Heart of Flame: A Tale of Sauron

A Stolen Ring

The Undying Lands, Years of the Trees

The dusky glow of Telperion was fading, mingling with golden Laurelin as the Two Trees waxed and waned with the dawn. She stood at the crest of the waves, the warmth of the unfurling leaves of the Trees of Valinor spreading against her back as she peered across the glistening water.

She had bound her hands and shins with shreds of white cloth discarded from her mother’s loom, the jagged hem of her sheer skirts swirled at her knees. The pink hue painting the horizon matched the tint of her cheeks, her silver grey eyes wide with exhilaration. The cliff behind her rose against the heavens, ragged with age. Atop burned one of the billowing fires marking the harbor of her city.

The elleth was in her youth. Not full grown, but still young enough to be told what to do by her mother, which was why she had sneaked out before the house stirred. Tucking one of the few, loose braids that adorned her cropped, silver hair, she gazed back at the cliff with a wry grin.

Today, she would scale it to the top. It had been a dream of hers since she was small. Restrained by her protective mother, the elleth had decided to take matters into her own hands.

Hitching her snowy skirts into her bodice, her legs protected by a light pair of short hose, she found the first niche in the cliff side and pulled herself up. She was daring, but not reckless. Slowly, she scaled the cliff.

Seabirds whirled behind her as she reached the edge where they nested. A howling mother bird picked at one of her braids, defending its nearby eggs. The elf swung out a fist and caught it in the beak, sending it screeching into the pale blue sky. She didn’t dare look down, but the sound of the surf was growing distant.

The thick scent of the lamp oil mingled with the salt air. She was so close, she could see the sea grass on the edge of the precipice. White feathers from the birds’ nests clung to her sweaty face and neck, the fluff sucking into her nostrils. She sneezed, and her hand slipped, one of her feet skidding loose.

Dangling from the cliffside, the ocean roared beneath her bare soles. The elleth fought to maintain her composure. She’d been climbing sea cliffs since she was a child. Though the tallest, this one was no different from the others.

With a cry of defiance, she pulled herself up over the top ledge of the cliff.

Legs trembling and palms raw, she collapsed in a pile of hysterical laughter in the shadow of the lamp. Gauzy smoke rose over her head. She smiled and closed her eyes, allowing her aching body to sink into the sod.

“I thought I saw a bird clinging to the cliff.”

Her eyes snapped open and she sat up. In the full bloom of the light of Laurelin, the figure of a towering male rose over her. His face was in shadow though his square shouldered silhouette burned as though he were engulfed in flames. The girl rubbed her eyes and the vision faded.

A dark-haired ellon, he was tall and stately, but common enough with a wide smile of thin lips and perfect teeth. His sharp eyes caught her off guard. They were golden, almost smoldering as they studied her in amusement.

She shot to her feet, brushing the dry grass from her clothes. With an elegant hand, he plucked a leaf from her hair. Clasping her hands behind her back, she kicked at the ground.

“I don’t believe your family would like to know what you’ve been up to this morning,” he commented.

“Please- please, can you keep this a secret?” Her silvery eyes widened imploringly.

He crossed his arms over his chest and narrowed his eyebrows. “I happen to be very good at secrets.”

“Then you will?”

Wetting his lips, he gazed out over the sea. “I believe I can do that, especially for one so brave as you. What are you called, child?”

She let out a sigh of relief and smiled. “I am Luimëníssë.”

He smirked. “Odd.”

“It is my mother name. Though she is of the Noldor, she decided to use my father’s language.”

“And in Telerin, Luimë means flood.” He moved closer.

She retreated a step towards the edge of the cliff, the wind wreaking havoc with her hair. “Yes. Something from my mother. She has the sight. She said at my birth she saw a flood in my future...” she rambled. “Are you a Noldo?”

He shrugged and strode towards the northern edge of the cliff overlooking a chasm where the ocean crashed into the land.

“Something like that.”

“What is your name?”

He glanced over his shoulder with an enigmatic grin. “Oh, I have several. But you may call me Rembano.”

Crumpling her skirts in her fists, her arms stiff against the sides of her torso, she gave a shy nod to her bare feet. When she looked back up, the stranger pulled his tunic over his head, exposing his pale back to the sun, shoulder blades curving under bare skin.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“Going the opposite direction as you, Luimëníssë,” he said with a radiant smile.

Forming a diamond with his fine hands, he padded to the edge of the cliff and leaped into the air. Luimëníssë raced forward, falling to the ground and peering over the edge. Rembano’s long body shot like a spear through the waves below. After what felt like an eternity, he emerged from the surface of the water. Tossing droplets from his shoulder length hair, he swam with powerful grace against the current and disappeared around the serrated crook of the cliff.

Luimëníssë peered back at his tunic. It was simple in make and unadorned. She lifted it from the tall grass and shook it out. A tinkling sound at the gravel caught her attention. By her knee sat a ring. A slim silver band was welded with a simple trio of pearl beads. It was lovely.

She wasn’t usually a dishonest individual, there weren’t many in the city of Alqualondë. The Lord Olwë was a fair and just ruler, making their harbor a haven for the peaceful Teleri.

The ring felt heavier than it’s delicate make suggested. She put it on her pointer finger and it slipped, too large. But something about it made her reconsider all she had been taught about the immorality of theft. She wanted it.

The young elleth slipped it into her pocket and ran for home.

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