Middle-Earth Fanfiction Awards

Last Stroke

Author: Elena Tiriel
Nominator: Tanaqui
2008 Award Category: Genres: Alternate Universe: Drabbles - First Place

Story Type: Fixed-Length Ficlet : Length: True Drabble
Rating: General -- Reason for Rating: N/A
Summary: 100 words "'The Corsairs of Umbar!' men shouted.... 'The Corsairs are upon us! It is the last stroke of doom!'" (RoTK, "The Battle of the Pelennor Fields") What might have come to pass....


Reviewed by: Tanaqui -- Score: 10

Elena Tiriel's writing displays many admirable qualities, and in this piece it is the cleverness and slyness of her misdirection that most charms amongst the writerly skills on display here. The premise is simple. We are presented with a scenario and are convinced by her clever use of certain phrases echoing Tolkien's writing that we are in one place and time. We naturally expect a certain reversal or rearrangement of facts. This is surely not merely a retelling of a scene from the book. Yet the final line of the drabble is truly shocking in how it turns our assumptions about the preceding text on its head. More than that -- the final line encapsulates and presents to us so much other history that must have occurred for this twist of fate (and story) to have taken place. Elena Tiriel's brilliance is that she does not need to recite those facts: we can guess and imagine them as easily as her protagonist must. The economy of her writing in presenting us with a set up and conclusion that ranges so widely in just one hundred words is truly breathtaking. Of course, as always, this artful application of the drabble form is conducted with Elena Tiriel's usual careful attention to language, structure and rhythm which allows her to create a truly satisfying whole. Well done, indeed!

Reviewed by: dkpalaska -- Score: 10

Nearly the entirety of this drabble is a masterful work of misdirection, and I do mean masterful. It takes some thought and planning to craft a scene-setting as evocative and tangible as this one is, that inserts me so firmly into what seems to be a very specific time and place through perfectly-chosen resonances with the original work - and then spins me completely out of all of that into a wholly different scenario in the space of one short and final sentence. The tone, descriptive writing and structure are all extremely well done. Even in the space of so few words, there is a discernible tension that builds from start to finish. The language is Tolkienesque, flows very naturally and complements the atmosphere of the piece. And the after-effects: Elena Tiriel leaves me thinking on about the state of the rest of Middle-earth, if this is what is happening in this particular corner of it. It's a dismal place indeed... I think that my favorite impression, however, is how well-drawn the similarities are between where I thought I was and where the drabble actually takes place. The same nobility and fierceness of character, the determination to stand firm until the bitter end: it sends chills down my spine and speaks to all that I love best about LotR.

Reviewed by: Marta -- Score: 4

This drabble does a good job of inverting the expectations developed in the reader both by the quote at the beginning and the line, [though none be left to remember]. One would expect the character in question to be a man making some last heroic stand, and that would have been enough. Yet the revelation that this is no man but an elf, and Círdan at that, sent a chill down my spine. Nice reversal, Elena.

Reviewed by: Dwimordene -- Score: 4

This drabble does what a good AU should: it takes what you think is familiar, evokes it and whips it up to the point where one imagines that only the outcome could be different (will Minas Tirith stand or fall in the face of the Corsairs) and then turns the reader on her head by throwing her hundreds of leagues away. It's an accomplished mislead to great effect, and that last line is just chilling and makes the whole drabble. Very enjoyable - well done, ET!

Reviewed by: Isabeau of Greenlea -- Score: 3

Eomer's stand on the hill on the Pelennor, tossing up his sword when he saw the standard of Elendil, always seemed to me to be the ultimate cinematic moment, and I never understood why Peter Jackson didn't use it. Elena takes that scene and deftly twists it to show another place and a darker fate. Powerful, despite its brevity.

Reviewed by: kitt_otter -- Score: 3

As a Círdan lover, I was thrilled by this. Every word well placed; I could hear and see the alarm. Just these two words excited me most: [“ancient sword”] – that said a lot about the Shipwright’s defiance of the darkness. The words drew me in and left me satisfied.

Reviewed by: Marigold -- Score: 3

Chilling AU drabble and the imagery is powerful. I liked this portrayal of Cirdan, grim and mighty, noble and commanding; even though this is most probably the final ending and a terrible loss of everything good that might remain in Middle-earth, he still stands tall and ready to do what must be done.

Reviewed by: Raksha the Demon -- Score: 3

A horrifying glimpse of the doom of most, if not all, Elves of Middle-earth if the Ring War had not been won. Very descriptive, I could see the power of the Corsairs' ships, and feel the pathos of Cirdan's doomed defiance. I am so very glad that this was AU!

Reviewed by: Larner -- Score: 3

When the wind blows out the banners and the device is not what one would wish to see, how does one respond? For this lord of havens, it is the sign of the end, perhaps. A terrible might-have-been, and grievous, although well written, powerful in its brevity.

Reviewed by: viv -- Score: 2

Wow, that was a lot of old-timey nautical verbiage (and old-style semicolon usage) right there! You were channeling the professor, weren't you? hee

Reviewed by: Súlriel -- Score: 2

What an interesting perspective. I can't remember reading this scene with Círdan before. Well done, emotional and visual as I always find your work to be.

Reviewed by: Lindelea -- Score: 1

This gave me shivers. I am so glad it did not happen this way.

Reviewed by: Linda Hoyland -- Score: 1

A truly chilling drabble.