"If you can wrench your mind from the false crown," Sauron said, startling the boy, "come and have a lesson or two in blacksmithing."
Gaergath thought he saw a glint of displeasure in his father's eyes. Perhaps a bit of fear, strange to tell.
He set the crown up on the pole. It really was very heavy.
Then, turning his head quickly for one more look at the jewels, he went to stand beside Sauron at the furnace. And found himself genuinely curious as his father explained the uses of the tools, the bellows, the tub of water, and showed him how to fire up the furnace. Gaergath soon found that he enjoyed beating on the iron and anvil, how malleable the metal was when heated, and all the amazing things he was able to do with it. And Sauron said he had quite a knack for smithing.
About an hour later, Gaergath had made a simple hook for his wall. It had a sharp point and a pretty twist to it.
By sundown, he had fashioned a beautiful iron sconce.
And he saw Sauron looking at him with pride and affection that seemed genuine.
He had scarcely noticed how hot it was in the forge.
"I wonder if Binya would like to have the sconce," he caught himself saying as they went up to get supper. Sauron looked sharply at him, and the boy laughed to show it was a joke.
He felt less embarrassed about her, and a trifle cocky, wondering how she would react when she saw the sconce.
"So you have aught to offer her now," Sauron said.
"Aye, so I do," Gaergath said awkwardly. He raised his eyes to his father. "So...what am I to call you?"
"I beg your pardon?" Sauron lifted his eyebrows.
"What am I to call you?" the boy repeated. "I can scarcely call you 'Father', can I? And I do not know what name you prefer."
"I do not see why you could not call me Father," Sauron said quietly. "It is what I am."
"Well, but for the fact that I have known you less than two days," Gaergath looked down at his plate. "Have you another name you prefer?"
"My given name is Mairon," Sauron said. "'Sauron' is what my enemies name me."
"I know," Gaergath said. "Hyldreth said my...mother...named you Annatar, or some such."
He was not sure why he disclosed that, or why it even occurred to him. He glanced aside at the sconce, which hung on a wall. Sauron had brought a tallow candle for it.
"You might call me 'Ada'," Sauron suggest with twinkling eyes. "It is an Elvish word. Have you ever met any Elves, my lad?"
"Not to my knowledge," Gaergath said. "I have heard tell of them. My mother told me many stories of them. But I've yet to meet one."
"You will, I dare say," Sauron said. "Sometimes they come here to visit. If you stay around long enough, you will likely meet an Elf or two."
"I would like that," Gaergath said. "What are they like...Ada?"
"We are Maiar, as you know," Sauron said after a thoughtful moment. "Elves are somewhere between the Maiar and the Secondborn. Far wiser than mortals, and fairer and stronger, but less powerful than the Maiar. They have their uses, certainly. We must be careful in our dealings with them, for there is a certain wariness one does not see so much with Men. They are skillful in many things, and passionate, and mysterious in their way. They have an affinity with the earth and all growing things, and are fond of music and crafts and suchlike. But they are not of our sort."
There was a darkness in Sauron's face as he spoke, which was somewhat frightening to the lad. Although he had no longer any memory of the book, he sensed a certain evil presence about the place, like the stench of a dead animal, and he unconsciously put down the leg of pheasant he had been picking.
And then Binya appeared in the doorway, with a decanter of wine.
He dropped the bone, feeling like diving under the table all of a sudden.
But as her amber eyes bored into him, he found himself looking back at her, even with a mouthful of pheasant. He swallowed quickly.
"No more wine, please," he said with a wink. She gave him a languid stare, reaching up to brush back a lock of flaming hair. Then he belched before he could stop himself.
He did not see that Drauglir had left the room, or that Sauron's back was turned.
And later he found himself out on the porch, alone with Binya.
"How did you come to be here?" he asked her. It was a bit cold, but there was a full moon. He saw her looking at it rather intently. He was glad of it, since he felt nervous, and hoping hard that she would not notice. A little lamp burned on the small table between them.
"He rescued me," she said. "I was an Easterling's love-slave, and Mairon's forces slaughtered him and took me away with them."
She had a strange voice, rather flat and unemotional in tone, very slightly nasal. He had imagined she would have had a low-pitched, rather sultry voice. A little like Celirwen's.
"What is a love-slave?" Gaergath asked before he could stop himself. He did not want to admit that he didn't know what an Easterling was either.
She stared at him through lowered lids, and he felt strangely excited. The flame leaping in the lamp-chimney danced on her face, making her look mysterious and dangerous and beautiful. She wore a simple gown of gold with no sleeves, belted with a colorful embroidered sash. Her hair was bound with a gold silk cord and gold rings hung in her ears. Her feet and ankles were bare.
When she did not answer his question, he said, "You are beautiful," and found that he meant it. She raised a languid finger and twirled a lock of auburn hair around it. "I have never seen hair the color of yours before," he added, wishing she would talk to him. "At least, not on a lady. I have a horse with a mane similar. Very beautiful."
"You have never had a lass before, have you?" she said. The words seemed barely to escape her lips, like mice slipping through a crack in the bottom of a door. He had to lean forward a little in order to hear her.
"Not so many," he said, then laughed as he saw by the twinkle in her eyes that he was not fooling her one whit. "There is one back home, with yellow locks and a saucy manner. And there was a fair wench in a town I visited recently. Her fellow was slapping her about like a beast, and I pushed him into the fire. He didn't give us any more trouble after that."
She laughed also. Then reached out a finger and touched his face.
"You look very like Mairon," she said. "But you are young and charming. An innocent with perilous ideas. And dreams of vengeance and power."
Gaergath wondered how much Sauron had told her about him.
"I would avenge my mother, yes," he said, noting that Binya seemed intrigued and impressed with this idea. "She was destroyed by a wicked woman. But soon she will pay for her evil deeds, if I have aught to do with it."
"This is why you have come to Mairon? To persuade him to help you avenge your mother?"
"Nay, I can avenge her without his help. I came here because..." He paused. Perhaps it was not a good idea to tell her too much. "Because I was curious," he finished.
She pursed her lips.
"It is not a good idea...to be curious about Mairon," she said in a very low voice.
"Why so?" he asked, also dropping his voice.
"Because some of those who have been so, have disappeared," she said, even lower. His heart jumped.
"I have heard some stories," he said, "about...orcs. And monsters, were-wolves, trolls and such. Some say...that Sauron breeds them for Melkor. But I have seen none about the place."
Again he experienced that sensation of evil, and it was most unnerving. Perhaps I should leave now, he thought. Or in the morning...
"Have you seen any orcs?" he asked her. "How do they look?"
She shrugged. "I would not know one if I saw aught," she said cryptically.
"Do you know how orcs are bred?" he asked.
"I have never asked," she said. "It is not a good idea to ask too many questions."
That reminded him of something his mother had said. Something about how it were better not to ask about certain things.
Yet those were the very things he wanted most to ask about.
"It is growing very dark," he noted rather inanely. "There are a great many stars in the sky."
"So there are," she said without looking up.
"Where I was staying," he said, "I could not even see the sky. There was naught but fog all about the place. That's why I came here, I think. I could not abide the fog any longer."
She smiled then, and reached out and laid a hand over his. Her skin felt cold and soft, and a fragrance he could not name seemed to emanate from her. It was neither flowery nor fruity, and had something of the grave about it.
He laid his other hand over hers.
"You tremble," she noted.
"It is rather cold out," he said. "Perhaps we should go in now."
"Perhaps we should," she agreed.