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Too Bright for Mortal Lands

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Beren brought the Silmaril back in his one remaining hand, and held it out to his wife like he would have held out an apple plucked from the tree.

Luthien took the Jewel in both hands, the Nauglamír dangling from her fingers. The blood had been washed from it in the river Rathlóriel, drifting away with much of the treasury of Thingol into the deep blue waters. Beside Beren, Dior watched her, wide-eyed, and behind her, Nimloth peered out of the door of the their house, Elwing in her arms, two pairs of chubby arms wrapped around her legs.

The sky shuddered; the golden vault of the heavens rippled as Luthien contemplated the Silmaril, head cocked, eyes dreamy, mouth tightening with the sudden echo of pain.

"You should go," Beren said to Dior, turning suddenly. "Take the children and go to Menegroth. Leave us."

Dior nodded, his eyes not moving from the sight of his mother's cupped hands and the light spilling from them. It took his wife, laying a hand on his shoulder, to awaken him. He turned to her, and there was something shaken, something full of fear and longing, in his eyes.

They left with the sunrise the next day. Luthien had barely moved from where she stood, still as stone. She'd brought the Jewel closer to her, pressed it to her breast, cried out wordlessly. Dior's kiss, pressed to her cheek, went almost unnoticed, and the lisping voices of the twins bidding her farewell only garnered her eyes lifting upwards for one moment, and her voice, breathless and shaken, whispering their names, "Eluréd, Elurín."

They vanished into the woodlands beyond the river, and Beren turned to Lúthien, kissing her hands. "At least put it on, my beloved," he said, and he pressed his fingers to it, feeling it burn them, as if he had put his hand into the fire. Lúthien shook herself and came out of her reverie, placing the necklace about her throat.

Tol Galen filled with light almost immediately, almost too bright for Beren to look upon. He gathered his wife in his arms, holding her close, and the Silmaril rested between them, burning where it pressed against his chest.

Lúthien lifted her head, sweeping her eyes around the small island. Music seemed to rush across her whole body, and her hair lifted up, blown back as though in a great wind. She sang a wordless chanting song, and all the trees flowered, and then almost in the same moment fruited. She slipped from Beren's arms -- he recalled vividly a moment long ago at the breaking of the day when from his arms she'd slipped, vanishing like one vanishes beyond recall -- and danced away, holding out her hands for the fruit to fall into them.

She brought an apple to Beren's lips, bidding him to eat with words passed from her mind to his, at which he startled, and was frightened, for never before had she spoken so to him, but always with her voice. Though she smiled, tears were on her face, and they glimmered and gleamed like sparks against white fire.

Beren, refreshed as he was by the fruit he had eaten, was also conscious of a great weariness. His head was pounding and his body felt weak.

"Come here, my darling, my love," he cried out in sudden fear, unable to discern his wife behind the radiance pouring from her. She pattered over to him with feet that seemed to scarcely hold her to the earth, and gathered him in her arms, drawing him down to the ground and laying kisses on his brow.

He closed his eyes, and he could see red beneath his eyelids. Her touch, always cool and light before, was hot, as if she burned along with him. His heart throbbed, faster and faster, all out of rhythm, and he cried out in pain that seemed to burn all along every nerve in his body, arching down his spine, wrenching him with agony.

Lúthien lay against him now, and her hands, once fluttering like the wings of birds, settled silent on his chest, her eyelashes brushing his cheek in a final kiss. They were mingled in a sleep together, body against body, and Beren's last remembered thought was to recall a night under stars, long long ago, when they slept for the first time entangled together, the mortal man and the divine elven-maiden.

Now they were both mortal, and the jewel they had won was the instrument of their doom. For never before had Lúthien touched or held the Silmaril, and the Necklace of the Dwarves held its own power and enchantment. A mighty power slumbered within the Silmaril that would move even the Gods to action, and the curse of a dragon and a dwarf lay on the Nauglamír, that bright net of jewels fashioned in Valinor of old and formed for Finrod Felegund by the Dwarves in friendship. Mortal bodies could not withstand such powers vying within these ancient treasures for long.

And so they died, wrapped in each others' arms, and for a long time they lay, inviolate and alone, before their bodies began to decay. The Silmaril shone, and the trees passed through all four seasons in a single day, and they were covered by leaves.

A month passed, two, three, and in the world outside of Tol Galen, it was autumn. One of the Laiquendi, a friend of Lúthien and Beren, came to the island, and stared at it in wonder, for it was as though a hundred years had passed. Their house lay as though long abandoned, and deep in the leaf-mulch, where the niphredil grew, a star gleamed out shining, around the neck of a skeleton of a woman, lying beside the skeleton of a man.