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14: Deep Structures of Pain and Terror
Once Irmo and Oromë left, Aulë turned to Manwë, his expression more solemn. "We shouldn’t all remain here," he said. "The Máyar..."
Manwë nodded. "True. We should not leave our people to their own devices for long. No knowing what mischief they might get themselves into without us."
"Especially those we suspect may be in sympathy with Melkor," Varda commented somewhat acerbically.
"Peace, Beloved," Manwë said mildly. "One crisis at a time. I think Aulë and Ulmo should remain and learn what they can of this dimension while the rest of you return to Eä proper. Let it be known that we’ve found our brother and will return when he is ready, but do not divulge that we have found the tenth dimension. That will remain our little secret for a time."
Varda nodded. Ulmo then spoke, looking thoughtful. "This is Eä, yet it isn’t. I do not understand."
Just then Námo reappeared, his demeanor more sober than before. "This is Eä in its potentiality, not in its fulfillment. That’s why we cannot sense any higher lifeforms here."
"Did Atar tell you this, Námo?" Manwë asked, speaking gently and making no sudden moves. He noticed sadly that the younger Ayanuz had not come into their midst but had emerged somewhat apart from them.
*As if he fears entrapment,* Varda sent to him privately. Manwë sent her an equally private agreement.
Námo nodded. "Atar says I have to sleep now."
"Sleep?" Yavanna asked. "What is that?"
"A condition similar to Resting but more so," Irmo said as he joined them, appearing beside his brother but, Manwë noted approvingly, not too closely. The last thing they needed was for Námo to flee from them again.
Oromë and Vairë had also appeared. Vairë, Manwë noted with amusement, looked flustered. Her normally green-blue aura kept shifting back and forth from yellow-green to nearly indigo and back again. Oromë merely looked amused, his bright orange aura a steady warm glow that indicated, for him, a sense of secureness and rightness with the universe at large.
"It’s a condition Estë and I have noticed occurring among some of the Máyar who tend to remain in their hröar longer than is wise," Irmo continued. "They lose all consciousness for a time and they appear to do something I have called ‘dreaming’."
Námo started at those words and looked troubled.
Manwë noticed. "What is it, Námo?"
The younger Ayanuz looked away. His attention seemed to be riveted on a particular blue-white star.
"Námo?" Manwë asked again and Námo visibly flinched as he reluctantly returned his attention to the others.
"I... I think I dream," he said quietly, not looking at anyone.
"You do?" Irmo asked with excited interest. "What do you dream about? Can you remember them when you wake up? How often..."
"Irmo," Manwë said quietly, cutting through the Ayanuz’s words. "Now is not the time to interrogate your brother." He had noticed how Námo’s aura had shifted towards the darker ultra-violet bands and did not want him to suddenly flee again. It grieved the Eldest to see that while Námo had certainly recovered from his ordeal, his fëa still showed evidence of extreme trauma. They were going to have to tread carefully around their younger brother for a time.
Irmo looked chagrined at Manwë’s reprimand. "Sorry. You’re right. This is neither the time nor place. Forgive me, brother."
Námo shrugged. "I don’t usually remember my dreams, but what dreams I remember tend to center around Acairis and...."
"Don’t mention that traitoress’ name in my presence!" Vairë exclaimed suddenly, looking angry.
Námo just stared at her in disbelief. "What! I’m supposed to refer to her as She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named from now on?" He gave her a skeptical look and then his expression turned wickedly gleeful as he leaned towards her. "Acairis, Acairis, Acairis," he said defiantly.
"Námo! I said..."
"Enough, the both of you," Manwë said and the tone of his voice was sufficient warning for them not to continue in their barbs against each other.
"Why does Atar say you have to sleep now?" Varda asked in the ensuing silence.
Námo shrugged again, his expression turning rebellious. "Don’t know. He just does. I stopped trying to argue with him about it a long time ago."
"So, you’ve done a lot of sleeping, then?" Manwë asked curiously.
"I guess," Námo replied, sounding contrary. "I didn’t have anything else to do waiting for you to find me."
Manwë winced at the tone. Námo was obviously feeling hurt for some reason. "As you may recall," he said gently, "you ran from us. We’ve done our best to find you."
"Well, you took your bloody time about it, didn’t you?" he yelled at them all, not willing to be reasonable, his expression dark with fury. "And why did you take so long to come to my rescue as well? I thought you’d abandoned me."
"That’s not true, brother, and you know it," Irmo said, automatically going to embrace Námo, but his brother visibly flinched.
"NO! DON’T TOUCH ME!" he screamed and almost managed to flee but something, or rather Someone, held him in place. The other Ayanumuz stood stock still in shock, not sure what to do next. Námo was thrashing and screaming but it was obvious he was being held in Atar’s embrace. Suddenly, he stopped, his expression a listening one, then he turned to Manwë. "Atar says I have to sleep now."
Manwë sighed. "And you always do what Atar says, don’t you?"
Námo nodded, then gave him a sly look. "Well, mostly."
The others snickered at that and they all heard Atar’s own amused chuckle from beyond the Walls of Eä.
"And don’t be surprised if I disappear," Námo continued. "For some reason I always wake up elsewhere from where I fall asleep. I don’t know why and Atar won’t explain."
Manwë smiled. "I’ll have Irmo stay and watch over you if you will permit it."
The younger Ayanuz looked at the Eldest in surprise, but then nodded. It seemed obvious to Manwë that Námo desperately wanted them around but was also afraid to let them come too close. He sighed inwardly, but otherwise schooled his expression.
"It’s settled, then," he said warmly. "Irmo will watch over you while you sleep and the rest of us will go explore. Is that all right with you?"
Again, Námo looked surprised at the question, but finally nodded.
"Good," Manwë said approvingly. "We’ll leave you to your rest then. When you awaken again we will talk... you, I and Atar."
Námo looked a bit reluctant about that but did not protest. Instead he slowly clothed himself in his hröa, the scars of the fire whip still evident on his flesh. The other Ayanuz stared at them in horror. Vairë found she had to turn away. When they had first found Námo she had been too relieved to notice them, but now.... Manwë wondered why Námo didn’t simply will them away.
*That will come in time,* he heard Atar say to him. *At the moment, he needs them.*
*What!?* Manwë thought back in shock.
Atar, however, did not answer him. Instead, they all heard him start singing a lullaby even as Námo sank to the ground before them, yawning hugely and stretching before curling up. In a matter of minutes, he was fast asleep. For several minutes the other Ayanumuz just stood there staring down at the sleeping form, mesmerized by what they were seeing.
Then Manwë gave himself a mental shake and spoke softly to them. "Let us leave our Little Brother to his rest."
They all nodded and in seconds only Irmo remained with his brother. He listened to the lullaby Atar was singing and soon was joining in.
Námo slept on, a smile on his face.
"I don’t know why I have to return to Eä proper," Vairë demanded of Manwë once they were away from where Námo had fallen asleep. "I want to stay here with Irmo and help watch over Námo."
Manwë shook his head. "Nay, daughter. Your duty is towards your Máyar, not towards Námo. Your Máyar have suffered a double blow: your captivity which they were unable to prevent and Acairis’ defection. You need to go to them and offer them what comfort they will accept from you. Know that in your absence, your Máyar took oath to Námo, which oaths he accepted until such time as you could redeem them."
Vairë gave Manwë a considering look. "He did?"
"Yes, sister," Nienna said, embracing her. "And then he put them and his own Máyar into mine and Estë’s keeping while he and Irmo went to your rescue."
"I think it would be well if you went with Nienna and Estë," Manwë then said. "I think you and your Máyar could all benefit with some time to yourselves to come to terms with what has happened."
"And I know the perfect place for it, too," Estë said, smiling.
Vairë looked reluctant, but eventually capitulated. "If you think I should," she said hesitantly.
Manwë took her into his own embrace and gave her a kiss. "Yes, best beloved. I think you should."
"Don’t worry, dear," Varda said consolingly. "We’ll keep a careful eye out for Námo. We will not allow any more harm to come to him if we can help it. Now go and find what healing you may, for you and your People."
Vairë looked upon her fellow Ayanumuz and saw nothing but love and support from them and finally allowed that such a retreat would indeed be beneficial for all concerned.
With that, most of the Ayanumuz returned to their proper dimension, leaving Manwë, Oromë, Aulë and Ulmo behind.
Manwë gave the other three a considering look. "Well, let’s go see to what use we can put this dimension, besides as Námo’s personal playground."
The others all laughed at that. Irmo, listening in as Manwë intended, chuckled softly to himself as he gazed fondly at his still sleeping brother. Námo, oblivious to everything, rolled over with a sigh and curled up even tighter, dreaming of the comfort of star cores.
"...deep structure of this dimension nearly parallels our own except for these features here," Aulë was telling Manwë when they suddenly heard Námo screaming.
The four Ayanumuz had been studying the deeper structures of the tenth dimension for some time now, or rather, Manwë, Aulë and Ulmo had. Oromë, not having any interest in such things, had been idling his time dodging the tumbling rocks of an asteroid belt, seeing just how close he could come to the rocks without actually touching them, or more correctly, colliding with them.
Now they all stopped in shock as the scream reverberated throughout the cosmos.
"Námo! No!" They heard Irmo yell in desperation.
Manwë gathered the other three Ayanumuz with a single thought and they all followed the psychic trace of the scream, emerging not on the planet where last they had left Námo and Irmo but in the midst of a different asteroid belt just in time to see Námo fade out again. Irmo had appeared almost at the same time, his expression one of fear.
Manwë turned to Oromë. "Follow him and don’t lose him."
Oromë nodded once and was gone. Irmo looked to follow but at Manwë’s command both Aulë and Ulmo converged on the younger Fëantur and held him in place by the power of their wills. Then Manwë took him in his embrace.
"Tell us what happened," he said encouragingly.
"He was sleeping and then... then he started screaming but he wouldn’t wake up," Irmo replied in a rush. "Then he just... went. What’s happening to him? Why is he screaming?"
"I don’t know," Manwë said soothingly. "Let us go and find out, shall we?"
With that, all four Ayanumuz followed the trail Oromë had left for them and they soon found themselves emerging above the center of a distant galaxy, one in which one of Varda’s infamous black holes sat in aphotic splendor. Námo, they could see, was hovering just above what they knew was the event horizon. He was awake, and no longer screaming, but his attention was all for the black hole before him. Oromë turned to the others as they emerged, giving them a look of relief.
"He ended up inside a neutron star and then bounced over here," Oromë told them. "I’ve not tried to talk to him. I feared he might run again."
"You did wisely," Manwë said approvingly. "Irmo, go to your brother. I think he will listen to you before he listens to any of us. Take care not to approach too closely."
Irmo nodded and then thought himself closer to where Námo was standing. "Námo," he sent a whispering thought to his brother.
At first there was no response and then ever so slowly Námo turned his attention to his brother. "She was right," he said emotionlessly before returning his gaze upon the emptiness where space had turned in on itself.
Irmo shivered at the thought of just who she was. "Right about what?" he asked as nonchalantly as possible.
"About black holes," Námo said without looking up. "I wonder...." He took a single step closer.
"Námo!" Irmo yelled in fright and then forced himself to remain calm. The last thing he needed was to frighten his brother into doing something rash.
Námo stopped his forward motion, but otherwise did not acknowledge Irmo’s existence. For a time that could not easily be measured even by the Ayamumuz no one moved. Námo still stared relentlessly into the void in the galaxy’s center and then with a sigh, he turned away and stopped in surprise at the sight of the others there.
"What’s the matter?" he asked.
Manwë gave him a considering look and deciding the younger Ayanuz was sincere in his surprise at seeing them, sighed. "We were hoping you would tell us, my son," he said gently. "We heard you scream and then...." He gestured towards the black hole.
Námo grimaced. "Sometimes my dreams are... too dark," he explained. "I used to wake up screaming a lot. Atar would have to hold me very close during those times." He stopped and gave them a perplexed look. "Why didn’t he hold me now?"
"Perhaps because we’re here," Manwë said. "Perhaps it’s time for us to hold you and comfort you when you need it."
Námo’s aura turned several different shades of violet and red before he was able to respond. "No. I don’t need any comforting from you. Atar can hold me, no one else."
"Námo, be reasonable," Irmo pleaded, and in his distress he moved closer to his brother.
Námo stepped back from Irmo’s approach, his expression bordering on a sick terror that made them all grieve. Manwë gave Irmo a silent order to remain still, which the Ayanuz obeyed, though it was obvious that he did so reluctantly. Manwë then turned to Námo.
"No one will touch you unless you wish it, best beloved," he said. "Now, if I’m not mistaken, you should be sleeping."
That seemed to be the right thing to say, for Námo nodded, looking both embarrassed and mollified by Manwë’s words.
Manwë grinned. "Well, then, why don’t you pick a nice spot to curl up in and we’ll leave you to your rest. Would you like one of us to stay with you?"
Námo hesitated for a moment before nodding. "Oromë," he said.
Irmo gave an inarticulate cry of disbelief and hurt and Manwë had to silently command him to be quiet. Oromë looked surprised but merely nodded.
"If that is your wish, brother," he said quietly, "I will be honored to watch over you."
"That’s settled then," Manwë said authoritatively. "Now go along and find a nice place to sleep. We’ll be here when you wake up."
Námo nodded then turned to Oromë, his aura brightening with excitement. "I know just the place. Follow me."
With that, he disappeared and Oromë followed, giving them a grin as he left.
Irmo turned to Manwë then, his expression still one of hurt and confusion. "He doesn’t want me. I’m his brother and he... he doesn’t want me."
Manwë sighed but before he could respond to Irmo’s words Aulë gathered the younger Ayanuz into his embrace. "That is not true, Little Brother," the future World-smith replied. "I think he just doesn’t want someone who is too close to him right now. Oromë is ‘safe’ simply because he is not Námo's brother in Atar's Thought as you are. Your brother needs the distance right now. In time, he will welcome your embrace."
"Aulë is correct, my son," Manwë said. "We need to let Námo dictate the rules of his healing. We cannot force ourselves on him. It will just drive him away."
Irmo looked uncertain still, but eventually accepted his elders’ words. Ulmo then turned to Manwë. "Well, while we’re waiting for Námo to wake up, we might as well finish our examination of the deep structures."
Manwë nodded. "Yes, let us even so."
As Irmo half listened to the discussion that then ensued between his elders, he wondered bleakly if things would ever be as they were before and grieved silently for himself and for his brother. It was some time before he realized that Atar was gently rocking him, offering him wordless comfort. He sighed and allowed himself to sink further into Atar’s embrace.
Perhaps things will not be the same, he reflected, but at least my brother has been found. What else matters?
And with that thought, he found himself smiling and then laughing. The others stopped their discussion to look at him.
"My brother has been found! My brother has been found!" he exclaimed and the joy of his words enveloped them all and soon they were joining him in laughter.
Yes, the lost has been found again, Oromë thought to himself as he heard his companion’s laughter. He looked fondly at Námo nestled around the core of a yellow-white star and listened to the hymn of joy being sung all about him. Even the stars rejoice.
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