My mind is a seething turmoil. I cannot think straight. I sit perfectly still with my hands clasped so tightly that my knuckles are white. No one who looks upon me at this moment can see my pain, for my hands are still in my lap, and my face is unreadable. But inside me there is a hole, torn from my flesh, and rushing to fill it is the unutterable ache of loss.
Elwë, my beloved, he whom they called Elu Thingol, is no more. The Dwarves hewed him in their rage, in the smithies below Menegroth, when he would not give them the Nauglamír. Mablung said that he died proudly. I was not surprised. My Elwë did nothing without pride. Yes, in his later years his pride governed him more than his mind, but it was one of the things that I, so unceasingly wise and knowledgeable, loved about him.
If I close my eyes, I can imagine that he is here beside me. I can feel his presence, his body seated next to me on his throne. I can hear his voice murmuring words in my ear. Then I open my eyes, and I see his body, cleaned, clothed, but laying, still, on the floor next my throne.
My thoughts are running back, back through time, and I know where it is they take me, where I want them to take me. It is to the gardens of the Vala Irmo, he whom Elwë called Lórien, to Nan Elmoth, where I saw Elwë first and I lost my heart…
I remember little of that day-that-was-years save him, but what I do remember is that it was night. I loved the woods at night. The stars would wash the leaves and tip the blades of grass in silver, and the forest would come quietly alive. I could feel the presence of every creature that lived in the forest, yet they did not come out. Save the nightingales, that is. They came every night. When they felt me, they came to where I walked beneath the trees, and they joined their sweet song with my own.
The grass was especially soft that night. I walked with bare feet upon them, and they made no sound except a soft rustle as I lifted my feet. The nightingales too flew silently, perching at times on my fingers, but then winging off them to glide beside me. The entire forest was as quiet as it had ever been.
I began to sing after a time. The nightingales sang with me, as they had for countless nights, and we mingled our voices in an open clearing under the starlit sky. Then I fell silent, for as much as I loved to sing, I also loved to hear them sing. So I stilled my song, and let theirs carry through the woods of Nan Elmoth.
An expectant note came into their song. They were waiting for me to sing again, waiting for me to teach them a new melody. I lifted up my voice again, and they followed me, harmonizing sweetly. Then they fell quiet in their turn, and I sang on. I sang to the forest itself, feeling every glade and tree sing with me.
It was at that moment that I heard a foot step onto the silver-bladed grass of the clearing. I turned, still singing, and I saw him.
Which one of Ilúvatar’s Children is not tall or graceful? So was he, so tall and so graceful that I, who was kin to Yavanna the Giver and had seen the Valar in all their glory, thought that I had never yet seen any who could compare to him. His hair was dark and fell like water to his shoulders, and his cloak of gray flowed to touch the silver grass under his feet. But his eyes were something beyond my comprehension. Never had I seen such eyes, as gray as his cloak, both weary of and eager for life, life in all its forms, all its joy, all its sorrows. I sang on, but I no longer sang for the forest. I sang him, molding his grace and his gray cloak and his eyes that held the world into my tune.
He looked at me, and we needed no words.
He came to me then. Not slowly, it is true, but yet he did not rush. He stepped carefully across the moon-washed clearing to where I stood, taking his time, never taking his eyes from mine. I sang on, speaking no word but pouring all that I felt into my song, waiting for him.
He stood before me. I drew my song to an end and let the last note quiver in the air like a feather drifting to the earth. For one moment we stood still, looking only at each other. Then he put out his hand and gently, as gently as ever lover touched beloved, he entwined his fingers with mine.
Long we stood in that glade, linked only by his fingers through mine, and yet nothing could have disentangled us. I wanted, from that moment, nothing more than to hold his hand and look into his eyes, and thus it happened for years. I did not move, or speak, or look away, and neither did he. A few moments it was, and it was also forever; we spoke not a word in all that time, and yet volumes were spoken; I knew nothing of him, nor he of me, but we also knew everything.
And thus, when we went from Nan Elmoth to Menegroth, and made our dwelling there, we loved, without question or knowledge or need of either. It simply was – that was enough. It was more than enough.
His hand is cold now. I brush it with mine. I wrap my fingers around it, but it is cold. I murmur his name. “Elwë.” My voice is soft, barely making a sound. “Elwë.” He does not answer me, can never again answer me.
This is the end of the love we shared. My fingers tighten around his cold ones, but I do not weep. It is a grief that is silent, a grief beyond tears that I feel.
Had I known, I wonder, that night in Nan Elmoth, that it would finish, as it began, with his hand in mine – but dead – would I have come to Menegroth? Would I have become his queen, his love, lived with him, wept and laughed with him, if I had known he would end like this?
I remember his hand in mine. I remember his eyes. I remember our joy, and I remember the quiet brilliance of our love. I close my eyes and see him looking, unflinching, at me, and I know the answer.
I would not. I would still come to Menegroth, still be his queen. I could not do anything else. Since the moment we looked into each other’s eyes in Nan Elmoth, I was his and he was mine.
Now you are gone, my Elwë, I tell him, but our love is not dead as I thought. I cannot stay here now that you are dead, but I can go back to Nan Elmoth. Yes, I will go to Nan Elmoth, and everything there, every nightingale, every star, every moon-tipped blade of grass, will be you. I will go there, and I will love you still. And perhaps, if Ilúvatar grants it, I will come back to you at last, and we shall hold hands and look again into each other’s eyes, while the nightingales sing around us and the stars color everything we touch silver.