Prologue: Unnumbered Tears
F.A. 471 – Gondolin
"Look now what I have, toronya," said Nárello. Taking a pouch from his outer tunic, he opened the drawstring and carefully tipped the contents into his palm. "The jewelers delivered it just this morning."
Erunámo set aside the book he had been reading and looked at the mass of beads in his older brother's hand. Each was wrought in the shape of a golden flower and pierced through so it might be strung onto a chain or woven into a braid of hair, which was no doubt what Nárello intended to do with them. "So many beads and baubles you wear already, brother. I am surprised you did not have them fitted with tiny bells."
Glowering, the Lord of the Golden Flower poured them back into the pouch and pulled the drawstring closed. "I had intended to give you half, laurë findo, but since you are such an impudent pup—"
"Oh, you are a fine one to talk!" laughed Erunámo. "How many are there? Thirty, or perhaps forty? If you are not wearing all of them when you court the Lady Idril, you will be so discontent you will strike a wrong note on the lute or forget the poem you composed for her, though for my part I would have forgotten anyway with the Lord Maeglin glaring at me so."
Nárello blushed at being teased so for his interest in the King's daughter, but quickly recovered his composure. "Even though you are insufferable, still I will give you half the ornaments, as I had them made for a special occasion. Remember you the Orcs that tried to scout out the Hidden Way last season?"
"Aye, but you and your warriors hunted them down and slew them," said Erunámo. "And it is certainly not the first time you have taken down a party of such creatures."
"'Tis true, but when we searched their corpses to see what tokens we might find, we found some spoils. Much of it was rubbish, foul things such as the creatures of the Shadow hoard, but some had gold upon them. Crude ornaments bearing the device of the Enemy, yet nothing that could not be melted down and made into something more beautiful," answered Nárello.
Erunámo did not think much of the taking of spoils, though he knew it was done sometimes by the warriors who patrolled the Echoriath; he thought his brother above that. His heart told him to refuse the gift, for there seemed to be some dark taint in the gold as it rested in Nárello's hand. Nay, it is only some squeamish fancy. Had he not told me where he had gotten them, I would not have seen anything amiss.
"Forty-eight there are," Nárello continued. "You shall have twenty-four of them to do with as you like, but mine I shall wear for the King's feast the night before we join our force to that of Fingon and march on Angband. Perhaps I shall wear it for the battle itself, to remind myself that that which is foul need not remain so."
The passion in his voice and the glitter of his eyes told Erunámo that he was speaking in broader terms now, of the lands that had once been theirs that had fallen to the desolation and horror of the Enemy. It had ever been a dream of theirs to return to Vinyamar by the sea where they had spent their childhood, to leave behind the confining walls and fearful vigilance and go back to what was the closest thing to Valinor that remained to them.
"Aye," Erunámo murmured, following his brother's hand as Nárello drew out the beads and began to count them out. "I would see that."
* * *
The violence of the Balrog's blow wrenched the helm from his head and sent it spinning. Nárello's hair whipped free, blowing in his face as he raised his arm to shield himself from the second blow.
A half-second later he realized his hair was ablaze. He writhed and twisted in the saddle, spilling from the destrier's back into a ditch already heaped with corpses and the broken fragments of a catapult. Mailed hands clawed at his head, trying to smother the flames; he pulled away handfuls of blackened hair and melting gold, even as his skin blistered and broke and his scream was stifled by the acrid stench of burning flesh.
He heard his mount shriek above him; the sound was swallowed by the Balrog's roar and the crack of its flaming whip. Superheated air burned his lungs; he could no longer scream, but whimpered as the third and last blow smote him into the earth.
* * *
toronya: (Quenya) my brother
laurë findo: (Quenya) golden hair[ed one]