L'Ignota (lignota) wrote in lotr_community,

Despair and Defiance, by Zdenka

Author name: Zdenka (lignota)
Recipient's name: enochia
Title: Despair and Defiance
Rating: T
Request: I'd like a Celebrimbor story set in Second Age or afterwards. Friendship with Dwarves, relations (good or bad) with other Elves of note, Annatar/Sauron, Halls of Mandos, divergent AU/time-travel in which he or his spirit get to meet someone from Third Age, reembodiment - anything goes. Something shippy (of any sort) and original characters are okay, but I'd prefer it if the fic wasn't 100% romance and please no non-canonical side ships.
Summary: Celebrimbor comes to Galadriel with word of Annatar’s betrayal, and offers her a gift.

Galadriel was sorting through skeins of thread, trying to match the colors, when there was a perfunctory knock on her door. She raised her head, but the door opened and Celebrimbor was inside before she could speak to invite him. Any notion of chiding him for the discourtesy fled when she saw his face. He was pale, his eyes distant as one who has seen horrors. His mind was tightly closed to her, but that in itself was telling.

She felt—not precisely foresight, but a whisper in the back of her mind that said I have been here before, a sudden alertness like hearing the distant sound of enemy drums.

“What is it?” she asked, rising to her feet.

His face was very still. “You were right,” he said. “You were right, cousin. We are betrayed.”

“Annatar.” Celebrimbor’s trust for and advancement of the stranger had been the main cause of tension between them these last centuries. Somehow she did not feel surprise; she had not known, not truly, but every word he spoke felt like the setting into place of something long decided.

“Yes,” he agreed in a detached voice.

Galadriel took his arm and tried to tug him toward a chair. “Sit down, Celebrimbor,” she said firmly, “and tell me clearly what has happened.” Celebrimbor shook his head and declined the offered chair, preferring instead to pace up and down the room. Galadriel sat back down in her own chair, her back very straight, braced for what she knew would come. “You know some of what we have been working on, at the Gwaith-i-Mírdain,” he said distractedly. “The Rings of Power, and what we have accomplished with them—” Even in his agitation, his face lightened in speaking of his work. But soon enough he sobered. “Annatar—he guided us, he had a part in all our counsels. And now, he has made a Ring of his own, to rule all the others and bring them under his sway.”

“How has word come to you?” Galadriel asked carefully. As far as she knew, Annatar was still gone from Eregion on business of his own that had lasted a few centuries.

Celebrimbor looked grim. “I heard his voice,” he said. “All those who wore Rings of Power heard him, faintly or clearly; but I most of all. I heard—I felt his voice in my mind, cousin, like fire and shadow. For a moment I saw through his eyes, as he stood in the Chamber of Fire within the mountain. I saw the gold Ring gleaming on his hand, and I felt his triumph and his merciless cruelty. The words he spoke are branded on my mind; I will never forget them.” Celebrimbor’s face twisted, and his voice rang out harsh and cold.”Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul . . .

The words echoed unnaturally. The sunlight in the room seemed to grow dim, and Galadriel felt a chill pass through her. She found she had raised her hands involuntarily in a gesture of warding and defiance.

Celebrimbor, caught up in his memory, barely heeded her. “I knew not the words,” he said softly, “but as I heard them, I knew their meaning. ‘One Ring to rule them all, one Ring to find them.’ In that moment,” he continued, “my mind was laid bare to him; but I saw him as well. I saw him and I knew him, cousin. He is Sauron, who served the Enemy of old.”

A myriad emotions flashed through Galadriel in a moment, anger and shock and sorrow. She remembered her brother’s death in the dungeons of Tol-in-Gaurhoth, the fell sorcery that twisted the fair land of Dorthonion into a place of horror, the cruel tortures spoken of in hushed voices by escaped thralls. She felt the certainty pressing into her heart that Celebrimbor’s words were true. There had been a dark power at work, but hidden; now she had a name to give that power, and much which had eluded her was now explained. Sauron had been here, in Eregion; and Celebrimbor himself had welcomed him. “And what do you ask of me?” she said neutrally. Celebrimbor had not known; but he had not heeded her counsels, or those of Elrond and Gil-galad, when they had warned him not to trust Annatar.

There was a brief flash of pride in Celebrimbor’s eyes. “I will not ask your pardon,” he said. “It is too great a matter for that, and I cannot see the end of it. I have come not to ask, but to give you warning, and to bring you a gift.”

“A gift?” Galadriel echoed with a certain skepticism. Annatar, Lord of Gifts as he called himself, had brought them nothing but harm.

Celebrimbor reached to the breast of his robe and pulled out a velvet pouch. He held it in his hand a moment as if weighing it. “The lesser Rings, you know of,” he said. “I have not spoken of this outside the Gwaith-i-Mírdain, but I have made three greater Rings as well. I drew upon the knowledge that all of us discovered together—including what Annatar showed us, I fear—but I made them working alone, and Sauron’s hand never touched them. They are the culmination of all I hoped for. They hold not only the power to see things unmarred, like the Elessar, but to preserve and heal, and to let the one who wears them see into the innermost forms of things.”

He carefully opened the drawstring of the pouch and let three smaller wrapped bundles fall out onto the table, then undid the inner wrappings in turn. He drew back his hand and stepped back a pace. Three rings lay revealed, diamond and ruby and sapphire that shone in the sunlight with glorious color. Galadriel drew in her breath. Each ring was a work of beauty, the height of the jewel-smith’s art; but more than that, she could sense the power that lay within them, deep and still like the waters of a lake.

“These are the greatest of my works,” Celebrimbor said solemnly, “my three jewels whose like I cannot make again.” He swallowed and was still for a moment, then he looked up with an expression of resolute determination. “I give them to you. You will know what is best to be done.”

Galadriel gazed at the three rings. Their power called to her, singing softly through her veins. She could tell that they were made to be wielded by someone wise in lore and strong of spirit, someone with the vision to create and shape things as she willed. What could she not do with one of them upon her hand!

She looked then from the rings to Celebrimbor’s face. Longing, and regret—she could tell that he wished to reach for the rings again, but he remained still. In his face and form, even his manner of speech, he greatly resembled his father and grandfather, enough so that it was hard for her to look at him sometimes. In this moment, Galadriel remembered Fëanor’s voice, desperate and bitter, speaking of his jewels in the darkness before the Ring of Doom: but never again shall I make their like. She saw, looking upon Celebrimbor, that he remembered also, and he had evoked those words on purpose. In desperation, in wild generosity, he offered to her the dearest thing he had.

“They must be hidden,” she said. “I will take one. Let the other two be sent secretly to Gil-galad in Lindon. He will find fit wielders for them and keep them from Sauron’s hands.”

Celebrimbor nodded. “Yes,” he said distractedly, “I know who I can send. Which of the Rings will you take?”

Galadriel looked again at the Three. But there was truly no doubt in her mind. She reached for the centermost Ring, diamond set in a band of mithril, whose power flowed with a song like rippling water. It felt right in her hand, like grasping the hilt of a sword—no, not that; a shield, perhaps. Or a weaver’s shuttle, she thought, remembering the days when she and Lúthien sat together in the weaving room of Menegroth, learning from Melian how to weave protection and power together like bright threads.

Celebrimbor let out his breath in a sigh. “Yes,” he said as if half to himself, “I thought you would choose Nenya.” He looked at her earnestly. “You would not believe, cousin, what can be seen in a single drop of water! But that will be for a time of peace, if such ever comes to us again.” He bowed his head for a moment and carefully rewrapped the other two Rings; but his expression did not waver, and Galadriel did not fear that he would be tempted to hold them back from Gil-galad.

Celebrimbor’s face was set. “You must not stay here, cousin,” he said urgently. “Take Celeborn and your daughter, and leave Eregion. Once he has gathered his power, Sauron will surely come here. I have seen his mind. One Ring to find them-- so goes the verse. He wants the Three, and he wants the skill of the Gwaith-i-Mírdain in his service.” He raised his head defiantly. “But no craftsman of Eregion will serve him. We know him now.” He spread his arms in a gesture of defiance. “Let him come! If he wants me, then let him find me.”

Celebrimbor’s eyes shone with a fey light, and his face was that of one who has seen his death. “Cousin,” Galadriel said, forcing her voice to evenness. “Do not throw yourself into danger rashly, seeking atonement. It is a greater burden to live, and strive to undo your mistake.”

“I will not go riding to challenge him,” he said unsteadily. “Do not fear that. I do not seek my death. But he will come for me, soon or late. Shall I run from him?” He shook his head. “If I hid in some secret place, or took shelter with Gil-galad in Lindon, Sauron would not cease looking for me on that account. He would tear up whatever stood in his way. Should I abandon my people here, when it is I who brought this danger upon them? Should I leave others to face his cruelty? No. I will not leave Ost-in-Edhil. Whatever happens, I will face him here.”

“Send word to Gil-galad,” Galadriel said. “He will send aid, as swiftly as he can. I will go to Lorinand and rally the folk of that realm.”

Celebrimbor gave a distracted nod. “I must warn King Durin also,” he said. “He must prepare—” He forced a smile. “The walls of Ost-in-Edhil are strong; the Dwarves helped us build them. And we have a little time. Sauron did not imagine that any could refuse the power he offered—his poisoned gift. He will come, with his armies; but not yet. We will use the time well, and perhaps we will stand.”

Galadriel felt pity swell in her heart. But she ruthlessly forced it down; there was much to be done. “He will not take Eregion easily,” she said briskly. “I will consider what resources we have, and what can be done for protection and defense in the long term.”

“I will welcome your counsel.” Celebrimbor drew in a deep breath and let it out in a sigh. “I must go back,” he said. “I have left things in disorder, I fear. But there is still some time to set it right.” He started to leave, but he turned back at the door. “I will not yield to him, cousin,” he said solemnly. “This I promise you. I have served his ends unwittingly, but I know him now. When he comes seeking the Three, I will not betray you. I sw—I will not.”

In a sudden flash of vision, Galadriel saw him on the steps of the Gwaith-i-Mírdain. A sword was in his hand and his face fierce and desperate, as he stood before the doors where he himself had carved the Star of Fëanor. She said only, “I know it.”

Celebrimbor inclined his head to her, a motion like a salute, and then he was gone.

Galadriel slowly sank back into her chair. Her mind was racing with plans and conjunctures. First, she must speak with Celeborn, and then—

She opened her hand again. Nenya flashed brightly in the sunlight, like the blade of a sword. She would learn what Nenya could do; and when Sauron came against her, she would resist him to the utmost. She would protect those who were dear to her; and she would bring his plans to nothing, if it took Ages of the world.
Tags: yule exchange: 2015
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