11. Blood and Ashes
Legolas trembled as he tried to reach for his bow, but he nearly fell over and Gimli held out a supporting arm. The Dwarf never took his eyes of the battle ahead though, nor did Sam, the hobbit wide-eyed and pale.
What is wrong with me?
The thought cut into his heart and he winced in pain.
I am ill.
I cannot be. I am an Elf.
And even as he thought it, a treacherous voice whispered in his mind. Are you truly Elven anymore?
The world screamed. The sea-serpent lifted its head and echoed it, its tail slicing through the waves. It was almost as if the scream had words in it – words as old as the sea and as powerful as the waves.
“The words of Melkor hold no sway here!” Ulmo called, his voice carried over the hisses. “Thou art in my realm. Flee, or perish!”
The dragon did not answer, or if it did, it was not with words. Metal met flesh, water met blood. The dragon's body encircled its prey and it hissed in triumph.
“The dragon of water!” Gimli muttered. “Alas, the Elven ship…”
“The dragon did not attack it,” Legolas replied. He felt hot and cold at once as memories that were not his filled his mind. It had not been the dragon. His father knew. It had been… A shadow on the wind. Dragons could be slain. But how did you fight a shadow?
The arrow sprung from the bow with a low hiss. He did not even realise he had taken it until it was in his hands and he had fired twice.
One arrow merely pricked the skin of the dragon and fell into the sea. The other embedded itself near the eye and creature hissed and turned its head.
Dark eyes regarded Legolas and a flicker of recognition burned in the depths.
“Firsssstborn,” the dragon hissed. “Mortal now, Firstborn. You are naught but a shadow. I will eat your flesh and feast on your soul.”
But as it spit the words at Legolas, another voice echoed.
The Lord of Waters was not so easily defeated. Even as the dragon turned its head once more to find in encircled only water, the sword descended upon it. Flesh parted before its sharp edges, and the dragon wailed as blood spilt into the waters.
“By the blood of Melkor-born spilt, part the mists!” Ulmo cried out. For a moment, silence reigned. The very sea held its breath.
Then the mists parted, darkness fell away and Valinor was before them.
Legolas dimly heard Sam's gasp and Gimli's exclaim of wonder. His heart pounded in his ears. Valinor. For a moment he saw it as his whole kindred had, bright and wonderful and singing to him.
Valinor. The Blessed Realm.
A wave picked up the ship, steering it towards the shore. Only then did Legolas realise something was horridly wrong. Smoke rose here and there, a mountain seemed split in two, a black crack ran through the isle and the light seemed to battle a growing shadow.
The mists closed behind them and the sea and its Lord vanished from view. One last hiss from the dragon rang in Legolas's ears as all sounds muffled and died away. The sky vanished from view. A dark cloud was all around them, shielding Valinor from the world… or did it shield the world from Valinor?
The boat slid onto the shore with a gasp and fell silent. There were no other sounds, no winds, no birdsong, no merry laughter. No stars, no moon, no sun. No sky. No sign of life and no sounds from the world. It was as if they were removed from it altogether, trapped away. A timeless night shrouded Valinor.
“I can't see the stars,” Sam muttered. “What is this?”
“Foul craft of Morgoth,” Gimli replied, grasping his axe. He looked up at Legolas, eyes troubled. “Is this…?”
“Yes,” Legolas whispered and stepped onto the shore. He could feel hot tears on his face, but he was powerless to stop them. Valinor. “This was Valinor. It burned.”
He bent down and grasped sand and ash in his hand. It prickled against his skin, still hot or maybe he only imagined it.
“It burned,” he repeated quietly. He could hardly see through his tears, blinking them away fiercely. Pain assaulted him mercilessly, stab by stab until he wished only to fall onto the ground and sleep. So much lost… So much pain… Perhaps mortals were blessed after all. Pain ended when death came.
“I know,” Gimli replied, and Legolas met his eyes to see an echo of the same grief and pain. “I know. I saw Moria dead and burned. Legolas…”
The Dwarf lifted a hand as if he meant to brush the tears away from Legolas's face, but let the hand fall a moment later.
“What of… Those who live here?” Sam whispered.
“I do not know,” Legolas replied. He sank down on the sand, unable to support his own weight anymore. He felt Gimli's hand on his shoulder only distantly, as if it was no longer his body and he was floating high above. The pain dulled slightly as numbness set in.
I should not have come. Oh, father… At least you died in ignorance. I should not have come. There was still hope then. Why did not Ulmo let us all drown? Alas for the world. Valinor is in ashes. We are dying.
“They live,” Gimli said stubbornly. “Not all is dead.”
The Dwarf lifted a hand and pointed to the ground nearby. A batch of green grass was there, though surrounded by burnt ground.
“I know Mister Frodo lives,” Sam said bravely. He held up Sting, and it glittered weakly. “I still have his sword.”
“You are right, Sam. Frodo is not dead,” the Dwarf replied, an edge of steel entering his voice. “Nor is Lady Galadriel. Come on. A battle needs all the warriors it can have.”
From where Gimli sought his courage, Legolas had no idea. Perhaps Dwarves had worked with steel and rock so long it had become a part of them. Steel did not bend, and rock endured even the toughest storms.
“Come on, Legolas,” Gimli said softly. “We cannot sit here in the sand until the end of days.”
The Elf rose slowly, despair heavy upon his shoulders, wanting to pin him down to the earth, to become one with the ashes. He felt numb still, but the pain came anew as he looked up to see distant smoke once more.
“This is the end of days,” he whispered and as he walked, the sand and ash fell from his hand onto the burnt ground.
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.