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Raguel waited for all the Valar to incarnate before their respective thrones in the Máhanaxar before making his own entrance. He had taken special care in how he would present himself, particularly before the Eldar ranged between the thrones with the three high kings standing together between the thrones of the Elder King and the Elentári. Gone was the modern-style clothing he had effected earlier. In its place he wore a pure white robe of heavy silk that fell to the floor and was cinched at the waist by a gold-linked belt interspersed with sapphires. The sides were slit to the hips, showing white wool leggings and white leather ankle boots. The sleeves of the robe were wide and trailing, a shirt of whitest lawn underneath, and the front was picked out in gold-thread embroidery showing a judge’s gavel, a symbol of his office. Over this he wore a cerulean blue mantle on the back of which was appliquéd a scale pierced by a sword: a reminder that justice, peace and harmony often came at a price. His long black hair was graced by a circlet of white gold with a single multi-faceted sapphire in the center. On his left hip hung a sword in a tooled-leather scabbard.
At his appearance in the center of the Ring of Doom, the Valar, each accompanied by their respective chief Maia, bowed before taking their seats. In contrast to the Eldar, who stood in all their court finery, bedecked with gems and precious metals glittering in the noonday sun, the Valar were more sober in their attire, eschewing bright colors for darker shades. Some of the Eldar, Raguel noticed with amusement, gaped at his brighter appearance while others appeared dismayed and even angry, though he was unsure why this was so. He allowed them to get a good look at him as he turned about, addressing them in Quenya.
“I am Raguel, or, in your language, Erundil, an Ainu of the First Choir, what you would call a Vala. I am come from the Timeless Halls, sent by Eru Ilúvatar to exact justice for a Mortal named Artemus Gordon Meriwether, whom you know as Alex Grant.”
“And what has that to do with us?”
Raguel turned to face the Elda who had spoken, a Noldo by his coloring, standing between the thrones of Oromë and Vána. Several of his fellows, standing nearby, stirred and he noticed Arafinwë frowning while Olwë whispered something in Ingwë’s ear that had the High King rolling his eyes and shaking his head.
“Do not be impertinent, Lord Morcocáno,” Manwë admonished the ellon sharply.
Raguel raised a hand. “Peace, Brother,” he said mildly. “It is a fair question, for after all, what does any Mortal have to do with you who are the Firstborn? The answer to that is because Eru loves them no less than He loves each of you and in His eyes you are all His Children. Artemus Gordon Meriwether has been wronged by one of the Valar and it is my task to bring him the justice he deserves.”
“And yet, I would ask again: What has this to do with us?” Morcocáno demanded, spreading his arms to encompass his fellow Elves. “If any of the Valar have wronged this Mortal, that may or may not be of concern to the parties involved, but we had nothing to do with it and frankly I don’t see the point. What punishment would you mete out? I have very little use for the Valar myself, but I would not see any of them humiliated just because some Mortal cries foul. From what I saw of this Alex Grant, I am sure he is quite capable of taking care of himself and does not need you or anyone else to be his champion.”
Raguel kept his expression neutral as the Eldar murmured among themselves while the Valar remained silent, allowing him to deal with the Noldo as he saw fit. He was beginning to regret having ordered the trial to be as public as it was. Perhaps it would’ve been better if he’d simply taken Námo to task in private and left it at that. He was wondering how to answer the ellon when surprisingly Námo spoke.
“Morcocáno, even after all this time you are still, shall we say… dense.”
The ellon bristled but did not offer a retort and Námo continued. “My Lord Raguel is not here to humiliate anyone. He is here because Eru is as concerned for the well-being of the Secondborn as He is for the Firstborn, for any of us who dwell here in the Blessed Realm. You and your fellow Elves are here solely as witnesses to justice for one who has no other recourse than to appeal to Eru, though the child is unaware that any of this is happening and I doubt he has consciously petitioned Eru for recompense, yet Ilúvatar hears all our prayers, whether uttered aloud or not. Now, I suggest you remain quiet for the nonce and allow Lord Raguel to continue.”
Morcocáno grimaced slightly but gave the Vala a short bow. Raguel felt somewhat at a loss as to why the person he had come to chastise was defending him and his mission to the Eldar. He turned to face Námo, who stood, exuding calm as he waited for Raguel to utter the charges against him. If the Vala was nervous or afraid, Raguel could not tell. Námo actually gave him a nod of encouragement when he hesitated a moment longer and suddenly Raguel had the feeling that things were really not as they seemed. He swallowed, keeping his expression neutral.
“Námo, Ainu of the First Choir, Lord of Mandos and Doomsman of Arda, thou standest accused of deliberately bringing spiritual harm to a Mortal, one Artemus Gordon Meriwether, also known as Alex Grant, in that you brought him here in the spirit without his permission and then forced him to kill one of the Maiar whom you had attack him. How do you plead?”
“Not guilty,” Námo said calmly while the Eldar murmured amongst themselves and the Valar and Maiar remained still as statues.
Raguel resisted a sigh. It would have been so much easier if the Vala had pleaded guilty. He really should have just summoned the Kadoshim Chayyoth when he first arrived and gotten it over with. He could be back in the Timeless Halls where he belonged by now. Thrusting that useless thought from his mind, he asked instead, “And hast thou any witnesses thou wishest to call in thy defense?”
Before Námo could reply, Manwë stood. “First, though, I would see proof that what thou sayest about Alex Grant is true. Let us see in what way he hath suffered harm from us.”
Raguel raised an eyebrow at Manwë’s words, for their implications were that, whatever sins Námo had committed, his fellow Valar would share the blame for them.
“If you wish,” Raguel said addressing them all and several of the Valar and not a few of the Eldar nodded. He nodded back and then with a small gesture he caused a rift in the space-time continuum to be opened in the middle of the Ring, so that they were seeing a scene from elsewhere and elsewhen. It was holographic so everyone saw it from their viewpoint as if it were right in front of them. Raguel exerted his power over them all so they would understand what was being said.
They initially saw Alex Grant sitting in an easy chair apparently asleep but suddenly startling awake. “Whoa! I need to leave off the anchovies from now on!” they heard him say and watched as he got up to get a fresh mug of coffee before returning to his chair. “Man, Ron’s gonna have a blessed field day with me when I tell him about my crazy dream.”
The scene shifted and now they saw Alex sleeping, but it was obvious that he was restless, for he tossed and turned and then he bolted upright with a yell. A moment later they heard knocking on the door of the room and then it opened to show two Mortal men wearing nothing but pajama bottoms.
One of them switched on the light as they came inside. “Hey, Alex! Are you alright?”
Alex blinked at them and nodded. “Sorry. Stupid nightmare.”
“Must’ve been some nightmare to make you yell like that,” the other Man said with a worried grin. “You want some water or something. You still look a little… frazzled.”
“No, thanks, guys. I appreciate it. I think I’ll just stay up for a while and read or something. You go back to bed. Sorry to wake you.”
Both Men grinned. “Oh, we weren’t sleeping… yet,” the first Man said suggestively.
They watched Alex seemingly blush. “Oh… ah… well… now I’m even sorrier.”
The two Men laughed. “You need anything, just call out.” With that, the two Men left, closing the door. Alex flopped back down on the bed with a groan and then uttered a few choice phrases of a scatological nature that had a few of the Eldar raising eyebrows in amusement. After a moment, though, they watched him as he got up, throwing a robe on to cover a pair of boxers, slipping his feet into slippers and padding out to the kitchen where he began making a cup of tea. Waiting for the water to boil he closed his eyes and leaned against a counter. They could all see how tense and drawn he was.
“God, I wish Ron were here,” they heard him whisper. “I sure could use his help.”
Then the scene shifted and it was daylight. Alex was now dressed, but he looked haggard. He was sitting at a table drinking coffee and reading a newspaper. The other two Men emerged from their bedroom.
“Morning,” one of them said in greeting. “Man, you look terrible. Did you even sleep last night?”
Alex shook his head. “Didn’t see the point.”
“Are you sure you’re going to be alright?” the other Man asked.
Alex smiled as he folded up the newspaper. “Yeah, I’m sure, Chad, but thanks for asking.” He stood up and went to rinse his mug out. “Gotta go. I’ll catch you later, okay?”
The other two Men nodded and wished him a good day. Alex grabbed a messenger bag and was soon out the door but the scene did not shift to follow him. Instead it remained with the two Men who gave each other worried glances.
“He hasn’t slept in two days,” Chad said with a sigh. “How long can he go without proper sleep, Chris?”
Chris shrugged. “Don’t know. I think he’ll eventually crash, but it won’t be a pretty sight when he does.”
“Whatever his nightmares are about, they must be absolutely terrifying if he refuses to sleep at all.”
“Well, not much we can do about it. At least this is the last week and then he’s off for the week until the next session. That might help some.”
“He’s heading back home, isn’t he?”
“Maybe while he’s there he can talk with someone about his nightmares, get some help.”
“Hopefully. Okay, it’s getting late. I better get going. You up for lunch?”
“Sure. I’ll pick you up after your class, okay?”
They watched as the two Men kissed briefly and then Chad was alone.
Now the scene shifted once again and they watched as Alex entered Vorondur’s office and then continued watching the arrival of Finrod and the Mortal’s eventual breakdown. They listened to the conversation in the bedroom.
“… I’m nothing but a killer,” they heard Alex exclaim, the despair in his voice obvious.
“No, you are not, Alex. Don’t even think it.” That was Prince Findaráto.
“Will it happen again, do you think?”
“I honestly don’t know, Alex,” Finrod answered. “None of us do.”
“What do I do if it happens again? How do I stop it?”
Now Glorfindel spoke, his tone cold. “You don’t, but if it does happen again, ask no questions, don’t look for an explanation, just attack and bring the bastard down.”
Several of the Eldar actually gasped at that pronouncement and Raguel saw Oromë and Tulkas grin, Tulkas shaking his head, but whether in disbelief or in amusement was debatable. Manwë simply rolled his eyes.
And then they watched as the Elves exited the room to let the Mortal rest.
“Five months of hard work ruined,” they heard Vorondur mutter in disgust.
“Lord Námo has much to answer for.” That was Glorfindel.
“Násië!” Finrod added.
Then Glorfindel spoke again. “Too bad there’s no one to give Námo a little chat. I wouldn’t mind seeing him squirm for a change.”
Raguel watched as several people automatically looked to Lord Námo who sat there in supreme indifference, ignoring them all as he watched the events in Wiseman unfolding before them.
“From your lips to Eru’s ears, my friend,” they heard Vorondur say with a chuckle and the others laughed….
Raguel gestured again and the rift closed and the silence which followed was long as they all contemplated what they had seen and heard. After a time, Raguel shifted his attention back to Námo. “Hast thou anything to say in thy defense, Lord Námo?”
For a moment, the Lord of Mandos sat in dark splendor. Raguel watched as he cast a glance to his left where Vairë sat, the Valië giving him a brief, encouraging smile. Then he looked to his right to his brother Irmo, who gave him an infinitesimal nod. At that, he stood and stepped toward the center of the Ring to face Raguel.
“Thou didst know of the scene we just witnessed before thou camest here,” he said mildly.
“I was shown it,” Raguel replied.
Námo nodded. “Odd that Atar did not show thee everything.”
Raguel gave him a puzzled look. “What meanest thou?”
“It is true that I brought Alex Grant here in the spirit, but it is not true that I did so without his permission or that he was unaware of what I meant to happen.”
“And yet we were there,” Ingwë said as he stepped forward a couple of paces. “We saw the look of terror when he arrived. We heard him say that thou didst not have his permission to bring him here.”
“And there is a good reason for that,” Námo said, “and with thy permission, my brother, I will show thee.”
Raguel just nodded, unsure where Námo was going with this. Námo for his part stepped back a couple of paces and Raguel, understanding his intent, did the same so that the space between them widened.
“Let us go back a little further in time,” Námo said as he gestured and the fabric of the space between them shifted as a rift opened again. This time they saw Alex in his apartment carrying a cup of coffee in one hand and a thick book in the other as he walked from the kitchen to the living room. He was dressed as the Elves remembered him from when he appeared to them the week before.
He placed the mug on a small table next to a chair and was about to settle himself when there was the sound of a buzzer. They all watched as Alex sighed, putting the book down and going to the door. When he opened it, they all saw Lord Námo standing there but dressed as a Mortal. There were murmurs of surprise among many of the Eldar at the sight of the Lord of Mandos in his black duster, though he wore no hat.
“Nate! What the hell!” they heard Alex exclaim in shocked surprise.
“May I come in?” Námo asked, giving the Mortal a mild look.
“Huh? Oh yeah. Sure.” Alex stood aside and gave Námo a slight bow, gesturing with his right hand, and, affecting a strange guttural accent, said, “Enter freely of your own free will.”
Námo raised an eyebrow, remaining at the door. “Should I call for my wooden stake and a gold cross?”
Alex laughed. “Sorry. Couldn’t resist. The Bobbsey Twins and I were watching the old Bela Lugosi movie the other night. So, are you in or out?”
Námo smiled and stepped inside, allowing Alex to close the door behind him. “So, to what do I owe the pleasure? You want any coffee or something?”
“No. I’m good, thanks. Shall we sit? There is a favor I would ask of you.”
Alex gave him a considering look and then shrugged. “Step into my office,” he said and they watched as the two sat in the living room with Alex retaking his chair while Námo sat opposite him.
“So how are you doing, Alex?” Námo asked politely.
“Well enough, but I doubt you came all the way from Vala-la-land to ask after my general health.”
“No.” Námo paused, looking almost hesitant. “The All-Aman Council is in session. It’s not going very well.”
“That’s a shame, but what does that have to do with me?”
“I would like you to come with me to address the Council.”
“What?! How? I mean, it’s not like I can just hop on a plane or anything, unless you have Eärendil bring me on Vingilot. Is that even allowed?”
“No. To bring you in the flesh would not be permitted but I can bring you there in the spirit.”
“In the spirit? What does that mean?”
“Just that. I can call your fëa, your soul, whatever you wish to call it, and bring it to Valinor.”
They saw Alex scrunch his face. “I’ll be a ghost? And what about my body? Won’t I be dead?”
“No. Your body will remain inviolate and your fëa will remain connected to it. If any were to come upon you while you were… away, so to speak, they would assume you were in a coma.”
“So you want me to… ah… come with you to speak to this Council. That’s going to be a neat trick since my command of either Elvish language sucks still.”
Námo smiled. “I promise that all will understand you and you will understand them, whatever language is spoken.”
The Mortal sat for a long time, staring at nothing in particular for a time before focusing his attention back at Námo who sat there calmly waiting for an answer.
“Will it hurt?” Alex finally asked.
Námo shook his head. “You will feel nothing. I will put you into a deep sleep. In fact, when you eventually awaken, the whole thing will feel like a dream and there’s one other thing you should know.”
“The nature of what I will do with you is such that when I summon your fëa and afterwards when you awaken here you will have no memory of my visit. You will remember nothing of this conversation. It will indeed feel as if you’d fallen asleep while reading your textbook and had a pizza-induced dream.”
“How did you know I had pizza for dinner?” Alex exclaimed.
Námo smiled. “C’mon, Alex. That’s a rather stupid question coming from you.”
“Ah… sorry. So, you’re saying I won’t remember me talking to you at all?”
Námo shook his head. “And if any were to ask, you would also have no memory of giving me your permission to do this thing. You might, in fact, suffer emotionally and psychically because of it.”
Alex gave him a considering look. “Are you doing this on the sly?”
“No. I sought Atar’s permission to bring you before the Council.”
“And He’s okay with it.”
“There’s something you’re not telling me, though. You want more from me than just doing a question-and-answer session with a bunch of yahoo Elves.”
“Talking will do little good, I fear. Many of the delegates are questioning the worth of Mortals and the need to involve them at all in their deliberations. I think the only way to get through to them is to show them what Mortals are capable of. I need you to demonstrate your martial arts skills.”
“How? I mean, unless you bring someone else along who knows unarmed combat…”
“I will have a few Maiar on hand to attack you and I’m afraid that for this to work, it will not be a friendly sparring match. You will have to fight for real, calling upon all your skills. Fear not! No actual harm will come to you, I give you my word.”
“It seems odd though that you would bother to ask my permission knowing I won’t remember giving it. Why not just do it and be done with it?”
“Because to do so would be in violation of everything I as a Vala and a Guardian of Eä stand for,” Námo said gravely. “To do so would put me on par with Melkor.”
“Oh, yeah. I guess we don’t want that, do we? You’re scary enough when you’re a good guy. And if I say thanks but no thanks?”
“Then I will leave you and wish you well. Perhaps one of my fellow Valar will find a way to get through to these people and convince them that they need to take you Mortals seriously. They need a wake-up call, Alex. They need to get off their duffs and get with the program, as you would say, or we are doomed before we even get started.”
“Well, anything for the Gipper, right? Okay. I’m in and I’ll deal with the fallout if and when it comes.”
“Thank you,” Námo said sincerely. “It’s people like you, Alex, who give us Valar hope that in the end we will triumph.”
“So, what do I do?”
“Sit back and close your eyes.” Alex did as he was bid. “Slow your breathing as much as possible. Let your body relax. That’s it.” They all watched as Námo stood and placed a single finger on Alex’s forehead. “Á tulë!” he commanded. Alex’s body gave a slight shudder and then went still as they watched Námo fade away….
Raguel had watched in disbelief and rising embarrassment as the scene between Námo and Alex played out. *Thou knewest!* he sent an accusation toward the Timeless Halls.
*Of course I knew, child,* came the reply.
*I have My reasons, Raguel. Now carry on. Thou art doing splendidly.*
Raguel wanted to scream, but he kept his face impassive as Námo gestured and the rift closed. For a long moment, no one moved or uttered a word, then Námo gave Raguel a respectful bow. “The Defense rests,” he said and returned to his throne, leaving Raguel alone in the center of the Ring.
*Now what, Atar?* Raguel implored. *Thou didst never intend for me to mete out punishment, didst thou?*
*No, child, not really,” came the gentle reply, *but it was necessary to call this trial so that all the evidence for and against could be revealed. The Eldar needed to hear the conversation between thy brother and the Mortal.*
*And Alex? What of him?*
*It will be thy task, thine and Námo’s, to help him regain his equilibrium and come to terms with what hath happened to him. Námo hath not the power to bring Artemus’ memories of their conversation to his consciousness, none of the Valar do, but thou dost.*
Raguel nodded. Yes, of course. He had forgotten that some of the powers of the Ayanumuz who had elected to enter into Eä had been necessarily curtailed by Atar. One such power was to be incapable of returning at will to the Timeless Halls. Another, presumably, was the power to call into full consciousness that which was hidden from the mirroanwi, whether they be Eldar or Mortal. And with that thought, Raguel knew how Námo would be ‘punished’.
He looked directly at the Vala waiting calmly for his sentence and had to admire his brother Ayanuz’s demeanor. Raguel nodded and Námo stood. “Námo, Lord of Mandos, Doomsman of Arda, I find thee not guilty of the charges laid against thee.” There were actual sighs of relief from many of the Eldar and even a scattering of applause. He held his hand up to still them and continued, “Except that I find thee guilty of not succoring the Mortal known as Alex Grant in his time of distress which hath led to his breakdown. For that, I sentence thee to go to the Mortal and help him regain his emotional and psychic balance.”
“I am sorry for what Alex has had to go through because of this. I honestly thought he would be able to handle it better than most Mortals, given his background. I accept my sentence. Unfortunately, I cannot help him to remember, else I would have done so from the beginning. All I can do is offer him comfort, but under the circumstances he will not accept it from me nor allow me near him and there is little I can do for him when I am not in fana.”
“Agreed,” Raguel allowed with a nod, and then smiled slightly. “I guess that’s where I come in.” Before Námo or anyone else could respond he turned to face Manwë. “I, Raguel, Ainu of the First Choir, Prince of the Kadoshim Chayyoth, am satisfied with this verdict. This court is dismissed. Námo, come with me.”
Raguel sent the Vala the necessary space-time coordinates even as he thought himself away. Námo gave Manwë a sardonic smile and a shrug before following his brother, leaving the Elder King to dismiss the Eldar and ordering the Maiar to take guard positions around the Ring to prevent them from being disturbed. Once the Valar were alone, they sat in silent deliberation and it was some time before anyone saw them again.
Words are Quenya:
Máhanaxar: Ring of Doom.
Elentári: Star-Queen, a title of Varda.
Á tulë!: Come! (imperative form).
Note: The sapphire is known as the ‘stone of destiny’; it is a symbol of heaven and joyful devotion to God.
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