Chapter 2 - Faith
Just as the two, the Grey Wizard and the Still-Cursed Dragon, were met with the doors to Lord Elrond’s banquet hall, Leiawen halted altogether, facing her old friend. The fire light from the torches upon the walls reflected in her eyes, making them glow as they had upon the Wizard’s utterance of the Black Speech. It was a sign of what she truly was, something not easily disguised that gave others pause upon noticing such a sight.
“Tell me truthfully, Greybeard,” she said, her voice all but a whisper. “Is this folly? A Dragon amongst a fellowship to unmake the Ring of the Second Deceiver? Should his gaze fall upon me, should he know of his predecessor’s dark magick against my kind; I do not know that long should my will be my own in this task.”
Greybeard smiled and for a moment she saw beneath the guise he wore to his true self, something that left her breathless in the few times she had witnessed such a thing. It was not something that she could accurately put into words, for she felt what he was more than saw him. He seemed to be made from the warm magick of life, the lines of his own life flowing through his form like the mountain ranges and raging rivers of the earth. She felt something akin to wisdom and peace as he once again placed his hands upon her shoulders. The magic he seemed to be made from slipped into her skin, making her glow for a moment until she could see him no more.
“I feel you have a great part to play in this Age; I would ask for your trust in me once again, my friend.”
The glow in her eyes from the fire subsided, his magic helping to conceal her until she was ready, “You need not ask for my trust, Greybeard, you shall have it always.”
He knew the words she had spoken meant more than simply her trust in his wisdom and judgment in regards to the quest they were to set out upon in the morning. The Still-Cursed Dragon had Faith in him; which was no small thing amongst her kind. Most Dragons, upon the ending of the First Age, had become exceptionally bitter towards any but their own kin, all but disappearing into the mountains they claimed until they were driven out. But she was entrusting to him the care of her very soul; he, who could simply utter words of the Black Speech and take her will from her. Sauron’s predecessor had twisted and tortured her kind so completely to heed the call of the darkness; it shamed the Wizard to know that he could affect her in such a way.
“Come along,” he told her, leaning heavily upon his staff. “Let us cast away such doubts. The hobbits, I know, have been most inquisitive of you and your kin since the meeting of the Council earlier this day.”
Lord Elrond’s banquet hall was full of light and music; the Firstborn Lord had done much to ensure that the Fellowship would spend this last night in his realm with full stomachs and light hearts with memories of laughter. He knew however, of the decision both the Mithrandir and the Still-Cursed had made and in spite all of his doubts concerning her, he would not let her bear her burden alone. The sins of her Sires were not of her doing, there was no reason to hold her accountable for them. As the Grey Wizard and the ‘Nord woman’ came to sit at the end of his table, many dubious glances were cast towards her. The Firstborn gathered, he knew, could feel that she was not all that she seemed to be and, of course, the men of Gondor all had their doubts as well.
“How is it that the Nord, people of the mountains far to the North, have come to know of the One Ring?” Boromir asked her after many long moments of silence and speculation. “Why would they send a woman to complete this task? Have they none better suited for war?”
The Still-Cursed had narrowed her gaze upon hearing the tone in the man’s inquiry and the outright insult towards her and her kin. The entire hall fell into silence, each of those gathered sitting at the edge of their chair, then air between the two sparking with malcontent. Elrond saw the Mithrandir catch her gaze and whatever it was that she saw in his eyes made her take in a deep breath to calm herself.
“Take care in the way you speak of my people, Son of Gondor. I shall not warn you again.” With that she stood from her chair, “Forgive me, Greybeard, Lord Firstborn, I shall take my leave now. I fear I no longer have the appetite for food,” and then she walked from the hall with silent, measured strides.
“How like a woman to run off,” one of the Gondorian men uttered to himself, though the entire hall heard the words.
Frodo sprung from his seat before either Lord Elrond or the Grey Wizard could speak. “Who are you to judge her and her people that way?!” he demanded, his deep blue eyes not angry, but sparking with justified indignation all the same. “Though she had no reason to, Leiawen is supporting myself and has taken up a cause not her own. How-“
Mithrandir had moved from his place at the end of the table to stand at Frodo’s side next to the Lord of Imladris. He placed his hand upon the young hobbit’s shoulder to settle him, “That’s enough, Frodo.”
“No, that’s enough,” he said and glanced at the Lord of the House. “I believe, Lord Elrond, that no longer can we withhold this information.”
Elrond nodded at the Wizard in agreement, they would need to know, before any further insult was made upon Leiawen or her kin. “I would ask now to speak to the Fellowship, for what I have to say is for their ears and theirs alone.”
When none of the others in the hall made any motion to leave, the Grey Wizard slammed his staff upon the smooth stone of the floor, “Out!”
At once they were propelled into motion, nearly falling over themselves in their hurry to heed the Wizard’s order. In no short order, the doors to the banquet hall were shut firmly at their parting and the Mithrandir stood with the Lord of the House at the head of the table. He took a few moments, leaning heavily upon his staff before he spoke.
“The only way to tell this tale, I suppose, is to start with the beginning.” A kind of haze covered the Wizard’s eyes as he began the telling.
During the Song of Creation, it is said that through one being’s strange thoughts, he produced Discord, and he fell through shame, then pride then desire of domination and into a lust of destruction. He became the first Dark Lord and was named Morgoth Bauglir in Beleriand and Middle Earth.
Not satisfied with the marring he had brought in the Discord, he infected it with decay and spread a purely material empire upon the earth. He corrupted many peoples, among them the Noldor of Eldamar.
This began the War of Great Jewels, where Morgoth stole the Silmarils, the most prized of all the wonders crafted by the elves, from Fëanor.
Fëanor, who created the Silmarils, declared war upon Morgoth, vowing that he would not rest until they were recovered; using the name of Iluvatar, the Father of All, in his foul and foolish oath. He convinced many of the Noldor to leave Valinor behind and journey to Beleriand. And while the Noldor toiled through Araman, Morgoth set the Silmarils into his crown, awaiting them in Middle Earth in his fortress of Angband deep in the Iron Mountains. There lie his greatest Commanders breeding an army of orcs; Gothrog, Lord of the Balrogs, and Sauron, his greatest student.
Fëanor’s flight had begun the First Age of Middle Earth and led to an unending grief for the Elves and, eventually, the Men of Middle Earth. Five Great Battles were fought in Beleriand to recover the Silmarils from Morgoth, but ultimately, the Noldor failed for Morgoth’s forces were too many.
When Fëanor landed in Middle-earth, Morgoth sent hosts of Orcs to destroy him. Only a handful returned, but Fëanor had also fallen. As he lay dying Fëanor cursed Morgoth thrice.
Morgoth sent an embassy offering terms of surrender, even promising a Silmaril. Maedhros, one of Fëanor's two sons, came to the parley, but both sides came with greater force than was agreed. Morgoth's force was greater, and he captured Maedhros and chained him by the right hand to a cliff of Thangorodrim.
Fingon, High King of the Noldor, rescued Maedhros and united the Noldor, setting a siege upon Angband; and Morgoth bided his time.
When he had waited many years, he made trial of his foes, causing the Iron Mountains to erupt and sending an army of Orcs down through the passes but they were swiftly defeated by the Noldor.
From then on the Noldor pressed Angband harder. Morgoth captured some of the Elves, and so daunted them with his eyes they became his spies among the Noldor.
One hundred years later, Morgoth sent an army into the north to approach Hithlum from the side. Fingon slew them. Yet another century later was the first summoning of Glaurung, whom Morgoth had watched grow beyond the Door of Night.
The Great Dragon who was only half-grown easily turned from the battle and went back into the Door. Morgoth was displeased with him and using the Silmarils upon his crown, twisted and tortured the dragon using his dark and powerful magick. The Great Enemy poured his malice and his hate into Glaurung, corrupting the Dragon’s soul until it began to eat the flesh of its own kind, multiplying the Dragon’s power a thousand fold.
Then Men came into Beleriand, and it was revealed that at some time in the distant past Morgoth had left his mountains in person and walked among the fathers of Men, casting a darkness within them and a shadow in their hearts, so that ever their deeds turned ill, and they were easy to corrupt. By lies and deceits Morgoth attempted to divide and set to quarrelling Men, but the Edain resisted him.
The Ruin of Beleriand came, 455 years after Fingolfin came to Middle-earth, and Morgoth initiated the Battle of Sudden Flame. Great Fire consumed the Guarded Plain, making it the Gasping Dust. Glaurung, now fully grown, was summoned once more from beyond the Door of Night, and with Balrogs and multitudes of Orcs issued forth, and the Noldor were driven back.
When news came to Fingolfin that Hithlum was fallen, and the sons of Finarfin overthrown, a madness came upon him, giving him tremendous power, and he came like a thunderbolt from the west and smote upon the gates of Angband, challenging Morgoth in such insulting terms that to keep his face Morgoth had no choice but to issue forth in single combat. That was his last personal foray, and he went not willingly, for so much power had gone out of him that he could be wounded, or even killed.
So Morgoth came, climbing slowly from his throne like thunder underground. And he issued forth in black armor, like a tower iron-crowned, and his shield was like a black cloud. But Fingolfin gleamed beneath him as a star. Then Morgoth smashed down Grond, rending a great pit in the earth from which fire leaped; but Fingolfin sprang aside like lightning. Seven times he wounded Morgoth, and seven mighty shouts of pain went up from him; but at the last the pits of Grond were too many, and Fingolfin was overborne.
Morgoth set his foot upon Fingolfin's neck, but Fingolfin hewed his foot and the blood gushed forth black and smoking and filled the pits of Grond. Then Thorondor stooped upon Morgoth, marring his face with his talons, and rescued the body of the Elf-king. Ever halt of one foot went Morgoth after that day, and the pain of those wounds could not be healed, nor the scars erased.
After the Battle Morgoth sent out many spies, he feigned pity to Men, and when the Edain refused him he summoned the Easterlings over the Blue Mountains. Worried by the unanticipated valor of Elves and Men, he withdrew his forces for seven years.
During this time, one of the Silmarils was recovered by Beren and Lúthien through great peril and loss. This stone was later taken by Eärendil to the Valar in the West as a token of repentance. The Valar then set this Silmaril as a star, the first element of this world, the sky.
The servants of Morgoth captured Maeglin, sister-son of Turgon, and brought him to Angband. Morgoth daunted him with his eyes, until Maeglin offered to reveal the location of Gondolin.
Then Morgoth laughed, and said ‘Stale news will buy nothing; I know this already, I am not easily blinded!’
Maeglin thus was forced to offer more: the secrets of Gondolin's defenses, and a promise to kill Tuor himself. Then Morgoth cast a great fear on him and sent him back.
In the pits of Angband he prepared tremendous engines of demonic technology: serpents of lava in energy bonds, and metal serpents that flowed and coiled by themselves. There were enormous copper and bronze serpents with great feet for trampling and beating, and many true Dragons of the brood of Glaurung, whom had grown to hate the Valar, Elves and Men.
Then, on a night of festival, they mounted the hills in the North, causing a dawn to rise in the wrong place, and fire burst against Gondolin, and it fell.
It is said that Morgoth expected no assault from the West, deeming that the Valar had forsaken Middle-earth and the rebellious Elves.
Then like thunder in the West, the sky was lit with flame; and Valinor came against him. Morgoth emptied Angband, and his devices and engines and armies of slaves were so various and powerful the fighting spilled across all Beleriand. But it availed him not. The last Balrogs were destroyed, save for one, and the Orcs withered like leaves in a fire, and his engines were consumed. The Great Dragon Glaurung abandoned him to his fate and fled, as did the last Balrog and Morgoth’s student, Sauron.
Then Morgoth quailed, and dared not come forth himself, for he had very little power in him, and walked stooped and feeble.
But out of Angband issued the Winged Dragons, the offspring of Glaurung which he had changed with his magick, gigantic shapes like flying mountains. Their coming was with great power, and thunder, and tempests of lightning; and they drove back the very Valar themselves. Eärendil came in the last hour, and the Silmaril slew Ancalagon the Black, the greatest of them, who smashed three mountains in his fall: Thangorodrim was broken.
Morgoth stood at bay and yet unvaliant. He fled into the deepest mines and sued for pardon, but his feet were hewn from under him, and he was cast on his face. Chained, his Iron Crown was beaten into a collar, and he was led back to Valinor, where the Valar executed him and cast his spirit, still wearing the Chain Angainor, past the Doors of Night, beyond the Walls of the World and out into the Void.
The remaining Silmarils were stolen from the depths of Angband by Fëanor's two sons Maedhros and Maglor. The jewels burned their hands, in refusal of their rights of possession, as they had burned Morgoth's hands many years before. In agony, Maedhros threw himself and his Silmaril into a fiery pit, and Maglor threw his into the sea. Thus they became the last two elements of the world, fire and water.
With the casting of the Silmarils, the Dragons, being touched by the Dark Lord’s power as the jewels rested upon his brow, they were bound to the jewels. Only in the three elements could the Dragons draw their power, whether in the depths of the earth where fire flows like water, in the highest mountains where the air is clear and pure, or in the water of streams or rivers.
Later, it is said, that though the Dragons abandoned Morgoth, they could still release him from his prison should they hear his call. The winged Dragons had been so powerful that the Valar fell before them and the Valar feared that their guard before the Void of the World would fall before them as well. And so, they placed a great curse upon the creatures that had once been slaves to Morgoth.
It was so that any Dragon born upon Middle Earth henceforth would walk upon the world without the great power and form of those that came before them. Those Cursed could not pass through the Doors of Night without the thick scales of their Sires nor pierce the Walls of the World without the great fire in their breath. They could not assume their birthright until they had proven themselves in the eyes of the Valar and the curse was lifted from them.
A tinge of sorrow was heard in the Mithrandir’s voice as he spoke of the Curse of the Valar upon the Dragons and his eyes cleared as the last words passed from his lips.
“I don’t understand,” Frodo told him. “What does that have anything to do with-“
“Because, young Frodo Baggins,” the Grey Wizard said quickly, “Of our Company there is one who bears the Curse of the Valar.”
The silence that came after was deafening and the Fellowship was suitably shocked at the revelation. All of the races gathered at the table had heard stories told by their kin of Dragons, how they were long-lived, power and cunning, that they were quick to anger and had an overwhelming greed for treasure. By their very nature they were not to be trusted, but one of their kind had pledged herself to their cause, something that seemed to be exactly against every notion that defined them.
Gimli, having heard from his own kin of their love of treasure, was on his guard immediately. He had heard of the feuds and battles that frequently followed upon the slaying of a Dragon; Fram’s slaying of Scatha, whose treasure was stolen from the dwarves, came to mind. Creatures that had such a keen sense of value in the hoard they had collected but never themselves crafted so much as a brass ring, he detested them. It was strange to think that one of those creatures was now acting so very out of place from what he had known to be true.
Lord Elrond stood from his chair and addressed them all, “Though the woman bears the Curse of the First Age, she is here because the Dragons have offered an alliance in the dark days to come.”
Legolas stood suddenly, “There must be something more. Never before has any of their kind offered such an alliance, instead they dwell deep in their mountains, away from the world until they see such an opportunity to increase their hoard. Not willingly would they offer up one of their own to any cause that did not affect them.”
The Mithrandir and the Lord of Imladris shared another look in the face of Legolas’ accusation. Should they reveal the Dragons’ plight, the Dark Lord’s plans for the Still-Cursed that would travel with them? Before either of them was able to make that decision, Frodo stood in Leiawen’s defense once more.
“It doesn’t matter,” he said more to himself. “She is here to see that the task is done and if Gandalf trusts her, then so will I.”
The Grey Wizard smiled, silently thanking the boy without words for what he had said.
“Excuse me, Gandalf, I think I’m going to go for a walk before bed.”
“Of course, go ahead, Frodo, but do not wander far.”
Frodo wandered the winding paths of Rivendell and he began to feel the pit in his stomach eat away at him. Though he had always longed for an adventure like the one of his Uncle Bilbo, this was not what he had ever imagined. All he had ever wanted was the possibility of perchance coming across a troll or meeting an elf, but now… Now he was going to face a greater danger than he could fathom, and he was dragging his dear friends into his troubles as well.
As he neared the bridge that stood before the great waterfalls of Rivendell, he noticed a figure stood there in the moonlight. It was her, Leiawen. He stopped for a moment and simply looked at her. There was something strangely majestic in the way she looked now, the cool fall breeze flowing around her and the moonlight illuminating her figure. He was drawn to her in some way and more than just because she had pledged herself to his cause; it was something deeper, like magic that had wound around him as she had spoken those first words to him when he faced so much doubt.
“I can smell you, Frodo,” came her voice, strangely flowing on the wind like wood smoke. “I will not bite you.” And before he knew it, he was standing beside her on the bridge, watching the flow of the water with her.
“Are you truly a Dragon? Like the one my Uncle told me stories about, Smaug of the Lonely Mountain,” he finally asked.
She sighed and turned to sit on the stones, her back against the intricately carved railing. “So he has told you then, of the Curse and what I truly am?”
For a moment Frodo wasn’t sure if he should answer her, but he saw something in her eyes and couldn’t help the answer that spilled from his mouth. “Yes. He said that you would stay like this until the Valar lifted the Curse from you.” Which brought another question into mind, “Why haven’t they? Gandalf makes it sound like you’re very old-”
Frodo immediately covered his mouth with his hands and Leiawen laughed out loud. He had just called her old; he had just insulted a Dragon by calling her old! Oh, how could he? After a moment though, he noticed that she was laughing and he couldn’t help but join in, relieved that he had not been struck down for saying such a thing.
“It is true,” she said finally, hints of laughter still in her voice. “I am very old, older than most of the Firstborn, even.”
To this information Frodo could not help his jaw dropping, “Older than Gandalf?!”
The Still-Cursed laughed, shaking her head, “No, no. Greybeard is far older than I. Though we are very different now, we both came from similar beginnings.”
Frodo sat down beside her and looked on fondly. It was one thing to hear stories of Dragons from Gandalf, it was quite another to hear of them from a Dragon herself. “Go on,” he urged.
She laughed and smiled in the face of his enthusiasm. “It has been said that my Sires grew beyond the Door of Night as Maiar, spirits which descended to Arda to help the Valar to shape the World. Many supposed them to be numerous. Their chiefs were Eönwë, banner-bearer and herald of Manwë, and Ilmarë, the handmaid of Varda.
“The Istari, the Wizards, were Maiar specially chosen by the Valar to help aid the people of Middle-earth in the fight against evil. Though the Istari took the form of Men they possess much greater physical and mental power.”
The young hobbit considered this information for a moment. “So…you and Gandalf are almost related?”
“Not quite,” she replied with a small laugh. “Because of the Deceiver’s actions against my Sires, we Dragons are no longer the Maiar we once were. Much of the original bloodline from the True Dragons has thinned with the Curse of the First Age upon us. Very little of who we are now remains in true keeping with our origins.
“It is only when the Curse is lifted from us that Dragons become closer to that which we were meant to be.” At this she got a far off look in her strange amber eyes, “To have the wings and the fire of our great Sires…”
For long moments they sat together in silence enjoying the warm fall breeze as it moved around them. It was strange to Frodo, that here in Rivendell the breeze was warm in the fall if the air was cool, but if the air was warm the breeze suddenly became cool. It was as if the land maintained a constant late summer environment no matter what time of year it was. He was not looking forward to the days ahead, where the land would be in subject to the seasons. It was likely to be very cold now, he would have to remember to dress warmly.
The Still-Cursed put her hand upon his shoulder. “What is it that frightens you so?” she asked, her eyes seeking his.
He could feel the strange heat of her touch through the cloth of his shirt and it warmed him almost to his heart. With a sigh, he tried to find the words to express what he felt of the upcoming journey.
“I’m afraid of what we face,” he told her. “I know my part in this and though it scares me, I know I must do it. It’s my friends though. I know they love me and that’s why they are coming along, but I don’t want them to be hurt. I wish they weren’t coming.”
Frodo was ashamed to admit it, that he doubted even though they had not yet set out on their journey. He was not strong like the Aragorn, he didn’t have any skills with a weapon the way Legolas, Gimli and Boromir did, and he surely didn’t have the wisdom that Gandalf possessed. He was a hobbit, who until just two months past had never left the safety of the Shire. What could he possibly do in a world so big and fearsome against such a horrible foe?
Leiawen moved to kneel before him and lifted his chin up with her fingers. “I know something of the fear you face, Frodo.”
“But you’re a Dragon, I couldn’t imagine that you would be afraid of anything.”
The look in her eyes told a different tale as she gave him a sad smile and shook her head. “There is much that I fear, but it is because we fear that we become brave and I think that you are very brave to do this.”
Frodo was instantly curious at her statement; though he blushed at the compliment, he couldn’t imagine what would make a Dragon afraid. “What is it that you’re scared of, Leiawen?”
There was something about how he asked her that question, the need for an answer that shone through in his deep blue eyes. “I fear being seen, Frodo.”
She sat back on her heels, facing the question and confusion that lingered in his eyes.
“ I did not lie when I said that the bloodlines of my kind have been diluted by the Curse of the Valar, but I am the last of the Unbroken line to my Sires who came before the First Age. What Greybeard says is true, I am very old. I have walked the earth since the Elder Days, before the time of Isildur even. The reason the Valar have not lifted the Curse from me, the reason I fear being seen, is because I am the only one from both Glaurung and Ancalagon the Black that remains alive to see the days of the Second Deceiver.
By right I am to be the most powerful of my kind should I assume my birthright. But that is also the reason I shall never see that day; the Valar fear that I shall go through the Door of Night, shatter the Walls of the World and release the Deceiver from his prison in the Void. I fear that if I am seen by the Deceiver’s favored student, he shall take my will from me and force me to do this thing.
“And I am afraid that because of what I am, I will never be what I should be; I am afraid that I will live out the rest of my days as a shadow, never to become a True Dragon.”
Frodo was stunned to silence, uncertain if he should say anything in the light of her confession. He didn’t want to offer her false comfort, he knew she would somehow see through it to the truth, that he was just trying to make her feel better. So he said the only thing he knew in his heart that he had to say:
“I have faith in you.”
Leiawen gave him half a smile and stood, pulling him to his feet as well. “Yes, have faith, Frodo. Hope and faith shall see you through the days ahead. Your friends, though you do not wish to see them hurt, they love you and will help you with this task.” She ruffled his dark shaggy curls, “Come, the hour grows late. We set off at first light, you must rest if you are to go on this journey.”
She was holding out her hand to him and it was more than just an offering of seeing him to Lord Elrond’s House, he knew. This woman, this Dragon, was offering her faith in him as well. For some reason, she trusted him and he didn’t know if it was because he was to bear the Ring into Mordor or if she had seen something more this night. Whatever it was…
He took her hand.
I would first like to thank Alaeryel so very much for sending me such an encouraging review. I hope that future chapters keep your interest in this story. Secondly, I have changed a bit of the original story in regards to the First Age and the time before, hopefully my tweaks aren't too far right field and are still believable.
Chapter end notes:
This chapter has NOT yet been edited so if you see anything that doesn't look quite right, please let me know and I'll fix it as soon as possible. Thank you so much for reading.
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