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19: On Constructing Atháraphelun
Not long after the redemption ceremony, Manwë summoned the other Máhanumaz to Máhanumazphelun, the name they had given the planet where they often assembled. For the first time since returning to Eä, Námo was invited to attend. He felt very nervous about it, for his memory of his previous visits was dim and fractured. He wasn’t sure he really belonged there, but Manwë made a point of having Oromë bring him. He was rather surprised that his brother Irmo wasn’t there, but Nienna assured him that Irmo would be invited to attend a meeting when and if his presence was required. When they were all gathered, Manwë spoke.
"Atar has revealed to me that the time draws near for the building of Atháraphelun."
There were murmurs of surprise all around. Námo felt something that bordered on fear coursing through him as his aura deepened in hue, but he was not sure why. He felt Oromë reach out and offer him some comfort and they shared a shy smile between them before devoting their attention to Manwë, who was still speaking.
"Yavanna and Nienna have been overseeing the construction of the architectural model that we plan to use in constructing the Children’s home," the Eldest said. "They have had the assistance of Vána and Nessa. Ulmo and Aulë have finished mapping the deep structures and thanks to Námo" — Námo started at the sound of his name and felt himself going shy before everyone’s regard — "we’ve been able to plot all the dimensions as well. Námo and Oromë have been hunting down errant pockets of Chaos and repairing any breaches in the fabric of the space-time continuum such pockets may have caused. I also believe that Irmo, Estë and Vairë’s project is on schedule so I think we’ve done all we can to assure that nothing hinders the construction of the Children’s home."
"What project is that?" Námo asked in confusion, for he could not recall if he ever knew what his brother, Estë and Vairë were doing.
Manwë smiled. "They are exploring the psycho-physical effects of us remaining in hröa for long stretches of time," he explained. "Once the Children come we will most likely remain incarnate for extended periods as we interact with them. Irmo wants to make sure that we will not experience any detrimental side-effects to being in hröa beyond the normal span of time." He gave Námo a sympathetic look. "You know better than most of us how you were affected by being incarnate for as long as you were."
Námo nodded, looking troubled. "Wh-why haven’t they asked me about it? How are they..." His aura flared to incandescence in shock at what he was thinking. "Who... who are they... experimenting on?"
"No one, I assure you," Manwë said forcibly, belatedly realizing the source of Námo’s distress. "They are merely interviewing the Máyar who tend to remain in hröa longer than we Ayanumuz."
"Be at peace, Little Brother," Ulmo said solicitously. "No one is being harmed. In fact, several of our Máyar have even volunteered to remain incarnate for longer periods of time so Irmo and Estë can measure the effects more closely, but so far your brother has refused their offers."
"And I will not countenance it anyway," Manwë added. "The research is purely anecdotal at this point, nothing more."
Námo calmed down and started to apologize but Manwë waved the apology away. "It is we who should apologize for inadvertently upsetting you in this manner." He gave Námo a searching look. "If you are well, my son, perhaps we can continue with our discussion." Námo nodded feeling chagrined.
"Good," Manwë said giving Námo a comforting smile, before addressing the rest of them. "I need not remind any of you that the tenth dimension and its location is to remain secret. None of the Máyar are to know of it until I say otherwise." They all nodded at that.
"How much time do we have?" Oromë asked.
"There is much we must still do," Manwë answered him, "but it will be soon. Let us first examine the model that has been built so we can see what will be involved in the construction."
"For this, I think the other Ayanumuz should be summoned so they may join in the discussion," Varda said to Manwë and her spouse agreed.
Almost at once the five other Ayanumuz emerged, settling around the amphitheater with the Máhanumaz. Manwë explained the reason for their summons and Námo watched with interest as both Vána’s and Nessa’s aurae turned various hues in mingled surprise, pleasure and shyness now that their masterpiece was about to be uncovered. All of them waited expectantly for the unveiling. Yavanna and Nienna appeared unusually mirthful for some reason, as if they shared a joke between them. Yavanna’s normally spring green aura was tinged with yellow while Nienna’s usually serene blue was tinged with green. Námo had the feeling his sister was laughing to herself.
"Vána and Nessa have done most of the work on this," Yavanna told them, "so I will let them answer any questions you may have."
Manwë indicated that the two younger Ayanumuz should step into the center, which they did. Then with a few short notes of a Song of Summoning on Vána’s part, the model of Atháraphelun appeared suspended in the air before them. There was complete silence as everyone stared at the image until Námo broke it with an observation.
And so it was. It was also square. Námo could see a single large landmass in the center of the... well, he guessed it was technically a world... surrounded by an ocean. The ocean’s waters flowed over the edges, seemingly into infinity. Vána and Nessa both nodded enthusiastically. "We... we wanted something special for the Children’s habitation," Nessa explained shyly.
"But, it’s flat," Námo protested, not sure he was seeing things correctly. He bent down to look at the underside of the model. Interestingly enough, it rather reminded him of the craggy surface of an asteroid and suspected that the model had indeed started out life as an irregularly shaped piece of rock orbiting some unsuspecting star unaware of the plans these two had for one of its offspring. He straightened, looking exasperated at his older sister. "And you allowed this?" he demanded.
Nienna bristled somewhat at her brother’s tone, but her reply was as cold as interstellar space. "We did not forbid it."
"But it’s FLAT!" Námo practically screamed, unable to believe that his sister or Yavanna had permitted this. He could almost hear laughter echoing through him and sensed that Atar was finding the situation amusing even if he did not.
Vána and Nessa scowled at him while the others looked on in amusement. Yavanna, in fact, was unable to contain her mirth and was clinging helplessly to her spouse as she succumbed to laughter.
"Besides stating the obvious, Námo," Vána demanded, "what’s your point?"
Námo stared at her in disbelief and then glanced at the others. Manwë and Varda were studiously not looking at any of them; Oromë was too busy examining the model up close to be paying attention to the exchange. The others were looking rather nonplused at the model, obviously unsure how to respond to it. He turned back to Vána.
"Excuse me, but did I miss something while I was... gone?" he asked coldly. now looking pointedly at Aulë and Ulmo. "Did we decide to introduce flat worlds to Eä? I don’t recall running into one lately."
"There’s no need for sarcasm, Námo," Manwë admonished him, though not very strongly. Still, Námo cringed at the Eldest’s tone and muttered an apology.
Now Nessa looked uncertainly at her fellow Ayanumuz. "We... we just thought the Children deserved something special for their habitation." She sounded so forlorn that Námo relented.
"Nessa," he said gently, "Atháraphelun will be special not because we make it so, but simply by virtue of it being the habitation of Atar’s Children. Their presence on the world, however ordinary it may appear from the far reaches of space, will make it shine with beauty and grace unparalleled by anything we have created or may yet create."
"We just wanted it to be special," Vána insisted, looking as forlorn as Nessa.
"And it will be, my daughters," Manwë said with great gentleness. Then he sighed. "It was a valiant effort on your part, my dears, but we really do need a round Atháraphelun."
Námo looked at Aulë. "Is this even possible?" he asked pointing to the flat world floating serenely before them, for he admitted to himself he really did not know.
Aulë shrugged and gave the younger Ayanuz a smile. "Anything is possible, Little Brother," he commented, "but that is not to say that it is necessarily probable."
"But can you actually have a flat world?" Irmo asked. "How do you account for gravitation and how do you create night and day?"
Aulë frowned, obviously intrigued by Irmo’s questions. "Well, it would require a major overhaul of the laws of physics as we have set them up," he admitted, "but it could be done, just not very easily."
"A round world really does make more sense anyway," Ulmo added. "It makes things much easier, construction-wise, since we’ve gotten the technique of creating round worlds down rather well."
Some of the others nodded. They well remembered some of their first attempts at creating worlds, the evidence of their failures in the myriad asteroid fields orbiting many a star. The two younger Ayanumuz were close to tears and both Yavanna and Nienna sought to comfort them. Nessa, the stronger-willed of the two, pulled out of Nienna’s embrace, her expression set.
"We’ll dismantle this model and start again," she told them with a scowl. "It’ll take a bit longer to come up with another model." She started to gesture when Námo stayed her.
"Wait!" he exclaimed going perfectly still.
"Now what?" Nessa demanded irritably, scowling at Námo, who paid her no mind. "Aren’t you satisfied with mocking us..."
"Peace, Nessa," Manwë said quietly and his tone brooked no argument. He had noticed Námo’s stance and realized that he was either in communion with Atar or in the throes of a prescient moment. The others now noticed Manwë’s attention on Námo and they all quieted so as not to disturb him.
For a long moment Námo remained still, then he was speaking, but it was obviously not to any of them. "Do you really think it will work, Atar?" they heard him ask. There was a pause as Námo listened to Atar’s reply and then he gave a sigh of impatience. "I know that, Atar, but..."
Again he went still and they all waited. Finally they saw his aura turning a lighter shade of violet that usually indicated amusement and Manwë finally decided to enter the discussion. "Well?" he asked Námo pointedly, "What did Atar say?" He tried not to sound too miffed at being excluded from the conversation between Námo and their Atar, but Námo caught the undertone of disappointment and smiled, though he did not answer Manwë’s question directly. Instead, he turned to Aulë.
"You said that it was possible to construct a flat world that could exist within Eä," he stated.
Aulë looked at Námo in surprise but nodded. "It would take some doing and I shudder at all the deconstructing we would have to do before we could even start..."
Námo waved away Aulë’s objections. "But it can be done?"
"What are you inferring, Námo?" Manwë asked. "What did Atar tell you?"
Námo turned to Manwë. "Just this: what if we go ahead and create a flat Atháraphelun as a diversion while we construct the real Atháraphelun in a hidden location, then move it to where it is destined to arise?"
"You think Melkor will attempt to sabotage the project," Varda said shrewdly.
Námo flinched slightly at Varda mentioning Melkor but otherwise he answered her with cool assurance. "We already have those beacon stars set up as a diversion," he reminded them. "Why not put that and this model to good use? Keep... Me-melkor’s attention elsewhere for a time."
They all noticed that even now Námo could not bring himself to say their Fallen Brother’s name without stumbling over it. It saddened them but they knew that Námo would have to come to terms with his feelings towards Melkor on his own.
Manwë thought about Námo’s words. "And Atar approves of this?" he asked.
Námo shrugged and gave the Eldest a grin. "It was his idea."
They all murmured at that, for they had never known Atar to intervene so directly in the affairs of Eä, but apparently there was more to this than perhaps even Námo suspected. At any rate, Manwë could see the merits of the idea and nodded. He turned to Nessa and Vána. "Keep this model at hand, my dears, and construct for us another Atháraphelun in the meantime. When you are ready, we will meet again to see what you have done and make further plans at that time."
Nessa and Vána nodded. Oromë, who had completely ignored everything around him while he examined the model closely, now straightened from his examination and looked at Manwë. "This is really quite good," he opined, pointing to the model, "but I don’t think Atar would approve."
At first there was silence and then they all started to laugh, realizing that their brother Ayanuz had completely missed the entire conversation from the moment Vána had brought the model into being. "What?" he asked in confusion. "What did I say?"
They just laughed the harder and it was some time before any of them got themselves under control long enough to explain it to him.
Life among the Ayanumuz and Máyar continued apace. Námo, at one point, took Irmo aside and questioned him thoroughly about his ‘project’. Irmo, recognizing his brother’s need for assurance, showed him the results of the interviews he, Estë and Vairë had conducted.
"Why didn’t you come to me with your questions?" Námo asked.
Irmo gave his brother a sympathetic look. "Are you really ready to talk about your experiences in hröa? Do you even truly remember yet?"
Námo went still for a time and then sighed. "Nay, you are right, brother," he said forlornly. "I am not yet ready."
"Then when you are, come to me and we will talk, just the two of us."
Námo nodded and the two brothers separated to continue each with his own task.
When the summons came again, Námo wondered just what the new model would look like and didn’t hold much hope that it would be any better than the last, but held his thoughts to himself, having learned the value of discretion since his outburst at the unveiling of the ‘flat Atháraphelun’. Again, all the Ayanumuz were present when Vána and Nessa brought forth the new model. For a time, no one spoke. In fact, Vána and Nessa both stared pointedly at Námo as if daring him to say anything detrimental. Námo’s aura flared slightly towards indigo, indicating deep amusement at his younger sisters' expressions.
"Well?" Nessa couldn’t help saying to Námo, as if his was the only opinion that mattered.
"It’s beautiful," Námo responded simply.
And it was. There was again a single large landmass that straddled the equator on one side of the slowly spinning globe. Near the center of the landmass was a large lake or inland sea in the midst of which stood a large island. Námo did a quick calculation and realized that the model, definitely created to scale, showed a world that met the parameters that they had determined would allow for Life and that would easily support the Children.
Manwë smiled at Námo. "We are glad you approve." Several of the Ayanumuz snickered at the dryness of the Eldest’s tone and Námo cringed slightly at the underlying reprimand. Manwë merely turned to Nessa and Vána. "As do we, my daughters. Well done." That simple praise caused the aurae of the two younger Ayanumuz to brighten with joy.
"It’s lovely, my dears," Varda added with a benign smile. "Now have you given any thought to how the system itself will look?"
Vána looked uncertain. "Were we supposed to design the entire system?"
Aulë shook his head. "Nay, Little Sister," he said gently. "You and Nessa should not have all the fun. We would like to offer some of our own ideas." The other Ayanumuz nodded.
"Very well," Manwë said. "How should we design the star system in which Atháraphelun shall be the central jewel? How many other worlds and what should their compositions be?"
"We already know that the star itself will need to be a yellow-white dwarf with this particular radius and energy output to sustain the type of Life that will support the Children," Varda said and with a simple thought she removed the model of the Children’s world from the center of the amphitheater and set it in a region of space outside the star system, instantly creating a miniature star also to scale and placing it the requisite distance away from the model. In the meantime, everyone else joined her.
"Atháraphelun will need to be set at this distance from it’s primary," Varda told them, sending them the necessary mathematics. "That means that we could have two worlds inside its orbit and then any number beyond, though given the parameters we’ve set up, I doubt we will want more than six or seven additional worlds."
"So a total of ten worlds including the Children’s," Manwë said contemplatively. "So be it. As Vána and Nessa have had the pleasure of designing Atháraphelun, though I suspect each of us will want to make suggestions for improvement, let the other worlds be designed by the rest of us."
"I will take care of the star," Varda said. "I have some ideas about how I want to do it differently this time."
Manwë nodded but Námo shook his head. "Nay, Varda," he said and his tone was one they were beginning to recognize, for he was apparently experiencing a vision of the future of some kind. "The First Children are destined to awaken under starlight. No dawn will they witness for Ages upon Ages until the Second Children are brought forth."
Varda gave him a disconcerted look. "How do we create a star system without a star?"
Námo gave her a shrug, the prescient vision fading from his consciousness. "I know not, only that the primary will not be seen by any until the Second Children come into existence and before you ask, I do not know how long after the First Children that will be or even how long after we finish building Atháraphelun the First Children will come."
"Well, that presents something of a problem," Aulë said in disgust. "We need a star to keep the planets in their right orbits. They cannot just... just hang there," he ended in exasperation.
For a time they all pondered the situation, none of them happy about it. Varda glared at Námo accusingly. "Are you sure this is what you saw?"
Námo felt himself growing cold with anger. "I do not seek these visions out, Varda," he replied. "I merely tell you what I have seen or, more correctly, what Atar has deigned to show me. The First Children are destined to awaken under starlight and to know only starlight for some time after."
"Yet, without sunlight, there can be no growth," Yavanna protested.
"We could construct... er... lamps, I suppose is as good a name as any for them," Aulë suggested. "They would be globes that we can set on the planet at the poles. They would provide enough energy to induce growth."
"But how does that permit the Children to awaken under starlight?" Nienna asked.
"We would not need the lamps for very long," Yavanna said, understanding what her spouse was talking about. "Just long enough to induce growth. Once it occurs, we can remove these... lamps or dim them before the First Children arrive."
"And I can create a forcefield around the planet," Varda added, "that will protect it from the cold of interstellar space until it is time to bring forth the system’s star."
"How do we hide a star?" Estë asked. "We still need one to keep the planets in their orbit as Aulë said."
"What about one of your failure’s, Varda?" Oromë chimed in with a smile.
"What do you mean, youngling?" the future Elentári asked in a dangerously low tone.
Oromë’s normal orange aura merely brightened. "Those brown dwarfs," he said. "Can we not use one as a... a substitute until you are ready to create the real star?"
Varda thought about that for a moment, then shook her head. "That won’t work," she decided, "for the mass of even the largest brown dwarf is too low to keep the planets in their orbits. Even allowing for an accretion ring to make up for the necessary mass, there would not be enough gravitational pull. We would have to constantly monitor the planets and modify their orbits."
"Well there has to be a solution," Ulmo said, "else I do not think Atar would insist that the First Children awaken only under starlight."
Just then, Námo gave a gasp, and before anyone could respond he simply left them. "Námo!" Irmo cried.
"After him," Manwë ordered Irmo and Oromë and the two started to obey but Námo reappeared just then, his aura bright with excitement.
"Come, I think I have the solution." He sent them the coordinates and disappeared again.
Intrigued, they all followed him, finding themselves emerging just outside the event horizon of a black hole. Manwë gave Námo a concerned look as he noticed the way the younger Ayanuz hovered over the emptiness, his expression rapt. "Námo," he said softly. "Come away from there."
"Why have you brought us here, Námo?" Varda asked almost at the same time as Manwë was issuing his order.
Námo turned his attention reluctantly from the black hole. "It was Oromë," he said and the future Lord of Forests and Hunter of Evil gave a guilty start, looking pleadingly at Manwë.
"I swear, I never...."
Námo laughed and the sound of it was pure, neither forced nor tinged with sarcasm or anger as it had often been of late and they all rejoiced even as they wondered at the source of the humor. "Nay, Oromë," Námo said, "I only meant that when you spoke of Varda’s brown dwarfs you neglected to mention her other failures." He turned his attention back to the black hole.
Varda started to protest, her own white light dimming slowly towards anger, but Aulë stayed her. "Wait, Varda," he exclaimed with growing excitement, his usual steady crimson turning nearly orange, "he’s right. All we need is a black hole with the same mass as the star that you plan to create for the Children."
Varda contemplated Aulë’s words and her aura brightened back to its normal incandescence. "That could actually work," she said thoughtfully.
"But black holes..." Vána interjected doubtfully. Her grasp of stellar dynamics was elementary at best, being more interested in arranging the stars in interesting patterns and creating planets with unusual properties.
Varda turned to the younger Ayanuz with a warm smile. "A black hole of that size would have an event horizon only a few microseconds in diameter. There would be no danger of the planets being sucked in."
"Will you be able to create such a thing, though?" Yavanna asked. "Your other... er... experiments didn’t go so well."
There was some soft snickering from the others, though it was not mean-spirited, for they all truly loved the Star Queen, as some of the Máyar were beginning to call her. None of them could claim not to have made mistakes in their various attempts to bring the Vision of Eä into reality. Varda tried to look miffed, but failed utterly, merely saying with a sigh, "I’ve gotten better. This will not be a problem."
"So, we will go ahead with the construction of Atháraphelun and the rest of the system," Manwë summed up the discussion as they returned to where they had left the model, "using a black hole in place of the star that will eventually be set there. Aulë will construct these lamps of his so Yavanna may induce growth on Atháraphelun while Varda will construct a forcefield to protect the planet once we dismantle the lamps. Are we all agreed?"
They all nodded.
"Anything else we need to discuss before we adjourn?" Manwë asked.
"Just this," Námo said, his expression grave. "Where the second planet from the primary would go...."
"Yes? What is it, Námo?" Manwë asked when the other hesitated.
"There should be no planet there," Námo said baldly, "at least not immediately."
"Any particular reason why?" the Eldest enquired, resisting a sigh, as the others murmured in surprise at Námo’s words. Sometimes their brother’s announcements were not only annoying but inconvenient, though they recognized their importance and did not begrudge them too much. Still....
Námo’s aura darkened somewhat, as if he were deep in thought. "A time will come when the Children will need a sign of hope. I... I do not know what that sign will be, only that it will be set within the orbit of the second planet." He looked at Manwë apologetically. "I’m sorry... I don’t know any more than that."
"Well, it will disrupt the symmetry of the system," Manwë replied, "but that cannot be helped. Very well, there will be only nine worlds total, at least for now. If there is nothing more, then let us go."
At that, all but Námo left to go their own ways, while the future Doomsman of Arda remained, contemplating many things as the model of Atháraphelun continued to spin lazily before him.
Máhanumazphelun: literally, "The Place of the Authorities".
Author’s Note: My thanks to Misty for the information on solar mass black holes. Without her help, Atháraphelun would never have been built. *grin*
A solar mass black hole would hold the planets in their orbits without drawing them in. The event horizon radius would be about 3 km (1.875 miles) and the diameter would be about 6 km (3.75 miles). Rather than using ‘kilometers’ as a measurement, I have indicated the diameter of the event horizon in terms of ‘microseconds’, keeping in mind that it takes light from our sun eight minutes to reach Earth, a distance of 149,600,000 km (93,500,000 miles). Since 1983, the speed of light has been defined as the length of the path traveled by light in vacuum during a time interval of 1/299,792,458 of a second. This makes the speed of light exactly 299,792.458 km/s. A microsecond is one millionth of a second.
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