"I like not this land," Ciryon said, glancing into the dark trees. The branches seemed to reach out towards him, trying to drag him into the depths of the forest.
"Sauron is defeated," Aratan said with a laugh. "Evil is banished from these lands. We have nothing to fear."
"I still think we should have avoided this place."
"This is the quickest way to Rivendell," Isildur said. The One Ring bounced on his breastplate, glittering malevolently.
"We have sacrificed safety for speed," Ciryon muttered, keeping one hand on his sword.
"There are still goblins in the Misty Mountains," Elendur said, glancing around. "Father, we should not have come this way."
"Valandil and my wife wait for us in Rivendell," Isildur said. "I will not bear to be parted from them any longer. Besides, who knows what the treacherous elves may be up to?" As he spoke, his hand caressed the Ring.
Elendur frowned, watching his father with a growing fear in his heart.
"I hear horses!" Ciryon shouted, gesturing to behind the small force.
Snarling a curse, Isildur barked orders and drew his sword.
"Orcs!" Aratan shouted, setting an arrow to his bowstring.
"I knew we should not have come this way," Ciryon muttered, drawing his bow as well.
"No time for recriminations!" Elendur shouted. "There are many of them!"
An orc arrow pierced the armor of a soldier and he fell with a ghastly scream.
Ciryon's eyes narrowed as the orcs appeared, waving their weapons and shouting guttural battle cries.
"This is no accident," he hissed. "Nor a raiding party. This is a trap!"
"Set by whom?" Elendur asked. "I fear we will not learn that answer."
The orcs broke on the men of Numenor like water on rock. They retreated moments later, carrying off several soldiers with them.
"A strange strategy," Elendur said. "Normally we would be in a pitched battle now."
"They are cunning, these orcs," Isildur said. "They fight but for a few moments, then drag our comrades away."
"Not typical behavior," Ciryon said. "It is the work of another power."
"Sauron is defeated!" Isildur snarled. "Would you question the work of your grandfather?"
"No," Ciryon said. "But there are other powers in the world besides that of the fallen Maia."
The orcs broke upon the soldiers again and there was a moment of fierce fighting before they retreated once more.
"Aratan, what think you of our chances?" Ciryon asked, glancing to where his brother had stood only moments before. He was there no longer.
"There," Elendur whispered, pointing to where a torn body lay some ten feet away. "He was dragged away by the orcs."
"And we shall all share his fate," Ciryon said. "Father! How many horses do we have?"
Isildur's face was pale as he looked at the body of his son. "Not enough," he whispered.
"We cannot survive this!"
"We cannot flee either!"
"We must try!"
The orcs surged forth again and the men of Numenor just barely managed to beat them back. Ciryon was left with a deep gash in his side, and Elendur was barely able to stand.
"There are only a dozen of us left!" Elendur shouted. "We must flee!"
Before the orcs could attack again, the remainder of Isildur's force leapt onto the nearest horses and spurred them down the road, away from the orcs.
"They are following us!" Ciryon called, glancing behind them.
A strangled scream came from a soldier as an orc dropped out of a tree and dragged him from his saddle.
"Orcs in trees!" Elendur shouted.
"This is hopeless," Ciryon whispered. "Hopeless. We cannot possibly win."
"Then here is what we must do," Elendur said. "The shards of Narsil and the One Ring must be preserved at all costs."
"Father carries them both."
Elendur nodded, grief in his eyes. "Father!" he called. "I fear we must ask a thing of you that you will not like at all."
"What is it?" Isildur asked, despair evident in his face. "Aratan has been slain before my eyes, and I was as helpless to save him as I was to save Elendil or Anarion before him."
"Flee, Father!" Elendur begged.
"You are the High King of Arnor and Gondor! You carry the shards of Narsil and the One Ring! You must escape!"
"No! Take them and save yourselves," Isildur said, tossing the package that carried the shards of the sword to Ciryon.
"And the One Ring?" Elendur asked quietly.
Isildur's hand closed around it, but he found he could not tear it from its chain. He closed his eyes. "I cannot," he said.
"Then flee! The orcs draw near and I sense a darker power with them!"
Giving his sons an agonized glance, Isildur turned and urged his horse further down the road.
"Are we truly the only ones left?" Elendur asked, looking around.
"It would seem so," Ciryon said. He smiled bitterly. "I survive the Last Alliance only to find myself slain on my way home."
"Not in vain though," Elendur said. "It will not be in vain."
It had seemed that there were hundreds of orcs, but in truth there were only a little less than a dozen. Quickly and efficiently, the two sons of Isildur slew the lot, but were left battered and dazed for their troubles.
"It comes," Ciryon hissed. "The creature that started all this."
"I would congratulate them on an excellent trap, save that it was on us that it was sprung," Elendur said.
A black horse thundered down the road. There was a flash of steel and Ciryon fell to the ground. Before Elendur even knew his brother was dead, his own life was ended with a single slice of a sword. Without even pausing, the horse continued on, as the rider drew a bow and fitted a single arrow to the string.
The horse seemed to know no fatigue and as Isildur's horse flagged ahead, the rider's black horse continued on, gaining by the second.
"No!" Isildur shouted, knowing what the rider's approach meant. "My sons! No!"
The rider did not speak, but slowly drew back the bow, taking careful aim.
"It shall not be in vain," Isildur whispered, leaping from his horse. He tore the One Ring from its chain and placed it on his finger. Instantly, the world turned to shadow.
Not pausing to consider this strange turn of events, Isildur dashed from the road and towards the Gladden River, intending to swim to safety.
But as he dove into the icy cold waters, the crystal clear water suddenly became sharper, the sandy riverbed more colorful. The One Ring had slipped from his hand and was now floating down the river, taunting him as it glittered and promised safety, if only he could reach it.
Stretching out his hand towards his salvation, Isildur gasped in sudden pain as an arrow embedded itself in his back. Then another, and then another. And so died the last High King of Arnor and Gondor, and his body was swept down the river, never to be found.
The rider watched dispassionately as Isildur was swept away downriver, before turning their horse back to the slaughter on the road.
"A worthy pair of adversaries," they commented as they reached Elendur and Ciryon. The second son of Isildur was still alive, to the rider's surprise, and groped feebly for a package wrapped in a cloak.
"Eh, what's this?" the rider asked, picking up the package and examining it.
"Rivendell," Ciryon gasped with his last breath. "Take it to Rivendell." His head fell to the ground and he lay as still as all the orcs and men in the road.
"Rivendell, huh?" the rider commented, looking at the package closely. "Ah, the shards of Narsil. I thought as much. I haven't got a use for them. My only purpose today was the destruction of Elendil's heir. Isildur insulted me for the last time."
Pulling off her hood and shaking her hair out, Khamul whistled for her horse and leapt back up on the black steed, nudging it towards Rivendell. "One good turn deserves another," she said with a smirk.