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Postcards from Arda by Elleth

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Author's Chapter Notes:

With thanks to GG and the folks at Lizard Council.

Write a story or poem or create a piece of artwork reflecting identification with or connection to one's land, country or culture.

For B2MeM 2011, Day Eight: Clouds Will Clear: After the defeat of Sauron in the Last Alliance, Elrond is left to pick up the pieces. (Mentions of Character Death.)

MEFA 2011 Nominee. Thank you, grey_gazania!

The king's body lay traced as white ash against the black rocks of Mordor, while pieces of armour (one glove, a jewel, the fallen shield) littered the ground where Gil-galad had stood tall against the shadow to the last. Not far, with the grit of ash between his teeth and his mouth parched, Elrond crouched into the gorge a river of fire had burned into the earth, but even cowering against the flash that heralded the king's defeat, he was gathering resolve to rise again. In spite of the leaden weight that threatened to immobilise his limbs, he willed himself to move. It was nearly over, after seven years of siege and a battlefield littered with corpses. They had nearly won.

But his king lay dead, and Elrond knew that Gil-galad's final moments had been tainted with the certainty of failure. Even as flames devoured the king, Elrond had seen the grey eyes widen. I cannot breathe. We have failed. I will follow my father's footsteps even to the end. It fell to him to gather up the slack standard and continue. The blue fabric unfurled around the broken shaft of his banner as he staggered toward level ground. It was the same blue that the king's father and grandfather had borne (and both had met their ends ringed by fire); once a field, now only shreds, of sky - the same sky that must be waiting patiently above the gloom of Mordor.

His feet refused to carry him further toward Isildur, who stood breathing heavily and with a clenched hand over the corpse of Elendil and the ashes (again, again) of Sauron. From the corner of his eye, coming toward the mortal, Elrond saw Círdan pick his way across the battle scene. At least one had survived. Elrond stooped, and his own fingers closed around a jewel on the ground. It had been the centerpiece of his king's crown, a blue diamond of unsurpassed beauty. Scraps of silver, made molten instantly by the heat of Sauron's hand, and then hardened again (for Mordor at night was as bitter as any desert and had merited comparison with Helcaraxë from the oldest members of the host) twisted around it in mockery of former glory. Of Gil-galad, nothing was left but ashes. Aiglos lay broken amid the rocks, and he began collecting the pieces.

Once Elrond had gathered all the debris that could be found in the dark of night (even darker than it would be by day, that came marked only by a brown light casting a sickly glow on all the faces), he began gathering the ashes where the king had struck. He had been blazing like one of Varda's wayward pinpoints, ending with a flash that was not merely normal fire. Although Elrond knew with a certain bitterness that Gil-galad had abhorred Fëanor and his kin for the destruction of Doriath and the Havens of Sirion (while Elrond himself had been fostered by the two remaining sons of Fëanor) his king's end did rival the accounts of the end of Fëanor, glorified in song though they were. He half wondered if the flash of light had not been the king's spirit departing in the same white flame.

"For so fiery was his spirit that as it sped his body fell to ash, and was borne away like smoke," he said softly. There was no wind now to bear Gil-galad's remains away, but nonetheless he took care that his king's ashes did not mingle with the dirt of the ground, and scooped them gently into a piece of cloth. He would leave these to Círdan to return to Lindon, he thought at last as he bore up the silver shield studded with crystal, and returned with slow steps toward the tall figure of Círdan standing by the body of Elendil. Under his breath he began an elegy - not a lament. His king had fought and died bravely, like so many of the Last Alliance, and even though Gil-galad had been king, death had levelled all the fallen soldiers into the same station, but spared Elrond, leaving him standing with the king's heirlooms to bring to Imladris, and a promise given long before this war. Vice-regent.

As Elrond went, lifting his hand in rejection of the mountain and the tower, the clouds were shredded open. A star in the dark expanse beyond blinked once before fumes hid it again, but an unexpected wind stirred the high airs and, as though with a great hand, the whole bank of cloud across Mordor was pushed to the East. Above the miserable land a field of night blue and silver blazed, and from the camp he could hear, faint and ragged, a cheer at the appearance of the stars in all their glory. Light struck the ground, and something compelled Elrond to turn. Splinters of crystal from the fallen king's equipment studded the ground like a mirror of the sky, and Barad-dûr stood ringed in by a host of stars.

Chapter End Notes:

Many thanks especially to GG for her inspiration for Gil-galad, and for the reviewers of 'Decision Point' who prompted part of this story.

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