5. Choices Made
Manwë strode throughout the lands in which the Valar dwelt seeking Olórin, but could not find him.
Olórin? asked Lorien. Nay, he has not entered my gardens for many cycles of the Moon. The last I heard of him he walked guised as an Elf on Tol Eressëa, seeking to ease night terrors among many of those most recently come to Aman from Endorë. Some there are on the island who survived the destruction of Eregion or whose homes were destroyed by attacks from Dol Guldur or Angmar. The fëar of many have suffered from the horrors committed upon themselves, their families, and their lands.
Eonwë was dispatched to the Lonely Isle in search of the elusive Maia, returning with word he'd not been seen by those of the Maiar who served there for quite some time. The Lord of the Valar considered this, then turned to the question of Aiwendil.
He arranged to meet with him, again in Eärendil's presence.
My mistress has asked me to accept this duty, the Maia said. For her sake and yours I will do so, but I will admit I am not eager to face Sauron himself, for I have nowhere the amount of power he has come to possess, and certainly nowhere the ruthlessness and viciousness of his nature. Nor am I likely to prove a particularly good guide to the dwellers in the Mortal Lands, save those Elves who would labor by me to heal the land.
All we can ask of you is what you are capable of giving, Manwë indicated. Are you at least willing to speak to the lords of Men, Elves, and Dwarves you encounter to encourage them?
Aiwendil bowed low. I will not purposely avoid them, Lord. He straightened and gave the Mariner some attention before turning back to Súlimo. It has been told me that I will be required to take upon myself a terrestrial shape….
Indeed. Does that disturb you?
No, Lord, for if I am to be able to speak with the Children of Ilúvatar that dwell within Endorë it will be easier to do so if I have a shape they will appreciate. Shall I take the form of an Elf, then?
Manwë shook his head. No, it was decided that those who take this mission will take the form of such a Man that mortals and firstborn of honor would be most likely to listen to with respect, but would accept the words spoken as counsel and not command.
The Maia considered this before responding, Then you would not have any of us appear a lord among Men, as such would command respect rather than be seen as having earned it. He indicated agreement. Very well, then,he said, and thought on the shape he would take….
The apparent Man took shape rather slowly, and showed great thought, as some details would change even as Vala and Star-crowned Peredhel watched. It was first a younger Man, apparently a farmer roughly dressed; then the Man aged, became ancient; then regressed a bit. Clothing was first well-wrought trousers and shirt in worn golds and browns under a greenish leather vest; then changed to the golds of autumn, then finally settled into browns. For a moment they saw an elderly Man with bare face in trousers and dark leathers; then as he considered himself the Maia shook his head and drew back. He sighed, and a beard grew, chest long, a rich brown that quickly became streaked with dull grey; the hair lengthened to reach the Man's shoulders. Again a pause for consideration, and the small shake to the head. Almost I have it….
Finally Aiwendil took a deep breath, and the clothing changed from the trousers of Men to a dark, rusty brown robe. "Let there be a touch of Elvish nature seen, but no more than in the garb," he said. He looked down and gave a nod of approval, then added a thick corded girdle and a series of belt pouches and short knife with a long leather cape over all before looking up to see the reaction of his audience. "Will this do, Lord?" he asked.
He appeared a Man caught between his late middle years and the years of his decline, competent and strong, but not threatening. Hair and beard were sufficiently streaked with grey to give the impression of age and much experience. The eyes had obviously seen a great deal, but held no memory of fear.
Eärendil smiled. Not so old does he appear as does Curumo, yet he still will draw respect from those who hear his words if honor has a place in their lives. One particularly to draw the attention of those who love the land and its fruits and creatures, I think.
Only one more thing needed,indicated Manwë, and he looked deeply into the eyes of Aiwendil, drew from him much of his memories of his life as a Maia of Aman, the greater part of his personal power, most of his experience, and a good deal of the wisdom he'd ever carried, and instilled it into the shape of a staff that the second Istar found he now held in his hand. As Aiwendil had formed the shape he would know somewhat slowly and methodically, so it was with the staff as it took shape almost languorously. At first it barely came to his chest, and then slowly extended until it reached the top of his head. It appeared a rod of finely polished ash serpentine carved along its length; only if one examined it closely could it be seen that the large knob at its top was carved in low relief with a depiction of one of Manwë's eagles with its wings spread flanked by depictions of the Two Trees, and that the serpentine bulge was rich with the likenesses of vines and leaves and barely seen flowers.
It suits him well, commented Eärendil, very well indeed.
The Istar examined it, then turned an accusing eye toward Lord Manwë. "So much of who and what I am must be held in this?"
So it must be if you are to be seen as a Man worthy of the respect of those of honor within Endórë, child. Would you change things now and withdraw yourself from this service?
"And go against the wishes of my Mistress and your will, Lord? No, I will see it through, although I fear it may take a time for me to accustom myself to the limitations of this shape. I may draw freely on what is held within the staff?"
Yes, although once your need for what is held is finished it will return to its place within the staff. However, what you learn from now on will reside within your memory for as long as you work to retain it.
Aiwendil considered the staff he held, then looked down once more on the shape he'd taken before he looked back to the Lord of Arda. "I will dwell in Endórë for how long?"
For as long after the fall of Sauron as you believe you need to linger there.
"I see." The new Istar took a deep breath. Finally he asked, "And how am I to travel to the Mortal Lands? My Mistress told me I should travel there with Curumo, but I learned recently that he sailed there already."
A skiff lies on Tol Eressëa that you may wish to sail upon, or….
Aiwendil did not appear to consider the choice between sailing on his own or on the Vingilot. "Whatever advice Lord Eärendil is willing to share with me I will rejoice to receive." And with a bow he accompanied the Peredhel.
Manwë looked on his herald. Has Olórin been found as yet?
No, Lord, we have not as yet located him. Vána tells me that he was with her a moon's cycle past, and that he came to her from Estë's company. He indicated he might go on to Nienna's groves next, but when I came to her she denied that she's known his attendance for quite some time. Yavanna says she saw him last in the company of Tulkas in the shape of an Elf, practicing the skills of sword and hammer; yet Tulkas tells us Olórin left his own train some time ago.
The Lord of the Valar thought on this as he went to his meeting with Alatar, who was being sent by Oromë. He paused as he realized that Alatar was not alone, was accompanied by another Maia. Pallando? And what do you intend?
Pallando bowed deeply alongside Alatar. Lord, I would go with my brother Alatar to the Mortal Lands. Neither of us feels competent to see to this work alone, but between the two of us we might yet find means to slow the full return of Sauron until the peoples of Middle Earth are at last willing and able to stand against him effectively on their own.
That will be acceptable. The three turned to greet the Mariner. Welcome, Lord Eärendil. We rejoice to again know your advice.
Alatar and Pallando listened to the requirements for their service and considered it closely. At last Alatar responded, Not perhaps the most enviable service, but I at least see the worth of it. As my Lord Oromë has asked of me I will perform.
And I will do likewise,his companion agreed.
Together they worked upon the shapes they would wear. At last they stood before Vala and Peredhel in the forms of elderly Men, one with a long beard of silver tinged with blue, the other with no hair on head or face, his face broad and somewhat flattened. Both had darker skin, and their dark eyes were slightly tilted. Both were clad in blue and silver, one in the dark blue of the evening sky and the other in the pale blue of earliest morning, faintly spangled with mist. Their staves were elaborate, of silvery hue. Pallando appeared distressed by having so much of his nature held from him within his staff; Alatar took a deep, shuddering breath, then bowed low.
The two chose to sail together from the Lonely Isle in the skiff provided them. They listened closely to the instruction given them by the Teleri and the folk of Eressëa, and spoke long along the way with Ossë and Uinen. When at last they came to Mithlond they were greeted with courtesy and respect, and were given horses at their request on which to travel south and east to enter the eastern lands most closely under the thumb of Sauron's minions—disappearing into the obscurity of the shadowed lands.
Manwë Súlimo walked out onto the great mound where once the Two Trees grew, looking up at the light of Anar. He looked across the grass and saw that opposite him stood his beloved Varda, known among most in the Mortal Lands as the Lady Elbereth. He smiled broadly at his consort and received her own smile in return, then noted the brief nod of her head indicating he should examine the Light that filled the space before him.
In the Light swirled the essence of a Maia, and Manwë smiled more broadly. It appeared that at last he'd found his prey. He laughed as he cast off his terrestrial shape and entered the Light as well, rejoicing in the gifts of Light and Breath given to all of Arda from the Creator Himself as he joined Olórin in the dance in the Light.
So, at last this is where I find you, my friend. Are you willing to take upon yourself a special service?
Then you do indeed intend to send me to Middle Earth?the Maia asked.
I would not ask it of you, Olórin, if I did not feel you were the best qualified for this service.
After a significant pause Olórin responded, When Sauron fell to Melkor's persuasion I was grieved. He was meant to be my brother as Melkor was meant to be yours, the peaceful Darkness to balance the Light you and I were created to bear. As you were torn to be required to fight against your equal, so it is with me. If I go to face him, one or the other of us must fall utterly; and if he prevails in the Mortal Lands I fear that in the end he will seek to conquer Aman as well.
I have avoided you, the Maia continued, that I might have time to prepare, and to think on the full implications of what you would ask of me. To appear to lose so much that I not overwhelm those I counsel is a great sacrifice to me, for never, no matter what shape I have taken upon myself, whether as a Man among the Edain or an Elf of Doriath, an Ent in the forests of the southern reaches of the Misty Mountains, an Eagle upheld by your winds over the wastes of the northern lands, a Perian from the valley of the Anduin or a Dwarf of the mountains—never have I given up my memories or my awareness of myself as a servant of yourself and Ilúvatar.
You will be able to bear yet that awareness, although your powers must be drawn and reside outside your form.
How has this been done with the rest?
I have seen to it the bulk of the memories, wisdom, and experience as a Maia are confined within a staff to be carried by the Istar.
Olórin considered. I see, Lord. Then I must consider what form it is I should take.
For a short time further he continued to dance in the Light and Breath, then reluctantly but with decision withdrew from it, giving his thanks as he took his form as a terrestrial Maia upon the grassy knoll. Fully the Light of Anar fell upon him, and the Breath blew about him as Olórin drew about himself a shape as a Man of Middle Earth. This was done rather slowly, but with no question as to what it was to be. First he formed the shape of a Man, naked, tall but not taller than one merely judged to be tall among Men. Once the shape was complete he molded the features and mottled the skin, stooped the shoulders slightly, gave himself silver hair hanging just below the shoulders and a long beard and mustaches, let the wind blow them into slightly wild tangles. His eyebrows, finely arched, were yet long and bristled; his nose straight but long for the face, his cheeks deeply lined, his eyes clear and farseeing with the awareness of much experience.
When at last the Man's shape was complete, the joints apparently those of an aged yet still hale Man, Olórin clad himself in dark trousers the color of charcoal, black boots fit to tramp the wilds, a light grey shirt, over that a long grey robe apparently made of rough grey homespun fastened at the neck with a bronze brooch in the shape of a sunburst; then, after examining himself, gave a smile and glanced up sideways at the Lord of Arda and made a gesture, and about his shoulders hung a long grey cloak of rough wool clasped with a silver brooch of the Moon flanked on each side by a great Star, and in his hands lay a scarf of fine silver yarn, warm and soft and with long tassels that he draped about his neck.
"Do you like it, Lord, Lady?" he asked. "Perhaps a piece of whimsy, but enough of a touch of elegance at odds with the rest to amuse those with whom I must treat, don't you agree?"
As Eärendil joined them, Manwë laughed. Oh, I agree, my friend—a most amusing touch, and sufficiently jarring to set the minds of those you meet with wondering.
The new Istar laughed, then grew more solemn. "Now, as to the staff you would have me bear." He closed his eyes and focused his thought. The staff formed in his right hand, an inverted length of wood as if taken directly from a young tree torn whole from the earth, its twisted roots at the top as if they formed the flames and smoke of a torch blown back by the wind. Into it he fed his memories, experience, and might as a Maia, holding to himself the awareness that he was of the Maiar given to the service of Arda, one who had served in his time each of the Valar and who'd traveled the length and breadth of the Undying Lands, one who'd laughed as he sat among the refugees from the Mortal Lands and helped to restore their hope and spirits.
And so may you serve, Olórin, amongst the peoples of Middle Earth. But know, friend, I would not deprive you of so much. A slight wave of his hand, and Manwë restored some of the memories and experience to the Maia, and the staff thickened somewhat in the Istar's hand.
Olórin stood still, exploring his shape and those memories he held within himself, then the staff he held and his access to what it contained. At last he looked up, turned his face from the Lord of the Valar to the Lady of the Stars and then the Peredhel who wore the Silmaril on his brow, then looked about at those among the Maiar and Valar and Eldar who'd come to watch the making of this Istar. Many faces and pairs of eyes he searched before at last he took a deep breath, held it, and breathed out, the Breath that filled the area rustling robes and hair, the Light falling fully upon him.
"I ask," he said humbly, "that all of you grant me your blessings on the mission upon which I am about to embark."
Manwë's eyes met those of his Lady, then those of their brothers and sisters who stood about the space, and all shared a smile. The Lord of Arda raised his hand, and all joined in the blessing. Olórin's form bowed low under the weight of the regard given him.
Know this, brother, the Star Kindler told him, that you will find ever at least a few amongst mortals and immortals there who will respond to your Light and whom you will count among your friends. Go well, and I will set my stars ever to shine upon your path.
The newly formed Istar accepted his dismissal, and bowing deeply was surprised somewhat as all present bowed in return, and he turned to walk from the square in the company of the Mariner to find his way to Middle Earth.
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