Chapter Thirty-six: Erestor
“What is it with all this talk about Slayers having short life spans?” asked a slightly annoyed Buffy later that night in the dreamscape. “We get that already. Why does it seem that everybody drones on and on about that?”
“I guess it’s because both the Elves and Dúnedain have been blessed with longer life spans than us,” answered Miriel as the two Slayers walked alongside the bank of the River Anduin.
Buffy rolled her eyes. “But they can die, just like us. Look at that one Ranger guy that died battling the trolls.”
“Arvellas. His name was Arvellas,” said Miriel. A pang of guilt struck the younger Slayer at that most unpleasant reminder of the incident for which she felt responsible.
“Arvellas,” repeated Buffy. “And Glorfindel died! So, the Elves aren’t really immortal
“Is there a point you’re trying to make?” queried Miriel, shifting her gaze from the soft, green grass dotted with wildflowers to her mentor.
“Yeah. Enough with the short life span talk! It’s getting old.”
Miriel chuckled. “You’re talking to the wrong person, Buffy.” She smiled, adding, “Feel free to make your announcement at breakfast tomorrow morning.”
Buffy frowned. “And how the hell am I supposed to do that?”
Her protégé shrugged. “You’re the clever one. I’m sure you’ll come up with something.”
“Smart ass,” Buffy mumbled under her breath. “Well, I just don’t think they should be talking about your mortality all the time. That seems kinda cruel, to me, anyway.”
“I’m not afraid to die,” said Miriel matter-of-factly. “In fact, there was a moment there when I was fighting Thuringwethil that I thought I was a… goner. But you came to my aid and saved me.”
“That was nothing,” said Buffy with a wave of her hand. “We’re soul sisters, and soul sisters look out for one another.”
“I appreciate your looking out for me,” replied an ever-grateful Miriel. “I only wish I could do the same for you.”
“Me too,” answered Buffy morosely.
Silence fell between the two Slayers.
Despite everything that had happened, Miriel had not forgotten about her mentor’s plight. Dawn’s abduction had broken Buffy, somehow thrusting her into the past, enabling her to form this mystical Slayer bond with Miriel that transcended thousands of years. If only she could help Buffy deal with her predicament. Unfortunately, she had never faced a “hell-god” before and knew of no way to take one down. Hell, she didn’t even know what a “hell-god” was, or what qualities one needed to possess in order to be bestowed with such a title. However, she couldn’t help but wonder if Sauron was, by definition, a “hell-god”? And, if so, could it be that Buffy had been brought back to this particular point in time to learn about “hell-gods”, and how to defeat them? Perhaps it was more than mere chance that had brought these two Slayers together from vastly different times. How incredible would it be, if by the design of the Valar, they were both destined to face similar enemies, but in different ages of the world! That Miriel was truly meant to face off against the likes of Sauron, which, in turn, would help Buffy in her fight with Glory. Miriel was amazed to see this link, and in these few moments of deep thought, things seemed to make sense more than ever before.
“Do you think Sauron is a ‘hell-god’?” she asked her mentor.
“I don’t know,” replied Buffy. After giving it some thought, she added, “Maybe. Probably.”
Miriel’s excitement grew. She plopped down on the soft grass beneath the leafy boughs of an oak tree, pulling Buffy down with her. She was eager to share her thoughts with her mentor.
“I think I’m beginning to understand things better,” she began. “That you happened to come to me at this point in time means something, Buffy. There’s a link and I think that link is Sauron.”
“I’m not seeing it.”
“Out of all the Slayers that ever existed, how is that you came to me, to this precise point in time? There has to be a reason.”
“Quite honestly, Miriel, I had nothing to do with that. I’m not driving; I’m just along for the ride, so to speak.”
“No,” said Miriel, shaking her head. “There’s something important about this… particular… time
, and I think whatever it is, will help you when you return to your time,” she said with much conviction.
“What’d you have, some sort of epiphany or something?” queried the elder Slayer.
“I think so. I mean, there’s stuff that needs to be worked out, but… I think there’s something to it. I’m not sure how Sauron and Glory are connected, if at all, but they’re both very powerful and need to be taken out.”
“Not gonna argue with you on that,” agreed Buffy. “But how? That’s the big question. What I can tell you from my experience with Glory is that the bitch is bad. She’s strong. She’s fast. She’s invincible.”
“No one’s invincible. Everyone has their weaknesses. It’s just a matter of finding them.”
“She’s got Dawn,” said Buffy softly, her eyes beginning to well with tears. “I don’t know what to do.”
Miriel placed a comforting hand on Buffy’s arm. “We’re going to find a way. I promise.”
Stifling her tears, she asked, “Where do we start?”
“Well, since I think Sauron is a direct link, we need to learn more about him. He’s a demigod, which to me, could be the same as a hell-god. I mean, let’s face it; his notoriety alone qualifies him as one. I know he’s strong. He’s fought in past battles and killed the mightiest of Men and Elves.” After a few moments of silence, she groaned in frustration. Leaning against the bole of the tree, she added, “I don’t have a great deal of knowledge about him.”
The two Slayers fell quiet once again, as they each pondered what they knew about their enemies. Buffy finally broke the silence by blurting out, “Glory sucks brains. I mean, she feeds on them. Does Sauron do that?”
“I don’t know,” answered Miriel with a heavy sigh. “I think it’s time I find out more about him. Not just for your sake, but for mine, as well. And what better place to look than in Imladris.”
“Gonna talk to Glorfindel?”
“Oh no. Uh-uh. He’d read too much into it, think that I was planning to go after him myself.”
“Aren’t you?” asked Buffy, raising her brow in question.
“No, I think he’ll come after me.”
“What makes you so sure?”
“Because I killed his lover. That’s why.” She paused for a moment, thinking of who would be the best member of Elrond’s household to speak to, someone who wouldn’t jump to the wrong conclusions. Slowly, her lips curled into a small smile.
“What?” asked Buffy, noticing the pleased expression on her protégé’s face.
“He did say perhaps we could chat again before I leave,” she recalled, speaking softly and distantly.
“Who the hell are you talking about?”
Miriel fixed her gaze on Buffy. “Erestor. Who better to get information on Sauron than Rivendell’s Chief Councilor.”
Buffy wasn’t sure whether to be skeptical or hopeful. “Do you really think there’s a connection between Sauron and Glory?” she asked.
“I do. And hopefully, I’ll learn more in the morning.”
While Buffy loathed talking about her situation (she was running from it, after all), Miriel’s theory did give her a glimmer of hope. She had never really given any thought as to why she was here, in the dreams of a Slayer from the distant past. Surely, it meant that she was here to learn something, to discover some way of defeating Glory upon her return.
Buffy decided that if Sauron was going to come after Miriel, it was best that they resume their training sessions. She advised her protégé to resume her workouts with Halbarad outside the dreamscape. Honing her skills was more important than ever…
After breakfast the following morning, Miriel cornered Erestor in one of the corridors of the House of Elrond. “Excuse me, Erestor, do you have a few minutes to spare. I’d like to talk to you, if you have the time, that is.”
“Of course,” answered the Councilor with a smile. “Shall we go some place where we can speak privately?”
“If you don’t mind.”
“Not at all,” he replied, as they started along the hallway. “In fact, I’ve been expecting you to come and see me,” he continued. “You have questions, do you not?”
She was a bit taken aback by his comments. “How did you know that?” asked a baffled Miriel. Could it be that he had the same abilities as Elrond and could read her mind with a mere glance?
Erestor chuckled. “Elrond told me, though that has been months ago. Better late than never, eh?”
“Yeah, I suppose.”
“I’m here to help in any way,” he said. “And I must say that I’m honored that you came to me. Of all people, I’d expect you to go to Glorfindel or, perhaps, Elladan and Elrohir.”
“Well, I’d like to speak with someone who won’t jump to the wrong conclusions about my questions. Someone impartial - such as yourself.”
“I’m flattered,” he replied with a nod. He stopped before a door to their right. “Let us speak in this study. It is usually vacant at this time of day.” He cracked open the door wide enough for him to stick his head through and peek inside. “No one’s here,” he said before swinging the door open. “After you.” He motioned her inside. “Have a seat, Miriel.”
She walked over to the sofa as she heard the door click closed behind her. She sat on one end of the couch, watching as Erestor crossed the room and sat on the opposite end.
“What can I do for you?” he asked, friendly in demeanor.
“I’d like to learn about Sauron.”
“Sauron?!” he repeated, his brows darting upward. He hadn’t expected that, at all.
Miriel remained composed, displaying no emotion. “Well, as you may know, Thuringwethil was his lover, and I killed her. I cannot help but think that he will retaliate against me. So, I want to be ready. I want to know everything there is to know about him so that I’m better prepared when that time comes.”
Erestor studied Miriel closely while he pondered her request. She was serious, there was no doubt about that, but Rivendell’s Chief Councilor couldn’t help but think how naïve it was of her to think that Sauron would come after her, personally. That would be unheard of.
“I highly doubt that the Dark Lord would crawl out of the bowels of Barad-dûr to exact his revenge upon you - a mere mortal girl, Slayer or no. He would send others to do his bidding.”
“I mean no disrespect, lord, but I am not
a mere mortal girl,” said Miriel firmly. “I killed his lover, who happened to be a Maia, no less. I have fought and defeated his Orcs, trolls, wargs and even the Uruk-hai. Who else stands between me and him?”
“The Nine,” he replied. “Have you been confronted by the Nazgûls? They are Sauron’s most feared servants.”
Miriel felt a sudden lump in her throat. Surprisingly, she hadn’t given any thought to the Nazgûls, whose name alone made even the bravest of warriors in Gondor tremble in terror. She swallowed that lump and rose to her feet. “If you do not want to help me, just say so. I’m sorry I wasted your time.”
“No, Miriel. Please. Sit,” said Erestor, uncertain whether he could be of assistance or not.
The Slayer returned to her seat.
“It is no easy thing you ask of me, Miriel. It would take weeks upon weeks for me to reveal all that we know about the Dark Lord.”
“I’ll settle for the highlights then.”
Her comment made Erestor smile, however, only briefly. “Tell me, Miriel. What do you know of the Dark Lord?”
“He’s a powerful, evil Maia that wields dark magicks,” she answered. “Oh, and has a lot of followers.”
The smile momentarily returned to the Councilor’s face. “That is all?” he asked with a slight snort. “Then I daresay you do not know much.”
“That’s why I’m here, to learn what I can. He has to have some weaknesses, if only one. At least, I hope he does.”
Erestor became grim. Elrond had previously instructed him to help Miriel when she came to him, but how much should he tell her. Even though it was morning, a few hours before noon, the Councilor rose from the sofa, walked over to the sideboard, and poured both he and Miriel a stiff drink. Talk of Sauron was always unpleasant business, no matter the time of day.
“Sauron is the most powerful of the Maiar,” he said, as he came back to the couch carrying the two beverages. “Did you know that?” he asked, handing her a glass.
She shook her head.
Erestor sat down and took a sip of his drink. “He was not always evil. Most people don’t know that.”
Miriel’s jaw dropped. She, obviously, was counted among those people.
“I take it you’re one of those who had no knowledge of that.”
She snapped her mouth shut before replying, “Forgive me, but I find that rather hard to believe.”
“It is true. It was by Eru Ilúvatar’s design that all living creatures that He brought into being were to have free will, including the Ainur.”
“Does that mean that Morgoth was not evil in the beginning as well?”
“Hmm,” sounded the Councilor, leaning back and taking another sip of his alcoholic beverage. “There is no simple answer to that. Are you familiar with the Ainulindalë?”
Miriel shook her head, answering, “No, not really.”
“It’s a book, written by the Elda, Rúmil, during the Bliss of Valinor. It gives the account, as told by the Valar, of the Music of the Ainur, which was the first part of the World’s creation and all in it. As the Ainur performed their Great Music, each having his and her own part, Morgoth wished to play a more prominent role, and changed elements of the Theme to his own accord, therefore bringing discord, not only into the Music, but also into the World that was created from it.”
“So what you’re saying is that by allowing each Ainu free will, Ilúvatar enabled evil to come into existence through Morgoth!”
“Ah!” began Erestor, raising his finger as if to make a point. “But was it indeed free will on Morgoth’s part, or was it by Ilúvatar’s design to allow evil to exist? For Eru brought Melkor Bauglir into being, so would that not mean that he meant for evil to exist and that Morgoth was merely an instrument, or vessel, used to make that happen.”
“Why would he want evil to exist? That’s madness! Why not create a world without the existence of evil, a pure world, a happy world?”
“Because all creatures, whether they are Ainu, Elf, Man, Dwarf, or Halfling, can choose which path they wish to tread upon - the path of righteousness, or the path of wickedness.”
“I’m confused,” said Miriel. “Do we truly have free will or is everything pre-destined?”
“I think it’s a combination of both,” replied Erestor.
“That doesn’t make any sense.”
“Sure it does. How else can one see into the future if things are not already set in stone?”
“Then that means there is no free will.”
Erestor shook his head. “One must make the choice whether to fulfill his or her destiny, or not.”
Miriel picked up her glass from the table. “No wonder you gave me this,” she uttered before taking a swig.
The Elf Lord smiled.
“Alright, let’s forget about the whole free will versus pre-destiny thing for a while,” she said, placing her glass back on the table and settling more comfortably on the sofa. “I’m most interested in learning about Sauron.”
“But how can you learn of him if we do not go back to the beginning?” he asked.
“How is that relevant? We know that he’s evil and has been for ages. I don’t believe he’s going to repent and change his ways any time soon. What we’re dealing with is a monster. Plain and simple.”
“So you do not think it is of any great importance to learn how he fell from grace?” queried the surprised Councilor.
“My gut tells me that it would be conjecture on your part,” she answered. “Has any Elf been a part of Sauron’s inner circle, or Morgoth’s for that matter?” Miriel didn’t allow him a chance to reply. She quickly added, “I don’t believe so, which brings us back to the issue at hand: what do the Elves know about his strengths and weaknesses?”
Erestor paused. He drained the rest of his drink, then set the empty glass onto the coffee table. “How can you understand his strengths and weaknesses if you do not know how they came to be?” queried the Chief Councilor. “The only way one can truly know thy enemy is to go back to the beginning. Believe me, Miriel, our knowledge of Sauron is vast and quite detailed. And, your gut, as you put it, is wrong when it comes to us Elves, for there have been some that have been a part of Sauron’s inner circle, though it ended in betrayal and much sorrow.”
That last sentence piqued Miriel’s interest greatly. She had never known that Elves had any kind of affable relationship with the Dark Lord.
This must have shown on her face because Erestor added, “I see that I have your attention now.” He offered a quick smile before beginning the tale. “Sauron, or Gorthaur, as he is known by those that dwell in Middle-earth, was the most renowned and accomplished of the Vala Aulë’s household. From his Lord, he learned much about the physical elements that make up the world, from the utter depths of the earth, to that above it. Possessing such knowledge, and also a lust for power and order, he was seduced by Morgoth Bauglir, and together, they used their skills to distort and pervert all that they could in Endor.
“At first, Morgoth commanded Sauron to remain in Aulë’s household, acting as a spy and revealing to Morgoth all that the Valar and their servants were doing. This way, Morgoth could plot and devise ways to bring all the good works of the Ainur to ruin, in which he had great success.”
Miriel found Erestor’s tale fascinating, but she couldn’t help but ask a question at this point. “Did you know Sauron? I mean, have you met him?”
“At this point in time, none of the Children of Ilúvatar had awakened. Sauron’s fall from grace happened long before the Elves came into being.” He then paused. His face, particularly his eyes, revealed a deep sadness. He rose from the sofa and slowly walked over to the sideboard, grabbing the crystal decanter before returning to his seat. He said nothing.
Miriel’s eyes remained fixed on him, waiting anxiously to hear more. She watched as he refilled his glass with the amber liquid, then topped off her glass. The Slayer couldn’t help but think that Erestor was about to reveal something huge. Why else would he (they) be drinking so much alcohol at that hour of the morning? The Elf Lord then drained his glass with only a couple of gulps. Miriel took that as a sign that perhaps she should do the same. She guzzled her drink, feeling the effects by the time she had set her empty glass back down on the table. As a result, she relaxed her manners somewhat, folding her legs beneath her rear end, something she would normally not do in the presence of such an esteemed lord.
Finally, Erestor said, “In answer to your question, yes, I did know the Dark Lord, though, I must admit, I was not aware of his true identity at the time. None of us were.”
Miriel’s heart was racing. She was nearly beside herself with excitement. “What do you mean? How could you not recognize Sauron?” she asked in disbelief.
“He is the Master of Deception,” answered a solemn Erestor. “There was a time, long ago, when he wore a fair form, and spoke so eloquently that he was able to convince us that he was an emissary of Aulë, the Vala that we Noldor hold in high esteem.”
His comments left Miriel stunned. The words, ‘that he was able to convince us that he was an emissary of Aulë,’ echoed in her mind. What did Erestor mean by that? She couldn’t fathom that the Dark Lord could persuade anyone to believe he was good, fair form or not.
“I don’t understand,” she finally said, nearly breathless. “How was Sauron able to convince you that he was an emissary of Aulë?”
“He came to us, thousands of years ago,” began Erestor. “He called himself Annatar, the ‘Lord of Gifts’ and said that he had been sent by the Valar to aid us in our labors and help us to preserve all that we hold dear.”
“He came to you?! In person?!” exclaimed Miriel in disbelief.
“Indeed. Guised in his fair form, he was able to deceive us.”
Miriel couldn’t help herself. Her jaw dropped. Once she realized that, she firmly clenched her jaw.
“There are some things you need to understand, which would explain how we were fooled,” Erestor went on to explain. “Those of us that dwelt in Valinor were able to live in a land that never changed. Everything was fair and lovely. There was no death. Things did not wither with the seasons as they do here in Endor. The elements were, and still are, under the control of the Valar, and as a result, it is, by far, the fairest place in all of Eä. The Valar do not control the weather, or the things within Middle-earth, for the discord that Melkor created, manifested in all parts of the world, outside Aman.
“We Elves, particularly the Noldor, seek to preserve that which was. We have a love for everything in this world. Nothing saddens us more than change and death.”
“But change and death are a part of this world,” Miriel chimed in. “How can you expect it not to be?”
“We understand that. The marring of Morgoth has brought much hurt into the world. Yet, it has always been our desire to use our skills, our magics, to heal the hurts in this world and to preserve the beauty and bounty of all goodly things within it. We cannot duplicate Valinor, but we have most certainly tried to emulate it. Turgon, son of Fingolfin, and Lord of Gondolin, came closest to doing so, by building a near replica of Tirion, our chief city in Aman.”
Erestor paused at this point and shifted his gaze away from the Slayer. There was a heavy air of sadness about him. Miriel found her own excitement diminishing, only to be replaced by a profound sense of sorrow. Perhaps the vibes coming from Erestor had brought about this sudden change in her.
“I have not talked about this for many, many years,” Erestor began, speaking softly. He locked eyes with Miriel. “I hope you do not think any less of me.”
“Why would I do that?” she queried.
“The tale that I’m about to tell you ended tragically, for us all. Our desire to learn, to improve our craft led to our downfall. That desire deafened us to the counsel of others that had doubted Annatar’s intentions and warned us. Alas! How I wish we would have heeded their counsel!”
“I don’t mean any disrespect, but I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Are the descendants of Stewards learned in geography? Have you ever heard of the elvish city, Ost-in-Edhil?”
“We know some, but I’ve never heard of that city before.”
“That is understandable. It was founded long ago, after the destruction of Beleriand in the War of Wrath. We founded Eregion - ”
I’m familiar with,” Miriel interjected, wanting to show that she wasn’t completely ignorant when it came to geography. However, as soon as she had blurted out her comment, she realized (too late) that she had disrespected Erestor by interrupting his sentence. “Sorry,” she quickly added, feeling the surge of blood rushing to her cheeks.
Rivendell’s Chief Councilor flashed a quick smile before resuming his tale. “Eregion was founded in Year 750, in the Second Age - that was over fifty-five hundred years ago.”
Miriel’s eyes widened in astonishment as she mouthed the words, ‘fifty-five hundred years’.
“Our chief city was Ost-in-Edhil, ‘Fortress of the Eldar’. Men called it Hollin for there was an abundance of holly trees that grew in the region. The greatest Noldorin craftsmen of the time dwelt in Eregion. Celebrimbor, son of Curufin, son of Fëanor was considered the greatest of them all. There was a great bond of friendship amongst these craftsmen, and they soon became renowned as Gwaith-i-Mírdain, ‘People of the Jewel-smiths’. I was a part of that group.”
“You?!” the Slayer said in shocked disbelief.
A smile came to Erestor’s face. “Why does that surprise you so?”
“Well, you’re Rivendell’s Chief Councilor. I have never heard about your being its Chief Craftsman.”
The smile faded from his fair face. “I’m afraid my love for crafting things has waned over the years. Thanks in no small part to Sauron’s deceptiveness.”
“What happened?” she asked, eager to hear more.
Erestor took a deep breath, then slowly exhaled. “I reckon it was about four hundred and fifty years or so after the founding of our realm that Sauron first arrived as Annatar. He longed to heal the world of its hurts, the same as us, and to make our lands as fair as they are in Valinor. Who would not desire such a thing? After the Great War, the Valar gave us permission to return to our homes in the West, or to make a new one on Tol Eressëa, but so many of us loved Middle-earth and were not ready to depart these shores. We longed to repair the hurts in the world and to continue to forge friendships with the other races that are forbidden to set foot in Aman.
“At first, Annatar aided us in making things fairer than ever before - the crafting of jewels, were a particular favorite of ours. No finer jewels have ever been crafted in Middle-earth since those days.” Erestor spoke that last sentence with great pride. “And we did not merely fashion jewels. Our artwork was magnificent to behold and our statues looked life-like. Even our gardens were splendid and we grew a bounty of crops, plants and flowers. We put our hearts and souls into everything we made, and tenderly nurtured those things we did not.
“With Eregion a place of beauty, we sought to extend our labors further, past our borders. We had already formed a great friendship with the Dwarves of Khazad-Dûm, which is now called Moria, even making a road from our land to theirs so that it would be easier to transport goods that we traded with them.
“Over time, we gave thought to uniting the mightiest lords of the greatest realms in Middle-earth - a fellowship of sorts. If we all worked together, we could enrich the world quicker and make things more orderly. The members of our guild all wore a ring as a token of our brotherhood. We then thought of doing the same for the mightiest lords in Middle-earth to show our bond in friendship, our unity in working together to heal the world and to make it a fairer place. However, we did not want the rings to be mere trinkets. Our desire was to imbue them with the power to aid the wearer, to enhance the wearer’s natural abilities.”
“Holy Eru!” exclaimed Miriel. “You’re talking about the Rings of Power.”
“Yes. Yes, I am.”
“You helped make them?” asked a stunned Miriel.
“Not all. Only some.”
The Slayer couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Here she was, sitting with one of the elven smiths that had helped make the Rings of Power. And said smith was none other than Erestor! It was mind-boggling, to say the least. With her mind racing upon discovering this tidbit of information, her thoughts swiftly turned to the Nazgûls, the Ring-wraiths. She couldn’t imagine what kind of powers the Elves had imbued in their rings to make them what they are today - evil incarnate, whose shrill cry alone instills fear and dread into the most stouthearted of men. That left her perplexed. Miriel found it hard to believe that the Elves (knowing their true nature) could be responsible for creating such horrendous creatures with just a ring.
Erestor continued. “Elves are born with an innate ability for magic, more so than Men. That’s not to say that your race does not have that ability – some do, some have that predisposition, however, many have, throughout the years, chosen to use it for nefarious purposes. Elves are not inclined to do that. It’s not in our nature.”
Miriel couldn’t help but interject, “You’re telling me that Elves are not inclined to do evil? I may not be an expert in elvish lore, but I know that there have been some Elves inclined to do evil. What about Eöl and his son Maeglin? And let us not forget the Noldo, Fëanor! Men are not the only ones inclined to do evil.” She couldn’t explain why she felt so offended by Erestor’s comments or the need to defend her people. Perhaps it was the thought that his remarks made her feel that only mankind was capable of ill deeds when history had proven otherwise.
“You speak truly,” replied the Elf Lord. “But, I never said that Elves have not done evil. I was speaking of magics, that Elves are not known for embracing the dark arts. There may be some out there that have, but as to who they are, I have no knowledge.” Erestor’s own comments sounded defensive. The lines on his face deepened. “The Elves you’ve mentioned have brought great sorrow onto my people. The treachery of Maeglin is especially painful. Yet it was fated to be, for any that associated with the Noldor fell under the Doom of Mandos, including the Moriquendi, those Elves that never set foot in Aman and set eyes upon the Blessed Light of the Two Trees.”
“Were you one of the Moriquendi?”
“No. I was born in Tirion many long years ago.”
“You’re one of the Noldo Exiles!” she blurted out excitedly. “Does that mean that you took part in the Kin- ” Miriel suddenly stopped speaking mid-sentence. The alcohol had loosened her tongue to the point where she had nearly mentioned something that she knew should be off-limits.
Erestor cocked his head, looking at her with an intensity in his grey elvish eyes that she had never seen before. “Did I take part in what?”
The Slayer shook her head. She could feel the blood rushing to her cheeks. She reached out and grabbed the decanter. Her hand trembling as she refilled her glass with the amber liquid.
As she went to refill Erestor’s glass, he said, “You can ask me anything, Miriel. When I agreed to this, I opened myself to scrutiny.” He spoke in his most reassuring voice. “I wouldn’t expect any less from a Slayer.”
“There’s also a line that should not be crossed,” she replied, placing the container back on the table and taking a quick sip of her drink. “I nearly crossed that line. I’m sorry.”
The Elf Lord sat upright. “If I had to take a guess, I would think you were about to ask me if I took part in the Kinslaying.”
At the mere mention of “Kinslaying”, her facial expression must have changed despite her attempts to appear indifferent. Erestor, of course, was right. That’s exactly what she had been about to ask. She averted her gaze, looking down at her glass, which remained tightly clasped in her hand.
“I can see that my guess is correct. I must admit that I’m stunned that you would have any knowledge of that event.”
Miriel met Erestor’s eyes. He didn’t appear angered by her question. “I’m a descendant of the Faithful. It’s my duty to know our history. Denethor has told many tales that predate the rise and fall of Númenor. He has a great knowledge of the things that transpired all the way back to the First Age.” She paused before asking, “Did you?”
“Yes,” answered Erestor. “I was of the House of Finwë. He was my lord.”
The Slayer pressed her lips tightly together to prevent her jaw from dropping once again. To say that she was shocked would be an understatement.
“Do you think any less of me?” asked Erestor ever so softly.
“No,” she was quick to reply. “Even my forebears were guilty of slaying their own, and that was not so long ago, at least not in the reckoning of Elves.”
“You speak truly, though the circumstances surrounding our… abominable act were quite different.”
Miriel took another gulp of her drink and then said, “I’m not one to judge, but, to kill your kin over a couple of jewels seems kind of… barbaric.”
“It was not merely the theft of the Silmarils that enflamed our hearts,” Erestor went on to explain. “Our actions were indeed cruel and barbaric, as you put it. We unjustly killed our kin and the burden of that guilt still weighs heavily on my shoulders. I have lived with that for years untold. Morgoth had long before begun planting the seeds of dissent amongst the Noldor, speaking of the vast lands in Middle-earth that were rightfully ours, to rule over realms of our own. He had convinced many that the Valar held us in bondage, and in our folly, we heeded his words. The Dark Lord was the master of malice and spoke with such cunning words that his seeds of rebellion soon bore fruit. When we learned that our King had been brutally slain, we were overcome with a maddening grief that drove us to do the unthinkable.”
“I cannot believe the Valar didn’t stop Morgoth before all that happened. I mean, one can only assume that they had to know what was going on right under their noses.”
“That’s how we saw it at the time. And we were wrong. The Valar are not omnipresent. The do not see everything. We acted rashly. We should’ve taken a step back, and awaited their counsel.”
“But they had to know Morgoth was evil and a danger to the world. Yet, they did nothing. They let him kill so many innocent people that had never set foot in Valinor. I cannot comprehend how they could allow that to happen. I know I couldn’t.”
“The Valar are not inherently evil, and for that reason, they do not truly understand evil. They believed that Morgoth had sincerely repented of his ill deeds, that he was reformed. It wasn’t until after the death of Finwë and the destruction of the Two Trees that they realized that their kinsman had deceived them.”
“But they still didn’t do anything,” protested Miriel. “Morgoth came back to Middle-earth and wreaked havoc, killing and enslaving innocent people.”
“Sadly, that is true. But do not think that the Valar sat idly on their thrones, doing nothing. What you need to understand, Miriel, is that the Valar did act, though it would seem very slowly in the eyes of a mortal. For immortal folk perceive time much differently than mortals do. Mortals tend to be… hasty.”
The Slayer couldn’t help but snicker. “Of course we’re hasty. We can’t spend years upon years debating issues when immediate action is needed. We’d be withered with old age, or worse, dead. The bottom line is that the Valar didn’t do anything to help those in Middle-earth that had nothing to do with what had happened in Valinor. That’s the tragedy of it all.”
Erestor furrowed his brows. “I’m puzzled,” he began. “Why do you harbor such hostility toward the Valar? Do you feel that they have wronged you in some way? They, who gave you your Slayer powers.”
Miriel shifted her eyes to her lap out of fear that Erestor would be able to read her thoughts. She hadn’t felt that she was resentful toward the Valar, well, not until a moment ago. Though very grateful for having her Slayer strength, that didn’t prevent some of the most horrific experiences in her life from happening. Maybe, deep down, she wished that the Valar would’ve intervened in some way when it came to her own life. She had heard of stories from the past when the Valar aided people in great need. Why not her? Why hadn’t they helped her when she had been in grave peril? Wouldn’t the Valar have a special interest in the Slayer, more so than regular folk? Do they not watch her from afar? She supposed that that seemed rather moot at this point. No one could undo what had already happened to her, not even the Valar.
Putting her own situation aside, Miriel met Erestor’s gaze and said, “I guess I feel like they should’ve been more pro-active in Middle-earth.” She forced a smile. “We’ve gone slightly off topic, haven’t we?” she said in a more lighthearted tone. It was now time to get back to business. The last thing that Miriel wanted to discuss were her own thoughts or experiences. “I think you were talking about the Rings of Power before we got sidetracked. I don’t want to seem unappreciative, but if the Rings have nothing to do with Sauron’s weaknesses, then I really don’t see the need in talking about them.”
“Then you’re in luck, for the Rings of Power are quite relevant,” answered Erestor, offering her a small smile. “Sauron aided us in the making of most of the rings, but not all of them. He taught us very secret magics, magics that none, save a few, know today. Nine were made for Men, seven for the Dwarves, and three for the Elves. Sauron had a hand in the crafting of the nine and the seven, but he had no part in the crafting of the three. Those were made by Celebrimbor. Yet they were made with the same magics taught to us by Sauron. Whilst Celebrimbor was finishing the three, Annatar left us for a time. We had no idea that he was, in fact, Sauron, and that he had returned to Mordor where his servants awaited him.
“In the fires of Orodruin, that Men call Mount Doom, he wrought the One Ring, the most powerful of all the Rings of Power. Into this ring, he put much of his power, the greater part, I deem, so that his ring would dominate the others, for they were bound by the same magics that he had taught us. His chief desire was to enslave the wearers of the Rings of Power, thus the free people of Middle-earth.”
“So that’s how the Ring-wraiths came into being,” commented Miriel.
“Indeed. Sauron seized the nine and gifted them to the most powerful of men at the time, many of whom were already trained in the dark arts, sorcery and such. Their rings gave them even greater power, but they were enslaved to the will of Sauron.”
“What about the Dwarves and Elves? I mean, I’ve never heard of Dwarvish of Elvish wraiths. Didn’t their rings turn them into the same type of… otherworldly beings?”
“No,” replied Erestor. “The Dwarves became even more greedy and quick to temper. They are made from tougher stock than Men, so that their rings did not impact them like those that possessed the nine. When Sauron slipped his ring on his finger, Celebrimbor immediately recognized him for who he truly was, the Dark Lord, and that he had been deceived. The three were hidden and never worn, whilst Sauron possessed the One.”
“Why is it that men are so weak?” she asked with a dismal groan. “It’s a damn shame, you know.”
Erestor smiled at her comment. “Perhaps that is why the Valar chose a woman to be the Slayer, instead of a man.”
Miriel couldn’t help but chuckle. “I think that was a wise decision on their part.”
“There you have it, Miriel,” concluded the Elf Lord. “Sauron’s one weakness is the One Ring.”
“Do you happen to know where it is?” she asked point-blank.
“According to lore, it fell from Isildur’s finger into the Great River whilst he was journeying north, after the war.”
“Humph,” sounded the Slayer. “Finding the One Ring would be like trying to find a needle in a haystack! Impossible.”
Erestor voiced no opinion.
If Sauron’s only weakness was the One Ring, and it was lost - what was she supposed to do? There was no way to search the River. It was far too large, and after centuries, it was probably buried under layers of debris, rocks, and sand, or, perhaps it had washed out to sea. On the other hand, without the aid of the Ring, maybe Sauron was at his most vulnerable, that now would be the best time to take him out.
“What’s going on it that mind of yours, Dagnir?” asked Erestor, his eyes glinting with suspicion.
“I was just thinking. If Sauron doesn’t have his ring, doesn’t that mean he’s vulnerable to attack?”
The Elf Lord did not immediately respond. The intensity of his gaze increased two-fold. “My heart is troubled. I have a terrible feeling that you ask these questions about Sauron because you’re thinking of challenging him, that you believe you can defeat him. Tell me that isn’t so.”
“I’m not going to say that the thought hasn’t occurred to me, but it seems suicidal, doesn’t it? It’s not like I can go traipsing up to the Black Gates, calling out the Dark Lord of Mordor. I’m not an idiot.”
“It would be folly. All those who have tried, have ended up dead, or worse,” counseled Erestor. “Be satisfied with your defeat of Thuringwethil. For that deed has truly earned you a place in the books of lore and great honor.”
“But you still haven’t answered my question,” she persisted. “Do you think that he’s in a vulnerable state without his ring?”
“That’s no easy question you ask,” replied Erestor. “I cannot say with certainty, one way or another.”
Miriel couldn’t help but roll her eyes. His response was very elvish. “What do you think? I mean, as a one of makers of the Rings of Power, what’s your opinion? That’s all I’m asking.”
Erestor paused for a moment. He continued to scrutinize Miriel, but she refused to break eye contact. “It’s my opinion that Sauron cannot be wholly defeated until the ring is destroyed. I deem that his ring holds more of his essence than whatever beastly form he currently wears.”
“You mean he put that
much of himself into a mere ring!” said a stunned Miriel. She couldn’t fathom anyone putting so much of their essence into any object, especially one that could so easily be misplaced, or lost, or cut from one’s finger.
“His purpose was to control all the others; that most certainly required a great deal of power on his part.”
“Well, that seems a foolish thing to do. I would’ve thought Sauron was smarter than that,” she remarked.
“Do not underestimate the Dark Lord’s prowess,” cautioned Erestor. “His reign has far outlasted that of his master, and I need not remind you that he was the one responsible for bringing about the downfall of your ancestral homeland. He is patient and cunning. His evil knows no bounds. He waits, biding his time until it’s time to strike, and when he does, his attack is swift and deadly. It would do you well to push all thoughts of Sauron from your mind. Do as you have been, fighting alongside the Rangers, taking out lesser foes. The Dark Lord is far more dangerous than any living creature in Endor. Do not look to fight him. That would be a losing battle.”
Miriel promised that she wouldn’t dare confront Sauron. However, a part of her felt disheartened that so few had faith in her slaying abilities. It seemed to her that too many underestimated her skills in battle. The enemy should be wary of her, for she wasn’t your average run-of-the-mill warrior. She was a Slayer. And Slayers are capable of doing more than ordinary folk, aren’t they?