The future was certainly under the Shadow in these dark days.
Still, Elrond knew the ring was approaching Rivendell, though he had never been able to pinpoint its exact location. He had taken that failing as a blessed curse, for it meant that Sauron would be similarly frustrated. And so Elrond had waited. Yet now it seemed to him that the ring had lulled him into the false security of inaction, for in his hand he held a parchment that had been brought but an hour before by an exhausted messenger.
He rubbed his brow with a sigh and reread the warning again, a knell of doom in his heart. The Nine were abroad indeed, Mithrandir was missing, and Bilbo's young nephew bore his terrible burden without guidance.
Elrond shook off his inaction and rose swiftly to his feet, though he suspected that he might already be too late, and sought Glorfindel.
"By Elbereth and Lúthien the Fair," Elrond whispered, struck to the core by the apocalyptic act playing out at the edge of his realm. "Run, child."
The white-hot flame of Sauron's hate licked dangerously close to Elrond's heart, but the time for caution was long past. Elrond reached to Vilya fully and openly; he poured its power and his own fury into his river. He felt it surge through his blood, the white tips of the waves throbbing with his heart, its roar in harmony with each breath. Beside him he could see Mithrandir through the prism of their combined power, a shining angel who focused his wrath. Down the silvery thread, nine rings cried out in anguished recognition, while one laughed richly and flowed into his open soul.
With a pained gasp, Elrond jerked back to himself. He passed a trembling hand over his face and lifted his eyes to meet Mithrandir's. The wizard himself looked pale and shaken.
"Glorfindel was there," Elrond heard himself say through the clearing haze. He shook his head to clear his vision. "I saw him, as I have only seen him with sight magnified by rings; as he is on the other side. As you are, my friend. Fear not; he will bring Frodo. I only pray he is in time."
"Hobbits are made of strong stuff. The very fiber of Middle Earth, I would venture to guess," Mithrandir answered, and sighed. "Ai, that was a near thing."
"Indeed," Elrond said wearily. "Few there are even of the elves that can stand against the Nine Riders, yet the halfling stood alone against them and commanded them to be gone. He has succeeded in his task, and his cursed prize now dwells in my land."
"And what will you do now that it is here?" Mithrandir asked neutrally.
Elrond flicked his gaze to the wizard's, and dropped it again. "The ring recognized me," he murmured, and looked up again, his gaze hardening to stone. "And our actions have turned Sauron's eye here, the stronghold of those who dared survive his hatred two wars ago. This is the third time I have fought this same battle, Mithrandir, the third! I am wearied of the suffering as I am wearied of carrying on alone. And now you ask me what I will do with the very source of such death and fear now that it is in my hands. What do you propose I do with it? What am I supposed to do with it?" Elrond's voice rang with anger, but also with despair.
"I did not ask you what should be done with the ring," Mithrandir answered softly after a moment. "That decision is not your burden to bear alone, though the decision about what you shall do with it is," he continued cryptically. "I merely asked what you would do now, Master Elrond."
Elrond lifted his face to the sky and closed his eyes. "As a child I wondered if I were truly Eärendil's son. Elros heard the sea, as did my father, yet it never called to me. Now the surf breaks in my soul, and I would forsake these lands." He met Mithrandir's gaze again. "But for now I will try to save the ringbearer's life," he said at last, before striding purposefully away.
"Gerich i sigil, Estel?" Elrond asked urgently as Glorfindel placed a small and gravely injured bundle on the bed.
Wordlessly Aragorn handed his father the hilt of the cursed blade. Elrond took it, and winced as he read the runes written there, before setting it aside. He placed his hand on the Halfling's chest to remove the cloak, and went utterly still. Beneath the humble material, the One Ring was within his grasp.
*Ah,* it said melodiously within the places of his mind untouched since Celebrían had sailed. *We meet again, Elrond Gwelucyll. I mark you well, and have much to offer to you.*
It tapped gently into Vilya's link with his mind and lifted him high above Middle Earth. His vision pierced into every soul. He could feel each hope, each dream. He could feel lovers burning in passion, the song of a mother for her child. He could feel the pain of dying mortals, the joy of gentle elflings, the strange, and sad songs of the unknown and enchanted creatures of the earth. They filled the emptiness and eased his grief.
*They are yours,* the ring whispered, *To guide, to heal, to cherish. They need you; can you not feel that they do? You can not turn your back on them. Claim me now, and they will be safe, and they will love you. Set me free, use me as you have Vilya, to higher purposes and without fear. You need not ever fail again,*
Failure he knew well. He saw his brother's face, lined with creeping time. He saw Gil-Galad's body, crumpled upon the battlefield and blasted beyond hope. He saw the anguished eyes of each life he had failed, and felt again their hands grasping his cloak, begging him to help them. He felt the burning agony in Celebrían's eyes, the agony he had been utterly unable to sooth. His saw his daughter, and the man she loved and saw the end of their lives. *It does not have to be,* the ring said. *I alone can give you power over death and mortality. You can save all who deserve life and smite every foul thing. And only I can give you your vengeance on Sauron the Deceiver.*
Elrond looked out over all of Middle Earth, the beautiful home of his birth. He saw so clearly the twining ribbons of mountains, the wide, green plains, the cool deep rivers. He saw children playing under the sun, and elves gazing at the stars. He saw the marring of Middle Earth, and understood how to cure it, how to make it again as it was meant to be. The ring opened his mind as nothing ever had, and it soothed every raw hurt that his soul bore. It whispered to him of answers to secrets he had never considered; it promised him hope and all of Middle Earth. *You are never alone so long as I am with you,* the ring said tenderly. *And I shall not leave you.*
Yet Elrond turned his gaze West, for in the West was the only vision in all of Arda he wished to see, and the only thing that the ring could not show him. Elrond look West, and remembered she who waited there for him, and found his salvation. *For this purpose were you taken from me, meleth!* he cried over the seas, and raised his head and laughed in pain and relief, knowing his answer. Then he turned and faced his tempter, his eyes filled with a deadly calm.
*You have nothing I desire, ring,* he continued contemptuously. *You, least of rings. You, a twisted mockery of that which you were made to ensnare. What do you know of beauty? Of healing? Of love? All you know is destruction and lies. I shall not be made your willing slave.*
//FOOL!// the ring hissed. //THeN my UNWILLINING SLaVE you SHALL bE!// and poured the molten future into his mind.
With a cruel laugh of triumph, Sauron placed the ring on his finger, and Elrond had but a moment to feel the certainty of his doom before his will was torn from him. The Lord of the Rings crushed the ringbearer's heart, and in that seething grasp Elrond's soul burned to ash. He screamed as Vilya's blue flame became an eater of light and its grace coagulated in the halls of his mind.
Elrond's hands were covered in gore, and Glorfindel writhed in a pool of blood and rendered flesh, knowing as he breathed his last that his promise was failed. Elrond's children fled West with all the elves, and he let them go, not from pity (for he had none), but for cruelty; they would suffer in telling their mother her husband's fate. Imladris burned, and its former lord turned his back on it. He slashed east through the blasted land until he reached the right hand of his hated Lord's black throne, and was there named Môr-Êl, the dark star.
He stalked the people at his master's compulsion, and those few fair things that survived in Middle Earth scrabbled for life in hidden corners, ever fearing him, their hunter. He was their nightmare until the blood of men ran only in the veins of orc, and in him. The One Ring impaled everything that had been left to him -- fury, death, hate, destruction, and beneath it all, his fea, ever in agony. The wraith fed on that torment, and lusted for the power that gave him his shadowy half-life.
Yet Sauron, even possessing the One Ring and his slaves -- the Three, the Nine, the Orc -- was a mere servant. On the day when the true Lord Morgoth returned to tear power from Sauron's hand the dark elf waited for him at the gates of Barad-dur, his sword in hand. He allowed the corrupt Vala to pass with a mock bow and a smoldering gaze, and thus Sauron was betrayed. Little changed for Middle Earth but the deepened terror of the night, and nothing changed for he-who-had-been-Elrond but crueler compulsions from his new master.
In time the elves returned to the twisted land to fight the hopeless battle for the ending of the world. He went before his lord like dark flame and slayed as many who dared stand before him. Nameless now, he laughed at their fear. They begged him to remember who he had been; some were his friends of old, returned from Mandos, and he sent them swiftly back again. At Morgoth's bidding he ripped the sun and moon from the sky, and in the darkness he hated Morgoth as he hated himself. He filled the heavens with his malignity and stopped the stars until in wrath Eärendil came upon him as a white flame.
They fought a long and desperate in the night, and in the end he reached through Vilya to Middle Earth and pulled from it all life to save himself. But at last he could not withstand the light and fell as Eärendil, weeping, pressed the grace of the Silmaril deep into the wraith's heart.
"Father!" Elrond cried in agony, and for a moment there was faint glimmer in his dark eyes. "How long since I was free?"
"The rest of time," the old Mariner answered, and scattered his son's ruined soul to the judgment of Eru.
Beyond this the ring could not see.
*And at the end of the world,* Elrond gasped, *I would be sung anew. But there is yet hope for THIS world!* and he threw the vision from his mind. Shaking in the agony of the possibility Elrond stood over the Halfling, the ring burning under his palm. He gently took his hand from Frodo's chest and stepped backward.
"My Lord?" Glorfindel asked as his grasped Elrond's arm, concerned at the weariness that had descended on his friend between heartbeats.
Mithrandir reached forward gently to steady the peredhel, his gaze keen. "Samwise," he said softly to the little hobbit who had followed into the room unnoticed. "Please remove Frodo's cloak and shirt, and find the ring."
The little hobbit had already rushed forward, sensing that something was amiss, though unable to grasp the subtleties of what had just transpired, and turned, the gold band in his palm. "What should I do with it, Mr. Gandalf sir?" he asked.
"I do not know, Samwise," the wizard answered, "and that is a question for another day. But for now, put it in your pocket, and do not touch it, and keep it safe."
Gwelucyll - air-bearer, referring to Elrond's status as the holder of the ring of air.
Gerich i sigil, Estel? - Do you have the knife, Aragorn?
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.