“Haldir Thorontórion, are you willing to accompany Tindómë on this quest?”
Had anyone thought to drop a pin at this point doubtless it would have been heard as it hit the marble floor.
If you were one of the Valar you would have been able to read the thoughts of all the Elves (and The Key) simultaneously. They would have gone something like this…
‘Haldir? They want me to cross all the way to the Outer Sea with Haldir? Oh! Huitho! He’ll say no and we’ll never get Spike here!’
‘He is certainly capable of taking care of her… I wonder if they might find uninhabited forest on the way to Mandos Halls? Perhaps there is some that Lord Oromë hunts in, that he would allow us to share, but I do not think he is one of the Valar present here. It would be good to travel with Tindómë and see if such forest exists. But perhaps it is better that I do not go… I would not be able to return to the coast, to Gimli, quickly should the need arise. And it will be good to return to Ithilienne. Huitho! Would Ithilienne expect me to insist on going with Tindómë? No…’
‘Why not me? She is my wife! I will care for her and keep her safe! Although my brother is a great warrior... There are no yrch, or evil men looking for ellyth to join with, but still better she travels with a great warrior than if they had made her go alone. No! I would not have let her go alone, no matter what the Valar said. Huitho! If he says no, and she has to give up the idea of bringing Spike here, there will never be peace between them. Oh my brother, say yes – but if anything happens to my wife in your care I will never forgive you.’
‘Huitho! I am glad it is not me! I do not think I want to go to Mandos’ Halls…. Rather go home to Lithôniel. But it will be good for Haldir. He needs to be a warrior. He will not be afraid to go into Lord Námo’s presence anyway – he’s been there before!’
‘Me! I am to take Rumil’s wife trailing across all of Aman? Huitho! Why not one of the others? Were she not there, to keep them with Legolas’ people, I am sure that I could persuade Orophin and Rumil to come back to her Ladyship… Then, why would they, in honesty? The coast is a better place to be if we have no forest. I could say no and return to Her Ladyship – or to the coast with them. The man, or whatever he is, would no longer be a problem… Ai, but Haldir – doing as the Valar ask will be less boring than life here has been thus far…’
“Yes. Yes, my Lord. I will accompany my brother-wife to seek audience with Lord Námo.”
The Valar left the Máhanaxar almost immediately; then Gandalf took Tindómë by the arm and began to walk, the ellyn followed, and the party were soon outside.
Then, just as Gandalf had broken the silence by saying “Well, come along then,” Tindómë heard Rumil’s inner voice.
‘That was… unexpected. Are you well, meleth?’
‘I… I think so. Just… I don’t know. I guess at least they didn’t say ‘No’. But how far is it, and how are we going to get there?’
‘Or, even, how are you going to resist doing my brother a bodily injury should the journey be long?’
That line was so unexpected, yet so very Rumil, that she felt much of the tension drain away and, as his fingers caressed her wrist for a few moments, she was able to smile.
Still no-one spoke until they reached their lodgings. There Lávarfarnë and Lalisilmë had laid out food and wine but then quickly retreated to leave the party alone. Tindómë wondered how often their guests returned from the Ring of Doom happy, having been granted what they asked; how often such a meal would be something of a way to drown disappointment; and how often a party returned having had such an unexpected response to a request.
Orophin poured wine, piled a plate with food, and then passed both to Tindómë with a slow smile.
“Eat, tithen maethor.”
Somehow it broke the mood and three or four voices all began to talk at once. Gandalf’s voice cut across the others, silencing them. “Well then – you two will need a plan….”
Haldir spoke for the first time since he had agreed to accompany Tindómë across Aman to the Outer Sea.
“We will need more than a plan – unless it is a well drawn and accurate plan of the route we need to take.”
“You may wish to return to Lady Galadriel’s estate to prepare yourselves,” Gandalf continued.
Haldir looked briefly at Tindómë and then replied. “I think this would be the best course.”
She was inclined to argue simply because he had made the decision without asking her – but he was, in all honesty, right.
Then Haldir went on, “We will need to have some idea of distance, and terrain – not to mention exactly in which direction we need to travel. But there will, most certainly, be maps of Aman; either in Her Ladyship’s library, or within either the public library or the royal one in Tirion. I am sure Her Ladyship can arrange access for us if we need to study them there.”
“As could I,” said Legolas, joining the conversation for the first time.
‘Go, atheg!’ Tindómë thought.
Rumil had clearly picked that thought up as she heard his inner voice; ‘It will take him a while to fully recognise Legolas as who he is. To Haldir it is as if little time has passed since your brother was part of the Fellowship, under the command of Aragorn, and making no claims to station.’
‘Yeah… I know… and I guess it’s good that he didn’t look as if he didn’t believe Legolas…’
“Yes, well, eat up, sleep well tonight, and then you can begin your journey back to Tirion on the morrow,” Gandalf said, briskly. “I will join you there, before you leave, with any further message from My Lord Manwë.”
‘He really is determined that we do this thing ourselves…’ Tindómë realised.
“Do you remember, meleth, when I rode to war with the army of King Elessar?”
Lying in the crook of his arm, Tindómë answered sleepily that she did.
“This time you will leave me behind. I think we must join as many times as we can before you leave – to give us both extra pleasant things to recall when we are apart…”
He felt her smile, as he knew she would.
“Ellyn! You keep your brains well covered by your leggings!” There was a pause. “But maybe you are right.”
Another pause. Then a hand moved over his bare chest, and pinched a nipple, sending a ripple of pain and pleasure through him.
“Maybe we should start now?” His wife’s voice rippled with laughter.
Rumil was more than happy to comply.
The journey back to Tirion was pleasant enough. The nights especially so, as Rumil kept his word to give them both as many pleasant things to recall whilst apart as possible, and Tindómë realised that, just like an elf or one of the Rohirrim, she could make up the sleep as she rode. On occasions she was aware of conversations going on around her, about her forthcoming journey with Haldir, but she did not always listen at all.
As soon as they reached Lady Galadriel’s estate, where they were warmly welcomed (and gently interrogated about their visit to Valimar and their audience with the Valar), Haldir began organising. Her Ladyship seemed totally unsurprised at the outcome of the audience with Lord Manwë; but then she was an ancient elf and well practiced in hiding her emotions, so whether she had expected that Tindómë and Haldir would be travelling together to Mandos Halls all along would have to remain a subject for speculation.
Tindómë was, to be honest, quite happy for Haldir to make decisions about what provisions they might need; she volunteered to look at the maps. Her Ladyship had a well stocked library. In fact not only had she brought books and scrolls from Lothlórien, when she sailed, but His Lordship had sent others on by ship since. Tindómë thought that Galadriel must have been both gladdened and saddened each time such a trunk arrived; it was, surely, a sign that he would want them here himself when he arrived; yet each time she must have wished that her husband had bought them personally.
It did not take long to find the map she remembered as part of a larger one from lessons back in Lothlórien.
But she was not really sure how accurate it was. She had to admit that she had not taken bearings as they travelled, but the relationship between Alqualondë, Tirion, and Valimar was very different from that shown in the other map in Lady Galadriel’s library.
And when Legolas accompanied her to the library of the Noldor Royal family, they found a map in which the relationship between the three cities was different again.
It seemed as if the Elves, as they had perfectly good roads between the cities and knew very well how to get from one to the other, had never really thought about accurate maps. As she said to Legolas, this wouldn’t really make a lot of difference to the journey she had to make with Haldir – except that they did not all show Lord Námo’s domain in the same place either…
There was something else niggling at the back of her brain, about that map she remembered from Lothlórien, but it was less important than making a decision about which direction they needed to travel to reach their goal, how far it was likely to be, and what terrain to expect.
She copied the third map carefully and that night all the ellyn joined her to study the three different versions. They were as alike, and as unalike, as those she had mentioned in Master Elrond’s collection, before they left Alqualondë.
Eventually Haldir summed up. “Clearly we need to head in a westerly direction – but it might be due west or more to the south-west. There is no scale, unfortunately, but we know it took five days travel between Tirion and Valimar and so we can make a very rough estimate based on all three. And there seem to be no major rivers to cross, nor any major mountain ranges… But I would prefer to have more accurate information.”
Then Her Ladyship, from where she had been sitting quietly listening, joined the conversation.
“Perhaps it would help to speak to someone who has travelled at least some of the way?”
Before any of them could reply, she went on, “Amongst the members of my father’s household is just such an ellon. I will ask him to come here and speak to you.”
The ellon who arrived from Tirion the next day answered a question none of the party had ever thought to ask. If the Noldor are great metal-workers where do they mine the metals? He described himself as a ‘seeker’, as he sought out veins of metal for others to work; Tindómë would have called him a prospector.
There were good veins in the Mountains of the Pelóri, he said, but he had travelled inland to look for other places to mine as well. He looked at the maps and explained that there were actually ranges of hills, which became mountains, in the centre of Valinor, although not as high as the Pelóri, and there the Noldor had mining settlements not shown on the maps. These ranges were, he told them, easily crossed. In fact he had travelled on, noting other places where mining might be undertaken, until he had stood on a peak of the second range he met and glimpsed the ocean in the distance.
In answer to a question from Legolas the ellon said that the forests in which Lord Oromë hunted were between the ranges; although the ellon had skirted them rather than explore them. Tindómë had completely understood the glance that passed between Haldir and Legolas at that point. But, personally, she thought any detour could wait until they were on the return leg of their journey.
Their visitor felt it likely that the map showing Valinor as the narrowest land mass was the most accurate. The journey would take around three weeks from Tirion; perhaps four. He could not tell them for certain where the Halls of Lord Námo were, but from such a height he thought any settlement, be it the domain of Lord Námo or that of his sister Nienna, might well be discerned.
The ‘elf with the thousand-mile stare’ thing, Tindómë thought. But hey! Haldir should be able to see all that was required – probably well past any normal horizon, even, as the elves all seemed to believe that Valinor was outside the normal curve of the planet. And, who knows, they might be right!
Haldir seemed much happier to have a plan – Tindómë was just happy that they could get on the road. She worried that it might take too long and Spike, despite his promise, might do something careless. But all she could do was make sure that she had Radagast’s Window securely in her pack, and wait.
Then, the night before they were due to leave, she realised what it was about that map of the world that had niggled at the back of her brain.
tithen maethor - little warrior - the name given to Tindómë by the twins, many years before.
Disclaimer: The characters in this story do not belong to me, but are being used for amusement only, and all rights remain with the estate of JRR Tolkien, or Mutant Enemy.
Maps - the first is from my copy of The Atlas of Middle Earth - the others crop up regularly online.