It was a warm day, nigh to the end of summer, and Ollorien sat in the garden engulfed in unhindered thought. The leaves were turning to gold, and slowly the world was preparing for winter. She sat still, as hewn of stone, pondering on her evil fate. She had shunned all that she knew once and wallowed in her loneliness. Not even the sweet chirping of birds bathing in her fountains and basins could cheer her up.
And so she sat, heedless of the world around her, when she suddenly heard footsteps. They were coming around the house to the garden.
“The messenger, yet again…” she thought, not knowing what to say to him. She couldn’t hide, there was no time to get to the house from where she was sitting, so she waited, calm as a frozen lake.
Then, around the corner of the storage room a tall, dark figure appeared. He walked into the garden and spotting Ollorien, hastily came up to her and stopping looked down on her, for she was sitting in the grass.
Ollorien lifted her eyes and looked at the tall Elf. His hair was jet-black, yet shimmering as a raven’s wings; his skin was white as milk and fitted the shape of his face perfectly. For, his face was slender and fair. As she looked at him his thin, pale lips stretched into a smile, revealing a row of beautiful white teeth. His eyes were as blue as the sky was that day, and in his gaze she perceived knowledge, wisdom and serenity, and something else which she could not quite pinpoint.
The stranger was clad in the manner of the Elven-smiths of Ost-in-Edhil, and his gray cloak was clasped at the neck with a brooch in the shape of a star.
He was, indeed quite beautiful, but Ollorien did not notice that at present. “You are not the usual messenger.” She spoke, looking at him from the ground on which she sat.
“Nor am I a messenger at all!” answered the Elf. “I am called Annatar. Celebrimbor, fair maiden, has sent me to your aid for he fears that all is not right with you. Time and time again you have sent his messenger away, and still we have no word of how your work is coming.” His voice rang in Ollorien’s ears, and she thought how good it was to hear another speak after such a long time. And the voice of Annatar, the Lord of Gifts was fair indeed.
“I am here to aid you if something is amiss.” He added looking at her intently.
“All is well with me, and I do not need your aid, nor anyone else’s, go back to Celebrimbor and tell him that all I need is time.” Ollorien snapped at him.
“A shadow troubles your mind Ollorien the fair, even a blind man could see that. But I shall not badger you about your sorrows, for that is not my purpose here. I have seen how far you’ve gone with your work, for the door of Ellenbar stands ajar” at this remark Ollorien’s eyes blazed at him, for she could not stand defeat, “and I believe that you do need my help.” He said in a soft voice, full of understanding. “And besides, I am not a messenger to run back to Celebrimbor, as I already said, what I am is a smith and a mason. I believe that I could help you. Will you let me?” he spoke slowly, locking his eyes with Ollorien’s.
Ollorien pondered on the proposal for a few moments. Indeed she needed help, but it wounded her pride to ask Annatar to stay. And yet, the job had to be done, so looking him in the eyes she just said: “Yes, you may stay here and aid me in my work.”
And thus it came to be that an alliance was formed between Annatar and Ollorien, and although a promising one, it bore only bitter fruit.
It was agreed between the two of them that Annatar would stay at Ellenbar until their work was done, so he and Ollorien immediately started clearing out the storage-chamber in which he was to sleep. The unfinished statues they piled up at one end of the hall, and those that were finished they set around the garden and the front yard. This labor was hard, for the sculptures were many and heavy, but still they worked, without tiring, long into the night. All the while they seldom spoke, for Ollorien could not quite grasp the idea of a stranger in her house, yet.
When their toil was done, the moon had already risen above the rim of the world.
Annatar sat on a small wooden chair, and rummaged through his pack – the only baggage he had. Out of it he took some food – dried fruit and wild berries for the most part – and a curiously shaped bottle. Inside it was, as Ollorien already guessed, sweet golden mead made by the Elves of Greenwood.
Annatar put forth his belongings and placed them on the low wooden table, one of the few pieces of furniture in the hall. Then he beckoned to Ollorien who stood at the door of Ellenbar looking outside into the starlit night.
“These things I have brought with me, a small token of friendship. I had thought long and hard about what gift to bestow on you, things of gold and silver I thought of, but it all seemed pointless. For, whatever I gave you, you could make yourself. And I thought it an insult to your talent. So I give you just these small things, until I think of a better gift.” And he smiled as he spoke, looking at the bright eyes of Ollorien, which shimmered, green in the light of the stars.
Ollorien in turn felt strangely touched by the small gifts of Annatar, for of all the foods she ever ate, she loved fruits the most. And it had been many a long year since she had last had a draught of the fine mead of Greenwood. So she smiled at him, and it was the first time she smiled after a long time. And she felt relieved, as though a great burden had come off her heart. Turning away, she brought forth out of some secret place in her hall two goblets wrought of mithril and set with gems. And then she sat at the table with Annatar and they drank and ate long into the small hours of the night.
Ollorien thought about how long it was since she had a proper meal, and how good it was to have someone to talk to.
Ollorien the Fair was young by the reckoning of the Elves, and though she was wise and learned in lore, she had spent all her life in Eregion and wondered at all the marvels of the world that Annatar told her of. She questioned him long, ever eager to learn more, and he answered her gladly, telling her about all the lands that he had seen.
But all the while it seemed to Ollorien that there was something about him that she needed to know, yet he wasn’t letting on. She wondered about who he was, for she had never seen him, or even heard tell of him before he showed up in her garden that day. So, at length she asked him: “Who are you Lord? You name yourself Annatar, a name that suits you well, and yet you name no father and no homeland. The light of Aman is in your eyes, I can see, for it shines brightly, but there is something about you that greatly intrigues me. Something else is in your eyes, cold and black it seems to me, though I know not what it is.”
Annatar looked at her gravely, he had remembered all the wrong that he did to her people, and for a moment he was baffled. And although he had repented his evil deeds, he felt a deep uneasiness overwhelm him at her question. He pondered for a while, and then not wanting to lie to her, he spoke softly: “Sharp are the senses of the Noldor race indeed. My name is truly Annatar, though I have been named otherwise in ages that have passed. I name no father, for I have none. And though I walk the earth in the likeness of the Firstborn, I am far older. I say that I have no father, for I have sprung from the thought of the Creator countless ages before the first spring of Arda. My home are the Timeless Halls outside the circles of the world. True, the light of Valinor is in my eyes, for I have beheld it and walked its many gardens. I was taken there to be healed of my woes, for I became a thrall of Morgoth when the world was young…” and at this he fell silent, as though afraid to speak of all that had taken place in his long life. After a pause he added, almost in a whisper: “That which you see in my eyes and cannot discern is the memory of pain and torment.” Whose pain and torment, he never said.
Ollorien looked at him intently, and to her Annatar seemed to grow transparent as he spoke, and a silver light was about him as he gazed at a spot somewhere in the gloom of the hall. And pity filled her hearth, for the pain of Annatar the Maia must have been great under the iron will of Morgoth Bauglir.
An uneasy silence fell on the vast hall of Ellenbar. It lasted a long while, before Annatar stirred, and as one weakened from a dream, smiled wearily at Ollorien. “But all that is in the past. The Shadow is gone, and hopefully, the memory of pain shall fade, and only linger as a warning against evil.”
“Hopefully. It is late, and we have a long day tomorrow. But, before I bid you good night, pray, answer me one more question Lord…” she spoke quietly, as if fearing that the mere sound of her voice would shatter his frail spirit into a thousand pieces.
“Of course Lady…”
“You are of the Ainur. The road to the Undying lands is always open for you, and yet you choose to dwell in Middle-earth. Why is it so? Would you not prefer to walk the gardens of Valinor better, then to look upon the Mortal lands in the waning of the Elves?” she pronounced slowly, fearing that the question might be too bold.
“Truly, I do not know. I just feel that I am fated to be here, for good or for ill, time only will reveal.” He hadn’t realized the depth of his own words.
After Annatar had answered her question, Ollorien stood up and bid him good night. Then she turned and walked to her chamber, no more than a rustle of white fabric in the faint light of the stars that peered in through henneth-galad.
She never found out that after she had left him, Annatar sat alone in the darkness for a while, thinking. His face was grave and deep in thought, but then, suddenly he laughed. His laughter rang like music through Ellenbar, for it was merry, like the laughter of the Firstborn when they first beheld the stars. He then got up, and with light footsteps walked to his chamber where he slept as soundly as a child for the first time since he left Valinor.