To Snare an Elf

by halavana

II  III  IV 

I.
To Snare an Elf

Annatar stepped quietly into the smithy of Ost-in-Edhil in Eregion.  He felt no need of stealth but...

“Annatar.  Come see,” called the clear voice of an elf.

 On the other hand, with some elves, stealth was useless.  He had hoped to find Celebrimbor here but the voice was that of his cousin, Morfindel.  These two were the last of Feanor’s grandsons remaining in Middle Earth and great friends.  For three hundred years Annatar watched their good natured rivalry as they goaded each other to greater and greater works.  Celebrimbor came out the better nine times in ten, but Morfindel came such a close second and in the smithing of bells he had no equal.  The thought of ensnaring one or both possessed Annatar’s thoughts continually.  Catch the lesser and use him to persuade the greater?  Perhaps, and then the rest will follow.

    The elf wore a sleeveless tunic, leggings and boots all of leather treated to extinguish sparks and hot spatters of metal, as did most elven smiths when working at the forge.  His long black hair trailed down his back in a single braid, secured at the end with a narrow leather thong.  A wide brow band absorbed sweat and kept stray hairs out of his eyes.  Many Elvish craftsmen had the odd trait that their hair was seldom all of one length.  They used their hair for bow strings, fletching arrows, forming designs for objects of art or as thread.  Morfindel had this trait in the extreme.  His hair was of a color and texture much in demand, and he gave it freely to any who asked him, though he gave no more than they needed.  Once Annatar had tried to serve as middle man, but Morfindel only laughed at him, saying anyone who needed a hair was welcome to it and he would not sell it for any price.  In the absence of his wife, Morfindel used sections of hair at random and convenience, not caring about the effect on his appearance, the tresses around his face being of several uneven lengths and a braid within the braid reserved for bowstrings.  And yet, Annatar observed, no one mocked him but rather treated him with all the more affection for his generosity, and some few even attempted to imitate him.  In truth, Morfindel displayed an untamed quality like a high bred horse gone feral, a defiance of social convention Annatar longed to harness.  His beauty was not diminished, but rather augmented by his self assured wildness.  He was Noldor, a son of the House of Feanor, only one generation removed from Feanor himself and of all the grandchildren bore his grandsire’s appearance most markedly, though without his haughty arrogance.  
 
 Annatar both hated Morfindel and desired him as a vassal.  If he could snare this one, Annatar was certain Celebrimbor would follow.  What trophies would they make, to display before the Valar in mockery and defiance!  In fact, this one seemed an even better first choice, for he was returning to Dor Luin soon.  With Morfindel would come not only Eregion, but Lindon as well.  Long had Annatar sought a foothold there.  The prospect made him tremble with anticipation.  So much revolved around the snaring of this one elf.  The question was, how to go about it.

 Annatar walked up behind the elf and watched him tie an intricate knot of one of his own hairs, dip it in molten gold and place it carefully on the side of a fair goblet, forming a lovely floweret.  The elf sang as he worked, speaking to the materials as if they heard and understood.  He laid the goblet on its side to cool and picked up a mold, opening it and extracting the object it contained.

 “What are you doing?” asked Annatar.

 “Finishing little gifts before returning home.  Gone too long from my lady have I been.  Think you the goblet will please her?”

 “It is a fair work.  What is that you do now?”

    “Only putting the finish on a guard ring.”   Holding the ring in a pair of small tongs, the elf carefully smoothed the still hot metal with a little file, again singing as he worked.  The ring suddenly flashed bright blue and glowed steadily in the elf’s hand.  Morfindel watched it intently, a perplexed look on his face.  “Strange.  It should have faded by now.”

 “You’ve made another ring of power?” asked Annatar, hopefully, stepping still closer.  The elf wore a gold ring with a stone of amber which Annatar coveted to control.  He watched it intently as the elf worked.

    “Cease your hovering, Annatar,” laughed the elf.  “No more rings of power will I attempt for I have reached my limit with them.  Rings will I leave to my cousin, who has the greater skill.  It is but a Beleriand guard ring, and perhaps I will keep this last one.  I made others for my lady and our children so that when they roam they may have some forewarning of the presence of an enemy and either make ready to fight, or fly away to safety.  They glow blue when an enemy is near, but...”  The elf surveyed the room.  “No one is here except you and me.”  He put down the file, removed the browband and scratched his head in confusion, then mopped his neck and face with the cloth and cast it onto a table.  He signalled for Annatar to remain where he was while he searched the other rooms and chambers of the smithy.  When he returned he was speaking softly to himself.  “Brightest it is in here where...”  he looked at Annatar, questioningly,  “you are...”  The elf cautiously moved toward the door, watching Annatar with a light of growing suspicion in his eyes.  “Annatar, why does this ring name you an enemy?  Who are you? ”

 This was unexpected and unfortunate.  Annatar blocked the door.  He did not want to kill this elf if he did not have to for that would ruin many years of careful preparation.  He motioned with his hand toward the ring the elf wore.  The elf gasped as it tightened on his finger and raised his hand to look at it.  What had once been an amber stone transformed into something black, then red, then like a fiery eye.  The elf tried to remove it but could not, even saying the usual words of power.  Finally he gave a command and the ring expanded just enough for him to tear it from his finger, injuring himself in the process.  He cast it into the forge, but Annatar spoke a spell that it should not melt.  Then he moved in on the elf, cutting off his escape, herding him this way and that until he  cornered him next to where the furnace blazed and a  stack of unfinished, damaged and discarded swords awaited reforging.

 “Calm yourself, Morfindel,” said Annatar.  “I am as I told you, sent from the West to aid the Noldor in attaining their dream of Valinor here on Middle Earth.”

 “Never would a messenger of the Valar be counted an enemy by any ring I make!  Who are you?!”

 “Do you not yet know who I am?” he asked the elf and dropped his fair guise for an instant.

 With sudden realization the elf reacted wildly, seeking some way of escape.  He grabbed an unfinished sword and threw it like a javelin at Annatar.  It was a mighty throw, and a lesser opponent would certainly have been slain, but Annatar merely sidestepped and avoided it easily.  He sensed the growing fear in the elf, but it was an uncommon sort, not for himself but for the other elves of Eregion, mixed with anger that he had not seen through Annatar’s  disguise before.  Morfindel’s only purpose was to escape, at any cost to himself, that he might warn Celebrimbor of Sauron’s presence in their midst.  This must not be allowed, but the elf insisted upon putting up a fight.  When Morfindel took up two more unfinished swords, one in each hand, Annatar recalled how close he had been to his uncle Maedhros whose right hand was severed when Fingon rescued him from Thangorodrim.   Morfindel took this to heart and taught himself to fight equally with both hands.  He was a tried warrior, survivor of many battles and unpredictable in a fray.  Snaring this elf without killing him would take careful maneouvering.  Annatar sidestepped again, dodging until he perceived Morfindel had no intention of striking him, but was intent only upon escape and had worked himself closer to the door.  Facing an opponent who knows he is in a battle he can not win always brings a certain unpredictability to the fight, except for the outcome.  In a fury, Annatar grabbed the swords by their unsharpened blades, jerked Morfindel forward, planting a knee sharply in the triangle of flesh just below his breast bone and knocking the wind out of him, ripping the hiltless swords from his hands and throwing them to the ground.  Annatar grabbed him by the throat and caught his left wrist.  The elf grasped Annatar’s hand on his throat with his right hand, struggling to wrench it away, trying the pry the fingers loose and free himself, fighting with all his strength to escape Sauron’s grasp, but it was no use.  Sauron shoved him flat against the wall and bent his will on total domination.  Mind to mind, the silent dual began.

 “Calm yourself.  It is not as you think.  I truly do want to bring Valinor to Middle Earth, as I said.”

 “You were not sent by the Valar, as you said.  Cirdan, Gil-Galad and Galadriel were right!  We should never have welcomed you!”

  “But think of what we have accomplished together, without anyone knowing who I am.  No one but you need ever know.”

“Think you I would serve one who has brought nothing but suffering to my people, in your vanquished master’s name?  You had best slay me now for I will never be other than enemy to you.”

 “Have you not thought Feanor, your noble grandfather of great renown, may have been right about the Valar?”

 “My grandfather was overly proud and a fool to listen to the lies of Morgoth.”

 “His name is Melkor, and he is equal with Manwë in power.  And, he will reward you greatly for your service.  You have been of service to him already, though unknowingly.  Did you not take part in the kinslaying at Alqualondë?”

 This jolted the elf and he was silent a moment, then said, “My guilt can not be assuaged by heaping betrayal and treason upon it.”

 “Treason is such a relative term...”

 “No!  I will not submit to you!”

 “But...”

 “No!!!”

 Annatar decided bargaining would not work.  No matter what great rewards he promised to Morfindel, the response would be scornful refusal. At this point, Annatar turned to threats combined with little jabs of pain here and there.  He did not want to disfigure the elf, for a beautiful slave stood a better chance of drawing in others if he remained whole.  This tactic caused the elf to sweat and writhe and scream, but he remained defiant.  Even burning the elf one layer of skin at a time was no more effective.  At last Annatar showed the elf scene after scene of tortures he would inflict upon his wife and children.  Morfindel uttered a cry of surprise and despair.  He closed his eyes and turned his face away, as if that might stop his torment at watching visions of his loved ones suffering.  Tears slid down the elf’s cheeks and he began to weep.  Such was the usual end to a struggle with a strong opponent and Sauron began to gloat, casting off all pretense and disguise.  But just as he thought the elf was about to succumb, with a last shred of will and strength the elf whispered a plaintive cry.  “Ai, Eru!  Iluvatar!”

 Now why did he have to say that?  Sauron was repulsed as if by a slap in the face.  In an instant he found himself thrust ten paces from his victim, watching the elf collapse, sliding down the wall and lay senseless, but only briefly for soon Morfindel’s eyes opened and focused on his tormentor.  Sauron would have thought it comical to watch an elf lord scrambling away like a wounded rabbit escaping through a hedge from hounds, but he could not move.  A hedge had indeed sprung up between him and his quarry, as firm and impassable as it was unseen.  He hoped elves would not begin to call upon that entity habitually.  They were so much easier to defeat when they relied upon their own strength to resist.  Why had this elf called upon the only name Sauron could not stand against?

 Slowly Sauron pushed through the hedge, following the elf to the small outer door used for removing ash and carrying in coal and water.  Stumbling and panting, his prey was out before Sauron could catch him.  That elf must be kept quiet for he was calling his kinsmen in a loud, clear voice, but such spells usually required physical contact.  As Sauron leaned on the door post, he noticed a red mark, blood from Morfindel’s torn palms and the finger where the elf once wore the amber ring, he supposed.  Numerous drops trailed downward from a partial palm print.  A bit of blood would suffice, though the spell would be less potent.  Sauron brushed a finger across the still damp drops and licked them off.  In a deep quiet voice using the language Morgoth had invented for his goblins, he spoke a spell of silence and watched as it took hold of the elf, choking off his last call in mid-cry.  Morfindel looked back at Sauron with terror filled eyes, stumbling to his knees, then dragging himself to his feet strove on toward the street at the end of the alley.

 Sauron saw other elves come running in answer to the cries his prey uttered before the spell took effect and decided it best to leave Eregion.  More than will would he need to control elves.  He would make his own ring, as he had long planned.  He did indeed wish to create a form of Valinor on Middle Earth, but one at his command with worship of Melkor at its center, to spite the Valar.  A supreme ring of power could bring his designs to fruition.  He needed gold, and Morfindel’s  goblet would be enough to serve his purpose, so he took it.  Also from the fire he retrieved the ring cast away by the elf.  Sauron could make use of it to ensnare another or melt it down in the crucible with the rest of the gold.  He cared not which.  The guard ring Morfindel had dropped in their struggle still glowed blue and Annatar picked it up and crushed it, melting it in his hand but it never lost its glow so he cast it aside like a bit of slag. Outside, he took the form of a huge carrion bird and flew away on a dark wind to the south.


II.
A Silent Trap

Celebrimbor strolled the avenues and lanes of Ost-in-Edhel, admiring the works of his people. Graceful towers rose high above well situated homes and work places, all built of variously colored marble and limestone quarried by the dwarves of Khazad-dum, embellished with wrought iron and hardwood carved shutters. Gardens with trees of all varieties loved by the elves, from all regions, housed song birds who sang on request. Fountains with falls lent their beauty and music for all to stop and admire. Bells peeled the hour in bright, clear tones. For those seeking solitude, quiet places along the city walls furnished with comfortable benches and beautiful statues provided refuge from the city’s bustle. Ost-in-Edhel was truly a wonder and Celebrimbor was proud of the city he founded.

A messenger from Galadriel joined step with him, delivered his message, received his response and departed. Galadriel and Celeborn ruled the vast open spaces of Eregion. Now, through subtlety, they sought control of his city. Galadriel only asked for a room to hold court, as if he did not comprehend what her small request meant. He chuckled at the thought. He loved her, had lived unwed on account of his unrequited love, pouring his strength into works of metal and stone rather than children. Few requests would he deny her, but she had no part in the construction or governing of his city. Ost-in-Edhel was his domain. He would not surrender those reins for any love, and certainly not to the wife of such a one as Celeborn, who spoke with such disdain of all the lineage of Fëanor. How chigrined had the Silver Tree appeared when Celebrimbor revealed his family to him. And they, Celeborn and Galadriel, showed the nerve to request an audience chamber? Celebrimbor chuckled at his courteous, but final, response. They were free to hold court outside the gate of their choice, but he knew of no room free for such use, although they were welcome to visit him at his hall. Humblest apologies. Was there no wooded glade suited to their purposes?

Passing elves and dwarves greeted him as he made his way toward the main smithy where he intended to meet his cousin. Though Celebrimbor was counted the greatest of elven smiths remaining on Middle-earth, Morfindel had a knack with bells that surpassed him, and he rather enjoyed allowing his cousin this small concession. Nine times in ten, he bested Morfindel in feats of smith craft; he begrudged not Morfindel the domain of bell-craft.

They were going to confer with several dwarves and other elves upon the construction of a series of walkways between three high towers which commanded views of the mountains and the river and discuss the forging of a few more large bells. He would meet his cousin at the smithy and together they would join the others in the treasury. As he approached the square upon which the main door opened, he heard voices raised in alarm and fear.

“Mori, you look like a refugee from Angband,” said Celebrimbor, his voice a tone of gentle reproof at first sight of his cousin. It was considered unseemly for an elven smith to appear in public wearing only smithy leathers. They always threw on a robe or tunic before going out into the street and though Morfindel had often rolled his eyes and sneered at what he considered excessive decorum and nonsense, it was uncharacteristic of him to forget. In truth, Morfindel did look a fright and his eyes bore the haunted look of a wild animal just barely escaped from a deadly trap. The palms of his hands were torn and bleeding, and his right palm was also burned, as was his left wrist. Another burn like a hand print wrapped his throat and several bystanders speculated that he had burned himself there, but others said that was impossible, for the burns did not match. He struggled to keep on his feet between two elves who supported him, with great effort trying to speak, but only sibilant whispers did he utter. When Celebrimbor came to his aid, Morfindel collapsed into his arms, trembling like a newborn. He kept trying to tell them something but could say only “ssssssaaa...” They were troubled to see one of their most loved smiths in such distress, but knew not what to do for him, thinking an accident had befallen him in the smithy. But what kind of accident could rob him of his ability to speak? Healers were called immediately and they were even more troubled.

“If I did not know it were impossible, I would say someone has cast a spell upon him,” ventured one.

“You may have been close to the mark when you mentioned Angband, Celebrimbor,” suggested another, “for I fear there may be an emissary of the enemy among us. Perhaps we should seek Annatar’s advice.”

At this, Morfindel summoned all his strength and barked a single “No!” then fell exhausted against his cousin.

“Be still,” said Celebrimbor as he supported his kinsman, determining for himself that he would find Annatar and discover why Morfindel should so adamantly rejected his counsel. He commanded that a litter be brought to carry Morfindel to his apartment. Lachnir, Morfindel’s eldest son who stood close by watching his father with grave concern, ran to fetch one. He returned swiftly and together he and his son, Ormal, carried Morfindel to their home. Celebrimbor watched them until they were out of sight, then turned toward the smithy.

“We will meet at another time,” he said to those with whom he had come to confer who came out to see what caused the ruckus in the square. They quickly nodded assent and withdrew.

Standing in the main doorway and gazing about from one side to the other, Celebrimbor could see the place was not as Morfindel usually left it. In the main room, a sword lay shattered on the floor, broken in three pieces from the point up. A pock mark on the wall about chest level indicated whence had come several bits of stone scattered nearby. A trail of dark drops led toward the small door used for carrying in water and fuel and taking out ash from the furnace. Two other swords were across the room from each other, their tangs marked with the same color as the drops on the floor. A work bench was overturned and its content scattered. Celebrimbor stepped inside and inspected each of the other rooms but found nothing missing or out of place. He was standing contemplating possibilities when he heard a step behind him and turned. It was only Annatar, who also gazed in concern at the disarray of the smithy. Neither spoke for some time until Annatar broke the silence.

“My friend, I found this,” he said, extending his hand holding a ring. “Is it not your cousin’s?”

Celebrimbor took it from him and looked at it closely. “It is. He never takes it off. Where did you find it?”

“Yes, it is strange. I also have noticed how he always wears it. Should I return it to him?”

“No,” responded the elf lord. “I will give it to him myself when I go to see about his welfare. He wishes not to see you.”

“His welfare?” repeated Annatar, his face a confused, somber mask of sadness. “He wishes not to see me? Why? What...?”

“I know not, and hoped you might tell me. Did you have a quarrel? My cousin can be quite high strung and headstrong. His opinions are set and he changes them for no one other than his lady, and in that he is much like our grandfather. Why would he wish not to see you?”

Annatar shook his head in bewilderment.

“Well, it is clear he suffered some mishap here in the smithy,” said the elf lord.

Annatar gazed about the room, noting the three swords on the floor and offered a suggestion. “Perhaps he was testing the blades. You know how strenuously he tries a sword before counting it worthy of finishing. Surely he can tell you...”

“He cannot speak.”

“What?! Not at all?”

“Only with the most strenuous effort, and then only a single word or syllable.” Celebrimbor then described his kinsman’s injuries to Annatar, who thoughtfully listened, then step by step offered a plausible explanation as to how each injury could have happened, moving from place to place in the smithy as he did so. As the elf listened, Morfindel’s ring became warm in his hand, and he felt a tingle up his arm, but thought nothing of it, being more concerned for his cousin. He merely put the ring in a pocket of his tunic. Once Celebrimbor was satisfied with Annatar’s scenario, together they set out to visit Morfindel. When they arrived at his dwelling, Lachnir and Ormal met them at the door.

“Begging your pardon, my lords,” said Lachnir with his son standing quietly beside him, “but my father wishes not to see anyone just now. He is very weary and sore.”

“Did he tell you this?” asked Celebrimbor hopefully. “Can he now speak?”

“No, he is not yet able to speak, but makes signs with his hands.”

“Well, we will leave him in peace for the night and hope he is much improved in the morning,” said Celebrimbor. “But might I at least return his ring that he dropped somewhere? Never have I known him to be without it.” The elf lord took the ring from his pocket and held it out on his palm.

Lachnir looked surprised at the ring in Celebrimbor’s hand and stepped aside for him to pass, but blocked Annatar. “I beg your forgiveness, Annatar.” He turned toward Celebrimbor, saying, “I beg of you, return the ring and depart quickly. He has only begun to rest.”

The elf lord nodded and moved forward into the apartment, noting with some distaste the untidiness of smithy leathers draped over a chair at the foot of the bed with a pair of boots collapsed on the floor. Morfindel lay on his back on a narrow couch, his eyes closed. His children had dressed him in a linen tunic and drawn a light blanket over him. His left wrist and throat were wrapped in soft cloth bandages.

An elf maiden, Thistledown, Morfindel and Lurisa’s youngest daughter, sat as a sentry on a low stool beside her father’s bed. She glanced at Celebrimbor but said nothing, neither rising nor changing her vigilant posture, carefully wrapping her father’s right hand, flexible metal splints along the top of each finger to prevent them from healing crooked. Celebrimbor observed silently each movement of her hands, nodding approval at her skill. Dark haired, though not the blue black of her father, Thistledown bore the facial features of both parents. Porcelain skin, grey eyes with a hint of green, the set of her mother’s mouth, her father’s sharp glance, a true daughter of the Noldor. Since her arrival, she had delighted all the inhabitants of Eregion, elf, dwarf and mortal. And to think that if her parents had followed his advice, she would never have been born. One can not be right about all things, he thought and turned his attention back to his cousin.

“Mori,” said Celebrimbor and his kinsman awoke with a start and sat up. “Here, Annatar found your ring and wished to return it to you.” He approached the couch, extending his hand with the ring held in two fingers.

Morfindel gazed at it uncomprehendingly at first, then his eyes filled with horror. He kicked Celebrimbor’s hand away, sending his covers fluttering to the floor and the ring flying into a corner where it ricocheted of a wall, bounced on the stone tile and lay still. “Mori,” began Celebrimbor sternly, but Morfindel was not looking at him, or heeding him in any way. Rather he stared at the ring, slowly edging backward into a far corner where he crouched, wrapping his arms around his legs like a frightened child. Thistledown moved as if to retrieve the ring but Morfindel leaped over the couch and grabbed her around the waist, refusing to let her go until she submitted to being restrained.

“Ada, what is the matter? It’s only your ring, is it not?” asked Thistledown.

In a hoarse whisper Morfindel slowly rasped, “No, it, is, not.”

“Lachnir!” cried the elf maiden to her brother as she put forth all her strength to keep her father from falling.

Hearing his sister’s voice, Lachnir sprang into the room and together the siblings guided Morfindel’s slow collapse onto the couch where they laid him out and covered him again.

“My Lord Celebrimbor,” said Lachnir turning to his kinsman imploringly. “Let us alone a while with our father. Something is gravely amiss.”

Celebrimbor nodded agreement. “It is indeed, for Mori to renounce his ring or even refuse to allow his children to touch it.” The elf lord strode to the ring and picked it up, returning it to his pocket. “Should he wish for it, I will place it in the treasury.” So saying he departed, motioning for Annatar to follow. Ormal shut the door behind them.

Celebrimbor led Annatar to the treasury where he sent swift runners to call the counsel of mirdain to an emergency meeting. When they arrived he showed them Morfindel’s ring and asked them to discern any fault in it that might cause its owner to reject it. As it passed from hand to hand, each smith mentioned its warmth and the sensation of numbness or tingling he felt, but such sensations were not uncommon among rings of power as they accustom themselves to a new user. Annatar stood aside, watching each smith with avid curiosity.

“If there is no fault in the ring, perhaps Morfindel suffers from some malady of the mind,” suggested one.

“Or there is an emissary of the enemy among us,” ventured Annatar. “I would volunteer to search him out if you wish.”

“I think we should pursue other options first,” said Celebrimbor and Annatar bowed, stepping back as the elf lord continued. “We will send a messenger to Dor Luin. Perhaps Morfindel’s people can shed light on their lord’s distress. I also will speak with Lachnir, Ormal and Thistledown.”

By now Morfindel’s ring returned to Celebrimbor and he placed it in a chest with eight other rings of lesser power and snapped the lock shut.


III.
Flight to Hollin

Scurrying here and there on a bright morning not long after the third bell from sunrise, Lurisa and her maidens prepared for a double homecoming. Morfindel and Thistledown would be returning soon; she could feel it. Joyfully routine preparations sprucing up their private chambers, checking on the stores of their favorite foods, and plenty of ent draught for their private moments once the first welcome ran its course kept her busy for days. So silly to take such pains for so routine a thing as this, but Lurisa delighted in seeing her husband again after an absence. Many married elves cooled to each other as time passed. Her own parents ceased to live together once their children grew to maturity, becoming estranged so that Celerin moved to Nargothrond with Galadriel when Thaliontaur officially recognized Lachnir as his grandson. Lurisa’s mother never forgave her for wedding a “cursed Fëanorean.” Though the flame of her parents love flickered and died, her love for Morfindel remained ever constant, as did his for her. She likened it to a well tended forge, neither consuming itself, nor abating.

This was Thistledown’s first long excursion with her father, brother and nephew and word soon reached Lurisa what a smashing success she was with the inhabitants of Ost-in-Edhel. Even Galadriel displayed open fondness for her. At first Thistledown wondered if Lurisa would object, but she assured her daughter that what tension there may be between the two ladies need not carry over to the next generation and secretly thanked Galadriel for her kindness to a child of the house of Fëanor. They remained in Eregion three years and in their absence Lurisa occupied her time tracking the mortal descendants of their daughter Earlina and Numenorean son-in-law Ciryafin. Mortal genealogies required so much more attention than did those of the elves, for their generations lasted such a brief time. Earlina and her sister Hithwing had long since departed over sea. Though Hithwing expressed her intention to return, Lurisa doubted that she would. Time passes in Valinor differently then it does in mortal lands. Six hundred years is not even five yen as the elves reckoned time, but among mortals already thirty generations had passed.

Morfindel frequently asked Lurisa to accompany him to Eregion, but she usually declined, though she was loath to refuse him. Actually, she did not refuse. Always he gave her the choice and increasingly she chose to remain at home, and he understood. When he returned, he brought with him new tales of ostentatious behavior and some new rule of decorum, drawing gales of laughter from their Laiquendi followers.

Noldor were too proud, thought Lurisa. Even Celebrimbor, who dwelt with them many years before Morfindel took him to see Khazad-dûm and introduced him to the dwarves there, changed toward them. Though still fond of them, he called them Noldorin woodelves, saying “You are too much in the flesh,” before Thistledown was born. “Having children at your age is unseemly. You could be great among all elves, yet now you are masters only among Woodelves. You’re strength has diminished from bearing so many children.” After so many years living among Laiquendi, what did he expect from them? The Mirdain took on too many airs, which was why Lurisa avoided Ost-in-Edhel now. She remembered the day they laid the foundation of the smithy, the first building to be constructed. Elves and dwarves celebrated together, feasting and giving speeches drawing laughter from all quarters. Now the speeches were so somber and serious and important sounding, all about creating a land where elves and dwarves could live together in peace and prosperity where no enemy could assail them for an entire age of the world. Fine. Let them gather their riches and build their towers. She preferred her mountain in the foot of Ered Luin with its forests and meadows and also dwarves, mortals and Luindar, or Blue-elves, as she liked to call her people.

In the early days of Ost-in-Edhel, Celebrimbor worked side by side with his laborers, hands and feet in the dust, building, overseeing, celebrating. Now he was too important, high and lofty for such things. Once Morfindel, in jest, toasted him as High King of the Dispossessed. Now he no longer dared, for fear of offending his cousin. While Morfindel revelled in a freedom he never knew as a child, Celebrimbor set his sights on lordship and power. He was still affectionate, of course, but so aloof and the friends he chose troubled Lurisa; this Annatar, who came out of nowhere, especially. Normally, Galadriel disliking someone tended to grant that person benefit of the doubt from Lurisa, but for that one, the two ladies who were so often at odds, agreed fully. Morfindel spoke of all they learned from him and her attitude troubled him, but he did not discount it. Once in private she asked him not to speak of Annatar to her, and he complied reluctantly, from then on asking permission before launching into their latest endeavor. His consideration touched her and she never refused, and he always mentioned Annatar briefly by name, if at all.

Perusing her wardrobe for the perfect “welcome home” gown, suitable for a husband and a daughter, Lurisa concentrated on Morfindel’s heartbeat, regular and steady as always. She remembered what a nuisance their combined heartbeats were at first, and how tiresome to feel both at the same time. What ever possessed her to speak that enchangment which joined their hearts, making them ever aware of each other, she no longer remembered, but now she knew not how she might manage not knowing that Morfindel was alive and well. No matter how far he roamed, always their connection kept them close though they be too distant to speak mind to mind. She was about to select a deep green floor length dress when suddenly she froze under such a growing sense of dread that caused her to gasp for breath. Gnawing fear creeping through her for a cause she knew not. Shock and surprise sent her reeling and she cried out, screaming so uncontrollably that her maidens instantly ceased their singing and jesting and rushed to her aid. Clutching at her chest the way a mortal woman might when suffering a heart attack and staring past them as if they were creatures of air and not flesh, she stumbled about, nearly fainting.

“What ails you, my lady?” cried Springlily, taking Lurisa by the hand and attempting to comfort her but Lurisa shook her off and gazed around as if seeking a dreaded enemy, ever keeping her back to a wall or other solid surface.

“Something is wrong!” she breathed. “Something terrible is befalling my lord, oh my poor beloved Morfindel! What is it!?” She breathed deeply, calming herself, and him as well she hoped. But the horrible sensation only intensified. “I must go to him,” she gasped and ran to the place where the horses grazed, her maidens following swiftly behind. “Who will bear me to the aid of my lord?!” she called. “We must make haste to Ost-in-Edhel!”

A lovely gray mare trotted in Lurisa’s direction but was blocked by a great red horse. Lurisa was surprised to see him come forward for he usually ignored her, being accustomed to Morfindel and suffering hardly any other rider. He laid his ears back, nuzzled the mare away gently and stood between her and Lurisa.

“You are fleet of foot, but this journey would break you, my darling,” said Lurisa to the mare, who tossed her head and ambled back to the herd. To the horse she said, “Will you tolerate a light saddle? I am unaccustomed to riding without one.”

The great horse tossed his head and snorted once, then proceeded to the stable where all tack was kept. Lurisa ran ahead and made ready her saddle as soon as the horse drew near. She was about to mount when she heard the voices of her twin sons calling. No doubt Springlily had summoned them, she thought.

“Mother!”

“Mother! Wait!”

“We can’t let you...”

“...ride off without knowing more...”

“...about what may have happened!”

She turned to them and said “I dare not delay, for yet this fear grows. I must discover the cause.”

“At least wait until...”

“No!! I shall not wait even another hour!” she cried and bidding the horse to follow, she raced to her chambers where she changed into an outfit more suitable for riding and grabbed a large bladder of ent draught, slung the cord of the bladder over her head and under an arm, not knowing if it would be of any use or even wanted. Ignoring the protests of her sons and handmaidens, she sprang onto the saddle, calling to the horse, “Fly, Caramir! I am but a passenger! Slack not your pace for me! To the aid of our lord!!”

The red horse tossed his mane and dug in his toes. In three great leaps he surged forward, picking up speed until Dor Luin vanished in the distance behind them. Still she heard the calls of her children, but heeded them not. They could not even guess what she knew of Morfindel’s great distress and growing despair.

“Ai, Eru! Iluvatar! Keep my beloved safe!” she whispered as the landscape blurred past. Something must have happened for Morfindel’s fear abruptly ceased, but only temporarily. Quickly it returned, but in a different form. This was like that of a warrior who knows the battle is lost, but pushes himself to the limit, using his last strength to warn his fellows that they must make a stand. Suddenly she felt his heart beat become muffled, as though through armor.

Caramir prepared to leap a narrow stream and Lurisa raised up in the stirrups, leaning forward, then back, then upright again. She concentrated on riding so as not to hinder Caramir as he galloped, shifting her weight from one side to the other when he turned slightly. From Dor Luin to Ost-in-Edhel was more than three hundred miles and though Caramir could run swiftly and tirelessly for hours and hours, he would need rest and grazing time. Already the first night’s grazing pasture lay behind them, making their journey so far more than 20 miles. A leisurly pace stretched the road over about ten days, but Lurisa had no intention of taking that long, and obviously neither did Caramir. After only three hours, they passed the second night’s pasture. She figured the distance in her mind, trying to distract herself from Morfindel’s fear. A little over one hundred miles to Sarn Ford. South from there down the North Road to Tharbad crossing of the Gwathlo, another hundred and fifty miles. Through winding paths skirting the Nin-in-Eilph to the last ford, then a straight race to the western gate of the city of elves made the remaining hundred miles. Three hundred fifty miles. She might cut short perhaps fifty, but such roads were treacherous for a lone woman of any race, no matter how swift or powerful the horse.

Presently they came to the river Baranduin perhaps forty miles down stream from Sarn Ford. Clearly Caramir’s idea was to take a straighter path. When he bore Morfindel, this was the way they came. The great horse slowed his pace and stepped into the current, swimming to the other side with powerful strokes of his legs, moving slightly upstream. Lurisa kept her head above the water and grasped the saddle with one hand and the container of ent draught with the other until he found the far bank and rose from the water.

“You have sped two day’s journey in a matter of hours,” she said to the horse. “There is good grazing here.”

The horse shook himself and set to grazing, walking eastward as he did so. Though he must eat, still he kept his mind upon the journey rather than wandering about as feeding horses usually do. Lurisa would have dismounted but Caramir pinned his ears back and snorted, refusing to halt.

“Very well,” she sighed. “Oft times I wonder who is the master, Morfindel or you.”

If Caramir had an answer, he kept it to himself, continuing his ambling grazing to the east, ******** his ears this way and that. Suddenly, as they approached the road to Tharbad, he focused his attention on a clump of bushes to the right and shied left. Lurisa straightened her right leg to keep from being thrown and also looked to the right just as a group of five young men from Tharbad stepped out.

“What’s this?” said one.

“It’s a she-elf,” said another. Approaching Lurisa and Caramir, he said, “Tell me, my lady, what would you be doing out on your own at this time of day?”

“My husband is in distress and I go to his aid,” she replied, in a low, cold voice. “What would you be doing out at this time of day when most men of Tharbad are at supper with their families?”

“How do you know we are of Tharbad?” asked yet another.

“I’ve been told that if you catch an elf, she has to grant you a wish,” said the first.

Caramir stood square and arched his neck, waiting with one ear cocked toward Lurisa, the other moving back and forth between the two speakers as they talked. The elf lady sat still as a statue as the men approached. “What wish would you like?” she asked. The horse tensed at a signal from Lurisa’s heel and moved his hindquarters sideways, shifting his front feet so that the speakers were directly in front of him.

“You’re horse has lost his bridle,” said a fourth.

“He never needs one,” replied Lurisa, watching as the five men drew nearer.

“Maybe I’ll wish for your horse,” said the first.

“He is not mine to give.”

At this the men approached to the point Lurisa had set as her limit and using her feet and free hand on Caramir’s mane she guided the horse into a spin. The horse lashed out with his hooves, barely missing the men as they dodged and withdrew.

“His aim’s not very good,” said the fifth, who up until now had said nothing.

“That was a warning. He intended not to mark you,” said Lurisa, then commanded “Let us pass! Or he will lose patience with you.”

Two men lunged forward. At the same moment Caramir reared, struck out and caught both of them square in the face with his front hooves, knocking them cold. Then he turned on the others, who quickly scattered. With a nudge of her heel, Lurisa turned him again toward Tharbad and with a snort and a crowhop, Caramir again raced eastward. They skirted Tharbad, crossing the ford near midnight and began wending their way along the paths near the marshes of Nin-in-Eilph as dawn approached. By mid-morning they reached the last ford that crossed the River Glanduin. On the other side Caramir grazed on the good grass and satisfied his hunger, then broke into a swift gallop, not pausing again until they reached the western gate of the elf city. Heads turned in surprise as Caramir bore her under the great stone arch just as the bells chimed mid-day. He carried her right to the gate of their house not far from the smithy.

The servant inside the gate was playing a sad tune upon his lyre, but stopped in surprise as she stepped into the courtyard. Quickly he put away his instrument. “My lady! Galador has just departed with tidings not three hours ago! We expected you not for several days...”

Silently, Lurisa dismounted, unsaddled the horse and bade him rest. The doorward took the saddle and placed it on a stand just inside, following Lurisa as she ran up the stairs to Morfindel’s chamber where they found him huddled against a wall, a defiant, hostile glare aimed out the open door of their balconey, as if daring a vile intruder to pass through it. He reminded her of a pair of wolves she once saw, when first they began to dwell with the elves of Taur-im-Duinath. Though Morfindel tried to disuade them, the woodelves persued them many days, but the creatures would not leave the woods. When the woodelves eventually killed them, they discovered the wolves were only protecting their cubs. The Noldor, recognizing that neither parents nor offspring were evil, adopted them and their line was preserved in the hounds of Dor Luin. But the fate of those two wolves made Morfindel’s resemblence to them all the more poignant to Lurisa.

He turned exhausted eyes to her and gasped. She went to him and took his face in her hands, gazing into his eyes, seeking his mind, but unable to reach him. The intensity of his concentration brought beads of sweat to his brow, but it was as if a wall between them blocked even the slightest word. At last she heard his voice, faintly but with supreme effort, as if screaming from the bottom of a deep pit.

“You... were... right!” he cried before collapsing in her arms.

“I was right?” she asked him, caressing his face. “I was right about what, my love?”

But he could not answer for weeping. Lurisa held him tight and sang softly a song of Valinor that he always sang to her when she felt distressed. Lachnir, Ormal and Thistledown stepped inside the room, surprise on their tired faces, the doorward speaking quickly and softly to Thistledown, asking for instructions.

“Mother!” exclaimed Lachnir. “What are you doing here so soon? Father was injured just yesterday. How...”

Lurisa motioned for them to be silent and leave. Reluctantly they obeyed. She again bent her mind on Morfindel, but could not find him and even this close his heart beat was muffled.

“Can you hear me?” she asked.

His arms tightened around her and he sighed and nodded.

“Who did this to you?”

Morfindel mouthed the beginning of a word, but gagged and choked, tearing the bandage from his throat, gasping for breath. Lurisa pulled him to her again and kissed his forehead. "You can hear me. For now that is enough. Fear not, my love. I will find a way to reach you. Do not give up hope.”


IV. Loose Ends

In the privacy of his own chambers, Annatar congratulated himself on his astute handling of that elf. Though he planned to depart as soon as the spell of silence took hold, he soon thought how much better would it be to leave less mysteriously. A missing goblet and elven ring on the same day he should disappear would instantly cast suspicion upon him. Now, with the help of Morfindel’s ring and the spell of concealment he placed upon it, the other elven smiths thought Morfindel suffered from some derangement left over from Fëanor and his sons, and that marvelously tragic oath they swore. Celebrimbor had long since distanced himself from the line of his father and now was all too willing to discount his cousin’s distress as guilt from the past. After all, he had taken no part in the Kinslaying, while Morfindel had obeyed Caranthir, his father, using a sword quite skillfully for one so young. With precision, Annatar had taken all those attributes he most admired in Morfindel and used them against him. Was he not defiant of so many known and accepted customs of Ost-in-Edhel? And his carousing with his children, an embarrassment to his proud Noldorin kin? And what of this continued bearing of children? Was it not most unseemly in an elf of his position? These were merely symptoms of a much deeper ailment, he had reasoned, and watched the heads nod assent.

Deftly, Annatar squeezed the goblet, kneading it until it appeared as no more than a lump of unrefined gold, and placed it in a pouch beneath his robes. Only one thing yet remained, but his open attempts to visit the stricken elf were met with even more vehement refusal after Lurisa’s arrival. So he again made his way along the narrow walkways between the buildings to a familiar balcony near the southwest corner of Ost-in-Edhel. He had watched the goings on within the chamber on the other side of the balcony door, silently trying to figure a way to pass through that confounded hedge which sprang up between him and his quarry, and at last Annatar was convinced he knew exactly what could remedy the situation. Still he could not enter, but that mattered not any more.

The elf was fully clothed now, and bandaged, his hair neatly braided. Even his demeanor was less desperate. Lurisa certainly knew how to take care of her own, Annatar mused. Completely unsurprised, the elf merely glared at him from his couch.

“Really, we must come to some agreement,” said Annatar reasonably. “You realize that I can’t allow anyone to know my true identity as long as they hold such limited views of my good will. You must realize also that if your wife and children discover my identity, I will kill them before they have a chance to share the news. However, if you prevent them from discovering what you know, it will keep them safe. Therefore, if you should stop trying to tell them, I will not harm them.”

The stricken look on the elf’s face after hearing the proposal revealed his answer before he gave it. With downcast eyes, the elf said, “I will be silent.” Though he used only movement of his lips to speak, Annatar heard him quite clearly.

“You are wise,” replied Annatar.

“I am a fool!” responded Morfindel, once again glaring at his enemy.

“Come now, be not so morose. In time you will find me a worthy ally...”

“Be gone!” shouted the elf, surprising Annatar with the power and force of his voice. Slowly approaching the doors of the balcony, speaking in a hoarse whisper but heard in a voice that resonated through Annatar’s mind like a bell in a closed tower, Morfindel continued, “If silence is the price I must pay to insure the safety of those I love, so be it, but never mistake me for your ally on that account!” So saying, Morfindel slammed the balcony shutters in Annatar’s face.

Normally, Annatar would have been enraged at such an affront, but recognizing it for the futile gesture it was, he merely fumed silently and returned to his rooms the way he had come. He had what he wanted - Morfindel’s sworn silence on the subject of Annatar’s identity, and the elf knew he must keep his word, though he would continue to fight the spell of silence with increasing success no doubt. The elf remembered too well the scenes Annatar showed him of what would happen to his wife and children if they discovered the truth. Now it was truly time to depart.

Earlier in the day, Annatar had spoken to Celebrimbor of his intentions and was pleased with the sadness in the elf lord’s voice. No need to make another appearance at the smithy or treasury. As if going for another of his strolls through the city, he ambled the byways he was used to frequenting, making his way to the western gate. Many greeted him as he passed and he returned their salutations. Galadriel held court in an oaken grove not far from the gate but he did not so much as acknowledge her. When he came to the River Glanduin, he took the form of a great swan and with surging wings rose high into the air, beyond the sight of even the keenest eyed elf. Turning back briefly, he cast off all physical form, except that needed to grasp the gold, and sped southward to Mordor.