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16: Námo’s Homecoming
As it was, it was some little time before Námo felt sufficiently strong enough to return to Eä proper. Also, as Manwë predicted, Aulë and Ulmo were reluctant to leave the tenth dimension, but eventually the Eldest issued an order in a tone of voice that they all recognized and dared not disobey. Aulë and Ulmo went first, leaving Manwë with Námo, Oromë and Irmo. Námo was feeling unsettled and at one point actually fled, ending up hovering over the event horizon of the black hole in the center of the Children’s galaxy. Manwë ordered the other two Ayanumuz back to Eä and went after Námo himself, being careful not to emerge too close to him.
"Námo," he said quietly, "it’s time to go back."
Námo merely shook his head, not looking at Manwë, his attention riveted on the emptiness before him. "No."
"Námo," Manwë commanded, "turn around and look at me."
"Perhaps you are correct," Manwë said, changing tactics. "Perhaps you are better off remaining here... alone."
"So, I’ll take Oromë and Irmo and leave you alone," Manwë continued, "and no one will ever return here to talk to you or see how you are doing... not even Atar."
That got Námo’s attention. He turned around to face Manwë. "What do you mean, ‘not even Atar’? Atar would never desert me."
"I didn’t say he would desert you, child," Manwë said reasonably. "I said that no one will ever disturb you here, including Atar."
"Námo, look around you," Manwë insisted. "There is nothing here. You said it yourself: all is potentiality, not fulfillment. That can only happen if we return to Eä. Do you truly want to remain here alone? I tell you this, if you decide to remain, I will not allow anyone to come here, though you will be free to leave anytime you wish and join us in Eä."
"Then what..." Námo began, sounding confused and uncertain about Manwë’s motives.
"But if you do," the Eldest continued with implacable certainty, "you will not be allowed to take your rightful place among the Máhanumaz, nor will you be counted among the Ayanumuz. I will set you among the Máyar and you will have to take oath to one of us."
The absolute shock that Námo felt was quite evident. His aura nearly disappeared into the ultra-violet. "You’re not serious," he countered faintly.
"Very," Manwë said. "And make no mistake. Atar will support my decision in this, however much it may grieve him... and me."
For the longest time neither spoke. Manwë waited patiently for Námo to make his decision. "He... he’ll find me," he finally whispered.
Manwë schooled himself not to respond to the hurt and fear Námo was exhibiting. "Perhaps," he agreed with equanimity, "but if he does, he will not find you alone. I will make sure you are never alone. You will always have an escort, and I do not mean just by your Máyar or even mine."
Námo gave him a puzzled look. "You mean...."
Manwë nodded. "I will make sure that one of us is by your side at all times," he explained. "One of the other Ayanumuz will be there. You will not be alone, ever."
Námo thought about it for some time and Manwë could see him vacillating between fear of returning and a need to be with others, at least on a subconscious level. He still would not let others near him, but he definitely would seek out the company of whoever was there. Manwë remained still and waited. He could feel Atar’s love gently supporting him, both of them, though he suspected that in his agitated state, Námo was unaware of this. Finally, the younger Ayanuz sighed.
"I... I don’t want to be alone," he said quietly.
"I’m pleased to hear that, my son," Manwë said. "Come, let us away from here and return to our family. They miss you and are eager to welcome you home."
Námo nodded and reluctantly moved away from the black hole’s event horizon and stood before the Eldest, his expression still troubled. "I’m ready," he said.
Manwë tentatively reached out to embrace him and was pleased that Námo did not flinch but allowed his elder brother to hold him. "Then, let us go home."
Manwë wisely emerged at the same spatial coordinates as they had been in the tenth dimension, knowing that Varda and Ulmo would keep everyone else away. Námo went perfectly still, questing with his mind.
"It’s so... alive," he whispered, sounding almost awed. "I’d forgotten how alive Eä truly is."
Manwë smiled at him. "See what you were missing?"
Námo nodded. "Wh-where is everyone?" he asked, looking about and sounding a bit more fearful.
"They are waiting for us in our home galaxy," Manwë said gently. "There’s no rush. Take your time. When you think you’re ready, we’ll go find them."
Námo nodded and Manwë was intrigued at the shifting frequencies of the younger Ayanuz’s aura as Námo tried to get his fear under control. No, not fear, Manwë thought to himself, shyness. That, and the uncertainty of his welcome. Manwë remained still and was patience personified, willing to wait for as long as necessary. Námo, however, did not stall for long and Manwë was pleased to see this one exhibit the strength of will and courage that he knew lay deep inside him.
Námo’s aura steadied to a shade of violet that was perhaps darker than normal but closer to its original frequency than it had been of late. "Let’s go," he said and his thought-sending was calm.
"I’ll let you lead the way, then," Manwë said.
Námo gave him a surprised look, but realized that this was another ‘test’. He resisted a sigh, checked the coordinates in his mind, tentatively reached out to his brother, who sent thoughts of welcome and reassurance and then the two of them were gone.
"He’s coming," Irmo warned them all. "Remember what I told you. Let him make the first move."
Námo suddenly emerged with Manwë beside him. For the longest moment no one moved or spoke, then Varda stepped forward, but not too close.
"Welcome home, Námo," she said quietly and with great sincerity. "We’ve missed you... I’ve missed you."
That revelation seemed to shock Námo. "You did?" he asked, giving Manwë an uncertain look.
Manwë nodded and so did Varda.
"I missed your insight and counsel," Varda continued. "My beloved was correct... I have come to appreciate your talents very much and I am glad you decided to join us again. You are greatly needed here."
Several of the Máyar, especially among Námo’s own People, stirred at the obvious sense of confusion and doubt in Námo’s tone. Maranwë, as Námo’s chief Maya, was particularly grieved at the manner in which his Lord was acting, as if he were less than the least of the Máyar.
*Merely your perception, youngling,* Aulë sent to him, aware of how Námo’s People felt. *Your Lord is still counted among the Máhanumaz, never forget that. It will merely take some time for him to regain his sense of self-worth after what Melkor did to him.*
Maranwë mentally cringed at the image Aulë then sent him of his Lord in hröa and forced himself not to weep before them all.
"So," Manwë was saying, "here are your own Máyar waiting to welcome you, Námo. Have you no words of greeting for them?"
Maranwë and the others went perfectly still. Námo gave them a shy look, his aura tinged with green and moving into the orange spectrum, but he did not say anything. Maranwë decided to make the first move: he knelt and had the pleasure of sensing the other Máyar also kneeling before their Lord.
"Welcome back, my Lord," he said simply. "Thy People await thy commands. Wouldst thou hear my report of all that we have accomplished in thine absence?"
For a time Námo did not respond and then all could see his aura moving back towards its more normal violet. "I would be pleased to hear thy report, my child," he said with remembered formality. "Perhaps thou and thy fellows will join me later and ye may speak to me of what hath occurred while I was... away. For now, though, I would fain greet my fellow Ayanumuz first."
"It will be as thou sayest, my Lord," Maranwë answered, rising and the other Máyar followed suit.
Manwë nodded in approval. "Good, good," he said, addressing the Máyar in general. "Then let ye all depart that our brother may greet his brethren in peace."
The Máyar all bowed and were gone, save those who, like Maranwë, were attendant upon their masters and mistresses as a matter of course. Maranwë noticed that his own lord appeared less ill at ease now that there were fewer people around him. He noticed Námo mentally making a head count.
"Where’s Vairë... and my sister?" he asked Manwë.
"Ah, well, Vairë has had to do her own healing after what happened," the Eldest explained "and Nienna is with her. I have been assured that both will return to us soon. Now, why don’t you greet the others while I consult Varda on a matter."
Námo nodded and Maranwë saw him shyly advance to stand before Aulë and Yavanna and give his greeting.
"Welcome home, Little Brother," Aulë said jovially.
"It’s good to see you again, Námo," Yavanna greeted him with gentle regard.
Námo nodded but otherwise did not speak. Instead he moved to where Ulmo was and repeated his greeting. One by one he went to each Ayanuz and greeted them. None tried to take him into their embrace however much they wanted to. Finally, Námo faced his brother and Estë. For a long moment he did not speak, then, suddenly he was embracing not only Irmo but Estë, much to everyone’s surprise, Námo’s not the least.
"Thank you," he said to them, though just what he was thanking them for, not even Námo could have said.
Both Irmo and Estë nodded. Then Irmo noticed that Námo’s aura had turned a particular hue of indigo that usually augured mischief from his brother.
"Námo, what are you..."
Námo laughed and grabbed Estë, who started shrieking, and then neither she nor Námo were there.
"NÁMO!!" Irmo yelled. "You bring her back right now or so help me..."
Estë practically landed right on top of him, but before Irmo had time to realize that, he felt his brother encompass his mind and then he was gone. Manwë sighed and gave everyone a rueful look. Aulë and Ulmo merely smiled while the others appeared nonplused. Oromë’s orange aura brightened with amusement.
"So do we go after him or pretend we don’t want to play?" he asked.
"He’ll be absolutely impossible if we don’t play," Ulmo replied with a laugh.
"Is this typical behavior from him, lord?" Maranwë asked, sounding perplexed.
"Sometimes," Manwë allowed. "Do not let it trouble you, child. This is merely a... what did you call it Aulë?"
"Coping mechanism," Aulë answered, then turned to Maranwë. "Our brother was... violated," he explained baldly, sending them a mental picture of what Melkor had done to Námo, and all saw the aurae of Maranwë and the other Máyar in their presence go dark in shock. "Regressing into play is his way of dealing with what happened to him. When the emotions get too much for him to handle he reverts to play. It’s usually followed by a period of sleep. These episodes are becoming less frequent as he learns to... integrate his feelings and accepts them."
"Well, the question still remains..." Ulmo started to say but was interrupted by Námo emerging with Irmo next to him.
"Don’t you want to play?" Námo asked, sounding aggrieved.
Manwë shook his head. "Not at the moment, Námo," he said with gentle authority. "Why don’t you go with your Máyar and let them tell you what they’ve been up to while you were gone?" he suggested. "Would you like Irmo to stay with you?"
Námo gave his brother a glance and then nodded. Irmo looked very pleased at that.
"Good," Manwë said decisively. "Run along then, and afterwards, if you still feel like playing, then we will, but I suspect you’re going to want to sleep soon, won’t you?"
Námo scowled at that. "I don’t want to sleep. He... he’ll find me if I’m sleeping."
No one needed to ask who ‘he’ was. Manwë sighed. "I told you, you would never be alone. Ever. Do you believe me?"
Námo hesitated for a second, then nodded.
"Then why don’t you go find a favorite star to sleep in and I’ll have my People help yours in guarding you and Irmo will stay with you as well. Does that meet with your approval?"
Námo gave the Eldest a ghost of a smile. "Any star?"
"Just so long as it doesn’t have an event horizon attached to it," he retorted with mock severity.
At that Námo actually laughed and, with a gesture to his Máyar, he said, "Let us go then, my children. Come, brother, I know just the place."
With that Námo, Irmo and all of Námo’s bemused Máyar and half of Manwë’s Máyar, led by Manveru and Erunáro, were gone. The other Ayanumuz gave Manwë bemused looks of their own.
"Event horizon?" Varda asked.
"Don’t ask," Manwë said with a grimace.
"Well, that’s one crisis averted," Ulmo said contemplatively.
"For now," Aulë amended.
"For now," Manwë agreed, then he gave them a wry smile. "Good thing Vairë wasn’t here, she would have been furious that Námo grabbed Estë instead of her."
They all laughed at that and went back to their duties with lighter hearts. Námo was back where he belonged. They all knew there was still a long road ahead and that their brother was far from healed, but they were now feeling more hopeful.
Námo, in the meantime, was trying to decide between two blue-white dwarf stars that were relatively close to one another in size, though he kept insisting that, while one had a more comfortable core (whatever that meant), the other ‘felt’ warmer.
Irmo and the Máyar just stood around looking on in bemusement as the Máhanaz jumped back and forth trying to decide which star was the best for sleeping in.
"Námo!" Irmo finally yelled in exasperation. "Just pick one!"
Námo gave his brother a hard look and then a wicked grin. Making a rude noise, he was gone, apparently to check out other stars. Irmo gave Maranwë a wry grin. "I think your report to your Lord will have to wait, Maranwë. It looks as if we’re going to be busy helping my brother find just that right star for sleeping in."
Maranwë grinned in spite of himself. "I’m rather fond of red giants myself, lord," he said and then they were all laughing as they went after Námo still jumping from star to star looking for a good place to hide.
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