Disclaimers: Elrond is mine … all mine. I keep him in the cupboard for nefarious purposes. Well, he would be if Tolkien and his estate, and New Line hadn't got there first. As it is, I own nothing. Literally, nothing.
However, Hugo Weaving *thud* as Tick from Priscilla has taken up residence in my head *giggles and does a very silly dance*
Summary: AU. All is lost when the Ring falls into Sauron's hands. But, as darkness engulfs Middle-earth, one elven warrior refuses to choose safety in Valinor. Elrond will not leave the Hither Lands to their fate. Angst, angst, and more angst. A little tiny pinch of Elrond/Celebrian for seasoning.
Rating: PG-13 because this computer is as slow as continental drift, and I don't really fancy having to repost this. So it's probably not PG-13, but just in case.
A/N: The parts in italics are Elrond's memories, just to make it clearer.
A harsh, sulphur-laden wind stormed across the land, blasting everything in its path. The undersides of the tangled clouds were lit with a furious blood red from the myriad fires which burnt ancient woods and homesteads.
In this ghastly light, under a sky which spoke of a terrible doom, living creatures fled hither and thither, desperately seeking sanctuary where there was none. Frightened beasts bellowed in pain as scorching cinders fell from the fiery besmirched heavens. Children screamed out, fearing the twisted shadows which stole their world from them. Amid all this, bands of orcs rampaged, voices hoarse with foul joy, scenting blood and victory. And, in the East, a flickering red eye hung low on the horizon.
As the hellish wind howled across the waste, which only weeks before had been fertile fields, it whipped the hair of a solitary figure standing on a high bluff overlooking the Havens. The cloaked Elf stared grimly at the Gulf of Lune down which drifted the last ships of his people bound for Aman. Aboard these fragile vessels, all of the Firstborn who could forsook the land which had nurtured them for long millennia, escaping back into the bosom of the Valar, to peace beyond the conflicts of Middle-earth.
And he could not – would not – go within them. He would remain in the lands of his birth, fighting the all-encompassing corrupting darkness with the last ounce of his flickering spirit.
Elrond Peredhil scarcely noticed the noxious wind which buffeted him in that high place, but he reached up one elegant hand to brush an ebony strand of hair away from his pale cheek. His gaze remained fixed on the West.
"I wish I could return to you, meleth-nîn," he murmured. "My Celebrían, I wish I could sail into that fair harbour, and see your beloved face in the crowd, that I might leave this destitute land for the joy of the Blessed Realm."
Yet, the Half-elven would not leave Middle-earth to this despair. Just as his parents had carried the Silmaril into the West, and begged for leniancy and the help of the Valar, so Elrond would stay to fight for the Free Peoples.
Elrond had thought he had known fear when Gil-galad had fallen under the hand of Sauron, but that paled in the face of the abyss which confronted him now. All was plunged into gloom.
Tears trickled from the luminous eyes as Elrond contemplated the fate of the world which he had protected for so long. Frodo Baggins was dead, or worse, and the One Ring had fallen into the hands of the creature from whom they had striven to withhold it forever.
"Why?" he screamed into the gale, abandoning for once his famous composure. He wished that there might be an answer, that the inscrutable Ilúvatar himself might respond to a plea for peace, as he had never done before. But no reply came, apart from a low cry of agony, borne on the wind from afar.
His voice fell, and, barely audible, the Lord of Imladris whispered into the teeth of the gale, "So it has come to this, that the broken must fight, and I must go once more into battle, with no hope of victory.
His mind drifted back to that awful night so short a time before.
All day, a dull sense of foreboding had been growing in the back of his mind, shadowing his thoughts and blunting his wits.
Escaping the crowds thronging the Hall of Fire, he wandered aimlessly onto a balcony overlooking the path eastwards into the Misty Mountains. He tried to blot out the nervous whirl of his thoughts. Although a relentless niggling remained, Elrond managed at least to balm his mind and body with the comforting sounds of the night.
Abruptly, his concentration was ripped from such things. Elrond knew with horrifying certainty that something was terribly, appallingly wrong. Tingling, stinging pains crawled up and down his right arm. He wondered if this was what it felt like when a mortal's heart failed. For an instant, his thoughts flickered to Elros.
Then, with a momentarily blinding glare, a great cloud of ash, and fire, and dust arose in the south-eastern sky, boiling and billowing outwards with a furious speed. Before it ran a wind which carried the stench of death, of putrefying flesh to his nostrils. In a heartbeat, during which Elrond imagined himself transported back three thousand years to the Dagorlad, the odour of Mordor engulfed fair Imladris. In the halls below, the assembled mass gasped in fear and confusion.
As Elrond swayed against the stone balcony, struggling to keep himself upright under the twin assault of dread and disgust, a livid eye of fire blossomed in his mind, piercing his soul. A great stab of agony shot down his arm to Vilya, glowing ominously on his hand. Panting, Elrond grabbed the ring and wrenched it from his finger, only just curbing the desire to cast it as far away as possible.
A hand descended on Elrond's shoulder as he pondered the tiny object in his palm. He spun around, reaching for a weapon he no longer wore, only to find Glorfindel staring at him with lines of worry etched upon his face.
The golden-haired Elf simply said, "That was from Mordor, was it not?"
"Aye," replied Elrond, running the hand which did not clutch Vilya across his face. "Sauron has the One Ring. I have felt it. The quest of the Fellowship has failed."
With a burst of clarity, Elrond realised the full consequences of this catastrophe, and, finally, his legs gave way under him. The Lord of Imladris slumped to the cold stone, shaking uncontrollably. Glorfindel crouched down beside him, urgently grasping one of the Peredhel's shoulders.
When Elrond looked up, his friend could see the tears flowing freely down his cheeks, shining in the light of the lanterns.
"They are gone. They are gone. Dear Eru, how can I bear this? How dare I expect Celebrían to bear this?" he muttered sadly, heartbreak clearly delineated in his fine features. "I let them go, and now they are lost to me. Nothing near to Mordor could have survived that … that ... And my three sons stood at its gates. I see that Middle-earth will consume all that I love, and I shall be bereft." A great sob wracked him.
Wordlessly, Glorfindel stroked his friend's shoulder, not needing, or daring, to mention the obvious: that, overwhelmed by this triple blow, Arwen Undómiel would in all likelihood soon follow Aragorn, and pass beyond the circles of Arda.
Gradually, the paroxyms subsided, and the Elven Lord scrambled to his feet. Rising more sedately to stand by his side, Glorfindel met the other's eyes. What he saw in those grey depths made him shiver: a look of resolute despair, and steadfast, implacable immovability in revenge, which Glorfindel had only seen twice before: when Gil-galad fell, and when the news of Celebrían's capture reached Rivendell.
"We will wait here as long as we can, gauging the course which affairs will take, and then we will lead such of our people as we can gather to the Havens." Each of Elrond's syllables echoed hollowly. "I shall find volunteers to attempt to journey to Mirkwood and Lothlórien. The Elves will take passage out of Middle-earth."
A melancholy shudder convulsed Elrond's body as he contemplated his bitter memories of that time of sorrowful waiting. Only too vividly, he remembered the confrontation with Arwen, both of them too immersed in inconsolable grief to argue over her choice.
Elrond stood before his desk, his head bowed, tracing the pattern of the tiles with one foot. The new grief which he had already perceived to be inevitable consumed his mind.
Thus, he was surprised to find that Arwen had crossed the chamber to stand before him, her dark tresses, so much like his own, framing her pallid face.
Gazing deeply into his eyes, Arwen declared, "You do not mean to leave Middle-earth either. You will stay."
"Yes." He fidgeted agitatedly with the embroidered cuff of his robe. "But when this chaos takes me, I shall go to Mandos, and not to the doom of Men."
"Adar, you know that matters not to me."
"Aye," the Peredhel sighed, finally acknowledging what he had known yet denied for so long. "If I followed my heart, I would never have left your mother's side; I would sail into the West to join her, and pay no further attention to these sorrowful lands."
"But then you would not be the man she fell in love with."
Elrond smiled weakly.
"Sometimes I feel that the last few days are surely an eternity which severs me from who I once was." Elrond held up one hand to forestall Arwen's outburst. "Nevertheless, I shall tarry in Middle-earth until it takes my very life. I cannot abandon the Free Peoples and sail away into the safety of Valinor, regardless of how much I urge others to do so. I am one of the Peredhil, and I would not leave my duty to the kin if Beren and Tuor undone."
Arwen hugged him gently, and kissed his cheek, before turning and slipping out of the library.
The next morning, Elrond had led the column from Imladris, dressed in sombre green and black, with a sword at his side, and Vilya weighing heavy and baleful on a chain around his neck.
Now, the folk who had followed him were sailing further and further out into the Sundering Seas, where he could not yet accompany them, not in this life.
Elrond shifted his gaze inland, at the drifting filth and acrid pools. A few tears dampened his pale face as he cried again for the sullied earth, for both the peoples to which he was allied through blood, and for the whole wretched existence of the lands which he loved as much as life itself.
In the foulest terms which the languages of the Free Peoples possessed, he cursed Sauron and all his followers for the destruction of all that had been beautiful and pure.
Then, for one last time, Elrond turned his eyes to the turbulent waters of the Sundering Seas. Obliviously, he peered into the far distance, beyond the point where fast-darkening sky met grey sea, beyond the curve of the world, out beyond the boundaries of sight to where Valinor lay.
Almost as a benediction, Elrond whispered, "Namarie, meleth-nîn. Namarie, until I return from the Halls of Mandos." His voice broke. "Forgive me, and keep me in your heart, Celebrían."
With sudden vigour, Lord Elrond turned on his heel, and marched back down the hill, back towards the turmoil and panic of Middle-earth, determined to tread a course to Mordor itself if needs be, to struggle against the rising tide while he remained in these lands.
In the night sky, one solitary point of light broke through the clouds of Mordor. Earendil's star, Gil-Estel, burnished the sword which Elrond held aloft, while his defiant cry rang in the fetid air.
Gil-Estel: Star of Hope, I believe (same thing as Earendil's star: Earendil bearing the Silmaril).
May all flamers grow upside down with their heads in the ground and their feet in the air like onions. Positive reviews are like finding Elrond on your doorstep.