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Breath of Arda
Summary: Not all battles are fought with swords and spears. Some are fought with other weapons.
‘There was battle above in the high spaces of the air. The billowing clouds of Mordor were being driven back, their edges tattering as a wind out of the living world came up and swept the fumes and smokes towards the dark land of their home. Under the lifting skirts of the dreary canopy dim light leaked into Mordor like pale morning through the grimed window of a prison.’ — Return of the King, Book 6, Chapter 2, ‘The Land of Shadow’
6 Súlimë, T.A. 3019:
Námo entered the main throne room of Ilmarin and resisted a sigh. He was the last one to arrive. All the other Valar, even Vairë, were already assembled on the balcony that looked across the Pelóri towards Endórë. Of course, he had a legitimate reason for being late. Already Mandos was filling with the souls of Mortals dying in this war and he had been coordinating with Maranwë and his other Maiar as to where to put them until they could be dealt with. He took pride in the fact that he had been ready for this for some time, in fact, from the very moment the Halfling Bilbo Baggins took possession of the One Ring. War was inevitable though long in coming as Mortals accounted time. He and his People were quite prepared to handle the influx.
The Lord of Mandos stepped silently beside his spouse, giving her a faint smile, which she returned, slipping her hand into his.
*What has happened?* he asked her, bespeaking to her mind-to-mind.
*Nothing as yet,* she answered. *Melkor’s Lieutenant has thought to blanket all of Arda with a thick cloud through which no light can penetrate. The Children fight under despairing gloom.*
*And the Ringbearers?*
*Samwise has helped Frodo to escape Cirith Ungol and they are even now heading north along the Morgai.*
Námo nodded. *Denethor will come to me this day,* he told her. *He means to bring his son with him, but that is not to be. Denethor will not be able to ease his own death with Faramir’s.*
*I am glad to hear it,* Vairë said.
Námo would have said more but just then Manwë spoke, never turning around. "I’m glad you were able to join us, Námo. Now that we are all here, we must decide what we shall do."
"What do you mean?" Nienna asked sharply. "Do about what?"
"We must decide whether we will interfere in this war or not," the Elder King replied.
"Dare we?" Oromë asked, voicing the concerns of the others. "It seems to me that every time we interfere, things only get worse."
"Or better," Námo couldn’t help countering. "The War of Wrath...."
"Brought about the destruction of Beleriand," Oromë pointed out. "Melkor might have been defeated but I think the cost to the Children was too high. What price will they have to pay this time if we step in?"
"Yet, we cannot stand by and do nothing," Varda insisted. "Too much is at stake. The Ringbearers must succeed in their Quest and we are in a position to help."
"And Olórin could use a bit of assistance as well," Irmo said. "See? He is even now facing down the Lord of the Nazgûl before the ruined gates of Minas Tirith."
"And look!" Aulë pointed. "The Heir of Isildur will not reach the city in time to lift the siege, for with my former servant’s black clouds deadening the air, there is no hope of any wind to billow the sails of Elessar’s fleet and hurry them on their way."
"What then can we do?" Yavanna asked.
"More importantly, what will Atar allow us to do?" Námo asked quietly.
"I still do not think it wise for us to interfere," Oromë said. "Too much is at risk if we do."
"And too much is at risk if we don’t," countered Ulmo somewhat angrily.
Námo cast a knowing grin at Vairë who merely rolled her eyes. It was an old argument between the two. Oromë loved the Children no less than Ulmo, but he had been the last of them to abandon the Outer Lands for Valinor and still grieved over those lands which had been destroyed during the wars against Melkor. Ulmo, of course, had always been more concerned over the fate of the Children and had often aided them even if his fellow Valar had disapproved. It grieved him to see them in such dire straits now.
"Peace," Manwë said and silence reigned on the peaks of Taniquetil.
And then all but Manwë went to their knees in adoration as they felt the Presence of their Atar surrounding them.
"What is thy will, Atar?" Manwë asked, giving a slight bow, for he was the Elder King and vice-gerent of Ilúvatar.
*Greetings, my beloved,* they all heard the One say and more than one of them gasped in delight as a wave of love and approval swept over them. *It is time, my son, for thee to take up the battle against my wayward Child.*
"Yet, how?" Aulë dared to ask as he and the others rose to their feet.
*That is for Manwë to decide,* Atar replied. *To him do I give Authority to act, though ye may assist him if he ask it of you.*
They felt another wave of love encompass them and then Atar’s Presence faded from their senses and they found themselves alone on the mountain. For a moment no one spoke, unwilling to break the spell of Atar’s love, but finally Námo stirred and looked at Manwë.
"What will you do?" he asked quietly.
"Nothing obvious," Manwë said with a small smile, "but it will require all of us acting in concert to effect what I wish to do."
"Then tell us, beloved, and we will do it," Varda said.
Manwë gestured towards the darkness that was covering Middle-earth. "Melkor’s Lieutenant thinks he is lord of all the realms, or wishes he were. I am sure he has forgotten whose realm is the air."
Aulë snorted. "Forgotten, no. I don’t think he’s forgotten, my brother. I think he’s simply too arrogant to care."
Manwë flashed him a smile. "No doubt." Then he turned his attention back to the war in Endórë and his expression was less benign. "Then let us take the battle to him and teach him the error of his ways." He lifted up his right hand, a single pure white feather lying on the palm, and with a gentle, almost negligent, breath, he sent it off. They watched it floating on the wind and then Manwë began to Sing:
"Breath of Arda, hold us together. Be forever near us. Breath of Arda, lighten our darkness. Pour over us your holiness. Breath of Arda...."
At first Námo wasn’t sure why Manwë was addressing the Song to himself, for the Elder King was known as Súlimo, Lord of the Breath of Arda. But then he realized that Manwë was addressing the true Breath of Arda, indeed the very Breath of Eä and their own existence. Manwë was Singing to Atar. Námo listened closely to the words, memorizing them, knowing that this was needful and had no doubt that the others were doing the same.
"Join with me," Manwë said when the last note died away. "Sing with me."
And they did, the Valiër picking up the descant, interweaving the counterpoint with the original melody which the Valar sang, strengthening it, deepening it, until the Song swelled and the winds of the world grew to hurricane force. Manwë then gestured and directed them, bringing them up from the southern reaches of Arda. Slowly, reluctantly, and with much resistance, the noxious clouds of Mordor were driven back and the pale light of morning, not seen in Gondor for the last five days, grew and crept towards the North. The battle for supremacy over the air raged as they felt the Opposition struggling to maintain control. But the dark clouds, with their fumes and smoke, continued to be rent and torn as the Valar Sang, their wills not to be denied. Námo vaguely took note of the vehemence of Aulë’s growling voice, apparently taking much pleasure at foiling his former servant’s plans. Manwë gestured a second time and they brought the Song to a final crescendo of Power before reaching its conclusion.
The silence that followed was almost painful, but Námo ignored it as he watched the events unfolding before his eyes. There was the Lord of the Nazgúl confronting a lone warrior on the Pelennor and he smiled grimly at the jest that was about to be played at the Ringwraith’s expense. He shifted his gaze and saw the black sails of the Corsair ships which young Elessar had commandeered begin to billow in the rising wind and nodded. Yes, it would appear that they would reach the Harlond in time. He cast his gaze even further, into Mordor itself, and watched two small figures crossing the stony bed of a dry and withered stream within the folds of the Morgai, making for a beaten path that would take them north... north and eventually to the destiny that awaited them.
He sighed and shook himself, turning to Manwë. "I must go," he said. "Already Théoden is arriving in Mandos and I promised Théodred that he could be there to greet his father. And then there’s Denethor." He grimaced at the thought, not happy at having to deal with that one. He still was not sure if he would let Boromir know of his father’s arrival. The elder son of the Steward had only just released his guilt over his supposed failure in succumbing to the lure of the Ring and Námo did not want him to take on more guilt, thinking he could have saved his father had he been there for him. The Lord of Mandos had little sympathy for the Steward at this time. Denethor could have done so much good. If only....
Well, that was neither here nor there. He gave Manwë a bow. "Call me if I am needed," he said.
Manwë nodded. "You do the same," he admonished the Lord of Mandos. "Many will die today, and many more in the days to come until this war ends. We are all ready to assist you. You only need to ask."
"Thank you," Námo said with all sincerity.
"I will come with you, brother," Nienna said. "There will be many in need of consolation this day."
Námo gave his sister a smile, glad that Nienna would be there helping. "If you could have some of your People...."
"Already done," Nienna said returning his smile with one of her own, though he could see that her eyes were glistening with unshed tears, tears that he knew would eventually fall for all those who would suffer this day and in the days to come, tears which would be shed only in private. "Tiutalion is coordinating with Maranwë even as we speak."
Námo nodded. "Then, let us go greet our latest guests," he said and he and Nienna shed their fanar and were gone, leaving the other Valar to keep watch over Arda and the war that was raging there.
Words are Quenya.
Fanar: Plural of fana: the ‘raiment’ in which the Valar clothed themselves, the bodies in which they were self-incarnated.
1. The idea for this story came from Matthew Dickerson’s excellent book Following Gandalf: Epic Battles and Moral Victory in The Lord of the Rings (Brazos Press, 2003). After quoting the passage which begins this story, he writes:
‘It is significant that Tolkien uses the word battle to describe what is happening. The first thing he shows us here is that the change in winds is not just a coincidence, or good luck, but yet another part of the great war going on in Middle-earth....this is a war going on in heaven, or in the spiritual realm. Certainly no physical being within Middle-earth accomplishes this; these are the winds of Manwë, or of Ilúvatar himself.’ [Chapter 9 ‘The Hand of Ilúvatar’, pg.194]
2. 6 Súlimë corresponds to 15 March. See Appendix B under this date.
3. The Song of Power which the Valar sing is an adaptation of the chorus of the Christmas song "Breath of Heaven".
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