The night sky spread out before her, and its white stars glowed with the light of the late morning sun. Ilmarë’s eyes wandered slowly over the mural above the bed as she waited for the weight of sleep to leave her body. The odd combination on the ceiling would have amused her had it not been for the dream still dominating her mind. It was more than a memory; when she closed her eyes, Ilmarë could still feel his skillful hands on her body, his tongue as it crossed her lips and joined hers, his body filling her own… Her eyes snapped open as truth dealt a blow that stunned her and left her reeling. She had loved before and now she knew whom.
Sauron the Destroyer…Gorthaur the Cruel…Rušurayan…
The thought of him sent another wave of longing through her body and she shook her head to drive it away. Elrond…
she fought to focus her thoughts, Elrond the half-Elven, son of Eärendil…Elrond, who is good and strong, and whom I love.
But did she truly feel love for him? asked the doubt creeping into her mind. It circled her like the relentless hunter it was, its arrows and barbs the soft, concerned questions. The sharp points lodged and did their damage; now she doubted.
Had anyone asked before that moment, she would have said yes without hesitation. Elrond was safety, warmth, the beauty of distant lightning, and the promise of possibilities. There was no safety to be found with Rušurayan; he was dangerous and imposing, his flame blistered and seared. No distant lightning was he – his bolts struck close enough to charge the air with their power and leave her blinded by their brilliance. And to feel that torrent, that tempest stoked higher by her touch…to know she exerted a control over something so powerful…it thrilled Ilmarë with an intensity that made her heart pound against her chest just to think of it. His possessive behavior made her feel sheltered and loved.
Tears rolled down her cheeks and wet the pillow beneath her head as truth dealt her another staggering blow. Ilmarë felt the grief rise in her throat like a gorge when she remembered what she had been told of the histories of these lands.
Sauron had been offered a pardon after the War of Wrath. Obviously she had been successful in her pleas to Manwë - successful enough for Eönwë himself to offer amnesty. But it was not accepted. Sauron had refused and disappeared into Middle-earth, never to be heard from since that time. Some were of the opinion he had fled Arda all together – that his evil sorceries had allowed him some escape from the bonds keeping the Ainur bound to Arda.
It made little difference to Ilmarë. Wherever he was and whatever he had done, Rušurayan had abandoned her again and his words had been only lies. If it was indeed love that she felt for him, it had been a feeling not returned. He had taken what he wanted from her and left.
Oh, Melian…why did you not keep this memory hidden from me? Why do you force me to face this pain again?
Ilmarë studied the painted sky overhead, trying to fight a pervading sense of worthlessness. As she wiped the tears from her face another feeling nagged at her, until her eyes widened and realization came washing in. The mural over my bed is a landscape of Lindon…
She pushed herself up and swung her head around to examine the strange room, which most certainly was not hers. The heavy, green velvet curtains and bedspread, and the dark wooden walls gave Ilmarë the impression of the room being distinctly male. She sniffed at the air - almost moist with a pungent, green smell to it. Ilmarë found the source: a fire burned in the hearth on the far wall and the kettle suspended over the flames poured steam from its spout. The many vials and bottles covering the table next to the hearth had something to do with it as well, she decided.
Ilmarë clutched her hand to her chest and recalled the dining room and the sickening feeling of being unable to draw breath. The memories came back to her now, and how she had struggled against the weight on her chest before the blackness took her.
The others must have brought me to this room last night. I would think they would have taken me to my own room…
The door opened and Ilmarë started; but it was only Adanel entering from the hallway carrying another large iron kettle. The whistled tune died on her lips and the kettle almost slipped from her hands when she saw Ilmarë sitting up.
“Miss Ilmarë, you’re awake,” Adanel near shouted, putting the kettle aside and rushing toward Ilmarë with a tearful smile. “Oh, but you gave us a fright…Master Elrond’s been in here day and night, and Master Ereinion…” She stopped and held her hands up. “You just stay right where you are.”
Adanel pointed a finger at Ilmarë before turning to hurry back through the doorway, leaving Ilmarë to shake her head with the thought that Adanel shared her mother’s inability to let anyone else get a word in. Ilmarë looked down at the nightgown she wore, and decided she should at least locate her clothes and find out what room she was in. No sooner had she started to slide from beneath the blankets than a deep, male voice intruded.
“You should not get out of bed yet, Ilmarë.”
Ereinion paused in the doorway for a moment before entering the room and closing the door behind him. “It would be better if you waited until Elrond decides if you are ready to be up and around. We were all very worried about you…”
“Ereinion…do not try to behave as though nothing was wrong. How much were you shown?” She saw the way he avoided meeting her eyes and sensed his agitation. The thought of his having seen last night’s dream mortified her.
“Enough,” was all he would say, his voice flat as he continued to study the wall.
“How much? I have a right to know how much of my intimate memories you were privy to…”
Ereinion turned to her and there was no mistaking the anger in his voice and the disgust on his face. “Enough to know what Sauron’s true name is and how it came to be that such an evil being was offered a pardon by the Valar. I should be thankful that I was spared the full details of the vision…yet even the vague images were enough to deduce how you spent your evening with him - and that it was clearly not the first time you found pleasure in Sauron’s arms.”
Shame filled Ilmarë in a burning rush and she turned away, laying on her side with her back to Ereinion. Círdan had said she would not know shame until it was taught to her by the judgment of others, yet she would have never expected Ereinion to be the one to give her that lesson. She knew the judgment she saw in his eyes was well deserved, and it shamed her even more.
Ereinion saw her shoulders begin to shake and berated himself for speaking so rashly. He had not meant for it to come out so rough – he had not intended to speak of it at all – but the images from that dream had not left his mind all morning. The image of Ilmarë abasing herself before Sauron, on her knees pleading, and then reveling in his possession of her…it had been too much. Yet he regretted lashing out at her. He went to the bed and touched her shoulder, but she shrugged his hand away.
“Just leave me be,” she said, the words thick and difficult to understand through her tears. “I will leave for Eregion immediately. Then you will not be plagued by these dreams any longer.”
Ereinion’s gut lurched at the thought. “Your leaving will change nothing, Ilmarë. You forget, these dreams began weeks before your arrival and I have no doubt they would continue should you be foolish enough to leave.” Ereinion debated for a moment, and then sat next to her on the bed. She allowed him to rest his hand on her shoulder this time. “I do not want you to leave, even if it would bring an end to them. I should not have been so harsh…it was just so…well, it was something I did not enjoy seeing.” He felt her shoulder move beneath his hand as she continued to cry and he said, “It does not appear to be something you enjoyed seeing either. Forgive me…”
Ilmarë suddenly rolled over and laid her head on Ereinion’s leg. He tensed, but then relaxed and leaned back against the headboard, stroking her hair while she wept.
Ilmarë drew a shuddering breath and said, “I do not know which shames me more – what I did for him and to what lengths I was willing to go…or the love I felt for him then and the pain I feel now, knowing he abandoned me yet again.”
When she had unburdened herself with that confession, Ilmarë’s sobs came harder than before. Ereinion had no comforting words to give her, but he continued to run his hand along her hair. Many moments passed before her sobbing ceased and he finally spoke.
“Ilmarë…do you love him still?”
Ilmarë paused, trying to sort out an answer for that. When she found she could not, she said, “How could I? He used me for his own gain and then cast me aside, as he accused me of having once done to him. He avenged himself and left. I was foolish to have believed in him or that he loved me.”
Ereinion closed his eyes as he exhaled through his nose, the breath taking some of his tension with it. “It was a mistake, Ilmarë. Not even your kind is above making poor decisions. If they were, Morgoth would not have had so many servants…and Sauron would never have abandoned you once, let alone twice. Yet you did not return to him, you remained in Valinor – you must remember that.”
If she had known that for certain, Ereinion’s words might have offered some comfort; Ilmarë felt she had not tried to join Rušurayan, yet some part of her feared the possibility that she had. Ereinion had been correct about one thing – to cry had brought some relief and cleared her thoughts. Why Melian sent this dream remained to be seen, but Ilmarë knew it had some significance. She would remember it, although wallowing in her past mistakes would serve no purpose now.
What if Elrond were to discover this?
Ilmarë thought in a panic. He was angered enough at the thought of my evening with Círdan. For him to know of this…of Sauron…he would surely turn his back on me for something so terrible…
“Ereinion, what you saw…will you allow this to remain between you and I alone? Please…I do not wish for others to know…I do not wish for Elrond to know.”
“I will not speak of it, Ilmarë. It is not my place.” Elrond…of course…
He shook his head and held back a sigh. “Here…I believe you know what to do with this,” he said, and produced a handkerchief from his pocket.
Ilmarë took it and raised her head far enough to blow her nose. Shuddering with disgust, she handed the folded tissue back to him. “Do you always carry one of those with you, Ereinion?”
“Usually…although I think I should carry more than one while you are staying with me. This seems to be another habit we are cultivating – my having to wipe your nose. It would surprise me if I did not develop the urge to wet a cloth with my tongue to wash your face, or check behind your ears to make certain they were clean.”
Ilmarë looked up to see the ill-concealed smile on Ereinion’s lips. She sighed as she pushed herself up to sit next to him. “Yes, since I awakened on the ship I have often felt as I imagine one of your young offspring would. My allowing first Linquendil, then Círdan, and now you and Elrond to coddle me has done nothing to improve the situation either. It is something that must change.” She studied him for a moment and then nodded her head. “Thank you, Ereinion, for being so considerate of a burdensome stranger.”
“You are no stranger, Ilmarë; you are my friend. I always do what I can to help my friends. And do not be so quick to reject coddling from your friends – most enjoy having that done for them by people who truly care.”
Ilmarë held his gaze, once again fascinated by the brilliant blue of his eyes. But a smell wafted up and not the pleasing green smell of earlier. After a few investigatory sniffs, Ilmarë realized it was coming from her. She pulled the neckline of her gown away from her body and hesitantly sniffed inside it, then her head came back up and she exclaimed loudly.
“Ohhh…this body smells horrid! It is so foul it brings water to my eyes. Can you not smell it, Ereinion? I am constantly disgusted by this body and its repulsive ways, and I see no end in sight…”
Ereinion stood up and laughed. “You exaggerate, Ilmarë. It is not so bad. I admit, the paste Elrond smeared on your chest was sharp enough to sting my eyes at times, but I believe the smell is because your body has not had a proper washing. With you in bed…”
“I beg your pardon, Ereinion,” she interrupted with a pointed finger, “I bathe this body quite often, just as I was told. Even more than I was told, if you must know the truth of it. The questionable smells after I have taken long walks or when I first awake in the morning…ohh, they are too much…but it has never smelled this badly before.”
Ereinion shook his head and sighed. “I see no point in waiting for Elrond; you seem well enough. Get out of bed…we will get you into the bath and the problem will be resolved. You have been sick for…”
“There will be no talk of communal baths unless I am involved.”
Círdan stood in the doorway with raised eyebrows and a bright smile. He stepped into the room and walked to the bed, shaking his head at Ilmarë.
“Adanel found me in the kitchen and I sent her to the piers to tell Elrond. We have been quite worried about you. You said it would take a grave injury to kill this body and I do believe you came very close. Forgive me for saying, Ilmarë, but I am beginning to doubt the wisdom of your Order. You should have told us you did not feel well.”
He reached the bed and gave Ilmarë a tight embrace. “I am thankful to see you awake and in good health again.” His nose wrinkled as he pulled back but his smile did not lessen. “I understand why Ereinion was discussing bathing you. The smell is enough to overpower me.”
Círdan winked as he moved away and Ilmarë gave him a dark look before she smiled. Ereinion had already taken a seat in a close-by chair and now Círdan sat next to him.
She held her hands out in appeal. “I am sorry to have worried you, Círdan. I did not realize my body’s complaints were signs of an illness. Wisdom is not only what we know, it is also what we have the ability to learn and I have learned. This is a mistake I will not make again. But clearly you stayed here last night and missed visiting your friend. I am sorry for that as well.”
“Last night…?” Círdan looked to Ereinion and asked, “Did you not tell her?”
Ereinion glanced at Círdan and shrugged. “I have not had an opportunity. You both continued to interrupt me, so I chose to remain silent until you were finished.”
Círdan saw her frown and he leaned forward in his chair. “Ilmarë…you did not become ill last night; it has been more than a fortnight. You were very sick – I believe it would have killed a lesser mortal. Elrond did everything he could…he did not leave your side. Yesterday morning you began to breathe easier and your color returned to normal. Ereinion sent Elrond to the piers this morning to meet the arriving guests, hoping to allow him some fresh air and a respite from the vigil he has been keeping here at your bedside. Although Elrond was not overly pleased with the idea of leaving you.”
“More than a fortnight?” Ilmarë stared blankly at the bedspread she twisted through her fingers. The idea of that much time having passed baffled her. “How could I have slept for so long?”
“Closer to two fortnights, actually,” Ereinion replied, leaning down until he caught Ilmarë’s eye and she looked at him. “It has been 22 days since you first took ill. Apparently your body did not like being kept out in the rain and was sorely chilled. Mortal bodies are susceptible to illness and must be cared for beyond merely feeding them and keeping them clean. Your body needed time to recover, and Elrond did a good deal to help.” He looked down at his own clasped hands before adding, “And that is something else we need to discuss with you, Ilmarë.”
“Elrond should be told the truth of who you are,” Círdan said, taking up the topic that Ereinion was clearly uncomfortable with. “You gave your word not to tell unless there was great need and trust, and I would say there are both now. There is also the fact that you have chosen Elrond to help you by allowing him escort you to Eregion. But most important of all, he cares for you, Ilmarë, and has been beside himself with worry these past weeks. It is not right to keep this from him any longer.”
Círdan waved his hand and his smile was half-amused, half-resentful. “Not to mention Elrond has barely spoken to me since I complained about not teaching you of women’s undergarments myself. He thinks I am a cad who has shamefully taken advantage of my charge.”
Ilmarë rested her head against the headboard and folded her arms across her chest as she gazed up at the twilight mural. The thought of Elrond worrying over her those many days was a terrible one.
“I do not wish to ever cause him hurt…” Ilmarë said softly.
“There is more,” Círdan continued. “What happened between you and I also gives me cause for concern… No, not for the reasons you think,” he added quickly when she gave him a stricken look and snuck a glance at Ereinion. “It is all right, Ereinion knows what happened. I told him, as I am assuming you told Elrond.”
She nodded and Círdan said, “Ilmarë…there is an air about you that affects some people. Oh, I suppose there is no point in being subtle – it affects males, some more than others. I saw it when you went among my mariners, though none would have ever been so bold as to act upon it knowing you were in my charge. I felt it myself that night in your room, and your undressing in front of me only made matters worse. Yet before that I felt nothing greater than friendship for you. That is why I stopped, Ilmarë; it did not feel right to me. And after I left your room, I knew I was correct.”
Ilmarë felt heat rush to her face when she thought of that night and her foolish mistake. She could not look at Ereinion for fear of seeing the judgment in his face again. How low an opinion he must have of me…and for good reason.
With another sigh, she shook her head at Círdan. “An effect…of what sort? What is it that I do?”
“It is not something that you do, exactly…” Círdan paused and mused over how to explain it. “When we are attracted to another, it is more than how they appear to our eyes. A person can be plain or average to look at, but what is within their spirit can make them so much more. What we see within a person’s spirit can make them seem beautiful.”
Ilmarë nodded and said, “I see…so then it stands to reason that a person could be beautiful to look upon, yet if their spirit were darkened in some way then it would affect the way they appeared to others?”
“Yes, that holds true as well, in my opinion,’ Círdan agreed, ‘but with you it is something all together different. To be in the presence of a Maia is unsettling for Elves or Mortals because it is beyond what we are accustomed to, even the few of us who have stood in the presence of a Maia before. This body you have now, it is beautiful by our standards, although you do not seem to share that opinion – but even with your spirit cloaked as it is, there is enough of it to draw others to you, especially others to whom you are drawn as well. To feel the full focus of your attention in that way is overwhelming, at least in my experience. Although Ereinion says it was overwhelming for him, as well.”
She looked at Ereinion in complete shock. He would not meet her eye and continued to watch Círdan. Ilmarë could not understand it…these issues with attraction and desire confused her. She could only hope that politics and government would not be this confusing or she would fail utterly. Tis little wonder the problems of these lands are so numerous. I have been beset by the woes of confusion, desire and attraction since awakening in this wretched form.
But a thought occurred to her, Was this part of the reason I was sent in a permanent form and not my assumed form? To gain a better understanding of the difficulties of residing in such a weak, lacking form in such demanding lands? That would allow the Valar a better understanding of how to help, if ever they chose to again…
If that were the case, then there were questions she must ask. “Many things about the desires of this body confuse me and I am glad of the chance to have you explain them. Tell me, Círdan…why can I not control the attraction this body feels for others?” Ilmarë held her hands out in helpless frustration. “I did not feel this way for Linquendil or any of his mariners, nor for anyone I saw on Númenor, yet I felt it first for you, then for Elrond when I met him, and I felt strongly attracted to Ereinion when I first saw him. I have tried to ignore them, but these feelings bombard me. I fear that perhaps this body is damaged, what with my memory being far more lacking than it should be and these abnormal feelings that plague me.”
Círdan could not suppress his amusement, and he threw back his head and laughed. “Abnormal? And who told you these feelings were abnormal? Probably the same person who told you that ridiculous nonsense of ladies always wearing corsets.”
She smiled at Círdan as he continued to laugh, but Ereinion did not share their mirth. Now he regarded Ilmarë with disbelief, shocked at her casual admission. His surety and the pace of his heart both briefly faltered and, for the first time since making his decision, he began to doubt whether he had chosen correctly. Ilmarë paid him no attention; she was waiting for Círdan’s laughter to subside so he could continue.
At last, Círdan said, “As we have discussed before, you are at the mercy of your body just as we all are, yet your control is less because it is mortal. Although I believe you are capable of learning greater control given enough time and practice.”
He waved his hand and said, “But that is beside the point. There is nothing abnormal about finding more than one person attractive. It is something I am sure has happened to us all on many occasions. From what you have told me, your mind was otherwise occupied on the ship with the newness of the situation, and since reaching Lindon, the three of us are the only males you have had any real interaction with…and at the risk of sounding immodest, we are different, if you will.”
Círdan smiled again at the ever-increasing confusion on Ilmarë’s face. “Elrond is an unusually attractive man by Elven or Mortal standards, and I have been told on many occasions that I am quite handsome myself.” Círdan grinned shamelessly at this and then nodded his head toward Ereinion. “And our dear Ereinion is considered to be remarkably appealing, even among the Elves. Why, he and I were acquainted with a Númenórean by the name of Aldarion, very handsome in his own right. Aldarion claimed that if Ereinion were female, he would have taken him to wife without hesitation.”
Despite his pensive mood, the mention of their fondly remembered friend drew a laugh from Ereinion. But Círdan grew serious when he faced Ilmarë again.
“While it is not abnormal, Ilmarë, it is one of the things that causes me worry. I worry that neither you nor Elrond are prepared for where this is leading, and that considering the circumstances, it would be better if you reconsidered pursuing a relationship with him right now. Perhaps we should arrange for someone else to escort you to Eregion.”
Ilmarë frowned and shook her head vehemently. “No, Círdan; although I respect your advice, I will do neither. To have you tell me this is not unusual relieves me greatly, as there are times when I doubt my own judgment. I suspected that my feelings for you had something to do with the wine I drank; it was more my attraction to Ereinion that concerned me, for there was no obvious cause. But what I feel for Elrond is different than what I have felt for anyone else.”
Círdan opened his mouth to argue, but Ilmarë held up her hand. “Please…listen. In the days before I reached Lindon, something came over me. In the evenings when I looked out over the sea from the railings of the ship, there was a sense of…” Ilmarë took a deep breath and she could almost smell the salt air and feel the drumming urgency that had filled her body as they drew closer to Middle-earth.
“…anticipation. Something awaited me in these lands, something that called to me. My arrival in Lindon did not ease it, and it grew stronger with each day. When you told me that Ereinion would be arriving to escort me to Mithlond the sensation grew to the point that I could think of nothing else. That is why I remained outside by the water while you readied my things. And when I turned to find Elrond next to me, the anticipation went away and was replaced by what I feel for Elrond.”
Ilmarë stopped and fell silent, her thoughts of Elrond holding her attention. Círdan looked pointedly at Ereinion, clearly waiting for him to say something; and when he did not, Círdan cleared his throat and raised an eyebrow, but Ereinion continued to ignore him. Finally, Círdan blew out a disgusted snort and turned away.
“Then that is all the more reason to tell him the truth, Ilmarë. You must allow him to be certain what he feels is more than just this overpowering attraction you seem to bring about. Elrond is extremely wise about a good many things, but he has little experience with feelings of this nature. You could cause him a deep hurt if you came to find later that you were mistaken. ”
Ilmarë shook her head in denial, now dismissing her earlier doubts. “I am not mistaken, Círdan…and Elrond feels more than mere attraction for me. He even spoke of love. I have no reason to doubt what he says. He asked that I wait and allow him time to decide what beliefs he will hold to, and if we must wait for marriage before we share ourselves with one another. From the manner of his touch on me, I do not think I will have to wait long for a decision…”
Ereinion suddenly stood up and said, “You will have to excuse me now. I must leave the two of you to finish this discussion. The guests will be here soon and I should prepare…”
The bedroom door was thrown open and Elrond burst into the room, his cheeks flushed and his breathing a little harder than usual. When he caught sight of Ilmarë sitting up in bed and beaming at him, he stopped and stared at her as a wide smile spread across his face.
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.