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When Raguel arrived at the space-time coordinates given him by Atar he found himself in Manwë’s audience chamber in Valmar and everyone was still shouting at everyone else. He allowed himself to incarnate, adopting the style of dress worn by the Mortals of the day: a pair of white slacks and a pale blue button-down shirt over which he wore a white silk vest. His feet were shod in black leather loafers and had he been in Wiseman instead of Valmar, most people would probably not have looked at him twice. No one paid him any attention as he manifested his fana, leaning casually against a pillar off to one side of the chamber where he could see everything, his arms and legs crossed in a casual pose as he looked over the scene before him.
His brother Manwë was seated on his throne with Varda beside him and Raguel smiled at the sight of her, for he well remembered her when they had all resided in the Timeless Halls. She was as beautiful and as regal as ever. The other Valar were also there, ranged about the thrones, as was Eönwë in his capacity as Herald and Oathkeeper. Manveru, Erunáro and Aicatirno were also there, all three looking rather uncomfortable. Eönwë kept stealing glances at the three, shaking his head, and then looking worriedly at Námo standing serenely beside his brother Irmo, apparently unfazed by all the shouting.
And there was plenty of that, Raguel saw with amusement. Before the thrones stood the three High Kings, Celeborn, Galadriel, Gil-galad and Sador. Maedhros, Maglor and Denethor were also there, along with Eärendil and Turgon. At the moment, Ingwë, Arafinwë and Olwë were all demanding an explanation for Námo’s decision to bring the Mortal before the All-Aman Council without consulting them first. At the same time, Sador and Gil-galad apparently were shouting at one another over Gil-galad’s decision not to allow Sador to join his brothers in Endórë while the firstborn son of Fëanáro was loudly insisting to Eärendil that he be allowed to go to Wiseman immediately so he could “Be with my new gwador, Alexgrant!”
“Maedhros, for the love of Eru, will you stop going on about Alexgrant!” Maglor shouted above everyone else, effectively silencing them all. The second-born son of Fëanáro clenched his hands, shaking his head with his eyes closed, muttering imprecations, obviously at his wit’s end, and Raguel had the distinct feeling that Macalaurë was seconds away from slugging his older brother, who stood there glowering at everyone. Raguel almost laughed out loud when Eönwë sighed, the sound loud in the silence, and a blue leather-bound book suddenly appeared in his hands along with a quill. The book opened of itself to a particular page and he began writing. The Eldar watched him with unalloyed fascination and Maedhros’ anger at his brother was momentarily forgotten by him.
Into the ensuing silence, Manwë spoke, sounding as frustrated as Raguel had ever heard him. “My children, please, let us remain calm. I promise we will get to the bottom of this. Námo, perhaps you would explain yourself.”
Námo raised an eyebrow at Manwë, his expression forbidding. “I am not in the habit of explaining anything to anyone, least of all to the mirroanwi,” he said and even Raguel felt himself shivering at the Vala’s tone, understanding now why Melkor had tried so hard to suborn the younger Ayanuz to his will: Melkor with Námo at his side would have been unstoppable. All the Eldar paled visibly and the Maiar straightened automatically. Námo’s fellow Valar just stood there, though Raguel saw both Ulmo and Oromë roll their eyes. Manwë, obviously not in the mood, allowed his expression to darken.
“Make an exception, just this once, my son.”
Yes, the Elder King was definitely having kittens, Raguel thought to himself, highly amused. He heard distant laughter from the Timeless Halls as Atar shared his own amusement at what was transpiring. For a moment, Námo did not respond, his expression fell, the temperature in the chamber dropping precipitously, and Raguel wondered how long Manwë would wait before calling upon Higher Authority to make his fellow Vala speak, but before the Elder King’s patience was further tried, Námo relented.
“Too many of the Council were dismissive of the Mortals and the role they must play in what is to come,” he said. “I decided a demonstration of their worth was in order.” He paused and looked straight at Manwë. “And I did have Atar’s permission to bring him here.”
Oh, he just loved it when someone handed him his cue and he was so tempted to step in at that very moment and haul Námo over the coals then and there, but he decided doing so before the Eldar would not be politic at this time. The Children did not necessarily need to witness him chastising one whom they looked upon with awe and respect. He was not here to destroy their morale even more than it already was. Manwë gave his fellow Vala a jaundiced look, shaking his head. “I rather doubt Atar countenanced having two of my own attack Alex Grant, never mind Aicatirno, and when you asked me to loan them to you, I thought it was because you needed them for something important.”
“This was important, Manwë,” Námo countered. “The Eldar of Aman needed to see for themselves the worth of Mortals and Alex Grant was the best one to show them.”
“And what about Alex?” Irmo asked, his expression coldly clinical. Raguel could tell that Námo’s younger brother was decidedly unhappy with his older brother. “Did you ever consider what effect all this would have on him, how being forced to kill again would destroy what little confidence he has that he can live a normal life?”
“And what is normal about his or anyone else’s life, Irmo?” Námo shot back. “And yes, I did consider it, but I think we don’t give that Child enough credit. Alex is stronger than you know.”
“That may be, but while you obtained Atar’s permission to bring him here, I don’t think you obtained Alex’s, am I correct?” Manwë asked shrewdly.
Raguel watched with interest as Námo hesitated for a moment, looking momentarily unsure, and then shook his head without offering any explanation. Manwë nodded. “We will discuss your… lapse in good manners another time, my son,” he said softly. Raguel raised an eyebrow as Námo almost cringed. Ah, his brother was not the Elder King of Arda for nothing and Raguel truly wondered why Atar had sent him here. Manwë looked ready to skin the younger Ayanuz alive and hang him out to dry and only the presence of the Eldar kept him from doing so. Raguel felt his presence to be superfluous. A wave of love swept through him in benediction and he closed his eyes briefly, knowing that Atar was there with him, as He always was. Well, perhaps chastisement coming from him rather than from Manwë would make more of an impression on Námo. Or he could simply bear witness to the fact that Atar had not approved of what had been done to the Mortal and leave it for Manwë to mete out any punishment necessary. He opened his eyes and realized with some amusement that he’d been found out. Maedhros was staring at him in wonder, pulling on Maglor’s arm, trying to get his brother’s attention.
“Maedhros, not now!” Maglor hissed, but Maedhros kept pulling on his brother’s arm and pointing at Raguel.
“Who’s he?” he demanded and everyone now looked around to see what had caught the Reborn’s attention.
Raguel straightened his pose but otherwise did not move, waiting to see what the others did. He allowed his electromagnetic signature to be more visible to his fellow Ayanuz so they would recognize him, for none of them had ever seen him in fana. The Eldar only noticed a blue-white glow about him and recognized that he was neither an Elda nor a Mortal, though he could have passed for either one. They looked upon him with open curiosity and all three Reborn offered him friendly smiles, which he returned.
The reactions of the Valar and Maiar were something else again. Eönwë hissed in shock and all four Maiar went for their swords, obviously intending to defend their masters from him, which he found both amusing and endearing. The Valar appeared stunned and he could see Manwë biting his lips, a look of anguish on his fair countenance, and Raguel felt sorry for him, believing that he was there to finally punish them for all their mistakes in governing Eä. He gave his brother Ayanuz a gentle smile and a slight shake of his head, hoping to allay his fears. Manwë did not look comforted, but he pulled himself together and addressed the Eldar.
“Please leave, Children. We will resume this discussion later.”
The older Elves gave the Vala considering looks, obviously recognizing that the presence of the stranger had upset the Valar and Maiar without understanding why. Ingwë gave the Elder King his obeisance which the others echoed, all but Maedhros, who came to stand before Raguel, his expression guileless. “Greetings! My name is Maedhros. What’s yours?”
Raguel smiled at the Reborn, well aware of the others watching his every move. “Greetings, child. My name is Raguel.”
“That’s a funny name,” Maedhros exclaimed with a laugh.
Raguel’s smile deepened. “In your language, my name would be Erundil.”
That sobered the Elda somewhat and he gave Raguel a more considering look. “Are you and Eru really friends?”
“I would like to think so,” Raguel said, glancing briefly over Maedhros’ head at Manwë and the other Valar, none of them looking happy. Returning his attention to the Reborn before him, he added, “and He is your friend, too.” Maedhros nodded. “Now, I think you and the others should leave as Manwë has asked. I need to discuss some business with him.”
“Yes, go, my children,” the Elder King said rising and Varda joined him. “We will resume our discussion later, I promise.”
Ingwë began herding the others out, all of them stealing wondering glances at him. Maglor came over and pulled Maedhros away. Soon only the Valar, the four Maiar and Raguel were left. No one moved or said anything; all of them watching him warily. Raguel wanted to laugh. Instead he made his way across the chamber to where the others were, giving the four Maiar an amused look that did not comfort them.
“And did you think your swords would save you or anyone had I called upon the Kadoshim Chayyoth, children?” He asked dismissively. All four Maiar looked stricken. Without waiting for an answer he turned to Manwë and Varda, opening his arms to embrace them and give them kisses in greeting. “Manwë, my brother, it is good to see you again and Varda! You are as lovely as ever.”
“Raguel, what are you doing here?” Manwë asked faintly, swallowing nervously. “Has… has Atar finally decided to punish us for our… um… constant stupidity?”
Raguel gave the Vala a sly look. “Oh, I don’t know, Manwë. I would think being yelled at by all three high kings at the same time while having to listen to the firstborn son of Fëanáro go on about ‘my new gwador, Alexgrant’, punishment enough, wouldn’t you say?” He had pitched his voice at the last to sound very much like the Reborn, eliciting involuntary snorts of laughter from his listeners.
When the laughter died down a bit, though, his expression sobered. “That is not to say that chastisement is not in the offing, only that I am not here solely for that reason.” He looked directly at Námo as he said this and the Vala raised an imperious eyebrow. Everyone else eyed Raguel nervously.
“For what other purpose are you here, brother?” Manwë asked.
“Hmm? Oh, Atar wants to start coordinating efforts between us in case He decides to allow the Kerubim and Seraphim to join you in the War.”
“I thought that Atar had decreed that we alone would confront Melkor and his People, since he is or was our problem from the beginning,” Manwë countered.
Raguel nodded. “I think you will bear the brunt of the attack, yes, but Atar thinks that having the First and Second Choirs on standby alert only prudent. Melkor cannot attack the Timeless Halls, though I wouldn’t put it past him to give it a try. Dude is totally obsessive.”
“What?!” Manwë exclaimed with a laugh and the others looked equally nonplused, though Raguel noticed a small twitch of a smile on Námo’s part.
Raguel chuckled. “Sorry. I’ve been looking in on the Mortals of Wiseman lately to see how they and the Eldar are getting along and I guess I’ve picked up some of their speech patterns. They are very… expressive in an irreverent way.”
“To say the least,” Námo said with a nod, then his mien darkened. “All right, Raguel, now that we’ve gotten all the pleasantries out of the way, why don’t you do what you do best, summon the Chayyoth and let’s get this over with. I’m sure you have places to go and people to destroy, so let’s not waste anymore of our time pretending you’re here on a visit among friends.”
Every one of the Valar, with the exception of Manwë and Varda (for they had no way to do so with their thrones at their backs) stepped away from Námo, even Vairë, as the Lord of Mandos stared down Raguel, not about to give him an inch or apologize, waiting for doom to fall upon him. Running was useless, they all knew. Were the Chayyoth summoned, there would be nowhere in this or any other universe or dimension where any of them could safely hide. Raguel gave Námo a considering look, remembering with fondness the younger Ayanuz when he first came into existence, all wide-eyed and eager and totally innocent. Looking at him now, he saw one who had endured torture and shame at the hands of Melkor and had conquered his own dark nature, remaining in the Light. The innocence was gone, but in its place was something more precious: wisdom and acceptance.
“Still full of yourself, aren’t you, Námo?” Raguel finally answered, smiling slightly. “Now, I remember a certain Ayanuz bouncing between stars looking for a good place to sleep while his Máyar chased him all over this dimension. Still giving poor Maranwë a hard time? It amazes me that he or any of your People put up with your histrionics, and your poor wife. Vairë, you have my sympathy.” He turned back to Manwë, effectively dismissing Námo for the moment, ignoring the stunned looks on everyone else’s faces. “Now, where were we? Ah, yes… coordinating efforts.” He took Manwë by the arm and started for the door. “Now, I was thinking I need to see how your warriors train and what measures you’ve taken so far….”
The two ended up in the rose garden, stopping at a fountain in the shape of four wingless dragon-like creatures standing back-to-back with the water spouting out of their open mouths. Raguel had done most of the talking as they had wandered away from the others with Manwë grunting, sighing or otherwise making appropriate noises to show that he was listening to the Prince of the Kerubim, who was effectively his superior, though had Manwë remained in the Timeless Halls, he would have been ranked with the First Choir as well. However, being Elder King of Arda was not the same as being a Prince of the Kerubim. Ruling the Little Kingdom was small potatoes in comparison.
Raguel glanced over at Manwë who stood staring pensively into the water. His brother was still very unhappy and feeling insecure and no doubt worried about the fate of the Lord of Mandos. No doubt they all were, though Raguel suspected that Námo was not so much worried as he was impatient to get it over with so he could get back to his work. Raguel hid a smile. What was it Mortals called it? Ah, yes, job security. No one else in this or any other universe would be daft enough to want to take over Námo’s duties as Lord of Mandos and Doomsman of Arda should Námo be recalled to the Timeless Halls or remanded to the Void for his sins, and Námo knew it!
“Relax, Manwë,” he said. “It’s not as dire as all that.”
“What do you intend to do?”
Raguel thought for a moment. “Is the All-Aman Council still in session?”
Manwë looked at him with a nod. “They’ve only met the two times so far and what happened with Alex Grant has them all in a tizzy. Ingwë declared a recess until Aldúya, that’s two days from now.”
Raguel nodded his understanding. “Well, certain things need to happen first before I can render judgment.”
“What things?” Manwë demanded.
Raguel shook his head. “I’m sorry, my brother, but there are some things you are not privileged to know just yet.”
“In other words, Atar doesn’t trust me and you can protest all you want to the contrary but I know you’re here to take over and send the rest of us packing for our incompetence and stupidity.”
Raguel sighed in frustration. “No, Manwë. I am not here to take over. Frankly, I wouldn’t take your job for love or money, as I believe the Mortal expression goes. You have a thankless job and believe me, I know about thankless jobs. I can’t go anywhere among our fellow Ayanumuz without them all getting nervous and suspicious because they think I’m there to render chastisement for imagined sins, when all I want is to enjoy their fellowship. It gets rather wearying after a while. I hate being the bad guy all the time.”
Manwë actually snorted and Raguel gave him a surprised look. “You should hear Námo on the subject,” the Elder King said. “The two of you should go to a tavern and drown your sorrows in drink while trying to outdo each other with just how much your respective jobs suck.”
Raguel burst out laughing. “Perhaps we should, but I think I will have to wait until after.”
“What do you intend to do?” Manwë asked again, looking weary and resigned.
“Well, I wanted to summon the Kadoshim Chayyoth, but Atar thought that was a bit extreme.” Raguel said rather blandly.
Manwë swallowed nervously. “I once told Námo that if he crossed the line again I would personally escort him to the Void.”
“Ah yes, I remember that,” Raguel said with a fond smile. “It’s just as well you never had to. Some might construe that as cruel and unusual punishment where Melkor is concerned, having to put up with Námo as a companion.”
The very drollness of his tone caught the Elder King off-guard and he gave Raguel a disbelieving look that slowly mutated into a sly smile. “There’s an expression among the Mortals that I’ve heard: ‘When I die, I’ll go to Purgatory because Heaven won’t have me and Hell’s afraid I’ll take over’”.
Raguel smiled back. “Yes, that’s Námo all over. Manwë, you have nothing to fear either for yourself or for Námo. Yes, I’m here to give him a little chat, as I believe he himself calls it, and yes, it will be somewhat public because I think the Eldar, or at least those who are their leaders, need to know and understand an important truth.”
“And what truth is that?”
“That even you who are the Guardians of Arda are answerable to the One for your actions or inactions and that applies to the Eldar as well. Atar is well aware of their despair and your efforts to combat it. He knows you have done everything short of ordering them to be happy to lift them out of their state. You are correct that the Elves of Wiseman and the Mortals who have befriended them are the key to restoring their hope, but I think the Amaneldi need a more forceful wake-up call, so to speak.”
“So you will put Námo on trial, humiliate him before—”
“Humiliation is not what I plan, Manwë,” Raguel interrupted somewhat impatiently, “but make no mistake: Atar sent me here to make Námo accountable for what he has done to young Artemus. He has yet to realize that the child is far more fragile than he suspects.”
“And you know this for sure?”
Raguel nodded. “Yes, for I have seen it. No.” He held up a hand to stay Manwë’s next words. “I will not speak of it further. The time for speaking is not yet, but soon. In the meantime, I think I would like a tour of Valinor, get an idea of what the actual state of the Eldar is so I can better help you to plan how to counter their despair and restore them to estel.”
Manwë nodded, looking resigned. “Let us retire to Ilmarin, then. You will be able to see all of Arda from there, and if you will permit, I will ask Varda to join us. With her beside us you will be able to see further and more clearly.”
Raguel smiled. “Yes, by all means, let us summon your lovely wife.”
And with that, Manwë sent him the appropriate coordinates even as he called to Varda and then the two were gone, leaving the rose garden to itself.
Amaneldi: (Quenya) plural of Amanelda (sic): An Elf of Aman.
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