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Handmaiden of Lorien  by Marnie

You must remember that I was a handmaiden. It was my duty and pleasure to dance and sing for my lord Irmo, to take his mind from the weighty cares of the Valar. I had no onerous tasks or responsibilities, and if I wished to be gone for a century, or a millennium, amusing myself amid the sighing groves of Arda, then I might do so lightly.

Among my peers my power was not so great a thing, and I was praised chiefly for my glimmering form, my enchanting voice. If I sang nightingales into the darkness it was no harder for me than it would be for an elven child to breathe. My nature was to create, and its exercise came to me by instinct. Footloose and happy, free as thistledown, I danced on the fallow grass of Ennor, filled its silences with the song of the Ainur, felt it echo the words back to me; 'soil', 'tree', 'water'; the dreams of leaves.

The shade of Middle-earth, I loved. That twilight, that faint silver world of deep blues and mist grey, with the dew caught like fallen stars on the spider's webs. Harsh seemed the lights of the Trees to me when I returned to Lorien, and the colours brash. I thought that there could not exist anywhere anything more lovely than white flowers beneath dark skies spattered with jewels. Nothing fairer than the great lakes, over whose surface I would skim, insubstantial as a skein of frost, dark hair like shadow floating and eyes mirror-bright, as the water beneath my feet.

Nothing more beautiful than this in all the world, I thought. Until I saw him.

You will laugh, but there was something of Manw about him as he came riding through the starlight. Something that said 'I am master of this world, I fear nothing, and bliss is my birthright'. His shoulders were wide, his arms strong, and his hands capable and gentle on the neck of his pale horse as he stooped to reassure it, while the shadows of the hemlock whispered over them both. The way he carried his head demanded a crown.

How odd, I thought, that so fragile a being should have so high an opinion of himself, for I could see that he was made of the earth of Ennor itself; breakable, able to suffer pain and marring and change. Yet even to his frailty there was a splendour - as though he knew it, and it made no difference.

I thought him at first another of the marvels of Middle-earth, and puzzled to discern the hand of my Lords and Ladies in him. Knowing their songs, I knew their minds, but never in any of them had I witnessed such a thing as this. Even now joy rings like the note of a bell in me as I remember thinking 'he is a Child of Iluvatar!'

I had to see him closer. Here was a being sprung direct from the thought of our beloved One; an expression of his mind such as none of us had conceived. So long we had been waiting, eager to meet the promised Children, eager to protect and teach. Yearning to learn from them corners of our maker's thoughts that we had never touched. So much we could share, he and I - so much strangeness and wonder and delight.

I remember I laughed at that, for after all, he was not wrong to think we made the world for his sake. And when I saw his face I too believed that he deserved to be loved; fearless and happy as he was.

Folk ask me 'how could you wed?' You, who lived before the world, who sang in the choir of the Ainur before the footstool of Iluvatar - how could you bind yourself to a little, powerless creature like that? I say that if they can look upon Elu and not see strength then they do not know what strength is. I could fence the land, but it was he who was the heart of his people; he they followed from their homeland, he for whom they cared enough to sacrifice Valinor. Did they not even name themselves with his name? Power I might have, but he had something greater - the ability to inspire adoration, and to be worthy of it.

Without power, love may do great things - as Luthien proved, who had this gift from her father. Without love, power is but Morgoth in another guise, worse than worthless.

Still, there was more to him than this. He was certain, he was confident. He was a blaze of light in the world, and we followed him to bask in his radiance. Generous, high hearted, and angry as the mountains. Foolish - sometimes - as Oss can be foolish. His grief was a winter, and we all of us shivered in its blast. In all things he was magnificent, even his mistakes.

Elu was a king. Long before I met him he was accustomed to lead, accustomed to take responsibility. Those patient, capable hands were used to shaping the fortunes of his people.

But I was a handmaiden, and when he died I did not know what to do. My nature was to do the will of others, not to command. Nor had I known till then that the flesh to which I tied myself could have such a cost. No Maia ever endured such scoring sorrow. We were not created to bear it.

I could not decide for a nation, and the exotic beauty of the Children - which delighted me in him - in them made me afraid. How could I rule them - I who did not understand them? How could I know what they needed, what they wanted, without Elu to translate, to explain?

They were his people. They were not my people.

So I fled, and they died. Now I know not what he will say to me, when he comes forth from Mandos remade. I know not what I will say to him. Will he be disappointed? Will he hold me of less worth than he did when he thought me strong? Will he remember that I was made to be a handmaiden? Will he forgive me for loving him, now that he knows I was never meant to be a Queen?

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