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Forging for Protection and Defense  by Larner


            The coming of the Istari into Middle Earth was a wonder to the smith, who found himself recognizing two of these, both the first to arrive and the last.  He might have been young when he followed his lord Findaráto out of Aman and across the grinding ice of the Helcaraxë, but he had studied under the tutelage of both Mahtan and Lord Aulë himself during his youth, and had seen both Curumo and Olórin within the forges of both.  Although, as he remembered it, the latter had been of the People of Manwë primarily, yet he had a curiosity and capacity for compassion that had led him to serve each of the Valar at one time or another—all, that is, save Moringotto alone.  Although perhaps he had served that one, also, back in the time before Time, as Ëa was coming into being, before the Dark Vala fell wholly into evil.

            When each came into Imladris soon after their arrival, the smith was asked to attend the councils held with them, as one who could remember the many battles and long wars fought against the two Dark Lords and their allies.  His particular memories of the actions of Sauron during the time, under the identity of Annatar, the so-called Lord of Gifts, when he served in Ost-in-Edhil as instructor to Celebrimbor on the art of crafting Rings of Power, was of special interest to the Istari, and particularly to Curumo.

            “What can you tell of how these were crafted?” the White Wizard asked.

            “Little enough.  My particular interest has ever been in the crafting of edged weapons, not in the creation of jewels or tokens of power.  Oh, I did learn how to create the more simple jewels of light for the use primarily of scholars and artists.  But I took to heart Elrond’s warnings against Annatar, and as Celebrimbor began to rely more deeply on his tutelage I became increasingly uneasy.  In the end I came away to Imladris, for I did not like the manner in which Annatar looked after Celebrimbor as he left the forge to attend to matters of state.”

            “Did you recognize Annatar to be Sauron?”

            “No, but then I rarely saw him in Aman, and then but from a distance.  I was too young to know him personally.  When I began my own apprenticeship in forgecraft he had already allied himself openly with the Dark Enemy, and was not seen in Tirion or in Lord Aulë’s forge.  But I did sense something unwholesome within Annatar, as well as there being about him an air that I recognized as belonging to the lesser Powers, only twisted.”

            Still Curumo, or Saruman as he was now called in the north, wrung from him such details as he could recall of Annatar’s teaching, and the smith felt weak and empty once the Istar was done with him.

            And then Olórin had come, another the smith recognized no matter how great the change in appearance.  Often the smith as a young ellon had seen Olórin in the guise of an Elf.  His shape as a Man was quite different from his appearance when he was clad in the fána of one of the Firstborn, but the feel to him was unmistakable to the smith.  He, too, wished to know what the smith remembered of Sauron’s time in Ost-in-Edhil as Annatar, but he wanted to know primarily how Annatar had dealt with others, how he had manipulated others into falling under his will and in with his schemes.  Olórin did not wring these details from the smith as had Curumo, but coaxed them out of the smith, with interest, with care, with compassion, and at times even with humor.  This time the smith felt he was actually helping to convict the Enemy of his perfidy, that he was helping lay Sauron’s doings open to scrutiny so that in the end the fallen Maia would be forced to pay for his betrayals, his murders, his innate cruelty, and his indifference to the desires and needs of his myriad of victims.

            Afterwards Curumo seldom came into the north, and thus seldom to Imladris, for which the smith was glad.  But he looked forward to the Grey Wizard’s visits with pleasant anticipation, feeling as if, at least briefly, he were being granted a glimpse of his far more innocent youth in his long-lost home.  He could have returned to Aman after the War of Wrath—the offering of forgiveness had been made as much to him as to any other of the Noldor, he knew.  But he’d felt that he was needed yet here in Middle Earth, where his skills would not be seen as commonplace as they were in the Undying Lands.

            One day when Mithrandir returned yet again to Elrond’s valley, he came with a rough wagon in which lay a great deal of wood, which he brought to the smithy.  “I do not understand why I know this must come to you,” he’d said to the smith, “but I know that you are intended to receive it.  I was sojourning in the forest of Fangorn amongst the Onodrim, and one of the younger Ents begged me to carry away the remains of his own people who’d recently been slain by orcs.  From time to time orcs from the Misty Mountains will slip down into the northern reaches of Fangorn and will cut down trees to use in the forging of their weapons, or simply to destroy them for no good purpose, perhaps merely because orcs are offended by the beauty of trees.  This time they’d destroyed quite a grove of elms, two of them huorns, and the Ent was grieving over their remains.

            “He begged me to carry their shattered limbs away, and see to it that the wood was put to good use that all should find reason to rejoice in the fact that these trees had once graced the world.  Perhaps the wood could be used in the crafting of grips for swords or knives or spears for use in fighting the Enemy’s creatures.  But I suspect that you will best sense for yourself the purpose for each log or limb when the time is right for it to be used.”

            The smith had accepted the gift, and had the wood stored in a room where it would remain preserved until it should be called upon.  When he crafted a new sword or spear he would come there, allowing the wood to speak to him as to whether or not it should be worked into haft for a weapon or in giving shape to a sheath.  Some pieces he found himself gifting to the woodworkers, who crafted them into bowls or trays or furniture.  Others he gave to the carpenters, who used them in the building of new rooms.

            But there was one store, all he sensed to have come from the same two trees, that held a good deal of anger, anger he sensed would only be relieved by fire, by allowing them to be used to fuel a flame of great purpose.  These he set aside for his forge, knowing that the day would come when they would feel they would help prepare the way for proper vengeance for their own fall.

            Another time Mithrandir came with a great store of honey and beeswax from the Beornings, and one particular cask of wax he again specially gifted to the smith.  “The bees that produced this wax were rescued from a hive threatened with fire from orcs from Dol Guldur,” the Wizard told him.  “The Beornings have treated them well, but the hive remembers the danger it was in, and wanted the wax to be used to good purpose against those who’d threatened them.”  This wax the smith stored in the same place as the wood from Fangorn.

            Now and then the Great Eagles would visit the vale of Imladris to speak with Elrond and the other great Elves who dwelt in Elrond’s home, and one day one of these visitors had not yet left when the smith came to Elrond to tell him that he’d finished a long knife commissioned for the use of his daughter.

            The Eagle looked at him with one of its keen eyes.  “You have created a weapon intended to be wielded by a female?” it asked him.

            “Indeed, for do not the Enemy’s creatures threaten both males and females of all, as well as our offspring?”

            The Eagle mantled.  “You speak rightly,” it answered him.  “We had thought that most of the two-legs believed their females to be too weak to defend themselves or their young.  It pleases us to know that you do not make such a mistake.”  It stretched out a wing, and with a great tug from its beak it pulled out one of its own primaries, then held it out delicately for the smith to take.  “The day will come when this will prove useful to you in scribing the runes for a weapon.  Keep it against that day.”

            One day Rangers newly returned from service about the boundaries of the Shire and the Breelands brought a cask of oil sent by Thain Gerontius of the Shire, who’d visited Elrond recently, and a second cask sent by Iarwain ben Atar of the Old Forest found to be filled with water from the Withywindle, both casks indicated to be intended for the use of the Master Smith of Rivendell.

            Elrond came to the smithy and inspected these offerings and the others that had been given into the smith’s keeping within the past thousand years.  “The time nears,” he murmured, “when we must address the true identity of the Lord of Dol Guldur, after which I fear we shall be required one last time to gird ourselves for war.  It is as well, I deem, that all of the Free Peoples of Middle Earth appear to agree to this and offer what they can to see to it that you are prepared to help arm us against that day.”

            Then came the day when Arwen, having spent some yéni in her grandparents’ realm east of the Misty Mountains, between the ancient ruins of Ost-in-Edhil and Khazad-dûm to the west and the valley of the Anduin to the east, returned over the High Pass to her father’s house.  She brought to the smith two stones she said had been laid at her feet by one of the stone giants who dwelt in the heights of the mountain range.  One proved to hold at its heart a diamond of great purity.  The other was of pure silver.

            When Balin of Erebor and the Blue Mountains came to Imladris with his party, prepared to head southward to reopen the halls of Dúrin once more, the Dwarf tarried long enough within Elrond’s house to help the smith cut the diamond into a proper shape to fit into the hilts of a sword, and once more the smith set it aside, for he sensed that the time for its use was coming closer by the day.  The silver they used to craft a fine but sturdy chain of braided links, which the smith gave into the hands of Glorfindel.  After Balin and his people left to face their doom in Moria, the smith went into the Hall of Fire to look upon Elrond’s last fosterling, as Aragorn sat by the side of his beloved, the sheath of Narsil worn upon his hip, for the Man took seriously his charge to care for the shards of the ancient sword until they should be required to be reforged.

            Soon, the smith thought, too soon that day will come.  I pray that all will indeed come together to see the Sword of Kings again aflame with its purpose to stand against all evil that threatens the Free Peoples of Middle Earth.

            Elrond’s odd guest and advisor, Bilbo of the Shire, also sat in the room, listening with pleasure to the tale of Beren and Lúthien being sung by Lindir, watching Aragorn and Arwen together with a knowing and proud smile as if he were somehow responsible for seeing them together that night.

            Yes, the day approached….


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