Lothlorien, Second Age, 3430
"You would let them go? You would take our children to die at the call of some kin-slayer who has never deigned set foot in this realm?"
Faelas' fraught voice strained with desperation as she paced, eyes brimming with angry tears. The shadow had grown, and the fell machinations of that darkness now found her husband offering up her sons to war. To watch them march to their doom in a barren land was not a fate to which she would readily submit.
"Gil-Galad is no kin-slayer. He is the High King."
"High King of the Noldor, not of us!"
No, he was not their king. But Amdir was, and should he commit to this alliance, the Galadhrim would march with him. Great was the threat, and no longer could the Silvans of Lorien and Greenwood the Great maintain their insularity. The elves were going to war.
Faelas wrapped her arms around her husband's waist, feeling his strong embrace envelop her. Few and fleeting these moments have ever been, she mused, that the soldier disarms so the husband might hold me. He smelled of pine needles and wet earth.
"I lost my brothers in Doriath, and I sang for them though I thought my heart would break," she whispered into the rough, grey wool of his tunic. "Would you ask me to lead your lament when you fall? Would you have me sing those bitter songs of our sons? I could not do it. I will not." She pulled her head away that she might meet and hold his eyes. "Mothers should not mourn their children, Guilin. It is not the way of things."
"They are children no more,” he countered, though his resolve wavered under her despondent gaze. “They are soldiers. Long have they trained for this purpose.”
"Scant years have passed since they have reached full stature, Guilin!" She collected herself, despising the shrillness in her voice. Softer, she implored, "Please...Let us go...let us leave this place. Long have I felt the call of the gulls pulling at my breast... Let us sail, dear one, all of us. Have no more of war."
Guilin stood mute at his wife's appeal. So delicate the arms she flung around him, nearly insubstantial. She quaked beneath his fingers, her hair soft as silk beneath their calloused tips. Could she fathom in her gentleness that he chose his path not to fight, but to protect? He could not leave Arda, not now. As long as the Black Hand threatened the Golden Wood, he would stay to repel it. He was a Marchwarden; this was his duty.
Her voice faltered, choked with the tears now issuing freely forth. "You choose duty over love! You take our sons knowing that they may not return... that you may not return. Know when you go forth that the loss of any one of you will be my end."
She abruptly pulled away from her husband's embrace and fled the room, the warmth of his arms an aching reminder of all she stood to lose.
Lothlorien, Second Age, 3430
The call had been raised; on the morrow, they would march.
Elemmakil's armor lay arrayed on his bed, polished and glowing in the late afternoon light.
To what end? That I may present a statelier corpse?
He tempered his bitterness, for he well knew the reason he donned the fulgent plates. What rouses a company more than to see its leaders shining and glorious before them? Why else were standards flown, when there was nothing more useless on a field of battle than a pretty banner?
Before the filth of war takes hold, he considered, victory is clad in shining mail and illumined helms, and men don their courage as they don their hauberks. Later, they will find that victory wears a tattered uniform fouled with gore. But not yet; now they need only know the glare of sun reflected from an unblemished cuirass.
From a casket in his wardrobe, he retrieved a silver coin bearing a magnificent fountain on its face, the only object he possessed to tie him to his darkest days. He tucked it in his vambrace, tightening the buckle till it bit his skin.
I have memories enough, what need have I for souvenirs?
But the coin was a touchstone, the last tangible connection to the one he loved above all others, the one who was farthest from his reach.
I carry it now for luck, yet there was no luck to be found on that day.
Unless he counted escaping with his life as luck. Sometimes he did.
The Dagorlad, Second Age, 3434
For good or ill, here is where it ends.
Approaching the Black Gate, those who gathered on the wide and dusty plain knew they stood not only on the threshold of Sauron's door, but on the very edge of the world. A false step here, and down they would all fall into an abyss unfathomable, the end of all things.
Guilin waited, his red cloak pushed back from his shoulders, and his curved blade glinting with blood-hunger. He cast a hard look in either direction: To the West, his king and his swordsmen, flanked by the House of Oropher. To the East, the Noldo king, Aeglos in hand, poised for a lethal thrust. Beyond him, Elendil and his army of men. In either direction, the line of men and elves extended far across the barren soil.
Ahead, the line of the enemy stretched just as long.
He did not spare a look behind him, though he yearned to crane his neck for one last glimpse of his sons. The ranks of archers were thick, and Elemmakil had promised to keep them as far back as he could without others claiming partiality-- was not every child as valuable to his father as Guilin's sons were to him? Would that he could have kept them from this altogether.
‘You choose duty over love!’
His wife's embittered accusation echoed within him. Wherefore these ideals forever set in opposition?
His sons were skilled fighters now, the continuous sorties of the last four years allowing ample opportunity to hone every skill. Though warriors now in truth, he feared for them no less, feared for them far more than he ever had for his own life. His thoughts lit on his third child and his wife, sheltered in the mellyrn of Lorien. There was hope.
Time seemed suspended as both sides waited to engage, and his mind slipped back through centuries to envision his sons in their youth. When he was called to arms, his eldest would solemnly slip Guilin's cloak about his shoulders, fastening the silver pin with a furrowed brow while his middle son fetched his sword, straining under its weight. The youngest, a mere babe, regarded the trio with wide-eyed curiosity. Gathering them in his arms he had kissed each one in turn, telling them, "I will come back to you, young ones, for I do not willingly part from you."
He had done the same this morning, although his second son no longer struggled with the sword; he could wield it almost as skillfully as Guilin now.
With no forewarning, all turned to confusion.
A battle cry split the thick air and a contingent from Greenwood flooded forward, King Oropher at their head, a golden swarm racing toward the Morannon. Guilin felt his own ranks lurching, unsure whether to follow or hold the line.
The Noldo King's face twisted into a mask of rage and disbelief. He had not issued the order to advance. Through misguided spite or fury, Oropher led this doomed charge alone, and led it to his folly.
Gil-Galad's thunderous voice cut the air, commanding his elves to hold. Distantly, Guilin heard the King's Herald repeat the order.
One by one, they watched helplessly as Oropher's men fell. They fell to arrow, sword and fire. They fell with eyes open, but landed not on the battle plain. One by one, the brackish swill of the western marshes claimed them, their unseeing eyes glowing like candles in the murk. In death, they were held in thrall. The marshes filled quickly with the dead.
Amdir saw little choice now; the enemy advanced and any advantage they might have gained through a consolidated assault was lost. They would follow Oropher's lead, and hope then Gil-Galad would bring his numbers to their aid. Guilin gave the swordsmen his signal. It had begun.
He gripped his weapon, reckoning its familiar heft and balance. The black host moved. Behind him, he heard the order to release arrows, and the opening salvo took flight over his head. He prayed his sons' bolts would find their targets. He prayed no enemy would find his sons.