It's been a long time, but I've finally, literally found the last chapter of Fire. When I began writing this story over three years ago, I decided to draft an ending as an incentive, something to work towards—because, if anything, I'm a fiend for closure. Years and months went by, but I forgot all about this drafted finale until it slipped out of my battered edition of Morgoth's Ring during my most recent bookshelf rearrangement. I read it and immediately realized that there, on that much-folded piece of three-year-old lined paper, was my ending, as I had originally intended it to be.
And here it is, in its full, unadulterated melodrama. I'm embarrassed now to read through its hyperbolic style and limited vision, but this was how my younger self wanted it to appear. Unedited, childish, visceral? Yes, it's all of those. But it's also a testament to my perpetual love for the magical writer who taught me and so many others how to write. This certainly won't be my last piece on this site (not if my fickle Muse has anything to say about it), but I feel a great sense of completion finally putting this up.
So, without further ado—the final act.
Chapter Forty-two: The Lake of Stars
The fires that Moringotto's demons had set upon my body were no longer outside me, but within me. The flames were beneath my flesh, eating at my heart.
But I did not crumble or warp, like wood or steel. I withstood the agony, even as I knew the two flames—the one that was my spirit and that foreign one that gnawed inside my veins like an animal—would destroy each other in the end. I was doomed. Like my mother. Like my father. Dying.
I could only just feel Maitimo's arms carrying me as he ran, as if I were a child again, slumped in his arms.
Parent carried by child… I wanted to laugh, if it would not have hurt me so. I wondered why the fire had not taken him. His spirit had always been less than mine. Just like everyone's.
It hurt even to twitch my eyelids, so I stared unblinking up at the sky sweeping past, my eyes burning in their sockets. The stars were so cold. If only I could hold one, my fire would be quenched. I had held stars once, I realized. Three of them. But now they were gone, and I was dying in a strange land.
Maitimo was trying to speak to me, I realized. His face and the faces of his brothers hovered mistily in my vision.
He looked so much like his mother. Though it sent rivulets of heat shooting through my shaking arm, I lifted a hand to his face—so cold, in compare—and said, "Remember your oath, Nelyafinwë. Look after your brothers."
Maitimo nodded. Why was there fear in his eyes? I grew impatient; this body, this weakness, was trapping me. I was a prisoner inside my own form.
"Where are the rest of you?" I demanded, "Give me your hands…"
I felt several hands clasp mine, some firm, some soft. I looked up at their foggy faces as I brought their fingers to my parched lips and kissed each, though the fires within flared painfully with each gesture I made.
"Mind your oath," I repeated, "I love all of you so much."
I heard them murmur shaking replies, but even the simple words grew dim and alien. I turned my head to look out upon the still, blue-black lake. It mirrored the night sky above perfectly, so that faraway lights seemed to shine from the dark depths.
The fire grew hotter—the last flare of a dying ember.
I step away from the forge, my work complete, as the fires dwindle. My time is done.
Now I go home.
It is the star-filled lake that I looked upon last with corporeal sight, until I closed my tired, weeping eyes and saw my mother's face for the first time.