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12. Perchance to Dream
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
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
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
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
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
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
Glorfindel had left the bedroom window open and the drapes drawn
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
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
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
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.
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)