Last week I talked about the Dark Lord. This week I am going to talk about his mother. (If ever there was a way of getting yourself into trouble, that would seem to be it. I may have to put off future visits to Naggaroth.) Morathi does not play a huge role in the Great Elvish War but she does play a part, recruiting the human horde that invades Ulthuan. In the Tyrion and Teclis trilogy, I had given my take on Aenarion, Caledor and Malekith and I wanted to show this fourth Elvish titan. As with Malekith, I wanted to show Morathi’s side of things. I did not want her to be simply a sinister witch-queen or a decadent, orgiastic hedonist. She is both of those things but she is more.
Morathi has been there from the beginning of Elvish history. She has always had the gift of visions. She foresaw the coming of Chaos. At first she tried to warn her people but when she discovered she could not make them care, she decided to join it. There was something about it that touched the very dark side of her nature. To begin with she thought she was fighting against it, but in the end she succumbed to its depraved allure. There is another side to her, one that is kept very well hidden, and which is denied by the High Elves. She quite genuinely loved Aenarion even while trying to twist him to her side. She quite genuinely loves her son even though this emotion has been corrupted by the dark millennia of her strange existence. Morathi is quite possibly the oldest living being in the world. She knows it and she sometimes feels it. She looks young and lovely but her life has been unnaturally extended by foul, vampiric sorcery. She has made many terrible compromises to preserve her own existence and that of Malekith.
Morathi has one simple, driving over-riding ambition– to live forever. This is not founded simply on the desire for more and more life. There are times when she is weary unto death of her existence. Her ambition is fuelled by a very stark fear; that when she dies Slaanesh or one of his Greater Daemons will devour her soul and consign her to an eternity of torment. She is one of the damned and she knows it. Perhaps this stems from when she was a girl and foresaw forbidden things, maybe it is submerged guilt from betraying her people, maybe it came later as part of the knowledge she gained from Aenarion and the very dark vision of the universe that passing through the Flame of Asuryan and wielding the Godslayer gave him, perhaps it is simply a product of thousands of years of sinning and working very dark magic. Most likely it is all of this and more. She has seen the end of one of world– the golden paradise of the Ancients ruled over by the first Everqueen. She foresees the coming end of this world and she plans to use this to her advantage. She knows that a moment is coming when Chaos will return and a properly prepared sorcereress can achieve something very close to godhood by tapping the power released by the final destruction of the Vortex and the opening of the Gates. She is even trying to accelerate this process so she can achieve it before anyone else works out what she is doing.
In this desire for deification, my view of Morathi was obviously influenced by Robert Graves’s portrayal of Livia in I, Claudius. Morathi is a sexier, magic-fuelled version of Livia, very clever and very frightening. She is also a twisted mirror of the Everqueen. She is in her own way the immortal matriarch of the Elves, symbolic of the darker side of their nature, in the same way as the Everqueen reflects their bright side.
Inside Naggaroth Morathi presides over a power structure just as great as that of Malekith, a web of influence woven in a far more subtle manner than her son’s brutal feudal system. She presides over a network of priests and spies and assassins, of sorcerers and courtesans who owe allegiance only to her and not to her son or the realm. She enjoys great prestige as Malekith’s mother and he honours her because she is one of the props on which his own power rests. They need each other to keep the druchii in line and these two touchy immortals, bound by ties of blood, rivals in many ways, have found ways to co-exist because of this and also because they are the only two constants in each other’s world. They are the only ones who truly remember the ancient days of glory and terror; they remember mighty Aenarion as he was when he walked the earth and Caledor before he was imprisoned in his Vortex, consigned to a form of damnation as strange as their own. To them everyone else save the daemons they have bound are mere shadows. No one else is truly real. They both possess a very frightening solipsism.