Three days after hearing those words, the smith looked up from his forge to see that the two younger sons of Isildur had entered, bringing with them the shards of their grandfather’s sword and his armor. The helmet where Sauron’s hammer had hit it was deeply indented, and that blow had been enough in and of itself to have caused Elendil’s death. They laid out the shards of Narsil and the armor upon a worktable, and there he examined them closely.
Elrond had followed the Men, these, his distant kinsmen, into the forge, choosing to watch from near the doorway but remaining quiet for the moment.
At last the smith looked up to meet the eyes of the two Men. “What is it you would have me do?”
“Can you mend these?” asked the older of the two.
“The armor, yes—I can straighten and reinforce it and renew its finish, even the helm. But the sword----” He looked at it thoughtfully for a moment. At last he continued, “I can melt the steel, separate the mithril of the sigils and runes, and forge a new blade from it, but I cannot remake that which was made by Telchar. It would be little better than any other sword, you would find. To recreate what was broken—in time, perhaps I could assist to recast the Sword of Kings. But to do that requires the cooperation of a descendant of Telchar himself, one who is a descendant of he who last bore and he who last used the blade, and the goodwill of all of the Free Peoples of Middle Earth on its purpose to protect and defend.
“The sword Narsil was angry that Sauron sought to curse and weaken its blade when it was carried yet by Amandil, and so it blazed the brighter as your daeradar struck at the one who’d profaned it, and ere all power left it, it answered to your father’s hand, removing perhaps the very finger that sought to sully it on the Star Isle. The spirit forged within the blade by Telchar himself slumbers deeply now that its purpose has been won, and might be renewed within the blade should it be reforged as I have indicated. But by myself—that is beyond my skill.”
“But it has been told us that you worked with Celebrimbor himself in Ost-in-Edhil,” the older brother protested.
“And so I did, until the one naming himself Annatar came there in the wake of Master Elrond’s warning to beware of him. Celebrimbor was hungry to resume the pursuit of the knowledge of how to craft tokens of power, and so refused to listen to Elrond’s warning, and allowed him entrance into his councils and received the instruction offered. But I could sense the darkness in the creature, sensing anew the echoes of ambition and anger that inspired our Lord Fëanor to rebel in Aman, and I would not stay, and so came away to Imladris to serve as master smith there.
“That was the one,” he said, prodding the haft of the sword with a soot-darkened finger, “who sought to weaken the blade that it would break at a time when its strength was most needed. But when Telchar gave this blade into the hands of my Lord Findaráto, he told him that his Father Mahal himself gave him instruction as to how the blade was to be forged, and that it was intended ever to be used in defense against creatures of darkness.” He looked up to meet the eyes of the two princes of Men. “The spirit that blessed this blade would be reawakened, for it desires ever to oppose the forces of evil. But if I seek to reforge it on my own, that spirit will be ever separated from the weapon, and would so be lost. Oh, it would be a fair blade that I would forge for you, fair and strong; but it would no longer be what it was before. It would no longer shine in the hand of the King who wielded it as it was used to turn back the foe. It would be but a sword and would answer any hand that took it up.”
The armor they left, but they put the shards of the sword back into its sheath and took them back to their father for further consideration. The armor was repaired and the helm worked back to its proper shape and strength, and it was borne away by the soldiers from Gondor and Arnor who followed Isildur back to the city of Anárion and whatever rites had been decided upon for the body of the High King of the Dúnedain.
Elrond’s people followed two days later along with the forces come from Laurinand, Lindon, and Mithlond, it having been decided that they would take the western road north.
They were told in Minas Anor that the High King Isildur had gone westward with those of Elendil’s own household and the dead King’s grandsons to entomb the body in a place long ago chosen by Elendil himself as the proper place to lay his remains to rest, a hallow in the White Mountains that had been determined to be at the center of the lands over which he had ruled.
Elrond and his party, Lord Celeborn and his wife and certain others, chose to remain in Gondor until the High King should return, while the other Elves returned northwards to their own lands, save for those few who headed south toward Edhellond.
Those in Isildur’s party were quiet and thoughtful when they returned to Minas Anor a seven day later. In a solemn ceremony Isildur planted a seedling of the White Tree that grew in Osgiliath in the King’s Courts at the top of the city of Minas Anor to his brother’s memory. The following day they removed eastward to Osgiliath, at which time Anárion’s son Meneldil was invested as sole King of Gondor by his uncle as High King of the Dúnedain. Meneldil was dressed in his grandfather’s armor as Isildur placed the Winged Crown upon his brow, although he had not the same stature as had Elendil the Tall; while Isildur wore the Elendilmir and carried the Rod of Annúminas. During the feast that followed Meneldil’s coronation Isildur confided his plans to return northward soon to take up the rule of Arnor in his father’s place, and gave into Elrond’s hands letters to present to his wife and his youngest son Valandil, who had remained all during this time in Imladris to ensure their safety during the long war with Mordor.
“Tell them I shall return soon enough,” he requested. “I must remain here for a time to instruct my nephew in how he should order his kingdom during my absence and to take counsel with him as to how we shall commune with one another and coordinate our vigilance against our joint enemies once I take up my father’s seat in the North.”
“Then shall we look for your coming up the North Road perhaps in half a year of the Sun?” Elrond asked.
Isildur shook his head. “Nay,” he said. “I think to return to the North by way of the valley of the Anduin. I would see how those who dwell in Rhovanion and northward are ordering their lands, and survey the river valley so as to perhaps establish a new road east of the Mountains of Mist. Look for us to return over the High Pass in perhaps eight months.”
Elrond appeared to his smith to be unsettled by this plan, while the Lady Galadriel Artanis straightened in her seat. “Is it wise, do you think,” she asked, “to follow the river when so many of the Enemy’s creatures fled into the wilderness north of Mordor when Sauron’s power fell? Nay, my Lord Isildur, it would be better, I deem, should you choose to return by way of the western route.”
Isildur laughed. “And what threat do the orcs of Mordor offer Men now, now that their Dark Lord is gone, his spirit fled his dread lands? Are we to dread wraiths such as Sauron has become?”
“Do not all dread the power of his Ring-wraiths?” Celeborn interposed. “Sauron was ever greater than they, and may prove powerful enough once he becomes accustomed to his new estate and thinks to reestablish himself. Did not Elrond counsel you that there is always the chance that so long as his Ring remains in Its current form within Middle Earth that he can return? So much of himself did he invest within It at Its forging!”
An unhealthy gleam appeared in the Man’s eyes at the mention of the One Ring, and he responded, “So, you still would have me destroy the one creation of Sauron that is fair and perfect? You would have me cast away the price I have claimed for the death of my father and brother at the hands of Sauron’s creatures? Do you think to govern the kingdoms of Men through me? Or do you believe that I will seek to use It to force the other races of Middle Earth to submit to my own rule?”
Galadriel refused to be intimidated by his words. “You think to return northward through lands to which Sauron’s creatures fled bearing the token of his power upon your person, or so I must surmise. Do you not realize that they will be drawn to what they can sense of his might, and that they will seek to find themselves by Its power, Sauron himself having fled elsewhere? You put yourself and those who will travel with you into needless danger.”
“And have not orcs and trolls always dwelt within the depths below the Mountains of Mist, and been seen both east and west of them?” asked Isildur’s second son. “It seems to me that by your logic we are in perhaps equal danger whether we take the west or the eastern route back to our mother’s side.”
Elrond, Celeborn, and Galadriel all chose to no longer prolong the argument. Having given their warning, they had in the end done all they could.
After the meal, the smith went out into the court before the Dome of Stars to take the air, and was surprised when, after a time, he was joined by Isildur himself. “My Lord?” the Elf inquired.
“You wrought the armor worn by my father during the war just passed, and that I had my nephew arrayed within for his coronation,” Isildur said.
“Yes, this is so. I fear that he was not sufficiently tall to wear it comfortably.”
“And you warned my sons that you could not reforge my father’s sword, although you could take its steel and from it create a new sword, one that would be only a sword as was any other.”
“Even so. The Sword of Kings can be reforged, but I cannot do so alone, and the time to do so is not now.”
The smith shook his head. “That I do not know and cannot tell. I fear that if it is to come, it will not come until near the end of this new Age, even as the sword was broken at the end of the last one. I do know it must be done with the full cooperation of all of the Free Peoples of Middle Earth.”
The Man nodded thoughtfully. The smith noted that he held his hand curled, as he had throughout the time he’d seen Isildur since his return from his father’s internment; curled as if it pained him and so he sought to protect it from any further irritation. Yet this was unconscious by this time, for the consideration of this King of Men was on other subjects—no, perhaps not as much on other subjects as the Elf had first thought as he asked, “Could you forge for me a locket? I can provide you with gold from which to forge it, and leather with which to line it to hold securely a ring.”
The smith grew still, and he could hear the coldness of his own voice as he asked, “To hold Sauron’s Ring?”
Isildur’s gaze met his own with a level of defiance. “Yea,” he replied steadily. “Even so. I have had to carry It within a steel box covered with insulating silk and leather in order to bear It within my scrip. Even then It has proved nearly hot enough to burn me, even as It did as I bore It from the place where my father fell. I cannot begin to describe how hot It was when first I picked It up from the ash of the Mountain, hot enough to burn directly through my battle glove. Had I worn metal gauntlets I fear It should have melted the armor.”
With that he held out his hand for the Elf to see the still healing flesh of his palm, yet black from the heat of the Ring. “I have a scar on my side,” he said, “where I was wounded while taking a fruit from Nimloth to bring away from the Court of the Tree in Armenelos, a wound made worse because Sauron’s own breath fell upon it as I sought to flee with the fruit. It nearly killed me, that wound. I am told I shall bear that scar to my dying day, even as I fear I now will bear this scar similarly.
“I should indeed have cast the Ring away when Elrond led me into the Sammath Naur,” he confided in a low voice, his eyes now fixed upon his wounded palm. “I know now that it is only by the will of the Ring Itself that I was made to carry It forth. But now that I have It in my possession, if,” he added as an aside, his voice becoming more ironic, “if it is not more likely that I am in Its possession, I cannot cast It aside. Nor could I return to Mordor to return It to the Fire at this point. I rejoice that It finally cools, although the fiery writing upon It even now fades to the point it can no longer be read. Perhaps I might even be able one day to wear It.”
“Do not do so, my lord,” advised the Elf. “It would only confirm Its mastery of you, I fear.”
Isildur shrugged. “I seek not to master It,” he said, “merely to carry It close to my heart. And I suspect that I will rest most easily if It is held within a locket. I had considered wearing It upon a chain as a maiden or wife might wear her beloved’s ring as a promise until he should return at last to reclaim her love. But I do not believe it wise to allow It to actually touch my flesh. And if It is held within a locket I shall be more easily able to remove It to wear should I need Its power to make me invisible to the eyes of my enemies.”
At last the smith was persuaded, and for three days he worked in a goldsmith’s smithy upon the desired locket, at last giving it over to a glover who would see it properly lined with silk and leather to hold the Ring secure within it. Only when he was done with this commission did Elrond agree to quit the capital of the Sea Kings’ realm, and at last they set off northward.