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The Stronghold  by Aldwen

Here follows another story about Celebrimbor.
Some notes. This story is set much later in the First Age, therefore the names and place-names are no longer in their Quenya forms, as Sindarin has already taken over in the everyday use. It is compliant with "The Silence", but there are some deviations from "The Silmarillion" proper, less so from other versions of the story that may be found in the HoME. I have also taken the liberty to give Celebrimbor a best friend, from the times in Nargothrond, although in this story Calanwë appears only briefly. In general, I do not believe that any alterations I have made have a significant influence on the storyline and character development as reflected in the published text. Calanwë is my character, all other named charecters belong to the Professor. For me, this has been merely a creative excercise, from which I gain no profit. Maybe also a kind of self-therapy during this crazy time. :)

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Year 541 of the First Age


I was long silent after the messenger had ceased speaking. I walked to the window and stood there looking out at the vast expanse of dunes and the Sea beyond them, the waters of the bay dark and grey, white-crested waves washing against the shore. There was no peace in this sight, no reassurance. The love I felt for Endor did not extend itself to the Sea. Still, I stood there watching it until I was certain that my voice will not betray the turmoil of my mind.

“Are you certain they are there?” I asked, turning back at last.

“No, lord Celebrimbor, I am not, not fully. I did not see them, for I was not in the fortress itself. What I have just told you are rumours. But rumours that I and many others believe to be true. I thought you should know this.”

“Yes. I am grateful.” I attempted a weak smile.

We spoke of some other matters then, but the messenger saw that I was distracted and soon took his leave.

I remained at the window of the spacious room and watched yet for a while the wind tearing at the wave-tops in the bay. There had been a storm and a heavy rainfall yesterday; shreds of grey clouds were still racing across the sky, and the waters were unsettled. As unsettled as my mind, I thought bitterly to myself, turned abruptly and left, slamming shut the door. I hastened to a place that always brought me peace – the smithy.

Calanwë was there; so deep in work that he did not notice me entering. Only when I had come closer and stood beside him for some time looking over his shoulder, did he raise his head. On the workbench in front of him there was a silver plate, engraved with a seaside landscape, waves crushing against cliffs, seabirds circling in the air.

“This is wonderful,” I quietly said, amazed, as always, by my friend’s skill.

“I thought you do not like the Sea.” He smiled.

“That would not thwart my judgement of an outstanding work.”

I did my best to return the smile, but there was no deceiving Calanwë. His smile faded, and he looked at me long and closely. When I said nothing, he nodded to himself and set aside the plate and the graver.

“Shall we go for a ride?” he asked.

“Yes!” I replied, relieved that I will not have to say anything at least for a while yet.

We turned away from the Sea as soon as we passed the city gates and followed the northeast road. The horses, bored of several days’ idleness, were restless and willing to run, and when we had reached the wide grassy plain beyond the woodland, I looked at Calanwë with challenge.

“Let us race!”

He smiled, nodded and said a few quiet words to his horse, and soon we were flying over the grass, the hooves of our steeds hardly touching the ground. It did not take long ere Calanwë was far ahead of me; my horse’s speed was not a match for that of his stallion, descendant of the line of the West.

We ended our race by the river. The clouds had meanwhile broken, and sunlight fell in patches amidst their shadows upon the grass and swiftly flowing waters of river Nenning.

“Blame yourself, brother,” said Calanwë, dismounting. “It was you who spoke the challenge!”

“I knew you would win.” I shrugged my shoulders. “From the beginning.”

“I wonder?” He laughed. “This is something new then. You challenged me to a race you knew you would lose? Whence this sudden change in you? Or is it something else?” He looked at me again enquiringly, but I was silent.

After that we set loose our horses to graze on the riverbank and went to swim. It was still early in the year, the water cold and the current after the recent rains – swift, and I, having my mind distracted by gloomy thoughts, turned too far towards the middle of the stream where the force of the river was the most fierce. Suddenly I felt my strength overwhelmed by the current that carried me swiftly towards the rapids. At first, I was little concerned, for I knew that just before them there was calmer water where I might swim ashore with small effort even in this current. But then something slammed into my shoulder with a great force, and as I saw a large tree branch floating past, I felt that my left arm was rendered numb and useless by the blow. I attempted still to turn towards the shore but realized in dismay that all I could do was to remain afloat, and even that with great struggle. The rapids drew closer. Thoughts rushed wildly through my mind, that I should call for help, but also that it was a madness to draw Calanwë too in danger, but ere I had cried out or, indeed, decided whether I should do that at all, he was already there, holding me firmly above the water and steering towards the coast. He was a much better swimmer than I, yet it took all his strength to battle the current and to pull me to the shallows, and a good while afterwards ere he regained his breath.

“Your shoulder? Is it broken?” he then asked, and his usually so calm voice was tense.

I turned my head to look and flinched at the sight of the large purple bruise that covered my shoulder and arm, down to the elbow. I moved it cautiously and sighed in relief.

“No, it is not. Merely a bruise.” Slowly, feeling was returning to my fingers too.


He said no more. Only when we sat on the riverbank in dry clothes, the sunlight warm upon our faces, did he turn towards me and spoke.

“Now perhaps your mind is sufficiently cleared by the cold water, so that you can explain what madness drove you into that current? You nearly found death there!” His voice quivered with suppressed anger, his grey eyes glinted.

“Forgive me, brother. I regret.” I bowed my head.

“I do not need your regret, Celebrimbor! I need your answer! What has clouded your reason beyond any sound judgement?”

I raised my eyes and saw that his fury was merely a cloak for care and affection he had for me. Brother of my heart; if there was someone I could trust, it was Calanwë. And I decided to tell him.

“Messenger from the north arrived today,” I said. “From… Himring.”

Calanwë looked at me with question; anger faded in his gaze and concern dawned instead.

“From your uncles? What do they want?”

“No.” I shook my head. “Not from them. My former apprentice, he came on his own behalf bringing news he thought I should know. He said… he said there are children in the fortress.”

“Why should not there be children?” Calanwë frowned, uncomprehending. “This may be a perilous time, but some still choose to wed and to have family. There are children in Eglarest too.”

“No, you do not understand.” I sighed. “There are two boys of the same age who were not there before. Calanwë, I think…” I fell silent for a while, bracing myself for what I was about to say and feeling unrestrained anger stirring in my heart again. “I think, these are Elwing’s sons. Maedhros and Maglor have them hostage.” My hands were clenched in fists, and I had to keep myself from shaking.

Calanwë laid his hand upon my shoulder.

“Calm down, brother,” he said, and his steady voice seemed to me a life-saving raft in a raging sea. “Calm down. And then tell me everything you know.”

I nodded, drew a deep breath to steady my voice and told him everything, even as the messenger had told me. Calanwë listened in silence with a thoughtful expression on his face.

“So… you do not rightly know whether these boys in Himring indeed are the twin sons of Elwing and Ëarendil?” he asked when I had fallen silent.

“I do not. And yet… That is more than likely. From what the messenger told…”                                                                                  

“But you said he did not see the children with his own eyes.”

“No, but the others to whom he spoke had seen them. And all they said confirms my suspicion!”  I drew my hand over my face, then looked at him again. “Ai, Calanwë, what am I to do? I know that you give counsel unwillingly, but I am at a loss! Should I tell this to Círdan? I truly do not know!”

The disquiet on my face must have been clearly displayed, for he smiled, faintly, yet reassuringly.

“This is not some advice on craft you ask. In this I will not withhold my counsel from you. No, I do not think you should tell anyone yet, at least until you are certain that everything your messenger said is indeed true. I think…” I looked at him with question, and he spoke on. “I think you should travel to Himring. See for yourself. Speak with your uncles.”

Startled, I stared at him.

“I do not know, brother! I am not sure if… if I can go there and calmly speak with them. I am not at all sure. After all they have done, even… even without this!”

He looked at me long and thoughtfully, then shook his head. “Three years ago, I would not have said this,” he said. “But now, I think, you are ready to speak with them. I am not certain how calmly. But,” he added with a wry smile, “perhaps without drawing sword first.”


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