Spider Among Flies
The blond smiled as he looked over the city from his balcony; he had been in Ost-in-Edhil in Eregion for a decade now and already his influence was highly visible. The subtle and not-so-subtle changes and improvements showed well his knowledge and skill and were evident even to those unfamiliar with Celebrimbor's realm prior.
He had wandered far and wide to walk amongst the Elves, all of whom sought to improve Arda and heal the pains caused to it in the over-throwing of Melkor. It was only from Lindon he was barred, though their warnings to have no dealings with him generally fell on deaf ears. All he walked with appreciated what he shared with them and well he earned the name of Annatar, so why ever would they listen to naysayers rather than his own words?
The Noldor in Eregion had ever been the easiest to reach, so most of his time had been given to them. As a people they had ever been prideful and their desires were easy enough to see, and to promise. He still visited the other Elven realms and kept in good dealings with them however, the more he could bring to his service the better, so he would not concentrate solely on one group.
Things were moving on nicely however and once they were ready he would finally set his plan in motion. He would wait for as long as was needed for that however, he would not make the mistake of rushing into things before it was time. They still had much to learn and his ties to them could yet improve. Time mattered little to any of them, the Eldar were not quick to expire as Men were, so he could wait patiently for as long as was needed.
Moving away from the railing of the balcony, he headed outside and made his way to the abode of Celebrimbor; Eregion's Lord had requested he visit and the time arranged was fast approaching. He was a fine craftsman, second only to Feanor, and was one of the main reasons the blond gave Eregion such time and attention. With Celebrimbor, his plans were guaranteed to be a success, it would be an easy enough feat for the elf to achieve.
He was also simple enough to manipulate and was convinced they were both striving for the same worthy goal. That would be all this meeting would be about, how they were doing, what they could achieve in the end. It was a worthwhile use of his time however, he needed to be trusted and obeyed by Celebrimbor before he could suggest the rings of power and teach how to craft them.
The wait was beneficial to him as well, as it gave him time to build his forces and learn the strengths and weaknesses of Eregion. If they were foolish enough to betray him, he wanted to be ready to wipe the realm off the map and make them regret it for whatever lifespan any one of them might hold. That was of course not the outcome he wanted but he would not be left unprepared either.
Annatar was ushered into Celebrimbor's study upon his arrival and was not surprised to find the other waiting with drinks already prepared. It was not as though they were newly acquainted and were unfamiliar with each other's tastes after all. Taking the proffered seat, the blond looked expectantly at the other man, waiting for him to speak.
Celebrimbor did not keep him waiting long to offer greetings and to thank him for coming, which were cordially accepted and responded to. Reaching for a box the dark-haired man opened it, showing the contents to his visitor. Annatar smiled politely, realising they were a gift for the Lord's wife and he was hoping for an affirmation they were suitable.
The blond gently picked up the necklace, running his eyes along it studiously. While he had little doubt the woman would appreciate it regardless, it would do his reputation no good not to point out if there were any flaws in it.
Once he was satisfied, he placed the piece in the box after glancing at the others. "Its good workmanship Celebrimbor, though even if it weren't, she would still love the gift."
The dark-haired elf smiled warmly in return. "Perhaps, but she still deserves only the very best. Thank you Annatar."
The blond nodded and waited while Celebrimbor placed the box out of sight. "I trust that isn't the only reason you asked me here?"
"No, of course not. While I appreciate your opinion, I would not inconvenience you so for such a triviality to you. It has been some time since we spoke last and I thought it prudent that we should discuss matters."
The blond nodded, glad to be proven correct. "Of course, though I know little of what might need to be said. Things are progressing little by little as expected and you know well enough both what I share and what you and your people achieve."
Celebrimbor nodded. "Yes, of course. There is still much for you to teach us, though isn't there? This partnership brings great benefit to my people and my realm and as you say, the improvements can well be seen here in Ost-in-Edhil."
"Yes, certainly there is much more I can teach Celebrimbor and such shall be done over time when you are ready to learn it. Nothing good will come of rushing things and there is no excuse for the Eldar to do so."
"No, you are right, as always." Celebrimbor stated bashfully, hesitating briefly before voicing a question. "Do you really think we can make Eregion as fair as Valinor? Is such truly within our reach?"
"You doubt my words and promises?" The question returned was simple, without any bite or insult.
"No, it is not in you I hold question. It is something my people long for, as much as we love Arda, we do also long for the bliss of Aman."
"Which is why I offer the means to attain it. Hold patience and trust in me Celebrimbor, come the end, you will hold what you need to preserve your realm and make it just as blissful and beautiful as Aman."
"I do Annatar, and again, I am grateful for all you share with us. I shall keep you no longer, no doubt I shall see you tomorrow for the feast if not before."
"Indeed. Farewell Celebrimbor."
Once back safely in his own dwelling the blond dropped his guise briefly. While everything was going well, it was still frustrating having to act so benevolent and reassuring all the time. Still, it would soon be time to return to Mordor again and ensure all was progressing there well without his presence.
Hopefully it would be, though equally at present he would not complain too much for an excuse to lash out. He was a General of the highest standing for his Lord and for that strength and position he had refused to return to Valinor to be judged and subjugated. He could not help but wonder what Melkor would think if he saw him pandering to the Elves though. It would all be worth it in the end however and that was what kept him at it.
He could cope with not speaking his thoughts and coming across as all sweetness and light if it meant attaining his goals. They had always been worth the effort and it would of course please him no end to have the Valar's precious Firstborn in his service. Any affront to the Valar was ever appreciated and oh did they deserve such.
They cared nothing for Arda, nothing for anything but the Firstborn who would obey them and live within their domain. For but a pathetic plea from a fool who had managed to reach them, they had decimated the land and felled his Lord and then returned again to Valinor without care. If Arda truly meant nothing to them, they could have but ignored the matter and left Melkor to claim the land as his own.
Unfortunately such would never now be, though he would not forget his Lord, nor let the world either. Melkor still would be worshipped, by those he created and by those Men that Sauron held in his power and in time to come, by the Firstborn as well. He would rule in his master's place and he would hold hope that one day the means to bring an end to the Valar's reign would come. Then Melkor could again be free and all in Arda would worship him as their God.
Such would be a long time coming, if indeed it could ever be attained but he would do what little he could to keep the worship of Melkor alive and hope that it would reach his Lord and give him strength. Certainly he could not imagine what it was like to be locked away in the Void, let alone in such condition and the thought was one he never dwelt on.
Sighing softly, Sauron placed back on the guise of Annatar, knowing it wasn't safe to be out of it unless he was in Mordor. Even though the form was the same, the difference in presence was noticeable when he did not lock his true thoughts and feelings away and he could not risk being discovered.
After tending to a few matters, he once again headed out, knowing his presence would be missed with the Gwaith-i-Mirdain if he did not visit them. Working made the time pass and he had little else to do, it would also be untrue to suggest that he did not appreciate their praise and thanks.
He stepped into the crafting quarter, not surprised by the instant and enthusiastic acknowledgement he received. It wasn't so bad really, teaching them and moulding them to purpose, nor being held in such high regard, even if their esteem was for one who didn't really exist.
Still they had all the time in the world and he would not lose this game, he just needed to be patient. Once the feast was over with he would be free to leave for a while and deal with some of the other matters that needed his attention. Having a break to be himself for a while would be novel but ultimately he would do whatever he needed to. Everything would come together nicely in time, he just needed to wait a little longer…