1. Tears of Joy
The father walked for some distance before placing his child on the green earth.
"Come," the father urged.
The child had barely learned to walk, but with the reassurance of his father's hand in his, he did so with greater mastery than would otherwise have been expected of
a babe his age. They did not have far to go.
Underneath a large weeping willow tree slept a woman of surpassing beauty, with tresses as silver as the stars. The father knelt beside the woman and bowed his
head, and the child imitated his father.
"I have not come here for many years," whispered the father. "Nor has my father."
The child waited. He became uneasy as the silence grew longer. About them sang many songbirds, and the leaves of the trees rustled softly in the gentle breeze. Still,
it seemed too quiet. At last, the child took the woman's hand. It was neither warm nor cold.
The child looked to his father. "Mother?" he asked softly, for the child had thus far only known one other woman in his life.
The father nodded gravely. "Yes. Mother. 'Strength that would have nourished the life of many has gone forth into Feanor.' (1) I do not want that responsibility. The
life of those many I have given to you."
The child did not understand, but he would remember. He sat kneeling by his mother's side for many long moments. Always, it seemed too quiet. He wondered if
she would awaken if he would but shout, but his father had spoken softly, so he believed that he should be quiet as well.
At last, when the hour of the mingling of the Two Trees had passed, the father beckoned to his son. The son toddled forth a few steps before his father picked him
up. Then the father whistled for his horse.
Thereafter, the father never again came to that place.
The boy was too young to be away from his parents, but he came forth from Tirion nevertheless. He had great forethought for a child his age, and he brought with
him food and water, incense, and warm clothing. He was tall for his age, and so he was able to climb onto the horse's back when it knelt down. He patted the
horse's neck and then set out for the place he could never forget: the Gardens of Lorien.
The woman was still there, sleeping peacefully. The boy slid down carefully from the horse's back. He petted it and allowed it to run free. It would come when he
called. The boy drifted to the woman's side like a graceful mist. He settled by her and drew back the hood of his grey cloak.
He spread a blanket next to the sleeping woman and laid out a picnic. Then he lit the incense. The smoke danced in thin white circles about them. He sat and waited
until he believed the spirit had eaten her fill. Then he took one of the persimmons.
"You should not be traveling so far from home, Young One." A tall figure cloaked in grey stepped forth from where she'd been watching.
The boy started. "I thought no one came here," he said.
"That is not true. The maidens of Este come often to tend to Miriel's body. And I come here often as well."
"You are not Este nor are you one of her maids. I perceive greater power in you." The boy's eyes were keen. He stood and bowed. He took the lady's hand and
tiptoed to kiss her fingertips. "I am Nelyafinwe Maitimo, son of Curufinwe Feanaro, Prince of the Noldor. To whom do I have the honor of speaking?"
"I am Nienna."
"A star shines over our meeting," Maedhros said gravely. "Would you like to join my picnic?"
"I would love to."
Nienna sang Firimar, Firiel's Song, in a deep, wailing voice that caught in the wind and filled the peace of Lorien with sorrow. The birds fell silent; the animals stilled.
None of the creatures in the Blessed Realm understood this theme, yet her song had turned to lamentation even as the Music of Arda had unfolded, and the sound of
mourning was woven into the themes of the World before it began. (2) Her tears sank into the grass about Miriel's body, and these waters would return later to the
depths of the earth and help to cleanse it. Her tears would make the Gardens yet more beautiful, for here there was rest and respite from the sorrows without.
He came to her then.
Maedhros was no longer a babe, no longer a child, but not yet a man. He had grown tall but was not as tall as she. She had not heard his coming, for he had come
on foot rather than on horseback. They had met many times since that first time, but this was the first time that he had come upon her while she cried before the body
of Miriel. His arms wrapped around her heavy shoulders, and he buried his head into her hair. He wept into her, and she thought it odd, for he did not weep for
Miriel but for her.
He wept because he pitied her.
Amidst her sorrow, Nienna felt a touch of joy. He could not understand the music that she sang, but he would remember.
After some time, his tears abated though hers did not. Maedhros turned Nienna to him and eased her head to his shoulder. How ridiculous it would've seemed if
there had been any to see them: A Valie of great might sobbing on a Child of Eru. In his tresses of running blood, Nienna saw a glimpse of what Mandos had before
spoken. She saw the blood of the Children spilt by Melkor, and she mourned for the Children as well as the Marrer. Was it true that Melkor would return as
black-hearted as before?
Nienna shook her head. "This lamentation began before Arda ever was. There is no comfort for such pain within the circles of the world."
"That may be so, but that does not mean that you should not be comforted." Maedhros held her close and kissed the side of her head.
Thus shall beauty not before conceived be brought into Ea, and evil yet be good to have been. Nienna's weeping subsided. She rested in the arms of the Elda, and
they stood thus for many long moments.
In truth, Nienna came seldom to the Gardens of Lorien. She went there only to mourn for Miriel, and it was there that Maedhros and her had first met. Most of the
time, she dwelt in her halls are west of West, upon the borders of the world. (3)
Feanor and his sons traveled far and wide upon the confines of Valinor, going even to the borders of the Dark and the cold shores of the Outer Sea, seeking the
unknown. (4) Thus, Maedhros did not fear to come to her halls. And although she had not expected him to do so, Nienna was not wholly surprised when he did.
When Maedhros came of age, Nienna showed him the windows of her house that look outward from the walls of the world, and he did not blanche. She slipped her
arm about his waist and whispered into his ear, "Beyond the Starless Voids, there is no Darkness, yet neither is there Light as you know it. There is Music, yet, as
told in the Ainulindale, there is a third theme that was Eru's alone. You are of that third theme."
Maedhros kissed Nienna's cheek. "Why do you allow me such honor by your side? When Arda ends, you will return from whence you came, and we will be parted.
It is too sorrowful even for the Lady of Sorrow."
"This I know as well as you, yet still I would not withhold my love," Nienna said. She tilted her head to accept still more of his kisses. "Though you are young, you
are a being different from myself, and in you, I see the mind of Eru reflected anew. By being with you, I learn yet a little more of his wisdom, and I think the sorrow
worth that wisdom."
Maedhros rubbed his nose to hers. "Sorrow and wisdom I will learn from you, my Lady, yet I, for my part, believe that love is its own lesson."
Nienna laughed lightly and moved her head from his. "You will only find bittersweet love with me, Maitimo. Knowing the end as you do, perhaps you would be wiser
to find an Elven maiden to laugh merrily by your side and dance while the Light of Aman is yet undimmed."
"Poor Nienna," Maedhros said. He slipped his hand into her tresses and did not allow her to withdraw when he kissed her. "You have too little faith in my love for
you. It may be that I do not love you as you love me, for you are certainly a being greater than me and undoubtedly capable of love deeper than that which can be
perceived by an Elda. Nevertheless, I love you as I can and will love none other. If you were not as unreachable as the stars, then I would beg for your hand in
marriage, for I am at last of age for such a sacred bond."
At his words, Nienna's eyes filled with tears. She blinked them back, but they slipped down her cheek of their own volition. Maedhros traced the trail of tears with
his finger, and his eyes softened. He loved her. He loved her exactly as she was; he loved her for all the sorrow that shadowed her heart. She saw this in his eyes, yet
she could not find comfort in that affection, for she knew that the Eldar must someday return to the world.
"I should not deprive you of the right to decline, for you are without a doubt worthy of, if not above, such a proposition." Maedhros took her hand and knelt before
her. "Lady Nienna, I beg you in vain for your hand in marriage." He drew a small crystal box from his pouch, and in it was a simple, slender ring of gold. He slipped
the ring about her finger and kissed her hand.
Nienna looked down at Maedhros with vision blurred by tears. A copper circlet crowned his fair brow, and his piercingly bright eyes shone with the ardor. His
hands held hers, and his lips lingered over her skin. He seemed to her the fairest and noblest among the Eldar. She shut her eyes tightly and shook her head.
"Maitimo, I cannot..."
She felt his arms encircle her shoulders. She kept her eyes closed and buried her face in his chest. He hushed her and stroked her hair gently.
"Be at ease," Maedhros said. "I do not begrudge you for this answer, nor does it change my love for you."
Nienna smiled amidst her tears and drew away just enough to look Maedhros in the eyes. "You are cruel to tease forth such tears from me."
There was a great light in his smile. "Say not that there is no healing in tears. You are most beautiful in your sorrow." He kissed her, and she allowed his inner fire to
warm her heart. "But if I could, I would indeed make you my bride."
"And if I could," said Nienna, "I would forestall the sorrow that will be your Doom."
Maedhros knew that she would not be able to come to him, so he went to her, as he ever did. Though her tears had washed away the defilements of Melkor, still
Nienna sang upon Ezellohar in mourning for the bitterness of the world and the Marring of Arda.
"My father purposes to go forth from Aman," Maedhros said. He broke into tears when he saw her increased distress. "I must go with him," he finished
In the shadows of starlight, her beauty was all the more striking in its poignancy, and the sheen of her tears was lovelier than the Jewels of Feanor. He moved to her,
but she moved away and drew up the hood of her grey cloak so that he could not behold her face, her grief.
"You will do what you must, and I will do my part in the healing of this evil," Nienna said. She could not hide the sobs from her voice, and Maedhros ached to hold
her. "But if this evil is truly to be good to have been, then you must not forget what you have learned here."
"I cannot foresee my own Doom, but in all my actions, I will remember what I have learned from you." He did not strive to control his tears at their parting.
They stood atop the Green Mound where the Two Trees had withered. Though Nienna had hidden her face, Maedhros could see her grey cloak darken in places
where her tears fell. He realized then that the grave of Finwe was not the Mound of First Sorrow, as Feanor had named it. Here was the right Mound of First
Sorrow. In that moment, he knew that the setting forth of the Noldor was indeed in vain, and he wept bitterly at this foreknowledge.
"The griefs that shall come ye shall weigh in the balance," Nienna said slowly, "and they shall not seem too heavy compared with the rising of the light when Valinor
groweth dim." (5)
Nienna took Maedhros in her arms and held him, and their tears mingled as the Light of the Two Trees had before mingled.
Though Nienna came often to the Halls of Mandos to bring strength to the spirit, she never came to Maedhros. They dwelt apart in sorrow for the remaining duration
At the World's End, Maedhros unlocked the Jewels of Feanor and rekindled the very life in Arda. The world was made young again, and Nienna came to him then.
She took his hands, now both whole and healed, in hers, and he saw the golden glint of the ring he had given her long ago about her finger.
"You have done your part, and I have done mine," Nienna said with a smile as bright as the new Light of the World. "You gave your life for Arda Marred, and now I
have forsaken my powers and being as a Valier to abide in Arda Healed with you. Let no new grief divide us."
Maedhros could only look at her with disbelief. "Can it truly be that we have found joy through sorrow?"
Nienna laughed, threw her arms around him, and kissed him in answer. And, for the first time, the tears that flowed from her eyes were tears of joy.
(1) Miriel's line to Finwe: Silmarillion, Chapter 6.
(2) Description of Nienna's music: Silmarillion, Valaquenta.
(3) Nienna's halls: Silmarillion, Valaquenta.
(4) Feanor's travels: Silmarillion, Chapter 5.
(5) Nienna is quoting Mandos: HoME X, p. 247.
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