10. The end
Ten days after Caranthir's return the dawn was especially red, a preamble to the bloody day that was to follow. They gathered under their banners, their father's flying foremost, gathering the followers of the Star of Fëanor to march for his cause. The words of Celegorm still rang in their ears.
The Silmaril is ours. These Moriquendi have no right to withhold it from us. Who is Dior to touch the Silmaril? His is nothing, a nobody, a creature that is neither of the first born nor of the second. Will we tolerate him to sully the Silmaril with his presence?
All save Maedhros, Maglor and Caranthir had screamed 'no' to his question. Maglor had not been moved even by Fëanor's famous speech in newly darkened Tirion; he was not about to be moved by Celegorm. Caranthir was just beyond caring and Maedhros had felt nothing since the death of Fingon.
Long did the girdle of Melian the Maia hold us back from claiming what is ours; but she is gone to lick her wounds at the feet of the Valar and Doriath lies open for us. Let us take the opportunity fate has provided. Let us reclaim the glory of the Noldor.
So they strapped on their armour, unsheathed their weapons and began their march on Doriath. Soon, too soon, they came upon the green woods, but recently the scene of the first war of elves and dwarves.
Let there be no doubt; the Silmaril will be ours, Celegorm said.
But let us remember we are Elves not orcs. Let us spill no unnecessary blood.
That was all Maglor added; and to this they had agreed, especially the Ambarussa. After all, all they wanted was the Silmaril.
"Elwing come here," called Dior over the din of battle as the army of the Sons of Fëanor edged ever closer to the heart of Menegroth. "Here, take this," he said as he put the Nauglamír set with the Silmaril on her neck. "My dear daughter, never let this jewel fall into the hands of the Sons of Fëanor, for if that where to happen than their blood lust will be rewarded and their victory complete. Do you understand?" he asked.
She nodded, "Yes father, I will not fail."
"Good," he whispered as he wrapped a thick cloak around her, hiding the light of the Silmaril as best he could.
Swiftly he carried her through the halls of Menegroth, to a hidden passage built when some foresight of doom had come upon Melian. There he found Celeborn, arranging the flight of all those who could not fight. "Take her and go," he said to Celeborn.
"I do not wish to abandon Doriath!" cried Celeborn.
"They will need your wisdom and strength both, if they are to make it to some safe heaven," said Dior. "If those who remain cannot save Doriath, then all who flee with you will be its only survivors."
A look of great sadness washed over him, but he nodded as he took the precious bundle. "What of Nimloth and your sons?" he wondered.
"I will find them and send them down after you with all else I can gather," Dior told him, "but do not tarry. They are close, too close." With that he was gone. Celeborn did not linger a moment longer than Dior had, but it was not till he reached the unbroken dark of the escape passage that he noticed the light filtering through even the thick weaving of the blanket.
"My father told me to guard it," Elwing explained, "and I will do so with my life." Her conviction disturbed Celeborn more than anything.
"Where is the Silmaril?" demanded Curufin of Nimloth as she stood defiantly in front of her sons, a naked blade gleaming in her hand. Celegorm loomed behind his brother, a savage smirk pasted on his fair face. A hoard of elves, the Sindar guards who had stood with Nimloth and the Noldor guards who had come down with them, were dead at his feet.
"I know not," she said truthfully, "nor would I tell you."
"Than you are useless to me," replied Curufin and in one devastating blow he sliced her from head to foot, the sword she had attempted to parry his blow with cloven in two. If the elves did not sing the praise of Curufin's greatest creations, it was because his greatest creations were all swords that had feasted on the blood of elves.
"Nana!" screamed the twin sons of Dior as they gather around the cloven body of their mother. A strangled cry came from the doorway; Curufin and Celegorm turned to find themselves face to face with Dior and knew they were looking upon the face of their own death.
Celeborn was the last to emerge from the tunnel. "Keep moving!" he cried to those who were lingering near the entrance. "We do not want to alert the bastard Fëanorian."
"Too late." Celeborn froze; slowly he turned to find Caranthir emerging from the nearby bushes, his sword casually resting on his shoulder. His face was a blank mask of one ready to die; he was completely and utterly alone. "I had a secret passage built into my castle in Dol Caranthir as well," he said by way of explanation. "It seems a Noldo and a Sinda do not think very differently after all."
"You are very cocky to come alone," observed Celeborn as he put Elwing down and pulled out his axe.
Caranthir smiled a cocky, arrogant smile that grated on Celeborn's nerves, "You, I can take down in my sleep. Lucky for you I am willing to spare you if you give me the Silmaril."
"What makes you think I have it?" demanded Celeborn.
Caranthir laughed and fixed his eyes upon Elwing. "This close to it, I can sense it."
"Run," said Celeborn to Elwing before he attacked.
Celeborn was stronger, Caranthir was more agile; and they were both very, very skilled in their respective weapons. Axe and sword clashed over and over, neither getting the advantage they sought; in the end it was luck that decided the battle. Celeborn stepped on a loose rock and lost his balance momentarily; it was all that Caranthir needed. He brought the hilt of his sword down hard upon the side of Celeborn's neck, knocking him out.
"There, Ninglorrîn… Maglor," he said, "no unnecessary blood spilt." Then he turned his thought upon Elwing and took off after her.
Elwing ran as swiftly as her little feet would take her. Her mortal blood had ensured that she was larger than elf children were wont to be at her age, but she was nowhere near the girth of a mortal child. But no child, mortal or elven could have escaped the swift-footed Caranthir. All to soon Elwing found the tall, fell frame of Caranthir looming over her.
"Give me the jewel, little one."
Elwing shock her head vigorously. "My father told me to protect it and protect it I will, even with my last breath."
Caranthir opened his mouth to say something, but what he had planned would forever be unknown for in that moment he felt it; the death of his brothers. First it was Curufin, but moments later it was Celegorm's fëa that he felt flee from marred Endor. Then he heard Maedhros's voice, screaming in pain and anguish in his head, "Kill them, kill them all! Avenge the spilt blood of my brothers."
Caranthir turned cold, dead eyes towards the slowly backing form of Elwing. "So be it." He raised his sword to deliver what would undoubtedly be a fatal blow.
He turned to the source of the voice; a sharp jab of pain, and he looked down to find an arrow through his heart. Stunned he looked towards the archer.
"I am sorry," came the soft reply to his questioning look, "but I could not let you slay her."
So it was that he saw her last, the same way he had seen her first; through a haze of pain and weariness. He collapsed into her arms as she came forward, numb with pain and poison.
"I am sorry," whispered Ninglorrîn, "I am so sorry."
"Thank you," said Elwing to her, "thank you, very much."
"Go, little one, and join the others," Ninglorrîn told her, "I wish to remain with him." Elwing did not understand what was going on but she did what she was told.
Caranthir felt his chest constrict; it was getting so hard to breath. A multitude of emotions flew through his mind, strangely enough only one dominated a strange, black sense of humour.
Slowly, painfully, he wheezed out, "Now… we are… even my love."
Ninglorrîn said nothing, only held him close, feeling the bit of life free from his body. She held his body close, till it disintegrated in her arms, as elvish bodies are wont to do soon after the fëa flees the hroä.
Fea = soul
Hroa = body
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