The Continuing Leaf
Author Note: Happy Birthday Soledad!
Ingwë carefully treaded down the silent hallway. Since the sun had not yet risen, most of Taniquetil was still asleep. Even his own wife had protested when he had left their bed early this morning. But today was a special day, and Ingwë needed the silence of the early morning to think.
Generally the halls of Taniquetil always brought forth his appreciation and amazement at the work the Vanyar and the Valar had created together. Before his people had come to live here, Manwë and Varda had lived very simply in what basically could have been called a shack at the top of the mountain. But upon the arrival of the Vanyar, the craftsmen and artists had created halls of immense beauty. As the Vanyar generally did not dig deep into the mountains, the halls and buildings rested on the slopes. Taniquetil was very tall, yes, but one side of it sloped more gently than the others, so it was an ideal location for the city.
The halls of Taniquetil were wide and spacious, and although Taniquetil was a mountain, it did not seem so, for sunlight and moonlight filtered in through the large windows of glass. This was the home of the Vanyar, as well as Manwë and Varda. None of them would suffer to live without their beloved light.
However, the definition of beloved light had changed over five hundred years ago, when Ungoliant had poisoned the Two Trees. Of all the Eldar, the Vanyar had suffered the most from this, for it had been because of the Two Trees that the Vanyar had left Middle Earth and had later left Tirion.
Ingwë shook those sad thoughts from his mind. Today was a day of joy, for one of his most favorite people was returning from the Halls of Mandos.
Waiting for Ingwë in the throne room was none other than Varda Elentari herself. She too was fond of Glorfindel, and it pleased her that he had chosen to leave the confines of the Halls of Mandos.
Many did not.
The lady of the stars was tall in physical form. Black of hair, she had chosen to have her eyes be colored the Minil-blue of the Vanyar – before, her eyes had been brown, but upon meeting Ingwë so many years ago, Varda had loved everything about him, and later, his people.
To the Ainur, the Quendi represented all that was hallowed in life. The Ainur were not exactly considered living since they never died, and their spirits could never fade, and so as a race, they could not change over time. But the Quendi could, and they were effected by the changes in the earth around them.
Varda looked up from her bench to see Ingwë walk in. In her opinion, he was the most beautiful in his race. Tall and golden, he was perhaps the most loyal of all the Eldar.
Just as she and her husband were loyal to him.
"Greetings, Elentari." Ingwë inclined his head respectfully. They were the only two people in the vast room.
"How goes it with you, High King?" Varda stood and took Ingwë's proffered arm.
A tiny smile crossed the handsome face. "I was hard-pressed to leave my bed this morning. My wife is still too tempting for me."
She chuckled. The beautiful high queen was known for her voracious appetite…in everything. "Soon, Friend, soon. But now Mandos awaits us." Quickly they prepared horses, and within moments, both of them were off west. Varda knew that by nature, Mandos was a patient person. Not everyone could live with disembodied spirits and still retain their sanity. Yet today she knew that the stirrings of impatience would well within him, something that had not happened since…since Manwë had forgiven Melkor so many years ago. Mandos had warned against it – he always seemed to be warning against things – but this time, he had warned the Wind Lord with desperation. But Manwë would not be Manwë if he had not forgiven Melkor.
Morgoth, she corrected herself.
Her musings were interrupted when they reached his Halls, where the dark-haired Vala was awaiting them. "Greetings to you, my friends. Just on time, I see," he said gravely.
After the formalities had been exchanged, for formalities were as much a part of life in Valinor as Yavanna's annoying birds, Mandos led them into his halls. They were constructed of stone, and most of it was inaccessible to all but Nienna and he. But now he was taking Ingwë and Varda to the one place where the living could go – his office.
"I had no idea that you had paperwork," quipped Varda. "To be honest, I would think that the dead generated no paperwork at all."
Ingwë smirked but kept silent. Mandos, giving the high king his best glare, only said, "I prefer to think of it as documentation. "
"Since when do spirits need documentation?"
Mandos sniffed. "Bureaucracy is the price that is paid for impartiality."
Varda cast both of them amused looks. "I think that we are keeping him waiting."
Mandos nodded. "Give me one moment." He left, and a moment later, he entered again, this time with a golden-haired man at his side. In appearance, he was similar to Ingwë. Golden-haired and blue-eyed, Glorfindel had been considered stunning in both Vanyarin and Noldorin circles. While his coloring was as golden as his father's kindred, his face was more sharply defined – something inherited from his mother, a lady of the Noldor. He was tall as well, and his stronger build allowed him to blend in easily with his father's people
Glorfindel looked the same as he did when he left with Fingolfin's host over five hundred years ago. But beyond his beautiful appearance, a strange uncertainly lurked in those eyes, a hesitancy to his steps. Even his bow was not as smooth as it used to be. "My Lady of the Stars, King Ingwë." He looked up then, but his gaze lingered on the king.
Varda kissed Glorfindel gently. "How good it is to see you, my dear friend!" She led him to a seat. "I speak honestly when I say that all of us are glad to see you again." She leaned closer to him. "Your family will be overjoyed."
"My family?" he whispered. If at all possible, even more uncertainty appeared in his eyes. "My sister?"
"Ar-Kaliel will wait, if you so wish," interjected Mandos gently. It was well known that Glorfindel's elder sister, the tall Ar-Kaliel, had fought with her brother bitterly when he had chosen to follow the Noldor to Middle Earth. Mandos turned to regard the high king standing a bit away from them. "However, King Ingwë cannot."
Ingwë stepped closer and gave Glorfindel a reassuring smile. "If I may have a moment with him?" Varda nodded and followed Mandos out of the room.
After they had left, Glorfindel found himself feeling rather wary. It was the safest emotion, for he was not yet prepared for the other emotions that accompanied re-embodiment. Ingwë must have sensed his unease, for he nodded in understanding and took a seat away from him. The two men sat in silence for a while, as they both gathered their thoughts. Finally, "My King," said Glorfindel formally.
"Ah, but I was never your king, Glorfindel." Ingwë smiled gently again. "You chose Finwë long ago." Glorfindel nodded in understanding, and his thoughts went inward again. He remembered the stunned astonishment of his family when he had chosen to serve Finwë and his family. Glorfindel's own father had awoken soon after Ingwë and was one of his closest advisors. Glorfindel's mother, while a lady of the Noldor, chose to accept her husband's king and culture. And there had been Ar-Kaliel, Ingwë's most devoted vassal. He had not made that decision easily, but he had not been able to deny the fact that his heart had hammered with the same passion that his Noldorin kin had been afflicted with.
Ingwë had accepted his decision as gracefully as he did with everything else, but Glorfindel had seen the hurt and sadness in the high king's gaze. Even when Glorfindel had announced that he would travel to Middle Earth, Ingwë had not even tried to dissuade him. Instead, the king had looked at him with his piercingly direct gaze, and all the ancient wisdom and power had struck the helpless Glorfindel at once. He had been awed then, but he had also been confused. Ingwë had tried to tell him something, and Glorfindel had not understood.
Was this why Ingwë was here? To finish that unspoken conversation so many years ago?
The king spoke. "How are you, Glorfindel?"
A seemingly simple question, yet it struck chords on so many levels. "My new body is," and here Glorfindel hesitated, "different from my old one."
"Different?" Ingwë raised his brows. "I had thought that you were restored to your original form."
"I was." nodded Glorfindel, "To the body I had when I had reached my maturity."
Ingwë nodded again. "Ah, that body. The body you had before you became a warrior, before it was riddled with scars and hurts, and before it suffered things that should never have been suffered by any living creature."
The fire snaked around him and burned him. The heat was more painful than anything else he had ever endured, so hot that his very skin melted off his body.
Glorfindel shuddered reflexively but kept his expression placid. "All the training I have ever undergone, all the endurance my body has learned – it is all forgotten."
"Yes, it is. Your new body and your mind must adjust before you can go back to your old condition." Ingwë reached over and placed his hand over Glorfindel's and firmly kept it there.
The sensations flooded his new body, and Glorfindel fought to keep himself under control. "Forgive me, King Ingwë. It has been many years since I have felt the touch of flesh." Ingwë patted his hand in understanding, for the Valar were not exactly made of flesh but more of the substance of Arda.
The king removed his hand, but Glorfindel grabbed on to it, for he was reluctant to part with the comfort that the hand had offered. "I thought that we could speak for a while," said Ingwë as he grasped Glorfindel's hand again.
Tucking a loose strand of golden hair behind his ear, Glorfindel moved closer.
"I see that you are doing quite well." Ingwë perched right next to him.
"Mandos is very thorough."
Ingwë chuckled. "I imagine it to be so." The high king fell silent for a while, and then, "I must ask you this, Glorfindel. What are you going to do now?"
Glorfindel had been dreading this question for a long time. "I do not know," he finally admitted. "I had always imagined myself with – them." There was no need to say whom Glorfindel referred to. "I did not think that it would end so quickly." The lives of his friends had extinguished, one after another. Kingdoms had risen and fallen, kings had come and gone. It had all be so fast.
"It has been very fast," Ingwë said, undoubtedly catching Glorfindel's thoughts. "And yet, for some, I do not think it has been fast enough."
"My lord?" came the query.
The king looked off into the distance. "This war will be over soon – and I shall tell you how in a moment – but the end of the war signals many things." Ingwë traced the designs on his tunic. "Many of the Noldor in the Halls of Mandos will face judgment, and some will undoubtedly return back to life. But the Teleri are still recovering from their own wounds. I do not know if they are ready to face all of you. And then there are the faithful Noldor. Think you that they are ready to accept you back?"
Glorfindel closed his eyes. "Then why am I here now?"
"Your situation is unique. You are neither a Kinslayer nor an innocent. You did disobey the Valar, and yet, your sacrifice to save Turgon's grandson has redeemed you."
"I had not thought of it in those terms."
Ingwë's eyes twinkled. "Of course not. But nevertheless, the outcome is the same. And as I have already said, you situation is unique."
"When you were disembodied, Mandos offered you the option of making that choice again – as to whether you would go back to Middle Earth or not."
Glorfindel nodded. "I said no."
Kindness shaped Ingwë's face. "From our earliest days, we Vanyar have believed that lives are immeasurable. A life is like a leaf on a river. It follows the flow of the river, and it changes with the current. As it goes along, it comes into contact with other lives and impacts them, and it will change and form new ones. And when the leaf finally dies, the life continues on, for it still grows in the memories of the other lives it has touched, until that life is re-embodied again." Ingwë patted Glorfindel's knee. "That is what should have been the case with you."
The king took Glorfindel's other hand. "But you are still tied to Middle Earth. When you sacrificed your life for those others, you left a part of yourself with them. And without that one part of you – the love that you bore for Turgon and his family – you cannot rejoin the others in Aman."
"What are you saying?" whispered Glorfindel.
"Glorfindel, you must return."
"No." It was said quietly yet firmly. "I will not go back there. It is not allowed. I have died there."
Ingwë sighed. "I do not want you to go back there either. But I can no more control it than you."
Desperation crossed his face. "The memories of what happened…no, I cannot."
"Turgon's line is indebted to you. It is their honor and their right that they repay it."
"My life does not need protecting," snapped Glorfindel.
Ingwë smiled. "No, it does not. But the debt I speak of is not restricted to that. I have foresight in some things, Glorfindel, and I know that they will provide for you the healing that you cannot receive here. Can you deny the fact that your loyalty to Turgon still burns within you? Blinding you to all else, even though Mandos is helping you cleanse your spirit?"
"No." They sat in silence for a while, and then: "You said the war would be over. How?"
"In a few years, Eonwë will lead us into war against Morgoth. The Vanyar will be going, as well as the faithful Noldor." Ingwë gripped the hands more tightly. "Understand this. Even if Morgoth is defeated, there is still Sauron and his other followers that must be dealt with. This war will be over, but there will be many more to come."
Glorfindel released the king's hands. "And you wish for me to go back there?"
The king's eyes gentled. "Yes. You are different now. Your powers are beyond that of a normal Elf. In fact, you are closer to the Maiar now. They need you."
"Are you sending me away because I might give you competition?" asked Glorfindel as he desperately searched for humor.
"You are more beautiful," admitted the king with a smile.
Glorfindel laughed weekly. "My body is still tender. I need to train again."
"I trained you before, did I not? And I did a very good job of it." Ingwë gave his pupil a proud look. "I am sure we can accomplish that again. You will be even better."
But uncertainly still crossed the warrior's face. "I do not know if I am ready to bear weapons again. Or to go near fire. And my memories…I cannot control them."
Ingwë pulled Glorfindel up. "In time, young one. In time." The king placed his hands on Glorfindel's shoulder. "But now your family awaits you."
- This is set before the War of Wrath, in between FA 530 – 570.
- Concerning the Valar: Since they are really spirits who can assume mortal form, it seems to me that they can choose what they look like. That's why Varda gets to change her eye color.
- Eonwë = Herald of Manwë.
- Like all my stories, this is all purely speculation on my part:)
- So there is this button on the bottom of my page, and it helps you review. I think you need to click it.