The Grey Havens is here! And it is rife with some deep lore delvings. The whole premise gets serious with the appendices and showcases the care and interest the developers have for the history of Middle-earth.
In short, a Gondorian lord has been having visions of Númenor refound, that the island did not sink completely, and it is waiting out there for us in the Great Sea. Círdan the Shipwright has offered his help and even unleashed one of his finest creations, the Dream-chaser, to aid Calphon and the heroes with their search. So, to recap:
It doesn’t get a whole lot lore-ier than that! My only gripe, as a Tolkien nerd, is the contrived friendship between the Gondorian and the Elves of Mithlond. Like most stretches of fan fiction, it’s possible but not probable. Nonetheless it provides us with a good jumping off point for both the quest cycle and the branch of history we’re embarking upon.
That history has a severe dark side, though. Why was it that Númenor was sunk in the first place? Why are there so many undead lurking around on these islands? And what in all Middle-earth is a Shrine to Morgoth? Master of Lore gave a lovely, concise overview of the fall of Númenor in his Anticipating Angmar Awakened series. So if you know nothing of that story then start there. This Hasty Stroke is to discuss one thing: The Cult of Morgoth.
When the Númenóreans returned to Middle-earth in power, Sauron met them in battle and was bested and brought to the island in chains. The Númenóreans were so rich in pride that they thought they could best a god in a game of words. It was a bold bet, and one they lost tidily. As the Akallabêth tells us:
…having the ears of men, Sauron with many arguments gainsaid all that the Valar had taught; and he bade men think that in the world, in the east and even in the west, there lay yet many seas and many lands for their winning, wherein was wealth uncounted.
Classic Sauron! You’re good, but he’s better. Soon talk of treasure and conquest turned to those of good old fashioned, straightforward power. Sauron spoke of the Darkness, whose ruler might make whole worlds for men to take. Ar-Pharazôn, then King of Númenor, asked a baleful question: ‘Who is the Lord of the Darkness?’
From that point forward Númenor went straight down the tubes. The worship of Melkor/Morgoth went from a private practice of royalty, to public religion, to this:
Sauron caused to be built upon the hill in the midst of the city of the Númenóreans, Armenelos the Golden, a mighty temple…crowned with a mighty dome. And that dome was roofed all with silver, and rose glittering in the sun, so that the light of it could be seen afar off; but soon the light was darkened, and the silver became black. For there was an altar of fire in the midst of the temple, and in the topmost of the dome there was a louver, whence there issued a great smoke. And the first fire upon the altar Sauron kindled with the hewn wood of Nimloth, and it crackled and was consumed; but men marvelled at the reek that went up from it, so that the land lay under a cloud for seven days, until slowly it passed into the west. Thereafter the fire and smoke went up without ceasing; for the power of Sauron daily increased, and in that temple, with spilling of blood and torment and great wickedness, men made sacrifice to Melkor that he should release them from Death.
That’s a long quote, so for those of you who skipped it…go back and read it! But if you won’t, here’s the idea: we go from a small little club of Melkor worshipers to the construction of a massive, domed temple, complete with human sacrifice! Good times! This is a huge get for Sauron. Let’s put it into real-world terms for some perspective. Imagine a major world power, say Great Britain in the 1700s, being won over to devil worship and human sacrifice by a single huckster. That’s just bad news. There are, with most of Silmarillion, biblical overtones as well and, just like the Old Testament, sometimes God brings the hammer down.
This Morgoth worship leads the Númenóreans to their inevitable demise. They assault Valinor, realm of the gods, to wrest eternal life from them. In response, the Valar lay down their dominion of the world to allow God (Eru Illúvatar) to step in and smite the Númenórean armada and sink their island home. Don’t play with fire.
There is more that could be said about the cult, but this is a Hasty Stroke so let’s bring it to a close. When we, as players, go exploring the Shrine to Morgoth, we should be nervous. While it is not Armenelos the Golden, horrible things were still done here. Terrible sacrifices were made to the darkest of all evil beings, to whom Sauron was once just middle management. The dead rise and spirits harass us. Morgoth may be banished until the end of days, but the evil he wrought so long ago is still in Middle-earth and we ought to know just where it comes from.