Leavings: 2. Chapter 2

Reader Toolbox   Log in for more tools

2. Chapter 2

They watched in silent stillness until Elrond was out of sight, hardly daring 
to move. Glorfindel's eyes flitted about the battlefield, as if searching for 
some elusive deliverance; Cirdan merely stared after Elrond, his face grave.

"We cannot simply abandon him," Glorfindel said under his breath. He felt 
helpless; and the feeling was unaccustomed, even after the long years of 
siege. To do nothing would be intolerable, and to be barred thus from 
helping pained him.

"No," Cirdan said heavily. "We cannot abandon him - and nor do I propose 
to." Glorfindel glanced across at him sharply, looking at him closely for 
the first time. He looked grey and gaunt, and slightly unsteady, and 
Glorfindel found himself wondering if the long years of war had taken too 
severe a toll on him. "I will seek him forthwith."

"I will go with you," Glorfindel said quickly. "My path leads towards the 
camp also. We are building the pyres a mile upwind of it." 

They set off in the direction of the camp, walking quickly in spite of the 
weight of fatigue that hung on them. "What ails him?" Glorfindel asked 
softly.

He saw Cirdan hesitate, glance round as if afraid of eavesdroppers, and 
then hesitate a second time.

"Isildur has taken the enemy's ring."

"Ah ..." The syllable was as the soughing of wind in the evening. "And he 
will not destroy it?"

"No."

"But that is madness. He knows what it is, and what was wrought in it, 
surely?"

"Yes," Cirdan said bleakly. Glorfindel glanced across at Cirdan's face, but 
the shutters were down, and he could read nothing in it. "Yes, he knows. 
But he will not - or cannot do so." 

"Could it not be taken from him and destroyed? His strength is not great. 
He is but a man, after all."

Cirdan paused, the pale blue eyes searching Glorfindel's face sadly. "If 
you knew that an arrow was barbed, would you pull it by force from 
another's flesh?" He asked the question without condemnation, but 
Glorfindel felt the rebuke of it and flushed.

"You believe it would harm him," he said hesitantly.

"No. I believe it would destroy him altogether."

"And what destroys Isildur, destroys also Elrond," Glorfindel said very 
softly to himself. "Whether the Ring be destroyed or no, it destroys them 
both. Too close have they been, for too long." Cirdan gave no sign that he 
had heard the words and Glorfindel fell silent, frowning slightly at his own 
forwardness. He had long had misgivings about Elrond's fondness for the 
mortal, but to give voice to them now would be churlish, achieving nothing 
and perhaps doing great harm. "Forgive me" he said aloud. "It was a 
foolish suggestion, and should be forgotten. If another were to take the 
ring from him ... well, the danger would still remain for its new holder, 
would it not?"

"Very likely. The ring has never before been out of its master's grasp. We 
do not know enough about its power to understand its effects." Cirdan 
smiled uneasily, and it seemed to Glorfindel as if he was gathering his 
strength. "Really, there is nothing we can do, but to be watchful, and to be 
at hand, should we be needed."

Glorfindel nodded. "I hope we may be in time. If what you say is true, 
then Isildur is placed in mortal danger - and Elrond, too, I fear."

They walked on awhile, in silence, until they drew level with the place 
where Sauron had fallen. A small group of the Men were gathered there, 
seemingly aimless in their stillness. The ground had been cleared, and 
the bodies borne away, but still the place seemed steeped in loss.

Here, Elendil had fallen. And here, too, Gil-Galad had met his end. The 
Kings of Elves and Men - nay, the hopes of all their peoples - destroyed. 
<<And never again will their like be seen.>> For a moment, Glorfindel felt 
bereft, as the full weight of what had been lost bore down on him for the 
first time. 

It could have been seconds or minutes before he managed to gather 
himself again, shaking himself a little, as a dog that emerges from water, 
looking around him with eyes a little too bright. 

Cirdan stood silently beside him, still seemingly lost in his thoughts. And 
was that truly a cause for wonder? Well as Glorfindel had known Gil-
Galad, and dearly as he had loved him, he could never have counted 
himself close to the King - not as Cirdan had been.

Glorfindel reached out to touch the old Elf lightly on the arm, and watched 
him return to himself with a soft sigh and a softer apology, before turning 
his face again towards the camp. They continued in silence a great 
distance.

"I am sorry for your loss, Cirdan."

The shutters descended behind Cirdan's eyes, and the voice that replied 
was just a little too casual. "It is all our loss," Cirdan said with seeming 
ease. "He was a great King."

"Yes. He was a great King - and we will all greatly feel his loss," Glorfindel 
agreed softly, leaving the words in his heart unspoken. <<But to you he 
was as a son.>> Cirdan, he knew, had never had children of his own. 
There had never been any other to usurp or to share Gil-Galad's place, 
from the days when he had been simply Ereinion, Fingon's young son, 
sent to Cirdan at the Falas to be safe from the tides of battle.

Cirdan smiled, as if he heard the unspoken words. "You need not fear for 
me, Glorfindel. When the time comes, I will mourn him, as will we all. But 
until them ..." He left the sentence hanging delicately in mid-air, a silent, 
subtle dismissal of the subject, leaving the silence again to fall about 
them. The two walked on again in silence, picking their melancholy way 
through the desolation left by the long years of battle.

The going was slow in parts, for the Mordor-thistles grew thick and fierce in 
places, finding any crack even in the Elven armour, and lacerating the skin 
beneath with its stings. In these parts, few bodies lay - few, Glorfindel 
supposed, had ventured this way - and those bodies which lay amid the 
thistles were torn and bloodied beyond anything he had yet seen.

It was ironic, perhaps, Glorfindel thought, that for all the fires and foulness 
which had covered the land, none of them seemed adequate to clear the 
ground of its scrubby covering. Or had that been by design, to sting his 
foes with petty torments even after his passing? <<'Twould be like him,>> 
he thought, and allowed himself a grim smile.

He hesitated suddenly, and then halted, sensing some presence within the 
thistles at their left hand. He found that he had reached for his bow without 
conscious thought, and noted an instant later that Cirdan had drawn his 
sword, moving slightly apart from him to give himself space to use it, if 
need be.

The thistles shook, and parted, drops of red blood flying from their thorns 
as a head and one bare, bloodstained shoulder rose above them, and 
Glorfindel heard an unmistakably Elvish voice crying aloud, cursing the 
misbegot thistles, the misbegot Orcs and misbegot bloody land of sodding 
Mordor.

Glorfindel exchanged a glance with Cirdan, and the elder sheathed his 
sword and stepped forward. Glorfindel did not lower his bow. He had seen 
too much evil to be at ease even in victory.

"Who's there? Are you much hurt?" Cirdan's voice was gentle, and the 
Elf's head turned towards him, his eyes wild and angry.

Glorfindel stared at the Elf's face and frowned. Whoever he was, he could 
have been little more than a child, certainly not yet out of his first century. 
He had, still, a child's softness - a half-formed beauty as incalculable as it 
is fleeting - though Glorfindel could barely perceive it, underneath the 
severe injuries that marred the skin. 

The Elf-child was a mess. His hair had been burned almost all off, and 
what little remained - probably once blond, though it was nigh impossible 
to tell - was thick with blood and dirt. The gaunt face below it was dirty 
and bruised, striped by rivulets of blood from the thistles' stings.

The boy lurched to his feet, stumbled, and swore again, an oath he had 
almost certainly learned from one of the rougher companies of Men. He 
was dressed in the green and brown of Greenwood, though it was so 
tattered and bloodied now that it was impossible to tell his rank or lineage. 
Cirdan caught him by the arm just before he fell again, and steadied him 
with difficulty, assessing his injuries with remote, thoughtful eyes.

"Leave me be! I can stand without a nanny at my side," the boy said 
angrily.

"It would be better not." Cirdan scanned him again. "That ankle of yours 
is broken and requires attention. To walk on it-"

"Are you my mother, to talk thus? Leave me *be*!" 

Glorfindel suppressed a sigh. He saw Cirdan release the boy's arm, and 
the boy took three awkward, limping steps before falling face-first into the 
thistles again, swearing like a particularly ill-bred human. Cirdan walked 
quickly to him and picked him up once more, hauling one of the boy's long 
arms across his shoulder to hold him up, enabling him to keep his broken 
ankle off the ground. The boy opened his mouth to complain, and 
Glorfindel shot him a mock-friendly smile. "Lord Cirdan is the soul of 
courtesy, child. *I* would have slung you across my shoulder like a piece 
of baggage, and carried you all the way back to the camp. Would you 
have preferred that?" he asked sweetly, and received no reply. "Now, 
what's your name, child?"

"Thranduil. Son of Oropher, King of sodding Greenwood the Great. Where 
are you taking me."

"To Lady Narglin of the Healers."

"Her!" The boy spat uncouthly on the ground. "She has the tact of a 
Dwarf and the forbearance of a Balrog. She-"

<<Speak to me not of Balrogs!>> Glorfindel tensed involuntarily, shutting 
his eyes for the barest moment. It was only in the moments of his 
deepest dreams that he saw it, though he had never seen one in the 
waking world. It had haunted his dreams since his youth, long before he 
knew what the creatures were. Not nightly, nor even often; but whenever 
he dreamt most deeply, then he would dream it - odd fragments of 
remembrance of fire, of pain, of stars above and the bare rock of a cliff 
edge under his feet, of falling, falling, falling, and another falling with him. 

He shivered, and pulled himself together. It was considered unnatural for 
an Elf to fear his dreams. He had never mentioned this one to any other, 
save once, to Elrond.

"The lady Narglin also happens to be my sister," he heard Cirdan say to 
the boy, with more amusement than censure in his tone, but the boy gave 
no sign of having heard the comment.

"I hate this place," he said morosely. "Hate this whole sodding war. Wish 
I'd never have listened to father in the first place. Never did have any grasp 
of sodding strategy, did he?" He stumbled and swore loudly. Glorfindel 
looked around, wondering if they should consign this distasteful creature to 
the care of one of Cirdan's people and continue unhampered. 
Unfortunately he could see only two within earshot, and both were already 
encumbered with the wounded. 

Thranduil, unfortunately, now that he had begun to speak, seemed to have 
breached a dam of silence. "He dragged us all along here, all five of us, 
and now they're all dead but me. Tatharlas and Aelinsil took charge after 
he got himself killed, with me and Neldor at the flanks - as if we knew the 
first thing about warfare! He even brought my youngest brother along - and 
he not even in his fiftieth year yet! Got himself cut to pieces by Orcs two 
weeks ago. I was right beside him and I couldn't do a bloody thing about it 
- not a bloody thing. It wasn't fair, he was just a child, he shouldn't even 
have been here. Legolas, his name was, he always was the best of us."

He coughed, and shivered, and began speaking again, as though it was no 
longer in his power to be silent. "Give him another hundred years, and he'd 
have made a rare bowman. Poor little sod never got the chance. They 
should have left him at home. Should have left me at home, come to that. 
I don't fight well, and I don't like war. I like easy living, I like wenching and 
drinking, and I haven't had a wench in seven years. Haven't had a drink 
either, come to that, all thanks to sodding Sauron. I hate Mordor - even 
the water stinks."

He stumbled again, and cursed, and straightened up, resuming his inane 
ramblings. "Shock," Glorfindel murmured softly to Cirdan. "It takes them 
that way, sometimes."

"No, no, I'm just fine. Give me a drink, and I'll be even better." He 
stumbled again, and this time Glorfindel was forced to take his other arm 
to stop him collapsing altogether. "Can't believe they're all dead," 
Thranduil said, his speech slurring and indistinct. "Can't believe it. Only 
left me to run his sodding kingdom, hasn't he?"

He went limp suddenly, hanging emptily between the two of them. 
"Unconscious," Glorfindel said unnecessarily, and Cirdan swung the 
young Elf up easily to carry him in his arms. Glorfindel stared down for a 
moment, at the injured childish face and battered body.

"Poor young idiot," he said softly, and then he turned away. "Let us be 
going. We have delayed too long already."


* * * 


"My Lord?"

The voice seemed to come from far away, and it took Elrond a few 
seconds to realise that it was he who had been addressed. He wheeled 
round to face the speaker, startled from some futile remembrance.

"My Lord, are you injured?" 

It was one of the commanders of the Falathrim, a tall elf with dark hair, and 
eyes that seemed almost black. The name was Galdor, his mind informed 
him, and he wondered fleetingly if Cirdan had sent him. "I am not, I thank 
you, Galdor," he replied shortly. "Merely in need of rest, as are we all."

He left without waiting for a reply, quickening his steps again towards the 
camp. <<Am I injured? No; it is Isildur who needs our aid.>>

Isildur never needed any man's aid. 

He would be furious if he believed it was being given unwanted. It had 
always been his way, even when Elrond had first met him, a creature of fire 
and passion and pride, quite infuriatingly independent for a youth of two-
and-twenty, as Isildur had then been.

He had been so young, with such responsibility already on his shoulders - 
and yet had not let it steal his passion for life. He would entice danger, 
and then dance away from it unscathed, often untouched.

Always had he seemed to invite trouble, and many of the Elves had seen 
him as little more than a foolish, unreliable human, unfortunately the heir to 
a great man's throne. Few had seen beyond it, to the flair with which he 
would extricate himself from all manner of woes. Luck, it must have 
seemed, and luck, often, it was called; but it had been self-made luck, 
opportunities created out of nothing, or slim chances recognized and 
seized. More than once Elrond had owed his own life to Isildur's talent for 
luck; and many others, too, had found their lives preserved by Isildur's 
misnamed rashness. Seldom - if ever - had *he* needed others' aid.

He needed it now; he would never accept it.

And in all honesty, Elrond could hardly believe himself in a fit state to give 
it.

He had known for many centuries that love could tear a soul apart; but 
never before had he realised that his own feelings had strayed so close to 
that madness. It was well enough to acknowledge the love that he had for 
Isildur; but to be so much mastered by it-! He had become little more than 
the helpless victim of his own emotionalism, plunged from one irrationality 
into another, helpless to rein in his emotions or even to curb their 
excesses. 

It was hardly the state of mind in which to aid one who was under the 
influence of dark magic, he told himself, with quite unnecessary 
fierceness.

He halted for a moment, straightened his back and raised his head, putting 
on dignity as another might put on armour. The camp was not far before 
him now, and he let himself walk faster to its gates, not heeding the 
Mordor-Thistles tearing at his ankles and legs.

The guards were of his own people, and they saluted him as he entered 
the encampment. He noted with approval that they remained alert and 
watchful, in spite of the day's victory. He returned the salute without 
conscious thought, and then turned away, straight to the tent that he and 
Isildur shared. 

It looked no different from any of the other tents around it - small, perhaps, 
and dark inside, of the grey weave that was made only in Lorien. He 
watched it for a moment, wondering whether Isildur was within, and then, 
contemptuous of his moment's hesitation, opened the flap.

It was dark within, standing empty and abandoned. He stepped inside, 
letting the flap fall down behind him, and the warm darkness of the tent 
close around him.

Isildur had been past that way: he had left his armour and helm behind 
there, flung carelessly on his bed-roll like discarded toys. It was typical of 
him, a compulsive untidiness that military training ought by rights to have 
beaten out of him years before, scattering his possessions as a tree its 
leaves, and ill-at-ease unless surrounded by his own clutter. 

It had been always a bone of contention between them, an old saga, 
played out many times in the last seven years: Elrond would return to find 
the tent in chaos, with Isildur reclining unconcerned in the midst of the 
mess. Elrond would scold, Isildur would tease and jeer and goad, and the 
conversation would degenerate quickly into the inevitable mock-battle - a 
battle that left him far too breathless to complain at anything, weak and 
helpless and ruing the day that Isildur had discovered the sensitivity and 
ticklishness of Elven skin.

The breath caught in his throat at the memory, and he cursed his own 
weakness. <<Truly,>> he thought bitterly, <<I could hardly have bettered 
myself had I set out deliberately to exploit my own weaknesses.>>

He picked up the armour to restore it to its rightful home, acutely aware of 
the smell of human skin and sweat that clung to it, a smell that was as 
familiar and intimate as its owner, unmasked even by the reek of the dark 
Orc-blood that marked it. He set it carefully on its hook on the heavy 
wooden 'tree' in the centre of the tent, and stood there staring at it in the 
semi-darkness.

Where would he be now? Where would Isildur go?

Nobody had ever been able to predict Isildur's actions. It had been part of 
his brilliance - his sheer power to surprise even those who knew him best. 
Elrond had known him better than most, but even that was insufficient to 
understand Isildur's particular brand of wayward inspiration, or what it might 
suggest to him at a moment's notice.

But he would be within the camp, of that, Elrond could be certain; and if 
not here, then where? With others, or alone?

Elrond turned his back on the armour, and walked to the door of the tent 
and looked out, letting his gaze rake along the row of small tents before 
him. Two rows of seven, belonging to the captains of the Elves and Men, 
though most of their occupants would never now return. In any of those -

He could feel its presence, if he shut his eyes - an amorphous shape 
hovering somewhere on the edge of his retinas, malevolent and impersonal, 
mocking in its elusiveness. Somewhere close by... 

He closed his eyes, and, with a grimace of distaste, focussed on the 
cankerous cloud. A few seconds later, he started to walk swiftly to the 
tent in the centre of the row before him - the tent that had once belonged to 
Elendil.

As he neared it, the awareness of the Ring's presence hardened into 
certainty. Elrond stopped outside, and for a few seconds stood there 
motionless, drawing on all the reserves of power that remained to him. 
Then he lifted up the flap of the tent and stepped quickly inside.

A brazier had been lit in the corner, and the room was full of its smoky red 
light. Isildur was standing beside it, waiting for him, with a smile very like 
the one that had always set Elrond's soul on fire.

"Isildur," Elrond said softly.

"Elrond. I'm glad you're here." The smile faded. "We have ... many 
things ... to discuss."

Elrond met his eyes for a long moment, but the eyes that once been so 
open had changed, and he could no longer read what was written there. 
Then he stepped forward, away from the entrance, and the flap of the tent 
swung shut behind him.

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.

Story Information

Author: Honesty

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Era: Akallabêth/Last Alliance

Genre: Drama

Rating: Adult

Last Updated: 07/20/02

Original Post: 07/18/02

Go to Leavings overview

Comments

No one has commented on this story yet. Be the first to comment!

Comments are hidden to prevent spoilers.
Click header to view comments

Talk to Honesty

If you are a HASA member, you must login to submit a comment.

We're sorry. Only HASA members may post comments. If you would like to speak with the author, please use the "Email Author" button in the Reader Toolbox. If you would like to join HASA, click here. Membership is free.

Reader Toolbox   Log in for more tools