Celebrimbor moaned through cracked lips, the only sound he could utter for his body was wracked with pain both inside and out. How long, how long until darkness clothed him with blessed relief? Though he could no longer see through lids swollen and bruised, he could hear. The voices of his torturers sang a melody so macabre, so gruesome- it drove him near insane - a never-ending cacophony of animal growls and jeers mouthed by demons from the darkest of nightmares. But worse was the one that sang so sweetly, a nightingale amidst the carrion crows, whispering ever in his ear, taunting, cajoling, pleading...promising salvation...if only he would give up his secrets.
A wave of despair washed over him threatening to quench the tiny flame of hope to which he clung. That Ilúvatar in his mercy would grant forgiveness and end quickly this fate which destiny had dealt. Nay, that he, himself had dealt, for had he not placed the cards one by one upon the table?
The bellows whooshed and he could feel the heated air as the flames were fed. Even blind, he could see the orange glow of the heated metal, its tip fiery white, almost molten. When it met his skin, he screamed but no sound issued from his throat, already raw and bloody from the screams that had come before. Conscious thought dimmed as the brand seared. His torturer inhaled the scent of roasting flesh as if it were perfume from the fairest rose and his dark minions cheered and slavered. "Even the tools of my craft he uses against me," Celebrimbor thought sadly before the madness took him once again.
"Who am I? What am I? By the Valar, what have I done?" Tears ran like rivers down his cheeks. In a haze of delirium, Celebrimbor saw his mother's sweet face, felt her kisses, laughed with her as she swung him in a circle till they both fell dizzily to the ground. He heard his father's deep rumble of a voice as he moved to lie beside them, wrapping both in his strong arms.
The vision did not last, just as it had not in life. His mother left his world and his father's eyes grew cold, warmed only by the fires of hate and the lust for that which he would never have, for which he swore an oath that bound not only him, but his young son to a life of misery and torment.
"I did not understand, Adar. Did not understand what Fëanor and you and your brothers consigned us to until too late. I was cursed before ever I was born. I worshipped you, yet you did not return my love. Like a homeless puppy, I followed you in tow, seeking any attention you would give, a pat on the head, a smile, an acknowledgement of a task well done.
"The sword, bow, hammer and forge, all these I learned from your hands, trying my best to be like the one who I respected and adored above all others. But it was not me to whom you turned your eyes, but your brothers. Did you not see? Your thoughts were my thoughts, your deeds my deeds, till one day I came to my senses and was sickened by what our hands had wrought. I begged you to renounce your oath, admit that your path was wrong, hoping that for once you would see the wisdom of *my* words, your only son.
"I lost the battle, although it was never mine to win. When you and Celegorm left Nargothrond, I stayed behind, knowing you were lost to me forever. 'I have no father,' I said, and it was true, for you had left me long ago. That day the last tie that bound my heart was broken and I made a vow of my own. Never would my seed sow life, the line of Fëanor would end with me.
"Afterward, I tried to turn my life around, tried to use the good that you had taught to erase the evil we had done. Yet, doubt assailed me for my confidence in myself was gone. Even in my craft could I not be satisfied, seeking perfection in every gem that I cut or setting that I cast. Others lauded my work, but it did not satisfy. It was Fëanor's talent that you praised; it was Fëanor's talent I desired.
"He came when I needed him most, fairer than mithril and glittering gold. He wooed me with wise and cunning words. My heart, which had lain broken, mended, for he offered all that you did not: love, knowledge, and respect. 'I am sent by the Valar,' he said, 'for Aulë has promised the sons of Fëanor will be forgiven.' I thought of you and took his words to heart.
"He seduced me in all ways, promising to ward the land and make this world like the one for which you pined. And oh, Adar, I was convinced through him that I had found my destiny. In my heart of hearts, I believed. One day you would see me as I then saw myself - Celebrimbor, son of Curufin, leading forth my people like a true prince of the House of Fëanor.
"Love blinded me; I was bound by his spell. Annatar, the Lord of Gifts, he called him self and I accepted those gifts with open arms, what once I had sought from you. With no qualms, I opened my heart. And for a while was content.
"The pleasures of the forge were surpassed for pleasures of the flesh. I gloried in those secretive moments, when there was only the two of us, alone - Annatar and I, lost in the depths of our feeling.
"But how fleeting time is. My happiness was short lived. We embarked on an undertaking that I believed would cleanse our name, yours and mine. With Annatar's expertise and my ingenuity, precious metals were melted and formed into rings. Rings of great power culled from the land, air and water - rings that would heal the earth, slow the passage of time. Into them went a part of myself, for my craftsmanship had grown to great proportion. Of the gwaith-i-mirdain, I was master.
"Oh, Adar! Even now, I remember every curve and plane of that fair face. He spoke such beguiling words. Slender fingers, which guided the heavy metal tongs of our craft, at night would caress and arouse me till the blood ran hot in my veins like the white-blue glow of molten mithril. My desires and wants were quenched as a sword newly formed sings with joy when bathed in a vat of cool oil.
"Yet now, those same hands cruelly apply my tools to my sweating body, determined to wrench secrets from me that I am not willing, nay, cannot reveal. Oh, Adar. I was bewitched, betrayed - used like the rag that I kept to clean my bench. Every word that my lover uttered was a lie, every promise fraught with deceit. All that I had gained in my life that was precious, he took from me then left in stealth, retiring to his dark abode in Mordor. In the fires of Mount Orodruin, he forged a ring of his own, one that controlled the others. Only when he placed it on his finger was I aware of his treachery. Fool was I to think I could escape the doom that Mandos placed upon us. Foolish yet, to believe that anything good could come from my hands.
"And after he had taken all that I had to offer, he wished for more. The rings, he said were his and he waged war to get them. All of my dreams burned with the destruction. I sought help from those I had forsaken, humbled myself before them and begged for mercy. Three of the rings were mine, cast by my hands alone. Galadriel advised me to hide them. Nenya, the ring of water, I gave to her. Vilya and Narya, rings of air and fire, I gave to Gil-galad. He and Celeborn promised aid but alas, it never arrived. I watched my city burn beneath my feet and fought my final battle against my nemesis alone. I lost.
"And now, my end draws nigh and I am wrought with shame and sorrow. The mark I leave upon this world is a stain that cannot be removed. Forever will my name be spoken of with hatred and disgust, for I have doomed not only my kin but all the free peoples of Middle-earth to a terrible fate and I am not sure that their might combined can end what I have set in motion. While I tremble with fear and cry in my duress, I have no right to complain; I deserve this punishment and more."
With a ragged breath, Celebrimbor whispered one last word...."Adar."
Pain more searing than he ever thought possible ripped through Celebrimbor's frame and at last, the blessed peace of darkness claimed him. Sauron's eyes glowed red and the foul beasts of his army screamed their elation, raising their spears to the darkened sky. Elrond and the host of elves sent by Gil-galad that arrived too late to save Ost-in-Edhil met the dark lord on a field outside the city. There they saw a gruesome sight. Bloodied and broken, the body of the last grandson of Fëanor, limp and ragged, impaled upon a standard staff waved by a black demon. So did the curse of Mandos end, as the last descendant of the Fëanorians met his fate. Whither he fared better in the halls of the dead or was forgiven for his great crime, none shall know until that time when Ilúvatar gathers all to his breast and that which is Arda is no more. Until then, this story ends.