1. And So To War
The great host could be seen approaching from afar. Elendil could not prevent a sigh of relief escaping his lips, though he had never truly doubted the Elven-king’s steadfastness.
“Star of Radiance; ’tis a name well-earned,” he mused as the shining figure of Gil-galad drew closer, riding at the head of the Elven army of Lindon and Mithlond. His mail shone out in the dusk, and his shield, overlaid with silver, gleamed. Círdan, the Shipwright, rode at the High King’s side and raised a hand upon seeing Elendil. More likely he saw me long ere ever I saw the dust rising behind their army, thought Elendil, and is only acknowledging me now that he is sure I can see him.
Elendil moved to the steps of the great watchtower and awaited their arrival. The Elven army halted with uniform precision, while their High King continued up the steep slope towards the watchtower. When Gil-galad reached the King of the Númenorean Realms in exile, he dismounted from his white charger with fluid grace and both monarchs embraced briefly.
“You arrive not a moment too soon,” commented Elendil with a joviality he did not feel.
“You do not imply that I arrive late, do you?” asked Gil-galad in return, his own good nature undiminished by the lengthening shadows of the deeds that lay before them.
The Man smiled half-heartedly. “My lord, I would never cast any aspersions the timekeeping of an Immortal, much less that of another king.”
“For a king arrives precisely when he means to?” Gil-galad chuckled. “Perhaps it is wise, my friend, not to enter into a debate on the vagaries of time with an Elf. A year of a mortal life…”
“Is but a heartbeat in the life of an immortal,” finished Elendil automatically.
Gil-galad smiled. “Methinks that we do ourselves no favours by dwelling on such dark matters as mortality, which the Eldar do not comprehend, or time, which the Edain cannot stop.” He clapped Elendil on the back. “Come, my friend, let us climb this watchtower of Amon Sûl, that I might look towards my kingdom. The Valar alone know how long it will be until I behold Lindon again and breathe her air without fear of darkness.”
The two kings made their way up through the tower. There was a sense of apprehension, bordering on dread, hanging heavily in the air. The Elves of Gil-galad’s army were setting up camp in and around a sheltered hollow at the western base of the hill. Soon, the sound of harps could be heard floating up towards the building. The sweet music seemed at variance with the mood of the Men of Númenor, for it was as light and cheerful as they were anxious and restless. Yet, even as they listened, Elendil’s soldiers felt their hearts lift slightly.
“The power of Elvish music,” remarked Gil-galad, as he noticed the mortals’ reaction to the melodic strains that reached their weary ears. He had never tired of observing Mortals and their ever-changing ways. “It seems to strike a cord amongst your men.” He fell silent for a moment. “And so the harpers gladly sing,” he murmured, unheard by the Númenorean beside him, “for the Dark Lord shall surely fall in Mordor, where the shadows are.”* He shivered imperceptibly; the name of that foul land unnerved even the longest-reigning High King of the Noldor in Middle earth.
“Ay, ’tis an inspiring sound,” replied Elendil, smiling as he listened to the music. “It reminds me of my first night in the palace in Lindon.”
“Ah, yes,” replied the Elven-king, his face brightening slightly. “I remember that day well; the weather was wild and stormy. As I recall, I was walking along the beach, deep in thought, when lo and behold! A rather soggy mortal was thrown up at my feet!”
Elendil chuckled as they stepped out onto the roof of the tower. “An unexpected sight, I imagine.”
“Indeed! I was put in mind of Voronwë being flung ashore in the First Age.” Gil-galad considered the fate of that Elf of Gondolin; a faithful guide and friend to Tuor, who was himself the father of the hope of Elves and Men. He grinned suddenly. “And thus began my acquaintance with Elendil Vorondo, faithful Elf-friend! Although I must admit that you and your shipmates rather dismayed the healers of Lindon.”
“How so?” asked Elendil with interest, content to reminisce for a time. On this evening, he found it easier to dwell on the unchanging past rather than on the uncertain future.
“Well, they had never encountered a common cold until that time! Such sneezing and coughing I had never heard in my life and it made me eternally thankful that my kind do not suffer from such an unpleasant ailment. It may not be the greatest of differences between our kindreds, but it is certainly worth recording for the sake of future generations of mortals who fall under the care of Elvish healers.”
“Future generations,” repeated Elendil, forcing himself to look to the future. He did not know if he actively sought Gil-galad’s reassurance but he went on nonetheless. “That’s what we’re fighting for now.” His voice was steady but Gil-galad detected a hint of desperation in his tones. The Elven-king did not respond instantly as he considered Elendil’s words. What future generation was he fighting for? Not his own offspring, for he had no sons; he was the last of the line of Fingon. A wave of regret suddenly swept over him and a shadow crossed his face which he sought to banish with more optimistic thoughts.
No, he fought for the future of his subjects, that they might know a peaceful land, and for the future of the Atani. Despite the transience of their lives, they deserved a land free of darkness; for the sake of their forebears, the three Houses of the Edain; for the sake of their descendents, for whom Middle earth was being shaped.
Gil-galad caught Elendil’s eye and nodded slowly. “For future generations.” His expression cleared. “How fare your sons?”
Elendil had perceived the slight shift in the Elven-king’s mood and he eagerly accepted the subtle change of topic. “We have had word from Anárion that he still holds the line at Osgiliath, although they most desperately require our assistance. Isildur is within this tower; he is eager to march southwards to his brother’s defence.” Elendil sighed. “I believe he also seeks revenge for the destruction of Minas Ithil.”
“Ay, that was a grievous act,” agreed Gil-galad. “But does not some degree of vengeance drive us all on?”
Elendil looked at Gil-galad, feeling somewhat stunned. “I know that I seek vengeance for the corruption of my compatriots, although they themselves were not blameless, and the downfall of my land, but I would never have suspected revenge as being one of your motives.”
“The memories of the Eldar are long, my friend,” replied Gil-galad ruefully. “I could probably claim vengeance more easily than the Númenoreans who escaped the Atalantë.
“Ai, I could seek vengeance for the corruption of the Gwaith-i-Mirdain and for the death of my kinsman, Celebrimbor and for the burden placed upon me by Curufin’s son.”
Gil-galad automatically felt inside his robes, his fingers searching for the velvet bag that contained Narya. His hand closed around it and he contemplated on of the tasks that lay ahead of him. Parting with the Ring of Fire was the least of his concerns at this stage; long ago had he decided to entrust it to Círdan. Gil-galad’s face darkened.
“I could seek vengeance for Gorthaur’s temerity in attempting to assume control of my kingdom, and for causing the ruin of Eregion and the death of so many innocents.
“I could seek vengeance for the foul deeds carried out in his name against my kin, ’ere I even was born!”
His tone had grown more heated and his eyes began to glow with a clear and deadly fire. “I would have him brought down to his knees, not for an age or two of Middle earth, but until the End of Arda! It is not enough that he be rendered powerless for a lifetime of Men. It is our obligation to overthrow him and I would see him perish in his own fire, in reparation for those lives of Elves and Men that he has utterly ruined!”
Elendil’s heart was inflamed by the words of the Elven-king who seemed shrouded with power. It was little wonder that Sauron had never crossed Ered Luin, or assailed the Havens, if such strength still existed among the Eldar.
His own eyes were ablaze as he suddenly unsheathed his sword.
“Narsil,” he muttered. “I swear by the Valar, who saw fit to spare my household from the Akallabêth, that Gorthaur shall meet his doom upon this blade.” As if emphasising his words, the sword, wrought by Telchar of Nogrod, blazed radiantly in the fading light of day, casting shards of brilliance onto the faces of the two kings. Elendil stood tall and proud, not least among his forebears. Mortal though he was, strains of the blood of the Eldar and the Maiar flowed in his veins, albeit distantly.
Gil-galad, struck by the fortitude of the mortal king, placed his hand on Elendil’s shoulder. “And if Aeglos were to hand, I would make a similar oath. As it is, I must simply swear on the memory of my forefathers who, despite their own shortcomings, always endeavoured to conquer evil.” His thoughts turned to Fingolfin, who rode in fury to face Morgoth, and to his father who was slain by Balrogs in the Nirnaeth; they met their ends with glory and honour. A noble death was the lowliest of his ambitions, but if it was to be his fate, so be it. With the fiery stubbornness of his Noldorin heritage, he laughed aloud, the mirthless laugh of a warrior in the heat of battle. Ay, even as Tulkas ever laughed in combat, fearless and confident in his own might, thought Elendil as pages of ancient history and the Valaquenta sprang to mind.
Gil-galad looked westwards, peering towards Ered Luin, unaware that he stood even as one of the Lords of the Valar, surveying his kingdom. His armour shone out brightly as the first glimmer of Gil-Estel appeared low on the horizon.
As the two kings stood in silence, an Elvish song carried up towards them.
And so to war we go, with sword and spear
The might of Elves and Men;
A Last Alliance to conquer fear
And bring forth peace again.
Shaken from his reverie, Elendil glanced at Gil-galad. “And so to war?”
The Elven-king smiled. “And so to war.”
*Gil-galad’s words are a rather obvious adaptation of The Fall of Gil-galad in FoTR…
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