At Last - The Máhanaxar
It was the last inn before Valimar. Suddenly the meeting with the Valar was looming large and Tindómë was nervous. An extra glass of wine; Rumil’s skills at ‘distraction’ making her fly three or four times; and him carefully guiding her feet onto peaceful dream paths; all combined to settle her nerves, so that she felt calm as they set off in the pale morning light.
They rode for a couple of hours before the clouds thinned enough for the sun to break through.
“Elo!” Tindómë exclaimed, as the city was suddenly clearly visible although still many miles away. If Tirion was built of marble it looked as if Valimar must be built of crystal.
“Shiny!” Orophin confirmed.
He was riding beside Tindómë and glanced quickly between her and Haldir, who was riding in front, with a swift grin. He knew very well that Haldir would be itching to turn around and frown at him for using Tindómë’s version of Sindarin.
“Totally!” said Rumil at her other side.
She did her best not to giggle.
They rode on. As the city grew a little larger to the eye Legolas turned and asked, “Can you hear them yet, nethig?”
“Ah, clearly not yet,” he answered.
“They call it the city of bells,” Haldir said, also turning. “We can hear them already.”
He wondered how long it would be before Tindómë could hear them. A man would probably need to be almost at the city, he thought, but she had seen
the city sooner than most men. A bare half an hour passed before she smiled, and said “Oh, yes… they sound really neat!”
Rumil, Haldir had to admit, was probably right when he said his wife was edhelfaral; her hearing was almost as keen as that of the sons of Elrond. It was just a pity that she did not speak Sindarin as well as they did…
edhelfaral –almost elven
The city seemed to have many tall towers and it sounded as if most of them contained bells; all left loose to ring in the breeze. And, Tindómë thought as they got closer, there was also a good selection of wind-chimes. The result was really cool – but she did wonder how anyone could sleep at night. She guessed that – unless they were whisked straight off to the Ring of Doom, got Spike, and were back on the road before sunset – she’d probably find out later.
The buildings seemed to be mainly of marble but there was a lot of gold, glass, and crystal; the impression was sort of ‘Emerald City without the emeralds’, but with added bells and the wind-chimes.
By the time she had finished musing, and deciding that the Vanyarin elves all looked as if they could be related to Glorfindel, they were in the outskirts of the city. No walls, she realised. Cities without walls looked odd. Then she wanted to laugh; Dawn would have thought cities with
walls looked odd. But, hadn’t the herald said they’d be met at the gate? No walls surely meant no…
An elf suddenly stepped out just in front of them and greeted Legolas by title and name. Tindómë realised a slender arch of golden metal spanned the road – there may not be walls, but there was, after all, a gateway!
The ellon led them through the city, into a courtyard, and bid them welcome to their lodgings. They were shown to large airy rooms, invited to bathe and to eat – it was all very civilised and clearly neither an inn, nor a private house, but something between. And it was also clear that they were unlikely to meet the Valar straight away.
Tindómë had been right – three days later they had still not met the Valar. They had, however, learned more about the city and the Vanyarin elves who lived there. Their hosts, Lávarfarnë and his wife Lalisilmë, were friendly, and happy to show them around their city, answering their questions graciously.
The city had cool courtyards and public gardens where flowers and trees grew as if all were in season. There were tall slender bell towers; some topped with golden domes, and a few with crystal shards that reflected rainbows onto those below. At nightfall the bells were tied back to be silent through the night but still the city was not silent. Tindómë had been right about the wind-chimes; some of gold, some of crystal, they hung in archways and from the branches of trees. The whole city was alive with light and sound.
“If we had to live in a stone-built city,” she said to Rumil, “then I think I could be quite happy in this one! Especially as the Vanyar seem nicer than I had expected.”
“I do not want to think of living for ever between walls of stone, meleth, but for a little time this city is pleasant enough,” her husband answered. “And the elves who live here are happy to simply serve the Valar and lead a calm and gentle life.”
Some people, both mortal and elven, who knew Rumil might think that a calm and gentle life would suit him very well – he spoke little, when compared to many, and seemed always to be unruffled. But Tindómë knew both the cold anger and the dry humour that also formed his character.
“Maybe too calm and gentle a life?” she asked, adding “but I think I would still choose Valimar over Tirion.”
“Perhaps the Noldor also lead calm and gentle lives… when there are no newcomers to distress them,” he answered.
“We are no threat to these elves,” he went on. “Year on year, yén on yén, Sindar and Silvan arrive from Ennor by sea, or through Mandos’ Halls like Haldir, and we are slowly moving into woodlands and other places. But there are many Noldor, too, who will return, and elflings will be born, and grow… they will need more land.
“The Vanyar have not lost warriors to war and, when you look around this city, it is like Lothlorien was for many years before we left; there are no elflings here, nor signs there have been for many, many years.”
Oh my! She was not surprised that he had thought about the difference in the way they had been welcomed; she had been considering it herself. But she had concluded that it must be because they were here at the invitation of the Valar. Rumil, as often before, had thought more deeply. And, she realised, he was quite right.
“But,” he went on, “there is little we can do about it. Come to bed and let us lie and listen to the gentle music… or whatever.”
‘Whatever’ sounded like a good option.
It is probably a good thing that Tindómë did not overhear the conversation next morning as the others waited for her to join them for breakfast.
“The little one is remaining calmer than I would have expected as we await the summons,” said her ‘brother’.
“I try to fill her mind with other things…” answered her husband.
“Not to mention filling all else you can with your cristhen,” said the younger of his brothers.
“What better means of distraction?” Her husband was clearly unperturbed by the accusation. “And,” he added, “as I do not think providing such comfort is part of Lalisilmë’s role, if you feel the need for similar distraction the three of you must take yourself, or each other, in hand…”
Tindómë wondered why they all looked rather… odd… as she entered the room!
But she had no time to ask, as Lalisilmë entered to announce that they had a visitor, followed close at heel by Gandalf.
Gandalf – but a Gandalf who had reverted back, from the colours he had worn much of the time since the Ithildrim had arrived, to whiter than white robes. Robes that glistened as if tiny particles of the city’s crystals had been woven in, but then Gandalf himself glistened; well, more, shone with an inner light. Suddenly it was very easy to believe that he was, indeed, one of the Maia.
“Welcome to our city!” he greeted them.
Our city? But then, if the Valar all had some sort of ‘town residences’ here, it was logical that the Maia also had. It had simply never occurred to her before that Gandalf might have his own home somewhere. Something to ask him more about at some other time.
“An hour before sunset,” he went on, as if answering an unasked question, “I will return to accompany you. Be sure to eat, little one, so that your stomach does not rumble…”
The day passed quickly enough. It took time for all five to bathe, dress their hair, and don their best clothes, so that they were as prepared as possible when Gandalf decreed it was time to leave.
He led them through the city to another golden gateway beyond which stood the Máhanaxar. Tindómë was not sure what she had expected; something like a Roman Amphitheatre, perhaps. She had not visualised anything quite like the construction before her.
There was an outer shell of fine scalloped white marble arches. Within could be seen another circle of similar arches, but these were not open; rather they formed the supports for walls of delicately wrought golden metal and crystal, facetted to reflect and refract the light.
Gandalf approached one of these inner arches and, at a wave of his hand, a panel swung open. He led them through the previously un-noticed door and they were in a room; curved gold and glass walls in front and behind them, solid side walls, a scattering of chairs; clearly an ante-room.
The Maia did not stop but waved his hand again and another door opened in front of them. They stepped through and suddenly they were standing within the Ring of Doom.
It was somewhat smaller than Tindómë had expected, and somehow she had not expected the continuation of the marble floor – in her imagination it was always earthen. There was a roof. She had not expected that, either. It was a roof of golden arches filled with glass through which the lowering sun streamed before bouncing off the thrones arranged around the edge. Thrones of more gold, or silver, of polished wood, deep black stone, more crystal – each was clearly the seat of a particular Vala.
All were empty. For a moment or two, at any rate, and then half were filled with figures.
The Valar all seemed to be at least eight feet tall, looked rather Elven in feature and clothing, and were dazzling as if each was a great lamp. Then, very quickly, it seemed as if each turned down that inner light, dimming it so that Tindómë and her companions could look towards them and still see.
She felt an urge to kneel, with her eyes averted, and she was aware of the four ellyn doing likewise.
There was a voice. She wasn’t sure if it was inside her head, or speaking out loud, or even if it was male or female.
“Thank you Olórin, you may stay. Welcome child. Our Key. You have done well to use your power as it was intended, even from another dimension; we are well pleased.
“Welcome, too, Legolas Thranduilion, of the Fellowship that thwarted he who you call Sauron; we are well pleased with all that you have done.”
Tindómë found herself inordinately pleased that Legolas was getting the recognition that he deserved.
The voice went on. “We are well pleased, also, that you took Tindómë as kin. And, finally, welcome to the sons of Thorontór of Lothlorien. Orophin and Rumil, now of the Ithilrim, we thank you especially for the care you took of Tindómë so that she lived.”
Then there was a hint of… amusement… in the voice. “We congratulate you, child, on your binding with Rumil Thorontórion. Although these congratulations may be a little late, as you experience time, to us it is little longer than the blinking of an eye.”
The Valar clearly had something of a sense of humour – who knew?
“Olórin has told us, briefly, of your request that a being from the other dimension be allowed to cross through to this one. Why would you want this? Why should we comply?”
M’kay, deep breath, Tindómë told herself, then lifted her head to speak. She wasn’t really sure which of the figures had spoken – but aimed at the figure in the centre who was, she was pretty sure, Manwë.
“Spike cared for me, and helped to keep me safe. He really, really, helped to stop me fading when I was pulled back to the old dimension. Um, you did know about that didn’t you?”
“We were… aware. Continue.”
“He’s immortal because he’s, uh, he’s a vampire and yes,” she hurried on, “that means he should be all sorts of evil, and I guess he was, but he went on a quest to get his soul back, his fëa, so that the, uh, demon couldn’t make him do things he didn’t want to, and he has worked so hard for the side of good, and now he is all alone because all the others were mortal, and they’ve died, and I worry that he might just let himself fade, or burn up and die.” She drew a breath.
Now the voice changed – Tindómë decided that the first voice was probably Manwë as he was head Vala, and this voice was more feminine.
“Child, it would be easier to understand what you are trying to tell us if you allow me to read your memories and your fëa.”
Tindómë felt a slight pressure inside her head – she had felt something similar from Lady Galadriel on occasion – but it was clear that the Vala was waiting politely, when she clearly didn’t need to, as there was nothing Tindómë could do to stop her. Tindómë relaxed, consciously, in agreement. She found herself thinking of Spike reading Shakespeare to her when she was too faded to move from the couch, but she was sure the Vala would be doing a quick inventory of everything Spike-related in her memory.
Then came a request to also look into the memories of the Ellyn; particularly the three who had met Spike when they had found Tindómë and brought her home again.
Silence. Then Manwë spoke again. “We need to discuss what we have learnt, and your request. Olórin will show you to a place to wait, and we will call you back once we have made our decision.”
Tindómë was amazed, as she stood up, to find that the sun no longer shone through the glass roof of the Máhanaxar. All the light now came from the figures on the eight thrones that were occupied. They must have been kneeling before the Valar for at least an hour.
They followed Gandalf, passed through a gold and crystal panel, and were in a room, lit by a silvery light, where a table held glasses and a carafe of wine. None of them spoke – but Legolas poured wine for each of them and, as they sipped, they all just looked at each other quietly.
Although none of them spoke aloud Rumil took Tindómë by the hand and she heard him inside her head. “Are you well, meleth?”
“Yes… yes, I think so. Elo! We’ve seen the actual Valar! Well some of them.”
why we came, meleth…”
She could hear the mild amusement in his inner voice, and felt herself relax. But somehow it was still not the place for normal conversation and they remained silent until Gandalf spoke.
“It is time to return to the Ring.”
This time Manwë told them to remain standing and they obeyed. Then he gave the verdict.
“It is clear that the being of whom you spoke has been of service to you and, hence, to us and to Arda. But it is also clear that he is not truly alive – nor yet truly dead. This means that his fate should be in the hands of our brother Námo, who is not present at this time.”
‘M’kay,’ Tindómë thought, ‘I bet he could be, more or less instantly, if Manwë wanted him to be… not looking good.’
“We have made our decision,” Manwë continued. Tindómë made herself concentrate.
“If you wish to ask our brother to make a decision, on the fate of this being, you must go and ask him. You must make your way to his Halls where he will give you an audience. You will not make this journey alone, but we have chosen one companion to aid you should you need it – provided he is willing to accompany you.”
‘Oh boy,’ Tindómë thought, ‘Legolas will be so jealous of Rumil. Or the other way around. No – it has to be Rumil... oh, or Gandalf of course!’
“Haldir Thorontórion, are you willing to accompany Tindómë on this quest?”