Annatar stepped quietly into the smithy of Ost-in-Edhil in Eregion. He felt no need of stealth but…
“Annatar. Come see,” called the clear voice of an elf.
On the other hand, with some elves, stealth was useless. He had hoped to find Celebrimbor here but the voice was that of his cousin, Morfindel. These two were the last of Feanor’s grandsons remaining in Middle Earth and great friends. For three hundred years Annatar watched their good natured rivalry as they goaded each other to greater and greater works. Celebrimbor came out the better nine times in ten, but Morfindel came such a close second and in the smithing of bells he had no equal. The idea of ensnaring one or both possessed Annatar’s thoughts continually. Catch the lesser and use him to persuade the greater? Perhaps, and then the rest will follow.
The elf wore a sleeveless tunic, leggings and boots all of leather treated to extinguish sparks and hot spatters of metal, as did most elven smiths when working at the forge. His long black hair trailed down his back in a single braid, secured at the end with a narrow leather thong. A wide brow band absorbed sweat and kept stray hairs out of his eyes. Many Elvish craftsmen had the odd trait that their hair was seldom all of one length. They used their hair for bow strings, fletching arrows, forming designs for objects of art or as thread. Morfindel had this trait in the extreme. His hair was of a color and texture much in demand, and he gave it freely to any who asked him, though he gave no more than they needed. Once Annatar had tried to serve as middle man, but Morfindel only laughed at him, saying anyone who needed a hair was welcome to it and he would not sell it for any price. In the absence of his wife, Morfindel used sections of hair at random and convenience, not caring about the effect on his appearance, the tresses around his face being of several uneven lengths and a braid within the braid reserved for bowstrings. And yet, Annatar observed, no one mocked him but rather treated him with all the more affection for his generosity, and some few even attempted to imitate him. In truth, Morfindel displayed an untamed quality like a high bred horse gone feral, a defiance of social convention Annatar longed to harness. His beauty was not diminished, but rather augmented by his self assured wildness. He was Noldor, a son of the House of Feanor, only one generation removed from Feanor himself and of all the grandchildren bore his grandsire’s appearance most markedly, though without his haughty arrogance.
Annatar both hated Morfindel and desired him as a vassal. If he could snare this one, Annatar was certain Celebrimbor would follow. What trophies would they make, to display before the Valar in mockery and defiance! In fact, this one seemed an even better first choice, for he was returning to Dor Luin soon. With Morfindel would come not only Eregion, but Lindon as well. Long had Annatar sought a foothold there. The prospect made him tremble with anticipation. So much revolved around the snaring of this one elf. The question was, how to go about it.
Annatar walked up behind the elf and watched him tie an intricate knot of one of his own hairs, dip it in molten gold and place it carefully on the side of a fair goblet, forming a lovely floweret. The elf sang as he worked, speaking to the materials as if they heard and understood. He laid the goblet on its side to cool and picked up a mold, opening it and extracting the object it contained.
“What are you doing?” asked Annatar.
“Finishing little gifts before returning home. Gone too long from my lady have I been. Think you the goblet will please her?”
“It is a fair work. What is that you do now?”
“Only putting the finish on a guard ring.” Holding the ring in a pair of small tongs, the elf carefully smoothed the still hot metal with a little file, again singing as he worked. The ring suddenly flashed bright blue and glowed steadily in the elf’s hand. Morfindel watched it intently, a perplexed look on his face. “Strange. It should have faded by now.”
“You’ve made another ring of power?” asked Annatar, hopefully, stepping still closer. The elf wore a gold ring with a stone of amber which Annatar coveted to control. He watched it intently as the elf worked.
“Cease your hovering, Annatar,” laughed the elf. “No more rings of power will I attempt for I have reached my limit with them. Rings will I leave to my cousin, who has the greater skill. It is but a Beleriand guard ring, and perhaps I will keep this last one. I made others for my lady and our children so that when they roam they may have some forewarning of the presence of an enemy and either make ready to fight, or fly away to safety. They glow blue when an enemy is near, but…” The elf surveyed the room. “No one is here except you and me.” He put down the file, removed the browband and scratched his head in confusion, then mopped his neck and face with the cloth and cast it onto a table. He signalled for Annatar to remain where he was while he searched the other rooms and chambers of the smithy. When he returned he was speaking softly to himself. “Brightest it is in here where…” he looked at Annatar, questioningly, “you are…” The elf cautiously moved toward the door, watching Annatar with a light of growing suspicion in his eyes. “Annatar, why does this ring name you an enemy? Who are you? “
This was unexpected and unfortunate. Annatar blocked the door. He did not want to kill this elf if he did not have to for that would ruin many years of careful preparation. He motioned with his hand toward the ring the elf wore. The elf gasped as it tightened on his finger and raised his hand to look at it, dropping the guard ring and tongs to the floor. What had once been an amber stone transformed into something black, then red, then like a fiery eye. The elf tried to remove it but could not, even saying the usual words of power. Finally he gave a command and the ring expanded just enough for him to tear it from his finger, injuring himself in the process. He cast it into the forge, but Annatar spoke a spell that it should not melt. Then he moved in on the elf, cutting off his escape, herding him this way and that until he cornered him next to where the furnace blazed and a stack of unfinished, damaged and discarded swords awaited reforging.
“Calm yourself, Morfindel,” said Annatar. “I am as I told you, sent from the West to aid the Noldor in attaining their dream of Valinor here on Middle Earth.”
“Never would a messenger of the Valar be counted an enemy by any ring I make! Who are you?!”
“Do you not yet know who I am?” he asked the elf and dropped his fair guise for an instant.
With sudden realization the elf reacted wildly, seeking some way of escape. He grabbed an unfinished sword and threw it like a javelin at Annatar. It was a mighty throw, and a lesser opponent would certainly have been slain, but Annatar merely sidestepped and avoided it easily. He sensed the growing fear in the elf, but it was an uncommon sort, not for himself but for the other elves of Eregion, mixed with anger that he had not seen through Annatar’s disguise before. Morfindel’s only purpose was to escape, at any cost to himself, that he might warn Celebrimbor of Sauron’s presence in their midst. This must not be allowed, but the elf insisted upon putting up a fight. When Morfindel took up two more unfinished swords, one in each hand, Annatar recalled how close he had been to his uncle Maedhros whose right hand was severed when Fingon rescued him from Thangorodrim. Morfindel took this to heart and taught himself to fight equally with both hands. He was a tried warrior, survivor of many battles and unpredictable in a fray. Snaring this elf without killing him would take careful maneuvering. Annatar sidestepped again, dodging until he perceived Morfindel had no intention of striking him, but was intent only upon escape and had worked himself closer to the door. Facing an opponent who knows he is in a battle he can not win always brings a certain unpredictability to the fight, except for the outcome. In a fury, Annatar grabbed the swords by their unsharpened blades, jerked Morfindel forward, planting a knee sharply in the triangle of flesh just below his breast bone and knocking the wind out of him, ripping the hiltless swords from his hands and throwing them to the ground. Annatar grabbed him by the throat and caught his left wrist. The elf grasped Annatar’s hand on his throat with his right hand, struggling to wrench it away, trying the pry the fingers loose and free himself, fighting with all his strength to escape Sauron’s grasp, but it was no use. Sauron shoved him flat against the wall and bent his will on total domination. Mind to mind, the silent dual began.
“Calm yourself. It is not as you think. I truly do want to bring Valinor to Middle Earth, as I said.”
“You were not sent by the Valar, as you said. Cirdan, Gil-Galad and Galadriel were right! We should never have welcomed you!”
“But think of what we have accomplished together, without anyone knowing who I am. No one but you need ever know.”
“Think you I would serve one who has brought nothing but suffering to my people, in your vanquished master’s name? You had best slay me now for I will never be other than enemy to you.”
“Have you not thought Feanor, your noble grandfather of great renown, may have been right about the Valar?”
“My grandfather was overly proud and a fool to listen to the lies of Morgoth.”
“His name is Melkor, and he is equal with Manwë in power. And, he will reward you greatly for your service. You have been of service to him already, though unknowingly. Did you not take part in the kinslaying at Alqualondë?”
This jolted the elf and he was silent a moment, then said, “My guilt can not be assuaged by heaping betrayal and treason upon it.”
“Treason is such a relative term…”
“No! I will not submit to you!”
Annatar decided bargaining would not work. No matter what great rewards he promised to Morfindel, the response would be scornful refusal. At this point, Annatar turned to threats combined with little jabs of pain here and there. He did not want to disfigure the elf, for a beautiful slave stood a better chance of drawing in others if he remained whole. This tactic caused the elf to sweat and writhe and scream, but he remained defiant. Even burning the elf one layer of skin at a time was no more effective. At last Annatar showed the elf scene after scene of tortures he would inflict upon his wife and children. Morfindel uttered a cry of surprise and despair. He closed his eyes and turned his face away, as if that might stop his torment at watching visions of his loved ones suffering. Tears slid down the elf’s cheeks and he began to weep. Such was the usual end to a struggle with a strong opponent and Sauron began to gloat, casting off all pretense and disguise. But just as he thought the elf was about to succumb, with a last shred of will and strength the elf whispered a plaintive cry. “Ai, Eru! Iluvatar!”
Now why did he have to say that? Sauron was repulsed as if by a slap in the face. In an instant he found himself thrust ten paces from his victim, watching the elf collapse, sliding down the wall and lay senseless, but only briefly for soon Morfindel’s eyes opened and focused on his tormentor. Sauron would have thought it comical to watch an elf lord scrambling away like a wounded rabbit escaping through a hedge from hounds, but he could not move. A hedge had indeed sprung up between him and his quarry, as firm and impassable as it was unseen. He hoped elves would not begin to call upon that entity habitually. They were so much easier to defeat when they relied upon their own strength to resist. Why had this elf called upon the only name Sauron could not stand against?
Slowly Sauron pushed through the hedge, following the elf to the small outer door used for removing ash and carrying in coal and water. Stumbling and panting, his prey was out before Sauron could catch him. That elf must be kept quiet for he was calling his kinsmen in a loud, clear voice, but such spells usually required physical contact. As Sauron leaned on the door post, he noticed a red mark, blood from Morfindel’s torn palms and the finger where the elf once wore the amber ring, he supposed. Numerous drops trailed downward from a partial palm print. A bit of blood would suffice, though the spell would be less potent. Sauron brushed a finger across the still damp drops and licked them off. In a deep quiet voice using the language Morgoth had invented for his goblins, he spoke a spell of silence and watched as it took hold of the elf, choking off his last call in mid-cry. Morfindel looked back at Sauron with terror filled eyes, stumbling to his knees, then dragging himself to his feet he strove on toward the street at the end of the alley.
Sauron saw other elves come running in answer to the cries his prey uttered before the spell took effect and decided it best to leave Eregion. More than will would he need to control elves. He would make his own ring, as he had long planned. He did indeed wish to create a form of Valinor on Middle Earth, but one at his command with worship of Melkor at its center, to spite the Valar. A supreme ring of power could bring his designs to fruition. He needed gold, and Morfindel’s goblet would be enough to serve his purpose, so he took it. Also from the fire he retrieved the ring cast away by the elf. The stone had returned to its normal amber color, with no sign it had been tampered with. Sauron could make use of it to ensnare another or melt it down in the crucible with the rest of the gold. He cared not which. The guard ring still glowed accusingly from the floor where the elf had dropped it and Annatar picked it up. In anger, he crushed it, melting it in his hand but it never lost its glow so he cast it aside like a bit of slag. It struck the wall and stuck there like a wet blotch of clay. Outside, he took the form of a huge carrion bird and flew away on a dark wind to the south.
We return to the forests again. Our hobbit friend has lost all faith and finds the true meaning of apathy by the end of this chapter. He is taken captive by a band of elves and one human. This chapter suggests that some of his past will be revealed soon.