Middle-Earth Fanfiction Awards

Driftwood

Author: pandemonium_213
Nominator: Robinka
2011 Award Category: Second Age and Early Third Age: General - First Place

Story Type: Story : Length: Short Story
Rating: Teen -- Reason for Rating: Disturbing Imagery/Themes,Sexual Content
Summary: When mortal fishermen rescue a half-drowned elf-man from the northern sea, Elrond's help is requested. Elrond travels to the village of Mousehole to find the recovering survivor who tells Elrond of his background and his mission, which promises to bring the innovations and wonders of Aman to Lindon. Elrond is intrigued as he attempts to discover just who this mysterious fellow is.


Reviewed by: Adonnen Estenniel -- Score: 10

As ever, pandemonium's storytelling is vivid and matchless. The opening scene, told from the perspective of a raven, immediately caught my attention. Background information and bits and pieces of other things are everywhere, evidenced by the barely mentioned hierarchy of the raven tribes, Elrond's ability in the deep arts, Maedhros and Maglor's secrecy on how their father attained his knowledge. It's the little things like that that, when brought together, make a story become a remarkable slice of Middle-earth as a whole. Even without these vague mentions and references, the story would have been good. The premise, Annatar attempting to ingratiate himself amongst the Sindar, is unique and presents a huge opportunity for gap-filling, which the author takes. The setting, a small fishing village reminiscent of Cornwall, adds to the scope of the plot, bringing the reader away from oft-explored places like Lindon and Ost-in-Edhil, and gives a glimpse at the lives of Men in Middle-earth who were not Numenoreans. Sauron's cunning is perfectly portrayed, and his conversations with Elrond were thought-provoking and enlightening as to what sort of characterizations the author had decided to go with. Most interesting to me was the fact that Gil-galad was shown to be mad, or nearly so. Not what typically comes to mind, yet it works very well given the context. Overall, I was extremely impressed with this piece, as I am with all of this author's work.

Reviewed by: Raksha the Demon -- Score: 10

I've always enjoyed this writer's take on Sauron. She has managed to write him as a being of immense potential and power who does, when incarnated in Elven form, become vulnerable to human needs and desires. Her Sauron is a conflicted being, a conflict that his better self usually loses, but there is a better self in there; which makes his villainy, epic and small-scale, all the more tragic. Nor does she neglect that dark side, the hidden core beneath the seductive facade. Here, Pandemonium begins the tale of Sauron's incarnation as Annatar and sojourn with the Elves of Eregion. I found it particularly interesting, and a measure of the writer's skill, that she tells this story from viewpoints other than Sauron's. The luckless crow at the beginning of the story, who sees Sauron preparing to orchestrate his discovery as a helpless castaway, serves as a metaphor for all the souls who Sauron will lure to their doom by offering them things they crave. And the next, the major point of view for the story, is Elrond, no greedy crow, but nonetheless a man who does want more knowledge and who craves more knowledge of the family he has lost. Sauron is a very beguiling figure to Elrond, a figure of wisdom and strength and apparent kindliness, pushing the buttons that Elrond feels about being cast off and abandoned by the higher-tech Elves of the West. But Sauron loses the support that he hopes to gain from Elrond because of two things that Sauron did not anticipate: the biological links that the Maiar share, transmitted to their descendants share; like calls to like when Elrond clasps Sauron's hand, and as Elrond calls out to Annatar in thought, something dark and mysterious scuttles from the Peredhel's mind-touch before Annatar brings down a mental curtain. The other thing is something very prosaic, something Sauron should have thought of, but did not, and that's a wonderful touch; the potential Elrond/Annatar alliance stopped in its tracks by Elrond's recognition of something very Other and something very down-to-earth. Sauron is characterized both brilliantly and believably. Kudos also to excellent writing of Elrond...

Reviewed by: Virtuella -- Score: 10

Dear Pande, what an absolute gem this story is! I thought the opening passage with the raven was wonderful: the air of mystery it created, and the way the bird was characterised, sympathetically but without any false sentimentality. This passage contrasted beautifully with the more mundane scene that follows, a domestic scene, equally vividly rendered. The scrutiny of the stranger does not surpass what you would normally expect in the circumstances, and yet it is subtly clear that there is more to it than meets the eye. And then the stranger gives his name, which, in a flash, throws a light on the opening scene and the death of the raven. I loved the very subtle humour in the following conversation with Elrond, especially that the first temptation Annatar sets before him is proper plumbing. The science topic echoes faintly of the Tree of Knowledge from Genesis, a very clever nod. And I adored it that Elrond could smell, if not quite the identity, then at least the approximate nature of the mysterious stranger. The smell of lightening – another clever nod at ancient mythology here, this time at the Greek gods. And at the same time, Elrond impersonates Sherlock Holmes and draws his conclusions from the calluses on the man’s hand, or lack thereof. This whole story is so precisely built and so fittingly worded, it is really fabulous.

Reviewed by: Russandol -- Score: 10

The story opens with a scene told from a most unusual point of view which, because of the non-human nature of the narrator, is both fascinating and, in places, repulsive in its authenticity. Through the eyes of this creature it is possible to begin to guess the identity of the watched man, who behaves in a seemingly strange way, though his actions have a very definite purpose. Adding this superb preamble to the encounter between Elrond and this mysterious character in dramatic circumstances only highlights the suspense of the scene, as we know what Elrond does not. While reading this story I continuously felt like screaming "Beware!" because pandemonium_213's Sauron in his fair guise can't be any more beguiling, in so many different levels, to someone like Elrond (or to the poor little creature who witnessed the truth). The dialogue between the two men is riveting. Annatar is magnificent, convincing and full of charisma. Elrond's caution is cast to one side by his thirst for knowledge; the temptation the stranger dangles before his eyes to offer guidance to explore his untapped powers is irresistible. Annatar is about to achieve his ends but he has not allowed for Elrond's gift (the inheritance from Melian) and has additionally underestimated his great powers of observation. What a twist, even if we know the final outcome! THis is pandemonium_213 at her very best.

Reviewed by: SurgicalSteel -- Score: 10

I found this to be a really interesting explanation for just how Sauron started worming his way into Elvish culture in Eriador in the Second Age, and for why Elrond and Gil-galad had their initial suspicions. The first portion of this story is told from the point of view of a raven, giving us a really creative first look at the villain in question. This raven witnesses his actual arrival - and given that there are talking ravens in Tolkien's canon, her fate at Sauron's hands didn't really surprise me. He can't afford for there to be anyone - even a raven - who might contradict his story. When we next see Sauron, it is in a tiny village of mortal fishermen who've brought word that they rescued an Elf from the sea. He spins a tale for Elrond of being an Elf from Aman and a student of Aule who has come to help heal Middle-earth. He's seemingly been very careful to make his form one that's striking, but not TOO striking - Elrond observes that he's not as tall as Maedhros and that he's 'average' in other respects. He describes all of the things he might help the Elves of Eriador achieve, and while Elrond is tempted to believe him, a few things betray that Sauron is not preciesly who or what he claims to be. A great read.

Reviewed by: Oshun -- Score: 10

I almost missed this one. I am not hitting every story I love this year, but this was one that I really wanted to write. I love the idea of beginning from the POV of a bird. (It reminded me of the ravens of my newest obsession this year.) It also fascinated and repulsed in certain graphic details near the beginning. Great storytelling there also--a look into the mind and appetites of a raven. There are a lot of contrasts in this story--some I am aware are intentional and others which may or may not be. The prologue to the actual story pits the raven against the strange visitor, giving those of us familiar with Pandemonium's personal canon a clue to the identity of the stranger. I terrifically enjoy all of Pande's discussions of the deep arts practiced by Annatar and passed onto the Elves of Ost-in-Edhil--very real gifts indeed. Annatar really does know how to manipulate and charm. He is able to adapt and fit into his surroundings. In the case of misleading Men or Elves, he responds to their expectations and reads possible desires and needs. My favorite part of this introduction to the author's story cycle involving Sauron and his family, colleagues and friends, is the unexpected revelation that like calls to like in the case of Elrond. He has felt the shared heritage through the scent and touch of the visitor. He recognizes an affinity, which leads to a deep suspicion, which he chooses for the moment to keep to himself and ponder. Lovely story telling. Interesting characterization and fascinating explanation of the visitor's potential future contributions to the sciences of Ost-in-Edhil. Annatar really does know how to manipulate and charm. He is able to adapt and fit into his surroundings. In the case of misleading Men or Elves, he is able to respond to their expectations.

Reviewed by: crowdaughter -- Score: 10

A powerful story! The tale of how Annatar aka Mairon comes first among the Eldar in the second age is told here with such intensity, and from two different perspectives that both well reveal Annatar's/ Mairon's character: once, as he is seen by a hapless crow, who observes both his art and his terrifying power of seduction. The other is Elrond, a young, yet inexperienced Elrond who is not yet the master of Rivendell, but counselor of his king, Gil-Galad. And it is Elrond who in the end sees through him, but not exactly for the reasons one would expect. The reason Pande gives of why, exactly, Elrond recognizes that Annatar is not who he seems and claims, and therefore is not to be trusted, is so clear and so breathtaking obvious, makes so much sense it catches the reader as surprise, and yet, it is an idea that did not occur to me before I read this story. This alone would make the story brilliant. But there is more. I love the description of the mortals, living close to tis mostly Elven kingdom in Lindon in poverty. The arts and offers of science and knowledge Annatar and Elrond discuss are a nice touch, giving a hint at how much, exactly, the "rustic" Elves of Ennor might have known before the wars of the Second age took all this from them, and on what rich knowledge the Gwaith-i-Mirdain must have build to craft the Rings under Annatar's tutelage. I love the seductive role Annatar is shown to play here, the fascination he manages to elicit, and all one can say about a mistake on his side is that perhaps, he is trying a little too hard. But with any other than Elrond, he clearly would have succeeded, and not because Elrond was so much more paranoid. And finally, I love the way Pande describes the art of this Maia, his particular kind of magic, his ability to *sing* fire into being. One of the Ainur, indeed! All in all, a powerful story and an excellent read. My hat is off to Pande for this story. Applause!

Reviewed by: The Lauderdale -- Score: 10

Sauron did a lot of traveling during his stint as Annatar. [Only to Lindon he did not come,] according to the Silmarillion, [for Gil-galad and Elrond doubted him and his fair-seeming, and though they knew not who in truth he was they would not admit him to that land.] But what caused them to doubt? This story depicts a pivotal moment in Middle-earth's history: when Elrond meets a man named Annatar and must decide whether to commend the fellow to his king. Annatar entices him with knowledge of [nolwë and curwë] (science and technology) beyond the current possession of the Lindon Elves: plumbing and genetic research and microscopes, and a deeper understanding of certain abilities that Elrond inherited through his Maiar blood. And Elrond is interested. But then he notices something - or rather, some things. Like Raksha, I find it appealing that his realization should be two-fold. There is the practical, tangible reason he offers Gil-galad (what I thought of as his [Encyclopedia Brown] moment), and there is an unsettling personal recognition that Elrond keeps discreetly to himself. On a side note, I didn't notice the paragraph mentioned in the author note and had to double back. Was it the eye paragraph? I'm not sure what it says about me, but I found that adorable! I was much more upset about what actually happened to the raven, particularly coupled with the endearment he uses for her. There is a moment later, presented without any overt implication of significance in the text, when Annatar offers the same stone that so entranced the raven to an elderly woman. Whether the stone actually carries the blessing that he says it does, one assumes that it won't do her any harm. After all, it would hardly serve Annatar's purpose if Elrond or someone else were to hear of some unfortunate event later. Still, in view of the earlier scene, it is unsettling.

Reviewed by: Malinornë -- Score: 10

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this story, quite possibly the last in my frantic attempts to read and review at least half of the stories I had picked out this summer, before I forgot about the existence of this site until a couple of days ago. I'm happy I decided to pick up this specimen of driftwood. That eye paragraph was indeed icky, but it served excellently in showing some of the raven's nature, and nobody alive suffered. I actually thought the raven's death scene crueller, but love how you built it and made the bird's own desire its bane. And that part with 'wood, feathers and death' was simply beautiful to me. Really liked the detailed descripton of the village and house. And how the talk of science and the word 'organism' seemed to mark this story clearly as belonging to you. What else to say... I love that Elrond did not fall for the stranger's talk, in spite of his awe-inspiring presence and his past. I very muched enjoyed reading about a period of time and a location that I haven't read much about earlier. I look forward to more chapters in the future. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention the languages; I really liked that important detail about Annatar, his amazing ability for languages. I guess Elrond was puzzled a bit about it; I mean even if the stranger spoke perfect Sindarin without having lived among Grey-elves, it seems even odder that he would be able to imitate the dialect of the fishermen after spending so little time with them. Excellent story. Thank you!

Reviewed by: Lilith Lessfair -- Score: 8

Again, here is another strong piece from Pandemonium. The opening to a longer project, "Driftwood" functions every bit as well as a riveting tale in two parts. As in her other works, I find myself struck most by the careful characterization in this piece and by the degree to which Pandemonium has envisioned the world in which she sets her stories. Whether that of the compelling figure at the center of the tale, the mysterious man who walked into and was rescued from the sea; the clever and very observant Elrond; the unfortunate raven or the crone in whose home Annatar finds refuge, each character is meticulously crafted so that the myriad facets of their personalities glitter as beautifully as the stone with which Annatar tempts the bird and rewards his mortal hostess. The care with which she crafts these men, women and birds is only surpassed by the care with which she has crafted the world in which they live. She knows these characters well and the paths they will take equally well. I greatly look forward to reading more of it.

Reviewed by: Dreamflower -- Score: 6

I really like the beginning of this, from a very unusual POV: that of a raven. The raven's fate gives us a very good idea as to the identity of this implacable stranger. And implacability seems to be the identifying trait of Pandemonium's Dark Muse. He is set upon a goal and spares nothing and no one if they may stand in the way of achieving it, however remotely-- and that even includes his own self. He's built a very good cover story, and has a seemingly impenetrable disguise. How odd, then, that one person seems to see through it with ease, even after seeming to fall briefly under his spell. But Elrond Half-Elven is no ordinary person. I really like that there are two explanations for his attitude: one of them slightly mystical and rooted in his heritage, and another rooted in nothing more than practical observation. A really good read.

Reviewed by: KyMahalei -- Score: 6

the disturbing "images from a ravens point of view" are precisely what is needed to establish the true nature of the main character of the story. Mairon may appear harmless during the rest of this tale but the reader can never forget the opening paragraphs. Something evil is afoot and it's up to Elrond's discernment to determine what is to be done. I always love pandemonium's characterizations, but in this story Elrond is rendered with special skill. He is often given the attributes of both men and elves, but it is his broader heritage that serves him well in this situation. his responses to Annatar are authentic and believable.I specially liked the final handshake and the moment of recognition. Well done!

Reviewed by: obsidianj -- Score: 4

This story has a rather gruesome beginning, which sets the stage for the rest of the story. It confers an unease about the whole tale the survivor tells Elrond of his travails. Since I sometimes have trouble to put 2 and 2 together, it took me awhile to figure out who this survivor is. Elrond is just guided by instinct, but that helps him to find the clues that something is not right. Very ingenious idea to introduce this particular character to Elrond.

Reviewed by: Independence1776 (Crystal113) -- Score: 3

A remarkable story of the meeting between Elrond and Annatar, one that changes the course of history. It’s the details that make the story stand out-- and in the end, lets Elrond make the choice to reject Annatar’s advances. Pandë shows the offer was truly tempting, and that the decision wasn’t made lightly.