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To Find a Land

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All the world lay in a sleep under the blazing stars. Princess Mee, so far as she could tell, was the only thing stirring in all the vast woodland, save only the wind. Snow lay on the ground all about, for it had been falling while they marched, and the night was cold.

She gathered her warm cloak, woven from the webs of gossamer moths, and silent as a shadow, crept from the tent where her folk lay asleep, weary from long days of marching. They were travelling over the lands to the Great Sea, from which they would one day embark, and forever leave behind the lands of Middle-earth.

Princess Mee was the princess because she was the niece of Nowë, leader of their group. His sister was her mother, but both her parents had been lost long ago, in the early days of the Eldar, before the Journey began. Mee had only been a baby then, and Nowë raised her as his own.

Her hair was silver, braided down her back, and she was now grown though she would forever look small and delicate. She could weave marvelous garments from the webs of gossamer moths; all her folk wore them. One of the Tatyar had come courting her with a gift of a silver necklace, a three strand braid of shining silver stars about her throat. She was still making up her mind about him. There was another, Olwë, who had come courting too, bringing her the shoes she wore, which were made of delicate overlapping metal like the scales of fishes. She had accepted his gift but after a time he changed his mind, met another, and married her.

Stealing across the snowy meadow, she made for the nearby woodlands. When the camp had first been set up that day, she, exploring, came upon a small round pool in the forest, mostly frozen over. By now it would be fully frozen, enough to bear her weight, and a perfect flat surface for dancing upon.

When she reached the pool, she stepped hesitantly onto the surface, and smiled as it held firm.

The ice was smooth and shone silver like a mirror as she began to dance. For a while there was nothing but the grace of motion, the delight of finding her feet on this slippery surface, enjoying every pirouette, every slide of her feet, every lift of her arms and flutter of her fingers.

She drew to a halt after a time and raised her face to the sky, looking up into the deep dark blue above her, lit with thousands of stars. The light was beautiful beyond measure, but after a time she lowered her eyes and looked around, across to the shore, dark and shadowy, where nothing moved but the wind in the tree branches.

And then she looked down to her feet, perhaps to see how her shoes looked on the ice. With a gasp of surprise, she glimpsed another person down there, peering curiously up at her.

Mee waved hesitantly, Shee waved back. A soft smile lit up their faces as they greeted each other, inaudible but sincere.

No more did Mee look up at the starry sky. She did not spare a glance for the shoreline. All her attention was bent on the girl with the starry crown, dancing beneath her in a perfectly mirrored pas de deux.

Only with the lighting of torches and the calls of her kinsfolk did she recall herself and manage to leave.

Her kin group lingered in that place, for it was a good one, with nearby woods and a river for fishing in. Some of the other groups were coming to join them. All that day as Mee worked on her gossamer weaving, she thought of Shee, and longed for the time when all would be asleep again, and she could fly back to that frozen pool.

Once again Mee crept out from her tent. This time she greeted Shee with a wave. Shee waved back, and they joined each other in a grand dance, arms held out to one another, eyes bent on each other.

So it went for many nights. The Tatyar boy came courting, bringing her a girdle sewn with diamonds. She accepted his gift, but her heart was not in it, and soon he left, downcast, wondering who had captured Mee's heart.

The land was still frozen over when the Great Rider returned, bidding them to move forward. Mee heard this news with despair, and once the meeting was done, ran to the pool where Shee waited.

Shee was just as distressed to hear the news, conveyed by gesture and facial expression. Mee dropped to her knees on the ice, meeting Shee closer than ever before, and cried silently, her hot tears falling to splash on the frozen surface. She mouthed the words, "I love you," and Shee answered with the same.

"Uncle, I cannot go!" Mee cried, later, in their tent. "My heart has called me, and I must follow it."

"My princess," Nowë said tenderly, "I would beg you to stay with me, but I cannot make you. Do you indeed feel it to be worth it never to see the land of the gods, never to live in peace and plenty?"

She looked back at him, resolved. "I do. Here I must stay."

Nowë smiled, stroking her hair. "Then, my princess, stay."

She ran to the pool, full of delight, but found her way blocked by the Tatyar boy. "You've fallen in love with a forest pool?" he asked incredulously.

"No, silly!" she said laughing. "I've fallen in love with the girl in the ice, the girl with the starry crown."

"Then woe is me, for I have no hope of winning your heart," he said. She nodded sadly and began to take off her necklace and girdle to give them back. "No. Keep them. They were gifts given in love."

He turned and strode from her sight. Long years later, once his pain had faded, he would make a song of it, and the story of Princess Mee's hopeless love would pass down through the years in this way.

But the story does not end where the Tatyar boy thought it did.

Mee danced onto the pool in joy. Far off through the trees she could see the torches of her people beginning to move out. She wished them well, and paid them no more heed. For Shee was there in the ice, eyes sparkling, full of joy to see her.

For a long time they whirled together on the ice, toe to toe, and at last Mee grew weary. She cast herself down on the ice, full length against her beloved Shee, and thought what a pity it was that they could not embrace.

Embrace they could not, but a kiss? Mee pressed her lips to the ice, to Shee's lips, and in great surprise encountered not the cold of the ice, but a warm mouth, soft lips against her own. The ice and the water both seemed to fade away, and she found herself pulled through, stretched immeasurably through a great abyss, and at last she lay beside her beloved Shee!

The ice was beneath them both still, but the surface was opaque, and there was no way home. Shee took Mee's hands in her own.

"My love," Shee breathed softly, and Mee answered her the same.