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History Lessons  by Nilmandra

A special thank you to daw the minstrel for beta reading this chapter

Chapter 22: Dragons, Silmarilli and Decisions

Elrond was settled upon the couch, studying a text on the healing of infections in men, when he heard the commotion of small feet racing down the hall.  He laid the book aside as the door flew open and his sons raced into the room, both leaping into his lap at the same time.

“Who won, Ada?” exclaimed Elladan as he pulled himself up while hanging on to Elrond’s collar. Elrohir scrambled to stand on Elrond’s other side, his eyes wide with excitement.

“Who won, Ada?” echoed Elrohir with enthusiasm.

“It was most definitely a tie,” said Elrond sincerely. “I will have bruises of the same shade on each leg.”

The twins dissolved in giggles at this pronouncement, knowing full well they had not hurt their father.  They were still laughing when their mother and grandfather entered the room at a more sedate pace.

“We tied, Nana!” called Elrohir.  “Just like this afternoon.”

Elladan frowned. “You beat me this afternoon,” he said, disappointed.

Elrohir frowned in return.  “I did not.  We raced to Daerada and Glorfindel and we hit them at the same time.”

“Oh,” said Elladan, blushing. “But you hit the target more times than me.”

“But that was because Glorfindel helped me more,” explained Elrohir sincerely. “That was not a competition; it was just practice.”

 “Oh,” said Elladan, now smiling. He turned back to Elrond.  “And Ada, Daerada did not even try to pin Glorfindel again.”

“Glorfindel would not set up the targets!” laughed Elrohir in delight.  “And they argued and if Nana had been there she would have made them both sit down on the bench until they could talk nicely to each other.”

“But they quit arguing while they helped us,” interjected Elladan helpfully. “Daerada says we will be good archers when we grow up.”

“We have good lines,” added Elrohir proudly.  He paused for a moment, then whispered to Elrond, “What does that mean, Ada?”

Elrond began to laugh, a rumbling laugh from deep within, as he listened to this sons’ excitement and watched his wife glare at her father for setting a bad example before her children.  Glorfindel had entered rather surreptitiously while the twins were speaking, and despite Celebrían’s overt glare, the mighty warriors were staring at each other like two great cats, ready to pounce and wrestle for dominance.  Elrond stifled his laugh as Celebrían turned to him, but knew it was only a matter of time before some challenge was issued between the two and they had the household in an uproar again.

“Would you like to see the rings now?” Elrond deftly changed the subject as he retrieved his coming-of-age rings from a pocket in his robe and held them out to his sons.

Elladan and Elrohir took turns trying on the rings and pretending it was their coming-of-age ceremony, effectively drawing their mother’s attention away from her father and Glorfindel and back to themselves.  Celebrían fussed over the rings and who they had belonged to, and soon the twins were clamoring for more of the story.

“Ada, tell us how the Men and Elves and Valar won the war,” Elladan begged.  “Tell us how you fought the dragons!”

“The stronghold of Angband was rocked to its very foundation, and Morgoth knew that the Valar were near,” Elrond picked up the story near the end of the War. “And so he loosed the dragons against us, driving even the Valar back. . .”


~ ~ ~* * *~ ~ ~

“Eönwë has called us to move to the north east of Dorthonion,” Gil-Galad announced.  “The Men and Orcs who served Morgoth are destroyed, and as the Valar cast down the towers of Angband we are to block any attempts of his servants to escape eastward. Beware the fault lines and floods that run across the plain, and stay to high ground.”

Cheers greeted the announcement, and it was with joy that the Elves and Men of the Hosts of Beleriand prepared to move to their new positions.  For years they had fought Morgoth’s forces, at times fighting for days on end without rest, and at other times nearly consumed by the weariness of boredom. The end appeared near, and even as Beleriand was shaken to her very foundations, they were glad.

Several mornings later, dawn found them perched on the northern side of the Dorthonion Mountains.  As Anor rose, they could see the Hosts of the Valar riding forth to the gates of Angband.  Trumpets were heard, and the voice of Eönwë rose loud and clear in the still morning, commanding Morgoth to surrender.

Suddenly there rose from the gates great winged creatures, fire bellowing from their mouths and with a roar like thunder, they flew out and descended upon the Hosts of the Valar.   Several more, smaller creatures followed them, flying out to the east and west of the gates.

Elrond never learned what the Valar did as the Dragons descended upon them, but a great light shone around them, blocking the fire from burning those who stood below the mighty beasts. Yet the call for retreat was made, and the Hosts of the Valar drew back.  So intent were Elrond, and indeed all of Gil-Galad’s troops, on watching the fight to their west that the sudden darkening of the sky as a dragon flew over them caught them off their guard.

“Take cover!” shouted Gil-Galad as the great beast descended on his troops. 

Elrond dove into the rocks, the heat of the dragon’s breath nearly singeing his hair as it flew overhead.  He heard screams around him as others were not so fortunate, and he quickly peered out to see several Elves and Men rolling on the ground, attempting to put out the flames that engulfed them.   Others reached them before Elrond, throwing blankets over those burning to suffocate the flames.

“Get them to the stream!” Elrond called.  “Douse them completely!”

A creek flowed nearby, and the burned warriors were taken there and soaked in the cool waters.  The roar and flames of the dragons returned though, and those treating the burned took to the waters, submerging themselves and their patients each time the fire descended on them.

One of the healers located a protected shallow of water under the weeping branches of a willow tree, and they took the worst of the wounded there.  Hidden from sight, they were able to strip the burned warriors before their clothing dried imbedded in their wounds, and those who could drink were fed hastily concocted tinctures to numb their pain and push them into oblivion. 

In the smoke and flame, all sight of the Valar was lost, and Gil-Galad arranged his forces in an attempt to take down the mighty dragons when they next returned.  Archers stood hidden in the clefts of rock, care taken that they had places to hide should the dragons spot them.  Other soldiers had climbed into the tallest trees and were stringing strong elven rope in the hopes of felling one of the beasts that caught on the line. 

“Tie off the ends and come down,” Elros called.  “The dragon may well break the rope and uproot the trees, but if it allows us the time to aim a few arrows well, then it is worth it.”

“Our arrows are useless against the scales of the dragon!” one man cried out in frustration.

“Aim for the eyes or into the mouth, or the pit of its arm or its groin,” instructed Celeborn.  “Every creature has a spot that may fell him – we have only to find it!”

“We have killed balrogs; we will kill these dragons,” encouraged one of the Gondolin survivors. 

Elrond was thankful the Valar seemed to have dispatched all the remaining Balrogs, as he had no wish to see the damage they could inflict.  He felt tears trickle down his cheeks as he tended the man before him.  Not a hair was left on his body, and what skin remained was tight and shiny. Already his lungs were failing, the breath sounds wet and crackly, but mercifully he was unconscious.

“If he wakes at any point, give him this,” Elrond instructed the human healer who had come to sit nearby.

The man took the small vial and opened it, then sniffed the contents gingerly.  His eyes rose to meet Elrond’s and he nodded.  “Comfort and ease of passing, it is the most we can offer,” he agreed sadly.

A cry went up as another dragon flew out of the smoke and circled over them, its keen eyes seeking for living targets to consume.  It swooped low and hissed its fire as it neared the ground, setting ablaze the grasses and trees as it passed.   Elrond watched in horror as an archer jumped from a burning tree, landing and rolling in the flames of the grass below.  The archer moved swiftly, finding a patch of dirt and flinging himself upon it, and then jumped up again and ran into the middle of the stream.  Elrond had begun to run as soon as soon as the archer leapt from the tree, and jumped into the water after him.  The archer surfaced, drawing in a great breath of air and hissing out his pain as he exhaled.

“Stay in the water,” advised Elrond.  A dark shape suddenly blocked the sun again, and Elrond waited, knowing there was no time to move.  The dragon had seen them. “Get ready – when I tell you to breathe, draw in as much air as you can.”

A fireball issued from the Dragon’s mouth and instantly Elrond hissed ‘Breathe!’ into the man’s ear and then pulled him under.  He counted slowly to ten, and as the man in his grasp began to struggle he kicked upward and surfaced.  He immediately looked around, but did not see the Dragon.   He heard it scream at him, cursing him, and he looked straight up to see the creature descending on him again.  He covered the heaving man’s nose and mouth, and dragged him under water once again.

This time he began to kick and dragged the man along with him, his arm wrapped around the man’s chest, beneath his arm, while he kept the man’s mouth and nose covered with his other hand.  The man had gone limp when Elrond surfaced again, this time near some rocks he had seen earlier.  The injured were still in the protection of the willows, but having seen the dragon ignite the trees so easily, he feared for those hidden there. He had again begun looking for the dragon, when a great bellow of pain and rage rang from above.

High on the cliffs where the warriors had tied the rope, a second dragon had become entangled.  It screamed its rage as the trees bent and the elven rope bit into its belly, but the elven rope held true and it was the dragon who dropped to the ground far below.   This dragon was younger, its scales thick but not as impenetrable as those of a mature dragon, and it screamed in pain, cursing as an arrow penetrated its eye and then it groaned in agony as another entered its mouth.  A small breath of fire issued from it, but it was not enough to harm those nearby. Swords began to hack at its tail and limbs, and finally a great spear was thrust against its chest, breaching its scales and entering its heart.   Its tail flopped once more, and a last moan was heard before the beast lay still.

Elrond watched in amazement as the dragon was felled, and then the beast that had been attacking him withdrew, keening cries hanging in the air as it mourned the loss of the young dragon.  For a crazy moment Elrond wondered if the dead dragon was child to the one who had attempted to roast him.

He felt a weak breath on his hand, and suddenly remembered the injured soldier he held in his arms.  He began to swim to the shore, and was grateful when others waded in to take the injured man from his arms and carry him to dry ground.

“We have found a cave,” said the one healer, relief in his voice.  “Let us move all the injured there before the dragons return.”

Elrond nodded in agreement, but allowed the other healers to carry and tend the man.  He did not see his brother or Celeborn or Gil-Galad, and suspected they had been the ones to fell the dragon on the cliffs.  He began to climb the hills, and when he was high enough to look west he found a great air battle taking place over the expanse of ground in front of the gates of Angband. Speechless, he stared at a mighty ship that flew against the winged beasts, driving the leader of the dragons back to the gates, only to have the formidable dragon force the ship back moments later.  Mighty eagles, with wingspans as great as the largest of the dragons, flew with the ship, their powerful beaks biting and pecking at their foes.   Even the air seemed to tremble with the fury of the battle, and bolts of lightning issued all around the combatants. The ground shook and mighty rumbles of thunder filled the air.

“What is that?” Elrond said in disbelief as others moved to stand near him.

“It is the Vingilot!” called Gil-Galad, laughing and shaking his spear at the sky.  “Eärendil has joined the battle!”

A cheer rose from the exhausted warriors, and they watched as the fury of the battle increased. The magnificent eagles quickly intercepted the few dragons that tried to fly beyond the gates to harass the Hosts of Beleriand, and as the threat to Gil-Galad’s forces decreased, Elrond began to see the injuries on those around him.  He found a flat rock to work on, and began beckoning over the injured one at a time.  He smiled as he realized he had chosen the spot well, for it offered a good view of the ongoing battle.  His patients were so engrossed in watching the action that he was able to efficiently stitch wounds and place salve on burns and bind the injuries. 

“Elros, keep your arm still,” demanded Elrond, shaking his brother slightly as Elros seemed to want to thrust his body forward with every good hit that the Eagles or Eärendil made.  Elros did not even acknowledge him, but the arm stayed still enough for Elrond to sew up the long gash in his forearm.

“Gil-Galad, let me see your hand,” Elrond finally gained the King’s attention by pulling on his spear.

Gil-Galad turned to him, a sparkle in his eye.  “This is all dragon blood,” he proclaimed proudly.

Celeborn was mute as Elrond cleaned the burn on his leg, a final hurt from the dying dragon, then salved and bandaged it.   Seeing no other injuries, Elrond sank to the ground as a sudden weariness overcame him, but jumped forward as soon as his back touched the rock he meant to lean against.  He turned, grimacing at the pain in his back, and rubbed his hand across the surface of the rock, but could find no sharp edge.  Reaching over his shoulder, he lightly touched his back and felt fire spread across his skin.

“Don’t touch it,” Celeborn said quietly.  His large hands gathered Elrond’s loose hair and pulled it forward over his shoulder.  Elrond felt the cool metal of a blade as the flat edge lightly touched his skin, and then his tunic fell from shoulders. “When did this happen?  Why did you not get it treated?” he lightly chastised.

“I do not know when it happened, or I would have,” Elrond answered.  A bright light flashed in the sky then, and he watched as the King of the Eagles knocked one of the dragons from the sky, its mighty talons sinking deep into the flesh and its beak ripping at the face of the beast.  Elrond watched the dragon fall, the sky now dark enough that the beast was only a crumpling shadow.  It landed hard and bounced, and the dust slowly settled around it.

“Another one down!” someone cried.  “The tide has turned!”

“Elrond, lift your arm.”

He suddenly heard Celeborn’s frustrated voice and he jumped slightly, then lifted the arm that Celeborn was pushing upward.   Celeborn finished wrapping the bandages, securing them beneath his arm and around his chest and Elrond looked at him in surprise.  “You are done?”

Celeborn laughed.  “Yes, the battle is a mighty distraction, is it not?

They watched throughout that long night as Eärendil and the Eagles fought the dragons, and it was near dawn when Eärendil struck the death blow.  The King of the dragons fell from the sky with a screaming roar that silenced as his body crushed into the towers of Thangorodrim.  He bounced against one peak, and then another, and a great cloud of hazy dust rose about him in the early morning light.

But the sound did not cease.

The rumble continued to grow until finally the mighty mountains of Angband split and fell apart.  The trumpets of Eönwë sounded as Anor rose, and the Valar descended upon the hold of Morgoth as his caverns were laid open to them.

“Move the wounded from the caves and to high ground.” Elrond heard Gil-Galad command a group of his soldiers, and the reason became obvious as great shockwaves spread out from Angband.  A fierce battle seemed to ensue within her crumbling caverns.

“Who are those running from the hills?” Elros asked, pointing to the openings in the mountains.

“The slaves of Angband are free,” said Celeborn softly. “It is a wonder any have survived, and yet look how many there are.”

The slaves were gathered into the arms of the Hosts of the Valar, who surrounded them and laid hands upon them and sang of their victory and escape.  And even from a great distance one could see bent backs straightening and heads being lifted to the sky as many saw the sun for the first time in many, many long years.

The ship of Eärendil dipped low once last time over the plains, and with a twinkle rose into the sky and disappeared, followed by the mighty Eagles. Elrond had felt a sense of awe to know that his father was fighting in this battle, pride when Eärendil had routed the dragons, and now a sense of loss tugged at his heart as the ship of his father departed.  He could not help but wonder if that was the closest glimpse he would ever have of the one who sired him.

Angband grew quiet then, and all waited expectantly.  Finally, those of the Valar who had entered the dark caverns of Morgoth’s stronghold came forth. Between them, bound with a mighty chain and collar around his neck, was Morgoth.   Broken he seemed, yet no pity was spared him. In a great flash of light he disappeared, along with those who held his chains.

“It is over then?” Elrond finally asked, disbelief in his voice.

He felt his brother at his side. They joined arms, and then Gil-Galad turned to face them.

“Manwë will take Morgoth beyond the walls of this world, to the Timeless Void, and he shall not be allowed to return,” he said, the memory of Eönwë’s words, of their plans for Morgoth, fresh in his mind.  “The war is over.”

Even as Gil-Galad spoke a mighty trumpet sounded, its sound coming as if from the heavens rather than the camp of the Valar and spreading out all across the lands of Middle-earth.  Its wordless tones spoke deep into the hearts of all the firstborn, offering forgiveness to those of the banned who would repent, and an invitation to return to their homes in the West.  To the others of the firstborn it called them to come and see the land the Valar had prepared for them, to come and be healed of their sorrow and weariness.  Where the hearkening call met hesitation, in the hearts of those who were still tied to the lands they loved, a patient promise was made: that the way would remain open to them until they were ready to come.

To the Secondborn the trumpet spoke a mighty promise: that they were not forgotten.  The Valar themselves would prepare a home for them, away from the cares and sorrows of Middle-earth.

Elrond and Elros heard both calls.

* * *

As the lands of Beleriand continued to rumble and shake, the mountains were broken apart and the rivers were thrown from their banks.  Great fissures formed in the earth, and then mighty floods filled the gaps.  Eönwë sent word to Gil-Galad to move his troops to a location near the Camp of the Valar, an area they would protect from harm until all were ready to depart.  The Men and Elves worried for their families, but had comfort that the years of preparation would help to spare them.

Elrond helped to oversee the transportation of the injured, and they made their way carefully to the high land where the Valar camped.  They were some of the last to arrive, the uninjured warriors having gone ahead to prepare the way for them.  It seemed to Elrond that an air of excitement hung over the camp

“What is the cause of the excitement?” Elrond asked as he settled his packs in his tent.

“The Silmarilli from the crown of Morgoth were recovered, and are in the tent of Eönwë,” answered Gil-Galad.  His brow furrowed, and he turned to Elrond.  “The elves of Aman believe the Two Trees might be able to be restored from the light kept within the jewels, that the light of the Trees will once again shine in Valinor.”

“Is such a thing possible?” asked Elrond.

“I do not know.” Gil-Galad paused, then changed the subject. “Our scouts have reported a party of elves coming from the east. They bear the colors of the Noldor.”

Elrond sat on the edge of his cot, old memories tugging at his mind.  “Maedhros and Maglor, and their people?”

Gil-Galad nodded.

“They will be within reach of the Silmarilli,” said Elrond softly.  A fuzzy picture formed in his mind, and the memory of fear accompanied the image of Maedhros, while ambivalence floated about the image of Maglor.  They had destroyed Doriath, and killed his grandparents and uncles.  They had destroyed Sirion and take him and Elros captive after driving their mother into the sea. All for an oath, all to recover the Silmarilli.  A sense of foreboding rose in Elrond’s mind. They would not attempt to take them from the Valar, he thought.  Would they?

* * *

 The exiled Noldor elves passed just south of Gil-Galad’s encampment, cutting within sight of Gil-Galad’s tent as they followed the path that led to the camp of the Valar.  Many of Gil-Galad’s warriors stopped to watch them pass, and all kept a hand on the hilt of their swords. Tension weighed heavy in the air, and murmurs of ‘kinslayer’ were heard occasionally as the survivors of Doriath and Sirion recognized elves who had cut down a friend or family member.

Elrond stood near Gil-Galad, but found himself enclosed by Gil-Galad’s guard rather than being counted among them.  Celeborn stood atop a small mound close to the path and watched the column pass, his eyes ablaze and the line of his jaw set in fury. Elrond knew little of Celeborn’s family, but Gil-Galad had told him some had died at the hands of the dwarves and others at the hands of the kinslaying elves.  He had no love for either group, and Elrond was impressed by the restraint Celeborn showed as the elves passed by him.

Near the front of the column rode Maedhros and Maglor, their names whispered with the same contempt as the word ‘kinslayer’.  To Elrond’s surprise, and the surprise of all those present, Maglor halted his horse near Celeborn.  The two stared at each other for several long moments, but the looks were not of hatred or revenge, but of some sort of understanding.  Celeborn finally turned and looked at Elrond, and nodded slightly; and then turned to Elros, who was standing with his men a short distance away, and nodded again.

Maglor’s eyes followed Celeborn’s movements, and Elrond suddenly realized that Celeborn was pointing him and his brother out to Maglor.  Elrond started, as if to move, but Gil-Galad laid a restraining hand on his arm.  Maglor’s gaze settled on Elrond, then moved to Elros and finally returned to Celeborn.  To everyone’s surprise, he bowed to Celeborn and then to Gil-Galad, and then motioned his horse forward again.

Maedhros’ gaze lingered only briefly on Celeborn and then with one sweeping look at all watching him, he followed his brother.

The rest of the column passed swiftly, most of the elves keeping their eyes lowered from those of Gil-Galad’s people, and Elrond sensed a deep regret in many of them. It was not until the last one had passed by that Celeborn left his position atop the mound and walked back to the King’s tent. 

Elrond kept his eyes fixed on Celeborn’s face as Celeborn approached them.  He stopped in front of Elrond, and Elrond wished for a moment that he had Celeborn’s great height, so he did not have to look up at his mentor.  A look of tenderness crossed Celeborn’s face, and he raised one hand to stroke Elrond’s hair, and then leaned down to kiss him on the top of the head.  Without speaking a word, he entered the tent, the tent flap falling closed soundlessly behind him.

The camp had been silent until this time, but now elves and men began to move about and a low murmur of voices arose in discussions about what the kinslayers might be seeking and what their presence might mean.  Elrond stood motionless, however, and was still staring at the closed tent flap when he sensed his brother at his side. Elrond raised his eyebrows and then shrugged in answer to his brother’s unspoken questions.

“Individuals are seldom fully good or fully evil. The same hands that killed innocent elves and held you captive also cared for and protected you, and in the end he was willing to die that you might live,” said Gil-Galad thoughtfully.

“He created the conditions by which we needed his care and protection and sacrifice.  That makes his actions less than noble,” replied Elros with a flash in his eyes.

“Yes, that is true,” answered Gil-Galad. “But I am still grateful for them.”

* * *

Anticipation hung in the air all that afternoon as the camp waited to see if the Noldor elves with Maedhros and Maglor would return.  Eyes glanced west to the camp of the Valar at regular intervals, yet no one walked that return path and no word was heard. Darkness finally settled over the camp and still all was quiet, but the feeling in the air was not of calm.

Elrond finished tending his patients late that evening, and decided to bathe in the nearby stream before sleep claimed him.  The tension still hung palpably in the air, and he was not surprised when the guards on duty insisted on accompanying him. He would have declined the bath to avoid taking them from their duties, but they seemed glad for something to do.  He floated in the cool water, stretching the nearly healed skin on his back as he listened to the soft murmur of their voices. He slipped beneath the surface of the water to rinse the soaproot from his hair and as he surfaced sudden movement on the bank caught his attention.

The guards had risen and one was beckoning to Elrond while the other moved to higher ground to gain better sight of whatever it was that was happening. Elrond moved quickly to the shore, pulling clean clothing over his wet body and wrapping his sword belt around his hips.  Shouts and calls of distress were heard from the direction of the Valar’s camp, and a bright light appeared in the sky over it. 

The guards had signaled to the captain on duty, and Gil-Galad’s forces were roused as well.   Weapons were drawn in face of the unknown threat, and the soldiers spread out.

Elrond remained with the guards in their position just to the north and west of the camp. In the distance he could see the light growing, and then suddenly it was moving toward them.  The sound of hoofbeats grew and then the pounding sound of many horses rushing towards them filled the air. The soldiers blocked the path and filled the clearing near the stream, and moments later the riders rushed into their midst in a blaze of light.

“Daro!” Elrond roared as the riders descended on them.

The horse reared and neighed a warning, its front hooves kicking dangerously near to Elrond’s head.  The multitude of drawn swords reflected the light of the Silmaril in the hands of the rider, and the horse drew back, blinded by the glare.  The second horse tried to edge around the first, stopping only when the slash of a sword blade cut the air within a hairbreadth’s space from its flaring nostrils.

Elrond found himself face to face with Maedhros, whom he had not seen since he was a frightened young child.  He growled his fury as he realized that they had stolen the Silmarilli from the Valar. Maedhros hissed at him, his own sword drawn in return. Elrond caught sight of Maglor then, and he was stunned by the torment in the elf’s face. At the sound of a loud cry Elrond turned to see the guard next to him swing his sword upward, the blade crashing into Maedhros’ blade.

In that same moment a force appeared to the rear, the guard of King Finarfin among them, but they parted as Eönwë came forth.  Gil-Galad had also entered the clearing, and he motioned the guard and Elrond back, choosing to stand before the sons of Fëanor with only his long spear in hand.

The glittering light of the Silmarilli was mesmerizing, sparkling and shining with an ethereal beauty. Silence fell over the clearing, and Eönwë moved to stand before the brothers.  With one hand he motioned to all present to lower their swords and spears.  Elrond was so intent on the scene playing out before them that he was surprised when Gil-Galad pushed his sword down.

“Sons of Fëanor, hearken to me now as you did not in our earlier meeting,” Eönwë spoke in a strong and clear voice. “I repeat to you the words Manwë has spoken: Any right you possessed to the work of your father has perished due to your many and merciless deeds, and most of all for the slaying of Dior, heir of Elu-Thingol of Doriath, and the assault upon the Havens. This night you have slain two of the guard of your own Noldor kin in your greed for the Silmarilli.  Relinquish the jewels, that they might be remanded to the West, and return to Valinor to face the judgment of the Valar.”

Elrond watched in disbelief as Maedhros and Maglor rejected their final opportunity for surrender by lifting their swords.  He instinctively raised his own, and saw flashes of steel all around him. Finarfin’s guard moved in from the rear as Elrond stepped forward with Gil-Galad’s forces. The call of Eönwë’s voice startled him.

“Let them leave!”

Eönwë walked forward, Gil-Galad’s forces parting before him, until a path was open for the sons of Fëanor to escape.  Eönwë stepped to the side beyond the last guard, and with an inarticulate cry the brothers spurred their horses forward and raced from the clearing.

There was silence as the brothers disappeared from sight into the blackness of the night. A great crack of thunder sounded as another fissure opened in the surface of the earth and fire shot into the sky, momentarily illuminating the fleeing brothers one last time.  Then Eönwë turned and strode back into the middle of the clearing.

“Hands that have shed blood in greed to possess the light of the Silmarilli will not be long able to bear the touch of the hallowed jewel upon their flesh. The Silmarilli will soon cease to exist where living flesh may bear them,” predicted Eönwë.  He turned to Gil-Galad. “Sheath your weapons and return to your camp. Hearken to my call and prepare yourselves to depart.” Eönwë then turned to the captain of Finarfin’s guard. “A final kinslaying darkens the hearts of the Noldor.  Come and prepare your dead for burial.”

Eönwë turned and walked back down the path to the camp of the Valar. The Noldor of Aman met the eyes of the forces of Gil-Galad with an understanding they only now could share.  They had long shared a common goal in the fight against Morgoth and the Shadow he cast over their lands; but this greater pain of seeing kin die at the hands of kin in greed bore a deep sorrow into the core of their very being. Silent and grief stricken, they returned to their own camp.

Elrond watched as Elros led his men away, knowing that few among them understood the significance of the Silmarilli or the light contained within them. But Elrond had noted the respect and admiration in Elros’ expression over Eönwë’s words. Elrond found he agreed; killing Maglor and Maedhros would have lowered them to the same shameful actions they despised in the sons of Fëanor.

He watched in silence as all departed back to their tents, knowing few would sleep. He had listened to the excitement of the Men as they talked about what Eönwë’s call meant to them. He had also listened to the elves talk about returning to Valinor.  It seemed that most would go, although some seemed to wish to stay longer. Those discussions would resume, but Elrond wished to be away from it all.  The Men had not heard Eönwë’s call to the Elves and the Elves had not heard Eönwë’s call to the Men.   Yet he and Elros had heard both, but seemed included in neither. Elrond felt distant from both races; as if he were adrift and separated from all he knew. Elrond could not remember a time when he had not felt welcome among the elves. Yet the silence that fell over such discussions when he came near had begun to wear on him.

He waited until he was alone, only the guard standing at his post aware that he had remained behind, before moving to sit on a rock at the edge of the clearing that overlooked the stream.  In the distance he could hear and see the sounds of Beleriand disintegrating; he could even smell the tang of salt water and knew that the sea had pushed up through the earth’s crust.  If the Men had a new land, and the Elves returned to Valinor where mortals could not go, did the Valar then have a special plan for the half-elven? He laughed at himself. Our father flies the skies, our mother lives in a tall tower in wait for him, and our grandfather Dior is dead.  That leaves Elros and me.  I hope we can stand the company of each other until the time of our kind ends.

The bitterness of his own thoughts choked him, and anger at his own morose and self-pitying thoughts rose within him.   He stood and drew his sword, raising it high in the light of the moon, then swung it in a furious arc about him. The desire for physical release was great, and he growled his frustration at parrying with the air.  He thrust again, then turned, feinting with his invisible enemy, when suddenly his sword cracked against metal. His eyes lit up in surprise and then met the eyes of his opponent over their raised swords.  After a slight bow to the other, Elrond thrust and relished the throb in his shoulder as metal met metal with force. For nearly a solid hour they danced, long hair coming loose and a sheen of sweat covering their bodies.  Finally his opponent lowered his sword, and Elrond mirrored the action.  They stared at each other for a long moment, then moved in unison to sit on the cool grass, their backs to the rock.

Elros wrapped his arm about his brother’s shoulder and pulled him back against his chest, folding both arms across Elrond’s chest.  Their cheeks nearly touching, the brothers sat in silent companionship until Anor rose.

* * *

Gil-Galad stood near the guard, silent, as the twins danced and fought themselves into exhaustion.  He could only imagine what was going through their minds, but he had sensed the confusion in them both as the plans of Men and Elves were discussed.  He turned his head to the camp of the Valar, wondering if they had forgotten about the peredhel in all the plans they had to make.  They were two young half-elves, without direct family to advocate on their behalf.  Come morning, he decided, he would speak to Finarfin and they would plead the case of the peredhel. A slight fear rose in him, however, as to what the case was they would plead.

None saw the single tear that slipped down his cheek.

* * * * *

Author’s notes:  The descriptions of the battles are based on the Silmarillion, The Voyage of Eärendil – in what I think are some of the most moving passages of the entire book.  Eönwë’s words to Maglor and Maedhros are paraphrased directly from what Tolkien wrote was said.  If you read nothing else, read that chapter.  :D

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