Disclaimer: Plain and simple...Lord of the Rings nor anything in association with Tolkien or his writing is mine. I only lay claim to Nesiat. There was no profit made from the writing of this tale, unless pleasure is considered profit. But please do not sue me for that, for I have no money, and thus it would be pointless.
A/N: Wow...this is the end. I had it all written from the very beginning, and yet it still is a really amazing and good feeling to come to the end of posting it, and mark this as 'complete'. Oh, and there will eventually be a different cover for this. I couldn't find anything that I liked, so I will be uploading a sketch of my own (as soon as I can finish it). Thank you oh so very much to all of you who have alerted, favorited, and reviewed (it's called 'commenting' now? Weird...). A particular thanks goes to 'Guest', an anonymous reviewer. You'll get to see at least a little bit of Celebrimbor's reaction toward the end. A huge and very special thank you goes to both cai-ann and LadyNostarielofMirkwood who have reviewed every chapter (at least all three thus far), and for helping me and keeping me encouraged through this whole process.
I would absolutely love it if you would leave me a review, but more than anything, I hope you enjoy this final chapter!
Cathelle: small/little cat
Meleth nin: my love
Names: (I never knew what Celebrían's or Celebrimbor's names meant, so I decided to look them up, and I figured I'd share)
Nesiat: Fire heart
Elrond: Star dome
Celebrían: Silver crown-gift
Celebrimbor: Silver fist
The cat mewed painfully, and struggled to rise. Its right foreleg gave out, and it crashed to the watery ground. Yet despite everything that had happened, its will to live was burning. It forced itself up onto three legs, and staggered forward.
The ground sloped upward gently, and water poured continuously down toward the tunnel beneath. Yet the water was neither very deep, nor was the current strong, and so the cat, who was limping along on three legs, was still able to climb the slight incline.
There was another opening at the mouth of the slope, approximately a foot in diameter, and rain trickled in. It was much less than before, I noted. It seemed as if the torrential downpour had slackened to a steady rain.
The cat clambered out of the hole and dragged itself onto the road. There it collapsed, is breath coming in ragged gasps. I could feel that each breath pained it, and a fresh wave of sorrow and regret washed through me.
The rain began to slow, until it was only a drizzle. The roar of water rushing through the sewers slowly faded away to a dull rush.
As Isil neared the western horizon, the cat picked itself up. The rain had all but ceased to fall, and now only dripped from the eaves of houses, and from the leaves and boughs of trees. Even so, water continued to run in streams through the gutters, before pouring down to the tunnels beneath. The cat stayed well away from such pathways and openings.
It must have been a pitiful sight to see. A single cat limped down the center of the street, splattered in mud and blood alike, its fur clinging to its body from the rain. Its tail dragged in a puddle every now and again, and the cat would jerk it upright, only for it to fall slowly down once more.
The black of night was fading to the gray of predawn, and a light mist was beginning to creep about the earth, when the cat turned away from the road. With an ungainly hop, it passed between the bars of a gate. Cobblestone turned to water gravel, and the scent of green, growing things rose up around me.
A building loomed up out of the fog, and I found that I recognized it. It was my Keeper's own home.
As the cat plopped down in front of the door, incredulity filled me. Despite what it had cost the poor creature, the cat had still managed to bring me to my Keeper, my One. Despite all the pain that it had suffered, all of the hardships, it had fought through until the very end, just so I could come home. I hadn't even been entirely sure that it understood what I had asked of it. And yet here we were.
Thank you, was all that I could say. Words alone could not express my thoughts and feelings. Something, a song perhaps, rose within me. It was a song of gratitude, of wonder, respect, and of admiration. And I do not even know your name, I whispered sadly.
They call me Nesiat. The words were quiet, barely audible, and filled with pain. And yet I still heard them. She had spoken to me. The cat – Nesiat – had spoken.
Thank you, I whispered again. Thank you Nesiat.
I poured every ounce of love, hope, and comfort that I could into her frail, battered, and mangled body. It was not much, but it was all I had.
Anor lifted her head above the horizon, as if tentatively peering into the world. Music filled the morning air as a dove cooed, and then a finch joined in. A rabbit hopped tentatively out onto the grass from beneath a small cluster of bushes, its nose twitching and its ears flicking back and forth.
Nesiat meowed quietly, as if she were begging or pleading. I could feel her beginning to droop, the little strength that I had managed to convey to her failing.
I began to feel anxious, worry clawing into my excitement and joy at being home. If neither my Keeper nor his wife came soon, then I feared that it would be too late. Hurry, I plead silently, although it was not for me that I begged. Please, come quickly.
The door opened just a crack at first, as whoever was inside peered out. Then the door was thrown wide, and a tall, raven-haired elf knelt quickly.
Happiness exploded through me at the sight of my Keeper. He was so near! I could feel him, sense his thoughts. I began to reach out for him, to touch his thoughts and tell him of my presence. But then I felt Nesiat's pain as she sat there, waiting. She had not abandoned me. I must not leave her now either, not when she needed me, and the help my Keeper could bring, the most.
Come to her, I sang. Care for her, please. I knew that he could not hear my words, and yet I hoped that he still heard; heard my meaning and my hope.
"Oh cathelle, what misadventure have you been through?" my Keeper breathed, and his voice was filled with sorrow that only seeing another living creature in pain could bring him. And yet there was kindness in his tone as well. Nesiat attempted to stand, perhaps to go to him, but she fell to the side and nearly collapsed as her legs bore her weight. My Keeper reached out a hand to steady her, but she hissed in defiance. Like any untamed animal, she was injured and afraid of any hand, even if it was one that could help her.
Trust him, I whispered. He is my Keeper, and my master. He will heal you.
"Please cathelle, let me help you. I will not harm you, nor keep you here any longer than you wish to stay." Nesiat looked at him with her eyes clouded with pain and fear. She mewed once, and fell heavily to her side, her legs giving out.
This time when my Keeper reached for her, she did not warn him away. He gathered her gently into his arms and lifted her, cradling her muddy head against his shoulder.
"Easy cathelle," he murmured soothingly. "All will be well soon." The door swung shut as we were carried down the corridor.
"What is it, meleth nin?" a female voice asked, and a silver blonde haired elf appeared in a doorway.
"There was an injured cat sitting on our doorstep," my Keeper replied, and turned to show Nesiat to his wife.
"Well then come quickly," Celebrían ordered, her tone turning brisk and professional. She led us into the brightly lit kitchen that had smooth wood floors, and a half a dozen cherry-wood cabinets. A large window stood facing the west, although the curtains were drawn, blocking out the weak morning sunlight. The fireplace set into the far wall provided plenty of light as well as heat as a fire crackled merrily among the logs. "I can take her while you gather what you need," she said, turning so she could take my Keeper's fragile burden.
My Keeper gingerly passed the injured feline into his wife's tender embrace, then hurried from the room to collect his healing supplies.
Celebrían sat on the floor, settling Nesiat in her lap. She then began to stroke the weak and trembling cat, her long fingers tenderly caressing about her ears, where there was no injury. After a few moments she began to hum a lullaby, and I felt Nesiat begin to relax and drift into a torpor.
After a few moments, my Keeper returned, his arms full of rolls of bandages of various strengths and sizes, pots of salve and bottles of liquid, small leather wrapped parcels, towels, and a pair of clippers. He spread one towel on the ground off to one side, and began to arrange the various items atop it.
"There is warm water in the pot over the fire," Celebrían informed her husband, ceasing to hum, and nodding in the direction of the fireplace. Her eyes followed his movements as he rose swiftly and crossed to a cupboard, pulling various pots and bowls from the shelves as if he were looking for a specific one. He finally seemed to find what he had been looking for, for he carried a large tub to the fire, and filled it with steaming water.
"You will not like this much, cathelle, but we must cleanse you," my Keeper informed Nesiat. She simply stared up at him, then at Celebrían, as if to say, if you must…
Celebrían lifted Nesiat from her lap and placed her in the steaming water, her hands on either of her sides, holding her upright. My Keeper began to sponge the grime from Nesiat's fur, and within moments, the water in the tub was a dark, sludge brown.
When she was as clean as they could get her, my Keeper laid her down on a fresh towel. Then began the long, arduous task of finding and tending her injuries. I joined my mind with my Keepers, so that I could see what he did, and so that he could use me and my focus to his full advantage, despite the fact that my power of healing had waned.
There were many wounds; long gashes bled sluggishly, matting her fur with gore even after she had been washed clean of the crimson liquid, and with each ragged breath that she took, two broken ribs ground together. One lung was bruised, she bled from her spleen, and her right foreleg was badly broken.
My Keeper did what he could for her, setting and splinting the broken leg, suturing the worst of the cuts, and giving her a mixture of herbs to both ease the pain and allow her to breathe easier, as well as help clot the blood. Nesiat remained almost perfectly still during the entire procedure, either lying on her side atop the towel, or wrapped warmly in Celebrían's arms.
After tending to her wounds, my Keeper picked up the clippers.
"What are those for?" his wife asked, still holding a lethargic Nesiat.
"Her fur needs to be clipped, for it is severely matted and extremely long. With short fur, she will run a lesser risk of her wounds getting infected."
"Let me," Celebrían offered, opening her hand to receive the shears.
"Thank you," my Keeper replied with a grateful smile, and willingly gave them to her before standing and gathering the soiled towels.
Celebrían began clip the long, trailing fur, allowing it to fall around her in a ginger pile. She was gentle, and accompanied each snip with a soothing word or a caress. Halfway through the process, to her surprise, the cat began to purr sleepily, her eyes sliding shut every now and again.
"Elrond?" Celebrían called down the hallway. "There is something you should see." She had been clipping the fur away from Nesiat's chest, when her fingers had brushed against me. Her brow drawing down into a slight frown, she had quickly snipped the mat of fur holding me against Nesiat's chest, and I had fallen into her hand. The fur pulled away easily, and within seconds, I was sitting calmly on her palm, glinting dully.
My Keeper appeared in the doorway a few seconds later, looking both puzzled and perhaps a little worried. And then his eyes alit on me. I do not think I have ever felt him as dumbfounded as he was that morning.
"Vilya?" he asked, his voice barely more than a breath, and hurried across the room to kneel beside Celebrían. He picked me up carefully, as if he were afraid that, should he touch me, I would vanish.
I am here, I murmured, and wrapped my consciousness about his.
How…? He trailed off numbly.
Nesiat helped me, I replied, and gave him a vague impression of the cat still purring in Celebrían's lap.
But why? he asked.
I could not leave you, I replied. You are my Keeper, my One. How could I abandon you for another?
You do not belong to me, he replied.
Yes, I do, I told him, harsher than I intended. I am yours and you are mine. I have chosen you as my final Keeper, my master, and I will not suffer to be parted from you.
Vilya…he murmured. I cannot keep you. Despite what you think and believe, elven custom dictates that you are still Celebrimbor's. Can you not understand that? I could hear and feel the anguish within him as he spoke those words. It tore at him with poison claws, causing his heart to bleed.
And finally, I knew what I had to do. I would not allow myself to cause him more pain, for it was me and my own actions that had caused this prolonged suffering. My refusal to accept this was forcing him to have to give me up more than once, and fight me as he did so.
I understand, I whispered. I…you must take me back then. But remember this, Elrond Peredhil, I am always yours.
"Elrond? Meleth nin?" Celebrían asked, looking at her husband worriedly. "Are you well?"
"I must go," Elrond said quietly. "I am sorry, Celebrían, for departing so suddenly. I will return shortly."
"You are taking Vilya back to Celebrimbor then?" she asked. Elrond nodded, and she smiled sadly. "Very well." She leaned in and kissed him tenderly. "I will see you when you return."
"Keep Nesiat calm and warm," Elrond instructed, running one hand along the ginger head. Celebrían did not ask him about the sudden name that he had given the cat, but merely nodded.
"I shall," she promised.
Elrond stood, his hand clenched tightly about me. "I shall return shortly," he repeated, and with that strode from the room.
The world was brightly lit by Anor's brilliant rays. The sky, unlike the day before, was peerless blue, with only a few feathery clouds scudding high overhead. In the distance, a swan rose into the air, its white feathers gleaming silver in the sunlight. The streets, while not thronging with people, were busy, with elves hurrying to and fro on their various errands. Elrond slipped among them, and began to make his way down the toward the Maker's house.
We were silent as we traveled, our thoughts and our feelings buried deep within our minds where they were sheltered from the other. I mourned, allowing my grief to swallow and dull me and my senses. I could not hear the songs of the elves, nor the lilting of the songbirds. I could not feel Anor's warmth.
Elrond knocked once upon Celebrimbor's door, and it opened almost immediately.
"Come in, Elrond," the Maker said, and ushered him inside.
"I am afraid that I have something that belongs to you," Elrond began, lifting his hand, in which he had continued to clutch me during the entire journey, so he could pass me to Celebrimbor.
"Wait a moment, Elrond," Celebrimbor said after taking me, halting Elrond as he turned to depart. When Elrond turned, Celebrimbor beckoned for the other to follow, and led him through the house to a small sitting room that opened out onto a low balcony.
Why hello brother, Nenya laughed as we entered the room. How good it is to see you again.
We worried that you wouldn't make it, Narya added.
It took you so long, Nenya quipped. You left nearly a full day before either of us, and yet we still made it back sooner.
I suppose it is simply the fact that he is our brother, Narya told Nenya smugly.
What is happening? I asked them sternly. I was unable to fathom why they sounded so pleased and…and happy.
Listen, Narya ordered.
"It seems," Celebrimbor was saying, "that I was mistaken. Vilya, Narya, and Nenya no longer belong to me." For the first time since entering the sitting room, I sensed Galadriel and Mithrandir as well, Nenya and Narya's previous Keepers.
"Lady Galadriel, I give to you Nenya," Celebrimbor said, and stepped forward, slipping the adamant ring onto her finger. "Mithrandir, I give to you Narya." He held out the ring to the Istar, the ruby glittering in the sunlight that streamed in through the window. "And to you, Elrond Peredhil, I give you Vilya." He opened his hand, and held me out toward Elrond.
Elrond took me from my Maker's palm, and slid me onto his forefinger. Immediately, I felt as if I had awoken from a daze, the veil hanging about me tearing free. Our thoughts and our feelings melded and became one, our very essences becoming one.
A pure, unadulterated song rose within me, filling me, and his voice joined mine as we sang with unbridled joy. Vaguely, I could hear my sisters as well, and their voices harmonized with mine. The notes wove together, forming a haunting, yet exultant melody.
Slowly, the music died away, until only a faint echo of it remained. Celebrimbor was watching the six of us with a puzzling look. He then nodded, as if satisfied.
"I was correct, then," he muttered, as if to himself, and yet I heard it clearly. "They have chosen their final masters." He smiled then, and his eyes seemed to alight. "They are yours," he said. "Keep them, and care for them." I was not entirely sure if he was speaking to me and my sisters, or to our Keepers. With that, he showed us to the door, and we departed.
As we returned to Elrond's house, I felt as if the world had somehow come alive. The colors were more vibrant than any I had ever seen before, and I could smell the salty tang of the sea on the breeze. I could hear a song in everything, from the rocks, to the beasts, and even in the very heavens.
Elrond, I said abruptly as I observed the world around me, and recognized where we were, there is a hole in the sewer just to your left. It is a health hazard for small creatures such as cats.
He crossed the street to inspect the gutter, and immediately spied the issue. A stone had been knocked sideways, likely by the force of running water. With a nudge of his foot, the stone slid back into place, although it would not take much to move it again.
I shall see about having it fixed, Elrond assured me. How did you know of it? he asked, as he turned back up the street.
It began like this…I said, and told him the tale of my, and Nesiat's, adventure. He was amazed by the events and the trials that we had suffered through, and a great deal of respect grew within him for the homeless, wandering cat that had aided me.
And as my tale continued, our thoughts melded, until he could see what I had seen, and could know what I had thought. We had become one, he and I, and we never to be separated again.
And as we spoke, I came to a realization. I would never be alone again.