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Visits in Eregion
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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[Index]

1
The Gift

Visits in Eregion
by Soledad


Disclaimer: The characters, the context and the main plot belong to Professor Tolkien, whom I greatly admire. I’m only trying to fill in the gaps he so graciously left for us, fanfic writers, to have some fun.

Rating: General

Author’s notes:
I know I’m bending canon a little, in order to make it possible for this story to happen in the first place. But I wanted Narvi to be around a little longer and needed a method to keep him. Everything else is based on Tolkien’s own statements, though.

We don’t know for sure what Celebrimbor looked like. But his grandmother and three of his uncles had red hair, so I thought I could afford writing him as a redhead.

The Elven-smith Angelimir, who welcomes the Dwarves at the city gate, was inspired by a German swordsmith and fencing teacher whom I saw in a documentary about medieval sword-fighting and forging a few days before this particular plotcritter spawned. The looks, believe or not, are genuine.

Third Age Dwarves are supposed to live some 200+ years. I assumed that Dwarves of earlier Ages lived longer. I might be wrong, but it does not really matter.

Finally, the actual image of Ost-in-Edhil is based on some wonderful photos, which my friend Archet emailed to me about the Bellingarth Gardens in Alabama. Minas Elenath, Celebrimbor’s tower, is the creation of Cirdan, who long ago gave her permission for me to use it.


~~~

Chapter 1: The Gift

“In Eregion long ago many Elven-rings were made, magic rings as you call them, and they were, of course, of various kinds: some more potent and some less. The lesser rings were only essays in the craft before it was full-grown, and to the Elven-smiths they were but trifles – yet still to my mind dangerous for mortals. But the Great Rings, the Rings of Power, they were perilous.”

(Gandalf to Frodo in “The Shadow of the Past”, FOTR, p. 72)

[Ost-in-Edhil in the year 897 of the Second Age]

He had not visited the Elven City for a long time. Not since he had been sent here by his King to negotiate the design of Khazad-dûm’s western gate with the Lord of the Elven-smiths. As they grew older, Dwarves became increasingly unwilling to leave the comfort and safety of their homes. Thus it had been Celebrimbor who had traveled to the deep chambers of Khazad-dûm, whenever they felt the need of a personal meeting.

But this time it was different, as Narvi felt in his very bones that this might easily be the last time he would cast his eyes upon the beauty of the white city. Dwarves had a longer life span than Men, and they showed no signs of aging ‘til up to their three hundredth year, but Narvi was not anymore very far from that threshold. So he wanted to make one more journey as he still could, to see the city that had been the marvel of his youth one more time.

The way from the West-gate to Eregion was an easy one, fenced by tall, thick holly-bushes, planted and well tended by the Elves of Celebrimbor’s small realm. The sturdy hill pony specifically bred by the Children of Mahal for the use of mountain paths, made it in a few days. Nonetheless, his young companions grew impatient all too soon, finding the journey boring and wanting to be done with it and return to their work.

Narvi would have preferred to travel alone – in these days of unexpected safety, it would not have been perilous or unheard of. But as the most valued artisan of Khazad-dûm and a respected counselor of King Durin in dealing with Elves, his status demanded an escort. Therefore he endured the young ones chosen for this duty and tried to ignore their grumbling and bitching. After all, they had Hronbori, a seasoned warrior with them – to lead them and to put them firmly to their places, should the need arise.

Sometimes Narvi asked himself if his long dealings with Elves – particularly with the Lord of the Elven-smiths who was no longer considered young even among his own people – had made him grow impatient with the foolishness of the young. When he allowed himself the realization that Celebrimbor was actually older than the Sun and the Moon – which he rarely did, for his own sanity’s sake – he felt dizzy, as when peering too deeply into the bottomless chasms of Khazad-dûm. There were hidden depths in the fiery blue eyes of the Elf-Lord, and dark secrets that frightened and fascinated Narvi in equal measure and made his head spin.

Their friendship had been a source of bewilderment for both their peoples; for though the Dwarves of Khazad-dûm had always kept good relations with the Elves in Lindon; the fate of Doriath still was a source of heavy discord between their races. Even though the folk of Khazad-dûm had no part the crimes of Tumunzahar(1), Elves tended to look at them in suspicion – which the Dwarves, sadly, returned in full measure.

‘Tis unfortunate that Elves have such long memories and that we are just as good at keeping grudges, thought Narvi as they were riding along the broad and seemingly endless River Glanduin that turned towards Ost-in-Edhil in a great, gentle arch. ‘Twould be so much easier if more of us could let go of the past and care more for the future, as Khelebrimbor does.

But he had learnt in his long acquaintance with the people of Eregion that the supposedly wise Elves could be as stubborn and unreasonable as any Dwarf. Which might have been part of the reason why they did not get along very well.

Finally, Narvi and his escort reached the city gate – if one could call a beautifully carved stone arch shaped like two great trees with intertwined branches and no doors a gate at all. It stood open for everyone, signaling the border of the city more than being any actual hindrance. Celebrimbor had explained long ago what kind of trees these were, growing in the Blessed Land only, and he had described their fragrance and the soft music that their leaves made in a light breeze in loving detail, but Narvi had long since forgotten their names. Elves and their trees was a matter better not to be disturbed by other peoples anyway.

A narrow path, paved with flat, square white stones, led from the symbolic Gate directly to the House of the Mírdain, barely wide enough for two ponies to trot side-by-side. On one side, seamed by carefully arranged rocks that symbolized some unknown mountain chain from the Elves’ past, on the other, lined by grassy patches with small bushes of a red flower that Elves called seregon; and small trees, a gift from the earlier king of Khazad-dûm. Called simply Dwarf-trees, these were specifically grown in the large, airy upper stone gardens of Durin’s realm, for the pleasure of an artisan’s eye, and had never been gifted before upon anyone else.

Where the path turned slightly to the left, a huge and obviously ancient holly-tree stood. This was the spot where the Elves usually welcomed their guests, and indeed, a tall and slender Elf, wearing the gray working clothes of the Mírdain, stood under the tree, waiting for them to come up to him. He had long black hair, pulled back and bound into a tight ponytail on the nape of his neck, and sharp, slightly hawkish features. Having learned to mark the difference between individual Elves a long time ago, Narvi knew that this one was rather young – and not considered particularly fair in the measure of his own people.

“Greetings and well met, Master Narvi,” the Elf said in Westron, with a slight bow. “I was honored by Lord Celebrimbor’s request to welcome you at the Gate and escort you to the House of the Mírdain, where the guest rooms have already been prepared for your stay.”

“How did you know that…” Narvi realized the naïveté of his question and broke off. “Oh, of course. The birds.”

“Indeed,” the Elf smiled pleasantly.

“I do not remember you,” said Narvi. “Are you new in the city?”

The Elf shook his head, still smiling. “Nay, I came with our Lord from Lindon. But I have been a mere apprentice until recently. I have been approved as a swordsmith only a few years ago.”

“You still forge weapons?” asked Narvi, eyeing the slight form of the other a little doubtfully; the Elf did not look like someone who wielded a heavy hammer all day. “What for? We have had peace for a long time.”

“That may be true,” the Elf answered solemnly, “but Elves have a long life. I still can remember earlier, darker times, when we were struggling with Orcs and other evil creatures; and I can count on living long enough still to see other dark times to come. We prefer to be prepared.”

“That is the duty of warriors, not that of true artisans,” said Narvi disapprovingly.

“I know not if I am a true artisan or not,” the Elf shrugged. “Certainly much less than my own brother, Hargil. But I am good at making swords, and I am a weapons master, as well, one who teaches others how to wield them.”

“You seem much too young for being a weapons master already,” one of the other Dwarves, a rude young idiot said.

“Appearances can be deceiving,” replied the Elf, “more so when it comes to Elves. Thus, even though I am considered fairly young among my own people, I was born on the Isle of Balar during the War of Wrath and have watched Beleriand crumble into the Sea as an elfling.”

“What is your name?” asked Narvi. “And how come that I have never seen you before?”

“I am called Angelimir,” the Elf replied, “and I have never been important enough to be introduced to you, Master Narvi. Only the best have ever had that privilege.”

He did not seem to feel bad about that, which was a relief for Narvi.

“I seem to remember the name of your brother, though,” the old Dwarf said after a moment. “is he not one of the youngest Jewel-smiths?”

“He is,” the Elf nodded, “one of the best from the younger generation. Lord Celebrimbor has taught him personally and taken him as his apprentice; and just recently, he has been chosen to be one of our Lord’s personal assistants.”

“That is a great honour for such a young artisan,” said Narvi, duly impressed, as he knew how hard it was to become a personal assistant to the Lord of the Mírdain. In choosing his co-workers Celebrimbor was extremely picky. The young Elf must have been better than good.

“It is,” the Elf agreed, “and we are very proud of him. But would you follow me now? Our lord is waiting.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The Elf led them further along the stone-paved path ‘til they reached the House of the Mírdain, situated in the very center of the city. It was a large, three-store mansion made of white stone that had a tall, slender tower with gold-gilded shutters upon the windows of its uppermost chamber. This tower, called Minas Elenath or the Tower of Stars by the Elves, was Celebrimbor’s home, and from that uppermost chamber, situated under the very roof of it, did he watch the stars at times.

The House itself was wide and airy, as buildings of Elven design usually were, and its rooms had high ceilings. Large windows provided the artisans with much natural light while they were working on their designs, and – save the smithies – even the workshops were situated there. A tall white stone wall encircled not the mansion alone but also the rose gardens behind it and the small pond in the middle of the rose beds. Narvi smiled fondly at the sight of a narrow bridge of pinkish-white stone that arched over the pond. The beautifully carved railing was his own handiwork, something he had made during an earlier visit at a whim of his heart, just to make Celebrimbor smile.

He did not remember, however, the small waterfall pouring down from a surprisingly natural-looking arch of rock. It stood on the far side of the pond, looking like a small, rocky hill that had been broken through by the natural craft of water, but Narvi’s experienced eyes saw at once that it was the clever design of very gifted stone-masons. The stone arch was flanked by small holly bushes, and left and right from the narrow channel that led its water straight into the pond; there were flowerbeds with white ailios and red seregon.

They walked slowly up the wide, flat steps of the stairway that led to the front door of the House – a tall double door wrought of bronze and adorned with scenes of old Elven legends. Heavy they were, the wings of the main door, and yet they swung open noiselessly as Angelimir touched them lightly, allowing the visitors to step into a beautiful anteroom that also served as the gathering place of the Mírdain on important occasions. For that purpose, wooden benches ran along the walls, made by the skilled hands of the wood-cutters among the Nandor Elves – a tribe that, if Narvi understood it correctly, had always lived in the hills of Hollin and accepted Celebrimbor’s people readily enough.

Other doors, these made of heavy oak, led to the various workshops, and another stairway, opposite the main door, to the upper levels. Celebrimbor’s own workshop was, as Narvi already knew, on the ground floor, in the west wing of the House, and that was where Angelimir now led him, while another young Elf escorted the remaining Dwarves to their rooms.

Unlike Elves, who found beauty first and foremost in living things, Dwarves admired the beauty of artwork – of things made by the skilled hands of artisans, with knowledge and inspiration and sometimes - even magic. Yet every time Narvi looked at his old friend, he thought that the Elf-lord was a piece of art unto himself. With the perfect harmony of his long limbs and high cheekbones, the noble elegance of his patrician features, with hair like molten copper and eyes of blue fire, Celebrimbor united the elements of air and fire within himself – which was a rare combination. Dwarves were of earth and fire, and most Elves of water and air. But some Elves had fire in them, and in none other did the fire burn more hotly than in Celebrimbor’s spirit.

The Elf-lord rose from behind his working desk when he saw his guest entering. With a slight gesture, he dismissed his assistants, who withdrew without a word. Like the other artisans of his gild, he wore a simple gray tunic, leggings and light shoes, his flaming mane pulled back and twisted into a tight knot on the nape of his neck.

“Narvi, my friend,” he said with that elusive smile of his that always seemed to hide so much, “’tis good to see you again. It has been a long time…”

“Too long,” agreed Narvi, stiffening a little as the Elf knelt down to give him a welcoming embrace. No matter how long they had been friends, he still was a little uncomfortable with such open shows of affection – more so when they came from an Elf. ‘Twas… unbecoming for a Dwarf of his age and reputation to be hugged. At least Celebrimbor had the decency not to do such things before the eyes of other people.

“You look good,” he added gruffly, which was an understatement. Of course, he did not expect Celebrimbor to show any signs of aging, but the Elf looked nothing short of radiant right now. “In fact, you have this rare look on your face that tells me that you must have accomplished something lately – something of which you are quite proud.”

“Pride has always been the downfall of my family,” repeated the Elf seriously, “but you are right, my friend. I have accomplished something on which I have labored for a long time. Sometimes I even doubted if I would ever be able to finish it. But now it is done. And you have arrived just right on time to see it.”

Narvi rolled his eyes. Elves and their need to swing long speeches before doing anything…

“Oh?” he asked, raising an amused eyebrow. “Well, what are you waiting for? Show it already!”

“Not yet,” said the Elf laughing. “First you need to rest and to have a decent meal. Then we can sit in peace and talk about things that are dear to us both.”

Narvi found that a sensible idea, since he felt sore from the long ride and quite hungry, too. He said so, and Celebrimbor laughed again.

“I have known you long enough to guess your needs rightly, Master Dwarf,” he said merrily; more merry indeed, than Narvi could remember having ever seen him. “Mayhap you would care for a hot bath first? There is nothing like a long, good soak to cure sore limbs. And while you are soaking, I shall see that your meal be brought. Do you want to eat with the others in the Dining Hall or would you prefer my sole company on the veranda?”

Narvi gave him a sour look. The Elf laughed once more.

“Right. I should have known. The veranda it is.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Narvi spent at least an hour in one of the bathing chambers, soaking leisurely in the scalding hot water. Any Elf would probably have screamed in pain if put into the steaming stone tub, but Dwarven hides were tough. The Elves also knew better than to disturb him while bathing; only once had Celebrimbor knocked on the door and warned him laughingly that he would shrink like a dried plum if he stayed much longer. Narvi called back that Dwarves – unlike some sissy Elves – were not afraid of a little hot water, and Celebrimbor laughed again and let him soak in peace.

But finally even Narvi got enough, and after drying and braiding his hair and beard, he got dressed again and walked out into the open veranda of the Elf-lord’s workshop. There the table was laid already, and he eyed appreciatively the rabbit stew, enriched with herbs and onions. Heavy dark rye bread, baked with nuts and honey, the huge pitcher of dark ale and spicy honey cake that was sitting on an enormous, round plate, next to a basket of apples and pears.

“If we wait another hundred years or so, you Elves might learn to make good, honest food, after all,” he grinned, helping himself to a generous portion of the excellent stew. Celebrimbor smiled and filled his tankard with ale.

“We have other Dwarves visiting us,” the Elf replied, “more and more often as our ties with your people are strengthening. In these days we always keep Dwarf-food in our pantries.”

“Good bargains go through a full belly,” agreed Narvi, quoting the old Dwarven proverb.

Celebrimbor’s only reply was an almost Dwarf-like grin, and they ate in companionable silence for a while, although the Elf only tried some fruits and cake, and instead of ale he drank pale yellow wine.

“Well,” Narvi finally said, realizing with a little regret that he would not be able to eat another piece from the honey-cake, at least not right away. “What have you been up to lately?”

“I shall show you in a moment,” answered Celebrimbor. “But first, would you mind telling me what has brought me the pleasure of your visit? I was told that you would not leave Khazad-dûm lately, unless you had no other choice.”

“That is true,” admitted Narvi. “I feel the weight of my age heavily in my bones, my friend. And I wanted to lay my eyes upon your fair city one last time – as long as I still can.”

“Speak not so!” cried the Elf in dismay. “Surely you cannot be counted among the elders of your kind yet? There is barely any silver in your hair or beard.”

“Oh, but there is,” replied Narvi with a sad little smile. “And as much as I regret that I shall have to part company with you in a few more years, there is naught we could do to change it. I am not far from three hundred, and that is a most respectable age, even with the measure of my people.”

“Yet for us,’tis but a wink of an eye.” murmured Celebrimbor, “and my heart grieves from the thought that I will have to lose you. A great comfort and support your friendship has been for me, Narvi Elvellon(2), and I would give anything in my might to keep your company just a little longer.”

“Alas, the time to part is not ours to choose,” said Narvi soberly. “For though we can choose to lay down our life, should it become too burdensome at a high age, we cannot refuse to go when our time has come.”

“Mayhap not refuse entirely,” said the Elf, choosing his words, very, very carefully, “but delay it a little. Would you want to do it – if there were a way?”

“’Twould be tempting, I admit,” said Narvi. “but would it be right to do so? To rebel against the fate determined for us when Ilúvatar accepted Mahal’s work and allowed us to come alive?”

“Oh, but would it be truly rebelling?” asked Celebrimbor. “You would accept your fate at the end, would you not? Would it truly be such an evil thing if you wanted to tarry a little longer?”

“’Twould be meddling with the order of things,” said Narvi simply. “Therefore it would be wrong.”

“Yea, but if ‘tis so wrong, then why do the Valar allow me to do it?” countered the Elf hotly. “Why would they give me the skills to keep you here a little longer, if using them would be such a bad thing?”

Narvi looked at his friend in shock.

“Khelebrimbor…” he said, his tongue, as usual, stumbling a little on the Elven name. “What are you talking about? Have you gone mad?”

“Come,” the Elf rose and pulled him to his feet with an urgency he had never displayed before. “come and I will show you.”

The Elf rarely used his strength, but when he did, like now, it made Narvi feel like a rabbit in an eagle’s claws. Celebrimbor dragged him back to his workshop, right to his working desk. It was cluttered with small tools and pieces of parchment with various unfinished designs, but next to it was a small cabinet, fastened to the stone wall. With a key that he wore on a chain around his neck, Celebrimbor opened the cabinet and brought forth a small mithril box that wore the sign of his realm, a holly leaf, upon its lid.

He lifted the arched lid of the box and offered it to Narvi. The Dwarf took it, looked inside – and his breath caught.

In the box, lying on a tiny pillow of red velvet, was a ring. A breathtakingly beautiful ring, shaped like a curled-up golden dragon with diamond eyes, resting its head upon its jeweled tail. Small rubies framed its closed mouth, as if it were breathing flames through its teeth.

“What is this?” murmured the Dwarf in awe. “In all my long life, I have never seen anything like this.”

“This,” replied the Elf gravely, “is the result of my long studies. I have tried to unlock the secrets of the ancient lore and powers that enabled my grandsire to create the Silmarilli all my life. But alas! much of what he had known is now lost forever, and I have not been the pupil of Aulë the way he was – I was much too young for that. But this I know: there is a power in the elements that can preserve that which lives for a while longer, and that power can be accessed and captured and put to use… to a certain extent. That is what I have done with this ring, and though my studies are still not completed – they might never be – it would do what it has been made for… if you accept.”

“What do you say?” asked Narvi, completely bewildered. “You want to keep death from me by the unnatural ways of sorcery? To turn me into some sort of undead monster? Surely, you cannot be serious!”

Celebrimbor shook his head. “’Tis no sorcery, my friend. Nor would it make you immortal, or some half-thing between Dwarf and Elf. After a while, you would go to the Halls of Waiting, to join your forefathers, like all Dwarves do. The Ring can only slow down your aging and give you a few more years in Arda.”

“How many more?” asked Narvi. Celebrimbor shrugged.

“That I cannot say. This is the first such ring I have ever made. A hundred years maybe… or two… or five? There is no way to know it ere you try it.”

Narvi shook his head in astonishment.

“I cannot understand why you would do this. I have lived long enough already, even for a Dwarf. I am content with my life as it is. Why do you want to keep me here beyond my time?”

“I want it, for I am selfish,” answered the Elf. “I wish not to lose a friend… mayhap the only true one I still have. I know that eventually you would grow tired of life and leave, no matter what, but are you truly tired of it already? Do you not wish to stay here, just a little longer?”

Narvi remained quiet for a long time. Despite his Elven friend’s encouragement, he could not help but feel a certain… unease about the whole idea. He had always had a strong sense for order and for he thought the proper way of doing things. On the other hand, though, he truly wished he could tarry on Middle-earth some more. To enjoy Celebrimbor’s unique companionship, the like of which had never been known between Elf and Dwarf before. To see the new wonders the Elf might yet create, as his skills grew.

And the Ring was beautiful. The most wondrous piece of craftsmanship he had ever seen. Not even the Dwarven masters of Gabilgathol(3) and Tumunzahar might have made anything more awesome.

“Let me try it,” he finally said, his mouth dry with fear and excitement. Not that he doubted it would fit – the Elf had an unerring eye for measures. But he wanted to touch it, just once, to see how it would look upon his finger.

Celebrimbor nodded, and Narvi carefully, ever so carefully removed the Ring from its box and slipped it onto his finger. It felt… warm somehow, less like a piece of dead metal, more like a living thing. After all, the old legends of the Khazâd did not say that the powers of dragons was fed by the gold they possessed without a reason.(4)

The tiny diamond eyes of the little dragon glittered as if awakening to life. The rubies at its mouth glowed like living flames. Narvi almost expected the little beast to uncurl itself, unfold its wings and fly away.

He took a deep breath. The uneasy feeling still lay heavily on his heart, but he cared no more. He would accept this wondrous and unique gift of friendship… and pay the price, if he had to.

“I shall take it,” he said, more firmly that he actually felt. “for now.”

The tears of joy in Celebrimbor’s eyes made it worth any price he would have to pay.

TBC

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

~~~

End notes:
(1) The original Khuzdul name for Nogrod, one of the great Dwarf-cities of Beleriand in the First Age. According to the Silmarillion, Dwarves of Nogrod killed Elu Thingol, the Elven-king of Doriath, in his own chambers, to take their hands on the Silmaril.

(2) Elf-friend.

(3) The original Khuzdul name for Belegost, one of the great Dwarf-cities of Beleriand in the First Age.

(4) Actually, this is a theory of Michael Martinez, but I do find it intriguing.


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