Disclaimer: Middle-earth, Ost-in-Edhil, Celebrimbor, Sauron and various other characters all belong to JRR Tolkien. I make no money off this, so kindly don't try to sue me.
Celebrimbor lay dreaming. It was an odd dream, not frightening precisely, but odd. Rings sparkled in torchlight, reflecting the light and intensifying it. Celebrimbor recognized the Rings, as he'd helped make many of them. The Rings of Power. He smiled as he recognized Elcaran's first effort, the Ring that could only locate lead. It had been supposed to find mithril, but no such luck. They'd all smiled and told him to pay more attention to the ultrafine structures next time. He recognized the three he had made most recently: Vilya, Nenya and Narya. The light waxed and waned, and began to spread out in a network that connected all the Rings. It was beautiful, but something was wrong.
The web of light grew stronger and brighter, and Celebrimbor noticed something else: while the Rings were connected to each other, each one of them was connected to something else as well, and the light appeared to be being pulled towards that thing. That wasn't in the design, Celebrimbor thought sleepily. What's going on? He reached out mentally and tried to touch the Rings. He received a sharp mental shock for his efforts.
He opened his eyes to find himself in his bed at home. Yet the feeling of wrongness did not diminish but increase. Thoroughly alarmed now, Celebrimbor concentrated on the Rings on his hand, but most especially on the blue Ring, Vilya. He listened... and the feeling of wrongness increased tenfold. There was a malignant awareness that was drawing power and information from the Rings to itself, and pushing back something else towards the Rings. Furious, Celebrimbor reached out along the link as far as he could. I must know what is happening! He heard a voice speaking a language he did not understand:
"Ash nazg durbatuluk, ash nazg gimbatul, ash nazg thrakatuluk agh burzum-ishi krimpatul"
The voice was menacing, cruel, and cold, filled with hatred and a desire to control that Celebrimbor had never encountered before. Despite the strange language the meaning was clear: one Ring to rule them all, one Ring to bind them, one Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them. Celebrimbor pulled harder along the link and received a brief glimpse of a face that he knew. Annatar. Annatar laughing and with a fell light in his eyes. Shocked, Celebrimbor lost the link. He tried to regain it, but it had gone dormant and he could not find it.
It does not make any sense; Annatar helped make the Rings, he has always been such a good friend, he has no need to control us - why is he doing this? We trusted him! I trusted him! How dare he?
Celebrimbor shook his head. He must think clearly. What does this mean? The Rings were his idea in the first place; I don't think we'd have made them otherwise. He knows all our secrets... And he pulls information from the Rings. He'll know everything we do, everything we think, every defense we design against him! He may also be able to control us with them. He intended to betray us along, he must have.
Celebrimbor's gaze dropped to his hands. I have to get them off now and isolate them. He removed the Rings, dropping them onto the rug. They lay scattered, still beautiful and looking deceptively innocent.
He didn't want to touch them. What to do with them? I still have the old isolation box somewhere for handling accidents... will that be enough to isolate them? It's not designed for magical objects this powerful. Celebrimbor unhooded the lantern, and padded across the room to the old chest of drawers in the corner. He found the little lead box at the back of the bottom drawer. He really ought to have been keeping it somewhere more accessible, but when was the last time he had had an accident here?
He opened the box and made a depression with his finger in the activated charcoal, then carefully wrapped a hankerchief around Narya before dropping it in the box. He did the same with the other two Rings, and then closed the lid, locking it down to seal it properly.
Now what? I need to warn the others. How many people are there in Ost-in-Edhil wearing Rings now? Of great Rings there are 19. I have three right here, but how many lesser Rings are there? I have no idea. We made so many when we were experimenting, only some of which actually work. It is, Celebrimbor moved the lantern so he could take a look at the clock, 2:00 in the morning. Not many people are going to be awake so maybe I can use some time to think.
We're going to have to track down all the Rings and persuade people to take them off. But how? They aren't going to want to, and if Annatar's controlling them through the Rings... I've always been thankful I do not have my father's ability to sway a crowd - one temptation less - but I think I now have a problem. Not all of the Rings are in Ost-in-Edhil either; I know people took some to Lindon but I don't know who has them - I think they're all lesser Rings. I hope.
But if Annatar can use the lesser Rings to influence people... I know Durin has a great Ring, because I gave it to him myself. I don't think Galadrial has one. Gil-galad doesn't have one does he? Or any member of his court and advisers... What about Elrond? I'm sure Elrond doesn't; he was so very against Annatar from the very beginning I doubt he's changed his mind, but I'm certain somebody in Gil-galad's court has one. I'm going to have to go there and tell them what's happened. Celebrimbor groaned. Maybe I should stay here and try to fix this first. There must be a way to remove this contamination from the Rings. But how much damage might be done while I search for a way to fix this?
Did anyone other than me hear what Annatar's done? I have to know now, never mind the time. If anyone else has heard it, it would be Elcaran. He's made nearly as many as I have.
Celebrimbor shoved his feet into slippers, grabbed his cloak from the peg on the door, picked up the lantern and headed along the hall, down the stairs and then out the main door. He turned to look about him. The night looked the same as ever, with the Moon setting behind the trees in the west. No one would think the world had just been turned upside down. Irrelevant, Celebrimbor thought. I need to find Elcaran now.
Celebrimbor strode down the street towards the house where Elcaran and his wife lived.
To be continued...