The Cry of the Gull (Chapter 24) - The Second Council

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Chapter 24
The Second Council

Nienna walked silently down her brother's halls. Her teachings of comfort had ceased for the day, and so she had come to this place, so peaceful, so quiet.
Along the walls were rows of beds. Some were empty and neatly made, but others contained the spirit form of a sleeping Elf, one that still dwelt alive among the perils of Middle-earth.
Nienna stopped before one of these beds. The Elf who lay there had his head resting peacefully upon a soft, downy pillow. She noted that the Elf breathed. In his features she saw forests and leaves, with a puzzlement in her face she also saw that rain pelted the green foliage, threatening to drown the leaves in its wetness. The look she gave him was worried and fearing. She sighed and placed her long fingers on top of his.
"Legolas," she whispered. "Oh, Legolas."
A tall, thin She-Elf drew up beside the Vala.
"Mother of Mourning, when shll he awake?" her golden-colored hair stirred about her face in the gentle breeze, giving her the appearence of a young willow sapling waving about in the wind
"The color stirrs in his cheeks, it will not be long, Lauriëlas."
"So barren it seems here, now that the ten thousand have left," said Laurilas.
"Legolas's army's absence has made a difference, we all must admit. But they shall return, the undead, to these long and silent halls," said Nienna.
"Aye, the day draweth near."
Lauriëlas and Nienna fell silent as they stood next to the bed of Legolas's sleeping spirit.

§ § §

Ulmo's door resounded with the hollow beating of a knock.
"Come in," he called from his place at the wide bay window overlooking the Sea. A small, thin Maia padded in and handed to the Vala a sheet of parchment.
"A message from Manwë, my Lord. There is to be a council."
"Thank you, you may leave," said Ulmo. He looked intently at the paper. There, written in the beautiful language of the Valar was this message:

Yet again our world trembles on the brink of peril.
I charge you, Lord of Waters, to present yourself in the
council chamber this eventide. We are to prepare for war.
-Manwë Sulimo

Ulmo's gaze shifted from the parchment to the water outside, glittering with patches of golden sunlight that danced upon it. He let the page flutter to the floor. He'd known this was coming, since Nienna had instructed Legolas and Rayn to separate. Now it was time to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Mandos' mouth was shut, he would not speak any tidings, good or bad. Therefore the Valar must be prepared for all, or nothing.
Ulmo turned on his heel and headed out his door, carved with waves and images of ships on the waters. His realm, his world. Morgoth had never been able to pour out the Sea. And never would he, Ulmo determined.

§ § §

The council chamber was a high place in the Mansions of Manwë. It sat upon a high peak, and from it's edge was the place that Manwë and Varda could stand on together, seeing and hearing much. Manwë's eagles soared above the Eight Valar who sat upon their thrones in a circle. Manwë, Varda, Ulmo, Yavanna, Aulë, Nienna, Mandos, and Oromë. Next to Oromë was an empty seat, devoid of form, for it had no Vala to occupy it. Long before, in the first years of the First Age it had been filled, but now it sat, cold, empty, lifeless.
At long last Manwë spoke:
"You all know the reason for our gathering. It is the end of Arda for which we prepare ourselves. There is no room for hope, no time for it, for indeed, I do not belive that Legolas shall make it out of his perils alive," here he shot a glance at Mandos, "and if he does not, there can be no escape from the inevitable."
"And what is the inevitable, my Lord?" asked Oromë.
"That all shall perish but we and ours. All Men shall fall, the Dwarves shall be crushed in their deep halls, the Elves shall cast themselves upon the ground and offer up their minds and souls in anguish to the Dark Enemy. The Ents shall burn, the Hobbits shall be destroyed and never know what had come upon them."
There was silence in the hall. One word Nienna spoke, soft and clear upon the ears of all in the room.
"But," said she. Mandos her brother hissed.
"Hush Námo," she chided gently. Standing tall and serene the Weeper's misty eyes gazed upon all that sat, waiting for her to go on.
"We must always take time for hope. There is always an escape, always a hero, always will good prevail. We cannot give up hope, for if we do not have hope, we have nothing, and Morgoth has won already. Hope is sustenance for a weary heart," she said. She sat back upon her soft grey throne, woven of silver branches.
"She speaks rightly," Yavanna, Giver of Fruits, stood. "Hope is all we have left, and faith. Legolas is noble and worthy, he will give his people hope."
"Aye," choroused several voices in the circle. Ulmo's was one of them.
"Hope," scoffed Mandos in his deep, raspy voice that launched from his hood like a flame. "Fear and hope are brother and sister, hope the weaker of the two. Legolas would do well to inspire fear in the hearts of his people."
"He would do well to inspire both," Varda stood. "Fear and hope are one. Without one there is no other. Would a broken slave, one with no hope, fear death? Would one who had hope be afraid of losing his life? Mandos, Legolas will lead his people through fire and ice, wind and water, but because they fear, they will still have hope." The Starkindler's eyes flickered with starry light deep within.
"None of you know what will come to pass," Námo's voice thickened and lost its rasp. "I have seen."
"Then tell us what you have seen!" cried Yavanna, rising to her feet. "You hold us in suspense, and refuse to reveal what it is that you have seen. How can we help if we do not know what it is we must help with?"
"You would not stand for it, none of you. If you knew it would make matters worse. Morgoth is cunning. I must ask your trust in this thing, no matter what happens."
Yavanna returned to her throne, wrought of a young willow whose branches formed and intricate chair.
"What wouldn't we help with?" Oromë asked, attempting to unravel the mystery.
The sound of bone scraping against metal resounded in the hall. All eyes fixed upon Mandos' skeletal hand gripping the hilt of his notched sword. The sword he used to free the spirit of an Elf from its body.
Though confusion shone in the eyes of those around him, Ulmo's eyes shone with understanding. He stood.
"Lord Manwë, take no offence, but if you do not see what our brother Mandos is telling us, you are blind. It is true, Legolas is worthy, but not fully. He is noble, but not as noble as is possible for one so strong. Only one can teach him these things he needs, and in only one place can he learn them. Puzzle over this as you will, I need hear no more." The Lord of Waters stood and strode from the room. Nienna followed him. Yavanna followed her. One by one the great Valar stood and left the chamber till only Manwë remained, his tired head in his hands.

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