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Tales from Vairë's Loom  by Fiondil

The Blue Wizards’ Dilemma

Summary: They were sent to bring help to the tribes of Men who had rebelled from Melkor-worship in Middle-earth. They were doing well in their mission until a fateful invasion put an end to their plans. Now they had to come up with a new one. Inspired by the Teitho contest ‘Crossroads’ and the randomly generated prompts: Blue Wizards/Umbar/Vineyard.


Umbar, Third Age 1810:

"This is not good."

"I am so glad you are here to tell me these things," Alatar snarled at his fellow Maia, both now in the guise of Wizards, Sapthîn in the language of these people, as the two ran through a vineyard on an estate belonging to one of the Corsair lords that lay a good league from the city, fleeing, as were many of the citizens of Umbar, from the depredations brought about by the invasion of a Gondorian fleet bent on conquest.

"Wait!" Pallando called out to his friend and companion. "Let us catch our breaths."

Alatar slowed and motioned for his fellow to follow him to where the press was situated under an old fig tree offering them some shade. The two sat heavily on a wooden beam, wiping the sweat from their brows, fanning themselves with their hats.

"All our work ruined!" Pallando complained, casting a glare to the west where the smoke of fires rose in the sky, overshadowing the land and blocking out the light of Anor. "Another decade, perhaps two, and we would have brought all of Umbar over to the Light. But now! Oh, why couldn’t Telumehtar have waited?"

Alatar snorted in disdain. "Mortals are incapable of seeing the broader picture or of thinking in the long-term. Ten years, twenty years, it’s too long for them, even for these sons of Númenor with their longer lifespan. Telumehtar’s impatience will cost him in the end, though, mark my words."

"His impatience is costing us even now," Pallando protested. "So now what are we to do?"

For several minutes the two sat in silence, deep in thought. Alatar scowled at nothing in particular. What Pallando said was true: all their hard work had gone up in smoke, literally. The Corsair lord through whose vineyard they were fleeing had actually been a friend of theirs and they were sure that Lord Gimilzagar would have eventually joined them in their fight against Zigûr as these people called Sauron. Or if not Gimilzagar than perhaps his son and heir Pharaznarâk, an intelligent and likeable lad, given to deep thoughts and canny insights.

But no. Both Gimilzagar and his son lay dead seeking to defend their family and their land and any hope that the Wizards had of bringing the Umbari to the Light was lost with them. Telumehtar might hold onto Umbar in his own lifetime but it was doubtful that that hold would endure for any length of time once this present king of Gondor was dead.

Alatar sighed, grieving for his dead friends and wondering what their next step should be. It had been many lives of Men since he and Pallando had come to Middle-earth at the behest of the Valar. Their mission was simple, or at least, he thought sardonically, it had seemed that way when they had been Maiar in truth....

"Your task is to circumvent the one known as Sauron," Lord Manwë told him and Pallando, speaking solemnly as they stood before the throne of the Elder King to hear his commands. "Bring help to the tribes of Men that have rebelled from Melkor-worship and stir up rebellion if ye can. The forces which Sauron can command far out-weigh those that the Eldar can muster and there are none from the Houses of the Atani who will hearken to Ereinion."

"Will not the Atani of Númenórë come to Ereinion’s aid?" Pallando asked.

"They would if Ereinion asked it of them," Varda answered, "but it is unclear to us that the High King of the Elves in Middle-earth will see the need at this time. We send you two now before the other Istari to pave the way. Your mission is important to the safety of the West. The fewer tribes of Men beholden to Sauron, the greater the Elves’ chances against him."

"So we are to convince these Men to join with Ereinion and the other Elvish kingdoms against Sauron should he ever arise?" Alatar enquired.

"If possible," Manwë replied, "but even if they are convinced simply not to join with Sauron, that will go a long way towards ensuring that the West prevails."....

They had traveled to Middle-earth in the company of Lord Glorfindel when he was sent on his own mission to hearten Ereinion and guard Turgon’s heir. They had not stayed in Lindon long, but had made their way across the wilderness of Eriador to consult with Galadriel and Celeborn in Ost-in-Edhil, and then they crossed the Misty Mountains to speak with Amroth in Lorinand. Eventually they had crossed the Anduin to speak with Oropher in the hidden fastness of the Great Greenwood. Everywhere they went the Elves spoke of a shadow of a threat that they all perceived as rising from the East. It was all very vague and uncertain and rumors were rife, yet, it was obvious that the rumors held a grain of truth, for why else would the Valar have sent them? Only after consulting with the Elves had the two agreed that their path lay to the south of Mordor. It was there in the lands of Umbar and the Harad that Sauron was most likely to hold sway, yet it was their hope that there were Men in that region who wished to throw off the yoke of slavery to Melkor’s lieutenant and fight against Sauron.

It had not been easy, Alatar reflected. Travel through Middle-earth was perilous, for much was wilderness and the rude settlements of Men fraught with dangers of their own. They had, in fact, spent many years of the sun traveling from one Elvish enclave to the next, learning all that they could from the Firstborn Children of Ilúvatar before moving among Mortals. Alatar smiled to himself. It had been interesting to see some of the Noldor whom they had known in Aman still living in exile. Yet, except for Ereinion and Círdan, in whom they had confided, only Arafinwiel recognized them immediately for who they were....

"You are not what you appear to be, my lords," Lady Galadriel said as she and her lord greeted them in their audience chamber. There was no hint of threat in her voice; she was merely making an observation.

"And what are we then, Lady?" Alatar asked with a hint of amusement tinging his words.

"You are more and less than you seem," she answered, pursing her lips and furrowing her brow as if trying to recall an elusive thought. Her lord and husband gave her a considering look.

"Thou knowest these...Men?" he asked, hesitating as to what to call them.

Galadriel shook her head, her eyes brightening with understanding. "Eld Men they seem but Mortal they are not, my beloved," she answered. "These are, or once were, Maiar if my heart deceiveth me not."

Both Maiar bowed. "We are indeed Maiar as thou hast guessed, daughter of Arafinwë," Alatar said. "Yet we have put aside our true natures and have adopted these guises that we might better interact with the Children who abide here in Middle-earth."

Galadriel nodded gravely while Celeborn gazed upon them with no little wonder. Only the two Maiar noticed the glint of mischief in his wife’s eyes when she asked her next question. "So, are ye anyone I know?"

Pallando had raised an eyebrow at that impertinent question, but Alatar had laughed lightly and introduced themselves by their true names....

He smiled again at the memory. It had been Arafinwiel who had coined the word Ithron to describe them and that title stuck, though among the various tribes of Men with whom they sojourned they were given different titles with similar meanings. They were the Ithryn Luin, the Blue Wizards, for they tended to wear robes of that shade. His own were the blue of a rain-washed sky but Pallando’s were perhaps somewhat greyer in tone. To many Mortals they appeared almost identical in looks and some assumed they were twins. That always amused them and it sometimes proved a useful ploy. Most Mortals, they learned early on, were very unobservant.


Alatar blinked a couple of times, his reverie interrupted by Pallando’s querulous tone. "Well what?" he asked.

"Well, what do you suppose we should do now?" Pallando retorted with impatience. "I do not fancy sitting here to wait for the Gondorians to reach us. Getting slaughtered by these misbegotten sons of Númenor does not appeal to me whatsoever."

Alatar gave him a wintry smile. "Your prejudice is showing, brother," he said.

"Bah! You know I’m right. We cannot stay here. I doubt Telumehtar or his troops will be too particular about whom they kill."

"I wonder, should we actually experience bodily death, if we would have to suffer being brought before Lord Námo for judgment like any Incarnate?"

Pallando rewarded him with a disbelieving look. "We’re sitting on the edge of ruin and you’re worried about facing the Lord of Mandos should you be stupid enough to get yourself killed? If so, it will be only what you deserve. As for me, I’m going to do my level best to stay alive and that means getting out of here. The question still remains, where are we to go?"

"Why shouldn’t we return to Umbar once the dust settles?" Alatar suggested.

"I do not think we would be welcome," Pallando answered. "Oh, I have no doubt that Telumehtar would welcome us, but not, I deem, the Umbari who survive this day. They will see us as having betrayed them."

Alatar sighed, nodding. "I fear you are correct, brother. So, where do you suggest we go?"

Pallando shrugged. "There are few choices open to us," he mused. "I have a mind to return to the West and seek out Curumo or Olórin and ask for their advice."

"Assuming we can find them," Alatar said, "though I think I would sooner speak with Olórin than to Curumo for all that he is the head of our Order."

His companion nodded. "I agree."

Even so, something in Alatar cringed at the thought of seeking out their fellow Istari. After all, what advice could they possibly give? Even Olórin, the wisest of them all could tell them little that they didn’t already know in their own hearts. It was so discouraging.

"I think we have company."

Alatar looked up at Pallando’s whisper and saw a bedraggled group of refugees making their way to them. They were mostly women and children with a few older men. None of them were warriors as far as he could make out, save perhaps one. They obviously had seen the two Wizards so it was useless to try and avoid them. He scanned the dirty faces and the haunted eyes as he and Pallando rose to greet them and felt only pity for these poor Children. It was not their fault that their ancestors had turned away from the Valar and the worship of Eru. They were ignorant of their heritage, believing the lies of their ancestors and, more recently, Sauron.

"Are... are you the Sapthîn?" one of the women in the group asked. She was a dark-haired beauty in spite of the dirt and soot covering her face and her torn gown. She had hazel-brown eyes and her skin tone was several shades darker than the norm. Alatar suspected that she must be part Haradi. There was little of Númenór in her blood.

Alatar nodded. "What can we do for you, my children?" Alatar enquired.

"Please, lords, protect us," the woman pleaded, falling to her knees, as did everyone else in the group. "Do not let the Gondorians enslave us."

"They will not enslave you, child," Pallando said in a querulous tone. "Unlike others, the people of Gondor do not take slaves."

"Yet, we would not wish to live under their yoke," the woman stated.

"Then what would you of us?" Alatar asked with a heavy heart.

"Lead us, lord, to a safe haven," the woman demanded. "We are not warriors, save for my nephew here and he is barely old enough to wield a sword. We will not get far without help. Lord Gimilzagar told us...."

"You spoke with Lord Gimilzagar?" Alatar exclaimed. "He lives?"

"Nay, he does not," the woman answered bitterly. "He and his heir lie dead on the quays along with all our valiant men. Yet, before he left for the fighting Lord Gimilzagar entrusted us with his youngest son." She pointed to a boy barely out of babyhood.

Alatar and Pallando exchanged troubled glances. "I know of no other son of the lord," Pallando said, staring intently at the boy who could not have been more than seven. The child had the typical dark hair and grey eyes that marked his Númenórean ancestry, though his skin was darker than was usual among the Umbari and his hair was somewhat curlier than was typical.

The woman motioned the boy forward to present him to the two Wizards. "This is Zimrathôr Gimilzagarôhîn. He is the son of Lord Gimilzagar’s concubine."

Alatar gave her a shrewd look. In all appearance the woman seemed to belong to one of the lower castes, perhaps a high-ranking servant in Gimilzagar’s household but nothing more. Yet, there was something about her manner that denied that charge.

"What is your name, daughter?" Alatar asked.

She hesitated for a second before answering. "Zamîn, my lord."

He glanced briefly between the woman and child and suddenly knew the truth. "You are that concubine and this is your son."

She nodded and prostrated herself to the ground. "I beg you, lords, do not turn us over to the Gondorians. My son will not be permitted to live. He is my lord’s only remaining child."

"But not his heir," Pallando stated.

And that was true enough, reflected Alatar. The fact that the boy had been introduced as Gimilzagarôhîn rather than Gimilzagarthôr meant that the boy’s father had not formally recognized him as his son. Normally, such niceties were ignored in Umbari society. The boy, at the proper time, would have been introduced to Umbari society by Gimilzagar as his son, but that was still at least three years away. With Gimilzagar dead, though....

"And Lady Yôzâyanphel?" he asked, naming Gimilizagar’s wife and the mother of his heir, knowing the answer before he even asked.

Zamîn shook her head sadly. "She, too, is dead, lord. All that remains of Zadan ’n Abrazân is Zimrathôr."

Alatar looked to Pallando, wondering what his fellow Wizard was thinking. Zimrathôr was but a child, yet as the son of one of the most powerful of the Corsair lords, even if not his heir, his life might well be considered forfeit. Certainly if the situation were reversed, the Umbari would have no qualms about wiping out the entire royal family of Gondor, down to the babe born yesterday. That Telumehtar would never think of doing so to the Umbari was beside the point. Zamîn believed otherwise and no amount of words from him would convince her. Pallando just gave him a slight shrug and a shake of his head. He was as much at a loss as to what to do as was Alatar. The Wizard turned to Zamîn.

"And these others?" he asked.

"Loyal to Lord Gimilzagar," she replied immediately and Alatar had the feeling that whatever their true stories were, these refugees would claim that they were indeed loyal to Gimilzagar and his last surviving son.

"We had not planned to leave immediately," Alatar said, stroking his grey-brown beard. "We have our own tasks still to complete here in Umbar."

"Please, lords, I beg of you," Zamîn pleaded. "For the love I know you held for my Lord Gimilzagar, protect us, protect his son. I know he would want you to, you whom he called beloved friends."

And there was the rub. Umbari Corsair or not, Gimilzagar had indeed been their friend and they his. He and Pallando had in fact been friends with Zadan ’n Abrazân for many lives of Men. They had both found it ironic that Gimilzagar’s ancestor had labeled himself "the Faithful", faithful to those who defied the Valar, certainly, even if not one who curried favors with Sauron. Belzagar had, in fact, been a Númenórean who had fled the island of his birth long years before its fall, settling in Umbar even before Ar-Pharazôn had come with his fleet to conquer Sauron. Over the long years, the two Wizards had kept in contact with Belzagar’s descendants, slowly bringing them to an acceptance of the authority of the Valar and the right worship of Eru Ilúvatar. Pallando was correct, Alatar thought. Another decade or two and perhaps....

Well, no sense in brooding over what-might-have-beens. The present moment was what mattered. "What do you think?" he asked Pallando, speaking Quenya, knowing that none among the Umbari would understand them.

For a moment Pallando did not answer, merely staring intently at the small group of refugees as if he could gauge their hearts and minds with his glance. Most could not meet his gaze though Alatar noted with wry amusement that the boy, Zimrathôr, never blinked or looked away when Pallando’s eyes rested on him. Truly his father’s son.

"We have a rather nice dilemma before us, do we not, brother?" Pallando answered, speaking Quenya as well.

"And what dilemma is that?"

"Do we abandon our mission to help these people or not?"

"Is not helping them a part of our mission?" Alatar demanded. "What else can we do?"

"We could leave. Seek passage to Gondor with Telumehtar. He’ll know us as friends of the West and will not deny us. Let us seek council with Olórin and Curumo if we may. Umbar is a lost cause anyway. Time to rethink our strategy."

"Do you really believe that?" Alatar asked somewhat sharply and was pleased when Pallando shook his head and sighed.

"No, I do not," he answered, "but I offered it as an alternative to what I know we will both do." He gazed at the expectant faces of the Umbari and nodded. "Very well. Our first order of business is to gather supplies, for we have a long road before us."

Alatar gave him a surprised look. "Where do we go then?"

"Further east," Pallando answered, giving his fellow Wizard a steady look. "Or further south, it matters not. Only one thing matters. That boy." He jerked his chin in the direction of the youngster standing there. "He is our mission, he and all these others. For friendship’s sake, if for no other reason, I would see Gimilzagar’s son safe. He may not be his legal heir, but he is Gimilzagar’s son, nonetheless. I would not see the House of the Faithful fall."

Alatar nodded. "Then let us gather supplies quickly and be on our way, before Telumehtar’s men find us." He turned his attention to the refugees and gave them a brief wintry smile. "Gather what supplies you can," he ordered them, switching to Adûnaic. "Quickly now. We must leave Umbar for a time but I promise that someday you will return, or your children will. Until then, my fellow Sapthân and I will guide you to safety."

"Thank you, lord," Zamîn said, tears of gratitude running down her cheeks as she clutched his hand to kiss it.

Alatar nodded and bade her and the others to rise. Even as the refugees scattered to gather what supplies they could find, Alatar wondered at the folly of their decision. The wisest thing would be to leave these people to fend for themselves while he and Pallando went west to seek council from their fellow Istari. Yet, the thought of abandoning these poor souls went against the grain. And in the end, what advice could Olórin or anyone give them? No. They would take these people to a place of refuge and see them settled. After that....

Valar! What a mess! But Pallando was right. This was their mission, at least for the time being. The rest would just have to wait. After all, were they not immortals? Time enough to return to their original mission later.

"What’s your name?"

Alatar looked down in surprise at the sound of the boy-child asking his question. He was alone, for Zamîn had gone with some of the other women to find food for them all. He gave the boy a smile. "Your father’s father’s father called me Morinehtar and my friend he called Rómestámo."

The boy wrinkled his nose in confusion. "Those are funny names. What do they mean?"

Alatar smiled and clapped the boy on the shoulder. "We’ll tell you their meaning and more while we are traveling, young lord. For now, why don’t you help us gather some grapes from the vineyard?"

The boy nodded and soon the three were busy stripping the vines of grapes as quickly as they could, all the while the two Wizards urged the others to hurry with their preparations. Even as Anor sank bloodily behind the dark cloud of smoke that was all that remained of the city, the refugees, led by the two Wizards, made their way eastward into lands unknown. They were never to know that they left only a half hour before Telumehtar’s troops reached the estate and burned it to the ground.


Words are Adûnaic unless otherwise noted.

Sapthîn: Plural of Sapthân: Wise-man, Wizard.

Gimilzagar: ‘Star-Sword’.

Pharaznarâk: ‘Golden-Eagle’.

Zigûr: Wizard, in an evil sense. Zigûr was the name by which Sauron was known on Númenor.

Arafinwiel: (Quenya) Daughter of Arafinwë, i.e. Galadriel.

Ithron: (Sindarin) Wizard. The plural is Ithryn.

Istari: (Quenya) Plural of Istar: Wizard.

Zimrathôr: ‘Jewel-son’.

Gimilzagarôhîn: Child of Gimilzagor.

Gimilzagarthôr: Son of Gimilzagar.

Zamîn: An attested Adûnaic female name that is not translated.

Yôzâyanphel: ‘Daughter of the Land of Gift’, i.e. Númenor.

Zadan ’n Abrazân: House of the Steadfast. Abrazân can also mean ‘Faithful’.

Belzagar: ‘Sword of Light’.

Morinehtar: (Quenya) ‘Darkness-Slayer’.

Rómestámo: (Quenya) ‘East-Helper’.


1. According to the Tale of Years, in T.A. 1810, Telumehtar Umbardacil (reigned 1798-1850), took Umbar by storm and drove out the Corsairs. In that war the last descendants of Castamir the Usurper perished and Umbar was again held for a while by the kings, but subsequent evils soon befell Gondor and Umbar was again lost, falling into the hands of the Men of the Harad. See also Appendix A (iv), ‘Gondor and the Heirs of Anárion’.

2. Besides the narrative of the choosing of the Istari before a council of the Valar found in Unfinished Tales, Tolkien briefly explored the history and purpose of the Istari, and the Blue Wizards in particular, in Peoples of Middle-earth, HoME XII, Chapter XIII, "Last Writings: The Five Wizards". Their names, Morinehtar and Rómestámo are taken from this.

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