Sauron sighed. "One of those Elves, I suppose."
"Perhaps it is...Her," Gaergath suggested, with an inward quiver. "Maybe she suspected I came here, and has come for me."
"She would not announce herself," Sauron laughed. "She would just--poof!--appear before us, and frighten the servants out of countenance." He called to the servant, "Is it male or female?"
"Male, I believe."
"We'll be right up. Come, my lad. Let us get the tediousness over and done with."
As they were leaving the forge, Gaergath saw a door that had escaped his notice before. It was directly across from the forge door, which was very heavy; this door was less so, made of wood, with a simple handle. Yet plain as it appeared, it seemed to have a personality of sorts. It seemed to brood, to contain secrets that were incomprehensible and thoroughly evil.
"What does that go to?" he asked, nodding.
"Supply room," Sauron said rather curtly it seemed, without looking directly at it. "Come along, son."
Gaergath followed his father, glancing over his shoulder at the door. In truth, he was absolutely certain that door had not been there when they had come in, or he would have noticed it. And he had a feeling it was no supply room....
And as he glanced, he was absolutely certain he could see the face of a hideous monster vaguely outlined on the grain of the wood. He turned away, shuddering.
And when they reached the top of the stairs, Gaergath had to glance downward once more, and the door was not there.
His hair stood on end. It is the door that leads downward, he thought. Down to the floor forbidden to me.
He shivered as he trailed behind his father down the hallway, wondering how the visitor had gotten in. Well, he could ask that, at the very least.
"There is a bridge," Sauron said before the boy could speak a word, "that leads to the front of the tower, and a stair going up to the entrance way. It is hidden in mist always, and only those who know it is there can find it. One day I foolishly told one of the Elves of the bridge, and since then I frequently get visits from them. They do not stay long, however."
Gaergath had a feeling his father was not telling the whole truth, but he supposed he would have to get used to that, if he were to stay here.
Then he remembered that he was not going to stay.
And was shocked at himself. Just this morning he had been intending to stay for all time. Why would he not? He had all he could want here, who would wish to leave?
But then, there was that forbidden place down below. Who knew what unthinkable horrors were hidden there? And what would it take for him to be consigned there?
Perhaps he should escape now, while he still could. He knew the passageway now, he would not need the cloak. Somehow he could find his way home, retrieve his horse, and go back to the village and take up the wholesome way of life he had known before, forget he had ever come here, leave all behind. Perhaps while his father was entertaining the visitor, he could make some excuse and slip away....
Perhaps Binya would follow.
"You do not wish to go that way," Sauron said, suddenly turning to the boy. "There are wolves about. These are not common wolves either. They would pounce on you and devour you in a heartbeat. If you wish to leave, you will have to use the cloak."
His eyes burned into Gaergath's. Another thing to get used to, he supposed, if he were to stay here--his father reading his thoughts.
"How did the visitor get past the wolves?" he found himself asking.
"Elves have a certain power over such," Sauron explained. "I suppose they have some sort of talisman that protects them. They have an affinity with growing things, and with creatures, to some extent. I think only certain Elves have such a power. It gives them an edge, yet at the same time, puts them at a disadvantage as well."
"How so?" the boy asked.
"Shh," Sauron said as they entered the sitting-room, "there he is."
The Elf, if such he was, stood as they entered the room. He was tall, taller than Sauron, in fact, with long golden hair tied back from his beardless face, and from a distance Gaergath might have taken him for a woman. He was dressed in simple traveling clothes of a soft green trimmed in black, and a grey cloak over his shoulders, and shoes of dark leather on his feet, and he held a walking-stick in one hand.
"Greetings, fair lord," he said with a cheery smile. "Rimbrion is my name. I hope the day finds you well. You are Mairon, yes?"
"I am," Sauron said coolly, "and this is a young relation of mine, Gaergath."
Rimbrion looked at the boy with raised brows. He was very fair, indeed, with eyes that were either blue or grey, hard to tell in the dim light of the room, and beautifully formed cheekbones and jaw, and a noble aspect to his features. Most compelling of all, there was a sort of glow about him, as though a candle had been placed inside him and lighted; it was especially noticeable in the dimness of the room. Gaergath found himself gazing in wonder, feeling strangely drawn to the fellow.
He had a sudden urge to tell him to leave, and never return. He wondered if he could relay this thought to the fellow.
"I did not know you had a son," Rimbrion said. "He much resembles you."
Sauron smiled ever so slightly. "He is a charming lad, is he not?"
Gaergath felt himself blush. Yet something was amiss. Sauron did not sound proud of him, somehow. He seemed chagrined that Rimbrion had guessed their relation correctly.
He wondered if the Elf would ask about Gaergath's mother.
"He is very comely," Rimbrion said. "Where have you been keeping him?" This was stated half jokingly, it seemed. Yet curiosity was plainly there.
"He has abode with his mother," Sauron said, truthfully enough. "But never mind that. You have come a long way, have you not? You would like some refreshment, I suppose."
"Nay, thank you. I have brought food with me on my journey, and it has sustained me well. And I dare say, I should partake only of it, for the time being, although I do appreciate your offer."
Rimbrion set a burlap sack on the floor at his feet as he spoke, then took the chair in which he had been sitting and smiled at Gaergath once more.
Sauron indicated to his son that he should sit also. Gaergath did so, looking at the bag and wondering what sort of food this fellow ate, to achieve that peculiar radiance. Rimbrion noticed, and reached down to pick up the sack.
"Perhaps you would like to see," he said genially as he unknotted the cord that held it closed. Then he reached down and took out something that was wrapped in a green leaf, then handed it to Gaergath, who noticed Sauron looking at it rather dourly. "It is a lembas-cake, Elvish waybread, which will supply an entire meal if kept wrapped in these leaves. Would you like to sample one, my lad?"
"You surely did not come here to advertise your cakes?" Sauron said. Gaergath, who had reached out for it, stayed his hand.
"Nay, of course not," Rimbrion said with a laugh. "However, your son seemed curious, and I thought to satisfy his curiosity. Will you try one, my lad?"
"He will not," Sauron said. "Please state your business here, if I may be so bold as to ask. Why have you come here, and how did you find me?"
Rimbrion laid the cake in his bag. Gaergath sat back, disappointed.
"I have long wished to visit this place," the Elf explained. "Long have I traveled throughout the land, having a longing to see all and know many things. I will be frank with you. I have heard tell of your crafts, and desired knowledge of them. I am young, and have a curiosity beyond that of most Elves, who seem rather wary, on the whole. I have grown weary of my home, and wished to discover, to know, things that others would not disclose, nor even discuss with me. I grow tired of the music, the crafts, the arts, the stories, the earth, things my people embrace so closely, never seeming to wish to find out what lies beyond. I thought I might discover such, with you. I have heard tell of other Elves visiting this place..."
"I see," Sauron said laying his fingertips to his chin. "What makes you think I would share my secrets with you?"
"I do not ask such," Rimbrion said, taken aback.
"Then why have you come?" Sauron said.
"I have heard you are a great craftsman," Rimbrion said leaning forward, and his light seemed to diminish, to be replaced by a certain sickly glow, and Gaergath suddenly was reminded of the monster's face in the door. "And I wondered if perhaps I might, well, become apprenticed to you. I cannot pay you at the moment, but I could, perhaps, later. I learn things quickly. And I take the utmost pride in my work."
And so speaking, he drew a dagger from his belt. It had a handle of silver, beautifully wrought, and set with pearls and opals. The blade had an exquisite curve to it, ending in a lethal point. Gaergath coveted it immediately.
"I made this," he said. "My father is a smith. But he is vain and selfish and strict, and will not impart all of his knowledge to me. He is afraid I will outshine him, you see, and he favors my elder brother. And I mean to. Outshine him, that is. I shall become the greatest Elven-smith in all the land. And I thought perhaps you could help me. I would give you credit, of course. He has spoken ill of you, you know."
"Has he, now," Sauron said drily.
"He says you are no more than a petty servant of Melkor," Rimbrion said, "and that you will be overthrown sooner or later, when he has his way. I think I can help you prove him wrong."
"I see," Sauron said. Gaergath wondered if the Elf were stupid, or if he were playing on Sauron's fear and pride in order to get his wish.
Just then Drauglir entered the room, and Gaergath repressed a laugh at the look on Rimbrion's face.
Sauron stood and motioned the wolf closer.
"Is...that a pet of yours?" Rimbrion asked nervously.
"You might say so," Sauron said with a chuckle. "This is Drauglir, my good friend. There are many of his kind on this island, you know. I was wondering how you managed to get past them."
"I saw one coming at me," Rimbrion said. "And showed him the point of my dagger, and he drew back and disappeared into the mist. It is mithril, you know."
"Mithril?" Sauron looked interested now. "You work in mithril?"
"I do," Rimbrion said with simple pride. "And I know where to find it. My father would not tell me, but I heard him speak of it with my brother one day when they thought I was not about. I did not find the place myself, but I know where it is, at least."
Sauron sat in thoughtful silence for a moment. Gaergath was seized with a sudden dislike for this Elf. A feeling he soon recognized as jealousy.
"Let me show you to your quarters," Sauron said with a sudden glow about him.