A Herald’s Choices
Ring of Doom, Valmar City of the Valar, Aman
The messenger finally fell silent, but the quiet was filled with afterimages of the fey words Fëanor had spoken to the Noldor, stirring their blood and inciting their minds to madness. The black stain of Alqualondë trailed behind the Noldorin host like a prisoner’s iron ball leaving a grove in the dust. An unforgettable reminder of what had been done and could not be undone. Ten thousand corpses fallen upon beaches the Teleri had once boasted were the most beautiful in Arda, with the jewels of their one-time friends the Noldor decorating them like a high-born lady girdles her lily-white neck in stings of pearls.
The silence did not hold long, already Tulkas was stirring, his wrath awakened by the terrible crimes of the Noldor. And Aulë cried out in dismay at the deeds of those he’d once held dear, but would never again turn his face to though the Noldor who returned –bedraggled and heart-sick, clinging to the last son of Finwë to lead them from the darkness of their own fall—sought Aulë’s mercy like lost lambs bleating for their shepherd’s gentle hands. But Aulë would not be moved.
Yavanna was no help at all. She had lain herself down upon the mound of Ezalahar, clinging to the blackened trunk of Laurelin, letting her grief consume her, unchecked, as she mourned the loss of her Two Trees more than the tidings of the Teleri’s slaying. Námo was a silent stone, as usual, sitting as if apart from the dealings and cares of the world, yet listening to all attentively though he revealed neither grief nor anger at the tidings.
It was Uinen, the Lady of the Sea, who acted first. Though Manwë called her back even as she fled the gathering of Ainur, she did not head the call of the Lord of Arda. Only Ulmo could have stayed her in that moment, her sorrow blinding her to all else, but the Lord of Waters did not beach himself upon land often, and was not among the gathered Valar.
So Uinen went from them, the storm of her face as terrible to behold in that hour as her mate Ossë’s had ever been. Every one of the Ainur knew her purpose was vengeance, yet not one rose to stay her, even though they knew she went to reap Noldorin lives and that Ossë would join her.
Ossë, who had only been seduced back from Darkness by the gentle waters of Uinen’s council and a mighty love for Eru’s children who he watched pass from his realms in Endor with great grief and bitterness to come to Valinor and the Light. Ossë, who would not hesitate to punish the Noldor for taking Teleri lives, the Quendi Ossë loved best. For justice was a thing unknown to the Lord of Storms; he was ruled by chaos, and abhorred the ridged lines of logic and reasoning.
It was this lack of restraint, as if even Manwë himself condoned Uinen and Ossë’s wild retaliation against the Noldor, that snapped the last restraint holding Eönwë back from his own vengeance.
Eönwë had served his Lord Manwë faithful through the Ages. Obeying his every command, unquestioning and dutiful as was the rightful place of the Maiar to their Valar masters. He had stood by when Melkor was released from the Halls of Mandos after the three Ages of his chaining, even through his heart called for vengeance and he could not look upon Melkor’s false-humility without wanting to put his eyes out and tear that deceptively beautiful face from the Dark Valar’s bones.
Eönwë, along with Tulkas and Ulmo, had not believed in Melkor’s reformation. But Eönwë had been a good servant to his lord, and not opposed Manwë’s ruling. It was not the Maiar’s place to question the Valar’s wisdom.
But no longer would he sit idle while the Defiler roamed free. No longer could he serve Manwë when the lord he had once loved and trusted, had all his seeming wisdom and mercy thrown back in his face, and made to look a fool by Melkor. Eönwë could not relay upon the wisdom of Manwë’s choices any longer, and so he must make his own choices.
It was a strange thought, utterly alien to a being who had lived to serve from his very creation. And if these choices had not come to him in such a dark hour he might had found freedom a heady drink. But it was not true freedom, for he was still bound by duty even as he determined to forsake his oaths of loyalty to Manwë. He was bound by duty to the one he had once called beloved; the one he had been promised to, who had been ripped from him by violence.
It was said after by the Valar to the Firstborn, that they had undertaken their war against Melkor for the Firstborn’s sake. But that was a lie. No doubt the Siege of Utumno would have occurred eventually, and Melkor been overthrown, but the Valar would never have acted against their fallen brother unless at the uttermost end if it had not been for Melkor’s crime against one of their own. It was not because of Melkor’s debasement of the Quendi, the terror he birthed in their hearts, which moved the Valar to act against him, but because of his rape of Arien.
She had been a handmaiden of Varda, a Maia who had taken the form of the Firstborn with hair so red it rivaled a fire’s breath, and eyes of glowing amber, skin like the golden pelt of a lion. She had been Eönwë’s beloved, his betrothed, and Melkor had ruined her. The Dark One had come upon Arien, who danced like flames, and desired her; and as was ever his way, he had taken what he wanted.
Arien had not been able to hold the form of the Firstborn since, not able to abide the memories of the rape she had endured in that shape. The thought of union with Eönwë, who had chosen to clad himself in a male’s form, had sickened her. She had turned her face from him, giving him back cruel, hard words for his love. He had sought patience, though it had never been one of the gifts of character Eru bestowed, yet no amount of gentleness or compassion or steady love could sway Arien. She had renounced their betrothal, swearing never to take a male to lover, and cloistered herself in Estë’s gardens, refusing to leave even three Ages later.
It had not been Manwë who rose to vengeance against his brother Melkor after Arien’s defilement, but Eönwë. And beside him had stood Oromë who loved the Quendi best, and Tulkas who was ever ready for war, and Ossë too who wished to march upon his former master with violence. Finally, the other Valar had been moved to act, but even as Melkor knelt before Manwë’s throne, his body wrapped in the Angainor, it had not been enough for Eönwë. There was no forgiveness in his heart, and he could not think passed the desire to hurt Melkor as Melkor had hurt the one he loved. But Manwë had rebuked Eönwë then, saying he had allowed darkness to infect him. For a time Eönwë was shamed, seeing the sickness of his own heart in that moment.
But he was shamed no longer. Melkor had indeed proven himself again to be the lowliest of creatures, one without soul or conscious or mercy. He had murdered the Noldor High King Finwë, poisoned the minds of the Quendi against the Valar, and slain the Two Trees. Yet all these deeds were as nothing compared to the long denied, but never forgotten, thirst for vengeance within Eönwë.
He stood now, rising tall and fierce to walk to the Ring of Doom’s heart, drawing the eyes of the brooding and grieving Ainur. He thought Manwë must have had an inkling of what was in his heart, of the Lord of Arda wore a troubled look, shifting on his throne as if to rise, maybe to offer council, maybe to restrain him. But in the end Manwë did nothing, as ever.
“What council do you speak, Herald of Manwë?” Varda asked, thinking his thoughts were still attuned with his brotherin. But he was far beyond their feeble responses to Melkor’s crimes.
“Only this,” and Eönwë tore off the brooch holding his fine cloak about his shoulders. Next he ripped the insignia of Manwë from his breast, though it left a gaping hole in his tunic through which the muscles of his chest were bared. He cast these tokens down; the brooch, worked in the form of a majestic eagle, spinning to a stop on the marble slates before Manwë’s raised throne.
And into the silence he echoed the words of the Rebel, the son who had forsaken the bliss of Valinor for love of his father, driven already to terrible acts by the madness of his grief: “Vengeance calls me forth!” Eönwë recited, but changed the next to suit his purpose, “But even if it were it otherwise I would not dwell longer in the same land as those who forsook the sacred responsibility Eru Ilúvatar, our creator, set forth for us. We were charged with the protection of Arda, and the One’s own children. Yet over and again we have failed, sitting idling in grandeur as those beloved by our Lord have suffered. We have allowed Melkor the Defiler, the Enemy of Arda, to toy with us and slink like a serpent into the gardens of those hearts we were sworn to protect.”
He flung out his hand, his voice rising to a mighty pitch, so great that the rocks beneath the Ainur’s feet trembled, and the high snowy peaks of the Pelóri rumbled, and the ears of the Quendi yet lingering in Valinor rung with the echo of Eönwë’s voice. “If you let the Children go forth to battle the Darkness that was our duty, then be accursed and named fainthearted and oath-breakers. But as for me, I will not forsake those The One gave into our protection. Nor will I rest until the Black One has paid for his crimes with the flesh of his soul and the bitterness of his twisted heart.”
Eönwë departed then, leaving the Valar who sat as stones to be the perches of crows like the unmoving statues they were. Some had risen in anger at his words, but Eönwë doubted they would follow after him even to punish, less to head his words. It had been his pride that bade him speak, more than any hope that the Valar would be moved by the words of a Maia.
Eönwë would not let his once-kin’s choices taint his own. He went first to Aulë’s house, seeking the armories he had not entered in more than three Ages. From these he took his sword which he had not held since Melkor’s chaining. It was long, and still as sharp as diamonds. His armor he left, for it bore Manwë’s crest, an Order he had forsaken.
The Noldor might forge him new amour, he thought, as he turned north where rumor placed the newly exiled Noldor. It would not be as fine as the set he left behind; though Fëanor had grown so great in skill he might just rival his old teacher Aulë now. Either way, he counted the amour no great loss, nor anything he forsook in Aman for the path of vengeance.
Eönwë smile was sharp as a hunting wolf’s when he crested a fold in the land and found the great host of the Noldor spread out before him along the coast line. The banners of their dozen princes whipped in the wind, mounted to colorful tents’ summits. He could hear the clamor of their camp, the shrill crying of babes, the noise of beasts and deep shouts of ellon, but he could also feel the tension infecting them, laying like the weight of a collar about their necks. They had taken up the sword of vengeance, but had already stained it with blood, and that blood would follow them everywhere, as tightly wound about their shoulders as the Angainor had wounded about Melkor’s.
Still, Eönwë thought as he descended the hill and cut his way into the Noldor’s camp, he stood a better chance of achieving his vengeance if he joined his strength with the Quendi. Greatest of the Maia he might be, but he was not Valar, and could not cleave Melkor’s head from those powerful shoulders alone.
The news of his coming had started to spread even before the group of mounted, armed guards rode out to meet him. Eönwë was very tall, taller even then those ellon numbered among the Noldor’s loftiest. And the shine of the Ainur was upon him, so that he seemed to glow like a banked fire in the perpetual darkness of the land.
Eönwë was unconcerned by the fierce expressions on the elves’ faces as they demanded his business. All in good time. He had a newly-crowned king to meet. Uniting his strength with the Noldor seemed the wisest course, but Fëanor would be in for a rude awakening if he thought Eönwë would ever bend knee to another, or pledge himself to a new lord after so brief a taste of self-determination.
He let the elven guards lead him back to their king’s tent, going placidly. He observed the Noldor curiously as he walked through their encampment, noting the eyes watching him back in fear, defensiveness, anger, but sometimes with desperate hope, as if his coming signified their salvation.
Eönwë was given to vanity, a fact he could admit to, and he was not at all shy of affirming he was the Noldor’s only hope of defeating the Black One, but even he was not so egotistical as to think he could earn the Valar’s forgiveness for these kinslayers and rebels. They were Exiles now, and this journey had only a one-way passage. There would be no coming back. Not for them, and not for him. He felt no distress in the thought, and as the flap of the king’s tent pulled back and a pair of eyes burning like stars, burning like madness, met his own, he knew he was exactly where The One intended him to be.
This was meant to be a drabble, but turned into a one-shot. It’s really just a completely AU idea that’s been bouncing about in my head for a while. I could write an entirely novel with this idea, but I probably never will, yet couldn’t resist writing something.
Its rather rough, but as I should be getting back to writing my other stories, it’s getting posted as is.
Less known terms and characters:
Arien: A Maia who later become the Sun, sailing the skies in a vassal of Aulë’s making. Her eyes were said to be a light so intense the elves could not bear to look upon her, and she walked like a naked flame. In Morgoth’s Ring, Tolkien wrote that Morgoth wanted to take her to wife and ravished her (though it sounded like this occurred after she was given the task of becoming the sun, but for this AU I took this idea and made it earlier as I cannot see how Melkor, bound as he was to his one form after his return to Angband could have captured her in order to rape her).
Ossë: A Maia who served Melkor for a time before coming back to Ulmo. He loved the elves greatly and didn’t want them to leave Middle-earth for Valinor, as he was the guardian of the waters about Middle-earth’s shores.
Uinen: A Maia, Lady of the Sea, wife of Ossë
Angainor: Chain that Aulë forged and bound Melkor with after his capture.
Ainur: name for the race of Valar and Maia.
Quendi: First name for the elves.
A Herald’s Choices