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Elenion Ancalima: 1. Elenion ancalima
Seasons come and go, Fëanáro remained unchanged by their passing. Looking back to the days of the Death of the Trees, Nerdanel wondered if it would not have been better – for him – had he not heeded his father's words that had urged him to calm. Of course, she only watched from afar now, but Maitimo, whenever he visited, shared his concerns about his father's state of mind, and sought her counsel. She wished she had any answer to give him, but it had been a long time since Fëanáro had listened to her, or – in truth – to anyone except Finwë, and even his father had been heard more often than he had been heeded.
Finwë had been sorely hurt when Melkor broke the doors of Formenos and took the Silmarils. While Fëanáro raged at the taking of his Jewels and cursed Melkor and named him Moringotto, and would fain have given chase, he could not leave Finwë while his father lay so close to death. The King only returned to health slowly, and it was long before Fëanáro left his side, leaving the daily rule of the Noldor to Fingolfin. Curufinwë and Tyelkormo spoke against what they saw as the usurping of their father's right as Finwë's eldest son and heir, but Fëanáro said naught, nor did Maitimo. When their sons had tried to rouse the Noldor to give chase to their Enemy and take back the Silmarils, Fëanáro did not respond. It had been Tyelkormo's idea, and when Finwë spoke against it, Maitimo and Makalaurë seemed relieved. Fëanáro, though, spoke neither for nor against it, not even reacting to the mention of the Silmarils.
Even from the distance of her father's home, Nerdanel could see how the fire that defined Fëanáro had gone out. He no longer made aught, and his forge lay cold. Even when Aulë called on his craft in containing light for the making of the vessels for Telperion's last silver flower and Laurelin's last golden fruit, Fëanáro did not rouse.
Eventually, with light restored to Valinor, Nerdanel had found life returning to some kind of normality. She had only come to Valmar for the feast in praise of Eru and to see Fëanáro and Nolofinwë reconciled. Of course, after the Darkening she had stayed to find out what would happen; she would admit only to herself that she had stayed out of concern for Fëanáro too. Now, though, she had felt free to return to her father's home, and to her craft projects.
News from the East was rare, and as far from the heart of Valinor as she dwelt, Nerdanel heard most of it late. Still, she did learn of the troubles of the Sindar in Middle-earth, and of the coming of Men, though these were news from afar, unimportant to daily life, and easily forgotten after a half-shrug of pity. Even so, it was clear even to her that the Sindar were losing.
Others took more of an interest, as she heard from Maitimo; the Teleri wanted to come to their kin's aid, along with many among the Noldor who were related by blood or marriage, but the Valar naysaid all plans.
Then, as it happened, one year Nerdanel travelled to Alqualondë to buy materials for dye-making. One evening, as she was sitting in a quay-side tavern, there was a commotion outside.
"A ship!" she heard someone call. Knowing this would not usually be a cause for excitement, she quickly finished her meal and followed the other patrons outside to see what was going on.
Indeed there was a ship – and it was in bad condition, listing to one side as it came into the harbour, with its sails tattered and torn. Yet that was not all that was notable about it, as even Nerdanel could see that it was of an unfamiliar type.
Slowly, the ship approached the quay; finally, as one of the crewmen jumped to the quay to tie the ropes, it could be seen that the ship's crew looked Telerin. At the prow stood a woman, dark of hair with a pale blue, waterstained cloak wrapped tightly around her, and beside her a ragged, weary-looking man, in an equally worn dark green cloak.
Once the ship was moored, the woman lightly jumped to land, the man following more slowly. Nerdanel sensed a power in the woman, yet it was bleak exhaustion that was foremost on her face.
After a quick, somewhat wary look at her audience, the stranger spoke. Her speech was barely comprehensible to Nerdanel; yet with what she knew of the Telerin language, Nerdanel could make out that the stranger's name was Lúthien, that she was the daughter of Elwë Singollo – at that there was some excitement among the watching Teleri, and Nerdanel noticed someone setting off towards Olwë's palace at a run – and Melian the Maia, and that, together with her mortal betrothed, she had come to beg the aid of the Valar for Elves and Men in Endórë.
There were murmurs in the crowd as they closely looked at her companion for the first time, for none of them had seen a mortal before. The woman, Lúthien, continued speaking, and soon it was silent again. "By this token…" she said as she opened a small pouch at her belt to take something from it. Nerdanel gasped in shock as she held aloft a Silmaril.
Over the next few days, as Lúthien and the mortal rested in Olwë's palace to recover from their journey, and their crew spent their time talking with the people of Alqualondë, more of the story became known. She had, together with her betrothed who was called Beren, retrieved the Silmaril from Moringotto's crown. Two of the crew were sailors in Círdan's the Mariner's service, and the third was one of King Elu's captains. Círdan's two men spoke a dialect of the speech of Endor that was closer to that of their Telerin kin here in Aman than Lúthien's Doriathrin speech. The men were unclear on the details of how the Silmaril had been retrieved, but confirmed that the Enemy still held the other two.
"But why would anyone set out to break into the Enemy's stronghold?" the tavern's owner asked.
"For the brideprice Elu had set Beren, as he was unwilling to grant his daughter's hand to a mere Mortal," the Elf named Mablung, who had quickly managed to make himself understandable in Telerin, said, "Although, between you and me, he never thought her suitor would survive." He paused and took a swig of ale. "Of course, he never expected her to join him in his quest either."
"What happened next?" Nerdanel asked.
"Well, they were away for most of a sun-year," Mablung replied, "But then before they got back, the Enemy attacked Doriath, until even Queen Melian's defence was overwhelmed and his Orcs and other foul creatures poured in. By the time Lúthien returned with Beren, Menegroth had been sacked and burned, and the survivors, still led by Thingol and Melian, driven towards the east, to the riverland, and by now perhaps even into the mountains beyond. Now these two were close to trapped, for there was no way for them to go east or south to rejoin the Doriathrim in hiding, and west there lay armies of the Enemy too. Even so, they decided to make for Círdan's lands." The Elf paused, taking his mug of ale in hand, though he did not drink, only stared into unseen depths. Finally, he shook his head, and took another swig. "By the time I found them, Beren was wounded with a poisoned Orc arrow, and the Orcs were after them. I sent the men in my patrol off to distract the Orcs, and by her request guided my lady and her betrothed to Eglarest."
After a week, word came that the two were summoned to Valmar, and that Lúthien would be allowed to present her case in the Máhanaxar. As the ruling would be in public, Olwë and many other Teleri journeyed to Valmar also. Nerdanel tagged along as well; not only had hearing the crew's tales awoken her interest in the lands beyond the Sea, but anything that involved the Silmarils was bound to involve her family as well.
In the Máhanaxar – alone, for Beren was not allowed there – Lúthien spoke long and eloquently, asking the Valar to come to the aid of Elves and Men in Middle-earth who were so close to defeat by the Enemy; or if they would not, to at least allow those Elves who were willing to come.
Nerdanel glanced around the Máhanaxar. As expected, the Valar were inscrutable, but most of the Elves present looked gripped by Lúthien's words – strangely accented as they still were – and ready to storm the Enemy's stronghold straightaway.
Once Lúthien stopped speaking, Námo looked at her long. She met his gaze calmly, undaunted as she had been before under the scrutiny of the Powers; and suddenly Nerdanel could see how she had been able to face Melkor in his dark aspect. She did finally look away, but only because Manwë himself spoke.
"You seek the help of the Valar to free the peoples of Middle-earth from the reign of our brother Melkor, yet I am loath to allow an intervention, for that may cause further, and worse, harm to your lands and your people."
So have they ever said since the Trees were slain and the Silmarils taken: "Less harm will be done if we let Endórë be," Nerdanel thought, careful to keep her thoughts to herself.
"Perhaps," Lúthien replied. "Yet the Enemy is also an intrusion from outside, one we do not have the strength to stay. You do have that strength, but you will not act for fear of doing harm in the acting. Yet harm is also done through your inaction. When we are at last all slain or driven into the sea, will you sit here still and say to each other that at least you did no harm?"
After another long silence, in which Nerdanel knew the Valar spoke together in mind, Manwë addressed Lúthien again. "Very well. The Valar, and all those who be willing to join us, will go to war against our fallen brother for the sake of the peoples of Middle-earth." Before the clamour of those present could burst loose, he raised his hand. "First, though, we will address the matter of the Silmaril that you retrieved."
Lúthien nodded, and left the Máhanaxar. One of the Maiar joined her, and Nerdanel thought she would be taken back towards Valmar.
Nerdanel noted a long look exchanged between Manwë and Námo, but looked away to watch Fëanáro, who was standing with their sons around him. She was certain she had not seen him look so awake for many years.
Now all the Valar rose, and with Yavanna and Nienna leading, they walked from the Máhanaxar towards Ezellohar, where the lifeless Trees stood. Only Nerdanel, Fëanáro and their sons were allowed to follow. Once they reached the Trees, Yavanna stood between them, and gestured at both Fëanáro to step forward.
"Once, I asked whether you were willing to unlock the Light of the Trees that now only exists in the Silmarils to attempt to restore the Trees to life," Yavanna addressed Fëanáro, who did not answer, though his expression grew dark. Yavanna sighed sadly, and went on. "That cannot be my request now, for the Trees are beyond hope of reviving, and Sun and Moon already light the whole of Arda."
"Then why…?" Fëanáro looked confused
Nienna spoke. "While it is true that the whole of Arda now has light, yet our fallen brother has woven his power into the very earth, and water and air are also defiled by his touch. The Silmarils contain the Light of the Trees…"
"No!" Fëanáro almost shouted, "I will not break the Silmaril!"
"That is not what we would ask of you," Nienna replied gently. "Though we have agreed to come to the aid of the Children in Middle-earth, we will not march off to war within a day, or even a year. What is needed now is a sign of hope, that they are not abandoned… Singollo's daughter and Beren son of Barahir are agreed that the decision on this must be yours. If the Silmaril that has come back were placed in a vessel in the sky, its light would serve as a beacon of hope for Middle-earth, and a threat and a challenge to Melkor."
Fëanáro was silent for a long time, until at last he spoke. "And who will steer the vessel?"
"No one has been appointed yet," said Nienna, "But most likely one of the Maiar will come forward, as they did for the Sun and the Moon."
Fëanáro shook his head. "Nay, for those who stepped up to guide these had already some association of old with the Trees. None among the Maiar cares for the Silmarils as I do. If you will do this, I will guide the vessel, or none will."
And so it was done.
Nerdanel almost missed the launch of the vessel as she was engaged in smithing work that could not be easily interrupted, but as Fëanáro's ship rose into the sky, she stood outside to watch until it disappeared from sight far in the east.
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