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THE DOOMSMAN

PART 3

Oromë's woods were very peaceful; that was the first impression to assail the Doomsman.  There was a soft thrum of life pulsing through the surroundings, invigorating the soul like a drink revitalized a thirsty body. 

Slowly the great Vala walked through the lush forest.  He had snuck into his brother's realm under the rather embarrassing surge of power his wife had let loose.  Námo was rather surprised that Oromë had not taken her to task, but then Oromë did things differently than his kin. 

Curiosity was an odd thing, Námo reflected.  Never before would he have spent so long in another's realm without making himself known, but he had been curious about his wife's intentions, curious about where she would go and what she would do. 

He tracked her easily enough, though he considered that this was probably intentional.  Or more likely, Vairë simply did not care what he did or what he should know.  But he had dampened his power nonetheless, hiding from her.  So he could not know what she would have done or said if she had known he was listening.  She had hardly the power to sense him when he cloaked himself.  Nor did Oromë for that matter.  Doubtless only Manwë and Varda (when she was paying attention) could spot him when he wished to remain hidden.

Námo had watched her speak to the half-elf.  Elladan had looked adorably confused, though her words seemed plain enough to him.  He had been surprised that she would be so candid.  Vairë certainly seemed quite confident in her prophecy.  And she seemed quite determined to see it carried out.  The Doomsman wondered what he should think of that.

After she had left so suddenly, Námo was a little alarmed when Elladan then went directly back to Oromë's lodge.  Though he had never felt it before, a slight twinge of what might have been embarrassment assailed him.  What would his brother think of this odd prophecy his wife was so set upon?  What would he think that his wife was the one who brought it forward?

But the rational part of his soul soon asserted itself.  Doubtless if Elladan were to say anything at all to anyone it would be to his father.  Námo had already noted the close bond between father and sons.  Such bonds between kin were always heartwarming, especially after the debacle with Finwë and his sons.

Námo's belief that Elladan would not approach Oromë seemed confirmed when he did not feel the slightest twinge of power emanating from his brother.  It seemed likely that Elladan would now turn in for the night and there was no need for the Doomsman to remain, but Námo felt oddly reluctant to leave.  Instead he began to meander down some half-forgotten forest path leading deeper into the woods.

Time had no meaning for him, but he knew it was awhile before it occurred to him that he really should make his presence known.  With just the slightest tap on Oromë's soul, he gently identified himself.  Oromë responded with a polite pulse of acknowledgement but otherwise did nothing. 

Námo startled, sure that Oromë should at least come to see what he was up to.  Of course Námo had not called for his attention, but still it was quite rude to wander in someone else's domain without permission, and usually to obtain such consent any respectable Vala would ask why the intruder was there.  Very curious. 

The Doomsman was so intrigued that he found his path winding back to Oromë's home.  Perhaps the Hunter could help him.  Oromë seemed to have a better understanding of elves then any of the other Valar.

But it was Elladan, not Oromë that greeted him when he returned to the low lodge.  The half-elf was walking peacefully in his father's herb garden, lost in thought.  Námo stopped near the edge of the woods, simply taking a moment to gaze on the distracted half-elf. 

A sudden inconvenient snap of a tree branch falling to the forest floor caused Elladan's head to snap around and look straight in Námo's direction.  The half-elf froze for a moment, before slowly turning around.  It was clear he intended to approach the Doomsman.  A fluttery, foreign feeling danced in Námo's stomach.  Was this what it was like to be nervous?  If it was he didn't care for it at all.

******

Elladan almost jumped out of his skin at the sudden pop of splitting wood.  Spinning around, he was unprepared for what greeted him.  The same face that had haunted his dreams for centuries. 

Námo, the Doomsman of the Valar, stood perfectly still just a few feet away, his attention focused on the half-elf.  Elladan was far too startled to think, moving on impulse instead.  If he had followed his head, he would have worried about his recent meeting with Vairë or the impossibility of such a mighty, untouchable Vala having any interest in him.  But he didn't think these things.  The only thing in his head was that he wanted to see Námo again, he wanted to talk to him, find out more about him.

With this in mind Elladan slowly approached the imposing Vala.  Námo made no move to avoid him, his depthless eyes remaining eerily steadfast on Elladan's face.

"Um, hello," the half-elf said hesitantly when he was a few feet away.  The Valar nodded in response.

"Greetings," Námo said, his voice so deep it was more felt than heard.  Elladan was perversely glad that he spoke aloud.  He had never understood how his father could stand to have an entire conversation with his husband without physically speaking.  It always felt so lonely to Elladan.  Not to mention he felt a little soft in the head when hearing voices no one else could. 

"So, um, are you here to see Tauron?" Elladan asked, hoping it was not so but unable to think of any other reason.  Námo gave a gesture that could have been a shrug.

"I was passing near here and thought it best to make myself known to my kinsman," the other responded solemnly, not particularly helping the conversation along.

"Oh," Elladan said.  The moment's lull brought back his uncertainties with full force.  Taking a deep breath, he thought it best to plunge into his biggest insecurity.  "So, I met your wife today."

Námo regarded him thoughtfully. "Yes, I heard her presence here," he said without emotion.

"Oh you did?  Um, then do you know what she wanted?" Elladan asked, finding that he had inherited some of his father's curiosity.  He couldn't just let the matter alone like Oromë had suggested.  But really, when a Vala took the time to personally tell you something, it just begged to be of some importance. 

The dark Vala remained quite still for a very long time.  Oddly such a long silence seemed right for him and it did not bother Elladan much.  "Vairë feels I need some anchor to this world," Námo said at length, far after the half-elf had given up on being answered and given himself over to simply being moonstruck at the Vala's beautiful face. 

"Huh? What?" Elladan asked, snapped out of his reverie.

"Vairë feels I need some anchor to this world," Námo patiently repeated.

"And that was what she was trying to tell me?" the half-elf asked incredulously, not able to take that meaning away from the conversation he remembered.  But Námo nodded seriously.

"Yes.  She believes that you would be a good anchor.  She believes that you are destined for it."

"Uh-huh.  So what does that mean exactly?  What does an anchor do?" Elladan asked, hoping whatever it was it would mean spending more time with the mysterious Vala standing before him.

Námo cocked his head to the side in response.  "That is an interesting question.  Vairë believes it to be one thing, to which I am dubious.  But I have never felt her so determined, so sure of herself before, and I find I cannot discount her design offhand.  I have reflected on it, and I believe her to be correct that I am in need of an anchor, but I disagree on the nature that it should take.  Thus perhaps you are the anchor I need and perhaps not."

Elladan's brows drew closer together as the Vala spoke until he wore a thoroughly confused expression upon his handsome face.  "Oookay.  I have no idea what you just said," he said honestly, hoping underneath that enigmatic exterior was a Vala more like Oromë, in touch with the younger races.  

The corner of Námo's mouth twitched slightly in what might have been amusement or annoyance.  Like most things about the Vala, Elladan couldn't tell.

"It does not matter much.  If you are meant to be my anchor, then you will be.  If not, then you will not be.  If Vairë's vision is true, then it will come to pass.  If not, then there is no need to consider it," Námo said wisely.  But Elladan was a little thrown by that last part.  You would have to know whether the vision were true before you knew if it should be considered, but you could only know that after you had considered it, right?  And weren't they considering it right now?  So did that mean it would come to pass?  Elladan's head hurt and he didn't even know what Vairë's vision was.  He was beginning to think Oromë was right.  Best not to think about it.

"Well, um, if you're not doing anything at the moment, would you like to take a walk by the river with me.  Father says the wildflowers are in full bloom and he'd like a few to test their healing properties.  But Tauron says he doesn't know their properties very well.  Perhaps you might," Elladan said in a rush, trying to lessen the obviousness of his intentions.  He got the distinct feeling he had failed miserably.

"I fear I do not have much time to spare," Námo said slowly, obviously trying to be tactful.  "I had only wished to give my regard to my brother before returning to my halls."

"But surely there is sometime when you could spare the time," Elladan persisted.  He was already looking the fool.  It hardly mattered if he made it worse, and he wanted this. 

Námo looked undecided.  "I do not know. . ." he began, but drifted off seeing the pleading look in the half-elf's eyes.

"Please," Elladan said, trying to look pathetic.  It was a well-tested strategy of his that worked beautifully on his father.  "I'm sure the dead can spare you for a few hours.  It's only this once."  That being only once to pick flowers by the river.  He'd find another excuse after that.

Námo hesitated for another long moment before quietly exhaling.  "Very well," he conceded.  "I shall meet you tomorrow at daybreak."  He was beginning to understand what Oromë meant when he talked about determined half-elves always getting their way.

Elladan smiled brilliantly.  "Great.  I shall meet you by the river bend." 

The Doomsman nodded gravely.  "As you like.  Now I must really be on my way," he said a moment before disappearing from view.  Elladan was actually not that startled.  A joyful bubble had formed in his heart and he was sure he was floating a mile off the ground.

******

"I did not know you were fond of matchmaking games," Námo thought quietly, appearing in the dimly lit kitchen.  Oromë was still sitting at the table, occasionally eating a slice of cheese.  He barely looked up at the arrival of his kinsman. 

"Mmm, did you like that?  I fear Elrond has been a bad influence on me," the Hunter said, gesturing for Námo to join him at the table.  It seemed like such an odd thing to do, to invite a Vala who had no need of food or drink, who's time was never his own, to sit and partake in a meal.  It was such a novel idea that Námo found himself sitting before he could think about it. 

"I should imagine you could think of something better than a falling tree branch," Námo said, looking speculatively at a slab of yellow cheese.

"Why?" Oromë asked, looking amused.  But then Oromë almost always looked happy, something the other Valar always noted about him.  "If I have learned anything from my beloved, it is that the simplest solutions are often the best.  Why go to all the trouble for something more elaborate?  It worked, did it not?  You and Elladan spoke."

Námo thoughtfully bit into the cheese, tasting the substance for the first time.  "Then you are aware of Vairë's . . . vision?" he asked.  His hesitation did not go unnoticed by his companion.

"Elladan told me what she said to him.  I take it you do not believe her?"

"Do you?" Námo asked curiously, setting the cheese aside.  It tasted far too . . . unusual.  Looking at it, the twinkle in Oromë's eye sparkled a little brighter.

"I see no reason not to.  Do you ask this because you do not?  Why?"

Námo did not answer right away, concentrating on the wine bottle sitting unused between them.  "Does it not seem . . . strange that Vairë should do this.  We are married.  Why then should she wish to see me with another . . . unless she is unhappy?  Unless I have failed in some way."

Oromë tilted his head to the side, his expression turning serious.  Perhaps if Námo were to talk to any other Valar, they might think it strange or even frightening to feel the chord of confusion in the Doomsman.  But it seemed perfectly natural to Oromë, who knew what it was to fall in love.

"Do you say this because there is some particular offense you feel guilty of?  Perhaps a longing in your soul you do not feel you have repressed sufficiently?" Oromë asked, quite certain of the answer.

Námo's eyes narrowed, looking suspiciously at his kinsman.  "Do you sense such in me?  Am I so transparent?"

The Hunter sighed.  "I sense nothing like that in you.  Certainly you know that none can read your heart save if you wish it."

"Then why do you suggest it?" Námo demanded.

Oromë remained silent for a long moment, debating whether to reveal or not.  "Because I have seen Elladan struggle with the same thing," he said on a heavy sigh, a deep sorrow in his eyes.

Námo stilled at the words.  His mind opened in the obvious refutation 'what had Elladan to do with him?'  But he quickly closed it again.  The denial was unworthy of them both.

Both were silent for a very long time.  Oromë reached for the wine bottle and poured for them both, but Námo's remained untouched. 

"Then you do believe Vairë."

"What she says does not surprise me.  I have seen it from Elladan's side, though I thought it in vain.  For his sake I am glad that it might not be so," Oromë said seriously.  Námo took the news stoically, and the Hunter could not guess his thoughts.

"Then you believe I should abandon Vairë for another even though there has before now been nothing between the half-elf and myself?"

"I do not think you are abandoning her.  Destiny is a tricky thing.  It holds more firmly for we that see farther, but it is the younger races who are more at ease with it.  Too often it seems that we have no destiny, that we are merely shepherds of the One's plan and that He has no plan for us either.  But as my own case illustrates, that is hardly the case.  We are as much His children as the younger races and He loves us equally.  He would not leave you to stagnate.  Besides, Vairë seems to understand.  It was she who saw it first."

"Why do you suppose that is?  Why should she have seen this?" Námo said in that tone that suggested he already knew.  Oromë now wondered if he knew half of what he seemed to.

"Obviously because she is the one best suited to see it come to fruition.  The only obstacle to a union between yourself and Elladan would be your marriage."

"We are Vala and Half-elf.  Is that not an obstacle in itself?"

Oromë scowled at the other Vala.  "Surely you jest.  Do you then think that I should not be with my husband?" he demanded. 

"No, of course not.  But you and he were destined for each other from the moment of your formation.  This is different.  I have been with Vairë for Ages.  If I were meant to be with another, then He would have told me then as He did you."

"You seem to ask a lot of the Creator," Oromë said mildly, though such a comment to another Vala could not but sting. 

"What do you mean by that?" Námo snapped.  The Hunter canted an eyebrow.

"Only that you expect something from Him.  Why does He have to do something the same way twice?  How do you know it was better for you to know this destiny back then? It seems to me the whole point of this new destiny is to introduce you to mystery.  If you were expecting it then that seems to defeat the purpose, hmm?" Oromë asked.

Sitting back Námo folded his arms over his chest, a thoughtful expression on his face.  Oromë took the opportunity of silence to put the remnants of food away.

"Perhaps you are right," Námo said at length, unfolding his long arms.  "But I find I am unsure of what to do now."

Oromë returned to sit opposite his kinsman.  Boldly he placed a supportive hand on Námo's arm.  Surprisingly the Vala who ruled over the cold Halls of Mandos was quite warm. 

"Now you know how the younger races feel every day of their lives," he said gently, understanding that some part of His plan was to give Námo greater empathy with his sister peoples. 

"How do they stand it?"

"Pretty well actually," Oromë said.  Seeing Námo's dubious look, he smirked.  "There are enjoyable parts to it."

"Like what?" Námo asked warily.  Oromë laughed aloud.

"I will leave such joys for you to discover," he said magnanimously.  Though it was impossible to tell, Oromë thought that Námo might have rolled his eyes.

"Thank you so much," the Doomsman said, his voice completely devoid of all emotion so that Oromë could not tell if he was serious or joking.  He didn't know which idea was more shocking.

Seeming to understand that he had unsettled his kinsman, Námo stood up to leave.  But before he could, the door opened unexpectedly and Elrond entered, book still in hand and his focus completely on it.  Thankfully Oromë could see he was on the last page, which was doubtless why he risked walking around with it.

But just to be sure, the Hunter quickly stood up to make sure his husband didn't run into anything while his attention was diverted.  Námo watched them silently from the shadows.

"Elrond," Oromë said, trying to get his husband's attention.

"Hmm?" Elrond responded, not looking up.  A patiently amused expression settled onto Oromë's face.  He pulled a chair out and maneuvered his husband into it, feeling he would be out of trouble there.  Honestly, put a new book in either Elrond or Erestor's hands and that was the end of interaction with them until they had consumed every word at least three times.  Oromë had spent a considerable amount of time commiserating with Elrohir when they had first moved to Valinor.  But fortunately both had found a rather effective way of grabbing their attention.

Which was, of course, to actually grab them.

Oromë put this strategy into work now, gently taking Elrond's chin into his large hand and turning his head in his direction.  Then he kissed him breathless.  But, being well trained as he was, the large Vala had waited until Elrond had set his book on the counter so it would come to no harm. 

Námo was quite forgotten by the time they drew apart.  Elrond was a lovely shade of pink, and Oromë was ready to dive back in when Elrond glanced up and saw the Doomsman.

"Um, hello," he said shyly, his delicate pink turning a becoming shade of red.  Námo remained absolutely still, his mysterious aura on full blast.

"Greetings," he said quietly.

"This is my kinsman, Námo," Oromë said, when Elrond looked to him.

"Oh," the half-elf said, tilting his head slightly in a show of respect.  "It's a pleasure to meet you.  We weren't really properly introduced the last time I saw you.  And I've wished to thank you for coming to my sons' rescue."

"It was my pleasure," the Doomsman said graciously.  Oromë knew it was too, not merely because he had met Elladan (Oromë was fairly sure that was actually a detraction for the havoc it was causing his kinsman), but rather because Námo hated his job.  He hated to see the suffering wrought by their fallen brother.  Oromë knew it must have been a delight for him to actually prevent suffering and death.

Elrond smiled one of his sweetest smiles that always made Oromë melt.  "I'm glad," he said, before glancing at his husband.  "I hope I'm not interrupting anything."  He was looking adorably embarrassed again.

"No, we have just concluded our business.  You needn't feel as if you were imposing, certainly not in your own home," Námo said, slowly moving toward the door.  It was hardly the normal way for him to go, but for Elrond's sake, he thought it polite not to simply disappear.  Oromë knew that Námo held his husband in high esteem.  That would make it much easier for him to be a son-in-law. 

The thought struck Oromë as quite funny and he shared it easily with his kinsman, including the flash of mirth in his soul.  Perhaps that good feeling placated the other Vala, for he merely lifted a delicate eyebrow. 

"I'll be right back, dearest," Oromë said, quickly moving to follow the dark Vala out.  Námo waited just outside the kitchen looking at Oromë curiously as it was obvious he felt their business was concluded.

"Námo, about what we were discussing . . . it is obvious to me that you have doubts and it is true that whatever Vairë sees or I wish, neither of us has the skill to know His mind as you do.  If you truly want answers, if you are ready to face them, then I counsel you to meditate on this.  I know the One would not leave you guideless in this area," the Hunter said. 

Námo regarded him with a closed expression.  "You counsel is wise.  I shall do as you ask."

"Good.  Just don't forget your date with Elladan," Oromë said with a smirk, watching the dark Vala disappear before his eyes.

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