Heart of Flame: A Tale of Sauron

A Dream of Fire

Írissë gave an exaggerated yawn. “The sea is lovely, but Alqualondë is so... insular.”

“Enough of your thinly veiled snobbery, cousin,” Luimëníssë chirped with a wily grin. “What you really mean to say is dull.”

“But it’s more amusing to hide meaning behind my words,” Írissë added with a bright laugh. “It’s a challenge, like hunting.”

“And what are we? A couple of deer? You planning on skinning and gutting us later?”

Artanis winced. “Really, Luimëníssë. How graphic.”

“And yet amusing coming from her. She jumped at the smallest sound around me when we first met, now she openly challenges her Noldor cousin. Tell me, little Teleri, when did you become so bold?”

Luimëníssë picked a plum from an obliging tree on a street corner and threw it at Írissë’s smirk. Her cousin skipped out of the way with a mocking laugh.

“I am not little. I am fully grown. I am weary of people telling me how small I am, or how young I am. You all sound like my mother.”

“We are only jealous of your beauty,” Írissë replied, sweeping her pearly skirts up in her hand to avoid a puddle.

Luimëníssë rolled her eyes. “That didn’t sound very sincere.”

“Ignore her,” Artanis replied, stopping at a vendor’s table arrayed with multicolored silks. “Írissë, wait a moment. Here is that shade of blue I was telling you about.”

With her cousins occupied at the vending table by the waterside, Luimëníssë walked towards the gently swaying docks. The swan boats lined the city edge, the black eyes of the bird figureheads staring at the pearly spires and curled towers beyond.

The faint clanging of metal echoed a couple avenues over. They were close to the forges, but Luimëníssë had known that of course. Giving a side look towards the other two maidens, who were discussing lengths of gowns and cloaks with the silk merchant, Luimëníssë slid down the alley towards the metal crafts dome.

A fountain bubbled near a translucent pool in front of the gleaming metal smith dome. Twirling the pearl ring around her finger, Luimëníssë rounded the rippling water, the edge rimmed with sapphires. Hidden behind the fall of water, she peeked towards the open archway of the dome. Several smiths were hard at work.

Rembano loomed before a black anvil, raven hair tied in a queue behind his thick neck. A luster of sweat coated the column of his throat and pooled in the hollow above his breastbone. His shirt ties were loose. The hammer bounced off the glowing piece of metal between a pair of tongs. He hit it with another powerful blow, a stray piece of hair drifting before his eyes. He blew the strand from his golden vision and glanced up.

Luimëníssë stood suspended, her first impulse to run. With an odd half smile, he set down the tongs and crooked a finger. She obeyed without thought.

“What are you doing here, Silver Bell?” He wiped his face with a kerchief then tucked it into the leather apron around his waist.

The heat of the smithy was nothing compared to the absorbing presence of the ellon. He throbbed with his own radiance, engulfing her in his warmth. Luimëníssë kept the anvil between them, playing with the gauzy blue fabric of her gown with one hand, her other grasping the ring at her breast.

“I came to town with my cousins, they are looking at fabrics for dresses.”

“And that does not interest you?”

She shrugged. “Sometimes it does. But not today.”

“Have you acquired a sudden interest in metallurgy?”

Again she shook her head. “I have a request. A favor.”

“To ask of who... me?”

Silence followed. He tossed the smoldering piece of iron into a nearby bucket of water. It hissed, the steam drifting over her skin.

“Hasn’t anyone ever told you that asking favors of strangers is unwise?”

“But you aren’t a stranger,” she answered, gaining the courage to meet his strange eyes. “I’ve know you since I was a child.”

“Have you?”

He moved past the anvil. The other elves at work didn’t notice the tension between them, as if they had become invisible. His gaze drifted down to the ring hanging around her neck. He picked it up and slid it to the knuckle of his forefinger, tugging her close to him. His face hovered a breath over hers.

“What is your request?” He spoke in a low voice. His presence blistered into her. “I can deny you nothing.”

“The ring,” she whispered past her parched throat. “I would like to be able to wear it.”

“I cannot remake this one. It is special. It only fits my finger.” He slipped it between the crevices of his fingers and drew her so that their bodies pressed together. Her heart thundered with humidity. “But I will craft one for you alone. Will you accept me?”

“Yes.” How could she not?

He rested his nose against her as he released a ragged breath. “Meet me in the cove before your father’s house in two days. At sunset.”

“Yes.”

“Luimëníssë! Where are you?” Írissë’s voice drove into her being like a barrage of arrows.

She jolted and Rembano retreated, his movements casual, his appearance like that of a common Noldo and not a living jewel of flame.

“I believe someone is looking for you.” He picked up his hammer. “You should go to them before you have to answer uncomfortable questions about me.”

“Yes, you are right,” she replied, drawing a shaky breath before leaving the smithy without a goodbye.

Írissë huffed in annoyance around the corner of the fountain square. Artanis gave her a probing stare. Luimëníssë dragged a hand over her face, imagining soot stains on her skin, her hair scented with smoke. She felt hollow and frail, the energy drained from her body by the fever of his nearness.

“Where were you?” Artanis' face was rife with misgivings.

“I peeked into the forge and was enjoying the fountain in that square.” Luimëníssë shook out her tingling hands as she moved past them. “I think I might walk home.”

"Walk? I thought you were returning with us to Lord Olwë’s for evening meal?” Írissë cocked out her hip, her mouth pulled tight. “Are you well? You seem a little unsteady.”

“Just a little restless, I think I might walk the stretch of sand home. Artanis, can you see that my horse is housed at grandfather’s for me?”

She didn’t dare meet their questioning glances before striding away.

She cast off her slippers as she approached the rushing water at the shore, not bothering to retrieve them. Her gown plastered to her legs as she waded into the surf, the violet-silvery glow of Telperion glistening like ice on the waves as they crashed into her.

Luimëníssë slipped under the surface, the cool waters hissing through her veins till bubbles like steam floated up around her body. The mystifying heat that Rembano had ignited in her flesh was damped down, but still churned like a dull piece of coal, her hunger for him filling the cavity of her heart.

How would she survive two days before she saw him again?

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