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Special thanks to daw the minstrel for beta reading this chapter.
Chapter 20: Preparing for War
Elrond disengaged himself from the many craftsmen and artisans who were waiting to speak with him and walked up the hill to a small overlook with a view of the shipyards. The sun gleamed off the golden wood of a new ship being prepared for her maiden voyage. Below him he could see Elros slowly walking the length of the deck, his hand sliding along the polished rail. He paused as he neared the ship’s wheel, walking to it and running his hands lovingly over the smooth wood. He turned it slowly in one direction, then the other. Every touch spoke of the devotion and passion he had poured into the craft. Elrond felt pride welling up within him at his brother’s accomplishment, for Elros had overseen the building of this vessel. Elrond was sure that his brother knew every plank and sail, every rope of the rigging. Círdan had watched over him, meeting with him regularly at first to ensure that construction was proceeding as planned. But as the years of labor progressed, Círdan had entrusted the ship wholly to Elros, for the young peredhel had proven his ability.
“What shall you name her?” Elrond called.
Elros looked up, a broad smile crossing his face at the sound of his twin’s voice. “Círdan has given that privilege to whoever captains her,” he answered wistfully.
“When will she be tested for sea worthiness?”
Elros laughed. “I do not know. But she will pass any such test with flying colors!” he answered confidently. He ran his hand up the main rigging as he spoke, the touch a caress as gentle as any one might reserve for a lover. “I shall speak to Círdan about when she will go to sea.”
“Elrond!” Lasbelin’s voice interrupted him.
Elrond grimaced slightly at the sound of the counselor’s voice and waved to Elros as duty beckoned him. “She is a treasure!” he called as he departed.
“Elrond, there are men from the village near Sirion here with concerns. Also, Calendîn is here on behalf of his people. The green elves are troubled by the number of trees being felled. I have explained the plans to both parties, but they are not satisfied. They wish to speak to the King. Will you hear them?” Lasbelin asked, exasperated. “For some reason they listen to you.”
Elrond smiled graciously, despite Lasbelin’s less than genial tone, and allowed the elf to lead him to the waiting parties. Calendîn nodded nearly imperceptibly to Elrond, indicating he should speak with the men first. Elrond bowed his head in return, acknowledging the favor respectfully.
“Mae Govannen, Garman,” Elrond greeted the leader of the Men with a slight bow. “How fare your people? Have you had any further difficulties with the eastern invaders?”
“Mae Govannen, Elrond,” Garman replied, relief showing openly on his face now that he was no longer dealing with Lasbelin. “Our people are well, and we have not had difficulties since the elves began their harvest near our village.”
“I am glad for this, and I know the King will be as well,” Elrond assured them. “How may I assist you today?”
Elrond watched as Garman stiffened and his eyes narrowed, and he heard the sigh behind him indicating Lasbelin had drawn near. He turned to face the elf.
“Lasbelin, would you deliver this message to Círdan? Gil-Galad indicated it was of some importance,” Elrond explained as he held out a missive bearing the King’s personal seal.
Lasbelin took it with a sniff, turning on his heel and leaving them without a word. Elrond counted to five before turning back to Garman.
“My apologies for the interruption. Please do continue.” Elrond smiled at the man, wondering what Lasbelin had said to cause such animosity. To his amusement, Garman relaxed as soon as Lasbelin was out of sight and hearing.
“My people have learned that these ships are being built so that the elves can escape from an attack. We have tried to learn details of this attack, so that our village might plan as well, but information has been denied us. We have aided you in obtaining supplies and transporting them to the havens. I would consider us allies, yet your King has not seen fit to even inform us of a risk that you are taking great pains to prepare for!” Garman finished, frustration and dismay evident on his face and in the tone of his voice.
Elrond felt a great empathy grow within him for this man. The elves were trusting of Círdan and Gil-Galad’s plans for the most part, but even they had difficulty at times with preparations they did not understand. He reached out, laying his hand gently on Garman’s arm.
“Come sit with me,” he counseled, deftly leading the man to a bench with a view of the shipyards. He took a deep breath, choosing his words carefully. “In a time such as this false information seems to prevail, and this hardly is surprising when one considers the dearth of accurate information. However, this lack is not due to anyone withholding the truth. We who are so young in years cannot understand the wisdom of those who have lived through the ages.” He looked Garman straight in the eye. “We do not know why these ships are being built. We do not know if or when they will be used, how or by whom. But we trust the one who bore the message, for he knows the one who sent the message.”
“You do all of this on such faith?” Garman asked incredulously.
Elrond smiled. “Yes, and the King does not forget his allies,” he promised. “When there is information to be had, it will be shared with our friends.”
Garman continued to stare at him, momentarily speechless. “Do you trust this plan?” he finally asked.
“I trust in those who make the plans. They have never failed me,” he answered.
Garman was quiet for a few moments as he pondered all that Elrond had told him. He stood and looked out over the shipyards, watching the activity of the many builders and artisans.
“There are men working in your yards,” he said suddenly.
Elrond stood and joined him. “Yes, Elros met several young men with an interest in sailing and shipbuilding. They work on his crew.”
Garman turned to face Elrond. “Please tell your King that we renew our alliance with you today. We will share any information we gather and continue to aid your wood harvesters.”
Elrond reached out and clasped the man’s forearm. “We welcome your alliance, as always, and will also share any information we gain with you.” He paused, choosing his words carefully, “When we do know more of the future, you will be told all that we may tell.”
Garman bowed and, with a nod of his head, walked from the shipyards with his men at his heels.
Elrond drew in a deep breath and released the tension from within him. The elves needed the aid of the Men in harvesting the wood to build their ships. If they had to perform that labor on their own, it would greatly delay their shipbuilding efforts. He walked to where Calendîn waited for him.
“Calendîn.” Elrond bowed to the green-elf respectfully.
Calendîn intently studied the young half-elf before him. “I heard much of what you said to Garman,” he stated matter-of-factly.
Elrond nodded and waited for the elf to continue.
“The trees are restless with all the activity in their midst. The harvesters are somewhat careful in the trees they fell, but they are thinning some areas too greatly. They also are not thanking the forests for their gifts,” Calendîn said softly.
“For this I am sorry,” replied Elrond honestly. He did not have the connection to the forest that the green elves did, but he also did not doubt their deep ties to the trees. “Have you any suggestions for how we might work differently?”
Calendîn nodded thoughtfully. “Will you allow me to direct the workers to where they may cut each day?”
“I know I speak for the King when I say we would be grateful for your assistance,” Elrond answered with an inward sigh of relief. “Will you also assist those leading the work in offering thanks to the forest?”
“Yes,” replied Calendîn simply. “My people will also help, to ensure that these changes do not slow your shipyards.”
“I will speak to those leading the harvest later today. Beginning tomorrow they will follow your direction. Will you send word of any problems, with either the workers or the schedule?” requested Elrond.
“Yes,” answered Calendîn, and with a slight bow he disappeared into the trees beyond the shipyards, melting into their waiting arms soundlessly.
Elrond watched him go, amazed at how quickly and easily the elf had blended into the woods. He smiled, glad the wood elves were willing to assist, for their skills were unique and invaluable and would likely lead to increased production.
“I am glad you have not left. I do not need to waste my morning searching for you,” said Lasbelin imperiously. “That missive was for Círdan, but it also had instructions for you.”
“Thank you, Lasbelin,” Elrond answered, forcing his voice to stay calm at Lasbelin’s tone. He turned to walk past the elf, but to his dismay the counselor fell into step beside him.
“Tell me about your conversations with Garman and Calendîn, so I may inform the King of any actions that he may need to take,” said Lasbelin stiffly.
“I need to speak to several others to complete my part of the agreement,” Elrond answered calmly. He would not trust Lasbelin to accurately convey his conversations second hand. “When I have done so, I will report to the King.”
“Elrond!” called a gruff voice.
Elrond smiled at the interruption, for Lasbelin would not continue at his side in Círdan’s presence. He took pleasure in knowing the counselor was intimidated by the old mariner.
“Suilad, Círdan,” Elrond greeted him, quickly falling into step with the spry elf. He grinned as Lasbelin lagged behind them. He felt Círdan’s eyes upon him, and purposefully kept his gaze ahead, so he would not laugh in Lasbelin’s hearing.
Círdan, however, felt no such reservations. “That elf can organize anything, but he should not be allowed to talk to others,” growled Círdan. “If he was half as rude to the Men and Calendîn as he indicated he was, I would forbid him from speaking in the future.”
As they approached Elros’ completed ship, Elrond asked, “When will she take her maiden voyage?”
“That was the message you were supposed to deliver,” teased Círdan. “Her captain, name and maiden voyage are ready to be announced. Gil-Galad will be present.”
Elrond arched a brow in surprise. “Why is the King coming? He did not mention anything this morning.”
Círdan laughed. “You will see.”
They stopped near the ship, where many had already gathered. Elrond sought out his brother, wishing to lend his support and comfort to his twin, for he knew despite Elros’ earlier smile, giving over his ship to her first captain would pain him. He found him tying ribbon from the ship’s wheel to the rail, ribbon the new captain would cut when he named the vessel and turned her wheel to the sea.
“What shall you do next?” asked Elrond softly. “Will you build another ship?”
“Círdan is being evasive,” answered Elros dryly. “He will not say what he wishes me to do next. He tells me to be patient, that I will be told when he decides.” He paused, drawing in a deep breath. “I wish to take her to sea.”
Elros turned then, facing seaward, his hands gripping the rail so tightly his knuckles were white. His jaw was tightly clenched and his cheekbones prominent, and Elrond felt the pain of his twin. He moved to stand at the rail and leaned into his brother, and was pleased when Elros relaxed against him, accepting his comfort.
Voices and movement behind them distracted them soon after, and they turned to see Gil-Galad and Círdan boarding the ship. Elrond watched as Elros forced a smile and stepped forward to greet the arriving guests. She was his ship until her captain was named.
“We are here to announce the captain and plan for the maiden voyage of this fine ship,” began Círdan without preamble or greeting, his voice gruff but a twinkle visible in his eye. “Elros, come forward.”
Elrond watched with dismay as Elros stepped forward, and thought for the first time in his life that Círdan was acting cruelly, unintentionally perhaps, but he seemed not to notice Elros’ discomfort. Elrond felt his own muscles tense as he willed all the strength he had to his brother. Intent on his twin, he did not notice Gil-Galad coming to stand near him until he felt a strong arm slip around his shoulders.
“Elros is completely ignorant of Círdan’s plan, is he not?” murmured Gil-Galad in Elrond’s ear.
Elrond turned sharply, nearly knocking the king off balance. Gil-Galad held up his hand, motioning Elrond to silence. Gil-Galad’s eyes were dancing and Elrond turned back to watch Elros, who was now standing near Círdan.
“Elros, do you accept command of this vessel?” Círdan asked.
Elros turned to stare at the old mariner, and much good-natured laughter was heard in the audience as the young peredhel was rendered momentarily speechless. Elros gripped the ship rail for support and attempted to answer, but no words were forthcoming.
“A simple ‘yes’ will suffice, although an answer is merely a formality,” added Círdan after a moment. He clapped Elros on the back then, and that seemed to bring him back to reality.
“Yes! A thousand yeses!” Elros finally managed to reply.
“What shall her name be?” continued Círdan, a broad smile now covering his face.
“Her name shall be Mîriel, for she is a treasure,” Elros replied as his eyes met Elrond’s.
“She sails in two weeks, time for you to finish outfitting her and choosing her crew,” announced Círdan, as glasses of wine were passed out to all present. He lifted his cup, “To the Mîriel! May she be worthy of her captain. May she fly like the wind when an enemy is at your back or need or good fortune before you. May she serve you well and always bring you safely home to those who love you.” With that, Círdan lifted his cup to the young half-elf he had raised and mentored, and downed the contents.
Cheers erupted and Elrond joined in, lifting his glass and drinking with Gil-Galad to Elros’ good fortune. He watched with joy as Elros cut the ribbon and turned the ship’s wheel, and then turned to accept the congratulations and good wishes from those he had served with and those who had worked on the Mîriel. Elrond was fairly certain that bids were being made by those who wished to sail with his brother. Then Elros began working his way to where his brother stood, finally flinging himself into Elrond’s arm with a cry of glee.
“Did you know, Elrond?” he asked breathlessly.
“I did not,” admitted Elrond. “Círdan and Gil-Galad held this secret close.”
Gil-Galad laughed as he embraced Elros. “It was decided the day Círdan turned over primary building responsibility to you. Did you really think Círdan would let you build her, and then take her away from you?”
“That was nearly two years ago,” said Elros, astonished. “It was decided then I would captain her?”
“It was decided then you would captain her IF you managed to complete her successfully,” interjected Círdan gruffly as he joined them. “You exceeded my expectations, Elros. I am well pleased with you.”
Elros nearly glowed in the hard earned praise of his mentor, and Elrond knew that his brother would remember this day as one of the best of his life. Círdan steered Elros away to lay further plans for choosing a crew, and Elrond was drawn back to the present by the king issuing orders.
“Elrond, I need a report prepared for the military council outlining the current status of relations with each of our allies. Also include a list of all the other groups of people in Beleriand and an assessment of which side they would fight in a war. I need an update on the wood harvest and the progress in the shipbuilding project. I understand there are some issues with the Men near the havens of Sirion and the green elves; include an update on what you have done to alleviate those problems. Word has come of an attack near Nan Tathren; learn what you can.” Gil-Galad paused, as if thinking, then added more slowly. “Galadriel plans a journey across the Blue Mountains. Please speak to Celeborn and ensure that he has what he needs, if possible, for the trip. I fear we cannot spare many to accompany them, but some of the elves of Doriath remain loyal to them and will attend them on this trip.”
Elrond’s questions regarding the reason for Celeborn and Galadriel’s journey remained unasked as Gil-Galad’s attention was turned to advisors competing for his attention. Instead he bowed slightly, and slipped away.
* * *
It was late in the night when Elrond heard the door to his study open. He recognized the shadow of his twin even in the darkness, and smiled at the figure that moved to sit next to him.
“You are working late, little brother,” Elros said softly, a yawn escaping him.
“I will be working until well into the morning to gather all the information Gil-Galad has requested,” replied Elrond. He laid down his quill, turning his attention to Elros. “Have you chosen your crew?”
“I have had a crew picked out for weeks,” laughed Elros. “We could leave in three days, if need be. Círdan has assigned Magor to me.”
“Such experience will doubtless be helpful,” answered Elrond with a grin as he thought of his first encounter with the elf.
Elros grinned. “I have no complaints. He likes Men, and I have chosen several to serve on the Mîriel.”
“The assistance of Men has been invaluable,” Elrond said suddenly. “We are stretched thin, our food supplies are low and so many of our people are working on the ships or patrolling the areas where the wood is being harvested that everyday tasks are being neglected. The aid of men has helped some to alleviate the stress.”
Elros grew somber. “I did not know all of this, Elrond.”
Elrond turned away quickly. “Your job was to build that ship, and you have done that. It is the job of others to insure you had what you needed, and to allow you to focus on your task.”
Elros studied his brother for a moment, then embraced him, smoothing back the dark hair from the face that mirrored his own. “You deserved as much credit as I today. Make sure you rest, Elrond. Your mind needs rest, even if your body seems as if it can continue forever.”
Elros slipped from the room as quietly as he had come, and Elrond pulled the lantern closer as he bent back over the parchment he was writing on.
* * *
“Ereinion! Elrond! Elros!” shouted Círdan.
Elrond leapt to his feet, nearly colliding with his brother as they left his study where they had been talking about Elros’ leaving the next morning to captain the Mîriel on her first voyage, and they both crashed into Gil-Galad in the hallway. Gil-Galad grabbed them both by the scruff of the neck, righting them, and Elrond was surprised at the strength in the King’s arms that let him nearly lift them both off their feet. They raced to the back door of the house, the anxious faces of the house staff watching them from half opened doors as they came to see what could cause Círdan to shout. Some of them had served the old mariner for centuries, and many were trying to remember if they had ever heard his voice raised in such a manner.
Gil-Galad led them out the back door and they followed Círdan’s voice to the cliff where so often he had stood and gazed westward. This time, however, he gazed to the northwest.
Elrond gazed upon the western sky, but instead of the darkness he expected to see with Anor having long completed her day’s journey, he saw flashes of light, a brilliance unlike any he had seen before. It was not light as he had seen from a forest fire, or the fiery glow of the sun as it settled beyond the horizon, or the cool reflection of Ithil. This light was as the brilliant sparkle of the rays of the sun as they reflected off the many prismatic surfaces of a fine jewel, yet magnified as if the jewel were the size of a large vessel.
“What is it?” he finally asked, unable to tear his gaze away from the light.
“It can be only one thing,” replied Círdan solidly. “The Valar have come to throw down Morgoth once and for all.”
“They march northward to Angband,” breathed Gil-Galad.
“War has come,” answered Círdan. He stepped back to stand with them, never taking his eyes from the brilliant light. “The end of Beleriand as we know it is upon us. When the fury of the Valar is spent and Morgoth is cast down, the lands you see will not exist as you now see them, if they exist at all,” he predicted.
“It is for this that we have been preparing,” said Elros, disbelief in his voice. “You knew this would come!”
Círdan did not answer.
“Go to rest,” instructed Gil-Galad. “Elrond, we will meet early to discuss what word we will give our people and send to our allies. Elros, you are still to sail in the morning.”
“Stay well east of the ruins of Barad Nimras, Elros,” added Círdan.
Elros nodded, and the twins left silently, each glancing back one last time before their view of the light was blocked by the trees. They entered the house, the servants watching them curiously, but they did not speak of what they had seen. They entered Elrond’s room, shutting the door behind them before speaking.
“What do you think will happen now?” asked Elros.
“I think we will go to war,” answered Elrond after a moment’s contemplation. “We have more ships to finish, so I do not know how many warriors we can send. I wonder how the Valar fight? Do they use swords and bows?”
Elros flopped back on the bed, staring at the ceiling. He rolled on his side, then got to his feet and walked to the window. He stared out into the darkness briefly, then began pacing restlessly. “It will be a glorious battle,” he said, a hint of excitement in his voice. “Everything will be different after this, Elrond!”
“I think we are soon to find out,” replied Elrond somberly.
Elros moved quickly to sit next to his twin. “Are you not excited? This could be the end of Morgoth! The end of attacks and people living in fear. A chance to build new cities and new ports!”
Elrond smiled at his brother’s enthusiasm. “It will be exciting,” he agreed, pushing aside his own thoughts about the action they needed to take and what such changes might mean to their people.
* * *
Elrond woke early and the sound of low voices in Gil-Galad’s study, next to his own, drew his attention. He closed his door and the voices ceased, then he heard his name called. He entered to find Gil-Galad and Círdan seated, and by all appearances they had talked all night.
“Join us, Elrond,” Gil-Galad said, motioning him to take a seat. “We have plans to make.”
Gil-Galad had a map of Beleriand spread out on his desk. “We shall lead our army northward towards Angband. We will need to send advance word to the Valar, to see what position they wish us to take. I am inclined to believe that we will be involved in mopping up the stragglers and preventing any forces from the east from arriving to aid them.”
“What shall be our priorities between the shipyards and sending warriors north?”
“Both are priorities,” answered Gil-Galad. “I need information regarding how many need to stay behind to defend Balar and continue work in the shipyards, as well as what kind of support our warriors will need heading north.”
“Will our allies go north with us?”
“We will need to send word. Any who will follow my command may join us,” replied Gil-Galad.
“They will follow your command,” murmured Elrond. He pulled out a sheet of parchment and began taking notes as Gil-Galad and Círdan spoke. When they had finished several hours later, cook having the grace to serve them breakfast in the study, Elrond had a list of tasks and assignments as long as his arm.
“Let us go see Elros off,” Círdan ended their session.
Elrond stopped briefly in his own office to organize his day, but overheard Círdan and Gil-Galad continuing to speak in the hallway.
“Is it wise to entrust so much to Elrond?” Círdan asked. “He is young and has never fought in a war.”
“He is more reliable and more accurate than any other advisor I have,” replied Gil-Galad. “He makes good assumptions, notes them appropriately and is willing to learn what he does not know. His ego and pride do not limit his abilities, as it does with others. And you trusted his judgment many years ago to start the shipbuilding project.”
“I saw the potential before you is all,” laughed Círdan, and then the voices receded.
Elrond smiled, pleasure spreading warmly through him. He knew he was meant to overhear the words, but that did not lessen his appreciation for them. Praise from the King and the Shipwright was hard earned and seldom given, and he would treasure it. With a smile still on his face, he followed them to the shipyards to see the Mîriel depart.
* * *
Elrond mounted his horse, then waited, watching as the columns of warriors lined up in ranks. The last ship was just setting sail to return to Balar, its sails catching the breeze and its size diminishing as it returned to its home dock.
They were going to war.
He repeated the words in his mind, barely comprehending them despite the months of preparatory work he had done for this day. He recalled the first day after Círdan had seen the lights, when they had announced to their people that the Valar had come. Such excitement there had been on the Isle! Fear there had been also, from those who had left Aman so many years earlier. Most believed that this sign meant they had been forgiven, while a few despaired of facing those who might yet pronounce their doom. Gil-Galad had rallied the people, reminding them of Eärendil’s voyage and the message he carried, and how his sacrifice had not been in vain.
Messengers had been sent to all their allies with word of what was to come, and they were asked to send representatives to Balar. Men came, some in disbelief that the stories of old were true. The tale of Eärendil the Mariner was known to them, for he was a Lord of Men and Elves, and the knowledge that his voyage had been successful caused joy in the hearts of Men. In this Elros had particularly delighted, and he had greatly enjoyed the attention that came from the resemblance he bore to his sire. The rumblings in the Earth and the lights to the northwest were other visible proof that great change was coming, and hope was born anew that evil might finally be destroyed.
In the end, several of the villages of men had emptied, sending their old, their women and their children to Balar. They would be safer there with their fighting men gone, and many of the older men could practice their trades and crafts on the Isle, filling a need with Balar nearly emptied of its males. Círdan remained behind to see to the ships – building, outfitting and patrolling the coast –and he had a contingent of workers with him.
The female elves would see to the isle’s defense, work in the shipyards and care for the children. Galadriel would rule the isle. Elrond was glad she and Celeborn had been caught before they had left on their trip. He understood now what Galadriel wished to do – she also feared that Beleriand would be changed forever and wished to explore east, across the Blue Mountains, for new settlements for the elves. Long they had discussed the ban of the Valar.
“The Valar have not come to destroy Angband and bind Morgoth only to leave the elves to die in an upheaval of the land,” Galadriel had predicted. “They will end the ban for most and those elves will be free to seek the peace of the West.”
“What about the Men of Beleriand? Will they allow them to go west?” Elros had questioned.
“No,” Galadriel had answered sadly. “But many of the elves will not choose to live in Valinor either, thus the need for us to think about new homes in the East, should Beleriand not survive.”
“The earth already trembles and the trees cry out,” Celeborn had growled. “Let us win the fight before worrying about what shall occur after the war.”
A shout broke Elrond of his reverie and his eyes were drawn to the standard bearers – the main flag the banner of Gil-Galad, High King of the Noldor, – but smaller banners were borne beneath of Doriath and Gondolin and Nargothrond, tribute to his realm being formed of the remnants of others. The Men also carried their banners, and the many colors waved merrily in the morning breeze.
Gil-Galad took up position at the front of the column and Elrond heard him cry, “An auth! To war!” A chorus of shouts answered him and the formation slowly began to move forward. Elrond began the journey at the rear, but moved easily in and out of the companies of elves and men. As he rode thus he learned the hearts and minds of those he would fight with. At night they would camp, and he would join Gil-Galad in his tent and tell him all he had learned.
“Garman’s men are untested in anything but defensive maneuvers. They are brave, however, and they will follow you.
“The men who lived further up the coast, just beyond the Cape, have driven orcs to the sea and are mighty fighters. They see value in numbers, but will follow Tauron should he choose his own course to fight. Including him in council will go far to ensure his continued support.
“Tarias was born in Gondolin and his parents died in the fall when he was a small child. He fears meeting the Valar, for his parents spoke of the doom and curse laid upon them.”
Elrond watched with an ever growing respect for his King as Gil-Galad led them northwards. He met with the leaders of all the groups in council, hearing their opinions and concerns. He moved among the warriors, speaking words of hope and encouragement. And when they first encountered battle, Gil-Galad led with sound orders and fighting tactics. On occasion Elrond rode at his side, but Gil-Galad usually encouraged him to act independently, saying that Elrond’s eyes and ears doubled the information they could gather. Elrond soon came to realize that all his young life he had followed Gil-Galad because he was family, for the elf had raised and mentored him, but now he would follow Gil-Galad as his King.
* * *
They engaged in their first large battle north of Nan Tathren, with a band of orcs fleeing from the Hosts of the Valar. Gil-Galad’s forces had been victorious, their large host destroying the even larger host of orcs, but they had suffered casualties, with the majority of the dead and seriously injured being Men. The orcs were routed long before Anor rose, yet Elrond and the other healers worked until she was nearly ready to end her journey that day. Exhausted, he allowed the cold waters of the Sirion to wash over his tired and filth covered body. He had just finished dressing in fresh clothing when a messenger summoned him to a meeting with the King. It took all the strength he could muster to walk to the King’s tent, and he slipped inside quietly with hopes of being quickly questioned and excused.
The enclosure was warm in the autumn air, and Elrond feared he might drowse in the dim light. He stood to the side of the tent, mentally preparing a concise report on the status of the wounded. Exhaustion still weighed heavily upon him, and he found himself learning against one of the tent supports as he waiting for Gil-Galad to call upon him.
“Elrond, what is your assessment of why the Men took such heavy casualties in the battle last eve?” Gil-Galad had asked.
Elrond looked up in surprise, coming suddenly to attention when he realized all who remained were elves. All of those elven eyes were turned towards him, and he felt a growing heat in his face. He realized that some debate must have occurred prior to his arrival, and now wondered what he had walked into.
“My Lord,” he began slowly, “the enemy appeared desperate in their escape, but they were also fierce and experienced fighters. The men who were most grievously injured and killed had the least experience among us. Yet due to the timing and place of the initial attack, those Men were at the front of the battle. Perhaps they were even targeted for their weakness.”
Elrond watched as Lasbelin and Gaerion, who had headed the military council of Balar, exchanged smug glances, but his attention was immediately drawn back to Gil-Galad as the King posed a second question to him.
“So you would say that the inexperience of the Men was a contributing factor to their heavy losses.”
“Aye, my Lord, how could it not be so? They are young and untried, and have never faced so great an enemy before this day,” replied Elrond, his brow arched quizzically. “Taruron’s warriors fared better, but have more experience. Their forefathers have long fought orcs and taught them well.”
Gil-Galad’s face remained impassive, showing neither pleasure nor displeasure at Elrond’s answers. “What is your solution for how such losses will be avoided in the future?”
All within the tent were silent and all eyes remained on him, leading Elrond to wonder if he was being used to test another or if the test was of him. In the past when Gil-Galad had wished to teach him or show him a flaw or error in his thinking, he had done so privately. Elrond’s thoughts raced as he quickly tried to recall any lapses in judgment he had made this day, of any gross error that would lead the king to rebuke him before all of his advisors, but the ongoing silence recalled his thoughts and he forced himself to focus on the question posed to him.
“We have not the time to set up a full training camp for them, but we are in need of a several day respite to allow the wounded to mend and decide where those too severely injured to continue shall reside until they may rejoin us or return to their homes. I would propose that the battle strategists determine the best placement in the column of all of the men and elves with less experience, so that they are not grouped to cause a weakness in any one flank of our army. I would also propose that in these days battle tactics are reviewed and basic strategies in offense and defense are taught to them,” Elrond finished, his eyes fixed on Gil-Galad.
“Shall you also be the one to teach these strategies to those less experienced?” asked Gaerion in a slightly mocking tone.
Elrond flushed slightly and his eyes sought Gil-Galad’s, but the King merely waited for him to respond.
“No, Lord Gaerion,” he replied. “I am hardly experienced myself, and not qualified to know what skills or strategies would be most useful in the short time available to teach them.”
“Lasbelin, what are the flaws in such a plan?” Gil-Galad turned his gaze to his oldest advisor.
Lasbelin always stood ramrod straight, but seemed to Elrond’s eyes to further raise his head and neck.
“The Men have cost us time and resources this day, neither of which can be spared. Food, medicine and weapon stores must be closely monitored so that the weakest among us do not drain these valuable commodities from the strong. It is the strong who will ultimately win this battle,” replied Lasbelin with firm conviction.
Eyes turned expectantly to Elrond and a nod from Gil-Galad indicated he should answer such a defense.
“Lasbelin’s concerns are valid and should not be lightly considered,” he answered after a moment, shifting his weight to stand with his hands behind his back, thus preventing him from indulging in the desire to wipe his sweating palms against his trousers. “However, such rationing of medicine and food hardly seems an issue at this time. In addition, these men learn quickly and have the potential to become worthy warriors with but a little effort. Lastly, if in this war the weak are to be so judged I believe we may as well all turn back now, for next to the mighty Hosts of the Valar all here may appear as weak and unworthy vessels.”
There was a lengthy silence in the tent and Elrond’s face burned hotly at the impertinence of his words. Lasbelin’s face twitched in anger and Gaerion nearly shook with rage. Other advisors regarded him with twinkling eyes and hints of smiles.
“What shall you do, Elrond, if the King decides it is best to split from the Men?” Gaerion spat.
“The King I serve would not casually dismiss the young and the inexperienced as weak and leave them to fight alone when we can be made a stronger unit by working together,” Elrond answered tersely, anger finally rising in him that Gaerion would question his loyalty to the King.
Yet despite his brave words, a horror rose within him that he had spoken on behalf of Gil-Galad without knowing his thoughts on this matter and without his permission. He did not back down, however, and instead turned to face Gil-Galad. If the King chose to censure his words, so be it.
Gil-Galad rose from his chair. “Thank you, Elrond, you are excused. I expect a report on the status of the injured in the morning.”
Elrond let out his breath, unaware he had been holding it, and watched in disbelief as Gil-Galad turned his attention to another matter entirely. He bowed, though Gil-Galad’s attention was already focused elsewhere, and left the tent.
The cool night air caressed his face and he breathed in deeply, as if cleansing himself of the anger and tension he had just experienced. Most nights he slept in a tent with some of the advisors and healers, but now he just wished to be alone. He saw Elros sitting next to a tree, sharpening his sword and fletching arrows. Grabbing his bedroll, Elrond tossed it next to his twin and flopped down upon it, pulling the woolen blanket up snugly about him. Elros smiled at him, and despite his weariness, Elrond could not help but ask, “What is the total this battle, brother mine?”
“Fourteen, but I came late for I was posted on the far side of the column,” answered Elros with a grin. “You?”
“I lost track of the number of stitches I sewed, but my blade did manage to finish an orc that thought to take advantage of an injured man,” yawned Elrond.
“There will be plenty more opportunity for both,” Elros answered wisely. He turned slightly, straightening his legs and folding his blanket over both of them. He glanced down at the prone form, now silent, and realized his twin was already deep in sleep. “Well, at least this time you managed to clean up and find a bed before collapsing from exhaustion, little brother,” he whispered.
* * *
The camp was dark and quiet when Gil-Galad located Elrond and Elros asleep near the tree. Elros roused despite the nearly soundless movement of the King, but Gil-Galad motioned him to silence. He effortlessly lifted his young advisor, and signaled for Elros to follow him. Entering his tent, he laid the sleeping Elrond on a cot and covered him with a blanket, then directed Elros to the cot next to it.
“Ah, there are some advantages to having such an important little brother,” quipped Elros as he looked appreciatively at his improved accommodations.
Gil-Galad merely smiled. “I am nearly positive he did not eat, and I just questioned him despite his exhaustion before my council for reasons he knows little about. Do not let anyone waken him too early and make sure he breakfasts before going about his duties. Even the brother of such an important member of the king’s staff must accept that his improved accommodations come with some additional responsibility,” he teased back, mussing Elros’ hair affectionately. “Fourteen, I hear?”
Elros grinned as he made himself comfortable. “I’ll do better next time.”
* * *
Elrond awoke with a start, confused as to his surroundings, and let forth a cry when he realized the sun streaming into the tent was part way through its morning climb. He threw back the covers and was leaping from his bed when a solid weight threw him back down. He looked up in surprise to see the grinning face of his twin.
“Elros! Let me up! I am late!” Elrond attempted to push his brother off him.
“King’s orders,” laughed Elros, taking a bite from an apple from his perch on top of his brother.
“Where is he? Why aren’t we breaking camp?” Elrond asked as he fought to free his legs.
“I do not know,” Elros answered truthfully. “Some of the warriors are assembling for special training, there is a meeting to reorganize the column and the healers are all meeting to discuss the status of the wounded. I was told to make sure no one bothered you and to make sure you ate. So, I am just following orders.”
“Well, then let me up so I can eat,” growled Elrond.
Elros regarded his twin with a serious expression. He pointed to a prepared tray nearby, and said, “Eat all of that.”
“Lembas are fine,” argued Elrond. “I should be at that meeting.”
Elros took another bite from his apple, his feet firmly planted on the ground as he held his twin in place and prevented Elrond from gaining purchase and flipping him off. He ignored Elrond’s struggles and smiled at the snarling noise issuing from the cot.
The tent flap was flung back and Gil-Galad entered. He moved quickly to his makeshift desk, quickly gathering the maps and parchments he was seeking. As he turned to leave, he noticed the brothers on the cot.
“Elrond, eat this!” Gil-Galad tapped the tray impatiently. “I need you to speak to the healers as well as Garman, he trusts you, and . . .,” Gil-Galad’s voice faded as he left the tent.
Elrond grinned at his brother. “Now will you get off me?”
Elros grinned back. “He said you had to eat that before you can go. I still win. King’s orders.”
Rested and well fed, Elrond joined Gil-Galad a half hour later.
“Speak to Garman first,” Gil-Galad greeted him, “then join the healers. We can tarry here only two or three days. I want details worked out as to where the wounded will stay by this afternoon. Meet me in my tent afterwards.”
Elrond accepted the staccato orders and watched with a mixture of love, pride, respect and admiration as his King moved quickly on to his next task.
* * * * *
When I first read the Silmarillion and had the idea for this story, I never doubted that Gil-Galad and the elves of Beleriand fought in the War of Wrath. Then one day I was reading some notes in the Atlas of Middle-earth and noted that the author said none of the elves of Beleriand fought.
So I returned to the Silmarillion, wondering how I could have missed such an important detail. After much thought, I will say that I do not think I did. My take on the war may be much different than that of others, but to any who are interested I will explain how I came to my conclusions.
First, in the The Council of Elrond, The Fellowship of the Ring, Elrond says he was present:
‘Thereupon Elrond paused a while and sighed. “I remember well the splendour of their banners,’ he said. ‘It recalled to me the glory of the Elder Days and the hosts of Beleriand, so many great princes and captains were assembled. And yet not so many, nor so fair, when Thangorodrim was broken, and the Elves deemed that evil was ended for ever, and it was not so.’
Now, for many other reasons, I have Elrond in the keeping of Gil-Galad from a fairly young age, but even if he stayed with Maglor and Maedhros until the War, why would he be there alone?
The oft-quoted passage used to say that the elves were not present is this:
Of the Voyage of Eärendil, The Silmarillion
‘Of the march of the host of the Valar to the north of Middle-earth little is said in any tale; for among them went none of the those elves who had dwelt and suffered in the Hither Lands, and who made the histories of those days that still are known; and tidings of these things they only learned long afterwards from their kinfolk in Aman. But at the last the might of the Valinor came up out of the West, and the challenge of the trumpets of Eonwe filled the sky; and Beleriand was ablaze with the glory of their arms, for the hosts of the Valar were arrayed in forms young and fair and terrible, and the mountains rang beneath their feet.’
The paragraph only says that of the march of the Valar north little is known because none of the elves of Beleriand witnessed it– it does not say that the War was unknown to the elves.
I also had to consider the perspective of the ‘writer’ of the Silmarillion. In the Introduction (and repeated, I believe, in Tolkien’s letters) Tolkien explains from whose perspective each book is written. Frodo Baggins, a hobbit, wrote the Lord of the Rings – The Red Book – and it was amended and corrected by men and potentially elves. Everything there was told to Frodo or witnessed by him (for the most part) and thus we see through the filter of his eyes. One thing I have always found lacking in the LOTR is how in the RotK Frodo’s detail lessens and we see less and less through his eyes. Indeed, Tolkien said that Frodo remembered little and did not wish to write his own experience and hence we saw a perspective switch to Sam. That is brilliant of Tolkien – talk about him being in Frodo’s head! Tolkien says The Hobbit was written from a more ‘human’ perspective, and The Silmarillion is the account laid down by the exiled elves of Beleriand. This is why there is little accounting of the Sindar in all the ages living beneath the stars or the happenings in Aman after the Flight of the Noldor. In my opinion, Tolkien’s ability to write entire books through the eyes of a particular race or group of people is amazing. He shows what they saw, knowing that it was only one view of that which they are writing about. The LOTR may have looked immensely different if written from the perspective of the Elves or of Men.
Based on that, when I read the paragraph again about how no one witnessed the march north of the Valar, but how men of the three houses of the Edain alone fought on the side of the Valar and the elves do not forget it, I have to ask: What elves do not forget it? Why would the elves of Aman care which men fought where? They did not know anything about Men. The elves who would remember this are the ones who wrote the histories told in the Silmarillion. This implies rather strongly the elves of Beleriand were present at the War of Wrath. Also, why would the elves say they were present? That would seem obvious if they are writing the account. I do not know how great a role the elves of Beleriand may have played in the War of Wrath. Frankly their might seems rather small compared to the might of the Valar. But they wrote an account as if they were there, and in the Silmarillion when something is being repeated (e.g. It is said…) second hand it is noted as such. This is not. They didn’t see the march north, but they saw Angband obliterated, the slaves freed and Morgoth chained.
In the Tale of Years, the years of the War of Wrath are numbered at about twenty-five. That is an awfully long time for anyone not to join in a battle, especially one shaking the very foundations of the Earth.
So, some may interpret these passages differently. This is my interpretation, and I believe it does not violate canon.
Regarding a few other things in this chapter:
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