Galadriel’s question hung in the air. Now it was Melian who hesitated. “I think that I am not the one to tell you about Míriel, for I have exchanged but a few words with her and do not pretend to understand her choices. Of all the Eldar I have encountered, she is, I think, the most unknowable. Of course, I never met her son…”
Melian trailed off uncertainly. Indis was silent; her inner turmoil was clear to the others. Findis had moved to her mother’s side so that Indis was flanked by Melian on her left, and Findis on her right. Galadriel followed behind them, her brow furrowed in thought.
As the day was drawing to a close, the dappled light in the gardens had dimmed to a red-hued gold. The four did not quicken their steps as they moved along the path, even though the shadows grew as twilight descended. The path converged with one that led from the north; after they were a few paces beyond the junction a soothingly melodious voice called out from behind them, “Good evening, Melian!”
Melian, Indis, Findis and Galadriel all turned at the sound, as a tall, slim figure glided toward them on the path. Sometimes it seemed that Estë’s feet did not always touch the ground when she walked, and her grey robes seemed to be made of the very shadows from which she emerged.
“My lady!” Melian replied, as she joined the three elves in bowing to the Vala.
“Welcome to Lórien, Indis. Welcome, Findis. And my former student who has borne many names and is now called, most fittingly, Galadriel – you are very welcome here.”
“Thank you, Lady,” Findis and Galadriel replied in unison. Indis remained silent, still too overcome to trust her voice.
Without preamble, Estë turned to Indis, “Sadness weighs heavily upon you, Indis of the Vanyar and Noldor. Tell me what troubles you.” Findis and Melian stepped back as Estë laid her hand on Indis’s shoulder.
Indis melted into tears, crying harder than she ever had. Not even the news of Finwë’s death had unleashed such anguish as poured out of her now. Estë kept one hand on Indis’s shoulder, and drew her other arm around Indis’s waist, supporting her as she wept. No one spoke for several minutes.
Estë spoke in lulling tones to Indis, “I know now of your grief, dearest Indis, and I share it. I see your purpose and I approve. You do not need to travel all the way to Nienna’s distant halls to consult with her, for she is often to be found close by, communing with the fëar within the halls of Mandos.”
“That is so,” Melian said quietly, “and I shall go now to seek her there, and ask her if she will join us here in Lórien.”
“That would be most helpful, Melian,” Estë said gratefully. “You will find us at the Fountain.”
“Of course, my lady.” Melian bowed again, and moved back to the juncture of the two paths, this time taking the northerly branch.
“Come, my dear, can you walk a bit further?” Estë asked Indis gently.
“Yes, yes of course, Lady,” Indis responded hastily, wiping tears from her face. “I am quite well, and I apologize for my weakness.”
“No, you are not well, Indis, and there is no need to apologize. You are not here out of weakness, but even if you were, this is a place of healing, where none need be ashamed of their vulnerabilities. On the contrary, it would not be well to come here unwilling to expose your pain and grief, for that makes the task of healing much more difficult.”
Estë looked back over her shoulder and motioned to Findis and Galadriel. “Come, my dears. We are nearly at the Fountain of Lórien, where we will find its lord.”
Estë’s strong, graceful arm remained around Indis’s waist, as the Vala supported the elf for several paces, Findis and Galadriel following closely behind. The path curved to the left, and the group emerged stepped from its end onto open ground, thickly covered with springy moss. At the center of the space a beautiful fountain bubbled into a crystal-clear pool of water, which now reflected the light of the stars and moon above.
Movement from behind the fountain drew Findis and Galadriel’s eyes to the Lord of Lórien, cloaked in the same grey as his wife, but with bright white robes beneath the grey. “Good evening, my lady. I see that you have brought visitors with you this evening.”
“Yes, Husband,” Estë replied in tones that reminded Indis of the lullabies she used to croon softly to her children when they were infants. “I am accompanied by Indis of the Vanyar and Noldor, her daughter Findis, and her granddaughter, our pupil of old who is now called Galadriel.”
“Welcome.” Bathed in cool moonlight, Irmo’s face nevertheless glowed with a warmth more characteristic of the sun. “I am glad to see you all once more in my gardens. It is far too long since we have seen any of you here.”
“Thank you, my lord,” Galadriel replied, bowing.
Estë helped Indis to sit down on the mossy ground. Findis sat down next to her and pulled her mother’s head onto her own shoulder. Estë moved toward the fountain, and when she turned back to the elves, she held in her hand a simple silver chalice filled with water drawn from the fountain. She held it out to Findis, who took it and held it for Indis to drink from.
No one spoke for several minutes, and Indis found her composure returning. She kissed her daughter’s cheek, and looked up at the two Vala, who regarded her with solemn expressions.
“Thank you, Lord and Lady, for your kind welcome and your pity. I do not yet know how much of my grief is the result of my own actions, but it seems very likely to me that I am not blameless in the unhappiness that has befallen me, my husband, and his first wife, not to mention our children. And it grieves me greatly.”
Irmo spoke, “you refer to the sundering of the tie between Míriel Serdindë and Finwë of the Noldor, which allowed him to marry you.”
“But that tie could not be truly severed, Lord,” Indis answered. “And so the marriage could not have proceeded, had Míriel Serindë not agreed to remain within Námo’s halls for all time.”
“This was indeed a tragic choice,” Irmo agreed. “But why does it weigh so heavily on you now? It was made long ago.”
“Before his death Finwë informed me that the only reason Míriel had agreed to remain within Mandos for all time was because she knew that he wished to take me to wife,” Indis explained miserably. “That knowledge alienated me from my husband, for our marriage had imposed a high cost on Míriel, which I would not have accepted had I known at the time.”
Irmo said nothing in reply.
“And today I have learned that Míriel came to regret her decision, and that Finwë acknowledged his debt to her by surrendering his own life so that she could be allowed to return to hers. The grief I feel about these choices is more than I can bear. It is impossible! I cannot even say that, were it possible to undo the past that I would do so – because my love for my children and their children is far too great. I am well and truly trapped in this unhappy state, such that I almost envy my husband’s unhoused state. Until this moment I was never able to see how Míriel could have ever wished to leave life, but I think I begin to know how she might have felt.”
A new voice spoke from the edge of the fountain clearing. “Your healing has truly begun, Indis, when you are able to feel what another feels.” Nienna, tall and grave, walked toward the fountain. Melian was not with her.
“Lady Nienna.” Indis and Findis rose swiftly to their feet, as did Galadriel, who had been perched on the edge of the fountain pool. The three elves bowed low.
“My greetings to you, Indis. And to your daughter. And to you, Artanis. I see that you have grown in wisdom as well as in will, and that you used your gifts well in the East.”
“Thank you, Lady,” Galadriel replied, bowing again.
“Indis,” Nienna continued, “I have come at Melian’s request, and it is good that she summoned me to you. I listened as you revealed your woes to the Lord and Lady of Lórien, and I perceive within you a determination to set right what has been wrong for far, far too long.”
“That is so, Lady,” Indis replied. “But I fear that I am at a loss. My mind cannot seem to sort through the conflicting thoughts and irreconcilable feelings that struggle within me. I do not know how to proceed.”
“Will you walk with me, Indis?” Nienna asked in a voice that did not seem to pose a question.
“Gladly, Lady,” Indis stepped forward. When Findis moved to join them, Nienna held up her hand, “stay, if you will, Findis. I think that your mother and I should talk alone.”
“Yes, Lady,” Findis replied with a bow. Indis turned back to brush a kiss on her daughter’s cheek, and then walked to the edge of the clearing, where the hooded Vala awaited her.
They walked back along the path that Indis had followed to reach the fountain. Nienna was to Indis’s right, between her and the full, bright moon whose light peeped through the tree canopy. Nienna rarely came among the Eldar, and when she did her face was usually obscured by her hood, as it was that evening. In her entire life, Indis had encountered the mysterious Vala no more than four or five times, and would not have been able to give a detailed description of her appearance. “Sad,” “noble,” “enduring” came to mind … and, also, “hopeful.” As was the case whenever she found herself in the presence of one of the Valar, Indis was filled with a reverent awe as she walked beside Nienna. The enormous sadness that had washed over her with Melian’s words had not abated, but as she walked beside Nienna Indis gradually felt her inner turmoil subsiding. The pain remained as strong as ever, but it began to seem manageable.