04 November 2013 @ 06:14 pm
The Valinor Trail, Chapter Nineteen; A Question of Life and Death  
At the end of the last chapter, Námo dropped something of a bombshell...

The Valinor Trail, Chapter Nineteen; A Question of Life and Death
Words; 3,145
Chapter Rated PG.

Disclaimer as Chapter One.


Previous chapters are here.



Chapter Nineteen; A Question of Life and Death


Somehow it hadn’t occurred to Spike, once he had realised why there was a portal in his bedroom wall and unexpected guests, that there was any other possible answer to Dawn’s request than either “No!” or “Do come in.”

And he hadn’t even had time to think about what his response to either of those answers would be.

But “You must, in effect, die” was, well, a real killer.

Dawn was already asking questions and Spike tried to listen to the answers, but he was still trying to get his head around why that might be, in any way, an offer he might feel the need to accept.

…………….

Both Tindómë and Spike looked shocked by Lord Námo’s pronouncement of Spike’s doom. Really, Haldir could not understand why; it seemed to him to be the obvious outcome as soon as the words left His Lordship’s mouth.

Also, he thought, it was surely a doom of which Rumil would approve as Tindómë would be happy that her sister-husband would now be here in Aman, without having him living with them, as the fëa would need to spend time in Mandos. And then… actually Haldir wondered what would happen to the fëa, would it be re-embodied as an elf, or fly the circles of the world as a mortal?

Ah – Tindómë had found her tongue… and was asking a whole stream of questions, some of which covered those very points. Perhaps, Haldir thought, both Lord Námo and the vampire might get a word in eventually.

“Certainly,” the Vala began to answer her as she paused for breath, “I would have Spike stay with me here in my halls. There is much with which he needs to come to terms, to understand about himself, before his fëa will be whole.”

“And how long is that going to take?” Tindómë asked. “And what will happen to him then?”

“It will take as long as is required. How long that is depends, to a great extent, on Spike. He will need to come to terms with how responsible he actually was for evil deeds and how much guilt he may carry that is unwarranted. Then… ah, now that was the point that puzzled me when I first knew of your quest to seek his doom, for should he be numbered amongst Men or the First-born due to his current immortality?”

……………………………….

Get to decide for himself? The Power from Dawn’s – no, Tindómë’s – dimension had said that after consideration, and asking for guidance from The One, that was the only possible answer to the question of whether Spike, the inner person, should be numbered as the mortal man he had once been, or whether he had been immortal, due to the demon, for so long that immortality was part of who he was. Bloody Hell!

But he didn’t fancy this idea of spending time in these ‘Mandos Halls’ as a disembodied spirit. Not one bit. Sounded too much like purgatory to him.

Lord Námo was speaking to him directly. “Of course you have many questions about my domain. Because your presence in my halls would be at the request of The Key, and because those who belong in this world have no fear of my halls, I will grant you a boon before you make your decision. You may learn more by speaking to someone who has been here, and has since resumed his life. Haldir…”

……………………………….

Haldir was tempted to tell Spike that time spent in Mandos Halls was horrific, that he would feel every pain he had ever caused to someone else, whether physical or mental, and that he would surely send himself mad. Rumil had said he wanted his wife to be happy, but Haldir knew his brother well enough to believe that Rumil would be very happy if the door between the two worlds was slammed shut and never opened again – with everyone and everything from that other world left there.

But, if he did tell the vampire that, His Lordship would know he did not speak the truth. Although it would be part of the truth…

He thought carefully before speaking.

“I do not know what you would expect when your fëa leaves your body, what is normal in your world,” he began. “I heard Lord Námo call my name as I lay on a battlefield and I followed. I know not whether this is what your fëa would expect. But you are almost within the halls already – I cannot imagine you could get lost…”

The slight lift of the vampire’s eyebrow, and the way he looked at Haldir, implied he had been all too aware of the hint of sarcasm in that remark, and that it amused him; he appreciated it. Haldir realised that it was just possible that, given time, he might actually like this Spike. Either that or they would annoy each other greatly, but even that staved off boredom.

He thought of what Spike might wish to know. “I was not greatly aware of the passing of time whilst I dwelt here. I was not surprised at how much had passed when I was re-housed in this hröa; but I would not have been surprised, either, had it been only a few weeks or a millennium.

“I did spend time considering the life I had led before my death. There were things I was happy about; memories of friendship and companionship on the fences. Pleasant memories of ellyth I had known, of days and nights spent joining with them. Memories of good times spent with my parents as an elfling, or with my brothers as they grew to adulthood, and the times we had fought side by side – or enjoyed life’s pleasures together.”

Tindómë’s slight smile made it clear that she could imagine some of those pleasant memories.

“But also,” Haldir went on, “I had to consider time when I had made bad decisions, times when I had caused pain to another. I was… helped… to understand what it had been like for that other. Sometimes there were events which I regretted, where I feared I had, for example, lost warriors under my command by bad decisions, or could have done something to prevent the deaths of our parents. Yet when I had to examine those events I realised I had done less harm than I thought. However there were also events I had not thought of as significant but, when encouraged to consider them, I felt the pain I had caused either to fëa or hröa.”

He took a moment to remember what that had been like. “Once considered, though, I knew it was past and gone.”

“You were ‘helped’?” Spike said, “How?”

“There are many other fëa in the halls, and sometimes I would find myself alone with one or another and we both knew what memory we shared – what pain we may, or may not, have caused each other. But on other occasions one of My Lordship’s maia would join me and I would find they shared my memories, and helped me to examine the incident.”

“And then what?” asked the vampire, suspiciously. “What form did your punishment take?”

Ah – at least in that other world – mortals must fear punishment when they leave the circles of the earth. No wonder, then, that some envied the firstborn their immortality. Haldir paused to consider before answering.

“Feeling the pain you caused to the other is punishment itself.”

Tindómë spoke for the first time since Lord Námo had asked Haldir to describe his time between death and rebirth.

“It’s kinda like restorative justice – you remember that idea?”

Haldir had no idea what she meant, but the vampire clearly did as he nodded slowly.

Haldir decided to go on.

“There is pleasure within the halls, also. If I wanted to eat there was the food I wanted, if I thought of favourite music it was around me, if…”

He realised that something he had just said had made Spike smile. From the other side of the portal, the vampire turned his gaze to Lord Námo.

“You mean the food, or the music, is generated from the memories of the soul?”

“That is, indeed, how it happens.”

The expression on Spike’s face, Haldir thought, could best be described as a smirk.

There was more conversation which no longer required Haldir to answer.

At one stage Spike asked “Would this basically turn me back into William? Just as I was before I was turned?”

“No,” answered the Vala. “That part of you that is not the demon has lived through all that has happened since; these experiences are your experiences as Spike, and you could not go back to that innocent young man. But you will be your true self, not the demon.”

It seemed a pity, Haldir thought, that he would not become the person he was, before his life had changed so, but clearly Spike was happier with the reply.

Tindómë spoke to her sister-husband for a short time and then Námo spoke again.

“You know now my doom for you. You must give up the body you inhabit, which is neither truly dead nor truly alive, but I will call your fëa and allow it to cross into my halls, for you cared for The Key whilst she was in your world.

“Time in my halls is not punishment, it is time to consider things about which you may feel guilty, and let go of the guilt; to consider other things for which you feel no guilt, and face whether those acts harmed others and, having faced them, to learn from them. My maia, and I at times, will support you, and help you become at ease with yourself, until I am sure that you can live amongst others again without what I think you would refer to as ‘baggage’.”

It seemed as if the Vala became taller, and sterner, before he finally said, “It is a very serious decision you must make. I will close the portal now and you will have time to consider. One hour before sunrise, in two days time, I will reopen the portal and you must give me your decision. Until then…”

The Vala took Tindómë by the hand; a sharp knife appeared as if from nowhere and he pushed it into the ball of her thumb, blew across the blood that oozed from the small wound, and the portal was gone.

……………………………….

Lord Námo nodded at Tindómë and Haldir and then faded from sight before there was a chance to ask him any more questions.

“Whoa,” said Tindómë, “that was kind of unexpected – and intense.”

Before Haldir could answer another voice spoke and she realised one of the maia had returned.

“My Lord suggests that you may need sustenance, time to consider what has taken place, and then to leave the halls for a little and spend time amongst the trees.”

‘No shit!’ passed through Tindómë’s mind but she thought better than to say it out loud. Although the maia here were so used to communicating with fëar that they did have a habit of automatically listening to your thoughts. Either that or they were just plain nosy!

They followed him back to their rooms where, sure enough, a fresh repast was laid out for them.

“Do you think your sister-husband will want to come,” Haldir asked, “or is he likely to decide to remain where he is?”

“I don’t know,” she answered. “I really don’t know. It just didn’t occur to me that Lord Námo would, well, make the decision he made. I thought he’d just say ‘Come on in, Spike,’ and we could just take him home with us.”

Haldir poured wine into two goblets, passed one to Tindómë, and then gazed into his own for two or three minutes as if deciding what to say. He took a sip and then spoke.

“Do you really think that would have been sensible? Had you actually thought about it properly at all?”

Oh – snarky Haldir was back. Tindómë glared at him, but before she could come up with a suitable retort he continued.

“You say, and he says, that he is in control of the evil thing that keeps him alive and makes him immortal. But how can you be sure he would always be in control of it? What if he was to be injured? Perhaps by a falling rock, as you were, or a falling tree branch, and the ‘demon’ could take control again? What harm might he do? It sounded, from what His Lordship said, that there is much for him to consider; many times in which he hurt others, times when the demon was in control. Is it right to possibly set that loose here, in Aman? Mar this place as the rest of Arda is marred?”

Tindómë swallowed hard. Haldir continued.

“Lord Námo spoke of an attack by a ‘vampire’, which drained the hröa of blood so that another one of the evil entities could enter it. Perhaps it could not happen here because there are no other evil spirits to take advantage – but perhaps the evil spirit can reproduce to occupy the second hröa, and then the third, the fourth and so on. What easy prey we would be until the danger became better known. And how loath would all the Firstborn be to ‘kill’ beings who wore the hröa of other elves.”

“But Lord Námo said it was a new demon – and there wouldn’t be one here to take over another body, and anyway Spike wouldn’t ever do that!”

“Perhaps,” said Haldir with a deadly thrust, “Lord Námo said that was what he discovered within Spike’s mind because that is what Spike believes – and it is what the demon wanted His Lordship to find.”

Huitho! Tindómë could suddenly imagine the sort of tongue lashing Haldir might have given his warriors, and he hadn’t actually raised his voice, or sounded anything but perfectly reasonable. The trouble was that what he was saying actually was all too reasonable. Double Huitho!

And where was this going now? Tindómë wondered. She soon found out.

“You have told me, as we travelled, of the good things Spike did for you; how he did much to keep you alive, both when you lived in that other world and when you were taken back there against your will. Somehow the subject of what he lives on has not come up in conversation.”

Uh- uh.

“But my understanding from conversations with Legolas and my brothers, before the possibility of Spike coming to Arda was mentioned, is that some of the greatest foes you faced in that other place were vampires who could only survive by regularly drinking the blood of others. And both you and he have acknowledged that he is one of these vampires.”

“He only drinks animal blood, from animals that are being slaughtered for food. Uh – and blood from hospitals. Houses of Healing. They collect it from healthy people, who volunteer, to put into the bodies of those who have lost too much blood for some reason. But sometimes it isn’t needed and then… See? So, no problem – Elves kill animals for food – Spike takes the blood.”

Haldir was clearly not convinced. And, to be honest, his final line was something of a clincher.

“And do you really think any of the edhel would have wanted to befriend such a being? Who could not tolerate the touch of the sun on his skin and who lived by drinking the blood of fresh kills? Would that not have condemned him to a life with little more companionship and joy than he has in that other place?”

Tindómë so wanted to argue. But if she was to be completely honest, Haldir had a point. Lord Námo’s way really would be better all round. If Spike chose it.

…………………..

Spike looked at the wall of his bedroom. It was just a wall. He almost might have thought he had dreamt the whole encounter. But he knew that he hadn’t. And now he had forty-eight hours to make what was, literally, a life or death decision.

Or an unlife and death decision.

There was a lot to think about.

He could just stay here, as he was, but to be honest he was very lonely. As he had thought a number of times, since Buffy died, this was the first time he had ever been without family. Firstly both parents, then Mother, next Drusilla, Darla, and Angelus (strange family, but family none the less), and then, over the last seventy-odd years, Buffy and her family. The Scoobies had been Buffy’s surrogate family, but Buffy had been the one who truly counted; Buffy, Joyce, and Dawn.

And now Buffy had finally gone, to join Joyce, and Dawn had become Tindómë and brought this Lord Námo and his offer to confuse the issue.

Spike had always assumed that, when he dusted, he would go to Hell for all the evil things he had done. But Námo seemed to have said it wasn’t entirely his fault, that he couldn’t be held totally responsible for the deeds that were demon driven.

Except he knew he would be, because he had enjoyed them. He had enjoyed them because he was a bad person; he had been a bad person before Dru turned him. She had recognised how intrinsically evil he was and… STOP!

That was the demon talking. At least he thought it was. And if that was just the demon talking, to stop him allowing himself to dust, then perhaps there was a chance that he might be able to join Buffy in the Afterlife.

If William was not evil, could Spike really be held responsible for all the things he had done before he regained his soul? Had that belief come from the demon? Or was Námo right that what had happened was that there had just been ‘help to mend some of the damage’ to his soul, so he had never truly been soulless? In which case he could not expect to go to join Buffy and Joyce because he would surely be held accountable for some, or all, of the evil things he did because his soul had still been part of the symbiotic relationship with the demon…

He found his thoughts going around and around in circles. He began to see why time in quiet contemplation might be a good thing. But could he not just do that here?

Twenty-four hours after he awoke to the portal in his bedroom he thought he had decided what to do. Thirty-six hours after he was equally sure – but had now decided to do the exact opposite to that earlier decision. Forty-two hours after and he was completely undecided.

And now it was an hour before sunrise and the forty-eight hours was up.

...................................................
Bits of Sindarin

Huitho! - Fuck!

Edhel - Elves.




Feedback is like chocolate, but better for the figure - and if you spot anything my beta missed, or find something awkward, please say.
 
 
I feel: tiredtired
 
 
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Marcus L. Rowlandffutures on November 4th, 2013 06:54 pm (UTC)
That's a big decision - but he needs to think about the alternatives, what happens if he doesn't follow her offer. For one thing, how long will he continue to look human? And what happens if he dies (again) in our world?
curiouswombat: Hmmcuriouswombat on November 4th, 2013 07:20 pm (UTC)
Absolutely - actually (to be completely honest!), I had even forgotten the changes to appearance, which was silly of me, I must try to insert it into the bit I've already got for the next chapter.

So an even bigger than you for commenting than usual!
(Anonymous) on November 5th, 2013 03:51 am (UTC)
Poor Spike, he really is in a bind, he is so sure that he will not get to be with Buffy and her mom if he dusts himself and I think he is really sacred of dying but, Namo and Tindome have given him a way to save himself and keep his memories of Buffy alive and have a new life where he can try to do some good.

Halidir has a good point, his eating requirements will really squik some people!

I think he is going to say yes to Namo's Call or he is going to be kicking himself for the rest of his immortal life and that is a very, very long time!

Lynda
curiouswombat: Hmmcuriouswombat on November 5th, 2013 08:43 am (UTC)
Thank you. I was a bit worried that there was too much talk and not enough action in this chapter - but it is, to a large extent, the heart of the story because of all those things.
Syderiasyderia on November 5th, 2013 06:17 pm (UTC)
Suspense, suspense...
curiouswombat: Hmmcuriouswombat on November 5th, 2013 10:11 pm (UTC)
:)

I promise he will come to a decision in the next chapter!
ninglorethningloreth on November 6th, 2013 07:56 am (UTC)
Something occurred to me in the last paragraph: if the demon is removed (if I've understood Namo correctly), will Spike still be Spike?

Intense chapter, and very thought provoking, especially the image Haldir paints of Aman plagued by vampires -- which would be an exciting story, too. I wonder what vampire elves would be like?
curiouswombat: Hmmcuriouswombat on November 6th, 2013 08:31 am (UTC)
Ah now that is a question that he has asked, himself, just what might Námo have meant when he answered the related question?

At one stage Spike asked “Would this basically turn me back into William? Just as I was before I was turned?”

“No,” answered the Vala. “That part of you that is not the demon has lived through all that has happened since; these experiences are your experiences as Spike, and you could not go back to that innocent young man. But you will be your true self, not the demon.”


Aman plagued by vampires would be quite a story. Vampire elves would be very, very scary; older ones, in particular, would have no problems with being nocturnal, and the skills and the bodies they already have would be made even faster and stronger - yes - scary!
ninglorethningloreth on November 6th, 2013 11:51 am (UTC)
But will his true self be the snarky individual we love ;-)
curiouswombat: Hmmcuriouswombat on November 6th, 2013 11:42 pm (UTC)
Ah - well if he chooses to take up the offer we might find out eventually!
myrhiann: pic#57579695myrhiann on November 14th, 2013 09:40 pm (UTC)
I haven't had time to read this, and just trawled back through LJ to find it. Suspense again, I hope Spike decides to take up Lord Namo's offer. He has nothing to lose.
curiouswombat: Hmmcuriouswombat on November 14th, 2013 10:34 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you had time to came back to it.

He may not have a lot to lose... except his unlife. It will be a real leap into the unknown.
myrhiannmyrhiann on November 15th, 2013 04:58 am (UTC)
Yes, it will, but it will make a GOOD story!!!
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )