|* Disclaimer: Turgon, Fingon, Hurin, and the Nirnaeth are all property of the J.R.R. Tolkien estate and I have no permission to use them. *|
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Minutes were long in the Nirnaeth Arnoediad. They were long for during battle any minute could end a life, could extinguish thousands of years of pre-existence with single thrust of steel.
They were long, and they were dark, for the Orcs and their Wargs, the trolls and the demons advanced with night, blackening the sky with smoke from their fires, thickening the air with their foul, curling stench. None heard the song of night-bird or day-fowl in those endless hours, unless it were an Elf who at last could stand the bloodshed no longer and turned his mind to the dreamworld, sealing himself off from the doom that he chose.
With high screams and heavy swords the tides advanced, swelled, crashed. Who could tell Man from goblin, Elf from Orc? For all dripped with blood, stank of filth, faded grey with the weariness of war. Sword to sword, spear to shield, club to skull and arrow to heart they fought. Some wept at the carnage, others fed on it, and still others knew not what occurred around them, their minds estranged in horror, in grief, in pain.
At the western front fought Turgon, son of Fingolfin, lord of the Hidden Kingdom of Gondolin. White shone his sword Glamdring as he raised it above his head and drove it into the belly of the great troll that assaulted him. The troll lurched forward, it's massive arm swinging a chain toward the elf-lord's head. Turgon leapt back, but long hours of battle aided him not, and his feet stumbled with the clumsiness of fatigue. The chain clipped his skull; and though his head was protected by a steel helmet, dazed he fell even as the troll did, the dead atop the living.
A moment he took to close his eyes, to gasp for breath, and in that moment his muscles froze from their constant tremor, his knees seizing up and hands locked in a grip upon the hilt of his sword. His flesh waxy with sweat, Turgon's mind flew from the battlefield.
The white walls of Tirion shining high upon the hill of Túna, a noble crown for a kingly brow. Paved streets which as sturdy white arms that held the city, the Tower of Ingwë and its silver lamp a bright eye to watch all.
Elenwë as she stood on the terrace of their home, basking in the mingled light of Aman, eyes turned to the hazy gold and silver brilliance of the Two Trees while playfully, her arms stretched above her to the stars. Oh, how she loved that light, any light, and all things of warmth and brightness. How she would go to the gardens and fill her arms with blossoms yellow and white, and she would toss them into air and stand and laugh as the twinkling petals rained down atop her.
Little Idril when they first took her to the shore, how she kicked free of her shoes and put them on never again, delighting in the smooth grains of sand beneath her feet, springing upon the lapping waves as though she wished to ride on them. She had put her ear to the water, wetting the golden hair that was the joy of her mother, and looking up said, "I hear him, Atarinya; I hear his voice, and it is beautiful."
Aredhel as she rode when she was alive and young, racing upon a tall horse over the vast plains of Valinor, relishing the freedom of her will and strength. Fingon--
Turgon ground his teeth and battle slapped against his face. His eyes opened to shadowed morning sky, to streaks of fire which arched from the gaping mouths of the Great Worms, to red and black blood which stained the sand, the earth, his clothes and his hands. He laboured out from beneath the troll, his hands grasping uselessly at torn earth which gave him no purchase. At last he stood to his feet with sword in hand, and he turned and sought the face which had fought beside him.
But there was a great circle of trolls such as the one he slew, and with fierce clubs and chains they beat the Eldar and the Edain alike so that their bodies littered the ground, mortal and immortal blood inseparable in bleak crimson pools. But Turgon dove forward, driven by desperation for hope, a hope real and tangible.
"Fingon!" he called his brother, his voice hoarse and faltering, and he feared that it would not be heard above the roaring, the screaming, the burning. Before he could reach the ring of Trolls, an Orc waylaid him, its mouth raw with blood, eyes gleaming fear and loathing as it thrust a black spear toward his neck.
But new strength surged through Turgon's limbs and with a single deadly swipe he slew the Orc, for above the uproar of the slaughter he heard a voice call. It came from not far away, and yet the sound of it was quiet and distant.
"I am here, my brother."
Fingon who is called the Valiant, eldest son of Fingolfin and High-King of the Noldor, stood in a wide stance, his chest heaving with a breath that ached in his lungs. His arms gripped fast his sword and he looked about him without hope. Yet he did not despair, for such was he that the acceptance of a certainty gave him greater determination, a will that could not be mastered, fatal in its grimness.
Within the ring of Trolls that formed his bodyguard, Gothmog the Lord of Balrogs advanced toward the Elf-King. As a great beast shaped of darkness was he, cloaking a fire-heart which flamed in his eyes and nostrils. In his shadow hand he wielded a great black axe-- perhaps, the thought flurried in Fingon's mind, it was the axe that slew Fëanor his uncle, the first high-king on Middle-Earth.
Fingon wet his parched lips, digging his heels firmly into the ground and raising his sword in defence. "Pull back," he called to the Elves which made up his guard, who had automatically spread out in front of him. "Do not let him defeat us one by one! We must face him together."
The command came too late. With a cry, the farthest of the soldiers folded under Gothmog's axe, his own sword striking uselessly against the handle.
Another-- his friend or brother, no doubt-- rushed madly for Gothmog from the other direction, crying out to Elbereth to give him the strength to save his king.
Fingon gathered the remaining guards around him in a loose phalanx and they moved as one toward the Balrog, weapons and shields raised, distraught emotions held in check by the composure of their leader. As they approached they spread into a single line, facing the fire-demon.
It was then that the Wargs attacked.
Though the attackers were likewise slain, Fingon's entire guard fell around him. Madly he dashed among them, only to reach one as another fell, until it came down at last to a choice of saving himself or the last guard.
And Fingon hesitated, for Gothmog still lived.
The last soldier was slain.
So the High-King stood by himself, his sword-point touching the dust, his chin lowered as Gothmog came toward him, the ground trembling with the Balrog's approach. Fingon lifted his chin and met the demon's gaze, his mind grasping frantically for direction, for purpose, to still the whirlwind of colour, taste, nausea, smell.
"My father fought your master," he cried aloud, only to gain a focus.
And lost, the thought flickered unbidden in his mind.
Yet he still fought, and wounded him.
Yet you are not your father.
The whirlwind returned and Fingon set his teeth. And as the Balrog stood at last before him, axe raising, Fingon looked into the red-gold fire flickering in the demon's eyes and his thoughts fell abruptly into perfect order.
The russet head of Maedhros, gleaming in the sunlight as he rode beneath the banner of the sons of Fëanor. The same copper head, duller and bloodied as he hung by his wrist from the heights of the Thangorodrim, his weak voice still raising in song. How he pleaded with Fingon to slay him and to escape, to save himself. His head lolling unconscious against Fingon's breast as the great eagle Thorondor carried them to safety, his one remaining hand clutching his cousin's in desperate gratitude, in love.
Fingon's eyes opened and he was alone, a single slight figure facing the Lord of Balrogs.
He opened his mouth for a last battle-cry. "Turgon," he cried instead, a plea pitching his voice harder, higher.
Gothmog struck and Fingon darted aside, slamming his sword to catch the blow. And so they battled, Lord of Balrogs and King of Elves, sword and axe each striking naught but the other.
The breath was sucked from Fingon as suddenly a fiery whip lashed around his stomach from behind, holding him fast. Fingon's eyes turned up in anguish as Gothmog swung his axe.
Yet the answer came. "I am here, my brother," and at the last, Fingon smiled.
Turgon fought the minions of Morgoth, and though Hurin was near to him always the two of them were very nearly overwhelmed, for the numbers of the enemy were trice greater and their chance for victory the same. As he blocked and stabbed and slashed Turgon's mind no longer dwelt in Tirion, to which he could not return, nor with Elenwë, who was dead, nor with Idril, the little child he loved.
Turgon ducked a thrown goblin-spear, lunging forward and cutting the creature's feet out from under him. His eyes stung from the acrid, smoke-hung air and hurriedly he swiped them with a grimy sleeve, shield thrown up to guard his face. Climbing again to his feet, he found Hurin Thalion the mortal, his friend who had dwelt a year with him. But even he was sundered from him, locked in contest with a Troll, and Turgon could not reach him for the enemies which lay between them.
Vainly his eyes sought for the helm of his brother, beyond the trolls from whence came his voice, but he saw naught save the great blackness of the Balrog who crushed soldiers without flinch. Turgon gathered himself, whirling around as the claws of a Warg made gashes in his armour. To the ground he fell, wrestling with the snarling wolf, jamming his gauntleted elbow into the Warg's throat to keep the teeth from his face as he raised his sword and stabbed the beast.
Heaving the body off his chest, Turgon raised and took in the tumult stretched across the battlefield. In waves the soldiers of the Eldar and the Edain fell, and washed aside by an ocean of blood.
"Fingon!" he shouted for his brother, a shout of grief, loud and trembling.
And as he waited for an answer, Turgon wept.
Yet as the sun began to break through the clouds and the smoke, his heart was lifted for hope, real hope lived on. Far away Idril his daughter waited for him, in his City, in his Kingdom. In the Rock of the Music of Water, the City of Stone, the Secret Place, the Lily of the Plain. Fair Tirion wrought again. Gondolin: his own.
Not again would they be parted, he and his City.
And it was so that he lived through what was to him the longest and darkest minute of the Nirnaeth Arnoediad.
There came no answer from Fingon.