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Uncertainty governed Izilba in the night, and through the morning following the death-strikes far below; as though fog of poison marshaled had grown and swallowed the breath of the men in the dead-masking skins. She considered leading Miriam to Lothien, her only real hope for a comfortable labor and bearing-after, but she doubted they would be admitted, and if granted, suspected they could not depart therefrom. East Miriam would not, and so south remained to them.

Through the day as she gathered materials for an early laying-in, preparing, for Miriam’s womb had settled, and within a moon it seemed would deliver. The girl slept, mostly, too ill to walk or work; many as-if conversations Izilba entertained with her sister- beloved, some sending her away north, others treating her on this horn of rock; or tumbling southward, without hope of finding Dyacôm; all the day, and through twilight, she argued with herself. By morning she had decided to walk with her as far north as the southern bank of trees of Lothien, and to commit her to the care of Noldo, until she could return and claim her as kin and babe. So she committed her self, and Miriam consented, believing that Izilba would not truly leave her at this time, to strange elves in a forest maze.

They struggled through the day, and for two more days, to find a path down the valley hills, each believing the other wouldn’t leave them alone in an unknown land, hostile, burning, mazed and without hope of discovering kin and friend. Dreams each had, throughout the nights, of parting, accepting the desires of the other to seek for her heart’s contentment, even if breaking her own. As they trod down what seem a promising (or dreadful) path that by end of day would leave them each alone at the forest’s edge, Miriam stumbled, and pulled Izilba aside, and they tumbled over one another down a thorny ravine into a dry streambed. Izilba’s ankle was wrenched in the fall, as she dove to soften and brace Miriam’s landing, and the girl lay prostrate on her back, silent, eyes closed, breathing shallow.

Contractions she’d hidden through the previous night and throughout the day, misbelieving that here, in the wilderness on the edge of elvenhomes, she would deliver her child. One day more, she implored her womb, and then Izilba will be free to find her own son, brother to thy fruit, this and more stern commands she prayed in secret, as they climbed down, and now the waters of life had poured from her, and only the fire in her body did she feel, torn as a world in destruction; compressed as the center of a star, the pain unspeakable, merging the holy and the horror of ^your mortal kind, as in the mother’s body is revealed the purity of love and its violence in this world, brought forth in the cries of a bloodied slick babe, blue and breathless, wavering on the cusp of coming and going, first experiencing the present, without either past or future. The dwarf gem Miriam insisted on holding to, while she bit upon ever-sturdier branches; holding to Izilba’s thighs, while she clung to a living tree, each fearing the density of suffering too heavy for the soft springtime earth to uphold. And then the blue man-child indeed was brought- forth upon a bed of green flag-gladdens, and Miriam fell back, while Izilba turned and kneeled, tending to the child, singing a song of breath, until the pinkness of dawn rose over the purple, and the crying child was placed upon the breast of Miriam, weeping as far as her remaining strength extended; being herself held unknowingly by Izilba, now, looking upon her flow, and the passage of tissues, just beyond the dark wet hair of mother and her crying child.

Pagag, he is called in your books, “Breath Afar,” in Miriam’s rudimentary Westernesse; but his mother-name was Samuel, and Izilba joked, that name would remain a secret. Indeed, not until this night has his true-name been told in any record.

These three rested, for many hours in the peace of a stream- bed at springtime, and though creatures of woods looked upon them, in joy and wonder at the sight of new-man, nothing of evil purpose came near, neither in thought nor heart nor upon the air or ground, for they were blessed, and perhaps some exiled Noldo ringed about them, singing in their own hearts of El-ressea, longing for new-elves of their own to bring-forth under starlight, amid the foamy coasts that ever pure wash that Holy Island.

Food the women found wrapped in cloth at their feet, and new clothes, and shoes, and a sling for toting little Samuel, as he slept. Pillows as if grown from the soil herself softened their laying- in, and Izilba’s ankle was healed, and stronger thereby. Last of all, as a pebble in her boot, Izilba found, after a mile of slow walking southward along the eaves of the forest as it dispersed against the foothills of the high range east, she pulled out a tiny star of stone, brighter but the same as the gift she had made to Dyacôm, never given; (and his loss was renewed). Gold and silver pieces, too, alongside a map, and a blessing, Miriam found in the pockets of her gown, with sweet candies, of honey and flower-fragrance wrapped as in swaddling clothes. Other packages they left unopened, and it was all exceedingly light to carry, and in a week Miriam was well-healed, enough to walk for many hours; until after twelve days of the boy’s new life, they washed him with his mother in the great Anduin’s freshets, spurs deep and warmed by some power underneath.

At the ruins of Tol Sirion they paid for passage to a tall dark- grey becloaked elf-guardian, even as spirits in serried lines, some grim and others gay, passed to and fro, but never back from one side or the other. This too Miriam now discerned, where as before only a wind, cold or breeze-warm maybe was by her mind felt.

Now they walked with ever sparser crowds of spirits, east under the mountains of shadow, along the east face, bending northward, for Izilba purposed to avoid the mazes of spider-fested halls of sheer rock along the southern face, being warned off by the map. Here in the bitter hills spirits quaked and quailed in the shadows, and green things had turned dead, dried; ready for burning.

Reeks of yellow smoke at times passed far overhead, into the northwest, as if climbing upon higher airs, for those lower. But neither woman feared, for with them they carried a light internal, a fire that burned not, but daunting to shades in hiding from the pits that none ever climbed out from. Now eastward again they trekked along the cold northface, chilled by a duststorm without ceasing, until the women and Samuel made a shelter of stone in a shallow grotto concealed to all others, visible only to Izilba; within a heat flowed from the walls, and from the ground, as if to burst forth and break all the lands by the fury of some ancient flame rekindled.

By the light of the stone-star they walked day or night, neither could tell; and Samuel sickened, for lack of natural sun. for this reason, Izilba planned to traverse the Gorgoroth, having so far surpassed the southward dangers, and to make their way at last into warmer regions, near unto Miriam’s home. A secret avenue she did find for this little throng, and as blown by the dust of a ruined place, they were carried high up into the passes, and came down upon the southern faces of sheer rock, without pity or concern for a few lost souls; far in the west there glowed red above the horizon, the pit of Hell-Udûn, underworld’s fence unbreakable.

Another aqueduct, like unto the first that washed them away from the treacheries of men of the White Mountains, they came upon, before it plunged deep into the hills. Making themselves sleds from dead bark shaven of ancient dead beech, and knit together by slender rope given at Samuel’s birth, the throng slipped into the fume of water, spumes and froth before the opening to a tunnel of total darkness, lit only by Dyacôm’s stone-star, a tiny white gleam sliding from on high, through the bowels of Hell’s sheer sides impassable; a falling star that burned slowly, without fading; drawing whither the minds of the lines upon lines of wicked shades that could not but come to these bowels, heeding the call of their master, though he was without even the Void, beyond the Dark that is not of name. Even in Hell, Melko deceived their last hopes.

Often the waterway opened into shallow pools, that gleamed as the night sky, being filled with gems innumerable, encrusted in their beds, awakening to the light preserved still in Dyacôm’s star. At last the stream opened into a vast high hall, painted and ornamented, though ruined and cracked, broken by fissures of steam and rushing waters.

Here amid a small host of dead warriors, upon his ancient throne sat living-spirit Thingol, Elwe Greymantle, Ancient of Days, first among spirits upon the earth of the children of Iluvatar. And upon his lap, listening to a song of surpassing hope and beauty; about a mortal-woman who slayed a dragon-vampire with the beauty of her eyes; and whose laughter seldom flowed with(out) tears and painful weeping; through the mist and vapor or the Lower Airs, Izilba looked upon her boy Dyacôm, his hair damp but clean, and longer than she recalled.

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