Part II of Act IV
is dedicated equally
to the translator of
“Sir Orfeo” & “Sir Gawain”
and the authors of
Much Ado About Nothing,
No Exit.



retold in the vernacular as a dramatic script
(with apologies to Messrs. Tolkien & Shakespeare)

- Part II -


IV.i - IV.ii - IV.iii - IV.iv - IV.v - - IV.vii - IV.viii - IV.ix - IV.x - IV.xi - IV.xii - IV.xiii - IV.xiv - IV.xv - IV.xvi - IV.xvii - IV.xviii



..........-- Truth, bereft of mask and veil,
doth not ever show most fair; to eyes
deceivéd, or by darkness or disguise
rare, when concealments doth fail
the unhid that which is well may seem
as must be, would be, but troubling dream --

[The Hall]

[Finarfin enters and leans heavily against the arch of the door, covering his face with his hands. Beren notices and gets up from the game quickly without saying "anything, before any of the others can ask him why, and hurries over to him -- two of the Ten rise and follow him at a cautious distance]


Sir . . . don't blame yourself, it really doesn't help --

[Finarfin turns, startled, and sees him, just as Beren is about to try to take him by shoulder]

Oh! I thought! -- I mistook you for him -- I don't see very well here --

[the Noldor Elf stares at him, at first bewildered, then taking in the differences, and making the deductive leap]


-- Thou? -- it is -- needs must be --

[Beren drops instantly to one knee, bowing his head]

Beren: [stammering worse]

My lord -- I --

Finarfin: [tightly]

So thou also art of the party that refuses to acknowledge, and yet proff'rest respect -- and mockery -- in one.

[Beren looks up, confused]



[Finarfin recognizes his complete ignorance of the situation]


No matter. I comprehend it better now -- to my bitterest regret.


I'm sorry, Sir, but -- I don't understand.

Finarfin: [as if talking to himself as much as Beren]

When word came that mine eldest sibling was slain, it did come so close upon all the other ills of the time, that it seemed but part of the same, and fitting end to such meteoric journey. And when our middle brother perished, and my sons were slain in that great War of theirs, the horror of it and the grief was made a little less impossible to bear, for the glory of Fingolfin's deed, and the great valour of their defense -- they to stand by their adopted people, him -- to strike at the Dark King himself and wound him with his own hand no less, though but an Elf, as though he might have been a lesser Power, and the gods themselves did him honour for his deed, that weighed against the wrongs of his working.

[he shakes his head]

And then it came but a short whiles after, the news of mine eldest's fall, or that which I believed to be the whole and sum of it, and it seemed but pitiable and grotesque by compare, to be taken and slain but by a lesser Power, and in confusion and stealth, as a prisoner, not in open battle nor for his own name's sake -- a foolish end to a path of folly. -- Thou dost look froward at my words.

Beren: [terse]

I would have died if not for him.


And yet thou art dead nonetheless, and what in end achieved? One year or one yen, what is either set against my son's life?

[Beren says nothing]

Thou wert with him for the whiles.

Beren: [in a whisper]

Yes, my lord.


Thy lady -- Stand up and let me see thee plain.

[Beren obeys -- Finarfin shakes his head]

Thy lady --

[he breaks off again]

-- Where is my son, since by thy words I guess he is not here?


No idea, sir.

Finarfin: [aside]

I would both converse with him, and would not ken the least what word should say to him.

[to Beren:]

-- Thy lady spake at no small length concerning his ordeal, and theirs, and thine.



Tinuviel -- found us. It wasn't easy for her.


-- Dost say she overshoots, and thus doth miss the mark of truth?



Probably not.

[awkward silence -- into which a snatch of a rather inappropriate mortal song and laughter is heard from the vicinity of the fountain:]

......" . . . all over the town -- 
...Our bread it is white
......and our ale it is brown -- 
...Our bowl it is made
......of the white maple tree . . . "

Finarfin: [knowingly]

And hence this dull and gloomsome place doth seem small burden -- mad though that seemeth to all else -- after what hath passed, to them.


-- Us.


Still wouldst claim place with my son?


Would or wouldn't, doesn't matter. We were there.


And hence -- ye -- will not forsake him. That much now I do comprehend.

[shaking his head]

That such things be done -- be thought of -- ! I had not dreamt -- that his death should be of such a fashion as to make that which transpired at the Havens seem nigh civilized, nay, -- glorious --

[his lip curls at the word]

-- never that it was not quick, nor of the least dignified . . .

Beren: [most definitely not conciliatory tone]

Why did you think it was? Because things like that just don't happen to good folks? -- Or people you know? You think there's some kind of rule that no one you care about can get killed and eaten by monsters? -- Or because you'd rather not think about those kind of things?

[Finarfin clenches his hand, giving Beren a ferocious glare -- Beren gives it right back to him.]



[breathing hard]

And to my lasting shame -- I had in my grief yet some satisfaction, that being flouted and set down by him in sight of all our people, I should be proven right in end, and have some vindication, in the fulfillment of the words of Doom.

[his control breaks and he breaks down for a moment, leaning back against the pillar, sobbing, before pulling himself together a little and wiping his eyes on his hand. Beren's expression changes to reluctant sympathy.]

-- How couldst mistake me for him? Is flesh so light a thing, that mattereth not to thee?

Beren: [very different tone again]

Because what I see -- is mostly light, from a distance. Close to -- yeah. And you -- have a shadow.

[Finarfin wipes his eyes again, forcibly getting control over his emotions]

Sir -- would you care to -- that fountain, it's real, not just an illusion, you -- you could wash up, have a drink there -- if you wanted --

Finarfin: [changing the subject]

How is it that we are comprehensible to one another? For I think thy people would not have the same speech as ours.

Beren: [struggling]

Uh -- because of thoughts? Partly? Because we did speak Elvish, only it wasn't the way you speak it here. Only some of the words were close. That's what he told me.



Beren: [giving up]

The King would be able to explain it better.

Finarfin: [coolly]

Which king? Four kings of the Eldar are in this place.


I meant -- your son, Sir.


I have four sons, three of whom are here.

Beren: [desperately]

-- Finrod, my lord.


Thou dost babble like to an infant scarce past walking.

Beren: [glum]

I'm not always this bad at it. -- Sometimes worse.


How old art thou?


Somewhere going on thirty. Ah, years -- the ones with four seasons, not the ones that are twelve-twelvemonths -- I don't know how long I've been dead now -- or does that even count . . . ?



And yet thou'dst think to counsel my eldest child, whose years thou hast not one twenty-fourth part yet seen -- wherefore?


Because he's my friend.


Thou deemst self worthy to name thyself friend to my son?


I don't -- but he does. And if he calls me that, how can I not call him the same back? Wouldn't make sense.

[pause. Finarfin just looks at him, bleakly]

Are -- are you sure -- you wouldn't like to -- the water, over there?


Such a multitude is more than my spirit can bear at this hour.

Beren: [heartfelt]

I understand.

[looks away -- sudden inspiration]

The little hill over there, -- that's real, and we didn't make it, a goddess did -- if you wanted some privacy -- the roses are getting a little out of control, but that's only on the one side --



And dost thou own this place, to deal as thou wert host here, and never guest uninvited?


She offered us -- Tinuviel and me -- the use of it -- Nessa, it was -- so I'm sure it's all right if I offered you my place -- unless you know she would mind you doing that for some other reason --

[he fumbles to a stop while Finarfin just looks at him again. A longish pause]


I shall do that, then, and sit upon the grass, and think -- upon the deaths of kings . . .

Beren: [hesitant]

Sir -- what did you mean, four kings? I only know -- there's Finrod, and the High King, his uncle, -- uh, your brother -- I'm sorry about that -- and . . . Oh. Your father.

[brief pause]

That's still three.

Finarfin: [precisely]

In the outside world, among the living, the three tribes of the Eldar also hath each their king. There is Ingwe, who is lord over the Vanyar, and High King of us all in holy Valmar. There is Olwe, that is -- thy -- wife's -- uncle, and ruleth over the Teleri in Alqualonde. And of the Noldor, the headship hath fallen by default upon -- myself.

[Beren drops to one knee again.]


Your Majesty.

Finarfin: [tired]

Do not mock me, Aftercomer.

Beren: [getting more and more tongue-tied]

S -- Sire, why -- would I mock you? I -- never got -- to go to court, and learn the -- the ways of the High Elven court, but -- I was too young, and the Battle, and the invasion and you don't want to hear about that -- I always -- we always, it wasn't like it was me, on my own -- honored you.

Finarfin: [acerbic]

Before we met, at the least.

Beren: [shaking his head]

-- You understand about that.

[Finarfin nods, reluctantly]

It meant a tremendous deal to Da that the ring had belonged to you as well as the Ki -- Finrod. You were one of the good guys in our stories. We were proud to be fighting for the House of Finarfin.


-- My ring? Stories?

Beren: [desperately]

Your son gave my father his ring. To us. Our House. -- And the stories. But those were earlier. A lot.



Thy thought is as the several links of a broken chain, mortal -- both disordered and impaired it seemeth.


I'm sorry, sir.


-- Your Majesty.



[grimaces. Aside:]

What doth he see in thee, or in thy folk?

Beren: [shaking his head]

I don't know.


I spake not to thee.


It's hard to hide the truth here, Sir. -- I know you'd like to hit me -- and I understand why.

Finarfin: [abruptly]

Thou didst speak of my signet. Hast it, then?

[Beren reflexively moves as if to take it off, remembers, laughs bitterly and holds up his hand for the other's inspection. Finarfin in turn reflexively reaches forward to touch it, but their hands pass through each other as though neither had substance. The Elf-king stifles a sob.]

Beren: [whispering]

You loved him best . . .

Finarfin: [shaking his head]

I ever strove -- not to remake my own father's error -- and in the Song I truly believe that I neither set one child above the rest, nor each at rivalry to another . . .

[looking off in a reverie]

. . . yet did their mother from the first declare . . . that surely I gave equal of strength and spirit to his forging, no less than she . . . for ever our thought and heart were as one, so that he might finish whate'er I did begin, of hand's work or of speech, and his joy was ever my healing, when the strife of my elders was a weariness and a chill upon my soul . . . and never were we wroth with one another . . . saving once only. -- And now the hand I did close in mine to teach the shaping stroke of burin, and laughed to see grown to match mine own, is cold as the clay that devours it -- but no colder than his soul to me -- aye, as the winds off Helcaraxe . . . and that is hardest hurt of all, and all of my doing, and naught of thine.

Beren: [softly]

Sir, he spoke to me of that -- to regret that parting -- and to claim part of the responsibility --

[Finarfin turns a quelling stare on him and he is silent]


Not merely to counsel, but to console, thou didst endeavor -- because he is thy friend.

[Beren nods, mutely]

-- Would there were one that might serve me in such wise -- !

[he walks off towards the hill; Beren rises and turns back towards the falls. His two watchers move to meet him and put their arms over his shoulders as all three return to the group.]

Warrior: [anxious]

What was that about?


He didn't know. Or -- he didn't understand.

Youngest Ranger: [fiercely]

-- He can't.

Beren: [regretful]

I think he knows that now . . .

[Returning to the chess-game, he still gives a worried look over to where Finarfin is seated with his chin resting on his forearms, staring into the middle distance.]


[Elsewhere: the council chamber]

[Luthien who has again taken the floor, stands paused in mid gesture, tearful, distraught, and indomitably stubborn.]

Nerdanel: [amazed]

He gave up a Silmaril for thee? Child, never let him go!

[Luthien stares at her, wary, not expecting anyone to be on her side any more, and thinking this has to be mockery -- the others present exchange dismayed looks: this is not working well at all.]


[Elsewhere: a wide columned space of indeterminate size, very dim, fading into shadows on all sides. Finrod is standing alone (apparently) in the middle of it, in a listening attitude]


I know this is an imposition, and I'm awfully sorry. But I do need help, and you do have leverage that I haven't. If you'll just let me explain, and then decide whether or not it's worth your while, I will be deeply in your debt . . . because I feel quite certain that once you hear the story, you'll be only too willing to lend your assistance.


And I know I'm being impossibly presumptuous, but at least I'm honest about it. And you can always send me away afterwards if I'm wrong.

[silence -- the darkness starts to acquire a texture in front of him, with a very elegant, rather ornate but quite delicate carven archway in the middle of a ghostly wall, slowly becoming visible. (In the old days such an illusion would be worked with scrims and lighting, and mirrors, instead of computer effects.) Finrod bows.]

Thank you, cousin.

[he enters the gate which stands invitingly open, and which closes behind him, the entryway fading into the greyness once again.]


[The Hall]

[Beside the fountain-basin: Beren and the Youngest Ranger are back to playing tafl; the rest of the Ten are scattered around apparently randomly, passing the flask and talking, or working on the waterfall -- but a trained eye would recognize how easily they could pull into a defensive formation should the need arise. At the moment the frieze behind is getting a high-relief sculpture of trees as a screen in front of the geometric Noldorin-style bas-relief surround, and the two artists working on the project are arguing hotly about it.]

Soldier: [defensive]

But hemlocks are bilateral. This is a completely accurate depiction of their schema.


But it doesn't look real!

[The Captain enters, Nienna's Apprentice in tow. The latter does a startled double-take on seeing what has happened to the fountain -- the Captain looks critically at the progress on it.]


I know! But why?

Third Guard: [breaking in]

Look -- you're not randomizing and that's why they look like a line of cirth instead of a forest. You've got to vary the groupings by factors of --

Captain: [to the chessplayers]

-- What are those three going on about?

Beren: [shrugs]

I think they're arguing about aesthetics and symmetry in nature. It could be they're just talking about trees. "Algorithms" never used to be part of my everyday vocabulary.

Captain: [innocent]

And it is now?

[they both grin]

So, nothing I need to worry about or get involved in.

Youngest Ranger:

No, sir. -- Not yet at least.

Captain: [to the arguing Elves, offhand]

Lady Vaire's going to have conniptions when she sees all that, you know.


We'll put it all back the way it was after, sir.

Apprentice: [still piqued]

-- "Conniptions?" What is a conniption?


Conniptions -- it's always plural.


What sort of a word is that?


You'll have to ask Beren -- it's one of his.


It's Taliska, sir. It means, um, getting really annoyed and losing your temper. With a lot of noise and so forth.


Then why not just say so?


Dunno. "Conniptions" is shorter?


Not that much shorter.

Beren: [shrugs]

I guess we just liked the way it sounded. It's one of those old words that everybody kept using. And it's not just ordinary getting-angry. It's, you know, when you . . . say, find the little kids playing sword fights with your best skinning knives because sparks come off real metal and you don't whether to yell at them for doing something so incredibly dumb because it's dangerous or because there's three hours worth of sharpening to do now to get all the nicks out.

Apprentice: [frowning]

I . . . suppose I can see what you're getting at.


Or like when you tell your brother and your younger cousin that the adults don't care if they jump on the smokehouse roof because you're angry at them for telling about the hole in the big kettle and all the hams fall down and all of you get screamed at because you should have known better than to believe him any more than he shouldn't have said it.





Or, for example, Morgoth, after discovering that someone's nicked a Silmaril off his crown.

Beren: [straight-faced]

No, none of my elders ever set the hearth-guard on us, not even when we accidentally ruined some of the laundry testing to see if wet fabric really was fireproof.


Perhaps more like Feanor discovering that someone had invited his siblings to dinner and hadn't bothered this time to give him the opportunity to turn the invitation down? -- Though I only heard about that at second-hand, so I can't vouchsafe that it would quite fit the definition.

Apprentice: [dry]

I do begin to get the picture.

[to Huan]

-- What are you about?

[Huan only grins and wags his tail -- it's perfectly obvious that he's in dog Elysium, lying down having lots of different people to pet him]


Well, run along -- go find out something useful and report back here when you have.


You're enjoying this, aren't you?

Captain: [smiling]

Clever, aren't you?

[shaking his head, Nienna's Apprentice goes off. The Captain lounges on the rocks next to where they have set up their game, watching.]


What happened to Lord Edrahil, sir?


We lost him to chess again.

[his subordinates shake their heads knowingly. Beren gives them all questioning looks]

Fingolfin's an absolute fiend for the game and not too many are good enough to give him a decent match. Those who are tend to be rather . . . wary of being conscripted, these days. Princess Aredhel saw an opening and bolted, and in the interest of winning the High King to our side he stepped into the gap. -- Not that it would take much prompting in any case. Since he's also too proud to lose quickly and get it over with, it could be quite a while.

Youngest Ranger: [gesturing to the tafl setup]

Speaking of chess -- do you want to play, sir?


And see how fast he can break his record for trouncing me? No, I'll just enjoy the calm until the next crisis hits. Who's winning?

Youngest Ranger:

We are. Beren's won four, and I've won four.

Beren: [frowning]

See, I would have said "nobody." But you're right, we're both winning. It's funny -- same situation, two totally different ways of looking at it.

Captain: [bland]

You know, that's practically profound.


I thought you liked kingstone, sir.


Oh, as a diversion it's all right. But it isn't my preferred diversion, if others are to be had. Like watching ice form, for one.



Oh. -- That boring, huh?


Ice crystals are quite fascinating, the way they sheet over a pond.


Yeah, but you usually watch stuff like that when you're waiting for something to actually happen.

[without looking up from the board]

Run into House Feanor on your mission, sir?



Ah -- no.


You didn't ask me why I asked that.


You're favoring your arm, too. What happened?


. . .


All right, that means that the reason for it was something about me.

[everyone now watching with interest -- the Captain looks away, with an expression of self-directed exasperation]

But it wasn't the Feanorians. Huh. -- Was it that guy who came in with you?


Beren --


'Cause Huan likes him. He was the one who brought Amarie in here. And I think he's the same one who brought us over here from wherever I was at the beginning, only I'm not sure because everything was really hazy then. If it was him, there was something besides, or else I don't think Huan would still be happy to see him, if he was trying to hurt you.


I don't think he's really an Elf, either.

[those around him share looks]


Why would you think that, now?

Beren: [shrugging]

Doesn't look the same as Amarie. Something about the -- not color, but something like that -- of the light. Like the difference between a real piece of rock-crystal and a piece of glass, kind of. I remember once there was a case my uncle had to try, where there was a foreign merchant who sold a brooch to somebody in Drun that turned out not to be real -- it was real, but not what it was supposed to be, see -- So anyway the barbarian guy claimed he'd been cheated in turn and gave back the money, but my uncle kept the brooch to keep him honest after and paid him for the price of the tin and the glass, which wasn't much. He showed it to us after they got back, and the funny thing was, it looked the same -- I mean, it looked right, you'd say, oh, that's gold and gems, all right -- until my aunt put hers, that came from here --

[he stops for a second, and closes his eyes]

-- came from Nargothrond and was actually made of gold and crystal, not just a thin -- wash? right? -- over the cheap metal. And then when you had the one that was solid and the fake one side by side, you'd never think that they were the same thing at all. Only this is more like the difference between a little bit of light coming from a coal, and a little bit of light coming from a candle in a lamp that's mostly closed. One of them still has more light -- only you can't see it.

[long silence -- the Ten look meaningfully at each other.]


Very interesting. -- As it so happens, you're right. -- But he'd be much obliged if you didn't mention it.



[he moves a piece on the board and takes two pawns]

Your move.

[looking up]

Is that good enough?

[the Captain nods]


No more oaths. I trust you.


Thank you.


I don't know what you guys think you're doing, let alone whether it will work, but -- thank you.

Second Guard:

I wonder how it is that you can tell? None of us could be quite sure.

[Beren shrugs again -- the Captain laughs not unkindly]


Perhaps any Man's ghost might, or perhaps . . . only one who's touched a Silmaril, or is married to an Elf, or has passed through Melian's labyrinth, or been healed by a deity's child, or . . . so many possibilities, and no way at all to put them to the proof. Normal rules don't seem to apply to Beren any more than to Huan here.

[Huan, hearing his name, looks over and thumps his tail]

That reminds me --


You kept saying something odd, but I didn't want to interrupt you any more -- you kept on saying, or seeming to say, that Huan said things. Now I presumed I was misunderstanding -- surely you meant that Luthien was with Huan when she berated you -- not that the two of them took you to task for running away.


That's right.




Uh, that's right, Huan was yelling at me too.

[realizing that this is getting him some very strange looks]

What? He can talk.


Well, to animals, of course. We've seen him speak with other kelvar, not just the pack, but -- speak? Like us?



[at their expressions]

I'm not joking. Or crazy. He doesn't do it very often. But you can ask Tinuviel, she was there too.

[everyone looks at Huan, who grins happily and whines for more attention, waving a forepaw where he's lying down]

Warrior: [smiling uncertainly, not sure if it's a joke, still]

So . . . what does he say?

Beren: [shrugging]

Different things. He told her what to do in Nargothrond, and he told me to stop being an unthinking idiot and what we had to do to get into Angband that might work. And . . .

[he gets quieter, looking into Huan's eyes]

. . . he . . . told me good-bye, that this was the fate he'd Foreseen us meeting maybe, and he was sorry he hadn't been able to save me, and that we'd meet again, and not to be afraid . . . and he called me brother.

[very subdued, they look at the Hound, and at Beren, and at each other.]

Captain: [very softly]

You said he sent the Eagles to you.

[Beren nods]

I think . . . perhaps friend Huan is lord of far more than dogs.

[into the awed, no longer doubting silence, Huan makes a short, sharp, "don't stare at me!" bark and elbows closer until he can jam his head under the Captain's arm for a hug before stretching up into a half-crouch -- then grabbing at the nearest Guard's trailing scabbard and worrying it playfully like a stick]

Fourth Guard: [dragged half-sideways]


[Beren slaps at Huan's forepaw, making him settle down]


Definitely more -- but still Lord of Dogs.

[the Captain laughs, and then suddenly freezes, shaking his head]

Captain: [carefully not looking over at Finarfin on the hill]

And now I win the distraction prize. I do hope you lot are aware that his Majesty's father is in the vicinity?

Youngest Ranger:

It's all right, sir -- they already had it out, and Beren told him off. We didn't even have to intervene.

Beren: [sighing]

For the last time -- I didn't tell him off.


Oh, I doubt it.


Doubt what?


That that was the last time. So what is it? -- Damn. I really don't need this right now.


I don't think he's going to hassle you again, Sir. I guess they only got the really short version in Tirion. He assumed it was different from the way it really happened and then Tinuviel told about it in more detail and he realized it was different from what he had imagined had happened to us and he's really upset.


He might come apologize, given how much he and Finrod have in common, unless maybe he'd think it would be too rude to bring it up to you.

[several people glance over at Finarfin in the distance]

Captain: [not sounding at all enthusiastic]

Perhaps I should go over and talk to him, then . . .

Beren: [shrugs]

He doesn't really want to talk to anybody right now, except maybe the K -- Finrod, but he doesn't really want to talk to him either . . . okay, I guess I did kind of tell him off. -- But I wasn't as tough on him as he was on himself.

Captain: [running his hands over his face]

No, I don't imagine that you were. Oh Lady -- more complications for Himself to deal with. What'll be next, I wonder?

First Guard: [looking over at the empty doorway]



Sir, you know you're never supposed to ask that.

[enter two Noldor shades, elegantly outfitted and armed -- James Purefoy (Mansfield Park, A Knight's Tale) and Ben Browder (as "Captain Larraq," Farscape) might portray them -- wearing expressions both sardonic and disdainful. Next to them, Finrod's people suddenly look a lot scruffier and more motley; Huan straightens up a bit and whines, but does not get up or make any other sound.]

Captain: [snorting]

It would be him. And he's learned to bring a second. Damn, damn, damn. Beren --


-- I know, stay out of the way.


Actually, I was going to say, use your discretion. That's the former Lord Seneschal of Formenos, who learned the hard way that ambushing an ambush of Balrogs is a bad idea, and making fun of King Finrod an even worse one -- and his counterpart from Aglon, who didn't make it to Nargothrond during the Bragollach. They're likely to say absolutely anything and do whatever they think they can get away with. I'm planning on letting someone else deal with any necessary violence myself right now.


Sounds like a good plan to me.

[the Feanorian lords stop a short ways off (ie, a safe distance) and address each other:]

Lord Seneschal of Formenos: [loudly]

What an impossible place this is -- if it weren't enough that the facilities should be dismal and the amenities nonexistent, the service too must be a bad joke on top of it all! Things were much better managed under my control at Formenos.

Lord Warden of Aglon:

Even in the barbarous circumstances of the Old Country we did better than this. -- Of course, the company at Aglon was far preferable as well.

Seneschal of Formenos:

That . . . would not be difficult to accomplish, I think. Saving yourself, of course.

Warden of Aglon: [graciously]

Likewise. -- Stars above, what have we here . . . ?

[their attempts to suddenly "notice" the others lose some of the effect as the affectation of surprise is overtaken by the real thing at the realization of the scope of the project which has taken over most of the back wall by now. The Lord Warden of Aglon rallies valiantly, though:]

I'm afraid that I can't approve of the results of such economizing efforts. Charity projects given to students never equal work created by fully-trained and reimbursed professionals.

Seneschal of Formenos: [sniffing disdainfully]

Do you think that's it?

Warden of Aglon:

Well, I can't see anyone paying for that, can you? -- At least, I would most certainly hope that they're not.

Seneschal of Formenos:

Oh, I don't know -- I've had grave doubts about the aesthetic sensibilities of our lords and masters ever since I asked the Earthqueen about those bizarre little animals with the horns and she replied, and I quote, "But they're so adorable, in a homely little way." It's one thing to say that they serve a useful purpose in irrigating impacted root systems in grasslands, but to claim to find them "perfectly charming" argues a blindness born of partiality.

Warden of Aglon:

Which kelvar were those? The ruel?

Seneschal of Formenos:

No -- though I agree, they also seem badly-constructed and unnecessary to me. If you want a goat, why not make a goat? and if a deer, well, we already have various sorts of deer. How many of these betwixt-and-between herbivores does Arda need? I was speaking of those middling grey animals, something like a cross between hounds and swine, with spiked snouts -- I've no idea what they are, since she only asked me -- with what, in my opinion, was most unseemly levity -- what I wanted to call them. I understand, however, that they are remarkably docile and requiring of attention, which may explain the attraction somewhat.

[various of their targets swallow grins]

Still, I find it difficult that that even the Powers would want this mess -- though equally, I can't believe they'd let anyone make such a chaotic construct in their offices were it not by design.

[Huan makes a plaintive grumble -- the Lord Warden of Aglon scowls at him, and he puts his head down on his forepaws for the moment, unhappy at the conflict, but not ashamed of his decisions.]

Captain: [genial]

This is "let" as in "not worth one's time or trouble to make us desist or undo, for the present," not "let" in the sense of "certainly, do whatever you please." Rather like Lady Yavanna letting Feanor make the Silmarils, as a matter of fact. We didn't ask permission to be back here, or the rest of it, any more than you've done.

Warden of Aglon: [coldly]

They seem to let you get away with an awful lot.


You haven't figured it out yet, have you?

[as they haven't gotten this cryptic remark either, the Feanorians ignore him -- the Lord Seneschal of Formenos scrutinizes the mural with a critical eye, while his junior associate strolls over to frown upon Beren.]

Warden of Aglon:

So you really have got an illegal mortal back here as well.


Is it my move or yours?

Youngest Ranger:

Er -- yours.

Warden of Aglon:


Beren: [looking up]

What? The name is Beren, by the way, since you didn't ask. Seems kind of silly bothering about titles now, but there used to be a "Lord" in front and "of Dorthonion" after, too.

Warden of Aglon:

Do you presume to ignore me, Usurper?

Beren: [sighing]

-- This again? What is it with you people? Were you even talking to me before? 'Cause it didn't sound like it.

Warden of Aglon:

Stand up when your superiors address you.

Beren: [calling over]

Were they ever in our chain of command?

[the Captain shakes his head]

Sorry. We're busy.

[the Lord Warden of Aglon steps forward and disarranges the pieces with his foot; the players exchange disgusted looks]

Warden of Aglon: [pleasantly]

Again, I repeat my request. -- Stand up when I speak to you.

Fourth Guard: [undertone]

Not what I call a request. And they complain about the language changing over there!

Beren: [tolerantly]

You know, I'd learned not to do stuff like that by the time I was eight. Of course, getting walloped, or extra chores, and having to apologize is a good incentive to mind your manners and actually think before acting on impulse.

[the Youngest Ranger starts putting the game back together, not saying a word]

Warden of Aglon: [looking down with folded arms]

You've an insolent mouth for one here but on sufferance, human lawbreaker.

Beren: [nods]

Horse thief, dog thief, jewel thief, breaking and entering, infiltration, sabotage, assassination attempts, you name it. I've got kings, warlords, demigods, princes, armies and now gods upset at me, so you're going to have to wait your turn. -- Though some of those do overlap. -- Your former bosses must be pretty steamed over the fact that I succeeded where they didn't even have the nerve to try -- I imagine that must take some of the satisfaction out of his curse coming true for Celegorm. And if even half the story's gotten around by now, people have to be looking pretty strangely at Curufin for trying to kill the one person who actually succeeded in defeating Morgoth in a duel.

Warden of Aglon:

You! What claim is this,braggart? You, defeat the Lord of Fetters?

Beren: [shaking his head]

Not me -- my wife. The King's daughter of Doriath. I just chipped off the Silmaril after she was done. -- Which is still more than any of you guys ever accomplished.

[the Warden of Aglon goes to kick Beren over where he is sitting -- which proves inadvisable, as the Sindarin Ranger quietly slams a fist -- with chessman -- into his supporting knee, knocking him painfully flat and following by leaping on him before he can recover, yanking his arm up behind his back and setting the point of a realistically-remembered dagger to the back of his neck. As his senior associate moves to assist him the Captain extends his uninjured leg, tripping him, upon which the nearest of the Ten efficiently subdue and disarm him as well, more-or-less assisted by Huan, who has bounded exuberantly in over the gameboard.]

Seneschal of Formenos: [almost speechless with fury]

You -- dishonorable ruffians --


I beg your pardon? Beren wasn't doing anything to you -- to say nothing of the rest of us.

Seneschal of Formenos:

Setting upon us with guile and greater numbers -- !


I don't understand.

Warden of Aglon: [snarling in pain]

You outnumber us, idiot!

Captain: [puzzled frown]

Er -- yes, surely you'd noticed that already? That's usually the way it is.

Seneschal of Formenos:

But -- you --


Changed the rules. It happens, in war. I should think he'd be aware of it, even if you didn't live long enough to learn that lesson.

[getting up, looking casual but in fact being careful, points to the door]

Bring them along, this is getting boring.

[his subordinates do so, with a little more enthusiasm than necessary.]

Warden of Aglon: [shouting as they drag him along]

The Weaver will hear of this!

Youngest Ranger: [patiently, still holding him up at knifepoint]

Yes, milord. I'm sure she will, if she hasn't heard you already.

[over on the hill, Finarfin is jarred out of his introspection by the ruckus, and stares over through the shadows at the fray]

Seneschal of Formenos: [ice]

I will bring my complaints to the Lord of the Halls himself, and your lord will be answerable for your behaviour.


Can you be sure to do it while we're around? I want to hear what his Lordship has to say after hearing you complain.


I'll wager the buckle with lions on it that I used to have that he'll ask, "Why are you wasting my time with this?"


Hm, no, I think it'll be, "You should be grateful you got off as lightly as you did, since you won't the next time you try kicking one of their friends in the face." -- Pitch 'em out.

[the Nargothronders expel their rivals out into the corridor, where the two other Noldor shades pick themselves up and after a moment's temptation, consider the advisability and limp off, their expressions boding no good. As the victorious party returns to their companions, Finarfin catches the eye of the Captain and beckons him over to the hill; after a moment's hesitation the latter obeys the summons. As Beren's opponent kneels down and finishes restoring their match:]

Beren: [undertone]

Is he going to be okay?

Youngest Ranger: [whispering]

He's too swarn to give in for anything that would in life heal of its own. He'd rather just put up with it until he can forget about it. Mind over mind, I guess you'd call it.


Does it hurt, to . . . disappear?

Youngest Ranger:

No. A little bit disorienting, that's all. It's just a matter of honour not to give anything he isn't prepared to take.


I see.

[still worried, nodding towards where the Captain is coming to stand before the living King]

What about . . . ?

Youngest Ranger: [shrugging]

You didn't have any trouble managing him.


No, but -- he wasn't my boss, ever, either. If I was his liege it would have been different.

[he sighs and frowns at the board, trying to remember what he was going to do, since nothing else is in his control. The camera's focus shifts to the hill, where the Captain bows, his expression a bit wary, to Finarfin:]


Dreamt I, or did in truth behold, deed of mayhem at yonder egress?


I wouldn't call it mayhem, sir -- a spot of rowdiness, perhaps. But nothing so much as mayhem.

Finarfin: [disapproving]

Thou dost seem somewhat worse for wear, and yet hast not learnt lesson to avoid affray, than enter it. For I am certain thou dost go somewhat halt, nor that my fancy, for all thou wouldst conceal.


Oh, that's nothing. That lot can't touch me. -- Couple of scratches from a friendly set-to with security.


Art not content to be rebel, and thy offense forgiven, but still must thou challenge the gods? Or dost thou jest? -- I cannot longer tell, with thee.

Captain: [mischievous]

Don't worry about it, sir -- sometimes I can't either.

Finarfin: [grim smile]

And were those known to me, that thy confederates did thus discharge from here in such high-spirited glee?


I'm not sure, my lord. I can't recall if they ever visited the House in the old Days, and you might have met them around the City, but I don't really know. They're followers of your eldest brother. They felt like starting some trouble, beginning with Lord Beren, so we obliged.



I ken not whether I should commend, else condemn -- yet neither, I deem, will make any difference to thy deeds.


I'm afraid not, my lord.

Finarfin: [dryly]

Nay, and why should it, at this late pass, that did not formerly?

[the Captain winces a little. Pause]

Captain: [hopeful]

Was that all, sir?


Nay, thou shalt not 'scape so easily, lad.

[checks briefly, and continues with a faint grimace:]

When I did ban you from my doors, I spake in anger, not in considered judgment.


But not without justice.


Still 'twas of wrath, that word of mine, and so I would temper it with mercy: thou mayest of a certain come to see thy kin, when ever thou dost will, when thou departest hence.


Thank you, sir.

[he sighs]

-- Assuming they want anything to do with me, of course.

Finarfin: [dryly]

Make no doubt of that.


And that indeed hath weight upon my clemency -- for I would not gladly face thy sister with such a decision of my making!


At least I've given up slamming doors when I lose my temper.

[Finarfin gives him a sidelong look]

It doesn't do for a senior officer -- far less for a spy.


The singular -- openness -- of these Halls is far from convenient, and eke most disquieting to we that are little used.

Captain: [sympathetic]

That it can be.

Finarfin: [sternly]

Yet still thou shalt not have place nor post again, among my people, that hast deserted aught thou didst have.

[the Captain nods -- silence. Relenting:]

-- Unless thou canst not find other station, and work betimes. There shall be place always at hearthside for thee.

Captain: [gently]

I thank you, my lord. But that will not be necessary, I think. I wouldn't want to take anyone's job, not just hers, and I don't know that I'd be comfortable peeling potatoes and plucking fowl -- not that I've objection to such work as such, but I doubt that, quite frankly, anyone else would be quite easy around me -- or that I could keep from trying to reorganize any situation you put me into, for efficiency as I saw it.


I would not have thee forwandered and wanting for want of friends.


You needn't fear for that, Sir. Aman's a big place, and I know how to live off the land: so longas I don't kill any white deer by mistake, I should be quite all right.


Thou wouldst live as our ancestors in the wilds, ere thou'd dwell 'neath my roof?

Captain: [still more gently]

Would you make me a lord, set among your highest counsellors, and give me authority to do as I saw fit throughout the land?

[they look at each other without speaking]

I didn't expect so.

Finarfin: [cool]

So it is power thou dost hunger for, more than all else.

Captain: [untroubled by the accusation]

My lord, I know as well as any that you never coveted power over others, nor pride of place, nor anything saving the first love of your father. And yet -- now that you have had this task of rule, that never was wanted, and surely cannot be quite so light a burden, despite the peace of Valinor without us to trouble it, could you ever set it aside, and gladly return to the quiet of study and song and your arts, leaving it to another while you stood by powerless to correct?

[Finarfin starts to say something, and cannot.]

Interesting -- it is not only we unhoused who cannot speak counter to what is held at heart, in this place.

[the King gives him a Look of mingled exasperation and admiration]


Was't ever so, that thou wert so wise, and only kept thy counsel to thine own self, in former Day?


I . . . don't recall, truly, any more. I don't remember that it mattered much to me, one way or the other, what was said by you and your brothers, and your father, save that it distressed you, and Lady Earwen, and the children, and so us for your sakes, that were your people -- except to make remark upon someone else's words to amuse those near me. The arguments and rivalries didn't change the fact that I had to make sure there was meat on the table, and didn't prevent me from riding out in the wind and the light of the Trees, or wandering through the salt-marshes when it looked like the water was the sky for stars.

Finarfin: [shaking his head]

How dost thou support this, that wert ever restive within doors? Is't not passing heavy on thy soul?

Captain: [frankly]

Yes. -- But I have friends, and we are not wanting in amusement, and it is only for a time. I can wait.


If mine eldest son's true-love reconcileth not with him, I think he will not go from here.


And thou wilt bide here as well. -- Why? Why hast thou not reproach, nor for this, nor for the manner of thy -- death?

Captain: [after a brief pause]

I would not, I think ever have cared for greater matters, had not the world we knew ended, and I caught by the lure of lands still more strange and distant. And then -- there was need, and I understood it, and my skills as slayer of birds and deer made an obligation to protect as well as feed in time of famine, and it turned out that I could see better than most the best ways to do that. And my attentiveness, in noting this Elf's scowl or that one's smile, that had been no more than a private aside to friend on envy, or alliance, or hope -- proved matter much more serious, when we were at war. And your son led us through all of it, the Ice, and the Dark, and the bitter days when we nearly slew each other in the Old World, before the Deed of Fingon, and trusted me with the defense of his kingdom, for many a Great Year -- nor blamed me, when I failed in the end.



I have wept for thee, as for all my rungate House, in anger and in soreness of heart and in bitter shame that might not save ye from that madness. And now -- but only now -- have I wept for thee. But though it be but little of while, think it no lesstrue than those most selfish tears. I shall yet fear for thee, though thou dost urge other.


My lord, please don't. I'm sure you have troubles enough with your family and Tirion and all. There are possibilities, prospects, that may come to pass. And if not -- there are worse things than to be known as "the lunatic who set out to map the entire continent on foot," after all.


And if it cometh to worse pass than that?


Thou dost not speak thy thought, then.


I do not need to -- and I would rather not distress you further. -- But it's true.

[Finarfin discreetly rubs at the corner of his eye. Glancing over towards the waterfall:]

Sir, will you kindly excuse me? My friends are growing concerned, and the Beoring most of all.

[the Noldor King nods without speaking -- as he turns to go:]

Er -- should I pack a lunch, my lord?


Thy pardon?


When I come to see my family. You said you didn't want me scrounging off the House, and so I thought maybe I should arrange to bring my own meals along.

[he looks perfectly serious -- Finarfin is not fooled by this apparent innocence]


Nay, I had forgotten how much we shall have missed thy freakish jests as well. An thou didst come and partake of none but thine own provender, and such insult to the House revealed as mine own insult unto thee, I had ne'er heard end of it from thy mother nor my son's mother. -- But --

[forestalling with a raised hand]

-- an thou wouldst bring, as guest-gift, such kill as thou might, brace of partridge or other thou hast taken, nor should we take amiss, nor seek to find insult where none be meant. My son hath given thee discretion in great matters -- I will not doubt you in such lesser ones. Go, join thy friends, I'll not trouble thee, nor they need send rescue -- not that I deem thou truly needest such, that hast held command over many, and come back from the War far changed from the youth that left us, though no more, verily, than Enedrion, that hath learned to serve without argument nor haughty look, though stranger yet that he should cast himself willingly against me for thy sake, that formerly had never a care for any whose art was not noble nor enduring.

[at the Captain's surprised glance -- faint smile]

-- Nay, didst thou think I perceivéd not? Peace -- go to thy companions.


Will you stay here, alone, my lord?

[he looks meaningfully over to the falls]


I should not be so welcome as thou dost deem, I misdoubt.


If I say so, you will be, sir.


Belike -- belike after. For the nonce -- I would have peace.

Captain: [bowing]

We'll try to be quieter, then. Afraid I can't promise anything, though. Especially if Huan gets going again.

[Finarfin waves him off, struggling to restrain an inappropriate smile]


[Elsewhere: the council chamber]

[things have settled back into the everyone-talks-at-once, usually with energetic gestures, and nobody listens, mode. Somehow Aule's Apprentice has inserted himself into the discussion, by means of an empty chair and assuming that he must have something to contribute, most likely. Overlapping:]


Even if nothing had transpired to interfere, you wouldn't have had more than a half-yen at the most --


I think that you're simply wrong, dear, in your opinion that his commitment is equal to yours --

Luthien: [interrupting, to Irmo]

-- But if you consider how many years many couples spend not seeing each other, then fifty or sixty years all together can come out the same almost --

Nerdanel: [aside]

Thy words cut deeper than any chisel --

Namo: [quietly to his wife]

Excuse me, I need to check on things.

Vaire: [nodding -- to Luthien:]

But he did leave you repeatedly --


Not because he wanted to.

Assistant: [with a slight emphasis on her title, not enough to come across as rude]

Your Highness -- no one forced him to part from you, by means of capture or other duress. I'm afraid that the fact of Lady Vaire's assertion is not open to denial.


Yet, sir, nor mayest thou deny, that to go from another for fear of that one's further safekeeping, is far other than to go from one for love of another, or others, or for seeking after property, or vengeance, or to make such departure, and compel choice of same upon another, in manner of test, that one does truly love -- all these be most greatly differing from the former?


And yet this Man too did in fact leave her for the same piece of property, and revenge --

Ambassador: [reluctant both to contradict a Power, and to defend Beren]

But, my Lord, there might indeed be said to be compulsion, in the choice my King set upon him --

[the Apprentice comes in, answering Namo's summons, and looking extremely harried as he goes over to the Lord of the Hall's bench]

Namo: [peremptory]

All right, what's going on now?


Erm . . .

[he looks rather panic-stricken]

Namo: [exasperated]

The rogue? Remember? That's one of the four things you're supposed to be doing -- waiting for security to check in, taking complaints, forestalling trouble and running errands as needed. How come you're so distracted all the time?


It -- isn't all the time, my Lord: by my calculations it's only fifty-seven percent of the time --

[at Namo's Look]

Sorry, Sir.




Yes? -- Ah, no -- I mean, nothing is going on, the rogue hasn't been seen again yet, and I did put a stop to the rioting in the halls. That is to say --

[he fumbles around, the Lord of the Halls covers his eyes, and the Weaver is sympathetic in turn:]


Don't worry, dear, we understand. Just do the best that you can -- I don't expect the impossible of you.

Aule's Assistant: [undertone]

And a good thing too!

[the Apprentice looks even more abashed and defensive]


Who was it this time?


Fingolfin's daughter and her recusant husband. At least to start with --

Vaire: [shaking her head]

Whatever possessed that boy to introduce such an appalling pastime? And of all the people to think of it! And he isn't even embarrassed about it.

Namo: [lacing her fingers in his own consolingly]

You must admit, though, they get it over with a lot faster now that he devised swords. At least we don't get the shouting matches that go on until they run out of insults. I think the shortest one went on for a fortnight nonstop.


-- Yes.

[they share one of those rueful smiles typical of those who share a longtime work/life experience, like ships' crew, or parents. To the Apprentice:]

Just -- what's that expression you like to use? -- "keep bringing out the fires," or however it goes.


"Putting out," -- it comes from summertimes in droughty regions, or an alternate possibility is that it derives from the buildup of internal heat in mulch heaps, but in either case it comes from agrarian societies lacking the ability to reliably control the weather, or so Finrod informs me. Ah -- sorry, my Lady, I don't expect you're interested in that.

Namo: [apparently completely serious -- surely not with any wicked amusement?]

Look at it this way -- you may be obliged to spend time with the involuntarily discorporate, but at least you're picking up cultural contexts for your trivia that you couldn't easily get out of the Archives.


Erm . . . yes, Sir.

Luthien: [offended]

What's wrong with being dead?

[he gives her a nervous look and laugh]

I'm serious! Why does he say it like you think it's punishment?


Ah -- please --

[he looks over at the Lord of the Halls, who just raises his eyebrows back at him -- no help there.]

I -- please don't get angry, Princess Luthien, it's -- just -- not normal, for people to be going about without any bodies on.


Mom always said there were lots of spirits in Valinor who weren't solid and lived in the air.

[her compatriot the Ambassador nods agreement; Irmo covers a slight smile, and the Earthlord's aide is far too bland in his expression to be innocent of amusement at his counterpart's discomfiture.]

Manir and Suruli, she called them. Oh, and some who live in the water, and simply are water, or more like waves in the water. No bodies either -- do you act different around them?

Apprentice: [desperately]

Yes, but they never had them -- they didn't have them to start with and then lose them.


What difference does it make?


It's -- it's just creepy. It's not the way things are supposed to be!

[Luthien gives him a narrow Look]


You seem almost scared. Why? Does it make you think it might happen to you? Or have you been listening to too many spooky stories about people getting killed after seeing a ghost or being led into some danger or being possessed? I bet I can tell you plenty more you've never even heard of, about headless warriors and haunted bridges and the ghosts of bulls on the roof, and I bet I can even make up some more just as good as those, too!

Apprentice: [austerely]

From my studies in the Archives I know that not all of those are fiction, your Highness.


Yes, but more of them are than aren't. Maybe you don't sit up late making up stories in Valinor, but trying to come up with an even better story than the next person is something we all do -- mortals and Elves -- in Beleriand. I can see you know I'm right.


Are you really that afraid of us? Even you Valinoreans?

[she turns to look right at Nerdanel, catching her in a slight flinch]

It seems strange that you'd be haunted without even being haunted, after a manner of speaking!

Nerdanel: [with a wry smile]

Nay -- for in the reality beneath the Moon and Sun, few needs must think upon such matters, when they are not forced upon our recollection. -- Or so it is for many, I do believe.

Luthien: [looking back at Nienna's Apprentice]

Why? Have any of us "discorporates" actually done anything to harm you here?

[the Apprentice looks guilty]

Have I done anything to you except "yell at" you? -- which is only what I'd do if I were here in the flesh as well.


Well -- no, your Highness.


So what's the problem, hm? Why are you so troubled by us? You're not really scared, are you? You seem more disgusted and curious at the same time.

Apprentice: [pleading]

My Lord --

[the Lord of the Halls shakes his head]


When you arranged with my sister to take you on, you already knew she spends much of her time here. Did you think she was going to leave you home to sweep out her Halls or something to teach you patience? This is another learning experience. Now either answer Luthien's question, or don't.

Apprentice: [sighing]

Yes, Sir.

[back and forth between Luthien and Vaire]

-- Partly. It's also the constant complaining that I have to listen to -- not from you, your Highness -- about how there aren't any bright colors or lights or proper sensations -- though part of that's the decor, begging your pardon, ma'am -- and how dull and boring it is with nothing to do except remember and talk -- at least until your cousin arrived -- though I do agree -- well, think that they have a point, at least -- with the Sindar who say it would be much improved by some potted plants, at least --

Vaire: [nettled]

If you want plants, you can figure out a way to make them grow in here.


-- If you haven't enough to keep you busy, that is.

Apprentice: [getting distracted]

What if we took species that already thrive underground and, oh, sort of changed them to make them look like ones from Outside? I'll bet that --

Vaire: [half-rising]

No! It's hard enough ensuring that fungus doesn't grow in here, given the atmospheric conditions, I won't have you encouraging it on purpose!

Apprentice: [meekly]

Yes, my Lady.

Aule's Assistant: [thoughtful]

What about artificial plants? It seems to me, -- subject of course to your approval, noble ones -- that one might be able to fabricate versions of imperishable materials that would be equal to, or even superior, to the originals in appearance.

[Nienna's student raises his hands]


I don't know that anyone would be pleased by that. It's the absence of growing things, you see. I try to explain that, well, these are the Halls of the Dead, you know.


-- Primitives.

[the Doriathrin lord gives him an affronted look -- his Princess is less inhibited by reverence]


We are not! We had exactly the same problem in Menegroth, and we solved it in several ways. One's to bring in live plants in vessels, and just keep them in for a little while, and then put them out in the sun again after. Cut greenery also works nicely to embellish a hall seasonally.


But then they dry out, and bits drop off them onto the floor, and have to be cleaned up.

Luthien: [shrugging]

So? Anyway, that's just one thing you can do. What we mostly did, was to make sculptures like he --

[nods towards Aule's aide]

-- was talking about. My mother designed a lot of it, and the Dwarven architects built in spaces for the trees and things to go, and some of it was carved out of stone, and then painted, and some of it was enameled metal attached on, and some of it's glass with colors and wire inside to make the leaf-veining. There's all sorts of things one can do.

Nerdanel: [sniffing]

Myself, I have always favoured the use of stones most aptly colored in themselves, the which possess inherently the fitting sheen, as though nature indeed had intended for the purpose of the work.


But it's very slow, 'Danel. If you can make exactly the hue you need, why not do it? Why waste time hunting about for it?


My thoughts exactly, Sir.

Nerdanel: [obstinate -- an old argument, obviously]

Yet must I aver, my Lord, that never doth the made piece hold full richness, nor true depth nor variety, that stone which hath grown by longsome layering and the free changes of the water, and fire, and weight upon it, shall inevitably compass.


But it's exactly the same process! Only faster, in the workshop. I really do believe that you only think you can tell the difference because you know that one's synthetic.


Well, and of course, they're never exactly the same as real leaves. But they're pretty, and it's fun, in a way, to have something made out of something that it isn't, especially if it's very different. It wouldn't be half as interesting if they were made of wood, even if you could make ones that looked so much like them out of wood, which you can't, because it isn't translucent.


Nor is there translucency in paint!

Luthien: [shaking her head]

You can make it like enamel, in thin layers, and mix mica in with it. Daeron came up with that, to make letters show up on a dark background.

Ambassador: [sadly reminiscent]

-- He was so frustrated that people only ever used the ideas for monograms on doors and such.


Or paint over metal leaf and have the shininess show through that way. We put stars on ceilings with that.

[looking up]

I bet you could do that in here. And not as much work as any of the rest of it.

[Vaire and the others look up as well, frowning thoughtfully; -- maybe, maybe -- ]


Though it would appear terribly derivative, I fear, as though you were trying to copy Varda's designs for Taniquetil.


But the stars are her designs, so any stars are going to be based on her work. You might as well say that she was being repetitive herself and criticize the inside of the mansion, at that. -- I think it would be very attractive, Vaire.

Orome: [half-smiling]

Remind me: how did this turn into a discussion of naturalistic decorating styles?


Very good question.

[he gives the Apprentice a raised eyebrow]


I think I should be getting back to keep an eye on the stone in case anyone tries to report in.

[he makes an unceremonious exit/retreat]

Irmo: [to his brother]

Do you really think Nia has any hope of succeeding there?

Namo: [remanifesting his mug]

If not, she's going to be taking me on next.


[The Hall]

[A new individual arrives on scene -- but after a brief alert everyone relaxes and the outer sentinels do not change position to block the newcomer. She is another shade, but somewhat different in appearance from any other Elves we have seen so far -- for one thing, she's a good bit shorter (though still taller than Beren) as well as barefoot. There should be a somewhat windblown, beachcomber look to her outfit, and her jewelry is all of strands of small pearls. Her speech is not as archaic as the other Valinorean Eldar, but should have somewhat of a precise intonation -- slightly old-fashioned" in tone. Julia Ormond might be good in this part.]

Teler Maid:

So you're the ones who have been running and shouting in the halls. I might have known it.

Captain: [dignified]

We were not "running and shouting in the halls." We were conducting an experiment. Wh --

[they tend to cut over each other's sentences like relatives or very old acquaintances often do, without noticing or taking offense.]

Teler Maid:

You could have fooled me. Is --


-- So what are you doing here, Curlew?

Teler Maid: [rolling her eyes]

It is not "Curlew."


-- Sanderling? -- Murrelet? -- Lapwing? It's got to be some sort of shorebird, you're standing on one leg again.

[she adjusts her posture]

Teler Maid: [mock exasperation]

It is Maiwe, and well you know it.

Captain: [shrugs]

Curlew, Sea-Mew -- you can't expect me to keep them straight. Next thing you'll be saying "jib" and "clinker" like those are real words that mean things.

Teler Maid:

I was going to rail at you, you know.


Rail -- isn't that some kind of waterbird? -- Any particular reason? I mean, you could do it now, if you wanted.

Teler Maid:

Are you just going to keep on being silly?


Well -- until you get really annoyed. Or perhaps a little bit before that. So why are you here? -- Does it have anything to do with why you wanted to yell at me?

Teler Maid:

Not you personally. All who were disturbing of the peace.


If you're here, does that mean that he is back, as well?


You didn't hear?

Teler Maid:

Hear what?


Er . . .

[she looks up, much as Finrod did just before Finarfin's entrance, and simply disappears, not as the Powers, but gradually blending into the background]


-- Wow. -- Who was that?


Ah --

[he looks extremely perturbed]

Maiwe -- ? Are you all right?

[she does not reappear]

She -- used to be a colleague of mine. I -- don't --

[Beren looks at the Sindarin Ranger, who only shrugs helplessly]

-- Ah. I wonder -- I'll bet that's --

[the Captain grimaces, shaking his head and calls to the empty air:]

-- Maiwe, if it's the Lord Seneschal again, don't worry -- he can't hurt you if you don't allow him, and he'll probably be so embarrassed he'll ignore you anyway. And if he isn't we'll send him packing.


What --

[at that moment the Steward reenters the Hall, looking quite pleased with himself. The Captain puts his forehead down on his knee, grimacing.]

First Guard:

Hullo, Sir. We didn't expect to see you back any time soon.


We thought you were playing chess with the King's uncle.


I was. I won.

Second Guard:

How, Sir?

Steward: [a trifle smugly]

That is for me to know, and the High King to endeavour to find out.

[on the further side of one of the columns, the Sea-elf girl reappears and leans back against it, her arms folded tightly about herself, visibly in the throes of indecision]


Edrahil . . .


What? -- Do not, I insist, involve me in another such scheme which requires me not to come to your assistance while you get cut to ribbons. I have better things to do, believe me on that --

[the newest visitor makes up her mind and leaves the shelter of the pillar, coming out to confront him in silence]

Captain: [unnecessarily]

A mutual acquaintance of ours is here and has been asking after you.

[they are staring at each other without hearing his words, she still with folded arms and and narrowed eyes, he in total shock and disbelief]

Teler Maid: [grim satisfaction]

I see that you are returned at last.

[the Steward continues to stare at her, completely stunned. Beren gets up and goes over to him, looking worried, but not interrupting]

Teler Maid: [acerbic]

I suppose I should not be surprised that you have no greeting for me, when you had no farewell before.

Captain: [pleading]

Maiwe . . .

[it takes the Steward several attempts before he can manage to say anything]

Steward: [horrified]

But how -- how long -- ?

Teler Maid: [tossing her head]

As to your second, for as long as you have been gone; as to your first, -- can you not guess, then?

Steward: [in denial]

But -- I made certain that your family were all safe, and . . . they were as certain as I, that you . . . were at your cousins' home in Tirion . . .

[he breaks off, grimacing at his own words]

Teler Maid: [sharply]

I do have other friends, you know. -- Or I did.

[he flinches again]

After that our last fight

I returned home, but did not wish to hear my kin tell me what I already knew, that there was for us not a jot of hope of any bliss, and I went to a certain house of my acquaintance, where my childhood friends would not tell me aught whatsoever, and I might have some small amount of peace before going back to my work where I must see you again.

[with a certain bitter satisfaction:]

And we went out on their boat, and you were not there to dispraise it, or to speak with displeasure of the weather, or the canting of the deck, or the noise of the wind, or our crude chanteys, or the food -- and we had but put in to port when the Lights went out, and I would have gone back to make sure mischance had not befallen you, but my friends persuaded me to wait, that it was not safe, and so we waited for word, and then --

[she stops, not broken up, just angry, staring at him with tight lips]

Steward: [shaking his head in dismay]

But why -- why not -- why are you here yet, and not returned to your parents? Why should you remain in this place for so long, when no Doom bars you from going Outside?

Teler Maid: [ice]

Because I did not wish to learn that you had been party to it.

[he staggers, taking an involuntary step backwards and would fall if Beren did not catch him]


What's wrong, sir?

[the Steward only shakes his head, overcome, leaning on Beren's shoulder]


Steward: [choked]

If -- if you had somehow survived your encounter with the Wolf, and the King of Doriath had not -- would you not judge there was something far amiss between you, if your lady's first assumption was that -- you were in some way directly responsible?


Uh -- yeah. Wait -- I know you weren't part of the Kinslaying, so -- oh. She thinks you were -- ?!

[to the Sea-elf, urgently:]

No, he didn't, and not only that -- he would never, ever do anything like that. He's one of the most upright and kind people I've ever known in my whole life.

[She gives him a look of increasing curiosity]

Teler Maid:

Who are you?



The reason he's dead.

[the Steward makes an exasperated noise]

Teler Maid:

Are you a creature of the Enemy? For you do look somewhat like, at least in accord with the tales I have heard.


Uh . . .

Captain: [solemnly]

I assure you, the Lord Beren is no more nor less of an Orc than I am.

[she gives him a sharp look in turn]

Teler Maid:

You are making fun of me.


I'm making a joke, is all. Have I ever made fun of you?

Teler Maid: [sulkily]

You were much used to tease me.


To make you laugh. And you gave back just as good, hm?

[she nods, quickly and unwillingly, and moves on]

Teler Maid:

Then what manner of creature are you? Surely our folk who remained have not become so rough and wild in the meanwhiles!

[Beren shakes his head]


I'm a Man. Or was -- the ghost of one, now.

Teler Maid:

You are one of the Secondborn?!

[amazed, she reaches unthinkingly towards Beren; equally unthinkingly, the Steward deflects her hand before she can touch him]

Teler Maid:

Do not presume to push me about so, my lord!

[he freezes, expressionless]


My lady -- please -- it wasn't you, people have been trying to beat me up a lot and it was just a reflex.

Teler Maid: [speaking to him, but looking at the Steward]

I am no lady. I am a "humble rustic," and no more, who should be more comprehensible of the signal honour done me by the King's house, in securing for me such a fine post and an opportunity to raise myself beyond my simple origins in the home of his daughter.

[the Steward hides his face against Beren's shoulder]


Did he -- did you -- really say those things to . . . ?

[head still bowed, the Steward nods]

Teler Girl:

Does he not speak slightingly to you, then, nor is ever critical of your words and manners in the sight of all?

Beren: [honestly]

-- Sometimes.


But that isn't the whole of it by a long shot. He died rather than betray me, or King Finrod -- and that means way more than just words.


Teler Maid:

Lord Ingold is dead? He is here as well?

[for the first time she looks more upset than angry]


He's the one mostly responsible for the disorderly conduct that bothered you. It wouldn't have occurred to us to try without him.


You . . . did not know we were here, ere now?

Teler Maid: [sniffing]

I keep to myself: I have no wish to be snubbed by Exiles here, as if this were Tirion. I only came to complain to Lady Nienna about the noise having resumed once again.


But even if you didn't realize -- I'm sure someone would have told you it was us.

[the Sea-elf looks simultaneously guilty and stubborn]

Teler Maid: [defiantly]

I never asked.


-- Oh.

Steward: [with difficulty]

Forgive me --

Teler Maid: [cutting him off]

-- Still you would tell me then, fine sir, what I should say or must think? I have a name -- however little you have liked it, and called me "a half-savage, yet" for taking it to my heart -- and if you would have me hear you, then needs must address me by it.

[he stares at her, unable to keep going, and she tosses her head]

I did not think you would. -- Or that any word of mine would make you change your ways.

[he shakes his head helplessly]

What, then? No words at all for me? Not even to answer me, that I may have peace from wondering, if you were among those who slew us in the Darkness?


I swear to you -- upon mine own name -- never have I raised bow or blade against any of our people, in life or in death, saving in gaming or in defence.

Teler Maid:

Defence! Was that not what it was called, when Fingon and the companions of Fingon came to kill us too?

[he does not say anything more]

Why could you not even come to speak to me, not even to bid me farewell before your going?


I -- we did not think it would be so long. -- Home before the last Leaf fell, some of us said at the outset, and thought it possible.

Teler Maid:

And still you did not think to seek me out, and ask me whether I would or no?

Steward: [as though unable not to answer her]

As we had fought, and you were angry enough to depart the House that we might not meet even though it be a high Feast, and your Lady deeming you so aggrieved that she did chide me for it though I a guest at table, and the chill of your temper like the mist off the surf -- I judged it should be "no." -- Should it have been other?

Teler Maid: [tossing her head]

Again you presume to know my mind without my speaking it. -- And no farewell, not even in anger, that would have told you in the seeking-after and not finding, that I was not in Tirion that hour -- ?

Steward: [in the same compelled manner]

It was a madness upon us, like a fire within our hearts, scorching away all other thought and reason. And it seemed to me that I and all of us might return in blaze of glory, having done deeds worthy of the gods, and I should make the songs of this our victory that every lip should sing -- and then you would no longer dare disdain me, nor turn from me in the coldness of your anger, and in your eyes I should see naught but myself reflected in your admiration. And so in pride, and anger, and insanity -- I left without farewell.


Teler Maid: [softly]

You speak of fire, my lord. -- Do you know how I was thieved of my body, while you listened to the words of the Spirit of Fire and dreamed your bright dreams of battles and great journeys? To make the defenders leave off the fight, or else choose betwixt protecting ships and breathing children, his people fired the homes along the waterfront, and set all quayside alight, and the rafters burned, and the wooden galleries that crossed the streets between the upper stories, and I was trapped when I would flee, under the wood and the fallen tiles --

[he shakes his head but she does not stop]

-- and none could hear my screams above the roaring of the flames. What was I to know, but that youwere amongst the ones of those warriors, that numbered so many of them as your friends? -- And ever did speak, even as those friends, speak slightingly of our poor Wanderers', Thirdlings', Latecomers' ways?

[he opens his mouth and tries to say something, but it is not audible -- perhaps her name]

And what of you, fine sir, Edrahil Enedir's son of House Mahtan? Did you find glory, beyond the waves, did you find what you dreamt of that I could never give you, enough honour and power and admiration to quench your limitless thirst, and deeds enough to busy your restive heart, that would not rest beside mine, and yet would not set me free -- was there wealth and renown enough to please you in those lands? And at the end did you meet your Doom in manner fit for the songs of your leader's boast, that all have heard, living and dead? What mighty deed for our people's remembering cost you your life? Surely it was no panicked, headlong flight into a trap, like a fish into the nets -- not you!

Steward: [shaking his head]

You -- you don't want to -- to know about such things --

[she stamps her foot impatiently]

Teler Maid:

O most wise and clever and eloquent of Elves, when we two were on the green earth together, it was you who would speak, whether I wished to hear or to speak myself, and who would be silent when I prayed you speak to me, and not to turn your face aside, or speak to another as if I were not there, for your ill-temper and your pride. And now you will answer me, will you or nill you, and you will not tell me what it is that I do not wish to hear.

[he answers as before, unwillingly but under compulsion]


No songs will be made of our end -- I died unknown, a thrall, enchained, blind, my voice long worn away in weeping, food for a hellspawn beast, and none of my days' work across the years before meant anything by comparison, nor shall I be remembered for accomplishment in the places where I served, nor any there mark or miss my leaving.

Beren: [earnest]

Sir -- that -- that can't be true. They'll find out how much they needed you, if they haven't already.

Teler Maid: [chill]

And -- in all those days and years -- was there ever an hour in which you thought of another left behind, or missed me?


There were few that I did not. When I could no longer call your face to mind or make your voice sound in my thoughts I remembered the Sea, and dreamed of the gulls' cry until my turn came to perish.

Teler Maid:

But you have always feared the Sea.

[he nods. Wonderingly:]

-- I did not know that until I only now did utter it. I thought . . . that you considered it but a dull and formless wasteland, unlike the gracious halls of stone . . . and thus you would not willingly go to it. And all the time -- it was but fear, that you hid in guise of pride.

[he cannot answer. Suddenly loud:]

Edrahil! What will you do to me, mad lovesick fool that I was, and am, that left me so long cold and grey before I was brought to this, and now are come back to trouble my rest and drive me mad once more with your aloofness and your mistral moods, that I cannot follow, being that they change quicker than the wind, so that not even my namesake gull could match them?

[he clutches Beren's arm harder, too stricken to notice or care about the audience or the audience's distress]


Please, don't --

[she turns her attention towards him again, waiting, and he sighs]

I was going to ask you not to be angry with him any more about leaving, but that isn't it, is it? You two had problems way back before the Return. That was stupid of me. But he is different now.

[She moves even closer to them and reaches her hand out to Beren, brushing aside his hair to get a better look at his ear and touching his unshaven cheek -- not in a rude way, but very childlike in her curiousity -- while staring into his eyes. (Note: all her gestures and attitudes should be very natural and unformal -- it is only dealing with her ex that she is tense and self-conscious.) The Steward checks his defensive reaction, looking away with an anguished expression.]

Teler Maid: [amazed]

-- Aftercomer. You are so very different from they who company you.

Beren: [nods]

So are you.

Teler Maid: [suspicious]

Howso mean you?

Beren: [smiling]

You don't tower over me.

Teler Maid:

Are all your folk so short, then?


Nah, I'm about in the middle. I was kind of tall for my tribe, 'cause my mother's folk are tall, as tall as Noldor most of them, but the Haladin are a lot shorter than we are. I should explain -- the People of Haleth are another tribe of Men who live in a different part of Beleriand. So did Hador -- that's Ma's side -- but they lived in another different part, up by the High King's holdings.

[she frowns at him doubtfully]

I probably shouldn't have brought that up, because of the Kinslaying.

[the Sea-elf continues to give him a dubious Look]

Only maybe you don't know about how Fingon is the High King now -- only that's just the High King in Middle-earth, not here, of course. Or does everybody here know about King Fingolfin? Not that this is really relevant . . .

[he trails off]

Teler Maid:

I am not following your words well -- but I think that it all comes to your first "no."

Beren: [wry]

Everyone here will tell you that I do a real good job of confusing people with my explanations, not just Lord Edrahil here.

Teler Maid: [challengingly]

You know that he was one of those most resenting of the notion that your people should have our place, and those lands of Middle-earth that had been ours, and should have been yet, had we not ever crossed over the Sea?


Yeah. He told me all about how Morgoth used to play on each person's vanity and goals like a harp, even the ones that he never said out loud, and how nobody realized it until it was all over.

Teler Maid: [short laugh]

If he had but listened half so well to me!

[None of them can say anything to this -- she turns away distractedly and begins to wander off, oblivious of the curious and concerned looks of former acquaintances.]

Steward: [whispering]

Maiwe . . .

[she turns back and looks at him, waiting.]

Did you truly think -- that I had taken part -- in those murders?


Teler Maid:

Sometimes. -- When I was most particularly angry, or surpassingly sad. -- Which was the most of the time. -- I want to see Lord Ingold.


He's off on a mission at the moment.

Teler Maid:

What quaint manner of jargon is that?


Sorry. He's gone upon an errand and he didn't say whither.

Teler Maid: [uncertainly]

Is Lady Nienna here? I think -- that I need to talk to her.


I haven't seen her about. But she might well be. -- Do you want me to go with you and help you look for her?

Teler Maid: [shaking her head]

No. I need to think -- without being talked at.

[she vanishes abruptly -- the Captain sighs.]

Steward: [sharply]

Say what you would.


All right.

[he does not say anything further]

Steward: [tiredly -- to Beren]

As well yourself.

[Beren shakes his head]


You didn't owe me that. It wasn't any of my business before.

[the other stops leaning on him and moves a few paces away, still looking dazed and lost -- Beren follows, staying at his elbow]


It is not necessary that you hover so.


I don't want you to fade, sir.


Unlike yourself, there is no place else for me to go.


Couldn't you go all sort of not there like she did, or like the K -- like you said Finrod did about me?


I have too many responsibilities for such self-indulgence.


I do not mean to accuse our lord of such -- only that there are those whose behavior is disproportionate to their suffering. -- Nor would I imply that your near-fading was of the same.


I know, sir.

Steward: [less remotely]

Thank you for your kindness, and your support. I know well that I am . . .


-- pernickety?


-- I would have said, "exacting" --


Exactly --

Steward: [brief involuntary smile]

-- and waspish of humour, and despite what you have often alleged, it is not "all an act" -- I truly am of a chill and critical nature, against which I must ever contend --


Well, you keep winning.


You're most kind.

[straightening his shoulders]

I am all right. I shall manage.


You're still shaking, sir.


I am still undone.

[Huan gets up and comes over, somewhat uncertainly, to lean his head over the Steward's shoulder -- the latter does not shrug him off, but rather pats his nose a little absently as if it were the Hound who was in need of comfort]

Captain: [hesitant]

You should also know -- Lady Nerdanel is here. She arrived after you left, in conjunction with him --

[he nods towards where Finarfin is lost in meditation; his colleague glances over, then looks at him bleakly]

I thought you might not have noticed yet, either. It seems only the broadest outlines of our disaster reached them before. However it goes, it's probably going to be not unlike the Princes towards their brother, only worse.

[the Steward continues to regard him in silence.]

I thought you'd rather be surprised now than surprised later.


The notion of retreating for the rest of the yen has ever-increasing appeal.

Beren: [gloomy]

My problems hardly seem much compared to yours. I mean, even our fights -- we only had a couple months of arguing and it was all about the same thing. Not centuries. And how complicated can it get? Who here doesn't have family mad at them here?

Youngest Ranger: [quiet]

-- Er . . . me. -- As far as I know.


I swear, this is worse than any of the grazing-drainage disagreements in Drun! I mean, you all knew each other, or worked for each other, or were related to each other, and then you fought, and went away, and now you're back and people aren't speaking to you, or each other because of you, and these are all the same people.

Soldier: [aside to the Warrior]

That's got to be the shortest version of the Noldolante ever.

Beren: [getting more upset]

What are you going to do? Even if you wait a hundred and whatever years, is it going to fix things? If she's --

[glancing at the doorway]

-- still furious with him --

[to the Steward]

-- and your girlfriend's still angry at you -- and all your parents! -- after what, four hundred sixty years? That's not going to make a difference. What's going to happen to you out there?

Steward: [anxious]

This, at least, is one trouble for which you cannot blame yourself.


Don't underestimate Beren. Dangerous thing, that.

Second Guard:

I'm sure that if we give him a little bit of time, he'll manage to figure out some way he's responsible for Alqualonde.


Why stop at the Kinslaying? Why not everything in the world? I'm sure that with some thought, every possible misfortune in Arda could be laid at Beren's door.


-- Guys --


An interesting problem, to be sure. -- Are we limiting ourselves to material causality, or are we admitting metaphysical causality as well? For if the latter, I think it should hardly be any challenge at all.

Beren: [raising his hand in protest]

Oh, come on --

[The Steward gives him a very small, very knowing smile -- distractions.]


Start making the list, Edrahil --


[Elsewhere: the council chamber]

[It's very loud and the discussion quite animated.]


But if you made all the gears out of crystal, then the water wouldn't corrode them --


Would they not be so heavy then that they'd sink, my Lord?

Aule's Assistant:

No, they'd be on rods lifted off the bottom, at varying heights -- quite possibly adjustable, sliding along a series of paths not unlike a clock's elements --


'Tis a great challenge to capture the depth of iridescence natural to plume or scale in enamels, for the layers seek to obscure and oft groweth milky like to ice --

[Looking more than usually sardonic, the Doomsman of Arda snaps his fingers and a flash, similar to that of a white phosphorus flare, illuminates the room, though without the bang" that usually accompanies such intensely-bright fireworks. Instant silence, followed by looks either abashed or irritated from the participants as the glare fades back into the basin and the lighting returns to normal.]

Namo: [flatly]

Well. Now that we've talked about the technical requirements of preparing limestone to receive paint, the best way to create the effect of sunlight indoors, the problems of dust in relation to various artistic and domestic processes, and determined that neither my wife nor I have any desire to have fake trees or replicas of small woodland animals affixed thereto -- not even realistic ones fetchingly rendered in lifelike tones of striated agates with polished jet eyes, Nerdanel, Tavros -- cluttering up our house, though the decision is still pending on small, restrained, and I do emphasize restrained, sculptures of plants in hanging baskets, we'll have to think about that -- could we, possibly, return to our original discussion? Or am I being totally unreasonable in asking that?


And no artificial goldfish either, unless Vaire wants them.


I really don't like it when you're sarcastic, brother.


That isn't on topic either.

Vaire: [trying not to smile]

-- Darling --


Why? We're only all going to say the same things all over again to each other.



Very likely, yes. -- Particularly if you're going to take that attitude from the start.


You're not being fair -- it's not just me who's being obstinate, so please don't make it sound that way.

[he raises an eyebrow to her; Irmo struggles not to smile. (Orome doesn't even bother trying.)]


I confess I do not find the matter so simple as 'twas first present --

Vaire: [aside]

I suppose it would be impolite -- not to mention giving the wrong message entirely -- if I were to fetch some knitting?


[The Hall.]

[Finarfin is sitting with his head bowed on his arms, when shouting from over by the waterfall makes him look up]

Ranger: [very loudly]

But what about Ungoliant? Eh? What about Ungoliant?

[Finarfin is compelled to leave the hill and come investigate]


Well? What about her?


You can't just keep saying, "Because of the Silmarils," for everything. You have to say something like, oh . . . "Because if Ungoliant hadn't crossed through Beleriand leaving her little brood, there wouldn't have been any giant spiders for Beren to fight through on the way to Doriath."


Brilliant! We can take her off the list. What about Helka and Ringil, though? I don't see any way we can connect Beren with them.

[They notice that Finarfin is present and observing them, and go suddenly quiet. Several of the Ten rise and bow, uncertainly; the Captain nods, while the Steward stares ahead fixedly]


-- Dare I ask, knowing shall regret . . . ?



They're trying to cheer me up by proving that I'm responsible for everything that's ever gone wrong in the universe.


. . .

[starts to speak, stops, then has to ask]

And doth it have th'effect intent in it?

Beren: [bemused, nods]

Actually, -- yeah.




Such exceedingly -- strange -- friends.

[starts to walk away, shaking his head]

Youngest Ranger: [whispering]

Who's he talking about?

Third Guard:

Beren, I think.


I thought he meant all of us.

Finarfin: [turning back]

-- Strange, but -- admirably loyal.

Beren: [smiles]

I know.

[in the background two of the Ten are having a whispered argument:]

Warrior: [nudging his neighbor]

Go on, ask them!

Youngest Ranger:

No! Stop it! It would be rude.


Well, if you won't, I will --


Psst! Beren!




What was it like, when you two intersected?

[the Sindarin Ranger closes his eyes and looks very much as though he'd like to vanish]




You and his Majesty's father -- we saw it when you were talking.



[he glances up at Finarfin]

Not much. Like light, I guess, -- like when the sun bounces off something like a horse-brass or a sword, you know how you don't really feel it unless it's in your eyes, but you can tell sort of.

[giving Finarfin another hesitant look]

For me at least.

Finarfin: [looking at the cavalry officer's shade]

Of what matter is thy question?

[the Warrior is too embarrassed now to say; Finarfin turns to Beren with an inquiring expression.]

Beren: [shrugging]

What it felt like, when you tried to take the Ring from me. We were wondering -- earlier, that is -- what would happen if someone living hit one of us.

Finarfin: [lips tightening]

I did not strike thee, boy, nor did e'en attempt such.

Beren: [very polite]

No sir. We meant colliding in general as well -- even only by accident.

[he glances over at his friends, and then back at the Elf-King]

Um, did it -- feel like anything to you?


If you're not offended for some reason by me asking that.

[Finarfin only looks at him, not saying anything, and he get embarrassed -- then looks back up with a self-amused hopefulness]

Finarfin: [shaking his head]

Less than twenty-four and six -- !

[even more mildly]

-- Like to naught but to a shadow passed suddenly 'neath on summer's day, or to a chill air, that moveth off the water -- and to naught else.


Thou art a curious folk.


Ah, did you mean that "curious," like we wonder about things, or "curious" as meaning really strange? -- Your Majesty.

Finarfin: [slight smile]




[he looks away, hiding a grin]

Next dumb question, were you talking about my people, or about us?

[gesturing around at them all]

Finarfin: [bland]

Most assuredly.


You know, I can see now where he gets it from.

[the King's expression darkens]

You sure you don't want to sit down, sir? There's plenty of room, even with Huan taking up half of it.

[the Hound and he share a grin]


Nay, I think not so.


Only think? 'Cause if you're sure, that's one thing, but if you only think you shouldn't because you feel awkward about everything in the past, that's not gonna be fixed by you pretending we're not here, and if you think we have issues with you that we're being too polite to say anything about but you won't ask, it won't go away either by you not saying anything.

[Finarfin gives him a long, level stare]


Thou kennst ne'er when -- nor dost heed plain sense! -- shouldst cease, I think?



[brief pause]

I'm not just doing it because I feel sorry for you, sir, or because I don't want th -- Finrod, to think we weren't welcoming to you. My parents would be furious with me for not doing right by a relative, if I didn't even make the effort.

[silence -- Finarfin stares at him, frowning]

-- We're -- kin, s -- Sire.

[longer pause]

Really. Even if it's just by marriage and by marriage again. That's why they got thrown out of Doriath by your lady's uncle, so it would still be true.


To what dost thou refer, boy?


You know, sir -- when Thingol -- oh wait, you all used to call him something else here, not even Elu -- Elwe? -- he kicked them out of Menegroth -- only just on a temporary basis -- after -- wait, I'm assuming you know where Menegroth is, but that's not necessarily so, is it? Or maybe you would have heard, from gossip? -- Would somebody please make me shut up and help?

Fourth Guard: [obliging tone]

All right.

[he grabs him and claps a hand over his mouth, effectively gagging him, until "Beren elbows him hard in the ribs and there is a brief scuffle which ends when Huan gets up to participate, stepping on people in the way, and they break it up.]

Beren: [to Huan]

Sit! -- Sit!

[to the royal Guard]

-- I meant take over, you loon -- Now you all are going to have to suffer through my version of it.

[to Finarfin, who is staring with a completely bemused expression]

What I heard was, and somebody'll correct me if I'm wrong, probably all at once, that the King and -- that is, your kids -- were visiting Tinuviel's family again, which they did kind of a lot, only this time it was because they were visiting their sister too, since she was living with them then, and somehow rumors had gotten around about the Kinslaying in Doriath and Thingol called them on it and it was a big mess and there was a lot of yelling and not as much listening, at least at first, and then even after it got straightened out on how you all weren't involved, her dad was still really furious with them for first off not stopping it, and then for being okay with House Feanor afterwards, and then for keeping it a secret from them.


-- Though Tinuviel said her mom had figured out a lot of it on her own, or at least that it was something big they weren't talking about. -- Because they were -- are -- related to Thingol since he's their granddad's brother. So he threw them all out for a while, only not th -- your daughter. And he let them come back later. And if you want better information than that, you need to ask someone who was actually there and remembers it --

[looking around very pointedly at his companions]

-- like certain people here who are letting me flounder around telling it, or else ask my wife. -- So if Tinuviel is your kids' cousin because she's related to your wife, that's a direct blood relationship, but she's related to you, right, by marriage, because your in-laws are kin, too, at least the way we consider it back home, and I think it's the same for you, right? At least, I always assumed it was.

[he looks over at the Steward, who nods]

So I'm related to your kids now, by marriage, but that means I'm also related to you. Well, obviously.

[ducking a little under Finarfin's expressionless stare]

-- Sorry. -- Your Majesty.



We cannot, so the adage goeth, of our kindred by our own choosing make selection.

[Beren looks down, accepting the cut]

Being ignorant of thy people as of thee, 'twould ne'er hath occurred, to choose so -- yet of all whom I perforce must name my kin, thou art by no means worst in my esteeming, nor last whom I had chosen, had choice been given me -- Peace; I'd walk a little while, and think upon all that I have heard this day, and likewise seen, and perchance then 'twill suit me to take place with ye, and hear this curious manner of speech, and more curious tales, brought back from afar.

[He turns towards the door again, and is halted by a discreet cough as the Captain tries to get his attention]

-- Aye?


Would you -- that is, should one of us accompany you, sir?


What have I said, that thou shouldst think to say so?


You aren't afraid to walk the Halls alone, my lord?


Is there aught of danger to the living in these Halls? Or wild beast, or storm, or precipice, or folk of violent disposition, the which might work to my harm? Surely were it so, my Lord and Lady should have forewarned -- or say ye nay?

[Beren starts to explain, but is discouraged (though not quite so rowdily) by the Guard beside him]


Not to the living, my lord. But -- most -- few Eldar I think would be at ease. Not even the Lady Amarie was comfortable here, though she hid her fear well.


Finarfin: [with a peculiar, thoughtful expression]

Amarie, thou sayest, is eke come hither? By request? Or hers, or his, or other's yet?


I -- we think it is the Lady Nienna's, my lord.

[awkward pause]

Finarfin: [calmly]

Were the Song known, none should e'er know surprise. Peace, I'll not yield to speculation, nor ask of thee the same. -- For what, then, dost think I fear? Or tell the old tales of the dark far past before the Crossing of the Sea the truth, of unquiet dead that steal souls of a night, or lure with deadly pity? Would ye guard me then, that none might dispossess?


No, sir, it can't be done here. Lord Namo wouldn't have it.

Finarfin: [with a touch of pride -- he is, after all a King]

Think ye, then, that I do fear where is no ground beneath?

[they are somewhat abashed]


I think the only thing you're afraid of is doing something wrong. -- Sire.

[long pause]


Thou hast taken the lead.




Again: hast thou not marked it? -- Nor ye?

[the Ten and Beren look at each other uncertainly]

This child speaketh as were a lord among ye, nor ye to take affront, that he should speak for all, nor claim such precedence, even as there is no contending betwixt thee and thee --

[to the Steward and the Captain respectively]

-- that share authority as 'twere a cup at banquet without strife. Are ye come to Vanyar then, in death, or hath this change earlier nascence yet?



Er -- Beren is a lord, milord. He hasn't got a place anymore, but -- none of us do either, really.


He is a child -- not even old enow to wed, far less to rule over many.


Not by their years, sir.

Steward: [speaking up at last, in an out-of-duty way]

Of thy brother's following, the mortal House of Marach has held his chief fortress in office over both their own folk and ours, and two lords of Men -- to my knowing not a third -- have died in its defense, Galdor son of Hador, and his father before him in the Sudden Flame, who was a most valiant warrior, and a skilled commander as well as faithful to his liege lord, and not uncivil in his mastery.


-- Nor is their skill but in violence, as some aver: the sons and daughters of the Secondborn are apt to learning, and possess even wisdom no less than discernment, for all their brevity, nor are their songs lacking in all beauty.

Finarfin: [very dry]

That is most high praise, from thee.

Captain: [slipping from addressing Finarfin to the Steward to Beren by turns very confusingly]

But it's more complicated, even, than that with regards to young Barahirion here, because he is -- or was, depending on how you look at it, and if you ask your eldest, and what mood you catch him in -- a liege lord to the King in his own right, and I think that the Princes are cheating there, claiming authority over him, because they predeceased Barahir, so I don't see how they can claim that Beren ever owed them allegiance himself, except when he was simply part of the hearth-guard of Beor, but certainly not as Lord of Dorthonion --

[turning back to Finarfin]

-- and thus no less truly a peer of the realm, though admittedly a junior one on several counts,and then proved himself worthy again and in his own right by demonstrating discretion, restraint, and being able to follow orders, which I'm sure you'll appreciate, sir -- even when said orders turned out not to be well-advised, and if you bring up the question of whose fault it is one more time I'll dunk you myself -- and now he's practically family even before we realized that he was family, so to speak. So --

[raising his hands]

-- if he wants to speak for the rest of us now, instead of hiding behind us having panic attacks and episodes of agoraphobia and unworthiness, that's quite all right. If we disagree -- we'll say so, believe me.

Finarfin: [amused despite himself]

'Tis like a conflagration, this manner of speech -- the spark of it hath caught in thee as well.

[glancing around at them]

The War hath changéd ye, nor for all the worst. Strange, belike, but not more cruel nor --

[he looks up at the water sculpture]

-- unvaluing of beauty nor of graciousness, for all the bluntness of thy thought. -- As some have feared it should.

[almost smiling]

-- Passing strange, that rebellion should return ye trained to obedience even as to command! -- Lord Edrahil.

[this first instance of being addressed as an adult in his own right catches the Steward by surprise]

Will't please thee walk with me, and converse upon sundry matters, and perchance it may be to advise?


No, my lord. -- But I'll do it all the same.


I did but ask, sir -- not ordered thee.


And I but answered: it will not please me, and I will do it. I cannot answer other, save to refuse either word or compliance.

[Finarfin starts to say something, then checks and nods. Shrewdly:]


Thy crest hath fallen since last we held converse.




For what the cause?

[with great reluctance, clearly debating silence, the other replies:]


I . . . have learned that she who bore the choice-name Sea-mew and was your lady's handmaiden, -- and that I did most poorly love -- was among the Kinslain these long years, that I had deemed had long forgotten me with a better.

Finarfin: [surprised]

Thou didst not ken?


How should I, sir?

[Finarfin looks at him, puzzled]

These Halls are large and there are many here. Give me a little to recover my composure, and I shall overtake you.


Shall't have no trouble then, for all its largeness?


Most assuredly not, for two reasons -- the first that you being complete and undiminished even by your sorrows, do shine like a cresset on hilltop, and no more trouble to find than such a beacon -- the second, that does one know that one whom one seeks is present, it is much lighter work to find that one.

[the King frowns]

But do not think thus to find the King your father, sir, nor even your elder brothers, for none may be found saving only that he -- or she -- does choose so.

Finarfin: [clearly unsettled]

Doth the truth of these walls extend so far as to grant vision of one's inmost heart, that nothing be concealéd, nor unsaid, nor spoken?

[the Steward shakes his head]


In life, in the eastern lands, I stood upon your son's right hand in all things. I know you thus -- beyond the knowledge of the past Outside, when all of us were other, and stood in wise far different to each other -- through my understanding of him, and doubtless imperfect for that double remove; yet from my words, and your return, I guess that those two mirrors have not distorted past all truth. -- I'll come to find you anon, my lord, I pledge: and then you may bespeak me as you will, and ask, and I shall endeavor to answer in such wise as you shall find comprehensible, nor give offense.



I would not increase the burden of thy sorrows, still.

Steward: [with a glint of his usual self]

Nor I yours, -- who can say? Perchance we may even succeed at that, my lord.

[with a faint smile Finarfin gives him a polite, acknowledging nod, and another generally to the rest of the company, and goes out through the archway]

Beren: [frowning]

He did say that he didn't mind so much having me for part of his family, didn't he? Not just that there were relatives he hated worse.

Steward: [nods]

The exactness of the phrasing was ambivalent: either might have been meant by the specific words employed. But I too believe you have the right of it. -- He is very like our lord.

[he gestures for the flask, and his colleague passes it over, but holds onto it long enough that he has to look up and meet his gaze]


Are you going to be up to this? Is dealing with him, now, a good idea?


It will, most like, forestall the brunt of his remorse from falling on the King, and equally his long-held wrath, and at a time when our lord can least withstand either nor spare thought to defend from it. It is my task, and my place. But my strength is not yet equal to my resolve.


Is there anything I can do to help?


-- As, for example, standing by to watch a duel of words, where the aim of it is seemingly to lose?

[they share a wry smile]

It will -- disengage my mind from other troubles.

Captain: [earnest]

I don't think it's as hopeless as all that for you two. It's going to take work, but I feel sure she'll give you another chance.


Yes, but you would, being an unreasonable optimist.


Well -- I've been right so far, have I not?



I can almost not believe you said that -- but I've known you too long.

Youngest Ranger:

-- Ware!


I mean, it seemed the worst luck that Lady Amarie wouldn't hear a word from Himself, but look what came of it -- we're still here to help Beren and the Princess now that they need it. And --

Youngest Ranger:

-- Sir --


Yes, lad, I know.

[Aegnor returns, alone, quite composed (at least apparently) and not fazed by the unfriendly and wary looks directed towards him. As he comes towards their group -- ]

Our liege lord has not returned yet, I'm afraid.

[he puts a slight emphasis on "Our" not unnoticed by the Prince.]

Aegnor: [superior tone]

On the not-unlikely chance that he's taken off again and is haring about somewhere as usual, Angrod is looking for him throughout the levels instead. -- Which I see was a correct assumption. I'll stay here and wait for him, then.


I don't recommend that, Highness.


Why? Have you claimed this Hall in your own right, then? Going to stake out a realm of your own now, are you?


No, it's simply that I doubt you can keep a civil tongue.

Aegnor: [raising an eyebrow]

"Fly pride, quoth the peacock" -- !

[he does not say a word towards Beren, nor the rest of the Ten, but strolls a short distance off and settles down where Finrod had been playing, taking up the harp that the Steward had manifested earlier. Looking it over critically:]

The design of this thing is so squat and ungainly, I've never understood how you could bear to be seen with such a clumsy piece of work, let alone claim the design of it for yourself!

Steward: [still sounding tired]

It stands travel better, and the breadth of the soundbox prevents it from toppling when there is not secure and level place for it, as is often the case when journeying, nor requires additional carry of a stand.


At the sacrifice of tonal quality, no doubt.

Steward : [shortly]

The dimensions of the chamber are calculated to compensate for the lack of height.


"Calculated" --

[he snorts and flicks at one of the strings contemptuously]

Such an approach, I guess, is only to be expected, from one who has not a drop of Teler blood or intuition -- !

Third Guard: [polite but firm]

Strictly speaking, your Highness, none of us have any blood, whether Teler, Noldor, or Vanyar -- not even yourself.

[Aegnor does not answer, only fiddles with the tuning, a patronizing smile on his face]

Beren: [loyally]

I thought it sounded fine, Sir. I couldn't tell any difference between it and the Ki -- and Finrod's.

[the Prince gives him a sharp, sidelong Look at that]

Aegnor: [aside]

Yes, well, you wouldn't, would you?

[the Captain catches the eye of both Rangers in turn and makes a covert set of hand-signals. Separately, throughout the following conversation, they get up and go over to the mural as if critiquing it. To Beren, though addressing him obliquely, not looking at him:]

Though I suppose that you cannot help that.


You do not answer, Beoring?


Not to you.

Aegnor: [setting aside the harp and leaning forward as he gets down to business]

You subscribe, then,to my eldest brother's belief that all are equal in death, then? Or are you merely being insolent?


Neither. My father was killed six years after the Battle. I was only ever the King's vassal. -- Directly, I mean.

Aegnor: [shrugging]

There is of course mere common courtesy, when another addresses one. -- What became of the mithril hauberk and arms I gave to your great-grandfather Boromir? That gear was pretty nearly priceless.

Beren: [tersely]

Lost it.

Aegnor: [venomously pleasant]

You lost everything that was entrusted to your care, didn't you?

[Beren does not respond]

The lands themselves -- well, that's understandable, you couldn't exactly do anything about being outnumbered. And I can understand why your people would have left when you could no longer take care of them as well. Property, even your life -- for none of that can you justly be held accountable for, in the end. -- Only for your honor.

[he looks up, then, at the still-silent Beren, ignoring the dark expressions of the Ten]

None of your House would have behaved as you did. Such a disgrace to the memory of Bregolas, of Bregor, of Balan himself -- to lose the life of the King whose life your own was sworn to protect: even to accept his assistance, when the price of it was merely disgrace and dethronement, should have been beneath you.

Beren: [pushed past self-control]

I couldn't stop him! There was nothing I could do --


What would your father say to that? Surely he never uttered those words.

[strangely, Beren gives him a faint smile, not changing as the Prince continues:]

Surely Barahir would say, indeed, that you should have fallen on your sword first, before accepting such a boon.

[long, tense silence among the Ten, Huan whimpers -- and Beren keeps giving Aegnor that odd smile]


I may be remembering this all wrong, but I thought it was explained to me that you and Orodreth and Angrod were pretty good friends with your cousins and used to spend a lot of time with them, and that's why you set up your holdings in the East so close to the Pass, and why he was with them at Sun-Return, and why they moved in with him and Finrod when the Leaguer broke.

[with an acknowledging look towards the Steward]

I'm sure it was more complicated than just family, but even with there not being all that many places to go, after the Sudden Flame, the thing I'm wondering is, if maybe you feel a bit guilty, since maybe you all being so tight with that crew had something to do with Finrod giving them such a warm welcome, if it was partly for your sake. -- Just going on how things were in Dorthonion after it started getting bad, and the way people react, how it isn't all just what's the most reasonable thing to do.



A most interesting question. -- Is that the case, I wonder?

Aegnor: [glowering]

I do not choose to answer your unworthy speculations.

[the Captain lifts his hand as if to interject, then lowers it.]


I believe that you have quite well, your Highness.

[In the background, the attentive Rangers swing up via the high-relief "forest" onto the stones forming the ascenders of the waterfall and edge over the top of it]


Still defending him?

[shaking his head, scoffing:]

No doubt you'll say that it was not so bad, after all, since it happened in a noble cause, for the sake of a greater good.

[Beren's expression goes grim -- the Soldier puts a hand on his arm, reassurance as much as restraint]

Steward: [thoughtful]

No, I should never say that. It was far worse than I could ever have conceived of, worse than the Ice, worse than the Flame, singly or together.

[this gives Aegnor pause, but only for a moment before he comes back:]

Aegnor: [furious]

Then he, at least, should show a trifling amount of reverence -- at least -- 

[the Captain rises to his feet]

-- rather than taking for granted and without gratitude the continued generosity that's been shown him.

[with enough nonchalance to convey a distinct menace, the Captain walks slowly over to where Aegnor is sitting, rests his foot on a boulder just short of him, and leans over him, smiling all the while and keeping his eyes steadily on the Prince's]


-- Enough.


What, are you going to challenge me at last, then?

[the other shakes his head, still holding his stare]


I will not fight you, sir.

[pause -- smiling wickedly:]

I've no need to, you see.

[his associates ambush the Prince from above-and-behind and drag him backwards to the edge, whence they toss him in with extreme enthusiasm. Aegnor's attempts to recover dignity and land are not aided by Huan's deciding that this looks like a fine idea and leaping in with him. After a couple of tries he manages to climb out and stands there looking intensely disgruntled, sopping, and enough humiliated on several levels not to try to retaliate]

Aegnor: [glaring at the Steward]

Is this the consequence you were hinting so darkly about?

Steward: [serious]

Evidently so. One consequence, at least. There could be others too, I suppose.

[As Aegnor starts to say something else, Huan climbs out and shakes vigorously, splashing everyone, who react with good-natured annoyance -- but coincidentally standing right next to Finrod's brother. It couldn't be on purpose, after all...]


Huan!? What's wrong with you, dog?

Beren: [offhand]

That's what Celegorm wondered, too.

[Aegnor turns a furious Look on him, getting a raised eyebrow back at him]


You --

Ranger: [interrupting, to the Captain]

-- Might we again, sir?

[he gets the glare instead; his commander looks over to his senior colleague for confirmation]

Steward: [shrugs, smiling a little]

It doesn't matter to me either way: I'm feeling much heartened already.

[Aegnor incautiously puts a hand on his sword-hilt -- and is shoved back in with the additional help of a possibly-unnecessary boot behind the ankles to prevent him from getting his balance, by the other Rangers. Huan follows suit again voluntarily.]

Ranger: [to Beren, as Aegnor crawls out onto the rocks again, very bedraggled]

You know, you're right: it is both fun, and funny. In a very curious and primitive sort of way, of course.

Beren: [solemnly]

Of course, you're really supposed to do it to your own relatives, not your liege lord's family. Or to your friends. And remember, you have to watch out on account of it usually escalates into retaliation.

[looking consideringly at Aegnor]

Only I don't think you really have to worry because first off, he's worried about his dignity and secondly, you've got him way outnumbered if you count everybody, plus Huan, which goes back to the first point.


You should have helped, then it would have been all right and proper.

Beren: [shaking his head]

Oh, I doubt he's gonna like the fact that I'm kin now any more than that we decided he wasn't actually in charge of me. Though I do think Celegorm's worse, all around, than me.

[he and Aegnor lock stares, much more serious this time.]

Steward: [earnestly]

My lord, you provoke him much, and some might say needlessly.

Beren: [quiet and slow, like someone reporting on distant troop movements]

I know, but . . . we've got the truth lying here between us like a hot coal, and . . . he can either pick it up and deal with it, which is going to hurt, or try to kick it away by walking off or picking another fight. I'm betting . . . that he's going to leave it there and walk off again. Given the fact that the last couple fights weren't too satisfying . . .

[Aegnor stands there looking at him, dripping and frustrated, not saying anything, for a long moment. (Note: sfx -- the drops do not land on the floor, but vanish continually as they fall, unless (as with Huan shaking himself off) they strike another spirit: the Platonic Form of Water doesn't leave puddles.) Abruptly he turns and walks evenly away with as much dignity as he can pull together. To his chagrin and annoyance the Captain accompanies him, and follows him to the door]


Are you so petty in your triumphs, then, that you must make them last so long?


No, sir, I was wondering if you'd learned anything from this, and if we should be prepared to do it again -- if not you, then Angrod in his turn.


Fear not, I'll tell him you're mad and violent when I speak to Finrod about this.


Good. Since the Beoring has no hard feelings towards you, I'll give you a word of advice, then: you may be deceived thinking you discern the King your brother, though perchance not; but Lord Beren at first mistook the King your father for Felagund instead. You might warn him about that, as well as our diversions here.

[Aegnor gives him a stricken look]


F -- my father is here?


And in good health, though not spirits.


The Powers requested him to speak with the Lady your cousin, and he accepted the task. But her words unsettled him too much to go on, and so he came back here for a while -- until we unsettled him too much in turn.


What -- did he say about me?


Nothing, Highness, nothing at all.


What did you talk about, then?


Of my treason, and its consequences, the ones past, present, and it may be to come.



He said nothing about me whatsoever?


Not to me, my lord. He might perhaps to Lord Beren -- they spoke for a brief while apart -- but you would have to ask him.

[nodding towards the mortal -- Aegnor gives him a glare]

But I don't think it very likely. I gather the substance of their conversation was . . . similar to yours, but with differences.

[another, worse glare]

Well, I just don't know, your Highness. I wasn't present, and they've not told me, and you've indicated extreme dislike for conjecture, so I shan't venture to do so. Sorry, but there you have it.

[pause -- the Prince does not leave, and the Captain relents.]

I think your father is far too troubled at the moment by discovering the same facts concerning our mutual lord's death that so much aggrieved you twain, to think on your long-held resolution, that is not news nor new grief to him -- I believe the information has been nearly as great a blow to him as your words, and the ones which you did not say, were to the Beoring, who nearly faded from this Circle before we might convince him that no fault in it was his, no more than part. -- Now do you understand why we shall not permit you to do so again, even if you judge us mad to name him yet friend?

[they match stares for a long moment -- Aegnor tosses his head at last]


Only now you said you would not speculate.

Captain: [shrugging]

I didn't expect you to thank me for it, my lord.


That's as well then, milord -- I'd not have you disappointed.

[with that retort he turns to go -- and barely avoids a collision with Nienna's Apprentice, entering, due as much to the agile recoil of the later as to his own attempts to sidestep. The Apprentice stares at him with astonishment -- the Prince gives him a savage Look and vanishes, leaving the other quite bewildered.]


That was your lord's brother.

[the Captain nods]

He was very wet.


He insulted the Lord of Dorthonion, again. -- I hope you weren't thinking of doing so?


Believe me, it had not even crossed my mind. -- Nor will it, I promise.

[he shakes his head, looking over his shoulder into the corridor]


So have you anything useful for me?


I -- er, I hope so. Nothing has been resolved or decided, except that your friend's lady is one of the most stubborn souls ever to have been born, and the only development has been that far from discouraging her romantic illusions -- that isn't my wording, please don't be offended -- Nerdanel has rather taken her part and argued her case for her. Up until the discussion . . . got off the trail onto another course, rather, and she and the Hunter started trying to convince my Master's family to let them decorate the Halls with tree-toads.

Captain: [startled]



Carved from chalcedony with garnet eyes. -- It's a longish story and not very relevant, which is what Lord Namo was pointing out. Unless you want me to go through it?


No, that's right. -- Hm. And your Master hasn't turned up yet either, has she? Very interesting. Has Lady Yavanna returned?

Apprentice: [shaking his head]

Nor her sister. The only people left now are Lord Namo and Lady Vaire, Lord Orome and Lord Aule, and Lord Irmo. And Luthien, of course. Oh, and Nerdanel -- but I already said that -- and Curumo -- that's Lord Aule's principal aide, he's like me, only -- of a different -- kindred. And not -- pretending to be anything else --


-- and failing miserably at it!


-- Perhaps you know whom I'm talking of?


I didn't know him back in the Day, but the brief encounter I observed earlier between him and my master gave me the distinct impression that he's a bit conceited and given to causing trouble if he can get away with it. Of course you'll no doubt say that I say it as shouldn't, as the saying goes.


No, you're spot-in -- spot-on? -- from target-shooting, correct? But not the kind of trouble you lot are always making.


He just -- says things -- sometimes, clever things, and one looks such a fool --


-- You really should not be commenting on nor criticizing your elders and superiors, don't you think?

[to his annoyance, the Captain struggles not to laugh out loud]

-- What?


Sweet Cuivienen, how do you think I got this job? -- The intelligence part? That's what I did for amusement, watch people and imitate them at gatherings. It took Himself to show me what use was in it, even before the Rebellion and the founding of the Kingdom -- how the things I noticed were often more than simple mannerisms, and not infrequently something that the individuals themselves were unaware of, and how much less guarded the lordly folk were about the cheerful fellow who only talked of bows and hounds and hawks and points, than about each other. Very useful to Lord Finarfin, when the rest of House Finwe was intriguing like mad.

Apprentice: [snippy]

Still, I don't expect you ever -- parodied him, or his family!

Captain: [bemused]



I repeat, how do you think I earned this responsibility?


And . . . he didn't mind?

Captain: [frowns]

Well, I'd not say that. He rather minded falling off his horse for laughing, but not the imitation. Not as much as his sister did -- she wouldn't speak to me for a whole day, which got tiresome with her having to ask my sister to ask me whatever it was she wanted to know, though when I started doing it back she decided it was a bit funny and left off for the rest of the hunt. Which was just as well. -- I presume you're speaking of Finrod Felagund, and not Lord Finarfin? He thought it a bit childish, but harmless. -- Little did he know! But little did we all, then.


You're trying to put me at ease and teach me something at the same time, aren't you?

Captain: [approving]

Very clever you are. -- Can you tell me what?


I'd guess -- something about not assuming things about people one hasn't a long acquaintance with; something about paying attention to the things and persons one doesn't usually pay attention to, something about not being being too proud to laugh at one's self. -- And how to put another at ease -- and off-guard -- in a conversation.


All that just from that! Amazing. -- But what I'd prefer you to be learning is, what's going on at the Council.


Oh, I am.


But you're here, not there, unless you've some other abilities beyond Elven ken to employ.


Well, no -- yes -- both, in a manner of speaking: I have friends keeping track of it and reporting to me.

Captain: [flatly]

You've involved others in this?

Apprentice: [increasingly anxious]

I just -- delegated, too.


Friends -- on the staff, here.


Is that wrong? You -- didn't --

Captain: [sighing]

No, I'll not second-guess you. I didn't tell you how to do it, nor set conditions. It would be ill of me to meddle now, when we chose you for confidence in your abilities.

[sighs again, and starts back towards the waterfall, the Apprentice tagging along with a worried look]

I trust your friends are as trustworthy as discreet -- and if they're not, there's naught I can do concerning it now.


I'm sorry --


Why? You haven't failed yet.

[as the Apprentice is mulling this over, frowning, they come up to the rest of the group beside the falls]


Yes, but if you take the easy route you're practically in Thargelion! Then you've got to cross all that distance again, and you've nearly doubled your travel time. Much better to take the shortcut through the cleft at Aglon.

Beren: [embarrassed, trying to pretend to be angry instead of grinning]

-- Would you just shut up about that?


You're not giving poor Barahirion a hard time, are you?


But you do it, Sir.


Yes, but I'm allowed. "Rank hath its privilege" and so on.

[to Beren]

So, which route do you think was the better before the War, the one through the mountain pass at Aglon, or the long way around across the rolling country-side in the east?

Beren: [to the world at large]

I hate my life.

Captain: [settling down on the ledge and reclaiming his flask]

Well, that's all right, then -- cheer up, you haven't got it any more.

[the Apprentice gives him a shocked look]

Both Rangers: [outraged]


[Beren laughs -- and casually reaches over to shove the Captain playfully on the shoulder, coincidentally as he's just about to take a drink]

Captain: [grimacing and shaking his hand]

Seems as though someone isn't feeling guilty for having been killed any more. -- If that had been the real thing you'd be in trouble for wasting it, whelp. And not just the usual background level of trouble, either.

[to the Apprentice, who is slightly agog]

Was there more that you've still to say? Or did you need something?


Actually -- you see, I was wondering -- if you're allowed, that is --


It's a good thing I'm patient, isn't it --

Apprentice: [abruptly, distracted]

-- Ah, what was it that you were angry about, Lord Beren?


Oh -- 

[struggling not to grin again]

Not really. -- Nothing.


It's because we found out that he gets flustered over perfectly ordinary words. Like "mountain pass." Or "rolling meadow."


Why on Arda -- ?

[Beren looks up at the ceiling and sighs]

Ranger: [serious]

Because of the way you say them in the High Speech.

Second Guard: [just as seriously]

Or what the same expressions are used to mean.

Apprentice: [puzzled]

But what's wrong with saying "the bosom of the earth" -- ? Or "cleavage," for that matter?

Second Guard:

That's what we've been trying to find out. He just gets more and more speechless.


I don't think one can, actually -- shouldn't you say, "less and less speechful" -- hm, that doesn't sound very well either, does it . . . ?

[to Beren]

Do you think you could explain the reason for such reactions to simple concepts? I don't know all that much about Secondborn customs, you see, and I find them fascinating, but I so rarely get the chance to speak to mortal shades, and I hardly know what to ask or where to begin.


You guys are going to pay for this. -- Um, no, sir, I really don't right now.

[sudden inspiration]

You should really talk to His Majesty -- my wife's cousin, that is, and ask Finrod. He's the language expert, after all -- Elvish and human.

[Touché -- the Apprentice looks around at their expressions, knowing there's a joke going on that he's missing. Before he can ask further, Huan, who has been clambering about on rocks like a mountain goat or a puppy, suddenly bounds down and goes running off with ears trailing like a mad thing into the distant shadows of the Hall, and then back again -- and then does it over again]

Apprentice: [shaking his head, looking after the Hound]

Why is he doing that?


'Cause he's wet.

[the Apprentice looks at him doubtfully]

And he's a dog.

[at the continued dubious Look]

Dogs do that sometimes, is all. I guess you don't have any, huh?

Apprentice: [drawing himself up]

I am familiar with dogs, milord. I -- am just uncertain as to whether you're aware who Huan is.

Beren: [mischievously innocent]

He's our hound. He used to belong to my wife's cousin, and before that Celegorm got him from Orome himself. He's the Lord of Dogs.

[Nienna's student sighs a little]

-- And he's like you. Immortal. Or like Tinuviel's mom. Only different, I guess.

[the Apprentice recovering from his start, gives a slightly wounded look to the Ten]


Beren figured you out all on his own. Perception, not deduction, though.



[looking around at them, uncertainly]

Can I rely on you . . . not to, er, what was that phrase you used?


Blow your cover, as if you were a pheasant pretending to be a thicket. -- We're safe, but I can't say the same of anyone else who might be here.

[glancing around meaningfully]


Oh, we're alone.


Are you sure? We thought there might be company earlier, and there has been at various times, in various states of presence.


No, I'm certain.

Beren: [very curious]

You can see if anyone's here who's vanished?

Apprentice: [a touch patronizing]

"See" is not the proper word, given that it is a perception or apprehension of the Unseen.

[Beren looks puzzled, and gestures to get the Steward's attention]


Am I imagining it, or isn't "perceive" like "grab ahold of" -- ?


There is indeed a common root.

Beren: [to the Apprentice]

So why's that make more sense, when you're not actually touching them, than for me to say "see"?



[pause. Changing the subject:]

-- Still, you didn't come up with a real explanation of your answer as to why he's dashing about like a dragonfly up and down the room.


I already said. Because he's a dog, and dogs do that. Even Immortal ones. Also in the new snow, they run like crazy back and forth. Sometimes he chases his tail. In the woods he'd find fallen branches and drag them around, only they were the size of small logs, and we joked that he was a firewood-hound too.


We had a pony that used to do that with big sticks, too. Never figured out why.


And that's got what to do with Huan?


Nothing. Except they were doing the same thing, and almost the same size.

[the Apprentice frowns -- and then looks suddenly worried]


Erm -- you wouldn't say I was rude, would you?

Beren: [confused]

Uh -- considering I've only talked to you what, three times maybe? that I know of, and I never heard anything about you until today -- whatever -- and that's hardly anything at all, I really am not the one to ask.


No, I meant -- to you. Just now.



No. A little sarcastic, maybe, but not really rude.

[as Nienna's student looks relieved]

-- Why?

Apprentice: [glancing sidelong at the Captain]

I -- ah -- well, I haven't any wish to follow Aegnor's lead, let's say.


Well. You haven't told me I should've killed myself, let alone twice yet, so you've got a long way to go to catch up, if that's any reassurance.

Apprentice: [startled, increasingly, and dismayed]

Oh. -- Oh.

[looks around, trying to ascertain if this is a joke.]

I -- really wish my Master were about. And I were home.

Captain: [slyly]

On Taniquetil, I presume?

[this does not make his victim any happier]


Ah -- could you tell me what I did wrong? How you -- figured it out? Please?

[He sits down, a little uncertainly, socially awkward among the Ten, on a rock across from the Captain. Huan comes back and flops down not far, looking at the Apprentice and grinning.]


You didn't do anything wrong.

[pause -- the Apprentice looks exasperated]

Not any one thing. The things that you did -- or didn't -- have almost certainly not been noticed by anyone else. Most people don't, after all, if it doesn't concern them directly. Now, what I imagine you've been doing -- and correct me if we're wrong -- is that you vary your persona depending on whom you're among. I expect you're Vanyar most of the time, except on Taniquetil, since you'd have the most anonymity that way, whether in Tirion or on the seacoast, -- or in here. I also expect that you're Teler when you're in Valmar?

[the Apprentice nods, his expression mixed between chagrin and admiration]

Again, you'd be rare enough, wherever you went, to be something of a curiosity, but so long as you have a decent reason for being there -- like being a servant of Lady Nia's, that's usually acceptable -- that rarity would mean that no one would be able, or likely so, to call you on it. And the curiosity -- assuming that firstly people here haven't changed that much, and secondly you don't do anything too eccentric --

[his erstwhile adversary grimaces slightly]

-- is bound to fade very quickly as people do have for the most part their own lives and affairs to manage, even here. -- In a manner of speaking, of course. A good friend of mine back home in the Old Country excels at that, fitting in. But --

[he pauses until the Apprentice can't take it any longer; the Youngest Ranger starts a bit, and looks thoughtful]


But what?!

Captain: [teasing]

Patience, lad, patience --


[sharp bark]


Oh, all right. I'll stop teasing him. -- Due to a circumstance quite beyond your control, there is now someone here who is familiar with the Vanyar enough to mark such small discrepancies in your stories that others might not even notice, and attentive enough to matters of culture and diplomacy to worry about them. To wit, Finrod grandson of Indis, betrothed of Amarie, and also a certain number of those who were formerly of Finarfin's House, such as myself. -- Not that the rest of us aren't good at spotting details, either, though not necessarily knowing the significance of them. But those remarks and reported comments helped build the mosaic over time.


But what were they? There must have been some specific things!


Lack of specifics, actually. Too vague on the details of what family you were related to, who were your kin, what was your House, all a very large part of it. The fact that none of us knew you we discounted at first, on the assumption that you must have been born after the Rebellion.


And yet -- though such only could explain -- to counter that, ever the slight recoil, the lifted brow, the secretive smile whenever any addressed you as "young."

Apprentice: [crestfallen]

So it was me.


Few would have marked your responses -- nor made much of them: both slight, and not inappropriate as annoyance from one impatient of being dismissed for his youth. Only in the combination, and in consideration with other things, and observed consistently over time -- and, I venture to say, only because I was watching you. One does that, when one must report how a message is received: the mere words themselves being useless without the setting, as a stone cannot be worn without its fixture.


Hm. So what else was it?

Soldier: [to the Captain]

The children, sir --

[the Captain nods]


That was another thing that was marked, by us, how you conducted yourself laboring in the Hall of Play.

Apprentice: [anxious]

Am I not sufficiently well-disposed towards them?


Not at all -- you were too good. Even parents sometimes find the whims of their offspring to grow tiresome, as you'd know if you'd ever been either. But your patience had a sort of fascinated wonder about it, as if you were a loremaster studying some strange new phenomenon, or a traveller come to a place where the wild birds settle for winter, overwhelmed with bounty and hardly to be pried away from watching, when most people would have gone off with a headache, or at least requested a little more quiet, less frisking about, long since.

Beren: [startled]

There are children here -- ?

[the others look at him, and his dismayed expression turns to bitter realization]

Of course -- I -- didn't think --

Huan: [pawing over at his foot]

[thin whine]


Not so many, now. -- And they do not stay long, usually.

[Beren sighs, and nods after a moment. Curiously:]

-- You sorrow for those you've never met.


Don't you?


Yes, but -- you -- your people -- aren't like us --

Second Guard: [aside]

Which "us" do you mean?

Beren: [intense]

-- Aren't we?

Captain: [breaking in]

So after a while we started paying closer attention, after Himself pointed out that you never actually said "Ingwe" or "Valmar" when you were speaking of your King sending you to the Lady, and that everyone just assumed that was who you meant, when you spoke of your lord on Taniquetil. Things that startle you, things that annoy you -- you seem to find it very annoying to have to go up one hallway and down another to get to a place that's physically adjacent but not connected by a doorway, for example -- and things that delight you. Such as very small people who talk nonstop, for another.

[rasing his hands]

-- Does that help you? We could spend a lot longer going into greater detail, but I thought you had things you were supposed to be doing for Lady Vaire.

[the Apprentice nods, looking a bit piqued again -- then starts and looks much more dismayed]

What's wrong, lad?


I just realized something. -- Well, not just, but I've been too busy to do anything about it.




I didn't win.




Not really. You let me win.


I thought we'd established that already.


And -- we didn't finish.


Only just realized that?


I -- I hadn't thought about what it meant! You could have demolished me, you were pushing me hard before you started giving me openings, and -- and -- I don't have a chance!


Oh, you've got a chance, all right. Blind luck and random factors play a great part in these things. Someone might do something to distract me, or say something, or I might forget about a step in the Hall and trip, you never know. You could luck out, as they say back home.

[the Youngest Ranger reaches over and pokes the nearest of his companions hard in the arm, but his superior does not notice]


But unless something happens, unpredictably, like that, your friends will "bet" on you, and they'll win.

[the Captain shrugs]

I thought I was free, once I did this job, and instead I have to look forward to -- to -- what would happen if you'd actually landed a blow?


How should I know?


! ? !


I gather that you've been rehearsing and studying with other -- members of your family, from the level of skill you displayed, what happens when you connect with each other?


Erm . . .


Does it hurt? Do the effects last? Simple questions, I'd think,


Well, yes, but it's -- different. There's a lot more -- noise and light, for one thing.


Ah. You're not fighting in this form, then.


Not -- not exactly.


So you're cheating.

Apprentice: [sullen]

I suppose you could call it that.


Well --

[setting his left hand on the hilt of his sword]

Only one way to find out --

[in a quick gesture he draws it left-handed, in a second move flips it up into the air, catching it to heft it correctly -- and sweeps it over to swat the flat of the blade hard against the side of the Apprentice's neck. With a strangled yell the "Vanyar Elf" tries to move out of the way too late, and scrambling falls down in a heap, holding at his neck. He looks up at the Captain in dismayed outrage]

I should say that it does. I don't know if you'd have to re-embody if I "killed" you, -- I don't suppose you want to find out, eh?

Apprentice: [stunned]

You -- that -- I can't believe you did that -- !


Strange -- the effects seemed pretty believable to me.


You know what I mean! How -- how -- that was so unfair!


Not at all.

[he gets up, sheaths the blade and holds out his left hand to the Apprentice, who stares at him in revulsion and scrambles to his feet on his own.]

You had a fast three-count while I was drawing and turning it, and you sat there "like a bump on a log." You think an animal would stay still for such a threat? Go out and try catching turtles, if you think so. Not my fault you've not got the sense nor speed of a turtle.


Turtles? Turtles are so slow, it's proverbial.

[Beren laughs, as do several of the others]


Didn't I say something like that when you told me to go catch turtles for my first arms practice?

Captain: [dryly]

Among many other things. Let me tell you, after being in charge of a unit for six months, I had even less idea than before why anyone would want to be ruler over the Noldor.

[to the Apprentice, as he sits back down among the company, very lecturing, but not harsh:]

Lad, nothing that fears for its life or death can afford to be wrong in that regard. And we, who have to worry about doing wrong as well, can still less afford mistakes. To be alert, to assess swiftly and accurately, that's the only answer. Else a delusion of the Enemy might cause you to fail, and cost not only your own life, but all those you're tasked to protect -- or too great haste to guard against such might lead you into murder.

[to Beren]

If I didn't remember to apologize then, I'm sorry for saying that I wished I'd not seen the Ring, and shot you as a servant of the Enemy from far off.


You --

Captain: [interrupting]

I did mean it, then.


I was going to say, you have to be fair, Sir -- you were only agreeing with me.


Agreeing -- ?!?




But -- you'd be dead. -- Then. And not even have succeeded in liberating a Silmaril.

Beren: [flatly]

And nobody else would be. And the Silmarils would be where they were for hundreds of years.


You -- you'd rather have died without accomplishing anything -- by mistake -- than . . . ?

[he looks around at the Ten with a troubled expression]

Warrior: [proudly]

That's because he's Edain.

Apprentice: [frowning]

Isn't that just a dialect form for "Secondborn"?


Not the way we use it.

Apprentice: [sniffs, grasping for the superior manner again]

Even if one grants that you are perhaps not all crazy, you're still very confusing people. And no chivalry, no sense of sportsmanship whatsoever!

[he gives the Captain a very stern Look -- the latter is not fazed at all]


Lesson one, friends?

The Ten, and Beren: [chorus]

"War is not a game --"


That's why I call duelling "that silly ritual combat nonsense." It creates all kinds of bad habits, and worse assumptions, such as the one that your opponent will follow the same rules as you.

Apprentice: [rubbing at his trapezoidal again]

I'm doomed.



You don't have to be. If you'd like, we can train you properly, and not finish our match until you feel you're ready.

Apprentice: [bleak]

I'm not as good as you are -- and unless I . . . cheat . . . I never will be, will I?


I've no idea. Only one way to find out --

[Nienna's student flinches]

-- Nothing like that fast. Or that easy. Same principle, though -- you have to try.

Apprentice: [faintly]

Oh joy.


Captain: [serious]

Do you want me to let you off? Call it even, once your task is done, and we're quits?

[the Apprentice is clearly thinking hard about this, but after a moment he shakes his head, though with a very unhappy look, knowing he's going to regret it -- probably more than once]

Good lad. -- Second lesson: it always hurts. No matter what you do, or do not do, the results are going to be unpleasant in one way or another. That's the way of it. You simply have to pick. Would you rather live with: having walked away? -- Or being beaten like an ingot until you don't stand there like a rock asking yourself, "I say, can he really do that, now?"

[the other grimaces at the imitation, and the fact that rest of the Ten think it's funny]

-- or stand there afterwards saying "Hey, I've been hit! This can't be happening to me!" for another few moments before reacting. -- Shock of it, and the fear, hurts nearly as much as the blow itself, doesn't it?

[the Apprentice nods, unhappily -- then checks]


You hit me with the flat, and it hurt that much.


Don't worry, we'll train with blunted and dulled equipment until you're safe to handle live edges.


No. That's not what I meant.

[getting more upset]

I wounded you with edge and point, and I didn't pull the blows either. If -- is this what it's like? To be wounded? Only worse? To be --

[he breaks off, distraught]

Captain: [gently]

I knew what I was in for.


But --

[he looks at the Ten, anguished, and is not entirely reassured by their expressions]


Are you afraid that I will exact punishment from you for that?

[giving him an intense stare]

You've already called my honor into question a second time, and you know that I can slice the truth fine enough to weave nets for even such a soaring bird-of-passage as yourself -- are you worried I have trapped you yet again?



No. You've only made trouble to defend your friends -- or, well, out of boredom, and --


-- I suppose I could be as mistaken as before, and quite foolish saying this, but -- I don't think any of you bear me any ill will.

[turning and bowing graciously towards the Steward]

Not even you, sir, despite some cause.

[after a second the Steward gives him a neutral nod in return. To the Captain, reluctantly:]

I am worried -- about what I did to you. Can I at least see how badly your arm is hurt?


There's naught to see -- we that are but mind and memory have no blood to spill, it's but the thought of it that counts with us, so to speak.

[brief pause]

But I'll give you my hand in fellowship, and to seal our bargain, if you will.

[longer pause]


Forgive me -- I am disquieted and -- revulsed, I have to admit, by your state. -- It's nothing personal, you understand.

Captain: [wry smile]

Do you think I haven't noticed that as well? Why do you think I baited you so hard and left you no time for second-thoughts of any sort? Had to encourage that hot-headed impulsiveness to the point where both your common sense and your reservations were swept away.

Apprentice: [dry]

Which, I must say, you managed most adroitly.


How you must despise me -- !

Beren: [frowning]

I think I'm missing something. What's the matter?

[he looks at the others, who look at the Apprentice, who looks at the floor]


I am not -- easy, among the -- the discorporate, though I do try not to make it obvious, or be -- insulting, about it.


You mean dead, right?


I -- suppose, though the term seems rather clumsy, seeing how, well, it doesn't mean just those who are temporarily lacking as your friends, but your own permanently-transient situation.


But you don't mean spirits like in the stories that are invisible servants of the gods --

[breaks off]

-- Is that why I couldn't see them? Is it just as simple, as stupid, as that?


Er . . .

Captain: [urgent]

Don't trouble over it, Beren. The answer's yes, of course, and perhaps, because what does "invisible" mean? Only that you can't see something. Does it matter why now? -- That much?

[the mortal shakes his head -- his friends are much relieved]

But I don't think that he means them in any case.


Well, as a matter of fact, no. -- The involuntarily discorporate, to be exact.

First Guard:

What about people who choose to fade? Like the late King's first wife?

Ranger: [a bit aggressively]

Right -- does that bother you less than people who've been killed? And if so, why?

[Nienna's student is increasingly flustered and defensive]


You have to understand --

Beren: [breaking in]

He's afraid of ghosts. That's all. I guess it isn't any weirder than for me.


Yes, but why? It isn't like we could do anything to him, even if we wanted to.

Youngest Ranger: [conscientious]

Well, that's not quite true --


Yes, but not really. Not "Undeath" or possession or anything like that. Being dumb enough to pick fights, that's doesn't count. Besides --

[giving the Maia a dark Look]

-- he didn't get hurt, in any event.

[his commander gestures him quiet]


Don't be so hard on yourself, lad, you were gracious enough to help me up, troubling to you or not.


Yes, but -- I had to. I'd injured you, after all.


Beren: [thoughtful]

-- Horses don't like going near blood. Takes a lot of patience to convince a green pony to carry kill, or go to war. They know it's wrong. Not the way things're supposed to be.

[Nienna's student gives him a wary look]

-- Not trying to insult you, by the way. Just talking about it being in the nature of things.

Warrior: [abruptly]

What about you?




You change, don't you? That's what we've been guessing. -- Though I suppose it could all be illusion, depending on whose company you're in. But when you talk about going home, you're like them again, aren't you? The rest of the Manir? So aren't you being unreasonable to feel as though there's something horribly wrong with us, when you go back and forth from being housed yourself?

[an expectant silence]

Apprentice: [still more defensive]

When I -- forsake this form, I -- am not diminished. It's only a change in states of being. I -- can't understand what it would be like to lose -- part of one's self. And I -- I really don't want to, but I can't help wondering.

[Beren raises an eyebrow]

Beren: [coolly]

Not fun.


Ah -- oh. That -- I -- forgot. I didn't -- I wasn't --

[he sits down abruptly and covers his face with his hands]

Beren: [even]

It's not just that, it's everything else, too -- you don't know how much you take having both hands for granted until one's gone. It's not like having the arm broken or injured, either. I stumble just walking sometimes, because of that little imbalance in weight.

[the Apprentice, hanging his head, does not answer]


It's all right, we won't drench you for honest stupidity.

Apprentice: [muffled]

It's hopeless.


What is?




Oh, I hope not.


Me, at least.

[Huan comes over, whining, and tries to snuggle, leaning over his shoulder and pressing his head and muzzle against the forlorn Maia's face]


[he tries to pull away from the sympathetic Hound]


That's one of the dangers of sitting around feeling sorry for yourself when there's a wet dog around. He might feel sorry for you, too.

[the Apprentice is treated to some more canine sympathy, not much to his delight]

You better figure outwhat you want to do, because otherwise he's going to keep trying to cheer you up.

Apprentice: [polite but edged]

Huan, please. Would you stop doing that?

[this has no discernible effect]


The way that works best when he's being like that is to push him hard with both hands, just like a horse. Otherwise you're just going to keep on getting wet.


I haven't been very good at it in any sense since I lost my hand, of course.

[silence. Nienna's student grimaces and resolutely shoves Huan's nose away from his ear, straightening up]

Apprentice: [sighing]

I'm being insufferable, aren't I?

Beren: [shrugs]

You're being a kid, is all. And everyone gets like that under stress.

[he glances over at his friends, laughing at himself]


But I'm not a child. Not compared to any of you, at least. I'm not all that much younger than the rest of my kind. I just -- have a hard time settling down. Everything's so interesting and different, and why limit one's self? I thought I wanted to be an Eagle, but -- it turned out to be so much routine work, I wouldn't be able to just go off and explore as I expected. And -- there were other incidents.


Can't figure out what you want to be when you grow up, huh?

[the Apprentice bristles, then looks a bit worried when Beren only smiles and leans back to look at the Ten again]

He could talk to -- to Finrod about that too, eh?

[ducking quickly to avoid a retaliatory cuff from the Captain -- even the Steward smiles a little at the by-play]

Apprentice: [frowning]

You're trying to encourage me.

Beren: [shrugging again, pulling Huan down next to him by his collar]

Hm, yeah. -- You offended by that?


-- No. But -- that isn't how it's meant to work. You're supposed to be helped by us, not the other way round.


Indeed? I had heard otherwise, but I must presume myself mistaken. At least with regards to who was also in need of help, if not who should give it.



You make simple things more complicated, you know.

Third Guard:

Are you sure? Or is it only that they really were complicated all along? Lord Edrahil's usually right, even if he's got the most annoying way of putting things.

Steward: [slight smile]

One may learn patience from the most unlikely of sources, I have found.

Apprentice: [mournful]

And I thought Lady Nienna was being hard on me with that business of the candles!


Candles? What was that?


They're sort of like lamps, only more convenient: if you can imagine a stick of wax, with a cord running through it, the way the pith goes through a twig --

Beren: [pleasantly]

Actually, I used to help making them sometimes when I was a kid. On account of how they always made me get the combs out anyway because of not getting stung, and hanging around afterwards I usually got to scrounge some of the bits that were too small to be worth pressing, and plus it was boring, but not as boring as having to clean up the leftover wax after.

[the other blinks]

Apprentice: [chagrined]

You meant what was that business, not what "candles" meant.

[sighing theatrically]

She gave me a basket of candles, and sent me into Tirion late one afternoon, telling me to light one and give it to each person I met, if they'd accept it, and ask them to carry them around until they burned out. I didn't realize the basket was attuned to the storeroom!

Steward: [raising an eyebrow]

I gather you didn't expect them to last as long as they did?

[he looks quietly amused]

Apprentice: [exclaiming indignantly]

Do you know how many people there are in Tirion?

[the Ten exchange looks]


Not any more.

Apprentice: [morose]

Lots. And they all think I'm mad, now.

Beren: [frowning]

So what was the point of it?


I beg your pardon?


Some kind of lesson, right?


Yes. I thought it was along the lines of a practical joke, to keep me passing out candles so that every time I'd got to the end of it, and was just starting to feel hopeful, it would be filled again. And when she came to meet me at the end of it, in the great square by the Tree, and asked me what I'd learned, I said that I'd learned not to ask how things could get worse. And she asked me if that was all, and if it was all, what would it take to open my eyes? Because I hadn't even looked past the pile of candles for -- oh, hours.


Well, that's something you never want to ask, but what was the problem? And what else was it you were supposed to figure out?


I was frustrated and I'd asked her earlier in the day what difference it could possibly make whether I ever -- attained the virtues she was supposed to be instructing me in, how could it possibly be worse or better for my part, what affect could I have one way or the other on the world. And she handed me the basket, and sent me to Tirion.

Beren: [fascinated]


Apprentice: [increasingly rapt in memory]

I was so tired, and footsore, and embarrassed at the end of the day, and I couldn't wait to be rid of the wretched basket, and she took me by the shoulders and said, "Next, I want you to name me the visible stars," and I groaned, and looked up -- and couldn't see a one. There was so much light in Tirion from the candles, and people were standing on roofs and balconies and walkways talking and laughing, and they weren't really laughing at me, they weren't even thinking about me.


-- And that was -- worse, in a way that I'm not happy about. The whole City was -- almost as it had been, before the Night, but different: you could hardly even see the Beacon, and the White Tree was almost as gold as the Lady Tree before She died, and -- it was so beautiful I couldn't even speak, and I hadn't even noticed how many people were carrying my candles, or how much difference it made as Narya came home and it got dark. And we sat there in the square and watched until the flames died away and we could see some of the brighter stars and did that and then we went home.

Beren: [quietly]

What tree was that? I thought -- both of them . . . ?


-- Oh. No -- that was the White Tree, Galathilion, who lives in Tirion. He -- he was a little version of Telperion, almost like a portrait, but alive, not made of anything inorganic. When the wind blows he flickers just like living flames, but silver. You should see him, when you're --

[he breaks off]

I -- I'm --

Beren: [looking at him intently]

I have. Just now, through your words.


It hardly seems enough.


Never is. But you take what you can get.

[the other gives him a troubled look]

Sounds to me like you learned stuff from that.

[Nienna's student smiles, hesitantly and after a briefer physical hesitation, holds out his right hand -- even as he realizes his mistake and falters Beren pulls him to his feet, left-handed, and leads him the few steps to where the Captain is sitting, giving him an encouraging slap on the back as his victorious opponent slowly rises and looks at him consideringly]

Apprentice: [resigned, and formally polite]

I'm very grateful for your kindness and trouble, milord, in --

Captain: [shaking his head]

Not yet, you shouldn't be. You're going to hate me, and every single one of us, many times over, before you're through.


. . .


But -- if you train properly, you will learn not only self-defense but a certain amount of discipline, and very definitely focus, or you'll wash out very quickly. Can't promise anything more than that, and only what you're willing to learn.

[daunted but resolute, the Apprentice holds out his hand again and does not look away in discomfiture or embarrassment as they shake on the deal]


I promise you, sir, I will learn whatever you can teach me. Nor to quit before you say I can't learn anything more.


And I pledge I will not ever, ever push you harder than I truly believe you equal to -- in training. In a testing match, that's a most different story. But even there, I will never punish you, not least for being good -- that is, I will never deliberately hurt you in retaliation for the same, of anger, or humiliate you for making me look the fool as you improve.

[his adversary looks shocked at the notion; he smiles grimly]

Oh yes. You don't think I've been tempted -- or that you will be too? Just wait until some half-yen recruit walks in out of the woods and splits your arrow without even half-trying --

[glancing over at the Sindarin Ranger, who looks away with an embarrassed grin]

-- and then does it again, without any more work, so it's clearly not one of those random incidents that sometimes happen -- and it's equally clear from the minute he draws his sword that he's never used it for anything but a machete to cut reeds with, or possibly to play at swordfighting with other children. If you don't think the temptation'll be there to flatten the little punk so that he -- and everyone else who's witnessed it -- will remember who was the one who looked the fool at day's end, then you've never been in that situation.

Ranger: [wonderingly]

We would never have guessed you felt that way, if you hadn't apologized for it when it was his turn.

[Nienna's student gives him a puzzled frown -- answering the unspoken question:]

In the Pit, sir.

[the Apprentice looks quite ill]

Captain: [to all of them]

One learns things about one's self, inevitably, as a teacher, if one does the job properly. And if one learns -- then one has a choice that must be made. I didn't much care for the destination if I set foot on that path -- it led due North, to my mind. Or who would be left at the end of it.

Apprentice: [pulling himself gamefully together]

So, what, you just beat people up for the sheer fun of it now?


Mostly. Or because they need it, as per those who are trainees. -- Sometimes for being repellent, arrogant twerps who need it, regardless of the amusement value, to remind them not to humiliate those they think weaker for their own amusement. But not because I've been slighted, however slightly, in front of others.


Though if you do things that are not within Eldarin abilities to get out of trouble, in the future, you'll make that much more difficult for me.

[the Apprentice nods, rueful]

-- Of course, you and I are going to disagree significantly on what you're capable of.

Apprentice: [stoic]

This is going to hurt. A lot.


Third lesson -- it always hurts. No matter how good you are.

[the disguised Maia rubs at the side of his neck once more]

Apprentice: [a touch resentfully]

Did you enjoy scaring me like that?


A little. You were quite obnoxious, crowing earlier, you know, and I'm still going short for that last blow.


-- Not anywhere near as much as you not backing down, though. I look for the best in people, and sometimes --

Both Rangers: [coming in simultaneously]

-- he's not disappointed.


-- I'm not disappointed.

Apprentice: [sour]

You're all enjoying this.


Consider it thus, gentle sir -- you've been here to be learning patience, well, you've found the shortest way to it. Nothing like learning from the best, is there now?

Apprentice: [wary]


Warrior: [nodding]

Why, the commander will patiently drub you sixty times running, if need be. Where another instructor would say, "go off and practice at the pels until you get the hang of it," he'll keep after you until you start paying attention and actually learning.


Oh joy.

[but he doesn't sound quite as gloomy as might be expected -- this is, after all, a major challenge to look forward to.]

Beren: [musing]

You know, where I come from, we seal bargains with a drink as well as a handshake.

[he and the Captain exchange a meaningful Look]

Captain: [offhand]

True. -- You want to do it all right and proper as per the Old Country?

Apprentice: [getting interested]

Oh, that's with a drinking horn, and that beverage that they make out of bread, right?


Something like that, yes.

[the Apprentice does not notice the attentive and hopeful aspect of the other shades, not excluding the Steward, for all his attempts to seem disinterested, in his enthusiasm for arcane lore and living history -- ]


Oh, how fascinating! A genuine new-fashioned custom from another culture -- this will be something exciting to tell my family next time --

[meanwhile the Captain has manifested a drinking horn with rather ornate fixtures and offered it to Beren]


Hey, I've seen this one before -- Wow! I guess it did come from Nargothrond like everyone said.


Yes, I thought you had. You want to make sure I've remembered everything right?

[Beren takes the horn carefully, bracing the tail of it on his forearm, and tries the contents]

Beren: [judiciously]

That's not bad at all.


Himself will be happy to hear it. It's always tricky, replicating someone else's art, especially when one hasn't a tradition of it, such as brewing.

[he reclaims the horn, solemnly drinks from it and with a formal gesture passes it to the Apprentice, who unwarily takes a large gulp, and is horrified. Everyone else is much amused.

Apprentice: [gasping]

What -- what is this?


That's ale.


Also called beer.


It's supposed to taste like this? Bitter?


Nearly. I mean, it tastes the way I remember it, which isn't the same as really tasting something.


And people drink this voluntarily? Not just because you haven't any wine?

Steward: [aside]

Incredibly, yes.


And you -- you like it?

Second Guard:

Mortals do.


Most. Not everyone.


And a very few mad Eldar. -- Most definitely not everyone.

Youngest Ranger:

His Majesty likes beer, sir.

Steward: [haughty]

His Majesty has not ever been able to determine whether he likes it or loathes it. Hence his continuing tests across the centuries, culminating in the experiment which served to prove that it would never under any circumstances replace the vintners' work in popular esteem. -- Nor even rival it, saving among certain lunatics and risktakers both here and in Doriath. -- Though I always suspected it was at least in part an affectation, to appall more civilized folk.

[the Captain grins]

Apprentice: [shaking his head]

It's like some horrible perversion of mead.


It is not! Mead is something completely different. And a lot sweeter.


He means something entirely other by it, in any case. The word was simply applied by analogy -- it isn't what they drink here.

Beren: [plaintive]

Why did you all do that? How come you didn't just make up different words for different things?


Alas, I was not consulted when our ancestors first devised language, not having been born then, or rest assured I would have insisted upon a more logical state of affairs -- I warn you, however, that the result would have been even more words, and thus more nouns to decline.



There's that.

Apprentice: [a bit sulky]

You're enjoying yourselves at my expense again.


But that's good. That means you're welcome.

[the Apprentice gives him a doubtful Look]


But -- they engage in humor at nearly everyone's expense. It doesn't mean that -- oh, the Warden of Formenos is welcome --






He'd be very put out to hear you. Formenos was a much grander stronghold than any of their holdings in Beleriand, because they didn't stop to pack the way we did, and so he has to have a grander title than anyone else.


Don't they mean essentially the same thing?


You'll have to ask --

[he does not duck quite soon enough]

-- ow!

[rubbing his head -- to Nienna's student]

See? That's what I meant. He wouldn't have dinged me like that otherwise.

Apprentice: [bemused]

But how do you know? What's teasing-to-show-ease, and what's simple mockery? Are there any rules?


Nope. It just depends. -- Do you want that?

[nodding to the drinking-horn which the Apprentice is still holding as though it were a poisonous snake]


Ah -- no.

[with a very dubious expression, not sure what's going to be perpetrated on him next, he starts to pass it across -- but Huan gets up and leans over, intercepting it, and starts lapping out of it.]

Is that part of your joke?

Beren: [chagrined]

No, I think that's Huan teasing both of us.


[enthusiastic tail-wag]

[Beren tugs him away by the collar again as if he were a horse and claims the drinking horn]


Is -- that also a mortal custom, sharing one's vessels with one's livestock?

Beren: [swallowing]

-- Not ordinarily. But it's Huan, and it's a shame to waste good beer.

[the other grimaces in recollection]

Besides, we're both ghosts, so I don't think it matters anyway.

[this gets him a damp bit of doggy affection in turn.]

Apprentice: [frustrated]

I'm still baffled. I don't know why he's doing this.



Steward: [comprehending]

Being a dog? Or remaining discorporate?




But didn't he choose to keep going in the Rebellion? So isn't he under the Doom with them, too? Until Lord Mandos judges him?


Well, yes, but --


You think he's gonna cheat and, what, use special privileges to get out of here? Like it was all a game, and now because he's a demi-god he's going home and everyone else has to suffer through?


Erm --

Beren: [earnest]

He's Lord of Dogs. He's got way too much honor to do that.

Apprentice: [hurt]

You needn't talk to me as though I were stupid.

[Beren nudges at Huan's foreleg with his foot, and the Hound grins up slyly from where he's resting his head on his paws]


I'm not saying anything that he might not tell you. He called me "witless" for being about to try to walk into Angband alone.

Fourth Guard: [innocent]

But what you haven't told us, is -- was that a conditional statement or not?

Beren: [nodding towards the Maia]

You want for me to teach him that reaping song that has a hundred different verses that all sound the same?

Apprentice: [frowning]

What? That's a contradiction in terms.


Not really. There aren't any real words, and each verse is just a note different from the other one, and when you finish all of them the changes bring you right back to the first one. It sounds really neat when you do it right.


How can you sing it if there aren't any words?


Well, there are words, only nobody knows what they mean any more. They don't even mean anything in our Old Tongue. There are a lot of working songs like that. And they all sound kind of the same, but they're different. So the threshing song is actually the reaping song done backwards.


They seem really easy to sing, but they're not easy to get right, and if you mix it up you have to start over, and your friends throw chaff at you for breaking the changes because if one person gets off then everyone loses their place.

[with a rueful smile towards the Steward]

Lord Edrahil absolutely hates them, on account of how they're boring and complicated at the same time.


You left out the fact that once one hears one such -- tune, one cannot banish it from memory.


And you've left out the fact that you made certain that someone was humming it, in response to your peevish reminiscences, just when the Warden of Aglon was happening along to scoff at Himself for having been set down by Amarie.


See, that's humor-at-someone's-expense.


And a particularly-ruthless employment of a Gift, as well.

Steward: [extremely patronizing]

-- Delightful as this has undoubtedly been, I must leave you to your . . . simple diversions, now.

[he gets up and bows to the Apprentice, just a shade too deeply -- his composure is mostly recovered and his expression is faintly ironic, ready for verbal combat.]


But not this. This is just friendly joshing around.

[the Steward taps him lightly on the head as he goes past]


Don't bedevil your elders, child -- or at least make a serious effort, if you can't do better than that.

[they share a quick smile]


I promise I'll follow your example, sir.

Steward: [sniffing]

Did I advise you thus? I think you'll find not.

[as he edges through, his companions all reach up and clasp his hand or pat his arm]

Captain: [serious]

Good luck --

Steward: [very dry]

t can't be any worse than explaining to the Lady how it was that a conduit was inadvertently sheared across. -- And no, I'd not have another instance to verify comparisons.

Apprentice: [staring after him]

You are all insane.


Yes, but you have to admit, we do have so much more fun.

[the disguised Maia tries to look prim and disapproving and responsible -- and fails utterly]

Any bets on how long it'll take before he's tripping people into fountains too?


. . .

First Guard: [cheerfully reassuring]

You'll fit right in.


Ah -- was that meant as a compliment? Or as humor?

Beren: [nodding, very seriously]

You got it.

Apprentice: [lightly, but with a more thoughtful look than his words indicate]

-- Melisma, but you've caught the habit of cryptic Elven -- erm, I suppose I've got to call it wit? -- as well!

[Huan stretches his way up, leans over, and snuffles him enthusiastically, evoking another strangled yell]


[Elsewhere: the council chamber]

[the feeling of a long diplomatic standoff or cross-examination pervades -- all that's missing is a long polished table. Luthien is sitting with her elbow on her knee, her chin in her hand, looking rather bitter as well as tired; Nerdanel is sketching quickly away on some sort of small folding tablet with a crystal stylus, apparently not paying attention at all, occasionally showing her work to Aule's Assistant for comment. The Doriathrin Ambassador is watching the Powers carefully, particularly the two quiet ones, Aule and Orome, and the Lord and Lady of the Halls are stoic about it all.]

Irmo: [with a lifted eyebrow towards his brother]

I dare say most of us will express loud and vocal dismay if the word "inflexible" is used once more, Luthien.

[she rolls her eyes at this sally]

Luthien: [forced patience]

What am I saying that is so complicated, so hard for you all to understand? -- You're just like my parents, really.

[the Lord of Dreams looks put out; Namo starts to say something, and checks himself, earning a sympathetic look from his wife -- and Nerdanel looks up from her notebook with a keen expression:]


Aught is there that confoundeth me, Tinuviel, I must perforce confess: couldst not with all thy manifest and obscure powers, whilst yet in the Old Country, thou to have prevented, ere ever he came to maiming else to death, thy true-love from his madness and his mad designing?


I already explained: I tried. I did everything I could to convince him to give it up and forget about it, that we in fact were free and no one could stop us from living our lives as we pleased from now on, and that he wasn't under any sort of obligation to my father since the task had been given in bad faith, and that no one, least of all Finrod, would have expected that he had some sort of other duty to finish getting killed since he hadn't managed it before. I tried reason, I tried simple begging, I tried tears -- nothing I could do made any difference.


Thou hast said -- but, methinks, not so. -- Or wouldst say, in truth, that mortal Men be stronger of will and thought and deep-held resolve than ever the gods, than the Dark Enemy of us all and all his bonden Servants be?

[as Luthien frowns at her, Nerdanel not giving ground:]

Might thine own might not have served where 'suasion of plainer means did fail, and bend thy rebel lord to thine own temper, and held him rather by thy side perforce?

Luthien: [snorting]

Of course I could have. I could have taken Nargothrond, too, if Beren would have gone along with it -- it wouldn't have been nearly as hard as the Gaurhoth or Angband, I already knew most of the leaders and I knew them better, in any case, being Eldar like me, from a spiritual standpoint. There might not even have had to have been a civil war at all, no matter what he said. With my power back I could have scryed Celegorm's thoughts like Carcharoth's, and shown him himself as if in a mirror, and made him admit that he knew, really, that what he'd done was wrong --

[Nerdanel flinches, though controlledly, and shifts, her expression pained]

Vaire: [meaningfully]

You've thought about it, then.

[Luthien starts to say something outraged and haughty, and doesn't]


I --

[she tries to speak again, and stops herself, looking both horrified and furious]


You cannot deny it? That you have considered both the possibility and the logistics of the deed, using your power to remove that obduracy and intemperate resolve from your lord's heart, and fill the wound with forgetfulness and pleasure at your approval, instead?

[long pause]

Luthien: [shouting]

Of course I thought about it! How couldn't I? Beren wasn't being reasonable at all. It -- it would have been -- it would almost have been -- I could have told myself it was really only healing, if I'd tried it. That it was wrong of me not to do it, not to save him from himself.


But he wouldn't have been Beren then. If -- I'd done -- anything like that -- he'd --

[she clenches her fists, unable to go on]

Vaire: [reasonably]

-- He would still be alive.


No! It -- it wouldn't be him.


And I wouldn't be me, any more, either.


So it is more important that his spirit be whole and undiminished, unshackled, than that you possess his outward seeming and presence, notwithstanding either the fact that already he was injured and bound by the effects of Melkor's deeds, or that the consequence of it be risk, and eventually the actual event, of your losing him? -- In your own estimation?

[silence -- Luthien gives her a very angry Look]

Luthien: [sharply]

That's not fair.


On the contrary.


You do see it, then, don't you, dear?

Luthien: [shaking her head violently]

No, no, NO! You're missing something that's so important that I don't know how to explain it besides showing you who we were, and why you can't measure Beren, measure us, by any ordinary standard. It's like my parents' choosing each other -- maybe it doesn't make sense from a practical point of view, but there are other things that are more important, that are what the point of all the practical things really are --

Orome: [acerbic]

You'll find that's not a comparison that's going to make your case more popular around here.

Luthien: [hotly]

Don't change the subject!

[long pause, in which everyone looks expectantly at her, and she looks extremely defensive]

-- Stop scorning me because I was tempted, all right? You don't know what it's like to watch someone you love destroy himself.

Aule: [with a faint, bittersweet smile]

No? You don't think so, hm?

[Nerdanel glances up quickly at his words and they share a long, meaningful Look]

Ambassador: [quietly]

Little Luthien . . .

[she gives him an angry glare]

. . . no longer. We were not so wise, we your elders in earth's growing -- but not in the Unseen realm, I fear.

[her expression changes to sadness, both regret and pity: both of them know there is no going back to what was.]


[the Hall]

[Beside the falls, the Apprentice is happily ensconced in the midst of the Ten, scratching Huan's ears and laughing at something someone has just said.]

Captain: [mild]

Shouldn't you be getting back to work? We really aren't trying to make trouble for you, after all, simply to employ your talents.


Yes, but . . .

[he sighs deeply]

It's so much more pleasant to listen to your stories than, well, to be nagged and insulted by everyone else. I really ought to, I suppose . . . but it isn't as though the complaints are going to cease, after all. If only you could throw -- I shouldn't say that, should I?


Say what?


Hah. No, you'll not catch me that way.

Fourth Guard: [shrugs]

Depending on whom you're thinking of, we might have already done them one better.


That's right -- they could be looking for you right now to report us, since the Powers are still in the meeting.

First Guard:

But, of course, we can't be sure, since you won't say.

Apprentice: [grinning]

Confound the lot of you! What have you done to those two this time?


Injured dignity.

Youngest Ranger:

And kneecap.


Shoulder-sockets, too, looked like.

[Nienna's student sighs, in an almost-convincing display of sober maturity]


What did they do now?


Insulted us.


-- That is not why they were forcibly removed from the premises. It was the attempted unprovoked assault on him that got reciprocated in advance.



There's something skewed in your reasoning.

Fourth Guard:

Stick around long enough, it'll all make sense.


I'm afraid that's probably true.

[for just a moment he looks daunted, thinking about what he's gotten into]

Beren: [curious]

So, do you have to stay like --

[the Apprentice raises his hand, in a sudden and very authoritative gesture, silencing him]


Do you recollect what I said earlier, when you corrected me as to the negligible difference between perceive and see? -- That circumstance will no longer hold true in a moment.


Uh -- oh. -- Oh.

[he nods, doesn't say anything else; the disguised Maia gives him an approving nod]

Apprentice: [standing up and squaring his shoulders]

Duty -- or duties -- call. I'm not sure when it will be, but I'll bring you news as soon as there is news.


Unless you get distracted meanwhile.

Apprentice: [stalwart]

That won't happen, I promise you.




I appreciate the frankness.

Apprentice: [serious]

It may --

[glancing at Beren]

-- not be good news. -- Though --

[with a bemused expression]

I've got to admit I'm feeling irrationally optimistic, since you involved me in all this.


"Irrational" is right.

[at the Captain's Look]

Sorry, sir, but someone's got to give you a hard time while he's gone.


Yes, but are you going to remember to stop when he gets back?

[Nienna's student turns a chortle into a cough and bows extravagantly]


I pledge you, I shall be back anon.

Captain: [with a casual wave]

And we shall be here, most likely.

[as the Apprentice goes jauntily off, the Captain asks Beren:]

Did that confounded dog leave us any ale?


Some. Not much.

[he passes over the drinking horn -- the Captain finishes it and lets the vessel disappear]


Anyone else feel that we've company?

[the rest of the Elven shades look at each other; several nod, while others shrug]


Is it -- her -- again? His girlfriend?


Perhaps. Or not.

[Beren looks around at them, shrewdly]


You know who it is, don't you?

Second Guard: [correcting]

Who it could be. There are a lot of possibilities.

Captain: [like someone trying to coax a timid animal out]

You really are welcome to join us. None of us will trouble you -- not even the mortal -- not unless you start it first.

[Lady Earwen's former handmaiden appears softly from the shadows, wearing a rather sulky expression]

Teler Maid:

I know that.

Beren: [pleased]

Hey, I was right.


Oh. -- Hullo again.


Why were you pretending not to be here, Sea-Mew?

Teler Maid: [haughty]

I do not like that young Elf of Lady Nienna's Household.


Why not?

Teler Maid:

He does not understand. He chides me for malingering and is overbold to tell me that if I do not dare to go Without, then I must not blame it upon any other, and also much to say that I ought at the least to go amongst others nor keep so entirely unto myself.




You know, those sound exactly like the sorts of things I would say, if I had thought of them.

Teler Maid:

I did this once already to tell -- I have had enough of being set down and disregarded in life, by Noldor, that I should wish to meet it more within these walls? I think not!


Now, Maiwe -- be fair. Not everyone treated you badly in Tirion. Didn't the Family do everything they could to make you feel at home and make the most of being in our City?

[she doesn't answer]

And my parents, too?

Teler Maid: [reluctantly]

Yes . . .


Everyone of House Finarfin, in fact. Didn't we all include you in things when Lady Earwen didn't need you -- which was most of the time -- and when you'd let us? Short of picking you up and carrying you away like an infant, there wasn't anything more we could do, was there?

Teler Maid:

I know that you meant well, but it was not -- it was so far from what I was used! You and Suli' and Lady Nerwen and all those big noisy horses and big noisy dogs and big noisy birds with flapping wings!

Captain: [innocent]

Big noisy people too, eh?

[she grins for a second before remembering not to]

We were rather a rowdy lot, I'll admit, and perhaps we tried too hard to put you at ease by being easy ourselves. -- But it's noisy enough along the coast, what with the waves crashing on the rocks and under the piers, and the wood creaking, and booms hitting, and the wind in sails sounding like a drum and all -- and I do seem to remember the occasional large white bird shrieking and flapping its wings for a morsel after coming back from hunting for fish.

Teler Maid: [lifting her chin]

It is different, in the harbour.


What you're used to, you mean.

Teler Maid:

But I had no wish to go dashing about the woods and fields like that!

[playful -- what follows is an old joke, clearly]

-- And you do not hunt fish, you catch them, silly. -- And it was dull, for me, since I had not skill nor strength for your bows and could not contest with ye.


And we weren't Edrahil, either.

[the way she doesn't answer is answer enough]

You know that if you'd kept with us -- I don't mean going out in the field, if you really cared naught for it -- but with the House, you'd have been far happier, met much nicer people who would have taught you all kinds of things and learned from you, too. But instead you had to go trailing after him like a poor little puppy dog all over Aman, getting stepped on or patted on the head by those who thought far too well of themselves already, and not being sure enough of yourself to show your teeth and make them at least treat you with respect and think better of your people, if not with liking. You did hoose a good deal of your unhappiness, Sea-Mew, you've got to admit. Even if he did alternate between encouraging you and ignoring you, or worse.

[she gets more stubborn-looking throughout this lecture, and counterattacks:]

Teler Maid:

How can you say such hard things of him, if you will call him friend?


That's how. Because he knows my failings as well as I know his, and does me honor regardless.

Teler Maid: [intent frown]

Why? I do not understand how it is that you and he have become friends, far less so fast.

Captain: [shrugs]

I could tell you it was because he saved my life overseas, but that wouldn't really account for it, particularly because it was largely his fault I got shot in the first place.

Teler Maid: [narrowing her eyes]

Would that not have the effect most opposite, in fact?


That wasn't the important part. What followed was what mattered. And followed naturally from the fact that he'd long since become someone I had come to respect, during the crossing of the Grinding Ice.


Teler Maid: [still doubtingly]

So he did not go upon the Ships, then?

[he shakes his head]

Why did he not?

Captain: [shaking his head again]

You must ask him that, yourself, else you'll have but a friend's guess, whether it be true or false.

[she looks down, and does not say anything. Very seriously:]

-- Did you really think he was with House Feanor, that Night, or that he would have joined them, or even stood idly by and not tried to defend you all? For not even the gods can say for certain what would have been, but I would stake my life upon it -- if I had it -- that not even as he was in those Days would Edrahil have done any such thing, though he would mock me for such faith.

[long pause]

-- Maiwe?

Teler Maid: [suddenly and sharply]

-- I did not think that any of our people would kill us, nor thieve us of our artistry, as they were robbed of treasures of life and jewel, either!


Captain: [sighing]


[awkward silence -- curiosity winning strongly over discreteness among the onlookers]

Teler Maid: [trying not to sound like it's important]

He is gone again, then?


As you see.

Teler Maid:



To be harangued by Lord Finarfin.

Teler Maid:


[clearly torn between asking why and being too proud to do so]

Second Guard: [hesitantly]

Hey, Maiwe . . .

[he gets the glare]

. . . how come you've come back to join us again when you said we were disturbing you and you'd rather have peace-and-quiet?

[long expectant pause]

Teler Maid: [folding her arms defiantly, spoiling the effect by absentmindedly standing on one leg again]

'Tis dull to be elsewhere, now that I do know that ye are come, and the Lady Nienna I might not find, for all my seeking, nor any of the Household of this Hall, saving those few who would not stay at my summoning but left in haste with excuse. What great matter is it, that all must be away about it?


Some of it's my fault --

Fourth Guard: [cutting him off]

But most of it isn't. One of Morgoth's Ainur has been spotted prowling about the Pelori, and everyone else is trying to roust out the intruder and reinforce the defenses. Or so we have it on pretty good authority.


Teler Maid:

That was not much by way of an answer, still, 'tis better than I have had ere now.


So, rather than suffer the pangs of boredom and the worse torments of not knowing what's going on when you know there's something going on, you'll put up with our disreputable and often-over-noisy company?

[she gives him a very scathing Look]

-- Aren't you worried about losing your balance and tipping over one of these days?

[she puts her foot down and straightens with rather a definite stamp, and then breaks into an unwilling smile and hops up onto one of the boulders, very much at ease.]

Teler Maid: [teasing]

At the least you have not hawks and horses and dogs about.


Only the one.

[she thinks he's joking]

Teler Maid:

Which? Not a horse, surely -- !

Ranger: [grinning]

Well, almost . . .

[he snaps his fingers at Huan, who sits up from where he was lying with his head on his paws and looks over alertly]

Teler Maid:


[she leaps off the ledge and stands there staring at the Hound, not at all happily]

I thought that was another rock!


That's Huan. He --

Teler Maid: [grimly]

-- I know who that is. I recollect -- and do well recall when last I saw -- !

[not taking her eyes off Huan]

'Twas at your master's heel, before the House of my King, when your lord's father mocked ours, and would not hear any word of Olwe's wisdom, nor any counsel save his own.

[her fists clench]

-- Do you not remember, dog?!?

[Huan jerks his head aside, breaking eye contact, and barks sharply]

Deny it now, would you indeed, wretch? I saw you with mine own eyes!


[double barks, rising in pitch, dog-objecting-to-things-as-they-are]

Teler Maid:

You! Orome's dog, you were, but wicked, and untrue did you become. -- Bad dog!!!


[very loud, distraught bark]


Hey! He isn't a bad dog. He saved Tinuviel's life. And mine. Several times.

[she looks briefly at him, then glares at Huan again]

Teler Maid: [through her teeth]

How nice for you. -- But he did not save mine. -- Did you? Did you, Hound of Celegorm? Bad, bad dog!

[as she speaks, getting louder, Huan alternates between barking and yelping in horribly-unhappy-dog fashion, backing away with his tail clamped between his hind legs. Unfortunately this means he's not looking where he's going . . .]

Third Guard: [slapping at his paw]

Ow! Huan, stop it!

Captain: [very stern]

Get back here. You're not slinking out of this.

[Huan does the negative yelp-head toss thing again and starts trying to back up once more]

Huan! Stay!

[he lunges up and secures a grip on the Hound's collar, since words aren't working, hauling on the other's neck as the Hound pulls back and then skids a bit, stiff-legged, on the stone floor -- very much like someone contending with a stubborn horse.]

Dammit, you Hellhound! -- Down!!! I'm not equal to this, you bloody idiot!

[as everyone else scrambles to not get trampled, Huan gives up abruptly at these words and drops into a crouch, the Captain leaning heavily on him and grimacing in pain and exasperation as he recovers from the struggle]


Sir, why --

Captain: [tightly]

Shut up, Beren, you don't understand -- yet.

[to Huan]

I don't care if you're a demi-god, a demon, or King Manwe himself in disguise, Hound, you're going to carry on a civilized conversation while I'm around. You will not go slamming out of here treading on people, and you will not shout and carry on like the Glamhoth if you don't like what's being said. -- Is that understood?

[he shakes Huan's collar once]


[repeated pathetic whines]



[a shocked silence follows -- to Beren]

What? You've owned dogs.

Beren: [faintly]

Yeah, but -- that's Huan.

Captain: [edged]

I'm well aware of that, trust me.

[Huan whines again, and Beren instinctively kneels down to comfort him, but the Captain fends him off]

Don't interfere. You'll understand -- all too soon.

[he nods a little and the other Rangers move up, not to restrain Beren but as moral support in what's coming]


[the Hound rolls his eyes, but he waits until getting his full attention.]

I'm sorry I called you a Wolf -- that was pain speaking -- but I'm not sorry for calling you a bloody idiot. Now, calm down and behave yourself. I don't like this any more than you do, and it's only going to get worse, I know. But you know you're stuck until you own up, no matter how many times you sneak away.

[Huan whimpers and tries to twist around to lick his hands, but gets another shake for it]

Stop that. Pity won't make me let you off.

[to the Sea-elf, in a very grim and formal tone:]

-- Daughter of Alqualonde, self-named Sea-Mew, what complaint bring you against the Hound Huan, for which he shall answer?

[she looks a little wild-eyed, now that it's come to this, but doesn't back down]

Teler Maid:

When Celegorm his master and his master's brothers did join with their father to steal our ships, and used sword and -- shield? -- shield, all with the tools of the hunt, the spear and the bow and the gutting-knife, to slay those who would bar them from the piers, and drive them from their own works by pain and terror -- this Hound was there, with the other Hounds of Orome's gift, in the following of Feanor.

[Huan starts to make some loud noise, and is preemptively checked with a strong pull on his collar]

Captain: [even more grim]

Are you saying, then, that the Lord of Dogs took part, and led his folk to take part, in the assault on your City? That he is guilty as well of the blood of the Kinslaying? For that I have never yet heard said.

[silence, broken only by almost subvocal canine whining]

Teler Maid:

Not of the former -- but yea, of the latter, indeed. For he was there, and stood by, and did naught -- naught! -- either to dissuade his lord, nor his lord's folk, neither to defend us, save to make noise of his distress, and to run to and fro, but what availed that, oh mighty and noble Huan?

[she stares at him, and he cannot meet her eyes, but turns his head away with a small yelp]

Captain: [dispassionate]

What judgment would you have, what recompense, that your accusation is admitted truth?

Teler Maid: [ice]

None. What can give back what is ruined? Life, or honor -- once burnt, they are as lost as any ship. That the truth be admitted is enough. Let him bear the shame, with the knowledge of what was not done, as I have borne the witness of it in my heart all this long time since.

[Huan makes a half-hearted scrabble to get away with his forepaws, but not serious, since the Captain keeps firm hold of his collar and he gives up as soon as it tugs him]


[single sharp bark]


If I let you go, -- who are you going to go hide behind? There isn't a one of us whose ignorance will protect you from the truth. And it's a hard, cold truth, as hard as the Ice, and no mistake. If you'd come with us at the first, we might not have been taken by Sauron's werewolves, and the King might not have been killed, and Beren wouldn't have had to live with that. Or it might have all gone wrong, and the Terrible One might have fought you and won, and turned out to be the greatest Wolf the world will ever see, and we might have ended up in chains the same, waiting for death with wrists flayed to the bone, knowing that there was no breaking free and unable to stop myself regardless. -- And you'll never know.

[he stares intently at the Hound, ignoring everything and everyone else, including Beren's distress and attempt to curl up hiding his face against his knees, thwarted by the Rangers who compel him to accept a sympathetic shoulder instead]

-- And we all know this, even Beren, even if he's never let himself think about it. And we welcomed you back among us, regardless, for what you did do and the choices you did make, even before we knew the end of the story. If I let you go, Huan, you can vanish, and refuse to face what you didn't do -- worse than fire, isn't it? And none of us, nor even the Lord and Lady of the Halls, can stop you -- not even Lady Nia.

[Huan keens a short, piercing note]

Of course, you'll be abandoning Beren, and failing the trust Himself laid upon you, and turning your back on your own liege lady who's relying on you to look after her lord -- but if you truly want that, want to judge yourself more harshly than any of us, then go --

[he turns the Hound loose with a little shove, sitting back with a frown and watching him closely. Huan continues to hunker there, keening, getting louder with each whine until the hint of a yelp is to be heard at the end, trying to look as small as a horse-sized animal possibly can but still very much visible. Beren pulls away from his friends and stands up, looking down at the miserable Hound, his face a mask of grief.]

Beren: [roughly]


Huan: [flinging his head back]

[echoing howl]

[everyone flinches -- the Sea-elf actually covers her ears -- except Beren, who keeps looking at the Lord of Dogs.]

Beren: [voice still ragged]

Come here, boy.

[crawling by pulling himself forward on his elbows, Huan creeps up to Beren and stretches his neck until his head is between the Man's feet, in the most vulnerable and submissive of dog/owner positions, especially for dogs with long floppy ears. Very carefully Beren steps over and kneels down again, putting his arms around Huan's neck and resting his cheek against the top of Huan's own head.]

You're still my good dog. You try to look out for your people, look out, do the right thing, we don't make it easy for you, do we? I know, I know, -- I'm sorry -- I love you too, pup, okay, get up, you're fine --

[as he speaks randomly, almost, crooning reassurances to the Hound, the latter huffs an enormous sigh, carefully and stiffly stretches back and up, and after nosing him gently in the face, goes over to the Captain, still very carefully and in the manner of a dog who's not sure if he's back in everyone's good graces yet.]

Captain: [wry]

Willing to forgive me?

[he reaches out his hand, but before Huan can push his nose under, he catches hold of the Hound's lower jaw and shakes it as Beren did earlier, a gesture not so much of disrespect nor even familiarity but complete trust, as the returning gleam in the Hound's eyes shows. Huan lifts a paw to brush him away, but he lets go first and reaches up to lightly push down the bridge of his muzzle, making the Hound's head nod like a horse's. Huan bounces back like a puppy, stiff-legged on all fours.]


[short, joyful barks]

[he turns around in place, wagging his tail with extreme enthusiasm, and makes short little bounds up to the rest of the Ten in turn, looking completely crazed as only a happy dog can. When he comes up to the Elf from Alqualonde, however, he does not receive any such greeting from her:]

Teler Maid: [biting off each syllable]

Stay away from me, Lord of Dogs.


[sharp whine]

Beren: [covering the situation]

Hey. Hey! You're being obnoxious, settle down.

[he tugs Huan down on the floor, where the Hound presses up next to him as closely as possible, a little forlorn, but not wretched any more. The Sea-elf does not weaken, even when the Captain gives her a meaningful Look.]

Teler Maid: [coldly]

You are kinder and more gentle of heart than I. For myself, -- I cannot forget, and do not wish to give up my wrath, merely because another justly suffers sorrow for mine own anguish.

Youngest Ranger: [hesitant]

I understand, a little.

[she turns on him, but he keeps going, stronger as he continues:]

It was hard for us all when we found out. About the Kinslaying. My people, I mean, for I wasn't born yet then. Even knowing . . . or believing, rather -- that the King had nothing to do with it -- and couldn't have, one way or the other -- a lot of folks couldn't deal with it. A few tribes who'd never done so in a thousand years, went and gave their allegiance right to the Greycloak instead. Even almost sixty years ago, there were still people in my village who weren't happy when they heard about me wanting to go to the King's War, not just work on the City and study there.

[she looks at him closely]

Teler Maid:

You are one of us.

[he nods]

And yet you are with them.

[everyone nods, not just him]

And you are a warrior.


One of the best. Better than me.

[his Sindar colleague looks away, abashed, and mutters something unintelligible except for the word "swords"]

Yes, but you know your weak points and work on them and around them.

Teler Maid: [to the Noldor Ranger, narrowing her brows]

You are conceding that one of us Latecomers is better at any single thing, save for boats, than you?

[he gives her an embarrassed smile]


Stranger things than that have happened, Sea-Mew. -- Not just one thing, either.


-- I don't think that was what she was remarking on, though -- was it, Maiwe?

[she shakes her head, slowly. To the other Teler]

Teler Maid:

You are not foremost in skill with the sword -- but you carry one none the less. And your bow is no light implement for catching marsh-fowl or fish, -- unless it is that ducks and trout in the Old Country have grown very large and fierce since my family left there?

[simultaneously, dead-pan]

Youngest Ranger:


[the Youngest Ranger is indicating with his hands as they speak]


-- Bigger than swans.

Teler Maid:




Youngest Ranger:

My cousin spent a fortnight wrestling one out of the river, once.


No, that was my cousin.

Youngest Ranger:

Are you sure? Perhaps it was its nest-mate.

Beren: [frowning]

I don't think trout have nest-mates, strictly speaking.

Youngest Ranger:

I was talking about a duck.


I thought you were talking about your cousin.

Ranger: [snorting, to the other Ranger]

It was so much less annoying for the seven-twelfths of a day that you were too much in awe of The Terror of the Northlands to actually say anything to him.

Beren: [shrugs]

Shouldn't have dropped your whetstone, then.

[the Sea-elf has been regarding them dubiously with a not-altogether successful attempt to keep from smiling]

Teler Maid:

What means that? -- Is this yet more of the strangeness of speech that followed on the dividing of our peoples, that you have brought hither with you?


No, I -- was upset and distracted and when we made camp the first night, I dropped my whetstone, and both of them said at once, "Look out, it's trying to rejoin the herd," without knowing the other was about to, and it sort of kept on from there. Turns out that someone --

[nudging his younger colleague]

-- is a lot less serious and quiet at heart than he ever let on all these years. We now think there's some sort of cultural shift to silliness that goes along with the quesse-parma and sule-thule changes, and that explains much of mortal humour too.

Youngest Ranger: [stiffly]

I was trying to behave appropriately among the High-elves and not embarrass my family for being a yokel. And you're not supposed to elbow a superior officer, I don't think.


We aren't on duty, Lieutenant.

Youngest Ranger:

Yes, we are, we're guarding Beren.


But if we're in the field, on duty, and someone spots something, and is right next to another, one always elbows them to get their attention. Because it would be stupid and a waste of time to go through the hand-signals to point out them that there was something they needed to know about, when you're right there. Right?

Youngest Ranger:

Well . . .

Teler Maid: [dryly]

If your theorem is correct, then the condition must come about when you begin to use our dialect as well. But I think it cannot be so, I think it is more a state to be passed from one to the other like damp or paint, for -- 

[pointing at the Captain]

-- he was ever so, and so I can well assure you who did not know him well in Tirion before.


That's why he went native so quickly over there.


Really? And here I thought it was the chance to live out-of-doors most ofthe time without being considered completely daft for wanting it.

Teler Maid: [narrowing her eyes]

Silly -- and most deviously endeavouring to distract me from my questionsand mine outrage.


Nope, that was just a useful consequence. Mostly we're kind of upset and stressed right this moment and my people tend to make dumb jokes that some people don't even recognize at times like that.


What was it you were asking, anyway?

Teler Maid:

. . .


See? Useful -- but complete coincidence. -- I think she was trying to ask how come we don't just let the violent warmongering Noldor look after all thefighting for us back home.

First Guard:

Well, there weren't enough of us, for starters, not even before the Bragollach.

Youngest Ranger:

And you didn't come along until after we'd already almost lost once and had been fighting for a long time before and after. -- Only not me, because I wasn't born yet then either.


And it would just have felt wrong to sit around enjoying ourselves and looking after our stuff, and not helping, when they gave it all to us in the beginning to start with.

Teler Maid:

You said that twice.



Teler Maid:

"In the beginning," and "to start with," for those are entirely the same.

[Beren just shrugs, with a rueful smile]

Fourth Guard:

If you correct Beren every time he says something that sounds weird, you're going to spend an awful lot of time doing it, -- and you'll miss a lot of things you'd have done better to hear. Oh, and you've changed the subject this time.


Teler Maid:

You are all ganged up against me.

Captain: [reasonable]

On the contrary. You are all against us, and have driven us back together.

Teler Maid:

But there are many of you, and only one of me!


And -- ? Still all of you, right?


Teler Maid:

Cease this! You are making me laugh, to think of you mighty warriors fleeing before me like a school of fish before a dolphin.


Oh, not fleeing -- but definitely at bay.

[he pats the stone next to him, inviting her to sit down again]

Teler Maid: [glaring at Huan]

I am still much wroth with him.

Beren: [nodding, reasonably]

Yeah, that figures. I bet you will be for a long time.

[he thumps Huan's withers gently as he speaks, and the Hound sighs]

Teler Maid: [frowning at him]

You are not quite so ill-favoured as first I had thought, though indeed very untidy and unkempt.

[he raises his eyebrows at that]

But of that -- a great part is your devotion to your friends, even in despite of me, and for all that I am unfriends with them. I am much confused, for it seems me that I should like you less, that you defend the lords Edrahil and Huan counter to me -- and yet it inclines me to your part.


Um. Okay. I --

[sees behind her the Steward returning, alone]

-- heh, guess we'll test it out some more.

[she senses the Steward's presence at almost the same moment and turns, tensing up very obviously, with a flicker like wind going through her visible manifestationas though she were about to disappear again, but changed her mind. He sees her amoment later, and looks if possible more drained and disheartened than a momentago, but resolutely comes up to them. Huan whines in a distraught way, but quietly enough not to be obnoxious.]

Steward: [hesitantly]

The Hour's joy to thee, Maiwe.

Teler Maid: [brittle]

There are no hours here, milord.


I know. But I could not remember any other of the old greetings that should be fitting.

Teler Maid:

Why, do you hold that one fitting, then?



Teler Maid: [caustic]

What then, you'd not have me joyful?

[he starts to say something, cannot, gesturing -- the Captain breaks in, rescuing]


-- What passed with his father? And how?


Much, and ill, yet not so ill as might have been.


How did Lord Finarfin take it?


Badly -- yet, again, not so ill as he might. He --

[breaks off]




He was far kinder to me than he wished to be, -- or than I merited.

Warrior: [quietly]

Not true, sir.


Is he coming back again, or does he return to the council with their Lordships?

Steward: [shrugs]

As to that, he knew no more than I or you, himself. He would walk longer, and think --

[the Sea-elf is getting more and more tense at each exchange, until she finally snaps.]

Teler Maid: [fiercely]

Will you now again pretend I am not present, that you are among your friends, and do not know why I am hither even as I did come hence with you?

[all of them stare at her]

I tell you, I shall not longer be quiet! No, not though you should mock at my fashion of speech, nor yet be silent when your companions do so!

Captain: [mildly exasperated]

Maiwe, none of us here is going to say anything about your accent. Firstly, we're not Maglor's following,and none of us ever did, at the House or anywhere else, and second, we've been speaking Telerin, the way they do in the Old Country, practically since we left Aman.

[gesturing at the Youngest Ranger]

One of us is Teler, for that matter, you do recall.


'Sides which, he hardly even blinks when I say things, and my accent's way stronger than yours.

Teler Maid: [frowning]

That is true.

[glowering even more]

You would dissuade me from my anger!


Um -- yeah.

Teler Maid:

I tell you you will not!


But you're not really angry with him.

Teler Maid:



You're angry with the guy who left you without even saying good-bye. But this isn't him any more. So he doesn't deserve to be treated the same way.

Teler Maid:

What nonsense is this? But of course he is the same who left this shore!


Not exactly, just on account of being dead. But more important, from what you were saying, the Elf you knew wouldn't have put his life on the front lines to try to help an Aftercomer like me. So because youdidn't recognize him in that description, he can't be the same person.

Teler Maid:

If not he, then who is to blame for it? If it is not he who belittled me, and stood by while others belittled me, then how is it that he does remember it and admit to it?

Beren: [agreeable]

Okay. But you're talking to him like he's gonna do it again, when five hundred years ago --


-- Whoa. Five hundred years of being angry. Definite disadvantage to being immortal. Anyway --

[shaking his head in disbelief]

-- five hundred yearsago, when you were both alive he wouldn't have admitted that it was his fault, right? So you both admit that there's something different about you now. Right? Besides being dead.

Teler Maid:

You are giving to me a headache.


Nope, just sharing.

[she snorts angrily]

Steward: [very quiet and carefully]

I'm sorry, Maiwe. You were not pleased to have me greet you, and the matter we were speaking of did not concern you, and for that, and for the second, and for the fact that I am much distracted by it, I did not think to include you in the discussing of it.

Teler Maid: [raising her voice]

Ah, now you will call me and use mine own name, but to quiet my dissatisfaction and defer my anger at your disrespect!

Steward: [baffled]

Did you not demand that I acknowledge your chosen-name?

Teler Maid:

Must you ask? or are you but speaking in twists to snare me in a net and make me contradict me for your satisfaction? I know this dance, milord!

Steward: [crystal-clear emphasis]

How would you have me bespeak you, then? How might I address you, that will not awake either your wrath or your suspicion of mockery or of manipulation? -- What should I do?

[she flings her hands out in a wild frustrated gesture]

Teler Maid:

Nothing. Nothing at all. -- I wish I had not known you were dead! I wish I might not have to know it now, and then I might have peace yet!

[she spins about and starts to walk off -- not, however, vanishing]

Steward: [loud enough for her to hear]

And I the same.

[she does not turn nor answer, but stops at the closest pillar and leans against it, hiding her face, her posture both furious and forlorn. He bows his head, accepting her rejection -- but his friends don't.]


Go over and embrace her, you idiot!


She doesn't want to have anything to do with me. You heard --


-- If she didn't want you to go say something, she wouldn't be staying around waiting for you to do it.


He's right, sir.

Steward: [bleak]

I should be most surprised if she did not strike me for the effrontery of such a gesture.

Beren: [uncompromising]

From what she and you said -- you deserve it.


He's right about that, too, sir.

[the Steward looks at them, sighs, then braces himself and goes over to where the Sea-elf is standing beside the column.]



[she does not answer -- he puts his hands on her shoulders, leaning over her a little]

Sea-Mew, please hear --

[in a flash she turns and shoves him hard, flinging him away and back with such violence that he stumbles and falls to his knees, not trying to catch himself]

Teler Maid:

How dare you! How dare you think that you might come and call me after all that's passed, and I to answer to your song like an errant breeze charmed to your sail, for so long as you fancy my small strength to buoy your spirits, and then forget, or shun me, when stronger winds lure you to higher, swifter joys! No, I say, I will not be yours to disdain ever again!

[he does not answer]

"Maiwe," you say now, but do you not remember the times in Tirion when your friends would make jibing turn upon the word, and you allow it, or do the same even, that I was but a whining beggar, shrilling for your attention? How you should urge me to take some finer name, as I would not yield to your wish that I should give up my own House's way, to take a name when we should come of age, of that beast or bird most near to our own hearts? And would not hear me when I told you Swan and Heron were not for me, but only the dancing gull that silvers all the air?

Steward: [quietly]

I remember.

Teler Maid:

Would you now caress me, that would ever turn from me when I would take your hand and walk beside, nor let me set my arm about your waist when we were anywhere but Lady Earwen's halls, and did I make so bold, you may likewise hold in memory, then would you walk along the streets and square with such long and great strides that I must ever hasten to keep pace with you, nor might we talk, for the haste of your going no less than the silent trouble of your mind -- else you should grip my hand so fast that I take pain of it, nor ever admit that there was aught of deliberation in it, nor failing saving of mine own weakness?

Steward: [not looking away, in the same low-voiced manner throughout]


Teler Maid:

Do you not recall how you disdained my gift to you, that I had gathered all of myself, and fashioned by my hands, and crude it was, perhaps, but my Lady praised it and thought it fine, and when I gave it you, you frowned, and but said that no bard should wear a wristlet, for that the beads would strike against the sounding-board, or 'gainst the strings, and so I should have known, nor asked me to fashion of it but armlet or collar that I would have done, had you but spoke the least, the least word of pleasure at my gift! Not so many pearls did I scatter that Hour in the gardens as I did tears --


I do recall.

Teler Maid: [tossing her head]

But what should I know of music, that did but sing simple songs, knowing naught of the forms and sciences of it, the modes and mathematics and the harmonics of the heavens that should order all? What was my melody, made but on a reed pipe, that I did cut with mine own knife and give back to the water when it had served its time, but the whistle of the wild breeze in the grasses and no art at all, rough and unshaped as the winds or my namesake's cry? But a buzzing, as of the blue-black shore bee, a silliness to divert children at their skipping -- or so did one say, who would be known as harper full great as his reverenced companion was at song! Do you not remember him, and the words he said one twilight Hour, when I would have given a tune to the Silver One?


That, as well.

Teler Maid: [jeering]

No more to say than that? Where is your skillful debate, to set me at a loss, and make all my thoughts and words seem but the chattering of a tiny babe, and turn my sorrow and my righteous anger into folly before all these your friends, as ever did?


Against the shafts of truth there is no shield strong enough, nor mail fine enough, to withstand its pangs. Be it enough that I can answer you at all, for even that is almost beyond my enduring. Knowing what has befallen you, and what part I had in it, is grief enough I think to kill me, were I yet living.

[long pause]

Teler Maid: [slowly, softly]

I wanted to see you before me humbled and broken-hearted, as I have wept over your coldness to me. And now I have my wish -- and -- I do not much care to have it.

[she makes a slight, half-turning motion, looking briefly at the rest of the Ten, and then away into the shadows, poised as if about to take flight]

Beren: [approaching them, carefully]


[she gives him a sharp glance as he comes to stand protectively over the Noldor shade, guarding, yet without projecting any menace towards her.]

Don't run away again. It's not gonna help. Trust me on that.

Teler Maid: [returning to the fray with a vengeance]

And what, pray, shall help? Words, that he has ever used to tangle me and bind me into such confusion that I might not speak, or silence, that left me becalmed and moorless and far from harbor, finding no way to follow him nor homeward fly instead? I am no fool, I know how it shall end, as ever it did, with my self alone and in tears and a fool in the sight of all for loving him!


You wanted him to be someone else. And he is. But now you have to deal with this Edrahil, not the old one.

Teler Maid:

For what shall I trust this change, that I shall risk my heart again, as in past Day, to find that it should last only until we again should leave my Lady's House for other halls?


Because you're not a fool. Because I'm here, and you know how much that means by way of changes, because you said so. Besides, what have you got to lose?


Teler Maid:

Mine own valuing, that I be not the same poor silly child that could not help but cling to one who loved me not.


But you do still love him, so that's just an illusion you're holding on to.

Teler Maid:

But I did promise myself that I never again should yield so!

Beren: [wry]

Did you swear an oath?

[she gives him a puzzled look]

How much is that worth to you?

[he lifts his wrist]

Your hand? Your life? -- Forever? Pride's a damned expensive prize. I know.

[she looks away, then sidelong at the Steward, before meeting Beren's gaze again]

What have you got to gain by risking it? -- 'Cause that's the question.

[long pause]

Teler Maid: [very softly]

I am not sure . . . I am not sure --


You came back . . . I think you're brave enough to find out.

[she looks at the rest of the Ten, doubtfully and very defensive, to find that all of them are troubled, anxious, and none of them enjoying her discomfiture at all.]

Teler Maid: [to the Steward, suddenly]

It is said by sundry and by all that you are no longer the same proud, vain soul that was so uncaring to me when we were yet alive. Perhaps 'tis true -- yet there is this as well that you have likely not to thought of, that I might not care for this stranger that you have returned, that bears your same name. What of that, my lord? What say you to that chance of a chance?


Steward: [with the merest hint of his normal manner]

I'll chance it.

[they lock stares]

Teler Maid: [suddenly very sad and quiet in turn]

Perhaps it shall be the other way about, and it is he who shall not care now for one who stayed perforce and by her will to stay and never see the changes of the world nor to take part in any of their making, but only to hide in shadow --


No chance of that.

[she stares at him, warily, for another long moment]

Teler Maid: [sharply again]

One chance you shall have, Edrahil, for I cannot spare you any more than that, to prove your change of heart, that before your friends and mine -- but more yours than mine! -- you will not be ashamed of me, nor wish me changed, nor silent, nor away.

[abruptly she turns back and takes a place by the waterfall, next to the edge of the spill pool, closest to the Sindarin Ranger, and waits with a very challenging expression as the Steward accepts Beren's (unnecessary) help to rise.]

Beren: [undertone, but intense]

Whoo boy, this is not good --

Steward: [as quietly]

How many chances does one require? If one does not fail.

[he doesn't exactly sound cheerful, but . . . ]


This isn't a fair setup.


Such is the way of the world.

[still leaning on Beren's shoulder, he goes back and sits down beside the Captain, who presses the flask of miruvor on him without objection. Huan slinks over from where he was lying and drops down behind them, rather absurdly trying to keep as much of himself hidden from the Sea-elf's angle as possible.]

Teler Maid:

Now. -- Tell me about the world, and what it is like in these days, and the other Children who dwell in it now, and your War against the traitor-god, and everything else I am ignorant of -- !


[Elsewhere -- the empty area of shadows, in which the semblance of a gated archway has appeared again.]

[Finrod is standing in front of it, addressing the unseen someone through the lattice, in a concluding-business manner.]


Thank you again for hearing me out. I won't say you'll not regret it -- but I promise you'll find it worth your trouble.

[the gate fades away completely once more, but he does not seem discouraged as he turns to leave.]


[Elsewhere: the counsel chamber]

[the dynamics have changed again -- this time it is the Lord of the Hunt who is going at it animatedly with the Elven members of the group, living and dead, while his colleagues look on.]

Ambassador: [earnestly]

But it is not the same, my Lord. It may indeed be better, here -- but it is not what we are used to.


And? Reason considers the objective values of each circumstance and judges between them on that basis. Alone.

[to Aule]


[scowling at the Middle-earthers]

-- Not on the basis of sentimentality and a hidebound reluctance to embrace change.


Then you could have all just moved back, couldn't you?


Vaire: [sighing]

You don't seriously think that people are going to be able to just leave everything they've built and pack up and go to the other side of the world again just like that?


Oh, come on!

Ambassador: [quietly]

Princess, regardless of the validity of your views, you do yourself and them no service by this incivility and uneducated language.


And you make us look bad, as well.

[she snorts and folds her arms angrily, giving him a sidelong Look]


Nay, but 'tis but truth: our parents needs must make shift unto the same, even as -- I deem -- Melian's daughter would declare. Her question -- if I do interpret aright -- is not without all reason, wherefore it should behoove us better to remove hither, than ye to remove hence.


I really don't see whatthe difficulty is. After all, that's what Mom did.


Your mother had nothing tying her to Valinor, dear.

Irmo: [aside]

Except for a job. But -- pfft -- what's that matter? You don't even need to tell people you're not coming back -- they'll figure it out eventually, after all!


After all, if that had been the case then there wouldn't be any Return, because we would all be here --


I mean, there -- anyhow, there wouldn't have been any Kinslaying or any reason for people to treat each other differently, because we'd all be the same.


I fear you're being overly optimistic, my Princess.

Aule: [with a disbelieving smile, ironic]

And what about the Trees? It isn't as though my wife could have made Them over again, and They were a little -- just a trifle -- large to dig up and transplant like chrysanthemums.


We did fine without Them.

[to her compatriot, not waiting for agreement]


[very patronizingly to the Smith]

-- They could have stayed here, and you could have remade the Lamps there, if you wanted.

Namo: [adamant]



There were -- serious design flaws -- in the Lamps. The risks --

[Luthien interrupts again; Aule's Assistant rolls his eyes]


-- But there was only a risk because Morgoth was out-and-about, and since he was locked up then it would have been safe, right -- who else was going to try to get at them?

Irmo: [patiently]

Well, as a matter of fact, there was Ungoliant. We didn't know about her at the time, of course. But dangers one is unaware of are not non-existent --


-- Don't talk down to me!


Then don't ignore the obvious. You --

[shaking his head]

You're acting as though none of these sorts of problems ever came up in discussions, as though they never would have crossed our minds until you suggested them.


Well, make them sturdier, or -- put some sort of covers on, or barriers about them, or something. A solution could have been found.

[Aule covers a smile; the Weaver leans over and whispers to her husband]


Is this reminding you of anyone we know?

[he nods briefly, inspecting the contents of his cup as an alternative to the debate]

Luthien: [gesturing widely]

It's not critical anyway, we didn't need them -- we didn't need anything besides the stars.

Irmo: [raising his hand in turn]

There are all kinds of issues that -- we could spend decades considering them in-depth -- where to set up, the distance from the Sea, the transportation issues of bringing all of our work and re-establishing it in Middle-earth again -- the not-inconsiderable emotional effects of returning to a place of such mixed memories -- these Halls themselves -- just to begin with a few.

Luthien: [with a dismissive shrug]

Something could have been figured out. It would have saved so much trouble.


Nay, 'tis not so simple of a matter as wouldst make it. Manifold and deeply-meshed as the ore ere it is smelted be the elements of these our Kindreds' difficulties, and eke that is changed doth change a dozen other of diverse sort, and eke in own turn still more, so that in end what was should be so changed that none might guess how had it befallen from the first, that be but one change and that but slight -- and each various end bring both ill and good in company, and what serveth one should disservice render to another, or harm, else displeasure. -- Thy mother and father should have been more glad, had thy true-love ne'er crossed thy path, and they have suffered even of the same cause that thou hast taken joy, and thou as well joy and sorrow at once hath found, and shalt thou -- or any -- sever the twain?

Luthien: [calm]

That's because they were stupid.

[the Ambassador winces]

If they hadn't been selfish idiots, nobody would have suffered. We could have been happy, and everything would have been all right for everyone, not just us. Instead, they started a chain of events that's killed I don't know how many people so far and made even more people miserable. It's their own fault, and it isn't complicated at all.

Nerdanel: [very quietly]

And yet -- thy lord is mortal.

[Luthien ignores this, though her chin goes up a little more]

Ambassador: [sighing]

Highness, Highness, you know it is more complex than mere folly. You know that your father's Sight long forewarned him that disaster and trouble should attend the coming of humans into our lands, that your mother has contended with encroaching Doom for Ages, and you know your parents' wisdom is to credit for our realm's ancient safety and prosperity. Why should he -- or we -- misdoubt any of his forebodings, nor make light of the risks that Men should pose? Were not the doubts he held of our foreign kin most sadly proven well-founded?

[she doesn't answer; everyone in the room looks a little grimmer at that]

Then why should they not deem it so that -- he -- should be the fulfilment of that dark vision, and his beguiling of you, my lady, the catastrophe your father so long ago Foresaw? b


That's a good argument right there against having that information just out there. People make bad decisions based on incomplete data and set in motion events that are far beyond their ability to control. If Elwe had just stuck with the plan, and brought everyone here, we wouldn't be dealing with this mess.


But if we had all just stayed in Middle-earth then it wouldn't have mattered, because then mortals would simply have come along when it was their time just like the Naugrim and there wouldn't have been any reason to be suspicious and none of the troubles that followed would have happened.


Once more I must declare I think that a far-from-warranted assumption, my lady.

Irmo: [frustrated]

There are two distinct problems that you're conflating and that's creating chaos. One is whether or not we should have brought, or tried to bring, your people here to a defensible place and a place of safety. Which it is, by every possible standard of comparison. There have been three instances of murder, in Aman, all connected, in all of recorded history. The number of deaths at Alqualonde --

[raising his hand, giving his brother a meaningful Look]

-- I'm not minimizing them, I'm just being accurate -- do not begin to approach the tallies of those killed in Beleriand before Morgoth ever returned. -- Needless deaths, which would not have happened had your father carried out his obligations instead of tarrying to seduce your mother and leave your people to fend for themselves --

Luthien: [hotly]

-- That isn't what happened!

Irmo: [keeping going]

The other problem is whether or not we should have informed you of the fact that you were not intended to be alone in the world and that other sentient life-forms would eventually appear on the central land-mass, which is an entirely different topic, despite the efforts of --

[giving Nerdanel a troubled glance]

-- various parties to connect them in discussion.

Nerdanel: [didactic]

Thou knowest I do hold and ever have, that yon long-made choice to withhold counsel from our kindreds concerning the coming of the Secondborn was grievous error, nor without some part in the cause of my husband's festering madnesses. Ye should ne'er have left unto the Dark Lord that knowledge to convey, and impart withal the taint of his own jealousy.

Aule: [creasing his brows]

No, 'Danel, I'm afraid I can't remember you saying that . . . more than, oh, six or seven thousand times this Age.

Irmo: [admonitory]

That sort of sarcasm is very inappropriate, you do realize?

Nerdanel: [smiling]

Nay, but we of his Following are well used unto his ways, my Lord --

Luthien: [cutting her off, to the Lord of Dreams]

-- Who was being sarcastic about my mother just a few minutes ago?


Luthien. Would you please stop interrupting like that?

[Luthien subsides with a very bad grace]


It wouldn't have become an issue anyway, if he had stayed locked up.

Irmo: [leaning forward, very definite and stern]

We don't know that.

Orome: [snorting]

How could it have been an issue? How? You tell me.

Aule: [steepling his fingers]

Developments in better scrying technology.


The fact that no one had Seen the Secondborn yet proves nothing about whether or not anyone would have Seen them eventually, either.


Or that the curious might have made eastward expeditions in time without, or with, Feanor's involvement, my Lord.

Luthien: [caustic]

We would have known, as soon as humans turned up. Once you meet someone it's sort of difficult to keep on not knowing they exist.

Assistant: [dryly]

Highness, -- do you not think it might be fitting to show oh, at least as much respect to a Power here as you do at home?

[the Lord of the Hunt fights back a grin]


Oh, trust me, she is.

Ambassador: [hoping against hope]

You were not really this rude to your lady mother -- ?


. . .

Nerdanel: [dauntingly]

So much of empty breeze is this talk. I stand in great amaze, noble ones, that any yet should yet aver, that darkness of intellect should be preferred, e'en but in fancy and conjecture, as conducible to light and peace -- when manifestly hath it been far otherwise!

Aule: [patient]

'Danel, we're just talking hypotheticals. Discussing possibilities is casting light on them, don't you agree --

Luthien: [frowning]

What are chrysanthemums? Are they something new?

Namo: [aside to his wife as the debate spirals on]

There are many reasons why I'm hoping they track down that rogue soon.

Vaire: [mock reproach]

That's hardly fair, darling.


Oh, I'll need you to coordinate operations. A perfectly legitimate reason to adjourn for a while.

Vaire: [smiling briefly]

It won't make the problem go away, you know --

[she flinches as the Hunter pounds on the arm of his chair to reinforce a point]

-- Tav -- !

Orome: [not hearing her]

All right. -- All right. If that's what you want we can go through every single reason for and against --

[the Doomsman, sighing, reaches up to snap his fingers again, filling the room with a blinding burst of light . . . ]


[the Hall]

[beside the waterfall -- the Ten are gathered in a loose circle, at ease, though not entirely careless: there is a wary attention both to the shadows around and to the latest addition to the company, who is seated among them with only a slightly-less hostile and confrontative demeanor. Beren is on her left, on the other side of the Teler Ranger, and Huan is curled up behind the Captain and the Steward, (who are using him for a backrest) with his nose between his paws, though his expression betrays the fact that he is paying attention to the conversation. The Sea-elf is looking across the circle at her ex with rather a critical tilt to her head.]

Teler Maid: [to the Steward, wonderingly]

I do not think I have ever heard you be silent for so long.

Steward: [nods]

It is -- most awkward to engage in a conversation when the matter of it is one's own praises.

Teler Maid: [acerbic]

I do recollect it never troubled you before, that you should be hailed amidst your peers, and those you'd have hold you as such. -- And what's more: since when is "madly fixed upon every least detail unto the weight of a single grain," a word of praise?

Third Guard: [breaking in]

-- Since it meant the difference between life and death to an awful lot of families, my own included.


And not just ours, but the High King's following as well.

Third Guard:

That's what I said.


Oh. That's right, you were with them originally, weren't you? I'd forgotten.

Teler Maid: [turning sharply on him]

Are you a Kinslayer, then?

Third Guard:

No. We were with Lord Turgon and their father, not his siblings.


Teler Maid: [darkly]

I could almost wish it were so that one might speak untruth here, that I might deny you.

[Beren leans forward to get her attention]

Beren: [chiding]

Hey. You want to take your anger out on someone, yell at me, why don't you?

Teler Maid:

But you were not party to it -- you were not even born yet, then.


Doesn't seem to make much of a difference to most folks, so far. But that's my point.

[she scowls at him]

Teler Maid:

I do not like you so well now.

Beren: [shrugs]


Teler Maid: [distracted]

-- How do you manage without your hand?


Not too good.

Teler Maid:

-- Do you not mean "well" -- ?

Beren: [shrugging again]

That too.

[as he answers she catches herself, guiltily, and gives a quick look over in hopes that the Steward hasn't noticed. No luck, though he does not say anything and looks down at once; she glares hard at him and crosses her arms in defensive defiance. The Youngest Ranger taps her elbow, and nods meaningfully towards the mortal.]

Youngest Ranger: [not meanly, though]

You want to really drive yourself mad -- and everyone else for good measure -- try counting how many different ways he's got for saying yes that aren't the word "yes."


Teler Maid: [stiffly]

I am sorry, Lord Beren. I ought not to make a fellow guest to feel unwelcome here.

Beren: [terse, staring straight in front of him]

-- Wouldn't be the first, won't be the last.



Beren: [abashed, bows his head]


[to the Elven girl]

-- S'okay.

[she looks away, still annoyed, and gives a quick glance at the Captain before addressing the Steward again:]

Teler Maid:

He said you did not treat me well when we were both alive.

[the Steward sighs, nodding]

You are not angry at that?

Steward: [bemused]

For what should I be angry? It is no more than the truth.

Teler Maid:

You were not always so easy with the notion that you might possess them -- far less to hear any chronicling of your faults.


That too, I cannot deny.

[pause -- very reluctantly]

You do ill, Maiwe, to seek to make division between us.

[she tosses her head and looks away, obstinate]

Captain: [shrewd]

Do you think it betrayal by me, this friendship of ours, of yours?

[she does not answer]

But that was our friendship's foundation, Murrelet.

Teler Maid: [challenging]



That he should talk of you to one that knew you well, and speak of how ill he'd treated you to one who'd not gainsay him.

Teler Maid: [still very skeptical]


Captain: [looking to the Steward]

-- Shall you, or shall I?

[the other raises his hands in a resigned gesture]


You will enjoy it far more.

Captain: [shaking his head tolerantly]

-- For one who'd have been a bard, you've a curious distaste for telling stories.


Only mine own.


And those you're involved with.

Steward: [with a cool Look]

That is what I said, is it not?


Not exactly, no.

Steward: [still more acridly]

On the contrary: if I was involved, even on the periphery, then it is to however small a degree my story as well.


Well, by that principle, then everything that ever happened involved you, for if you weren't present, someone known to you was, or related to you, or it had some consequence direct or indirect upon your life. Therefore I maintain my assertion, that you are signally unfond of recounting tales.

Steward: [iy patience]

You are, as usual, exaggerating grossly again.

Captain: [leaning back against Huan with a smug grin]

-- Never.

[long pause, during which the Teler girl stares at them in wide-eyed disbelief]

Steward: [sighing heavily]

Go on, finish the story -- or begin it, indeed.

Captain: [shaking his head]

Oh no, clearly you'd rather correct my speaking than hear me speak, so I'll be silent.



No. No. It is entirely too twisted for you to compel me to beg you to humiliate me in public. One must draw the line somewhere.

[his friend only smiles innocently, and says nothing]

-- My Lady, if you're attending, your help would be most welcome now!


The thing about help is, you don't get to say how it comes, you know.


Shut up.



[the other, after a visibly-jaw-grinding moment, raises his hands in capitulation and asks:]


Would you then be so kind as to answer this gentle's question that I might be spared the painful necessity of doing so myself? -- This is utterly wrong.

Captain: [cheerfully]

All right.

[he sits up straight again and prepares to go on, while the Steward leans his forehead on his hand -- but is interrupted by the Sea-elf, who is too shocked almost for words:]

Teler Maid:

But -- but -- he is not angry with you?

Youngest Ranger:

That's just their way. They've been doing it since before I was born.

Teler Maid: [skeptical]

In truth?


Oh yeah. Apparently generations of my relatives on both sides of my family used to regularly lose bets to these guys --

[gesturing at the rest of the Ten]

-- expecting one of those two was going to haul off and hit the other, and they never did, of course.

Teler Maid:



Er, wagers?

[she shakes her head]

Teler Maid:

I do not understand the notion.

Beren: [helpless]


Youngest Ranger:

It's when you don't know what will happen, and so you make a promise with someone else that if it falls out one way, you will give them something valuable, but if it falls out the other way, they will give you something valuable instead.

Teler Maid: [puzzled]


[he shrugs, embarrassed and unable to explain better]

Second Guard:

It makes things more interesting that way.

Teler Maid:

I do not see how.

[uninterested in the subject, to Beren:]

Where are your kinfolk?

Beren: [taken aback]

Uh -- dead, mostly.

Teler Maid:

But they are not here?

[completely thrown by this question, Beren looks around at the others for help]


Mortals don't abide here, Sea-Mew. But surely that's known to all in the Halls, certainly after the Bragollach?

Teler Maid: [shrugging]

Mayhap. But I have not cared to attend much to all that's said or done herewith.

[to Beren]

Then for what are you here? I had thought you must be the first of the Secondborn.

Beren: [starting to get agitated]

-- No. Not by a long shot.

Teler Maid:

But then why are you yet here? Or do you but ignore my questions as was his wont?

Beren: [increasingly distressed]

No. I -- I'm not supposed to be here. It's this big mess.

[on his other side the Warrior grips his shoulder, deeply anxious -- Beren answers the unspoken question through set teeth:]

-- I'm okay. Really.

Teler Maid: [total frustration]

But why -- ?

Captain: [half plea, half exasperation]

Maiwe --


Because I'm trying to stay with my wife.

Teler Maid:

But --

[the realization takes place]

She is one of us . . . ?!?

[he nods, once]

But --

[she trails off, her brow furrowing]

Beren: [very dry]

Believe me, I don't think there's a variant of "What on the gods' green earth does she see in you?" that I haven't heard yet.

Teler Maid: [shaking her head

That was not what I would say, only -- I do not know what I would say. There are too many things, I think, that I must know to ask what I must know!

[she pushes back her hair with both hands and lets them fall in a gesture of resigned dismay]

I did not comprehend that it should be so new upon you, nor that yours should such a different matter prove, else I'd not have pressed you so hard for answer. I shall not more, for I like it little when others do ask me hard questions I would not answer.



Teler Maid: [worried]

Are you much angered with me?

Beren: [gently]


Teler Maid:

I do like you, truly, I do believe.

[at this admission the Youngest Ranger stops glowering between them; abruptly she turns back to her original question:]

So, then, tell me -- how did it happen that you should happen to talk of his unmannerliness to me?


It's a long story --

Fourth Guard:

-- but not that long, don't worry.

[Beren gives an exaggerated sigh of relief]

Teler Maid: [affronted]

You do jeer at me again.


No, we're teasing Beren this time.

Fourth Guard:

Or he's teasing us.

Teler Maid: [wary]

Then which, pray tell, is it?


Oh, definitely both. -- Probably.

Teler Maid:

Now you do tease me indeed.

[she can almost completely keep from smiling]

Beren: [blandly]

Could be.

[she makes a dismissive gesture, rolling her eyes, and turns back to the Captain]

Teler Maid:

Was that before or after he shot you?

[the Steward grimaces, covering his face]

Captain: [shaking his head]

He didn't shoot me, Curlew, not by accident or purpose. He simply ignored my warning and ventured into a dangerous situation.

Teler Maid:

Then whence came you to mischance?


We were riding escort, and that's what the job entails, dangerous or not.

[there are looks exchanged among the Ten]

Ranger: [reluctant]

Er, sir --

Steward: [irritable]

If you insist upon telling it, then tell it properly, at least!


Yes, but by that you mean painting yourself in as bad a light as possible.


I mean leaving out no pertinent detail.


Very well, I'll do my best, though you'll not be pleased of course. -- The reason we were riding to a parley with minions of the Enemy was that against my counsel (but not mine alone, I wasn't as senior at that point, but all of us with much field experience thought it a bad idea, not myself merely) he had persuaded our lords to permit him to respond, saying that as it was then known (or at least rumored through his contacts among House Feanor's following) that the ill-fated parley had gone wrong because the Noldor side had gone with far more than their promised number in hopes of taking the Enemy's emissaries as hostages, and broken faith first, it wasn't certain that negotiations were truly out of the question, as a good-faith attempt had never been undertaken.

Teler Maid: [shrewdly]

But was not Melkor given his freedom in good faith, and did break that faith, ere ever you reached the other shore?


Did I say I thought it a good idea? I didn't, many of those who had seen combat didn't, none of those who were born in the Old Country, veterans or not, thought it so, and Lord Turgon, whose Following had already attracted a great many of the locals and thus had direct access to a great deal more information unmitigated by protocol, never did agree with it.

Beren: [interrupting, shaking his head]

I still don't see why they did. I mean, maybe that's hindsight, because of us fighting the War for so long and that was early days, but still . . .

Captain: [lifting his hand in a small shrug]

Well, between the appeal to Family rivalries implicit in the assumption that we could do it because we were smarter, as well as more honest -- which captured the support of Prince Fingon and their father from the first, before any operational details were discussed -- and the moral high ground of trying to solve things peacefully as well as honestly, which lured Himself into it eventually, we skeptics were outshouted, -- which is an exaggeration, true, voices were raised but it wasn't quite shouting. We didn't know then that the Enemy had also sent a force vastly over the agreed numbers to the Feanorion's parley, but nobody should have been surprised by it.


I was not surprised -- by then.

Captain: [caustic]

I should hope not. -- So he won permission to make the attempt, and the contacts were made via their spooks, and a time and place appointed for it, and it was my luck to get the assignment, and we went. Now I wasn't happy with it for several reasons, one of which was that although the location was open, and the country open, there were a lot of rocks and it was far from flat, meaning lots of good cover.

Teler Maid:

-- Of what?


Er, hiding places. For the foe.

Teler Maid:

Oh. Like quail.


Exactly. So there was that -- but then it was to be held in broad daylight, which was also in our favour. But the morning started clear and then started getting overcast, and I got suspicious about that, and the closer we got the more cloudy it got, and then a bit of fog started coming in as well, and I started objecting strenuously, only to be told that there was nothing unnatural about it, days often got gray as they wore on, and was this part of the country not known for its mists?

Teler Maid: [narrowing her eyes]

I think you are not saying it quite as he did say it.

Captain: [shrugs]

Near enough. -- And that was all true, only I still didn't think it was natural at all. And I kept saying so, and we just kept getting closer to the destination, and yes we had a large company, all within the agreed-on limits, and I just kept on thinking to myself, Balrogs. What if the rumours about the Balrogs were right?

[she shivers]

Teler Maid:

I have heard of them, even in my solitude there were whispers of them. Are they so terrible as all do tell?

[he nods, very seriously]


And reminding myself that neither of us was a prince of the blood, nor any particular prize, didn't help much against all the warnings from my Sindar colleagues that the Lord of Fetters didn't care who you were so long as you could make weapons for him.

Teler Maid:

But you know naught of smithing.


But they wouldn't know that, would they? And there's plenty of work that requires no particular art, merely coordination and strength.

"We're all going to end up thralls in Angband, or dead," we all kept thinking, though we hoped we were very wrong. And now we're at the edge of the place where the parley's to happen, and the visibility's poor, but not terrible, and if it were any other business I'd be worrying about rain starting and slippery footing for the horses most of all, not an iron collar -- but there's no one there in the center of the ring of flat stones that was the designated spot, and no one in sight for leagues around, and there was no way beneath the hidden Sun I was going to walk us out into that unprotected area.

Huan: [not moving]

[low, but rising, growls]


We were about three bowshots from it, and I told my riding to stay put in the gorge we'd just come through, that I wasn't going to budge until we saw some signs of a good-faith effort to meet us, namely some visible enemies coming to parley, we were going to wait, watch, and be late if we must, but we were not going to put ourselves in the open.

[he reaches back & pokes the quiescent Hound]

Stop growling, you.

[Huan gives a penitent tail-wag-in-place]

And -- since he wants me to tell you it as if he were telling it, there was a lot of unpleasant conversation at that, and I wouldn't let him embarrass me into going through with it, and he wouldn't agree that I knew what I was talking about with regard to the number of troops that could be hidden in this apparently open countryside, so he says to me, "Do as you please, and I will do my duty," and goes to ride out there alone.


We couldn't tell if you were insanely brave, or just insanely overconfident.

Steward: [snorting]

Neither. I was petrified. But I did believe in the mission.


So obviously I had to go along (though I really wanted to take the flat of my sword to his skull and drag him back home regardless) with strictest orders to my company to stay put, regardless, and dire threats of what would happen if they didn't -- and all of us so rattled it didn't occur to any of them to ask me how I'd manage that if things went badly. And we get halfway there, and nothing stirs, not even the wind, and you could not have offered me a Silmaril to keep going, and he just keeps steadily on at a walk, and we're about three-fourths of the way there, and something spooked my horse -- but it might only have been me, so I circled about a little --

[making a descriptive gesture with his hand]

-- trying to catch another glimpse of what it was that I'd thought I'd seen, and apparently that worried our adversaries into thinking we were about to give up and go. So someone from their side lets slip a little too early, from behind one of those scattered boulders on the heath, and that's how I got shot. Our armour wasn't so good then, before we purchased proper mail from the Dwarves and learned the art of making it ourselves.

Teler Maid:

Where? -- Nor do you say, "in Beleriand" -- !

[he indicates a point on his upper arm]

Ranger: [with exasperation]

Sir --

Captain: [offhand]

Might have been a little higher --

[the Steward elbows him]

Oh, well, that too, -- but it was the other side.

Teler Maid:

How many arrows by which you were struck?

[she is nervously twisting one of her braids tightly around her fingers, not even realizing that she is doing so]


Just one.

[she frowns]

Teler Maid:

Then how --

Youngest Ranger:

-- Nailed right through to his ribcage and into his lung. That's what I heard, at least. I wasn't there for it, as I wasn't yet born.

[she gasps, wide-eyed, and then turns an absolutely furious glare upon the Steward]


I had seen death, and I had seen those slain, and even wounded, but only after significant time and sufficient for medical attention to have begun -- never anyone so gravely injured and yet living, or halfway. Not at that early point.

Captain: [to the Sea-elf, trying to reassure her]

It was not that bad.

Steward: [grimly]

It was very bad, and would have been so had not the arrow been poisoned as well.


I thought I was telling this story.


It could have been much worse.

Ranger: [quiet]

It was bad, sir.

Captain: [resigned]

I didn't say it wasn't. But at least -- no, wait, I can't say that, can I? At any rate, we were able to get back to the others where I'd left them, and there were some sharp words, but quick, for the need to hasten past our foe's reach, and by the time we reached a distance where we might alight in some surety, if briefly, the poison had taken strong hold, and our company healer didn't want to draw the arrow, but didn't dare leave it in for the sort of riding we had yet to accomplish, and I was starting to lose my grip on reality, and so were my companions, with less excuse, and there were some very harsh words given to, though not exchanged with, our Herald.


-- Deservedly.


And yet they're not here, with one exception.


Many died before at the Bragollach, or in the retreating actions of the subsequent years.

Captain: [looking at him directly]

And I repeat: with one exception, those Rangers who rode at my command in that hour are not here, nor those who fell beside us in the Fen. And yet you are.

[the Steward looks away. Simultaneously asking:]

Teler Maid:

Why not?

[the two Rangers look downcast and upset, but say nothing]


It's -- complicated. We -- as has been said before, are a disreputable and disorderly lot -- well, you've seen it, Beren, though Maiwe's only heard us before, and not everyone is quite comfortable associating with us. Or at least, not on any sort of formal and regular basis.


But you said people follow him anyway. Like with the battles.


Yes, but it's all most informal, and . . .

Warrior: [filling in]

We got into trouble for it. Some people aren't very happy at the idea of having the Powers possibly angry at them again.


-- Like me.


There's a sort of unofficial official recognition which is quickly disavowable, and tends to alternate between unthinking enthusiasm for projects -- no, not us, I meant with the reenactments -- and a wait-and-see-if-They-toss-him-or-them-in-the-non-existent-dungeons, first, attitude. Essentially folk ask him for advice and help, and he makes recommendations and doesn't ask anyone else for anything now. Except us.

Teler Maid:

I do not quite follow you.

Beren: [flatly]

I do. Sounds like a repeat of Nargothrond, again.


Not quite that bad.


Doesn't he mind?



I'm not the one to speak on that.


Nor I.

Beren: [grim]

That's why he got so upset when he thought I turned on him.


That's why you're all here tearing up the gods' living room on my behalf.

[to the Sea-elf]

Sorry, I didn't mean to talk around you. Long story.

First Guard: [reassuring]

We'll not desert him, Beren.

Teler Maid:

I -- would almost hazard you mean that some have forsaken Lord Ingold . . . ?


You'd be right.


But it is, as Beren says, a long story, and another -- or at least a lot later in this one. -- Which I am going to resume telling, in the absence of objection. I was not doing terribly well at that point, but it was crucial to keep on as speedily as possible, not simply for my sake but because of the likelihood of pursuit. They kept changing me from rider to rider for the horses' endurance, and despite the unwillingness of my followers for reasons of sentiment, even to Edrahil, for reason of principle. And he kept saying something, and I assumed he was trying to apologize, and wanted to tell him to just stop, dammit, but that would have taken too much breath. And then I realize that what he's actually doing is the same thing our medic did, as best he can manage, having memorized, or nearly, his words when they were patching me up. And at that point I stopped worrying, for I knew things would be all right.

Teler Maid:

But -- might you not have died despite, before ever you might be brought back to safe haven?


Oh, yes.

Teler Maid:

Then why say you 'twould be well?

Steward: [quietly]

Because he is mad.

[she gives him an affronted glance]


Because I knew from that that he was recollected enough to withstand panic and other disorder and to make sure that all the rest would make it home safely, whether I returned there or here. And I was right. There was a motion to cut directly over some rough country that gave a more direct route to Fingolfin's command post --

[to Beren]

-- not the one you're thinking of, the castle at Eithel wasn't built at that point -- and strongly urged in the interest of time -- and does he give in? Not at all.

"We are not crows," he retorts, and refuses on the grounds that none of them knew the ground, and if it were passable, or for horses, or for a casualty, and insists upon the longer, surer route, and carries them all by force of cold reason, despite the fact that not one of them but wished it were he bleeding there, not me.

Steward: [irritably]

Have you any idea how many times you've changed tense already?


Yes, you get more tense each time. You'll not change the subject that way. -- So instead he sends one warrior by that shortcut, and another to go breakneck (only hopefully not) ahead of us, with my horse for a spare, and the rest together to bring me back as quick as they might without killing me altogether, while whichever messenger might reach the encampment first should bring a company of medical personnel to intercept us along this our known route. Exactly what I would have done, had matters been the other way round. Though I only learnt of this after the fact, not being fully-conscious at the time. And when that happens, and it's not only those he requested but Himself as well, trying to keep me alive, he says nothing whatsoever about the mission nor his own actions, but only stays out of the way until they dared to take me back home at last.

Teler Maid: [extremely grim]

What said you, to account for your wound then?


I was still unconscious. They might have said a lot, but oddly enough they didn't -- for some reason they elected to give him benefit of honour, to see what he would say before making their report.

[the Noldor Ranger smiles wryly]

And what he said was essentially what I have said, though with longer words and more of 'em. No attempt to justify himself, nor discredit any claim they might make, by reason of their having been back of our position, nor to assign any of it to me. He made a full admission to the Princes, not in private mind you, but before all of the folk of Finarfin and Fingolfin as well, and submitted himself to whatever judgment our lord and his siblings should come to, but first, meanwhile, he said, he intended to learn what he might of healing for himself, that never should he be in such a situation again and of so little use. -- And so, of course, they gave him more jobs like that, and harder, but didn't manage to get rid of him that way.

[longish pause -- the Sea-elf glowers at the subject of the story, clearly not as amused as the teller]

Teler Maid:

Why do you not speak, sir? Surely you are not content with a tale told by another not you, still less when it is of yourself it does tell!

Steward: [shaking his head]

The trouble is this -- shall I agree, and seem more arrogant yet? or correct, and seem a most ungracious ingrate? Better to be silent, and leave the matter in some doubt at least.

[several of the Guards snicker at this, and she gives them a sharp Look, and then a quick glance back, her expression becoming more thoughtful]

Teler Maid: [still taunting, though]

What would you correct, then, my lord?


It was made implicit, though not said outright, that I added healer to the chronicle of my accomplishments -- when, in fact, I merely completed a course of studies in that field.

Teler Maid:

And is that not the same thing -- for you?


My teacher and the chief of that avocation thought not so. She made -- if you will pardon the unseemly-yet-appropriate human levity, gentles all -- no bones about my lack of anything remotely akin to the proper empathic spirit required of a Healer. "Perfect pitch is necessary but far from sufficient," and "You can't improvise to save your life, can you? -- so how do you expect to save anyone else's?" were phrases I very swiftly tired of hearing.

[the Sea-elf giggles -- then checks abruptly and gives him a wary glance, continuing to scrutinize his expression covertly]


Yes, but she didn't forbid you from attempting, Sir.


With the proviso there was none else certified at hand. "You probably won't kill anyone who wouldn't die otherwise," is hardly endorsement.

Soldier: [sighing]

It could have been worse, though -- back after the Glorious Battle, when there was such a rush to become Healers among people who'd never have thought of it otherwise, she told my lady to stick with the books, for at least parchment and quills were dead and couldn't be hurt.

[the Steward winces, then looks up as if struck by a sudden thought]


Wait -- if I remember correctly, there was a request for a new lighting arrangement and several pieces of furniture were commissioned for your apartments at about that time. Not coincidence, I gather?


Well, after we cleaned up what was left of the desk she did admit that a temper which built up like a blast in a kiln for a fortnight after being set down fairly, probably wasn't suited for medical work. There's patience and there's patience, love, I told her, and they're both important, but you've the sort that can spend months hunting down references or laying down a page of colors in lines as thin as thread, not the sort that takes being thwarted well, or criticism as other than insult.


That, I have not either.


True, sir -- but you just get more and more sarcastic, instead of breaking things.


Nor should that be most welcome at an invalid's bedside.


Yes, but that only bothers you because you're an insane perfectionist. If all you're doing is patching someone up so they'll last long enough to get into competent hands, calling them six times a fool the whiles hasn't any detrimental effect that I've ever noticed. Makes 'em more determined to prove you wrong by surviving -- right?

[at this the Noldor Ranger, who has been trying to look oblivious with decreasing success, ducks his head with a chagrinned expression]


That was a calculated risk, Sir, only -- I miscalculated. You didn't have to say it shouldn't make a damned bit of difference, since I had rocks for brains anyway.


Yes, but you never assumed after that that an enemy without a bow wasn't a danger from a distance -- and made damned sure that everyone else took the danger of slingstones seriously, too. And being angry at me kept you awake despite your concussion until we were able to get you to a fort and a bone-drill within safe walls.

[his subordinate gives him a rueful smile while Beren supresses the sort of expression most people evince at the thought of trephanation]

Could have been worse, though -- you remember that report about the accident in the storage caves, right?

Ranger: [grinning]

The one where a bystander was quoted as saying that no one was ever going to ignore safety precautions down there again, not so much for fear of severing an artery, as for dread of learning yet more formulations of "I told you so, did I not?"

Steward: [with a slight edge]

I -- was panicked, as I'd never had call to employ that training ere then, far less upon something so grave as that!

Captain: [ignoring him]

That's the one -- my personal favorite was, "However, given precedent, I am inexorably forced to the conclusion that the majority of you will adjudge it to have been a random occurrence, and not until as many times have passed will you concede that indeed my reasoned apprehensions were well-founded -- but no matter, for it's clear as well that we've no shortage of overconfident idiots within the City, and can well-stand attrition of the same."

[the Steward leans back against Huan, looking up at the ceiling with a resigned expression]

-- But I don't remember any sarcasm in word or tone when I was delirious with venom, or after when I woke at last without the taste of my own blood in my throat, and found a solemn and uncommonly quiet still-chief Counsellor waiting to beg my forgiveness -- and give me report of the cygnets I'd been watching all through the season, though the thought of him crawling through cattails to view the nest was so strange I admit I laughed, to my immediate regret . . .

[rubbing at his side with a grimace of recollection]

. . . and tell me that my fear, that I had not spoken aloud to him, nor any Healer betrayed to him, was groundless -- that he had Seen me seeing them in flight, before the bulrushes should have blown to seed, and so I knew that I should not remain purblind, nor long, which not even the King had been able to assure me of. -- A great deal of awkwardness, and much formality, and more embarassment -- but nothing of mockery whatsoever.

Steward: [distantly]

You forgot confusion, at being thanked and commended for bringing all home without further casualty or loss. I thought you were still delirious. Or that your vision was so affected you'd mistaken me for one of your officers.

[the Captain only smiles]

Teler Maid: [with a doubtful expression]

And that is the way of it that you did find friendship?


No, far from it. Courtesy, yes -- courtesy, concern, deference, exaggerated deference even, but these things do not add up to the other. We were not friends until after our first visit to Doriath.

Teler Maid:

I think I have overheard that name upon a time or three. There are mountains there, are there not?


There's no mountains in Doriath. I think you're thinking of my country, Dorthonion.

Teler Maid: [frowning]

That sounds not right either. Is that where the horses are?

Youngest Ranger: [knowingly]

Ah, you mean Dor-lomin. That's surrounded by mountains. I've been there.

[The Sea-elf looks over challengingly towards the Steward]

Teler Maid:

Did you not know that, my lord?

Steward: [after visible hesitation]

-- Indeed I did, Maiwe.

Teler Maid:

Then for what did you not correct me?


There was no need for me to speak. The children had answered you well.

Teler Maid:

Hah, then, my questions are but fit for children, do you say?


No. Only that the younger were swifter to speak. And that is often true, in many things, but I meant no slight to you or any other.

Teler Maid:

But I think --

Captain: [interrupting]

Did you want to hear the rest of it, or do you just want to fight, hm?

[she scowls, but stops her needling for the moment]

All right, then. -- We'd gone to the domain of His Majesty's kindred -- though we hadn't acclaimed him as King yet, that happened after, when we set up our own capital at Nargothrond -- and now that we were settled and the border growing ever more secure that all of the Noldor Houses were cooperating --

Teler Maid: [interrupting, grim]

I am still very much angered concerning that.

Captain: [evenly]

I know, and if you cut me off one more time to say that again, I am going to start calling you "Rail," Sea-Mew. Trust me, we all know you're not happy with us for making peace with the Feanorians, and neither was the lord of the realm we were about to visit, when he found out either. But you're never going to hear the end of this if you don't stop expressing your feelings on the subject every time it comes up.

Teler Maid: [scowling]

You --

[stopping abruptly, disgruntled; she looks down, letting her hair fall in front of her face]



Teler Maid: [through her teeth]

I would have said you do not like me longer, but I cannot.


To borrow another mortal saying, -- no kidding. -- Because the northern lands were growing safer, we thought it a good time to go and pay a visit of state to the Lord and Lady of Doriath, and so we went to pay our respects and make offers of such alliance as they might wish, and to see the legendary Thousand Caves and their still more legendary rulers. We rode through the forest -- but that word doesn't mean anything like the same, here -- those trees were older than any that ever were in Valinor, and taller than any but the Two themselves, and so powerful that all of us, even those who love the woods, were daunted entering their shade.

Teler Maid: [disbelieving]

Even you?


Even me. And then we came to the main gate of Menegroth, where Queen Melian with her nightingales on her shoulders and King Elu Greycloak were waiting as tall and fair as trees themselves to greet their grand-niece and nephews, and --

Teler Maid:


[before he can answer]

You do not mean kin in the sense that we are kin, but kin?

Captain: [struggling to keep a straight face]

That sounds like something Beren would say. Ah, -- yes.

Teler Maid:

Do not foible with words! What is this, that the rulers of the Old Country are parents' siblings to any of the Noldor, when they must be of the same kindred as him --

[gesturing to the Youngest Ranger]

-- unless --

[she frowns, looking around at them]

-- you do not -- surely you mean not -- but how might it happen? -- but --

[pulling herself together]

It can only be that you do mean that my lady's uncle is yet well and free and does rule and they but call him by another name! Am I not right?


Of course.

Teler Maid:

What befell Lord Elwe that he came not hence?

Fourth Guard: [mischievously]

That's a long st --

[his immediate neighbors suppress him quickly]


Short version is, he ran into the Lady Melian and that's why she didn't come back either.

Teler Maid:

Who is she?


Do you recall the stories about the Maia who went missing in the Old Country whilst exploring there?

Teler Maid:

I remember some such tale. -- Not well.


That's her. So there was this incredible reunion --

[as the Steward shakes his head]

-- well, I'm not sure what else to call it, Edrahil, what would you recommend?


We used to call them family reunions even if not everybody there had ever met everyone else because of not being born in the same place.


Thank you. -- And welcomes, and introductions, and talk, and Themselves brought out the gifts they'd made for their aunt and uncle, and there were thanks, and more talk, and then we were most graciously invited inside, which we'd all been most anxious to see, having heard so much in the way of rumour, and not having believed half of it as to what the Thousand Caves were really like. I'll tell you all about it in detail some other time, Maiwe, since everyone else already knows, and I could spend months and not be anywhere near through.

[Beren makes a quiet exclamation of disappointment]

But you've been there, lad.


Not like you all have. The first time was rushed and all I saw was the throne room and a back staircase and the doors on my way out, and the second time was longer but not all that much and even crazier. And --

[he breaks off]

Teler Maid: [curious]


Beren: [with a touch of reluctance]

Even if I had been there like them, not the way it was, it would have been different. I wouldn't have seen it the way they did, or been treated the same, even if I was welcome. I would have always been a stranger, like at Nargothrond, because I was mortal.

[beside him the Warrior touches his arm in an apologetic gesture]

Youngest Ranger: [troubled]

But your lady could tell you.

Beren: [wistful]

Yeah, but she's so mad at them all that it isn't easy to get her to talk about it, because when she does, even when she isn't starting out to yell about them, that's what ends up happening, and everything she does talk about she ends up tearing into like you wouldn't believe.

[running his hand through his hair in a frustrated gesture]

I mean, I know it can't have been all bad for a thousand-whatever years, that she had to love it there or she wouldn't be so hellishly angry at her parents, relatives, and all the court and the entire population of Doriath for treating her that way, but it's like -- I -- I try to remind her about how she was before, when we were together in Neldoreth the first time, and it's like that doesn't even exist for her any more. I don't know what would have happened if I hadn't gotten killed, if we'd stayed there. She didn't actually ever say that they deserved having the Wolf break in on them, but -- I could tell -- it was like a thunderhead overhead, it was gonna break out sometime. Maybe she did say it to Melian, quietly, I don't know.

[he shakes his head]

But, you know, with nobody paying attention to her, how was it gonna work if she came back to be Lady there? I guess I didn't think about that so much when I just wanted her to be safe. I don't guess that her father thought about that much either. Just wanting her back, but when she was, it wasn't her. -- But Doriath was different too, because of what they did to her.

[increasingly upset]

She just kept saying one thing after another after another, and I think he would have given her his crown if that would have made her happy again, like she was before. But that couldn't happen, because of me. -- She doesn't want to hear that from me, either.

Teler Maid: [blinking]

The daughter of the King of Doriath that is my lady Earwen's uncle?

[the Ten nod or murmur assent, though their attention is on Beren]

Beren: [making it be true by sheer force of will]

I'm okay.

[he pulls himself together, though his jaw is set rather hard]

Teler Maid: [astounded]

But -- your wife is my King's niece? Lord Olwe's long-lost brother is your lady's father?

[Beren nods]

What mad story is this?


No, it's the truth.


Teler Maid:

I think we mean not the same by it. How did you come to find lost Lord Elwe, and what of his family and yours? That is what I did mean.


Oh. -- That's really a long, long story. I'm not sure I can explain it at all, let alone well, and they can do it better, but probably, and I'm not joking around this time, guys, you should talk to H -- Finrod about it, because he was around for more of it, he knows everybody, and he studies this kind of stuff. Um, I mean, Lord Ingold to you.

Teler Maid: [sharply]

I know that is also his name. I call him Ingold because that is what we called him mostly. Do you not think that I am ignorant, too!


Sorry. I didn't mean that, either. I just get confused by it still, so I didn't want to confuse you.

Teler Maid:



I thank you, then. I will do so, when he does come back.


All clear on that, now? We were in Doriath, at the Thousand Caves, which were fully as spectacular as local legend had painted them and more so, somewhat to the -- I guess you'd say chagrin, though mostly awe -- of us all, who'd assumed that tales of how much finer it was than anything we'd set up there were partly local patriotism and partly due to the fact that we still had fairly simple encampments at that date, visiting with King Olwe's brother and his Lady, and their daughter, who's now married to Lord Beren here, but wasn't then, since neither he nor any of his people had been born then.

[to the Youngest Ranger before he has a chance to interrupt]

-- Nor you neither, lad, since you weren't born yet either, though I think you said you'd a cousin there.

[the junior officer nods agreement]

Teler Maid: [to the Sindarin Ranger, very seriously]

Was that the one with the giant fish?

Youngest Ranger: [just as (un)seriously]

No, that was Beren's, I think.


-- Ahem. Anyway, we were there for a long time, being feasted and furrowed for information and gawked at by everyone who'd not ventured out to meet us before, and everyone who had as well, I think, and if you think you were the object of undue curiosity in Nargothrond, lad, take my word (though it's little consolation) that it can be far worse. Though of course the most attention was upon our lord and his brothers and Lady Galadriel --

Teler Maid: [interrupting]

Who is that?

[confused pause]


Ah. Right. That's the name that their sister goes by these days. It was a present from her husband, means the same as her old nickname, though Himself will tell you it means "Tree-girl" instead, just to make her laugh.

Teler Maid:

Lady Nerwen is married too? To whom?

[the Captain and others look a bit taken aback at how much catching-up there is to do; before they can answer:]


Oh, I know this one. The King's sister's husband is a lord of Tinuviel's kindred named Celeborn -- only I haven't met them, just heard about them -- on her father's side. Er, my wife's father's side, if that wasn't clear.

Teler Maid:

He is one of us as well?

[she is both surprised and triumphant, and gives the Steward a keen look before asking them]

What is he like?

Captain: [frowning]

Serious, fair-minded, thinks things through carefully before acting and then acts decisively, very polite and rules his temper well -- though he does have one, make no mistake. -- A lot like their father, in fact, were Lord Finarfin to become a warrior and commander of warriors, I'd hazard.

[he looks at the Steward for confirmation of his assessment; his friend nods agreement.]

Teler Maid: [uncertainly]

They are not here, are they?

Steward: [fervent]

-- Stars, no. Not everything has gone as wrong as might.


-- What did I just hear you say?

[this gets him a very cool Look]


That there are always exceptions, and that nothing can be relied upon to be constant.


Damn, I thought I'd caught you. Good recovery.

Teler Maid: [rubbing her temples]

So -- if it is so that none but my lady's youngest children do remain in the Old Country, which of them does lead? For you said that it was Lord Ingold and Lady Nerwen of the House that were most foremost to arrange the efforts of the March -- then now he is dead does it fall to her last brother, or to her and her lord, to rule your folk in that City you have spoken of to me?


Well, in fact they're not there any longer.

Teler Maid:

Then where?


Must I ask and ask and ask, for every least thing?

Captain: [a little tired-sounding]

I'm sorry. I -- was thinking about how much telling this is going to take for all the relatives. It's a bit daunting. A lot daunting, really. -- They took off a little while back on their own with some like-minded sorts and struck out over the Blue Mountains to explore and set up on their own and hadn't got back yet when the War hotted up.


You call it a little while. I wouldn't.

Captain: [shrugs]

I guess it was a while ago, at that.

Teler Maid:

I have missed a great deal of news.


Yes, you have. So one night there was a grand celebration, partly for the Family, partly because it was the New Moon, and partly just because. And there was every sort of music and dance and diverse arts --

Beren: [interrupting]

-- Magic, right?

[the Sea-elf looks over at him curiously, sharing the strange look among his neighbors as the Youngest Ranger and the Warrior simultaneously elbow him in the ribs to make him shut up]


That too, but also contests of skill and strength with weapons and other sport -- and the speaking of tales and verses besides, and we were all having the grandest time of it, being at home as it were with all the advantages of being someplace else -- in other words, somebody else looking after all the things that have to be done, plus it's unexpected and charming because it's all strange, but not so very -- and then I noticed that someone wasn't taking part --

-- and then I noticed him go skulking off along to the edges of the crowd, in spite of the fact that Master Daeron was playing then for the Queen herself to dance, and even a stone would not have been so deaf and blind as to turn away from that. So I followed him from the clearing before the Green Throne at Hirilorn's feet -- I'm putting that in for Beren, Maiwe: it's a huge tree beside the City of the Lord and Lady of Doriath, where they hold court, betimes, I'm not trying to confuse you with strange names, all right?

[she nods]

And to my great surprise I saw him go off to the shadows of the wood and stand there glaring at his harp, and brace it in his arms as though he were going to break it, and I deliberated calling to him, but then he changed his mind before my eyes, and went back to the gathering and looked about as though seeking out someone in particular, and then goes up to a villager that to my knowledge had never spoken with any of us before, of a party come from great distance to the celebration, and offers the harp to the stranger as a gift. And then -- still unawares that I was shadowing him -- he left the clearing again and returned to the Thousand Caves, quite unobserved by any other, all being under Queen Melian's spell and the spell of the flute --

[to Beren]

-- even us, though not quite the same way it happened to you -- and I, being much troubled by what I had seen, followed. He wasn't hard to find -- there was no one else in the place, everyone was out on the greensward enjoying themselves; I found him in the grove the Queen had made, sitting by the fountains looking at the water and not seeing it, so to speak.

"What -- is -- wrong?" I asked him, like that, as forcefully as I might. And he looks up at me, not quite seeing me either, and answers, "I am here, and she is there, and the Ocean is between us." And I said, "Oh," not expecting that at all, and not knowing anything else to say, and he pulls himself together a bit, and returns, "Or were you asking something else entirely, sir?"

[he glances at the Steward, who is sitting with his chin resting on his forearms, looking off with a resigned expression]

Teler Maid:

What said you?


Nothing. I had, with my usual and quite mundane foresight taken care to provide myself with a pitcher of wine and two cups, and also a few sundry small edibles from the varied spread outside --

Youngest Ranger: [aside at large]

I heard people wondered if a bear had visited the tables.


It was not that much, Lieutenant, and I was merely implementing the lesson you shouldn't have forgotten, that one secures resources as they are available.


I think those rule each other out, actually.

Youngest Ranger:

Which was it, then, sir?

Ranger: [aside, but not discreet]

-- Bear.

[the Steward gives a quick nod]

Captain: [ignoring them]

So I poured him a cup, and while I was unrolling the cloth -- and it wasn't a tablecloth, whatever these louts tell you -- he's holding the wine, looking at it, and at me, wondering when the joke was going to happen, and I poured myself a cupful, and he kept on watching me, very wary, and I, in a stroke of, if you will allow me to say so, brilliance, made the toast to absent friends. And he whispered, "Yes," and drank with me, and so we had our own little feast on the steps of the dais, under the golden trees, and we talked. And listened. And I learned that the noble Edrahil, esteemed counselor of the eldest of Finarfin's scions and lord entrusted with the most vital matters of our lord's household, and accounted of no small skill with word or note either, considered himself a failure and a squanderer of his time and a miserable excuse for an Elf besides.

Teler Maid:


Captain: [disregarding her cold tone]

Indeed. For, so he said, he had thought himself excellent, and although he was willing to concede the Vanyar our superiors in song (though naught else of skill) and to be accounted in the second rank after the children of the King (meaning in this case our first lord, Finwe) --

[with a quick glance to make sure Beren understands]

-- he had never been content to allow any other might be his better, nor rival, and yet here so many were his equals, and it was easy as breathing to them, for all that they had not the same scholarship here (meaning there) and he could not dismiss it as but a rustic sort of music, and of a different kind, and hence no competition, for he'd heard compositions of the greatest, like Elemmire, learned in a few hearings by the Doriathrin and changed into their own modes and sung back with the most elaborate variations. And that was many, not a few, before ever he should speak of Daeron, whose mastery he had no more hope of equaling than he had of the Powers' --

[to the Steward]

See? I can do your style as well as your tone of voice pretty fairly, hm?

Steward: [grimly]

You're just remembering it.


Not just. There's skill and effort involved.

[to the Sea-elf]

And I couldn't figure out what this had to do with you, and I wanted to say something about him conceding that the gods could manage to do something better than us, but I restrained myself.

[raising an eyebrow, as the Steward visibly restrains himself from speaking in turn]

-- Of course, my mouth was full at the time. And anyway he soon cleared that up talking about how he'd constantly made light of your pipe-playing and your people's songs and how everyone and everything here made him remember you, in spite of the fact that the cultures were so different, and he had been so thoughtless not to realize that his words to you would have had the same effect on you as Lord Enedir's telling him to stop wasting his time on that for which he was not suited to him, only worse, for his family thought him much talented in painting and would have had him study that, but he had never praised any deed of yours at all.

[she snorts and tosses her head at his words, her eyes very hard at the memories, as he continues in the same mild nostalgic vein]

I remember being most confused over his berating himself for his cruelty in deriding you as childish for skipping, and climbing in trees, and not understanding what that had to do with the Moon Feast at all, though I agreed as I had all along.

[looking meaningfully at Beren]

And he says that who was he, after all, to declare what was childish, and what was unfitting of the Eldar, when our lord's eldest cousin and the King of this land's own daughter had been up in an elm the day we arrived, and but a day before had enlisted all that she could find unoccupied into a complicated game of tag that involved, among other steps, skipping. And he'd attempted to explain it as having some deep metaphysical and ritual significance, but when he inquired of Lady Galadriel-also-known-as-Nerwen what it meant, she answered, after she'd got her breath back, that it but made it much funnier, to have to obey the rules of the dance, even if it makes the game harder.

Teler Maid: [bemused]

Skipping. -- Lady Nerwen.

[he nods seriously, while she shakes her head in amazement]

Not even your sister skipped with me, though she never chid me for it, nor for scaling the bannisters as though 'twas a hawser. -- Nor did you.


Well, she would have if she'd been there. Joined her lady in the game, I mean. Princess Luthien's hard to argue with, as Barahirion could tell you.

[Beren hides a grin]

Skipping -- backwards -- and with her hair falling down all over the place like Treelight, and laughing "like a loon" --

[he nudges his companion, who affects indifference]

-- till she could hardly stand up, by the end of it, and the rest of us not much better. Though I did notice that she wasn't waving off offers of a supporting arm as we would all expect, when it was young Celeborn doing the offering. And nobody saying anything scathing about being silly, or shouldn't we be less frivolous, or was this any way for adult Eldar to behave?

[to Beren]

I think that the real blow was when your lady's parents lamented the fact that they'd been too busy with organizing the feast to join in.

[Beren joins the Teler girl in looking both amused and half-disbelieving]

And he kept on explaining about how he realized now how wrong he had been to disdain you, Sanderling, and I kept on agreeing with him all the while, and yet he didn't once get angry with me for presuming to do so. -- So, did I tell it to your satisfaction?



Captain: [dismissive]

What have I left out?


That you spent the whole of the time listening to my complaints without complaint of your own, when you had far rather been at the dancing and under the stars and moon, nor made reproach for having missed it, but only to jest about having failed to secure enough wine for such a thirsty night of talk when the flagon ran dry.


Well, it wasn't all on one side, I wasn't just commiserating with you -- I do recall ranting as well about the fact everything was strange and much of what I knew didn't apply to animals in this continent (which is to say, that continent) and that I'd tell people to do things and they'd listen and go off and do something else altogether, and so on.


Truly, I did not notice --

Teler Maid: [breaking in]

But of course you did not notice -- for when did another's concerns ever concern you? Nay, Edrahil, you need not even say so much!

Captain: [mildly]

I think he meant it as a common courtesy, Curlew.


Nonetheless it was equally the truth -- against my own cares I fear yours mattered not, so that you might have complained of mutinies or plagues of vampire bats and I'd not have noticed while I bemoaned my state. Moreover you have omitted what followed -- how upon the morrow I was so dismayed to have disclosed my cares and uncertainties to your hearing that I avoided you for days thereafter, all the while in a fear that you'd make merry over my admissions among your friends, or presume upon me in public fellowship before all, and spent the whiles in an agony of regret and shame over my weakness.

Captain: [bland]

The whiles I thought it was because I'd tried to convince you to join a proposed excursion to the southern marches and then perhaps if the weather held good out to the site of the First Battle. -- I still think it would have cheered you up.

Steward: [snorting]

To be trapped with you, Captain Beleg, the Lady Galadriel and a collection of the least-sane followers of Elu Thingol and House Finarfin combined, for weeks on end? -- And innumerable trees, of course.


There would have been serious cultural and historical stuff too, visiting Amon Ereb.

[the Steward just Looks at him]

-- And bugs, and no furniture, and rain, and songs sung most uncarefully of technicalities, and whatever we managed to scare up for dinner, and you could have complained for weeks on end while enjoying the whole business just as you did in after years.


That was after, and not unconnected with the events you insist upon recounting.

Captain: [very smug]

Got you.




You finally admitted to a liking for cross-country excursions and hunting trips and the whole outdoors life.

[the other grimaces in self-directed disgust]

-- What did I say, people?

[there are groans and resigned sighs from around the circle]

Pay up, now.

[one by one the other eight find or manifest some small article of value and hand over the items to their commander, who pockets them all into his wallet, while the subject of the bet affects dignified obliviousness to it all.]

Beren: [aside, to the Sea-elf]

That's a wager.

Teler Maid: [shaking her head]

I still do not see the purpose of it.


Would you just finish the confounded story?


You mean you want me to tell it?

Steward: [not fooled by the innocent tone of the query]

No, I want it over with.


Oh, all right. -- As he said, for a couple of days he moped about, dodging out of my sight and worrying me still more -- though not much since I had some of my people looking out for him meanwhiles -- and then abruptly and quite unpredictably abandoned that policy by coming upon me unexpectedly and collaring me, and demands without any sort of explanation, "What do you think you're about?"


You exaggerate shamelessly. I did not lay a hand on you, and you knew quite well at the time the matter whereof I spoke.


So? And I meant "collared" figuratively, the way it's usually meant.


-- And I said, "Er, what?" and he snarls back, "Why did you tell him I was not doing well?" and I said, "Because you aren't. Are you?" And that shut him up quite, for a bit at least. And then he gives me a look that would have frozen boiling water solid and asks me, "What are you looking to get out of this?" and I said, "-- I beg your pardon?"

[the Steward clears his throat]

Well, what I actually said was, "Er, what?" again, which admittedly doesn't sound so intelligent but means the same thing --

[his former colleague giggles before recollecting herself]

-- and while I was trying to figure out which of several possible meanings of "this" was intended he reiterated, in very simple syllables and extremely slowly and then over again in Quenya too --

[the Steward's expression becomes more pained]

"What -- do -- you -- want -- from -- me?" And I told him the plain truth again: "That you not be so gloomy."

"Why?" says he, which was such an idiotic question that I gave it an equally foolish answer: "Then you won't have to spoil any more perfectly fine evenings by moping off in a corner." At which point he gets all haughty again and tells me, "If you minded it so much, then you ought have said something at the time."

"If I had, I would have," I told him. I swear it felt like the Helcaraxe in there, for all 'twas midsummer. So, of course, I made a joke: "The House of Finwe already has one grim, bad-tempered Elf -- we don't really need another Caranthir about, do we?" Which threw him for a moment, and then he comes back ever so smoothly, "Belike you will be less high-humoured yourself when you have heard my message for you: our lord would speak next to you, and upon the moment."

"I doubt it," said I.

"You have not the Sight, I think," he tells me, just like that, and I said back, "Don't need it -- he's just going to tell me that you've agreed to the mission I suggested and ask me to take care of the necessary arrangements for the journey, and I'm going to tell him I've already done so." And he stands there scowling at me like a pup that's got out of its nest and can't find its way back to the litter, ready to try to chew your fingers off when you try to fetch the poor mite from behind a cask or under a chest or wherever it's backed itself into. "Just mind you don't get me shot, this time," I said as a joke, and he stops looking angry all of an instant and gives me a look completely guilt-stricken, which wasn't what I'd meant for to happen at all.

[he stops, and does not go on, despite the Sea-elf's expectant look; the Steward clears his throat]

Captain: [easily]

Your turn. I'm tired of talking.


That is so unamusing that it cannot even be considered a joke.

[continued silence -- he gives the Captain an even sterner Look, to no avail.]


You said you wanted it finished. Well, prove it.

[after a moment of impasse the other capitulates, shaking his head]

Steward: [acerbic tone]

This lunatic stood there grinning, and while I was distracted with the consideration of my prospects for surviving a journey halfway 'cross Beleriand with a mad Elf who deemed it a fine jest to be shot, he declared to me, "You'd best not, for I'll haunt you if you do, I vow it," and dealt me a blow that sent me reeling to the wall before turning to go answer his own summons.

Teler Maid: [troubled, to the Captain]

For what did you hit him, that were not angered with him beforetimes?

Captain: [snorting with disgust]

I clapped him on the shoulder, is all. I didn't realize that the shock of it would knock him off balance like that.


You have to admit, sir, you're the only one that was ever so bold to slap Lord Edrahil on the back. Not even the King does that.

Steward: [extremely austere]

Finrod Felagund is a most civil, courteous and gracious lord whose humour never exceeds the limits of decorum; I leave you to your own conclusions as to the corollary.

[picking up as though he'd been telling the story all along]

-- And so I found it even as he'd said, that my gear should have been readied and horses called and the other riders all waiting upon us, and so we gave thanks and farewell to our hosts and companions and betook ourselves upon the journey to the High King's holdings. And for those days and nights I sulked exceedingly and my wrath that I should be so judged and dealt with for mine own good, as were but a child, contended for precedence with indignation that a mere fighter's counsel should count as high as mine in our sovereign's sight (and also that manifestly should be deserved), and that his friendship should be so divided (for so I saw it) and both of those with the truth, which was that answer that I might not deny, and relief that the King should know and take thought for the burden of my griefs, and anger that it had been made known thus and in my despite, and I be reproached for keeping mine own counsel and my cares so long; nor was I good company the whiles, as might well be imagined --

Captain: [impatiently]

-- You take so long about even the simplest story. What happened was this: we kept having horse races -- which we always did, when the ground was level and clear, as a way to make the journey more fun, just as you'll recall from here -- and he kept losing and getting more annoyed, mostly because he wasn't concentrating on the course but getting distracted by his inner turmoil, and so his mount kept getting put out with him and back at him by doing things like going forward at an angle or splashing through the muddiest parts that could be found, and annoying everyone else -- and I ignored it all on the assumption that he'd get over it soon enough.

[with a sidelong glance]

-- How hard is that to recount?

Teler Maid:

Do not be fooled -- he but did so of a purpose, that you would resume!

Captain: [smiling]

I know. We're almost done. He'd said nothing for the whole of the day -- if you can believe it -- and we'd almost reached the end, when we stopped to watch the sunset on the water, and he rode off a little ways on his own, so of course I went along. After a bit he asks, "Am I truly like Lord Caranthir?" which I wasn't expecting.

"Not so much," I said back, which was the truth. And he didn't say anything, so I said, "You're not really giving up your music, are you?" And he answers, "It was not sturdy enough for the journeying that lies ahead of us." I wasn't sure I liked the sound of that -- I mean, he'd managed to bring the instrument unbroken over the Grinding Ice, after all -- but I wanted to get on to the High King's hall before it got too late so instead of getting into that, I said, "You could make another that will be."

"I don't want your pity," he says to me, not angry nor sharp nor anything of the sort.

"I know," I told him. "I'm sorry." And he gave me a look to match the tone of voice, very plain, very straightforward, -- not like him at all, you'd probably say -- and returns, "Then since you will not rescind it, I must thank you for it." And She went down and we got back on the trail and went on from there.


Teler Maid: [not entirely happy still]

So it is of mercy that you did befriend him . . .

[suddenly, rather fierce]

For what do you spend so much of your time speaking but of him, when have you not your own lives and stories and deeds to be telling?

Beren: [reasonable tone]

But that's who you're really most interested in, and you know it and we know it.


Teler Maid:

You are unkind and do amuse yourselves at my expense, to find diversion in my folly.

Fourth Guard: [earnest]

Would you rather hear about the building of the City, Maiwe? I worked on the Gates: do you want to know about dressing stone so that a dry-set wall will line up perfectly and still appear completely natural from the outside? It isn't at all easy to make an ashlar facing look like weathered rock, you know, even though it does seem that it would be the easiest thing in the world to make broken stone look like broken stone.

Teler Maid: [coldly]

You do make sport of me.


Do you mean you want us to talk about him, or you don't want us to talk about him?

[somehow his former colleague finds her toes more interesting than anything else.]

Sulking's also an option, I suppose.

[she looks up at him with an angry expression]

Steward: [tightly]

You're not helping matters, you realize.


On the contrary, that's exactly what we're doing.

Steward: [disgruntled]

I didn't ask for your assistance.


Well, not in so many words, no.


Not in any words.


You don't think we can make it worse, do you?


Look, all you're doing is imitating a statue, and --


-- Exaggeration --

Captain: [not missing a beat]

-- not by much, when the Sea-Mew wants to know what happened to change a self-centered, neurotically-insecure-yet-overconfident musician into an unselfish, self-effacing hero?

Steward: [through grit teeth]

I am not any sort of a hero -- !

Ranger: [earnest]

But you are, sir.


Even if we didn't see it before, we couldn't help it after Serech, when the King was down and you held us long enough for Beren's father to get there.

Steward: [exasperated]

What else could I have done?

Second Guard:


Youngest Ranger:

Given up and died.


Forsaken your duty because it was hopeless, instead of proving that sometimes it's a good idea to have a pessimist in charge, since it comes as no surprise to him not just that things could go wrong, but that there's no hope of them going otherwise. Instead of the chap who was convinced that yes, we could easily take out Melkor-now-Morgoth, retake the Silmarils (ignoring the problem of the Gloomweaver), and make Endor into what Valinor ought to have been, all in time to hear his epics chronicling it at dinner.

[looking over at the three youngest members of the group:]

-- We were idiots, if you haven't realized that by now.

[the object of their praises struggles with embarrassment, and then takes the offhand approach]

Steward: [lightly]

-- What became of him? He faded, for the most part, unmarked and unmourned, during the crossing of the Ice; when it became most eminently clear that a talent for remembering was of far more worth put to the accounting of consumables and not for the rehearsing of lore, and a gift of eloquence more valuable employed in passing on a leader's instructions than any new-fashioned verse of his own devising. What little was left of him did not survive the knowledge that his ambitions had set another far on the Westward path, in his own place -- or in the stead of a Northern destination -- and a hard reckoning of the worth of that exchange, listening for heartbeats in terror of silence. He did not return from that parley, and none missed him.

Captain: [musing]

-- Unregretted, perhaps, but not unnoticed. -- Though I was late in recognizing it, I must admit. We were well-settled along the Lake by the time it occurred to me that you were saying things because they were the sorts of things that you would have said, and well aware of how arrogant and pompous they sounded, and allowing folk to laugh at you not to have the better laugh on them, but as a strange way of joining in with the general mirth.

Steward: [loftily]

What curious notions you do come up with.

Teler Maid: [narrowing her brows]

Do you know what he would say, when gone from among the House, and neither Lord Ingold nor any other of the family to reprove him present, -- how he would declare that there was scarce any art whatsoever in the making of gardens, for so much did the plants do of their own, without care, and to but arrange them in differing place was the play of children, not of minds full grown --

[in a rush, aside to the Steward]

-- and when I did say that it was insult to the Earthqueen to say such you would but disclaim that it was honor to her to say that no hand could better hers, and your friends laughed at me behind their wine-cups, but can you say here that you did not twist words like hawsers? --

[not waiting for him to answer]

-- and of those who followed the Rider that there was little greater skill in those that did hunt than among the beasts themselves, for so much did they do indeed, that it should take no thought nor speech, nay, for must be silent when stalking prey --

[to the Steward again]

-- and that was much of mirth between your fine lord Maglor and his brothers, and all of the general bandying of words about, in that so-witty company -- but you did think it, I knew then and know it to be true!

[to the Captain, demanding:]

It does not astonish you to learn that?


Er -- no, I can't say it did when he told me.

Teler Maid: [outraged]

Is there nothing that he might do or yet have done, that would aggrieve you then?

Captain: [rueful]

What, you think it's easy, having a compulsively-hypercritical despondent type who's harder on himself than anyone else for a friend?

[she shoots a Look at the Steward in turn]

Teler Maid:

And you say naught to that?

Steward: [very dry]

Rest assured, I would contradict him, -- if there were any point on which I might. But there is, for good and ill, nothing I can say.

[she snorts angrily, her lips tightening]

Teler Maid:

Only that is not so. There are many things you might say, many things hard and sharp and pointed as swords, cold as iron, burning as fire, that should wound the spirit, -- only you choose not so, but let them make game of you, and answer not, but smile from your high vantage point and fancy yourself most generous, that you withhold your mockery! And these are grateful for even the crumbs of your notice that you so jealously grant them!

[Beren and the Youngest Ranger exchange a startled glance]

Beren: [whispering, to the Youngest Ranger]

Whoa, does that sound familiar or what?

Youngest Ranger: [nodding, as quietly]

It sounds like the Fall of the Noldor, the bits with Feanor.

[through the rest of her tirade they carry on a low-level exchange of nervous banter, making it increasingly harder for the nearer of the Ten to behave]


-- Yeah.

Teler Maid: [glaring around at the rest of them]

You sit at his feet in eagerness and hope that he should approve ye and make remark of your words as though he were Lord Ingold himself!

Captain: [straightfaced, not showing any anger in response]

Oh no, we never get them mixed up. They don't look anything alike. -- Sound different, too.

[this just makes her lose her temper still more]

Teler Maid:

You know whereof I mean! You are pleased even to have his mockery, as though you merited no more, as though such attention were honour of itself and enow for your content!

Youngest Ranger: [aside]

Only we never thought of him as a god.

Beren: [aside]

Speak for yourself.

Teler Maid:

Are you blind, then, that can see all else so clearly, and nothing of this? What fog misleading has he set upon the lot of ye, that should be so fondly led and misled that have not my excuse for it?

Youngest Ranger:

Well, perhaps a demi-god.

Teler Maid:

You are even yourselves Noldor, -- well, for the most part -- and that high precedence he cannot claim against you. -- Oh, but you came to the Light sooner than we -- and yet you left it fast enough in truth as well!

Beren: [shrugging]

I'm not really one to say, though, being mortal.

Teler Maid:

Or is it that you believe in his assurance of greater wisdom, and that you less skilled in words, less truly are the Quendi than he and his honored companions?

Youngest Ranger:

You met all the same Powers I did when we were alive.



Teler Maid: [gesturing sweepingly]

Only not any of ye has not the gift of thought nor song, but instead to it do add other skills, so far from diminished that are not bards or scribes!

Youngest Ranger:

Except Morgoth.

Beren: [quick headshake]

Didn't meet him.

Teler Maid: [impassioned, not noticing (or caring) that no one is disagreeing with her]

But what of that which all must have to live, nor there might be speaking without?! Is it not so -- that to grow and catch the stuff of food, of clothing, to make the things that must be had for other making, is that not as worthful as to make words and letters to hold them in?

Youngest Ranger: [nodding slightly towards the Steward]

-- He's not much like Queen Melian.

Beren: [biting his lip]

N -- nope.

[there is some suspicious coughing from his left as well, but Earwen's former servant is too caught up in her harangue to notice them.]

Teler Maid:

Or why are things of stone more noble than the same designs when made in woven rushes, more worthy a vase than a basket, tell? Or why is a house of stone more noble than a ship of wood?

Youngest Ranger:

Nor Huan neither.

[the Hound perks up his ears and rolls his eyes to look at them without lifting his head]


Oh, I don't know, you haven't heard Huan being sarcastic --

Teler Maid:

Is there not no less skill in either, and so too in the makers of them?

Youngest Ranger:

Well -- perhaps so. But really I'd say --

Beren: [interrupting, glancing at his neighbor on the left]

-- Don't say it.

Youngest Ranger:

But --


I know what you're gonna say. Don't.

Teler Maid: [rhetorically]


Youngest Ranger:

You can't.

Teler Maid:

Have you not anything of respect left for the worth that is your own? But must you cede it all up to him, who does not give any back?


Yes I can.

Youngest Ranger:

Prove it.

[Beren looks apologetically at the Warrior, who is trying with supreme effort to keep a straight face, and leans over to try to whisper his guess too quietly for anyone else to overhear -- but the strain is too much and all three dissolve into sputters of laughter, drawing wrath upon themselves]

Teler Maid: [snapping about to direct a furious Look their way]

What do you mutter when I attend you not?

[now the object of scrutiny from all about the circle, the culprits attempt to display a spirit of reform: the Warrior by straightening up, eyes front, the Sindarin Ranger by bowing his head apologetically under his commander's stern expression, and Beren by looking innocent. None of this works particularly well.]

Pray, what of my words does so greatly amuse you?

[she leans around to glare at them; Beren leans back, trying to stay out of the line of the glare]

Youngest Ranger:

. . .

[she reaches around behind him and pokes Beren hard, making him look at her guiltily]


Uh -- we were just -- ah -- being silly.

Teler Maid: [innocently]

Nay, and I thought you but spoke of the winds.

Warrior: [uncertain]

But -- there isn't any weather in here.

Teler Maid: [grimly meaningful]

Even so.

Beren: [looking at the senior officers]

Er, sirs -- we have to tell the truth, right?


Or else remain silent.

Beren: [glancing nervously at the Teler girl, who is leaning around still scowling at him]

I don't think that's an option right now.


Then, as you understand it, yes. But you will find it simply to be so, not something to be worked at.

[aside to the Captain]

-- And no, we are not going to explain how to get around it, things are bad enough as it is.


Can I leave things out?

Teler Maid:




[he sighs heavily]

Promise you're not gonna yell at me?

[she keeps glaring at him, and he squares his shoulders, sighs again -- and breaks into helpless snickers once more.]

Youngest Ranger: [aside]

-- Just run for it, Beren.


Oh, you're volunteering to explain?

Youngest Ranger:

No, I'll be retreating right alongside you.


Lads -- you're straining my patience, now.

Beren: [straightening up]

Yes, sir.

[to the Sea-elf]

When you started saying we were all being like a bunch of dumb kids just looking up to Lord Edrahil even if he was looking down on us, it reminded us of what Feanor said about the Valar and the Noldor, or the Noldor and the Valar rather, and when I say "reminded us" I mean "about" since the two of us weren't around for it, so we can't actually get reminded of it, but you know what I mean, right? So -- that -- just got us going about the Powers we did know, and if they were like him at all or not, and he --

[lightly elbowing the Teler Ranger]

-- was just about to bring up Morgoth's second-in-command, and I lost it.

[his co-offender gives a huff over being proven wrong; the Sea-elf's Look becomes still icier]

I know it wasn't really appropriate, but we weren't trying to be rude, and I guess it wasn't really all that funny either -- 

Warrior: [aside, straightfaced]

-- Melian.

[Beren breaks down again, but the Youngest Ranger manages to maintain his composure -- for all of a half-second. The Captain just shakes his head, sighing.]

Sorry, my lords.


One supposes you were incapable of refraining, and hence not culpable.

Youngest Ranger: [nodding seriously]

That's it precisely, sir.

Teler Maid: [furious]

Even you! Even you that are of the free kindred that went upon your own ways, you too are content to be his thrall and fool and make jest even of yourself for his amusing!

[her distant compatriot bows his head, trying to avoid conflict, but the Steward looks up at last and leans forward, his eyes blazing]

Steward: [fiercely]

Think you so, my lady? -- That I know not the worth of these my friends, nor rate theirs properly against mine own, but deem it no more than due? That no more do they, but like fools do believe a glamour of words and certainties and pride, as they were deceived by the Enemy himself? Listen, then, and then judge them as you will --

[she glares back, not backing down, though the others do not look happy]

You will hear whether or not they know my limit, and the boundless depths and heights of my cowardice, and if their kindness and care of my uncertain temper is of aught other grounds than their compassion!

[the Captain grips his shoulder, but does not make any attempt to interrupt; but when he goes on the heat is absent from his voice almost completely, and the edge is replaced by a calm, if somewhat wearied, factual tone]

When we were taken prisoners, and sentenced to die unless we should betray which among us were our leaders, and what our mission had been, I held at first that I should endure far better than my fellows, for my greater understanding of all things, that I judged but second to our royal master's, and for that those things which grated so heavily upon certain of us, and that some had no power whatsoever to withstand --

[he looks apologetically at the Youngest Ranger, who is watching him with a serious, intent gaze]

-- to me were almost nothing, compared to those burdens which did trouble me deeply. But that confidence, which was indeed pride, and in equal part fear that another less able to resist would break and give Sauron the Abhorred the word he wished, and thus the keys that might unlock not only Nargothrond but also haply Doriath, did news of our fate come to King Elu's daughter. -- We did not at that time know that she had already learned some part of it, and even then was making effort to come to Beren's rescue, but had been twice thwarted before reaching more than halfway to our holding-place.

[he frowns, looking off thoughtfully -- she snaps her fingers impatiently to get his attention]

Teler Maid:


[to his confused look]

But what of that confidence -- ?


Forgive me -- I am somewhat distracted with many things, and this is not so easy a tale, nor one I am much used to tell.

Second Guard: [aside]

Huh -- That's an understatement.

Teler Maid: [aside, suspicious]

Who is this, that addresses me in such a fashion?


As I had begun, but finished not, that confidence of mine was far from well-founded. Instead of other and more noble cares, the one that came to prey most upon my mind was fear, not of pain but of being unhoused: the certainty grew upon me that I should be lost there, unable to find my way, unable to escape the snares and power of our captor, and the dread of it was worse than sleeplessness, nor the burning of the chains that caused it, nor the dark itself. So great did this conviction become, and so wholly did it consume my attention, that I grew to most bitterly resent the giving of my place to you --

[glancing at the Captain]

-- and to waste much fruitless energy in wishing to have the deed undone; and in fury, that Barahir's son might not be obliged as we to spend a measureless Age in yet another prison after that one, but should go free, nor be held shelterless within these Halls --

[to Beren and the rest of the Ten, wryly]

-- I am often wrong, you see.

[Beren shakes his head]

Beren: [tightly]

Nobody Saw this one coming. Not even Lord Mandos.


In any case, Maiwe, you must surely concede that none that were present can have any doubt of my vanity, nor my weakness, nor my inability to rule the same --

First Guard: [interrupting, very definitely not rudely]

-- That -- wasn't how it seemed -- to us, sir. That you could be that frightened, and not give in, and still care about us, the worse it got -- how could we do any less?

[the Steward bows his head in embarrassed acceptance]

Teler Maid: [shaking her head]

But that does not make sense. How could one not come here, when your body is not there to stay in? What foolishness is that, to worry about finding your way" -- ?

Captain: [aside to her, urgently]

It -- isn't the same, for everyone.

Steward: [shrugging]

-- Unreasonable, perhaps, but reason had long abandoned me. I strove to conquer it, and thought I had at last, by virtue of silencing my mind, that I thought of nothing, but only the ever-changing, ever-familiar, never-silent vistas of the Sea; and thus could not afflict my companions with my fear, nor they to shake me with their own. But I had not escaped it, only hidden for a while, and again the dread of it grew so strong upon me that I could no longer speak, for it drowned out all other thought, so that when my time came at last, I had not strength even for wrath, or for any other thought than that I should at least no longer be obliged to hear his coughing --

[nods towards Beren]

Teler Maid: [confused]

Was there smoke?

[the Steward shakes his head]

Then what was it made you cough?


Not us. Only he.

Teler Maid: [frowning still more]


[the Ten exchange looks of dismay and distress, while her expression changes from confusion to anger at being apparently treated as unworthy of response. Huan starts whining, very softly, and gets a light tap from the Captain to make him shut up.]

Beren: [to the others, earnestly]

She doesn't understand. How can she? No one who stayed has ever met us. You said that not even animals get sick here the way they do back home, there's no blight on crops, things don't grow wrong, they just grow until they get old and stop, or something eats them first -- they don't start dying while they're alive.

Teler Maid: [sudden understanding]

That is what they meant, those I did overhear talking that are returned, when they spoke of the Sickly Ones --

Ranger: [fierce]

You mustn't say that --

Teler Maid: [concerned]

Is that unmannerly? Was that insult, then?

Beren: [shaking his head]

Not from you, no.


No living thing fares well in chains, in darkness -- not even the Children of Aule could bear such forever, I think; but for we that were born of earth beneath the sky, it is death to be held under stone, and falls hardest on the youngest of us. No more than a bird or a green plant might live without free air or light -- yet the bodies of the Secondborn still strive to mend and to live despite the harm even as our own, and that is sickness.


Teler Maid:

For how long were you imprisoned?

[none of the Elven shades answer her -- they do not know]

Beren: [in a weirdly-detached manner]

The leaves were partway-turned when we reached the southernmost edge of the delta, the farthest point north we got. The trees were bare when Huan broke Tinuviel out of Nargothrond. Closer than that, can't tell. I don't even know if that means anything to you, if you had seasons here before like we do now.

Teler Maid: [quiet]

But a long time -- longer than days --

[he nods]

Beren: [shortly]


Steward: [quietly]

But not so long as years, as those that are thralls of the Iron Lord must serve without hope, until, and if, they are allowed to die.

[she stiffens, her expression growing hard]

Teler Maid:

They are Kinslayers, and such is their fate.

[the Youngest Ranger starts and looks grim, but the Steward replies before he can say anything.]

Steward: [still dispassionate]

Not all. Many are of your tribe of our people, and guilty of no murder -- for the Lord of Fetters cares nothing for the deeds or misdeeds of those he takes for slaves, saving only as he might use them against his foes. It is a terrible choice to be given, between dying and giving slavery to those that have been one's friends.

Teler Maid: [chill emphasis]

I had no choice.


And for that I do envy you.

[she makes as if to say something, and he waits,until it is clear she will not, before he goes on]

But even though I did make it, there was no respite there, no satisfaction in the deed of choosing, for the slave-demon made no haste in its work to end my time of captivity, and the fear of being stranded as an unquiet ghost grew to outmeasure what dread I had known before as a true hurricane that uproots ancient trees and hurls the Sea upon the land and casts down the sand cliffs into it outpaces the wind and tumult of a common thunderstorm.

[again her braids are being turned into knots without her realizing it]

And that was worst of all -- I had not dreamed that fear could be so strong, nor that any emotion might consume so without killing, and I was still bound there to life, even as I was torn from it and from my friends, who might not save me, no more than I might aid them. All that was left of my mind was fear, and a longing to be free of it, as might a wild bird trapped in a burning cage know, and in my yearning I reached for that dream that had given me rest when no rest was to be had, and the Sea was there.

[at these words the Captain slides his arm across to grip his other shoulder, and he leans his head back against his friend's elbow in acknowledgment of the gesture, but doesn't hesitate or stop:]

And I understood at last, in the place beneath all speech, all mastery of words, beneath the biting roots of that fear that had devoured my wits more thoroughly than the Enemy's beast devoured my body, that it was no mere memory nor fancy born of my own wishfulness, but truth: that the voice of the Sea is wherever the Lord of the Waters holds dominion -- and the salt currents run endless through our hearts, through every least inch of our flesh, through our brains and our bones living, and never can we escape the Deep, though it lies so near to us that we do not even mark it for the most part.

[smiling grimly]

And I knew also that my fear, for me, was the truth -- that I had so weakened myself in my lonely war against it that I might not have the strength to make my way Westward against the dark winds that blew across Middle-earth, and I should indeed perhaps be trapped by the Enemy's might, if not as his slave, then as a lost thing that once had a name, within the shadows.


Teler Maid: [doubtful and resentful at once]

But -- you did mean it for mercy's sake -- to keep your fears to yourself.


So I did indeed.

Teler Maid:

But that is not fair --


That I should be free to harm myself for good cause as for ill? 'Twould be hard, I think, that I should be let Doom myself for vainglory, and not to protect those I loved, whether it made any difference in the end.

Teler Maid:

Yet --

[she subsides again with a troubled expression]


Only might I turn to the Waters, while yet they ran within my emptying veins, and forsake the dry cliff from which I watched the breakers in my thoughts, and let the god of the Deeps protect me, and thus find safety -- and this I knew, as one knows the embrace of one's parents from the first, before ever word or name is known, and yet -- I did not dare to enter the Sea.

Teler Maid: [baffled]

But why should you yet fear the Sea, and more so than houseless death?


But I did. Nor was it all unreasoning in its root, though there was no reason in me then; for your Lord nor his folk had cause to love me, being Noldor.

Teler Maid: [with suppressed intensity]

But you have sworn to me, Edrahil, most solemnly, that you had not any part in our deaths!


I have, and ever shall. But many were on those ships that had not wielded blade, and I had seen the sorrow of the Long-Haired Lady more terrible than the wrath of Feanor, ruining that which he had accounted more worth than lives, and with their destruction those lives as well.


Teler Maid: [taut]

They did consent, still. -- Though it be after.

Steward: [gently]

And might I have been among them, had I not feared the Deep so much even then, full as much as I did trust Finarfin's son, and refuse the urgings of those that had been among that company you recollect, that smiled at you behind their cups, and praised me for my wit. And despite my innocence of blood, I dreaded that my unkindness to you and to your kin, and my contemptible thoughts of all your tribe, should be known to them of the Sea and I tarried in dread, while the tide ran ever lower, and I wished that the decision might be made for me without my making it, that a crashing breaker might sweep me from the rocks; but that might not be.

[he sighs; the Captain swats Huan preemptively again]

Teler Maid:

But you did at last.

Steward: [nods]

I did. As reluctantly as I had eagerly fled thence did I turn West at last, and yielded and cast myself into the mercy of your Lord, and the Sea took me, and all the tangled ambitions and regrets and certainties and remembrances dissolved as I had feared, and I was free, no shred cohering to be caught by grasping foe, nor caught upon that other shore, and there was peace, though I cannot well say for me -- for where is difference, once the berg has melted into the summer wave?

[she is looking at him seriously, without her previous skepticism or hostility]

A time passed, and the tide washed upon this shore, and here did I remain, bodiless and broken, upon the land where I was born, blind, and without remembrance even of my names, that I might from that small coal of knowledge rekindle my self's shaping -- and thus might I have remained even to this instant, for all of mine own strength. None of my ability or wisdom or will should have sufficed, so far had I lost myself in my wanderings, had not these sought me out most loyally and lavished their sorrow upon me and called me by my names and stayed me until I returned from my darkness -- all that endures, that is to say.

[as he finishes he looks now at Beren, who is watching him with an expression both grief-stricken and under control.]

Beren: [whispering]

I'm sorry.

Steward: [as softly]

I know.

[the moment is one of complete mutual acceptance, and recognition of that acceptance, and consequent peace, broken almost immediately]

Teler Maid:

But for what does he ask your pardon, that was taken in the same cruel punishment? -- Only --

[looking at Beren uncertainly, then back again]

-- he did say he was the cause of your coming hither . . .

[she trails off; Beren starts to answer, but the Steward raises his hand commandingly]


Hush, child, she did ask of me.

[to the Sea-elf]

-- The Lord of Beor begged aid and guestright of Earwen's son our King, that never should have needed to do the same, but such have the times become in the lands beyond, that news be scarce, and help scarcer. And he in his turn repaid his life-debt and kept his promised word to give such help, though the price of it be life as well as kingdom, robbed of him by faithlessness, though none should have prevented him from answering the mortal with silence, and barred doors, nor obliged him to honor pledged faith save his heart's honour.

[the detatched, factual tone is displaced by great intensity]

And none did compel me, nor any of these our friends to follow, saving our own hearts likewise, though any could see, nor the King alone, that for this endeavor should be no likely ending save disaster. And so we were taken by the demi-god who now rejoices in a name of loathing, and but little more than half our journey made, though the way in end did prove far longer than any had guessed. And there we perished, that he might not.

[she looks at him with a wide, fixed stare -- then suddenly springs to her feet]

Teler Maid: [through clenched teeth]

I do not want to pity you, -- nor to honour you!

[silence -- she turns to look at Beren]

I wish I could hate you. I wish --

[in a rush]

-- I wish I had never to have left my home for Tirion, that never should I have known any of ye, nor should I have perforce to cared, that had I been slain upon the Night yet would the Doom upon you meant no more to me than justice done, nor I to have stayed here when most all have long gone home, to wait for you that now are strangers all, for love and hate for him that ever was a stranger! I wish I were not here --

Captain: [reaching his free hand up towards her]

Maiwe --

Teler Maid: [cold]

You are kind and will urge me peace regardless. Let him speak, that I should stay, or go -- as he'd rule me.

[the Captain winces and looks away; she does not rescind her no-win mandate, but continues to stare down at the Steward, who does not flinch at her anger]

Steward: [very simply]

Please -- don't leave -- like this.

[long pause]

Teler Maid: [in bleak admission]

If I go, where shall I go? Where is there for me to be, but here, and beside you? If I go -- I shall only return, like fish to a bow-lantern, drawn to your light and your song --

[looking around at them all]

-- from my shadows, for I cannot unknow what I now know. Only might I stay hidden, that none might discern or touch me -- and I to affect none in my turn, silent as mist. Long enough was I quiet beside you! -- or would you have me in death as in life, Edrahil, silent in your shadow, when you would not have my chattering to interrupt you nor shame you amid the wise?


Not though your words be harder than hail upon my soul.

[she stands with her fists clenched, then in abrupt, disjointed motions in succession puts her hands on her hips, folds her arms, and lets them fall to her side]

Teler Maid: [tired and frayed-sounding]

I am much overset with all that I have heard and seen and learnt this day.

Beren: [quietly, with the hint of a smile]

Join the crowd.

[he gestures to her place, and after a moment's hesitation she sits down again with a heavy sigh]

Teler Maid: [to him, dispirited]

Moreover if I were to hate you then these all should hate me in turn.

Captain: [in a good imitation of his usual tone]

We'd not hate you, Ternlet -- though we might toss you in the drink if you're too obnoxious, to be sure.

Teler Maid: [startled]



Well, if I were involved, it might be considered a much-belated revenge for the time you incited my sister to help you push me off of the sea-wall at your lady's parents' House.

Teler Maid: [affronted]

That was not mine, that idea was hers!


That's what she said.

Teler Maid:

I tell you, it was Sulilote thought of it! -- First.

Captain: [shaking his head solemnly]

Led astray by my perfidious sibling. And you didn't say, "Oh, that wouldn't be nice, when he's got his pack still on and all his gear there, think how long it will take him to dry it all out and clean the salt off and polish and wax everything so stuff doesn't rust (and the bowstrings are going to be ruined anyway) so why don't we let's not?"

Teler Maid:

Um . . .


Of course not, never even crossed your mind, I'll wager.

Teler Maid: [stubborn]

You did think it most droll, as well.

Captain: [raising an eyebrow]

And you think that excuses it, Sanderling?

[she makes a strange little exclamation, half-laugh, half-sob, and looks away quickly, scrubbing hard at her eyes with her hair]

Teler Maid: [forlornly]

Not even you can make me to be cheerful now.

[pulling herself together]

But why should you do so to me?


Apparently it's something they do on a regular basis. Only usually it just involves pushing unsuspecting hecklers into puddles or something. Nothing quite as elaborate as all this.

[nodding towards the waterfall. Simultaneously:]

First Guard: [wistful]

We never thought of doing this before.


They tripped, I assure you, on my honor! All of them.

Beren: [dryly]

Yeah, just like Prince Aegnor.

Teler Maid: [wide-eyed, not sure if this is for real]

You flung him into the water?

[they nod, and Huan's tail thumps twice before he remembers he is being unobtrusive and a Sorry Dog.]

Wherefore he spoke hatefully to your friend? -- And what said Lord Ingold of it?


Oh, he said we could.

Steward: [sighing heavily]

That is not exactly correct. What he said was, if you'll recollect, in essence, that he could not stop us. Which, strictly interpreted, is the truth -- but rather begging the question, if you ask me (which no one did) of whether or not he had any intention of trying. -- Which, as he had not, made it entirely impossible for him to do so, by logical necessity.

Captain: [to the Sea-elf]

See? He can still manage a properly supercilious set-down when it's appropriate.

[she gives him a quick, forced smile]

Teler Maid: [frowning suddenly]

Was not his brother angry with him?


I expect so.

Teler Maid:

What said they following?

[he shrugs]


He wasn't here. -- Himself, I mean, not the younger one. -- You really are a bad influence, Barahirion.


Sorry, sir. I'm trying my best.

Fourth Guard: [patronizing]

Yes, Beren, but that's the problem, you see.

[the Sea-elf ducks her head quickly, letting her hair fall forward to screen her expression]

Beren: [aside to his neighbor on the right]

-- If you made a pebble and gave it to me, do you think I could throw it at him?

Youngest Ranger:

I don't see why not.

[obliges; Beren tosses it accurately though left-handedly at the Guard, who catches it without effort and goes to flick it back]


-- Children. Behave.

[the pebble mysteriously vanishes]

Captain: [bland]

How you do go on about nothing.

Teler Maid: [harshly, still hidden behind her long hair]

Keep on with the telling of this tale of yours, for there must have been things to happen between your sojourn by this lake and your deaths, I think -- !


[Elsewhere: a long hallway, perhaps the same one where the duellists were earlier, perhaps another one much like it. There are massive columns lining it, as large as those along the portico of the Pantheon, but more prismatic, (squared or octagonal) and the vaulting is subtly more geometric than rounded, where visible -- just enough to convey a distinctly not-human origin; in other words, as everywhere, the Halls should not look like they're modeled on any historic architectural style or styles, but the reverse.]

[Aegnor appears (literally) at one end of the corridor, still a bit bedraggled, and stands hesitating, looking towards Finarfin, who is pacing slowly down the hall with his back towards him. He makes an uncertain movement as if to draw near to him; seeing Amarie approaching from the opposite direction beyond, however, he ducks around behind a nearby column before either living Elf can become aware of him.]

Amarie: [curtseying deeply]

-- Majesty.

Finarfin: [with equal politeness]

My lady.


Is't not passing strange, this exchange of high formality that so late did customarily use other greeting?

Amarie: [brittle]

Thou dost know well, this present state -- 'tis none of mine own doing.

Finarfin: [meaningfully]


[she doesn't answer. The camera turns to reveal that behind the column, Aegnor is battling surprise at finding it already in use as cover by not one, but two of his siblings -- Angrod on the further side wearing an expression of stoic dismay, while Finrod, now in the middle, is endeavoring to restrain laughter. His amusement at the absurdity of their situation is not appreciated by either brother, Aegnor giving him a glare as he pushes him to move over and give him more room.]

Finrod: [manic whisper]

That's Father. Not me.

Aegnor: [whispering also, very caustic]

Really. -- Any other relatives here?

Finrod: [nodding]

Aunt 'Danel, too.


Not -- Mother?

Finrod: [grim]




[out in the hallway, Amarie is still looking obstinate, but not quite as haughty; Finarfin's expression is wistful]

Amarie: [resigned]

There's naught to be said else upon the matter.



[she tosses her head, folding her arms]


Thou hast spoken, my lady Earwen hath spoken, he hath spoken -- all the world and mine own kin have had their say thrice over. Should words mend the world -- there'd be no Marring.


Thy certainty doth put me in mind of another Elf, upon another time, long gone past.

Amarie: [hotly]

My lord, let thou not compare me unto Feanor!

Finarfin: [raising his eyebrows]

Named I my brother?



I am no rebel -- nay, nor should ever be!


In truth?

[she gives the King a Look sharp but troubled]

Hast not even yet received petition from the holy Powers, to lay aside thy wrath, and dost thou not cling fast with both thine hands in their despite -- ?

[long pause -- behind the column Finrod's brothers stare at him, while he looks straight ahead, ignoring them. Aegnor gives an angry snort. Finrod does turn at that, and then frowns, feeling the other's sleeve, and then touching his hair before Aegnor shoves his hand away. Angrod shushes them again.]

Amarie: [ice]

It hath not been commanded me.


Nor should e'er it be.

[she turns away, her mouth set. He holds out his hand to her]

Come, walk with me, an thou will't, -- daughter.

[Amarie turns back, startled, and her lips tremble -- there is, it seems, a chink in her armour]

Amarie: [not letting it affect her voice]

My lord, there is naught that may be seen, the way that I did come. Nor have I met any other within, saving only thine own self, though betimes I have methought that I did glimpse, still were there none either of shade or spirit when I did go thence.


Then it shall matter not, the which direction we choose to take ourselves, is that not the truth? -- Or wouldst rather have thy solitude, my lady?

[she sighs, pulling her scarf about her as if cold again]




-- Nor yet would I be adviséd.

Finarfin: [in the same gentle way he has addressed her throughout]

How then, if thou shalt hear my heart's disclose, and thou advise, rather than to hear counsel given?

[Again he gestures for her to accompany him, and this time, after a moment's hesitation, she begins to retrace her steps by his side, her posture very tense, until they can no longer be seen in the darkness.]

[Finrod looks at Aegnor, who is trying to look nonchalant instead of guilty, without terribly much success]

Finrod: [innocently]

You're damp. How come?

Aegnor: [grimacing]

I don't know. By rights it should have been as evanescent as any decapitation, but the condition remains regardless.

Finrod: [reasonable tone]

Being wet is a much more common experience than being killed, hence the memory of it should naturally persist far more strongly. And you evaded my question. What happened to you?

[brief pause]


Your people are maniacs.

Finrod: [still mild]

You were hassling Beren again.

[Angrod makes an exasperated noise]


Would you stop using that mortal slang?


No. Nor will I let you change the subject.

[to Aegnor, the same calm manner, only now it seems rather chilling]

Your behaviour is not only a disgrace to the family, it's utterly unreasonable. -- Why do you blame him for making the same mistake that his kinswoman made long before he was born, rather than rebuking our cousin for presuming to be wiser than the rest of us, and showing us our folly as in a mirror?


Brother, you go too far --

Finrod: [ignoring him, fixing Aegnor with a Look]

Unless it's simple cowardice -- sorry, prudence -- that so wisely durst not challenge Luthien. You got off lightly indeed.

[they tense, and Aegnor glares at him, but he matches stares with the other calmly, until finally Aegnor breaks down and demands furiously:]


-- Why did you tell him we were guilt-ridden over the fact that our friendship with Cur and Cel led to your death?

Finrod: [startled]

I did no such thing!

[narrowing his eyes]

Is it true?

[he looks at Angrod as well; they don't answer]

I see. -- Interesting. That -- hadn't occurred to me.


It doesn't change a bloody thing! You're still behaving with a besotted obsessiveness that begins to rival our eldest uncle for self-destructive insanity!

Finrod: [smiling faintly]

Is that the way you both see it?


Yes! Can't you see that you're setting yourself on a headlong path towards disaster again, that you're bent on a course that will inevitably lead you into another conflict with the gods?

Finrod: [shrugging]

Well, at least it will be all my own doing, this time.


No, it's the same damnéd thing. Haven't you learned? You're going to let your softheartedness lead you into making the exact same mistake as before, throwing yourself away to defend those who have fallen prey to their own rashness and impulsive folly!

Finrod: [slowly, cold iron]

They were your people too. You claimed lordship to Beren only now -- and yet you will not defend him in his need.

Aegnor: [sounding an awful lot like his eldest brother]

We know perfectly well that we are among those for whom you threw your own freedom and safety aside, by our wanting to carry forward with our cousins, after Morgoth, over the Ice -- we condemn ourselves equally and without reservation. If anything, we are more qualified than any other, to warn you against this mistake. Isn't twice enough, that you must make it a third time?

Finrod: [still more slowly]

Mistake or not, I will make it.

Aegnor: [grabbing his shoulder]

No. We are going to make you see reason, brother.

Finrod: [mild curiosity]

And how exactly do you plan to do that?

[he takes hold of their wrists, ducks under and turns all at once, pinning their crossed arms against the pillar, and stands facing them with a look of extreme exasperation]

I should bang your heads together, but I doubt it would make any difference at this point.

[they try to pull free, but he does not budge, and when Aegnor raises his free hand to pry away his grip he speaks with the same tone of power that he used on Beren in Act II, with equal effect]

Be. Still. -- Look at me.

[he stares into their eyes in turn, and this time his voice is extremely gentle:]

Do you think, my brothers, that I have not place enough in my heart for all my kin? Must your jealousy bring you, too, to violence against the youngest? Or do you hold that I have loved you the less, that I have loved Beor's children also?

[Angrod doesn't speak and will not meet his eyes; Aegnor stifles a sob, flinging his head back hard against the pillar]

I did not forget you -- nor do I forget you now. But I must take care of my own. -- Do you need such help as those two now? If there is anything you'd have of me, you know you've but to ask. -- But you've not.

[pause -- when he goes on it is in a slightly harder tone:]

Or is it that you need me to stay thus docile, that you may act as though you were my elders, and slight me with your words as though I were a fool, and half-mad, and yours the turn to shepherd me, in private as in the multitude, as not even they that have earned the right to it do presume -- and strange it is to me, for all that you as much as I must surely know that I but do indulge you in it. That -- I cannot give you.

[he pauses again, briefly, but they do not speak]

I have indulged you, because it did not trouble my peace, as to rebuke you should, as a father permits his children to make game about him, and set chains of blossoms upon him, and give him fond names of folly, while he muses in the garden's quiet. But that time is ended, as I knew it must, -- though I did not See it coming so soon, nor in such wise, I do admit -- and I must rise to be King once again, as I had not thought to do, neither for hope nor dread, though my realm be nowhere and my following but a dozen as mad as I, and my only ally one half-goddess and the other half madness as well, and all of us naught but air and dream and that divine spark that kindles all that is.


And yes, I will stand as I must, against whomever I must, and you may continue your play, as you will, for none can make you cease, but you shall not impede me in my duty. -- Nor cross me, as you are wise.

[Angrod is crying silently, tears sliding down his averted face; Finrod lets go of their forearms and lays his hand along Angrod's cheek, turning him to meet his eyes. He flinches, expecting judgment, and finds something else entirely. In a gesture of acceptance he leans against Finrod's shoulder and lets his brother hold him while he regains his composure]

Angrod: [raggedly]

-- Sorry --

Finrod: [smiling, if rather sadly]

-- No lasting harm done.

[he pats Angrod on the elbow as the latter straightens, wiping his eyes, and turns to Aegnor, who is standing with his arms tightly folded, a far greater look of misery on his face. Taking hold of his shoulder:]


Aegnor, it isn't hopeless --

Aegnor: [snarling]

If you dare speak one more time to me again of your visions and your foolish hopes and your mad heresies, I will break your jaw, brother, elder, King, or not -- !

[Finrod lets go of his arm and steps back, with a very slight bow]

Finrod: [ice]

As you please. But I commend you not to do so before the Lord of Beor. I warn you, I'll not intervene on your behalf in this case either.

[the other snorts, shaking his head]


What do you think he could do -- even if he tried to defend you . . . this time?

Finrod: [ironic]

Come now, you've heard the echoes of the tale by now -- the air, the very stones are humming with it, born on the tide of whispers. Have you a wish to share Curufin's fate? I think our royal cousin will not intervene, even were she at hand -- she's much displeased with you at present, as I have warned you.


Aegnor: [sullen mockery]

He had both hands, then.


And Curufin was armed and ahorse. Take your chances, if you will. -- But do not count too much on my restraint, either. There are limits to my patience as well.

[to Angrod]

You're coming with me, at least -- ?

[neither of the other two stirs]

Angrod: [gloomy]

He will not be pleased to see me again.


It would be better if you'd let him decide that -- and forgive you your words himself.

Aegnor: [sardonic]

Why do you think he'll be willing?

Finrod: [coolly]

Because he is Beoring. -- Because he is mine. Do you think he will not?

[they don't answer this, either, but the defiance goes out of their expressions, leaving them standing there stubborn but forlorn as he turns on his heel and leaves them behind in the shadows.]


[the Hall.]

[Huan lifts up his head, and gives a soft, low noise somewhere between a bark and a growl, interrupting the conversation, a moment before the other Elven-warriors look over at the door, where a solitary figure is hanging at the edge of it, looking warily around the door frame. Seeing them by the remodeled fountain, he gestures urgently for someone to come over to him -- the Third Guard winces and covers his face with his hand.]

Fourth Guard:

You should just vanish.

Third Guard: [getting reluctantly to his feet]

That would only make it worse. Then he'd complain about that, too.

[he goes towards the door resignedly; as the camera follows, leaving the Falls behind, Beren asks:]


Who's that?

First Guard:

His nephew. It's . . . a long story. -- And quite dull. You can ask him about if you really want.

[at the doorway, the Royal Guard stops and folds his arms a short distance off, looking at his kinsman with an expression of combined exasperation and pity. The other Noldor shade waves urgently for him to come the rest of the way]

Nephew: [whispering]

Come over here.

[he does so after a moment.]

Third Guard:

Why can't you come talk to me in a civilized manner?

[the younger Elf looks around the Hall, and at the Loom and the Thrones, with a disbelieving expression]

Nephew: [earnest]

We need you to help.

Guard: [sighing]

I'm not interested. You need to ask King Felagund.

Nephew: [getting exasperated himself]

Why won't you help? What's wrong, that you can't even do a favor for your relatives?


Because it's going to drag on and on into endless helping. I told you, I haven't any interest in your hobby and I'm not about to get caught up in it on your behalf.

Nephew: [aggrieved]

That's most unkind of you.


It's most unfair of you to try to coerce me into doing your work for you.

Nephew: [his voice rising]

I'm just asking --


Just stop -- please.

[the newcomer gives his uncle a dark look]


One would think you'd be ashamed to push me off like this, after what happened to me.


Don't do this again. The fact that you were taken prisoner a yen and a half ago has no bearing whatsoever on your confounded project.

[the other gives him an even more reproachful look, resulting in a still-more exasperated tone in response:]

Look, I'm sorry you were a slave. I've said so. I don't know why you think that means I should be your slave. It wasn't my fault you didn't listen to your commander and got cut off and captured, was it now?


It isn't just that.

Guard: [sternly]

And that you should not be bringing to me, either. Take it up with your King.


It isn't fair!


You knew the risks. You knew the rules. And you knew the reasons for them. Now, go work on your own things -- I'm busy right now.

Nephew: [hurt]

So you don't care that I was a beaten thrall for ninety years, before I managed to break free, and find my way to safety -- only to be turned out to live in the woods like a Green-elf or a human, to live with those savages, until I couldn't take it any more?

Guard: [meaningfully]

You said you escaped.


I did! You know I'm telling the truth!


I know you believe what you're saying. It could even be true. That doesn't mean you weren't let to escape.


You don't really think I would be a spy for the Enemy? Your own sister's-son?

Guard: [quiet]

Can you honestly say that you weren't bound?


You know, don't you?

Nephew: [changing the subject]

You tell me not to blame my troubles on everyone else, but I've heard you say that it's the fault of the sons of Feanor you're here. And Sauron. And Morgoth.

Guard: [patient]

Yes, but I've got the order straight in my head. I refused to turn back at Araman. And I paid the price for it. If I hadn't done that I'd never have been in that situation, or fallen into the Terrible One's clutches.

[he looks at his younger kinsman expectantly,waiting for the obvious corollary to be made.]

Nephew: [pounding his fist softly against the doorjamb]

It isn't fair. At least you chose yours.

Guard: [unsympathetic]

Well, you weren't very fair to the Teleri, were you?


You don't understand -- you weren't there --


Don't give me that. If you didn't know what was going on, the obvious thing was not to leap in and start killing people, is that not right?

Nephew: [sulkily]

It's easy for you to say.

[the older Elf half-turns, nodding towards the Waterfall]


I'm not going to stand here halfway in the door all day. If you want to talk, come in and sit down with us and do it in a civilized fashion.




Why ever not?


You're going to get into trouble. -- He'll be angry with you.

[from the lowered emphasis and awe in his tone it is clear he is referring to the Lord of the Halls -- his uncle shakes his head]


No. He just looked a bit annoyed, that's all. They're busy too, and we're not hurting anything. Now run along, would you?


You're so selfish!

Guard: [with a frustrated exclamation]

When are you going to stop thinking the Sun and Moon and the Stars revolve around you? There are other people in the world.


Don't talk like that!


Sorry. But it's the truth, and you know it. Go complain to the High King about the fact that he wouldn't change the banishment rule for you. I wasn't there, complaining to me now is as useless now as it would have been then. Why don't you gripe at your friends from Eithel, that would make more sense.


You're no help.

[he turns away abruptly from the door back into the corridor beyond; the Guard sighs and returns to his companions, sitting down with a groan of despair and puts his head down on his forearms. The Captain leans over and pokes him with the flask, which offer is accepted quickly.]

Beren: [sympathetically]

More crazy-making relatives, huh?


There's never any shortage of them.


What's the lad want now?

Third Guard: [capping the canteen and passing it back]

Same as ever. Trying to get me to work on their Theoretical Chronometer again. And throwing his Doom in my face when I won't. -- And our kinship.


What's a -- Theoretical Chronometer?


That's their imaginary clock. It's something that a bunch of Fingolfin's people have been working on, some of them for most of this Age, and it occupies them pretty thoroughly.

Third Guard: [snorting]

Obsessed, some might call it.


At least it keeps them quiet. Mostly. By comparison.


How can a clock be imaginary? Is it real or not?


It isn't real in any way that you'd think of real, Beren. Moreover it's not going to become real without His Majesty's help, and they haven't got it. They're designing a clock that would allow them to know how much time has passed Outside, but they haven't got anything to make it out of, so all they can do is talk about how they would do it, if they had.


But that sounds like exactly his kind of project.


The Leaguer wore out his patience with fools. He thinks they're being stupid in insisting on doing it as they are, and he thinks it's all a waste of time additionally. Sometimes he does help them in discussing ideas, on a purely hypothetical basis, but I can't tell if he's doing it because he feels sorry for them, or because of the intellectual challenge, or just to bedevil them. Because usually the result is to require them to tear apart everything they've done so far and start over again, afterwards.


All. No question.

Teler Maid: [doubtful]

How can they take it apart if it is not real?

Beren: [nodding]

That's what I was gonna ask.


The equations and, er, mathematical processes.


-- Plans. They have to throw them all out and redraw them. So to speak.

Teler Maid:

Like to designing hulls and coming to see that the keel will not hold the height, before it is ever laid.

Second Guard:

Yes. I suppose so, at least, knowing nothing about boatbuilding, really.


Why won't it work? I guess I mean, how could you tell if it would work or not, when it isn't something like a house, where you can say -- that's not going to fit any way like that?


Erm . . .


That's part of the problem. Trying to figure out what would be a check on the processes is most of the designing of it so far.


So what do you mean, they won't ask for help? If they're asking him about it?

Third Guard: [shaking his head in disgust]

They won't ask him to help.


You see, there isn't any way to tell time without some connection to outside, because nothing changes here except us -- what we do. There's no regular pattern of light or anything to set it against, no day or night, no stars moving, no seasons -- so what are you going to measure? You understand the difficulty.

[Beren narrows his eyes]


It's not just a clock you're talking about. It's a calendar. You have no idea when it is for the living.




Though some argue that they are but the same thing, on differing scale.

Beren: [decidedly]

Nah. A clock is a thing, like the one in the City. A calendar is just -- out there -- it's something that's real because it comes from the Sun. The Chronometer, you could have that play whenever you wanted, it just breaks up the day wherever you want to, not like a sundial . . .

[trails off, frowning]

So is a sundial a clock or a calendar? And what about the days of the week? How do you know where to make them start? 'Cause when there wasn't any more people around me I didn't know any more what was what. So did we just decide where they went? Or you guys, I guess, probably. -- Huh.

Steward: [approvingly]

You begin to work out the problem on your own.


We started over with Sunrise, by the by. Then you changed it around some on your own. -- Or else you had your own and put it together with ours, I'm not quite sure.


You'll have to ask Himself about that.


But what would the problem be that he would have to help them and won't? Or I mean, how could he, I don't think you could make a clock out of stone, that wasn't a sundial, could you? How would that work?

Third Guard:

Water. It would be possible to turn one of the fountains into a measuring device, either simple or complex, since the water is constant --

Ranger: [cutting in]

-- Well, that's part of the whole argument, does anything progress here as it does outside --

Third Guard:

-- assuming that the water's rate of flow is constant, it could be calibrated, and then this could be correlated with known temporal coordinates, and the accuracy -- or constancy -- could be checked thereby.


So what's the problem?


He won't do it, they can't.

Second Guard:

Or rather, they won't ask him to teach them, and they haven't been able to figure it out on their own yet.


And the calibration process would require asking some of the staff for information, and they won't.

Teler Maid:

Give it?



Beren: [thoughtful]

You know, I thought I was proud and stubborn.

Soldier: [grinning]

Well, you are. Only we're worse.

[Beren glances up at the bas-relief behind the waterfall]


Couldn't you do it? Or did he tell you not to?


Oh no. We just won't, because they didn't ask originally and were obnoxious about it.

Teler Maid: [frowning]

How can you be obnoxious about something you are not doing?


They didn't ask. They just demanded.

Youngest Ranger: [gloomy]

They said, "We need you to make this for us," and I said, "Why?" and they said, "You wouldn't understand," and I said, "No, I won't until you explain what it's in aid of," and they got more and more unpleasant about it, and I still wouldn't until they said what it was for.

Third Guard:

Tell them what it was they said to you, exactly.

Youngest Ranger:

I said I wouldn't do things without understanding why, except for someone I trusted, and I didn't trust them, because they were Kinslayers, some of them. Which was rather rude, I guess. But I didn't know if they were trying to do something to harass the Lord and Lady.

Steward: [aside]

As opposed to us who manage it without trying.

[the Sea-elf flashes a hurried look at him, looking away before he notices]

Youngest Ranger:

So then they said -- some of them -- that they'd tell the Powers that I wasn't Noldor and shouldn't be staying here. And I told them, "Go ahead, and I'll tell them what you were doing as well," and that was the end of it.


Only not really, because then they did ask the rest of us -- most politely -- who know how, only it wasn't any good, because we'd already heard all about it and that cruel bluff of theirs.

Third Guard:

So now we get occasional bouts of complaining and guilting, like that just now.


They won't talk to Himself because they'd have to apologize, then. And for some reason they won't ask anyone who works here, which would be the simplest thing -- I think they're partly too proud, because they don't want to look like they care, and then there's this weird conviction that the answer is going to be no, and so there's no point in asking, though none of them will explain why they're so certain to be refused.


Guilt. -- It is possible that the answer might be incomprehensible, you know. The Powers care not about time as we do, and I've always had the sense that they consider any of our efforts to measure it a little odd.


And of course, they might be told, no, that wouldn't be helpful to you.

Fourth Guard: [chuckling]

Yes, but they'll never find out, at this rate.

[two more visitors appear in the archway of the door, coming in a little uncertainly, and looking around. Huan starts wagging his tail vigorously, ears happily pricked in their direction]

Captain: [a touch grumpily]

What is this, the Crossings of Teiglin?

[Beren peers over at them, frowning uncertainly]


I think one of them's a ghost, and the other has red hair. I don't think I know them. Do you?

[the Captain straightens up, surprised]


As a matter of fact, yes. That's the King's aunt and one of the Greycloak's counsellors.

[he taps the Steward, who is looking morosely and distractedly into the spill pool, on the shoulder.]

More old acquaintances of ours -- do you want us to cover your escape?

[the Steward looks over, startled, and then shakes his head, getting up with almost a relieved expression]


Best get through it now, than go on dreading it.

[waving off offers of help before they are made]

I need no assistance in this -- the lady is reasonable, and kind, and such pain as comes cannot be borne by another.

[the others look after him with a bit of worry, but not so much, knowing he's right, except for Beren, who scrambles up a moment later to follow him. Huan does not, but looks as if he wants to, his tail still brushing the floor softly]

Captain: [to his former colleague]

You're awfully quiet, Ternlet. How come?

[she shrugs, not looking at him]

I see.

Teler Maid: [hesitantly]

Are you much angered with me, then?

[he shakes his head]


Not much. He would never have spoken for himself if you'd not attacked us. -- And are you still angry with me?

[she shakes her head in turn. Looking after Beren:]

Teler Maid:

They are not very biddable, are they?

Captain: [sighing]

No more than we, Sea-mew, no more than we.

[the focus shifts to where Nerdanel is receiving the Steward's greeting with a bemused, anxious smile, while the Ambassador stares past suspiciously at Beren who in turn is watching his friend with a worried look from a few feet off.]


So, then -- what wouldst thou of me, Enedrion?

Steward: [bowing]

I would offer my apology to your House, my lady, if you in turn would be so gracious as to convey such in my stead.


What, dost deem a yen sooner matterest, that it should rather be half-and-three, than half-and-four, that might not proffer thine own words unto my father?

[he winces at the dry note in her words]


Please you, my lady, I entreat you to withhold your righteous indignation at my misspent years, for mercy's sake, not mine own, as I have had my fortitude sorely tried of late.



Never thought I to hear thee seek for pity, youngling -- no more than witness thy granting of it.

[giving up on being discreet, Beren comes forward to stand at the Steward's shoulder once more]


Excuse me, but -- you really shouldn't give him a hard time, ma'am. He's had plenty already.

Steward: [stiffly]

My lord, I said I required not assistance.


Yeah, but you were wrong.

Steward: [nodding acquiescence]

-- True.

[Beren touches his arm reassuringly]


It's okay, I'm not going to get hurt by words now.

Nerdanel: [slowly, fascinated]

So, thou -- art he -- Aftercomer that hath undone Immortal design, and confused the counsels of the great of Arda. I must perforce confess I had conceived of thee as . . . other -- nay, far more imposing of thy presence withal.

Ambassador: [aside]

As had we.

[Beren turns and gives him a cool Look]


Do I know you?

Ambassador: [unperturbed]

We were not introduced, milord. I was present at your -- introduction, to the court of Elu King of Doriath, but no doubt you were far too . . . preoccupied to remark or regard my presence among their Majesties' counsellors.

Beren: [drily]

-- Yeah. Just a bit.

[to Nerdanel, not mocking, but with a touch of humour:]

-- Sorry to disappoint, my lady.


Less that, than a marvel, that thou shouldst find so light that which all mine own sons and spouse alike did strive for in vain attempt -- !


Er, light? -- no. Also, from what I know about the War, actually going and trying did make a huge difference.

Nerdanel: [frowning, confused]

All that, and 'twas not attempted? For what, then, yon wild pursuit, nor all this Age's doings?


After Feanor got killed --

[she winces, and the Steward shakes his head in dismay]

Sorry -- I --

[Nerdanel gestures him to continue, though her expression is grim]

Just keeping him contained -- Morgoth, that is -- so that he couldn't get out of Angband. Until he did.

[glancing towards the Steward]

He can tell you better than me, 'cause I wasn't born for most of it, or even him --

[nods towards the Sindar lord]

-- 'cause Tinuviel's people weren't involved in most of it.

Steward: [serious]

The tale is long, and all is yet not known, and my lady's nephews I believe hold the greatest knowledge of its finer points -- but my friend has told the heart of it: after hard defeat, no endeavor to break within and seize the stones was made, before the Beoring and his well-named love did undertake the deed.



So. That which was begun in fiery and utmost haste, did shortly end in slow and moveless state, as the flux will run cold to congeal that hath flown swift in blaze, that is not banked and channeled that the coals do catch.

[shaking her head, with a bitter half-smile]

A dreary tale, yet, but curiously apt unto the madness of it all. -- How it must gall them, that Secondborn hath mastered Morgoth's might!


"Mastered" is way too strong a word for it.

[she gives him an appraising glance and he shrugs. Reluctant:]

Ah. I have to tell you, ma'am, I -- I tried to pull your son's head off.


Indeed -- and which?


C -- Curufin, my lady.


Nay, forasmuch as he hath ever been the image of his sire, that doth little 'maze, then. -- For what offense? or any, or all?


Huh? Um, yes -- that is, he was trying to kidnap Tinuviel then -- or he had been, before I grabbed ahold of the bastard and got him by the neck -- sorry.


For why? Surely such deed should merit answer, if any might -- yet, I gather, didst not gain thy way.


Oh. -- No, she made me stop and let him go.

Nerdanel: [shaking her head]

This tale groweth more confused ever the more I do learn of it. Could any set it out in such wise that sense shall come of it? -- But I confess I have not apprehended all thy thought: what is yon word "bastard" thou didst name my son?

Beren: [chagrined]

Um. It -- it's an -- it's a mortal insult. I mean, it's in our language. It's not necessarily mortal . . .

[trails off]

Nerdanel: [dry]

Nay, and I had deemed it a laud, no less. For certes an insult, as thou dost aver -- yet of what its construing? For surely hath something of sense to signal scorn withal.


. . .

Nerdanel: [interested]

Worse, belike, than even "thrall," else "deceiver" -- ?

Beren: [giving up -- very rushed]

Please understand, ma'am, I didn't mean it literally and I wasn't even thinking about it when I said it and what it means is someone whose parents weren't married or not to each other only what we use it to mean most of the time is someone who goes out of the way to be a mean-hearted, envious, arrogant, troublemaker who deserves to be beaten into a bloody pulp. -- Sorry.

[she raises an eyebrow but says nothing]

Like I said it's just an expression we use and I didn't mean when I said it that you . . .

[he breaks off in embarrassment]

Nerdanel: [frowning]

Thou meanst to say, that thy folk might 'get and give forth children into Arda, without ever to bind soul to soul in unity as parents? Even as the kelvar? That one might have a dozen mates, or choose anew with the tide of spring each year?

[completely humiliated, Beren nods]


We don't think it's a good thing, but --

Nerdanel: [interrupting]

Then thou needst not to have remained by Luthien, for all she was thy true-love, nay, neither before nor after thee and she were wed, but might even have gone from her to another's love, without thy mind and soul reft by madness, nor she to needs must die first -- ?

Beren: [adamant]

No. I mean -- yes, I did. Have to.


But I think that such was th'implicit burden of thy former words, or am I greatly uncomprehending of thee?


I couldn't. Me. Maybe some other Man could've walked away from Tinuviel, but --

[he shakes his head]


Thou, at least, had other choice open to thee, to find other match, than set thy life for hazard and thy house with House alike in forfeit for thine only love.


No. But yes. -- I know it sounds crazy.


Dost speak to me, of madness? Madness I have seen, a-plenty: thine is small, and thy lady's less, by mine own accounting.

Beren: [uncertain]

You -- you don't think I'm crazy, then -- my lady?

Nerdanel: [raising one eyebrow]

That, I said not.

[Beren frowns]


Wait, shouldn't it be "Your Highness?" If Feanor's your husband, and he's the son of the first King, then wouldn't that make you a Princess as well?

Nerdanel: [acerbic]

Dost deem me mad, then, to care of this contention and striving after title, after aught of glory than work well-fashioned? My folk doth require none; stone requireth none; how shall I require it, as though else might not ken mine own self's self?

[he is abashed]


Sorry -- I didn't mean to insult you, ma'am. I was just trying not to.


Nay, then, neither doth offense be taken, that was not offered up.


Elwe's daughter is far more blessed than ever she doth discern.

[she turns her face away, but recovers her composure quickly.]

I have heard rumour, that mine eldest hath suffered e'en such loss as thou, and would ask of ye, if thou'lt forgive the discourteousness of't, and blame me not for my presuming, if that be so or no?

Beren: [answering first]

Er -- yes. I'm afraid that is true.


I did not doubt it overmuch.

[she sighs]

Passing strange it is, that the first to wield blade amongst us should die first in battle, and firstborn should forfeit hand that did wield such blade, to blade's bite -- as though the earth itself were but a great balance and either land each pan, tilting across the Sea -- I speak mad fancies; I cry ye pardon, gentles. -- Of thy pity, lord of Men, canst thou say to me how farest thou, then, that I might ken yet so small a part of my son's life, for --

[lifting her own hands and looking at them]

-- I cannot guess how 'twould be, to have naught save memory of limb, nor how I might easily compass all that should be needful, scanted thus, though I do confess I have oft thought upon it.


Beren: [awkward but sympathetic]

It's different for him. I mean, he's an Elf, and I'm not, and that was obvious and stupid for me to say. Ah. I mean, he's had a lot longer to get over it and your people heal better than we do anyway, and he's still a great warrior as well as leader of House Feanor in the east, kind of a legend. Well, not kind of a legend, a legend, and . . .

[looking disgusted with himself]

. . . both of those are things that you probably aren't too happy hearing about either. Sorry.

[she looks at him with an odd expression, as if struggling to maintain a precarious balance between tears and laughter]


I do endeavor to comprehend how it must be for thee, that art so changed and forcibly set amid all that's strange to thee, and how it, and we, should all appear, that hast heard belike, yet not in same wise as we shall have heard of another here, and yet dost seek to comprehend in turn and maintain ever. -- I confess I cannot.


Not everything's strange, ma'am. I remembered what I was told about the King's aunt being wise and always willing to stand up for what she believed in.

Nerdanel: [shaking her head]

'Tis given me to understand, that untruth's far from possible within these walls, so then alike must flattery e'en be: therefore thy sincerity, at the least, might not gainsay. -- I thank thee for thy courtesy, sir.

[to the Doriathrin lord]

Thy pardon, my lord, as well -- I fear I do leave thee daunted, thus forgrasping all this our discourse. Pray, do not hesitate thee from speech, but make free as thou wilt.


Less overawed, my lady, than uncertain, at this juncture. I've had no choice but to see this Man through her vision, and I begin to think, -- little as I most certainly like it -- that -- perhaps we were in error.


There's a lot of things I could say to that, but I won't.

Ambassador: [holding his own, with an ironic half-bow]

Thank you, milord.


Yet a third way that differest from mine husband, that didst give aside Silmaril as second to the price of love, and strove not to lead astray, nor didst not care that any might follow in thy despite regardless, and that for love, not vengeance nor of hate; that now dost willingly hold peace -- !

Beren: [whispering to the Steward]

What did she just say?

Steward: [quietly]

That unlike Feanor, you know when to be quiet, sometimes.




Also that you were neither indifferent to nor desirous of the fate of all who chose to accompany you. And gave up the Silmaril for your lady.

[while Beren is still frowning]

All of which are compliments, given the circumstances and their source, since you're yet doubtful, Lord of Beor.



[to Nerdanel]


Nerdanel: [to the Steward]

How hast changed, and yet hast not, and yet art all other than thou wert, in the Wild world beyond!


Please don't insult him, ma'am.


Nay, nor did I, or is't insult in thy speech to say but that one has changed, from harshness and vainglory to gentleness of heart?


No . . .

[the Steward bows slightly]


I believe that it is so, and do so hope, even as you speak, my lady.


I confess I must hold it a good thing, that thy heart's allegiance was at the last given unto my nephew, and not my son, else I deem this conversation should ne'er take place, nor thou stand guiltless of murder, nor find peace from battle hither.

Steward: [very dry tone]

Something of a most relative peace, my lady, I fear -- but indeed, your words, though sad, are in keeping with mine own thoughts as well.

Beren: [breaking in]

Hey, how come you're here?

[as they all turn to stare at him]

I mean, what about the meeting? How come you're not there, and what's going on?


Talk -- much talk, and little else.

Beren: [ironic]

Well, yeah, it's a council -- that's what's supposed to happen at them. Anything else, you got a problem.

[the Sindarin lord visibly bites back a return]


Nay, 'tis much talk of sundry things, and not so much as might be thought, of thee and thine own concerns, forasmuch as the gods' concern of all that is doth make the direction of the discourse to shift more indeed than e'en we Eldar at our conversing, and with less heed of time its passing.


That is but half his question, my lady.

[Nerdanel and the Ambassador share a wry Look]


Thy lady is most obdurate, and requireth no further assurance of the rightness of her course, the which is all that I might well provide.


Our contributions were not considered relevant, milords.

Beren: [dawning realization & growing amusement]

You got thrown out.


That is, I must say, rather an overstatement --

[Beren shakes his head, grinning]


You -- got thrown out.

[brief pause]

That's great. That's just great --

[he laughs out loud, then struggles to control his expression]

Sorry, ma'am, I wasn't being insolent to you, it's just that it finally happened to someone else -- especially from Doriath --

[with a sidelong Look at the Steward]

-- About time, eh?

[unable to help himself, he starts laughing again, ducking behind the Steward's back until he can regain his composure]

Steward: [without irony or embarrassment]

Gentles, I entreat you excuse my friend, in consideration of the trials of his present and recent situation.

Ambassador: [mildly]

I endeavor to remind myself of his extreme youth, which renders it more comprehensible.

Nerdanel: [very curious]

In truth, he hath so few of days?


Alas, yes.

[over beside the pool, Huan is wriggling and whining quietly, with his tail going nonstop, while the Captain looks at him indulgently]


You don't have to stay here any more. We needed you to be cover for Beren last time, but that doesn't matter now. Go say hello if you want.


[sharp yip]

Captain: [pushing his shoulder]

Go on, don't be an idiot, you can go and greet her --

[the Hound gets up, but stands hesitantly, looking back at the Captain for reassurance]

Go on --

[as if loosed from a bow, the Lord of Dogs goes tearing across the Hall to where the others are standing]

Teler Maid: [looking after Huan]

You do like him greatly, even.

[her former colleague nods apologetically]

But you shouted at him much. To make him answer me fairly.

[he nods again, and she puts her forehead down on her knees again -- it is clear she is crying, hidden behind her hair. He pats her on the head]

Captain: [gently]

You're not up to being shouted at, Curlew.

[Huan comes skidding to a bouncing halt and looks adoringly at Nerdanel -- the Ambassador flinches back, though this is not noticed by his companions.]

Nerdanel: [sadly but fondly]

Oh, thou Hound -- little had I thought to see thee so soon!


You know each other?


Of course you do.

Nerdanel: [to Huan, seriously]

Alas, I have brought nothing -- I did not even ken thou shouldst abide here, ere I heard the story of thee and these thy rife adventures, hence have I neither dainty nor trifle for thy pleasing -- moreover I much misdoubt I might give unto thee, as thou presently art, withal.

Beren: [trying to be helpful]

You could pretend to throw something, he likes that -- then he pretends to bring it back, or he just brings back all kinds of stuff, like rocks or pine cones until you give up and tell him he's won . . .

[he trails off at the increasing grief visible in her expression despite her struggle to control it]

Huan: [panting, grinning]

[attention-seeking whines]

[Nerdanel unthinkingly reaches out to pat him, and her hand goes through his muzzle, making them both recoil violently, the Hound flinging up his head in Very Startled Dog alarm]


Oh -- !

Huan: [wild-eyed]

[loud, repeated barking]

Steward: [firm]

Quiet, boy!

Nerdanel: [covering her ears]

Ai, yet else that hath not changed -- !

[Beren grabs the Hound's head like a horse's and pulls him down to shoulder height, making him stop for the moment]


Why don't you go run up and down the Halls instead and work off some of that energy?


I sound like a parent. -- You go do that, and I'll whistle for you if we need you. Okay?

[he lets go and whacks Huan on the flank, again as though shooing a horse out into the paddock, and the Hound bolts out the doorway, running low to the ground, ears trailing like a mad thing.]

-- Bet we're all thinking the same thing.


I trust were any immediately without -- we should have heard the cries of dismay by now.

Nerdanel: [shaking her head]

I mind me not that he was even so vast, in th'old Day --


-- That -- is Huan? That -- creature -- captured our Luthien?

[he looks very shaken]


I assure you he is Good and would not harm any of like mind.


Aye, for all my son did most lamentably indulge him in his whims, yon Hound hath ever most mannerly and gently midst folk displayed his temper.

[she is still rather sniffly & blinking hard]

Beren: [half to himself]

I -- don't expect you will, but, hey, might as well offer -- um, you want to come sit down with us, and talk more sociably instead?

[he gestures towards their encampment]


I -- I think not, sir; the Hound has greatly unsettled my spirit.


We won't let him jump on you when he comes back. Promise.


. . .

Steward: [shrewdly]

Indeed, he is disquietingly like unto one, in seeming, at a glimpse.

[Thingol's emissary draws himself up in useless pride, but does not deny the implication]


Oh. -- I didn't think about that. Sorry. We're all just so used to Huan, but you don't know him, and you just got killed -- not long ago, at least -- by the Wolf. You did good not to run when he came charging up like that.



Your accent grates heavily; less so your intent of courtesy.


Er -- you're welcome.


So . . . what are you going to do? -- Gentles.

[Nerdanel is not missing any of the way her son's former friend reacts (and doesn't) to Beren's presence, and speaking, including taking control of the conversation, watching them both keenly. Now she replies, having managed to swallow her tears, and turns to include the Sindarin lord in her address:]


I, also, am even yet whelmed with the renewal of so many heart-deep griefs, and with such confounding news of the old land as ye have given to mine uncertain consideration -- if thou'ld be so kind, my lord, belike shalt companion me, and say unto me more, and fill the gaps of my comprehension with some measure of thine own informing; meanwhiles we shall but walk, and gaze upon the most strange and rare sights herein.

[with a dash of her ordinary dry wit, nodding at the Ten]

-- Nor mean I ye, nor else of yonder company.

Beren: [dubious]

Well, okay, but -- there's not much here to see. Except the Loom, I guess.

[she shrugs]


Then I trust we shall see it, shall not, upon our meanderings?

[she holds out her hand to the Ambassador, in a gracious, careful, gesture, not quite taking his arm, but very definitely walking with him, not evincing any fear or repugnance at his ghostly state, though clearly under so much stress right now that a little more or less would hardly make much difference. The Steward lays his hand on Beren's shoulder to turn him back towards their own group, then pauses and calls to the daughter of his family's hereditary liege lord:]


I must inform you, gentles, that the Lady of this Hall has most stringently requested that none should interfere with her Loom.



I confess myself much curious, whence such injunct be deemed necessary. -- My nephew must be sorely galled by the command.

[it is the Doriathrin Ambassador's turn to laugh out loud briefly, if much more temperately than Beren]

Doubt not, we'll meddle not.

[as they begin their walk, she looks back over her shoulder at the Steward, and says meaningfully]

-- Verily, youngling.

Steward: [sighing heavily]

That could have been far worse.


Don't worry, I won't tell anyone you said that.

[sighing in turn himself]

Poor lady.

[as the Steward frowns curiously at him]

Saying Tinuviel was lucky, being married to me.


I assure you, she was not referring to the brief duration of your match.

Beren: [shrugging]

Yeah -- and?


[Elsewhere: the Council chamber. Everyone looks tired and serious and frustrated, in a let's-buckle-down-and-solve-this-now sort of way -- even Luthien has largely given up being sarcastic.]

Luthien: [shortly]

Why do you think that having "fewer distractions" will help any? Nothing is going to change. You want me to give up Beren, I won't. There's no middle ground for us to reach.


What do you think should be done? So far you've only stated negatives.


Not true -- I want him to stay with me.


But you have no concrete suggestions for how that could be accomplished. Staying here as discorporate spirits is not a workable solution -- for either of you, willing or not. It isn't right, and it will end with him hating you, and vice versa.



All right, here's a concrete suggestion: consult your Queen and King for their advice. See what they say.

Orome: [incredulous, leaning forward in his chair]

You want us to ask Manwe and Varda for their opinion?


Do you have any idea how long it would take to explain it all to them?


Oh, I don't think it would be very long at all. Don't they watch and listen to what happens everywhere in the world? I expect any parts they missed, Thorondor and his family would have told them about already.

Vaire: [amused & appalled]

Dear me, you really do think the heavens turn about you, child!


But you were all watching, mostly. Weren't you?


Do you really -- without any reservation -- think this is of the same magnitude as the crisis following upon the Treeslaying?



[at the other Lord's frown]

There were multiple separate situations.

Luthien: [simply]

It is to us.

Aule: [to Irmo]

It's all part of the same mess.


But there are distinct and several causes, though they are connected causally as well as chronologically.

Aule's Apprentice:

I fear I must agree with my Master, that it's a mistake to isolate and focus on selected incidents, without considering them as belonging to a centrality of causation -- namely, the sad case of Feanor.


But there's no making sense of the disaster if you merely lump it all together and blame it on the Eldar.

Orome: [in his most matter-of-fact, annoying tone]

Look, it's very simple. It all started when we let him out. Therefore -- we should never have let him out. I don't care what your sister says, she's just wrong.

[this sets off a chaos of fellow deities all speaking, or shouting, at once]

Vaire: [raising her voice over the fray]

No, that's not true, Tav, Miriel's tragedy predated it --

[Luthien sighs, and leans her chin on her hand, not looking hopeful of any quick end to this. Accidentally she catches Namo's eye as he lurks behind his teacup, shaking his head at it all, and as he quirks his brow at her she snaps her head away, not wanting to admit to a commonality of any sort. After a moment, as if struck by a sudden thought, she scrambles forward and dipping a handful out of the light basin, proceeds to start finger-spinning it as if it were a ball of carded roving with the same intent, pensive look as someone doodling on a clipboard during an interminable board-meeting . . . ]


[the Hall: beside the falls, where the story has apparently concluded for the moment]

Teler Maid:

I still cannot fathom it that none of your families stood by you, but only by.


My lady will be most put out with Lord Orodreth.

[the Captain chuckles at that, and she is affronted]

I know that she shall, and I am most certainly right!

Captain: [dismissive motion]

Yes, yes, that's not why I'm laughing. I -- couldn't help but imagine the Prince's mother scolding him, and what they might say.


It isn't at all funny.


Oh, come on, can't you just hear Lady Earwen going --

Teler Maid: [louder and more emphatic]

-- But still less do I fathom it out that Lord Olwe's brother and his wife locked their child away -- has any one of ye ever heard of such a thing?! What right had they to do thusly?

[on the other side of the Hall, where Nerdanel and the Ambassador are surveying the Loom, the Ambassador turns and looks over at her, then quickly pretends he didn't hear]

If they did not approve of her chosen, then indeed had they right to say so, even as Lady Amarie's kinfolk, and make it clear wherefore they thought the choice not wise, or --

[looking directly at her ex]

-- as my own family -- and perhaps yours, for all your denials to them of intent towards me -- did make it clear, but to set a wall and a ward against their own, as were an enemy -- or as if they were of the Enemy, keeping her thrall! What have Elves come to, in the time between!


In fairness, it was not until she threatened to follow Beren into Angband that the King and his counsel made such restraints upon the Princess, for her own safety.

Teler Maid: [heated]

So, they set themselves above the gods, then! For it is little different, I think, between his lady seeking to redeem him from the Enemy in a far-off land, and your lord Feanor seeking to rescue his treasures from the Enemy in distant journey --

[several of the Ten protest her use of the pronoun "your", but quietly]

-- and they did not stop you, nor seek to do so by other means than persuading words, and yet it was the same manner of dangers, that you did risk and she did risk, that they did lock her up!

[somber silence]


I hadn't thought of it that way. Her parents wouldn't like to hear it -- but Tinuviel would agree with you, absolutely.

Teler Maid: [sharply]

And you do not?

Beren: [dismayed]

I didn't say that.

Teler Maid:

But did you not imply it?


Um -- no.


Wow, someone who's even more paranoid than I am --

[at his unintentional remark she snorts indignantly]


Maiwe, calm down. Not everyone is out to get you. In fact, no one, here, is out to get you.

[she looks away, scowling, just as the Youngest Ranger starts to attention and directs his companions' attention towards the door, through which now enter the Lord Seneschal of Formenos and the Lord Warden of Aglon -- but accompanied by some dozen or so extras, "gentles-at-arms," clearly looking for trouble. The Sea-elf freezes, looking ready to leap up and flee.]

-- Not even them. Actually, they're after me, most likely.

[as the hostile shades approach]


What should we do, sir?


Maintain a defensive perimeter -- that's what we're best at, after all, isn't it?

[there are dark grins and laughter from several of the other Elves]


What about you, sir?

Captain: [flexing his bad wrist carefully]

I'll manage, if I must. But we'll try to keep it from getting that far.

[he looks at Beren very seriously while the rest of the Ten get up and arrange themselves in a serried, if informal, rank against the intruders]

You're going to stay here, and you're going to stay out of it. No arguments.

I don't know what will happen if you get hurt, and the more I've thought about it the less I like the notion. You're taking no chances. Understood?

Beren: [unhappy]

Yes, sir.


In fact, call Huan back -- he can do his job and look after you now.


But --

Captain: [setting his hand on Beren's head as if talking to a much younger sibling]

-- You call him, or I will. The only options, lad.

Beren: [nodding]


[he whistles, several short, high notes, as if calling any ordinary dog, and remains kneeling by the waterside as the Captain rises, followed by the Elven girl.]

Captain: [to his former colleague, just as seriously]

Curlew, this could get -- rowdy. You probably don't want to be around for it, and I certainly don't want you hurt, even if you'll not leave this Circle for it.

Teler Maid:

Do not tell me what to do!

Captain: [sad half-smile]

I didn't.

[turning away he goes to the center of the group, shouldering through to stand on the Steward's right, facing the Lord Seneschal. The Sea-elf tags along, hanging back a little, with a worried expression, but not willing to stay out of it]

Quick learners. -- Now why don't you learn even faster and stop this before you come out the worst again, eh?

Seneschal of Formenos:

Shall we hazard upon it, in your foreign custom, then?

Warden of Aglon:

My quarrel's not with you, anyway.

[he is staring menacingly at the Youngest Ranger]


As a matter of fact, it is. He acted but under my orders.

[none of them appear to notice that the Doriathrin shade and the Noldor lady have left their sightseeing and come to stand at the side of the dispute, attending closely]

Warden of Aglon:

Nevertheless I'll not fight you, my lord.

Captain: [approving]

A prudent policy.

Seneschal of Formenos: [cynical smile]

And a prudent bluff, huntsman. The White Lady mentioned your clumsiness, and its consequences, and thus incidentally explained your carefulness to avoid outright combat at our last encounter. Thus -- we will not quarrel with you: our numbers are but to ensure fairness, that none should interfere in what passes.


Then they will interfere with nothing, for the responsibility for what transpired is entirely mine, and I will not allow it to pass to those who but followed my commands. -- Immortal or mortal.

Warden of Aglon: [very proud]

That may be, but I will not fight you, for my honor's sake, while you are injured. If you wish me to treat you as worthy adversary, restore yourself, and I will engage you, sir.

[the shade from Alqualonde edges between the two subordinate Rangers, standing with her arms folded and an imperious look on her face]

Teler Maid:

What is this "honor" that I hear you speak so much of? Will it keep you from smiting me, then?

[he makes a disdainful gesture]

Warden of Aglon:

I don't fight children. Or maidens.

Teler Maid:

I recollect otherwise.

Seneschal of Formenos: [gallant & disarming -- if you didn't know better]

And who might this charming creature be?

Teler Maid: [defiant]

-- "Collateral damage" -- I think that is what you have called us.

Seneschal of Formenos: [shaking his head]

I've never had dealings with your folk -- I was the first killed in Middle-earth, after our noble lord was foully murdered by the same demons that slew me.

Teler Maid:

False, false, false!!!

Seneschal of Formenos: [frowning]

Are you not his true-love, following him hither?

[he nods towards the Youngest Ranger]

Teler Maid: [indignant]

I am from the Havens! Can you not tell the differences 'twixt us?

Seneschal of Formenos:

Ah. My error: I do apologize, that I did not at once recognize you one of the Calaquendi, if Latecomer.

Teler Maid:

You -- do make apology for misnaming me -- but not for killing me? What madness is this?!

Seneschal of Formenos: [voice of reason]

Blame your elders, for their selfishness, not us. Blame your king, not ours.

Youngest Ranger: [shortly]

You brought your troubles on yourself.

Warden of Aglon:

Go back to your trees, Dark-elf. -- Or else fight me, if you wish to consider yourself truly Eldar.


Now then, what's wrong with tr --

Teler Maid: [interrupting, sharply to the Feanorian lords]

Do not -- not speak so!

[she is so upset that she is stammering, but stamps her foot emphatically]

Seneschal of Formenos: [bored]

Be quiet, infant, and return to the Hall of Play.

Teler Maid:


[in the background, Finarfin and Amarie enter the Hall via the archway, together, and taking in the scene of conflict, come quickly over]

Warden of Aglon:

Well, boy, if you will not give me satisfaction by honorable duel, then I must take it as I can -- if you've the courage for it: is it not your people's way to flee from blows rather than return them, to fight from cover and to vanish before retribution falls?

[the Sindarin Ranger does not answer him, except to clench his jaw, standing his ground, the tension in his companions rising as tempers are held forcibly in check]

Steward: [slow emphasis]

Leave -- him -- be.

[the Lord Warden smiles and moves forward threateningly; while the nearer of the Ten move to grab him, the Sea-elf darts in between to obstruct his path completely, scowling up at the taller Noldor warrior.]

Teler Maid:

Go away!

[the Warden of Aglon doesn't answer -- instead he takes her by the shoulder and spins her aside, continuing to push towards the Sindarin Ranger. Without another word, the Steward reaches to his right, rips the Captain's sword from its scabbard and runs the Feanorian through -- no flare, all business. The wounded Elf crumples to his knees as the blade is withdrawn, while his companions stare at the assailant quite aghast -- ]

Steward: [cold]

You should have listened.

[several of the victim's friends kneel around him, trying to help him get up]

Seneschal of Formenos:

But -- he had not drawn yet!

Captain: [disgusted]

Sweet Cuivienen, can't you tell us apart, either? That's me, not him.

Seneschal of Formenos: [shouting at the Steward]

Where is your honor!?!

Steward: [calm & obnoxiously complacent tone]

If by honor you mean a willingness to be cheated without complaint -- I fear that remained with the rest of my belongings in Nargothrond.

[raising an eyebrow]

Anyone else wishing to try my patience? None?

[he reverses the hilt and returns the Captain's sword with a gracious nod]

-- Much obliged, my lord.

Captain: [loftily]

Any time, any time --

[to the hostile Elves]

-- Dolts.

[to the Steward]

That was better, but you still leave yourself wide open laterally when you lunge that way --

Amarie: [outraged]

Ai, what hast thou done?!?

[giving up the effort, the Warden of Aglon vanishes with a final grimace of agony -- the Teler Maid shrieks, cutting it off at once by clapping her hands to her mouth.]


-- Minion of the Enemy thou art in truth!

[there is a moment of shock as everyone stares at each other, and the Ten realize who all was watching and what it looked like]

First Guard: [to Amarie]

Milady, it wasn't what it seemed --

Steward: [looking only at the Sea-elf's horrified expression]

Yes, it was.

[he shakes his head, laughing quietly and hopelessly]

-- Of course.

Seneschal of Formenos: [enraged almost beyond speech]

You --

[tries again]

Indeed, you were well-disguised as Morgoth's vermin! I wonder that you needed any camouflage at all!

Nerdanel: [tense]

Thou seest the error of thy ways, then?

[he does not look at her nor otherwise acknowledge her words]

Finarfin: [very harshly]

I am most grieviously disappoint in thee, young sir. 'Tis well thou art restrained, within these Hall's confine, and all such destroying souls.

Captain: [earnest]

But you really shouldn't count this against him, my lord, as if he too were no more than a Kinslayer, because none of it was real.


Upon the contrary -- though thy loyalty aye deserveth praise -- nor thou nor he can answer me that 'twas not done in th'intent of the deed its fullness, nor that the wish and will of't was to act and it were most potently the very blade 'gainst yon rival's flesh, save merely that these phantasmic figurations must needs serve in place for ye.

[looking sternly at the Steward, who is still gazing in bleak dismay at the Teler Maid, who has recovered somewhat from her emotions at the mayhem and is staring at him with a very troubled expression of mingled revulsion and worry]

-- Nay, canst thou, Enedrion? For thou didst belie me with the truth, but not the full of it, when at our first meeting thou didst make of merest need but virtue, nor confess that thou might not speak other than of truth, to set thyself higher in my estimation.

Steward: [hollowly]

Indeed, your words are true, my lord Finarfin -- all of them.

Captain: [still more earnestly]

But he wouldn't have done it, if it would have had any real effect on that nitwit.

[No one denies this assertion]

Amarie: [tightly]

Mayhap -- yet still 'twas a deed most harsh, violent, and bloody --

[glancing at the entirely-unmarked floor, grimacing, and is forced to add:]

-- in yon ghostly fashion.

Seneschal of Formenos: [savagely]

I'll serve you now in kind, Enedrion --

[he draws his sword, advancing on the Steward, who does not pay any attention to him]


Nay, answer me, that didst answer to me in the Day, and wast even Keeper of our household stores, when yet was peace in Tirion!

[she moves to bar his way, her eyes flashing indignation, but he still ignores her -- even though refusing to admit her presence means he must walk right through her, (sfx) leaving her mute with shock and anger]

Captain: [blocking the Seneschal of Formenos far more effectively]

You don't exist, my lady -- as far as they're concerned. Sorry about that --

[to the other warrior]

-- Not you.

Seneschal of Formenos:

I will not fight you unprovoked, and play into your games, King's Fool.


All right.

[smashes him hard across the face, backhanded, almost knocking him over]

How's that?

[with a roar of fury, the Lord Seneschal rallies, so quickly the Captain barely has time to get his blade free and parry -- but he does. If the hits taken in the last duel are bothering him, it isn't obvious, as they "have at it" in a flurry of blows in the suddenly-widening circle that forms around them. Beren leaps to his feet, but obeys orders, though his anguish at doing so is obvious; the Teler Maid covers her ears, wincing at each blow, just as distressed as the human, if not for exactly the same reasons.]

Finarfin: [shocked but not at all uncertainly]

-- Hold!!!

[there is Power in his word as well as anger: in momentary surprise the combatants stop, but only for a moment -- although the Captain obeys, the Seneschal presses the advantage, forcing him upon the defense again]


Sorry, Sir --

[they set to savagely again, no quarter on either side, just the same kind of ruthless fighting as against Eol earlier; the Captain stumbles, and this time it's no "accident" -- but as the Feanorian lord moves in for the kill his sword-hand is transfixed with a very real-seeming arrow, and as he tries to recover with his left, looking as all do to the source of the shot, his opponent regains his footing and presents once more no easy target. The Youngest Ranger is kneeling with another arrow nocked and already set to loose.]

Youngest Ranger: [terse]

Next time, your eye.

[there is a pause, a sort of momentary truce, or rather recognition of impasse, and one of the other supporters of House Feanor comes up and sets about drawing the arrow, casting the pieces aside into thin air.]

Seneschal of Formenos: [disgusted]

-- Damnéd archers! No honor whatsoever.

[both the Ambassador and Amarie start to say something, but whatever it is is cut off by the baying from without, as Huan returns -- with rider. As the Lord of Dogs and the Lord of Caves make their dramatic entrance, five very bemused law-abiding Eldar alternate staring from each other to the newly-arrived to the denizens who seem to regard this as nearly, if not the height of normality.]

Nerdanel: [aside]

Hall of Play, in truth!

[Finarfin gives her a surprised Look; explaining:]

Hath not any ridden Huan since of thine and mine the youngest were little more than babes.

[her brother-in-law nods ruefully, as his eldest son's ghost dismounts and strides over, looking around first to make sure that Beren is all right, as Huan plows through everyone else, still barking fit to raise the roof, to get to Beren himself]


Would anyone care to explain to me what's going on?

[there is a chaos of everyone talking at once -- the Lord Warden of Aglon remanifests to make his case personally, much to the startlement of the living witnesses; Finrod waits until the roar dies down somewhat.]

Now, -- would anyone care to explain to me what's going on?


There were words, escalating towards blows. I struck first. All else followed from that.


Whence the provocation?

Steward: [before anyone else, and louder]

From both sides.

Seneschal of Formenos:

No insult had been offered you, you slave of a slave, but you cut him down without warning nonetheless!

Amarie: [earnest]

Though little had I e'er thought, that I should speak in such as that one's just defense, he doth speak truly: 'twas a blow most villainous and cruel -- if 'tis not falsehood in its own right, to imply withal that any might be otherwise!

Warden of Aglon: [furious]

And I will take my recompense in the same way, d'you hear?!

Steward: [chill calm]

I will accept such, if it is my lord's decree.

[the Teler Maid stares at him, her face frozen]

Warden of Aglon:

As if he'd ever give fair judgment against any of his own!

[loud jeering and countering from the Ten, matched by their Feanorian opponents, with even a few barks from Huan added in; Finrod holds up his hand for silence, and there is instant attention from all, adversaries and supporters alike]


The temptation is strong to take the way of water and avoiding resistance give you both what it is you wish --

[looking at the Warden]

-- to you, satisfaction of your anger, and to you,

[turning to the Steward]

-- expiation, of yours. But --

[smiling grimly, to the Warden]

-- in no small measure is that owing to the desire to let you make a poorer showing than you already have, disgracing yourself in the sight of the living and the dead, as well as the gods. Which is not justice, at all.

[he shakes his head]

No, it is too complicated. I cannot decide: I must defer this entirely to a higher authority.

Seneschal of Formenos: [snorting]

I trust your uncle to give us fair hearing no more than I trust you, Finarfinion.

Finrod: [still graciously]

Not the High King, I'm afraid -- I meant an authority that outranks all of us, living or dead, royal or no. Take your complaint of my people's conduct to Lord Namo or his Lady, and let them judge it, and whatever finding is theirs in this matter, we will submit to -- however little it is to our liking.

[he matches stares with the chief lords of House Feanor's supporters in Mandos, and does not give any sign of uncertainty, until finally after a long moment, the Lord Seneschal, still cradling his right arm, nods to his people and the hostile contingent storms out in a jostling, angrily-glaring mob. To the Ten:]

Sorry, that took a lot longer than I expected. I see you've got things under control, though. Good idea sending Huan for me right away.


Er, well, actually --


Oh -- more of his own initiative, I take it?


He didn't tell you?

[his lord chuckles briefly, thinking it's only a joke. Beren, with Huan at heel, comes up quietly now that the immediate danger is past, not interrupting]


So easily you dismiss them, Sire, and have full confidence they will not return when your guard is down, to take the vengeance they hold to be their own? -- And yes, I am here, and would rather not be, whatever possible construction you wish to place upon that statement, and I have equal confidence in your Majesty's courtesy and intuition revealing my wish not to dwell upon any particulars of it.

[Finrod gives him a pensive Look, but honors his request, answering him only (while maintaining an aloof disinterest in his family members standing nearby)]


Oh, they won't take it any further. They'd have to explain to the Lord of the Halls, in detail, you see, and even for them it would be difficult to justify their motivations, and so they'll simply drop it. -- They might bring it up again when the next trouble starts --

[looking at the Steward]

-- and you'll probably never hear the end of it.


My lord, I --

Finrod: [putting a hand on his shoulder]

If they succeeded in provoking you, it must have been bad. I trust -- that your conscience is more than equal to any reprimand I might bestow on you, my friend.

[he turns to look at the others -- and frowns in amazement]

What are you doing here, Maiwe?

Teler Maid: [bitterly]

Trailing about after him, what else to be said?


-- Oh.

[he starts to ask further, then defers it for later. To the others:]

What's been going on, while I've been busy elsewhere?


Your brother Aegnor returned and provided us with some diverting moments, I fear.

Finrod: [sighing]

Yes, I've given him a bit of a talking-to about that. I don't think it'll happen again. Anything else? What set that lot off?

First Guard:

They came looking for trouble and found it. The Lord Seneschal's flunkey went to kick Beren for -- if you'll believe it, my lord -- discourtesy.

Finrod: [with an angry snort]

What then?

Youngest Ranger: [embarrassed at drawing attention to himself]

I -- Sire, I -- I knocked him down and bashed him in the knee. But the other way round. That's why he wanted -- wanted to challenge me.

Finrod: [warmly]

Good job. Don't worry about it -- either of you --

[he looks at the Steward]

-- they won't take it further, I'll warrant. And if they do, we'll deal with it then. I need a volunteer for a quick errand, now --


What dost thou presently, indeed?


Finrod: [very guarded tone]

Why do you ask?


I had but concern, for these thine own concerns, that seeketh to fulfill its own lack by learning how all doth transpire, perchance to aid.

[longer pause]

Finrod: [formal politeness, undercut by irony]

The concerns of the dead are not yours, Sire, nor, I believe, is there anything your will may accomplish here. -- Unless you claim Lord Namo's role here in addition to your own lawful title -- which I somehow doubt is the case.


Nay, my son -- I seek to compel thee not.

[they stare at each other for a brief moment, taut and unhappy; but this time their position is subtly reversed, with Finrod being the one giving stinging barbs and Finarfin the wary, restrained recipient of them.]

Finrod: [turning back to his following]

All right then, who among us is worst at chess? All forms of it -- and doesn't like it, either. It's no good if he can tell you enjoy learning, you'll never break free.

[the Third Guard steps forward, and Finrod gives an approving nod.]

Please go and ask my uncle to come here, without delay, as a favour to me. Phrase it as graciously as you can, but make sure it's clear that I need him to come talk to me now, not six hundred years from now, and I do mean here. Er -- not in those words, of course.

[the Guard bows and hurries off, leaving Finrod to deal with his family and others. He looks at them a bit warily, recognizing that there is something going on, but not having any information as to the source of their (additional) tension. Polite:]

Did you wish to speak to me, father?

Finarfin: [equally]

An thou'lt not converse upon thy present concerns, belike thou might willingly relate some account of thy kingdom, yon realm that thou didst found for thyself upon the other shore, and the workings of thy rule.

Finrod: [bemused]

You want to hear about Nargothrond? I shouldn't have thought you'd be interested in the forbidden doings of a bunch of rebels, now.


Nay, but ever must parents wonder and yearn for word of children's faring, doubt it not, though thou hast none.

[there is an awkward moment]

Finrod: [clapping his hands together]

Very well, why don't we make ourselves comfortable over there and we can try to give you something of an idea, at the least, of what we've been up to on the other side of the Sea.

[he gestures towards the Falls, and there is another awkward moment, as the four guests look at each other, and at him, uncomfortable but not willing to be the first to speak.]

Is there a problem, then?

Captain: [smoothly interjecting]

I'm rather afraid that milord your father is overwhelmed by our inability to recount tales singly and in good order, your noble aunt still very much unsettled by so many houseless spirits, your lady wife wishing us very much still at the other side of the Sea, or better yet the bottom of it, and your royal uncle's servant thinking nigh the same of the Beoring. Have I read the situation aright, gentles all?

[four rather chill Looks would seem to indicate so]

Finrod: [wry]

This is as bad as diplomacy back home. I might as well not have died, for all the good it did me. Very well, then --

[he looks around, oblivious to the reflexive flinches of his family and the background collecting of a wager by the Youngest Ranger, and shakes his head]

I'm afraid there are only the two chairs, and I really don't dare move them --

[brief expressions of confusion are replaced by utter bemusement as they realize which "chairs" he is referring to]

-- so it seems there is only the rather rustic alternative over there --

[pointing to the hill]

-- if you do not find that unacceptable.


Surely none of our race could ever object to the comfort of the greensward, but one must ask of direst curiosity -- whence comes a piece of the growing earth to enliven these sunless Halls?


A gift, lent by the grace of Lady Nessa, I hear tell.

[with a polite, edged smile to Amarie]

It is both real, and untainted by any rebellious craftsmanship, my lady --

[her lips tighten, but she does not retort]

Nerdanel: [firmly]

-- Nephew. Keep thy private quarrels to home. -- Thou kennst well what I do intend; moreover, herein lieth not thy true home.

[he stops, forestalled before he can respond, a touch chagrined.]

Finarfin: [soothing]

Ample accommodation, in truth, and a most pleasant spot, yon turfen hill -- to which, gentles, let us repair, that we may hear the wondrous and most strange news from the land of our Awakening.

[with a shepherding gesture he takes Amarie's hand and motions the others to accompany them, allowing no room for objection]

Beren: [aside to Finrod]

Is this? -- I mean -- you -- you know --

[looking over at Finarfin and the others, raising his eyebrows]

Finrod: [blunt]

No, I'd rather be thrown off a cliff than deal with them, as you correctly surmise. But in courtesy, they can't be left to their own devices, and absent any higher authority to foist them off upon, it falls to me to entertain them. Don't worry, I'll survive -- so to speak.

[squaring his shoulders, he assumes a look of determined pleasant calm and goes to play the part of the lordly host among welcome guests, leaving worried companions behind]

Beren: [alarmed, aside to the Steward]

Does he know?


Know what?


-- He doesn't, does he?

[narrowing his brows, the Steward shakes his head]


I do not see how it is possible he should.


I bet his dad's not going to say anything, either.


Oh -- h.

[he grimaces, glancing quickly over to the hill]

Beren: [looking across and back]

This isn't good. -- Do you think that all of 'em know?

[the Steward follows suit as well]


Most probably.

[Beren & the Captain wince]


Except him. Nothing we can do about it, though, is there?

Steward: [nodding towards the rest of the Ten & companions]

No, save trouble our friends to no purpose by our conversing on it.

[the Sea-Elf, suspicious, comes up to their urgent consultation and demands:]

Teler Maid:

Do you talk of me?

Captain: [gently]

-- No.

[to Beren]

I don't think there's anything we can do, that won't make things more difficult than less all round.

Steward: [shaking his head]

I see no discreet way of imparting the information to our lord at present.

[the Elven-maid continues to stand there, with a chafing expression, caught in the awkward state of bystanding a conversation without belonging to it and not wanting to go away in embarrassment or to cause a scene; she looks up frowning darkly at the Steward, who glances down at her in the same moment, and very seriously moves aside a little, leaving a deliberate place for her. After a moment she steps in a little closer, her arms folded, still wary and half-outsider]

Beren: [frowning]


Teler Maid: [after another hesitation]

What would you have him know?


He doesn't know that they didn't know what happened to us and now they know, and they don't know that he didn't know they didn't know, and that now they know. And they said things to each other that they probably wouldn't have if they'd known -- mostly his dad. And Amarie. And now he's saying stuff back, and they're not going to know what to say.

[longish pause]

Teler Maid:

I could go and say that someone needs him without, and then tell him myself when we are from here.


Yes, but then they're bound to ask him what the matter was, when he gets back, and it's the same problem, I'm afraid.


Good idea, though.


Nothing for it but to hope Himself doesn't say anything too sharp, before a chance to apprise him comes along.

[he shakes his head, sighing]

Beren: [deadpan]

He might figure it out anyway. He's pretty smart.

[the Elven-girl looks at him strangely]

Teler Maid:

That is a most simple and manifest thing to say -- yet I do not think you are simple of wit -- so why say you what all well know, that Lord Ingold is most wise and clear-sighted?

[Beren shrugs, a bit embarrassed]


That's more mortal humor.


Teler Maid:

'Tis strange.


It is indeed.


Teler Maid: [frowning, changing the subject]

What is that matter of chess Lord Ingold did speak of? For I think it must be a pastime, but I know it not.

[Beren and the Captain share a Significant Look, while the Steward covers his face with his hand]


I think we can find someone to teach you.


-- No. That would not be prudent.

[as the Sea-elf looks at him with an uncertain expression half between automatic outrage and wariness, Beren is the picture of injured innocence]

Beren: [bewildered]

I wasn't talking about you. I don't know why in the world you would think I was meaning you, sir -- it's like you think I've got nothing better to do than cause trouble for you --

[the Steward gives him an eyebrow-raised Look of arctic frostiness, while he continues to protest disingenuously]

Teler Maid: [to the Captain, decidedly]

'Tis very strange indeed.


-- I mean, we all know how to play chess, I don't see why --

Steward: [curious, resting his hands on the mortal's shoulders]

-- Beren, what would you do, if I did indeed answer you as from your tales you would expect your cousins to have answered such incessant japery, by half-wringing your neck in jest or impelling you beneath the outlet of yonder cascade?

[pause -- Beren looks up at the much-taller shade thoughtfully.]


I'd win, on account of having made you respond without using any words again.

[brief pause]


-- Hina.

[he brushes his knuckles lightly against Beren's cheek, almost smiling, and turns to the falls, going over to where Finrod left his harp -- instead of sitting down apart, however, he carries it to where their comrades are waiting, uncertain as to what's all going on, and takes his place in their midst, to their obvious pleasure, and begins to play very quietly.]

Teler Maid: [troubled]

Why does it misgive you not, that he dismiss you as but a child?

[Beren shakes his head]



Teler Maid:

No -- the word is child, in their speech --

[she nods sharply, including the Captain and all the Ten (& even Huan) in her gesture, all of her insecurities coming to the fore in her tone]

Beren: [gently]

But it means kinsman, when he says it to me.

[she looks back and forth to see if they're teasing her, and then across at the Steward, providing background music for the warriors' conversation and games, and appears distraught.]

C'mon, somebody over here can teach you how to play chess, if you really want.

Teler Maid: [fretful]

I do not know what I want.

[but she accompanies them back to the waterside nonetheless.]

SCENE IV.xviii

[Elsewhere: the council chamber]

[Vaire, Irmo, Aule, Orome, and Aule's Assistant are all leaning forward in their chairs talking animatedly, while Namo sits back with an abstracted frown on his face, clearly thinking about something entirely different from their argument. Luthien is crosslegged on the floor next to the bowl of silver light, working intently on what looks rather like a cats'-cradle, except that when she lets go of the shining strands, they remain as if floating on water while she moves the other threads across them. She is not paying any more attention to the debaters than they are to her, at the moment . . . ]


Yes, and doesn't that give you pause? The fact that someone who thinks that every problem can be solved by beating something up agrees with you? Ordinarily you wouldn't be claiming Tulkas' opinion as legitimizing your own!

Aule: [growing impatience, waving his forefinger didactically]

I didn't say that the fact that he agrees with us proves that we're right. I only mentioned his support as an example of the fact that diverse opinions -- and diverse personalities, and diverse viewpoints -- were united against the opposing position. Which --

[another emphatic gesture]

-- should indicate to some small degree that Nienna's stance was untenable nd her overly-optimistic assessment of that wretch's state of mind should have been discounted by them from the beginning --

Vaire: [speaking over him]

-- Aule, it really isn't fair of you to characterize her position when Nia isn't here to articulate it for herself --

Orome: [frowning]

-- Why isn't she here? I don't understand it at all -- this is exactly the kind of situation where one would expect her to be in the thick of it, trying to smooth things over and make everybody happy --

[Namo looks up at the door, just as Nienna's Apprentice enters, looking a little wild-eyed but not quite as stressed as before]

Nienna's Apprentice:

You called me, Sir? -- Er, there's been no news from the search teams yet --


Forget about that -- for now. I don't mean that literally, either. I just have something else I want you to look into for me.

[he manifests a rolled scroll and holds it out to the Apprentice]

You wanted to go dig in the Archives, well, you've got your wish. Get to it -- I want everything you can find about what's on there, as fast as you can find it.


But --

Aule's Assistant: [shaking his head, very much in imitation of his Lord's manner and tone]

Honestly, Olorin, I swear you're never contented. No wonder you can't settle down.

[the other gives him a quick, disheartened look, but pulls himself together.]

Apprentice: [to Namo]

Yes, my Lord. But -- what about keeping an eye on the stone?


Get someone else to look after it -- or why don't you give me that toy of yours and then we won't have to worry about you forgetting while you're doing something else.

[silently the Apprentice gives him the "sympathetic" version of the palantir and takes the list instead; Namo looks at the shiny bead doubtfully.]

It does work, you're sure of it?


Erm -- I don't see why it shouldn't, at least.

Namo: [flatly]

Great. Just -- take care of this stuff quickly. And don't get distracted and start looking up unrelated things, all right?

[turning back towards the door, his sister's student nods gloomily.]

Vaire: [looking over from the discussion]

Oh, and tell that dog of Tav's to stop running up and down the Halls barking, there's a dear, he's making my headache worse than it already is.

Apprentice: [to the room at large, with exaggerated patience]

Anybody want anything else while I'm at it? Cosmic harmony, anyone? The Silmarils? Just one, perhaps?

Luthien: [bland]

Just my husband, thanks.

[she looks up with a raised eyebrow as his expression becomes briefly chagrined, but then he winks, quickly, so that her expression changes to a puzzled frown as she watches his departure.]

Orome: [picking right back up where they left off]

Now, if you ask me, what Varda should have done instead was . . .