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THE DOOMSMAN

PART 15

The last refuge of the Valar lay south of the Mountains of Valinor.  A vast garden, sprawling and twisting almost to the charred ruins of the White Tree, created a labyrinth of yewtrees, cedars, and pines.  In the days of the two trees, Telperion cast its silver rays over the sleepy garden, lighting it strangely.  Now the light of those days seemed caught in the very bark of the drowsy vegetation, slowly fading away as the years passed.  A heavy mist swam through the air like a slow moving river, sweeping low over deep pools surrounded on all sides by low-boughed pines.  On the vapor hung a heady fragrance, heavy with the weight of dreams.

Glowworms crept around the borders of the pools, competing with the sparkling light of Varda's stars placed deep within the water.  At dusk poppies glowed redly amongst those the Gods called fumellar the flowers of sleep, and Lórien used them much in his enchantments.  Amidst all of this was set within a ring of shadowy cypress towering high that deep vat Silindrin.  It lay in a bed of pearls, and its surface unbroken was shot with silver flickerings, and the shadows of the trees lay on it, and the Mountains of Valinor could see their faces mirrored there. 

Other fountains flowed abundantly throughout the Gardens, where many drew refreshment while listening to the soft strains of sleepy nightingales, and the chorus of uncounted ainur.  At night, Estë the Gentle joined her voice to theirs, appearing on the shores of the tree-shadowed lake Lórellin from the island she reposed on during the day.*

Námo walked the shadowed paths slowly.  Barring his own Halls, there was nowhere more familiar to him.  Uncounted hours, years perhaps, had been spent here with his closest brother, though that was a bit of a misnomer since the cool Doomsman was not really close to anyone.

But Irmo's domain was not dissimilar to Námo's own, and when appropriate, souls passed from Lórien to Mandos and back as was necessary for them.  They permeated the air here, strengthening the otherworldliness of this place.  Mandos seemed haunted by its emptiness, but only because Elves could not sense their dead, and the dead sensed nothing without direction.  But in Lórien there was a ghostly touch to the air, a sense of being watched by unseen eyes.  Strange sounds would creep upon the subconscious, the temperature fluctuating as though invisible hands passed over the unwary sojourner. 

Námo had never noted such things before.  As a Vala he knew exactly where each soul was, and could speak to them with ease.  He knew what they searched for, and sought to comfort and soothe their restlessness.  But now their ghostly presence caused gooseflesh to form on his arms and shoulders.  He wasn't afraid but he did note for the first time the chill effect the dead could cause, even when occupied solely on their own affairs.  Námo knew this to be his fiancé's reaction to this place, not his own, and he wondered anew at the strength of their bond that he could physically respond to how Elladan would act if he were here. 

The Judge of the Valar walked leisurely through the tangled overgrown 'garden', looking at the familiar world with new eyes.  He meandered leisurely, which was unlike him but he knew his brother would not notice.  Irmo had even less sense of the passage of time than did Námo when in the Void.  He would not notice that Námo had not come directly to him after making himself known as was his wont.  Not that Irmo would mind; his Garden was always open to his brethren, though he jealously kept his Mirror to himself.  But he would probably be shocked if Námo came here for the same recreation as his kin.  The thought amused the Doomsman and carried him forward to his brother.

Námo found him where he always was.  Irmo knelt, straight-backed at the shore of Silindrin.  After Melkor had stolen the light of the Trees, Irmo had sunk the vat into the earth, half covered by a cave.  Curtains of waterfalls shielded the far south, obscuring the Mirror from that direction.  Curiously the cypress trees surrounding everything cast no reflection on the silver surface, so there were only stars and mountains trapped in the water.

Námo stepped beside his brother, for once acknowledging the honor that he was allowed to stand before the silver pond.  But his more practical side quickly reminded him that the three who had power enough to overcome Irmo's barriers were the three he so graciously allowed in.  And of course, the DreamMaster could not continue in wedded bliss if he barred his wife from his treasure.

Námo gazed into the Mirror, watching the shadowy collage of images that blended and blurred, twisting the reflection of the mountains into a surreal landscape of possibilities.  For that was Irmo's realm, the domain of dreams, of imagination and creativity.  Vairë wove images of what was and what would be, but there was no room for speculation in her work. 

Irmo's Mirror was the opposite; it defied reality, focusing solely on what-ifs and maybes.  It was Irmo who gazed upon it and saw meaning, who applied the theoretical to the practical of the moment.  Like a master vintner chooses the best grapes for the most superb wine, Irmo chose those images best suited for a specific creature, crafted them to fit, and sent them as dreams or visions.  He needed only the Doomsman's prophetic eyes to shape the future.  Námo had always been impressed that Irmo could turn such chaos into a useful order.  He had never cared much for the Mirror, finding its power nonsensical and unuseful.  It was only Irmo's skill, in Námo's mind, that had given it any justification for existence.  But now his thoughts spun anew as he watched the slowly drifting images over the still face of water.

Elladan could imagine them together, hope for an unreasonable chance that he might win the Doomsman's heart.  In Námo's experience with the dead, such illogical wishes only caused pain and should therefore be avoided.  But Elladan's hope had come true, and Námo was beginning to understand the value of hoping in vain, of having something to look forward to, to strive for, even if it was never obtained.  He could feel a spark of Elladan's fire move within him that burned with his fierce emotions, foremost his overwhelming joy that they were now one.  Námo could only shake his head at what a rut he had been in and not even noticed.

He watched the water with more fascination now, finally appreciating the purpose of possibilities.  It occurred to him that Irmo could not think of any of these possibilities on his own, and how sad an idea that was.  No Valar pondered what could be.  They pondered what the truth of the future would be in those few areas where their knowledge did not extend, they grieved over the past, and looked at the present only as a stepping stone to tomorrow. 

Only Oromë lived each day for itself.  Námo wondered if his brother dreamed, but he couldn't picture it.  However it did not seem like such a stretch to imagine the Hunter sharing dreams with his husband, shedding his omniscience to fly on mental wings while deep in sleep.  Námo was still adjusting to hearing Elladan's dreams, but so far he had felt nothing unpleasant from them.  They seemed harmless enough, random and generally meaningless; the half-elf remembered only half of them.  

But though Elladan's dreams were gifts from Irmo, the Vala of Dreams was not the only source of imagination.  For even as he crafted visions and sent them on their way, he also shepherded the dreams and hopes that his maiar caught for him, pooling the innate creativity of the younger races with his Mirror, something from which it seemed to draw strength and inspiration.  But wishes and thoughts were too numerous for them all to be caught; they were by nature wild and free, and Námo marveled anew at the great wellspring that could create such abundance.

As Námo continued to gaze into the Mirror, the images coalesced into the hazy shape of a woman, blurred along the edges as if wrapped in mist.  For a moment she was still, as if painted there by an artist.  But slowly the outer lines shifted as if pulled by a nonexistent ripple on the water's painted surface.  The woman moved gracefully with the current, spinning and gliding to the music only she could hear. 

Except. . .

Now that he thought about it, a faint song echoed on the breeze.  Námo closed his eyes as the familiarly haunting melody played in his ears.  For all the fact that the Doomsman was incapable of imagining, there was nothing restraining him from remembering, and memories could be just as potent as any dream or vision.  In all of his long years, even before Time itself, only one thing had ever truly haunted Námo. 

It wasn't as though it had been a surprise.  He had known all along that she would come in search of her dead lover, and he grieved with her as he did all the others who suffered in his Halls.  Námo had known she would try to sway him, but that was not unusual.  Many did not wish to give up living, and though it was hard to bear their anger and pain at their deaths, at least their will to live gave hope that their souls might be healed and they could be reborn, which was the ultimate success in the Doomsman's book. 

But her petition . . .

He could still hear the haunting notes in her song, feel the soul deep grief that was not solely her own.  It had not really even been sung for him, but rather was simply as an outlet for a pain too deep to keep inside.  Námo had known too that her song would cause him to seek out Manwë, but that did nothing to prepare him for the sheer depth of her music.  It resonated within him even to this day, like a bug beneath his skin constantly crawling about, some places easier to ignore than others. 

The Doomsman had never felt the perfection of sorrow as he did in that moment, and it seemed to him then that Eru had sent the embodiment of that emotion down from the heavens in the hope of alleviating it from His children, the closest to a flight of fancy the dark Vala had ever had.  It was still debatable in Námo's mind as to the effectiveness of his Father's actions in this matter, but all strands had yet to be woven, and he reserved judgment until he saw the Final Design.

As the music spun around him, Námo's natural honesty made him wonder about the irony that now he was wedding a descendant of the only creature for whom he had petitioned a change to its very nature.  Had he subconsciously sensed this fate then?  If he had, it made his actions then far more self-serving than they had otherwise been, a thought he was uncomfortable with.  Nor was he comfortable thinking that had he not, Elladan would never have been born and he would never have known him.

But the Doomsman's reflection of the matter was cut short.

"Always the same," Irmo said unexpectedly, his voice a lazy drawl.  Námo turned to look at his brother.  The Vala of Dreams looked at him through glazed eyes half-lidded with the weight of sleep.  He had silver-white hair that fell like a waterfall behind him, accentuating his absurdly tall ears.  And though his robes were always perfectly pressed, he gave off the air of something dusty and rarely used.  He seldom moved, and when he did it was with a slowness even the Ents would marvel at, as if his limbs were too heavy for him.

"Does it never tire you to always brood on the same thing?" Irmo asked, his eyes rolling back into his head before popping open again. 

"The lessons Lúthian Tinúviel taught are well worth remembering," Námo replied coolly, as he always did.  This was not a new conversation of theirs. 

They lapsed into silence.  Námo continued to look in the Mirror, waiting for Irmo's attention.  It might have been hours later by Elvish reckoning when Irmo shifted his chin in the Doomsman's direction.

"Something is different," he thought, eyes closed.  Námo turned his attention from the Mirror to his brother but otherwise did not react to the statement.  He watched as the DreamMaster's baby face wrinkled into an unaccustomed frown.

"Something is different with you," Irmo clarified, cocking his head further as he listened to the illusive strands of the Doomsman's song.  Námo bore the scrutiny unmoved.  "Indeed," the other Vala said, his eyes opening and pinning his brother with a hard stare.  "Something very different."

There was a hard edge to his tone.  Námo cocked his own head to the side as he listened in turn to Irmo's soul.  It felt almost hostile, which startled the Doomsman.  He had not known his brother capable of such an emotion.  He watched, as if distanced from himself, as Irmo slowly got to his feet.  Námo wondered if he should be alarmed.  Irmo narrowed his eyes, for once sharp with attention, as he scrutinized every part of the Doomsman. 

Despite his unease at the odd behavior his brother was exhibiting, Námo did not hide himself, but nor did he leave himself bare.  He kept quiet, his soul as shielded as it ever was, but only for his own comfort. 

"I see a new chord linked deeply with your own, a new . . . bond."  The moment he said the words, the realization hitting him, Irmo's eyes went comically wide.  "You have bonded again?" the DreamMaster demanded, looking completely torn by what to feel.  Námo caught a whirlwind from Irmo's usually sleepy spirit: incredulousness, a hint of doubt, anger, surprise.  The Doomsman said nothing immediately, waiting for the storm to calm enough that his usually level-headed brother would really listen to him.

Frustration crept into Irmo's chord, but it was a familiar emotion to them both.  Irmo was touched by his realm, and it had shaped him.  The incongruity between Lórien and Mandos was small but deep enough to often cause miscommunication of deep understanding leading to rousing debate.  The familiar annoyance calmed the other emotions in Irmo, pushing them to the wayside to be easily recalled as necessary. 

"I have bonded," Námo finally conceded, as calm and collected as ever.  Though he had no love of conflict, the anchor of Eladan's spirit steadied him against the unusual, where only familiarity should reign.  It was something that in the past the Doomsman had never dealt well with however good he was at hiding it.

Irmo let out an exasperated sigh.  "To whom?" he demanded.

"Elladan, son of Elrond," Námo replied with grace.  Irmo looked at him stunned, mouth hanging ungainly, eyes wide, posture frozen in mid-motion.  It took him quite a while to regain his wits to respond.

"You would marry him solely because he dreams of you?" the DreamMaster finally said.  It should not have surprised Námo that Irmo saw this in his own light of dreams and visions before any practical realism, but Námo was too astonished to think of it. 

"He dreams of me?" he questioned, having heard nothing like that since their bonding.  True, Elladan often thought of him, as he did the half-elf, but he had seen no dreams.  Irmo opened his mouth to respond but was preempted.

"What is this ruckus?" a tinkling voice asked, rich with amusement.  A rustle of leaves heralded the Valië of Healing.  Estë floated forward, a dream herself, the sleepy world a little sharper for her presence.  Neither Námo nor Irmo were surprised by her appearance here, knowing that the slightest discord between them would call to her.  Though she was always attuned to any ill emotion, Estë was most sensitive here.  She knew every resonance in Lórien so that she could better find any soul in trouble.  So, it was no surprise to see her.  But as she moved forward, they were simply stunned to see Vairë behind her.

"We have a guest," Estë said needlessly but with decorum.  She smiled her gentle smile, but it faltered when both Irmo and Námo continued to simply stare at her.  Frowning, she glanced between the two of them and Vairë.  "Is aught alright?" she asked, now scrutinizing their earlier discord seriously where before she had simply dismissed it as just another argument spawned from their different viewpoints.

Irmo seemed to shake himself like a wet dog.  He had studied Vairë with the same scrutiny as her former husband, and she bore it with equal grace as he did.  But the DreamMaster could see nothing different in her, save perhaps her song had settled some.  He considered that perhaps she did not know about Námo's bond, and he opened his mind to gently break the news to her but her words stopped him.

"My Lord Námo, are you well?" she asked, floating closer to him.

"I am, my Lady," Námo responded quietly, his whole aura shuttered and blank.

"And Lord Elladan?"

"He is very well," the Doomsman said, and there was a brief flash of contentment to pulse through him that only Vairë caught.  She smiled beautifully.

"I am glad.  I had heard there were . . . some difficulties?" she said, her tone turning the query into a neutral question that left it completely up to him to answer or ignore as he saw fit.  Námo betrayed no unease, and it was possible that he felt none; Vairë could not tell.  She hoped that it was the case, since she knew how much her former husband hated personal conversations.

"There were," Námo confirmed, even as his spirit drew closer to himself, shrouding it from the other Valar's gazes.  "But it seems that most are now passed."

"Good," Vairë said, her spirit pulsing with honest happiness.  Irmo watched the exchange with shock while Estë continued to divide her attention between what seemed like a perfectly normal conversation between Námo and Vairë, and her husband's continuing odd behavior.

A sudden flash of unusual humor rippled through Vairë, and her expression turned bemused.  "I had also heard that you are now to reside with our Brother Hunter."

"He offered," Námo said, with a hint of defense in his posture.  Vairë laughed, a sound so unusual for her that the other three looked on in pleased astonishment.

"I can imagine," she said with good humor.  "I think it will do you good to live among the living.  Oromë is, as ever, wise in the course of such things."

"Wait," Irmo suddenly interjected.  Vairë and Námo turned to look at him, and he seemed for a moment lost by the sudden expected expressions, but he rallied his thoughts quickly.  "You know?" he demanded, feeling as if the world had tilted and he was struggling to find his footing.  Estë could feel his distress, and it distressed her in turn but she remained baffled by what was going on.

Vairë's expression turned gentle, as if she could understand her brother's confusion.  "I do know.  Indeed, it was I who saw it to fruition."  There was a note of accomplishment and pride in her tone, and Námo felt another flash of embarrassment, still unsure what to make of Vairë's ready acceptance of everything.

Irmo looked even more shocked than before at that revelation, and seemed completely unable to respond.  Unable to tolerate her mate's continuing distress, Estë demanded, "What is going on?  What are you speaking of?"

Vairë and Námo exchanged a look, silently debating on what to tell her.  "Námo has bonded with the half-elf Elladan," Irmo said, looking as if someone else was speaking through him and his mind was elsewhere.  The Valië of Healing blinked before giving the Doomsman the shrewdest look he had ever seen her give.  Mentally he sighed, resigning himself to getting this look quite often.

Estë was completely silent for a very long time, and not even Námo could read her spirit.  It was a long moment, in which the waterfalls behind them fell into the rivers cradling the Mirror between them with a steady splash of unnatural sound, before the small Valië turned her attention to Vairë.  Námo watched as Vairë's soul met Estë's halfway.  It was something he had seen the Valier do before, and he wondered at it, at the way the women of their order communicated so much more intimately than did the men.

"Oh," Estë said at length.  "You are happy then?" she questioned, turning her focus abruptly back to the Doomsman. 

Námo blinked at the sudden shift, but replied calmly.  "I am."

Estë turned to Vairë.  "And you?  This does not bother you?"

"I am perfectly happy that my husband has finally found his other half, his true other half," she replied openly, her soul seeming to support her statement.  Estë gave them both another shrewd look before suddenly smiling brilliantly.

"Then, congratulations," she said.

"What!" Irmo demanded, an explosion of sound that reverberated through the quiet of Lórien, and disrupted the gentle song sung throughout.  Estë gave her mate a bemused look, her knowledge of him letting her know exactly the trouble he had wrapping this around his head, DreamMaster though he was.  She laid a soothing hand on his forearm, and he visibly relaxed at the touch.

Vairë and Námo shared another look at Irmo's immediate response to his wife, and shared a pulse of sadness.  Though Estë was a Vala of Healing, and had perfected those arts to subtleties beyond even Námo's capabilities to offer comfort to the dead, her connection with Irmo was the only reason she could calm him so quickly and so completely.  It was their bond which allowed them to communicate without actually communicating, for her to tell him with a touch that she would explain everything later, and that even though he was completely stunned, it made sense to her so he needn't worry.  It had never been so effortless between the Weaver and the Doomsman, and was just another little sign they should have noticed beforehand that they shared no marital bond.

"Since we are talking about your bond, my Lord," Vairë began, distracting them both from their melancholy.  "I have also heard that you are to have a wedding, and I thought to give you your present early."  She held out a large box for him.

Her words garnered the attention of all present, and startled Námo.  For a moment he was struck still with indecision, not knowing what the etiquette was in this situation, and the sheer surprise at the gift's existence at all.  But he sensed both women giving him gentle permission, seeming to know that he could have no idea whether to accept and open now, or send it to Celebrían, who would gather gifts to be opened after the wedding.

With a steady hand, slowed by his continuing war of emotions, he took the box from his former wife's spider hands.  He spared a thought that he had not seen it before, and wondered if he simply had not noticed or if she had called for it later, and why had he not felt her power to do so?

Both women watched him expectantly, clearly excited to see his reaction.  Irmo too could not hide his curiosity.  Námo carefully opened the box to reveal a neatly folded bolt of fabric.  It was not just any fabric, but the Valar equivalent of velvet, far superior to anything of elvish craft.  The Doomsman looked to Vairë for explanation.

"They are your wedding robes.  Beneath is a set for Elladan.  I know you will have had little time to choose something appropriate, and Lady Celebrían was unsure if you needed new robes or had a set equal to the occasion.  I hope they are not too flashy for you," Vairë said, looking bemused again, as if she knew exactly how in over his head he was with the wedding. 

Námo's mind boggled at the idea of Vairë and Celebrían talking, about his clothes no less.  He firmly refused to think what else they might have talked of.  He focused instead on the gift in his hands.  The fabric on top was a deep blue, alike to Vairë's own raiment in that it was almost black in color.  There was some gold thread too, but he could not appreciate the pattern while still folded.  Gently he lifted the top folds to glimpse a lighter blue beneath.

Not sure what to say, he looked helplessly between the three Valar watching him before mentally slapping himself to regain control.  "Thank you," he said with quiet dignity, but distance as well.  Vairë and Estë shared an amused look.

"You are most welcome, my Lord," Vairë replied with equal grace.  Námo carefully replaced the cover of the box, and then looked at his brother.

"I trust you are now no longer in need of my services," he said, giving a pointed look to the silent Mirror at their feet.  Irmo glanced down at it, as if he had completely forgotten its existence.

"Um," he said, trying to focus on his work but found he could not.  His own natural honesty made him admit that he was too flabbergasted to send crafted visions, especially prophetic ones.  "I think not, brother.  Perhaps another time," he said.  Estë gave him a little squeeze in approval where she still held his arm.

"Very well.  Then, if you will excuse me, I bid you good eve," he said a moment before disappearing.  Vairë and Estë shared another smile.

"I too should be on my way," the Weaver said.  Estë took her hand before she could escape.

"You will seek me out soon, will you not?" she asked, her eyes filled with concern.  Vairë gave her a sad smile.

"I tell you I am fine, and happy for him," she said gently.

"Not all griefs are readily apparent to us," Estë said with equal sensitivity.  The Weaver sighed, but squeezed the small hand holding hers.

"I think you are worried for nothing, but I will honor your wishes.  I will seek you out."

"Good," Estë said, giving her sister a dazzling smile.  Vairë squeezed her hand again before letting go and following her former husband's example.

Estë turned to find her husband staring blankly at the place where they had been.  Her laughter filled the Gardens and brought delight to all who dwelled there.

NEXT

*The introductory paragraphs are a blend of Direct Quotes from the Book of Lost Tales 1 and my own writing

Comments: serenityabrin@hotmail.com

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