Justice and Death

The rays of the sun peeked low behind the trees in far south, and they would not warm the air or the earth. It was almost winter again, only there was yet no sight of snow. I got down from my saddle and a cloud of dust rose from where my heels had touched the earth. I stroke the mane of the horse as I looked for my brothers. On the hilltop was a stout building. It was a building very much alike the others made by the Noldor in Beleriand. Grand, but not overly adorned. Sleek, but made for times of war.

The doors were opened by Macalaurë. He smiled a little when I greeted him. "I hope the journey went without further incidents...?" he formed his wish as a question.

"Yes," I nodded.

"Come in, then."

Macalaurë guided me through the hallways into a room, the windows of which were facing South and was thus lit up by the small amount of sunlight that had made it above the trees. Macalaurë shut the door quietly behind us and I squinted as I tried to adjust my eyes to the sudden shine. When I began to see properly I noticed that the room was reasonably empty of people; apart from a tall figure standing by the windows, his back turned against the door.

"Maitimo," Macalaurë said. "Moryo is here."

Maitimo turned around, and smiled at me. "Long time no see, brother," he said.

"All too long," I agreed. "All too long since I have met all my brothers gathered in the same place." I scratched my nose. "I thought the rest would already be here," I added nonchalantly.

"Tyelkormo and Curufinwë are," Maitimo said. "They just went to another room."

"We are waiting for the Ambarussa," Macalaurë explained. "It's strange, because I thought they'd come earlier, but... then again, they are probably just late from some hunting trip." He looked down at his feet. "It is nice to see each other again, but... I wish it would not always be under these circumstances." He smiled apologetically but I knew what he meant. Strategy summits were not easy, and after the last battle they had become even worse, because by every killed Elf it became more and more apparent that not even the Noldoli are undefeatable. I counted silently in my head how many of our family were already dead.

"Ten..." I mumbled, and shivered. The family reduced in number. The Sons of Fëanáro were the only ones left, and it had now come down to them to prove themselves worthy of fame.

"What?" Maitimo asked gently. "Ten what, Carnistir?"

"Ten of..." I began bluntly, but didn't continue. No need to bring up the deaths of their cousins. "Nothing," I concluded. I had myself, strange enough, never been very fond of any of our cousins or uncles, but I remembered how everyone had been so upset about Findaráto's death and how Maitimo had, unlike me, grieved for months over the loss of his cousin and best friend when Findekáno had died in the last battle. For me the death was a quizzical thing. I had seen my father die, and countless of others meet the same end. I had dealt death myself. Yet I did not fully understand death. How did it feel dying? Was there really no coming back? What happened afterwards? After one dies, the fëa goes to the Mandos and will there be cleaned from evil, Ingoldo had once said, at which I had told him to shut up – I did not want to go to the Halls of Mandos where the Lord of Death and Fate would surely taunt me for my stupidity my death in an impossible War against the Dark Lord. I clenched my fists.

The door was opened and the sound brought me back from my thoughts. In came the Ambarussa, followed by Tyelkormo and Curufinwë.

The Ambarussa were – just like me – still wearing their travel clothing. Tyelkormo and Curufinwë, who had been here probably since yesterday were in their normal attire. Tyelkormo was carrying a small bunch of papers and parchments and Curufinwë balancing a vase of water and glasses.

"Carnistir, you are here already! Hello!" Pityafinwë, the older of the Ambarussa said when he spotted me looming in the corner of the room. "I thought you said..." he turned to face Tyelkormo.

"I did, but I guess he's only arrived, right?" Tyelkormo replied. "Oh, and hello," he addressed me. "Good to see you."

Telufinwë smiled at me and came forth to give me a hug. Meanwhile Pityafinwë greeted the others.

"You are more late than I expected," Macalaurë commented. Pityafinwë nodded and glanced at his twin.

"We came from West," he told the others, "and the journey took longer than expected."

"You are both okay, though," Curufinwë asked with a somewhat concerned expression.

"Of course," Telufinwë replied. He didn't explain any further, but the answer satisfied Curufinwë's curiosity and he didn't say anything but merely nodded.

We took our seats around the large wooden table in the room. Tyelkormo placed the parchments he had been carrying onto the table. I glanced at them with an uninterested look, but I saw there were some maps and letters in the bunch.

At first, nobody said anything. A small tapping echoed as the only sound in the room. I looked around me to see where the sound came from and saw that Maitimo was clutching the edge of the table. He looked as tired as he lately had, but today I could see a determination in his eyes. A fire had been rekindled.

"My brothers," he began, taking the lead, "we are now... we are now closer than ever to fulfilling our Oath." He looked at each of us, and I followed his gaze. Macalaurë, Tyelkormo, myself, Curufinwë, Pityafinwë and Telufinwë. We all sat silent waiting for him to go on. Maitimo's words had had an effect. I felt strangely powerful. Closer than ever. Could it be that our task would soon be fulfilled.

"The Silmarilli have been in the hands of the Enemy for very long," Maitimo said. "But one of them is now free, and yet it is not within our grasp. It is held unjustly by somebody who it doesn't belong to. It is our obligation to take it back, and those who own it know we are seeking for it."

He wouldn't have had to tell us all this, because everyone of us knew it, but no one said anything. One of the Silmarilli was no longer in the Iron Fortress of the North, but in the forestry kingdom of Elves that refused to form an alliance with us. That Silmaril would not be impossible to land, and if we got that one, we would be one step closer to reclaim its brethren. We hadn't succeeded in attacking Morgoth's stronghold, but somebody else had rescued the Silmaril for us. Now the owner of the jewel had changed yet again, but it was still not with those it belonged to; the sons of the Elf who had crafted it. That was where the mighty Sons of Fëanor would come in: put things back into place and do justice.

Maitimo ceased his talking and at the silence I hearkened from my own thoughts. Then I broke the silence.

"The Silmaril has been in Central Beleriand for quite some time already," I said. "But it is not until now that we try to get it. How come we didn't try to get it earlier?"

"It was with King Thingol," Macalaurë, said. "You know as well as we that no matter whether you like him or not, he was a strong leader, and his Kingdom well fortified."

"Ah, yes, but was it not in his daughter's possession for some time," I retorted. "And she lived... not so far from where we are now."

"She did," Tyelkormo said and looked at me strangely. "And we attempted to gain the jewel when it was stolen by the Dwarves. But you know why we didn't attack her. I know you know."

"What if I don't?" I said and smirked slightly.

Tyelkormo's eyes shone with a gleam. "We do not assault the daughter of Thingol."

"I know why we don't," I said. "It is because you personally vowed we would not hurt her. But if I understand correctly, this meeting was summoned because we are going to attack her son instead. I find that rather paradoxical."

Curufinwë glanced at me. You know better than to speak of this matter, he signalled with his eyes. And I did. But why, oh why, would we spare someone whom Tyelkormo had loved, and yet deemed it appropriate to slay a boy she had given birth to?

"Beren," Tyelkormo hissed. "Dior Eluchil, the son of Lúthien, should never have been. When I last saw Lúthien, she was being led to her death by a mortal. And according to the rumours she did die, but was sent back. And not only her but Beren as well." His voice had been steadily rising by every word he spoke, but now it dropped again. He looked at me. "She...," I saw him swallow, "...is a thief. And yet she was spared by the Valar, so that she could breed a son who is no better than his father." He glanced sideways and added silently: "Why are none of the Noldor ever spared?"

"Tyelkormo," Macalaurë said quietly and took Tyelkormo's hand as he sat next to him.

"The Valar work against us. They ever will," Curufinwë said. "They deemed it well enough for Thingol to possess a Silmaril. No pressure was laid on him to return the jewel to Valinor. No forcing. No punishment." Curufinwë looked more like my father than ever. There was not yet a craze in his eyes, but his words were bitter as if venom dripping from between his thin lips. His dark eyes swept the room as he explained how the Valar were once again unjust in how they treated the Elves. Some were given nothing but pain and death, whereas others were given not only mercy but a second lifespan. "They are foolish," Curufinwë concluded, referring to the Valar, "if they don't expect us to wish to attempt to deal justice and mercy ourselves."

"Justice and mercy," Maitimo said, "We would at least regain the justice if we had but one Silmaril. We would fulfil what we promised to Father. Mercy we will never have, not as long as we reside within Arda, and the Valar hold their power."

"Then how will we regain the Silmaril that is now in Doriath?" Macalaurë asked. "Full blown attack? Dior is not Morgoth. I do not wish for another kinslaying. They result in too much unnecessary death."

"Unnecessary..." Pityafinwë asked and raised his eyebrows. "Kinslaying was nothing we aimed for. But just as the Teleri, the Sindar are unlikely to surrender only through parley. They are close kin, after all: Teleri and Sindar." He let forth a small laugh. I smiled as well. Dear Pityafinwë's words somehow made the atmosphere lighter, even though what he had said was humour of a darker kind.

"Well, I don't really think parley will do. It never worked with Thingol," Maitimo answered, "but I agree with Macalaurë. Rushing into the castle fully armed is a path we will save as the last resort."

"But how is Doriath these days? The main reason we never attacked it, was the Girdle of Melian," Macalaurë contemplated.

"It is gone now," Telufinwë said. We all turned to face him. He had a serious look on his face. "The Girdle is completely gone. Melian left nothing for her grandson when she fled. The borders are as vulnerable as a baby-dragon's underbelly," he said.

"Stab it and it bleeds," concluded Pityafinwë.

"How can you be sure?" Macalaurë asked suspiciously.

"We've been there. On the Southern side," Telufinwë admitted. He looked around at us, a bit unsure of whether to tell everything he knew. "That's where we came from today. We were examining the border. We went a mile into the forest. Empty. Silent. Nobody there."

"So nobody spotted you?" I asked.

"No, there weren't any guards. And even if there had been, we would have eluded them – we are hunters. But you know how they used to have enforcements especially on the Northern Marches and on the Southern side, too. And yet, now we didn't see a single Elf."

"Dior Eluchil doesn't have the same power his grandfather did," Curufinwë said. "The ransacking by the Dwarves may well work in our profit. The Doriathrim fear to leave their capital."

"If it comes to an attack, we might stand a chance," Tyelkormo said.

"But surely we were planning a parley first?" Macalaurë said again. "It may not be of any use, but is a necessary part of the formalities."

"A letter," Maitimo said. "A letter should do. We never have luck with face-to-face parleys."

I mentally distracted myself from their discussion as they went on with their talking. I stared out the window. Outside the sun was still desperately attempting to rise higher. But these days it wouldn't succeed – it would barely make it past the treetops before it would sink again. I gazed at the sheep grazing on the browning hills further away. The landscape was so different from Valinor. When I found myself reminiscing, I shook my head and turned my attention back to Tyelkormo who was currently talking.

"Make it sound like a threat. Not too much, but so that he will have a reason to fear," he said eagerly to Macalaurë who, with his beautiful slender handwriting had mastered both Tengwar and the Cirth, was writing a letter to the king of Doriath.

"A disguised threat, Tyelkormo," Macalaurë replied. "No use to be outright rude or we will achieve even less of what we want to," he looked sternly at his sibling who sighed, but said nothing.

"As if Dior wasn't rude himself," Curufinwë scoffed. "He takes pride in looted jewels as if he was both the owner and maker."

"But I think that Macalaurë is right," Maitimo said. "We give him a better image if we don't lose our tempers."

"They already have their image of us, and I doubt it will change," I said and yawned scratching my nose. "And wasn't this letter supposed to be just for formality's sake?"

"Well, it will affect how others look at us, too," Pityafinwë put in. "There's still Círdan and little Ereinion with him. We shouldn't forget about them. They still keep in touch with Doriath, I think."

I looked at him, slightly impressed of his quick thinking. "You're right, Pityo," I said, "of course." At some point when I hadn't noticed my two youngest siblings had become quite well versed strategists.

"There is Turukáno, also," Curufinwë said quietly, entwining his fingers with each other.

"Is there, really?" Maitimo asked. "I haven't heard much of him. Are you sure he survived... Nirnaeth?" The word 'Nirnaeth' came from his lips as a shadow of sorrow.

"We would know it from Morgoth himself if he was dead," Curufinwë assured. "But the enemy is still looking for him. Turukáno's kingdom is considered one of Angband's most dangerous opponents, actually." He smiled slightly at this, as if the idea had been absurd. But if Turukáno had managed to play Hide and Seek with Morgoth this long, I wasn't that surprised by the Enemy's concern.

"How well does he keep up with what happens outside his mysterious kingdom, then?" I asked, referring to our cousin.

"Well, he is none of our problems," Tyelkormo said impatiently. "I doubt he, or his folk, will take the Silmaril. He is always occupied by other matters, and I don't think they would stand against us." He had a point, of course. "Turukáno isn't even on Dior's side. Still sense in some of our cousins," my brother grinned.

Two weeks after the letter in its beautiful envelope and seal had been given to an envoy to be sent to Doriath, there had yet been no reply. My brothers and I were still residing in the house in Lindon. Everybody had agreed that now that things were in motion we should all wait for a reply together, as to be ready in case action had to taken. After all, everybody wanted to hear the reply as soon as possible. Asides from that it was nice to spend time with the closest family.

It was a cloudy day – again – and I was sitting in a large room, once again staring out the window. Macalaurë sat somewhere behind me plucking softly on his harp and possibly composing something. I could hear him sighing as the scribbled something on parchments as he planned his next masterpiece.

"It doesn't even belong in this chord..."

I smiled to myself as I heard my brother muttering and then furiously smudging away the ink.

"Any problems?" I asked him, and could hear another sigh.

"Yes. I feel distracted, uninspired, somehow so very... unintelligent. I cannot get anything reasonable done, and my fingers are clumsy today."

I raised an eyebrow. Macalaurë clumsy? "What's wrong?"

"I... I guess I am stressed? Maybe?"

"Maybe. What are you trying to compose about?"

"Victory in battle," Macalaurë said quietly after a moment of silence. I didn't reply at once. The quietness filled the room, and I realised that Macalaurë had stopped his playing and sighing and was just quiet. I turned around to look behind me and could see him sitting in a corner his face in his hands. I got up from my chair and walked softly to him and hunched beside him. Why was he so upset?

"Macalaurë," I said softly.

"I can't compose about victory..." he said quietly and looked up at me. "We never have any."

I looked at him unsure of what to do. It had been a very long time since when I last spent this much time with my brothers. I hadn't been very close with them since we came to Middle-Earth and were each given our own areas to govern. I seldom discussed very deep feelings with them. We spoke about war, the Silmarilli, news from abroad and within the family. It was nice, and I loved my brothers. But now that I found myself sitting in the corner of the room with an arm resting around Macalaurë's shoulders as if we were small children again, I realised I wasn't much of a comforter.

"It feels stupid to be upset about it. It's not like I'm not used to it," Macalaurë said at last. "Eventually we always face a failure."

"But we have had victories, too," I reminded him.

"Of course," my brother muttered unconvinced, "but it's different since Nirnaeth Arnoediad. We were betrayed by our troops while our allies died elsewhere. Not only our allies, but our cousins." He looked at me. "I don't know about you, but I miss our cousins. I miss how we used to be. I am tired of this War. I am in it for father's sake, but I am stressed." He looked away again, as if ashamed of the way he was babbling.

"I miss how we used to be, too," I said after a while, but Macalaurë didn't look back at me. I still went on: "I remember how the Ambarussa used to be so childish and innocent; I remember when Telperinquar was with Curufinwë and Huan followed Tyelkormo; I remember when Maitimo was still happy. I remember when father was alive and we lived with our mother." Macalaurë turned his face to me. His grey eyes were dry, but I could see a stern sadness in them. A sadness I knew would shed no tears any more. I leaned my head on Macalaurë's shoulder. "I remember when you composed happy songs."

"I still compose happy songs," Macalaurë said quietly, insisting effortlessly.

"Then compose one for me," I said to him.

As elflings huddling from cold we sat there together, silent and unmoving. Macalaurë took my hand, and I closed my eyes.

On one warmer day the Ambarussa and I decided to go hunting. We rode in the forest, caught some prey, but spent most of the day just relaxing.

Pityafinwë was riding at the front and I was riding beside Telufinwë. "Carnistir," he said at one point. "I think it is going to be a very cold winter and lots of snow, to," Telufinwë said. "Just look at the trees." I looked where he was pointing. The way the trees looked was indeed the way they always did before a snowy winter. The way their bark was frosting, the amount of berries and lots of other details, and the behaviour of the animals in the forests.

"There's not much snow yet," I said.

"There will be. Around midwinter I wouldn't be surprised if it was several feet high," Telufinwë replied.

Pityafinwë had been listening to our conversation. "That would make it easier to guard ourselves from Orcs. They always keep sinking in," he said.

"It would," Telufinwë agreed. "I like the snow, though. It is very nice. We seldom had it in Tirion. Why is that, do you think?" he asked me, turning the subject away from Orcs and war.

"I guess the Valar didn't like cold," I shrugged. I hadn't thought about it, but it was a fact that the Valinorean climate was usually moderate or very warm.

"Yavanna and Vána's gardens didn't like it," Pityafinwë said. "Manwë liked it. Why else would Taniquetil be covered in it?"

"Maybe Ulmo froze water and put it there, and Manwë couldn't take it away..." I suggested, cracking a joke. Not very funny, I thought, but the twins laughed merrily. "Ulmo forced him to like it?" I went on, now pleased with my wit, although it was probably just a result from lack of rest or something alike. "Maybe Varda likes it so much that Manwë won't remove it, or she'd leave him." The twins giggled more, and their laughter was so contagious I soon found myself laughing, too. I hadn't laughed as much for a long time, I thought later that day.

Pityafinwë suggested that we would prolong our hunting trip and not rest that night, so we kept on riding even after nightfall. He sat on his steed watching at the stars and singing softly to himself.

"Telvo, you're making yourself known to all the animals that might be here," Telufinwë, who was currently riding in the front, turned to look at his twin. Pityafinwë looked down and laughed.

"I thought we had already done hunting," he said. "Weren't we just going to enjoy ourselves?"

Telufinwë smiled and turned way.

Pityafinwë gazed at the stars once again. "I like how you can actually see the stars in Middle-Earth. In Valinor they weren't seen because of the Two Trees and you had to travel to the Sea to see them. I like it when it's dark, actually. Do you think I'm turning into one of the Moriquendi?" he asked, smiling.

"Hah, if you turn into a Moriquendë, I will no longer call you my brother," I said, and he laughed.

"You know that I know that you are joking, or you wouldn't have said that, would you?" He was right, of course.

"Did you know that the Edain in fact prefer the Sun to the Moon?" I asked him. "They say they can't see very well I the dark."

"Really? That's... sad and strange. Nasty trick from Ilúvatar's side... How do you know that, by the way?"

"Haleth told me," I replied.

I remembered how we had been walking together, discussing matters, and walked even further from the settlement. Then she had stumbled and said it was too dark for her to see her feet. I had looked at her quizzically as she knelt on the ground, brushing off dirt from her clothing. "We were made for Sunlight", she had said as she looked up at me, "you for the Stars". I had given her my hand to pull her up and she had grudgingly accepted my aid. "The Stars are like the eyes of your kin", she had said. "Ever watching us from where we can't reach them."

"Haleth," my brother's contemplating voice reached me and pulled me away from my thoughts. "It was the mortal you helped?" I nodded.

"When mortals die, do they go to the Halls of Mandos?" Telufinwë asked suddenly.

"I haven't thought about it, but I guess so..." I said and twitched uncomfortably. In fact I had wondered about it, but that was simply because I usually didn't like thinking about such things. My subconsiousness had assumed it was self-evident that I would meet them again.

Pityafinwë glanced at me. "Actually, Findaráto said they don't," he muttered. "He said they just leave Arda never to come back." I raised an eyebrow.

"And how would Findaráto know that?" I snapped.

"He has spoken a lot with mortals. They have told what they think will happen to them and so on," Pityafinwë shrugged. "Then again, Death is a mystery even for Eldar."

I gritted my teeth, not angry with my brothers or anything, but rather annoyed by Findaráto. He had always been so liked, so respected, so... adored by every single people that had ever walked the Earth. Somehow the idea of Death being a mystery disturbed me very much. I would have wanted to know. Why couldn't the Valar have told us? Why couldn't we just have been told what would happen – it'd be easier to face Death if one knew what one was going to go through.

At night when we were resting, I looked up at the stars, contemplating in the silence of my brothers' slow breathing. As I watched the constellations I reminisced how I always had been told how Varda had set them to light up Middle-Earth. I then remembered Pityo's words earlier today about how there were no Stars to be seen in Valinor. But here they were in Beleriand, shining their light even upon the exiled people that my family now was. I thought about this even more and shivered a bit – was Varda keeping an eye on us even in Middle-Earth? I wasn't sure on whether I should be glad about the Valar guarding us, but somehow I merely felt ill at ease at the thought that Varda followed us everywhere. I turned where I lied and buried my face into the the cloak that was wrapped around me. Then I remembered another thing: the stars were like the eyes of my kin. I felt somewhat more comfortable about those twinkling lights.

"In Valinor there was no Sun or Moon", I told her as we were walking up the hill. "Did you know that they set out to sail the sky quite recently?" She smiled. "Recently in your years? That is more than a hundred generations, I would guess. I can't even imagine a world where the world is lit up by two trees," she sighed and halted, "What happens when you are further away from them or behind a mountain? My people and I, we need light, Lord Carnistir. In darkness, I think I would die." I stopped, too, as I laughed at her exaggeration. "You wouldn't. You said it was dark in the forest, but you are still unhurt." She grinned and looked at me. "It wasn't that dark... it was lit up by the Eyes of Eldar."

The following morning we headed back. The air was chilly and the grass was stiff from the frost. It took some hours to get back; our pace was indeed rather slow. When we rode up to the house of Maitimo, we were approached by Tyelkormo. He was smiling slightly, though I didn't know what made him happy or whether he was happy after all. He walked closer to us and our horses, and when I saw that he was holding a parchment in his hand I immediately knew what it was. Tyelkormo looked at me, grinning. I noticed a scar on his lower lip. "They said they'll never surrender the Silmaril," he said to us when all the three of of us had dismounted our horses.

Telufinwë rolled his eyes as he pet the mane of his stallion: "Well, that hardly came as a surprise to anyone," he snorted, but Tyelkormo went on as if he hadn't noticed:

"That means we'll just have to go get it ourselves."

"And you are excited about this, apparently," I commented.

"Carnistir, I am not eager about going to Doriath," Tyelkormo said looking at me, smiling, now with a slightly less maniacal expression. "I merely look forward to fulfilling the duty we were left with. Is there something especially strange about that?"

"Tyelkormo," I said, "you always manage to be so...convincing."

"This is now open battle. We still have our War against Morgoth, but now is our chance to fulfil our Oath. If it could be avoided, we would not attack Doriath. But they are against us even after we warned them. No more shall they take pride in their loot. We will take the Silmaril, and only those who oppress us shall be killed; we do not kill those who would be on our side."

"Now is our chance to show everybody that the Noldor are not yet lost. Yes we have lost lives, yes we have faced betrayal. We have shed thousands of tears, we have fled we have burnt. But nothing of that would ever diminish our honour, our valour, our pride. Our determination to bring justice. And to get the jewels. We would overthrow the Enemy, and the foolish Sindar would finally understand. Noldor are not ones to behold injustice! The Power of the Noldor – our cousins may have fallen, but may the everlasting darkness of Eru that we once swore upon ourselves devour us should the Sons of Fëanáro falter in their quest!"

A door creaked somewhere down the corridor. I lay still in my bed, listening to the sounds from outside and inside the house. I was deep in thought. We would go to Doriath in the very middle of winter – on the day when the night was at its longest. That was now less than a fortnight from today. We would march and would once again ask for the Silmaril, only this time face to face with Dior the Beautiful. Should he not surrender it, we would do what we had to do. It was no less than what father was expecting from us.

The door creaked again. I wondered which of my brothers was up from his bed and for what reason. Then I remembered that Maitimo had stayed in the sitting room even after I had gone to my own chamber. By that point all the others had already left. I remembered the brief discussion I had had with Maitimo, before I went to bed myself. He had said he was glad we finally might get a chance to gain the Silmaril. I had asked how big he deemed our chances of success. He had smiled at me sadly. "Only time will tell," he had said.

I watched out through the window. I saw a diamond fall from the sky. The next day all of Lindon was covered in icy velvet.

What few hours that the Sun would shed us warmth were spent outside. Tyelkormo looked at me smugly when we went out and within a few moments a snowball hit me in the back-head and I shivered as the icy water ran down beneath my collar. Needless to say, Tyelkormo soon had his face in a nearby pile of snow.

"Carnistir," he spluttered, "wasn't that a slightly exaggerated revenge?"

"Look who's talking," I scoffed, brushing away snow from my hair. Curufinwë, who stood observing us nearby couldn't help but grinning and turned away.

Several snowballs later flung at siblings in randomised order, I stepped aside to nurse a toe Tyelko had stepped on. My brothers continued to push each others into the soft snow, and Macalaurë had begun to pile snow on Maitimo whom Pityafinwë had tackled and now had pinned on the ground with some help from Telufinwë's part.

It was extraordinary, really. Here we were rolling in the snow, forcing each other to sink into the soft piles, knowing we would in a matter of days head for Doriath to complete an Oath which had completely twisted our lives. Amidst the preparations for our campaign to Doriath, it was strange that we would actually enjoy ourself by playing outside in the snow as if we were elflings. I watched Macalaurë starting to build something out of the snow, and the twins continued their attempts in feeding Maitimo snow while the elder tried to keep his mouth shut when he actually was laughing. Laughter. Maitimo was laughing. I wondered when was the last time I had heard that sound and we had had this fun. I decided that my toe didn't hurt any more, if it in fact had hurt at all, and rejoined my brothers.

"Are you coming to eat some snow, too?" Curufinwë asked me from where he was kneeling on the ground making a stash of snowballs for later use.

"I hope not," I answered. Then I noticed that I was laughing myself.

One early morning we took our horses and left. Our troops rode at a quite slow pace, slower than was necessary. No one spoke, least of all I, since I was never the talkative type. I fell into my thoughts and allowed myself to linger on them a longer than usual. We were in no hurry. An eerie mutual understanding had entered our hearts – it didn't matter how quickly we got to Doriath, the importance was in getting there. The journey seemed to be our longest ever. It was as though our slow pace was our last way to postpone our errand. The errand from which we could nor would not turn away. I shook my head. I thought too much.

During our pause we stretched our legs and had something to eat. Still unseen by anyone apart from a few birds, our plan was working so far. Maitimo was talking with some of his followers; I saw them debating vividly over something I didn't care to listen to. The Ambarussa stood further away discussing silently with each other. I didn't see Tyelkormo or Macalaurë, but Curufinwë stood nearby brooding by himself, and I went over to him.

"What are you thinking about, brother?" I asked him. He looked at me, and took his time to reply.

"None of us has set a foot in Menegroth before," he said. I nodded. We all were uncomfortably aware of that crucial drawback. "Where is the Silmaril? Hanging on Dior's breast, locked away? What do you think?"

"I'd say he wears it – to show off," I replied, unsure of where my brother was leading our dialogue. But he merely nodded. "What about it?" I asked.

"The element of surprise will be our ally, intuition our guide," he answered. "But even if we don't find it at once, we still have to keep on searching for it, killing everybody in our way." I tilted my head. What was his point. He sighed and looked at me intensely. "Everybody," he repeated. "Once the wheels are rolling they can't stop until the hill is behind them. We have to ransack the whole place, down to the very last child that might be hiding our treasure."

"I know that, Curufinwë," I snapped, "I'm not a Vanya. You don't have to preach me about the Oath; I took it as well."

Curufinwë stared at me offended, but I refused to back away from his gaze. "I beg your pardon, brother," he said at last. "but I just wanted to tell you that whether the element of surprise is on our side or not, we are playing it on their territory." He looked down. "I know what we have to do, but..." his voice died out, but I could complete his sentence for him. He feared. We were armed more strongly, but in a place where we fought blindly, the enemy had such a great advantage. There was no room for showing mercy, because we wouldn't receive it either. And once in battle, there was no turning back, even if we wouldn't get what we came looking for. No wonder even Curufinwë was anxious. I understood him perfectly and therefore remained silent, at which Curufinwë looked up at me. His lip curled when he saw that I knew what he meant without further explanations. And it was one of his rare genuine smiles. A smile not of mischief or contempt, but of gratitude.

Tyelkormo spared us from prolonging the silence, as he walked up to us.

"The wind is turning," he said. "It is currently on our side, and the beasts of the forest wouldn't notice our scent were we to arrive to Doriath now. We should speed up." He glanced behind him, at a bird to whom – I now realised – he had been talking to.

"What did they say?" I asked him.

"They told us we'd need good luck to come back alive," he said, shaking his head. Once again I noticed the small scar on his lip. Such a petite detail, but I saw it. And I saw that it hadn't healed, although should have by now, because it was a long time since I first had noticed it. He had a habit of biting his lip whenever he was upset or nervous. He had been biting it for over a month now.

We rode further. Once again we spoke very little. But at some point Macalaurë slowed his pace and waited until I caught up with him. I spared him a questioning look. He smiled at me and after a moment he spoke.

"I have started to compose the song we spoke about the other week," he said. "It's not even halfway done, because I still have some troubles in my composing..." his voice faded.

"Tell me when it's complete," I said. "I'd like to hear it."

"Of course, you will be the first one to hear it. It's your happy song,"

"My Happy Song?" I said mockingly. "Don't make me sound like a baby."

"Oh I will, Moryo," Macalaurë laughed and his eyes sparkled. "Since you are my younger brother it is my duty."

I snorted. But truthfully, Macalaurë had cheered me up. He somehow managed to cheer me up quite often – unlike my other brothers he wasn't loud and obnoxious. And knowing my strange ways of showing appreciation, my brother continued to ride by my side.

We entered the forest by early night. Of course, the whole day had been lightless, but it was now that it was truly night. Doriath was heavy with snow. The cold air made the environment very silent, and the muffled ambience kept us from making a sound. Our light boots left no tracks in the snow, our breaths were but small wisps of vapour in the cold, crystal clear dark. I glanced behind me. Our army was strong, though not big in number of men.

We rode on. I was deep in my own thoughts. Were the Sindar aware of our coming? Had they predicted it or had they spied it from afar? I also thought about Curufinwë's words. We would be fighting blindly. It worried me, but not as much as it might have. I knew what had to be done; I would do it no matter what. I pondered where we might leave our steeds; their fate worried me, for I did not know what might happen to them if we had to left them for themselves.

It was the darkest day of the year. Darkness makes me feel as if I am not seen, so I was glad because of that. The tall trees covered the sky so that the light of the stars in the nightly sky couldn't reach the ground in the forest. Tonight I was glad because of that, too. I didn't want the stars to see me.

The Noldor are proud of being very organized when the need arises. We may have our troubles, but we will not stop to yammer about them until it is too late to do anything. The Sindar are somewhat of the opposite, I have noticed. That is why half of them never reached Valinor – which, when I finally gave it a thought, was probably good for them.

As no one else gave us permission to enter, we gave it ourselves, and after the first few guards that hadn't run away for back-up had fallen down dead we quickly organized ourselves into three main groups and a few more smaller. Maitimo and Macalaurë took their forces and lead them further away through massive gates which presumably lead to the King's hall, the Ambarussa entered through the opposite doors, less adorned, which lead to long passageway with doors on each sides. The Noldorin army is very effective, and they tore open doors and gave commands both in Quenya and the local tongue for every Sinda to surrender or fight – there would be no mercy for our opponents. Upon hearing my kin's fair language being spoken I realised it was the first time ever it had been heard in Doriath. The thought cheered me up. I went with Tyelkormo and Curufinwë. Curufinwë took the strategic leadership and Tyelkormo guidance of the troops.

"Search every room. And if you see any members of the Royal Family, they at least will know the whereabouts of the hoard," he said as his eyes swept the surroundings. "Leave guards to watch even those who won't lift a weapon," he added. " Just to be safe." He bit his lip and tucked a golden bang of hair behind his ear. He looked nervous. "Do not kill the innocent, only those who oppose us," he added. I wondered whether he really had no doubts about killing somebody so close a kin to Lúthien Tinúviel.

Curufinwë organized the looting. The part of the fortress of Menegroth we had been assigned to appeared to be mainly storage rooms or smaller unlocked rooms the purpose of which I didn't quite find out before my younger brother already announced that we should haste on. Room upon room, door after door, this part seemed strangely empty, which was suspicious, considering that the whole of the underground castle was already well aware of our presence. As if to confirm our suspicions, we eventually faced Sindarin legions. I could not say whether they were big or small by Sindarin standards, but it didn't take long before most of them laid slain on the floor, the rest badly wounded struggling for their life, blood splattered on the floor, and on my own sword no less.

There are those dreams in which you walk in a corridor, and every now and then you face an obstacle you overcome only to continue your journey on the very same path. I was walking in the lead with my brothers, and even from there I hadn't really an idea on where the tunnel would take us or when it would end. I could not understand why the Sindar would want to live in such a maze. We opened doors, which mostly led to smaller rooms, but from some of those rooms other openings led to other parts of the building. I wondered how my brothers fared. This part of Menegroth seemed to have been emptied of people. This worried me, because it seemed as if the residents had foreseen our coming in some strange, unearthly way. It didn't seem as if it had always been this empty here, because in one room I rushed into, weapons ready, I saw toys of children lying on the ground as if somebody had only recently been playing with them. The back-door of that room was open as if somebody – perhaps the children that had been using the toys – had narrowly escaped through it. Tyelkormo ordered some of his soldiers to examine where that back-door lead, and I turned away, ready to open the next door.

There are those dreams in which you finally come to your destination, only to find out that it was the wrong one. As the hallway we had been walking in for a good while now came to its end we faced a large door, a gate, that was locked from the inside. We sensed that this was something significant, and concluded that behind this door would be what we had come for. A battering ram was passed down to the front of the line, as the doors refused to yield to our pushing and pulling. The ram splintered the decorated wood on the surface, but would not break the gate of iron that lay beneath.

Tyelkormo cursed under his breath, and sighed in vexation. "There is no going back before we have entered these doors," he gave orders to the troops.

"This is likely a door to a greater room, maybe to a crossing of several major passageways," I mused. Judging from how the corridor had been winding, I wouldn't have been surprised had we plopped into the same corridor which Maitimo and Macalaurë had set out for.

Tyelkormo nodded. "And since it's locked they have apparently secured this from the rest of their hideouts," he said.

"Or then this is where their hideout, in fact, is," I replied.

"Stay strong, Moryo," Tyelkormo said, and I looked him the eyes. He smiled encouragingly. He was a strange Elf, my brother, able to flash his charming smile at times like these. Unlike the cunning grins Curufinwë would provide, Tyelkormo brightened up the room, and his words of encouragement lifted up my spirits. I did not say anything, but soon I found myself smiling as well. I don't know how Tyelkormo did it.

"You too, Turko," I said.

The smashes of the ram battering the gate had ended, and as I looked up, I saw that our soldiers had given way for Curufinwë who had given each of them small tools. Four of them, including my brother, were now unfastening the screws that held up the gate. More developed than regular screwdrivers, these appeared to be designed by my brother himself, and I was grateful of that he had had them with him. We could soon escape this cul-de-sac, which was a good thing. No matter where we would end up next; from the frying pan into the fire, from the fire into the Void.

"You don't fail to surprise me, Curufinwë," I said. Curufinwë bowed his head, saying nothing, expressionless as his dark hair fell before his eyes.

"Curvo," my elder brother said, Curufinwë looked up, and I just stood by listening, backing away slowly, as I felt as if I was intruding into moment. "remember when I promised you that one day I would go to Doriath itself, if I had to, and bring the Silmarils for you?" Curufinwë nodded.

"I remember that, yes."

"One day, to make you proud, I shall yet hold the Silmarilli. Or die trying," Tyelkormo went on.

"I am proud of you already," Curufinwë said. "I've always been."

Tyelkormo opened his mouth as if to reply, but in the end he closed it, nodded, and said nothing.

I remembered how he had said he wasn't looking forward rampaging Menegroth, but to fulfilling his duty. And knowing my brother, it was no surprise that he was willing to even taunt his fate in order to do what he was expected to do. I knew why he had been biting his lip lately. They say some can foresee parts of their life as well as the end of it. It was one of those things I didn't believe in – or didn't want to believe in.

There are those times when every last bit of air in your lungs turn into stone and your reflexes fail you. We had little time to recover once the door had been smashed open. As I sensed that there was somebody – or more likely somebodies – standing on the other side, I grabbed the hilt of my sword, as did my brothers. And as the dust laid down, and I gazed further into the shadows of the other room, I saw him. The dark-haired Sinda in front of us, stood staring at us with a look of defiance in his eyes, as he stood with his sword ready, but with no intention of attacking immediately. I had never met him before, nor had I met his parents or grand-parents, but it was Dior Eluchil, all right. My guess was confirmed when I saw Tyelkormo's eyes widen as the straightened up to his full might. He held up his hand, so signal us not to make a move.

"You are the image of your mother," my brother said after a silence. Sadness had crept into his voice.

Dior looked sternly at him. "You have met my mother, Son of Fëanor?" he said, more as a statement than as a question. No doubt he knew his parents' story as well as we did, only from the opposite perspective.

"A meeting we shall never forget," Curufinwë said, "and you can take that as a courtesy, if you wish to," he scoffed.

I said nothing. It wasn't my custom to speak to strangers, anyway, and I had nothing to say to this lord of another kingdom. This person, I thought, was actually considerably younger than any of us, and yet he looked as old as we did, and maybe even older. He is a human, I realised, and scoffed at my slow wit. Of course he ages differently. I didn't quite know what it meant for him to have a grandmother of the Ainurin race and a mother who had become a mortal by choice, but it was evident that his ancestry made this Dior Eluchil age faster, although as for his life span I wasn't quite sure how it worked. I wondered whether Dior would join us in the Halls of Mandos or whether he would leave Arda after we killed him.

"What are you scoffing at, my Lord?" Dior asked looking at me. I glared at him. I still had nothing to say to him and would not open my mouth in vain.

Curufinwë saved me from answering as he spoke again. "No doubt, you already know on what purpose we are here for," he said. "So you still have time to cooperate with us and thus spare your kingdom from a ruin it will never recover from."

"My kingdom has already recovered from one ruin, I would think another would not prove more disastrous," Dior said calmly.

My brother smiled, and his voice was velvety as he told the facts as a parent explains the world to his child: "True; even the death of your late king would not quench you. But marks that the Naugrim left on your doors are nothing compared to the terror Doriath will face, should you not meet the demands of the Noldor."

"Your demands?" Dior laughed. "Your demands are approved by none, besides the outlaws and exiles that descend from the madman who burnt and killed his own kin and whom you would call your family. I will not cooperate with those whom I consider criminals."

"Son of Lúthien," Tyelkormo addressed the Sinda, refusing to even acknowledge his father. "You are a fool. Weren't your parents thieves themselves? They stole from the enemy, so maybe you would not consider it a crime, but their looting is a thing that rightfully belongs to us. So you see," he said, now taking the authoritative tone of a parent as well, "what my kin tries to do is to pursue those who we consider criminals. You and us, we share the same enemy, the one who lives in the North, and where we failed, you succeeded. But that doesn't permit you to keep on hiding the jewels that are ours."

"You are not fit to have the jewels," Dior said, after probably having ignored every word my brothers had said. "It is our heirloom, and we have gained it without bloodshed. You on the other hand have killed both friend and foe to get it, and yet failed. Would that not be a proof of that fate itself has made the House of Thingol the rightful owners?"

"It would not," Curufinwë said. "The rightful owner of the Silmarilli has always been the House of Fëanor, no matter whose filthy hand has held them meanwhile. The only reason you had it is because of foolish pride and a measly attempt of your father to prove himself," he finished. Clearly annoyed by the conversation that would lead nowhere, he took a step forward, at which the soldiers of Dior who stood beside him raised their weapons. But Curufinwë halted and went no further, and instead he spoke again. "This is the last time we will ask you this: Are you willing to cooperate, and surrender the Silmaril?"

"I would not give you the Silmaril, even if it still was here," Dior said, his voice still calm. He reached out to accept a helmet that one of his men handed him. As he put it on his head, still in no hurry, as if to taunt us further, Tyelkormo took forth his shining sword, but pointed it not at his opponent but at the ceiling.

"Your arrogance is worse than I had expected and can only be compared to your foolishness," he said. "But you must know what happens to those who stand against us in our mission." His voice echoed as he quoted the words we all knew by heart, and we joined his speech, all raising our swords:

"Neither law, nor love, nor league of swords,

Dread nor danger, not Doom itself,

Shall defend him from Fëanor, and Fëanor's kin,

Whoso hideth or hoardeth, or in hand taketh,

Finding keepeth or afar casteth

A Silmaril."

And Dior did not smile anymore, but Curufinwë did. "It was most unfortunate that you did not take old forgotten Oaths seriously enough, Son of a Mortal," he said.

The Noldor are better warriors than the Sindar, no denying in that. There are some exceptions on both sides, but even when the strengths of the hands that hold the weapons are equal, the Noldor have made weapons better than those of the Elves that live in the shadow of Middle-earth. And no one of the House of Fëanor would go to battle without a weapon worth lifting.

In all fairness, the Sindar are graceful in their technique, being of the Eldarin kin and all. But we certainly had strength on our side, although we were fewer. Dior had assembled a strong force around him, which probably explained how come the corridor we had walked through had been so empty. I concentrated into the fighting. I hoped that Maitimo, Macalaurë and the Ambarussa had been at least as lucky as we had been so far, but there was no telling. I hoped they would soon come here: if Dior was in this end of the hallway, then surely the Silmaril could not be far away. My sword sang as it clashed with those of the Sindar and into the Sindar themselves.

Not observing my surroundings more than I had to, I was completely lost into the battle, thoughts rushing through my brain before I had the time to scan through them. But when I finally, turned to take in what was around me, I saw that several of the Noldor had been slain, too. I saw Curufinwë and some others battling some Doriathrim, who were blocking a door in the back wall of the hall, I saw Tyelkormo battling a life-guard of Dior's. Trying to make my way to Tyelkormo, I was caught in the battle again.

"I know who you are and what you did to my mother."

Dior said, as Tyelkormo turned to face him after having killed a close solider of his.

"You know your history," Tyelkormo said, catching a breath amidst the battle, "but save your tongue, Dior, lest you let down your guard," he finished, as he gracefully thrust the tip of his sword at the young king. Dior, a talented swordsman, defended himself well. He had already killed many Noldor, and was not bad in battle, but he lacked a fierceness in war. As he fought Tyelkormo he swung his sword without changing an expression, this clearly annoying Tyelkormo whose own feelings were always reflected in his face.

"Celegorm, when my mother met you, she thought you were a Vanya, because of your looks," Dior said, his curious habit of talking in battle, yet again showing itself. "That was until she experienced your manners, of course," he finished. Tyelkormo's eyes widened, and he made yet another attempt to make his opponent lose his weapon or die. "I want you to understand," Dior said, yet again slipping away from the blade, "that the Silmaril is not mine to give, as it is no longer in Menegroth. Indeed, by now it is outside Doriath." He had barely uttered those words before his expression changed. Without even glancing down, he knew that, just as he had been warned, he had let down his guard.

With a victorious expression, Tyelkormo drew his blade from the side of his enemy. Still pointing the weapon at Dior Eluchil, he looked at the other, clutching his side in pain, and asked with ice-cold eyes: "You have one more chance. You would not lose anything more than what you already have lost. Where do you keep the Silmaril?"

Dior looked back at Tyelkormo: "Not here. I sent it away," he said. "I gave it to my daughter who escaped Doriath before you even came."

And when those words reached Tyelkormo, his attention failed, and he opened his mouth and would have said something had he not stumbled where he stood.

"Don't let down your guard," Dior said and meekly wiped away the mixture of spit and blood that landed in his face as Tyelkormo fell, a gleam of despair and fury still gleaming in the depths of his grey, Noldorin eyes, the stars that had now been extinguished.

I felt it in my heart when my brother died. No, not in my heart – in my very fëa.

Curufinwë felt it as well, maybe even more forcefully than I did, since he had always been closer to Tyelkormo than I had. I know it, because through I saw him in the corner of my eye as he turned around to look at where our brother had fallen, and I saw him make his way there, leaving the soldiers he had been slaying the Sindar who had hindered the Noldor from moving on to the next room. He rushed to Tyelkormo as if he still could be revived, but since that of course was impossible, he took the sword of Tyelkormo and made it do what it had been trying to do. He stabbed Dior, who probably already was dead, anyway, but a bit of revenge never hurt, did it? I would have stabbed Dior, too, but I forced my attention to a Sinda who had taken the opportunity of the death of the Noldorin leader to strike down the remaining ones.

When your fëa is shaken it is very difficult to comprehend your current situation, especially if the disturbances occur twice within such a short span of time. It was a feeling I had experienced before: when father had died, I had felt something like this, but that had been on a stony hillside far away from here both in place and time, and at time I hadn't been caught in war. This time, however, I had no time to do mourn for deaths; I could merely keep on fighting. Which I did. A pile of hewn bodies was forming beside me as the battle-fury was kindled by the will to avenge.

It seemed as if the defending Sindar noticed that I was at the moment an enemy with a higher killing-count than the rest of my people. A Doriathian solider came towards me, his sword lifted, and as our swords clashed I sensed that this was a very good warrior, well taught in how to wield a sword. It was almost a joy to have met one's match, but there was no way that this solider alone would finish me off.

That is when an arrow pierced me. The Noldorin armour is well made, because they are both light and strong. I am not as well versed in smith lore as my father or brother or nephew, but when my grip of the sword faltered, I could not help but being slightly surprised.

The gleaming blade, the shrill noise of it as it was swung, the red that rose into my eyes, the whirl that took me. I ground my teeth, as the pain in my chest spread, but doing that I got more strength and my willpower increased. I opened my eyes and saw the Sinda stand in front of me, his blade ready to strike again.

"You should never have come," he said, staring down at me, as I knelt on the ground. I swallowed blood and once again tightened my grip of my sword. Then, swinging the blade I rolled aside. The blade hit the legs of the Sinda and as he was distracted his aim didn't quite reach me. But I wasn't yet safe. The Sinda was wounded, too, but he had yet the power to bring me down. I rose up to stand on two wobbly feet. Never before had I felt such a pain. Never before had I stood so fearless in battle. My determination would not let me think about what might happen soon, where I might end up.

It must have been during that time that the door at the back of the room was finally opened. I heard clamour and shouts of the Sindar as they shouted warnings to each other, but then I heard what must have been the sweetest sound I could imagine at that moment. I heard Quenya.

What happened soon after I stood up was that a sword struck my enemy from behind. Maitimo's sword had pierced my enemy, the Sinda. Maitimo let his sword ring and his victim fell as my brother turned around to murder another of the defenders of Menegroth. But as the blood of the fallen splattered into my face, my reflexes made me close my eyes, and by doing so my feet gave in and, followed by my head, my knees hit the ground.

My mind flooded with snippets of memories; my brothers, my parents, the battles, lake Helevorn, a thousand stars that lit up the ground beneath our feet. But it was probably just things I came to think of as my body turned limp and the breath stopped in my lungs: thoughts of things I would never see again. And why was I even thinking about them, when I was lying so vulnerable in the midst of a battle. Some have said their whole life flashes before their eyes when they die. I think it's once again a bit too philosophical for my tastes, but it was then that I realised what it felt like dying. What would I see when I died? My father? My brothers when it would be their turn to die? A painful memory reminded me of that two of them were already dead. Would I see all the other Elves I had seen die or killed myself, and what about the mortals that had died? Would I meet Haleth, even after Findaráto had played an oracle and claimed no such thing was possible in Arda Marred?

Those flashing thoughts faded away and after a while I became aware of myself and of the fact that I was lying on the ground, in the twilight between life and unconsciousness. It was an effort to try open my eyes as my whole body weighed as if it was made of gold, and my energy had poured out through my wounds. So I lied still. What was death? Emptiness and darkness. Mandos would soon claim me as a guest into his halls – a guest who would stay there permanently.

The stars shone above me; those eyes of my people, staring down at the bloodshed. I stood again outside the front gates of Menegroth. A dark figure stood a bit away from me.

"I will not force you to come with me," he said. "but you cannot stay here either."

"I can't?" I thought stubbornly, and the figure apparently understood me, but did not reply.

"What will I find in the place where you would lead me?" I asked after a while.

"Is there something you wish to find there?" came the unfathomable answer. I looked at the figure with empty eyes. "You will not find it," he replied to me. "I am sorry, but some fëa are not admitted to Mandos, but pass beyond the walls of the world, and some things will never reach your hands."

I clenched my fists. I wanted to say something angry and rude to the strange figure. Would he at least face me eye to eye and not hide beneath his cloak. I spat into the shimmering snow. "As you wish. But in that case I might choose to stay here where everything isn't taken away from me," I said.

"Everything in Middle-Earth will be taken from you, Morifinwë. You cannot truly be a part of it any more before you have faced your punishment."

"The curse!" I shouted furiously. "You put a curse on me and you will take everything! And yet you call yourselves the justice? Yes, I know who you are, oh cloaked figure. You are an Ainu!" I spat out in anger.

I knew the figure couldn't deny that, but it annoyed me that he remained where he stood unmoving. At last he spoke: "There is nothing left for you here, any more, except telling goodbye to your brothers. I will leave you to do that."

I was still lying on the ground, the pain in my side slowly fading away, as my body became more and more numb. Then Macalaurë's voice reached my ears. I soon realised he was singing. A wordless melody, soaring through the air, making me lose the meaning of my trail of thought. I never mentioned it to him, really – not straight out, at least – but I loved his singing.

"Macalaurë, sing me my song," I whispered. I saw my brother keeling beside me, looking into my eyes, his eyes glassy. Maitimo stood silent a bit further away, silent with a horrified expression on his face. Then my vision blurred out and I closed my eyes, and could think of nothing but the melody that my brother sung. The sound echoed in my body, dug deep into my heart. It was a song of joy, of sadness, of love and war. It was what Macalaurë had composed for me, but he had intervened it with a melody that had sprung into being from this very moment. It was still my happy song, but it was now something more – it had evolved into my song of both happiness of the past and of hope of the future. I heard faintly a door open and close and could sense my two youngest brothers enter the hall. They said nothing, for the sweet melody still filled the place, but I was glad to have them around me for one last time.

Then there was really nothing else than the music. Now that I had closed my eyes, I didn't feel like opening them again. I didn't feel like doing anything except for escaping the slow death. And listening my Happy Song to the end.

"I will go," I said, knowing it was better to head where I was supposed to rather than roam about the Middle-Earth, the realm that would never again be the one I had loved and got used to. And with the last syllable I felt my breath die out.

The End