Indis and Galadriel looked in surprise at Findis, whose last words had been uttered with uncharacteristic vehemence. Indis recovered first, to ask, “I’m not sure that I understand you, Findis. How can I speak with Míriel, when she resides where I cannot go?”
Findis nodded shortly. “Yes, it may well be that you will not be able to speak with her, Mother. But I think that you must try. You have been seeking to heal the old wounds that our family has carried for many ages. And you have come to see that Father was not solely responsible for the wrongs that were done – wrongs that were done first to Míriel and to Fëanáro before they affected anyone else. You cannot speak with Fëanáro. But there is a small chance, a chance at least, that you might speak with Míriel.”
As Indis considered this, Galadriel spoke. “I believe that Aunt is right, Grandmother. And if you are able to speak with Míriel, you might even learn why she left Grandfather.”
“Yes, Mother. You have mentioned Míriel every time you have touched upon what happened, about your marriage to Father, or Fëanáro’s hatred, or any of the sorrows visited upon our family.”
Indis spoke slowly, “perhaps you are right. … I confess that I dread the very thought of facing her, but perhaps it is necessary, perhaps healing will be impossible until I do.”
Findis nodded again, this time mute as she struggled to hold back tears that were welling in her eyes. She closed the gap between herself and her mother, and embraced Indis with a deep sigh. “I think it is necessary, Mother. I will go with you. You won’t have to face her alone.”
A light sound from the edge of the clearing alerted them to a new presence. Estë had risen from her daytime dreaming, although Irmo had not yet returned to the fountain clearing. “Good evening, Indis. Good evening, Findis, and Galadriel.” Her melodious voice calmed Indis’s anxiety, and when Estë had drawn near she reached out her hand to cup Indis’s chin, and scrutinize her face. “You look much improved since I saw you yestereve,” she remarked.
“Thank you very much, Lady, you are correct. My talk with the Lady Nienna has done me tremendous good, although my healing is not yet complete. In fact, my daughter has helped me to see that my next task is to seek out Míriel Serindë, to ask for her forgiveness for the part that I played in her sorry fate,” Indis replied earnestly.
“Is her fate so sorry?” Estë asked somewhat cryptically. “It is certainly unique but I put it to you that, unless you have a way of knowing what is in Míriel’s heart before you have even spoken with her, you cannot know that hers is an unhappy existence.”
“I admit that I have no knowledge whatsoever of what lies in Míriel’s heart,” Indis replied. “But it seems to me impossible that she could be happy as she is, severed from all her kin, abandoned by her husband, unable to see her only child. I know that I should hate such a life.”
“Your sympathy does you credit, Indis,” Estë observed. “But, while it is always well to imagine yourself in another’s place, you must not make the error of assuming that all experiences must mirror your own. I have conversed on many occasions with Míriel Serindë, and while I will not speak for her, I do suggest that you avoid drawing premature conclusions about her.”
A hint of a self-deprecating smile emerged on Indis’s lips, as she sighed, “since unwarranted assumptions about Míriel were the very thing which led me to my gravest error, I must take care to avoid that folly again,” she acknowledged.
“You understand well now, Indis,” Estë replied warmly. “And while I have suggested that Míriel’s condition might not be as unhappy as you imagine it to be, I applaud your decision to seek her out. As she is not in my charge I cannot tell you for certain that you will be successful in seeking her out, but I can at least point you in the right direction. If you would set out now, I will accompany you to the edge of Lórien, from which it is but a short distance to Námo’s halls. If you would rather wait until the sun has risen in the morn, I will instruct you about how to reach Vairë’s door in Námo’s halls.”
Indis looked at her daughter and paused before replying. “I think that I would like to set out now, rather than waiting for the morning to come,” she decided. “And although I would dearly like to have your company on this quest, Findis, I think it is something that I should undertake alone. If you would wait here with Galadriel, I would be grateful. I will return here directly after going to seek Míriel, although I cannot say now how long I might be.
“Of course, Mother,” Findis replied. “But if you are gone longer than seems reasonable, I cannot promise that we won’t come looking for you!”
Indis smiled, “I’m sure it won’t come to that,” she asserted. “And if I decide that I, too, would like to take up weaving in Vairë’s workshop, I will be sure to send word to you so that you won’t be left to wonder what has become of me!”
Estë joined the laughter of the three elves, and then turned to Indis, “Let us set out then, Indis.” She turned to Galadriel and said, “And if you will be so kind, child, I will charge you with informing my husband that I might not join him this evening, for the journey to the northwestern edge of Lórien will take some time, and I might even visit Mandos myself, to visit the fëar within. But I shall return tomorrow, and will perhaps see you both then.”
“Yes, Lady,” Galadriel replied. She and Findis both bowed to the Vala, who once more took Indis’s arm, as the two glided from the fountain clearing.
The journey to the edge of Lórien took several hours, during which time Indis and Estë exchanged only a few words. The Vala perceived Indis’s need to prepare herself for the encounter with Míriel; indeed Indis found her mind turning repetitively over a jumble of thoughts – what she would say to Míriel … and what she might hear in return.
But although Estë did not seek to engage Findis in much talk, she was not silent, and the anxiety that Indis felt was lessened a bit by the lulling, haunting melodies that Estë hummed and sang as they walked through the moonlit garden realm. Indis heard songs that seemed to hearken to the time before the Two Trees, when the Valar themselves had dwelled in the East, during the Spring of Arda. Estë’s first songs were green, sweet, delicate, and tender. Then, without Indis noticing exactly when the change occurred, the songs shifted to sounds of cool darkness, muted and tinged with sorrow. The words were not intelligible to Indis, for Estë sang in a tongue that she had never heard before, and yet somehow she found that she understood all the same – Estë was singing of sorrows endured, of unexpected loss and grief. Eventually the songs changed again, and the melodies were warmer, richer and more complex than before. Now Estë sang of redemption, of new life and restored hopes.
By the time they reached the border of Lórien, Indis had reconciled herself to facing Míriel, and to seeking her forgiveness, even if it was not granted. She did not allow herself to guess at what response she might receive; rather, she focused on what she needed to convey, and resolved that part of her task would be to hear whatever Míriel might wish to say to her.
Estë stopped singing as they exited the garden realm. The first hint of dawn glowed on the eastern horizon, and overhead Indis could see Ëarendil’s star traversing the sky. Estë pointed northward and explained, “Mandos lies ahead, and should not be more than an hour’s walk for you. You will be approaching the southern side first, and you should follow the outer wall westward, and then round the corner to the northern side. Pass through the outer gate, and in the center of the western face of the building you will find Vairë’s door. Send a prayer to Vairë, explaining why you have come. She will answer you, one way or another.”
Estë turned to face Indis, and pressed a kiss onto her forehead. She smiled warmly, “Go with my blessing, Indis. May you find the peace you seek, and which I think you now deserve.”
“Thank you, Lady. You will not then go to Mandos yourself?” Indis asked.
“I will go, but by another path, as I do not seek Vairë’s workshop,” Estë explained. “Our paths part here."
The sun had breached the horizon when Indis reached Mandos. With Estë’s words echoing in her mind, Indis arrived at the door which led to Vairë’s workshop within the Hall of Mandos. She bowed her head for several moments, and then lifted her arms, palms upward, in prayer, asking to be granted speech with one who dwelt within.
Ages ago, on the rare occasions when Finwë’s first wife was discussed after her deliberate passage into the halls of Mandos, the Noldor who remained in Aman had taken to calling her Firiel, “she who sighed.” The new name had seemed disparaging, and Indis had never used it. She closed her eyes as she prayed to Vairë and to Námo,
Great Lord and Lady, I beseech thee both.
Grant that I, though living, might enter
To speak with Míriel Serindë, if she will.
That I might thereby gain peace of mind
And set right old wrongs, if I may.
And if Eru wills it.
Her prayer met with silence. Undeterred, Indis drew breath and repeated her entreaty, again and again. As she began to recite it a fourth time, the door opened, and Nienna and Vairë stood before her. Nienna’s hood was thrown back and Indis could see her smile, warm and grave at the same time. Vairë spoke.
“Welcome, Indis, Queen of the Noldor. Sister, wife, and mother of kings. I know your purpose and I share the pleasure my husband’s sister takes in witnessing your courage and determination.
“Nevertheless it would be against all laws and nature to allow you, a living being, to enter my husband’s halls, even for a moment. I cannot grant your request. But the one for whom exceptions have been made is able to step outside these halls, if she will.”
“She will,” a low voice spoke from the shadows behind Vairë. A small figure stepped forward and for the first time in more than four ages, Indis beheld the face of Míriel Serindë.