Aulë stood before the delicately wrought silver gates feeling very ill at ease, but then he always felt ill at ease when visiting the home of Irmo and Estë. The dim, hushed air of the Gardens of Lórien made him nervous; so different from Aulë’s own home, its rooms alight with fire and bustling with people and animals. An overpowering silence hung in the gardens; most beings in Valinor found peace and rest within its boundaries, but to Aulë the bright light of his spirit seemed harsh and crude amidst the dimly lit paths and pools. The graceful atmosphere made him feel lumbering and awkward and his visits there were few.
Nevertheless, he had come for a reason, he told himself; he took a deep breath and blew it out quickly before squaring his shoulders and entering the gardens. Once inside the gates the thick, green smell of cedar and pine washed over him in a heavy wave. Aulë studied the carefully planted maze of trees stretching out before him and after a brief deliberation he took the center path leading toward the heart of the garden.
The steady pace of his legs stirred the mist carpeting the ground. One of the garden's larger pools caught his eye for a moment, but he turned back to the path before him. There was no need to look at the pool; in his mind Aulë carried a clear image. An enormous silver fountain rose from a spreading circle of water and cascading streams spilled down its sides. He knew stars as silver as any in the sky shone in the blue depths of the pool for he had watched Varda herself set them there. He overcame his reservations at times, stealing into the gardens to visit this peaceful fountain where glowworms cast a pale green light as they crawled along the ground. Though tonight not even his beloved pool could ease his apprehension at receiving such an unusual summons.
Once beyond the pool Aulë passed vast fields of red poppies, stretching out to the east as far as the eye could see. The fumellar they were called, for they brought sleep, and now his destination lay just ahead. The path ended in a garden room formed by a thick border of drooping cypress trees. The evergreen scent hung heavy here in this enclosed space. Aulë’s gaze rested hesitantly on a bed of gleaming opalescent pearls in the far corner where a giant silver cauldron sat in the center, nestled safely among the pearls.
It had been many years since last he saw that cauldron but his memory of it was still as clear as the day he had forged it. Although now it seemed cold and empty, and so it was; gone was Telperion and gone was the dew the silver Tree had shed, collected each day and brought to this cauldron to be stored.
Aulë had known she would be here.
On a bench close to the cauldron’s pearly cradle sat a being whose beauty went far beyond mere words. To those who knew her, the canvas of the night sky painted by her hands merely hinted at the overwhelming beauty that was Varda. To stand in her presence always made Aulë feel boorish; to stand before her now in the Gardens of Lórien only served to intensify his awkwardness.
“I have come, my Queen, as you requested,” he said in a whisper, feeling irreverent in breaking the silence of this place.
She turned and graced him with a radiant smile, her golden hair grazing the ground as she did. “Thank you for coming, Aulë,” Varda said, gesturing toward the bench. “Please, sit with me.”
Aulë settled his large form next to her on the bench and waited expectantly for her to tell him why he had been called. Instead she faced the silver cauldron again and studied it mournfully.
“How I miss the days when this room was lit by the silver dews stored within Silindrin. Do you remember how its pale glow would light the very airs, Aulë?” she asked. Sensing the pangs of loss within him, Varda said, “Of course you do…we all do.”
“I remember those who tended to the vats of the Trees,” Varda continued to speak softly. “Urwen and her people tended to the golden dews of Kulullin, and Silmo and his people tended to Silindrin. My Ilmarë was one of those who tended to Telperion. She loved the silver Tree with all her heart. Could she have died with it, she would, for her spirit had been broken once before by the loss of something she loved beyond all measure.”
“Yes...I remember it well,” Aulë said, bowing his head sorrowfully to stare at the glittering vapors covering the ground, swirling in a thick mist around their feet.
“I know you do not care for small talk, Aulë, and so I will come directly to the point,” Varda said suddenly. “I am in need of your help.”
Aulë looked up in surprise. “My help, Varda? For what reason?”
“You must help me appeal to your brother. Please, help me convince Manwë to allow Ilmarë to go in Melian’s place. I have tried, but I cannot convince him alone.”
Aulë hesitated before answering. “But it has already been decided to send Melian. Of all the Maiar, she holds the most knowledge of Middle-earth and its peoples. Ilmarë does not have the experience needed for this task; she has no experience with those lands as they are now and she has had no dealings with its people.”
“Yet she has had a great deal of experience in Númenor,” Varda said in a reasoning tone, “and she has had dealings with its people.”
“Melian does not wish to return to Middle-earth,” Varda said when Aulë remained silent, “and in all honesty, no blame should be laid upon her for that decision. Those lands hold nothing but unhappy memories for Melian, and Ilmarë knows this. She has asked to take her friend’s place yet Manwë will not agree. You are well aware of how he dotes on her.”
“And what is my involvement in this?”
“Her going may benefit you, as well.” Varda paused briefly, then said, “Ilmarë’s heart was not the only one broken by his departure. Would you not have him return to Valinor, if you could?”
Aulë’s eyes widened and he sucked in a sharp breath. “You know where he is? Has he at last chosen to accept the pardon offered to him?”
“No, in answer to both your questions. I am sorry, Aulë,” she added when she saw his look of disappointment. “But if we send Ilmarë to Middle-earth, sooner or later he will sense her presence there.”
Varda laid her hand across Aulë’s and spoke softly. “There are a few among the Valar who believe the darkness stirring in the lands of Middle-earth is his spirit, but there are more of us who know it is something far more powerful. Some good still resides within him. If it can be reached, she is the only one who has any hope of doing so. You know this as well as I.”
“But, what if…” he hesitated, “…what if she chooses to stay at his side this time? I have no doubt he will offer it to her again.”
“And I have no doubt she would refuse him again,” Varda said with conviction. “Ilmarë would not betray what she believes in, regardless of how much she loves him.”
She sighed and said, “It had been decided that Melian would have her knowledge of Aman and most of her powers hidden from her to prevent any interference. Ilmarë will be sent in the same fashion. Her memories will not influence her for she will not have them. His memory of her is what will be important, for it is that which will sway him. Perhaps he will feel another chance has been given to him because she will not remember the unhappiness between them.”
“And if her presence does not affect him or he seeks only to use her in some selfish way, it will be of little use to him,” Varda said. “Ilmarë will also travel in a mortal form, and that in itself will lessen any powers she has. Rušurayan will gain nothing if he convinces her to stay.”
Aulë winced at the mention of the name and lowered his head once more. After a few silent moments, he said, “I blame myself for his decision to leave. I should have listened to his ideas and appreciated his love to create, but I worried for him. His power was far greater than that of the other Maiar, as were his skills. I feared he would become proud and fall prey to the vain desire to create for himself instead of creating for the good of others.”
He paused and shook his head. “I thought to teach him obedience and humility, but those are not qualities which can be taught. Learned, yes, but not taught. That lesson we must each learn in our own way. In the end, the weight of my fear became too much for him. He fled, seeking freedom from the controls I placed upon him even though I meant them only for his own good.”
Varda patted his hand beneath hers reassuringly. Though Aulë had never spoken of it, all in Valinor knew he carried unnecessary guilt for this and many other things. She said, “Rušurayan made his own choice, Aulë; you are not to blame. He was already being led astray and listening to the temptations offered, else he would have seen the love in your actions. He abandoned all the love so generously given to him when he left Valinor.”
Aulë let out a heavy sigh, revealing the long years he had harbored his regrets. “Do you not fear for Ilmarë? Do you not fear you will lose her as I did Rušurayan?” His tongue stumbled over the name for it had been so many years since he last spoke it.
Varda’s eyes misted over and she remained silent for some time. Finally, she said, “I have watched Ilmarë suffer these many years, despite any measure I took to ease her pain. Though her grief consumes her she allows few of us to see it. She will never be free until he returns to Valinor or she knows beyond any doubt that he is beyond redemption. I do not fear for her if she goes, Aulë; I fear for her if she stays. Her life cannot continue like this. Perhaps she will find something in Middle-earth to soothe her unhappiness, for she has not found it here in Valinor.”
Aulë stared at the cauldron of Silindrin and thought of how it reminded him of Ilmarë in recent years, empty and dimmed. Now he wondered if Rušurayan fared the same wherever he was in those mortal lands: cold and empty…and suffering alone.
He stood suddenly and took Varda’s hand, helping her to stand. She looked up at Aulë questioningly as he smiled at her.
“Come, my Queen, I have the sudden desire to scale the height of Taniquetil. There are things I wish to discuss with my brother.”
His words earned a bright smile from Varda. In her happiness the dazzling light from her spirit lit the garden of Lórien. She quickly cloaked it, however, lest she be forced to listen to a reprimand from Irmo for disturbing his dim sanctuary.
“Then, by all means, allow me to accompany you,” she said, her bright smile never faltering as Aulë led her out of the gardens.
Rušurayan: Valarin – Basically means Ainur of fire. Sorry, not enough Valarin to get real creative with. Valarin was the original language of the Valar (I know - thank you, Captain Obvious).
All the descriptions of Lórien are based on info in Book of Lost Tales 1.
Kulullin - The cauldron that held the dews shed by the Golden Tree, Laurelin. It was tended by Urwen, an earlier name for Arien, the Maia who carried the sun (the last fruit Laurelin bore before it died).
Silindrin - The cauldron that held the dews shed by the Silver Tree, Telperion. This tree was tended by Silmo, later known as Isil, who carried the Moon, or the last flower of Telperion before it died.
Varda and Manwë are the king and queen of the Valar and their dwelling is on Taniquetil, the highest mountain in Valinor. Aulë is a Valar, a smith and craftsman and is in charge of the materials Arda is made of. Irmo and Estë are Valar also, and the Gardens of Lórien was their home where the beings in Valinor came for rest and healing.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.