Summary: Ulmo takes pity on a distraught woman who hurled herself into his embrace. Nienor-lives AU. If you fear OCs, fear this story... :) Discovered it somewhere in the depths of my hard drive, so excuse dustiness (read: laziness in fixing plentiful mistakes). Stupid writer's block preventing me from writing anything new. Ugh. Not pleased. Not pleased at all...

Wait No More

Water is oblivion.

She felt its icy fingers caress her hair, her face, her skin. She felt it soak into the layers of her dress, her cloak, the weight of the wet clothes pulling her down.

So this is what it feels like to die.

As she relaxed into the water's bitter embrace, she was aware of a strange purity in the waves, an acceptance of her sins. She did not know whether it was her drowning senses decieving her, but she thought she heard a voice from the deep and cold river, calling her, caressing her.

I will wait no more on Middle-Earth.

That was what she had said. Said in a passion of anguish as she flung herself into the cold water, wanting to end her life, extinguish the flame. Now, her fire was burnt out, and calmly she accepted her fate. As the curling tendrils of water filled her mouth and nose, she wondered if she would drift all the way to the sea. She felt the sun on her face, heard the cry of gulls, and no more.


The storm had passed. A bright, if watery sun shone uncertainly, picking out traces of gold and silver on the wet leaves. Every so often, a light gust of wind from the West would shake the slender branches, setting a cascade of water droplets free. Amid the smell of wet leaves and the tall rushes on the river-bank, it seemed to him that there came a different scent, and if he sat still as the very rock, the wind would bring him traces of immortal flowers.

The bright morning sunlight was causing Nenhir to squint and blink, but it was also drying his wet garments so he stayed outside. He sat on a large grey rock which sloped slightly towards the river. Occasionally the water would lap against his bare feet, and sometimes, amid the confused murmurings and burblings common to all rivers, he fancied he heard a voice. It had been he that had led his people through much danger from the North, always following the faint song of the water. When the call faded, they stopped, and when he deemed the time was right, moved on again. So slowly they had made their way quietly through the valleys of Beleriand, staying out of the way.

They had rested on the river banks for several years now, and were content. Yet Nenhir knew in his heart that they could not rest there forever, and when the call of the moving water became unbearable they would have to move on again. He had no clear idea where they were going - always following the river, since the day he came across an icy spring rising from the rocks in the far North, it had always led him South, always South, to the great Sea.

Disturbed from his thoughts by a great splashing and commotion below, Nenhir sighed, and stood up, shaking the last droplets of water from his hair. The children of the tribe were often restless and noisy when there was no catch to haul in, and swimming seemed to be their preferred activity. Well, if dunking each other and shreiking could be called swimming.

He heard the calls of the fishermen, a boat being readied by the sound of the heavy ropes being unwound. Wondering what the fuss was about, he moved to the edge of the rock to give himself a better view of the river. And he saw.

"Oh, Eru." He dashed down the quickest path to the shore, his forgotten boots drying in the sun.


At first they thought she was dead. By the look of the bedraggled mortal maiden they had pulled from the river's embrace, Nenhir was not surprised.

It had been Edhellas, Nenhir's wife, who had found her peacefully drifting downstream. Her cries had awakened many others, who had at once readied a boat. Even as the Lord of the waterside folk hurried down to the river-bank, keeping the curious children at bay, Edhellas had declared that the woman lived, if barely.

"She lives?" Nenhir had said, surprised. Although he had seen few mortals in his travels, he knew that they were weaker in body than Elves. He knew that although the river was usually kind, her cruel streak had claimed several who did not respect her.

"Aye," said Edhellas, before she hastened to prepare the healer's bed. "She breathes."


It was raining, cold, hard rain that beat on the mud of the shore and broke the smooth water into thousands of fragmented ripples. Everyone was huddled inside the largest building to shelter from the rain, and they were discussing the most recent addition to the village.

"All the Atani are mad," said Tâdion, a young fisherman known for his quick temper. He looked scornfully through the rain-battered window towards the healer's tent, where their lord's mortal charge lay.

Nenhir was reading in the corner. He cast a warning glance at Tâdion, who took no notice and continued speaking.

"They come floating down the river like logs and cannot even speak."

Nenhir turned back to his book, for he had no answer. The strange mortal woman was a puzzle to him, for despite the best efforts of Edhellas, she still had not said a word since they had brought her in. Although her body was almost completely recovered from her ordeal, the Elf guessed at some shadow on her past, something that was best forgotten. Yet the riddle still played on his mind.

"I think they are cruel," put in Lothiel, Tâdion's younger sister. "The poor halfwitted girl, cast out from her own family to the mercy of the water."

Once, Nenhir had known a tribe of mortals who had a half-crazed man. They feared him and did not know what to do, so one day in winter they brought him deep into the forest and left him to starve. Nenhir guessed it was common practice among their people, as cruel as it seemed to him. Yet this woman did not seem mad, apart from her strange silence and haunted eyes. Also, he had noticed her clothes were made from a fair kind of material, well-shaped and soft, as a noble might wear. She had not been turned out by her own people, that much he was sure of.

"Perhaps she is frightened," suggested another maiden of the village. "She need not fear us, we mean no harm to her."

"I wonder if that is the reason they cast her out?" said Menelin, Edhellas's apprentice. She wiped her hands on her apron. "She is with child."


Winter drew near. Nenhir was often away now, wandering further and further downriver, straining as if to hear a distant call. The skies were grey and dull, and the days were short. Wolves howled in the forest, and the river-folk tied up their boats and retreated to their homes.

It was on the night of the first snow of winter that the river-foundling gave birth to her child. When the bringing-forth began, many of the healers began to fear for her life, for mortal bodies were weak. However, she proved stronger than they had thought, and before the night was gone, the cries of an infant were heard in the cold winter air.

The child was black haired, as dark as his mother was fair, with soft brown eyes and pale skin. He was almost the opposite of his mother in outer appearance, but there was something strikingly similar about the mother and child that the elf-woman could not put her finger on. Edhellas quickly wrapped the newborn, for it was bitterly cold, and gently handed him to his mother, who raised her head weakly.

"There he is," the Elf-woman said, stroking the foundling's damp hair proudly. "Your son."

And she replied. She spoke, for the first time.

"My son." were her words. Then, exhausted, she fell into a deep sleep.


After the birth of her child, the woman began to talk regularly. She would speak of Brethil, the many friends she had made on her travels, and sometimes the memories of her homeland, the once-fair golden pastures of Dor-Lómin. Edhellas began to enjoy her company, and together they talked long while the Elf taught her mortal friend how best to care for her child. Yet when asked of her husband, her family or how she came to be among the river-people, her face would turn blank and pale and Edhellas feared she would return to her cold silence. She was in need of a companion herself, for Nenhir, strangely distant of late, would often be away for seemingly no purpose, wandering aimlessly down the river banks, walking barefoot in the soft mud of its curves. The foundling, who gave her name as Níniel, warmed to Edhellas and they became friends.

One day at the end of winter, as the snow was beginning to melt and the pale buds of niphredil began to appear beneath the trees, Níniel disappeared. Summonned by the child's plaintive mewling, Edhellas had come in to see if she was all right and found her gone.

"Mad," said Tâdion. "All the firimar are mad."

Lothiel was silent.


She took a raft and long pole, and set out silently by night, guided by her lantern. The cold stars gleamed overhead, and the only sound was the running water of the river.

The time has come.

"Níniel! Wait, Níniel!"

Such words she remembered, from another. Halting her raft with the pole she turned, a pale waif-like vision in the starlight, to where Nenhir stood alone on a sloping rock. His hair was loose, the cold wind winding through the dark strands, and he had clad himself in a thick cloak against the chill.

"Wait? What for?"

"Your child! Don't you think the river calls me, too? Always, every day I hear her voice, yet I wait! I wait!" Almost angrily he ran down to the river bank and into the water. It splashed his face, his hair.

"I will wait no longer on Middle-Earth." She said. Such words she remembered, for it had been her own voice that had called them, in passion, in pain. Now they were soft and sad, yet calm.

"I..." Nenhir gasped as the cold water slapped his arms, his chest. "I don't understand."

"Neither do I."

And softly, quietly.


Dawn broke after a time, sending the stars to flight. He stood there, dripping wet and cold, watching the tiny speck on the horizon vanish into a golden shimmering mist. He felt the sun on his face, and heard the cry of the gull.


The End