Starfall

She had waited long for this day.

She watched as they returned - tired, haggard, pale, the looks on their faces saying they had seen Death and lived. Their weapons were stained and broken, their clothes ragged, they were wounded and wan and pallid, but they were alive, even if they had not yet fully remembered its meaning.

And in the even, when wounds were tended and rests taken, when deeds were done and war was won, he came to her. At first he sat quietly for a while, content merely to enjoy the silence and the cool air, the chirp of nightly birds in the trees outside, and then he talked.

He told her - of a dusty plain beyond the furthest reach of eye, where smoke rose from vents in the ground, where ashes lay on every surface like thick black velvet over a bier. And truly tomb-like the land was indeed, no life or greenery or even water.

He told her - of a mountain that seemed not to stand, but to loom over everything, which spewed fire and belched ash and soot that rained down on all near it.

And he told her of the battle, of the glory and the despair of their armies, of the gleam of armour and the glint of blade, of the wild whipping wind that blew and tossed through the battlefield, and of the Enemy's might - of the Ring that he wore, and of the power that he wielded, seemingly effortless.

He spoke of their desperate courage, then, of Elendil's courage and of Isildur's victory - a bittersweet victory that came not without a price, for Isildur was lost.

He came to the end of his tale, but still he looked as though there was something more to be said, something that in the saying would take a part of him, but yet it could not be ignored.

And she knew.

"What of Gil-galad?" she asked. "What of him?"

He looked at her then, with haunted, old eyes, as though he had seen all of life's weariness and none of its joy, and when he spoke it was halting. He told her of his splendour, and of his glory, and the silver-white shine of his armour and his spear against which none could stand - save the Enemy himself.

He told her of a star-fall, and then he wept, and she held him as he grieved.