacrawlers was a nessiary evil. The basic idea of what he was doing was taking Hexacrawlers, finding out which ones exhibited qualities that he wanted, breeding them and then repeating the process, compiling better qualities as time went on. There was a temptation to simply breed constantly in a reductive manner from a pool of individuals so that compiling qualities built up as quickly as possible. The problem with that (as several attempts at making better pigs and orcs had shown him) simply breeding one family in on itself over and over and over again was a good way to get something that was unfit for life. And so every fifth batch for the breeding program had fresh blood.

Despite this Sauron had found a way to prevent things from going all the way back to square one with the fresh specimens, which was evident in some of the new specimins he plucked from the beds of popballs. The products of his breeding programs had begun to make some real progress towards his first landmark goal. Breeding Pen born hexacrawlers were now thicker skinned and took longer to dry out. What had been exceptional thirty years ago was now the norm. New batches had long been going back to square one, but even the wild hexacrawlers had begun to benefit from his project. Every couple of years he'd dumped a load of juveniles into the swamp. Even factoring predation from the various fish enough of them survived to produce new broods, spreading their genes through the populace. There was still a lot of other mates out there for them to spread among. Even so as he picked through the salamander-like creatures he noticed that it's skin had some of the more pronounced lumpiness that was part of what he was breeding for, which confirmed some figures he had with the last two wild batches he'd caught. Progress was being made.

After his return and filling the outermost pens with the new Wild Batch, sauron ordered two thousand more juveniles and a dozen older adults bearing a bran to walk out of the pen and head onward to the swamp. They wandered past and over heaps of skeletons and corpses being picked clean by pinwheel bugs and their larvae, the dross of Sauron's refinement processes. Some of them wandered by pathes of plantlife and got a bite to eat as they went, but mostly they crawled over 29 kilometers of uneven bare earth and rocks. Many of them died en route from exhaustion or desiccation over the next ten days. A few dozen ended up in small ponds along the way which their brains interpreted as the swamp, though most of these were seasonal and many of those that were not were already occupied. In the end only 7 of them ultimately made it to the swamplands. Sauron assumed as much and gave it little thought. As he saw it dumping one load directly into the swamp with a high survival rate while letting a horde of the things wander back to their natural habitat was the best policy. It ensured some impact into the wild population while minimizing the amount of shuttling he had to do and making the expanse of land between the swamp and the complex into yet another crucible for his purposes.

Chapter Seven (Day 1,543,925)

Sauron walked over the irrigation ditches as he inspected the fields. In the long rows grew mostly fuzz cones and tendril clusters with a few popballs around them. So far things had shaped up quite well. One of the problems of this world was that there was not much in the line of soil. There was sand, dirt and clay in abundance but outside of the swamps there was very little in the line of nutrient rich earth. The larger plants could not survive. Popballs could grow in wet sand, but most plants could not. In wet conditions they'd break down into soil eventually but, popballs that grew around puddles that dried out usually witherered and dried up, leaving the surrounding dirt little better off for it. He'd found that the best form of fertilizer that he could make was a combination of plant matter, ground bones and hexacrawler dung left to molder in water. A fair amount of that stuff had been applied to this plot of land. While it was not one of his natural aptitudes, Sauron did have a decent understanding of botany and it's practical application. Orcs needed to eat and Mordor only had so much arable land. A fair deal of it he'd gotten out of a few Entwives that his forces had captured, but much of it had come about through experimentation and trial and error. The plants of Arda were different from the bluish flora of this world in many ways (most of which were deficiencies in Sauron's eyes) but broad principles were the same and he had all the time in the world.

Five local millennia had past since Sauron's arrival, five thouand years of seeing the plans. There had been setbacks, from rainstorms which threw off his dryness tests to dust-storms to outbreaks of diseases that cost him time and whole batches of hexacrawlers and several earthquakes that damaged the complex. Never the less after more than 5,000 generations he'd achieved his first goal. This was why he had laid out this new field. Even so it was time to check up on them. He turned into a bat and flew back to the complex. He took a good look at the square of green and the aqueduct and reservoir that fed it in the mostly barren plains.

In the breeding pen were twenty eight adult Hexacrawlers and a modest number of juveniles crawled about grazing. Their behavior was basically identical to that of their ancestors in that regard, but they were distinguishable in others. The main difference was that their skin was a dull green, thicker, lumpier and waxy to the touch. Their legs were also longer and their nostrils wider. While they were still strong swimmers once they had completed their metamorphosis from fry to juvenile besides drinking and giving birth they never needed to return to the water. They were a bit faster on land than their counterparts as well, thought that was hardly saying much. Sauron used The Ring to get four of them in the cart and carried them to the fields. He unloaded them into their new home. He then returned and made six more trips with the rest.

As he unloaded the last batch, he saw the others gorging themselves and belching. There was no shortage of good food for them here nor water for them to spawn in. This field would be their kind's Cuiviénen. He had succeeded at making a better Hexacrawler. Now it was time for more ambitious projects.

Chapter Eight
(Day 1,580,005 to 1,580,010)

As Sauron finished up regular clearout of the aqueduct's channel one morning he noticed a pair of Dryland Hexacrawlers wandering about near ground level, grazing around on plants that grew. So far they'd been doing quite well and had become a fairly common sight as they moved across the plains from pool to pool in search of small clumps of vegetation, leaving manure in their wake and in a roundabout way helping the local flora. He had fears of dilution, that over that they would breed back into the rest of the population and the qualities he'd spent so long breeding for would revert back to the default. So far this had not happened, at least on a grand scale. There was some of this along the fringes of swamps which yielded hybrids, but said hybrids did not do as well as either their parents on the whole. They were more resistant to drying out than the Drylanders, needing to wet themselves once every few weeks and drink more. Out of the large swamps the crossbreeds did not do so well. Some qualities that he'd been breeding for had begun to manifest in the mostly basal swamp going populations (most notably in his harvest swamp), though the impact was not total. The Drylanders needed more food, their ability walk further was not really much of an advantage in swamps where swimming was an option and in the water they were less agile than a healthy adult wild Hexacrawler, which left it vulnerable to predators. So far the two populations remained mostly distinct from each other and by all appearances were only getting more removed as time went on.

Even so, he needed some fresh stock for the next batch. He dropped down and picked up the big dumb newt thing, checked to see if it was in good health (and it apparently was) or pregnant (which it was thankfully not) and carried the beast with on arm. He did the same to the other one after finding it satisfactory, dropped them off in pens and so they became Dryland Hexacrawlers Batch 120, Generation 1 Number 1 and 2. Scrounging up an other sixty two more was no big deal as there were plenty in the general vicinity and by the end of the day he'd wrangled up more of them. The next day he checked on how this lot was doing by the looks of it they were doing just fine and since they were all fully grown and checked out. Now it was time to run his test.

Dryland Hexacrawler 120/1/1, as usual had adapted well to his new home, mostly oblivious to the change beyond the fact that this place had plenty of food and water. Then after some motion he saw something come in and dump a bunch of reddish brown things in front of it and then a bizarre compulsion to eat them. They tasted wrong, they had the wrong texture but it scarfed them down anyway. Then it went back to its general routine. The next day it felt a little uneasy, but continued about as normal. Then it got a few more of those things the next day, which it ate again. As it did for the next day. As it did so it's digestion got progressively worse. It became sluggish and it's excrement came out wrong.

Sauron noticed this with disappointment on his inspection. This injection of fresh blood was only marginally worse than those that he'd been breeding for over a century. Hexacrawlers were frankly too dumb to be picky, they constantly sucked up large amounts of vegetation as well as a fair bit of dirt and pebbles. They'd also occasionally eat some pinwheel bugs as they went or the occasional dead juvenile that happened to be in their path by accident. Even so the were plant eaters through and through. Stuff them full of of meat soon resulted in sickly stunted things. Making a Hexacrawler that was thicker skinned and did not try to wait out dry spells by burrowing into the mud making a cocoon was simple compared to turning one of these things into a predator. For not the first time he wondered if it would have been easier to breed some of the great river fish to have actual legs.

Chapter 9 (Day 32,041,498)

Near the fringes of a swamp a Hexacrawler that was broadly similar from those that stomped around the swamp a hundred thousand years ago wandered about eating plant matter one evening as usual. The sound of belches fill the air, which it ignored. About a week ago it had given birth to a brood of fry and now it was simply interesting in gorging itself. Some of them were a bit off in tone, being louder, more abupt and deeper pitched. Those it always ignored as they were from Drylanders. They lived out away from the swamps and were different from the swamp dwellers. Sometimes they came in in search of food or to release broods, but they rarely lingered about. Occasionally a Drylander and a Swamp Hexacrawler would mate, but the results of said parings at best produced a few not so healthy fry that would at best grow up into sterile hybrids if they survived. Not that it knew this or had the faculties to contemplate said information if it did know it. Drylanders belched differently, it not attracted to Drylanders and that was the end of that. Everey generation had pushed the two groups further apart.

It's top eye gazed over the fields lazily in the encroaching twilight. There was more vegetation than there had been a hundred thousand years ago and more clusters of tuft tubes (again not that it had any idea of this change or could have cared) and tubes. One thing that it noticed was a figure coming up to a small hill that stopped, turned it's head to look at it and then began to wander towards it. It was somewhat similar to a dryland hexacrawler, but never the less different. It was leaner and it's head was a bit different. Every other second this newcomer moved it's body length forward, about the same speed that a Drylander could do. It paid it little attention as it continued to eat. Nor did it give it much consideration when it opened it's mouth when it was two meters away.


Then to its surprise and shock there was a sudden intense pain burst of pain on it's right side between its front and center legs as the new creature bit down hard. It also felt other cuts made into its flesh, like those caused by sharp stones again and again. It squirmed frantically, all six legs furiously flailing about and head and trail thrashing about. To it's confusion it looked about for ponds or rivers to run away from, finding none nearby. For the last six million years the Hexacrawlers had developed a very successful survival strategy about predators locked into their minds by instincts: go out onto land where they can't get you. Some of them might follow you onto land for a bit, but never far. On land you were safe. But for all that it still knew what to do when predators got hold. It's attacker also thrashed about while it scratched at it with it's two forelimbs. Eventually the mouth closed, taking a large chunk of flesh with it. The hexacrawler tried scurried away as the thing scarfed down a chunk of meat, though it's limbs remained hooked int it's side and soon it took another bite. The hexacrawler lost a lot of blood and it's organs were crushed after a few seconds it got weaker and eventually passed out.

Overhead Sauron circled in his bat form and watched as his handiwork had done, giddy with success. Making a viable carnivore from Hexacrawler Stock had been a real pain in his side. It took several tries to get it right and there had been a few major setbacks, including two die offs which set him to square one 77,000 years ago and one that nearly did the same 38,000 years ago and rebuilding the complex ten times. Getting them able to eat meat was just the beginning, he also had to reshape their bodies in a variety of ways (including adding in a few additional refinements for good measure when they came up and dealing with a few defects which cropped up), from making a flesh ripping jaw with predatory teeth to claws and strengthening their arms and legs to better deal with thrashing and breeding in killer instincts. Not just standing commands given to them by the One Ring, but the ability to independantly go out, hunt prey down and kill them. That took a lot of highly contrived courses and tests, as well as a few thousand generations spent breeding for bigger (if still quite stupid) brains to get that. This was the seventh batch that he'd released into the wild as a completed product, the other six having petered out when not supervised by a vigilant maiar.

The important thing about this particular Hexastalker was that it was of the third wild generation. So far it showed no defects. It did not bother with eating plant life after becoming a juvenile, it did not attempt to eat it's siblings when there were plenty of pinwheel bugs and other such creepy crawlies feed or never leave their birth pools even when all the game had been eaten or get sick or any of the other things that they did. As did it's siblings. By the look of things soon it would find a mate and spawn a new brood. This swamp contained thousand upon thousands of Hexacrawlers. Plenty of sustenance for his latest creations. They were still a stepping stone on the path to Sauron's desired goal, but they would also help accelerate his aims. The Hexastalkers would be his threshers, separating the wheat from the chaff.

Chapter 10 (Day 32,043,408)
A Hexastalker wandered through the swamp in search of prey on a quiet evening. It heard one set of belches in the distance, which was suddenly cut off. It was hungry and in it's dim way recalled with longing the days of it's youth. Six Years ago it crawled out of the water as a juvenile, a product of the first brood of the first pair of Hexastalkers to wander into the swamp. It fed on bugs, slugs, creeper shells and carrion at first, then going after Juvenile Hexacrawlers as it got bigger and gradually working it's way up to adults. Back then there was no shortage of them, crawling about and growing fat just lying there until you sunk your teeth into them and ripped off their delicious meat. It never god more than slightly hungry back then and fat and happy it found other fat, happy Hexastalers to lock claspers with and subsequently unloaded broods of fry into the swamp. As time went on more Hexastalkers came out onto land, grew up and began to get fat and happy themselves. But as time went on the amount of prey steadily got thinner. It took some time for it to notice this fact, but it steadily became more and more noticable. It did not link the increased number of Hexastalkers with the Decline of Hexacrawlers. It new there was food before you ate and when you were done that praticular bit of food was gone. Linking a decline of prey with the increase in number of it's felows which might steal a bite from your kills and vice versa was beyond it's capacity. It had been forty eight days since it had gotten it's jaws around a live adult Hexacrawler and it had been another thirty six days since the one before that. For the last year it had picked over half finished kills (it's kind were hardly the most efficient of eaters), ate the odd fishoid that washed up, a few small things to snap up here and there and meat from an increasingly common source. It was enough to keep it going (for now at least), but not enough to satisfy it. To find those, it needed to wander far and wide around the swamp and cross a fair number of ponds haunted by Talon Cones, Fang Eels and Mire Lurks, the last of which could and increasingly would chase a Hexastalker onto land. All and all things had been going rather badly.

It noticed something stirring in a thick patch of popballs. A Juvenile Hexacrawler sat about eating the lumpy plants. Hardly a feast, but it was something. It wandered over to snap it up. But to it's suprise when it brought its jaws down it found it's mouth depressingly empty. It then noticed the little thing wandering away as fast as it's flabby little legs could carry it. It took up persuit as it did so and wandered into a cluster of Tuft Tubes. Undaunted the Hexastalker went into the collection of plants as fast as it could searching for movement. Even so, it soon found itself stuck. It thrashed about trying to free itself and get out to the other side where it's prey surely was. After a few minutes it did just that, and fell a meter onto hard rocks. A dim spark of anger filled it's mind as it righted itself as it looked for the Juvenile 'crawler.

As it did so it caught the eyes of several other Hexastalkers. Some of them of which wandered in to investigate. As the nearest did so it soon caught the investigator's nose as well. The fallen Hexastalker was wounded. It has a variety of cuts on it's hide and it's right central leg foot was mangled and limping. It might have ignored this qualities if it had not been as hungry as it was. Instead it approached it's wounded fellow with an open mouth hoping to gorge itself. But for all that the fallen Hexacrawlers noticed this and reacted. As the attacker bit into it's front left leg it bit down on the attacker's neck. Both twisted and clawed at each other, opening their mouth to try to bite again. The others made their move then, desperate for the flesh of the wounded. As they did so they were clawed at and bitten by their would be prey which were not yet down for the count and by each other, which wanted to drive off the competition. Two writhing bloody figures became three, then five, then seven, then nine, then thirteen, then eleven, then twelve, then ten, then eleven, then seven, then eleven, then six, then four, then seven, then four, then three and then finally settling on four with a banquet of shredded bodies. A few more Hexastalkers would come in through the next couple of days, eating their fill of the rapidly spoiling pile of meat, along with some of their juveniles (which the adults treated as appetizers) and swamps of pinwheel bugs and crawler shells. Over the next few days a couple more adults ultimately joined the heap of death in the shadow of the rock in fights over the last scraps of meat remaining.

None of them noticed the small Hexacralwer juvenile which had since wandered away from the heap of death and had grown in size. One of it's parents had a mutation which meant that some of the predator evasion instincts that it had as a fry were retained into adulthood and even on land. Ten years ago such a mutation would have been at best an irrelevance and more likely a source of unease that would have cost it some calories. In a world in which Hexastalkers exited it meant that it could mean the difference of life and death. Several other swamps had been eaten clean of Hexacrawlers. But in this case a few of them managed to survive to the point that the Hexastalker population collapsed. For several million years, Hexacrawlers had been safe from predators on land and had gotten fat and complacent, now it was Survival of the Skittish.
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Re: Sauron's World (LotR, minor crossover)

Post by Zor » 2018-01-25 01:09am

Chapter 11 (Day 162,202,085)

Sauron glided over the coastline as a giant bat, returning to the complex after a transoceanic flight. The landscape was different from when he first arrived. Erosion, earthquakes, volcanic activity and more had adjusted the landscape, as well as some other things. The same went with the plant life, which he had a hand in. Back then the plains and hills had been bare stone and sand with a few clusters of plants mostly concentrated around pools and streams and only a few insects buzzed about. Now much of the landscape was largely covered in frond cones, products of the Dark Lord's efforts of plant husbandry which have really taken. These fields of comparatively hearty plants were patrolled and fed apon by various amphibious beasts, the most visible among them were the herds of Hexarovers.
They were descendants of his Dryland Hexacrawlers, but they had several improvements over them. They were bigger, at over a meter long for full grown adults and far more mobile than their progenitors, being able to walk faster and further in a day than their ancestors ever could. Over the last few hundred millennia Sauron had bred several new species of plants and animals, but the Hexarovers were not among them. They were an byproduct of his efforts and an unexpected development for Sauron, but hardly unwelcome for all that. When he bred Hexastalkers he did so hoping that having a land based predator would cull away some of the inferior stalk from the herds and during the first few centuries he had some worries about them eating all other land animals on the continent into extinction despite their shotcomings, which they did do to several species of Hexacrawler, though thankfully their tenancy towards cannibalism and forming Death Piles in lean times offset that and their prey soon adapted to them suprisingly swiftly in a wide variety of ways. Some became more aquatic, others became better camouflaged, others became more skittish and faster on foot, a few developed the habit of hibernating in cocoons when Hexastalkers became too common, some became smaller with fast maturation cycle while the 'rovers went in the opposite direction. Adult 'stalkers would prey on their juveniles but usually avoided adults.

Sauron inspected the herds as he made his way back, some of which were over a thousand strong, leaving behind stripped fields full of dung in their path. The plants would grow back, soon enough either from roots or as new plants took root in the increasingly fertile soil. Occasionally he'd see a 'stalker either taking down an adult on the periphery of a herd or several of them fighting over such a kill, though in truth they preferred smaller prey. This was a right and proper in Saruon's book as the process was gradually making their species as a whole stronger and prevented the periodic crashes which could depopulate huge swaths of land erasing useful lineages as well as the rubbish. Especially when he had other plans.

After a few hours Sauron fluttered down into the complex, turned back into his elven form and after a bit of tidying up got back to work. It was different from what had become it's usual state as the breeding pens were now empty of animal life and used mainly as garden plots. Most of them were full of tuft tubes, though some also had frond cones. Both were of unusual size. The Cones could get up to a meter tall, three times what their wild counterparts got. The Tubes could get up to seven and were twice as thick as usual. Sauron walked into his workshop and pulled out a number of small glass vials and gently put them into holders. Then he filled up sixty four planters with soil, gave each a careful measure of water from a spouted ceramic pot and then poured out a measure of green dust from each into the pots. He had some left over and set it aside for the time being.

Sauron's latest project would have been one that the elves back on Arda would have a hard time believing: For the past twenty five thousand years Sauron had been attempting to make trees. Wood had a lot of useful applications, both as a construction material, a material for tools and as a source of fuel. He'd turn barren mudscapes into greenish blue fields for these salamander things, but forests would also be useful. He'd been working with local plants and had some success with them and as they reproduced by releasing spores they'd begun to have a positive effect on some of the the local plants. Recently he decided to check out how the tubes on the Northwestern Continent to do some comparisons with it's taller tubes. To his surprise he found that they were taller than he remembered, up to 11 meters tall. Had they gotten bigger on their own? Even so it did not matter. He'd collected some spore samples to grow some from scratch to see how they fared.

Chapter 12 (Day 2,102,144,771)

There was a forest. It was not the the tallest of forests, it's highest branches only got about 20 meters above the ground, but it was large, going on for hundreds of kilometers in every direction. Some of the trees were like palms with scaled trunks and a cluster of long strip shaped leaves on the top. Others were thinner with fronded tufts coming out between segments in their trunks and there was some variety among both groups. Swarms of pinwheel bugs filled hot humid air, preyed on by small claw handed hexacrawlers that lurked in the treetops through a haze of spores. On the forest floor frond cones, tendril clusters, sprouts, saplings and a few other plants took root among the leaf litter and the heaps of gradually sinking trunks. There were a few popballs in odd corners, but not many. What had been the dominant form of plant-life six million years ago was now relegated to a scattering of species in a few narrow niches between competition from more larger and more efficient plants and the depredations of the various herbivores that had by chance or design arisen and made this forest their own. Some of these creatures could get quite large and many of them made game-trails through the brush. What they did not make was a road.

The road was five meters wide, topped with stone slabs that rested on loose material underneath. It's profile was convex and it had stone borders with periodic drains. When it came to a river a stone bridge continued over it. Spaced out along it's length every few kilometers there were stone cistern that collected rainwater on either side and a pair of stone troughs. A few plants grew between the cracks and there were a few fallen leaves, but in general it was kept clear of vegetation.

Along that road came a procession. At it's head were a pair of Greatstalkers, two and a half meter long stocky carnivoress with 50cm of that taken up by a huge bone crushing head with retractable barbells and skin with hard nobs on their backs. They casually made their way along the road, occasionally darting ahead to attack some animal that tried to cross it. Two of these creatures casually walking side by side and not attempting to each each other was a strange sight for this world, but it was nothing compared to what followed behind them. Sixteen Hyperrovers marched along in two rows of eight. Each of these from head to tail, each of these creatures was three meters long and had six powerful legs holding up a round body. They plodded along at a steady two and a half km per hour neatly, scarfing up fallen plants as they went, with each one strapped with a wood and leather harness connecting them to a wagon. It's maker had seen a fair number of wagons in his time and had tried several basic designs out before settling on this fairly sophisticated. It's wheels were heavy and sturdy and rimmed with iron and put on a pair of leaf springs supporting the bed, which was loaded high with greenish rocks. Even though it lacked teamsters the wagon continued on without problems. Another two Greatstalkers took up the rear. During the day they marched, during the night they slept and they did so without any teamster handling them, as they had been doing for six days. Every day a black figure would fly overhead to check on their progress.

Soon the convoy had reached it's destination at Saruon's complex. As they did so, Sauron fell out of the sky, landed gently on his feet and calmly said "halt". All twenty creatures as one stopped moving, he commanded the Greatstalkers into a pen and led the wagon to a storage yard where he unloaded the ore, unharnessed the beasts and moved them into a pasture. The Hyperrovers (along with a few dozen other such animals) graized on plants and the Greatstalkers had an elderly Hyperrover to eat in their enclosure. Sauron had been making use of these beasts as part of a side project he had been operating for the last few millennia to aid him in resource collection and construction. Like everything it took some trial and error to get right, but he could give basic instructions to the beasts to follow simple commands to pull carts, turn wheels and similar simple tasks that he'd rather not do himself. This one had been bringing in loads of copper from a mine in the hills to the south. He did not have a huge demand for that at the moment but ingots of it would keep until he did have a need for it. It also meant having a few of the local to predators as guards.

There were of course technical limitations to all of this. Even with the One Ring to give commands even the brightest creatures of this world had a severely limited intellect and could only understand simple instructions. It was a useful start, but there were greater ambitions that he had in mind.

Chapter 13 (Day 5,305,300,006)

In elvish form and with a basket on his back, Sauron made his way through the swampy forest before suddenly stopping in his tracks. He clenched his fist, his eyes glowed for a moment and though his mouth remained shut every living creature with bones nearby received a simple message, "come". Over the next minute hundreds of creatures wandered over. Among them was the one tonne bulk of of a wild Grond-Hyperrover with four sharp horns as well as a an armored Hornhide-Stalker as well as a couple of web footed Hexagliders which gently went down to the forest floor from their treetop haunts. Sauron ignored them. Instead he reached down and picked up a couple of smaller creatures about 20cm long and put them into his basket, along with several other such creatures. He then dismissed the gathered wildlife, which shuffled off to go about their business which in a couple of cases meant eating each other. He then made sure the basket was tied up, turned into a wolf and made his way back to the complex. There he extracted the creatures, gave them a brief look over to confirm their species and health and them into stone pens. These were about a meter across and topped with a glass lid. There was a small dish for food and a pool of water at the bottom fed by a small inlet with a small drain. There were 340 of said pens and with this basketload he'd filled six more pens, finishing the 256 pens that would be needed for this batch.

From a casual inspection these creatures (Short Ridged Litterscroungers) were nothing particularly remarkable. Like a thousand other creatures in the forests they had the basic six legged salamander shape that had been common for the last 17 million years with an oval shaped head and short pair of barbells with short tendrils. They had a coat of scales, some of which formed a dorsal ridge of short spikes against predators and had a generalist diet, eating the various creepy crawlies as well as the odd bit of carrion and some leaves, chutes and (a product of one of Sauron's breeding projects) seeds. They were descendants of one of his earlier breeding projects, the Hexascrounger: half experiment, half niche filling the aim of that project was to breed a Hexastalker that could eat plants and meat. It was a success, they took and spread but they never reached the heights of the pure herbivores or carnivores. It's biggest descendant was the Greatscrounger: which was a meter and a half long short legged lummox of a thing who's best virtue in Sauron's reckoning was that they were rather good spit roasted. Mostly the line had radiated into a whole bunch of small creatures like the one's he'd been collecting. And to Sauron's annoying this was what he had to work with.

Through millions of years, over a hundred breeding projects for plants and animals of this world, making the plants and beasts of this world into stronger better forms and laying the foundations for something far greater. The wildlife of this world was now far stronger, heartier and if he was any judge smarter than the pitiful collection of hexacrawlers that were once the apex of life on land. He had bred formidable predators and powerful herbivores and from a few scrawny swamp weeds he'd covered the bare rock and sand of this world with greenish blue fields and forests.But in pushing those lineages along he'd eventually hit a point of diminishing returns.

Stem Hexacrawlers may have been able of little more than eating popballs, crawling along and breeding, but they had a nice quick life cycle going from newborn fry to breeding adult in less than a year and they did not need more. Hyperrovers take eight to eleven years to go from a small wriggling fishlike thing the size of Sauron's pinkie to nymphs the size of rats and ultimately to adults of breeding age. In other words one Hyperrover generation was ten Hexacrawler generations. This was before the matter of the requirements of penning and feeding a population worth breeding down. Which brought up another issue: the fry stage itself. It was a limiting factor on reproduction and range even for the more mobile thicker skinned creatures that had taken off so well. This would require a big change and breeding it into multiple lines of large creatures would take too long.

For the last hundred millenia had gradually become increasingly aware of this fact though he'd been putting this off. There were other things on his list that needed doing but it was increasingly obvious that something needed to be done. It was not that Sauron was inpatient, breeding a new species from scratch required a lot of that, but he did hate setbacks or working towards dead ends rather than making progress and was loathe to admit failure even if done due to a lack of hindsight. In no small part due to his final defeat on Arda. Even so, for all of that he did get around to this breeding project. After spending a few years in study he found that Short Ridged Litterscroungers were the best fit for his immediate needs. Most creatures gave birth in ponds, lakes and rivers. Ridged Litterscroungers in contrast gave birth in puddles and small pools on the forest floor. Given the frequent rainfall there was no shortage of these, though they rarely lasted long. As such the fry stage of these critters was short, with the Short Ridged Litterscroungers being the shortest of all at 14-16 days.

For all of that the creatures were small, did not need much food (a few scraps of meat and leaves every other day was more than enough) and they reached sexual maturity in four months. Combined with a Three in Four generational culling (as opposed to a one in two) in each generation he should be able to build up the desired traits quickly enough. Even so it would be some time till he got what he wanted and once he was done then came the process of branching them out.

Chapter 14 (Day 6,039,144,382)

On a clear night from the surface of Sauron's World, a human could see it's three moons and up to seven other planets unassisted. Three of these were visible in the evening and in the morning, the innermost planets, the third being paired with it's dimmer but still visible moon. Four of which could be seen at night, these being the outermost planets, the fifth also having a pair of easily visible moons. With the aid of a pair of binoculars such an observer could make out the three outermost gas giants as well fine details such as the ring systems of the sixth planet and up to twelve other moons two faint and distant to be observed. What was harder to make out was the myriad smaller bodies that floated about the sun. Most of which were concentrated into two belts orbiting between first and second and the fifth and sixth and seventh planets respectively. But some were erratic. Traveling in eccentric orbits off the plane of the ecliptic that would at times be thrown off by the gravity of planets. Mostly they coasted along through the vastness of space.

One of these objects went about on it's path as it had forth past few hundred million year ever since a impact changed it's course a hundred million years ago. It was a potato shaped lump of chondritic stone about 10km long and 7km across weighing in at 1.47 trillion tonnes. Every once and a while it had come within a light second of either the Second or Forth Planet, but on this day it's course brought it much, much closer. It came in past the moons at 25 km/s, it's course mildly adjusted but not enough to throw it off. It came in at a 30 degree angle, burning like a second sun over the Northwestern Continent before crashing down near a small archipelago near the equator with the force equivalent to 70 teratons of TNT.

At that moment Sauron was throwing a few scraps of meat into a pen that contained twelve small creatures about six to eight centimeters long. They had six stumpy legs, large eyes, slimey skin with a few patches of scales and were about two days old. Two of their siblings had died so far, but the rest of them were holding up pretty well. He knew to wait another six to see how things would unfold before making his selection, but by the looks of things one of this litter would go on going into be part of the final reduction of Batch 4,083 of his latest current project with the Landlings.
He'd bred their immediate ancestors from Litterscroungers more than twelve hundred thousand years ago and since then he'd been branching off lineages off. He'd made burrowing Diglings, climbing Treelings, fleet footed Dashlings, dog sized herbivorous Frondlanders and now he was breeding up weasel sized Jawlings into Jawlanders. The goal here was a 30 kilo predator that could give most of the Stalkers a run for their money in a straight up fight. Completing that goal was a few hundred generations away by his estimates and no major abnormalities had been cropping up.

Though there were a few braziers for illumination Sauron had not lit them and instead worked by moonlight on this clear night. Out of the corner of his eye he saw a sudden glow on the Eastern Horizon, like the sun of Arda decided to dawn on this alien world. Then he saw the lines of fire streaking from it westwards at incredible speeds. He wondered what could be happening. Was there someone or something else on this world? Did AC reneg on his claims of non involvement? Had the Valar somehow managed to reach him? There was an element of panic to him as these thoughts ran through his mind. To get a better view turned into a bat a flew straight up as fast as his wings before blazing into the eye to get a better view of what had happened. The Light on the horizon still burned brightly and he got a good look at the lines of fire. He saw heated dust and glowing lumps of material like a forge. They seemed to be flying on a purely ballistic trajectory.

At that moment sauron recalled some of the observations he'd made in his formless time after the destruction of the original One Ring. That period was mostly an incoherent jumble of rage and hatred, but there were a few observations. One of them was of tumbling stones the size of mountains hurtling through the void. Another was seeing one of them crash into a moon as he drifted by, hitting with enough force to sent bits of itself flying into space. He'd seen a few meteorites crash down before, but to send huge chucks flying into the void required immense force.

Sauron fell down to the ground, picked up a basket and stuffed a few of his adult Jawlings. He also picked up a couple of jars of seeds, some fish from the breeding pool and the box in which he kept his rings of power. As quickly as he in eleven form ran to a hillside to the east of the complex. He found a cleft, laid down his hands and shaped the stone as quickly as he could. It was a crude job to say the least, but something would be better than nothing. He punched a couple of small holes through the side to let air in and waited. A few seconds after he was done the first shockwave hit him. A massive earthquake that rivaled the worst that he'd ever felt. He held his little bunker together as best he could, even if some chunks of rock fell down. Then through his pinhole he watched as a massive wave of fire, smoke, ash, lightning and burning stone washed over. Trees were smashed and were set alight in the firestorms.

For three days sauron waited, feeding his Jawlings, taking glimpses as he waited and shuring up the shelter from aftershocks. Then, convinced the worst had past he walked out into the desolation. All around him lay burned trunks and a blanket of ash beneath a coal grey sky. Small fires still burned. Here and there lay the corpses of animals that had been caught up in the turmoil, blasted and burned and rotting with a few smaller creatures ripping at the cooked meat. When he got to the complex, his fears were confirmed. Much of it had been flooded when the Reservoir broken. Pens and stables lay smashed and most of them had burned or crushed creatures.

Sauron had laid waste to lands to power his ambitions before, but that was always as a means to an end. This was devestation that had surely engulfed much of the world for no reason beyond the random courses of rocks intersected, leaving His World in ashes. He screamed in fury, a bellow of rage that could be heard from horizon to horizon over the sundered landscape.

Chapter 15 (Day 6,043,400,291)

It was Sauron's 20,000,000th anniversary on this world. To celebrate he'd shaped a lump of granite into a statue of himself outside his complex: his right arm holding a shield to the west with his left arm holding a small Jawlander firm. Now that it actually set down in stone it was a cheesy monument but he'd needed something to mark the occasion and frankly it helped improve his mood.

The statue stood on a hill overlooking the complex, now restored even though it had more greenhouses. Around it stood a forest laid out in a grid within two km of it's bountry and somewhat ragged beyond that. Things were at their worst in the three years after the impact: there was a near constant overcast of dust and ash in the air that left everything in shadow. Plants that had escaped unburnt withered for lack of sunlight. He'd kept a few seedlings going in greenhouses using, but little outside of a few frond cones grew. After that things improved somewhat but there were duststorms, droughts, flash floods and a drop in temperature. The complex was located in the sub tropics (even if the land had drifted since he'd started) and before the impact temperature were mild in the winters and hot and muggy in the summer. Besides mountaintops and the arctic Archipelago snow had been rare in the extreme. For the first thousand years afterwards the temperature had dipped down so the depths of winter there were frosts and even a few days of snow. For the local plants this was quite lethal, especially trees. Changes in rain and wind patterns only made things worse. Sauron had brought in some more southerly plants and they did a bit better. The problem was that eventually the temperatures rose back up again gradually, though there was a cold year every decade or so (though these had been getting less common). Cold weather plants were out-competed by warm weather plants when it was warm out, but suffered in cold snaps. This led to forest fires and more erosion. Things were evening out on the whole but last year had another dip in temperature. Last year had a week of persistent snow after 24 years of warm weather.

Many varieties of plant had not survived, but more obvious were the animals. There were no more Greatstalkers nor Hyperrovers despite his efforts building heated stables to keep a few of them alive. Many other creatures had also died out. The biggest thing that he'd seen on land on surveys was the occasional Lesser Southern Swamplurk (1.5 meter long semi-aquatic fish things that could drag themselves from river to river on half formed feet) and some stunted Frondlanders and Dwarf Rovers. Smaller creatures up to cat sized had begun to proliferate again, in particular those that could burrow and surprisingly Hexagliders. But even among the smaller creatures he noticed that there were a fair number of species from his last decamillenial species audit that have not turned up since then.

Slow as it had been Sauron had been making progress. They're had been setbacks, sure but at worst it meant that he had to start from scratch on a breeding project and he'd be set back a dozen or so millennia, but the impact had not only brought his Jawlander project to a halt (even if some of them did manage to survive). This had wiped away millions of years of work in one fell stroke, leaving a crippled environment. Even so, it was back to the grindstone. Sauron Left the statue and went back to the pens. Right now his plan was to breed Landlings that could shiver. Cold sensitivity was looking to be more and more of a weakness and one that he'd have to address. Better get it sorted out now rather than waiting for the next disaster.

Even so, something would need to be done about asteroids in the long term.
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Re: Sauron's World (LotR, minor crossover)

Post by LadyTevar » 2018-01-25 09:01pm

Nicely done. Can't wait to see where you go from here.
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Re: Sauron's World (LotR, minor crossover)

Post by Borgholio » 2018-01-25 09:54pm

I too am really enjoying this so far. The only nitpick is that although we know Sauron can be very patient, I don't think even he could so casually handle 16 million years as if they were the blink of an eye. Other than that, this is still a fun read!
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Re: Sauron's World (LotR, minor crossover)

Post by Zor » 2018-02-09 09:07pm

Chapter 16 (Day 9,529,522,441)

Over the next eleven million years life had recovered from The Impact and in some cases exceeded what had come before, even if the temperature had made a more long-term dip 6,000,000 years ago, aided along in several fields the resident Maiar. New forests had grown to replace the older ones. In the case of those about 1,500 km south of Sauron's original Complex they were composed mainly of a new family of seed bearing trees that could grow up to 40 meters tall with trunks which diverged into four to eight branches each crowned by a palmlike cluster of leaves. But it was not just the flora that had changed, the fauna had as well. In the cluster of one of these trees lurked one of the more obvious new additions...
...a Tetrawing, which had been sunning itself since daybreak. It's ancestors had been simple gliders that got through The Impact by being small and able to relocate from one food source or spawning pool to another rapidly while not expending much energy with their six webbed feet. As things became more stable, some lineages of their ancestors shifted into more generalized small scale predators. Others refined their bodies to better leap, glide and eventually fly. It took a couple of million years for the process to run it's course but in the end the four winged creature proliferated and spread. Soon the Great Southern Continent was theirs and eventually as a few individuals were swept up by windstorms they gradually established themselves on the other three. Most were fairly small creatures that snapped up pinwheel bugs, but this one was a 30cm long Froghawk and having completed a migration from the warmer lands to the north it was hungry.

It lept from it's leafy roost and spread all four of it's wings. It's forelimbs served mainly as stabilizers while it's powerful midlimbs provided it's lift. Shaking with each flap the Froghawk was hardly graceful. Never the less it could gain altitude and cover ground a lot more quickly what the various other amphibioids and psuedo-saurians on the ground could. Three eyes surveyed the air and forest floor as it went, as did it's fairly well developed olfactory sense. It saw a small herd of Four-Knobbed Shielddhides wandering through the Frond Cones, the cow sized armored lizardlike things scarfing up plant matter as they went as well as Red Crested Wisker-Dashers: skittish long legged 1.5 meter long amphibious herbivores with long barbed barbells which helped them sense vibrations and bring plants into their maws. Neither species was really notable to the Froghawk, being too big and powerful for it. Even so few after a minutes it caught wind of a specific salty smell and it's left questing eye found it's origin: a small crevice in a fallen log stuffed with fronds.A lesser Landling's nest, in which would be enough pink squirming newborns to sate it's hunger. It glided down before fluttering to break it's speed and making it's way on all sixes to the nest.

Then out from a thick patch of ferns something darted out. It was sixty two centimeters long with a long stocky body. It's body followed the same basic plan as many other creatures, a six limbed lizardish form. The biggest irregularity was it's skin, for though it still had scales on it's feet and belly much of it was covered in dull green bristles. It was also surprisingly fast and had two forelimbs with heavy digging claws and a maw full of razor sharp teeth. The Froghawk attempted to leap skyward but a claw grasped it's right forewing and a jaw with long front teeth bit down on it's main wing crunching bones. It attempted to bite it's attacker but the claws raked it's head and eventually snapped it's neck.

The Bristleback picked up it meal and wandered towards the burrow. It's kind needed more food than most creatures of it's size and the Froghawk's attempts at predation was a welcome turn of events as it began to rip chunks of meat off the flyer's skeleton. It's kind was comparatively new, made by Sauron from his first success in breeding for fur (the Bristleling) out of his Mountain Compex and being first released into the wild about 200 years ago and slowly spilling out into the temperate regions from there. It was a warm blooded omivorous generalist able to better operate in colder climates. It also possessed a few other adaptations that had served it well, most notably an enlarged brain and a few odd behavioral quirks. For twelve million years landlings gave birth and moved on, leaving their young to fend for themselves in a hostile waorld. Bristlebacks monitored the nest for a week or two, protecting it from predators. But they also did more than just that. The mother gnawed and ripped off the head and forewings and stuffed them into into the nest hole. Inside eight pups slowly crawled toward it and greedily dined on their would be killer.

Chapter 17 (Day 14,421,229,500)

Dawn crept over the horizon and gradually illuminated. Built and rebuilt thousands of times, the breeding pens, aqueducts, greenhouses, stems, storehouses and workshops had endured for myriad millenia, as had some of the roads. Most creatures avoided the place, in part due to the fence, in part due to the predators (at this time Dark Prowlers) which patrolled and part due to the fact that those which had. But now there were new additions to it, some new structures, new lands and new fields. To an observer who watched it from a atom one of the hills that surrounded it, the addition that would be most likely to grab the eye was a large smoking chimney rising from the mostly squat buildings, as well as the distant reverberating sound of a gong. Less obvious are a small set of square stone buildings. There were six of them in a line, each about 4 meters tall and 6 meters long and wide with a tile roof raised slightly at an angle. They had a set of small square holes near the top and slightly less than half way down looking around and a small door at their front about half a meter wide, slightly elevated off the ground and had a basic cat-flap construction. Inside each unit was divided in two stories with a simple ramp allowing access to the top floor, there was a small fountain, a hole at the ground level floor leading into a pipe full of running water that ran under all of them as well as about 40 to 50 Porters...
At least half of their number of them were pups, the smallest of which being the size of hamsters. But most of the volume was taken up by meter long adults dozing on the floor. Most of them were asleep and those that were awake were not doing much, until they heard the gong. with that, they woke up and wandered out of their homes and wandered to a long sheltered trough of glazed ceramic. At one end of the trough was a cauldron suspended on a pair of trunnions over a fire. Several porters pulled on pair of chains, tipping the cauldron to pour a thick brown grey sludge into the trough for the rest of them to eat. A few older pups ate with the adults and some of the adults brought some tubers into their homes to feed the youngest that were confined to their homes.

After their meal the adults went about various tasks. A few stayed with at this feeding station, rinsing out the trough, feeding the fires with sticks and logs and topping off the cauldron with water (measured out with a jug) as well as tubers, stalk vegetables and dried fish that were sliced up with a simple guillotine, stirring the pot with an iron chandalier like contraption which was lowered in. Some went to a field of tuber plants, weeding and otherwise tending to them. Others went to the fish pools, tossing chopped up tubers and weeds in, as well as catching a few grown fish and hanging them up to dry and taking those that had dried off to a storehouse. Some pulled along simple wagons outside, gathering fallen branches and hunks of wood from the forest. Some of which went to the feeding stations and most went to iron burners. The charcoal produced by some of these was gathered up by another set of Porters and carried it up a ramp to a chute near the top of a smoking cylindrical building and tossed them down. A lone Porter did the same with handfuls of greenish rocks from a pit. After an hour of this, Sauron pulled a tap at it's base, letting a stream of metal pour out into a set of oblong molds, which he tipped out after a few minutes leaving a cool solid shiny reddish brick. A couple of porters picked them up, loaded them onto a small wagon and carried them one by one to a storehouse.

Sauron then continued through his rounds, investigating how things were going in the other Porter operations. He watched as each creature did it's task and inspected the work. So far, things had been progressing quite smoothly and no corrections were needed. Crops were tended efficiently, fish caught and dried, feed stew prepared, fallen timber was harvested, ore smelted and ingots stalked neatly. One of the wagons was a bit slow by the looks of things but that was a matter of carpentry, there were spares and it could be fixed comparatively simply. He smirked with satisfaction at the smoothness of the operation. A month had past since he needed to intervene.

The products of his latest (and still technically ongoing) breeding project, Porters were derived from a rather flexible generalist species to serve as beasts of burden, although ones far more flexible than the various draft and guard creatures that he'd been using. Their forelegs were modified to serve primarily as arms and their intelligence had been pushed forward by a considerable margin. It was still at an animal level, but they had a considerable memory and ability to learn. Back when he first arrived, he could order Hexacrawlers to move to a specific point and latter he could order other animals to follow roads or guard locations or other creatures. Porters in contrast could comprehend comparatively complex tasks if they had been broken down sufficiently. They could not understand a direct verbal order such as "cook food" but they could understand "First sequence: move to work station. Second sequence: turn valve 90 degrees clockwise, when jug is full turn valve 90 degrees counter clockwise and tip jug into cauldron. Third sequence: pick up basket, go to Tuber Storehouse, operate latch, open door, enter, collect 3 tubers and put them in basket, leave, close door, go to Fish Storehouse, operate latch, open door, collect one Fish, put fish in basket, leave, close door, return to cooking station." And so on and so forth, as well as responses to certain events such as "At the sound of a Gong, begin work Day" and "If a wild predator attacks, run back to dormitory screaming an alarm". Once he'd used the One Ring to give them said commands they would do them automatically and continuously.

He'd been experimenting with them for thirty two years, giving them simple tasks and instructing them to carry them out. Obedience was not an issue, the matter was working out the right set of instructions that could fit into their brains to let them carry out their tasks as efficiently as possible, especially when working in groups. If he ordered them to do so Porters would work themselves to death, though this was not useful. The goal was to work out a set of instructions to give them that the Porters could memorize so that they could do specific tasks without constant oversight and error corrections. As it stood farming and operating a copper smelter were down. Now he'd have to do other things. There would still be severe limitations to this arrangement. Porters were (at least now) fairly small, had limited dexterity, required direct instructions at least once and while they could accept complicated commands, they were still only performing a set of motions usually without any actual understanding of what they were doing. Something better would need to be contrived in the long term. Even so, he could see the potential of them as a booster to his operations.

Chapter 18 (Day 15,941,315,382-3)

Around The Complex was The City and it's farms, together they had a population of nearly ten thousand Porters. Some were huge, bear sized brutes weighing 500 kilos which did the heavy lifting. Most were slightly bigger but otherwise broadly similar in appearance to that of the first that Sauron had put to work. Some had webbed feet, paddle like tails, oily coats and tended to the fish ponds and barges. All of them were more flexible and dexterous than their ancestors, as well as gaining a measure more cognition. Their lives followed a basic pattern: they were born in designated birthing alcoves in the boxy wood and brick housing structures during the summer solstice, cared for by their mother or nanny. After their first month (or first four months in the case of the great porters, who's maturation unfurled at a quarter speed) of life they wandered about the barracks. At three months they wandered around a nursery pen, gradually getting bigger and smarter with a collection of old tools to play with. After 24 months came the trials. The Juveniles would leave the nursery pens and would be assembled on the field of judgement. Mairon (which he occasionally referred to himself as and many Porters had some dim notion to associate that sound with the being), whom they all regarded with unquestioning reverence and submission would descend to inspect the juveniles and run them through a variety of tasks, which he would observe and take note of. Usually about three quarters of them would be exiled, loaded up onto carts and barges and unloaded in remote locations dozens of kilometers from any operation to fend for themselves. Those that proved themselves would be given a task by the Maiar and instructions on how to carry it out. Occasionally wild porters were brought in to add fresh blood to the workforce.

After that their life would be a mostly unvarying routine: waking up, eating a meal of feed-stew from a trough, going to work in the fields, workshops, warehouses, storage yards, kitchens, timber camps and similar for about half a day with a short break at noon before eating a second meal, washing off in bath houses and returning to their barracks to sleep. Some would work night shifts, but most worked continuously regardless. Some followed a more erratic schedule, such as the constructors, which mostly made bricks and dig regular cleanup but also built structures when directly commanded to. There would be a disruption in the labor cycle in mating season and mothers would eventually be allowed time off to birth their new generation and directly tend to them for the first few weeks and those that suffered minor wounds would be allowed short spells to recover, but for the most part they worked continuously. Every now and again Sauron would make his rounds among the various operations to see how they were progressing, though rarely did he need to directly intervene. Those that had suffered major wounds, got sluggish around the age of 25 (or 45 for the Great Porters) or (in a few rare cases) got into fights or screwed up repeatedly would go down to the hall of finality and lay their weary heads in the rest of a guillotine. Their corpses would be cut up, boiled to disintegration and used as feed for the fish farms, their heads and spines composed and their bones used for fertilizer in the fields, or were burned in the case of the sick. A small numb would be sent out to tend to distant way stations for draft beasts and work in distant mines, but most of Sauron's Porters never left sight of the Complex.

Most of their efforts were put towards sustaining their population and facilities, but a reasonable number of them also worked to support the breeding projects. On this day one of the latest products of said programs made were undergoing a trial.

One of the most prominent workshops was the cartworks, a long hallway with a variety of workshops built around it in which about a hundred. Simple handcarts were a key part of the operation of the facility. Carts allowed a Porter to easily move it's weight about, be it of tubers, fish, charcoal, ingots or whatever. Their construction was very simple: an axle with two solid wheels had a simple box put on top and two wooden handles. Over a thousand of them were used at any one time and since they regularly wore out or broke down, a stead supply of replacements were required. Lumber and nails were supplied and went through, each distributed to stations with various guides and some water powered tools in place where it was gradually used to make components and then step by step assemble them into the final product along a basic assembly line. On average slightly more than four were finished daily to fill their master's requirements.

Now eight creatures observed them. They had many features common, but also some major differences. They were larger and bipedal, with their central legs refined into arms. They stood 1.25 meters tall on average and weighing in at about 40 kilos. The Porters gave them little consideration as they went about their tasks. It was not the first time creatures like them had intruded and unlike the newcomers they were not particularly curious creatures by nature. They walked about taking notice of what the Porters were doing at each stage. A couple focused on the wheels, others focused on the boxy top, though each of them went over each of the jobs involved examined the finished product. Occasionally they would make noises at each other: grumbles, chirps, chitters, barks, sighs, burbles and gurgles. They would also point at what the porters were doing.

After a few hours and the mid-day gong, they filed out and marched to a small structure near the river. Inside was a pile of timber, including a long smooth wooden shaft and two blocks of wood with holes in it, and a fairly substantial set of tools. They make a few noises and begin work on the task. Planks were sawed into the appropriate lengths (using measuring lines) and nailed together with stray nails hammered flat. Most of these were brought together, but two square blocks were treated differently. A piece of chalk and a length of string was used to draw a circle, which they then used saws to cut around, producing a pair of discs. They ate a meal of Feed-Stew during the evening and fell asleep afterwards. The next day they ate another meal and continued to work at their task, finishing touches on the componets and assembling them. Dowels were drilled on the shaft, they were threaded through the two base blocks, the wheels were slotted on and pegs were hammered in on either side. They finished that evening and one of them ran off to inform their master. the doors opened and Sauron walked in. The eight creatures, who'd completed their task a while before bowed as the maiar past through the door. He made his way around the Cart, looking it over from top to bottom. He took note of the joints, the position of nails, it's balance and gave it a quick pull. He gave a quick smiled and gave the eight his approval. The cart was nearly as good as those that the Cartworks could do with less manpower. Moreover this was their first try. He was sure that they could improve on that.

Over thousand of millennia, Sauron had gradually refined Porters. Earlier Porters could only handle simple tasks of collecting, lifting, pulling, pushing, depositing and so forth. A fair number of complex tasks could be broken down into this with some forethought and specialized tools and guides. More recent Porters could use hand tools, learn tasks by being ordered to emulate those already doing a task as well as being able to get better at tasks on their own with practice, such as hammering in nails or shoveling. The bipedal creatures that he'd been working on for nearly a million years now had several advantages over Porters beyond the greater number of arms. These creatures were bread for more than that. They had larger brains. They'd never seen a wagon before, but they had done some carpentry projects in the breeding complex. These were creatures not made simply to follow simple instructions, they were made to comprehend and understand. Something which they could do quite well. They still lagged in the area of vocalizations and communications, but that was a comparatively simple process compared to everything else. Even so, he could introduce these Artisans into his workforce and considerably boost productivity.

Sauron was ecstatic, after more than 52 million years the final stage of his extremely long stretched plan was now underway. He had made do with a complex, eventually he'd gotten a small city, soon he could extend his Dominion across this world.

An Artisan.


A rough cladogram charting the evolution of the evolution of life on the Sauron's continent (as well as a few branches of Tetrawings which had spread to the other continents and the large predatory fishoid creatures that fill the role of crocodiles).
Chapter 19 (Day 15,998,843,203)

There were three main continents on Sauron's World covering about 24% of the planet's surface. The largest of these was the Great Southern Continent, which made up for nearly half the continental landmass on the planet, but there were two more in the in the Northern Hemisphere. On the Northwestern Continent there was a well developed land dwelling lineage. Distant relatives to the Hexapod lineage, their ancestors diverged long ago, developed along similar lines and had made their first steps shortly before Sauron's arrival. Nearly 53 million years latter they had proliferated, diversified, re-diversified after The Impact and improved on the basic design of their ancestors.

The southernmost corner of the Northwestern continent dipped a few dozen kilometers south of the equator. On it's eastern coast was a bay, covering 2,100 square kilometers and accessed by a channel to the sea fourteen kilometers wide fed by several rivers. It's was a hilly lush area covered in thick forest and greyish green. Much of the coastline was covered in beaches, along one of which marched a herd of Trihogs.
Armor plated tripedal omnivores that rutted through the flotsam and jetsam that had wash ashore, scarfing up seaplants, dead fish, conecrabs, blossom shells and other such food as they went. There were about a hundred of them, ranging from 15cm long hatchlings to 2.3 meter long elders. Many of them were fattening after a herd wide mating period left them gravid. Occasionally they'd use their headspikes to dig into the sand to uncover something that their olfactory sense detected, scarfing it up in their beaks and crushing them. Smell was their primary sense for finding food, with Sight being used for navigation avoiding obstacles and predators. Though their boney plates did offer them considerable protection, there were predators in the area that had crushing beaks that could get through it.

One of the adults walked towards evidence of this, a heavily worn section of a Trihog's carapace left among other bones and plates. Mostly stripped a swarm of Pinwheel bugs along with a few Conecrabs, Crawler Shells and a Tetrawing were going over what scraps of flesh remained and each other. The Tetrawing croaked defiantly at the three legged interloper for a few seconds before snatching up a Crawler shell and taking to the air. Trihogs had an aversion to cannibalism and avoided the scraps of meat, but the flesh of scavengers was another matter. As it feasted many of the scavengers began to abandon the shell, its probing beak following a large one to a wheel. It was about about a meter in diameter, spoked and had a rusty steel rim. It pecked at the wheel trying to expose the creature. It did not pay it any particular attention to the wheel besides the fact that it was an object that stood between it and a tasty morsel. It had encountered similar detritus a couple of times on coastlines before over it's five years and in any case Trihogs were hardly the smartest of creatures. Eventually it scooped up the Conecrab and proceed to take it apart messilly with beak and toothed tounge.

Between swallows it noticed something on the eastern Horizon, a light up against some distant rainclouds to the east. It trumped through it's nostrils to the heard which put them on alert. The rest of the herd took notice and looked around. Most of the adults soon noticed small light illuminating the clouds and directed an eye or two to look at it. It made them a bit uneasy. Unusual lights near the horizon illuminating clouds from the bottom was a sign of forest fires, which made them a bit jumpy. The fact that it was a across the water made little difference. They continued eating, though they kept an eye on the light. The light persisted for about a minute then winked out. Confident it was no longer an issue they put it out of their minds.

Above the ocean a giant bat larger than any Tetrawing idled in the thermals before flying southeast. Sauron had made a hundred or so to the other continents over the eons, but had never given them too much consideration. His captive breeding projects required a lot of attention, as did managing his draft beasts and workforce of Porters. Setting aside time to fly across the sea explore and do some worthwhile activity was always a tricky thing and usually involved planning a year in advanced. At most he'd survey the local fauna and flora, take note of some broad geological changes and occasionally collect seed samples of some interesting plant. Occasionally he'd introduce a new breed of plant. Twenty eight million years ago he'd tried to introduce Landlings to this continent, carrying a couple in a special pouch before releasing them into the wild. He made five flights, in the first two and the forth the breeding pair died in transit, in the second one of them died and while he did manage to get both of them alive they did not take. Probably they were gobbled up by one of the ancestors of the Trihogs.

Sauron was quite familiar with those creatures and their long branched lineage going back to their mudskipper like ancestors, but he did not hold them in high regard. Some of them were impressive as far as dumb animals went and they had done a fair bit of diversification, but for all that they were still deficient in a number of ways. They were sluggish, three legs were less versitile than four, they were all cold blooded as far as he could tell and they lagged in a wide variety of areas, especially intelligence. Jumps that he'd had bred in over a hundred thousand years took these shelled creatures a million or more. Proper herbivorous strains only began to show up to show up a couple million years after the Impact, up until that point they ate fish, small land going invertebrates, each other and maybe a few gobbets of leaves. He could probably make something presentable with them with ten to thirty years, but he did not have reason to do so. In the last few centuries he'd been able to begin a period of expansion on a scale that he'd never before had on this world. After millions of years of gradually breeding new species of plants and animals, such rapid developments was amazing. Now he was considering the beginnings of a new phase of this process. Doing so would require a beachhead, which this bay was ideally suited for.

He had his look, confirmed his previous general impression the area and would plan accordingly. Efforts would be made and would soon be dispatched. As for the Trihogs and the other shellbacked three legged creatures of this land, they'd better hope that they can either make themselves or be made useful.

Chapter 20 (Day 15,998,844,001 to 125)

Forty eight years ago a small triangular seed floated down to the forest floor and shortly afterwards sprouted. It managed to beat the odds and avoid the maws of herbivores in it's early life as it developed bark and grew skywards as a Highland Ribbark. Gradually it got bigger and stronger. As it grew an older neighbor declined, exposing more sunlight, giving it the light it needed to fully grow. Eventually it reached the canopy thirty meters and laid down seeds of its own. Healthy and with plenty of sunlight it could have lived to see it's 150th year, but this was not to be.

One day a group of Porters got to it. Wild Porters were reasonably common in the forest, but these were organized, wore harnesses, had a wide variety of tools from hooks to satchels and were under the supervision of a couple of Artisans. One of these Artisans came by it with a white pot of paint and marked the tree with an X. Shortly afterwards a pair of Great Porters came to it with a long double handled saw came and in a few short minutes brought it down. Had the tree had eyes, ears and a brain it would have noticed that something was amok from the north and coming it's way. But as it could at best roughly precieve drops in temperature it was spared the dread of the inevitable. A dozen smaller Porters with axes and knives were soon released on the branches, cutting them from the main trunk and clearing off the spearhead shaped leaves. The bare branches ended up in a pile while the leaves were used to feed Shaghorns that were constantly coming and going under the supervision of Porter handlers.
What was left was a straight log about twenty meters long. Two more Porters with hammers drove in a set of iron loops into opposite sides, ran a chain through said hoops and hitched it to a pair of Shaghorns. The two-tonne horned creatures then grunted and made it's way to a small path which merged into a larger path which made it's way into what had become a muddy road. As the paths got more well tread the traffic increased. It went by more shagbeasts pulling logs and carts laden with branches going in the same direction as well as unburdened shagbeasts and carts that were either empty or full of tools, wood and iron containers full of feed stew and flatbread, boxes full of fuses and paper tubes, the occasional porter or two catching an easy ride and small seedlings. As they past periodically a stump would explode from a blasting charge, leaving behind fragments that porters would collect while other porters would plant new saplings to fill the gaps.

After a couple of kilometers the log reached the logging camp, a collection of thirty eight modular wooden buildings around piles of timber. Here animals were penned and watered, food was prepared, supplies were stored, tools were maintained, the crews slept and the products of the logging venture were stored and in some cases processed. Resin from Slimebark trees was put into huge stills to be converted into turpentine. Most of the branches and all the stump fragments were used by the kitchens and stills as fuel, as well as being fed into charcoal burners. The Log was soon inspected by a junior porter, who marked off it's general size and painted a number on it's base. It was quick and efficient in it's work, but despite that it muttered as it worked.

"Keep it up Mirgnakh, Only a few weeks of this excrement and then you're out of this midden. Besides you got a dozen more trees to label before sundown and then they'll be flatbread, stews and a mug of tuber-beer."

Mirgnakh murmered litany continued as The log was then stacked in a pile of similar logs collected by a team of four Great Porters. There were dozens of piles in total and this one would soon have hundreds of logs.

Eight days latter the Log was loaded up with seven other logs of similar length onto a massive sixteen wheeled articulated wagon drawn by twelve Shaghorns. There were twenty four of said wagons in a fifty wagon convoy. They'd unloaded a variety of supplies for the camp: food, tools, cloth, medicine, kegs of tuber-beer, nails, bottles, plates, a few new porters to replace a few that got squished and some other goods, though they carried a lot more back out of it: chests of charcoal, barrels of turpentine, a few folios of reports and of course the Timber. After a night's sleep the convoy made it's way back north, moving an average of forty four kilometers a day, the Artisan Convoy Master and Crew eager to get the bonus for completing their job ahead of schedule. The first day brought it past lands that had been extensively logged, with new trees growing among a smattering of stunted survivors. This gave way to more managed forests on the second day, with eight year old trees growing in neat rows. On the third day they passed into the fields of New Nurn, a large expanse of fertile prarie that had been put over to intensive agriculture a hundred years ago. Every few kilometers there were the small cluster of barracks, kitchen, bathhouse, workshops, barns, windmills and granaries, the crews paid them little attention. There was in their experience no other way to run a farm. Most of the land was given over to grain bushes, tuber plants and vegetables, though a few farms were dedicated to pasture for Shaghorns, Fluffbacks and Domesticated Landlurks. There were a fair number of Greenish Blue of the Fields dusted with the white of Fibertuft plants who's eponymous clusters of wind seeds were being harvested by teams of porters with baskets and knives. The amount of traffic on the road increased with pedestrians, carts and herds being driven into the small cities which dotted the countryside. The convoy stopped at Waystops, where the crew could wash up, get a hot meal, a mug of tuber beer and sleep in proper bunks. On the fifth day they unloaded some charcoal in a small food processing city, but their main destination was ahead.

By the seventh day they reached the convoy had reached it's destination: a small town on a fork in the canal. One branch of the canal was still damned up, being incomplete further what would soon be upstream. The town had a population of about a thousand artisans supported by eight thousand porters of various sizes living about two and fifty hundred four storey boxy brick buildings with window to let in sunlight with another fifty warehouses and work-halls (sub divided buildings home to a variety of workshops). There the supplies were unloaded by porters then (leaving aside some charcoal and two barrel of turpentine) loaded onto barges by a crane, the log was loaded with forty two similar logs. Each barge was about five meters wide, twenty five meters long and had a crew of three artisans, fifteen porters and was drawn along by twenty shaghorns which were regularly swapped out twice a day, allowing the boat to travel ninety kilometers per day. Over the next ten days they past through ten locks, twelve towns and two small cities before they reached the Redway, the third largest river on the planet. After three more days they reached their destination: the Port City of Redmouth.

Two hundred years ago a dozen small shallow drafted ships which were little more than river barges with sails had made their way to this place to set up a small outpost. Now a vast sprawling metropolis grew in it's place. Redmouth home to one hundred and sixty thousand artisans and one million two hundred thousand porters inhabiting an area of 40 square kilometers across both sides of the river. Only the Shadow City eclipsed it in size. Thousands of mostly boxy brick structures stood in a neat grid throughout the city. Their whitewashed facades colored a dull grey by the soot from thousands of fireplaces, bakeries, forges and furnaces. Most of these were residential structures with workshops in their lower levels. A fair number of them had windmills, drawing up water to feed rooftop water tanks uses for cooking, cleaning, drinking and use in manufacturing. Larger industrial complexes were mixed between them as were temples with high Clock-towers who's fluted walls and spiked tops set them apart from the austere functionalism of most of the city's buildings. But rising high above everything else was the Tower of the Rising Sun, a massive fortress with a pillar of black stone and iron standing three hundred and fifty seven meters tall. Designed by the Dark Lord himself and made solid by His mighty hand. It was a holy site and the seat of Hand of the Western Coast. Not that the crew of the barge gave it more than a respectful bow as they moored their barge. They signed their forms and the cargo of timber was soon unloaded by crane and loaded onto small single log carts. In less than thirty minutes the log had arrived at the Sawmill.

After a day waiting in the mill's storage yard, a team of Greatporters picked the log up, took it to a chute and attached it to a long continuously moving chain which pulled it into the building. This brought it onto a cart on rails, which it was clamped into place on before it was fed into a rotating circular saw. Sawdust sprayed as a large section of bark was cut off over a couple of minutes. After it was done, the clamps were released, it was flipped onto the cut by a team of porters under the supervision of an Artisan before being fed through another saw. Then it was fed through another circular saw which took off another strip of bark. This process was repeated twice more, stripping the log of bark before a finer saw was used to even things down to a desired thickness. Waste wood was scavenged and taken down to the furnace at the center of the facility. Normally this would have been done by water power, but this large sawmill was a more recent development and the available sources of water that could have been used had already been exploited. A modified mine pump engine was used instead, driving the dozens of saws, transporter chains and motorized carts that made the operation possible. A final section wast taken off the end to get it to a desired length.

What was left at the end of the process was a large beam of wood 31cm to a side, which was taken outside to a yard, set on bricks and left to dry in a stack that eventually had sixty four such beams in an extensive lumber yard. For the next few months it sat there before it was deemed ready for the next stage of processing. It was taken to another facility where it was sealed into a chamber and blasted with jets of steam. When it was extracted, it was soft and pliable and soon it was fit onto a form and held in place with huge clamps. It was left to dry out along with dozens of it's counterparts. In the end the frame was removed, the curved section was carried by cart and crane before finally being set into place as a giant rib and hammered into place by closely supervised Porters managed and often directly assisted by hands on Artisans. The fate of the tree was to be part of the new fleet that was taking shape in the shipyards of Redmouth. Previously they had made fishing boats, river barges and coastal cargo carriers. Now they were making more robust craft with better sea-legs, inspired in part by what The Dark Lord had seen of the Numenorians and their descendants from a very long time ago in a far removed world, ships that could cross seas and even go so far west that they came back from the east.
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Re: Sauron's World (LotR, minor crossover)

Post by Zor » 2018-03-02 08:44pm

Chapter 21 (Day 15,998,844,466)

A wave crashed over the gunwales of the Khamûl sending a sheet of water rolling over the deck as teams of Artisan sailors and their Porters pulled on lines. Things were marginally dryer in the crows-nest, even though Pûg Redmouth Mariner-8/7,223 was still pelted by rain even with the barrel lid awning overhead. Even with his rubberized Canvas raincoat it was still miserable weather to be sailing, though it was one where his skills were most needed. Pûg's lower arms held firm to the sides of the barrel while it's upper arms held a looking glass up to it's Central Eye, surveying the surrounding sea, counting out the lights. Thirty eight points of light illuminated the pounding surf, all of which were paired. That was reassuring at least, though he knew it could change very quickly. He'd seen what storms could do to cargo ships and fishing boats, though none of those were up to the standards of this fleet.

The Khamûl and her sisters were 40 meters long, 8 meters wide, had six meters of freeboard and three masts supporting junk rig sails and were robustly built. They each needed a crew of twenty artisans and fifty porters to operate them. Pûg was impressed at the craft and it's ability to weather storms, but he wondered how much longer they could take this. For the past 42 days they'd been out at sea, almost all of that in the open sea. In its first 13 years at sea bringing in halls of Spinebacks and Redfins he'd been out of sight from the coast for maybe twenty days total. There was rarely a need to do so even for Fishers following the shoals. Cargo ships almost never did, despite some of the Awkwardness along some of the bays that might have been bypassed. Usually a lookout would check the coastline for landmarks, now all there was to do was look out for weather and keep track of the fleet. A necessary but remarkably dull task at the best of times, which this obviously was not. The last three days had been stormy. Cold spray for twelve hours with rest of the day spent in the damp dark lower decks without even a lamp or warm food or light to carve geometric patterns onto wood by. Their duty may have been Holy, but only mad culls would deny it's hardships.

After finishing his fleet inspection Pûg noticed a light on the horizon. First as something he could have mistaken for thunder but as he went back he noticed it was too steady in it's burn and it's position and was a warm orange slightly east of the fleets path. For a few seconds it waited to confirm it, watching as it grew brighter and brighter just to be on the safe side before felt confident in what it was.

"CAPTAIN!" Pûg yelled at the top of his voice, getting the attention of several rather indistinct artisans on the deck. "We have a light ahead, five degrees to starboard! We have a light ahead five degrees to Starboard! Light ahead five degree to Starboard!" He repeated to make sure he was heard over the din. Several Artisans surried about on deck and eventually one of them came up to Pûg's nest, one with a jacket with the red shoulders and upper sleeves of command.

"You said there is a light on the Horizon!" The Captain Barked.

"Aye Sir!"

The captain made a quick bark of laughter, then he faced that way and gave a slight bow. "Very good!" He turned to face a deck officer "Signal the fleet, we'll be turning five degrees starboard shortly! Keep it up people! We're almost there people!"

A raged cheer broke out among the deck crew. Pûg soon watched as the signal lantern relayed it's message and then noticed the sequences of lights which signified acknowledgement of the order. For the next twenty hours they made the way towards the light at full sail. By the time Pûg retired to its hammock below decks the light was visible even without a spyglass. By the next day the storms had subsided to a light drizzle with modest winds. The light was still visible, as was the land in front of it. When Pûg got close he made out it's shape, as well as the black slit in its center. As much as it could he in the crow's nests confines Pûg attempted to bow in reverence at what he saw. That light WAS the Dark Lord, Mairon Himself guiding the way for his followers.

The next few hours were spent approaching the coast and sailing through the mouth of a bay. Depths were taken constantly and the ships went in slow. Nobody wanted to run aground on this strange land with it's wild forests. Tetrawings flew overhead, snatching small creatures from the sea and occasionally being dragged under. Eventually the ships made their way to a set of stone jetties near a cluster of stone structures, slowly easing their way in. Pûg and much of the crew were sent ahead in boats, were thrown lines from the Khamûl to secure her in place. As she was among the first to dock, Pûg's team helped secure the remaining ship afterwards. After that gangplanks were lowered and the rest of the crew disembarked. Half of ships of the fleet carried 80 Artisans and 320 Porters of various breeds each, the rest carried another 200 Artisans in total as well as animals, livestock, tools, seed, provisions and other such gear and supplies, some of which was for the return voyage. Animals were led out and penned while Porters were told to sit in place for the time being near a water trough by a rain collector. Last to leave from the depths of the Khamûl was dark robed figure who silently observed things. As this happened the red light dropped from the sky to an amphitheater. Once the animals were all secured the artisans made their way and took seats, bowing in reverence to their Creator and the master of the world. Through a vomitorium the black figure

The Tall figure in black and gold Mairon stepped forward stately and poised before he met with the robed figure who knelt before him. He beckoned him to rise and the black empty hood faced the crowd. "To the crews of the fleet, you have delivered by Children to this new land safely." As was told his voice had a strange quality. "You have preformed your tasks well and I am satisfied. You may rest for a few days before you prepare for the return journey. To the new settlers, the task ahead of you is to tame this land. Fields will be cleared and sown, buildings erected, mines dug and families raised. Here shall rise a new city, a foothold on this new continent through which more people and equipment shall come to bend this land to my will. More people and supplies shall arrive in a few months. You shall be overseen by The Hand of the North" He gestured to the black robed figure. "In all things strive to please your Creator." With that changed into a giant bat a flew away. Pûg watched the strange flying creature as it took to the air and flew. This would be a day to tell his children and grandchildren to be sure. Though the Artisan was also looking forward to watching the New City rise from this wilderness.
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Re: Sauron's World (LotR, minor crossover)

Post by Reyvan » 2018-03-04 12:07am

Zor wrote:
2018-03-02 08:44pm
Chapter 21 (Day 15,998,844,466)

A wave crashed over the gunwales of the Khamûl sending a sheet of water rolling over the deck as teams of Artisan sailors and their Porters pulled on lines.
Looks like Sauron is feeling a little nostalgic after 44 Million years. I'm loving this story, keep up the good work!

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Re: Sauron's World (LotR, minor crossover)

Post by Zor » 2018-04-30 06:20pm

Chapter 22 (Day 15,998,901,533)

In their third to eighth years young artisans learn their basic lessons. Among these were simple things such as basic reading and writing, basic mathematics, weights and measures, how to do basic tasks such as cleaning a dormitory and bathing, the basic tenants of faith and worship and the Story of the World. How Mairon the Creator fell upon the barren primordial world and through endless eons of toil shaped life to serve him and his glory. First in the Complex in which the beasts and plants were made which eventually became The First City built by Porters and Artisans where he kindled the spark of intelligence. Said sight still stood and remained a holy place and remained a center of animal and plant husbandry overseen by The Hand of Life. But eventually he looked down on his speaking creations and saw that they were good, at which point he raised vast armies of settlers out to tame the surrounding lands and put them to use. Much of their efforts would be expended on a project greater still: the Fortress of The Eye.

Erected by an active volcano in the central desert that he tapped into in a region and solidified by his power, it would take hundreds of thousands of Porters and Artisans to build and centuries to complete. The result of that effort was a massive fortress built around a 1.5 kilometer tall spire of dark stone, steel and iron with Mairon's Throne Room at it's apex and beneath that the homes and workplaces twenty five thousand Artisan bureaucrats, servants and staff that managed it. Around it was The Shadow City, spreading out for 12km around the Fortress of The Eye. Originally the facilities set up to support the Fortress's construction it had to a vast series of residential structures, workshops, warehouses, stockyards, factories, foundries, stockyards, switching yards and Temples which was home to 500,000 Artisans and 2,600,000 Porters. To the North was The Great Furnace, who's constant eruption fed a great canal to the fortress that bisected the Shadow City, lit the horizon and permanently overcast the tower and gave it's name. Only a smattering of small excessively hearty plants grew within a hundred kilometers of that mountain of fire in what was known as New Gorgoroth, as well as a strange ecology of fungoids that grew in the great midden valley 44 km to the east. Water was brought in via an endless network of aqueducts and pipelines. Six great highways had been carved through the mountains to supply it with food and raw materials. Over the last sixty years were supplemented by a series of railways, first to the surrounding mines and latter to the major agricultural zones such as New Nurn or the Old Country. On their return journeys, they carried machinery and manufactured goods to the various provinces of Sauron's world spanning Dominion.

If a learned man or an elf of Arda's Second and Third Age had been transported to this land and saw this great metropolis and its surrounding environs they would have known that the Dark Lord's hand was behind it, even if it far surpassed anything that he'd ever achieved on his original world. What would be out of place from their perspective would be lack of weapons of it's populace. There were a moderate number of constables that had crossbows, truncheons, steel shields and occasionally short swords which patrolled the streets to deal with occasional rowdy drunk or problematic individual when the occasionally popped up. Disturbances were infrequent but not unknown but insurrection was an alien concept to all but the mad. What they would find unexpected lay in the southern quarter of the Fortress of The Eye. Beyond the outer walls there were three tirangular depressions like inversed stepped pyramids with their tips cut off to produce a set of courtyards, each were more than twenty levels deep but well above ground level sealed under a glass and iron roof that kept out ash and rain. Inside each of these depressions was the patios of elaborate apartments which extended well inwards, all of which (baring a couple under renovation) were well adorned, with no two being exactly alike. Each had assigned to it a small staff of Artisan servants. In the central courtyards Young Artisans ran past various examples of geometric sculptures, mechanical contrivances which did little but move in interesting ways, works of stone, concrete and metal depicting Sauron, Artisans at Work, scenes from history, ships at sea and other such things while others sat and read on stone benches. They wore grey shirts, dark grey vests with four arm-holes and finely embroidered Eye insignia, lighter grey trousers and well made leather shoes. A comparatively small number of them wore clothing with red trimmings and tended to stay about. At the sound of a steel gong they packed up and retreated into corridors which led to to their classrooms. These were the progeny of those that had been gifted apartments, those with the red lining being the purebred and those without were sired on servants, which acted as nursemaids to them. Their parents were generally too busy to pay much attention to their offspring in any case. They were of the Vanguard of The Mind and they did not achieve or retain said position through idleness.

In addition to the apartment, each member of the Vanguard had a workshop inside the vast fortress with a wide variety of tools and a staff of Artisans and Porters to assist them in their projects. They wore a similar uniform to that of their children, though in black with gold trimming, a steel badge indicating their Status and often a couple pairs of heavy work gloves, safety helmets, glass goggles and an apron, though they did do a lot of writing as well. If they needed something for their latest project they usually had but to file a request and it would be delivered, if they needed information they could simply visit the vast library for any book they needed. Sometimes a few members of the Vanguard would cooperate on a larger project, but mostly they worked on their own. On this day one particular Vanguard was Nagmrugh Tuftstream Scribe 31/230. Unlike the majority of the Vanguard, Nagmrugh was not born in the Vanguard facilities. It had been born the child of a pair of middling clerks that worked at a tuft-fiber processing plant and most likely would have followed in their footsteps if it's teachers had not noticed exceptional problem solving and memory that got it assigned to an advanced technical school in the provincial capital where it excelled and gained the know-how to submit an original project which won it it's place here. That had been four years ago, now had come the hour in which it's continued status as part of the Vanguard would continue or would be concluded. It made final inspection of the shop. Everything was clean and in good order. Tools put away, floors swept, workers in their best outfits and at parade rest. Everything had to be perfect this day.

The main doors opened and in strode in that unmistakable figure. They all bowed in proper respect as Mairon entered. A couple seconds latter he spoke...

"Rise. Nagmrugh, I've come to see your project. Your latest report."

"Ye...yes your Magnificence." Nugmrugh said as he made his way towards the bench. Direct visits from The Dark Lord himself were something that happened to members of the Vanguard, everyone knew that. If you got in you were the finest specimens of intellect the Artisan Race had yet produce and deserving of luxury, cultivation, extensive propagation in the next generation and the direct attention of The Creator himself. But for all that, Nagmrugh was still just a mortal in the presence of it's God which has come to see it's specific work and lay judgement on it. How could one not feel nervous in such a situation? Still there was only one thing to do and he did it. The first part of that was to show him a device set up on one of the workbenches. It was made mostly of wood as a frame with a spindle with two U shaped magnets (one in the frame, one on the spindle) at one end and a wide number of copper (mostly in wires) attached around it attached to a set of metal cylinders in a wooden rack.

"Oh Shaper of Life." He said as steadily as he could. "The basic notion of this principle was based around studies of the properties of magnets, namely that of it's poles and that a magnet's attractive force can be enhanced by running an electric current through it. As such, I've devised a mechanism that can use this fact to convert electricity..." And so Nugmrugh flipped a knife switch and gave the spindle a slight turn. It soon built up speed and continued to rotate at a higher pace. "...into motive force." The thing kept on spinning at a steady rate. "This was but an early draft, your Greatness, but it works and is, well, an clear example. In the past two years i've contrived this refinement." He moved over to another such device, it was made mostly metal and had less slapdash appearance about it which drove an small fan. It spun up all on it's own and got a higher speed up. "The Blueprints and notes are here, My Lord." The nervous Porter said as it pointed to a pile of notes.

Sauron sat down and thumed through these for a minute before setting them down before handing them to an attendant. "Your work is satisfactory. There are many areas in which these mechanisms would be useful. Your position in the Vanguard is secured for another ten years." There was a brief flicker of a grin on his face before he went up.

"It is my place to Serve your will." Nugmrugh said with relief as he bowed.

"And So Continue." Sauron said as he collected the reports and then made his way out of the workshop. His mind was abuzz with the prospects that these electric motors could present for his various operations and projects. A great many complicated belts, chains, shafts and similar in factories and other such instillation around the world could be done away with and replaced with such mechanisms and that was only the beginning. He could already see numerous ways to refine the basic design work the Artisan had achieved on the basic design and was eager to begin work on them in his private workshops. It did not bother him that he had not come up with this particular invention, he knew that the mind that did so was of his design.

Sauron had never actually liked Orcs that much. As loathe as he would have been to admit it, he'd always thought that Melkor's reshaping of elves was on the whole a considerable downgrade beyond bending them to his (as of course Sauron's) will and boosting their breeding rates. They were definitely a useful asset but leaving aside vulnerabilities to sunlight, the over-developed aggression and the antisocial tendencies were major handicaps. He did his best to make do with that rough template and attempted to refine them, giving them some of his inclination towards the mechanical and after thousands of years of husbandry he was beginning to make progress in regards to the sunlight problem, but they were still deficient in a lot of ways. Back then, deep in his being, he knew he could do better than that corrupted strain of elves. It may have taken a few dozen million years, but damn it if he was not right.
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