They took their meal outdoors, on a small railed porch overlooking the river. Gaergath could see they were, indeed, on an island, heavily wooded. He could scarcely help but notice there were no birds in the trees, which had shed their leaves and stood about naked, looking somehow abject, although there was still much autumn foliage to be seen across the river. No squirrels zipping up and down the tree trunks. No insect life either, that he could see.
"So where is...Binya...now?" Gaergath asked. Sauron sat across the table, Drauglir at his feet. The wolf looked up at the boy with knowing eyes, or so it seemed. Gaergath avoided its gaze. The creature seemed an extension of its master, somehow.
"Oh, she's somewhere about," Sauron said with a shrug. "Pouting, I dare say. Not to worry, however. I'm sure she'll come around, when I explain to her that last night was my fault for giving you too much wine."
Gaergath wanted to say, No need for that, but somehow the words would not come.
"What of the book?" he said, deciding that changing the subject might be a wiser move.
"The book?" Sauron raised his eyebrows. "Oh, that book. A tedious volume of ancient lore, merely. Someday we will get to it, but for now, we've far more interesting pursuits."
"Did you write it?" Gaergath persisted.
"I?" Sauron laughed. "Nay, my lad. It was left in my keeping many, many years ago. I've not even glanced at it in a very long time. It's not for you yet, dear boy. So I ask of you not to go prying into it yet. You've peeked already, I know that. But we must not move too quickly..."
"Who did write it, then?" Gaergath asked. His curiosity was overwhelming, although he suddenly found that he was already beginning to forget what he had seen in it. It was as a dream that is very vivid while it is going on, but begins to dissipate once the sleeper awakes.
And he had a feeling he knew.
"Never you mind that," Sauron said a little sternly, and it seemed a flame leaped up into his eyes. Gaergath drew back, startled, a chill running all over his body. Then the flame died down just as suddenly as it had appeared, and Sauron smiled again, and it was as if the flame had never happened. "You shall consider this your home, my son, and have the entire run of this floor--I told you that already, I'm sure. I will show you my forge, and teach you to use sword and spear and such, and--"
"I've had lessons in that already," Gaergath said, his heart bounding a little just the same. "My friend Thorodon's father taught me. He was a soldier once."
"Was he now? Good. We won't have to start from the beginning, then. I will show you how to develop your powers and make full use of them. Then when you have come of age, you will have command of your very own army. What think you of that, my son?"
Gaergath looked at his father with wide eyes. It was as if all his not-so-secret dreams were all beginning to come true. Then again...what was the catch? It all seemed too good to believe. What would he have to give in return?
His soul. That was all.
"I see you have misgivings," Sauron said with a gentle smile. "Think it over, my lad. I will give you a tour of my home. Spend a few days here, a week, a month...then you may decide whether you would stay or leave. But if you decide to leave...you shall not come back."
Gaergath bit thoughtfully into the leg of some fowl that tasted unfamiliar to him, but very pleasant. He would have it all here. Food, shelter, carnal pleasures, the opportunity to learn to be great and powerful, to lead, to conquer, to avenge his mother...who could pass up such a chance?
Yet he knew, deep down, that once he had committed himself, there would be no turning back, none whatsoever....
"I will stay for a while," he said at last. And to his utter amazement, he found that he could not remember one single thing that was in the book.
And when he went back to the room where the book had been, it was not there. The table on which it had lain was gone also.
"Come down with me to my forge," Sauron said after the meal was over. "This way."
Gaergath followed his father and Drauglir down the long hallway, wondering. He had opened every door along the way that morning, yet had seen no forge, or stairway. Then as they came to the middle where one hallway bisected the other, Sauron casually opened the first door they came to in the intersection. Gaergath gasped. He was absolutely certain he had opened that door, finding only a closet lined with shelves on which stood many jars and boxes. Yet the shelves were not there, and there was, indeed, a stairwell leading downward from it. Sauron nodded to his son to go ahead of him. Gaergath walked hesitantly into it, clutching at the iron rail that circled downward. It was cold and damp, so he presumed from that the forge was not burning at the moment.
On the way down, he started for a moment, thinking he heard a cry from somewhere. A cry of utter anguish, however faint and remote, but it fairly froze his blood. He looked upward at Sauron to see if he had heard it also, but he gave no indication that he had done so, and so Gaergath decided it must be his imagination playing tricks, and he continued downward. And soon forgot the cry as he had forgotten the contents of the abominable book.
And he felt a strange excitement as he reached the floor at the end of the stairway. It was not so cold now.
He soon found himself in a low-ceilinged room in which a forge burned faintly and a smell of hot iron pervaded the air. There was but one window, with fancy wrought-iron bars criss-crossing it, and a lantern hung near the forge. Gaergath could see many tools hung all over two walls, and swords and daggers and knives hung over another. A tub stood near a pump close by, and a very large coal-hod in one corner.
In another corner stood many more iron-works: tall candlesticks, spears, ornamental racks, kitchen utensils, and some other objects whose nature was unknown to Gaergath, and looked rather sinister.
But the thing that caught and held his attention was what stood off near the window. It was a metal pole standing upright, with what appeared to be an iron crown resting upon it. There were points that stood up high on the crown, and in front were three gleaming white gemstones. Gaergath felt himself at once repelled and attracted, and almost involuntarily he moved in its direction.
"How like you that crown?" Sauron startled him just as he was reaching out a finger to touch one of the jewels.
"It is...rather splendid," the boy murmured without turning to look at his father. "It is yours?"
"It is," Sauron said. "'Tis the Crown of Melkor. Well, it is only a replica, of course. But I keep it here...to remind myself that one day, the Crown will be mine, if all goes accordingly. It was prophesied to me long ago that one day I would take his place, and rule in his stead. And you, my lad, shall rule with me."
"Who prophesied this?" Gaergath asked suspiciously.
"A great prophetess," Sauron said guardedly. "She is dead now, however. And all else she prophesied came to pass. Well, she told me a capital piece of nonsense, about how I would eventually be overthrown by little folk, but I dare say she was only trying to discourage me, and I laughed at her. I think she meant Dwarves, who are the creation of my former master Aule. Her way of chiding me for turning away from him and allying myself with Melkor, I am sure. Here..."
He lifted the crown and placed it on his own head.
"How do I look?" he asked half jokingly. Gaergath was rendered speechless. Sauron seemed to glow with a lurid light that nearly filled the forge, and his eyes gleamed almost redly. The boy drew back in consternation until Sauron reached up and removed the crown. "Would you like to hold it?" he asked.
Gaergath stood motionless, looking at the crown. His father looked as he had previously, yet there was a faint humming sound coming from the crown.
"Take it in your hands," Sauron commanded. Finally Gaergath reached out and took the crown.
"It's very heavy," he said. "Does it not make your head ache? And it is cold. Why is it so cold?"
Yet he did not hear Sauron's answer, if he made any at all. He could scarcely tear his eyes from the crown. The three gemstones seemed full of light akin to that of the stars.
"You like those jewels," Sauron said. "They are fashioned after the Silmarils, which grace the Crown of Melkor. Pretty, are they not?"
"They are beautiful," Gaergath murmured. "So bright and lustrous. I have never seen gemstones like this, up so close."
"Wait until you see the real Silmarils," Sauron said. "I shall take you to Angband someday, my lad, how would you like that?"
Gaergath could only nod, gazing down at the jewels without noticing how heavy the crown had become in his hands.