The Chronicles and Legacies of the Last Alliance
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Part I: Shards
Nestled deep within the craggy slopes and peaks of Emyn Muil was a sparse spangling of light. The light was hushed, muffled, furtive for fear of discovery. Behind the tautly drawn animal hides that served to dull the flickering torches to the black night, hushed words were spoken, or replaced by silent glances. All, even the resting, were alert. On the other side of the thin, stretched veneers, the night quivered, as if silently plotting fell deeds.
In this camp were many emblems, a forest prickling with flags and banners from three corners of the earth. Moonlight shone upon this manifestation of many against one, of the union of North, South, and West against the shadowy East. This unification of races and cultures would be the final arrow of war, the last, desperate stab at Mordor’s dark heart. This was the Last Alliance.
In a central, larger tent sat half of the Alliance’s leadership, ruler of Lindon, the mightiest of the remaining elvish kingdoms. Gil-galad, son of Fingon, pored lazily over the scant maps and diagrams that he possessed that would give him a greater knowledge of the geography of the Land of Shadow. Atop his head was an intertwining crown wrought of gold and mithril silver, curling together into a floral motif in the center, set with a large stone of adamant. Upon his right forefinger, of course, was Vilya. The great sapphire winked in the torchlight as he shifted the diagrams. Some were elaborately decorated by the careful hands of elves, some hastily scrawled by the trembling fingers of human sentries. As he read and reread what was set upon the table before him, Gil-galad was struck with just how little light had pierced the Black Gates of the Dark Land, for whether inscribed by elf or Man, the maps were vague and contradictory. Few had seen those parched plains and lived.
One other thing that was hidden from the Last Alliance was the state of Sauron’s armies. The assaults upon opposing kingdoms had been taxing, even the impassive Lidless Eye betrayed that fact. Slowly the strains of Orcs were decaying, the grunts of depravity and Orkish obscenities fading into silence. If only more time was to be had, gradual infighting might destroy the brutes, but no: the dark army was on the move, and a counterstrike was the only option.
Gil-galad’s bejeweled right hand traced once again the path that they would take. Now encamped in the wastes of Emyn Muil, they would slip through the marshes of Nindalf, skirting northern Ithilien and approaching Mordor from the north. The finger bearing the Vilya slid down, ominously. Though mere scratchings of ink upon parchment, there was a sinister weightiness about them. Fatefully, Gil-galad’s forefinger came to rest upon Morannon, the Black Gate.
The Morannon had been seen often enough, by elvish, mannish, and even Dwarvish sentinels. The elven-king frowned slightly. Sometimes, he thought, seen from the inside. Long had many of the corrupt human tribes been in the service of the Dark One. Many dozens of Easterling bodies recovered from the battlefields surrounding Osgiliath had borne the symbol of the Red Eye, usually carved or painted onto helmet or shield.
Casting his storm-blue eyes to the richly decorated roof of the tent, held aloft by a subtle interweaving of wooden supports, he spoke into the emptiness. “Sauron,” he murmured. “Gorthaur. Lord of the Rings. You have been called by many names since you bore your dark powers to Angbad. But, for all those words, canst thou now see me? Can the Lidless Eye not penetrate even the thin walls of this dwelling?” No answer came.
After an interval, Gil-galad returned to tracing the steps that the army would take. His finger roved down through the Morannon, and covered many miles in moments. Flying across a stretch of cratered plateau, it came to rest upon Orodruin, better known as Mount Doom. As his fingertip brushed the red circle meant to represent the cone of the mountain, Gil-galad’s entire hand seemed to burst into invisible flame. Gasping in shock, he drew back, his hand searing and tingling from contact with some unknown power. Twisting with agony, Gil-galad slumped from his seat and fell upon the rocky, exposed ground. Now beneath the torches, he managed to wrench off Vilya, which pinged and caught in a shadowy crevice.
Gil-galad stared at his hand. No injury was there, no gash or mark of scorching. Yet, he had felt it. Retrieving Vilya from the ground, he cleansed the dust from it’s golden band with his robe, and set it upon the table next to the map of Mordor. Gazing at the simple red circle, foreboding filled him, and even inside the heavy robe a chill of icy fear washed through his veins. The elven-king knew that the Great Eye had just passed over him. Sauron was contacting him.
Vilya, the Ring of air, sat innocuously atop the creamy parchment. Gil-galad had studied it many times before. A simple, intertwining design flowed toward the center of the Ring, upon which a great sapphire was set. The stone itself was perfectly smooth, like a drop of mournful blue rain from Valinor itself. The Ring was forged by the great elven-smith, Celebrimbor of Eregion. Despite Sauron’s deception, Celebrimbor had managed to conceal the elvish Rings and erase all influence between them and the One Ring, forged by the Dark Lord in the fires of Orodruin. Since then, the three bearers of the elvish Rings had not been troubled by his dark machinations. But what if…
Gil-galad ran his finger along the edge of the Ring, and felt a subtle electric thrill run through him. This close to Mordor, he thought, perhaps even the Hand of Silver could not hide a Ring of Power from the Dark Lord’s sight. Though it’s presence would have aided him greatly in the battle to come, Gil-galad knew that he must not put it on. He could not risk having the army of the Last Alliance found by Sauron due to his own imprudence. The air still crackling with the dissipating energy produced by his encounter, the elven-king slipped Vilya into a folded pocket of his robe.
As he was doing this, the door of the tent flapped open, and Elrond entered. Elrond was commander of several legions of elvish warriors and Gil-galad’s personal aide. Even now, he was clad in battle-armor inscribed with flowing elvish script. His hand was ever-poised at the hilt of his sword.
“Aaye, Haran Gil-galad,” Elrond saluted hurriedly in the tongue of elves.
Gil-galad responded promptly, hoping that his dismay had faded from visibility. “Aaye, Nikerym Elrond. What news?”
Elrond’s gray eyes were calculating, his mind and tongue sharp and swift. Now, he cast aside all ceremonial shows of respect and delivered his report with precision.
“Two sentries have reported seeing movement in the wastes. One was attacked, but he has no memory of his foe. I await your judgement.”
Gil-galad had now all but forgotten the incident with Vilya. “Might there not be wild tribes of men dwelling here? Or do you mean to tell me that a patrol of orcs flanks us?”
Elrond’s voice was grim. “Neither, my lord. You must see.” Beckoning to the open door, two elves in light battle armor entered. One was tall and dark with an aquiline nose. In his arms was slumped a shorter one with flowing blond hair. The blond sentry was trembling violently, and droplets of sweat were pouring furiously down his face. From his chest protruded a shard of some dull black material, jagged and barbed in places.
Gil-galad’s eyes widened in recognition. He turned to Elrond, who nodded in silent confirmation.
“Two at least. In this darkness, there’s no telling,” answered Elrond. The wounded elf let out a feeble cough. Elrond turned back to Gil-galad. “Rumìl must be healed. Are you ready?”
Gil-galad paused, fingering the icy band in his pocket. The shard of a blade of Barad-dûr had lodged in Rumìl’s chest. Even if every splinter were removed, the elf would fade into an eternity of torment. Only the bearer of Vilya could bring salvation to the suffering Rumìl. Elrond looked with concern at his king, at the blue eyes clouding with doubt.
“Is there something amiss, my lord?”
Gil-galad’s lips twitched, but he could not speak. Grasping at a desperate hope, he drew the shining circlet of gold from his robe and held it toward Elrond.
Elrond gaped at Vilya, sitting centered in Gil-galad’s palm, the shining sapphire turned outward. “Do you offer Vilya to me?”
Hesitantly, the elven-king spoke. “The Hand of Silver cannot shield all wanderers, when they draw near to the Land of Shadow.”
Elrond glanced quickly down at the gasping, pallid Rumìl, and then turned back to Gil-galad. “Celebrimbor has failed? Has Sauron dominion now over even the Three?”
Gil-galad shook his head. Still perched in his hand, the Ring sat and gleamed. “I felt Sauron’s gaze brush by me, but would he suspect that a Ringbearer might voluntarily relinquish his Ring?”
Elrond considered this. “True. The Great Eye, for all it’s vastness, is so often blind to the workings of it’s foes.” Slowly, Elrond grasped the Ring. It was the first time that he had touched the prized artifact. It was also the last time that Gil-galad’s hand would bear the Ring.
While the two sentries looked on in wonderment, Elrond slipped his finger through the opening of the Ring. No fire came, no pain wracked him. At last, the Ring slid to a stop.
The only sounds were Rumìl’s choked gasps as Elrond knelt before him. Elrond tore a length of cloth from his cloak and used it to dab away at the sweat on the wounded soldier’s forehead. The eyes of the wheezing face stared out. Clouded a dark red they were, and almost sightless.
Elrond’s hands gripped tightly at the fragment of the Morgul knife. There was a grating sound like that of a wounded beast as the radiant and metallic surface of the Ring scraped against the fell steel of the shard. Elrond clenched his teeth and with a mighty effort drew the viciously curved length of blademetal from the wound. Bright elven blood stained it’s length.
Exposed to the torchlight, the blade disintegrated into a black haze which swiftly dissipated. Not knowing what else to do, Elrond pressed his hand against Rumìl’s bleeding breast. As his eyes closed in a silent prayer to the Valar, a subtle warmth oozed from Vilya, spreading throughout Elrond’s hand. He did not open his eyes until the glowing heat had subsided.
Standing once more, Elrond turned to the king for further orders, but halted. Tears were slipping down Gil-galad’s cheeks. Rumìl’s grievous wound had healed, and never before had Vilya restored such a seriously injured man so quickly to health. And so Sauron, in his treachery, had defeated only his own designs. Elrond was now truly Vilya’s new bearer.
Before any of the four could speak, a resounding shriek cut the air. Voices cried out, and the encampment was no longer covert. Shouts were heard in the tongues of elves and men. As quick as an arrow of Lórien, Elrond had drawn his blade and dashed from the tent. Rumìl was already shaking off the torpor of the Morgul wound and getting to his feet. The other sentry, seeing that his companion had recovered, sped also from the tent. Gil-galad, meanwhile, had made his way to a corner of the tent, and Rumìl caught a last glimpse of his king before entering a skirmish that would ultimately mean death. His last brush with the elven-king before the end: Gil-galad, his silvery hair flowing like flame around his noble brow, clad in full elvish battle armor. His blue eyes glittered, and in his hand he bore Aeglos, the sacred spear of elven ice. It’s fluted shaft shone and rang as it was drawn through the air, and it exuded a chill aura. Nodding his crowned head, Gil-galad dispatched Rumìl to battle.
The camp was in chaos. Gil-galad emerged to see Rumìl making his way through a heaving mass of panicked men. Men everywhere, thought Gil-galad. Their hair was lank and greasy from weeks of travel, their faces pale and unshaven, their hands quivering as they hastily strapped on armor bearing the symbol of the White Tree or the Seven Stars. So alike, thought Gil-galad as he strode toward the sounds of the skirmish, and yet so different. One man, wearing only an unarmored traveling outfit and iron helmet, was running in circles, screaming, “Nazgûl! Nazgûl!” at the top of his lungs. Calmly, Gil-galad approached him and dealt him a glancing blow to the temple with the dull side of Aeglos’s blade. Unconscious, he slumped to the ground. The king walked on.
Elrond felt the dry, putrid earth of Amon Lhaw force itself into his eyes and nose as he fell to the ground. A raiding party of orcs had been shadowing them for hours--and had now decided to attack. The Nazgûl were nowhere to be seen.
The warrior looked up from the rocky soil and into the yellow eyes of a black-skinned uruk. Swiftly, he plunged his elven-blade through a weak spot in the beast’s armor, impaling him. With a shriek and a gush of black blood, the orc slumped and died. Elrond rose and saw that the space between the orc’s armor plates that he had slid his sword through could not have been more than an inch. Had fate or instinct directed him? Neither, he decided, and let Vilya direct his hand to another kill.
“Elrond!” cried a youthful voice from behind him. He turned, to find that he had caught the eye of a second orc, which was bounding across the hilly terrain toward him. Swinging his blackened sword, he caught the orc in mid-stride. With a wet thunk, the blade caught in the creature’s throat, and Elrond was forced to draw it out laterally. Finally disengaged from the spurting orkish corpse, Elrond turned to answer the call. Standing not feet away was Rumìl, brandishing his blade with ferocity.
“Elrond!” he called again, his voice dire. “There are two Nazgûl! There, on the rise!”
Elrond looked up to the craggy outcropping of rock, but could see nothing more than boulders silhouetted against the moon. “Tula!” he cried, beckoning to Rumìl. “Khila amin!” The two made their way away from the slaughter and approached the dark slope.
Running, Gil-galad approached the pandemonium of carnage. Already, many dozens of orcs had fallen, and a number of elves and men littered the ground. The Númenoreans, it seemed, were finally getting themselves together, quelling the hysteria and arming themselves against the advancing threat. Plunging into the fray, Gil-galad brandished Aeglos and thrust it’s frosty point into the throat of a marauding uruk. As he was drawing the spear out of the creature’s bleeding flesh, a chilling wail sounded once across the battlefield. In a flash, the fighting took on an unreal quality, the howl of death draining the men on the field. In that moment, the band of orcs seemed to have the upper hand. Reminding himself of Aeglos, the spear of ice, he made his way up a shadowy rise, to a small plateau littered with boulders. The sounds of clattering swords made their way to his ears, and he hastened to them.
Rounding an enormous, angular boulder, Gil-galad was confronted by three figures. One was Elrond, sword clasped in his hand, poised for combat. Rumìl, also, was there. The third held a long, sweeping blade of lusterless black metal. He was clad in the colorless armor of Barad-dûr , and vicious barbs sprouted from the plating of his arms and legs. Poised above the collar of his frayed cape was a dark crown, with sickle-like points sprouting at all angles. Below this, however, no head was visible.
The Nazgûl lunged at Rumìl, and he desperately parried. Elrond moved in with a few quick thrusts, and the wraith drew back, almost fearfully. Elrond advanced, holding the swordbearing hand outward, warding off the fell creature with Vilya’s power.
Then, in a flash like dark lightning, the Nazgûl was upon Rumìl, and despite a feebly slow attempt to fend off the attack, the Ringwraith’s barbed limb had drawn itself across his neck, slitting his throat. Gil-galad halted, and watched as Rumìl struggled to stay standing, a trickle of blood flowing from the gash in his neck.
The Nazgûl bent it’s invisible head downward, and held it’s dark sword aloft. “Amin, khiluva lle a’ gurtha ar’thar!” cried Rumìl, as the Ringwraith brought the blade down, severing his head.
The Nazgûl turned, and found itself facing an enraged Gil-galad. Screaming an ancient elvish battle cry, the monarch swung Aeglos at the black-armored torso and felt it pierce the dull metal. With an earsplitting shriek of pain and wrath, the wraith turned and floated into the dark wilderness of scattered stones.
Glancing briefly down at Rumìl’s maimed corpse, Elrond spoke a few words to Gil-galad. Gil-galad was holding the bloodstained shaft of Aeglos at an odd angle, and seemed to be staring into the distance behind the warrior.
Elrond, too, turned to find no less than thirty men of Númenor on horseback behind him. One in dull silver armor dismounted and approached. His long, greasy hair hung lankly over his face, and both elves failed to recognize who he really was. “Gentlemen. I come with aid,” he said in a deep, clear voice. Then, Elrond’s eyes flew to the pommel of his sword, for there was recognizable an inscription: “Telchar made me in Nogrod.” Elrond recognized the sword, and turning, saw that Gil-galad had made the connection, too.
“Elendil of Númenor,” murmured Gil-galad.
Elrond, ever practical, broke in: “Our party has been assailed by Nazgûl and a band of orcs.”
Elendil tensed. “Nazgûl, you say? What is this tale?”
Elrond stared briefly down at the body of his fallen comrade. “A wraith of Barad-dûr . He fled.” He gestured into the rocky darkness.
Drawing the bright, smooth blade from it’s scabbard, Elendil advanced. “Then we have not a moment to lose. Come.”
And thus Elendil, king of Gondor, and Gil-galad, king of Lindon, finally found themselves fighting side-by-side.