Burning Bright - Part 9

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'Burning Bright'

 

Author’s note: Durin’s current incarnation is the result of Nikkling’s awesome, out of the box thinking. Thank you!

Durin the Deathless was probably born before the elves left Cuiveinen and is said to have lived until near the end of the First Age. The dwarves believed he returned to them several times in later Ages, reincarnated as the current lord of Khazad-dum. Durin lll, who ruled there during the War in Eregion, was said to have been one such incarnation.

 

9. Things Hidden

Khazad-dum


The street lamps had dimmed to a silvery glow, giving the city an eerie, deserted appearance. Thorhof led Galadriel back across the bridge, then through winding streets and up flights of steep, narrow stairs. It was late and they passed no one on the way, though once or twice she heard footsteps. Her sense of direction was sound, but she knew she would need more than memory to find her way back to Celebrían unaided. 

They came out on the edge of a square flanked by solid, columned buildings, where they were met by another dwarf, this one richly dressed in a brocaded coat and whose belt and boots gleamed with golden buckles. “I will await you here and guide you back on your return,” Thorhof told her in what she assumed was meant to be a reassuring voice, indicating a bench set before an oval pond. Galadriel gave him a long stare with all the quiet danger of her bloodline behind it, a wordless reminder that her only child was in his family’s care, Then, because there was no other option, she nodded and set off across the square, following the new dwarf. 

There were more stairs that led up to a hallway where the silence was so deep it seemed somehow alive. Crystal lamps hung in pairs, their shaded tones of amber and purple and clear green creating a pale, pearlescent light. The walls were of polished stone, red veins gleaming deep within the black, and the floor was inlaid with a geometric pattern in maroon and gold. A dwarf dressed identically to her guide stood at the end of the hall beside a wooden door studded with gleaming metal. 

As she approached, he knocked softly and leaned his head against the wood, listening for a response. After no more than a few heartbeats, he opened the door and waved her through. As she crossed the threshold, the heavy door swung closed behind her with a quiet thud. Galadriel had left fear behind a long time ago on the ice between Aman and Endor, but still she took a steadying breath as she stopped and looked around.

The walls were of the same stone as the hallway but were hung with tapestries and drapes, and a great carpet, richly patterned, covered almost the entire floor. She recognised the gem-deep purples, reds and blues of Khandian work and estimated its worth to be a small fortune. There were embroidered floor cushions, tasselled and fringed, low tables laden with trinkets and ornaments, many of them gold, some set with precious stones. Bowls held careless piles of jewels, nuts and candies. Small lamps lit the scene through frosted shades, and an iron brazier glowed with coals and emitted a woody, musky fragrance that she recognised as a type of incense, tantalizingly familiar. 

A dwarf woman sat near the brazier, sunk deep in a wooden chair such as Galadriel had seen in Thorhof’s home, one of a pair. She was dressed in red velvet and gold brocade, much like those watching outside, but an incongruous woollen scarf added a teal blue accent, and she wore house shoes, not boots. She sat with her hands folded across her belly, rings adorning every finger, some plain, some set with jewels, one with a runic seal. Her hair was thick and curly, once brown, now almost entirely grey as was her softly curling beard. Without rising, she studied Galadriel from eyes deep as well-water, obsidian dark.

“There is more flesh on your bones than when last we met, elf woman with a man’s heart.” The voice was whispery and light-pitched, but the tone was firm, with a hint of humour. “City living has made you soft perhaps? But no, softness does not attempt the Dimrill Stair.”

Galadriel considered the dwarf woman carefully. “You have the advantage,” she said finally, “because if we have met before, I do not recall. Not here in Eregion, surely?”

The laugh was like leaves rustling in the dusk. “Ah, no. Not here. A long while ago, it was. A very long while ago. You were with your mother-son, hair as golden as your own, always curious, wanting to know more. The only one more curious was the Firedrake’s boy, the one who traded good cloth for metals.”

Finrod. And – Caranthir? She had another, closer look, this time using the senses that knew and recognised what the conscious mind was too busy, too practical, to heed. The eyes. She had seen those eyes before, heard the words run together this same way. Trusting instinct above common sense, she bowed deeply. 

“I find you well, Son of Aulë?” she asked, her memory conjuring a dwarf almost as broad as he was tall, with garnet-brown hair and beard, flashing eyes, an axe at his belt and – yes, rings on every finger, that hadn’t changed. She had gone with Finrod on one of those aimless, undirected wanderings that had so worried Celeborn, through misty valleys and along animal trails on the fringes of mountains. They had been in a broad valley where a river fed into a deep lake when they met the dwarf lord, Aulë’s firstborn. Finrod had planned it, she was almost sure afterwards. He liked to show off a little, as brothers will. Even more, he liked to share things with her.

Sharing was something he had done till the bitter end. Although hundreds of leagues distant, she had heard his last song, seen the werewolf’s burning eyes, felt its fangs rip into his flesh, been there in spirit as the life bled from him. She had stayed steady and strong till the last, lending him what she could of her strength, pouring out power across the distance to add to his own. She had knelt in the dust, clawed hands drawing on the earth’s energy, making no sound until the fangs closed on his throat and she knew he was lost. Only then had she broken her silence and started screaming.

Durin was watching her, curious. “Your… brother, that is the word? He no longer walks this land? Did he drown when the sea came up, elf woman? Dwarves died then as well as elves. Those in the west do not always have a mind for the little ones who have no part in great events.”

“He died,” she said shortly, before realizing more was needed than this bald statement. And Finrod wasn’t dead really, he would leave Mandos in Námo’s good time, he had been blameless in the bloodletting at Alqualondé save for trying to shield their mother’s people. She cleared her throat, cursing herself for untimely sentiment. “A werewolf took him,” she explained. “He was trying to protect someone and fell in his stead.” Curse Beren and his obsession for that little witch. “And Caranthir died fighting shortly before the land broke and the sea came in.” No need to go into the details of that bit of insanity.

“The cycle turns, they come, they leave,” the whispery voice said. “He had courtesy, your brother. He listened well.” 

“They were hunting the Great Enemy when they broke the land and the sea covered it,” Galadriel said, returning to the remark about the War of Wrath. “They meant none of us harm, but capturing him was more important to them. Priorities. All rulers must make harsh choices at times.”

Durin made an eloquently non-committal sound and indicated the other chair. “You may sit, man-woman. I recall you said you had studied with the AllFather. This was why I told the child to fetch you, lest you lose your footing in the snow on the stair. Your kind are hardy, snow alone would not kill you, but I do not know the strength of your young.”

“Man-woman was my mother’s name for me,” Galadriel said, sitting carefully in the chair, her back straight, her knees together. “Nerwen – it means woman who is like a man. A good enough guess. She knew I would be tall, and with all those brothers I could hardly not learn boys’ ways. That was what led me to Lord Aulë – I wanted to understand the processes my uncle and cousins studied. He was most generous of his time.”

“You do not have the hands of a smith.” 

Galadriel laughed, her voice sounding even lower than usual against the dwarf’s. “I learned how things worked, I learned what you put with what and why, I learned how you shape and craft from smelted metal, I heard earth secrets. But no, I am not a smith. I had not the skill to measure myself against the many great ones in my family, like Celebrimbor of Eregion.”

“The one who crafted the doors, yes. He understood metal.” She reached for a handful of dried chips and sprinkled them over the coals in the brazier. The scent of spices mingled with the incense, and it was like being in an exotic marketplace such as Galadriel had visited when she and Celeborn had adventured south before they had Bri. “What do you here, man-woman, you and your young one? Why do you seek the way across the great peak while winter still rules in his high places?”

Galadriel considered her words. “Dark things move,” she said finally. “An army approaches Ost-in-Edhil and my instincts tell me it will fall to them. I was taking my daughter over the mountain to Lorien, the elf realm that lies amongst the trees beyond the Dimrill Dale.”

Ageless, ancient eyes watched her. “Aye, we know the tree-land. They keep to themselves and have their ways, as we do ours. Stone and wood do not mix well.”

“As my lord Durin says,” Galadriel replied. “Or is it my lady? What courtesy pleases the king of these halls?”

The laugh came again, just short of eerie. It had a scratchy timbre that put her on edge. “Durin is who Durin is. Many bodies I have worn, mostly male but also female. It is not the outer shape that matters, man-maiden, it is what lies within. You of all people should know this, you with the mind and will of a man in a body that has born a child.”

Galadriel bowed her head, accepting the hint of censure. “So you are what you have always been, Durin the Undying, Lord of Khazad-dun.” She used the dwarves’ own name for their halls, correctly pronounced, not Hadhodrond as the elves called it, and garnered an approving gleam from those fathomless eyes. 

“What do these dark things you speak of seek in the land beyond the holly hedge?” 

The question and the watching look almost took her unawares and for a moment she was silent, her mind busy, her eyes on Durin’s hands. Jewel-studded gold and silver, delicately chased mithril and steel, the rings glinted and gleamed in the soft light, almost obscuring the plain gold band that graced the middle finger of the king’s right hand. 

There had been seven gold rings, great in power for making and seeking, one for each of the dwarf lords, and all save this one still remained with Brim. Knowing Annatar had been party to the forging of those rings, her fingers and her mind closed protectively around the diamond-set mithril band she wore – just in case. “There was a ring for each of the dwarf lords,” she said calmly. “And any number of lesser rings. They will come for those and for the other treasures in the House of the Mirdain, And there is bad blood now between my cousin Celebrimbor and their master who was once his houseguest. Revenge will have its part in what follows.” 

Revenge for waiting till Annatar was absent before making the Three, the final, ultimate power of the elves sitting just beyond his grasp. Galadriel suspected that the Three or something like them had been Sauron’s goal all along when he offered to share his skill with Eregion’s smiths. Well, now he knew the likely outcome of trying to manipulate one of Fëanor’s own.

Durin was frowning. “It is a great wrong, to turn on one whose bread you have eaten,” she murmured. “This Master of dark forces, what can you tell me of him? He is the tall one with the pale hair, yes? He came to our gate, asked to speak with me. We turned him away; he had a smell of wrongness, like tainted water.”

She might have distracted Durin from the real attraction Ost-in-Edhil held for Sauron, but she should be careful not to take that for granted. “He was the - Captain of the one we called the Great Enemy, he who they came out of the West to subdue. He could have sought pardon but hid when they said he must return with them for judgment. They thought he was of no great concern in his lord’s absence and left him be. When the stranger came to Ost-in-Edhil, he walked in different guise to that which we had known. He fooled us all for a time – all except my nephew the king of Lindon. Gil-galad turned him back at the border, much the same as you did.” 

She said the last with a small smile. She was very proud of Ereinion’s foresight in this, far sounder than Brim’s. Not that she could wholly blame Brim. She had felt huge unease in Annatar’s presence without being certain why, but not to the extent that she thought something should be done. Not at first.

“The elf king over the mountain has a name for dealing honestly with dwarves and with mortal men too,” Durin told her. “Many now in my halls came here from the Blue Mountains and speak his name fairly. He will bring his army to fight the dark ones?”

Galadriel allowed her uncertainty to show. “I think – when he gets word of exactly how serious the situation is he will send fighters. Celebrimbor is not just his liege man, they are blood kindred. And he may not know I managed to leave in time either. He will have no choice.”

“When the day comes it will be time enough to decide a course,” Durin said, the words coming slowly as though much thought was going on beneath them. “For now – the great doors will remain closed, even to those not of our house who have the word. We must first watch what passes, and then we shall see.”

“You have something here that he would like to gather into his hand,” Galadriel warned. “He knows the number of the dwarf rings and he will easily guess who holds the one unaccounted for. He will come looking for it, Deathless One, Durin of the Seven Stars.”

The dark eyes looked at her unblinking, and something old and alien in their depths laughed at her. “He can come, man-maiden. He can come. And he will leave empty handed. Of stone did the dwarves have their beginnings, deep in the mountains’ hearts. You can push against them as hard as you wish, you might as well ask mighty Baranzinbar to step out of your way or the Gate-stream to flow uphill. He can come.”


On the Road – crossing the Emyn Beraid


Erestor and Lindir parted from their travelling companions shortly before they reached the Emyn Beraid, leaving the main party to head north to the crossing over the Lhûn while they took the shorter route to the East Haven, Círdan’s holding. Erestor spoke casually of stopping to greet some old family friends, which gained him a few curious looks as he was clearly not Telerin. 

There were patches of snow on the ground and the grass was slippery underfoot. They walked the horses, taking a roundabout route between hills or moving crosswise around and down slopes, following an invisible trail that existed in no place save Erestor’s memory. The land felt different and the air had changed, a witness to the sea’s closeness.

Near midday they saw their first seagull. Lindir tilted his head back to watch its path, shielding his eyes against the weak sun that was trying to peer between white-trimmed storm clouds. “Either he’s a long way from home or we’re closer than I thought. I’ve never come down this way before. When I’ve visited my family, I’ve always crossed the City Bridge and gone straight down to Forlond.”

Erestor looked at him quizzically. “I somehow assumed you were from Mithlond. I’m sorry, I never thought to ask.  I like Forlond, haven’t been there in a very long time now though. This way might even work out quicker for you, or would if you were going straight home.”

Lindir nodded. “I have an errand to the king first, yes. How I manage that will depend on you. You have family this side? I’ve only been on the south shore once or twice. It’s very different, more as I imagine old times and places would have been.”

“In a lot of ways, it is. He’s kept it like Balar, and Balar was always firstly a Telerin stronghold. Most of those now living south of the strait followed him from the coastal cities to Balar and then here. It’s – quieter, more serious than the other side. Feels less like a city. I live,” he corrected himself smoothly, “lived on the north bank, but I spent some time here too.”

They negotiated the downward slope in silence save for an occasional word of encouragement to the horses, and they were on the flat before Lindir tried again. “Family and background are the first things people normally share, but I’ve respected your privacy so in our case they’re more like the last. All I have are rumours. I think this might be the time to tell me if someone got exiled for horse theft or something.”

A quick flash of white teeth accompanied the attempt at humour and Erestor chuckled in response. “Not quite, though nothing would really surprise me. No, my father died fighting, as did so many others, and my mother sailed when the ban was lifted. I have a sister living just outside of Mithlond with her husband - they grow fruit for market. You have a brother, yes?”

“Yes. He and my father are carpenters. My mother’s a weaver.”

“No musicians in the family then?”

Lindir half smiled, but his blue eyes were serious. “Not a one, no idea where I come from. Nor does anyone else. My father wasn’t happy with my choice, but music is my passion. It proved easier to follow it in a place where he wasn’t.”

“Seen that before, when a son chooses a path far from his father’s. He’ll be proud of how well you’ve done, surely? And you’ll get to tell him you’ve played for the king now, too. Can’t hurt.”

“I get to give the king a very strange harp and receive royal thanks,” Lindir said dryly. “Rather a stretch from there to actually playing.”

“Oh, Gil will ask to hear you,” Erestor said with absolute conviction, ”though perhaps not on the Lady’s harp. Especially once I tell him how brilliant you are, He was in the habit of taking my word on such things, so I can’t imagine he’d let you go without measuring you against your reputation.”

The silence stretched longer this time. “I thought the stories about you having a – personal connection to the king were just that, stories. Was I wrong?”

Erestor flashed Lindir a look from the side of his eye and rode on without answering. They had grown closer on this last stage of the road. Shared bedding meant kisses and touching, though nothing beyond that because of the lack of privacy, but more importantly, it had built a connection not wholly dependant on words. There was an ease in the musician’s company that overcame Erestor’s long-time habit of general friendliness while keeping his thoughts and heart to himself, and he was surprised to find he really wanted to explain. Finally he shrugged.

“We met on Balar, moved in and out of one another’s lives after for a while. That was how I met Elrond, where I know Lord Círdan from. The Lady, too, she took an interest in my family and I followed her for years after the War – from Evendim, back to Mithlond, then down near Tharbad.... When she moved to Ost-in-Edhil, I went back to Lindon and worked as a royal aide. Later His Majesty – Gil - was worried about Annatar and sent me east to see what I could learn. He thought I’d blend in – a warrior turned scholar, paying a visit to a former patron after falling out of favour for having too blunt a tongue and inconveniently good looks.”

“Annatar’s been gone a while now,” Lindir observed, his tone neutral. 

Erestor kept his eyes on the horizon. “Yes, he has. I stayed mainly because there were still - things to learn.”

“Spying?”

Erestor’s lip twitched. “Spying is a very ugly word, Songbird.”

“Lindon’s my home,” Lindir reminded him seriously. "I came here from Sirion when I was too small to remember any other. If you were spying for my king, I’m all right with it. Though Noldor spying on Noldor…”

“Wouldn’t be the first time,” Erestor reminded him. “And they were doing strange things there, Lindir, the harp’s proof. The Lady and Celebrimbor are close in their way, but she knew why I’d been sent and helped where she could. She had an – agreement with him about not sharing Eregion’s secrets with Lindon, but that never stopped her from having incautious conversations with me or allowing me to send letters to Mithlond in with her own mail. Royalty aren’t quite like the rest of us, I’ve noticed.”

“There’s a song in this. One of those huge, old sagas…” Lindir sang a few heavily dramatic notes, grinning.

“Idiot.” Erestor couldn’t help laughing. “Of course, there might be a few songs later about the defence of Eregion. You could try your luck there for your saga, though I’m not sure how well defended those walls will be in the end. The city had the feel of a place about to empty out when we left.”

“Like swallows getting ready to fly south, yes. You said you stayed ‘mainly’ because there were still things to learn?” Lindir prodded. 

Erestor sighed. “You don’t give up and you don’t forget, do you? I’m starting to learn that about you.”

“I notice things, store them away,” Lindir agreed. “Sometimes there’s a song in the most ordinary moment, it just needs to stay somewhere in my mind and grow at its own speed, find its own rhythm. Mainly?”

“I made a mistake,” Erestor said tiredly. “I needed to get close to Annatar, I thought I was subtle enough to worm secrets out of him. And… I lost my way for a while. Not long, but – a while. I - probably told him things I shouldn’t have.“ 

He bit the inside of his cheek, wondered if he should stop, and realised it had gone far enough that a few more sentences could hardly make it worse. Lindir had seen him take the life of an elf, so let him judge as he wished, let him judge as any right-thinking elf would. 

“I did things… I don’t think I could ever talk about them. I – betrayed trust, Gil trusted me. Nothing promised, but – we’re friends, he trusted me. Saying, oh, I didn’t realise who he was, is no defence. I knew something was deadly wrong there, but to begin with it was like juggling fire. He made me feel - clever, irresistible. And then he drew me into his web and I knew I was trapped, I knew he was in control but I was still fascinated, I had no will to pull free.” 

They had slowed to a halt and were sitting their horses in the middle of a grassy slope leading up a broad, flat-topped hill. There were traces of snow, but the ground was mainly wet and sludgy. Erestor felt as grey as the clouds gathering above them and couldn’t force himself to meet Lindir’s eyes. Lindir gave him an inscrutable look and scratched idly at his earlobe. He had his wild hair tied back that morning, but it was already coming loose from its tetherings and formed a halo of curls around his face. He managed to look both young and incredibly knowing at the same time. 

“But you did,” he said flatly, a statement, not a question. “I heard rumours that you’d been keeping company with him – musicians hear everything, in case you didn’t know - and then suddenly he was spending all his time with that little blonde boy whose father is such a good jewel cutter. If you’d done anything really wrong, I doubt you’d have gone on living in the Lady’s house either. She must have asked at least a few questions.”

“It got too intense, even for me. I left before I drowned.” He had missed Gil then, not as his casual, good-natured lover but as his friend, someone to go to for advice, someone strong and practical who would help him get things into perspective. Looking back though, he wondered if he would really have sought advice. For a time most people had seemed tame and ordinary next to Annatar’s dark, erotic allure. “And as for the Lady - she’s Galadriel. She doesn’t look at things the way most people do. Nothing seems to shock her.”

Galadriel had listened to the very edited version he had felt able to share with her, offered him the security of a room in the main house to make an end of the soft rapping on his window at night, and suggested he stay out of the social stream till Annatar’s interest had settled elsewhere. It meant he had been able to sleep again, instead of lying awake listening for footsteps he never heard and the scratching on the shutter that never quite sounded as though made by a normal hand. 

Their horses had formed a friendship of sorts so they were able to stay close together, their knees almost touching. Lindir reached over to catch Erestor’s wrist and tug, startling him out of his memories and forcing him to look up. “That’s a good way to see the world, you should take lessons,” he said evenly. “Look, it happened. You made a horrible error in judgement, but you weren’t the only one – I saw plenty, heard more, and even caught his eye on me once or twice, though perhaps I wasn’t important enough.”

Erestor tried to pull free, but Lindir tightened his grip and kept talking. “You – you have high connections, and you’re intelligent and beautiful and very appealing. He had more than one reason to go after you, while you needed information, which made it so much simpler for him. You can’t judge yourself like this. It’s over, you walked away. No harm done.” 

Erestor sat straight and stiff, his face unreadable. “I slept with him. I kept sleeping with him. Though the Mighty know, there was precious little sleep involved. And after, I felt as though I would never wash my skin clean. I learned things - about people, about desire. About myself…”

Lindir resisted the urge to shake him, impossible anyway on horseback. He spoke urgently, pushing the words home. “All right, you learned about yourself. We all have a dark side, Erestor. You confronted yours and had to decide whether you wanted to cultivate it further or not. You chose not. Knowledge gives you freedom, love. Let it go.”

“I played mind games and got bedded by Morgoth’s former bedmate.” Erestor looked away, and his voice was fine-edged with disgust. “I rutted with Sauron. How can I let that go? And he left his mark on me, just as he said he would. Look what happened to Badger. I killed an elf, Lindir. What does that make me?”

Surprisingly, Lindir raised Erestor’s hand and touched his lips to it. “That’s nonsense. It was self defence, and more than self defence. You were charged with the harp’s safety and you were fighting for it as well as both our lives. That has nothing to do with dark magic or corrupted Maiar. And Morgoth’s bedmate or not, who he is doesn’t make it better or worse. More terrifying to look back on, maybe. Just tell the king you were out of your depth with him ,and that you had no real choice with Badger. I always heard he was a fair man, he’ll understand. I know in his place I would.” 

Erestor looked at him with eyes that were light and empty. “No one must ever know, Lindir. About Badger. Gil-galad is high king of the Noldor, but he’s also lord to everyone who falls under Lindon’s hand. He can’t know I did this, he’d never accept it.”

“Erestor, you did nothing wrong…”

“The term we use for someone who kills another elf is Kinslayer,” Erestor reminded him tonelessly. “And the penalty is exile. No one. Promise me.”

“I’m not letting it eat away at you…”

“Promise me!”

Lindir’s horse decided to try a little independence and made for a clump of long grass. He spoke more sharply to it than was his habit then fixed troubled blue eyes on Erestor. “All, right, I promise. I’ll say nothing. But you will talk to me if it keeps bothering you. I’ll have your word on that in return.”

Erestor glared at him then nodded. “That’s fair. Thank you. There’s just too much going on right now to have to deal with this as well.”

Returning to something that had bothered him earlier, Lindir kept his tone light as he asked, “Annatar. What did you tell him that has you so upset? You didn’t give away anything – sensitive - like Lord Círdan’s taste in underwear, did you?”

Erestor found he was almost smiling in spite of himself. “Not quite, but there were personal things that should never have left my lips. Nothing affecting our security though, anything I knew would have been long out of date by the time I told him. He was more interested in how people’s minds work, what they desire, what they fear…”

“And you are so upset with yourself for telling him things like that?” Lindir’s voice was gentle. “I think you’ve lost proportion here, Erestor. Gossip can do any amount of personal damage, but it won’t bring down Lindon’s defences or betray the Fleet, or… hand over the keys to the treasury. Uncomfortable yes, but the King has more to worry about than Annatar learning about an occasional indiscretion. Did you leave him or did he leave you, by the way? Annatar, I mean.”

“I left him. He was angry, didn’t want to let go. I – pleased him, I suppose.”

Lindir’s eyes travelled over him as though assessing what Sauron might have found so satisfying. He nodded to himself. “You left him. He ensnared you, you realised it was unhealthy, and you left. He wasn’t ready to discard you, and I’d guess that means whatever he might have wanted from you, he didn’t get. It’s over, love. Time to move on.”

He apparently meant this literally, because he clucked softly to his horse and it started walking again. Erestor followed automatically, words circling and colliding in his head. Lindir had not been there, he had no idea what had been said, how much might have been given away. He had no idea quite how well Erestor knew Gil, knew them all. Looking back, Erestor couldn’t recall exact details --- a little harmless gossip, that was all it had seemed, something to make him appear more interesting, entertaining. Till later. Till he understood who he had been gossiping with in the afterglow of sensations the like of which he had never dreamed existed.

Annatar had opened him up to possibilities he had never before dreamed of, left him feeling unclean, subtly changed, transformed into someone willing even to kill another elf. It was too easy to blame Annatar though, when any darkness the Maia had awoken within him was really born of his own weakness. He was about to say as much, but there was nothing to be solved in talking about it. Badger was dead. The responsibility for that lay firmly at his own door. 

They finished the small distance to the top of the hill. Below was a proper road, narrow but well-made, leading down amongst the rocks. Far below and off in the distance, the Gulf of Lune lay grey-blue under the winter sky, stretching out to meet the sea. The wind was coming from their backs, which was why they hadn’t heard the ocean’s voice before. 

Erestor looked from the view to Lindir and nodded his head. “Time to go home,” he agreed. “You’re right, it’s over. With any luck, what’s in the harp will cause so much excitement I won’t need to say a word.”

 

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Part 10

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Beta: Red Lasbelin