5. Part Two: Coupled Power
1. A Mortal's Tale.
After nearly a year in the wood and reed dwellings of Lorinánd, Galadriel's chambers in Eregion seemed suffocatingly rich. Crafters of all Eregion's orders had gifted the Lord and Lady with their works, woven and wrought. She and Celeborn had agreed that it would have been rude to refuse the Mírdain's latest gift, although they both found it oppressive: windows of stained and painted glass. The windows had been installed in her absence. She shook her head as she looked on them for the first time, so detailed and tinted that they made the room gloomy in the dusk.
"There is one mercy to this caging glass," said Celeborn, reaching out to press a latch by one window. "The Mírdain are so mad for their devices that they made each one so that the shutters outside might be reached." He opened the window, and they stood together in the soft, rain-scented spring air that flowed through.
One lingering kiss, and then she turned back to a heap of scrolls and cards upon a table. She lifted a metal card that was engraved with a message. "And Celebrimbor sends word that another gift awaits me."
"The Mírdain had a rich summer's trading last year. You would think they might send things that are needful, not these indulgences of jewels and glass. Instead, I must ask for succour and tithe," said Celeborn. As Galadriel sat to read, he came up behind her, and she smiled as he softly lifted her circlet. She unpinned her hair and leaned back, relaxing as he unwove her braids. "How did your work in Lorinánd go, truly?" he asked, as he caressed her neck. There had been the official words she had spoken upon her return to Ost-in-Edhil, of the friendship and increased alliance between Eregion and the wood-elves she had visited. It had been unusual that those proud, free folk asked for help from an ordered realm. Galadriel would not have left Eregion otherwise, for her daughter Celebrían was still in childhood, now tucked up to sleep after the excitement of welcoming her mother.
She arched back to his touch and smiled up at him, pleased to mingle business with pleasure as they talked. "Well enough. I taught their wise women everything I might about warding their bounds. They were troubled further this winter by fell creatures. This gave them more of a will to change their ways, from wandering the woods to being settled. I do not know if they will keep these ways now that spring has come. Some speak of going north, to join the folk of Oropher."
Celeborn said, "An ill sign, that the free folk of Lorinánd are so troubled they seek counsel and lordship. The greater peace is, the less people need governance."
She bowed her head to re-read a scroll that had come from Lindon that past autumn. "Annatar sought leaguer, and offered many great things. Seeing that his name and seeming were strange to us, we bade him go forth and fulfil his errand elsewhere, and are thereby sending word to the Lord and Lady of Ost-in-Edhil..."
Annatar; the name meant the Lord of Gifts. She had only heard of one spirit named for gifts before, an emissary strange who had come among mortals in their early days, and corrupted some of them to the worship of Morgoth and the fear of mortal death. Her brother Finrod had told her the tale, learned from a mortal wise woman. All that she had heard of Annatar rang of this tale to her. She had never thought to speak of this to Celeborn before; most Elves thought lightly of such mortal's tales, saying they became false fancies as the tellers died and a new speaker took up the story. Perhaps there was a whisper of truth in this one? "This news of the one called Annatar is strange. Gil-Galad does not speak lightly, or warn without need. I see you kept your own counsel in this matter," said Galadriel.
"As far as I might. The very day the message came, the Mírdain made him one of their fellowship. With all that entails. Even had I known, I cannot say if I would have spoken against Annatar." Celeborn rested his left hand on her shoulders. "This matter placed me between hard holly-wood and a steel axe. It arose when I needed to levy more tithe from the Mírdain. Not the arts they share and boast freely, but iron-work, to arm our own borders better. Lindon warned against Annatar; but after he joined the Mírdain, they were so pleased in their pride that I was able to gain what was needful for all Eregion."
Galadriel was quiet for a moment. She reached up and placed her hand over her husband's. "A hard place to stand, indeed," she said. "Have you heard anything ill? You are uneasy, I can tell."
"No, nothing ill. Governing little has brought peace where the Mírdain are concerned. If they do not harm Eregion, let them have their way. The tithes are paid, their scandals are few, Celebrimbor is closely engaged with Annatar - our borders have been troubled, but otherwise I have not had so quiet a winter since we dwelled in Doriath." Celeborn looked at the heavy, detailed carpet and shook his head again. "I do not trust my own dismay in this matter, for Annatar's success among the Mírdain is bound up with ansereg. You know I do not care for ansereg." He now ran both his ever-gentle hands over her shoulders, still tense despite his touches. "There is enough pain in this world already, without these trials that evoke the Kinslaying. But ansereg is the pleasure and will of the Mírdain and of many of the folk here. I am loath to constrain any from their will, any more than I would make all trees grow the same."
Galadriel turned her face up to him, alarmed at the turn his words had taken. "You said that Celebrimbor and Annatar are closely engaged."
"As your Noldor warriors sometimes are," said Celeborn, with an edge of wit to his voice. "Not for a wanton night or three. There is but one bed between them."
She stayed still as he continued speaking, with the same smooth, amused note. "My patience in enduring his courtliness to you is well paid. His heart is turned, and if he and I are not friends, we are grown agreeable."
"He and I? You and Annatar?" she asked.
"No, Celebrimbor. Annatar is always among the smiths." At that answer, she rolled the scroll up and jammed it into its case. Then she glanced at the metal card again.
"I suppose I shall see all that is new tomorrow, when I visit the house of the Mírdain," she said, lightly as she could. All she had so far was a suspicion, a mortal's tale an age of the world old. Whoever Annatar was, he was canny, to weave himself into the warp and weft of Eregion so soon.
He bent to her, and they kissed again; yet by the tightness in her throat, she did not feel it as sweetly as the kiss but a few moments before.
2. Immodest Proposals.
Celebrimbor awoke and found that, as always in the half-year they had lain together, Annatar was awake before him.
"Of what did you dream in memory last night?" the Maia asked, softly.
"Our early days here; there was so much to be done." Celebrimbor sat up and arched back. "An agreeable time."
"That is something I admire about you elves, that you are so devoted to your work," Annatar said, tracing a light hand down the elf-man's chest. "And perhaps you will let me have the first work of the day?" He ran his hand down further to shunt away the red covers. Like men of all kinds in Arda, Celebrimbor met the morning hard.
Before moving to touch him, Annatar folded the rumpled coverlet into a crisp-edged rectangle. Celebrimbor smiled as he watched the little ritual, but Annatar was above jesting, and bent to him with a serious look.
Celebrimbor stretched back along the sheets dyed with madder, and weighed the supple body lying between his thighs by draping one of his legs along Annatar's back. The contrast between his pale skin and the golden-tawny Maia piqued him. The mouth that enveloped his erection had gained its skill from his own tutelage, both willing example and wilful teaching. "Gentler, fairest one," he said, looking down. Annatar tilted his head up just enough so that their eyes met, even as Annatar continued his service, brushing back his straight golden hair.
He accepted the long pleasure, giving himself over to the Maia's heated mouth, his hardness first pressed against the soft, napped tongue, then with the full length slid and sucked, until he spent with a growling sigh. Although his heart still swelled with the sense of power he always felt when the Maia came to him, it was not in him to do nothing but master, first thing in the morning. He reached down for Annatar fondly. "Get up here, you, and get your own back from me!"
"No, lord; it is my pleasure to serve you." Annatar withdrew and knelt, a little ways out of Celebrimbor's reach. "I am content for now. And I anticipate the display you have planned for tonight. Even my form is not tireless, so I would wait."
Celebrimbor looked on the self-possessed being, composed and receptive as if he knelt in a circle of ansereg. "You need not always be so formal with me." He pulled the coverlet back up and added, sadly, "It takes much for me to strive to meet you in this at every hour. If you care for me, you can turn to me as more than one who dominates your lust, or labours as a jewel-smith. There is more to me than those two faces."
Annatar was cool. "You speak to me of care. I did not come to Middle-Earth to love one elf over another, but to do great works. For I am Maia. My care should be for the world, not for one."
Celebrimbor bowed his head. "I am not that much of a fool. Why do you tarry with me, then?"
"I give myself to you that you might know power and pleasure, and that I might know you in all your arts. And I count my hours under your hands well spent, for all that I have learned." Annatar stood from the bed and strode to open the windows. As he parted the shutters to the morning light, Celebrimbor saw him silhouetted in black against the blinding day.
"And I merit you above all others in Eregion, for what you can give to me. The hour has come for me to ask of you what I need, elf-man." As Annatar spoke, some submissiveness returned to him, as if he opened up at last.
Celebrimbor said, "Name what you need!"
"You and the Mírdain, to aid me in my work. Long did I know my desire; to bring order to Middle-Earth. And I have now conceived the best way for it. I have seen how you elves work to make jewels and the work of your forges into more than they are. Your works in this manner could be mightier yet, for your art can harness the powers I bring. I might show you how to make new jewels. Rings of power, linked not just to the virtues of one or two spirits, but linked to many, the life of a whole people to magnify their strength and virtue, and help them endure the harshness of time."
Annatar stepped close to the bed, eyes brilliant. "We would make strong the elven-kings under the sky. Help your friends the dwarf-lords in their halls of stone. Even succour mortal men, doomed to die. All this if I need not labour alone! Will the Mírdain aid me?"
"Now I see why you turned to me; for your yearning and mine run close together." The idea struck a clear note in his mind, as when he bethought a work meant to be. It seemed something that might exceed even the works of Fëanor. But Fëanor hoarded, and the Mírdain would give freely, and to all. He should not let his own desires stand between such great tools and the world. "Are you done with our passions, then, now that you have spoken your mind? It might be better, thus."
Annatar came and stood close in front of him, and spoke low. "I have gained more wisdom from the love of the body than you could possibly know. Thus I am still willing. Would we have come to this counsel, if not for how deeply I knew you through kneeling before you?"
Annatar, standing before him, could not bring him love. But he could bring him everything else he craved; craft, fame among the Elves, companionship at the greatest of works, desire fulfilled. And power. "Perhaps I grow brave enough to venture everything I might, after mastering you," said Celebrimbor. "We will mingle our knowledge to this end. The oath you made to us Mírdain in the hour of ansereg will be fulfilled thereby."
Some beautiful faces were disturbed by a smile, rendered less perfect, but not Annatar's. "That is as I meant it to be."
3. A Rich Gift.
On a bench in the round hall of the Mírdain, Galadriel turned the wide brooch of the Elessar in her hand, saying nothing. "It will look very fair, I thought, on the robes you like; and I know you prefer silver to gold," Celebrimbor said. The clear green stone's colour would shine true and bright on the white gowns she favoured, and the eagle-shaped setting was as finely graved as a bird's own feathers.
"This is a great work. How long was its making?" she asked.
"I began it before you left, and completed the stone on the day of midsummer," he said. When he had spoken, she unclasped it and pinned it at the centre of her gown's collar, then rested her hand over it, eyes closed. As she thought; only Celebrimbor had touched it.
"I can feel its virtue," she said, smiling at last. "Thank you, my friend; this is a rich gift. And now I am challenged as to what I might give you to match it," she added.
She saw his face fall. Her words showed that she was accepting his gift as one from a lord to another lord, not as a present from an elf-man to an elf-woman. Resolute, he went from standing over her like an anxious swain to kneel as elf-knights did. "You wound me! I ask only for you to use it, lady, for that is what I made it for; to keep a part of Middle-Earth green and deathless, as you would have it." He drew a deep breath. "You may even aid Celeborn of the Trees thereby."
"Celebri," she said, bending to him. "You never used to be so formal with me."
He stood back up. "You are also different. Once you praised my great works with many words; now you speak less."
"I do not mean to lessen your works thereby. What are you creating now?"
He strode about the star-tiled floor, the many colours of the sunlit stained-glass dome patterning him. "I am still taking the counsels of Annatar. Part of me regrets that I made your gift before he came. It might have been greater." After looking at her and finding her quiet at that, he went on. "Annatar feels the same about his works as I do about mine. It is a great thing, such understanding and working together." She noted that he had taken a piece of jeweler's wax out of his pocket as he spoke, and rolled it in his hands until it was warm, now pinching and shaping it. He was never at rest from making.
"That is a fine thing, and I know its meaning for you." It was the polestar of his heart; he had turned long ago to Galadriel because of her own love and knowledge of the Noldor's arts. She had not cared to compete endlessly with the forge, nor to wed a kinsman so close, for all that she wished him well. "I understand you have other companionship with Annatar as well. Is it wise?" she asked.
"Is it your place to ask me this?" He stood with his stance wide in the midst of his hall, bright with coloured light.
She perceived that he sought her approval no more, and was troubled. Then she cupped her hand over the jewel he had just given her. "Yes."
Understanding what she meant by the gesture, Celebrimbor sighed, and began to pinch at the wax again. "All right, all right. I am caught in my own trap! It is not a love as the laws of the Eldar would have it. First, it is warrior-turned,( and then he is of a higher kind than we. But I am consoled for a time. Perhaps this is better for me, and it is not for me to love."
"I would not hear a friend say that, Celebri," she said.
He gave her a grave look. "You are kind, lady; to your friends."
At his renewed formality, their conversation declined into courtly words without meaning. She made him a courtesy and left, feeling burdened. The jewel was too heavy for her light gown, and dragged the collar down further than she cared to be exposed. There was a hot sparkle when it touched her skin. This was a jewel you could not forget you wore. She hoped Celebrimbor had had the manners to mention the gift to her own husband, for some word of approval. At least Celebrimbor did not seem that changed from the elf she had known before; still dramatic, proud, stubborn, his heart distracted by his burning for his craft.
"Do you like your present, lady?" a soft voice asked. A figure strange was standing to one side; a tall, lithe male with blonde hair of a richer gold than hers, straight and heavy as metal. Astonishingly, his skin also seemed touched with a note of gold in its tawniness, making his brilliantly hued eyes startling. No mortal nor elf was ever so flawlessly fair. With a twitch of irritation, she noticed that he too wore a long white robe.
"Annatar," she said. "We have not met before. I see I am known to you."
The tall figure bowed. "Your elf-lord Celebrimbor spoke to me of you, and the present he planned to give you. He was most anxious," said Annatar.
Galadriel frowned. "You are close in his counsels."
"I understand that he held much store by you." Annatar's smile was forgiving and complicit. "But I do not rue his gift that you bear."
Dismayed at all his words implied, she began to walk away, and he fell into step with her. Their white robes trailed side by side. "Why come you here, Annatar, to Eregion? I know you were turned from Lindon."
"It is my labour, lady fair, to work with the peoples of Middle-Earth. If it would please you, I might aid you down in Ost-in-Edhil."
She ignored that and walked proud. "Why do you come to the Elves, then? We have the least need of any of the Free Folk."
He gave her a clear look. "I learn as much from the Mírdain as they do from me. It is an exchange. Your lord Celebrimbor is very wise. We have much profit from our time together." he said, and she gritted her teeth at the insinuation of the last words.
They had now come to the great entrance, and she went out to the step. He followed. From the edge of her eye, she saw something shift, and heard a whine. The guard- dogs on the steps were shying away from him, uneasy, even as elves passing by turned back to look on his bright face.
The Maia bowed low to her. "Lady, I see I grieve your pride. Forgive me; it should have been I who came to present myself to you at Ost-in-Edhil. My dwelling is here among the Mírdain, but I will come and pay you honour anon."
"No need to trouble yourself, Annatar," said she. "I feel we are introduced."
Annatar went back through the gold-panelled doors, leaving Galadriel standing in the sunset, alone for a rare moment, thinking of the legend her brother had told her. A bright one, a shining one bearing gifts, the wise mortal woman had said. At Annatar's departure, the dogs lay at their ease again. She knelt down to pet one of the hounds, scratching its ears, well aware that only the dogs' keepers were supposed to touch them. It was a small act of defiance against all the wills of others she felt constraining her. Celeborn's relief and Celebrimbor's soothed pride were sharp in her thoughts. So was Annatar's keenness to her dismay. The guard-hound she caressed nudged her hand. "The way things are, they will think me kin to you, if I speak against Annatar," she murmured, as she petted the brindle bitch. "Still, this I must do." At least she could always talk to her husband, she thought; but her throat felt tight again.
4. Pens and Swords.
After Pengolod checked on his horse at the stables of the Mírdain, he asked about his second errand. He was sent to a jeweler's studio in the oldest part of the Mírdain's house. Amongst the rambling halls, he stopped to admire works shown in cabinets, items that were too dear to their makers to be traded away. In front of a silver-framed glass, he paused. He smoothed out his black hair, he glanced at himself turned sideways; rearranged his cloak; and then gave up. "Foolish to try and look well in the middle of a journey! Wise man indeed," he said to his face in the mirror. "As the dwarves said, I look like any other elf." It did not occur to him that this was praise for his fair, thoughtful face and rider-lean form. He went on, peering through doors until he found Aranwë.
Aranwë was at work there at a jeweler's bench, wrapping gold wire to hold leather braiding around the hilt of a sword. The loremaster watched Aranwë for a moment. He twisted the thick wire using his scar-braced, capable hands, and his wrists alone were strong enough that his smith's shoulders barely moved. Once there had been many like to him among the Noldor, tall and strong; but many had returned over Sea, and hosts more had been slain in centuries of war. Now most in Middle-Earth thought elves were all lean and lithe. Those born in later days seemed diminished to those who had known the hosts of Nevrast and Gondolin. Pengolod shook himself from his reverie and spoke in an antique Quenya dialect, and the smith looked up, startled.
"Well met, Aranwë. I have brought your cloak back, and I owe you many thanks."
Aranwë answered him in the same language, setting the sword aside. "You are returned soon from the dwarf-halls." He stood to greet his visitor, wiping his hands with a red rag from his back pocket.
"Soon? The days were long without the sun, for six months. But I have the knowledge I sought." He looked on Aranwë's work. "I thought you did not make swords any more?" he asked.
"We have had much lore of Annatar, of both gem-work and other tasks of Aule, even of the very nature of metals. Some of us thought to test the new learnings, and to try some new steel-work and alloys, I went back to my old work." He picked up the long, damasked blade. "With much of it, we do many of the same things as before, yet now we know why they succeed. Less by art, and more by measure, you see."
Pengolod changed the subject to discourage more shop talk, holding out the black and silver cloak Aranwë had lent him. "You were right about the cold of Khazad-dûm, and your kindness kept me warm many a day in the depths. You shall have a fair copy of my book, when it is done - the dwarf-language of speech and gesture might help you deal with them."
Aranwë took the cloak back and laid it on the bench. "A book for a mere loan? That is out of kilter. I have something for you that will set that score right," he said, turning to rummage on a shelf.
While Aranwë's back was turned, Pengolod mustered his courage and said something he had brooded on when clad in the black cloak. "The night I witnessed the trial of the Mírdain, you said I spoke to you then from the heat of the hour. And your words then were true," he admitted. "But that does not mean I do not regard you kindly."
Still facing the shelf, Aranwë said, "I thought of you, as well, and I readied this." He turned and handed the loremaster a narrow, flat brass box. Pengolod opened it. Within was a set of metal pen-tips, steel and gold, and three engraved pens slotted to hold them. "You said these had not reached Lindon yet. A fitting end to your stories about the Mírdain, something to write about us with."
Pengolod shut the box and weighed it in his hand. As a tool for his work, the gift was more to him than the same weight of mithril. The pen-tips inside had a tinkling rattle in their compartments, as if they would speak what the elf-man who gave them could not. "There are not thanks enough. These shall only write fair tales of the Mírdain! A gift like this is not so much an ending, as a whole other story. Speaking on such, perhaps tonight, I might tell you all my tales of the deeps, if you cared to hear them?"
Aranwë unfolded the cloak. "Tonight I am engaged; a matter planned for some days. You brought this back to me just in time. But tomorrow, it would be a pleasure."
Pengolod leaned against the jeweler's bench, with a resigned smile for their subtle flirting matched to his ill luck. "A trading party returns to Lindon tomorrow, and I would ride with them. My journey down was troubled with orcs and would-be thieving Men. I had only three arrows left in my quiver by the time I reached the holly-hedge of your borders."
Aranwë looked shadowed. "All the news from the west and north has been the same for the winter, and such tales increase. The party carries some of our jewel-work to Lindon, and they have waited until the weather cleared, to increase their strength with willing riders. You do well to join them, if you must return. I do not envy you three weeks on the road in the spring mud - my riding is terrible at the best of times."
"After months in the caverns, it will be an endless pleasure for me, even if it pours!" Pengolod opened the box in his hand again. "Do you have any ink to hand? I long to try these."
5. The Silver Fist.
Sauron reclined on the crimson bed that he had risen from that morning, watching the rite of ansereg before him. In the space before the bed stood two elves, unclad in the red light of a glowing ceramic stove. The one who was enduring stood still and stable; the one who was meting out was moving, active, powerful. Sitting up, he saw Celebrimbor wield the thin rod wrapped in braided linen-threads more harshly. Celebrimbor had worked the subject over in his own distinctive style, moving from tool to tool for the harsh music he wrought. The snap of the thin rod's blows, and the quiet, pained measure of the subject counting out the strikes, were fairer to Sauron's hearing than any other elvish tune, the song of order and power.
Sauron always insisted on the full ritual, saying he found it beautiful, and the two elves on display had obliged. It was a great pleasure for him to watch the Elves at this, for what he saw and for how his watching changed the way others acted.
Celebrimbor's subject was twice as undone beneath his eyes, and Celebrimbor himself always glanced at the figure on the bed, never forgetting that his ostensible dominance was on show. He laughed inwardly at the thought that this was supposed to be an object lesson for him. It was. He who had been near a stranger to the ways of the Elves was learning from submitting to one how to wield subtle control over them.
Warmed with excitement, he slithered out of his white robes. Combining desire with submission brought back an echo of the satisfaction he had known in serving the greatest of dark lords. Morgoth had always been unrelenting in his power, the Vala as above him as he, a Maia, was above the elves. Kneeling to Celebrimbor was a taste of that, and the body's release was a blissful moment of return to the pure Void. But Sauron's pleasure was always mixed with resentment. The echo was never the same, never enough. Celebrimbor did not even perceive the depth of his need. He understood this through his watching, for the kneeling elf-man was at his limit; the linen-woven rod was fine but cruel.
Sauron walked over and slid up behind Celebrimbor, running his hands across the fire-flushed skin. "This rod is like you, Annatar, golden and supple," said Celebrimbor, half-turning back into him, caressing him sidelong. "Do you want to deal a strike or two?"
Sauron refused. Once he had been Gorthaur, the torturer; if he wielded such power he always sought to be like Morgoth and take it to the ultimate. Instead he said, "Give me a taste," mixing pleading with brassy challenge as he proffered his chest. Celebrimbor dealt a few crisp stripes across him, not holding back. The subject winced in sympathy, then tilted his head respectfully when Sauron did not even flinch.
With supernal grace, he sauntered aside and reclined again. Celebrimbor now spoke to close the circle of ansereg. This private rite was unrestrained compared to the public ones. He watched the pair backlit by the stove, the kneeling elf bowing his head against Celebrimbor's loins. After words of fealty and rough, intimate touching, the pair joined him on the red coverlet.
Sauron sat up straighter to see everything as Celebrimbor directed his subject to kneel and bend upon the bed. The display tonight was for Sauron's approval. Celebrimbor had said that he longed to take his leman as deeply as possible, using a full hand, and when Sauron had been incredulous, had arranged this for his watching.
Celebrimbor turned to Sauron and caressed him briefly, reassured by his honest fascination, and turned back to the subject. Sauron knew the names of all the elves of the Mírdain, but he rarely thought of them by such. To him, there were the elven-lords and their subjects, a pattern rather than a people, and he concentrated on the higher ends of the order. The two elves he watched now, lord and subject, were well matched, each tall and strong and dark-haired like many High Elves. He thought Celebrimbor the fairer, as was fitting for his mastery, just as Sauron was fairer than any in Eregion. Even, he thought with satisfaction, fairer than their Lady.
Celebrimbor left off addressing his subject in a soft murmur to call to him. "Come as close as you care to, Annatar," said he, and Sauron went and knelt beside the two elf-men. Celebrimbor had coated his hand and wrist with clinging grease, and it gleamed silvery in the lamplight as he began to work fingers into the elf-man's nethers. Sauron knew himself how hard and wide that hand was, from bearing its blows and harsh touches.
"Will you tear him, as you force it in?" Sauron asked with interest.
Celebrimbor laughed softly. "There will be force for but a moment. I'm slicked with enough grease for a broadsword! And I have four fingers secure already. That is all right, isn't it?" He smacked the subject affectionately with his free hand.
The subject assented, with a desperate, desiring gasp, then forced out the words, "Yes, my lord." Celebrimbor began to fold his hand in on itself, sliding the thumb between the fingers, and spoke a word of warning to his elf-man as he worked in short thrusts. Sauron's straight nose twitched at the rousing smell of hot, excited skin and melting grease.
The elf-man was uttering deep, singing moans now, and had curled his scarred smith's hands into fists. Celebrimbor closed his eyes as, not breaking the rhythm he had built, he thrust his hand entirely inside, buried to the wrist, and the elf-man cried out sharply. Sauron leaned in again, noting two things. With the hand slid home, the spectacle was less dramatic to look upon than he expected. The pierced elf-man was frozen still, beyond words, breathing raw between loose moans. Celebrimbor's arm was very slow to move, but his face was as alight with lust as if he had buried his member, not his hand, in the forgiving flesh. And neither looked to their watcher. Celebrimbor was ignoring Sauron for once, attentive only to his hand's work.
Watching their pleasure, Sauron crossed yet another torment off his list as one enveloped by ansereg.
Sauron moved around to the subject's head and caressed a scar on his arm with a hot hand, exerting all his charm into the touch. The elf looked to him with a dazed start. Sauron smiled down at the elf, his Maia's power focused through the bright lens of his beauty. With a riven moan, the elf turned his face against the scarred arm, and Sauron looked up to meet Celebrimbor's drawn gaze.
With their eyes burning together, Celebrimbor moved his arm slowly, fisting his subject. Sauron gloated to feel that Celebrimbor's will to dominate was turned his way again. He whispered to the upright elf, "Harder and further," and Celebrimbor obliged. He smiled again at this obedience, thrilled at his success in inciting it. Their subject cried out, near to a scream, and Celebrimbor broke the gaze to lean and murmur again.
"Shall I finish him? A turn of my hand, and he is spent. Say the word!" cried Celebrimbor.
Inspired by the word "finish", Sauron allowed himself to picture the elf-lord slaying a subject at the peak of lust for his sake, then said, "A moment more." He watched as Celebrimbor sacrificed the elf-man, caught between pleasure and pain, to Sauron's gaze. Finally, Sauron relented, and withdrew from the chaos of their subject spending himself. He waited for Celebrimbor. But Celebrimbor did not turn to him immediately, instead consoling the undone elf-man.
"Annatar, pass me the flagon of water?" Celebrimbor said, not looking up. His nostrils flaring, Sauron obliged, holding his thoughts behind a calm face. He watched in revulsed disappointment as Celebrimbor set aside the will to power he had burned with moments ago to embrace and praise the subject. This exemplified the elves' chaos, that they could take their own rules and order and switch them about in an instant, going from dominating to servile soothing. And he burned with humiliation at the thought that he himself had submitted to one who inflicted such about-faces on him.
Sauron closed his eyes, blocking out the disorder before him for a moment of peace in darkness. If the world could not have everything the same, as in the beauty of even, unbroken blackness, it could have things in a strict order. He did not seek to topple the Elves out of malice, he thought, but to harness their disorder, part of having everything and everyone in Middle-Earth in its marked place. Even Celebrimbor was too soft, too distractible to endure the height of dominance for long. Humans could be taught, and dwarves could be bought. But like the Ents, Elves' long lives made them too set in their paths to be changed for the better. Only he, Sauron, could understand true order; only he was strong enough to wield power unbroken, in memory of the lost and cherished Void. He would dominate the Elves unrelentingly, when his work was done.
Obviously, Celebrimbor was going to complete the disorder of this assignation by demanding services of both him and their subject - as if Sauron and the mere elf-man were peers. He consoled himself by thinking of his great work. Even this shifting and changing was something Sauron could use to shape to his own designs; he would use the elves' lust to tap into the elves' unity with the world. Sauron had spoken to Celebrimbor of the great work of the Rings, but not of its crown. He would remain silent until his ordering was complete. And Sauron thought of one ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.
Celebrimbor drew up beside him at last, and brought one arm around Sauron's golden shoulders while still touching the other elf-man. "Will you let me do that to you?" he asked, with a deep look
"If you let me do so to you, yes," he breathed, adding a canny touch of hesitance to his sensual voice. He might not call in the physical favour. But the metaphor was apt.
Celebrimbor beamed with pride, as if pleased that all had gone according to his plan. "A sweet bargain indeed."
6. The Song of Eregion.
Pengolod spent his last evening in Eregion with their loremasters, as the guest of Erestor. When the chilly spring night came down, they walked to the great hall to hear Erestor's spouse sing for some dancers. Pengolod drew his green cloak around him and told his counterpart about Aranwë's loan.
"Your smith-friend did you a greater favour than you know with that cloak. The smiths are so devoted to ansereg that the dwarves think black and silver garb are one of the marks of the Mírdain. Perhaps the dwarves took you for one close to their order," said Erestor.
"I thought they were forthcoming. The dwarf-folk of the Blue Mountains would tell me naught, but here I had all. I shall be years writing," Pengolod said. "You Eregion loremasters and the Mírdain seem close in league," he added. In Erestor's workroom, he had admired the silver on their scrolls, the gilding on their books, and their metal pens and rulers. If he did not carry a box of the pens now himself, his grey eyes would have turned green from jealousy.
"Since Annatar came, they have much profit of his learning. Our order and others benefit, for Celebrimbor is generous." Erestor began to describe how various orders had gained from the Mírdain's increased craft with brighter jewels for trade, sharper steel for finer tools, new lore for their own works. Pengolod listened while he looked around the crowd of Ost-in-Edhil. These folk had more pride to their bearing, and more ringing voices, than the people of Lindon. He noted a fair few were clad in black and silver. From the corner of his eye, he saw someone draw up their tunic and show some marks to a friend, as part of a tale of a past night's events.
Erestor saw him shocked by this. "It is not only the Mírdain who are daring and strong in Eregion. We others have our arts as well, and we loremasters record all," said Erestor. "I shall tell you some tales after the dancers."
The Lord and Lady of Eregion were there, both clad in white. They were distracted from the singers, talking close and tense. There was a tension to the hall as others watched the central pair ill at ease with one another. Pengolod wondered what was so urgent that they sat squared against each other, eyes flashing, faces stern. The Lady gestured towards a green-stoned brooch she wore, and the Lord seemed to wave some point of hers aside. At that the Lady turned and looked ahead. It would have been better for them to stay private this night, thought Pengolod. And yet it is not their names that I hear spoken by the folk in these halls, but those of Annatar and Celebrimbor.
"Now, listen to that fair voice for these dancers: that is my beloved, who will sing sweet and long," said Erestor. "The dancers combine the grace of lost Doriath with the arts of the Noldor."
Pengolod watched the dancers, clad in bands of silk and hung with jewellery. The silk was the red of the Mírdain. For all the weight of chains and stones, they were as light as linden-leaves on their feet. As they whirled and the singer's voice pealed out, the susurrus of conversation in the hall never ceased, an undercurrent that once or twice even cut through the song.
At the last piercing note, the dancers bowed with unbroken grace for the still-faced Lord and Lady. Pengolod saw that Celeborn did not watch the dancers sway away, but stared at the floor where one of the dancers' jewels had tumbled. And again he thought of the frequent mention of the leaders of the Mírdain.
Story is set in the year 1253, Second Age.
Learned of a mortal wise woman = "The Debate of Finrod and Andreth," a Tolkien story of a conversation between an elf (Finrod, Galadriel's brother) and a mortal, includes a legend of Men that a spirit of gifts came among them and told them how evil Death was. Sourced from the book Morgoth's Ring.
To wed a kinsman so close = Celebrimbor is Galadriel's half-cousin. Based on "The Laws and Customs of the Eldar," in the book Morgoth's Ring, she might marry him, but this is the closest possible marriage between kin allowed.
Warrior-turned = An expression meaning "preferring sexual relationships with/turned towards males," used here as an equivalent of homosexual/gay. If there's an Elvish word for sadomasochism, there'd be one for this.
Wise man indeed = Pengolod's name in Sindarin is formally supposed to mean penn + golodh, Noldor/wise one. There is an ironic second translation, pen + golodh, "no-wisdom."
The gift exchange between elf-men as an Elvish custom, noted twice in this story, is based on a comment about Fingon and Maedhros exchanging presents in friendship, mentioned in "Narn î Hin Hurin," Unfinished Tales.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.