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Things of Beauty

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Nothing beautiful existed within Mordor.

It was a land of ash and death and ruin, and anything fair was quickly destroyed, or manipulated, or twisted and turned into something grostesque in the service of the Dark Lord.

Yet, as Talion learnt, even after the shadow of Sauron fell again upon this dark land, he found small moments of beauty and tranquility even in the midst of ruin.

He had Celebrimbor to thank for that.

"The clouds have lifted," he heard his friend say, one rare, quiet night when the Uruks, for once, did not roam the empty shores along the sea of Nurn. The waves lapped quietly at the sides of the abandoned fishing dock where they had taken shelter for the night, and moonlight fell upon the waters, outlining them in silver.

Talion looked heavenward. Faint stars, which rarely ever appeared in the skies above Mordor, began to peek their shy heads from out of the dusk.

Out of the dark of the sky, Talion's attention was drawn to a bright, shimmering star - faraway, but brilliant, making its journey crossing the heavens. It had a glimmering, radiant light, and it filled him with hope.

"That is Eärendil," Talion heard Celebrimbor say, as he stepped out from behind the curtain of the Wraith world and materializing beside him. "The brightest star in the Eastern skies. The light is that of a Silmaril; a creation of my grandfather's. Within it lies the last remnants of light from the Two Trees of Valinor.'

Talion knew the story, even though it was not well-known among Men. It was almost a legend. He had heard of how a great Elven smith of the First Age forged great and hallowed jewels that became the cause of centuries of war and suffering; and Celebrimbor was amongst those whom had suffered the most.

As Talion watched the Ring-maker gaze up at the stars, he wondered what could be going on in his mind. Celebrimbor's face betrayed no emotion, but his eyes - gleaming with white fire, like stars themselves - seemed to be filled with a terrible longing.

"My friend," Talion said softly, "you need not follow the same fate as your grandfather and your father."

Celebrimbor looked at him, sadly. "I'm afraid that is not for you to decide, Talion. My fate rests in the Lords of the West, and they are not so forgiving."

Talion shook his head. "There must be some other way."

Celebrimbor met his eyes, then said, softly, "Why does it matter to you so much, what becomes of me? Am I not the Wraith that withholds you from death?"

Talion held Celebrimbor's gaze, and did not speak for awhile.

Yes, why indeed did it matter to him? If I go past the boundaries of the living and the dead, Talion thought, it would not matter who or what I leave behind.

But he gazed upon the Elf-lord -- his fellow prisoner banished from death, but also his companion, his teacher, his friend. And he wanted so much to see again what he only saw in glimpses when he held relics of the Wraith's past -- visions of the beauty and grace of Celebrimbor in his prime; Lord of Eregion, fair and noble, resplendent in silver and steel.

"Because there are not many fair things in Mordor," Talion murmured in reply, but speaking softly as if to himself. "But there is still beauty to be found here, even amidst the darkness and ruin, and it gives me hope."

Celebrimbor turned his gaze away from Talion and fell silent. The stars wheeled overhead, and the night carried on. The music of the waves was hushed, as if coming from far away.