6. Part Three: The Center Cannot Hold
1. Set in Stone.
Celebrimbor looked back as the western doors of Khazad-dum ground closed behind him. In the early evening, the elf-runes on the door were lit with uncanny brightness from the merest glint of moonlight, startling against the granite. I, Narvi, made them; Celebrimbor of Hollin wrote these signs. Only the words, and Narvi's other works, remained. Deep behind those doors, Narvi lay in a tomb of stone, dead after the full span of a dwarf's years. Celebrimbor had not been bidden to the rite where Narvi's secret name was spoken to hallow his spirit to Aule. But the dwarves had suffered him to visit the stone tomb, and he had grieved and thought there long in the near-darkness.
Celebrimbor had thought little of the death of mortals, though Annatar had spoken to him of the fear other kinds felt at its approach. Narvi's fate brought it home to him at last. He had known mortals who perished before, but always in battle, or an aged Dwarf or Man had simply ceased to come among the elves. Some elves envied mortals their freedom from the long years. Not I, thought Celebrimbor. Eternity seemed too little time for all the works he would do. He and Narvi had shared that wish, and it shadowed him that Narvi's works were done. Sadly, he took off the dwarf-styled hood he had worn, and folded it in his hand, not knowing when he would wear it again.
He reached up and touched the enchanted metal of the doors, inlaid into the living walls of the mountain. "And may these endure longest of all our works together, that I may look on it and remember you," he whispered, then walked along the path that led beside the stream of the Sirannon, back to Eregion.
Once he would have sought out Galadriel and spoken with her about this; she too admired the Dwarves. Did she still? Since Annatar came, he had taken far less counsel with her. There were only so many hours in the day, and Narvi was mortal, and Annatar would not linger with the Elves forever. She spent many hours with her daughter, Celebrían, now. Their need for each other's friendship had faded - or perhaps it had been more based on the current of desire denied than either of them had cared to admit.
He walked, musing, for several miles, until the path of the Sirannon drew near to the road from Caradhras. In the midst of his thoughts of loneliness and sundering, his heart was gladdened, for he saw a lithe white-robed figure slipping down that road, bright in the falling evening. "Annatar!" he shouted, and bounded up to meet the walker. Had it been merely a hundred and fifty years since the fair Maia came to them, and joined him in his bed and at his side? Time had flown; there were never enough hours, with so much happening and waiting to happen. "Annatar. Again you come to me from the West, as at your first riding!"
Annatar let Celebrimbor embrace him, and spoke sombrely. "I have been speaking with some of the Men who came to the valley to trade, telling them tales to inspire them and giving them counsel." If he was to bring all the races of Arda under his thumb, it was not too soon to start luring Men to him, with enticing tales of what worship of the Dark would bring. "They have left by the pass of Caradhras yonder."
Celebrimbor looked at him admiringly. "This is part of why you are my boon companion; you too have a care for other races of Arda. I admit I like the Dwarves best, but you are always so helpful to the Edain and other Men who come amongst us."
Annatar laughed softly, and drew back a bit. "They are so afraid of the dark that awaits them. I try to reassure them, to show them that the way things is not so troubling, and to guide them to what power they might have, as I do with the Elves. Do you not feel pity for them yourself?"
Celebrimbor looked down at the dwarf-styled hood he clenched in one hand. "Pity, yes. And now grief. I understand you better, Annatar, and the Rings that you have proposed to me." He looked back up at the tall figure, close enough to grasp, glimmering in the falling dark. "You have delayed your last teachings to us. We Mírdain are ready for this work - hungry for it."
Annatar read the elf-man clearly; Celebrimbor might not lash out at death, but the elf's anger and sorrow would strike at the nearest target. So he offered up the target he wished Celebrimbor would fell. "What I would show you is no small thing. You must be able to give yourself to it fully. I have been waiting for you to have the time to spare - now that your friend is perished, perhaps you understand me better. Matters steal hours from you each day. You are dwindled with fretfulness about the politics of Eregion. Can you not cease your endless quarrels with Celeborn? Granted, he is never fair to the Mírdain," said Annatar, silkily, waiting for the elf's contrary reply.
"Even when his forestry blooms all the greener with the Elessar in the hands of Galadriel." Celebrimbor nearly snarled.
Annatar sighed. "The will of your leaders binds me as well. I know Galadriel does not care for me, and therefore I strive to be humble. I do not dare to teach the Mírdain all I might against the disapproval of your lords."
"If I left governance to them alone, I would have far more time. But I will not withdraw from the councils! Pure foolishness, when the craft-folk I speak for are the fortune of Eregion."
"By your kinship to Fëanor, are you not the true High King of the Elves, last remaining son of his sons?" asked Annatar. "Why do you bother to bide by what they say? Great lords should have their will."
Celebrimbor looked at him long, gazing at the fair face he knew better than his own. "If I resolve these matters so that we may have our will, and I am less diminished by these quarrels, you will teach me the last I need to know? Tell me!"
Annatar leaned in to whisper in his ear. "Yes," was all he said, and traced the edge of the elf-man's ear with his tongue. Celebrimbor started, then leaned into the melting rush that ran through him, glad at this sign of acquiescence. After some plan had been laid, or a design of craft or power had succeeded, they often lay together to confirm their fellowship, Annatar giving of his beautiful body as he had of his knowledge.
Celebrimbor only gave in to the sensation for a minute. With Annatar as a lover, always kneeling, sensually servile, assertion had become second nature for him, his refuge when things did not go as he wished, his refreshment for the struggles of politics and creation. A hundred and fifty years ago, he would have asked with subtle words if his lover wished to lay amidst the long grass with him. Now he seized Annatar's arm and took a step onto the sward.
The white-clad Maia eluded his grasp, slipping among the boulders near the path with a sly, tempting look the masterful elf knew well by now. Celebrimbor followed, unclasping his cloak-pin, ready to spread the dark fabric on the ground for their coupling. A ways from the path, among high green grass and shielding stones, Annatar paused. "Show me how strong your will is. Work it upon me!" He leaned back against a tall grey stone, his bright eyes and teeth gleaming in the dusk.
Celebrimbor stepped up and pinned him against the cold granite, dragging at his golden collar to lower him for a wide-mouthed kiss. Annatar shifted to elude him, with a mocking smile.
"Do not taunt me," Celebrimbor said, his voice strained after the heart-wrenching day.
"Do not vex me," Annatar replied, "If you want me, seize me." Celebrimbor held back, uncertain. This was a new game. Annatar had never broken their lovers' rules to defy him so before, with teasing words and a denying body. That body was the only warmth in the cold glen of stone, the chill reminding him of the tunnel of Narvi's tomb. His mouth hungered to taste Annatar's spicy skin, his arms to cage the Maia inescapably; this one he cared for would not flee him into the darkness.
Annatar tilted his head away until Celebrimbor pulled him down again harder, forcing the kiss. Annatar melted to it just enough to incite him, then drew away again until Celebrimbor rammed him back against the rock.
"This is what you want?" Celebrimbor breathed. "You have been spending too much time with mortals, if you want to be ravished."
Annatar said nothing, instead dipping to the side as if trying to escape. Celebrimbor half-fell upon him, grabbing his wrists hard, and they strove together, falling down to their knees. It was better than tears for Celebrimbor to feel the breath burn his lungs, to finally pin the flesh-clad spirit beneath him, hot and sinuous as a fire-drake, both tempting and denying. Even as Annatar tried to break his grip, the long legs spread beneath the white robe.
Annatar fumed with a mixture of anger and lust to feel himself borne down, but not hard enough, never hard enough. He was tempted to turn back around on Celebrimbor, strike at him, ravage him in turn. Never had he longed more to take up his true name of Sauron and show the elf how it was done! Grief had made Celebrimbor vulnerable to anger and impatience, and lust would complete his work. He had saved this disobedience until the time was ripe to inflame Celebrimbor into lordly fury, priming him to defiance and wilfulness. The double game he was playing inflamed him, and he half-turned to let Celebrimbor feel his arousal before feinting at escape again.
Celebrimbor knew that the Maia could outstrive him, if he wished, but the harsher he was, the more the hidden limbs parted, and Annatar's face became a gloating mask of contentment. Just as Celebrimbor relaxed to see it, Annatar nearly slipped away from his softened grip. Celebrimbor pinned him for the final time, belly against the grass, to ruche up the white robes from behind.
"Now I have you," Celebrimbor laughed. "What a look you give me!" He bore down with all his weight, pressed his face in the warm hollow between Annatar's shoulder-blades. Then he bit and licked at the Maia's own ears, starting to buck his hips against the lean, tempting loins beneath him.
Annatar made sounds of protest and swerved his head away as Celebrimbor whispered to him. "But no coarse mortal am I, to force you to it. Say that you want it! Beg me to take you."
Stubborn in silence, Annatar thrust his own hips back against the elf who held him down, deliberately sliding to bring Celebrimbor's hardened rod along the cleft of his arse.
"Say it in words," said Celebrimbor.
He heard Annatar breathe like a spitting cat, felt the Maia quiver in frustration that his game was not going as he willed it. Then, with a hissing exhale, Annatar whispered, "Take me." Celebrimbor let him go to open tunic and breeches and spit into his own hand. He forced that wetness up inside Annatar before placing the head of his phallus, moist and sliding from its own fluids, ready to pierce.
"Ask again," he said. And as Annatar asked once more, the solution to the politics came to Celebrimbor in a flash, and he laughed for the joy of it as he thrust in.
When Annatar felt that thickness split him, he set aside his plans for the hour. His spirit's senses told him that even if matters had not gone as he would have them, something about the elf's dominance was sealed by his acquittal. Annatar thrust his body back against Celebrimbor's hammering, reaching for the darkness that was near, deep inside his body, his coming release.
Feeling Annatar give himself over to what he had asked for, undone in the end by his desire, set Celebrimbor free. He urged Annatar, "With me, now, I can scarce hold!" Their mingled cries of release were stifled in the long grass.
Annatar felt Celebrimbor sag above him and thought that he, too, was weary of holding back. Unlike the soft-hearted Elf, he would have no moments of weakness when power came to him. He turned about beneath Celebrimbor, eyes fiery. "Tell me that you will force the lords of Eregion to submit to you so!"
Celebrimbor laughed deep in his chest and leaned on him again. "No, force is not the way to victory in this matter. I know what to do, now; it came to me even as I asked you to beg. And I might not have had the idea if not for your strange game." He smothered Annatar in a heavy kiss.
When his mouth was freed, Annatar asked, "Your solution?"
When Celebrimbor told him, it was all that Annatar could do to hold back his own laughter, which would have rung from the cliffs of the Sirannon. It was the last thing he had expected, that the way in which he found Celebrimbor the least satisfying, his insistence on following the will of others, would be the key to his gaining power in Eregion. But he could see the proud lords falling before the feint. He would enjoy watching this.
2. A Modest Rebellion.
The first Aranwë heard of it was at a work meeting of his fellow steel-smiths, when one of the smiths complained to their leader about his requisition. "Not more pen-tips, Celebri! A hundred and forty-four - are the loremasters eating them, lately?"
"Sorry, my friend. They are needed for a coming council. And you have a fine hand for them." Celebrimbor's charm failed, for once. The smith announced that he was weary of them for the nonce, and offered to trade the task with someone else. Aranwë accepted, glad to get rid of something he found dull, then asked about the detailing for the pen-tips. "Plain as can be, do not trouble yourself," said Celebrimbor. "And no need for pens themselves, a wood-turner is making them."
"I'm surprised that Celeborn is sparing the branches," quipped the pen-free smith, and the others laughed. Such asides had become common, lately, in the highland house of the Mírdain.
"We will not need to fret about that, in the future, if the council goes well," said their leader. There were some murmurs at that, but Celebrimbor let the tempting comment lie, saying only that the pen-tips were needed for the end of the week, and inviting all to the council.
Later, Aranwë engaged in the delicate steel-cutting and filing, not bothering with the engraving and gilding he had done for Pengolod's gift of pens, wondering what was afoot. All the folk of Eregion could read and write. It was a point of pride for them, as for all the High Elves, and other elf-folk who came to dwell among them learned swiftly. Still, at normal councils, those who recorded notes wrote on slates with chalk, and scribed with ink only at need, for paper or vellum were saved for lasting works.
The meeting took place on a soft, overcast morning. The glass dome of the Mírdain's largest chamber was still bright. The tiled floor was crowded, without its central space. There were more Mírdain than there had been a century and a half ago when Annatar first came. And members of other orders had also been invited, surprising the Mírdain; loremasters, game-rangers, foresters, breadgivers who both sowed and baked the sacred bread, vintners, marchwardens, and more. Celebrimbor stood on a wooden table to be seen and heard by all the throng as he spoke. Two chains still hung from the iron bar that spanned the dome, trailing silver onto the table, and Celebrimbor reached his arm up to grasp one of these, as if he would submit to the company when he spoke. He jangled the chain to draw everyone's attention, then began his measured speech.
Once he had won the crowd by praising their work as the lifeblood of Eregion, they did not shout down his proposal right away; that the governance of Eregion should go from the Lord and Lady to a council from all their orders, under the guidance of the Mírdain. "Celeborn's lordship, by ideas of royalty rather than ideas of merit, is past its day. Does he speak for us, for you, or for his past dreams of Doriath? We Mírdain would bring Eregion a better way."
"What of our Lady?" a breadgiver shouted. "She stands beside him as his equal."
"She deals in diplomacy, in warding, in defence. We might do these things, too, again on merit."
Someone called out in protest, "You call for rebellion! I would not be a rebel again - no, not after I was fool enough to follow Fëanor!"
Celebrimbor managed to hush the outcry, and kept his voice quiet, so that everyone leaned to him to hear better. "Not a sword shall be unsheathed, not a red plume shall be seen on a helm. Yet it might be as I saw in the past, at Nargothrond; my own father Curufin was turned out as their lord, by the people's word, and even I turned from his ill deeds! A change of lordship may be gentle if it is the will of the people, and for the right. Hardly a change, even. All of you direct this realm already, in sooth. This will simply make the truth of how Eregion's power lies more clear and right."
"And would you be our lord now, Celebrimbor?" called out the one who had followed Fëanor.
Celebrimbor turned the heckler back neatly." That should not be your question. You should ask yourselves if that is what you want, and I will follow your word. The governance will chiefly be by the council, for I have works of my own craft to do. Erestor, chief of the loremasters! How many dwell in Eregion?"
Near the table, an elf-man in sage-green waved a scroll above his head, then spoke a number of thousands.
"Very well; if most of the folk will have me, I shall be your lord, and your council shall have its will. Your wish shall be known by your name signed to one of these sheets." At that, he reached down and pulled Erestor to the table-top; the loremaster carried an armful of vellum sheets, ready marked with places to sign, and the pens that had been forged and turned. He laid most down, and held up one pen and sheet for all to see, as Celebrimbor jumped down from the table and, most humbly, began to lay out the sheets and some of the pens at the ready, uncorking some ink.
The crowd arranged itself into spiralled queues around the centre of the hall. Knots of elves stood in converse to the sides, quibbling and debating; a few walked out. Aranwë was at the back, so he had plenty of time to think, and unlike some of the excited folk, he took it. Celebrimbor hardly needed to say little against Celeborn in that hour, for he had said plenty at other times, until the Mírdain spoke against Celeborn easily. It had been wise of him to say little against the Lady, and to place her in parallel to powers others might have. From the chatter in the ones lined to sign, many were moved not by dislike of the current lords, but by a chance to hold some of that lordship themselves.
Aranwë was able to confirm a rumour for some of the folk of other guilds; that the Mírdain were on the cusp of a great work, an enchantment to aid and elevate all the folk of Arda. "Still, this is a great change," one said, softly, looking uncertainly at the table where sheets were being signed, and volunteers to take the news around and gain more signatures were being arranged.
"To me it seems as Celebrimbor said, to make things more as they are already," said another, "the Mírdain and those with skill as the ones who steer this land." Aranwë recognized the speaker as Erestor's crisp-tongued wife.
As for himself, Aranwë did not mind Celeborn, particularly, and had always honoured the Lady. But he owed more than fealty to Celebrimbor, as did others in that hall. They were bound by all that it meant to be a Mírdain; the love of their crafts, the works and successes they shared, and the intimacies of ansereg and more. Few of the Mírdain took spouses or lovers who were not at least kin to another Mírdain.
Aranwë was not the only smith to find refuge in the house of the Mírdain from the dark history of the Elves, the ill-fated oaths and bloody deeds of the War of the Jewels. He did not speak often of his time in Gondolin, nor of his years with the elf-men of Maedhros. If asked who he was, he said first that he was of the Mírdain, and took what contentment an exile who lingered in Middle-Earth could have from that.
And if this gentle rebellion failed, he wondered, what then of the Mírdain? He joined one of the spiralled queues to sign his name with one of the pens he had made in part.
3. The Black Chasm.
Celeborn and Galadriel sat stiffly, their tall daughter Celebrían standing, to hear Celebrimbor's speech. They had had every word from the Mírdain brought to them for three days, since rumour of the fomenting rebellion reached Ost-in-Edhil, and decided to wait and see what the embassy brought.
Celebrimbor spoke as graciously as he might, attended by representatives of many orders. Then he presented the stack of signed papers, explaining that they had been assembled over the past three days, and what the will of the folk of Eregion was. Each sheet had been signed by the same number of people, so that all one need do was count the number of sheets to understand how many names there were.
Galadriel riffled through the pages, estimating the count of the sheets; three, six, twelve, twenty-four, forty-eight, more still to count. She glanced up at the embassy before her, and her husband saw that she was white with rage, a slight flush on each cheek. Placating, Celeborn placed a hand on her arm and murmured, "Counsel?"
"Yes," she growled. They looked at each other, then at the expectant embassy. With extreme formality, Celebrimbor said, "We shall leave you, honoured ones, to consider the people's will in this matter. When might we return to speak with you again?"
"One hour," said Galadriel. As one, the embassy group bowed, and left to wait in the courtyard. The pair saw the varied people turn to Celebrimbor as they all left, and begin to whisper excitedly. Without speaking further, the rulers and their daughter swept off to a side salon.
"I've never seen anything like it in my life!" gasped Celebrían. "They want you to step down? I never heard of Elves being ruled by such a thing as the council they propose!"
Galadriel smacked the stack of papers onto a table without completing the count. "Once before have I heard of this; at Nargothrond, when they swept out the sons of Feanor and reinstated my brother Orodreth."
Celeborn swept up the papers and said, "With these sheets? Never did I think that so many would give the Mírdain their word for this."
Galadriel nodded in stern agreement. "At Nagrothrond, there came merely an embassy as we had today. Reinforced with a few swords."
"They had no swords today, mama," said Celebrían.
"This is more bitter, to see the names of all who would have me gone. It was many hands to prepare this. Aye, many hands, and the chief of them stand in the great hall."
Celeborn looked at a window that would have been a view, was it not filled with another of the Mírdain's stained-glass works, and turned away from it. His voice was weary when he spoke. "How long has Eregion slid from our hands? Are these our people? By our service to them, yes; by their own word, no. They are grown strange to me, and I cannot speak for them as I once did. When did this cease to be a realm of our desiring?"
Husband and wife looked at each other, he tired, she enraged, as Celebrían stood by, torn between anger and tears. They had discussed all the options: to call up guard and sword in anger: with words, to try and work their own will over that of the people: or to step aside. "I know the day, the very day," sighed Galadriel, "though I was not here at the time." Celeborn grew cold at that, for they never had agreed about Annatar.
"Perhaps if you had felt as I did in that matter---" he began, but Celebrían interrupted. "Papa, please! What are we going to do?"
Galadriel looked at her husband, and weighed his words with their options. "I would go for a time to Lorinánd," said Galadriel. "They would welcome us there, and we might do some good. The lands grow yet more fell and troubled. It will be a swift journey through Khazad-dûm. What say you?"
Celeborn surprised both the women. "I will not walk through Moria." Both gasped at the cruel name Elves never spoke to the Dwarves; the Black Chasm.
Shocked that her compromise was refused, Galadriel snapped, "If I can set my pride aside enough to surrender a realm I helped build, for the sake of your weariness, you can endure the Khazad a day or two!"
"No," he said, his voice low and heavy. "I have endured much of them, but I will not honour their halls - not after they desecrated ours in Doriath. Nor will I abandon the woods I nurtured here to the heedless hewing of the Mírdain. I have lost enough in my day. It is too much!"
Galadriel said, "The insult I am dealt today is too much for me. I will not stay where I am not wanted. Though my bed be cold, I am going."
The two glared at each other, proud against place-bound, undermined by a century and more of thoughts half-unspoken.
"And I am staying," said Celeborn, at last.
"On your own head be it, then! I suppose you shall speak to Celebrimbor and make your arrangements. I shall go to make my own," said Galadriel. She stepped back, as if waiting for Celeborn to break and agree with her, but he had not by the time she left the overdecorated little room.
The tall maiden Celebrían stood there, riven, now looking at her defeated father, now turning after her stern mother. She swallowed. "Father, I am sorry. I cannot stand it, either - I will go with Mother."
"Child, are you sure? This has been your home all your life," he said, thinking sadly that the bright girl deserved better than the unspoken conflict that had hemmed her days.
"I'm not a child any more!" Clinging to her own anger, she dashed off after her mother.
4. The Song of Sauron.
"So it all went perfectly, then," Sauron said. He was curled on the carpet at Celebrimbor's feet, in the elf's most private chamber. Celebrimbor had slumped into a carved wooden chair, near exhausted after a day of chaos, and was staring at the light in a figured lantern.
"I...suppose." Celebrimbor sat up, then leaned forwards onto his hands. "Mind, I respect Celeborn for his decision to stay here and be my gadfly over his forestry; 'tis what I've done to him for years, after all! Caught in my own trap, again. Well, easy enough to manage him alone. The first wood we will have will be for the Council's chairs. That will rattle him."
Sauron smiled to hear Celebrimbor's relish at the rivalry continued, but the elf-man's voice dropped. "But it is very evil that he and Galadriel are riven over this. I never imagined they would fall out so. She would have been welcome to stay, as well; I would have honoured her."
Sauron was well aware of that, and had to restrain his delight at her leaving. "I fail to understand you, Celebrimbor. You wanted power for yourself."
"No, I wanted power out of their hands. That does not mean I would have this!" Celebrimbor cried. "To us Eldar, it is a rare insult when wife and husband separate - as rare as the sin of Kinslaying," he said, gravely.
"All to the good she would not have you, then. What if it was you from whom she separated?" Sauron watched that thought hit Celebrimbor like a cobblestone to the heart, and waited.
"That is why I will not insult Celeborn further with exile. Let him remain, if he wants to stay." Silence fell, save for wax hissing inside the lantern. At last, Celebrimbor looked at Sauron, glaring at him from the shadows at his feet, clearly displeased, and spoke again. "I promise not to dwell on it more, Annatar. That was the point of all this, to have less distraction, and all the support we needed for the great work. And great it must be with the price that is paid. You owe me what you promised me: the last."
Sauron shifted so that he knelt before Celebrimbor, bowing his head so that his face was hidden beneath the long fall of rich golden hair, and spread his hands. "Masterful you are grown indeed, and a joy it is that others see in you the fair strength I see. The last you shall have. Hearken to me."
Sauron did not begin to speak, but to sing. One brief cantrip was all he sang; piercing enough that he saw the elf-man shaken to his vitals, deep enough that the lantern and chair seemed to vibrate, and the silence that fell afterwards was as pure as the silence at the beginning of the world.
Celebrimbor understood immediately. "The Music of the Ainur," he breathed. "The power you great spirits use to shape the world."
Sauron stood, tall as a tower before the awed elf, and his voice had the ring of doom echoing from his deep singing. "Yea, some of this you shall have. The will of all your race it shall bring to you, and you may bind that will and power to your making thereby."
Then, the Maia thought, he would link their ring-making to his, and they would fall beneath him. As joy lit Celebrimbor's broad, handsome face, Sauron thought of the Men who wondered at him now, and the hatred of the Elves and worship of the Dark he sowed amongst them. Too, there were the Orcs. In secret moments, Sauron was working the slow magic to draw the hidden Orcs from their holes and hiding, and down to ready the realm where they would serve him.
And were not Orcs once Elves?
5. Unofficial Business.
When word of the events in Eregion came to Pengolod's workshop in Lindon, he did not even try to stop the scribes from putting down their pens. "Leave off for the day, go and have the news," he said. " Tell the teachers showing the youngsters their letters the same. And give me back that pen, Galdor - it's one of a set. I shall clean it myself." He lingered as the loremasters and apprentices scattered, noting what was left undone here, clicking his tongue at a pot of gilding not sealed shut there. He was contemplating the engraved metal pen in his hand when Elrond found him.
"Where have all your folk gone, Master Pengolod?" Elrond asked.
"Should I try and keep loremasters from finding out the news, Master Peredhil? I might as well try and build a sea-wall from loose sand. But with you, the news has come to me. Do you need a scribe for your councils?"
"No, I seek one who knows languages of old. Did you ever speak the Sindarin of Doriath?"
Pengolod bowed. "But of course! I learned it in my sojourn at Nan-Tathren, where many folk came together. I remember it clear as starlight, a dialect most antique, useful in untangling the origins of certain words."
"If I gave you some messages to write in that language, you can do so, then, without delay?" Elrond's look deepened. "Being the chief of the loremasters, you might work in secret, with none questioning you."
"I can indeed." And why, he thought, would Elrond want to code messages so? Those who knew much about Lindon knew that there was the King's official word, and then there was the strange role of the Peredhil in his court. Elrond was kin to kings, yet he only carried the title of "Master"; he was the herald and favourite of Gil-Galad, but not named as a prince of the realm. Despite that, the wise knew that for what truly mattered in Lindon, you watched where Elrond went. "One always writes better, lord, if one knows who one's audience is?"
"These messages will be for Celeborn of the Trees."
"Ah. Now I understand." So Gil-Galad and Elrond would keep the deposed lord of Eregion in their counsels, and be discreet as well. The old language of Doriath was not an unbreakable code, but it might make the messages more difficult to read, while being seen as a courtesy, not an obstruction. Pengolod looked up, forcing a smile down for a neutral expression.
"Last time I went to Eregion, lord, I went on my own behalf. When some scribing is done, I have a book or two that must go thence; fair copies for their loremaster, for the kindly Khazad, and for another friend or two." He ran his fingers along the fine engraving of the pen he held, a gift from one in Eregion. "Is this helpful to you at all?"
Elrond smiled himself. "Would you grudge to ride there again? The road is grown dangerous. But someone travelling on their own behalf, unofficially taking scrolls and books around, would be useful to us in sooth. Have you any kin there?"
"No," said Pengolod, and a shadow fell upon his face; he had no close kin anywhere since the fall of Gondolin.
"That is for the best, in these matters. Let it be known to us when your books are ready. Come with me now, with your tools, and Gil-Galad will give you the messages for translation." Pengolod took down some of the fine vellum used for the letters attached to messenger-birds, then picked up his brass box of pens.
"Fair tales of the Mírdain," Pengolod murmured, shaking his head at life's ironies. To Elrond's curious look, he only said, "Talking to myself, my lord; never mind me. Shall we go?"
Story is set in the year 1402, Second Age.
I, Narvi, made them = As noted in the Fellowship of the Ring book; these magical doors were shown in the movie.
Sacred bread = There are several notes in Tolkien that among elves making bread was both a) a task of women and b) highly revered, sacred to the Valar. "Of Lembas" in Peoples of Middle-Earth and "Laws and Customs of the Eldar", Morgoth's Ring.
The music of the Ainur = Some of the highest, most elemental magic in the Tolkien universe, as per The Silmarillion. There is another reference to Sauron's powerful song in his duel with Felagund.
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.