Chasing Mirages

Author: Russandol

Nominator: elfscribe

2011 Award Category: Incomplete: Drama - First Place

Story Type: Incomplete  ✧  Length: Novel

Rating: Mature  ✧  Reason for Rating: Disturbing Imagery/Themes,Sexual Content,Violence

Summary: The story of Eönwë and Mairon after the War of Wrath - a tale of darkness, light, love and betrayal over the Ages. "When Thangorodrim was broken and Morgoth overthrown, Sauron put on his fair hue again and did obeisance to Eönwë the herald of Manwë, and abjured all his evil deeds. And some hold that this was not at first falsely done, but that Sauron in truth repented, if only out of fear..."(About 75% of piece written, and over 50% posted (at SWG only while a WIP).)

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Reviewed by: Adonnen Estenniel  ✧  Score: 10

Russandol's Chasing Mirages is a breathtaking piece of writing. I was fully engrossed while reading, and even during a second readthough I found myself enjoying the piece just as much as I had the first time. The author presents two truly complex characters who are enmeshed in a very twisted situation, effectively removes moral preconceptions, and leaves the reader enthralled. I cannot speak enough about how impressed I was with this. Beyond even the elegance and intricacy of the plot and characterization, the author writes spectacularly. The prose is simple yet evocative, and reminds me most of the book you read to yourself an impression of artistic intelligence. Not of course, to say that the characters or plot are in any way lacking--they certainly aren't. Mairon and Eonwë are two very dynamic characters whose stories are broad and deep, and the author manages to portray them simply while still giving an impression of weight. The setting she has chosen is also wonderful; the self-created world further serves to cement Chasing Mirages' exotic allure, and opens broad avenues for secondary world-building, which Russandol exploits wonderfully. I absolutely adored this piece, and will certainly be rereading it (again) in the future.

Author response: I'm humbled by your review. As opposed to "The Apple of His Eye", this story grew in the telling and I never thought it would reach over 160k words. The tale needing exploring in much more depth than I anticipated at first, the characters wanted to keep talking to me and going in directions which surprised me, still within the parameters dictated by the canon plot. I'm so grateful for your glowing review. It means an awful lot to hear that you consider it worth reading a second or even a third time, I'm very attached to this story. I hope you won't be disappointed with the rest. Thank you very much!

Reviewed by: Oshun  ✧  Score: 10

This story is priceless--bound to become a fanfiction classic. I have been reading it for something like a year and my interest has never flagged and, believe it or not, Tolkien's villains are not my first choice of reading material. I just happen to have three of my favorite writers who have chosen one of them as a special interest. You hooked me in the very beginning of this novel with the entire concept of a Maia having an Elvish body thrush upon him and needing to adjust to being entrapped within it. I loved the idea of knowing how something should be done, but having to train the new body which has never done it. Even muscle memory goes so far if one has not kept in shape. (I don't know who I like best in this story, Mairon or Eönwë. I have generally loved to hate Eönwë in past stories. But you cast him in a whole different light for me in this one. I recognize him and yet I react very differently to finding him in a vulnerable situation both physiicaly and emotionally. There is nothing that compares to seeing a villain rendered with likable aspects and a god's or demigod's clay feet exposed. Such stories never get old if done right. You have more than done it right in this story. I spend half the story waiting for the other shoe to drop, i.e., see the emotional dependence and vulnerability emerge on the part of Mairon. The world-building is wonderful: love the Mayan references. Great fun. I've often thought of doing a Numenorean last-days scenario overlaid with Aztec imagery and practices (also wondered if Tolkien had been influences by accounts of those practices). Nothing new under the sun as they say. Can't beat comparisons between myths and legends of disparate cultures (or with imaginary ones!). As this story wends it way toward a conclusion it continues to enthrall me. I will probably need to go back and read from the beginning when it is finished.

Author response: Oshun, you're making me blush here. It's a huge compliment to know that you like Eonwe, a character you have hated before (so had I, until I began to write this), or that you regard me a favourite writer, when you have been one of mine from the time I discovered fanfic several years ago. In this tale I hope to show Eonwe's journey from a haughty Ainu fallen off his pedestal to an almost human way of thinking and feeling, the result of being inside a hroa/body, not a fana/raiment. I'm glad Tolkien made the distinction, because I see them as two completely different experiences. It was fun to stand up and think what sensations would be new to an incarnate Maia, what things would feel new and wonderful, so I'm very happy that you enjoyed that part. As to the Mayan references, creating a language from scratch would have been beyond my capability, so that going for an already made one seemed like the only alternative. I've always been fascinated by their culture, and I could not miss the opportunity to get inspiration from them in order to create my exotic Kiinluum. Thank you so much, not only for this wonderful review, but for your on-going support over this year I've been posting this WIP. There's at least a third of the story to go - but you know well how estimates seem to stretch. I dearly hope you'll enjoy the rest.

Reviewed by: elfscribe  ✧  Score: 10

Although Sauron is a prime mover of events in Middle-earth’s Second and Third Ages, Tolkien rarely gives us a glimpse into his character or motivations beyond his all consuming desire for power and control. For the most part, he is merely the personification of Evil, dark and fathomless. Surely, there’s more to Sauron’s story. Russandol’s marvelous WIP "Chasing Mirages," told from the point of view of Manwë’s herald Eönwë, fills in the gaps of Sauron’s motivations and makes sense of a number of his choices. It opens with the Valar chastising Eönwë for permitting Sauron to escape after the War of Wrath. Although a hero of the war, Eönwë is unfairly blamed, sentenced to take on an elvish hröa and exiled to Middle-earth with the mission of finding his former friend and convincing him to return to face the Valar’s judgement. After much searching, Eönwë finds Sauron (who calls himself Mairon) among mortal men in the author’s invented far eastern land Kiinlúum, modeled after the ancient Mayans. Unexpectedly, Mairon seems reformed, living in harmony with his hosts as a wealthy adviser to their King. It doesn’t take long for Eönwë to fall for Mairon’s beauty, his beguiling and powerful personality, and compelling arguments. [‘Light it is, not darkness, that casts shadows to lead one astray. Light can unveil truth or mask lies’] Mairon entices Eönwë into a dance of dominance and submission, pleasure and pain that challenges Eönwë's loyalties and world-view as he and Mairon become lovers. This is something the Valar cannot tolerate and, ironically, their interference sows the seeds for Mairon's fall back into darkness. Ambitious and epic in scope, Mirages covers the main events of the Second and Third Ages. Russa has meticulously researched the canon and seamlessly enfolds it into her story. Eönwë and Mairon's relationship explains some events not covered in the books. For example, what happened to Sauron in the long period between his disappearance after the War of Wrath and his reappearance as an adviser to the Gwaith i Mírdain at Ost-in-Edhil? The story imagines an answer. Still in progress, Mirages promises to take us all the way to Sauron's final defeat when Frodo destroys the Ring, and beyond. I really love the characterizations. Eönwë is rather naive and strait-laced at first, but valiant and honorable. He always tries to do the right thing and is justifiably hurt and angered by the Valar’s actions. As a lonely outcast, he falls hard for Mairon, gives him his all, and eventually suffers a terrible conflict of love and loyalty. Yet he is no push-over and comes across as a strong and admirable individual who grows in character over time. You'll love Eönwë’s disguise as he becomes part of Gil-galad’s court and later is witness to the disaster in Ost-in-Edhil. Russa’s characterization of Sauron is spot on. He’s brilliant, charismatic, sensual, but also autocratic, ruthless, and controlling. Above all controlling. The BDSM nature of Mairon’s relationships is not at all gratuitous, but rather essential to his characterization. Eönwë and Mairon’s relationship is rife with betrayal and trust issues. Mairon’s love for Eönwë becomes both his possibility for redemption and his weakness. This helps humanize him and makes his and Eönwë's story all the more tragic. Russa does not sugar-coat Mairon’s misdeeds — this is a not a story for the faint-hearted — yet I appreciate her painting Sauron in shades of grey rather than all black. It's a tribute to Russa's characterizations and the compelling nature of her story that I am on the edge of my seat, rooting for Eönwë and Mairon’s relationship to succeed, even though, given what we know of Sauron, that is unlikely. Russa’s colorful descriptions of Kiinlúum, her marvelous re-imagining of Lindon and Ost-in-Edhil, and her depiction of minor characters have enriched my experience of Middle-Earth. Her prose is clean and lyrical with a formal quality that is reminiscent of the Silm. Here is her gorgeous opening in which Eönwë introduces himself: [I am one of the Ainur, a Maia of Manwë, a creature of Ilúvatar since before Time began and Eä was brought into existence and kindled with the flame of the Imperishable Fire. I weave my being into light, I soar amongst the stars, dive into the core of suns and dance in the luminescent pulse of the Song, that chimes from every speck and spark. I rejoice in the beauty of Arda, marred but still glorious. There are Children, those who know me little, who whisper of my betrayal, of having unleashed evil back onto the world through my deeds. They fear and avoid me. To those I say, once I was one of you. I touched, felt, bled, and wept; I laughed, loved and hated, not clad in a fana but bound to a hröa. I learnt of the gifts from the One to his Children, beautiful and bittersweet.] Thus begins a truly epic tale in which both Eönwë and Mairon chase the mirages of love and in the process shape the lives of all those on Middle-earth. Their story is complex, brilliant, and moving and has joined my list of all-time favorite fanfiction stories. I urge you to give this gem a try.

Author response: Oh, elfscribe, I'm speechless. What a beautiful review! I couldn't have got this far without your help. Thank you. For everything!

Reviewed by: Spiced Wine  ✧  Score: 10

I have only just stared reading this story, but I am reviewing now because I am really enjoying it. There is very little written of Eonwë and very little of Sauron, and even less written about distant places of Arda, where Sauron probably did travel to after the War of Wrath. I'll read stories set in more known parts of Middle-earth, of course, but as a bit of a map-fiend, I have always looked at larger projections of Arda and wondered 'What was over there?' and wanted to know, so it is wonderful to follow a story into these unknown lands. The author creates a rich and interesting culture here, where Sauron has settled and is highly respected (at the least.) The interactions between Eonwë and Sauron are fascinating. After all, Sauron did come before the former after the War of Wrath, before escaping -- or did he? In this story, Eonwë is punished by Manwë for having pity on Sauron, and must take on form and live upon Arda. When one considers this, it's hardly surprising that Sauron did not want to give himself up to the Valars notion of 'justice'. They seem to me extraordinarily pitiless, lacking any empathy or personality in the Silmarillion. Eonwë, learning and often struggling with his form, becomes 'real' to me in a way that the Ainur (save Sauron and Melkor) never have, and he is a great contrast to Sauron, who has long existed as a physical being, and knows his body intimately, including the pleasures it can bring. (And those do seem to make being Ainur an extraordinarily sapless existance! Could Eonwë ever return to that, I wonder?) Sauron is beautiful, amoral, intelligent and compelling, and one can see how easily Eonwë would be drawn to him, both repelled and fascinated. I will be reading more of this story and seeing where this relationship goes, but I will post this review now, since time is creeping on. Well done, Russa!

Author response: There were many things that prompted me to write this story, but the huge gap in Sauron's timelime after his intriguing surrender to Eönwë had always made me wonder. Tolkien mentioned vaguely that he went East after that, and that he fell into evil because he was still bound by Melkor. This explanation seemed to me the easy way out and completely unsatisfactory. As well as that question I've tried to answer a few others, because Sauron and his falls (mainly the second one, the subject of this story) were only mentioned in passing but I felt there had to be much more. I'm very pleased that you are enjoying the story and hope that you still do as the relationship progresses into more "canon" territory. Thank you very much for reviewing!

Reviewed by: Lyra  ✧  Score: 10

Who would have thought that I'd become hooked on an epic novel about Sauron and Eönwë, both of them characters I'm not usually interested in? Well, it happened! But then, there are reasons enough to get hooked on this story: Great world-building, adding a spicy South American flavour to Middle-earth as we know it; a wide range of believable characters, likeable and otherwise; politics, intrigue and looming war; shifts in loyalties and perspectives; and - I'll admit it - nice kinky BDSM. Altogether, this makes a great mix and a vastly enjoyable read! After the end of the First Age, Eönwë finds himself harshly criticised for his failure to bring Sauron to justice. In punishment, he is put into an Elvish body and sent back to Middle-earth where he is supposed to convince Sauron to surrender. Russandol's description of Eönwë's initial difficulties in getting used to the limitations of his new body alone is fantastic, and as always I like that the Valar are shown not as perfect, wise beings but as frequently overwhelmed by their responsibility and prone to making foolish decisions. As Eönwë reaches Sauron's latest stronghold and gets to know the place and its people, his original task is getting less and less important to him. Instead he grows dangerously dependent on Sauron's company - and his "arts". Despite the cruel tests that Sauron puts him to, Eönwë proves faithful and devoted. And Sauron actually appears to be doing good for the people of Kiinluúm. But of course the Valar have to meddle again, and Eönwë is lured away and killed so that he can be sent to Lindon in a new body. There, he has a somewhat rough start before he is accepted by the "good" guys... Aside from the awesome story, my inner linguist also loved the introduction of Aztec vocabulary - and the clever new theory as to where Erestor comes from... In short, this is some serious quality writing, full of intriguing twists and fascinating ideas. I squee inside whenever Russandol publishes another chapter. Definitely worth a read (unless you're adverse to slash, original settings and characters, and/or BDSM, obviously).

Author response: Thanks Lyra! I'm in love with your picture of Eönwë in Kiinlúum, so much in the spirit of my completely different culture from the conventional Silmarillion settings. I'm chuffed you find so many things you like in this story. It's proved to be hard to write in several places and I got stuck badly a few times - the darker parts of Kiinlúum and the Eregion of the Rings were almost unbearable, I hated what I was doing to my characters - but it's all worth it if I have hooked you to stay aboard for such a long ride. The linguistic part was due to my ignorance in the matter. I had no choice but to resort to an existing language because any attempt at making up names and terms of my own were doomed to failure. I've always been fascinated by the pre-Hispanic American cultures so borrowing elements from the Mayan culture, like the god of the underworld and the stepped pyramids, into my own little corner of Middle-earth was very satisfactory. Thanks for your wonderful review!

Reviewed by: pandemonium_213  ✧  Score: 10

Russandol's novel is, in a word, magnificent. I recall our early under-the-radar discussions about the story and themes. When Russa told me about the premise and the overall plot, my reaction was "Wow! This must be written!" And I have thoroughly enjoyed the ride with Eönwë and Mairon (not to mention the privilege of reading the early drafts before they go public). There's so much that I love about the novel-in-progress (nearing completion) that I could write a full-on New York Times Books type review. The Valar are not pleased that Eönwë did not haul Mairon, a.k.a., Sauron, back to Valinor at the end of the War of Wrath, which concluded the First Age, so Eönwë, now embodied quite solidly, is sent off to Middle-earth to find the reprobate and renegade fellow Maia. But what ensues is something entirely different that what the Valar had assigned. Throughout, Russa's gift of language predominates. Her descriptive prose is wonderful yet never bogs down the pace of the narrative. She creates a beautifully realized tertiary world of Tolkien's secondary world, in particular, Kiinlúum, the realm of the East where Eönwë finds the object of his mission. Her use of Yucatec language and culture is a stroke of brilliance, creating a decidedly exotic "East-of-Middle-earth" atmosphere, yet one familiar to those of us in the primary world. It works very well. She creates a fantastic sense of place, no matter the setting: Kiinlúum, Lindon or Eregion. But best of all? The two primary characters: Eönwë and Mairon. Russa was aware that I held reservations of this particular pairing, because I had come across Eönwë/Sauron fics previously and was, to put it kindly, not impressed. Also, she knew I had made rather tart remarks about the cherished-in-fandom theme of BDSM as associated with Sauron, which is more often than not so overdone that it approaches caricature. But I should have known that Russa would dash my skepticism to pieces. Her rendition of Mairon is fantastic (extraordinarily intelligent, beguiling), and one that I deeply appreciate. The BDSM aspects are never gratuitous, but serve effectively to forge characterization. The sexual component of Eönwë's relationship with Mairon illustrates a powerful psychological need/drive for both characters, who, despite otherworldly Maiarin characteristics, harbor distinctly human traits and vulnerabilities. Eönwë's voice, offered to the reader as first person POV, is superb. Russa takes us deep into Eönwë's headspace, and that is so, so satisfying to this reader. As a result, I have become heavily invested in Eönwë. Although I know the ride will soon come to a conclusion, I thank Russa and her brilliant protagonists (a pair for the Ages) for taking me along with them.

Author response: I am humbled by your review, Pandë, and by your ongoing support from the very first drafts of this story. I would have never dared post it without the firm nudge you gave me. Some of the themes you mention were a surprise to me as I plotted and wrote: I had not initially considered a D/S relationship, and the Mesoamerican flavour of my imaginary Kiinlúum was prompted by my desire to give a consistency to the names of the characters and places in that remote land. The fact that you consider my take on Mairon/Sauron plausible despite your reservations on the pairing makes me very happy, as your own Istyar Aulendil is a brilliant, "true-to-life" rendition of the character Tolkien sketched for us. Thank you for everything!

Reviewed by: KyMahalei  ✧  Score: 10

Tolkien's works, are among the most epic pieces of English literature. As such they are filled with some of the most villainous bad guys and sterling good guys of all time. In this piece, which is epic in its own right, Russandol pushes two characters, Eonwe and Mairon,into three-dimensional complexity. Eonwe begins as a niave and intensely loyal servant of Manwe. Mairon is a character who spurns love and the things that Eonwe has to offer. it is the evolution of these characters both independently and as they relate to one another that makes the story so fascinating. in this story, Mairon is all about power and control. This is congruent with Tolkien's rendering. But Russandol also highlights his love for inventions his creativity and his carnal desires, the last of which provides him with an Achilles' heel for Eonwe's growing love to enter. This story spans several ages, as well as several locations in Middle Earth. Russandol's descriptions are vivid and carry the plot well. I appreciate her culture building and the care that she takes with details. In addition to the excellent rendering of the two main characters, Russandol presents us with an Elrond who is well rounded and believable. Part of the complexity of the story is derived from the fact that it is congruent with Tolkien's universe is more than possible to believe that things might have transpired just as Russandol saidare aa man. This story is intriguing and a must read for anyone wishing to understand the character of Mairon. Great job, Russandol!

Author response: Oh, Ky, thank you for such a kind review. Saying that my characters are three-dimensional and believable is the ultimate praise. I truly appreciate your following this story from the beginning, and the many great suggestions and nitpicking you have given me to make it better. Thanks for everything!

Reviewed by: Scarlet10  ✧  Score: 8

For me, this story is about two major points so far: First and most, its a waking call to Eönwë, the herald of the Valar, waking up from his trust and belief in the "all wise" powers, and learning to see their less then generous/ just side. A view I personally hold for a while now. Secondly, it's about Eönwë's ability to adjust, to learn to trust, when his initial views crumble. And in between, we see love flourish, friendships form, and the history of places we usually read of less. Russandol is a very talented player. She manages to play my own views during this story, and shift them from one side to the other, quite easily. Her characters are vivid and believable. Her scene depiction makes things real. Oh and there were some surprises (if ever there was an understatement...) that I won't say here, to allow the new reader the complete shock at the right time (*evil grin*) I am looking forward to the rest of this story. It is very interesting Russandol, thank you.

Author response: Yes, the story is about Eönwë learning to stand on his feet and not to believe the party line, but to observe and have his own voice, despite the consequences. It's also about realising how history is written by the winners - wrongs committed by "the enemy" are evil, but those performed to fulfil the purpose of the Valar are considered acceptable, and how those events are seen differently when seen from the "good" side, from where Eönwë has been excluded. Thank you for your review, Scarlet, I hope you anjoy the rest of the story!

Reviewed by: crowdaughter  ✧  Score: 6

This is such a powerful story, and astonishing to boot. I have read yet only parts, and still it has gripped me. The tragic takle of Eonwe, who finds an unexpected love and companionship in Mairon of all beings after the war of Wrath is both unexpected and brilliantly told; the characters of Mairon and Eonwe as well as of all the OC's come intensely alive under Russandol's expert hands, and with Eonwe we witness and watch the reassessment of all values and everything Eonwe formerly believed, including the "goodness" of the Valar. and yet, Mairon never gets less dangerous or "tame" in this tale. He is kept on the edge, keeping the reader there as well, wondering with Eonwe about good or bad and the right side to take... I love this tale, and have a hard time to see another view of Sauron, now. Well done!

Author response: Your praise about my take on Sauron is humbling; I can't thank you enough for that comment because, even if this is Eönwë's tale, its focus is on the character of Sauron, from his second fall to... well, to the end. Making him tread on the edge between good and evil is tricky, I'm glad (and relieved) that he doesn't come across as tame. I hope you keep enjoying the later part of the story. Thank you, crowdaughter!

Reviewed by: Erulisse  ✧  Score: 6

Chasing Mirages is Russa's MUST NOT MISS opus. This is the story that I eagerly await each chapter for and that I've enjoyed reading for a long time. I will feel definite sorrow when this story ends because the ride has been so wonderful. And I know I will read and re-read this story again and again because I have learned to love it. The premise is not out of the question, and the relationships that develop between the main characters are so plausible, that it makes me wonder why this has not been approached before. But who else could possibly have handled this with as much understanding as Russa? I can't think of anyone. So I will continue to cherish each chapter and recommend that you join the ranks of those of us who love this story and have it on our alerts lists.

Author response: Thanks, Erulisse! There are still a few chapters to go, so the ride is not quite over yet. I'm so happy you're enjoying it. Thanks for your feedback and nitpicking at the Lizards, as well as for this review.

Reviewed by: SurgicalSteel  ✧  Score: 5

This is a really fantastic and fascinating gapfiller for a rather long stretch in Middle-earth's history. The author's take on the personalities of Eonwe, herald of the Valar, and Sauron, Morgoth's second-in-command and future Dark Lord, are somewhat different from what I've seen in other fic. It's easy to take the Sauron as BDSM master notion and go from there into him being a rather cartoonish one-note villain - what the author's managed to do here is to take that notion and make him into a compelling and complex character, potentially capable of loyalty and maybe even love. I'm really enjoying this tale and am hoping to see more of it very soon!

Author response: He he, yes, the "gap" is a bit wide... I'm so chuffed you like the story and that you believe my take on Sauron has not fallen into cartoon teritory. I'm also very grateful for your advice in the chapter where expertise on arrow wounds was required. Thank you very much for your review, Steel!

Reviewed by: Liadan  ✧  Score: 5

This is a truly great story, very complex and compelling about the relationship between Eönwë and Sauron (Mairon.) The Valar (at the behest of the Elves) bring Eönwë to trial for refusing to judge Sauron and yet doing exactly that (judging him) by allowing him to go free. As punishment, Eönwë is bound to an Elven body and banished to Middle Earth until such time as Sauron should repent and allow himself to be judged by the Valar. He is also given a message for Sauron (and another message for Macalaurë); and so he travels to Middle Earth to begin his quest.

Author response: Thanks for your review, Liadan. The story is now completely drafted to the very end, and just needs betaing and nitpicking in the last few chapters. I hope you keep enjoying it!

Reviewed by: Lilith Lessfair  ✧  Score: 5

I'll admit to having been intrigued when I'd first heard of this piece. I'd only become acquainted with Russa but I was already aware of how very clever and perceptive she was, and so I thought she'd write a wonderful piece. Well, I found my expectations, high as they were, to have been greatly surpassed. This is one of the most clever D/S pieces I've read. It's a trope well suited to the characters the story is centered around, and Russa uses it well to explore issues of freedom, constraint, and power as well as to explore thoroughly the complex characters of Eonwe and Mairon -- all of this in truly gorgeous prose. Many thanks for a terrific tale.

Author response: Hey, thank you, Lilith! I'm pleased it didn't disappoint you. Funnily, it wasn't going to be a D/S relationship, but I could not make it believable otherwise. It sort of clicked into place. Now I'm very glad I fell for the trope!