Written for October 2011 Teitho Contest: Colours of Middle-earth.

Note: The author acknowledges that this story owes much to "The Visited Planet", a short story by J.B. Phillips.

The white, shining figure bowed as the lady entered the chamber. He was Olórin, the wisest among the Maiar, who was also known as Gandalf or Mithrandir in Middle-earth, where he dwelt for a while. "Hail Varda, Queen of the Stars."

"Olórin." The lady replied softly. She was Varda, one of the greatest of the Valar, whom the peoples of Middle-earth called Elbereth. An even brighter light emanated from her.

"You summoned me, lady. Is there aught I might do for you?"

"Follow me," answered Varda. "There is something I would like to show you."

And so they went up to the highest part of Ilmarin, and further up, ascending a path that only the Valar knew, until they came to a place where they could see the splendours and glories of the stars. Olórin could see Arien as she steered her vessel, which is called the Sun in Middle-earth. She smiled and bowed as she recognized Varda's presence.

There near the Sun was a small sphere: Arda that had been made round. From where Olórin stood, it looked like a blue ball, for it was covered mostly by the Sea. Dark and dull it appeared, as it stood side by side with the brilliant stars. But Varda regarded it with fondness and reverence, for there dwelt the Children of Iluvatar.

"My lady," said Olórin, "to what do I owe this honour? For this path was not known to me, and never before I came this close to your hallowed stars."

"One has the right to see the fruits of one's labours," said Varda. "Do you not wish to see what happened while you were not here?"

"To see what happened here while I was in Middle-earth?" Olórin was not sure he understood the Queen's meaning.

"To see what happened in Middle-earth while you were there."

"Pardon me, my lady, but have I not seen that? I was there and I saw."

"Ah," said Varda, "but you did not see as we here saw."

Olórin's eyes brightened as understanding dawned on him. "Show me what you will, my lady."

Varda raised her white arm gracefully, as a music master does when he conducts his lyrists and harpists. In one accord the stars dim their lights slightly, so that Middle-earth appeared more clearly to Olórin.

"I am showing you Middle-earth as it was in the later part of the Third Age, at the beginning of the rise of Sauron," Varda declared.

The small sphere was suddenly covered in a black mist. The Sun and Moon circled it few times, and the mist thickened with every circle. But there were spots of light on the earth, some small spots and some larger. These lights were different in colour and intensity. There was a bright, white light shining like a diamond. Close to it there was another bright spot, red like a glowing fire.

"Nenya," said Olórin.

Varda nodded. "And Narya. You bore your light well, Olórin. In many hearts you have kindled hope amidst the growing darkness."

They saw also a blue light, brighter than the two others. No doubt it was Vilya, sparkling like a great sapphire stone. But these three were not the only source of light. Somewhere between the blue and the white lights the land was covered in shimmering green. It was dimmer than the light that came from the Three Rings, but it covered a larger place. And it grew steadily brighter as the Sun and Moon repeated their course.

"Mirkwood," said Olórin. "Thranduil has kept it free from evil."

"Nay, not Mirkwood," said Varda," it was never Mirkwood to us. It has ever been Greenwood the Great. Their light never vanished though the darkness crept ever closer to them."

In another part of the sphere there was a gleam of white. There were also grey and brown lights scattered in several other parts.

"That part shining in white, is it Gondor?" asked Olórin.

"Gondor it is, under the protection of the faithful Stewards," said Varda. "And the other ones, grey as stones and brown as the earth, they emanate from the realm of the children of Aule."

Olórin smiled as he remembered fondly his friends the Dwarves. "Strong and faithful folks they are: never have they yielded to the Lord of the Rings."

Presently Varda raised her arm again, and it seemed to Olórin that the Sun and Moon sailed much more swiftly for many circles, before they resumed their usual pace.

"Now we are approaching the end of the Third Age," Varda said.

There was another great light very close to the glow of Vilya. This light was silver and it grew slowly but steadily brighter. Again Olórin smiled, as another fond memory came to him. "Aragorn," he whispered.

Varda nodded. "Aragorn son of Arathorn, Estel, the Hope of his people."

Even as they spoke the Sun and Moon circled few times and behold! Near the white and the silver light there was a small but very bright light, even brighter than Vilya or Estel. Shades of yellow and bright green shone there, and this light moved as if it was in a vigorous dance.

Olórin looked at this new light with wonder and amusement. "What is that, my lady? From the colour and the movement I would say it has something to do with the merry Hobbits of the Shire."

Varda smiled. "You guess correctly, for that is Bilbo Baggins finding the One Ring. The hobbit had kept it for long, but no dominion it ever had over him."

"I have a great opinion of Bilbo," said Olórin, "but never did I think his light shall surpass that of Vilya or Aragorn!"

"It is not his power that created the light," countered Varda. "That light is a sign to us that something great is happening. As for it being brighter than even Vilya, you yourself said rightly to Frodo: for the Power who decided that Bilbo should find the Ring and that Frodo should destroy it is far greater than the power of any ring makers." At these words the Queen of the Stars bowed her radiant head. "Blessed be the One," she chanted solemnly.

Olórin followed her gesture. "Blessed be the One", he repeated.

Now they saw the darkness deepened in Middle-earth. All the lights were almost invisible. The darkness surrounded them like a vulture holds its prey in its claws. After a while, Middle-earth was in utter darkness.

But the small, green-and-yellow light still glowed. Then in a sudden, it grew so bright and spread so large. It grew brighter and brighter, and finally it exploded and its sparks covered the whole sphere. As it exploded the black mist vanished. For a while Middle-earth was entirely enclosed in a terrible radiance. Olórin suddenly realized that all the stars tilted as this great event was recounted, as noble lords bow when acknowledging a king.

Olórin remained silent for a while. Finally he spoke softly, "Such small hands performed such great deeds."

"We stood still watching when Frodo and Samwise destroyed the One Ring," said Varda. "Such a great light we have never seen from Middle-earth, save when Melkor was overthrown."

The black mist and the radiant light were now gone, and so were the light of the Three Elven Rings. But in many places other lights in various shades and hues emerged, like flowers that sprout in springtime. Some flickered and died, but most of them glowed steadily. Bright light shone in Greenwood; a beautiful mixture of silver, white and blue shone in Gondor; and the grey and brown lights of the Dwarves grew stronger. There were still small black shadows scattered here and there, but the lights were stronger.

They stood there in silent for a while, the Queen of the Valar and the wise Maia, staring at the lands, seas, and peoples they both loved.

Then Varda raised her arm for the third time, and the stars resumed their splendour. Arda appeared again as the dull sphere that Olórin saw when they first came to this place.

He turned to Varda and bowed. "This is a mighty gift, my lady, one I am honoured to receive."