1. Blood and Smoke
There is a taste on Isildur’s lips which Elrond can only identify as having to do with death. Not decay; this is too immediate. It’s more a reminiscent blend of blood and smoke, and a taint of mourning. It’s no surprise. So many had died, were dying, would die. This war against the dark lord Sauron would leave the world a very different place than the one Elrond had been born to.
“What are you thinking of?” Isildur asks, reaching for his wine cup. “Not of me.”
“I was, though. In a way. I was thinking of war, and the friends and family we’ve lost already.”
Isildur’s brow furrows. (He has a noble brow. He is descended from Elrond’s own line, though so far removed now it seems unimportant.) “It does no good to dwell on death so,” he tells Elrond, who knows this already. It’s just that his mind seems overflowing with sorrow and loss.
“I am seeing a world die,” Elrond says quietly, and feels hot tears well. But before they can fall, he’s gathered into strong, human arms and comforted. Humans know how to give comfort. Elves, how to bewitch. At this moment, Elrond is certain he chose the wrong path. He leans into the embrace and shudders.
Isildur settles them in the hollow of bedding, flesh-against-flesh warm, and even finds reason to laugh. “You Elves, you’re so solemn,” he accuses.
They drift for some time on snatches of sleep. Around them, in the darkness (It’s always dark now; even the days are black with smoke.) Elves and men sleep, dream, take some solace in the arms of comrades or camp followers. Some sing. Elrond can hear Elvin songs on the wind. Some pray. Elrond dreams fitfully in images of disaster.
And then, in deep sleep comes a dream he does not begin to understand. He stands atop Mount Doom and reaches out his hand to Isildur who will not take it. Flames turn them both to gold, and Elrond is shouting…
He wakes up with a shout, startling Isildur who is no longer in bed, but standing across the tent, holding a piece of paper. “What’s wrong?” he asks. “Bad dream?”
“Curious one.” Elrond is ruffled but tries to hide it. “What’s that?”
“Message from my father. Nothing he and I haven’t said to one another before.” He folds the paper and tucks it into one of his books. “It’s hours until we engage,” he says with a smile, and Elrond knows what that smile means. He feels the knowledge prickle down his spine, heat his groin. He rolls to the side, inviting his lover back into bed.
This time they do not sleep. Isildur’s big hands are hungry for the feel of Elrond; pale skin, night-black hair, soldier’s muscle and bone. This is comfort, too, Elrond thinks. Not just the holding, the soothing, but the passion. Lust, even anger, rises like wildfire between them, and they fight for sway, one over the other until suddenly it is no longer important who owns who this night. They couple once, Elrond taking Isildur roughly. They rest, laughing together over the heat they generate, then couple again, Isildur topping, moving deeply inside his lover, and with a tenderness that nearly breaks Elrond’s heart.
And he thinks, just for a moment, that this is a comrade and a lover he could bind himself to for the span of years left to the human. He sees himself standing beside this man in war and in peace. But now is not the time to speak. Later, when they have defeated Sauron. If they defeat Sauron.
Isildur dozes, and Elrond lies awake watching, eyes tracing the curve of cheek and slope of nose, the unexpected softness of his mouth in sleep, and the dark arc of his lashes over his cheeks. How alike, men and Elves. How different. Elrond remembers the dream: Isildur flaming gold, turning away from him. Centuries spread out before him like unexplored lands and he knows in his heart that there will be no turnings in his path this day. He tries to get up, but in his sleep, Isildur reaches out to him, draws him down into an embrace.
The taste of mourning is in his own mouth.
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.