Burning Bright - Part 12

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'Burning Bright'

 

12. Perchance to Dream

North Mithlond
 

The dream had whispered to him before, but only in brief flashes, distorted and twisted by unlikely additions that had no basis in the reality he spent his waking hours trying to evade. This time was different, not a dream but rather a relived memory that wrapped itself around him, insidious as smoke, while he slept. He was back in that windowless room in Ost-in-Edhil, with the iron brazier burning in its corner, candles grouped to lift shadows in some places, deepen them in others, illuminating the scene with softly flickering lines of light. 

The bed was a sumptuous expanse of velvet throws, luxurious furs, high piled pillows. There was a canopy of red velvet draped with silk and fringed in black and gold, a theme repeated in the tapestry that covered the walls, featuring a surrealistic landscape picked out in these same colours. The headboard of polished ebony was crafted in a broad lattice pattern, with two knobbed posts set an arm's length apart near the centre. From those posts hung shimmering black ropes, curled snakelike around themselves.

As was sometimes the way of dreams, he first saw the scene from above, saw himself lying on his back, black hair spread across scarlet pillows, sweat faintly filming his forehead, his eyes half closed, lips parted. He could see Annatar kneeling beside him, hands travelling knowingly over his body, leaving his skin glistening with oil in their wake. Almonds mingled with the scent from the brazier, a musky bitter-sweetness of spices and desert heat. Where the oil settled, his skin prickled hotly. 

Fingers grazed his nipples, hands glided from waist to hip bones to the insides of his thighs, then grasped, parting his legs with sudden violence. As he swooped down into his dream body, his eyes flew open, looking into light, dazzled. Annatar’s voice crooned low and soft, “Hush, be still. This is what you want, your secret need. Think of nothing, just know my will.”

There was the sound of something clinking, then Annatar’s hand held glittering light before him, a delicate silver chain studded with diamonds. “This is your gem, diamonds for that black hair, that pale, easily marked skin. Diamonds to hold you, bind you till the time comes.” Hand on his sex, oil-slick fingers sliding down silkily then grasping him. His stomach lurched, but still he was harder than ever in his life, his heat a contrast to the caress of cold gems and metal. Annatar spoke, his voice soft and certain. “I will loosen this binding when you have earned your release. Your seed will not be spilt casually this night, only at my will.” 

The diamond-studded chain looped around his penis again, taking the sac behind into its embrace, then was pulled tight, tighter still, till he cried out and made to push Annatar’s hand away. The slap to his thigh was somehow transmuted into a jolt of lust. His sex jerked in response and the restraint answered with dull refusal. He could hear himself panting.

Annatar lounged beside him, cat-green eyes on his face, golden hair a shimmering cloak reaching smooth and straight to his elbows, his skin pale amber in the candlelight. His smile was slow and sensual; it was Erestor’s entire existence. “Up now. On your knees, facing the headboard. Do it!” His voice rose sharp, and the command fell into the room’s silence to be swallowed by the hissing of candle flame. Lightheaded, Erestor knelt, his mind empty. His body was tingling, his sex strained and heavy, the band tight at its base. The end of the chain brushed the inside of his thigh and fear and desire twisted his loins. 

Motion behind him, startlingly fast, then Annatar’s hands lifting his hair aside and forward, the air cool against his exposed back. Before he had time to think, his hand was gripped firmly, guided to one of the posts. The wood was smooth and somehow warm, he was barely aware of the cord sliding around his wrist, drawing tight.

 

“Other hand.” The words caressed his ear, then Annatar’s mouth found the nape of his neck with a nip of teeth that shot fire through him. There was no thought, he held out his free hand to be restrained. 

Annatar moved away, reaching for a tasselled cord draped near the end of the headboard. With a soft, metallic sound the tapestry on the wall alongside the bed seemed to ripple then drew back, revealing a silver mirror that extended up into the shadows beyond the light. Erestor stared at himself: wide, dark eyes, oiled skin shimmering in the light, hint of diamond-wreathed prick. Breath hitched in his throat. Annatar’s hands slid forward over his shoulders, fingers teasing achingly hard nipples before sliding down ribs, loins, to his thighs. 

He parted Erestor’s legs further with a roughness that had him gasping and writhing. A tug at the chain warned him to silence, no need for more than a look from those feral green eyes. Kneeling up, Annatar reached for the warmed oil he had used before and began stroking it over his penis, smiling at himself in the mirror. Watching him swell and lengthen, Erestor felt twisting, heated fear rise in his belly, felt his entrance clench reflexively. Time slipped and hitched, then Annatar was leaning over his shoulder, holding a goblet to his lips. “Drink, it’ll help.”

He swallowed deep, feeling the wine burning down, if wine it was. Strange, exciting accents were hidden within this grape, tastes like nettle and wild apricots and pepper chased each other. The cup was unfamiliar, not like those they had been drinking from before Annatar led him into this room, kissing and laughing. There was no laughter now. Not here.

“I need to fetch something. Watch yourself while you wait. See how beautiful you are, a creature of dark desires, naked for my pleasure. Watch and learn your truth.” He ran a casual hand down Erestor’s flank, then his weight left the bed and he moved out of sight. 

Erestor did as bidden; he studied himself. The face looking back from the mirror was like no one he had seen before, but yet he knew him, this denizen of a scented, shadowy world. He shivered. 

Time passed, a world of time, and then Annatar returned, all gold and emerald and honeyed skin, holding a candle in an obsidian holder, the flame leaping high. Warm breath gusted against Erestor’s back, the candle was close but held aside. His head whirled. Somewhere in the heat and darkness he felt blunt pressure and a hand spreading him.  He forced his eyes open and the mirror showed him Annatar watching as his sword prepared to breach its chosen sheath. He looked up, his eyes meeting Erestor’s in the mirror, holding them till he drowned in leaf green. Then he was filled in one violent stroke, crying out his pain, grasping the wood convulsively.

Annatar stilled. “Fire is the greatest of the elements, Sinquë. It is the formative power in the centre of the world, the creator of those jewels you now wear so alluringly, the gold of the cup... Fire is creation and lust and dissolution. You are about to learn its weight.”

The whispering voice sounded like Annatar and yet – other. His lips were parted and he was staring at the smooth line of Erestor’s back. When the candle moved, Erestor watched, mesmerized, half ready for the sting of hot wax. He was not prepared for the line of fire that leapt from candle to flesh, igniting a wavy spiral from the base of his spine to between his shoulder blades. As the fire leapt, Annatar thrust into him. Erestor screamed and fire-shot darkness rose up and swallowed him.

When he opened his eyes the fire was gone and a terrified glance showed that his skin was unmarred. He was in the same position, leaning forward with Annatar kneeling behind and buried deep within him, candle held high, face expressionless. There was dampness on Erestor’s thigh – he realised confusedly that he had wet himself but was beyond embarrassment. 

“Fire,” Annatar continued distantly, as though there had been no pause. “Taking you, consuming you, carrying you to a place no one else will ever show you, giving you satisfaction as no other could. Will you taste the kiss of fire again, Sinquë?” His pupils had contracted eerily, his eyes were almost black with barely a hint of green. His tongue extended, touched his lips. “Yes?” he asked softly, his face alight with – desire? Anticipation?

Erestor had no will, only Annatar’s. “Yes,” he whispered.

The hand dipped, flame hissed, and a line of white-hot agony flicked across his back like a whip. Dimly he was aware of it curling around his hips and blending with the thrusting heat within, turning the world into a white place of unbelievable need. This time he did not pass out, this time he kept his eyes on the mirror while he bucked back against Annatar and felt the brush of crisp hair against his buttocks as fire struck within to match the fire without. A line of red sparks flickered on his back, then died, leaving no mark in their wake. He felt dizzy, sick with lust. Someone was panting like a dog; he realised belatedly it was him. 

He must surely have spoken aloud, for Annatar answered him. “A dog yes. My bitch in heat. You are exactly as I imagined you would be.” 

The fire came again, dancing flame tracing patterns on his back, the pain beyond anything he had ever known, pain too great for the mind to accept, pain that was ecstasy beyond bearing. Annatar took him hard, shoving him forward with the strength of his thrusts. Not missing a stroke, he reached an arm around Erestor and pulled him almost upright, his back against Annatar’s chest. The line of fire writhed between them and was gone, as though sealing them together. 

Erestor moved with him, his lungs crying for air, his body screaming for something he had no words for but which drew closer with every breath. Annatar’s hand brushed his crotch, diamonds sliding loose to liberate harsh, throbbing heat. Briefly he could focus again; the mirror showed two strangers kneeling upright, one black haired, sweating, face contorted, sex and nipples darkly engorged, the other golden haired, eyes black with lust. 

Annatar raised the candle and wax slid down Erestor’s chest to his nipple, hunger in its wake. A second line hovered, then fell lower, and was the only touch his over-heated sex needed as Annatar gave one final thrust, rising up on his knees. As Erestor’s release finally came, semen mingling hissingly with hot wax, the face in the mirror changed. His face alive with triumph, Annatar’s eyes blazed black with golden lights, and his hair took on a red tinge, fading in and out of gold, almost like a page turning, then turning back. He spoke seven words only, no more, but his voice took on a strange, lilting echo. “Sealed in fire,, Sinquë. Made you mine!”

~*~*~*~*~

Erestor woke sitting up in bed, the sheet at his waist wet and slimed with semen, its warmth fading even as he became aware of it. His sex still throbbed with the aftermath of erection and release. For a moment he stayed like that, shivering and swallowing down nausea while his mind raced, seeking clues as to where he was, why he was there. Then he remembered and sank forward, resting his head and arms on his drawn up knees and waited for his heart to stop pounding.

As his breathing slowed he straightened and looked around, trying to find balance in familiar surroundings, but the room had been his home for too short a time, there was nothing of him in the white walls, the summer-blue drapes at the windows. The sheer normalcy tried to close protectively around him, but it felt bare and distant after the shadows and light, the smoke from the brazier, the deep stillness like being drowned in a lake. 

He got up, crossed to the little alcove off his bedroom and began splashing water from the washbowl over his face. Dropping the tunic he had slept in to the floor, he took a cloth and started to clean himself. He almost expected to see scarring from the fire, even though he knew that was impossible. There had been no marks. All in the mind, he had told himself afterwards, an illusion sown by a mind more potent than he understood. 

He caught sight of himself in the mirror and froze. His hair was a tangled mass and a trick of the light left his face almost dead white. Dark, frightened eyes looked back at him, recalling the images in the mirror that night and the nights that had followed, of green eyes turned to black, of hair that held a sheen of red as though kissed by blood. He had spent a century masquerading as a scholar, he had read the old texts, noted the references to someone described as having black eyes and rose gold hair. Looking back, it was impossible to believe that on some level he hadn’t known Annatar’s true name. 

He reached the pot just in time to throw up in it and not on the floor, then knelt heaving until his stomach was empty and even the bile seemed to have run dry. Sitting back on the floor, using its coldness to keep him grounded, he breathed for a time, his mind deliberately empty. Then he rose, finished washing, rinsed his mouth and went to strip the bed. The thing Lindir had not understood was that knowing oneself was all well and good, but the knowledge once acquired could never be unlearned. 

He and Gil had been close, more than close, they had found each other in sunlight and good-humoured tenderness. He knew he could never taint the memory by going back, not with Annatar’s stain on his being, with Sauron’s mocking smile before his eyes, with the memory of diamonds and fire. What had he said? Mine. And in a way that had little to do with possession, perhaps he really was.

As he got back into his roughly made bed, he found himself wishing with every fibre of his being that Lindir was there. What he needed more than anything was a friend, someone non-judgemental and relatively shock-proof. But Lindir was in Forlond. Organising the pillows, Erestor curled on his side facing the window and waited for morning instead.

 

South Mithlond

Glorfindel had left the bedroom window open and the drapes drawn back so the room was cool and fresh with air off the sea, restful with the sounds of the water. He lay on his back, sound asleep, one arm folded behind his head, the other resting loosely on his stomach. He had drifted off listening to the sounds of the ocean, which usually put him to sleep faster than any bedtime glass of wine. It had been a long, busy day for a change, with meetings and then a ride up into the hills before coming back home from the other shore. After dinner he had spent time talking with Círdan on the veranda overlooking the sea, and his body had been pleasantly tired when he finally made it to bed.

The dream seemed to creep up on him as sometimes happens. He was walking along the cliff path that started from the harbour and followed the sea until the way became too rocky and steep. It was night, with stars brighter than he had seen since the first moonrise, and the world was still except for the sea crashing against the rocks. A line of light, pale like phosphorous, outlined the path ahead of him, leading him along twists and turns that he faintly recalled from daylight exploration. 

When he reached the point where he had thought the way became impassable, the light remained, guiding him to a track that reached down almost to the water and took him around the obstacle of the great outcrop at trail’s end. On the other side there was no path, but the green-blue light shimmered softly, leading him on. The land on his left rose up into the night, and he knew he moved in the shadow of the cliff. He wondered when the tide would come in and if he would be safe, but in the dream there was no fear, just curiosity.

He had no idea how long he walked, but finally the light guided him to a passage between high rocks and down to a tiny cove with a minute strip of stony beach. Close to the shore, bobbing gently on the tide, was the swan ship that had carried him to Endor, bathed in silver light although he could see no moon. He crossed the pebbled shore and stepped into the water, meaning to fetch the boat up, beach it, but the water roiled angrily around his ankles and he stepped back hurriedly. 

A shadow fell over him and he turned to look up and up at an impossibly tall being with a smiling, benign face and pale, curly hair that shone in the starlight. Bright eyes fastened upon him, eyes that should have been cheerful and warm to match the unwavering smile, but were instead empty and cold. “The sea will guard her,” a voice whispered around him, a voice that sounded like many twining about one another, a chorus blending into one. “You may see her but not touch her, your place is here until you acquire what you were sent to seek out. Then only will the Lord of Waters allow you to approach her. Then you will bring Them to us, as you were tasked.”

Even in his dream, he had questions, disputes. “Lord, They belong to my cousin and to the High King of the lands in exile. To take Them would be theft…”

The blow was casually brutal and left him gasping on his knees on the pebbled strand. The night shifted and faded about him, the sound of the sea filling his ears. The last thing he saw was Lórien looking down at him with expressionless eyes, the benign smile still curving his face, filling his cheeks. “You will do as you are bidden; this matter is beyond your discretion. The rings are too powerful to remain in rebel hands. Find Them and carry Them across the sea, out of the range of the Deceiver’s hand. The Exiles are too weak to hold Them, and in his hands – all will be lost.”

~*~*~*~*~

When morning came, Glorfindel woke with the dream still troublingly clear in his mind, its colours stark and uncompromising. He left his bed and went to look out the window, naked save for a pair of cotton pants that reached only to his knees, his fair hair working loose from the previous night’s braid. The day was clear and bright, daybreak arriving earlier than it had when first he arrived. Already sunlight danced on water that was a rippling stretch of green deepening into turquoise. 

The corner of the harbour he could see already looked busy. He leaned on the windowsill and drew in deep breaths of good sea air, listening to faint shouts that rose from below to meet the call of the gulls above. He had started feeling at home in this room, in this city, far faster than he had imagined would be possible. It complicated matters.

After breakfast he said that he thought a walk would suit him and excused himself. Mariel and Círdan were deep in a discussion about chickens, of all things, and paid him little heed.

The coast path was as he recalled it, not only from his earlier wanderings but also from the dream. He followed it, keeping an even, comfortable pace, taking time to appreciate the view and the coastal plants that filled the air with strange, enticing scents. The route down onto the rocks was clearly etched in his mind. He made his way around the rise of the cliff and walked in its shelter with foam spraying him from small waves breaking on the rocks, until finally he recognised the shape and placement of the almost hidden passage to the cove.

The swan ship was there. Right up until he came out onto the beach in the shadow of the cliff he had been telling himself the ship had been symbolic, not real, but it bobbed as it had in his dream just beyond the shore. He saw at a glance why he would be unable to walk straight out to it; the beach fell sharply away at the waterline and the pebbles were wet, suggesting they had been underwater at high tide. To reach it he would need to swim.

It was the same boat he had travelled on, he was sure. He recalled the small rent in the sail, and the colours were right in all their subtle shades. The beach was eerily quiet, the air felt as though it was waiting for something to move it. Almost he expected the Vala to be standing behind him, but knew that was not how Lórien worked; he appeared in dreams, that was where his voice spoke clearest, his place of power. 

Glorfindel crossed his arms over his chest and stood staring at the boat, then looked around the beach carefully. There were no signs that anyone else had ever set foot there, though he doubted that was possible, there had been Telerin on this shore for a very long time. He wondered if there was some kind of – deterrent – to anyone else approaching, a way of guarding the secret of the boat’s presence, rather as Melian’s Girdle had barred outsiders from Doriath. Whether this was so or not, it felt uncomfortable and wrong and he had to force himself to leave the beach at a casual pace rather than turning and bolting back up to the cliff path.

While he was walking back the sea started coming in again, waves lapping at his ankles. He gave it a cool look and kept going, gritting his teeth against the strong sense of eyes on his back. There was no need to feel intimidated, he told himself grimly. They needed him, therefore nothing untoward was likely to happen to him. Not yet.

When he reached a more solid reality, Glorfindel strolled down the quay, found a coil of rope, and sat on it, watching a cargo ship from further south being unloaded. He let the smells and sounds of the harbour and the warmth of the sun sink into him. A cat wandered over, sat down in the sun near him and began cleaning itself, and a smile tugged at his lips. Then his eyes turned to the city across the strait, towers and domes gleaming bright in the morning sunlight. He could almost make out the royal standard flying from the central tower of the palace. 

He opened himself to the sun, to the rope beneath him, to the lapping of water and the strength of the gulls’ wings.  After a while, tendrils of energy reached out and touched him gently. He was not aware of the rings all the time, but when he searched for them, he could always find them - or they him, he was never quite sure which. The power of Arda swirled around him, visible to the eyes of the spirit as shimmering coils of pearlescent light, then drifted away again, touching sea and land before fading back into rest wherever Gil was keeping them. 

Time was running out. For all of them. If he wanted to retain any control over the course of events, what he needed was a plan.

 

End of Part One.

~*~*~*~*~
 

Beta: Red Lasbelin
sinque - diamond (Q)