Author's Note: This story may be regarded as somewhat AU, since Thuringwethil, who is mentioned in the "Tale of Beren and Luthien", is not actually described as a vampire, but merely appearing as one. However, I thought it would be fun and interesting to depict her as the first vampire. Those who have read "Journey out of Darkness" may recognize the character of Gaergath, who claims to be her son. Familiarity with that story is helpful but not necessary in order to understand this one, I think.

Woman of the Secret Shadow

by Armariel

I. The Cloak

Thuringwethil, they named her. Messenger and mistress of Sauron, and mother of all things that slunk by night and avoided the sun, drinking the blood of the living.

Once she was an infant, born beneath a crescent moon on a chilly autumn night near the forests of Mirkwood, and so she was called Cúronel. Few knew of her birth, and fewer cared. Her mother was a mortal woman, but of most extraordinary beauty, so that she attracted the attention of the Maia Habadol. He used her for his own selfish pleasures, deserting her when she found herself with child. And so she died not long after the birth of the babe, leaving it to be raised by strangers.

Once she was a maiden, and by that time, the nurses who raised her were long grown old, or dead. She soon fell into wanton ways, learning the dark arts, seeking for power above that of the common, unenamored of the path before her and the ugliness of its music, with its constant shrillness and dull croaks, its total lack of harmony and purpose. Sometimes she would dream she was locked inside a box that had no sides, no top and no bottom, yet when she tried to break out of it, she could go no further than the splayed palms of her hands, the flattened top of her head, her bent and cramping knees. There were none to hear her cries, or listen to the urgent notes she wished to play, the importance of their flow and quaver.

None, that is, save for Sauron.

She was exactly what he sought, the Vala Melkor having commissioned him to capture and breed orcs and trolls for him, and the sort of Elves he most commonly ensnared were those seeking to know more than they were entitled to find, who had overmuch curiosity to discover the twisted secrets and exquisite pleasures of the realm of darkness, to trifle with the fire of the gods, scaling heights that lead to the point of no return. There were many such, in fact; they were not hard to find. Most were male, but a few were female, and these Melkor coveted in particular, both because of their rarity and their breeding capacity.

However, when Sauron beheld her, he was so taken with her astounding beauty, that he thought to spare her from the hideous fate that awaited her, that would leave her a twisted unthinkable wreck, and so he took her for his own, promising to help her discover the secrets she sought. And he renamed her, Celirwen, "maiden of brilliance."

She bore him a son, named Gaergath, meaning "sea-caverns"…although he was born nowhere near either a sea or a cavern, but she liked the thought and sound of it. She took little interest in her child, however, as did Sauron, leaving it to be raised by others, just as she had been herself, and little troubled herself as to how those others were raising him.

She helped Sauron to capture Elves, luring them into his traps with her beauty, her appeals to their desire for knowledge. In return he taught her more of the dark arts, revealing more than even she ever sought to know. He spoiled and indulged her, fascinated with her ways, her contradictions, her moods, her feverish energies and perplexing mysteries…and not least of all, the ruthless carven perfection of her body and limbs and features, the glimmering whiteness of her skin against the boundless darkness of her hair. And her eyes, which were of a glistering silver that flashed blue, and green, and aqua, and amethyst, and occasionally amber, by turns, bewitching and mesmerizing beyond compare. And her crimson lips, lying together softly as lovers and parting only to meet again as urgently as possible, and the voice that issued from between them, low and warm and moist and rich with infinite sensuous possibilities.

Nay, he would keep this one for himself. It was the closest he would ever come to being in love. He gave her gifts, jewelry, and rich clothing, and a splendid dwelling near Tol-in-Gaurhoth. One day he fashioned a gold ring, different from anything else he had made for her, a plain gold band, with etching on it, a poem he had made especially for her, in praise of her beauty. No, he did not think of marriage, for his fear of being bound was greater than his love. But for reasons of which even he was not sure, he thought perhaps she would fancy this ring, although it had no particular power about it, as did some of the other jewels he had given her.

She did like the ring, as it turned out, and wore it always. Often, when she thought no one saw her, would she raise her hand to admire the gold band and read the inscription thereon.

"What is this?" she asked one day, as he laid another parcel in her hands. When she removed the wrappings, she found but a plain black cloak within.

He smiled, seeing the disappointment in her eyes as she turned it this way and that, examining the lining, which was of black silk, and seeing its utter lack of ornamentation.

"Scorn not its plainness, my love," he said. "It is no common cloak. Put it over your lovely shoulders, and you will soon discover what powers it will impart."

She donned it, and found that she could barely feel its weight, yet it gave off a warmth that was both vibrant and a little frightening. He led her to her boudoir mirror, and she looked upon herself in the cloak, which covered her dark-red silk gown and fell with a graceful draping across her arms. Yes, she looked well in it. But what was this power it was supposed to give her?

"It is near nightfall," Sauron observed, "and that is when it will take effect. Come outside, my dear. It will avail you nothing indoors."

They went out into the garden, which bore the sort of herbs and flowers she used in her incantations and potions. There were trees of a strange variety, that grew nowhere else in Middle-earth, thick, dark-skinned, growing low to the ground, never to reach any great height, with long leaves of a murky greenish brown, and a fruit that proved deadly poisonous if eaten. And sometimes in the night, they could be heard, seeming to whisper among themselves, and if one listened long enough, and held one's breath, one could hear a faint music, chilling, secretive, disillusioned, malignant, despairing, irresistible. It could drive one mad, if one lingered too long and listened too closely.

Little Gaergath had been sent away, for he had grown into a mischievous, headstrong and inquisitive youngster, and there was no possibility of keeping him out of the garden. No one else, save for Sauron, was allowed into it. Celirwen tended it herself, and spent a great deal of her time in it. She would drift from bush to bush, tree to tree, herb to herb, like a great black moth, touching the blossoms with her fingertips, breathing in their seductive fragrance, speaking to them as a mother to her newborn, singing soft little songs and chants to encourage their growth. Sometimes she would cast off all her clothing, and go about it naked, brushing up against the leaves, dancing in the moonlight, rolling in the soft grass and clover, touching herself at times, caring not at all if anyone were watching. She and Sauron made love here, to the nearly inaudible groaning of the trees and soughing of the nocturnal breeze, giving themselves over to all manner of depravities under the winking of the stars or the frowns of the grey clouds, or the blinding flash of lightning and the coldness of the rain.

Now, in the dimming light of evening, herein she stood with the cloak about her shoulders, and she noticed for the first time the strange weights that hung from it. Puzzled, she lifted the folds to see small claw-like objects, made of iron. Sauron grinned roguishly.

"Charming, are they not?" he said.

"Very," she replied flippantly. "So, what are these powers? Indeed, these folds resemble wings rather. Will it enable me to fly?"

Sardonic as her tone was, it was tinged with an edge of hope, which made Sauron chuckle.

"Think, my flower," said he, "of some creature whose form you would take, if it were within your power to do so. An eagle? a snake? a fish? a wolf? Or what about a bat?"

"A bat?" she laughed aloud. "Why would anyone be a bat? That is the last thing I should wish to be. So this cloak enables me to shift my shape, as do you?"

"Aye, that, and more," he said. "You say the folds resemble wings? What if I were to tell you this cloak will give you the gift of flight?"

"Truly?" She gazed up at him standing tall and radiant in the flaming light of the western horizon. "You are toying with me, you old wickedness."

"Lift your arms out to your sides, my love," he replied, "close your eyes, and observe."

She did as instructed. When nothing happened, she opened her eyes and glared up at him.

"Be patient, lovely," he said. "Lift your arms once more, and hold them, close your eyes, and concentrate."

She complied, shutting her eyes tightly, then opening them once more.

"I am afraid," she confessed.

"What? My Celirwen, afraid?" Sauron affected great astonishment. "I thought she feared naught. And now she is afraid to rise and mount the sky, and soar as the great eagles upon the face of night, shaming the stars with her brilliance? She would remain forever earthbound, content to tend her garden and dance with the trees and work her maidenly spells just as before?"

"Liar," said she, "you trivialize my arts, yet 'twas you who taught most of them to me."

"And now I would teach you the one you most long to learn," said he, going to stand with his hands on her shoulders, lifting her chin for his kiss. "Who knows the things you will see as you ride the wind, the tricks you will discover, the powers that as of now lie beyond your reach? We might soar together, you and I, as mating doves, and look down upon the sleeping earth, and discover the edge of the darkness, and glance into the Void itself. My Queen you shall be, and we will conquer and rule together, and spawn our own splendid race, when all banality and foulness has been subjugated to our bidding."

"Very well then," she said, and raised her arms a third time. She leaned back her dark head and closed her eyes…and waited. And lo, the cloak began to flutter, as if a breeze were stirring, although there was no such, and then it began to rise, the cloth to stiffen, until it became leathery in its consistency, and the claw-like appendages seemed to distend, until it appeared that the very cloak had grown to her body and become one with her.

"Now bend your knees as if you would spring," Sauron said, his voice barely audible over the rushing wind in her ears. She did so, and bent them ever lower, feeling herself grow weightless as the cloak flapped madly as if in a gale of hurricane force. And she sprang, not daring to open her eyes when it seemed she did not tumble back upon the earth.

Aye, she was rising indeed! And at last she opened her eyes, hearing him shout from below not to look down, yet she did look down, seeing him small and faintly glowing below her, and the roof of her house, and the trees and the river stained with the rust and gold of the sunset. She gasped, and kept her arms extended to her sides, feeling her hair flap and flutter behind her like a flag on a very high pole, as she soared upon the cool dusky air. Laughing, she wheeled in widening circles, higher and higher, the thinning air chilling her to the bone, but she scarcely noticed. Growing ever more daring, she plummeted earthward, hoping to alarm Sauron, but she could scarcely see him enough to gauge his reaction. Then she climbed to even greater heights, noticing that the moon was full, and quite large, and reddish in the evening light. She hurtled toward it, hoping to touch it, yet it grew no closer and no larger, so at last she turned back, hoping she had not lost her way, since the sun was nearly gone in the west.

Then suddenly she started, as she nearly crashed into something or someone coming her way, and then she saw that it was Sauron, in a cloak similar to her own.

"What then, my love?" he said laughing at her expression. "Does flight live up to your expectations, or not?"

"And more so," she shouted to him. Their hands met and clasped in the air, and they flew together, and kissed in midair, and eventually he lifted her gown and they coupled there and then on the firmament, well out of sight of the sleeping inhabitants of the nearly invisible earth below.