Ilmariel set down the pile of clothes that she had been leafing through, and stood up straight, blinking a few times. When she looked around the shop, the only other person she saw was Sauron.
This required a few more blinks.
“Was that you…?” she asked.
Sauron did not answer. Instead, he held something up. “I win!” he exclaimed happily.
Ilmariel looked at what he was holding and grinned. Lo and behold, it was the previously unseen darkly dyed tunic. She would not go so far as to say that finding it granted the title of winning, but it didn’t really matter. She was just glad to finally be making some progress.
“It’s the darkest thing I’ve seen all day!” Sauron continued gleefully. “Granted, it isn’t black; but it’s close enough. Ha! I knew there had to be something out there!”
Sauron looked amazingly happy while snatching up the few articles of clothing that were darker colors. Ilmariel found it to be much nicer having him happy, rather than sullen …though it was still a bit creepy. After all, it was just clothes. Then again, Ilmariel reflected, it seemed that most of the time things did not Sauron’s his way. So, when something did turn out for him, he might as well enjoy it while it lasted.
They found the shop owner, and paid the money for the clothes. Ilmariel was a bit surprised with how little of the coinage they had brought needed to be used for these. It made her feel quite rich, actually, but she tried to keep it from going to her head.
Once that was done, they headed back to the house, both in quite better moods than they had been several minutes earlier. As they walked along, however, Ilmariel couldn’t help but remember that curious noise she had heard in the shop. “So…” she began slowly, not wanting her question to knock Sauron off his cloud, “you’re happy now?”
“Yes, sadly,” Sauron admitted. “If anybody back in M-” He seemed to realize that what he was going to say was not anything that should be heard by the people around, and so, after dragging out the sound for a couple seconds, continued. “-my lands had seen me getting pleased over clothes, I’d probably lose nearly all the respect I had.”
“Well, you aren’t there anymore, so it doesn’t make any real difference,” stated Ilmariel. “And, here, it would be better to be wanting a good appearance than the other way around.”
“As if I care about your respect,” said Sauron, after a little, derisive huff.
Ilmariel did not really consider what Sauron had said, as she was trying to figure out the proper way with which to present the question she wanted to ask. “…Did you make that noise back in the shop?”
Well, that wasn’t quite as tactful as she had wanted to be. Then again, she never had been good at beating around the bush, always a bit too blunt for her own good. She saw no reason to stop now.
“What noise?” Sauron asked.
At this, Sauron cocked an eyebrow. “Um… No, I don’t.”
“Come on, you don’t have to pretend that you don’t know.”
“Seriously, I have no idea what you’re talking about!” Sauron insisted. “What noise?”
Ilmariel was starting to think that Sauron really did not know what she was referring to. He looked genuinely confused. “That squeal.”
“A squeal?” Sauron asked, looking even more confused.
“Are you suggesting that I squealed?” Strangely enough, Sauron actually looked a little amused by the implication, rather than angered by it.
“Honestly, do you think that I would squeal? I don’t think you all have rubbed off on me that much yet.”
“There was no one in there, besides you and me, though.”
“Then it was probably you.”
Ilmariel frowned. “No, I had no reason to make any such sound. You were the one who had ‘won’,” she said, pointing to the clothes that Sauron was now carrying under his arm.
Sauron did not reply, and Ilmariel could just about hear the gears turning inside his head. Apparently, this last argument that she made had hit something home. Sauron cursed, causing Ilmariel to flinch slightly. “I can’t believe this!” he exclaimed. “I’ve been here for a day, and I squealed?! This can’t be happening!” He looked about ready to rip out his hair. “I have to do something bad.”
This last statement immediately sent a spark of warning through Ilmariel’s mind. “What?”
“Bad. I need to do something bad, now.”
“No, no, no,” said, Ilmariel, waving one of her hands. “No, you don’t.”
“Yes, I do,” Sauron persisted. “I’m slipping. It’s completely unacceptable.”
“No!” Ilmariel hissed as she pulled him away from the sides of the road, where the prospects of doing something wicked were very high. “You can’t do anything bad! That’s why you’re here.”
“No,” Sauron said, glowering at the Elf, “I’m here because I, like a silly ass, did not think to put guards around the one place where my power could be destroyed. Had I considered that a bit more thoroughly, I assure you that I would not be here.” At this, Sauron paused a moment, frowning thoughtfully. “Well… I might be, if I had gotten powerful enough. That’s besides the immediate fact, however.”
“Don’t do anything,” Ilmariel urged. “I swear, you will not be happy if you do.”
Sauron rolled his eyes. “When am I ever happy? Won’t be much of a change.”
“You seemed to be happy a couple minutes ago,” the Elf pointed out.
“Well, I am not happy now, and that is all that matters. Come on, I need to do something. Let go of my sleeve.”
“Please?” Sauron implored.
Though she was slightly taken-aback by this, Ilmariel did not let it get the better of her. “No,” she stated resolutely.
Sauron thought for a moment, and then seemed to give up. “Fine. You’re absolutely no fun at all. You’re a complete stiff.”
“Whatever,” Ilmariel replied flatly.
There was no response to this, and the rest of the short walk to the house was completed in silence.
* * * * * * *
Ilmariel sat down with a sigh. Hopefully, being so tired was just part of getting used to being alive again. After all, she had gone a very long time without ever needing to sleep, so all of this was quite a shift for her. Still, before she died, she had been accustomed to working on very little sleep, since she had often performed her duties as a member of Lothlorien’s border patrol during the night. She was sure that she’d adjust quickly.
Sauron sat in a chair across from her. His face was painted with a smug grin, which made Ilmariel suspicious. “What?” she asked. “You just got done telling me that you weren’t happy.”
“I wasn’t,” Sauron stated, “but I fixed that problem.”
That didn’t sound good at all. “What did you do?” Ilmariel asked, narrowing her eyes.
Setting his new clothes down upon the table, Sauron unfolded them to reveal that inside was a trove of various things. Most of the stuff was jewelry. And most of the jewelry was rings.
Ilmariel felt her mouth drop open slightly, but could do nothing about it. “Sauron…” she said in a menacing tone. Yet, the Maia’s smile only broadened.
“I told you I had to do something. Since you were watching over me most of the time, this was all that I could pull off.”
“How?” Ilmariel asked, setting her head in her hands. This was all she needed.
“Simple pick pocketing stuff. Nothing really difficult.”
“How can you pick rings off people?” Ilmariel inquired, actually quite interested. That would be a trick to do without anybody noticing.
“Oh, those?” said Sauron as he poked at the rings. “Well, I just swiped them all off a stand. You let your guard down too many times, I must say.”
“Mmhmmm…” Ilmariel pursed her lips as she stared thoughtfully down at the jewelry on the table, speaking more to herself than to Sauron. “It will not happen again.” She then looked up at Sauron. “Why did you do this?” she asked.
“I already explained it to you,” Sauron said as he began to look over the objects. “I had to even the score with myself; this is how I chose to do that.”
“You could not simply let it go?”
“Mmm… No. Too important.”
While Ilmariel tugged a little on two of her braids, Sauron shoved a couple of the rings onto his fingers, and then sighed unhappily. “Oh, now what?” Ilmariel asked crossly.
Sauron held his hands out in front of himself and frowned. “I miss my Ring.”
Allowing herself to act upon impulse yet again, Ilmariel rolled her eyes. “Get over it!” she exclaimed. “It’s gone, for Elbereth’s sake! It was just a piece of enhanced jewelry anyway.”
“Enhanced with my spirit!” Sauron cried, smacking his hands down on the table to stress the point.
“Oh, and whose idea was that?” Ilmariel quipped back. “It’s your own fault that it’s gone, so you might as well suck it up and forget about it. It melted, and is probably now mingled with a couple square meters of solid rock. As for your power, I neither know nor care what happened to that. But it’s gone and done, so stop complaining!” She slouched down in her chair and crossed her arms, adopting an expression that just dared Sauron to say something back.
While he did glare at her, the Maia made no reply at the moment. Instead, he rose from his seat, gathering all of his things from the table—or, at least, all of them but one. This one he held without Ilmariel’s knowledge, and, at the right moment, threw it right at her head, hitting the mark squarely.
When the ring struck her forehead, Ilmariel cursed in a way that surprised Sauron, who did not wait around long even though he seemed slightly amused by this sudden show of colorful language from the Elf. Ilmariel rubbed the heel of her hand against her forehead, wondering if it was dented. She tried to get up quickly to catch that bothersome Maia; however, she wasn’t quite quick enough.
Unwilling to waste too much energy over it, Ilmariel flopped back down onto the chair, and set to thinking up something she could do for revenge.
It wasn’t really the best example to set, but Ilmariel could do nothing for that. She would not just let him get away with doing such things! Oh no, she could play that game. All her life, Ilmariel had been one to settle scores, and she wasn’t about to make this time an exception to the rule. And, this time, she even had a reason beyond simple revenge: Sauron had committed a crime. He had to be punished for stealing all that jewelry anyway.
Leaning back in her chair, Ilmariel considered what she should do. Doubtless there were many prospects. Still, she didn’t want to go overboard. While she examined her options for the best plan of action, she unconsciously sought out the certain section of her hair that she had earlier left in a less than satisfactory state, and began to set it right.
…Then, she had it. There was still that half-hearted promise about the hair waiting. Ilmariel had held up her own end of the bargain—perhaps it was time for Sauron to hold up his.