Cirnil led the way. The streets became less crowded and narrower as they went, allowing the lanes of grass to become wider. Everything was pleasant and peaceful. Ilmariel could tell that she was going to like it here.
The road was only a few feet wide when Cirnil finally turned one last corner, walking all the way to the end of the alley that was around the bend. “The buildings each have two homes, one in the front half and one in the back,” he explained as they went. “It was figured that having the back would be better, a bit more secluded from everybody else, if you know what I mean.”
“That was probably a good idea.”
“Yes, it probably was.”
Cirnil walked up to the door of the last building on the street and opened the it, standing aside for Ilmariel to enter. Slowly, she took a step inside, but she did not get much farther than a few feet…
Unlike her previous home, which had been very modestly furnished, she could already tell that this one was full of luxuries, many of which she had not known since leaving Hollin, and others that she had never experienced. Of course, living in a building was a bit different from living in a flet in a tree, so that might have had a bit to do with it; there was only so much you could put up in those.
Cirnil came in after her, shutting the door behind him. “It isn’t very much all told, but it should be large enough that, if you need to get some space, you should be able to find it without having to go out into the city. Nonetheless, there is a lawn just down the way a bit, so you could go there if you really wanted to.”
Ilmariel nodded, and then looked around the house a bit, very slowly, almost leery of it because of its size.
“The bedrooms are upstairs, if you care to know.”
Ilmariel quickly turned around to look at Cirnil. “Upstairs?”
“Yes, on the second story.”
“There is another level?” Ilmariel asked, blinking a couple times.
“Well, the rooms wouldn’t be up there if there wasn’t,” Cirnil replied.
This needed a moment of consideration. Yes, Ilmariel had realized that many of the buildings were quite large, and that they would likely have more than one floor; however, she had not really anticipated that she would be living somewhere like that herself. Very rarely had anybody had homes with more than one level, and Ilmariel had figured that only the most noble of their people, such as the Lady Galadriel or Master Elrond of Imladris, had homes like that. Although it had been large, not even the house of her uncle by oath, Celebrimbor, had two stories to it, and Ilmariel found the thought that she would now be living in such a place quite novel indeed.
Ilmariel just summed it up to compensation; she’d probably need all the room she could get, after all. She then decided that she felt like exploring a bit. After wandering through the lower portion of the house a while, she had discovered several larger rooms, one of which appeared to be the dinning room, and the rest really seeming to have no predetermined function, other than for, well… living. There was also a roomy kitchen, which, Ilmariel noted, had dark green marble for flooring.
Just off one of the larger rooms was a staircase, and, upon coming to it, Ilmariel decided that it was time for her to see the upper story. There were six large bedrooms upstairs, each of which she explored in turn. They were all quite nice, really.
…Nevertheless, she found that one particularly took her liking.
The floors were of wide boards of oak, like those of the other rooms upstairs. A fluted post of dark wood rose from each corner of the large bed, which was centered on the wall opposite the room’s entrance, and sheer fabric was draped as a canopy above the bed, trailing down over each post. The coverlet was dark blue, and the white pillowcases were embroidered with an intricate pattern of blue flowers. There was a tall dresser in the room also, as well as a vanity, with a mirror framed in molded silver. Beside the bed was a nightstand, which had a drawer that could be locked (the key was sitting in plain view atop the stand) —that could come in handy if she ever wanted to start a journal, or something of that sort.
All in all, the room was quite spectacular. But for all its elegant charm, it was not this room that caught her fancy so especially, so much as what lay beneath it. Pushing open the twin panes of the east-side window, clear glass stained with a pattern of blue irises, Ilmariel was met with the smell of lilac bushes, which she saw growing beneath her. With the lilac aroma mixed another fragrance, soft and sweet, and, as it reached her, Ilmariel noticed the little, yellow flowers blooming all about the bush. From where she now stood, the blossoms reminded her faintly of elanor. It was this that Ilmariel so adored about the room— that it reminded her of old home in Lórien. She knew this was her home now; here, it felt like home.
As Ilmariel stood there at the window, her eyes closed with pure, simple delight, she heard a knocking sound behind her, and turned. In the open doorway stood Cirnil, a soft smile upon his face. Ilmariel breathed a sigh, having been slightly startled.
“Forgive me if I startled you, Ilmariel.” Cirnil paused a moment, and then his smile widened. “I couldn’t help but notice that you seem to have… taken a liking to this,” he ended, gesturing to the room.
Ilmariel did not reply, but bit her lip slightly, looking out the window again.
“It’s yours, then,” said Cirnil, “if you want it.”
Ilmariel looked back at Cirnil, grinning. “I would like that very much.”
“I thought you would,” Cirnil replied. “Did you see those chests in the hall?”
“Yes, I think so.”
“I believe they have some clothes in them, if you care to look.”
Ilmariel considered it, and then shrugged. “All right.”
The chests did indeed contain clothes. Or at least one of them did. The other seemed to consist mainly of spare linens and such. But it was clothes that Ilmariel was interested in, as she had just realized that she did not really have any, aside from what she was wearing at the moment.
Sorting through the contents of the second chest, Ilmariel frowned at what she found— dresses. Everything she had come across so far was a gown of some sort or another, and this was rather disappointing. She was appreciative of the consideration of whomever had thought to supply such things for her –it would’ve had to have been her they had in mind, as obviously neither Cirnil nor Sauron would be wearing any such things …Ilmariel quickly left that thought– nevertheless, she did not much care for wearing dresses herself. Not usually, at least. …But what was this?
“Ah! Now, that’s more like it!” said Ilmariel, holding up what she thought at first to be a shirt.
“…I believe that is supposed to be an undergarment of sorts,” Cirnil, who had been standing silently by, commented.
Ilmariel looked at the garment, made of a smooth, white fabric covered with a layer of delicate lace, and frowned. Yes, she knew that such things were worn as undergarments, but she had never really understood why someone would want to wear something so fine in such a way that it would not be seen.
“Not anymore,” Ilmariel responded to Cirnil’s statement, laying the garment to one side of the chest. As she began looking again, she had a thought… Perhaps the whole point of such a thing as that shirt was that it was something special, which only the wearer could appreciate. …Yes, that was it.
When Ilmariel was finished, she had accumulated a small but sufficient stack of clothing. This she carried into her room –it was her room, now– and set it down on a chair in one corner. As she walked back out into the hallway, something else occurred to her.
“What about you?” she asked Cirnil. “I’m sure you have things of your own.”
“Yes, of course, but I’ve taken care of all that already. Everything is packed; I have only to move it here. I could go do that now, in fact, if you think you’ll be all right alone here for a bit.”
“Oh, certainly. I’ll be fine.”
Cirnil nodded. “All right,” he said, heading towards the stairs. Then, he paused. “Have you seen the library?”
Ilmariel blinked. “Library?”
“Yes, the study has quite a collection of books.”
…Library? …Books? …..!! An excited grin spread over Ilmariel’s face. “No, I haven’t seen it,” she said, “…but I think I shall.”
Cirnil smiled. “Come, I’ll show you.”
…It was just as Cirnil had said, and Ilmariel was even more excited when she saw it. There were so many! Two whole walls of the room were covered in books! Ilmariel loved books, although she had not read many (for an Elf, at least) in her lifetime. Her father had loved to read, and it was this, Ilmariel thought, that had kindled her own hunger for literature. Nevertheless, she had let her habit of reading books drop when she was rather young.
…It seemed that she was about to pick it up again.
* * * * *
Sauron was displeased with himself. He could not remember the last time he had said or done something that was helpful to anyone other than himself, and he had just ruined his record. He was not very fond of ruining things …well, not his own things, at least. He could really care less about ruining things for other people. In fact, that had been one of his highest priorities for a very long time.
It was all that stupid she-Elf’s fault. If only she was more cheery and light-hearted, like Cirnil …or at least a bit happy, like most elves. Then, there would not really be any problems. However, Sauron was not used to handling elves with attitudes like Ilmariel’s, and it had tripped him up and made him have a brain lapse.
Unfortunately, he realized, he had been in a lapse since practically the moment he’d gotten out of Mandos. He had even gone so far as to tell that stupid Elf that he did not really feel like killing her. That is one of those things that Dark Lords simply are not supposed to tell people; one keeps those things secret. If people think that they are in a situation where their welfare is at stake, they will comply with just about anything. However, if they get the impression that they are not really in too much danger, they tend to get out of hand.
Sauron did not like not having control; in fact, it bothered him immensely. This had, in all probability, greatly influenced him in getting into the business of world domination in the first place. He needed to have control of everything, so he could order it as he saw fit. Now, however, things were completely out of his hands, and, to be quite frank, it was driving him nuts. He contemplated whether or not this was what was making him act so oddly— that he had not even a smidgen of authority.
Everything just kept going downhill. Nothing ever looked up for him. Sauron figured he should have guessed that, just when he thought he had finally triumphed, the tides would turn and he would be defeated. That was what had always happened in the past, without exception. And, just to add insult to injury, it always had to be in some exceedingly degrading way (as Feanor had pointed out).
I have to have the worst luck of anybody, ever, he thought to himself as they walked under the arch, completely convinced that no one in history had it worse off than him. However, after a moment of reflection, he supposed that Turin might have been apportioned a bit worse. Still, at least he was able to die and just get it over with. Sauron did not actually know what happened to Men when they died, but he figured it would have to be better than what he was in for.
He distinctly remembered when Morgoth was sentenced to three ages completely alone in Mandos. …Well, actually, he had not known the details for a very long time. Still, he had thought that being taken prisoner would logically be followed by some kind of imprisonment. Morgoth had told Sauron all about it once he returned, of course. The Dark Lord had never really been the same after that, though; he’d always seemed to be… a bit off. But then, Sauron figured, having three ages with only oneself for company could easily do that to a person. That being the case, he was none too keen on seeing what would happen to him.
He had not been too keen on the idea two ages ago, when Morgoth had been overthrown and Eonwe had come to take him to be brought before the Valar, either. By this time, however, his list of horrific deeds had grown over twofold, and what he had been afraid to receive back then would probably look pretty nice compared to what he was in for now.
Besides the fact that he dreaded the outcome of the trial, seeing ages upon ages spent here forced to “heal the hurts” that he had caused the world, there was the fact that he was completely and utterly terrified of the Valar. After that last battle with Morgoth, Sauron had really repented for a while, if only because he had been scared stiff, having forgotten their power and grandeur. And, by now, he had all but forgotten again; nevertheless, he remembered that it must have been great for him to have reacted the way he had.
To make matters worse, of the Ainur, he was of the lesser degree, a Maia. Additionally, as that stupid elleth had pointed out, he had served another before Morgoth —Aule was definitely not going to be pleased with him.
Sauron felt sick to his stomach, much worse than he had felt on the boat. It was absolutely wonderful, he thought, that he finally had something that could actually be called a body– for the first time in a long while –and now he only felt soggy, and cold, and nauseous. It was simply delightful.
Although he had never been in Valinor before, he knew that they were very close to that Mahanaxar thing. He could feel it… a change in the air, which did not do anything good for his nerves. Hurriedly, he tried to rid himself of his anxieties, so that he could have some semblance of dignity before them. He strove to work up some of that pride he had always held, so that, hopefully, they would not realize how apprehensive he was. Such an appearance would not be well liked; however, he knew that he was already doomed, and figured that it would not really make much difference how he acted. Given a choice, he would rather appear undaunted.
Another arch was before them now, this one gated. As they neared it, the gate pulled back (although there did not seem to be anyone around to open it). With the light that issued forth, Sauron felt a throb of power that just about made him gag.
“…I’m guessing we’re there,” he said softly.
The elves turned around but did not reply. “Stay here,” one of them commanded with a threatening glare (which, honestly, did not make Sauron feel especially threatened).
The two elves then walked under the arch. Sauron considered going on as well, if only to irritate them, but then decided that he needed a moment more to put up his facade. He closed his eyes and drew a deep breath. As he stood there, he could hear voices speaking, and he waited for the imminent summon for him to enter.
…He did not have to wait long.
He only half recognized the voice that spoke.
“Bring him in.”