Disclaimer:The characters etc depicted here belong to J.R.R. Tolkien and his estate. I am making no money from this and intend no infringement of copyright.
Summary:Life in Aman before the arrival of the Elves. There was another Vala, of whom the histories do not speak … Bombadillo, the brother of Vaire.
Thanks to Nemis for betaing this ;)
Every family has its fraudster, its scoundrel, its lunatic: in other words, its black sheep. It would, of course, be nice to think that the most powerful and illustrious, the divine, could escape this familial curse. Alas, it would also be totally and utterly wrong. So, so very wrong...
"Námo is angry-ilo!
Angry li long lillo!
Terribly angry at poor old Bombadillo!
His face is purple and his eyes are red;
Silly Namo, silly, silly, silly-o!"
"Get out, get out, get out!" Námo howled, his voice rising in volume and fury with each syllable until it rattled the windows, not to mention the building itself. He would have looked rather more imposing if he had been wearing more than a crumpled bedsheet and a single sock. As it was, he was about as majestic as a Hershey bar. Even Vairë, clad in nothing at all and wielding an oversized porcelain vase with all the grace and finesse of a blind badger, was more frightening than him, more terrible.
The Valar had learnt some extremely … interesting uses for the newly invented beds from their discovery of the Eldar. They set about practising these with zealous concentration that made Nienna, with no partner, weep hard enough to create a new lake in Aman at least once a week. Moreover, they were too impressed with these acrobatics, for which their newly adopted bodies seemed ideally adapted, to be entirely … happy about interruptions. Alas, one of their number was oblivious to this. Totally. Completely. Utterly.
"Old Bom will not a-wandering go
For the night is cold and dark,
As dark as a horse's armpit-ilo!
The woods are chill, and the fire warm –
So very cosy for old Bombadillo!"
Námo curled his hitherto perfect fingers into vicious talons and attempted to knock himself unconscious with a volume entitled Space, Time and Death: Dos and Don'ts for the Enterprising Amateur. Alas for this noble and wily scheme, his brain was addled by the excruciating poetry, and he only succeeded in denting the bedstead when he thumped it vigorously by mistake.
His wife, being of a rather more practical and less fatalistic turn of mind, willed a dressing gown into existence. Being a semi-divinity older than the world itself did at least have the advantage that one would never be short of clothing. Firmly ensconcing herself in its fluffiness, she lunged for Bombadillo's ankle. A startled squawk, which may have been the beginnings of an impromptu ditty, escaped the miscreant Vala, but Vairë curbed his creative impulse with a judiciously applied sock. She then proceeded to drag him across the room by the aforesaid ankle, making not much effort to ensure that his head failed to collide with immovable objects, and, giggling in the manner beloved of evil geniuses everywhere, shoved him through the open window.
There are birds that soar and sweep on the thermals, high, high in the air. There are birds that flutter daintily from flower to flower. And then there are creatures less well suited to aerial transportation. Bombadillo's wretched bilious yellow boots scrabbled futilely against the smooth stone for half a heartbeat, his arms cartwheeling. Unable to get a purchase, he plummeted downwards, accompanied by the brief and utterly charmless Peony Song. A few of Manwë's eagles, caught downwind of that epic of musical monstrosity, decided to apply for early retirement and rather hefty bonus packages. There was a shriek, and then a damp squelch reminiscent of a sherry trifle being dropped on a cold tiled floor, or, in fact, a foolish immortal under the influence of gravity making contact with the extremely solid bedrock of the Blessed Realm.
"Rather inferior to your throw last week." Námo smirked at his wife fondly.
"And yet infinitely superior to your attempt to drown him a fortnight ago." The look that Vairë shot back exceeded a mere smirk by several hundred leagues and a donkey.
"It would not have failed if Ulmo had not thrown him back in disgust, along with a large quantity of half-rotted haddock and one bemused dolphin," he retorted, shuddering at the rather pungent memory. A shadow crossed his face and he balled his hands into fists, his eyes darkening. "Why? Why are we thus afflicted? Is it not enough that we must ever contend with Melkor for the souls of the Eruhini and the lordship of the world? And please do not even think of telling me that he is confined within my Halls, for if you knew some of the things that he doodles on the walls before scrabble and after charades… but, that we should strive to the ending of the world with Manwë's noxious brother, only to suffer the doubly noxious poetry and insufferable jolliness of your brother…" He trailed off and stared at the wall bitterly into it turned into a mongoose and crept away.
Vairë sat beside him, twirling a strand of the black hair he favoured round one finger, the others moving soothingly across the nape of his neck. "Surely you cannot be comparing Bombadillo to Melkor?"
"Oh no," he said bitterly. "At least Melkor, may Eru return his black soul to the void quickly and before the End of Days, is a talented conversationalist and an extraordinary poet, whereas even the olvar and kelvar cower whenever your brother is near. He is a menace, a horror, a brutal and blood-shod tyrant in the realm of words and beauty. He has no more sense of rhyme and rhythm in his mangy balrog-bitten brain than a flock of seagulls on pipeweed."
Vairë glared at him through her eyelashes. "I can neither refute nor deny any claim you can make, melmenya, yet things remain as they always have been, changeless before the face of the One: Bombadillo is my brother."
"And what a brother...! Who knows neither peace nor quiet nor the pleasure of a well-turned verse that does not contain the phrase ilo.... Aye, I know, I know..." He trailed off forlornly beneath her steely gaze - if one concentrated all the steel ever forged, it would not match even a fraction of even one of the myriad looks Vairë was capable of giving her husband from time to time. "Peace, my love; I know that he is my kinsman as well, will I or nill I." He turned to face her, reaching out to caress her shoulders through the thin fabric of her gown, and brushed his mind lightly against hers. "'Twas merely that my plans did not include throwing competitions with your brother as a prop... I would even be so bold as to suggest that the Weaver might find them rather more pleasurable..."
"Oh really?" She lifted one eyebrow and grinned wickedly. "Of course, in the name of investigation..."
She got no further; body to body and mind to mind they fell together and it was a long time before their thoughts returned to more mundane paths.
"Oh. Well, Bombadillo really should be dealt with, of course..." Vairë said in a lazy voice - really, the Children would have had a communal apoplexy if they had realised how lazy some of the Valar could sound at times. "But," she continued, tracing patterns on his skin, "only on one proviso."
"And that would be?" Námo asked, sounding, if possible, even lazier than she did. He had a very silly smile plastered across his nobly handsome face, an expression favoured by dozing cats everywhere.
"That we do not cease this experimentation."
"Done," he whispered in her ear.
It took very little persuasion to summon a general meeting of the Powers. The only slight hitch was telling Melkor that, no, he could not attend. The Evil One complained bitterly that he had as much right as any of the others, as he had received singing cards from Bombadillo, but they were resolute. Mind you, amid the babble of fourteen different divine voices striving with each other for dominance, it would not have mattered if one of them was actually evil.
"Be not so Erudamned stupid. We…"
"…cannot do that, or it will destroy the submarine ecosystem…"
"Is anyone listening to me? I SAID, is anyone listening to me…"
"I do not suppose that it matters to any of you that I am supposed to be in charge here?"
"No, dear, it really does not."
At this point, Manwë decided that he had had enough, and that his headache would surely split his skull in two if he did not take swift action. Rising quietly, he punched Oromë delicately in the kidneys, and, before the other Vala could recover, snatched the Valaroma.
Everyone froze in their places as the single note roared out. It was harsh and strident, and probably burst eardrums in the Andromeda galaxy.
"Was that really necessary?" Yavanna grumbled, cautiously lifting her hands away from her ears after a long pause.
"Yes. Now, let us consider the options: Varda could transmogrify him into a constellation."
"It would not work." The Lady of the Stars calmly buffed her fingernails against the edge of the table, sending off a shower of sparks. "Have you ever heard of the music of the spheres, Manwë dearest? You really should have, you know, as it is a part of the Music. Can you imagine what will happen to it if you add Bombadillo to the equation? Or what the effect on the mentality of the Children would be if they looked for hope to the evening sky and beheld a constellation that looked like him?"
"Ah yes." Manwë looked abashed.
"We should chase through the forests and beside the rivers, over the tallest mountains and into the deepest of the carved valleys!" Oromë proclaimed, enthusiastically seconded by Tulkas.
"And then?" Námo asked sarcastically. Vairë placed her hand over his own to steady him.
"Then we chase him over a cliff and he goes splat at the bottom." Oromë was not the most sophisticated of sentient beings, let alone of the Valar. Námo sunk his head into his hands in despair.
"Do not be ridiculous," Varda snapped. "You know that He is at least as soppy as Vána and Yavanna about all living things. Unless you would like to spend the rest of eternity as the guiding light for a planet full of sentient shrimp, do not again mention such things."
Both Valar looked chastened, and began surreptitiously to pass a skin of mead from hand to hand.
"Ah!" Aulë sat bolt upright, nearly crushing his wife with the hammer he had forgotten to put down when he was summoned to the meeting. She bared her teeth at him in a way that suggested that he would find his forge suddenly and unexpectedly obstructed by a sturdy oak tree. "We have the answer right here. Estë! Irmo! You are healers, so if it pleases you, heal our poor, suffering brother." His pious pity was not really convincing as he had drawn a vicious piece of metal, a failed experiment, from his pocket, and was twirling it between his fingers in a pointed way.
Estë shrank back. "No. No, no, no. 'Tis not at all in our jurisdiction, for it comes to me that he does not suffer, nor does he imagine this an ailment; 'tis only we who suffer. Thus, I cannot help."
Thunder cracked the sky, terrible bolts of lightning speared the ground as the Valar became more and more agitated. Far to the east, the Eldar on the Great Journey lost not an insignificant number of stragglers to falling trees, and Finwë received a blow to the head that many later claimed was the root cause of an awful lot of problems.
Irmo raised his hand tentatively. "Umm … Manwë? I suppose I could … I mean, I might be able to solve this with a dream-vision. It is theoretically possible – not every dream cures an actual sickness whether of body or mind – I mean, they can just implant a … a suggestion." He looked as if he had not the slightest intention of doing so, but Námo was already nodding eagerly, a newly materialised sword in his hand.
"Forward! For Sanity, Aman and Poetry!"
Irmo complained bitterly that his self-appointed task involved following Bombadillo around without a single break, waiting for the Vala to fall asleep. The others agreed that this was a most unenviable situation, and hurried away, whistling jauntily. Even Estë only contributed a pair of earmuffs and a smug grin.
At last, sometime afterwards, when Laurelin was at its peak, golden light flooding the land, the chorus of A Fair Way and a Far Way came to an abrupt halt. Irmo had decided that enough really was enough, and, with a single tap on the shoulder, had sent his comrade into a state of drowsy slumber. Tired, his head ringing from the senseless lyrics, he took a well-judged kick at Bombadillo's yellow boots and began to weave his way skilfully into the other's mind, silver threads of thought half-visible in the bright air.
A minute later, there was a horrified scream, hoarse and dreadful like some hunted beast, and Irmo sprinted across the countryside, tearing desperately at his clothing, flinging his earmuffs at a passing sparrow. With a great leap, he hurled himself into a fast-flowing river. Of course, he could not drown, but he rather hoped that Eru Ilúvatar would make an exception for him. It was not to be: Tulkas plunged one brawny arm into the current and lifted him out by the scruff of the neck – or, more accurately, by a handful of dripping silver hair. He sat on the riverbank, convulsed by tremors, gibbering to himself until Námo tilted his chin up and stared him angrily in the eyes, at which point he remembered that there were things even worse than bad poetry.
"No!" He pre-empted any suggestion that he should make another attempt. "I will not go back in there. You cannot conceive… 'Tis a cesspool, a cesspool of colours and half-formed rhymes for 'Bombadillo'…"
The Valar may have been strong-willed to the point of obstinacy, but they were not, on the whole, cruel. They dropped the idea, and, settling on the grass, tried once again to find a solution to the problem.
"This quest we have set ourselves is useless," Námo said at last. "So it was ordained in the beginning that Bombadillo would ever be our fate, and so it shall be, until the world is broken and remade."
"Worry not." Nessa tossed her marigold curls back over one shoulder.
"Oh? And why should I not, pray tell? Perhaps you will bounce Bombadillo into reason, or Vána can make daisies grow in his mouth, or…" He winced; Vairë had pinched him extremely hard, and silently reminded him in no uncertain terms, quite how much experimentation he would be getting if he did not desist.
"Vairë could imprison him in the tapestries," Manwë suggested in a tone that implied that he had already scraped the bottom of the barrel and was now chiselling away at the wood.
She glared at him caustically. "You are not always the brightest bean in the box, are you, Manwë dear?"
He huffed, but said nothing.
"Only if you really want an entire massif to fall on you as it tries to run away from his singing," Aulë sighed. "What about you, Nienna?"
"She could always weep all over him until he dissolves," Ulmo muttered.
Nienna began to cry even harder, until she was sitting in a small but completely functional swamp.
"Of course!" Námo yelled, seizing Vairë and kissing her. "'Tis obvious now."
"Speak for yourself, brother," Irmo groused. "The only thing that is clear to me now is that I really hate orange."
"Tulkas and Oromë's plan has some not inconsiderable virtue."
"Oh?" They both seemed startled by this revelation. "But you said something about Eru…"
"Oh, you must not kill him. No, but we will simply chase him off into Middle-earth."
"And what is to stop him simply coming back in the belief that he should give us another poetry recital or else we will waste away?"
Vairë's eyes brightened. "Well, this is what we do: we tie him up in a sack, and then between arts of the mind and of the hand, we disorientate him. And then we leave him in some particularly sturdy area of the Hither Lands…"
And so it was that, before Telperion had waxed, the Valar ambushed their tuneless brother by the simple ploy of all jumping on him at once, and tied him up in a sack which had originally contained cabbages. He was baffled and befuddled, and then swung round and round … and round again. Then all the Valar and Maiar joined together in radiant chorus as they escorted the reeling sack across the ocean, across the broad lands of Beleriand, and deep into the primeval woods of Ossiriand, where they left him by a willow sapling on the banks of a bubbling river.
And then they set about expunging him from the history books in preparation for the arrival of the Elves.