Fair they were, gold and jewels glittering against the velvet cloth upon which they were laid, but Glorfindel knew they were no mere trinkets. One ring set with a sapphire, the other with a pigeon’s blood ruby, their glimmer and lure was deceptive, ominous.
“The third, the Ring of Adamant, Celebrimbor has already given to the Lady Galadriel,” said Gil-galad. “These he sends to me for safekeeping. Their names are Narya and Vilya.”
At last, and too late, the grandson of Fëanor realized how he had been deceived by Annatar. Nay, thought Glorfindel, call him not Annatar, but Gorthaur the Cruel or Sauron, ever the servant of Morgoth. Celebrimbor was, by last report, hastily fortifying Ost-in-Edhil against an attack from the south.
“The roads are perilous now,” said Pallando, “even for us.” He gestured to Alatar, seated beside him. The High King’s council chamber was nearly deserted, its seats unoccupied save by the Ithryn Luin, Elrond and Glorfindel. Gil-galad would have no others learn of the Rings.
“Some refugees from Eregion we have encountered,” added Alatar, “and the news they bring with them is grim. Celebrimbor has been complacent. He never thought to prepare for war, and in this Sauron encouraged him, saying the days of ruin and bloodshed were done, all whilst he was massing his forces in the lands beyond the Ephel Duath. Some inkling we had of this, and attempted to persuade Celebrimbor to strengthen his defenses, yet he would not hear us until he knew himself betrayed, and then it was too late.”
“Celeborn has sent warriors to the aid of Eregion, but the results are negligible; he has been able to protect some of the refugees in their flight, yet their homes are lost. Thus far, he has been alone in this. Messengers have been sent to Khazad-dûm, yet no help has been forthcoming from Durin’s people,” said Pallando. “From Lórien, there is little answer. Amdír and Amroth have not the numbers to engage Sauron. Only here in Lindon have we the resources.”
Gil-galad sighed. His gaze fell upon the two Rings laid out before him, winking up at him from their bed of crimson velvet. They all knew the Rings could not be used, for though they had not been touched by Sauron’s hand, they were yet bound to the One Ring and through them he might corrupt any Eldar who wielded them. Glorfindel knew the Ithryn Luin had foreseen the need to counter Sauron’s evil and had had some hand in their making.
In secret they had gone to the House of the Mírdain at Ost-in-Edhil and, drawing upon Celebrimbor’s relentless need to match his grandfather’s art and redeem the ills of his House, they urged him to forge the Elven Rings. Three there should be, even as Fëanor had made three Silmarils, and they should be made in secret, without Annatar’s aid, for was Celebrimbor’s own skill not great enough?
You used his own vanity and self-doubt to make these things, Glorfindel thought, looking from one Maia to the other. Both remained unreadable. Untouched by Sauron’s physical hand they may have been, yet still there was evil in their forging.
He knew also why he had been summoned. For the last two weeks, Lindon had been a center of activity, with warriors pouring in from all corners of Forlindon. He did not need the King to tell him that he and thousands of others would be sent to Eregion, to recover what they could of the situation. My heart tells me it is too late for Celebrimbor, yet there may be hope for others if we move swiftly enough.
“Now it comes to it,” murmured Gil-galad. “No doubt Sauron knows Celebrimbor sent at least one of the Three Rings here. If we cannot stem his advance at Ost-in-Edhil, he will turn his attention to Lindon once he has ravaged Eregion. Should that come to pass, I would have Narya and Vilya well hidden.” He exchanged glances with Elrond before letting his gaze fall upon Alatar and Pallando. “Wise you are, and powerful. To your hands I would give these Rings.”
Alatar began shaking his head before Gil-galad even finished. “And we would refuse,” he replied.
“Such gifts are not meant for us. We will not take them to keep them or to wield them. To others you must entrust their power.” Pallando looked at no one as he spoke; his gaze poured out into empty space, and his voice came as if from a distance. Glorfindel knew the moment for what it was, and the chill of foreboding that came on such occasions. Círdan often had his prescient spells, and Glorfindel preferred not to spend too much time in his company for fear of attracting more than the Shipwright’s casual attention.
Gil-galad nodded, yet whether in defeat or acknowledgment Glorfindel could not say. “I had hoped to entrust them to the servants of Manwë, for I know well there is none among us who might strive against Sauron, should it come to that. Even Galadriel, mighty in her wisdom, would falter and the gift of Nenya turn to ruin in her hand. But your counsel does not surprise me.”
“There are others among you, mighty in strength and wisdom, who might keep these Rings and resist the lure of their power,” said Pallando.
“Aye, but will they accept the charge?” Gently taking Vilya between his thumb and forefinger, Gil-galad placed it before Elrond. The perelda regarded the offer without emotion; his face was impassive, as if he had expected the gift. Perhaps they had discussed the matter in private, the High King and his herald, agreeing upon alternate Ring bearers should the Ithryn Luin refuse.
Or perhaps not, reflected Glorfindel. Elrond laid his fingers alongside the gold band without touching it. “I must consider this matter carefully, aran-nín. Círdan might be a wiser choice for the Ring of Air.”
“He has already refused, saying the gift would be more profitably given elsewhere,” said Gil-galad. “When he gives such counsel, I know better than to argue with him. Weigh the matter if you must, Elrond, yet do not tarry too long. As for Narya, I had thought to keep it for now, though perhaps there is wisdom in sending it away also.”
As Narya was set before him, Glorfindel recoiled from it. Why do you offer it to me? “I do not want it,” he said. Do you count me so among the wise and powerful? “Nay, I cannot take it.”
“You do not even know its power,” Gil-galad said softly.
“Nor do I wish to know it. Though it was never touched by Sauron, there is evil in that thing.”
“Such was Celebrimbor’s art that these Rings were infused with the spirit of our people. Aye, there is some ill in them, as there is ill in us all, but much else that is good.” Gil-galad continued as though Glorfindel had not protested. “Narya is called the Ring of Fire because it kindles the inner fire, giving hope and spirit and courage where there is none. When I gave you command, you told me you had neither heart nor courage to give your followers. That fire I am placing in your hand.”
Once again, Glorfindel could not help but reflect on the difference between him and Turgon. Turgon would have kept both Rings and dismissed all talk of going to the aid of Celebrimbor, instead opting to remain in Lindon to shore up its defenses. This was neither greed nor callousness, but the inherent cautiousness that ruled Turgon. Gil-galad had a very different notion of prudence.
Aye, he speaks wisely, and the Ring speaks strongly to me. I would give faith to others, and take courage and strength for myself, yet I know it is not for my hand to wield. With great effort, he forced his eyes away from the Ring with its glittering heart of fire. “Were I a king, I might take it,” he answered. “But I am not a king. Rather, it is in you, High King of the Noldor, that your warriors should find their hope and strength, not in a mere captain.”
Gil-galad’s eyes dropped to the Ring, although he did not move to take it back. He contemplated it, turning his head this way and that as he mulled over his captain’s refusal. After a few moments, he looked up at Glorfindel, his gaze steady and questioning. “You do not think I should send this Ring away?”
“That decision is not mine to make, hir-nín, but if this Ring must be worn or wielded by any, it must be the High King who kindles hope and great deeds in his people. If Sauron’s might is as great as we fear, then your courage must guide us all in the dark days to come.”
Carefully picking up the Ring of Fire, Gil-galad held it in the palm of his hand but did not put it on. “I do not wish to contemplate a time when I might have to wield this, yet I cannot ignore the shadow that looms over us all.”
* * *
Lórien: At this time, the area that would become Lothlórien was ruled by Amdír. Galadriel and Celeborn dwelt in Lórinand, which was west of the Misty Mountains. Amdír was slain during the Last Alliance and his son Amroth became king. When Amroth died in the mid-Third Age, the people of Lórien welcomed Galadriel and Celeborn, with whom they apparently already had contact, as their rulers.
According to Unfinished Tales, it seems Gil-galad gave Vilya to Elrond after S.A. 1700, after Sauron was defeated by the combined strength of Lindon and Númenor, and after Imladris had already been established. For the purposes of this story, and for reasons that will become apparent in later chapters, I have chosen to move the date of the gift up slightly.
Gil-galad offering Narya to Glorfindel is purely my invention. Tolkien makes no mention of Glorfindel’s involvement at all in the Eregion crisis, although if he had returned to Middle-earth by this time, no doubt he would have served Gil-galad in some capacity during the conflict. Nor is there any mention of the involvement of Alatar and Pallando, who, it seems, went directly East after their arrival.
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.