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The lady stood tall, a grey raiment as a long cascade of rain. Eyes twinkled past a thin layer of tears like diamonds, though a firm determination was set in her jaw. The tales recited to Meleth by her friend came rolling back to her mind, producing one name: Nienna, the Valië of grief but also mercy and strength.

“I seek the one named Meleth,” Nienna said. Her voice, soft but not fragile or timid, made them lean forward, casting all their attention towards her. “I was told by Idril Celebrindal that her friend Meleth remained in Sirion with the survivors of Doriath.”

Evranin and Gereth—one tiny and thin, and the other tall and and muscular—glanced at one another before bowing their heads in respect and shifted aside, but their actions were not required. Meleth raised her head, though her hands trembled, and took a small tentative step forward.

“I am here, my lady,” she said and bowed. Up close, the Valië’s mystical majesty was even more breathtaking. “I hope I have not angered the Valar by coming here.”

A smile, faint as it was, came to Nienna’s face.

“Valinor does not unwelcome you,” she said. “We called upon you, for there is one here who requires your presence.”

“Idril?”

The word came out hopeful, almost child-like, Meleth had to admit. Nienna chuckled softly.

“No, though you may meet her afterward.”

She led her away from Evranin and Gereth, who both glanced up and gave Meleth a final look of support. They were as unfamiliar with Valinor as Meleth was, for Evranin was of the Sindar and Gereth, though of the Noldor, was born in the land of Endor.

They journeyed in silence for the most part, allowing Meleth to drink in the scenery. Sunlight seemed to shine in every corner, bouncing off the white marbles of the city: the walls shining bright, the buildings and the roads themselves glimmering with light. Shadow was scarce, though Meleth was used to light and shadow in equal measure back home, even in Gondolin, finding them a comfort. She did not fear shadow even as a vast Darkness threatened them from the North. Here, she felt too exposed, without hardly a shaded tree under which to take solace.

But it would have to do, for war marred every inch of her former home. Once she secured a small home for herself, she could bring back shadow with shades, rest up her eyes from the light the Valar and the High Elves were so obsessed with.

“You recall the tales Idril had told you of Valinor?” Nienna asked, diverting Meleth’s attention back to the present.

“Yes,” Meleth said uncertainly.

“Then you are aware of the Halls of Mandos?”

The name settled in her chest like cold dread as suspicion grew. “Is that where you are taking me?”

But they were already there. The door appeared before them suddenly as though a fog had parted to reveal it, taller than both their heights combined. Nienna bowed her head low.

“We have reembodied an elf, one you had known and loved, but he is not complete.”

The sorrow in her voice settled in Meleth’s bones, and for a moment she dared not enter the Halls, fearing what she would see. But it was not for lack of trust in the Valar. They were not her gods; her people had prayed to others, perhaps different Ainur who watched over Middle-earth when not all of the elves had come to Valinor. But it was not that she distrusted what Nienna or her brother had done.

Rôg had simply suffered so much in his life.

“Is he well?” Meleth asked in a small voice.

“It remains to be seen.”

*

A room in the Halls was set out for Rôg, formerly of Gondolin. Bare save for a plain bed, he lay atop it, naked except for a blanket tossed over his lower half. His eyes were seared shut in agony. What were his veins shone vivid, burning lave-red: around his face, his shoulders, arms, chest, torso. It set the blanket smoking and on fire before instantly cooling off, seemingly by will of the Vala. Though they could preserve the blanket, they could do nothing for the elf withering under it.

With a pained gasp, Meleth settled beside her husband. She reached for his hand, undeterred by the flame and shadow right under the surface of his translucent skin.

“Rôg? Can you hear me?”

“His deeds while defending Gondolin were noble,” Nienna said solemnly, standing on the other side of the room. “We had agreed to re-embody him early on, but when we did so, his body broke into flames and shadow. He has been in this state ever since. My tears could not heal him, and as I held him, his fire scorched me. All we could do was keep him here. He called out for you in the beginning before his voice completely failed him. We have asked those here who had lived in Gondolin what they could tell us of Rôg, and that was when one Idril informed us you were still in Sirion.

“What is he, Meleth?”

The words stung a little, but she would not dare question the Valië. And in the end, it was a proper question in every right. Sometimes, Meleth herself did not fully understand Rôg, though she loved him deeply.

“He is part demon, it appears,” Meleth said. “That is why we call him Rôg, though he was not born with the name and he was not always this way. He was taken into Morgoth’s lair and tormented long before the rising of Moon and Sun, and when he returned to us, he was changed. He had always been a wild man, but with the fire of the demon spirit in him, more so. His mind was on overdrive, his passions always running high. He could work in his smithy for days—weeks!—without sleep. Do not take me wrong, my lady. Though his behavior alarmed us, he was never cruel to anyone. Even with darkness pulsing inside him, he made it do his bidding.”

“But this is grievous,” Nienna said after a time, her voice sorrowful. “After his passing, he should have become free of his curse. Unless he…” She fell into silence, eyes closed in contemplation.

“Who was he before he was Rôg? What was his name?”

Meleth opened her mouth to answer before a dread came over her. Eyes wide, she answered truthfully.

“I fear I have forgotten his name, my lady!”

Sorrow filled Nienna’s eyes, and she cast her eyes to the side in resignation. “It appears you are not the only one who has forgotten.”

“I am sorry. It has been so long since anyone knew him as anything beside Rôg!”

“Then he will remain in this state. We will watch over him until we can find some other means to heal him. In the meantime, I will not let my brother dissolve the body we have made him.”

A flurry of flames shot through his broken frame, scorching Meleth’s hand away. For the briefest moment his eyes shot open, and Meleth peered into irises made of pure molten lava, the demon spirit greater than his own elven fëa.

“I…I will not and cannot let him just be! My husband was always a fighter! He laughed at darkness!”

She had come to fear what he was capable of, seeking the gentler comforts provided by friends in Gonodolin. But Rôg was never unkind. His words were soft, the demon’s fire mingled with his affection as familiar and unchanged as the day they met. When he was a smith under pure starlight, a lover of the shadowed trees, she loved his dedication, his skill, his passion. A runner, always the first to take the first leap upon hearing any summons. And fast he was, the legs that took him far from the terrible Iron Mountains which imprisoned him, running away as the fire blazed in his heart, were then the same legs that took him running towards the fiends as everyone in the city of Gondolin fled in fear, his mad laughter filled with mirth. No fear. His heart always blazed greater than any shadow or flame.

He was always running.

“Noríol!”

The name just poured out of her, an epiphany, blurted out and ringing in the still, bare room. The pained expression on her husband’s face lessened considerably as if a great burden had been lifted. Even Meleth released a breath, sighing as if she could finally breathe once more.

“That is his name in the manner of his tribe,” Meleth went on to explain. “The runner, we called him. He was always fast on his feet, ready to tackle anything. The same legs which took him far away from the Black Foe charged him right back into the enemy while we fled. That is who my husband truly is. Not a demon, but a man of great and pure passion.”

Lave lines disappeared from Noríol’s face along with the shadow, and in its place was her fair husband, as wild as the wind, though tired and weary in the first battle so soon after his rebirth.

Bending over, she whispered softly in his ear. “I am here, Noríol. It has been much to long, but your wife Meleth is here.”

A smile broke out on his tired face.

“Meleth,” he repeated, and contained in that name was a hint of his old humor, that flicker of his former self before the talons of darkness had seized him long ago, maddened him. “Meleth! And a jolly day ahead!”

Noríol took a long, deep breath, tasting the sweet airs of new life around him.