Edge of the Knife, The
1. The Edge of the Knife
As children, he'd taken his sons, each one, to the harbor. Pointing to Númenor's banner, he'd promised: "'Twill be yours to defend one day."
His boys, his blood—a young man's pride, their youth and virility an old man's comfort. His blood, his line—living promise, each one, that the spirit of Númenor should endure.
So he had thought, once. Before it came to him—before that spirit found life eternal in him. Before corruption ruined sons, who'd threatened what they should defend...
Inevitable, the consequences. Yet as crows fight beneath the gibbet, Tar-Isildur wonders: Might it have been otherwise...?
And then came the Time of Testing, as it was afterwards known, when the Faithful gained the throne once more. Tar-Palantír and his daughter, Tar-Míriel, repented of the idolatry of their people.
When Pharazôn rebelled against the royal house, there was strife, but he was defeated by the valor of Amandil and Elendil, who in afterdays led the Queen's Armada to succor Gil-Galad against Sauron.
In the Lists of Honor, they stand high: Amandil and Elendil, from whom descend the Lords of Middle-earth, loyal servants of Númenor among the Middle Men: Isildur and Anárion, Elendur and Meneldil, Ciryon and Cemendur...
All the court's in an uproar. Five guards slain, three wounded, and who knew how far this purge would reach? Would it touch even the queen? Pharazôn's wrath brooded like the fume over the new Temple, where fires now burned with a white heat.
No wonder: Nimloth had been hewn down that very morning, and servants whispered when the Templers came, bearing their first offerings to the Giver of Freedom. Once, there would've been mourners in the streets; no longer.
Only one, swathed in veiling black, dares offer comfort; Elendil, bowed under death's sentence, reads:
Isildur did not suffer—M.
Isildur never thought to come so far, still bearing Nimloth's fragrant fruit. Wounded, he worries: Was he recognized? What shall come of this deed?
He can feel his tide running, and suffers doubt's anguish above all. But over the stale, coppery scent of blood and sweat, hope wafts sweetly on the air, and he lets it carry him away...***
Grieving over Elendil's body, Anárion remembers Isildur's sacrifice, first of many that'd brought them to this day. And so he turns and says to the Elves standing nigh: "Nay, this I will have, as wergild for my father, and my brother..."
He remembers that day in Rómenna, when the eastern wind gusted, and gulls glimmered whitely over innumerable sails: Pharazôn had returned, fair Death beside him.
He remembers the grey dawn when Amandil kissed his brow, saying: "I go seeking mercy. Hope for a sign."
And one had come—an eagle bearing tidings: You have your freedom—make of it what you will.
So they had. Isildur's grey as that long ago dawn now. Sword and fire he's brought to Númenor; he's made rivers run blood in endless civil war against Annatar, and he wonders sometimes:
Is this clemency, or condemnation?
They'd dared to hope as they marched upon the Black Land. Seven years, they'd spun out heart enough to endure. But the mountain had quaked, and Gil-galad had burned, and Elendil had fallen. Broken Narsil had struck gold, and fallen notched from his hand.
Now Húrin's ghost whispers in Isildur's ear, telling him the world's misery as he sits, bound to watch through the captured glass relentless darkness falling. And he anguished prays it will spread swift and thick, that he may go blind at last.
For the stone cannot pierce lightless lands, and after such knowledge, what terror, oblivion?
The Dominion of the Dark Lord
It came to him, once. An hour of glory bounded by a golden ring. An hour closed upon Gladden Fields, when all fell about him, yet glory's end was not his.
Now bound in Barad-dûr, he cannot will even his death, only suffer dying. Stripped beyond flesh to the nakedness of spirit, there shall be no night—only the agony of golden triumphs dawned by the Ring upon Another's hand.
The Ring—unbearable desired, that cuts ever at his soul to fit its bounds, yet cannot rid him of himself. And so he wordless writhes, incessantly re-minded: I—Isildur—AM.
"Destroy it!" they'd begged him. And he's weary enough to come this far, to the very Cracks.
Dizzy with the weight of two hundred years, he walks: a stride for the century's toil to raise a kingdom, a sway for seven years of siege and loss, stumbling in the heavy shadow of Akallabêth.
Gravity. The Ring whispers, promising relief from this exhaustion. You need but claim me...
Yet finally, there's no will in him to claim or to reject. Still, the old riddle of the ass and mangers is wrong: vertigo remains. Staggering, Ring in hand, he lets himself fall...
*Giver of Freedom: the title under which Melkor was worshipped in Númenor.
*"Nay, this I will have, as wergild for my father, and my brother..."—cf. "The Council of Elrond", FOTR
*For the stone cannot pierce lightless lands: in UT, Tolkien notes that the palantíri cannot show anything that doesn't have at least some light falling upon it.
*"The Dominion of the Dark Lord" is taken from this line in "Many Meetings", FOTR: "You would have become a wraith under the dominion of the Dark Lord; and he would have tormented you for tying to keep his Ring, if any greater torment were possible than being robbed of it and seeing it on his hand."
*The riddle of the ass and mangers: I've taken the liberty of importing Buridan's ass under a modified form. I figure it works well enough.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.