For Shelley for her birthday. Written for the A_L_E_C "Love" prompt. Beta by RiverOtter.
“I will see him again--now?”
*Not immediately, daughter, but soon. Does that please you?*
She remained still, trying to sort through the emotions she felt churning inside her. At last: “I am not certain. It is hard to believe, though.” She took a deep breath, and swallowed. “It has been so long. I am not certain how I should feel.”
*There is no should, daughter. We have learned from long association with your people that each reunion is unique, for no death is precisely as was any other; no return is precisely as is any other; no relationship between any two individuals is as that between any two others. Tell me, daughter: were your feelings toward him when you felt him fall as they were when first you knew he had caught at your thoughts and heart?*
*And there you have it--no matter how constant the love, yet that which one feels toward any other flows as does water in a stream, never the same from one moment to the next.*
Her lip twitched, but not with amusement. “And when the object of one’s love is lit from within by such a flame as burned within his breast----” She raised her eyes to meet the gaze of the one who stood before her, aware of the compassion displayed there. “He has not lost that, has he?”
*Ah, no. If anything, that flame burns the stronger and more purely now. There was a need for one with such a flame within him, we have found.*
“Even when that flame set fire to so many, and led to such destruction?”
*And had it not done so, would any have returned to the Mortal Lands to lead the resistance to our fallen brother’s tyranny there? Would there have been the chance here, do you think, for the greatness of the Lord Finderato, known there as Finrod Felagund, to be made manifest, and that of the rest of the Noldor who followed? Would our fallen brother have at last been forced to capitulate and been expelled from Arda? Would Arda have known the leadership and greatness of Númenor?*
“And see where that led! Ar-Pharazôn taking Aulendil into his custody and then into his council, the abominations of the temple to Morgoth, the folk of his armada and all their kindred and their land drowned beneath the waves....” The grief of it still smote her breast.
*Yet the Faithful won away and returned, far wiser and devoted to justice and righteousness, to Middle-earth at a time when it was needful, and continued to lead the resistance to Sauron’s evil. And with their leadership that one, too, was in the fullness of time expelled from Ëa. It is likely none of this would have happened had not that flame burned in the breast of your lord husband. Know this--when a flame is necessary, it is ever wise to remember that it can both burn to the point of destruction as well as to enlighten and hearten.*
With a touch of bitterness: “His flame scorched even me.”
The one facing her merely showed yet more compassion.
“And it cost me my sons.”
*They, too, will be restored to you, alongside their father.*
Her heart leapt, then stilled. “Restored--restored to me now, here at the end of all things?”
*Would you rather not see them ere the end
Rather hastily: “Oh, no--that would have been too much to bear, to see the final battle without knowing they, too, were freed from their long imprisonment!”
Gently: *Say not imprisonment, but instead time of contemplation and cleansing, preparing each for his part in the war to come.*
There was no further communication for a time as she considered in her heart what this meant. The final battle was upon them--this all knew. So many had emerged from the Halls of Waiting recently, and all prepared for the final defense against Morgoth himself, broken free at last from Angainor and forcing his way back into Arda one last time. Given his desires, all would lie broken at his feet, and all would become but puppets to his will.
*It is for this reason that the results of the wills of the Children of Iluvatar have ever been allowed to be made manifest. How could you ever imagine how terrible it would be to lie under the feet of Morgoth had you not seen how grief could destroy your husband’s integrity, and the horrors that grief led to here? How could those who dwell within the Mortal Lands appreciate the true meaning of tyranny had they not seen it enacted again and again throughout their history, and have a full appreciation of what it will be to allow Morgoth and Sauron again to hold full sway there? You must know what you fight against, or so we have learned.
*And all have needed to see the promise of peace afterward to appreciate what this last victory will mean. Your people have managed to return to peace, your awareness broadened, your bliss the more treasured, having known it threatened, knowing it must be guarded, protected, nurtured. So it has been for mortals as well.
*Know this--this war threatens all of Ëa, not just Aman or even Arda.*
“And my husband--my sons--they emerge only to take part in this last battle?”
*Would you rather they never know their rightful revenge against the one who stole Finwë from us, and the Jewels, and the peace we knew, and the lives they might have known had Melkor not filled their hearts with his lies, slain your husband’s father, and rifled his treasury? It is now the right time for that righteous and rightful anger to be shown forth.*
“So, he will have but little time for freedom, but little time for us to share together....”
The smile of the one facing her was so brilliant she had to shield her eyes and heart from it, for that smile was so pure it was more than mere flesh could bear. *Do not underestimate the power of Eru Iluvatar to give what is needed. As mortals have had driven into their awareness, it is not the length of time one has that is meaningful, but what is done in the time given one. Far more of meaning can be done in a mere instant than you perhaps appreciate. So, daughter, think carefully how you will greet your husband when he comes forth at last. Let him not make his final choice of defiance against his ancient enemy with no hope, no estel to support him. Again, know this: he may yet choose not to fight.*
And the feelings she’d known toward her husband over countless ages of the world ran through her, as she remembered the early fascination, the lust, the contentment and the way his brilliance inspired her own craft, her own determination to see their children born to carry his inspiration before the rest of Arda....
Yes, she had herself been burned by his passion as well as warmed by it. She had seen Alqualondë fired by that passion when his grief was turned to fury by Morgoth’s lies and hatred and envy. Much of the rest of Arda on both sides of the Sundering Sea had suffered under the same flames--certainly Finderato would not have returned as he had were it not for the way in which Morgoth’s will to evil and destructive passion for her husband’s Silmarils had infected one of her own sons.
Yet, her sons had done good as well as evil, both here and there; and at the last her Macalaurë himself had given over the long travail and returned to stand before the Valar, forgiving them even as he was himself forgiven, all acknowledging that they shared the same flaws brought by lack of omniscience.
But how could she greet him, this one who’d shared his body with her, whose exploration of her own had been so thorough and so fecund? This one who’d torn her heart from her body when his grief had destroyed his trust and his willingness to accept comfort or wisdom? This one who’d torn her sons and most of their kindred from Aman and taken them back across the Sundering Sea by stolen ship and ice bridge to a lessened life there? Who himself had not felt the horrors of further battle, dying on the borders of the lands he felt were promised to their people?
How could she greet him, knowing how he’d fallen to those lies and had been instrumental in bringing war to Aman? Knowing the betrayal of those he’d loved, including her, that he’d wrought? Knowing his innate weaknesses as she did--as she’d experienced?
She should hate him--despise him!
But in her heart she remembered...
--his warmth filling her heart with passion
--his pride and delight with each new work of his hands, each new discovery
--his repeated wonder at the birth of each new son
the pain when he turned from her....
A great light filled the portal behind the one with whom she’d been in communion, and she knew the time had come. There was no time for further consideration as to whether she’d be as the youthful elleth whose heart he’d captured, the mother of his children, the partner in his work, the one betrayed by his descent into arrogance and suspicion, the one whose heart and mind had been twisted by his overwhelming grief and the loss of the greatest works of his hands. Ah, did he not appreciate that for her the loss of her children had been as devastating as his loss of his father and jewels? No, the time had come for her to greet him for the last time!
In the east a great wall of wave arose from the Sundering Seas, and from it emerged Ulmo himself, shepherding Macalaurë toward this place, Macalaurë wearing as a pendant the ancient glass phial once given by Artanis to that odd mortal creature who, it was said, had been instrumental in bringing down the might of Aulendil within the Mortal Lands. And in Macalaurë’s hands he bore the very Silmaril he’d once thrown into that Sea.
From the West a great ship drew near, descending from the Seas of Night, shining with the light of the Silmaril Eärendil bore upon his brow.
In the north there was a great flame of fire from the heart of Arda itself, and from the shelter of his greatest smithy came Aulë, accompanied by her firstborn, her Maitimo, tall and lordly, made wise by grief and delight and pain and mercy shown, bearing in his hands the Silmaril he’d once carried with him into the heart of the world in his agony.
And the portal to the Halls of Mandos opened, and her remaining sons came forth, and behind them----
Who could deny the beauty of him, who had been her husband, her love, her delight beneath the light of the Trees? Who could withstand the sacred Flame that burned in his heart? For now his time had come to atone for all the destruction done by and through him!
And she stepped forward to greet him this one last time within this final age of Arda.
“Welcome, my beloved husband. Welcome back!”
She saw the fire of his love leaping up within him, saw him lean forward to take her in his arms, felt that flame encircle and set fire again to a passion she’d too long thought smothered....