I return to Taniquetil from Lórien, where I have sought healing at this close of the First Age. Yet why do I, of all the Eldar, need rest and refreshment? Why do I need to boost my flagging fëa when I can claim no great deeds? What need do I, a mere figurehead, have for respite from my life?
I am a historian. I am an ambassador. I am an observer. I am a king who does not lead. I am a ruler who hardly knows his people, save through distant visions and the words of others.
I am Ingwë and I sit at the very feet of Manwë for I am the High King of all Elves, Beloved of the Valar.
I awoke by the banks of Cuivienen. As soon as I opened my eyes, I knew that I loved starlight before we had the language to describe our senses and our emotions. I am among the oldest of the Eldar, as we were named by Oromë, and I have endured when others have not. I have ever existed on the very edge of history, observing the epic events of my people without participating in their great failures or their great triumphs save one; the War of Wrath and, even then, I was lost in the chaos of clashing swords and boiling rage.
I remember it well for it is fresh in my memory, the first and last time I left Taniquetil for Beleriand. At one point, I stood removed from the fray, surveying the battlefield. It was a moment of silence, nay, tranquillity in the midst of turmoil. In that instant, I knew that I had no part in the history of my people. I was their king and even in the throes of conflict, I was removed from them. This was not my war; this was a war for a realm that was not my own and never could be.
Beleriand is foreign to me; its lands are steeped in the blood of my fallen kindred.
I can never love it for, although I was born in its eastern reaches, my heart dwells in Valinor, though the Light of the Trees has long since been destroyed.
This moment of contemplation can only have lasted for a single heartbeat because I soon found myself wielding a sword as I had never been called upon to wield it before! It was like a nightmare; the faces of mortals, darkened with fury, and the eyes of the Orcs, like mirrors without reflections.
And we returned to Valinor, victorious and sorrowful, mourning for the lost Light of the Trees and the ruined scions of Fëanor. Ay, I returned to exist once more outside the pages of history, to observe again the failings and successes of my people.
I am may be the ideal commentator on the Elvish predicament or I may have no place at all in speaking of events that never truly touched me.
Does it seem insincere if I say that I do love my people, though I have met so few of them? It feels as though I know them for I have read all that has been written about them. They are more to me than a few lines in a history book, even those who have never heard of me. I have cried for them, laughed with them and even wanted to comfort them, ay, even the Noldor who all but razed Alqualondë to the ground in their haste to leave our Blessed Realm.
I can never understand them, I who have never brandished a weapon in anger against any of my people. Indeed, I have never so much as raised my hand against my own son, even when he was an Elfling more mischievous than most. I am thankful for Ingwiel, for he is at once part of me, yet also independent of me. When he was born, I was already jaded and somewhat cynical of life but his arrival in this world gave me new impetus to explore the world around me, to take an interest in everyone who crossed my path. My only regret is that my son was not born in the Light of the Trees but perhaps that is part of my role as his father, and as the king of a sorrowful people; to illuminate his life as best I can and to remind him, and others, always of the beauty that was laid at our feet by Eru Ilúvatar and the Valar.
There is a lament for the Trees, composed by Elemmirë, and it is one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever created by Elf, Vanya or otherwise. We rarely sing it now, save on occasions of remembrance. It does not benefit us to dwell on times past although we are often prone to fits of melancholy. Perhaps it is our very nature to contemplate all that has befallen, especially for those of us who awoke in the beginning. When one’s history stretches as far behind as one’s future stretches ahead, it is all too easy for one’s thoughts to linger on times past.
Ai, the beginning, when we were not kings. We were hunters and warriors, if the need arose. We were linguists and pioneers. Our bravery was measured in how far we would venture from the lakeshore. Olwë never strayed far; for hours on end he would stare at the ripples and waves on the surface of the lake. Elwë wandered deep into the woods and, whene’er he stumbled out again, there would a thoughtful expression on his face as though he was trying to recapture a lost melody or memory. As for Finwë; well, he was adventurous. He would travel abroad in the land for weeks on end. Sometimes, I accompanied him but those instances grew less common as time went on. I cannot say why this should have been the case for our friendship did not weaken. Perhaps I already felt some responsibility towards our people, some primitive desire to lead them and care for them.
When the first children were born to our people, there was great rejoicing but our joy was soon tempered by the disappearance of many of our kindred, of my kindred, my people, I thought angrily.
I do not know what persuaded me to leave our home but I felt I must do something. I wished to discover what was becoming of the disappeared. I travelled far from the lake, seeking answers, seeking vengeance. As I recall that period, I realise that this was the first occasion on which I felt truly angry. Nothing crossed my path and I had no clear idea where I was going until I heard a strange, piercing cry. It did not frighten me although I clamped my hands over my ears in an effort to block the sound. Then, a horse was bearing down on me, and I threw myself to the ground.
I truly thought that I was to be taken away, that this creature, whatever it was, was going to kill me. Ay, we understood the concept of death; it was almost as though we had not yet accepted our own immortality. We did not know for sure that we were any different from the animals we hunted for food; we did not know that our lives were joined to the very life of Arda and that we would endure for as long as it did.
That was one of the first things Oromë told us. Once he had persuaded me that he meant no harm, he accompanied me back to the lake. It was so odd that this stranger knew more about us than we knew ourselves. He explained to us that we were the Children of Ilúvatar; that he and his kindred had been awaiting our arrival since before the beginning of Arda.
I had no qualm in travelling, with the other elders of our people, Finwë, Elwë and Olwë, to Valinor. Ai, I cannot explain how I felt when first I saw the light of the trees and the faces of the Valar as they gathered around us. Every affirmative we had e’er created was woefully inadequate. When at last I could tear my eyes away from the sight that lay before us, I looked at my companions. Finwë seemed every bit as enthralled as I was, while Olwë was looking around with awe. Elwë alone seemed to be searching the faces of the Valar and Maiar, as though looking for a particular being. At last he closed his eyes and a vague crease of disappointment formed on his brow.
It was decided that we would return to our people and speak to them of what we had seen. We would persuade them that Valinor was our true home, even though the shores of Lake Cuiviénen was the place of our birth. My people, the Minyar, the first clan, named Vanyar by the Noldor, for our golden hair, were as enthusiastic as I could have hoped them to be. Admittedly, any of them who saw the expression on my face when first I returned can have been in little doubt as to the depth of my feeling.
I do believe that it is in this that our difference to the other kindreds lies. Once we reached Valinor, we had no wish to e’er leave again.
Olwë and his people settled on the coast; they were not content remaining still but always they sailed, even beyond the sight of the Bay of Eldamar. Despite their adventuresome ways, they would always return, their silver hair glistening with sea water and laughter in their eyes. Theirs was a pure music, based on the waves of the sea and the rush of the tide as it hurtled along the strand and seeped through the shining grains of sand.
Finwë and his kindred threw themselves into discovery, into craftsmanship. They learned all that they could and were never satisfied with anything less than perfection. We owe the beauty of our cities to the skill of the Noldor. The Mindon Eldaliéva in Tirion stands yet as a monument to their achievement, although my people have long since removed to Taniquetil. Ay, they made our land what it is as surely as they would have destroyed it.
But what of Elwë? The quietest of our brethren and yet the most restless, even more so than his brother Olwë. It is written elsewhere of the surpassing love he found in Beleriand and of the surpassing beauty of his daughter. While I tarried in Lórien, seeking my own healing from years of bearing witness to the devastation of my people, I saw her; Melian the Maia, the truly beautiful and the truly patient. Still she waits for her love to return; still he delays in the Halls of Mandos, searching for redemption.
Throughout all this, the Vanyar have simply… existed, content in the making of music and the adulation of the Valar. There are those of our kind who have sought more than the simple peace in which we dwell. Indis, fair daughter of my sister, who loved for years without return. Even when she married my old friend Finwë, I was uneasy for we all knew of the depth of his love for Míriel Serindë. Yet we also knew of his desire for more children and Indis, in her infinite patience and adoration, gave him two more sons and three daughters. This, it seemed, was not enough for Finwë, whose favourite was always the son of Míriel, Fëanáro, that Spirit of Fire. The works of his hand almost destroyed my people yet, if I were to walk out onto my balcony tonight, I would see the glimmering prow of Eärendil’s boat and I would know peace. With the light of that last Silmaril, I would know that the offspring of Finwë and Míriel, and Finwë and Indis, were both great and good, despite their failings.
There are other proud daughters of the Vanyar who have sought love amongst the Noldor and they all have known grief.
Elenwë, whose spirit was fiery enough to attract the love of Turukáno the Wise, yet not even she could survive the Helcaraxë and its bitter winds. On the night that I learned of her death, I was stricken with grief and guilt, ay, guilt because I had not prevented her from leaving these shores. It was not my place to intervene but lovely Elenwë should ne’er have known the icy kiss of death. Ay, following so swiftly after the destruction of Alqualondë, her passing was another deep wound in my heart, another example of my failure as a king. I had persuaded my people to follow me to Valinor, yet I could not persuade them to stay. For all that I loved them, their hearts were their own. Alas that their hearts lay so far away from what little protection I could offer them.
Amarië, close kin, whom I love almost as a daughter. Not for her the agony of death upon the ice; nay, she endured long years of suffering. If not for the aid of Estë, beautiful Amarië might have perished ere ever her love met his end in that accursed pit in distant Beleriand. Although she ne’er crossed the Helcaraxë, her heart had grown cold since the Flight of the Noldor. Her eyes were so sad as to make a stranger weep with grief when it seemed she could not cry herself.
Ah, Amarië, at least now she is happy. The return of Findaráto from Mandos lit a flame neath her heart and slowly she has reawakened to such love that she deserves.
Despite the anguish and torment I have seen, I have ever been removed from it. I have not witnessed death at first hand. All I know is what I have read, or what words have been spoken to me by my advisors. How is it that I can claim any lordship when I have never suffered the loss that makes my people what they are?
Nay, I know that that is not so. I have
Every tear shed by Elda, whether Calaquendë or Moriquendë, has been my grief. Every drop of blood spilled by them and from them has been my failing. Every death has scarred me for every death has been my bereavement. If I did not sit in the very grace of the Valar, I would perish for my head is already bowed with sorrow, my back near broken with grief.
What else can I do? I stand up and remove my crown, laying it with my sceptre on my throne. I shrug off my regal robes, revealing a simple white tunic and breeches beneath.
Silently, almost as a ghost, I slip out of my palace. I walk among my people.
They do not know me now but I know them all and I do love them, despite all my failings and all their faults. I pass through the streets, liberated by my disguise, stopping to speak with a street vender about a forthcoming festival. I have nothing with which to barter but still he gives me an apple. I watch as he searches through the crates until he finds the best that he can and for a brief moment, I wonder if he has seen through my disguise. Yet, when he speaks to me, it is clear that he has not. He hands me the apple and simply beams with pride when I thank him profusely.
“You have thus paid for it with your kind words, my lord,” he says. “Such gratitude is as much as any farmer could wish for.”
I smile and depart, wending my way through the crowds until Anar begins to set and I know that it is time for me to return to the palace. As I walk back, I pass the vender again and he nods in my direction before turning his attention back to his customer. We all look up with surprise as a horn is sounded and a small troop of guards jogs through the square.
I clear my throat and they wheel around.
“Aranya!” says their captain and, to my dismay, every man, woman and child in the square drops to their knees.
“Ai, arise, my people,” I say as I survey the bended heads before me. “I do not seek such honour.” I glance towards the vender. He alone has not knelt and I smile at him. “Thank you,” I say. “For accepting my disguise.”
“Aranya,” he says, with a brief, though graceful, bow of his head. “You wear no disguise. Your crown, you throne, they are the disguises which would keep you apart from us.
“Now that I have seen you as you truly are, I might honestly say that you are indeed my king.”
As I return to the palace, escorted by my guards, I feel strangely at peace. It is not too late, it seems, for me to speak with my own people. I am not so raised above them that they fear me.
It is as though I am a king and it is as though I have never been a king. I sit at once upon the throne of the Vanyar and I awaken beside Cuiviénen once more. I see this weary world through fresh eyes and I prepare once more for the dawning of a new age of Arda.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.