The rest of their little stroll was uneventful, or nearly so. Some other elves did appear at the ends of certain halls, throwing curses at Sauron, and probably would have caused a scene similar to that with Feanor. However, interesting to note, it seemed as though they could not leave the halls they were in. Of course, this did not stop their voices from traveling.
Ilmariel tried to block out the vulgar language that reached her ears, but, with as much of it as was being discharged, this was rather difficult to accomplish. Before today, she had thought it would have been impossible to have such a massive quantity of profanity crammed into one sentence. Well, one learns new things every day, she reflected.
Sauron did not seem to mind what was being said in the least. He would glance briefly at the elves that were yelling at him as he passed them, and then turn away as if they were naught but rocks. All the same, Ilmariel thought that she saw a very wicked light to his eyes, suggesting that his appearance was a mere pretense to his true feelings
…Ilmariel did not find that thought particularly appealing.
Finally, after what had seemed like hours, they came to the end of the hall. A huge chamber opened up before them, so large that Ilmariel could see neither the top nor the sides. It was as if they had suddenly walked onto an empty plane in space.
Unlike the Halls, where the lighting was done by large crystal globes, filled with golden light, here there were hundreds of tiny blue lights hanging down from the ceiling on silver chains. They were dull, giving off a faint sphere of light around them that did not make the floor easy to see. Ilmariel made sure to stay near the group, knowing that if she paused too long the darkness would conceal them from her, and she would be lost.
They walked on for a while longer, and then, suddenly, Ilmariel began to see other little lights ahead of her. At first, they were only dots amid the darkness, but then, as she drew nearer to them, they began to grow larger. They were faint and shifty, and, as she watched them, they would slowly dim and go out.
Ilmariel watched curiously for a few moments at the lights, then quickened her pace a little, so that she was walking next to Namo.
“Those lights…” she inquired, “what are they?”
Namo turned to her to answer. “They are the elves that are being released.”
Ilmariel cocked an eyebrow. “They are? …Why are they fading?”
“Because they are getting a body; their spirits seem to fade as their forms become more physical.”
Finally, they stopped. In front of them was a line of souls, each one waiting patiently for his or her turn. Ahead of the line was a wall, into which eight tunnels were carved. Ilmariel only guessed this from the fact that at these points the darkness became even thicker.
She watched with interest as eight spirits were taken from the line and led over to the tunnels. There stood a maia, blocking the way. Then, Ilmariel assumed, some questions were asked, after which the maia moved aside, and the elf would begin to walk down the tunnel, slowly disappearing in the gloom.
Cheery little way to get a body back, Ilmariel thought to herself, forgetting Namo for a moment.
Namo did look down at her in a reprimanding fashion, but it was Sauron who spoke, addressing Ilmariel for the first time. “No kidding. Looks like they’re all being sent off to ***ation …not that the thought really bothers me much.”
Ilmariel turned to him in horror. “You can read my thoughts, too?!” she cried.
Sauron looked at her and shrugged. “Trust me, I’m not trying to. It just happens.”
Spinning back around to Namo, Ilmariel looked at him anxiously. “He won’t always be able to do that, will he?”
“Mmm…” the Vala began, frowning, “…I’m not sure.”
Ilmariel shivered internally. The thought of Sauron being able to tell what she was thinking at all times was not pleasant.
“Oh, that’s not very nice,” said Sauron.
“Stop doing that!” Ilmariel shouted, causing a few of the people ahead of them to stare and whisper.
“As I’ve already told you, it is unintentional. It’s an Ainu thing. I can’t stop it.” Sauron shook his head. “Do you have any idea how annoying it was when I was in Hollin, with all those elves, and all the time hearing them think ‘I hope these robes aren’t too feminine,’ or ‘Oh, I wonder how my hair is,’ or better yet ‘I hope people don’t think my husband is prettier than I am’?” he said, flopping his hands around limply with a feigned naive, pathetic look on his face. Then he quickly dropped his arms, his expression falling also. “I swear, it drove me absolutely crazy.”
“You are certain then that you were not crazy before hand?” Ilmariel hissed. Her temper, which for many long years had been considerably cool, was for some reason starting to heat up again.
Sauron actually looked surprised, as though he was unsure about how to handle the question. He furrowed his brow, but did not really look displeased, and crossed his arms. “Well… no,” he said at last, taking a couple steps forward as the line moved up.
It then occurred to Ilmariel that it had probably been a very long time since somebody had talked back to him in that manner. Anyone who had done so earlier, be it Feanor, or even Namo, had known Sauron already, and were definitely entitled to aim some derogatory comments to him, considering what sort of things Sauron had probably done to them, personally.
Ilmariel, on the other hand, did not actually have any personal grievances against Sauron. Of course, when she was alive, she had hated him with the hate that all free people had held. That sentiment, however, had faded during the course of her time in Mandos, just like every other feeling she had ever held. Now, although she was well aware that she should hate Sauron, Ilmariel could not honestly say that she did. She, in typical fashion, felt simple indifference.
That being the case, Sauron more than likely felt the same towards her. Therefore, it was understandable, Ilmariel supposed, that when she had implied that Sauron was a raving lunatic (and to his face, at that), he could have been a bit taken aback by it. Upon arriving at this conclusion, Ilmariel simply shrugged.
None of them talked as they slowly made their way to the head of the line. Finally, the last group had gone through, and Sauron and Ilmariel were ushered forward. Namo, however, did not move.
Ilmariel turned to Namo, wondering what he was doing. “Once you get outside, you will find some people waiting for you. They will take you to where you need to go. Also, keep in mind what happened back there,” Namo said, obviously referring to Feanor. “There are people in Valinor now who would not be pleased to see him.”
Sauron turned to Namo from staring off into space, seeming to understand that he was being spoken about. “Me?”
“Yes,” Namo said. “Does that come as a surprise to you?”
“No. Not really,” Sauron admitted.
“Anyway,” Namo continued, “it would be wise to keep his identity a secret. It will help you maintain a level of peace in your life.” He started to turn away.
“You aren’t coming?” Ilmariel asked him, surprised …well, not really surprised, but discomforted at the thought.
Namo’s face actually turned up in a suppressed smile, and Ilmariel swore that she heard him snort. Even Sauron seemed surprised at the sound.
“Are you kidding? No, he’s all yours.” He nudged Ilmariel, who was not feeling particularly good after that comment, on towards the tunnels. “You’ll do fine. Do not worry so much.” With that said, he turned around, and headed back off into the dark, fading into it until he vanished from sight.
Once the Vala was gone, Ilmariel turned and looked at the tunnels. Sauron was already in front of one, and seemed to be taking care of himself, so Ilmariel went to the only open spot available to her.
She stopped in front of the cloaked Maia that stood before the tunnel, who looked at her with a dull expression on her face, as though she was ready to get this over with. Ilmariel was certain that she knew how she felt, as her own face had born the expression almost constantly for the past millennia or so.
“Name?” said the Maia, staring off into the space directly over Ilmariel’s head.
“From where do you hail?”
“Silvan,” Ilmariel said, after pausing for a moment of thought, then added, “Well… Silvan/Noldor.”
The Maia looked at her questioningly for a moment, then seemed to comprehend. Ilmariel wondered whether this Maia was able to read her thoughts… like Sauron.
“Was your death related to Feanor, war, grief, or other?” the Maia continued.
“War…” Ilmariel answered slowly, thinking the first choice a little odd.
“What do you plan to do in Valinor?”
The Elven-maid glanced over a row at Sauron. “I’m going to have to look after him,” she said, a little sadly, “but I plan to lead an otherwise normal life.”
Ilmariel almost thought the Maia’s stony countenance might have shifted slightly at her comment.
With that, the Maia stepped aside and pointed down the hall, continuing to speak mechanically. “Follow the tunnel until the end. Try to concentrate on memories from your life; it will help the process of regenerating a body. Have a nice life.” Then, she waved her hand slightly, beckoning Ilmariel on.
She was eager to go, and so began down the tunnel the moment the Maia allowed her to. As she did so, Ilmariel thought of her words, and tried to concentrate on memories from her life.
She remembered sitting by the Nimrodel after a long watch on guard, and the times she had been in the Lady Galadriel’s presence. She thought about when she had been at Cerin Amroth, and of the mellyrn, and the niphredil and the elanor. For a fleeting moment, she almost thought she was happy.
Then, she remembered her two younger cousins, Taurion and Sirion… The numerous occasions when she had awoken and found, to her horror, that her hair had been stuck to her pillow with honey… That one time when the string on her bow, a special gift from the Lord and Lady of the Wood, had been snipped… Those evenings sitting beside that very river that she had so loved, only to suddenly find herself sitting in it, completely soaked with water.
Ah, yes… she recalled a great deal when she took the time. This reminded her of why she did not normally take the time. She thought back on all those terrible jokes that her cousins had played on her, and tried to feel spiteful about it; yet, to her surprise, she could not. True, they were a pair of good-for-nothing, obnoxious ninnies, but they had been her good-for-nothing, obnoxious ninnies.
It was with this last thought that the tunnel ended, and she was outside. Her thoughts instantly scattered as she became aware a new sensation, something that she had not felt for so long that she had nearly forgotten the feeling… it was the breeze against her skin. Skin! Standing still, in awed silence, she gazed down at her hands. No longer did she see foggy fingers, through which the ground could be seen, but solid hands, covered with pale skin.
It was an emotional moment. Many things that she had not felt for ages suddenly surfaced, and she was overwhelmed by the happiness of finally being again. Suddenly, however, the moment was brought to a screeching halt by the smack of a hand against her shoulder.
Stepping forward slightly to avoid losing her balance, Ilmariel turned to see who had stolen her special moment from her, and was not really surprised to see Sauron. He seemed perfectly aware that he had ruined what had been, for the Elf, a priceless moment, and was looking rather proud of himself.
Ilmariel took another step forward to dislodge Sauron’s hand from her shoulder. To be honest, she was rather upset with Sauron, which was not really a good way to start off. She had no idea how long she would be stuck trying to “rehabilitate” him into the world (or whatever it was she supposed to do), but, however long it did take, she did not want to spend every moment agonizing over the thought that something dreadful was going to happen.
As she considered this, she started to walk off. Abruptly, however, a thought hit her like a thousand white-hot needles dripping with lemon juice: it was likely that, no matter what she did, she would end up agonizing every moment. After all, this was not just any deranged, twisted spirit she was trying to “fix”— it was Sauron. This was the person that had helped torture elves to make orcs, had pinned up Celebrimbor to a war pike and used his body as a banner, had made Gil-galad spontaneously combust, had fed people to wolves alive… All of a sudden, it did not seem nearly as safe to have Sauron out in the world with a body as it had earlier.
“I’m not really that bias to Elves …You forget that I destroyed practically an entire race of Men,” Sauron put in.
Ilmariel rolled her eyes back and then closed them. “Will you please, please stop listening to what I am thinking?” she asked through clenched teeth.
“What? Does it bother you?” Sauron asked, as he began down the path that was before them.
“Yes, it bothers me!”
“Well, in that case…” he began, glancing back at Ilmariel momentarily and smiling, “No, I won’t stop.”
Ilmariel pressed her hands against her face and slowly pulled down. Why…? she asked herself. It had seemed like such a good idea, before.
“Oh, don’t do that to your face; it will give you wrinkles. And I know that would just be a terrible thing for any of you Elves to have to go through.”
Sighing, Ilmariel dropped her hands from her face. Slowly, she began to make her way down the path, trying to forget about Sauron for a bit and take in her surroundings.
She had never really been in Valinor before; the Halls could not truly count. There was absolutely nothing living there, whatsoever. Everybody was dead. Out here, however, there was grass, tall and green all around, dotted with white flowers. There were birds flying high overhead and great, majestic looking trees off in the distance. Taking a deep breath of the night air, Ilmariel relaxed.
Finally, she looked up at the sky, and what she saw there was as breathtaking as it ever had been. Innumerable stars pierced the blue, glittering like so many brilliant diamonds in the great expanse of sky. All Elves loved the stars, and Ilmariel was no exception; they were able to cheer her. She did not realize that she was going through the classic Elven poems and sonnets that had been made to Varda, until she noticed Sauron mimicking her words with his face distorted. Ilmariel stopped speaking immediately and cocked an eyebrow.
“What are you doing?” she asked softly, not really annoyed by the behavior, so much as amused by it.
Caught in the middle of a word, Sauron stopped with his mouth still slightly open. “Trying to entertain myself by mocking your silly little limericks.”
“Oh, that is very mature,” Ilmariel replied. “Can you not think of anything better to do with your time?”
“Not really …unless, of course, you want me to concentrate solely on penetrating your mind and uncovering your deepest secrets. I would find that highly entertaining.”
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” Ilmariel cautioned.
“Might be too scary for you.”
“Why don’t you like the stars, anyway?” Ilmariel quickly changed the subject, not wanting to give Sauron too much time to think about the whole ‘deep secrets’ plan.
“Namo said that you worked in smithing.”
“Yes…” Sauron said slowly, as if thinking that Ilmariel was the most random creature in the whole of Ea.
“Were you a Maia of Aule, then?”
Sauron lowered his head slightly, looking at Ilmariel with an expression that said this was a topic that was not going to be discussed ever again. “I was for a time.”
Ilmariel glanced away. “Well, that doesn’t really matter, I suppose… you always did those sorts of crafty things afterwards, anyhow. That being, I would think you might give some credit to good craftsmanship.”
“I would give them credit if I thought they showed good craftsmanship. I just don’t think they do.”
“How can you think that?”
Sauron fidgeted for a moment, taking a quick peak up at the tiny points of light high
above them. “Well… perhaps they are good enough. But, since they were made partly as a symbol of the downfall of my former master and myself, I find it rather difficult to admire them.”
Ilmariel’s brow twitched slightly; she did not really understand.
Sauron sighed. “Okay… how could I explain this so it would make sense to you?” He scrunched up his face with concentration. “All right, how about this: let’s say that there is some good-looking Elven-lord, okay?”
Ilmariel nodded slowly.
“And let us then say that he strolls up to you, pulls out a sword, and runs you through with it.”
Ilmariel winced at the thought. The image of getting a sword stuck through her was too close to a memory.
“Now, you might accept that he is handsome, but would you really enjoy and like him after he stabbed you so that you were mortally wounded?”
After a moment of blinking, Ilmariel’s eyes lit up. “Ahhhhh… I see where you’re coming from. But still, the stars aren’t the ones that ‘ran you through’.”
“Oh, come on, really!” Sauron said with exasperation. “They are just lights!”
“Just lights?!” Ilmariel exclaimed incredulously.
“Well, the moon and sun are like stars, but you Elves don’t care about them in the least.”
“That is because the Elves awoke in the light of the stars, not the sun or moon. Additionally, the sun was a sign of the coming of Men, and all that rubbish.”
“Still, you can’t give me any grief for not finding stars special if you don’t have respect for things similar to them, and even for reasons that are practically identical to why I do not like the stars.”
“Yes, I can.”
“No, you can’t.”
“This is ridiculous,” said Ilmariel. “Just stop.”
Sauron looked disappointed. “You give up too easily. I could have gone on doing that for hours.”
Ilmariel looked at Sauron and shook her head, her brows furrowed. “And to think that you were the Dark Lord of Middle-earth…”
Sauron smirked. “In the flesh.”
“That’s a step up for you, hmm?”
“Hey, just because my symbol was a fiery Eye does not mean that was the form I took.”
Arching an eyebrow, Ilmariel looked back at Sauron, who then seemed to take a sudden interest in the grass. “But that [I[was the form you took, was it not?”
Sauron drew a deep breath, paused a minute, then nodded quickly. “Um… yeah, pretty much,” he said, keeping his eyes fixed on the ground.
Sauron was now quiet, and made no further comment about stars, or anything of the like. They continued down the path, Ilmariel pleased with the silence as she began to look for whomever it was they were supposed to meet.