This finale is dedicated with much gratitude
to the authors
The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth,
The Winter's Tale,
The Family Reunion,
with especial thanks to Lucian of Samosata
for sundry concrete inspirations.
Valhalla is not mine, either.
ACT IV. BELOVED FOOL:
BEYOND THE WESTERN SEA
retold in the vernacular as a dramatic script
(with apologies to Messrs. Tolkien & Shakespeare)
- Part I -
Note: Complete cast list reserved until end -- too many spoilers.
The hour nighs, of this our task
its ending -- and of ye we ask
but thy patience, lending, till 'tis done --
-- Then to say, if we have won
or, overbold, must make redress
that have so forwardly transgressed
and in this glassy square presumed
to bound, as 'twere the Ring of Doom,
the very gods --
...............With eagles' wing
outmatching falcons royal, venturing
our fancy's flight doth mount on high
to pass the bord'ring sea, and sky,
and withal Time -- for naught of wealth
nor fame, nor glory, nor by stealth,
nor war to grasp at deathlessness,
seeking but mercy's sweet largesse
we dare the holy shores of Westernesse --
[Note: There are two settings -- this Hall, and elsewhere. Most of the action takes place here.]
[A cozy family room in Aman, even if it is rather vast and all carved stone and tall ceilings, decorated in soothing shades of grey with discreet silver-white concealed lighting. There is a fountain at one side which is of the kind that is a sheet of water running down a shallow wide channel in the wall, almost invisible and inaudible, to silently fill a wide, shallow, rectangular basin the border of which is almost flush level with the floor.
[Most of another wall is taken up by an enormous structure that somewhat resembles a harness loom, and somewhat resembles a system of barrel vaulting, and mostly resembles something built out of raw cosmic energy, and betrays a long history of tinkering and loving use. At the moment its main central section is alive with an expanse of shimmering light. A majority of the Powers are seated around it watching in rapt attention.]
[Tulkas (who might be played by Massimo Serato from El Cid, and sundry Italian swashbucklers and sword-&-sandal epics) leaps to his feet]
NO!!! IT CAN'T END THIS WAY!!! THAT'S JUST WRONG!!! THAT'S NOT HOW THE STORY'S SUPPOSED TO END!!!
[The rest of the Powers wince at the volume of his outrage. Across from him Orome is watching with a sardonically critical expression, his arms folded, leaning slouched way back in his chair with his ankles crossed. Lawrence Olivier from Hamlet (or possibly equally Kirk Douglas from Spartacus) might stand in for the Lord of the Wild Hunt]
Orome: [bitingly sarcastic patience]
That's because it's reality, not a story, Tulkas. Stories can end happily, because they're not true. In real life, there's no Power capable of preventing people from making idiotic choices and suffering the consequences.
[from the chair next to him, his wife, the Lady of Spring -- who could be depicted by Claudette Colbert in Cleopatra -- reaches up and pats his cheek.]
Don't be obnoxious, Tav' darling. -- Nia dear, why do you make us watch these depressing stories? All of your favorites turn out this way.
[to the left of Tulkas, the Lord of Dreams, Visions and Inspirations, (aka Irmo, aka Lorien,) sighs deeply and rests his chin on his hands. Leslie Howard (The Scarlet Pimpernel, Gone With The Wind) could play the part]
I tried. I did try. I shan't attempt to conceal the fact that I don't care for her father at all, but I did my best, for her mother's sake, -- and for hers, too -- she really is a sweet child, and not in any way to be blamed for that confounded miscreant's actions --
[On his left the Lord of the Earth shakes his head, grimacing. He is leaning back, but not as much in the sullen critic mode as in the thoughtful critic pose, his legs crossed and one elbow resting on the arm of his faldstool, ready to lecture. He is played, of course, by James Mason from 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea]
You couldn't have done anything, he was Doomed from the start. Look at how he threw away every opportunity he had for survival. If someone tries that hard to destroy themselves, the most that anyone else can do is -- get out of the way and look for cover.
[on the floor, sitting in front of the chairs with her knees drawn up and her arms wrapped around them like a child, Nienna (who really should be played by Merle Oberon, also of Scarlet Pimpernel renown) looks up at Yavanna, who is seated rigidly on the other side of her little sister Vana; the Earthqueen could be well-portrayed by Sophia Loren from El Cid.]
Are you going to be all right?
Yavanna: [biting off the syllable]
[At equal distances from the Loom and the fountain is a nook with a sconce, two chairs, and a small breakfast table. This is occupied by Namo, Vaire, a pair of teacups and a dark, glossy sphere. The Lord and Lady of the Halls should be portrayed respectively by Gregory Peck (To Kill A Mockingbird, Captain Horatio Hornblower) and Virginia McKenna The Cruel Sea, Waterloo).]
I don't mind your sister inviting everyone over to watch the Loom, but really, she could have chosen better timing. But I don't like to say anything because she does so much to help.
Namo: [sets down his teacup and takes her hand in his]
No, it's fine. I just wish they wouldn't be so loud. I come here to get away from people shouting at me. -- Of course, they're not shouting at me, to be fair about it.
[he lets go of her hand and picks up his cup again -- over it, in a very dry tone:]
-- Not yet.
[she gives him a wry smile, which turns to a grimace at the next high-volume exchange:]
Orome: [raising his voice and dropping the bored facade for a moment]
Yes, it WAS his fault. He didn't give her a chance to use her powers again, he just flung himself in the way without even the preliminaries of thought crossing his brain.
Tulkas: [to Vana]
-- You'd better hope you're never in danger when he's around. Sounds like he'd let you fend for yourself if a rampaging demon comes along!
My valiant friend, I realize that your generous and sympathetic nature prompts you to defend all instances of courage and loyalty, but not every self-sacrifice is equally meritorious. When it is unnecessary, as in the situation under debate, it is simply at best a mistake and at worst histrionics. -- I'm still not entirely sure about the next occasion, myself: I'd need to review it before reaching a decision.
I really don't think she could have done anything further at that point. Binding all the denizens of Thangorodrim within the immediate vicinity, not to mention resisting and overcoming the Powerful One in combat, would be a severe drain upon even my own abilities --
Tulkas: [all innocence]
-- You mean to say you can take Morgoth out, and you haven't done it yet? What's wrong with you!?
Yavanna: [standing up so suddenly that her chair goes over backwards with a crash]
Oh, you're all horrible. Horrible, HORRIBLE, HORRIBLE!!!
[Everyone looks up at her, and is very quiet]
Aule: [after a moment]
Where are you going?
Yavanna: [very tight control]
Out. For a walk. Someplace where I can break things without hurting anyone -- !
[she strides off into the distant shadows and there is a resounding crash as of someone flinging a very heavy door violently open so that it rebounds off the wall, with breakages. A moment of utter silence follows.]
Ah. I forgot.
Oh, that's right -- he's one of hers.
Vana: [rolling her eyes]
Well, of course! Whose else would he be?
[silence. Everyone looks at Orome]
Yes, but I am more rational about these things.
Tulkas: [to Aule]
Go after her and tell her you're sorry, you dolt!
Aule: [shaking his head]
That would be a very bad idea right now.
[this builds up into a double argument, as the focus moves back to the tea table]
I didn't recall there being a door over there.
At least --
[pause -- they look at each other, and say together:]
-- "it wasn't a supporting wall --"
Did you ever get an explanation of all that?
An explanation? Yes. -- One that made sense? I'm afraid the answer is no.
You weren't being mocked, dear?
No, not at all -- it was offered quite sincerely. I just don't believe it's possible, but I'm not sure what the real alternative would look like.
[Her husband shakes his head, snorting]
I made the mistake of asking one of them to show me how it was done, and I forgot it was the one who doesn't want to be noticed, so I had to pretend that I didn't realize it, or how nervous he was. -- It really is disproportionate, isn't it? By comparison, I mean. You wouldn't think, considering who else is here, the amount of trouble so few could cause . . .
I'm afraid I lost my temper rather the last time someone started in about the usual, "Why are they permitted to carry? Why is no one else allowed a retinue?" and was very cross about it -- I actually said, in far too short a tone, "Because we're capricious and we enjoy playing favorites, that's why." Now I'm rather afraid it won't be recognized as sarcasm. What I should have said --
[another rueful smile]
-- was, "It's an experiment of my sister-in-law's; she's trying to see how many idiotic questions it will take to completely destroy all vestiges of my patience."
[After a moment Namo lifts his eyebrows and gives a short chuckle, before patting her hand.]
Who knows? It might even be true.
No, I . . . I think she'd mention it, if she were doing anything of the sort.
[from the other side of the room]
But look, you've got to take into account all the things going against him --
[the Lord and Lady of the Halls share another wince as the camera shifts back to the raging debate by the Loom]
On the one hand you've got the rebels giving up defending his homeland, so does he give up? No, he keeps on trying even though there's nothing in it for him any more -- and does a smashing job of it, too, I want to make known. And you know I'm hard to impress when it comes to fighting --
-- Easily impressed when it comes to pretty much everything else, though.
-- On the other hand you've got him making a decent go of it with no help, and no resources whatsoever -- and sticking to his ideals, too, all the way up to when they were betrayed. None of this, "Oh, we're the great Lords of the West, here to save you, so give us dinner and why don't you bake us a cake while you're at it," Returning nonsense.
You're exaggerating grossly again --
Tulkas: [ignoring him]
And on the other hand, he's just a Man. Not even an Elf! And look what he did!
What other hand? Most people only start out with two.
Tulkas: [ignoring him]
You'd think we could have managed to give him a little more help, couldn't we? Couldn't we? Like something useful, like messages -- and messengers -- that get there in time --
-- not that I'm saying it wasn't kind of you to help his friend find him, but it's not like it actually made any difference, eh? Or how about something specific, like Don't Go On That Hunt, Dummy, -- instead of more nightmares about overfed rogue Ainur?
[as if remembering something unpleasant, Aule shakes his head and snaps his fingers]
I told you, don't blame me -- it's hard enough without the Trees, but there's nothing I can do with people who simply refuse to sleep. If they won't rest long enough for me to reach them, or keep creating so many images of Doom on their own that they can't tell them apart -- I can't give them any guidance.
So basically, what you're saying is, you can only help people who don't really need it.
That isn't fair --
[An elegant, confident individual, perhaps played by Sir Alec Guiness ("Young Ascoyne D'ascoyne") from Kind Hearts and Coronets, appears discreetly beside Aule's chair and gives him a graceful bow]
Yes, my lord?
Would you go and make sure all the storm-doors and shutters are closed around the place? I don't want the firepits getting flooded out again this time.
Of course, sir. -- Ah, are you anticipating a recurrence of last year's gales this season, or is it merely precautionary, milord?
Anticipating. Very definitely anticipating.
If I may make so bold, my lord, the Lady's temper can be quite trying at times.
Aule: [shaking his head with a gloomy look]
Eh. It's partly my fault again. -- I just hate it when she gets together and commiserates with Uinen. They encourage each other in this pointless emotionalism, and the electrical storms and the flooding make it so blasted difficult to get anything done. -- Do you know what that project is they're working on together?
Something about salt. That's all the information I have, sir -- she asked me for information about materials that would combine well with salt.
-- Oh, that's right. They're studying "toxicity levels and self-sustaining filtration systems in marginal areas," as I recall. I should ask her how that's coming along. That would be a nice thing to do.
A noble and conciliating gesture, sir.
-- Have you seen my wife's secretary around anywhere?
[his aide gives a derisive laugh]
He's probably off watching frogs turn into tadpoles or talking to potato-beetles or something like that.
Isn't it the other way 'round?
[shaking his head]
I don't remember. Anyway -- tell him to tell her I'm sorry, all right?
Very good, sir.
And don't forget the skylights!
Of course not, my lord.
[he vanishes as quietly as he came]
Tulkas: [loudly offended]
Yeah? Well, -- none of my champions have gone over to the other side!
Orome: [ice -- not quiet, either]
Celegorm Feanorion has NOT been my responsibility since the Rebellion.
Good try, but you can't wiggle out that easy. If you'd done your job right he wouldn't have rebelled now would he? Huh? Got a snappy comeback for that one?
Orome: [shaking his head]
What my sister sees in you I will never know.
That's pretty good, actually. -- I need a drink to clear my mind.
You always need a drink, if that's the case.
Irmo: [raising his voice]
-- Can we please at least endeavor to keep this discussion both civil and to the point?
I do hope you didn't mean that as a serious question, Irmo darling.
[Back at the tea table, the Weaver rests her forehead on her hand, laughing in spite of herself, and in dismay]
Are you sure you don't want me to stay here and you go on the floor? Though it won't be any quieter, I'm afraid. I do wish it weren't against the Rules to manifest corporeally in several places at the same time. I wonder how one would go about doing so . . . ?
It -- seems like the sort of thing that would be very inadvisable. Which is very likely why there's a Rule about it.
[frowns still more]
-- Which you would your mind be in? Wouldn't the rest just be puppets then? Or would you divide your concentration among all of you? I'm not sure either.
And a divided concentration is just the problem. So do you want me to stay by the stone while you take my shift?
[Her husband shakes his head]
No, I really don't have the patience for any more complaints right now.
Did I tell you about my last conversation with that fellow, the one who's always going on and on -- inaccurately -- about being the First Casualty in Beleriand?
No, I don't believe you did.
We talked -- and talked, and talked, and he agreed with complete sincerity that yes, murder was a terrible thing, and yes, there is a moral responsibility as well for actions which, though not directly causing the deaths of specific individuals, nevertheless are both freely chosen and known in advance to be likely to cause casualties -- such as, for example, shooting fire-arrows into adjacent buildings to distract the defenders from their efforts, regardless of the fact that people are almost certain to be in those buildings, and not necessarily able to get out of them in time. And we talked about how Morgoth regards people as chattel in a similar way, and how persons are not things to be used and/or discarded for one's own purposes, and about the irony of performing such actions in a reaction against the behaviour of the Enemy.
And after all that, he said to me, "But they deserved it."
[the Weaver sighs, and raises her eyebrows with a wry expression]
That does sound familiar, doesn't it?
You know, it's one thing to know intellectually that this is going to go on -- and on -- and on, for the foreseeable future, and -- quite another to experience it day after day after endless day.
[his wife smiles sadly at him and gives his hand one last squeeze before getting up and leaving the table. The crystal ball on the table begins to glow.]
Oh good, someone's checking in. Perhaps they've got him.
[He sets down his tea and pulls the palantir over to him eagerly. Vaire walks across to the Loom, weaving on mostly unobserved by the debaters]
Is anyone still watching this?
[nobody except her sister-in-law even notices her question]
Please leave it open, would you?
Not a problem, just fold it up when you're done.
[she leaves, stopping to patch up the irregular hole in the wall -- which looks rather like what happens when a tree grows through a slab, only fast enough that the edges are still sharp and not eroded away -- with a wave of her hand, on her way to the tall pointed arch that is the actual door.]
Well, I thought he was rather cute, even if he was rather stupid --
[to her husband]
-- rather like one of the puppies, hm?
My dear, puppies usually don't manage to leave scores of casualties behind them as a consequence of their mistakes.
[she gives him a little swat and makes a face at him]
CONSEQUENCES?!? If you're going to talk about consequences, what about the consequences of us not catching Morgoth? Huh? Huh? Before you start throwing big words like "consequences" around, what about the consequences of not providing adequate inspiration? In the Song, do I have to do it ALL myself to get anything done RIGHT?
[the Lord of the Hall winces and puts a hand to his temple]
I'm sorry, I didn't hear you. What was that again?
Irmo: [raising his voice too]
I'm getting tired of hearing you talk about something you don't and can't possibly understand --
A dog? What do you mean, a dog? Kelvar don't belong here, they don't need to come here, they can just start right over again -- you know that! Tell it to go home. -- I don't care what size it is, it still doesn't belong here. Unless it's that rogue in disguise. Of course I'm joking. No, we haven't got him yet. -- Yes, that's why I'm in a bad mood. -- Just take care of it, will you?
[he leans back, closing his eyes and shaking his head]
Aule: [cool voice of reason -- and sarcasm]
Thank you for letting us know how you feel about it, Lord Astaldo. -- Getting back to my earlier point -- I don't believe you can legitimately give someone credit for what they can't help. If the deed's done under any kind of a compulsion, it's invalidated to some extent. Obviously there's a compulsion operating here to fling one's self between other individuals -- regardless of longevity or depth of personal attachment -- and danger. If one cannot prevent one's self from getting in harm's way, the correct response -- and again, I'm going on logic here -- isn't admiration, but rather pity.
Oh, come on! He practically slaps Morgoth upside the head, and you can't even manage a "Good job, what!"
Well, he did hit Morgoth in the head, only it wasn't exactly on purpose . . .
Hey, Aule -- what's that you always say about using the right tools for the job?
Yeah? Well let me tell you, your fancy tools wouldn't help either of you very much out in the Void! You should try it sometime, fighting like real gods with nothing but your bare power --
-- Speaking of which, don't you get chilly running around in just a skirt?
It's not a skirt, it's a kilt, you dimwit! How many times have I told you that?
[Vana giggles and hides it by snuggling against Orome's shoulder]
Irmo: [sternly and loudly]
These insults are utterly pointless! Can we have some intellectual discussion, please?!
Namo: [shouting louder than any of them]
Irmo! Nienna! Everybody!
[when he has their attention -- normal tone:]
Would you all please either stop acting like Eldar or go someplace else and argue? If you can't keep your voices down I'm going to have to ask you to take it to the Mahanaxar. You're not even watching the Loom any more.
[there are guilty looks among his colleagues and kin -- considering glances are exchanged. Consensus -- No, they can't keep it down. They start getting up to leave]
Vana: [rolling her eyes]
"Acting like Eldar," indeed! -- Honestly --
[they vanish, leaving the chairs behind]
Namo: [muttering to self]
I suppose there's a certain logic to it, but I hate it when catastrophes happen in cascades like this. They seem to bring on unrelated incidents, as though chaos has come back into fashion all of the sudden.
[he gets up and starts pacing up and down restlessly, obviously not happy at not being able to do anything -- then notices Nienna still curled up in front of the Loom]
Nia, I could really use a little help right now. We have a crisis situation going on, the trauma department is overwhelmed with new arrivals, there's a discorporate rogue Ainu out there it looks like I'm going to have to track down personally, now I hear some kind of bizarre bureaucratic foul-up is giving my security people fits -- and you're watching the news.
Nienna: [patient annoying-sibling mode]
-- Don't worry, I'm on it, I've got the situation in hand.
Namo: [flings up his hands and walks back to his chair]
Fine. I give up. It's not as though anyone ever listens until it's too late.
[sinking down with a sigh]
What next . . . ?
[Elsewhere: outside the Halls of Mandos, in the perpetual twilight at the roots of the mountains. A series of low, shallow, wide stone steps leads up to the most imposing doors that have ever been built, or will be. No one is present, until Luthien enters (quite literally from the shadows) at the foot of the staircase. Like all the shades in the underworld, where everything is in shades of grey, she does not look "ghostly", i.e. translucent and out-of-place -- this place is made for them, after all; it's the living who would appear not to belong properly. She looks neatly but simply dressed, rather as she would have at the beginning of the play, but without any jewelry and her face is haggard.]
Well. Here we are.
[she looks up at the Doors and gives a huge sigh]
The end of the journey. Nothing could be easy, could it?
[she gives an odd laugh, shaking her head]
The doors are closed -- I could still turn back now, perhaps even go home, or not: this isn't horrible, or particularly frightening. I've given up everything, for him, or so they'd say -- and it doesn't feel that way at all. It seems as if I could reach out my hand and take hold of the very elements of the universe like a skein of yarn this way, or see through to the Fire at the heart of everything, if I only looked hard enough, as if I could become anything I chose -- a tree, or an Eagle, or a Hound like Huan, or even one of the stars . . .
[she wraps her arms around herself and shivers, beginning to walk back and forth as she talks to herself, moving up and down the lower terraces of the stairs]
I don't have to go through with this -- no one is going to take this decision away from me -- and that's why I have to.
[Her appearance shimmers and flickers while she paces, eventually mostly settling to the bobbed haircut and shadowcloak of her journeying, the former somewhat longer (and wilder) than when last we saw her.]
Everything seems so distant, small and delicate and quite irrelevant, like the city I saw from the air. Not compared with the whole cosmos lying open to explore. -- But that tiny little flower of a city is full of people, each with a life that's important to someone else, too, and things they've done and learned and new songs they've made, even if I couldn't see that. And I know that Middle-earth is important, even if it seems such a small part of the Music I can almost hear now.
That's it, isn't it, the Song itself that's calling me to join in it, to be like a god myself, to make, and change the world, and once again do one better than my mother, even if no one ever knows it. Couldn't I do better than the rest of them, since I know how it is out there, since I've lived through it -- and died -- all of it, the good -- the gloriously good -- as well as the unspeakably horrible -- couldn't I move through it and speak through it and change it like the Lord of the Sea? And wouldn't that be a better memorial to Beren than staying here as a ghost, giving up my endless life and the whole wide world outside, to be with him, if only they'll let me?
[shaking her head]
I know what he'd say. And then we'd fight.
[gesturing with her hands]
If only I'd come straight to the Halls -- it can't be this hard for everyone, can it? -- and then I could have just answered when they asked me, and I wouldn't have to think about it. But this -- there's no getting away from this, that once I cross that threshold, there's no going back -- even if Lord Mandos would let me. I can't just keep going on momentum alone, not stopping to think about it.
And I'm afraid. I don't know what will happen, I don't know what I'll say, I don't know what they'll say. I might make things worse for him this way, though I can't think how. And if they refuse, what happens then? How can I stay there forever, knowing that I couldn't save him, and with no place left to go -- no action I can take, nothing to do but wait for the world to end to put an end to my pain? I thought nothing could be worse than the prospect of going home to my parents in failure --
[checks, looking dismayed]
-- but what if they send me back? I can't stay there with what they did to us, dealing with that guilt and sentimentality and trying to make it up to me by being kind -- I really would go mad within a year of that. If they'd shown Beren some pity at the outset -- or thought at all about me instead of themselves -- this wouldn't have happened. But I won't be the victim to their consciences.
[she snorts, starting to get angry]
I'll go live as a hermit in the Seven Rivers district before that, or maybe go to the Havens and see the Ocean for real finally, or try to cross the mountains and find Celeborn and Galadriel and their following. I can do that now, or at least I have as good a chance as anyone does. I don't need anyone else in the world, if I can't have Beren, and if they "need" me that's just too bad!
[she wipes her eyes roughly, and gives an ironic smile.]
Silly, silly, silly -- getting all upset over possibilities that haven't even happened yet, and that I've no way to judge the most likely. I'm so tired of it all . . . only I'm not, or maybe I am. -- But I can't stop, and I'm afraid to go forward, and no one can help me now.
[she stands still for a moment, looking up the steps, and squares her shoulders.]
Well. I didn't get this far waiting for people to open doors for me.
[starts to approach the Doors, hesitates again.]
Oh, I wish you were with me, Huan. But this isn't like last time: I'm afraid it won't end happily. -- Then again, I can't think of a single story that does. Not the true ones, at least.
No more disguises. No more tricks. All I can do is tell the truth now, and hope that that's enough.
[She casts her cloak down on the steps: it melts and vanishes into the shadows]
Beren -- I'm here.
[She strides towards the Doors, and they melt away in front of her as she enters the Halls of Mandos.]
[Namo is sitting pensively by the palantir, fiddling with his teacup. Nienna is still on the floor in front of the Loom, watching with an odd, almost-pleased expression. An Elvish-looking individual (who could be played by Ewan MacGregor from the second Star Wars series) enters the hall and crosses quickly to where she is sitting. Ordinarily he seems like he'd be rather cheerful and self-possessed, but right now he's looking rather harassed and frayed, and it comes through when he addresses her:]
-- Master, everything's in chaos, nobody knows what to do, everyone's asking me for advice, some people are continuing to complain about certain other people and refusing to countenance the possibility that their problems just might not be as serious as those who have just come in and demanding to see the Lady of the Halls at once, and they're all unhappy with me because I'm not you!
Apprentice mine, have you considered how much worse matters could be?
Er -- no, I haven't, m'lady.
Why don't you do that?
Was that a question question, or a suggestion question?
What do you think?
Let me know when you have an answer; I'll be interested in hearing it.
Certainly. But none of this helps with the fact that everything's in chaos and I really need Lady Vaire and she can't be everywhere at once!
I know. I don't really need the Lady of the Halls, I just need to keep reminding myself that I have been delegated the authority and I do have the intelligence to solve small problems on my own and the confidence to not be overwhelmed by the troublemakers along with it. -- But there are just so bloody many of them!
You want me to come rescue you.
No. Well, yes. But not really. I want to be rescued, but I don't want the consequences of being rescued, to wit -- losing even more ground to the insufferable Feanorians and looking a total fool in front of everyone else and causing increased doubt and discord as a result. -- I'm going back to work. Thank you.
[he starts to walk away]
When you said you had everything under control, I should have known that meant you were delegating.
Of course. Micromanagement is poor Melkor's besetting weakness.
[her brother closes his eyes and rubs his temples. Halfway to the door the Apprentice halts in mid-stride, pivots on his heel and hurries back over]
I almost forgot completely -- Sir, there's a young lady here who insists on seeing you personally and immediately. She says her mother used to work for your brother.
Namo: [looking blank]
So why does she want to see me instead of Irmo?
Er -- because she's here.
Oh. You mean she's discorporate. Why can't you just say so?
[the Apprentice winces a little]
Can you tell her I'm in the middle of about six different things and I will see her as soon as I can?
I've done that.
Can you explain that things are not going well and that while everyone's problems are important, not all of them are crises?
She really won't take no for an answer. I keep giving it to her, and she keeps refusing it.
Can you tell her it isn't fair to the others ahead of her?
She says it's a matter of justice, and she refuses to go until her case is heard.
Namo: [shaking his head]
Wait, wait, what do you mean -- "go" -- ? People don't just come and go from my Halls without leave.
Well, she apparently came on her own. It seems her consort was one of the recently admitted.
Did you tell her her case was hardly unique?
I did, Sir -- but I'm not entirely sure I was correct. She doesn't seem to have come in the normal way at all. There was some peculiar talk about Thorondor and "hitching a ride" -- a quaint turn of phrase which I believe, though I'd have to consult the Archives to be sure, derives from a mortal practice concerning a crude form of wheeled vessel known as, erm, a "cart." I confess that ordinarily I would simply dismiss it as the normal, ah, post-discorporation trauma, or possibly prior mental derangement -- but there's something about her that causes me to be uncertain of that diagnosis.
She really is very insistent, Sir.
You're intimidated by her.
[Nienna's student makes as though to deny it, with indignation -- and then sighs]
Frankly, my Lord, yes. In all honesty -- she reminds me of Feanor.
Namo: [shaking his head]
No. There cannot be two Eldar in the universe that obliviously self-centered and full of destructive energy. I refuse to believe it. Ea would disintegrate.
It's the obdurate refusal to be put off. -- And the way she sounds totally believable saying the most insane things.
What are her names?
She only gave one -- "Nightingale." -- She said it as though it should mean something, when I asked her who she was, and she told me her maternal parent was formerly in the employ of your sibling.
Nightingales, nightingales -- why do they sound familiar?
I could go check the Archive, if you'd like.
So you can skive out of dealing with the discorporate? Fat chance. No -- I think there's some connection that I should remember -- why don't you go ask Irmo if "nightingale" means anything to him. There's an errand you can run.
Er, you could use the remote there -- why not just ask him?
Because you're annoying me. Because I'm waiting to hear from security about that rogue, among other things.
[starts to leave, turns back again]
Sir, didn't Melian have nightingales? And aren't all these new patients from the place where she settled down? Dorl -- Dorith -- one of those Dor -- names?
[long pause. Namo frowns, then sets down his teacup with a bang]
All right. I'll talk to her.
[he turns his chair about to face into the room]
Apprentice: [raising an eyebrow]
-- Actually, Sir, I think the word you want is -- "listen."
-- That Melian's daughter made her way
to Mandos' Halls, and there did win
her way as well, with imploring song,
and of her thought and melody did spin
a thread to bind the sternest and most strong
to clemency -- this all do remember well.
But of the rest, that followed ere the Choice
little is said, and less considered: how still
much ado was made, high counsels held, voice
upraised to counter and to question,
troubling the highest, making them to pause
and ponder long with sad consideration
this strange matter of their love, and cause
that Luthien upholds, appeals, maintains
with such unreservéd zeal that even yet,
beyond the Bent World's verge, her strains
are sung in deathless memory, past the set
of Sun, of Moon, by gods and Elven-kind
until the ending of all things shall find
even the stars and that unstained land --
[The Hall. There is a difference -- where the tea-table occupied an alcove under a lamp, there is now a vast double throne under an arch, with only the lamp, the occupant, and the stone sphere resting on the dividing arm of the throne the same. In the background, Nienna is still paying attention to the Loom. Before the throne, Luthien is looking up at Namo with a desperate expression.]
I -- I'm sorry, I was thinking about what you'd just said -- I . . . missed your last remark.
[he wipes at his eyes, shaking his head a little]
Might I please speak to him now, my Lord?
I . . . am not sure how to break this to you, but he -- he isn't here.
He has to be.
No, I'm afraid that isn't the case. Except for those who give themselves to the Enemy during their lifetimes, or have ties to their own place that are strong enough to override the call of their Fate, mortals do not remain in Arda.
But he wouldn't have lingered back there -- he's not evil, he has no one left besides me, and he knows I'll come here too.
But Men don't stay here -- they go on from the Halls to their own destiny beyond Ea.
Luthien: [becoming increasingly frantic]
But I told him to wait for me! I -- I came as fast as I could -- how long has it been? You didn't -- you didn't send him on without me -- please tell me you didn't! Surely he would have explained --
-- but what if he couldn't --
-- is Huan here?
Why would he be here? He isn't an Elf -- he belongs to Orome.
No. He belongs to Beren now. And me. I'm sure he would be waiting for us here somewhere. He might be looking after him --
That's the second time dogs have come up in recent conversation. Very peculiar.
Nienna: [from where she's sitting, not looking over]
If you'd been paying attention to the news, or even what's going on under your own roof, you'd understand. You need to remember the big picture, not just focus on the organizational details, Namo.
Namo: [giving her an exasperated look]
Be a little more cryptic, would you? Ah --
Aaha. The kid with the dog.
They're here? He's still here?
[he nods, picking up the sphere]
-- Security, please. -- Just how big is that dog, anyway? Uh-huh. I see. Can you put my wife on, please? -- Vaire, things have just gotten a little more complicated. -- If you can believe it. I know. Look, I need you to talk to that mortal again. He hasn't been rude to you, has he? No, apparently he has some kind of aphasia problem, but he's not deaf. Would you ask him if he's Beren Barahirion? -- and if he is, tell him that Luthien is here and would like to speak with him, and ask him if he would be so good as to come over here. His dog can come too. -- Has the dog been rude to you? Well, I'm going to have a little talk with Orome about him. -- Yes, that's right. Love you too.
[sets down palantir, sighs and shakes his head with a pained expression]
I find it difficult to believe that all this madness really is connected. It's almost enough to make one think that order is an illusion.
Why do you think I've been watching all along? It takes patience to see the patterns.
[her brother half-smiles]
Namo: [to Luthien]
-- Yes. He's here, beneath this roof, and will be here directly.
Thank you. -- Thank you --
[Enter Nienna's Apprentice, and Huan, who sniffs the air and looks towards the Loom, keening softly. Beren is between them, holding onto Huan's collar for balance. He is more bowed and tattered than in Act II, wearing a motley layered assortment of frayed rags and well-made tailoring (all far too large), his head low, his right arm held stiffly by his side. He looks like a defeated veteran of a long campaign stumbling home from the wars.]
[he lifts his head and looks over blankly towards her -- and then he seems to recognize her and lets go of Huan to hurl himself at her in a controlled collapse as she runs to catch him, locking her arms around his back as he leans against her shoulder, eyes closed, oblivious to the rest of his surroundings. Luthien stands there holding him close, crying, unable to speak right away. After a few moments they straighten and look at each other, though she does not let go of him any more than he tries to step away:]
Are you all right?
[he nods. Worried:]
Can you talk?
Beren: [with visible effort]
-- Where's Huan?
Luthien: [more worried]
He's right here, on the other side of me.
[Huan comes closer; Beren does not react until the Hound whines]
Beren, can you see?
I can see you. The rest -- is all grey and lights.
[she is very upset, far more than he is]
It's a little bit better now.
Apprentice: [who has been standing awkwardly to the side]
There isn't much more to see than "grey and lights", I'm afraid.
[at Namo's stern Look]
No criticism of your Lady's decorating scheme was -- well, I'm afraid it was, rather, but, erm -- it could be a lot worse.
Why don't you go find something to do while they make their goodbyes, hm?
Goodbyes?!? What do you mean?!
So that he can be on his way.
Isn't that what you wanted? Since you didn't get the chance to speak together before his dissolution?
Luthien: [shaking her head]
No! I mean, yes but not just that, I want to stay with him -- him to stay with me, always.
[she is on the edge of tears, and holds onto Beren tighter than ever. Huan presses up against them both, looking anxious]
But that isn't possible.
Because the One has organized the universe otherwise. He isn't supposed to stay here. But you know this. So make your farewells, and let him go.
I may have emphasized the part about how we didn't get a chance to even say goodbye properly a little too much. My Lord, please, can't you make an exception?
No. I didn't make the Law.
But you're in charge here.
I administer the Law. But I do not have the power to change it.
I didn't come all this way just to have him taken away from me again. I will not let this happen.
Luthien, I'm afraid you don't understand.
I understand very well, my Lord, and I don't care.
Beren: [uneven smile]
Haven't we done this before?
Please try to look at it rationally. I agree that it is a terrible tragedy, but you knew that your husband was mortal and under a separate Doom before you married him. The tragic shortness of your marriage does not change that essential fact.
Then can we at least have an entire lifetime here before he has to go? We're owed at least that!
Very few people, in this world, get what they deserve. It shouldn't have happened this way, you're right.
And it's unfortunate. Most unfortunate. That's why I'm giving you a chance to have a good memory, before he goes.
-- No. Beren is staying with me.
Your Highness, that's not --
What, will he blast me if I defy him?
No, that isn't my style. You need to reconcile yourself to facts, Luthien.
If someone says that to me one more time, I'm going to scream until the roof falls in. I know what the facts are. I want solutions! And acceptable ones! This -- saying goodbye to Beren so that he can be kicked out yet again like a trespassing vagabond -- is not an acceptable solution. You've got to do better.
[the Lord of the Halls gives a short laugh and closes his eyes]
You understand I really do not have the time to spare, even though I'm making it.
Well, we jolly well didn't have it either. Don't try to make me feel sorry for you, it won't work.
[the Apprentice covers his face with his hand]
Why can't you even make an exeption to the rules?
Because it is not a Rule, it is the Law. And it would not be fair to him.
I don't understand --
-- How could it not be fair to him? He's the one who's been cheated most by all this!
You wish to keep him here, in this fragmentary state, because of your affection for him. But he is not made for this place, nor this state, because he is not like you.
Look at him. Do you want to hold him in that, without any hope of being rehoused, without the natural properties that make such a mode endurable, alone and severed from his own kind, until you've decided that you've had him long enough? What does he think of all this? Have you even asked him, or simply laid commands on him?
[Luthien looks defiant, but increasingly anxious]
Sir, could perhaps something be done -- to some small area, to make it less overwhelming to his senses?
I don't know. Nor do I know yet what his feelings on the matter are.
-- Beren son of Barahir.
[Beren starts and tries to focus on the Lord of the Halls]
What do you want?
Beren: [after several attempts]
I want Tinuviel to be happy.
Being happy and getting what one asks for are not always the same thing. -- What do you want for yourself?
[pause -- Luthien looks wretched and afraid]
I want to stay with my wife.
[she hugs him in relief]
As you now are, young Man?
I've known worse. This doesn't hurt.
Namo: [to where Nienna has been up till now]
I'm surprised you haven't jumped in yet -- where's she gotten to?
[sighing -- to Beren:]
You're not making things any easier.
Beren: [a very faint smile]
I usually don't.
Namo: [snorts, sounding exasperated, but not angry]
I'm not sure what to do. This is unprecedented, and nothing I can recall from the Song gives me any hints, let alone specific directions. I'm going to consult with my peers about this -- fortunately they're already somewhat aware of your circumstances, so it shouldn't take too long to bring them up to date. Meanwhile you two might as well --
[loud single bark]
-- three, might as well stay here as anywhere else. Then we won't waste any time trying to find you again.
[to the Apprentice]
You're sure you don't know where my sister might be?
Yes. Erm, no. That is, I'm sure I don't know where she is. I know many places where she might be.
[the Lord of the Halls looks up at the ceiling]
Do you do this on purpose, or does it come naturally? -- Has she given you any tasks that you're supposed to be doing right now?
I don't know, my Lord. -- I mean, I'm not sure why I do it. My Master only told me to make myself useful about the Halls.
Good. -- About the latter, not the first part of your statement. Go find my Lady, explain things to her -- quickly -- and ask her to meet me at the Mahanaxar. First, however, ask her what you should be doing and then go and do it. If nothing else, then I'll have you handle coordinating security -- that should help curb your taste for adventure, seeing how these stakeouts really go down.
[he gives a rather extravagant bow, and strides jauntily out, though not without a backwards concerned look at the three shades. The Lord of the Halls picks up his cup from the other arm of his throne (where it was not a moment before) finishes the last of his tea and rises from his throne. Setting down the cup he vanishes, without another word. Beren reacts, starting.]
What's gonna happen now?
I don't know. I -- I --
[shaking her head]
I'm going on nothing but instinct right now. I don't know why they all need to discuss it. And I have no idea what they'll decide.
[Behind them Vaire appears for a moment, glances across at the trio with a sympathetic expression, and with a fond shake of her head dismisses the teacup sitting on her husband's chair. Another quick gesture dismisses the muddle of chairs and dims the light of the Loom to a faint glow. She disappears without them noticing her, with the possible exception of Huan. Beren sinks down onto his knees, closing his eyes. Luthien drops down in front of him]
What's wrong -- Beren, love, what's the matter?
Beren: [looking up at her, vaguely]
I'm tired. -- And I got chilled and couldn't get warm again.
Have they hurt you somehow?
No. Some people -- I'm not sure what kind of people they were. They weren't Elves, I'm pretty sure. They came, and . . . talked at me kind of loudly. They -- they weren't real happy with me being there in the entryway. But nobody did anything except talk. I -- wasn't listening to most of it anyway.
[he reaches out his hand, and Huan bumps his head under it]
He came along and started licking my face . . . and made me move and kind of curled up around me . . . and after that . . . I wasn't cold. He growled at them when they came by to yell at me, too, and after a while they stopped.
[he smiles, rubbing Huan's ears]
He's a good dog. Isn't that right, boy?
[Luthien pulls Beren close against her side, and he leans his head on her shoulder. Huan moves to lie couchant behind them, right at their backs.]
Shh, it's all right, don't be afraid -- we're here now, I won't let anything else happen to you. Just rest, you're safe, we've got you, we've got you . . .
Beren: [not opening his eyes]
Sounds good . . . to me . . .
[she is weeping silently, but not letting himknow it as she alternately smoothes his hair and rubs gently at his wrist. Across the room as she is trying to blink away the tears, the glow of the Loom attracts her attention, and she strains to make out what it is. At that moment the quiet of the hall is shattered beyond repair:]
Tulkas: [shouting in the distance]
Well of course it's unprecedented, everything's unprecedented, you know we're just making it up as we go along!
[Following this proclamation the speaker himself appears, striding in out of nowhere to where the three are, much to the astonishment of the lovers. Huan does not leave where he is lying pressed up against Beren and Luthien, but he gives a short happy bark and thumps his tail on the floor]
Tulkas: [shaking his head in disgust]
They call me "simple" -- but not everything is this complicated. Some things are simple.
[looks around and snorts in disgust]
What is it with this obsessive need of Vaire's to tidy everything? How much work is it to leave a few chairs around?
[manifests a heavy, carved chair of the royal fald-stool with arms and back type, flings self down in it. (Note: there are no obvious sfx -- no flashes, no "magical" sounds -- it's just there.) Manifesting a drinking horn:]
You want anything? A drink? Say the word --
[Beren, a bit wild-eyed, shakes his head; Luthien is marginally more composed.]
Oh -- no thank you, my lord. We are quite -- adequate -- as we are --
Tulkas: [to Beren]
-- Good work with those little spiders. Too many to clean out, of course, but you made a nice dent in the population.
Beren: [startled into blurting out a response]
Should've seen their mother.
[shakes his head sadly]
I'll regret not catching her to the end of the world.
[he takes another pull of his drink]
So will the world.
That's what I said.
[Beren looks confused.]
Now, mind you, I don't go in for all those fancy gadgets, myself -- I'm more the hands-on type -- but heh, even I can see why you wouldn't want to come to close quarters with those things. How come you never used a, a whatsit, poky-stick-thing -- you know, a "spear?" Seems a lot better than going after those things with a -- sword -- farther away, right? Why didn't you make yourself one?
Um -- 'cause I'm not a smith?
[Tulkas looks a bit confused at this]
I didn't have the tools, or the time, and I wouldn't have known what to do with them if I did. And a spear can be damned inconvenient for hauling around in rough terrain -- anything taller than you is gonna catch on stuff. Plus there's the problem of if you throw it you haven't got it, but if you hang on to it, it can become a liability. Spears are best for open country and pitched battle. Otherwise --
[it clicks, suddenly, and he looks horrified]
Ah. Sir. -- My lord. -- Oh gods -- help me --
[Tulkas looks around]
No one else here, unless you're counting Huan. "Otherwise -- ?" You were saying -- ?
Beren: [quietly, rushed]
Otherwise it can become just another thing to slow you down.
[bowing his head]
Oh yeah. I'm with you there.
I mean, it's all just a way of hitting harder in one place than another. I don't know why other people go on about weapons as if they're so much better than brute force, especially the more moving parts they have. They're not any easier. All this business about "it's so easy, you just pull it and the bow does the work for you," and nothing about how it wants to go in all different directions, including back into you and along your arm -- !
Beren: [startled into forgetting]
Somebody said archery was easy? I would never agree with that.
But you were really good at it.
Yeah, but I started practicing when I was what, four? five? and I kept practicing, and I twanged myself good more'n a few times there -- first time I tried fooling around with a full-size bow I gave myself a bloody nose, and my first recurved hunting job -- ouch. -- Of course I shouldn't have been too impatient to put on a vambrace before testing it. But yeah, anything that can punch through an elk, or a warg, or an armored Orc, before it can get close enough to damage you, is going to have a hell of a lot of power and need extreme control to make that power go where you need it to, and only there.
[he stops, and starts to panic again -- Tulkas does not seem to notice, but Luthien hugs him]
Tulkas: [smiling triumphantly]
I'm going to have you tell my brother-in-law this. Someone needs to take him down a notch. Besides, you understand when brute force is the right thing -- that bit with Feanor's brat, when he grabbed her? On the horse? -- No hesitation, no stopping-to-think-it-over -- exactly what I would have done. Perfect.
[gestures with his horn towards Beren and drinks a toast]
Of course, I helped a bit. You've always tended to be a little too thoughtful and cautious -- except towards the end there -- and sometimes you just need to act without distractions. Not the time and place for it
Y -- you're Tulkas, right -- ?
Last time I checked. I think that's what they're still calling me.
Ah . . . okay. So -- when I pulled Curufin down, that was really you? Your power working through me? I should thank you for saving Luthien then?
Tulkas: [shaking his head]
Oh no, I just helped with the distractions. It was all you. Besides, you already did. I'm one of the Valar, right? Don't you remember thanking us?
. . .
How do you know all this -- milord?
Oh, I was following the story off and on from a long ways back -- even before what's-his-name, the guy who didn't come back -- Thingol -- got my attention begging me to smite him couple-three times a day. Nia said this was one I'd li --
Luthien: [interrupting, outraged]
-- Of course not. That's not how it works, anyway, and your dad knows it.
Besides, I didn't need to.
[glares at Beren]
What were you thinking, you dimwit? You had every chance handed to you to go off and have a decent life with your girl and what do you do, you go and yourself killed, for a bargain which nobody in his right mind would have considered taking up -- can we say "rigged contest," hm? -- and you can't claim it was an accident, how often did you try to get yourself killed before you succeeded? Every time she said "Let's just go and live in the woods," would it have, huh, killed you to say "yes"? Obviously not. Believe me, I wanted to clobber you a couple times there.
[the disgruntled Power recovers from his rant with another drink]
I'm sorry, if that helps any.
Tulkas: [looks around expectantly, then shakes his head]
-- Nope, nothing's changed. So I don't think it did.
[Beren looks even more baffled.]
Well. What are you going to do now?
Right, what are you going to do about this situation you got yourselves into?
. . .
I got us into it too. But at this point it isn't up to us. What can we do?
That is to say, we're dead.
I know that. How much of a simpleton do you take me for? There's always something you can do. It might not work, but at least --
[There is a sudden gust of wind through the place and a tall, athletic woman (who might well be played by Maureen O'Sullivan, the original "Jane") in swirling but rather abbreviated drapery appears behind Tulkas, and puts her hands over his eyes, exclaiming:]
Hmm . . . I think . . . but no, can't be sure --
[She leans over and gives him a quick upside-down kiss]
Tulkas: [frowns, shakes his head]
[they share a rather-more-protracted moment]
I think -- but . . .
[he ducks before she can thwack him on the head, grinning]
Nessa: [moving around beside him]
Where did all the chairs go?
You know Vaire -- leave something alone for a moment, it gets cleaned up and put away. Here, sit on my lap, we only need one chair anyway.
[Nessa plunks herself down on his knees, grabs the mead-horn and takes a big gulp before passing it back and leaning against his shoulder.]
So what's going on? Anything interesting?
Nessa: [scornful expression]
Pfft. Talk, talk, talk, "Rules" -- talk, talk, talk, "mortal" -- talk, talk, --
Who's saying what?
-- You know how it goes. Somebody says one thing, someone else says another, and after it wrangles around for a while the first person's saying what the third said and the third and second are disagreeing with themselves and everyone else is just shaking their heads.
You left out shouting.
You didn't let me get there --
[pokes him in the ribs]
-- talk, talk, talk, "War," -- talk, talk, talk, "Melian" -- shouting: "That scoundrel who seduced my finest employee and convinced her to throw away her career and become a housewife --"
-- That's got to be Irmo --
-- More shouting. Back again to "mortal -- Rules -- War." It's soooo boring. -- This chair is not big enough for the two of us.
That's because you insist on trying to sit sideways.
Well, how else can you feed me grapes? If I face forward, you stick them in my eye.
We don't have any grapes, silly.
Well, get some!
[Beren gives Luthien a cautious Look; she only raises her eyebrows in answer. This is not what she expected either.]
Never mind, I'll fetch them.
[Nessa holds out her hand and manifests a large cluster, pulls off one and pops it in her husband's mouth before giving him the rest of the bunch. Tulkas looks at both occupied hands, shakes his head and sets the drinking horn down on the floor, on feet which might not have been there a moment before. He starts feeding her grapes while she crosses her feet on one arm of the chair and leans back on the other. Tulkas starts teasing her, holding them just a little too high, and Nessa tickles him in return. This was not such a good idea, as in the resulting upheaval the chair really proves to be too small and she falls halfway onto the floor out of his lap. Huan has to get up and come over and "help" at this point with excited noises and nose-pokings]
Huan, get away! This is stupid --
[she glares at the arm of the chair and gives it a whack with her hand]
I'm going to fix this, just wait a moment --
[There are no obvious sfx at this point, either audio or visual enhancement, just as with the previous manifestations]
Beren: [whispering to Luthien]
Were they talking about your parents -- ?
Luthien: [almost incapable of speech]
I -- I'm -- I think so --
Did you get that -- that -- bit, about -- being angry at --
[breaks off, astounded -- loudly:]
-- That's a hill. A real hill, from outside -- at least it looks real --
[instead of a heavy fald-stool with arms, the divine couple are now sitting on a grassy hillock with some shrubs growing on it, allowing for much easier reclining. It is a fairly decent-sized prominence, not inconspicuous at all.]
Would you like one too? We have plenty around our hall -- I can get another, no problem.
Uh -- thank you very much, my lady, but I really don't want to put anyone to any trouble on my behalf.
Nessa: [between grapes]
Well, I don't think you're obnoxious at all. That was very polite.
Luthien: [temper starting to flare]
Who's saying Beren's obnoxious?
Different people. My brother, like he's got room to talk. People with no senses of humor. Or romance.
[she sits up and takes the fruit and they switch places. To Luthien:]
I was so pleased with the way you used my Art to put old Melkor in his place --
Heh. That's one way of putting it.
You were shaking me and screaming and whacking Tav on the arm and yelling "See? See? Don't you ever call Dance a frivolous waste of time again!" until everyone told you to sit down and be quiet.
I didn't hear that.
That's 'cause you were shouting.
[she silences him with another grape]
You want to talk about obnoxious? He -- Melkor -- used to swagger about like he was Eru's gift to Valier -- and no idea how to win friends, much less hearts. No understanding of what conversation meant. He honestly thought that we wanted to hear him talk about himself.
Well, if someone's interesting, that's all right.
You met him. Did he have anything the least bit interesting to say? The "art of conversation" involves an exchange of ideas, right? He couldn't ever grasp that there's this basic difference between a conversation and a monologue. Do you know how annoying it is to have someone just ignore everything you say to them?
Well, up until recently I'd have had to say -- no, but --
I'm sorry --
I wasn't talking about you, I was referring to Celegorm. And my father. You listened, you just disagreed with me.
I was right, though --
No, you were not. If you had listened to me from the very beginning, milord, you would not have lost your hand, and you wouldn't be incapacitated in a fight, and you wouldn't have gotten yourself killed. Am I not right? Beren? Am I not right about that? Even the gods think so, weren't you listening --
But it wouldn't have worked then either --
Nessa: [loudly as if shooing a cat, dropping the grapes and clapping her hands]
[they jump -- the Patrons of Spouses look at them very seriously and severely]
What are you fighting about?
Sounds like you're fighting over something that's already over.
Er . . .
Uh -- I guess because -- I've been doing it so long --
We've been doing it --
-- we -- just don't know how to stop.
That's not a good enough reason. Is it?
[they shake their heads meekly. Huan thumps his tail and gives a sympathy whine]
-- Where were we?
Talking about my ex-rival. Whose head I am someday going to pound flush level with his neck.
[gives him another grape -- to Luthien:]
I'm betting all he said was, "Nobody appreciates me, I don't get the respect I deserve, everyone else is having such a great time, poor me, -- you watch, they'll all be sorry someday" -- am I not right?
That was pretty much all, except that you left out the bit about, "Get down here or I'll shoot you down with a lightning bolt."
Oh, how nice. He's got a new hobby. Indoor target practice. Joy.
No, he used to do that.
Well, how would we know what he was doing all that time in Utumno? -- This is a silly argument. Let's stop.
Nessa: [gesturing towards Beren with her arm]
Did you ever get a proper Acclamation? Did your family ever acknowledge him as your consort?
Luthien: [a bit dry]
Haven't you been watching us all along?
No, I had work to do right around then. Summer, you know.
They did give us a feast and all, but I'm not sure that I would call it a proper celebration. It wasn't very celebratory, you see, what with Carcharoth on the loose and so many people having been killed by his rampages and everyone all packed into the Caves for safety and the whole place completely disorganized as a result. No one was very cheerful, to put it mildly. Poor Mablung looked like a ghost -- he shouldn't even have been up yet, but trying to make him or Beleg stop for their own good is like telling Beren to take care of himself --
[Beren looks away, embarrassed]
-- and my mother didn't look much better, and Dad was trying so hard to be polite and not say anything distressing, but there really aren't a whole lot of conversation topics left that don't end up somewhere unpleasant, and how much can you say about the weather? And Beren was so nervous -- and so was I -- and we weren't used to sitting at table -- out in the woods by the campfire I'd cut things and hold them for him, but our timing was all off and we kept knocking everything over. And then everyone pretended they didn't notice, and that was even worse. Beren was almost in tears, and I was trying not to get angry, and it wasn't working very well . . .
Oh, you poor kids!
. . . and we were both so exhausted and frayed that trying to be social was, frankly, a waste of time, and then there was all this fuss with Mom over whether we should have my old rooms, or the best guest suite instead, and since every available chamber was full of refugees who would have to be shuffled around, I thought it was irrelevant, especially given our living conditions for the past year, and they didn't understand that it was a joke when I said "Just give me a sword and I'll make a lean-to of branches like I usually do," and so I got lectured about The Dangers of Carcharoth! as though I were an idiot, and then I said, "Well, is my house still up in Hirilorn?" and that killed conversation completely for a bit.
[shaking her head]
And then Mom wanted to give me their room, and neither one of us wanted that, and Beren tried to help by suggesting that we could sleep on the floor in one of the storage caves, and they thought that was Not Funny either, and then they realized that it wasn't supposed to be a joke, and things got touchy again for a little while, and then we had another round of mutual apologizing.
So what did you end up doing?
Luthien: [completely unable to stop now that she's started talking about it]
Hirilorn, actually. No one else was staying there, no way up it for Carcharoth -- and the army stationed all around the gates of Menegroth below -- and ultimately everyone agreed it was the best solution. Not perfect, mind you -- I had to guard Beren up the ladder like you do with small children to the house door, and then he got upset all over again about how high up it was -- he'd only seen the tree once at sunset and it was a lot more impressive actually being in it -- because of me climbing down from it, and then we fought about me sleeping on the floor with him because my bed was too small for us both and he was being all self-sacrificing again and I had to cry before he'd stop it, and then we fought about him going on the Hunt the next day, because he insisted that it ` really was his fault about Carcharoth and besides Mablung was going in spite of his injuries, and we were both feeling so Doomed that I couldn't tell if it was a real perception or not, and I tried to make a joke about this being familiar, up in the moonlight with sentries down on the lawn and he got upset again about the fact that I had to rappel down, and about the fact that they were in the Pit then . . .
[she stops, taking a ragged breath; Beren is profoundly mortified -- Tulkas gives him a sympathetic look]
Tulkas: [pointing at the drinking horn on the floor]
Sure you don't want some mead? You look like you could use a drink.
No thanks -- but it sounds like a better idea all the time.
. . . and I almost wished that they'd just drunk us a toast, broken a loaf, handed us some blankets and said "there's an empty corner behind those shelves over there," just bread -- wine -- bed, instead of even trying to make a fuss . . . It wasn't just the awfulness at dinner, the rest of the celebration wasn't any good either -- there wasn't any of the traditional singing, because it wouldn't have been appropriate with all the mourning, and everyone was so awkward about congratulating us . . . and about actually looking me in the eye, and not staring at Beren. As a wedding -- it was pretty awful, really. And then he got killed --
[she stops abruptly]
That's not right! You deserved better than that!
Well, -- yes. But under the circumstances --
That doesn't matter. That's just no good at all. -- You know Morgoth ruined our honeymoon, too.
Luthien: [blinking suspiciously hard -- politely:]
The party was wonderful. Which just made everything after so much more awful as well. It's worse when good memories get spoiled by some disaster.
What happened? I remember Mom saying something about that was why you all moved out of Middle-earth -- something about volcanic eruptions or something -- she wasn't very clear, and I was a little kid being fished out from under the loom.
He used our wedding as cover to sneak his army of fiends in from Without and start entrenching up north and by the time we realized he was causing the pollution and the mutations, that it wasn't something we'd done wrong, he had already tunneled under the Lamps.
I shouldn't have gone off-duty.
No darling, it was my fault for distracting you. You couldn't have known about the double-agents -- not even Manwe did, then, so why shouldn't you have had the night off?
Honey, don't you dare blame yourself. Just as much my fault for daring you to try to wear me out --
No one can keep up with me. I bet I could do it again tonight . . .
A beach holiday on Tol Eressea. Moonlight on the ocean, dolphins playing, and the water right there when we get sandy. -- What are you betting?
A mountain-climbing vacation.
-- Sunrise over the Pelori, bonfires under the stars at the edge of the world, and that bracing mountain air means we'll have to keep warm somehow. The deer will like it too, we won't have to ask anyone to watch them while we're away.
Ooh, you're cheating!
[she pokes him in the ribs. He sits up and tries to catch her hand, giving her kisses, while she keeps on trying to tickle him.]
Beren: [to himself]
They looked a lot more staid on Gran's tapestries . . .
[Luthien gives a speculative look at the Powers and then at him]
If you hadn't gone and gotten yourself killed, we could have had that in Middle-earth, too. They've been married for thousands of years and somehow they manage not to fight most of the time.]
[Beren winces. Unnoticed except by Huan, who pricks up his ears, Aule's Assistant appears in the middle of the hall. He does a double-take at the sight of the hill and its occupants, before giving a disgusted snort at the sight of the amorous deities.]
Aule's Assistant: [clearing his throat]
If you can manage to divert your attention from this unseemly spectacle, and grant this humble messenger a modicum of the same?
[they all turn and stare at him]
Tulkas: [looking around the room]
Unseemliness? We can't have that. -- Where?
[the Assistant shakes his head. Nessa throws a grape at him; he ignores it with studied decorousness]
Assistant: [to Luthien]
The Powers have requested -- in the absence or preoccupation of the regular staff -- that I provide you with escort to the chamber in these Halls where they will hold their deliberations so that you may address them, and account for your actions.
[silence. Beren and Luthien, looking nervous, start to get up]
Luthien: [to Beren]
If you find yourself getting panicked again, leave the talking to me this time.
The presence of your -- consort -- is not required.
What do you mean?
I mean, plainly put, that the mortal is not to attend this meeting.
Well, then, -- I'm not going either. Why can't he?
To your first word, this is not "attendance optional," to your second -- in plainest speech -- because he does not belong here in the first place, nor with you, who are of a different kind, nor is your reasoning made clearer by his company.
Luthien: [tearful frustration]
Why is everyone out to get us? We're not hurting anyone, we didn't ask for very much -- we just want to be together. -- What is the problem? Why does everyone in the world have to make such a fuss about us? What do the gods care about me, about Beren, when they have all of Arda to worry about? What difference do we make?
Well, you did come and insist rather loudly that Namo pay attention to you. -- Not trying to be mean, just pointing out a fact.
But why can't you just fix things?
You're the gods, you're supposed to be all powerful.
Now, little sister, I'm sure Melian taught you better than that.
Luthien: [still stubborn]
You still haven't explained why such a fuss is being made.
You've thrown everyone off by doing something completely unprecedented. People don't just show up here without being called for, you know.
Well, there was that other time which is sort of the same thing --
Yes, but that's not a good precedent. And it isn't really the same at all. They're not like them -- and a jolly good thing, too!
You should really do something with your hair, you look like a poor sheep they've forgotten to shear.
[Luthien, looking intensely piqued, starts to say something -- and Beren laughs]
It looks so nice when you braid flowers in it.
Luthien: [to Beren, who has turned it into a cough]
Beren: [complete innocence]
Oh absolutely, I agree -- about the flowers.
[she gives him a narrow Look; he takes a lock of her hair in his fingers]
You just don't get a break, do you? -- It's okay, it's okay, this is just a little thing --
[he tugs her closer until their foreheads touch; whispering:]
You still don't look as much of a sheepdog as me --
[embarrassed, they straighten back up]
Assistant: [clearing his throat]
-- Could we please stop wasting time, young Lady?
Luthien: [same tone back]
That is Princess, to you, sir. And we are not wasting anyone's time, but quite the reverse.
Nessa: [to her husband]
Oh, I've got a plan. A good plan! Listen --
[She grabs his head and whispers into his ear.]
Let's go find her, all right?
You really think that will help?
I'm sure. -- Oh, I want to stop by the house first and pick up the deer.
Are they part of the plan?
No, silly, it's just more fun when they're around. Race you back to the hall!
[Vanishes. Tulkas vanishes a split-second later. The Hill is left behind]
Assistant: [shaking his head]
-- Well, don't expect to see them any time soon.
[to Luthien, not really a question]
Your Highness, are you coming or not?
Luthien: [folding her arms]
I told you, I'm not going anywhere without Beren.
You tell them -- If he is not welcome, I'm not welcome
-- Tinuviel -- maybe --
No. If they're going to make this big deal about me being Mom's daughter and "isn't it wonderful" to meet me and isn't it so awful what happened, they can treat you with the respect due you as my consort. Otherwise it's just the same as Doriath.
[The Assistant gives her a disgruntled glare; she gives it right back to him]
I will speak to my Patrons about this, Elf.
Good. You do that.
[after a brief staring contest Aule's messenger vanishes, not before saying, in a last-word-power-play manner:]
Don't touch anything while you're waiting. -- Especially the Loom.
[silence -- particularly deafening after the last visitors; the couple look at each other, recovering from the overwhelming personalities and onslaught of information they've just experienced.]
Not -- not quite what you expected either, huh?
I think -- my parents -- left a lot out.
[pulling herself together]
Now I'm wondering what else they neglected to mention or somehow failed to convey quite vividly enough. -- So what were you expecting?
I don't know. Not this.
[shaking his head]
I mean -- I don't know, I just -- my folks raised me to be godsfearing and pious, I learned my myths, and how you don't reap all the field, you leave some for the deer in winter because Yavanna is patron of wild animals, not just farmers, and you don't ever shoot swans because they're sacred to Ulmo, and if you wear down a knife or a needle where it can't be sharpened any more you don't throw it away in the trash, you bury it out of respect for Aule, and you thank Manwe when the weather holds good for harvest --
[short dismayed laugh]
-- that was all just -- everyday stuff -- just life, but not -- there, like the War. The stories -- they were like tapestries, bright colors, and detailed, and interesting, but background, not -- real -- the way stories about our history were real, people if you didn't know, at least you knew people who had known someone who had known them.
And then everything fell apart, and -- what was normal and what wasn't -- by the end nothing human was real to me, and I swear I could understand what the streams were saying, but since it wasn't in words I couldn't ever say what it was -- and then -- you --
[she smiles sadly at him]
and afterwards . . .
[he shakes his head]
. . . he'd say things, or they would, and I literally couldn't make anything of it . . . I hear words like "and so I asked Varda," and -- my mind just stops, like a pony balking -- I can't make any pictures to go along with the words. I just had no idea really what to expect . . . being mortal, especially . . .
[with a touch of resentment]
-- but I did think it was going to be peaceful at least.
It's different for me, obviously -- more like your old family stories about Hithlum, friends of my parents and places that I've never met or seen but had always felt familiar towards, because of the way they talked about them. But it's still quite different from the way I'd imagined it, from their stories . . .
[glancing up at the glowing vaults with a thoughtful frown]
So that is the Loom. That answers one question, at least. I wonder . . .
[she gets up and tugs him over towards it, despite his reluctance]
Tinuviel, he just said --
All he said was don't touch it. I'm just looking, Beren.
[it's clear that's not going to be the case for very long]
Oh, interesting. I can see now why they call it a "loom." I think -- look at that, there actually are several, um, heddles, I suppose you have to call them -- see?
More than several, really. They just keep on going, all the way back in, I don't see how they all fit. And that's got to be the take-up -- again, I don't understand how all of them can be in there --
[she leans in and starts trying to measure spaces]
-- because there's got to be one for each "heddle", but it looks to me like you could unwind the, ah, cloth, and thread it over these bits, if you --
[without her actually touching anything, some part of the construct moves and there is a dramatic, if brief, change in the intensity, texture, and color of the lights]
Oh! -- Did you see that? You did see that, right? I don't know exactly what it was, but there was definitely something there -- Now if I do this -- or this instead --
Beren: [trying to pull her away]
I don't think we're supposed to be doing this . . .
And that has stopped you when?
. . .
[she keeps poking around, while he alternates between expressions of dread and resignation. Thus neither of them see when Huan re-enters, carefully leading Finrod Felagund by the sleeve, who is a little bemused but otherwise calm and unflustered.]
Huan, I don't think we're supposed to be back here. I know it's a madhouse right now and no one seems to be around to give any answers, and I haven't been able to find anyone to send down to Orome about you, but don't you think we should look for someone to come explain what's going on . . . and . . .
I -- think we've found them. Somehow -- I'm not surprised. Aside from being shocked beyond words. Beren? -- and Luthien? -- how --
[He hastens over to the two of them, who have turned around with a start and are standing frozen in front of the Loom]
How . . . ?
[Beren, speechless, falls on his knees before him, Luthien kneeling with him. Finrod at once kneels too, taking their free hands in his own -- or attempting to.]
Finrod: [in extreme distress]
Beren, what's happened?
Beren: [roughly, not looking up]
I've failed you again, sir.
Last I knew you were safe and living happily together. What happened to you -- three?
Morgoth's anti-Huan defense system. But I knocked him out and we got in anyway, but then Morgoth saw through my ruse and recognized me.
Ah -- you were killed by Morgoth?
No! We got it. But then Carcharoth got it. And Beren's hand. And then the Eagles came and got us. And Huan and I took care of Beren. And then we went home, but Carcharoth had already gotten there and into Doriath because of the Silmaril but I'm not sure if it might not have been because of Beren's hand, either, and they went to hunt him and he almost got my father but Beren got in the way -- and here we are.
You -- got -- a Silmaril. -- Yourselves.
And then I lost it.
You two -- went into Angband and took one of the jewels away. By yourselves.
With Huan's help.
Finrod: [horrified, touching Beren's wrist]
Is that what happened to you?
No. That was Carcharoth.
But you knocked -- Carcharoth -- out.
But then he woke up.
-- I explained that, remember?
I'm still trying to accept the fact that you're really here and not some sort of hallucination born of wishful thinking.
I'm sorry --
Finrod: [brushing her bangs aside]
What happened to your hair? You look like a wild pony.
Luthien: [laughing and crying together]
Oh, no . . . not you too . . . !
I -- no, I believe it, I simply cannot comprehend this.
[he shakes his head, laughing a little]
Let me endeavor to do so. -- We'd heard of your exploit from several sources, but mostly from the newly-arrived -- there are several persons here who came not long after returning to Nargothrond, finding freedom sadly lacking as compared to expectations and recollection -- and I've had no end of trouble convincing the majority here that my older cousin from the Old Country isn't really twelve feet tall with a perpetual battle-aura brighter than the High- King's, let me assure you.
[Luthien gives a short incredulous laugh]
And they all said that you looked like the happiest couple in Middle-earth, and they were so pleased, and we were too, and it seemed as though things were going uphill, what with Sauron routed and no enemy base in that geographical corridor any more, and that was the last we knew, until the staff were all called away suddenly and with a great deal of worry expressed, talking about a sudden influx of casualties from Beleriand all intensely traumatized and no one's given us any meaningful answers since then.
Beren: [hollowly to himself]
-- Carcharoth . . .
Luthien: [getting warmer as she goes]
Beren wouldn't go along with it -- too much happiness and he had to wallow in guilt some more and then try to immolate himself, and we tried to stop him, Huan and I, we really did -- but even though we could escape Nargothrond's security and defeat a Dark Lord, we were no match for Beren when it comes to out-and-out granite-hard stubbornness, not about going to Angband, not about refusing to take the peace we could get, not about going off to fight Carcharoth -- again!
[Beren cringes and ducks his head; Finrod grips his arm comfortingly]
I'm sorry. It's been a horrible year.
Did you like Nargothrond? -- I mean -- that is, of course, aside from being a prisoner . . . ?
Finrod -- ! Really, do you think --
[she checks, and then looks sadly at him]
-- It was beautiful. It was just as lovely as you said it would be. I wish --
[she breaks off, shaking her head, and reaches out to stroke the side of his face. He gives her a rueful smile]
I wish I'd gotten there in time.
So you could have watched me fade after? -- You did.
[he looks at Beren]
You keep saying "Carcharoth" and I don't quite know what you're talking about. Is that a weapon? Or or a person? Or both, like Glaurung?
[Beren answers before Luthien can start to speak]
Beren: [meeting Finrod's eyes for the first time]
[pause -- Finrod stares at him, starting to make sense of it]
-- And Huan's.
[Finrod understands -- his expression changes to utter dismay and he cannot say anything. He reaches over and pulls them both against his shoulders, rocking them for a moment like children, resting his forehead against theirs. When they straighten he commands:]
Tell me everything.
Luthien: [tired and frustrated]
Finrod, it's such a long story, and I've been telling it over and over and over again and --
I promise I'll listen.
[she stops and almost smiles -- he gives her a kiss on the forehead and stands, helping them both get up.]
Let's find someplace more comfortable than the floor, though, if you don't mind.
[glances around -- musing:]
I wonder if benches would qualify as a technical violation . . .
[the others look at each other, wondering what on earth he's talking about. A woman's voice echoes through the door from down the hallway:]
-- I shall not speak with him, dost thou not hear me plain? I'll have none of this --
Grinding Ice -- !
[Casts around frantically, ducks behind Huan. A tall and radiantly blonde woman sweeps in accompanied by Nienna's Apprentice. She could be played excellently by Uma Thurman, on loan from Gattaca. The faint (given the lighting) but definite living color of her and the slight shadow she casts make for a somewhat disquieting effect, as they do for her escort. Her gown is sleeveless, off the shoulder and flowing white, with a wide begemmed sash -- Art-Nouveau Egyptian-classical, like a Mucha-esque Cleopatra.]
My Master asks but that you hear him out -- whether you say anything or not, milady.
I mean absolutely no disrespect to thy Master whatsoever, but thou mayest tell the Lady that if she doth hope to force some manner of reconciliation on us in such wise, it is foredoomed to be in vain. I will not to talk to him, do you hear?
[they see Beren, Luthien, and Huan -- and no one else -- present in the chamber, and cross to them in the absence of any other possible advisors]
Erm . . . excuse me, Your Highness, but you haven't happened to see my teacher -- that would be the Lady Nienna -- about anywhere lately?
Luthien: [rather sharp]
I am afraid I haven't, sir. I have seen precious little of pity as yet from the Powers here -- though much in the way of sentimentality.
Beren: [trying to be fair]
Amarie: [interested now as well as annoyed]
-- "Highness"? Shall be a foreigner from the other Shore, belike? For I know all the royals in this land, and she is none of them.
Apprentice: [graciously indicating with his arm]
This is the daughter of the Lady Melian and her consort, King Elu, once called Elwe, brother of the lord of Alqualonde (who is well known to yourself,) -- the Princess Luthien of Doriath in Beleriand.
Amarie: [staring intensely at Luthien]
This, then, shall be the infamous maid herself?
-- Infamous? I wouldn't know. Who are you?
I'm just the messenger. As in "Don't shoot."
Amarie: [looks her up and down and sniffs]
Thou dost not appear much that hath such havoc late inspired.
[turning her gaze on Beren]
And this is thy human consort. -- I should have expected better there as well.
[the detached contempt slips into cold rage]
An I thought it should touch him, that mortal killer, I'd strike him across his villainous countenance, as I'd thee as well --
[back to the cool detachment]
-- but such doth merit not even my disregard.
Don't you dare threaten him!
What matter? He hath not substance nor reality in any case.
[Beren raises his brows but says nothing. Behind Huan Finrod grimaces, and reluctantly gets up from his knees to step around the Hound.]
-- Amarie. -- Is that how you see them? Or only all of us that are dead?
[silence. They stare at each other with extreme intensity -- her shock at the surprise takes a moment to fade]
-- What dost thou here?
A friend summoned me. I don't ignore such things. -- Especially when it's Huan.
-- That's Amarie?
Oh, this is your old girlfriend?
Wretch, what hast thou said of me?
-- This is Amarie?
Amarie: [through her teeth]
-- And am I thus made sport for a Secondborn barbarian, and a mockery for usurpers as well as renegades?
Do not speak ill of my friend.
[she snorts in disdain]
He is dead, withal.
So am I.
Thou? Thou art merely affected and that right willfully, thou miscreant.
-- Affected? -- Does that mean something different here?
Not that I've heard.
Now you hear me, you can't insult my cousin that way -- or any other way, I won't have it.
Amarie: [without heat, very matter-of-factly]
Silence, thou shameless recusant. Thou'rt naught but a savage, for all thy shadowed folk name thee princess, and the more so to roam the wildwood in garment of suspect sorcery and thine own hair -- !
[Luthien is momentarily speechless. Beren winces, glances at Finrod]
Are you thinking what I'm thinking?
Oh yeah. -- No cover at all.
What an inopportune time for Huan to run off. He'd be adequate cover for us both.
Hey -- it could be worse.
[Both studiously avoid each other's eyes for a moment. Futile -- each steals a look, and simultaneously bursts into uncontrollable laughter.]
Amarie: [affronted, turning her wrath on them]
What, pray tell, dost so amuse?
[Beren and Finrod try to look serious. Attempt fails utterly.]
Finrod: [leaning on Beren's shoulder, doubled over]
"Dumb Stunts of the Noldor," number I-couldn't-begin-to-guess-which, out of very-likely-infinity --
Beren: [being the Voice of Reason]
It was a good plan, it just needed some tweaking. Huan even said so. It worked fine the second time --
-- Would you care to explain what definition of "fine" you're using?
Hey, just because I blew it afterwards doesn't change the fact that the plan worked perfectly.
What were we thinking?
Hey -- you want stupid? You wouldn't think anyone could forget this, would you?
[gesturing with his right wrist]
Carcharoth charges and instead of bracing the end of it against the side of my foot and using my elbow to help stabilize it, I go to level it at him like I still had two hands and he brushes it aside like I was poking him with a cattail instead. How dumb is that?
What about "leave the talking to me, I can handle him," -- never mind the fact that we're talking about a being who helped build the world itself, older by comparison to me than I am to you -- no, I'll just take care of him!
No, no, nothing on me. You gotta hear the whole story -- you're not going to believe most of it.
I don't believe most of it anyway. Not even the parts I was present for.
[they lose it again -- Luthien sighs and shakes her head; Amarie is staring in horrified fascination]
What doth so amuse?
And thou dost think naught on't?
I can't laugh about it -- but I won't deny them the right. It's their battle. -- Beren doesn't find anything remotely amusing in the parts of my adventures I find funny after the fact.
Beren: [recovering enough to argue]
Yeah, but what about me blowing our cover?
That wasn't you, that was me. Besides, we were insane then.
Well, I certainly was. I distinctly remember calling you "Ma" on more than one occasion.
Yes -- and I answered.
[unsteadily they endeavor to regain self-possession]
Beren: [nodding towards Amarie]
Now she's going to think we're completely crazy.
Oh, I'm sure she already does. All of Tirion thinks so, or so I've been informed, and no doubt they think it on the seacoast and in Valmar too. Besides, she told me so when I left: this will merely confirm her opinion irrefutably.
Wouldst thou leave off this affectation that I am not present, while thou dost speak of me, else cease from the same? Or shall that prove too much in the way of civilized manners for thee, Finrod?
Beren: [sobering up]
Would you rather we talk about you when you can't hear and respond, milady? Is that how they do it in civilized society?
Finrod: [to Beren]
For someone who isn't real, you make a lot of sense, you know.
Thank you. -- I try.
I shall not be insulted by an -- an Aftercomer.
Finrod: [to Beren]
I thought you asked her a serious question.
Finrod, presumest not to disregard me, nor speak me past as I were but a carven figure!
Finrod: [becoming quite focussed]
But you ordered me not to speak to you -- you made that one of the conditions of ever getting the chance to ask for your forgiveness again. Are you going to hold this against me, start the yen over again, because I'm doing what you're telling me to do now? Amarie, I haven't got the strength for this. I apologized. You got angry. I'm not allowed to apologize, or to seek you out, and now apparently you're angry with me for obeying you. If you're going to play these games with me, then I'll stay here till the end of Arda and work on my songs. There's a wonderful group of musicians here, and the acoustics are excellent. What do you want me to do?
Oh! Thou mocker!
What?!? You set him an impossible task and then you punish him for doing it?
Thou art the one to talk, forsooth. To name a Silmaril for thy dowry -- !
Luthien: [rolling her eyes]
Not this again -- That wasn't my idea.
What matters that, when the end's the same? Dost thou know what he endured for thy sake, thou spoilt daughter of the twilight?
Yes, I rather think I do. Better than you, by far. I was the one who discovered them, you know. And helped with the burying.
[raising her voice and pointing to her husband and kinsman]
How could I not?! I took care of Beren afterwards and listened to him talk about it -- when he could talk -- night after night after night, I washed his corpse --
Luthien, please --
-- of course I know! So don't try to put your guilt at not being there on me.
Guilt? I have no guilt. I did not rebel, wherefore I have no reason to reproach myself.
Luthien: [ironic smile]
Yes, well, I'm sure that's your story.
Story? 'Tis but the truth.
Luthien: [more serious]
I don't know. I look at you and I think -- if that were true she'd be far more unhappy and far less angry. It feels like something of an act to me -- keep your temper hot with us, and then you won't have to think about how differently things might have gone if you'd gone with him and help keep control of matters all along.
My parents and elders forbade it.
Luthien: [raising an eyebrow]
-- And? Did they lock you up in a tower, too?
-- And I honor them, -- as is my filial duty.
[Finrod makes a stifled noise, but is straightfaced by the time she glares at him]
As I honor the gods and do obey them without question.
-- Indeed. I suppose you have to stick to your story now.
Again with this talk of stories! Have thy Turned people no knowledge of the truth then, to judge all as falsehoods?
[Luthien gives her an ominous look -- no more quarter to give]
I don't know you. I can't tell if you were truly being principled, or just too afraid of being different, or of being disapproved, or of the dangers even. Don't interrupt me! I do hope that it's the former -- I trust as much, because I know Finrod, and his judgment weighs in your favor. But the way it's all woven together is something only you know, or perhaps only the One. But you made your choice, and Finrod made his, and they were irreconcilable. End of stanza. New verse. He's back, he's said he's sorry, and he's proven it by letting your wishes command him. What is your problem?
My problem is no more than this -- thanks to thy meddling and willfulness, the one I should have wed died an exile and outcast, in the torments of the Enemy so that thou and this vagabond of thine could wed in despite of all graciousness and reason.
Don't blame us for what you should blame yourself for. -- At least no one's trying to forcibly split you up and keep you from ever seeing him again for all of eternity!
Er -- just to be clear on matters -- that's Luthien's viewpoint, not mine. I never said any of it was your -- ah, her -- fault.
[to Luthien, sharply]
What was that last bit there?
[the next two exchanges overlap]
They want Beren to leave and me to stay and I won't have it.
Amarie: [to Finrod]
Do not presume to address me!
Now, don't get angry because you're getting what you demanded. I really don't understand your problem at all. Do you love him? If yes, work to a solution. If not, give it up. Let it go -- what does it matter if he suffers or not, if he doesn't mean anything to you any more? Go find a hobby, get on with your life, why don't you.
Such facile japery is but to be expected from one born to the darkness.
Luthien: [maddeningly slow emphasis]
Whether I am a Dark-elf or not has no bearing on my question. Do you love him? Yes or no answer.
Amarie: [just as patronizing]
Plain thou wouldst have it -- yet it hath not such simplicity. Of course I didst love him, but --
Luthien: [cutting her off]
-- No. You've got it all wrong. It's and. Never "but" -- "I love you, and --"
Amarie: [still more patronizing]
I ken not what thou wouldst convey.
"-- I love you, and I don't want you to do this." "-- I love you, and this is stupid." "-- I love you, and I'm going with you." It isn't really that complicated. -- Or else you didn't really love him.
I have neither heart nor time for folly.
[looks to where Nienna's Apprentice was standing -- and is quite obviously not now]
-- Where has that strange youth betaken himself? He was to guide me to his Master's presence.
I'm not surprised he's made himself scarce, considering how much I'd like to do the same thing myself.
Beren: [looking around]
Huan hasn't come back yet either.
Well, I've always had a high opinion of his intelligence.
I'll not stand here and be insulted by such compare!
Yes, well, why don't you do that then?
Amarie: [as if to a crazy person or a small child]
Do? -- What?
Walk away, since you won't stand for it.
[Amarie gives a blazing look towards Finrod, who is wearing a suspiciously innocent expression]
And so thou'lt stand by and see me mocked, even? I'll go, then, and find the Lady myself and bring her my plaint, if I must walk these Halls till even.
[she turns abruptly and strides away towards the corridor without another word or backwards look]
Finrod: [raising his voice]
If she would listen to me, I would tell her that it might not work. Distance and direction aren't exactly the same here as they are Outside.
[she still does not look or pause, though there is a visible if controlled reaction in the set of her shoulders and lifted chin. After she is no longer visible from the doorway the place seems a lot larger and dimmer. Finrod gives a sigh half of relief, half of regret, as Luthien moves to him and puts her arm around his shoulders in a consoling gesture.]
That could have gone much worse.
I don't see how.
For a moment there I thought she might try to hit me again.
[rubs his jaw reminiscently]
For someone with no combat training who, quote, disapproves of violence, unquote, she did an excellent job of knocking me part-way across the table before we left.
[pulling himself together -- as if the last few minutes hadn't happened at all:]
You were going to fill in the details omitted from the condensed version, and I was going to find us somewhere to sit. I suppose -- I wonder what the purpose of it is? -- that quaint little informal garden might serve the purpose.
[he takes their hands as though to lead them to the hill, but this is interrupted by the loud entrance of Huan, dashing in as if in pursuit of an animal -- he skids to a stop just short of Finrod and begins to vigorously lavish canine attention on him]
Hey! Hey! Easy! You're gonna knock someone over.
-- Are you going to do this every time you see me, old Hound?
[Huan does so, grinning]
Finarfinion. -- What are you doing here?
[she approaches from the doorway; Finrod bows.]
Conversing with my cousin and my friends, my Lady.
That had better be all.
[to Luthien -- gently]
What seems to be the difficulty, dear?
[she notices the Hill -- to Finrod:]
What is that?!?
Amazing, isn't it? It seems to be the real thing. I'm sure the grass is longer than it was a little while ago.
Vaire: [almost speechless]
I -- said --
And I haven't. It was already there when I came in.
Tulkas' wife put it there.
[pause -- shaking her head:]
I wonder why.
Would you please come and sit down with us so that we can get this situation taken care of?
Luthien: [lifting her hands]
What part of "not without Beren" is so hard to understand? Should I set it to a melody and sing it instead?
Child, please don't be difficult.
Difficult? Believe me, I haven't even started being difficult.
[she is getting the combat look again]
-- Tact, cousin, tact.
I tried that It hasn't worked at all to date.
[Beren turns her towards him]
Beren: [quietly but earnest]
Tinuviel. -- Don't let them make you crazy. We're together now. We can get through this. If they're willing to talk, the situation isn't hopeless. Not all concessions are bad ideas. Go with the Lady -- she said they want to hear you. That's a good thing, right?
You didn't marry a fool, Luthien.
[after a moment she sighs and nods, though her expression is still very hard. Putting her arms around Beren's neck:]
Stay close to him, don't go wandering about on your own, don't let anyone talk you into agreeing to anything, even if it seems harmless this time, -- don't even talk to strangers if you can avoid it, and wait here for me. I'm going to sort this nonsense out once and for all.
[she kisses him briefly and reassuringly]
But -- these are your mother's people, in a way, really -- they wouldn't do anything to us, would they? They're kind of family, aren't they?
Beren. -- Listen to what you just said.
Beren: [smiles wryly]
Luthien: [to Huan]
Will you stay here and help look after Beren?
Beren: [looking at the ceiling]
I tried that once.
[Huan wags his tail twice]
Don't worry, we'll take care of him.
[she starts to follow, then turns back and gives Beren a quick intense kiss, and then darts to hug Finrod again before reluctantly accompanying Vaire. The Weaver gives Finrod a frown, seeming about to say something, but changes her mind. The three of them are left alone. There is a brief silence, during which Huan melts away into the shadows again; while the other two look at each other uncertainly in a renewal of shyness.]
How are you -- honestly?
It's not as bad as it has been.
[Finrod sighs, unsurprised]
I'm sorry, I didn't mean to depress you --
Finrod: [very emphatically]
Beren. Do not, I beg you most fervently, if you have any compassion whatsoever, apologize for having been killed. -- Unless it really is your wish to leave me still more depressed.
Finrod: [forced briskness]
Where's Huan? He seems to have gone off again.
Beren: [shaking his head]
That's what I said. It's like you said, back when -- Huan's his own dog, and no mistake.
And he's our dog, too.
He's always right, even when I've disagreed with him, so he's probably doing something to help me again, even though he shouldn't.
Why shouldn't he?
Because I don't deserve it.
Beren: [changing subject]
Sir -- how are you? Are -- are you well? Are you -- treated well? I can't really tell anything about what it's like here -- it's too big, or something and it's just sort of strange and blurry -- and I can't tell much about the people, there's been some shouting, but no one's shoved any spears or other pointed objects in my face yet or threatened to chain me up, so so far I'm not complaining.
No. No chains, here. It's -- very peaceful. A trifle dull, perhaps, but -- not unpleasant. Not for me, at least. Plenty of time to think, which some people find trying, but I don't mind it. And no responsibilities, which is an immense relief. I'd not expected that . . . I had no idea how much I was attempting to keep under control these last few decades, until I no longer had to do so.
Finrod: [raising his hand abruptly]
No apologies for that, either.
[this leaves Beren with nothing to say for the moment]
I really don't understand why you've had so much awful luck. It can't be explained merely by your own actions. There does seem to be something to that saying, "Circumstances conspired against them."
[giving him an uncertain glance]
You know something? I just realized -- we're related now. By marriage at least.
[Finrod looks taken aback]
Finrod: [sounding dismayed]
Oh. You're right. I'd forgotten about that as well. Oh dear.
You don't deserve that on top of everything that's already happened. There's been far too much chaos and madness in your life already.
Finrod: [changing subject himself]
So that's what the Loom looks like when it's off. -- Hm.
[he looks at it with a considering expression]
I wonder if . . .
Um -- not to sound critical or anything, but -- I always thought there was actual string involved, somehow.
So did I.
[Beren looks surprised]
-- What? I hadn't seen it either.
I never tried to mislead your family --
No, no -- I wasn't saying you did -- it could have been us, too, messing things up, or even just me not paying attention.
Finrod: [just as earnest]
Please, don't denigrate yourself. I was saying, I didn't misrepresent deliberately -- but there were many, many things which I didn't understand, or of which I have a much better understanding now. Some of my explanations were in retrospect too facile, oversimplified, or at least open to misunderstanding. Especially about things having to do with the Halls. And I'm lecturing again, aren't I?
It's all right -- I don't mind.
[nods towards the Loom]
She made it do something, right before you two came in, but I don't know how she did it.
[Finrod gives him a quick look]
You say that as though you're expecting me to start tinkering with it.
You mean you're not?
[they share a somewhat hesitant grin; Finrod moves as though about to put a hand on Beren's shoulder, but doesn't quite know if he ought -- the awkwardness of their reunion is cut short by a familiar voice from the doorway:]
There you are, Sir.
[Beren instinctively moves behind Finrod, trying to vanish as the Captain comes up]
-- Are we supposed to be back here? I'm sorry, I still haven't been able to establish exactly what's all the ruckus --
[Finrod steps back, saying nothing]
[he grabs Beren, dragging him practically off his feet into a bear-hug -- setting him down, catches his shoulders and gives him a little shake, staring at him, then hugs him again]
Sweet Cuivienen, lad -- we thought we'd lost you forever.
[letting him go, but still keeping an arm around his shoulders, -- to Finrod:]
Sir, it's Beren --
[ -- then laughs at himself]
I know. As, apparently, do most of the greater and lesser Powers in this place.
You mean all this trouble's over him?
Yes, for once it's actually not us.
Captain: [troubled look]
Only -- this means --
[looking at Finrod:]
-- how long has it been,
Not long enough.
About half a year. A little more.
Captain: [very grim]
A -- lot of things.
[he is barely managing to control his emotions]
Beren -- and what of your lady -- ?
[he cannot continue]
My cousin's pulling strings with the Powers to keep Beren from being sent Beyond. They, of course, think that they are convincing her to act in their best interests by letting him go. Which of them has the correct understanding of the situation has yet to be determined -- it's all very much in flux. I'm still catching up with the background, but the present difficulty seems clear enough.
Finrod: [edged smile]
If I have any say in it, yes. We'll need -- oh, good.
[The Steward enters a second after he finishes speaking, and has nearly crossed the floor to them before he does a double take at the third member of the trio. After a moment's blank stare at Beren, he looks to the other two and then, seemingly accepting without further question, lets his gaze travel back to the Man.]
My lord Barahirion.
[he bows, very correctly]
[he moves forward, from under the Captain's hand, and then halts, looking helplessly at the other Elf-lord]
I confess myself at a loss for words.
-- Sir, I'm so sorry -- I --
Please -- do not distress yourself upon my account.
-- I saw your bones.
That is all in the past.
[noticing, frowns -- in a different tone]
What happened to --
[Before he can finish asking the question, the entrance of the rest of the Ten, noisily accompanied by Huan, interrupts him.]
Milords, look who's playing sheepdog -- Beren!?!
[At once Beren is surrounded by them and mobbed enthusiastically by eight Elven- warriors' shades, all trying to slap him on the back, fling their arms around his shoulders, ruffle his hair and embrace him like a long-lost sibling. He is completely overcome and gives up even trying to speak, simply accepting their welcome. Finrod looks on, wearing a rather rueful smile.]
Captain: [gently amused]
Now then, now then, take turns, don't throttle the Beoring all at once.
[they spread out, abashed, but still fiercely possessive, dividing demonstrations of affection between Beren and Huan.]
I suppose that means it's all right if we do it singly, then -- Beren, what happened to your hand?
It's a long story.
-- That bad?
[Beren gives a wry grimace, not quite a smile]
Second Guard: [concerned]
Why are you still here? Are you in trouble again?
[the Soldier is looking around with interest at the Hall and its decoration, or lack thereof]
Soldier: [to the elder of the two subordinate Rangers]
Well, that answers that. It's as boring here as it is everywhere else. They really like it that way -- it isn't for some therapeutic reason. Pay up.
[the Ranger sighs and hands over a brooch, manifesting it as he does]
I like the little ridge though, -- even if it doesn't really seem to fit with the rest of the decor.
She made that.
Who? Lady Vaire?
No. Her -- um, the Lady of Summer, the Bride.
Oh, yes, that makes sense. The roses especially -- they look like her style.
-- Nessa was here?
And Lord Astaldo -- he -- he was --
They're a bit much to take, either one of them.
Yeah, but -- actually, he was really nice. They both were. Just -- a little --
I know. They're wonderful people, but very little sense of restraint. If you ever go to one of their parties, don't ever let Tulkas talk you into a drinking contest. -- Or Nessa, for that matter.
That girl who works for them, who is she, -- Measse, that's it -- did a pretty good job of drinking you under the table back in the day, sir.
Captain: [mock indignation]
And how would you know but by hearsay, eh? You were long since past consciousness, as I recall.
Beren: [eyes widening]
That's not the -- the same Measse you ask that you'll come home at the end of a fight?
Youngest Ranger: [whispering]
I'm not used to this either.
All right then, everyone! Catch up later -- we have work to do.
[he gestures for the Steward and the Captain to draw near, while the rest hang about, beginning to drift off and sightsee around the staff area of the Halls.]
I want all of you to stay here and guard Beren -- I've promised Luthien I'd look after him for her. Will you make sure nothing happens to him while I go and see a few people who might be helpful?
You know you've no need to ask that.
Finrod: [quick smile]
I know. -- But it's more polite that way.
Ah, Sir, -- what could happen to him here?
Finrod: [shaking his head]
I've neither idea nor the wish to find out.
Captain: [with a meaningful look]
All of us, Sire?
I'd feel better that way.
Are you certain that's wise, my lord?
I can take care of myself. There's no trouble here that I can't handle very well on my own.
Captain: [raising an eyebrow]
Shouldn't that be, -- none that you haven't handled as of yet?
[Beren, with a worried expression, puts his hand on Finrod's arm]
Sir, I don't want you to get in any trouble because of me.
It won't be because of you.
But if you're trying to find help for me and Luthien, then it would be. I don't want to owe you any more, Sir. I -- I couldn't live with that.
I mean . . .
Beren, you're not in my debt: I owed your father my life.
But my father didn't get killed saving your life!
Finrod: [getting exasperated]
You know that's irrelevant. Do you think that the lives of your companions were worth less than your own or your families? No. You don't. And neither do I. Lots of people did get killed at Serech. You're the last Beoring, you get to collect on it, like it or not.
Captain: [rolling his eyes]
Not this again!
[the Soldier has still been standing nearby, listening with concern]
Soldier: [aside, to the Captain]
What's going on, Sir?
It's the "Endless Battle." You know -- The Argument.
No, I don't know. What about?
That's right -- you were first, that was after your time. They're arguing over whose fault it is more.
Oh. But --
Not what you're thinking, lad -- the other way round.
Where are they up to?
Going over the mountains west, as opposed to what we actually did and what might or might not have happened in various hypothetical situations which did not, obviously, occur.
Damn. They're just getting started, then.
What are we up to now? Anyone remember the tally?
I lost count after twelve-score.
-- But why are they arguing?
What, they need a reason to claim responsibility for every earthly mishap? Remember who you're talking about: "I ought to have Seen and single-handedly prevented the Kinslaying," on the one hand, against, "If only I'd been killed at Aeluin everything in the world would be fine."
It was at four hundred eighty, and eleven, when I was taken. Or one, depending on whether you subscribe to the view that it's all actually one long Argument with breaks. I was counting every time they repeated an exchange as a new engagement.
There were times when I could have killed the both of them myself, or myself, just to get away from it.
It was worse when they stopped, though.
[sighs and nods of agreement from the final veterans]
But you asked me my opinion about that and I agreed it was risky --
Finrod: [cutting him off]
You know you didn't feel competent to contradict me, because of your youth, regardless of the fact that in terms of actual field experience of recent date --
Steward: [looking up at the vaulting, fervently]
Dear sweet Lady, make them stop!
That doesn't work here either, sir. I don't think anything can.
Youngest Ranger: [muttering]
-- That's because they're both swarn.
Beren, I'm the eldest, I was in command, I should have known better --
Great Mother of Spiders, no, no, NO!!! I am not listening to this for another hundred-forty-three years, can you imagine?!
Most unfortunately -- yes.
But I shouldn't have just --
That's it, no more, I've had it --
Hey! You two! Would you stop it? We already know how this goes, we don't need to hear it again!
"-- It's my fault, I shouldn't have involved anyone else in the first place."
"-- No, it was my decision to get involved, not yours."
"-- But you had to help me, you didn't have a choice."
"-- You only had authority over me because I gave it you to begin with. Besides, I was in charge of the entire operation, therefore any and all responsibility is solely mine."
"-- There wouldn't have been any operation if I hadn't started it all, so it is really my fault."
-- Did I cover everything?
You forgot "But your entire civilization was collateral damage in our war --"
-- and "but we wouldn't have had a civilization without you --"
But otherwise I think you touched upon all the salient points with admirable succinctness. I couldn't have done it better.
You did the voices very well, too, sir.
[absolute silence. Finrod and Beren look at each other, guiltily. Both of them start to say something, several times, and can't.]
-- Holy Stars. It actually worked.
Of course, if you absolutely insist, we could always test out the Ered Wethrin hypothesis the way we did with the Bragollach.
Ahem. I think -- I should go and see -- about doing -- what it was I was going to do. Now. -- Excuse me.
[he turns and leaves abruptly]
-- Did we go too far?
Beren: [shaking head]
No, he just couldn't keep a straight face much longer and we already got our ears ripped good by Amarie for inappropriate behavior once this . . . well, already.
[The mention of Amarie's name brings varied and strong reactions]
She's here? -- What happened?
We're doomed. She'snabsolutely ruthless.
Was there an accident?
There aren't accidents here.
Do you mean "here" here, or "here" as in Aman?
Aman "here." Besides, she's Vanyar, what would she need to learn here?
The Lady Amarie? You're sure?
Er, tall, blonde, and answering to the name of "Amarie" -- ?
Hard to think who else it would be. -- Don't worry, even if she is here, I imagine she's still against violence.
[the Steward gives him an annoyed Look]
-- Not that that can't be conveniently forgotten. Again.
Not -- here like us. Just -- here.
I don't know. All I know is that she didn't want to be here and she kind of laid down the law to the guy who brought her here that she wasn't interested in talking to Finrod and then spent a long time yelling at him anyway. The King, not the other guy. -- And us. And then she was losing to Tinuviel so she went off in a huff to complain to whoever it was who sent for her. If anyone said who it was I missed it.
Ah. That's interesting.
-- No! You cheat.
Employing Foresight is not cheating if all other parties are well aware that one possesses it. Besides, it's neither guaranteed nor infallible.
Then how come you always win, sir?
[several of the Ten exchange significant Looks]
Okay, why are you worried about people ambushing him? Who would do that, and why? -- And how?
It's a long story -- not quite so long as Noldolante, however -- but I suppose that technically we did start it, at the very beginning --
-- Not just technically --
-- by pounding the hell out of a Feanorian or two followed by lessons in Why Pell-work Is Not Enough Nor Will You Encounter The Rules Of Formal Combat In The Wild, followed in turn by -- the worst cut of all -- apologies.
But why were you guys beating up Feanor's partisans? Or was there a reason?
There's always a reason. Even if it's just the appellation "House Feanor."
Oh, there was an unpleasant fellow who likes to hang about the High King and act as though he's a notable at court again -- one of quite a few, but this chap has the gift for getting on one's nerves like you wouldn't believe. He was one of their top Elves back when Maedhros was still High King, and he never stops letting people know how he was the Second Casualty in the War. Apparently we're all supposed to accept his assumption that Grey and Green losses don't count.
Why he's so proud of being too dumb to figure out it was an ambush in advance -- particularly since they were planning on it themselves, and surely an evil god with centuries' practice at deceit and betrayal ought to be able to think of such a thing himself -- and of not succeeding in covering his lord's retreat and thus making his death count for something, I have yet to figure out. But there you have it. At any rate, we hadn't been here very long -- no idea what that would be in the Outside, I'm afraid, but it didn't seem very long -- when he turned up while our lord was relating our misadventures to his uncle and made so bold as to provide unasked-for commentary. He found the story most diverting.
Beren: [lethally cold]
He was making fun of the King? -- And you all?
I warned him not to make light of what he didn't understand, as Himself was being too dignified to pay attention to such offensive behavior. I did so, in no uncertain terms. -- He laughed again.
Then what happened?
He discovered that the imagined experience of being picked up by the collar and slammed repeatedly against a stone wall was nearly as unpleasant as the actuality.
Then we laughed.
Then he complained bitterly to the High King, who found it tiresome, until it was suggested -- I'm sure you can guess by whom -- that he issue a challenge and endeavor to satisfy his honor in the traditional way. After some balking about whether or not such a thing would be possible, and this being decisively demonstrated -- again by the King -- he did so.
I was still quite angry. -- He should have known that His Majesty wasn't making the suggestion out of a pure disinterested sense of fair play -- but if he hadn't the brains to be wary of taking any free advice from someone he'd just been insulting, that's hardly our responsibility, now.
It was very funny.
Since then the situation has somewhat escalated, as might have been expected, though perhaps not to the scale that has from time to time been reached.
That's why you are in -- in trouble all the time? You're fighting with the guys from House Feanor?
Well, it isn't all the time.
And we certainly aren't the only ones.
Replace "fighting with" with "polishing the floor with" and you'll be closer.
I still think we'd have been all right if we had left the walls alone.
No, because someone would still have complained until the rafters rang due to the fact that every single time time we kicked their sorry hindquarters back to Himring, except for the one time we did "Under Stars" and tossed them into the sea.
That, I think, was the unforgivable insult.
Yes, well, you saying afterwards that Dagor-nuin-Giliad was a case history in basic strategy and every recruit these days studied the tactical errors made by Feanor before learning how to manage a spear and a horse at the same time didn't exactly help.
It's no more than the truth.
It was more the tone of voice. Besides, it's just as true that we've beat them roundly on every occasion. Hence the sneak attacks and the complaints.
But if we hadn't moved the walls, Lady Vaire wouldn't have gotten involved.
I do not recommend wagering anything on that unproveable possibility.
I'm sorry, but -- this isn't making any sense.
It's a long story.
As long as the Return of the Noldor?
[from this point, with that routine, in spite of recurring guilt attacks, any lingering reserve on Beren's part is gone -- he settles back into their old familiarities]
Okay, so what happened? -- Is happening? Whichever.
Ever since the Dagor Bragollach, various parties here have been fighting over how it might have gone differently. The most obstreperous of the lot were those who went West at the "Glorious Battle", because they had the experience of winning easily at the "Battle-under-Stars", the first one fought after the Return.
Yeah, I remember, that's the one we used to play in the door-yard on moonless nights. -- Boy, did we get in trouble for beating on the "Gates" of "Angband" with sticks when we did the Coming of Fingolfin. Huh.
[he shakes his head in bemusement at it all.]
Hold onto that thought, as you'd say. -- When I say "fighting," I mean endless discussions and arguments, the sort that make a council back home look as quick as an exchange of hand-signals. The Old Guard was convinced that If Only They'd Been There, the Battle would never have been lost, and we Young Whelps were obviously incompetent and/or cowards to flee the field.
As you'd expect, that didn't go over well with those who actually were there.
But until we showed up they'd never done anything but talk about it. At nauseating length, I might add.
Then after listening to the debate cycle round twelve or fourteen times, Himself comes up and says, "Why don't you put your talk to the test and prove that you could have done it better?" Not in those exact words, of course, but you get the picture. And they all shut up for a bit, until they started jeering at him about how it wasn't feasible, and he said, "Well, perhaps not for you, by yourselves," and they said, "What, you could?" and he said nothing, and manifested a quarter-size copy of Glaurung in the middle of the hall. And some lava for him to play in.
After everyone had sorted themselves out, minus those who didn't feel like it just at the moment, and the shouting and the recriminations had died down to a dull roar, he asks, "Well, why didn't you shoot him?" to some of the more obnoxious of the old-timers, and then added, "That's what cousin Fingon did when the Worm was that small," and everything split into an uproar again with the dividing lines not being House Feanor and Everyone Else for once, but Those Who Were There and Those Who Weren't. And the upshot was a challenge to refight it, as much as possible like the real thing, with strict rules governing what could be done and not done, such as having to stay dead if killed, or your horse likewise if mounted, and not being able to make yourself unlimited arrows, but having to glean them off the field, or to mindspeak farther than you could alive. Making sense yet?
No. I think you're saying you somehow pretended to fight the Sudden Flame amongst yourselves in the Halls, like us when we were kids playing Lords of the West versus Morgoth. But I don't understand where the horses are coming from and the arrows and how you can be killed if you're already dead. -- Unless you mean you have to stay down like when you get "killed" with a stick that's supposed to be a famous sword.
Second Guard: [encouraging]
That's right. It's exactly the same thing, only instead of pretending we had horses and spears, we -- er --
Steward: [raising his eyebrows]
-- Pretended we had horses and spears.
But how would it work? And it doesn't seem like you could convince them, because they would still say, well, yes, but that's you, not Orcs, if you won. And what about the Balrogs and the fire? And anyway if you did make an illusion of lava, it still isn't the same because first of all, it isn't hot if it's an illusion, right? and second, the terrain -- the floor is flat, not hills and stuff, and that makes a huge difference.
We should have had you helping plan it. That would have been fun.
As to your first objection, is it hot -- that depends on how convincing an illusion it is. Which in turn depends equally on how much the artist knows about the subject, and how convincingly then chooses to hold it. Not everyone is willing to think about such things in all their painful details. As to the second -- that's what the debate about the walls concerns. Though it was actually the floor as well as the walls.
Why did King Finrod move the walls? -- And the floor?
First Guard: [grinning]
My, he's quick.
-- And, by the way, how?
Can't answer the how for you, I'm afraid -- I can't do it myself at all. You'll have to consult these young punks on that matter --
[gestures towards the Youngest Ranger and the Soldier]
-- they're the best of us, after His Majesty. I find the stuff far too convincingly solid to convince myself that since one works stone, or anything for that matter, with one's mind equally as much as with one's body, with sufficient concentration and understanding one ought to be able to reshape matter regardless of physical contact. "After all," as he said, "if Lady Vaire can do it, I should be able to."
[silence -- suddenly Beren chuckles, and instantly suppresses it]
Oh yes. Why's a lot easier -- we needed a very large open space to start with -- we didn't do it to full scale, exactly, we had to cheat a little, but it was -- big. And to address that terrain problem you noted.
Goddess of mercy . . . you turned the Halls of Mandos into Ard-galen?!
Not all the Halls, just some.
A little part.
A good bit of it was illusion too -- Thangorodrim, for instance, was just the gates and a shell for the lower portion, since no one actually got inside it.
Good grief! -- and they let you get away with it?
For a while. Eventually they noticed and we had to stop. Which might not have happened if certain people hadn't gone and complained bloody murder about it. It really did have to do with the walls, though.
-- And the fact that killing each other, even thus in seeming only, offended the Powers' sense of fitting behaviour within these walls.
I'm not sure that what the King said to her was the most tactful thing to say, either. Even if it was true.
Do I really want to know what it was?
His Majesty was somewhat aggrieved due to the fact that walls had been being reconfigured for some time prior to the reenactment, as part of his experiments, and that he assumed the Lady of the Halls was quite aware of it all along, it not occurring to any of us that she should not be.
There was that business with the missing gallery, too, Sir.
[Beren gives him a cautious look]
Lady Vaire ordered us to remove all traces of alterations throughout the Halls. One of the galleries which was removed was apparently one which she herself had shaped as part of an expansion plan. I say "apparently", because it isn't certain: King Felagund maintains that the one which was his attempt at duplicating it was on the opposite side of the corridor, and that her Ladyship has gotten confused about which was which. None of the rest of us is certain. -- They argue about this from time to time, to no certain resolution.
. . .
Look, this is tiresome, standing around. Why don't we make use of the hill that Nessa's kindly left for us and make ourselves comfortable.
Steward: [looking up at the ceiling and shaking his head]
You would think that a pile of dirt and weeds looked comfortable.
Weeds! Those are flowers, Edrahil -- can't you tell the difference? And by comparison to a stone floor -- most definitely, wouldn't you agree?
Steward: [ignoring him]
It seems to be rapidly becoming overgrown with wild roses. Not cultivars, and therefore weeds. And very likely with their natural thorns, and thus not comfortable.
Beren: [trying to interrupt]
Youngest Ranger: [smiling wryly]
Don't waste the effort, Beren.
[he puts an arm over Beren's shoulders and leads the way]
We'll just have to make sure we take the grassy bits and leave the thorns for Lord Edrahil so he'll have something to complain about.
Steward: [to the world at large]
-- Young people these days.
Beren: [as everyone settles down on the Hill]
So . . . who played us?
We didn't actually do our bit, because it wasn't important in terms of the overall outcome.
-- That is to say, all that happened in terms of the Bragollach was that we never made it to the real front with any reinforcements, so Serech was irrelevant in that sense.
Oh . . . okay. So what did you do?
Headed various units under the the King's command.
Who was he? -- The High King?
No, his uncle was quite happy to take part.
Er . . . I meant the current High King.
Oh. No, he took the most difficult part. They didn't actually refight the Duel, since it would have been a draw most likely, but the exercise ended when Fingolfin made it to the Gates. -- What's wrong?
You mean -- he --
[breaks off, wide-eyed]
Of course. No one else has studied the War in such depth and in such a technical way, interviewing survivors -- and veterans -- of as many parts of the field as possible. Who better to play the Arranger of Battles?
Beren: [suspiciously bland tone]
Somehow I don't think that would have been seen as appropriate either.
I don't think it helped, no. The resentment over the Bragollach had mostly died down, though, before the Feanorians started things back up again.
Why? I mean, other than being House Feanor, what's the reason?
Isn't that reason enough?
Steward: [to the Captain]
There would be considerably less hostilities did you refrain from provoking them.
Captain: [superior tone]
I have never yet drawn first.
No, but you needn't respond every time.
Captain: [snorts indignantly]
What, I should stand there and let them hack at me without defending myself?
I meant the verbal provocation that invariably results in them drawing upon you.
If they refuse to accept that they are totally outclassed and persist in challenging either with wits or weapons, I see no reason to spare them a lesson. Better they harry me than the King. For everyone -- I'm actually being kind to them, you see.
I'm guessing I really don't want to know the story, but -- why are they going after him? You'd think they'd be ashamed to.
Partly a simmering resentment over the fact that none of them are as good as he --
-- the remainder, resentment over his being proven right on a matter of speculative discussion.
Namely, the debate over whether or not -- as House Feanor affects to hold, or did -- the words of the Ban were metaphorical, or literal, as our lord argued. The claim that we were never going to be allowed out of here and "long" was a euphemism for "never" -- which was used as the justification for much resentment and obduracy -- being quite thoroughly disproven by the amnesty granted Himself. For a while there it got completely out of hand, but after the last rout I think they've given it up, at least for a while. Sooner or later some idiot's going to --
Wait -- wait a second. You're telling me that he doesn't have to stay here?
I don't understand.
First Guard: [wry grin]
Not that long.
[shaking his head in frustration]
Explanation? -- Please?
His Majesty has personal reasons for not accepting.
No, actually, not at all. That was part of the haggling-over-terms that gave Lord Namo such headaches.
I would not call it "haggling" --
Really? Then what would you call it?
[the Steward gives him a cool Look]
Haggling, I say, as per the grounds for the offer being equally applicable to all of us.
Essentially, the argument went as follows: seeing that our lord was guiltless in the matter of the Kinslaying, and had departed Aman out of a sense of responsibility towards the rest of us, not for his own ambitions, and in consideration of his generosity and valor in Beleriand -- and it is possible, though these are mere deductions based on certain unguarded remarks, there was also a certain measure of pressure by parental forces -- there should be no real reason to continue to hold him here, and that mitigation of sentence was in order. To this King Finrod countered that we were no less free of guilt where Alqualonde was concerned, and that if he were to be released early on this count, and the deeds and sufferings that had transpired on the further shore, -- then we too should be granted the same. -- Or he would not accept it.
Sounds like haggling to me.
Steward: [as if he hadn't spoken]
Pursuant to which there was considerable debate, amongst the Powers, and while we awaited the final decision, word came in reply to the King's messenger that Lady Amarie refused to accept his apology and forbade him to contact her again for a full Great Year.
At that point Himself says, "Never mind about me," just when he'd won his concessions -- the wording of it was a tremendous battle, since he wouldn't apologize for thoughts he never held nor for actions he considered justified, either -- and that miffed the Lord and Lady no end.
Did they withdraw the offer?
Of course not.
But you're still here.
Would you have taken it?
A yen isn't very long to us, Beren.
[comprehending, Beren looks away, intensely embarrassed]
I'm sorry, I didn't mean to say that --
Fourth Guard: [comfortingly]
It's all right, everyone thinks we're raving lunatics.
I can't believe I asked that --
Beren. We know you wouldn't have taken it under the circumstances. We know you don't think we'd leave him. Stop worrying over such an insignificant thing.
[Beren starts to protest some more, then gives in.]
So you could just walk out of here -- or however it works -- but you don't. That must really irritate everybody.
We're taking bets on whether we're going to be the first in history to be evicted from the Halls.
It would fit with the cyclical notion of history repeating itself, and the wish has been expressed loudly more than a few times that it was allowable.
Youngest Ranger: [correcting]
I think he was trying to ask why they'd want to throw us out at all.
Oh. Well, they were really, really put out with us introducing the concept of dueling in the first place. Battle reenactment is so far beyond that that the Lord and Lady were completely speechless when they found out.
I believe it is the failure to leave off that is the issue now, not the past.
Only it isn't our fault, Sir.
Another debatable point, that.
So what's going on? I don't really understand.
The resentment over our status keeps tending to spill over into outright aggression. Naturally we're not going to allow them to attack us -- or the King -- without a fight. And it goes on from there.
Complicated by the fact that His Majesty refuses to allow his behaviour to be curtailed by threat of offense.
So the rest of the Elves here are angry because you could go if you wanted, and they can't.
A small but active minority, almost exclusively composed of partisans of House Feanor.
Most people aren't ready. Not even the Feanorians --
-- especially not the Feanorians --
-- and they know it. But there's a lot of resentment left over from Beleriand as well.
That seems all backwards.
It does, doesn't it?
So that's why they might attack him if they see him in the Halls?
Now you have to remember that Finrod Felagund is also and as much a scion of the House of Finwe as any of the more egregious members of the family, and that means that on some level he enjoys competition -- especially against his relatives, and their representatives -- as much as anyone else. Possibly more. Most particularly when nothing critical is depending on the outcome. This means that he can't just lose gracefully and take the challenge out of it -- no, he's got to beat them in new and more spectacular ways each time, which in turn simply incites them to new levels of aggression. The last time they set upon him with an entire company of horse.
What happened then?
Well, put it this way -- none of them are Maiar.
-- And don't they realize that now!
Lady Vaire was quite put out with Himself for traumatizing them so badly, but Lady Nia pointed out that they had made tremendous strides in terms of progress towards humility and self-knowledge, so that harangue didn't last long. It did cause the imposition of an absolute crackdown on him rearranging the structures of the place, but there are ways around that.
But what happened?
They cheat, he uses corresponding power. Thirty-to-one and cavalry to boot most definitely being cheating, he forwent restraint and used some of the Dagor Bragollach illusions on them -- only they weren't all illusions: some of the rifts and ridges were quite real -- as the horses weren't he had no compunction whatsoever about employing the technique and even though the napalm was illusory, when you've just been thrown into a twelve-foot crater you didn't believe was there, you're not inclined to test the actuality of such things.
Third Guard: [gleeful]
The most insulting part was when he showed up to meet his uncle without the slightest mention of having been waylaid, and no sign of it at all -- they never even got near him -- and the upper-level House Feanor folk who were waiting to see him set down didn't know what to do -- they couldn't exactly ask, "Oh, did our warriors miss you in the Halls somehow?"
So he's here because he doesn't have to deal with Amarie not forgiving him in here, and you're here because he's here, and nobody actually wants you in here, and the other Noldor aren't sure whether to hate you because you can leave, or because you don't. Even though they don't really want to leave, either.
I don't know whether to laugh or cry.
Some people think trying to hit us is the appropriate response.
Beren: [shaking his head]
If I was alive I would say this needs a drink to make any sense out of.
If you think that would help --
[He takes the flask from his belt and starts to offer it to Beren, but pauses to unstopper it first before handing it to him]
Beren: [staring at the canteen in his hand]
Er -- a drink . . . ?
But what is it?
A passable recollection of miruvor.
But you just gave it to me.
I thought you wanted a drink. Sorry if I misunderstood
But how can it be real? If it's your memory, not mine, then how come it didn't disappear when you handed it to me?
Because I don't want it to?
How do we know it's the same for me as it is for you?
We don't -- but . . . we don't know that when we're corporate either, do we? I could have experienced the taste of it differently then.
[Beren shakes his head, baffled]
Beren: [increasingly manic]
Is it an illusion? But what does illusion mean here? If we don't have have any bodies, then isn't everything an illusion? Is that how it works?
Do you remember the last night we dared risk lighting a fire, and you "made the mistake" -- I think that was what you said -- of asking -- What color was? and if color was in things, how could it be changed by light? And after when he'd finished the preliminary explanation, you said something like, "If it was really that complicated nobody would be able to see" -- ?
-- Did I ever apologize for laughing? I didn't mean to make you feel foolish.
Well, it's rather like that. I could try to explain it, but I'm not sure it wouldn't just make it worse.
Edrahil, do you want to take a shot at explaining the notion of the "persistence of ideas" -- ?
Beren: [getting stressed out again]
Why can I even see you? Or anything? Or feel things?
Captain: [forceful tone]
Beren, it's all right. You needn't if it troubles you.
[collects the canteen back from him]
No. I shouldn't be able to. I'm not real, I don't have a body, so things shouldn't seem real to me either.
[gripping his wrist with his remaining hand, pulling at his sleeve]
-- What am I? What is this? How can I sense myself when I don't exist?
But your body isn't what senses things. Not without you at home to perceive them. So why shouldn't you be aware, regardless?
[Beren is seriously thrown by this and hunches over with his head almost to his knees, on the verge of an anxiety attack]
Youngest Ranger: [to the Steward]
It would have been better if you'd tried, Sir.
[Huan crowds in and starts nudging Beren with his muzzle, until the latter straightens up, so that he can rest his head on Beren's knees.]
He wants you to scratch his nose. -- Huan thinks you're real. And you're not going to deny him existence, are you?
[Beren shakes his head, not looking up. The Captain puts a hand on his shoulder.]
You were going to tell us what happened, and why you're here.
It really is a long story.
And we've got plenty of time.
[Beren makes a mostly unintelligible reply in which the word "stupid" is about all that can be heard]
Beren? Beren, look at me. You don't have to understand being a ghost any more than one's got to understand being alive. I don't know much about mortal ghosts -- you're the only one of us to ever have met one, before now -- but if my own experience is anything to judge by, you remember yourself and the way you experienced Middle-earth in your lifetime too clearly to let that go. Does that make sense at all?
[Beren half-nods, half-shrugs]
There are people who choose to drift around here in an oblivious haze, completely caught up in their own pasts -- and then there are those, no less self-obsessed, who most definitely and definedly interact with every- one else, much to everyone else's regret. Some haven't recovered from the distress of being killed, and can't or won't pull themselves together, and there's nothing that anyone can do for them until they decide they want to communicate with the rest of society and make the effort. There are people who simply refuse to be seen. We find it unspeakably tedious, and there's no one here we've killed whom we're trying to avoid. Do you have reasons to interact with the world at large? Are you stubborn enough to try? Both rhetorical questions, of course.
[leans a bit closer]
And you certainly needn't feel ashamed of showing fear in this company, or looking a fool, or coming undone.
Beren: [low voice]
When I first got here I couldn't remember much of anything. I couldn't see. I didn't even remember my name until Huan found me. All I knew was I had to stay until she came.
Beren, you're not supposed to be dead. Of course you'll --
I'm mortal, of course I'm supposed to die --
Well, Himself has been having certain complicated discussions with the Powers that are in charge here, most particularly with Lady Nia, about that very matter.
[the rest of the Ten look troubled, and Beren gives him a blank expression, and he drops the subject]
Regardless, you're not meant to be violently evicted. If you hadn't been killed, if you'd somehow survived -- I'm making an assumption here, that it wasn't peaceful or natural, but am I wrong?
[Beren shakes his head]
-- then you'd still be unconscious, weakened and confused for a prolonged amount of time. I've seen Men wounded throughout the course of the Leaguer, and aside from the prolonged part, it never seemed much different from ourselves, the wandering in bad dreams and disorientation and various lingering effects after a severe injury. Am I not right? That your mind also feels the impact of a deep wound?
[Beren looks away, with a shudder, and after a second gives a very quick nod]
Everything from the time they found me and rescued me to the time when I got shot is pretty hazy.
That isn't a long story at all.
Who shot you?
Curufin. No, I meant, that part wasn't very interesting. I kept waiting for it to end and me to wake up, because it didn't seem like it could be real. -- That happened when the sons of Feanor caught up with us.
I thought they were going to Himring?
But wait, they were in Nargothrond. Did you go back, then?
You remember about that. What's-her-name told us, about how the Prince threw them out so hard they bounced --
-- a little late, but better late than never --
-- and didn't let them get lynched in the backlash.
What is her name, anyway?
No one knows. She still refuses to say, and her friends respect that decision. She was born in Formenos, and none of us knew her in the old days.
But it doesn't matter any more!
To her it still matters very much.
-- Though maybe he should have if they started going after Beren for revenge. Is that what happened?
Kind of. They tried to kidnap Tinuviel again.
The Ten: [outraged, nearly simultaneously:]
Beren: [correcting himself]
It was more a target of opportunity thing, they weren't looking for us, I don't think. We were right about halfway across Dimbar when they caught up with us.
Couldn't you have hidden? There's a fair amount of cover through there.
We were -- I was kind of distracted. The bastards almost ran us down and Curufin pulls over and yanks her up before we could get out of their way and flings her across his saddlebow like he's going to ride off with her. I -- I jumped on him and tried to pull him off the horse, and instead I ended up bringing all four of us crashing down, and Tinuviel got thrown clear of the horse, and Curufin was kind of stunned too, and I tried to rip his head off until she came round and whistled me off him. It's a wonder neither one of us got gutted or lost a leg from the Ancrist. -- Apparently Celegorm was about to run me through as well, but Huan got in between us and held him at bay. I didn't even notice that.
That was not one of my more rational moments, all right. Huan probably wouldn't have let them take Tinuviel, or get very far, but I didn't even think of that. I just wanted to kill the spawn-of-Morgoth with my bare hands.
I know. She told me I was acting like an Orc too, by implication.
[the Ten look at each other]
We were just thinking it was a shame she made you stop. At least I was.
[nods all around]
You brought down a cavalry charger and defeated the Feanorion, unarmed?
Tulkas said he helped. Or something. It certainly didn't feel like something I was doing by myself.
I was really angry.
It -- it kind of all came together when he laughed. It was the same as at the Council after they won. If there had been a rock handy I could have pounded his face off with it, but choking him until his tongue was hanging out was almost as good.
Couldn't you have cut his throat with his own knife?
I didn't even think about weapons. It wouldn't have been half as satisfying, anyway. I wanted him to suffer, and then some. And to know it was me that was killing him.
I'm surprised she made you break off.
She said we were doing Morgoth's work for him by fighting. And even retroactive Kinslaying is still Kinslaying. -- I just sometimes wish I had been too caught up in the moment to hear her until I'd finished crushing his windpipe. Especially after I got shot.
But that wasn't what killed you?
No, that was a long time after. Er -- you know what I mean. I took that bastard's stuff -- I figured he owed me replacements, since it was their fault I lost my gear -- which didn't actually do me any any good at the time, because I wasn't going to kill them and there wasn't any way it was feasible to put on his mail safely there -- and I also figured he should pay something to her, so I took his horse, too, and we were leading it away towards the forest, when --
Just a second, Beren -- have I got this right? -- You confiscated Curufin's arms and armour, and his horse?
Yeah. And his saddlebags. I left him the clothes on his back, but that was all.
But he shot you?
I'm afraid I wasn't exactly careful of his hair or his face yanking off his hauberk and padding, either. I kind of accidentally stepped on him a couple times, too. Which was satisfying in the short term but probably contributed to things.
No, I meant, with what?
Oh. He doubled up with Celegorm -- they were still heading through Dungortheb, I guess to their brothers' place out East, though I thought it was crazy, doing that with no armour instead of the long way around.
[he pauses and looks pensive]
You all right?
What? -- Yeah. Yeah, I was just thinking if it would have been possible without armour for me. Answer's no. But then I didn't have someone else for a bodyguard, or a horse. And they weren't going through the mountains, just down the Old Road.
You were going to explain how you happened to get shot.
Right. So anyway, before they ride on, Celegorm puts a curse on us, tells us it would be better to starve to death in the wilds than make them angry, and wherever we go it wouldn't do us any good, because I'd never succeed in holding onto anything I managed to get -- either the Silmaril or Tinuviel. Which didn't take long to come true.
But you wanted to know about him shooting me. His brother. -- Me, not his brother.
[he looks tired and frustrated with himself]
-- We know what you mean.
[Beren nods in thanks]
All right, so we're walking away towards the forest, and Huan's coming with us -- he was following along, kind of reassuring the horse on the other side, and Curufin grabs his brother's bow and pulls on us, and I guess Huan must have heard that or something, 'cause he spins around and jumps in between and bites the arrow out of the air the way you can grab a javelin if you're in the right place, but the bastard's got another one nocked and ready to loose and he does that before Huan could charge them, and -- he was aiming both times at Tinuviel. -- Not at me.
Only he was, and he knew it. So I stepped in front of her, and that's how I got shot.
I figured if the Curse was going to come true, it wouldn't be the way he thought.
Where were you struck?
[Beren gestures towards his upper left chest, just under his collarbone]
[He gets up with Beren and marks the level of Beren's wound on himself with his hand -- about the middle of his sternum. He looks very grim, and sounds more so.]
The Princess and I are almost the same height. -- That wasn't an accident or a scare-shot.
[the Ten exchange looks of increasing anger and comprehension. Furious:]
He was shooting to kill her.
Yeah, well, he didn't -- that was left for me.
Captain: [taking him by the shoulders]
Beren. Whatever possible mischance or mischances might have ambushed you out of the Void -- I will never believe that you did anything -- even by accident -- to harm Luthien. Call me a naive fool, if you like, but I don't believe it.
It was my fault she died.
I made a dumb mistake -- a lot of dumb mistakes -- and got killed, and . . . and she faded.
Faded? The Princess chose to follow you?
Beren: [shaking his head]
That's not -- you can't -- you're making it sound like she was responsible.
Most of us in the King's following have known the Court of Doriath since before your people were born. I don't think there's one soul here who's met her who'd doubt that the child of Melian and Elu Thingol should prove as resolute in love as those two -- any more than we who know you believe that you'd ever hurt her. Sit down and stop blaming yourself for things you didn't do.
[the Captain pushes Beren down gently, while the Youngest Ranger and the Fourth Guard pull him down from either side, and sits down himself]
So what happened after you got shot?
I don't remember.
[at their Looks]
No, I mean, I passed out, I only know what Tinuviel told me. Afterwards. Huan went after them and then they took care of me, and that made me realize that it was never going to work, there was no way I could go on pretending it could, and I had to convince them.
Er . . . what?
That she couldn't stay with me, we couldn't just pretend that everything was fine like it used to be and the world didn't matter to us -- we had to resolve this and she needed to go back to Doriath where it was safe. -- Or it was, then.
No, I -- I meant, earlier -- I was a little confused by all the "theys".
I believe that the first reference was to the Lords Celegorm and Curufin, the second and third to the Lord of Dogs and the Lady Luthien. -- Is that correct?
-- Someone else should really be telling this.
No, you're doing fine -- we just want more details. -- Did I really hear you say that Huan here actually attacked that pair of traitors?
[Huan makes an unhappy grumbling noise]
I'm not entirely sure that -- technically -- the Feanorions' actions should be considered treason, seeing that --
Captain: [cutting him off]
-- They had guest-right and they dishonored that along with kin-right. That makes them traitors not just once, but twice over, even if they never did swear fealty. Now be quiet, Edrahil, I'm not going to argue semantics, we want to hear what happened to Beren.
Sirs, please --
Steward: [smiling a little, for the first time]
It's all right. Please continue.
So anyway, yeah, Huan went for them, and she said he was really scary, she'd never imagined he could look like that, he was even angrier than he had been fighting Sauron, and if I hadn't been hurt and he hadn't broken off the chase to come back and help me she doesn't know what he would have done to them. So then she pulled it out -- the arrow -- and cleaned it out, and he found her some kind of plant to use for a pain-killer --
Didn't recognize it. I don't know the lowland vegetation as well as the northern types. Worked, though -- even the scar didn't hurt. -- She sang it shut. It should have taken weeks to knit, and maybe never properly, and it healed overnight.
What class was the point?
All-purpose military-hunting, long barbs to keep it in --
[makes a demonstrating V with his left hand]
-- and sharpened on the outside. -- Not birdshot. The sort of thing you don't dare try to take out if you don't know what you're doing and have irons ready in case something big's been cut. -- And then she built a shelter out of branches to keep the wind and rain out and a fire and kept me from getting dehydrated and getting trapped by the power of the Dark while I was unconscious.
You sound surprised.
It -- just -- is not what I thought of when I thought of Elven princesses, um, chopping up branches and dragging piles of wood around and so forth.
And you've met exactly how many?
Er -- two . . .
Finduilas is hardly a statistical sampling, you know. You never met His Majesty's sister, or his cousin, or --
Beren, if you happen to encounter the High King's daughter, don't bring up the sons of Feanor to her. She doesn't like hearing that they're bloody maniacs and insists it's all a misunderstanding, and she tends to the preemptive strike, even if she does apologize after.
But anyhow, you know that a majority of our medical people are female -- and you know what Healers do -- so what are you so amazed about?
Tinuviel just always seemed so -- so much too nice, to be completely unfazed by blood up to her elbows and deranged relatives trying to kidnap her and getting knocked off a horse and knocked out and me being hurt and having to do everything by herself -- with Huan, yeah, but there wasn't a whole lot of help he could give her past that point, except give moral support and keep Curufin's horse from running off.
Warrior: [very interested]
Which one was he? Stormwing or Watersong? Those were their best steeds -- I'm sure they would have taken them.
I dunno -- what did they look like?
The dappled-grey one or . . . er, the other dappled-grey one . . .
The big grey one with spots.
He never said what his name was -- I just called him "Roch" and he didn't seem to mind.
[quiet laughter all around]
I'm pretty sure he called me "that maniac who knocks horses over" -- it was a long time before he stopped looking at me with his eyes all white around the edges trying to see what I was doing wherever I was, even after Huan took him aside and explained it was an accident.
[shaking his head]
-- I didn't know you could do that. I guess it's like pulling your mount over on yourself, but -- he wasn't a pony, by a long shot -- ! It was kind of funny the way he used to try to keep Huan in between us when we were walking at first, and if Huan was off scouting or hunting -- he'd try to hide behind her, like I couldn't see him if his head was out of sight.
It was kind of cute -- at first Tinuviel didn't realize what he was doing, and then when she did she'd walk a little faster or a little slower so that he'd have to hurry to keep up, or then stop to stay hidden, or then she'd hop up and talk to us from his back. I've never seen an animal try to look three directions at once. He was a nice horse, though. I thought it would be a lot harder to ride him -- oh, I'll have to tell him he was right, I could have done it for his plan. King Finrod, I mean.
[sighs, with a nostalgic smile]
Those were good days.
[checks -- his smile fades]
Well -- by comparison. While they -- lasted. I --
[he looks down, biting his lip, and rocking a little; the Guard beside him puts an arm around his shoulders and gives him a little shake]
Fourth Guard: [consolingly]
-- It's all right -- you don't think we'd grudge you any happiness, do you?
"While they lasted" -- yet obviously they did not last long. What happened to bring them to an end??
I -- uh -- I had to go get a Silmaril.
Several of the Ten: [simultaneously]
I had to.
But that doesn't make any sense at all, lad. You were supposed to get the stone to win the Lady's hand -- but the Princess came to find you, so the question of needing it to break her free from Doriath was moot. Why didn't you just -- what's that mortal word? -- elope -- ?
That wouldn't have been honorable. -- I made a vow. I promised to fulfill the task.
But you know it wasn't a fair task.
But I promised.
And Tinuviel was going to get killed staying with me, or worse. We just smacked the Enemy's top commander upside the head, so to speak, and this was the same guy who spent four bleeding years trying to hunt me down. I could imagine what he would try to do to us now.
But could he? I mean, without any base to work from, with his elite corps ripped to shreds, how much can he do now? That night essentially put him in the same spot you were in those last years in Dorthonion. I would be very surprised if he weren't replaced by someone with no failure record and consequently no real experience of the War.
[Beren shrugs uncomfortably]
That doesn't do anything about local Orc-bands and the rest of the minions that escaped from the Tower, in fact it could be worse because they didn't have anyone to tell them where to be now. And the sons of Feanor still being out there. And even with Huan we couldn't hardly protect her from her two psychotic kinsmen. -- I kept trying to tell her this. And she kept saying we could just sneak into her parents' back woods and hide out along the edges the way I did before, and we'd be fine.
[growing frustrated just remembering it]
And I kept trying to explain that this wasn't going to work, no way in hell was it going to work, and she needed to be someplace where there were defenses, strong defenses, and that meant Doriath, because there was also no way in hell we could go back to Nargothrond -- because I knew what happened to isolated farmsteads and people who tried to hold out on their own in the open. And she'd just keep on saying we'd be fine.
[the Ten exchange troubled glances, considering the problem]
-- And that there was no way in hell she was ever going to go back to Menegroth unless I came with her. And that wasn't going to happen without a Silmaril. Though I thought it was optimistic to think that even doing that would guarantee safe-conduct. So I got up really early one morning when she was still asleep and I told Huan to stay with her and keep her safe, and then I rode back again west and north to Ard-galen.
Without saying good-bye!?
I couldn't have done it otherwise. And . . . I wasn't strong enough for the argument -- I would have ended up giving in again that day.
[The Captain glances over at the Steward, who does not look at him]
Did you truly believe it possible that you might accomplish it, on your own?
Beren: [shaking his head]
No. But I couldn't not try. I just couldn't let her get killed or -- or caught, and have it be my fault. Not if I could do something to stop it. I thought she'd be reasonable enough to go home once it was obvious I was really gone this time.
What happened to "Horse"?
I turned him loose after we got to the Plains -- I told him he didn't have to go back to Curufin if he didn't want to, I didn't want him getting stressed about it, and going through what Huan went through, plus the spiders and the fell things on the way there, and he was glad enough to see the last of me -- though I think he did finally trust me a little by then. Last I saw him he was heading south towards the river as fast as he could gallop.
You convinced an Eldar war-steed to return to the site of the Battle?
[pause -- stifled:]
I would say -- yes, he trusted you -- but not a little.
So, I was going to try to make it in -- I figured it couldn't be much worse than Dungortheb, there had to still be springs and stuff, even if nothing grew there any more, and so long as it wasn't too contaminated I could still drink it, because it couldn't take anywhere near as long as the mountains to get over, since it was flat. But not completely flat, so probably there would be enough cover I could evade any patrols up to the walls, and then maybe find a route up like we had planned initially for the mission, sneak in through some access way or something. And then get killed. -- Or more likely caught, again.
[silence; the Ten exchange significant glances]
I've never known anyone who could combine the most outrageous self-confidence and absolute pessimism quite the way you do.
Well, it didn't happen that way, because it turns out Huan's one of those dogs who puts the most creative interpretations on "stay" --
[scratches Huan's ears -- in the "doting dog-owner" voice:]
-- isn't that right, boy? That's what you did --
[Huan snuffles against his face]
-- and so he decided that "stay with Tinuviel" could be stretched to mean "bring Tinuviel with me wherever I go" and they showed up before I actually got anywhere and yelled at me for being an idiot. It was really awful -- I saw them from a distance and thought "I don't believe it, I'm almost exactly where we were caught before, this is some kind of twisted game the Enemy's playing, letting me get two leagues farther along" -- and then Huan left because it would be more of a risk for us to be seen with him than he could be helpful defending us, and to go round up some reinforcements, even though he didn't say anything about that then and we didn't know about that till later.
[there are some confused looks exchanged at this, but no one interrupts]
And then we crossed the desert -- that part seemed really hard at the time, but by comparison to the rest of it it was actually pretty easy -- but the sun was really rough on Tinuviel, and I kept cursing myself for dragging her into it, but I couldn't stop -- and then we got to the road -- this causeway thing they've built out of slag and rubble and stuff, it goes a long way out into the Plains, and there was shade next to that. We hid down there from a troop of Enemy soldiers being sent out West -- I think they must have been going to the siege of the High King's fortress -- and after they were past we tried to get through the Gates, but this Wolf -- Thing -- there, the size of a, a, -- no, bigger -- than the biggest wild oxen you've ever seen. You know how much bigger Huan is than most werewolves? She said that's how much bigger than Huan Sauron was. When he was a wolf. -- Well, that's how much bigger than Sauron this one, that was lying there in front of the Gates, was.
[there are some hasty calculations made and more looks exchanged]
You're talking about something three-to-four times the size of an ordinary warg there.
Yeah. He gets up and gets in the way -- I mean, even more in the way, 'cause he already was in the way -- gets in my face, and starts sniffing suspiciously at her in spite of her cloaks and all I could think was, Tinuviel was gonna die, and --
One of the Ten: [cutting over, from the background]
"-- and it would all be your fault --"
[Beren stops, turns, and glares at the Captain]
Captain: [raising his hands]
Wasn't me. -- Someone beat me to it.
[Beren closes his eyes and makes an exasperated noise]
-- Sorry, Beren.
Now I forgot where I was.
You were explaining about the Wolf at the door, and how it was all your fault.
Beren: [gives up, laughing] -- All right, all right. So he's there, and I'm thinking, "We're dead, I have to fight this guy, and there's no way I can take him --" and she just steps out from behind me and says "Down!" and wham! --
-- there's this flash like when lightning hits a tree right by you but without any noise and he just drops on the ground like a felled ox and that's it. And we just went sneaking past him into Angband, like a couple of rats going by a sleeping cat.
First Guard: [awed]
She killed it?
No, it would have been better if we could have, because then he wouldn't have got into Doriath, but Huan said it was fated so I'm not sure anyone else even could. He was just sound asleep. Anyway, we thought maybe we could duck in and hide and check out the place before doing anything else, but -- He -- spotted Tinuviel right away and threatened to blast her down right there, if she didn't explain what she was doing there -- and she did this amazing act where she told him the exact truth -- only not all of it -- and sounding like she was completely helpless and terrified, and he thought he was in control and playing her like a fish on a line, only it was completely the other way round. I had to go against all my instincts to rush out and defend her and just trust her to know what she was doing, like with Carcharoth.
You weren't noticed?
I was flat on the floor under his chair in the dark. Everyone was watching Tinuviel.
You were under Morgoth's throne?!
I know, it sounds really lame -- but storming out waving a sword into the middle of a hall full of Balrogs and assorted minions didn't seem like it was going to work all that well.
Soldier: [to the Second Guard beside him]
Somehow I just had an image of Feanor when he said that.
Yeah, well, you know -- lurking around in the shadows and dashing out when they're drunk and careless is more my style.
I'm having a hard time imagining this at all.
It would help if any of us had actually seen the inside of Angband ever, or if Beren had bothered to describe the scenery.
[the next several exchanges all overlap as people talk over each other and answer different questions]
Ah, it was really ugly --
I'm still trying to imagine a wolf the size of an aurochs or larger.
-- it looked kind of burnt, kind of like the Nightshade, only worse than the edges you guys saw, and --
How peculiar -- I'm trying very hard not to.
-- there were designs on them that I don't want to remember. And Balrogs. Multiple Balrogs.
Did you run into Glaurung?
You know, I was wondering what was lacking to make the experience complete, and guess what, that was it. Somehow there was a disaster that we actually missed.
Captain: [also straightfaced]
Shocking inefficiency. I wonder how that happened.
Beren, I know you're superb at that "lurking around" business, but I'm still finding it somewhat hard to believe that you were able to wander freely inside Thangorodrim without being spotted. Not to mention Her Highness.
Oh. We -- we were disguised as minions.
I see. That makes sense.
Captain: [noticing Beren's downcast look]
Oh . . . I was just thinking.
[he checks briefly, and goes on more brightly:]
-- You know if I'd been able to do that myself back in Dorthonion, I could have --
-- Lad, if you'd been able to turn yourself into an Orc during your War, you'd have gotten yourself into so much trouble you wouldn't have lived long enough to get yourself into more trouble. -- You know I'm right.
[Beren ducks his head, smiling a little]
Now you can't stop now -- you've just gotten to the most exciting part. So far.
[he reaches over and shakes Beren's shoulder, trying to get him to look up. Earnestly:]
You know we -- none of us -- wanted you here. But it's too hard for us not to be pleased now that you have turned up. Stop fretting. Trust the King. -- Trust your Lady. They'll work things out for the best.
[Beren sighs and nods]
Okay, where was I?
Under Morgoth's seat, you said.
Yeah -- when I made that vow that I'd avenge Da if it took me to the Gates of Angband to challenge the Dark Lord himself -- that was not the scenario I had in mind. So I'm hiding there, and looking out between his heels, trying not to make any noise, and I knew he was a giant, I remembered about him smashing big pits in the ground when he killed the High King -- we even passed them on the way in, they're still there -- but I wasn't ready for how much larger than us. Or having to lie there and watching his minions eating corpses. I still have nightmares about that place.
You said he recognized Lady Luthien?
She came down in front of the hall when he told her to, and tried to keep bluffing that she was a courier from Sauron, but he goes, "What are you talking about? We just had the reports from Taur-na-fuin. You're not one of our people!" and --
That's almost exactly what happened to us --
Yeah, I know -- again. So she admits it, and he starts laughing and wants to know what her dad's thinking to send her on a mission, if Thingol had lost it finally. And she explains how he doesn't know she's there, that he tried to keep her too hemmed in and she ran away, and all roads eventually lead to Angband because that's where the power in Middle-earth is and she realizes that now, and she's willing to serve him as an entertainer because she needs to and has no place left to go, and he starts making all kinds of crude remarks about needs and serving and I'm trying to keep my cool and not wreck it this time by losing my temper --
No, you can't have all that blame. None of us were expecting to hear her name under those circumstances, and all of us reacted. Himself most of all.
[Beren does not look entirely reassured but goes on:]
And anyway what couldI have done? Maybe hamstrung him? That didn't slow him down much the last time, and it didn't seem like it would help her any. So I trusted her.
Best thing you could have done.
It was hard. When he reached out to grab her, saying something like, "This will make me feel better about the gods enjoying our misery," it was all I could do not to lunge for his ankle. And Tinuviel says, "Nope! You listen to me now!" and melts right out of his hands like he was trying to catch hold of a shadow, and she flings open her capes and starts to dance, like swallows over the water, that quick, or like real bats when you see them out in the door-yard flying after bugs at twilight, to her own music, and it was like Esgalduin pouring in to drown us all with sleep.
-- You too?
Of course. Not like I could resist it, if a god couldn't.
She couldn't -- be selective?
[Beren shakes his head]
You don't understand, this was the real thing -- this was like a flood when the ice melts up in the mountains, it's coming down and everything in its way is going down. But it wasn't a weapon -- not like knocking someone over the head to put them out -- she gave -- us -- what we needed -- what we really wanted: absolute peace. Complete rest from pain, and having to think, and regrets, and hating each other, and that's why there was no way anything there could hold out against it. Not even Morgoth. Though she said it took longest to take him down, but in the end he slumps down like an avalanche and the Iron Crown goes rolling across the floor --
[making a sweeping gesture with his hand]
-- and not even that woke anyone up. She said it sounded not like metal clanging but like when thunder hits all the sudden, it was that big and heavy. So then she wakes me up and I crawl out from under trying not to step on any of the other minions or the snakes -- hey, why are there adders in Angband? Just loose on the floor -- his people just stepped over them, or on them, or kicked them out of the way. And it was cold, so they should have been hibernating but these were awake, until they weren't any more.
Steward: [thinks for a second]
? ? ?
-- Experimental Dragons. Did they appear to be fashioned out of metal?
Oh. I -- I'm not really sure, it was hard to see -- but they did make a lot more noise than adders usually do when they moved. Like someone filing something. So maybe. And I got up, and . . . there they were.
[he stops, staring into the distance, until the Captain clears his throat]
I . . . it was like a sunset, and the northern lights, and sunrise, and when you look up through water and see daylight, all together . . .
But it was like sunlight through Autumn leaves in the wind, too, and the Stars . . .
[pulling himself together]
And then we tried to get the jewel off the Crown -- it was way too big and heavy to take the whole thing, like trying to carry a cartwheel made out of metal -- and I'm trying to pop it out of the setting with my bare hands, and it isn't working, and Tinuviel's hovering like she's about to take off again, trying to get me to hurry, and I'm getting more and more frustrated, and then after all -- stupid! -- that I remembered about the Angrist, and I got that and sawed off the prongs that were holding it on, and . . . light. I thought it would feel cold, like a polished stone, but it felt like sunlight in my hand. It shone right through -- like a candle through cloth -- but it wasn't hot. It didn't even occur to me that I should be afraid -- like picking up bees. I knew they weren't afraid of me, or angry, they wouldn't do anything to me . . .
[he is rapt at the memory again]
That's right. I'd forgotten all about that -- how dangerous they were. You shouldn't have been able to even touch them.
Ah. My conjecture was mistaken.
I had assumed that was the cause of your maiming.
No, that -- that was a little later.
[pause -- he continues under the gentle pressure of encouraging looks]
So then I thought if the first one came off that easy, and we weren't going to try this again, I shouldn't waste the chance because who was ever going to get another like that? and I went to hack out the second one, and the knife -- you remember how Curufin used to brag how it could cut through anything? Well, he was wrong.
It stuck and popped apart when I tried sawing the next setting, and the piece of it went flying up like that -- bing --
-- just like an arrow, or a spear, and hit him in the forehead. And he kind of snorts and moves around like someone asleep who's got a fly walking on his face and we didn't dare keep trying, we just grabbed the Jewel and ran like crazy. And we almost made it.
[The Ten share glances of regret -- Beren does not realize what they are assuming]
But Carcharoth was already awake, and he's standing there sniffing around as we come up, and the instant he sees us it's over. There's no other way to go, and he's blocking the exit, and he's mad. And Tinuviel was already almost collapsing when she took the spell off me, we're holding onto each other pulling each other along but she's leaning on me more, and she just gives him this look, like, "I can't do this again, -- but I have to" and he sees her and his hackles go right up -- she was the one he most wanted to kill at the beginning, she really bothered him even when he thought she was Thuringwethil. So I pushed her behind me and shoved the Silmaril up in his face.
Instinct, mostly. -- I thought if it burned Morgoth, it might repel him, or at least blind him,or at least have a chance where a blade wouldn't -- and it did, for a second, but he was too strong, or I didn't do it right, and he just whipped right back around with his head and bit at it like it was a fly.
[bringing his left hand down hard against his wrist]
He went through it like kindling -- I could hear the bones crunch when he closed, there wasn't any time for me to pull back or anything -- and bolted it down like he'd caught the fly and was swallowing it. And then he just stood there for a second with his eyes all glowing and growling, just like a guard dog would for trespassers -- except for the eyes glowing -- and I knew we'd had it, but then he gives this howl like he'd been shot, but it's as loud as the whole pack would be, and he kind of arches like a fish jumping out of the water, and then he keeps on bucking like a colt -- or like a hooked salmon, and he flings around for a minute there before dashing outside like he was closing with deer. And there was nothing but air between us and the Plains.
So you didn't die then.
No. Tinuviel dragged me out of there and we managed to get clear of the Gate before it fell in.
Carcharoth wasn't waiting for you?
Why did it fall in?
No, he was gone. Nothing but dust clouds and echoes way out there. Huh?
What was that about the Gate?
Oh. Morgoth woke up then, I guess, since there was this unbelievable roaring noise coming from below and the walls started shaking and the floor, and it just kept getting worse -- all the wargs in the place started howling the way dogs do sometimes, and rocks were falling down from the ceiling, and after we got out there was a landslide from up on Thangorodrim and it filled up most of the archway with rubble and took down a lot of the masonry over the Gate itself.
That seems rather counterproductive behavior, doesn't it?
Yeah, his temper-tantrum meant that the pursuit couldn't get after us right away. So anyway she carries me the rest of the way out and into the open as far as she could, and we couldn't go any farther, and we collapsed in one of the gouges left by Grond, which was a little bit of cover, and she keeps trying to heal me even though her voice makes her a target, and the lightning bolts are hitting awfully close --
Yeah, he wasn't willing to wait for them to unblock the door, I guess, and these fireballs kept coming at us from the peak, and the ground kept shaking, and I thought the whole world was ending or something. She actually sucked all the poison out of the amputation site -- that sounds so much neater than it was -- it -- well, you've seen a dog eating a hare -- it was blood and ends and sharp bits and --
[he stops short and bends down to hide his face against Huan's coat again. Brief pause]
Are you all right?
[Beren shakes his head, not looking up. Huan makes a grumbling noise, his brow furrowing, but doesn't move (which would force Beren to straighten)]
First Guard: [understandingly]
None of us had to watch.
[the Youngest Ranger pats Beren on the back, his expression sympathetic]
Beren? -- Beren?
[when he still doesn't move, the Captain signals to the Youngest Ranger, who obediently pokes Beren hard in the ribs, causing him to sit up in outrage]
You're not being very considerate, stopping all the time like this, you realize.
But I don't remember the next part.
[The Guard on his right grabs him by the shoulder and shakes him hard in humorous exasperation]
-- Well, did you die or not then? That's all we want to know.
Speak for yourself!
-- Star and Water! can't you just tell the story, and save the apologizing for after?
Well . . . I . . . was just lying there while she worked on me, and I kept blacking out and coming to again and wondering why I couldn't die, and after a bit Tinuviel finished singing and pulled her cloak over us and we just waited, and at some point I didn't wake up again.
And what about her?
The Eagles came and picked us up and took us back to Huan. Back to Doriath, as a matter of fact, right where we started from when I tried to sneak off.
So you were still alive at that juncture?
I'm not doing a very good job of telling this, am I?
Most people are somewhat disoriented and find it difficult to recount their death-experiences without some initial counselling. Of course, you've always been somewhat disorganized and deficient as a storyteller, though no more so than most mortals.
[Beren gives him an anxious look]
Don't listen to Master Particular there. I'm enjoying the tale so far.
I am speaking only from a bardic standpoint, in answer to milord's direct question. Continuity and coherence are challenges for a human mind to achieve.
That's because Ea is complicated and messy and happens all at once. -- So you weren't dead. Yet.
Um, no, I wasn't dead, though I wasn't sure about it at the time. I --
I thought you didn't remember anything --
Wait a minute, wait a minute -- what Eagles? Where did they come from?
I think they live in the mountains down south of Rivil Falls.
You mean -- the Eagles. -- Manwe's Eagles?
The sacred Eagles, yeah. Ordinary eagles couldn't carry anybody anywhere. Except maybe a baby and that's not a fun thing to think about.
You got a divine intervention to pull you out of there? Like the King's uncle?
Yeah, only we were still alive. Mostly.
But why did he send them for you? Was it because the Princess is Melian's daughter?
[the Youngest Ranger looks as if he's going to say something, but doesn't want to interrupt]
No, because of Huan. I mean, Huan sent them. For us.
And they just came? Like that?
Well -- yeah. Is that not supposed to happen?
It -- seems very odd. Not to mention implausible. I didn't think that Manwe would be watching that closely, and then there's the Doom. Though neither of you are Noldor, so perhaps . . .
Youngest Ranger: [finally]
Our traditions say that the Eagle-king acts on his own. He's the Sky-king's liege, not a slave. The same with his family.
I think they did it because Huan asked them to. I don't know exactly. She talked to them, not me. I was unconscious. Then when I woke up it was like nothing had changed except the weather, because pretty soon we started fighting about how it wasn't safe to stay out there and she kept arguing that it was, since nothing had happened that they couldn't handle in and the bad weather was over which was the worst of it and it was going to be summer pretty soon. Finally I convinced her we had to go back to her parents' place.
Every time I think you've come to the end, you start a new adventure. Does this story ever stop?
Well obviously it did, since they're all here, right?
[elbows the other in the ribs]
Don't interrupt again now that he's finally telling it. -- What do you mean, "summer"? How long were you comatose?
End of winter -- beginning of spring. I came out of it when the Balance changed.
At least you weren't in pain for the duration.
[breaks off, then picks up again guiltily]
It wasn't exactly pain, but -- I thought I was dead, and lost somewhere trying to get here. It was all grey, and the terrain was terrible, and it kept changing, and there were things in it I had to fight and escape from, and there was this light, or something, that kept luring me over to it, but I had this feeling I shouldn't go that way, that it was an illusion to a trap -- but everywhere I went seemed to go back there, except when I closed my eyes and followed the Song. Her voice was the only true thing in that place. But I wasn't always brave enough to do that, and I kept getting lost again for a long time. But she got me out of there finally.
Do you have any idea where you were?
You don't think it was a dream either.
Oh, I think it was a dream. Very definitely. And I think the Lord of Fetters was trying to lure you into his hold.
Okay, that's kind of what I thought. But Tinuviel wasn't sure, because she couldn't see where I was, because I'm not an Elf, and she didn't know if we go into the Grey Country too, or if I was just trapped inside my mind because of the poison. There wasn't anybody else there with me. Except I could hear her singing.
[the Captain reaches across and takes Beren's chin, looking him in the eyes]
That's an awfully long time to be lost. Mortal or not.
Beren: [hugging Huan's neck]
I -- know. They took care of me all that time.
And you kept on, and got home safe and sane.
[he grips Beren's shoulder and then his wrist]
[Beren half-smiles, still shaken talking or thinking about it]
So you returned to Doriath, and to Menegroth, after all?
Yeah. I had a hard time believing that they weren't about to shoot me, or lock me up like he threatened, but Tinuviel just stormed right back in like a hurricane and acted like she owned the place, and people just fell in with it. It was really strange -- this time nobody was laughing, and the way they were staring it was like they hoped we were gonna rescue them -- only we didn't know right then from what. It was so different from the other time . . .
Was Huan with you both?
One would rather imagine that put a somewhat of a constraint upon anyone who would have arrested you.
Yeah, but nobody even tried. Or wanted to. And we go in to where her parents are dealing with the chaos, and she drags us right up there and says --
-- What chaos?
All the refugees. And everybody being mobilized who could carry a weapon.
Refugees? From where?
And how would they get into Doriath?
From Doriath. -- Um, they were in the Thousand Caves, that's why it was so crazy.
From what, then?
That's where he went?!
Eventually. He was rampaging around the North all that time we were there hiding out in the outskirts of Neldoreth, and finally he busted in through the barriers on the eastern side like the Labyrinth wasn't even there and started killing people in Doriath. He was basically rabid at that point --
How could he get in?
Apparently the Silmaril made him practically invincible, -- though personally I thought he was to begin with -- and at the same time it made him crazy -- though Tinuviel said he already was crazy, it was so obvious in his aura that she couldn't believe I didn't see it. When they cut him open it had blistered him all up inside like a bucket of hot coals, as fast as he could heal it kept burning right into him.
So he's dead.
Yeah. Thanks to Huan.
[he strokes the Hound's head]
So everyone had evacuated the woods and meadows and moved into the Caves for protection, and they look at us like they can't believe we're back, like we're gods or something come to save them -- I guess a lot of them assumed we were dead to begin with -- and we go into the throne room, and there's this big row going on over what to do and people waving maps and the Queen's just sitting there looking like a ghost, like she doesn't care about anything anymore, and she's in pain, and trying to keep a brave face for everyone else, like my aunt before she got too sick to move, and -- he's looking like Da the night after everybody left and he didn't have to. But he has to keep doing his job.
[shaking his head]
I was so obnoxious to him. I couldn't help it. We come in and there's all this commotion, and Thingol looks up all angry at the ruckus and then he sees her, and I've never seen anyone look that -- that stricken. But in a good way. Except --
[he looks down for an instant, biting his lip]
Except when His Majesty recognized me. It was like that, only more . . . So we go right up to them, and Tinuviel's holding on to me like grim death, and she's got me between her and Huan on the other side, so obviously she thought they were going to grab me or kill me too, and I get down on one knee and he's just staring at me, and I could see the veins starting to go up on the back of his hands, and before he could say anything I said, "Hey, I'm back like I said I would be -- you gonna keep your promise now?"
[silence -- the Ten react to this image]
Yeah. I know. But what could I say? I couldn't even say "you can't call me a thrall," 'cause that wasn't true any more, and I just had to -- take control, I couldn't let him put me on the defensive again or I'd be stammering like an idiot like before. And I couldn't do that to her in front of them. So he goes, "Where's the Silmaril?" cool as anything, like we'd been gone a week or so. And I said, "I've got it in my hand right now," and he says, "Let's see it, then." So I hold out my hand, like so, and he gives me the evil eyebrow, and I just smiled at him and shook back my cloak and showed him my stump, and I said, "Guess you better call me 'empty-handed' after all."
Oh, Beren . . .
I know, I know. And he says, "You want to explain that, young Man?" and I told him that the Gate-Guard of Angband bit it off and the jewel with it, and he just sort of glares at me, for a long, looong time. And then he goes, "You took my daughter where?" -- Fortunately Tinuviel took over the conversation at that point, and there was a lot of guilt operating there, and she used it for all it was worth, because they actually listened to her this time. And me, afterwards -- they had them get chairs for us and it was actually civilized, when they interrogated us about what we'd been doing.
You know, you seem to have a gift, or a curse, for being outrageously insolent to powerful people who mean you no good. How many times does that make?
[Beren has to stop and think]
There's Thingol, and Sauron, and the sons of Feanor, and Sauron again, and Thingol again, so six. Wait, I forgot about Carcharoth. That's seven.
What about Morgoth? Surely helping yourself to a Silmaril should count.
Yeah, but I wasn't in his face about it. He didn't even know I was there. Not like shooting him in the middle of his bodyguard, or asking him who the hell he thought he was, messing with us.
[shaking his head]
I -- I still wonder about that, if I made things worse . . . jumping in like that when he was at a loss for words, before it went to combat. But it seemed like a distraction was needed, even if we weren't supposed to say anything, and . . . but I still think about it sometimes when it gets to be around the Starless Hour, and ask myself -- did I give us away by doing that?
-- No. He was playing with us from the outset. He knew we weren't what we seemed. If he hadn't, your bluff might have worked -- that's a typical power- ploy, to demand more than one's jurisdiction allows, to see how far one can push before meeting resistance.
Hence the reason they say war and diplomacy are really the same thing, you know.
-- And you were correct in your observations from spying on him so long that he did not in fact have authority except in times of crisis over the forces despatched to the western and eastern fronts, which at that time was not the prevailing situation. Had he not revealed that he was aware -- as we were not -- that the last "Great Chief" had been killed raiding Doriath during the time of our journey and a new one had yet to be chosen, I myself would have judged it the manifestation of internal power struggles between the Lord of Wolves and Morgoth's other field commanders -- a small gesture of authority, intended to remind them who was foremost. He might well have said, "Get out of my sight and stop wasting my time, and tell old So-and-so to train you better." Or words to that effect.
Are you sure?
That it might have worked, or that he knew beforehand? -- though the one hinges upon the other.
There is no doubt in my mind that he was aware of some discrepancies and already suspicious before we were taken. The way his questioning played out leaves no room for it. I've done the same thing myself at court, when we were alive, to draw careless adversaries into self-incrimination.
So did he kill you? Was that the mistake you were talking about, to flout him? -- Elu Thingol, I mean, not the Abhorred One. -- Now you've got me doing it too.
No, I . . . he wasn't actually as angry as he was making out to be, it turned out. In the meantime Celegorm had sent him a letter which was even more obnoxious than anything I'd said so far, and he apparently decided that compared to that crew he could almost cope with the thought of me as a son-in-law, in a lesser of two evils kind of way.
Fourth Guard: [amazed]
Is that a joke?
No, it was really bad. I didn't see it -- he had sent the scroll back under separate cover to Orodreth, which must have been interesting, and I wonder when it got there, if it was before or after they were kicked out -- but they recited the contents for us word-for-word.
We're pretty sure Curufin wrote the actual thing. It was all about how they'd taken over Nargothrond and gotten us killed and if he knew what was good for him, he wouldn't try to challenge them about Luthien 'cause he was going to marry her. Um, Celegorm, not his brother. And a lot of stuff which I didn't get but Tinuviel says was about stuff that had happened in the past. So they let me stay there.
That doesn't sound particularly welcoming.
Hey, I only said not quite as mad. -- He was really angry before. That leaves a lot of room for variation in "not quite."
But they let you get married.
Even though you hadn't actually brought it to him.
And they didn't poison you at the feast?
Captain: [staring at him]
Where did you come up with that notion? You're even more paranoid than I am these days.
Being betrayed rather does that to one.
No. No, they were completely honorable about it. I -- I think her father did understand that I was asking for help, and why, showing up without it -- even if I did phrase it as an insult. And Tinuviel just didn't let up on making them feel bad. One big factor in the guilting was that they felt really awful about us being up on the central borders after I was bit, about how she would rather live alone out in what was essentially their backyard with just Huan to help her get through the winter, rather than ask for help taking care of me, because she couldn't trust them. I think that ripped his heart out more than anything else, because it was no way I could have been controlling her, not with --
-- "spells," and not with just ordinary emotional means. There was damn all in the way of comfort for her from me during that time, and I think that made them realize how serious she was and how they'd misjudged her. Even more than her fighting the Dark Lord and his minions, which I don't think they ever really believed.
How could they not?
Well, it did sound kind of improbable. And the way she told it was this very offhand, almost sarcastic way, like you might make a joke, and if you didn't know it was true you might think she was making a joke -- and you know how I tell stories. Everyone kept saying things like, "Not our little Luthien, surely!"
Oh. -- Dear.
Yeah, that just made her get more sarcastic. And it was kind of hard to believe, even if you were there for it, but still, I mean -- we did have Huan there with us, which we didn't before, and so forth. -- I could see why she was making such a big deal out of having them call her Tinuviel. So anyway it was really long and confusing, because they kept interrupting -- not like you, of course --
[the Guard on his right shoves him lightly, and he grins]
-- and between her saying things like "So then I told Morgoth to shut up," and me going, "Um, I don't remember that part," every other minute, I've heard far more plausible fictions being told about stuff like what happened to the column on the porch and why we had no idea how it got all scorched like that.
-- Told them, too, I gather.
Beren: [wide-eyed innocence]
I have no idea what you're talking about, Sir.
Captain: [same tone]
Of course not.
Like she said, it was pretty hellish at dinner -- oh wait, you weren't here then -- but it was. Her dad kept cringing every time I opened my mouth, but it turned out it's because -- well, part of it at least -- because of my accent.
What's wrong with your accent?
He said it sounded like I was mangling the words on purpose and drawling my vowels to sound affected and insolent.
You can't help your native dialect.
No . . . but I tried. And that just made it harder to talk. And then . . . then he started to make a crack about how could his nephew stand to listen to us, and then he choked off and dropped his cup and got up and walked away to where the little golden trees were and just sat down for a bit, and nobody knew what to do or say, and then he came back and pretended like nothing had happened. And then Tinuviel asked if Daeron was off sulking and couldn't even be civil, and there was this dead silence, and it turned out that was another thing I was responsible for, besides the Wolf.
He split when they were searching for her, right after she ran away, and nobody knows what happened to him. I suppose that Carcharoth might have killed him, even, but I doubt he could have stayed hid all that time if they were quartering Doriath looking for Tinuviel.
He isn't here.
Third Guard: [sarcastic]
Unless he's laying very low. -- Again.
He'd better. If I run into him I'm going to let him have it.
Guys -- you don't have to be -- so -- I'm okay. I'll be all right.
No, you're not, and yes, we do.
Though you do look a lot better now. You're more yourself.
You know, that really is a weird expression. -- How can you be more or less yourself? Either you are yourself or you're not.
What if one of the Enemy's agents is disguised as you?
Fourth Guard: [around Beren]
Then that's not you.
But what if you're possessed?
Then it isn't you yourself either.
All right then, but suppose Morgoth has put a control on you, and you don't know it, and you're still doing what you would ordinarily do, but wouldn't you say that you were less yourself then?
Captain: [to Beren]
Do you really want to have another metaphysical crisis?
[Beren shakes his head. To the debaters:]
All right then, table this discussion. -- Unless you lot would rather hear yourselves argue than find out how it ends.
[they shut up]
All right, where were we again?
At a very unpleasant-sounding Acclamation banquet.
Hoo boy, was it ever. Between me trying not to make a complete fool of myself, and Tinuviel ready to savage anyone who looked cross-eyed at me, and the Queen and King trying to be civil and not doing a real good job at it -- and the general atmosphere of panic and Doom over the whole place, and people starting to admit that maybe it wasn't all my fault after all --
-- You're admitting it wasn't?
Hey. Don't put words in my mouth.
[Huan grins and thumps his tail on the grass and whoever is too close; Beren taps him on the top of his skull]
-- Quiet, you. I mean, it wasn't like I had anything directly to do with the fact that they were sending an embassy to Himring to demand justice from Maedhros against his younger brothers, or that they had to do that because the two mad bastards kidnapped their daughter, or that she got kidnapped by them because she ran away, and she ran away with no guards or anything because they locked her up in a tree. Indirectly it was my fault because she wouldn't have done it except to help me, and Carcharoth wouldn't have been able to get through the Labyrinth after slaughtering the embassy if I hadn't given him the Silmaril --
You're making it sound like you just handed it to him.
On account of how that's essentially what I did, even if it wasn't what I was trying to do. And everyone was kind of proud that one of their own had taken down the Lord of Fetters, even if they didn't half believe it and it was only temporarily. So it was really weird. Oh, and did you know that Melian and Tinuviel's dad lived up in Dorthonion before it was called Dorthonion before anyone else lived there, when they were newlyweds?
[the Ten shake their heads, looking at each other.]
It's true. I'm not making that up. They started talking about that as a way of trying to make conversation with me, and it was awful, because they kept saying things like, "How did the grove we planted along the top of the cliffs turn out?" and I'd say, "you mean the forest on the pine bluffs?" and then I'd have to tell them it got burned and turned into the Nightshade, or they'd say to each other, "Remember that meadow where we used to listen to your birds?" and I'd have to tell them we put a town there, only that got burned too, or about how they lived for a few decades at the lake, on our island, not that far from where Da's buried, and Tinuviel and her mother were having some kind of staring war across the table, and I'm not sure if they were really talking, or just meaningful looks, but she seemed to think all this proved some kind of point, like "See?" and I thought the candlesticks were going to melt, the way they were glaring at each other. So that was pretty depressing, too.
And before that -- does this sound familiar or not? there was all kinds of fuss before dinner after we finished telling about our adventures about trying to make us comfortable and especially, presentable, and that just sent Tinuviel right around the bend, anyone saying anything -- or even implying, or maybe implying anything -- about her hair or clothes or me being a mess -- I mean, Captain Strongbow just said something about how Huan must take a lot of brushing being as big as he is, and she tore into him like a rabid w --
Captain: [to the two on either side of Beren]
Thump him on the back, he's choking on guilt again --
-- and there was trouble about trying to find something to fit me, and me saying I didn't care if it was kids' clothes or not, or a woman's tunic, clothes are just clothes and the only thing that mattered was were they warm and I could rip the sleeves off or roll them up and nobody had to make anything special, but of course they did anyway, only it wasn't quite done in time for the feast and we did the apologizing thing and Tinuviel and her mom had a fight over her wanting to wear her old dress, sort of come-as-you- are solidarity, and she threatened to show up wearing nothing but her hair, and Melian cried, and that was -- and she said, "Why should I care, I cried enough and you didn't pay any attention," and I had to beg her to back off, so she let them fancy her up, but she was really grumpy about it, and that wasn't fun, and . . .
It sounds worse than the council disaster.
It went on longer. Or at least it felt like it. I -- I was feeling so trapped, like when I was in a cave or a hole and they were beating the woods for me overhead, trying not to either panic or go into that kind of vacant way where you just step back and watch it all happen.
Is that the word for it?
Comes from "being hunted."
Figures. I sure felt hunted then. Anyway the conversation for obvious reasons kept working around to Carcharoth and what they were doing about him, which was organizing a massive wolf-hunt for the next day because they had finally got a good report on where he was -- you know Beleg's crazy, right? Crazier even than I am -- and especially now that they knew it was because he had the Silmaril, they really didn't want to find out if it would keep making him stronger, or wait to see if it would kill him, 'cause a lot of their Sages thought that it would probably heal him or help his healing abilities -- something like that -- at the same time as it was burning him, and there was no telling if even Menegroth's shields would keep him out. And . . . I knew I had to go because it was my fault.
I thought you said that it wasn't.
On the final count it was. He was.
Carcharoth was your fault? Since when were you involved in summoning demons to this Circle and giving them bodies?
Carcharoth was made to stop Huan. He wouldn't have been put there if Morgoth hadn't gotten scared hearing about how Huan destroyed Sauron's power. Huan wouldn't have tried to take on an entire fortress single-handedly --
-- Yeah, yeah, whatever -- by himself, if it wasn't for Tinuviel trying to save me. None of us would have been there if I hadn't been going for the Silmaril. Therefore it's ultimately and really my fault.
What did Lady Luthien say to that argument?
You don't want to know. -- Trust me on that.
You surely didn't fight on your wedding, Beren?
Why stop then? We had an unbroken record going.
But that's bad luck!
No kidding. You don't say.
Youngest Ranger: [sad]
That's not the way you dreamt it would be.
It's way worse than that. She brought that up to me. -- One of the things I never thought of about having a demi-goddess for a mother-in-law -- the Queen actually told her, way back --
[he breaks off]
Told her what?
About how I was dreaming about her when we were in the Pit.
But what's wrong with that?
There was nothing disrespectful or inappropriate in it.
No, but --
Surely you do not imagine that your lady didn't equally dream of and long for you? Else why should she wish to wed you?
Look, I'm only mortal! I don't have Elvish attitudes about everything, and --
[breaks off, wincing in humiliation]
Your people are strange about that. I remember someone --
[to the Soldier]
-- your wife belonged to that school, didn't she? -- theorized that mortals weren't supposed tonbe incarnates and this was one more proof that Morgoth had given them bodies,nbut I never believed that.
I don't see how she could have been right about it: he was able to touch the Silmaril, after all, and if mortal flesh were inherently corrupt that oughtn't have been possible. -- How come Men are so peculiar about something as normal as the conception of their own offspring? I've never understood why you all make such an issue of it, especially since you need so many of them. Why would mortal parents want to pretend to their children that they just happen along out of thin air --
-- or under rocks, don't forget under rocks --
[Beren covers his face with his hand, laughing in spite of himself]
-- even when everyone knows it isn't true?
First Guard: [musingly]
I think for the same reason that mortal children want to pretend the same thing. It's like the time we were visiting Eithel Sirion and there was a new human guardsman there who wanted to know what the celebration was for, and we told him, and after he finished coughing and someone fetched him a new drink, it turned out he thought we were joking.
You saying back, "You mean you don't remember it?" didn't help convince him otherwise. It was funny, but we never understood why the High King's Men would rather congratulate the Prince on his birth than his conception. It seemed like silly semantic games to me.
We could ask Beren instead of speculating.
We could, but he'd just get even more embarrassed than he already is.
-- Of course, I didn't ask you when your conception-day was, because by then we knew better, but I hadn't met very many mortals back when Dor-lomin was just getting started, I'd just come back from a few score on the Coast Watch.
[Beren ducks down between the Sindar Ranger and the Fourth Guard, hiding against Huan's ruff]
Fourth Guard: [mischievously]
-- Speaking of which, when is yours?
[Beren groans without looking up]
He's going into a "fugue state" again -- why don't you all stop teasing him about being strange and let him finish the story?
Youngest Ranger: [indignant]
Beren's not strange, Sir!
Fourth Guard: [reasonably]
Yes, he is. He's strange even for a mortal. Perhaps especially for a mortal.
[leaning way over so that he can see Beren's face a little]
But we love him anyway. And we do want to know what happens next.
[pause -- Beren finally lifts his forehead off Huan's neck and looks at the Guard, who smiles at him until he finally smiles back, if rather wanly.]
There's not much left. Except us getting killed.
Fourth Guard: [remaining lying across Huan's back as though the Hound were a log]
So are you going to tell us how that happened finally?
Yeah. It's almost over.
[looks down for a moment]
We rode out from Menegroth early, and we quartered the district where he was supposed to have been last, and it was really strange, being there again, because he was practically where I lived all those months, but it was so different -- the woods were so quiet, as if even the trees were afraid of him, no birds, not even any bugs around, it was spooky. When we caught up with him he went to ground in very dense cover, no way could you go in there and have a chance --
Where was it?
Um -- you know where the north edge of the forest is, there's those rocks where Esgalduin comes down from the plateau into a gorge?
sYes. That ravine's quite narrow, but it goes back a long way.
Right, and it's mostly thornbrake, with thick sedge growing in between the branches. So we staked it out, we were sure he wouldn't have the patience to stay there, since he hadn't shown any sort of reasoned behavior before according to them. But it was starting to get late in the day, and I was getting worried because if it got to be dark, all the advantage was going to be on Carcharoth's side --
Out in the night with an ox-sized werewolf in rough country in a gully so steep that it's dim there even at noon -- you don't think that was a good idea?
Beren: [just as innocent]
-- I do have reasonable moments from time to time -- and I kept saying this, and maybe we ought to think about trying to fire the thicket, even though that wasn't a great idea, and her dad was pointing out that the way the wind was we'd be completely blinded by the smoke as well as choked by it and it wouldn't help, either, and Huan I guess agreed about the dangers of letting it get too dark, because all of the sudden we realized that he wasn't there next to me any more, but we didn't see which way he went. And then he --
[tapping Huan's nose]
-- starts baying down in the thickets, and everyone's on edge, even more that is, looking to see if we can see them, but we don't until Carcharoth busts out on our side and comes rushing up the hill towards us with Huan hot on his tail, and he's going too fast for any of the watchers to catch up with him, I think maybe someone hit him with an arrow but it didn't slow him any more than a charging boar, and most of them went wild, and he didn't seem to know which of us he was going after, me or Thingol, but then he goes for her dad and I tried to block him like he was a boar,
-- but I fumbled it and he grabbed me and shook me like a hare and then Huan jumps on him and he drops me and they start fighting like a mortal dog going after a bear, so loud it made rockfalls come down where the waterfall was, and the echoes keep bouncing back overhead until I thought I was going deaf, and other people start running up to us but no one can get near the fight, and Thingol doesn't answer them when they're asking him if he's hurt, he doesn't tell them it's mine, it's like he doesn't even hear them -- he just keeps staring at me, holding my hand, like he's trying to ask me something, only he can't, or like he knows I'm dying and doesn't want to say it.
First Guard: [upset]
Didn't you take Curufin's mail? Weren't you wearing it?
[Beren reaches over Huan's head and pulls back the Hound's lip, revealing his fangs.]
Two or more times bigger than that? And jaw strength to go with it? I might as well have been wearing just a gambeson.
[He grabs Huan's lower jaw and wrestles gently with his head, as if the Hound were a puppy (though a puppy the size of a Kodiak bear)]
Only difference it made was making it harder for them to to start treating me.
[winces and headshaking all around]
Poor Huan comes staggering over all stiff-legged to us and lies down next to me, and he's all torn up, and he tells me . . .
[he trails off, stroking the Hound's ears. Sadly:]
-- You were right about us having the same Doom. -- Then Mablung opened up Carcharoth and that's when they saw how badly the Silmaril had burnt him inside, I heard them talking about it, but he still risked reaching in to take it, because he didn't want me not to have fulfilled my promise because of his fault. Even if it didn't really matter anymore. He -- I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to know him better.
Mablung's a good Elf -- wise and fair-minded as well as brave. Thingol has some excellent people working for him.
Yeah. Beleg too. The one thing that really freaked them was that apparently my hand was still locked around the stone --
After all that time?
Yeah. It didn't evaporate until he touched it, and then it was just gone, bones and everything, like the jewel was keeping it there.
But it burned the Wolf.
Weird, huh? So he brought it over to me really quick, and put it in my hand and held my arm so that I could give it to her father, and he didn't even look at it, he just kept looking at me, and going, -- Why? Then they made a stretcher for both of us and carried us back to Menegroth . . . I was glad they put me next to him, even if he couldn't feel it . . . I could almost pretend it was like old times, out in the woods.
Was Thingol glad?
Beren: [shaking his head]
Not at all. Nobody was.
I imagine he was rather relieved at the outcome, nevertheless.
No. He -- he did change, even before. He was really upset when he heard about Curufin shooting me.
Fourth Guard: [scratching Huan's ribs while he talks]
Yes, but you said he was shooting at the Princess. Don't you think that was the reason?
It would have been easy -- very easy -- to let me die, then. And he did everything he could, to get me back to her, alive. It wasn't his fault that she couldn't heal me.
Couldn't they have gotten you back faster? Why couldn't he have taken you up before him and ridden the distance in a quarter of the time?
Good point. Why didn't he?
Sir -- I had a collapsed lung. It wasn't -- just the poison. And all kinds of crushed ribs and things torn from when he shook me and -- they hardly dared to move me onto the stretcher. It's like the problem of do you pull an arrow or not if it's poisoned but an artery's nicked and you can't cauterize it then and there. If they jostled me it might of made the bleeding worse.
And there was something wrong here --
[touching his sternum]
-- and in my back. It -- I shouldn't have lasted an hour.
But you did make it back to her.
I was barely managing to keep breathing -- again, it didn't really hurt, not all that much, they weren't letting me suffer if they could help it, it was just that it took so much effort -- like rolling a big chunk of fieldstone when it's just you and nobody else, each time you get it over you think, "That's it, that's the last one, I can't do this again --" and then you fling yourself at it again until it goes over again, just a little bit farther. And then we were there, and -- it was strange, 'cause I shouldn't have been able to see anything, by then, I could barely see the flames of the torches around, but I could see her, and everyone else, like the way I see you now, but her the brightest, even brighter than the stone, and there was light in the trees as well, especially in the big one, and I don't know if I was just hallucinating or what. It didn't feel like it.
[pause -- the Ten exchange significant looks]
You need to tell the King about that. It sounds like it means something important, but I'm not entirely sure what.
Uh -- okay.
Third Guard: [gently]
Can you please finish?
She came up to us and put one hand on each of us and looked at me, and I tried to tell her -- everything -- I was sorry, and for her not to be unhappy, and it wasn't her fault she couldn't save me this time -- but I couldn't, I -- I didn't have words any more, and she just said, "I know. I love you too." And she told me to wait for her here, and then she kissed me. And then it didn't hurt . . . it was just . . . strange . . . I was pulled along -- whatever I was -- in the wind like a leaf in Fall -- I couldn't even have thought of resisting if I'd wanted to. And when I'd gotten here I . . . I just waited in the dark. That was the only thing I could do, until Huan came for me and started taking care of me, and things started coming back. And these people I couldn't really see -- they were just lights and voices, but that might have just been me -- they kept coming and asking me what I was doing, or what I thought I was doing, and telling me to move, and I couldn't do what they wanted because I had to wait.
[he breaks off, sounding very frayed at the recollection. Huan leans up and shoves his nose in Beren's ear, keening. Into Huan's fur:]
Good boy. -- You're my good boy.
[to the Ten:]
I'm sorry. I'm acting so stupid about it.
We weren't alone. -- Except for him.
[nodding towards the Soldier]
Soldier: [shaking his head]
That was only a little while. And Lady Nia was with me for most of it.
Beren: [wiping his eyes]
So . . . you're really all right? I know he said, but . . .
We've no complaints.
[several of the Ten exchange ironic Looks at that]
Soldier: [smiling at Beren]
Especially not now.
It's too quiet, but that's all. After the Gaurhoth, we're not inclined to gripe about the scenery being dull or the subdued quality of experience here.
Beren: [glancing up at the shadowy vaulting]
I thought maybe I was missing things, but it sounds like it really isn't all that much more, uh, detailed, than what I can make out.
Ranger: [looking over at the Soldier]
We had a bet going that it was boring on purpose so that people won't malinger, but that turned out not to be the case.
And Finrod isn't bored crazy by it?
He's a very hard person to bore. When it gets dull he comes up with something interesting to do.
And then no one's bored. Though it usually means we get into trouble.
You seem so -- unfazed by the idea now.
What are they going to do? Lady Vaire lectures us, or Lord Namo lectures us, or they both give us disappointed looks, and we apologize, and it's fine till next time. There's not much of a big deal about it any more.
Youngest Ranger: [quietly]
-- At least not for you.
I haven't noticed you remaining non-participant in any of his schemes.
Youngest Ranger: [frowning at his commander]
-- Of course not.
Well, then. But it is true, many people are much more upset at getting scolded than we are, and much more worried that some unnamed something is going to happen to them.
Has it ever?
Aside from being told to go away and think about things until one is fit for Elven society again? Not often. Or ever.
Except for us.
Yes, but we're insane. Everyone knows that.
What happened to you guys?
Lady Vaire lost her temper.
She yelled. And broke a lamp. Though that was by accident, she was pounding against the door frame and didn't look.
But you must understand, the Weaver has never, ever lost her temper in the entire course of earth's history. No one -- including the demigods who work here -- can remember her raising her voice. Or banging on things. It was very distressing.
Though the circumstances were rather amusing. The timing of it, at the least.
I thought you didn't think any of it was funny.
There is a difference between being amused and howling like a loon.
What was funny about it?
Certain persons were taking exception to our attitude, and --
What's wrong with your attitude?
Oh, we don't know how to behave at all. We sing ridiculous songs --
-- And make jokes.
-- And a few individuals have been known to use deeply offensive language from time to time.
And we haven't gone through the normal stages of "denial" and "anger" and "resignation" and "acceptance."
Though someone seems to be stuck at resignation.
I mean, what's to deny? "No, I didn't get eaten by a wolf-demon?" And little point in being angry about it now, is there?
We occasionally use weird sentence constructions and peculiar expressions picked up from some backwoods barbarians we met in the North Country.
And all in all we're a strange and incomprehensible and uncouth lot, and a bad example to the rest.
-- But according to certain core members of the sort-of following of Feanor, we're also pathetic pets and grovelling lackeys of the Powers, which is why we're so repellently cheerful and unconcerned about the things they stress over.
-- Like who interrupted whom in front of whomever else, back before they were exiled to Formenos. I mean, really -- that was over five hundred years ago, and some of the people they're talking about are still in Beleriand, so they can't speak for themselves, and who really gives a damn, any more, anyways? -- Criminetlies!!
-- Which obscure mortal idiom would be taken as a pointed insult, and I'd probably have to end up skewering someone before the conversation was over, if I'd said that. So there was nattering along that vein, and His Majesty was continuing to play and pretending not to hear any of it, and I'd taken my blade and put it on the table, as a little reminder, because sooner or later Himself ignoring it was going to push someone's temper past flashpoint and I don't consider it drawing first to simply point out that I'm there, I'm paying attention, and if you lay a discourteous hand on him I'm going to chop it off.
The High King hates it when you do that, you know.
Yes, but he hates it even more when I hit offenders with the board or the pieces, or the table. Lesser of evils and so forth. Besides, what really irritates him is when I make suggestions as to what he should have done to win. And right at that moment the Lady of the Halls storms in like the wrath of Osse shouting "Finrod Ingold Finarfinion, WHAT have you done to my house?!?" A number of people vanished right then and there, and the ones who wanted to stay and see us get into trouble made themselves scarce when glass started breaking. And Himself shouts back, "I did what you told me to do!" and they go back and forth for a bit until milady hit the sconce trying to emphasize the point that we were to leave the walls alone, supporting walls or not.
I see what you mean about the timing.
Then she became extremely upset, and the King offered to try to fix it for her, and she threw the bits at us and left.
Oh, matters worsened after that. When people started coming back to see if we'd been thrown in the dungeon -- there isn't one, but try convincing anyone of that by logical means like maps --
Fourth Guard: [scratching Huan between the shoulderblades]
-- Though she could make one, I suppose, if we bother her enough --
-- the Lady came back as well and saw that we'd made a basin to stop the dew from running all over the floor and that Himself was not only trying to mend it but had gotten a few of the smaller breaks back together, and she kneels down next to us and starts apologizing for losing her temper and finishes fixing the lamp, and he apologizes in turn, and tries to convince her to let him keep on working on it, and this goes on until it's almost as annoying as you two, and they parted company ruffled and exasperated but not furious.
That doesn't sound like grovelling, though. Not really. That's kind of like a border dispute, when you both claim it's really your fault.
I'm not sure what I'm trying to say. I didn't want to usurp his authority.
There is truth in your words, though. It does become a contest of pride and will. Not that anyone in the present company knows anything about that.
So why does he just stick around for them to insult him?
That doesn't happen as often any more, I must confess.
Can't imagine why, Sir.
But it's hard to hide here, if you don't want to be invisible and inaudible and blend into the background. The more -- interesting one is, the more other people tend to cluster 'round, just to see what will happen next. Or to ask advice, or his opinion, or just to listen to him talk about things.
That, too, is little different from the world Outside.
He isn't really cut out to be a hermit, however much he might like to pretend to himself that he is.
[he suddenly shivers and looks around a bit wildly]
Beren: [low voice]
I think there's someone else in the room. But I can't see anyone.
You can't tell?
No more than you. Not if they choose to remain thus.
[softly, to the room at large]
-- You're welcome to join us, you know. We're not as dangerous as everyone says we are --
-- though twice as crazy --
-- don't listen to him, it's thrice -- but you're just as welcome to stay as you are. -- All of you.
How many could there be?
[the Ten shrug]
-- But there could be other -- ghosts, here.
You needn't fear them.
I'm not -- Okay. I am.
[shaking his head]
It's stupid, but I -- I'm still mortal. I still have those old superstitions, even if I am one now.
Youngest Ranger: [troubled]
Are you afraid of us?
Of course not!
Sometimes they are spies and mean us ill. It doesn't matter. We have nothing to hide, they won't find any discreditable murders in our pasts, and there aren't any secret "tricks" to our winning: it's a few hundred years more of hard fighting and training together combined with in-depth analysis of the situations.
Most of them are simply unready. Occasionally they join us, at least for a little, and it does them good.
[Beren gives him a bemused look]
The King was utterly shattered when he arrived -- the thought of you being reserved for prolonged torment as a result of his mistakes was more than he could bear. Lady Nia was the only one who could get through to him, and even that was just bringing him to the point where he was willing to talk, not moving beyond that. He spent most of the time insubstantial, or nearly so, and if any of us tried to reach him when he wasn't, he'd vanish. -- Until the news came of your escape.
We were speaking of matters -- and of yourself, milord -- and much to my astonishment I was seized by someone who had not been manifest but a moment previously and it demanded of me to tell, at once, whether indeed it was of yourself we were conversing. And after the initial shock had passed and the confused account set somewhat in order, we hastened to find our lord and inform him.
What he's not saying is that he almost shoved the Lady right out of the way and quite forgot to apologize after. I've never seen anyone rattle him the way you do. -- Sorry, I didn't mean to break in.
Of course not -- you never even notice that you're doing so.
Why? You'll merely interrupt again in another sentence or two.
[the Captain grimaces and shakes his head]
All right, then. -- So Edrahil catches hold of him by the shoulders shouting, "He's safe -- it's all right, he's safe," and Himself, too surprised to disappear, hears this and says, "Perhaps she'll forgive me, then," and we're trying to explain that it isn't what he thinks, and that takes a bit, and then a little longer for him to grasp it, and then all of the sudden he's back, and he says, "Well then, I suppose I should leave off mourning and go pay my respects to the Lord and Lady of the Halls and then to my kindred. But not, I think, like this, or they'll think I'm a most confused Wild Man," and Edrahil says, "Oh, I doubt that very much -- I understand the Laughing Folk are far more particular about their appearance," and --
I did not --
Yes, you did.
Not like that.
No, I can't quite do that tone of yours, it's inimitable. And he bursts out laughing and says, "Help me get presentable, then, will you?" and had him braid his hair the way Lady Earwen used to, in the Teler fashion, or as close as we could remember it, and attired himself after the manner that was his habit when visiting her parents, in Alqualonde, and had word sent to Lord Namo and Lady Vaire that he was ready to speak to them.
That sounds like it's supposed to be some kind of statement. Is it?
He's gotten over his guilt about the Kinslaying entirely.
Getting killed for it seems to have thoroughly exorcised it, for all of us.
-- It hurt so much seeing him like that and not being able to do anything . . . we were afraid he'd stay that way until you had to be dead, one way or another.
Meeting and speaking with those of the Kinslain who are still here has helped as well, I think. And so we went out to meet those who are here, and he shone so brightly that some thought him Eonwe come to bear word from Taniquetil, and all were astonished when he came to pay respect to his uncle, for none had the slightest notion he -- or we -- had even arrived here, for the duration of his time in sorrow. His spirit dimmed with the Lady Amarie's refusal, -- but your coming has given him more heart than even the organization of the Battles.
[Beren looks away, embarrassed]
Beren: [changing the subject]
How did he send her messages, anyway? I thought no one could leave here. I mean, except being sent by Lord Mandos.
Well, the people who work here can.
The Powers are people, don't you agree?
Well, yeah, of course -- but -- he didn't have Mandos himself running errands for him, did he?!?
Of course not. I think he asked one of the security staff to deliver it on the way to Everwhite. It might have been one of Lady Vaire's spinners.
Ranger: [respectful but unhesitating]
No, sir, it was the Weaver's handmaiden who brought the reply back. Remember? She was very apologetic about bearing bad news.
You're making it sound like the -- the Ainur? -- are hearthguards and maidservants going on holiday and visiting their families and gossiping. Just like a great hall's household back home.
-- Because it's like that?
[nods all round]
[shakes his head, laughing at himself.]
Okay. Who's Eonwe? I'mtrying to remember and I just can't. Is he the guy who makes storms?
No, that's Osse. Eonwe's the chief royal courier of the gods. Kind of like Lord Edrahil only not as particular about everything.
[the Steward sighs]
Oh. -- Now, when you say, "his uncle," you mean the late High King, right? Not Feanor? I've been assuming that's what you meant, but . . .
Since Feanor doesn't want to acknowledge the rest of his family, and since nobody ever sees him anyway, it's simpler just to distinguish them that way.
Why doesn't anyone see him? Is -- is he kept locked up?
He refuses to mingle with us lesser beings. We don't merit his condescension.
-- And he's a raving lunatic.
Even his most loyal followers have had to accept that the eldest son of Finwe inhabits a world entirely of his own construction which bears very little resemblance to the Arda that the rest of us have experienced. A small group -- not coincidentally the same that are most vehemently aggressive towards our lord -- persist in maintaining that it is merely the height of his genius and the depth of his griefs which keep him isolated in his meditations, beyond the ability of mere Eldar to comprehend, though one rather doubts that they fully believe it; but the rest have resigned themselves to the situation which obtained in Beleriand, where absent their respective lords, they acknowledge the headship of the High King and do as they please.
Except for the others -- sorry.
I was about to say -- Saving those who have attached themselves to the following of Felagund, or would, did he choose to engage in such rituals of authority, and not hold them empty forms and to no purpose.
Now I'm getting confused again. -- Still.
Since we are dead, and no longer in Middle-earth, he asserts that it is futile for him to name himself King, and will not claim the title. Yet all award it to him regardless.
And people do what he says. Sounds like he's still King.
It grows complicated, because in the past decade those of his and his brothers' followings who came at the Sudden Flame have attached themselves to the following of Fingolfin -- yet, on the other hand, that is in essence the selfsame circumstance that prevailed in Beleriand. So now that he is here, many would resume their earlier ordering, -- yet again, he will not claim it, in part because he wishes no strife with his uncle, and it is a small trouble between them that so many -- even of the High King's own following -- incline to ask him first for advice, since Fingolfin has little inclination for anything saving the chess-table.
So he's pretending that he's just an ordinary citizen of the Halls like anyone else, and you're claiming that he's still the King and you're still his vassals -- and most people agree with you all. Even a bunch of the Feanorians.
Concisely and correctly put.
Beren: [not asking]
That's why, isn't it? That's the real reason the Feanorians -- or some of them -- are so angry at him, isn't it. Because he's taken over again without even trying. Or wanting to.
Nail on the head, lad. The mind that comes up with short-notice plans for heisting a Silmaril or three isn't likely to rest content in idleness, and he can't help but tangle everyone else along after him, either for or against. That's the real issue -- that he's shaken everything up, and and not everyone is happy about it.
-- Would it have worked?
Sorry, what have worked -- ?
The plan -- could it have been possible to carry it out, do you think?
You know, I'm still not sure. I -- it was hard to observe much when we were there, we had to focus on what we were doing and, and . . . it was so strange, I -- I really couldn't tell you. Maybe. It certainly would have a better chance of working than a frontal assault, on account of how that would have no chance whatsoever.
You don't think so? Not even with a concerted effort by the Armies?
When the guy loses his temper, earthquakes happen. This is definitely not someone you want to be around if you're getting him mad. -- And the place was full of Balrogs!!!
-- They take up a lot of space.
One Balrog is too much. At a distance.
Youngest Ranger: [softly]
I ran. I lost my bow.
You threw it away to pick up Halmir.
Youngest Ranger: [bleak]
It didn't do any good.
That wasn't your fault. How many times has he told you that? Get over it!
[the Sindar Ranger looks away, biting his lip.Huan stretches over and licks his hand, begging for a nose-scratch, until he gets it. To Beren:]
I don't understand why you felt you had to go to Menegroth after all. Not after you recovered.
Beren: [shaking his head]
Because I couldn't take care of myself, let alone Tinuviel.
Beren: [gesturing with his right arm]
Like this? How much use is a one-handed ranger? I can't shoot, I can barely climb -- I can't even use a sword or a spear properly now --
Ranger: [trying to be helpful]
But couldn't you have switched to your left hand? You couldn't use a shield, but if you were fast enough -- you must have trained with either hand in the past?
Beren: [almost shouting]
Look, I couldn't do it, okay? I'm not bloody Maedhros, dammit! My balance was all off and I --
[he stops abruptly. There is a shocked silence]
I don't remember anyone here saying a word about Feanor's eldest.
[Beren looks away, biting his lip]
Sounds like someone has, though.
Things have been rough these past few weeks. She said -- and I tried but -- and I said -- and --
[he breaks off]
Lad, it's more likely that someday they'll be comparing Maedhros to you.
[Beren snorts at that suggestion]
-- You went into Angband of your own will. You didn't turn into a gibbering wreck at your first sight of Balrogs, plural. You got one of the Silmarils, and if circumstances hadn't ambushed you you'd have gotten all of them. You got out of Angband alive. -- And you're human.
I was rescued. And I lost the stone. And I shouldn't have done it given what happened.
Regardless -- you recovered a Silmaril. None of us in the whole span of time since the Return can make such a claim. Whatever else happened after -- nothing can take that away.
She did it all mostly -- and Huan. I can't claim any credit.
[Huan makes a grumbling sound and looks sad]
Would they have done it if it weren't for you?
[Beren rests his forehead on Huan's neck]
I should have been in the cairn with Da and the others.
You know, you used to say that all the time, and I always wondered -- who were you thinking was going to bury you? Because you realize, if you'd been killed by the strike team, you wouldn't have been able to bury yourself. That never made sense to me.
[Silence -- Beren straightens and gives him a Look]
It was a figure of speech.
Ah. I see. Metaphorical and so forth.
[Beren abruptly reaches out his hand]
Beren: [through gritted teeth]
-- Would you pass me that bottle?
[as he takes a pull from the canteen the Captain reaches over and jogs his elbow, hard]
So is it real, or not?
[spluttering, Beren nods, wiping his face on his sleeve.]
I don't know if that was a good idea, Sir.
No, I'm safe, he's feeling far too guilty to try anything back right now.
[Beren tries to say something, but is still choking too much to be intelligible]
-- That's what I meant, Sir.
[but Beren only grins, partly coughing and partly laughing now, as he braces the flask against his knee and works the cap back on with his remaining hand]
Steward: [ignoring the silliness]
What is the reason behind the difficulties that are being raised over your remaining here with Her Highness of Doriath? Or have any been given?
Beren: [between coughs]
Because I'm not supposed to be here. It's against the law. -- Is there anyone else in history who's been declared outlaw by the Powers on both sides?
But you're not causing any trouble. -- Unlike certain other residents.
[glances at the Steward]
Including, yes, ourselves.
Beren: [passing the flask back]
Not like starting small indoor wars, no, but they were really put out with me -- with us -- for staking out a pillar in the hallway and refusing to move until she came.
-- Perhaps we wore out their patience for people holding vigils in the corridor?
But you waiting quietly in a corner doesn't seem to be much in the way of problems!
I doubt that that is presently the source of the difficulty, however much it might have negatively influenced attitudes towards Lord Beren from the outset.
It's the Law. They kept saying things like, "You're human, and you're dead -- you don't belong in the world any more, go home!" I felt like a stray dog that had wandered into somebody's house to sit by the fire -- at least nobody threw any kindling-wood at me.
That's like me.
Not on, like you -- but back.
[Beren still looks confused]
I don't want to be reborn in Beleriand.
[Beren just looks at him. A bit defensively:]
And it isn't that I'm afraid of what could happen to me -- I don't want to lose everyone, and forget.
[he glances around at them, a little embarrassed, but resolute. The other nine look sympathetic, but also a bit resigned.]
But that's the land that belongs to your people. You don't mind giving that up?
Youngest Ranger: [stubbornly]
These are my people. This is where I belong.
Warrior: [trying to reassure]
You know, I think you're worrying about nothing. I don't think they even know you're here. No one's said anything to you, have they?
Oh, they know all right. They're just choosing not to be aware of it, because then they don't have to do anything about it. -- Like the time that Lieutenant Telumnar refused to accept that no, he could not in fact fire all the way across the Ginglith at that point and that the enemy patrols were well aware of it, until he'd wasted all his ammunition shooting over -- into -- the gorge, and then after you'd all let him panic for a bit everyone contributed a couple of arrows so that Supply wouldn't notice anything outside of Normal Use requisitions.
You knew about that? -- We -- thought you didn't know, sir.
Of course I -- didn't know about it. If I had, I would have had to take Official Notice and say tiresome things about it. Instead, you got a useful problem-solving exercise and Telumnar got a valuable lesson, namely, don't assume that the same conditions of terrain apply everywhere in Arda, and listen to the people who've been dealing with it longer, even if they are younger than you.
[pause -- the Youngest Ranger mutters something that sounds suspiciously like "Told you so"]
Too bad that he had to learn that lesson repeatedly. I swear the High King shoved him off on us to cut down on their own casualties. Who was it -- wasn't he the same idiot who got one of those foolish things in Dor-lomin and didn't realize it wouldn't last?
Oh. Don't tell me you were all stupid enough to do that? You're not supposed to have little bits of soot or whatever under your skin -- couldn't you have guessed that it would work its way out in a yen or less? I suppose Telumnar was the only one who made a fuss about the whole affair. It figures.
What are those things called? The designs they do with pins?
-- Tattoos? That was something they used to do in Hithlum. It was considered kind of barbaric by my great-grandparents' day.
That would be about the right time. Personally, I never enjoyed getting stitched up so much that I'd voluntarily have sharp pointed objects stuck in me for no good reason, but I suppose there's no accounting for -- stupidity.
[the others groan and roll their eyes. Enter two Elven shades, both sharing a strongly similar air of confidence, not arrogance per se, but an assumption of command and belonging, as well as a family resemblance. After glancing around and determining that no Powers are to be seen, they stride over to the group. The Ten rise respectfully, Beren following their example, but there are worried expressions on many faces as they come down off the hill.]
-- Who are they?
Youngest Ranger: [also whispering]
[the newcomers stand with folded arms, giving the Ten looks of impatience, annoyance and dislike. Jude Law and Ethan Hawke (Gattaca) might be cast as these siblings.]
What is going on? Has anyone got the least inkling of a clue? Or is this just the usual muddle of rumour, guesswork, and half-truths being passed off as information?
Aegnor: [staring at the Hill]
And what in Arda is this mess? Are you trying to get yourselves thrown out after all?
Captain: [to Angrod]
Your Highness, I take offense at that. My people have always been scrupulous in distinguishing between certainty, uncertainty, and conjecture.
For all the good it did you.
[Aegnor sees Beren and freezes]
Sir, for the respect I hold your brother, I will not challenge nor accept challenge of you, and you know it.
Starless Grinding Ice. It's him.
So where is my brother, then? -- Who?
He went to find the King your uncle, but --
[Angrod turns in mid-snap and stops, open-mouthed, the look of exasperation changing to equal parts surprise & revulsion]
Ah. What in the name of Morgoth is -- he --
[shaking his head in dismay]
-- doing here?!
Captain: [giving no ground]
-- He's also mortal, if that information has somehow also escaped your notice.
Really? You don't say. -- He's also married to your cousin, which is a complicating factor.
Your sense of humour has not been improved by your too-brief sojourn here.
No jest at all, my lord.
[the brothers look at each other, still unsure, and then back at the Ten, and then at Beren, then at the Captain]
What do you mean, "married" -- ?
What is usually meant by the word, of course.
You are joking.
Captain: [shaking his head]
Far from it.
[Aegnor turns a blazing look on Beren]
You mean to say this -- mortal -- dared to claim her after all that's transpired?
Milords, he can hardly be blamed for the accident of his birth.
He can be blamed for everything else. -- For killing my brother.
[Beren cringes; the two other Rangers silently move in in a protective angle, flanking him, ready to pull him back inside the safety of the group if it gets any uglier]
-- For daring to set greedy and lustful hands on the noblest lady of our people -- if not black magic as well.
-- Now then, my lord. Whatever your feelings on the affair, you have no right to denigrate the love between the Beoring and her Highness.
They aren't like us. They change their mates as easily as we would our cloaks. If you're going to call the relations of Men "love," you might as well speak of the "weddings" of cattle!
[simultaneously with the other two replying, almost together, Aegnor clears his throat and his brother looks briefly shamefaced]
Unjust, sir, as well as untrue, and unworthy of --
-- No, I love Tinuviel. Not just her voice, not just her body, not just her soul -- I love her. And I always will.
And I didn't want the King to die because of me, even though it was my fault.
Angrod: [addressing Beren for the first time]
Then why didn't you kill yourself at once before involving him, and spare everyone the catastrophe of your existence?
[Beren flinches back and the Rangers step forward, protectively. Huan gets up from where he is lying on the hill and growls, a long, low, warning snarl, his hackles rising. The Princes are given pause.]
Your Highness, I believe you twain were seeking your brother --
And I believe, sir, that you have no idea where he is.
As you were informed, he is seeking after your uncle -- and, one presumes, endeavoring to evade the wrath of Lady Amarie meanwhile.
Don't tell me Amarie's dead, too.
No: merely, as has been given to me to understand, intensely furious with my lord for having gotten himself killed and having left her -- in that order of precedence and not of chronology, needless to say -- and with everyone else remotely connected with those two incidents. I much misdoubt any more clemency upon -- us -- than was granted on that Night in Tirion.
[the brothers share a wary look]
I do recollect her words to you as well as I recall mine own receivéd reproaches -- as, surely, does she. Perhaps you would wish to fortify your minds in preparation of response, anticipating a resumption where we all left off, with I am sure additional grievances as yet unanticipated . . . because the Lady is said to be seeking the recourse of this place's Powers, and it's most likely that her path shall find her here.
[Aegnor gives a disgusted snort, but Angrod looks somewhat more uncertain -- it would seem that the memories of the fight are not diminished or pleasant. After a brief hesitation they pull themselves together and stride out -- but not without a parting shot:]
Aegnor: [over his shoulder, to Beren]
[Beren recoils as if slapped, closing his eyes. There is a long silence after the sons of Finarfin have gone.]
They were my heroes when I was a kid.
It is not your fault, lad. They would be as angry if it were only us without you here.
[but there are uncertain looks exchanged around them.]
How did they know who I was?
You're so obviously a Beoring to anyone who's known your people. The Princes knew your father, uncle and cousins, and your grandfather, and -- And the rest of your family, going way back. There's no mistaking you.
Not to mention that -- unfortunately -- there isn't anyone else left that you could be.
They knew all my ancestors -- and then they died fighting for our country -- and I lose it all, and get him killed. Actually, considering -- they were a lot more polite than they could have been. Considering.
It -- is more complicated than that. -- Considerably.
[The Captain gives the Steward a long, meaningful look over Beren's head]
How? What could be worse than that?
Steward: [ignoring the Captain's silent plea]
Our lord's brother -- that is, Prince Aegnor -- was once in love with a lady of your people.
[Beren looks from him to the others, realizes that this is completely serious]
[the Elf-lord nods]
What happened? Did she die?
So -- what was it? -- Did her family forbid it?
Whether they would have objected or no, it never reached the point where such a question would have arisen.
Did his? But -- their father wasn't here, he didn't come over with you, so who?
[The youngest Ranger starts to say something but doesn't quite manage before Beren starts talking again, and subsides]
Wait -- Finrod was head of the House -- H -- He didn't tell them they couldn't, don't say that --
No one forbade it. It was broken off voluntarily, without outside interference -- saving, perhaps, the influence of the Enemy.
Morgoth broke up their relationship?
Steward: [shaking his head]
I was speaking metaphysically. Only in the sense of the wider Marring, destroying and damaging things in the world before they have a chance . . .
You're keeping something back. Why are you playing guessing games with me?
[he looks from one to another of them -- they don't look away, but none of the Ten can bring themselves to answer. Finally:]
She was a Beoring.
Someone from Dorthonion?
Someone of your House.
It was a long time ago, lad. Before you were born.
Not -- not Ma? I know my parents married kind of late, but -- I would have -- they would have -- someone would have said something over the years --
No, no -- not Emeldir. Long before you were born.
Then -- why -- I don't understand -- if no one -- why?
Because Aegnor, I'm sorry, is a --
Steward: [cutting him off]
You don't know what I was going to say.
Either "coward" or "fool," and the matter is significantly more complicated than that. -- Am I not right?
Well, actually, "-- blithering idiot."
-- It can be of minimal consolation, but -- I did not enjoy being rebuked by his Highness either.
The Prince yelled at you too? Why?
Because I made a jocular comment to the effect that, if matters in Middle-earth were anything to go by, his attractiveness, far from being diminished by having left and come back, would be enhanced by the exotic aura of travel and danger -- a renowned adventurer, instead of merely "one of Feanor's youngest half- nephews," -- and that eventually, once we were let out, the intrinsic interest would outshine the tarnish of rebellion and could hardly fail to impress whichever lady he wished to win. Lord Aegnor was not amused. As you might put it, I "had my ears ripped good" for it. He did apologize, once he realized that I had no notion of why he was so infuriated, but the apology was nearly as distressing as the offense.
I would have told you, if I hadn't been sworn to secrecy.
I don't blame you.
I wish you wouldn't blame him, either.
The issue is resolved. I understand why he chose to keep it entirely within the family and to seal all the intelligence files on the affair even after the deaths of his Highness and Lady Andreth. I simply disagree. I am well aware that at least a modicum of my disagreement stems from personal discomfiture at having been kept in the dark, and the King is well aware of my views on the matter. End of subject.
[The Captain looks away in distress]
Wait a minute -- you mean my great-aunt Andreth? An'-the-Deep-Minded?
[silent nods of affirmation]
The Prince was engaged to my aunt?
Well, not betrothed per se. He lost his nerve before it got that far.
Prince Aegnor -- and my aunt?
Just as true as the first time you said it, lad.
[shakes his head]
How come I never heard about it?
It wasn't common knowledge. They were both very private people and unlike yourselves, no one ever made a public spectacle of their relationship.
But someone must of known. -- People gossip. Stuff gets talked about.
I did not know, and I was contemporary to it, though indeed not present for the most part. I should guess that some few of the Lady's close kin were aware, and that such as were, chose not to speak of it for consideration of her feelings. After all, what was to be said? No promises were made, hence none broken, no public disrespect given, it was a private matter -- at least at the point beyond which it did not progress -- and for many reasons, not least of which I hazard the uncertainty of what, in the end, should be said, I guess that few should wish to think on it, let alone discuss the matter.
-- What reasons?
[silence -- the Steward looks towards the Captain]
Captain: [shaking his head, sadly]
That's your department, not mine.
The complication of vassal to lord, your House being liege to the Princes as well as to King Finrod, and all that that entails -- which might have yet been insufficient, had Lord Aegnor broken betrothal, and that publicly, so that your great-grandfather should have been compelled to address the matter in open counsel, or seek redress for his sister's disdaining even to the King's own court. But since that did not happen, far easier to let it be.
That's one reason.
The other -- which is all the rest -- is -- Time. That the Prince should continue, in outward seeming at the least, unchanged, while the Lady endured the encroachments of her mortality, would surely have silenced any whose hearts urged them to protest otherwise. -- Or so I must hazard, in absence of evidence.
[Beren is completely quiet. Abruptly he sits down on the floor.]
Are you all right?
[he gives a short laugh]
So -- after all that -- I show up, too dumb to figure it out for myself, or to get the hints the universe kept throwing at me, that, hey, this is not possible, deal with it, and -- no wonder he didn't think it was the best thing for either of us. But -- what d'ye know, I had to go and prove him right.
I should have died at Aeluin.
[Huan whines and paws at his knee]
-- Damn all oaths to Angband!
I know. -- The world is a horrible place.
You don't need to tell us that.
It's like -- every time I think it can't get worse, -- it does. I -- I --
[he slumps sideways, bracing unsteadily on his elbow, letting his head hang down. Alarmed, the Captain kneels and tries to lift him upright, but Beren only leans against him, unable to support himself]
Beren: [looking up but not tracking at all.]
Sir -- ?
Captain: [very worried]
Can you see me?
Not well . . . . It feels like I'm going into shock.
But you can't go into shock, now --
[to the Steward]
-- Can he?
Beren: [closing his eyes]
It's like -- everything's not real. Or I'm not real. And I just want to go away.
And I'm cold.
But how? He's already dead!
Because this Shore is not where he is called.
Beren -- look at me. You have to stay focused. You can't give in. It isn't that bad.
That's right. -- We're here. We shan't let you fade.
We promised Himself we'd look after you -- you don't want to make a liar out of me, now, do you?
Warrior: [very hesitant]
But -- if -- since he's mortal -- and -- humans are meant to move on, after they're dead -- ought we to interfere with the laws of nature?
Third Guard: [savagely, grabbing him by the arm]
Don't even think of such a thing! How can you say that?
[he seems about to hit the other Elf, who is just as upset and does not even try to resist, before the Steward motions them apart]
Steward: [very stern]
Enough. The question has to be asked. -- And the answer is of course yes. One presumes --
[looking around the hall]
Yes. We'll bring him over to the fountain, such as it is.
[he kneels and picks Beren up despite the latter's initial, unsuccessful attempt to stand of his own strength, and Huan leaning in on them]
But will that work?
He's . . .
[to the Steward]
Can you manage?
[followed by the others, he carries Beren over to the side of the rectangular basin and kneels by the edge]
A cloak, if you please.
[the Warrior hands his over at once, before anyone else can, and the Steward tucks it around Beren like a survival blanket, not putting him down. The Captain looks at the wall fountain with displeasure -- it's very quiet, with hardly a ripple to be heard.]
What's the good of a falls that doesn't make any noise?
No idea, sir.
I think it's supposed to be subtly aesthetic, actually.
Well, do something about it, Lieutenant.
[he turns back to Beren and the others, leaving his subordinates to it. The Rangers look at each other, the Youngest seeming dismayed. His colleague shakes his head and shrugs -- he sighs, squares his shoulders and begins to study the water sculpture with a resigned expression. Almost instantly the stone begins to reform, changing from a tall sheet of low grooves to a mass of leaning boulders and an escarpment blending out of the surrounding wall, which causes the water to cascade down with considerably more vigour and consequent noise. Except for the fact that all the stone is the same even gray and there is no moss or other plant life, it looks quite realistic (except for the context.)]
Youngest Ranger: [woodenly]
Oh, you're not still worrying about them noticing you, are you? -- I'll tell Lady Vaire that I'm responsible for the mess and your name won't come into it at all.
She'll know that you're not telling the truth --
Captain: [interrupting with a touch of impatience]
-- It is the truth. I made the decision, gave you a legitimate order and you only carried it out, ergo I am responsible.
[his subordinate does not look totally convinced -- the Captain rises and takes him by the arm]
Look, do you really think we're going to desert you at this point, hand you over without a struggle to the authorities if they want to send you back?
[looks meaningfully at Beren]
Do you think His Majesty would allow it?
Youngest Ranger: [small smile]
Good lad. Let your elders do the worrying -- that's what we get paid for.
Youngest Ranger: [old joke]
You get paid?
Captain: [claps him on the shoulder]
Get everyone on point -- set a perimeter, I don't like the feel of things.
[to the Steward]
-- Unless you disagree?
Steward: [shaking his head]
A very good idea. Now, I've had a moment for thought -- go find the King, and bring him here --
-- Yes. Of course.
-- and take Huan.
Ah, for tracking, of course --
Not only. Cavalry equals speed.
If he didn't mind before in the same cause, I much misdoubt he'll object now. -- Do you, boy?
Huan: [bouncing in place]
[short impatient barks]
Captain: [shaking head]
This still seems wrong. I do apologize --
[he swings up onto Huan's back, and the Hound takes off like a racehorse. The remaining Eldar spread out into a loose circle, fanning out from the waterfall, one of the Rangers scaling up to take a watchpost on top of the rock formation, their expressions worried, but taking the task too seriously to let concern distract them. The fall splashes quite a lot, just like a real one.]
You're getting wet.
So are you.
Steward: [same calming tone throughout]
As I understand it, each thing which exists in the world -- not merely ourselves -- has both its outward and material being, and its inward and permanent essence, the which differs from the former chiefly in that most material fact of matter. And we, that are the essences or principles of ourselves, may no less perceive, and encounter, those essences of other things, even as in life we did, though through the intermediation of our respective bodies, with greater or lesser tangibility, as the ideas of those things are held more strongly, or weakly, in our thought. -- Such at least is the King's theory concerning the facts, which are themselves undeniable.
Is that why -- why everything's sort of vague to me? Because humans don't have Insight the way you do, and there's no surfaces?
Perhaps. Perhaps not. It might well be that your spirit has been so damaged that, even as one cannot well sense or act when gravely injured, you have not the strength to focus your perception upon our surroundings.
Or perhaps I'm too dumb to think about things properly.
I very much doubt that. You grasped my explanation well enough -- which places you signally ahead of many another resident here.
[puts his hand in the basin]
Do you want some? Even if it is merely the idea of water.
[gives him a drink, obliging him to pay attention and cooperate a little]
You're trying to keep me distracted.
You taught me the Old Tongue. And made me memorize "The Fall of the Noldor."
-- Otherwise known as "that really long depressing Quenya poem."
I'm afraid you wasted your efforts, sir -- I can't remember any of it now.
It served its purpose.
Every time I started losing it you drilled me on verb endings and stuff until I was too angry and frustrated to panic.
Do not overcredit me: it was not solely altruism on my part. Such exercises served as distraction not only for yourself. -- More water?
Beren: [shaking his head]
I don't belong here.
But you are here. Therefore you must have some purpose to accomplish here.
I'm not supposed to be. I shouldn't have stayed. That's what he said.
All of them. I stayed because Tinuviel said to wait. And I did. And now everyone wants me to go.
Not the Princess, surely?
No . . .
Beren: [very quietly]
Do you miss your family?
Indeed yes. Though whether they in turn regret my absence, I could not dare to say.
I haven't belonged to the world of Men since my father was killed. I don't have a place in Middle-earth where I belong. I destroyed the one other place that was a home for my people. I destroyed Doriath. I should have died where I was born.
Steward: [gently reminding]
Luthien is your family, now.
Beren: [closing his eyes]
And I killed her too. She doesn't need me. You've told me how beautiful Valinor is . . . she could have all that forever. She doesn't belong in here, being harangued yet again because of me. If I was gone, she'd be safe --
That is the word. What does it mean?
"Cup" -- ?
That's "yulme." -- "Yallume."
"Finally" -- ?
Correct. -- "Roquen."
That's easy, "horse" -- no, "rider."
Eh. Not an easy one . . . something to do with the sea. -- "Gull."
"A year." -- One of our years, not a Great Year.
Beren: [smiles a little]
-- Not any more. Kind of hard to wield an "eket" with the wrong "mat."
Steward: [dispassionate correction]
"Ma" -- "hand," singular. -- "Maruvan."
"They'll bide here --"
Not "they" . . .
"I will --"
[looks up at him]
Of course. "Harma."
[The Steward looks away and does not answer, so Beren does:]
Steward: [successfully hiding embarrassment]
"Exile." -- "Vanda."
[he wins this round too]
Steward: [clipped tone]
[pause - the next word is hard to pronounce]
"Na -- Nwalme."
Steward: [brief look of exasperation]
"Torture." -- "Helca."
"Ice." -- "Nolmo"
"Wise one." -- "Nuruhuine."
"Threat of death."
[pause. Narrow look:]
[the Steward closes his eyes.]
Beren: [raising an eyebrow]
"Axor" -- ?
-- Like in "Eruhini."
"Nukumna" -- for I am indeed humbled, that you would claim me as your kin.
-- Unless it was a different word you meant?
Beren: [small grin]
Steward: [shaking head]
Hmph. If "even you" cannot refrain from subtlety, the world's come to a sad pass. -- "Arato."
It shouldn't be that hard: the element "ar" is present in many words, and the word itself more than once in "Noldolante" . . .
Beren: [losing this round]
You've grown repetetive, I'm afraid. -- "Selma."
If you're going to be forward enough to, as you would say, "cobble together" your own Quenya words, then you ought as well remember that the first and last rule is the taste of the word when uttered forth. "Atandur" is far more euphonious.
Both true. Friendship and service. I'm winning, by the way. -- "Faila."
Steward: [still more acerbic]
"Magnanimous." -- The arrogance that could claim victory in a spoken duel with a trained bard after less than a half-season's rough teaching quite sends the mind reeling. -- "Faire."
"Ghost." That's both of "met" though -- "t" because it's two of us. Like two hands. But the other way would be true, too -- "me," all of us.
I thought you didn't remember any of it.
Me too. It just keeps bringing more of it, like when you try to remember all the verses of a song. -- I'm still ahead. "Axor."
[The Steward flicks some water at his face]
Non-verbal response -- I win. "Axor."
"Bones" -- Holy stars, Beren, you're incorrigible.
-- Well, such cleverness should find "The Fall of the Noldor" no challenge at all.
Or -- we could move to declensions instead?
That isn't any better. At least the "Noldolante" rhymes. Sort of.
Declensions "sort of" rhyme, too.
Then "The Really Long Depressing Quenya Poem" it is. Alternating lines? Having lost the last round -- though I do not recall ever declaring a contest -- I suppose I must in forfeit lead off --
[commotion -- Huan dashes in, barking, with passengers.]
-- At last --
[all three skid over to where they are sitting, with emergency dismounts, to kneel on either side of the two, Huan crowding in with as much concern until the Captain draws his head over and rubs his nose. Finrod reaches out to take hold of Beren's shoulder.]
[Beren tries to answer, shakes his head]
He said you were fading -- Beren, can you tell me what's the matter?
[Beren tries again to find words]
[No answer -- he looks to the Steward, who looks him in the eyes, challengingly]
In general? Being dead; being driven half-mad by Oath, Silmaril, torture, poison, injury and guilt; being treated as an unwelcome trespasser with no right to exist here yet again. In specific -- your brothers came by, and were less-than-civil.
Finrod: [straightening, shocked]
My brothers -- ?!
It was mostly Angrod who did the shouting; Aegnor largely confined himself to glaring and unintelligible sounds of disgust.
You're exaggerating again -- no one actually raised voices, merely indulged in caustic reproach and derogatory comment.
Beren -- you -- you mustn't -- It isn't any of your fault, truly.
They've been rather -- protective, of me. It's unfortunate you were in the way. You really mustn't --
-- No, Sir -- I understand. All of it. -- About the Prince, and Da's Granda's sister.
[Finrod gives his commanders stern looks]
It seemed rather late to be worrying about Aegnor's dignity, as it most evidently concerned Lord Aegnor not at all.
And "need-to-know" could most definitely be proven, in my judgment. Edrahil thought he deserved the truth -- and I concurred.
Beren: [outraged & hurt -- it finally breaks loose]
-- Sir, couldn't you have told me? After everything?
How could you have kept that from me?
It wasn't mine to tell.
Besides -- it -- it wouldn't have made any difference.
Beren: [shaking head]
It would. It would have helped me understand.
Finrod: [very quiet]
[Beren nods, but does not speak]
W -- where are my siblings now?
I invoked the threat of Amarie and they made themselves scarce, though I could not say for how long it will suffice.
[Finrod winces again]
My lord, he needs her. She is what binds him to this world, and nothing else. You must bring the Princess here as quickly as possible, while we bend our arts to keeping Beren within this Circle. Else he'll fade, and all shall have been for naught.
Beren -- please -- forgive me, I truly never meant to cause you distress -- I never thought --
Sire. What purpose is served by troubling the Beoring with your regrets? You only make it harder for him.
[Beren starts to say something, but doesn't get the chance]
My lord -- you know what you must do, as we shall hold to our task.
[Finrod, his expression of extreme distress, nods abruptly and rises, backing Huan out by his collar like a horse and mounting up without further discussion. Before they ride off, however, he looks over his shoulder at them]
The waterfall was an excellent idea. But music also worked well before. Will you add that, while I go?
[He gives the Steward a meaningful Look]
I have not played since before we left the City, my lord.
I know. -- That's why I asked, not ordered.
[they match stares again for a moment, before the Steward bows his head. To Beren:]
Beor. You will stay until we fetch your lady hither. That is an order.
Beren: [crooked grin]
[Finrod gives him a worried smile, and Huan, impatient, barks a warning before charging forward. The Steward shakes his head a little, seeming distracted, and the Captain takes Beren from him quickly, not carelessly, with much more experience moving casualties.]
Did you . . . have to say that to his Majesty? I . . . I could have coped.
I am sorry, Beren, I did not mean to embarrass you. One cannot mindspeak here -- no, that isn't it --
[looks to the Steward, who has manifested a harp somewhat different in design from the King's, and is frowning abstractedly at it]
Can you explain?
All is thought here, and mind, and will, so one cannot speak otherwise. One can remain silent, refuse answer, but one cannot speak to some and not to all who are present. Nor can one conceal the truth, to most, by speaking falsely knowingly -- certainly not to the Lord and Ladies of this Hall.
[runs a simple pentatonic scale up and down the strings]
My invention is sadly worn.
[plucks a minor, unresolved chord]
I cannot think of any but sad songs lately -- I fear that would serve us little.
There's strength in grief. It's caring for nothing that's truly fatal.
My lord . . . give me your sorrow.
Will it not weigh your heart past enduring?
In exchange for my own. It can't be heavier.
[the Captain anxiously brushes his hair back from his eyes, and touches some water to his temples]
That seems but a poor bargain. How will it aid you?
Why did you make me tell you all about the fall of Dorthonion? Repeatedly?
[cuts him off before he can answer]
-- And don't say it was all for my own good. You already admitted otherwise just now -- remember?
I remember also that you must always have the last word. -- You must tell me if the balance is unequal and the sum too great before the scale tips and the beam crashes.
[without further ado he starts playing -- despite his disclaiming, it would be hard for any mortal listener to tell he's out of practice and in an inventive drought. Since there's no transcription of what early bardic performance actually consisted of, I'm conceiving it in the manner of extant English settings of poetry from the 12 and 1300s -- free-flowing and varied according to the length and nature of each line.]
-- Oft should I, alone each dawn,
my cares lament: now living is none
that I to him the mood of my heart
dare disclose. I know full well
that for a leader 'tis lordly strength
that he his locked counsels shall fastly bind,
hold close his coffered thought, howso other he would.
-- No more may heartwearied Doom stand defying,
nor shall troubled musings bear with them help --
for they most earnest of others' respect, tears oft
in their breast's chamber shall bind away fast.
So should I oft my soul make safe --
beggared by care, bereft of my House,
far from my home -- fettering my soul
since I left him, my lord gold-joyful, generous,
in earth's dark depths -- and I unwillingly,
winterweary, was bound hither over the waves.
Where might I find, living, friend or lord now who shall in meadhall name me their own?
or my friendlessness would turn to friendship,
win me to joyfulness? -- This do we know
how cruel a comrade is sorrow to him
whose true friends have all been taken,
wandering in exile -- worthless the worked gold,
ice-cold his inmost thought, worthless the flowering fields.
He minds him ever how all joy is broken,
for that he knows that his joyful lord
and his dear counsel shall long be forgoing:
then sorrow and sleep ever together
pitiful, solitary, oft are binding
him in mind that he his liege-lord
clasps and kisses and on knee lays
hand and head, as he did betimes,
vassal in spear-hall, at the gift-dealing --
yet, then awakened, the joyless man
sees before him the fallow waves,
as sleet and snow and hail fall mingled.
Then all the heavier be heart's wounds,
sorely yearning after. Sorrow's made new again,
when comrades in mind and thought return:
he greets, joyfilled, earnestly looks on them --
yet swiftly their souls swim oft away,
floating forth, nor bring their spirits
the cheerful harpsong. Cares are made new
to him that shall send ever anew
over waves binding the wearied soul.
For this I may not in this world think
of aught that my heart might darken not
when I name noble lives all gone thence,
brave horsemen and vassals. So Middle-earth
and all upon it daily fades and fails.
For this a warrior may not name him wise
who has not dwelt winters in that worlds-realm.
-- Such a one knows how soul-shaking shall be
when all this world's wealth stands bestrewn
as now likewise upon Middle-earth
the wind bewails where walls are standing
ice-enameled, ruined the fortresses,
fallen the wine-halls, dead the defenders,
lying by walls. Some the war took from us,
faring in faroff ways: that one fed the carrion fowl
far from harbour, to that one the ice-grey wolf
dealt out death, -- that one the faithful friend
hid in earthen grave, mourning for lord.
[He stops the strings abruptly.]
Now you must give me yours, in return.
I can't, sir -- you've stolen it from me already, and I don't know how to get it apart from yours now.
Forgive my theft.
Beren: [shakes his head]
You've repaid it and then some, given it winged words where it crawled in the weeds, or slept, earthbound.
. . . I thank you, my lord, for such generous praise . . .
[silence -- the Guard hesitantly puts a hand on the Steward's shoulder, endeavoring to comfort him. In the background, where a slight change in illumination reveals one of the doors, a dim figure is standing, listening, but we cannot see who it is in the shadows.]
-- That spirit that didst hold resolve
'neath lowering disapprobatory love
and force of fear, and fear of force,
imposéd of greed and by remorse
............... -- let it none astound
that still shall hold unto her ground
stronger far than foundation's stone
or spell-set servitude that shall groan
even as growl -- mightier than trees
enwound, withstanding even these
with love that weaveth fast as roots
deep underground --
[Elsewhere -- a circular room, much smaller than the great hall, but still quite large and with that spacious quality of certain medieval buildings, like the chapter house in Wells Cathedral. Around it between columns are hung a series of tapestries -- these are not like the ones we are used to, there being no visible stitches, and although they are very dim and dark like charcoal sketches now, there is a shimmering quality to the material that differentiates it strongly from the stone.]
[Chairs are set in a smaller circle in the middle of the room, around a light which consists of a low, glowing basin in the form of a wide shallow stone bowl filled with silver liquid. Again, understated elegance is the theme here. The chairs are radically different -- each one is unique and doesn't necessarily go with the others or the room -- except the love-seat occupied by the Lord and Lady of the Halls. There are three empty places, between Orome and Vaire's left; Aule is to Namo's right. Luthien is sitting on a footstool-sort-of-thing with her hands clasped in her lap, looking sulky and bored, between Irmo and Orome, while across from her Namo massages his temples while Vaire pats him on the knee.]
I've heard it all before, you know, you're not saying anything in the slightest bit new.
And the source doesn't make any difference to you?
Why should it?
[in the resulting silence she hops up and begins walking around the perimeter of the chamber, looking at the tapestries, while the Powers exchange quizzical looks]
Oh -- that looks almost like --
[she touches the tapestry nearest her and the surface brightens and shimmers into motion -- she starts back]
-- it is the woods near home. And there's Mom and Dad -- and me -- when I was very little . . .
[she trails off]
Yes, we thought you'd find it more comfortable here, surrounded by happier recollections and familiar images.
Honestly! If you'd paid attention, you'd realize that home is the last place to have any positive associations for me right now.
Vaire: [edged patience]
Child, you're being a most unpleasant brat, right now.
Am I? I've fought my way halfway across the known world, and to the ends of Arda. The people I should have been able to trust and rely on have betrayed me, and help has come only from where I least expected it and had no right to it. And we're at an impasse, because you're not hearing what I'm saying. I'm beyond fed up at this point --
[there is a loud disturbance from the hallway beyond -- baying like a hunting pack that has caught a scent, followed almost immediately by the flying form of Huan coming in at a run with Finrod crouched over his neck, taking the ring of chairs like a steeplechaser (fitting a tight half-stride over the pool of liquid light) and bounding across the other side to where she is standing amazed. The Hound drops down into the half-crouch of a predator, not the straight halt of a horse, and Finrod leans over, ignoring the astonished Powers]
He needs you.
[her expression changes from surprise to fear: he reaches down, she catches his hand and swings up behind him. They exit in the same spectacular way as before, without any word or expression of apology]
[brief silence -- sighs and headshaking]
I will be so glad when this yen is up.
Darling, have you considered the possibility that that might not end it? It wasn't an either-or, if you recall, but only an ultimatum.
Namo: [sitting up straight and pounding his fist on the arm of their bench]
No. I am not putting up with this until the end of the world. Nia is going to take responsibility for them one way or another. I have enough problems as it is.
Do you think they're coming back, or should somebody go fetch her? -- Little Luthien, I mean.
[Namo lifts his hands helplessly]
This is even more in flux than the last crisis. Not that they're anywhere on the same scale, of course.
Vaire: [thoughtful frown, aside]
I wonder . . .
Give it a bit. I can do with a short break.
[he manifests his teacup and leans back, shaking his head.]
Aule: [to Vaire]
So how's that new system working out for you? I've got some more ideas for setting markers in to make retrieval and matching easier.
Vaire: [brightening right up]
Oh, it's perfect! We're wasting so much less energy this way, and we haven't had a data snarl since last equinox. If you've got any ways to improve the filing process we'd be very appreciative, but that isn't really critical at present. But -- some of my helpers were wondering how that project for enhancing resolution was coming along . The Spinners who tested the prototypes were very positive about the finer quality of the energy streams.
[their colleagues can't help smiling at the focus of these two enthusiasts].
Unfortunately, we're still having storage issues -- it isn't a matter of the process itself, you understand -- the difficulty lies in the fact that the raw format tends to want to bind back together again if it isn't used right away.
Oh, that's too bad. -- What a pity it can't be applied retroactively as well . . .
Orome: [leaning back with his cynical attitude, looks around at the empty chairs]
So, as usual, it's left to those of us with an attention span longer than a single season to take up the slack. Though I'm surprised Nia isn't here yet.
Yes, so am I. You don't think Vana's coming back, then?
Considering that she said her sister had the right idea, even if she didn't have the same reasons for it, and that if she had to hear one more round of this she was going to be "screaming and breaking things too," I really hope she doesn't. You know her forte's making things, not dealing with the messes afterwards.
Namo: [over his mug]
You have to be fair, though -- the only reason Yavanna's not here is that she's too personally involved with the situation.
What? Did you say my wife's back?
Calm down -- we said she isn't here.
[the patron of Craftsmanship looks extremely relieved]
Namo: [frowning to himself]
Who does he remind me of?
[to his spouse]
Vaire sweetheart, doesn't that kid remind you of someone we've seen before? -- Her consort, not Finarfin's boy.
Vaire: [frowning in turn]
Now that you mention it, dear, yes. -- Not recently, though. Something about the personality . .
[Beside the waterfall, Luthien is now holding Beren, kneeling with him half-sitting against her, her arms folded over his, resting her cheek against his head. He seems calmer now but very worn out. Huan is lying stretched beside him with his head on Beren's knees. Finrod has taken over the harp-playing, and the Ten are kneeling in a close ring around the four of them. There is a somber and tense air to the scene]
Ranger: [to the Warrior, who keeps looking at the spill-pool distractedly]
I was thinking some light would be good. Remember those little floating lamps in the summer? Wouldn't flames look nice reflecting off the water?
How would you go about doing it? You're not going to actually try burning something, are you?
No, I thought the way we did it for the Battle. Just an illusion.
Oh, all right.
-- You should do it. That could be quite lovely.
[they set about creating tall intense-white candle-like flames on the surface of the calmer, shallow end of the spill-pool]
Beren: [still vague and a bit slurred]
So then . . . what did they say?
Nothing -- nothing much. Stupid things. -- The same old rotten nonsense.
Sorry . . .
[he gives her left hand a little shake where it is entwined with his]
Just doesn't stop, does it?
Luthien: [shaking her head]
I still can't believe they'd be so horrible -- I wouldn't ever have thought it of Angrod especially, not after being so forgiving to House Feanor. Oh but I'm going to have words for him when I see him! And Aegnor too!
[there is a discordant chord and break in the background music]
I'm sorry -- I didn't mean to fail you again. I thought it would be safe enough, or I'd not have left him here.
The blame is mine, for failing to send them away promptly enough.
How could you have stopped them, my lord? I don't see any gates to close against them. And you're not my Mom, so you couldn't have made a maze to keep them out.
Nevertheless a task was entrusted, and I the senior-most --
Edrahil, I'm not blaming any of you. I should have thought through the possibilities before dashing off and foreseen something of the like --
Please -- don't. Don't fight about me.
Are you cold again?
[he smiles a little]
Between you and Huan -- couldn't go anywhere if I wanted to.
[very quietly, as if they were alone, singing:]
-- Black is the color
......of my true love's hair --
... Her face is something
.........wondrous fair . . .
[as he trails in and out, Luthien joins him on the last lines, her voice almost as unsteady:]
-- The purest eyes
......and the bravest hands --
...I love the ground
.........whereon he stands --
[muffled, into his hair]
Don't leave -- don't leave me, Beren.
[to the side, the enhancements are about finished.]
How does that look now?
Hmm . . . I think it's too busy.
Instead of having them bobbing about, why don't you anchor them as if they were resting on stands coming just up under the surface. There's already so much motion because of the reflections in the water, having the lights moving as well looks choppy.
[as they tweak it, the five Powers, having given up waiting, appear in front of the group and stand contemplating them with a critical gaze]
No, it doesn't seem like they're planning on coming back. I'm still --
-- not sure about the mad prank part.
[throughout the following exchanges he stands with folded arms looking hard at Beren, saying nothing -- Luthien glares tearfully back at him, while the Ten look a bit overwhelmed at being confronted by so many not-terribly happy deities at one go. Finrod just keeps on playing as though he were a bard at a gathering and there were nothing unusual about any of this.]
[the Hound gives him an alert Look but doesn't move]
Huan! Come here.
[sharp distressed bark]
Bad dog! Come!
[repeated sharp barks]
[the racket is what you would expect of a large dog in a large echoing area. Everyone winces, and Orome tries to outshout Huan.]
Tav, please! Not now.
What a heathen and barbaric-looking spectacle.
[one has to admit he has a point -- there's a definite Viking-funeral aspect to the scene, what with the honor-guard, the flames, the horse-sized Hound, the harper and the dead Man's wife all clustered about beside the water]
Vaire: [deceptively mild]
Would anyone like to explain this?
It's my project. -- Please don't break anything, milady --
[she rolls her eyes]
-- it's purely to help our friend, the Princess's husband.
[Vaire looks back across to the hill and then towards the waterfall again.]
I'm not cleaning all this up. -- Can you people manage not to flood the hallways this time?
That was an accident, I assure you, no one real ized the conduit was there --
Vaire: [forced patience]
Yes. I know. That's why I'm asking in advance. I don't know what will happen if you get the Loom wet. And I don't want to find out, and if you have any sense whatsoever, child, you don't either.
[to her husband]
I'm going to look for that reference, darling.
[she goes over to the Loom and starts fiddling with it in a very competent and rapid way]
Orome: [low commanding tone]
Huan, come here.
Huan. Tavros. Finrod. -- Quiet.
[the music and snarling stop, leaving only the sound of the waterfall]
Luthien: [aggressively pleading]
My Lord --
[Namo holds up his hand for silence]
Namo: [to Beren]
Why are you trying to leave?
I'm not exactly trying to leave, Sir.
Please don't do this. I don't have patience for word games. -- What is the problem?
Beren: [very simply and quietly]
I found out about something terrible that happened in the past. I felt as if I'd been betrayed. I don't feel as though I belong here any more.
Namo: [ignoring Finrod's flinch at Beren's words and expression of grief]
Then why are you still here?
Because Tinuviel told me to stay.
Is that the only reason?
Do you want to leave?
I don't know.
Namo: [ignoring Luthien's distressed noise]
If you happen to figure it out, let us know, would you? So that we don't have to waste any more time on this discussion.
Honestly. You people.
I've remembered why he seems familiar, darling: you don't need to try to find the piece. Do you recall that fellow who kept shouting at us because he seemed to think it was our fault that he'd believed Morgoth's emissary and not Finarfinion the Elder here?
Oh dear. Yes.
[she stares keenly across at Beren]
You're right. -- How long did it take you to convince him that he needed to take his complaints elsewhere since you never had any control over the King's brother, or over his servants, let alone over any mortals, and that it was pointless for him to keep railing at you for not having somehow prevented him from making mistakes?
Way too long. I should have recognized that blockheadedness from the beginning.
[Beren and Finrod exchange a brief troubled look -- Finrod touches his shoulder reassuringly]
Beren, what's he talking about?
One of my relatives. -- My way-back uncle Bereg, who took a bunch of the tribe back east again . . . after Sauron-in-disguise convinced him that it was a bad idea to stay and get killed fighting in the Leaguer . . . . Sounds like it didn't work out too well for them.
Sir, this is BerEN, not BerEG. He's a very different person, both in the actuality and in the ideal.
Can you manage for once not to talk down to me, Finrod? -- Not that I hold out much hope of it. I know that he's not the same one again. I said he's got the same family stubbornness.
[shaking his head]
At least he isn't blaming any of his troubles on us. So far.
Luthien: [suppressed fury]
And why shouldn't he, when you're tricking me into leaving him so that you can banish him without my knowing?
Why do you think I'm doing it?
Because you want him to go, and you're in charge here.
Finrod: [simultaneous with her words]
You're not? -- My Lord.
Namo: [patiently, to Luthien]
I don't have jurisdiction over mortals. The only one who seems to have any control over this young Man is you. And to a lesser extent your cousin here. Somehow he's staying here, in defiance of the Laws of the universe, because you told him to. And I would guess that, if it's not outright tearing him apart, that's only because he possesses inordinate obduracy and resilience. -- Either that or he's so crazy that there's no way to tell. But the strain on him has got to be tremendous.
Why can't you do something to stop it?
The proper question is "Why can you do something to stop it?" -- and the answer lies with him.
[the Lord of Dreams moves closer and kneels down on the other side of Beren from where Huan is guarding him -- the Elven-shades react with defensive tension, but the Hound, lacking any such inhibitions, just bares his teeth and growls]
Irmo: [calm voice]
I'm not going to hurt him.
Let me see, please.
[he touches his forehead like someone checking a child for fever -- over his shoulder, to his brother:]
-- It's as you thought: the binding is mutual; he doesn't truly want to let go.
[to Beren, warningly]
The strain will only get worse, the longer you stay here, you do understand.
Beren: [quick sardonic smile]
I can stand a lot.
I know you . . . somehow.
[he rises and returns to his companions]
The efforts of these equally-focussed souls to entrap him here, and the beneficial impact of such surroundings as they have created, can't be dismissed; but if he were not willing -- or rather, set upon it -- all the therapeutic effects of water, light, music and love would be useless.
As we have learned to our lasting sorrow. -- It's the strength of his desire for her, as much as hers for him, that withstands the frailty of his own inherent nature, and the call of his proper Fate . . . . . Rationally one should deplore such a rebellious intransigence -- but one can't help admiring such gallant determination.
So you're saying he's more obsessive than Feanor, Tilion and Eol combined? And this is supposed to be a recommendation?
Vaire: [still messing with the Loom]
I've just noticed something that might be useful. Excuse me --
Namo: [to Luthien]
Does that answer your questions? I have no idea how he's managing to hold on here. However he's doing it, it's his lookout, and his responsibility -- though whether he'll remember that when it gets to the yelling and the recriminations is anyone's guess. I doubt you will either, given your attitude, but we'll see how it goes. Can we finish our discussion now? Without any more abrupt exits?
I'm not going to leave him alone again!
He's hardly alone.
[several of the Ten are doing their best to avoid his Look, particularly the Captain, the Noldor Ranger and the Warrior. Huan makes a preliminary-bark noise, but the Steward shushes him.]
Besides, what's the point? Nobody was saying anything purposeful.
Beren: [hesitantly defensive]
I haven't yelled at anyone, Sir.
-- Yet. -- Because, Luthien, this is an insupportable situation, for you, for him, and as a result for us.
[without looking around]
And look who's mysteriously appeared -- though that's hardly surprising, given his earlier mysterious disappearance.
[as his sister's student walks in looking preoccupied -- then takes in the crowd and stops short, dismayed]
Where have you been?
I had an errand I was supposed to run for my Lady.
[he looks around guiltily, trying not to make it obvious that he's wondering where Amarie went]
You said you didn't have anything else to do.
I -- I know. I forgot, Sir.
Namo: [intense exasperation]
How could you forget? I asked you directly, you said "No."
I was wrong.
Why didn't you say something? Nobody could find you. You just walked off and left no one else in charge! Do you really think that's the right way to go about things?
I didn't think it would take long enough to make it worth bothering anyone about.
I gather I was wrong about that, too.
What if security had tried to contact me with information about the rogue?
But they didn't.
How do you know?
[The Apprentice takes out what looks like a marble and shows it to him]
I set up a sympathetic link, so that if the stone went off I'd hear it and know.
So it was all right, Sir --
No it wasn't, because first of all it's the principal of the thing, that you don't just walk away from your work and forget to tell someone about it, and secondly we needed you to run an errand and you weren't there. How long is it going to take before you stop and think before haring off on some new project or whim while the other ones are still unfinished?
Erm, is that real, or rhetorical, my Lord? Because I'm afraid nobody knows the answer, not even the King -- that's why he asked my Master to take me on -- but I've made a chart of my progress so far if you want to try to work out a projected date --
Namo: [holding up his hand]
Stop. Just stop.
[looks from Finrod to Nienna's Apprentice]
I don't know which of you two is more annoying.
[the recipients of his disapproval share disgruntled Looks]
Well -- what should I be doing, then, Sir? Do you want me to run the errand now?
No. We gave it to someone more responsible.
Would you just ask my wife and then do what it is she tells you to do? She'll probably just want you to keep any eye on the usual troublemakers and make sure they're not killing each other again.
[he makes no move to go]
Namo: [to Luthien]
Could we be getting back to our discussion now?
No, I want to talk to my husband first.
In private. I'll come along when we're done.
You needn't wait, my Lord.
Namo: [looking around]
You call this private?
I meant without any divine critiquing going on.
Then why didn't you say so?
[to Nienna's Apprentice]
You may not be at the top of my list for long. By the way, what are you still doing here?
You said to keep the usual troublemakers from killing each other. About half of them are here.
And this is far more interesting. And yes, Sir, that was a very free interpretation of what you said. And I think I'll be going to verify that with Lady Vaire first.
[he bows and exits hastily, yet still reluctantly, looking back at the scene of the confrontation]
He really gets on my nerves.
Is there anyone's that he doesn't?
It's the wasted potential that's the worst.
[pointed silence. Finrod sighs and drums his fingers on the harp-frame, looking at the ceiling]
Making snide remarks about my cousin isn't going to speed things along -- or make me feel particularly more well-disposed to you.
We weren't talking about --
No, in fact, that's exactly what we were doing.
Call us when you're ready -- we're waiting for you.
[the Powers vanish. The room is left a bit less empty-seeming this time, due to the presence of a dozen other shades, a small waterfall, torches and one of those ghosts being a giant Hound. Beren sits up the rest of the way, supported on either side by his wife and her cousin.]
Beren -- do you really want to leave?
[he looks at her sadly, but doesn't answer]
Don't tell me what you think I -- what I want to hear.
[he still doesn't say anything]
Are -- are you angry -- at me?
[still no reply]
Please answer me -- even if it's yes --
[he puts his arm around her neck and kisses her, patting her head and smoothing her face as they pull away after]
[she gives him a watery smile, and the rest of his friends finally relax]
I'd say that's a "no" on both counts.
[Beren looks at the flames on the reflecting pool]
That -- looks spectacular. Thanks.
Wasn't much, really.
Gave us something to do besides worry.
Have you ever heard of anyone fading out of sheer embarrassment?
Why on earth would you want to do that, love?
Beren: [looking down, shoulders hunched]
All this trouble over nothing -- so many people being dragged into it -- the gods -- because I can't seem to figure out this business of being dead.
Beren, it wasn't nothing. You were in a very bad way, it was real, and what we did was real and necessary, and worked as it would have if we had been alive and you Eldar. You don't need to apologize.
[he tips Beren's chin up as if talking to a child]
Right? -- Unless you thinkyou can possibly out-apologize me. Do you want to try?
[groans from the Ten -- Beren gives a small smile and shakes his head]
[Finrod tousles his hair and pulls him closer]
Can you forgive me?
Already did -- cousin.
[he hugs Finrod hard, as the other tries not to come completely undone. While Finrod discreetly wipes his eyes on his sleeve:]
I didn't want to ask -- him -- but . . . who's Eol?
Living -- well, proof, at any rate -- that not all the craziness is on my side of the family.
Is he here?
Finrod: [deep sigh]
Oh yes. App --
-- Did he really marry what's-her-name, your uncle's daughter -- Aredhel? That's what Curufin said.
And accidentally murdered her. We have very interesting family reunions around here.
How can you accidentally murder someone?
He was, so the story goes, endeavoring to murder their son, but she intervened. Pursuant to which her brother had him thrown off a precipice. Not before -- or so he brags -- managing to put a curse on their son, however.
Am I not following very well, or was that weird even for Elves?
Yes. -- To the second question, not the first. Apparently he turned up here demanding that she be sent back to Middle-earth so that they could start over again together. For any number of reasons that's simply not going to happen, so now they're both here giving the Powers chronic headaches.
[Beren looks serious]
And no, your situation is nothing at all like that, you didn't kill Luthien, and she's the one who came here after you, not vice versa --
So if anyone ought to be compared to those three it should be me.
But -- I -- hadn't even thought that yet.
You were about to. Right?
[Beren looks down]
Youngest Ranger: [stammering worse than Beren]
Y -- your Highness . . . it's an honour . . .
[he's too overwhelmed to go on; Luthien is puzzled]
He's one of those who imagined you as "twelve feet tall with a perpetual battle aura."
That's not true!
[in response to the other's Look]
Well, all right, rather --
[Luthien shakes her head]
It wasn't like that -- Huan did most of it, I just played bait until we got the one worth interrogating.
Finrod: [raising his eyebrows]
And who did the interrogating? I'm guessing that it wasn't Huan.
Yes, but Huan had a choke-hold on his jugular, which makes for a great deal of distraction as well as incentive to cooperate.
I've seen your father angry. I wouldn't place any bets on which one of you was the scariest.
It really, really wasn't that way at all. I was terrified -- I was shaking so hard I could hardly get back up again.
[Beren's jaw clenches]
And you don't think Elu's frightened going into battle?
Of what should follow on his losing, if of nothing else.
[She frowns at this -- an alien concept, Thingol afraid -- and shrugs]
I only did what I had to do, with lots of help.
[she looks around at them all, ending with Beren]
And so far it hasn't been enough.
[Huan gets up and shoves his head into her face and throat, wagging his tail and being a very good dog, until she stops sniffling and shakes her head with a defiant lift of her chin.]
I'm not giving up. -- I'm not.
[Huan looks over his shoulder and gives a happy bark, just before the Rangers snap to attention -- Nienna's Apprentice comes into the hall again, very diffident and apologetic in his bearing. He comes up and bows to the group, addressing Luthien:]
Excuse me, but could you please come along now? Or else --
-- Or else what?
Ah, he's going to yell at me again.
It's even worse than when you yell at me.
Luthien: [shrewd Look]
You're trying to make me feel sorry for you.
[pause -- the Apprentice nods]
I should warn you that I'm not very cooperative any more when people try to guilt me into doing what they want.
I'm awfully sorry.
Erm . . . you don't happen to know where the Lady Amarie is, do you?
[Finrod shakes his head, his smile looking rather definitely edged]
You're still doing it!
Is it working?
Luthien: [trying not to smile, not entirely successful]
A bit. It's also making me want to throw something at you.
Really? I've had this idea that one could probably pull water up and make it hold together long enough for it to stay airborne, rather like snow, but I've been saving it for some really tedious stint to experiment with it. Would you like to try it out now?
[the Apprentice glares at him, trying to look far too dignified to be a target for a water fight. Luthien raises an eyebrow]
Actually, I was thinking -- more like a chair.
[the Apprentice sighs]
Apprentice: [to the air at large]
Master, I'm afraid this isn't having the result you intended. -- At least, I certainly hope this isn't what you intended, my Lady! My temper seems to be getting shorter and shorter, not the other way 'round!
[to Luthien, pleading]
Your Highness, please don't make me go back and fetch the Lord of the Halls. He'll be very put out with all of us. -- And he'll treat me like a fool. And you don't really care one way or another about that -- not that I really blame you -- but still I --
[Luthien gives an exaggerated sigh and looks at Beren]
Beren: [low voice]
You should. -- At least we can show willing.
But I'm not. Not if it means giving you up.
[pause -- Finrod reaches across Beren and rubs her shoulders]
I'm okay. I'll -- I'll be all right.
[she moves around to kneel in front of him, putting her hands on either side of his face and staring fixedly into his eyes]
Luthien: [adamantine clarity]
Beren. I told you to wait for me. I haven't told you to stop. If you dare fade out of Arda I will find some way to follow you, and let the One help anyone who tries to stop me -- !
[she waits until he nods, solemnly, in reply and then kisses him hard before getting up to accompany Nienna's student -- who is preoccupied now with the additions to the fountain.]
How did you make those? I can't see any sort of fuel or wick or anything.
They're illusions. Nothing's really burning.
I mean, really -- what would we burn, after all? Stone?
Stone will burn if you get it hot enough, if it's the right kind.
I know, I know -- but you'd need some fuel to raise it to that temperature, and that brings us right back to where we started from.
Oh, that explains why the reflections are all wrong.
No, they aren't.
Yes, they are, they're too long: your "flames" aren't tall enough to cast so much of a reflection.
It's a work of art. Haven't you ever heard of artistic license?
But it looks wrong that way! They should only be about like so --
[he changes them, so that there is far less reflected light on the water]
But that doesn't look anywhere near as pretty.
Yes, but that's reality --
[Luthien clears her throat: he looks around guilty and sees her standing there tapping her foot.]
First you nag me to come, now you're dawdling. I really don't have any patience for this right now.
Erm . . .
[she gives him a narrow Look]
I damn' well hope so!
[he hastily moves to escort her out -- at the doorway she pauses and turns back to give the company an intense stare]
Beren, remember -- stay.
Beren: [wide-eyed innocence]
[Huan gives him a startled look at his imitation; Luthien's earnest look turns into an embarrassed smile and she goes, on the edge between laughing and crying. As soon as Nienna's Apprentice is gone the Warrior brings back his illusions to the way they were.]
What does he know about it anyway? Has he studied the subject?
[rather stiffly, Beren gets up, leaning on Huan's back and head for leverage, and patting the Hound once he is on his feet -- Huan licks his hand and gives him a sad-eyed look; Beren pats him again and goes over to the quieter shallow end of the pool, moving with bone-deep weariness. He kneels down and splashes water on his face, before settling down to look at the reflections of the lights, trailing his fingers in the basin with a look of bemused wonder. Anxiously Finrod comes over and crouches by him, very definitely hovering. Behind them Huan makes unscrupulous use of doggish charm to ensure that the Ten devote themselves to giving him scratches and nose-rubs.]
Do you want me to tell you all about it?
Not right now. I just -- need time to think. I can't -- it's all been too much. Not just -- all of it.
[Finrod nods sadly]
Can you keep playing?
Finrod: [nodding again and picking up the harp]
Anything in particular?
Beren: [shaking his head]
Just that --
[makes a sort of back-and-forth gesture with his hand]
-- like you were doing, to sort of go along with the water. I know that's really a technical description there . . .
[he plays a simple arpeggio, very mellow and slow, not at all "agitare", and Beren nods.]
I'll just keep doing that then, until you tire of it.
Beren: [as if struck by a sudden thought]
Do you want to talk about it?
[Finrod nods in return]
I -- I guess that would be all right then. Can you talk and play at the same time? It -- isn't like singing, I guess.
That isn't the problem. Such simple music is no bar to speech at all. I -- I don't know what to say, exactly, or how.
She was the star that awakened his heart -- she truly was his one true love, the morning arising for him upon the world -- and he Saw the coming of twilight even in the hour of her ascendance, in his fear, and fled to the outer darkness himself, before her Sun could fall to shadow. And she loved him in turn, and --
[he cannot go on]
And you didn't think it was a good idea then, either.
I -- I agreed with him, and with his arguments, and did not force him to go back to her, and the risk of that confrontation, and whatever might have followed on that argument -- whether of wrath -- or of reconciliation. And he has never forgiven me for yielding to him, and giving him his head in this, and very likely he never will. He has sworn himself to eternal celibacy, and eternal mourning, because she was his soulmate, and she has left the Circles of the World, and so he will take no more joy in Arda, because she does not.
You Saw that happening to Luthien, too, didn't you?
Finrod: [shaking his head]
Not in the sense you mean. But I -- I feared it might. But more -- I bethought of your own folk --
[he stops playing without even realizing it]
-- of Balan, the first Beor, who followed me so brief a time, until sight and bone and heart failed -- though never spirit! -- of all those who came after, to our halls, to ride and sing and dance among us, and then vanish like breath on a wintery morning -- but first to grow brittle as ice, as fragile as a frozen leaf, and weary as a snow-laden bough under the burden of suffering and shame.
[earnest & pleading]
It was not all selfishness for my own kin.
You don't have to go into all this if you really don't want, Sir.
[the flatness of his words is belied by the accompanying gesture -- he puts his hand over Finrod's on the frame of the harp, looking at him without flinching]
I don't want you hating my brother -- either one of them -- even if they insist on being difficult.
I wouldn't anyway.
I know, because you still can't stop blaming yourself for my death. But that really has no connection with what happened between our kin before you were born. Not logically, at least.
Yeah, but it still feels like it does somehow.
That reminds me: if they come back -- and given the way this place is, there isn't really any doubt about it -- to remonstrate with me, or to reproach you directly or indirectly again, I want you to stay out of it and to let me manage everything. Don't let them entangle you in another exchange of hostilities. Leave the talking to me -- I know how to deal with them.
[Beren just looks at him, with his head a bit to the side]
Would you stop giving me that look, please? This isn't like the last time.
[On the far side of the room Amarie enters, with an air of assumed nonchalance and self-confidence. The Ten notice and look dismayed -- neither of the other two does, however.]
What if it isn't your brothers? What if it's House Feanor again?
[the Steward clears his throat loudly]
Again, I'm far better equipped to deal with any of my relatives than you are -- even if you're no more likely to be afflicted with scruples towards the following of Feanor than I am. Trust me on this, and leave all the unnecessary worries to me.
What if it's one of the gods again? Or all of 'em? It sounds like they're a lot more fed up with you than they are with me. After all, I haven't got centuries of history between us to keep hauling up and slamming around like rocks at each other.
Finrod: [lecturing mode]
Beren, no one here is going to behave like Sauron. Yes, we have our differences, and grievances over the past -- and yes, before you say anything, we have our present differences and grievances as well -- but those are all minor -- or mostly minor -- and the big ones are for the most part resolved. If the Powers that are in charge of this place were going to punish me it would already have happened over the business of the ceilings and the aqueduct. A few more comments, sarcastic or otherwise, isn't going to make a difference one way or the other at this point.
I dunno -- you can be awfully obnoxious when you put your mind to it, Sir.
And you can't? I don't want you drawing negative attention upon yourself from any other persons, divine or not, even if it's in my interest, because you still feel obscurely guilty and don't know how to accept help gracefully --
[the Captain reaches over and taps Beren rather urgently on the shoulder, him being the closer of the two -- Beren looks over, sees, and bites his lip]
What if it's Amarie again?
Wouldn't she fall into the category of "other persons, divine or not" -- ?
Um, Sir -- that wasn't a rhetorical question.
Finrod: [desperate bravado]
I think the word you want is "hypothetical."
No, I think the word we want is -- help.
[Amarie stands there looking down on the scene, with folded arms and a pleasant fixed smile]
I think we've used up our quota of divine interventions for the day. Besides, given how peevish they're being, I wouldn't want to count on it being particularly helpful.
Amarie: [sinister gentleness -- to the Ten:]
Milords -- what curse or device hath laden withal my steps, that I might not find my way upon a straight path save only to return whence ever I didst go, howsoever I go?
Whichever hast done this -- or whosoever kennest aught -- might answer: I care not which, so that I learn the truth.
Personally, I think that's a completely irrelevant question. I'd ask -- how is it done, and how would you change it? Those seem much more useful questions than worrying about which guilty party deserves punishment. -- Particularly since no one did such a thing.
Amarie: [same patient tone]
If yon ringleader of runagates had troubled his insubstantial self to list to the words I did e'en now speak, he might perchance to have noted that such, in most pointed fact, was the selfsame word I asked of ye.
Finrod: [to Beren]
You did hear me say that you can't just walk from point to point here as though it were a field, or even a city, because somehow your will and unconscious intent determines where you end up. -- Interesting confirmation that it works that way regardless of corporeal status -- it must be like the Labyrinth. Makes mapmaking no end of a challenge, that's for certain.
Yep. -- Only not that extra speculation. But you did warn her.
[Amarie closes her eyes in an exasperated expression]
Hey, does that mean you're saying she keeps coming back here because she really wants to be here?
No, but that is the logical implication of it, one's forced to conclude.
Is there none about of sense or civility to serve as guide, then?
Does anyone wish to explain to the noble lady that the Halls are very understaffed at present and the management has been called away to deal with more pressing matters than her ability to hold a grudge?
One expects naught of present company, saving one's self, but surely there cannot be none of sense remaining in this place. What of the rest, that art held within? Hath not many repaired here over the Age, in accordance with the stated Doom? And yet it hath emptier thoroughfares than either Tirion or Alqualonde ere Tilion's embarkation. Nothing of company, saving mine own shadow, and footfalls' echoes, have I met -- though worse companions there may be surely found within.
It's like when there's going to be an earthquake or a hurricane -- everyone and everything with any sense has already gone to ground long since as soon as they sensed the coming of disaster.
Don't -- make things worse.
You're ascribing far too much to my competence.
I have naught else to say to ye miscreants.
Thank you, most kind Nienna!
-- Dost ken, then where the Lady shall be?
Captain: [shaking his head regretfully]
Knew it was too good to be true.
Ay, well then, where the shepherd leads, the flock shall follow -- yet might expect to find greater part of wisdom in shepherd than sheep? But howso, indeed, if the leader doth follow his foolish charges, nor stay them from their folly, nor cease when they will to run past cliff's edge unto the Sea? For mad lieges, how else but a maddest of lords to be fitting?
Youngest Ranger: [bewildered, trying to whisper, but not being nearly quiet enough, to the Warrior]
I thought the Vanyar were supposed to be holy . . . ?
[Amarie shoots him a fire-arrow Look and he quails]
And what kennest thou of holiness, that never didst behold the Light?
Youngest Ranger: [abashed]
Shall a Turned One chide me, that was bred and born in Valmar, of the depths of his benighted ignorance? No more unfitting, I guess, than mortal shall the same!
[Huan makes a grumbling unhappy noise, looking up from under his eyebrows at them in turn]
My lady, restrain thy hostility towards those that in some wise merit it, nor set it against those who have shown far more of virtue than you yourself in steadfastness of affection.
[they match stares in a fierce contest]
Youngest Ranger: [dismayed aside]
How can she tell?
Beren: [scooting over to him]
Probably the way we could when we met the King. Couldn't your people tell when they first came back that they weren't the same as you either? And it's even more obvious -- the way we are now. -- Don't ask me how.
[he puts an arm around the other's shoulders]
Does it matter? That you're not Noldor? So you guys' ancestors didn't make it all the way on time. You're still fighting the fight, hm?
[the Youngest Ranger gives him an uncertain look]
Me, I'd rather hear "Sindar" or even "Nandor" any day of the week than "Kinslayer" -- being "Light-Elven" didn't help Curufin much, did it? -- Or "mortal."
If you don't look down on me, how come you think it's okay to look down on you?
[the Sindarin Ranger smiles a little at this. The staring contest between Amarie and the Steward breaks off: he does not give way, and she tosses her head in dismissal]
If thou hast not lost all semblance of civility in yon rustic wilderness, Your Majesty, perhaps thou'lt deign to rise and greet me nor affect this foolish feignéd deafness --
[raising her voice abruptly]
-- Put aside that gaming music and stand and brave me, villain, or I swear that all the Ages of the world will pass ere thou'lt darken door of mine! Art too grand now, is't, to speak with such a lowly Elf as she who waits upon thy notice, being no Queen nor Princess of the Eldar? Fie!
[with an indulgent sigh Finrod puts down the harp once again and rises, making an extravagant and far-too-ornate bow; the Ten, and Beren, get up awkwardly, while Huan only sits up and pays attention with cocked ears and quizzical look. The ex-couple are far too preoccupied to notice the distress of their audience, or to care if they did.]
Now that you've commanded my attention -- did you actually have anything you wanted to say?
Amarie: [earnestly, shaking her head]
-- Why dost thou stay here, in this abysmal place, this mean estate, and tatterdemalion attendance, when thou shouldst walk free and fare abroad, held by naught, save by thine own choosing? All Aman doth hold thee mad for it -- none that hath thine acquaintance, still more thy former fellowship in bygone Day, doth comprehend it, and all alike do judge thy loss hath reft thy mind withal.
I don't know why. It's very peaceful here -- most of the time, at least. I'd rather spend the next hundred-odd years of existence here, than being given reproachful looks and edged remarks and forbidden to answer them under the Sun.
[Amarie spins around and begins walking quickly towards the door while Finrod stands with folded arms, looking after her and smiling sarcastically]
Here we go again. -- I wonder how many times we're going to repeat this little charade before the jester who started it comes and rescues us. I greatly doubt that there's any limit to her ability to walk off and leave me in shambles, all the while maintaining a perfect and impenetrable shield of pride, trailing my heart's blood through the wreckage from her dripping sword of hate!
[the Ten -- and Beren -- wince in excruciation at having to witness this -- Huan gives a particularly ear-piercing keen and a reproachful look at Finrod. Amarie stops short in the archway as though an invisible door had been slammed in her face and stands perfectly still for a second -- then turns around and strides back, fast and furious, her draperies billowing behind her like sails of a galleon]
Amarie: [as she is bearing down upon them, not stopping or slowing in speed or speech]
Thou insolent, arrogant, amiable, thankless, flightsome, winsome, devious, treacherous, smiling fiend!!! How canst thou stand and say to me, withouten shred of compuntiliousness, that -- that -- any such of thing?!?
[she is literally glowing with rage, though the soft ambient light somewhat dulls her aura]
Thou -- thou -- thou Spider's get! -- I made mock of thee? I left thee in tears and tatters? I ask ye -- all of ye, that stand unfriends to me --
[she pauses to whirl and look at all the Ten in quick turn]
-- all ye many that did stand upon that day, and sit to table at the Opening Hour, and sing our names and drink our joys, and eat the gift-bread that my hands did make -- which of us twain it was did go, and which it was, left standing lonely at the broken Feast, to follow like to a shadow 'midst shadows unto the sorrowing streets?
[they are silent -- she gestures dramatically with her hand, waving them aside]
Stay me not -- hinder me nor seek to, that did not hinder him, but led him to his fate and folly, that would not lose ye to the Dark, but had liefer lose me without backward look --
[she can't keep going for the moment]
Finrod: [very softly]
Oh, I did look back --
-- and let him face me and flout me unto my very face, if he will call me foe, this mad japester --
[she starts towards him again, the Ten moving aside helplessly before her indignation]
-- that didst leave me half-bound, half-bride, to lie at thy feet as a forgotten bauble cast aside by careless child -- I that had gone counter to my kindred's hopes and deep desirings, and set aside their wish and every will, to be his lady and his love, and all for naught, that he should go from me and me a-weeping in my festal raiment 'neath our wedding garlands in the mournful hall!
[by this point she is crying as she speaks without it interfering with her words or her anger -- tears run down her cheeks as she stares furiously at him -- they look like a pair of duellists, despite lack of weapons]
Finrod: [patiently (far too patiently, in fact)]
Obviously no one in his right mind would keep on celebrating -- Acclamation or not -- when the Trees had just gone out. You're being utterly irrational -- again. Should I have said, "Keep playing, keep singing, keep feasting, I'm sure it's nothing much?" No. Everyone in Tirion went to see what the matter was. Quite sensibly. -- Even you, as you've just said.
[Amarie just stands there, totally speechless, listening to him in amazement]
Why do you insist on bringing your family's long-standing disapproval of me into it, as if that had anything to do with the slaughter of the Trees, or any relevance to the events of that Night? You keep trying to fit it all together backwards, somehow. And I was perfectly willing to change the date -- you were the one who made your parents choose between attending our Acclamation and participating in the concert -- after we found out about the scheduling conflict. And afterwards when I came back -- as I'd promised -- to conclude the ceremony -- you hit me.
Aye, and I'll so again, and gladly, till thou dost weep e'en as I -- if thou'lt not for very shame at putting me to shame.
I've given up expecting rational behaviour from someone whose response to getting what she asked for is violent rejection. -- You keep changing modes and pronouns in your address, too.
[she moves for him as he is speaking]
Beren: [in the process of stepping between them, gives Finrod a shocked look]
-- You did what?!?
[they both freeze, staring at him, as he stands half-turned from Amarie to Finrod]
I didn't really hear you say that, did I? You really walked out on her halfway through the wedding and expected she'd welcome you back after with open arms?
[Finrod is speechless]
Don't tell me you did that and then said, "Okay, honey, let's go to bed and in the morning we'll become fugitives" -- !
Finrod: [reflexive defensiveness]
There wasn't going to be a morning at that point.
Beren: [shaking his head in astonishment]
No wonder she punched you halfway across the dinner table!
Beren, not you too!
Beren: [grabbing his shoulder]
But you can't do that to someone! Don't you understand? We had wars over people doing that. You never said you jilted her!
Six or seven people got killed and five barns were burnt and a fishing weir pulled down and the cattle raids didn't stop until your brothers showed up and four generations later there were still families not speaking to each other --
-- and I guess that's really pretty lame of a war -- but still.
Finrod: [still skeptical]
I never heard about that.
You think anyone was going to want to explain it?
Finrod: [to the Captain]
Did you know about this?
I do recall thinking that the stories about the Summer with Five Direct Lightning Strikes and a Flash Flood seemed a bit implausible and that your brothers seemed rather blasé about so many unlucky coincidences, which would seem to indicate stepped-up Enemy activity -- but everything seemed under control and everyone very anxious not to get into it, and since you hadn't given us orders to investigate it, we presumed it was something better left unsaid, given their usual level of caution and alertness regarding the War.
Finrod: [switching from disbelief to indignation]
Why didn't they tell me?
Captain: [utterly bland]
I would have to ask them to find out, Sire.
-- However, at a reasonable guess, they might well have felt awkward in mentioning such a -- sensitive topic, quite apart from the embarrassment of having lost order and control in territories still technically under their authority, though no longer under the Princes' direct control.
[Finrod bites his lip, looking away]
See, there was this one time when there was supposed to be a wedding, and everyone was there, and she never showed up, and people got worried because there was a lot of snow that winter --
-- You never celebrated Acclamations in winter --
No, this was spring, but there was a lot of runoff because of the snow that winter. And because the bride's party never showed up, they thought maybe there was a landslide or a flash flood or something, or maybe a bridge was down and they couldn't make it, or maybe even an Enemy raid had slipped through the eastern pass again, and there were search parties getting ready, and then someone brought the word that she'd gone off with someone else and married him instead, and since there was already everybody armed up and ready to go, it just -- went on from there. And my great-great-grandfather had to try to break it up, and he did, and we even contributed to the damages fund so that there wouldn't be any excuse for fighting over bride-price and dowry, but it kept breaking out again because everyone was so insulted.
[to Amarie, who is listening with fascinated horror]
-- When I say "we" I mean my family, because I wasn't born yet then. I remember Ma saying that it was really stupid that she let it get that far, because obviously it wasn't going to work and they should have known that before the bridal ale was laid down, because you don't go and marry someone else at the last minute who's a random stranger -- she shouldn't ever have said yes if she really didn't want to go through with it, let alone if there was anybody else who was in the running -- but the humiliation factor of leaving your intended standing at the hall-door couldn't be an accident. That's why it went to a war. That, and the fact that her whole family's cooperation was involved, obviously.
Must e'en thou deride me, mortal killer?!
Ah, no -- that's just the way it happened.
. . .
Milady, if the Lord of Dorthonion were mocking you -- there would be no mistaking it for anything else.
Amarie: [through her teeth]
I will not be made sport of by houseless rebels!
[she starts to stride towards the archway again]
Finrod: [calling after her in a reasonable tone]
I'm sure that if you chose to consider it null and marry someone else, no one could possibly criticize you, seeing that --
[Amarie whirls and stalks towards him -- simultaneously Finrod backs up and Beren starts to move in between them again]
-- But I did not want to wed any other consort!
Finrod: [very quietly]
Hold, thou prating wretch!!!
[she resumes her trajectory and sweeps out again. There is a long, awkward silence -- the Ten try obviously not to be obviously present.]
Finrod: [brightly, to Beren]
So now you've taken her side too.
Beren: [shaking his head]
There's no sides in this.
But you think I'm wrong.
You thought you were wrong too, that's what you used to say.
Why is it any different now -- or why does it appear differently now -- than at the beginning of the conversation?
It -- it's just different. It isn't like any other kind of breaking up or contract-ending or anything. You just have to take my word for it.
What you did to her -- that kind of a cut -- it was the same as Nargothrond.
[pause -- deceptively light tone]
So you're saying it's hopeless.
Beren: [shaking head]
No. She's talking to you. Even at second-hand -- that's a good sign. If it was really hopeless she wouldn't have come to tell you it was hopeless. Means there's room for negotiations.
Negotiations don't always end satisfactorily -- for anyone.
I know. I'm just saying, there's a chance. You could end up the same, or you could make it worse even. You can't -- I can't believe I'm telling you how to deal with people -- but you're taking this very superior, very haughty tone, putting all the distance to cross on her, and you don't have that high ground. I mean -- Sir, you betrayed her and publicly humiliated her after she had already taken grief for marrying beneath her, and declared for you regardless, and now you're asking her to risk it again for a pardoned rebel.
I'm not asking anything.
I know. That's what I'm trying to say, only it's confusing and I'm muddling it worse. I know it seems like she's being unreasonable right now, but you've put her in an unreasonable situation. No wonder you're both stuck -- you're making her come and bend the knee without giving anything in return.
Finrod: [more haughty]
You ripped her heart out and threw it in the mud! And stomped on it a couple times. You don't just say, "Sorry about that, I'm willing to forget about it if you are" -- !
[someone quickly stifles a nervous laugh; long pause]
So you're saying that I ought to abase myself thoroughly, grovel even, spare no opportunity to castigate myself before her . . . ?
No, Sir. That would just be doing the same thing another way. If you aren't sincere -- don't you think she'll be able to tell? If you're just acting like she's being cruel but you're willing to suffer and put up with it, that's just claiming you're in the right as much as the other. Only you'll make it worse, because you'll make it look like she's being unjust.
What else could I have done? You remember the stories about that insanity, the outcry, the chaos, even before Feanor showed up to throw flames into spilt oil -- how should I have acted? What should I have done?
Something that wasn't what you did.
[Finrod glares at him]
I -- I'm sorry, I -- it's beyond arrogant for me to lecture you about your own folk. I really -- don't know that any of this is true for anyone besides Men . . .
Your people have a word for it. The wise listen to experience.
-- Cut off, pinned down, and no high ground -- can you get me out of this Fen, Beor?
[Beren looks dismayed]
If you can break us free of the trap we've driven ourselves into, you'll render me a greater service than did your father.
Because I can't. I keep saying the same damned things -- or thinking them -- and we just repeat the measure again and again. Even when it's only in my imagining -- and then it plays out exactly as I've Seen it, right up to the point when you jump in between and change it all.
Sir -- my own relationship has not been the smoothest, to put it bluntly.
You two are still speaking to each other, last time I checked. -- I'm not asking you to do the impossible, Beren -- no, I am rather, at that -- Only to try.
[Beren laughs helplessly, shaking his head]
Of course. If you're sure. -- You know what happens to my projects.
-- Expansion of scope far beyond any reasonable assessment, followed by utter chaos, culminating in divine intervention? -- I'm counting on it.
New plan. You do whatever you want. I'm not going to tell you what to do or what not to do. Save this -- if you need help, summon me. If you think you might need help -- summon me. If you're not sure -- likewise.
[He turns back to the fountain and washes his face before picking up the harp again. Sitting down on one of the boulders along the margin he begins to play quietly again, ignoring -- apparently -- everything else. Beren looks after him, worried]
Is he going to be okay?
He needs time alone. It's been a difficult thing to come by, these past ten years.
That was impressive, you getting in between them like that.
Beren: [shaking his head]
Dumb, you mean. It didn't even occur to me that -- well, that we're just ghosts and she couldn't've done anything to him.
Then that only makes it more courageous.
But she couldn't really touch us, right? That's what she told Tinuviel.
In theory, no. It's never been put to the test, though.
-- So far as anyone knows. Not here. And no one's asked the houseless in Beleriand what it's like to have someone walk through you. It -- it just wasn't the sort of thing one asked.
-- Not to mention the fact that on such rare occasions the mind was occupied in fighting or trying to free them.
-- Yes, but wouldn't it have seemed crass in any case?
Steward: [nodding agreement]
One assumes there could be no contact at all, but it doesn't seem as though it could be anything but disturbing.
-- And we're not really sure what might happen if the soul of someone living collided with someone discorporate. There's speculation that it might be like getting hit by lightning, only without the subsequent discorporation --
-- obviously --
-- When did you get hit by lightning?
Stop it --
No, really, how else would one know it was like getting hit by lightning, if one hadn't experienced that?
There's also speculation that it wouldn't have any result if the corporate didn't believe in the discorporate's, hm, presence? -- reality?
But how can you be trying to hit someone if you don't think they're really there?
That's probably not the best description. I'm not sure that you've got the concepts to understand the terminology, sorry. -- Mind you, I'm not sure that I've got them, myself.
And then there is also the corollary, which is that if someone believed that one was, er, real, or enough, then the reverse would be true.
So what you're saying is that if someone alive didn't have doubts like Amarie said about it being possible, maybe they would . . . um . . . stop, at the . . . edges? "Mental boundaries" maybe?
[reaches over and taps the Warrior's arm]
-- Like we do?
[nods all round]
But it could be that having someone living walk through you or bust your jaw for that matter -- might be like having a pail of ice water thrown at you or something.
It might only be like a mild breeze.
Under the circumstances one can but fervently hope so.
But nobody knows because you haven't tested it.
-- Wow, I'm surprised.
Well, how would we?
The staff already think we're lunatics as it is. Can you really see asking Lord Namo or his Lady to not walk around us because we want to see what an intersection experience is like?
Lady Nia might oblige.
Do you want to ask her? I'd be embarrassed.
Besides, it might not mean anything anyway. The gods already walk in this plane, so it probably wouldn't be a valid test.
What about that kid who's working for her?
Same problem, anyway.
We think, at any rate.
So we're just going to have to wonder, since it hasn't happened yet, when two spirits -- intersect? -- what happens then.
But it's possible --
Don't -- he'll come undone again.
It's possible you already have. We don't know if they drift aside like a leaf in front of a boat's prow, or -- or not. The ones who won't come out of hiding at all. We don't even know how diffuse their consciousness is. Since we can't ask them -- we're left to speculate.
That's not true, Sir, the King's asked them, they just won't answer.
That's what I just said, isn't it? "The ones who won't come out of hiding at all."
Please -- don't snap at each other.
We're all on edge because we're worried for you.
And the ones who have left off moping don't want to talk about being dissipated either. Or they don't remember. Even Himself isn't sure if he really stayed in the corner all that time, or if it's an imagining and not a memory of being in a haze of grief.
So what you're saying is I could have walked through who knows how many other ghosts already.
-- Please don't get upset again.
Beren: [half-smiles at them]
[he sighs, shakes his head, and looks away.]
Second Guard: [helpfully]
Do you want to try working on your combat skills? We can help you with the retraining.
Waste of time, if I'm just going to be kicked out of the world.
You don't know that it will work out that way. We're hoping for the best.
It'll be great to have you on our side for the next one. There's been talk about doing the First Battle, and it's starting to sound like it might happen finally.
Besides, it'll make the time pass quicker.
-- That is to say, it may make it seem to do so.
Beren: [tearful frustration]
No. I've tried. I can't do it.
[He looks down, thoroughly embarrassed, while they look at him helplessly -- long pause]
Fourth Guard: [intensely]
[he touches Beren's shoulder.]
-- It's okay.
[Beren nods, still not able to speak]
Do you want to play chess?
Beren: [after a moment]
Do you care what we use?
I was just wondering . . . pebbles sometimes roll off their places. You don't mind if I make a set, do you?
That's fine -- go ahead and do it the way you want.
[he watches in bemusement as the other manifests a tafl board and pieces, setting them down on the floor by the edge of the pool on a convenient bit of the "ledges" that now make up the vicinity, and picks up one with a wondering smile]
It even feels heavy.
That's because you know how heavy stone's supposed to be. You can't fool yourself here.
Other people, though.
Youngest Ranger: [nods]
Sometimes. It depends. You want to go first?
Soldier: [to the Youngest Ranger]
You know, I'm not trying to denigrate your work -- it's very fine and naturalistic, but it really doesn't fit just jammed up there against the flat wall like that. It looks strange.
It wasn't done for looks. Go ahead and fix it if you think you can come up with something better. It'll have to be taken down eventually anyway.
What about some kind of surround or framing device to gradually bring it to the level of the facing?
I'm playing chess. I don't care. Just remember that you'll find out what your fate is that's worse than death if another pipe gets broken. And I won't take the blame for that.
Who was it vanished when the sconce broke?
Yes, but I came right back. You only noticed because you were trying to hide behind me anyway. -- You know that only makes it more obvious that you're trying not to be noticed.
Ranger: [to his colleague]
You want to make a bet on whether he breaks something?
Youngest Ranger: [patiently]
No, I want to play mortal chess with Beren. I think I've got a workable strategy I want to try.
Ranger: [to the Soldier]
Why don't you make a frieze around it, really low-relief, that has a scene of a forest, and then it wouldn't look like rocks coming out of nowhere?
Soldier: I thought a semi-naturalistic surround, like a doorway, myself.
Won't that just look as though you've got three incompatible things grafted together?
No, see, if I do this --
[they go over & start sketching on the wall surface in the background, while the others settle down to watch them (and give more advice) or to watch the chess game, all very carefully not intruding on Finrod's privacy.]
You know, you could have some of you . . . vanish, and see what happens if somebody walks through you, and then compare observations after. Couldn't you?
I don't think any of us is really that curious. Not even him. -- Your move.
[Elsewhere: the council chamber]
[Luthien is sitting down again, but on the edge of her seat as though at any moment she's going to be up again, glaring furiously at a new Elven-shade, a distinguished and serious looking fellow who was one of the many bystanders in Act I at the court of Doriath. He could be played by Anthony Stewart Head, (courtesy of Mutant Enemy Productions) and at the moment he's looking extremely distressed.]
I cannot begin to express how grieved I am, Princess, to discover that after all our efforts to keep you safe, and all the improbable escapes and scrapes you managed to get out of, you have ended up here all the same.
Well, I'm not particularly happy to see you either.
That's a terribly harsh thing to say after I got killed trying to secure help and justice on your behalf.
[shaking his head sadly]
I would never have expected such callousness and lack of nobility from that sweet child you used to be. It's got to be the influence of that repulsive Man corrupting you.
[Luthien's eyes blaze. Slowly and deliberately and ominously she gets up and paces over towards him -- as he leans back nervously we get a glimpse of what Sauron might have seen coming for him on the Bridge -- and stands in front of him with an icy look of righteous indignation]
You told Dad to lock me up in Hirilorn.
I wasn't the only one!
Oh, believe me, I know.
Vaire: [to Namo]
You know, darling, I'm not sure this was such a good idea. Even if it was mine.
[The scene has not changed much from before -- there is now a complicated and ever-changing tracery of light on the back wall as various people contribute ideas and erase bits from the sketch, but otherwise the subdued, yet casual ambience remains the same, another chessboard has been set up, Huan is being happily used as a backrest, and Finrod is still seated off a short ways from everyone else, so quietly that he would almost seem in a sleep-trance, if he weren't playing steadily in a very wistful, almost Mixolydian-mode progression of runs and bell-like changes. ("The Last Rose of Summer" and "Scotland the Brave" are both Mixolydian, combining what we think of as major and minor.) His lieges, for all their relaxation, are also very carefully maintaining a perimeter around Beren -- so that when the Princes return, still looking for their brother (now having had time to work up a proper righteous huff about Beren's presence) the alert and defense are instant.]
Third Guard: [warning tone]
[the rest of the Ten, and Huan, tense -- all attention goes between Finrod and Beren, as the King gives him a serious questioning Look. Beren, meeting his stare directly, shakes his head, and after a moment Finrod nods in acceptance. Everyone stays "at ease" (on the surface, that is) as the other two sons of Finarfin -- after doing a severe double take at the changes, reorient themselves and come over to the waterfall.]
I don't want to know.
Aegnor: [with a sarcastic smile -- he seems to have gotten hold of himself for the present]
Unfortunately I doubt very much that will be possible for very long. -- Finrod, what the bloody blazes is this nonsense? I thought you weren't allowed to do this kind of thing any more.
[Finrod doesn't answer, apparently not aware of them -- Aegnor snorts in disgust.]
Again -- what in Morgoth's name is all this madness about?
[no answer still]
-- Are you having a relapse, or what?
[they start to approach his refuge -- the Steward gets up and blocks them.]
I am afraid I must inform you that King Felagund is not admitting visitors at the present moment. I am certain, however, that as soon as he is no longer preoccupied he will be most willing to meet with you.
But we're his brothers!
Steward: [bowing slightly]
I believe that I am as aware of that fact as he, or you twain.
You've never blocked us from seeing him in the past!
It has never been necessary to protect him from you in the past.
You don't --
What do you mean, protect him from us?
Your wrath precedes you like the smell of burning and wraps you like a cloud of smoke. I won't have you harassing him with any of you in your present tempers. There's been enough distressing him tod -- lately.
Angrod: [nodding towards Beren, whom they have been ignoring]
And the reason for it's squatting on the floor right there. We're not the problem -- that one is.
Leave The Beoring alone.
You're still protecting him! Do you know how perverse that is?
Your Highnesses -- I have warned you. Follow this path and the consequences be upon your own head.
[they check briefly, looking somewhat worried at the vague prediction.]
That remains -- to be seen.
Angrod: [disgusted snort]
You're just being cryptic to make us think you actually know something.
That is a possibility.
[the Princes circle around to where Beren is still engaged in his match, though everyone else -- with the exception of Finrod -- has left off even pretense of their pastimes and is watching closely]
If it were in point of fact possible to speak one false here, I'd think you made up that story about Amarie. I've not seen anyone who oughtn't be here -- except for that one.
You missed her. She's been and gone again.
[at this escalation they stop in their stalking and halt a little ways off. The Youngest Ranger ducks down almost to his knees, staring at the kingstone pieces as if they might hold a rescue in them. Beren reaches over and pokes his hand]
You forgot to take the other piece.
[distractedly his companion collects the pawn from the board]
I really did expect something a bit more prepossessing, after all the stories and so forth. Not this pathetic collection of rags-and-tatters incapable of buckling his own belt..
[there is a long hair-raising growl from Huan and some metallic noises as blades are drawn, or half-drawn around them]
Third Guard: [iron]
Don't make fun of that.
[there is a very uncomfortable pause -- the Princes only now noticing Beren's disability, and being somewhat abashed at their faux pas]
Fourth Guard: [choked]
You should apologize . . . Your Highness.
Beren: [cool, but commanding]
'Sokay. -- Actually, that I can manage by myself. There's a lot of things I can't do one-handed, but I don't need my wife to do everything for me.
What . . . befell your sword-hand?
Long story. You missed that one too. If you want to actually sit down and listen I'm sure someone would be happy to fill you in, but I'm kind of beat right now and I don't really want to go through it all over again. Also, I admit that it's kind of embarrassing that the only time in the last nine years I've had clean clothes that actually fit was after I was dead, but you know, I never planned on having my homeland overrun and everything I owned destroyed or lost or stolen -- "hunted outlaw" was not my first career choice, so far as I had my life planned.
Aren't you ashamed to sit amidst this present company and smirk and speak thus presumptuously?
I'm not ashamed of any of my friends.
It is simply grotesque -- that all of you together should enjoy his favour.
[looks challengingly over at Finrod, who continues as if oblivious to their presence]
One consequence might be to make me reconsider my resolution against challenging you, my lord.
Why are you still protecting him?
Why stop now?
Just to be perfectly clear -- I didn't ask anyone to stick up for me.
Aegnor: [nodding towards his oldest sibling]
I'm surprised he isn't leaping in to defend you again.
Beren: [moving a piece]
I told him not to.
[to his opponent]
You -- told him not to -- ?!?
[to the Youngest Ranger]
Your move. -- Don't let 'em rattle you.
[as the other looks up nervously again and then hunkers down]
Shouldn't that be -- asked, at the very least?
[Beren shakes his head, still studying the board]
No, he asked me if he should and I told him no. -- Not in so many words.
Aren't you ashamed to share the same Circle with him? Far less to continue sponging off his good will and sympathies?
[Beren doesn't say anything, only making a move now it's his turn]
-- If you really claim lordship of Dorthonion, then you ought to remember that part of that is submission in the chain of command to Aegnor and myself.
[Beren sighs and looks up at him]
Look, I'm sorry you guys got killed at the Bragollach. And I'm sorry you --
-- ditched my aunt An' and never made it up with her and it's too late now. But you know, I didn't have anything to do with all that, and -- guess what, he's right, they're not my problems, really. And I don't feel guilty about them.
-- What about our brother?
But it's not like anything could ever stop him from helping me.
You could have not gone to him in the first place. Is that not the truth, -- Beor?
-- If there was anyone else I could have gone to. But everyone else who owes me favors is either dead and long gone, or long gone and maybe dead.
You were still free not to involve him.
Maybe so. Maybe I should've just walked away from Tinuviel and left her in Neldoreth and disappeared out of her life. But I couldn't do that. Maybe it was mortal weakness.
I'm not you. -- I'm not even Noldor, which could be part of it, as my wife has pointed out, since she --
[after the first sentence Aegnor, after a second for this to sink in, starts to lunge for him. The Youngest Ranger, still looking apprehensive and conflicted, stands up and blocks him. As they stand confronted, the others close in a tight cordon and wall between the Princes and Beren. Huan follows them, to stand leaning over Beren's shoulder, panting -- and showing an awful lot of teeth.]
You disgusting parasite. -- What have you done to trap so many of your betters into serving you?
[this being unanswerable, Beren just looks at him through the rank of defenders, not giving any ground]
Milords. We've heard this song, and it's getting very boring. If you keep insisting on afflicting us with this tune, we may be compelled to give your thirsty invention some fresh inspiration.
What are you talking about?
-- Or cool your fiery humours, as the case may be.
Talk sense, or don't talk at all!
Captain: [nods towards the waterfall's pool]
I mean, my lords, we'll pitch you in at the deep end.
There isn't a deep end in these little fishless fishponds.
There is now, milord. From erosion caused by the force of water.
It hasn't been that long -- !
Aegnor: [nodding towards their eldest brother]
You're all as daft as he is.
Quite so -- and a lot more of us than there are of you.
[The Princes look at the intervening rank and think about it]
Angrod: [to Finrod]
Are you going to stand by and allow this?
Finrod: [sets down the harp, lifting his hands]
What makes you think I have any control over it? This is not Beleriand. Father's King over the Noldor now, and if Grandfather hadn't refused to interact with anyone, he, not I, would be possessed of such shadowy authority as our Lord and Lady are gracious to permit within these halls -- and since Feanor's so crazy that not even his own people here can deal with him, that falls instead to the High King, so far as he cares to exercise it.
You're lecturing us like little kids, -- Ingold.
[Finrod shrugs again]
I might not be king, but I am still your older brother.
[pause -- his siblings give him disgruntled glares]
You died because of him!
And with him.
And that should make any difference?
You ought to be able to answer that as well as I.
[edged tolerant tone]
-- Why don't you two run along now and find something harmless to amuse yourselves with? Go pick fights with the Formenos lot or play some chess with our uncle, if you can't think of anything constructive to do.
[he picks up with the music again -- this time it's a lot quicker and brighter: closer to "The Minstrel Boy" instead of "Last Rose of Summer."]
Stop treating us like children!
Stop acting like them, then. I expect better of you than this.
[there is a brief staring contest, before the younger Finarfinions break off and turn to leave, still indignant]
Angrod: [parting shot mode]
Are you sure he really is a Beoring? He doesn't look much like one.
[Finrod scowls, but shakes his head when several of the Ten silently offer to go after the Princes for that. There is a general sigh of relief and nervous humour, once they are gone, and everyone settles back down.]
Captain: [sitting down on Beren's other side, scratching Huan behind the foreleg]
You were very restrained when he insulted your mother. Most mortals I've known wouldn't have been so detatched.
He wasn't really.
[to the Youngest Ranger, who is frowning hard at the board now]
Did you go yet?
Er -- they rattled me. Sorry.
Me too. Take your time.
[to the Captain]
Verbal attacking when you feel guilty doesn't seem to be just a human trait, huh?
[he sighs again]
That's why they never visited Dorthonion in my lifetime, isn't it? It wasn't just that it didn't seem like a long time between visits to them.
Ah . . .
I take it that's a yes.
[he grimaces, shaking his head a little, looking off into the distance]
Would it make you feel better if I yelled at you some?
[the Captain raises his eyebrows, and Beren gives him a quizzical look back for a moment, then shakes his head]
Sorry, I just can't make myself do it.
I'll try to forgive you.
[Beren holds out his hand]
Don't joggle me this time, okay?
[the Captain opens and passes him the flask. Deliberately, with a wicked glint:]
-- To your very good health, my lord.
[he drinks and hands it back]
And to your own, my lord.
[he toasts Beren in turn, laughing gently at them both.]
Shall we be singing comic songs, next?
Maybe later. If we feel like it then. -- You know, I didn't realize that wasn't just wine until I finally had some in Menegroth. Then I remembered what wine was supposed to taste like, and I figured out that what he'd given me must have been the magic cordial of the Elves.
You and "magic" -- !
-- Are you . . . all right, now?
Yeah. -- Mostly.
Captain: [equal honesty]
Beren: [nodding toward Finrod]
Why did he call him Ingold?
Because it's one of his names.
Yes, but he said it like it meant something. -- Particular.
[pause -- the Captain looks over his shoulder to Finrod]
Do you want to explain it yourself, Sire, or shall I?
[Finrod nods towards him, without breaking his play, but with a look of barely concealed amusement]
"Ingold" is an after-name
-- you know about those.
Beren: [nodding in turn]
Like Tinuviel. Or me calling myself "Empty-handed." -- Or Felagund.
Yes, but Ingold is different from those examples. It -- it's the name Lady Earwen gave to him.
There's something about mother-names, isn't there? They're supposed to say something about you, or something, right?
Put with admirably-vague conciseness.
[he is amused by all this too]
Such as their mother's oft-repeated remark in answer to congratulations on a daughter at last, that no, really she had five sons, only one of them happened to be female. Of course, you can never be quite sure if things like that only reflect the future, or shape it, what with people's expectations.
So what's it mean? His nickname, I mean.
[Finrod's chief counsellors exchange a sly look, and the Steward starts to speak, but then Beren interrupts]
-- Wait, wait, I think I figured it out.
[he looks rather smug]
It's the same as the word "ingole," isn't it? -- that means lore, right?
"Ingole" means lore, yes.
But am I right about how it's the same?
Mainly. They are close akin. Ingole is more general, ingold more specific.
[at Beren's frown]
It's a personal form, but it's essentially the same as the singular of "Noldor."
[Beren nods in satisfaction]
Beren: [sudden direct look to Finrod]
She called you the same thing we did. -- Basically.
[Finrod nods again, with a rueful smile.]
No wonder you said it freaked you out when we called you "Wisdom." I bet you weren't expecting that.
Be fair -- I was still rather unsettled from having been told, somewhat insistently, that I was a god -- as if I might be mistaken about it, somehow.
Are you sure about that, Sir?
[there is a loud jangling discord, and Beren grins, if a bit shyly still]
Um -- "Field," -- I think. -- Sorry.
Beren: [after looking at the board]
Hey, that's good. Set 'em up again?
[behind them all Finrod carries on his music, looking over his band of loyallists with an expression that is at once proud and considering, calm but very serious in his composure. Yes, he is still very much the King, whether he likes it or not.]
[Elsewhere: the council chamber]
[Luthien is sitting on the floor next to her chair with her back against it and her arms wrapped around her knees, not looking at all happy, cooperative or diplomatic. Everyone else looks equally frustrated at this point]
Vaire: [to her husband]
I hope your idea works better than mine.
Namo: [nursing his teacup and looking moodily into its depths]
Luthien: [exclaiming loudly to the ceiling]
This is so tiresome! Why can't you even let Beren be here to speak for himself?
You'd only fight with him, don't you think? After all, that's what you two have been doing ever since you rescued him. That alone should make it clear that you're not really intended for each other, I should say.
[three of the four other Powers present nod in agreement; Aule looks distinctly uncomfortable.]
That's just because of the way things were happening. It didn't really mean anything.
You could have fooled us.
[she gives him a disgruntled look and tosses her head]
Besides, you must see that he's responsible for all of your unhappiness, no matter how much you'd like to pretend otherwise, my dear.
And everyone else's as well.
That's not true! Not even Mablung blamed him for any of it, not even about Carcharoth.
[the Ambassador flinches visibly at the mention of the Wolf.]
How -- is -- Captain Mablung doing? -- When you last saw him, of course.
Weakened by his wounds, sick with werewolf venom, and heartsick over the fact that he failed three times at his job.
Failed -- ? I'm afraid I don't understand what you're referring to, Princess.
Not keeping me safe, not keeping you safe, and not keeping Dad safe. The last time I saw him he was terribly upset that Beren got killed doing his work for him.
Surely -- I've misunderstood. You didn't say --
-- that Beren got killed guarding my father from Carcharoth. Yes.
But Elu -- that is to say -- everyone knows that --
-- that Dad wanted Beren dead. I know. So did he.
Then . . . why . . . ?
Luthien: [slow emphasis]
Because that's the kind of person he is. Things beginning to make more sense now?
No. Less, rather, I'm afraid.
[shaking his head]
I'm not entirely used to this changed state yet.
Give me a break. I've been dead less time than you have, and I'm not making a fuss about it.
Yes, but you're Melian's daughter. Your divine side doesn't require a material presence, so it doesn't trouble you the way it would most people. -- Such as your husband.
[she rolls her eyes, while the Doriathrin Lord twitches at that last word "husband."]
[Beren is about to start a new game, when one of the royal Guard comes over and interrupts them:]
Hey, what's this about someone actually beating Barahirion at mortal chess? That's a joke, right?
Beren: [nodding towards the Sindarin Ranger]
Nope, he took the field last match.
Then it has to be some kind of weird anomaly. Nobody beats you at kingstone.
It wasn't a random occurrence. I've got a strategy.
Second Guard: [tapping Beren on the shoulder]
Here -- let me play this one, will you? I want to see this new set of tactics.
[he moves over and lets the other take his place. To the Warrior, who is next to him, having been watching the last game:]
It sure is a lot easier when you actually have something in front of you, instead of just trying to keep it all straight in your head.
Beren: [wry smile]
Even if it isn't real.
It seems real enough, for the present, and that's all that matters.
You want your coat back?
[he reaches up to work off the other's cape, which he has still kept]
Not necessary --
[there is a flicker over his appearance as when Luthien first arrived, and he is wearing his again]
I'm not going to get used to that. Even if nothing should surprise me after I was -- you'd think I'd get over all these mortal reactions.
[shaking his head]
So your weapons seem just as real as this --
[rubbing at the hem of the cloak]
-- even when they hit, I take it?
Oh, very much yes. Especially then.
So, how does it work? Or when you get -- killed, here? -- Commander wasn't joking about cutting people's hands off for hitting the King, was he?
[the cavalry officer shakes his head]
But it doesn't -- stay that way, does it?
It stays until you let yourself disperse, and reappear again. That was the problem at first, why we had to make so many rules and do so many practices before we could try the Sudden Flame -- people couldn't grasp that it wasn't fair to just reappear and start fighting again after getting run through or decapitated. Or losing something. But finally everyone admitted that it really was more fun to do it the real way.
So you don't have to -- vanish, then, if you've been hit?
No. That's why people who've actually been injured and recovered in Beleriand have a huge advantage over the chaps who just got killed outright. We know what it feels like, and how to keep going. Once you leave the field, though, you're off until the battle's over.
So how . . . ?
It's a matter of remembering how it should go, not what just happened to you. Just the same as this --
[he reaches over and pins the brooch on Beren's copy of his cape correctly]
Beren: [not offended]
You know . . . I should tend to think that it would be possible for you as well. It -- it isn't as if you were --
-- born that way --
[he very lightly brushes Beren's wrist -- the other pulls back, gripping his stump tightly with his left hand.]
I wouldn't begin to know how.
Know what? I wasn't paying attention.
Restore himself, so that he doesn't have to do without his hand.
Fourth Guard: [interested and hopeful]
Beren: [shaking his head]
If I . . . let myself go . . . I might not be able to come back. Or stay here.
But why not? It isn't hard --
I'm not like you. If I were able to do that -- I wouldn't be human any more.
We're not supposed to be having new bodies like you. What happens to us in this world happens, and that's just the way it is.
[he gets to his feet -- his companions give him anxious looks]
Please don't be thrown by all this -- we're just talking. I didn't mean to distress you.
Fourth Guard: [very worried]
You're not upset again? Really?
Beren: [patting him on the shoulder]
No. -- Really.
[he goes over to Finrod's side and sits down next to him, a little away from where the Captain and the Steward are watching the light effects and passing the flask back and forth at intervals.
Captain: [pointing to the flames]
Will we get in trouble, do you think, if we were to put these over all the fountains in the place?
I could have told you that.
Finrod: [to Beren]
Did you want to talk about anything?
Beren: [noncommittal nod]
I want to ask you something -- if it's all right.
Ask away, -- kinsman.
All right. So . . . are there any more crazy relatives I have to watch out for?
[Finrod frowns in thought]
They told me about the High King's long-lost daughter being here, and how I probably don't have to worry about Feanor, but how your cousin the Princess isn't too keen on hearing anything bad about Celegorm or even Curufin.
That sounds like a fairly comprehensive briefing.
[to his officers, a touch sternly]
-- Why, then, were my younger siblings omitted from the list?
Sorry, Sir. We've just taken to ignoring those two and their rudeness for so long that we forgot all about them --
-- but nobody's used to the idea of Ar-Feiniel being here, I'm afraid.
The fact that all were aware of the Princes' presence here -- and none of the White Lady's -- no doubt contributed to the taking-for-granted of the former.
Being slapped hard enough to knock one into a pillar does tend to work against any taking-for-granted, too.
he did regret it after, though -- particularly because you retaliated before you'd the chance to see who it was.
-- I once asked my sister how she -- and her Lady -- could put up with Cousin Aredhel. The answer wasn't very flattering.
Beren: [a bit agog]
And -- ?
Captain: [looking up at the ceiling]
She said that the Lady was like a hot-tempered horse who didn't hold a grudge, great fun when she was in a good mood, and her bad ones didn't last long, even if she was easily vexed.
Sorry about that, Sire.
You could say that my family was full of thieves and murderers and I wouldn't be able to gainsay you.
What about the High King? Is he going to want me -- well, that is -- um, going to be mad at me for -- everything?
My uncle isn't likely to, no. He was troubled, yes, but he looks at fate much more reasonably than certain other persons of our mutual acquaintance. He's been rather downcast and melancholy and doesn't get about much anyway, though I try to draw him out of himself as much as possible. The breaking of the Leaguer -- and the news I had to give him about the consequences of it so far -- combined with the Kinslaying have rather depressed him, I'm afraid.
-- He hates being hailed as a legendary hero, as well.
Beren: [digging right back]
They said he was kind of threatened by you getting all kinds of things going here, too.
Finrod: [a bit snide]
It doesn't seem as though they've left much for me to say.
My lord -- you're beginning to sound like me.
. . .
[Beren & the Captain hide their expressions, and the nearest artists on the joint mural project look suspiciously blank.]
It's okay, Sir, we won't hold it against you.
It's all or nothing, isn't it? Either you treat me like a demi-god, or you give me as much grief as these two.
Um, do you mean, as much grief as I give them, or as much as they give you?
I don't think I can deny that, right?
[he glances at the Elf-lords]
It would be an interesting experiment, to discover if a mortal can knowingly speak falsehood in the Halls.
But he already did, when he said he didn't have any idea what I was talking about.
No, a statement contrary to fact made with full knowledge that all present know that it is counter to the truth is not an untruth but merely a jest.
Well, then, this would be the same thing --
[as they are debating this issue -- ]
Beren: [his expression darkening]
They did have a point, though.
Who did, concerning what?
That I might as well have killed myself before getting you involved.
[Finrod's hand tightens on the harp frame]
I should have let them get soaked.
'Cause it's not like anything I ever did made a real difference -- for the better, at least. Not even my War. I'm not even worth making an example of.
Finrod: [exasperated sigh]
You're not still glooming about that, are you? -- You don't think he was telling the truth, surely?
Beren, let me impart, if you'll allow, a brief word of advice: anyone who likes going by the aftername of "The Terrible" is not likely to say, "I'm sorry, but I'm not going to publicly execute you because I don't want anyone to know how much trouble you've managed to cause and if you simply disappear my enemies will be less likely to make a martyr of you." -- Wouldn't you agree, eh?
Captain: [putting his head down on his knees in despair]
Oh dear Lady, they're at it again! What is it this time? I don't recognize this one.
Steward: [shaking his head]
I know about this. It's all right.
How come I don't?
Because you have such a hard time staying still and not speaking, if you're not out-of-doors stalking something. It was very difficult for him to talk about the End. And even after we knew about the rescue -- it was still nothing either of us wished to recollect. -- Better, perhaps, that he's willing to speak of it now to The Beoring.
-- I wasn't trying to keep things from you in some sort of petty triumph.
I didn't think that, actually.
Do you want to play chess?
-- Do you want to try scaling the rockface the lads have built?
[the Steward snorts at that. Still looking at the water:]
You did cheat, didn't you?
I remember a foolish young Herald who refused to listen to a mere field officer telling him that the Enemy didn't honor the rules of battle that all civilized peoples in Middle-earth obeyed, saying instead, "They can't shoot me -- haven't you ever heard of diplomatic immunity?"
He only said that once, as I recall.
Being shot at rather tends to make it a hard position to maintain.
He did a fair job at not panicking and getting the mission out of range without any further casualties, as I also seem to recall, if only in bits and pieces.
I couldn't let your last words to me be: "Told you, you fool --"
I thought you apologized quite enough to last out forever and then some, four hundred thirty-odd years ago. That's a long time to still be worrying about it.
And -- I notice you still haven't answered the question -- Why? Surely it wasn't still guilt over one stupid mistake and a misplaced instance of verbal superiority. I'd really hate to have your conscience, if that's the case.
Surely if I were going to concede any such thing, I should have done it long since.
Captain: [ignoring this]
The how of it's easy -- obviously you simply foresaw which character I'd choose and named the next tengwa. But I'm not sure of the rationale, since it wouldn't make any difference in the end -- and if anyone had any optimistic hope that Orodreth might discover some courage somewhere and mount a rescue before the end, it wouldn't under any circumstances have been you.
Why do you insist on knowing this now?
Captain: [completely serious]
Because things are about to change, as they haven't before -- I can sense it without benefit of Foresight, like the coming of rain from beyond the hills, or the scent of snow in the air -- and I think for the better, though you'll say that's to be expected -- and I don't know that I'll be able to ask you again, Outside, under broad starlight. -- Why did you let me go before you?
It was almost as hard on you as upon him --
[nodding towards Beren]
-- you could never bear being under a roof so long, even when the fortress was ours, and the freedom of it likewise . . . . Besides, it was not all unselfishness: I did not See then this meeting, and so I had a little longer while his company for it.
I also knew which words he would choose.
[the Captain glances briefly towards Finrod, and then looks back at the water/fire in silence]
What is it you are thinking?
Wondering what caused the Song to bless me from the beginning of Time with a friend willing to live in my place. I could never have earned that or deserved it.
Steward: [very dry]
-- And yet you still won't give me the grace of a chess-match.
There's that problem of staying still in one place indoors for long stretches of time at a go.
You're willing to sit still for long periods of time and watch, and offer astute criticisms of the plays, which would indicate that you don't find it quite so boring as all that, would it not?
-- Yes, but that's fun. It drives everyone insane when I do that, in such different ways, and I get to see so many unguarded reactions. And if I were actually playing I couldn't pay attention to everyone else and keep close eye on the bystanders.
If you've not noticed, we're not in Nargothrond keeping track of the movements of Feanorian partisans and possible supporters any longer.
No, we're in Mandos, keeping track of the movements of Feanorian partisans, hadn't you realized that yet?
[this gets him a small but well-aimed splash from the spill-pool]
Beren: [extremely troubled]
-- But what I still don't know, is -- did any of it mean anything? Not just our War -- The War, and Luthien saving me, and us getting the jewel, and Huan killing Carcharoth -- since we just lost anyway. So what if we hurt Morgoth doing it? He just comes back and stomps us again, harder this time, kills more people, and things are worse after for resisting! What good are the inspiring songs, if nobody's left to sing them?
[he looks at Finrod unhappily but with hope that somehow the King will be able to make it all right, while Finrod meets his stare quite soberly.]
I'm working on that problem. I still don't have enough information for a complete answer, I'm sorry to have to tell you.
[he startles, looking up as though he has heard something that no one else has yet perceived, and turns to Beren with a stricken expression.]
Change of plan again. Just follow orders -- no questions, no interpretation -- please.
Beren: [seeing how serious he is]
Okay. -- What orders?
Finrod: [visibly coming undone, for him]
Stay out of sight -- stay behind Huan, don't -- don't get up, don't -- just -- lie low. Keep -- keep playing chess, act normal, whatever happens -- I -- I'm not sure how I could disguise you as we are and -- just -- please -- obey.
What is it? -- Who -- is it?
? ! ?
[Finrod reaches out and grips his shoulder in attempted reassurance]
Don't panic. Everything will be all right.
No it won't.
Finrod: [sadly agreeing]
Probably not. -- But leave it all to me. Please.
[Beren nods, and getting up goes quickly over to the further side of the pool where the games are ongoing, hastily explaining to a resulting general consternation and gestures of alarm equal to his news of Amarie, while the two chief counsellors answer their unofficial liege lord's summons for a hasty briefing and consultation.]
[By the time a Messenger of the Halls' resident staff enters, looking far more vague and brilliant than anyone we have yet seen (rather like a personification of the Northern Lights), and ushering in Finarfin, King of the Noldor in Aman (he might be played by Peter Davison, in All Creatures Great And Small, Dr. Who days) -- everyone has settled down into very preoccupied harmless pursuits again, and Beren is completely screened behind giant Hound and friends. Finrod does not leave his nook beside the falls, doing an excellent imitation of someone completely oblivious, and the Captain has taken point, as shall be seen in a moment, at the closest edge of the spill-pool towards the door,leaning on his elbow and ostensibly taking it quite easy.]
If it please you wait a moment, while I admit your Majesty's companion -- I'm afraid we're very short of people available right now. -- Not entirely coincidentally, I've heard.
I shall wait, then, gentle spirit.
[the Messenger vanishes. Finarfin looks around with a controlled awe and restrained apprehension -- and as perception adjusts he sees the ghostly grouping, and his face changes from wonder to dismay to equally-controlled anger -- the last especially as Finrod continues to disregard him. After a brief hesitation he walks slowly over towards the waterfall, and stops to look down at the Captain with a particularly disgusted expression. The Captain gets up and bows with a pleasant smile.]
Captain: [tone matching his smile]
Good day, my lord -- meaning day in the most general sense, for we haven't any way of telling the time here.
[Finarfin glares at him]
Thy former post I have given to another -- nor shalt thou have it again, when thou dost depart these halls.
Of course not -- I wouldn't expect you to take it from my replacement and give it to a rebel. Who's chief huntsman now?
I did award it unto thy sister.
Captain: [genuine cheerfulness]
Well, that's good -- keeping it in the family, what? At least the job's in competent hands.
I'll not have thee hanging about the place like wasp to fallen fruit, seeking for undeservéd bounty.
I beg your pardon, my lord?
Nay, is't not the very trouble, that thou dost not? -- I mean thou shalt have no welcome within my doors, nor admittance within my gates, nor any admit thee within the walls of mine own house. Thou hast chosen thine own way in the world: do thou make it, then.
[this sinks in]
And what of my kin?
Do they choose to see thee, let arrangements be made -- but not upon the lands of my holding, nor upon the hours of their employ; an they'll the hours of their idleness squander on thy ingratitude, let them do so elsewise and in other venue.
What wouldst thou say, sir?
[the Captain is clearly hurt and troubled by this proclamation]
That you are within your power, and have every lawful right to bar whomsoever you wish from your property.
Finarfin: [baiting him]
Thou dost not say I am unjust, then, else cruel?
Freedom answers all complaints, my lord.
[before this can escalate further the Steward comes over in a preemptory way and addresses his colleague equally abruptly]
Go attend upon our sovereign lord: he shall have question and request for you. -- At once.
[the Captain snaps to attention and bows before leaving with the same alacrity; the Steward gives Finarfin a cool half-bow, as between near-equals, and turns to go without speaking -- but Finarfin calls him back.]
I encountered thy father at court not long since.
Steward: [politely formal]
[pause -- when it is apparent Finarfin is not going to be more forthcoming:]
-- And how fares Lord Enedir?
Uncertain as to whom he should most direct his wrath -- thyself, myself, or mine eldest son.
This is nothing new, we often speak of our children who have lost them.
Is there any message, that thou'dst have me bear unto thy parents?
I should not wish to put any burden upon my lord's father.
Young sir, were I not willing, I should not have asked. -- What message wouldst thou give them?
Then, if you will, -- convey to my family my condolences upon their loss.
Art mad, or dost thou jest?
Neither, sir, or so I do believe.
Condolences? What reply, thinkst thou, thy father'll make to that?
I will not speak untruth. My heraldic office forbids it, even if my conscience were not sufficiently strong, to say there's aught that I regret, or would do other, when it is not so -- and yet to say as much were a far crueller thing, I think, than nothing at all. Moreover -- would not any conciliatory phrase be manifestly not of my making? At least they'll have no doubt this comes of me.
-- Indeed. -- Who else should answer with such insolence in such courteous form?
It is not insolence -- though no doubt they'll see it so as well.
And I must bear the brunt of it.
If you will recollect, my lord, that follows but upon your insistence. I wished no such trouble -- for you -- or them.
And sparest not to mind me of't.
Not oft -- I shall say it but this once, in fairness.
To whom? Thyself or myself?
Why, to whom does justice belong, my lord?
Finarfin: [dry chuckle]
-- Thy wits, perhaps, -- but not thy wit. As edged as ever, I do perceive.
The extremes of ice and fire set a keen temper.
Finarfin: [as one stating a fact]
Thou hast not forgiven Araman.
Steward: [deliberate emphasis]
Said I so, my lord?
Dost deny thou dost accept me not as king?
Are we in Tirion?
[looks around exaggeratedly]
We are not. Till then
-- I have a lord already.
Thou kennst he doth lay claim to no such title now?
We allow him to maintain that fiction, the more so since all know full well it is just that.
Finarfin: [startled again]
Thou dost allow -- ?!
[Finrod comes up to them, and with a polite but brief nod to his father sets a hand on the Steward's shoulder.]
-- Edrahil. Would you be so good as to see if my gentle kinsfolk are done with their chess-game yet? Do not let my uncle draw you into another round.
Of course, your Majesty.
[bows to Finarfin]
I rest my case, my lord.
[he goes away into the shadows. Finarfin gives his son the raised eyebrow]
A rescue seemed in order. Again.
And of whom, pray?
Whichever most needed it. -- One ought not begin an endeavor which one has not the will to finish.
Aye . . . As, for example, -- to wed.
Finrod: [folding his arms]
So. -- Why have you come here? I assure you I have not nor shall not change my mind, and this cannot do either of us any good.
And art thou the heavens' center, that all must turn about thee? It is not on thy behalf that I am come.
Finrod: [bowing his head slightly]
Finarfin: [shaking his head]
Such presumption sovereignty hath bred in thee, since thou didst wrest from me full half our House and alliegiance thereof. And yet . . . it seemeth that hence all kings must come at last.
Here I am but one among many bound here by our folly. My time as lord beneath the Sun is ended with my days in Middle-earth, and never shall I reign again, for good or evil. -- You need not fear that I shall usurp your authority again.
[Finarfin looks away, tight-lipped, as though trying to bite back some really caustic retort. Shrewdly:]
-- If you've hope of getting some affirmation from Grandfather, I'm afraid you've come in vain. He will neither see nor speak with any of us. Not even your brothers.
[Finarfin stares at him -- this has hit home in turn. Before he can recover, another pair of newcomers enters: the Assistant of the divine Smith we met previously, and a woman whose dark, plain and practical clothes contrast strikingly with her flaming hair. (Zoe Caldwell, Medea, might represent her.) Her posture expresses extreme unease and apprehension, and she looks around without any pretense of being unimpressed, pulling her cloak around her as if chilled. Aule's Assistant bows to her and vanishes, which does not seem to surprise her in the least.]
Nerdanel: [to Finarfin]
[she crosses quickly and embraces him, with a quick kiss on either cheek, and they clasp hands tightly, letting go with reluctance like worried relatives in a hospital ward.]
Thy mother is much troubled over all this ado, I confess.
Finarfin: [smiling despite the stress]
Didst assure her, then, by thy coming, to give me wisest counsels?
Nerdanel: [managing a brief smile]
[she gives a very brief, anxious glance towards Finrod -- it's clear from her manner that she would rather pretend that he is not there, if he'd be civilized enough to allow it]
She tasked me to restrain thy more impetuous urges, and thee to give me heart.
[Finarfin pats her arm in gesture of reassurance]
Finrod: [bowing very politely]
-- 'Twould be indiscreet, so I am given to know, to enquire of thee the news I'd have most willingly.
Finrod: [without resentment]
When last I saw them, or had news of them, their stars were in the ascendant, or at the least maintaining above the tide of War.
All of them, sayest thou?
All that I have seen.
I have not yet seen any of them here. -- Though that does not mean as much as it might: I haven't seen their father, either, though some few others have of your former household.
Thou seest too much. -- E'en as thou dost deny it.
I am truly sorry to have no better comfort to offer.
Thou dost speak as comfort might be given, that's no more to be had, saving the past be undone. -- Nor shall that be. Shatter the alabaster, then mend it as thou canst -- still it doth remain cracked and withal flawed for ever and aye.
Then one might do better to carve another, and make the work over anew.
And that new-fashioned one is not the first, nor shalt ever be the same.
It might be better.
Thou and thy mad follies. Is't not enough to leave Valinor atilt with thy departing, that must unbalance more upon thy coming home? Must shake Taniquetil with this heresy of thine, and set all Valmar's tongues to ringing e'en as their bells, as the clamor on the hill of Tun' doth blow stormwise through the White Tree's leaves, for the tale of thy mortal Doom?
[Finrod looks both intensely embarrassed and unshakably stubborn]
Of course I could be wrong.
[this sounds like formal politeness]
Well, thou'lt learn the truth of't for thyself in little while, shalt thou not? When thou hast thy flesh again, must tell us all, of whether this second sculpting be equal to the first.
[nonplused, he can think of nothing to say to that -- while he is still silenced Finarfin rallies]
When shalt rejoin us, son? Thy mother cannot fathom wherefore thou dost abide here, when thy rooms stand empty in Tirion for thy reclaiming.
That's up to Amarie, Father. There's no way I can avoid running into her -- or friends of hers -- Outside and out-of-doors, and I'm not going to come home and skulk around the house. You've already got enough problems as it is, without the neighbors deluging you with sympathy for another insane relative.
Mad or otherwise, we would yet have thee to home again.
Would you please tell Mother for me --
Finarfin: [cutting him off]
Thy mother shalt yet hear no apology of thine, save thou dost give it her thyself, and in the flesh.
You know, I'm not the only one in the family who can "outstubborn stubborn."
Indeed, far other -- I find it most amusing, that Earwen doth aver it cometh of my parentage, this obduracy and headstrong will of our offspring.
Finrod: [same offhand, and patently-false, tone]
Oh, I've met Mother's relatives overseas. We haven't an inch of vantage on them.
So I am adviséd. Thou didst ask wherefore I am come hither. 'Tis thus: Lord Namo has requested that I might lend my authority as chief of our folk to convince the daughter of her uncle Elwe -- with whom I believe thou art in some small wise acquainted -- to see reason and to release withal her Second- born spouse -- whose acquaintance I believe thou also hast -- from his mortal toils within this world, speaking haply more in tune with her own mind and nature that are akin to our own, than the great Powers, that are stranger to her -- and that have eke known both the joys of Aman, and --
[nodding sympathetically to Nerdanel]
-- the sorrows of wedlock and husband's love that cools upon longsome time.
[Aule's Assistant manifests again and joins them, ignoring Finrod completely]
Aule's Assistant: [very deferential to the King of the Noldor and Mahtan's daughter]
-- Gentles, if you'd please to come . . .
Finrod: [raising an eyebrow]
So they expect that you and Aunt 'Danel will be able to talk Luthien into staying here alone in Aman.
Indeed. -- I cannot begin to fathom why.
[with this parting shot he follows the waiting messenger and his sister-in-law, as Finrod winces again.]
[Elsewhere: the Conference chamber]
[Luthien is leaning against one of the columns, her arms folded, frowning, while the Powers look gloomily at her or at the light-dish; the Ambassador, apparently having given up, is wandering slowly along the circumference looking at the scenes of Doriath while the argument goes on.]
Aule: [gesturing for emphasis]
You keep saying that we are not listening to you, but you don't seem to be aware that you yourself are not aware of what we are telling you. Clearly you've already made up your mind to ignore everything that my colleagues, and I, have to say.
That's because it's irrelevant. Some situations are not negotiable.
[the Ambassador gives her a startled look -- deja-vu]
Everything about Beren being unworthy of me is simply wrong. So that's irrelevant.
No one has said that,Luthien. You're projecting your arguments with your parents on this situation.
Luthien: [pointing to her father's counsellor]
Correction. None of us has said that. -- Or that you don't really love him, or that he doesn't really love you. Or that he hasn't done heroic service in the cause of Arda, or that he isn't real, or any of the other things you keep on insisting we have. What we are saying is simply the truth: you can't keep him here indefinitely discorporate. It isn't fair to him to deny him the Gift of Men.
Orome: [speaking up finally, still scowling darkly]
We want to help you both.
I just want to go home. -- With Beren.
And then what? Do we do this all over again in fifty or sixty years? He isn't made for this.
[Luthien bursts into tears, turning to hide her face against the pillar; Vaire gives her husband a reproachful look]
Vaire: [getting up]
That wasn't a very sensitive thing to say, darling.
The truth usually isn't.
I know, but still --
[she goes over to where Irmo is already trying to comfort her]
Child, child, please don't cry --
Luthien: [through her teeth]
I want to go home.
Vaire: [hugging her]
But this is your home. You were meant to come here, and be safe, that's why Tav went to find your people in the first place. If you'd been born here you'd never have had all these troubles.
Orome: [ironic aside]
-- Other troubles, but not these troubles.
Luthien: [pulling away, sniffling]
But if my father had come back with everyone else, then he wouldn't have met my mother, because she was already in Middle-earth then, and so I wouldn't have been born. Here or anywhere else. -- Or I'd have been someone else. So there wouldn't be a Luthien for you to talk to.
It's just like arguing with the King her father. Neither one of them knows how to stop.
-- If this is what Melian puts up with on a daily basis, I'm surprised she was born at all.
Este and I would be so happy to have you come live with us. And for your own sake, not just becausewe loved your mother so much: the Gardens would be made inexpressibly more delightful for your presence --
Luthien: [raising her voice]
I am not a collectible!!! -- Do I look like a garden statue, I ask?!?
[stunned silence -- into which Aule's Assistant and escorted company arrive, all three with postures indicative of wary reluctance]
Luthien: [not quite so loudly]
I hope you're not more "old friends of my mother's."
That would be most difficult, forasmuch as I never met thy mother. I am Nerdanel, of Lord Aule's Following, and presently attached to Queen Indis her household -- though most known for another familial connection, I confess.
Luthien: [narrowing her eyes]
You're Feanor's wife, right?
I have to say, you didn't do a very good job raising your children.
[collective cringe -- Nerdanel sighs, and Finarfin looks over at the Lord of the Halls.]
Namo: [before he can say anything]
Yes, it's been like this all along.
Aule: [cynical smile]
Have a chair, welcome to the party.
[he gestures toward the vacant seats]
It's the most excitement there's been since we launched the Sun -- you wouldn't want to miss any of it, now?
As I do recall, my Lord -- much of that ado was was born from lack of certainty as to the durance of the vessel and risks therewith.
This isn't too different, as you'll find. Waiting for something to blow up, crash, burn or otherwise wreak havoc --
I'm almost willing to concede that Tulkas has the right idea -- I could use a drink right now myself.
[Finrod goes back to his seat, picks up the harp, looks at it, smiles ironically and sets it down again, shaking his head. Despite his apparent nonchalance he's quite aware that everyone is watching to see what he will do, all along; what he does is beckon the Captain over to him, not urgently, but with a resolute air.]
I've been waiting for things to happen, and now they are, and happening too fast and variously for me to manage singly. I can't wait for my uncle to make up his mind about acting, and I need good intelligence to make intelligent decisions.
Of course. We don't want any more of the sort of systemic failures and oversights that helped land us here happening again.
[Finrod gives him a Look]
-- Why, Sire, surely if you can blame yourself for circumstances far past your control, you'll not begrudge me the same?
Finrod: [deep sigh]
Consider the point taken. What we need is inside access to the debates, from someone who's well-disposed to Beren, or at the least not hostile to us, and keen-witted enough to be able to sort out the meat from the shells, so to speak. Can you crack me this nut, then?
Ah, this must be Edrahil's request.
[Finrod gives him another Look]
He said you'd have both a question and a request for me when he saved me from your dad's incipient harangue, and you already asked me what in the name of the Void was going on, then.
There's one individual that springs to mind immediately. I mean, it would be a little inappropriate to appeal to my Lady -- yet. -- But. And then again -- but. It's that competitiveness that's going to be trouble.
[he raises an eyebrow -- Finrod nods.]
Yes. That's what I was thinking. The trouble is, I can't afford the traditional methods -- they take too long, for one -- and besides, those usually don't give the best results. I need full, free and proactive cooperation, not devious answers begrudgingly given, even if it's just for the joy of it and not real malice. I don't want to be worrying about whether I've phrased one wrong and wasted it, so that I hardly dare use the other two until it's too late.
So. No riddles, no boardgames.
[he frowns thoughtfully]
Got it. I think I can manage this without actually having to fight His Majesty. And if not -- at least he doesn't have it in for me.
Do I want to hear about this plan of yours?
Probably not, Sir.
-- Ought I regardless?
I don't think you need to.
Good. Take as many people as you require.
Oh, I think my backup's already there.
Of course. -- Try to pry him loose from that damnéd game of my uncle's when you're finished.
I don't know if I can promise that, Sire. Getting between chess sots and their board is --
-- See if you can inveigle my cousin into taking his place. Tell her you'll thrash her husband for her or something. -- You did not hear me say that, by the by.
Hear what, my lord?
I should never have introduced either version of it to Eithel Sirion.
If not you, someone else should have soon enough.
[departing, over his shoulder:]
You know she'd rather do it herself, though. -- Actually, that gives me a better idea.
I await your results with equal parts eagerness and trepidation. Good luck.
[as the Captain leaves Finrod whistles loudly and Huan comes to him, followed by a curious Beren.]
Stay and look after Beren until I return. If there's any trouble of any sort, please come and fetch me immediately.
Sir, should you really be going off by yourself? I heard about all that, and I think they're right to be worried. How your wearing this --
[reaches up and flicks at Finrod's hair and collar]
-- is as in-your-face as you can get to the Kinslayers without actually calling them that, and how they're fed up with you six ways from Couplesday already.
Didn't they tell you about the latest attempt, then?
I know, but you can't do that with the walls -- or the floor -- any more because you promised, right? And even if they don't know that yet it'll be obvious when you don't.
They put you up to this, didn't they?
No, I just kept adding things up. Two and two and two is six, after all, Sir.
Surely you wouldn't be addressing me so formally still, if I were one of your mortal kinsmen.
You're changing the subject, Sir, and yes I would, if you were one of my senior cousins on Ma's side visiting which is how I can almost make it work by pretending, and I did call them "Sir" and "Ma'am," and if one of them was going to do something dumb like go hiking in an area they didn't know very well by themselves without a guide I did tell them that even if I was just a kid.
I did it politely, like I did at first, though, I didn't tell them it was dumb -- but if that didn't work I would go ask Ma or Uncle Brego for help if they didn't listen on account of me being a kid.
[Finrod just looks at him]
Only there's no one Ican go to at this point since you don't listen to them and I don't know your uncle and somehow I don't think you'd listen to him anyway. Or you'd listen but then you'd do it anyway. If I was really unscrupulous I would say something like how if you get beat up by a squad of bandits you won't be helping me and it will make it harder for you to do that, but that would be unfair.
[Finrod sighs, looks away, and then tries very hard to persuade Beren he's overreacting]
Beren, please try to understand. Throughout the entirety of the Return I was obliged to be responsible and level-headed and mediate between all my hot- tempered, justly-or-unjustly-outraged, easily-offended kin and compatriots, and every other free People in Beleriand as well. That gets tiresome after almost half-a-millenium, you know. And I don't have to do it any more. I'm not the King of Nargothrond now.
I can see why you'd want to take risks and have some fun after being serious and in charge all that while, but if you won't consider us -- how we feel worrying about you and not being able to do anything to protect you -- then I will have to guilt you about it.
I don't need to move the walls, though -- the Powers don't bother preventing us from administering lessons in civility and prudence to each other, and I assure you I am quite as much the equal of any here with sword or lance as I am with any form of power.
[he gestures, for an instant brandishing a dangerous looking blade, before letting it vanish]
And there's still just one of you. At least take Huan.
[Finrod looks around, then leans closer and says very quietly]
Beren, I don't need to move the walls to deal with them. I could make them think they were trapped behind walls, if I chose. I could make them believe far worse. If they truly threaten me, they will wish they had turned back at Araman, if not for remorse then for the sake of fear, since the end result is that they're here in my company.
You'll get in trouble.
Very likely. It won't matter because they'd never dare risk my anger again.
Do you believe me?
They said that people can't lie here -- that what you think is what you say here.
I can't lie to you anyway. -- Only deceive you with silence.
Sir -- everyone has their secrets. And yeah, that was not a good one to keep from me, and I think you know that now, so I don't see that you need to bring it up every other minute any more.
Beren: [not giving ground]
-- "Sharp as salt," isn't that how the saying goes? Such a diet I get of it from my counsellors -- not even you will give me honeyed words. I am blessed far beyond my deserts to be so served!
I will be careful, and avoid trouble. I promise.
[he starts to leave again -- Beren calls after him:]
What'll you do to them, if they're not?
You don't want to know.
-- You wouldn't.
Finrod: [edged smile]
You know me better than that.
[he runs a hand through his braids]
I do wear this guise as a reminder that I haven't forgotten Alqualonde. I will forgive them -- when they repent. Until then -- let them be wary, or else find themselves sorry regardless.
Are you regretting your claiming of kinship as rashness yet?
I know about avenging family -- and guilt.
[he closes the distance between them]
Finrod: [blurting it out]
Please don't kneel to me again --
Wasn't going to.
[he grabs Finrod's arm and pulls him to lean down]
Be careful, Ingold.
[with that he slaps him firmly on the shoulder and strolls back to Huan, while Finrod struggles to stop grinning as he leaves]
[Elsewhere: the conference chamber.]
[Luthien is standing in the middle of the circle, halfway turned in the middle of a bout of pacing around the hearth-bowl, holding out her arms to her interlocutors in an indignant gesture.]
. . . So now do you think, do you really think, I'm going to walk away from him after that? The Silmaril is meaningless. It's just complicating things in your minds. Forget about the Silmaril.
[long silence. No one seems to know where to look. Finarfin is looking as close to a shade as is possible for a living Elf.]
Your Majesty, are you ill?
[the King of the Noldor cannot answer at first]
My Lady -- I am.
[he closes his eyes, his right hand flat on the table, the left clenched.]
Would you like us to adjourn for a while, Sire?
[pause. All are looking at Finarfin, or trying politely not to -- Luthien appears a bit guilty]
This -- this matter is not news to thee, my Lady.
No, Your Majesty.
Finarfin: [shaking his head at himself]
But of course . . . of a certain, not.
I think I shall betake myself to walk but a whiles, gentles, if ye shall excuse mine absence. I'll return anon.
Don't trouble yourself about us, dear -- we'll manage quite adequately in your absence.
[Finarfin rises, with a distracted acknowledgment of her words, and turns towards the arched door]
Shall I come with you? If Este were here . . . but she isn't, so . . .
Finarfin: [a touch of sternness]
I will walk alone, I thank you.
-- Will you be all right?
[he walks out into the shadows, very straight-backed, head held high, as though on his way to the block]
[Elsewhere: a wide tapestried hallway with pillars down the length of it, lit by silver-white light from discreet sconces.]
[Two ghostly figures are duelling down it, with speed and agility impossible for mere mortals, neither giving any quarter, -- but neither managing to get any hits in, either. When one of the fighters -- female -- seems close to gaining the upper hand, her opponent manages to block her, darts behind a pillar, and from the other side flings a short spear. The swordswoman (who ought to be played by Carrie Ann Moss of Matrix fame) deflects it with her blade, catches it in her left hand and throws it back at him -- he raises his hand and it vanishes. She puts a hand on her hip and jeers at him:]
Hah! I told you you couldn't keep yourself from cheating. If you'd come to Aman you'd have learned some honor there, instead of how to shoot from the safety of the trees, Dark-elf.
[He moves out -- Gabriel Byrne might be cast in this part -- and they circle each other, watching for an opening]
Oh yes, that famous Noldor honor. Which somehow doesn't stop you from killing unarmed kinsfolk.
As if you have any ground to stand on!
Marrying you was the biggest mistake I ever made. I should never have let you lure me from my peace and quiet!
You should have stayed single? -- I'd still be alive if it weren't for you, you wretch!
So would I, if not for you, you seductress!
[They clash again in a bout lasting several exchanges and fall back, frustrated, without lodging any hits]
I should have known you'd be a thankless ingrate and a rebel -- just look at the rest of your family!
Stuck without using any secret weapons, hm? Sure you don't want to cheat now? Or are you going to try to down me with poisoned words this time?
[Enraged, he lunges forward again and they go up and down the pillar footings like a small whirlwind until this gets boring again. Before either of them comes up with a new insult, the Captain saunters in and stands there watching with a contemptuous expression]
Do you only fight women and children, old chap?
Be off, Kinslayer!
Captain: [shaking his head pityingly]
Don't insult Her Highness -- it was an honest, if tragic, misunderstanding. -- Unless you're talking to yourself . . . again.
[Both of them shoot him dirty looks; Aredhel's glare turns to a smirk]
Of course, if you're fighting the White Lady -- she really ought to be handicapped to make it fair, unless you plan to manifest a few illegal weapons along the way.
[Eol snarls; Aredhel snickers]
What, you've already cheated? And you've not even been nicked once in this match yet? Seems like you're backsliding, Master Smith -- you're supposed to be learning calm, and patience, and tranquility and such.
-- What are you up to, I wonder?
Don't you dare to lecture me, you insolent, immature, Noldor delinquent!
Captain: [as if neither of them has spoken]
And you with that amazing galvorn stuff, too -- I notice that your wife hasn't even bothered with a reinforced jerkin, so obviously in spite of your cheating she still outclasses you. I suppose you're used to sparring against employees scared you'd sack them if they actually showed you up? Or perhaps you always just ambushed your adversaries in the midst of peaceful counsels. Rather like my lord's cousin and the emissaries of Morgoth, both planning to get the jump on each other, eh?
[Eol lunges at him without warning -- before he gets there the Captain has drawn his sword and blocked him, hard]
Aredhel: [wickedly amused]
[Surprise assault foiled, Eol breaks off and starts stalking -- they circle, facing each other. Eol's stalk is more dramatic, but because the Captain is only pivoting, Eol's using a lot more energy and has more distance to cover when he makes his move]
Captain: [musing tone]
You do realize that I used to do this sort of thing for a living? Not just as a hobby. -- Never used any of my own folk for target practice, though --
[That does it -- Eol charges him with a furious yell and they set to in earnest. The difference between this and the earlier fight is not so much strength or even skill, but style -- earlier the couple were duelling, but the Captain fights combat-fashion: no dramatics, just the combination of rapid reflexes and brute force that one sees in predators fighting for survival, not for display. It includes tactics like stomping ankles and following a thrust with a driven shoulder or using the hilt as a bludgeon, for offense, and drop-slide-and-roll for defense, though there is a sort of horrible elegance to it nonetheless.]
[the Captain has feinted and used the mistaken block on Eol's part to get in a gladius-style short thrust up under two overlapping plates of his armor. As the Dark-elf falls he succeeds in landing a hard counter-stroke on the Captain's shoulder, but the latter has plainly counted on this and does not appear surprised.]
Captain: [holding his collarbone]
-- And once again, the combination of practice and training demonstrates its manifest superiority to beserk rage and dilettantism.
Eol: [from the floor]
Faugh. Make much of your blow and belittle mine. Typical invader arrogance.
Yes, but you'd be dead -- if you weren't already dead -- and I wouldn't be -- if I weren't, again, already dead.
Are you all right, my lord?
[to Eol, lecturing mode:]
You should have taken that on your vambrace and ridden it out: trying not to get hurt at all will inevitably get you killed. If you're down to your last adversary, a clavicle's an acceptable exchange.
-- But not, however, if you still have more to go.
Aredhel: [cheerful exasperation]
I know that. -- And don't start on the "that's why you always wear armour, even if you're not planning on fighting and it's uncomfortable and others think it's paranoid, because being good isn't good enough" lecture. -- So what are you up to? Simple boredom, or did someone finally get you to take that bet?
Captain: [gingerly testing his arm]
Which bet is that?
The one that you could take my -- consort -- without turning a hair. So to speak.
-- Damn! If I'd known about that, I could have made a nice haul.
Eol: [sitting up slowly, hunched over]
You're all mad, vying for non-existent trifles!
Right, like destroying what you -- ahem -- love, makes any sense at all.
If it wasn't that, then what was --
[she breaks off and rolls her eyes as Nienna's Apprentice makes his appearance in the hallway and gives them all meaningful Looks]
Apprentice: [patronizingly-superior tone]
Lady Vaire sent me to discover what the disturbance was about and to make it stop. I ought to have guessed you'd be part of this.
Upon my honor, sir, I --
-- did not draw until drawn upon, I'm quite sure.
Don't you people have anything better to do than engage in senseless violence?
Now then, now then -- I've been given to understand that you consider yourself no mean hand at swordplay, either.
And why do you say that?
I . . . have my sources, and mean to keep them thus. -- So it isn't true? You don't, in fact know more than hilt from point?
I didn't say that.
I suppose it must be a guilty secret rather, not quite as bad as having done in your relatives, but with something of the same taint about it.
What are you talking about?
Though perhaps things have changed while we've been gone, though I confess it doesn't sound that way from the rumours I've heard.
Do you think it's funny to be annoying, or can you not help it? -- Ah --
Threnody, but that's what he's always asking me.
As a matter of fact, I can help it --
-- he just thinks it's amusing to be cryptic and insolent. My cousin collects the strangest people.
You don't know the half of us. -- I meant, young sir, that your kin must look quite askance on such a violent hobby, unless the Vanyar have changed far more in the years since the Rebellion than even we.
Oh. I see.
So do you meet in secret to make weapons and train like we did? Or are they simply resigned to their unruly offspring and hope that by ignoring it you'll get bored of it and grow up?
Erm . . .
I suppose you were just trying to show off, then, when you made all those careless remarks to the Princes' lads about being a fair hand at it. -- That's how I know, by-the-by. That was a deliberate careless remark, intended to edify, not an actual accidental careless remark let slip. -- You see how easy it is to mean to keep secrets and give them away all the same? At least to anyone who is paying close attention to the things you're saying -- or not saying.
Aredhel: [shaking her head]
This is why people want to see mincemeat made of you, you know.
Because I'm right all the time?
Eol: [who has gotten up at last, standing rather painfully and still holding his chest]
Because you're an arrogant whelp of an interloper, lording it over your betters and elders.
What, are you still hanging about where you're not wanted? Why don't you go and vent your ill-temper on the following of Feanor, who actually deserve it? Oh -- that's right, there are a lot of them and they'd probably go out of their way to hurt you, like kicking you in the face once you were down.
[Eol spits towards him -- the Captain ignores him]
-- Which I would never do because it's petty and trivial and lacking in nobility and besides that, it's stupid to give your enemy the chance of hamstringing you for such juvenile satisfaction. Well, stay around, then -- sooner or later milady's father will turn up and fillet you again, but far be it from me to deny you the satisfaction of being annoying.
[the Dark-Elf draws himself up and sneers at them before stalking off]
I'll be avenged upon the lot of you, I swear it!
Captain: [shaking his head]
That's my husband you're talking about.
And you call him much worse than that.
Yes, but he's my husband. When you insult him you call my judgment into question.
? ? ?
[while he is still speechless the Apprentice murmurs something like "Who would do such a thing?" causing Aredhel to whirl and flare at him:]
Shut up. You haven't any right to tell me what I ought to do or have done.
[she turns around guiltily. The High King is there, looking grave and a bit disappointed; he could be played by Roger Rees of Nicholas Nickelby. With him is the Steward, appearing somewhere between mildly interested and almost bored.]
What is all this turbulence that fills these Halls of grief and reconciliation? Ar-Feiniel, it is ill-becoming to berate the household, as well I have taught you.
[impatiently she drops him a quick bow and one towards the Apprentice]
Your heart is much troubled still, I perceive, from this dispute.
[frowning at the Apprentice]
Must I complain to your Master yet again regarding your lack of solemnity and dignity, then? I consider your internship here -- never yet having been interred -- to be a most improper experiment, and do not doubt that I shall say so again to the Lady.
I -- but -- I --
Ah, Your Majesty --
[he bows deeply]
-- I must confess the fault in part is mine: we were baiting the young Elf, in truth, though it was but meant in humourous fashion. I merely wished to teach him the unwisdom of boasting, especially on a certain subject.
I wasn't boasting!
Indeed? And what matter might that be, gentles?
Oh, the lad considers himself a master of the sword, one hears.
You don't say.
Indeed, Your Majesty, one has heard this rumour as well -- though where and whence he has his training, one confesses one's self greatly curious. But since it's past testing, there seems little purpose in pursuing this . . . diversion.
[he manages to look disapproving and amused at once]
What do you mean, "past testing" -- ?
Surely one cannot think it's possible to put it to the proof? When all that have such skills in truth are ghosts, and held here, and so there's none to challenge in the world without, or to judge, that truly might make test of such a brag.
Are you so sure of that? -- What about Lord Tavros?
I would never disrespect the Hunter or his might -- but neither he, nor any of his following, have spent such years in such bitter wars as we, matched against enemies that tried our skill but to try to better it, and to outmatch us withal in numbers, if not in main strength.
If you could fight one of us, we'd be more inclined to believe your claims. Or at least the general nature of them, since you can't possibly be as good as you think you are. But obviously that isn't going to happen -- at least not anytime soon.
And why not?
You don't think it's possible, surely, to engage in affray -- us being dead and you being not?
You needn't make it sound as though -- discorporation -- were some mark of achievement. It is -- at least for you Noldor -- a sign of disgrace.
Besides, are you so sure? I've watched you at your games, and I think I could manage to conjure up the form of a sword as well as any of you.
Unless of course, you're afraid to try.
[the Captain gives him a scornful look]
Afraid? As a friend of mine from the Old Country would say -- give me a break. No untried recruit would stand a chance against me.
Apprentice: [raising an eyebrow]
Then let's put it to the test, shall we? Don't you chaps favour metaphysical experiments?
[the Captain sighs, shaking his his head, half-smiling]
[to the Steward]
So how much have you got riding on this?
[he only shakes his head, looking surprisingly serious]
Battlefield rules, or this ritual combat nonsense?
What do you mean, "battlefield rules"?
Nothing one couldn't do in the flesh. No manifesting pits beneath your adversaries' feet, or boulders between, or previously-absent weapons, steeds, or abilities. A true contest of strength and skill according to one's respective limits, and no others -- real life has no such "rules of combat."
You talk to me as though I were a child -- !
Because you are one, by comparison.
[the Apprentice hides a flicker of expression at this]
So, shall we have the great and noble Fingolfin confirm the sameness of our equpment?
Are you mocking my father?
No. Why should I be? None of us has managed what he accomplished, to withstand and cripple the Enemy, let alone single-handed!
[she looks suspicious; he asks, with another gracious nod to Fingolfin:]
Shoudln't we have His Majesty determine the exactness of our swords?
Why? That isn't how it would happen in the field. Work with what you're used to and comfortable with, and I'll the same. You don't think that an Orc-chief is going to set down his axe and take a sword because that's what you've got, do you? Or, better yet, measure and weigh both your blades before you set to?
[the Apprentice smiles ironically and draws a sword out of thin air, flourishing it rather impressively before falling into a "guard" position]
What, no exchange of names and titles and so forth?
What, do you do that in combat, then?
Well, no, -- but I didn't expect you to --
[without missing a beat or cuing his intent he lunges forward and comes within a few inches of ending the match right then and there -- except that the other with equal agility has sidestepped and brought up his blade in a parry]
-- be --
-- quite --
-- so --
Flattery will get you --
[he has to make a rather undignified duck to avoid unexpected decapitation and backs away, rattled]
Captain: [stalking him down]
-- a distracted adversary, lad --
[he leaps at his oppponent with a lightning-strike attack. The Apprentice manages to deflect and riposte, catching him in the wrist just before the edge of his vambrace starts -- and backs off, with a pleased expression]
A hit, to me.
Only an idiot does that in a real fight.
[he switches hands and moves in again, with a more cautious approach -- they circle and feint several times, before the Apprentice breaks first and closes, with a vigorous set-to in the classic 30's swashbuckler mode. With a particularly dextrous parry the Apprentice manages to disarm his opponent and the backstroke takes him hard across the leg halfway between knee and hip, bringing him down full length]
[the Captain rolls out of range and comes up to a sprawl, braced on his right elbow -- with a dagger in his left hand that leaves it almost before anyone has realized what he has. It should take the Apprentice squarely in the eye -- except that it dissolves into a trail of glowing embers that vanish before they hit the ground. The Apprentice backs off and puts up his sword, waiting for his opponent to retrieve his own weapon and resume the match. The Captain, however, does not get up, only raises his good hand for attention.]
Your Majesty, gentles all -- I call you to witness. Unfair advantage of abilities has been used.
But you manifested "previously-absent weapons"!!!
Not so. I've always carried bootknives. Hundreds of witnesses, many of them hostile, in here, if you won't take my word for it. Your lack of observation skills is not my fault.
-- But turning them to harmless sparks is not something one ought to be able to do in the real world. Not even King Felagund could do that using the combined heritage of all three Kindreds. -- Certainly not some young stay-at-home Vanyar twit who's never seen combat sorcery in action.
[to the onlookers]
-- Was he, or was he not cheating there?
Who can say? Perhaps he can do that Outside as well.
Captain: [mock concern]
Shh! You'll blow his cover.
[the High King shakes his head, consideringly]
Oh, I very much doubt that's the case, regardless. If Morgoth had possessed the ability to obliterate weapons from a distance he'd surely have disarmed me before I managed to mark him. Clearly unfair advantage has been employed here.
Apprentice: [starts to object further, then sighs resignedly and bows -- easily:]
M'lord, I apologize for my action -- and the rashness of my assumption in presuming dishonorable behavior on your part, which led me into such error of judgment.
Shall we to it again, sir?
[the Apprentice looks at him, surprised]
Your apology was nobly made. -- The question of the penalty for cheating, however, is not yet settled.
But of course. It is well that you regret your actions, but redress must still be made. Otherwise your apology is empty breath and echo.
[the Apprentice casts a worried glance around]
I cannot of course compel you to endure the consequences of your actions -- only your own conscience, and honor, may do so.
[that decides it]
Your Majesty, I would not have you consider me coward, or worse yet, unfair. What forfeit must I make for my transgression?
Fingolfin: [to the Steward, in a manner of casual politeness]
What say you, my lord? Over the yen my nephew entrusted many crucial matters of judgement to your discretion -- surely you have some thought as to what would be both fitting and serve well as memorial against future temptations?
[the Steward puts a musing forefinger to his lips, frowning in thought, then holds up his hand as though delivering a message]
If the young -- Elf -- considers himself unworthily matched, then let him match himself against the greatest warrior of us all, and thus be satisfied in his honor even as the price of dishonor shall be paid. -- If -- no less -- such exactment should meet with your Majesty's willing approbation.
[Fingolfin raises an eyebrow]
It does have a certain symmetry, I'll grant -- and I do find this enforced idleness wearying after a time.
Apprentice: [rather desperately]
Your Majesty, I am no Melkor.
No, nor Sauron, neither.
[the Apprentice shoots him a piqued glare before adding:]
The -- the punishment could in no wise be commensurate with the offense -- whether I cheated or didn't. -- Please.
Well then, if your taste for combat has worn cold, perhaps the gentler contest of the chess-table would be more to your liking?
I hear that it is wonderful practice for those who are in need of learning patience.
[the Apprentice looks absolutely, and if possible, even more horrified at the prospect]
Sire -- permission to make a suggestion?
Granted, my lord.
The King your nephew has an errand he has tasked me to undertake, the which shall doubtless require much in the way of walking -- would it not be appropriate to require him to fulfill that task, seeing as how he's temporarily incapacitated me?
That has a certain justness in it, I confess.
What say you, gentle sir? Is such a forfeit acceptable to your honor and your occupations?
Apprentice: [a little ungraciously]
Oh, I think I can fit it in.
[he grimaces, shaking his head, and lets the blade vanish from his hand]
Of course, if it be too onerous a burden, I am most ready to give you a quick drubbing on the spot and we can get it over with.
[he extends his arm, and the Steward hands him a swordbelt and scabbard. The High King draws the memory of Ringil -- and the Apprentice pales]
Sire, your judgment is more than acceptable, and more than generous. I am quite glad to make such restitution to your nephew's servant.
Good, then you can start by giving me a hand up.
[he accepts the other's help -- the Apprentice's disgruntlement changes to concern when it becomes clear that he isn't faking. The Steward looks away with a tight expression while his friend struggles to stand and put away his sword.]
Fingolfin: [to Aredhel]
Well, child, now that this brief excitement has passed like all earthly things, perhaps you would be kind enough to spend a little while communing with your parent in his lonely exile and indulge him in the diversion of a quiet game of chess?
Pray excuse me, Father, but I am reminded by Lord Edrahil's words that I should practice my meditations and strive to attain tranquility and detatchment of spirit.
[she bows and hastily vanishes -- the Apprentice rolls his eyes]
Oh, deftly done.
She is good, isn't she?
Too good for her own good. That one has -- an awful lot to learn.
I would remind you that you are speaking of my daughter, young sir.
Why, so we were, Your Majesty. It is a shame my Master isn't here, so that she could join in this conversation with us.
[Fingolfin's expression changes to annoyance]
Well, come on -- don't dawdle about, your assignment's waiting.
[the Apprentice gives him a Look]
Fingolfin: [to the Steward]
My lord, seeing that my own kin have abandoned me once again, might I for a little demand your gracious assistance in a brief round at the table?
Your pardon, but I must request your indulgence for the present: my lord requires that I spend more time in attendance on him, and less in diversions, Your Majesty.
My nephew doesn't actually need you to do anything that he can't manage perfectly well by himself. This isn't Outside, nor does he have dominion over two thirds of these Halls and the troubles thereof. He can spare you for another match. -- I understand that he wishes to embroil myself, if not my folk, in another scheme of his, is that not correct?
Steward: [to the Captain]
Would you --
-I'll make your apologies.
[he leads the Apprentice down the hall away from the others, still limping]
I hurt you.
[the Captain shrugs]
-- I'm sorry.
Then you'd best put aside arms, and all thought of them. It comes with the territory. Get ready for it.
I'm not afraid of being injured.
Then you're an idiot.
[an expression of annoyance flickers over the Apprentice's face, quickly vanishing]
"Surely one may regret the necessity for causing pain, even while not holding back from the deed?" -- Were those not your very words to my Master?
[the Captain gives him a sidelong glance, says nothing]
-- How did you know I -- am not entirely what I seem?
I didn't -- until now.
[this sinks in]
His Majesty had made the conjecture first, of course, but we had no proof. Thank you for the confirmation.
Which -- ? -- Finrod. Of course it would be he. -- I am still sorry I hurt you, but I confess -- not quite as much.
At least I didn't have to fight the High King. That would not have been fun.
Why? I thought he was fond of your crowd.
What's that got to do with it?
. . .
You don't think he'd go easier on me because I'm not part of House Feanor, do you? Aside from refraining from an extra twist once he'd nailed me -- it's not as though I'm some new recruit or beginning amateur. -- No more than you are.
[the Apprentice looks a bit sick]
Good thing for you you made the right decision, eh?
-- Wait -- why should you have to fight Fingolfin?
Had to draw you in somehow -- I'd forgotten about Master Eol.
This wasn't accidental at all, then?
By your Lady, no! Of course not!
I was beginning to be fairly certain there was more to you than someone who just killed things.
Still too slow, then. -- Speaking of which, you want to let Arda do as much of the work for you as possible. Don't fight your weight when you turn -- use it. I know it looks impressive to jump around like that, but . . .
-- So what is this task your King has set you, which you've now arranged to pass on to me? Organizing a chorale society? Interviewing veterans of the Battle-under-Stars for his complete history of the War?
To ensure your complete and unconstrained cooperation in the matter of securing inside information regarding the Powers' deliberations concerning Melian's daughter and the Lord of Dorthonion.
[Nienna's Apprentice halts in shock]
You -- want me to spy on the councils of the gods for you?
Not for me --
For your king, then.
No. For the sake of Beren and Luthien.
[the Apprentice just stares at him]
There is after all nothing dishonorable in it; you've been doing it already for your own curiosity as well as to assist, have you not? And you cannot think that my sovereign lord means any harm or mischief to either Aman or the Powers, can you? We merely require that you bring the infromation you have witnessed to King Finrod in timely fashion and full measure, without reserve or deception, and without such noncooperative responses as providing so much information that no useful timely assessment of it can be made.
[with a narrow Look]
In other words, don't report every fiddly little detail of "and then Lady Yavanna started drumming her fingers on the table again," unless for some reason you really think that's relevant and are ready to give reasons for it.
Yavanna isn't there.
But I understand what you're getting at.
And you'll do it?
Apprentice: [dawning realization]
You deliberately lost.
Oh, I didn't lose. -- Not yet. Will you pay your forfeit, then?
You let me strike you down. Why?
We needed some certain way to provoke you into cheating. Nothing so likely as the appearance of it, eh? But it had to look plausible, hence desperate enough.
[the Apprentice looks both horrified and awed]
Don't worry, everyone knows we're all stark staring mad.
I've thought that all along too -- but recently my Master said to me, "But what if they aren't?" I haven't been liking the answers to that one very much. -- I'm liking them even less by the heartbeat.
That means you did cheat, though. Not technically perhaps, but in the deepest sense. It was all a setup, wasn't it?
No, I didn't have anything to do with the Endless Whirlwind -- they did that all on their own, as usual. I merely had to locate them.
But the High King, and your friend, and the rest of it -- that was all planned?
What, rooking you into it? Absolutely.
[with an ironic but not sneering bow, he gestures for Nienna's Apprentice to keep walking with him]