Doomsman's Herald by Morta's Priest
Chapter 1 – Free Spirit
" Avada Kedavra!"
It sounded like a cannon firing when the two spells collided in mid-air, and golden flames erupted between Harry and Lord Voldemort, rising upwards to meet the coming dawn as they billowed outward. The Elder wand flew from the Dark Lord's hand, towards the master it refused to kill, who had come to take full possession of it at last. Harry caught it easily as Voldemort's face slackened, his scarlet eyes rolling up, and he fell backwards with a dull thud.
The moment of victory seemed to stretch out, lengthen, even as total silence took over. Harry breathed unsteadily as he felt the unforgiving wand in his hand, distractedly noting that everything seemed a little less real than it ought to be. Voldemort was dead, killed by his own rebounding curse once again, and that should have been it. Tom Riddle's shell stared blindly at the ceiling, where the early morning sun just barely crept over the horizon.
It was over, right?
The Elder Wand felt slippery in his hand, and Harry looked down at his hand confusedly as something hard tapped against the wood. There, on the very same hand that had caught Voldemort's weapon, he saw a ring that should not be there. He tried to cry out in surprise, but he could not manage even a squeak as he realized what it was; the Gaunt ring, adorned with the Resurrection Stone, that he had left in the forest. It glittered innocently in the rays of the morning sun. The stone that he had intended to leave behind was back with him. There was a sudden weight on his back, too; Harry knew already what he would find there. He glanced aside, to find his friends, and though he saw Ron and Hermione approaching, they slowed down to a crawl even as he watched, freezing like all the rest.
Without even a sound, the Great Hall evaporated. Whiteness surrounded Harry on all sides, stifling him for a moment, before it gave way to clean air. There was an all-pervading silence and a cloudy mist that slowly billowed around his ankles, formless. Harry recognized it immediately, and grimaced. He had been here before, and very recently. The train station was gone, that ethereal place, to make way for something with barely any description, an even bleaker nothingness.
"So, was that it?" Harry asked aloud, not expecting an answer. "I get a short time among the living, to finish what I started, and then I get pulled back here again? What was the point of that?"
Nobody answered him. Harry looked down at himself self-consciously and found that he was wearing his clothes, this time, and even the Elder Wand was still clasped in his fist alongside that impossible ring. The cloak surely remained on his back as well - all the Hallows. He raised his hand to study the magical gem socketed within the ring, and wondered why it had come back to him. Had he claimed this Hallow for himself, by using it?
It was an unimportant question compared to the larger problem. He was, as he understood it, standing on the path between the living and the dead; he had narrowly escaped once, and he was rather worried that this time death would actually take. Dying, at such a young age, seemed unfair – yet he'd done it once already. What if it really was over, just like that?
Harry sighed. Most likely he had collapsed beside Voldemort, another victim to the same spell that had robbed his enemy of life, that had ended the nightmare. His friends would certainly take care of everything, Harry was certain, now that the biggest threat was gone, now that peace could return to the Wizarding World. Ron and Hermione had each other, of course, and Ginny – Harry swallowed thickly, wondering what she would do. Harry had kept her well away from the action, knowing what a danger it was to be close to him, and it was now abundantly clear that he had not been too cautious at all.
Still, he knew she still waited for him, for everything to be over. He thought of all the others that had joined him in that final struggle as well, all those people who had been there beside him as the last Horcruxes were destroyed, and Voldemort finally defeated. If he was dead, he had left them behind. They had already mourned him once, today. What would twice do to them? He shivered involuntarily. Right now, he needed company, someone to tell him what was going on. He knew of one person that would be more than willing.
"Professor Dumbledore?" He called uncertainly. He looked around with a slight hope that the man would come striding out of the mists, congenial as ever, to help. Harry wondered where the man was, since he had been there so very quickly the previous time. "Professor Dumbledore? Are you here?"
"I am sorry, but he has already gone on," said a baritone voice.
Harry twisted around with his wand raised, but he almost let it fall out of his hand when he saw the person who had spoken. Just beyond the first layer of mist stood a tall figure with long black hair, weaved into intricate patterns. A golden hood drawn over his face, and he wore what could only be described as golden armour, studded with black and grey ornaments. More than his physical form, though, he was stunned by the tangible feeling of immense power that seemed to emanate from him, a testament to incredible potential. Harry suddenly felt terribly insignificant, as it seemed like the man was impossibly huge, like a gigantic mountain far out at the horizon, or a darkened cloudbank, rising for miles and miles.
"There is no need for fear," the figure said carefully as he stepped out of the mist. His boot landed onto small stone tiles, set in an intricate pattern that spread around his feet as if they grew from his boot, until even the ground beneath Harry's feet was changed into solid ground. Plants erupted from fresh soil and wrapped themselves around pillars that sprung into existence from nowhere, joining in wide arches at the top. Flowers and thorns appeared on the weaving flora, surrounding the impromptu little garden on all sides. "The mind creates the place, just as the place creates the mind. Please, search for balance."
As quickly as it had appeared, the terrifying impression of infinity diminished from the man, and Harry breathed in relief. The newly appeared structures, though still vaguely ethereal, gave his mind some much-needed anchors, and he leaned against one of the pillars as his knees almost buckled, glad to find it strong and sturdy. He was exhausted from his fight with Voldemort, finding himself back here, so he really could do without any more upsets.
"What the hell is going on?" he asked at last, eyes sharp. "Who are you?"
The new arrival looked at Harry with an expression of relief that he seemed wholly out of place, and clasped his hands behind his back. "You were almost correct in your earlier assumptions," he started. "You are dead." The man paused at Harry's pained expression. "No, no, that is inaccurate phrasing in your language. You are not dead, truly, but existing only in potential, rather than actuality. This is - in-between." He raised his hand and gestured at the tall pillars. "Where we are now, it is the space between moments, the time between past and future, lengthened into perpetuity. It is where all things form. The intricacies shall be discussed another time, I think." He lowered his hand to a lavishly decorated table that spontaneously grew out of the floor, alongside two large chairs that were similarly ornate, and picked up a cup that seemed to form out of the very air. "Please, take a seat."
Harry nodded wearily, and slowly sat down, his mind whirling. He had no idea who the newcomer was, but he seemed kindly enough, and something about his armor tickled a distant memory. It was better than finding a deformed baby under a chair like last time, he wryly considered. Those thoughts quickly gave way to his more immediate worries. If he was not dead, would he wake up later, in the hospital wing? If he was unconscious, why was he back here again? A chilling thought came to him then; perhaps he was in a coma, never to wake again.
It was the stranger that broke the silence after a time. "Tell me, young wizard, what do you know of the workings of the worlds?" He leaned back with a frown when Harry just blinked in confusion at the subject. "It is such a funny thing, time. Ages pass by, so many years upon years, and yet very few remember the lessons of the last. It seems to me only moments ago that the first of the Eldest awakened around their ancient lakes. The stream of ages leaves many sailors behind, it seems." He frowned slightly. "What I mean to explain, is that the tales of the past do not always survive to the present. Not as more than legends, at least, or the sayings of ancient wisdom. The history that I represent is not like your own. My history is hidden in the deepest of histories."
Harry wondered what the man was even rambling about. "I don't understand – who are you?"
The man nodded gravely. "It is not a surprise that you fail to understand, since you are presently a being of a later age, with no more than an inkling of the truth. The Symphony of Ilúvatar has a habit of calling back upon itself, so your familiar path is predictable as well. There are common quirks in the rhythm, elements that reappear, again and again." He gestured to himself. "I am called Námo, but I have taken other names over my long existence. Many have fashioned themselves in my image, even without my permission. I carry the name Mandos as well, after my place of dwelling. Others call me the Doomsman."
The Doomsman? That certainly did not sound inviting, and Harry's suspicion of the other's identity suddenly became a lot more plausible. The figure across from him was not dressed in a black cloak and bony as a skeleton, but… "Wait - You're Death?"
Námo looked away with a small frown. "I have been called a Ruler of the Dead before, true. It suits me well enough, if you wish to use that title, though I do not prefer to be so presumptuous," he replied, and his frosty blue eyes seemed to twinkle like Dumbledore's did. "Námo will do, I believe. I know why you come to that question, I think - you carry the three artifacts that have their origin in me."
Harry looked down at his wand and ring, and reached for the cloak on his back, the one that Dumbledore had given him on his first Christmas at Hogwarts, his father's invisibility cloak. "The Hallows, you mean. They're – I mean, you made them, I guess?" he said awkwardly.
Námo gave the smallest shrug. "Well, yes. But, there is no doubt that they are yours. These objects are symbols, in the end. The wand exists to overpower, the ring to parlay, the cloak to protect. These are three ways to conquer death. Let me ask you this - which one of these 'Hallows' would you choose to keep, knowing these meanings?"
That was an easy question. "The cloak."
Námo's lip twitched at his immediate answer. "And why is that?"
"It's…" Harry ran his hand across the silky substance of the invisibility cloak with an unblemished hand – the remains of Umbridge's terrible punishment were gone. "In the story of the three brothers – which is somewhat true, I guess – the wand led to the owner's quick death, and I guess it's because power alone doesn't solve all, or even most problems, and others would be jealous of it." He swallowed, finding his throat suddenly dry. "The stone allows the dead to return, but they don't belong in life anymore, and they do not wish such an existence. I suppose it means that parlaying with death only delays what's supposed to happen naturally. But – the cloak is different. It's not just a way to avoid death, like the others, but more - it's passed on to one's children, rather than kept. It can be used to protect others from death. That's why the brother with the cloak met death willingly, as an equal, rather than by force."
"You have thought about this before," Námo observed good-naturedly. "It is a solid answer, and one that many would struggle to give. There have been many mighty heroes in history, Harry Potter. Eärendil slew the great dragon Ancalagon the Black only a short while ago in my reckoning, and the great but terrible Melkor himself faced all his brethren in battle, only barely defeated by our collective might in a war that shook the very earth. Many others, great and small, still lie in the future, waiting to be born. Some heroes are marked by great victories, changing all of time in their wake, while others fight the smaller battles. You are the latest in a long and illustrious heritage, as the slayer of Voldemort, a self-made monster."
"I was hardly alone in the fight," Harry objected. "And I'm not that powerful."
"Power does not solve all, or even most problems," Námo chided good-naturedly, turning Harry's words back on himself. "Whether your foe was weaker than those whose evil he emulates, is ultimately unimportant. Your willingness to stand up and fight, to battle to the bitter end, that is what makes one stand out. Even those who dared to spit in the face of their oppressors can be called heroes, after all, even when they cannot topple their empire." He looked down upon the Elder Wand, and for the first time a semblance of a smile appeared on his face. "You won your battle, even in diminished form, and despite facing off against your own might, misused. You should be proud."
Harry blinked. "What do you mean, diminished?"
Námo's eyes glittered, then, as if sharing great secrets. "There is a reason that you are the first to unite these three artifacts, these Deathly Hallows, beyond mere happenstance and luck. There is a reason you are the first and only 'Master of Death'." He smirked. "It is a poor translation at best, after all these years, but one cannot expect any more from such ancient times. Herald would have been more accurate." He drank from his cup for a moment before it vanished back into nothingness. A silence lingered, though finally, Námo spoke again, softer. "These artefacts of power, they can only be united by he who was meant to have them. Only by the very person who was supposed to have them since the beginning, had the dark one not intervened. You."
Námo steepled his fingers together, and he watched Harry closely. "You are more than you believe, Harry Potter. With a single blow, the Vala Melkor, whom I and my brethren call a Dark Lord, washed a gulf between the land of Valinor and you that was impossibly wide. It was not a barrier of space alone, but of time. An ocean of years was thrown between us, a running torrent of eternity. Only with his defeat, you returned to my sight once again, in the light of the sun and moon. Finally, I was able to attempt your rescue. Despite my efforts, you had already been reborn as a human in the Seventh Age, as Melkor had intended. Thousands of years beyond our most distant thoughts, you were sent to die as a mortal, removed from the symphony, lost in the abyss of ages so that the Valar might never discover you." He smiled, then. "He failed."
Harry had left his chair behind somewhere during Námo's speech; he had barely even noticed. "You're telling me – I'm not human?"
"You are human enough – now," Námo said enigmatically. "You were born as that which is closest to your true being; a wizard with a destiny. The wizards of your age are a strand of the ancient magic, carrying within them the diluted power of the Maiar themselves. They are offspring of the Istari, sent across the sea to help the Elves, Dwarves and Men in a future age, though I do not know why. Two of their number move into distant lands, and furthered their lines there. Their nature runs through all of humanity's blood, now, though in few it is strong enough to manifest."
"So I'm human, but I'm not supposed to be, by what you said earlier?" Harry narrowed his eyes. "I really don't understand…"
"You were to be my herald," Námo said, and he removed his hood to show a small black crown, studded with gems gleaming in ethereal light, over a face that betrayed he had little to smile about, ever. "Just as Manwë, leader of the Valar, had Eönwë as his proud representative, I wished for my own. Unwilling to take a Maia from among someone else's followers, I sought to call for a new herald to suit my own person, one to carry out my deeds across the sea, where they would certainly be needed, for the age of war is not yet done. However, Melkor sought to disturb what he could among us, to wound those who stood against him. You were a victim, swept away out of my reach."
Harry shook his head slowly, uncomfortably aware about the weight of Námo's words - they seemed almost to carry the air of inevitability with them, as if nothing could contradict them. "Manwë, Maia, Melkor... I don't know any of those words. I think you have the wrong person!"
"No," Námo said swiftly. "I am not wrong." His voice was suddenly hard, and with a surge of power his incredible aura of might returned, sweeping Harry up in fear and rapture as he shone as the sun. "I am Námo, one of the Valar, hailing from Outside of existence itself, where the One dwells with the Flame Imperishable!" He swept his arm aside, and it seemed as if he moved whole continents, and Harry cowered away by instinct, barely stringing coherent thoughts together at all. "We are what created this world from its base beginnings, we played the great symphony with our creator to make all that was, all that there will be in this world!" He calmed a little, and his eyes betrayed compassion. "We are gods by your reckoning, the forces that exist beyond mortal ken. And you - you were to be my herald, my bannerman."
The wild might that Námo had unleashed vanished in an instant, and Harry sagged to the ground, his eyes failing to focus for a moment. The power shown had been incredible, and it felt like he was swept away on a hurricane, even as he sat still, and his mind refused to take it all in, rebelling against what it could plainly see. He trembled as he got to his feet, and Námo looked away stiffly. For a moment, Harry was unsure if he was supposed to bow to Námo, or do any of the other things you were supposed to do when faced with gods, but the few times he had visited a church when he was small gave him no good indications. He was pretty sure that golden-armoured doomsmen had not been mentioned, anyway.
Námo seemed to follow his thoughts, but did not comment. "This is what I am, wizard," he said. "It is what I have always been. Even as you see me, I am greatly diminished, for I come to you from a vast distance." He looked down imperiously. "That is only half the truth, however. I am of the Vala, immortal and born of the spirit. The Maia are similar, with their own immortality, great beings of spiritual might that serve and protect their master or creator." He nodded. "I cannot show you the whole truth, not without making the choice for you. Your mortal body could only contain a mortal soul, or it would burn through in years, limited by the flesh. Like the Half-Elven, you will have to choose."
Harry shivered as he tried to warm himself up; he felt like he had been dunked in ice-water, now that Námo had once more hidden his power. His mind whirled, meanwhile, considering the strange history that this being proposed with utmost sincerity. "You're talking about angels, aren't you?" Harry asked at last, with widening eyes. "I'm supposed to be a bloody angel? Am I going to grow wings next?"
"If you so desire," Námo said lightly, and his eyes were mirthful, though he did not smile. "When I first found you in this age, I meant to take you back with me to Valinor, my home, right from your crib in your ruined house, surrounded by the dead. Yet – as is my own doom – I saw what would befall you later in life, should I leave you be, and I hesitated. Over these years, I could see your life, but to interact with such distant times is difficult, even when sheer power should permit it. I knew then that your presence here would make a difference, would add a joyful note to the great harmony even as a mortal man, and thus I allowed it. I let you live your life, and let you conquer your great enemy. I watched you become the person I had hoped you could be, even without my guidance, and I acknowledge that Eru had chosen wisely. I was content to wait."
"…Until now," Harry finished for him, taking a deep breath. "...Okay. Angels."
Námo nodded regally. "This is why I am here, now, at your victory. This is a time before you truly lay down unbreakable ties, before the choice is taken from you. I still have need of a herald, a representative in the early ages of the world, and you were always my first choice." He gestured to his forehead, to his shining crown. "The stone which you carry in a ring was cut from my own crown, forged by master smiths of Valinor. The focus you wield, once a staff, was carved from a branch of the silver tree Telperion, retrieved from when it still lived. The cloak you wear is weaved from starlight and moonlight, held together by my will alone. These Hallows, as you call them, are far older than you suppose – far, far older – and not meant for the descendants of Alatar and Pallando, those wayward Istari. Their true user could only come from my own line, could only be of my spirit." He reached out, and the three objects shone brightly, and a soft song seemed to arise. "These relics are yours by birthright, and that is why they found you, after wandering from place to place for ages."
Harry swallowed. "How am I supposed to believe all this? Different times and worlds, gods and angels…?" He shook his head. "How can I be a 'Maia', if I don't know anything about that? I'm just - just me."
Námo raised an eyebrow, and the mist around them evaporated as light pierced the clouds from afar. Harry's breath hitched when a vast mountain range appeared around him, bordered on one side by an ocean that stretched as far as the eye could see. The valleys between the steep peaks seemed impossibly deep, many dozens of miles down. The spot they occupied, surrounded by pillars and sheer vertical drops, was on the very tallest of spires, adjacent to a truly gargantuan fortress built into the very rock itself, as if it had been carved there. Tall spires reached even higher still. Clouds drifted by, far below it all, wheeling in a sweet-scented breeze. The very air seemed to burst with life, and Harry felt almost buoyant, as if he could stretch out his arms -
"Is this… heaven?" he murmured.
Then he saw the sunrise, the brilliant warmth that ascended from the distant waters, and it illuminated the land and the small islands that dotted the great sea in a golden glow. It seemed as if the hills had caught on fire with their brilliant colours, and the water was clear enough to see the bottom. The sight stirred something inside him, and Harry stood up almost without realizing it. The light of the sun was blinding for the time of day, and Harry had the momentary impression that it was very young, younger than him. The thought fluttered away as his eyes trailed over the graceful ships that approached in the distance, their sails full in the wind, though there was none to be felt up from the mountain.
"Anyone would remember such a sight, even those who are constrained in mortal flesh," Námo said softly as he joined Harry by the edge. "Though the light of the sun did not shine as yet, this is where your life began, here upon the highest peaks in the land of Valinor." He paused, looking into the depths. "Many Maiar came with us, from Outside, when the world was made. A few did not, and they entered into being in times of need. The Maiar are akin to the children of the mind of the Valar, just as they themselves are children of Eru's mind, and all share origins in the great music." He pointed to the tallest part of the cliff. "I had Manwë's blessing to use this place, Taniquetil, which is closest to the heavens in all of Arda. From here, I and my wife beseeched Ilúvatar. It is here, too, that I received my herald."
Harry looked over the edge with a barely constrained urge to yell out and see if there was an echo, to spread his arms and jump down the endless slopes, almost certain that he could sprout wings on the way down. There was something familiar here, something he couldn't quite understand, as if it was on the tip of his tongue, but wouldn't budge.
"No wonder I like flying," he said after a moment, stunned. His eyes roved over the mountains and the valleys below, and the long white beaches. He felt as if he should recognize this place, but he didn't, and in confusion he turned away. "If what you say is true, and I'm… this 'Maia', then what? I'm a wizard from Britain, now."
Námo gestured to the east, across the sea. "See there, the fleet that approaches? The ships you see come from the far lands, from sinking Beleriand, and the Great War of Wrath wherein Melkor was thrown down and defeated. A great victory was won, that is true. I have seen, however, that another great darkness will rise in his stead, and take root among the firstborn, the Elves, and among the Vala Aulë's children, the Dwarves. In time, even mortal Men will be swayed under this new evil's spell – and untold numbers will die. The Halls will be filled to overflowing."
He looked away tiredly, gazing over the vast mountain range that the Holy Mountain was only a part of. "I wished to send you to those shores as my herald, to deal out judgment in my name, but my efforts were destroyed before they had truly begun. There was a great struggle, both of power and mind, and Melkor was defeated in the end, but not without taking what he wanted." Námo reached out, and grasped Harry's shoulder. For a moment, it seemed as if all the world wanted to cram itself inside his head, and the Vala quickly released him, and Harry caught himself. "He never wished to harm me, knowing that I had many allies, but he knew all about vicarious punishment. Melkor threw you into exile before your task had begun, before you were more than a new soul, an uncorrupted spark of possibility that was still finding its way, preparing for the future. Since that day, the task remains the same as it always was, and I beseech you to take this task upon you once more. The corruptor must be found, and eradicated. It is not yet too late to stop great evil from gaining a foothold, an destroying all that we created."
Harry sighed, and was silent for a time, before he finally turned a little to face Námo. "You want me to go back with you. To save some place and time I don't know anything about. You want me to jump right back into a bloody war, just after I won the last one?" He narrowed his eyes. "With all due respect, I have a life already. I can't just run off and leave Ginny and all the others behind. Even if you are being completely truthful, I would be giving up… everything I know, for what sounds like a lot more pain and death. There are people here that I care about, that care about my survival. I can't just throw that away for some mystical mumbo-jumbo. Maybe you should have waited until I was old and crooked, instead?"
Námo sighed. "If I had not come now, you would never have considered the choice at all," he said sadly. "If I approached you when you were older, you would have forged ties that cannot be severed, even by me, and you would have closed the path yourself, inaction serving as your choice. I refuse to force this upon you, knowing how humans and Valar alike treasure freedom of will, and of action. It is here, and now, that your soul is most free, that you are capable of determining your own destiny. If you decline at this moment, then you would decline at any other, and my search was foolishness."
Harry nodded distractedly, but all he could think about was Ron, Hermione, Ginny - all the people he would be leaving just for something even crazier than wizards and magic. Right after the final victory. Could he even contemplate something like that without feeling sick to his stomach?
"You told me that you chose the cloak because it protected others from death, rather than just guarded yourself from it," Námo said "Against your great enemy, against your Dark Lord, you exemplified that sentiment in the most literal interpretation, by guarding the lives of your friends with your own, even unto death. What I ask of you is to protect those whom I call my children as well, the many peoples of Eru's creation, in an age where greater evils still makes their mark upon the lands. Many thousands or more could be spared, whole nations protected from harm. They too need their guardians."
Harry frowned. "So I should go with you to wherever you come from, and leave everyone here behind? What about Ron and Hermione? What about everyone else? What would happen to them?"
Námo raised an eyebrow. "That is a question I can answer."
Author's Note: A HP/Tolkien crossover that takes elements from Silmarillion (obviously) though I don't intend to make it so opaque that non-readers are totally lost. Though Lord of the Rings characters do feature prominently, the story starts before the main Ring saga, with most of these being Elves that have been around for a while. E.g. Elrond, Galadriel, Glorfindel, Círdan, Celeborn, and so forth. (Also Gil-Galad.) Also appearing are various Maia characters of note, including the later Gandalf, Saruman, Radagast and so on.
No, I have not abandoned any stories. WaS is on an interlude now but will soon get a proper chapter again, TLN is being worked on but after a round of quick updates, this one takes a little longer. TWFE will take a bit, and the others are basically on hiatus until I can get a good grip on them again, but they are as of right now still active.
Hope you'll enjoy this one. :)