One of the greatest misconceptions in the world described the Halls of Mandos as prison. Primarily the mistake came from the days of the Great Journey where comrades vanished into the shadows and only stone walls seemed safe enough to withstand it. Mourning relatives wished for their beloved to be safe in death and mixed their own ideas of security into the image they had of the Halls.
The dark image of the dreadful place that kept your friends and family away from you was added later. The horrors of the First Age stained everything, even Námo's image. Morgoth's workings had managed to turn the Doom of the Noldor against it's own speaker. For the Judge realised far too late why the souls were so frightened when they arrived.
Originally Námo had named his realm as Castle of Custody - inspired to take of all fëa who lost contact with their hröa. Before the Children of Eru awakened Námo carved a castle for his brethern, since the building of the world happened with many accidents – yet no Valar knew it as what Elves and Men refered to as death. The Halls of Mandos simply started as a place of quietness in contrast to the loud voices shaping Arda into being. Soon the Valar discovered his own song carried on a frequency only detached fëa could hear – or those who's fëa was already unraveling from the body. In other words, the dead and those who's mind wandered close Námo's realm.
All of this, Námo knew, he had never explictly thaught to the Children. First he assumed they knew, later he was concered with Melkor's upcoming release. Now he wished he had paid better attention, especially when Queen Míriel came into his care.
No matter his mistakes in the beginning, Námo could only try not to repeat them. He was still learning, three Ages after one particular death had marked the end of the First Age. One discovery on his road since then had been the helpless feeling of not being able to restore all fëa who sought sanctuary in his home.
For one, his repuatation proceeded him and not all believed his good intentions despite all assurances he gave.
„You look troubled,“ Irmo said to him, instead of welcoming his brother with warm words. „I thought by now the deep worries I see in your eyes are behind us since most of the Noldor have been released.“
„By now the returned even include most of the members belonging to the House of Fëanor, I know.“ Námo was always careful on this particular subject, he had done too much damage already to handle this group with joyful ease. „I should be content at least of what I have archived so far.“
As his closest confidant Irmo was aware of Námo's struggles with his task.
„You speak as if you have utterly failed in your task,“ said Irmo a great amount of doubt in his voice, without demissing Námo's doubts outright, since unlike the other Valar Námo's true work had only truely begun in the First Age.
The steady income of traumatized souls truly revealed what kind of task lay ahead of the Feanturi: Restoring all of them to the bright glowing spark they had all been once at the moment of their conception. The Children of Ilúvater were supposed to shine in this brightness their entire lives. Many dimmed, for various reasons. War - the first. The Doom or the refusal to accept the neccessary challenges of life the second. Only a few managed to burn so brightly they lightened days of their life in rememberance of the Secret Fire.
„It's not an utter failure. At large I succeded in cleaning up the horrible mistakes we made,“ Námo confessed.
Long discussions had steered him away from the belief his doomspeaking had been the sole reason for the suffering the Noldor had endured. At least Manwe admitted now that he had been the one to phrase the Doom, while Námo provided the binding power behind it. Yavanna he still held accountable to be the driving force behind their collective sin, mainly because she belong to the few who denied any responsibility.
„Now only a couple of fëa remain who are in dire need of healing. With those I barely made progress with despite the years they have lasted in my halls.“
„Do you speak of the Elves lost to Morgoth' shadow?“ asked Irmo. Even the Valar had adopted Fëanor's name for their former brother.
„Unfortuantely, no. Healing Orc's is surprisingly easy, while a bit time consuming. Nienna and Estë simply asked Varië to seperate their memories from their fëa and keep them in the tapestries. None of those who lived as orcs have days worth remembering.“
Irmo cocked an eyebrow.
„About whom are we speaking then?“ he wished to know. „Someone specific I take?“
Námo sighed. „There are still fëa from the First Age I have trouble stabilizing. One soul in particular worries me. He falls apart every time I think I finally have given him the security he needs.“
Since they were standing on the threshold that connected their realms, Irmo let his gaze wander. He searched for his long term patients, but none of those who currently were his primary concern matched Námo's describtion. Falling apart usually indicated an awareness his patients often did not possess. They receded so far into their subconscious they either did not know how to wake up, were afraid to or not ready yet to face the waking world.
Stimulating their dreams often brought healing, covering the pain of later years with the sweet memories of childhood.
Irmo reflected upon what charges usually remained in Námo's halls. Only a handful of them had never visited his gardens.
„You speak of those who refuse to leave,“ he realized. „People who still idenify the Halls as a prison.“
„Exactly,“ Námo grumbled. Not all fëa were allowed to leave, but given permission only a small selection actually chose to stay. „It never sat well with me to beginn with, but in this case it's a prison of their own making. I wonder how much responsibility I can claim to be mine since I did not object this idea at first, to provide a stable constant after their disrupted life at first.“
„If you wish me to help, it will be easier if you tell me their names, Námo,“ prodded Irmo and poked his brother, who had grown surprisingly possessive of the souls he harbored.
The Lord of the Halls growled and glared at the Master of Dreams.
„Perhaps you are not ought to know. I seek advice for my future proceedings, not an opinion of past actions.“
„Keep your secrets,“ Irmo said. His brother had changed a lot in the past centuries, more than any other Vala.
Anyone intested in the matter would also be hard pressed to find a Power more interested in the welfare of the Children. Even Ulmo's love paled against journey of redemption Námo had undertaken after he understood the full ramifications of his misjudgements.
„I do,“ Námo answered in a deep voice. „I always do. Anything my charges confess to me is private and to bewielded without bringing more punshiment than we already inflicted upon them.“
Irmo hummed in argeement. This he understood quite well. While he was Master of Visions, send to teach or help those ready receive and understand the messages, dreams created from the asleep were not to be used against the people who created them. His wife guarded wishes, secret desires and silent request with a vehement ferocity that surprised him. But Estë was firm and since long the Fëanturi had silently vowed to stand against those who proposed to be a threat for their beloved fosterlings.
It had taken them nearly three ages to repair what they carelessly destoryed in the first. Trust had turned into fear and suspicion rose among the Vanyar even who never left Aman in the first place, but had been moved by pity after laying eyes upon the Noldor who returned after the War of Wrath.
It was a sad statement that not Morgoth had united the three elven kings of Valinor, but a joint demand at Manwë to handle the Exiles with respect, mercy and forgiveness. King Olwë, King Ingwë and King Arafinwë had made clear they expected a fair treatment of all Elves after the Eldar King wished for the Exiles to remain on Tol Eressëa.
„We have come a long way since then,“ Irmo finally said and smiled sadly. „But I still sense that you need my help in rather serious matter. Will you confine in me, partly at least?“
„I don't have another choice,“ Námo complained. „But you are right, I do need your help.“
Dark was his expression and Irmo suspected that once again Námo's acute senses had widended to deeply, when he tried to converse with his charges. Now his brother was under the influence of his slightly empathic side of his powers. The Master of Dreams did not support Námo's choice to experience the feelings – and therefore the pain – of the fëa he harboured, even the empathic power worked only to a certain extend.
But as the Judge of Souls Námo deemed neccessary and objected against the idea it was self imposed punshiment for the Doom.
All Irmo could do at this point is for Námo to continue. It takes a while until he finally heared the words spilling out of Námo's mouth.
„As you know my Halls are not meant to be pushiment. Nor are they a prison, but they do serve as area where the fëa of the children cannot interfere with living and accidently do any harm,“ Námo says. „My ultimate task is to return them to the living world. Men are easier in this way, since they are content to be reborn in a new hröa. The build up of their minds permits it.“
„But this is seldomly the case for Elves, isn't it?“ Irmo clarifies, not overly familar with the process of reembodiment. „Unless we are speaking about Orcs again.“
Námo shakes his head. „I adopted the idea of rebirth for the Orcs, because their race itself has no future. They are Morgoth's slaves and had no hope to evolve beyond this. Only when all of them have been extinguished and reborn as they originally were meaned to be, there will be peace in Arda. But this is not what I was aiming for.“
The souls Morgoth had corrupted was a sore subject among the Fëanturi. It was their task to heal them and try to undo the harm done to them. Since it was a spirital matter most of their bretheren saw them only as cause for harm and judged them evil or unworthy.
„I must set priorities. It is my task to preserve the peace and those who actively destory this peace, naturally come last in my attention,“ Manwë once explained his reasoning that wided the gap between the Fëanturi and the other Valar only further.
Their wifes supported them, as did Nienna and Ulmo secretly agreed with them but prefered to hold his silence until he could privately counsel Manwë. Little harmony existed between the Powers since Morgoth had been brought down and thrown beyond the Door. Of course Irmo felt no joy to discard anything that left Manwë's mouth these days, but as long their disagreements did not sunk to violence, he would put the well-being of the First- and Secondborn above Manwë's foolish pride.
„Would the fëa you mentioned earlier fall under Manwë's scrutiny?“ asked Imro.
There were still a few of those left, but ever since Fëanor had left the Halls – under much protest, but no one had the power or the authority to stop Námo – it was difficult to say who Manwë hated most.
„Not yet,“ Námo admitted. „But it is part of the reason the matter is pressing. I have two souls who are slowing regaining their will to live and Varië's threats beginn to reach out to them. They are and will be important in the future, but both have insecurties to get past and wounds to heal.“
„And both fëa are not very prone to listen to you?“ Irmo guessed, finally getting a sense the problem. If the fëa refused to leave the Halls and not even visited friends and relatives in dreams or visions, who else but Námo could they talk to.
„No, not much,“ Námo said and Irmo detected amusement in his voice. „They are very headstrong and I would like to bring them together. It would benefit both of them.“
„Why come to me for this?“ the Master of Dreams asked. „Do you need an illusion to bring former enemies together?“
The prefered way among the Fëanturi to bring elves together, who participated in the Kinslayings. Often it sufficied to let create a maze of dreams until the meeting was timed correctly.
Celegorm and Dior had left the Halls this way, both meeting while searching a way out of the forest they died in. Since Námo's Halls often shaped themselves into the place a fëa died in, the Feanorian and Thingol's Heir had never quite realized what happened until they woke in Oromë's woods on the other side of the sea. Irmo's part in creating the pathway between Doriath, the Halls of Mandos and Oromë's dwelling had been very extensive, but it turned out be once of the smoothed reembodiments he had ever the pleasure of witnessing.
While Námo knew a lot about cause and motivation, he lacked the vision and the creativity to put his knowlegde to use. Whoever he was concered about, it would fall to Imro to assure his new charges found the way back to life.
„Would you at least finally tell me who we have been talking about?“ the Vala groused slightly at the workload he was about to receive.
A wry grin about on Námo's face. Either it was enjoying his brother's discomfort or the prospect of having a few problems less to worry about.
„I was speaking about Lómion Íressëion and Nelyafinwë Fëanorion.“
When Irmo groaned, Námo's laughter was loud enough to shortly disrupt the peace of Lórien's gardens.
Unforgiveness denies the victim the possibility of parole and leaves them stuck in the prison of what was, incarcerating them in their trauma and relinquishing the chance to escape beyond the pain.”
Chapter end notes:
Half of this is a response to Encairion's new story. The discussions resulting from it are always delightful. Here I went with a far more sympathic N
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