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31: The Death of Hope
The plan was deceptively simple but its execution would be difficult. Manwë and the other Ayanumuz would create a diversion while Námo, Oromë and Vairë with their six Máyar made their way to Phanaiphelun where they hoped to trap as many of the Urushigasumaz as possible and perhaps even some of Melkor’s other troops and eliminate them. Just how they were to do that was still something they hadn’t figured out yet.
"We need to make ourselves a target they cannot resist," Oromë said with a feral grin as they hid themselves on an errant asteroid, waiting for the signal from Manwë. The asteroid, making its slow way insystem from above the ecliptic, was still in the vicinity of Mahalmambar’s orbit.
"Nay, lord," Roimendil objected. "We need to make ourselves the target," — indicating himself and his fellow Máyar — "while you and Lord Námo and Lady Vairë set the trap."
"He’s correct," Námo said, forestalling Oromë’s objection. "We Ayanumuz are the only ones capable of defeating the Urushigasumaz and it’s debatable that we will even be successful."
"What exactly do we need to do?" Vairë asked, for she had not been privy to the discussion between Námo and Oromë earlier.
Námo it was who answered her. "We need to trap as many of the Úmáyar on Phanaiphelun as we can, then destroy the planet in such a way that the cataclysm will, if not eliminate them, at least render them unable to retaliate long enough for us to shove them into the Void. It would be ages, if ever, before they could reconstitute themselves and become a threat to us again."
"That’s why you wanted to be there, isn’t it?" Vairë asked Námo quietly.
Námo gave her a sympathetic look. "I thought one of us should be there when our... world came to an end."
"Not an end," Vairë insisted. "Merely a new beginning that will herald the retaking of Atháraphelun from Melkor."
Námo grinned and took her into his embrace, giving her a swift kiss. "Now I know why I need to marry you," he said with a laugh.
"But you haven’t properly proposed to me," Vairë retorted with a grin of her own. "If you don’t hurry up I might end up accepting Oromë’s proposal instead."
Námo gave Vairë a disbelieving look and glanced at a flustered Oromë whose usual bright orange aura was now tinged with green shading to blue with embarrassment. "I would never... I mean... I’m not... we’re not...that is I didn’t..."
"That’s a lot of negatives in there," Námo couldn’t help but tease his friend. Then he turned to Vairë with a sly grin. "Methinks the Ayanuz protesteth too much."
Vairë actually giggled and Oromë’s aura turned a deep red-orange before returning to its more natural hue as his humor was restored, realizing that both Vairë and Námo had been teasing him, and themselves. The Máyar wisely remained silent.
"Lord Námo," Maranwë said, "I think something is happening."
They all gazed outward and beheld a rather curious sight. "Why is Lord Aulë moving his planet?" Tilion asked rather stupidly, not entirely sure he was seeing things correctly.
"Perhaps he was tired of the view," Námo said with a straight face, though he and Oromë were laughing silently at the expressions of disbelief exhibited by the Máyar, for, of course, they had not been told of the plan in its entirety. Vairë just gave them a scathing look but neither appeared repentant.
The Máyar watched in stunned amazement as Azulezphelun began slowly moving outsystem, bypassing the orbit that would someday be filled by a planet of hope for the Children, to settle in an orbit around Ambarhíni itself.
"What does Lord Manwë hope to accomplish by..." Ardalanyamo started to ask when the answer became obvious.
"Ah... Melkor just hates it when one of us flaunts our powers in his face, doesn’t he?" Oromë said with a wicked grin. "Time to go."
Indeed it was. Even as Aulë’s world was making its way towards Ambarhíni, several of Melkor’s troops, with Melkor taking the lead, made their way from Phanaiphelun towards Ambarhíni. The orbits of the various planets were such that at this juncture the Children’s world was nearly aligned with Phanaiphelun while Erumëambar was on the other side of the black hole from them. It was one reason Oromë and Námo had elected not to remain on Erumëambar. They would be in a better position to strike Phanaiphelun from ‘behind’ as it were.
By now their asteroid base was crossing Phanaiphelun’s orbit but still at an angle of about ten degrees above the ecliptic. Its present orbit would eventually bring it close enough to the black hole to draw it into a tighter orbit. Someday, perhaps before the Children ever awoke, the asteroid would eventually find itself plunging past the black hole’s event horizon to be forever lost. For now, though, it served as a convenient base of operations for the Ayanumuz. It was typical of Melkor and his People that they simply ignored it as being too insignificant to offer them a threat, thus none of them ever bothered to scan the heavens outsystem for possible attacks from that direction. In their arrogance, it simply never occurred to them that their opponents would be that devious.
"Or rather that Manwë would be that devious," Oromë had corrected Námo when he had mentioned it earlier as they were making their plans. "I think that in our Fallen Brother’s mind, he’s fighting against Manwë alone, for they are true brothers in Atar’s Thought, something that I think Melkor always resented. The rest of us are... inconvenient annoyances, but Melkor’s hatred is squarely focused on Manwë and his contempt for his brother is obvious."
"His contempt and stupidity," Námo had offered with a sneer, "especially if he ignores the fact that not all of us are as innocent of guile as our Eldest Brother."
Oromë had merely grinned at that.
Now they were seeing the fruits of that deviousness taking form before their eyes. Námo automatically gave everyone the planetary coordinates for a certain lake on one of the smaller landmasses in the southern hemisphere of Phanaiphelun. They had been able to determine that Melkor and his troops were primarily stationed on the largest landmass which straddled the equator. Their destination was on the opposite side of the planet and they were hoping that in the confusion of the diversion, their presence would go unnoticed, at least at first.
"Interesting that he leaves his Urushigasumaz behind," Calimo offered.
"He lost three in the first skirmish," Oromë answered. "He may not want to risk them until he knows he can use them with impunity. I don’t think he thought we would learn how to counteract them as quickly as we did. I think he hoped to overwhelm us with their incredible powers."
"It almost succeeded," Vairë pointed out as they emerged beside the lake which was dimly reflecting the starlight above them.
"Which is why we want to get rid of them now," Námo said. "Melkor made the mistake of dividing them into small groups. He should have kept them as a single unit. They would have been more effective and more devastating. We would have had no hope of stopping them."
"Then we should thank Atar for small favors," Oromë said with a grin and the rest of them nodded.
Námo turned his attention to the six Máyar. "What are your thoughts?"
The six Máyar gave each other quick glances before Roimendil, who seemed to be their unofficial leader, spoke. "We know where they are located. We were thinking of coming at them by way of the planetary core."
"That’s what we need to do," Námo said with a nod. "They need to be drawn into the core, at which point we will trigger the explosion. That should hopefully incapacitate them long enough to deal with them."
"They are unlikely to detect your approach if you pass through the core," Oromë agreed. Then his expression became stern and he spoke next as one of the Máhanumaz, "but I tell you now that none of you are to engage in combat with them. Taunt them, insult them, make them angry, whatever you wish, but your task is to bring them to the core, nothing more. As soon as you reach the core you are to think yourselves immediately to these coordinates." He gave them the spatiotemporal coordinates for Erumëambar and Dáhanigwishtelgun. "Await us there, or if Lord Manwë desires you elsewhere, obey his commands. Is that clear?"
Roimendil, Tilion and Ulcuroitar gave their lord reluctant nods, clearly unhappy at their orders, for they had hoped to play a more active role in this war. Maranwë, Calimo and Ardalanyamo, however, looked to their own lord and lady to assure themselves that Lord Oromë’s orders applied to them as equally as they applied to his own Máyar. When Námo and Vairë both indicated that indeed the orders applied to them all, they too nodded their acceptance of their orders, little though they liked them.
"It will be as thou commandest, lord," Roimendil said with a bow and the others all followed with their own obeisance.
"That is well, my children," Oromë replied, sounding less forbidding. "We value you all too much to wish to lose you needlessly. There will be other battles. Do not think we will defeat them completely. Melkor is more powerful than you can truly comprehend and I fear this war will be waged in one form or another for ages to come."
"Go now with Atar’s blessings and ours," Námo intoned and Vairë gave them all a quick embrace and kiss in benediction, which seemed to embarrass them, much to the Ayanumuz’s amusement.
Without another word the six Máyar disappeared. Oromë turned to his fellow Ayanumuz. "We’ll give them enough time to pass the core before we start setting up the detonation."
Námo and Vairë stared out upon the lake... their lake. It was their favorite spot on the entire planet and they were both grateful that Melkor had ignored it for the larger landmass. *Whatever happens, at least we can remember this place and know that Melkor never touched it,* Námo bespoke Vairë on their private frequency. Her only response was to draw closer into his embrace as they waited for the Máyar to complete their part of the mission.
They waited until they sensed that the planet had completed twenty degrees of its rotation from when they first emerged by the lake before willing themselves inside the planetary core. The molten core was much cooler than the heart of even the coolest red giant, but it would serve their purpose. At this point Námo took over, his knowledge of chaos physics being greater than Oromë’s, though Vairë’s knowledge of the mathematics involved was nearly on a par with Námo’s. Her area of expertise was on the subatomic level and the interweaving of the subparticles to create the whole. Together they would pool their knowledge to destroy the planet that had become, for them, the physical embodiment of their love for one another.
"Here and here," Námo pointed out the weak points in the core. "These two pressure points will do." He sent Oromë a mental picture of what needed to be done and the older Ayanuz nodded.
"How do we shield ourselves?" he asked. "The forces we plan to release will knock us out as easily as it will the Urushigasumaz."
"We don’t shield ourselves," Námo answered with a smile. "We ride the shock waves."
"We don’t need to be inside the core to detonate it," Námo explained, flashing Oromë and Vairë a smirk. "At least I don’t."
Oromë turned to Vairë with a scowl. "When this is all over can I smack him silly?"
"You’ll have to get in line behind me," came Vairë’s retort.
Námo merely laughed. Then he went on to explain what he intended. "As soon as our People arrive we begin the detonation sequence. The Urushigasumaz will be right behind the Máyar so as soon as they arrive we attack, keeping them too busy to notice what else is happening. When I give the signal, think yourselves to these coordinates. I’ll do the rest." He flashed them a set of numbers and the other two nodded.
"Sound’s almost too simple," Oromë opined.
"The simpler it is the fewer ways it can go wrong."
"Do you expect it to go wrong?" Vairë asked.
Námo scowled. "It has already gone wrong. Our People should have been here by now."
"Perhaps they’re just giving us more time...."
That was Maranwë as he suddenly appeared before them looking frazzled. "We think we managed to lure seven or eight of them, lord," he reported to Námo. "I’m sorry we couldn’t...."
"It matters not," Námo assured him. "You have done well. Go now."
Maranwë hesitated for only a second before complying. Almost as soon as he left the other five Máyar arrived, gave the Ayanumuz their obeisance, and disappeared again. Right behind them came several fiery beings. Námo never hesitated. With a single thought he ‘pushed’ some of the magma boiling around them so that it welled up and engulfed four of the beings before they had time to think, then he blasted them with several electromagnetic bolts. Vairë and Oromë were similarly occupied. The Urushigasumaz, eight in all, bellowed in fury and unleashed their own stellar fire at the three Ayanumuz, who dodged the flares with ease.
There did not seem to be any others of Melkor’s People following so Námo gave the other two Ayanumuz the signal and they thought themselves away. Námo stayed behind just long enough to set the trigger and at the same time cause several tons of molten magma to rain upon the Úmáyar before thinking himself away, mentally counting down the seconds. Even as he emerged into space high above the ecliptic he could sense the pressures building up inside the planet’s core and then the world went incandescent and all around him space warped in strange and unexpected ways.
"What’s happening?" Vairë shouted as she and Oromë joined Námo. "It’s not supposed to do that, is it?"
"No!" Námo exclaimed in horror as he realized he had gravely miscalculated. All around them space was warping as Phaniphelun continued to explode. Much of the force was directed insystem and Ambarhíni was in its direct path.
"Can we stop it," Oromë asked, "or at least deflect it?"
Námo just shook his head, too stunned and heartsick to answer.
"I think we’re too late," Vairë stated bleakly, "and besides, I think we have a bigger problem."
Námo and Oromë stared at where she was pointing and Námo felt sick all over again. Out of the cataclysm that was all that was left of their bright world, figures of fire and shadow were rising. At first, Námo wasn’t sure what he was seeing, and then he somehow realized what had happened. He had been thinking of these beings as just stronger versions of some of Melkor’s other troops, but that, he now knew, was a fallacy. These Urushigasumaz were a different breed of Úmáyar altogether.
"Where are the others?" Oromë asked suddenly, looking confused. "I only count four."
"That explosion should have incapacitated them so why are they still conscious?" Vairë asked almost at the same time.
Námo just pointed. "They’re there, brother," he whispered, deciding to answer Oromë’s question first. "I think those eight that were in the core at the moment of the explosion were... fused into four."
"Are you serious?" Oromë demanded in disbelief.
"Look for yourself," Námo demanded. "Each of those four seem to have a double signature. They are exhibiting the blended aurae of two beings merged into one."
"That’s... that’s.... obscene," Vairë stuttered.
Námo gave her an embrace but said nothing more.
They watched as the four Urushigasumaz rose out of the nuclear fire that surrounded them with something like awe. Then Námo shook himself, forcing the sense of dread that threatened to overwhelm him away. "Quickly, before they get their bearings." At that he launched a preemptive strike against the beings, sending bolt after bolt of electromagnetic forces into them. Oromë and Vairë were right behind him with their own attacks. The Urushigasumaz returned their own fire. Even as Námo dodged the attack, though, he realized something: the Úmáyar’s fire was no longer as deadly as it had been before. Somehow, in the process of merging and perhaps as a consequence of the explosion and subsequent warping of space in that area, their powers had lessened.
That wasn’t to say they were no longer powerful, just the opposite. If anything they were more deadly because their rage now knew no bounds and Námo had a sick sense that part of the rage was fueled by madness as two fëar that should never have been joined were now merging into one, each struggling for dominance over the other.
Which is probably why their aim is off, he thought grimly to himself even as he returned fire for fire. Then, even as they were battling with the four monsters (and they were truly monstrous now in Námo’s opinion) a fifth Urushigasaz emerged from out of the ashes of the planet. This particular Úmáya seemed larger and deadlier than the other four and there was something about its aural signature that seemed familiar. When it turned its attention to Námo he shuddered, for there was a dark sense of being examined and found... desirable.
"Cosmoco." Námo barely whispered the name. He had often wondered why Melkor’s Chief lieutenant had never been around during his time of captivity and now he knew. Cosmoco had been in one of those twelve blue-white supergiants being slowly transformed into one of the Urushigasumaz.
He ‘heard’ the Úmáya laugh and it made his fëa want to scream. All the horror he had experienced under Melkor’s torture came rushing back to him and he felt a dark wave threaten to drown him.
Námo pulled himself out of the miasma of memory threatening him to look to Vairë who was ignoring the Urushigasumaz and pointing towards Ambarhíni. Huge chunks of what had once been Phanaiphelun had gone spinning into space with the explosion but the additional warping of space had somehow added fuel to their momentum and had directed it, for instead of the damage spreading more or less evenly across space, most of it was heading directly towards Ambarhíni and Urnambar. Enormous tidal forces were rippling across the intervening space between the two planetary orbits. They could see Urnambar wobbling in its place and core-deep cracks begin to form across the surface of the Children’s world. And then...
"Atar save us!" Oromë yelled.
Urnambar was slowly but inexorably being drawn towards the surface of Ambarhíni, its orbit decaying at a rapid rate as incalculable forces bombarded both planets. The three Ayanumuz could hear the panic in the voices of their fellows and in the Máyar trying to stave off disaster, but it was too late. To make matters worse, Melkor suddenly appeared among his Urushigasumaz, ignoring the three Ayamumuz. He gathered them all to him in an obscene embrace.
At that precise moment all the other Ayanumuz along with their Máyar appeared, surrounding Námo, Vairë and Oromë, with Manwë, looking grim, and Varda, looking incensed, at the forefront. Melkor sneered at his brother in Atar’s Thought. "What’s the matter, Little Brother? Are you getting bored?"
"You cannot win, Melkor," Manwë said. "Atar won’t...."
"What? Won’t allow it?" Melkor’s sneer deepened. "You little fool. Atar already has allowed it. Atháraphelun is mine, always will be mine. Your little ploy failed, Manwë."
"You are the greatest of us, Melkor," Manwë nearly pleaded. "You could have done so much for...."
"You are so pathetic, Manwë," Melkor interjected, stopping long enough to fondle one of the Urushigasumaz in a way that left them all feeling soiled. Then he turned back to Manwë. "Go hide, Little Brother. Mayhap Atar will let you come out to play some other day." He gave the same Urushigasumaz another nuzzle and they watched as the Úmáyar gave a shuddering groan of dark delight that nevertheless held a tinge of fear to it. "Come and play, children," Melkor said with a final sneer at the Ayamumuz and left.
"We couldn’t stem the tide," Manwë said to no one in particular, as if trying to explain something to himself... or to Atar. "Melkor had his troops fighting us so furiously we could do nothing to save either planet."
"Atháraphelun is lost to us," Varda said in a voice that was devoid of all emotion.
Námo gazed across space to watch in rising horror as Urnambar fell towards the surface of the larger planet and all around they could see Melkor’s troops playfully lobbing chunks of rock and ice at one another and at the planets now under their control. The Urushigasumaz were at the forefront of throwing their fire around and watching the explosions while Melkor stood to one side and laughed.
"Come," Manwë said. "There is nothing more we can do here. We must flee. Atháraphelun is no longer ours."
With that he sent them all coordinates for Máhanumazphelun and such was the force of his command that none of them, not even Námo, dared disobey.
Seconds later, the Jewel of Atar’s Creation was left in the hands of the enemy.
Cosmoco: The Quenya form of Gothmog, Lord of Balrogs.
Máhanumazphelun: The planet where the Máhanumaz, the eight most powerful of the Ayanumuz, often met.
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