In the distance, slightly to the right, there was another city as large as Tirion. This one, however, was not condensed upon a hill, but spread throughout the valley. This city emanated a certain glow, as Ilmariel had noted about the other; yet, she sensed that here the energy was greater, even though it was still a ways away.
“Valmar,” Cirnil said, noticing what Ilmariel was looking at, “the city of the Valar. We will be there in twenty minutes, I’d say, at the pace we are going now.”
“What will we do when we get there?” Ilmariel inquired
“Well, Voronwe and Ringil were the escorts, so they will bring him before the Valar in Mahanaxar.”
“Mahanaxar,” Ilmariel repeated. “That is where Morgoth was sentenced, is it not?” At her words, Sauron visibly shuddered, and it was the closest thing to a full body shudder that can seize a person without causing him or her to truly break stride.
“Yes, the Ring of Doom,” Cirnil answered.
Did you hear that, Sauron? Ilmariel thought to herself as loudly as she could, hoping that Sauron would have no choice but to listen. You just can’t seem to get away from those Rings of Doom, can you?
After a mental sound of irritation, Sauron responded. Do you remember what I said to you earlier?
Mmm… vaguely. Something about head smashing and getting annoyed.
Yes, well, this would be one of those times when it would be wiser not to intentionally provoke me.
Hmm… You’re stressed, aren’t you, Sauron.
Yes, frankly, a bit. What was your first clue?
Just an educated guess, Ilmariel replied. Anyway, given that there is a pair of armed guards between us, I am not overly concerned for my personal safety just now.
Errrgh… niggling little wench.
Wow, Sauron… Is that the best you could do? I honestly thought you were a bit more creative.
Just shut up, okay? It would be to your benefit.
Well, if it benefits me… She stopped there, and Sauron did not make any reply, so there was peace for a while (for one of them, at least).
Soon, Ilmariel was able to tell that they were going downwards, and the glow ahead of them became obscured by the hills. There were other signs that made it apparent that they were close. The path ahead changed from short grass to perfectly laid stone, and then to gold. Voronwe and Ringil, as Cirnil had called them, stopped here to tidy themselves up a bit, pulling their cloaks about them in a more formal fashion.
“Is there anything I should be doing?” Ilmariel asked, glancing down at her own clothes, when even Cirnil brushed his tunic. Her plain, slightly faded white tunic and brown leggings were anything but formal, and she was wondering just what would be required of her.
“No, there is really no need. I do not think that you will be called to go before them, today. Were it otherwise, you probably would have had time to get cleaned up. They must, however, since they will be going in.”
During all this, Sauron stood impatiently waiting, having walked a little ahead, folding up the gray blanket that he had held around him all the time up till now. He still looked a bit damp… just then the hem of his tunic dripped a few forlorn drops to emphasize the point. Frowning at the two elves that were still tugging at their tunics and yanking on their cloaks, he sighed.
“I am just going to go on alone if you two don’t hurry up.”
The elves looked at him with surprise. “You can’t go ahead of us,” one said matter-of-factly while sitting on the ground, re-lacing his boots.
Sauron leaned forward, and then whispered. “Watch me.”
With that, he turned about and continued down the path. After a few steps, however, he paused and faced them again. “I had a thought… Catch, Ilmariel.” He tossed the blanket to the Elven-maid, who reflexively held out her hands, although she instantly regretted having done so. The blanket was soaked, and water gush out all over her as she caught it.
“Can’t be going to a trial holding a blanket.” Sauron spoke steadily, although the thought obviously discomforted him.
By the time he was walking again, Voronwe and Ringil had finished, and were hurrying to catch up with him, not looking at all pleased (which, Ilmariel reflected, was probably Sauron’s point in doing it). It was only a few minutes afterwards that the hills suddenly spread apart, the plain opening up before them. At first, it appeared that there was nothing different; however, Ilmariel presently became aware of something that could not be seen, but was felt, which made it seem even grander. The whole scene surrounding them was flooded with a golden luminosity that could not be completely attributed to the sun.
They continued on without pausing any further, not even allowing Ilmariel a moment to soak it in. She thought that this was very unfair, as she had never been in such a place before, unlike the others. Although she did not know how long he had been “good,” and thus could not really assume that he had been here, Ilmariel figured that Sauron could really care less.
There were many people around, but they seemed to be out simply on everyday errands. Ilmariel was very glad of that, thinking that if people were able to connect her to Sauron it might make it rather tricky to fit in. But, then again… she had never been much one for “fitting in.” A few people greeted Cirnil as they made their way, but none spoke a word to Voronwe or Ringil. Ilmariel figured that it must have been some unspoken rule that they, obviously on business, were not to be bothered.
The road suddenly became broader ahead, passing under an arch in a wall and disappearing into whatever lay beyond. Ilmariel was ready to go on, but they stopped. One of the other elves– Ilmariel was still unsure as to which one was which –spoke to Cirnil in Quenya again, and this irritated Ilmariel quite a bit. She knew that they could speak Sindarin; they had spoken it earlier! She rolled her eyes, wondering just what it was they felt they could not share with her.
He says that Cirnil is to bring you to the house you will have here, and that we will be going ahead.
Ilmariel looked up at Sauron with surprise. …Thanks, she thought, a bit baffled.
Anytime. There was a pause. Well, not any time… in fact, that was probably just an isolated incident, and you should not expect anything of the sort to happen ever again, Sauron finished speedily.
For once, Ilmariel kept herself from smiling. Sauron looked about ready to slap himself for having actually said something helpful; however, he did not get the opportunity to do so, as it seemed that by now the guard had given all the information that Cirnil required. He and his colleague started towards the arch, pushing Sauron forward along with them. Cirnil then turned to Ilmariel, and smiled.
“Well, that’s taken care of now,” he said. “Would you like to see where you will be living?”
Ilmariel nodded slowly, and they turned down a street to their left, leaving the busy road.