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Last Light and First

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Vana sat and wept until she felt she had out-wept Nienna, almost. Above her bowed head, stark and black, loomed the branches of the Trees--her sister's work that would never grow again. Vana had had such high hopes--but in the end, all their efforts had yielded but one more fruit, one more flower. And what was one fruit, one flower against a whole living, growing tree?

Dimly, through her sobs, she heard a shout, a clap of hands. Was that--but how could it be--the sound of applause?! She lifted her head, almost in outrage, and peered through tears and gloom, seeking the source of the sound. And at the edge of the crowd that hovered at a respectful distance, she caught movement, a voice--a small child, a toddler almost, among the Vanyar, jumping up and down as if for joy while her mother tried to shush her.

Vana stood, shook her tears from her face--they fell about her like rain--and approached the mother and her child.

She cut through the mother's hasty apologies and said: 'No, let her speak!'

Crouching down low and putting her hand on the child's shoulder, she asked: 'Little girl, why do you shout? What do you see?'

And the child, nothing shy, although she was being addressed by a Valie, answered: 'Lights! The pretty, pretty lights! Look! Oh, look! I've never seen anything like them!'

And Vana, still crouching and holding the girl by the shoulder, turned around and looked up and up, trying to see what the little girl did, from the same angle as the little girl saw it.

And she saw, shining on the bare branches: the last fruit of Laurelin, the last flower of Telperion, silver and gold. And seeing them so, against the darkness of the sky above, she recognized that they were things of beauty in their own right, not pitiful remnants. The little Vanya, who was young enough to have been born during the Darkening, had seen that and so Vana now saw it, too.

The Valie rose up and bowed to the little girl and said: 'Thank you for showing them to me.' And with that word, at once all the birds round about Ezellohar--who had long been silent--began to sing again.