One Thing I Had To Do..|
‘Is it true? Is it true, Anna?’ a young girl looked at a tall elven maiden with both excitement and anxiety.
‘What true?’ – that was said in harsh tone, alien to elves, but not this one, as her emerald eyes pierced through youngest Aragorn’s daughter – Nimwen.
‘Is he back? The Dark Lord?’ she was shivering a little bit, like a lonely autumn leaf.
Anna looked her up and down, being annoyed, nevertheless calm.
‘Yes’ she answered almost whispering.
Her voice was clear, like purl of mountain stream, yet her tone varied from warm and serene like morning sun to frosty and mordant like snowstorm on Caradhras. However, at the moment it was none of those. Disturbing rumors were spreading across the Middle-earth. The rumors of darkness and fear, wondering in Misty Mountains, covering them, like twilight gloom. The sacrifice was made…
‘That’s why father is worrying… And mom has been crying a lot… The war is nigh. They say women should pray, while men are at war…’
‘Pray not’, Anna answered. ‘For Sauron shall not care whether you are man or woman.’
She meditated for a second and sighed. The reverie on her face changed slowly into slight irritation.
‘I do not approve of allowing only men to fight’, she added finally. ‘Havo dad!’
‘Why not?’ Nimwen sat on the windowsill, her legs crossed.
‘Not many now who I really am’, Anna smiled indifferently. ‘Not even your parents, Aragorn and Arwen, who considered me to be their trusted friend and ally.’
She hesitated for a moment and then continued:
‘Some things are better left in the past and remain mine and mine alone… Nevertheless, I cannot run from myself. I was a warrior once. A Noldor warrior. Not everyone could handle this life – I saw people perish, torture, darkness and destruction. But moreover, I saw what men can do and what they cannot.’
Anna threw her head back, put on cloak and headed to the door.
‘That’s why I’m leaving Gondor…’ she added in steady voice.
‘Anna, please, wait! May I follow you?’ asked Nimwen.
‘If your parents let you go, then yes’, was the answer.
‘They won’t! You know it… Please… You have been looking after me since I was a little child… You know this place bores me!’
‘Don’t raise your voice then’, Anna looked at the girl with slight amusement. ‘Write a note, pack your bag and let us take our leave.’
The Misty Mountains is no place for weak. Blizzards, deep snow, no place to shelter. Nevertheless, an interesting story never hurt anyone, so Anna allowed her friend to ask a few questions about her.
‘So, who else knows that you are Noldor?’
‘In Middle-earth? Glorfindel. And that’s all… I have been hiding for a few hundred years after defeat of Morgoth. I saw a downfall of Numenor, creation of the Rings; I knew Isildur and Elendil and saw vanquished Sauron… Some things are hard to forget…’
‘Like slaying Teleri?’
‘I slew no one!’ Anna said sharply. ‘I confronted Feanor and he commanded to place me under guard, so I may not interfere… So don’t say such things lightly.’
‘Still, you were cursed…’
‘And I have been withstanding it – and death – for so long’, she sighed.
‘It’s hard to tell how old you are…’ Nimwen shrugged her shoulders. ‘Nothing tells about your age… You are neither weary, nor crestfallen. You do not long for the West…’
‘For my home is here…’
The blizzard worsened. Nimwen tried not to fall behind, but it was hard, she was freezing. Anna gave her fur cape, but she could do nothing with deep snow. An unknown temple, carved in the very mountain peak, was towering on the horizon.
‘There it is’, Anna helped her young friend to get out of snowdrifts. ‘See? The dark silhouette of a shrine? We must get there by nightfall!’ she had to shout as the winds’ howl deafened them both.
Nimwen did not answer. She was exhausted, but did not want to complain. It was her fault she was not able to handle this and so she gathered all her strength to move on.
It was sunset, though it was hard to tell. The sky has been leaden-grey since the very dawn, but now it was darkening. Anna and Nimwen were standing near the temple, on the sloop of mountain. It seemed to be forsaken.
‘What is this place?’ Nimwen gazed at the entrance anxiously.
‘I don’t know,’ Anna seemed to be even more troubled than her young companion was. ‘I’ve never seen it before. Still, I can feel death… Move with caution.’
It was still freezing inside, but absence of wind was at least a bit encouraging. Dark corridors were empty and any unwary step would echo and alert anyone nearby. Therefore, they were prowling, down into the dungeons, carefully looking around, searching for foes. However, nobody was there and it was silent. Too silent…
‘Where are we?’ Nimwen whispered as they entered a gloomy room. ‘Is it… blood… over there?’ She waked into the midst of some kind of altar.
‘This is a ritual pit’, Anna nervously but lightly pulled her fair, light-brown hair lock a few times. ‘The place where Sauron was revived. I can smell blood in the air. But why is it still fresh? It has been some time since the Dark Lord was brought back… Unless…’
She neared her hand to the carvings on the wall and recoiled from them.
‘…they did not want to bring Sauron back… He is just some kind of priest for them.’
‘I don’t understand…’ Nimwen started panicking. ‘What’s happening?’
‘They want to bring back Morgoth…’
‘No! It… it can’t be! What should we do?!’
‘Be quiet, first of all’, Anna drew her sword. ‘And then you will go to your father and tell him about this…’
‘I’ll try to investigate further… I shall lead you out and then…’
She heard steps approaching the pit. Voices of men. They were coming.
‘Stay behind me’, Anna whispered.
The door opened and she dashed forward, beheading the first two and instantly stabbing the last one. They did not even understand what killed them.
‘Get out of here!’ Anna took Nimwen’s hand and ran to the gates.
They heard noise behind them, people shouting, running. It seemed that a whole zealot army had been hiding in this place and now, being revealed, they were ready to fight and kill.
‘Faster! Faster!’ Anna cried. ‘We’re almost outside!’
They ran through the main gates and felt cold wind almost cutting through their skin. The voices did not subside, but became louder. Nevertheless, Nimwen could not run any further. She was breathing heavily and stuck in deep snow.
‘I cannot run…’ she could barely stand. ‘I cannot…’
Anna frowned. She could not abandon her and let her die.
‘Very well… Nimwen, lasto beth nîn… You must go to Gondor! You must tell Aragorn about the zealots’ true intentions! Go as fast as you can…’
‘And I shall stay here and hold them as long as I can…’
‘But you will die!’
‘For the sake of Middle-earth and you, I shall sacrifice myself’, she replied. Si bado! ‘Namarie, Nimwen! Hall of Mandos awaits me!’
As the girl disappeared in the blizzard, Anna turned around. She was beholding armed men’s silhouettes approach.
‘Not much for an army’, she said to herself and rushed forward. ‘By the name of Elbereth Gilthoniel you shall not go any further!’
A dozen of zealots came and died by her hand. She was a furious warrior indeed, but one of them gravely wounded her from back. Anna slowly raised her sword and cleaved that one in halves. Still, the wound was bleeding, pain paralyzed her, and she was standing there for one moment that lasted for eternity… And then she fell into the snow. A scarlet halo spread around.
…gû kibûm kelkum-ishi…
Nimwen felt guilty for leaving Anna.
‘Maybe, she will make it’, the girl thought. ‘And if not? She did not want to leave Middle-earth… I must return!’
So she went back, fighting wind and snow with what was left of her strength. Nimwen saw bodies and she vainly hoped that Anna was not among them.
‘No!’ the girl cried and ran towards the body. ‘No! No!’
Her tears were falling like autumn rain, freezing, but she did not care. She hugged Anna, trying to understand whether she’s still breathing or not. The cloud of warm haze came out of Anna’s mouth.
‘She is alive…’ Nimwen said silently. ‘Don’t leave me… You must live! Tolo dan nan galad!’
Nimwen found some herbs in Anna’s bag. She knew only one – athelas – and she used it to stop bleeding.
‘Well, at least you won’t die of blood loss…’
Suddenly, Nimwen felt some odd presence. She turned around sharply. A tall hooded figure wrapped in dark cloak was coming in steady pace. The girl could not look at it properly for blizzard was covering her eyes with snow and it was almost night, but she felt his gaze set upon her and Anna. Nimwen took Anna’s sword and pointed it towards a stranger.
The tall figure stopped, silent and solemn.
‘You are not a foe…’ Nimwen said. ‘Please, help her! I beg you!’
He nodded and lifted Anna, so he may carry her to shelter. Nimwen tried to discern his face, but it was hidden behind a dark-grey cloth. Only eyes were glowing like stars in the night. The girl tried to stay close to him. He was so serene walking in the storm as if there was no wind or cold.
‘You shouldn’t have come here…’ stranger’s voice was mesmerizing, weird and aloof.
‘We had to,’ objected Nimwen. ‘It’s just… they want to bring back Bauglir…’
‘I know’, was the answer.
He said nothing more, leaving Nimwen wondering who he was.
‘Mandos…’ she thought. ‘So grim and silent. He came to save her from his curse… Anna is going to be so surprised! She has always been so skeptical about him…’
They entered some cave. Nimwen made a fire and the stranger dressed Anna’s wound. While doing this he murmured something, a spell that sounded more like a song. But it was hard to get the melody as his voice was too quiet. He cloaked Anna and poured into her mouth some liquid.
‘This will mitigate pain,’ he explained, then sat and took Anna’s hand.
A few days passed and Anna was back on her feet again. The stranger was still a mystery; even his face was always hidden and name unknown. However, he cared for the elven maiden, even though she was a bit too harsh after she regained consciousness; but that was because of fear. Nimwen treated stranger with friendly respect, but he usually paid no attention to her, as if she was not even here.
It was late night, but nobody was sleeping. Nimwen was sitting in cave’s corner, staring at the fire, nevertheless carefully listening to Anna and stranger’s conversation.
‘Why don’t you both go back to Gondor?’ he asked.
‘I have to do something about those rituals’, Anna answered.
‘What can you do?’
‘I’ll find out…’
‘You are so opinionated’, said stranger. ‘Just like all Noldor.’
‘How do you know that?’ Anna looked at him with distrust. ‘And if you know who I am, why don’t you tell me who you are?’
‘Because you will be afraid’, was the answer.
The stranger took off a hood, unwrapped his face and smiled. His skin was pale like moonlight; his hair was silver like snow. He was handsome, yet his expression was ominous.
‘You don’t know what you are talking about’, the stranger whispered.
‘You healed my wounds and cared about me’, Anna replied. ‘I have no reason to be afraid…’
The stranger grinned and bent forward to her. ‘I am Sauron.’
‘Very well, then’, said Anna. ‘Mae govannen!’
‘Mae govannen?!’ suddenly cried Nimwen. ‘He’s the Enemy!’
‘He saved my life!’ Anna snapped. ‘You treated him well before! Imagine you still do not know his name!’
‘He killed more than we can imagine!’
‘Than you can imagine, because I can!’ Anna breathed deeply. ‘Even if I don’t fully trust him, I tend not to misjudge him…’
Nimwen was red because of resentment, but held her tongue.
‘Do not be so harsh, Anna’, Sauron’s wry smile appeared for a moment just to vanish again. ‘I couldn’t care less what says that girl. And so you should not worry about me.’
‘So you’re not leaving?’ he asked again.
‘Why? I also do not wish to witness Morgoth’s return. I can…’
‘Of course. However, I would like to take part in it.’
‘You do not believe me?’ Sauron smiled.
‘I do believe you’, Anna frowned. ‘But I do not trust you…’
‘I hope you will not mind helping me, then…’
‘What’s on your mind?’
They came to the temple again. The weather was better, but Anna was shivering at the very glance at this place – the black monument to darkness in a midst of white peaks and under silver sky.
‘Nad no ennas!’ Nimwen pointed at the mountain foot.
‘We need to hide’, Anna whispered, but suddenly Sauron grabbed her arm.
‘Oh no, you don’t!’ he grinned.
They were surrounded by zealots again.
‘You let her live?’ asked one of them.
‘Noldor blood is powerful’, he replied. ‘Would have been a shame to see it squandered. It may help us. It might be enough to bring the Lord of Darkness back…’
‘Filth! Betrayer!’ Anna tried to hit him, but he caught her arm.
‘Do you think I care?’ his eyes glowed sinisterly.
The dungeon was cold. Anna and Nimwen were sitting together, not even bound, as zealots still didn’t consider them as a danger. The elven maiden was gazing at the same spot, her eyes tearing.
‘I shouldn’t have forgotten who I am,’ her voice trembled. ‘I could have saved us… Protected us…’
‘From the Enemy? You can’t…’
‘I could have! But I failed… Failed us both…’
‘Enough whining!’ rough voice interrupted her and a zealot entered the cell. ‘You…’
However, he didn’t manage to finish what he wanted to say, as Anna jumped forward and broke his neck. The other zealot closed the cell door and recoiled from it.
‘Tell your master that I want to see him! And if anyone other comes, I’ll break his neck again!’
‘What are you doing?’ whispered Nimwen.
‘If I can’t save us both, then I will save you!’
Waiting seemed to last for eternity. There was no sense of time in the dungeon. It was always dark, no ray of light could get there and the only thing to rely on was some sixth sense.
‘I know you are here’, said Anna into the gloom.
‘I know… You wished to see me. I could not ignore your request…’
‘This courtesy is really unnecessary’, Anna neared iron bars. ‘I suppose you know I will kill anyone who enters this cell…’
‘Sure’, Sauron’s voice was silky, still slightly menacing.
‘I suppose you don’t wish to lose more of those zealots?’
‘Then listen here! I will freely go to sacrifice, if Nimwen remains unharmed, safe and sound…’
‘If I promise it, do you really think I shall keep it?’
‘No, I don’t need your promise or word… I need an oath! Swear to me!’
Sauron took her hand and Anna’s nails dug into his skin. Blood squirted down his wrist.
‘Aghhh…’ he winced.
‘Swear to me! On your blood!’
‘I swear that no harm will come to Nimwen!’ he muttered. ‘And I have made a mistake coming to you without full armor…’
Sauron snatched out his hand from Anna’s grasp and almost ran away.
‘Now he has no choice, but to let you live’, the elven maiden said to girl.
Not much time passed as Sauron was back.
‘You’ve made an oath’, Anna reminded.
‘Of course’, he answered. ‘But she will have to witness the sacrifice…’
‘I have promised that no harm will come to her, nothing else!’
Anna looked at Nimwen. She silently nodded, even though she was shivering. Therefore, they went to the ritual pit. Dark corridors were cold and the air was frowzy, but Anna payed no attention to that. Will Sauron risk his blood and break his vow?
She was standing near the altar, two guards by her side and Nimwen behind. Sauron stood on the opposite side holding a ritual dagger in his hand. Unknown symbols were carved on its blade, symbols that gave it terrible powers.
Anna stepped forward and the guards followed. Sauron clutched the grip of the dagger. She closed her eyes praying silently for instant death.
Anna felt warm blood on her shoulder, but did not feel pain. Before she could even open her eyes, she felt blood on the other shoulder. Sauron slit guards’ throats almost instantly and hit the altar with dagger, crushing both of them. His silver hair and pale skin were glowing in darkness, as his eyes turned from greyish to golden-red. He seemed furious, almost insane and zealots tried to hide in the gloom of ritual pit.
‘Do not hide’, Sauron’s whisper echoed in the room. ‘I see you…’
He grabbed Anna’s and Nimwen’s hands, dragging them closer to the ruined altar.
‘I told you there will be a sacrifice!’ he cried to zealots. ‘But you had no idea I had an intention to sacrifice you!’
Doomed men ran to the door, but it was closed.
‘None shall survive this…’
Anna remembered nothing as she closed her eyes. She felt Sauron hugging her, felt Nimwen clasping to her back, heard walls, carved into a mountain, crumble. She heard screams and running. And suddenly it was over. Freezing wind blew upon them, as whole mountain peak was destroyed.
‘It’s a great luck it didn’t hurt us’, mumbled Nimwen.
‘Luck?’ asked Sauron. ‘I tried my best to keep us safe… All of us… Nevertheless, we have to go! Anna?’
She was standing motionlessly, gazing at hazy distance.
‘Are you all right?’ his tone demanded an answer.
‘Yes… I just need time to think…’
Minas Tirith… The city of Men’s splendor…
‘The White City… Too white for my taste’, Sauron smiled as Anna came closer.
‘Still, the view from balcony is enchanting…’ she replied.
‘Do you like this place?’ he asked.
‘I don’t know… It is numb. However, still much better than Halls of Mandos. By the way, thank you for saving us…’
‘I don’t know, but that was one thing I had to do… At least I feel this way’, Sauron shrugged his shoulders. ‘Someday, we have to make a choice and sacrifice something – I have made mine for now’, he sighed. ‘However, there was just a little bit more than a half of Morgoth’s servants… It will be hard to find and slay them all…’
It became silent for a moment.
‘You didn’t tell them who I am though…’ Sauron frowned.
‘We have both made a promise and neither Nimwen, nor I will break it.’
‘Making the old mistake again…’
‘You mean you may betray us?’
Sauron leaned forward to her.
‘I will betray you’, he said softly. ‘There probably will be a moment when our interest will differ and then…’
‘Oh, I shall try not to miss it,’ Anna turned around.
‘Nach gwannatha sin?’ it was the first time he spoke Sindarin.
‘I should leave you to your dark thoughts’, she replied heading away from balcony. ‘Should I not?’
Sauron seized her hand.
‘No’, he smiled. ‘Stay…’
 Sit down!
 Listen to my words…
 Go now!
 …there is no life in the cold… (Black Speech)
 Come to the light!
 Something’s out there!
 Is this how you would take your leave?