Two years had passed ere Elrond was again summoned to Gil-galad’s private sanctum. Two years of deep thought and hard toil. Elrond knew, guided by his early wisdom even in youth that Lindon had to be strong, whether there be visible foes or not. South Lindon was now a strong place, guarded by cunning devices of subtle power. Gil-galad, Erestor, Glorfindel and Elrond himself had put forth their powers to bend the river Lune to their will, should a barrier be needed against invaders.
Elrond had spoken to Gil-galad in private after Celeborn, Galadriel and their household had departed for the far woods of Lorein. He told Gil-galad of Celebrían, her untamed beauty augmented by a firm will. He told of her rage at knowing Elrond had glimpsed her in the lake, taking her last leave of its cool waters.
“But”, Gil-galad cried, “did you or did you not do your liege’s bidding? Did you tell her that I love her?”
The trees had let in only a dim ethereal light, but that had been enough for Celebrían. As Elrond watched from the behind a tree she wrapped a flowing robe about her. Throwing back her wet hair, she spoke suddenly in a cold voice, “And wherefore does an Elf of the High King gaze at me even now? Have you not seen enough?”
Elrond had felt her rage wash over him. He opened his mind to her, and knowing his full intentions, she withdrew.
“This is not a fitting occasion to convey the love of another to me. Your lord is not here, it is you who have seen me, as I am. Why do you speak for him?”
“Fairest maiden, I obey my liege. That . . . is all. He bears a great love for you.”
“But what of you, Lord Elrond? Will you forever act for others, granted it is for the greater good? You’ve known more of me in these few moments than any ever before. What have you to say, for yourself?”
He was silent. But the surges in his blood . . .
“This is all so futile! I shall go away, and so shall my thought from both your minds. As well as mine. And if it does remain, may Varda illumine your gloom then. Forget me Elrond. And I shall try to do the same.”
“Yes, my lady, forget me you must. But remember Ereinion Gil-galad, that I beg of you.”
Elrond told Gil-galad what had happened, but with caution. He did not mention Celebrían’s dual feelings.
Now, all the lords of the High Elves in Lindon had gathered in the Great Hall of Lindon. Gil-galad sat in his high throne, and beside him were the mighty and the wise of old. They drank the miruvor and broke the bread, while the night stormed about the warm haven.
They spoke worriedly of Celebrimbor and his craftsmen, in far Hollin.
An Elf was hurriedly admitted to the Hall. Gil-galad turned in astonishment to him, as he bore tidings from Galadriel in great haste.
My lords of the Eldar, My Lord and I have taken up our abode at Lothlorien, and we ask for your good wishes. However, these are disturbing times in the East. The Men of Númenor often come to Andor, but we admit them not here. Also, a Power has fared forth, bearing `gifts’ to the Eldar Lords. He has been to Celebrimbor. Beware, for it is said that he is heading west.
Gil-galad frowned, “One of the Powers? Maybe a Maia sent forth?”
Elrond shook his head, “But why alone?”
Glorfindel entered, “My liege, there is one at the Gates who would enter into your presence. He must have ridden here alone on his sable steed, and is swathed in fine dark robes.”
“Is he one of the Eldar?”
“Nay, he looks like a Man noble in stature, but taller, hooded and cloaked in mind as well as body.”
Gil-galad growled, “I cannot deny a noble visitor our Starshine Feast on baseless fears. Let him in.”
More than a hundred had gathered at the great table in the dining hall. Elrond stood beside the High King Gil-galad at its head. An empty chair was at Gil-galad’s right.
They were waiting for the guest to come in.
Heavy footsteps were heard on the passage outside the doors, a slow measured tread. The guards sprang to attention, and a figure stood just at the threshold. There was no dimming of lights or gusts of wind, but every eye in the room turned to the doorway.
He was tall, taller than any, even the High King. A long black traveling cloak was about his shoulders, and the hood was drawn up, his features inscrutable in the shadows. He was shrouded in a dark mantle from the silver-worked collar to the heavy boots.
Elrond’s eyes went to the barely visible belt. There was no sword, and the man bore no staff, or weapon of any kind. And he had ridden through the night over unguessed leagues.
The guest stood immobile at the threshold.
Gil-galad broke the spell. “Hail honoured guest! You are welcomed to our Feast in honour of the Star Queen. In my humble halls may you find rest after your long sojourn through the Wild. Pray grace our table!”
The voice that answered from the depths of the hood was deep and binding: “It is I who am honoured at this courtesy shown to an unknown traveler.”
The hood was cast off, revealing a long pale face, nobility etched in every line. The black hair was combed back from a high forehead over an aquiline nose. Dark eyes glinted as his will went to and fro. All felt a great immeasurable power emanate from the tall dark guest. A wintry smile crossed the thin lips.
He stepped forward into the room. Elrond felt a thread tear somewhere.
“I am Annatar, the giver of gifts.”