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Every Good and Perfect Gift
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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1

~*~
I was honored to have this story recognized by the 2004 Mithril Awards in two categories: Commended for *Best Silmarillion, and Runner-up for *Best story focusing on Men. It was also recognized by the 2004 Middle-Earth Fanfiction Awards, receiving the 2nd place The Tar-Palantir Award for writing.


~~~

'Father of lights, you delight in your children...'

~*~

The stars shone bright in the sky that night, the new moon but a pale splinter of light beside their radiance. He breathed a silent prayer in gratitude to the one whose handiwork bedecked the velvet darkness and another to the One who had made them all. One last searching look he bent toward the west before descending the spiraling stairway of the tower.

His attendants snapped smartly to attention as he strode purposefully along the corridor. He paused for a moment before the door at the end of the long hall. Fashioned from dark wood, its panels were richly detailed, depicting a scene from an age long past. A skilled craftsman had carved the likeness of one of the Eldar race seated before a dying fire with a harp upon his knee. It was this figure which captured the man's attention, even as it had captured the hearts and minds of those men long ago who had listened with rapt expressions to hear songs of such beauty and wonder played upon that rude harp.

Rousing himself from his momentary reverie he raised his hand to knock. The sound reverberated along the corridor where the lamp light flickered, creating shadows which floated in an eerie dance up and down its length. He closed his eyes, remembering shadowy voices from not so long ago and he wondered what counsel they might give to him on this night.

The door opened. "Your majesty!" There was surprise in the grey haired woman's voice at seeing him there. "My lady was about to retire for the night." She looked doubtfully at him.

"I will not keep her long, Amarië," he assured the woman, a fond smile warming his features. "I know the morrow will come all too soon, but I desire a private word with your lady before this night ends."

"Who is it, Amarië?" This new voice, young and clear as a crystal fountain, came from the bed at the far side of the chamber.

"'Tis the King, my lady," the older woman answered.

"Father!" Her joyous cry left no doubt of his welcome there, nor did the abandon with which she threw herself into his outstretched arms. Amarië withdrew with the promise that she would be near at hand if she were needed, but neither father nor daughter seemed to notice as the door closed behind the old woman's retreating figure.

"I hoped that you would come - I was afraid you might not be able to escape the throng!" They laughed together, thinking of all the well-wishers who had descended upon them already.

"Has Írimon arrived yet?" she asked expectantly.

He sighed and shook his head. "Silmarien, you know that I do not begrudge your brother his passion for star-lore, yet I had hoped that he would set his studies aside long enough to celebrate your wedding."

"He is too much his father's son," she teased him gently. "Can it be that your own study holds more fascination for you than do our guests? Isilmë told me that you did not join them until the evening meal, leaving her and mamil to see to their entertainment."

Her younger sister had confessed that she had been alternately charmed and intimidated by the Eldar who had arrived in Armenelos that very day. She herself had yet to meet them, for custom dictated that the bride spend the night before her wedding in seclusion from all save her immediate family.

Elendil smiled as he listened to his eldest child describe her younger sister's reaction to the immortal visitors from the Undying Lands. It had been some years since any had traveled to Armenelos, though they came not infrequently to the western harbours of Eldalondë and Andúnië.

"And how shall you feel when you meet our Eldar kindred?" His arm went around her slender shoulders as they moved toward the open window. From somewhere below them the sound of a lone harper drifted upward on the gentle summer breeze, and Silmarien leaned across the open sill to listen for a moment before answering her father's question.

"I cannot say for certain. My heart tells me that I should love them, for they are akin to Finrod." The strains of the harper's music caught her ear once more, the notes rising and falling like leaves on the wind. She stood poised and still, with her eyes closed, the better to drink in the beauty of that haunting melody.

"You will have many chances to know them better once you are wed. The house of Elatan in Andúnië is often favored with their presence."

"So I have been told," she replied, coloring slightly as she spoke. She had not seen her betrothed that evening, but earlier they had eluded her attendants, causing Amarië to berate the younger maids for their laxity. The fragrant scent of the nessamelda which grew beneath her window reminded Silmarien of the pleasant hour they had spent together in the garden, and the light that memory brought to her eyes was not lost on her father.

"Elatan is a worthy man." Elendil knew he need not tell her this, yet he felt he must, if only to remind himself that his daughter was not a child, but a woman full grown, both in beauty and wisdom. Only one as noble in spirit as the Lord of Andúnië could have convinced the King of Numenor to part with the daughter who was the light of his life.

Silmarien laughed, a rueful note underlying the sound. "Amarië did not think him so worthy when she found us in the garden this morning!" The old nurse had scolded Silmarien's betrothed just as she might a mischievous boy caught filching peaches from the trees in the garden.

After that Silmarien had been kept under constant supervision by her faithful nurse. Amarië, convinced that her charge might try to arrange another clandestine meeting, had taken extreme measures to forestall her. Not even the Queen had been granted ready admittance to her daughter's presence, while Isilmë had been reduced to the use of a decoy to distract her sister's guardian and thereby enable her to slip into Silmarien's chamber. Tar-Elendil's younger daughter had been permitted only a brief visit with her sister before being shooed away by the vigilant nurse.

"And then when I asked if I would be able to see you tonight Amarië said it was too late - that I needed my sleep. She has been hovering over me like an old hen all day!"

"Be patient with her. She has been with you since you were first born and she is finding it hard to say good-bye." As was he.

"Could she not come with me?" The love was evident in her voice, for despite her frequent complaints that the old woman was overly protective the princess was not happy with the thought of leaving her behind.

"We have spoken of this before, daughter. Amarië is growing old." He could not help reflecting on the irony of the name that had been chosen for her, for she had never wed. There was no husband who would mourn her passing, no children to remember her. There was only her princess, whom she would not grieve more than need be.

"Amarië has been with us longer than even my memory can recall," he reminded her, adding, "She is ready now to give back the Gift. She has but one wish before she goes - to see you wed."

"I know," his daughter whispered, moving closer into his warm embrace. He could almost hear the voice of the child she had once been, wondering why her grandfather was no longer with them and wanting to know whither he had gone. The years spent poring over the ancient lore and legends that his own grandfather had collected could not help him answer her then, and they offered little more in the way of comfort now. Yet he would give her what solace he could.

The padded bench beneath the open window afforded a view of the Meneltarma and of Noirinan, the Valley of the Tombs at its southern base. Three times in his life he had entered that valley of the dead, yet he had felt no shadow of fear. He searched for the words with which he might express the sense of peace he had experienced in that place.

"The Gift of the One to Men is a mystery even the wise cannot wholly fathom, " he began, stroking her dark tresses as he spoke. So young she seemed to him, and the thought that she would soon rest in the arms of another man who would love her, not as a father but as a husband, gave new urgency to what he must say. From her would come a new generation who would be that much further from the knowledge of the ancients, and he would have her understand in her heart the beauty and the uncertainty of their mortal heritage.

"You asked if my study held a greater fascination for me than did our guests. Shall I show you what it was that kept me from them so long?"

Silmarien nodded, her eyes alight with curiosity. Rising, Elendil went to the door, opening it to speak with his attendants. Silmarien watched as one man passed a small package to his sovereign.

The door closed behind him as her father carried the object to Silmarien and placed it in her hands. It was wrapped in a silken cloth; the weight as well as the size of it suggested a shallow box.

"Open it."

Silmarien carefully unwrapped the object. The silken covering slid silently to the floor as she held up that which it had protected.

There in her hands was a slender book. Bound in soft green leather, the front was embossed with the symbols of a harp and a flaming torch.

"This is his device," she said, a note of wonder in her voice. The tale of Finrod and his friendship with the Atani had been a favorite of hers ever since she was a child, and it was her delight to have his likeness guard the entrance to her chamber. From him it was said that the Atani had learned true knowledge, and to him they had in return given their love and loyalty. The price that he had paid in the fulfillment of his oath to Barahir had filled her with awe and reverence for him - he who should never have tasted death yet did so willingly to save a son of Man.

Elendil nodded. "This is the device that Finrod used most often in his dealings with Men. It is said that one of Bëor's folk made it for him, recalling the first meeting of the two kindred."

Silmarien opened the slender volume to read. The first page, decorated with a delicate tracery of golden flowers, had inscribed there these words: Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth.

"The Debate of Finrod and Andreth?"

"Yes," Elendil replied. "It is the record of a conversation between Finrod and Andreth, the daughter of Boromir. She was accounted wise by her people and it is said that Finrod would often seek her out because she would speak with him on matters which many mortals would not."

Silmarien turned a few pages, marveling at the exquisite calligraphy that filled the pages of fine parchment. That the hand which had copied the words of Finrod and Andreth belonged to her father she had no doubt, for she had often sat watching him as he would transcribe page upon page of the documents which he had brought from the library of Vardamir Nólimon. Her grandfather's father had devoted his life to gathering the lore of the ancients; now her own father had determined to catalog and preserve what his grandfather had collected over the course of his long life.

She paused at one passage; Elendil observed that the expression on her youthful features became troubled as she read in silence.

"Father, why would she have said such things? Did she truly believe our mortality to be the work of Morgoth and not the Gift of Eru?"

He nodded. "Such were her words to Finrod at the time. Andreth had become increasingly bitter as she grew older. You will understand her reasons more clearly as you read the Athrabeth in its entirety." Silmarien looked at him; the question unspoken was there to be seen, eloquently expressed in her eyes.

"It is to the words which Finrod spoke in response that I would have you give heed. For all her wisdom, in the end it would seem that Andreth had failed to hold onto the one thing which could have saved her from despair." Gently taking the book from his daughter's hand Elendil turned the pages until he found the passage; he could have quoted it without looking, for it had been etched in his memory even as he had copied the words onto the pages he now held in his hands.

~*~

"'Have ye then no hope?' said Finrod.

'What is hope?' she said, 'An expectation of good, which though uncertain has some foundation in what is known? Then we have none.'

'That is one thing that Man call "hope",' said Finrod. '
Amdir we call it, "looking up". But there is another which is founded deeper. Estel we call it, that is "trust" It is not defeated by the ways of the world, for it does not come from experience, but from our nature and first being. If we are indeed the Eruhini, the Children of the One, then He will not suffer Himself to be deprived of His own, not by any Enemy, not even by ourselves. This is the last foundation of Estel, which we keep even when we contemplate the End: of all His designs the issue must be for His Children's joy. Amdir you have not, you say. Does no Estel at all abide?'"

~*~

Silmarien had been silent as her father read aloud the words that Finrod had spoken long ago. When at last she spoke her voice trembled slightly.

"Amarië...she has this Estel?"

"Yes," Elendil replied reassuringly, yet his smile was somber as he continued. "Amarië believes in the inherent goodness of the Gift of Eru to Men, and in this belief she is joined by our people. Yet my heart forebodes that the seeds of doubt planted by the Enemy will one day sprout to bear their dark fruit. Thus did Morgoth ever seek to divide the Children of Eru, sowing among them the fear and envy that too readily grows into hatred."

"Would they not give heed to the words of Finrod? Did not Andreth listen to him?"

He shook his head. "If what is recorded in the Athrabeth was indeed her final judgment, then I must conclude that she did not, though I cannot know for certain." He turned her face towards him. "Faith is a choice."

Tears hung on Silmarien's lashes like raindrops, threatening to spill down her cheeks. Tenderly her father wiped them away.

"The same choice belongs to you, and to all those who will follow in your line. It is for this reason I give the Athrabeth to you. The words of Finrod and the words of the Eldar whom you will meet in times to come may help you, and your children, in making that choice."

Silmarien's cheeks gained a faint rosy hue as he mentioned children, and she dropped her gaze to the book which she now held in her own hands.

"I will treasure this always, and not only for the words of wisdom it contains. Much labour went into the copying of this, and," she added, capturing Elendil's gaze with her own, "I know that much love is in the gift." She brushed a feather light kiss on his cheek. "Thank you, atarinya."

Elendil held his daughter close, savoring the moment. There was a faint sound that Silmarien could hear echoing deep within his chest, a clear sign that the king was fighting to master his own emotions. Finally, clearing his throat ever so quietly, he released her from his embrace. He stood, and Silmarien rose with him.

"There is one last thing before I bid you good night,"

Reaching inside his robes Elendil drew forth a small pouch. He opened it to reveal a ring which he removed from its velvet nest and pressed into Silmarien's hand.

"I thought that you might like to use this ring for the ceremony tomorrow."

Her eyes grew wide and the soft gasp which escaped her told him that she recognized whose ring it was that she held in her hand.

"It seems appropriate somehow," he responded simply to the wonderment in her expression.

Silmarien nodded, robbed of words by the emotion she felt. Elatan too would know the history of Barahir's ring, and she tried to imagine his reaction when it was placed on his finger in place of the plain silver one he bore now.

***

Amarië was waiting nearby as she had promised, and she hastened to intercept Elendil as he left his daughter's chamber.

"How fares my lady?"

To her surprise Tar-Elendil took the old nurse's hands in his firm grasp and pressed a gentle kiss on her wrinkled cheek. Quiet words passed between them, the soft light in Amarië's grey eyes radiating with her appreciation as she garnered reassurance from her sovereign's words.

"Go to her," Elendil told her as he released her soft aged hands. "I believe she wishes to show her gifts to you."

As Amarië turned to go Elendil spied his son hurrying along the shadowy corridor, and placing a hand on her arm he drew the old woman's attention to the tardy visitor.

"Silmarien will be sorely disappointed not to see her brother," he commented, and the glint of humor in his eyes did not escape her notice.

"My lady will not be disappointed," Amarië promised, but there was an answering twinkle in her eye as she added, "But Írimon will be required to employ all his powers of persuasion first." The smile that wreathed her face transformed her features, and Elendil marveled once again as he watched her close Silmarien's door behind her that there had been none to claim her hand in her younger days.

Turning to greet his son Elendil noted the scroll which Írimon carried.

"The hour grows late; almost had I lost hope that you would arrive in time to see your sister wed." The rebuke in his father's words caused Írimon to flush uncomfortably, but recalling his own late arrival Elendil did not press the issue further.

"What do you carry, onya?" he inquired, indicating the scroll.

"This is my gift to Silmarien," Írimon answered.

There was a note of nervous anticipation in his son's voice that would have piqued Elendil's curiosity even had he not wished to see what Írimon held in his hands.

"May I be permitted to see it?"

If he was surprised by his father's request Írimon gave no outward sign. Dropping to one knee, he carefully unrolled the heavy parchment on the carpeted floor.

It was larger than Elendil had at first thought, and he joined his son on the floor, lending a hand to secure one side of the chart which was now laid open for his inspection.

For such it was - a star chart, carefully executed in minute detail.

"This is your work?" Elendil knew well his son's interest, yet he had not realized until this moment how passionately Írimon had immersed himself in his study. There was love and pride mingled in the delicate tracery and fine lettering that marked out the positions of the stars in the heavens.

The obvious pleasure in his father's voice caused Írimon's heart to beat faster as he pointed out the different constellations which he had charted, explaining that these were the very ones which could be seen at this time of year from Elatan's house in Andúnië.

"There to the west is Morwinyon, the bright orange star that is at the heart of Emerwë, the Shepherd."

Elendil's gaze had followed his son's hand as Írimon pointed to each constellation while giving an explanation for it. But there was something nearby this last star group which caught the king's attention.

"What is this one named?" he inquired, pointing to a small grouping of stars that was shown just above the western horizon of the chart. Almost atop the angled lines of the small constellation rested Írimon's hand; the edge of the chart curled hard against his wrist as he held firmly to that spot.

"No name is given for it in any of the legends I have found," Írimon explained. His father's raised brow prompted him to continue, "The idea came to me after Elatan showed me the gift he has for my sister."

If Elendil knew aught of this gift he made no comment.

Írimon hesitated, then went on, "I had noted the formation before, but finding no name nor any legend, I might not have included it but for the fact that the brightest star, there in the center, reminded me of the jewel Elatan had shown me. He planned to have it set on a slender band of mithril to have as his wedding gift to Silmarien."

Írimon's manner had become somewhat agitated as he continued his explanation.

"Tonight it shines directly over their home in Andúnië. Do you think Silmarien will like it?" Írimon was watching his father anxiously, and Elendil's only thought was that his son must be hoping for some assurance that his gift was worthy of the recipient.

He could not know that Írimon's hand concealed the carefully worked lettering which spelled out the name he had chosen for the constellation: Elendilmir. Later the son would share the secret with his father, but for tonight Írimon wished it to remain a private gift to his beloved sister.

"I am certain she will love it, and doubly so because it is the work of your hands." Elendil's voice was husky with emotion as he spoke. Though the lore each studied differed from the other, the pursuit of knowledge was a passion they shared, as was the love each bore for a daughter and a sister. In that moment Elendil thought he saw in his son a reflection of himself and he was filled anew with love and pride in his offspring.

Elendil stood, watching as Írimon rolled up the chart once more. When it was done he offered his hand to his son and raised him to his feet.

"Go now. Your sister is waiting for you."

Írimon nodded, and taking the scroll he made his way down the hall to Silmarien's door. Elendil's expression was thoughtful as he watched his son and heir, though he could not help but smile as the young man gained entry to his sister's room far more easily than expected. Elendil told himself that he should have remembered; Amarië had never been able to resist Írimon's charm for long.

~*~

The sky above was still dark as the king walked alone in the peaceful stillness of the garden. The stars shone like gems strewn across the black canvas of the sky, yet as he stood contemplating them Elendil found he could decipher some of the patterns that had been reproduced so exactingly in Írimon's gift for Silmarien.

To the west Emerwë stood watch over the slumbering country, and Elendil thought that he could make out Silmarien's star hovering just above the horizon. Behind him a rosey hue was spreading across the eastern sky as Gil-Estel heralded the coming of a new day.

~*~*~*~

Author's notes:
1 - The passage containing the dialog between Andreth and Finrod is extracted from Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth which is to be found in Morgoth's Ring.
2 - Írimon, the third child and only son of Tar-Elendil, is best remembered as Tar-Meneldur, so named for his love of star-lore. He had built a tower in Formenos from which he could observe the stars, and only reluctantly returned to Armenelos when he ascended the throne. He is described in UT as "wise,but gentle and patient."
3 - Morwinyon - [Q: glint at dusk] This star which Varda "dropped" is identified with the bright orange star Arcturus by Christopher Tolkien. One of the brightest stars in the sky, it does command attention when it lays low in the western sky. Arcturus is identified as the bright orange star at the center of the constellation Boötes (the Herdsman), which I have taken the liberty of renaming for this story.
4 - The original Elendilmir (The Star of Elendil - Q.; "Elendil-jewel") is said to have belonged to Silmarien, though how or when she came to possess it seems to be unknown. Its having been Elatan's wedding gift to her is my own creation, for which I apologize if it contradicts Tolkien in any way.
5 - The constellation to which Írimon gives that name is based loosely on Coma Berenices, whose central star is identified as Diadem.
6 - mamil - mother
atarinya - my father
onya - my son
7 - The title and the song extract (words and music by John Barnett) are based on James 1:17 - "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." (NIV)
~*~*~*~
"Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure...surely I have a delightful inheritance." Psalm 16:5,6

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