A/N: This is it - the last chapter. Thank you, again, for your reviews and feedback! I am glad that you have had the patience to read this far. I hope not too many will be disappointed with the ending.
He was, once again, reading it. The bloody letter from Thingol. "Even you I hold to blame," Maitimo quoted and looked up. I stared blankly back at him.
We were, just the two of us, in Maitimo's chambers. He had pulled me in for a private conversation. He wasn't that upset anymore, I noticed somewhat pleased, but he was very stern. "We have lost important allies - both Doriath and Nargothrond," he explained gravely. "I would have wanted all the free folk of Beleriand forming one single union against Moringotto. In war-time we cannot afford to stand alone."
"I am sorry."
"You should be punished."
"I have not suffered enough, then?" I asked bowing my head.
"I would not want to punish my brothers," Maitimo said, "but your deeds... I cannot see...what happened? I don't know you two anymore."
I said nothing. Maitimo's expression was sorrowful.
"Do you regret at all?" he asked.
"Well, I have lost my son, haven't I?" I answered sullenly.
"For our cousin's death, I mean. How far are you willing to go 'for the Oath'? Will you risk all your honour?"
"'For the Oath'? For the sake of my family, rather. For the love to my brothers. I am willing to go wherever I must."
Maitimo's mouth curled into a faint smile.
"Manipulative words, Curvo," he muttered. Nonetheless there was kindness in his voice. "I too, would fulfil the Oath. If for naught else, then to show that the Noldor are not yet in utter ruin."
"We are not ruined, Russandol."
"I know," he said. "One day the Valar will see that, and we shall laugh at those who defied us."
We were facing South, waiting for our other brothers, Carnistir and the Ambarussa, to arrive at Himring. The wind blew from behind us, so the cold air came from the North, from the now ashen lands of the Enemy.
"Remember when those realms were still green?" I asked Tyelkormo nodding towards North.
"Yes," he said shortly, then fell silent for a while.
We were standing on a hilltop some two miles from the Hill of Himring itself. It was just the two of us. That felt awfully empty, compared to the times before when at least Huan had always accompanied us. I almost missed him as well, although I knew he had betrayed us and would have maybe even killed us. The autumn breeze ruffled our hair and tore away leaves that still clung onto yellowing strands of grass. Tyelkormo was sitting on the grass tearing glumly away the petals of a barren daisy that still defied the winter. The petals were caught by the wind and I saw them land in a stream further away down in the valley, and flow away in the torrent of the waters.
"Why did you do it anyway?" my brother asked finally when the flower had nothing left but the brown middle. I was startled from my own thoughts and looked down at him. I asked him what he meant.
"You said you gave me the power and the realm of Nargothrond. Why me? Why not to someone else, such as yourself?"
I thought for a moment. Then I sat down beside him. "You are my brother. My favourite big-brother," I said simply. "After all you have done for me, I owed you a lot." I looked at him. He did not seem convinced. "It's the truth," I said. "You are a born leader."
"But it's always you who comes up with the plans," he protested. "Ever since our childhood it has been that way. Like, remember the time Curvo, when we cut off that strand of Artanis' hair and-"
"Tyelko, you're a born leader."
"- it was you who set it all up."
"And it's you who gets things done," I said. "As it was in that case, too," I said remembering the incident from the blissful days of youth in Valinor. Our cousin hadn't spoken to us for months. "But I hold firm to that you are a leader. Like Oromë, you drove off orcs in the war. Like Atar, you spoke for our sake in Nargothrond. Have you noticed how I always let you speak before myself? Have you noticed how I respect you? That is why I would have had you the King of Nargothrond."
Tyelkormo looked at me silently as he pondered my words. Then he looked down at his hands. "One day," he said, "One day, to make you proud, I shall yet hold the Silmarilli. Or die trying"
"I am proud of you already."
"And if Thingol or any heir of his gets it, then I shall take it from him." He closed his eyes. "Unless for Her," he added. "I should not hurt Her any more." I said nothing. He opened his eyes again and looked grimly and unblinking at the Sun climbing high up in the sky. Then he let his eyes fall and move across the horizon.
"Carnistir has come," he said and stood up.
He turned away to begin his way down the hill. For a second he looked around as if searching for the hound that had always went with him, but then remembered it all.
"They will follow me no more," he smiled bitterly. I said nothing. He kicked a stone down the slope. "One day, Atarinkë, I shall go to Doriath itself if I have to, and get them for you." Then he turned away and started walking down the hill. I looked after him.
One day we would all get them. Father would be proud, and we would laugh at those who defied us. Never shed those thousands of tears that we, according to Námo, yet would weep. I followed my brother who was already halfway down. I rushed after him and as I ran the wind tangled my hair again, as it had done upon the hill, as it had done in Himlad, as it had done in Valinor when I and my brothers had not yet known of the worries we now carried.
The clouds gathered in the North.