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Woman of the Secret Shadow

Author: Armariel

Title: Woman of the Secret Shadow

Rating: PG-13

Theme: Believe it or Not

Elements: Chilling

Beta: None

Author's Notes: This story may be regarded as somewhat AU, since Thuringwethil, who is mentioned in the “Tale of Beren and Luthien”, is not actually described as a vampire, but merely appearing as one. However, I thought it would be fun and interesting to depict her as the first vampire. Those who have read “Journey out of Darkness” may recognize the character of Gaergath, who claims to be the son of Thuringwethil. Familiarity with that story is helpful but not necessary in order to understand this one.

Summary: The story of Thuringwethil, and how she became the mother of all vampires.

Word Count: 7,175

 

 

 

I. The Cloak

Thuringwethil, they named her. Messenger and mistress of Sauron, and mother of all things that slunk by night and avoided the sun, drinking the blood of the living. The Woman of the Secret Shadow.

Once she was an infant, born beneath a crescent moon on a chilly autumn night near the forests of Mirkwood, and so she was called Cúronel. Few knew of her birth, and fewer cared. Her mother was a mortal woman, but of most extraordinary beauty, so that she attracted the attention of the Maia Habadol. He used her for his own selfish pleasures, deserting her when she found herself with child. And so she died not long after the birth of the babe, leaving it to be raised by strangers.

Once she was a maiden, and by that time, the nurses who raised her were long grown old, or dead. She soon fell into wanton ways, learning the dark arts, seeking for power above that of the common, unenamored of the path before her and the ugliness of its music, with its constant shrillness and dull croaks, its total lack of harmony and purpose. Sometimes she would dream she was locked inside a box that had no sides, no top and no bottom, yet when she tried to break out of it, she could go no further than the splayed palms of her hands, the flattened top of her head, her bent and cramping knees. There were none to hear her cries, or listen to the urgent notes she wished to play, the importance of their flow and quaver.

None, that is, save for Sauron.

She was exactly what he sought, the Vala Melkor having commissioned him to capture and breed orcs and trolls for him, and the sort of Elves he most commonly ensnared were those seeking to know more than they were entitled to find, who had overmuch curiosity to discover the twisted secrets and exquisite pleasures of the realm of darkness, to trifle with the fire of the gods, scaling heights that lead to the point of no return. There were many such, in fact; they were not hard to find. Most were male, but a few were female, and these Melkor coveted in particular, both because of their rarity and their breeding capacity.

However, when Sauron beheld her, he was so taken with her astounding beauty, that he thought to spare her from the hideous fate that awaited her, that would leave her a twisted unthinkable wreck, and so he took her for his own, promising to help her discover the secrets she sought. And he renamed her, Celirwen, “maiden of brilliance.”

She bore him a son, named Gaergath, meaning “sea-caverns”…although he was born nowhere near either a sea or a cavern, but she liked the thought and sound of it. She took little interest in her child, however, as did Sauron, leaving it to be raised by others, just as she had been herself, and little troubled herself as to how those others were raising him.

She helped Sauron to capture Elves, luring them into his traps with her beauty, her appeals to their desire for knowledge. In return he taught her more of the dark arts, revealing more than even she ever sought to know. He spoiled and indulged her, fascinated with her ways, her contradictions, her moods, her feverish energies and perplexing mysteries…and not least of all, the ruthless carven perfection of her body and limbs and features, the glimmering whiteness of her skin against the boundless darkness of her hair. And her eyes, which were of a glistering silver that flashed blue, and green, and aqua, and amethyst, and occasionally amber, by turns, bewitching and mesmerizing beyond compare. And her crimson lips, lying together softly as lovers and parting only to meet again as urgently as possible, and the voice that issued from between them, low and warm and moist and rich with infinite sensuous possibilities.

Nay, he would keep this one for himself. It was the closest he would ever come to being in love. He gave her gifts, jewelry, and rich clothing, and a splendid dwelling near Tol-in-Gaurhoth. One day he fashioned a gold ring, different from anything else he had made for her, a plain gold band with etching on it, a poem he had made especially for her, in praise of her beauty. No, he did not think of marriage, for his fear of being bound was greater than his love. But for reasons of which even he was not sure, he thought perhaps she would fancy this ring, although it had no particular power about it.

She did like the ring, as it turned out, and wore it always. Often, when she thought no one saw her, would she raise her hand to admire the gold band and read the inscription thereon.

“What is this?” she asked one day, as he laid another parcel in her hands. When she removed the wrappings, she found but a plain black cloak within.

He smiled, seeing the disappointment in her eyes as she turned it this way and that, examining the lining, which was of black silk, and seeing its utter lack of ornamentation.

“Scorn not its plainness, my love,” he said. “It is no common cloak. Put it over your lovely shoulders, and you will soon discover what powers it will impart.”

She donned it, and found that she could barely feel its weight, yet it gave off a warmth that was both vibrant and a little frightening. He led her to her boudoir mirror, and she looked upon herself in the cloak, which covered her dark-red silk gown and fell with a graceful draping across her arms. Yes, she looked well in it. But what was this power it was supposed to give her?

“It is near nightfall,” Sauron observed, “and that is when it will take effect. Come outside, my dear. It will avail you nothing indoors.”

They went out into the garden, which bore the sort of herbs and flowers she used in her incantations and potions. There were trees of a strange variety, that grew nowhere else in Middle-earth, thick, dark-skinned, growing low to the ground, never to reach any great height, with long leaves of a murky greenish brown, and a fruit that proved deadly poisonous if eaten. And sometimes in the night, they could be heard, seeming to whisper among themselves, and if one listened long enough, and held one’s breath, one could hear a faint music, chilling, secretive, disillusioned, malignant, despairing, irresistible. It could drive one mad, if one lingered too long and listened too closely.

Little Gaergath had been sent away, for he had grown into a mischievous, headstrong and inquisitive youngster, and there was no possibility of keeping him out of the garden. No one else, save for Sauron, was allowed into it. Celirwen tended it herself, and spent a great deal of her time in it. She would drift from bush to bush, tree to tree, herb to herb, like a great black moth, touching the blossoms with her fingertips, breathing in their seductive fragrance, speaking to them as a mother to her newborn, singing soft little songs and chants to encourage their growth. Sometimes she would cast off all her clothing, and go about it naked, brushing up against the leaves, dancing in the moonlight, rolling in the soft grass and clover, touching herself at times, caring not at all if anyone were watching. She and Sauron made love here, to the nearly inaudible groaning of the trees and soughing of the nocturnal breeze, giving themselves over to all manner of depravities under the winking of the stars or the frowns of the grey clouds, or the blinding flash of lightning and the coldness of the rain.

Now, in the dimming light of evening, herein she stood with the cloak about her shoulders, and she noticed for the first time the strange weights that hung from it. Puzzled, she lifted the folds to see small claw-like objects, made of iron. Sauron grinned roguishly.

“Charming, are they not?” he said.

“Very,” she replied flippantly. “So, what are these powers? Indeed, these folds resemble wings rather. Will it enable me to fly?”

Sardonic as her tone was, it was tinged with an edge of hope, which made Sauron chuckle.

“Think, my flower,” said he, “of some creature whose form you would take, if it were within your power to do so. An eagle? a snake? a fish? a wolf? Or what about a bat?”

“A bat?” she laughed aloud. “Why would anyone be a bat? That is the last thing I should wish to be. So this cloak enables me to shift my shape, as do you?”

“Aye, that, and more,” he said. “You say the folds resemble wings? What if I were to tell you this cloak will give you the gift of flight?”

“Truly?” She gazed up at him standing tall and radiant in the flaming light of the western horizon. “You are toying with me, you old wickedness.”

“Lift your arms out to your sides, my love,” he replied, “close your eyes, and observe.”

She did as instructed. When nothing happened, she opened her eyes and glared up at him.

“Be patient, lovely,” he said. “Lift your arms once more, and hold them, close your eyes, and concentrate.”

She complied, shutting her eyes tightly, then opening them once more.

“I am afraid,” she confessed.

“What?? My Celirwen, afraid?” Sauron affected great astonishment. “I thought she feared naught. And now she is afraid to rise and mount the sky, and soar as the great eagles upon the face of night, shaming the stars with her brilliance? She would remain forever earthbound, content to tend her garden and dance with the trees and work her maidenly spells just as before?”

“Liar,” said she, “you trivialize my arts, yet ‘twas you who taught most of them to me.”

“And now I would teach you the one you most long to learn,” said he, going to stand with his hands on her shoulders, lifting her chin for his kiss. “Who knows the things you will see as you ride the wind, the tricks you will discover, the powers that as of now lie beyond your reach? We might soar together, you and I, as mating doves, and look down upon the sleeping earth, and discover the edge of the darkness, and glance into the Void itself. My Queen you shall be, and we will conquer and rule together, and spawn our own splendid race, when all banality and foulness has been subjugated to our bidding.”

“Very well then,” she said, and raised her arms a third time. She leaned back her dark head and closed her eyes…and waited. And lo, the cloak began to flutter, as if a breeze were stirring, although there was no such, and then it began to rise, the cloth to stiffen, until it became leathery in its consistency, and the claw-like appendages seemed to distend, until it appeared that the very cloak had grown to her body and become one with her.

“Now bend your knees as if you would spring,” Sauron said, his voice barely audible over the rushing wind in her ears. She did so, and bent them ever lower, feeling herself grow weightless as the cloak flapped madly as if in a gale of hurricane force. And she sprang, not daring to open her eyes when it seemed she did not tumble back upon the earth.

Aye, she was rising indeed! And at last she opened her eyes, hearing him shout from below not to look down, yet she did look down, seeing him small and faintly glowing below her, and the roof of her house, and the trees and the river stained with the rust and gold of the sunset. She gasped, and kept her arms extended to her sides, feeling her hair flap and flutter behind her like a flag on a very high pole, as she soared upon the cool dusky air. Laughing, she wheeled in widening circles, higher and higher, the thinning air chilling her to the bone, but she scarcely noticed. Growing ever more daring, she plummeted earthward, hoping to alarm Sauron, but she could scarcely see him enough to gauge his reaction. Then she climbed to even greater heights, noticing that the moon was full, and quite large, and reddish in the evening light. She hurtled toward it, hoping to touch it, yet it grew no closer and no larger, so at last she turned back, hoping she had not lost her way, since the sun was nearly gone in the west.

Then suddenly she started, as she nearly crashed into something or someone coming her way, and then she saw that it was Sauron, in a cloak similar to her own.

“What then, my love?” he said laughing at her expression. “Does flight live up to your expectations, or not?”

“And more so,” she shouted to him. Their hands met and clasped in the air, and they flew together, and kissed in midair, and eventually he lifted her gown and they coupled there and then on the firmament, well out of sight of the sleeping inhabitants of the nearly invisible earth below.

 

II. Creation

As she began shifting her shape into the forms of various creatures, she found that she was able to think as the creatures themselves, and came to find that the things she might have found repulsive, such as eating raw meat, were not so when she was in the form of a carnivorous beast.

“This is why I do not take the form of a vulture,” she said to Sauron one day. “Besides the fact that they are hideous. I would most definitely draw the line at feeding on carrion.”

Sauron began sending her on missions to places such as Angband, the fortress of Melkor, better known as Morgoth. She instilled fear in all who saw her, darkly resplendent in her ink-black cloak, and in the beginning she was pleased and filled with a sense of power. Eventually she would take the form of a great bird, for her own protection, after some silly soldiers fired arrows at her. She flew as a black swan usually, incurring admiration and excitement, and sometimes a mild fear, but no arrows.

And one night, at Melkor’s behest, she did try the form of a bat, a large one indeed, and much to her dismay, found she could not see. She began emitting a tiny shrill cry, and that way she could find her way through the sky without encountering any obstacles. Yet by and by she found herself growing hungry, and unlike the bats in her garden, which fed on insects, she became aware of a need to drink blood.

Lower and lower she flew, until a familiar smell reached her nostrils—that of cattle. A herd of them lay about a partially fenced pasture, sleeping on their bellies, their young snuggled up beside them. Unable to see the beasts themselves, she had to rely on her sense of smell to find one on which to feed. The cry she emitted woke some of them, and they rose to their feet with their rumps in the air and mooing to the calves to come away with them, but she managed to catch up to them quickly enough, a small one it seemed, and listened beneath its hide for the sound of a throbbing vein. Her fangs pierced through and she sucked urgently, ignoring its piteous bawling as she drank her fill, then she went away, leaving the calf to the comfort of its mother.

After she reassumed her human form, she remembered the taste of the blood in her mouth, and thereafter she quite often shifted into bat shape when flying by night. Somehow the blood seemed far more satisfying to her than live fish, insects or small rodents.

For a time Sauron delighted in flying with her. But by and by, he seemed to tire of it, and went on her flights with her less and less, preoccupied with the business of breeding orcs and trolls and wolves and suchlike, which no longer interested her.

She began to feel jealous and resentful, and to wonder how to get his attention, and then how she might go him one better. Orcs and trolls! Werewolves! Revolting creatures! Let him have them. Surely she could do better. Melkor himself told her as much, chuckling to himself.

Then one evening she came upon a scene of great horror.

A battle had taken place. The bodies of soldiers and horses lay scattered about the field, some lacking heads, some with severed limbs, others with hideous wounds oozing blood and pus. She was about to fly up higher so as not to see, when a movement caught her eye.

One of them was alive!

He moved a leg, then an arm, and she could see a gaping wound in his side where his armor did not quite extend. She heard an agonized groan, and as he writhed his helmet fell off, showing a head of fair hair.

She paused in her flight, then swooped down lower to get a better look. She was in her swan-form, so she figured he would not be overly alarmed.

He was very young. Surely not much more than eighteen, and fair, very fair. She could see by the down of gold fuzz on his cheeks that he was a mortal Man, and no Elf. His face was grimaced in great pain, as she could see, wet with sweat and tears and blood, yet she could see how fair it could be, as was his entire form, beautifully wrought, so very beautiful he was, a shame he should die alone on a battlefield… And she thought of her own son.

She landed lightly near the wounded young man, and reassumed her human form with little thought as to how startled he would be, and went closer, tossing back her cloak lest its blackness and iron claws alarm him. Stooping low, she peered into his face, and he looked up at her with what she could see even in the dimness were very blue eyes. He was young indeed, with perfect cheekbones and luscious full lips. Those lips spoke now, in a language she did not know, but she did not have to cudgel her brain to realize he was asking for help.

She had some healing arts, but had brought along nothing that could be any use in that wise. There was a stirring in her of a strange emotion, something she had rarely felt before. She recognized it as pity, a feeling that always created in her a sense of distaste. Yet now she thought of her own son, and the wish to help the young man nearly unnerved her.

And she knelt before him and looked into his eyes, laying her fingertips to his cheek. She knew the mesmerizing power of her eyes; having used it many a time to lure Elves into Sauron’s clutches, and now she used it on this young man, gazing steadily into his eyes, which were now riveted on hers, and by and by she felt him begin to relax, and the anguished expression depart from his face, and she could see that yes, he was as fair a youth as one could imagine, likely he did have Elven blood. His breathing grew less ragged and more regular, until he seemed fairly entranced, as she stroked his cheek and sweaty hair, and wiped away a dribble of blood from his chin. Then she bent down and kissed him full on the lips. She kissed him again, and yet again, and then he began returning the kiss, shyly, not feverishly, but he was most definitely not recoiling. She tasted the blood in his mouth, on his teeth and tongue, and groaned a little, until unable to restrain herself she began sucking at the wound in his side. She drank and drank, moaning a little, and she heard him make the same sound. Then she looked up at him, wiping her lips with the back of her hand in a rather childish manner, and was alarmed at his expression. The life was leaving him. No, this could not be, she had not meant to kill him! Well, he would have died anyway, but still…

On an impulse, she grabbed her cloak, seized one of the claws on it and cut a gash in her own arm, then held it to his mouth, saying softly, “Drink, my love. Drink my blood.”

And he drank. Deeply. And the color began returning to his cheeks in the dimness of the dying day.

She smiled. He looked at her in absolute horror, at her mouth mostly. She touched it, and felt something sticking in her lower lip on both sides of her mouth.

She had fangs!

Pressing her lips together, she held one hand to the young soldier to help him up, and glancing at his wound, she saw it had already begun to heal.

She took him home with her, holding him in her arms as she flew, and when she reached the house, he was as a dead weight in her arms. She laid him down cellar with a sigh and covered him with a sheet, then went back upstairs to her own bedroom, undressed, and lay down staring up at the ceiling, her mind blank.

Suddenly she felt a great tearing pain, as if she were being rent asunder, not unlike what she had experienced while giving birth. There was a horrible burning sensation, and she shrieked as something ripped from her gut—yes, it was coming out of her belly, a great shape. Then as she opened her eyes once more she could have sworn she saw a woman with long black hair like her own run from the room. She called out to it to help her, but the pain was mercifully receding, and she felt as though she were losing consciousness.

And so she did, and when the rays of the morning sun pierced her window, where they touched her it was as if she had been burnt with living fire. But her scream was not so much one of pain as of horror, as she caught sight of the mirror before her. No reflection was there.

She had to take to sleeping by day, after that, down in the cellar where no sun could reach, and she flew no more missions, but she did meet with her young soldier again, late in the night. One night she went to Sauron saying she had lost her cloak and could he get her another? He did so, scarcely bestowing a glance on her, and she gave the new cloak to her young lover, who had awakened the night after she had brought him home, and they soared high in the night, and she gave no more thought to the woman who had come out of her in the night..

They fed on the blood of beasts, at the first, until it occurred to her that there was something she could accomplish that Sauron had not done: she could create more beings like her soldier-lover and herself.

How jealous and furious Sauron would be! But she did not care. Let him have his nasty orcs, she would create beings that were beautiful, mesmerizing to look upon, suave and mannerly, and lethal beneath it all, creatively so, children of the night, her Children…and such pleasure she had turning them! And perhaps she might even lure some of his orcs into her clutches, give them back their beauty and make them her slaves….

 

III. Escape

Meanwhile, Gaergath was approaching adulthood.

One day a woman showed up at the house in which he had been consigned, his mother fearing that he would invade her garden and either poison himself, be driven mad by the music, or learn her arts to his detriment and hers.

“Nana?” he said, as she entered the house, but as he got a good look at her, he knew she was not his mother, even though she was identical as to form, features, and hair. She wore a simple white gown and a grey-green cloak on her shoulders, and the purity and beauty of her face fairly staggered him.

“Aye, my son,” she said with a glimmering smile, “I am indeed your mother.”

The boy stared at her, shaking his dark head. “Nay. Nice try. But I know better. ‘Tis not possible.”

“But it is,” she said smiling at his feeble attempt at cockiness. “She had me imprisoned, you see, and I escaped her. And you are safe with me, and she can never come between us again. For she has now become the prisoner…in a prison of her own making. She is now in the invisible box she used to dream of, and she will never escape it.”

“None told me she had a twin,” he said, shaking his head once more.

“No twin am I,” the lady insisted. “My name is Cúronel, which you may call me if you like, but I had rather you call me Mother. I am the part of her that was good and pure and uncorrupted. When she succumbed utterly to the evil side of herself, ‘twas then I was able to make my escape and take the form you see before you, after scores of years in that body.”

He was stricken speechless, looking her up and down. She smiled with a world of love and tenderness, such as he had never seen even in the most affectionate of nurses. And she approached him and touched his cheek with her fingertips, and when he did not recoil, she leaned forward and kissed his forehead.

“My beautiful, beautiful boy,” she whispered. “How like your father you look…but you shall not be like him in any other way. I shall see to that. You are mine, and none of his. Now and for all time.”

She came and she stayed, and there was no other nurse. She worked her magic and healing arts for the good of others, and she and Gaergath were happy together for many years.

Until Celirwen heard of it.

 

IV. For All Time

It was Sauron who told her, of course.

He knew of her nocturnal activities, and although disgruntled, did nothing, knowing that sooner or later they would tell on her. Particularly now that her better part had escaped her. He had to smile to himself, thinking of it. He was proud of her. Instead of pouting and whining incessantly about his neglect of her, she had gone out and gone him one better. Let her take all the lovers she pleased. He was still the most powerful, and ever would be.

She would never even come close.

“We shall see,” she said seizing her cloak. He laughed as she flurried off into the dusk.

The moon was full when she reached the home of her son and the being who called herself his mother. Landing on the porch, she assumed the shape of an old beggar woman and tapped on the door, hoping hard that Gaergath would be the one to answer. It had been two years since she had seen him, in fact. Aye, she had been neglectful. She did not deserve to be his mother. But she would make it up to him …after she had done with that creature.

It was a pretty cottage in a hilly and forested area, flowers and herbs and young trees growing all about, a vegetable garden out to the side, fragrant and lush in the late summer night. An owl called out, its cry echoing through the trees, and she could hear the howl of a wolf far off in the distance. And the frantic whinnying of horses in the stable.

Well! She might have known there would be beasts about who would sense the evil that had approached. There was no way she would ever gain entry into this house…for she could not come in without being invited. She had nearly forgotten that fact. Naught to do now but go back…and yet, the Hunger was coming upon her. And animal blood would not satisfy now.

She managed to gain entrance into a neighboring house, where she took her fill without taking a life, and went back home. It was not over, however.

She began visiting the house in the form of various nocturnal creatures, watching the inhabitants through the windows. Occasionally one of them came out, to toss out a pan of dirty water, or use the outdoor privy, or check on the horses, or investigate a strange noise.

Sometimes she found herself inwardly sighing, looking at the stone cottage with its thatched roof in the dusk, the soft glow in the windows, the moonflower vines twining about the porch railing, the garden all full of green and burgeoning life, stalks, leaves, roots, blossoms, fruits, the carrot-tops and bean-pods, pumpkins and cabbages, garlic and onions. The sweetly pungent herbs: woodruff, rosemary, sage, pepper, thyme, mint, ginger, saffron, basil, oregano, green tea. Such peacefulness here, such fragrance, such settlement, such gentle work of hands and tools, such care, such easy music, such sanity. She thought of her own garden, now fallen into neglect, and seeming a bit resentful of her, so that she was absurdly afraid of it, and seldom entered into it.

But enough sighing over what might have been hers, what was hers, yet she could not partake of it, could only place the flat of her hands against the transparent wall, vainly pushing at the lid of the invisible box, unable to walk off the cramps in her feet and legs, extinguish the eternal fire in her skull and chest, and watch the others she had once scorned for their lack of impatience with their consigned levels.

And she would have her son. Night by night she watched, studying the house, brushing aside the threads of emotion like so many spiderwebs, biding her time. She could see that one, sitting by the large boxlike stove in the middle of the front room, sewing or knitting, shelling beans, or some such commonplace task. It was hard to see her face, which was almost invariably turned away, as if she knew she were being watched. Sometimes she would lay down her work in her lap, and sigh, and gaze into the fire through the grate in the stove door. There were little rush mats on the floor and embroidered coverings on the chairs, and lattice work on the windows, in which stood candles and flowerpots. Gaergath would come in at times, bend and kiss her forehead, then go off into his bedroom, and Celirwen would whisper, “Come back, come back to me.”

She was not entirely sure which of them she was speaking to.

By and by, she noted that Gaergath would go off hunting, sometimes not returning until two or three days later. Following him in the guise of an owl, she discovered that he camped in the woods with friends. They seemed to enjoy themselves immensely, sitting about a small fire, telling ghostly tales in hushed voices, roasting apples on long sticks, taking secret sips from a flask they passed around. Sometimes it seemed as if they became aware of her presence, and would hush up, glancing fearfully about, then laughing softly, shoving at each other’s shoulders.

And so one night she approached the cottage in the shape of none other than Gaergath, thereby gaining admittance.

“Back so soon? Why did you not let yourself in, my son?” Cúronel asked as she opened the door, ushering in the one she took to be her lad. “Did you lose your key?”

Without answering, Celirwen stepped into the doorway, smiling triumphantly as she reassumed her own shape, laughing at the look on her double’s face…yet the laughter was somehow lacking body.

“So,” Cúronel said, “you resort to tricks to gain entrance? It was entirely unnecessary, you know. You might visit any time you please.”

It was then Celirwen noticed a delicate silver chain her twin wore, above the V neckline of her dainty grey gown. It had a shining pendant on it, in the shape of a crescent moon, with a tiny gem dangling from the top horn to represent a star. Celirwen had come to find that she could no longer abide silver, the slightest touch of it burned her severely, and even the smell of it sickened her. If she drew too close to it, it weakened her to the point of paralysis if she did not move away quickly.

What didn’t Cúronel know about her?

“Will you not sit down?” she was saying. “You may visit any time you please, of course. There is but one stipulation: that you leave off the cloak. You may lay it outside the door if you wish. But I cannot abide it inside the house. I cannot even touch it, so you will have to be the one to remove it. You must do so now, or I shall have to ask you to leave.”

“As you wish,” Celirwen said coolly, stepping outside the door to lay the cloak upon a chair that stood on the small porch. She wondered if the cloak had the same effect upon Cúronel as silver had on her. There had to be some reason for her abhorrence of it. It surely could not be simply that she did not like its appearance.

Celirwen came back in and took the proffered chair, then fixed her steady gaze upon the face of her double.

It did not seem to faze her in the slightest.

“Gaergath is out hunting with his friends,” Cúronel said conversationally.

“Aye,” Celirwen said just as conversationally. “How is he doing? I have not seen him in a great while.”

“He is coming along very well,” Cúronel said. “He is very intelligent, and has friends in the neighboring village. He is well liked, and seems very happy.”

“I am glad of it,” Celirwen said carefully concealing her wariness. “He is quite tall now, nearly as tall as we.”

Cúronel nodded. “He will be as tall as his father someday,” she said smiling a little archly, “if not more so.”

“Very likely,” Celirwen agreed. “The resemblance is most striking.”

“It is that,” Cúronel said. “However, he will never resemble his father in aught but appearance.”

She said this as a statement of fact, rather than hope.

“What is he like?” Celirwen asked after a moment of silence. “In character, I mean.”

“Ah, very boyish,” Cúronel said proudly. “Energetic, somewhat cocky, headstrong, inquisitive, and he has gotten into trouble on more than one occasion. He is by no means perfect, but a sterling son is he to me, and his friends quite look up to him. His name suits him well--‘sea-cavern’. As a cave of infinite sunken treasure is he, waiting to be discovered, to reveal his full potential.”

“He it was, I suppose,” Celirwen said, “who gave you that jewel.” She nodded at the pendant. Cúronel touched it, and smiled gently.

“He had it made for me,” she said. “You prefer gold to silver, I presume.” She nodded to the ring Celirwen yet wore upon her right hand. “Will you take some refreshment? I can put the tea-kettle on to boil.”

“I would much enjoy a cup of hot tea,” Celirwen said without batting an eye, giving a small shiver. “It is a cold night. Most chilling.”

Cúronel rose and opened the door of the stove, and laid in a few chunks of wood that lay in an iron basket nearby. Then she closed it, and went into the kitchen to fetch the kettle. She had to go out of doors to fill it with water, and Celirwen watched the fire in the porcelain stove, which was attractively painted with leafy designs and worked in tiles about the edges. The door was quite large, and Celirwen could actually feel her own eyes glisten as she watched the flames through the long slots. Then she glanced once more toward the kitchen, rose, and went to the front door, opened it, and saw her cloak lying on the chair. She picked it up, folded it very quickly, went back inside and laid it on her chair, then sat upon it just as she heard the kitchen door open and close. Cúronel came in bearing the copper tea-kettle, and set it upon the stovetop.

“Twould heat faster if ‘twere on the kitchen stove,” she said smiling a little, “but I would have to build up yet another fire in it. And we have plenty of time, yes?”

“But of course,” Celirwen said. She was starting to feel the Hunger again. But this time, she had no intention of leaving without her son.

But curse the Hunger—it would not allow her to remain composed for long. She could control it in herself longer than others of her creation, but she did have her limits. She should have fed before coming here; why had she not? It was unlike her to do a thing without all her wits about her. Perhaps she should come back another time….

“You look pale, sister,” Cúronel said gently. A little too gently, it seemed. And her fingers brushed oh so casually across the crescent pendant. Celirwen noticed the faint rosy flush of Cúronel’s cheeks, not for the first time. How would her blood taste? There was a glimmer in her eyes, so identical to her own…or so she remembered, for she had not seen her own reflection in many years…ever since she had first tasted human blood.

Cúronel was her reflection.

Her own lost self, the part of her that her mother had loved and named, had burst from her when she gave over her own soul.

Cúronel was her fëa.

It was not Melkor who had compelled her to drink the blood of humans, nor was it Sauron. It had been Cúronel, all along. She had caused her to do it, in order to free herself, to take back what was hers, to live as she was meant to live, to be human, sane, lovely, complete, hopeful, radiant, a friend of the day. It was because of Cúronel that Celirwen now belonged to the night, a slave of the darkness, a woman of the secret shadow, damned, an eternal enemy of the sun.

Her eyes burned into Curonel’s, and for the first time, she saw a glitter of fear in the eyes of her double.

Then she remembered the cloak.

She shivered, vigorously rubbing her hands together…for they were growing cold, very cold indeed.

“Move your chair closer to the fire,” Cúronel suggested.

“I should get my cloak,” Celirwen said.

“Nay. I will fetch you a shawl.”

“That would be most kind of you…sister.”

Cúronel rose once more, whisked into another room and soon returned with a thick woolen shawl, dark green in color, which she placed about the shoulders of her double. Celirwen tried hard not to shudder as the pendant swung close to her.

Cold, cold, steal the warmth of my blood….

“Is that better?” Cúronel’s voice asked from across the Void.

Slow, slow, the beat of my heart

Chill, chill, the winter wind blows

Freezing forever my moment and flow…

“Aye, ‘tis better,” Celirwen’s voice rejoined from the bottom of the well.

Forever frozen in the bottomless Void….

“I will check on the kettle now,” Cúronel’s voice said. “It simmers a little.”

“Perhaps the fire needs more wood,” Celirwen suggested. The cloak was a floe of ice beneath her. The claws dug into the backs of her legs, clutching, clutching….

Cúronel’s eyes were pits of ice, silver, blue, green, amethyst, points of beauty hanging from the eaves, catching the light, dripping, perilous, swords of crystal, diamonds of love and pain and glory and triumph….

“Perhaps so,” she said. Celirwen bent forward to take a piece of wood from the iron basket, then Cúronel reached out for it also. “Nay, let me,” she said. She opened the stove door…

…the glitter of the crescent catching the golden light of the fire….

…as the cloak descended over her as the very fell of night….

…and weak and tremulous and needy as she was, Celirwen took advantage of her rival’s fright and abhorrence of the cloak, in order to push her headfirst through the stove door, momentarily quivering at the sound of her shrieks, yet even so it gave her the strength to shove the rest of her in, kicking and flailing as she was, and to shut the door after her and latch it….

…and to know that always she would be without reflection, without soul, without regret, without fear, without hope, without light….

But she would not be without her son.

She even forgot the Hunger momentarily as she sat motionless, smelling the burnt flesh, wondering how long it had been since she had tasted actual food….

She could not remember the taste of food at all. Nor the feel of grass, nor the smell of the spring air…

Yet she would have her son.

She looked at the ring on her finger.

After she knew not how long, she rose, went into Cúronel’s room, found one of her gowns, and changed into it. It had a high neck, so Gaergath would not notice the absence of the pendant. She would have an identical one made of white gold. He would not know the difference.

She caught a glimpse of the round mirror hanging on the wall, and shuddered. She could not remember the last time she had looked into a mirror. She’d had all hers taken down. Going over to the wall, she seized the mirror and smashed it on the floor. He would think it had merely fallen.

Still, so still, she could not hear the cries and whispers of the night. It was as if they had been silenced for all time. No music of earth and sky and water and fire, only silence. And hunger.

When would he come? She could not bear this Hunger much longer…

At last she took her cloak and stepped back out into the silent and frosty cavern of night to seek fulfillment, as well as her son.

He would be hers now. Completely. His blood would mingle with hers, and hers with his. Already she could taste it, sweet as the sweetest juice of grape or apple or plum upon her lips and tongue. He alone would never leave her. He would love her without regret, without reservation, and without hope.

Now and for all time.

~*~Finis~*~

 


Comments

( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
clodia_metelli
Oct. 25th, 2010 11:19 pm (UTC)
I enjoyed this a lot, it's imaginative and vivid and I rather love this dual personality, the good ripping free of the bad, and the bad ultimately winning out, seeking to devour her son. But can I beg you to sort out the lj-cut? (I know sometimes the wretched things just refuse to behave...) Thank you!
armarielrozita
Oct. 25th, 2010 11:22 pm (UTC)
thanks Clodia! Well, I did try but couldn't seem to make it do right. (I'm very new at this LJ stuff.) I'll take another shot at it.......*moment*
clodia_metelli
Oct. 26th, 2010 04:12 pm (UTC)
That's okay, I know the rich text editor especially is a nightmare with lj-cuts. Are you using that or the html editor? Coding in all the html takes a little longer, but I think it's worth it, because you can normally be sure that it looks how you tell it to look. I ask partly because I see you've put in the html code at the top, but if you're using the rich text editor, html codes won't work -- you need to look for the button in the toolbar instead, which is the one between the buttons to insert polls and tables. (My apologies if you know all this already! I just remember it took me a while to work this stuff out when I first discovered LJ...)
thunderatiger
Oct. 25th, 2010 11:54 pm (UTC)
Beautifully "chilling"! I love the way you slowly lead us into the story, making it darker and darker while all the while juxtaposing love, lust, and hunger. Or Hunger, I should say, and once that driving need is established, it really pushes the story into a creepy and altogether unsettling world.
armarielrozita
Oct. 26th, 2010 12:16 am (UTC)
Thanks, I'm glad it worked out that way for you! It's just what I was trying for:D
keiliss
Oct. 26th, 2010 03:14 pm (UTC)
Ooh, chilling! It has the feel of those old vampire stories. Nicely done, and very appropriate for the season.

Can I ask you to please, please fix the LJ cut? Over 7,000 words is a lot to have to scroll past. You need < lj-cut > at the top and then after the story you need to close it with < /lj-cut > (leave out the spaces) Hope that helps :)

ETA - that'll only work if you're using the html posting function. If you're using rich text, look just below your header and if you've included the reminder to use an lj cut (< lj-cut >) you need to delete that because the code will fight with the rich text editor.

LJ is really confusing to begin with, I remember it well :D

*hugs*

Edited at 2010-10-26 08:16 pm (UTC)
surgicalsteel
Oct. 26th, 2010 04:03 pm (UTC)
This was a really interesting concept, and the atmosphere was suitably creepy. I'll echo the request to fix the LJ-cut though - I sometimes check my f-list on a smartphone, and this took me rather a long time to scroll past earlier this morning.

I'm sure one of the mods can help you if you're having trouble.

But nicely creepy for Hallowe'en!
dreamflower02
Oct. 26th, 2010 04:11 pm (UTC)
Oh, a creepy and perfect origin for Thurigwethil! I love that you took a vampire-like creature and turned her into an actual vampire. The way that she cast forth her "good part", and then destroyed it was both tragic and inevitable.

I see you still had no luck with the lj-cut. *sigh* And I can't go in and fix it *for* you. Well, maybe we will get it figured out before the next time you take part in a challenge.
wormwood_7
Oct. 26th, 2010 06:47 pm (UTC)
Deliciously creepy and dark! The tragic ending suited the story.
Thanks for sharing!
lonely_lycanth
Oct. 26th, 2010 08:41 pm (UTC)
Your cut is broken! You need to type the code while you're in the HTML editor, not Rich Text.
armarielrozita
Oct. 26th, 2010 10:52 pm (UTC)
*pulling hair out* I've tried everything, over and over, trying to fix it. I can't imagine why it won't work. Tried the HTML editor, everything people here suggested, tried other editors, tried manually putting in the html markings, no luck at all. I think there's a gremlin or demon in my computer trying to make my life hell on earth. I'm a webmistress so I really should know these things. Well, I'm gonna try one more thing and if that doesn't work..........well........
(Deleted comment)
armarielrozita
Oct. 26th, 2010 10:54 pm (UTC)
Thanks Levade and everyone else...I'm glad the "chilling" part worked!:) (even if the lj cut didn't...grrrrrr!)
blslarner
Oct. 27th, 2010 03:41 am (UTC)
You have indeed captured the mood of your element! I shivered throughout reading this, and grieve for her better self and her son, and what she did to each of them! Well done.
armarielrozita
Oct. 27th, 2010 04:45 am (UTC)
Thanks Larner! (and everyone!) I really had an irresistible urge to explore the dark side intimately once more, it's so scarily fascinating...and I'm even contemplating a sequel, although I don't know if I'd have it up before halloween or not....

If I remember The Queen of the Damned correctly, Akasha was the mother of all vampires (been about 10 or 12 years since I read it). But that was after Middle Earth--she little knew she had a predecessor!
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

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