2. Chapter Two
As he watched them, joining them in their wonderment, it seemed to Nowë that many were more afraid of the journey’s end than the journey itself. Elwë tried to soothe them with visions of the loveliness of Valinor, but Nowë thought perhaps this was the very thing that made them afraid. The twilight they loved, and the stars, for those were familiar; the waxing and waning light of the Two Trees were strange beyond their comprehension, beautiful yet forbidding.
Say less of the wonders we shall see and more of the kindness and protection of the Valar, cousin, and you shall give them more ease, thought Nowë. He had tried to tell Elwë this, but his dark-haired cousin had no ears for it.
“How can they be afraid of such beauty and light?” he asked.
“Have you not marked how some fear Oromë, even as they look to him for protection? And you say Manwë is greater and more stern, for that he is chief of the Valar. Do you not think some might fear to behold him, and the other Valar?”
“When I say he is stern,” said Elwë, “I say he is like one’s father, watching over us and giving instruction. He is much like Telwë, your sire, if you would know.”
“And who among us desires yet another parent?” asked Nowë, smiling. “I certainly do not need another. Tell us instead of Varda, who made the stars, and gentle Yavanna.”
Only when Oromë came to lead them did the Eldar march; only when he and Nahar were near did they feel safe from the shadows that yet threatened and secure in the knowledge that their path would not go astray. The Vala, however, often had to leave them to attend to other matters, for he had many charges, he said.
“He will forget us and not return,” said Mála.
“Nana, you say that every time he goes.” Nowë led her to the fire, where Olwë and Lenwë were cooking the fish they had caught in a nearby stream. “Always he returns.”
“Perhaps the shadow will take us before he returns, perhaps—”
“You worry too much, nana. Oromë will return; I have already seen it.”
Mála looked at her son with uncertain eyes. He was grown now, having reached his majority during the long march, and with his maturity he at last allowed others to know of his gift of foresight. His father nodded when Nowë spoke of things he had seen, offering no comment but that he trusted his son to do as seemed best. His mother, however, was of a different mind, fearing to put her faith in that which she herself could not see. “Visions are such hazy things, child. How can you be certain they are not mere dreams, or wisps of things as you would have them?”
Many times she had asked him this, and always he gave her the same answer. “I can feel the difference, nana.” He might have added that his inner sight never deceived him, but he could already hear her cautioning him against that one time when his visions might do so.
“Oromë will return, nana,” he said. “But look, Sílarielle and her mother are making a garland of those white flowers and would have you join them.”
Through starlit meads and moors they journeyed. And by a murmuring stream where Oromë left them, Olwë at last took Sílarielle as his bride, and it was an occasion for celebration, for singing and dancing under the stars. The lovers did not want to wait to be together, though they both agreed the wilderness was no safe haven to begin a family and they would not have children until they reached Valinor.
“He would have waited to wed. He told me,” said Elwë, as he and Nowë watched Elwë’s brother lead his bride in a dance, “but she and her mother are like aunt Mála, afraid of shadows and convinced we will never come to Valinor, no matter how many times Olwë has told them Ingwë has already arrived.”
“Yet there still is no word of Finwë and his people.”
Elwë was insistent. “That does not mean they are lost.”
“What of you?” Nowë took a crumb of fish from the leaf wrapping in which it had been baked and popped it into his mouth. “Are you going to wed?”
“Before we reach Valinor? Nay, I do not think so. There is no maid among our host who captures my heart as Sílarielle has captured Olwë’s,” answered Elwë. He made a sound that might have been a sigh, then his tone became playful, teasing. “Now it is your turn, Nowë? Is there not some maid for whom you secretly long?”
“Nay, there is no one.”
“Oh, come!” Elwë reached over and gave him a playful shove. “There must be someone to turn my silver-haired cousin’s heart.”
Nowë shoved him back. “I might say the same of you, that you were keeping secrets from me, but nay, I do not think I shall ever wed.”
* * *
The mountains, an impossibly high, vast dark mass that rose to impale the very stars upon its peaks, frightened some. This time, neither Olwë nor Elwë had the words to persuade them. Oromë was not there to lend them his courage, and they turned back.
When the Vala returned, he did not pursue the stragglers as Elwë asked him to do. “If I bid thee follow me, that is all I might do,” he said. “I cannot command thy will.”
As the way became steeper and the weather more harsh, Oromë showed them where to find animals with the thickest hides and how to cure meat for the journey ahead, for no edible vegetation grew in the higher latitudes, nor would they be able to fish. Again they stopped, taking shelter in caves as they hunted for food and raiment. Meat was cut into strips and smoked until it was dry and tough; to some, the taste of red meat was unpalatable, and they would not eat of it until all other stores were exhausted.
Pelts were cured and fashioned into cloaks and crude garments, and mosses and dried grass stuffed into shoes to provide a barrier against the cold.
“Some amongst thee might not feel the cold,” said Oromë, “while others might feel it very strongly. Thou wert made to be strong and to step lightly without weakness or weariness, yet even so we wouldst have thee go carefully, as the One’s design is not impervious in all ways.”
Nowë took frequent note of the Vala’s cryptic utterances. Oromë said what was needful, yet always there was something behind his words, always something that went unexplained. Elwë said that, although they made other things, the Valar had not created the Eldar. There was another power above them, nameless and faceless.
“That is why Finwë would go to Valinor,” explained Elwë. “He wishes to know how things are made and how to make them. He would know who made us and why.”
“The Valar would not tell him?”
“When Ingwë would let him speak, he asked, but Manwë told us we were not yet ready for that knowledge. He said only that we were made by one even greater than they, who dwelt outside the world and could not be seen,” Elwë replied. “But very little satisfies Finwë’s curiosity.”
“Why do you wish to go, cousin?” asked Nowë.
“To see the light of the Trees again, and to live where there are no shadows.”
* * *
On the other side of the mountains was a land of many rivers and deep woodlands. As they came to the first river, Nowë heard the rushing of water and stopped to drink in the music. A song of long wandering it sang, of its source among the mountain snows, tumbling and frothing down in rapids to flow gently through a land of meadows and willows to….
“The Sea,” said Oromë. Opening his eyes, Nowë glanced up in surprise. The Vala, seated high above on Nahar’s back, was watching him. “It runs west and empties into the Sea. Dost thou hear the song?”
Never before had the Vala addressed him directly. “Yes, aráto.”
Lenwë, always lagging behind to marvel at some new wonder, became enamored of the rivers. He did not wish to go further, and others, taxed by the hard journey through the mountains, also wished to stay in this calm land by the waters.
Watching them go, Elwë turned desperate eyes to his cousin. “Nowë! Speak to them! Tell them what you have seen.”
This is what I have seen. I do not think all of us are fated to see Valinor. Were it not for the promise of the Sea, I, too, might follow Lenwë. Nowë returned his gaze, torn by the truth of his visions and love for his cousin. “We cannot force them to go where they will not.”
“The dark riders will find them and take them. They have followed us all the way from Cuiviénen, waiting to snare the unwary. Have you not noticed them?” Elwë motioned to their cousin, who was engaged in an animated argument with Lenwë. “In all else Olwë can persuade him, but he is being so stubborn.”
“Cousin,” Nowë said softly, “there are some who have no wish to see Valinor. Lenwë has grown much enamored of these lands, and would stay. He has enough numbers to resist the shadows, if his followers remain together. Let him go if he wishes it, and any who wish to go with them.”
Elwë stopped, stared at him. “Is that what you have seen?”
I would I had never said anything of my visions. “You behave as though I am capable of seeing every small thing, every ripple in the water before it occurs, when you know I cannot,” answered Nowë. “I know only that not all of us will finish the journey, though whether by choice or ill-chance I cannot say.”
In the end, Lenwë left. Oromë did not interfere, citing as he had before that he had not the authority to do so. Nor did he seem overly concerned that some had departed, possibly to be devoured by the shadows that dogged their steps. Nowë wondered at this, thinking perhaps the Vala had some hidden knowledge or perhaps, like him, could see things as they might be. He met the Vala’s eyes and Oromë gazed back, unwavering.
* * *
Sílarielle: (Telerin) the name means “a maiden crowned by a shining garland.”
aráto: (Telerin) noble one/male
Lenwë: According to The Silmarillion,” Chapter III, “Then one arose in the host of Olwë, which was ever hindmost on the road…. He forsook the westward march, and led away a numerous people...and they passed out of the knowledge of their kin until long years were passed. Those were the Nandor; and they became a people apart, save that they loved water, and dwelt most beside falls and running streams.”
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