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A Festival of Lights
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The Servant of the Secret Flame

The Servant of the Secret Flame

He’d ever been considered one of the people of Manwë, although he had served each of the Valar in his time, even in the earliest of times before the final shaping of Arda itself his sworn Lord’s brother in the Thought of Ilúvatar. Since the Valar had taken lordship of this world at Atar’s Word, he’d spent time in Aulë’s forge, in Irmo’s gardens, on Estë’s island, and working on Vairë’s looms. He’d ridden on hunts with Oromë, danced with Vána, studied compassion with Nienna, and wrestled with Tulkas. He’d danced among the waves with Uinen and swum with Ulmo’s subjects among the deeps. He’d helped Yavanna and Nessa to harvest the fruits of the earth and to prop up limbs so heavy with fruit that they might otherwise have broken under the weight of their own fecundity. He’d bowed before Námo and learned to read signs and portents under his tutelage.

On occasions he’d even journeyed to Middle Earth, in the earliest of times in Oromë’s train in search of word of the wakening of the promised Children, and later sometimes in the guise of trader or wandering bard to help plant the seeds that one day might bring those who’d chosen exile Home. He often served as an escort to Eonwë when their Lord sent his Herald out upon the Valar’s business, although he’d as often remained within the halls of his Lord and Lady where he’d seen to the wiping away of dust and stain, rejoicing ever to be of service, no matter how humble or great it might seem to be.

His love of and compassion for the Children was noted, however. Unbidden, he had taken upon himself the seeming of an Elf and joined the lines of those who’d chosen to answer the call of the Valar to come to Aman, offering them comfort and encouragement when the way seemed most tedious or dangerous. He’d lifted up children and gone out with the hunters, had aided the young wives and mothers, had counseled their leaders. He’d remained among them when they must trust the Valar most, when Ulmo and his people had carefully broken away the tongue of land that was to be used to ferry those who’d come this far into the waters surrounding the Undying Lands, inspiring those frightened by the changes they sensed in the land under their feet to stand firm and not flee back to where they might be taken in the nets of the Black Hunter.

And now he was sent back to Middle Earth once more at his Lord’s request. He could have supplanted his brother Curumo as the White, but had refused to do so. What need had he of lordship? It was not lordship that the Men, Elves, Dwarves, and other creatures of Middle Earth needed now—it was counsel and inspiration to stand fast against Sauron’s evil that they required. So, grasping the staff that held that of his power and memories he had no immediate need for, he set himself to walk these lands, the Ring entrusted to him on his arrival burning redly if invisibly upon his hand.

Olórin he was no longer. Gandalf they called him, the Man with the Staff. Mithrandir—the Grey Pilgrim. Tharkûn. And other names less pleasant also they had for him. Almost he forgot Olórin amidst the cares and griefs he observed and helped comfort. But with Narya upon his hand he remained the servant of the Imperishable Flame, the warmth of the kiss of his sister Arien ever fresh in his heart, the blessing of his brother Tilion cool upon his head, the power of his Lord and Lady responsive to his hand upon his staff.

Few saw him unveiled—not until the final battles, at least. But never did he forget his commission as did Curumo. And when he was sent back as the White, with the mandate to take leadership from Saruman and to intervene directly if it should prove necessary, he’d done as he’d been ordered. Not even the Úlairi had been able to withstand his Light; and his fallen brother’s herald had quailed before him when Gandalf had taken from his hands the lying tokens Sauron had bade be shown him to inspire despair. Not despair, but hope did he know as his quick mind divined that the Enemy no longer held the living hostage from whom these tokens had been taken. He does not realize that not one but two Hobbits entered his lands—possibly even three if, as has been indicated, Sméagol accompanied Frodo and Sam! And so it was that in the darkest moments known within Middle Earth since his arrival here as an Istar, his own flame burned brightest with hope, a hope that was answered as Frodo, Sam, and Sméagol entered the Sammath Naur undetected, and at the last moment, even as the Ring took Frodo Baggins, the whole world was redeemed, if apparently by treachery. Sméagol took It from Frodo, not to claim It but merely to hold It one last time, not fearing even as he plunged with It to his own death, merely rejoicing to feel apparently complete one last time….

And now he was ready to return home and give over the identity he’d known as Mithrandir or Gandalf. His hands rested on the shoulders of two worthy Hobbits, both of whose Lights had been brightly polished by the Ring that had sought to tarnish them instead. He offered up a prayer of praise to the Creator, that Atto had so blessed him to know such ones during his long years of service in an old Man’s guise. And he prayed that those who remained behind should indeed each fulfill his or her promise to lead the Mortal Lands once more to peace and wisdom.

And as the ship on which the Ringbearers sailed flashed brightly to show it had found the Straight Path at the last, the Lights of all aboard the ship flared in answer, a brilliance that answered the beauty of Varda’s own stars!

Alas that they are gone from us, but together they have found a new Home where their Lights shine in harmony!


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