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There was a wing of Mandos unlike any other place in the whole world, but then to label it as a place was somewhat misleading.  It was almost like the absence of a place, a void devoid of any kind of solids, liquids or gases.  It was the closest space on earth in likeness to the birthplace of the Valar.  But Oromë felt no peace here.  He had always thought that this place should not be; they were to look forward not behind.  To cling to the remnants of what they had once been stopped them from evolving into what they could be.

It did not surprise Oromë that Námo would retreat here.  Nor was he surprised that Námo had discarded his flesh and drifted here only as a spirit.  Oromë would never do such a thing, not unless Elrond's life was in danger. 

The Vala of the Hunt let himself float, finding it difficult to keep his body together.  He drifted along, trying to reach a suspended pool that hung in the void like a spinning mirror.  Just as he predicted, he sensed Námo hovering nearby, spinning in time with the great lake.  His spirit expanded to fill the entire space, but his consciousness was here. 

"You have spoken to Elladan?" the voice echoed throughout the void, and ricocheted in Oromë's skull. 

"I have," Oromë thought.  "He let me hear his memory."

"Did he?" Námo asked.  The Doomsman might not know it, but in some ways he was easier to read without his flesh to shield him.  But at the same time, he was so removed from the world that Oromë struggled to even pinpoint where he was.  Still, Oromë was fairly sure he heard the pulse of surprise that accompanied those words. 

"Do not act so obtuse, Námo!" Oromë scolded, some of his legendary fury seeping through their link.  "Whatever it is that has frightened you, I am willing to help, but you have to stop acting as if you are above the younger races, as if you are unaffected, for I know that you are not.  If you have any backbone, confront your fears.  You owe Elladan that."

The Vala took a deep breath, reminding himself that backing his brother into a corner would do no good.  "Please Námo.   Tell me what is wrong.  Let me help you."

Silence as deep as the Beginning resonated through the emptiness, taking his words away as if they had been spoken aloud.  Oromë waited, feeling the weight of Námo's thoughts as his kinsman debated.  Decisions never happen quickly among the Valar, something the Hunter was well aware of, and well conditioned to.  His time among the elves had not changed his basic nature, and he noticed not the passing of time for it did not exist among the Ainur.  It was only ever for Elrond that he became impatient.

But a prickling sensation began under his skin, a sense that this was not right, this place should not be, and he most of all should not have come.  Oromë knew this was the part of him most connected to his husband, for Elrond and his kin had no place within the void.  They were creatures of the One's thought and belonged within His Creation. 

Oromë did not wonder what would happen when that Creation came to an end, if it did; he trusted his Father to do what was best for His children.  The Hunter trusted this because at the beginning when Ilúvatar showed His Creation to the Ainur, Oromë had felt a deep, unshakable love flowing from Him for what was to come, for His children not yet born.

As Oromë drifted on these thoughts, taken back to a time when he was as far removed from Elves and Men as the stars themselves, the pool floated away from him.  But the Hunter made no move to return there for he felt Námo move with him, back to the deep bowels of Mandos.

The feel of ground beneath his feet jarred him even though he had not left his physical form.  Glancing around, Oromë found he was in a room he had never been in before.  It was certainly a room worthy of the cold dark of Mandos, but it seemed broken, forgotten, unfinished. 

The clear smooth black mirror of the floor was abruptly disrupted by chasms and blocks of marble shattered like careless cookie crumbs.  The stately columns holding up the roof were chipped away like splintered crystals, growing up from the ground like grotesque teeth.  A fine layer of black dust covered everything, adding a ghostly layer clouding the cracked reflections staring back at him from every direction. 

It was so unlike the rest of Mandos, which was always clean, antiseptically so.  But it did not disturb Oromë as much as the sight directly before him.  Hovering serenely above the littered ground was Námo, or rather, Námo's mortal flesh. 

Oromë's own flesh crawled to see it, for such was unnatural.  It was possible for the Valar to abandon their flesh and survive without it, but if they did so, the flesh was dissolved into the clay from which the Vala fashioned it.  And the Hunter knew Námo would certainly rid himself of his old flesh to destroy any connection that might hamper his meditation.  Námo, more than any of his kin, often discarded his flesh in this manner so that he could know better the Mystery.  When he was finished, he would cast a new form for himself exact in likeness as the old one. 

The Hunter could not conceive why his form still remained, now empty.  As he watched, the potent spirit of the Vala of Mandos condensed so tightly that for a moment Oromë could actually see it the way elves do.  In an instant Námo returned to his body.  He took a moment to collect himself and then turned to his kinsman, his face deeply shadowed within his dark cloak.

"You see the extent that I am affected?" Námo said, his whole being behind his remoteness. 

"I . . . I don't know what I'm seeing," Oromë said honestly.  His brother nodded as if he expected as much. 

"Tell me, brother, have you abandoned your flesh in the time since your union with your husband?" he asked calmly.  Oromë frowned.

"No," he said.  "But there has been no need."  Námo nodded his head again.

"Then no conclusion can be drawn," he said, as if to himself. 

"Námo," Oromë said impatiently, reminding his brother of the problem at hand.  His kinsman did not respond, but the Hunter could hear him turn his thoughts back to Elladan.  Respecting his need to continue reflecting, Oromë moved to find a place to sit. 

"I . . . I am lost," the Doomsman said after a long time.  Gingerly he sat down besides his kinsman.  Oromë arched an eyebrow at the unusual action, but said nothing.  He waited for Námo to continue, sending a subconscious encouraging pulse between them. 

"What happened . . . it was . . . not what I expected," Námo finally said, clearly at a lost as to how to convey what he felt. 

"You were frightened?" Oromë prompted, letting his understanding color his tone.  Námo looked vaguely surprised.

"You know of this?" he asked.  The Hunter nodded. 

"It is normal to lose touch with the rest of the world.  Indeed it helps you to connect more closely with your other half," Oromë said gently, but Námo only shook his head.

"You do not comprehend," he whispered.  The Hunter cocked his head to the side, his spirit tacitly asking the other Vala to continue, to make him understand.  "I became lost . . . for a moment, there was no me.  The fundamental essence of myself disappeared, leaving nothing behind.  I did not exist."

Oromë blinked, surprised when Námo accentuated his words with a memory.  For the fiercely aloof, private Vala such a thing was unheard of.  But it clarified exactly what had frightened Námo; apparently it was not the loss of his senses as Oromë had first thought, though the Hunter could also hear a lingering unsettlement within his brethren on this score too. 

But it left Oromë confused about one thing.  "I thought you had bonded with Vairë…?" he said, a note of uncertainty easily read within his soul. 

"I did," Námo quickly defended, turning to look his brother in the eye.  The Hunter studied him closely, looking at the faint eddies radiating from him.  It was a tense moment before Oromë sighed.

"I believe I begin to understand, and now the One's plan makes more sense to me," he said solemnly.

"And what do you now see?" Námo asked quietly, a note of vulnerability leaking from his spirit. 

"You may have gone through the motions of bonding, but you did not truly bond.  No, Námo you will listen to me.  I am certain of this, for if you had you would not be so frightened now.  The ultimate state of existence is to connect with your soulmate and return to the exalted beginning of yourself.  You should not feel so much that what you are is destroyed, but rather that what you have been has been but a pale shadow of what you truly are.  It is beautiful and you will wish to return to that state again and again."

Námo was silent after hearing this, his whole being radiating stillness so that Oromë could not guess what he was feeling.  Indeed he had to restrain himself from reaching out to touch his kinsman to make sure he was really there. 

"Then perhaps Elladan was correct," Námo said, and Oromë could hear a pulse of dismay from him.

"Right about what?" the Hunter asked cautiously, not liking the undercurrents he was feeling.

"He said t-that the One . . . He did not decide Elladan and I should be mates until after the half-elf had decided his fate.  Otherwise why would I not rejoice as you say?" Námo said, his voice shaky at the blasphemous idea coming from his own mind.  Oromë could not hide his own disquiet that the Doomsman should even suggest such a thing.

"You needn't abandon all you believe just because you are unsettled.  I have no doubt that Eru had decided your fate long ago; it is merely the implementation that is lagging, and we have already discussed that. Indeed you did not bind with Vairë because Eru subconsciously told you she was not truly meant for you.  But Námo, there is an even simpler answer why you panicked instead of rejoiced," Oromë said, internally praying to Ilúvatar to guide his words. 

Námo arched an eyebrow.  "Well?" he finally said, a measure of his anxiety that he did wait for his brother to continue on his own.

"You have been under the assumption that you were bonded to Vairë since before you descended to this world.  With that assumption you imagined that you must be whole, but in truth you were not.  Thus you existed with a paradox.  I fear that you were arrogant enough to assume you knew Eru's mind with regards to yourself.  Because you believed this, it was only natural for you to accept that you must indeed have bonded with Vairë because that is what Eru said would happen when one found their soulmate.  And because you were bonded, you were complete.  But then you were faced with your true soulmate, and when you entered into the bond, you entered with that feeling of completeness, which means that instead of feeling the connectedness a bond promises, you felt only your own soul being overwhelmed, changed, destroyed.  If you are to find peace, you must accept that Elladan is the other half of your soul; you must submit to him as he has done to you.  And above all, you must trust in Eru," Oromë said. 

Námo remained still, his spirit churning with more emotions than the Hunter had even thought him capable of.  The tumult made it impossible for Oromë to read anything from his kinsman. 

"You are right," Námo said at length, his whole aura settling as he accepted the truth.  Relief washed through the Hunter, for he had not been sure he was speaking the truth before.  That it should settle so calmly into the Doomsman's soul meant that it was fact.  "But now I do not know what to do.  I have always thought that I listened closely to the One, but now I can no longer trust my instincts.  What am I to do?"

"You must seek out Elladan, of course.  He is the other half of your soul.  He holds all the answers you seek," Oromë said with conviction.  He knew this to be certain, just as he knew that being with Elrond calmed all of his own misgivings. 

"Elladan . . ." Námo said, his voice lingering on an emotion completely foreign to the Hunter.  "I am not certain that is wise.  He has shown an inattention to his soul that would strain any aid he should like to give me." Oromë growled in frustration, his calm understanding gone in the face of his brother's continuing obtuseness. 

"Will you not learn?" he demanded.  "What must Elladan do to prove to you that he understands more than you allow of him?  It may not be readily in his mind as it is to you, but it is certainly in his heart and guides his actions more surely than your mind has guided yours, as we have already agreed on.  It was he who asked me to come to you, because he is concerned for you and he loves you, but also because he knows you would need my guidance.  Indeed I do not think you realize what a sacrifice that is for him.  You should have gone to him from the beginning.  You should have talked to him about your fears.  You owe him an explanation."

Námo regarded his brethren coolly.  "Elladan would only be hurt if I were to approach him while still in doubt."

Oromë scowled, clenching his fists at his side to keep from grabbing the dark Vala before him by the shoulders and shaking some sense into him.  "Well you needn't worry about hurting Elladan; you've already done a fantastic job of it.  He feels horrible as it is."

The Hunter had the satisfaction of seeing Námo look startled, perhaps even pale slightly though it was hard to tell on his already colorless skin.  ". . .that was not my intention," he whispered, a pulse of sorrow and regret coloring his words and calming Oromë down slightly.

"But that is the result," he said sternly, remembering how upset his stepson had looked when talking to him.  He shared the memory with his kinsman.  "You abandoned him.  After the most intimate act elves can perform, you sent him away without a word of explanation.  What was he to think?"

Námo stood up abruptly, wrapping his arms around his slim waist in the most vulnerable display Oromë had ever witnessed.  It stilled his tongue, and calmed his fury so that he only felt grief for both his kinsman and his stepson.  It was not really Námo's fault nor was it Elladan's.  Neither could be expected to just accept in their heart a truth so suddenly wrought, no matter who foretold it. 

Oromë had taken for granted how easy he and Elrond had come together, but then Oromë had been preparing himself for his husband for centuries before his birth; he had immersed himself in elvish culture, learning how they thought, why they did what they did, and how they perceived the world.  The Hunter sought them out, sought to learn what it meant to be married through their eyes.  All of that groundwork was a part of him; he did it gladly without thinking, letting the One guide him. 

But if you weren't expecting it . . . well, it was no wonder that Námo was so lost.  In his head he accepted because he accepted all that Ilúvatar asked of him.  But his heart was another matter.  In some sense, Námo had come to accept that he would never know love.  He was bound to Vairë, and loved her as a brother, but the deep, soul-rending love of spouses . . . it had been denied him.  It was better to believe he knew it than to accept he would never have it. 

The thought depressed Oromë, making him reach out to Elrond to remind him that he was not alone.  It was such a lonely existence for one who needed that love.  And now that the Hunter studied his brother, he saw that Námo was one who needed a mate.  Working in such a disheartening place had affected him, slowly wearing at his soul.  It was Eru's love that had sent him the bright spirit of Elladan lest he be lost to darkness and grief.

"Námo," Oromë said solemnly.  He stood, reaching out to touch his kinsman on the shoulder.  It was perhaps the eighth time he had done so in millennia.  His brother always had an aloof, unapproachable air so it seemed almost sacrilege to touch him.  Did his brothers and sisters feel the same?  Physical touch was not something they often traded, not even in the friendly gestures elves and men used to greet each other.  Again the spiritual was prized more highly than the earthly.  How rarely had his brother been afforded such consideration?

"Elladan will forgive you if you are honest with him.  He might not understand, but . . . the true gift of marriage is companionship.  You are not alone anymore.  Elladan doesn't need to understand what it is you fear; he only needs to understand that you will not leave him again.  His light, his energy will be the balm you need.  I tell you as your friend, go to your intended now and stay by his side.  He will heal you even if he doesn't know how."  Oromë punctuated his statement with a thousand happy memories of the young half-elf, lingering on the loving look that lit his eyes when he spoke of his Vala.

Námo's eyes glimmered, as if tears lurked there.  The idea was too startling to Oromë so he did not contemplate it.  He watched his brother nod.

"You are right.  I will go to him," the Doomsman said, turning away.  But he hesitated glancing again toward the void.  Oromë took him by the shoulders forcing Námo to look him in the eye.

"Now Námo.  Elladan has waited long enough," he said kindly but firmly, emphasizing his words with a gentle squeeze to the thin shoulders.  Námo studied him for a long moment before nodding again, this time with more certainty. 

Oromë felt the slight pull a moment before he appeared in his husband's herb garden; a few feet away Elrond was putting away the last of his equipment.  Námo was nowhere in sight, but Oromë could feel him not far away with Elladan. 

Elrond glanced at his husband, his eyebrow canted in question.  The Hunter took four strides to reach his side, grabbing him tightly, and stealing a firestorm of a kiss.  The half-elf made a little noise of surprise before settling comfortably in the kiss.

Oromë opened their link wide, focusing on all of his love and devotion.  He could feel his husband's puzzlement, but Elrond easily responded with his own feelings of love and joy.  The warm feelings washed over the Hunter's soul like a tidal wave, easing away the stress that had tightened within him.

Only many dizzying minutes later when Oromë could feel his husband needed to breathe did he pull away.  He was panting himself, though not from lack of oxygen.  The flood of emotions left him gasping for air, trying to orient himself to his husband and wash away the loneliness that had covered Námo like a cloak.

"What is it, beloved?" Elrond asked when his breath was somewhat returned.  Concern shone in his soft grey eyes, and it made Oromë's heart trip on its side.  He clutched his husband close.

"Not now . . . I will tell you, but for now . . . just let me hold you," he all but pleaded.  It was unnecessary; Elrond would deny him nothing, but Oromë had never needed his husband like he needed him now save only when he had been captured.  He could feel his husband's concern increase, but Elrond said nothing.  Sensing his mood, the half-elf merely cuddled into his husband's embrace and let him hold him under the dawning starlight.