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The stars of the Children’s galaxy shifted along their orbits around the galactic center another thirty degrees. There had been no sign of Melkor for some time, nor any sign of those Máyar who had followed him. The Ayanumuz maintained a front of unconcern before their own Máyar, deftly deflecting any questions. Most of the Máyar seemed content with the answers given, but some were not. Aulendil was one, but surprisingly, Acairis, Vairë’s chief Máya, was another. Yet, neither Aulendil nor Acairis did or said anything explicit for which their masters could fault them. Outwardly, they were obedient, yet some of the Ayanumuz, like Námo, had their suspicions. Námo expressed his concerns to Vairë, but she dismissed them, stating that Acairis was merely exhibiting frustration at the lack of information, a lack that they all felt. Námo had to agree with her there, however reluctantly.
The Máhanumaz met occasionally to discuss policy and what Melkor might be up to. Námo tended to remain in the background, speaking only when addressed directly by one of the others. He still felt as if he had no business being numbered among them and remained shy before his elders.
"I do not like this silence," Varda said at one such meeting. "Melkor has been absent for too long. I cannot believe he has given up on his ambitions."
"Hardly," Manwë said with a humorless snort.
"Should we try tracking him down again?" Oromë asked.
Nämo tried not to shudder but Manwë must have noticed for the Eldest gave him a sympathetic glance and his aura deepened almost to cobalt in denial. "No. I will not send others to find him. That is not a mistake I plan to make twice."
Námo, for some reason, felt immensely grateful to Manwë at that moment, not for deciding against searching for Melkor, but for indirectly letting Námo know he was not to blame for the previous mission’s failure. The sense of blame had haunted him and it was one reason why he was reluctant to participate in the ongoing discussions among the Máhanumaz.
"Yet to hope that if we ignore him he’ll go away is not only dangerous, but foolhardy," Ulmo protested.
"I did not say we will ignore Melkor," Manwë said in mild reproof. "I said I will not make the mistake of entrusting any of the younger Ayanymuz with such a mission."
Námo went perfectly still, his usual deep violet aura shading towards red in mortification. He stole a glance at Oromë and saw that he was looking equally mortified. No one else seemed to notice, all the others looking nonplused at Manwë’s words, even Varda.
"What do you mean, brother?" Ulmo finally asked, his tone harsh.
Manwë, for his part, remained calm. "I simply mean that I will seek for Melkor myself."
"Are you insane!?" Varda demanded hotly.
"You cannot risk yourself that way, Manwë," Aulë said bluntly and several of the other’s echoed their agreement with Aulë’s words.
"Oh? Why not?" Manwë asked, his tone deceptively mild.
"You are the Eldest among us," Aulë answered.
"Which is precisely why I am the one to do this," Manwë retorted. "Melkor and I are brothers in Atar’s Thought. I know him better than any of you. More importantly, our powers are equally matched. Sending Námo and Oromë against Melkor was a mistake. Even together they were no match against him. None of you are."
This statement silenced them all and several aurae darkened in dismay. Manwë sighed, already regretting his words. When he spoke again it was with great gentleness. "I speak only the truth," he said. "None of you are a match against Melkor. Only I have the power to confront him and even so I fear he may come off the winner. Melkor does not believe in limits for himself and for that reason he is doubly dangerous."
"If you are bent on this course, Manwë," Varda then said, "you will not go alone."
"And who would you suggest accompany me, Beloved?"
Varda nodded towards Oromë, who gasped in surprise. "Oromë is the best hunter among us. He will be an asset to you."
Námo heard those words and his fëa sank towards despair. He did not deny Varda’s words concerning Oromë for they were absolutely true, but the unspoken implication, it seemed, was that Námo was not an asset, could never be an asset to Manwë or anyone else in the ongoing war against Melkor. He wanted to disappear at that moment. An unquenchable longing for the Timeless Halls assailed him but he quashed it ruthlessly. That avenue was closed to him until Atar decreed otherwise.
Oromë, for his part, looked both pleased and frightened by Varda’s assessment and he looked at Manwë with trepidation.
The Eldest nodded. "Agreed. Oromë will accompany me... on this one condition."
"And that is?" Varda asked, sounding suspicious.
Manwë gave his spouse a hard stare. "You will apologize to Námo for your implied slight towards him in your praise of Oromë."
Varda’s aura shifted from pure white to yellow-white. "I did not..."
"No, Beloved," Manwë said, his tone somewhat sharp. "Let there be only truth between us." His own aura never changed, remaining a pure steady blue.
There was an uneasy silence among them and Námo wanted to protest that no apology was necessary but Manwë’s expression daunted him and he remained silent and embarrassed. Varda’s aura turned a deeper yellow, her normal incandescent brilliance missing. Finally, before the silence became too unbearable, she turned to Námo.
"I truly never meant to imply that you are of no value to us, Námo," she said, sounding repentant. Námo was not sure he liked Varda this way; it was too incongruent with the usual image he had of her. "I only meant that Oromë’s hunting skills will help my spouse in this madcap scheme of his," she concluded with an exasperated look at Manwë.
Manwë’s own aura brightened slightly in amusement and the others laughed. Námo gave Varda a brief bow, acknowledging her apology, such as it was. He knew it was the most he was going to get from her and was content. Manwë took Varda into his embrace and silent communication passed between them. Whatever was said, the result was that Varda’s own aura returned to its normal incandescent white.
"That’s settled then," Manwë finally said, releasing Varda from his embrace. "Oromë will come with me. While we are gone, I would like Aulë and Ulmo to continue their own search for the tenth spatial dimension."
The two Máhanumaz nodded. Manwë continued. "Varda will be in charge while I’m gone... she and Námo."
"What!?" both Varda and Námo shouted at the same time.
The others looked at Manwë, stunned.
Manwë gave Varda a mild look. "I think, Beloved, that it is time you and Námo got better acquainted and this is the perfect opportunity while I’m away. You will have the final say in all matters but only after you have consulted Námo for his input. I’m sure he’ll be a great asset to you."
Before either Varda or Námo could utter a protest, Manwë stayed them with a stern look. "I have spoken," he said with great finality. Then, he gestured to Oromë. "Come, let us hunt."
With that, Manwë and Oromë vanished, leaving the other Máhanumaz staring at one another in stunned silence.
They explained Manwë’s absence to the other Ayanumuz and Máyar by saying that Manwë wished to examine some of the wilder wastelands of Eä for himself and Oromë had gone with him because the Eldest wanted to further test the younger Ayanuz’s tracking skills. They all accepted that Varda would lead them in Manwë’s absence, but not a few looked askance at Námo when they learned that he would co-rule with Varda. Irmo gave his brother a strange look, but Vairë merely smiled and hummed to herself in satisfaction.
At first Varda was very conscientious in consulting Námo about every little decision. For the most part, Námo merely agreed with her assessment of the situation and the necessary decision to be made. He had the feeling, however, that she was deliberately bringing the most inconsequential matters to his attention and was convinced of it when Varda approached him at one point asking him what color he thought the next batch of stars she was making should be.
At that, Námo exploded. "Frankly, Varda, I don’t care if the stars are pink!"
The absurdity of his statement caused Varda to laugh, while several of the Ayanumuz looked on in amusement.
"Pink it is," Varda said with a wicked grin and Námo muttered imprecations at the absent Manwë which only caused Varda to laugh harder.
"I’ll remember to tell him that you said that when he returns," she said. "In fact, Eönwë can remember it for me."
She gestured to Manwë’s chief Máya, who obliged his mistress by repeating Námo’s words verbatim, right down to the intonation. Námo stared at the Máya in undisguised fascination, having been unaware that Eönwë possessed such a gift. For his part, Eönwë gave Námo an apologetic grin which the Ayanuz returned with a resigned shrug.
Satisfied that she had gotten the better of him, Varda then apologized to Námo. "I’m sorry. I’ve been taking advantage of your... youth," she said. "Manwë was correct though. I do value your input, Námo. You have a unique point of view. I confess I don’t always understand or appreciate it, but more often than I care to admit, your insights have proven sound."
Námo didn’t know what to say to that except "Thank you". It seemed to be enough. From that point on, his relationship with Varda improved and she made an honest effort to consult him on important matters, taking his suggestions seriously. The others noticed Varda’s change in attitude and gradually accepted Námo’s leadership.
This proved instrumental when the unthinkable happened.
Yavanna and her sister Vána were generally charged with overseeing the development of life on those planets that orbited the habitable zone of their primaries. Not all stars could support life they discovered and some could only support the most basic single-celled kelvar and olvar. There was a delicate balance that had to be achieved and they were not always successful. In spite of their failures the two sisters were optimistic that they would be able to ensure that Atháraphelun would be a haven of life for the Children. They had already determined that planets orbiting at a particular distance from yellow-white dwarf stars seemed to fare the best in supporting life.
To that end, Varda had populated the galaxies with a myriad of such stars and planets were built to certain parameters according to complex mathematical formulae created by Aulë and Ulmo. The Ayanumuz were unsure just what form Atháraphelun would ultimately take and so there were several ongoing experiments to see which model planet would be the best for the Children to inhabit.
Yavanna approached Varda some time after the "pink star" incident, as everyone was calling it, much to Námo’s chagrin, all excited, convinced that she and Vána had gotten it right this time.
"Come and see," she said and Varda agreed, taking several Máyar with her as an escort. Vairë decided to accompany her, curious to see for herself. Aicairis and Therindë, Vairë’s chief Máyar, came as well to escort their lady.
What precisely happened, Námo never learned. He had remained behind at Varda’s request to oversee a different project with his sister Nienna which involved determining the proper proportion of salt to water. There was some debate as to whether the oceans of Atháraphelun should be salty or not. Ulmo preferred the waters to be pure but Manwë had explained that such would not be possible given the parameters that were already in place with respect to the physics by which Eä was ruled. Ulmo had reluctantly agreed but insisted that life should be created that could survive in salt water. Nienna offered to help Ulmo determine just how much salt the oceans could contain that would allow life to flourish within them. So far the exact proportion had eluded them and in her frustration Nienna had asked Námo for help after Ulmo turned his attention to other tasks that were deemed more important.
Námo agreed to meet Nienna on a particular planet in their home galaxy shortly after Varda and Vairë left with their entourage. It was a modest world of landlocked seas. The planet orbited a yellow-white dwarf star and had four moonlets. He met her on the dayside where she stood beside the shore of one of the smaller seas. The lands were barren rock, for there was no fresh water anywhere. This world was a laboratory, nothing more, though Nienna had promised that once the needed information was discovered she would transform the planet into a more liveable one.
Nienna smiled as her brother approached. "I think I may have found the right formula," she said, "but I would appreciate you rechecking my figures before we start."
Námo nodded and in a space of time measured in nanoseconds she transferred her findings to her brother. "It looks sound, nésanya," he told her, "though you know I’m not the best mathematician..."
"Oh, tosh!" Nienna said dismissively. "You sell yourself short, pityaháno. You are as good a scientist as Aulë or Ulmo, although I admit your field of expertise seems somewhat... esoteric."
Námo grinned. Studying the black holes Varda had accidently created had started out as a hobby, like Aulë’s star-core collection or Vána stringing the stars in certain patterns. Varda had objected at first, but when Manwë insisted it was a harmless pastime and kept the child happy, she had relented, even going so far as to offer Vána some suggestions.
Námo’s own fascination with the light-sucking phenomenon of these black holes had led him to discover some interesting features of these ‘failures’, as Varda insisted on calling them. Manwë had encouraged him in his interest and now he was considered the leading expert on these singularities.
"Well, let’s see if this will work," Námo said. "Do you want to do the honors?"
Nienna nodded and with almost negligent ease brought life into existence, microscopic bacteria that Námo then took and mutated into amoebae. Slowly brother and sister encouraged the various mutations, speeding up the process at one point, keeping a watch for any failures. They were studying the results of the first appearance of algae when a psychic scream rent the fabric of the universe. Both Nienna and Námo started in shock.
Námo wasn’t even aware that he had screamed her name or that he had attempted to follow the psychic trail until he felt Nienna grabbing him and holding him in check.
"Wait, Námo!" she yelled.
"Vairë!" was all he could say, struggling in Nienna’s embrace. Then he felt Nienna ruthlessly encompass his mind and still him long enough to impart a set of coordinates and then they were gone....
Námo’s next conscious thought was chaos. He and Nienna emerged to find Ayanumuz and Máyar yelling at one another in panic. The sight seemed to settle him and he shrugged off Nienna’s embrace, standing there with implacable purpose.
Such was the force of his command that all motion ceased and they all stared at him in surprise. He never noticed Nienna looking on with an expression of approval. When he knew that everyone’s attention was on him, Námo spoke again, his tone decisive.
"Where’s Varda?" he asked.
As if on cue, Varda appeared, along with Vána who was limply held in her embrace. Yavanna appeared almost at the same time holding up Cemendillë, her own chief Máya. Varda’s Máyar escort then appeared carrying three of their fellows. The sight of the injured seemed to unnerve them all, for chaos erupted once again and it was some time before order could be re-established. Through it all only Námo, Nienna and Varda remained bastions of calm. Vána, Cemendillë and the three other injured Máyar were quickly placed in the care of Irmo and Estë. Varda ordered an increase in the guard around them, then called for the remaining Ayanumuz to gather around her. Námo saw the haunted expressions on his fellow Ayanumuz and wondered if his own expression was equally haunted looking. There were only five of them, for Aulë and Ulmo were still absent. That left only Varda, Námo, Nienna, Yavanna and Nessa. Yavanna was too distraught over her sister to be much help.
"What happened?" Námo demanded of Varda.
She glowered at him, clearly annoyed. "What do you think happened, Námo? We were attacked by Melkor’s minions."
"And Vairë? Where’s Vairë?" he asked softly.
Varda’s posture slumped and her tone was more subdued when she answered him.
"They took her. Acairis..."
"What about Acairis?"
Now Varda’s expression was bleak. "She... she helped them to take her."
Námo felt Eä reel and turn sideways, barely aware that Nienna had taken hold of him.
"Acairis?" he whispered. "Acairis has betrayed us?"
Varda nodded grimly. "So it would seem."
There was something terribly wrong with that. Acairis had been deeply devoted to Vairë from the first, attentive to all her needs and gladly serving her. Yet, looking back, Námo realized that lately Vairë had been assigning many of Acairis’ duties to Therindë. Námo had not questioned it, for the ordering of their People was left to each of the Ayanumuz and none interfered. Had Vairë suspected Acairis then, in spite of her dismissal of Námo’s concerns? Yet, why had she not spoken of her suspicions to the others, to him?
There were no answers. Námo shook himself, focusing on the present moment. "Where’s Therindë?" he asked, suddenly realizing that the young Máya had not returned with the rest.
Yavanna stifled a sob. "She was taken as well, trying to protect her mistress."
Was that the answer — jealousy on the part of Acairis because Vairë had turned her attention to a ‘lesser’ Máya? Námo was reminded of his conversation with Melyanna. For Vairë to have begun assigning important duties to one younger in Atar’s Thought than Acairis must have been galling to her.
"So what are we going to do?" Nessa asked, anger tinging her normally golden-yellow aura with flickers of deep orange.
Before anyone could answer her, Aulë and Ulmo suddenly appeared, both looking grim.
"Where were you?" Varda demanded. "Why..."
"We were attacked," Ulmo said brusquely, cutting her off. "Some of Melkor’s people fell upon us almost at the same time we heard Vairë scream, otherwise we would have been there and perhaps..."
Námo interrupted. "It matters not at this point. What matters is that we get Vairë and Therindë back."
"I wish Manwë would return," Nessa said then and Námo privately agreed with her, wishing also for Oromë’s presence. If anyone could track down Vairë’s whereabouts it would be he. The thought of her and Therindë in Melkor’s hands....
He shook himself and turned his attention back to the discussion. Irmo had joined them and was giving them a report on the condition of the injured.
"They all suffered a shock but are recovering nicely," he said. Yavanna especially looked relieved and Aulë gathered her into his embrace and kissed her.
"We need to track down the kidnappers," Ulmo said.
"They could be anywhere," Nienna retorted in frustration.
"No. Not anywhere," Námo replied, thinking hard. "I think I know a way to find them." He wondered then if Atar had had more than one purpose in mind when he had given Námo this particular gift of calling the lost to him.
*No one is created for a single purpose, my child,* came the whisper of Ilúvatar’s thought, *and every gift bestowed is multi-faceted. It is for thee to discover their depths for thyself.*
Námo nodded to himself in acknowledgment of Atar’s words even as Varda asked for clarification. "A gift that I’ve discovered of late," Námo answered. He turned to Irmo. "It is how I found Melyanna when she went missing."
Irmo nodded his understanding. "Then you mean to rescue them," he said, giving his brother a shrewd look.
Námo nodded. "Yes, I mean to rescue them." His tone brooked no dissent and even Varda refrained from trying to dissuade him.
"Then I will accompany you," Irmo said bluntly.
"You?" Ulmo asked in surprise. "Why you?"
Irmo gave the older Ayanuz an amused look. "Someone has to keep Námo from doing something stupid."
In spite of the gravity of the situation, there was quiet laughter all around. Námo wanted to protest that he would never do anything stupid but feared that his younger brother knew him better than he did himself. He sighed, wondering if in the end he would indeed have to do something stupid to rescue Vairë and Therindë.
Mápaina: (Quenya) Taken, seized.
Kelvar: (Quenya) Animals.
Olvar: (Quenya) Plants.
Nésanya: (Quenya) My sister.
Pityaháno: (Quenya) Little Brother.
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