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Beneath Strange Stars  by Larner

For Erulisse for her birthday.

An Enemy Unmasked

            Celeborn paced back and forth through the rooms in which they dwelt in Celebrimbor’s halls.  “I simply cannot understand, vanimelda, why he continues to listen to the words of this Annatar.  I cannot trust the creature, whatever he is, at all, no matter how I try.  His nature simply fails to ring true.  He is no Elf, of that I am certain; nor is he a Man of any sort.  And so, what is he?”

            Galadriel Artanis gazed at him over her goblet.  “Almost his fëa reminds me of that of our lady Melian, but far darker.”

            He turned his intense gaze upon her.  “Think you that this Lord of Gifts--” his tone made of curse of that; “--that he is in fact from among the Maiar?”

            “I cannot say, not for certain.”

            He thought for a moment before adding, “Elrond does not trust him, and would not treat with him.  He warned Celebrimbor against him, in fact.”

            She nodded.  “I know.  Nor will Círdan or Ereinion Gil-galad allow him near their lands.”

            He sat down heavily in a chair.  “Then what are we to do?  I fear that if our lord continues as he does that Annatar will betray him—indeed he will most likely betray us all!  And I do not like this idea of creating Rings of Power.  I would not see our people compelled to listen to a ruler solely because he wears such a thing upon his hand.”

            She again nodded, and stared down into the cup of pale wine she held.  Her breath disturbed its surface for a moment, but then the liquid stilled.  And, as it stilled, it began to grow darker, as if it held clouds of smoke.

            “Ah!” she exclaimed shortly, her attention caught by the images that formed within the cup.  She saw orcs and wargs, fell Men and trolls, advancing toward Ost-in-Edhil, and at their head Annatar himself, but wearing dark armor, each scale of which was inscribed with dark words written in the fair script of Tengwar.  And on his hand----

            Celeborn watched her cheeks grow bloodless, her eyes widen, her pupils dilating and her nostrils flaring with distress.  “What is it?” he demanded, although his voice was almost deathly quiet.

            At last she broke her gaze away from the pictures of war and destruction that had formed in her cup.  “We must speak with the Dwarves, Celeborn.  Evil and death bear down on us even now.  Celebrimbor will not listen to us, but Dúrin may.  We will need to assure that as many as possible will be able to flee at a moment’s notice through Khazad-dûm to the security of Amroth’s lands, there in his valley between the Silverlode and the Anduin.”

            His face was almost as pale as her own as he reached out to set his hand over hers.  “You have seen this?  And Annatar, he is indeed a deceiver?”

            “More than that,” she whispered.  “He is the Deceiver!”

            He paused, shock taking him as he realized the true name of their enemy.


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