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SUMMARY: Ulmo is working under a deadline and Tuor doesn’t make it easy for him.
WARNING: Humor abounds.
NOTE: The description of Tuor’s journey, which begins twenty-three years after the Dagor Nirnaeth Arnediad or Battle of Unnumbered Tears, is taken directly from Unfinished Tales. Dialogue from it is in italics.
‘And at this time most of all Ulmo gave heed to the fates of the House of Hador, for in his deep counsels he purposed that they should play great part in his design for the succour of the Exiles....’ [from Unfinished Tales, ‘Of Tuor and His Coming to Gondolin’]
"He’s not moving." Ulmo said with a frown.
"Who?" Námo asked.
The Lord of Waters sighed as he sat beside a small pool in the pleasaunce which graced the inner courtyard of his mansion in Valmar, staring into its placid waters. "Tuor son of Huor," Ulmo answered.
"Hmm?" Námo enquired, not really paying attention. His brother’s water garden was quite delightful and he was idly thinking of having some of his Maiar build one for himself. He was sure Vairë would enjoy it as well. The Lord of Mandos stretched his long form, taking his ease. His Halls had been quiet of late, though he was still sorting out the fëar from the Nirnaeth. Fingon, especially had proven difficult, cursing both Maedhros and Gothmog, usually in the same breath, and it was all he could do to get the Elf calmed down enough to put him to sleep. Námo had the feeling it would be awhile before the former High King of the Noldor was ready to face the judgment of the Valar without going into a tirade.
"Tuor," Ulmo repeated, practically grinding his teeth in frustration. "You know, the father of Eärendil."
Námo smiled. "Eärendil isn’t due to be born for some years yet."
"He won’t be born at all if this stupid Secondborn doesn’t get off his duff and move."
Námo laughed. "Where is he?"
"Sitting beside his cave and playing his harp."
"Hmm.... let me see." Námo adjusted his position so he could look into the pool. No fish swam in the limpid water, no water lily floated upon its surface. It was clear and reflected nothing, not even the clouds scudding overhead. It was, in fact, a window that looked out upon the Outer Lands and Ulmo used it to keep abreast of the doings of Elves and Mortals when he was in residence in Valmar. Looking into it Námo saw a wintry scene in which a golden-haired Man sat before the entrance of a cave playing his harp and singing. His voice, while not as beautiful as one of the Firstborn, was nonetheless clear and lovely to hear. He sang a song in the language of the Sindar and it was obviously one to uplift the hearts of its hearers.
"Why not send him a sign?" Námo suggested, pointing to the small well that stood outside the cave.
"Hmm.... perhaps I will," Ulmo said and dipping a finger into the pool he swirled the water for a moment or two before withdrawing it. Watching, Námo saw the water in the well begin to boil and froth until it was overflowing, forming a rill that ran merrily westward. Almost at once the young Man leaped up and, heedless of everything, began running after it.
"Well, at least he’s on his way," Námo said with a smile.
"Let’s hope he keeps running and does not stop until he reaches Vinyamar," Ulmo retorted, though his eyes were merry with amusement.
"Oh, I hope not," Námo said with a straight face. "He’s likely to fall dead of exhaustion before he gets halfway across the plains of Dor-lómin and we really do need him alive long enough to sire Eärendil after all."
Ulmo couldn’t help but laugh. He glanced back into the pool and his laughter turned into a scowl. "Now what is he doing?"
Námo took a look and refrained from stating the obvious, knowing his brother wouldn’t appreciate it. The lad was standing before an arch of rock under which a mighty stream flowed to be lost in darkness.
"So my hope has cheated me!" they heard the Man exclaim. "The sign in the hills has led me only to dark end in the midst of the land of my enemies."
"Rather melodramatic, isn’t he?" Námo stated with a grin.
"Comes from living alone, I imagine," Ulmo retorted, "though the House of Hador has ever been given to fits of drama every now and then."
Námo chuckled, well aware of the truth of Ulmo’s words. He had had his own run-ins with various members of that particular clan. Gundor had been especially vocal about the manner of his death during the Dagor Bragollach to the point where even his father was ready to, as he told the Lord of Mandos, "kill him all over again just to shut him up".
"What do you plan to do now?" he asked, becoming more interested in Ulmo’s attempt to get Tuor on the right road. The lad did not know how glorious his destiny was, though if he didn’t stop whining he was unlikely to fulfill it. There was little time left, for Melkor was on the move again.
"Watch and learn, Little Brother," Ulmo replied with a smug smile.
Námo returned his attention to the pool and saw that the young Man was still sitting beside the arch looking thoroughly miserable. It was dawn now and as Anar lit the waters he saw two figures wade out of the stream and climb the carved steps to where Tuor awaited them. He gave Ulmo an enquiring look.
"Gelmir and Arminas, both of the People of Angrod, though since the Dagor Bragollach they’ve been living with Círdan on Balar," the Lord of Waters explained. "I am sending them on to Nargothrond to warn Orodreth that his doom is at hand if he does not shut tight the gates of his kingdom."
"Ah... yes," Námo said with a sigh. "Young Túrin will have much to say to that."
"Orodreth is weak, I know," Ulmo averred, "and easily swayed by lesser counsels, but there is naught else that I can do."
"We do what we can and leave the rest in Atar’s hands."
Ulmo nodded and glanced again at the pool, giving a nod of satisfaction. Námo looked as well and saw Tuor speaking to the Elves.
"...tell me if you can where lies the Annon-in-Gelydh. For I have sought it long, ever since Annael my foster-father of the Sindar spoke of it to me."
They saw the Elves laugh, and Arminas said, "Your search is ended; for we have ourselves just passed that Gate. There it stands before you!" Both Elves were pointing to the arch into which the water flowed. "Come now!" Arminas continued. "Through darkness you shall come to the light."
"Well that should set him on his journey again," Ulmo said with a sigh.
"He’s very young," Námo said indulgently.
"Not that young," Ulmo retorted. "One does not endure what he has endured and remain young."
"Perhaps not, but I sense an innocence about him that speaks of a child-like approach to things. That might make your task all the harder."
Ulmo just grunted as the two Valar continued to watch the Elves take their leave of the Mortal.
"... your House has the favour of the Lord of Waters," the one called Gelmir was saying, "and if his counsels lead you to Turgon, then surely shall you come to him, withersoever you turn. Follow now the road to which the water has brought you from the hills, and fear not! You shall not walk long in darkness. Farewell! And think not that our meeting was by chance; for the Dweller in the Deep moves many things in this land still. Anar caluva tielyanna!"
"Wise Child," Ulmo said with a nod.
"Indeed," was Námo’s only reply as the two Elves headed northeast towards their doom, while young Tuor braved the darkness of the tunnel, finally coming out and making his way through a deep cleft. They saw him sit in the evening and pluck on his harp, singing, and observed with amusement his wonder at the sound of the echoes his song and harping was making.
"He should not tarry there long," Ulmo said with a frown. "The tide is due to come in in the morning. If he does not climb further up he’ll drown."
"He’ll need another sign," Námo suggested.
"I’m fast running out of them," protested Ulmo and the Lord of Mandos laughed at the harried expression on his fellow Vala. "Well, perhaps this will do the trick."
He put a finger into the water and gave it a swirl before removing it. When the water cleared again Námo saw three white gulls beating their way down the ravine, passing over Tuor’s head. The son of Huor jumped up and began to climb the cliff, intent on following the great birds beloved of the Teleri until he stood on the top. Ulmo leaned over and blew gently upon the still waters of the pool and Námo saw Tuor’s hair flutter in the sudden wind that rose out of the West. The Mortal breathed deep and they heard him exclaim, "This uplifts the heart like the drinking of cool wine!"
"Poetic, isn’t he?" Námo said with a wide grin.
Ulmo returned his grin with one of his own. "Comes from living alone, I imagine," he quipped and they both laughed.
"Speaking of which...." Námo said.
The Lord of Waters nodded, knowing what his brother wished and a moment later Salmar, his Chief Maia, approached with a tray of refreshments, casting a quick glance into the pool as he laid a cut crystal goblet of miruvórë on the table next to his lord. "Ah... I see he has finally reached the Sea," he said, handing another goblet to Lord Námo. "A bit late isn’t he, Lord? I would have thought him in Vinyamar by now."
"The Child is a bit slow-footed," Námo answered before Ulmo, giving Salmar a wink.
"You mean slow-witted," Ulmo retorted with a grunt. "How many more signs do I need to.... Oh for the love of Atar!"
"What now?" Námo asked, rolling his eyes. Salmar hid a smile and with a bow made a graceful exit.
"Look what he’s doing!" Ulmo nearly shouted with disgust.
Námo leaned over the pool as he took a sip of his wine, nearly spitting it out, trying not to laugh. They could see the Mortal rushing about chasing a host of butterflies and laughing before collapsing upon the greening earth and sighing in contentment as he gazed upon the ever-changing Sea.
"He looks as if he’s enjoying himself," Námo commented, refusing to catch Ulmo’s eye.
"He’s supposed to be making his way to Vinyamar!" Ulmo snarled. "I swear this child of Men is going to be the death of me!"
The Lord of Mandos nearly fell out of his chair laughing. "It is summer after all, brother. He has had a long road and deserves a rest."
"Rest, yes, but I wasn’t expecting him to take up residence in Nevrast."
"He’s enamoured of the Sea, I think," Námo offered. "He is the first of the Atani to ever come to it. I fear the Sea-longing will be strong in this one to the end of his days."
"Can’t be helped, I’m afraid," Ulmo sighed. "Well, one more sign is all I’m giving him. This better work or I’m going to personally hand him over to you."
"Oh no, brother," Námo said with a wicked gleam in his eyes. "This one is all yours."
"Humph," was Ulmo’s only reply as he dipped a finger a third time into the pool and gave it a swirl. Now Námo saw seven great white trumpet swans wend their way southward, but as they came over Tuor they wheeled and flew down, landing in the water. He could see the Mortal’s amazement and delight, knowing that the youngster was greatly fond of swans, for the swan was the token of the folk of Annael, Tuor’s foster-father among the Sindar. The Man rose to greet the swans, but they merely hissed at him and drove him from the shore before rising again to once more make their way southward.
"Here now comes another sign that I have tarried too long!" they heard him cry aloud.
"You think?" Ulmo said with a sarcastic growl and Námo laughed, taking another sip of his wine. He realized he was enjoying himself more than he thought he would. When Ulmo had suggested this visit after a particularly difficult judgment of one of the Noldor, he had been reluctant to accept his brother Vala’s offer, but now he was glad he had.
Tuor continued following the swans until he came at last to Mount Taras beneath which was the abandoned city of Vinyamar, the oldest of all the works which the Noldor built in Beleriand. The two Valar observed the Man as he stood before Turgon’s great throne, marvelling at the shield, hauberk, helm and long sword in its sheath hanging on the wall behind it. The hauberk shone as if it were untarnished silver, the sunlight streaming through the western windows gilding it with sparks of gold. The shield was of a shape unfamiliar to the Man, for it was long and tapered. Námo smiled at the lad’s expression, for Tuor could not know that in more ancient days, the shields of the Noldor had been of a different design than what they used now. He saw Tuor smile in delight when he noticed the swan’s wing emblem that was wrought on the blue-painted shield.
The young Man lifted the shield off the wall, speaking in a ringing voice. "By this token I will take these arms unto myself, and upon myself whatsoever doom they bear."
"Now we’re getting somewhere," Ulmo said with a sigh of relief as Tuor dressed himself in the hauberk and girded the sword around his waist. They saw him step outside and the seven swans that had landed there bent their long necks in homage to one who was destined to be the father of Kings, each one plucking out a feather to lay at his feet. Tuor took the gift of feathers and placed them as a plume in his helm.
The young Man walked towards the sea-strand, drawn there by Ulmo’s will. The Lord of Waters gave the Lord of Mandos a wry grin. "Now to finally set him on his errand. He has tarried so long that the road I had planned for him is no longer viable. He will have to take another, harder way, though this time I think I’ll supply him with a more reliable guide than birds."
Námo smiled, lifting his goblet in salute. "I’ll be here when you get back."
Ulmo nodded and started to think himself away when he stopped and gave Námo a wicked smile. "Would you like to help spur the child on his way?"
"What do you have in mind?" Námo asked, intrigued.
Ulmo told him and the Lord of Mandos started laughing. "That’s right, blame me." Ulmo merely smirked as he faded away. Námo then bent over the pool to see what he could do to help his brother Vala. Ah... there... he called to Salmar who appeared immediately.
"My lord?" the Maia said.
"Salmar, find Ossë," Námo said. "Tell him from me that he may take the mariners on that ship now making its way towards Endórë, for they were doomed to come to my Halls the moment Turgon sent them into the West, but he is to spare Voronwë son of Aranwë. Tell him his lord has need of the Elf."
The Maia bowed and set off to follow the Vala’s orders while Námo continued to watch the drama unfold before him. A sea-storm was brewing out of the West, courtesy of Ossë. It was quickening now and the sky was darkening with its threat. Tuor, he noticed, never moved from the strand where he stood. A great wave rose far off and rolled towards him, a mist of shadow lying upon it. Námo had to admit Ulmo knew how to make an entrance as the Lord of Waters rose out of the wave, standing dark against the storm in majesty and dread.
Ulmo wore a crown of silver, from which his long sea-green hair fell down. He cast back the grey mantle that hung about him like a mist, revealing a gleaming coat, close-fitted as if made of great fish-scales, looking much like mail. Around this he wore a kirtle of deep green that flashed and flickered with sea-fire as he strode slowly towards the land, though he did not step foot upon it. Tuor bowed, at first in reverence to Ulmo, but then the light of the Vala’s eyes and the sound of his deep voice brought fear upon the Mortal and he cast himself upon the sand, not daring to look up.
"Arise, Tuor, son of Huor!" said Ulmo. "Fear not my wrath, though long have I called to thee unheard; and setting out at last thou hast tarried on thy journey hither. In the Spring thou shouldst have stood here; but now a fell winter cometh soon from the land of the Enemy. Haste thou must learn, and the pleasant road that I designed for thee must be changed. For my counsels have been scorned, and a great evil creeps upon the Valley of Sirion, and already a host of foes is come between thee and thy goal."
"What then is my goal, Lord?" asked Tuor.
Námo watched his brother Vala tell the Mortal of his mission, throwing him a part of his mantle as a cloak, for with winter nigh again and Melkor’s minions abroad, Tuor would need to pass under shadow through peril.
"Thus thou shall walk under my shadow," he heard Ulmo say. "But tarry no more; for in the lands of Anar and in the fires of Melkor it will not endure. Wilt thou take up my errand?"
"I will, Lord," said Tuor.
Námo listened with half an ear to Ulmo speaking to Tuor of the Darkening and the Exile of the Noldor, the Doom of Mandos and the Hiding of Valinor, all the while keeping an eye on the encroaching storm. Ossë, it seemed, was being a little too enthusiastic. Námo frowned and thought himself to where Ulmo’s Maia swept the Elven ship to and fro, tossing it from one wave to the next, tormenting the mariners who still clung to their only hope of safety, a hope that was doomed for all but one.
"Ossë, enough!" Námo shouted above the shrieking of the storm. "I would not have thee tormenting these Children."
The Maia of the Seas turned a petulant look upon the Vala. "Thou’rt not my lord," he said, scowling.
"Do not dispute me in this, child," Námo said in tones that were absolutely frigid. "Thou wouldst not enjoy the consequences. These Children are mine. Torment them no longer."
"They should be punished for their insolence," Ossë said with a withering look.
Námo’s expression darkened. "Remember’st thou that Melkor’s cell in Mandos stands empty." He paused and the smile he gave Ossë set the Maia quailing. "It need not remain thus."
The Maia sighed and with a negligent and, to Námo’s eyes, spiteful move, he tipped the ship so all but Voronwë were swept overboard, their screams lost in the raging hurricane. Námo swept the fëar of the lost mariners into his embrace, automatically consoling them even as Maranwë and several of his fellow Maiar appeared to take charge, gently cradling the quiescent fëar before returning to Mandos. Námo turned his attention back to Ossë.
"Bringest thou Voronwë safely unto the shore, Ossë." He looked towards Vinyamar, noticing that Ulmo was still speaking to Tuor, though it sounded as if their conversation was drawing to a close.
"... is not for thy valour only that I send thee," he heard the Vala say, "but to bring into the world a hope beyond thy sight, and a light that shall pierce the darkness."
The storm had now reached the shore and Tuor looked in danger of being drowned and swept away. "Go now," Ulmo commanded the Mortal, "lest the Sea devour thee! For Ossë obeys the will of Mandos, and he is wroth, being a servant of the Doom."
Námo couldn’t help smiling at that bit of sophistry. Ulmo definitely knew how to frighten the Child into not lingering. He pretended not to see Ossë stick out his tongue at him.
"... I will send one to thee out of the wrath of Ossë, and thus shalt thou be guided: yea, the last mariner of the last ship that shall seek into the West until the rising of the Star. Go now back to the land!"
Then there was a noise of thunder, and lightning flared over the sea; and Ulmo stood among the waves as a tower of silver flickering with darting flames.
"I go, Lord!" Tuor cried. "Yet now my heart yearneth rather to the Sea."
Námo rolled his eyes. Oh for the love of Atar!
"He’s rather dim-witted, isn’t he?" Ossë stated with a sneer.
The Lord of Mandos gave the Maia a withering look. "Mind thyself, Ossë. Thy lord shall hear of thine insolence towards me." The Maia gave him a dismayed look.
Meanwhile, Ulmo was lifting the Ulumúri, blowing upon it a single great note, louder than the roaring of the hurricane around them. As the note ended, thunder rolled across the seascape, and lightning rent asunder the heavens. Námo saw that Ulmo was gone and decided it was time to make his own exit, though he waited long enough to assure himself that Tuor had safely reached the top of the terraces and that Voronwë had come ashore with the sea-wrack still alive as Ossë’s wild waves broke against the walls of Vinyamar.
Returning to Valmar Námo found Ulmo calmly sitting by the pool sipping his wine. "Nice show," he said as he took his own seat. He noticed that in his absence, the ever efficient Salmar had refilled his goblet. "That last bit was quite entertaining."
"I’m glad you think so, though I will have to give Ossë a talking to. He was too violent."
"Hmm... I had to reprimand him for his mistreatment of the mariners. There was no reason for his spite. Their deaths were frightening enough for them without compounding their fear."
Ulmo nodded. "Well, I sent him off to Uinen in a sulk. She’ll give him a piece of her mind and he’ll be on his best behaviour for a bit." He took another sip of wine. "Thank you, by the way, for allowing me to take your name in vain."
Námo laughed. "It wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened."
Ulmo gave him a considering look. "Does that bother you?"
"The Children look upon you with the same level of hate as they reserve for our Fallen Brother."
Námo shook his head. "Nay. Melkor they abhor and for good reason; me, they simply fear, though some have good reason to do so. The rest..." he shrugged and gave his brother Vala a wry grin. "Like they say, it comes with the territory."
Now Námo gave him a surprised look. "Whatever for? I am as Atar made me. What the Children think of it is of no concern to me. My only concern is what Atar thinks of me."
"Well, thank you anyway. I...."
He was interrupted by the sudden appearance of Manwë, standing there looking grave. The other two Valar bowed their heads in greeting. "Is there something wrong, Manwë?" Ulmo asked.
Manwë gave the Lord of Waters a scowl. "Would you care to tell me, my brother, why three sea gulls and seven swans are giving me grief?"
Both Ulmo and Námo stared at the Elder King in confusion. "Excuse me?" Ulmo enquired.
"Something about you waylaying them for the sake of some Mortal?" Manwë said, arching an eyebrow.
The other two Valar shared a look and started laughing. "Pull up a seat, my brother," Ulmo said finally, "and I’ll tell you all about it." Salmar appeared just then, offering the Elder King a goblet of miruvórë which Manwë accepted with a smile. Námo tuned Ulmo out, stealing a glance into the pool and was pleased to see Tuor and Voronwë speaking. He saw the Mortal set upon the wall his spear, upon which his name was written in the Elven-runes of the North. Námo had to smile at the gesture. Clearly the Child wished any who might pass through the ancient city to know that he had been there.
As he watched Elf and Mortal make their way out of Vinyamar, heading northeast towards Gondolin, it occurred to the Lord of Mandos that perhaps Tuor’s tarrying had had a purpose to it, unknown to them all. Had the Mortal been as swift of foot as Ulmo had planned he and Voronwë would never have met and with sudden insight Námo understood that Someone Else had taken a hand in delaying Tuor long enough for a doomed ship of the Eldar to find its way back from forbidden waters.
He looked up to see Manwë laughing at something Ulmo was telling him about Tuor and Námo smiled, wondering if he would share his insight with his brother. Perhaps, perhaps not. Ulmo thought himself the chink in the armour of Fate, but he apparently was forgetting Who was the original armourer. No, on second thought, he would keep this one to himself.
After all, were they not all in Atar’s hands?
Words are Quenya unless otherwise noted:
Fëar: Plural of Fëa: Soul, Spirit.
Dagor Bragollach: (Sindarin) Battle of Sudden Flame.
Annon-in-Gelydh: (Sindarin) The Gate of the Noldor, the entrance to a subterranean watercourse in the western hills of Dor-lómin, leading to Cirith Ninniach or the Rainbow Cleft, which brings one to the Great Sea.
Anar caluva tielyanna!: ‘The sun shall shine upon your path!’
Atani: Men, the equivalent of the Sindarin Edain.
Ulumúri: The great horns of Ulmo.
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