Heart of Flame: A Tale of Sauron

The Feast of Pearls

“You are much more interesting than-” Luimëníssë caught herself before she spoke ill of their cousin Írissë.

Artanis turned from the edge of her balcony overlooking the ocean. Stars dusted the dark sky as Telperion glowed silvery in the distance. Her elegant frame leaned against the railing, the breeze catching the hem of her emerald gown.

“More interesting than what?” She gave a teasing smile. “You can tell me.”

Luimëníssë bit her bottom lip. “Than Írissë ...”

“Not too keen on hunting? I don’t blame you. I’ve grown up as close to her as a sister. She isn’t too terrible when you catch her alone. She is only heavily influenced by...certain company.”

Knuckles rapped against the bedroom door. Calarmo and Finarfin appeared to escort them to the feast as their wives were already present in the hall. Luimëníssë pondered Artanis’s final comment as they passed through the glimmering halls of her home.

The vaulted ceiling of the feating hall was luminous with embedded pearls. Írissë sat on the raised dais. Luimëníssë understood what Artanis had meant. She was in close confidence with the conceited son of Curufinwë Fëanáro, laughing behind hands and exchanging superior smirks.

As Artanis and Luimëníssë climbed the steps, Írissë stood with a faint smile. Her raven hair was loose without adornment, her white gown beautiful in it’s simplicity. She had worn white the last time Luimëníssë had seen her.

“Cousins, dear ones,” Írissë beamed with artifice, gripping their fingers. “Well met. How beautiful you look, Artanis. And dear little Luimëníssë, you are so grown!”

“Yes... thank you?” Luimëníssë replied saucily, earning a chuckle from Artanis.

Írissë laughed as well, but with less gusto. “Come, sit with us. Cousin Atarinkë and I were just naming the various charms of your delightful little city.”

Artanis gave the Noldor a weak nod which he returned with a wry stare as he popped a berry into his mouth.

“Well met, Artanis,” Atarinkë droned. His blank glare trailed past Luimenisse as though she wasn’t there. “And you as well, I suppose.”

Gradually Artanis was drawn into conversation with the other two about politics in Tirion and new advances made in smithing and lore. Having no knowledge of these things, Luimëníssë tapped her feet under the table, swirling her cup of wine.

“And you, little Teleri? What do you think?” Atarinkë’s bored tone drew her out of her musings.

She cleared her throat. “About what?”

He gave an impatient wave of his hand, heavy rings stacking his thumb and forefinger. “About the Valar and their position among the Eldar. Do you believe they hold us back from our true potential or aid us to gain further heights?”

Luimëníssë had rarely given the Valar and their Maia servants a second thought. In her simple world by the sea, the spectacular goings on in Tirion and certainly in Taniquetil, on the holy mountain, were a world away.

“I don’t know-”

“Of course, you don’t,” he cut her off with a cold smile. “Why would you care in this beautiful place, so wild and uncouth. I certainly wouldn’t worry myself about it if I were of the Teleri.”

Írissë hid a wolfish sneer in her goblet as Artanis cleared her throat. “Enough of this conversation. It’s tiring.”

Luimëníssë stared down at her plate. She couldn’t tell if it was her indignation or embarrassment giving her stomach pains. If only they would make the announcement for finest pearl.

The music stirred for dancing. Náretarnon strode towards her with his hand extended. “Care to dance, sister?”

He didn’t have to ask twice. Before long, she’d left him behind and twirled by herself, her parents clapping with approval at her fleet footedness as her scarlet skirts fluttered. Other than cliff climbing and pearl diving, Luimëníssë loved dancing most of all.

Finally, at the end of the evening, her limbs warm with wine and the rush of percussion and flute, her grandfather, the Lord Olwë, rose to announce the winner of the loveliest pearl. His bright white hair was pulled into a myriad of braids, eyes the same spirited blue as her father’s.

“I hope I do not seem biased with this announcement. I will lead by saying that I am not the one who judges the pearls, I am merely the messenger so don’t kill me.” A warm chorus of laughter rose from the gathering. “But I am pleased to announce the finder of the finest pearl in the Bay of Eldamar is none other than my granddaughter, the Silver Bell of Alqualondë, our little Luimëníssë.”

Even her mother rose to her feet in applause. She leaped towards Lord Olwë and he kissed her forehead. He presented the fine, black pearl to the room before tucking it into her palm. “I do believe you’ll have your father jealous. He always tried to win this honor in his youth. You may see him taking up diving again.”

In that golden moment, with all her family happy and present, the sea shushing at their door step as Telperion gleamed in the distance, Luimëníssë wondered if she could ever be happier.

As the dancing recommenced, she retreated to a quiet archway and studied the pearl in her hand. Rolling it around her palm in the lamp light, the green hue morphed to dark blue.

“A true treasure.”

She glanced over her shoulder. A tall elf stood close behind, peering down at the pearl in her hand. Black hair skimmed his shoulders, combed back from his square forehead. His skin was pale as snow and eyes golden.

“You,” she breathed, blinking up at him. “It’s you. Rembano. From that day on the cliff.”

The corner of his mouth curled in brief amusement. “That was nearly sixty years ago. And you still remember me?”

Luimëníssë recalled Atarinkë’s earlier jab at her simplicity and looked away, her face warming. “I hadn’t realized it was so long ago.”

“Don’t fret, Luimëníssë. I remember you too.” He leaned his mouth close to her ear, his breath against her neck. “I also remember that you stole something from me.”

“I did,” she admitted, turning to face him. “I have kept it safe. If you would like, I can get it for you. The ring never did fit, not even now.”

Gently, he took her hand and studied her fingers. “I shouldn’t think so with these slender hands. But I believe you should keep it.”

“Why?”

He picked the pearl from her palm and held it to the light. “A very lovely find, you certainly deserve the honor. But this, I believe I shall keep for myself. In return for the ring.”

Pocketing the pearl, he retreated a step, holding her in his gaze.

“Will you stay? Meet my family?”

“I have stayed as long as I needed to. Don’t worry, Silver Bell, this won’t be the last you see of me.” With a charming twist of his prominent chin, Rembano disappeared into the shadows.

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