*~*~* DISCLAIMER: I do not own Middle Earth, Valinor, or any of J.J.R. Tolkein’s characters. They are, obviously, his. See? Of course you do. *~*~*
Roughly three-quarters of an hour after Cirnil departed, Ilmariel found herself reclining in a chair (one not really intended for such use), her feet propped up on the study’s large desk immersed in a book of short stories. It was not so much the subject that had first caught her interest, as the idea that elvish authors had actually written short stories —she had not known that to be the case.
She was in the middle of unraveling another part of the mystery she had begun somewhere in the middle of, when she heard a loud thud in some other corner of the house. Startled, Ilmariel tilted the chair a bit too far back, consequently toppling over with it, and winced as the back of her head collided with the marble floor (which, of course, had not so much as a thin throw rug on this particular spot).
Groaning, Ilmariel sat and rubbed her head for a moment before remembering what had led to her present situation. She quickly got to her feet, righting the overturned chair, and made her way out of the study, carrying her book along with her, although she had lost her place in it when she spilled out of her chair.
Upon entering the main hall, she found Cirnil standing near the doorway, waving a short farewell to someone who was beyond Ilmariel’s range of vision from where she now stood. Two sizable chests, one considerably larger than the other, sat in just inside the room. Ilmariel noticed that the handle nearest her of the larger trunk had broken off on one side. …Well, that explained the bump she’d heard.
Cirnil turned about, closing the door, and greeted Ilmariel with a genial smile. “Well,” he said, “I see you’ve been reading. Enjoying yourself so far, I hope.”
Ilmariel nodded, rubbing the back of her head, which was still sore. “Yes, thank you.” She flashed him a slim smile, and then gestured to the chests. “Need a hand with those?”
“That would be very nice, thank you.”
The smaller chest they hefted up the stairs with little trouble, depositing it in the room that Cirnil had chosen for himself. Getting the larger chest to the upper story would have proven more challenging, however, since, as Ilmariel had noted, one of the handles was broken. Rather, they decided to simply carry up its contents bit by bit. The trunk was filled with all kinds of pouches and glass bottles, all set in long rows of what looked like spice racks of various sizes, presumably to keep them from being damaged in transit. Between the two of them, Cirnil and Ilmariel had the whole business done in a very short time. Cirnil’s things were not exactly put away, but he said that he would see to that later, following Ilmariel as she headed back downstairs.
Ilmariel’s foot had just touched the landing at the base of the staircase when they heard the door open. She glanced at Cirnil, who looked from the opening between the room they were now in and the one next to it, and then back to Ilmariel, giving a shrug that seem to say, “Well, there’s nothing to be done about it.”
Ilmariel cocked her mouth a bit to one side in a sort of half-smile/half-grimace, and then shrugged, taking the way she and Cirnil had just traversed a dozen or so times back to the front of the house.
The light was very poor in the front hall, most of it coming from a window high on the wall opposite the door, and then from the open door itself. It was now early evening, and the three figures that stood at the doorway appeared as nothing more than shadows. Nevertheless, Ilmariel had no doubts as to who they were. One of the figures shoved the third into the room, thereby cluing Ilmariel in as to which one was Sauron. Cirnil went to the door and talked to the other two, who remained outside for a moment while Sauron came in a bit more.
“So… how did it go?” Ilmariel inquired a bit tentatively, unable to see Sauron’s expression, and therefore incapable of judging what sort of a statement would be best.
Her question elicited nothing further than an ambiguous grunt.
“Now, would that be good, or bad?” she asked quietly.
“That would be bad,” Sauron responded in a flat, almost hollow-sounding voice, his expression one of near total apathy.
Ilmariel was a bit surprised that she had even gotten any words out of him, considering that things had apparently not gone well. She had not really thought that there was any way they could have gone well, but she was not certain. Sauron was pretty twisted, so she supposed there was some possibility that he might have thought the matter had gone fairly well.
“Where’s a chair?” Sauron asked blankly.
With a slight frown, Ilmariel pointed back the way she and Cirnil had just come.
“Go down to the end, and then to the right. I’m not sure from there… Just check in the doorways and look for one.”
Silence followed her words as Sauron moved off slowly in search of the chair. Ilmariel’s frown remained for a moment as she looked after him, for she felt a slight twinge of concern at his languid demeanor. However, she was not able to follow and make sure he found a chair, as, just as her foot had left the ground, Cirnil called her over.
After a moment’s hesitation, Ilmariel turned on her heal and walked over to the little group, waiting expectantly. “Yes?”
Cirnil pointed to the Elf on the left. “Ringil is going to tell you what happened at the trial— what sort of things were put in place, and what you’ll need to do.”
Ilmariel shifted her gaze from Cirnil and looked at Ringil, who wasted no time getting to the point. “They decided that no one is to be informed of his true identity. He, nor we four, may speak a word of it to anybody, for any reason.”
“That won’t be difficult.” It was not as if she had planned on spreading the word to everybody.
Ringil looked at Voronwe. “What other ones would she have to know?”
Voronwe frowned for a second, but then his eyes lit up. “He cannot handle anything that could be a weapon.”
Ilmariel nodded slowly. “Does that mean he cannot use dinner knives, or anything like that?” she asked, as more of a joke.
Ringil and Voronwe seemed to take her seriously, though, and exchanged a glance that made it obvious they were uncertain. “We’ll get back to you on that,” Voronwe replied. “Until then, no.”
Ilmariel raised an eyebrow, but did not voice her opinion that such a rule might have been a bit over the top. “Okay. What else?”
“Any time he wants or needs to leave the house, you must accompany him.”
Ilmariel turned this statement over a couple times in her head. “So, whether or not he goes out is left to my discretion?”
An impish smirk attempted to turn at the corners of Ilmariel’s lips, but she did what she could to subdue it while the others were present. “Is that all?”
“While the ban on his leaving here without you is probably what will impact you the most, there is one other thing that it would be good for you to know.”
“And what would that be?” Ilmariel queried, although she was still pondering all the mean things she could make Sauron do if he ever wanted to leave the house.
“If he ever makes any threat that involves his powers, don’t believe him.”
That was a bit on the vague side …or maybe it just seemed vague since she had only been paying half-attention. “What?”
“He cannot hold that over you anymore.”
Ilmariel’s brow furrowed with questions. That last answer seemed no clearer than the first. “How is that possible? Even though he’s been overthrown and all that…” she shook her head. “Surely he still is more powerful than I am?”
“He was, yes,” Ringil said, “but the Valar put a block over his powers.”
Ilmariel blinked a few times, staring at Ringil. She looked at Voronwe, and then at Cirnil, and finally turned back to Ringil. “So, what exactly…?” she trailed off.
“A block. They made it so any advantage he had over you in that way is unusable. At least, for now.”
Ilmariel shook her head, squinting quizzically at Ringil. “How?”
Ringil shrugged. “It is not our place to know how they do these things. We only know that they did so. We thought that it would be wise to tell you, so that he couldn’t try to force you into anything using that as leverage.”
“And also to explain why he won’t have it all together for the next couple of days,” Voronwe added.
Ringil smirked. “Yes, we had quite a time just getting him back here, and it isn’t that long of a walk.”
“No, only about thirty-five minutes, and he was just about collapsing on the roadside!”
“Got quite a few stares at that.” Ringil nudged Voronwe with his elbow. “I think some people must have thought he’d had a bit too much miruvor, or something.”
“That happens every once a while. Terrible habit some of the people who come over from Middle-earth picked up while they lived there,” Voronwe said, shaking his head slightly in a sad fashion.
Ilmariel glanced away thoughtfully, remembering her experiences at the occasional gatherings of border guards which sometimes took place after a watch, and that smirk that had been threatening to appear slipped over her lips. This time, though, she figured, it would be all right for her to let it show. While she had never been a drinker of any sort of alcohol herself… Well, she had seen some pretty sad things.
“But that isn’t his problem, of course,” Ringil continued, interrupting Ilmariel’s thoughts. “He is just exceptionally tired.”
“It’s to be expected, though, after what the Valar did to him,” Voronwe clipped in.
“Indeed it is. He’ll get over it soon enough, though. I dare say you might think too soon!” Ringil added, with a wink.
“I see…” Ilmariel responded slowly, still pondering over all the things she wanted to know, knowing that she would likely never get the answers to many of them.
“Well, I’m sure you two have other things that you must see to today,” Cirnil broke in. “Thank you for your help.” He smiled, and Voronwe and Ringil bowed slightly in farewell. The two of them then went out into the alley again, leaving Cirnil to shut the door behind them.
Once he had the door shut, Cirnil turned to look at Ilmariel. “Did you get all that?” he asked, his head tilted slightly.
“Yes, I think so.”
“It’s been a bit much, I’m sure. You’ve been out of the Halls –what, a day now? And already you’ve had all of this happen? Today will have been the worst of it, though. Life will get a rhythm soon, and things will ease out.”
Ilmariel smiled at this, realizing for the first time that all this had happened in little more than a single day. It was a lot, now that she thought about it. …Then, she remembered Sauron.
“Do you think he’s all right?” she asked Cirnil, glancing down the hallway.
“I suppose we had better check on him and see how he’s doing,” Cirnil replied. “It wouldn’t do for us to be standing here and have him laying out on the floor somewhere.”