Some there are who have seen her, standing like a tree under heaven, crowned with the Sun; and from all its branches there spilled a golden dew upon the barren earth, and it grew green with corn; but the roots of the tree were in the waters of Ulmo, and the winds of Manwë spoke in its leaves
- The Silmarillion
A short history of Evermist
Those who in the First Age had returned to Middle-earth in the hosts of Fingolfin and Fingon had found in the blinding snow and fell creatures of the northern wastes little but dread memories of the Helcaraxë. But the greater part of the Noldor of Evermist had crossed the sundering seas with the sons of Fëanor. And for many of these, the years in the Whitelands brought pity for those who faced the grinding ice, and shame for the ship burnings of Losgar.
When Sauron was driven from Eriador, the majority of the Noldor returned south, to relative safety and more temperate climes. Yet a small contingent remained. And though some were of the household of Celebrimbor, Lord of Eriador, son of Curufin, son of Fëanor, who fell in the defence of his realm, most in days past had counted Maglor their lord.
There was at first no strong sense of unity or purpose amongst those who remained, each for his or her own reasons. In time, however, a cohesive community emerged, its structure born out of the rigours of survival in the wilderness of ice and blizzards, beneath the gaze of the Ice-drakes. And in time they took unto themselves as Lord Findelwë, for his great wisdom and understanding.
Those of Evermist dedicated themselves to maintaining the haven of Evermist, to protect the Tear of the Lady Yavanna upon which the haven and their very survival depended, and to seek means by which the land's dormant power might be awakened. Yet there was little formal structure, and each was free to pursue their own vision as he or she saw fit. For also most sought means to align themselves more closely with the land, which alignment they sought through meditation and ritual observance. At this time the Lodge of Silence (Tûr Din) was erected.
Of the Powers, mostly their thoughts and hearts were directed to Yavanna Kementári, Mistress of the Earth, and to Irmo, called Lórien, Master of Dreaming.
And for centuries the community of Evermist maintained its vigil. For the most part they kept themselves to themselves, interacting as little as possible with the other denizens of Forodwaith, and mostly forgotten by those in the south. Yet Cirdan of Lindon had not forgotten them, and at times sent word. More rarely, one whose Path had set him wandering in the wilderness would come suddenly (as ever it seems) upon a green valley hidden amidst the frozen wastes.
The Malóre (Q. 'heart of gold') or Lady's Tear is an irregular, roughly heart-shaped mass of amber, some twelve by eight by eight inches in size. Its surface is polished, yet it reflects nothing of its surroundings, nor of the person looking into it. Deep within the amber a small pulsing source of light can be seen, and at certain times fingers of light appear to play across its surface. Anyone who looks into the Tear feels himself drawn into its depths.
The Tear was discovered on the first anniversary of the founding of Evermist, after the Vala Yavanna appeared to Oleth in a vision. Oleth was directed to search high up on one of the valley's sheerest slopes, close to the source of the stream that feeds the central lake. Although nothing could be seen from below, a narrow fissure was found in the rock face. The fissure opened into a hidden dell, fully encircled by sheer rock walls. In the centre of the dell the amber artefact was found, upon a plinth of moss-covered stone. In accordance with the Lady's instructions, Oleth would not suffer the Tear to be removed, but henceforth the dell was ever guarded from without.
In later days the true nature and potency of the Tear were revealed, for the Malóre of Evermist was the foundation upon which rested the power of the valley itself. For this was one of the Kementori, the Hearts of the Earth, Tears of Yavanna, spilt in the first making of Arda, long ages before the Elves awoke beside the waters of Cuivienen.
Before the counting of Days the Valar wrought the fabric of the world, but all things Melkor marred. Then the Powers walked upon the land, and surveyed the works of their labours. And Yavanna, whose care is for the living things of Ea, would come at times, garbed in majesty as a mighty tree rising high into the skies, whose feet were bathed in the waters that Ulmo loved. And for love of the plants and the creatures that first moved upon the earth, and for pain at the hurts the Enemy had wrought, her tears fell like golden rain. And, seeping into the earth, they brought forth fresh life, that good might come of her sorrow and her love.
But in the north, where Melkor had wrought the greatest hurt, the waters of Ulmo were bitter ice, and the airs that Manwë loved were biting winds. And the tears of Yavanna froze upon the barren earth. And she turned away and departed into the West, and walked no more in Middle-earth.
The Noldor were amazed at the visions Oleth related to them, yet none could doubt that power lay truly within the Tear that Oleth had found. For in its depths a golden flame twisted upon itself, sending at times fingers of light to play across the surface of the stone. And the valley of Evermist was a wonder in that bitter place, for green plants and trees flourished there, sheltered by the steep cliffs upon either side. And in the hidden garth was the grass most green, and the trees that grew there brought forth blossoms, which were a wonder and a delight.
From that time, the Tear became Evermist's holiest relic: symbol of the Elves' covenant with Yavanna and of their stewardship of the haven itself. And the Garth of the Golden Heart became the hidden hallow of Evermist.
The Tear was the focus of the Waith Malóre, the Order of the Heart of Gold. In many ways, the Order developed out of the desire to understand the meaning and true potential of the Tear, and to spread its greening influence across the northern wastes.
Whilst the size of the Tear, the manner of its discovery and its mysterious inner light clearly indicates its special nature, amber itself is not unknown in Middle-earth. Smaller pieces of solidified resin, with occasional inclusions have come to light at varying times down the ages, although in the northern wastes it is exceedingly rare and precious. Pieces of such (non-magical) amber were highly prized by the Order of the Golden Heart, both as jewellery and as components in their rituals. In particular, amber pieces were ritually 'charged' from the Tear as artefacts in the Order's Greening Quests.
The arrival of Vanwendil
On a time a lone stranger appeared at Evermist on foot in the midst of a blizzard. He was clearly one of the Eldar peoples, yet in looks and appearance he was wild and fey, aged beyond his years, and clad in furs like one of the Mannish tribes that wandered the steppes. And none of the Noldor knew him, neither his true name nor his tale, for he would tell them nothing, except that he was called Vanwendil, that is 'friend of loss'. Master Findelwë welcomed him, yet he was troubled, for he saw clearly that a great Doom lay upon him.
Though the Noldor welcomed the stranger amongst them, they were suspicious of him, and uncertain how he should be treated. Vanwendil kept himself apart, and took to wandering the length and breadth of the Vale, as if he would search for something. And the Elves did not reveal to him the Garth of the Heart of Gold. But at night beneath the stars, Vanwendil would wander by the shores of the lake. And as he wandered he sang, alone to the stars. And those that heard the songs of Vanwendil were amazed, for he used no words that were known to them, yet sang in a voice of such beauty and despair that the Elves of Evermist dared not disturb his grief.
Before six months had passed since the arrival of Vanwendil amongst them, the folk of Evermist was deeply troubled. For many of the Noldor had experienced disturbing dreams and visions, and some said these were cast by the dolor of Vanwendil.
Then at last the Master sought guidance from the Powers, and after five days of fasting and meditation Findelwë retreated alone to the Lodge of Silence.
And there was performed the first Rite of Kanolinde, which is the Song of Command, invoking the Maiar of Lórien upon him. And the Vision of Findelwë was later set down by the scribes and it is known.
The Vision of Findelwë
I found myself amidst a swirling blizzard, through which I must journey, though I knew not where nor whence. As I battled on, I was afforded bare glimpse of the terrain around me: a sudden dark outcrop of rock in the shape of a dragon's head, a cave, a blasted tree, until finally the gale dropped, and I found myself at the edge of the sea. Almost at once, the ocean seemed to boil before me, and out of its depths rose a huge white whale.
The creature loomed hugely against the leaden sky, towering over me, stood in the ice at the very edge of the waves. The creature opened its cavernous mouth, and suddenly everything was flooded with light, such light as I have never seen, that seemed to turn the frozen wasteland into a wonderland of beauty. For an aching moment the vision was maintained, then the whale sank back below the boiling surface of the water, and the dream faded.
After the vision, exhausted and little encouraged, Findelwë questioned Vanwendil long into the night. Nothing afterwards would the Master relate of what had transpired, but the Order were astounded when the following day Findelwë announced that he had accepted Vanwendil into the Order, for until that day none had been admitted that had not been of the original number. Findelwë would explain nothing of his decision, save that the fate of the Order was bound up with that of Vanwendil in some way, and that by the grace of the Lady Vanwendil might in some wise find peace amongst them.
Only in later years was the true identity of Vanwendil revealed. For he was none but Maglor, second son of Fëanor the Proud; whose hand had cast the last Silmaril in Middle-earth into the Deep, whose loss was a wound that might never heal, and whose song the keening of despair.
Once their surprise at Vanwendil's appointment had abated, the Noldor soon settled back into its former routine. At first, the new member of the Order seemed to take little interest in the activities of the rest of the community. Mostly he was to be seen wandering beside the waters of the lake as before, or sat in the Garth before the Lady's Tear, as though within its depths he might find that for which he sought.
But one day, Vanwendil came down from the Teargarth, and his eyes were aflame, as though with mingled ice and fire. Gathering the community together he declared that he had received a vision from the Lady Yavanna, giving the true nature of the Heartstone, that it was nothing less than one of the Kementori, the Hearts of the Earth, formed out of the very tears of the Lady.
Vanwendil declared that Yavanna had bid him to found in that place the Waith Malóre, Order of the Heart of Gold. From the haven of Evermist, the Order would devote itself to spread the power of the Heartstone abroad, establishing such small havens of growth and greening as might be secured against the wilderness. And ever to seek after the remaining Kementori. For many had been Yavanna's tears. If they were collected together, and ways found to release their latent power, then might the Lady's Garden be re-established in the north, and the malice wrought of the Great Enemy redressed.
Many who listened to the Master's words felt a fire awaken within their hearts. For at last their purpose was revealed, who for so long had striven against the cold and the ice, and against perils both natural and evil-spawned, with no clear goal or certain hope. And these in that hour took Vanwendil truly for their Master and lord.
Yet not all were so convinced. Who, they said, is Vanwendil, who came out of the wild a stranger without name, and had no part in the sufferings we bore to establish this House. Who is he that the Lady Yavanna should vouchsafe her message to him? And they turned to Findelwë for guidance. Although he too was uncertain, nevertheless Findelwë would not gainsay Vanwendil, who he had himself established as Master. For beyond his own lore he trusted in the wisdom of the Lady, and the vision he had seen was ever in his thoughts, and he knew that Vanwendil's Fate was bound with that of them all, and even with the Fate of the World, for good or ill.
Then no few departed the Vale, and by dint of long journeying came at last to the House of Cirdan the Shipwright. For above all who dwelt still in Middle-earth was the Lord of Lindon deemed wise. And these mostly were of the House of Celebrimbor. And Cirdan listened carefully to all their tale. Then, trusting to the wisdom of Findelwë, who he knew well of old, he bade such as might go to return to Evermist.
For love of Cirdan and of Findelwë, three dared the journey, and these the Lord of Lindon sent north by ship as far as the grinding seas. Coming at last overland through great dangers, these three brought tidings of friendship from Cirdan to the Master of the Waith Malóre, and such offer of aid as Lindon had before at times sent north to the community of Evermist.
Yet no word came back to the Havens of Lindon for many years, and the heart of Cirdan was troubled. Often he dwelt upon the strange tale he had heard: of Vanwendil, Friend-of-loss. And ever to his mind returned to an image of long ago, after the drowning of Beleriand. An image of one, old already beyond his years, who for had wandered ever beside the sea, singing. And his voice had once been beautiful, and was still, though now it sang a song of utmost loss, and grief beyond the world's enduring. And the name of that singer was Maglor, who was deemed lost, for he wandered no more beside the sea.
The basic mystery quest undertaken by initiates of the Order of the Golden Heart is known as The Greening. This quest is undertaken by all members of the Order as part of their lengthy period of apprenticeship (which can take anything up to a hundred years to complete). It is a test of physical endurance, perseverance and husbandry skills, but also represents an inner journey towards self-discovery and attunement with the Lady Yavanna.
The outer goal of the quest is the foundation of a small oasis amidst the frozen wilderness of Forodwaith. Such oases, perhaps initially no more promising than a sheltered crevice, or a hollow in the lee of a rocky outcrop, can over years of devoted attention provide vital havens of new growth, assisting the survival of plant and animal life. In this sense, the aim is essentially conservational and regenerative, the most visible outward manifestation of the Order's covenant with Yavanna. Over the centuries numerous such oases have been established, although as they are small and protected their existence and number is generally known only to members of the Order.
The quester must find and prepare a sheltered location, outside the vale of Evermist and beyond the direct influence of the Heartstone, capable of supporting new life. In selecting the site, the quester may be guided by visions and other portents received during ritual observance, including the divinatory Mirror of Ulmo (see elsewhere). However, the site itself can only be located and established by undertaking a personal journey, alone, through the wilderness. Those at the greatest distances from Evermist have normally been established by the most experienced individuals.
Once found, the site is prepared by clearing it of debris, snow and ice, and protected by both physical and magical means from being discovered, accidentally or otherwise. The nature and degree of the magical protections will depend to a large degree upon the experience and skill of the caster, but in general will be akin to those used to protect Evermist itself from detection and encroachment. The final stage of preparation is the establishment of a small piece of amber, which has been ritually 'charged' from the Evermist Heartstone. The amber serves to focus and anchor the site, connecting it in small measure to Evermist and the power of the Heartstone itself.
Once the site has been readied a single seed is planted of the large Mallorn that grows at the head of Evermist vale. The quester must then tend and nurture the site, such that conditions pertain which will support the growth of the tree. Germination, even with optimal conditions, can take up to five years, and it will be a further fifty to sixty years before the tree is sufficiently established for the quest to have been deemed successful. Even then, the quester remains responsible for tending and preserving the oasis. Further seeds may be planted, usually of hardy plants and shrubs, often with medicinal or magical potencies, which will help establish the oasis and promote its gradual self-sufficiency. In practice, the site must be visited at least twice a year for the first five years, or until germination of the seed, thence once a year for ten years, thereafter at least once every two or three years.
Throughout the quest, the physical preparation and maintenance of the site are accompanied by a time-established sequence of meditations, inner journeys and rituals, which mirror on the inner plane the establishment of the oasis. These begin once the quest has been formally undertaken ...
This was written for and partly incorporated into the Middle-earth Role Play module The Northern Waste (ICE, 1997). This version differs significantly from the published work.
The author describes a mystery quest undertaken by initiates of the Order of the Golden Heart, a group of Noldo mystics based at the outpost of Evermist in the frozen wastelands of the Far North. Background material relating to the founding of the Order is also presented.
By the same author