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A Lifetime of Love

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"Thank you, my love," Níniel was barely breathing, her white hair spread out on the pillows like the tufts of clouds in the sky above the Isle of Balar. Finduilas, grim-faced, sat beside her, but when Níniel spoke, her whole face softened, and she bent down to hear her beloved's words.

"For what, my dearest?" she asked, taking Níniel's hand and bringing it to her mouth, pressing a kiss to the wrinkled fingers, the rose-petal soft skin, blue with veins.

"For every moment," Níniel answered, "from the very first one, when you took hold of my hand and led my senseless self away from danger, to this one now. You have always been by my side, in every memory I have, and though I know you will go on without me, I cannot conceive of where I will go, without you."

"Save your strength," Finduilas whispered, tears coming into her eyes. "Don't talk too much."

Níniel made an impatient gesture. "No, I must speak now," she said, "or not at all. And you deserve my words."

"Then speak," Finduilas said, bending down and gently kissing her forehead.

"I can scarce believe that we have had fifty-seven years together. For me it has been a lifetime, and I would have spent it no other way than with you, not even if I could have all those lost memories back, not even if I knew who my family was or how I came to lose those memories. I have made others with you, and they are happy. I have loved every moment spent with you, and if I could have my way, I would not now leave you alone."

"I have loved every moment with you," Finduilas answered, sobbing. "I cannot claim to understand the gift of Men, but I will go on, I will continue to fight, in your memory, for our people."

"May it be that we shall meet again, and somehow cross the gulf that divides us!" Níniel said, and Finduilas' tears splashed down on her face.

"I will build bridges across it, I will cross mountains though they be high as the Pelori, I will swim oceans to find you once more, beyond death!" Finduilas exclaimed. "I cannot sing for Mandos, but I will fight him!" She laughed through her tears, and Níniel laughed with her.

Níniel sobered after a moment. "You have a duty, my King," she said. "Do not hasten your own death. Live and rule. Love again if you will."

"Never!" Finduilas said. "You are the one my heart loves, after so much time spent searching. At last I know my own heart, and I know that there will never be one to equal you."

"Flattery, Gil-galad of the Noldor, does not become you!" Níniel said, smiling again.

"It's mere truth I speak, Níniel, Counsellor to the King," Finduilas said, affecting a haughty tone.

Níniel raised a hand to Finduilas' face, and her expression went from supercilious to tender all at once. "Still such a beauteous face. How do you bear it, looking at mine?"

"Because it's yours," Finduilas said. "Age matters not at all. I can see your heart, brave, bold, beautiful child of Men, my beloved, -" her voice broke in a sob, "- my beloved who I am soon to lose, and to who I am eternally grateful for the days we have spent together." She took a deep breath. "Now, love, you should sleep. Rest. I will be here by your side."

Níniel smiled upward at her. "You have certainly never been anywhere else," she said, and closed her eyes.