*~*~*~*~DISCLAIMER: I own neither Ea, nor any of the characters or places J.R.R. Tolkein created within her bounds. Eru, although he is not only within the bounds of Tolkein’s universe (meaning that he, being the Middle Earth equivalent of God, also exists outside the bounds of Ea), is also NOT MINE. …But you knew that. Thanks to all my Reviewers! I love getting reviews (don’t we all?), and they really encourage me to write more. ~*~*~*~*
Ilmariel and Cirnil went back to the room nearer the rear of the house where they had been before, finding Sauron flopped haphazardly across one of the couches. His head hung over one of the armrests in a manner that looked rather uncomfortable, but it didn’t seem to bother him at all. In fact, from all the signs… he seemed to be asleep.
The two elves exchanged a glance, but said nothing aloud. For a moment, they stood somewhat awkwardly at the doorway, and then Cirnil hesitantly walked across the room and leaned over Sauron. He turned his head to Ilmariel, and whispered, very quietly…
“Did you think that Maiar could sleep? Especially this one?” he asked, thoughtfully rubbing the back of his neck.
“Not really…” Ilmariel replied, “but it isn’t as if I’ve come in contact with a lot of them in my life.”
With a slight nod, Cirnil looked down at Sauron again, still seeming quite perplexed. He was just beginning to stand upright when Sauron’s eyes suddenly flew open. As people who have been startled out of their sleep tend to do, the Maia let out something reminiscent of a strangled yell, and promptly slipped off the couch.
Ilmariel couldn’t help but laugh; when she tried to contain it, it only made her snort.
Cirnil looked quite afraid for a moment, glued to his spot. However, he quickly collected himself -more or less– and reached over to help Sauron back onto the couch from his spot on the floor. Once there, Sauron jerked his arm away from Cirnil’s hand and threw him a venomous glare. “What is wrong with you?” he hissed.
“You really were asleep…” Cirnil mused.
“No, you think?” Sauron replied incredulously. “Apparently you have a problem with that, though, wafting that elvish essence of yours around me,” he said, waving his hands in front of his face.
Still snickering, Ilmariel moved from the doorway and seated herself in an armchair across the room, watching the exchange with amusement.
“Oh, no, I don’t have a problem. Not at all!” Cirnil said, shaking his head, his eyes very wide.
“THEN WHY DID YOU WAKE ME UP?!”
Ilmariel raised a brow at this outburst. “Relax, Sauron. He didn’t mean to. We were both a bit surprised at the notion that you would be asleep, and Cirnil was merely establishing whether or not you actually were,” she explained.
Seeming to regain some of his cool, Sauron raised his head indignantly while crossing his arms. “What? You didn’t think that I could sleep?”
Ilmariel and Cirnil traded another look. Naturally, it was Ilmariel who answered. “Frankly, no.”
Ilmariel glanced off into space, a false look of pondering upon her face, frowning and rubbing her chin. “I seem to recall something about a lidless Eye and a sleepless malice —something along those lines. ” She waved her hand dismissively. “…Or maybe I was just thinking of another Sauron,” she ended, with a little shrug of her shoulders.
“Oh… that…” Sauron leaned back against the couch and slouched down, the angry energy he had seemed to have a moment ago draining away in seconds. “Yes, well, things were different then.” He closed his eyes again. “Very different.”
A silence of a rather uncomfortable sort fell over the room then. Ilmariel glanced at Cirnil, who was still standing just to one side of the couch, and still looking a bit tense. After a moment, however, Sauron slowly opened one eye a little and looked at Ilmariel. “And perhaps you didn’t notice, which would be amazing with the eyesight you Elves have, but I do happen to have eyelids now. Taken a step up in the world,” he said. “…Or down —Depends on how you look at it.”
There was a slight pause, and then Ilmariel chuckled softly. “Was that meant to be a joke, Sauron?”
Sauron looked at her as if he had no idea what she was talking about… but then an expression of comprehension crossed his face. “Oh, that thing with how you look at stuff?”
“No. But if it floats your boat to call it such, knock yourself out.”
Ilmariel shook her head, though she continued to smile. “Well, it was a lame one, but we’ll call it a joke despite the fact.”
Cirnil let out something of a shrill, nervous laugh, shifting his gaze quickly between Sauron and Ilmariel. Sauron then closed his eyes again and smiled slightly, seemingly more on account of Cirnil’s pathetic attempt at a laugh than from anything else.
“Wonders upon wonders…” Ilmariel remarked, feigning amazement. “A smile!”
“Come now, Ilmariel,” Sauron stated with false exasperation, “we’ve had this conversation before— I’m capable of smiling, laughing, and, although this would not necessarily have been true until recently, sleeping. Anything else you want to know?” He yawned loudly and slid further down the couch.
Ilmariel scratched her head a little, staring thoughtfully into space —That was quite the invitation.
“Some time this Age would be nice,” Sauron added.
“Well…” Ilmariel sighed, “at the moment, I can’t think of anything, so… no.”
Sauron repositioned himself so that he was now lying down, and then replied, “Good, because I don’t think I’d be able to keep myself awake long enough to tell you anything that could count as an answer.” There was another slight pause. “Oh, yes,” he said, although it was a bit muffled from the couch, “I need to go out tomorrow. Therefore, you will need to go out, so I suggest that you be ready.”
“Now, ah…” Ilmariel began, “–if I remember this correctly– it is you who are dependent upon me for allowing such an excursion to take place.”
“Well, you remember wrong.”
“No, no, no. They told me that if you want to go out somewhere, you need me to come. And whether or not we go is completely up to me. You can’t make decisions like that anymore,” Ilmariel stated, with just a hint of pride in her voice —just a hint.
There was a sigh, and Sauron turned over again so that he was facing her. “Look here, there are things that I need to get taken care of tomorrow, and I’m going to see to them whether you tag along or not.”
Ilmariel arched a brow, folding her hands behind her head. “Breaking the rules already, hmm?”
“Well, I don’t see why I should start following them now,” Sauron replied. “Still, I won’t have any reason to break them if you just do as I say and come along.”
Ilmariel gave a little huff. “I’m not one of your little slaves to command around, you know. If anything, it is a bit the other way around.”
There was a momentary flash in Sauron’s eyes, but it left very quickly. “…Don’t even say things like that,” he muttered.
Ilmariel shrugged. “I didn’t say it was a very good analogy; I was merely making the point that it is closer one way than the other.”
Sauron shook his head, seeming to have had quite enough of the conversation. “Just humor me and be ready to go in the morning.”
“What’s in it for me?” Ilmariel inquired, sitting up straight and crossing one of her long legs over the other.
“How about another day of my good will?”
“Your good will?” said Ilmariel with a curt laugh. “That might work for some people,” she continued, shaking her head, “but you are not one of them— it’s like telling me that you will just cut off my head instead of starving me to death.”
“Fine. I’ll just go out there by myself.”
“The punishments will be very severe if you break the rules,” Cirnil put in.
Sauron leaned forward. “Oh, really? What more are they going to do than what they already have? Hm?”
“What did they do to Morgoth?” Ilmariel inquired, arching a brow.
Sauron’s gaze shifted. He stared off into space for a moment, as if trying to grasp the whole of what that statement could ultimately imply. After a moment, his left eyebrow arched quite abruptly. He cleared his throat, leaning back again. “All right… Yes, they could do that. I see your point.” This statement seemed to imply that he was going to follow the rules …for a while, at least. “Okay, I obviously don’t have anything I can offer, so… what do you want me to do?”
“Grovel at my feet,” Ilmariel replied without a thought.
“No!” Sauron exclaimed, seeming initially to be more taken aback than angry at the suggestion. It seemed he was about to go on, but Ilmariel cut in.
“I was just kidding! Calm down.” She rolled her eyes slightly. “It’s not like I was asking you to go in a boat, or have tea with a Pherian. It was just one quick little bow.”
Sauron shook his head at her, seeming slightly appalled. “Groveling and bowing are completely different things.”
“Are they now?” Ilmariel asked, leaning back against the burgundy cushions of the armchair she sat on.
“Yes: Bowing is gesture of respect. Groveling is like worshipping somebody and degrading yourself at the same time.”
“And you would know,” Ilmariel added with a little smile, “because you’ve done a whole bunch of those things, right?”
Sauron frowned at her resentfully. “The bowing maybe, but not the groveling.”
“Okay, then…” Ilmariel sat up again, then leaned forward. “What if I ask you to bow to me? Would that be better?”
“No,” Sauron answered instantly.
“Well, why not?” Ilmariel queried innocently, as if she could not see any reason why he wouldn’t do such a thing. “You just got done telling me that you’ve bowed before, so I know you’re capable of it.”
“—Capable of doing it for somebody who’s worth it,” Sauron explicated the matter for her.
At this, Cirnil let out a laugh. However, he quickly stifled it when Ilmariel shot him a sharp glance. He cleared his throat, and added, “That was cold.”
“Good,” said Sauron. “I haven’t completely lost my touch.”
Ilmariel ran her tongue over her teeth, then cleared her throat. “Just in case you’re interested…” she said in a casual tone, “if you still want to get out of this house tomorrow, you are not helping your cause.”
Sauron seemed only then to remember where the whole conversation had started. “All right. Well, try again. And try something that actually has a possibility of happening this time, will you?”
“All right,” said Ilmariel. “Just give me a moment to think of something else.”
“Make it a quick moment,” Sauron replied. “I’m still tired.”
Ilmariel frowned. “Fine, I’ll come up with something in the morning. I’m seldom able to think up anything good when I’m being pressured into it.”
“Do you always feel like you’re being pressured into something?” Sauron asked as he began to slide into his former position.
Just as Ilmariel was about to snap back, Cirnil intervened. “If you’re up to it, you could get into a bed to sleep. You’d only have to stay awake long enough to make it upstairs.”
“All the way upstairs?” Sauron complained. Nonetheless, he dragged himself off the couch and made his way up to the second floor behind the elves with whom he now shared the dwelling.
Upon reaching the top of the staircase, Cirnil pointed out to Sauron the room that he and Ilmariel had decided would be his while he was at his trial. Sauron then immediately made his way in and tossed himself onto the bed, instantly closing his eyes. However, Ilmariel was not quite done. She stepped into the doorway and leaned against it. But before she spoke, she paused a moment… She couldn’t help but think that Sauron looked a bit out of place, with his insanely disheveled hair and clothes that looked like something a war refugee might have been seen in, against the dark green embroidered coverlet on the bed. Ilmariel tilted her head a bit to one side, pursing her lips. However, she quickly tired of the view. With a curt shrug of her shoulders, she proceeded to ask her next question, disturbing Sauron before he had a chance to really fall asleep.
“Why do you want to go out so badly, and why must it be tomorrow?”
At this, Sauron moaned and glanced up at her briefly before dropping his head back down on his pillow. “You’re still here?” he muttered into the fabric.
“Apparently. Now, answer the question.”
“Tomorrow,” said Sauron, still speaking into the pillow.
“No, now,” Ilmariel insisted.
Sauron grudgingly lifted his head off the pillow and turned towards her, propping himself up on one elbow. “Does it really matter?” he demanded in exasperation.
“Yes,” Ilmariel answered without hesitation. “Just tell me, and then you can sleep.”
There was a brief silence, but it seemed to be an ‘I give up’ silence rather than an ‘I’m just going to pretend that you aren’t there’ silence. At last, Sauron answered with a sigh, “Fine, if you must know… I want to get some different clothes.”
A grin slowly pulled itself over Ilmariel’s lips, twisting into a smirk soon after it arrived. “Interesting…” she mused. “So you’ve suddenly acquired a sense for fashion, eh?”
“No,” Sauron answered with a glare, “I just don’t want to be going around in this.” He gestured to his tunic, which was really in very poor condition— unraveling at the hem, and quite threadbare in some places, not to mention the fact that the color it had adopted was the closest thing to utterly nondescript that Ilmariel had ever seen… “Whatever shade this happens to be,” Sauron continued, “it is not fitting for a Dark Lord–” Ilmariel was about to break in here, but Sauron seemed to perceive that, and so spoke over her. “–or a once Dark Lord, so I’m going to try and find something else. Preferably something dark, as I’m more accustomed to it.”
Ilmariel rubbed her chin thoughtfully. “I don’t know why, but I have this odd feeling that you aren’t going to find black here. Might have something to do with everybody wearing pastel colors.. though I’m really going out on a limb there.”
Sauron rolled his eyes. “Did I say black? No. I don’t care if it’s black. I just want it to be dark, and I bet if I look enough I can find something dark. Okay? Enough talking! Now go and let me sleep, you annoying Elf!” And with this he turned his back to Ilmariel as a sign of the conversation’s end.
Ilmariel felt no need for the exchange to continue, having gotten what she wanted out of it. She therefore turned and headed back out into the hall. By this time, Cirnil had gone into his own room, and there was now a stream of light seeping out into the darkened hallway from under his door, upon which Ilmariel knocked. A moment later, the door opened, and Cirnil stood in the doorway.
“I was just going to tell you that our housemate had gone off to sleep, and that I will be going back downstairs for a bit,” said Ilmariel.
“All right,” Cirnil replied with a somewhat weary smile. He then yawned, covering his mouth with one hand. After muttering a perfunctory “Excuse me,” Cirnil blinked thoughtfully several times, and then exclaimed, softly, “Oh, my!”
Ilmariel arched a brow. “What?”
“I just realized that I haven’t slept since I woke up to sail for Mandos the morning before this last.”
“Oh, my…” Ilmariel echoed.
Cirnil looked over at the row of shelves, which were quickly becoming filled as the bottles and little sacks and boxes made their way onto them from the floor, on one side of his room, and Ilmariel took the opportunity to glance inside.
…Oh, my… she repeated yet again, inside her mind. …Such an… interesting method of organization…
Cirnil frowned for a moment, and then merely shrugged at the sight. He then turned back to Ilmariel, stating, “Well, I think I really must be getting to bed now. Goodnight, Ilmariel. And do be careful not to stay up too late. You’ll have a challenging morning tomorrow, I reckon.”
“Hmm… yes…” Ilmariel mused quietly to herself before saying a quick, “Goodnight.” to Cirnil, who nodded to her once, offering a parting smile, and then closed his door.
Ilmariel supposed then that she really ought to go to bed, seeing that it was now completely dark outside, and that the new day would more than likely bring a new set of ordeals for her to work through… However, she was not quite ready to sleep just yet. She walked down the hall, the gentle padding of her elvish feet against the hardwood barely detectable. As she went, she took the first of the candles that were mounted along the wall, which were still burning. After carefully blowing out the rest of the candles, she made her way to the staircase and tiptoed downstairs, heading off toward the study.
Unfortunately, Ilmariel had a tendency to allow time to slip by her when she was deeply engaged in something (as do many people), and it was not until the night was drawing to its close that she finally made her way back upstairs by the light of a waning candle, and snuggled down under the soft blankets of her own bed, finally drifting off into the first real sleep she’d experienced in nearly 4,500 years.