29. Beginning of the End
"How many dead?" Elendil asked, head in his hands.
"Perhaps half the city, Father," Isildur said, fury burning bright inside him. Those wretched Nazgul! We should have killed them when we had the chance, he thought angrily.
"And your family?"
"Elendur is safe in Minas Anor. My wife, Aratan and Ciryon are in Osgiliath. All are unharmed."
"That is good news then," Elendil said. "This is war," he said after a long moment of consideration.
"Yes, Father," Isildur said.
"I feared that Sauron had not been destroyed. I can see now that I was right. We should have struck before at Mordor, as they should have at us. We are both too strong now for a mere battle," Elendil said, standing up and beginning to pace.
Isildur frowned. "What are you talking about, Father?" he asked.
"Our strength is immense," Elendil said. "Men of Middle-Earth have flocked to our banner. The elves are our allies. Gil-galad will call on his friends in Greenwood and Lorien. Together we will march on Mordor."
"Sauron does not stand a chance," Isildur sneered. "We will break him like dry tinder with the combined might of Men and elves!"
"I fear it will not be so easy, my son," Elendil said sadly. "The Dark Lord has been gathering strength in secret. Your own sons reported an army of many thousands – orcs, trolls and ogres – and that surely cannot be his entire strength. And we must not discount his Nazgul."
"Which you did not slay when we had the chance."
"We would have all perished in the destruction of Numenor then," Elendil said sharply. "Sauron would still be here, and who would be able to defeat him? No one."
Isildur frowned, but did not press the issue.
"Sauron's strength is at least as great as our own," Elendil said at last. "This inevitable war will be the greatest that we have seen since the War of Wrath. It may well break this world."
"We will win it though," Isildur said. "Nothing can compare to the might of Men."
"I pray that you are correct," Elendil said. "But I do not know. I just do not know."
"Yes?" Gil-galad asked, turning from gazing out the window towards the West. Once he had fancied he could see Numenor, or even Eldamar. No longer.
"The Dark Lord has shown himself," the king's new standard-bearer said. Gil-galad wondered how long this one would last. The last few had been picked off in minor raids. If a war was coming – and one surely was by the nature of this news – then the High King was sure that this one would not live to see the end of it.
"I see," Gil-galad said. "How?"
"He has taken Minas Ithil with a force of many thousands."
"Damn," Gil-galad hissed. "He's stronger than we thought. That can't be his full force either. What other news?"
"Elendil is rallying his army. They will be marching to Dagorlad within the month."
Gil-galad nodded. So, he thought, the time has come at last. A war to equal the wars with Morgoth. To equal, perhaps, the War of Wrath. Never again did I think such a war would come. And yet, here it is, and I, the grandson of the only warrior to fight Morgoth in single combat, am faced against his lieutenant. Ah, surely that is not such a dreadful thing? An elf fighting a Vala must surely lose, but an elf fighting a Maia? Glorfindel slew a balrog, a Maia itself. If he can do it, then so can I.
"My king?" asked the standard-bearer…Elrond, that was his name.
"Send word to Galadriel in Lorien and Oropher in Greenwood. Like Elendil, we march as soon as the army is rallied. Ah, and send word to that great king as well. Tell him I will meet him with the army of Lindon at Amon Sul."
"Yes, my king," Elrond said, bowing deeply before hurrying away to obey his king's orders.
So it begins, Gil-galad thought, staring out into the West.
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