Possibly the longest author’s note ever!
The time has come to talk of many things…
Yes, it has arrived – the sequel to `Counsels in Rivendell’… as ever I wish to make the following disclaimer
“I don’t think we’re in Middle Earth anymore, Frodo…”
“We’re not; it’s Valinor. But it’s still all JRRT’s!”
In other words – Elvish languages, places and most of the people are entirely the result of Tolkien’s brilliance. I am simply borrowing them, hopefully without doing too much harm!
And the customary explanation/warning:
Ok, before proceeding I would just like to make a few announcements, for your own safety and well-being… The emergency exits are clearly marked… Oh, wait, no… Ahem, I’ll behave now, I promise!
First things first: I wish to thank a number of people… Yes, this is pre-emptive gratitude! The first person I have to mention is my flatmate/editor/best friend/lead cheerleader/one of the `three’ – she deserves major applause mainly because I inflicted Tolkien on her a couple of years ago and not only has she tolerated my increasing obsession, she has taken it on herself to join in the insanity. (She has actually started reading the Silmarillion despite vowing many years ago never to read Tolkien!) Obviously Calimë, Sermë and Luinar deserve big hugs and their choice of Elf-lords – their enthusiasm knows no bounds! In fact, it is such boundless enthusiasm that they all get Elvish names! And a big hand the other very cool people who are in on the secret, especially the third of the `three’!! Some of my buddies at TORC deserve muchus praise – Elceleb, Bess, Anneri, Beth and the Valinor Crew to name but a few! I cannot proceed without saying ‘mwah’ to Draugluin, Dawn and flammable, – three dark ladies with a lotta style! There is also the matter of my reviewers from around the world – thank you for your overwhelming support to date! And finally – big thanks and many ‘We’re not worthy’ gestures to Isiltári and Wilwarin at WOTR – they have provided most of the OFC names in this and other fanfics, and also any Elvish I have used is down to their expertise in translating!
Secondly, I have possibly crossed the line into fanaticism – there will be more Elvish in this story! Mainly Sindarin, although Quenya will feature. I will put the translations at the end of each chapter… Again, the meaning is my own, the translations courtesy of Isiltári and Wilwarin. Also, as you may have noticed, I am currently trading under the alter-ego Nîndorien. Yup, the height of egotism, I know, but fear not! I still answer to Lalaith (it’s just nice having an original TORC identity without numbers!) Lasto lalaithamin – I am definitely still a *laughing gal*!
Thirdly, even though this is entitled ‘Bliss in Valinor’, it is not all sweetness and light – at least not to begin with! The first two chapters have their lighter moments, but there is an underlying tone of general angst. Yes, the reunions between lovers and friends are joyful, but they do have to come to grips with the bereavement that separated them in the first place. By the third chapter, that should be completely out of my system and the bliss of Valinor will shine down unadulterated…
Fourthly, the cast of characters will be growing! There will be High Kings of the Noldor, past and present, some wonderful Lords of Gondolin and a few more OFC’s. The central characters to begin with are Gil-galad and Nîndorien (OFC), Elrond, Celebrían, Erestor, Calimehtar (OFC), Ecthelion, Elemmakil and Olorwen (OFC) I plan on inserting a Vala or two, and one Maia in particular will make a guest appearance, although more in a spin-off capacity (relating to weaponry… just wait and see…)
Fifthly, I have no notion how long this is going to be. If you want a ballpark estimate, I’d say long. As in longer than ‘Counsels’ but shorter, say, than the complete works of William Shakespeare.
When one writes about mortals, the natural progression is from birth to death. When one write about immortals, all one can do is relate a fraction of their story until such time as inspiration fades… `even the very wise cannot see all ends’
PROLOGUE – Unity
Nîndorien reached out to touch Gil-galad’s face, which was illuminated by the flickering light of the fire. A maidservant was placing food and wine on a small table near the couch on which they sat, and neither Nîndorien nor Gil-galad spoke until she had left the room.
“I am real, you know,” Gil-galad smiled as he stroked the back of Nîndorien’s hand. She had scarcely spoken during the long journey to the House of Fingon in Tirion. They were now comfortably installed in Gil-galad’s chambers, and Nîndorien was most grateful that she had not been asked to meet her beloved’s father or the household that night.
“I know,” she whispered and hesitated, as though she was about to continue, before lapsing into a thoughtful silence.
“Did the journey leave you weary, my love?” he asked with concern.
“No,” she whispered, before shaking her head slightly. “Or rather, I am weary but not because of the journey.”
He frowned slightly; her eyes were so sorrowful that his heart ached. The first glimpse of her stepping off the boat from Middle Earth had left him breathless. She had searched through the crowds and when she began to run towards him he thought he might explode with joy. He had not felt such strong emotion since his rebirth, and wondered wryly whether his new body could stand the strain. Despite the overwhelming elation, a hint of sorrow crept into his soul; she had grown even fairer in their years spent apart but there was no doubt the reason for her enhanced beauty had been years of sadness and mourning.
He pulled her towards him and wrapped his arms around her. He could not avoid the truth; any suffering she had been subject to, had been on his account. “I am sorry, loth nín,” he murmured.
She raised her head slightly from where it had been nestled against his chest. “Why do you apologise, aran nín?” she asked with a baffled expression on her face as she pulled back and looked at him.
“Because I caused you so much hurt. Because I left you alone to the Valar knew what fate. When I… died, I did not know that our victory was certain.
“In Mandos, there was no sense of an outside world and I did not know how long I had been unconscious, if, that is, one can be unconscious when all one can claim to be is a spirit. Unconsciousness is when the spirit is unaware of the body; I had no body of which to be unaware.” Gil-galad tried to raise a smile and clasped his wife’s hand reassuringly.
“When my fëa regained its sense of being, I did not know how long it might be until I saw you or Círdan or Elrond again. My thoughts and emotions were all I had; they were all I consisted of. Yet, amidst all the spirits in Mandos, I could not sense your presence. Much as I longed for you to be near me, your absence gave me hope. If you lived, then perhaps others still lived and it hadn’t been in vain. With that faint hope as an anchor, I saw my life before me. It is a difficult thing to confront; all one’s failings and wrongdoings. Once I had faced them, and repented of them, I was shown my true self, free of failings and free of guilt, which took rather a lot of getting used to, after Mandos knows how much time spent mired in my inadequacies. Of course, now I know that three thousand years had passed, but there, one isn’t conscious of time. One must exist from moment to moment but there is no way to mark the passage of time; one does not live from heartbeat to heartbeat or breath to breath, but rather from thought to thought.
“At length, I began to wonder about the outside world; I longed for sunshine and starlight. I longed for you. Those physical longings for light and companionship were the first step towards re-embodiment, towards release from Mandos’ care. I believe that is what differentiates those who will remain in Mandos for years to come, and those who are released; the acceptance of our faults, the repentance of our wrongdoings and the direction of our thoughts.
“Once I began to look forward instead of back, I was deemed ready. I still had to be taught how to quell certain memories and emotions and one’s death leaves something of a lasting impression on one’s spirit. It is rather a large obstacle to overcome.”
“I know,” whispered Nîndorien. “I can remember the Lord Glorfindel speaking of it, how he had to sometimes force his emotions into submission, else they would overthrow him.”
Gil-galad nodded thoughtfully. “The Beloved. Yes, he would know more than most. It is said that he suffered greatly in death. Yet, he still wanted to return to Middle Earth. I could not return. I doubt I would have been allowed, but even the knowledge that you still lived there was not enough.” He gulped. “I am sorry, but the memory of the pain… it was too much. I could not return to the land that claimed my blood… my life. It had been my home and my kingdom and the cause of my death…” He could not go on; his face was frozen and he closed his eyes. “A hundred years of new life have passed, yet the memories of my old life still haunt me. I regret nothing but I cannot forget the agony.”
Nîndorien could feel tears trickling slowly down her cheeks and they held each other close. Finally, she felt she had to speak. She sat up and traced his features with her fingers, looking into his eyes as though she was still searching for him. “I know that you are real. Even if you hadn’t looked the same, I would have known you; I would have felt you. But it is difficult to cope with. I mourned you; I do not know how to…” She flailed around for the right words. “Unmourn you. How do I fit together the memories of losing you, and of accepting that loss, with the living Elf who sits in front of me? I have longed for this moment, yet now that I see you all I can think of is that day in Imladris, when…” She cupped his face in her hands. [That day when I lost you]
“Seven years. Everyday for seven years I would stand at that window, following you with my thoughts; hoping against hope that you would return but all the while I prayed that darkness would be overthrown, no matter what the price. That particular day, as I searched for you, I felt a searing burning pain in my chest. My heart felt like it was on fire. It can only have lasted a few seconds, but I have never known such pain before. I cried out, startling the other maidens in the room, but I remained on my feet.” She trembled as Gil-galad reached out to stroke her cheek. “When Elrond returned, I looked for you and for your banner, but I knew my searching was in vain.”
[Your search is over, loth nín.] Gil-galad removed her hands from his face and kissed them. He leaned forward and whispered soft endearments in her ear, before pushing her hair back from her face and kissing her lips lightly. A watery smile crossed her face.
“They sang so many songs in your memory,” she said. “Some of them are still sung across Middle Earth. They are beautiful. Of course, it was many years before people dared to sing them openly in my presence but, the acoustics of Rivendell being what they are, snatches and choruses often floated to my chambers, describing your virtues and qualities. “
Gil-galad softly kissed the corner of her mouth and they sat in silence for a while before he spoke. “They sang of my virtues and qualities, did they?” His tone of enquiry was completely innocent but Nîndorien was not fooled. She almost laughed as she placed her hands on his shoulders and looked at his face directly.
“Aran nín, if I were to list all the virtues and qualities ascribed to you, we would be here until sunrise and I know I would grow weary far sooner than you.” She could feel his shoulders rising up and down with suppressed laughter and could not resist continuing. “Of course, they never sang of your less desirable attributes but I do believe that listing those would take just as long.”
“But you would find it most amusing, I am sure,” he commented agreeably.
“Indeed I would but…” Nîndorien tried to find the words to express herself and found it most frustrating. Now was not the time for light-heartedness, she felt. She wanted to tell him about all the dark nights she had spent faithfully assembling every feature, every mannerism and every quality he possessed. She had been victim to the irrational fear that she might forget some vital detail and that this would somehow affect her love for him. Shaking her head, she found herself unable to speak the words lest she start crying again. Tears were precariously close to surfacing when he whispered, “Worry not, my love, I understand.” She knew without question that he did understand the thoughts that chased haphazardly through her head. She did not need to voice her fears; he understood without words. Her voice wavered slightly when she finally spoke.
“Ai, in those moments, all I longed for was your touch; to feel your arms around me, soothing my pain.”
At that, Gil-galad gently drew her onto his knee so that he might hold her more closely. Pressing his forehead against her cheek, he murmured, “Let me soothe your pain now, my love.” He gathered her in his arms so that her head rested against his chest. She buried her face in the soft silk of his tunic while he stroked her hair. She could hear the soft beating of his heart and spoke softly, “Despite the beauty of all those songs, they could not compete with the one sound I longed to hear above all.” She placed her hand on his chest. “The beat of your heart. For me, there is no sweeter sound. I missed it. I have endured three thousand years of silence. They told me that you died well, that you did not throw your life away, that your sacrifice meant that others could live. It was little consolation when I realised that I would not see you again in Middle Earth; I would not lie in your arms again, listening to your heart beating and the sound of your breathing.” She choked back a sob and he tightened his hold on her. They sat there in silence, drawing breath together as one entity. Their hearts seemed to beat in unison and, between each stroke, she could hear his thoughts.
[My heart beats for you.
I breathe for you.
I live again for you.]
Nîndorien slowly fell asleep in the arms of her beloved, aware of his tender touch and gentle embrace until she slipped into blissfully dreamless oblivion. Gil-galad could sense her contentment and he smiled to himself in the dim light of the fading fire. At last, she was in his arms again and he did not intend to let her go. When the glow of the embers died, he stood up carefully, holding her close, and carried her into the adjoining bedchamber. His breath caught when she stirred slightly, but she did not waken when he laid her on the bed. He lay alongside her, propped up on one elbow, watching her sleep. It took great restraint not to reach out and touch her face to convince himself of the reality of the moment. She sighed in her sleep, and he noticed a faint ripple of gooseflesh spreading across her upper arm. With excruciating care, he slowly reached down to pull a blanket over her. Despite his caution, she stirred again and when he glanced at her face, he dropped the corner of the blanket in his surprise. Her large dark eyes were calmly watching him, a glimmer of amusement in their depths. She smiled at him and held out her hand.
He smiled in return, and moved up the bed, extending his hand towards her outstretched palm until there was less than a hair’s breadth separating them.
“I didn’t want to touch you,” he whispered. “I didn’t want to wake you.”
She laughed softly, a sound that lifted his heart. “Aran nín, you need not have feared the touch of your hand.” She pressed her palm against his. [But the touch of your mind has grown less subtle in our time apart] He could not help but chuckle in response.
“Ai, loth nín, you have been in my thoughts so much.” [Is it really surprising that my thoughts should seek out yours?] While he traced the arch of her eyebrows and the line of her cheekbones with his fingers, she began to speak. “You were in my thoughts too, aran nín.” She paused and closed her eyes while he laid soft kisses on her eyelids. “One night in Lothlórien, or Lórinand as you remember it, I dreamed about you. I was surrounded by mists and I heard your voice; it sounded like the whispering of leaves. I asked you where you were and you said…” Her eyes fluttered open to meet Gil-galad’s gaze and he smiled as he silently replied. [I am beside you, as always. My thoughts have never strayed far from you.] Still clasping her hand, he kissed her lips softly. Through delicate touches of mind and body, they explored each other slowly and deliberately, exchanging tender kisses between soft caressing thoughts. Soon, they were completely united again, as they had been six millennia previously in Middle Earth. Gradually, a gentle ebbing harmony beyond words and gestures, and enriched by the bliss of Valinor, enveloped them both and their world was made complete once more.
Loth nín – My flower (Note: Nîndorien’s birth name was Muinalot – `Hidden Flower’)
Aran nín – My king
Fëa – The spirit of an Elf