Harvester of the Dead by Erulisse

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Disclaimer:  Tolkien built the sandbox; I only play with the bucket and shovel that he left for me.  No money, profit or non, is made from the publication of this story.  

 


Author's Chapter Notes:

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Harvester of the Dead

Harvester of the Dead

 

 

Námo walked through the entryway to Vairë's work area, noticeably shaking and paler than his usual ivory porcelain coloring.  His raven-black hair appeared disheveled and tangled, his facial expression appeared slightly manic, and his clothing, usually immaculate, was crumpled.  In short, he looked exhausted and worn.  His wife looked up from her loom, and putting her shuttle down, dismissed her ladies, getting up from her bench to pour him some wine.  She took him by the arm, led him to his favorite overstuffed chair and placed the goblet beside him. 

 

“Take a drink, husband,” she said as she settled herself at his feet, placing her hand upon his thigh.  “Collect your thoughts and then tell me.  What has caused you such great upset?” 

 

Námo, taking the goblet into his hand, drank deeply of the wine.  Then, holding the cup, his hand tightened around it crumpling the metal as if it were no more than a sheet of paper.  The remnants of wine left in the vessel spilled over his hand onto his lap but he paid it no mind.  When the goblet was a ball of compacted metal, he threw it forcefully away from him into the nearby hearth, chipping one of the stones in the back of the fireplace. 

 

“Upset.” Námo growled from the back of his throat.  “Yes, in truth, beloved, I am indeed upset. He rose from his chair and walked towards the window seat.  Turning abruptly, as if having come to a sudden conclusion, he looked at Vairë full on and whispered, “I don't think I can do that which Atar assigned me any more, my love.” 

 

“Why do you feel this way now, husband?” 

 

“For these many yéni I have been charged with caring for the fëar of all of the dead first-born, no matter the method of their death.  I gather them in my halls, providing them with space and putting them into a healing sleep that allows them to recover their innocence over the fullness of time.  I have watched over each fëa that has come to me, loving every one as best I may.  Finally, when Atar directs me, I rehouse each fëa and then release them to the care of my brother Irmo who provides additional healing and then assists them to integrate back into society.” 

 

“And what has changed for you?” 

 

Námo sat wearily in the window seat, tears trickling down his cheeks.  “Damn this fana,” he said as she came towards him gracefully and offered him a handkerchief.    He blew his nose, wiped away his tears, and continued after taking a deep breath. 

 

“Since Fëanáro left, many of the Exiled have come to my Halls.  Although a small number of them were the innocent – those women and children who died crossing the Helcaraxë or those caught in the flames of war by happenstance or bad fortune - most of those who have entered my Halls until this day have been the fëar of warriors, seeking rest after having died in terrible pain and terror.” 

 

His wife remained silent, waiting for him to speak in his own time.  She stroked his head tenderly and he gained strength to continue through her non-verbal support. 

 

He continued, “As I said, those fëar were mostly warriors who had followed Fëanáro and his sons.  They were elves who had sworn loyalty to various leaders in the Finwëan family.  They had refused to be foresworn and did not turn back when I spoke Atar’s Doom on the icy cliff top. 

 

“Although there were battles that caused large numbers of the dead periodically, most of the time my Maiar, with the help of yours and occasionally those who answered to my sister Nienna, were able to keep up with the numbers and soothe and quiet the fëar of those who saw my Gates in front of them.  Those were the times of battle, the times when the war was brought to the very doorstep of our Dark Brother, and those exiled first-born were making an impact against evil - although they truly had no real long-term chance against Melkor.” 

 

Looking directly at his wife’s face, he continued.  “Do you recall how upset I was when Nargothrond was overtaken?  That was only fifteen years of the sun ago.  Although most who were slain when the dragon came were warriors, there were some innocents who entered my halls then; some women and even a few children slain by blades wielded by evil or by the dragon’s breath.  At that time I spoke privately to our brother Manwë and begged him to ask Atar for his permission to once again bring war against Melkor.  I asked our brother to forgive those Children who had blindly followed Fëanáro and to intervene directly against our Dark Brother so that not all of those who were exiled would return to us via my Halls.  But Manwë turned his back and refused to bend.” 

 

“I remember,” Vairë said softly.  “And now?” 

 

“And now we are reaping the harvest of what we have allowed to be sown in its fullness,” he whispered in a tortured voice.  “Now one more dwelling of those who were exiled has fallen.  Fair Gondolin has been overthrown by the forces of Melkor. 

 

“But now, instead of warriors, I am comforting children, instead of archers, I am receiving washer women, and instead of men at arms, I am reassuring shopkeepers, craftsmen, and farmers.” 

 

He rose from the window seat and walked towards the wall, leaning his forehead against it, his palms braced against the cool stonework.  A tremor passed through his voice as he continued.  “Although there were warriors who died trying to protect their loved ones, most of the people of Gondolin were unfamiliar with the ways of war.  They were only elves who wanted to live safely with their families in a place of refuge.  But they were betrayed, the Doom working once more to cause strife between kin, and they have now paid the ultimate price. 

 

“Every child whose fëa I hold in my arms causes my heart to bleed anew.  Gondolin was a city of hope, a city of many women and children, most of whom are now dead and sleeping in my Halls.  Never before has my heart been so stunned.  So many innocents coming to my Halls have left me shaking in sorrow. 

 

“Gondolin is the first true city that has been destroyed, a city instead of a warrior’s stronghold.  This place of beauty, this hidden sanctuary that Turukáno built to allow elvenkind to flourish, has now been cast down to the last stone.  Within a single day, my halls have been filled, indeed almost to overflowing, with the cries of the innocent rising above the voices of warriors’ anguish.  My heart has been broken and I can bear the wholesale slaughter of innocent children and women no more.” 

 

“Husband,” Vairë murmured, and she strode to where he stood and turned him around to face her.  He reached out blindly to embrace her and she pulled his head to her breast, holding him against her, comforting him in his sorrow.  “You could speak to our brother again.  Perhaps his heart will now soften and he will relent after this latest outrage by our Dark Brother.” 

 

Námo shook his head.  “Nay, beloved,” he said as he pulled his head away from her breast.  “Our brother has been instructed by Atar.  He must be firm in his decision to not aid the First-born until one comes to plead for all of the peoples of Middle Earth.  But my heart bleeds, and I cannot foresee when a champion and spokesperson will be found to sway my brother Manwë's heart.”   

 

He moved away from Vairë, walking towards the loom set up against the far wall.  Depicted in the glowing threads of his wife's weaving were vignettes of the battles fought by the heroes of Gondolin.  The central element of the tapestry was a bisected oval, one side of which showed Ecthelion of the Fountain slaying Gothmog; the other side pictured the final battle of the one warrior who would personify the glory of the Hidden City for Ages to come – the death and ultimate sacrifice of Glorfindel shown in his battle against the Balrog. 

 

“Of course you knew, beloved,” he said, and turned to face Vairë. 

 

“I knew from afar, my husband.  But you know better than any of us because you hold the fëar of those who have died.  Only you truly comprehend the horror that none of the rest of us will ever understand in its fullness.” 

 

“You are the one who comforts,” she continued.  “You are the one who quiets the screams, who dries the tears, and who brings the deep sleep and the end of the nightmares.  Without you there would be no healing for these damaged fëar.  Without you there would be no hope of rehousing these bright spirits.  But with your loving help, these Children will be rehoused, whether they came from the shores of Lake Cuiviénen or were born only a single day before they were slain.  With your assistance they will again walk the lands of Arda, share their stories with their friends, and enrich their lives with their bond-mates.” 

 

Vairë rose from her seat and walked to her husband.  “Beloved, Atar assigned you two jobs, that of Doomsman of Arda and that of the Keeper of the Halls of Mandos.  You are the harvester of the dead, the collector of their fëar.  Without you and your Halls these fëar would be houseless and wandering the lands without hope for rehousing or a rich future.  Although this harvest is bitter, look past this and see the beauty and joy that will once again walk the face of our world when these fëar have recovered and been released from your loving care.” 

 

Námo turned towards her as she came to him.  They embraced, then the room was filled with a drizzle of multicolored light and suddenly was empty. 

 

However, from the day of the fall of fair Gondolin, Námo spoke often to his brothers and sisters, requesting that they be ready to move against their Dark Brother in the East as soon as Atar allowed such a move.  From that time forward, he championed the Exiles in conversations with his fellow Valar, speaking about their battle against the Darkness and his desire of forgiveness for the innocents in his Halls.  He continued to weep over the fëar of those terrified women and children who arrived at his Halls and he gained personal strength in his own resolve to comfort the Children under his care by leaning on the constant loving support of his wife.  Despite his sorrow he would persevere and continue to harvest the souls of the fallen, offering love, healing, and the merciful quiet of the Halls of the Dead.  

 


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