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Conditional Release

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The Valar considered the latest proposal in (what in a less august body might have been called flummoxed) silence. Vana the Ever-Young, Lady of Life Renewed was of course supposed to produce creative, innovative, out-of-the-Song solutions, it was what She was all about. And this one had come at the tail-end of an exceptionally fraught and wearisome discussion. But still. And also, however. And even, nonetheless.

Her elder sister was of course the one who spoke first, Her branches rustling in delicate, inexorable rhythm.

"An excellent idea. Can it be done?"

Aule, loyally backing up His spouse, said immediately, "Angainor is already a chain, re-shaping It into a collar is perfectly feasible. There'll even be enough material left over to add a little bell...". He fished in the pocket hanging from His belt for His tablet and began making notes.

Irmo, getting into the spirit of things, said, "The containment function could perfectly well be re-Sung to suit a new body..."

Vaire said, quite mildly (silence fell again at once), "Before We consider the logistics, We really should first discuss whether or not to do it. Though of course whether it can be done at all is something that must be taken into account in Our final decision."

They thought about it, individually and in combination. Laurelin waned towards the Mingling, and They took a break to listen to Melian singing Her waking song, away in the Gardens of Lorien. Aule unpacked the latest snacks from the School of Applied and Theoretical Gastronomy in Tirion and passed them round to those Valar who were presently anthropomorphic, and Orome, who was being a Wolfhound. Tulkas and Nessa produced several bottles of wine, and distributed pottery cups (and a large bowl). After a swig, Tulkas said, "We have to let Him out if He says He's sorry. We promised."

Orome growled, but quietly, in deference to the Hour; the hill Ezellohar upon which they were all variously disposed barely vibrated. Nessa refilled His bowl and scratched His ears; His tail thumped gently in response.

Varda said, "Our brother is correct. We have no choice but to release Him when the three Ages appointed have passed, if He fulfils the conditions that We imposed. Our word was given, and must be kept." There was, eventually, reluctant agreement. Even those Valar of pragmatic disposition, and least well-disposed towards the subject of discussion, understood the concept of long-term moral credibility perfectly well.

Everyone looked at Namo and Vaire, sitting shoulder to shoulder on the bright grass. The Weaver shrugged, a minimal, sceptical movement. Namo said, "He has not said or done anything to indicate that He is not in fact repentant of His deeds. Nonetheless I do not trust Him."

Ulmo, attending in His normal shape, (this time, a spring bubbling from between Telperion's giant buttress roots, in which the wine had been cooling), produced a nasty, glopping sound eloquent of scornful agreement.

Nessa said, "Well. Who does? I think Vana's idea is a good one. We do have to let Him out as We promised, but We didn't promise that it would be unconditional, did We? And I think that this is a perfectly reasonable condition. He won't be harmed, He will still be very attractive, He will still be able to interact with anyone as He likes, and His capacity to do harm will be limited by the body."

Irmo said, "It is perfectly feasible, if Yavanna can adjust Angainor's specifications to enforce the form upon Him." His spouse nodded. "Este and I would be happy to look after Him while he settles into His new form. It's not as if the Gardens don't have plenty of predators already."

The pressure of Nienna's silence became noticeable at that point; there was an expectant pause. The Lady of Sorrows said, with Her usual gentleness,

"I agree with Vana. It would be a helpful and therapeutic period of re-socialisation to Our company, and an opportunity for positive re-acquaintance and interaction with the Children, in a form that will not cause them alarm or stress. If He is truly reformed, He will accept this and co-operate fully. If He is not, it will be much harder for Him to influence the Children negatively in that shape; He will have to win them by getting them to like him, rather than overawing them into compliance." Her smile was not gentle. Nienna's province was Mercy, not Stupidity.

Yavanna said, "And it will be very much harder for Him to hide His true feelings about, well, anything, given the instincts inherent in that form."

Everyone understood Orome's growl in response, "Agreed. Not so scary when you're sitting there licking your own bum." Nessa whacked Him on the head. "There's no need to be vulgar!"

A gentle breeze swirled around Them, and all attention turned to the Elder King, who had, as was His wont, remained silent while His colleagues argued Their points.

Manwe Sulimo spoke, and the leaves of the Trees shivered above Him, scattering a shimmer of silver and golden light over the assembled Powers.

"When the three Ages of His confinement end, and if He continues to manifest repentence, Our brother Melkor shall be released from Mandos as We promised, to dwell among Us and help to undo the harm in Arda that He did in aeons past. But to aid His re-entry into Our society and that of the Children, " a faint, cool smile was sent in Nienna's direction, "He shall do so in the form that We decree, for so long as We see fit. Aule and Yavanna, design the changes to Angainor that must be made. Irmo and Namo, prepare Yourselves to bind Him in His new form. Nienna, You may inform Him of Our decision and if possible reconcile Him to it. I have considered the proposals for His form that have been made. He shall be a cat. Yavanna may choose His colour. It is so decided."