Challenge - Lifeline

The Maia led me to where I know not. I do not care. As long as my brothers are not here, I care not what happens to me.

My eyes close as I stumble after him, thinking of my brothers. My delicate Káno. Impetuous Tyelko. Haughty and yet caring Moryo. Spoiled Curvo. And the sweet, innocent Ambarussa: excitable Pityo and shy Telvo.

I wish to see them, but I know better than to ask. They will not be here. None of them will. I shall most likely never see them again; and therein lies my ultimate doom. To not be able to see them- I will die everyday and go on living, dying inside day after day until I am nothing more than a mere husk.

Like an ear of corn, stripped of its leaves and silk. I was the leaves and silk- I took care of my family- sheltered them. I was supposed to protect my brothers. But I failed. And I was ripped away from them.

The Maia has led me to wherever I'm supposed to be. I look up as he stops, feeling myself sag in both grief and exhaustion. And then I stop, not believing my eyes.

"He needs you, Nelyafinwë." The Maia says simply, and then leaves. I gasp, feeling myself fall to the soft grasses that prickle me like needles. The figure I have been staring at turns and sees me. And he, too, stands and stares. I begin look away for guilt, but I never get the chance to.

In a moment, Mákalaurë is in my arms, his head pillowed on my shoulder and clutching my shirt just like he used to when he was an elfling. My own arms come up to grasp him, and I feel wetness seeping into the fabric of my shirt where his head lies on my shoulder.

"Nelyo. Nelyo." Káno cries, clutching me. I blink, my arms instinctively tightening around him as they used to when he would cry before. And the familiar words roll off of my tongue.

"I am here, Káno. Do not cry." I say, but the words sound dull and flat to my own ears. It is like an empty promise, a mere echo in the vast chasm of our oath.

But Káno does not seem to care. His tears begin to stem, and cease to flow so freely, instead merely holding onto me. His grip does not lax, like a sailor who clings to the one piece of wood that is his one chance of being saved.

My vision has blurred, and I can see nothing but colors that swim in front of me in blurred blobs of indiscernible shapes. The weight on my shoulder shifts. There are warm fingers on my cheeks, smudging dampness on them like fresh ink on a piece of white parchment, marring the clean surface.

"Don't cry, Nelyo." Káno's voice whispers softly in my ear. He hesitates, and then speaks in a small voice. "When you cry, you leave me."

The truth in his simple sentence strikes my heart like a dagger. New drops of pain wrung from the depths of my feä splatter onto his slender fingers, as hot as newly-spilt blood. I am surprised that they are not red as well, judging by the pain that wells as they fall.

"I'm sorry, Káno. Valar, I'm so sorry. I didn't know-" but I find that I cannot finish. Káno buries himself into me, as though he believes I can hold off the whole world. I do not deserve such trust. But that is my Káno: always loving and forgiving of everything and everybody but himself.

"It's okay, Nelyo. We always knew father would drag us into something we couldn't get out of one day. And it is behind us, now. Judgement has rendered all null and void." He attempts to comfort me, as though it wasn't he that was being comforted moments ago.

"We can go back to life wiser and more experienced, now." He says, although he sounds doubtful of himself.

I breathe a brittle laugh. It is strange and unnerving. "Yes. But we never learn- we always made the same mistakes, didn't we?" I ask bitterly. He chooses to say nothing, instead pressing his lips forgivingly to my cheek. They are as soft and smooth as I remember them to be - before.

"Look, Nelyo." He says, and I look up, the tears on my cheeks dried into hard crust. "It looks as though lord Manwë and Ulmo will send rain today." He says quietly, pointing.

I draw him into my arms, pinning his arms underneath mine and wrapping my cloak around us both. It is not cold, but I need to feel him. I need to make sure that he is real, and that he is not leaving me. I must make things right. I must take care of my brothers as I should have a long time ago.

Káno does not protest, and the breeze blows his hair into my face as we watch the sun slip into the dark waters of night, drowning in its deep depths.

The Maia is right; he needs me. But he also forgot to mention the other side of it: I need him - all of them; they are my saving line in the uncertain waters of this new life.

892 words.