A belated birthday present for Mornen: I hope it was a great one! So sorry I'm late!

Helcaraxë, the frost had said to me, laced across the dying grass like ten thousand gossamer ladders, when I awakened. Now, the shrieking of the wind among the cold stones of Araman echoes the word as I look east, imploring the gloomy horizon for white sails. Beyond the ice, though, there is yet only darkness.

"My hopes begin to flag, Findekáno. How long is it now that we have awaited them?"

At my brother's words, I turn my eyes from the grinding glaciers. "What hopes, Turukáno?" I answer him. The vapour of my breath lingers in the frigid air. "You doubt them every day; why should this one be different?"

"Because the days of their voyage are beginning to amass. If they intend to return, should they not have begun to? Are you so gracious that you cannot recognize betrayal?" His voice is level as it ascends to my ears; where I stand gazing outward, frozen in every sense of the word, he sits with downcast eyes, tapping his fingers on the rocky ground.

I sigh, releasing another puff of air, thick and white as a burdened cloud. "Turukáno, Turukáno." I avoid his questions. "You were always the patient one. Does it try you so to trust your own kin?" He merely purses his lips and shakes his head.

"Even now they could be landing on Endórë," I continue with effort. "Father said that we would give them fourteen days; this is only the seventh."

"There are no days here."

What more is there to say? Silence settles between us, and I lift my eyes again, now picking out jagged images in the groaning Ice. Mountains, towers, Lamp-stands, Trees rise and fall before me, Arda's story enacted by crystal players as time stumbles by. My heart pounds as massive swans take shape-I beg, let them be prows- and sinks as they shift into mounds of frozen splinters, time and time again.

The fog begins to fall once more, creeping its damp and frigid way beneath even these warm garments. The tiresome mists have become a byword in the camp; we pray for a break in them, that the stars might appear once more, but such a gift is not granted us, the rebels, the exiles, the unrepentant. We deserve our darkness, and in it we must together thrive. All of us. The ships will return.

"Come, Findekáno. What purpose have we watching here? The Sea and the Ice reveal nothing to us but this same dusk. Is it not time we abandoned this?" Turukáno makes to rise; even at scarcely feet from me, the mist blurs him into an undulating silhouette, black against the twilight. His words imply more than simple boredom with our lagging conversation.

"Have you no faith left?" Why is my voice so weak? "The curse, it seems, has already set in; the fear of treachery pits your heart against our cousins' virtues. They will not forsake us. Wait with me but a while longer; you'll see. The Noldor must band together; if we cannot rely on one another, then we are beyond hope."

Turukáno has risen fully to his feet now, looking down at me as a younger brother should not. "Námo took hope from us. As for the fear of treachery, it is only present due to logic. They took the ships in secret, Findekáno; if they planned to return, they would have told us."

An icy wind slaps my face, leaving the dry skin to smart as I tuck loose wisps of hair behind my ears. "Can we know that?" I return, after a few moments' ruminative silence. "Do you claim to know their counsels? Fëanáro is a thunderstorm in spring-sudden, volatile, ruled by the wind. Who is to say his whims did not spur them to such swift action?"

"I doubt it not, yet I imagine a function of such spontaneity was indeed to abandon us here. His faults are many, but thoughtless haste is not among them. Even in the thick of his whims, I feel he calculates; look to his words in Tirion. His speech there was the impulse of impulses, yet he still compelled us into exile. Likewise, his message now is clear."

I swallow, clenching my hands into fists until it pains their weary sinews. "Turukáno, they are our kinsmen, before aught else. Can you truly fathom that they would forsake us here, between the wrathful Valar and the Ice? Unthinkable. They would not imprison us here, no matter what wild leader guides them."

A prominent crash is heard among the hills of ice; the glaciers crunch and mumble in reply. Turukáno pays them a single glance, then faces me once more, countenance hardened, eyes aglow with the ghost of a spark.

"If we are imprisoned here, then who is to rule Endórë?" he queries. I purse my lips, all defenses for the moment shattered. My silence must bid him continue. "Fëanáro cares more for a crown than he ever has for us."

I pull my cloak tighter around me; the cold erects goosebumps on my flesh. "I do not argue that, Turukáno. Why else do you think I have said 'they'? If none of the others, Russandol at least will return for us."

"Outside the will of his father?" A grim smile etches itself onto my brother's stony features. "You jest with yourself, Findekáno; there are no tighter ties than between the eight strands binding that house to itself. Will you deny it?"

I shake my head slowly, reluctantly. The icy wind still flogs my face, and I cast my gaze toward Helcaraxë again. Still, no ships plow through the mist upon its treacherous waters.

"Will you deny it?" Turukáno persists above the screeching of the gale.

Please, Russandol; I beg you. The Grinding Ice must smother my psychic pleas. I lower my head, turn toward Turukáno. "I cannot."

I do not hear him approach me, but I suddenly feel his hand heavy on my shoulder. He is but briefly silent. "Findekáno, look east." His voice is suddenly low, tight, tense. "Look up."

Snowflakes have begun to swirl around us, lashing themselves against the rocks and our numb flesh; they cling to my boots, where my gaze has fallen. I lift my eyes too swiftly, probing past the glaciers and the mounds of ice, the water and the waves and the veil of snow before them.

Fire. A scarlet conflagration flickers on the edge of the infinite dusk, smoke gathering over it as if to uphold the sky. What for? A great funeral pyre- ours. The distant flames seal us into an icy grave. Turukáno's grip tightens, and I squeeze my eyes shut against hot tears. Mist still shrouds the stars.