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45: The Light Challenges
As the council came to an end, Varda went to Námo. “You spoke of great light being for the waning of the Firstborn,” she said. Námo nodded, feeling suddenly wary, though he could not say why. “What did you mean by that?”
Námo’s demeanor became distant, even cold, and his expression hardened. “My meaning will become clear enough in time, Varda. To say more than I have is to change what must be. I say only what I am bid by Atar and no more.”
The Queen of Stars looked troubled and frustrated at the same time. “You really enjoy acting mysterious, don’t you?” she hissed, her eyes flashing with anger. “Why must you always speak in riddles?” Without giving him time to answer she turned and strode away.
Námo stared at her retreating back in surprise, feeling somewhat hurt. Vairë came to him, putting a comforting hand on his arm. “She did not mean it, beloved,” she said gently. “Varda is just... upset by the news that Yavanna and Oromë have brought us.”
“I do not speak in riddles,” he insisted, then gave Vairë a troubled look of his own. “Do I?”
Vairë smiled, her eyes glinting with hidden mischief. “Oh... no more so than the next male of the species,” she said slyly.
Námo raised an eyebrow. “What does that mean?”
But Vairë only giggled and refused to answer, leaving Námo feeling even more confused than before.
For a time no one saw Varda. Not even Manwë knew where she was or, if he did, he would not say. “She’s pondering the import of all that we have learned of late,” he told anyone who inquired. Some of the Máyar, though, mentioned seeing her standing upon the highest horn of Dáhanigwishtelgun, staring out into the darkness of the Outer Lands.
Then, she was seen consulting with Yavanna and spending much time near the Trees, though she actually paid little attention to them. Her main focus of interest was the great wells of silver light into which was gathered the dews of Ibrínithilpathanezel. There was much speculation among the other Ayanumuz as to why, some more absurd than others. Tulkas’ explanation that she was probably deciding how easy it would be to haul some of that liquid light up to Ilmarin for a bath had them rolling on the ground in laughter.
When she started consulting with Vána, their curiosity was heightened, but Vána refused to say what they had been discussing. “You’ll find out soon enough,” she said with a mysterious smile, enjoying being the center of attention for a change. The others accepted her dismissal with good grace but Oromë kept trying to wheedle the answer out of her until she ended up throwing him out of their mansion with orders to “Go hunt something”. Furious and embarrassed at the same time, he called to Naehaerra and the two of them were seen heading north. He did not return until nearly a year later.
Meanwhile, Varda began a great labor, perhaps the greatest of the works of the Ayanumuz since their coming into Eä. She took the silver dews from the wells of Ibrínithilpathanezel, and began Singing new stars into creation, setting them in the heavens and gathering together the ancient stars in new patterns that could be seen from Atháraphelun. In later ages, the Firstborn would name some of them: Anarríma, Soronúmë , Telumendil, and Wilwarin. Others she created as well and used some of the light of the elder Tree to increase the albedo of the planets so they could be better seen from Ambarhíni.
Two constellations she made with Vána’s help and they were a wonder for all to see. One would someday be called Menelmacar with his shining belt, striding across the heavens with his faithful hound behind him, the blue fire of Helluin that was the hound’s eye flickering in the mists above the borders of the world. And high in the north as a special challenge to Melkor she set the crown of seven great stars to swing, Valacirca, the great Sickle of the Valar and a sign of doom.
Far off in the barren wastelands where Melkor hid, the Fallen One saw the new stars and the figures they formed and pondered.
Long did Varda labor to bring these new stars into being and often the other Ayanumuz (and many of the Máyar) ceased their work and play and made their way to the eastern shores of Amanaphelun where the Light of the Trees could not be seen and spent some time gazing up in wonder at the new lights, exclaiming in delight when another bloomed into existence, and deciding what names to give the new constellations. It was during that time that Varda began to wear a crown of living stars in her hair. No one said anything about it, but their respect for her only grew.
At one point she came to Námo who with Vairë was lying on the strand gazing up at the heavens and watching Menelmacar ride the heavens, slipping toward the horizon. She had a triumphant look on her face. “Do you approve?” she asked.
Námo gave her a surprised look. “You neither need nor want my approval, Varda, so why do you ask?”
She knelt in the sand beside them, gazing pensively at her creations. “These are not the great lights about which you spoke, are they?”
“No, Varda, they are not,” Námo said with a shake of his head, “but they are quite beautiful and you should be proud of what you’ve accomplished.”
The Kindler of Stars turned her gaze upon the Doomsman of Arda, her expression more troubled. “I... I will not have anything to do with creating the great lights, will I?”
When Námo did not reply immediately she made to rise but he stayed her with a hand on her arm. She refused to look at either of them. “Varda, what you ask... I cannot tell you, for I truly do not know, but in my heart I think that what you fear is true. Yet, it may be that it will take all of us working together to bring forth these great lights.”
Varda nodded, her expression still pensive but less troubled. She turned her gaze upon them and a slow smile graced her visage. “So... do you think Melkor likes what I did with the stars?”
Námo smiled as Vairë sniggered. “Not likely,” he said.
Varda’s expression turned triumphant once again. “Good!”
To that both Námo and Vairë agreed.
Sometime afterwards, several of the Máyar, including Melyanna, expressed a desire to walk in the Outer Lands. This surprised the Ayanumuz and not a few were troubled, but Námo gave his permission to those few of his own People who desired to leave Amanaphelun.
“I sorrow that you would leave us thus,” he told them, “but I understand your need. Tread carefully, my children, for Melkor hides without and his People are still a present danger to you. Yet, if ever need drives you, call out and I will come.”
The Máyar bowed deeply to their lord, grateful for his understanding and his blessing. While some set out with obvious reluctance, none of them looked back.
“If they are hesitant, why do they not stay?” Vairë asked.
Námo shook his head. “They are called to another destiny than remaining here in Amanaphelun. Some will embrace that destiny eagerly, others less so, yet all will go, for something within them drives them.”
“Something... or Someone?” Vairë ventured, casting a shrewd look at her beloved.
Námo nodded. “So I suspect, which is why I did not forbid their going.”
When the other Ayanumuz heard of Námo releasing those of his People desiring to leave Amanaphelun, they gave their own permission. There was much sadness at the departure, but they knew it was not permanent and all were but a thought away. Yet, for some time afterwards, those who remained behind were less cheerful and their songs were fewer.
Finally, Varda was satisfied with all her labor and asked Manwë if a feast in honor of it could be held. Manwë had no objections, and so a time came when the Ayanumuz and the Máyar gathered on a white sand beach on the western shore of Amanaphelun and made merry under the glittering stars shining defiantly against the corrupting darkness of the Fallen One, an unclean darkness that threatened all of Atháraphelun. They sang and danced under the canopy of stars, greeting each new constellation as it rose out of the sea. Long did they celebrate, eating and drinking and frolicking in the sea surf. Some even thought themselves to other parts of the planet to see what the constellations looked like from different locales.
Námo and Vairë disappeared for a time and no one knew where they went. They found for themselves a small island beyond the western shores of Amanaphelun where they sat on the beach and watched the stars in their stately pavane.
“Look!” Vairë exclaimed. “Menelmacar rises.”
Námo nodded, looking northward. “Varda was wise to make the Sickle circumpolar. It will never set and Melkor will be forced to see it always.”
“She’s devious when she wants to be,” Vairë said, lying on her back. “She has not forgotten what Melkor did to some of her stars and this I think is a sign to him, a warning, if you will, that he can never fully win against us.”
Námo brushed a hand through her dark hair as he sat beside her. “I think you are correct, my love,” he said. “This is Varda’s act of defiance against our Fallen Brother.”
For a time they remained silent with Vairë staring at the heavens while Námo gazed adoringly at his beloved, slowly caressing her hair. The only sound was the shur-shush of the surf as it hit the beach. Then, Námo came to a decision. It was not a sudden one, but blossomed forth from deep within him. It was a decision he always knew he would make, just never when. Now, though, seemed the right time.
He bent over Vairë and planted a gentle kiss on her brow, then slowly made his way down her face, kissing first her eyelids and then her right cheek until he found her mouth. She accepted his advances eagerly and her kisses became as fervent as his until by mutual consent they both stopped, breathless with delight. Námo smiled down at Vairë, who smiled back.
“Shall we offer Melkor our own brand of defiance?” he whispered. “Shall we take back what he stole from us?”
“What did he steal from us?” Vairë whispered, though she knew full well what it was; she simply wanted to hear Námo speak of it aloud, confirming her own feelings.
“Our innocence,” came the reply.
“We can never regain that,” Vairë said emphatically.
Námo nodded. “But we can accept the loss and move forward. In doing so we show that in the end Melkor did not win, can never win.”
“So, how do we move on?” Vairë asked after a brief silence ensued.
Now Námo hesitated for a second or two, knowing that the next step was irrevocable, but also recognizing its rightness in the greater scheme of things. The two of them had been reaching towards this moment since before they ever left the Timeless Halls, though neither had realized it at the time. He leaned over and kissed Vairë again on the lips, then sat back, his demeanor more grave. “Vairë, heart of my heart, wilt thou cleave unto me for all the ages of Eä and beyond?”
Vairë gave him a brilliant smile. “Yes, beloved, I will.”
Námo’s own bearing became less grave and he smiled back. Then, suddenly he leapt to his feet, flinging his arms out in triumph and giving a crow of delight. “She said yes, Atar!” he cried. He then reached down to pull Vairë up and began twirling her around in an impromptu dance.
Vairë’s laughter was echoed from the Timeless Halls as she and Námo continued to dance in breathless delight.
Helluin: The star Sirius found in the constellation of Canis Major.
Note: According to Tolkien, Varda spent fifty Valian years (479 solar years) rearranging the universe to suit herself. At the end of that time it is said that Melian (and perhaps other Maiar as well) departed Valinor for Middle-earth.
Names of the constellations mentioned. While most are identified some are only tentatively so.
Menelmacar: ‘Swordsman of the Heavens’; Orion. The older name, Telumehtar, with the same meaning, is mentioned in Appendix E.
Soronúmë: ?‘Eagle Descending’ (literally, ‘going down’) or ‘Large Eagle’; perhaps Aquila.
Telumendil: ‘Sky-friend’; perhaps Perseus.
Valacirca: ‘Sickle of the Valar’; Ursa Major.
Wilwarin: ‘Butterfly’; Cassiopeia.
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