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30: The Battle of Twelve Suns
Warning: The intensity and violence of some of the scenes in this and in subsequent chapters describing various battles between the Ayanumuz and Melkor and their aftermath may prove problematic for some readers. This is the only warning I will give for this.
"What was that!?" Varda exclaimed as she helped Manwë oversee the battle from the top of the mountain on Erumëambar where Námo had had his encounter with Atar and which they were beginning to refer to as Dáhanigwishtelgun.
"Trouble," was Manwë’s only reply as he attempted to gauge what was happening. Ulmo was trying to tell him something, something important, but his thoughts were scattered as he battled against this unexpected foe. The Urushigasumaz, as Aulë was calling these particular Úmáyar, were far more dangerous than any of Melkor’s other warriors and Ulmo’s attention was more on them and protecting Nessa and the Máyar than on speaking to Manwë.
"There are several more of those blue-white supergiants heading our way," Eönwë reported. "They are approaching from different quadrants."
"Those are my stars!" Varda shouted in fury. "How dare he!"
"Twelve altogether," Manwë mused. "Interesting, but a bit of an over-kill, brother."
Before Manwë could issue any orders concerning the new threat, several of the Ayanumuz unwittingly followed Ulmo and Nessa’s lead and tried to push the stars into different trajectories. That, however, was the wrong thing to do, for their thoughts acted as a trigger to release the Urushigasumaz from their prisons. Suddenly the Ayanumuz and Máyar were battling not just Melkor’s usual troops but twelve incredibly strong beings of pure nuclear fire.
"Damn!" Námo shouted at Oromë from where they were stationed below the ecliptic one hundred-eighty degrees south of where Nasarphelun was located. "He must have set the trigger so that if any of us tried to push the stars away with our thoughts it would just release these monsters."
Oromë merely nodded, too busy trying to protect Roimendil and Tilion from the nuclear blasts of the foe to answer.
The battle was fast and furious. All along the ecliptic electromagnetic bolts and nuclear fire shot silently across space. Where the Urushigasumaz missed and their fire hit one of the planets instead, huge clouds of nuclear fallout would bloom upon the planet’s surface, or, in the case of the gas giants, would simply be swallowed up by the tidal forces that governed them. Several of these nuclear explosions were occurring on Ambarhíni itself, much to the horror and dismay of the Ayanumuz and their Máyar servants.
Námo and Vairë led their People up across the ecliptic and towards where the remnant of Tirisambar orbited. Melkor’s army had ignored it in its push towards Mahalmambar. From there the two Ayanumuz could see more clearly what was happening.
"Manwë is too hemmed in to really see what he needs to know," Námo said and assigned Maranwë the task of relaying to the Eldest all that they were seeing. "Look!" Námo pointed. "Those three Urushigasumaz coming north over the black hole are going to hit Aulë’s planet. If they manage to destroy it, we will be left without another base from which to regroup."
Even as he spoke he could see a contingent of Máyar headed by Aulë himself rushing towards where the Urushigasumaz were laying down fire upon Urnambar in an attempt to destroy the planet.
"Melkor is moving towards our world, beloved," Vairë observed, her tone tight with anger and sorrow mixed.
"I know, but it cannot be helped," Námo replied. "I still think it was a mistake for Manwë to retreat to Erumëambar."
"I just wish we could do something to stop Melkor from taking our world," Vairë retorted.
Námo gave her a brief hug and kiss. "He can take our world, but he can never take us."
Vairë gave him an amused look. "Since when have you become so poetic?"
Námo merely smirked. "Surprised you, haven’t I?"
Before Vairë could respond to Námo’s smugness, Maranwë called out. "Lord, we’ve got company!"
Námo looked to see where Maranwë was pointing and saw that two of the fiery beings had emerged not far from them and were heading their way. "Look sharp, people," he ordered. "Try not to get fried."
Engaging these beings of pure nuclear fire in the usual ways did not work. They were very nearly unstoppable and it actually took the combined efforts of two and sometimes even three of the Ayanumuz to handle just one. The Máyar, to their everlasting dismay, found that even a concerted effort on their part did little to deter these Úmáyar. Námo ordered several of his and Vairë’s combined forces to lend them their strength, keeping the rest in reserve. When one of Aulë’s People attempted to grapple with one and found himself being seared by fire unquenchable, they realized that they could never allow any of the Urushigasumaz within touching distance. Estë was unsure if the unfortunate Máya would ever fully recover.
"Ready?" Námo asked Vairë.
"Always," came the quick reply.
When several nearby Máyar snickered knowingly, both Ayanumuz glared at them, then gave each other grins before turning their attention back to the approaching enemy. The two Úmáyar separated, intending to come at them from two fronts, forcing the Ayanumuz to split their attention and their resources.
"They’re not going to make it easy for us, are they?" Námo muttered sourly as he sent a bolt of pure power fueled by his anger and frustration into the heart of the one facing him.
"Have they ever?" Vairë retorted, dealing out an electromagnetic bolt at her own attacker who neatly dodged it.
Námo, Vairë and their Máyar were keeping the larger of the two planetoids between them and the Urushigasumaz who were using the smaller world as their own shield. There was much dodging back and forth as bolts of energy and fire flared silently between the two parties. Nuclear explosions and planetary quakes rocked the worlds and without realizing it the battlers were actually pushing what was left of Tirisambar into a new orbit that was a few degrees closer to the plane of the ecliptic though it was still obliquely skewed.
All this time Námo and Vairë fought on different fronts each with half of their Máyar helping. There was no separation of the Máyar either — Maranwë and Calimo were actually fighting in Vairë’s camp while some of Vairë’s People were fighting with Námo. It did not matter. In this they were all as one in their desire to protect their lord and lady.
Indeed, several of the Máyar kept very close to the two Ayanumuz, wanting to protect them without necessarily getting in their way. Ardalanyamo and Ancalequirindë especially were mindful of their lady’s orders and stuck as close to Námo as they dared without being obvious about it. Neither were aware that Elemmartarirë and Morinehtar were doing the same for Vairë.
Námo suddenly ‘grabbed’ Ancalequirindë and she felt her energy flowing out of her and into him as several energy bolts and flames of pure star stuff flashed soundlessly in the space between them and the enemy. She steeled herself for the energy drain, not expecting that such a demand would be made of her by an Ayanuz to whom she had not given allegiance. Yet, dimly she realized that in this war there were no divisions other than ‘us’ and ‘them’. She was a Máya and her very existence was based on service to the Ayanumuz, whoever they were. It was how Atar had made her and all her Máyar brethren.
Ancalequirindë stared at the oncoming Urushigasaz, even as she continued to lend her strength to Námo, thinking that he looked familiar to her, though she could not be sure. There was something in the monster’s aura that resonated with her but she couldn’t quite place it. Why did this fiery being seem so familiar to her?
Suddenly, the Úmáyar attacking Vairë rushed the Ayanuz, intending on grabbing her. Her cry of alarm distracted Námo enough that he turned his attention away from his own attacker for just a split second, just long enough to send the foe attacking his beloved spinning into the far reaches of space with the aid of several Máyar. It was a split second he could not afford, for that left him open to the other Urushigasaz’s attack and at that moment Ancalequirindë recognized who it was.
"Phanairushur, no!" she screamed even as she attempted to place herself in front of Námo to protect him from the nuclear fire aimed at him. She only caught the edge of the attack, for her energy was even more depleted than she had realized and she moved too slowly, yet it was enough to send her into convulsions and her screams rent the very fabric of the universe. Námo, hearing her, turned just in time to suffer the full brunt of the attack and his own screams were added to hers.
The heat he was expecting from the flames enveloping him never came. Instead, he was surrounded by searing cold fire. This was not the welcoming warmth of normal star cores around which he had slept. This was a cold he had never imagined before and it consumed him like a dark wave of corruption. He had only a second or so to spare before consciousness fled to grab Ancalequirindë and drag her out of the line of fire. Even as his mind fled into darkness he heard the Máya whisper, "M-my brother... th-that was m-my brother," and then he heard no more.
Námo came slowly to consciousness and wished that he hadn’t. Pain the like of which he had never experienced, not even under Melkor’s torture, coursed through him and he wanted to scream but did not have the strength. He must have made some sort of sound though, for suddenly, Vairë was there beside him, or perhaps she had always been there and he only just now noticed as the pain began to subside and become more manageable.
"Hush, love," she whispered.
"What happened?" he asked, struggling to keep conscious. "Ancalequirindë?"
"Estë and Irmo are with her."
That was Oromë. Námo gave him a sour grin. "I think I forgot to duck," he said and Oromë chuckled, though there was no real humor in it.
"Apparently," he said. "You and Ancalequirindë were very fortunate."
"Fortunate?" Námo exclaimed in disbelief. "You call this fortunate?"
"You’re both with us," Oromë retorted. "Though it looks as if Ancalequirindë will be very weak for some time to come." He looked sad at that.
"What happened?" Námo insisted a second time.
"Ancalequirindë was too weak to deflect the bolt meant for you," Vairë told him.
"Weak? Why weak?" He was struggling to remember that last battle but his fëa was still pain-wracked and his memory hazy.
"You don’t remember taking most of her energy to help combat the enemy?" Vairë asked softly.
Námo just stared at her in stunned disbelief at the ramifications of her words. He groaned. "She... she said he was her brother."
Oromë nodded. "So we’ve since learned. At any rate, she tried to shield you but her own powers were depleted and she could only deflect the fire slightly." He grimaced. "It wasn’t enough to stop you from receiving the worst of it but it was enough to incapacitate you both. Frankly, I’m surprised you’re even conscious. Ancalequirindë is still out and your brother doesn’t think she will ever fully recover."
"Why was she even there?" Námo demanded somewhat angrily. "What business did she even have, jumping in front of me like that?"
"Because I asked her to," Vairë answered softly.
Námo stared at her in shock. "You what?"
"I asked her and Ardalanyamo to stay by you and protect you for me." Vairë’s expression was bleak and there was a sense of guilt in it.
"Just as you asked Elemmartamirë and Morinehtar to watch over Vairë," Oromë added, attempting to deflect Námo’s ire.
Námo sighed, looking both chagrined and embarrassed as Vairë gave him a considering look. "Where are we?" he asked, hoping to change the direction of their conversation to something safer.
"Erumëambar," Oromë answered.
"How did we escape?"
"When you and Ancalequirindë went down," Vairë said, "I was so afraid for you both and angry with myself for allowing you to be distracted that I simply tore into the Úmáya."
"She and all the other Máyar bombarded Phanairushur until there was little left of him," Oromë added with a grim smile. "Then, Vairë opened a way into Cúma and thrust him out of Eä."
"It will be a long time before he finds his way back, if he ever does."
They all looked up to see Manwë and Varda approaching. "Ancalequirindë has regained consciousness," the Eldest told them,"though it is doubtful she will be able to fight again."
"How are you faring, Námo?" Varda asked solicitously.
"I’ve been better," Námo admitted, "but I’ll survive. How goes the battle?"
"Poorly, for us," Manwë averred with a sigh, his expression troubled. "We’ve managed to neutralize three of the Urushigasumaz, but the other nine are still active."
"What are your plans?" Oromë enquired.
"For the moment, nothing," Manwë replied. "Melkor seems to have pulled his People back for the moment, so we are enjoying a respite, though for how long is anyone’s guess."
"What of Ambarhíni?" Námo asked.
"We still hold it along with Nasarphelun and Azulezphelun. Ambarhíni, however, has been ravaged by nuclear fire." Manwë sighed. "I’m afraid we have our work cut out for us once this is over. Much will need to be rebuilt."
Námo sighed, feeling suddenly weary.
"You should rest while you can, love," Vairë said, giving him a kiss.
"Vairë is correct, Námo," Varda interjected when Námo started to protest. "There is naught you can do at the moment. Best to rest and regain your strength."
"Will do well enough," Manwë assured him. "She may never be the Máya that she was but she will be well, I promise you."
"She should never have tried to deflect that blast."
"Perhaps not," Oromë admonished him, "but I think if you were to ask her she would beg to differ. She did what she did out of love for both you and Vairë. Do not belittle her sacrifice out of a sense of guilt or whatever. She deserves better from you."
For a moment Námo said nothing, then he sighed. "You are right, of course," he finally said, though he would not look at any of them.
"I’m always right, Little Brother," Oromë rejoined with a smirk. "Haven’t you figured that out yet?"
Námo’s rude reply was lost in the laughter that rang from the rest of them.
During the lull in the battle the Ayanumuz took an inventory of the damage wrought so far.
"Well, Tirisambar has been dislocated," Manwë gave them the report from their outpost atop Dáhanigwishtelgun, "and all those stars going nova as they did and so close to this system, Nienna’s planet has been... um... knocked on its side so that its north pole is facing insystem. We’ve collected a fair number of new satellites which the gas giants have captured thanks to Melkor’s cometary screen. We still hold the inner system from Nasarphelun but now Melkor has moved his base of operations to Phanaiphelun."
"How much damage has Ambarhíni sustained?" Námo asked. He had been too busy fighting and then recovering from his injuries to bother to see for himself.
Manwë shook his head. "We’ll have to rebuild most of it. There has been too much nuclear fallout from the Urushigasumaz’s fire. Even this planet has seen its fair share of hits but the focus has been on the Children’s world."
"Where are the Urushigasumaz?" Oromë asked. He had lost track of what was going on when Vairë had called for help in bringing Námo and Ancalequirindë to safety.
"The last report from the Máyar has them at Phanaiphelun," Ulmo said. He gave them a wry grin. "I think Melkor was a bit put out losing three of them. I have the feeling he’s rethinking his plans in light of that."
"Which means we should as well," Námo said. "It’s time we went on the offensive, Manwë. We cannot just sit back and wait for Melkor to make all the moves. Those Urushigasumaz need to be eliminated. They are the greatest threat to our existence and to Ambarhíni."
"What do you propose?" Manwë asked somewhat doubtfully.
Námo nodded to Oromë who answered. "I can take a few of my warriors and hunt them down. I’ve been watching how they fight and what effect they have on us and I think I see a way of taking them out, though it will not be easy."
"How successful do you think you will be?" Varda asked.
Oromë shrugged. "Won’t know that until I try. I will need help from at least one other Ayanuz. I want to try to trap as many of the Urushigasumaz as possible and eliminate them all at once. After the first attack we will lose the element of surprise."
"And what are the rest of us doing while you are on your... um... hunt?" Aulë asked with some amusement.
"Creating a diversion," Námo said. "We need to keep Melkor occupied while Oromë and I deal with the Urushigasumaz."
"You?" Vairë demanded. "You’re barely able to see straight. Why are you helping Oromë?"
Námo gave her a meaningful stare. "Because for Oromë’s plan to work we may need to destroy Ezellambar and I want to be there when that happens."
There was absolute silence at that as the others stared at Námo and Oromë in disbelief. Finally Manwë spoke. "You’ve both been planning this all along, haven’t you?"
"When the Urushigasumaz appeared and we saw what we were up against," Oromë answered, "it was obvious to me that something drastic might need to be done to stop them. Námo and I have devised a plan that may work, but there is no guarantee and we could just end up making things worse for us."
"At least if we attempt this, we may win," Námo added, "but if we just sit here and wait for Melkor to attack again, we will surely lose."
"They have a point," Ulmo said, speaking to Manwë who still seemed reluctant to agree to their plan. "I wouldn’t mind taking a shot at those Úmáyar again myself."
Oromë grinned. "If we fail you may get your wish."
"What sort of diversion were you thinking of?" Aulë asked.
Now Oromë hesitated and the abashed look he and Námo shared did not go unnoticed by the others. "Er... well... I’m not sure you’re going to like it...." he stammered.
Manwë gave him a wry grin. "I don’t like it already, youngster, but you might as well tell us so we can all be dismayed together."
After another moment’s hesitation, Oromë proceeded to tell them. When he finished outlining the plan he and Námo had devised there was a long silence. Then Manwë sighed. "So be it."
"I’m going with you, and it’s not debatable," Vairë told Námo and Oromë some time later as they were finalizing their plans.
"No, Námo. If you’re going to destroy our world you’re going to do it with me beside you."
The set look she gave him convinced Námo of the fruitlessness of arguing and he simply shrugged. "Fine, come if you want," he said with bad grace. Vairë tried hard not to smirk but she wasn’t completely successful.
"Actually, having another with us might help," Oromë said in a reasonable tone. "I really don’t think taking our Máyar with us will do much good. It takes too many of them working in concert to deal with just one of the Urushigasumaz."
"Who else were you going to take?" Vairë asked.
"Roimendil, Tilion and Ulcuroitar," Oromë answered. "I think Námo was thinking of bringing Maranwë and Calimo."
"Not Morinehtar?" Vairë asked.
Námo indicated denial. "He would come if I asked but he does not wish to leave Ancalequirindë’s side. I think they have feelings for one another."
Vairë looked at him in surprise. "I did not know."
Námo gave her a sour grin. "Neither did they... until now."
"Ah...." was Vairë’s only comment.
"Are we ready then?" Oromë asked.
Námo and Vairë nodded. "I will have Ardalanyamo join us if I may," she said.
Námo and Oromë indicated their consent and so three Ayanumuz and six Máyar set out to eliminate the Urushigasumaz knowing that they might well have to destroy a planet to do so.
Dáhanigwishtelgun: (Valarin) The original name for Taniquetil.
Urushigasumaz: (Valarin) Plural of Urushigasaz: Fiery-heat Ones. Constructed word based on what little is known of Valarin.
Úmáyar: (Quenya) Maiar who became evil and followed Melkor, literally ‘un-Maiar’.
Phanairushur: (Valarin) ‘Bright Fire’.
Author’s Note: The idea of the twelve suns and Oromë ‘hunting’ them is inspired by an ancient Chinese legend, which I discovered while living in China. The original legend has nine suns but I made it twelve for this story because the Eldar use a base-12 counting system. According to the legend, there was a time when nine suns ruled the heavens, making it impossible for life to flourish on earth, for their heat parched the land so no crops could grow and all the waters had dried up. In the midst of their agony the people call upon a Hero to hunt down and destroy the suns. The Hero eventually tracks them to a tree where they are resting and one by one he shoots them with his arrows until only one sun remains. He spares that sun and that’s why we only have one in the sky now and why life is able to flourish on our planet.
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