He sat on a balcony, gazing down at the gardens. A soft breeze still blew, making the russet leaves flutter ; last remnant of his recently gone power. The dying sun spread pools of gold across the grass.

Rags of songs came from below ; praising the Ringbearer and his faithful companions. Songs of war and sorrow, songs of victory for the coming Age.

He heard the sound of footsteps, coming nearer, then ending.

"Why, the lord of Imladris sits alone, while a feast is being held in his House, and all are joyful ?"

The Istari came standing by his side.

"You seem wistful, my friend."

Silence flitted between them, ere Elrond spoke, whispering.

"Why should I be wistful indeed ? Middle-Earth has been saved, for a short while at least...The One Ring has been destroyed, thanks to Frodo. And yet this new age does not bring me much joy."

Gandalf remained silent. Memories flew across Elrond's mind ; the end of one age, the breaking of the three peaks, dark and haughty, haunted by tormented screams ; and three partings - from beloved foster-parents, and from his own reflection, a brother who was more him than he himself was ; the end of another age, the breaking of a dark tower ; and the death of a King, and friend. The end of a third age, the final destruction of a dark land, and...

"What then, Gandalf ? dying ages never brought me joy. What of this one ? I already know that there will be partings, but they no longer trouble me. They sadden me, but I know my son and daughter will be happy, and worthy of pride. But what of this land, this people, when they are gone, and we are gone ?"

Elrond had begun in a whisper, and finished with an anguished cry. Still Gandalf said nothing. Silence. The half-elf spoke again, more quietly.

"Sauron's Ring has been destroyed. But Morgoth's ? what will they do, these Men, my own kin, with this ring that has been left to them ? I fear for them, I fear for this Earth, Gandalf. Sauron's ring was enough of a problem already, but we simply cannot destroy this one..."

A smile suddenly curved the Maia's lips, and he put his hand on Elrond's shoulder.

"It would be sad indeed, to destroy it. There is evil in it, there is evil in all things, and this we cannot deny. But there is good also. Morgoth has not yet won. Do not despair, my friend, and remember : [No theme may be played that hath not its uttermost source in Him, nor can any alter the music in His despite. For he that attempteth this shall prove but His instrument in the devising of things more wonderful, which he himself hath not imagined.]"

The Istari's gaze left Elrond's face, and wandered ; upon the peaks of the Misty Mountains, harsh and unwavering, and yet beautiful, crowned with the whiteness of snow and haze ; upon the gardens of Imladris, that a dying autumn had made coppery and russet, lovely in its sadness ; where elves still walked and sung ; upon Eriador wild and fair ; looking for the Shire, where innocence remained ; for Eryn Lasgalen, made green again, and not dark ; for Arnor, coming forth again from its ashes ; for Gondor, proud kingdom between the Mountains and the Sea...

"Hope remains, Elrond. There may be winter and mountains, dangerous and fell ; and yet ice and snow delight our eyes ; there may be summer and desert, barren and hurtful, but the beauty of the endless dunes of Harad atones for them. There has been evil, yes, there is and there always will be, in the hearts of the Children of Ilúvatar. But there is valour also, and pity, and understanding, and goodness."

Gandalf fell silent. Elrond said nothing, but from the corner of his eye, the Grey Pilgrim could see, in the golden light of evening, the smile that bent his lip, and the sparkle in his grey eyes.

"Do not fear. This is Arda Sahta, and no one can escape the shadow of Morgoth. We are tainted, everyone of us, hroä and fëa, but earth also, and water, and air. No one and nothing can escape it. We are marred. But you have defeated Evil already, and they will defeat it, again."

Silence. Then whisper.

"Hope, Elrond. We will see Arda Healed."

("Melkor 'incarnated' himself (as Morgoth) permanently. He did this so as to control the hroa, the 'flesh' or physical matter, of Arda. He attempted to identify himself with it. A vaster, and more perilous, procedure, though of similar sort to the operations of Sauron with the Rings. Thus, outside the Blessed Realm, all 'matter' was likely to have a 'Melkor ingredient', and those who had bodies, nourished by the hroa of Arda, had as it were a tendency, small or great, towards Melkor : they were none of them wholly free of him in their incarnate form, and their bodies had an effect upon their spirits. [...] The whole of 'Middle-Earth' was Morgoth's Ring, ..." Morgoth's Ring, HoME X, J.R.R Tolkien)

[sentence directly taken from the Silmarillion, Ainulindalë : " And thou, Melkor, shalt see that no theme may be played that hath not its uttermost source in me, nor can any alter the music in my despite. For he that attempteth this shall prove but mine instrument in the devising of things more wonderful, which he himself hath not imagined."]

Arda Sahta : Arda Marred