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THE DOOMSMAN

PART 2

A small fire burned cheerfully in the firepit, casting bright light into the darkest corner of the great hall.  A few feet away Aldaron, known as Tauron in the Sindarin tongue, was contemplating the ancient tree that supported the roof of the low house.  The others in the room paid him no mind, not pretending to have any idea what the concerns of a Vala were, least of all said Vala's husband.

Elrond sat curled up in a large nests of furs, reading some obscure text so old the paper crackled every time he exhaled onto it.  Opposite him in the alcove where the dinner table resigned, Elrohir and Erestor were engaged in an intense game of chess, Ronyo sleeping quietly at their feet.  Muted voices could be heard from a corner near the back where Glorfindel and Celebrían were discussing the latest news from the hunters.

Observing all of this was Elladan.  He stood silently by his father's side, a glass of the driest red wine known to elves untouched in his elegant fingers.  His expression was unreadable as he watched Oromë finish his business with the tree and then walk over to his husband.  The imposing Vala stood silently for a moment, obediently staying out of the half-elf's light, something he had learned well after years of his husband's nagging.

Elladan watched the subtle shift in the Hunter's eyes, the way they softened just so whenever the unearthly orbs settled on Elrond.  It had taken some time before Elladan had noticed it, but now he saw it often. 

An odd feeling twisted in his gut every time he saw that strange light in his stepfather's eyes.   The elder of Elrond's twin sons felt both an exhilarating joy and a crushing loneliness at once.  Something similar swam through his insides when he saw Elrohir and Erestor together.  It was never so intense, but there all the same. 

He noted his brother had a similar look in his eyes whenever he saw their stoic teacher.  Elladan had stood often in front of a mirror trying to reproduce the expression, the slight shift of light in his eyes, but could not.  It seemed so strange and alien on the features so familiar to him that the feeling grabbed his bowels and contorted them into tight knots.  The sense of loneliness and despair gripped him even tighter and he felt like he was suffocating.

Dwelling on the matter didn't help any, he reflected, suddenly feeling claustrophobic in the long hall.  He bowed his head, taking a deep breath to calm the sudden panic.  The deep red of his wine drew his eye and his stomach contracted again. 

Nothing tasted right, not since his brother's wedding.  The wine no longer lingered on his tastebuds the way it once did, letting him savor every nuance of years past.  Now it felt like sand in his mouth, sucking away the moisture until he felt like he was dying of thirst.  Food was no better, the rich heavy sauces tasting like paper while the thinner soups might at best taste like vegetable oil. 

Feeling sick to his stomach, the air grown thin around him, Elladan quickly set the glass aside.  He took a deep breath, trying to erase everything from his mind.  Keep it clear, serene as his father had taught him to do.  But the merest suggestion of paleness surrounded in darkness came immediately to the void he had created, as it had done far too often. 

Unwilling to so much as entertain the thought, Elladan quickly raced out of the room fleeing the incessant, never formed image.  Used to such displays, the others paid no mind.

Save one.

Oromë heard the unrest in the half-elf's soul.  In his mind he followed Elladan's progress into the deep forest.  He was not concerned about his safety knowing nothing in this forest would dare hurt the son of the Hunter's husband. 

It was hardly difficult to follow his path.  The trees around the forest called out to the uneasy twin and when they received no response, they called back to their master, the Forester.  Oromë sent calming vibrations to them.  They could do nothing for Elladan's turmoil.

But Oromë sympathized with him.  He considered going after the young half-elf.  It had been far too long.  Something was troubling him, and it was deeper than just having his twin separated by love.  That much the Hunter could see.  Elladan was hardly of a temperament to brood over something for long.  And Oromë was certain that the elder twin had no problem with his twin finding happiness instead of staying by his side.  At first he thought that Elladan was merely envious of his brother's joy and wished for his own lover.  But the symptoms seemed too severe for that. The Hunter had hoped that whatever it was would correct itself shortly. 

Still after all these years Elladan's disquiet remained.  Indeed it had increased without relief.  Oromë was unsure what to do.

If there was one thing he had learned from his husband, the Vala knew that speaking was the surest way to help those in turmoil.  With this in mind he determined to seek out the twin.

No sooner had he decided on this action then he felt a great wave of power flood through his forest.  That it was a Vala was obvious, but at first he was uncertain whom.  Normally for courtesy's sake all Valar gently pulsed their power before entering the domain of another.  It was like a spiritual knock, letting their kinsman know they had a visitor.  Even if they did not do this (and Ulmo came to mind here), they certainly did not flood the place of their brethren with their own power.  That was rude beyond measure.  It was tantamount to declaring ownership over another's domain, changing the subtle rhythms that responded to the Vala who had created and maintained the realm in the first place.

Oromë found he was not overly angered or even offended, though he had ever right to be.  Rather he was quite curious.  With just the gentlest of mental taps, he questioned the intruder.  His surprise doubled when he caught a flicker of cool thread echoing back.  He was barely spared a nod in acknowledgement, but in that moment he caught a sense of extreme determination and purpose so complete he was rather startled.

As he did not also sense ill intent or darkness, the Hunter decided it best to wait to see what would happen.  Without a word to the others he sat down quietly near his oblivious husband.

******

Once the lodge was out of sight, Elladan felt instantly better.  His pace slowed to an unhurried walk.  Birds called softly to each other above his head, but otherwise the forest was quiet.  That was hardly unusual.  Oromë had explained that the animals knew Elrond's capacity as a scholar, and for some reason felt that he needed constant quiet.  Elrond had never argued, finding the quiet soothing.  So long as he had the burble of a river, he was content.

Elladan wished he could be so contented so easily.  He tried once again to clear his mind, this time concentrating on his feet. 

"I know what troubles you," a soft voice echoed loudly in his skull.  Elladan's head snapped up, and he looked around.  But there was nothing.  Feeling uneasy he waited for several minutes. 

Nothing happened, no one appeared.  Shaking his head, the half-elf continued on his way.

"I know what haunts you," the voice spoke again.  Elladan stopped again, disoriented that he could give no direction to the speaker.  Just to be thorough he peered up into the trees to see if someone was playing a prank on him.  Again he saw nothing.  Again he waited.

"Would you like peace?" the voice said with more gentleness.  A hint of femininity seeped into the tone this time, and Elladan identified the speaker as a tenor woman.  The only woman he had ever heard speak so was his grandmother, but that didn't ring true here.

"I want peace," he said aloud, feeling foolish but willing to play.  Suddenly the area was flooded with diffuse purple light.  Again he could pinpoint no source direction.  Straining his ears was equally useless, for no footfalls, flash of breath or whisper of tree betrayed the presence of another.  Silencing his inner soul, he urged the world around him to focus him in the right direction.  But in response he received a disorienting sense of seeing in every direction at once.  There was no one point of reference; he was seeing himself from every angle.

Elladan shook his head to clear it, feeling dizzy.  When he looked up he saw a striking woman watching him from across the clearing.  She was wearing a dress of a purple so deep it might have been black.  It closely flowed down the length of her body before flaring softly at her ankles, revealing marble white feet.  Wisps of fabric fell about her arms like flower petals, leaving the striking white of her arm pale against the gossamer cloth.  In her hair shimmered silver threads so thin and intricate they looked like spider's webs touched with dew.  A slight shift of her stance revealed the same throughout her wine dark dress. 

Her face was as white as simbelmynë, framed by hair as straight as falling water.  Her eyes matched the color of her dress save that a strange light filtered from within causing the color to lighten.  The woman's face was perfectly sculpted, like one of the glass dolls Elladan remembered seeing from one of the elven masters at home.  The violent scar of her red mouth cut deep across the perfect white of her face, drawing the eye to the grim set of her lips.  She was soul-rendingly beautiful; Elladan felt a cold shiver of dread run up his spine.

"I do not intend you harm," the voice said again, stern and forbidding in his head.  Perhaps it was only so because it lacked any tone, as if he was beneath her entertaining any emotion at all.  His father had a similar trick when he was truly disappointed in the twins.  Elrond felt far too tired to do anything at all when they pushed too hard, and would simply leave.  Of course the twins would have to do something truly horrendous to get him in that mood.  Comparing the two made this stranger's blank expression all the more unnerving.

"What do you want?" Elladan asked, angered by the strange woman's seeming haughtiness.  What right had she to judge him! 

Perhaps something of his thoughts must have showed.  Though nothing changed in her appearance, for some reason Elladan thought he felt her soften slightly.  A quiet push on his psyche that left him confused more than anything else.  Little did he know it was only going to get much worse.

"I am here to tell you that that which you dream can become reality.  Indeed it must be so," she thought, again without using the shock of red that was her mouth.

"Huh?"

"You can no longer afford to hide from yourself, from your destiny.  It is not in your nature to shrink from anything.  You must be bold and seize the opportunity soon to be presented to you," she said coolly, her eyes remaining steadfastly trained on his face.

"What opportunity?  What destiny? What are you talking about?" Elladan demanded.  And he had thought his grandmother was bad.

The woman regarded him without expression.  "I have come to ensure that you will do what must be done, for he will not," she continued as if he had not interrupted. 

"I suppose asking who 'he' is would be a waste of time?" Elladan asked.

"You must force him to see the truth," the statue-woman said.

"That's a yes I take it," the half-elf muttered under his breath.  He was not overly frustrated with her cryptic words; rather he was amused.  The air seemed too fey to be taken serious.  It was so surreal that Elladan could not properly place himself here in this moment.  He was actually far away, worrying about whatever was gnawing at his inners of late. 

Besides, her words were meaningless to him.  He had no vested interest in determining the hidden secrets they may contain.  To him they were like listening to the inane babble of the insane.  Perhaps there was something to be learned, but it was hardly worth the effort of deciphering. 

This time he was sure she had heard his thought.  Was that an amused twinkle in her dead eyes?

"I trust you to do this," she said, before an air of deepest gravity fell upon them.  Suddenly the amusement left.  The words were too important, the meaning too significant.  "Do not fear on my account.  It is finished, and like all ends there now remains only a new beginning.  I wish you good fortune."

Vanished.  Suddenly, abruptly, without so much as a leaf disturbed there was now no purple mist, no fey air, and no woman.  Elladan blinked, then blinked again.  He rubbed his eyes, but found the forest unchanged, unmarked by any passing but his own.

Shaking his head, he slowly turned on the path.  With slow steps the half-elf made his way home as if in a trance.  But when he made out the solid, familiar vision of the Vala's home, it seemed so sublimely proper, the perfect idea.  A talk with his stepfather seemed in order.

******

Oromë felt the presence of the other Vala leave moments before Elladan stumbled back into their home, looking rather dazed.  He stood unnoticed by the others, but seemed to gain his bearings as soon as he saw the familiar sight of his family going about their daily business.  When his eyes caught sight of Oromë, the half-elf seemed to calm even further. 

In what might have been meant to be nonchalant, Elladan made his way over to the imposing Vala.  His eyes swept over the occupied form of his father and instantly shed the last vestiges of whatever odd trance had taken hold of him.  More resolutely he stopped before his stepfather.

"Could I have a moment?" he asked politely, gesturing slightly with his head to suggest he wished to speak in private.  Oromë turned to his husband.

"I shall be back in a minute," the Vala said.  He barely received a grunt in response as Elrond carefully turned another page, dust surrounding him like a cloud.  Amused, Oromë gracefully stood and gestured Elladan to the back of the room. 

They walked in silence, taking the door on the right heading toward the kitchen.  To walk through the winding hall was like walking along a narrow forest path.  The walls were made of living trees, their bows bending and twisting together to form a low ceiling.  Each tree grew so close to its brother that none of the outside peeked through some stray hole.  But the floor was not made of dirt.  Rather there was stone like some old, forgotten path, well worn down with time. 

The kitchen was the nearest room so that food could be easily moved to the dining alcove, but it was the only room on the right-hand side, keeping the smoke from the fires (and the occasional burnt meal courtesy of Elrohir) from the library and the bedrooms.  Oromë led them into the large stone kitchen where the ovens were still warm with embers.

The large Vala seemed to fill up the room with his presence, as he always did.  But over the years Elladan had gotten rather used to it.  Oromë never sought to awe or overwhelm those he met with the force of his power.  Indeed he muted it as much as he was able.  Elladan had never appreciated how much so until right now after seeing another use their power without a second thought to how it would affect others.

"So what troubles you?" Oromë asked, gesturing for Elladan to sit at the table while he chose something to eat.

"I met someone in the woods," Elladan began slowly, watching his stepfather set out a plate of mild cheese and a bottle of wine.  The half-elf was glad it was nothing heavier, feeling his stomach was still uneasy.  Hesitantly he reached for a slice of cheese.

"Ah, yes," Oromë said, pouring the wine into two glasses.  "I heard one of my kin enter earlier."

"You wouldn't mind telling me who it was, would you?" Elladan asked.  The Vala looked at him in surprise.

"She did not introduce herself?" he asked.  Elladan shook his head.  Oromë sat down opposite him, a thoughtful expression on his painfully handsome face.   Silence fell between him.  Elladan, not a patient half-elf to begin with, felt the stillness even more painfully after his encounter with the strange woman.  He began to tap his fingers against the table. 

Seeing the gesture Oromë smiled self-depreciatingly seeming to remember whom he was with.  "It was Vairë," he said, focusing on the moment.  He was curious to hear what had happened.  Since he was not so rude as to listen in on his brethren's conversation, he had not heard it.

"You mean Námo's wife?" Elladan asked, a shadow of worry in his eyes.  Oromë arched an eyebrow, knowing Vairë would hardly wish to be known first as 'Námo's wife', but he nodded.  He waited patiently for the half-elf to digest this news as it seemed to unsettle him for some reason unfathomable to the Vala.

"Did she speak to you?" Oromë finally prompted when he heard Elladan's thoughts straying down dark paths.  The half-elf startled, as if just remembering the Vala before him.

"Oh, um, yes she did, but don't ask me what she wanted because I haven't a clue," he said, rolling his eyes in exasperation as he remembered the cryptic conversation. 

"Well, perhaps if you told me what she said, I could help you decipher it.  I'm rather an expert at Valar-speak," Oromë said, using a favorite phrase of his husband's to describe the almost incomprehensible way Oromë spoke when with his kin.  Elladan managed a slight grin in response before relating the whole meeting with Vairë.  Oromë's expression remained inscrutable as he listened. 

When the half-elf was finished, he looked expectantly at his stepfather hoping he knew what Vairë had meant.  The Vala was quiet so long that Elladan grew annoyed.

"Well?" he asked.  Oromë blinked at his outburst, a twinkle of amusement deep within his forest green eyes.

"She has given her permission," he said as if that were perfectly plain.  Elladan rolled his eyes.

"Permission for what?"

"Best not to ask, I should think," Oromë said, choosing a piece of cheese for himself. 

"That's it?" Elladan demanded, now frustrated.  The Vala looked at him sympathetically.

"Elladan," he said gravely, in that voice that made the half-elf take his words seriously.  "The Valar see many things that are sometimes best left unknown to the younger races.  Not because you cannot understand it, but because it is better for you to live it.  Many of the Valar forget this, some do not even recognize it.  What Vairë wished to tell you, she assumed you already know.  Perhaps you do, deep in your heart where you can hide it from yourself.  And perhaps that is why you have been sick of late.  When I tell you that Vairë has given you her permission, I mean that that is all you need to take away from the conversation.   What she said isn't so important as that she came to you.  To dwell on anything else would only give you a headache.  I know you hate to hear this, but it is the truth that when the time comes, you will know what to do, you will know what Vairë wished you to know.  She spoke far more to you than you heard and your soul will keep that knowledge safe until you need it.  But for now it is best to just let the conversation settle within you and forget about it."

Elladan huffed, but knew his stepfather too well to disregard his advice.  That was the benefit of having Oromë around.  He was a good intermediary between his kin and elves.

"I wish your kin would be a little less helpful then," he said, reaching for another slice of cheese.  Oromë smiled in complete understanding.

"Yes, it is rather annoying.  Perhaps you should speak to your father.  He has lived under the weight of a Valar prophecy since his birth.  He's rather good at ignoring my doublespeak," the Vala said with amusement.  Elladan gave him a dubious look.

"I don't know about that.  Father loves puzzles." Oromë couldn't argue with that.

"Yes, he'd never let it rest until he'd figured it out.  There'd be no living with him," he said with an affectionate shudder at his husband's odd quirks.  Unconsciously he sought out their connection, feeling his husband still curled around his book, his spirit humming softly with contentment.  Oromë wondered what his husband would think if he knew his son shared the same destiny as himself. 

The Vala was rather surprised to be honest.  Even more surprised that Vairë herself brought the prophecy to Elladan.  He wondered what would happen, but knew it was best not to look for answers.  Conceivably he could find them in the ether if he looked.  But Oromë had grown rather fond of just drifting on the wind, letting things come as they would and learning of them in the moment that they happened as opposed to centuries beforehand.  He knew Varda would tell him if any harm was destined for those he cared for.  Knowing this he was content to simply watch.  He was rather sure it would at the least be entertaining.

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