Elemmírë sends to Amárië her greetings.
By the time this reaches you, you will probably have crossed the Sea and be upon the shores of Middle-earth. I can’t quite believe it yet. I keep wanting to say: I thought none of us would ever need to go back! But you know that already, I’ve said it more than enough.
It is so quiet in Valimar now. So few of us are left here. It reminds me of the time you took me to visit Tirion, that sense of waiting and expectation, as if at any moment the vanished people of the city might turn a corner and begin to sing, so that the land and the people can be whole again.
But you have a task to do before that can happen, and I fear it may be a hard one.
We have joined those who are left here into one choir, and will meet in the Great Square, so that none need sing alone. Vána and Nessa have promised they will join us with their ladies for the dancing at midsummer.
There is much talk of the war, and its morality. You know that I am troubled by the idea of violence for any cause, even under the just authority of Manwë. I do not believe that Arda is inevitably doomed to violent conflict. I believe that I am free to choose my path, and so I will not take up weapons, even in the face of Morgoth himself.
And yet, I know that you and all the others will be kind, just and fair in what you must do. That you do not undertake this as an adventure, or for honor, or for pride. And I know that both Manwë and our lord Ingwë can sometimes see further than I can.
Amárië upon the shores of Middle-earth to Elemmírë in Valimar.
Hello Elemmírë. I got your letter just after we set up our first camp in Middle-earth. It was good to hear from you.
I hope you kept a copy: if you are planning to publish the letters later, I can’t promise I’ll be able to store them in good order here!
It’s good to hear that you have made arrangements for the choir. I can’t imagine Valimar without song and bells ringing out over the roofs of gold and bronze. It’s cheerful news to think that no matter what happens here, there is light and joy beyond the Sea that the Enemy will never sully.
I don’t know how to begin to explain what he’s done here. The way you described it, a land of woods and hills under the stars... It isn’t like that any more. It’s dark with choking clouds, the woods that still survived look... wrong. Twisted and cruel: they whisper in strange voices. There are no Elves left on the mainland that we have met yet. We marched out into the darkened lands and set up our camp away from the trees. None of us cared for the look of them.
The remnant of the Elves and Men of this land survive on an island — I suppose you will probably have heard that by the time you get this. Artanis is there, I hear. Some of the Noldor and Elwë’s Teleri are with her, and this young Ereinion Gil-galad that Eärendil the Bearer of Light spoke of. I haven’t met Artanis yet, or any of the Men. I’ll write again when I do, I promise. I know you are curious about them.
Now I must persuade an Eagle to carry this to you before I am due on duty again.
From Ingwion to his Father, greetings.
You’ve already had my report about the landing and the first assault, so I won’t bother to repeat myself, but I know that Mama will write and ask if I’ve written to you, so I am pre-empting her and writing now, while I have a moment. We advance in the morning, but everything is ready, and I am supposed to be resting. A fine joke, that: I doubt anyone in the entire host can sleep tonight, but since I must set an example, I have dutifully retreated to my tent and am writing this while I pretend to sleep.
I am still, in private, unsure about whether this assault is justified. I will of course not mention my reservations to anyone but you. No matter how quickly we win this war, there will be people killed and injured in the fighting, when they could be safe at home. At first sight, at least, there seems to be very little here worth saving. Part of me thinks we should just scoop up the remaining refugees, settle them somewhere far away from harm, and leave Morgoth to it.
Still, the decision is made, and I’ll carry it through as I promised.
I’ll write to Mama next, but give her my love anyway.
From Ingwë to Ingwion, with kind thoughts and all good wishes.
Thank you for the letter: it was good to hear from you informally. I know your Mama has written already to say ‘be careful and look after yourself’ but I promised I would put it in my letter too, so there it is. Not that I think you would take unnecessary risks: you are probably the most level-headed person I know, and I said as much to Manwë when I recommended that you should lead our people to war.
By the time you get this, the attack you mentioned will be over for good or ill. Either way we will be thinking of you.
Having reservations is only responsible. I think we all feel them. We have talked this over so many times, and I can find nothing new to say: only the same old things.
Manwë sees further than all the rest of us, and he believes that we must go to war. If there must be war, then I would rather it be fought in the lands of the East than here at home. If we cannot have confidence that Morgoth and his servants can be contained, then we must cut them out as far as we can.
But I hope with all my heart that it can be done quickly.
Farewell for this time.
Elemmírë to Amárië with the Host of the Vanyar.
My dear Amárië!
No, I had not thought of publishing our correspondence, you minx. I don’t always write for publication. I suppose that suggestion is what I earned for boring you with my meditations on the war: you are probably tired of hearing them.
So, here is some quite different news to distract you. It was very brave of the people of the House of the Oliphaunt and the House of the Golden Gryphon to volunteer so unanimously to go to the war, but some of us are starting to think we should have insisted they leave at least some of their number behind.
We have been doing our best to care for the oliphaunts, but we are not what they are used to. A few days ago they decided en masse that they would set out to join their own folk, and as soon as the gryphons caught word of it, nothing would do but that they must go too.
You can probably imagine me and a handful of others haring off after a great herd of oliphaunts, with the gryphons swooping madly overhead, and the moment when we almost caught up with them and then realised that even if we got ahead of them, there was no way of stopping them!
Fortunately, they got some distance along the banks of the Oiolairë and found the place where all the water-melons grow, which distracted the Oliphaunts very nicely, and without them to follow, the Gryphons got distracted and went winging off to see Yavanna. I believe she was a little surprised, but none of them were hurt and they all came home three days later, very pleased with themselves and roosting raucously upon the clocktower, which of course normally is forbidden to them. But we were so pleased they were home safely that nobody had the heart to shout at them!
As for the Oliphaunts, after they had eaten all the melons, we managed to persuade them that their honour required them to come home and stand ready to protect the City. That was a great relief, as you can imagine, since if they had determined that they must swim across the Sea I can’t imagine how we could have prevented them from trying it. Surely even Oliphaunts cannot cross Belegaer unaided.
I have always said a poet must be willing to turn her hand to any task at need, and I feel that now I have truly lived up to my word at last. And I hope I have given you some amusement at the same time.
We are all thinking of you.
Amárië in Brithombar to Elemmírë in Valimar
Dear Elemmírë, thank you so much for the letter, it gave me a much-needed smile.
It’s been some time since I had time to think of writing back. Now I have a moment, I should write to Finrod, really, but I... I don’t know what to say to him.
I suppose you must have heard that we took the towns of Eglarest and Brithombar, what was left of them, anyway. Finrod told me about them, when we were all safe at home. Círdan’s towns beside the Sea — Círdan is one of the Teleri. You might have known him as Nowë, once? Finrod made them sound very jolly, with little fishing-boats and pearl-divers and ships with blue flags and white sails with crews that sang as they sailed, and played music on instruments fashioned from shells...
Círdan says that everyone who was left in Brithombar and Eglarest escaped when the orcs came and they fled to the Isle of Balar. I should tell Finrod about that, at least: the walls he built to defend the Falas held the orcs back long enough to buy time for the people to flee.
Both towns were supposed to have been deserted when the orcs took them, so I don’t know where... what we found within the walls came from. Perhaps they were Men, and not Elves; you couldn’t tell from the remains. Not that that helps much. I hope they were all dead before the orcs did their work, but I am afraid they were not; not the recent ones, at least, those who still had some flesh on their poor bones.
We have been burying the remains, and making repairs to the walls since the last full moon. I hear that Círdan plans to re-occupy Brithombar, and perhaps Eglarest as well. I don’t know how he can . The memory of the fallen would follow me, every step...
This letter seems to have gone terribly gloomy, somehow. Forgive me. I’d rather send it to you than to Finrod, all this stuff. Not that Finrod hasn’t seen worse, and endured worse, but still, he is so newly returned to life. You can still see the scars upon his spirit. Surely they would not have returned him so soon if he was not able, and yet.. Will you go and see him for me, in Tirion? It would be a comfort if you could write to me and tell me he is well, and I know that I can trust you to tell me the truth.
We are marching out soon, north and east towards the river Narog, towards Nargothrond. I don’t know if Nargothrond is held, but I hope I shall be some use there, since Finrod drew me a number of plans in case we need to take it by assault.
Give him my love?
My thanks to you from a very grateful Amárië
From Ingwion to his Father, greetings.
Well, so far so good. We have won our first few encounters, taken a strong foothold, and I’m reasonably confident now that we will be able to hold it over the winter. Eönwë is confident too, and I do find that comforting. After all, he has been to war himself, and so makes me feel that I’m not entirely making things up as I go along.
I am more sure than ever that this war is going to be extremely messy, but having met our enemy and seen some of his works, I am more certain that it needs to be fought and won.
I took a ship down the coast to meet with Arafinwë — Finarfin, they call him here — and what’s left of the locals, while my people were busy making the place liveable. The local Noldor leader is one Ereinion Gil-galad, a serious-faced lad with an air of having seen far too much, but he seems trustworthy. I liked him, actually. I haven’t quite got my tongue around the local language yet, and he had the courtesy to tell me when I was incomprehensible without laughing.
Both he and Círdan have tales of horror to tell, but they seem less scarred by them than I might have expected. Fortunately young Ereinion seems to have taken to Arafinwë, which will make matters easier. Eönwë and I are extremely grateful that this war will not be complicated by any further squabbles among the Noldor.
There don’t seem to be many of the first Noldor force left alive, and given the general ferocity of the Noldor kings and princes, that is a daunting thought. I’m told Maedhros and Maglor are still out there somewhere; running mad in the woods, someone said, though, remembering Maedhros in Valimar years ago, I find that hard to believe. But then, the whole matter of Fëanor and his Oath and his sons seems, at some level, unbelievable.
I met some Men on the Isle of Balar. At first sight they seemed not so very different to Elves, though shorter and a little broader in the shoulders. They all speak the local Sindarin, and many speak the Quenya of the Noldor too, as well as their own tongue. But their eyes are very different to ours, and something in the expression and the stance of the body marks them out that is hard to describe in words. Among them there are some that have grown old and grey, like wood marked and worn by many years of wind and rain, which is a strange thing.
There are astonishing numbers of children with them. It was an unexpected joy, coming to the island stronghold of Balar that along the shores and among the stone walls we heard the sound of children playing. It troubled me at first to see children born into such a terrible war, but then I thought on it, and... they are Men. They cannot wait for peace.
But the sight of them makes the war seem all the more terrible. I remember the children of Balar, and that leads me to the thought of the children of the lands lost to the Enemy. Young Ereinion says that the northern land of Hithlum, where Ñolofinwë had his seat as King of the Noldor, was occupied by many Men. Many of them did not escape but still live there as slaves.
So much for my idea of rescuing the survivors and leaving Morgoth to his work! Even if we could get word to them, their land has been enslaved for a lifetime of Men. Most of the people there, Ereinion says, will be born slaves, unarmed, forbidden to move freely. They cannot hope to make their way to the shore.
I have met a few Men from Hithlum who did escape and somehow struggled across the shadowed lands to take refuge on the coast. They are eager to fight back, and how can I look them in the eye and still hold the thought in my heart that we should have stayed at home in peace?
I see now all too clearly why Manwë ruled that the Elves must come to the aid of Middle-earth, and that the Valar themselves must hold back. The delicate business of sorting slave from master is not a matter of power but of the scale of one person to another. Perhaps I am failing sufficiently to grasp the nettle for myself, but I hope that Ereinion and his little force of Noldor and Falathrim may be able to assist us there.
These are troubling ideas. I may try to set them into verse, when I have the time. Perhaps then it will be easier to come to terms with them.
My love to you and Mama
From Ingwë to Ingwion, with all good wishes.
Good to hear that you and Eönwë are, as usual, working well together. I know you’ve never had a task of this scale to deal with before, and neither your many doughty feats vying with the warriors in the halls of Tulkas nor guarding the blue dream-poppies on the slopes of Taniquetil from the raids of the red ettins can really be held a fair comparison.
Yet, the long years of friendship between you must surely be a strength — or so I say to comfort myself. When you write of the Children of Men and their suffering, there is a voice that whispers in my ear that I should not have sent out my son to war and remained behind myself in safety. Finwë did not have that choice. I did, and it troubles me, though I know you will do the job as ably as I could myself.
I won’t ask you to keep Finwë’s remaining descendants safe: I’m sure they would be horrified at the very idea, and probably so would he. But I am glad that neither doom nor oath has entirely seen an end to them. So is Manwë. We dined together this night, a sadly diminished Feast of Spring Winds, though the larks danced and sang as merrily as ever.
Both Manwë and the lady Varda urged me to send you their blessings, and assure you that they watch your work with a keen eye from the vaults of the heavens.
Father, I don’t have time to write properly because there’s word of Balrogs approaching from the North, but please, don’t listen to any voices coaxing you to go to war, whether from guilt or some false whisper of the Enemy. The Teleri have lost their chief, the Noldor likewise. We must not lose you.
I’ll write more later.
Dearest Amárië with the Host of the Vanyar from Elemmírë
Well, I went to see your dearling as you asked, and can report that other than having worked himself up worrying about things he cannot possibly be held responsible for or do anything about, Finrod is perfectly well.
I knew that would not satisfy you, so I insisted upon staying for dinner and plying him with wine and questions in the best tradition of inquisitive distant relatives, and eventually he cheered up and told me all about a great number of Men all with names beginning with B, and I must confess I can’t quite keep them all straight, but he made them all sound most charming.
I had to admit I had not thought in detail about what might happen to Men if Morgoth reigned unchallenged in Beleriand. Finrod and I had an excellent debate about that. We spoke at length about the concept of Just War, and although I don’t think either of us entirely managed to convince the other, a good number of excellent points were made on both sides.
We eventually moved on to discussing the rhetoric of identification in general and its application to poetic language. I hope this has left him somewhat cheered, or at least distracted. I did my best!
I hope the move north went well. He’s a clever lad, your Finrod, I should have expected that he would make sure you had all the material you might need to help.
Finrod to Amárië, both of us on unaccustomed sides of the Sea.
I really am perfectly all right. If I wasn’t, I would have stayed longer in the Halls of Mandos, I promise, and I am sure that nobody would have insisted that I should leave if I had not been both ready and willing to do so. And there really is very little trouble that I can get into here in Tirion.
So. Much as I love both your cousins and your aunts, particularly Elemmírë,there is no need to send all your relatives who are still in Valinor one by one to inspect me! I am happy to write you every tiny detail of my life if you want it: I have little else to do just now after all, since all the important people are away in Middle-earth. (Do you know, I wrote that quite unselfconsciously? Something deep within me still thinks of the Valar as far away: truly I have become Finrod. Now I wonder if you will be changed as I was by new perspectives and distant horizons.)
Edrahil sends you his love and tells me to tell you that he is keeping a close eye on me. I am keeping a close eye on him too. I know that I was entirely ready to come bouncing out of Mandos in my customarily exuberant manner, but I’m less sure about him. I wonder if he would have left if he had not felt he must come after me. He seems quiet. But then Tirion is a quiet place these days.
Three days ago I had a visitation from Aunt Findis, who had clearly decided to make a Charitable Visit to her one remaining rebel nephew. She felt it was her duty, it seems.
She called me Ingoldo three times even though I asked her not to (again!) and somehow managed to give the impression that I was entirely responsible for the War. I was offended, briefly, until it occurred to me just how much that would annoy Fëanor, Fingolfin and probably Morgoth too.
After that I was probably a bit too breezily cheerful and ended up suggesting to her that delightful though it was to get a visit from her now in Tirion, a visit from her some time previously when I was rotting in Sauron’s dungeons would have been even more welcome. To be fair to her, she’s a tough old bird: she laughed, although she did leave very shortly afterwards.
Today Edrahil and I met with good old Aunt Nerdanel. She was muttering gloomily about having been left behind in Aman, and so we were able to join in and all mutter together as we went around checking empty houses for leaks, broken slates and cobwebs, and found very few of any of them. There’s no news of Maedhros or Maglor, I take it? Not that she mentioned them, but there was definitely a looming sense of absence about her.
Eventually we got tired of our grumpy muttering and cheered up, because muttering doesn’t get you very far when it comes down to it. And we did find a cracked gutter, and made the most elaborate repair you can imagine, all embossed with harps and curlicues and held up by one of Aunt Nerdanel’s perfect little figures. Before you say anything, yes, Edrahil checked it was waterproof too! So you see that I am keeping busy, as I’m sure you are as well.
Look after yourself. Much love from your own
From Amárië, East of Eglarest, to Finrod in Tirion
Finrod, I shall not apologise for sending you my cousins and Elemmírë: you are sorely besieged by Aunts and require assistance!
Speaking of which, I saw your aunt Anairë recently, and your father too: they came to our camp to take counsel. Anairë seems to be in her element; you could almost say she was enjoying it. I’m more than ever surprised that she didn’t go with Fingolfin and the rest of you across the Ice. Your father seemed less at ease, but is managing everything with quiet efficiency as usual.
Some of the Edain came with them from the Isle of Balar. I wondered if they might remember you, but they were too young. They remembered Fëanor’s sons though: they were all survivors of their last attack. The consensus seems to be that Maedhros and Maglor are not dead. Someone said they had ‘gone home to Angband’. I think that was intended as a joke rather than fact.
I don’t know if Middle-earth will change me. I don’t feel I have seen much of it yet, and what I’ve seen is in a sorry state! I’ll have to wait and see. For now, tell Edrahil that I send my love to him, and to you too of course!
Amárië in the Camp Before Taur-en-Faroth, to Elemmírë in Valimar
I have sent Finrod a cheerful letter. I can’t write to him about this. What would he think of me, he who marched across the Ice, and went to his death unflinching? He would have come back here if it had been permitted, can you imagine that? I can’t. He always wanted to go away exploring, learning new things.
This is so hard. The malice in the North, the endless killing of enemies who know no honour, only hate. They hate us all impersonally, can you believe that? Just for existing. If you try to let them run away, they don’t run, most of the time, they come right back at your throat. And then you have to kill them.
I don’t know whether it’s worse to think that they could choose to run away, but don’t, or that they’d like to run away but Morgoth controls them so they can’t.
Either way, we have to kill them to get at the Enemy, Men as well as orcs. The orcs are like twisted mockeries of Elves, but the Men are... Men.
There are Men on the Isle of Balar, who are our allies, the descendants of Finrod’s friends. I met a few of them at last. They were very polite, not very tall, and all the males have beards. I haven’t met any females yet. Funny sort of voices, almost furry around the edges, if you can imagine that.
They didn’t look as frail as I’d expected. They may be visitors on Arda, but I couldn’t tell that from looking at them. They seemed entirely attached to the world. But these were not old. Perhaps they become more detached as they get older.
So much for the Men who are our allies. And then there are the Men who come running at us with axes. They don’t look as different from our allies as I’d like them to.
There’s so much filth and blood and darkness. It had never occurred to me that there were so many terrible ways to die, and so many ways to kill. And we still have not even reached the River Narog. The maps show such a long way to go before we will even come in sight of Angband.
I spent a good deal of time thinking carefully about whether this war is just and if I believed in it. It had not occurred to me how hard it would be to kill. To feel their hate and meet it with a blade, again and again and again. It’s awful.
And on that, I must rest or I will be little use tomorrow.
To dearest Amárië in the Camp Before Taur-en-Faroth, from Elemmírë
That’s a very hard thing you are facing, and I can’t think of any comforting words to offer you, save the very old and tired thought that all things, in the end, change and fade, leaving only the eternal stars.
After the hardships of the Great Journey, I chose to forswear all violence, hoping that my vow would never be tested. Now it is tested, and not yet by enemies who have come to my house, but by the desire to stand between you and the dark. A vain wish, I know: you are among a great host of friends and have a notably able commander: my poor skills would help you very little even if I still had two eyes.
Now, you will probably ask why I should have opinions on this next matter, since I have never concerned myself with romance or with marriage. But still, I shall have my say, and you can ignore me if you like.
It seems to me that you could be honest with Finrod. I don’t think he loves you because he wanted a spear-woman by his side. I think he loves you for yourself, Amárië, and your gentle heart and keen mind, born and blossoming in the light of the Trees.
I know he always used to look to new horizons, when he was young and eager. But he is no longer young, and he chose to come back to you.
Enough of my opinions! It was the Day of the Plum Tree Flowers two days ago, and I sang the Greeting myself. The trees are looking particularly fine this year, or perhaps it’s just that the sight of them, sparkling with dew in the sunlight as the dawn spreads across the land is the more striking, knowing what is happening across the Sea.
There will come a day when you are here again to walk with me under the plum blossoms, and until that day comes, I shall be thinking of you.
Ingwion to Ingwë
Well, it has taken me longer than I intended to write again. We have had a hot time of it recently. I thought it was too easy at first. I’m pretty sure now my first guess was right and they fell back to assess us before really putting up serious opposition.
It was a strangely beautiful sight, the battle last night: a pair of massive heavy-scaled dragons breathing great clouds of fire and fumes came crawling up, surrounded by a mighty host, black-armoured and wielding torches under dark clouds, and the flame reflected from the great clouds of fumes. Then against the Enemy’s darkness, Eönwë and his people shone in the sky as they brought a great wind out of the West and fell like shooting stars upon the enemy, and our host went out with flashing spears and a great storm of lightnings; beautiful and terrible.
I was able to watch and appreciate it from a distance, for I was resting. That is me trying to set an example again: many of our people would throw themselves into the fight without pause for respite. We cannot win this war that way, Eönwë says, and I agree. Finarfin, too, though the Noldor seem on the whole less shocked by the situation than we are. I suppose they have been more closely involved with it for longer, but somehow I was not expecting them to endure it better than we do!
Still, to keep up a constant pressure on our enemy we must have fresh troops. Already I can see the strain in so many eyes, and we have not yet come even to Nargothrond, let alone Angband.
I have begun sending companies back to the coast to rest properly. They can’t do that here. Too much darkness, too much fear. The battles are hard enough, but in-between-times, the Enemy sends ensorcelled spirits of the unquiet dead that he has enslaved. They are poor things, most of them, broken and grey and miserable. No great threat, but we free them when we can. Still, the sight of them saps joy from moon and starlight.
I know you’ll say we were once a people of the stars, but that was so very long ago that not many of my people here remember it. We have become the People of Light.
I should tell you that I’ve developed a new appreciation of Varda since we came here. She always seemed more remote and distant than many of the Valar, with a strange far-off beauty that was not so much part of our daily life. But here, her power seems fiercely significant, the clear and direct opposite of all that we are facing. We call on her often in our need, and her blessing reaches even under the Enemy’s hand.
But if I’m going to hope to lead home even a part of the Vanyar Host still as themselves, still the People of Light, they need time to sing their songs and dance their dances, by light of Moon and Sun at least, if not under new leaves or upon green grass, and untroubled for a while by necromancers and the Houseless Dead.
Amárië in Brithombar to Finrod in Tirion.
Well, here I am back in Brithombar on leave of absence. When I first came here it seemed dark and terrible: tall walls hiding cruel secrets. But marching west with the sun on our faces and the sea-wind blowing, it all looks quite different. The Falathrim have been here for a little while and now it seems a kindly place with golden walls and blue and white banners flying.
The country further inland has been half ripped apart by both us and the Enemy. It’s scarred and scorched and dark. But here there is green grass and thickets of white poplar springing up from the roots of the felled trees. The leaves flutter almost silver in the wind from the Sea. We sang them the Ninquelótë Telperion when we saw them.
I have a confession. I am already more than tired of being afraid, of being hated. I am so very tired of killing. I was never made for this and... I’m not sure I can go on. I know you have that courage, so I hesitated to tell you. But I’m not sure that I can.
I love you whatever happens and I hope you can love me still.
Finrod in Tirion to Amárië in Brithombar
Oh, Amárië. Finding battle hard is nothing to be ashamed of. I found it hard too. I know that things are dark there now, but Nargothrond was far behind the lines held by my cousins and my little brothers when I was there.
There are many tasks to do in war, and there’s no shame in not being made for all of them. Few of us are. If you will hear my counsel, I would say, speak with your captain about this. If she has any sense, she would rather hear about it now than be taken by surprise in an emergency.
And you have so many talents: there will be planning, mapmaking, supplies and keeping of records, and believe me, though those roles may seem less obvious in terms of bringing the Enemy down, they are all the more essential.
Don’t imagine that I am eager to return to battle myself: honestly, hearing a wolf munch upon your own insides is really not the kind of experience anyone would want to risk repeating. For that matter, my failed attempt at duelling Sauron was no fun at all, even before the wolves got involved. I would avoid him if I were you. He really isn’t nice.
... In fact, if we are doing confessions, here is mine. It would be a great relief to my mind to know that you were no longer one of the foremost spears in the Host.
I know it’s selfish of me, and I am quite proud that before you left, I managed to suppress the urge to go to Ingwion and beg him to keep you safe. I knew you wouldn’t want that and so I managed not to, but please, don’t imagine you have anything to prove to me. I am only the rebel who returned beyond hope to find myself forgiven, and I love you dearly.