In the Halls of Mandos, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like a day. The Lord of the Dead moves unceasingly through his realm tending souls. To heal, to cleanse, to make whole. That is his end. And how intricate the innermost workings of these children of Eru Ilúvatar, how complex the workings of their hearts and wills. In each fëa itself lies the key to its own healing, and no labour of Aulë, thought Mandos, was ever fraught with more challenge than this mending of souls.
Take the dark fëa of the traitor of Gondolin. Outside the halls, four millennia have flown by… yet still the traitor remains mired in much darkness. Unable, or unwilling, to relinquish it.
The souls of the dead do not consort with each other. But for this one, Mandos brings in two other fëar who still abide in his halls. He deposits them at their son’s side. Then the vala and Gwîr his consort stand by to watch what unfolds.
The one whose brightness and a stain of scarlet dances over darker depths says softly in Quenya, “We are here, yonya. . . We love you.”
“Speak for yourself,” the other says gruffly in Sindarin, a soul dark as the traitor’s. In him, shadows swirl almost violently.
“I thought you understand no Quenya,” says the first in Sindarin.
“There are many things you never knew, woman.”
“Arrogant prick. You have not changed a whit.”
“Shut up. Both of you,” mutters the traitor. “Go away. Leave me alone.”
Gwîr forms scenes upon the wall. A tender glance between two figures, one dark and one white, in a dark wood. A passionate kiss. A smile exchanged over a newborn child. A father’s proud look as a boy forged his first knife.
Silence lies heavy in the chamber for a long while.
“Ill-mannered ruffian,” says one, tenderly.
“Snobby golodhrin wench,” says the other softly, at last.
“I love you too.”
A sound of deep scorn comes from the dark one. “You left.” The pain of the two words reverberates through the chamber.
“Get him out of here,” snarls the younger fëa at Mandos.
A boy appears on the chamber walls. The sullenness of the young face is lit with a fleeting moment of eager joy as the father turns a new-made knife in his large, strong hands and nods approval.
“Not till the two of you talk to each other,” says Mandos.
“There is naught to say.”
“Naught to say to him, brute and murderer that he is… but to me, my little mole?”
There is a small, choking sound. “Ammë… do not call me that. Please.”
In one image in the chamber is the great courtyard of a House in Gondolin where black banners are flown and “noldarë” is inscribed over a high and wide entrance. The mother observes it.
“It cannot embarrass you so greatly, yonya. Why else did you name your House for the mole?”
“I never knew you to like black.”
A long silence ensues. Then the son says, “You should not have taken the javelin for me. You should not have died.” He had mourned her for the rest of his life.
“My death is not on you, yonya. It was my choice. I would do it again a hundred times over.”
“Even knowing what was to come?”
“Hush,” says Mandos.
“Be free of my death, yonya. It was not your fault. It was his.” She turns to the dark one by her. “And even so I forgive you. Crazy, stiff-necked, pig-headed Moriquendë.”
“What have you to say to your son?” Mandos says to the dark one.
“You waste your time, Vala.” The fëa folds its arms and turns its back on all present, in as far as it is possible to turn one’s back on the Valar. “Send me back to my chamber.”
“You shall stay here till you decide to speak.” And Mandos departs with the mother and with Gwîr.
There is nothing in the Halls of Mandos if not time. Years roll past. Father and son staunchly maintain silence. The scenes of their lives play over and over, flitting across the walls. Travelling. Smithing. Quarrelling. Coming to blows. An evening of song around the fire with dwarves, the father’s eyes resting on his son with pride. A curse echoing off shining white stone as the father plummets to his death. The two fëar move restlessly around the chamber, but there is no way to shut any of it out. There is naught they can do but face their lives. Moment by interminable moment.
Gwîr freezes one of those moments. The time the dark one first learns he would be a father. On his face, as he takes his wife into his arms, a rare expression of wonder and joy and tenderness.
The discomfiture, the awkwardness and embarrassment of both fëar trapped in that chamber is beyond description. “Damnation!” mutters the father in frustration. If a fëa could pound its fists on the walls, he would. “This is intolerable.”
“They want us to talk. Fine. Let us talk,” the son mutters back.
“Anything to get out of here.”
“I wish I had never been begotten.”
Silence hangs over them again for a while.
“I never wished that,” says the father, almost inaudibly.
“Liar. You wanted me dead. You tried to slay me. You hated me.”
“I never hated you!! I knew I was a dead man the moment I spoke to that stinking golodh of a law-brother! Nay—” A muttered curse. “I was a dead man from the time I lost you to their accursed golodhrin ways. When you turned against me. I would have taken you with me. He should not have you. He should not have what was mine. Mine.”
Both of them are shaken, the silence reverberating with the intensity of his words.
“You may look like her. But you are all me, within. Your mind—all me. Your heart—me. Your gifts—me. You would have become the best elven smith in Beleriand had you stayed—”
“Rot!! I was not good enough for you. You made that clear.”
“You were more than good enough. You were brilliant! But you—you were restless, like her. She stole you from me. Seduced you with their words, their ways.”
And the son knows then. The son understands. Understands jealousy, fear of loss that propels a poisoned javelin across a throne room. Understands crazed despair and dark possessive love expressed in the curse of a condemned and damned murderer. Your death shall be as mine. Then you shall be mine in death.
A twisted, tainted love. A megalomaniacal, homicidal love. But… love all the same. The only kind of love the dark ruler of Nan Elmoth had been capable of.
“Ion-nín,” mutters the dark fëa as he is led out of the chamber. “You are Maeglin. Not Lómion. Maeglin. My son.”
Alone again at last, the son discovers emptiness where hatred for the father had once been. Discovers he can no longer hate him.
His father’s eyes stare down at him from the walls all around him, but in them he now sees fierce pride.
“You were more than good enough. . .”
“Ada,” murmurs the son to the empty chamber.
And the son weeps. Plumes of darkness float forth from him and vanish into the depths of the abyss below. Mandos lays a hand over him, and sings healing as the hurt is released.
And for a while, the vala is hopeful for the traitor. But another two millennia pass. Other souls rise past the traitor, reach the white brilliance of restoration, and are released into the Blessed Realm. Light and shadow contending in him, the traitor remains far from the white dome above. Certainly much better than one black and fiery fëa still mired in the depths of Mandos’ Halls, who after six and a half millennia remains fiercely unrepentant of an oath. But as the fiery one is slated for incarceration till the Second Music, Mandos is not overly concerned with his rehabilitation. He would reserve his attention for the six sons. And this traitor.
And today, a visitor.
“But my Lord, he is not ready,” pleads Mandos.
Before them, the chamber of the treacherous fëa.
“We have never before released one who has not completed the cycles of healing and restoration,” Mandos says to his Lord. “Give us more time.”
A wind stirs the robes of Mandos, and a great, deep voice rumbles like thunder and the roar of ocean depths.
And Mandos sighs and bows before the will of Eru Ilúvatar, which sometimes makes no sense, none, even to a vala.
He takes the troubled half-dark soul from the chamber and lays it upon his palm.
He looks upon it thoughtfully, and, with a hint of a smile, breathes on it once again.
Yonya (Q) – my son
Huil (S) – bitch
Golodhrin (S) – Noldorin (derogatory)
Moriquendë (Q) – Dark elf (singular)
Golodh (S) – Noldo (derogatory)
Noldarë (Q) - mole
Ion-nín (S) – my son