Groping in the dark, I reach for your hand and grasp upon nothing but dead air. The night visions are hovering around me, hemming me in and clouding my eyes in locust-swarms. Shapes hideous to behold sneer at me with fanged mouths that drip venom and wield instruments of torture too evil to look upon. I see the dull gleam of iron and steel and the sound of guttural, croaking voices; and all the while a roving searchlight crisscrosses madly in frantic, sweeping motions, drenching the ground it touches in tinctures of blood. It is so near now, so close to discovering me in all my vulnerability. I hug my knees to my chest, vainly hoping to withdraw into myself and elude the all-seeing gaze. A frigid wind assails my naked flesh and I lay quivering and alone - so very alone. They have stripped me of clothing, of dignity, and of purpose, stripped me of friendship and love. Worst of all, I am deprived of the life-giving warmth of your spirit. I knew that it might come to this. Indeed, how could it have been otherwise? The secret recesses of my heart spoke to me of such things often. To walk into the fire was ever to risk exposure, enslavement, and annihilation. But never in my darkest imaginings did I dream that I would be torn from your side, seized like chattel by malicious hands, abused and tossed aside like so much refuse on an ever-mounting slag-heap. And yet, here I lay, scavenged and plundered, picked as cleanly as a dying thing at the mercy of carrion fowl. For just as a bird of prey separates meat from bone, so has the Enemy riven me, body and soul. I have failed - miserably and utterly failed. What foolish fancy could have induced me to embark upon this mission? What folly in the guise of wisdom could have persuaded me to attempt this hopeless thing? How could we have steeled ourselves against such merciless evil? How could we have rallied our spirits with such a slender hope, such a tenuous specter of a hope?

And suddenly a voice returns to me like a golden-tinged clarion call. A single clear note pierces through the dissonance, and the cherished image of your face surfaces above the nightmares just the way it surfaced as I delivered you from the depths of the Great River. I remember your earnest, shining eyes gazing into mine as you joined yourself to me unselfishly. I remember your loyalty unwavering, your hope unflagging, how you spoke of a homeward journey even as our doom yawned before us like a bottomless chasm. I recall the feeling of your arms wrapped round me in a protective embrace, shielding me from all the injuries of this dark and desperate world. But, alas, you could not forever ward off the oncoming of evil. Must all light succumb to darkness?

If only you could have held me one last time, broken as I am, perhaps I would have had the courage to face death and worse. Perhaps then I could have stared down the powers of destruction and surrendered with cold resignation. Then, at least, theirs would not be a complete victory; for though they may rob me of my life and gloat over the ruin of my body, they would not have robbed me of what was most precious. Together, we could have weathered the oncoming of that deadly storm. Though we should fall under axe-blade and knife-edge, the strength of our bond as we clung to one another during our last moments would have pierced through death and survived. You were the only link to my true self, the self I once was before the shadows descended and this burden was entrusted to me: the last remaining part of me in all this hateful land. Without you by my side, I am nothing more than a hollow vessel, the star-glass emptied of EƤrendil's light: fragile, transparent, reflecting nothing. Alone, I must surely shatter under the weight of my enemies' hatred.

Then somehow, beyond all likelihood, the sound of music seems to be carried in on the stagnant air, as though on butterfly wings. The note that resonated in my mind becomes a verse, and a verse becomes a song. Not just any song, but a song that speaks of gladness and honey-sweet meadows, a song that extols the virtues of friends and food; a song that hearkens back to home. It washes over me like crystal water, flows through me like maple coursing beneath the bark of the tree. And I remember why I risked all for this task: to preserve that which is innocent, to save that which is pure, so that our kith and kin may awake to the rising of a new day. So that the soil of our happy country is not defiled and our spring blooms not trampled upon by iron-shot feet. I took up this quest so our people would never know the horrors that lay out of sight and mind, so that they may till their own soil and sow their own seeds. So that they may roam the earth as they always have; not chained and fettered by unfriendly hands but free and laughing with sunlight dancing on their heads and clean grass beneath their feet. And not only our people, but all the good and noble people of this world, all of those who fight on our behalf and spill their blood in the hopes of restoring peace. I set out on this mission to defend all of those admirable qualities which you so abundantly possess, my dear, dear Sam. Can it be that even now there is hope?

The simple poetry stored in your heart rings stridently in my ears, dispelling the gloom and casting out the dreadful conjurations that beset me. I will not welter in shadow any longer, not until all goodness has wholly perished from this world. Even in my abject imprisonment I shall take a stand, though it should be my very last. The encroaching darkness may have blotted out the sight of home, shrouding my mind's eye in a dense overhanging of mist, but there is no darkness deep enough to douse the light of your life. And with a final effort of will, I lift my voice in song. I join my voice to yours.