1. Chapter One
Foreword: Gil-galad gives Narya to Cirdan in this vignette. I have chosen to follow Tolkien’s original premise that the transfer occurred soon after Gil-galad initially received the two Rings Celebrimbor sent to him, and I also allude obliquely to Tyellas’ fanfic “One Ring to Bind Them.” Many thanks to her for writing that story, and for giving me permission to refer to it.
Gil-galad urged his stallion into a harder gallop, ignoring the rain pouring down, the mud splashing up, and the struggle of his small escort to keep up with him. He did not care at the moment; having made his decision at last, he was determined to reach the Havens as quickly as possible.
Cirdan is the only one I can entrust with one of these accursed gifts. He cursed the gift’s maker under his breath with every oath he knew in both Quenya and Sindarin. Why had Celebrimbor not listened to the warnings he had given about the supposed Lord of Gifts? Because of the overweening arrogance of the House of Feanor, thought Gil-galad acidly. The selfsame arrogance and lust for power that had brought the Noldor low and inflicted endless grief for all the First Age now threatened to undo Middle-earth once more. He wished in an obscure corner of his heart that he was not High King of the Noldor, and that his kinswoman Galadriel had chosen to take sole responsibility and keep all of Celebrimbor’s jewels. Even though the chief of the Mirdain had rebelled against her authority earlier, he had turned to her for aid when he discovered how he had been betrayed.
But she had advised the smith to send two of the Rings of Power to Gil-galad. He vividly recalled the night a year ago when the exhausted courier from Ost-in-Edhil came riding to his palace in Lindon, gasping out his message of disaster.
We are all deceived . . . Annatar is truly Sauron, the old enemy, and he seeks to enslave us with our own arts. He has forged a great Ring in the fires of Orodruin, to ensnare all other Rings of Power, including the Three . . . so my Lord Celebrimbor begs you to take these into safekeeping, and that you accept his repentance for his failure to heed you. We of the Gwaith-i-Mirdain shall never forgive ourselves for what and whom we have taught.
He had slowly unfolded the leather wallet the courier laid in his lap, and drew out the two rings inside—Vilya, the Ring of Air, and Narya, the Ring of Fire. Vilya’s sapphire and Narya’s ruby glittered and sparkled as he held them up to the candlelight, and he could feel the raw power pulsing through them, like being enveloped in the music of the Ainur. But he could also sense the dark pull underneath their surface, the black force they were now bound to irrevocably. With a shudder, he dismissed the rider, bundled the Rings back up, and hid them away, determined to guard them but uncertain how such a task was to be accomplished.
“My lord, we have arrived!” The guard’s cry rang out as they crested the hill. They slowed to a canter as they entered the Havens and rode up to the house Cirdan had built near the quays. It was far too modest to describe as a palace, in spite of the shipwright’s standing as Lord of the Grey Havens. Gil-galad dismounted and hastened to the entrance, only to find his foster father already awaited him, framed in the open door. He radiated the calm serenity he always possessed, but his deep-set eyes were grave.
“Mae govannen, Ereinion. What matter is so urgent it brings you to my hearth on a rainy evening like this?”
“A matter of the greatest import, atar,” replied Gil-galad, deliberately using the form of address Cirdan discouraged, “and one I must discuss with you in private.”
“Come then. I shall fetch you refreshment and take your escort to a room where they may warm themselves.”
They followed Cirdan into the house. He opened a door in the hall and motioned Gil-galad to enter. He did with gratitude, shedding his wet cloak and basking in the fire’s warmth as he sat down. A cold enough night that even we of the Eldar feel it, he thought. Cirdan entered a few minutes later and wordlessly handed him a goblet of wine; Gil-galad took a deep swig of it and looked up at the silently waiting figure. He reached into his tunic, took out a leather pouch, and shook the ring inside onto his palm.
“This is why I have come,” he said. He proffered it to Cirdan, the ruby winking bloodily in the firelight. Cirdan took it delicately, holding it between his fingertips. As he came into contact with the jewel, his eyes slowly closed.
“This is a thing of great power, Ereinion, almost as great as the Silmarils,” he breathed. “Who made this? Celebrimbor? I sense his essence embedded within it. But I also perceive another power shadowing it.”
“Yes, Celebrimbor forged this ring,” said Gil-galad. “But you see truly that there is more to this than his craftsmanship. He is indeed one of Feanor’s clan, lusting after power and knowledge and flesh, and has brought ruin to us all as a result. My warnings about the Lord Annatar were correct, and they are now betrayed.” The bitterness surged up in his voice as he plunged into the tale, holding back no detail of Celebrimbor’s folly in initiating the Maia into the secrets of the Gwaith-i-Mirdain, and how those secrets were now being used against the Eldar, to forge a One Ring that would bind all the others to Sauron’s perverted purposes. Cirdan remained unmoving during his story. Only when Gil-galad finished did he speak once more.
“So Celebrimbor has been seduced and corrupted into evil, corrupted in both body and mind.”
“But not in heart,” said Gil-galad. “He repents of his acts, and showed the wisdom to go to the Lady Galadriel for help.”
“And what did Artanis do?”
“She has taken Nenya, the Ring of Water, to hold and protect from Sauron, and advised that the others be sent to me.”
Cirdan extended Narya out to Gil-galad. “Then this is yours.”
Gil-galad shook his head vigorously. “I kept them hidden away for a year while I pondered long what the safest course was for me to take. I will keep Vilya, for it is the most powerful, and I shall heed Galadriel’s counsel not to use it openly, for fear of revealing its whereabouts to the Enemy; he seeks them unceasingly, determined to claim them for his own. But I dare not hold two rings of such overwhelming power. If I do, then surely they will be betrayed to Sauron and all will fall into darkness.” He gently folded Cirdan’s fingers over Narya. “You must hold and guard the Ring of Fire, atar, for me, and for all the Eldar. I have consulted with my peredhil about this, and Elrond concurs with my choice of you to hold Narya. We are the only ones, besides Galadriel and Celebrimbor, who now know where the Three Rings are hidden.”
“You do not wish for him to hold it?”
“No, for the day may come when I must pass Vilya over into his keeping, especially if war comes upon us and I send him to the aid of Eregion. And you know as well as I that war will come.”
There was no sound in the room but the crackling of the fire. Time stood still as Cirdan gazed at his foster son, who waited for an answer with increasing fear that the shiplord would refuse his request. Finally, Cirdan stirred.
“I do not desire power, as you well know, but I cannot decline this burden. It is as you say, that we must conceal these Rings from Sauron, and he is not likely to seek one here at the Grey Havens. I shall take up this charge, mellon-nin, for your sake and your sake alone, for I love you dearly, even as if you were my own, and I will not see you destroyed by the evils of others.” He sat down opposite Gil-galad and sighed. “Perhaps the purer love we have for one another shall wash out the stain of the twisted lust that birthed these Rings, and that the day will arrive when we shall be able to wield them openly. I sense a great power to preserve in them; I would arrest the decay of Middle-earth if I could, Ereinion.”
“Perhaps,” agreed Gil-galad. He took another sip of wine, and felt the leaden weight that had dragged on him from the moment he touched the Rings slowly lift and recede, to be replaced with a lightness of spirit he had never thought to feel again.
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.