1. Vignette- Son of the King
'With Isildure went his three sons, Elendur, Aratan, and Ciryon, and his Guard of two hundred knights and soldiers, stern men of Arnor and war-hardened. Of their journey nothing is told until they had passed over the Dagorlad, and on northward into the wide and empty lands south of Greenwood the Great… So it came to pass that late in the afternoon of the thirtieth day of their journey they were passing the north borders of the Gladden Fields…'
Journey's end was but a few days before us. We were nearing Thranduil's realm, who was King now that his father Oropher had perished in the War, where we expected to find food and respite. Night fell.
Then the Orcs came.
"Atarinya, what of the power that would cow these foul creatures and command them to obey you? Is it then of no avail?"
Weary eyes gazed at me, and for the first time it struck me that my father was old. Not yet past his vigour, yet threading upon the brink. In the count of years he was still young, at least for one of the line of Elros, yet the War of the Alliance has put a great weight of him, the equal of several decades.
"Alas," he said quietly. "It is not, senya. I cannot use it. I dread the pain of touching it. And I have not found the strength to bend it to my will. It needs one greater than I now know myself to be. My pride has fallen. It should go to the Keepers of the Three."
I tried not to sigh. Yes, he has become old indeed.
My eyes fall upon the accursed thing, in a small case of gold attached to a fine chain around the King's neck. The Dark Lord has fallen, or so we had believed, yet I could feel the touch of his evil in that golden talisman. The first time my father showed it to me, I had recoiled, for in it I sense still that dark figure that had plagued by dreams during the War, seeking to thwart me as we marched towards his stronghold.
Alas, sire, that you overestimated your own strength! I see that even my family did not escaped the pride of Men completely.
There, in the midst of battle, I saw that I was truly stronger than my father, as my mother had foretold at my birth. Yet little comfort does the confirmation give me, for I could also sense, as my father already had, our inevitable doom.
Knowing that I had my father's full confidence, the Lords Elrond and Cirdan had sought me out 'ere they left for their own realms after the War. Despairing of convincing my father of his danger in bearing the thing, they had warned me to be wary of it. But I had not needed their advice, for I had already seen that my father had become dangerously enamoured by the fair and deceptively simple piece of jewelry. Nay, not a simple jewel indeed, but the One. The Ring of Sauron. And It burned my father for taking It from Its master, yet at the same time It had branded his soul.
Was it my fault? Out of love for my father I had stilled my objections, instead begging him to put it out of sight so I at least would not have to endure the pain of its presence. I had never dared take it, for I knew that it was even beyond my strength, yet perhaps we could have hidden it, in some deep unknown cave or sent it down the Anduin to be lost for all of Time. Why had I let my father carry it?
Even now it calls to me, whispering treachery into my thoughts. In my mind I saw myself a mighty King, greater than Elendil himself, Lord of a Land greater than Númenor had ever been. With the power in the Ring I could heal the hurts of the world, and ease the sufferings that the War had caused. Surely I was strong enough? I could undo what the Dark Lord had done!
I had only to reach out and take it, and it would be so. My father was too weak to stop me!
It was there under the light of newly-risen Eärendil that I faced the Dark Lord in my own fashion; in a different place and manner than my grandfather and my father had done. All my hopes and dreams for life, my very purpose for being, seemed to spiral up to that frozen moment. The battle with the Orcs faded away, and I stood there, even as my predecessors had done, facing the evil Dark Lord.
It had taken the combined might of Elves and Men, and the strength of their two Races' friendship, embodied in Gil-Galad Elvenking and Elendil of Westernesse, to bring down Sauron the Deceiver. Isildur son of Elendil, who had rescued the scion of Nimloth in Númenor from the fire, should have finished it, by casting the Ring into Mount Doom.
It should have ended there.
I knew that in my heart and mind, and for a brief second I scorned my father's weakness. I chose scorn over relief, for it was my own emotion. The relief came from the Ring.
And now I stood before Sauron, yet what little will and power he still had left was great, despite being reduced to a mere bodiless spirit, a memory upon the world. On one road I saw death for me and all I loved, there in the Gladden Fields, to be forgotten as the one that should have been King. And on the other was the chance to redress the sins of the Ring, to turn its power into a force of good instead of evil, and to be the greatest King that had ever lived.
I stood, for a moment and an eternity, at the crossroads of the fate of Middle-Earth. A responsibility for so many lives no mortal should ever burdened with, yet a choice only a mortal can make.
The name of Elbereth upon my lips, I chose.
The horns came. My mind returned to my body, and it seemed as if no time at all had passed, though I had stood and observed the trails of the future for many minutes. The Orcs pressed in, and the Dúnedain fell around me. Two leapt upon Ciryon my brother, tearing his mail and savagely killed him 'ere we could come to his aid. My other brother, Aratan, was hit by a poisoned arrow as he strove to reach our fallen sibling. I did not let the grief touch me, for there was not time. No time for any of us. Nor, had I wanted it, was there reclamation for choice thus made, with the whole of body and spirit. Yet as I fought and fought, my heart still searching for some glimmer of hope in the night, some chance unlooked-for. But of course, there was none.
Seeing the blaze of the Elendilmir, I sought out my father as he rallied the men on the east side. For a moment I feared that the Ring had finally possessed his mind, for as I touched his shoulder he swung around and moved to smite me. But seeing me he nearly dropped his sword, and his shoulders slumped; his eyes bore defeat beyond utter defeat, and I wondered if he had seen what I had done.
"My King! Ciryon is dead and Aratan is dying. Your last councellor must advise, nay command you, as you commanded Ohtar. Go! Take your burden, and at all costs bring it to the Keepers: even at the cost of abandoning your men and me!"
Tears came to both our eyes then, and I knew that he understood what I was saying, had understood my choice. I wished I could offer him words of comfort to ease his guilt-ridden spirit, yet they would be false, or less than truthful, for this defeat was rightfully his to bear.
"King's son," he said haltingly. "I knew what I must do; but I feared the pain. Nor could I go without your leave. Forgive me, and my pride that has brought you this doom."
I kissed him, and through my eyes showed my love and forgiveness for a Man's folly. For now I was the King, and he was an old, broken fool who had sired me "Go! Go now!" A final embrace, between a father and son who will never meet again in the world, then I watched him run into the darkness.
May we meet again beyond this world, father and King, where no shadow can come between us!
"Estelmo," I said softly. The loyal young esquire, ever by my side, turned to me. In his eyes I saw fear, yet fear tempered with undying loyalty. "If you live beyond this night, will you swear to me that you will travel to Imladris, and tell Lord Elrond Half-Elven of what happened here? Will tell him that the King, recalling our ancient kinship from his brother Tar-Minyatur, asks that he give shelter and aid to our line?" For now, knowing that my end was so near, I suddenly thought of my brother Valandil, left with my mother in that Elven refuge.
"Aye, sire," Estelmo said over the din of battle.
With renewed strength I swung my sword, rallying the D?nedain with hearty cries. Though I knew there could be no hope, no chance for victory, my mortal heart would not surrender to death without battle. The Dúnedain were whittled down slowly, until but one score of us were left standing, and still we fought. Through the red mist I did no see what had become of the esquire, but I feared that he had fallen, and my message with him.
As I watched certain death approach me, and felt final weariness steal over my body, in despair my mind retreated to memories of our ancient home of Númenor. Instead of Orc snarls and dying screams I heard the crash of wave against shore around the port of Roménna, where I played with my father. I remembered standing amongst the great ships of my grandfather, and the first time I was allowed on board one of the mighty vessels. My father, against my mother's wishes, had taken me up to the crow's nest, where I first beheld the splendor of the Pillar bathed in the light of a sunset. It had been before the building of the temple at Armenelos, after which a great column of smoke marred the sky.
Finally the stroke came, and it was as if such a heavy burden was lifted from my heart. The vision in my mind became more substantial that the waking world, and I thought from afar I could hear voices calling me, voices I had thought had been lost to the Sea. The cold sword slid out from me even as another arrow pierced my throat. I stumbled twice, then fell forward.
I could feel groping hands tearing at my mail, but my mind was already gone. I left the vessel of my spirit glad, for by some merciful power I had seen a measure of the future bought about by my choice. The ultimate hope for my people was so distant in the future, balanced upon so many possibilities that could come to nothing at one stray pebble, yet it was still there, gleaming like far-off Eärendil.
I had time to register one final thought.
Beneath me, Estelmo breathed.
~ END ~
The passages in italics at the beginning and end are extracts from Disaster of the Gladden Fields, Unfinished Tales.
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.