Indis rested under the shade of a broad-leafed tree as the afternoon sunlight started to wane. Galadriel and Findis had set out to wander along some of the adjacent areas of the garden, leaving her alone with her thoughts.
As the sun’s descent tinted the sky with hues of gold and pink, her daughter and granddaughter returned to the fountain clearing. Indis rose to meet them.
“I have been turning over in my mind all day how best to convey what I have learned about myself, for I can take no joy in what I have discovered. Yet, I recognize the truth in it, and know that it should not remain hidden. Galadriel, I took heart in hearing your account of what led you to seek your destiny in the East, and how you have learned to recognize past mistakes and weaknesses as an inevitable part of gaining wisdom. The Eldar might not be as subject to the changes brought by time as are the mortal races, but that does not mean that we should strive to remain unchanging … including in our knowledge of ourselves.”
Indis drew a deep breath, “And that brings me to what I have finally come to see, with the Lady Nienna’s help. … I am not as blameless in the circumstances that led to my marriage to Finwë as I had long led myself, and others, to believe.”
Findis and Galadriel observed her solemnly, without comment. Indis wandered over to the fountain’s pool, and they followed her.
Indis continued, “it was not fate which led to my encounter with Finwë when he was mourning Míriel, it was me. My heart led my feet to wander where he was likely to pass. At the time, I had no thought other than to be with Finwë, but if I had been honest with myself about why I wished to interact with him – because I had long loved him and wished to have his love in return – my good sense might have prevailed, and I would have not pursued him.”
Indis sighed, her eyes trained on the water below. “I cannot in truth say that I would undo what I did, because I love my family too much to regret marrying Finwë and bearing his children. But I must acknowledge that the joy I have taken in my family came at a cost to others – including, ultimately, my own children. My actions were heedless and selfish, and if I was not directly aware of what I was doing when I put myself in Finwë’s path, that was only because I did not wish to admit it to myself.”
The three elves stared down into the water, which reflected their faces, the glowing sky above, and the branches of the trees surrounding the clearing. After some moments Galadriel met her grandmother’s eyes in their reflections on the water’s surface. She asked quietly, “Did you hope to wed him even then, Grandmother? Did you foresee what would happen?”
Indis held Galadriel’s gaze in the water. “No, no I did not. At least not in any way that I was aware of. For one thing, what happened was, at the time, unthinkable. But also, I had been suppressing my love for Finwë for a long time, I had learned to live with the dull ache of it, although I thrilled at every encounter I had with him over the years. The Lady has asked me if I had other suitors before I wed Finwë, and I did – but I rejected them all, without ever allowing myself to consider why I rejected them. If I had been able to acknowledge why I kept myself from love for so long, perhaps I would have better recognized what I was doing when I set out to cross Finwë’s path. But as it was, I told myself that I merely sought his friendship, and to provide support for him in his time of need.
“He came to see my love for him, for I found it impossible to conceal. When Míriel still lived, Finwë hadn’t paid me much attention. I was Ingwë’s younger sister, nothing more, although my brother had observed my feelings for Finwë. But when we met after Míriel’s departure to Lórien, Finwë saw that I loved him, and the seed was planted in his mind to cease pursuing Míriel, and instead join with me.
Indis looked up from the pool’s surface and focused her eyes on a distant tree. “The first mistake I made was to insert myself into a situation where, according to the laws and customs of our people, I had no place. Had I not done so, perhaps eventually Finwë would have found a way to endure until Míriel deemed it time to return.”
Galadriel’s brow furrowed. “But surely, Grandmother, you are not suggesting that you are entirely responsible for the fact that Grandfather came to love you?”
“No, of course not. I could never compel Finwë to do something that he did not wish to do – and I would not have wanted to command his love even if I could! Love that isn’t given freely is surely not love. But our meeting was not by chance, I made it happen.” Indis paused for a moment as a new thought occurred to her. “… In fact, I suppose that in that regard I deceived Finwë even before he deceived me, for he believed our meeting to be fated, a second chance for him, perhaps offered by Eru himself.”
Findis asked, “Father never knew that you had deliberately set out to meet him?”
Indis lowered her eyes to the ground directly at her feet. “No, he never knew. I barely allowed myself to know it at the time, and as our love grew we both came to see it as our destiny. I suppose I preferred Finwë’s understanding of our meeting, because by the time he made his petition for us to wed, I too firmly believed that our union was fated to be.”
Indis lifted her head and stepped back a few paces from the pool, before turning again to face her daughter and granddaughter. “And that led to the second mistake I made. When Finwë first looked at me with love in his eyes, I was overcome with joy. I could not believe it was truly happening. The only time I felt such intense joy was when you, Findis, our first child, came into the world. I had never allowed myself to even imagine that he would ever return my love, for it was all but unthinkable … and yet, it had become real!
“I was too caught up in happiness to even consider the possible need for caution. The obstacles to our love were all external: the likelihood that the Valar would not allow it to continue, and the problem posed by Míriel herself. Those two things seemed insurmountable, and all of my energy, and all of Finwë’s, was focused on what slim chance we might have of overcoming them.
“As you know, I had long envied Míriel, and I found her decision to leave to be inexplicable and deplorable. Finwë did not seem to know why she left, and that merely reinforced my belief that Míriel’s heart was perverse, causing her to not value that which she should have treasured above all else. This was a very convenient view for me to hold, as it did not require me to consider that Míriel Serindë must have had a very compelling reason to leave her husband and child. Instead I assumed that she did not.”
Indis sighed, and shook her head sadly. “This was unwise, for two reasons. Obviously, I failed to anticipate that she had not intended to remain away from life forever, and for a long time I have borne the guilt of knowing that I had a hand in condemning her to remain unhoused. But … I also failed to consider that, whatever her reason for leaving was, it could have been an issue that would arise in my own marriage to Finwë.”
Galadriel interrupted, “Grandmother, did Nienna tell you why Míriel left?”
Indis shook her head again. “No, she would not, although I believe that she knows. But she did tell me where Míriel now dwells. She works with Vairë in her workshop in Námo’s halls. Míriel weaves a tapestry that records the deeds of the Noldor.”
Galadriel’s face showed her confusion. “She lives in Námo’s halls?”
Findis responded, in a low voice. “The halls are large, bigger even than Manwë’s palace, and there are many sections, not all of which house the fëar. At inquiring looks from Galadriel and Indis, she explained, simply, “I have visited the halls, looking for news of Nolofin, and Father.”
Indis frowned. “I did not know that you journeyed to Mandos. Why did you never tell me?”
Findis replied, “Because I learned very little in going, Mother, and I did not wish to trouble you with thoughts of it, since I could tell you nothing more than you already knew – that the fëar of Nolofin, Lalwen, and Father, along with many of our kin, now reside within the halls.”
Findis continued, “As you both surely know, no living being may enter Mandos, and I certainly did not gain entrance. There are many doors to the hall, all of which are usually closed, but occasionally a door will open, and one of Námo’s assistants will emerge for some errand or other purpose. Elves who seek news of loved ones whose fëar they believe are within the halls must wait until one of the Maiar, or even sometimes Vairë or Námo themselves, come out. I met neither the Lord nor his Lady, but was told by their servants that the circumstances and duration of a fëa’s time within the halls cannot be divulged to any other party – it is between that fëa and Námo himself. I was advised that the spouses of unhoused fëar may seek news of their beloved, but what that news could be I cannot say. I have the impression that on rare occasions the Maiar who work with Námo may carry some messages from those who wait without to those who wait within.”
Findis hesitated for a moment, and then revealed, “I do know that Anairë has sought news of Nolofin. But she has never shared anything that she learned with me, and I did not wish to pry, if she would not tell me herself. It may well be that she learned very little. The Maiar and Valar who work with unhoused fëar are not inclined to be forthcoming. Indeed, it was unusual that they even confirmed to me that the fëar of my brothers, sister, and father were in fact within the halls. Of course, we already knew that Father, Nolofin, and Fëanáro were dead … and eventually we learned that Lalwen, too, had perished in the East.
“But there are some who do not know the fate of their loved ones. Nerdanel, for example, does not know what became of her second-born. The deaths of five of her sons were confirmed by Noldor who returned after the lifting of the Ban, and I know that she has learned that Maitimo is also now within Mandos … but none have told her what has become of Makalaurë.” Findis turned to her niece. “Did you ever hear news of Makalaurë when you were in Middle Earth?”
“Nothing reliable after the War of Wrath,” Galadriel replied gravely. “Once, during the time that Celeborn and I dwelled in Lindon, I was sure that I heard his voice over the sound of the waves coming into shore. But I did not see him. Over the years others have claimed to hear his singing, always by the sea, but I have never spoken to any who have actually seen him. I know that Elrond has searched for him, fruitlessly. If he remains still in Middle Earth, I deem that he does not wish to be found.”
Findis shook her head sadly, and moved to the far side of the pool. “Fëanáro’s sons met particularly tragic ends, and the sorrow brought to Nerdanel is beyond measure. Yet Námo does not seem to be moved to pity her, innocent though she was in her husband’s terrible deeds, and she is left without even the comfort of knowing what has become of Makalaurë, or if she will ever see any of her children again. The severity of Námo’s judgment is felt even by those upon whom it does not fall directly.”
Indis nodded slowly. “It is an unavoidable consequence, for Námo is not cruel.”
“Of course he is not, Mother, but I wonder if he realizes how much sorrow exists outside his halls, for those awaiting the return of those within.” Findis responded rather sharply.
“I feel certain that he is aware of that sorrow, yet that is the way of love and the bonds we share with each other,” Galadriel offered. “How could it be otherwise?”
“I suppose you are right,” Findis allowed. “At any rate, Námo’s halls are hush with secrecy, and those without know little of what lies within. If Míriel Serindë dwells within, I am not surprised that none of the Eldar have known of it until now.”
“Yes, and Nienna did tell me that Míriel does not enter the chambers that house the fëar,” Indis explained. “It would seem that not only is she apart from the Eldar that live, she is separated from the dead, too.”
“So even in death, Fëanáro was not reunited with his mother,” Findis observed softly.
“No … it would seem not,” Indis agreed.
Twilight had descended, and Galadriel tilted her head back to gaze at the stars winking in the evening sky. Findis moved several paces beyond the fountain’s pool, her back to her mother and niece.
Indis gathered her thoughts and continued her confession. “My fault in this was the result of selfishness and self-righteousness. I did not recognize my motives in seeking out Finwë, nor did I ever admit them to him, and I did not give sufficient thought to Míriel’s purpose or intentions.
“Therefore I bear some responsibility for the unhappiness of our family. Findis, I must apologize first to you, not simply because you are present now to hear it, but because you have had to bear a large portion of the sorrow wrought by my choices. I know that you were pulled between your love for me and for your siblings, and your love for your half-brother. I know of your anguish at the strife that erupted in our family, and that the losses of your siblings, including Fëanáro, have brought you much sadness. … Also, I fear that you have avoided marriage for yourself because of the unhappiness you witnessed in my imperfect marriage to your father. You have never wavered in your kindness and goodness, and the fact that you removed yourself from Tirion well before Fëanáro and Nolofin came to blows stands as a reprimand to the circumstances of our household, which I helped to create.”
Findis had not turned to face her mother as Indis spoke, and she remained silent when Indis had finished.
After an awkward moment, Indis looked at her granddaughter. “Galadriel, Aratanis, my dear, brave child, I also owe you an apology, the same apology that I owe to Ingoldo, and which he shall have from me when I return to Tirion. Although the strife in our family did not fall so directly upon you as it did on your aunt and your father, you and your brothers were also affected by the mistakes that I made. It is no wonder that you sought to bring justice to others, since there was little enough of it in your father’s family.
“While you say that you wished to go abroad even before Melkor’s darkness was revealed in Aman, had he not been able to manipulate Fëanáro and Nolofinwë as he did, perhaps the exile of the Noldor would not have come to pass, and Angrod and Aegnor would be with us now, instead of within Mandos. I know that you have been chastising yourself of late for failing to comprehend the full truth about Fëanáro, but I must repeat what I said earlier – you could not have known that truth. The half-truths that constituted the foundation of my marriage to Finwë were not solely of his creation. I too had not been as forthcoming as I should have been.”
Galadriel smiled gravely at Indis, and moved forward to embrace her. “Grandmother, I can see how much this pains you. I am sorry to learn of these things, and while this knowledge helps to lessen the anger and resentment I have been feeling about Grandfather’s choices, it does not at all affect the love I have always felt for you. For my part, I accept your apology, and I thank you for having the courage, concern, and honesty to look upon what is long past and recognize the part that you played.”
Tears welled in Indis’s eyes as she returned Galadriel’s embrace. “Thank you. Thank you my dear.”
There was another silent pause, and then Findis turned slowly to face her mother, without moving any closer to Indis and Galadriel. “I too am grateful, Mother, that you have found the courage to admit these things, to yourself, and to us. I can accept your apology, and I do accept it. But it seems to me that I am not the first person to whom you should apologize. There is another, whose suffering has been greater than mine.”
“Yes, I intend to speak to Nerdanel too, for I realize that her losses are to some extent an indirect result of my actions,” Indis acknowledged.
“I am not referring to Nerdanel, Mother, although I agree that you should speak with her,” said Findis. “After what you have just told us, it seems to me that the person to whom you should apologize before all others is Míriel Serindë.”