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Contrapunto

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I. Before

Ilmarë still remembers. It had not been sudden; she had seen the signs, and, in her heart of hearts, she had known her lover was tempted, that she grew more distant. But even gods rebel against the truth of betrayal, and so she had turned a blind eye, hoping against hope that the seduction would end, that her lover would be hers again.

In the end, that had been their undoing.

That day, the darkness had been tangible. Ilmarë had know, but even then, even with the inevitable looming, she had refused to believe.

“I am leaving.” No other words, no explanations. Just three words, cold and unfeeling: “I am leaving.”

Please,” Ilmarë had begged. “Please, please stay.” Tears in her eyes, she had fallen to her knees, abased herself. Do not leave me. Do not go to his side!

Her lover had only looked at her through darkened eyes, a contemptuous glance before she flew away, growing smaller and smaller, until she had disappeared into the stars.

But Ilmarë cannot give up, will not give up. Every day, she walks the shore, waiting by their old haunt for one who has turned her back on her.

The stars weep for her. It is not enough; her lover is gone, and will never return.

 

 

II. After

Ilmarë finds her, after the War of Wrath, a tattered, broken shape huddled in a clearing, the rapidly rising water licking hungrily at her feet.

When she—Thuringwethil, now, but that is a name for the dark woman, not the name of her lover, and Ilmarë cannot call her that—her eyes are dim, but defiant. “Finish me,” she rasps. “Finish me, if you have any mercy in your heart.”

Ilmarë kneels next to her, reaches out to touch her, but she flinches away. “End me.”

“I will not,” Ilmarë says gently, but that is not the whole truth: she cannot. Even after the betrayal, even after an Age of pain and loneliness, she cannot bring herself to destroy the creature who was once her lover.

“You are cruel, Ilmarë. I thought you loved me.” The voice is meant to be angry, Ilmarë thinks, but it is weak enough that there is only sorrow.

I love you still. But she does not say that; nor does she touch her mind to convey the thought without words. It is not something she is willing to give; there is much she is not willing to give, now. Not to the-one-who-is-Thuringwethil. Not anymore.

But she cannot leave her here, either.

And so she lifts her, gently, and, ignoring her protests and pleas for death, carries her to the camp of the Valar, slipping unseen past the Elven guards and into her own tent, placing the broken form on her bed.

At length, the figure lying on the bed lets up on her litany of protests, to ask: “What will happen now?”

Ilmarë answers, “I do not know.”

“Will I stand trial?” the figure persists. “Will you,” and the word you is spat like a curse, “punish me?”

Ilmarë does not know. Not any more. “Come what may, I will stand by you,” she says, and knows it is the truth.