The sun was bright, the air fresh and clean and good when Irisse found herself back home at last; when she stepped free of the Halls of Waiting with the blessing of the Valar and found herself forgiving. She embraced her elder brothers gratefully, had her hair ruffled by her younger, tears of joy in her eyes, and turned her face to the sun, shining with joy.
It didn't last.
There was one face missing – seven faces, really, but one in particular. She sought through those who greeted her return, but he wasn't there. Pushing past her siblings, she looked further away, in case perhaps he hadn't approached her directly.
The sun shone on empty fields.
She spun on her family, eyes suddenly flashing. "Where is he?" The glances they exchanged only served to inflame her anger. "Where?"
Findékano's face was stern, almost cold, but his voice tried to soothe her. "Who?"
"You know," she almost hissed. "Tyelkormo. Arakáno-"
He answered her, and she appreciated his attempt at gentleness, even if she could see the anger in his eyes. "Not here, sister."
Not here? A shiver ran through her, cold and brief, and she narrowed her eyes. "Where, then?"
"He will not disturb you," said Kano, in that voice that tried to be soothing with its undertone of frigid anger. She glared at him and waited. He would answer her sooner or later. He always had, faced with her displeasure. "He and his – brothers – have not been forgiven, Irisse. They can't come here." He made a move toward her. "He won't ever come here."
Irisse jerked away from him, angry. "What do you mean, he won't ever come here?"
"Dispossessed," said Turukáno, more quietly. "It's not only the crown they lost, Ireth. Let it go."
"Let it go?" She heard her voice rise dangerously. "Let it go? What about Maitimo, brother?" She demanded, whirling on Findekáno. "Have you let him go?"
There was no answer. Her brothers were quiet as they watched her, and to her horror, she felt tears start to prick her eyes. The years, all the years waiting, knowing that someday they would be forgiven and return home, and this time she would be with Tyelko as she'd always meant – all for nothing?
Irisse turned again, half expecting him to be standing a little ways away with his little half smile, a dog at his side, waiting for her as they'd both promised they would.
"Nothing can last forever," she said, defiantly. "I will-"
"Ireth," said Arakáno, and she could tell he was trying to be patient, trying to be tolerant, and failing at both. Irritation snapped in his eyes. "It's time to move on."
"No!" She snapped, eyes blazing. "No. I left once. I won't leave again. I will not lose faith." Findekáno reached for her, as though to embrace her, but she sprang away, angrily. "Don't touch me. If you don't dare, then at least I will."
She ran, speeding across the ground on her fleet foot, and they let her go, though she heard them cry after her. She knew where she was going before she got there, and her feet led her unerringly.
Nothing had changed. A stream bubbled over smooth rocks, mossy trees standing around, wider than she'd last seem them, the sun dappling the ground. Irisse looked up at the sky and looked down at the ground.
Where they'd always met, privately, just to have a few moments alone. To pretend that they were mated and nothing would ever go wrong.
The worst, the worst, was that she knew they were right. Knew that Tyelko was never coming back; that what the Valar sentenced was final, that for everything he'd done there would be no forgiveness. Not even in eternity.
She sat down on the rock where he'd sat, stretching his legs, watching her with a little smile sometimes, and felt the tears spill over.
Whatever end he had met was final. And she had a second chance. She could see him, in darkness, without even the comfort of his brothers-
And fell to her knees and sobbed, bitterly, bitterly, bitterly; because there would be no more pretending, now.