Notes: Still working on that last chapter, but revision of the formatting and minor edits is complete. 1-19-14

Disclaimer: Characters and the basic plot still belong to Tolkien.

Ost-in-Edhil SA 1697

As yet, no orc has approached the Bar-i-Mírdain, but not for fear of the jewel-smiths, who stand silent and motionless, swords at hand, prepared to face Mandos. No, the orcs look upon the gilded building with hunger, but pass on in an endless stream. They fear their master too well, and know his coming.

They have not been able to destroy the Nine and the six he holds of the Seven; the ruling Ring's will could not be overcome. At the last, he has hidden them, calling upon every Dwarven charm and beneficence of Aulë he knows. However, they are to bargain. His concern lies with the Three.

His flesh tingles with dread as Sauron enters the square. He wears the same fair fana, but with the Ring to hand, he is unmasked. How has Celebrimbor been so blind to what the Moriquendi saw at first meeting?

At Sauron's signal, the orcs are upon them, and though the Mírdain are not warriors, they bravely hold as long as they can. Celebrimbor had known their defence would be futile, and had tried to persuade them to look to their own safety, but honour is the last refuge of the defeated, and they would not leave him. He agonises now to see them so cruelly slain. Yet greater agony would it be were Sauron to keep any alive.

Finally, he stands alone. The sword is strange in his hands; he has fashioned many but wielded none since Alqualondë. He delivers a few orcs to their fates, but too easily. They are to take him alive, and at last, they do.

"Shall we sit? We have much to discuss, you and I," Annatar says. He motions to a chair and dismisses the orcs who hold Celebrimbor captive.

He takes the chair opposite him, and here, in Celebrimbor's receiving room, they lack only tea service to pretend that this is a reunion of long-sundered friends.

"I knew you would be forging the Three," Annatar says. "I certainly left you enough hints. I did not anticipate that you would translate my little rhyme so quickly - you saved me the trouble of returning to the city to finish the rings." (1)

"I am glad that I could help you so," Celebrimbor retorts. "But this language of yours - it was easy enough to decipher. It is not particularly imaginative."

"It will serve." He leans forward. "I showed you what it would be to rule, to take what is rightfully yours by virtue of the eldest blood, but instead, you have betrayed me."

"You know me less well than you think, then, if you imagine I should ever have wanted such a thing, even before I knew your true nature."

"True nature? I have been naught but what I have showed you to be. I gave you knowledge, and did you not create wondrous things with it? I offered the chance to save your people, to arrest the weariness cursed upon them - to do what Gil-galad cannot do for them. It was an offer most sincerely given. I like you, Celebrimbor. You have been most useful to me."

"Your offer comes at a price."

"Its refusal comes at a greater price."

"No Elf has ever willingly allied with Morgoth or his servants. I shall not be the first."

Annatar raises his eyebrows, evidently amused by this. "From your thought sprung the very notion of the rings. Your work shall be, as your grandfather would say, a matter of song until the last days of Arda." (2,3)

The blood drains from his face. To be tricked into doing the work of Sauron is shame enough, but to serve Sauron as no one else could is pure villainy. How low he has fallen, from the elf who optimistically affixed the Star of Fëanor to the West Door.

"But come, I do not expect heroics from one who has done no more than stand aside. We are much alike, you and I - we have survived, and in circumstances such as ours, that in itself is commendable. I am afraid I cannot grant you that consolation this time. You know why I have come."

"To what profit, then, should I tell you anything?"

"Need you ask that question? You may die honourably, quietly and quickly, or in screaming torment. Yet, make your choice. I lose patience."

He is silent.

"Do not be a fool, Celebrimbor. I will have the rings and I will march upon Forlond, and do you think that your Mornedhel lover will refuse my terms? You have overesteemed him. He is ultimately practical, and not nearly so righteous as he would have you believe. He will do what is necessary to save his city."

Therein lies Sauron's weakness. Power, he understands. That Gil-galad will be most concerned with the Havens, he cannot comprehend. To evacuate his subjects to Tol Eressëa and die in their defence, would be, in Sauron's eyes, the worst kind of defeat.

"You spoke once of Men's love of gold, but it is silver, that your Master never touched, that we Elves prize - not for power or wealth but for its beauty. Rarest of all is mithril, and that, you tried once to tarnish, and failed. It is beautiful, yes, but it is also strong, stronger than steel, harder than gold."

Sauron smiles like a serpent set to consume its living prey. "It is a strange thing, among Elves, that you pretend to such purity, yet betray one another so easily. This great love of yours - this mithril - did you think of him when you shared your bed with that dwarf?"

"I was never unfaithful to him."

"Please, let us not argue semantics. You are well aware that one keeps faith in the heart, not the body."

He thinks of Ingoldo's song, how Sauron had defeated him not by trickery but truth. He cannot answer the charge, for he has not kept faith. Indeed, what has he ever done in courage or selflessness?

He had turned away first, denying their bond, refusing to see that he had a duty, one as inexorable as the one tying Gil-galad to Forlond. He imagined that he could refuse such a tie. And yet, he had loved, and still loves, and what is love without surety, without sacrifice? By selfishness, and by countless other large and small hurts, he has earned a small consolation: Gil-galad will suffer no grief at his passing.

Where he wished to make amends for the crimes of his forebears, he has unleashed untold horrors upon his people. He has treated his King with contempt and betrayed his lover. Sauron's worst will be less than he deserves.

(1) I knew you would be forging the Three
I think Sauron knew about and intended for Celebrimbor to forge the Three:
Sauron made One Ring, the Ruling Ring that contained the powers of all the others, and controlled them, so that its wearer could see the thoughts of all those that used the lesser rings, could govern all that they did, and in the end could utterly enslave them. He reckoned, however, without the wisdom and subtle perceptions of the Elves. The moment he assumed the One, they were aware of it, and of his secret purpose... . (The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, No 131 p 152 pub Houghton Mifflin)
Sauron expected to be able to control the Elves because they were using rings linked to the One, so he must have known about the Three. Moreover, together they forged rings for Dwarves and Men, so it would seem likely that he also a planned for rings to be forged for the Elves.

(2) From your thought sprung the very notion of the rings
The Elves of Eregion made Three supremely beautiful and powerful rings, almost solely of their own imagination. [Emphasis mine.] (Ibid)
This is the grandson of the greatest and most innovative smith of all Elvenkind. He must have had instruction from Fëanor, and probably Mahtan and Aulë. Sauron could have forged the rings himself if he already had both the idea and the knowledge. Celebrimbor had some knowledge or abilities he did not have.

(3) matter of song until the last days of Arda
(The Silmarillion, p 79 pub Houghton Mifflin Kindle Edition)