"Reports from the northern patrols, my King." Rumil tilted his head, examining Amroth. It was late afternoon, and the hot summer sun was relentless in its intensity. Any respectable Elf would be resting now, safe in the shade of the talan, singing, or weaving, or telling tall tales to the children. Only Amroth would still be working at this hour – and making Rumil do so as well.
"Thank you," the King replied, not looking up.
"You know, Amroth, I wrote a good third of that epic poem of yours."
Rumil curled one braid around his finger. "I cannot write any more, if I do not know how it ends."
"Thank you for the reports, Rumil."
The Galadhrim paused for a second, considering. Then he swiftly settled himself in a chair usually reserved for one of Amroth's counsellors, and slipped his feet up onto the ornately carved table.
Amroth glared at him over the top of a thick sheaf of paper.
"I thought I asked you to leave?"
"Technically," replied Rumil, wagging a finger at him, "you merely hinted that my presence was no longer welcome."
"So why did you not?"
"Why did I not what?"
"Why did you not leave? Rumil, I am not in the mood for your jokes. Please, find something else to do."
"Such as?" came the soft reply. "I suppose I could watch my older brother at patrol, barely resting, barely speaking, in some self-imposed penance for the loss of his love. I could watch the guilt tear him up because he could not admit his feelings until it was too late. I could watch my younger brother, too. I could watch, as each day goes on, him shut himself away from the world, like Haldir does, because he thinks it is the only way to cope. Because he fears to love. Or I could come talk to my friend, who was, after all, my friend long before he was my king, because I believe he is making a fool of himself for no good reason."
"Trust me," said Amroth. "I have my reasons."
Rumil shrugged. "And you are king. But that does that mean she must be queen? Can you marry her but not crown her, love her but set her free?"
"You speak in riddles, Rumil, and of things you know nothing about," snapped Amroth. "Let me be."
"I know more than you might think." In Rumil's outstretched palm Amroth saw, for a second, a glimmering piece of silver, a trinket of the sort given from one love to another, before it was snatched away, tucked back into whatever pocket it had been hiding in.
"She went west, after the wars. She lost her family, and the sea called her home." Rumil smiled sadly. "I blame her not. She will await me in Aman. But will you wait as long as I will, Amroth? Or, to be more direct, must you?"
Amroth finally managed to choke out a few words. "I… I did not know, Rumil, I am sorry…"
Rumil shook his head. "Do not be." He swung his feet off the table and stood, in one smooth motion. "I should probably leave."
He was half-way across the talan before Amroth thought of the right words.
There was a feral glint in Rumil's smile. "Think nothing of it. After all, I am the smartest of my mother's sons."
With a laugh, he prepared to leave, but not before once more regaling Amroth with a little more of his 'epic poem':
"Beside the falls of Nimrodel,
By water clear and cool,
Her voice as falling silver fell
Into the shining pool."
This time, however, he was not quick enough. Amroth's aim with an apple was as good as it had been when he was a child, and Rumil yelped and fled.
He did take the apple with him, though.
The falls were the same, silver under starlight. As was Nimrodel, ever the same. So long had it been since he had seen her in the light of day – indeed, since that first chance meeting she had always come to him at night – that he wondered, briefly, if she would vanish in full light, like a dream, like a ghost.
"Why do you come to me again, my King?"
He sighed, wrapping his arms around himself. "Yours and not yours, although I do not ask you to be Queen. Merely to love me; is that too much to ask?"
"I do love you." The declaration was punctuated with a soft kiss upon his cheek. She settled her head upon his shoulder, strands of her hair falling down to tickle his arm. "But you are King, Amroth. That changes things."
"I do not see how." Abruptly he stood, and leapt lightly up onto the stones beside the falls, cool beneath his feet. "What are you afraid of?"
For a moment she was silent. The answer came softly, gently. "I am afraid my son would be to much like his father, that you would lead him into war."
"My son would be a prince. Would you keep him from his duty?"
"You think I do not understand. You forget, Amroth. I was here before you. I remember when the darkness crept in from the East, yet we survived. Without your blades, or your wars. We had bows yet, and rocks, and then fists and feet. We would have fought until the end, had you not come."
"And I wonder what that end would have been?" replied Amroth. "Sticks and stones against the armies of Mordor?"
She smiled. "Sticks and stones and song and sorrow. I was a queen once. They crowned me with heather, under the stars of spring, because for a moment my songs were more pleasing than any other. But come midsummer next there would be another— another King, another Queen."
"You never said…"
"It was not the same. We did not have the words for it. We were all Kings and Queens, and we crowned each other with wildflowers in spring, green leaves in summer, red berries in the autumn and in winter left our heads bare, for that was the way it had ever been. Who will remember, when I am gone? The world changes, and come midsummer young Mithrellas will be dancing with the Galadhrim, singing in Sindarin, forgetting the old ways."
"I would never…"
"You would never mean to, and that would make it worse. But I shall remain, speaking the old tongues, singing the old songs under starlight. I will keep faith, Amroth. And that means I must let you go."
He shook his head. "This task, this crown, has been appointed to me. I must keep faith also, Nimrodel."
"I do not ask you to break faith."
"No, you merely break my heart." He turned away, and leapt from the rocks, running along the shores of the river Nimrodel.
But he did not heed her call, and, tears falling freely, ran through the woods, night and day, until he fell exhausted upon the mound of Cerin Amroth. He wept under starlight, but when the sun rose again, he was King, and made whole. If Rumil guessed, he bit his tongue, and Amroth did not speak of Nimrodel. Nor would he see her again, till the Dwarf-Bane woke in Moria.