Thranduil sat back against his elk and considered the expert workmanship of the sword before him. He turned it in his hands admiringly. Despite it’s watery home, it appeared none the worse for wear. In fact – it looked as it would’ve when it’s owner had last held it. An owner he had probably seen, if not met. Certainly they had shared battlefields together, shared losses and survived…for a time.
As his eyes drifted to the river and beyond he remembered that day long past when the runners, triggered by Ohtar and his companion reaching the forest, informed him that Isildur’s army had been ambushed. He had immediately gathered the portion of his army sited in the western glens of Emyn Duir and headed at full speed through the forest to Gladden Fields, unsure what they would find.
The scene that confronted them was nothing but carnage. It seemed all of Isildur’s company of Dúnedain had been slaughtered, along with three of his sons. The local woodmen and elves that had been alerted by Ohtar had rushed to the scene, but only in time to prevent the Orcs from mutilating the bodies. They had found but one survivor – Estelmo, Elendur’s esquire, who had been unconscious under his master’s body.
Sending the majority of his company to search the area for signs of the Orcs, he ordered the rest to begin readying the fallen knights for burial. He wished it was within his power to transport them to their families in Arnor for the burials they would have wanted, but that could not be. Here he could give them honourable soldiers burials, where they would no longer be threatened by Orcs. It was the least he could do and more than many had had in the recent War. So many deaths…too many and yet here there were still more. Would it never be over?
Before the melancholy in his heart could distract him, he went to find Estelmo. The local woodmen had been unable to part him from his master’s lifeless form and when Thranduil found him he was cradling Elendur’s head like a precious object. He resisted the temptation to offer to heal Estelmo’s injuries, knowing that it would be rejected for now. His injuries were his only anchor to what had happened and were all that was preventing his guilt for surviving his master from drowning him. In time the fallacy of that feeling would reduce, leaving just the pain of loss, but not yet.
Sitting by the young man, he placed a companionable hand on his back and carefully coaxed details of the ambush from him, hoping to hear news of Isildur, for they had only found the bodies of his sons. He slowly learnt that the party had left Lorien in high spirits, with hope that they would soon be back in Imladris. They had been about a mile down river from this spot when the orcs had ambushed (and Ohtar dispatched for help), but despite being horribly outnumbered, they had adroitly repelled the attack. Isildur had hoped that the orc withdrawal was an opportunity to escape to better terrain and perhaps no further incursions, but as they reached this location, they were circled and attacked again. After Ciryon’s death and Aratan’s fatal wounding, Isildur’s other son Elendur had pleaded with his father to escape with “his burden”. Somehow Estelmo had missed Isildur’s leaving…he’d seemingly vanished to be replaced briefly by a frightening blazing red star. Without Isildur and the Elendilmir on his brow, the Orc army lost any remaining fear of their enemy and renewed their brutal efforts. For Estelmo all had suddenly gone black until he was found, he had not even seen Elendur fall.
After comforting the distraught esquire as well as he could, Thranduil left him in the capable hands of a couple of his guards. He searched the area for any signs of Isildur’s passing, but the ground was so overturned that even he could not track him. Reports from his soldiers revealed that the orcs had scattered throughout the area, which meant they could only take down the stragglers. Then, when he’d feared they would never know what happened to Isildur, a couple of his Elves returned having discovered the King’s armour, shield and sword upstream. He had taken a search party to that spot and swept all of the surrounding area, but of Isildur and the Elendilmir they could find nothing. Concluding that the river had taken him, they returned to the site of the battle and finished burying the bodies, his Elven soldiers performing the warrior’s rites. When they finished they realised they were shy of the complete number of Isildur’s force, the missing likely also taken by the fast flow of the Anduin. Not one of them would have allowed themselves to be taken alive by Orcs.
Damn Orcs! They must’ve been somewhere near when he’d brought his army back from the War, but the cowardly filth had waited till Isildur’s far smaller force had approached before attacking. Even as exhausted as they were, he and his Elves would’ve gladly taken them on to prevent them attacking others. When he arrived back home, he would arrange some extra patrols to make sure they didn’t try this again.
But first there were people who would have to know of these events. Picking out some of his fastest riders, he sent messages to Lorien and Imladris to inform them of events. Then, with Estelmo, he led his soldiers back home, picking Ohtar and his companion up on the way. He promised that once all three were recovered sufficiently to travel, an armed escort would help them conclude their journey to Imladris. There they would be with Isildur’s kin and their own, and where they could properly grieve. Himself – he could only grieve in private. His people expected strength and a certain amount of stoicism in their new King.
Thranduil blinked as a glimmer of light sparkled on the surface of the Anduin. He had given his people the King they wanted and needed, but the ache of loss still rent his heart. They had hoped that that War had been the end of Sauron, that all those lives lost weren’t lost in vain, but the indications were that it was all happening over again. Could he bear to take his army into battle again, for the inevitable losses, for the hope that this time they might finally defeat Sauron once and for all? Could he? For all those who went before and those that would come after?
Gripping the ancient sword of Númenór firmly in his hands he knew. He would fight. Sauron must be defeated no matter how many thousands of years it took. Eru would expect nothing more.