The Tides of Darkness - (Part IIII in the Banner of Doom quadrilogy)


"Ereinion Gil-galad son of Fingon to Tar-Meneldur of the line of Earendil, greeting: the Valar keep you and may no shadow fall upon the Isle of Kings.
Long have I owed you thanks, for you have so many times sent to me your son Anardil Aldarion: the greatest Elf-friend that now is among Men, as I deem. At this time I ask your pardon, if I have detained him overlong in my service; for I had great need of the knowledge of Men and their tongues which he alone possesses. He has dared many perils to bring me counsel. Of my need he will speak to you; yet he does not guess how great it is, being young and full of hope. Therefore I write this for the eyes of the King of Númenor only. A new shadow arises in the East. It is no tyranny of evil Men, as your son believes; but a servant of Morgoth is stirring, and evil things wake again. Each year it gains in strength, for most Men are ripe to its purpose. Not far off is the day, I judge, when it will become too great for the Eldar unaided to withstand. Therefore, whenever I behold a tall ship of the Kings of Men, my heart is eased. And now I make bold to seek your help. If you have any strength of Men to spare, lend it to me, I beg.
Your son will report to you, if you will, all our reasons. But in fine it is his counsel (and that is ever wise) that when assault comes, as it surely will, we should seek to hold the Westlands, where still the Eldar dwell, and Men of your race, whose hearts are not yet darkened. At the least we must defend Eriador about the long rivers west of the mountains that we name Hithaeglir: our chief defence. But in that mountain wall there is a great gap southward in the land of Calenhardon; and by that way inroad from the East must come. Already enmity creeps along the coast towards it. It could be defended and assault hindered, did we hold some seat of power upon the nearer shore.
So the Lord Aldarion long has seen. At Vinyalonde by the mouth of Gwathlo he has long laboured to establish such a haven, secure against sea and land; but his mighty works have been in vain. He has great knowledge in such matters, for he has learned much of Cirdan, and he understands better than any the needs of your great ships. But he has never had men enough; whereas Cirdan has no wrights or masons to spare.
The King will know his own needs; but if he will listen with favour to the Lord Aldarion, and support him as he may, then hope will be greater in the world. The memories of the First Age are dim, and all things in Middle-earth grow colder. Let not the ancient friendship of Eldar and Dunedain wane also.
Behold! The darkness that is to come is filled with hatred for us, but it hates you no less. The Great Sea will not be too wide for its wings, if it suffered to come to full growth.
Manwe keep you under the One, and send fair wind to your sails."
Thus was the letter given to King Meneldur of Numenor by Gil-galad. The King was not a man of war, but of peace, and so he surrendered the rule of Westernesse to his son. And indeed Aldarion, as king, set out with a great navy to aid Lindon.

Captain Farin of Khazad-dum marched through the plains of eastern Eriador with his forces behind him. A pair of Khazad Guard walked beside Farin, and the banner of his house held aloft behind him. His forces were mostly consisted of archers, but he had scarce few troops that excelled at close combat. Maybe that was a fault.
Farin's Dwarves moved into a clearing where several charred ruins stood. Several Elf remains littered the floor, and puddles of blood were numerous. The stench of death was unbearable.
"Orcs must have attacked this Elf village," spoke Farin. "The Elves didn't stand a chance."
Dwarves were usually angered by such acts, but the Dwarves of Farin's company had a cold fear within their hearts, like some malicious presence dwelt here . . .
The shriek of a crow echoed through the clearing, the Dwarves turning that way as if they expected it was an ambusher. Farin stood wide-eyed and wary of his surroundings. He heard the rustle of trees ahead, a twig snapped behind him. Then he spotted a dark form amongst the vegetation.
"AMBUSH! STAND FAST!"
Innumerable Orcs charged out of the forest. The Dwarves at once fired their shortbows here and there, hitting the onslaughters with precise strength. The few shieldmen Farin had moved in front of the bowmen, fighting with desperation.
Farin, quickly taking control of the situation, began shouting out orders like firing a bow.
"CIRCULAR FORMATION!"
The Dwarves at once did as they commanded, with the combat troops around the outside of the formation, bowmen behind them and the banner bearer in the centre. More Orcs poured from the vegitation, and the bark of Wargs circled the Dwarves. The warcry of a Troll sounded in the distance.
Farin could only watch as his soldiers were overwhelmed by the Orcs. His standard lay tattered and broken on the ground, and both his Khazad Guard were dead. Only he and a handful of Dwarves still stood. Breaths came from Farin slowly, and every heartbeat was like an hour.
Farin let out one last cry as the Troll's hammer swept against him. He was flung metres away, and landed on a dry log with a loud crack. Every bone in his body was broken. He choked on his own blood.
Farin's last sights were of his remaining warriors being cut down in the cold wood.

The host of Sauron moved northwest, cutting down tree and home as they marched. Wargs and trackers moved ahead of the army, clearing any last stragglers that lay in their path. The Dark Lord moved as if some kind of majesty surrounded him, for it was true he had mastered almost all of Eriador. Only Lindon remained, and that would fall before the week was out. Or so Sauron thought.
A cry went up from the flank guard of the army, and was urgently passed down to the master.
Easterling Kataphrakts had been sighted, along with a host of dark figures none could make out. Captain Yakul, second-in-command of the Easterling army, went forward to greet his lord.
"Welcome, General Khamul. Who are these that you bring?"
One of the dark figures glared at Yakul, making the Easterling back off a little.
"Move out of my way, Yakul," commanded Khamul. "I have come to see the master, not a maggot such as yourself."
The Kataphrakts passed the captain with little or no regard, and the black-garmented figures followed behind them like shadows. Khamul beckoned for the leader of the men to come forward, and took him to Sauron.
"What have you come to me for, Easterling?" asked Sauron.
"Why my lord, I have brought reinforcements, and potent ones too if I may say so."
The Dark Lord gazed at the black figures with consideration, then turned to their leader.
"Who are you and why do you seek to side with me?"
"I am the Witch-King," answered the leader. "These are my disciples and my followers, who seek to bathe in my power."
Sauron laughed darkly. "You seek to impress me? For all your majesty and power, I could crush you like a beetle under my foot!"
"I recognise that my lord, and that is the reason of our coming. For long have we foretold the coming of a great deity wielding ultimate power, who will cast away the wretched Elves and bring death to the followers of the west."
The Dark Lord considered this for a moment. Then he began to gaze inside the Witch-King's soul, sensing his dark potential and utter malice.
"I accept your servitude, Witch-King. You will march with me to Lindon, and aid me in the destruction of the Eldar. And for this, I shall give you one of the rings of power I obtain. But it shall not just be any ring, it will be the chief of the nine mortal rings, and you will become my greatest lieutenant."
At this, Khamul looked shocked. He had been promised the chief of the nine, and now Sauron was throwing it away to this brigand!
"I cannot stand this!" he cried. All eyes turned on him, and the threatening gaze of the Dark Lord was upon him. But Khamul continued.
"If you should give away the chief of the nine, lord, that you have long promised me; then do not give it to this rogue! If he is worthy, he must be able to best the insignificant Khamul!"
And then the Easterling General leaped from his saddle and unsheathed his blade, and the fury within him was truly recognised by all who saw him.
"Ready your sword, Witch!"
The Witch-King responded in cold silence, drawing a wicked sword from his belt and was handed a great flailing mace from one of his subjects.
Sauron was indeed amused at the ferocity of his minions. "So be it!" he announced. "Let us test the might of Rhun against the power of the north!"

Captain Gilros of Lindon marched across the River Lhun and began his hunt for survivors. He prayed to Iluvatar that he would find his son, Glorfindel, but he feared it was hopeless. Yet he could not let his bravery waver as he led his men - brave hearts were the best defence against tides of darkness. His standard flew in the morning wind, and the trees were green. Fallen blossom had littered the floor, and the sun shone high in the mid-morning sun. Such sights lifted Gilros' heart, and he thought to himself, "There is always hope."
His force moved into the forests, archers alert for any sign of ambush. Only Gilros took in the splendour of the trees, for all his Elves were wary of what might dart out from behind them.
Suddenly, a cluster of arrows flew from many directions, but the Elves had quick reflexes, and the front-line warriors immediately raised their shields to block the fire. Gilros came back to his senses and considered the situation. Then he began crying out orders.
"Swordsmen! Into the trees!"
Elf warriors brandishing keen blades darted into the woods, and the cries of Orcs echoed through the woods. Then, a series of barks came up from the road ahead.
"Wargs!"
A great pack of the beasts raced around the bend, howling with battle-lust. The Elves automatically knew what to do. Warriors with shields and spears moved to the front, blocking the road. Archers moved behind them and let their strings sing. Many Wargs crashed down dead, but a few Elf-arrows would not stop them. The survivors crashed into the line of spears and shields, and though some broke through the Elves, many of the creatures skewered themselves onto the spears, and many Elves withstood the impact. The Elves that had gone into the woods returned, with the Orc archers taken care of, and Gilros moved to fight the Warg Chieftain, who had slain many of Gilros' brothers-in-arms. The Warg slashed three times at Gilros, but his Elven dexterity paid off and he quickly darted the blows, then struck two wounds in the beast's leg and neck. Yet it still fought back, hitting Gilros' chest but failing to slice through his armour. Gilros took aim, then jabbed his sharp blade into the head of his opponent. As the beast crashed to the floor, the last few Wargs were destroyed and the Elves were left to recover after the short battle.
"These were but scouts," announced Gilros. "The enemy must be directly in front! We will change direction, and continue to march off-road."

Khamul parried another strike from the self-proclaimed Witch-King. Great marks in the floor showed where the Witch's mace had missed the target, but Khamul knew sooner or later that flail would find its mark. The Easterling General thrust at his opponent again, but he darted aside and effortlessly batted away the sword with his mace. Sauron found all this quite entertaining, as if this was some kind of sport played for his favour. His Orcs also found this amusing, and began jeering and shouting like a rowdy crowd. One squat Orc was walking around the others, taking bets. Captain Yakul watched the combat in silent thought, torn between the desire to see his great master best his opponent or be crushed for being so ignorant to him. The Easterlings remained quiet.
The Witch-King's mace fell again, and this time Khamul only barely dodged it. Now tired of this unwinnable melee, Khamul gathered his strength and made a great blow at his enemy. The Witch-King blocked with his sword, but it was shattered by the immensity of the Easterling's blow. Throwing the useless point aside (and catching the foot of an Orc), The Witch-King took his mace two-handed and began swinging in a frenzy. Once, twice Khamul dodged it, but on the third strike the mace caught Khamul's arm. The impact sent the Easterling to the ground, and the Witch-King stood over him, victorious, like a great black tower. Before he made the final strike, Sauron halted the Witch-King and spoke,
"Stay your wrath. There is no reason to kill him. He has failed, and that is a defeat even worse than death itself."
Then the Dark Lord handed his new lieutenant the chief of the nine mortal rings, which the Witch-King glared at with greed, and placed it on his garmented finger. And for the first time in a long time, he smiled a dark, malicious grin.
"We march!" commanded Sauron. The Orc began to walk again, but the Easterlings waited for their master to rise, and Yakul stared at him with doubt. As he rose, the Dark Lord flung Khamul one of the nine. He placed it on his finger, mostly disappointed. Yakul walked over to Khamul, looking at his newly given ring.
"Well my lord, at least it's something."
Khamul furiously punched Yakul's golden mask, making a massive dent in the side. Flung away by the strength of the impact, Yakul lay unconscious in the mud. The Easterling General mounted his steed and turned to his men.
"Leave the worm in the dirt. We ride."

The Assassin King crept through the construct that was Rivendell. Elf eyes were keen, but such was Zyanar's stealth he remained undetected. His blade was at the ready, and would find its mark in Elrond's back. He was sure of it.
He crept up a flight of stairs and along a walkway, keeping close to the wall. An Elf child came out of a door on the right, which stared at Zyanar with horror before a knife was landed through his chest. He felt no remorse or pity for the young Elf he had just slain, but just kept creeping down the walkway. The Assassin King stalked up another staircase, and found himself on a balcony. Looking around at the surroundings, he picked out the grandest building, believing Elrond would be there, and from his balcony climbed up onto the roof. Another rooftop was just next to the one he was standing on, and quickly leaping across began running upon the rooftops to the building.
He slid down into a window on the target structure, and found himself in a white room. Zyanar quickly crept through the chamber and quietly opened the door. He found himself in another corridor that looked down into a beautiful court. He saw a well-dressed Elf surrounded by three of his brethren. That must be Elrond.
The Assassin King leaped over the banister like a cat, and dropped into the court. Before any Elf could turn to see the intruder, Zyanar had leapt to where the Elf Lord stood, batting aside one of his subjects. With lethal skill, he jabbed his sword straight into the chest of the Elf. Before the Elves could pursue him, the Assassin King had darted out of the court and was quickly on his way to the cliff pass that connected Rivendell to the top of the valley.

"HENDERCH! GET THOSE SAILS UP!"
"Yes Lord Aldarion!" replied Henderch, lieutenant of the Numenorean fleets.
The ships of King Aldarion continued to be battered by the unending storm. At this rate, they would never get to Lindon. Sailors scurried about the King of Numenor's flagship Hirilonde, as many trained soldiers sat helplessly in the decks below. Aldarion continued walking about his boat, shouting orders whilst being slowed by the perilous winds. Henderch was at the wheel, but kept darting from his position to assist with other things.
"I'll take the wheel, Henderch. You go help the men."
"Aye, Lord Aldarion."
The King clutched the wheel with an unshakeable death-grasp, masterfully controlling the Hirilonde like a form of art. Suddenly, the clouds rolled with thunder. A lightning bolt leaped from the sky and hit the mast of a Numenorean ship. A great bang followed.
Aldarion steered the Hirilonde towards a nearby boat, the Urilme, and shouted to the captain, "Go and assist that ship! Quell the flames and rescue the crew!"
"As you wish, my king!"
This would be a long journey.

Celeborn was quickly rushed to a room where his wounds could be cured. The assassin that had assaulted him fortunately missed Celeborn's heart, yet he thought his target was dead and had long gone from Rivendell. The Elves carrying him lay him down on a soft bed, which was stained by Celeborn's blood. Elrond burst through the room and began assessing the situation.
"Glorfindel, pass me some Athelas and a cloth, quickly!" commanded Elrond.
"Yes my lord," answered Glorfindel as he passed out of the room to find what was needed.
Elrond gave Celeborn some healing waters to drink that would help in his recovery. Glorfindel came back in under a few minutes with a bowl of steamed Athelas and a thick towel. Elrond thanked him, then put the plant on the wound and pressed the cloth over it to stop any more blood loss. Iluvatar willing, Celeborn would survive.

Durin was lost for words. How could he let this happen . . .
"What is your command, my king?" asked the scout. Durin did not reply. Instead he put his hand to his head and sighed. He had been overtaken by grief. Farin, his best captain and friend, was dead. Fortunately the Orcs that attacked Farin's Dwarves did not mutilate and devour the captain's body, but that did not ease Durin's sorrow.
"My king?" repeated the scout that had discovered the massacre of Farin's Dwarves. Durin then turned his grief into rage, and bitter vengeance against the forces of Sauron.
"Prepare the army," Durin spoke. "We march to battle."
Within an hour the soldiers of Khazad-dum were preparing for battle. Some doubted their king's decision, but were encouraged by the rest of the army, who greatly desired for their axes to bite Orc flesh. They had been forced away by sheer numbers at the Battle of Ost-in-Edhil. Not this time.
Durin dropped his Mithril coat over his robes. He shackled his heavy boots, ankle guards, gloves and arm guards, then put on his impenetrable suit of Mithril heavy armour. The gem-studded Durin's Helm was placed on his head, and the legendary Durin's Axe was at his side. With the army ready, the host of Khazad-dum once again marched from Moria.

Khamul rode at the head of the Easterlings. His pride was still crippled, and his arm still blasted with pain. Yet his sword was all he truly needed. The Easterling army marched at the right flank of Sauron's main host, and so were watching for signs of Zyanar's return. Khamul also wondered where the Khandish army was. They might have deserted, being the cowards they are, but there were legends that Eriador housed even more potent powers than Elves. The Easterling General truly wished the Variags were all dead, for then he would not have to bother dispatching of King Haitamu himself. He grinned at the prospect of ancient spirits tearing apart Haitamu's body limb by limb . . .
Suddenly, he heard the clang of steel upon steel on the road ahead. It may be the Khands. Giving the order to charge, he spurred his steed onwards as his loyal Kataphrakts followed. The infantry sprinted behind the cavalry to support, and archers readied their bows.
Captain Gilros commanded his Elves to bring down the ambusher. A handful of his Elves had already fallen to the attacker's blade, but many more ran to meet him. Gilros did not let his archers fire, for there would be too big a chance their arrows would hit their own kin.
Zyanar continued to hack away at the Elves. His sword dripped with blood and his garments stained with crimson. He unsheathed another blade and fought with two weapons, dodging blows and returning them with lethal accuracy.
Gilros was startled at the soldier's ferocity and skill, but still spurred his men to fight. He charged forward to duel with the ambusher, but something stopped him with shock. A whole army of Easterlings were charging towards them!
"STAND FAST!"
The Kataphrakts sliced into the Elves like scythes through wheat. The Elf archers began firing frantically, but due to the Easterlings' armour most shots failed to bring an enemy down. Zyanar did not stop when the Easterlings came. He took advantage of the startled Elves, and his blades ran all the more redder.
Khamul spotted the Elf leader, and moved away from his knights to dispatch him. Gilros did not await his onset, but charged to meet it, his two-handed blade shimmering in the sun. As the Easterling General raised his sword to cut down on Gilros, the Elf stabbed into his horse, which collapsed forward making Khamul fly to the ground. Immediately leaping back up, he began hacking and jabbing at Gilros' defence. He thought of his past failures with Celeborn and the Witch-King.
"Never again," murmured Khamul.
He made a great blow at Gilros' sword, shattering it into pieces. Seeing his advantage, Khamul stabbed straight into the heart of Gilros. With his last breath, the Elf Captain spoke:
"Iluvatar curse your body forever to the void."
Khamul pulled his sword out of the Elven chest as the last of Gilros' soldiers were cut down. He immediately went to find the Assassin King, who was wiping the blood of his twin blades.
"Did you kill the Elf Elrond?" asked Khamul.
"Of course I did," Zyanar answered. "Now where is my pay?"
"Patience. First tell me where you found him."
Zyanar glared wickedly at the Easterling, but said, "The Elves are constructing a new haven in a valley northeast from here. If you and your master wish to flush out every Elf in this land, you may want to head there."
Khamul flung the three bags of gold to Zyanar, who gloated at them greedily.
"I'll give you double that if you help me besiege the Elf haven."
The Assassin King looked up with dark glee. At this rate he would be richer than a king.

Companies of Elves stood like statues along the west banks of the Lhun. Captains sometimes cried out commands, whilst their standards flickered in the wind. Gil-galad and Cirdan were still making council with several lesser Elf lords in the Grey Havens, their guard ringed around them.
"When will Numenor come?" mused Rilmas, the lord of northern Lindon.
"They will come," answered Cirdan. "I have forseen it. But I am not certain about when they will arrive."
"The seas have been violent, though," stated Valcir, captain of the ships. "The Numenorean fleet will be late at the very best."
"It is true the waters have been troubled," said Rilmas. "Do you not think the ships of Westernesse could be destroyed by the storms?"
"Nay, Rilmas. The vessels of the west are strong, and Prince Aldarion is a masterful ship wright," answered Cirdan.
"My friends, we must wait for Numenor with bated breath. For the time being, we must look east, not west, and await the coming of Sauron," spoke Gil-galad. "Now prepare for battle."
The Elf lords dispersed with their guard, save Cirdan, who went to speak privately with Gil-galad.
"Have we any news from Captain Gilros?" asked Cirdan.
"None. Nor from Elrond, or even Lothlorien."
"We have actually had word from Galadriel," said Cirdan.
"Indeed?" Gil-galad was intrigued by this.
"Yes. It seems that Lorien is beset by a force of Orcs, reinforced by strange men from the south we have not encountered before. King Amdir cannot spare any reinforcements."
"Hmm. Very well, we must stand alone for now. Go ready yourself, Cirdan. There are hard fights ahead."

Celeborn walked about the gardens of Rivendell, assisted by Glorfindel. He had been saved from death, and was now recovering. A long cloth was still wrapped around the wound, and he was quite ponderous, but apart from that he was fine. As they walked, Glorfindel had been telling Celeborn about himself.
"My father is Gilros, a lord of great renown in Lindon," said Glorfindel. "I expect he shall be fighting in the war. Iluvatar grant his blade tastes much Orc-blood!"
Celeborn smiled gravely. "Do you fear for your father?"
"No, lord," answered Glorfindel. "He is a great fighter and commander."
"Well, if he is better at combat than you I shall not fear for him too," said Celeborn, "For I recall you fought like Feanor himself!"
As they walked into a sitting-room, an Elf speedily ran to Celeborn.
"What is it, Linhir?" asked Celeborn.
"My Lord Celeborn," the Elf panted. "There is a great host of evil men atop the valley!"
Glorfindel leapt to his feet. "Have you told Elrond?"
"Yes."
"Then take Celeborn somewhere safe. I shall go and prepare myself."
Glorfindel darted off down the stone path. He passed a couple of Elves, and told them to get to the armoury. Running up a flight of stairs and looking over a balcony, Glorfindel saw them.
Khamul looked down into the valley, Zyanar at his side. The passage down was too narrow, so it would just be best to stay at the top of the valley and prevent escape, he thought.
"Archers!" he shouted. "Prepare your bows! We shall fire a volley onto them, to threaten them and maybe slay a few."
Glorfindel watched from his balcony as he sighted archers readying their bows.
"ARROWS! TAKE COVER!"
All the Elves that heard leapt for cover, and Glorfindel ducked himself. The rain of shots fell upon Rivendell, harmlessly hitting buildings and the ground. One unlucky Elf lay dead in the courtyard.
"So they're hostile," said Glorfindel.
Elrond ran up the steps to stand next to Glorfindel.
"Any casualties?" he asked.
"Just one," told Glorfindel, gesturing to the dead Elf below.
"Prepare the soldiers. Spread the word. At least with their armour and shields their arrows will be useless. We can then fight if they try to get down the pass."
Glorfindel went at once. Elrond remained, staring at the army threatening his peoples' survival.

The Dwarves of Khazad-dum marched at the head of their king. At Durin's side was his son, who had been permitted to go to battle with his father. The fearsome Khazad Guard were ready to defend their lord, and scouts secretly crept through the woods on the army's flanks. The Dwarves came to an abandoned camp, and due to the numerous trees felled and ragged tents, Sauron's army must have previously been here. As the encampment was searched, Durin's son found a man lying in the mud.
"Father, over here!"
Durin quickly rushed over with his guard to see why his son had called. They instantly saw the figure.
"Hmm, looks like one of those Easterlings we fought at Eregion," King Durin spoke. "They're wicked men, allied with the Orcs."
One of the Khazad Guard went to check the body, but the man coughed and sputtered. He tried to get to his knees, but realising the Dwarves were there instantly cowered back onto the ground.
"Get him to his feet," commanded Durin, and so two of his guard brought the Easterling to his feet. "Who are you?"
The Easterling glared at Durin from behind his crippled mask. "I am Captain Yakul." Most Easterlings could only speak their own tongue, but Yakul was more learned than others and so could speak the common tongue, though he was heavily accented.
"What are you doing here, Yakul? Why did they leave you behind?"
"There was a fight."
Durin looked to the Khazad Guard next to him. Fights in Sauron's ranks were common.
"My master, General Khamul lost to a strange sorcerer from the cold north. My master lost, and in his anger struck me down. I have only awoken just now."
Yakul's head still spun. He felt sick, and half of his face stung. He had no idea if he had been lying down for days or hours.
"Get him some water," spoke Durin. "Then he shall walk with us. If he tries to escape, kill him. Now, Yakul, which way was Sauron heading?"
"Lindon."

Gil-galad and Cirdan stood side by side by their warriors at the River Lhun, fully armoured. Cirdan's blade Inglos glittered, and Aeglos hungered for battle. Just a mile away loomed the host of Sauron, marching with increased lust for the blood of Lindon, shouting curses and insults at the Elf defenders.
"Gil-galad, do you see that figure running from the dark army?" asked Cirdan.
The Elven King looked carefully, then saw what Cirdan saw.
"An Elf warrior! Get two of our Elves on the other side of the river to help him cross!"
The soldier kept on sprinting, driven on by the fear behind him. His armour was battered and rusted, his robes were in tatters, and his helmet and all his weapons had been left behind. He reached the Lhun, and was aided across by the two Elves. Gil-galad went to speak with him.
"What tidings do you bring?" he asked.
"My lord Gil-galad! I was part of Captain Gilros' force. We were massacred by wicked men, and I was the only survivor."
Gil-galad told the warrior to nourish himself at the havens, then arm himself and join the battle if he felt ready. The Elf nodded, then did as his king asked.
Sauron spurred his minions onwards. The Orcs banged against their shields and armour, raising their crude weapons to defy the Elves. The tide of darkness halted scant metres away from the river, and the Dark Lord stepped forward to gaze at his foes. He spread fear where he glared, but Gil-galad held them firm, who gave Sauron a stare of his own. Angered by the Elf King, Sauron raised his mace and the Orcs charged to cross the river. Their crude arrows shot here and there, with no sense of order or direction. Gil-galad gave the order to fire, and the Elf arrows fell upon the Orcs like raindrops of death. The first advances of evil were shot down or drowned in the river, but many more came across, using their dead comrades as a bridge to the Elves. The blades of the firstborn began cutting through the evil beasts, and Aeglos and Inglos sung death to their foes. Already a heap of the dead lay about Gil-galad, and Cirdan went hither and thither, boosting his men's confidence and aiding them where the lines were weakest. The Elf captains and lords kept their followers firm, though they were rapidly becoming outnumbered. Further up the river, many Orcs had crossed the Lhun, slaying many Elves, and even Rilmas of north Lindon was now slain, felled by a great Troll.
The Orcs pressed on, and the Elvish lines were beginning to falter. The weapons of Gil-glad, Cirdan and Valcir did not waver, but they were alone not enough to stop the darkness.

Only a miracle would save Lindon.

The ships of Numenor had landed. King Aldarion and the majority of the fleet had landed in the harbours of Lindon, whilst Henderch took a number of vessels to the Numenorean port of Lond Daer which was to the south. The men of Westernesse piled out of their boats, and seeing that battle was already joined did not wait for orders, but darted to aid their allies. Aldarion and his guard rode upon sturdy armoured horses, and at once charged to Gil-galad's aid. His sword Dangrof was held high, and his warriors went twice as fast at its gleam.
Sauron pressed into the Elves. They were faltering, and certain the battle would soon end searched for Gil-galad. His iron gaze soon fell upon his target, but as he strode to meet him, he heard the sound of many running men, the sound of steel plates and the war cries of the west. The Numenoreans were coming.
Sauron let out a shout so loud that those near him were knocked off their feet. How could he, in his arrogance and blinding hatred for the Elves, had have forgotten Numenor? The Dark Lord kicked himself for it, but he would not so easily be forced away. He may be able to destroy Gil-galad before that happened.
Sauron swung his dark mace at the head of the Elf King, but he quickly ducked. He brought his enchanted spear up into the Dark Lord's arm, hitting through the iron plates and into the black flesh of his opponent. Sauron moved back in shock of Gil-galad's skill, but his wounds quickly healed due to the ring on his finger. He swung again, but the Elf blocked it with Aeglos. Only his spear could stand against that evil mace. The weapon pulled away, then banged down into the ground near Gil-galad, throwing the Elf King of his feet. Sauron loomed over him, ready to strike, but then Captain Valcir of the ships ran to the aid of his lord. Distracting the gaze of darkness away from Gil-galad, Valcir hit and hit at the armour of the Dark Lord. But Sauron's skill was much above Valcir's, and he easily batted the captain away like a fly. But Valcir's sacrifice had given Gil-galad the opportunity he needed. Aeglos thrust up into the chest of darkness, heavily wounding the Dark Lord. Even the One Ring could not fully heal this wound. Sauron spun around and sounded the retreat as the Numenoreans crashed into the Orc lines. The Battle of Lhun was won.

Khamul looked down into Rivendell. Something stirred in his mind, thoughts of defeat, but he shook them off. A jolt of pain spread through the Easterling's body, spreading from the finger on which Sauron's ring was. Zyanar sensed his weakness. But as he turned to speak to Khamul, the great blast of a horn sounded in the forests behind them. Before Khamul could speak an order, a great host of Dwarves ran from the trees. Caught by surprise, the Easterlings were slow to respond as the Dwarven axes smashed into their armour.
Glorfindel looked from his balcony, armed for battle. Many Elf warriors stood below him, also dressed for combat. He heard the faint cry of an Easterling, then the clash of steel on steel. He peered up to see Dwarves hitting the Easterling lines.
"You warriors! Follow me up the valley pass!"
The Elves below him at once followed Glorfindel as he leapt from the balcony and up the road.
Durin smashed down another Easterling, then another, then another. The battle was going well, and few Dwarves had been slain. A Kataphrakt charged towards the Dwarf king, but Durin simply hit the horse, making the rider fly off into the ground, snapping his neck. Beside Durin his son fought, and he did indeed make his father proud. He had single-handedly taken down the standard bearer, and countless other wicked men had fallen to his axe. Durin smiled in the midst of combat, a proud father.
Khamul fought on. His army was being torn apart in a matter of seconds, and there was nothing he could do. The blades of Zyanar flew like hawks into the Dwarves, but Khamul was trying to figure the situation. Suddenly, Glorfindel and his Elves ran up the valley path and into the rear of the Easterlings. Soon all his men would be dead, and the Assassin King knew this too.
"RETREAT!" shouted Khamul.
He spun his steed round and darted off. Zyanar quickly knocked a Kataphrakt rider off his horse and followed as the remaining Easterlings were destroyed behind them.

Some days later, the leaders of the Free Peoples met in the Grey Havens. Gil-galad was at the head of the meeting, with Cirdan at his side. Elrond and Erestor of Rivendell were there also. Glorfindel was elsewhere, grieving after learning of the loss of his father, Gilros. Galadriel, King Amdir and Prince Amroth had come from Lothlorien, with Celeborn also. Aldarion stood beside his loyal lieutenant Henderch, who had hunted down the last of Sauron's army from Lond Daer. King Durin III and his son Durin IIII gruffly leant upon their axes. Prince Thranduil from Mirkwood was there also, sent as an emissary from his father.
"Before we begin, I would like to honour the great captains that have fallen during this war," stated Gil-galad. "We honour Lord Celebrimbor and the sons of Eregion for the brave defence of Ost-in-Edhil. Captain Farin of Khazad-dum, brave leader of Durin's folk also, and Gilros and Rilmas, brave lords of Lindon. We also grieve for brave Valcir, for if not for his courage, I would not be here with you. May there souls go to the places of their ancestors."
The council bowed their heads in respect for the dead, then after a minute of silence Gil-galad talked again.
"The War of the Elves and Sauron has ended, and the tides of darkness and death swept from Eriador. Yet Sauron has slipped from our grasp back to his abode in the east, and though it may be a long time before he does so, he will return. Anyway, we have agreed to make an Elf bastion at Rivendell rather than at Eregion. Elrond shall be entrusted to rule this haven, and so shall be given one of the three Elven rings. Now we shall hear from King Amdir, and give us account of the events in Lothlorien."
King Amdir stepped forward and spoke, "After my son Amroth returned from the Battle of Ost-in-Edhil, our scouts reported sightings of Orcs coming to attack our woods. Yet they were reinforced by strange men from the south, who were skilled with spear and bow and trained at horse riding. With them marched several great beasts armed with strong tusks with towers of archers on their backs. These men have never been seen before, and we referred to them as simply Southrons. For several long days we fought the Orcs and Southrons, the power of Galadriel keeping them at bay. We received reinforcements from the realm of Mirkwood, lead by Prince Thranduil, but we were still at a stalemate. On the third day of the third week we finally forced them away, our archers bringing down the last of the tusked beasts. And so ends my account."
"Thankyou, Amdir," said Gil-galad. "Would anyone like to speak?"
Amdir stepped back, and King Durin went forwards.
"Yes," began Durin. "We have seen more than just Orcs in Eriador, but men too, men unlike any I have seen before. Of course there are the Southrons Amdir has mentioned, but there were `Easterlings' as well - skilled men with much armour and well-forged weaponry. There were also men with red and black armour wielding great axes. My point is that the arm of Sauron must have grown long for him to take control of these easterly men. But is there anything we can do about it?"
"No, my good friend Durin," answered Cirdan. "Not yet, anyway. These men are from the distant south and east, lands largely unknown to us. It would be too dangerous for us to march to their domains and bring justice."
Durin stepped back. Gil-galad went forward again.
"My thanks to you both. Now, we have spoken of what we needed to all hear. So before we finish this council, we shall all make a promise. If Sauron should stir again, we will fight against him together."
"For Lindon, yes," said Cirdan.
"For Khazad-dum, aye," said Durin.
"For Mirkwood, yes," said Thranduil.
"For Numenor, yes," said Aldarion.
"For Lorien, yes," said Amdir.
"For Rivendell, yes," said Elrond.

Sauron and his followers went over the last of the hills around Dagorlad. Beside him was the Witch-King, his followers decimated at the Battle of Lhun. Khamul also was there, the only survivor of the Easterling grand army. Zyanar stalked nearby too, given one of the nine rings for his efforts. Five of Sauron's surviving bodyguard watched over their master still, all of them hardened but wounded from the war.
The Dark Lord saw his great tower of Barad-dur in the distance. He would rebuild his armies, reforge old alliances and sate his vengeance on Numenor.
The Witch-King held his mace in one pale hand, breathing heavily. He thought of the power he would obtain over the next few years, become as strong as the deities he used to worship, and become the most feared individual in all Middle-earth.
Zyanar, the Assassin King reflected on the past few weeks. All the gold he was given had been lost at the breaking of the siege of Rivendell. He had nothing left to do now than fight with his new allies, and this ring he was given would bring him much power.
And Khamul, his army, his rule, his pride, decimated. Rhun would forget him, the king who threw in his lot with Sauron and lost his forces in return. Many would be slain before he had his vengeance. He looked up at Sauron. He hated Sauron, almost as much as Elves, but he knew without him he was lost, his spirit would be vanished. At least he still had his sword. The ex-Easterling General smiled darkly.
And so the four captains returned to Mordor, their hatred and vengeance going with them. And as the Black Gates shut themselves against the free world, the War of the Elves and Sauron finally ended.

But it was not the end of the greater war . . .

Dear reader,
Thankyou for reading the Banner of Doom quadrilogy. I hope you have enjoyed the fight between light and dark. I know I have.
If you like my tales of heroes and villains, falls and rises and good and evil, you'll be pleased to know I'll be writing more in the future. As a taster, I'll be writing another series about a band of rogues in the Northern Wastes, a story about Gondor's occupation of Harad, and possibly a prologue to the Banner of Doom, recording Khamul's attack on King Haitamu of Khand. God I love Khamul.
Until then, fellow Tolkien fans!

All the best, Stormlord


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