The Council of Máhanaxar
|Petition to Manwë|
"Are we all here, yet?" muttered Manwë. Máhanaxar already had more people milling around it than he had seen since the War of Wrath, and he did not like it. He had passed Ingwë, Finarfin and Olwë in deep discussion behind a pillar some minutes earlier; they stopped talking as soon as they saw him, bowed and waited until he was out of earshot. He tried listening to them when they resumed, but their low voices were drowned by blasts which announced Oromë's arrival in Araman and echoed around the arena. He saw they had been joined by Galadriel, Elrond and other prominent Eldar and were whispering urgently to one another, smiling amiably and inclining politely to the Valar and Maiar. Damn Oromë; he really must confiscate Valaróma until he learned not to blow the thing in Aman. He spotted Olórin among the Elves and hoped he hadn't brought the Halflings with him. If he had to endure just one more of Bilbo's endless rhymes ...|
"Not yet." said Ilmarë, looking at her quite unnecessary list. "Ulmo will be absent, he regrets ..." "He regrets?" interrupted Manwë, visibly irritated. Ilmarë, the Council's Recorder, had trouble recalling when Ulmo had last attended a Council. "He asked Uinen to give you his apologies. She was passing Eressëa when she saw him." Ilmarë thought it unwise to add that Ulmo had surfaced without warning and nearly drowned the crews of Alqualondë's elite ships competing in the annual Round-The-Isle race and that it was lucky Ossë had arrived to help rescue them. She wondered why Olwë was here, instead of watching the contest. Come to that, why were any of the Noldor and Teleri at the Ring of Doom? Manwë had not summoned the Eldar, but nothing in Valinor was secret for long. Some of Ingwë's folk were always around, but that did not explain the others. Manwë had not even told her the reason for the Council.
Manwë beckoned Nessa. "Please meet your brother. And tell him I shall have Aulë bury that horn in the deepest cave in the Pelori if he blows it again in Aman." Nessa looked questioningly at Manwë; receiving no response she sped away. "Did I hear my name mentioned?" boomed Aulë. "I may have a small job for you. Meanwhile, where's Yavanna?" Aulë lowered his voice to something near normal. "Oh, probably with Vána," he suggested vaguely. At that moment Máhanaxar echoed with another horn-blast, but this time it faltered and died; evidently Nessa had found her brother, but Manwë's patience was wearing thin. "Eönwë!" he bellowed. Aulë and Ilmarë cringed. Manwë might not appreciate the sound of Valaróma, but when aroused was almost as deafening himself. He pointed to Oiolossë. "Get up there and summon everyone who isn't here. Now, please." Eönwë ran off eagerly; it sounded as if something was about to happen for once. He hadn't seen a good battle for Ages. With any luck Arda's Viceroy was about to start another War - he looked wrathful enough.
"You've ceased trying to hold a meeting without announcing it, then," observed a doom-laden voice. "The attempt was doomed." Námo had arrived, with his usual following - Vairë, Estë and Irmo. What a cheerful quartet, thought Manwë. But at least he could rely on them to take their duties seriously, and Námo was quite likely to bring the matter to a close by simply threatening to talk to the rebels; the Doom of Mandos was not something anyone risked lightly. "Quite possibly," he replied, as genially as he could manage, and strode off - Ilmarë trailing nervously in his wake - to see how many more of the Valar were missing. At times like this he felt like resigning, rejoining the Ainur and adding a strong disciplinary melody to any new music Eru was composing. He also felt guilt; it was his role to keep the Guardians working together and he didn't seem able merely to get them to attend a meeting. Maybe the rebels had a point.
He had not gone far when Melian stopped him with a low curtsy. "Greetings, Lord of Aman. Might I beg the favour of a word?" Manwë could think of several, but just nodded. "It concerns the perils of navigation about the coasts," she began, and Manwë noticed the group of bedraggled sailors behind her. "Ulmo?" "Yes, Lord. Ossë and Uinen have just saved these gallant mariners, but their boats are lost. Several have had their ships sunk before, under them or at anchor in the Swan-Haven. They humbly request that you remind the Lord of The Waters to take heed of your gracious promise of safety .." "Yes, yes. I take your point." He turned to the group and asked why Olwë was not representing them. A captain explained that Olwë was unaware of the latest incident, being "otherwise engaged", and had made appeals on their behalf before; they hoped a Maia might perhaps make a more effective plea. There was a note of exasperation in his voice. Ilmarë whispered that the Council of Máhanaxar had indeed already made three Declarations concerning the safety of shipping. "Does not Olwë always judge the Eressëa Trophy?" "Indeed, Lord. He said he had a most important matter to attend in Valimar this year." Manwë looked back at Melian, who returned his gaze with something like defiance. Things really were getting out of hand. Manwë was tempted to banish her to Avathar. And get Námo to put Ulmo in the Prison of Mandos until he was ready to obey Council Declarations. "I shall look into the matter," he promised the sailors and turned on his heel.
Muttering to himself, Manwë almost failed to see the Mariner he had hoped to find. He was sitting alone in the shadows on the edge of the gathering, apparently studying the stars. "Ah, Cirdan the Patient. I heard you had at last taken the Straight Way. May I ask why?" Manwë had little time for social niceties in the circumstances. Cirdan rose slowly, and Ilmarë was reminded of Olórin on his re-appearance; for Cirdan seemed old and care-worn, more as she imagined an elderly Man would look than one of the Eldar. He bowed respectfully, and searched Manwë's face, seeking the reason for the question, before replying. "Indeed, Lord, I have been patient. The call of the sea often tried that patience. Yet I am of the Umanyar, and beholden unto Ossë and Uinen for my skills and many safe voyages about the coasts of my homeland. And unto my faithful kinfolk of the Falas, and those of the Firstborn to whom I could render service, for such it seemed to me was my destined part. Then came the Lady of Lothlórien to take ship, and we spoke of many things. And she told me of the words of the Shepherd of Fangorn, that the world was changing, and so it is. My part is done. There are few havens wherefrom the Moriquendi may yet sail, and they shall become fewer and hidden from those who need them not. The lore of the Falathrim will endure, awhile. In the end it will be lost, and I cannot tell what may become of those who hear the gulls but are confined to wandering the shores in longing. My trust for them is in the Lords of the Seas who have ever befriended my kindred, O Manwë." Manwë looked long at Cirdan, and nodded. "Go now," he said gently. "We shall talk again ere long. Seek thou Estë, by the shores of Lorellin. Thy rest is well earned."
Anar had completed its daily voyage. On returning to the Council Ring Manwë found the throng had grown, the crowd enlarged by many of the lesser Host of The Valar. He had to thread his way through. An undignified entrance. Eönwë had returned, and Ulmo's throne alone was empty. It was also quite dark. Tempting as it was, he was not going to start a Council meeting with a part of the audience unable to see at all, and many unclearly. That would provide grounds for another complaint. "Where in Arda has Tilion got to now?" he asked his wife, enthroned beside him. "I've no idea." snapped Varda, conscious of the murmurings about the Web of Ungoliant spreading throughout the Ring. She had devoted more time to cajoling and threatening Tilion than she cared to think about. "I told Oromë to sort him out once and for all." "Oromë? What excuse does Tilion have this time?" demanded Manwë. Oromë, looking subdued and trying not to fiddle with Valaróma, shrugged his shoulders. "He's got a problem, and not one I can solve. Nienna and Estë can't, either. We might find someone else to pilot Isil?" Manwë pondered. "We'll discuss it. Meantime I declare this Council adjourned until Arien next arises." He nodded to Eönwë to complete the formalities. Eönwë glanced at Ilmarë, who gave a slight nod; it was not a good moment to point out that the Council of Máhanaxar was not yet formally in session, so technically could not be adjourned.
There was a collective groan, cut short by the sound of Námo clearing his throat; but he did not speak and the Eldar slowly headed for Valimar. Manwë did not move, and was left surrounded by Valar and major Maiar. He suggested they repair to Oiolossë for privacy. Námo waved a hand and the doors locked. Yavanna's slight gesture put a ring of silence round the Tower and all turned enquiringly to Manwë, who had regained his composure. "It seems we have a revolt on our hands," he said at last. Námo nodded knowingly. "Ah, but you may be surprised at the extent." Manwë drew forth a scroll and flicked it open. It hung, magnified, in the centre of the Great Hall, legible to all. There were several gasps. Tulkas laughed, then fell silent.
"I said we should never have let Galadriel escape the Doom of The Noldor." muttered Irmo. "Or allow the halflings into Aman." added Aulë. "Do they expect us to take them seriously with names like that?" "Maybe the Eldar are bored and think we'll tell them to do it, so they can wage a campaign themselves and make us look foolish?" suggested Vána. "They'd be the fools if they went hunting Valaraukar," observed Námo, sounding as if he hoped they would and thus doom themselves without his intervention, just for once. "As for bored," he continued, more gloomily. "I would readily see Valinor empty of the Eldar. They're starting to bore me. Each new Lay extols their valour more than the last. We barely get a mention nowadays." Námo was clearly close to dooming everyone.
"What's this about Melkor?" queried Estë. "The guard on the Walls is secure, but he keeps banging on The Door, demanding to be let in. His blows seem to be getting more effective, so I've put extra bolts and chains on it," explained Tulkas, looking at Aulë. Aulë nodded: "Should hold him out, along with the curses Námo has added." "So why guard it?" persisted Estë. "Remember the struggle we had to throw him out? Far from weakening him The Void seems to have increased his strength," moaned Námo, despondently. "I'll have a word with Ilúvatar about him." Manwë was less than pleased that the Eldar knew more than he did. He would have a word with Eärendil, too.
"There's another problem," added Námo darkly. "Fëanor and his sons are revolting. They're clamouring to be allowed out of the Halls to fulfil that doomed Oath. I've housed them in a Mansion by themselves, as they were unsettling everyone. Celebrimbor refused to join them - Fëanor is ever more angered against him, too." "But surely Maedhros knows the Oath cannot be fulfilled?" "He does," said Estë. "But Fëanor won't accept it, and he's stirred them up again. I fear for them, and the strife they might cause. Finwë and Miriel have well nigh disowned Fëanor."
There was a pause; nothing similar had happened in the Houses of The Awaiting before. Tulkas suddenly grinned. "Fëanor hates Morgoth Bauglir most, does he not? We could send them into The Void, too. With a little 'help', of course. The Fëanoreans might then hunt him through the empty spaces of the Void without hurt to Arda forever!" Even Námo chuckled, albeit somberly.
"Nay, we have not the power for so bold a resolution. But I shall suggest it to Eru. We had best hold our Council now, so as to answer The Petition without debate. However, as far as I know, Ulmo is the only Vala who still makes regular visits to Middle-earth." "We do," chorused Ossë and Uinen. "But what know you of missing Valaraukar, Tree Shepherds, and Orcs?" They were silent. "I'm sure we could hunt down the renegades," enthused Eönwë, Oromë and Nessa agreeing immediately. Aulë was not so sure. "No doubt you can find them. But how am I going to dig out renegade Balrogs without shifting entire mountains?"
Some while later, having decided to prise Avathar apart from Aman (to enable Aulë to practice unearthing Balrogs gently, and without mishap to everyone should he miscalculate) the Council moved on to other lesser Maiar. After a close debate, Nienna's will prevailed; despite his friendship with the petitioners, Olórin would join in The Great Cleansing. His experience of Middle-earth and recalcitrant Valaraukar was more recent than anyone's. He could also explain unavoidable occasional devastations to the Edain and Khazâd more credibly than most.
It was Manwë who raised the subject of Melian. She had made herself less than popular since her return from Doriath. Apart from refusing to apologise for taking a far longer holiday than agreed and declining to tend the gardens of Lórien, she had taken up residence in Alqualondë - citing her relationship with Olwë's brother - and begun to behave as Queen of The Teleri. Vána suggested she be banished to Aramar and used as a lure for Oromë's hounds (which certainly needed training before hunting anything fiercer than deer), a solution several found attractive. Eventually Irmo agreed with reluctance to take Melian back into Lórien. Manwë would bind her to this task, and Estë would re-educate her on the nature of her place in the scheme of things. The other Valier smirked.
The Entwives, however, were a mystery even to Yavanna. She and her sister agreed to command a great search, Yavanna in the West and North and Vána to the East and South of the Hither Lands. The Kelvar would be asked for news of the Wives and Radagast's help invoked - once he had been found. Uinen would scour rivers and fountains for whispers of their passing. The might of Oromë, Lord of the Forests, was needed for less peaceable hunting.
There remained the problem of Isil the Wayward. "I suggest," offered Aulë, "we leave Tilion to weave his love-lorn way as he will for the present. Except at its brightest Isil is of little use to the Atani and Khazâd. And there might be some advantage in keeping the Eldar in the dark awhile, so to speak." "No more than they deserve," rumbled Námo. Manwë allowed a flicker of mirth to lighten his grave face. "And besides, I have taken thought. The irregularities of Isil shall remain, as a sign that whatever the Valar may do is not a surety that all darkness and uncertainty are removed. That we cannot do. And it is not, I hold, the will of Eru that we should try."
Any levity vanished during discussion of Ulmo. Apart from not sinking any more Teleri, he was needed to plumb the deeps for errant spirits and any other undiscovered dangers. Manwë wished to assure both the Petitioners and Ilúvatar that the Valar were being thorough. "Besides, what's he up to that keeps him from Aman? Have not the Waters been long arranged?" he wondered aloud. Ossë and Uinen looked at one another. "He's very excited about several things," said Ossë. "He keeps saying how wonderful it will be once he's got The Great Currents to circulate. And he often mutters about 'vortexes' and 'temperature gradients', whatever they are." Ossë shrugged his shoulders. "He told me an East-West passage would make these Currents much more interesting." added Uinen. "I met Salmar in the Eastern Ocean. He was making some kind of tunneling device, I think ..."
"No!" thundered Aulë, seizing the Council Minutes Book from Ilmarë and scribbling calculations furiously. "Has he said anything about any Circles of Arda?" Ossë and Uinen nodded, surprised by his vehemence. "We must prevent him," urged Aulë, and the Hall was filled by Aulë's thought. Seas rushed over the low-lands of Middle-earth and withdrew, carrying Olvar and Kelvar with them, with far greater force than the mild tides which had existed since the creation. Rivers flooded and their waters poured into cracks and doomed the Halls of the Khazâd. Hills and mountains eroded and collapsed, causing great waves to engulf the havens, while fierce whirlpools sucked down ships and debris washed from the forests. Lands groaned and formed new shapes, and fires spewed forth from rents in the surfaces of the earth, forming glowing mountains while above clouds darker than anything Mordor had managed obscured Vása and Rána.
The Valar looked upon Aulë's vision, bemused. "Does he know what he's doing?" wondered Yavanna. "Ulmo is indeed the Lord of The Seas, but his vision for the Waters of Arda is limited by his love for them. It pays no heed to the strength and weakness of other forms." Manwë shook himself free of another vision - of himself explaining to Eru that the Valar had just destroyed Arda. Ossë and Uinen were enjoined to bring Ulmo & Salmar to Aulë with all haste, and swiftly departed.
The remaining Valar considered the Great Cleansing to come. Aran journeyed thrice above the Pelóri, but the ring of silence about Amon Uilas did not allow their deliberations to be disturbed by the growing clamour far below in the Ring of Doom. At length the Mansion of Manwë fell silent. Ilmarë sighed. She had not had to record this much for many an Age. As faithful Arien arose again, the Council's reply to The Petition of The Eldar was handed to Eönwë to announce. The locks and ring about Taniquetil were unloosed, and he descended with slow deliberation to Máhanaxar, where the gathering was much increased. As he did so, the Council of The Valar dispersed unseen to their various Mansions, Námo and Irmo to prepare a new house for the spirits of the twisted abominations bred by Melkor and his disciple. Alatar and Pallando would be appointed to help comfort them.
From afar Manwë heard the trumpet-call of his Herald, followed by distant quiet as he proclaimed the Response of The Valar. He even smiled gently when it was succeeded by Valaróma, which he had decided not to bury. It had its uses, even in Valinor. No demands for further action or questions could be raised while Oromë was trumpeting of hunting and wars and triumphs. One problem was on its way to being solved; he wished the others could be as well cured. Beneath him he felt the groanings of Aman, as Avathar was torn free by Aulë. That should quieten the Eldar, and the rumour of it might cause Ulmo to investigate and thus be found sooner.
Varda joined her husband in Lórien watching Vairë add to the Tale of All Things, and sensed disquiet. "I foresee a vexation," he murmured. "What will happen if Ilúvatar does grant the Fëanoreans power to contest Melkor and they succeed in abasing him? The Door will not then hold against them, and they will surely seek the Silmarils in all the heights and depths of Arda with such a turbulence as has never before been unleashed."
"That" Varda whispered, lest Vairë overhear and start weaving it into a tapestry, "may yet be a Tale for another Age."