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Before the Fellowship of the Ring, for so it came to be called, could embark on its great journey, there were preparations that had to be made. Narsil, the blade that was broken on the plains of Dagorlad, the blade that cut the Ring from Sauron's very hand, had to be reforged. Our master smith, Curufin, was glad for the task, as his hands had long been idle. Though the Dark Lord had spent centuries in preparation for the coming war, the elves of Imladris had been largely idle. That was our inherent fault, one that was growing increasingly obvious to me. It was as if my people walked with our backs to the future, addressing the present only when we bumped into it.

Three elves, two humans, two hobbits, one dwarf, and one wizard; it was as diverse a group as I had ever heard of. All of them were readying in their own ways, but it was Aragorn who vexed me. We spoke little in the following days, and I was certain he was avoiding my company. Finally, I went to his chambers one night and, when he didn't answer my knock, let myself in.

The ranger had his own room in my father's palace, for he had sometimes resided with us over the years when he was in need of true rest from the pains of the world, and our halls were half empty to begin with. There was little there besides a bed and a chair and a few keepsakes from his labors as a defender of the West. A waterlogged journal, an eagle's feather, a few stones of no real value that he kept for the memory our time in Lothlorien; and the man himself slept in his clothes. As I approached the bed, he sprang up with a knife in his hand.

I reacted as lifetimes of training had prepared me to, turning my body and diverting the knife, then twisting it out of his hand. But Aragorn was not so easily thwarted, he dropped the knife and caught it with his free hand, its point left pricking my gown at my waist. His eyes were wild, but they calmed in a heartbeat, and the blade clattered on the floor.

"Arwen..." There was apology in his gaze, and also shame, but it was my fault. I knew about the night terrors, and the way he reacted to being woken, and I had disturbed him anyway. I put my arms around him.

"I'm sorry," I said, "I couldn't sleep." This was perfectly true, elves do not sleep as deeply or as often as humans.

"I attacked you," he said. "I could have sworn I was awake when you entered, but I saw someone else, a figure wreathed in shadows."

"Dreams are often closer to the surface than we think." We sat together on the bed, and a full, wavy lock of hair blocked my view of his face.

"We have to talk," I said.

"Plenty of time for that on the road."

"But little privacy. We need to have this out between us now."

"Have this out?"

"You didn't want me on this journey."

Aragorn shifted his torso so that he half faced me, his knee touching mine. "I do want you beside me, but I fear the secret you carry with you."

Heat rose in my cheeks. "I don't wear it, and it is not the One I carry. If Bilbo and Frodo could keep the One safely for decades, do you truly think I cannot be trusted with this?"

"I don't question your intentions, but I worry that you have not told Elrond. There may be a better way to protect the ring of Angmar than to carry it with us into darkness."

"All the same arguments that apply to the One apply to this ring as well," I said. "In any case, it may prove useful."

"That is my fear." Aragorn took my hand in his. "Your lore is more advanced than mine, surely you know this is not right."

"What I have learned," I said carefully, "is that Elves and Men both are wont to believe they see the world clearly when they are walking with one eye closed." I kissed him on his noble brow. "Do not fear for me," I sai8d rising. "Have hope for the world."

Aragorn could worry all he liked. I was not afraid of the ring of Angmar. As long as Sauron did not possess the One, he could not use it as a means of binding my mind to his. But for the nonce, I was concerned with a different artifact of nobler times.

Curufin was an unassuming figure of about my father's age. He was short for an Elf, under six feet, but his arms and shoulders were corded with adamantine bands of muscle. He wiped his hands on a leather apron when he saw me, and bowed. "My lady, to what do I owe the honor?"

"The honor is mine," I nodded to him, glancing over the charcoal drawings he had made of Narsil reforged. The process of remaking a sacred weapon was no simple matter of heating and hammering, it was a reflection of our highest art. "Those are beautiful," I said.
"Thinking with my hands," Curufin allowed. "What brings you to my workshop?"

I gestured at his designs. "The breaking of Narsil was a tragedy, but it was not the only weapon lost that day."

"Many both foul and fair," Curufin allowed.

"If one can be reforged, why not others?"

"Narsil was preserved because of its singular history," Curufin said. "Not much else remains from that dark day."

"Aeglos."

Curufin tilted his head back and made a trilling noise. "Snow-Point, the spear of Gil-Galad. What is it that you think can be done?"

"The same as you are doing." I touched the rough parchment. "Make the spear anew, and Aeglos will once again fight at the side of Narsil. What could be more fitting?"

"What does Lord Elrond say?"

"He has said nothing, I wanted to know from you that it could be done before I asked permission."

 

Curufin regarded his sketches for a time, wrapped as they were in Guenya lettering, as all our most important work was done in the tongue of the Eldar. "Aeglos was broken in two, the shaft snapped by Sauron's claw. The spear point itself cracked against his helm. Both present challenges to my art. Possible? Yes. But I cannot make you a promise, and Narsil is my priority at the moment." He looked thoughtful. "Who would wield it?"

I bristled at the suggestion that I would come to him about the weapon on someone else's behalf. "I would," I said, hiding my ire.

"Have you trained with the spear?"

"It was never my primary focus, but I am familiar."

The smith snorted. "Familiar? With the weapon of Gil-Galad? Speak with your father, then return to me, and we will talk."

Lord Elrond was not as difficult to persuade as I expected. In truth, it seemed he saw it as an excuse to delay the expedition, perhaps hoping I would reconsider when my brothers returned and tried to persuade me of their places in the Fellowship.There was a ceremony in the great hall announcing the project, and a great many elves forgot themselves in celebration and wine. Curufin was able to divide the prepatory labors among his journeymen, and both forgings were expected to come to fruition over the cycle of a moon. Aragorn softened again toward me, but I could sense his reticence on the subject of the ring. My annoyance grew, and the more I thought about our difference of opinion the more also I considered its object. I grew agitated, and when my brothers did return I was short with them, dismissing their claims and concerns. They might have been able to best me with swords, but had either of them slain a Ring Wraith?

Instead of developing my relationships with the other members of the Fellowship, I spent more and more of my hours alone and in meditation. My dreams had receded, but as the day of our leavetaking approached, they resurged, taking on new clarity.

Still I flew, though not always as an eagle. On occasion I found myself a passenger on the ship of my ancestor Earendil, who navigated the spaces between the stars. He did not speak to me but still wore a bright gem upon his brow, the Silmaril, and piloted by its light. But he sailed down paths I could not follow, so I drifted over Middle Earth as insubstantial as a ghost, drawn inexorably toward a point far in the South. The Dark Tower stood at the center of the universe, from the perspective of the sun and moon so much became clear. Middle Earth as we knew it was only one piece of a greater whole. On our maps, Mordor appears to be a square notch on the bottom right corner of a nibbled parchment. From the heavens, Sauron’s selection of a homeland makes more aesthetic sense. Taking the lands of the East and the South into account, for they were each as large or larger than Middle Earth, Mordor did not appear as a beleaguered outland at all. It was a linchpin, the central axis of a wheeling world. The Dark Tower was a nail driven into the heart of Arda.

Seeing this for the first time shocked me into waking, but on subsequent nights I grew accustomed enough to the vision and its revelation of Sauron's influence that I could progress farther into fancy. I was drawn to his stronghold, and there was no doubt in my mind now that it was his stronghold, Barad-Dur, but its glamor held. In the physical world, I knew it must have been terrible to behold, infested with orcs and other monsters, stained with blood and sorrow. In my dream it was a beautiful spire of brass. And though I visited it often, there was no sign of its master beyond a general sense of a presence like an open flame hid behind a mesh screen, the occasional echoing footstep. Apart from that, I was alone with his wonders.

Sauron, in ages before there was a sun and moon, before he was twisted to violence and terror by Morgoth, had been a smith, one of Aule's attendants. That was all the lore that remained of his existence from so distant a past, but his interest in the arts of the forge were evident in his works. If he had not been an artisan by nature, he would not have been able to teach Elves the craft of ring making, and our history would look very different.

It is often said of the Dark Lord and the one before him, that they could create nothing for themselves. They could only corrupt the creations of others. Hence, Morgoth had given rise to orcs out of Elves. But the evidence of my dreams, if it was evidence, suggested Sauron still busied himself with fire and steel, his natural elements.

I saw weapons of all shapes and kinds, and armor for beasts and trolls of a fearsome character, but none of that interested me. There were trinkets as well, blacksmith puzzles and music boxes, unsettling works of art, sculptures that resembled no living creature I could name. But the grandest example of his art took up an entire floor of the tower.

It was a clockwork masterpiece that at first I did not recognize as a depiction of our world. As I had seen from above, the Dark Tower was at the center of things, and once I recognized Barad-Dur the rest became clear. Mountains and forests of various metals, hard plating and fibrous copper canopies, stained glass rivers and oceans like a moment captured in time; and yet it moved

 

There were pieces like a chess set that I realized represented influential figures. My father was there, and Galadriel in Lothlorien. King Denethor in Gondor, and Theoden in Rohan, as well as others I could not guess at from their position. There were figures in the wider world as well, a man covered in bandages and bearing a curved sword dominated the East. To the South was a terror, a clockwork spider turning, turning in a kind of dance, bestrode the continent. It was red and black and radiated a palpable menace. Something in the rendering of the beast spoke of fear, the fear of the artisan for his creation, or for what it represented.

I heard footsteps from the stair, a light approaching, and I was jettisoned from this world of dreams. My heart was thrumming in my chest, and I knew I was not alone in my darkened room. There was a space of deeper shadow in one corner beside my bookcase, a form of nebulous malignancy.

I sat up. My shoulder burned.

"Princesssss."

"You're dead."

"I have alwayssss been dead."

"I destroyed you."

"I am on your finger."

I looked at my hand, and saw the ring of Angmar clearly in a stab of moonlight.

"No!"

I sat up, blinking and confused. There was nothing on my hands and no one in my room. The ring was still bound against my arm with the hilt, but my blood was in my ears and I was panting for air. I felt as if a weight had been on my chest as I slept, and only now could I breathe.

"Witch King," I whispered, "Lord of the Nazgul, are you here with me?" But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token of another presence in my room. Long minutes passed before I regained my equanimity and stood to pace and look out my window into the emptiness of night. Perhaps still influenced by nightmare, I saw the gray light of the fettered moon and stars as something deathly cold. The palace of high art and lush green plant life became something alien and strange. Was the ring speaking to me, or Sauron, or the Witch King, or some combination of the three? Was this only the echo of my wounds, or a new and active assault on my spirit? Not for the first time, I considered unburdening myself to my father.

No. He would take the ring from me, and it was mine. I had won it. He might also insist I stay behind from the Fellowship, and I did not want to have to follow Frodo and the others like a bandit in the wood. I would be a part of the Quest to bring an end to war with the Shadow, wherever it took. If I was going to fade, as my father seemed to accept all Elves would, then I would not sit patiently by as the world changed, but be a part of that change. In our discussions it was clear that Lord Elrond believed that the destruction of the One Ring would break the power of all the rings with which it was bound, including those that belonged to Elves, and that would spell the end of our time and influence on Middle Earth.

Why? Why did we have to fade? It was written that we would endure as long as the world endured, but that did not seem true any longer. When Elves die, we pass into the Halls of Mandos, which were once a part of the world but are now no longer. If a Mortal sails West, he will eventually reach lands on the other side of the world. When my kind sails, they do so to leave the world entirely. Had our connection to this earth somehow been lost? Had not the Noldor been pardoned for their rebellion against the Valar? In any case, I was not alive in those days, and should not be subject to their Doom.

The Rings of Power were going to be destroyed, even at great cost to ourselves. It was the only possible answer, as all the Wise agreed, These were not thoughts or questions for the dead of night, but matters better considered beneath the sun.

I lay down again. Long minutes passed unsleeping.

"Princesss."

Jolted up, I scanned the room for any sign of evil.

Darkness there, and nothing more.

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A note from WilliamMyrl

Dear Readers,

     We are coming now to the end of the first arc of Queen of the Rings. I'm a bit obsessive compulsive in the way that I write novels;

twenty-seven chapters loosely divided into three arcs. That isn't to say that Arwen's story will be over at that point, but the first "book" will be. I have a broad idea of the course of this story, and a vaguer conception of what future "books" would contain. I don't know what other projects will require of me after QotR, but I can say that I will certainly finish the first "book" of this fan-fiction before I'm fully distracted. It is a new and gratifying experience to be read and commented on, even by a handful of strangers on the internet. While I have written many original novels and stories, until now, my audience has consisted almost entirely of my nuclear family. I am a prisoner, have been for an entire cycle of the Chinese zodiac. When I was nineteen, I committed a series of robberies, and I tell you this only so you don't assume I'm a pervert. I'm not. QotR is being posted by my brother, who I am able to email via a ridiculous company called Jpay which handles our media devices. The logistics of getting this story out of my thumbs and onto the internet means I can't be as engaged with you as I would like. Your comments are shared with me second hand, and I do appreciate them along with your interest. It is my intention to answer questions and respond to what I can every so often in an open letter as I am doing now.

Are Hobbits humans?

     This is a complicated idea over which the well meaning can disagree. Most of the races of Middle Earth have creation stories in the Silmarillion. Elves and Men are the First Children and Second Children respectively. Other races come about as a result of the Valar meddling with extant species. Aule creates the Dwarves, but they are automatons, and it is Iluvatar who must bring them to true life. At Yavanna's request, some trees become Ents. Morgoth corrupts Elves and thereby we have Orcs. But there is much of both fair and foul in the world that is given no direct mention as to its origin. Hobbits, I believe, are among these. I can't say for certain that nowhere are Hobbits referred to as "another race of Men" or something along those lines, but from the content of the canon I feel that they are clearly set apart as an independent lineage. They are rare and unassuming, and go largely unmentioned in the Silmarillion. Their origins lay to the East, beyond the Misty Mountains, and they migrated West until they found a place where they could be safe and free. They are as physically distinct from humans as the other races are, and Sauron did not have Rings of Power made for everyone. Celebrimor, no doubt, would have refused to forge a ring for orcs, but what about an Ent ring, or a ring for Eagles, who are clearly sentient? My opinion remains that Sauron left out the Hobbits from his ring scheme because he was ignorant of them, and because they were too insignificant for him to bother with, even if he had been aware of their existence; not because they are a subset of the race of Men like the Dunedain.

     That being said, recall that this story is narrated by Arwen, not by the author, so any mistakes or misunderstandings are hers and not mine. The comment about Hobbits not getting their own ring was a passing thought, and one cannot expect her every passing thought and opinion to be a perfectly accurate reflection of out-of-game canon..

Is Arwen of the Noldor?

     Yes and no. She was not among the Elves who left Valinor in rebellion, but her grandmother (Galadriel) was, so Arwen is of Noldor stock.

Why does she have a staff?

     She doesn't. A bow, when unstrung, functions as a particularly thin and flexible "staff." This is not to be confused with a "Bo" staff. Hilarious.

     What follows is an essay about how I'm running magic in QotR.

Why There Are No Wizards in Middle Earth

Much has been said about magic as it was conceived by Tolkien in the Lord of the Rings. His own thoughts were somewhat ambiguous, but he separated magic, which was concerned with power, and art, which was concerned with accomplishment and the mastery of natural excellance. Elves did not use "magic," in that sense. Sauron did. However, Tolkien's own musings on the subject of magic in Middle Earth are not pertinent to a discussion of what actually exists in a nonexistent world. What counts, as far as I'm concerned, are the contents of the story. From there we can develop a working understanding or system.

Out-of-game, there is no system. Tolkien used magic as a Deus Ex Machina, and also as a kind of allegory for moral struggle. For all that he generated a real and breathing history for us to enjoy, he did not seem interested in nailing down the mantic mechanics; the magical physics of it all. His thing was philology, not wizardry. Examples of magic in Middle Earth are many and varied, but generally it is agreed that Arda is a "low magic" setting. No one is teleporting anywhere. I've thought the same thing myself about it, but I was wrong.

Middle Earth is a "high magic" setting, not because people are casting 9th level spells higgledy-piggledy, but because magic is so abundant that you don't even realize it's happening. The supernatural isn't highlighted because it isn't supernatural, and it is often invisible.

On more than one occasion, Elves get offended when they are asked about "magic." When they give the hobbits special cloaks in Rivendell, they have an awkward conversation on the subject. The cloaks do everything we would associate with an enchanted cloak in Dungeons and Dragons, from enhanced stealth to temperature control, but for an Elf, that isn't magical. It's artful. It's craft.

 

Magic, to them, refers to something unnatural and bad, like necromancy, which disturbs the rightful order of Arda, and Elves have no truck with it.

On the other hand we have Gandalf and the other "wizards," as they are commonly referred to. But they are not wizards in any meaningful sense of the word. They are Istari, essentially low to mid-ranking angels. They didn't learn rituals from books. They didn't go to Hogwarts. They appeared in Middle Earth as fully formed men complete with customized power trees. Any similarity to wizards is superficial, as their "spells" are extensions of angelic spheres of influence. They couldn't teach you magic if they tried, because they don't know any. This is a common theme in LotR. Magic isn't something you learn, it is something you are.

What occurs in the Lord of the Rings that we would recognize as magic? Gandalf lights some campfires and pine cones. Spirits are banished. The Ring makes you invisible. Not much. But a lot of what takes place simply could not occur in the real world. Dragons and Ents don't function without magical physics. Gandalf has a magic sword which he uses to duel a Balrog, who also has a magic sword, which is made of fire. Elrond surges Loudwater river to drown the Wraiths, who are also rather magical. But battles are won with courage, not with spells. That's the only consistency in all of this. Why can Saruman cause the maleficent mountain Caradhras to beat back the Fellowship while he is hundreds of leagues away in book one, but in the sequel he's bested by trees? How can Gandalf fist fight a demon, but he has to run from Orcs?

As a reader and a fan, I want to make sense of these things without resorting to the actual out-of-game truth of repeated Deus Ex Machina. What I have come to believe is that there are two planes of existence in Tolkien's cosmogony; the physical and the spiritual. Most of the real action takes place invisibly in the second one. When Gandolf fought the Balrog, their swordfight and impromptu wrestling match was just what was happening in analog, while in digital two great and burning Maiar were at war.

In the books, especially the Silmarillion, it is made clear that a Ring of Power did a lot more than make you invisible, but those powers are always off screen. We are left to fill in the blanks. Much of sorcery seems to consist of compelling others to act against their will. It's not a flashy effect, but if you had insight into the spiritual realm, as the Ring would give you, then you could literally watch the magical domination happen. It would be awesome. Imagine it.

What we think of as "high fantasy" magic is rare in Middle Earth because there are no actual wizards. There is no evidence that normal people can learn to cast spells. The Nine were said to be sorcerers, but it is unclear whether they received that talent from the rings themselves or developed it independently. I think any human could be made "magical" under the right circumstances by being the bearer of the right artifact, or being possessed, or perhaps poisoned or corrupted by the right monster, because monsters are magically incarnate. All I mean is that a story appropriate circumstance could gift a Mortal with uncanniness. It wouldn't be flashy, but it would be decisive behind the scenes. For example, a man might be burned with dragon fire and thereby remade. This wouldn't give him fire breathing like a dragon, but instead an overwhelming presence and cunning that allowed him to gain followers and bend others to his desires, along with heroic level strength and endurance, and yes, an affinity for the open blaze. I think that would be consistent with the "low magic" motif of middle earth.

All the major miracles seem to belong to the past, and there's plenty of out-of-game reasons to that, but what about in-game? My take is that immortal beings have a limited reservoir to draw upon, that any exertion beyond a limit particular to the individual results in an irreparable loss. This explains why the Valar originally had throwdown fights which rearranged the physical landscape of the earth, but as the millennia passed on, they could do less and less. When the twin trees of Valinor were destroyed, Yavanna was unable to grow new ones. We got the sun and moon, bare echoes of the glory of Laurelin and Telperion, instead. Morgoth, who was said to be the single most powerful of the Valar, was maimed in a duel with Fingolfin, an Elf. Significantly, he never healed. Fingolfin gave him a limp. How do you give a god a permanent limp? Beyond a point, the Valar do not regenerate.

The Elves suffer under the Doom of Mandos, that they would "fade," among other things, except that even Elves who were not a part of that Doom fade also. It is stated in canon that the spirits of Elves burn out their bodies over time, but it isn't clear exactly what this means. They become less attached to the physical world, more creatures of spirit, and eventually sail West to the Undying Lands.

Sauron, another Maiar, lost his ability to appear in a form fair to the eye after the fall of Numenor. He has his ups and downs, but each down clearly leaves him diminished.

As for Arwen, I've tried to hew to the themes of the source material in that the magic she utilizes is related to the power of old names. In the "Fellowship," Frodo spooks a Ring Wraith on Weathertop by shouting the names of dead heroes, and there are similar occurrences throughout the trilogy. No one is going to be screaming "Lightning Bolt!" and throwing bags of rice. But there will be songs, which have real potency.

 

That being said, magic is going to be more prominent in QotR than LotR, because he, Tolkien, left that door wide open. Middle Earth is full of wizardry, if not wizards. He just didn't focus on it, and I want to play around with his loose ends. The Ring Wraiths, obviously, are going to play a larger role, and I want to explore the rings themselves as Items of Power rather than pure mcguffins. The last thing I want is two old men Force pushing each other around the dining room table. That was embarrassing for everyone, Peter Jackson. But I think I can stay true to the "low magic" aesthetic of LotR while bringing some of the spiritual warfare into the foreground.

If you have any questions or quibbles, please comment. I can't make any promises on when I will respond, but I will try to engage with you guys as well as I can under the circumstances.

You can also check out some of my original fiction at www.williammyrl.com, should you be so inclined.

Hearts and Stars


About the author

WilliamMyrl

Bio: Okay, so I'm just going to go into the whole thing.

I dropped out of high school, and a couple of years later I was in prison for robbing banks. It wasn't until I was in my twenties that I was diagnosed as bipolar and started seeking and participating in treatment and taking medication. After nearly 13 years in prison, I was granted a conditional pardon by the Governor of Virginia, and my sentence was reduced to time served.

While I was incarcerated, I was published by REED Magazine, CURA, and the Carolinian. My work appeared in several PEN Anthologies, and I was awarded seven different prizes in various categories by the PEN Prison Writing and Justice Program.

I'm currently working with Shadow Alley Press to publish my Gamelit novels, and I one day hope to be able to support myself through my writing. Until then, I work at Subway.

Eat Fresh.

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