In the uttermost West, Angwë saw that the beams of light he was nearing actually mingled at regular intervals. When he drew nearer to Aman, he saw that a great mountain shield wall had been raised, but there was a gap where he could enter. He saw the silver sand of the beach near the harbour, and made his way towards it just as the silvery light gave way to that of the golden.
Awe slowed him down, and Angwë took in the new sights of this fair abode of the Ainur. As he travelled, he saw the mansions and gardens of the Valar, and his heart was glad, because it proved to him that Melkor could never triumph over Manwë. Finally, he came within sight of the Lights themselves, and when he did, he was surprised. Those Great Lights were actually the fruit and flowers of two trees!
He went up to them to take a closer look, so he could discern how exactly it was that trees could shine so brightly, waxing and waning to give a different quality of luminescence for two different... what would he call them? Periods of time. Angwë sat down and observed from close quarters as the trees glowed and faded, glowed and faded. There was a bright time and there was a dim time. Surely this was the work of Yavanna. And Varda. The hand of Aulë his master was clearly absent from this phenomenon.
He was still sitting there, fascinated by the light of the Trees, when Eonwë Herald of Manwë arrived. "Angwë," he asked him, "where have you been? We have been looking for you ever since the Great Lamps were destroyed because you helped us make them, but we could not find you. Come with me to Máhanaxar, the Ring of Doom. You must face the judgement of Manwë before you are allowed to dwell here with us."
When Angwë arrived at Máhanaxar, he had expected to be asked to give a report on all that he had seen and done. When he saw them look at him with suspicious eyes, he was afraid. He stood there for some time in silence, and after a while, it became oppressive for him. Now and then he would look at his master Aulë, and try to catch his eye. If only they would say something! They just sat there and looked upon him from time to time before returning to personal deliberation.
At last, Manwë spoke. "Angwë," he said, his voice stern and serious, "look at me."
Angwë turned to face the Lord of the Valar.
"Do you know why you have been summoned here?" asked Manwë.
"To explain my conduct at Almaren after the Fall of the Great Lamps?" asked Angwë in tones that betrayed his confusion.
"What happened there?"
"The Lamps were cast down by Melkor," Angwë answered in a small voice.
"The Lamps were cast down by Melkor," Manwë repeated. "Where were you when they fell?"
Angwë recoiled at the thought that he was under suspicion for the atrocity. His mind spun at the implications. He would be condemned and banished from the world into the Void. He could not bear that. There was so much he wanted to do; so many things to be built using all the lessons he had learned from Aulë. The idea of being forever sundered from his beloved master horrified him more than anything else. To be counted an ally of Melkor was the most appalling thing to him, and there was no way he would allow this.
"My Lord," he explained, "I was in the North-west, near the Blue Mountains. I was seeking a place to begin a project I have had in mind. While I was on my way back to Almaren to seek my master Aulë, Helcar toppled over and Illuin crashed down. Vainly I hoped to stay its fall, but did not arrive in time. The ground around me began to break up, and I used the techniques Aulë taught me to ease the earthquakes; I joined some broken pieces together by the force of my will, then went to look for you."
"Did you really believe you could achieve all that by yourself?" Aulë butted in.
"No, my Lord," Angwë replied, "though I remembered everything you taught me, and calmed down the crashing earth where I could.”
"But it never occurred to you to seek us out at the time," Tulkas stated, his brawny arms folded in belligerent fashion.
"No, my lord," Angwë agreed. "I was confused and afraid. I strove to contain the roiling of the shattered earth around me, then I sought my master."
"Who is your master?" Aulë thundered. "Whom do you serve?”
"Master, you have always known my mind, and it is unchanged," Angwë wailed. "Look! I have brought you all a token of my goodwill." He produced the budding leaf that he had taken from the sapling, and handed it to Yavanna.
Yavanna took the leaf in her hand and caressed it. She smiled at Angwë. "How long has this leaf been in your hand?"
"Since the new lights first shone upon the world," Angwë answered her.
"My lords," Yavanna said gladly, "it still lives!"
The other Valar considered this.
Eventually, Manwë rendered his judgment: “Mellkor craves darkness and loves to ruin our works, but Angwë has ever sought to fashion things of beauty. Sauron is gone, and many others also, but Angwë must be of the light if living things thrive in his hand.”
From a distant corner, Artíre observed the trial. He was still angry with Sauron for insinuating that the choices he made about whom to consort with were for Melkor alone to decide - "servant" indeed! He decided to tell Manwë what Sauron's brother had been doing, and how things were in the realm of Melkor at Utumno. For the moment he would say nothing of Sauron's doings in case it robbed him of the drama he loved.
It pleased him to discover that both Manwë and Aulë were oblivious to Sauron's involvement with Melkor. Many of the Maiar were unaccounted for as yet; in the confusion that followed the destruction of the Lamps, many had gone astray, and wandered about in Middle Earth, easy prey for Melkor unless they were willing to resist him. The fear and rage that coursed through Máhanaxar like a flash flood down a dry valley thrilled the Watcher, and he had no intention of letting it end if he could help it.
At the moment, the Valar seemed willing to accept Angwë's story because he had brought back a budding leaf which throve in his hand. Artíre had told them that all living things under Melkor's sway were rotten and corrupt – no wholesome thing could abide with him and remain as it was. This had given Angwë a chance to prove his innocence. The only thing he had achieved, then, was to briefly cause the Valar to doubt the loyalty of Aulë's apprentice, then provided an opportunity to vindicate him. It was just as well Artíre had nothing personal against him, or he would surely have tried harder to get the Maia banished from Arda. As it was, he elected to leave things as they were. He saw no point in drawing attention to himself.
At the Ring of Doom, the trial of Angwë the Builder continued. The budding leaf had not fully convinced the Valar of his innocence, and he stood before them, unsure of his fate.
Yavanna was still holding the leaf. Turning to her husband, she said, "Is there yet a charge to be made against your servant? Look, he has brought us a sign that life is returning to Middle-earth. Let us release him to live among us as he formerly did."
Aulë looked with friendlier eyes upon him, and turned to Manwë. "My Lord," he said, "shall we not release him? Has he not proved himself to us?"
Manwë gripped the arms of his chair as he looked around the circle at each of his colleagues. Last of all he looked at Angwë. "Angwë," he said firmly, "you have indeed brought us a token of your innocence, but you have yet to tell us why you went to work on that mountain you wanted to build instead of helping us."
"My Lord," Angwë replied, “it is try that I did not seek you out, and that I worked on my mountain instead, but I did not make a stronghold or attempt to build a realm of my own. All I wanted was to make a mountain by myself so I could take pride in something I had done without anyone's help. This I have achieved. Please do not hold it against me. Now I wish to return to my place at Aulë's side, if he will accept me.”
Manwë turned to Námo the Doomsman. "Námo," he said to him in formal tones, "is there any further charge to bring?"
Námo stood, and everyone stood with him. Turning to Angwë, he said to him, "Angwë, you have laid yourself open to a charge of treason against us staying behind when we left Middle-earth. You have freely admitted to the building of this mountain, which you say is not a stronghold but a symbol of your strength and will. The penalty for such vanity will surely be paid, not only by you but by any who seek to claim any part of creation in Eä, and call it his own. This doom I pronounce: you must relinquish all claim or title you believe you have to any piece of land in Arda, or your own lust will consume you."
Everyone trembled when they heard this, and took it to heart. Angwë trembled also, knowing that what Námo had said would surely be his fate if he failed to heed the warning, or appreciate the chance he had been given to prove to them all that he was on their side, and not on Melkor's. But deep in his heart a spark of desire for his mountain was hidden, and would never be quenched. For Angwë coveted the thing he had made, and was jealous of it. The one thing he feared was that someone would alter or destroy it, and this he would not countenance. Thus the building of Celebdil had set him on a path that would eventually destroy him, and, though he knew it, he chose to ignore it.
In the Angwëverse, The Turning of Angwë follows this. The Events of The Plague take place during the time covered by that story.
In the Artíreverse, Artíre's Choice comes next.
In the Artíreverse, Artíre's Choice comes next.