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No Rest for the Wicked

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The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death. –Isaiah 57: 1-2

He has made me dwell in darkness, like those long dead. –Lamentations 3:6

The room was cold with the hanging presence of death. Caranthir shoved himself to his feet and limped across the bloodstained marble, deliberately not looking at the gash in his thigh pumping out blood in ominous bursts.

"Tyelko?" He raised his voice. "Turco?"

"Brother…"

His leg crumpled and he crawled the rest of the way to his elder brother, sprawled on the floor, grey eyes open to the ceiling. Blood gouted from the hole through his body, and fruitlessly, Caranthir pressed his hands over the wound as if he could hold the rushing blood in.

His brother didn't even lift his head, though his belly rose and fell with each shuddering breath, evidence of life. "I'm here," Caranthir said, "I'm here," and felt stupid, useless. Celegorm seemed to smile, barely, wearily.

"You're all right?"

His leg was soaked in blood from the middle of his thigh downward. He could feel it squelch in his boots and willed his head to remain steady. "I'm all right." Celegorm's right hand lifted slightly, fingers covered in blood and trembling.

"He's dead. He's dead, Moryo, I killed him." His brother's voice was strange, and his voice stuck bitter and sour in his throat. He glanced over his brother and looked at the crumpled corpse barely away from him, and didn't even know who it was.

'Good job," he said, and hated himself for saying it, and hated Celegorm for relaxing, as if that simple praise was worth his death. "You did well."

He nodded, barely, expression serious and almost childlike, solemn. "I did. And you're all right. That's good."

"I guess it is," Caranthir said, roughly, and used his free arm to pull his brother's head into his lap. The weight of his skull would hold the bleeding, at least for a little while. He should have left the arrow. It would have bled less. He would have lived longer if he'd left the damned thing in.

Celegorm's eyes were pleading as they found his, slowly. "I'm sorry."

"Nothing to be sorry for," Caranthir grunted, and tried not to think of all the times he'd been lonely and hurt and angry because he always ended up alone. He couldn't blame his brother now. Celegorm's throat moved as he swallowed, and there was a brief silence.

"Ireth," he said, distantly, "I miss Ireth. I'm sorry to her, too."

"Yeah," Caranthir agreed. "Me too." His brother's head seemed heavy on his leg, and he brushed some hair off Celegorm's forehead. His hand left a smear of blood on paling skin. His breaths were only gasps, for a few moments, eyes closing.

Then they opened again, and Celegorm made a sound like a whimper. "Moryo, it's dark, it's so dark, don't let me…"

Oh, Eru. Damn you. Damn you and all this rotten world you have made. "It's not dark," he said, too rough to be soothing. "It's not dark. Look at me, Turco, look at me."

His brother's eyes were glassy, almost silver, staring at him blankly, full of every part of pain. He looked very young, His pulse staggered in his neck under clammy skin. "I see you," he whispered, "But you're the only one with any light."

Caranthir could feel death hovering closer, over his shoulder, reaching to claim both their lives, and hunched his back against it, forced a laugh. "Me? I'm the Dark, Tyelko. You know that."

"No," he said, barely audible, and whimpered softly. "It hurts, Moryo."

"I know," Caranthir said, shoving his own pain away.

His brother's eyes rolled. "Tell me," he said, and took a deep breath that seemed to hurt him, for he stopped.

"I'm here," he said again, for all that it meant.

"Tell me that it'll be all right." Celegorm's eyes were pleading again, wide, almost childlike, full of trust and love and the gathering shadows of death. "Tell me that it'll all be all right."

The tears broke then. His anger was like a tide, at everything, for doing this to them, to all of them; for reducing his warrior brother to a scared and broken thing. "Don't fear death," he said, hoarsely. "We have nothing to fear from that. We have nothing to fear."

"I am afraid," Celegorm whispered. "I'm afraid of the dark and the cold and the silence. I'm afraid of the after."

"No more pain," Caranthir said, and hoped it was true. "It can't be worse than here."

Celegorm didn't laugh. "Just tell me," he said, voice broken, aching, desperate. "Just tell me. Everything's all right now."

Caranthir gripped his brother's hand, then, squeezed his too cool palm. "It'll all be all right," he said, desperately. "I swear it. It'll all be all right."

His brother exhaled, and his eyes fell closed. "Yes. Everything will be all right now." He breathed in, slowly, and out, slowly. "If only it weren't so cold," he murmured. "I never liked the cold."

Celegorm's head slipped with a soft thunk to the marble floor, settling in a pool of his own blood.

The sounds of fighting were drawing closer. Caranthir shoved himself to his knees, levered himself to his feet with a bench. He held the wall, panting, dizzy and half empty of blood. Everything will be all right now.

Maybe someone, someday, would sing something of the last stand of Carnistir Moryofinwë, of how he fought until the last drop of blood fled his body.

Or else they would remember nothing.

He staggered, shoved himself upright, stood straight and tall for one last time. He lifted his sword and roared his defiance to the sky, and hoped that the Valar themselves shook to hear it.

"There is no peace," says my God, "For the wicked." –Isaiah 57: 21