by arachne

Short, but not all sweet....


The three syllables came out rough-edged and desperate. Elrond listened, hardly realising the sound came from his own throat. Isildur. The name echoed around him, blending in with the roar of the fire at the heart of the mountain, until finally it became the sound of the mountain. Then Isildur was gone.

Elrond drew a ragged breath. He turned to stare into the Cracks of Doom, seeing a molten core so hot that it seemed to have no edges, being just a boiling mass of liquid gold waiting to erupt and consume everything in its path. Isildur. Nearly beyond thought, he was yet conscious of a wish that the mountain would do just that - that Mount Doom would explode in a violent fury that would wipe away elves and men and erase all trace of this day.

Gil-galad, his liege lord. Dead. Elendil, King of the men of Numenor. Dead. Thousands of men and elves cut down by orc swords and arrows. Sorrow overwhelmed him for what was lost, even as he knew there could be no victory without cost.

Ash coated the toes of his boots, the fine particles graining on his hair and eyelashes, slipping into the fine joints of his armour, already battle-dented and stained black by the blood of orcs.

"Isildur," Elrond whispered the name now, voice hushed as a forest breeze. He looked around as if he expected to see his ally, sword in hand, once more by his side. But Isildur was gone, leaving only the shards of his father's broken sword. Elrond forced himself to look once more into the fires. Then he turned resolutely away.

He picked his way down the scree-filled slope, with limbs that felt leaden with the weight of responsibility. Nothing would ever be the same again.

Men and elves fell back at his approach. On one level he was grateful - it enabled him to carry on walking without halt or hindrance of any sort. He could only imagine what he looked like - dark hair hanging limp and disheveled, grimy with dust and ash and blood. War is never fair.

At last Cirdan stood before him, eyes weary with battle and a new wariness. Elrond stopped, unwillingly almost, but moving around an obstacle was beyond him.

"Men are weak." It was the only thing he could manage and the words came out bitter as wormwood. He could only trust Cirdan would understand.

"What did you do?" The elf's voice was gentle. It was almost more than he could bear.

"What had to be done." Now their eyes met, and for the first time in all the long years of their acquaintance, it was Cirdan who looked away.

The shipwright took a step back, falling before the knowledge of his gaze. So that is how it was going to be. He walked on without speaking.


Once more Elrond heard the voice in his mind. He saw the look of terror as Isildur fell to his death, still clutching the ring to his heart - a death he had been sent to by the hands of a friend.