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Námo joined Raguel in Wiseman, the two manifesting fanar, though remaining invisible to the Mortals around them. They were walking up Kodiak toward Sycamore. Both had traded their formal robes for more modern dress with Námo dressed in black slacks, a black button-down shirt and his usual black duster. Raguel had reverted to his original attire, now augmented by a lightweight white duster of his own. Námo saw it and gave the Ayanuz a knowing smile. Raguel just shrugged but refused to apologize.
They continued walking up the street and, though they were invisible to the Mortals around them, said Mortals instinctively gave them space, walking around them without realizing they were doing so. Only very young children appeared to be able to see them and one little tyke of about three waved at them from his stroller as his mother pushed him, oblivious to what her son was seeing. The two Ainur smiled warmly at the child as they sauntered past.
From the coordinates Raguel had sent him, Námo knew that three days had passed since Alex had suffered his breakdown and it was now the American Independence Day. The town was festooned with flags and red, white and blue bunting. Námo ignored it, though Raguel looked about with interest, watching the Mortals go about their business, most of them apparently lining up along the street.
“There will be a parade,” Námo offered an explanation, “followed by picnics at the park and backyard barbecues.”
Raguel nodded but said nothing. Soon they were turning onto Sycamore and then they were standing before the open gates of Edhellond where they were met by Fionwë in his Finn disguise of jeans and a T-shirt showing a screen print of the American flag and the words Born in the USA, and Olórin in his Oliver Grey disguise of gray slacks and a blue button-down shirt. Like Námo and Raguel, they were both invisible to any Mortals. At Námo’s and Raguel’s approach, the two Maiar gave them their obeisance.
“So, did we kiss and make up, then?” Olórin said with a laugh.
Námo and Raguel exchanged amused looks while Fionwë punched his fellow Maia in the arm. Olórin gave them an unrepentant grin.
“How’s Alex doing?” Námo asked, ignoring the impertinent question.
Both Maiar sobered. “Hanging in there, I suppose,” Olórin answered. “Derek showed up yesterday afternoon and Alex practically fell into his arms weeping, telling him all about it. Derek’s response was about what I would expect from the boy. He just held his gwador through his recital and tears and then suggested they go to the Blue Petrel and have a few.” Olórin gave them a wry grin. “Neither one of them was capable of driving after having imbibed a large quantity of brew. Stan called Glorfindel who came and picked them up and the Elves had a merry time getting them into bed to sleep off their drunks.” Both he and Fionwë chuckled at the memory and Olórin sent Námo and Raguel an image of the two young Mortals singing off-key as the Elves attempted to get them up the stairs and into their respective beds. Finrod finally just picked Derek up as if he were a child of three and carried him up the stairs; all the while Derek continued singing.
Námo and Raguel grinned.
“They both have hangovers the size of Montana,” Fionwë said, “and are sitting very quietly nursing coffees, but Alex seems to be calmer and in a better mood than before.”
“Derek is very good for him,” Olórin added. “It is a pity he did not have someone like him in his life earlier.”
“He did,” Námo said with a sigh. “Paul Jackson should have been the gwador Alex needed, but in the end he betrayed Alex’s friendship. After that, Alex refused to allow anyone into his heart until Derek Lowell came into his life.”
“What about Glorfindel?” Raguel asked, deciding to change the subject. “Has he confronted the ap Hywel brothers yet?”
Fionwë shook his head. “No. We’re not sure when he plans to do so. He may decide not to ruin things for everyone on this day of all days and may wait until after.”
“Well, we’re not necessarily here to see those particular fireworks,” Raguel said with a grin and the two Maiar chuckled, “but to see to young Artemus and try to repair some of the hurt that he’s suffered.”
“Good luck with that,” Olórin said with a sardonic grin. “If my Lord Námo makes an appearance, it’ll be an even bet as to who will attack him first, Alex or Glorfindel.”
“Or Derek,” Fionwë chimed in and Olórin nodded in agreement.
“Which is where I come in,” Raguel said with a lift of an eyebrow. He turned to Námo. “Wait here until I send for you,” he ordered and then continued past the gates and made his way around the front garden, stopping for a moment to admire the statue of Eönwë set in the middle of a circle of flowers, shaking his head in amusement before moving on, disappearing around the corner of the house.
Námo remained where he was, standing in serene indifference, waiting for the summons, while the two Maiar studiously did not look at him or each other, both feeling somewhat embarrassed for the Vala.
Raguel entered the back garden and headed for where people were congregated around the fire pit. He smiled to see Glorfindel checking the fire and adjusting the logs while Daeron and Finrod entertained them with soft music, with Finrod playing his harp and Daeron playing a lute. Alex and Derek, the only Mortals present, were sitting next to one another, both looking slightly green around the gills but determined to enjoy the festivities. Others sat or stood about and he saw Vorondur and his family as well as Amroth and Nimrodel. He smiled at the sight of the elleth in full bloom and with a single glance at her swollen belly he knew that the children would be coming into the world soon, perhaps within the next month.
Gwyn and Gareth ap Hywel were also there with Gareth sitting with an arm around Nielluin, the two nestled together on a garden bench, while Gwyn sat next to Mithrellas holding her hand. Gareth was speaking as Raguel came near, addressing Alex and Derek.
“… heard you two tied one on last night in a big way.” The other Elves chuckled at the rueful looks from the two Mortals.
“Double boilermakers will do you in every time,” Glorfindel said with a wicked look.
“How many did you have?” Vorondur asked.
“I think I stopped counting after the third one,” Alex muttered as he sipped his coffee.
“Ouch!” Gwyn said sympathetically and others looked equally sympathetic.
“Well, if nothing else, you two are happy drunks,” Glorfindel said, “though we all could’ve done without your lousy singing.”
“I was singing?” Alex asked in disbelief. “What was I singing?”
“Something in French and very naughty,” Glorfindel replied with a grin. “I refused to translate. And Derek was singing something in Japanese, very off-key mind you, but as none of us speak that particular language, we have no idea what the song was about.”
Both Mortals turned red with embarrassment while the Elves all chuckled.
“Are you going to be alright, though, Alex?” Gwyn asked solicitously. “Gareth and I were told what happened. We’re very sorry. Our dealings with Lord Námo have always been cordial. I can’t imagine why he would do something so cruel.”
Alex shrugged. “Well, you’re Elves. Mortals don’t get any respect from anyone. We’re cannon fodder as far as the rest of you are concerned. We’re expendable, always have been, always will be.”
“That’s the anger talking, Alex,” Vorondur said firmly. “I’m sure you don’t mean to blame us for what happened.”
“Maybe not, but it doesn’t make it any less true,” Alex insisted.
“So, because one Vala does you wrong, you plan to tar the rest of us with the same brush?” Vorondur retorted.
“Look, I was there. Námo said those Elves figured they would be the commanders sitting pretty directing orders while we Mortals were the shock troops with our lives on the line. That’s why they can’t see the point of adding more to their population. You don’t need lots of commanders, only a few.”
The Elves looked disturbed by his words. Finrod stopped playing and frowned. “That may be what they are saying, but I doubt the High Kings will let them get away with it.”
Alex shrugged, apparently not interested in pursuing the matter further. “Anyway, not much any of us can do about it, so let’s forget them. They’re not important. What do they know about anything? From what I understand, none of them has done a blessed thing worth mentioning for the last hundred thousand years or so. That’s a long time to be sitting on your duffs doing absolutely nothing. They must be ossified by now.”
“I am sorry you’re feeling so bitter, Alex,” Glorfindel said with a sigh, looking distressed. “Eru knows—”
“Don’t speak to me about Eru!” Alex hissed, abruptly standing, his face suffused with anger. “He gave that bastard permission to do what he did to me and didn’t lift a finger to stop it. Well, he can just—”
Whatever profanity he meant to utter died on his lips as Raguel manifested himself at that very moment, deciding it was as good a time as any to make his appearance. He allowed his glory to shine in multi-colored hues that were brighter than the sun, forcing all the incarnates to close their eyes against the incandescent flare of light as he made himself visible to them. He had exchanged his modern look once again for the robes of his office, his sword in his hand. His cloak billowed behind him though there was no wind and a nimbus of light surrounded him.
Both Alex and Derek cried out in fear and pain and even the Elves were affected, some of them even falling to their knees in obeisance. These, Raguel noticed, were those who had never been to the Blessed Realm; the others remained standing, though they all bowed in reverence.
“Peace be with you all,” Raguel intoned in English and his voice was full of bells with a purity and beauty that no Elf could emulate. “Be not afraid! I am the Archangel Raguel come from the Lord your God in answer to your prayers.” He decided to use language that would sound familiar to the two Mortals, since his business was more with Artemus than it was with any of the Eldar.
“You… you’re from… Heaven?” Alex stammered in disbelief.
“I come from the Timeless Halls, son of Adam, in answer to your prayers and the prayers of your friends.” Raguel nodded toward the Elves as he sheathed his sword, the nimbus of light surrounding him dimming to more acceptable levels for the incarnates, all of them still flinching from it.
“Prayers? I haven’t uttered any prayers,” Alex protested.
Raguel smiled. “The prayers of your heart, son of Adam, are always heard by your Father in Heaven whether you are conscious of them or not.”
“And he sent you now? Why now? Why not sooner?”
“Because now is the acceptable time, and for everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under Heaven,” Raguel quoted. “God’s timing is always perfect.”
“Yeah?” Derek demanded, looking skeptical. “Well, maybe He needs a new watch.”
All the Elves flinched at the disrespect in Derek’s tone and even Alex gave his gwador a jaundiced look. Raguel took no offense as he heard distant laughter from the Timeless Halls and Atar saying, *Remind me to ask Santa for a new watch for Christmas*. “Peace, Derek Lowell,” was all he said in a conciliatory tone. “Your anger on your gwador’s behalf does you credit, child, but it is misplaced. I have been sent by the Father to help Artemus.”
“How?” Alex asked. “And my name’s not Artemus, not anymore.”
“Child, your name will always be Artemus, whatever other name you choose for yourself.”
“Raguel.” The Ayanuz turned to look at Glorfindel who had spoken. The Elf appeared to be thinking, his brow furrowed in thought. “Raguel… hmm… Didn’t some pope throw you off the rolls along with a bunch of other angels?”
Raguel raised an eyebrow at the almost smug look on the Elda’s face and forced himself not to laugh when he heard Atar say, *Remember how embarrassed poor Zachary was when I introduced him to you? The expression on his face was priceless.* Daeron punched Glorfindel in the arm and Vorondur rolled his eyes and muttered something under his breath. Raguel ignored the Elves to concentrate on Alex.
“The Father sent me to you, Artemus Gordon Meriwether, to help you.”
“Help me how?” Alex demanded.
“By showing you the truth.”
“I know the truth!” Alex nearly shouted and Derek grabbed his arm to hold him back.
Raguel shook his head. “No, child, you know only what you remember. That is not necessarily the same as knowing the truth, all the truth, but I will show it to you if you allow it.”
“Allow it? You mean if I say no then what happens?”
Raguel gave a slight shrug. “Nothing will happen. I will leave you. I cannot force the truth upon you, Artemus. You must accept it of your own free will.”
Alex hesitated, looking unsure. Vorondur spoke up then. “What do you fear most, Alex, knowing the truth or not knowing it?”
The Mortal looked at him and shook his head. “I… I don’t know,” he whispered and then clutched his hands to his head, his eyes closed tight as if in pain. “I can’t think.”
Raguel reached out and placed a hand on Alex’s forehead and the Mortal’s expression cleared as he opened his eyes, looking at the archangel in wonder. “Thanks,” he said, sighing in relief, and Raguel nodded, stepping back.
The Eldar remained still, watching the tableau. Raguel noticed Glorfindel frowning but most of the others looked on respectfully. Some of those from Valinor, such as Finrod and Valandur, appeared more at ease in his presence than the others and Raguel realized they were the ones who had more dealings with the Valar and Maiar than any of the others.
“What is your decision, Artemus Gordon Meriwether?” Raguel asked after a moment.
Alex nodded. “Okay, I guess, but I don’t know what you will tell me that is any different from what I know. I remember what happened.”
“Perhaps,” Raguel allowed. “If you wish to know the truth, however, there is someone to whom you must speak first.” He sent a silent command to Námo still waiting patiently at the gates and then Námo was there, becoming visible to everyone as he walked toward them. Alex gave an inarticulate cry and practically pushed Raguel out of the way to get at Námo even as Glorfindel was launching his own attack. Finrod and Daeron grabbed hold of him as Derek was attempting to grab Alex. Raguel raised a hand and allowed a trickle of power to escape and there was a flash of lightning and the boom of thunder, though the sky was cloudless.
“Hold!” he commanded in a voice that stunned them and they all went still, staring at him in fear and wonder. Námo had stopped as well, waiting for Raguel to orchestrate matters as he saw fit. The archangel looked about and shook his head. “Children,” was all he said and several of them blushed and looked away. “Námo, my brother, come here.”
Námo approached and Raguel laid a hand on the Vala’s shoulder as he addressed Alex, still held in Derek’s arms. “You think you know the truth, Artemus, but you only know what you remember. When I show you what truly happened, you will understand why you feel as you do.”
“Why are you showing me?” Alex asked. “Why not him?” He nodded toward Námo.
“Because I do not have the power to do so, Alex, else I would have done it from the beginning,” Námo answered.
“What do you mean?” Alex asked in confusion. “Why does he have the power but you don’t?” He pointed to Raguel as he spoke.
Námo looked at Raguel as if seeking his permission to explain. Raguel nodded and Námo spoke. “When we Valar decided to enter Eä at Atar’s behest, certain conditions were laid upon us and some of our innate powers were… suppressed. That’s why, for instance, we do not have the power to return to the Timeless Halls. Raguel, however, is free to do so, for he is acting as a messenger for Atar.”
“So you’re saying that you don’t have the ability to… to do what, exactly?” Alex asked, looking between Námo and Raguel.
“Show you the truth,” Raguel answered. “When Námo brought you to Valinor in the spirit, you had no memory of what occurred before. You complain that Námo received Atar’s permission but not yours, but that is not strictly true. Will you allow me to show you what really happened?”
“And do the rest of us get to see it as well?” Glorfindel asked.
Raguel gave the ellon a smile. “Ah, the impossible ellon and one of Atar’s more amusing creations.” Glorfindel actually blushed and several of the Eldar snickered at the sight. “This is for Artemus, but I am sure he will share what he learns with the rest of you. If you are ready, child.”
Alex glanced at Námo. “You made me kill even if it wasn’t for real.”
“And I regret that it had to happen, Alex, more than you will ever know.”
“So why didn’t you come and explain it all to Alex?” Derek demanded. “Why let him suffer?”
“Because I knew what his reaction would be,” Námo replied. “I knew that there was nothing I could do to change things so it was better if I stayed out of the way and let you deal with it. Atar, however, had other ideas.” He stole a glance at the Ayanuz standing beside him.
“He usually does,” Raguel said softly. “So, Artemus. What will it be?”
Alex still hesitated. Vorondur came over and took him by the shoulders. “Truth will set you free,” he said softly. “Truth will free you from the anger you feel now, anger that will eventually destroy you. You know this. We’ve talked about it.”
“Yeah, I know, but now that it comes down to it, I’m not so sure.”
“Well, I hope you say yes, Alex,” Derek said somewhat laconically, “’cus I’m just dying of curiosity wondering what really happened between you and ol’ Nate here.”
Alex grinned and several others chuckled. “And we can’t have that, can we?” Alex said. “Okay, let’s do it before I change my mind.”
Raguel did not hesitate, but placed his right hand on Alex’s forehead. “Remember,” was all he said and then Alex gave a stifled gasp and went rigid, collapsing. Derek and Vorondur caught him before he reached the ground and Vorondur lifted him up and laid him on a chaise lounge. “Fear not!” Raguel assured them. “He is unharmed and will recover soon.”
Even as he spoke, Alex uttered a soft moan and then began blinking open his eyes, finally focusing his gaze upon Námo who had moved closer, kneeling beside the chaise lounge and stroking Alex’s hair. “How are you feeling, Alex?” the Vala asked.
Alex blinked a couple more times and struggled to sit all the way up. Námo moved back to give him some room. He glanced up at Raguel standing impassively to one side. “That’s what really happened?”
Raguel nodded but did not speak.
“What happened, Alex?” Derek asked.
Alex looked up at Derek and the Elves and sighed. “It appears that Nate came to me and told me what he wanted to do and warned me that I would have no memory of our conversation. I’m not sure why, maybe the shock of being separated from my body or something. Anyway, contrary to popular belief, I did in fact give my permission for him to bring me to Valinor and I even knew going in that there would be a… a demonstration of my martial arts skills.”
“So you see, Námo is not the cruel bastard that you all think he is,” Raguel said with a grin and more than one person blinked in shock, not only at the archangel’s words, but at the sight of him now dressed in his mortal disguise complete with duster. “And now that we’ve got that out of the way, I think I’ll go watch the parade.” With that, he thought himself away, leaving the incarnates and Námo staring at one another, unsure what to do next. He had done his part; the rest was up to them.
Historical note: Great as Raguel is, this archangel, along with other high-ranking angels, including Uriel, was reprobated by a church council under the aegis of Pope Zachary in 745 C.E. and stricken from the official ranks of the heavenly host. Of course, that doesn’t mean that Raguel, Uriel and the others ceased to exist.
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