Feanor's sons attacked us. Doriath is devastated. Menegroth is in ruins. We are still holding, but we are outnumbered. It is only a matter of time until we will fall. Curse Morgoth, curse the sons of Feanor...

But in fact, I care not. Death should come quickly. I don't ache for this life, nor for our beautiful city or kingdom. The only thing that feels so bitter is a new kinslaying. But I don't care for the rest, especially not for myself.

All around me a battle rages. Swords clash, driven by the mindless hatred of their owners. Steel hits steel. And flesh. The ground is slippery with blood. My cousin fell, not far from me. His throat is cut, the blood and life flow out of his body. His eyes are open – lifeless, but they also look surprised, as if he didn't expect death would come for him too. But I don't have the time to mourn for him because I lift my sword to defend myself from the attacker. I'm faster than he is and my sword slides into his stomach, so smoothly, as a knife cuts butter. A Noldo falls, blue eyes close. His last look is pointed to me, accusing.

In a short moment, as if torn out of time, as if all around me stands frozen, I wonder – do I regret his death? I don't know any more. How many did I kill? I don't know that either.

The moment passes. I'm here again, in the heart of the battle, the bloody dance goes on. I know it's all wrong. I'm an elf. My people are elves. "The others" are elves, too. We should fight against our mutual enemy and not against each other. But there is no time to think. A new opponent is already here.

We withdraw. I see our king Dior. His shield bulges in in and there is a thin trickle of blood on his shoulder. He is surrounded by his guards and they try to protect him, but it is their position that suffers the most violent attack. It is only a matter of time before we'll be overrun.

When Doriath was attacked, a few days ago, many said that it had actually been a year ago that everything went wrong – in the moment when king Thingol was slain. A war with dwarves started then, Queen Melian left, there was no protection anymore. Everything started to fall apart. It was the beginning of the end, they said. But for me, it was not so.

For me, the beginning of the end was six years ago, when Nienor died.

-x-x-x-

My name is Laeron. I was born in Beleriand, long before the first rising of Sun and Moon. Elu Thingol, the king of all Sindar in Beleriand, is my uncle. When he was lost, my second uncle Olwe led a part of our people over the Sea. My father Elmo, the youngest of three brothers, remained in Middle-earth and continued to look for his brother. Finally they met, and then the kingdom of the Sindar was founded.

I recall the time before Sun and Moon, when only the stars shone over Middle-earth. I remember times before the return of Melkor, when there was no enemy. We didn't count years, we were careless. Evil was so distant. The forests were young, all the water clear and unspoiled. We were happy.

Was I happy, too? Yes. Although time spent with Nienor was the most beautiful part of my life, although all changed when I met her, I would lie if I said that all those years before her were empty. Moreover, an incomparably bigger part of my life passed without her. Many centuries. So many beautiful moments happened in that time; my life was enriched with my family, friends, the small joys of everyday life, and the occasional lover. Yes, there were a few, or at least I thought it was love in that time. But none of them was real love, only a passing sympathy; none turned into something deeper. When I think about them now, they are a nice memory, without bitterness. My father sometimes asked when I'd finally get married. He didn't truly grumble, although I felt that he was not quite satisfied. In a way, I understood him, but I didn't want to get married until I found the right one.

And also, don't the elves have all the time of this world? At least some say so... In countless changing of seasons, falling of leaves, cold winters, blooming of flowers, autumn rains, what difference makes a century for an elf? Time flies and stands still. I had time. I waited.

With Nienor, I spent only a year. A moment in eternity. But it was the most beautiful. Nienor was the one for whom I had waited.

I remember when I first saw her. She came to the court with her mother, Morwen Eledhwen, from the distant land of Dor Lomin. They were two travelers, exhausted by a long journey and woes; two of the younger children of Iluvatar, fragile yet strong at the same time, proud and courageous. Morwen had black hair and grey eyes, like Edain of the House of Beor – like the Noldor. Nienor had the golden hair of her father of the House of Hador – like the Vanyar. Although they were introduced to King's hall directly from their road, even before refreshment or changing clothes, neither weariness nor dust could diminish their beauty. When they came in, I believe that everyone thought for a moment that they were high elves. I stood in the hall and observed them. Morwen stood a step in front of her daughter and spoke of their journey. Everyone listened very carefully, and so did I, but my attention was fixed on the younger woman. Long golden hair, tied in a loose tail, reached her waist. Two unconstrained curls framed her beautiful face. On her brow there was a mote of dirt from the journey, which she didn't even notice – perhaps a few crumbs of soil, or the ash from their last fire, conveyed by an accidental touch of hand – but that didn't deface her beauty; in some odd way it made her even more beautiful. She was tall and slender, but I could feel she was also strong. But most of all, I was attracted to her eyes. They were blue like the sky, rimmed by long, dark eye-lashes. In her eyes I saw sadness but also strength. Her skin was pale, her face so beautiful. I realized that I couldn't take my eyes of her.

When did I realize that I loved you, Nienor? Was it that very day, when your gaze wandered around the hall and stopped on me for a moment, so I was bound to you forever, drawn to the warmth and kindness in your eyes? Or was it the next day, when I first talked to you, when I first heard your gentle voice? Or was it the following day?

I do not know...

All I know is that I saw your eyes and smile in all the things around me, I searched for you in every corner, I heard your voice in every spoken sentence. When we walked, I looked at your smooth steps, admired your graceful movements, listened to your words, looked into your eyes. All that mattered was to be close to you.

I was yours, I belonged to you more than I had belonged to anyone before. It was odd, wasn't it? I had just started to know you. You were a stranger, a daughter of the Edain, a daughter of the Younger children. I was an elf, a nephew of King Thingol. An abyss divided us. But much more bound us. I discovered that you loved what I did, too – the nature around us, history, music. We appreciated the same things – honour, family, honesty, courage. I could talk to you for hours. I could listen to you for hours. I loved the way you tilted your head and remained so, curious like a little girl, when listening to some of my stories. I loved the way you used to move away the hair from your brow, the gesture so gracious, so special, so – yours. I also loved your frowning but cheerful look when I teased you sometimes.

I was yours... to the very essence.

Was I afraid that you'd perceive that I loved you? Did I hope for it? I was afraid of your refusal. When I confessed that to you later, while you were in my arms, you were surprised. But we are all so vulnerable when it comes to love, aren't we?

Months passed. I loved you every day more and more. You and your mother dwelled in Doriath as guests of the King. I know that you wanted to find Turin and I knew that some day you'd go to search for him. I knew him, from the years he had spent in Menegroth. Knowing what I know now, knowing all I found out about Morgoth's curse, I respect him even more and regret his fate even more. Some elves don't like Men, despise them and consider them less worthy. It makes me angry. I found more honour and courage in many Men than in some elves. I know that Saeros assaulted and insulted your brother unjustly. Turin was stubborn and too proud, but I wasn't among those who had accused him. You will never know how many times I cursed the fate that had made Turin leave, so you didn't find him here in Menegroth, but later.

Do you know how many times I dreamed about you, my beloved? Either awake or in dream, I imagined that I held you in my arms: you kissed me, my hands caressed your body. In my dreams, it was so simple. In dreams, you loved me.

In reality, I was still afraid. Our friendship grew deeper; I enjoyed every talk, every walk under the sky and trees of my home. Every moment was so precious and tormenting at the same time. I wondered what these moments meant to you. Are they special to you too; or do you see only a good friend next to you? Are you returning company just to be polite? Yes, love makes us vulnerable.

I loved to listen to your words about your distant homeland, Dor Lomin – now enslaved, but never broken. "One day, my people will find the strength again and rise against Morgoth. One day, he will be defeated, and we will be free again", you said sadly. The pain in your eyes, while you spoke of your people, your home, your father you had never met, hurt me too, almost physically; it was something I had never felt before. I would give everything to wipe away your pain, to make your young life more beautiful and careless.

And then, I knew I would do it somehow. Perhaps I was Laeron, a Sinda from Doriath, King Thingol's nephew, but it was then that I decided I'd fight together with your people when the time comes for the battle against Morgoth.

-x-x-x-

The blade gleamed in a sudden, deadly move. King Dior is dead. Just a second before, he stabbed Celegorm but was slain that very moment himself, in a last, dying stroke of Feanor's son. The two bodies fell; two more, in the sea of death.

We withdraw. Soon we will all be dead. The Queen is dead too, their two young sons are lost. One small part of our people managed to escape but I see no hope. Doriath is overrun, destroyed; the evil spreads, conquers everything. Its seed sown many centuries ago now brings new victims. So much good of this world will never again exist.

I loved our king. But I have no more tears in me. Just emptiness. And there is no time. A tall, dark-haired Noldo stands with his back turned to me. One short moment, just a blink of an eye, incautious. A blink of an eye – too much. A blink of an eye – too long. Then his instincts warn him. He turns around and lifts his sword, and in this emphatic profile I recognize Caranthir, another of the seven cursed sons. But he is not quick enough. A blink of an eye – incautious. My sword ends one more life.

Madness.

Once white stone of Menegroth will be forever red.

Death is everywhere around me, it spreads its cold greedy hands, calls, come to me.

Come for me.

-x-x-x-

And so, finally, came the day. Another walk, another long talk. And yet, that day was different. So special.

The summer was near, it was warm. Nienor walked towards me and smiled. She wore a gossamer white dress. Her arms were bare. The neckline of the dress showed the tops of her breasts. For a moment I watched breathlessly, staring at her, at her slender waist and the slight swell of her breasts. She saluted me cheerfully and in my mind I pulled her close to me and kissed her. I think that I blushed and quickly I turned my head from her, not to reveal my thoughts. We moved forth.

We walked through the forest, through the meadows, alongside the little river. It was a beautiful sunny day and I spoke about the first sunrise, about the days when Middle-earth had first been bathed with sun-rays, when the light had overcome the darkness and awakened hope against Morgoth's evil. Then she told me about stories that she had listened to as a child: that the sun had meant hope for the Men as well, and how the forefathers of the Edain had set out on a journey towards the west, towards the sun.

Soon we saw a small calf. Nienor hurried towards it and I stayed behind her. The sun was in front of her and it lit her, shining through her gossamer dress, and I saw every line of her body, her waist and long, slender legs. While I stood and stared at her beauty, feeling how love made my heart beat quicker, she came to the little animal which hadn't gotten scared at all. Nienor squatted next to it, caressed its head and turned to me with a smile.

"Isn't it beautiful, Laeron?" she asked, her face shining with a smile. But I wasn't able to say a word.

I love you. It was the only silent answer to her question that I had, but it remained unspoken. I love you for being so special, for having such a big heart full of love for everything, for being able to rejoice in life like a little girl in spite of the hard life and sorrowful fate of your family, for being so brave, for being such a good friend.

While I approached her, she stood up. I smiled at her. The warm breeze played with her long blond hair. One small leaf landed in her hair. I lifted my hand and removed it. I touched her hair and then laid my hand on her shoulder. She was so close to me and I smelled her sweet scent. The big blue eyes that I loved so much watched me without blinking.

"Yes, it is beautiful", I said, while I felt my heart beating so loudly that I was afraid she'd hear it. "But nothing, no one is as beautiful as you, Nienor."

We watched each other for several moments. I wasn't aware that I was holding my breath. I touched her cheek and caressed her silky hair. She didn't move away, but put her small palm on my hand. Then I found courage and pulled her closer. Our lips brushed. The kiss for which I've waited for so long, which I longed for and dreamed of for so long, was at first so gentle, like a soft touch; then I held her tighter and couldn't stop kissing her lips, eyes, neck, carried by passion. Her lips were warm and soft. She wrapped her arms around me, holding me tight. I felt the warmth of her body.

Was I dreaming?

"I love you, Nienor", I whispered in her ear, thus saying these words for the first time aloud.

I didn't let her out of my embrace. We sat next to a big tree, her head on my shoulder; we kissed, not noticing the world around us. Our eyes were closed but our hearts open to the other. It was only our love that was important. I could swear that I heard birds singing happier than usual that day, celebrating love. We came back to our homes late, when the sun kissed the horizon and the sky became purple. That night I fell asleep so happy, thinking of my love.

No, I wasn't dreaming! She really loved me! She was mine, just like I was hers! I felt no more fear. And I could touch her, hold her close, kiss her sweet lips. I'll never forget the spring and summer of that year. We spent every free moment that we had together. I recall the moment when she told me that she had never been so happy before. Neither was I, regardless that my life was so much longer than hers. I kissed her brow and looked her seriously. "Nienor is your name", I said, "but I swear to you, sorrow will never again be a part of your life. I'll do everything for you."

Now, while her head rested on my chest, while I kissed her, sliding my hand down her back and waist, while we held each other close, we had both laughed at our insecurity. "I was afraid that you didn't love me, that you saw only a friend in me", we both confessed to each other. Love makes us vulnerable? Yes. But it also makes us stronger and makes our lives richer.

You enriched my life exceedingly, Nienor.

I knew that there were some who didn't approve of our love, just like it had happened before, for Luthien and Beren. They thought that a mortal was not worthy of an elf. I let them know that I scorned their views. But no matter how I tried not to pay attention, it all made me angry. How could some of my people – the Eldar, who were supposed to be wise and noble – be so full of prejudices? So malicious?

Nobody said anything aloud, but there were looks and scorn that couldn't go unnoticed. I know that it was much harder for her than for me, I saw pain and insecurity in her eyes. And that hurt me more than anything. She should've never suffered nor felt any doubts.

One autumn evening, I led her to my parents, to their big house. Although they didn't ask me anything yet, I knew that they wanted to know how serious it all was. I invited Nienor's mother, too. "I have met many elves, as well as many Men. I saw how brave and honourable they were", I said seriously. "I am ashamed of some things that my people do or say. Nienor, I want you to know, I want everybody to know", in that moment I stopped and and fixed my gaze on each of them in turn, "that this elf is honoured that you think he is worthy of your love." I took her hand and gently kissed the back of her hand, and then I looked into her eyes. "My love, you would make me the happiest person on Arda, you would do me the greatest honour, if you would be my wife."

I saw how her eyes widened and then filled with tears. Her lips trembled slightly, at first just in a hint of shy smile, and then the broad smile that I adored lit her beautiful face. Was it just my impression, or in that moment did the whole room seem to shine brighter, as if lit by a new light?

"I will", she whispered. I pulled her into my embrace, hardly believing my own happiness, and kissed her, quite unaware of the presence of my parents and her mother; I didn't cease kissing her until the moment when she restrained me, laughing between two kisses. Then I looked around me, as if awakened from a dream, and met their eyes. I think that their tears touched me even more than Nienor's. They approached and held us, while happiness filled their eyes.

-x-x-x-

I become tired. The sword is heavy in my hand. My movements become slower, I repulse the attacks harder and harder. My breath is heavy, the strength slowly but surely abandons me. And why would I try, when everything is lost anyway? Lost, long ago...

The black eyes of my enemy reveal nothing. And why would they? Instead, his sword speaks. I am not quick enough, and his blade pierces my chest. The pain. I fall on my knees, while the attempt to draw breath cuts me like a new stroke of a sword. Even before I fall, my nameless enemy turns around and fights against another of my people.

My body hits the stony ground. A red haze surrounds me, and surprised, I realize that it's my own blood. I catch my breath and every attempt is like dozens of knives stabbing my chest.

The sounds around me fade. A wounded Noldo lies near me. I see agony and pain of death in his eyes. In a short moment, I wonder if he sees his beloved ones? Does he send the last farewell to someone he loves? Will someone, somewhere far from here, wait for him in vain? And cry, because he will never return?

Will anybody cry over destinies of so many caught in long-ago woven nets of evil?

It is so cold.

-x-x-x-

Morwen and Nienor had never lost hope to find Turin. The two tired, weary travelers who had first stood in front of the King a year ago had recovered their strength long ago. Now Morwen persisted in her demand to leave, in spite of the King's resistance, because her heart ached for her son. She didn't want to give up searching, not while she had the strength for the last breath. She couldn't stay here anymore, she had to leave. After a long and tedious talk, at which my father, several advisors and I were also present, Thingol denied her help, saying it would be unwise and dangerous to go on such a search. In the end, she defiantly announced that she would go alone. The King said that he wouldn't stop her, but his eyes remained unmoved. He didn't give her any help, nor the protection of several elves on her way, as she had asked.

I saw that Thingol had then turned to Queen Melian for advice, but I turned around and left the hall right after Morwen, without waiting to hear if he'd announce any new decision. My own decision was already made. I knew that I would go with Morwen and protect her, help her in any way that I could. It was the least I could do for my beloved, for her family.

It was dusk when I passed my house on the way to Nienor. But she was there, in front of my house, waiting in the garden, looking for me. I found her in tears, frightened. She didn't have to say a word; just one look upon her told me that she had already heard her mother's decision. I embraced her and held her like a child. We sat on a small bench in front of the door, and while the first stars shone on the evening sky, I waited until she finishing crying, having spent her sorrow and fear. When her sobbing stopped, I gently wiped her tears and kissed her wet eyes. On her face, lit by a silvery moonlight, I saw sadness and that hurt me more than anything.

"Your mother shall not go alone", I said softly but determinedly. "Tomorrow, at dawn, I will go with her. I will not leave her alone and I'll protect her. We will find your brother, I promise you. And when we return, all together, then you and I will get married."

Her eyes filled with tears again but she held me close and for the first time that evening I saw hope in her eyes. I continued to encourage her, whispering about our return, about life that lay in front of us, the house we'd have, the flowers that would bloom around it, our children that would play in the garden.

Our children... Sometimes I wondered what they would look like, you know? Dark-haired, like me? Or golden, like you?

Why did you leave after us the next day, Nienor? Do you know how many times I wanted to go back, change your decision, prevent you from going after us? Every day, every hour, every moment, I cursed the fate, squeezing my fists to pain, in a vainly attempt to turn back time.

Why did you go after us, my love?

But that night, before our leave-taking, I didn't know what would happen. That night, I was happy. Nienor had calmed down. For a while more we sat under the stars, not caring for evening's chill, and then we finally entered the house. We laid down; it all started with soft, gentle touches and kisses. I kept on encouraging and comforting her, kissed her and whispered to her. She returned kisses with her eyes closed. I wasn't aware of anything around us, but only her lips, her body, arms that held me tight. Our passion grew, the flame in us flared up. I couldn't stop kissing her, holding her close, feeling her body through her dress.

Even if I lived for thousands of years more, I would never forget that night.

I forgot the whole world, only this girl – whom I loved more than anything – was important. I don't remember the moment when I took off my tunic. Her touch fanned the flames of my desire and I kissed her more and more passionately, just like she kissed me. In one moment she sat and looked me; her eyes full of love and serious, too. In the silence that surrounded us, the only sound I could hear was our breathing and the beating of my heart. While we watched each other for several moments, we didn't touch but I could feel our bonds. Then she lowered her gaze and slowly unbuttoned her dress, letting it slip off her shoulders.

Gazing breathlessly at her firm breasts, waist, rounded hips, slender legs, watching the most beautiful girl I have ever seen, I think that my heart missed a beat. As if under a spell I extended my arm and caressed her shoulder and breast as gently as I could. I felt she had shivered. My hand slid down her waist to her thigh. Her skin was so smooth and warm.

"Nienor, are you sure?" I asked her in a low voice. Then she raised her eyes to meet mine again, and in them I could see all – love, shyness, desire, trust.

"I am surer than I could ever be", she answered with a soft smile. "In my heart, we are already married."

Her words echoed in my mind. Already married. I was silent for a moment, feeling my love for her grow even more.

"So we are in mine, too", I whispered. "Eru knows I belong to you ever since I saw you."

She lay down and I embraced her. We were two lovers in our own world, in the land of sensation and love, into which the outside world could not enter. We explored our bodies with our hands and lips, carried by passion and love. I kissed her breast, belly, caressed her soft skin; I tasted every inch of her body. I smiled while watching her closed eyes, listening to her breathing quickened by passion as my hands played on her skin, searching and caressing the spots of pleasure, sliding down her body. Her pleasure was mine, too; her touch and kisses, both gentle and impassioned, sent down my body shivers of immeasurable delight.

She pulled me closer, and I felt the silent call of her body. I moved towards her and our bodies united. She opened her eyes then. I stopped for a moment; her face was so close to mine and I could feel her hot breath, her blue eyes were wide open. We watched each other, our eyes talking without words, our hearts shivering with love. A smile shined on her lips, and in her eyes I saw reflection of my own ecstasy and burning ardor. We were one. Our passion burned, our hearts beat faster and faster. A wave of pleasure grew and carried us further and higher, we kissed each other insatiably, to the final union in an explosion of emotions and flame when I cried out her name, unaware of anything around me. For a long time after I remained lying with my face buried in her neck, while her arms did not release me from her tight embrace.

I do not know how long that night lasted. It was both long and short; we lay in each other's arms, in some moments tranquil, resting, whispering about the future, and in other moments again united in the fire of love, ravenous for the other. Every detail, every second remained forever carved in my memory: her dreamy look while she spoke of the future and our children; her laugh while I tickled her; a look upon her face while I lay on my back and she leaned over me, while the small lamp behind her lit her blond hair and created a gleaming golden crown around her head; her lips whispering, "I love you"; the warmth of her body intertwined with mine; the glances that spoke more than thousand words; every detail, every second, forever.

Even if I lived for thousands of years more, I would never forget that night.

The dawn came too fast nevertheless. After a long kiss farewell, I departed with her mother. When I looked back for the last time, she was still standing at the door of her small house, looking at us. She was too far and I could not see her face, but it was enough to close my eyes to see her smile. I waved to her one last time, and then the forest closed around us, and I could see her no more. We travelled, but even when I was far from her, she was with me. In my heart I carried her face and memory of every moment we spent together; memories that made me smile quite often.

And then arrived the day when Morwen and I reached Sirion. It was the day when the riders sent by Thingol caught up with us; in spite his words in Menegroth, he sent us help after all. And also, it was the day when she arrived, too. When I saw her riding towards us, disguised and clad as an elf, I hoped that she was only an illusion, that she would disappear if I closed my eyes and opened them again. No! Nienor, go back! The cold hands of fear grabbed my heart. I wanted to protect her from danger, I didn't want her to go with us.

Did I somehow forebode the evil that was ahead of us?

Why did you go after us, my love? Why didn't you return, as Morwen and I begged you to do? "If the wife of Hurin can go forth against all counsel at the call of kindred, then so also can Hurin's daughter", you answered to us dauntlessly and steadfastly, a true daughter of the House of Hador.

Do you know how many times I woke up at night, broken-hearted, in endless pain, hating myself for not taking you back to Menegroth?

So we arrived at Nargothrond, where Turin was last seen. Although that kingdom was devastated by war too, we hoped to find at least a small track or news. But no one was there, all the elves were exiled. Or dead. Instead, there were orcs and the dragon. By dragon's evil magic, hidden by the mist, they surprised us. Our group separated. Feeling fear like I had never known before, I only wanted to find Nienor in the chaos of battle, to protect her, to enable her a safe escape. But then an arrow hit me and I sank into darkness, calling to her with the last strength of my consciousness.

For days, I hovered between life and death, and it was only because of the extraordinary skill of the healer that I had been torn from the hands of death, they told me later. And when I finally woke up, already in Menegroth, after they carried me for many days while I was unconscious, I found out everything that had happened. There had been a battle in Nargothrond. Some of us never returned to Doriath. Nienor survived. But the dragon cast a spell upon her, they told me; she lost memory and ability to speak, she was like a small child. And in another attack of the orcs, near the border of Doriath, so close to safety and yet still in danger, in the attack in which we were all almost killed, she had disappeared in the night.

Disappeared. Lost.

Pain and guilt ravaged me, sharp and implacable. In my thoughts I kept going back; I hated and despised myself for not stopping her from going with us. Many times I wondered – wouldn't it be better if I had died in Nargothrond? It would be rescue from this agony. Was it cowardly of me? Death would be a comfort, an escape from the nights in which I woke up, devastated by pain, vainly extending my arm for her in a cold and empty bed.

Yes, it would be cowardly. It was completely unworthy, it was in opposition of everything I had ever done. How could I possibly wish for such escape, knowing that I didn't do everything to find her?

She had disappeared, they said. They tried to find her, but with no success. Then they had to return, to bring the wounded to safety, to Menegroth; I was among them, unconscious, not knowing what was going on around me. But no one had seen if she had really perished and that fact became my last, desperate hope.

As soon as my body recovered from my wounds, I started looking for her and I never stopped. I searched constantly and inexhaustibly, on known and unknown paths, in ever-farther regions of Doriath, looking for any track or sign, even the smallest one. I never gave up, not even a year later, when everybody was telling me that the hope had been long lost. But my hope never died, I refused to surrender. She was the most precious gift I had ever had in my life. I knew that I would never give up.

And I found her... too late.

I journeyed all the way to Brethil, the homeland of Haleth's people, a land stricken by the attacks of the orcs and havoc of the dragon. I arrived in one of their villages and then I found out everything. The dragon had been slain, a few days prior; and the person who killed him was none else but Turin, who had already lived there for several years, running away from his past, name and ill fate. But, they told me, after he had killed the dragon he took his own life, after having realized the last and the biggest tragedy of his life.

The girl he had found in the forest a year earlier – lost and without memory, whose name and origin he didn't know, whom he loved and married – was his sister.

Nienor.

Listening to the last words of the dying dragon, as the spell broke, her memory returned and she found out the horrible truth. She had finally found her brother, for whom she had started to search a year ago. And several moments later she also found death, casting herself in the cold waters of Teiglin, broken by a terrible discovery that she had married her own brother and had borne his child.

I came back to Menegroth. Now everything became final, unalterable. Even hope died. Nienor will never come back. All that I had was destroyed; what I lived for existed no more. The smile that lit my world was lost. The pain was stronger than anything I had ever felt, sharp and devastating.

I often dreamt about her. It was hard to say which dreams were more painful. In nightmares she was lost or dead, and I woke up in tears, my soul torn in pieces. In dreams which were happy, Nienor was here, walked next to me and smiled, and it was enough to extend my arm just a little bit and touch her; but awaking was even more painful, the return to reality was like a physical strike.

The images came, unwanted, choked my heart, filled my eyes with tears. Everywhere I saw her face. But she was dead. I had lost her, forever. The children we dreamed about will never be born. Their laughter will never echo in our home. Our home will never exist.

The time passed. I had never cared for it before. Wasn't it ironic? The elves never cared about passing of time. But now I felt every day, every long, lonely year. And the time was not merciful, it didn't bring relief or oblivion.

And always I returned to the same question: why hadn't I taken her back to Menegroth? I deserved no mercy, no happiness, nothing at all, if I could let her go into danger.

I would have given everything if I could change her life, wipe away her ill fate. Because, sometimes I thought that her pain and despair had been even greater than mine; it was terrifying and hard to imagine how she must have felt when she discovered that she had married her own brother, that she had carried his child. I felt her pain as my own. And if I could, I would have taken it.

If I could have saved her from the dragon's spell, made her meet her brother and recognize him, made her find her happiness and love one day – even if that meant that I'd never see her again and that she was happy with someone else – I would have done it, I would have given anything for it. Without the slightest second thought. Just the thought that she was alive and happy, somewhere in this world, would have been enough for me.

But I couldn't change fate. I couldn't change the past.

The pain and emptiness became my inseparable companions. Nothing else existed.

-x-x-x-

The coldness spreads through my body. The shapes around me seem to move closer and further, blurred, fading away. I draw one more painful breath. A new icy pain pierces my chest. But still, it can't compare to the pain caused by Nienor's death.

Nienor. I try to call her name one more time, I move my lips, but there is no sound. I feel the blood in my mouth. My own blood.

The end is here, so close, I can feel it. The darkness falls, although my eyes are still open. While everything disappears and fades away, one image is surprisingly clear, as if defying death that darkens all. The beautiful girl with blue eyes and golden hair, with a smile that outshines the sun itself, whom I love more than my own life.

Whom I lost, forever. I will never meet her again. My soul will now depart to the Halls of Mandos, while hers has left the Circles of the World. There is no comfort.

I didn't save her. I failed her. I didn't keep my promise to fight next to her people one day, either.

With a feeling of loss more painful than any blade can cause, her face also disappears in the dark.

Cold.

Dark.

Emptiness.

-x-x-x-

Notes:

1. "Nienor is your name, but I swear to you, sorrow will never again be a part of your life."

In the language of the Edain, the word "Nienor" means "sorrow, sadness".

2. "If the wife of Hurin can go forth against all counsel at the call of kindred, then so also can Hurin's daughter."

This sentence is not mine; it is a quote from The Unfinished Tales (chapter: Narn I Hin Hurin, part: The Journey of Morwen and Nienor to Nargothrond).

3. And last, but not least... a biiiiiiiig thanks to Dawn Felagund for beta-reading, for all the time and patience and effort she put into helping me with this story. I wouldn't have made it without her.

Thank you. -big hug-