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From the sealed files of Dr. Ron Brightman:
Name: Loren DelaFiore (Glorfindel of the House of the Golden Flower)
Personality Profile: ESTJ: Commander
Charm: Average by elvish standards
Planning ability: Jaw-dropping
Survival preparations: Jaw-dropping squared
Weapons skill: Average by elvish standards (unless fighting with a sword)
Warm fuzzies: ‘I’m not paying you to feel good’
Leadership skills: Natural born
Motto: ‘I slew a balrog. This is nothing.’
Analysis: When the Dagor Dagorath commences, I want to be wherever Loren ends up, because that will most likely be the safest place on the planet. Forget Valinor. Forget bunkers. Forget Tom Cruise. Loren is a natural-born leader and organizer, which is why he has made Elf Academy so successful. He is able to plan ahead to a degree that I swear he must have the blood of the Ainur in him (assuming the Ainur have blood) to be able to see so far ahead and plan for contingencies. As a Judger, that is one of his strengths. Unfortunately, Loren isn’t too hot on improvisation, though as a warrior he has learned to improvise on the spot simply as a survival tactic, but he is unlikely to do so in an emergency. Loren will have a goal in mind (he always has a goal in mind) and Eru help the poor bastard who gets in the way of achieving that goal. He may end up having to go around or under or over instead of straight through, but he will get there and when he does, I plan to be right next to him. Anywhere else on the planet is just asking to be killed.
That being said, I found my first counselling session with him troubling and on more than one level. I am not sure I like what I’m seeing. I have ordered a full physical. Loren was reluctant, no, let’s be honest. He was downright abusive in his language and he only calmed down when I assured him that no Mortal doctor would be there and he could have his choice of healers conducting the exam. I was not at all surprised when he immediately gave me Elrond’s name. I was able to convince him to also have Vardamir present to corroborate Elrond’s findings. Something is definitely wrong with Loren, though he hides it well. I think the dreams or nightmares he’s been having are significant and I hope to convince him to let me do a regression so we can get to the bottom of this…
Vorondur pressed the ‘Save’ button on his laptop and leaned back in the booth of the café where he was sitting and picked up the carafe of coffee, refilling his mug as he re-read his notes. It was nearly eight in the evening and the café was only about half full. After dinner, Holly had decided to take their sons to the movies and Amroth and Della had gone with them. Vorondur was not interested as he needed to finish up his notes for the day, but he had promised to meet the others at the café afterwards so Dar and Cani could have some ice cream. After everyone had left for the movies, though, he decided he didn’t want to stay at home until it was time to meet them, so he grabbed his laptop and the legal pad on which he had recorded his sessions with Loren and the other patients he had seen that day and went to the café to work, sitting in a back corner booth, facing the front.
After ordering coffee, he had been left alone. The two Mortal patients he had seen that day did not take long for him to write up for he had been counselling them for some time and was pleased that both were making progress towards psychological wholeness. He saved Glorfindel’s file for last, opening up a special file he had been keeping in which he recorded notes on the various denizens of Edhellond as well as a few of the Mortals who interacted with the Elves on a regular basis. This file was hidden and only he knew of it. Anyone who got a hold of his laptop would not know it was there or so he hoped.
Taking another sip of his coffee, he made a mental note to speak with Elrond and Mir in the morning and apprise them of what he needed from them and have Mir set up an appointment at the hospital. Vorondur was all for them examining Glorfindel using elvish healing techniques, but he wanted physical test results as well from blood work, X-rays, EKGs, even an MRI if necessary, to help him pinpoint what was happening with Loren.
And he was not convinced that the ellon was okay about Helyanwë leaving him whatever Loren said to the contrary. One thing Vorondur knew for sure: Loren was definitely floating down that big River in Egypt.
He leaned forward and, rechecking his notes, began tapping on the keyboard again.
“May I join you?”
Vorondur looked up to see Lord Námo standing there dressed in a pair of black slacks and a black turtleneck under a lightweight black duster. The Elf blinked, suddenly aware that the café, which had been bustling with waitpersons going to and fro filling orders and diners engaged in lively conversations with one another only a minute ago, was now oddly empty. Vorondur wasn’t sure if he should feel frightened by this or not as he stared up at the Lord of Mandos. Námo, for his part, smiled faintly.
“You are still in the café, but I have manipulated the space around us slightly to give us more privacy.”
“Oh,” was the only thing Vorondur could think to say, feeling completely out of his depth, and that was not something he had felt in a very long time. He swallowed and gestured to the booth across from him. “Please,” he said and Námo sidled into the seat. A second mug suddenly appeared and he poured some coffee into it, which, Vorondur reflected, was a neat trick, since he’d just emptied the carafe himself.
Námo flashed him a bright smile as he picked up his mug and took a sip, then put the mug down, his mien becoming more serious. “I see you’re writing up your session with Glorfindel. What are your thoughts about him?”
“You know I cannot discuss my patients even with you, my lord,” Vorondur said, giving the Vala a slightly smug smile as he leaned back into the booth and picked up his mug.
Námo raised an eyebrow. “Child, do you seriously think I don’t know what occurs behind closed doors, even yours? I could give you a verbatim account of every ‘um’ and ‘er’ the two of you uttered during that hour. Now, enough of your coyness. What are your thoughts concerning one Glorfindel of the House of the Golden Flower, aka Loren DelaFiore?”
Vorondur placed his mug on the table, put the laptop into sleep mode and closed it. Then he leaned forward, glaring at the Vala. “I have never broken a confidence before and I’m not about to do so now. I do not discuss my patients with anyone and they are off-limits even for you and the other Alien Overlords who bounce in and out of here like yo-yos demanding this and that. If you have something to tell me about Glorfindel, then say it. Do not play games with me, Námo. I am not in the mood.”
For a moment, Námo just sat there, apparently not at all upset by Vorondur’s attitude. “How are you and Ercassë enjoying your sons?”
Vorondur startled at the unexpectedness of the question and he felt himself go cold with dread and anger. “Don’t you dare!” he hissed. “You leave Dar and Cani out of this. They are not pawns for you—”
“Ron!” Námo reached over and placed a hand on Vorondur’s arm. “Hush now… shh… be calm,” he said soothingly and Vorondur felt himself grow quiescent in spite of himself. “It’s all right. Your sons are quite safe from me. I was just asking, I promise. I am genuinely interested in knowing how things are going with you.”
“I’m sure your spies keep you informed,” Vorondur said, pulling his arm back.
Námo did not respond to the barb, merely gazing at him with an air of sadness that surprised Vorondur. “Why the hostility, Child?” the Vala asked. “Why the anger? What do you fear?”
Vorondur blinked and went still. “I am being hostile, aren’t I,” he said wonderingly, trying to analyze his own feelings. “I guess I feel very protective towards my patients no less than I do towards my children.”
“And you see your Mortal patients as something like your children in need of guidance,” Námo said, making it more a statement than a question.
Vorondur looked up at the Vala. “If by that, you mean, I treat them as if they were children, you are mistaken. I admit that I feel a sense of paternal pride when one of them makes a breakthrough, but my goal is to bring them to psychological wholeness, not to make them dependent on me for their lives. I’m not sure I can say the same about any of the Valar.”
Námo gave him an amused look. “You’ve been itching to get us all on your couch, haven’t you?”
Vorondur snorted. “That’s putting it mildly, but we’re not here to analyze you, are we? What do you want, Námo? I know Glorfindel is not well and I intend to get to the bottom of what ails him, but if you have any pertinent information you wish to share with me, then do so, otherwise, stay out of it.”
“I can’t stay out of it, as you say,” Námo retorted. “I’m deeply into it. And you need to convince Glorfindel to allow you to regress him. He needs to remember his dream.”
“I will try—”
“There is no try, Ron,” Námo said.
“And now you’re quoting Star Wars?”
“I rather like Yoda. He’s very wise.” Námo paused and his whole demeanor became more solemn, his visage darkening in a way that Vorondur could not easily analyze and wasn’t sure he wanted to. At that moment, Námo was one scary dude, as Derek would’ve said, and Vorondur was suddenly wishing he had more than a table separating him from the Vala sitting across from him.
“Ron, Glorfindel is fading,” Námo said softly.
Vorondur blinked. “Is that even possible, especially now? Why now?”
“There are a number of factors involved,” Námo answered. “Part of it is simply the fact that too much has happened over the past half year, especially the mugging, which he really hasn’t dealt with, and part of it is that he’s being subtly attacked by the Enemy, though neither he nor anyone else recognizes this.”
“The disturbing dreams he’s been having,” Vorondur said.
“Actually, no. The dreams themselves are not the problem. My brother Irmo is responsible for them, but—”
“Your brother sent the dreams? Then you know what they’re about. Are they prophetic? Why did Glorfindel dream of dying? What—”
“I can’t answer that, Vorondur,” Námo interrupted, holding up a hand to stem the flood of questions pouring from the ellon’s lips.
“Can’t or won’t?” Vorondur demanded, growing angry all over again. “Damn you! You know what’s going on but you refuse to say. You come waltzing in here demanding I spill everything but you won’t reciprocate. You supercilious bastard!” He grabbed his laptop and started to sidle out of the booth, desiring nothing more than to leave, but there was a flurry of multicolored lights that temporarily blinded him, forcing him back into his seat as he hissed in pain. When he could see again, he found himself staring up at Lord Manwë and another whose features were similar enough to Námo’s, though his coloring was lighter, that he had to assume the Vala was Lord Irmo, Lord of Lórien, Námo’s brother in the Thought of Ilúvatar.
He glanced at Námo sitting across from him, calmly drinking his coffee. “So now you’re ganging up on me?”
There was a sigh that was everywhere and nowhere. Manwë gave Námo an amused look. “I think Glorfindel is a bad influence on everyone.”
Námo snorted but did not comment. Irmo caused two chairs to appear and he and Manwë sat facing Námo and Vorondur. “Peace, Child,” Manwë said. “We are not ganging up on you, as you say. Consider this a consultation among health care professionals discussing a course of treatment for a patient, in this case, Glorfindel.”
“I’ve already told Lord Námo that I don’t discuss my patients with anyone.”
“But surely you’ve consulted with other psychiatrists about your patients when perhaps you were unsure of the course of treatment that you were considering?” Irmo asked. “Consider us as fellow psychiatrists and doctors who are as concerned with Glorfindel’s state as you are. Námo already told you that Glorfindel is fading. That does not seem to upset you as much as the idea that I sent him the dreams that have been plaguing him of late.”
Vorondur shook his head. “It’s not that I’m not concerned, but fading, if that’s what it is, is symptomatic of an underlying condition. Something is making him fade. I need to know what that is so I can help him to counter the effects. So if you know something I don’t then I think you had better tell me. And if you know something and refuse to tell me, then this discussion is pointless. Why are you sending Glorfindel these dreams and why is he dreaming of dying? That, more than anything, has him upset.”
“The reason for my sending the dreams is for you to discover on your own, Vorondur,” Irmo said gravely. “No, listen!” He held up a hand as Vorondur started to protest. “There are things I cannot tell you because to do so can endanger the future. Some things you need to learn on your own and you will only learn the truth behind the dreams by convincing Glorfindel to let you regress him. As to why he’s dreaming about dying, well, that’s something else entirely. The dreams are being… hijacked, as it were.”
“Hijacked?” Vorondur raised an eyebrow at that. “Hijacked by whom and why?”
“Well, the who is obvious,” Manwë said with a huff, “and so is the why. Glorfindel is being targeted by the Enemy in subtle ways to bring him to a state of despair. He’s losing estel, Vorondur, and he’s fading because of it.”
“And no one, not even Glorfindel, is really aware of it, though I know Vardamir commented on it the other day,” Námo said.
Vorondur leaned his elbows on the table, interlacing his fingers under his chin as he contemplated the Valar’s words. “I have never had to deal with anyone fading before, at least not clinically. Elrond has, of course. I will have to consult with him as well as with Mir once they’ve finished examining Loren.”
“The test results will not show you what you need to know,” Irmo said.
Vorondur cast him a frustrated look. “But I need a baseline with which to work. It’s standard procedure.”
“For Mortals, yes, I agree,” Irmo said, “but Glorfindel is not a Mortal and the dynamics of fading are not something that will show up in an MRI or a CAT scan. It’s a disease, if you want to call it that, of the spirit.”
“So, should I be calling on a priest instead?” Vorondur couldn’t help asking with a slight smile.
“That might be wise,” Námo said and there was no hint of levity in his tone or his expression.
Vorondur sat back in surprise. “You’re serious, aren’t you?”
“Very,” Námo replied. “Glorfindel is in danger of fading and if he does fade in truth, I will not be able to call him to me. By then, it will be too late, for he will be so sunk into despair that he will not heed my call or even Eru’s. The Enemy doesn’t want Glorfindel dead, Vorondur. The Enemy wants him damned.”
Vorondur felt his blood go cold at the implications of the Vala’s words and the grave looks the three Valar gave him showed him the seriousness of the situation. “What can I do? I’m not equipped to handle this kind of situation. Mortals and their hang-ups I can deal with but this? I’m way out of my league.”
“Perhaps, but you’re it,” Námo said. “By all means, bring Vardamir and Elrond into the picture. Both have dealt with fading to some extent, but Elrond’s only solution was to send the person to us and Vardamir has only had to deal with those who suffered Sea-longing, which is a… um… sister disease, I suppose you could call it, to fading. The symptoms are similar, the treatment is different.”
“So what is the treatment?” Vorondur asked and was surprised to see all three Valar grimacing.
“That’s just it, son,” Manwë finally said. “We have no idea.”
“What? How can that be?” Vorondur demanded. “What of Lady Celebrían? How was she cured?”
“Celebrían was in danger of fading, but she was not actually fading at the time Elrond sent her to Aman,” Irmo stated. “Once with us, we were able to purge her hröa of the poisons that still lingered, especially within her blood and marrow. It’s a technique that Elrond didn’t know, but it’s a common technique taught to all my journeymen.”
“Something like a marrow transplant, then, or dialysis?” Vorondur asked.
Irmo nodded. “Very much so, though not as intrusive. Once Celebrían was purged of the poisons, she was able to deal with what happened to her and people like Vardamir and Eärnur and even Finrod were able to help bring her to wholeness once again. What Glorfindel is suffering from is actual fading, a condition that we Valar do not fully understand. We know that ultimately it can happen to you all, but certain factors seem to mitigate or slow the process. Residing in Valinor allows us to slow it down to the point where it is not yet a danger to even the oldest of you.”
“What about those of us residing here?” Vorondur asked. “Shouldn’t we have faded before this?”
“Yes, you should have, but you haven’t for one very good reason,” Manwë answered before Irmo could speak.
“And what’s that?”
For an answer, Manwë gestured and suddenly Vorondur found himself back in the café proper with people all around. Manwë smiled. “The Mortals,” he said and he and Irmo faded away, leaving Vorondur alone with Námo.
Vorondur gave the Lord of Mandos a puzzled look. “I’m not sure I understand.”
“The Mortals are the reason you and the others have not faded,” Námo said. “You engaged yourselves in their lives to one extent or another rather than divorcing yourselves from all contact with them. You and the others have drawn energy from that engagement and that has kept you grounded in present reality. Those who shied away from any contact with Mortals ended up fading if they didn’t Sail.”
Vorondur nodded. “So, getting back to Loren, what should I do?”
“Do what you plan to do. Have him undergo the physical. Consult with Elrond and Vardamir and the other healers. And try to convince Glorfindel to let you regress him and find out what the dream is all about. Your futures may depend on it.”
“There is no try,” Vorondur couldn’t help saying, giving Námo a knowing smile.
“Indeed,” was the Vala’s only reply and then he was simply no longer there.
Vorondur stared at the space the Vala had occupied, mulling over the conversation with the Valar.
“There you are, hiding in the corner.”
Vorondur looked up to see Amroth, Nimrodel, Ercassë and their two sons, smiling at him.
“How was the movie?” he asked as he sidled over to give his wife room to sit, shoving his laptop and notes into a messenger bag. Amroth and Nimrodel sat across from them while Dar and Cani claimed a nearby table.
“Very interesting,” Dar answered.
“And confusing,” Cani added.
The older Elves exchanged amused smiles. “Well, order some ice cream and you can tell me all about it. The menu’s on the table.”
One of the waitresses came over to take their orders. Amroth and Ercassë ordered coffee though Vorondur was fine and did not wish for anything more than water. Nimrodel ordered some herbal tea.
“What’s a banana split?” Cani suddenly asked as he and Dar pored over the menu.
Vorondur grinned at the waitress. “Make that two banana splits,” he said and the waitress grinned back.
Five minutes later when she returned with the ice cream, Vorondur smiled at his sons’ wondering expressions.
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