Isildur's Bane

by Mel Baggins

        At last! After all these long years, Sauron is defeated- and at my own hand! In a daze I look beside me to the fingers of the Black Hand, still smoking after being severed from their master. Then I see it- The One Ring- Masterless!

        Reverently, I take it, still encircling the finger of its former bearer, and as I watch, the finger blows away as so much ash. Even through my gloves the Ring is hot to the touch and I see the glowing letters blazing forth from the golden band- as clear as red flame.

        Even now it calls to me and I find myself transfixed by its beauty, by its simple perfection. I marvel that there is no sign of wear or age, even though it has been through many battles and years. Around me the battle rages still, for indeed though their master was destroyed, the thralls of Sauron still live. I pay no heed to any of them, friend or foe. They no longer matter, now that I have the One.

        "Isildur, hurry!" I hear, and see Elrond above me. I wrench my gaze from the Precious thing, for it is already precious to me, and look to the elf above me. "Follow me," he says. Reluctantly, I do.

        The mountain explodes with blinding fury as I am led up the winding road to its summit. Neither of us speak, for we both know his purpose in leading me here. We at last reach the doorway that leads into the mountain and I find myself in a large fiery cavern. The Crack of Doom. Elrond rushes to the edge of the precipice, telling me to cast the Ring into the fire. I hesitate.

        "Destroy it!" he cries. I hear his voice, but look at the ring. Such beauty and fell power within my grasp. All mine. I have the power to rebuild the world of men, to bring Numenor back from the seas, set at right all the wrongs caused by Sauron. I hear a whispering voice telling me it will be so, if I take the Thing for my own. Breaking into my thoughts, I hear again Elrond command me to destroy the Ring. To me, it sounds absurd.

        "No," I say. I look to him and for once, I see an elf afraid. He fears me, I realize. The Power is now mine, and he is afraid of what I will do with it. Or perhaps it is not fear, but jealousy. He didn't really want me to destroy it, he wanted it for himself. I turn to leave, taking with me the power to build a mighty kingdom of men, and to avenge my father. With the thoughts of the new rising of the glory of men, I hear the weak pleas from the fading firstborn behind me.

        "Isildur!!"