"Celeborn, take her," Dior pleaded urgently, putting his littlest child into his kinsman's arms. "Take her and leave."
Celeborn awkwardly put his still bright blade back into its sheath, and accepted the sleeping child.
Smiling, Dior let his fingers linger on his daughter's face. Elwing woke to her father's touch, drowsily reaching up to grasp his hand.
Struck by a sudden inspiration, Dior pulled the ring of Barahir from his finger, and strung it on the delicate mithril chain that disappeared under Elwing's dress. With a twinge, Celeborn thought of the first hand that had born that ring. "You shall have to keep that safe for Elured, little one," he told her softly. "And may it bring you the courage of my father."
"What about the boys?" Celeborn asked, shifting Elwing so that she could wrap her arms around his neck.
Nimloth ran her white fingers through Elurin's dark curls.
"We'll take the boys, and you worry about Elwing," she instructed. "And we'll meet you at the Sirion. Hurry Celeborn!"
Celeborn nodded, reaching out for a moment to grasp Dior's hand. Dior, the son of his pupil, the husband of his niece, and his friend…
Nimloth kissed her baby goodbye, and murmured promises of safety and reunion. A moment later, she bent to pick up the six year old Elurin, while Elured clambered onto his father's back.
"Go," Dior begged, and with Elwing in his arms, Celeborn obeyed.
Out of Menegroth, and through Doriath… Celeborn ran as he had never run, his heart beating against his precious burden. The leafless trees of Doriath reached out their fingers for a last lingering touch of the Elf who loved them. And Celeborn did not fight the branches, nor did he slow his pace.
And only when he'd passed the borders – when Elwing was awake and crying for her mother – did Celeborn turn and see Doriath burning.
And for the first time, anger very much like hate seethed in Celeborn's once stainless soul.
The flames lit the starry night with a lurid glow. Celeborn stared hard for a moment, the image burning itself onto his memory, then turned his eyes to the crying Elwing…
…Who's little face was lit by a starry glow from within her blankets.
Dior had placed the Silmaril around his daughter's neck.
For a confused moment, Celeborn let out a bitter laugh. Using his own child to hide that thing… The bauble of the Noldor was powerful indeed.
But to Dior, Celeborn reminded himself, the Silmaril meant something different than it meant even to the sons of Fëanor. For Dior, the Silmaril was symbol of his parents' love – just as he was. And it was the reason for their deaths. Losing the Silmaril would be dishonoring Luthien and her Beren.
And still Doriath burned…
It lies within your power, a voice in his mind, terribly and painfully like his beloved's, told him, to stop this. The gem around the child's neck…
What of it? Shall I give it over to the bloodstained hands of the Noldor?
The Silmaril. The light of the Trees, the power of the Valar. This…to save his people, and to save Doriath…
Celeborn found his eyes fixed on its glow, permeating the threads of Elwing's dress. The worst fascination of the Silmaril, was that its glow was familiar…
A star confined in shimmering, faceted crystal. Like the glint of moonlight on Galadriel's hair.
Pulling at the mithril chain, Celeborn took a good hard look at the Silmaril through his tears.
He would never understand it.
For this gem, Beren had traded his very flesh.
For this gem, Fëanor had spilled the blood of the Teleri – and the blood of the Noldor in turn.
For this gem, his sons slaughtered their own kin – and their kin fell protecting it.
For this gem, the Elves were torn with strife among themselves, such that Morgoth must rejoice.
For this gem, Doriath burned.
Her tears forgotten, Elwing reached towards the glow, laughing as it suffused her little fingers and made Celeborn's silver hair shimmer.
Could he undermine Dior's authority, for Doriath, and placate Maedhros with his father's bauble?
And even if he could…
If he went back, could he keep himself from trying to make the kinsmen of his wife pay for all they'd made him and his people suffer?
Adjusting his hold on Elwing, Celeborn resumed his course towards the river. And Elwing played with the Silmaril, fastened around her neck by her father's hands.
Galadriel wrapped her arms around her husband's chest from behind, trying with all her strength to keep him there.
"You cannot go back, Celeborn," she pleaded, her hands wet with his tears.
"If there's a chance… Damn it Galadriel, they're children!"
"Menegroth is aflame! There isn't a chance!"
Celeborn turned on her suddenly, his face smudged with dirt, and his long silver-bright hair tangled. "How can you…"
She met his eyes, hers hard, and her voice very quiet. "Don't. You're all I have. Don't throw your life away on a chance that doesn't exist. Don't leave me alone."
Celeborn very gently disengaged her arms from around him.
"I have to go back."
"Celeborn, don't think they won't kill you because of me," she said, harsh tone covering the emotion her eyes could not hide.
"I'm sorry. I have to go back," he repeated, pulling away from her.
"My Lord," a soot-covered elf in the remains of a guard uniform interrupted. "Prince Dior is dead. Saw his body. Lady Nimloth as well. And they took the little ones away," he said, voice dead.
Galadriel watched Celeborn fight to master his anger, his knuckles turning white as he tightened his fists.
"Iluvatar forgive them," he murmured at last, "for I cannot."
Galadriel found herself fighting back her own tears, until Celeborn reached out to her. And then she wept on his shoulder as he did on hers.
The soldier drew back. "May you find comfort in the arms of your Noldor bride, Prince Celeborn," he bade, his words, despite their bitterness, sounding genuine.
…And so befell the second slaying of Elf by Elf. There fell Celegorm by Dior's hand, there fell Curufin, and dark Caranthir; but Dior was slain also, and Nimloth his wife, and the cruel servants of Celegorm seized his young sons and left them to starve in the forest. Of this Maedhros indeed repented, and sought for them long in the woods of Doriath; but his search was unavailing, and of the fate of Elured and Elurin no tale tells…
- "Of the Ruin of Doriath," The Silmarillion