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Sador and Alassiel left for Kortirion with Beren a week later, but Helyanwë remained in Alqualondë, not wishing to return to her home immediately. She still felt ashamed by what she saw as her failure. In spite of her great-grandparents’ assurances to the contrary, in spite of her brother’s loving teasing, she still felt that she had let her family down and she did not wish to see the look of disappointment in their faces.
“It’ll take her time to get over it,” Lirillë had told them at one point.
“I wanted her to return with us so she could tell Gil-galad directly what her experiences were in Endórë,” Sador said with a sigh.
“Bring him here a week before the Council,” Olwë suggested. “Eärendil and Elwing will be here and he can listen to her story then. We can all travel together.”
And so it was decided. At Beren’s suggestion, Helyanwë agreed to write everything down that she could remember about Wiseman and the Mortals and the situation in which the Elves found themselves. “Leave nothing out,” he told his sister as she helped him to pack. “We need to know the bad as well as the good.”
“We?” Helyanwë asked teasingly.
“Náto, nés’ anameldanya, mé,” Beren had rejoined gravely and suddenly her little brother seemed yéni older than herself.
“You should have gone,” she said softly. “It should have been you.”
“Except Glorfindel’s not my type,” Beren retorted with a wicked smile, “so it wouldn’t have worked out anyway.”
She stared at him in disbelief for a moment and then something passed between them and the Prince-Steward of Tol Eressëa and his wife, along with the Lindarin royal family, were treated to the sight of Helyanwë chasing a laughing Beren through the halls of the palace, dodging servants and guards. The older Elves looked at one another and shrugged.
“Some things never change, do they?” Olwë said with a twinkle in his eyes and the others laughingly agreed.
Messages from Ingwë and Arafinwë arrived in Alqualondë almost at the same time a few days after Sador and Alassiel had left. Both messages said the same thing, requesting that the three kings meet prior to the Council to plan their approach and Olwë replied in the affirmative, then sent missives to Aewellond and Tol Eressëa, alerting Eärendil and Sador as to the change in plans.
Thus, the Valanya before the summer solstice saw Gil-galad coming into Alqualondë on his flagship, Anaralcar, even as Eärendil and Elwing arrived in Vingilot. Their meeting was merry, but their joy was overshadowed by the reason for it. Accompanying the king was Sador, who, as the Prince-Steward, normally would have remained in Kortirion while Gil-galad was away.
“Valdanna is more than capable of keeping everyone in line while I’m gone,” Gil-galad explained, naming his queen, a Reborn Noldo who, like Gil-galad, had been born in Beleriand. Their romance had taken everyone by surprise but it had been a perfect match, for Valdanna’s steely character complemented Gil-galad’s more relaxed nature. Everyone agreed they made a formidable pair and Valdanna had the respect of all.
Beren also was with them, though he was there more for Falmaron’s sake than for Helyanwë’s. “The situation in Endórë will be the main topic of discussion at the Council, but we need to give a report on our latest expedition as well,” the ellon explained to his sister when she asked. “As I am the ship’s loremaster, it is my task to present our findings to the Council and answer any questions they might have.”
“I doubt they will have many,” Helyanwë said shrewdly. “No one cares about what you found. I think only Círdan cares and possibly Eärendil.”
“Perhaps,” Beren said equably. “Whether they care or not, it is still our duty to report what we have discovered. Perhaps in conjunction with what the High Kings will reveal about Endórë, people will find a reason to care.”
The party remained in Alqualondë for a day before everyone who would be attending the Council boarded Vingilot and soon they were sailing over the Pelóri mountains and across the plains of Eldamar toward the city of the Powers. Even from their exalted height, that jewel of Aman was not immediately visible as Eärendil steered his ship northwestward, avoiding Tirion, for they knew that Arafinwë had already left for Valmar two days previously and was due to arrive at the city around the same time as Vingilot.
And so it was. Olwë looked down upon the city to see Arafinwë’s entourage entering through the mithril and pearl gates that spanned the eastern road. He saw his son-in-law look up at their approach and wave and he waved back. He could see that Arafinwë was accompanied, not only by Celeborn and Galadriel, but also Nolofinwë and his son, Turucáno. He did not see Eärwen and so had to assume his daughter held the regency in Tirion, even as Lirillë held it in Alqualondë. He had a momentary flash of insight that, except in a few cases, most likely the wives of the other kings attending the Council would be left behind to rule while their ellyn went off to play. He chuckled to himself at that realization, but when Lindarion, standing beside him, asked him what he found so amusing, he just shook his head and refused to answer.
Eärendil brought his ship to the quay beside Lord Ulmo’s mansion and soon they were all disembarking and making their way across the lake to the other side where Arafinwë and Nolofinwë were waiting for them, along with the others from Tirion. Warm greetings were given all around.
“I understand Ingwë’s waiting for us at the royal townhouse,” Arafinwë told them as they gathered their luggage and headed toward the northern gate of meteoric iron and diamonds that led into Eldamas, the elven enclave where those who worked directly for the Valar or were apprenticed to them lived. Only Olwë’s and Gil-galad’s personal guards, Eäralato and Celepharn, respectively, had accompanied them; Eärendil refused to have one, and the Noldor were rather used to doing things themselves, though Arafinwë had brought Calandil, his captain of the guards, along as a matter of course. Thus, the citizens of Eldamas were treated to the sight of three kings and other royal personages carrying their luggage down the streets of the town, chatting amiably among themselves and pretty much ignoring everyone else, as if they were just common travelers on their way to the inn of their choice. One or two people even found the nerve to approach and offer to carry the luggage for them but the royals just smiled, politely refusing their kind offers.
They reached the royal townhouse which was still used by the three high kings and sometimes by the lesser kings and their families to be greeted at the door by Ingwë and Ingwion and soon they were all unpacked and meeting in the main dining hall where servants permanently attached to the townhouse were setting up a light repast. No one spoke of the Council or its agenda, but concentrated on catching up on family news. It was only afterwards that Ingwë broached the subject of the Council when they retired to what was referred to as the library, though there were no books lining its shelves. Instead they were filled mostly with statuary and knick-knacks that no one really wanted but didn’t have the heart to throw or give away.
“We need to decide how we will handle this Council,” Ingwë said without preamble as everyone found places to sit or, in a few cases, to stand. Ingwë, himself, was ensconced in a comfortably padded chair with a mug of chamomile tea in his hand.
“What have you decided?” Olwë asked, giving Ingwë a shrewd look.
Ingwë raised an eyebrow. “If by that, you mean, do I plan to dictate how we will approach this, then the answer is, no. I honestly want to know how each of you who traveled to Wiseman feel about it and just what our ultimate goal or goals should be. There needs to be an actual outcome to this Council and not just a lot of talk.”
“What do you think our goal should be, Ingwë?” Gil-galad asked. “I have read the report that Lady Helyanwë sent me about her own experiences as well as what Olwë and Arafinwë bothered to tell me, but I have not heard from you, at least not directly, so I do not know what your own feelings about all this are.”
“Actually, you’ve not spoken of it to any of us,” Arafinwë added, “though I know both Olwë and I have sent you missives.”
“I apologize for not responding,” Ingwë said with a slight frown. “In truth, I have spent these last few weeks grappling in my own mind what my feelings are about Wiseman and the situation we found there. Also, I have been communing with the Valar, specifically Lords Manwë and Námo.” Here he flashed them a grin. “In fact, I pretty much camped outside Lord Námo’s gates until he granted me an audience.”
“Made you walk the spiral, did he?” Gil-galad asked with a wicked grin and Ingwë rewarded them with a rueful look.
“Damn Vala and his games,” he muttered and the others laughed in sympathy, having been on the receiving end of Námo’s ‘games’ themselves at one time or another.
“So, what have you decided, Ingwë?” Arafinwë asked, speaking king-to-king rather than nephew-to-uncle.
“We should each of us who were there give our impressions of what we saw and experienced. Helyanwë, my dear, you lived there the longest, so I plan to put you on the witness stand, so to speak, and have you field questions from the others.”
“A bit harsh, don’t you think?” Sador asked, putting an arm around his great-granddaughter in comfort, for she had paled at Ingwë’s announcement. “You know what some of them are like. They’ll eat her alive.”
“Not if we handle it and them correctly,” Ingwë countered.
“So how exactly do you want to do this?” Arafinwë asked.
“Lord Námo advised that we stick primarily to facts in our presentation and leave any feelings about what we witnessed or experienced out of it, at least initially,” Ingwë replied. “He told me that it was important that those who attend the Council be given as straightforward a recounting as is possible uncolored by anyone’s ambivalence, mine especially.”
“That is certainly something that I can do,” Olwë said, “and Arafinwë, but Helyanwë, are you able to divorce your personal feelings from the facts of what you experienced?”
Helyanwë frowned. “I do not know, Uncle,” she said quietly. “I went there with high hopes and now everything is wrong and I ruined—”
“Now stop that, nésa,” Beren said not unkindly. “You didn’t ruin anything. I, too, have read your report and I’ve listened to you describe what happened. It is obvious to me that our people in Endórë operate under a different set of parameters in their attempt to blend in with the mortal society around them. The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that you who went were woefully underprepared for the reality of the situation. That is not your fault, but the fault of the Valar.”
“And yet, perhaps in their wisdom they realized that there is no adequate way to prepare anyone for culture shock,” Arafinwë said. “I recall how the Valar attempted to warn us who followed Lord Eönwë to Endórë in the War of Wrath about what we would find when we landed, but in truth, all the words in the world could not adequately prepare us for what we did find. It is just not possible. I am sure the Valar did what they could, but I am equally sure they knew that experience was the only real teacher in this case. Frankly I was surprised and pleased by the way in which our people were adapting to life in Endórë.”
“So you’re fine with Findaráto working as a menial in a bookshop for some Mortal who has barely seen three decades of life?” Ingwë asked, but there was a glint of humor in his eyes that told them that he was only teasing.
“It sounds like a lot of fun,” Ingwion interjected before Arafinwë could respond. “I wish I’d been able to go. I’m always left behind.” There was a note of bitterness that they all detected and Ingwë’s expression was sorrowful.
“There will be plenty of opportunities for you to go there, Ingwion,” Olwë assured his son-in-law. “We need to set up some way to communicate with our people in Wiseman, but until we come up with something, messages will have to be sent via couriers. I see no reason why you couldn’t act as one.”
“Except, eventually, I would have to return here,” Ingwion pointed out. “I will have to come back and leave them to have fun.”
“Fool! You sound like your brother newly reborn,” Ingwë exclaimed in disgust. “Fun? They are not having fun, Ingwion, and if you stopped feeling sorry for yourself for one minute you’ll realize that they are in a dangerous, even life-threatening, situation. Any one of them could actually die and it might not even be from a war-related injury. Elwë’s minstrel, Sairon, almost did and would have if Lord Námo hadn’t shown up to help Findaráto save him.”
An uneasy silence fell among them and the room was fraught with tension. Ingwion kept his head down, glowering, obviously resenting his atar’s reprimand. After a moment, Eärendil spoke, directing his words at Ingwë.
“You need to back down, Ingwë. Your son is ignorant but he is no fool. To him, hearing your stories, it does seem as if his cousin and the others are having fun, certainly more fun than he is having.”
“We are not here to have fun,” Ingwë countered between gritted teeth. “We are here to prepare for war.”
“Be that as it may,” Eärendil said equably, “the fact is, Ingwion is correct. You refused to allow him to accompany Findaráto even though the Valar gave their consent. Of course he feels as if he’s always being left behind and cheated of having adventures. What did you expect?”
“I had my reasons,” Ingwë said quietly.
“And I have no doubt that they seemed good reasons… to you,” Eärendil pointed out. He sighed, shaking his head. “Well, all this is beside the point. Ingwion, for what it’s worth, I think eventually you’ll get to Endórë sooner rather than later. I don’t think the Valar will allow family history to get in the way of your taking command of the Vanyarin host, as you should have done during the War of Wrath rather than Intarion.”
“Well, we’re getting away from the topic under discussion,” Arafinwë said, hoping to divert the anger and frustration that could be seen in both Ingwë and his son. “What exactly is our ultimate goal with this Council? What do we hope to accomplish?”
“We need to convince our people that there is still hope,” Olwë answered. “We need to show them that all is not lost, that it is right to marry and have children added unto them.”
“Yet, how?” Ingwë demanded. “I do not really think that showing them pictures of the wedding or the ‘ultrasound’ will convince anyone, and trying to show them to everyone is highly impractical, indeed impossible.”
“It is a pity we could not return with, what was it they called it? A vid-something,” Olwë said. “You know what I mean. The moving pictures.”
“Yes, I do,” Ingwë said with a nod. “Unfortunately, we do not have anything like it and even if we did we do not have any means to show it.”
“What if we did have the technology, though?” Arafinwë asked.
“What do you mean?” Ingwë asked.
“It’s just that I’ve had my smiths and loremasters working on creating the technology we will need if we are to be equal with the Mortals in that respect. Our technology differs vastly from theirs, but there are commonalities that can be exploited. As Olwë pointed out, we do need to set up some line of communication between us and Wiseman that doesn’t involve Eärendil ferrying couriers or Maiar being sent. My people are looking into it as we speak. Unfortunately, they’ve only just begun and there is little to report as to their progress, but our people need to know this.”
“If I may make a suggestion,” Celeborn interjected, speaking for the first time.
“Of course,” Ingwë said with a nod.
“By all means, show them the wedding pictures and the ‘ultrasound’, speak to them about the efforts you are making toward upgrading our technology, but I think we need to stress Falmaron’s expedition and what they found more.”
Everyone but Galadriel and Eärendil gave him surprised looks. “Why, though?” Falmaron asked. “Do not mistake me. I think our expedition was important. We need new horizons, new challenges, but only a handful of people even care.”
“Exactly,” Celeborn said, “and they will care even less for what news we bring of Endórë, but the eastern continent is within our grasp. We do not need the Valar to open up a dimensional barrier for us to reach it. I propose that as part of our war effort we institute a massive relocation program to the eastern continent. Send the younger generations to colonize it. Tell them that they have so many years to not only set up settlements but to double their population.”
“They will not go there voluntarily, though,” Ingwë rightly pointed out.
Celeborn nodded. “No, they will not, which means we will have to force them to go. Make it part of the war effort. Tell them that we need to double our population within a certain time period because we’re going to need all the warriors we can get for the upcoming war. And that’s no lie. As it stands now, we are woefully undermanned. We need to increase our population because when the war begins we will be at a disadvantage in that respect.”
“So how do we get them to go?” Arafinwë asked. “Do we have our guards take people into custody and throw them into the hold of Olwë’s or Círdan’s ships and just send them with little more than a blessing and a wave farewell?”
“A lottery,” Galadriel said. “We have a lottery and those who win it are the lucky ones who get to colonize the eastern continent.” She gave them a thin smile and others snorted in amusement.
“It sounds though as if we’re going to have to force them at the point of a sword however we do it,” Ingwë said. “People are not going to voluntarily get on the ships and leave the only home they know for the unknown.”
“True, and it will seem harsh and draconian to many, but we leaders need to show them that it can no longer be business as usual,” Celeborn said. “We cannot force them to have hope, but we can force them to fend for themselves, to survive or not and if we have the Valar on our side, particularly Lord Námo, then it might just work.”
“Why Lord Námo?” Sador asked.
Celeborn gave them a wicked look. “If the Lord of Mandos lets it be known that anyone who ends up dying out of carelessness or foolishness will get no sympathy from him and he will be very, very unhappy to see their sorry fëar cluttering up his halls, then, maybe, just maybe, those who are sent will take things seriously and strive to survive as best they can.”
They all looked at one another, each attempting to gauge the thoughts of the others. Finally, Ingwë said, “I think we need to speak about this some more and plan our strategy. Celeborn, I have the feeling you and your wife have been discussing this between you at length. Perhaps you two along with Falmaron and Beren can cobble up some sort of presentation for the Council. We need to have all the rulers on board with us if we’re going to make it work.”
“Do you think force colonization will do it though?” Olwë asked.
Ingwë shrugged. “I don’t know, but I do know this: we must take drastic measures or we are doomed as a race and when the time comes I do not wish to tell our people in Endórë and their Mortal allies that they are on their own because we are too sunk in despair to care.”
There were nods of agreement all around.
“Galadriel and I have some ideas,” Celeborn said. “Let us speak with Falmaron and Beren and we’ll let you know.”
Ingwë nodded. “Then, for now, let us adjourn and we will gather again on Isilya to flesh out our agenda. The others will be arriving soon. I will speak with Lord Manwë about having a ball on the evening before we convene the Council. Until then, my lords and ladies.”
He stood and all rose as well, giving Ingwë as Ingaran their obeisance. Once he left with Ingwion, the others separated with Arafinwë and Olwë deciding they wished to visit the Laughing Vala and Eärendil joined them, while Elwing and Helyanwë decided to visit one of the nearby markets under suitable escort. Falmaron and Beren joined Celeborn and Galadriel and together they strolled through the gardens attached to the townhouse while the once Lord of the Golden Wood outlined his ideas about colonizing the eastern continent. None of them were aware of an invisible Eönwë following them, listening to their conversation.
Words are Quenya:
Nato, nés’ anameldanya, mé: ‘Yes [emphatic], my most beloved/dearest sister, we [stressed exclusive, thus not including Helyanwë]’. The _-a_ in Nésa ‘sister’ has been assimilated.
Yéni: Plural of yén: an elven century, technically, 144 solar years.
Valanya: ‘Powers-day’, i.e. Friday, considered the ‘Sabbath-day’ among the Eldar of Aman. In 2012, the summer solstice fell on a Wednesday, or Menelya ‘Heaven-day’ as it was known to the Elves.
Isilya: Moon-day; our Monday.
Note on names: Turucáno = Turgon; Elwë = Elu Thingol; Sairon = Daeron.
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